July 6, 2011
I’ve done it! Yep, after three years – well, actually, it must be longer than three years now I come to think of it – I have managed to gather nine stamps on my Caffe Nero loyalty card AND find a Caffe Nero to go and get my free coffee in. Wahey. This would have been easier if the nearest branch wasn’t in England, and if I ever actually went out for coffee anywhere anyway, but I feel absurdly pleased that I – who can lose anything – have managed not only to hang on to such an easily mislaid little card but also remembered to get it out and use it nine times in a row.
Well, actually, make that eight. Because I do remember an incident at Euston on one of my trips when, hot and bothered and laden with stuff, I nipped into the branch there for a frappe-wotsit (normally I’m a strict ‘just a coffee’ sort of customer but it was stinking hot) and managed to pick up the flimsy plastic cup it came in, squeeze too hard, shoot ice-cold coffee all over myself, the counter and the floor and then somehow fail to find a hole to open up in the earth to hide in afterwards. The girl behind the counter, bless her, not only made me another one but stamped my card twice in sympathy. It’s service like that, not buy-nine-and-get-the-tenth-one-free schemes that really build loyalty at the end of the day.
That said, I’ve already got my second card and my first stamp so in a year or seven, I may be in line for my next free coffee.
I can hardly wait.
May 25, 2011
I’ve long wondered why it is that Nearest Village doesn’t have a proper bus shelter when Intervening Village has the full-on rural style timber-panelled half shed affair beloved by smoking teenagers everywhere. It’s not as if we’ve got so much better weather or less rain (or, indeed, fewer teenagers) than Intervening Village that we don’t need one. So when I happened to be sitting next to someone on the community council at the plant sale tea, I took the opportunity to bend his ear about my idea for an Integrated Transport Hub for the village, aka a bus shelter with built in bike racks so that on miserable days I can ride down for the bus and leave my bike in comfort and relative security (everyone knows my bike now well enough in the village that it will be kept an eye on) for the day.
‘That’s a good idea,’ he said, not backing away much at all. ‘I don’t know why the bus shelter has gone. We used to have one once next to the phone box. We could try and get it back.’
‘Maybe it was stolen,’ I suggested.
‘I don’t think so – it was a great big concrete thing. Do you know what happened to the bus stop that used to be there?’ he asked the Oldest Inhabitant.
‘Och weel, that was outside old Jock McPloppy’s* house and he complained to the council it was attracting the wrong element and so they came wi’ a big lorry and took it away.’
*Not his actual name.
April 29, 2011
Well, today’s the big day – yep, three years since we moved up here, and it was nice to see that Papershop Village had chosen to mark the occasion in a suitably festive manner
Guys, you really shouldn’t have.
Actually, I think there might be some other event going on as well. In fact, I was excited to hear that Papershop Village was actually planning a street party to celebrate it for today. The thing about Papershop Village is that it only really has one street, and that’s Big A Road. Sadly, they didn’t manage to close it for the event. ‘I’d have paid money to see that,’ I remarked when I heard. ‘So would we,’ said the other resident in the shop rather sadly.
This morning, bunting or no bunting, the village was its usual closed-down self, with the usual lorries thundering through it. The ‘street’ party is this evening, in the village hall, safely away from causing any traffic chaos. And Nearest Village (not a scrap of bunting in sight) has decided somewhat pointedly to hold its celebration (the annual soup and sweet lunch) tomorrow rather than today.
How’s royal wedding fever down your way?
April 11, 2011
I was cycling down for the paper this springlike morning, slowing down a fraction to watch a farmer and his dog skillfully corner a sheep and manhandle it (the dog didn’t take part in this bit, obviously, or it would have been doghandling) into a quad bike trailer when I heard a bleating noise coming from the farm yard. Out of an assemblage of outbuildings came a tiny grey lamb – all pipecleaner legs and knobbly knees and quite obviously too young to be out alone. As I stopped to warn the farmer that one of his flock was straying, I thought it might turn tail and flee at the sight of me – I was, after all, on that scariest contraption known to modern sheep, a bicycle – but no, it made a beeline right for me and started nuzzling my bike in a hopeful way that suggested it wasn’t entirely clear it wasn’t its mother. I didn’t want to leave it loose out in the road and so this was why I spent a good five minutes this morning standing in the middle of the road with a lamb nibbling gently on my trouser leg while I scratched it behind the ears. I can tell you, I’ve had worse morning commutes.
