Stinging in the Rain

March 22, 2014

Thursday was one of those days when you look out of the window and think “thank God I don’t have to cycle anywhere today in that” as the rain lashes sideways past the window. The only problem was I did have to cycle somewhere in it; I had to be in Bigtown to catch a bus to go and meet someone. I told myself that it always looks worse from inside than it does when you’re actually out in it, put on the full monty raingear (apocalypse-proof jacket, rain skirt, leggits, tweed cap, gloves), remembered to pack a spare pair of gloves (I have yet to track down a pair of actually waterproof gloves, and there are few things more miserable than putting on wet gloves after you’ve been sitting in the warm and dry, so the only option is to pack as many pairs of gloves as you have journey legs) and set off.

As I’d hoped, it wasn’t too bad at first. The trip into Bigtown is generally done with a tailwind, and rain is a lot less unpleasant when it isn’t being blown into your face. In fact, I was cycling along musing about the fact that I’ve probably ridden through more rain in the past year than I have in my whole life up to then, and that I’ve gradually accumulated the right kit, and a few ideas, to make the whole wet-weather cycling thing if not pleasant, then bearable. I started putting together in my head a blog post of all the things I’ve learned in the last year to provide others with the benefit of my accumulated wisdom, entirely forgetting that I had not only blogged the day before about the imminent arrival of spring – but had also tweeted happily about the joys of cycling with a tail wind…

So I shouldn’t really have been surprised when the tail wind suddenly sprang round to hit me hard right in the face – enough to actually bring me to a standstill – and whipped off my cap and flung it into a puddle before settling into a punitive gusty cross wind for the rest of the ride into town. In the course of the next 30 minute I was to learn several entirely new and exciting facts about cycling in the rain when you have angered the weather gods:

1. Tweed floats. Indeed, an upside-down cap can sail quite a distance along a puddle when the wind takes it

2. Leggits are no protection to your shoes if you have to wade through the water to retrieve your hat.

3. A rain skirt is no protection at all when it is blowing a hooly and the rain is simultaneously coming at you from the side, front, above and possibly below

4. When your apocalypse-proof jacket starts to let in water, the pockets are where the water will accumulate and are therefore a poor choice of place to store your mobile phone, your Guardian voucher, and your dry gloves

5. There is no weather so unpleasant that it cannot be made more unpleasant by a driver choosing to pass you at speed through a puddle.

In fairness, I can’t really blame number five on the Weather Gods (but seriously drivers, what is it with close passing cyclists in the rain? Do you think we are out there getting wet for fun?)

By the time I had reached the bus stop and steeled myself to spend the rest of the day in wet socks, I had decided to hold off on that ‘top tips’ post until I had another decade or so’s experience to draw on. Meanwhile, I will rever to my former position, that the best wet weather gear of all is a roof.

Anyone commenting to the effect that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, will be hunted down and drowned.


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


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


Surrounded

January 26, 2014

In what’s shaping up to be the rainiest winter ever, there’s an unwelcome new development: the courtyard in front of our house has taken to flooding regularly.* This morning was another wild and wet start and pretty soon the water levels were creeping up and no amount of poking things with a stick was going to make any difference

yard flooded

A quick yomp around in wellies revealed that we were surrounded

The burn that runs down one side of the property had overflowed and was now running across our drive as well as onto the road

driveway converted into a burn

On the other side and behind the house the water was running directly off the hillside behind us and pooling right up against the back wall, which may be why we don’t have a back door. Oh well, I’ve always wanted to live in a property with a moat…

flooding at the back of the house

As for outside the property, it’s never a good sign when there are white caps on the water running down the road.

whitecaps on the water on the road

It did all drain away eventually, although it reached the shed door at its height and I spent a fair bit of time anxiously monitoring it. If this continues we’re going to have to erect a depth gauge in the front yard, ford-stylee

Meanwhile, here’s a glimpse of the real thing.

ford in flood

More heavy rain forecast for tomorrow. Oh joy.

*It tells you something about the Scottish weather that it’s possible to be in danger of flooding even when you live on the side of a hill


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