Time Out names World's Coolest Neighbourhoods, including Edinburgh's Leith and Glasgow's West End, but are they right? - Gaby Soutar

If you want to know where the hipsters are headed, then browse Time Out’s annual list of the 40 Coolest Neighbourhoods in the World, which was released earlier this week.

It features ‘places with big personalities’ including the district of Carabanchel in Madrid, Tomigaya in Tokyo and the Baltic Triangle in Liverpool. And Scotland made the list too.

There was no mention of, say, Buckie or Eddleston, but they do rate Leith in Edinburgh and Glasgow’s West End, both of which are slightly predictable additions.

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Leith already got a mention in a travel article in The Guardian this summer, and, my pal told me, locals soon spotted swathes of visitors in straw Panama hats and linen suits. These intrepid social anthropologists looked nervous, as they disembarked from the tram and picked their way along to the Shore.

They needn't be scared. If Begbie was real, he’d either be prematurely dead or retired from the pagger. Perhaps he’d have mellowed out and opened a craft brewery.

Anyway, as evidenced by Time Out’s list, the word cool seems to have entirely lost its meaning. It’s a bit like the Tinkerbell effect, when something only exists if you believe in it. I’m not sure if I do anymore, but that might be because I’m over 40, and my cool-dar is on the blink, if not completely broken.

If anyone can take the cultural temperature, it’s the youth, but my Generation Alpha nieces just laugh when I say ‘cool’ and make me feel as au courant as Austin Powers. The label seems to have become as naff as the terms ‘funky’, groovy’ and ‘trendy’. I remember when there was a brief revival of ‘hip’ and ‘hipster’, but that got tired too.

Instead, the girls say things like ‘slay’, ‘queen’ and sometimes they’ll call me ‘mate’. I try to add ‘boujee’ to our conversations, but I say it without conviction because I am intimidated by the modern world.

The word cool seems, in some examples, to have become shorthand for nice. It’s completely lost its edge.

For example, in Time Out’s Glasgow listing, they mention a few activities to try while in the West End neighbourhood.

Some of these ideas might just pass muster, like going to vintage shop Starry Starry Night or visiting Brel for a drink. I would’ve deigned to do those things back when I was in my late teens and early 20s and at the pinnacle of my entirely imagined cool.

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However, there were also suggestions that tickled my saddo-ometer. That’s because there is zero rock ‘n roll element to them.

For example, the article suggests a visit to churro and ice-cream shop Loop & Scoop and going to the Botanic Gardens light show, GlasGlow. These are lovely ideas, but, unless you’re doing them ironically, they are SO uncool, aren’t they?

Surely you may as well go to a knitting shop and buy a skein of wool. I bet you used to see the Reid brothers of The Jesus & Mary Chain fame doing that, back in the day.

These activities are what you’d take your kids or granny to do. Especially when it comes to the churros. Nobody has ever looked groovy as they eat that long and twiddly Portuguese dough-based snack, while a drift of sugar spills down the front of their t-shirt.

Even John Coltrane, strolling along Great Western Road with one of these in his hand, while holding a saxophone in the other, would instantly slash his hip rating by 50 per cent.

The same goes if you publicly eat anything from Greggs or Starbucks, or flaunt your bubble tea and hot-dogs.

In fact, it’s uncool to eat most foods, apart from a cherry, as long as you can tie its stem in a knot with your tongue like Audrey Horne in Twin Peaks. I suppose gum is reasonably hip. Just don’t chew it TOO enthusiastically. You’re not The Fonz.

Also, if you’re looking for the ‘in’ crowd, surely they’ll be at gigs and art gallery openings. You’re not going to find them oohing and aahing at botanical light show, GlasGlow, with their snoods and woolly gloves on.

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There are slightly cooler listings in Time Out’s round-up for Leith. Among other things, these include mentions of an arts venue, The Biscuit Factory, Michelin-starred restaurant Heron and bakery Twelve Triangles. Fair enough. I love them all and I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen at any of those places.

Still, who cares what I say. I am not an arbiter of this theme, though I do have a theory that places are all about the people. They add the necessary charisma.

Edinburgh’s Stockbridge used to be a Bohemian area, but it’s just too posh these days to be considered cool. However, I think it still retains the kudos that comes from Nico of The Velvet Underground being a resident, even if that is an urban myth.

I’m also not denying that Leith and Glasgow’s West End do both have a certain je ne sais quoi, even if it’s not to be found in their churros.

That’s less to do with the businesses, and more down to the fact they’re only at 77 per cent gentrification and refuse to go much higher.

I knew Leith still had cool credentials when I saw a man strolling down The Walk, wearing the same Adidas tracksuit as his staffy. They should shove that on their list.



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