One of James Taylor's most lovely songs, Sweet Baby James, includes the line Now The First of December was covered in snow. And so was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. Before the boys were born and Alison was a high flyer, she flew up from a business week in New York to join me in Boston in the Fall. A small highlight was our visit to the famous Stockbridge, which featured so memorably in the song.
As members of The Stair moved into the late autumn and the late days of November, and with winter fast approaching on the first of December, it was time to look out the hot water bottles from the depths of the cupboards. Not that we had turned our noses up at electric blankets-instead these were as scarce as hens' teeth in Oxgangs.
One could imagine that come the frosty mornings and nights of winter, that Greenbank slept comfortably under a fug of electric blankets, whilst the adjacent population at Oxgangs all trooped off to bed chittering, carrying their hot water bottles.
If one were smart, then in the immediate period leading up to bed-time you would have paid a few visits to the bedroom and moved the bottle around the bed to take the winter chill off the sheets. Normally, however, it was a case of slipping into a cold bed, with one lovely hot spot where the hot bottle lay. The hot water bottle was usually toasting and one would have to carefully move it around touching it every so often with one's toes.
For many years we had old stone hot water bottles which I think we inherited from grandparents; they probably sell for a fortune today. However, gradually, rubber hot water bottles began to appear in the household; they always gave off a distinct smell-was it the chemical reaction of the hot water against the rubber?
Filling up hot water bottles was an evening ritual throughout the long, dark months from December through to early March and the onset of spring. And, it was the signal that very shortly we children would have to head off reluctantly to our beds- Okay, time to get the hot water bottles made up!
Rather like transporting the hot water from the boiler to the bath, filling up hot water bottles was a potentially dangerous thing to do-even if we've had to fill up a hot water bottle today, I'm reluctant to allow my late-teenage sons to do it, but back then we seemed to manage over the years with no mishaps.
I'm sure having a hot water bottle in our beds was far healthier than an electric blanket-I wonder what Oor Wullie would say-I'm sure such quandaries must have featured in The Fun Section over the decades and I would always bow to Wullie's superior wisdom!
Today, I like to kid on how stoical I am by sleeping without any such comfort and the window open throughout the winter.
'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