Monthly Archives: November 2010

Edinburgh Livin’: ‘Sno Problem

Scotland’s whiteout and it could cost millions” and “Let it Snow: Winter chill chaos for travellers in Scotland

The headlines of a Scottish national newspaper after a couple of days of snow. A few inches is all its takes for the headline writers to whip themselves into a frenzy about the chaos to ensue.

It is true that some schools and roads are closed, some flights and trains are canceled, some workplaces have closed early and there may be a financial cost to bear.

According to David Lonsdale, assistant director of the Council of British Industry in Scotland:

these conditions could end up costing the Scottish economy millions of pounds…There have already been construction sites in the north east where sites have been affected by poor conditions”.

Time is money but if construction workers can’t finish a building they are working on because of a couple of days of snow will it really cost Scotland millions? Can’t they do overtime to make up for it? Surely the builders’ clients only have to look outside their windows to see the pretty solid and cold excuse for any delay. And anyway it wouldn’t be the first time a building job has overrun – with or without snow to contend with!

Snowy street scene in Edinburgh

Enjoy the snow and the beauty of the lightly speckled winter scenery and don’t panic. Pavements do get icy and people do fall over. Trains get canceled and people do have to make other arrangements. But it’s good to fall over or have your train canceled now and again because it reminds us that we are only human.

As much as we like to think we are in control: we are not. We are vulnerable and nature does us a service by collectively reminding us all that we need each other. Strangers pull together for the few snowy days. Cars get pushed up hills and neighbours who never talk help clear each others pathways.

There is also the joy of sledging and snowball fights. These are not just the pleasure of the young. Parents, some of whom must stay off work for their children, have the pleasure of dressing them up warm, and trailing them on sledges to the park to enjoy the snow. A fun and loving time that would not otherwise be shared.

People playing in the snow at the Meadows

The snow also provides some much needed excitement into the working week. Workers chatter about the latest snowfall and the chances of finishing early. It provides some excitement and it unites us all. We don’t have to tune in for it. There is no reality TV snow show where celebrities compete for our affections by overcoming snowy days.

We get to experience this directly for ourselves. We can put on hold living vicariously through those slightly more famous than us for a few days at least!

This is a call to welly boots, salopettes and wooly gloves.

Forget the cost.

Embrace the chaos and chill out!

by David Paterson

Thanks to Edinburgh filmmaker and photographer Julien Pearly for providing some of the images.

A serene snow scene in Edinburgh

Frozen fruit and veg



November 30, 2010 · 1:11 pm

Edinburgh: Workplace Couture

Could telling your boss to f**k off be good for your health?

Elodie is from Paris and has worked in Edinburgh for two years. We got to talking about her thoughts on culture and the differences between Scottish and French manners.

I’ve had this chat before; it usually starts off with glowing about Scottish culture – ”…how friendly people are…”; “…the richness of the history”; – before getting to the meat of the matter: the weather; the obesity crisis, the drinking; deep-fried mars bars; and how scantily clad young nightclub going women are despite the sub-zero temperatures!

To my surprise these things didn’t come up and my planned quip: “We may have the highest rates of obesity and heart disease in Europe but at least we’re the best at something.” remained unsaid.

Instead Elodie told me about her experience of working in Edinburgh compared to her homeland. On first arriving, she was amazed by how polite the white-collar workplace culture was compared to France. However as time went by she began to find the pressure to always be polite no matter what the circumstances frustrating and dishonest.

It’s difficult to know what a colleague thinks because they are so polite. In Latin cultures if someone annoys you, or if you disagree, you tell them even if that means screaming at each other. Here you can’t do that, people take it personally…. but at home its normal.

The only time people here say what they really think is when they drink.”

I’d never considered our culture of politeness to be a bad thing, much less a repressive force! A hallmark of a civilised society I thought. However the sort of politeness that Elodie felt the pressure to conform to is about more than just saying “Good morning” to your colleague at the photocopier.

It’s an extreme politeness culture that places obedience over honesty. Honesty can be offensive or disagreeable. There is no place for the warm and fiery Latin temperament.

It’s an exhausting facade that causes us to repress our true emotions; politeness bottles up anger; it takes its toll. We seek refuge, a place to release pent-up anger and unbridled emotion. So we drink.  Not in a cafe culture of moderation but to uncivilised excess.

Is French rudeness a keener guarantee of health and contentment than bottling up anger and drinking to excess?

The next time your boss annoys you, and you find yourself readying a polite reply, resist.

