'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, 1 December 2012

Winter is Coming - The First Of December and The Onset Of Winter

One of James Taylor's most lovely songs, Sweet Baby James, includes the lines Now The First of December was covered in snow. And so was the Turnpike from Stockbridge to Boston. 

Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, Norman Rockwell

Before the boys were born and my wife 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 small town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts which featured so memorably in James' song.

At The Stair, as we moved into the late Fall - autumn - and the ever shorter light days of November were ticked off the calendar and with winter now fast approaching on the first of December it was time to look out the hot water bottles from the depths of the cupboards.

It wasn't that we had turned our noses up at electric blankets - no - it was just that in the early 1960s they were as scarce as hens' teeth in Oxgangs.

Whereas in direct contrast, you could just imagine that come the frosty mornings and nights of winter, our Greenbank neighbours were sleeping more comfortably under a fug of electric blankets, whilst the adjacent population at Oxgangs trooped off to bed chittering as they carried their hot water bottles through to cold bedrooms.

Greenbank Cottage in the snow.

If you were smart and remembered, in the immediate period leading up to bed-time you would pay a few quick visits to the bedroom to move the bottle around the bed to help take the winter chill off the sheets and spread the heat around, before diving in after brushing your teeth.

But more normally it was a case of slipping into a cold  bed with one lovely warm toasty spot where the hot bottle lay.

Indeed the hot water bottle was usually so hot you would have to carefully move it around touching it gingerly every so often with your toes.

For many years we had old stone hot water bottles which I think we inherited from grandparents; they probably sell for a small 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?

So, filling up hot water bottles was an evening ritual in Oxgangs throughout the long, dark months from December through to early March and the onset of spring. And it was also the signal that very shortly we three young children would have to reluctantly head off to our beds - my father would twirl his hand around, before pointing toward the bedroom whilst doing a Roger Whitaker-like whistle saying Okay, time to get the hot water bottles made up!

Rather like transporting the hot water from the stand alone gas boiler in the kitchen to fill the bath, similarly filling up hot water bottles was a potentially dangerous thing to do - indeed even if we've had to fill up a hot water bottle today I'm reluctant to allow our sons in their early 20's to do so, but back then we seemed to manage fine over the years with no mishaps.

I'm sure having a hot water bottle in our beds was far healthier than an electric blanket although I wonder what that old-young sage Oor Wullie would say - I'm sure such stories must have featured in The Fun Section over the decades.

Today, I like to kid on how stoical I am by voluntarily sleeping without any such comfort keeping the window open throughout the winter - at least until more recently since hitting my early 60's. I guess we all find ourselves repeating many of the things our older relatives said - you really do feel the cold more as you get older; indeed as soon as I finished today's running session the long sleeved tops, buffs and woolly hat were straight on.

And so, Winter is Coming.

But in contrast to the stark image above, over the decades we've bought wee serendipites from such trips to Stockbridge to lighten the dark and decorate our cheerful Christmas tree, so the small wooden church we purchased 30 years ago will soon be making its annual appearance.

But no hot water bottles or electric blanket thus far...but my wife returns from Oz this Friday, so who knows...

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