Hillside Parent and Carer Group at the National Parent Forum conference on 5th October

npf scotland conference

As with every good trip, it started with an early morning rise. Raymond headed out from Rosyth to Musselburgh to collect Eileen, then to Dalkeith to pick up Elizabeth.

Once in the car, it was the long drive to Bishopbriggs, just outside Glasgow. Thankfully the roads were clear and it was a ‘straight run’: enough time to stop and have a breakfast roll.

On arrival, we were met by the Fifth and Sixth Year pupils of Bishopbriggs Academy. They were very cheery and polite, even on a Saturday morning!

The welcome speech was from Iain Ellis, Chair of NPFS, followed by questions with Aileen Campbell MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People.

We then headed-off to our allocated seminars.


First Step Community Project on Supporting Transitions: A Parent’s View. They explained how, as a community nursery, they have supported parents with transition, with a focus on health and wellbeing. The explained the resulting benefits for parents.


A whole school approach to promoting Health and Wellbeing: Larbert High School: A very exiting presentation delivered by the head teacher and his team. They explained how they are using a holistic approach in the promotion of health and wellbeing, physical education, and physical activity and sport, not only during the school day but as part of the curriculum throughout the whole week.


Grounds for Learning: Health and Wellbeing and Outdoor Learning. This seminar explained how the design and management of school playgrounds can support children’s health and wellbeing. They shared examples of transforming mundane playgrounds into exciting environments that allow children to play, learn and develop. They went on to explain that by changing the environment in a certain school they helped reduce the number of exclusions and incidences of bullying; and, believe it or not, the number of accidents!

An exciting day for all.

Halloween Story by Kerin

Madge and the Witches in La Sylphide

On Halloween night my friends and I were trick or treating, and we were walking through the woods and we heard noises. So we all went in to see what the noises were into the Hillside woods, it was very dark we could hardly see where we were going. We heard chanting coming from far, far, far away. As we became closer and closer the noise got louder it sounded like someone was banging pots and pans. I thought this was a trick so I ran out and shouted BOO!!!

I could not believe what I was looking at there were people hanging from the trees with witches dancing around a cauldron. Me and my friends thought this was a joke until we heard them chant pulsa dinura, pulsa dinura. As I was smarter than my friends, I knew this was Arabic for Lashes of Fire.  It is an ancient curse of death. No one can survive it.

Looking at the witches they should have been casting love spells.

“Get them!” screamed a big witch, who was dressed in black—black dress & cape.

They seized my friends, but I managed to evade them and run into the tress, only to become snagged in some branches.

Gnarly hands grabbed me from behind and dragged me towards the flaming cauldron. My terrified companions were lined up around the cauldron, held fast by the witches.

“Well, well—what shall we do my sisters?” the big witch asked the others. “Converts for the coven, or a sacrifice for the Master?”

“Ha, ha ha,” they all cackled. Then the one that was holding me added, “Let this scrawny one be offered up. The others we keep.”

“Excellent idea Ravensdeath,” the big witch replied and waved her hands over the cauldron. Immediately,   green vapours burst forth from the cauldron, even as the flames bellowed out underneath it. A shape of a goat’s head began to form in the vapours and long streams of steam billowed towards my friends and encircled them.

Suddenly, their faces went blank. They looked like zombies, and I knew they were lost to me forever.

“Bring the small one!” the big witch commanded and I was pushed towards the cauldron. The goat’s head seemed to smile an evil smile.

Everyone began chanting, “Pulsa Dinura, Pulsa Dinura,” as I was pushed ever closer to my doom.

“Accept this sacrifice!” the witch holding me bellowed out, and, as she did, she raised her hands.

Now was my chance.

I dived to the ground, and scrambled across the undergrowth and the cold damp earth.

“No!” screamed another witch. “There must be a sacrifice. The curse! The curse!”

A flame, like a bolt of lightning, shot out from the cauldron and frazzled Ravensdeath, the one who had held me. Another blast incinerated the big witch. The vapours from the cauldron exploded into the night, blasting everyone off their feet.

I was first up. I shouldn’t have paused to look, but I wanted to see if my friends had survived. I felt a cold hand on my ankle. “You will pay for this,” one of the old crones hissed out, barely alive.

“Get him, faithful ones!” came a voice from the other side of the cauldron. Three of my friends stood up. Jamie, my army cadet buddy, did not stir. They turned their heads and looked at me. Their eyes were bright red, like lasers.

They moved towards me.

