Two Cultures

January 17, 2009

So – for reasons too complicated to go into – we were at the local aviation museum helping to make a willow-and-paper lantern for the Burns night parade. An artist had been provided to show us how it’s done and she had done some research in preparation.

‘I looked up a picture of a Spitfire on the internet,’ she said. ‘And I’ve done a design of how we might make it by weaving the willow together here.’

‘That’s great,’ said one of the museum guys. ‘There’s just one small problem.’

‘What’s that?’

‘That’s not a Spitfire in your picture. That’s a Zero

Google image search strikes again. Fortunately, the museum had a Spitfire of its own – still handily in pieces from where they fished it out of a local loch – to act as a more reliable guide for designing our lantern. Oh, and one of these, which was a more convenient size for working from indoors.

You may even get some piccies of the end result, one of these days.

Unhappiness is…

January 16, 2009
oh dear

oh dear

… a cold rayburn.  We had to administer the coup de grace last night as it was stuttering to a halt. Now all we can do is wait till Tuesday when help will come.

Fortunately we’re going out to eat tonight at least. Unfortunately, it’s for an early Burns supper. I have a feeling haggis will be unavoidable.

Suggestions for non-haggis related meals that can be cooked in an electric frying pan gratefully received.

Thanks a Bunch, George

January 15, 2009

No sooner does George Monbiot declare his campaign against Agas, when our Rayburn – whether piqued at not being included in the cast-iron axis of evil, or coming out in sympathy for its bigger, oil-guzzlingier cousin – goes into a bit of a decline. The problem (annoying green campaigning journalists aside) is apparently due to our habit of not running it hot enough, which saves us fuel, and hence carbon emissions, but means it cokes up quicker. I’m sure there’s some happy medium balancing heating oil consumption by us versus fewer miles driven by Rayburn engineers, but attempting to work it out only served to confuse my poor addled (and now chilled) brain further. And so we have to wait until Tuesday, when the Rayburn engineer can fit us in, and hope the patient survives until then.

I’m not hopeful, though, as it is doing the dreaded Rayburn death-rattle as I type and the temperature in the oven – and the kitchen – is slowly, slowly dropping. Mr Monbiot can be assured that there will be some few grammes of carbon saved between now and then, I suppose. But if I promise to fly nowhere and keep cycling down to the paper shop, do you think I could get him to lay off my main source of heat, comfort, and coffee?

Bird Brains

January 14, 2009

It’s not just the snowdrops that – deludedly perhaps – think spring is on its way. The birds are showing signs too, in their inimicable fashion: they’ve started fighting again. So far the blackbirds have mainly confined themselves to a few skirmishes, which is a shame because when blackbirds really start to fight it’s a sight to behold. They completely ignore anything which isn’t a blackbird and they are proper battles: a real knock-down drag-out feather-pecking squawking combat to the death, sometimes literally when they’ve decided to hold it in the middle of the road. I’ve almost cycled over a pair of them when I was under the impression that they would get out of my way. If Five ever run out of humans willing to sign up to one of those total combat type programmes they could always stage some bird-on-bird encounters. Nobody need know until they tune in that they mean the feathered kind.

But the real bird brain round here is our local robin. He chases off the chaffinches and he’d have a go at the blackbirds too, if they weren’t three times his size, but he reserves his ire for the real enemy:  the robin who lives in the wing mirror of our car.

This is not doing anything for our paintwork, I can  tell you.

Don’t Panic

January 13, 2009

green shoots

Spring is on its way

Scenic Route

January 12, 2009

The weather’s been relentless these last few days: fog, gales, and then yesterday just endless, endless rain. But this morning we woke to a strange light that indicated not only that we had overslept but that the sun was coming up into a cloudless (well, cloudless-ish) sky. For once the BBC Terror centre agreed: Scotland would be mostly sunny, breezy, and with the occasional shower. This was good because I have in the last week or so more or less exhausted the sensible variations on my route to the papershop, which meant that if I wanted to get any new mapping done today, I was going to have to take extreme measures: the suicide* papershop run. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild, what clouds there were were gathering distantly in the west, and I knew I probably wouldn’t get another chance to do it this side of March. What, I thought to myself, could possibly go wrong?

Well, several things, as it turned out. First, I could find that – having gone to the trouble of taking my camera in order to photograph the mad giant topiary bird which sits at the foot of the steepest longest hill, in case none of you believe me – once I had stopped at the foot of the steepest longest hill in order to photograph it, I had neglected to bring its memory card so I couldn’t take any photographs. And secondly, on turning up the steepest, longest hill – from a standing start, remember – I could find I’d turned straight into the head wind, and it’s all very well the BBC weather people referring that as a breeze from inside their nice sheltered weather centre, it didn’t feel that way on the bike. And finally, once I had climbed very very slowly to the top of the steepest longest hill, I could find that the clouds which had been gathering distantly in the west when I set off had switched to gathering directly overhead, in preparation to start raining on me.

But fortunately, despite all this, it was worth the ride. The rain proved to be no more than a few drops – warning shots, if you like, across my bows from the Weather Gods – and the longest steepest hill does eventually give way to my favourite road of all, a winding descent by a river valley through a beech wood that is all the sweeter for the slog it takes to get there. And it was scenic – everything washed and sparkling from the rain, the hillsides running with water, all glittering in the slanting sunlight that had made it through the gathering clouds. But you’ll just have to take my word for that part. And about the topiary bird too, at least until I can persuade myself to face the climb again.

*Originally the masochists’ papershop run, but it got renamed after the other half foolishly accompanied me on it one day last year.

Gardener’s Question Time

January 9, 2009

One of the disadvantages of moving here was that – despite being effectively in the middle of nowhere – the cottage doesn’t have a garden, apart from a narrow bed outside the front. All fantasies of growing my own veg, let alone keeping chickens or the odd goat, were confined to two not particularly impressive tomato plants in pots and a herb garden in a sink that I’d brought up from London.

All this has changed, as I have now been given access to this:

New garden - mine is the bed at the front

New garden - mine is the bed at the front

- a plot in a beautiful walled (and, more importantly deer-and-rabbit-proofed) garden. Not quite enough room for a chicken or a goat, but plenty of space for veg, and access to a compost heap, cold frame and tool shed to boot.

So … what to grow? It will need to be a) edible, b) not require much in the way of sunshine and c) fond of a damp climate. A very, very, very damp climate.

A Friend Calls from London

January 8, 2009

‘Is that birdsong I can hear in the background?’ I ask

‘Er no, it’s a car alarm,’ he replies.

I remember those…

To the Weather Gods…

January 7, 2009

… an apology. A recent posting of mine may have given the impression that I was expecting them to inflict a mix of sleet and freezing fog on us. Whereas, of course, what they have provided for us was freezing fog, sleet, hail and a light dusting of snow. Never let it be said that the Weather Gods are not thorough when punishing those who take their name in vain

Meanwhile, and perhaps in retrospect it was inevitable, I appear to have got addicted to this:

Kids! Just say no!

Kids! Just say no!

Knitting – surely the crack cocaine of the craft world.

Shop Talk

January 6, 2009

The other half was wandering around the shop, seeking what he might devour.

Papershop woman: Are you looking for anything in particular?

Other Half: Have you got any coconut macaroons?

PW: No, sorry, they’re all gone

OH: Oh well, just the Guardian then

PW: Are you sure? It won’t taste anything like as nice…

And she was right, you know.


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