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Edinburgh

So, I moved! It was hard work. My arms ache and I am tired. But I am now finally in my new home for my fresh start. And the experience proved what I had already suspected: I have some of the best workmates in the world. A few kind friends brought their muscles, vehicles and enthusiasm to move my (surprisingly plentiful) piles of boxes and mismatched furniture from the comfortable modern flat that I’ve shared with the recent ex to the homely yet eccentric flat-share I’ll now be living in. Aside from the hours of sorting and packing beforehand, the entire move miraculously took just over an hour. And now I only have a few more hours of furniture assembly, rearranging and unpacking to do!

debbiedoesdoodles new space 1
debbiedoesdoodles new space 2
debbiedoesdoodles new space 3

This is my new bedroom – before all the boxes of possessions arrived! I love the large, light, bay windows and the beautiful fireplace, even if both are a little old and draughty. I also love the vintage light fitting at the entrance to my room, although I can’t figure out what one of the switches does!

The rest of the flat is equally quirky. Bookshelves line the hallway, including around the curved walls, and are filled with books from almost every genre. Which is likely to be handy for the 13 in ’13 reading challenge! An assortment of tea is stored in a fake sink with no taps, our food is kept in a walk-in pantry and the kitchen units contain collections of interesting teapots and cups and saucers. It’s a change for me to be in an old flat with it’s associated upkeep ‘niggles’, but it’s got lots of character and so far the flatmates seem friendly and fun. And fans of both Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead! Result.

So, I plan to turn this space into somewhere I can both sleep and be creative – plans are afoot which I will share here as soon as possible. I absolutely love seeing how other people organise their creative spaces and I can’t wait to have a proper place of my own for creativity – even if it’s just a small corner and features an interesting whistle when the wind blows hard enough!

debbiedoesdoodles | View of Leith

For the last four years I have lived in various different flats (of distinctly different levels of niceness) sharing with a brilliant selection of flatmates, all around Leith in Edinburgh. It has been an amazing four years. I’ve met some really genuine, insane, hilarious and interesting people, done some fascinating work and have absolutely loved living here.

This weekend I’m moving. It’s not far; I hope to still spend time with those great people and will still be doing a job that is different every day, as part of a supportive team that pulls together even when there’s no money and the days drag, and celebrates with enthusiasm and a huge amount of alcohol when something goes our way.

But for the first time in four years, I won’t be doing those things from Leith. Well, except my job, since that’s where I work. Oh, and drinking and eating, since that’s where some of Edinburgh’s best pubs and restaurants are nowadays. So really, it’s just that I won’t be living there. I’ll be an EH7 instead of an EH6 resident.

I’ve taken so many photos of Leith while I’ve been living here, mostly just using my iPhone as I walk around here and there and spot a view I like the look of. Here are those I’ve considered nice enough to share via Instagram over the last year or so, presented in gallery form which means that should you do desire, you can click to view them bigger:

Hopefully there’ll be a new selection of photographs to post here soon; those from my really quite lovely new place in Bellevue. I cannot wait to begin turning that empty room into my own home and forming new relationships with my new flatmates, who so far seem nice and friendly and not axe murderers. One can never be sure when it comes to people you meet over the Internet… 😉

I’ve read many blogs about people who go to giant ‘Thrift Stores’ in their spare time, to find items for their homes or for upcycling or to sell on for a profit. A rather romantic image is created, of strolling and browsing and reaching under a table covered with quaint picture books and vintage tin signs to uncover something undiscovered, dusty, and perfect.

While that cliché can’t be true for most, I’m sure that most people’s bargain hunting is a far cry from the experience of shopping at the Jane Street lane sale in Leith.