April 10, 2011
Our post – like many other things around here – runs at a rather more leisurely pace than you might be used to in the city (see also: broadband). The postman arrives about mid-morning, unless he arrives around lunchtime or indeed mid-afternoon. The post box is emptied once a day, at eleven – well, eleven-ish – when the postie happens to be passing. On the plus side, we never ever get one of those ‘missed delivery’ cards (although we do occasionally find the odd amazon package lurking in a forgotten corner of the shed a few days later) but generally we don’t expect much in the way of urgency from our post. As far as I’m concerned, posting something is more of an excuse for a gentle saunter to the post box on a fine and sunny morning than a way of getting anything anywhere quickly.
Which is why we were startled to notice this morning, having strolled down to post off the payment for the oil bill, that someone had injected an unaccustomed note of urgency into the whole affair:
March 31, 2011
I have been known, in the winter months, to take advantage of the Rayburn & get dressed in the kitchen. There’s something very comforting about putting on pre-warmed clothes, although you do have to be a bit careful about how you fold your jeans before stacking them if you don’t want to end up with ‘Levis’ (or whatever) permanently branded somewhere sensitive.
Anyway, it happens that I needed to have a word with one of our more distant neighbours – nothing urgent, nothing worth going out of my way for or ringing up about, just an if-I-bump-into-them kind of thing. Yesterday morning I happened to be passing their place on my bike on the way into Bigtown and I looked over to see if anyone was about so I could stop for a chat. There was nobody around outside but I could see movement through the window and I slowed down thinking ‘you know, I could just stop and knock on their door if they’re not too… ah, you know what? I think I probably won’t bother just right this moment.’
Turns out I’m not the only one to get dressed in the kitchen around here.
February 21, 2011
‘Oh look it’s full of lovely Scottish notes,’ I heard a ringing English voice cry as I walked past the bank in Notso Bigtown this afternoon. I don’t know quite what she expected to come out of a Scottish cashpoint – haggis? whisky? English money? – but at least she was happy about it. Usually I end up stuck behind some English visitor in the Notso Bigtown Tesco asking a suddenly sullen checkout girl if their change could be in English notes instead.
Anyway, it’s one more sign, if signs were needed, that spring, summer and prime tourist baiting season is on its way.
In other news, can anyone explain why it’s not possible to buy fish on a Monday? Is this a local thing or the sort of thing that everybody except me knows? I went into the combined greengrocers and fishmongers expecting the woman there to be able to mong me some fish and she just looked at me as if I was the sort of wet-behind-the-ears tourist who could be found exclaiming excitedly at the quaint and charming Scottish money. I keep thinking I’ve got the hang of it here, and then I’m reminded I haven’t.
February 2, 2011
Phase one of my being brought back down to reality after the excitement of whizzing around London having meetings and things began after the other half picked me up from the train and we had to drive part of the way home at the pace of a confused deer who decided the best way to escape from the growly car monster was to bound down the road rather than through the gates or over the walls on either side.
Phase two has started this morning, with the weather Gods laying on a day of drizzle and gusting wind, during the course of which I will have to do battle with the rural bus system. Ah, the glamorous life we writers lead…
January 28, 2011
‘You know how you asked about the weather earlier, and I said it wasn’t looking like rain?’ the other half said this morning as I was getting ready to cycle down for the paper. ‘Well, it’s snowing now.’
And so it was, although only the featheriest of flakes, floating gently through the sky – no more than a reminder from the weather gods that it is still January and that we are no more than their playthings. I cycled down anyway but it’s one reason why I’m happy at this moment to be on the train* going down to That London, where winter doesn’t have quite so chilling a grip. I’m mainly going for work, but also because I shall be attending the inaugural meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, lured in by the promise of Ferrero Rochers, bagels, and a bike ride afterwards to see what those new cycle superhighways are really like. I’ve got my boris bike key and I might even be able to get into the website to activate it before tomorrow. And I’m more excited about this than I can reasonably say, but that might just be the chocolate talking.
*And attempting to post this via Virgin Train’s wifi service which is every bit as fast and reliable as you would expect…
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…