With our focus on reminiscing this month what better way to introduce you to some of the people work hard in our area than by asking them about their memories of childhood . In the second installment, we asked Councillor Alison Evison for some of her childhood memories.
Who taught you to cook? What are your memories of this?
My mother had a very large “Good Housekeeping” cookery book which she had received as a wedding present – that book was consulted regularly by all of us as a “fount of cookery knowledge.”
It was my Granny who lived in Dundee who taught me to bake. We lived a distance from her, but every time we wanted to bake something, we would phone her for advice. Each year the local Guide Association held a baking competition, and Granny’s suggestions for this were always taken seriously. I still bake “Granny’s Trex Christmas Cake” myself every year.
She also made lots of jam every year – my favourite was her rhubarb and ginger. She was from Blairgowrie, and so made raspberry jam a lot too. When my children were little, used to make preserves, in the way she had done.
- What do you remember from your first experiences of school?
I loved to look at the beautiful books in the school library and was really proud when I could begin to read them. One day, as a reward for a good piece of work, I was allowed to take one of those books home to read. As the eldest of three sisters, I was delighted to sit down on the settee with the other two and share the book with them. Unfortunately, my youngest sister was eating cherries at the time, and managed to stain the pages of the book with the juice. I was mortified!! Fortunately, the teachers understood!
I remember that from very young age, I wanted to understand “why” I was learning particular things. I quickly learned my letters and could write words and sentences with them. I did not understand, however, why we had to chant the letters in a particular order. As a consequence, I thought that a waste of time and did not learn the alphabet. That did not present a problem until I reached the age of about 7 and we started dictionary work. I suddenly realised the errors of my ways and quickly learned the alphabet! This experience was a useful one for me to think about when I myself worked as a teacher.
- What was your first job and what do you remember most about it?
I had various jobs as a teenager. The first was doing stock-taking at a cash and carry supermarket for one weekend every three months. I remember being shocked by the early starts! The job involved putting on layers of white protective clothing and going into the freezer room to count the packets of fish fingers and other items which supermarket sold. It was always cold! There were always bacon rolls served on completion of a shift though!
A more exciting job came when I worked on a children’s holiday play-scheme. One year, the scheme involved putting on a circus with the children, very much in the style of Circus Modo, which we are fortunate to have in Aberdeenshire. Somehow, I managed to teach youngsters to walk on stilts and to use a unicycle without ever learning these skills myself!
- Who inspired you as a child? What memories do you have of them?
I was very much inspired by my grandparents.
My Dundonian Granny had brought her children up in a tenement on the Blackness Road. During the war, schools in Dundee had to close as there were concerns about air-raid attacks on large buildings. Granny responded by allowing the children and the teacher to meet in her home, so that lessons could carry on more or less as usual. She always believed in the importance of education for all.
My mother’s father had been a farmer in Limavady in Ireland and he always had a practical approach to life which he combined with the most intriguing stories from his youth. I remember tasting my first ever radish, when he picked it from his allotment, wiped it on his sleeve and urged me to try it. I’ve always loved radishes since then!
I was also inspired by Rev Wilfrid Kerr, the Minister at my Church. He ran a charity shop to raise money for a boys’ home in India and I used to help at the shop every Saturday. I soon discovered that although the shop did raise money by selling second- hand items, perhaps more importantly, it served as a “drop-in” for members of the community needing help and support. I had expected that I would be doing “shop-work”, but in fact, it was more like informal counselling and social work.
- What are your first memories of becoming a Councillor?
I became a Councillor for the first time in 2012 and immediately felt that I had been given both a great honour and a great responsibility. I remember being very concerned about the lack of female councillors and about the lack of younger councillors. I was surprised by how many meetings and pre-meetings were needed before any decision could be made, but hopefully the developing use of technology will allow systems to speed up in future.
- What do you think has changed the most in our communities over the last ten years?
Over the last ten years, the way people communicate with each other has changed and the use of social media and internet has become more dominant. Although this has advantages for gathering opinions and sharing ideas, it has also seemed to make it harder for community groups to actually come together and develop activities or events. There is also the growing danger that members of the community without the use of internet will feel more isolated.
Our communities have grown tremendously in the last ten years, and many new people have come to join us. There is also a growing elderly population. We are all aware of problems which have been created when the infrastructure has not kept up with the pace of development.
There are lots of new and exciting opportunities for communities to develop projects to enhance their own areas, such as through community asset transfers. It is important that communities are helped along the way to turn ideas, such as for Men’s Sheds and Sports’ Facilities, into reality.
Perhaps something that has not changed in this time however, is the challenge of living on a low income in an area which is thought of as wealthy and prosperous. This is a reality of living for many people which is still to be addressed.
Thank you Alison, we’ve enjoyed reading your memories.