Jane Street outside

Hosted by auctioneers Ramsay Cornish, the lane sale is sold as “Edinburgh’s best kept secret”, but the throng that assembles on Jane Street every Thursday would beg to differ. I used to live in a flat on Kirk Street overlooking the auction house, and the sight of the many many tables snaking around the forecourt of Ramsay Cornish was always intriguing (shown empty, above). Those many tables fill up with old jugs, vases, teacups, records, books, broken projectors, 2 foot tall wizard statues, 3 foot tall porcelain cats, crystal ashtrays, mismatched salt and pepper shakers, and so much more. Many of the tables themselves are for sale. The next few rows are made up of cardboard boxes filled with random assortments from kettles to old letters, postcards, broken frames and vintage books – some items so personal it seems that many of these boxes have come straight from an estate clear-out. And then the furniture: grand armchairs in dire need of reupholstering, whole sets of dining chairs and mahogany cabinets and sofas and wardrobes. It’s a different assortment every week, but every week it’s full to the brim.

With so much stuff and so much of it of low low (really, very low) value, the trick here seems to be to rummage deep within the boxes (casting out of your mind the likely recently-deceased former owner), hunt out your favourite picks and stake your spot at a table. The auctioneer moves down the row of tables, with only one active at each time. When bidding at a table begins, anyone who wants an item on that table passes it to the auctioneer. He begins to rapidly fire off prices in your conventional auction style, but with less order, more jokes, and absolutely no pauses. Items typically begin at £1. Sometimes they go up a couple of pounds, occasionally they go up lots of pounds. While one item is being sold off, the next is being thrust upon the auctioneer, while two other auction house workers shout over the whole hubbub to make sure those who win an item actually pay up. Once there aren’t any goods being requested for bidding, the auctioneer will usually assess the whole table of leftovers and declare ‘rest of table’ for sale for £2 or so, before moving on. If you win the table, you have to gather everything up quick smart before someone starts picking things up to start bidding on them.

There’s some friendly banter and plenty of smiles, but don’t be mistaken: it’s vicious. If you get a good spot by a prime table you’d better stand your ground or you’ll soon be gently pushed out of the way by a smiling old lady with a zimmer frame, only to realise she’s only using it to carry all her new copper jugs and vintage ornaments and is on the hunt for a serious bargain*.

I’ve been a couple of times before and just passively enjoyed the chaos and hilarity while my old work colleague Joanne set about buying all the available vintage teacups for her upcoming wedding. This time I went with another work colleague in her giant teal coloured surfing van, which we joked about filling up with boxes of useless paraphernalia. A joke, or a prediction?

Visiting the lane sale at lunchtime is not ideal, as it’s open for browsing all morning so that when bidding begins at 11am everyone already knows exactly what they want and have already nabbed the best table-side viewing spots. Arriving after midday, as we did, the crowd is tightly packed around the tables in play. In a rush of excitement to get involved, I neglected to take a single photo – next time I’ll try harder. Workmate Laura and I had a poke around the upcoming tables and then tried to get a peek at what was happening. She seemed to be far wilier than I and regularly ended up in the midst of the action – I meanwhile looked at a plastic gold Jesus ornament which would have been oh so at home in James’s sister’s gorgeously eclectic South American style flat. I popped a pound in my pocket just in case – because there is NO TIME at this thing for wallets and fumbling, and definitely not for using notes or getting change.

So, after some wandering and some watching, Laura emerged with a beautiful hand-operated Singer sewing machine, black, vintage and shiny, in a wooden case with the original instructions, all for £24. While she took it to the van I watched gold Jesus go in a job lot and realised it wasn’t really worth the pound anyway, and then found myself at one of the last tables before they started on the cardboard boxes and the furniture. After a few of the nicest items, the auctioneer was pretty impatient to get going so offered ‘rest of table’ for £5. No takers. 4, 3, 2, 1… well, I had that £1 in my pocket. So I bid. And I got it.

“What a bargain!” said one onlooker at the lane sale.

