We're big fans of the Tour de France-each summer my wife Alison and I settle back on the sofas and become immersed in it-Brad is Alison's favourite-I enjoyed watching Lance Armstrong's exploits and before him the five time winner, from Spain, Miguel Indurain.
Cycling was big at Oxgangs in the 1960s-today you would be lucky to spot a kid on a bike. Most of the bikes back then were built from scratch-there was a great trade going in bike frames which could be picked up for five bob-this trade was supplemented by trips up to Thomas Piper's cycle shop at Churchill at the top of Morningside Road, just along from the Churchill Theatre. The shop was a great place to visit-a real Aladdin's Cave -it had a distinctive smell from the rubber; it existed for decades and only closed in the past ten years or so. Even then the shop had passed on to new owners as Thomas Piper died in 1939. At the top end of the price range wheels and gimmicky items like speedometers, bottles and bottle-holders were occasionally purchased-more often it was inner tubes, puncture repair kits or spanners at the lower end of the scale.
|(photo by The Invisible Agent)|
I enjoyed sitting out in the back alleyway where the sheds were.
|Back Alley and Sheds-There were no stairs there in the 1960s (Photograph Peter Hoffmann 31/08/2012)|
|Entrance to 6/2 Back Garden (Peter Hoffmann 31/08/2012)|
It was a Zen like experience, focusing on working on the bike while being vaguely aware of the rain pitter-pattering down outside, whilst one kept dry inside-a lovely feeling. Because of the weather I'd usually be working alone as everyone else was inside in their homes-occasionally someone would pass by and pop their head in and exchange pleasantries.
Great fun was had playing in The Gully which lay between Oxgangs and the Braids; it was located to the south of nice houses at Pentland View and lay in a small shallow or valley. I guess it was a fore-runner to BMX riding with the circular paths with rises, declines and jumps.
|(photo by Thomas Lee)|
That I'm alive to write this blog is down to good luck; one afternoon after playing at The Gully I came home via Comiston Road on a made up bike which had no brakes. I was flying down the road when an Eastern Scottish bus was leaving a bus stop adjacent to Braid-Burn Valley. I was going so fast that I would have hit the back of the bus-I had to take evasive action by overtaking it. This was a struggle as the bus was gaining speed all the time-I peddled furiously just managing to overtake it to the astonishment of the passengers on the lower deck-however as I edged in front of the bus I had to take a sharp 90 degree left hander veering into Greenbank Crescent to go back home to Oxgangs-I knew it was going to be difficult to make it-I did manage to keep upright, but of course with the formidable speed I swung straight on to the other side of the road before mounting the pavement-very fortunately there was no oncoming traffic.
|(photo by Regentlad)|
For me however, the most extraordinary performance on a bike was Boo-Boo-a group of us used to go on long cycle adventures in the summer holidays including Les Ramage (4/3); Ali Douglas (8/3); and Iain-this one was to Dalkeith and home via Liberton Brae-we all had passable bikes-except for Boo-Boo who borrowed one of mine which had a puncture-Boo-Boo was so keen to go on the outing that he rode the whole way, there and back, with no air in one of the wheels-respect!
More on bikes in a future blog-including the famous Raleigh Chopper.