Let it Snow

January 25, 2013

more snow

We woke up this morning to more snow, and then it started snowing like it meant it

What better time for a bike ride?

sheep in snow

I’m sure you’re all bored of me banging on about my new tyres (and believe me, it’s not just you – I’ve told half the village, my writers’ group and pretty much anyone else who was passing and wasn’t able to get away) but, actual bikes aside, I can’t think of a single thing I’ve bought in recent years that I’ve been quite as pleased with. It will take a few years before the tyres can justify themselves in financial terms but in human happiness terms they’ve already paid me back tenfold – and that’s after subtracting the negative effect of everyone I’ve bored rigid extolling their virtues. The last three winters have left me feeling trapped and grumpy whenever I couldn’t ride my bike but this morning, rolling along on the fresh snow, watching a raven doing aerial battle with a buzzard, totally alone apart from a few uncomprehending sheep, I felt invincible (possibly too invincible as I forgot to look out for potholes on one nasty bit of road – but even then, the bike handled fine and I was able to stay upright despite ending up on a crusty pile of ice and snow). The hardest part was getting going after stopping to take pictures – my tyres might be surefooted, but my boots don’t have enough grip to push myself off on the snow.

more snow falling

There’s more snow now – it’s snowed all day and probably even I wouldn’t want to be cycling on the roads at the moment until the cars have had a chance to compact it down a bit. The thaw is forecast to start tomorrow, but even if it doesn’t and it freezes and compacts and hangs around for weeks, I’m just happy to know I will still be able to ride my bike…


I Suppose it was Inevitable…

January 22, 2013
snowy hills

snowy hills

…after the last post that we should wake up to this sort of thing this morning

snow_2 snow_3

Still, it gave me a chance to further road test the tyres and they coped magnificently – although I should in the interests of accuracy point out that coming to a complete stop when travelling downhill on a mixture of ice, slush and snow is still … interesting.

Fortunately, for most of the ride, I was only stopping to take photos, so I could take my time

snow_4
Afterwards, we went out for a walk – cut short half way up the local 1-in-5 hill when things got a little slithery underfoot. Time to invest in spiked shoes as well as spiked tyres? Or leave the hillsides to the sheep until spring…

snow_5


Snow Fair

January 21, 2013

It has snowed ALL day – sometimes lightly, sometimes as if it means it, sometime just random flakes flying around as much up as down – but it has been just that tiny bit too warm for it to settle. This followed several days of the radio, newspaper and the whole of twitter telling me that it’s snowing!!! So while the rest of the country has been out taking arty photos and making snowmen and sledging and having the day off school, we’ve been looking at what is basically rain with good PR.

I suppose that’s what having a dandy set of ice tyres will do to your weather. But if you came here for rural snow scenes and general picturesqueness, I recommend you wander over to Mrs Uphilldowndale’s site instead. She’ll see you right…


So Sue Me

December 20, 2012

The predicted snow arrived this morning (don’t worry, it’s due to be sunny and 60F by the weeekend, oh no, hang on, you weren’t worrying about that were you?). After it had finished falling, and the wind had finished blowing it around so much, we went out with the snow shovel and shovelled it off the driveway and the sidewalk (that’s pavement to anyone who doen’t speak American) as is the American way – or rather I shovelled and the other half gave expert advice culled from a childhood growing up in Minnesota and then went inside to supervise from the warmth of the house, the novelty of shovelling snow having thoroughly worn off for him round about when he was ten.

I relate this entirely unremarkable tale because if you were to mention anywhere in the UK that members of the public might want to go out and clear the snow off the pavement outside their house then you are generally greeted with the sort of alarm that an elderly maiden aunt might greet the suggestion that she join an orgy. Because if you were to do that you might – no indeed, you almost certainly would – get sued. Despite the fact that nobody has ever been sued for clearing snow and never will be sued for clearing snow, it has somehow got lodged into the British psyche that personal injury lawyers lurk behind every bush, possibly disguised as snowmen, waiting for someone to so much as brush a flake off their front step so they can leap out, push some passing old dear over, and then slap a lawsuit on the offending householder. I was out the council training for being a community councillor and they were wheeling out their winter preparedness scheme which consisted of getting local volunteers to clear snow off the pavements and gritting them so that people might have a fighting chance of stepping outside their front door without breaking a leg. It went like this:

Council chap: just to get it out of the way first, you won’t get sued

Fellow trainees: but what if we do get sued?

Council chap: honestly, you won’t get sued

Fellow trainees: can we get people to sign something to say they won’t sue us?

Council chap: nobody has ever been sued

Fellow trainees: Should we get insurance against getting sued?

Fellow trainees: what if they sue us for *not* clearing the snow?

Fellow trainees: what if we ask someone to clear the snow and they keel over with a heart attack and then sue us?

Me: *silently loses will to live*

Sadly, I still don’t know the official Bigtownshire Council method for approved snow shovelling because we ran out of time for the actual training. This goes a long way to explaining why, the minute it snows, every pavement immediately becomes almost impassable and everyone ends up having to walk in the road.

