Wednesday, September 12, 2012

On what's so wrong with treating people right?

This is what's written on the back of my super awesome orange Refugee Council t-shirt. I went running in my Refugee Council T-Shirt over the weekend and I always get looks of slight puzzlement as people strain to read what's written on the front and on the back (that in the fact it's a rather appropriate Dutch orange). 

So what's so wrong about treating people right? The UK has a legal and moral obligation to respect and offer safe haven to all those who fear persecution in their country of origin. Yet media and political pressure have seen a culture of what Gibney calls non-arrival measures in Europe. Simultaneously making it more difficult for asylum seekers to arrive on UK soil and tightening the restrictions on granting asylum and refugee status once they do arrive. We need to bring a sense of kindness and decency back to policies on refugees and Britain needs to live up to its commitment to the 1951 Convention on Refugees. The Refugee Council helps people to live their lives in safety and dignity - please help me to raise money for their incredibly important work. 

This is what your donation contributes to:

£30 could buy educational materials, including pens and notebooks, for young refugees.

£50 could help us buy much needed items, including shoes and clothes, for newly arrived children.

£75 could help us continue youth activities like cricket, football and trips to the countryside, which are invaluable to the children.

£150 could help us ensure refugee children get into school.

£250 could help our campaigning and lobbying efforts on policies that affect refugees and asylum seekers.

Please donate whatever you can here and I'll keep running for refugees and asylum seekers!

No Woman Should be Missed Out Campaign

If you are registered to vote in the UK please write a letter to your MP (if you live in Scotland you can also write to your MSP to support bills related to female refugees rights here) it's a campaign from the Refugee Council and Asylum Aid called 'No Woman Should be Missed Out' this campaign , about 7000 female refugees enter the UK each year fleeing persecution and violence. The 1951 Convention on Refugees made no specific provision for women refugees, if a woman is persecuted because of her gender she applies to become a Convention refugee under the banner of 'belonging to a particular social group'. The UK showed a commitment to eradicating violence and offering protection to female refugees in their Violence Against Women Strategy, yet only one of the 100s of actions outlined in the strategy has been put into practice. Westminster is due to review the strategy in November so please write to your MP to ask them to protect women and girls seeking asylum from violence both at home and abroad. 

This is Asylum Aid's very handy leaflet on the campaign

And you can write to your MP here it takes 2 minutes and can bring about the positive change we need in asylum policy directed at women and girls. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On Faisal and Fundraising

I've currently reached 103% of my slightly squiggled target and I'm delighted with it - not because of the target aspect, which was a bit arbitrary at best, but because of the kindness and generosity of so many people which have allowed me to raise £395 for the Refugee Council to date. Really, a deep and resounding thank you to everyone who has donated. If you haven't done so yet.....please do.....the Refugee Council needs your support to provide vital services to refugees and asylum seekers in the U.K. You can give here:

Fundraising is a rather funny thing if you think about it - through doing something difficult people give you money to give to someone else. Perhaps there's something to do with the northern Scottish Calvinistic ideas of suffering and austere giving which made this so popular when I was a kid, anyone remember TRA sponsored walks, they were the shit.... Getting 600 grumpy teenagers to march up Tain Hill and resist the urge to light up a fag behind one of the pine trees was a Herculean effort on the part of my high school teachers. Respect. 

Tain Hill, looking rather more lovely than I remember it....

I've been reading a lot about children and young people entering the U.K. as asylum seekers, the Refugee Council published an execellent report entitled 'Not a Minor Offence: Children Locked up as Part of the Asylum Process'. To accompany this they made a short film with the help of Faisal, a 15 year old asylum seeker from Afghanistan. His story highlights the fact that the U.K. still detains children, some of whom have been through shocking and horrific experiences. If you have time, please watch his story.   


All children and young people have the right to live in peace and safety, they have the right to an education, to people who support and care for them and the right to live in freedom. While we may have moaned whilst walking up Tain Hill, young people like Faisal and young refugees all over the world face a constant battle to live a life in peace and safety. 

On another note - the very lovely Oscar and Lieneke are running in the Dam tot Dam to raise money for Fair Food, an NGO which supports sustainable and fair food growth and supply.  If you have any extra euros you can sponsor them here

Monday, August 20, 2012

On holiday running

I've just got back from holiday in western France, which was pretty awesome and I managed to do some holiday running while I was there. Holiday running seems to be a specific subset of running which involves getting up at a silly time to run through truly beautiful landscapes. In France I ran through vinyards and across sandy island beaches. It made a nice change to running through the Vondelpark, but I missed my normal route - is that weird? We saw drank wine and cider, ate cheese, made very complicated meals using a Primus stove, went to a scandalous music festival and made friends with a cat. So it was indeed a bit lazy and so now I have to get back into Rocky style training big style. This is Ro who harbored illusions of stealing said cat and taking him back to Paris with her. 

