There’s a shop on Howe Street, tucked into a basement, which rejoices in the name of Lonsdale & Dutch. I believe that they are technically called tinsmiths, but I think of it as the lantern shop. For in the window are all kinds of outdoor lanterns and their fittings such are common in Edinburgh’s New Town. Figures can be glimpsed, bent over lathes, through a blue mist of dust and metal particles in the workshop. I’ve never had the nerve to ask if I could photograph inside the workshop, but I long to do so.
The window display (if display’s the right word) rarely changes – one rickety lantern replacing another and a fresh scattering of nuts and bolts. And while it’s fascinating by day, it’s at night that it really comes alive to evoke the spirit of an older Edinburgh. I’ve spent what feels like hours aiming my camera at the lit window on cold winter nights, only giving up when my hands were too frozen to continue. This picture is one of the results.
Once upon a time, I swore I’d never take what I call chocolate box pictures. But, you know, never is such a long time and pretty pictures are, whether we like it or not, all around us. And here’s an example.
You’d swear this is a carefully constructed composition for Country Living magazine. (Incidentally, that magazine is one of my guilty pleasures – it’s as good as eating an entire box of chocolates and almost as good as sex – well, as good as bad sex, if you see what I mean). The beautiful latticed ironwork of the table and chair, a birdbox placed just so, a shabby chic enamel watering can and planters and a garden fence to set it all off. A stylist would be in heaven – why all it needs is a faded Cath Kidston apron and a child with tousled curls named Imogen!
But it isn’t. I swear. On my mother’s life. OK Mother isn’t with us any more, but if she were, she’d have said now this is lovely – I don’t know why you can’t take nice pictures like this all the time, instead of that weird stuff. Yes Mum.
The location, by the way, was one of the handkerchief-size gardens of the Stockbridge Colonies – and yes, shabby chic is big down there, let me tell you…