I kicked and kicked till the old crone released her grip, and I bolted through the trees and down the hill. My friends gave chase. They moved very fast for ‘Zombies’, but I knew they were not real zombies. Zombies only exist in movies.

This was no movie; it was real.

I reached the bottom first, jumping over fallen branches and slimy roots, sometimes slipping on the muddy surface. By some miracle, I stayed just out of their reach.

I ran and I ran. I ran till my lungs almost burst. Somehow, I put distance between us. Whatever they had done to them, super strength was not part of it. Doubled up in pain and gasping for breath, I looked at my ‘friends’ who had now become ‘fiends’. With great sadness in my heart, I turned and ran and ran.

I have never stopped.

I was young. Now I am old.

In all this time, I have never settled down in any place. I have gone from job to job, from country to country, fearing for my life, ever looking over my shoulder, knowing the witches and my friends are hunting me. Often-times, I hear  chanting in the distance, above the noise of the busy city streets, “Pulsa Dinura, Pulsa Dinura,” and I know it is time to move on, and that I will never be free.

Flamingo Land, Part 2 — The Captain’s Revenge

They say that lightning never strikes twice, but Dave Marcus, ever the man to turn conventional wisdom on its head and shake a fist at common sense, shot this maxim down in flames as he once again headed back to the faraway realm of Flamingo Land.

With the embers of their last visit still freshly burning in the minds of the boys, Captain Dave and his trusty First-mate, Donald Wall-E, set sail. Their crew could barely contain themselves as they sighted Flamingo Land ahoy.

Desperate for some well-earned shore leave, the boys were on tender hooks as they pulled into harbour and dropped anchor. Able-bodied McG rapidly descended the gang plank and joined the many land lubbers, also in search of the pleasures and treasures of Flamingo land. Close behind were deck hands D. L, Jamie, and cabin boy, Wee Marcus.

Screeching along, as if the Flying Dutchman himself was chasing him, McG barely paused for breath in his rush to mount the Motorbikes and clamber on the Cliff-hanger. Like kids in a candy shop, the others scattered in all directions to sample the wares on offer.

Deserted by their crew, Cap’n Dave and First-Mate Donald had little choice but to once again head towards the nearest tavern. Without further ado, they set about hatching plans, telling tall tales swapping swashbuckling sagas, and singing stirring sea-shanties. As if performing a well rehearsed act, the pair recounted past glories, reminisced their long lost youth; their long lost vigour, vitality and valour; their long lost teeth. The nostalgia dragged long into the night, but eventually the two buccaneers swaggered out to round up the treacherous team. With all hands on deck, the Captain dished out the daily ration of grog and ship’s biscuits to the mutinous mates.

The first day was over, and the entire bunch collapsed exhausted into their hammocks. But sound sleep was a distant friend as dreams of Motorbikes, Cliff Hanger, Mumbo-Jumbo, Sky Flyer and Pink Flamingos kept the motley crew from deep slumber—either that or it was the snoring from the Officers’ Cabin.

All too quickly, First-Mate Wall-E had the lot of them up at the crack of dawn, scrubbing the deck. The ship-mates slogged hard, only momentarily distracted as Cap’n Dave bellowed out, “Burnish me Barnicles,” while finishing his Captain’s Log.

Into their regimen, the ship-mates lapped up every last second of shore-leave and explored every last inch of Flamingo Land, finding hidden treasures all along the way. Each mate was careful not to set a foot wrong and get a Black Spot from the Captain.

Before they knew it, it was time to hoist the main-sail, up anchor and head for the high seas. Leave was over, but for the boys the fun had just begun, as they recounted their exploits and boasted with great bravado about their bold adventures back home. “It has left me with memories to Treasure for a lifetime,” Able Bodied McG reported to the Admiralty at Hillside School. All in all, a great time!!

By Sea-Cadet McG

Third prize for Brandon in Mavis’s Shoe writing competition

[click on image to find out more about the book]

As part of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, some staff and young people attended a workshop with Sue Reid Sexton, author of Mavis’s Shoe. This is a “dramatic and moving story of Lenny Gillespie, a young girl who lives through the bombing of her town during WW2 (the ‘Clydebank Blitz’).”

Sue challenged our young people to imagine what would happen if some bombs came down at just after 9pm that night. She asked them to think specifically about what they would do. Sue asked them to write something and send it to her.

Sue replied,

“Brandon’s story is a fantastic piece of work. It captures a scene so well and makes it very easy to imagine. There was lots of nice incidental detail and a great story line which moved forwards at a solid and consistent pace. He obviously has talent. I have therefore given him third prize. Please give him my congratulations and thanks for sending it in.”

