Tag Archives: Christmas

Top 5 ideas for Christmas gifts when you’re on a budget

Currently experiencing the yearly panic attack because you’re still trying to figure out what to give your loved ones for Christmas? We’ve got some tips for you that will also protect your wallet!

  1. Give something that’s already been loved

Thrift shops offer a great variety of gifts that will make your loved ones happy. The best thing about it: The unique items have already been loved by their previous owners and can now make someone new happy. Plus: By buying gifts at thrift shops, you usually support a good cause as well. And, of course, bargains, bargains, bargains!

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  1. Home baked goods are the essence of Christmas, so get yourself some nice little cookie boxes (e.g. from Amazon) and start baking! Or why not try Allrecipes’ formula for the perfect ‘cinnamon stars’?

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  1. Help your loved ones take a break from reality

Books are always a great gift. What could be nicer than a quick escape into a fictional world – where all the Christmas panic can be forgotten quickly and easily?Screen Shot 2016-11-28 at 17.16.36.png

Find these at Waterstones and Urban Outfitters.


  1. Remind them of you even after Christmas is over

Give your dearest something that will remind them of you long after Christmas is over – be they very fancy disco cups, their new favourite pyjamas, some warmth from you in form of a very special hot water bottle, or the tape dispenser they always dreamt of…


Find these at Urban Outfitters, H&M, Primark, and New Look


  1. And of course, you can always go for the classics

Some things never get old! Classics, such as cozy socks, shower gel sets, calendars, or Santa Claus in all possible shapes are always a safe bet.



Find these at Primark, The Body Shop, H&M, Superdrug, and Waterstones

And now, happy shopping everyone!



Kylie Minogue Drops a New Xmas Song into Our Stockings

by Stuart Mackenzie

The Australian music sensation is back, and just in time to spread more holiday cheer. However, this friendly neighbour isn’t singing the traditional carols. Ms Minogue debuted her brand new track ‘At Christmas’ on BBC Radio 2 this morning.

The cheerful tune kicks off with a keyboard-riff, not dissimilar to The Foundations’ ‘Build Me Up, Buttercup’, and accompanying sleigh bells. It’s not long before the ‘Can’t Get You out of My Head’ hit-maker chimes in with lyrics taking you through all four seasons.

She leads us into a chorus of musical cheer juxtaposed with winter blue words that fits right onto our playlist of classic Christmas pop songs.

The jingle may not be ‘Santa Baby’ but there’s a good chance Kylie will once again be the star at the top of this year’s Christmas charts.

Listen to ‘At Christmas’ here:


Edinburgh’s Christmas Market delivers and delights

by Noemi Distefano

Photo credit: Noemi Distefano
Photo credit: Noemi Distefano

Edinburgh’s Christmas Market has opened to the public this weekend.

The market, one of the most popular Christmas celebrations in the UK, will run for six weeks until the 7th January.

Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens will be transformed into a veritable winter wonderland by a rich array fairground attractions, lights, buskers, artists and street-chefs.

The market has grown its reputation as one of Europe’s largest Christmas attractions.

Councillor Richard Lewis, Edinburgh’s Festivals and Events Champion, said to Edinburgh Evening News, “Edinburgh’s Christmas promises to wow once again, and the Christmas Market alongside with the Street of Light is a spectacular and mesmerising addition to what is already a brilliant line-up.”

Around 900,000 unique visitors from all over Europe are expected to fill St. Andrews Square in the coming weeks.

Hundreds of chefs and artisans are expected to open their shutters, offering nibbles, trinkets and a more magical Christmas experience.


Photo credit: Noemi Distefano
Photo credit: Noemi Distefano


Shopkeeper Judies, owner of ChristmasWorld, sells traditional German wooden ornaments. She said, “Me and my brother have been here in Edinburgh for the Christmas markets even before they became a huge event.  This is our fifteenth year in this street, and I wouldn’t like to be anywhere else.”

Norwegian shopkeeper Kari Ittervel claims that she comes to Edinburgh just for the market. A resident of Amsterdam, she flies over for just two months a year to sell her handmade pottery.

“I’ve been here for two years now, I was in London’s Christmas Market before, but it’s not even a tenth as nice as in Edinburgh’s. One day I heard that there was a beautiful market here and I resolved: ‘let’s make Edinburgh’s ladies happy with my items!’”

“The markets are amazing. Beautiful people, beautiful city, it’s just fantastic!”

It’s not just the shopkeepers who love the atmosphere. Jasmine – a tourist from Newcastle – said, “I came a long way from Newcastle, just because I think the Christmas markets are great. They bring a bit of European culture to the cities in the UK.”

“I think it is really nice, the smell is nice in the air, the sites and there are really a lot of lights and we are looking forward to go around, it is a great thing.”

The experience is certainly rich – families peer into the Gardens from the terrace of the Scottish National Gallery as the smell of burned wood and the sound of buskers fill the air.


Photo credit: Noemi Distefano
Photo credit: Noemi Distefano


The Edinburgh Christmas Market will stay vibrant with music, sounds, sights and smells until early 2017.

Tickets are right now available at www.edinburghschristmas.com

Unusual Christmas Markets on Sunday

By Ari Brynjolfsson.

Three ‘quirky’ Christmas markets will open this Sunday (13th December) in Edinburgh, according to events magazine Time Out.

In addition to the regular festive market, Edinburgh Printmakers will have a Christmas Market at their shop on Union Street, near Leith Walk.

The half-centennial fine art shop will offer a  variety of jewellery in addition to prints, books and textiles from local artisans.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, Britain’s largest vintage fair, will host their Christmas Market in the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

In addition to vintage fashion, they also offer accessories, menswear, home wares and beauty products.

A spokesperson from the vintage shop said: ‘We’re going all out, bringing even more affordable vintage traders from our troupe to get you stocked-up with vintage. Traders will be showcasing some of their best new season stock.’

The Summerhall Christmas Market, to be set up near The Meadows, has promised more stalls than ever before.

In addition to gifts and treats, there will be food from guest vendors, traditional mulled wine from the venue’s bar and Zoom club activities for children. The Summerhall Singers will provide live entertainment with festive songs.



West Lothian welcome Small Business Saturday

West Lothian Council are encouraging residents to spend their money locally tomorrow as part of a campaign to support independent retailers.

Small Business Saturday is a UK non-commercial campaign which aims to promote local businesses and encourage shoppers to spend their money on the first Saturday in December.

The Council hope that the focus on independent firms will benefit business owners in the town centres of Armadale, Bathgate, Broxburn and Uphall, as well as Linlithgow and Whitburn.

Stuart McKinnon, Senior Public Affairs Advisor for the Federation of Small Business in Scotland said: “We know that independent businesses are part of the recipe for success in Scottish towns and communities.

“Especially in rural and remote Scotland, small firms create jobs and opportunities.

“Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for local people to support local business with the pounds in their pockets.”

Harry Ferguson, owner of Broxburn Bargain Centre welcomes the imitative, but said that his business is consistently supported by the community. He said: “Truthfully I don’t know much about Small Business Saturday, we’ve got an MP coming to fill us in about it but anything to support small independent business is a great idea.

