It was a day for a creative writing challenge; today another ‘clustering’ exercise. Monkey, Cheeky, Smile, Jean, Aberdeen, Home are not necessarily the words that may come to mind for most when creating a ‘cluster’ or mind map from the word “Catarrhine”. The word relates to primates of a particular group – much better explained than I can by – and leads from ‘monkey’ to ‘Jean’ (my aunt) because she loves monkeys.

She is our matriarch, our guide and inspiration, the elder of the family at 92. She dispenses love and wisdom without apology or a desire for recognition, though often with a cheeky smile. She seeks nothing in response to her giving though is grateful, without ingratiation, for all that is given. I could put it in many ways but, simply, she knows what is what. She is not hidden behind flounce, or flummery; she’ll tell you straight what she thinks.

She is Jean. She is my Aunt but, also, a Great Aunt, a Great Great Aunt, and much more besides. Though born in Inverness, she has lived in Aberdeen for more than 87 years. It seems she knows every street, every person, every change for good, or not; it is her home. She ranted about the flats built by the roundabout on Queen’s Road and about “Trump’s” golf course seizing part of Balmedie Beach. She loved the opening of the Gordon Highlander’s Museum and, especially, the Duchess Jean Tea Room within.

I imagine her as matriarch of all of Aberdeen; it could do no better than this treasure who is short in height but never in strength.

© Liz MacKenzie
22 November 2018


Is Snacking Ruining our Appetite?

I wrote this a while back and, somehow, never got around to posting it. I was reminded of it watching the news today as it seems it is also in the thoughts of Public Health England.

My aim in writing this is not to preach, or to set myself up as an expert, or one of those “I’ve-done-it-so-anyone-can” annoying types; my aim is to ask some questions and, maybe, meander toward some answers.

Why am I asking the question, “Is snacking ruining our appetite?” First, perhaps, I should define snacking so we know what we’re talking about. Looking at all the online dictionary definitions, they tend to refer to small amounts of food, between meals; they also refer to a nibble or bite, ‘snappen’ from Middle Dutch. My question, however, is when did they start to become such an integral part of our daily lives? And what is the impact on our health, how we view food, and our appetite? Hands up, I snack, take snacks, do snacking, nibble, munch and have a bite but I’ve also taken breaks from doing so, which has led me to wonder at their impact.

I look back to my childhood and wonder if snacks and snacking were such a feature of life back then – I was born in the late 50s. I remember being hungry on return from school; also Friday sweet night. The difference then to now was that eating out was a rarity, a treat and, in my memory, snacks were specific, e.g. Friday sweet night. Additionally, I don’t recall referring to these as snacks and definitely not to the act of snacking. Other than that, meals were meals, three times a day, sitting at the table, end of. Now, we seem bombarded with snacks and the opportunity for snacking; supermarkets, cafes, petrol stations, fast food joints beckoning us to participate in a lifelong relationship with snacks. The snacks seem to grow in size as they swell in importance; no longer the little nibble between meals to keep you going but almost another meal in itself.

I return again to my appetite question and my own ‘avoidance of snacking’ experimentation. What did I discover but a rumbling tummy that had been long silent; a pleasing sense of hunger. Where had that gone? Into the well of snackiness no less, I conject. As my granddaughter would say, “this is not what I was expecting.”

Is anyone out there reading and resonating? Or am I a lone ponderer on the snacking matter? As I said at the outset, I don’t wish to preach but to see if there are answers. (Though it may be just more questions)

Liz Mackenzie

Migration 3

This is another piece written in response to the theme of ‘migration’. I decided to take a completely different approach to writing for this. I notice that I find ‘doing the research’ the element of writing that I can gloss over quickly and, therefore, decided to base this on research about people who had come to Britain as refugees or migrants, with a story element at the end. It was interesting to learn about the different people in my piece; I was especially taken by the story of Jaber Abdullah.
The Saatchi family fled Iraq for Britain in 1947. “Nothing is impossible” is carved in the steps of the London Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising Agency.

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, fled Zanzibar for the UK with his family at the time of the bloody revolution; he became part of the world famous rock group, Queen. He once said, “If I lost everything tomorrow, I’d claw my way back to the top somehow”.

Rita Ora came to the UK as a baby – a refugee from Kosovo. She is now an internationally renown singer.

British MPs Ed and David Miliband are sons of Belgian Jewish refugees.

The Grandson of a Czechoslovakian refugee who fled with his family to Wales, Ben Elton is a prolific comedy writer, best known for TV comedies Black Adder and The Young Ones, along with the musical We Will Rock You.

Mona Hatoum is an artist; she is also a Palestinian Lebanese refugee.

The Great British store Marks and Spencer of which we are so proud was co-founded by Michael Marks, a Polish Jew who emigrated to England in the 1880s.

A Kenyan refugee, Lakshmibhai Pathak, is the founder of the British company Pataks, making and selling Indian style curry pastes, sauces, pickles and spices.

Jaber Abdullah is a Sudanese asylum seeker. He saved £3 from his £30 a week benefits to buy a football and subsequently set up Refugee Tigers Football Club who are now part of the amateur league. Barnsley Football Club offered support to the team.

Liverpool Football Club player Dejan Lovren left war torn Bosnia at the age of three with his family.

What could be more British than the Mini? This little car was designed by Alec Issigonis whose family were evacuated from Smyrna, Turkey, following the end of the Greco Turkish war.

