Christmas Come Early

December 17, 2009

I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, having finished off the last dregs of the Christmas shopping today (and by bike too! How smug am I?) when the other half came back from the nature reserve with a big grin on his face having been allowed to play with drive their tractor all day. I can’t help but feel that nothing I have bought him is going to come close – my only hope now is to see if the forestry guys felling the forest up the road will let him have a go on their big green tree-eating machine. Something to bring a grin to the face of overgrown boys everywhere…

Jobs for the Boys

December 16, 2009

Chatting in Notso Bigtown’s only health food shop* about their Jacob sheep (we’d bought some chops from one of their flock last week) the conversation turned to the carbon footprint – hoofprint? – of grass-fed versus non-grass-fed meat and milk. I got lost around about the point where he mentioned methane digesters  – it was a bit like an episode of the Archers, back when the Archers had some farming in it – but I gathered that the emissions for grass-reared meat are much lower than the scary headline figures for meat generally. Of course, he would say that, seeing as that’s what he’s selling, (and we would believe him, seeing as that’s what we like eating) but it did seem as though even quite intensive meat and milk production could be made greener with a bit of management.

‘Well,’ I said hopefully, ‘if they start putting the carbon footprint on the labels in the supermarket, that will help keep emissions down.’

‘Not really,’ he said. ‘Then they’ll just get consultants in to look at the figures and massage the footprints down to something acceptable.’

Carbon-footprint masseur – there‘s a job title for the Noughties. Or, given that the decade is almost done, the Teenies, or whatever we’re calling the next one.

*Unless you count the bakery – doughnuts are healthy, right?

Reclaim the Sitting Room

December 15, 2009

It would be nice, occasionally, to be able to use our sitting room in the winter, seeing as it has the comfy sofa in it, and the television, not to mention taking up about 1/3 of the floor space of our cottage. But it’s in the half of the house that isn’t heated by the Rayburn which means its background temperature is permanently in the ‘Danger of Hypothermia Act Now*’ range  on a good day (on a bad day, before we renewed the double glazing film, there was ice on the inside of the window in the morning). Anyway, yesterday it wasn’t too cold and it was the last episode of Life and as we’re both suckers for the mellifluous tones of St. David, it seemed like a good time to lay a blazing fire and try and heat the room up enough so that it would be bearable in time for 9pm.

It went a bit like this

5pm – other half fetches wood from woodshed and brings it into sitting room.

5:30 – go in to sitting room to lay fire

5:31 – come back to kitchen to get my fleece

5:35 – come back to kitchen to fetch a pruning saw to get the kindling down to reasonable size. Wood warms you twice, you know, and the first way is a lot more effective than the second.

5:40 – fire laid and lit

5:41 – fire out

5:43 – fire relit

6pm – fire blazing. Thermometer still stubbornly at 9 °C, and then only because it doesn’t read any lower.

6:30 – we move coffee table out of the way so we can put the sofa nearer the fire. Find my woolly hat, lost since our last attempt to watch telly

7pm – fire now reasonably warm, if you stick your head in it. Thermometer creeping up towards 12 °C

7:30 – Other half retreats to kitchen to cook supper. I plug in laptop to keep warm.

8pm – Watch Wallace & Gromit while wearing a fleece, woolly hat, and huddled under a blanket.

8:30 – gosh, telly is rubbish these days, isn’t it? Break down and turn heating on.  Extract arms from blanket.

9pm – hurrah, it’s on. Watch upper-class macaques sitting in the hot springs while the poor lower-class macaques sit out in the snow. No prizes for guessing where we stand in the social hierarchy.

9:30 – Temperature creeps up to 15 °C. Feel guilty about impact on the planet and turn heating off again. Am now able to take my hat off, although the fleece stays firmly on.

10pm – hurrah, it’s over. Washing up (in warm kitchen) suddenly seems strangely attractive. Leave other half poking the last heat out of the fire and retreat to bed.

*I see from this link I was struggling with the exact same problem a year ago. One of the main perils of having a blog is finding out exactly how much you repeat yourself…and I expect I’ve said that too, somewhere. Oh well.

Battle Commences?

