• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 11
Image by

The Scent of an Orange

Oranges remind me of the Christmases of my childhood. They were very restrained affairs. Scotland in the 1950’s was a dour place where New Year was the heart of the festive season. Christmas wasn’t even a public holiday and life went on pretty much as usual. Only white-collar workers had the day off. Manual workers, like my dad, still had to go to work. The post arrived, shops were open, coal was delivered and only a few households, at least in the port of Leith, where we lived, put up a Christmas tree. We didn’t have a Christmas dinner of turkey and plum pudding, but to make the day a bit special, my mother would buy a steak pie from the Leith Provident Co-op butchers, and make a ‘clootie’ dumpling which, served with evaporated milk, was the treat of treats. As for Christmas presents, they were something of a token gesture. An orange, a bar of chocolate and a small toy from my parents and a shiny two-shilling piece, from Grandma.

A quarter of a century later my older brother Mike, would amuse his children, by telling them that all he and I ever got for Christmas was an apple, an orange and a ‘doot-doo-doo’ (the cardboard tube at the centre of a toilet roll). They thought that this was a hilarious fairytale but, it was closer to the truth than they could ever have imagined. Of course, by that time, Scotland had succumbed to commercial pressures and Christmas had superseded New Year as the main focus of festive season celebration.

The scent of an orange still conjures thoughts of those far off, more austere days when, after the pie dish had been cleared away and the ‘clootie’ dumpling eaten, I would sit by the black-leaded range with Mum and Grandma, while Dad and Mike played draughts at the kitchen table. The wireless would be turned on and we would listen to my favourite


The Scent of an Orange

programme, ‘Journey into Space.’ I would thrill to the adventures of Captain Jet Morgan, and his loyal companions Lemmy and Doc as they fought off the attacks of invading Martians in, what was then, the distant 1970’s and I would dip the segments of my Christmas orange into the sugar bowl and savour the sweet juicy flesh of the fruit, while Grandma settled down to enjoy her final dram of Christmas Day.