Going ... going ... gone

13th November 2009 at 00:00
It is something many would love to do, but only one lucky boy got to press the demolition button

"It's the biggest thing I have ever broken without getting into trouble," says 11-year-old Robert Millar.

Robert didn't smash a plate or drop a mobile phone - he sent three entire blocks of flats crashing to the ground.

The story began when he entered an Edinburgh City Council competition, open to three schools near the empty tower blocks in Gracemount. The winning designer of a safety poster would clear space for 220 new homes by detonating the 246 flats of Garvald, Soutra and Fala courts.

There was huge excitement at Kaimes School, most of whose pupils have autism - not least from Robert himself.

"We had to keep telling him, `You can enter this, but it doesn't mean you'll win,'" says his mum, Julie, who was playing down his hopes since he has Asperger's Syndrome and gets disappointed if things don't turn out as he wishes.

The excitement climbed even higher when Robert learned he had won, but the day of detonation - Sunday, October 25 - dragged on interminably. The demolition was held up for two hours because some people had strayed too close to the condemned tower blocks.

Robert had some stern words for the MD of Colman when it was reported - for what seemed like the umpteenth time to him - that there would be a delay. But anticipation of his prize and excitement at being centre of attention helped him handle the frustration.

"I think it was good for him, because everything needs to be so structured," says Julie. "It's given me confidence that he can deal with things and sudden changes in his routines."

When Robert finally pressed the button, the flats - built in 1962 - plummeted to the ground in seconds. There was whooping and cheering, and everyone gave Robert the high-five. His celebrity has extended beyond that day, and Julie says he is "absolutely loving" the attention of being spotted in the shops, handling media interviews, and regaling the senior school assembly with his exploits.

Robert won a gold medal at the special needs judo British championships, but didn't see what the fuss was about. It's far more exciting going to school in the morning and passing on the evidence of his destruction, says his mum. "He sees this pile of bricks every day, and I think he has a wee smile because he's thinking, `I did that.'"

www.youtube.comwatch?v=Phks AeAnpDo.

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