“What a box of crap!” said my workmates when I brought my haul in to inspect it.**

When I laid it all out, I had:

  • 4 pewter tankards with Sheffield makers marks
  • 3 glass sundae dishes
  • 2 large china pots
  • brightly painted clay vase
  • shell shaped china dish
  • an ornate china ashtray
  • hexagonal china vase with Oriental patterns
  • a couple of empty plastic jewellery boxes
  • blue glass vase
  • 3 decorative plates
  • a slim decorated sunflower jug
  • 2 small clay pots
  • large blue and white china dish
  • floral china butter dish
  • 2 small crystal dishes
  • a crystal ashtray
  • a china bell (no ringer)
  • a glass bell
  • brass sunflower cufflinks
  • set of very tarnished ESPN cutlery

I know nothing about valuing second hand bargains but there are many folks at the Jane Street lane sale who do, and who take it very seriously. So I strongly suspect that I don’t have any hidden treasures here. But I am sure there are some items that could still find a happy home, or provide me with some crafty fun. And the tankards I am definitely keeping.

I have some plans to upcycle a few of these items, the least fragile may make it on to eBay, and some will simply be cleaned and donated to a charity shop – a task that James is keen to point out totally undermines the argument of “but it was only a pound!” I think he has a vision of our flat filled with other people’s discarded things, as I prance around pointing to bits of dusty broken crockery pronouncing “50p!” and “what a bargain!”.

Jane Street haul

I may have to give it a week or so before returning to Jane Street – after all, I only have so many cupboards to hide these things in.

*This exact scenario happened to me the first visit to Jane Street. Never again.

**’Box of crap’ has become the go-to measuring point for financial value at work in the last few days. “I knocked £1,000 off the asking price!” “Why, that’s 1,000 boxes of crap!”

Remember that nautical themed party I was planning as a farewell to my friend Chris, who is leaving Edinburgh to join the navy? It is now only eight days away, and I’ve done next to nothing in the way of decorations. Or even a costume!

My previous inspiration mostly involved eight year olds’ birthday parties. While quaint and cute and full of great motifs and colours, I’m not sure all of those plans were the most suited to a flat full of men in their 20s and 30s. And the ‘walk the plank’ idea was sure to end in disaster when coupled with the inevitable vodka jelly and Jaeger shots.

So, today my inspiration is grounded in the actual navy. Moored in Leith, just around the corner, the Britannia is the former Royal Yacht of Queen Elizabeth II. Built in the UK and commissioned on 11 January 1954 (thank you Wikipedia), Britannia served as the Queen’s holiday yacht, was used for Royal honeymoons, official ceremonies, trade missions and even evacuated over 1,000 refugees from the civil war in Aden in 1986. Apparently Britannia was also designed to act as the Queen’s nuclear bunker in the event of nuclear war. At the decommissioning ceremony in 1997 the Queen was said to have wept.

Despite living in Leith for almost four years now, my first trip to Britannia was just a few months ago when my parents came up for a visit and a road trip around Scotland. I totally loved it – the audio guide was informative but not dull, the disabled access was outstanding and the details were all retained – the crystal ware still on the shelves, the family board games still in the drawing room. The Royal Yacht reveals all the levels of Royal life – the bedrooms and living areas of the Royals themselves, the working and sleeping areas of the ship staff and crew, laundry room and officers’ bars, and even the (extremely shiny) engine rooms.

I took loads of photos on our tour of Britannia, and these details may help to represent the real life on the ocean waves:

What stands out from these images is that the Royal Navy really is all about the navy and white colour scheme, but not to forget about the use of gold for the official crests and special details. I loved the store of colourful nautical flags and will definitely be using the flag signals somewhere in the party decorations. And that hat – I’d love a hat like that.

I’m wishing I had the budget to just hire the Royal Yacht Britannia – now that would be one unforgettable leaving party.

