December 16, 2008
So I’m on my way to Liverpool, on train no 2 (out of six) of the day, waiting to get off at Preston. Behind me, the Virgin staff are also waiting, chatting to pass the time.
‘You don’t go down to Euston, then?’ one asks another.
‘I don’t go down to London, no. I’ve not been down to London for 40 years. I’ve made a career out of not going to London. I hate London. It’s too big, too impersonal. The people are too unfriendly. It’s too hard to get around, the subway’s too difficult to understand. And it rains all the time.’
Big, yes. And impersonal, yes. Unfriendly, yes, I suppose it is a bit, and certainly it’s hard to get around. The tube? Well, I can see if you’re used to Preston that it might be confusing.
But rains all the time? From someone from the north west?
Frankly, I resent that.
December 12, 2008
I was back on the bike after a week’s absence today, and it felt as though it had been rather longer. Certainly the hills felt tougher, the headwinds windier, and the various squeaks and rattles from the bike squeakier. And there was something else not quite right, I thought as I pedalled my way through the bends, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Something I’d forgotten. Something important. It was only as I rounded the last corner and started down the last hill that I worked out what was missing: my bag. It was going to be a long ride back with the paper clenched firmly in my teeth…
Fortunately, I had a better idea and, like the professional cyclists cresting the top of an alpine pass*, I managed to stuff the paper down my jumper and make it home without strewing the Film and Music supplement halfway across the countryside. On the plus side – as the pro cyclists know – I found it made a pretty good windbreak on the downhill stretches. Although, on the downside, a damp and sweaty Guardian is even worse than normal at lighting fires**
But I leave you with another rural mystery. Spotted on a post-it note outside the shop was the following inscription:
Papershop*** Village Shop: Short One Fairy
*only with a considerably crappier bike and rather more slowly.
** and it’s not just me – there’s a lively correspondence going on in the letters column of the Guardian about making it more flammable.
*** except it had the real name of the village, obviously, not Papershop Village, which isn’t actually its real name. In case you were wondering.
December 11, 2008
You know you’re in Scotland when you ask for a book of Christmas stamps and with no further consultation, they give you the second class ones.
Or maybe that’s just the credit crunch talking?
December 10, 2008
… stay in and do some writing today
But I didn’t
December 9, 2008
‘London,’ declared a new acquaintance of mine (herself a displaced Londoner, before you write in). ‘They’d walk past you in the street if you fell over.’
‘Ah, no that’s not quite fair,’ I countered, before remembering that, indeed, I did once* fall over in the street and people did indeed walk by. Although in fairness to the Londoners in question, I was quite grateful to them for sparing me the embarrassment of any concern and maintaining the illusion that nobody had actually noticed. This naturally led on to a conversation about the etiquette of telling strangers they’re making a spectacle of themselves, and we soon agreed we’d rather, on the whole, suffer the momentary embarrassment of having someone tell us that – to take an example at random – we had our tops on backwards, or inside out, than suffer the no-less-painful-for-being-retrospective embarrassment of realising we had been walking around like that all day.
Of course, it wasn’t until I get home – and I see you’re ahead of me here – that I noticed I had my top on, not only backwards, but inside out.
I knew there was a reason I should get out less.
* ahem. twice. But the second time some tourists helped me up.
December 8, 2008
Danger of Hypothermia Act Now
…one more lazy cut-and-paste article suggesting I can beat the credit crunch and/or save the planet by putting on another jumper and reducing the thermostat to 18°C*, there will be damage done.
My current winter cycling outfit now consists of thermals, cords, two pairs of socks, a polo neck, two jumpers, fleece, hat and gloves. Coincidentally enough, this is exactly the same as my sitting around in the house writing outfit, although I do usually take off the hat and gloves, and – if I’m feeling particularly reckless – my fleece. Nobody told me writing was the sort of extreme activity that required technical clothing to take part in. I’d put on an extra jumper if I could, but then I’d have trouble moving my arms.
*picture shows the temperature in the sitting room after a blazing fire had been going for a couple of hours. Sometimes the kitchen makes it all the way up to 15°C.
December 5, 2008
‘I’ll be all right,’ I reminded myself, ‘as long as I don’t brake or steer.’ Having chickened out of cycling to the shop on Wednesday, when the road was still glittering with ice long after noon, I took the chance today, figuring that most of the ice would have gone. And indeed most of it had, but the stuff that remained on the un-gritted roads was old and black and rutted with wheels after repeated periods of thawing and freezing. Which is how I found myself at the top of a hill with a long straight icy run in front of me, and nowhere to go but down – faster and faster and faster.
I didn’t brake – although it’s hard not to when every nerve in your body is urging you to slow down. And I didn’t steer – sticking with the rut I was in and concentrating hard to keep my wheels straight. And I was fine, in the end, although an ill-timed car could have been my downfall. But it did remind me – if I needed reminding – why ski-ing is not my sport. Whatever the opposite of an adrenaline junkie is, that would be me.
In fact I think the word I’m looking for is ‘wimp.’
December 4, 2008
… of moving to Scotland, and enduring being sodding freezing for the last ten days, and learning how to make blazing log fires, and having the Met Office foaming at the mouth with Severe Weather Warnings, and going panic-buying at Bigtown Tescos and hearing how blizzards are definitely, definitely, well 80% probability but practically definitely, going to dump up to 20cm of snow on you overnight…
… if you wake up and discover it’s been raining?
December 2, 2008
… that I’ve been here too long: I’m beginning to quite like the smell of sileage. Not slurry – that still smells like the worst nappy you’ve ever encountered, times a million – but when you walk past a stack of sileage bales there’s this warm, yeasty, fermenting-y sort of smell. It’s not exactly appetizing – not yet anyway – but I’m starting to find rather pleasant. Tell me you don’t feel the same.
Just me then?
I’ll get me coat…*
* and hat, gloves, fleece, and extra socks. It’s still perishing up here.