Bairns outside

Seturday mornin, an I wis haein a daunder alang the road wi ma twa dugs. Gled as I wis tae be outside efter sic a miserable week o pourin rain, there wis still a muckle dub streetchin hauf wey ower ma path. There wis naebody else about for aw it wis a fine day. Leukin at the dub, an thinkin back tae masel as a bairn, I ken I wad hae been there, aither measurin it for lowpin ower or plowterin richt throu it. An no juist me; but alang wi ma brithers an aw the ither bairns out tae play in the street like we aye did. Sic rare fun we haed wi dubs!

I’m laith tae say it, but dubs the day are mair like tae be disturbit by a caur raither than a bairn. As faur as I can tell juist fae ma ain observations, bairns dinnae seem tae be ower keen tae play outside ony mair. I haurdly see them. Gaein by the habits o the bairns I dae see, an ken weel, unless it’s something organised that taks them out, they are mair like tae be sittin in the hous thirlt tae the screen o an Xbox or anither electronic device; aw their fun bein played out wi their pals in cyberspace raither than the real warld.

An takkin tent o hou mony o them get wheeched richt tae the schuil gates in the back o a caur, it stairts tae mak sense hou it is sae mony bairns o this generation are shawin signs o cairryin ower muckle wecht; I jalouse it’s no aw fae eatin sugary stuff, but mair tae dae wi no muivin about eneuch.  It disnae dae a neebourhood ony guid aither whan the bairns wha bide in it are haurdly seen out an about. It’s anither threid lost atween generations. I dae think baith the bairns an community are the waur o it.

In our day we bairns war weel kent by awbody bidin round about. They wad see us fae their windaes an gie us a wave as we traipsed back an forrit tae the schuil; pass the time o day whan we war out playin in the street, bytimes askin ane o us tae gae a wee message; aiblins for a forpit o tatties fae the shop, or up tae the pigs pail at the tap o the street wi the peelins. An it wirkit baith weys. They gied us empty bottles tae mak sugarallie watter, jam jars for tadpoles an the like. E’en sortin our ills like takkin a spail out a sair haund or pittin a plaister on a skint knee. But, it aye wis dinnit intae us at hame that we war niver tae gae intae onybody’s hous e’en if invitit. We haed tae stey at the door.

Whan we cam hame efter the schuil, we got a piece slaithirt in treacle or condensed milk; than it wis straucht out tae play. Simmer nor winter, we warnae encourgit tae sit about the hous. In the cauld weather we war happit in nap coats agin the snell winds, but still they gied us scaudit legs an itchy chilblains on our taes!

Sae mony excitin gemms we haed! We lued Levoy, Chasie, Hide an Seek, Kick the Can, Throu the Fermer’s Tunnel; that last ane cairit forfeits for them as didnae rin fast eneuch! The laddies in partícular playit Cowboys an Indians or Coos an Ingans, as we kent it, whoopin their wey alang the passage atween the houses tae dreep the dyke at the end intae the nixt street. A crabbit wifie plaistert the dyke wi cement an stuck big jaggy bits o broken gless in it tae keep the bairns awa. There wis sic a stramash wi her neebours she haed tae gae out wi a rasp an file it doun till it wis smooth again!

We war niver short o things tae dae. “Hunty gowk” coud be heard shoutit aw ower the street as we catchit out fríends an neebours wi our April Fuils. On Victoria Day at the end o Mey there war bonfires aw ower the toun. We haed ours on the causey stanes at the tap o the road. We collectit firewid for days afore it, bytimes fechtin ower the ownership o it wi bairns fae ither streets. Ma brither was taen prísoner in a fecht an our faither haed tae gae an get him. He wis twa streets awa tied tae a palin stab wi a claes rope, a pile o wid stackit up round him! His jylers awa in for their tea!

It’s haurdly surprisin there wisnae a peck o fat on ony o us. If we warnae rinnin, we war climbin; up lamposts, ower railins. We skippit wi ropes, playit at rounders wi a bat an baw; peevers wi an empty bootpolish tin, chalkin out beds on the road wi pipe clay fae the drysauters. We haed races wi girds, rinnin alangside as we rollit them wi a stick up an doun the street. Spinnin a peerie an keepin it gaein wi a whip wis a skeel we aw haed tae maister! An o course, we makkit things! Gutties fae forkit twigs an a string o wee rubber bands. Pellets tae fire in them wi ticht foldit bits o paper. Guiders fae auld crates whan we coud find the wheels, hurtlin heid first doun the brae an round the corner like luge drivers at the Olympics but wi’out the safety element.

I cannae help but think we war a lucky generation. The anely caur owner in our street wis a drivin instructor! An we didnae hae the siren lure o the myriad o smaw screens that beguile an transfix sae mony young fowk the day. I anely wish I coud turn the clock back juist for a day an gie bairns a taste o the active life that we haed. It micht encourage them tae gae outside an hae some real fun an gemms!

Elizabeth ThoumireElizabeth is an Edinburgh-born airtist drawin an paintin maistly animals an birds. Forby that, she is pairt o the organisation Hands Up For Trad wha wirk tae increase the profile an visibílity o Scottish tradítional muisic an cultur throu information, education an advocacy.


For tips on readin Scots, alang wi a glossar o common wirds, see our cutty guide (written in English).

