• See Me in health – reception at the Scottish Parliament today!

    I am excited to attend this reception tonight at the Scottish Parliament for the See Me campaign. Wee Read will deliver a local project of fighting stigma by reading, talking and writing.

    See me, Read me!

    I am chuffed, especially since I have not been to the parliament building yet!



    You are invited to attend the

    See Me in Health Parliamentary Reception

    Sponsored by

    Jenny Marra MSP

    to celebrate the See Me in Health programme

    Speakers will include:

    Jenny Marra MSP

    Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Heath Improvement and Mental Health

    Chris McCullough Young, Walk a Mile

    Thursday 17th September 2015

    6:00pm – 8:00pm

    The Garden Lobby, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh.


  • Hope Cafe Session 2nd September

    We started with a poem by Joseph T. Renaldi, Gratefulness, here is an extract:

    I am grateful for the eyes that I can see
    the activities that can be done by me.
    I am grateful for the ears that I may hear
    the sobbing of those who need me near.

    I am grateful for the lips that I might speak
    words of comfort and peace to all who seek.
    I am grateful for a mind that I might know how to aid those who need me so.

    Full poem is available here2015-08-13 009

    The format was to focus on each of the 5 senses, so we used our listening, our seeing, our taste, smell and touch to write what the Hope Cafe gave to each.Some of the great responses are here:
    What do you see here?

    Friendliness, dedication, light;

    I see different people all pulled together; sharing health, stories and friendship;
    sharing good things

    A nice group of people getting me out and about. People chattin’, laughin’;

    Cheerful people seeing the same as me.

    What do you hear in this place?…

    People talking, laughter;
    voices, door opening and shutting;

    What do you taste here?…

    Irn Bru;

    Coffee – bitter, chocolate – sweetness.

    What do you smell here?…


    What do you touch here?…

    Empathy, someone to listen , to take time, is valid in every way;
    We can touch life together and feel it flowing around us.

    I love the way some senses mingled with others, especially touch, which showed the open-hearted approach in The Hope Cafe.We all touch each other’s hearts.

    I shared my own poem, ‘After Mum’s Stroke’ -describing how grateful I felt about caring for my mum. We moved on to write on the thoughts and emotions that we have about the Hope Cafe –

     What do you think about this place?
    It is so unique;
    I think it is a brave place – in an uncertain life, there was no guarantee it would work out.
    I think it is a good place.
    I think Hope Cafe is a wonderful place where no one judges you and I feel accepted.
    Hope Cafe is a lifeline.

    What do you feel about this place?
    I feel I am at home.
    It is comfortable and friendly.
    I am thankful it is near to my town.
    Socialising – feels a relief to know I can go any time without any pressure. I feel I can say what I feel to volunteers and it is a release.
    I feel it’s a very worthwhile meeting place and I enjoy coming and socialising and of course the expressive writing!

    Then we explored  objects for each of the senses:


    – a story called ‘Oor Street’ by Margaret Boyce.This was written in the voice of a wee lassie, and wis fun to read and share oor ain memories.It is in The Scottish Book Trust 2014 book Stories of Home

    cropped-weeread-logo1.jpgHere’s a wee bit:

    “A take ma gob stopper oot ma mooth, an A wonner if ma tongue’s blue noo.  A stick it oot as for as A kin, but A canny see it.  Wiping ma sticky hauns doon the back a ma bran new pink shorts, A look roun tae see if anybidy’s watching.  A feel guilty.  Ma daddy always tells me no tae clean ma hauns on ma claithes.  Eh says it’s no lady-like.  Black tar fae the melting pavement oozes up the side a ma white sandal an onti ma clean white soak.  A try to wipe it off oan the grass – but ma soak’s streaked green an black noo…”



    -Dr. Seuss picture book, I Can Lick Fifty Tigers Today a fun story too!Made us smile.

    Best line “I can lick one mighty tiger today…”.More Dr. Seuss here


    Mango bits, coconut…

    Lavender oil, a rose, basil leaves and mint leaves.

    A wee soft leprechaun, a wooden goblet, a twig.


    The writers had a lot of thoughtful pieces and some will be used for the coming booklet.Here is one gorgeous example:

    Donna 2
    Oh to indulge,
    on such wonderful things created for my pleasure;
    made perfectly.
    It’s truly a gift.
    No money exchanged would I depart,
    for this awesome beauty all surrounding me
    makes my heart skip a beat;
    Calm, peace, serenity endures.

    Thanks, Donna!

    We felt grateful for two new faces and voices today, and as usual, I felt happy and buzzin’  at the end.

  • Volunteers to help design a website

    Words Work Well – new website

    Lapidus Scotland are looking for volunteers who can be part of a small working group to design and develop a website for creative writing and reading for members of the public. They want to ensure that people with long-term conditions are involved from the beginning so this project is fully user-led.

    As a member of the management group of Lapidus Scotland, I am involved in our latest project, the Words Work Well toolkit. We have funding for a new website for people to come and put writing online. Are you interested?All we want is your ideas and opinions- no technical skills!But you may learn along the way.

