Review: The Outrun by Amy Liptrot

As soon as I heard about The Outrun by Amy Liptrot I knew I had to read it.  Liptrot is around my age.  Like me she was brought up in rural isolated Scotland.  Liptrot on Orkney, me on the Black Isle. Liptrot always felt like an outsider, English in the Highlands and Islands when the term was used like an abusive word.  I never felt I fitted well with my peers on the Black Isle, and I to had “English” thrown at me as an insult – despite the fact I am born and bred Scottish.  Like Liptrot I escaped south, and like her I returned to Scotland.  I also felt that the story of her descent into alcoholism and recovery to sobriety may have some emotional match with the issues dealt with in my pamphlet of poetry.  Oh, yes.  We’re both writers too.

The tone of The Outrun is thoughtful, and reflective. Liptrot spends her time on the Orkeny islands exploring all they have to offer, sea swimming, snorkling, attending festivals, walking the coast, building dry stone dykes, visiting other islands, learning about geography, gazing at stars, whipped by wind and searching for wildlife.  Liptrot not only returns to Orkney but decides to live on one of it’s furthest islands, Papay.  A self imposed exile on which she not only becomes deeply intimate with the landscape around her, but also with herself.

Throughout the book Liptrot returns to the theme of The Outrun, a coastal field the furthest away from the buildings of the farm she grew up on.  It represents being on the edge, being an outsider.  Despite her references to feelings of otherness in many ways her story could not be more Scottish. The bright lights and temptations of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London have pulled the young people out of the north for generations.  Alcoholism is the mental health issue of choice.  What really makes The Outrun stand out as a work not just of Scotland, but one fundamentally of the Highlands and Islands, is where Liptrot finds her redemption.  All Highlanders know, and much Highland literature tells us, that there is only one place where we can find salvation.  The land.  In that way Liptrot is at root very much, one of us.



You don’t deserve love, or happiness.

Deserve is a word I hear a lot now-a-days, and one I’ve come to actively dislike.  My theory is that it’s come into such common usage through self-help and core beliefs work.  Core beliefs are little, simple things that we hold to be true at the centre of our being. Often they have been there since childhood.  Most of the time we are unaware of them.  Because of our unawareness they are often what drives self-sabotage and unhealthy behaviours.  No surprise that for those on the path of personal growth or spiritual improvement core beliefs become a focus.

Of course, what they are can vary from person to person but there are some common ones that have negatives effects on those who hold them.  I’m broken.  I’m not enough.  I’m not lovable.  I don’t deserve good things/love/success etc…  For many people the negative belief has to do with deserving.  So to counter this other people have started to talk about what you do deserve.  You deserve to see the reward of your hard work.  You deserves love.  You deserves happiness.  Kind of like a poorly thought through cheer leading squad.  They’re well meaning, but essentially superficial comments.

The problem with deserve is that it is a wholly and utterly judgemental word.  If you behave in a way or are the sort of person who “deserves” love, then it is logical that you can behave or become the sort of person who does not deserve love.  Someone from whom love can be taken away.  This gives the person who tells you you “deserve” whatever, way too much power in your life.  It’s rarely their decision.

Deserve also feeds into a poverty mindset.  If you deserve love, but you don’t have it as you’d like it yet, maybe that’s because someone else has taken your fair share.  How dare other people steal your love!  What have they done to deserve that love!  If you still don’t have it maybe your still inadequate, or they are just greedy!

When human beings get into that scarcity mindset they stop sharing, they become closed off, ego flourishes like bacteria in a petri dish and they people into themselves – they do the exact things that stop them getting whatever it is they want, love, happiness, success.

There is a better word to use, at least where love is concerned.  Birthright.  When born it is everyone’s birthright to be loved and cherished.  If that is taken from you before you understand it, it is something you can find again, because it has always been yours.  You can’t do anything that means another person can take it from you.  Although you can make sure you make it as hard as possible for yourself.  You can block it, abuse it, shame it, distance yourself from it, ignore it, and try to do the same to others – but if you chose to claim it, it will always be there patiently waiting for you.  You are the only person standing in your way.  It’s a typical human arrogance to think that we ourselves influence the ebb and flow of love in our lives.  It just is.  If you let it.

All the beautiful, different families (and Picturehouses cinemas)

There are points in my life when I become acutely aware of the fact I’m a single parent. The dread I feel at the idea of going to my daughter’s school’s family ceilidh, when the Parent Teacher Council organise photographers to take family portraits to raise funds, and when a family ticket for anything only ever covers two adults and two children.