Scots English
about (pronounced ‘aboot’) about
aiblins perhaps
bytimes occasionally
crabbit bad tempered
dub puddle
dyke wall
forpit a measure of weight used mainly for the sale of root vegetables
girds hoops
guider a home-made children’s cart steered with a rope
gutties catapults
happit covered
hous (‘hoose’) house
jalouse suspect
lowpin leaping
lued loved
our (‘oor’) our
outside (‘ootside’) outside
pail enclosure
palin stab fence post
peerie spinning-top
plowterin wading
scaudit scalded
skeel skill
snell chilly, bitter
spail splinter
stramash uproar
waur worse
wecht weight
wheeched whisked

Social media thumbnail ímage: National Líbrar o Scotland

Crack throu the keekin gless: the story o stories an thair importance

Stories is a important pairt o the human ken. Awbody sees an hears stories aw ower the place ilka day, in ilka society: whither it’s in beuks, in lessons or juist in ilkaday crack, stories is pairt o aw wir lifes.1 Sae whit gars stories sae important for human society?

Ae thing spells daes for us is that thay forder wir uiss o imaigination by garrin us think an imaigine the chairacters, the plot an the settin o story. An imaigination is a gey an human skeel, a capacity that ither ainimals cannae uise like we can. Wir capacity tae imaigine the futur is ane o the raisons we maunt tae pit ower sae lang in Eastern Africa, an expand intae ither continents.

Creativity is sel-like, an connectit wi, imaigination: thay are baith verra human capacities that del intae the various possibílities o life. Creativity is a brawly important aspect o narrative.2 An creativity is forby ane o the weys tae actualise wir ettles in life. Sel-actualisation is ane o the psychological needs identified by Maslow. This is partícularly important for bairns’ psychological development whaur the need for imaiginative play is a indicator o success efter; in partícular, Nobel Prize winners dae mair creative play whan thay war weans. Haud on readin . . . “Crack throu the keekin gless: the story o stories an thair importance”

Naewey tae bide

It’s impossible tae unnerstaund fit it feels like tae hae naewey tae bide. But, juist shut yer een; tak a míntie tae imaigine fou it maun feel tae nae hae a comfy sofa tae come hame an park yer bahookie on efter a lang, haurd day; nae telly tae watch daft programmes on whilst ye ham in tae yer warm maet keukit in a convenient kitchen ben the hous. Think fit it maun be like tae nae hae a cosy bed far ye can pit yer heid doun fan ye want naething mair than a decent kip.

Sadly, for a lairge nummer o Scots fowk, they dinna hae tae imaigine this scenario because it’s their reality. In 2016-17, there wis mair than 34,000 hameless applications made in Scotland. Aamaist the same amount o fowk fa mak up the population o Fawkirk or Stirlin. A hertbraken nummer.

Things div seem tae be gettin a wee bittie better, fouiver, compare’t tae 2005-6, fan this nummer reached ower 60,000. The raison for this coud pairtially be that fowk seem tae be becomin mair conscious about the problem. Ah hiv certainly seen a chynge in attitudes taewart hameless fowk sin ah wis a young quinie.

Haud on readin . . . “Naewey tae bide”

Than an nou — poverty, makkin dae, an leukin out for ilk ither

The TV news the nou is stappit fou wi hert brakkin sichts. Puir sowels wi naewhaur tae bide nor lay their heids left tae chitter in the cauld; fowk wha uissless, shilpit Offícialdom hae cast sae far doun they’v nae fecht left; fowk no able tae feed their bairns, niver mind theirsels. I think o ma mither, a wumman wha in her young day haed seen a deal o poverty an wha thocht the Weelfare State an the National Health Service a marvel o the age. She wis delitit whan the faimily allouance wis brocht in! Sic a grand thing in partícular whan they stairtit peyin it tae the mither!

I wunner whit she wad mak o it in 2018?

She wis fae Leith, the last but ane born intae a faimily o thirteen bairns. Her twin wis deid at sax months fae whoopin cough. This wis 1910. Her faither haed been ane o the last tae drive a hansom cab. As a wee tottie bairn she coud mind seein ma granny fillin up the sink an liftin the windae tae lat the horse pit its heid in for a drink.

Poverty, wi its neebours hunger, drunkenness an disease, war juist a fact o life. Ma mither aye said maist fowk war guid an fou o kindness; juist daein their best tae get by. But they war feart o awbody in authority. Aye wirrit about bein reportit for their poverty an cawed neglectfu, their bairns taen awa. Fear o the puir hous wis aye there.
Haud on readin . . . “Than an nou — poverty, makkin dae, an leukin out for ilk ither”

Cultural diversity outthrou time an place

Thare is ither places the warld ower, an ither times outthrou history, wi differs: whiles it’s ither places we’v niver been tae (A’v niver been tae Oceania, for ensaumple) an whiles it’s e’en places we’v niver haurd o (maist fowk haesnae haurd o the island whaur A’m steyin, Réunion). As for ither times, thay can shaw differs an aw, whither it’s times we can mind wirsels, times we can project wirsels intae (sae the naur futur) or times remote fae wir ain experience.

Sae, aw in aw, we arenae alane in wir ain cultur nor in wir ain pynt in time.

Tae some stent, we’re mindit on ither times an places ilka day, but we’re aften mindit o the same times an the same places, whan thare a fair braider spectrum o existence available. The focus is mainly on recent epochs an dominant kintras, yer superpouers o the day: wir attention is a fair feck mair aften focussed on modren-day Americae as on New Guinea or the Mbuti; though, sae we’ll see later in this airticle, it isnae acause thir ither fowks dinnae hae things tae shaw us. Haud on readin . . . “Cultural diversity outthrou time an place”