I am a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures & Commerce, to give it its full title, more commonly known as the RSA. Headquartered in London this body has an active network in Scotland and around the world. It allows people from all walks of life and all ages to meet and discuss and learn about important topics for our times and to help shape the future. A great place for meeting intelligent observers of life especially as regards creativity and work.
If you’re eighteen to forty I do recommend Edinburgh Junior Chamber or any of the other JCI organisations (there are 600 of them around the world). Great opportunities to socialise, learn and improve your skills, whilst benefitting your local community.
The worldwide Permaculture network is a great source of inspiration for planet care issues. Practitioners are committed to life long learning and practice around a design methodology that asks all the right questions to get answers to creating a life enhancing and sustainable future. The Permaculture UK site gives links on to a worldwide network.
For practising business people the Chambers of Commerce network is a good link into B2B contacts, knowledge, skills and business support. I am a member of Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, count Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Scottish Chambers of Commerce amongst my clients and and am actively engaged wth British Chambers of Commerce. It’s like the layers of an onion – and may for all I know stretch out into the galaxy. Meanwhile I feel I’m busy enough networking on one planet!
Here are some things we recommend to help you stretch your creative mind-muscles:
(Most of the links are to Amazon, but of course you can search your own favourite stores if you feel inclined to buy anything on my recommendation!)
FOR THE EXPLORERS OF OUR DIVERSE MOTHER TONGUE:
- The Adventure of English – the Biography of a Language by Melvyn Bragg.
- Linguistics, and the many other works exploring language by David Crystal.
- A Dictionary Of Rhyming Slang by Julian Franklin.
- Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a Modern Classic – one of the most common books that people have failed to finish (apparently). And hey! Have you voted in the apostrophe poll yet?
- My brother gave me a copy of the incomparable Hobson-Jobson by Colonel Henry Yule and A.C.Burnell. The original was written in 1886 and is a masterpiece studying the Anglo-Indian language.
- David Abercrombie’s Elements of General Phonetics is an exhaustive study of how we produce and can notate different sounds.
BOOKS ON THINKING
- Check out Lorca’s essay Theory and Function of the Duende, online in full here. I am a huge fan of this!
- A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger van Oech – techniques to snap your mind out of all those ‘I can’t’; ‘that’s not how it’s done’; and ‘I’m wrong’ pitfalls.
- A Smile in the Mind with foreword by Edward de Bono, this is a graphic design manual that explores lateral thinking and engaging, ‘different’ design techniques.
- A Technique for Producing Ideas – another design book, this is a small, easy to read, step-by-step guide to creating original ideas – easily transferable to many other walks of life!
- The Scottish Enlightenment – The Scots’ Invention of the Modern World, by Arthur Herman. Originally published in the USA as ‘How the Scots Invented Everything’, it’s a great read.
…is also a great source of ideas. One of my personal favourites is Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin a magnificent insight into the contrasting consequences of how the choices we make determine our future. I don’t think it matters too much what you read as long as you do. Personal enthusiasms go with the person we are. A broader range of reading makes us more interesting to others.
The immersion in literature is one of the finest ways to develop an ear for language. The ability to write or speak with knowledge, understanding and a n ear for the cadence of good use of language is central to making your communication engaging. Once again- a key aspect of what makes us human.
Film is a fantastic medium. It conveys ‘life’ in a way we can see as ‘real’, as the quote goes “the difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to be believable.” The beauty of film is that it can both entertain and challenge us. I’m more likely to touch on under-recognised films here, but I have many mainstream favourites. There’s an issue about longevity – not all film endures equally well. For example, when they came out I thought Alice’s Restaurant and Easy Rider were equally good. After many years Arlo Guthrie’s tall tale endures for me, but Peter Fonda’s classic now seems rather thin. Personal taste perhaps… Some of my favourites:
- Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers: Les Blank is an obsessive Director who continually returns to themes that haunt him (much as Kurt Vonnegut does in literature). Naked flesh, blood, music, humour, garlic recur in his work. I just enjoy this film.
- This Sporting Life, 1963 starring Richard Harris and the directed by Lindsay Anderson. I think it endures, and one of the reasons is its celebration of working class values from the era – centered around mining, rugby league, the highs and lows of the human condition, and the value of love and the pressures against it. Black and white film conveys the awfulness of the dilemmas faced by the characters, and the rawness of their emotions. Well worth a viewing.
- David Attenborough’s Blue Planet (8 x 50 minutes) has to be the most astonishing and vibrant wildlife documentary ever made. If anyone was ever immune to the beauty and wonder of our natural world, they could not avoid being changed by this fantastic work. And strike a bargain on Amazon, the whole series is less than £10! Or for a mere £40, buy it with his other extraordinary pieces, ‘Life’ and ‘Planet Earth’.
“If music be the food of love, play on,” said Shakespeare. And e’en so it is the food of love, rhythm, dance, emotion – besides being a branch of mathematics, and an avenue to the core of the human soul. Yes – music is all these things. And, some people go as far as to say, music is everything.
Our house has been filled with the sounds of many instruments over the years, including but not limited to; keyboard, whistle, fiddle, viola, ocarina, bass guitar, and djembe (African drums). We hold no musical prejudices and love listening to everything from Tchaikovsky to Tom Lehrer, Hendrix to the Human League, and Donovan to The Doors. If you have any recommendations (particularly local folk music, of which our collection is ever growing), feel free to get in touch – there’s always more to listen to!
Every May bank holiday in our home town of Coldstream, there is a Scottish music celebration called The Border Gaitherin. With workshops for amateurs and experts alike, and a host of other events and celebrations including the very highly recommended tutor’s concert; I invite you to apply now (just click for details).