Growing my own veggie green

We have the back green and it is owned by the block. And that’s eleven flats. Emm, and there are two main door flats that’s both got doors from their kitchens out into the back green. And then the other flats access the back green from a door that comes from the common stair. Em, six of the flats upstairs look out onto the back garden. but three stream of flats only look at the front. So they don’t actually look out into to back garden although everybody is seen to own the common. Like the common stair is seen to be owned by everybody.

The back garden is seen to be owned by every body. But it is not clear, you see, for those of us who live on the ground floor: is it commonly owned right up to our windows? Because there was a complaint from my neighbour upstairs. One of the things she said was because I have put my plant pots outside my house no body else could sit there. But, I don’t want people sitting outside my bedroom window. one of the reasons I bought the flat was because I love the access to the garden. I think the other downstairs neighbour did do some work in the garden. So we got into a set of routine of taking turns in cutting the grass. And they have the cupboard under the stairs because you could keep a lawn mower there, and we use to share the key. And when they moved, I came to an arrangement with the next neighbours that because this transferring the key was problematic that they would cut the grass and I did everything else. So I maintain all the shrubs and hedges, the borders and the edges of the grass. And then over the years I have slowly moved just from planting stuff in the flower bed that was right next to me to planting in the next flower bed. And to also moving things into other patches in the garden. So really overseeing the whole garden on my own. I maintain it so that people can use it. I have dug out some of the flower beds, but I haven’t dug it all out. If it were my garden, I wouldn’t hardly have any grass. But I have maintained the grass and also have an awareness of when people use the washing line, of how further washing would swing out, and so it wouldn’t gonna get caught on branches and things. I am aware then of also how it looks from the above, so I have hidden the compost bins and things.

Oh, no body thanks me. There is one woman who thanks me and another woman who’s been only there a couple of years. So it is only two people who thank me. Now, I had to pay a friend to cut the grass. So now I asked the neighbours for £25 for a year, from April to October to cut the grass. And this year, I have got money from three neighbours. On the other downstairs have refused and she is the only one who uses the garden. I mean she hangs the washing out nearly all the time. And I don’t really do the flower bed that is right next to their house. So I have planted a big bush and behind that is a piece of waste ground. In fact, even where the current bush is, was a piece of waste ground and I spent ages digging it out. So behind that now I grow vegetables. They are doing great! And the only thing is, that one woman planted one thing. And the upstairs neighbour, I went and asked for me for cutting the grass, but I did also asked if she could turn the TV down late at night. And then she said to me that I have got the cheek asking for money for cutting the grass because I treated the garden like my own garden. And that I have cut a patio out from my back door. Em, but I said to her that it does take me a bit of a time to cut the grass. And the electricity for the mower is my electricity. The reason for doing the bit around my window was to prevent people from hanging around my window. But I did do the rest of the garden. So in a way it looks like my garden. But, I did do it so that it looks nice for other people as well. I do it for the beauty, the aesthetics of it and because I grow my own vegetables. This saves me money and also I just like being outside.  Well, if I stop, all what will grow is weed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

I Learned to be frugal & improve a bland meal

Oh, I am coping as a pensioner with the credit crunch. Hey, long ago, even before my wife died I learned to be frugal. So I just carry it on now. It is just a habit. You look for the cheapest thing and make the bloody best of it, you know. Am doing it every bloody day. Because when I use to work, I use to go to the shops and come in with my hands loaded with bags. But, now, through years of experience you learn how to make do, you know.  I mean even potatoes now are hefty in price. So, alternate maybe chips one day, boil potatoes the next. Rice the next. Macaroni. I mean a fine healthy meal, macaroni with bacon chopped up will make mixed through it. And once you’ve strewn the water off, break an egg in and whip that through. It gives the eggs that little bit of extra taste. There are so many extra things you can do to improve a bland meal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Recipe for healthy living

