The Iron Laws of Freelancing

October 21, 2014

1. Thou shalt not turn down any jobs

2. The jobs shall never arrive when the client says they will

3. If multiple jobs can arrive at the same time they will

Law three particularly applies when you are planning a visit to your parents followed by a trip down to London. Which is why, instead of a blog post, you’ll have to be satisfied a nice photo instead.

poplar tree avenue

Miniature parental figures included for scale. It’s amazing how they shrink, isn’t it?

Oh the Excitement

October 17, 2014

Apologies for the light blogging recently – the sad truth is I just haven’t had much to blog about. I’ve taken advantage of my enforced near house arrest to get on with beating my latest novel into something vaguely readable, and while I do pride myself on being able to spin something blogworthy out of the least promising material having managed to churn out a daily blog post about my commute back in another lifetime, even I can’t pretend there’s anything more to say about walking down to the village and back followed by half an hour spent staring at a screen, adding in a nicely placed comma and then – after another hour’s reflection – taking it out again. On the plus side, not going anywhere is doing wonders for our bank balance – I’ve been carrying around the same £10 note for almost two weeks now.

But yesterday I had a meeting in town (and by ‘meeting’ of course I mean lunch, gossip, cake, coffee and a little bit of popup bookshop planning) followed by writers group in the evening when we were made to act out dialogue (and I discovered that – two years of aggressive non-aggression on twitter notwithstanding – I really love a good barney as long as it’s just pretend) and I was as giddy as a schoolgirl. Domestication has its virtues, but I long to be able to be independently mobile again (and yes, Mum, I could drive myself. But I am trying to cut down on unnecessary car journeys, and besides the other half has hidden the car keys*). A good 90% of everyone I speak to agrees that it would be daft to start cycling too soon and undo the NHS’s good work and I agree, I really do. But I dreamt last night I got back on the bike again.

And it was wonderful.

sailing through a puddle

* not really. Well, probably not really, although I haven’t actually looked. He did look a bit panicked when I suggested driving somewhere the other day.

More Information for Stalkers

October 14, 2014

After a nice restful period, I’m off on my travels again soon – first appearing as an award-winning advocate at the LCC Women’s Cycle Forum (and if the other half could at least try to say that with a straight face, I would be grateful) and second, hosting a Women’s Cycle Forum (you may detect a trend here) networking lunch to coincide with the Cycling Scotland Conference in Glasgow. To be honest, the latter event will basically consist of me and Back on My Bike in a pub that’s handy for the conference, along with anyone else who chooses to turn up, rebranded, because it’s quite hard to have lunch with anyone else without it also involving a bit of networking (unless your idea of lunch is wolfing down your food in silence interrupted only by snarling at anyone who comes near it, in which case have you considered you might be a dog?). But hey, as the other half said, that’s the sort of thing that wins you an award.

Bringing in the Dinosaur Harvest

October 13, 2014

Now that I’ve resumed light gardening duties, it was time to tackle the dinosaur eggs, otherwise known as Purple Podded Best beans, which have done rather spectacularly well. The problem with getting seeds handed over in a mysterious little unlabelled bag is that they don’t come with any instructions. So I wasn’t sure exactly when or how to harvest. I was going to leave them on the plants until the frost killed them off, but a bit more googling suggested that this wasn’t a great idea in a damp climate so today I hoicked them up to dry them indoors.


Some of the pods had actually dried out (we really did have a spectacularly dry September) and were looking rather spiffy.

bean pod

Others had gone a bit soft so I pulled those off the plants and shelled them and the rest got hung up to dry in the shed on an improvised rack.

bean plants ready to dry

Even further googling suggests that podding them and drying them in the Rayburn’s warming oven might be an even better option, and it might still come to that, although then they won’t germinate, which slightly misses the point of having some heritage orphan seeds.

the harvest so far

Anyway, seeing as these were given to me by a seed guardian, and it’s all about preserving varieties for posterity, if anyone would like a mysterious baggie of dinosaur eggs of their own then give me a shout in the comments, although you might want to wait until we’ve actually tried eating them and tell you what they taste like. Or at least confirm that they aren’t going to eat us…

squash harvest

In other news I’m unimpressed by my squash harvest. My friend suggested that they were ‘mainly ornamental’ but ‘not even particularly ornamental’ would seem to be closer to the mark. Depending on how they taste, I’m going to have to try harder to get hold of gem squash again for next year…

A Mile in My Shoes

October 10, 2014

sunshine and wet road

Well, more than a mile, actually. This week I’ve clocked up well over 15 miles walking back and forth to the village and I’m discovering lots of things, mainly the fact that most of my footwear is more comfortable for cycling in than walking – I’m looking at you, wellies – and that I’d forgotten all about blisters but now that I have discovered them I can confirm that they hurt about as much as minor abdominal surgery. I’ve also discovered that people in cars behave just as badly or well around pedestrians as they do around cyclists, or perhaps it’s actually personal to me, regardless of my mode of transport – certainly I have seen no more observance of Rule 206 than I have Rule 163. I’m much more assertive about taking the country lane on foot, though, especially when it’s raining. I’ve realised that this is because, while the consequences of a close pass on the bike are potentially more lethal (pedestrians can always leap to the verge out of the way) they are also less likely to actually happen, whereas if a driver scooshes past you on a wet road when you’re on foot you have a 100% likelihood of getting drenched.

wet road

Yes, drivers, I could get out of your way and stand meekly by the verge while you accelerate past me here, and no, I’m not going to

That aside, you get much less wet on foot than on a bike – and it’s been rather nice to be reunited with some items of clothing which haven’t proved that practical to cycle in, such as my big waxed coat (too hot) and my Akubra hat (too brimmed), both of which are way more waterproof than anything else I own.