Bombing in Denny, by Brandon

One morning I woke up in a nice, wet and windy Scottish summers day. I went down the stairs to the kitchen to make a greasy squared sausage roll with fried onions and a bit of HP brown sauce. After finishing my breakfast I headed to catch the post office at 9am to get my mum’s money for the tea that night.

I took my dog Lehgend. He is a German Shepherd, only 7 months old. I was walking casually down to the town. I was only two minutes from the post office and my dog was going mad. He was barking, jumping, and staring up into the sky. The sky was still and very grey. I shouted, “Shut up” to my dog, and suddenly I heard in the distance a roar of engines. All around me there was a deathly silence.

The Post Office shutters went down and everyone ran for shelter. All of a sudden these planes were surrounding the buildings in the town centre. Bang, crash – the sound of concrete and glass smashing and falling all over them. I heard the screams of panic. Children crying. Dogs barking. Everyone ran for their lives, with their hands over their heads. Fear on their faces, as they saw the flashing lights in the sky. The smoke and dust was up into my nose, burning and choking me and the people around me. All I felt was dust, tiny, sharp bits of debris. Suddenly, all I heard again was silence. The buildings stopped moving. All I could hear now were sobs and crying and dogs whimpering. People were helping each other to safety.

I started to make my way back to my family to see if they were safe and well. But I struggled to find my way back home because all the paths and roads had burned out cars. It was all smokey in the air around the streets. Finally, me and my dog were back in my house. My family were glad to see us. They thought I was hurt, but I only had a cut arm and a bruised leg. My house was not too badly damage but next door’s had crumbled down. It was just a big pile of rubble. We were extremely lucky that we were not hurt and our house was still standing. We all sat down and stood in the one room, waiting for everything to blow over (said my mum).

Hillside School Staff Annual Golf Tournament 2012

© Copyright Jim Smillie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Friday the 1st of June saw the staging of our 7th annual Staff Golf Stableford Competition. Four previous winners were amongst the line-up but sadly last years’ champion John Russell was unable to participate and defend his title due to his departure for pastures new in Arizona, the U S of A. We are sure he would have put up a worthy defence having been given the chance but the occasion gave the opportunity for a new star to shine and so it did. On behalf of the Hillside Golfing Community, we take this moment to wish John and his family well and tell him that we miss him dearly. We hope he isn’t suffering too much with the consistent temperatures of 80 degrees plus that exist from day to day. No doubt he would love to be enjoying the wet, cold and windy fairways of Aberdour. Tough John, you can’t have all the joys of life. This article is on its way to him by email.

Anyway, back to this year’s event.

Aberdour Golf Course was yet again the venue for the ‘showdown’. The field of golfers, thirteen in total, included the regular members, the hackers, the wannabees, and the optimists, whom I admire for their enthusiasm, spirit and participation, and for nothing other than having a great day out. Thanks for putting the game into perspective!

Thankfully the weather stayed ‘fair’ throughout the day, which favoured no one in particular at any time. The morning two-ball, comprising of Pete Thow and the writer, set the early pace with Pete posting a score of 36, one point more than his illustrious opponent. We thought, on previous experience, that this may take some beating.

How wrong we were!

The afternoon three-balls teed off from 4pm onwards. As stated, fine weather prevailed, and from 7.30pm onwards the scores steadily came in. It soon became apparent that Pete was out of the running as Mike Greenshields posted a somewhat surprising, but deserved and admirable, score of 38 points. Mike has been putting the hours in on Peebles’ fairways. Had he maintained his composure and technique in the second-nine he could have been a worthy overall winner. His outward 22 points was to give him a prize, but sadly the inward score undone him.

More impressive was the old robust stalwart, and steady, Jock Harwood. Jock posted a record and unprecedented score of 40 points, with a steady front and back nine. Back slapping congratulations etc were seen and heard and all appeared to be in order to laud our winner, until the gunslinger with a mask and ‘nom de plume’, MaGoo, stepped off the 18th green. I wondered why he was ever so anxious for me to check his score. After checking, double checking and consulting with his playing partners that there were no discrepancies on his card (and reference to the R & A about golfers with Mc in their name),  I was astounded , nay gobsmacked, and speechless to declare that Ross McGonigal, playing off a very questionable fifteen handicap, recorded a very impressive and outstanding score of 45 points. He now ranks alongside such notorious individuals as John Dillinger, Robin Hood, Dick Turpin, and Butch Cassidy. Mind you, some of these guys you didn’t mind gaining notoriety and a few bob by ill-gotten means.

