Fiona Duff: Kick the click habit and rediscover the lost art of browsing

Why shop online when it's far more satisfying to support your local stores? Picture: Getty
Why shop online when it's far more satisfying to support your local stores? Picture: Getty
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There was a story I read in the past week that filled my heart with hope. Apparently last year the number of independent of independent shops opening in Scotland almost doubled from that figure in 2015.

I doubt that you will find that many on George Street or Princes Street, where the astronomical rents and rates mean that they are out of the financial reach of virtually all bar the chain stores.

Surgeon's Hall by Hugh Buchanan

Surgeon's Hall by Hugh Buchanan

But down in Stockbridge, Bruntsfield and Portobello they are popping up and make shopping in these areas a heck of a lot more interesting than any high street.

I know it is a tough time for retailers, what with that internet shopping that we all seem to adore. But there are drawbacks to buying with a click – last week I bought two dresses and when they arrived neither fitted.

As I had bought them on Ebay, I couldn’t send them back and all I can do is offer them to friends and family who are slimmer than me. Which, rather unfortunately, is actually most of them.

We seem to have lost the art of browsing, just wandering around the shops looking at things and occasionally trying on some clothes.

I know that if I need something I behave like a contestant on Supermarket Sweep; I rush in heading for whatever department I want to visit, grab what I came in to buy, pay for it and then zoom home.

In days gone past I would have sauntered around, perhaps found something which I hadn’t realised I wanted or just looked at what I should be doing with my wardrobe. Then I would have bought a couple of birthday cards and stored them in a drawer at home.

Many of these new shops specialise in one specific genre. There are a couple of cheese shops in Stockbridge where the staff will talk you through their stock and even let you taste one that you may not have tried before.

It may be easy to grab a bottle of wine from the supermarket shelf but go into a proper wine shop and after a discussion with someone who knows about the noble grape and you may end up discovering something new. I guess it’s what people used to call service with a smile as well as a bit of knowledge.

So to you 90 folk in Edinburgh who had the courage and belief to open a shop last year I salute you. It will probably be tough at times and no doubt mean some sleepless nights, but you make this a more interesting place to live.

And to those of you who have developed an Amazon habit, why not step away from the computer and go and support those who pay proper taxes and can actually talk to their customers.

A love letter to the New Town

Perhaps you knew this already but 2017 is the 250th anniversary of the New Town. There probably is some sort of hoopla going on of which I am unaware – maybe that odd light show in Charlotte Square was some sort of commemoration but if it was no-one told me.

Artist Hugh Buchanan is a fan of this marvel of Georgian architecture and in June his exhibition at The Scottish Gallery on Dundas Street celebrates the centre of our capital city.

His love letter to Edinburgh is quite stunning, as you would expect from someone who counts Prince Charles amongst his fans. And that’s not something I have made up – the heir to the throne has had Hugh at his house painting the interiors – and I’m not talking about him using a can of Dulux. Anyway, if you are also a fan of our city pop along and have a look and keep your ears to the ground for news of a walkabout with Edinburgh World Heritage.

I’m just tired and emulsional

TALKING of painting interiors, I am sitting here looking at a wall which could definitely do with a lick of paint. I have had a little sample pot lying unused for so long that it may well have gone off, if such a thing can happen with emulsion. I know that once I slap a bit on the wall in question there will be no going back and I shall have to bite the bullet and do the whole room.

In the meantime if anyone visits I can just turn the lights down low and no one is really any the wiser. Procrastination isn’t just the thief of time, it’s also the reason I live in a dingy home.

Don’t blame me if I’m always late

I AM not very keen on people who are always late. As far as I am concerned it means that person thinks their time in more important than mine; that it doesn’t matter if I spend 15 minutes kicking my heels and staring at a leaflet whilst waiting for them.

However, with the 20mph speed limit I fear I have joined this group. In my head I know how long it will take to get from A to B when I am driving, but that is based on two decades of driving around Edinburgh at 30mph.

I keep forgetting to factor in that it will take about a third of the time more, and if that is going over to the other side of town it can add quite a bit to the journey.

So apologies to anyone I have kept hanging about recently. As ever, don’t blame me – blame Edinburgh Council.