Gina Davidson: Progress robs me of my past

Burdiehouse Primary. Picture: Dan Phillips
Burdiehouse Primary. Picture: Dan Phillips
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WITHOUT a doubt it’s true that as you get older – and in ­particular if you are a mother or father –you slowly morph into your parents.

Phrases and attitudes you once dismissed return to haunt you as you hear them escaping from your own lips. You take your kids up hills with fabulous views of Edinburgh and tell them to “look at that” while they stare fixedly at their iPhones, or haul them round the institutions and places you frequented as a child with a sense of urgency.

I remember my father driving round the streets in Muirhouse searching for a particular stretch of pavement where he’d once carved his initials. We never found it.

He would often drive past his old schools – James Gillespie’s Primary on Marchmont Road and Boroughmuir High in Viewforth – and tell the same stories to the wild rolling of bored eyes from my brother and I in the back of our Fiat Montefiori (we knew how to travel in style).

But he didn’t care about our lack of enthusiasm. Neither did my mum. While her primary school had long gone because it was decided that corrugated iron huts were not conducive to good eduation, her secondary school, Jimmy Clark’s was still standing proud overlooking Arthur’s Seat.

But I understand it now. As a mother of three I wistfully want my children to know where I came from, what my schools were like, that it cost 12p to travel from Burdiehouse to Tollcross for orchestra rehearsals, and that I was expected to get two buses to travel to Meadowbank for track training. You can imagine their excitement at such revelations.

But my options for dragging them around are shrinking. My primary, Burdiehouse, is already gone. I knew it had closed, but it was a shock to discover it had been demolished.

Set in a hollow of land between a housing scheme and the Burdiehouse Burn, it was a large, bright building with huge playgrounds where school sports days and fetes were held.

Now it’s nothing. A scar on the landscape. Like it never existed. As if the hours spent in the assembly hall for school Christmas shows or gym classes where I attempted, and ­mostly failed, to climb bars and ropes and jump over horses, didn’t happen.

The music practice rooms where I learned the euphonium, the P1 ­corridor where the classrooms looked out over a lovely lawn through large French doors, the upstairs classrooms populated by the incredibly daunting P6s and P7s, the stone staircase to the headteacher’s room, the secretary’s office where you took your lunch money... all had gone. I very nearly cried.

And this weekend my secondary school is holding tours before it is demolished. At least this time a new school will be on the same site, even if the plans look nowhere near as lovely as the current Gillespie’s High campus.

The rooms where I learned Austen and Shakespeare, the science lab where I discovered why you should never pick up a tripod that’s just been stood over a Bunsen burner, the kitchen where I made apple snow, the hall where I watched my friends perform on stage, the clocktower under which I was kissed... it will soon all be gone. My husband has already been through this, both his schools were replaced some years ago, and of course if they are no longer fit for purpose then schools should be replaced. But it seems wrong somehow that my father can still reminisce about his school days while standing beside them, while neither of us can.

Progress eh? Still, the kids will be delighted.

Rich pickings

WINE swigging rich women from Merchiston are among the “heaviest drinkers” in the UK according to new research. I’m not sure they’ll take kindly to that description given how much they pay their personal trainers.

Liddell deserves the top spot

ERIC Liddell took the top spot in our Edinburgh’s Greatest 100 people list. Quite right too.

I had the pleasure of meeting his eldest daughter Patricia Russell last year when she was visiting the Eric Liddell Centre in Morningside, and she is delighted that her father is still so well remembered and loved.

Not that he would want a fuss though, she says. Perhaps not, but a commemorative gold postbox might be just the thing.

Flash the cash and council rolls over

I HAVE never taken my children to Leith Waterworld because geographically it’s easier to take them to Livingston.

But I was pleased when it appeared that after Edinburgh Leisure decided to close it, the council listened to the people who did use it regularly and backed Splashback, a community bid to re-open and run the place. It seemed that this whole “co-operative council” idea was being put into action.

But five months is a long time in politics. Last week the council agreed to sell it off to a softplay chain. That is a smack in the face to the campaigners and the wider Edinburgh community.

Politicians talk about trying to defeat public cynicism about their role in society. Yet flash a little cash their way and they roll over. Edinburgh is not short of softplay facilities. But now it won’t have a fun pool.

Instead parents will take their kids to other local authorities’ facilities and give them a financial boost. They’ll welcome it I’m sure.

Recycling target still out of reach

IT seems that despite all the trouble with bins, recycling rates in Edinburgh are at their highest, with the proportion of waste recycled up by five per cent on last year to 38 per cent of the total binned.

Still, it will take a massive improvement to make that 50 per cent by next year which is the council’s target. A more efficient collection service could help.