“We need all the help we can get in this day and age. We have been here for 65 years so we have a lot of repeat customers.

“They look in the big retailers and they come back to us.”

Small Business Saturday will coincide with other events taking place across West Lothian that highlight independent, local businesses and their place in the community.

Whitburn’s Christmas Cracker event will be held at the Community Education Centre on Manse Road. It will include events for children and a festive market for gifts, food and drink. There will be a Santa Parade making its way to Whitburn Cross and the Civic Space for the Christmas lights finale.

Broxburn and Uphall’s Advent Fayre will take place this Saturday. There will be a Santa’s Grotto and market followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights at Broxburn Library.

Executive councillor for development and transport, Cathy Muldoon, said: “West Lothian is home to a number of truly unique and traditional towns and villages, many of which host a wide variety of small, high quality, specialist retailers, business services and stores.

“Small Business Saturday on 5 December is the perfect opportunity for local residents to show their support for such firms, which play a vital role in their communities and ensure our town and village centres remain vibrant places to visit, shop, work, live and be entertained in.

“The small boutiques and shops in West Lothian can lend a helping hand when it comes to picking that perfect unique gift for someone special, whilst local butchers and delicatessens can help create a great tasting, traditional Christmas lunch or dinner, as well as providing tasty nibbles and treats throughout those long, cold and wintry months.”

Last year’s Small Business Saturday saw 16.5 million people shop locally, spending a total of £504 million.


Edinburgh Christmas Market Opens Today

Laurenci Dow

The annual Edinburgh Christmas Market launches today at 5pm and visitors can expect brand new attractions including a celebrity visit to switch on the festive lights.

Britain’s Got Talent finalist Susan Boyle will be in Edinburgh this Saturday night to flick the switch tomorrow on Light Night.

The Christmas Market has been a staple in the Edinburgh calendar for the past 20 years. However, this is only the second year that the festival will span from the Mound, through Prince’s Street and around the Scots Monument.

Event coordinator Underbelly said in a press release that due to last year’s enormous success the market will see an expansion to other parts of the city centre and more free events for the public.

Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam of Underbelly said: “This Christmas is all about lighting up Edinburgh, we’re very excited to be bringing the Street to Light and extending the success of Edinburgh’s Christmas Market into the Old Town.

“It’s a free event for up to 5,000 people a show, 250,000 in all.

“We hope it will show one of Scotland’s most famous streets in a whole new light and bring the whole community together to celebrate Christmas.

“A newly anticipated event this year is the Virgin Money Street of Light that will launch on the 29th of this month to coincide with St Andrew’s Day.”

The Virgin Money Street of Light is an architectural installation of over 60,000 lights stretching from the Royal Mile, to City Chambers ending at Tron Kirk.

Andrew Nicholson, Head of Sponsorship Marketing at Virgin Money, said: “The Virgin Money Street of Light is set to wow both residents and visitors to the city of Edinburgh.

“It will be free of charge following on in the tradition of the Fringe Street Events and we expect over a quarter of a million people to enjoy the show, which opens on St Andrew’s Day and runs until Christmas Eve.”

This free public event will include 1,300 local performers and is expecting a crowd of over 20,000 people.

The show will run for 25 days with two shows per day, one at 6.30pm and 8.15 pm, which each show running about 20 minutes.


Retailers Braced For PlayStation 4 Launch

Sony’s PlayStation 4, Credit: Sony

By Fraser Ryan

Retailers across the UK are preparing for the release of the latest round of next generation gaming consoles as Sony launches the PlayStation 4 this Friday.

Sony’s console will hit shelves exactly one week after rivals Microsoft launched their Xbox One unit.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh retail complex Fort Kinnaird has said the park is prepared for an increase in customer activity this weekend and in the run up to Christmas. The spokesperson said: “We have already noticed an increase in shoppers as we get closer to Christmas and with the PS4 launching this weekend, we’re expecting even more people down at Fort Kinnaird to pick up the console and avoid disappointment.”

High street chain GAME have expressed their elation ahead of Friday’s launch. Martyn Gibbs, CEO of GAME said: “The excitement and anticipation for the PS4 launch is absolutely massive. We’re stepping into the next generation of gaming and this really is a fundamental shift for the industry.”

Gibbs went onto say his company feel this console cycle will prove to be the biggest ever, and GAME have made a point to make sure its customers do not miss out. Gibbs said: “The PS4 launch is going to surpass anything Playstation has done before – our pre-order numbers are around four times higher than the PS3 and we’re seeing those numbers grow every day. We’re delighted that we are able to bring additional last-minute stock to the UK market and keep delivering for the UK gaming communities and we can’t wait for the official launch.”

Online retailer Amazon have expressed their belief the PlayStation 4 will prove to be one of the biggest must-have gadgets this Christmas. Xavier Garambois, Vice-President of EU Retail for Amazon said: “[The PlayStation 4 is] a favourite for Christmas lists in 2013, we can expect these consoles to be keeping children and adults alike entertained on Christmas day and into 2014.”

PlayStation 4 is available from Friday 29th of November.

Rape Campaign to Raise Awareness Among Students Over Festive Period

Universities are working in conjunction with Lothian and Borders Police to raise awareness around the increase of rapes taking place over the festive period. The campaign sees students as their “target market”, but some students are questioning why this hasn’t been an on-going campaign.

Universities work with police.

‘We Can Stop It’ aims to increase awareness about the Sexual Offence Act Scotland 2009, which defined several new offences relating to sex without consent.

Changes in the legislation included the acknowledgment that someone who is incapable through drink or drugs is considered unable to consent; the ability to consent to sex can be withdrawn at any time and male rape being legally classified as such for the very first time.

The emphasis of the campaign will be on 18-27 year olds and will focus primarily on men, hoping to provoke a change in values when it comes to rape so that men’s role in preventing rape can be brought to the forefront of peoples’ attention.

Chief Superintendent Malcom Graham, Divisional Commander for the City of Edinburgh said: “With the festive holidays fast approaching, we know that there will be significantly more young people out in bars and clubs.

“I hope that by working with educational establishments and receiving their support for the campaign we can reach our target market effectively and educate them about the key areas of change in the legislation.

“Our officers will also be in and around a number of campuses in the coming weeks speaking to students about the campaign and I would encourage anyone who is interested in becoming involved to speak to them.”

Lesley Johnstone, Chair of the Edinburgh Violence Against Women Partnership, is an advocate of the campaign and said: “Sexual abuse can have a devastating impact upon victims and their wider families, and we strongly support this initiative and the activity the police are doing at Edinburgh’s Universities.”

Students and staff at Napier University responded positively to the campaign, recognising the gravity of the issues at hand. However, some people raised concerns about why the campaign was only being run over the festive period.  Napier Student President Tom Zanelli echoed these concerns: “Rape is a disgraceful act and needs stamping out, I do agree that rape and what actually is rape is still very much unknown, so hopefully this campaign can help raise awareness and also stamp it out.

“To be honest students will always drink and I’m not convinced they will drink any more or less over the festive period, the campaign should on-going throughout the year and always targeted at students.”

