Winds Light to Variable

February 26, 2014

I have a slight bone to pick with the Met Office. Oh, all right, several bones, but my current beef is the way their weather app will take a day with heavy rain forecast for half of the day and no rain forecast for the other half of the day and describe that as ‘light rain’. You can’t average out rain. It’s like saying a day with a northerly gale in the morning and a southerly gale in the afternoon has no wind at all.

Not that it actually matters. We had light rain this morning and I looked at it and thought ‘oh well it’s only raining a little bit, no point putting the full rain gear on.’ WRONG. It is an indisputable fact of cycling life that light rain gets you just as wet – indeed sometimes wetter – than heavy rain. Be it a downpour, cats and dogs, steady drizzle, fine sifting rain, or that rain that isn’t really inging so much as just there, in the air, waiting for you to cycle through it – after an hour you will be equally wet and equally annoyed about it…

That said, rain is better than hail. Coming back from yoga yesterday I got caught in a hailstorm that was going sideways and I can tell you that having little tiny stinging particles of hail sandblasting the side of your face is extremely painful, albeit quite invigorating. If there’s anything in this microdermabrasion nonsense, then by rights I ought to be looking like one of those before and after photos with the left hand side of my face blasted clean.

This post reminds me that there’s a very nice Spanish woman working in Bigtown at the moment – she’s been here about a year now. I asked her the other day how she was liking Scotland and particularly the weather. She replied ‘I wouldn’t mind it so much except that everyone I speak to keeps mentioning it. It makes it hard to forget about it.’ The thing is, we keep feeling the need to apologise for it, especially to someone who is in a sense a guest – as if we kept bringing up how untidy our house is or apologising for the food (although there’s that too) and making the whole thing even more awkward.

Perhaps we should just ignore it and it will go away. But then what would we talk about?


Water, Water Everywhere

February 24, 2014

It seems the weather gods, having enjoyed their little holiday wreaking havoc down South are back with us permanently now, at least if the forecast is anything to go by. Not that we’re getting spectacular send-in-the-army type weather – just rain, followed by more rain, followed by more rain, with intervals of rain. Riding out for the paper in a rare gap this morning, the roads were running with water like rivers and every ditch and hollow was full; every flat piece of land is just a swamp.

raindrops

What if it never stops raining?

There’s been a lot talked in recent weeks about managing catchment areas upstream to prevent flooding downstream without the need for expensive (and ultimately ineffective) flood defences. It makes a lot of sense, and it sounds attractive, especially if the alternative is enormous high walls cutting towns off from their rivers. But I’m struggling to see how, here at least, we could actually hold any more water than we are already

waterlogged field

And the ford? Well the chain that runs across it to catch any cars that get swept away has been swept away itself by a passing tree. Not that anyone’s likely to tackle it in its present condition. But you never know…

ford almost at 2 feet


Hats Off

February 21, 2014

Well, hat. And not because it’s wonderfully warm and sunny, but involuntarily. My fabulous tweed cap has proved itself equal to most things, including Britain’s wettest winter since Noah, but it’s just a tiny bit poor at staying on my head in a gale. To be fair, I’m not convinced that any hat could have coped with this morning’s headwind, which was extra blustery, and it did stay on for the first three miles, albeit pulled further and further down my brow until I was basically navigating through a letter box. Eventually, though, I felt it levitate gently off my head as the wind found its way under the peak and then it was bowling away in search of a nice patch of manure to land in.* This is not the first time it’s pulled that trick – I’ve taken to removing it before riding over bridges as a precaution – but I particularly missed it this morning because the wind was also icy and the cap is warmer than a warm thing and can’t do much to keep my head warm if it’s stuffed into my pocket.

So now I need a way of keeping it on my head that doesn’t involve my mother’s suggestion of sewing old pairs of tights into it because I’ve got to draw the line somewhere, and wearing my mother’s underwear on my head is where I’ve chosen to draw it. Hat pins (which would have the additional merit of giving me something to fend off buzzards with)? Petersham ribbon (whatever that is)? Moving somewhere less windy?

Suggestions in the comments please. Not you, Mum

* At least this way it will get a nice lived-in look quickly and people will know that I’m not wearing it ironically. I’m pretty sure that even the most dedicated Hackney fashionista rubs muck and bits of straw into their tweed garments to give them that authentic farmyard patina.


Simple Pleasures

February 12, 2014

So I was going to entertain you all today with a long rant on the joys of rural public transport as composed by me on the two mile trudge back from the bus stop* in the freezing cold rain after I had decided against cycling today for reasons which became less and less compelling with every squelching step.

And then I got home and switched on the radio and listened to the weather news around the country and felt rather petty. There I was, sitting in the warm and dry, with a cup of coffee and a round of toast and no need to go out into the weather again, and my forty minutes in the rain and a pair of sodden shoes rather paled in comparison to what everyone else was having to put up with. After all, when was the last time I had even realised just how pleasant and comforting it is to have warm feet and dry socks? And now suddenly they seemed like one of life’s little luxuries…

I hope your heads are all above water, wherever you are.

* The bus stop for which we’re not allowed to have a bus shelter because not enough people use it because they don’t find standing around in a layby by a trunk road half a mile from their village in Scotland in winter to wait for an hourly bus that costs FIVE pounds return an attractive proposition, for some reason**

** to give you the condensed version


It’s not often…

February 11, 2014

… we sit up here and listen to the South East of England getting all our weather. I used to live in Maidenhead so the news bulletins have been a bit of a trip down memory lane, albeit one where memory lane has required a pair of chest waders and/or a rubber dinghy to negotiate.