There’s been a craft fair inhabiting the gardens of St John’s Church on the west end of Princes Street for the last month. And finally, yesterday, the very last day of the craft fair, with just a couple of hours before they packed it all away, I made it along. And it was brilliant! Colourful bunting hung from posts and trees, stalls filled the arches under Lothian Road, and rows and rows of marquees filled the cobbled paths. There was a lovely buzz to the fair – stallholders were friendly and relaxed, chatting with each other, customers, potential customers, me… I saw so many soft handmade scarves and unusual decorations and upcycled jewellery made of typewriter keys or old pennies or safety pins. There were many many moments when I had to be strict with myself and walk away from something I desperately wanted, but didn’t necessarily need.

But if you live in Edinburgh and didn’t make it along, never fear! Because my two top finds of the craft fair both happen to be based in Edinburgh anyway.

Phoenix Copper Art: handmade books

Superhero and comic book covers caught my eye while wandering the stalls of the craft fair but once I started browsing these handmade notebooks I soon fell for a map-covered book showing Edinburgh and the Port of Leith. These books are bound by hand with big bold stitching along the spine, in such a way that once the papers of the notepad are used up it’s possible to refill with standard A5 paper or hand-made punched papers of your own desire. Creator and stall holder Will Phoenix happily showed me how to refill your own book and his enthusiasm when speaking about his work was contagious. This book, it seems, was made from an old Bartholomew map from the 50s, which is in remarkable condition considering its age. Other books on the stall featured designs embossed in copper, recycled second hand books and comic book strips. He also makes a pretty funky looking Tardis notebook.

Information included inside the books tells that Will is a book-lover and only upcycles books beyond repair, in order to “breathe new life into old books”.

I don’t need a new notebook so although I really appreciated the artistry behind this, I knew I shouldn’t buy it. Remember that bit above about walking away from things I wanted but didn’t need? Yeah.

The problem was, I couldn’t put the notebook back. I have a total lack of willpower when it comes to books. Especially beautiful, unique, geographically relevant, reusable books. And so I am now the proud owner of an A5 Edinburgh map hand-bound notebook.

Miss Ballantyne: organic skincare

Karen Ballantyne produces a range of organic skincare products which smell fantastic without using any artificial ingredients. Judging by one day of use they can also make your skin feel super soft. I stood nearby her stand looking interested and was quickly drawn in to sample various different creams and moisturisers. Karen suggested that for my normal skin the vanilla scented blue cream would be ideal – I’m a big vanilla fan, and the label suggested it was a good solution for tired or dehydrated skin, which sounds perfect for Weekday Debbie!

Instead of a simple business card or flyer, Karen provided her contact details inside this gorgeous hand crafted envelope – it’s actually a large gift tag with details printed and stuck inside, folded over and tied up with string, and each one was adorned with a different stamp. I love this kind of detail and it couldn’t be more different from the experience of shopping on the high street. Each crafter I spoke to yesterday was so passionate and enthusiastic about their particular product – Karen had started this business on a trial six month basis, and just never stopped, because not only had there been demand for her products, but she loved what she was doing. Speaking to these people made me want to buy independent and local more often – not just to support small and innovative businesses, but because the experience you get as a consumer is that much better.

Miss Ballantyne is stocked in numerous shops around Scotland (and a couple in England), and her products are also available via Etsy.

Laura has left the building. And the country.

The last week has been a whirlwind of fun. I have done the following things, in no particular order:

