Writer without portfolio
If life gives you lemons
Make lemonade. When life gives you a concrete block outside your business door, have a block party. And it is party time down Leith Walk, well it certainly seems that way at the moment. The long days, the ding of the trams, al fresco dining, the circling seagulls, Proclaimers on the Links… it’s so Leith.
Having read up on local history during my time with Leith Festival (did you know that Leith Festival is the oldest community festival in Edinburgh?), I learned that as Edinburgh’s port, Leith has always been a party town.
The building that is now Malmaison on the Shore was built in 1883 as a Sailors Home offering modern accommodation to visiting seamen. The Leith Forever website informs me that the Sailors Home fell into disrepute, which can be said about the nature of many ports around the world. They attract the wayward and the wanderers… and here we all are.
Now that we have a tram whooshing and dinging its way to the waterfront, a period of adjustment must follow. As a business owner on the route, I’m getting used to the unexpected concrete block/bench unceremoniously dumped in front of the door at midnight one June evening.
It was, to say the least, a surprise to wake up to, but I’m adjusting to it now. For the last sixteen years we leithers have adjusted to being on a building site, and now we’re adapting to being one of the busiest tourist hotspots in Scotland.
In times past, if there was a lost-looking tourist on Leith Walk, they were looking for the number 22 bus (R.I.P.) to get to Britannia. Now, tourists own the landscape of Leith Walk.
It’s seems to be the inevitable evolution of urban spaces, and now we need to adapt to this. Our current situation is the polar opposite of Lockdown - it’s got a whole lot more people-y. And we were one of the most densely populated areas in the UK to begin with!
It’s like the whole of Leith is currently going through an identity crisis:
Who are we?
Does the People’s Republic of Leith still exist?
Did it ever?
If you could harness the nervous energy in Leith, I feel sure it would power those trams.
Speaking of the ‘whoosh and the ding’ (as it is called in our house), the first thing I hear in the morning (at 5.45am) is that woosh - which reminds me of Bladerunner - then comes that ding…
Apparently the ‘ding’ is not an actual bell, but a mp3 of a 1930’s German tram. After my early morning rude awakening I get to thinking, if we could replace the mp3 of the ding sound with anything, what would it sound like? Perhaps like my pug Coco barking, as the tram sends her around the twist. Or the sound of jazz flute. That would set me off. Perhaps we could replace the ding mp3 with a Proclaimerseque lyric:
“I would spend £500 million,
and I would spend £500 more.
Just to get a whooshy dinging tram
all the way down to The Shore.”
The week it all happened - trams starting, unplanned street furniture, blazing sunshine - was the week I read Anxiety is Your Superpower. The McDonald Road librarian gave me a wry smile as I collected my reserved copy (I’m a big fan of reserving new books through the Edinburgh library catalogue. Try it, it’s free!). It was just what I needed to read.
Authored by Dr Wendy Suzuki, a leading neuroscientist, Anxiety is Your Superpower: Using Anxiety to Feel Better and to Do Better, teaches you how to use anxiety and worrying feelings for the good. Reinterpreting your body’s natural reaction to stress (adrenaline and cortisol release) means that you can react in a constructive way. As a worrier this is incredibly reassuring.
‘Neuroplasticity’ is a wonderful word, referring to how the brain rewires itself to adapt. It’s only a relatively recent discovery. Even when I studied psychology at University in the 90s, we were taught the adult brain has a finite number of brain cells, that will inevitably die. So neuroplasticity is your brains way of making new neural pathways.
We all get into well-worn behavioural patterns, whether it’s unhealthy habits, or negative cycles of thinking. It is easy to just keep doing (or thinking) what we always have done. More challenging is to change, but as Charles Darwin proved adaptability is key to evolution. If I want Griffen Fitness to evolve I need to learn to live with the concrete block outside my studio door.
Over the last 16 years, I’ve learnt that trams = misery and disruption. It’s now time to reframe the situation to appreciate the newest incarnation of Leith.
It may take a while, but I’ll persevere. As we all do. ■
Tracy’s studio before the arrival of a mysterious stone block in the middle of the night