Suddenly returning to the Netherlands during a 'tropical' heatwave has been a bit of a shock, so I haven't been running for a few days. In 31C city heat, the only thing I've been able to do is sit around in my knickers and sweat. But today I'm heading off to the swimming pool and then for an evening run. 

I'm running for the Refugee Council in September (which is next month eeek) I'm currently at 96% of my fundraising total - so please dig deep. It's a wonderful organisation which helps some of the U.K's most vulnerable people. You can donate here 

Oh and happy Eid everyone!

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Strijders voor de liefde

If you speak Dutch and live in the Netherlands, watch this documentary. It's about the acceptance and persecution of gay people in the Netherlands and in other countries. It's very well made and touching. Also around half the documentary is in English with Dutch subtitling.

The story of David who is now in an asylum seekers centre awaiting a decision on refugee status after being persecuted for being gay in Jamaica. His story reminded me of how important human rights are, and that both love and asylum are essential human rights.

Watch it!

On running through raindrops or Schotse hardlopen

Today I woke up and thought to myself - what a lovely day, the sun is shining, there's a slight breeze - perfect conditions for a run in the park. But of course I fannied around for about two hours, packing  and half watching the Olympics. So when I eventually put on my running kit (that which is not yet packed) and headed out, the dark clouds had begun to roll in. By the time I got to the Dutch-Turkish friendship bridge it had begun to rain. Oh how I laughed at the people cycling by with there umbrellas up. Oh how I laughed out the other side of my face when I got to the Vondelpark and the heavens opened. Like any sensible person I sought shelter, for about 5 minutes, until I got terribly bored (and was still getting a bit wet under the trees) and began to run further. Through a thunder and lightening storm. For a portion of the time I tried to pretend I was a super Buddhist monk/Usain Bolt and I could run between the raindrops, until I realised that all my clothing was soaked through. Still, at least rain cools you down and so it made the run a bit nicer.

Well, there you go - my first rain running experience (I'm suprised I lasted this long here in Amsterdam). 

I think that's some kind of dedication/stupidity that deserves sponsorship - so if you haven't given, please do. 

Here's a picture of me soaking wet, with what my father would describe as 'a soor face'.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

On things I see when I'm running.....the Amsterdam Gay Pride Parade

After a terribly disappointing and not fun at all, run yesterday, I had a spiffing run today and felt like I was going a bit faster than normal - that may, however, be a self fabrication.

What made the run even spiffinger was when I got back home I managed to catch the end of the Gay Pride March on their way past the Homomonument and onwards to the Dam. Despite the rubbish weather during the afternoon, the skies had cleared and it was perfect parade weather.

Many people seek asylum in the U.K, the Netherlands and in many other countries due to persecution for their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Homomonument in Amsterdam West was erected in memorial to the gay men and women who were persecuted under the Nazi regime but serves to remind us of all people who have been persecuted because of their sexual orientation.


Enjoy Gay Pride 2012 Amsterdam! 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Oh Ghandi.

I found this on the internet today and I rather liked it - O.K. I know that 'be the change you wish to see in the world' has become cliched but it doesn't make it any less true! I'm enjoying some time at the moment just to be free and to listen with my whole heart and I'm pretty thankful that I get the opportunity to do that, to work out what kind of person I want to be, without stress. Most people don't have that privilege - I know that times are hard for many people during this recession but refugees and asylum seekers are affected disproportionately, with cuts to various services, many are not getting the help and support they need. Refugees and asylum seekers need champions for justice. And that's where you come in; support Vluchtelingen Werk Nederland, The Refugee Council or the Scottish Refugee Council in any way you can - you can donate to my efforts to raise money for the Refugee Council through running in the Ladies Damloop here



On Standing By One Another

This is an awesome video from the documentary 'Playing for Change'. Enjoy and remember to stand by one another!

Big love,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

On the definition of a refugee

"A person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself to the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it."

The 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

Some Facts about Asylum in the UK 

  • The Home Office detains around 1000 children seeking asylum with their families each year

(Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, Intercollegiate Briefing, 2009)

  • The U.K. is home to less than 2% of the world's refugees

           (UNHCR 2008 Global Trends Paper)

  • Around 80% of the world's refugees are living in developing countries, often in camps. Africa and Asia host between them, more than three quarters of the world's refugees. Europe looks after just 14%

          (UNHCR Global Trends Paper, 2007)

  • Most asylum seekers in the U.K. are living in poverty and experience poor health and hunger.

          (Independent Asylum Commission citizens' Inquiry, The Independent, 2007)

  • An estimated 30, 000 jobs have been created in Leicester by Ugandan refugees since 1972.

          (The Observer, They fled with nothing but built a new empire, 11 August 2002)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Competitiveness

I've recently started reading 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' by Haruki Murakami. I've been a Murakami fan for some time but his style and openess in this book are rather astounding. There was one passage which has really stood out to me,

"Don't misunderstand me - I'm not totally uncompetitive. It's just that for some reason I never cared all that much whether I beat others of lost to them. This sentiment remained unchanged after I grew up. It doesn't matter what field you're talking about - beating somebody else just doesn't do it for me. I'm much more interested in whether I reach the goals I set for myself, so in this sense long-distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mine."