    Please contact Christine or Larry at this email address:


  • Writing at The Hope Cafe on Wednesday 15th of July

    We had a few new people this week, and a really enjoyable session. I felt that our sense of each other goes a bit deeper whenever we meet.I love this group and this cafe, for it’s welcoming and positive vibe. I was really pleased for Jane who has the new cafe facilitator job.She welcomed me on my first time here, and she is so nice, calm, friendly- good luck in her new role!

    I have been giving out this Wee Read website to everyone, so you can have the web links to all poems or stories we read.

    Get the website links to poems we used in our group sessions  – click here –  page

    This is so that we keep friendly copyright relations for the author.

    It was really great to hear people joining in with whatever they wrote, sharing it with everybody else.Thanks to all for participating, and roll on next Wednesday!

    It’s still a small group, and everyone is welcome to join, at 2-3.30 pm every Wednesday.


  • Walk and Talk at The Wellness Hub, Motherwell

    After their weekly walk to Strathclyde Park, the Walk n Talk group come back to Pat Cullinan Community Centre for a cup a tea n a blether. On Thursday 2nd July, we also started a Wee Read writing and reading group. We heard poems and stories, and wrote about animals and childhood homes amongst other things.

    I heard that the group recently won an award and I can see why! The award is for Oustanding Achievement in promoting good health and wellbeing. Well done!The group is part of the Health and Wellness Hub 

    The group was so friendly and welcoming, it was a pleasure sharing some time with them. I will do another three Thursdays of Wee Read wi’ the Walk n Talk group!



  • News about Young People and Ethical Narratives

    Interesting article in The National today by Fiona McCulloch, ‘Stories with a happy ending’ is asking important questions about the benefits of reading – can we develop a social conscience by reading the right stuff?How does a positive and ethical narrative  relate to possible futures and aspirations for our current young adults in Scotland?

    I live the quote from Ursula K. Le Guin: “We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel … it is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.” –

    I agree with Fiona’s view that: ‘if our youth are continually offered narratives of hope, belief and social responsibility, then that can only inspire them to achieve their full potential in a nation rejuvenated since devolution. ‘

    Fiona McCulloch was Lynn Wood Neag Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Connecticut 2015. She is speaking at a symposium on Scottish Children’s Literature: Forgotten Histories, New Perspectives & JM Barrie at The Solway Centre, Dumfries, on June 26-27.

    Read more at The National, Stories with a happy Ending





  • Bank Street Writers

    I rejoined my old writing group this week, after an absence of  a year due to being over committed time-wise. It was so good to be back with old friends, sharing our home-written poems and prose, in a gentle and supportive setting.  We take turns to facilitate the group, which has been going for many years- it was founded by Larry Butler and Kay Carmichael and we used to meet in Kay’s kitchen in Bank Street.

    This group has helped me to find my voice, with much encouragement from the others. We usually bring a copy for everyone, read it aloud then the author stays quiet while the rest of the group are talking about it. We follow a format asking : what it is about; then what we find striking about each piece; then ways we may change it if it was our poem; the author responds to comments at the end.

    We spend time writing on a prompt from whoever is leading that week. Someone also prepares a new writer to bring to introduce to the group. Tonight we heard about William Stafford, and I was inspired by his journalling for many many years of his life.I recommend his poems to everyone.

    Ask Me

    Some time when the river is ice ask me

    what mistakes I made …

    William Stafford



  • Futurelearn course with the Enterprise Shed

    This week, I started a course about bringing a new idea into business. My aim is to take the reading and writing groups out to local communities as a cultural and community enterprise. It has only involved a few odd hours this first week. I watched introductory videos and read articles –  but the main activity has been getting to know the community of people participating. We were advised to read and write comments on reasons why we’re doing this course. Also to  like and follow some of the other participants, mentors and experts.

    In one discussion on what is an entrepreneur, I made the point that social enterprise is something I want to know more about. I want to be a service provider, and also a peer mentor for anyone wanting to try reading and writing groups in their own setting.

  • The power of story to heal- NHS Education for Scotland in Glasgow on19th March


    At this workshop on person-centred care we heard Jamie Andrew tell his story of tragedy, amputation, recovery and hope. Jamie told us how he endured five days perched in a storm on a tiny ridge in the Alps. Tragically, the friend with him had died. Both of Jamie’s feet and hands were totally frostbitten.
    He was in a bad way when he got to hospital and the amputations had to be done.

    His moment of truth in a  hospital in France was when he wondered “would I be better off dead?”. What made  him decide  to live? For people like myself who have faced suicidal thoughts in their everyday life I wanted to ask him, was there one thing that made him decide to live? He told me it was not just the one thing. No-one offered any counselling in his darkest times. He had talked about his girlfriend and his friend who had died and these people made him choose to recover.
    There was also one person – an occupational therapist, who asked him the most important question : “What Would you like?” and he said, “To feed myself”.
    The person got a bit of Velcro to make a strap for his arm, stuck a spoon in it and he was off.
    He was able to do Something for himself. He went on to  walk and eventually climbed the same mountain again.
    We all felt inspired to listen to him and he made me reflect on how mental health has a lot to do with our physical health.
    The quote that sticks with me is “Every challenge is a mental challenge”.
    The lesson I take is that we humans are so powerful when we allow ourselves to be the best we can be. Like the Mandela quote that says :

    ” our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. our deepest fear is that we are  powerful beyond measure.”