Use Edges and Value the Marginal

“Use edges and value the marginal” is one of my favourite permaculture principles.

The margins are often overlooked, but in fact it is precisely where two ecosystems (or indeed systems) meet that we often see the greatest amount of diversity, exchange and creativity. Edges can be highly productive – both in the natural world and when it comes to human interactions.

So I’ve decided to start a whole new blog all about margins and edges!
You can follow my ramblings at the Marginal Edge.


permie principles


Open the Door for the New Year…

FeaturedOpen the Door for the New Year…

Ah, the impending New Year. Time of resolutions, time for a fresh start. Time, perhaps, to pin up a few inspiring quotes to strengthen our resolve! …but wait. Does anyone else have a total love-hate relationship with motivational quotes? As inspiring as they can be, they also have a tendency to leave me feeling slightly inadequate. Invariably they’ll make me think: This person has got it sorted! But what about me? Am I really doing my best to realise my full potential? Is my ‘best’ even good enough? What IS my full potential anyway? Are any of my goals ambitious or useful enough? And so on… And if you’re anything like me, these nagging feelings can apply to both our professional and our personal ambitions.

It’s very easy to think that unless we’re pretty much saving the world, we’re not doing enough. I certainly used to think this. As in: “Unless I can be a perfect [interpreter/public speaker/community organiser/CAT tool user], it’s not worth even trying… I’ll make mistakes along the way. It’ll be embarrassing.” But here’s one thing I learned this year, one thing I finally managed to understand in my heart, rather than just with my head: ‘Your best’ can only ever mean your personal best. Because why would anyone else’s standards be any more valid than yours? And in order to change the world or master a new skill, all you can ever do is start with yourself, from where you are now. As a very wise person said to me this year: “In order to get to where you want to be, you need to start from where you are.” All it takes is a little commitment. Well ok – quite a lot of commitment, actually! But once you’ve committed to something, whatever it might be, it is amazing how people and events can conspire to help you, simply because you are aware, attuned, and ready to seize these opportunities when they do come along. I’m experiencing this phenomenon myself at the moment. And I love it, not just because it brings me closer to my own personal goals, but also because it reminds me that we are all part of a larger web of (mostly caring) humans, (mostly fragile) ecosystems and (most definitely) random events.

Therefore, if I may, I shall leave you with one of my favourite motivational quotes of 2017:

“On Commitment”:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

This was long thought to have been written by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but it is in fact almost certainly originally from William H. Murray, Scottish mountaineer and author of The Scottish Himalayan Expedition. Which makes eminent sense to me: climbers and mountaineers tend to know a thing or two about commitment! Which in turn makes them the very best source of truly inspirational quotes. No joke. Here’s another one, attributed to British rock climbing legend Joe Brown:

If you can’t reach the next hold, climb up to it.

Simple, really. Goals that seem out of (one) reach are almost certainly within two, three or four reaches. Or it might take one hundred and thirty-seven reaches! But with commitment and perseverance, and in your own unique style, you will get there.

So, in 2018… let’s all climb on!

Happy New Year!
Guten Rutsch und Frohes Neues!
¡Feliz Año Nuevo!


Bim (f.), Sackerl (n.), Apfelstrudel (m.)…

Bim (f.), Sackerl (n.), Apfelstrudel (m.)…

Almost a week later and I am still buzzing from my whirlwind trip to Vienna for International Translation Day. UNIVERSITAS Austria had been kind enough to invite me along to a screening of „Vor der Morgenröte“, with a view to sharing my experience of playing an interpreter in one of the scenes. The film is set in the late 1930s/early 1940s and charts the later years in the life of Austrian writer Stefan Zweig who, being Jewish, in 1934 emigrated first to England and then to the US and Brazil.

This was an invitation I accepted in a heartbeat, because let’s face it: what better place to mark such a special day than in multicultural Vienna, with its close proximity to the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary – to name only some of the city‘s most immediate neighbours. Plus, it sounded exciting and even mildly glamorous! Which it was. Amidst plenty of extremely lovely colleagues, delicious sparkling wine and moreish canapés and popcorn, I had many an excellent conversation. One of the most frequent things people wanted to know was how long it took to shoot the scene (answer: a whole day for a 5-minute scene), and how come the director decided to use interpreters instead of actors (answer: because interpreters just have that certain je ne sais quoi…).

What made the evening even more special was meeting some actual superstars of the translation and interpreting world: Dagmar and Judy Jenner of Twin Translations, well-known in our industry not only because of their high profile on social media, but also through their book The Entrepreneurial Linguist.

Vor der Morgenröte  © Judy Jenner

The big-screen theme continued the next day, when I went along to a CPD event organised by UNIVERSITAS. One of the workshops was all about translating for the film industry, and it was fascinating to hear two translators‘ first-hand account of the challenges that come with providing translation services all through the making of a three-part historic film series. The film cast consisted of both French- and German-speaking actors who would all speak their lines in their respective mother tongues – which means our translators had to come up with bilingual scripts and all sorts of other creative solutions! For the final on-screen product, the French parts were then dubbed into German. This really was an extraordinary behind-the-scenes glimpse of what makes our profession so uniquely challenging and rewarding.

Switching from business into tourist mode, I then spent a few days exploring. No trip to Vienna would be complete without a visit to the Hundertwasser House, designed by the infamous Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser in the 1980s, originally as part of Vienna’s social housing scheme. (Yes, you heard that right.) As someone who takes an interest in sustainable systems and permaculture design, I was awed by Hundertwasser’s concept of ‘radical architecture’ which incorporates nature and nature principles while leaving space for people to creatively shape their living spaces. I certainly wouldn’t mind a few trees on MY rooftop!

Whilst we’re marvelling at buildings, here’s another one of note: the house Stefan Zweig lived in from 1907 to 1919 in Vienna’s Josefstadt. Ordinarily, looking from my current 21st century vantage point, I find it quite difficult to properly imagine a historic setting. However, standing in a Viennese street surrounded on all sides by houses sporting gorgeous baroque stucco facades, it wasn’t actually all that hard to conjure up a mental image of Mr Zweig in the early 20th century, going about his daily business in this exact spot…

Stefan Zweig Haus

And so I leave you with news that thanks to this very special International Translation Day, I’ve now expanded my Austrian vocabulary by at least three indispensable bits of terminology:

  • „die Bim“ — die Straßenbahn (tram)
  • „das Sackerl“ — die Tüte (bag)
  • „der Apfelstrudel“ — …ok fine, so I knew that one already. But still, it was worth sampling one, just to make doubly sure I wasn’t dealing with a false friend…