Nice-Nominated: Random acts of Edinburgh kindness

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Striking back against the NekNominate craze, we sent intrepid reporter JEN LAVERY on to the streets of Edinburgh to spread a little kindness

I admit I was a bit sceptical at the suggestion.

Jen pays a compliment to passers-by.  Pic Ian Rutherford

Jen pays a compliment to passers-by. Pic Ian Rutherford

When my boss “nominated” me to carry out random nice acts on the streets of Edinburgh, I was sure it could go either way. I’ve done enough vox pops in my time to know that the general public can be rather unpredictable, after all.

But the idea of turning the furore over NekNominate – where people upload videos of themselves downing drinks and then nominate friends to “up the ante” – into something positive was a cause worth pursuing. Indeed, there is already a movement – RakNominate – where people are encouraged to carry out “random acts of kindness”.

And so I skipped out the office armed with my five tasks and a pocket full of change to spread some joy and hopefully nominate others to do the same.

I was also being tailed by a photographer to catch whatever

happened – ie my embarrassment – in all its glory.

It wasn’t all plain sailing – apologies to the elderly gentleman who definitely did not need any help crossing the road – but in general I was met not as a crazy person but with stunned appreciation.

At the same time, my few hours of doing nothing but nice things also left me feeling pretty good. And guess what? It gets easier the more you do it.

I now pass the baton on to you. I’ve done five good deeds, but I’m only asking you to do one each.

Go on – #NominateEdinburgh.

1. PAY A STRANGER A COMPLIMENT

This was actually the challenge I felt most nervous about – as I wanted to make sure any comments I made didn’t embarrass or intimidate anyone.

With this in mind I decided it was best to keep the compliments aimed at hairstyles and items of clothing, as I generally find random comments directed at parts of my body do more to ruin my day than improve it, be they “complimentary” or not. As it turned out, the person most embarrassed by the whole thing probably ended up being me.

Comments such as “That scarf is a lovely colour, it really suits you” were mainly met with bemused side-eyed glances, or ignoring on a scale usually reserved for the man who has been warning city centre shoppers that the end is “nigh” for the past 20 years.

However, I did seem to raise a genuine smile from a couple of passersby, so hopefully it made someone’s day better...

2. BUY A COFFEE FOR SOMEONE

This is easier than you think. I turned the task on its head by going to socially-conscious sandwich shop Social Bite, now operating on Rose Street and Shandwick Place.

Their Suspended Coffee program allows you to buy a hot drink and/or something to eat for someone who can’t afford it. Local homeless people check in throughout the day to ask if any suspended meals have been bought, hoping to be provided with a healthy meal or warming drink.

I arrived at Social Bite just as the first few flakes of snow began to drift down into Rose Street. Manager Jenneke Cranston told me one regular had just been asked to come back later as everything donated that morning had already been claimed – £10.47 later and three coffees and three portions of soup are waiting for the next few homeless people through the door.

What makes donating here even better is that all profits are split between four charities, including Shelter, so you can make an immediate, and a more sustained impact on the lives of homeless people in the city.

Social Bite even employs former Big Issue sellers, giving some of society’s most vulnerable people a second chance at getting back on track.

3. PAY FOR PARKING

Ask any Evening News journalist what topics are most likely to get our readers’ blood boiling and “parking” will be one of the first things they mention.

Constant moans about the lack of on-street spaces and then the high hourly rates if you are lucky enough to find one is enough to dampen anyone’s mood.

With this in mind, I kept an eye out for someone approaching one of the dreaded money-gobbling meters, to see if I could shine a small ray of light into their day.

It wasn’t long before I spotted domestic supervisor Val Hay, 56, of Crewe Road, approaching a meter on George Street while rooting through her bag for change.

She seemed rather taken aback when I first came bounding up to her, but soon warmed to the idea.

“I’m just in town with my daughter, who is visiting from Australia. Parking in the city centre is extortionate, so it’s nice to have a wee bit more to take shopping with us instead.

“This is certainly a better idea than that drinking game.”

We’d all raise a glass to that.

4. LEND A HELPING HAND

It’s not been that long since I made my money selling booze instead of news, and one of my least favourite jobs was getting all the tables and chairs outside first thing.

Heavy, awkward-shaped furniture made for bruised shins and toes, howled expletives and an amused audience of passersby. So when I saw Mel Carston, the manager of Scott’s of Rose Street getting to work on a pile of tables and chairs outside the bar, I knew karma was calling.

Mel, 29, accepted my offer of a hand without so much as a raised eyebrow, though she did say that it was the first time anyone had offered to muck in with the set-up before.

“You’re the first to ask if they could help me. I’m a bar manager, but I would say that doing someone else a good turn is probably a better challenge to take on than downing a load of booze. Will I be doing someone a good turn now to pass it on? Well, I don’t see why not.”

Given the weather, it occurs to me Mel must already be a rather optimistic person...

“Oh no,” she explains. “I’m not really expecting any of the customers to be actually sitting outside today when it’s this cold. We just put out the tables and chairs so they immediately know we’re open.”

At least she didn’t have to carry them all herself, I thought, as snow began to pile up on the al fresco dining scene I had helped create.

5. GIVE DIRECTIONS TO A TOURIST

During the month of August you generally can’t turn around in Edinburgh without accidently walking face-first into a giant map stretched across the entire width of the pavement by an unwary tourist, who is occasionally wondering out loud if this Edinburgh Castle they’ve heard so much about is behind that big house on the rock up there.

But yesterday our foreign friends seemed frustratingly thin on the ground, with me wandering nearly all the way from Waverley Station to Lothian Road before spotting the gold at the end of my particular

rainbow – someone squinting confusedly into the pages of an Edinburgh A-Z.

As it turned out my quarry, Josephine Hyde, wasn’t quite as foreign as some of our other visitors, having travelled down from Islay to visit her daughter, a student at Queen Margaret University.

However, she still didn’t know where the nearest branch of Boots was, allowing me to serve as tour guide extraordinaire, deftly pointing the way to one of Princes Street’s longest-surviving residents.

My mission complete, I returned to base – with a smile on my face.