Leith Walk, I’ve walked it, pushed prams up and down it, chased kids hither and yon, shopped, drunk, eaten and people watched on it for years, but most of all I’ve taken it for granted. Now that there’s a fresh attempt to mess it about yet again, I see it with fresh eyes.
Especially that red sandstone block near The Foot, where once I was looking up to check my feral kids weren’t up on the truncated stumps of the railway bridge that used to span the road, waving down, nowadays I can appreciate its unique art deco charms and businesses.
Demolish it? How can that be a good idea – to build 471 student flats (more over-priced rabbit hutches like the ones further up The Walk), a hotel for parents of said students, and only 53 affordable homes? And no, Drum Property Group, removing a storey and knocking out a few of the flats, throwing in a few more affordable homes, but still demolishing the block still doesn’t cut it.
Leith lovers including Young Fathers, Proclaimers, Corbyn, Council leader McVey, Mary Queen of Scots star Jack Lowden, and most importantly thousands of residents, have backed the Save Leith Walk campaign.
And on a Saturday morning as we sit in one of our favourite cafes on The Walk, my kids and I also still object.
Where else would we head for Youngest’s birthday surprise slap-up, but the Italian caff they’ve loved all their lives.
“Remember we always used to come here after we’d been to the dentist’s,” says Eldest, “load up on milkshakes?”
“We did no such thing,” I say. We did.
Talk turns to the demolition and Eldest says, “That bit has the only proper live music venue. And The Walk’s multicultural, people and shops from all over the world – that’s what makes it such a good place to live. Nowhere else in Edinburgh is like it.”
“Well things change, and you know...” begins Middle, always one to take a thought for a meander, but this one quickly shudders to a halt. “Nah, it’s a ridiculous idea.”
“Yes, it is!” says Youngest. “If they have to redevelop they could put Paolozzi’s foot at The Foot and move the wee woman (Queen Victoria) to The Top, but that’s ALL. They’ll spoil it. People should just say no. And keep saying no.”
“Persevere,” I say, quoting the Leith Motto. “Yes. Perseverance might yet Save Leith Walk.”