Archive for June, 2009
here, there and gone: where?
Home is a controversial word for Iyad Hayatleh, a Palestinian poet who was born in a Syrian refugee camp. “The most controversial word of my life,” he told us. He has never been to Palestine but to mark Refugee Week, Iyad read poems about home in Arabic and English as we gathered round a dead tree in Edinburgh’s Poetry Garden.
It was a simple idea. Poems about home written by refugees were hung in the old cherry tree near the Coffee Republic pavillion in St Andrew Square. I was one of the volunteers who had joined Ryan van Winkle just a couple of days earlier to hook the little laminated poetry ‘leaves’ on to bare branches. In pouring rain we got soaked and the words gathered tears of their own.
That was Tuesday 16 June. Oddly when we met for the poetry picnic on the sunnier 18th some of the poetry had vanished. Including the three word poem, “Here and There” and Iyad’s three poems written in beautiful Arabic script.
Iyad Hayatleh (photograph by Nick Gardner)
Never mind. We had real, live poetry while shoppers passed by. Iyad, who now lives in Glasgow, read two of his own poems and one by Mahmoud Darwish in both Arabic and English. Ryan, who said he refused to be insulted by the disappearing poems (“Let’s hope they are decorating someone’s fridge somewhere”), read one about his family home in the US. Gordon Munro (a Leith councillor with a not so private passion for poetry) read a poem in Scots dialect about Leith’s welcoming internationalism by the Leith poet Rodney Relax. While Jason Bergen of Oxfam reminded us that Scotland is not always a welcoming place for refugees.
Gordon reading Rodney Relax. (Pic by Nick)
Poems in the tree were written by refugees at a workshop in The Welcoming led by Ryan van Winkle, Reader in Residence at the city libraries and Scottish Poetry Library. The workshop was organised by the poetry library in partnership with The Welcoming and Oxfam.
And the poetry was supposed to be on display until Monday 29 June but the poems were vanishing so fast it looks as if poetry library volunteers won’t have much clearing up to do after the weekend. Where “Here and There”?
More poetry tree pictures on Leith Open Space
June 27th, 2009
Woytek takes one look at me and tells me very nicely to sit down. “I make you a cup of coffee, please take a seat.” I am hot and a bit bothered but I do what he says. Sun pours through the window of Kleofas Cafe as I sit writing lists of all the things I have to remember before World Kitchen opens at Leith Festival tomorrow. Then the coffee arrives with a slice of warm apple cake and suddenly I am in another time and place.
Not for the first time I am struck by the thought that catering is much more a vocation than a job. The best hotels, restaurants and cafes always give you a feeling of being personally cared for and that may have nothing to do with the price you are paying.
A taste of childhood: Maryjanna’s sour apple cake.
Years ago I interviewed Peter Tyrie when he was raising the new Balmoral from the ghost of the North British railway hotel above Waverley Station. He strode through the wet, cold building site taking a boyish delight in the make-belief world of luxury bedrooms and bathrooms still to be constructed. But he also saw beneath the surface: “You have to make each guest feel uniquely important.”
Woytek and Daniel have none of Tyrie’s financial resources (and admittedly Balmoral International was brought down to earth by the recession in 1991 which briefly took Tyrie off the luxury hotel scene) but I think they show the same sense of vocation and imagination.
The two young men worked in the hotel trade when they arrived in Scotland four years ago but they spent so much of their spare time cooking for friends everyone said they should go into business. Kleofas Cafe was created over a year ago with the help of a £5,000 grant (£4,000 from PSYBT plus £1,000 Scottish Enterprise start-up funding) and long days and nights of gutting and restoring a derelict building. “Everything you see here we have done for ourselves,” says Woytek with great pride.
Including the excellent cakes. On the café board are some Kleofas specialities: Maryjanna’s Sour Apple Cake, Carrot Cake, Vienna Cheese Cake, hot with ice cream, (£3.50).
Which reminds me, I am here to collect the cakes Woytek and Daniel are donating to the World Kitchen stall for Leith Festival. I know, Gorgie Road is a long way from Leith but every week Kleofas provides food for the Polish community group, Swietlica which is based (more or less) in Leith. And they want to support World Kitchen aims of using food to bring together people from different cultures.
They choose carrot and cheese cakes, and, especially, the apple cake because it has a good story which Daniel tells in Polish while Woytek translates. The recipe comes from Daniel’s grandmother Maryjanna who lived in east Poland, near Warsaw. She grew most of her own food and the sour apples came from her garden (“Your Bramley apples here are perfect”). The secret of Polish baking is in the beating – apparently the cheesecake, flavoured with lemon and vanilla, takes 45 minutes of beating and Kleofas has only just invested in an electric cake mix. See what I mean about vocation!
I drive off, still hot but much less bothered, in a car smelling beautifully of vanilla and freshly baked sour apple cake. I intend to come back soon.
Kleofas Café, 342 Gorgie Road (just opposite Aldi but on a different planet from the nearby McDonalds) is open Tuesday to Sunday from 1pm to 10 pm.
email: firstname.lastname@example.org telephone 07595 022 666
June 17th, 2009
I have a new routine before I start the hard labour of gardening; a nice half hour or so of delaying tactics, wandering round, cup of tea in hand, counting ducklings (four, nearly full grown) and cygnets (still seven a month after hatching) and then, oh go on, just another few minutes to check the bamboo sculpture (lots and lots of pieces) in the woods.
We are very chuffed to have our very own sculpture among the beech trees. It has been there for more than three months now and never fails to surprise, constantly changing with the season, the light and the time of day.
Susie installed Natural Progression at Pond Cottage way back in February and I have been planning to write about it ever since. But today is pretty good timing because it is exactly a year since Susie drove 600 pieces of black bamboo into the ground at the Botanics.
Flashback to June 2008, surely the wettest coldest summer on record. Despite rain, wind, and dance, Natural Progression held steady on the lawn near the Chinese hillside where it provided a setting for Wind and Bamboo, the great midsummer happening created by Kimho Ip and a multicultural, multimedia, multi-talented cast of many
Anne-Marie dancing in midsummer rain
After being on display for a month, Natural Progression was offered for sale at the Friends plant auction – but apparently no-one had room for so many pieces of bamboo. Ray and I happily offered them a home.
Then we couldn’t decide where it should go. Nature rules the roost at Pond Cottage and I didn’t want the sculpture to disappear beneath docks and thistles. Susie thought that might look quite interesting but in the end she chose the meandering line through the beech wood where the roe deer have made a path on their way to eat our newly planted trees.
Susie and Ziggy mapping out Natural Progression (watch out, something lurking behind a tree). And Ziggy with a bad cough too.
It works beautifully. Each season is a new setting and Natural Progression seems to belong in them all; as much at home among the daffs as when it is almost swamped by bluebells and wild garlic.
I now have stacks of pictures of the bamboo through three seasons in all lights. I am amazed to see how colours change: from February’s brown to the bright green of June. If I was an artist I would make a huge collage of postage stamp pictures tracking Natural Progression through the beech wood year. Maybe I need to talk nicely to Susie. Or Tommy.
Winter, Spring and Summer.
June 9th, 2009