Turn calmly toward him, with steel jaw and tell him to “F**k off!”

If only for the sake of your health.

by David Paterson


An Edinburgh worker says it like he means it!

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Filed under Edinburgh, Edinburgh People, Working Couture

Edinburgh Band: The Dark Jokes

The Dark Jokes are a hugely talented band. Young, cool and relevant, the band are one of the most exciting unsigned band in Edinburgh at the moment.  I first saw them after watching a video my friend had shot of them playing live.  The video showed the band’s lead singer, Aaron Dennington, performing an acoustic version of his song In A Gregorian Garden – watch the same video below. I was blown away by Aaron’s performance and I knew I had to see the band play live.  I contacted Aaron to ask when their next gig was and he responded by inviting me to go to the band’s studio (a space they rent in an industrial estate in Granton) to watch them play a gig a few weeks later.

I was excited about the gig so when it came around I asked a few friends to come along.  None of them had heard of The Dark Jokes before and none of them shared my excitement.  In fact, they were pretty skeptical about the prospect of seeing a local unknown band.  When I told them the band’s name they sneered and on learning that the gig was at a studio on an industrial estate they remained unconvinced. More than that, when I told them the studio was in Granton they became quite disparaging – apparently Granton is a less appealing part of the city.

On reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised by their attitude. Our consumer culture, from which I am not immune, encourages us to believe that spending money on branded products is the only way to guarantee quality and enjoyment.  My friends had no ‘brand recognition’ to go on so the band’s name seemed strange (consider Dizzee Rascal or Smashing Pumpkins).  The lack of a ‘recognised’ venue also suggested that the band were no good. You pay to see good bands and if you don’t pay the band cannot be very good.

In my experience, art is an area where you can definitely experience fantastic performances for free or very little and often in the most surprising places. Ofcourse, there are great and not so great well known bands and there are great and not so great less well known bands (what equates to ‘great’ is obviously subjective). What is important, however, is to be open to both and not to discount something on the basis of commercial status.   To do so risks missing out on some of the joys that local music can deliver. One such joy is the ‘surprise factor’ that finding a great local band can bring.  This can be a pleasure in itself and very satisfying.

It was against this backdrop that I was so excited to see The Dark Jokes. I was looking forward to the ‘surprise factor’ of their live show, seeing their studio and the crowd who would be going along.   Having said that, I was a bit nervous on the way to the gig because I was slightly concerned my friends wouldn’t enjoy themselves.

When we arrived we were met by Paul Dennington, the band’s drummer. Paul showed us around the studio. First, into the live music room, this was a large room full of people watching a support band. Then into a smaller room where we got some beers before Paul took us to another large room where some silent films were being shown via a projector. There was also a pianist accompanying the silent films. I later found out the pianist was Matthew Thornton, the keyboard player and cellist from band.

The studio was cool.  The band had transformed a space on an industrial estate into a place of art and music through some hard work and creativity. I was impressed. My friends were equally impressed.  We enjoyed some beers, the silent films and the support bands before the main act began.

The Dark Jokes came on stage at around 1am (having your own venue means the music can last all night).  From the first note of the first song we felt the full sonic force of drums, bass, keyboard, guitar, cello, saxophones and trumpet.  Aaron’s voice bristled as he sang, in his Scottish accent, Chinese Asylum, Jean Charles de Menezes, Yellow Menace, Low Winter Sun and In a Gregorian Garden, only stopping to swig at a warm flask of whisky between songs.

The depth and variety of the sound was a refreshing departure from the conventional indie sound of guitar, bass and drums. The quality of Aaron’s lyrics can neither be ignored. Never clichéd or worn, they mix the poetic with the political and convey stories of his experiences of Edinburgh.

There were many moments to savour from the show.  The high energy performance of Yellow Menace, during which the band’s trumpet player came off stage to play facing back at the band from the middle of the crowd was particularly memorable.  My favourite moment was the performance of Low Winter Sun, a warm and uplifting song which, although mentioning the bleak and cold Edinburgh winter, reminds me of its beauty.  It’s a message of hope: even in dark times the faintest light shines through.  Take some time out and enjoy the music of The Dark Jokes. You won’t be disappointed.

by David Paterson

Visit the The Dark Jokes at their Myspace page to listen to their music and find gig information.

Thanks to Julien Pearly for providing the videos featured in this post.  Visit Julien’s Vimeo page for videos of local bands and more.


Filed under Live Music, The Dark Jokes