I’ve also learned that, even more than cycling, the village do not consider walking to be a sensible mode of transport so that I’ve had to fend off (and occasionally accept) offers of lifts (depending on how much cake I’m planning to eat). And to be honest, I can’t say I disagree – walking is very healthy and it’s pleasant on a nice day but compared to a bike, my god it is slow. And tiring too. Add in wellies (wellie miles, like Brompton miles, count double, treble if you’ve got blisters), and I come back from fetching the paper – approximately an hour of walking – ready to collapse onto the sofa, with really weary legs. It would be nearer three hours before my legs felt like that after cycling. Long-distance walkers and runners, I salute you.

I’m also beginning to feel a bit of a fraud because people are being lovely and solicitous, while I mostly feel completely recovered, just a bit grounded. I know I’ll regret it if I cycle too early and something goes ping, so I will sit out the prescribed cycling ban like a good girl and not whinge too much. But I am so looking forward to getting back on the bike. And so are my poor legs…

double rainbow

Put to Work

October 9, 2014
onions, carrots, celery

Stock makings. I’m never sure how much the vegetable matter actually makes a difference to the end result but I can’t think of anything else celery is good for

I had a quiet day at home on my own today and with the weather looking decidedly unpleasant, it was a chance to get the Rayburn earning its keep and justifying its oil bill. The electric cooker we use during the summer means it’s not worth making stock so the chicken carcases build up in the freezer until Rayburn Man comes and then it’s all hands to the deck, and a chance to transform all the odds and ends of celery, the pathetically small onions I managed to grow this year, and parmesan rinds that have been kicking around for a while in the fridge into something scrummy

chicken stock

Chicken stock. Artful camera angle entirely down to the fact that I was charging my phone at the time

And once the stock making had taken the heat out of the Rayburn oven, it was the perfect temperature to attempt making chocolate chip cookies with added SCIENCE, as detailed at even greater length than I would consider reasonable here. I had even stuck with the instructions and rested the dough for 24 hours as apparently this was the SCIENCE bit even though Twitter was urging me to split the batch and experiment for myself.

No rest for me, however (thanks Twitter), for first I had a planning application to consider and then a whole Scottish Budget to comb through for mention of active travel (spending on cycling stagnating while the spending on roads goes up 9% if you’re interested) although fortunately more dedicated people than me did the actual combing and most of the drafting, I just had to do a cut and polish on the final result.

There was a bit of novel writing in there somewhere too.

Oh and the cookies? To be honest, they were actually a bit overpowering. Possibly Twitter was right. As the academics always say, more research is needed…

plate of cookes

This looks like a small plate of normal sized cookies but the recipe was American and so it is actually a dinner plate of giant cookies.

Frabjuous Day

October 7, 2014

Today was a red letter day in the calendar: after a two-week wait, Rayburn Man was coming which meant a pleasant morning setting the world to rights while he got on with the intricate work of degunking the Rayburn. He’s a fellow woodburning stove enthusiast, another two-wheeler (motorbikes rather than bicycles) and generally interested in most things so we always have a good chat, with today’s topics including sure-fire woodburner lighting techniques (always have the cut end of the wood upwards), the perils of Smidsy, bike geometry, the wonders (and prices) of the Fein Multimaster and database design. The kitchen is now once more warm and inviting and while I’ll have cabin fever in a month or two for sure, for now I’m just enjoying the fact that we can have warm towels and warm clothes and somewhere warm to park your bum of a cold afternoon.

seedlings in the greenhouse

Today also being two weeks since my operation – and rather more importantly, a bit of a calm sunny interlude between weather fronts – I then declared myself fit enough to resume light gardening duties and headed up to the garden. I’ve already been doing a little bit of potting on of seedlings in the greenhouse – which is no more strenuous than knitting once you’ve got yourself down to their level – but I also managed to clear out the old mangetouts bed ready for when I can resume shovelling manure. Or almost, because this chap (I think a smooth newt) emerged as I was just finishing up

newt in veg bed

So I switched to weeding the spring onions instead, which seem to have been amazingly prolific this year.

spring onions

The frost has sent a couple of shots across our bows in the last few days but so far not actually killed anything off yet. But I’ve a feeling we’re living on borrowed time. Thankfully, with the Rayburn now lit, we are prepared.


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