Lion&Sloth Zeitgeist 2015

2015, you were a hard but full year. How about a countdown for nostalgia’s sake?

Balcony view

10 Resolutions & Results

  1. Go to Jupiter Artland – I loved Jupiter Artland! I blogged in July about my visit there, and am looking forward to going again next year.
  2. Go to Steptoe’s yard – Had wanted to check out this junk yard near Montrose for ages and finally stopped by on my Mommy & Me roadtrip up the East coast of Scotland. Is it as good as Sam Burn’s yard, for the distance? Not so sure, but definitely one thing off my Scotland bucket list.
  3. Go trampolining – One of the first ‘goals’ ticked off my list last year! Trampolining at Ryze was so much fun. So glad we didn’t break our backs though…
  4. See a murmuration (of starlings) – Ahhh… the murmuration. We attempted to drive down to Gretna Green in early November as that’s when/where they…murmur? But we only made it to Moffat. SO STORMY! Try again this year?
  5. Invest more time in writing – I made some good progress on this c/o winning the New Writers Award. It inspired me & S to take a pre-Cove Park writing trip to Lismore (which turned out to be a failed writing trip! Good practice though for being ‘off-grid’ for a week). Then when I went to Cove Park (thanks again Scottish Book Trust!) I was more productive in that one week than I usually am in a whole year of writing. More trips like this needed in the future.
    I still volunteer at the newly-refurbed reopened SPL and this is amazing for my writing – access to books, and opportunities to attend and help at events. Inspirational!
  6. Buy a bike & try to cycle to work – Semi-fail. Bought a bike off gumtree! It’s very, very cute. I rode it to work and home once… and then didn’t ever again. Will make an effort to break it in this year!
  7. Finish more (craft) projects – Total fail. I made a pillow cover but didn’t make a dent in my many half-started projects…
  8. Do more animal-related activities – Total success! A small portion of my animal-related activities included:
    Royal. Highland. Show.
    – Paparazzi’ing the fox visitor in our garden
    – My chickens chickening… We upgraded their coop! We gave them chicken baths =( I took a Chicken MOOC which was lots of fun!
    – I saw a free amazing hawk show (during Innovative Learning Week)
    – There were lots of great animals at Cove Park (birds, highland cow, sheep)
    – Murmuration: fail – but remember the starlings in Dublin oh boy!
    – Dublin Zoo!
    – Scottish Owl Centre
    – Kelpies! okay they’re mythological and we just saw statues of them but still!
  9. Eat fruit/veg from our gardenResult! Can’t believe the bounty we gathered from our tiny garden. So proud!
  10. ‘Become Aiko Greig’ (ie. change my name/life admin!) – Well. I made a start on the naturalisation paperwork ages ago, but I just posted it off yesterday… So not quite ‘done’ but looking forward to holding a shiny new UK passport soon hopefully! I have changed my name on everything else – US passport, driver’s license, all the cards – this is the last thing!

This was far too many ‘goals’ for a year though… I won’t be doing anything so wild again anytime soon.

9 Best Books / Songs:

Top of the pops from my ‘Recently Read’ and ‘Soundtrack’ last year included:

  1. Years & Years – King (stellar gig at Liquid Room early in the year. Pleased to say I wasn’t the oldest one there!)
  2. Shura – Touch or 2shy (so gutted to miss the Glasgow gig. It was meant to be in September but then got postponed to December and I just couldn’t manage it in the end…)
  3. Jamie XX – Loud Places (ft Romy) (Excellent live in Glasgow with pals. I wish Romy had come on though! The XX forever.)
  4. Oh Wonder – Midnight Moon (I am obsessed with this band…)
  5. Ryan Van Winkle – The Good Dark (Everyone should buy this!)
  6. Mark Doty – Theories & Apparitions (am now reading anything else I can get my hands on by Mark Doty!)
  7. Kate Tempest – Brand New Ancients (saw her at Bongo Club too, but I think I prefer the word on the page. Amazing talent!)
  8. Ernest Cline – Armada (audiobook read by Wil Wheaton was AMAZING!)
  9. Andy Weir – The Martian (audiobook was great!)