So it’s a sincere congratulation, a well done, and bragging rights to a worthy, dare I say popular, champion for 2012: Mr Ross McGonigal. It’s also hard luck to a creditable runner up, Mr Jock Harwood. Clubs are being cleaned and practiced with, and lesson arranged; preparing to dethrone Ross next year.

For the record, the spoils are as follows:

  • Champion for the year and winner of the Hillside Trophy: Ross McGonigal, with 45pts
  • Runnep-up: Jock Harwood, with 40pts
  • ‘Booby’ prize for lowest score of 25pts: David Noble (to his credit he said, “I thoroughly enjoyed my day out and was happy with my play”)
  • Best outward score: Shared between Pete Thow and Mike Greenshields
  • Best inward score:  Jock Harwood
  • Longest drive: Michael Frail
  • Nearest the pin: Stuart Gillanders

As stated, the sun shone and it would appear that all contestants had a very friendly, enjoyable sporting outing, with some staying on to laud ‘MaGoo’ on his achievement.

Many thanks to Barry Reed for arranging most of the event, and to ‘MaGoo’ for also helping out. A big “thanks” to all our participants, whom I am sure can’t wait for next year to get revenge. Thanks to Duncan at Aberdour for the generous concessions made for green fees and prizes.

So, congratulations again to Ross, with a score that will take some beating in future. Here’s to all our efforts next year and thereafter in attempting to do so.

Enjoy the remainder of the season all you ‘swingers’.

Fore! Tom


Confusing, not really, as this is a concoction of the events, that have entertained and occupied the time and interactions of the boys and staff within the Cottage Unit, over the festive period, preceding and proceeding months.

We know you have all been dying to hear of our escapades and exploits since our last blog of many moons ago but your despair, stresses and worries will be gradually eased as you read on.

To commence with we will deal with our joyous and memorable days and nights in chronological order.

In September, 11 when we heard of the misfortune and life threatening illness of Brodie, daughter of our Domestic Care Staff Arlene. We to a man and lady agreed that we had to demonstrate our care and concern in some fashion, form or other. Sadly Brodie is suffering from Leukaemia and has had or is currently receiving treatment to arrest and hopefully put this curse of an illness into remission. Our thoughts, prayers and good wishes go out to her, mum/dad, brother and immediate family.

Following the suggestion of our Unit manager Karen, we agreed to set a date aside and do a Charity Walk over the ever so popular venue of the Forth Bridge. The aim was to raise some funds to assist the family financially and perhaps purchase suitable computer, game console equipment or software, to hopefully occupy and entertain her through the time of her recovery stages.

To add a bit of ‘spice’ to the event, it was agreed that the Ladies would dress up as ‘men’ and the men as ladies, well women as I don’t think they could cut it as ’Ladies’ as it would mean being refined and genteel. As you can imagine when you have the likes of Ross, Scott and dare I say Pete you know this suggestion immediately throws them into confusion as all three continually struggle with their sexuality and gender. Ross immediately was in a dilemma as he was unsure about wearing the same figure hugging low cut dress that he usually wears at weekends. Pete didn’t want us to see him in his XL evening gown that he keeps for special occasions and Scott just didn’t want to come out of the closet. Anyway as it was all for a very worthy cause they managed to bite the bullet and all three, along with myself donned various mismatching ladies wear for the walk, as can be viewed in the photographs.

Anyway, enough said and it was a very big thanks to ALL the Ladies whose ranks included numbers from the Domestic and Administration Depts. as well as my fellow adorable lovely ladies from the Cottage Care Staff. Sorry, I had to add those endearing remarks or it is torture for me on the Thursday evenings that I work with them, as I am the only male on duty. Thanks, I can hear your words of sympathy.

Photos of male participants, there garb and the lady ‘spivs’ can be viewed within the blog. We raised a credible sum of. Arlene kindly donated a sum from the final amount to the Sick Childrens’ Hospital in Edinburgh.