I used to, well, every publication in The Sentinel, em, later The West Edinburgh Times, insert a healthy eating recipe. You see, I used to be a cook in the army. I was in the army catering corp. I have five children. When my wife took ill, she was confined to a wheelchair for the last seven years of her life. So I was cooking for the family. And I just carried on. I will just put in a wee recipe in the [news]paper, and at the bottom of the recipe, I will say: “It is as easy and quick as cheap”. Also, one period I did a healthy eating course in the Dove Centre – the Health Project. They sponsored me for a six-week period [to teach people how to cook], and it was quite popular. On my first day, I had 15, by the end of that month I had about 20 to 25 turning up every week. because in contrast to em, cooks on the telly was what I did was – you and one of  you you have to come down and do this with me. I gave them hands on. And at the end of my sixth week, the Project Manager say to me: “Bill, I did a wee survey on your course. Nine out of ten said very satisfactory. The tenth one said: “I will give you nine out of ten – no bugger’s perfect!”. Hee, hee, that was the joker of the group.

Well, the benefit to the residents was that I used to go to the healthy food shops, em in Tollcross, Bruntsfield, em, because we used to be able to buy spices, herbs down at the shop where Lidl [in Wester Hailes] is now. But, they would sell you a jar, like this. It will last over two years. Whilst I can go to Tollcross and say to the bloke: “I can give you for the blah, blah”. And he would say: “Oh, aye, aye, alright fair enough”. And I could get half pounds of this whatever herb it was. It cost pennies. In fact, I would go round the ladies in the course and say: “what would you want hen, what would you want hen, picked up from the shop for the next week”. I use to make a wee list and get it for them for the next week and give it to them instead of them buying a big jar. It costs them coppers. It keeps their expenses down, and their pensions down as well, you know. Oh, I use to walk in thinking, what the bloody heck am I doing here. These women have their husbands and families and used to keeping their house and here I am telling them how to boil an egg, you know.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Playing Santa

My daughter used to work in the Plaza, and she came one day to visit me.

She says: “Dad, they are looking for a Santa, are you interested?”

Hey, who is?

“At the Plaza there”.

Who is that?.

“The manager”.

Well I said: “I will go there and have a word with him anyway”.

So I go down and had a wee chat with him.

He [the manager] said: “Have you done anything like this before?” I said: “No”.

He said: “First things first. Do you like children?” I said: “I have five of them”.

He said: “Ok, you will do”. So I started from there. I was paid, but just enough to buy me a bottle of wine, and leave you that little bit extra. You know, you’ve got to cover that.

Personally, well I don’t know about any body else playing Santa, when it comes around September every year I used to go round Toysarus and these other big toy stores and find out exactly what is available, what new toys to have in the market. Because, to me, it wasn’t just a case of sitting there placating children with; oh! I am not sure if your mum can afford that, you know. Or, what about this instead, you know. Because, to me, as soon as you say to kids what would you like, I will turn the wee one away in the booth, the next one you know. To me, it wasn’t that. Well, I went through four managers. Three of them, they complained because I had a queue and did not speed up a bit with them, you know. I say to them, the mother or guardian or whoever is paying their money, each child is entitled to stay as long as he deserves to stay with me. That way I will get them back next year. If you are not happy with that, give me back my boots. Again. I said the same thing to now Frasers in the West end, they were the first in Edinburgh to ban Santa from taking the child on the knee. Em, they supplied me with a stool for the child to sit on. The manager told me it is against the law. I said: “Stuff you with the law. I was checked out by the police many years ago before I started Santa. If you have the bloody indication in your mind that I am a bloody paedophile, you can have your Santa suit right now!”. [He said] “Oh! No, no, I don’t mean that”. I said: “Your business is outside the grotto to look after the centre. My business is inside the grotto here making sure that regardless of what state is the child in when he comes into my grotto, he walks out with a smile in the face. When a kid walks with a smile in his face, I have done a good job”. You see I used to have young girls, well, they are still young, coming with their children to see Santa. I have the mothers of those children on my knee years before. I had them coming, from afar, from Witburn, to see me at the Plaza because she remembered that when she was a child her mother brought her in to see Santa. So the manager still kept me on.

