Covid lockdown: Edinburgh's re-opening made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning – Steve Cardownie
Under normal circumstances, Monday mornings would not feature on my list as a reason to be cheerful but last Monday was the exception to this rule.
After four months of lockdown, the city was at last moving from Level 4 to Level 3 which meant that pubs, cafes, shops and restaurants could finally open their doors once again.
I woke up with the kind of anticipation that is usually reserved for a five-year-old on Christmas morning and looked forward to what the day promised to have in store.
First stop was Slater Menswear on George Street where I joined the queue outside just as the doors were flung open at 8.30am by the manager, Peter Chesney, sporting a Cheshire cat -like grin, as he welcomed shoppers inside.
My first port of call was to the jeans section where I nervously picked a pair of Levis from the shelf and made my way to the changing cubicle. I need not have worried as the extensive lockdown hours spent at home had had little effect and they actually fitted, albeit with the aid of a Herculean intake of breath.
Next, a lunch-time meeting with friends at The Scotsman Lounge on Cockburn Street where we sat on the newly constructed decking. After providing my contact details and observing the social distancing rules, I ordered my first pint of draught cider in many a long while.
The outside area was predictably busy, despite the weather, which was more to be endured rather than enjoyed, and people were taking the opportunity to catch up with friends and share their experiences of the last few months.
It was obvious that the staff, resplendent in their kilts, were enjoying themselves, as they participated in the pub banter that had been sorely missed with the jokes and friendly jibes flowing thick and fast.
For nigh on 30 years, my place of work was situated in the heart of the city and I regarded it as a privilege that most of my councillor duties were carried out on a daily basis in the City Chambers in the High Street.
With its unique architecture, and an abundance of shops, restaurants and pubs that are the envy of many cities that cannot hope to compete, the daily buzz of the Old Town was lively and invigorating – until the impact of Covid-19 was felt.
The rules and regulations that came into force hit the hospitality and retail sector particularly hard and the empty streets of the Old Town during lockdown bore testimony to the perilous circumstances many establishments found themselves in through no fault of their own.
Now, it would appear, a corner has been turned, and some parts of the sector are showing signs of revival which highlights the importance of this paper’s “Forever Edinburgh” campaign.
Its core message – “whether it is a favourite shop, bar or restaurant, a much-loved riverside or beachfront walk, or a visitor attraction you have never tried before, we are encouraging all our readers to explore and rediscover Edinburgh” – cannot be understated.
My foray into the city centre on Monday hinted of what Edinburgh used to be like and, with a bit of effort, we can restore it to the much-loved, capital city of Scotland that it is.