Egging them on

January 12, 2012

blah blah blah

So I learned yesterday that 350 people on bikes and on foot on a rawish January Wednesday lunchtime is enough to winkle a transport minister out of his office … but not really enough to make him change his mind. From what I could hear of Keith Brown’s response it was along the lines of ‘well it’s nice to see lots of people passionate about their little single issue, and we’d love to give you more money but we grown up politicians have to make difficult decisions and besides those bastards at Westminster have cut our funding but never mind there’s lots of other sources of money that may help encourage cycling (if we’re not squandering it all on electric cars) if you don’t mind a pig in a poke and besides, you never know, the councils may step into the breach…’ (I may have paraphrased a little).

So was it a waste of time? Well, the BBC covered it reasonably well, these things have to start small, and if what’s going on in London is anything to go by they can grow until they’re unignorable. As with so many of these things, aside from posing for the cheesy photos (‘can everyone hold their helmet up in the air please’ … er…), most people spent their time catching up with other bikey people and meeting new ones. It’s out of that kind of networking that real movements can grow up, if people are angry enough. Watch this space.

The other thing I learned yesterday was as I stood outside Laid Back Bikes in Marchmont Crescent, waiting to mount my lovely borrowed Paper Bike (more on this tomorrow) to ride it down to the demonstration. A car roared past, there was a shout and an egg came flying past to break against the glass of the shop window – missing me, fortunately, as I was in my grey wool cycle chic coat, not my everything-bar-the-apocalypse jacket. Now Laid Back Bikes, as its name suggests, specialises mainly in recumbents, the Paper Bike being a bit of a new direction. I knew that some people find recumbents and their wee flags a little odd, but I didn’t realise the hostility had grown to the point of drive-by eggings. And in Edinburgh, too! What would they do to them in Glasgow?

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering, there were no Socialist Worker placards, although there were some lovely pre-prepared ones for the disorganised all the same. It looks like the end times really are upon us…


January 10, 2012

I was thinking back this afternoon trying to remember when I last went on a demo – a proper demo, that is, one with placards with the ‘Socialist Worker’ bit ripped off the bottom* and people shouting ‘what do we want?’ I’ve a horrible feeling that it was probably around 1990, at the time of the poll tax. I didn’t go in the big rioty one, but we did have one big one at university where we all solemnly pledged not to register for the poll tax on pain of being arrested – and then a much smaller one where we protested about people actually being taken to court for not registering (the city council had cunningly not bothered with any of students and stuck to arresting people like the university cleaners who were less likely to have important fathers so the turnout was a bit pitiful. This probably taught me more about the nature of UK politics than the degree course in the subject I was studying at the time). Since then, my political activity has largely been confined to voting, canvassing, signing petitions, helping start cycle campaigns, writing to my MP and having full and frank – if somewhat one-sided – exchanges of opinions with the radio.

All that changes tomorrow when I head up to Edinburgh to attend this. I’ll leave it to the good people of Spokes to explain properly why it’s so important – I just know that it’s my chance to be stand up (or pedal up) and be counted. I’ll even be able to be on a bike – not mine, because it’s just too complicated to get mine to Edinburgh on the train – but this Paper Bike**, courtesy of the good folks of Laid Back Bikes.

If you’re a Scottish cyclist (or a pedestrian) please do consider turning up for this tomorrow if you can. And if you can’t, then writing, petitioning, talking to your MSP (but probably not shouting at the radio) are probably just as effective, if not more so. Just not as fun.
*It’s been so long since I went on one, I don’t even know if they still turn up for every single protest with pre-printed placards for the disorganised to use.

** And no, it’s not really made out of paper. And yes, I did initially think it might be when I first heard of it. And no, I have no interest in any beachfront properties in Arizona.

Don’t Tell the Weather Gods

January 9, 2012

After the last two winters we’ve had, the start to 2012 has been astoundingly mild – confirmed by the snowdrops coming up almost a month earlier than they did last year (how do they know?). A somewhat less welcome milestone was passed yesterday, when I managed to inhale my first insect while cycling of 2012. Surely, you’d think, in January you would be safe? Not, I hasten to add, that I’m complaining.

And today? Today it’s been mild and sunny and not blowing a gale and that’s three things we don’t expect to coincide until at least May. It won’t last, but I’ve been enjoying it while I can. And keeping my mouth firmly shut while I’m out on the bike.


January 6, 2012

So, one of my Christmas presents this year was Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s ‘Veg Every Day‘ book which is part of Hugh’s crusade to make every home cook in the country dirty every dish in the kitchen every day – sorry, eat less meat AND dirty every dish in the kitchen. I’ve long been trying to have at least one meat free day a week, much to the other half’s disgust, so I seized on this as an opportunity to try out some new vegetarian – and even vegan – recipes. We came to a bit of an arrangement – for the next month we’d try out one or two of the recipes each week and he had to not complain about there not being any meat and I had to not complain about trying new vegetables. OK, well, ‘not complain’ is a bit strong, but we had to eat the results anyway. Now, regular readers may remember that I’m not the most adventurous eater in the world, although I’ve come a long way from my entirely non-vegetable-eating childhood, so I started to get a few twinges of doubt on this deal once the other half started leafing through the pages and chuckling to himself ‘oh you’re going to have to stretch yourself a bit’ (he’s particularly looking forward to the part where I have to eat mushrooms other than chanterelles) but I’ve stuck to my side of the bargain and he’s stuck to his – indeed, more than stuck to it because the first week is barely over and we’ve had meatless suppers for three out of six days (and, er, steak on one of the others – but that was our 20th wedding anniversary and I wanted to last out at least another few years).