The reason I mentioned going round to Toysarus is this: to me if a kid say to me I want a U2 Santa, I have to know what the hell a U2 is. What its purpose is. Otherwise if I say to him: “What’s a U2?” hey, [He would say] “You are Santa, you are supposed to know!” You get asked so many awkward questions that you are not just going to blow a lot of crap to the kids. You have to have your mind very active. Say out of the blue, when a wee girl said to me: “Santa you’ve got wee elves working for you, haven’t you?” I say: “Oh yes, I’ve got a small army of them”. [She said] “Why don’t they grow big like me?” Hey, you have to answer that! I said: “Well, because of the extreme conditions, weather wise, up where I am, up the Artic, I have my workshop underground, and it is so much hard work cutting through that earth. It is so solid that I only have to build it small and I only able to employ small people to work there”. [She said] “Oh! Oh, I see. I wandered about that”. Hee, hee, hee, One up to Bill!

So you have to be a liar to be a good Santa. But you also have to be a very good liar to be a very good Santa. One year, these two little girls came in. They were in bloody tears when they came in. Some rotten swine had broken into their house. Stole the televison, the video player. Ransacked all the drawers and even stole the bloody little children’s presents from under the tree.  Ah, to me that is the lowest of the low, when you steal from the child. I mean no matter what I did to console them, they were still so upset. The best I could do was say to them: “Anything extra I can have when I have done my deliveries, I will send one of my minions back to your house”. That helped.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Community activism caused change of mind

When I came here first, the [Edinburgh] Evening News had a bad view of Wester Hailes. They wanted to portray it as the cesspit, if you like, of the suburban area and I think the work that I did as community activism, because of the dedication we had at that time, we forced the Edinburgh council to change their mind. When I was in Clovenstone, there was a central area of flats and there was three or four storeys, and when that was knocked down, the people who lived in that area where dispersed around Edinburgh. And because of my community work, I was very friendly with the local bobby. And he told me: “Since they cleared that area, crime in Wester Hailes had gone down by 18 per cent”.  So I think what the government and Council did, was to have all the crooks, criminals and druggies and bung them in one area. So the police knew where they were. They knew where they all lived and would go and say, lets check this lot before we go any where else to find out the culprit, you know.

But, since that was cleared and a lot of new houses have been built round about. Brand new dwellings were built about and now a lot of people are attracted to come into Wester Hailes from outside. Before then there would be a long waiting list of people wanting to leave Wester Hailes to relocate to other areas of Edinburgh. Now there is a long list waiting to come into Wester Hailes. You see, the new dwellings built by Prospect Housing, I was told that 70 per cent was taken by local residents. Because the mortgage that was offered by the local housing was cheaper than the Council rent. That’s the thing. If they offer houses that people can afford, they can take them. And there has not been any problem in these areas since these houses were built. No graffiti, no drugs, no problem. I found out that since we moved here, at least, 16 to 18 cars would be parked out there. And we are here now, 8 years in May, last month, and there has not been one car vandalised, stolen or nothing. To me, that is a plus mark for the area and for Wester Hailes. I am quite happy to live and die here. When I first moved here, no! Because, well, it was reported in the press, your pensioners walking into the post office on a Monday were get mugged before they go to the bus stop. In the evenings you would be afraid going out in case you are attacked by drunks. I can’t remember the last time I saw a drunk in Wester Hailes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Being the joker & poet laureate

Well, I meet people of my own age. I am considered as a kind of a joker in the group [community arts group]. I’ve got a set of new jokes every week, you know. I make it as part of my daily routine. If I can make some one smile or laugh, then my day has been a success. Three weeks ago, I was approached by Joe Blogg. She informed me that in September this year, it is the 10th anniversary of the canal being open, and that she has told the group that sometime ago I was the poet laureate of Wester Hailes. She asked me if I can compose something for the celebration. And I phoned the woman in charge, the General Manager, and told her that I am finished [composing the poem]. I read it over the phone and she was pleased with it and asked me to bring it to the next meeting, so that it can be included in the programme. I am not paid for it. I am not bothered.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

the Government bending the rules a little bit

My attitude to life is: I wake up in the morning. I look at the window and say: hello! Another 24 hours. A bonus! I always have a positive attitude when I woke up in the morning. Another 24 hours to go. As I have said many, many times Amadu, when my time comes, I will refuse to go. Because hello! My quality of life has decreased with age and so I take it badly when I can’t enjoy any more, you know.

