I’ve Got a Licence to Ride…

January 17, 2011

… don’t worry, I’m not advocating licensing for cyclists (insert rant of your choice in the comments about red-light jumping, pavement-cycling, unlit lycra-clad scofflaws, preferably via your iPhone as you weave through rush-hour traffic). No, this is via the ever-inventive Karl at Do The Right Thing who has sent me my very own bike-to-work licence (actually mine is a Bike-to-the-papershop licence) complete with space for endorsing every time I actually manage to make it down to the papershop this year. Obviously, I keep all my bike miles on a spreadsheet as well, but it did strike me that it would be good to record how many of my bike trips are actual car-replacing errands. I found over Christmas that, despite the sunshine and the nice bike path, my appetite for just going out for a bike ride was quite low; what I really wanted to do was use the bike to go and do something – whether it be book shopping or lunch or just getting a cup of coffee down town. Now that we’re back and a tank of diesel costs HOW MUCH? I reckon keeping track of the number of times I save us going somewhere in the car could have a benefit. Our car is pretty efficient but in fuel alone each 11 mile round trip to the papershop costs something like 90p. Throw in a few trips to Bigtown, the village, emergency bacon runs and the like and we’re talking significant savings. Quantifiable savings. The sort of savings that make having that ‘you know how I’ve always wanted a Brompton/Dutch bike/bakfiets…’ conversation go a little easier.

You never know, it might work.

Signs Of…

January 14, 2011

… well, not spring exactly. Spring is a strong word. But there are signs that the year is on the turn: snowdrops just poking through, ground you can put a fork in, vague glimmers of daylight even after four o’clock and the landlord’s hens producing their first egg.

Oh, and the continued production of monster parsnips

I think this is the biggest yet. I’m never chitting parsnips again, I tell you.

Let There Be Light

January 13, 2011

Last night I finally got to try out my present from Babymother, a Knog Boomer light for my bike. It was nice and bright and the ride down to the village was made much less fraught, despite patchy fog and only slightly more patchy ice.*

There are plenty of bright lights out there, and I’m sure you’ll tell me about the ones you have which are brighter, better, cheaper, lighter and generally more awesome, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of the post is the way the light fits on the bike. The light itself is covered in some sort of rubbery material which stretches round the handlebar and hooks onto a catch on the body of the light. That’s it. No brackets to get stolen, no fiddling around with screws, no instructions loosely translated from the Cantonese, and above all no swearing. I went from ‘hmmm’ to ‘ooh, nifty’ to ‘Why the &*$% aren’t all lights fitted like this, there ought to be some sort of a law’ in 30 seconds flat.

I calculate that over my lifetime not only have I had to purchase a good dozen entirely incompatible light fittings for my various bikes (some of which are still rusted onto the handlebars) but spent at least six hours of my life trying to fit and/or adjust the wretched things. I’d like that time back now, please.

*although not quite bright enough to stop me hitting a patch of dirty ice and then unwisely braking requiring me to deploy God’s stabilisers and be very thankful there was only me around on the road at the time.

Lost and Found

January 12, 2011

The other half came back from Notso Bigtown today with our week’s shopping, some ‘eco logs’*, two doughnuts and my keys. When I asked Twitter where my keys were, Twitter replied: where you left them and Twitter was absolutely right. As the other half walked into the builders’ merchant where we’d bought the eco logs last week the woman behind the counter produced my keys which had been sitting there waiting for us to return. Hurrah. Now, does anyone know where my phone is?

* actually a bit more like ‘eco pellets’ but they’re a by-product from a local joiners so cheaper than the traditional bigger heat logs and, crucially, something that you can just go into a shop and buy. Unlike seasoned hardwood which, it seems, you either have to have been born here and your father and grandfather before you, or know some magic word, or possibly both, before anyone will actually sell it to you. Apart from the £6 bags from the garage which are almost as ruinous as oil

The Perfect Snow

January 11, 2011

On Saturday you wake up and find your house all covered in snow…

Sunday is sunny and bright and even warm as long as you’re dressed for it…

Then on Monday, just when you’re all getting sick of it, the rain starts…

And by Tuesday it’s as if it had never been.

I never thought I’d be grateful for rain, or indeed for a day as dreich and drear as Monday proved to be, but at least our roads are now more or less clear of ice and snow.

… at least till the next time.