Next up was our intended annual outing to the Panto on Thursday 8th December. “Oh no it wasn’t”, I hear some of you say but “Oh yes it was”. Well in a way it wasn’t. This was the day of the very ‘high winds’ that occurred in Scotland. All the boys, staff and invited guests from the other Units and teaching staff were all ready and raring to go. We were enjoying our soup and sandwiches before departure when we received a call from the Kings Theatre informing us that as the Fourth Bridge was closed and that it would prove difficult for anyone to get to the Theatre; they had decided to cancel the performance and rescheduled us for the 17th January. When the news was announced to all, well you could have knocked us over with a custard pie. “Boo’ hiss and oh no it can’t be”, was our responses. Quick thinking and determination from Karen saved the day. She was quite adamant that as we were all well in the ‘mood’ we weren’t going to be disappointed. A quick check of the local cinema listings and with some reorganising of our dining venue, resulted in a very enjoyable day out to see ‘Hugo’ or ‘The Thing’ and a meal consumed at Frankie and Bennies thereafter. All this ensured that we weren’t going to end the day in disappointment and all at the expense of the school. With the Panto still to come, well how we could not have had a great time. Thanks Kings, Karen and Mike (who footed the bill) for a smashing extra day out.

Christmas soon arrived and that meant the school Concert, the Unit Christmas Lunch the Staff dance and Christmas Day celebrations, either in the school or at home. A good day was had by all at the Concert with special mention to our own Andrew who went down a treat playing in the band. The lunch went without a ‘hitch’ and we are glad to say most of our boys had a home base to enjoy Christmas day. A very welcome Christmas holiday break was enjoyed by all, with few if any major upsets occurring.

The new term started back in January and everyone was in the ‘groove’ again ready and willing to tackle and endure, sorry enjoy, the weeks and months ahead. We have to say, the thought of attending the Panto outing was uppermost in our minds and when we did attend on the 17th, another enjoyable day out was experienced by all. Cinderella was the performance and as usual the staff made more noise and nuisances of themselves than the boys did. Jimmy Chungs was the desired restaurant for dinner and the writer just beat the rest, to get their first. As usual many courses were savoured by most of us and then some before finishing off with an ice cream selection. To cap it all we had our annual ‘burl’ on the Big Wheel, on Princess St., before returning on the late train. Minor problems encountered but again a most enjoyable outing.

So to the present where we eagerly await the onset of a glorious summer of persistent, hot sunny windless days and swimming at the local Silver Sands beach, with bar –b- que and picnics galore. More likely the staying indoors, avoiding the cold wet and windy days and having to suffer the writers’ attempts at warming up and not burning Richards delicious prepared savoury evening meals. “Aw well, you can’t get everything in life that you wish for”.

Before signing off it’s a warm welcome to our new boys, Liam, Kerin, Garry and a somewhat sad but ‘best wishes and good luck, sending off to Andrew, Dale, Taylor and Callum, due to leave us at the end of May.

In recent months we have had to say ‘Goodbye’ to our Colleagues Stuart, Tracey and Nicki but it’s a big welcome to Laura, Dan and Joe who have settled in very well and have had an immediate supportive effect. Here’s wishing all our ‘bloggers’ and readers a happy, enjoyable and hopefully ‘sunny summer vacation’. Bye.

The House – Flamingo Land Adventure

Easter 2012 was a very special occasion in the House Unit at Hillside School, as Unit Manager Dave Marcus set off with trusty sidekick, Donald Wall-e, and boys from school for a four day adventure in the faraway realm of Flamingo Land.

After weeks of mounting excitement, anticipation and preparation, 10 O’clock on Friday the 30th of March finally arrived. Champing at the bit, Kenneth raced Dave Marcus to the car, and without further ado, the entire crew set off with a breathless Dave Marcus at the wheel. Having just a few stops en route to satiate their enormously ravenous appetites, they crossed the Border and arrived at Flamingo Land, raring to go.

Kenneth, first to the car, was first out. Like a gazelle in the spring, he bolted to the rides, leaving his entourage of JC and Wee Marcus eating dust as he sped away on the motorbikes.

Sitting at the Jolly Sailor, their minds free of care and worry, Unit Manager and sidekick Wall-e glided gracefully into an ersatz philosophical journey, pondering the mysteries of the universe and paradoxes of human existence, while sipping delicately on frothy Lattes and milky Mochaccinos.

The days passed in a blissful, balmy haze. Kenneth, exuberant, exhilarated and ecstatic tried every ride in the park, but mostly ended up on the motorbikes. JC and Wee Marcus bounced around from ride to ride, with thrills and spills a’plenty.

“Like watching Hegel ‘wrestle’ with Abelard“, as one passer-by described it, Unit Manager and Sidekick philosophised; theologised; pushed dialectic to hitherto unheard of depths and traversed the hermetic labyrinth together. A lofty sublation was reached, namely: that the Name of The Rose was merely a blip on an otherwise uninterrupted downward trajectory.

As for the boys, well they just had a good time.