Be Prepared

July 4, 2014

It rained all day today. This wasn’t exactly a surprise because a) this is South West Scotland, and ‘raining’ is the factory setting, and b) the BBC has been forecasting rain all day today for the past week. Well, OK, maybe the second part was a bit of a surprise because the weather forecasts haven’t been all that accurate in recent weeks, but I can hardly say I wasn’t warned.

The rain left me with a dilemma: set out for the paper in the rain early on and get it over with, or wait around and see whether or not it was going to defy all forecasts and clear up. The latter was quite tempting because, well, it was raining, and it’s always hard to make yourself go out on the bike in the rain when you don’t absolutely have to.

Of course, for those of you all shaking your heads and muttering to yourselves ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s only bad clothing’ – we’ve dealt with this topic many times before, and I’m afraid it’s total bollocks. Decent rain gear does one thing and one thing only, and that is it makes sitting around after you’ve been riding in the rain more pleasant, because you’re not sloshing about in your socks. However, unless you’re one of those ‘oh I love cycling in the rain it’s so refreshing’ types, in which case you’re a bit strange or possibly just don’t live in South West Scotland so the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, then riding in the rain is not fun.

At this point, I do have to confess that, despite six years of accumulating rain gear and living in a place where there are dozens, if not exactly 600, words for rain reflecting the fact that it rains A LOT, I still do suffer from bad clothing. Or more to the point, I have spent the last few weeks of miraculously fine weather lollygagging about enjoying the sunshine, rather than doing sensible things like re-proofing my everything-but-the-apocalypse jacket, and finding some replacement gloves.

four left hand gloves

Just how does this happen?

Or maybe just some right hand gloves. Because my 100% perfect record of only losing the right glove continues unabated. I have no idea how this happens, but it does. If there’s anyone out there who tends to lose the left glove and who has quite small hands and a fondness for leather driving gloves, please do get in touch and we can work something out.

And for those hanging on with bated breath to find out what I decided: I went out in the rain, and I got wet, and it was fairly miserable, and I came back and got changed into dry clothes and spent the rest of the day feeling glad that I didn’t have to go out in that. Which, on a day like today, counts as a win.

Still, at least I discovered that buzzards don’t like the rain either.


This is Just to Say…

June 19, 2014

… that I cycled into Bigtown yesterday evening to watch Rising from Ashes (and very good it was too, even if it did raise as many questions as it answered) and the ride was just perfect: the air still warm and scented by the hedgerows, the sunlight slanting under the clouds and lighting up the hillsides, the verges full of young birds still practising their flying skills. Nobody even cut me up. As long as I kept my mouth shut enough to keep the insect life out, I couldn’t imagine a better time and place to be riding a bike. If this week proves to be the total of our summer, and having posted this it undoubtedly will be, then it’s already shaping up to be a great one.

Rwanda looked pretty ravishing in the film, but when we came out of the cinema we found that Bigtown wasn’t looking that shabby either. Aided by the fact that we found a nice place doing beautifully thin-crust pizza* for not very large amounts of money just over the bridge.

evening light evening light evening light

They said in the film, ‘if you want to be a cyclists, you’ve got to suffer. There’s no getting away from it.’

I beg to differ.

* They also offered haggis lasagne, but we thought we’d pass on that one


Buzzard Dundee

June 16, 2014

OK, so here’s something I never thought I’d ever say: it was just too lovely and sunny this afternoon. And not because I was stuck indoors – I had to head off on the bike. To the papershop. Through Buzzard Alley. And that was the problem. Having lost my magical tweed hat earlier in the year, my only remaining anti-buzzard head protection that it’s practical to cycle in was the hood of the apocalypse proof jacket and breathable as it is, I didn’t fancy wearing it on a gloriously warm sunny afternoon.

That left me with a choice of braving the buzzard bare headed – or cycling in my Akubra hat, which I did, as fortunately there wasn’t too much of a breeze. It means you either have to keep your pace slow or your head down to avoid it flying off – but it does seem to offer sterling buzzard protection as I wasn’t so much as buzzed in either direction. Clearly the general air of readiness to wrestle wildlife to the ground it gives the wearer was sufficient to keep my nemesis at bay. Long may that last. Although I suspect that it’s more likely that it will simply start raining again as usual.


