April 10, 2012
Cycling down for the paper today, I happened across a lamb that had managed to wriggle under a gate and out of the field but hadn’t managed to wriggle back in again. Mamma was standing bleating at it, while it attempted to hurl itself through the wire fence, looking a bit frantic. After a quick look round for any actual rural people who might know what to do I decided to stop and see if I could get it back into its field without making the situation any worse – which is never a sure thing when it comes to country matters.
The problem seemed easy enough: open the gate, usher the lamb in, close the gate. But that assumed that the lamb would come near me when I was standing by the gate – or that the sheep that were already in the field wouldn’t come out of the field if I wasn’t standing by the gate. With visions of a road full of escaped sheep and an embarrassed townie in the middle of them explaining how it had seemed like a good idea at the time, I opened the gate a little bit while the lamb continued to attempt to fling itself through a mesh fence as if it was determined to turn itself into a kebab prematurely. Then I shut the gate and retreated while the lamb sprinted to the other end of the fence and tried to hurl itself through some wooden slats. This at least meant I wasn’t between it and the gate opening so I swung the gate open a little again, and inched backwards, glaring at the other sheep in a discouraging manner while making what I hoped were encouraging noises to the lamb. It took a while – during which time I considered cornering it and just chucking it over the fence – but eventually it saw the gap in the gate and bolted towards it and I was able to shut it behind it and cycle off feeling like a cross between Kate Humble and St Francis of Assisi.
I’ve a feeling that proper country folk would have just left it to get on with it though…
April 9, 2012
Look, I wanted the Brompton because it would be handy for cycle campaigning – particularly taking my bike up to Edinburgh to Pedal on Parliament (oh and if you haven’t signed our petition yet can you do so? You don’t *have* to be Scottish or live in Scotland, but it helsp if you’re Scottish enough that you can claim a tartan which, according to the shops that make a fine living selling Japanese tourists kilts, is basically everyone if you go back far enough) – and for cutting my oyster expenditure when I’m down in London and other such sound practical reasons. Ahem. Honestly. And no doubt soon I shall actually use my Brompton for that, but taking it on public transport easily is just to scratch the surface of the many uses of a nifty wee bike. Apart from extreme downhilling, my Brompton has so far been used for:
- distributing invitations to council candidates. The other half was driving into town anyway, so it seemed sensible to bung the Brompton in the boot and use it to zip around town without having to tackle the horizontal snow flurries that were developing that day.
- taking it down to choir when I knew there was going to be a nasty headwind on the way back and then scrounging a lift home. (‘I really don’t think even a folding bike’s going to fit in the … oh my that does fold up small, doesn’t it?’)
- taking it down to the senior citizen club’s Saturday Soup ‘n’ Sweet lunch in the village and giving folks a go between the sweet and the raffle. The best bit being when the ‘proper’ cyclists came through all lycra’d up on some fast ride and got stuck behind a chap in polished brogues and a tie on a Brompton. Sadly he had my camera in the basket so I didn’t get a picture…
- folding it and showing people how small it folds and then unfolding it and then folding it and then …
Actually, this last bit is probably the best bit of all at the moment. I expect it will wear off eventually…
April 6, 2012
So, it being Good Friday, did you get your seed potatoes in? I have to admit I only came across the ‘plant your potatoes on Good Friday’ tradition the other day, and had to do a bit of googling to find out that I’m not technically eligible and besides I’m fresh out of holy water. I thought it was so the Devil couldn’t get them (with some sort of a pagan hangover of resurrection and renewal) but it turns out it’s just a bit of legal chicanery to get around the letter of the law. Be that as it may, I planted mine today all the same partly because it seemed like a nice idea, and partly because the forecast is for milder damper weather over the next few days so they’re less likely to catch a frost. Or rather, I planted my first and second earlies – the rest will have to wait till tomorrow and take their chances with frost, drought, and Beelzebub along with the rest of my godless veg (and thinking about it, where in the Bible does it mention parsnips? or broccoli for that matter? Surely you’d die of scurvy if you stuck entirely to the ‘bible diet’)
We also had another Easter tradition: the egg hunt. Only it wasn’t very hard because we’re chicken sitting again and the hens are rubbish at hiding eggs. Sadly, none of them were chocolate but they did make absolutely awesome poached eggs to go on top of our lunch today and chocolate ones wouldn’t really have worked quite so well in that role. In fact, I am beginning to think that poached freshly-laid-that-day eggs are almost nicer than chocolate ones. Almost. Oh dear, could it be that I’m finally growing up?
