Haar de Haar Haar

July 23, 2014

So the forecast this week is just glorious – sunshine all week – and as we are on a flying visit to Duns, we got a bit overexcited with the thought of a visit to a proper beach, seeing as Bigtownshire beaches tend towards the estuarine which is fine if you like a day’s trek across mud for a paddle but not exactly swimmable. We filled the car with beach towels and swimming things and sun cream and set off in a state of great anticipation, forgetting that fine weather across the country generally means an easterly wind, and an easterly wind on the east coast generally means the dreaded haar, which stands for ‘horrible air all around’ according to my aunt.

The haar itself might have burned off, but the cloud was clinging stubbornly on by lunchtime, so as the rest of you basked in the sunshine and sent me the odd gloating tweet, we set off today for the beach anyway to sit under the cloud.

After all, there were still rockpools to explore

sea anemone in rockpool

And the other half had brought his special beach camouflage outfit, which worked a treat.

beach camouflage outfit

And cloudbathing is the new sunbathing – haven’t you heard?

clouds over cocklawburn beach

Naturally, the sun appeared as soon as we got about a mile inland on the way back…

We’ll be back to sunny West Scotland tomorrow, if we’re spared.


London’s Boiling

July 17, 2014

So I’m in London without my Brompton having reluctantly made the decision that the short few hops I would be able to take on it weren’t worth lugging it down on the train. And it was certainly very pleasant to be able to get onto a Virgin train without having to fret about finding space for even a compactly folded bike in the luggage rack AND to have a hand free to pick up a coffee at Carlisle and save me suffering the horror that is train coffee. It was also a bit of a relief to have the other half around to give me a lift to the station yesterday morning as it was raining quite heavily for the whole period when I would have been cycling and, while technically I don’t necessarily mind cycling in the rain, four hours is a long time to be sitting on a train in wet socks.

That feeling of having made the right decision did diminish somewhat as I emerged at Euston into a budding London heatwave: hot as cycling would have been, it is somehow never as sticky and unpleasant as getting on the tube and the train in rush hour. So today, with the heat forecast to increase, and not being burdened by my bags, I decided to take the train up to Waterloo and then walk the two and a bit miles to my appointment near King’s Cross. After all, when I lived in London, I walked everywhere in zone one and I was quite looking forward to getting my city legs back. I find navigating by bike through London quite hard work, whereas on foot it’s a doddle. I had my A to Z, and there are now handy maps on every corner so I didn’t end up going off at a tangent the way I always do when I’m trying to find my way on a bike. In fact, in the course of my walk, I discovered a much more pleasant cycling route from Kings Cross down to Waterloo Bridge (via Lamb’s Conduit Street, basically) than I’d ever managed to work out for myself before. Not only that but I spotted a fellow Cycling Embassy person as he sailed past on his very spiffy bakfiets and we stopped for a brief catch up and gossip before I continued on my way.

Indeed, I was rather grateful for the break. What with one thing and another – the bike, not really living anywhere within walking distance of anywhere – I don’t actually walk that much these days. And I certainly don’t walk on hard city streets in summer sandals, so by the time I reached King’s Cross my feet were on fire. Sweat or no sweat, I took the tube back and winced the last half mile from the station. Once safely back, I was grateful for a borrowed bike for our afternoon’s excursion to the park – frankly, this walking lark is way too much like hard work. I’ll be happy to get back home tomorrow and back to cycling around again in a civilised fashion

Deer in Bushy Park

You can tell these are London deer and not Scottish ones because a) it’s not raining and b) they’re busy ignoring everyone

Indeed, given it’s due to be even hotter tomorrow than today, I might even be grateful to get back to a bit of … OK, not for any actual rain. But a little bit of Scottish cool summer weather may not go amiss.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Cat Reunions

July 11, 2014

It’s been another glorious day today and plans were hatched: the other half has been helping out the ex neighbour at his parents’ house and I rode down on the Brompton with a basket full of sausages and potato salad to join them for a barbecue afterwards.

little grey cat

Them, and a certain little grey cat, who has been sorely missed.

little grey cat

I’d love to say she came running over miaowing with delight at being reunited with an ex member of staff, but I’d be lying.

little grey cat

She deigned to be stroked, as long as I didn’t overdo it, but not particularly to be photographed.

Little grey cat and the other half

She knows who she likes…


The Long Way Round

July 9, 2014

I was reflecting yesterday that my route to and from the papershop these days is just a catalogue of (mild) peril – from the stretches of loose chippings on the road, to the buzzard, and even construction traffic at the Papershop Village end. So with the day dawning somewhat gorgeous this morning, it was time to take drastic measures: what is known as the suicide papershop route.* Originally known as the masochist’s papershop route, it involves a long stiff climb and an extra few miles over what is the back road to the back road, but on a nice day when you’re not in a particular hurry it’s actually a glorious ride. So with a freshly oiled chain on the bike and a rash pair of shorts on the rider (apologies to anyone in the International Space Station I may have dazzled) I set off.

giant bird topiary

Its entrance is marked by a giant budgie, for reasons nobody had ever been able to explain (actually I’m guessing from the angle of the tail it’s meant to be a wren, but where’s the humour in that?)

road uphill

From there the road kicks upwards sharply towards one of our two remaining Henry Moores, the rest having been removed for their own safety after thieves stole one of them from the valley where they have been sited since the thirties, almost certainly to be melted down for scrap. I’m told this one is just a fibreglass replica (it didn’t sound like bronze when I tapped it, criminal masterminds take note). I believe it celebrates the human form in some way …

Henry Moore sculpture

Art admired, and its scrap value duly assessed, the road winds ever upwards. Normally I do this route when there’s an east wind so it’s not in my face as I climb the hill, but even at 9 in the morning it was warm enough that the stiffish headwind today was more refreshing than anything else.

road winding upwards

Then, the climb done, you get your reward: the road just meanders through open country, with larks and pipits and stonechats singing away, curious cattle watching you pass…

winding road
… before plunging into the cool darkness of a glorious beech wood, past the ‘when I win the lottery’ ruined mill, one of those descents where you don’t have to turn so much as a pedal for a mile.

beech wood

And on the way home? I took the direct route, where there was nothing more threatening in the sky than a few fluffy clouds. ASBO buzzard must have been taking the morning off too.

fluffy white clouds

* the real suicide papershop route would be via Big A Road of course.


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.


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