Honorable mentions: Norman MacCaig’s Many Days, John Burnside’s All One Breath, Vanbot’s Perfect Storm album! Basically everything from Parklife…

In true zeitgeist fashion, can’t leave off these ace 2015 mashups:


8 New Goals

  1. Travel – Japan, Portugal, Scotland staycations?, bike tours? Adventure awaits!
  2. Visit an island a year, forever onwards! – [Okay maybe this is more like 1a…] Scottish islands will be easiest; we went to Lismore this year, and Skye, for example… but I’ll count international islands for the sake of goal-success!
  3. Go to the Secret Herb Garden. Keep recommending this place to people but haven’t been. Shameful!
  4. See a red squirrel!
  5. Life Level-ups: home improvement edition – There are so many little things that need fixed/done at the house but I’ve put them off. Not anymore!
  6. Etsy empire – I didn’t manage my craft goals at all in2015. So this has to be the year, with ultimatum of getting rid of my craft supplies if I don’t use them. I will build my craft empire!
  7. Writing trip away – Cove Park was an amazingly productive time for me, as hard as it was to be away from home/handsome S for a week. I need to make time for Aiko-time this year. Perhaps I can tie this in to meetings with my mentor (thanks Scottish Book Trust!) which start imminently.
  8. Be more friendly/take emotional risks – I think I used to let people ‘in’ more but maybe/especially since moving to Scotland I’ve adopted a real #nonewfriends mentality which is … hindering my personal & emotional success. This year, I’ll try to be better at making friends! (And cultivating the friendships I already have.) Be brave, Aiko!


7 Eat, Drink…

  1. IMG_1006Stortebacker germany bakery – Saturday morning german pretzels have been a major game-changer in the Greig household.
  2. Anstruther chippy w/pals. <3
  3. Omelettes w/eggs & veggie from our garden!
  4. 12 Triangles donuts – Especially during the festival when they had a pop-up with BrewLab mere moments away from my office! *swoon*
  5. Crema caravan – Creme brulee food truck! Seriously.
  6. Maki & Ramen – Little ramen shop near my work. So good!
  7. Burgers are so 2015! Highlights included: BURGER. and the new-to-Edinburgh Bread Meats Bread. Also, 2015 = year of the diner milkshake: TriBeca, Bread meats Bread… so much dairy.

Honorable mention: Writers Tears whiskey we found in Ireland, was perfect for sharing at my writers retreat! Illegal Jack’s reopened!! And how could I possibly miss off all the amazing food in Paris, Dublin and Manchester?

6 ..& Be Merries!

  1. Weddings: Congrats to Cousin Jenni & Eddie! And to Cara & Greg who got married on Inchcolm island!
  2. Births & Birthdays: Lots of little 1st b’day parties. V cute. Amazing cakes. Deafening noise. Also Congrats to E-Chao & Lisa for their BB CC! Too cute.
  3. Boardgames: week-long Agricola matches with my beloved! Also, completing an ultra-relaxing Totoro puzzle. <3 And starting to get into Galaxy Trucker!
  4. Karaoke: This free-hour at Supercube point card has been burning a hole in my wallet for ages. Went loads at the start of the year then fizzled out… Prodigal karaoke 2016!
  5. Cinema: We saw lots of great films this year, including new Star Wars. But top experience was probably late night showing of It Follows in Dublin… so freaky!
  6. Escape games: 2015 was the year of Escape games I think! We started the year off escaping with friends, then aced a prison-themed escape room in Manchester. Recently S & I completed a new diamond heist themed escape game so fast we earned a free pass to try another escape room! Love it.

Honorable mentions: I saw a super blood moon, a solar eclipse, a streaker at a Scotland football match, the demolition of Cockenzie power station, snow in March!