We were forecast all sorts ourselves today from sleet to heavy rain to ice, but so far apart from one short snow flurry it’s actually been (whisper it) sunny, if cold. It only promises to be a brief respite between storms but I took the opportunity of a free afternoon after my epic work bout to go and see whether anything was going on in the garden – looks like the snowdrops have recovered from last year’s harvest, anyway.

snowdrops

Whether you’re flooded, soggy, or just anxiously watching the waters rise, hang on in there. Spring *is* on its way…

It has to be.


Weather Gods in Action

February 9, 2014

Shortly after posting Friday’s little challenge, I headed off to the station for the weekend and had to stop and capture this:

passing storm

Even as I watched, a shaft of sunlight slanted through the rain (‘quick, get your shovel out and start digging – that’s where the pot of gold is’ said a passing cyclist)

rainbow

From the amount of rain on the road, they had only missed me by a matter of minutes…


Signs of … Something

February 7, 2014

I was a bit startled, when cycling through the village, to be accosted by a fellow gardener and asked if I was planning on going to potato day again this year. Already? I thought. It’s not even as if winter has properly started yet, and here people are planning for spring. And then I was startled again as I stuck my head out of the door to chat with a passing neighbour and found not just sunshine but – out of the wind, anyway – actual warmth. Looking around there are snowdrops everywhere, daffodils poking their leaves up out of the swamp that passes for the countryside, birds going bananas in the hedgerows. Time to start panicking about the garden again

The problem is that, with storm after storm marching through, we seem to have had nothing but an endless October this winter. It’s been so mild, I was picking caterpillars out of my kale the other day. There’s been no sense of anything going properly dormant and hence no sense of the impending spring. And I’ve barely been able to touch the garden because even if I wasn’t too busy, it’s far too wet to do anything but plan out where to construct the rice paddies…

broad beans

Still, she says, recklessly tempting fate, at least the broad beans are hanging on in there…

Anyone else still feel they’re waiting for winter to arrive?


I’ll Be Dammed

February 4, 2014

waterfall

I wandered up to our local beauty spot the other day to inspect the amount of water going over the waterfall, by way of a change from checking the levels on the ford (I don’t know why I bother as the photograph I took of it was so similar to the one taken a month ago I initially thought I’d saved the file twice).

leaf gutters

leaf ‘gutters’ two weeks on

I was last there a couple of weeks ago, during an earlier wet spell – or possibly just earlier in same wet spell, it’s hard to tell these days, as there seems to be no let up.* While I was last there I found there was water running over the road and right across the bridge because there were leaves blocking their route to the river, so I spent a contented ten minutes or so rearranging the leaves to form a little gutter mainly because I enjoy that sort of thing although I told myself it was a social service in case the water froze and made the bridge all slippery. I didn’t think anything more of it until I came up again this time and found that my handiwork appeared to have survived, and the water was still heading down towards the culvert, which pleased me more than was strictly reasonable. Either that, or there’s someone else in the area who likes to do a bit of amateur hydrological engineering, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least – it’s about the only entertainment to be had around here while the weather is the way it is.

Of course, adding more water to the river may not be my most brilliant idea right now

swollen river

*and while we’re on the subject, BBC Weather Centre, please note the difference between ‘calm day with sunny spells’ as advertised this morning and ‘howling southerly gale with intermittent squally showers’, as actually delivered, because some of us use the weather forecast to make plans, not just for the pleasure of listening to your mellifluous tones. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.


Rider on the Storm

January 31, 2014

I knew the forecast wasn’t looking too clever this morning, so I thought I’d better just quickly check the rain radar before settling down to see whether I had time to get some work done before setting off. A quick glance showed an enormous scary mass of rain marching rapidly towards us with no end in sight so I didn’t hesitate and was out on my bike to get down to the paper shop and back while I still could. In fact, I probably could have done without the rain radar as a glance to the west revealed nothing but increasing murkiness. I abandoned my normal contemplative pedalling style and concentrated on making progress, egged on by the chilly bite in the headwind: it wasn’t just rain that those dark clouds promised. The sky over papershop village was looking apocalyptic and all the east-bound cars headlights were on, never a good sign, but at least on the way home I had the wind behind me. Focusing on the lighter skies to the east, I put my head down and let it push me home and, very satisfyingly, was wheeling my bike into the shed just as the first drops fell.

Since then we’ve had rain, ice, sleet, snow, and back to rain again. Pleasant as it is to be safe at home throughout it all, it’s the village Burns supper tonight so out I must go again, and in all my Burns night finery,* because the other half has the car and won’t be back in time to ferry me down. I wonder just how easy it will be to do the Dashing White Sergeant in wellies…

* In my case, ‘clothes I haven’t gardened in recently


Salute the Sun

January 29, 2014

I just want to record that the sun came out while I was riding down to the paper shop and I had to take my hat off to maximise the feeling of it on my face. It was only for a moment and it wasn’t as if there was any actual warmth to be had but it was sunshine and thus to be cherished. In other news, I had failed to notice the hammering East wind which meant a monstrous head wind all the way home, but these things are sent to try us.

And if you’re trying to visualise me riding along, bare headed, more than half a metre from the verge (hey, there are potholes), then I recommend you stop that behaviour right now because such imagery is socially irresponsible and likely to cause harm and offence.*

*And if like me you think that is a pile of horse poo, you can sign here


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