Half Sprung

April 15, 2014

waiting bike

It’s a tough life, but today I had to add a few extra miles to my route back from Bigtown after yoga to deliver some Pedal on Parliament flyers to a local cafe and farm shop. The sun was blazing down* and dazzlingly bright, but I battled on up hill and down dale, stopping only for a cold drink and a a rest once I had arrived there.

hedgerows and trees

The hedgerows are full of green and blossoms and the skies were full of singing larks, but the trees remain resolutely wintry. We’re not there yet, not quite. There’s still springing to be done…

wintry trees

Sometimes it’s hard work bringing about safer cycling in Scotland, but someone’s got to do it…

gate and green field wintry tree two trees

* you may laugh, but I had not really factored in the insulating effect of having my yoga leggings on under my normal trousers and I was genuinely boiling by the time I got there and was able to do a quick change routine in the loo. It was so hot I even considered nipping behind a bush and just continuing in my leggings but they contain lycra and I was concerned someone might think I was a real cyclist.

Facts on the Ground

April 14, 2014

It’s that time of year when you only have to turn your back on a bulb of garlic and it turns into this

garlic bulb sprouting

So it got re-allocated from kitchen duties to joining the overwintering (and by ‘overwintering’ I mean ‘lost track of last summer and only rediscovered it when it sprouted’) garlic up in the veg plot.

overwintering garlic

The garden feels massively behind this year, but things are warming up at last and spring is advancing. Tempting though it is to dive in and go mad on a glorious sunny breezy day like today, the soil is still very damp and claggy and there are frosts forecast so I’m having to hold back from planting anything just yet, apart from the chitted parsnips. Everything else is crammed onto the shed windowsill biding its time with varying degrees of patience – I have to be a bit careful walking past the pea seedlings, lest they start climbing up my leg.

broad beans in flower

Thank goodness for my autumn-planted broad beans. Battered they may be, but they are magnificently in flower. Even though I’ve done practically nothing except take a punt and stick some in the ground last year on the off chance, it almost makes me feel like a real gardener…

Duns Cycle Chic

April 12, 2014

Babymother and co were up helping Huttonian celebrate his birthday this weekend and we came over to join them. And with spring springing (somewhat gustily, but at least not raining) we took the opportunity to go out for a quick cycle ride.

Islabike and paperbike

The Paperbike might be a splendid town bike, but with its cushy fat tyres it handles gravel, mud and ruts with a certain aplomb. The Brompton makes for a rather more skittish ride but is nippy round the potholes, and of course an Islabike is primarily a mountain bike, so we were able to take full advantage of Duns’s forest tracks and off-road paths. Which was fortunate because we weren’t that keen on trying the Borders’ roads.


It was only when I was looking at the pictures afterwards that it occurred to me we were all riding British bikes, all very different but each in their own way quality pieces of engineering.

Why is it we can build the bikes, but not the roads we need to ride them on?

Strange Bedfellows

April 10, 2014

I was settling down today to a productive morning of not completing my second novel, dashing out to rescue the laundry from the rain, forgetting to take the sausages out of the freezer and sending the occasional tweet about the loss of my tweed cap when another tweet alerted me to the fact that my name was included in this.

And for those of you who don’t wish to wade through a long PDF, the short version is that Pedal on Parliament in general (and for some reason myself in particular) have been included in a list of 100 campaigns that are changing the world – alongside Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight, Malala Yousafzi and Pussy Riot. Which will make today the first (and I suspect the last) time my name has ever been found alongside such hallowed company. We’ve also therefore been longlisted for the Change Opinion Awards 2014, which I very much doubt we will win, although if we do make it as far as the awards ceremony and Hugh Fearnley-Washingup does too then I shall start an additional personal campaign to get him to not start every sentence of his recipies with the words ‘In another bowl/pan/dish…’

Meanwhile, my hat is still missing, feared lost, possibly on Monday’s epic ride (or rather in the pub afterwards). With ASBO buzzard season almost upon us, this could prove fatal to any campaign for safer cycling in Scotland…


April 8, 2014

Less than a week ago, I noticed the blackthorn buds were just about to burst into life

blackthorn buds

Coming home from a brief stay in Glasgow I noticed they had burst.

blackthorn in flower


Spring is the thing that happens when your back is turned, if you’re not careful. See also life.