5 Adventures

  1. Roadtrips – Last year I went back to California twice. Once for my friends E&L’s wondrous wedding! And another time to help my mom pack up our house & all my childhood relics before she began her nomad life of retirement. I miss her lots these days, and it was so great to bring her over here this year for some much needed Mommy & Me time, including multiple Scotland roadtrips, just the two of us. (Plus we stayed in a castle!)
  2. Paris – While my mom was visiting, we opted to tick something off her bucket list in the way of a trip to Mont Saint Michel, this magnificent castle island outside of Paris. I’d never been to France before, so the whole trip was wonderful!
  3. Dublin – Lovely cheeky long-weekend with handsome S to Dublin. My first time to Ireland so I did lots of touristy things! Lots of good food and drink recs in my blog post.
  4. Manchester – Second year of pals-trip to Manchester for Parklife music festival and because we are old farts, we just went to the music festival for one day, and then spent a few more days painting Manchester red. I ate LOADS (cake mostly), drank too much, and did lots of great things.
  5. Lismore – S found an amazing Airbnb on a small Scottish island and booked it for my xmas present last year. It was meant to be a practice writing retreat (in advance of Cove Park) but my laptop crashed and instead of writing on paper, we just watched DVDs, went for walks, drank beers and stoked the woodburner for a week. Pure bliss.

Honorable mentions: We walked to Cramond a couple times for soft serve in the sunniest summer in ages. We got Nardini’s ice cream in Largs. We got coffee & cakes (& ice cream!) in North Berwick. Most of my adventures seem to be dessert-led….


4 Successes

  1. New WritersNew Writers Award – Winning this in January was a huge boon and encouragement for my writing, productivity, and making new writerly friends! I loved the Cove Park retreat and look forward to making room like this for (solitary, dedicated) writing time in the future.
  2. Publications – So grateful to the following publications for featuring my work this year: The Sunday TimesDactylInk Sweat & Tears!
  3. Shortlists – One of my poems was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize! From the Prize Administrator “Whilst you have not won one of the top thirteen prizes in the Bridport Prize competition I am writing to let you know that your poem – What the Bone Weary Know – was shortlisted. We had over 7,000 poetry entries this year, and 200 were shortlisted.” Pretty pleased about that!
    Jupiter Artland also recently got in touch to say one of my poems, Earth-Moon-Earth, was shortlisted for the writing competition they ran a few months ago!
  4. CIM Marketing – Completed my Professional Certificate in Marketing earlier this year, partially funded by my work, which is amazing! Just the first of four year-long courses towards becoming a ‘Marketer’ but pleased I was able to do it.

Honorable mention: Won MVP from my basketball team! <3 And didn’t get injured this season.

3 Failures

  • Projects/time management – So many things I want to do, but like most people, it’s hard to prioritize and find time for everything alongside my many hobbies, full-time job, and (what) social life. I didn’t manage the xmas card this year, or  make a dent in many of the major projects I’d wanted to complete last year. Instead I dabbled so much (CIM course, refereeing course, chicken-keeping MOOC). I need to weigh up where I’m placing my time and be more ruthless and less lazy.
  • Exercise/health/fitness – I started the year out jogging home from work, then bought my cute bike and rode that to work and back once… My basketball team is doing great. But I really want to invest more effort into diligent exercise and feel I could have done more this year to take better care of myself (emotionally/physically). Should I try paleo again? Get that zombie jogging app? 30 day yoga? What works for me? What can I stick with?
  • Copious rejections – I don’t have the heart to admit how many magazines/competitions I was rejected from in 2015, but the ratio of acceptance to rejection was pretty staggering… I’m pacing myself though, and only sending out as much as I can bear to be rejected from. Here’s hoping for improvement in 2016!

‘Honorable’ mention: Reading in public is not my forte. I get so nervous and feel terrible before readings. I don’t enjoy being on stage, don’t feel ‘present’, and don’t get any sense of relief/satisfaction after I’ve finished. Essentially, there is no positive for me of reading publicly; it is just something that I must do (it seems) if I want to be a marketable poet. I felt so pleased with myself for accepting (however anxiously!) Lindsay MacGregor’s invitation to read at Platform Poetry. The audience was welcoming and kind. I read for 20mins, didn’t faint and afterwards people told me how much they enjoyed the reading. It was a real boost for my confidence! A couple weeks later, I went to a Performance and Presentation Training in advance of the New Writer’s Award showcase (below!) and had the wind knocked out my sails by Alex Gillon, the voice coach and tutor at the event. It will take some time to repair my foundations. But I can confidently say, I still hate reading in public. I wonder if this will ever change…

2 Forthcoming Readings

Please mark your calendars and if you’re in the area, please come along for the following!:

  • 21 January: Jupiter Artland’s Inspired to Write competition reading
  • 28 January: New Writers Award showcase. Tickets here!