Former student Robert Piper said: “A lot of them are too busy studying or going home for Christmas and everything, but yes I think it’s a good thing. They should realise that whenever they go out and have a few drinks, being social, they might let their guard down. They should still be aware of what’s going on around them and everything else that’s going on, not just for themselves but for other people as well.”

Computer Security and Forensics student Jake Gregg said: “Most of the students are going home at Christmas, I don’t see why they wouldn’t do this during term time when there’s more students here. Some students understand the issues, but others maybe need their awareness raised.”

Financial Advisor Zara Lochrie: “I think if there’s enough promotion and awareness is raised enough then I don’t think this campaign will be overlooked, I think it’s something that’s quite prominent just now. If students are aware of it and if there’s enough awareness around the university then it will definitely take off I’d say.

“I’d say students would be the perfect target audience, especially over Christmas with all the Christmas parties and things like that, but student and staff alike over the Christmas period where everyone’s drinking a little bit more. I think it’s a good time to get in there when it’s relevant to them.”

Placements Administrator Lindsay Morgan: “I guess this is a good time for the campaign, because it’s the time when everyone’s drinking and partying. I wasn’t aware of that legislation change so I dare say there are a lot of students out there who aren’t aware of the change either.

“A lot of students will have gone home already, but then there’s local students too, and students still keep in touch with all the things going on at university so it may not be too late.”

Edinburgh Napier’s Christmas gift guide

Vintage box sets £10 each

The Christmas season is upon us and the inevitable Christmas shop is sure to bamboozle even the most organised shopper. Enter Napier News‘ essential Christmas gift guide: a selection of unique gift ideas all available locally with personal recommendations and top tips from those in the know.

For the health conscious…

Head to Napiers herbalists on Bristo Place where you will find pampering treats with their excellent range of his and her skin care products. Made using only the finest natural ingredients, we’re recommending the facial box sets that include a facial wash, toner and moisturising cream, guaranteed to give you that winter glow. Coming in at £45 each, these beautifully packaged sets are sure to be a hit on Christmas morning.

Also available are Napier’s vintage gift sets based on traditional remedies that include a hot toddy and ginger cordial mix perfect for warming up even the coldest winter evening.  After the decadence of the festive season, refresh and replenish with the Weekend Off detox box, a herbel supplement that helps to balance the body and keep you healthy.

10% student discount available. |  Find out more at: http://www.napiers.net/

Pocket hot water bottles only £5 each!

For the perfect stocking filler…

Available at Halibut and Herring, keep your hands cosy on those long winter walks with a range of pocket hot water bottles in a wide range of designs. At only £5 each, these wooly winter warmers are a steal!

Or how about a handmade selection of Christmas charms from Rosie Brown? From snowflakes to Christmas puddings, these individually crafted charms are perfect for updating bracelets and necklaces. An engraving service is also available to add the personal touch. Give that special someone the perfect Christmas gift with a love letter charm. These delicate silver discs can be engraved with a personal message as the ultimate token of love.

Pop in store:  Both Rosie Brown and Halibut and Herring are located on Bruntsfield Place  |    15% off available at Rosie Brown’s Christmas evening with mulled wine and mine pies on 30th November. 6-9pm. |  Find out more at: http://www.halibutandherring.co.uk/ and http://rosiebrownjewellery.com/

Pig out with this festive feast at £10.99

For the chocolate lover…

The Harvest Garden is a chocaholic’s haven of indulgent and original edible treats. Play a game of chocolate draughts after Christmas dinner or for an alternative take out, feast upon gourmet chocolate pizza made from Belgian milk chocolate, creamy vanilla fudge pieces, chunky pieces of chocolate brownie biscuit and topped with white chocolate curls.

Pop in store: 58- 60 Morningside Road |  Find out more at: theharvestgarden.co.uk |

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Fighting in the baking heat of foreign climes does little to acclimatise ex-servicemen and women to life on the bitter cold December streets of Edinburgh. For some that leave the armed forces, pavement slabs become their new trench or fox hole as a new fight to survive begins. Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori may be ‘the old lie’, but a harsher truth prevails for those who have fought in Britain’s armed forces and returned home to reality, David Walsh writes.

 “Knee knocked, coughing like hags, we cursed as we trudged through the sludge,” wrote war poet Wilfred Owen in 1917 in his asylum room at Craiglockhart. The words uncannily ring true this month in a snow and slush-covered capital city. Like the many fallen soldiers of the Great War, the homeless faces of Edinburgh facing these sub-zero temperatures become mere statistics to the general public. 6,739 hot meals. 44 beds a night. 809 volunteers. 928 sheltered, given support and a warm meal*. The glow of Christmas street lighting, the glitter of shop window baubles or the cinnamon-sweet offerings of the Christmas markets do little to thaw the cold reality for many this Christmas.

Christmas is a desperate time for those on Edinburgh's streets. Source: MMO News.

Among the faces in the shop doorways and closes this holiday season could well be someone who fought in the Armed Forces. As the old maxim goes, charity begins at home. Bob Geldof asked a question back in 1984 of the famine-stricken people of Ethiopia. Few ask the same question to those soldiers who have returned from combat to altered lives back in the UK; do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

Exact figures for just how many people sleep rough on Edinburgh’s streets every night are difficult to compile due to the constant transient state they are in. Some “sofa surf” at the homes of friends and families, or gain temporary, sheltered or hostel accommodation. They become apparitions in the system. The best indicators the Scottish government are able to venture are lists of statistics of the number of applications for assistance made by people who had slept on the street the night before. This amounts to 39 people in Edinburgh during 2009-2010. This hardly offers a complete picture. Shelter Scotland put the figure for homeless people, those without homes, facing eviction or living in inadequate housing across Scotland at 40,000. The actual number of ex-servicemen and women among these who are homeless or otherwise sleeping rough remains contentious.

London-based charity Veterans Aid cites UK government statistics which claim there are only 450 ‘rough sleepers’ on the streets nationwide and only four per cent of these claim a military connection. Press officer Glyn Strong believes there is a gross over-exaggeration in the press about the number of veterans on the streets. With over 3,000 organisations in Britain working to support ex-service personnel, it’s an enticing prospect for many who claim to have been in the army to invent a service history to get help. Even so, if the facts are true, government figures show eighteen veterans are currently sleeping rough on the streets of Britain. Eighteen too many, in any case.

Instead of scouring the streets of Edinburgh to find a homeless veteran, we come to the Grassmarket in the city centre. Nestled between the relative silence of the snow-laden Greyfriars kirkyard and buzz of the Grassmarket, the Grassmarket Community Project is an unassuming building on the outside. Behind its facade, it is a hive of activity and industry. The project co-ordinator, Josiah Lockhart, explains that help for the “down and outs” of Edinburgh began with missions in the Grassmarket in the Victorian era. Even now, there are homeless shelters and hostels in the four corners of the Grassmarket itself, mostly in the closes behind it. Out of sight, out of mind?

The Grassmarket Community Project arose out of a partnership of two such historic missions; the Greyfriars Kirk and the Grassmarket Mission, both tracing their origins back to the 1800s. Their original purpose was to work with homeless adults, the Grassmarket being an area of the city where the poor and wealthy lived juxtaposed. The Community Project has now branched out to help adults facing social exclusion or struggling with addictions and mental illness too. As well as offering hot meals at its three weekly drop-in hours, it offers classes in cookery, textiles, woodwork, drama, art, IT, literacy. But Josiah Lockhart asked one important question five years ago: “Is the need we’re trying to meet the need of today?

