A sunny morning and cafe tables are out on the pavement. Pigeons strut, seagulls soar and two women sip a breakfast smoothie by the bus stop. Slowly, oh so slowly, Rodney Street is gaining a sense of place.
It’s always been a mystery to me why Rodney Street has taken so long to discover a new identity. Sadly, while Broughton Street blossomed, brassed up and acquired a smart urban look, Rodney Street withered and almost died.
It had its own character when we first arrived. I remember pushing a pram down the hill. Past St Cuthbert’s Co-op Store to Preacher’s Patisseries of Perfection, parking the pram outside Bruce and Mary’s fish shop, emerging with newspaper-wrapped, gleaming fresh haddock to find silver coins in the pram (lucky for the new baby).
Across the street a crumbling cinema (what was it called?) was demolished to create a building site that lay waste for a long time. Food shops just about held their own when William Low, Scotland’s own supermarket chain, occupied the dip by the traffic lights. Then Tesco took over and the lights went out: Co-op and chemist closed, bakers shut up shop.
New life flickered from time to time and some of it survived. Bike shop, ski shop, cake maker and booze store are still going. The florist blooms. But somehow the street never held together as a shopping centre, as a ‘destination’ in marketing-speak. Generally it was somewhere people went through – not to – even though the old cinema waste-land filled with new flats and the flats grew old enough to acquire weather stains.
Yet this year, while recession glooms all around, suddenly there is new life in Rodney Street. It has a lot to do with eating. Between the fast food cafe and the ski shop, there’s a sandwich bar and another cafe. But nearby there’s also a gift shop, a letting agency and a chiropractor. Long may they all last.
Actually, a cinema would not go amiss.