January 28, 2013
Well, the thaw came, exactly as predicted, with a night of heavy rain to wash the snow away – accompanied by the usual dire warnings from the BBC Terror Centre of flooding and mayhem to come.
Which were entirely justified, as it happens – although you can’t go too far wrong predicting flooding in Bigtown these days; it’s been more or less a monthly occurrence this year. The bits you can see underwater there are a Very Important Road and some Very Important Car Parking spaces the closure of which would cause gridlock, traffic chaos, economic devastation, the opening of the Hellmouth and quite possibly the end of the world, not to mention people having to walk a few hundred yards from their cars.*
The forecast now is for more rain, for more or less the foreseeable future. Which makes it an excellent time for us to discover that there is a hole in our roof…
*I mock, but as it happened I was supposed to be holding a workshop in the building just behind where the photo was taken and six people who had booked and paid in advance didn’t show up. It turns out they really won’t come if they can’t just drive up and park outside…
January 3, 2013
The walled garden where the veg patch lives is rather quiet these days – and not just because the mice have eaten themselves into a stupor. No, it’s because the landlord has, with commendable ruthlessness, sent the hens off to the big stock pot in the sky. They had not really been earning their keep as the two surviving white ones never really got into their stride – and the two remaining brown ones were getting rather long in the tooth, or beak, or whatever it is with hens. Once they started to moult and stopped what little laying they were still doing, they were for the chop as they’d then spend the rest of the winter eating without producing anything other than manure, of which, frankly, we’ve got enough.
I can’t say I’ll miss the white ones as they never really showed much spirit but the brown ones (Black Rocks, if anyone’s interested) were a feisty bunch, with distinct personalities of their own. They’d always come racing over to investigate what delicious treat I was bringing to the fence (drunken slugs? Chickweed? Baby rabbit?) and they were nice and chatty too when they were happy (obviously their conversation didn’t actually make any sense, they’re hens, but the point of most conversation is to make a companionable sort of noise and that’s what they did). They also laid wonderful eggs, of course, which made our occasional stints of chicken sitting something to look forward to. So I’m hoping that the spring will bring some replacements…
Meanwhile, in other news, the cat is considering whether to forgive her staff for their three weeks unauthorised absence. So far, the jury is out.
November 15, 2012
Here’s where I’m reminded I’m not from round here: an invitation arrives to a Community Council training course in their Secret Bunker (it really is called that*). The training is in the evening from 6:30 to 9 pm. The assumption is that I will arrive already fed and watered because all normal people eat their tea at 6 pm. Whereas we are still enough of effete southerners to consider 7:30 the absolute earliest possible time to even consider eating our supper. Who knows if I’ll be able to concentrate on matters of winter resilience over the sound of my rumbling stomach… I just hope they’ve laid in plenty of biscuits, that’s all.
*Oh all right, maybe it isn’t actually a secret bunker.
November 10, 2011
We’re off up to Glasgow for the night tonight to go to a concert and practise our city skills such as blanking strangers and looking both ways before crossing the road. To this end, I am wearing my black jeans which are supposed to be my smart ones being the ones which haven’t yet developed a little rip on the inside right ankle from being worn on the bike. Theoretically they are also the ones which don’t have manure stains on them from being worn while gardening but, to be honest, pretty much every pair of trousers that I own ends up being gardened in eventually and, fortunately, manure washes out.
Thus scrubbed up I will, I hope (if I remember not to wear my fleece) blend effortlessly in with the smart Glasgow crowd. I’ll be the one leaning casually against a wall in a cool and urban sort of way because the other thing about my smart black jeans is that – freshly washed and not much worn as they are – I’m still having difficulty sitting down in them. Cycling may do wonders for the shape of your bum, girls, but it does absolutely nothing for the diameter of your thighs.
October 28, 2011
As I may have mentioned before, there’s a fairly large English contingent within the village choir, amounting to about half its members. In order to make a feature of this, the choirmistress had the idea of some sort of sing off between the two groups, with the English half singing an English song and the Scottish half a Scottish one. I think she had the idea of a medley of music from two distinct, yet complementary folk traditions, bouncing off each other in an exciting and engaging way. The only problem was that, on the English side – philistines that we are – we none of us knew any English folk songs while on the Scottish side they knew some lovely ones but Scottish songs do tend towards the gloomy being mostly about exile, loss and longing with a side order of the odd light massacre. As we were all in the mood for something a little more upbeat and a little less wistful, the search for suitable songs got widened somewhat and, musically speaking, possibly went a little bit downhill.
Which is why the highlight of the next village music evening is likely to be the great musical showdown between ‘My old Man’s a Dustman’ and ‘Donald where’s your troosers’.
I for one cannot wait.
October 4, 2011
(no 1 in an occasional series)
… you get chatting at random to the stranger who sits next to you on a bench and she turns out to be the mother-in-law of someone you know. As with Ireland, the whole ‘six degrees of separation’ thing doesn’t really apply round here. In its place, I reckon we now know the six people who, one way or another, connect us to the whole of Bigtownshire.
