December 5, 2013
‘That’s the only sensible vehicle to use today,’ I was told by a cheery chap with a chainsaw this afternoon, as I cycled into Bigtown in the aftermath of Hurricane Trampoline. I was taking a slightly circuitous route as the postman – who had not made it through until lunchtime – had warned me of serious road closures: there were apparently police cars in attendence at *incomprehensible* even though *unintelligible* had managed to cut a hole in the big trees down at *completely indecipherable* (I still haven’t quite got the hang of the postman’s accent after 5 years). Fortunately, chainsaw man and his ilk had managed to clear away all of the fallen trees from the road I took and so I wasn’t forced to hoik my bike over any trunks. Being able to get over or around such obstacles is all very well in theory, but I suspect in practice it might be beyond my upper body strength…
Anyway, as well as bringing travel advice, the postie also delivered my new hat (yes, it’s taken me this long to get around to ordering it) so it got a bit of a work out on the ride in. So far I can confirm that a Harris tweed flat cap is proof against sudden snow showers, hail, low winter sun and rain; its performance during a plague of frogs is as yet untested. Unfortunately, as I had to order a 55 cm hat – being the smallest size available in proper Harris tweed, as children only deserve a polyester-wool blend apparently – it is a little precarious in cross wind. As is cycling with one hand on your brakes and one hand holding your hat on, as it happens, so I may need to get myself a bit of ribbon or something to adjust its size to fit a pinhead like me. It is also – as I discovered on the ride home – absolutely toasty warm. Even riding home eight miles into an icy headwind, I ended up with a slightly sweaty head. So possibly a summer solution may also be needed (although then again, that depends on the summer)
Icy headwind or no, I was at least rewarded on the ride home by a glorious evening sky, complete with the merest sliver of a fingernail moon and (I’m guessing) Venus rising beneath it. There’s something about the winter sky through the trees as darkness falls that I will never get tired of.
Especially now I know I can keep my head nice and warm while I admire it.
December 4, 2013
It was a glorious winter day today – bright, still, and not a cloud in the sky. Or rather, not a cloud in the sky until I had got five minutes into my papershop run this morning and a cloud appeared and sprinkled icy rain on me for the next mile or so before disappearing and the weather reverted to gloriousness.
Coincidence, you might think, but it happened again just as I headed up to the garden for a productive hour of muck shifting and spreading (there are some tasks that are best done when bunged up with a cold), the cloud then vanishing again as soon as I’d finished getting the washing in.*
Despite the return of normal service from the Weather Gods (I would say that I’ve missed them this year, but that would be a lie), I did manage to get some gardening in, and things are almost looking ready for winter
There’s still kale (looooads of kale), beetroot, some rather weedy leeks and spinach on the go, and we haven’t even started on the parsnips. The purple sprouting broccoli has recovered from the attentions of the cabbage whites (oops) and are already throwing up a few sprouts, which is not surprising given how mild the autumn has been so far.
I’m even beginning to feel faintly optimistic about my overwintering broad beans. I wasn’t expecting much but I had some soon-to-be out-of-date seed left over and I thought why not stick them under the cloche and see what happens. Of all the things I thought might happen them coming up and thriving and all but outgrowing the cloche seemed the least likely but that’s what they’ve done. You never know, they might make it through the rest of the winter … although now that the weather gods are back on form, they may end up victim to the blizzards, tornadoes, or just plagues of frogs that are undoubtedly coming my way.
* There are some people who just leave the washing out through showers on the grounds that it dries eventually, but I haven’t dared lay down that sort of a gauntlet to the weather gods.
December 3, 2013
Having retired hurt from any attempt to do any bike maintenance, I found myself in a bit of a quandary this afternoon as I had to be in Bigtown for the evening, it was dark, and my dynamo had decided to stop playing ball. Although the other half had got it all working again, it has never been quite the same since it fell off at speed the last time I attempted to do any maintenance. The dynamo itself is fine, but the catch and spring affair that holds the roller away from the wheel when you don’t need it and presses it against the wheel when you do, had gone from a status of ‘needing a bit of a shoogle to make it work’ to ‘not even swearing at it will make it work’. I had to ride into town on my emergency backup light which was reasonable at about 4:30 when there was still a bit of light in the sky, but I wasn’t really looking forward to the ride back as my backup light is no more than a little spotlight, compared to the floodlight provided by my dynamo. Fine for being seen, not so great at warning me about potholes, puddles or stray livestock (who thought all-black cows was a good idea?) on the road ahead.