- Haruki Murakami

I think this sums up my attitude to sport entirely. When I was in High School the competitive aspect was pushed on us to such an extent that it depleted my enjoyment of many organised sports. This is why I'm enjoying running so much at the moment. It's a period in the day where I can be outside and free of thoughts and constraints and there is no pressure. I wonder why we can't encourage more people to participate in sport either for themselves or for others (supporting causes which are important to them) rather than constantly pushing them to beat other people? 

This morning, I bettered my ability to run and it's made me feel really positive about things - I walked home feeling positively light. 

Safe travels wherever you are,



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Migration is not a crime

On seeing lovely people in the Vondelpark

Today's run saw me get up at 9am! 9am - that's fairly revolutionary for me.....  Heading off to the Vondelpark after my muesli. After listening to my Dad's seriously dodgy collection of heavy metal on my music player (I have no idea how to change it). I met with the very lovely Hazza and Andy Mack and their lovely but very excited dog Mooja. After running for half an hour I met the sublime Mrs. Lascelles and her daughter for coffee in Het Melkhuis, which was a lovely break but I was rather sweaty and horrible. Which was the perfect time to bump into a former pupil......

It's still 26C + so I lathered myself in factor 20 and took a big bottle of water out - one poor guy was being picked up by an ambulance in the Vondelpark - so be careful lady and manbros. Slip, slap, slop, glug and all that. 

Take Care and lovelovelove xx

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Brothers and Sisters, Wear Sunscreen!

 I went on my first run for goodness knows how long this morning, and by morning, I mean afternoon. And it's 28C, in Amsterdam. And it's the midday sun. And I have the lowest amount of skin pigmentation in the Western Amsterdam area. 

So I thought - it's hot so I should take water - which I dutifully did. Plus a head scarf - which I also did. Well it seems that sometimes I like to kid myself into thinking I don't possess a naturally goth like pallor but I do. Oh and how. So I went for a nice long run. Sipping away at my water and seeking the shade of the trees. 

And now I have a tomato face to show for it. 

So now I'm bathing in calendula aftersun lotion and kidding myself that the tomato face will 'settle down' into a lovely sun kissed glow. 

The moral of this story is; brothers and sisters - wear sunscreen......

On being back!

OK, so I'm sorry I've neglected to keep you up to date with my running adventures over the past couple of months - but I'm back with a vengeance, shiny new shoes and a fabulous Refugee Council T-shirt. I decided I'd let you see them with some slightly lame photos, posted above.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

On Meditation and Running.

I read this really interesting article in the Guardian this morning which reminded me of my Dad and other zen like running masters. It's a rather interesting concept.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

On Looking Faintly Ridiculous

See above......I did however, have an ace run through the park. The sun was shining and the joggers were out in force. Tomorrow I'm going to attempt to get up at 7am (on a Sunday) to go swimming.

Friday, April 13, 2012

On Mean Dogs in the Vondelpark.

What a brave and intrepid runner I must be - I get up in not so beautiful conditions and head off for a short run., all the while singing 'Eye of the Tiger' in my head. By the time I get about half way through the run (and by this point I'm reeeeally concentrating on preventing my heart from exploding) a dog runs up to me. "Oh, how charming" I think to myself "a friendly dog". Well this dog was a little too friendly and competitive - he tried to outrun me (and succeeded with ease) and then proceeded to jump all over me - scratching the left side of my leg. And the thing that got to me most, was not, as you may think, the terrifying nature of the mean dog, who was surely going to eat me.....but "oh dude, you broke my stride!"

I feel that I may be getting this running lark after all.......

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On Running.

OK, well as you may very well have guessed I'm going to be running in the Damloop on the 23rd September, here in fair Amsterdam. I think this may be the best or most foolish thing I've done for a long time, I'm not quite sure yet. What I do know is that I'm running for a very important cause. The UK Refugee Council was founded in 1951, following the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and continues the leading charity in the UK that works with refugees and asylum seekers. Both, working directly with, and through campaigning on behalf of refugees.

This is a wonderful video about the work the Refugee Council does, made to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the UN Convention on refugees. You can watch it here.

So this will be my first run, since running cross country at Tain Royal Academy, running up the Scotsburn Road, listening to Mr McIntosh shouting in my ear and I'm really delighted that I'll be doing it for the Refugee Council - but of course I need your support! Every euro or pound you donate helps their outstanding work and makes me more and more motivated to get off my arse and go running in the Vondelpark.

I'm proud to protect refugees and I hope you will be too. Please donate via my just giving page here.

Meanwhile, I'll be updating this blog with my adventures in running and in fitness in general, including lots of photos of me looking rather ridiculous.