March 7, 2014
Last year, as you may recall, I almost did an Errandonnee by accident (and I still got a prize). This year, I was determined to do better, but I haven’t got off to a scintillating start.
Errandoneering, for those who don’t spend all their time reading about obscure bicycle stuff on the internet, challenges you to run 12 errands by bike in 12 days, between Friday March 7th and Tuesday March 19th, which is apparently 13 days but who’s counting. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as all that – you have to run a variety of errands and you have to document them, AND you have to learn something or make an observation on each one, which is hard if you’re me and you’ve forgotten you’re even doing it until you’re rounding the last corner before home (up until then I was just fetching the paper).
Still, I did remember in time and took a photo of this very interesting (to me) hole in the ground, which appears to be part of a long-running project on the part of two coonsil chaps* to sort out the drainage on our road. And my observation is that the powers that be have finally worked out that if your roads aren’t doubling up as stream beds then they might last a bit longer between visits from the tarmac fairy.
Either the council are sorting out the drains, or the local badgers have been on a health and safety course…
My next trick will be trying to come up with a sufficient variety of errands to meet the very exacting rules of this challenge. And actually remember I’m doing it this time…
Errand: fetching paper. Distance: 11 miles. Category: store (non-grocery) (unless the shop in Papershop Village counts as a grocery shop) (it’s never simple is it?)
* The usual combination of a young one who does all the digging and an old one who alternates between leaning on his spade and telling the young one how it was much better in his day. I imagine. I’ve only ever witnessed him doing the former, but the young one generally has a look on his face that suggests he’s getting more than enough of the latter.
March 6, 2014
*sigh*. I was at another of the local street design stakeholder meetings (what can I say, they serve cake). All was going well until I suggested that pavement cycling along one particular busy road might be reduced if people were signposted to the leisure centre via a safer route through the residential streets. Someone from the council piped up: surely you’d only be going to the leisure centre if you actually lived in Bigtown, he pointed out (showing a distinct lack of confidence in the council’s flagship sporting facility and venue) and then you’d know how to get there. As the whole project is trying to create a nicer environment, a heritage feel, and less street clutter, wouldn’t a sign just defeat the point?
Erm. Quite apart from the fact that after five years I’m still finding new routes to get to places on my bike, there is a big, shiny, glaring elephant in the room here. We can put in all the railings, cobbles, gas-effect street lights and heritage street signs we like and none of it will disguise the fact that the streets themselves will be completely cluttered up with cars. Which aren’t very Victorian, or indeed very attractive at all. So I can’t see the problem with one little directional sign, clutter or no clutter.
I am prepared to compromise though. If the council will just ban through traffic in the area, unless you’re in a horse-drawn Hackney carriage, and ensure that the coal comes delivered on a dray, then I will quite happily only cycle through it on a Safety Bike, wearing Rational Dress.
You can’t say fairer than that.
March 4, 2014
My mum was asking what I wanted for my upcoming birthday the other day – ‘any more bits you need for your bike?’ – and I had to say that, since its last service, when I finally got a kick stand put on, there really wasn’t anything more me or my bike actually needed.
My bike was already a bit of a fred bike (strictly speaking a doris bike) when I first got it – in the sense of a bike which has been modified for comfort and practicality rather than speed or style. With its mudguards, rack and touring bars it already deviated from the norm for UK bikes – and as I have since added a Brooks saddle, now perfectly moulded to fit (and matching Brooks tool roll, thanks Mum), semi-permanent pannier bag, dynamo lighting and Japanese alloy bell – not to mention spikey winter tyres – it is now (to my mind) perfect, and to everyone else’s mind a bit weird – and that’s before you add the rider in wellies, rain skirt and non-ironic tweed cap. I’m hoping it will render it unstealable,* as apparently any bike thief worth their salt sticks to ‘normal’ bikes by which they mean flat barred aluminium hybrids, preferably with front suspension, and frankly they’re welcome to those.
I may joke about N+1, but the Brompton aside, I’m really more of a one-bike girl, so the bike has tended to bear the brunt of my Mrs Armitage-ish tendencies. However, I did think as I rode out this morning that bike and I are more or less complete – at least until I break down and fit an electric motor in time for my 80th Anniversaire.
Or so I thought – until a parcel arrived in the post this lunchtime with the one must-have accessory every bike in Scotland should be wearing:
Feel free to admire my bike in the comments…
* I do – mostly – lock it up all the same. Ahem. When I have remembered my lock.
