Feeling Social?

November 17, 2009

JustWilliams alerted me to the existence of Cycle Social, a sort of Facebook (gearbook?) for cyclists. I joined, partly because I was momentarily startled by the existence of an actual member in the area – people aren’t very wired around here as a rule. Looking at it more closely, I can see that it could become just another online discussion forum for cyclists, and a place for people to gather behind their screens and reinforce their prejudices and point and laugh at other people who are, in some way, doing it wrong. But then again, it could also become something much more interesting than that – a place where people who cycle could find out about other people who cycle and even – you know, if they wanted to – go and meet up with them. Go on a bike ride even. Out there in the real world.

So if the thought doesn’t bring you out in hives, why not join up? They’re in the middle of discussing how best to improve the site and make it more of a social thing, rather than just a cycling thing, so now’s your chance to shape it into something you might like. And it seems to me it might just be a good central point for anyone who’s interested in promoting cycling – fast, slow, and all speeds in between – to get together with others and feed their obsession, sorry that should say healthy and wholesome hobby.

Or it might just turn out to be another talking shop, in which case it will be a pity, but it will have been worth a try all the same. I’ll be there to see how it turns out, so if you see me, give me a wave (you’ll know me, because I’m the one dressed as a penguin).

You never know, it might turn out to be fun

Scottish Stuff for Scottish People

November 16, 2009

Oh goody, an email from the Scottish Book Trust advertising a one-day seminar that would be right up my street. Packed full of useful and interesting stuff, and a bargain at £15 to boot. I download the booking form, but that is as far as I get for it is not for me: I may live in Scotland, pay my taxes in Scotland, even have been partially educated in Scotland, but this is for graduates of Scottish Universities and Scottish Universities only.

There can be – how shall I put this? – a provincial air to Scotland at times. What I would call a little-Englandish mindset, were it a few miles further south. Last summer there was a nasty spat between the RSPCA and the SSPCA about the RSPCA daring to advertise in Scotland when any money donated would end up rescuing English (or Welsh or Irish) dogs and not their Scottish brethren, while everybody else just scratched their heads and wondered why we needed two charities doing exactly the same thing on different sides of the border and spending good time and money having a turf war over it to boot. But it’s not just them. There’s Scottish versions of pretty much every charity – even the poppies, I noticed, surely a national symbol if ever there was one, announce that they are Scottish poppies, for a Scottish charity. I’m not begrudging the Scots their share of the cake (indeed, I’m happy to partake in the much more generous Scottish system myself, and very grateful that the rest of the country feels obliged to bribe them to stay in the union), but it’s not exactly Culloden we’re remembering on November the 11th. Although actually, up here maybe it is.

But then, I suppose, the Scots have to compensate a little for their centuries of occupation, their total exclusion from mainstream British society, and the BBC’s habit of ending all weather forecasts with the words ‘and finally, Scotland…’. After all, America might have elected a black president at last, but how many more years will this oppressed and noble people wait before you can imagine Britain having a Scottish Prime Minister?

…oh no, hang on, wait…


November 15, 2009





It is now fixed, with the help of Google and a community of  people out there who like their keyboards to be really, really clean and who tell you all about it on the internet. There are two ways to clean a laptop keyboard, apparently. The official way is to use a can of compressed air but really, I draw the line at buying a tin of air. The other way is to lever off all the little keys and clean out underneath them, which is not recommended.

So, after some thought – and having had a poke about with a little rubber bulb thing that blew non-compressed air – I naturally had a go at removing the keys. I didn’t go for the space bar straight away – I’m not that reckless – but after 17 years working in IT I had never had cause to use the ‘Alt Gr’ key, so I decided to practise on that first. Then having mastered removing and replacing that I moved onto the ‘B’ key, being near the middle of the space bar. First I removed an impressive amount of fluff, which helped a little bit, but still the space bar was sticking. Then I had a bit more of a rummage about and managed to hoick out a stone.

To give you an idea of the scale, it was like this, but smaller. Although not much. Seriously, who on earth gets gravel in their keyboard? Had it been chocolate biscuit crumbs, it would have been understandable, but not stones. Perhaps it was left there by the ants?

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind

November 13, 2009

I don’t think I shall ever tire of all the wildlife I encounter on my bike, always excepting the flies. Today, besides a red squirrel crossing, and the usual quota of buzzards, I found myself following a tiny little rabbit scampering along the road. After a while, realising it wasn’t going to get away, it bounded into the grass on the verge* and hunched down pretending it wasn’t there, even as I stopped to have a closer look. Too cute, and naturally I had no camera with me so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

And coming back the other day I came across one of its bigger, faster cousins. I don’t often see hares on the road, but when I do I always like to race them even though I never win. This time, even going downhill, whenever I got close the hare just picked it up a gear and raced away until I sat up and let it have the victory, not wanting to chase it full pelt around a corner and under the wheels of a tractor. One of these days I’ll have my GPS on the bike during one of these encounters and I’ll let you know just how fast a hare can go. Or at least, given I never catch them, just how fast a hare can go minus a bit, when it’s not really trying. For the absolute top speed, I’m going to have to get into some serious training.

