'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, 29 December 2012

School Summer Holidays

Many books which recall childhood and youth remember the school holidays as a time filled with sunshine-literally and metaphorically-I'm no different. It was always a delicious moment awakening on the first few days knowing that I didn't need to attend school.

For many of us at The Stair-those of us in our teens it didn't mean a long lie in bed as we would always have a job on the go, either delivering milk or newspapers-usually the latter. However, out-with our paper runs and Sundays when we visited our grandparents at Portobello, there was no structure to each day. Games of football would occur spontaneously, but mainly in the early evening. During the day we’d go jumping the burn, following the burn from the lower part of Redford, through Colinton Mains, Firhill and on to Braid Burn Valley.

Small villages would appear at the back field when the girls draped blankets on the fence to form tents. Sometimes families packed a picnic and some blankets and headed to Braid Burn Valley for an outing. We’d go far into the Valley toward the grass steps-an outing wasn't an outing without the children rolling over and over down steps from the top to the bottom. The picnic wouldn't include anything more than a sandwich.

As we got a little older there were other adventures to be sought out-Happy Valley at Craiglockhart; the Craiglockhart Hills and the Pentland Hills too. Once deep into the Pentlands apart from the occasional plane overhead, we had entered a different kingdom-it was a world where the air was fresh, light zephyrs blew through the long grass-sheep grazed in parts-birds flitted through the air-Stevenson wrote of the whoop of the curlews and they continue there to this day. On a visit to Swanston last autumn I ventured there for old times' sake and watched them float on the breeze.

The Craiglockhart Hills are a delightful small set of hills just a fifteen minute walk from Oxgangs across the Colinton Mains Park sports fields and the burn. As with the Pentlands we only visited these hills during the summer months-although in later decades Alison and I used to visit the Merchants Golf Course when the winter snows were there-indeed she was the most exuberant sledger there when around seven months pregnant with Atticus much to her sister's and my concern!

And as with the Pentlands I always felt a certain sense of apprehension and excitement when I ventured to The Craigies, because they always felt both familiar and unfamiliar-this was because we would only visit them once or twice each summer. Part of the excitement of the Craiglockhart Hills was that we (always visited as a group) might bump into other older, bigger boys who could be menacing and second the grounds men who looked after the Merchants Golf Course who often spotted us when they were out on their tractors. They would chase us away-this gave us a real frisson of excitement. On the blind par three third hole we'd sprint on to the green, place a golfer's ball in the cup as if they'd achieved a hole in one and then hide in the woods. The golfer would search all around for his golf ball before taking a desultory glance in the cup followed by a merry jig!

Another memory was the hypnotic effect I felt whilst standing high up on the top of one of the hills, quite close to the edge, and looking down at the long grass on the valley floor which was gently swaying in the wind-I thought how easy it might be to be drawn over the edge such was the effect.

It was great fun being up on the Craiglockhart Hills because it would have been a sunny day which had attracted us up there-and sitting up high, on the dry ground, with the grass gently swaying and the sun beating down, looking over 360 degree views enabled us to take in the panoramic view and enjoy everything that is wonderful about the city. The whole of Edinburgh was laid out before us and being a clear day we could see clear across the River Forth and to the north and the Highlands; turning around we could look to the Pentland Hills and to the south.

As a boy I was getting my bearings, locating and fixing the world-it was a moment of meditation and contemplation.


Unknown said...

I always remember the summer holidays being sunny and warm although I am sure that cannot be true it's obviously the rose tinted glasses. Like you I remember disappearing for ther day with your parents having no Ida where you were or how to get hold of you and we would lays reappear at tea time

Unknown said...

I remember the "hole in one " at Craig lo chart hill. Also remember sledding there. The "Devil's elbow" right behind the chapel in the convent.