|Mr Andrew Baird, the son of the founder of Baird's Newsagent|
(Photograph courtesy of Louise Baird)
Once inside the shop you were out of the cold, the wet and the dark. For half an hour it was quite Dickensian - like a small factory through the back of the shop where we folded the newspapers on the worktop in preparation for Pamela Baird arriving later to make up the paper runs.
Being Morningside most of the newspapers were broadsheets. Liz and Fiona were like robots - the speed at which they folded the papers was uncanny - they were like lightning. I could never keep up with them. When they weren't about I enjoyed appearing fast to the novices. When we had finished, our hands were dark and dirty from the ink.
She came from a different class to us; Fiona and I would give one another knowing smiles and glances when Pamela answered the telephone and put on a posh accent for the benefit of her customers - there would be exaggerated pauses as she said 'Mmmh, yaass....mmmh yaass...mmmh yass'.
I liked working for Baird's, however, the thing which brassed me off slightly was that although we arrived at the shop half an hour earlier than the children from Morningside Pamela would make up their runs first - I always felt this was class discrimination; I assumed they were the children of friends and neighbours and who attended more local schools such as George Watsons School. However, Fiona was smart as a whip and actually memorised her run so she didn't have to hang around.
I did the Morningside Drive run which was one of the biggest runs at the shop - I had to collect a second bundle of papers from Pamela's brother, Stuart, who dropped it off on the garden wall at St Clair Terrace from his little Triumph Herald car; what was even more irritating was that he was always late!
Although this was effectively a double paper round, Baird's paid well at a pound a week it was double the going rate and our bus fares were paid for too. We also felt a certain ownership too - despite the size, length and time taken I regarded the Morningside Drive run as mine, (until I took over the City Hospital from Douglas Blades) and took a certain pride in ensuring the post got through no matter the obstacles. Was it Tuesdays or Fridays that were the worst because the Daily Telegraph had a magazine insert in it which considerably added to already heavy bags.
Saturday bags were also heavier, with a weekend magazine, but somehow, Saturdays were never a struggle.
Once you had set out from the warmth and company of the shop we cut lonely, solitary figures - the winter mornings were dark and often quite bitter - Morningside Drive was quiet; the graveyard was on the opposite side of the road for a stretch - lovely mansion and town houses by day were surprisingly spooky and shadowy in the dark, especially when the wind blew through the swaying, leafless branches of the big old trees that lined Morningside Drive.
Looking back it was certainly character building - athletics training in such conditions in later years I took in my stride, probably because I had been steeled and inured in those earlier years working for Baird's. And whilst I do see a certain value in the overall experience, it was not conducive to performing well at school and reaching one's potential - when d'Artangnan asked me a few years ago if he could do an early morning paper run I admired his chutzpah and work ethic, but I said no, because I wanted him to get as much sleep as possible to grow and to be fresh for school; and today I guess we're more aware of the health & safety dimension too.
More in later blogs on life at Baird's and observations and reflections - under The Light where I also want to mention a poem Happiness by Raymond Carver.