So far it’s gone reasonably well, although there has been predictably large amounts of washing up to be done. We’ve had squash and red onion pasties, stir-fried cauliflower, spanakopita, spicy chickpeas and we’ve been getting through a backlog of lentils of various colours that have been hanging around in our cupboards for long enough that I had to do a quick ex post facto google on ‘will sprouted lentils kill you?’* The culmination (so far) came tonight when I cooked ribollito which is Italian for ‘all the things townmouse doesn’t really like, poured over garlicky toast in a bowl’. Had I been served this up as a child, I would have just sat there sobbing at the table for the entire meal and yet here I was not just cooking it but eating it. Not, in the strictest sense of the word, enjoying it – let’s not get carried away here – but eating it. Although even I have to admit that the garlicky toast part is actually rather yummy. Apparently it’s better the next day. Which is good, because there’s loads of it left.

So there you go. I don’t really have a snappy ending to this one, except to say that it turns out after 40-odd years of picky eating, a few vegetables really won’t kill me after all. And nor will not eating much – or much less – meat. And, nor, if it comes to that, will slightly sprouted lentils. Although I’m still not 100% convinced about mushrooms.

*just out of curiosity, you understand

This News Just in: Grass Not Always Greener, Shock

January 5, 2012

So, if your most recent storm felled a tree that blew a whacking great hole in the dyke, and the barbed wire fence to boot …

… and given that life here is regularly punctuated by livestock escapades of one form or another, you would think it was a fairly safe bet that any sheep originally grazing in that field would be halfway to Notso Bigtown by now…

… but you would be wrong.

I’m not sure exactly what’s keeping them there, but I suspect that, like the humans, the sheep are suffering from winter hibernation syndrome whereby leaving home for anything however exciting any time before, say, March just feels like too much effort.

Of course, it’s entirely possible that these sheep originally were in Notso Bigtown and have been having a little break on their travels


New Year Resolution

January 4, 2012

Are you calling me fat?

Not ours, but the cat’s. She doesn’t realise it yet, but she’s resolved to eat less and exercise more this year after the landlord pointed out that she was getting a bit tubby under her winter coat and put her on reduced rations. The problem is not so much that she’s eating too much but that with the weather being so miserable – and the sofa so comfortable – she’s barely going out at all. She’s not exactly obese, but there’s definitely a bit more cat there than there should be, especially when she lands on your head in the middle of the night. Her diet was fine for a cat that was happy to spend whole nights out marauding but not really for one who spends them curled up asleep storing up the energy to spend the whole day curled up in front of the fire. So action needed to be taken. We’re not mean enough to chuck her out in the rain all night (although she’s still learning about the kitchen counters the hard way) but, following the advice of this page, we’re trying to get her moving about a bit more. Her legs are too short to cycle, unfortunately, so we’ve got her a couple of ping pong balls which appear to be a hit so far. I’m not sure if the cat’s enjoying them (I think she’s just killing them) but it’s certainly amusing us.

Of course, turnabout is fair play, so we’ve taken action on one of our own long-standing resolutions as well. Nothing so complicated as eating less and exercising more (maybe someone could buy me a fun indoor bicycle toy for when it’s raining?) – but we have finally organised our spice rack*

They’re not in alphabetical order, because that would be absurd. Well, not yet, anyway.
* and not before time. After extensive discussion, sniffing and tasting of some of the unlabelled mystery substances at the back, I’ve a sneaking feeling that the secret special ingredient in my spicy Christmas biscuits this year might in fact have been Garam Masala.


January 3, 2012

I was wondering if I was going to get out on the bike this morning, what with today being the day for this week’s gale, and twitter being all of a twitter about 100mph winds without even so much as an amusing hashtag to suggest it wasn’t that serious. The police were warning motorists to stay at home but they didn’t say anything about cyclists so when the rain stopped and the sky cleared, even though it was still (as they say) blowing a hooly, I decided to risk it. I actually quite enjoy cycling through high winds as long as I’m on quiet back roads, and I reasoned that any trees that were thinking of falling over this winter must surely have done so by now. Out I went for an exhilarating and invigorating ride (8mph on the way out, 12.5 on the way back) and came back just as the weather got really grim feeling pretty pleased with myself.

It wasn’t till the other half ventured out to Tesco and returned that we realised that there were three trees down between here and Bigtown. Clearly some of our local trees have been just hanging on and hoping for spring – but couldn’t quite hold out any longer.

I’m beginning to know how they feel.

Sock it to ‘em

January 2, 2012

Thanks to the power of the blog I now know it has taken me only two months to go from this:

to this:

There’s really no other point to this post than to show off my fab new socks, although any real knitters out there will be laughing into their stash bags that there’s someone out there who takes a whole month to knit a single sock, however stripy. And the best part is that there’s at least enough wool for another pair. You never know, I might even get those ones finished by March.

How anyone ever actually clothed themselves by knitting everything, I will never know. I expect that was in the days before twitter…


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