April 7, 2014

Today was a three-glove day (technically a three-pairs-of-gloves day but it doesn’t quite trip off the tongue) – having got the first pair soaked cycling into Bigtown for a family ride that, unsurprisingly, didn’t materialise in the sheeting rain, and then my second pair damp cycling back again after lunch in the by now just drizzling rain, come 5pm I had to dig out a third pair to head fifteen miles across country to be the guest speaker at a political meeting.

road north and evening sunshine

On the whole, it’s hard to argue that on a journey of 15 miles, the bike is a practical alternative to the car for anyone, especially when the route involves the Col du Doctor’s Surgery followed by a road which our former neighbour used to like cycling up pulling a laden trailer as training for his planned ride across Canada. Not only did it take me an hour and a half to get there, but I had to allow an extra half hour to cool off on arrival. But the alternative was either cadging a lift or cycling eight miles to Bigtown to get a bus – and besides it seemed appropriate if I was to talk about cycling and the region that I should come on a bike.*

Glen Midge

Fortunately, the weather gods had called a short truce, and after a couple of showers to show willing during the first few miles, the clouds parted and the evening sun came out to light my way. With only a few wrong turns, I was able to navigate a route that kept me off the A-roads and avoided the very worst of the gradient, although that still meant a few short leg-and-lung bursting climbs along the way. All the better to enjoy the views…

Road to Keir Mill

I was reminded that not only do we live in the (alleged) birthplace of the pedal cycle, but we also are surrounded by some of the best cycling country there is in the UK, if you know where to look.

Keir Mill

Keir Mill, home of Kirkpatrick Macmillan, inventor of the (or possibly a) pedal cycle and alleged scofflaw cyclist. Oh and who thought twinning a village around here with ‘le Deluge’ was a good idea?

And the meeting? Well it wasn’t exactly packed, but the handful who showed up seemed reasonably appreciative of my talk, I only had to handle one question about pavement cyclists, and they were gratifyingly astounded that I had cycled all the way. Had I driven, or had to take the bus, I might have thought it a waste of an evening, much as I like talking to anyone about bikes. As it was, it felt like a glorious bike ride, with a small meeting attached, and thus a splendid way to spend a few hours.

And then I called up the other half and got a lift home. There are limits to my insanity, and besides it had started raining again.

* Quite apart from anything else, I still vividly remember from my teenage years some poor hapless speaker from Friends of the Earth being ripped apart by a bunch of self-righteous sixth formers over the fact that he had driven to the school to deliver his talk – never mind the fact that most of us were driven everywhere most of the time…

Forking Out

April 3, 2014

Just in time for peak planting season, I have lost my favourite, indeed only, garden fork. Regular readers will be aware that this is a more or less weekly occurrence, but this time the loss appears to be more serious – and yes, I have gone through the compost heap. Twice. This doesn’t mean it won’t be found – but I couldn’t afford to find it by way of the traditional means of looking for something completely unrelated after you have long given it up for lost. So I went for the accelerated, if more pricey means of finding something, by buying a replacement (I have acquired several pairs of secateurs this way, not that this means much when it comes to laying a hand on one in a hurry).

new fork

The new fork was surprisingly cheap (well, I have no idea how much a fork should cost but £2.99 for fork with a wooden FSC-certified, if rather lurid, handle seemed like a good deal). So far it hasn’t achieved its primary purpose (making the old fork appear) nor its secondary one (actual forking), but it has at least managed a tertiary one (giving me something to blog about). And it does look as if it will be easier to find in future, at least until it fades into something a bit less orange.

I had forgotten about the lure of the garden centre, though. I tend to avoid them because even the ones which have turned themselves mainly into coffee shops with associated sensible clothing and garden statuary emporia, still have large displays of seed packets and I am an absolute sucker for seeds and always have been. I might have escaped had I just gone straight to the tools and then checked out, but I thought I’d better pick up some onion sets too, and then the seeds were right there and so colourful and each one individually very reasonably priced… So somehow I will now be finding room and time to plant white foxgloves and lavatera and night-scented stock and a free packet of mixed perennials that apparently contains everything from Acanthus to Viola…

In my head, of course, they are already blooming


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