“As time has gone by, the needs of people, what homelessness looks like has changed a lot. Issues are more to do with health and well-being and access to food. We’ve evolved over the past four years from being that mass-catering, queue-up service to one that’s a space, a community.”    

There’s a constant flurry of activity in the one room as people leave and return and new faces arrive. We sit talking as Christmas songs are played on a hi-fi in the corner and decorations are hung from the ceiling. One of the new faces rushes over to us especially to tell Josiah his good news. He has been given the all-clear by doctors for his cancer and finally has a meeting sorted to discuss his benefits. “I’m on a cloud nine” he beams. One woman who joins us at our table is Ellen.

A former Captain in the Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps, Ellen Pain served as a senior nurse in the 1982 Falklands conflict. Speaking to her at the Project, she is visibly shaken when talking about her experiences. “[The war] That was enough for me,” she said. After returning to civilian life, she suffered a mental break down which tore her family life apart. Asking what life is like for her nowadays, she said, “Some days I’m fine. Others I’m not. This place is a big part of my life. When I’m in trouble, I head for here.” Ellen became heavily involved with volunteering when the Project first started up in its current location on the Grassmarket. She helps with the running of the various classes, particularly the art group.

Was she given much needed help when she was returned back in the UK? “No, because they don’t know how to deal with us. They help no body. Quite a lot of ex-servicemen come here. We all sit on a wee table to ourselves,” she says with a wheezy chuckle. “We talk our experiences out at the table.” Many of those she sits with are fellow Falklands vets. Some were, in a bizarre coincidence, wounded men she cared for. “Yes they remember me! Very strict they said I was. I was a Captain. I was very strict. My ward had to be spotless and my nurses.” Daring to ask, we enquire as to what Christmas holds for her. “I don’t have Christmas in my house. For me now, Christmas is for children.”

Whilst chatting to Ellen, a man with a limp sits next to us at our table. Affectionately named Mickey by the other volunteers, Michael Glancy explains he chipped a bone on his foot after slipping on the ice. He, too, is an ex-serviceman. Serving in the Royal Artillery in Kosovo as a young man of nineteen, his life was turned upside down with the close deaths of his father and uncle. Since arriving through the doors of the Project at the drop-in clinics, he has developed aspirations to rejoin the Army to train men like the younger man he was a decade previous. Not only that, he wants to go to college to study sports science. These two volunteers, both of military backgrounds, are just two of over a hundred people who congregate at the centre in any given week, taking part in and leading classes.

On a tour of the building by Josiah, we encounter woodwork leader Tommy Steel supervising a group in the workshop. Having had some machinery donated and some bought by the Project, the centre is run on the profits of workshop sales. Some of the volunteers are soldering designs onto wood. Others are hurriedly completing an order for shutters for a church conversion in Fife. Speaking to him briefly, he told us: “We need to change people’s lives for the better. We run the project as a business so we have financial incomes to achieve. We also have environmental outcomes.”

Starting in humble beginnings in a portacabin in the kirkyard, the business entails the recycling of church pews into high quality furniture. The wood is collected from churches all over Scotland and used to produce products ranging from gift items like candle holders and chopping boards up to household furniture like coffee tables and chairs. Tommy was part of the pilot project and has watched as the work of the volunteers has evolved into commissions, selling to notable names as Finance Minister John Swinney, and exhibitions.

 “The guys get a lot out of it. It’s not just about teaching woodwork. It’s the confidence, the self-esteem, the purpose in life. Recently, a large number of people have come off medication as a direction result of attending here.

“Medication for depression, mental illness. Through coming here, they’ve put structure back into their life and come off their medication.” One of the volunteers Tommy closely with had walked in off the street for the drop-in clinic and eventually left to study furniture making and upholstery.

With such schemes not made available by the MOD or British government as they are in countries like the United States and Australia, what does this mean for troops returning back to Britain with no prospects? Not all but a small minority – so small they cannot be accurately counted – fade into the ether and are forgotten. It is social projects like the Grassmarket Community Project that provide a stepping stone for those in a desperate situation to better themselves. This is felt no more so than at Christmas.

It is too early to tell how the cycle will touch soldiers currently deployed on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in the future either. There are over 5.5m veterans in the UK. There are the regrettable few that failed to blend back into civilian life as seamlessly as the 96% of ex-servicemen who did. It is these Glyn Strong believes are disproportionately reported in the British press. “One homeless veteran is still one too many” she concedes. Just how many serving in Iraq and Afghanistan will make a similarly uneasy transition back into civilian life is yet to be known. It will be Edinburgh’s long-established charitable organisations who will likely bear the strain of getting those without homes or those without shelter living on the streets back on their feet this Christmas. In attending independently-run groups like the Grassmarket Community Project, those living rough on the streets or in sheltered accommodation, veteran or otherwise, will have company and a warm environment to be keep their spirits bright this Yule tide.

 *Statistics for Edinburgh from Bethany Christian Trust.

Walking in a war-torn wonderland

Palestinian Santa with Israeli soldiers. Courtesy of AP/ Kevin Frayer

 Where Christians fear to tread, or have fled: an exploration into the birthplace of Christianity this Christmas.

 By Claudie Qumsieh

Beyond the tinsel, Christmas is a celebration commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. The Holy Land however has been violated by a colonial presence since the creation of Israel in 1948, in the land that was once Palestine. 

“A bulldozer arrived with soldiers. I began to argue with them not to demolish my home, so they began to beat me. As the bulldozer was to begin the demolition, I remembered that my son was sleeping inside. I ran towards the house to get him. As I ran the soldiers tried to hold me back. They began beating and kicking me. I managed to push one to the ground and ran inside to my son”

These are the words of Rodina Jabber, interviewed in the award-winning documentary, Occupation 101. This Palestinian mother’s children cannot sleep for fear that the soldiers will return. Two of her homes have been bulldozed and her land taken by Israeli settlers. Jabber’s story is not an anomaly, her story is the story of a nation. In the last 10 years Israel have destroyed about 1,000 Palestinian homes in occupied Jerusalem and displaced 5,783 individuals, including 3,109 children.

Desmond Tutu draws comparisons with South African apartheid when he thanks students for their protests against Israel:

“I have been to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans”

One striking apartheid tool in the conflict is a wall three times as long and twice as tall as the Berlin Wall. The construction is called different names by the two sides: “The Wall” by the Palestinians, “security/anti-terrorist fence” by the Israelis. According to Israel Diplomatic Network “The security fence limits the ability of terrorist organizations to enter Israel […] making it difficult for them to carry out suicide bombing attacks within Israel“. Not only is the wall a means of oppression, the wall encroaches on Palestinian land. Israel has used it to capture valuable fertile land from the Palestinians. Although his Question of Palestine pre-dates the erection of the wall, it is a physical embodiment of what Edward Said described in 1979 as Zionist “blocking, shrinking, silencing, hemming in” of Palestinians.

