What The Dickins: A Tale Of Edinburgh City

Louise’s Tales: What The Dickins February ’21

“An hour is not merely an hour; it is a vase full of scents and sounds and projects and climates.” Marcel Proust

Recently Bethan and I met via Teams to talk about our social media and blog plan for the year ahead and she suggested that I should write a blog – a diary of sorts and good way of sharing my photos. So, here we go with blog number one! I’m calling the series Louise’s Tales: What The Dickins.

What The Dickins

‘What is this life is full of care we have no time to stand and stare.”

Why Louise’s Tales: What The Dickins?

Bruce Walker, a completely unique Scot of huge character and generosity, called me What The when I worked for him in a property company in Hong Kong, Vigers.  He had invited me to ‘sing your favourite song’ during my interview with him. I was in Hong Kong for my first summer from university and needed that job as my meagre funds were quickly dwindling. My CV was pretty thin, highlighting things like singing a solo at school and not much else. I was absolutely horror struck at the thought of singing with at least 70 people sitting at open plan desks beyond Bruce’s office, but I dug deep and gave it my best shot.

I’ve never asked anyone I have ever interviewed to do the same thing. Maybe I should start, as it was quite the test of character! What The always makes me smile and think of Bruce and those brilliant, formative Hong Kong days. At the end of that summer, he offered me a job when I left University, which I took up, so Bruce played a big part in my life. Our blog and newsletter are called What The Dickins: A Tale of Edinburgh City so as this personal blog series is about my life and thoughts, it’s Louise’s Tales: What The Dickins.

What The Dickins

At least the streets are Edinburgh are a beautiful place to take daily exercise.

I heard the Marcel Proust quote at the start of this blog whilst listening to a Mary Portas, Kindness Economy podcast as I pounded the Edinburgh pavements in January, headphones on. It resonated with me as, since life slowed down last year, I’ve been trying to notice moments as they happen. Prior to March 2020 my days were so busy they sped past at the rate of knots, barely allowing me to pause and take breath. But since our lives all changed because of Covid, time has been one of my greatest gifts and I’ve tried to make sure that I’m aware of the scents, sounds, projects and climates. Tomorrow is the 1st March and it is hard to believe that a whole year has gone by since March 2020 and all this starting.

What The Dickins

Signs of Spring in The Meadows are so very welcome this year.

A Tough Start to The Year

Like many people I’ve spoken to, I found the beginning of 2021 really tough. Normally I love January – a clean slate full of promise, but it didn’t feel that like that at all year. The news was relentlessly awful, the days short and our flat absolutely freezing. My boys were about to start homeschooling again, business was tough and I couldn’t see a way forward or an end on sight. It all felt rather overwhelming. But sitting here in late February and looking back over the past couple of months, I feel quite proud what I’ve managed to achieve since then.

What The Dickins

This view of the Old Town across Waverley Bridge is always wonderful to see.

I signed up to Noom and have been losing weight which feels good. One of my lockdown heroes is Joe Wicks and I do one of his HIIT workouts in our TV room most mornings. I find his enthusiasm for life infectious and even a 15 minute workout with him gets the heart beating and muscle groups worked. It sets me up for the day.

This week my youngest son returned to school. He truly (and me too if I’m honest) needed that to happen. Home schooling for young children and their parents has been so full on and challenging. Trying to grab time to work or do anything else felt impossible. In this past week, I’ve loved the time I spent with just him on the school run. He gets to sit in the front seat and choose the music he wants and we chat or sit quietly. It’s special. My elder son is still at home and I’ve been savouring his two hour lunch break. Having lunch, a good chat and a walk with him is something that I’ll selfishly miss when he’s back at school in a couple of weeks.

Their generation are the first children in history to be educated remotely via a screen – they need to feel really proud of themselves and how they’ve handled it. And let’s hope it’s the last time they have to do it.

What The Dickins

Calton Hill. A determined soul decided this was a good place to build a street of houses. It’s so steep!

Scents and Sounds – Wild Swimming

Like so many others, swimming in the sea has been my lockdown life saver. I started last September when the sea is at its warmest and have swum almost every week since. It’s my me time and that’s felt vital. Me time isn’t something I’ve prioritised in life and in recent years have had virtually none. The camaraderie of spending time with a friend, the sea and the absolute exhilaration the cold gives you are a brilliant combination. I swam in my wetsuit for the last time with snow on the ground in February and then last weekend inspired by Joe Wicks and Wim Hof  ditched my wetsuit, to brave the 4 degrees water in my swimming costume. Incredibly, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d imagined! So, cossie it is for me from now on. There are so many people swimming here, it’s incredible.

What The Dickins

After my last sea swim in a wetsuit. There was snow on the ground!

What The Dickins

Portobello Beach – Edinburgh Sur Mer.

Climates – Snow

We had the longest period of snow I can remember and thank goodness it coincided with half term, so children could make the most of it. It don’t think it got warmer than 3 degrees here from late December until mid February. It was funny walking around town hearing shrieks of delight coming from any nearby hill and seeing young adults wandering the streets, wellies on and sledge under their arm. The snow was that lovely crunchy snow and there were some brilliantly bright days. Despite us being in the North, snow doesn’t lie here very often. Here’s some inspiration for Edinburgh’s best winter walks. 


What The Dickins

George Street in the snow.


What The Dickins

I took this photo out of our kitchen window at 10.45pm. The snow made the nights so bright.