And yes, London readers, I am aware that I lost you at ‘get chatting to’.
September 12, 2011
On a flying visit to Edinburgh today I noticed that Paris’s Post-it wars seem to have spread across the channel. Picked out in bright yellow squares in an office window on Princes Street – right above the corner where the mendicant piper (as Huttonian always used to call him) plys his trade – were the despairing words
Oi! Piper! Shhhh!*
The piper, of course, wasn’t taking a blind bit of notice. When your instrument doubles as a weapon of war, it takes more than stationery to stop you…
* Picture, you say? Well I tried to take a picture on my phone and it didn’t really come out and I assumed it would be on flickr somewhere already but I couldn’t find it. So you’ll just have to believe me…
May 27, 2011
Can’t write much because I’m busy busy at the moment (put it this way – if you really want to retreat to the country for a quiet life, don’t go starting a cycling campaign and if you must start a cycling campaign don’t decide to go for a funding proposal three days before the deadline…), and also I’m being a bit discreet here, but it has come to my attention that with large numbers of townies moving to rural areas and taking up chicken keeping, and with chickens being on the whole somewhat prone to going wrong, and yet also being – when it comes right down to it – quite difficult to actually kill humanely especially if you’ve led a sheltered life up until now, that there is a gap in the market for some sort of Chicken Dignitas clinic.
And that’s all I’m saying
March 27, 2011
We waited until today to fill in our census forms, mainly because it seemed somehow to be tempting fate to be counting the household before they’d hatched, as it were (it’s bad enough, frankly, doing it today but I think we’re likely to both survive until the evening and it’s even more unlikely we’ll get any overnight guests). So over our morning coffee we had a pleasant enough half-hour going through the questions. I’m afraid we didn’t obliterate the bar codes or fill ourselves in as Jedi knights or do anything else to annoy the powers that be – at heart I’m a fairly law abiding person and I think on the whole a census is a good thing, whoever’s actually running it. I missed out last time around because we were living in Swaziland, and the times before that I think I’ve managed to be missed more often than I’ve been counted. It’s lucky I’m not planning on having any ancestors as I’m not leaving much of a paper trail for them to follow…
Because we’re in Scotland, we’re doing the Scottish Census (in fact, if all you follow is the Scottish news you might be hard pressed to discover that the census was also happening in other parts of the UK). It being Scotland, which does not in any way have a chip on its shoulder about anything, many of the choices seemed designed largely to put the English in their place. As someone born into the C of E, my religion, had I chosen to fill it in, would have been a write-in answer – maybe I should have gone for Jedi Knight or even Great Good God of Cycling after all – and under ethnic group the tick boxes included White Scottish, Irish, Gypsy, even Polish, but the English were going to have to lump themselves in with the Welsh as ‘Other British’. Take that, English oppressors!
It also meant we didn’t get the comedy question 17, ‘this question is intentionally left blank’ because it isn’t blank up here. Instead, we had to answer how well we spoke, read, wrote or understood Scots, English and Gaelic. I haven’t a word of Gaelic – it’s not spoken around here and never really has been – but having lived up hear for a few years and been schooled in Scotland, I’ve come across enough Scots to feel that I probably understood it, at least when it’s being spoken. For anyone similarly puzzled, there’s the Aye Can website offering samples of spoken and written Scots arranged by region so you can see if you can understand them (which unfortunately I only came across after we’d filled in the form. Still it turned out I could). In fact, even if you’re not filling in the Scottish Census, you might want to have a visit anyway – there are some charming clips of voices which are well worth a listen in their own right. Come back and tell me how you did.
March 9, 2011
I am grateful – I think – to those on Twitter who have helpfully pointed me towards the story Bigtown’s very own naked driver who has been making a nuisance of himself – and risking a really nasty case of frostbite in the current weather – by driving around in nothing but a pair of socks and then getting out of his car a strategic intervals, including at the appropriately named ‘Maidenbower Path’, so people can see him (this raises the question as to whether he’d actually be committing an offence if he stayed in his car. I think as the law stands, even in Scotland, if you have to actually make an effort to see the nakedness in question in order to be offended by it, then it’s not indecent exposure). Presumably the whole thing – along the lines of the World Naked Bike Ride – is some sort of a protest intended to raise awareness of the vulnerability of the poor beleaguered motorist as the War against him gets into full swing. Or perhaps, having filled his tank recently, he can no longer afford clothes.
Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately – I’m in Duns at the moment so can’t go and seek out this brave protester to find out for myself. He’s described as being middle-aged and having ‘a small pot-belly’, or in other words, looking like approximately half of all men in Bigtown.* This would make him a prime candidate for ditching the car, getting a bike and adopting that slightly more acceptable form of indecent exposure, skin-tight lycra. If he chooses one of the paler team kits and a damp day, it would be hard to see the difference and it wouldn’t even be illegal…
*Presumably if he had a large pot belly that would cover his credentials, as it were, making it okay