It’s pretty standard across the UK that families are seen as two adults and two children for events, attractions and transport.  Yet at the same time the idea of the nuclear family is really an aberration within the history of family.  If you think back before the mass use of antibiotics many people died early deaths.  At the same time women were most likely to die in childbirth (this is still an issue).  Add to this the large amount of men who would die in war, or from poor working conditions etc,  then what you have is a lot of children who lose one or both parents.  The lone parent would remarry, or move in with siblings, or parents, the children were sometimes given to other relatives to bring up.  In some cultures there has been a strong tradition of Levirate marriage.  The idea of the blended family appears very modern, but it is in fact very, very old.  The only difference now is that often the blended family has happened because at some point one parent chose to leave a relationship that could no longer thrive or survive healthily, rather than the catalyst of change being death.

Today I was discussing with a friend booking tickets for the Cameo’s Studio Ghibli Season.  My daughter has got massively into anime this year, and we’re quite excited to see some of the best being shown on Edinburgh big screens.  Attending a season is expensive.  While my friend has chosen to go for a Cameo membership to keep costs down, there is no children’s membership and being a one adult one child family there is no family ticket that suits me.

I’ve spent some of the afternoon emailing Picturehouses who own the Cameo, and several other independent cinemas across the UK.  I have to say their customer service was first class as the staff member I communicated with wanted to genuinely help me find an option that may work out for me.  Unfortunately there isn’t one.

Rather than admit defeat, and give into the feeling I so often get that my family isn’t a “proper” family (and all the guilt and shame that carries with it) I decided to make another suggestion.  The Cameo has a membership option of Adult + 1.  It could be possible to have an adult membership (transferable between two adults) at the normal price of £45, but on which the adults could then add as many children on to that membership at whatever cost the Cameo thought was appropriate.  I’d suggest something like £20 per child, some people have four kids after all.

The staff member I spoke to is now going to take this idea to her managers for them to consider.  They might not make a decision in time for My Neighbour Totoro on Saturday, but I’m really hopeful that we may be able to achieve a better, more flexible deal for families.

If you think that this is a good idea, and you’d like to see Picturehouses introduce it, then you can show your support by emailing  You don’t have to be a parent to believe families could have better access, or have your own children to believe that services, attractions and entertainment can find ways to acknowledge all our families and their different shapes and sizes.

Snail gel – no, honestly!

First time I told my friends I used snail gel on my face I got some very strange looks.  In fact, every time I tell my friends I use snail gel I get some very strange looks.  Making the the leap from garden to face never appeared very strange to me.

I grew up in a small village of about one hundred people in the highlands of Scotland.  Many residents, including out school head master  grew up speaking Gaelic as their first langue and English as their second.  Impecable English at that.  Our curriculum covered all the basics, reading, writing, doing maths without using your fingers, but also covered a smattering of myth and legend, folklore and superstition.  My primary three teacher, Mrs Skinner (who none of us ever saw without about thirty thin silver bangles jangling on her right arm) told us how one cure for warts was to pick a snail up from the garden and let it wander all over the effected part.  The warts would be gone the next day.

So when browsing in Holland & Barrett and finding a Dr Organic product based on snail gel, it didn’t appear like a way out there idea.  I feel I’ve been vindicated.  I’ve always had what is euphemistically referred to as “problem skin”.  I’m not that far from forty and I still get hormonal acne!  I decided to change my skin care focus from covering it up, to actually, well… caring.  The snail gel was one of the first products I tried and it’s been amazing.  Within the first week my skin had visibly improved.  My acne has dramatically decreased, and the little I get now is vastly reduced in both size and subsequent scarring.

Although this is a product directly derived from an animal, it is cruelty free.  To harvest the gel all the snails need to do is slide up and down a piece of glass.  Dr Ogranic only harvest from “free roaming” snails.  What makes snail gel really work is the ingredients in it.  Snails produce their slime to repair any damage to their shells. Not dissimilar to the way we humans produce oil to protect our skin.  The snail gel also stimulates the production of elastin and collagen in human skin, so aids our repair too.

I’ve tried a few different brands of Snail Gel and I have to say Dr Organic’s is definitely the best.  They just add a little aloe vera and some citrus essential oil to lift the fragrance, but other than that it is fairly pure.  Dr Organic’s is exclusive to Holland & Barrett, but luckily all their stores stock it, and you can click and collect if they’ve run short, or order online.

When I first tried it I was put off the price £20 on the secretion of a snail!  It felt like a lot to spend on my vanity.  However I decided to consider it was spending on my skin health and self confidence.  Given that a little goes a long way, and Holland & Barrett often have it in its buy one get one half price offers I feel I’m worth it.

5 best Edinburgh blogs

I fell in love with Edinburgh when I was five.  I was in the boot of the family hatchback crossing over the Dean Bridge into the city.  (We had a big family.)  The sky was a mix of peaches and reds, and the backs of the New Town houses appeared as if they were growing organically right out of the rock.  For a wee girl from the Black Isle it was entrancing and I wanted to live in the city ever since.

