'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

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Figures On The Edge No 1-Gail Blades

As I move toward wrapping up the blog some individuals have featured more prominently than others. That's not necessarily because I've spent more time with them and certainly not because I've preferred some of the children to others. Amongst those who have only occasionally flitted in and out of the story are Gail and Esther Blades; Michael Hanlon; and James Duffy. I also want to make mention of a few others at neighbouring Stairs-The Sibbalds; The Douglases and a few others. As I mentioned in an earlier blog I was never close or friends with the Duffy girls, but neither was I unfriendly toward them either; indeed I liked everyone in The Stair, but as is the nature of day to day life in a tight knit community of eight families-sixteen adults and twenty five children there were ups and downs.

I liked Gail. I always found her to be very friendly. She was pretty. I think she showed an interest in the arts-was she musical and played a little piano? Did she also go along to the Patricia Brown Dance and Ballet School? She had a certain sensibility-she would praise the likes of Mrs Anne Hoffmann if she was going out on a Friday evening-Oh I doooo like your dress Mrs Hoffmann. Some others may have found this charm offensive off-putting, but I rather admired her style! I think she was the last of The Blades children who went to Boroughmuir Secondary School so she was clearly a bright girl.

At one stage I must have been quite close to her, because for a while we did papers together. After Douglas Blades left Bairds' Newsagents I inherited the City Hospital paper run. This was different from any any other run in the shop because one sold the newspapers rather than just delivering them. I can also recall selling cigarettes, tobacco and sweets, but that may have been more associated with the afternoon run when I delivered and sold the Edinburgh Evening News.

My primary memory of Gail at this time was that I had to cycle on Douglas Blades' bike up to the City Hospital with a very large pile of newspapers on the back of the bike-the bundle of papers must have been well over two feet high-well that was hard enough cycling up Morningside Drive and then the short but steep St Clair's Terrace, but bugger me I also had to give Gail a backie too. I was hardly Lance dancing on the pedals-I could manage Morningside Drive and at the end the slow climb up Greenbank Drive, but could never overcome St Clair Terrace-Ahem, excuse me Gail, but you wouldnae mind getting off the bike the noo wid you-ye've maybe no noticed but it's groond tae a halt and we're in danger o' toppling over! 

At the City Hospital we then loaded the papers on to hospital trolleys and did the wards separately. It was clearly a different era then-much more lax, but I found some of the experiences really quite unsettling-there were some bonny sights-I'll spare the detail. I did reflect however whether it was appropriate to be wandering about.

Once we were finished we met up again and it was great cycling back to The Stair-first because we were free and work was over for the time being and second because it was mainly downhill and on the flat-even with Gail on the back I had no trouble driving down on the pedals and sailing up Oxgangs Place. I'm not sure if Gail would have wanted me to carry her all the way up the stairs to 6/6...only joking Gail! Looking back I perhaps should have got into cycling!

The afternoon run was different and more enjoyable. The hospital was busier-it wasn't dark-the sun shone through the windows-visitors might be in-there was a friendlier more hopeful atmosphere and there were no untoward sightings! For the whole of the summer holidays of 1971 I did this job and perhaps beyond; I note from the 1971 Journal that Ali Douglas often came along to keep me company which made it more fun. From that journal I note the arrangement with Pamela Baird was to sell all the newspapers-sometimes I record this as being easy, sometimes it took ages.Pamela was always pleased for a sell out and I was always anxious to please. I must have been dedicated to her cause-I note that one Sunday I'd cycled out from Portobello at 6.30 am in the morning to sell the papers before cycling back down to my grandparents.

As with each and every one of us at The Stair we flitted in and out of one another's lives, depending on the time of day or the season of the year. On a cursory look through diaries there are only occasional references to Gail-Wednesday, 6 October, 1971 she was absent from school as was I; and on the following day ...Iain, Anne, Fiona, Gail, Ruth, Esther and me all out talking..The Stair was what kept us all together and facilitated these natural and easy going friendships-and as each of us left The Stair most of us went our own way, only occasionally or by accident meeting up in the decades since. I probably haven't seen Gail since 1978.

I was reflecting on the upcoming end of the blog and how it might be used in a positive way. I'm in Edinburgh every few months in an average year-there's a host of well reviewed coffee and cake shops I want to visit-I thought-why not develop a cake trail-put out a general invite to former residents at The Stair and others who have featured saying, At Mimi's; (or Love Crumbs; Tea at 94; Cafe Blush; Patisserie Jacob; Falko's, etc.) on Saturday morning at 10.30 am and see who turns up! I know that after Fiona Blades; the two former Anne Hoffmanns and I met up, Paul Forbes said let him know the next time we're meeting up because he wants to come along too. Iain Hoffmann would be up for it, no doubt.

Who knows, it would be lovely to see Gail and others again!

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