At the present moment, I am an official carer of my brother-in-law who lives in the house with me. And I care for him officially. I do his shopping, I do the cleaning. I do his cooking. I do house washing, his ironing. Tell him when to change his shirt. Well, just. It was his health care worker who came in one day and says to me:  “I take it you are getting carer’s allowance?” Hey, I said: “What’s that? I didn’t know anything about it.  I could have been claiming it for years. And damn know nothing about it until this chap mentioned it to me. That’s what I find with a lot of people em, old and elderly, that, that’s what is wrong. The government themselves know that lot of pensioners like me are not claiming what they are entitled to. But nobody tells you what you are entitled to. How can you claim it if you know nothing about it?, you know. It could be that it is the government bending the rules a little bit. They don’t tell you to save money. It is quite possible, you know. They are all bloody crooks. They’ve not just been found out yet.  But I have got it now, so I am not too bad really.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Squatting for community development

The current structure here housing most and lots of organisation was because the community squatted on it. This enabled organisations to quickly set up, quickly move in and established themselves and led to the development of this site as accommodation of community service providers.  We moved in, the Parents Group was one, the Hailes Group, the Tennis Association was one, em the Rep Council started to come in because they decided they wanted an umbrella group to get all the different organisations into one.  A lot of groups, Hailelands, Dumbryden, etc were all dotted around. So to get everybody together was a good idea to approach the Council [Edinburgh City Council]. But it worked. All these different organisations under one umbrella. It gives a sense of belonging.

Originally this site was set aside to build an old folks home, which is moved to Clovenstone. The reason was that because the community has staked a claim to this site, as squatters. It was one of the few suitable areas of open space that huts could be built on. So what happened was that creatively people got together to pull their resources and organisations to get this site developed. Initially, the Council was in opposition to this. But they realised that em, that the community backed this. So it could have gone quite angry, quite messy if the Council had stuck to their opposition. So it put Wester Hailes on the map as well. Because, in the beginning, people were being moved into Wester Hailes from all over Edinburgh. There were massive social problems and this was looked upon as really, really something positive to pull people together. And it did pull people together. This was a focal point. It was the beating heart of community development. Had it not been for this base, many services would have been closed.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Community flat at our Door Step

Our organisation, WEST, we were the first organisation to get a community flat. And other organisations started doing it. Because we decided to see people face to face and invited them in rather going to see people. It was quite difficult. Because you have people with mental health problems and you also have young children running about. So the confidentiality wasn’t very good. So that’s when we decided to look into having a community flat.  So I was responsible for getting the flat, I don’t want to beat my drum, but I was responsible and had a chat with the local housing department. We went to the local residents and had a chat with them to explain what was happening. And one or two people where not very sure. But as long as we assured them it will be safe, there won’t be people coming here with their faces full of drugs or needles lying about, that was the concern people had at the time. We use the flat for admin and for counselling.

The added value in having our offices in community flats is that you are beside the nuts and bolts of the population. You are actually with them. You are actually a person and we are neighbours, as if you are actually in my flat. So you are there. Before this, there was talk that this project and all drug projects in Edinburgh would be relocated to a central place in the city centre. Well, it was knocked on the head, as I think a drug project should have a presence in the community. Drug users are famous, very famous for not travelling very far. That’s why you should have a service at their door step.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

What’s in a name?

Organisations have come and gone [in Wester Hailes]. The one I work in now, CHAI, although CHAI is an organisation that has been on the go for over ten years, the drug part of it that I work in, has only been going for two years. We and my colleagues we used to work in an organisation called WEST. WEST started as a parent support group – The Windmill, for people with mental health problems. And we started being called Hotline, it was a drug project and we shared the premises with them.

There was some resistance from the police in the early days. I mean some people, we had put in place a hotline, and some people really think that it was hotline to the police. And they say: “Don’t trust them, don’t go there”. And what happened actually as well was that the police started a hotline, and they called it a hotline. So we have to drop our name, Hotline to the West Edinburgh Support Team (WEST). We poke to the police as well about our project for them to understand that rather than focussing on arresting and sending drug users to jail, we can prevent this. In the early days, we train the police on these issues. We also had to change the name to attract funding. Because it is west Edinburgh, and at this time knew we are going to get continued funding, but because it was a Service Level Agreement, it wasn’t just going to be Wester Hailes. It was going to be west Edinburgh.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off