Mark, Finn and I moved into our old place in May 2007. Finn was a toddler and we were outgrowing our previous home – a fabulously trendy converted warehouse in Leith, the docks area of Edinburgh. Pre-children, Leith was a fantastic place to live: hip, vibrant, artsy, and packed with bars and eateries. With a child though, we were less able to capitalise on the urban culture and bar scene. We hankered after somewhere with more of a family focus, more space for the already escalating volume of our domestic clutter, and a garden of our own.
We quickly arrived at Portobello as our first choice location. After decades of decline, Edinburgh’s seaside was beginning to enjoy hints of a renaissance. It offered prospective house buyers like us the elegant legacy of its resort heyday – a healthy stock of Georgian and Victorian townhouses. As a place to bring up children, Portobello seemed to have it all: the beach and lots of green space but only a short hop to all the attractions and buzz of the city centre. We spent an idyllic summer scoping the area and over sea front beers in child compatible pub gardens we imagined a joy filled family future. And thus the seeds of our love affair with Porty were planted.
Financially unable to stretch to a family-sized house, we plumped for a conversion – the top half of a Victorian town house. There was an awkward layout which wasn’t at all suitable for family living. The flat had been the well loved home of a large family for 23 years and while it had been well cared for over the decades, the decor had remained firmly in the ’70s. But the potential was all there and the flat had some breath-catching selling points: the cavernous living room (into which our warehouse apartment in its entirety could almost have fitted) and a top floor balcony commanding views over the wide expanse of the Forth estuary and the rolling hills of the Kingdom of Fife beyond. We were smitten.
The day the three of us moved into the flat was one of my happiest. Our first proper family home seemed voluminous and so full of promise. We threw ourselves into the project of transforming it into our perfect family pad. The renovations were a full year in the planning and took 3 months to complete (during which we returned to a rented flat in Leith, quickly homesick for our new stomping ground). Juggling busy jobs, parenting and a large scale renovation was at times tough work. The result though probably surpassed our best imaginings.
Ironically, that summer of house hunting which had us so hooked us on beach living, was the last sunny one Portobello enjoyed for some considerable years. Having successfully procured the longed-for beachside location and a beautiful garden, we enjoyed no more than snatches of beach life and garden lazing for years to come. Happily, Porty won us over wholesale with its other charms – the remarkable community spirit that thrives here and the still growing arts and cafe culture which veers just to the right side of bohemian. We have not for a moment regretted making Porty our home. We spent seven very happy years in our first home by the sea, before our circumstances (and my hankering for a new project) brought us to the new place.