Known as the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud fled Vienna for London in 1938. In reference to his books being burned by the Nazis, he is quoted as saying:
“What progress are we making. In the middle ages, they would have burned me – now they are content with burning my books.”

Refugees, asylum seekers, people. I am but an ageing woman who is no longer a wife, a mother, a grandmother or an aunt. My health is torn apart by trauma and poverty. I may have little to offer today but tomorrow? Maybe I too will join the ranks of the famous refugees who have fled persecution and torture, heading for hope and humanity, or maybe I will be your neighbour and offer you a kindness. If you are a Christian, perhaps, when you see me, you will remember the most famous refugee of all; Jesus, who fled the holy land to escape King Herod.

© Liz MacKenzie
9 November 2017







Pride in Writing

As a writer, I enjoy the act of writing for writing’s sake but it is always an honour when someone else enjoys my work enough to publish it. This happened to me this week. A few weeks ago the Vita Brevis Team liked some writing on my blog, so I had a look what they were doing and discovered a new-ish site offering writers the chance to be published and readers the chance to read some great writing – poetry and prose.


The piece I have had published is called ‘If’; it was inspired by some lines from one of my favourite Christmas Carols, In The Bleak Mid Winter and uses a ‘technique’ I picked up at my creative writing class this year. The poem is about my mum who is very much ‘present’ in my thoughts this year – she died on January 10th 2017. I was struck, when my sister and I sat with her in the last few days of her life, how very peaceful she was and how I wished she had known it would be like that as she had always been very anxious/ fearful of ‘illness’. The piece is, therefore, dedicated to her and to anyone out there who may fear illness and death; it can be peaceful and the ‘slipping away’ often described.


To Vita Brevis who published my poem, thank you so much. I truly appreciate your time and effort in promoting writing and being willing to consider a wide range of writing. Visit:


Clustering 2

This is my 2nd piece written in response to a ‘clustering’ exercise. (See Snapshot Memories) I decided to use as many of the words from my cluster as possible.

”Its all a game to you,” I snap. “A joke, a play; me at the station, you on the train.”
My words bite, like car park crocodile teeth. I ache to lose my voice, to stop breathing fire like a dragon; to hold back time.
”Let’s go for lunch,” you say; “Sandwiches and Earl Grey Tea.”

And I know you’ve forgiven me, again.

©️ Liz Mackenzie

November 2017

A thought for today

Sometimes, you’re offered a topic on which to write that is a challenge, a chore even; other times yet, a topic that, in one word, sees inspiration pouring from your veins. Today was the latter; at writing ‘class’ we were asked to consider the topic of ‘migration’ and 4 hours later I’ve already written 3 pieces; here’s one of them.

Migration 2

No one will object if I cross the border from England to Scotland, my spiritual home, much as my dad crossed from his homeland to England in the early 1950s. There will be no forms to complete, no nuances of language lost on my foreign mind. I will not have to prove ability to work, good health – mental or physical – or justify my rationale for this move. I will be one of many who traverse UK countries with the liberty of migrating birds, creating history’s footprints.

A line from a song enters my thoughts; those outspoken, proudly broad-accented twin Proclaimers:
“We’re all Scotland’s story and we’re all worth the same.”
It tells, like Ellis Island, a winding, weaving tale of migration; it speaks of hardships and struggle to reach a destination, lay down roots.

I return to thoughts of my dad, alive yet stripped of speech and movement. I watch Andy Stewart with him on YouTube; another song, a different yarn. This one touches my heart like a single tear; the soldier who longs to return to the “hills of home”. In dad’s eyes, I see that yearning, the knowledge of what will never now be, and we don’t need words …

© Liz MacKenzie
9 November 2017

If you want to hear/watch the two songs on YouTube, the links are below.

Speaking up for self advocacy

Throughout my career I have supported others; the focus has been that of enabling others to gain the skills, confidence and strength to help themselves. It has been a process of standing in the background so that others can shine, can move their lives forward in their way and at their pace. One group I worked with prior to my semi-retirement, was a group of people with learning disabilities who supported themselves and others with learning disabilities to improve their lives and speak up about the things that matter to them. Funding, or lack thereof, is always a challenge. The group decided some years back that, to ensure they were an entirely independent group, they needed to seek ways to find their own funding, through grants and fundraising, rather than relying on local authorities to fund them. I admire their determination to stick to those values, which mean that they can work to their own agenda, not that of the local authorities. Financial downturn, cuts, increased competition for grants all threaten their existence, yet they are still ‘alive’ after more than 27 years. They have survived numerous barriers but still battle on because of their belief in what they do and the benefit to their own lives and that of others. What works so well is the way that the group understand how to cooperate and work as a team, and their shared understanding of what it is like to live with a learning disability. Every now and again they need to reach out for support; now is one of those times. Self advocacy does ‘what is says on the tin’; it is about groups of people, usually with learning disabilities, speaking up for and striving for their rights in society. Self Advocacy in Action takes pride in enabling people with learning disabilities to be more independent and to have more control in their lives. To continue to do this they need your help.
“We are asking people to donate towards our running and project costs to allow us to continue to support people with learning disabilities to have more choice and control in their lives. We support people through self advocacy sessions, independence training, activities and much more…”
Crowdfunder is a tool for fundraising for voluntary and community organisations. It helps community groups, charities and social enterprises to raise funds from the community around them. To find out more about how Self Advocacy in Action will use these funds or to donate, please visit Self Advocacy in Action’s profile on Crowdfunder. or visit them @selfadvocacy87