Multrees Walk must branch out to survive

BOARDED-UP shop fronts, shattered windows and sections of cordoned-off pavement. No, I'm not talking about one of the run-down shopping parades found on Edinburgh's less salubrious housing estates, but offering a snapshot of my last three visits to Edinburgh's so-called "upmarket" shopping arcade, Multrees Walk - probably best known to most as the shortcut between the St James Centre and St Andrew Square.

Now, according to a report in Tuesday's paper, it seems the soulless precinct has suffered another blow, three retailers have cut their losses and run.

Apparently, the units once occupied by Oriental furniture outlet Soto, luxury bag store Baggatt, and Proudfoot, which specialised in leather coats, have now joined the four that have remained unoccupied since the arcade opened five years ago.

Talks to bring Fifi and Ally, the award-winning Glasgow-based boutique store, and Habitat to the area meanwhile, have also stalled.

Lack of sales have been blamed for the departures - no doubt some prospective customers were put off by the Walk's perpetually unfinished appearance - which might also account for the lack of retailers queuing to come on board.

Or perhaps it was a bit adventurous anticipating that posh-people's store Harvey Nicks would bring with it such a large spin-off, or to expect the people of Edinburgh to be quite as fashion conscious as their west coast cousins. What is it they say about "Fur coat and nae knickers"?

Bringing designer label outlets to the city is all very well - as long as you can attract enough of them to make an impact, and, let's be honest, five years is a long time to have had four white elephants on the books. Perhaps the management of the arcade need to adopt a more realistic approach to finding tenants - even if that means leasing to brand names that don't require the average person to remortgage their house before embarking on a spending spree.

That said, a stroll through Multrees Walk is sure to be a far more pleasant ordeal than that experienced by one intrepid walker who, this week, had that sinking feeling after exploring a 40ft wide bubbling crater . . . in his bare feet.

The landslip, as reported in Wednesday's paper, happened on the Penicuik Estate where, having found himself wading through "quicksand" in an attempt to rescue a dog that had fallen into the crater (you couldn't make this up), the dog-rescuer was left with a burning sensation in his feet.

Now, call me insensitive for asking, but what on earth made it seem like a good idea to go on a dog-hunt in an area coated in festering yellow goo without first donning a decent pair of wellies? And to add insult to injury, it wasn't even his dog. Caused by heavy rainfall, the landslip revealed decades-old waste believed to have been dumped by the Valleyfield Paper Mill between the 1920s and the 1960s - if it weren't for the fact that the decomposing slurry could harbour all sorts of unwelcome surprises it would probably be an archeologists dream.

You can tell a lot about how we used to live by what we threw away, but it also makes you wonder what is happening deep beneath the ground in other landfill sites across the city.

Rubbish of another sort caused a hulla-balloo (or should that be Hulla-Balloon?), on Thursday, when my old mate Forth2 breakfast host Bob Malcolm fell foul of the council's environmental meanies and found himself having to stump up 50 for depositing trade waste from his shop (a burst balloon, some confetti and a length of ribbon) in the wrong bin. A bit of an over-reaction if you ask me, as was the city environment leader Bob Cairns posturing when he declared that Bob had "abused a facility provided for local residents" and implied the presenter was an unscrupulous trader.

But then small traders like Bob are soft targets. I wonder if the jobsworth would have been quite so keen to act had he spotted a 6ft 4in tattooed ned chucking his empty lager can on the pavement while head-butting the nearest wall and talking to himself? And isn't it time that we, as council taxpayers, questioned why our money is being used to pay council staff to rummage through other people's bins? There has to be a more constructive way of educating business owners and residents alike about the benefits of recycling.

Not that Bob will be too worried. Having done the crime and paid the fine, he jets out to Las Vegas with Delta Airlines today, from where he will present the Forth2 Breakfast Show all next week.

Not so much a case of Bob In The Morning as Bob In The Evening as the time difference means he'll start each show at 10pm Stateside, assuming they can get him on the plane, that is. As Bob admits, he's not the greatest of fliers. "Terrified" is the word he uses. But as long he remembers to dispose of his boarding pass in the correct bin when he gets back he'll be fine - as opposed to fined - again.

Street star Emma's got my number

NEVER upset a reformed gangster's moll. Ex-Corrie star Emma Stansfield (she was Steve McDonald's love interest Ronnie Clayton) collared me after a successful opening performance of Mrs Warren's Profession at the Royal Lyceum Theatre last Saturday, to remonstrate with me for getting her age wrong in an interview.

"You were a year out," she quipped, with a twinkle in her eye, "I'm not 29, I'm 28." She was also very good as Vivie, in the Lyceum's production of George Bernard Shaw's comedy of manners in which she stars with the wonderful Paola Dionisotti - who also isn't 29. Catch it before it transfers to the Nottingham Playhouse.

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