Fordyce Maxwell: I had to adopt a slalom technique to avoid charity collectors and bagpipers

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COUNTRY born and reared, I spent far too many years working in cities and never got to like it. The best times were seeing them recede in the rear view mirror or as the train pulled out.

But I always liked walking in Edinburgh. No chance of a late claim at this stage, but I saved employers a substantial amount on taxi fares, and increased my footwear costs, by walking to any event within two or three miles of the office. Reverse, possibly perverse, philanthropy I suppose, but I enjoyed the walks and my health benefited.

Deadlines permitting, that is. But given the state of Edinburgh traffic, a brisk walk usually got me back to the word processor as quickly as a taxi could, with the advantage that while walking I could mull over the story in peace rather than discussing world affairs, the price of petrol or Hibs’/Hearts’ chances of avoiding relegation.

Times change, as I found last week, and it wasn’t just the roadworks where tracks for trams are being laid. At least I guess that’s what they’re for. The dug-up sections, barriers and diversions can’t simply be there to annoy and frustrate shoppers and visitors at great cost, can they?

If so, they’re succeeding. If not, they’re succeeding. It will be a happy day when Princes Street is clear again and the first trams run – about 2030 is my guess, soon after the Borders railway opens.

But that municipal equivalent of Waiting For Godot was only one irritation. I’ve never skied, but had to adopt a slalom technique on both Princes Street and George Street to try and avoid charity collectors, the “Homeless, but not alcoholic” cardboard signs, bagpipers and Big Issue sellers.

I’d start an eradication campaign with the lone pipers. I like pipe bands in their place and several of my relatives are pipers. The difference is they can play and don’t stand on Princes Street.

Aggressive charity collecting is too well known a nuisance to dwell on. Surely we don’t have to explain to every collector with a bucket, clipboard and shiny jacket how much we already give to charities in the privacy of our own homes?

And while always sympathetic to Big Issue sellers, especially as they well know when coming out of a shop with purchases, I resent their new tactic of leaping out like a jack-in-the-box at street corners.

In the same way I’m sympathetic to the apparently homeless. In fact I’m a soft touch, even for those who manage to keep a dog and afford a lager. But whoever noted that golf was a good walk spoiled – true though that is – should try tackling Princes Street and update the saying.