As Christmas is celebrated, Palestine, the home of Christ, is forgotten. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over the cave where Jesus was said to be born, it is a sacred place for Christians. In 2002 when the Israel Defence Force (IDF) re-occupied Bethlehem, 100 people fled for safety into the Church of the Nativity. A 39 day siege followed where the entire city was punished: electricity was cut off and curfews were imposed. Outside soldiers stood with guns pointing at the church sacred to millions throughout the world as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.

Historically Bethlehem had been a Christian city governed largely by Christians, however Bethlehem has more recently been Islamized. The 23,000 Christians of the area have been reduced since 1990 from a 60% majority to a minority by 2001. Christian Palestinians are an oppressed minority within an oppressed majority of Palestinians, both Muslim and Christian. In the 1947 official British Mandate records 35% of Palestine’s population was Christian. Since 1948 most Christian Palestinians have fled, they now make up only 2% of the population. Although Israel blames Hamas and Islamic fundamentalists for the diminishing Christian population, in 2006 the Palestinian Centre for Research and Cultural Dialogue poll found that 90% of Christians reported having Muslim friends, 73.3% agreed that the Palestinian Authority treats Christian heritage in the city with respect and 78% said the exodus of Christians from Bethlehem was because of the Israeli occupation. I spoke to one Palestinian who explained that the root cause is the Israeli occupation which has created fundamentalism, which has in turn created more oppression for the Christians of Palestine. Seen as more Westernised, they are discriminated against as a minority within a minority. 

Jerusalem is a holy city for all three Abrahamic religions: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. For Muslims it is the site of the first Qibla, the Dome of the rock; for Jews, Solomon’s First Temple; for Christians- Jesus’ home and the place of his crucifixion. There are 1204 synagogues 158 churches and 73 mosques within the city. This holy city has been the flashpoint of violence and oppression. In 1949 the new state of Israel’s  Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion named Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Jerusalem was at the time divided between Israel and Jordan and only West Jerusalem was considered Israel’s capital. During the 1967 Six-Day War Israel took control of East Jerusalem illegally and it remains to this day under occupation. 34 settlements have been constructed since 1967, and there is only 12 percent of the land in east Jerusalem for Palestinians, while 38 percent for the Israeli settlements and 50 percent is green areas reserved for the building and expansion of settlements. 39 Palestinian villages have been erased and 98, 000 Jerusalemites displaced.

Former Professor at Yale Mazin Qumsiyah is an advocate for Palestine and author of “Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human rights and the Israeli/Palestinian Struggle”. Qumsiyah remembers his hometown of Beit Sahur, a suburb of Bethlehem, as “An idyllic place. A place where Christians and Muslims lived and worked, side by side, for centuries. The main town mosque and church are still in the same block both in Bethlehem and Beit Sahur. We have been relentlessly bombed by Israeli occupation forces, and hundreds of families had to desert their homes. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, B’Tselem (Israeli Human Rights Organization), and the World Council of Churches have called this “excessive use of force” and “collective punishment” (banned by International law).”

There are 1.5 million Palestinians, half of whom are children, under siege in Gaza. 80% of whom are in abject poverty. 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and transformed into refugees, unable to determine their own futures.

There are about 5000 Christians in Gaza. Christmas in Gaza is celebrated on the 7th of January. Last year 300 people gathered in a small parish in Gaza where Patriarch Fouad, pastor of the Mother Church of Jerusalem, prayed “Oh Infant of Bethlehem, you who passed through Gaza in your flight to Egypt, grant us your patience, your love, your goodness. May this new year bring reconciliation, purification of intentions, a meeting of hearts, the end of divisions, the destruction of walls and the construction of the bridges of understanding, mutual forgiveness and encounter among peoples.” Fouad’s prayers for 2010 have not been answered. The people of Gaza, both Muslim and Christian, are under siege. Vital humanitarian aid is being blocked, all in the guise of anti-terrorism measures. Even glass cannot be brought in to build homes because glass is a terrorist material, according to Israel.

In 2008 Israel launched an attack on Gaza, 1400 Palestinians were killed including 300 children and 5000 were wounded. According to Amnesty International Israel breached international laws of war, having carried out attacks on civilians and civilian buildings, most notoriously a UN school. A strict blockade has prevented all movement of people and goods, the terminally ill cannot leave for medical assistance. The people of Gaza are imprisoned.  

Despite international condemnation, 2 years have passed and Gaza is still suffering. Last month Amnesty released a report called “Dashed Hopes: Continuation of the Gaza”.  Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “The so-called ‘easing’ of the Gaza blockade does not change the fact that there’s still a cruel and illegal blockade collectively punishing the entire civilian population. The only real easing has been the easing of pressure on the Israeli authorities to end this cruel and illegal practice.”

The international community have verbally condemned the treatment of the people of Gaza, but there is all too much rhetoric and too little action. One way of protest is divestment which was used against Apartheid South Africa. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign aims to pressurise Israel to comply with international law, including withdrawal from the land that it has been illegally occupied since 1967.

American Israeli public affairs committee (AIPAC) According to If Americans Knew, a group formed to inform and educate the American public, Israel “has been the largest annual recipient of direct U.S. economic and military assistance since 1976 and the largest total recipient since World War ll. Total direct U.S. aid to Israel amounts to well over $140 billion in 2003 dollars. Israel receives about $3 billion in direct foreign assistance each year, which is roughly one-fifth of America’s entire foreign aid budget”. Congressional Research Service’s conservative estimate of total US aid to Israel from 1949 through 2009 is $106.1647 billion. U.S has been funding colonialism and apartheid for 61 years.

This time last year  “A Moment of Truth” was published by Palestinian Christians who criticised “theologians in the West who try to attach a biblical and theological legitimacy to the Israeli infringement of our rights, urge for non violent resistance tools such as boycott and divestments and call for a stop on Israeli ‘racism and apartheid’.” The point is that people are discriminated against because of their race and religion and this is supposedly justified by ancient scripture. They go on to say “in the absence of all hope, we cry out our cry of hope. We believe in God, good and just. We believe that God’s goodness will finally triumph over the evil of hate and of death that still persist in our land. We will see here ‘a new land’ and ‘a new human being’, capable of rising up in the spirit to love each one of his or her brothers and sisters.”

European collective guilt for the atrocities of the Holocaust has traditionally permitted the colonialism of Palestinian land. There was a reluctance to criticise Israel policy for fear of being labelled anti-Semitic. Even Jews who oppose Zionism are described as self-loathing. It is forgotten that it was the British Balfour Declaration in 1917 that gave support to Zionist Jews to form a state in Arab land and it is the United States’ continued support for Israel that permits systemic injustice. The funding of colonialism and what has been described as “state terrorism”. Whilst the UN and international bodies condemn the atrocities, the world is complacent and allows it to continue.  

Peace and Human Rights activists are calling on “all people of conscience” to visit Palestine this Christmas. Demand an end to the suffering inflicted on the innocent, demand an end to the illegal collective punishment and apartheid in the land where Christianity was born. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

Edinburgh figures show an expensive christmas.

By Alex Wilson

With the count down to Christmas begun, six weeks in counting, night’s are getting colder and days shortened, kids are writing to Santa Claus and Christmas tree’s are being dusted.

