'And finally, not everyone’s being doing topical. In fact, here’s the rather lovely 6 Oxgangs Avenue devoted to the history of the development of the area, this week highlighting how the block of flats came into being. Could have been prompted by Who do you think you are? Or just a timely reminder that not everything worth blogging about is in the here and now.'

Kate Higgins, Scottish Roundup 26/08/2012

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Liz ('Bivi') Blades

Liz Blades, sometimes known as Bivi, must have been around four years older than me. She was tall, very slim, elegant, good natured and great fun-she always seemed to have a smile on her face. As with Fiona I tended to look up to her-she was bright- the kids from around Edinburgh who ended up being selected to go to Boroughmuir Secondary School tended to be and to borrow Dame Muriel Spark's immortal words, 'la creme de la creme'.

Jackie magazine.
Looking back, she was better versed than me in what was happening in the wider world-she was more worldly-wise whether it was working at Bairds Newsagents and knowing Pamela Baird better or folding the newspapers more slickly and quickly in the back shop; similarly her knowledge and taste in pop music; the world of American pen-friends; Jackie or Gold Key Classic Illustrated Comics or the Bible. Although she was quite active, she must have been a bit of a philosopher too, because even into advanced teenage years, I think she continued to suck her thumb! I recall coming across her deep in thought, sitting on the front steps of The Stair, with her thumb in her mouth-Liz are you out there and do you still suck your thumb?!

One of many comics passed down to me by the Blades'.
Apart from when Douglas Blades was wheeling us at great speed in a pram around the four blocks while we sat terrified under an old cover, it was probably through long walks with Helen Blades to the Army Polo Fields; through church events organised by Charlotte Chapel or Oxgangs Baptist Churches-barbecues at Gullane Beach that we might sometimes play together; also the school summer holidays were another occasion.
Poster based on a painting by Tom Curr.

I recall Liz, Fiona and me crossing the whole of Edinburgh by bus(es) the seven miles from the hills to the sea, to the Art Deco Portobello Open Air Pool (sadly demolished-imagine having such a cultural asset as a lido today)-what a beautiful white building that was with its straight lines and sharp angles.

Photograph by Lily and Thomas McGurk.

Photo by Danny Callaghan.
After enjoying playing in the pool, balancing on the raft and the high dives and then possibly spending our bus fares at the fun-fair we made our weary way a mile distant to Durham Road, to be refreshed; we turned up unannounced on my grandparents' doorstep starving.

Nana and Gaga as they were affectionately known by the three grandchildren were never daunted when I arrived with a group of pals. A grand tea and spread was always rattled up from nothing-usually a small plate (yes-the famous Buchan Pottery) of bacon, egg and fried potatoes followed by scones and home made strawberry jam and a plate of buns.

The table at 45 Durham Road-a typical spread. (Photo by Heather Robertson)

Whilst Liz and Fiona behaved immaculately in my grandparents' presence there was a streak of mischief to them too-I recall while visiting the loo and casually looking up to the upper window to see them balancing precariously on the windowsill, laughing and giggling away, whilst looking in at me having a pee-I almost wet myself!

To top off the day we were then chauffeur driven home in my grandfather's big grey Ford Zephyr-back home we'd sleep well before the Big Ben repeater alarm bells sounded early the following morning-the bells calling us to papers rather than to church-aye we had to pay for such innocent pleasures.


paul forbes said...

D'you remember selling the chip's out the kitchen window when you'r mum was at work,haha

Peter Hoffmann said...

Thanks Paul-the editorial team(!) discussed this one at Costa, Stockbridge last Saturday-will be included at a future date under Being Entrepreneurial Series-first one likely to be Douglas Blades Milk Delivery Business-I think we all received our P45s from that one!

Unknown said...

I have to say Peter this blog is fair making me chuckle and my colleagues in the office, I also remember the wonderful Portobello Lido and the hourly wave machine.
Just wonder when 6 Oxgangs Avenue the movie will be coming out?

Elizabeth said...

Peter, i heard about your site from Fions and note that your own story has not yet been told. Of the attempt to drown the family kitten by flushing it down the toilet. The poor beast took off at a rapid pace never to be seen again in Oxgangs.
Another epic moment was your mother chasing the 'rag' van to retrieve your best Sunday coat, which you had exchanged for a balloon.
A touching moment I recall vividly: one early morning, running to catch the '16' bus for papers at 'Bairds', oh no I had forgotten the change for my bus fare. You did not hesitate and gave me yours. It meant you had to wait for the next bus. Such kindness was rare in my environment :)
As for the thumb sucking, well, thanks for mentioning that, not! You may have witnessed the last of such episodes. But bear in mind that a sensitive child needed such comforts living in the midst of a war zone (feuding parents).
Interesting post script on the thumb sucking however, all three of my children sucked their thumbs, even my son, much to his fathers horror. What can I tell you, strong genes. Wonder which parent's lineage that stems from?
You see, your blog extends to Melbourne, Australia now.

Peter Hoffmann said...

Wonderful to hear from you! I must confess that I used the thumb anecdote as bait to draw you out-I thought it had failed-now I feel (slightly) guilty! You've an excellent memory about the coat-clearly I did not learn a lesson because I also gave the rag and bone man a leather jacket that he had brought back for me from New York-once again in exchange for a balloon, although it was a blue one this time-clearly I was not the sharpest tool in the shed! When I do get around to myself-I have a vague notion to make that the final blog-it will be an interesting piece of self analysis. Without becoming too philosophical it has become an interesting exercise or journey because I want to be truthful whatever the truth is, but sensitive as well-already I feel I'm failing on both accounts! I am also conscious that everything thus far is through the prism of PH-you can get too much of a good thing! I believe I can bring in guest editors? I can empathise on the household being an unhappy place at times, which it very much was-perhaps where it was different to 6/6 was that it was less of a battle of equals-also we got some space when Ken Hoffmann disappeared to sea for long periods of time; however when he was home it tended to be me who was on the end of it-anyway you'll have to keep reading for that one! Melbourne is wonderful-we took a five week holiday there before Will moved to secondary school and spent the last week there taking in the Australian Open each day-on the first morning when I ventured out for an early morning run I thought I'd be on me tod-I quickly had to change to a clockwise direction around the Botanical Gardens otherwise I'd have been trampled by the hoards of joggers and runners-not to mention cyclists and rowers on the Yarra. Nice place Melbourne!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks for sharing Peter, and here was I thinking it was the 'tall, slim, elegant' flattery that was the hook :}
Thinking about your story, it looks as if you are telling it in bits and pieces through your anecdotes.I do like that you were a trier with the rag-man. He must have thought all his christmases had come at once with the quality gear you brought! All the same his quick getaways were not quick enough for your mother who was right behind. Perhaps the balloon was a bit of a give away :0
Nice place Melbourne indeed and you would still be trampled by joggers. Our beautiful city parks are well used. Not sure if you recall how much I enjoyed cycling and still do. I work in the city and still regularly commute by bike.
Before coming here I lived in Perth, Western Australia for over 20 years and raised the family there. Another beautiful city.