There is no point living somewhere you like if you don’t get out and sample it’s delights, try what it has to offer, suck it dry and spend the rest of the next day recovering.

Here are my five top blogs for enjoying the city.

Crumbs and Petals:  Husband and wife team (and also my friends for transparency) Crumbs and Petals explore all that there is to offer in Edinburgh’s food and cultural scene. They’re on a pause just now, but the archive is worth looking through.  If you want a festival beer, find out about gin or how to make a giant after eight – these are your people! Who doesn’t want to make a giant after-eight?

Lost in Edinburgh:  Ok not strictly a blog, more a FaceBook community.  Edinburgh is a city that is not only teaming with life, events, art and culture but also history.  Much of it turbulent and bloody.  The kind of history I like.  Lost In Edinburgh will help you discover some of the hidden gems, little known facts and nooks and crannies that all too often get forgotten about in the madness of pulling in the tourist pounds.

Edinburgh Coffee Lovers:  If wild beer soaked nights of spoken word, street performance and sticky floors are becoming a little bit boring then kick back with the slower paced Edinburgh Coffee Lovers.  It will specifically plug you in to the independent coffee scene in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.  These people know what they’re talking about.

Edinblogger:  They got there first with the name!  This blog has been going for a while, and I really appreciate getting truly honest reviews.  Sometimes it’s ok to say “The experience was meh…just alright…nothing special.”  It doesn’t all have to be whizzes and bangs.  If I’ve thought about reviewing a place, they’ve generally got there first.  *shakes fist*

Edinburgh foody:  despite the title this isn’t a blog about people who are richer than you eating in places you’ll never afford.  It’s about real live actual people, who aren’t cut outs from the Observer Magazine, eating, drinking, reviewing gadgets, trying new recipe books. Go eating!


Let’s not be friends

There are lots and lots of advice columns about if you should stay friends with someone you’ve been dating if one or both of you have decided not to take things further romantically.  They go through all kinds of scenario’s where it is/isn’t the right thing to do, and ask all sorts of question which can have you sieving through the minutia of every interaction.  One thing I am yet to read through is an in depth analysis of what is really the most important part of the “Should I be friends with them?” question.  What friendship really is, and what it means.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me friendship is something that in the right package can come close to the sacred and can be very profound.  Five years ago I was introduced to a woman twenty years my senior and with quite a different personality to mine.  She’s now become one of my closest confidants, has guided me through several life events and at no point has made me feel anything less than utterly worthwhile and incredibly interesting.  This is what real friendship feels like.

Friends are not the same as acquaintances.  Acquaintances are people who you know, who you occasionally spend time with, but with whom you have not yet formed (and may never) the sort of close emotional bond that you need for a real and true friendship to take place. That’s the thing, friendship is a close emotional bond, not just happenstance or the culmination of a handful of good dates and physical encounters.

Like any bond it needs time, respect, empathy, forgiveness, sense of humour, kindness, and a desire from both of you to make it work.  There will be some added extra’s that are individual for each person, but these are the basics.  Kinda like a relationship really, and you wouldn’t get into it with just anyone who comes along.

Often in a dating scenario when someone is saying “Let’s be friends” there are three things they can mean.  1. I’d like to feel less guilty about giving you bad news.  2. I’m more interested in someone else, but I’d like to keep you as an option in case it falls through.  3.  I really like you, let’s be friends.  If the real motivation behind the request for friendship is one or two, it’s worth noting that none of those statements include anyone other than the person making the request.

True friend is an important role in your life.  There are loads and loads of people out there who are possible fits, and no limit to how many you can have.  Not everyone who makes the grade will become your true friend, there is time, children, studies, carers, ill health, ill family and many other things that mean some friendships never quite come to fruition.  But that never means it was a waste of time, you’ll both have enjoyed each others company, and who knows, one day circumstances may change and make it easier for you to carry on that building work.  Friendships can be built in fit’s and starts, the work abandoned and then come back to.  Relationships however can’t, they need consistent attention and dedication.

We all need friends in our life.  We don’t need bad friends, false friends, toxic friends, ignoring friends, superior friends, negative friends, energy sucking friends, friends with hidden agendas or pretend friends.  If someone is showing signs of being one of those types of friend by say, offering friendship as a way to make themselves feel less guilty, or suggesting friendship as a way of still keeping you in reserve while they give it a shot with someone else, they are never going to make the leap into the true friend category.  No one ever got in the true friend category by doing anything other than treating the other person with respect.

If your trying to decided if you want to carry on a friendship with someone you’ve dated you need to ask yourself some questions.  “Does this person meet my criteria for friendship?” and most importantly “Have they treated me with the respect I expect my friends to treat me with?”  Once those two questions have been answered you will know what to do.

These decisions are best made with:  My chocolate lime coconut milk ice-cream.  Because handled badly it can come across as bitter and acidic.  Handled well it’s self love.