Students in their sports attire flock down Pleasance to perform their mysterious rituals in a place called The Gym, also known as The Temple of the Sixpack and the Booty…
But there is a handful of students who are different. Students wearing sturdy boots, winter coats and knitwear. They gather in front of The Tool Cupboard and open it with a secret passcode. Then they take out their tools – shiny spades, giant’s forks, and the most magnificent and powerful of them all – The Mattock.
Yes, you know who they are – the Edinburgh Dirty Weekenders.
Every week, a different place is in need of their services. The Dirties come and bring order and biscuits to where there is chaos and buddleia. Or, this time, weeds.
That Sunday, Marionville Care Home, not far from the Secret Garden of Lochend, called upon us Dirties to save them from greedy weeds and make their flowerbeds charming and flowery again. The task wasn’t easy as the weather was cold and some Dirties nearly lost their fingers to frostbite*, but as the sun made their way up the sky, sunshine brought warmth and new energy and we worked happily on emptying beds and pulling out naughty weeds until it was time for lunch.
Soup, sandwiches, and cake restored our energy and brought smiles onto tired faces. Working after lunch was much more pleasant than in the morning because the courtyard was sunny and, well, we were full of Wotsits. After the beds were emptied, it was time to line them with tarp and compost. We spent the rest of the afternoon on these tasks and when we were done, all the compost was put into beds and they were all ready to be filled with magical herbs and flowers for the wizards from the care home to make potions with… or something.
The Dirty Weekenders walked back to Pleasance to put away the ritual tools. Afterwards, they went home (or to the pub) to start restoring their energy for another project the following week…
After a few sad weeks’ break that followed the end of the December exam diet and all the other diets (I mean, Christmas happened), the Dirty Weekenders finally got back together for the first project of 2019! We met as usual in front of the tool cupboard and the number of volunteers exceeded all of our expectations (given that we had any). 43! students got out of their beds early on Sunday morning – I guess sleep deprivation and insomnia is not really an issue yet, as the deadlines are still a few weeks away. Fortunately, our hosts at the Duddingston Community Garden had plenty of jobs for us to do and everyone was involved in one task or another. The main tasks were tree planting, clearing the stepped path, and expanding the table area which included preparing the ground, moving the concrete slabs, and putting them in so they are even and neat. The weather was cold but sunshine stayed with us until about lunchtime. We had our lunch in the Byre, and it was delicious as always – homemade soup, bread, cake, and hot drinks warmed us up after our hard work. We didn’t play ratchet-screwdriver because we were lame and didn’t want to break anyone’s ribs (or other body parts), but we had some time to socialise and meet new student volunteers. After lunch we got back to work to finish off our tasks. By the end of the day we had finished putting in the tiles, planted a number of trees along with supports, and got quite cold so we packed up our tools and said goodbye to Duddingston residents. We walked back to Pleasance, enjoying the views of the sunset and the prospect of having nachos at the Hoose made us all merry and jolly. Who cares about the 10 weeks of forthcoming torture if you have sunsets, biscuits, and Dirties?
In the forecast sunshine the Dirty Weekenders found ourselves once again travelling to Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park where we were met by Espy the ranger in charge of the park. She gave us an introduction to the park and our project of crown lifting one of small woods in the park. This involves removing the branches of the well-established trees up to head height to improve accessibility, light and biodiversity of the wood.
We got stuck into the task, spreading out into the wood and removing the branches with saws and loppers. We broke for lunch and found a nice patch of sun to eat the lunch the site provided for us.
Joined by some friends of the park and a certain step-obsessed dirty, we tackled a huge patch of wild rose and a rather bushy holy tree. After a break for hot drinks prepared by storm kettle we tidied up and removed some litter from the area, the spoils of which included a humongous metal hula-hoop, a pumpkin and child’s scooter, the last carried back on a public bus to join the Dirty’s collection of “recreational tools”.