These were all mainly boys orientated, but the one game which was gender neutral and all the better for it was the games of rounders that both girls and boys participated in. Rounders were great fun and normally no team was in for too long which kept the interest going.
From around 1966 and onwards the annual bonfires that used to be held in the wee field directly out the back of The Stair were deemed by the Fire Brigade and Edinburgh Corporation as being far too close to us all-as it indeed was-certainly The Blades, The Hoggs and The Hoffmanns didn't need a fire on bonfire night such was the heat that emanated toward The Stair. At least The Swansons, The Stewarts and The Smiths were on the wrong-or should that be the right side of the bonfire. The Duffys and The Hanlons were a bit safer on the top landing.
Where the field really came alive however was when the snows of winter came. It was then that The Field truly came into its own. The ground may have been frozen hard as iron and to all extents dead, but it was alive with children and young people both girls and boys. What a sight it was to behold-a carpet of white adorned with well wrapped up stick like figures-some quite colourful, but more likely inside the dark blue nylon anoraks that many of us wore at that time-starkly contrasted against the landscape-black on white, the scenario was straight out of a Lowrie painting. And then when dusk came and the night fell and the street-lights on Oxgangs Road North slowly began to flicker on and the dancing headlamps of the cars and buses carrying the workers home, watchers by the threshold could catch happy flitting figures dancing across the white landscape of The Field.
Dozens of sledges of different sizes would come down the hill. The more adventurous ones had polished up the runners so that the sledge flew-others were much more apprehensive and went down with their feet hanging over either side. The more daring would aim to both extend the length of the run by skilfully manoeuvring through the gap in the fence and fly into the drying green-some were even full hardy enough to fly over the steps too coming down to rest adjacent our back garden at 6/2!
As mentioned on a profile of Douglas Blades the Blades family enjoyed using the big sledge that Mr George Hogg had built; and again as mentioned Norman Stewart had the classiest sledge in the district The Flying Dutchman.
Gavin and Heather had sledges but were quite conservative on the slope. The Ramage twins, Les and Derek from 4/3 had nice light sledges, I don't recall The Hanlons having sledges. The Hoffmanns didn't have sledges, although Iain may have used an old beer tray that Mr Ken Hoffmann possibly brought home from a pub-essentially we never owned a sledge so we became boarders instead-not always popular with many sledgers because we would await for a passing sledge and then try to run alongside and dive on board it-those individuals who were lying on their stomach on the sledge were particularly prone to being dived upon or sat upon. Of course we were not always successful and ended up missing the sledge or falling off or indeed bringing the owner off too-still great fun ending up rolling in the snow!
We'd play outside for hours until we became too cold, too wet or we were called in and then we'd head for home chittering as our mothers pulled off our wet clothes that had stuck to our backs and we'd hop around as we encouraged others to pull off our Wellington boots. The drying cupboard in the sitting room would be chock-full of clothes and our Wellington boots would be lined up like soldiers in front of the coal fire to dry out
Just before coming in we'd have made sure we'd taken part in one of the other fun rituals of playing at The Field-this was throwing snowballs at the slow moving vehicles going up the gauntlet of Oxgangs Road North-we mainly chose the buses as they were large slow moving targets-as many as a dozen of us would line up and at a given call an array of snowballs would be fired at the windows-it must have pissed the passengers off no end-it was like medieval warfare in the dark midwinter as many as twenty snowballs flew through the air and bombarded and thudded against the windows of the bus.
Once home and inside and later into the evening I would occasionally glance out from our living room window and look out to The Field-it had become quieter-numbers had dwindled as children made their weary way home, until there might be only a solitary figure left, sledging down-hill-of a sudden the last sledge run would take place and The Field became eerily silent.