The Edinburgh’s Christmas Sparkle campaign is celebrating its 25th anniversary  gift, generously gifted to the city by the people of Hordaland in Norway which will give the celebrations of the special relationship between the two countries. But is Norway’s tree the only gift to the city this Christmas.

With the economy hitting an all time low, every penny matters this Christmas. Edinburgh council has a massive budget of £706,968, this is still not enough to provide Scotland’s capital city with the festive sparkle. With an actual expenditure £811,414 Christmas in Edinburgh is set to be magical.

The light night is set to alluminate the count down, with Lord Provost, Councillor  George Grubb switching the lights on, he said: “Edinburgh at Christmas continues to be an enormous draw for visitors and residents alike, and research shows that it ranks high on the list of top places to celebrate the season. The city comes alive in a very special way and gives everyone the opportunity to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas as well as enjoying a great programme of events and attractions.”

Figures released from Edinburgh council show that In 2008, 7,500 attended, but only 1000 attended in 2009. Nickie Gott from ShesGotIt, the company which is responsible for making this event spectacular released a statement: “With chocolate from Cadbury and fun and games from Nintendo, we have two unique new reasons to come into town, and Light Night promises to bring a real wow factor to kick everything off.”

Edinburgh celebration has everything from chocolate to ice skating, with £811,414 expenditure, this aim to make 2010 Christmas a sparkling success.

Will this Christmas be a magical success or a high electric bill.

Christmas is coming so let there be Light

Glasgow's George Square

By Celeste Carrigan

The cold winter nights are truly upon us. As the fireworks fall from Guy Fawkes night, the Christmas lights up and down the country are beginning to be turned on. The Glasgow Loves Christmas festival is in full swing the lights are up but they have still to be switched on.

The Christmas lights will be turned on in the main shopping streets for  many cities in the UK, in the middle of the month. This will be the start of the busiest time of the year for shops. For many years people have said Christmas comes earlier every year, with shops in July and August filling their shelves with Christmas decorations and presents. This may also be said about the Christmas lights.

This years Glasgow Loves Christmas Festival is about celebrating the best of the festive season Glasgow has to offer. The lights switching on will  mark the start of the festivities, the switch this year will be flicked on Sunday 21st November.

Glasgow's Iconic Christmas Bells

As  Glasgow and many other cities are gearing up for the Christmas rush and setting up their lights, some have already turned theirs on. Oxford Street Christmas Lights are the most famous in the world, and are enjoyed by many. This year the lights were turned on the 4th November 2010 ,  but to its usual crowd of celebrities and the thousands of people who flock year after year to London’s west end to see the big switch on. This year they kicked off the Christmas celebrations on a low-key affair rather than one of  the many celebrities that have turned on the illuminations year after year, this year  children chosen by the Kids Company charity flicked the switch. London’s Regent street lights are next to be turned on, the switch will flicked by the cast of the new Narnia film, tonight Tuesday 8th November.

Although Glasgow winter festival is not the same celebrity event as London’s Christmas festivals, year after year crowds gather at the city’s George Square to see the lights be turned on. The switching on of the lights in Glasgow has and will always be a family affair. This year the organizers have put together a line up for all the family, they will be “treated to performances from the Musical Theatre course at The Dance School of Scotland, the cast of SECC panto Aladdin and Lazytown Sports Club Team featuring Sportacus and Stephanie.”

It is a party atmosphere, with families joining in the festivities.  Glasgow will be the first major city in Scotland alongside Aberdeen to have their Christmas lights switched on, whilst Edinburgh won’t be joining the festivities until the 26th November.

“The First Noeldle, The RAF Did Say”

The Noeldle is on sale now at £1.10

By Anne Mackie

Students’ favourite, Pot Noodle, have released a festively flavoured option which they describe as a “festive fusion of turkey and stuffing with all the trimmings”.

Two pence from every pot sold will go straight to the RAF Association’s Wings Appeal in support of the Miles More Minutes project granting troops more communication time with loved ones over the Christmas season.

The festive flavour was carefully crafted and tested in 2009 for workers serving on 27 Squadron, RAF Regiment. The troops considered the brand a home comfort according to Regiment Member, Sergeant Ian Hobbs.

Head of RAF licensing, Stuart Balfour claimed: “The snack is enjoyed by so many of the troops and it’s great to know that every pot sold will help them keep in touch with loved ones at what is a really important time of the year.”

It is expected to hit the supermarket shelves in October after a triumphant experiment with British troops abroad throughout last year’s festive period. Priced at only £1.10, will it be your Christmas dinner alternative?

The curse of the courier

By Emily Glass

Red letter box

Will you be sending your letter to father Christmas this year via email or facebook this year? The ever increasing popularity of social networking sites means that internet communication has overtaken other more traditional forms, resulting in yet more financial trouble for the Royal Mail.

UK residents have seemingly sent considerably fewer letters in the last six months as Royal Mail Letters suffered a £66 million loss in the first half of this year. Royal Mail – which the Government announced last month is to be privatised – is delivering 24% fewer items per day than in 2005 and cost cutting has limited the company further. In these tough times the Royal Mail is desperately trying to modernise the company and limit spending but these measures appear to be too late as 2,800 employees lost their jobs earlier this year, mostly in the letters department.

Adding to these problems Royal Mail’s competitors’ cheaper postage prices, around 2.5 pence cheaper per item, mean that Royal Mail’s customers are quickly declining. Most online retailers use other delivery services as new regulations and pricing controls often leave the Royal Mail as the most expensive choice. With everyone on the lookout for Christmas present bargains the last thing they need is expensive postage and package costs.

When almost all of one’s shopping can be done online it is much easier and quicker to use a mobile phone or laptop to send a loved one a present or card than popping into the local Post Office which are, after many closures, few and far between.

So instead of walking excited children to the postbox with their lovingly written letters to “Mr F Christmas, Greenland” this year we will be looking over their shoulders as they hit “send” on their computer screen.

GRRRR-IT! Anger as grit only now hits the streets

By Rahsian Parris

Photo courtesy of Markgorman

After several weeks of extreme weather conditions and heavy snowfall, the city of Edinburgh is slowly beginning its recovery from the the worst winter in decades. Temperatures as low as -18C had been recorded in Kinbrace, Sutherland, however, also on Saturday, the buzzing Capital of Scotland and its neighbour, Glasgow, saw temperatures rise to a slightly warmer 4C and 0C respectively. These warmer temperatures should come as great news to the hundreds of people left in the deep freeze without working boilers; however, the snow is gradually starting to melt and yet another crisis is pending, sending shock-waves through the city. With slippery roads and slush ridden pavements the city is desperately in need of grit and though the city center and areas surrounding it seem mildly affected, higher up in the hills residents are suffering.

Ms King of South West Edinburgh area, Colinton, expressed her dismay at the current state of the residential area due to excessive snowfall and the slow progress of gritting in her area saying “throughout the whole of the Christmas period I’ve pretty much been stuck in my house, unable to move my car and in fear of even walking down the street to the supermarket because the streets are so snowy and icy and there hadn’t been any grit laid down. I came out this morning and was pleasantly surprised to see that the roads had been somewhat cleared and that grit had finally been put down, but it’s taken far too long; it’s been what? Three weeks now? It’s ridiculous”.