March 2, 2014
It is one of the few compensations of advancing middle age that you no longer even have to pretend that your idea of a good weekend might involve going to a festival of the kind that involve loud music, crowds of people getting off their faces, tents, and mud. But that doesn’t mean we don’t know how to let our hair down and have a wild time at the weekend…
I bring you the St Abbs Wool Festival, for starters
Meet the makers: Wensleydales (‘Wensleydale, Grommit!) outside the wool festival
There are breeds other than merino, apparently. Who knew?
And if you’re tired of looking at wool (how could anyone tire of looking at wool?) there are also buttons
Followed by one of the highlights of the year: potato day (we’ve been here before)
From Accent to Yukon Gold…
Why should the Young People have all the fun, eh?
February 27, 2014
A strange thing happened this afternoon – I looked out of the window just before 5pm and realised that not only was it not dark, but that it was actually nice weather. And I was getting tired and cranky from looking at my computer all day and needed a bit of a break. And I hadn’t been out in my garden for weeks other than to empty the compost bucket and raid the kale patch.* So I siezed the day and dashed outside to get something done and had, ooh, a whole half an hour before the skies darkened and it started hailing. It was nice while it lasted though.
What’s worse than raining cats and dogs? Hailing taxis…
Worryingly, I noticed that the weedlings have already started sprouting underneath all the vegetation. It’s too much to hope that they’ve just been battered to death by the hail, I suppose?
* And seriously, when did kale suddenly become a thing? We only grow it because it’s one of the three things that reliably grow in the Scottish climate, along with onions and tatties…
February 26, 2014
I have a slight bone to pick with the Met Office. Oh, all right, several bones, but my current beef is the way their weather app will take a day with heavy rain forecast for half of the day and no rain forecast for the other half of the day and describe that as ‘light rain’. You can’t average out rain. It’s like saying a day with a northerly gale in the morning and a southerly gale in the afternoon has no wind at all.
Not that it actually matters. We had light rain this morning and I looked at it and thought ‘oh well it’s only raining a little bit, no point putting the full rain gear on.’ WRONG. It is an indisputable fact of cycling life that light rain gets you just as wet – indeed sometimes wetter – than heavy rain. Be it a downpour, cats and dogs, steady drizzle, fine sifting rain, or that rain that isn’t really inging so much as just there, in the air, waiting for you to cycle through it – after an hour you will be equally wet and equally annoyed about it…
That said, rain is better than hail. Coming back from yoga yesterday I got caught in a hailstorm that was going sideways and I can tell you that having little tiny stinging particles of hail sandblasting the side of your face is extremely painful, albeit quite invigorating. If there’s anything in this microdermabrasion nonsense, then by rights I ought to be looking like one of those before and after photos with the left hand side of my face blasted clean.
This post reminds me that there’s a very nice Spanish woman working in Bigtown at the moment – she’s been here about a year now. I asked her the other day how she was liking Scotland and particularly the weather. She replied ‘I wouldn’t mind it so much except that everyone I speak to keeps mentioning it. It makes it hard to forget about it.’ The thing is, we keep feeling the need to apologise for it, especially to someone who is in a sense a guest – as if we kept bringing up how untidy our house is or apologising for the food (although there’s that too) and making the whole thing even more awkward.
Perhaps we should just ignore it and it will go away. But then what would we talk about?
February 25, 2014
Well, that didn’t take long. I was just about to put my new stripey (pre-warmed on the Rayburn – lovely) socks on when I discovered that the heel of one already had a huge hole in it so I had to spend the next half hour or so darning…
(If anyone wonders why I can darn socks, it’s because I went to an old-fashioned Scottish boarding school and if you were caught going around in your socks without your slippers on you had to darn any resulting holes. I can’t say it’s been a particularly useful life skill up till I started knitting my own socks and finally had something it was worth the effort of darning. It does mean I religiously wear my slippers in the house though)
I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that 100% wool is not the best yarn for knitting socks – 20% of (gasp) nylon in the mix seems to make them much more hard wearing. The first ever pair of socks I knitted are still, just, going strong after more than three years, although one of them is apparently channelling Edvard Munch.
The other hole might just be due to the fact that I’ve worn nothing but wellies for the last two weeks now, and they are a bit hard on socks. Unfortunately, that looks unlikely to change…