My positions/roles/experience, past and present
Past (see Archive and About Me for more details/links of/to everything below)
- ASDA worker (2014-2016). See, I’ve lived in the real world!
- Columnist for Retrospect Journal (2017-2018 academic year).
- Secretary of the University of Edinburgh Humanist Society (2018, briefly- curtailed by illness).
- Deputy Editor of Retrospect Journal (2018, briefly- curtailed by illness).
- Columnist for The Broad (April-July 2019).
- Political Editor for The Broad (July 2019-July 2020; briefly I was Assistant Political Editor then Acting Political Editor before taking on the main role).
- History Editor for Culturico (May 2020-October 2020). A brief reign, but I ended up having far too many other commitments to do this job justice, alas.
- President of the University of Edinburgh Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society (formerly the Humanist Society, 2019-2021 academic years). In this capacity I also served as the main host of the society’s podcast, The Pondering Primates. My tenure lasted from 25th March 2019 to 25th March 2021; it was only meant to last one year but owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, no new committee was elected in 2020 and I stayed on and kept the Society going on a minimalist basis until a new committee was elected in March 2021.
- Student at the University of Edinburgh (English Literature and History; started 2016, graduated 2021).
- Staff writer at Areo Magazine (from September 2019), in which capacity I contributed regularly. In the latter half of 2021, my official title was ‘Arts and Books Correspondent/Editorial Assistant’; before that, I was an unofficial regular book reviewer; and from 23rd December 2021, my title was ‘Senior Columnist and Correspondent/Editorial Assistant’.
- Writer and speaker- see Archive for my works. Open to commissions.
- Diverse freelancer. Factchecking, editing, proofreading. Open to commissions.
- Deputy Editor of Areo Magazine (from February 2022).
- OnlySky columnist (from April 2022).
- Substack writer—sign up!
- One of the Free Speech Champions.
- Lover of cigarettes and alcohol.
Plus: I have been a speaker at events such as a panel on the burqa/niqab in Europe, and an interviewee for certain outlets. Now for some stuff about me…
Well, here we are. The ‘About’ section. So, what is this all about? What is what all about? Well, if you’re talking about the universe, I can honestly say I have no—ah, wait, of course. What is this website about? That’s the question, isn’t it? Well, I should be able to answer that.
Or can I? Well, let’s give it a go. This website/blog was meant as a place for me to publish my writings, including rants, ruminations, and reflections, among other things. Opinion pieces, personal pieces, book reviews, fiction, bloody awful poetry—all manner of things may or may not have turned up here.
But this site has come to mainly serve as an archive of sorts for my published writings (see menu above) and is a sort of home base or headquarters for me, if you will. It’s also a CV of sorts, I suppose. The reason I haven’t used this site so much as a place to write is because I was too busy with other things and I’ve now set up my own Substack, which is where I’ll be posting miscellaneous pieces of my own while continuing to write for various outlets. Please do consider signing up—any support is welcome! (See also my Linktree for other relevant things.)
I’m a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and I fancy myself a little bit of a writer. I’m deluded, clearly, but aren’t we all in some way? One of my dreams is to be an old-fashioned journalist, of the sort one reads about in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop. If anyone out there wants to send me on a trip to Iraq (a beautiful country, and a dream destination of mine) to cover conflict and politics, well, it’s your lucky day. (As long as you cover all expenses of course, most of which will be cigarettes and social lubrication i.e. alcohol).
To give you a sense of myself, I’ll list some of my viewpoints briefly. I’m a humanities graduate with a love of and interest in the sciences, particularly evolutionary biology. I think much of the academic community in the humanities is unduly threatened by what they label ‘scientism’—which is mostly just a scare word thrown around by the threatened. To me, humanities subjects and the sciences should be far more intertwined—there’s so much to learn from each other! I suppose I favour a ‘Third Culture’ along the lines of John Brockmann’s online salon.
I’m a philosophical naturalist, atheist, sceptic, humanist, secularist and all-round ‘passionate rationalist’, in the words of Richard Dawkins. I’m rather fond of the so-called New Atheist writers: Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and many others. I was President of the University of Edinburgh Atheist, Humanist, and Secularist Society, and am or have been a member of Humanists UK, Humanist Society Scotland, the National Secular Society, the Scottish Secular Society, and the Edinburgh Secular Society (phew!). So I hope that gives you some idea of where I stand on certain issues.
I also love literature—poetry, plays, and prose are lovely things to spend one’s life studying. I often find myself bewailing the fact that there’s just so much to read and so little time. Not to mention my other interests—scientific writings, TV, film, and more. Such a short life, so much to do… (Probably that means I should quit smoking to extend the old lifespan, but ah well.) I’m a fan of the BBC’s Doctor Who and some of my other favourite writers include: Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Salman Rushdie, Evelyn Waugh, Shakespeare (I studied literature, what do you expect?), Thomas Hardy, Mary Renault, Virginia Woolf (by whom, of course, the site title is inspired), Joseph Conrad, and many, many others. Generally, I love a lot of different authors, and I’m always looking to expand the list.
A word on pictures. The website icon is the famous Pale Blue Dot picture of Earth from a long way away, and the main picture above the site title is of The Day the Earth Smiled, another picture of our planet taken by a probe very far away. To me, these images demonstrate the importance of humanism, compassion, and reason. Carl Sagan’s words on the first of these images encapsulate this perfectly, and never fail to fill me with awe. The latter picture is also of personal importance to me. My father and I, shortly before he died, looked up from our beloved St Andrews pier as it was taken (if I recall correctly, I also had my telescope with me, but I wasn’t very proficient with it and the conditions weren’t great to see much, in any case. Still, I, perhaps we—memory fails me on the exact details—tried to look up, telescopically, at the time but either way, we looked up with our naked eyes at least). This was on our last trip to that beautiful place, so the photo may well be the last picture of us together.
Another personal cosmic tale, since we’re on the subject. Around the same time as that final trip to St Andrews, my Dad and I had our names and messages added to the Hayabusa2 spacecraft, which launched in 2014 on a mission to a nearby asteroid, which I have just read is ‘potentially hazardous’ to us. The craft reached the asteroid in 2018 and returned the samples it took to Earth (by parachute) in 2020, before heading back off into space to investigate another asteroid. For a year and a half, then, our names and messages were floating about in space, near an asteroid that may well kill a lot of us one day. But let’s not be too pessimistic. Here are our messages:
- My message: ‘For whom it may concern: hello, greetings and well done.’
- Dad’s message: ‘God Bless Danny, Aileen [my mother], Sasha [our dog, now passed away] and all my family. 12/07/13.’
I have the certificates to prove it (though the asteroid’s name has been changed since 2013). I’m not sure if our messages returned to Earth in 2020 or whether Hayabusa2 is still carrying them through space. If the former, it was quite a nice round trip for me and my Dad, I think.
Anyhow, this has gone on rather too long now. I can tell you’re bored—if you even made it this far. Oh well. I hope you got some idea of what this site is about—and what I’m about. For more of the latter, read my piece from a couple of years ago reflecting on my life. It’s sure to bring a tear to your eye, or perhaps a supercilious smirk. Please do enjoy the site, or hate it if you like—either way, I’ve achieved something. Farewell for now!