Happy birthday Emily…

Emily, canoe, holy loch

My lovely daughter Emily hits 19 today. Paddling off into the future…

She came home with friends last night and we had a late night laughing and playing games. These are the things that light my life, and I am so proud of her…

A couple more photos, including my very favourite (the last one);

My snow angel 1

William and Emily, Dun I, Iona

Michaela with Emily, some time in the late nineties, Keswick.

The seduction of acquisition…

Emily, new car

My daughter Emily has bought herself a car.

Aside from the scary implications of having a daughter let loose on the open road, it has raised some interesting questions about how we relate to our possessions. Emily had decided not to put any pictures on FB as she had seen too many other ‘look what I have got, look at my lovely stuff’ kind of pictures.

We rehearsed the arguments; it is 13 years old, and you saved up to buy it and are working to run it. Living between Dunoon and Stirling, it makes economic sense. etc., but Emily still felt uncomfortable enough to want to shrink from public celebration of acquisition- she often makes me proud and hopeful like that…

Our intimate relationship with the stuff we own is rarely more intense than with our first car. Not just the fact that it is OURS, but what it represents- freedom, adulthood, the wide horizon of life. Forget the practicalities of insurance, running costs, repairs. Some of this feels good, wholesome, worthy even. It is symbolic of watching our children spreading their wings, making the world for themselves, setting off on their own adventure.


Like most of human endevour, good is shadowed by not-so-good.

There is the environmental impact of car ownership, and the fact that it is a normalised expectancy of all of us that our modes of travel should be individualised motor boxes.

There is also the seduction (soon to become an addiction) of acquisition. It is the means by which we make ourselves feel good, or to feel acceptable, or even to be a valuable member of our societies.

Our children have learned these things from us. And they start young. Check out some of the research here.

It is my hope, and my experience, that my kids have learned other things from us too however- including how we see ownership as responsibility. So if you have a car and others do not, there is a responsibility on you to use it not just for your benefit, but also for the benefit of others. I have not a shadow of a doubt that Emily will do this, and this makes me happy…


Emily’s birthday ceilidh pics…

It is nearly 10 AM on the morning after. 4 people are up in the house- out of (I think) 35. I had around 4 hours sleep, but these days wake when the day calls me rather than listening to what it needs. Just thought I would post a few photos from last night for those of you who were not able to join us to dance Emily into adulthood!

It was a a great night- we had a piper, a great band (Canned Haggis, who are simply the best combination of musicianship and encouragement in the dance,) solo spots from Skye, Hannah and Rachael, conversations with lots of friends, and just about everybody danced. I danced a lot- in fact this morning I feel like I have been on an SAS selection course.

Here is some evidence of it all (taken with no flash in an almost dark room so apologies for the motion blur!)

Emily hits adulthood!

Michaela with Emily, some time in the late nineties, Keswick.

Today Emily is 18! I am heading off to collect her (along with an assortment of friends) from Stirling University.

Cue whirlwind weekend with a house full of old friends, and the odd room full of students sleeping in Mondian shapes.

Tomorrow night we Ceilidh the Scottish way, with a piper and everything.

I know we fathers are all proud of our daughters, but I think I have more reasons than most because of whom she is,what she is becoming, and the life she brings to every space she graces…

Emily and William in motion

Generation self?

Emily poi 1

I read a really depressing piece in the Guardian not long ago. Here is an extract;

Has Britain raised a new “heartless” generation of children of Thatcher – and, arguably, of Tony Blair? Does this mark the slow death of solidarity? Or has the received wisdom on the imagined journey through life, from hot-headed radical to self-satisfied reactionary, never been all that true?

Guardian/ICM poll is only the latest piece of evidence suggesting that the left’s defining value of solidarity is in considerably shorter supply among the young than the old. A rising generation that finds college expensive, work hard to come by and buying a home an impossible dream is responding to its plight, not by imagining any collective fightback, but by plotting individual escape.