An unhappy elderly resident stated “the pavements have been cleared near the school in time for the start of the new term, but the kids are young, strong and stable, I have almost slipped many a time on these streets since it started snowing, what about those of us that cannot just pick ourselves back up?”

Grit, the deicing salt responsible for making icey roads safer to drive and walk on has been in huge demand as the wider United Kingdom, including Wales and many cities in England were panicked after it was announced that there may have been a shortage in supplies of grit throughout. However, over the past couple of days saviour lorry deliveries, of which the first supplies were loaded with 12,000 tonnes of grit, are aiding in the fight against the freeze, just as the country received further warning to be aware that the snowfall may not be over.

In a recent press release about The City of Edinburgh Council‘s work during the current weather conditions, Leader of the City of Edinburgh Council, Cllr Jenny Dawe supported the council’s efforts stating: “The last few weeks have seen a massive amount of increased pressure on Council services. I am confident that our staff have been putting in maximum effort, working around the clock in the face of the difficult weather conditions, to reduce the impact for those living and working in the city. […] We have seen some treacherous conditions on the roads and our priority must remain [with] the main routes into the city, access routes for emergency services and routes to hospitals. We are acutely aware of the impact on local areas because of the priority system. Residents should utilise the 1,600 on street grit bins across the city, which are replenished as quickly as possible. […] I am sure that people are thinking of those less able than themselves and are remaining vigilant and lending a helping hand where possible.”

Christmas in Edinburgh is finally here.

By Megan Berkley
Last night, the famous Christmas tree on the Mound was lit.
For the past 24 years Edinburgh has received the gift of the tree, given to the City by the people of Hordaland, Norway.
The launch of Capital Christmas saw for the first time ever, the hugely popular Edinburgh Wheel, Winter Wonderland and the Traditional German Christmas Market which all hit off from 5.30pm in a sensational start to Edinburgh’s winter festivals.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost George Grubb, believes that from switching on the Christmas tree, we have made Edinburgh sparkle.
The event made the city come alive last night, with a good turn out. Although it has been no different than any other year, George feels the event has been a great success and the atmosphere of the city has been magical, and a great start to Edinburgh’s festivities.

Here is what the people of Edinburgh thought of last nights event:

George spoke of a successful evening:

Enjoy Edinburgh at Christmas

By Carolyn Mearns & Olivia Scott

Edinburgh officially welcomed the festive period with the switching on of the City Christmas tree and the street lights. on Thursday evening.

As the nights roll in faster and the weather resembles a scene from a Hollywood ‘end-of-the-world’  film, the people of Edinburgh are looking for some winter entertainment. So grab a coat and brave the cold, because theres fun to be had all over the city.

Top 5 Ways to enjoy Edinburgh at Christmas:
1. ‘Fun in the Gardens’: Doesn’t really take much explaining, but we’ll do it anyway because we’re good like that. Christmas time inPrinces Street Gardens means the ferris wheel, ice skating, helter skelter and the merry-go-round. For the young, the old and everything in between this is an Edinburgh Christmas Classic. Wrap up, grab some friends or family and talk everyone into ice skating, as long as you fall down the least, you’re laughing.
2. German Market: Another gem courtesy of Princes Street Gardens you can join in the festivities at Edinburgh’s traditionalGermanmarket where you will find stalls full of seasonal surprises. Whether you fancy treating yourself to acheeky glass of German beer or a sly bratwurst sausage, there really is something for everyone. Handmade crafts make nice Christmas gifts and you can wander round eating chocolate shaped like reindeer at the same time. Is there a better way to spend an afternoon? No really, get in touch if you think of anything.

3. Santa’s Gardens: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and Vixon, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen are hitting the city. Minus Rudolph you can see Santa’s helpers at work from 12th-23rd December in West Princes Street Gardens. This will certainly set alight the christmas spark in everyone’s heart, or at the very least you’ve just seen some reindeer and thats a bit cool.

Courtesy of: http://www.edinburghchristmas.com

4. Carol Singing: Love it or hate it, you can’t deny that Christmas has produced some tunes. Held in St Andrew Square Gardens on 29th November, this concert by the Exile Gospel Choir and St Peters Primary School is sure to get you in

the Christmas spirit, whether you want to join in and sing some carols or just soak up the Christmas atmosphere. Then you can go home and sing ‘Good King Wenceslas’ to your flatmates even if they don’t want to listen. They’ll love it, it’s just unlikely they’ll admit it.

5. Have a wander: Okay, so it’s not an “official” activity but it’s fun all the same. The most crucial part of this one is Starbucks coffee in a red cup, a true sign it’s Christmas. Explore Edinburgh at your leisure with your friends, there’s plenty to do and see. Make sure you wrap up warm though, incase you haven’t already noticed, it’s pretty cold out there.

If you’re quick! Activities going on this weekend (27-29th November) include:

Courtesy of: http://www.edinburghchristmas.com

The ‘Edinburgh Sparkles’ Fountains: Fountains on Princes Street! They light up in colour! And are coordinated to music! Just amazing. Only from 26th-28th of November.

Enchanted Snow Globe – Tumbellina: Ballerinas doing ballet in a big snow globe. Only on Friday 27th November with performances at 2pm, 4pm and 6pm, definitely something to see.

There really is plenty of stuff to do out there, but if the weather’s really too terrible, it’s all about the Christmas movies. Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf, Miracle on 34th Street, whatever your choice have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Gamers spoiled for choice this Christmas

by Andrew Donaldson

Around a dozen new titles are flooding the market on Friday, as the video game industry prepares itself for the Christmas shopping period.

With the big day only around five weeks away, many of the industry’s biggest hitters see this week as the perfect opportunity to release their flagship games.

Top of the pile is New Super Mario Bros Wii.

Nintendo’s first 2-D Mario game on a home console since 1992 is a safe bet to top the sales charts come Christmas Day.

Meanwhile, for the sport fans out there, the Wii versions of Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 and Formula 1 2009 are also available from today.

But if Nintendo isn’t your thing, or you’re looking for something with a little more action, don’t worry.

Xbox 360 owners can at last get their hands on Valve’s long awaited first-person-shooter, Left 4 Dead 2 – exclusive to Microsoft’s system.

Another much anticipated sequel, Assassin’s Creed 2 from Ubisoft Montreal, is also available to pick up from today, on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

Also among today’s pile of releases on PS3 and 360 are Lego Indiana Jones 2, Dragon Age: Origins and Konami’s video game adaptation of the Saw movie franchise.

For those who prefer to do their gaming on the move however, today sees the unveiling of Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky for Nintendo DS.

What will be in his stocking come the 25th?

But which game will prevail as the Christmas number one?

A spokesperson for the high-street retailer, Game, said: “So far we’re selling more copies of Assassin’s Creed 2 and Left 4 Dead 2 than the new Mario game.

“We had a lot of pre-orders for Left 4 Dead 2 and expect it to sell a lot over the next couple of weeks.

“Although we’ve sold a decent number for Lego Indiana Jones, we currently sell it as part of a console bundle, so it’s hard to tell if people are only buying it because it’s part of an offer.”

