|The Stair 6 Oxgangs Avenue|
Each family realised that they had to live together in the one building and by and large everyone was generally considerate, within certain parameters. I guess at a subconsciousness level Game Theory with its management of conflict and cooperation was being played out.
Any niggles were very small beer-the extent of which was that perhaps the worst sin committed was blocking the chute. If a family managed to block the chute there would be grumblings because it meant that waste and rubbish would build up in each flat-no joke if like the Blades at 6/6 there were as many as ten members of the family living in the household.
Noise was kept to a minimum, particularly in the evening. Any semi-fractious situations might be caused by children-me playing knock door run on Dougal Swanson's front door was counter productive and immature-Dougal gave such a great chase though, that I kept being drawn back to doing it-I can still experience the thrill!
Social relationships were generally kept at arms length between most of the adults-exchanging pleasantries as they passed one another inside The Stair or perhaps on a bus. Out-with the Duffys and the Hanlons (in later years) the adults tended not to socialise with one another. In the 1970s and beyond I think the Hanlons and the Duffys belonged to a social club where they went on a Saturday evening?
None of the men from The Stair went out for a pint together-The Good Companions pub wasn't The Rovers Return.
Certainly there were no such things as being invited round for dinner to experience the decade's standard fare of prawn cocktail; gammon and pineapple; and Black Forest gateaux!
As ever, the women of The Stair were more sociable than the men. That's common as a generality, but at The Stair there were also perhaps specific reasons for this, because the men were quite different.
Charlie Hanlon (6/7) and Eric Smith (6/5) were friendly-both were non-skilled workers; Mr Duffy was at one stage a salesman (?) before having to settle for more menial work; again he was friendly with Charlie Hanlon.
As mentioned Charles Blades had trained as a doctor before dropping out and as the son of Lord Blades was an oddity in The Stair so to an extent was a fish out of water-to me he always seemed remote and I don't recall ever speaking to him, but my mother, Anne Hoffmann spoke warmly of him.
George Hogg was the one skilled tradesman in The Stair but always seemed a very quiet man who was either working or at home-he's quite a phantom in my memory bank! Again, as mentioned, by nature of work as a policeman, but also by dint of personality and incline, Mr Stewart kept himself to himself as the saying goes.
Dougal Swanson was a real family man who spent most of his leisure time with his family and would never have considered going out for a pint-like Charles Blades, George Hogg and Mr Stewart, Dougal didn't socialise whatsoever. As a grocer's shop worker, albeit possibly the manager(?) he was at one level the same social class as many others, but he may have regarded himself as being of a different class and having little in common.
Ken Hoffmann was another oddity, who had next to nothing to do with the other men in The Stair. I suspect he wasn't popular at all-at that time, rather sadly, we kids didn't like him so I don't think anyone else could have thought differently. I see him back then as being serious and grumpy-amongst his peers, there was perhaps a grudging respect-he wasn't someone to mess with! And yet as a keen sportsman playing cricket and rugby he was clearly very sociable-indeed there were a few Saturday evenings when he turned up with the whole of the cricket team!
To an extent, like Charles Blades, if it hadn't been for his alcoholism, things would have worked out differently-he would have been a captain on a Ben Line ship and we would have lived in a middle class area in Edinburgh. Anne Hoffmann was different too, being the only woman who had gone into further education having been at Edinburgh University in the early 1950s. Women straddle different worlds better than men, so. although there might be Latin textbooks or stories of the Greek Tragedies on the bookshelves, being a young mother trumped everything, creating a shared sensibility amongst the women of The Stair.
The seasons and the weather had an influence-when the sun came out, then Helen Blades came out-there's a nice correlation there! Helen loved the sun and grabbed any opportunity to sun-bathe and get a little colour.
|Peter; Anne Junior; Anne; and Iain Hoffmann|
6/2 Oxgangs Avenue back garden suntrap
(circa summer, 1962)
Looking back, it was more of an arms length social relationship culture which evolved-it wasn't one of the oft spoken types, of borrowing some sugar or milk from one's neighbours, but neither was it one often spoken of in the 21st Century, where one didn't know one's neighbours. I think there was a nice balance there which was effective-I also think it was broadly similar to The Stairs at numbers 2, 4 and 8 Oxgangs Avenue and beyond.