What The Dickins

Snow on Northumberland Street

Then all of a sudden one Sunday morning, the temperature rose from two to thirteen degrees and all the snow vanished. It was quite bizarre. Since then, we’ve enjoyed some beautiful bright days full of spring promise.


What The Dickins

Beautiful Moray Place.

Projects – Short Term Lets Legislation Delayed

On the 3rd February the Local Government and Communities Committee met to decide the fate of our industry. On the Friday before that, I wrote to all the committee members. Andy Wightman, who I’d regarded as my nemesis, emailed me back almost immediately and we spoke for an hour later that day. It was the most surprising conversation. This was his legislation in many ways, something he’s campaigned for for years but he felt it was badly drafted, far too complicated and had massive overreach. He voted against it but it passed in committee by a slim majority of 4 votes to 3.

The intention was to then to rush it through parliament for approval but after two failed attempts came the very welcome news that that was being delayed until June. They feared that it wouldn’t pass in parliament. Msps seem to be waking up to the damage this legislation, if unaltered, would do across Scotland. I’ll keep doing my bit to keep the pressure on so that any legislation which does pass is fit for purpose. It felt like a small win. The lesson is that you need to get involved and fight your corner.

What The Dickins

It’ pays to be up early when you’re rewarded with a sunrise like this.

March is here tomorrow and the future is feeling brighter. For the first time, there is an end of sight. The vaccination programme in the UK has certainly been incredible and gives us confidence for the future. I’m hoping that the Government here in Scotland flesh out their road map out of lockdown with dates as they have in England. Then people can start to make, albeit cautious, plans. Being cautious until enough people are vaccinated is still important though. After making it this far, we need to hang in there until it feels as safe as it can for normal life to resume. And we cannot wait to fling open the doors to our homes and welcome you back!

As I sat down to write this blog this morning, I heard some very sad news. The young father of a lovely young man who runs a housekeeping company we work with has died of Covid this week.  It was the first time that someone close to me has had a family member who has died. It brought home the human cost of the past year and the huge complications of this moment.

Until next time, I hope you stay safe and that you’ll have opportunity to make the very most of the hours; to notice the scents and sounds and projects and climates. I hope you’ve enjoyed my first Louise’s Tales: What The Dickins. Please comment below if there’s anything you want to say. It’s always so great to hear from you.

Best wishes,





  • caroline ward

    March 5, 2021 at 7:32 pm

    Wow Lou…what stunning pictures and , as always, great writing, my talented friend…loved seeing your smiling face in your abandoned wet suit , bet you have re donned it cos of the cold having come back…BLOSSOM IS COMING love, Caroline


    • Dickins

      March 10, 2021 at 4:01 pm

      Thanks so much lovely Caroline. You’re always so kind. And yes, the blossom is coming!!

  • Kenneth Rabone

    March 3, 2021 at 3:02 pm

    I loved reading your blog and looking at the photographs. Keeps Edinburgh alive for me since the passing of my eldest son. I hope to return as soon as I can,

    Best wishes



    • Dickins

      March 4, 2021 at 5:29 am

      Thanks so much Kenneth, sending you our very best wishes, Louise

  • Jonathan Shale

    March 3, 2021 at 11:27 am

    I always enjoy your newsletter and am equally delighted by your Louise’s Tales: What The Dickens? You write from your heart which makes it feel so warm and personal. I loved the photos too.


    • Dickins

      March 3, 2021 at 12:43 pm

      That’s so kind Jonathan – thanks so much for those lovely comments.

  • ken langley

    March 3, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Hi Louise

    Edinburgh is one of our favourite cities, festival time or any other time.
    We have enjoyed your blog and , particularly, the photos.
    Keep writing & sending please & we will see you as soon as is practical


    • Dickins

      March 3, 2021 at 10:27 am

      That’s lovely to hear Ken, thank you!

  • Denise Neill

    March 3, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Your thoughts on the last year really resonate with me and your photos are just beautiful. Thank you for a lovely start to my day and for reminding me of how much I love visiting Edinburgh.


    • Dickins

      March 3, 2021 at 10:28 am

      Thanks so much Denise!

  • MonicaWylie

    March 2, 2021 at 10:29 pm

    I loved your first what’s the Dickins Lou. Insightful and uplifting. I look forward to the next installment with eagre anticipation.


    • Dickins

      March 3, 2021 at 6:08 am

      That’s so kind Monica – thank you. I look forward so much to us finally getting down to the plot!

  • Janet DeBevoise

    March 2, 2021 at 7:54 pm

    One of our nightly dinner conversations is, where we will travel first, once we can travel again….Edinburgh is is my top 5! Love the blog and the beautiful photos, my friend!


    • Dickins

      March 3, 2021 at 6:09 am

      Oh Janet, it would be SO fantastic to see you again!

  • Diane Uduehi

    March 2, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    Loved reading this Lou! Looking forward to the next one 😊


    • Dickins

      March 3, 2021 at 6:10 am

      That’s really kind Diane. Hope you’re hanging in there too! x

  • Claire Barlas

    March 2, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    Absolutely brilliant, the photos are fantastic and I love the many sentiments in the blog.
    Looking forward to the next What The …😃


    • Dickins

      March 2, 2021 at 3:25 pm

      Thanks so much Claire, my wild swimming buddy! x

  • Lucy Gray

    March 1, 2021 at 12:09 pm

    Loved it Loulou – keep writing and taking photos….


    • Dickins

      March 1, 2021 at 5:02 pm

      Thanks Lucy! x

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