As the feckless merriment of Christmas gives way to the joyous hysteria of New Year, the tidings from the once noble city of Edinburgh, Benidorm of the North, should give us all pause for thought.
We all know – especially those of us condemned to live here – that the city centre is succumbing to uncontrolled tidal waves of hen and stag inebriates and Airbnb budgeteers, plus never-ending processions of wheelie suitcases and selfieholics.
Thankfully, as a necessary corrective, it seems that some council bright spark has come up with a brilliant new wheeze to thin out the crowds – A TOURIST CULL.
The first indication of this enlightened new secret policy suddenly appeared one day at the top of the High Street, right beside the ‘Bridge of Spies’ type security barriers and the famous weeping statue of David Hume (and can you blame him?) Someone, it seems, has had a light bulb moment and come up with the Royal Mile Death Box!
This fiendishly clever erection is a kind of dwarfish hut without windows set right beside the kerb, thus blocking the view of unsuspecting pedestrians who are free to step out into the pathway of oncoming vehicles, rather like the Japanese lady with regulation wheelie suitcase who almost ended up under a bin lorry, or a young female solicitor who nearly tangled with a bicycle – and these are just the ones I’ve noted in passing.
Presumably this lethal, yet persuasively innocent looking, wooden object was cleared – perhaps even created – by someone in the planning department, or was it? Anyway, it’s bound to work sooner or later. EXPECT CARNAGE ON THE COBBLES!
A rather more gruesome ruse was evident in South St David’s Street, these being the ingenious spiky bits attached – or not quite attached – to the evil fins on the hideous new architectural mediocrity which insults the corner of St Andrews Square.
While the prospect of this grim building (for which 3 historic ones were unlawfully lost) crumbling into dust is a consummation devoutly to be wished, must it really be used as a weapon? True, anyone who is tasteless enough to patronize a flash restaurant (the Ivy) owned by Sir Philip ‘bugger yer pension’ Green’s best mate, the ostentatiously decadent Richard ‘Underpant King’ Caring, probably deserves what’s coming to them.
Yet this is the season of goodwill, and we should spare a kind thought even for Mr Caring, whose personal wealth of £700 million is reportedly about to be cleaved in twain by pissed-off wife Jacqui simply because he’s lost his trousers to a Brazilian lady half his age – well, it could happen to anyone, couldn’t it? Anyway, that’s another story.
It isn’t simply the Underpant King’s well encrusted Ivy clientele which is at risk here. A descending spikelet could penetrate the cranium of anyone walking past this morgue of a building, whether tourists, habitues of T.K Maxx, patrons of the new German-Italian casualfast food chain Vapiano, or mere innocent passers-by lacking protective headgear.
For subtlety, however, you can’t beat the wheelie suitcase march of death known as THE NEWS STEPS. This one is a real cracker, designed to eliminate the tourist nuisance at source, namely as arrivals quit the no 100 bus which brought them in from the airport, assuming they weren’t insane enough to take the tram at the outset.
In a sensible world (i.e one in which Edinburgh has no place) the no 100 would decant travellers at convenient stopping points like the bus stop at the head of the Mound. This would enable those heading into the Old Town and points south (the majority) to simply walk to such nearby hostelries as the Fraser Suites and G & V Hotel, while others could take connecting service buses – but that would just make it too easy for them.
In a plan worthy of the great Clausewitz, devised, I can only imagine, by some malignant genius in a City Chambers war room, the no 100 not only stops at several convenient points in the New Town, but also obligingly announces the names of the various hotels there. Then it crosses Princes Street, and we are in no-man’s land.
It could, of course, easily stop at either the bottom, or the head, of the Mound, for the convenience of those (OK – me included) who either want to catch a 23, 27, 41, or 42 for, say Newington, Marchmont, or Morningside, or who live in the Old Town. Too bad suckers! If that’s your destination, you’re out of luck, for the 100 trundles on to Waverley Bridge, where the jaded and the jet lagged are duly abandoned, either to compete with rail travellers in the nearby taxi queue, or – and here’s the clever bit – to haul their luggage up the long and tortuous staircase known as The News Steps.
This can be quite a sight, let me tell you. Once I was halfway down when I came across a perspiring florid faced gentlemen, extremely well dressed, who had not only a wheelie suitcase, but a large and extremely heavy black leather bag which he told me was packed with files. He said he was a London barrister on his way to the Court of Session and didn’t have time to wait for a taxi, so had foolishly decided to leg it. I carried his black bag to the top of the steps where, having quite possibly saved his life, I should obviously have submitted a fee note, but I only thought of that later.
One beneficiary of this lunacy is my homeless neighbour, Rob, whose usual pitch is midway up the steps. Always generous with a smile as I dispense an occasional sandwich, Rob springs into action as soon as, say, grunting elderly Americans hove into view, dragging their burdens a step at a time, or at the appearance of a gaggle of flustered girls from Beijing or Tokyo, perplexed by this quaint custom of punishment by staircase. Seasoned Sherpa that he is, Rob relieves them of their burdens, easily makes his ascent, and is then duly rewarded, sometimes even spending time to chat.
Homeless people always have stories to tell, some tragic, some droll – like the one about that weekend when rough sleepers were evicted from Princes Street Gardens so that conscience-salving middle class types with £500 sleeping bags and entertainment laid on could spend a ticketed night under the stars IN AID OF THE HOMELESS!!!
The joys of Edinburgh, you see, are many and various – but our City Magistrates know where to draw the line. Rather too late, we fear, they seem to have cottoned on to the fact that a city without citizens will, like Old Sarum, be a city without votes, a desert of empty trams, an Ozymandian prospect with obvious mathematical implications for their own power broking futures in this great democratic age of ours. This, I assume, informs the secret new tourist cull policy of our most recently elected council.
True, there are times when our council’s zany frolics can be – as they say on London’s Leicester Square billboards – pantwettingly hilarious, at least until one begins to tot up the costs.
On the other hand – but let’s not sink into gloom with the litany of abuses and delusions of competence which have characterised the governing style of councils thus far; The driving furth of an established resident community as the Old Town becomes an Airbnb investment opportunity; The endless retail march of tartan tat; the ever-jocular tram disaster which I hear has even persuaded Boston Globe readers that their ‘Big Dig’ construction problems maybe weren’t so catastrophic after all; The proposed Mickey Mouse ears extension to the divinely inspired Royal High School; The St James’s Hotel la Dog Turd; the consent for an Endarkenment of our Carnegie Library with an eleven storey hotel – and so on ad infinitum unto the end of time.
Apart from that, dear friends, have a wonderful 2018 and mind how you go.