As it Turns Out, it Was we Who Ate All the Pies

May 31, 2014

Well, I don’t know quite what happened there, but through some existential mix up with the weather gods we had the most glorious weather today, despite the fact that I had invited a bunch of people from all corners of the country to join me on a 45-mile ride. And despite the best efforts of my bike to scupper the outing by getting its chain jammed all but irrevocably behind the cogs, we made it to our lunch stop in reasonable time, where the ordering got a little complicated as we totally cleaned them out of pies.

setting off from the train station

Then it was over the hills and far away, via Papershop Village (naturally) to home, where they all but cleaned me out of cake.

cake remnants

And then, for the die hards, we did the final loop around the reservoir to make up the last miles and enjoy one of my favourite rides of all time, although now sadly bereft of its statues after one of them got nicked last year.

road ahead

All in all a good day’s riding, although by the time I’d ridden up the road and back to see some of my guests off I found I’d overshot a little…

GPS reading - 46 miles

There are worse mistakes to make. And worse ways to mark the passage of the years.

Anyone else make a point of riding their age?


Open Daze

May 30, 2014

The village has been celebrating the new school with an open evening for the whole community (well, newish – it fell off the back of a lorry in October and has been in operation since January but sensibly they decided to wait to have the party in May)

I’m extremely jealous of the library

school library

And the school run isn’t that shabby either…

evening sun

There’s something about riding home with the evening sun still filtering through the trees gone nine o’clock that makes those short winter days worth the misery. Well, almost


In for a Splash. Soak. Whatever

May 27, 2014

It may almost be the end of May, but that doesn’t mean all our trees are in leaf yet, oh no…

ash tree

The annual face off between the oak and the ash as to which one is most resistant to the blandishments of spring is on – and it looks as if the oaks have blinked first, by a long way.

spring trees

Normally I’d be rejoicing because as any fule know, ash before oak, in for a soak – oak before ash, in or a splash* but to be honest the ash have been holding out for so long this year I was beginning to worry about it being something more sinister.

If we did lose our ash trees they’d leave such a huge gap in the landscape that it’s hard to imagine. I’ve always thought of ash as being slightly weedy trees, because of their habit of setting seed everywhere and springing up in the most unwelcoming places. But give them a place to spread and a couple of hundred years to do it in and they become magnificent.

ash tree

Fortunately on close examination it looks as if they were just playing dead …

* I can’t help but think there’s a bit of a lack of ambition there on the part of our ancestors when it comes to predicting the summer weather. There’s an obvious gap in the market here for some combination of tree-leaf emergence that heralds a long, hot, glorious barbeque summer – possibly something along the lines of ‘Ash and oak in March their leaves forming, summer spent worrying about global warming…’


Taps Aff

April 19, 2014

I had a day trip to Newcastle today which meant setting off for the station with frost still thick on the grass, for all the bright promise of the morning sunshine. The Toon itself was distinctly nippy with a sharp wind blowing in from the North Sea and the various stag and hen parties making their way along the river front looked as if they regretted going for the matching t-shirts/comically brief dresses, at least until they’d got enough alcohol on board to stop caring. I was feeling fairly smug at having dressed sensibly until I realised that I’d lost one of my favourite gloves, a gift from the other half and rather spiffy with rabbit-fur lined (don’t write in) cuffs, which I’d successfully managed to avoid losing for two years – something of a record for me. One was restored to me, having been found on Bigtown station platform and kept for my return, but the other has vanished, to join my last two hats and at least four right hand gloves (I never lose the left-hand ones for some reason) in the great lost-property office in the sky…

Fortunately, by the time I came to ride home this afternoon the sun had done its work and it was warm enough to ride home bare handed. It’s not *quite* taps aff yet, but from the reddened shoulders I passed on my way home there has been some reckless clout casting going on in Bigtown today, May be out be damned. And as we’re all apparently desperately vitamin-D deprived at this time of year, perhaps it’s no bad thing…


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