The desolate atomisation of what we might dub “generation self” – today’s twentysomethings – poses a profound challenge for the left over the distant horizon. But it is not a challenge that shows up yet in the headline figures for voting intention, where pensioners remain considerably more conservative and everyone else’s propensity to put a cross in the Tory box remains much of a muchness. Rather, the staunch individualism of the young emerges when they are probed about deeper attitudes. This even manifests in areas like thewelfare state, despite young people being far more likely than their older compatriots to be unemployed.

A full 48% of 18- 24-year-olds, and 46% of 25- 34-year-olds disagreed with a statement suggesting that most unemployed people receiving benefits were “for the most part unlucky rather than lazy” – almost twice as many as in the over-65s group, where only 25% disagreed with the statement.

That gulf on welfare between the age gaps is a strong one: even despite the relatively small samples of each age group, the gap was easily big enough to be statistically significant.

Attitudes on a few other issues also showed a split, albeit not quite so stark: 24% of 18- 24-year-olds disagreed that it’s important to get to know your neighbours, versus just 11% of over-65s. Younger people were also more likely to disagree that they were proud to be British, although an overwhelming majority at all age groups express patriotism.

All this taps into a very familiar story- of how we are letting loose a generation who are disconnected, self absorbed, individualised to the point of atomisation and view everything as commodities to be consumed.


I have a daughter who is 17, and pretty much plugged into the mainstream- so much so that she calls me an aging hipster for my refusal to conform.

Now perhaps the child of a social worker and a community worker was always going to be gifted with an out sized social conscience but Emily is passionate about social justice, she loves nothing better than to celebrate a friends birthday or to arrange a gathering.

I think each generation has a crisis of confidence in the next one. Perhaps this is ours.

That is not to say that each generation does not need to find it’s own soul. Usually it seems to be found in adversity or mobilised by the eruption of a totemic issue. Mine was cast by the destruction of industry and the miners strike- and we had a name for our pain- Margaret Thatcher.  What is there today?

Well, there are people like Emily.

I might call them (but she would not necessarily use the same language) ‘Agents of the Kingdom of God’. A residue of grace in the middle of us.

Off to pastures old…

M and I are down to the lakes for a couple of days- a present from the kids for Christmas- they found a deal in a hotel near Cockermouth.

Poor Michaela is riddled with a cold, so I think we will be tea-shopping, lake-side walking and standing arm in arm looking at views.

And perhaps contemplating how things change. It is not so long ago that the mountains of the lakes were like Eden to me- they pulled at me like a much loved but half remembered memory. So trips up there with Michaela were quite rare as I was often off into the hills alone or with friends. The times we did go together – taking boat trips and carrying our little ones in back packs – were special too however.

But how odd to be going without the kids. It is almost like a rehearsal for the next stage of life, which is upon us, like it or not.

Emily received her first offer from a University this week- she has an unconditional offer from Glasgow Caledonian to go and do Psychology there. Not her first choice, as she wants to combine physiology with psychology, but well done her anyway as we wait for the other responses.

Which all seems a long road from this trip to the lakes;

Michaela with Emily, some time in the late nineties, Keswick.

Emily cuts her hair…

I mentioned previously that my daughter Emily had decided to cut her long hair short in aid of leukaemia research. She did this in memory of her Grandfather Robert who died from the illness.

She is sending her hair to a charity who collect it to make wigs for people in treatment.

You can still donate via her Justgiving site if you like (nearly £600 raised so far!)

Here she is with (almost) appropriate music by Richard Thompson;

She cut off her long silken hair…

Emily is cutting her hair- in aid of Leukaemia research.

The photo above was taken at Christmas three years ago, a few months before Emily’s grandfather Robert died.

Here is Emily’s reason for cutting her hair;

So basically my Grandad was one of my best friends and I miss him a lot, but instead of being miserable I would rather do something about it, so I have decided to raise money for leukaemia research to help people like him.

My hair is currently waist length, and i’m going to cut it off, to about my chin length (about 16 inches)! The hair will also hopefully be taken by a charity that makes wigs for teenagers going through chemotherapy.

I’m aiming cut my hair in December, so I have plenty of time for fundraising! So yeah, please sponsor me 🙂

If you would like to contribute, you can do so through Emily’s Just Giving page here.