1 Big News!

The most exciting/life-changing news of 2015 for me is that I am (at long last) pregnant! New arrival expected in April 2016. Obvs watch this space! Haven’t made a big deal of it online as super paranoid and private, but everything going smoothly so far. *fingers crossed*


readingSophie Hannah – Pessimism for Beginners
Caitriona O’Reilly – Geis
Jee Leong Koh – Steep Tea
Karen McCarthy Woolf – An Aviary of Small Birds

Audiobook’d Karl Schroeder’s Lockstep, Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me, and now listening to Xenocide (Orson Scott Card, Ender series) on the bus as I couldn’t make it to the end in book-form…


Transviolet – Girls Your Age
AronChupa – I’m an Albatraoz
Grimes  – Kill v Maim

Another year, another notch. Hope the next one’s a belter!


Feeling nostalgic?

Cove Park & New Writers Award update

Balcony view


Cove Park was like a dream. I can’t believe it happened to me.

As part of the New Writers Award (aside: applications have just opened for 2016! Go go go!), I got to spend a week in my own converted shipping container pod at Cove Park, with nothing scheduled except unlimited time to write as I felt like for 7 days. It. Was. Immense.

I’ve blogged recently for the Scottish Book Trust on ‘Where I write‘ (<– click click!), talking through my current writing method, which mainly includes using my phone to take down snippets and notes while I am in transit. But the root of the problem for me is that I devote very little dedicated time to writing. Very little time to ‘finish’ work, or edit or send material out. So I had/have a huge backlog of half-finished pieces and the Cove Park retreat proved a perfect opportunity for me to get down to work and get these pieces polished up and finished.


It turned out to be a really good way for me to work. I think the prospect of unlimited free-time with yourself can be a bit daunting – left to your own devices to mull over your own thoughts, it can be a bit easy to go down a path of negative thinking, derailing. Also, without my partner for a week, without internet (or phone signal even), I was really worried I’d be lonely and idle and distracted. I knew (knowing myself) that I needed to keep my schedule full, and come with lots of material to work through.

So I did! I write so slowly normally – maybe completing one poem a month if I’m lucky? But I managed THIRTEEN poems in the week. A year’s worth of writing in a week! Again, it was immense. So #amwriting, which is a massive relief.

I started the week by slogging through a sestina I’d been meaning to work on for ages. It was pretty hard-going but I finished it, which I am happy about (even if it never sees the light of day!). And then I whittled away at a few other bits and pieces I had been near completing for some time, reworked a few older poems, and bashed out a couple others inspired by the idyllic surroundings. There are a few magazines and competitions with themes I’d been wanting to write for so I worked on these too.


I came back from the week totally zen, and really untouchable-feeling for about a week after (and still really quite calm and happy now, if I’m honest!). I think the pressure of so many unfinished pieces was weighing on me and the sense of completion has been really good for my poetry-morale.

I think I also maybe place too much pressure on myself to only produce ‘perfect’ poems, since I spend so little time in my normal life just-writing. So it was nice to free myself to write, exercising the muscle, and hopefully this will carry forward into my back-to-normal life too.

Get involved

For example, I added a poem to the Journeys project the Scottish Book Trust is running right now. They’re still taking submissions! Get your stories, poems, etc to them quick smart!

The poem I sent was about our ‘journey’ driving our pet chickens home, called ‘Bringing the Hens Home‘. It was stressful. Can you tell?