January 10, 2011

The other half, fresh from ordering more heating oil, reports that the price has gone up by more than 12p a litre, and we’re not alone.*

I don’t think we’ll be filling the whole tank this time around – he’s ordered enough to see us through till spring when prices should be cheaper. On the plus side, at least we’ve managed to eke almost a whole month more out of a tank of oil than we did this time two years ago, in a much milder year, which just about cancels out the price rise. So we’re running to stand still, really. Which is one way to keep warm…

UPDATE: the other half has just reported that Boiler Juice website is owned by a heating oil company and their prices may not be strictly accurate (we certainly didn’t pay THAT much – although we still paid more than Mr UHDD)

*whereas Mr UHDD clearly drives a hard bargain

And Once More, with Feeling

January 8, 2011

OK, I’ll admit it. Even though I’m fairly sure I made the right, sensible, grown up decision yesterday, deep in my heart of hearts it still bugged me that I’d wimped out from a little ice. And so, when we woke up this morning to this:

and I had to make a trip into Bigtown, I knew I had to cycle. The other half was willing to offer me a lift as he was going that way anyway, but the timing was awkward and besides if we’re going to keep getting snow in the winter, I knew I was just going to have to get used to riding in it.

I’ve ridden on the snow before, but that was when I was suffering from cabin fever: anything that got me moving out of the house would have done. Now I was trying to get somewhere I actually had to be, and with the other half already left to run his own errands, there was no chance of crying off and getting a lift home if I didn’t fancy the ride back. And the really fresh snow is different, I found: lovely and fluffy and shiny and everything, but an inch is enough to make bike handling, well, interesting. Following the tyre tracks on the road meant I could keep upright, but it also meant I had very few options if I needed to change direction in a hurry.

The first mile – which had all the ups and downs – took me about 10 minutes. Actually, the ups were fine, it was the downs that were a problem. I tackled the dodgiest sections by sculling: one foot on the pedal, one foot on the ground, propelling the bike as though it were a skateboard. But mostly I just pedalled gently and concentrated hard and kept my hands off the front brake lever. The worst of it was when I got into town and onto the slushy skiddy treated roads, with all the speed cushions and actual other drivers. I was relieved that most of my journey after that was on Bigtown’s two converted railway lines which were, of course, unploughed and un-gritted, but at least meant I wouldn’t be under the wheels of a truck if I came a cropper.

The last mile on my way home was a slog with my chain skipping on every pedal stroke from the accumulation of snow on the bike, and the first flakes starting to fall again. But, for all that I got in chilled and covered in snow, I was enormously pleased with myself. I even rememebered to sluice the bike down with a bucket of warm water before I put it away – before I even got the snow off myself. After all, it was the one that was doing all the hard work. I was just along for the ride

And what a ride. I think I need a winter bike though.

The Better Part of Valour

January 7, 2011

I was all prepared. I had put on an extra pair of socks, found my ski mittens (the cure for cold hands) and my boots, covered my ears and put on my cap and laid my second jumper on the Rayburn to be warm for me on my return (the house is cold enough during the day that I usually need to take layers off to go out and do anything active). I had waited all morning to see if the sun might come out and the temperature creep above -1°C but to no avail. This was as good as it was going to get. If I didn’t set out now for the paper, I was not going to set out at all.

I got as far as the gate.

Our road, nominally treated, had a surface like glass in places and although I walked along for a bit – skittered might be a better term – I just couldn’t get my nerve up to mount the bike. It was just one section that was really bad, and the rest might very well have been cycleable, with different tyres and a different rider, and all the time in the world to take it slowly and carefully. But today, I just didn’t fancy it and I wimped out and let the other half go down in the car instead.
I’m hoping this is not the year starting as it means to go on.

Keyed Up

January 6, 2011

Bah. I’m on my own today, supposedly getting on with some work and making stock and doing other such domestic pottering. But the sun has come out and while it’s still a bit cold it was perfect weather for a walk or a bike ride. Or it would have been if I could have found my keys* – three weeks of being on holiday plus a week of bank-holiday-style pottering around with the other half means I haven’t really needed them. And somehow that rural way of life hasn’t quite sunk in far enough that I’m comfortable actually leaving the front door unlocked, or at least not deliberately. Looks like my countrification is not yet entirely complete.

*Google was no help. And if autocomplete is anything go by, what people mostly are looking for are their kidneys. Now that really would have been a holiday too far…

Those Winter Hardy Cabbages?

January 4, 2011

… turns out they’re not hardy to -18°C, or whatever it was we missed.

The broccoli’s not looking too clever either, although I think it will survive

In fact, the frost even felled the water butt. The ice bowed out the base and turned it into a giant Weeble, without the ‘won’t fall down’ bit.

In fact the whole garden is looking pretty blah. I think the ground might have thawed enough to put a fork in, and I’ve digging still to do but today? Somehow I just didn’t fancy it.

How’s your garden looking?


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