December 14, 2009

Cycling back with the paper this afternoon I came across two of Bigtownshire’s finest standing staring at a piece of verge with a newly erected fence on it. Obviously, I slowed down and said ‘hello’ in a tone of voice intended to convey that I might be an important witness in whatever fascinating crime they were investigating, if only they were to stop me and ask, but they didn’t take the bait. Honestly, what’s the point of standing around in the country obviously being police officers if you don’t satisfy the curiosity of everybody passing about what you’re doing? They know we don’t get out much.

So in the absence of any hard information, and with the local paper not due out until Friday, I am forced to speculate wildly. Chicken rustling? Guerilla fencing? Photography? Or could it be that strimming the vegetation to erect the fence had revealed that the drive-by litter taliban had been at their heinous work again? In which case, expect the whole rural road network shortly to be taped off as a crime scene…

All Growed Up

December 12, 2009

This week I have:

learned how to bleed radiators (I know, I know, but the other half always does it); degreased, cleaned and re-lubricated my chain; and managed to pump more air into my bike tyres than I let out during the process of removing the pump from the valve. The latter I’m particularly proud of as I’ve been struggling with that since I was about twelve.

Of course, all this is somewhat balanced by the fact that last night we forgot all about the laundry we had hung out to dry and woke up this morning to find the other half’s super-duper trousers (the ones with the fleece lining – you know you want some) all stiff and solid and sparkly with frost…

The More Things Change…

December 11, 2009

The Guardian has extracted from its archive its report of the opening of Britain’s first cycle lane – in 1934 – which seems to have arrived complete with the usual complaints from the vehicular cyclists that such lanes are a bad thing, and a letter from a prototype David Hembrow suggesting they do such things better in Holland. All that is needed is a photograph showing the new cycle lane going into the side of a phone box and the modern cycle infrastructure story would be complete.

Buried in the bottom of the first article is the news that out of 35 deaths on the road in London that week, 11 were of cyclists. That seems extraordinarily high, both the total and the figure for cyclists -  and puts our modern safety concerns into some perspective.


December 10, 2009

There’s a lot I would have liked to show you today. Particularly, I would have liked to show you the way the mist this morning has seemed to hover just a few feet above the ground, sliced through by slanting shadows and the sun, and the way the whole valley has been softened by it, filled with a gentle glow of gilded light.

But it turns out that repeatedly dropping your digital camera at some speed out of your pocket from your bike is not very good for it and eventually it will decline to open any more, let alone take any photographs, so you will just have to take my word for it.

In fact, you’re going to have to take my word(s) for everything from now on, unless Santa decides I can be trusted with another camera. But seeing as I have also recently lost my third mobile phone in 12 months – and this time not rescued by any kind strangers – I’m not sure whether, if I was him, I would.

Foggy Bottom Blues

December 9, 2009

Yesterday dawned – if that’s the word for it – foggy. It was foggy as we got up, and it remained foggy as the morning wore on, occasionally thinning a little, before closing back down into fog again. By mid-morning I decided this was as good as it was going to get and set off on my bike anyway. At least it would make for an interesting ride, I thought, all spooky and atmospheric in the mist. And then I turned the corner, all of 150 yards away, and rode out into bright sunshine – well, brightish – all the way. The only fog bound section of the road was us.

You know, I joke about the weather Gods sometimes, but I didn’t realise it was that personal…

If you Notice this Notice…

December 8, 2009

On the train to England to do our Christmas shopping this afternoon (taking advantage of the exchange rate), we stopped at one of the intermediate stations – no more than a halt, really. There, on a lamppost, under the station name, there was a sign headlined ‘Public Telephone’ which said

‘For information about the location of the nearest public telephone, please consult the station information poster which is situated near by.’

I think this is a strong contender for the most useless sign of 2009, but I am prepared to be proved wrong.

Submissions in the comments, please

Weathering the Weather

December 7, 2009

I am indebted – I think – to cha0tic for pointing out the excellent ‘will it rain today?‘ site. This is not – as you might think round here – simply a large page saying ‘yes’ (a bit like this in reverse), but real-time rain radar information. The idea being, I think, that you can spot a gap in the rain coming and nip out into it, if you’re quick enough.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m finding it strangely hypnotic. It’s been raining continuously here since we got up this morning and now I can alternate between staring at the real rain rolling down my window, and looking at the virtual rain spreading in from the west, over and over again.

Isn’t the internet wonderful?


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