Helen Martin: Main tests lie ahead for trams

Pic: Toby Wiliams
Pic: Toby Wiliams
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LIKE many people in Edinburgh, I never wanted the trams and remain unimpressed by the gargantuan waste of money, despite the magical sight of one actually travelling, albeit at walking pace, along Princes Street.

It was a bit like Coca-Cola’s Christmas truck passing through town, but without Santa or the jingle.

Some folk are beginning to warm to them, though I suspect that’s a perverse and artificial reaction to years of tram works torture. Like banging your head off a brick wall, it’s bound to feel good when it stops.

There will be a flurry of interest as everyone takes a maiden trip. The test is whether we all continue to use them and they become a valuable addition to city transport, or a folly and a damn nuisance.

Mapping out the key gender differences

Among all the usually useless psycho-babble research findings which are reported month after month, there was one last week that had us all nodding our heads in agreement.

Men and women are different. Well, who’d have thought it?

This is the sort of light-blue-touch-paper-and-stand-back stuff that enrages rabid feminists and purple-nosed colonels alike. For the feminists, it means that women really can’t read maps (I certainly can’t. I’ve done the test, but more on that later). For the purple-nosed colonels it means women are superior in some ways – and that would never do.

The researchers in the University of Pennsylvania concluded male and female brains were so different that we might almost be separate species.

For me, it was a light bulb moment. Himself regularly catches sight of someone on TV and says “Oh look, Robbie Williams!” or “That’s Robert Redford, isn’t it?”. Not only is he wrong but there’s often not the slightest resemblance. I was worried he was going blind or senile, but it turns out he’s just male. Recognising faces isn’t a male strong point.

I have learned over the years to have only lightweight, inconsequential conversations if he’s driving.

Anything too heated and we might not get home in one piece because he is the archetypal male when it comes to concentrating on only one thing at a time.

I have also learned when he’s angry, stressed or upset about anything to leave him alone. Talking about things might make me feel better but the male therapy is to go and sit on a rock somewhere and . . . well, that’s just it. I don’t know what they do, but it seems to work.

Intrigued by all this malarkey and often having been told I have a “male” brain, I sourced a BBC science and nature test online. It appears I do in general have a male-female balanced brain. My female side is pronounced when it comes to empathising (which I can) and reading maps (which I can’t). I can remember an arrangement of objects and correctly identify which ones have been moved, but I’d put that down to loads of practice with early children’s TV before more sophisticated kids’ entertainment came along.

Himself on the other hand, of the same era, still asks where things are kept in the house – after living there for ten years.

Taken together, the quite different wiring of our brains means women’s brains are smaller but more efficient, making them superior to men at keeping up with changing situations and seeing “the big picture”. They are also better at multitasking, multiple challenges, emotional intelligence and talking out


Men are better at reading maps.

The rather frightening “elephant in the room” is what we actually do with these findings which would suggest women are ideal boardroom material and men make great chauffeurs.

I suggest we don’t try to talk about it. Take the findings, put them on an isolated rock somewhere and forget about them. Look at the big picture, girls. Empathise.

Statutory repairs are still required

FOR those who faced “enhanced” bills for statutory repairs in the past, the winding down of that council department and function must have felt like some kind of justice. The question is, where do we go from here?

We’re still looking for a flat to buy and one thing has become clear. It’s a riskier venture than ever before because every common repair in every tenement now has to be agreed, with every owner stumping up their share. If one or two people don’t want to pay, it is up to the rest to cover the cost initially and sue the non-payers. Or the building will simply fall into disrepair.

The council will take no action – unless there is a danger to passers-by or something amounting to “an emergency”.

This city, including some of its most historic parts from the Old Town to the New, is made of tenements. Some magnificent, some modest, they account for an enormous proportion of our housing from the centre to the suburbs.

The statutory repair system needed to be cleaned up, not obliterated altogether. And unless we introduce a compulsory factor scheme or reintroduce some measure of council enforcement, we could be in for big trouble.