Bringing the Hens Home

Other notes / Top tips for Cove Park

  • The weather in late April was fantastic. The walk to the Nature Reserve and down to the water was perfectly serene. Bring a thermos. I made myself a massive thermos full of coffee every morning, and took this with me for impromptu coffee & snacks on a bench watching chaffinches and blue-tits, on a driftwood log beside the sea loch, on my balcony admiring the highland cow. Brilliant stuff.
  • Bring house slippers. Creature comforts! (Cold floors)
  • The kitchen was really well kitted out – microwave, toaster, mini-fridge/freezer, 2-hob stove, sink, kettle, french press!, and loads of pots and pans and dishes, etc. I could have probably packed more complex foods if I had known. But there’s nothing wrong with pot noodle!
  • It was really nice to meet up with my fellow-New Writers in the evenings up in the communal area. Hearing about what other people are working on, listening to them read their work, and generally speaking to other human beings after 10+hours on my own was really satisfying. Also, Claire makes a mean ratatouille. Saving up all my things-to-google until 7pm each evening was also a new experience. Power-interneting in full effect.
  • It is totally unscheduled the entire time. Bring something to do – I brought 8 books, audiobooks, movies to watch, hiking boots, and a pretty clear idea of what poems I wanted to work on and complete over the course of the week. The library in the communal area is good, but I had a lot of my own stuff to read. Go for walks and bring a lot of snacks. Don’t let yourself get cabin fever!

All in all, I feel like I’ve made a great push towards one of my new year’s resolutions:

5. Invest more time in writing

I’m looking forward to hunting out further residencies for the future. If you have any top tips of residencies that sound up my street, please get in touch!


General Updates

  • My Chicken Behaviour and Welfare MOOC is over now and was AMAZING! I learned loads (like did you know you can clicker-train a chicken? Operant conditioning!) and was so excited/proud to see the interesting research coming out of University of Edinburgh. (It also inspired me to buy a bigger run for my chickens and set up some perches, which coincided with an Omlet sale. VERY excited about this…). In other chicken-news, we got our first double-yolk egg which was MASSIVE (and kind of gross).
  • A colleague at my work did a charity bake sale for a group called Shelterbox who is helping in Nepal. I contributed some cookies for the sale but just wanted to leave that link there for others to check out. I hadn’t heard of this charity before and it seems pretty cool!
  • Celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary with Handsome S. Still handsome as ever, still my very best friend.
  • Basketball season is over for the year and my teammates kindly picked me (and Minnie) for co-MVP! Thanks grannies! (We also had our team night out on the town – glad to report no injuries there!)
  • Sad to pause volunteering at the wondrous Scottish Poetry Library but excited as ever for their refurbishment! Think the refurb donations are still open: Go go go!
  • Turned in the last paper for the CIM marketing qualification I’m taking. Sweet relief. Painfully interesting content honestly.
  • Our garden looks GREAT! Garlic, potatoes, spinach, mangetout. Strawberries, blueberries and gooseberries. The magnolias just finished, as did the camellia. The rhododendrons & azaleas are nearly there. And the peony buds are holding out until my mom comes; I’ve asked them nicely.

Looking forward

  • Parklife in Manchester
  • BBQ season!
  • S’s birthday!
  • Can’t wait for my mom’s visit in June. Her tickets are booked. Now we’re just trying to see if we can fit in a cheeky trip to France, around visits from transatlantic pals, a family wedding, roadtrips, etc. So much to get excited about!

readingNorman MacCaig – Many Days
Mark Doty – Theories & Apparitions
Frank Bidart – Watching the Spring Festival
Junot Diaz – This is How You Lose Her

Audiobooked Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, which was great. And Andy Weir’s The Martian, also great! Working my way through Necronomicon, which I am not liking at all


Astr – Operate
Hudson Mohawke – Very First Breath
Tove Lo – Talking Body
Sander van Doorn, Martin Garrix, DVBBS – Gold Skies (ft. Aleesia)
Nick Leng – Inside Your Mind (feat. Carmody)
Ghost Loft – So High
Little Daylight – Overdose (twice as nice remix)
Vanbot – Perfect Storm album is AMAZING!


See you soon!

Adventures in Dublin

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Handsome S and I are just back from a cheeky Lion&Sloth trip to lovely Dublin last week. RyainAir tickets were going cheap so we impulse bought, and it was AMAZING!

Only there for 4 days but managed to have a bumper edition of outings:


Guinness storehouse & tour (sipping pints in the skybar with amazing panoramic views of the city)
Sweetman’s for craft beer
Bewely’s for coffees (the original one is shut for refurb so we went to the cafe on George’s street)
A couple cool bookshops / oxfam secondhand bookshop (Winding stair was lovely!)
Queen of Tarts (Amazing cakes!! The lemon meringue tart was fantastic!)
Porterhouse for dinner (Irish stew!) & more craft beers.