Blood donors in demand

By Ross Winton

Donations save lives.

The number of regular blood donors in Scotland is beginning to fall dramatically according to The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service.

Figures revealed this month showed that there are 30,000 less registered donors giving regularly in Scotland compared to ten years ago.

As is often the case in the build up to Christmas, the number of blood donors suffers a massive decrease as temperatures start to fall and donors begin to develop cold and flue symptoms.

The Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service fear this year more than ever they will suffer a huge loss of donors as a result of the outbreak of swine flu around the country.

A spokesperson for the service said: “It is vital people who are able to donate blood do so, especially in the run up to Christmas and new year.”

“This winter could potentially be bad for us due to the problems with swine flu aswell as common cold and flue sufferers.”

“People have to understand that they are saving lives of people young and old who need blood transfusions.”

Last month, Edinburgh rivals Hearts and Hibs joined together in a bid to promote the need for blood donors in Scotland.

Hearts vice captain Marius Zaliukas and Hibs skipper Chris Hogg, dedicated their free time to donate blood and raise awareness of the falling numbers.

Anybody who is generally in good health, aged between 17-65 and weighs at least 7 stone 12 lbs can potentially give blood.

New blood donors should ensure they have had a recent seasonal flu or swine flu jab.

Text Messages Replace Greetings Cards

By Ryan Culling

A recent survey by a mobile phone price comparison website has found that traditional greetings cards are gradually being replaced by text messages, as people choose to show that they care with technology instead of paper and a pen.

The survey, conducted by the UK’s leading mobile phone price comparison website, www.rightmobilephone.co.uk, studied 1, 014 people.

Family members proved to be the most likely to receive a card, with 66% of people saying they would buy their immediate relatives a card for a special occasion. However, only 42% of people said that they would to the same for a friend.

Image Courtesy of rightmobilephone

Just under two thirds of people surveyed said that they would send a text message instead of a card to a friend. 31% of those people said that the reason for this was down to cost. 46% said that they texted because it was easier and 5% said that it was because they did not remember until the actual day.

When asked whether they thought it was unnecessary to send both a card and a text message, 83% of people answered yes. The survey also found that 91% of Facebook users send messages via the site to family and friends on special occasions after they are reminded on their social networking page.

Co-founder of rightmobilephone.co.uk, Neil McHugh, speaking about the  results of the research, said “Text messaging now plays a major part in most people’s day-to-day lives and it’s a quicker and much more efficient way of contact than letters or cards, especially with the recent postal strikes taking their toll.

He continued, “Texting is also a more cost-effective way of sending a message on a special occasion, as greetings cards can be fairly expensive and most only end up getting thrown away after the day. When you look at it that way, it’s no surprise that more people are texting ‘Happy Birthday’ than putting it in a card.”

It’s Christmas!


Preparations for Grangemouth High School‘s annual Christmas concert are already underway.

Each year pupils volunteer for the show and under the guidance of the school’s music department, create a show full of song and dance, with contributions from both the junior and senior choirs. The concert always culminates in a carol singing finale which sees a group of willing teachers (or unwilling as the case may be!) rounded up and given Santa hats as they join their pupils on stage.

Image courtesy of Stewartmilne

Former Grangemouth High pupil Jacqueline Aitken said: “The shows were always well put together and the kids always put a lot of effort into their performances. I never took part but it always looked like fun!”

Dates have yet to be confirmed but tickets will be available through the school office on 10324 660210.

Tram Schemes Not to Disrupt Edinburgh Christmas

By Ben Graham

Image Courtesy of http://www.youknowwhereyouare.com

Annual traditions in Scotland’s capital will not be disrupted this year as work on Edinburgh’s tram system continues in Princes Street, it was revealed today.

Edinburgh is a city renowned for both its vibrant culture and picture perfect views. Its many notable landmarks identify it as one of the most historically important cities on earth, yet the City is constantly subverting common traditions and welcoming new cultures to share in the city’s many delights. The German market is just one example of this, running now for over 5 years alongside other attractions such as an ice rink, fairground rides and a giant, superbly lit Ferris wheel. Edinburgh is thought to attract around half a million visitors during December alone, making it one of the most popular Christmas tourist attractions on earth

However, concerns were raised as to the welfare of the market and its overall appeal due to the work on tramlines in Princes Street. These concerns were put somewhat at rest today when it was revealed that all efforts are being made to ensure the success of the market through careful planning and deliberations.

Duncan Fisher, a spokesperson for Edinburgh council stated that the Christmas market ‘will not be affected by construction on the tram line’; which is taking place directly parallel to the festivities.

Features such as a ‘Santa’s grotto’, a mulled beer and wine section, as well as a host of youth orientated activities in Princes Street Gardens have helped make the Christmas celebration a well loved tradition in Edinburgh, and many citizens of the city have expressed their distaste for the tram scheme. Andrew Durie (49), a fisherman and frequent visitor to the market during festivities remarked ‘The trams cause disruption all year round, if this continues into Christmas I can see it losing the market a lot of potential customers’.

However the two will be kept entirely separate during the holiday season claims Edinburgh Council spokesperson Valerie Pearson.

The intention of the tram scheme, as stated on their website edinburghtrams.com is to ‘Support the Scottish Government’s position with regard to Scotland’s energy future and harnessing our abundant wind and wave power’. Despite opposition from other political parties and citizens alike, the SNP in coordination with Edinburgh Council has introduced a number of energy saving initiatives throughout Scotland’s capital.

As Christmas draws nearer and the trickle of tourists begins to fill the streets of Edinburgh, it is clear why so many people choose to frequent the market. It is only with the continued cooperation of the council and citizens alike, however that this tradition can expand and prosper.

Postal workers ‘angry at strike’

The next round of postal strikes was cancelled on Thursday night as the CWU reached a deal with Royal Mail.

Action was planned for Friday and Monday but staff returned to work after an eleventh hour agreement was reached.

The announcement has met with approval from postal workers, some of whom have heavily criticised the strike.

The agreement includes a two month “period of calm” while Royal Mail bosses review proposed changes to the way employees work.

Other measures include a negotiation of the local issues which led to the initial strike and a promise that postal workers will be able to work normally and “have the chance to earn more money” over Christmas. 

CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward said he was very happy with the agreement.

“We can now have a period of calm where we hope we can genuinely take forward modernisation in a way that puts the union at the centre,” he said.

“Our members will now know we can deal with modernisation in a way that gives them improved job security and improved terms and conditions.”

Postal workers welcomed the announcement. One local Royal Mail employee, who asked not to be named, said that many see strike action as a waste of time.

“Most of the lads at the local office are sick of striking; we’ve done it before and we never achieve anything” he said.

“The majority I’ve spoken to are just relieved that they’re not losing any more money.”

“The only reason this agreement has happened is that Royal Mail know they have messed up by bringing in temporary workers during the strike.” 

But Edinburgh CWU representative Willie Marshall played down the apparent rift between union members and leaders.

“The trade union exists to protect their terms and conditions, they were under attack and the post office weren’t backing down,” he said.

“There were lots of local issues across the country which could only be dealt with through national action. No one else is able to stand up to the company for them.”

This announcement puts an end to fears that a strike would cause problems over Christmas.