  • Laughed so hard that I almost peed thanks to Dead Cat Bounce at the Pleasance Courtyard and the comedy ingeniousness of their ludicrous lyrics.
  • Ate late night savoury crepes at the Gilded Balloon garden.
  • Heard a very funny story about a friend’s friend accidentally pooing on their dog.
  • Tried to book cinema tickets by shouting “BATMAN” at Cineworld’s automated phone service.
  • Cut pizza with scissors.
  • Marvelled at Piff the Magic Dragon and his ability to both a) select clueless magician’s assistants and b) do really cool comedy magic.
  • Not won the lottery (despite trying).
  • Drank Jägerbombs in a yurt.
  • Loved The Dark Knight Rises, so so much.
  • Drank ‘sex in a bucket’ out of a bright red sandcastle shaped beach bucket.
  • Loved Joseph Gordon Levitt’s face, so so much.
  • Finally took advantage of our ‘perfect for barbecues’ terrace by actually having a barbecue on our terrace.
  • Reconnected with long-lost friends.
  • Accidentally slept in till 9am on a week day.
  • Enjoyed one of former flatmate Chris’s excellent hangover fry-ups.
  • Watched the second half of Stalker with James without falling asleep.
  • Fell off the Weight Watchers wagon and missed my first meeting.
  • Cleared up a mountain of wrappers after the aforementioned Chris and Laura demolished almost the entirety of our naughty snack drawer, even the Weight Watchers goodies, in one night.
  • Ordered a giant bean bag.
  • Missed the ‘celebrity’ toilets in Cineworld Fountainbridge, I used to love pretending to be Emma Thompson or Julia Roberts while peeing.
  • Drank a lot of rum.
  • Managed to only take four photos on a night out, all of the exact same thing.
  • Worn a Pacman inspired necklace created by Laura
  • Rooted for methylamine train robbers.
  • Felt so happy about rekindling the epic bond between the brilliant friends known as Team Omega, and then sad at the realisation that the Edinburgh reunion was temporary.

So now I’m loving being quiet and relaxing in my flat just James and I, but I’m looking forward to the next Laura visit and the inevitable whirlwind of activity and excitement.

Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish industrialist who died 93 years ago today at the ripe age of 80 years old. Born in Dunfermline, just across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh, Carnegie moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 13 and gradually worked his way up the ranks of industry, investing in and developing different endeavours until founding the Carnegie Steel Company, which was eventually sold for $480 million (and that was back in 1901!). He was the second richest man in history, and an incredible philanthropist during his career and in retirement, with great focus on social welfare and education, which involved establishing many free libraries, including in Edinburgh – now the Edinburgh Central Library on George IV Bridge. According to all reports, in addition to being a shrewd industrialist and a kind-hearted philanthropist, he was also charming, witty and intelligent.

I first read about Andrew Carnegie about a year ago and discovered a huge bank of amusing and inspiring quotations of things that he’d said in his lifetime. A few of my favourites:

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.”

“A sunny disposition is worth more than fortune. Young people should know that it can be cultivated; that the mind like the body can be moved from the shade into sunshine.”

“No man can become rich without himself enriching others.”

“Concentrate your energies, your thoughts and your capital…. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Andrew Carnegie, November 25, 1835 – August 11, 1919

 

Finally, summer has arrived.

You get used to the sporadic sightings of the sun when you live in Scotland, but it’s August now, and it was due. And yesterday it finally felt like summer. I wandered home from work wearing giant sunglasses, poured a couple of rum and cokes with ice and headed out to the raised terrace shared by our row of flats with Laura. The sun kept peeking out from behind clouds and buildings, but for an hour or so it was just lovely.

Everything was even better thanks to the rum being almost the very last of my original recipe Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum. I’ve been eeking out a bottle for over a year – James bought it for my birthday last April, and there’s nothing quite like it. I am not such a fan of new recipe Sailor Jerry. I am, however, enjoying this year’s birthday rum almost as much. Kraken black rum, with equally brilliant visual bottle and label design, and a deep yet smooth taste. I could drink Kraken rum neat, on ice.

It’s Friday afternoon, and all this talk of rum is making me wish for evening and the buzz of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

And so, adieu!

Lovely Laura, the Dutchess, El Dutchio, has arrived in Edinburgh. Laura was once my flatmate verging on civil partner, I called her my hife (or was I the hife and she the wusband? I never remember) and she is in Scotland for a whole week. Eighteen months ago she returned to the Netherlands to study how to make things out of really hot metal and left a giant Laura-shaped hole in my life. I am very happy to experience her brilliant chat and all-encompassing cuddles again and I can’t wait to enjoy some festival madness together in this awesome city.

Photo: Me (left) and Laura (right) in summer 2011