Towards Better Democracy

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The Perambulatory Period II

It is really hard trying to reconstruct the period between Rothesay Terrace and Merchiston Avenue.

After the two or three weeks in the children’s home, we stayed in a flat somewhere around Buckingham Terrace off Queensferry Road. We all transferred from the Dean School to Flora Stevenson, where we were put back a year. I do not recall the school I went to between that and Bruntsfield which is where I went went we moved to 68 Merchiston Avenue.

We stayed in a hotel towards the east end of the inner city but I cannot find it when I go in Google Streetview. It is frustrating. I can visualize it clearly but cannot place it on the map.

I have memory shots of the vicinity of this unknown school. I was surely at the school for the briefest period. It was obviously an unsetting time in a child’s life. Yet I remember the hotel with great fondness. It was extremely comfortable. Oh, and Archie’s house, where the hell was that. The sequence is jumbled.

Ah well, leave it for now.One can only try so hard.

I do not recall the flat in Buckingham Terrace but I do recall the hotel. I suppose it would more accurately be referred to as a boarding house. It lay in a quiet cresent (so many, many streets in Edinburgh are Crescents) and curved its back to the South which is why it is so difficult to locate. The hotel was three quarters way up the uptown side of the crescent and looked out on to a park. The park was open, which is to say, it had neither hedges nor fences and sloped down towards the North. Towards the Firth of Forth. It was heavily treed with conker tree, ie chestnuts. In fact it was full of them. Otherwise it was grassed with little in the way of flower beds. We often played in that park.

As I say the Hotel was notable for its comfort. I remember the woman who ran it though not, for now at least her name. Its bathroom was notable for having fluorescent light strips alongside them. The rooms we occupied were bedrooms each with their individual beds. Did we each have a room. That seems unlikely. I recall on one occasion my mother bathing me. She scrubbed my back carefully and carefully trimmed my toenails. I mean this is notable because, at seven or eight I was surely capable of bathing myself. Perhaps it was a treat. To make up for some misdemeanours on my mother’s part. She was always making up for misdemeanours. By this I mean, she was always making up for promises made and broken. She seemed to perpetually be in the habit of that.

I can recall Flora Stevenson, the school itself and some of the children who attended with me. But the other school is so difficult because the children there were hostile to us. It lay towards Stockbridge. This area borders Leith and Granton and are, shall I say, more working class or lower middle class areas. We occupied a class above that and I have no doubt that we had airs that plainer children did not care for.

At the children’s home I was treated with a great deal of kindness. The nurses treated me a little differently from my brothers in that I was the eldest and I was allowed to stay up beyond the normal bedtime. I guess I was allowed in what I think of as the nurses quarters. They weren’t nurses, I know that, but I did not have other vocabulary to describe them. Their kindnesses were many. On one occasion I recall being allowed to listen to Dan Dare on the BBC Radio. Dan Dare was a science fiction character from a boys comic called the Eagle. The Eagle, to my knowledge had no American equivalent. To call it a comic is to convey the wrong impression as to what it was. You might more accurately describe it as a boy’s magazine with comic strips.

Dan Dare was the central character, a space pilot with his own spaceship the Anastasia. His buddy was Digby who was a sort of jack of all trades. Digby could get them out of any scrape, whatever it was. Digby had a pet. A thing that looked like a zebra striped dog. It followed him everywhere. I suppose the creature had its own quarters aboard the spacecraft though I never thought of it. The great opponents of the Earthlings, Dan Dare, et all, were the Venusian led by the master monster, the Mekon. The Mekon has been the epitome of evil for all of my life. He looked it in every way. Venusian proper were tall green people of human height and physique. The Mekon had the emaciated body of a small child, like something out of Bangladesh. His head though was of the normal size of regular Venusians. He floated upon a sort of craft that looked like an oversized walnut half. It hovered above the ground at about eight feet. An evil looking individual. Perhaps this is the best way to portray depots, at least for boys.

Malcolm D B Munro
27 May 2012

Filed under: poetry

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