Fortunately, I was meeting other bike-minded people, including an engineer, and with the meeting over – and it being December, this was the sort of meeting which comes with mince pies and mulled wine – we got the bike in to see if we could find the right combination of swear words to get the dynamo working again. We managed to disassemble the thing and work out how it ought to work, but once disassembled, we found we couldn’t get it back together again. This meant the dynamo roller was now pressing against the wheel all right, but we couldn’t deploy the catch to switch it off. I had decided that this was better than nothing – it would at least get me home with a decent light, and if nothing else I’d get some extra exercise – but, emboldened by my second glass of mulled wine, I thought I’d just have one last try to see if I couldn’t reassemble everything so at least the cover was back on. A bit of trial and error, much shoogling and some strategic swearing later, there was a satisfying click and lo and behold it was as good as new. Clearly, what I’ve been doing wrong up to now is not attempting to do bike maintenance so much as attempting to do it sober.
Of course, there’s an argument that if I was drunk enough to fix my bike I was probably too drunk to ride it home, but I rode it home anyway (the roads were deserted, even of stray livestock). And now all I have to do is work out how much booze I’ll need to tackle the job of fitting the ice tyres, just in case the the wintry apocalypse we’re being promised on Thursday ever arrives…
December 2, 2013
That suffering from a cold + December drizzle + bi-directional headwind + frozen toes = a less than pleasant experience on the bike this morning (they can’t ALL be wonderful I suppose). If Saturday’s ride was a restorative, today’s was more of a ‘it will be lovely when it stops’ affair – and, indeed, when I did stop and got in and retrieved my jumper which I had left warming on the Rayburn it was lovely. There’s nothing like going out and getting frozen for making the house feel warm – and it’s cheaper than turning on the heating.*
* ‘Have you been writing in to the Guardian?’ the other half asked this weekend as he came across this
December 1, 2013
I can’t remember it ever being this low in winter before. Oh, and look at that sunshine!
Meanwhile, for those of you wondering what my ride down to the papershop while being attacked by ASBO buzzard is like
I can assure you it is absolutely nothing like this (hat tip to CycleStuff)
November 30, 2013
After yesterday’s pity party (mental note to self: do not blog when feeling sorry for yourself) I woke up this morning feeling less than ready for much of anything today. It was cold, I wasn’t well, and I was supposed to be helping lead a bike ride I’d done almost nothing to promote due to the whole candle-at-both-ends, gadding-about thing, which meant probably nobody would turn up. Even the fact that it was a sparkly frosty morning didn’t really help – didn’t the weather Gods know that I was ILL?
Fortunately, as the ride was going practically past my door, my fellow ride leader was happy to meet the group at the start and let me join the ride en route. Having had no text indicating a complete no-show, I set off slowly towards the rendezvous point, still thinking that this was probably a silly thing to be doing with a cold.
Regular readers of this blog will probably guess what happened next. The sun was slanting across the hills and giving everything it touched a hyper-real air, like autumn had been turned all the way up to 11. There was even some faint warmth in the sun on my face. I was reminded that I live in a gorgeous part of the world and here I was out on my bike, taking advantage of it
Not only that, but seven people had showed up for the ride, including two octogenarians – one of whom proceeded to set a cracking pace (there was a cafe stop and a bacon roll waiting for him and he wasn’t going to let anyone slow him down). There’s nothing like being dropped by an 84-year-old to give you a sense of perspective.
Clearly the main thing that was wrong with me last week was not enough cycling… I shall have to rectify that from now on.
November 29, 2013
As alert readers may have noticed, I’ve been a bit busy recently. Not just all the gadding about of the last few weeks, but at some point in the preceding months I have managed to go from doing occasional welcome freelance jobs to being somehow employed more or less full time. Adding in all the various cycling stuff I do – and my writing, which is technically supposed to be my day job – then I was left with very little time to do all the things we moved up here in order to be able to do.
So I have decided, if I can, to rebalance my life a little, at least over December. My resolve has been strengthened by the fact that I’ve come back from That London and its plentiful and germ-filled public transport with some sort of lurgy (having compounded my error by staying in a house with school-age children – I’m surprised that the other half didn’t institute some sort of a quarantine arrangement on my return). Occasionally you have to listen to what your body is telling you, even if it is doing so through the medium of pain and snot. I still have a few more commitments to get through (like running a pop-up bookshop today, as you do, and oh look I’ve got something on every evening next week) but then I’m going to be strict about clearing the decks and concentrating on what really matters. Like blogging.
So stand by for more updates about the important stuff in life. Like getting the garden ready for winter, going for long walks, curling up in front of the fire, and – of course – updating you on the level of the ford.