'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

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Easter and The Half Hearted

Between the years 1958 to 1972 on Easter Sunday I loved to hear the St John's Church bell ring out to the parish of Oxgangs to celebrate Easter Sunday.

In the Hoffmann household Easter was always a very special time at 6/2 Oxgangs Avenue.

Back in the late 1960s/early 70s Anne, Iain and I would have joined the Blades (6/6) on some Easter Sundays at the former Oxgangs Evangelical Church. Paul Forbes and I also attended Charlotte Chapel too, probably through the influence of Fifi and Liz Blades. And when we were very young children we were taken along by the old boy to Belford Church too.

And yet despite all this we weren't religious at all; certainly not in the true sense. It was something which we did; I guess we were just stumbling along on life's journey. In a half-hearted way - without any formal analysis; and like many other young people, we were finding our path in life.

However, I enjoyed going along to the churches.

I liked the occasion.

I liked seeing people dressed in their Sunday best.

I liked seeing families together.

I liked the sense of fellowship.

I liked seeing the minister interact and embrace members of the congregation.

I liked seeing older spinsters or widows feel part of a larger family.

I liked being part of a group or an extended family.

I enjoyed the service - the mix of biblical stories; sermons; and many of the values promulgated. I liked the sense of occasion and the mix of formality; history; tradition; and warmth too. I found myself, even as a young and occasionally rebellious teenager finding and enjoying these moments of quiet reflection during the service.

And yet I was never religious. I was never a believer. When the charismatic Rev Derek Prime invited the equally charismatic Arthur Blessit to preach at Charlotte Chapel hypnotising half the congregation, I was most concerned about Paul Forbes joining many others 'to come on down if you've felt the spirit!'

Despite never being well off as a family, Anne, Iain and I were very well looked after at Easter by our mother and our grandparents.

Each year, on Good Friday we received an attractive little mug with a cartoon figure on it; sitting on top was a simple milk chocolate egg. These were inexpensive items yet we set great store by them. Yes we quickly broke up the egg into pieces and enjoyed eating it; but the mug was special, because that was our cup for the rest of the year, from which we enjoyed our morning and evening 'cuppa' of tea, with milk and two sugars.

On the Saturday we were very lucky, because every year, our grandfather Gaga brought each of us a large brand name egg e.g. a Cadbury's Milk Tray chocolate egg with individual chocolates arrayed along the bottom. We knew how lucky we were with this, because outwith Norman Stewart (6/3) who always outclassed us all we did relatively well compared to our pals at The Stair.

On Easter Sunday itself we would be collected by our grandfather and driven down to Durham Road, Portobello; I loved the route and in particular seeing the women and gentlemen dressed up in their lovely coats and hats walking happily to church services at Greenbank; Morningside; the Grange; and Duddingston Village. Usually we would hear the lovely sound of the peal of the church bells ringing out and calling the followers to worship.

Easter Sunday, perhaps appropriately, was a simpler affair.

Our artist-grandmother had made three hard-boiled eggs for each of us which she had painted very attractively. We would go out into the warm sunshine in the back garden and roll the eggs until the shells eventually broke. I'm unsure whether we realised the significance of this - but I'm sure we will have been told.

In the decades after I left childhood at Oxgangs I've always found Easter a special time of the year.

I've occasionally written poems about it or had the oddest dream, once combining the two involving Arthurs Seat.

Easter Away

‘…Like a magnet, drawing me in
Wanting to whisper something to me
I’d like to listen. But can’t
Easter’s a strange time. And the world is whizzing
And to stop. And maybe find out
That you were only a dream.’

In later years when we married we enjoyed Easter with the extended family up at the farm in the Highlands.

And over the past eighteen years or so the fun and competition of the 'famous' Easter Egg Hunt with 'Atticus' and 'd'Artagnan' and cousins and friends. This year, 'd'Artagnan' is competing at the Birmingham International Open but Unc (Iain Hoffmann) and I have been in strict training to outfox Diane and 'Atticus' in today's egg-hunt - Unc' has his walking stick at the ready, so watch out Atticus for dastardly tactics!

And although we can't enjoy the peal of the St John's Church bell ring out today have a lovely and 'Happy Easter' wherever you are; and if you get a moment to pause for a moment of reflection, enjoy that too.

ps 'The Half Hearted' is a very early, but enjoyable novel by John Buchan - well worth a read.

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