April 5, 2012
The swallows should be due back any time soon – probably as soon as the wind switches away from the north and back to our prevailing south-westerlies. We’ve got the door to the swallow shed closed up so the cat can’t get in and we’ll be building up the anti-cat defences on the windows too so she doesn’t snag herself a baby one as they emerge for their first flight. So now all we can do is wait and keep an ear out for the first twittering as they arrive and aim their first returning poo on the roof of our car.
Poo or no poo, they can’t come soon enough, frankly. I was cycling into Bigtown this afternoon when I rounded a corner that passed under a tree and through a cloud of insects so dense it felt as if someone had flung a bucket of bugs right in my face. Given that yesterday the wind was flinging needle-sharp hail in my face, I can’t help but feel I’m getting the worst of both worlds…
Look out world .. the bugs are joining in now
April 4, 2012
The choir had an outing to the Papershop Village Rural (the Scottish equivalent of the WI) on Monday night which went down surprisingly well – at least, nobody fell asleep and they even joined in during some of the singing. They then treated us to the most enormous spread of top class baking (move over Greggs) and we rolled home stuffed to the gills with tray bakes. We were fortunate in having some Rural members of our own among our number because it is traditional whenever an outsider visits a Rural meeting that they are asked to judge the competition (in this case the daffodils and the home made lemon curd (that’s two separate competitions, in case anyone’s mind is boggling at daffodil lemon curd)) and they knew what they were doing, but even if we’d all been completely clueless we’d have been asked to do the honours. Presumably it’s better to risk the judgement of an ignorant stranger than to have one of their own do it and start a feud that potentially could last for decades, if not generations.
I happened to mention this at the pub and was told a cautionary tale by a fellow writer who’s done the rounds of the local Rurals and Women’s Guilds flogging her book. It’s an effective way to sell copies and spread the word but each time she had to run the gauntlet of the dreaded judging without the least idea of what she was supposed to be looking for and enduring the resulting mutterings and sideways looks as inferior jam, flower, tray bakes or embroidered mottoes won out against superior competition. After a fiasco with a wilted tulip, she put her foot down and refused to judge the competitions any more – but at least she did better than her friend who was presented with a whole table full of scones to judge and left to get on with it by the committee member in charge. Twenty minutes later the committee member returned to find the hapless writer manfully choking down the last mouthful of dry scone, having eaten the entire lot. It turns out you only need to taste a bit of each. I just hope she’d sold her books before the judging was announced…
You know, I did a whole creative writing MA and never once was I taught how to judge a baking competition. It’s an omission that really ought to be rectified if they really want to prepare their students properly for the writing life.
April 3, 2012
The village calendar has certain fixed points as the year rolls around and one of them is the annual litter pick, this year sponsored by Greggs the bakers (although Tennants Lager and MacDonalds might have been rather more appropriate). As ever a parish of roughly 600 souls, spread over a handful of tiny back roads, managed to generate a whole truck’s worth of litter. Some of it is flytipped (car tyres, mostly, and the inevitable feral washing machine), some of it is clearly local in origin (such as the five empty packs of JPS cigarettes of varying ages spread along one particular road), some hint at a wider story (no fewer than three unopened condoms: the youth of Nearest Village must be an unlucky bunch) and some of it is just revolting, like the plastic bag full of deers’ legs and one head*, found by one of the kids who, fortunately, was the game dealer’s daughter and made of tougher stuff than me. As ever, what strikes me is the way some people will take their litter and neatly bundle it up into a bag and THEN throw it out of the car window. I mean seriously, what is that about?
Anyway, with the litter picked, the truck filled and the triumphant photo taken, we all piled into the village hall for an enormous tea and the best of Greggs’s baking (verdict: surprisingly good) and then ambled home, remembering not to toss the wrappings in the hedgerows as we went.
Today, of course, there’s already a fresh flowering of litter along the side of the road although so far, no dismembered animals that I can see. And if I can ask one thing: don’t drink and drive and especially don’t drink and drive and toss the can out as you go.
* a deer’s head, I hasten to add