In the summer of 1971 that was a question often on the lips of the younger residents of The Stair, as well as kids from numbers 2,4 and 8 Oxgangs Avenue and also for others from Oxgangs Street.
In June, 1971, Paul Forbes, Iain Hoffmann and I visited a pawnbroker in the Grassmarket with the express purpose of buying a stopwatch. It cost me a fiver (£5). I had decided that my latest wheeze for the summer would be to organise athletics over the school holidays. Little did I know that it would attract over thirty kids as active participants. Today the relatively useless Active Schools Coordinators scheme pay officers £30k a year for doing less work with less success! Supplementing the stopwatch, was a measuring tape that I had managed to borrow from Bill Walker at Meadowbank Sports Centre and a little notebook and pen.
|Paul Forbes and Peter Hoffmann at Meadowbank Sports Centre asking Bill Walker for a wee loan of the measuring tape!|
|Some of the Oxgangs Mini Olympics competitors.|
Esther Blades; Iain Hoffmann; Ali Douglas; Ruth Blades
Alison Blades; Boo-Boo Hanlon; and Eileen Hogg
|Paul Forbes; Peter Hoffmann; and Iain Hoffmann 'jumping for joy!'|
|Triple Jump Venue Oxgangs Avenue|
To help make everyone feel involved a relatively short distance would be marked out. I knew everyone could make the distance-even those as young as say Esther Blades. Each participant would have three attempts at each set distance to be able to advance to the next round and distance. The distances would be incrementally increased, but only gradually-this meant that everyone was involved for a good length of time, because each person had to complete the challenge. For those who were younger it would take a big effort to progress; if you were older or quite athletic one might show off or fool around in the early rounds and it served as a good warm-up.
As the distance became more challenging everyone was very supportive encouraging their pals to make a big effort to try to reach the distance and progress to the next round-if a younger child made it, a big cheer went up-if one didn't make the mark, there was commiseration that you'd make it next time!
|Willie Taylor; Derek Ramage; Mark Robertson; John Duffy; and Stephen Westbrook|
Because everyone was so involved from the start, even once you were eliminated, everyone tended to stay on to see how the event progressed; to see who would eventually jump the furthest; and how far each person actually leaped. Also if you were knocked out you might become a judge or set the marker distances. And, although it was a competition, ultimately everyone, both won and lost-this was because you would usually get a personal best, but eventually we all failed at some stage to reach the marker.
Similarly, by running and timing each of the set distances, these were mainly done individually, so one was competing against one's self trying to improve one's personal best; if you were competitive, you could compare your times against your peers.
I kept the notebook for decades-I think it was stored in my grandmother's attic, until she died, when it became lost. It may still be amongst my own papers, but I don't think so. I was always tempted to take Will and Tom out to Oxgangs Avenue to see how they might compare to our generation's times. They would certainly have been game.
|Will Leading Tom, National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh |
(Peter Hoffmann, 2009)
|Will (1st) (Second right, black T shirt) age 16 finally beats The Old Man (3rd) |
Final Open 100 Yards Strathconon Highland Games 2010