* making it some kind of bunny genius

Over-wintering Broad Beans

November 12, 2009

View from the potting shed

You never know, it might work…

I wasn’t going to do this, but I had a sudden yen to plant things. And start a new page on my spreadsheet for the next growing season.

A Reminder

November 11, 2009


There are worse things than a little cold and damp…


November 10, 2009

We got back on Sunday after a week spent in an actually properly heated house to find the temperature had dropped sharply, with yesterday bringing our first really hard frost of the season. It’s eased off a bit now (winter here seems to come in two flavours: cold and sparkly or less cold and dreich and for once this morning I was actually quite pleased to welcome the dreich) but we’ve switched into cold weather mode: moving out of our (damp, in the ‘north wing’ and with three external walls) bedroom and into the guest room (merely damp), digging out the thermals and dressing in front of the Rayburn. Oh, and we’ve had to break down and switch on the heating for a couple of hours every day.

If my calculations are correct, and it would help if our magic wireless oil-level measuring thing actually worked rather than simply blinked at us, we’ve used about 100 litres of oil a month since we re-lighted the Rayburn, but without running the heating. That compares with an average monthly consumption of oil of about 200 litres a month over the year (including the summer when the Rayburn was off). I was beginning to wonder last year if our oil tank was actually leaking, or whether it was the Rayburn that was consuming all the oil. Now I realise it was just that we were running our enormously inefficient boiler. Sadly, replacing the boiler is in our landlord’s hands and as they would bear all the cost and we would reap all the benefit, it’s hard to see how to best to persuade them to get it replaced so I’ve settled for glaring at it to see if giving it the evil eye will leave it irreparably broken. Sadly, it appears to be built like a tank and indestructable. British engineering at its best, bastard thing.

So that leaves trying to minimise its use, which means keeping the house as cold as we can bear it. These days, I prepare to go outside – on the bike or into the garden – by taking layers off, rather than putting them on. And this is only November. It’s not even officially winter yet…

… remind me, when was it last year that it started to get warm again?

Caution, I Brake for Squirrels

November 9, 2009

‘Cuh, typical,’ I thought as the power company vehicle roared past me, only to immediately slow down to a crawl. Drivers do hate to get stuck behind a bike, even if they’re only going for another 100 yards because, God knows, those seconds saved may well be crucial. Only he didn’t stop, and continued to crawl along until I saw what the problem was. A red squirrel – in the middle of the village too – trying to make up its little fluffy ginger mind which side of the road it wanted to be on. On we went, squirrel, van, and bike in a short-lived procession until – boing boing boing – Mr Nutkin made it to the safety of a garden and White van man and I were free to speed off in our own fashion.

You see, I told you the traffic could be terrible round here…

Some Customers are more Right than Others

November 8, 2009

Ah, home. We stopped off on the way down for a spot of second breakfast and as we were placing our order, the other half decided to investigate some unfamiliar aspects of the local cuisine:

OH: What’s blackheart sausage?

Man in Cafe: It’s made by our butcher – a lorne sausage with a heart of black pudding running down the middle (at this point, he went so far as to draw us a little picture on the order pad). There’s also braveheart sausage, which is the same thing but with haggis* in the middle.

OH: oh right, well could I have a slice of blackheart sausage in my roll?


OH: No?

MIC: No. It only comes in the full breakfast. Otherwise it would be complicated

OH: ?

The other half, poor thing, has only lived in this country for getting on for 20 years and still harbours fond delusions that some faint echo of a service culture will emerge. But, frankly, when you run a cafe at a beauty spot on a remote road with no other cafe for 40 miles in all directions, you get to make the rules.

And I get to eat my breakfast to the accompaniment of a disgruntled American muttering ‘No? Whaddaya mean “No“?’ at five minute intervals.

* There is nothing – nothing – the Scots will not put haggis into given half a chance.

It’s True, they Really Cannot See You

November 6, 2009

Tales of country life will resume soon, but meanwhile, I thought I had to bring you this. Cyclists will probably already be aware of the car-on-giant-cycling-rabbit collision that made the press recently but really, rabbits get hit by cars all the time round here, so I fail to see why everyone’s so surprised. No doubt the cyclist in question – getting into role – just crouched in the middle of the road, caught in the headlights, before launching herself under the driver’s wheels.  But anyone thinking they might still be safe if only they can make themselves conspicuous enough for any driver with lights and scary yellow jackets should check out this.

I hope the elephant was wearing a helmet.

via Copenhagenize


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