Category Archives: Features

Cover story: who wants to live forever?

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I was delighted to contribute the cover story of the latest (summer) edition of the New Humanist magazine, an article about efforts to transcend death via cryonics, gene therapy and artificial intelligence. During my research I shadowed a training day run by Cryonics UK and interviewed several who have signed up to be ‘frozen’ after their death, in the hope of revival, plus the leader of a Mormon association who plans a mass-sign up of Mormons and Christians so that they might be reborn in accordance with scripture.

 

It can be found in full on the New Humanist website here, or after the fold.

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On the cover of Equestrian Year

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It’s been an exciting week, what with the launch of Thicker Than Water, and the first, great review in The Times, so it was an extra bonus to find myself on the cover of the Scottish magazine EQy (Equestrian Year), interviewing Game of Thrones actor Clive Russell on horseback on the beach at St Andrews.

I also had the pleasure of interviewing Olympian and cross-country course designer Ian Stark — from his hospital bed! — for the same issue. It’s on newstands until the new year, but I’ll post the text online after that.

Last year, I interviewed Zara Phillips for the same magazine at Blair Castle ahead of the European Championships.

 

UPDATE: full text follows after the break Continue reading

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Jenni Fagan and the Sunlight Pilgrims

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I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet the brilliant Scottish author Jenni Fagan for an interview for The Sunday Times. She was recovering from having launched two books (a new novel, The Sunlight Pilgrims, and a book of poetry, The Dead Queen of Bohemia) within the space of a week.

Text of the interview can be found below, or a slightly shorter version is on the Sunday Times website here.

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The tree graveyards of the Flow Country

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I was excited to contribute an essay to Granta: a long piece of reportage in which I travelled to the far north of Scotland to wander in the vast peatlands of the Flow Country.

North of Helmsdale, the land opens up. It is a rare and unusual landscape, stripped back and open to the sky … what strikes you first is the utter absence of the picturesque. A single sweeping line demarcates the heavens and the earth: God’s rough draft, the Earth formless and empty still. The cow-brown flats tussocked and pockmarked by puddles and pools. Slow gradients slope off in every direction; in the distance a few low hills poke their noses into the air.

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At home in the Highlands with Michel Faber

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I had an interview in this weekend’s Sunday Times with Michel Faber, the author of Under The Skin, The Crimson Petal and the White, and the recently announced Saltire book of the year The Book of Strange New Things.

We spoke about the grieving process after the death of his wife Eva last year, his pacifist beliefs and his growing sense of belonging in Scotland thanks to the Saltire win. Not before time – he has lived in the Highlands, near Tain, for more than 20 years, but has always felt something of an “alien” he says, and has never really integrated.

The Sunday Times piece can be found here, or a slightly longer version is also available after the fold.

It didn’t make the piece, but he also spoke very interestingly on the writing process – particularly the no-nonsense approach he took to his first book The Crimson Petal and the White (he wrote the first version as a student, although it was not published until after his critically-acclaimed ‘debut’ with Under The Skin). Having started, but not completed, many novels, he decided to very carefully structure his next attempt, taking inspiration from the Victorian novels he was studying for his literature degree (particularly, Middlemarch) – down to the paragraph, even. After which he could work through the plan very diligently, marking off his progress as he went.

The book went through two or three redrafts, but the back of the work had been broken. It was published in 2002 and received rave reviews, later being adapted as a TV series for the BBC starring Romola Garai. He has retained this highly structured process through his later books, although he has spoken elsewhere of making efforts to allow his latest novel more space to grow “organically”.

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Country diary: sunlight on snowfall

adrian hopkins - view from Sgurr MorI wrote a short entry for the Guardian’s Country Diary section this week following a fantastic hillwalking trip to the west coast, on the edge of Knoydart, stopping off at the Kinbreak bothy.

Full text can be found here, or after the break

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Australia’s first female Black Panther

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I interviewed Marlene Cummins, Australia’s first female Black Panther, for the New Statesman about her background in the movement and the shocking allegations she made in a recent documentary about the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her political idols.

Full text can be found here, or after the fold. Continue reading

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EQy: Scotland’s new equestrian magazine

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I was very excited to have joined the launch team for EQy, the new luxury equestrian magazine from the same stable as the Scottish Field.

The first issue came out earlier this month. I have four features in the mag, including an in-depth interview with Olympian eventer Zara Phillips, who I met in a very snowy Blair Castle. I also interviewed the showjumper and coach David Harland; had a good nose around at the Solaris Sports Horses stud in Dunblane, home of the incredible Kambarbay, a perlino Akhal Teke; and scoped out the friendly rivalry between top young eventers Emily Ryder and Stephanie O’Neill.

EQy will be on newsstands for around 6 months; after that I’ll post versions of my articles online. If you would like to get your hands on a copy, you can order it here.

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My gammy leg: leg-lengthening surgery

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My account of my childhood experience of disability, a result of being born with one leg shorter than the other, was published in the Sunday Times Magazine this weekend. I was in and out of the operating theatre more than 20 times by the age of 15 as I underwent leg-lengthening treatment using an external fixator (and a second approach, which slowed the growth of my stronger, right leg). Left untreated, the discrepancy between my legs would have reached between 10cm and 15cm.

Thanks to the wonderful care and treatment I received at The Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, there is now little evidence that this was the case, and I live a very active lifestyle.

The only reminder is the network of scars that track my legs: up either side like Adidas stripes, a silver slash over one hip, a line like a zip up the front of my left thigh.

Full text of the article and the PDF clippings are available on the Sunday Times website here, and after the break. A shorter version of this article was also reproduced in The Week magazine.leg lengthening ST Mag 1

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This land is our land, this land is your land

Who owns the Lake District - Cumbria life coverWho owns the Lake District - Cumbria Life - Sept 2014_Page_2

My eight-page special report “Who owns the Lake District?” made the cover of this month’s Cumbria Life magazine. It explores the special responsibilities that comes with land ownership in an area of great natural beauty, where public access and commoners rights must be protected by law.

It was prompted by the media outcry over the Earl of Lonsdale’s decision to sell Blencathra, the saddleback mountain, earlier this summer for £1.75m – sparking a local campaign to bring the beloved landmark under community ownership.

British national parks vary from the American system in that the national park authority does not own the land it oversees, rather acting as a planning authority. Around 60% of the Lake District national park is under private ownership.

Full text and PDF clippings are available after the fold. Continue reading

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