Slice (so lovely! good service, great wee cafe find on the way to the zoo)
Dublin Zoo (‘baby everything!’ as my pal put it, elephants, zebras, so many cute things. and SLOTHS!)
Phoenix Park (tea & cake at the cafe)
Jameson distillery
indie cinema to watch ‘It Follows’. So freaky!


We went to 7 markets. I’m not even joking:

  • Temple bar food market & book market
  • Frances Street antiques market (we couldn’t find a market per se but went into the shops)
  • Newmarket food market
  • Liberty market
  • Christchurch market
  • Flea Market by Ha’Penny bridge

We then had a picnic in St Stephen’s Green with our food-winnings from the markets!
Trinity College (saw some students playing rugby)
Science Gallery (and went to the Lifelogging exhibit… essentially what this blog has become!)
Peruke & Periwig for some drinks.
Murphy’s Ice cream (that was lovely! the girl let us try all the flavours!)
Elephant & Castle (buffalo wings & a massive burger I could barely finish..)
Leprechaun Museum – This Dark Land (the evening ‘scary’ show!)


Took the DART to Howth
Howth Market (bread & cheese!)
Took the coastal path to the Summit & had a picnic lunch.
A cheeky gelato on the seaside before getting the train back and heading to the airport.

I really loved all the street art and colour in the city. We were impressed by the number of craft ales and pubs with their own niche selections (we tried to taste them all!). Even from a tourist POV, there were loads of great accessible places to try ‘Irish’ food, but I was also impressed by the number of international food places. And Howth was such a great way to bookend our visit – a bit of a country feel so close to the city was a literal breath of fresh air.

I also loved that many of the touristy places we went to interacted with me on social media too! Makes me feel loved. =)

Thanks for an amazing time, Dublin! (and thanks to our colleagues and pals for all the wonderful recommendations!)


March in the garden
Chickens helping with the gardening

Other highlights of the month

  • Completed the Getting Started refereeing training course offered by basketballScotland. A good course for a wee taster of what reffing is all about! Give the referees more credit now that I know how hard it is to do actually…
  • Volunteered my last Saturday shift at the Scottish Poetry Library before they shut for refurbishment. *sobs* But then later volunteering at Caesura on a school night. Fun!
  • Saw Kate Tempest at Bongo Club was ace! Think I prefer her poetry to her music but it was great to be there for the last show of the tour. Hyped deserved. ‘More empathy, less greed,’ was the motto of the show – can’t go wrong with that!
  • We also went to beautiful Lismore and did basically nothing for 4 days. We were meant to do writing but my laptop crashed (surprise!) so instead we watched old dvds and went for walks and cozied up in front if the woodburner fire. #bestlife
  • And had a lovely dinner with S’s folks at Redwood Bistro, the California inspired restaurant down the road from us.

Looking forward

  • Cove Park retreat for New Writers Award. Excited!!
  • Handing in my second-last paper for my Marketing course…
  • The Chicken Behaviour class I’ve signed up for!
  • Jupiter Artland
  • Years & Years in Edinburgh in May
  • Full solar eclipse!
  • Parklife tickets (Manchester) bought!
  • And my mom’s planning her next Edinburgh visit. Miss my mama!

readingNiall Campbell – Moontide
Liz Berry – Black Country
Emily Berry – Dear Boy
Sinead Morrissey – Through the square window
John Burnside – All One Breath

Murakami – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Murakami – The Strange Library (this was a great find!)
And finished last audiobook of in Abhorsen series. Started on Sun Tzu’s Art of War! Required reading!


Kate Havnevik – Emperor of Nowhere
Sound Remedy – Victory (feat. Evvy)
Odesza – All We Need (feat. Shy Girls)
Odesza – Say My Name
XYLØ – America
Shura – 2shy (growing on me!)
Zella day – Compass
Zella Day – No Sleep to Dream

What’s next in store?!

Feeling nostalgic?: March catch-up