Now clearly, I’d prefer it if the council cleared and gritted the pavements (and the cycle paths of course) and left it to motorists to voluntarily shovel and grit the roads if they wanted to go anywhere, but even I know that’s not going to happen for a while. And meanwhile, I’d like it a lot if the pavements were cleared, however amateurishly, preferably before they had become icy death traps. So here, people of Britain, is a public service announcement, just for you:

IF THE MOST LITIGIOUS SOCIETY ON EARTH CAN SHOVEL ITS SIDEWALKS WITHOUT FEAR OF LAWSUITS THEN WE, PROUD INHERITORS OF THE BLITZ SPIRIT, DEFEATERS OF THE HUN, NOT TO MENTION VICTORS IN ONE WORLD CUP, CAN ALSO CLEAR OUR PAVEMENTS AND WE WILL NOT GET SUED

I hope I’ve made that clear.


Cabin Fever

December 5, 2012

It’s that time of the year when I have to remind myself that we chose to move to a beautiful but not particularly thickly populated part of the world, and that for 90% of the year that means we get to enjoy our beautiful and beautifully empty rural roads. In particular, we chose a house fairly well off the beaten track, five miles from the nearest shop, eight miles from the nearest town and we reap the full benefit of that in terms of peace and quiet (broken only by the odd fighter-jet skirmish and random sheep invasions), dark and sparkly night skies, hot and cold running red squirrels, views and all the other joys of rural life. In return, we have to remember that nobody’s going to actually grit, let alone plough, every tiny little single-track road, just because some people were foolish enough to live along them.

Which is why, during the other 10% (or so) of the year, I just have to grin and bear the fact that the only reasonable way of getting around at the moment is by car. Never mind cycling – we took a walk down to check the level of the ford (about 2 inches, not frozen yet) and the road alternated between solid ice, crunchy snow on top of ice, black ice, running water, ice on top of snow and the odd stretch of dry clear tarmac: even on two feet, it was pretty dicey. Actually, even getting out of our front door is pretty dicey, although we have bought some grit and treated enough of the yard that we can get to our various sheds, and the car, without risking a broken neck. It’s frustrating when I’m used to being able to get myself most places by bike, or on foot. Nor can I get out on the bike to clear my head or, more importantly, work off the extra couple of slices of buttered toast that seemed like a sensible accompaniment to coffee. Instead, either I arrange a lift somewhere or I just don’t go at all. Nor can I work off the energy in the garden because half the beds are iced over with frozen snow and besides there’s nothing useful to be done.

Thanks to encouragement here and elsewhere, plans are afoot for a set of winter wheels with studded tyres (I couldn’t quite persuade myself I needed a whole winter bike …). Until then, I’ll just have to remember that it won’t actually kill me not to cycle for a week or two, strange as that might seem. I might be a little grumpy but it’s better than being in traction. And we’ll be off to sunnier, if not exactly warmer, climes for Christmas fairly soon so I should be back and pedalling before I go too far insane. Well, any insaner than I already was…


December Bonus

December 3, 2012

On a morning when you realise that the Weather Gods have decided to get winter in properly

snowy morning

I was rewarded for trudging up to the veg plot anyway (I was going to fetch a shovel to clear the path, and decided just to see how everything was doing) with suddenly spotting this:

snowy romanesco

I’d thought my Romanesco had completely scratched this year. They’re only still in the ground because I hadn’t got around to clearing them out and they weren’t particularly in the way. This year seems to have been entirely upside down and backwards, so I suppose Italian vegetables mistaking a Scottish winter for summer is nothing.*

snowy plot

Still when the rest of the veg plot looks like this, I’m not complaining.

*The landlord’s peas were still flowering a couple of days ago. who knows, they might even get some Christmas peas…


Winter Arrives

December 6, 2011

It’s much later than last year, but the last few days have seen snow, more snow, sleet, rain, and hovering-just-around-freezing temperatures. Today was promising to be cold but fine and sunny, a rare interval in the precipitation of whatever sort that was coming our way. So, kitted up with my earwarmers and my wellies (because wet toes are cold toes and there’s still a fair bit of flooding on the roads) I decided to risk it and set off, having first taken the precaution of checking that there wasn’t too much to worry about on the road outside our house.

All went well – a little skitey, but fine – until I got through the village. There was a sort of slush of partly frozen mud coating the tarmac but my bike was slicing through it and as long as I concentrated and kept my speed down it felt fine. The road through the village was slushier but someone had chucked some grit down – luxury! – so it was OK. But as I left the village and continued down the back road to Papershop village it just got worse and worse and worse. There had been enough snow to coat the road and what traffic there had been had just rutted it into ice which was half melting. I took to riding on the snow instead, which at least slowed me down on the downhill sections without risking my brakes, but as that got thicker and icier I felt the back of the bike fishtail alarmingly and could do nothing but hang on, keep straight and pray. After that, it was a mixture of pedalling when I could, sculling (one foot on the pedal, one foot on the road, propelling me along) and just walking the bike. The flooding, to be honest, was the best bit, because at least that part of the road wasn’t icy.

At first it was stubbornness that kept me going (after all, I’ve ridden on snow and ice before) but by the time I was nearer to the shop than home it was nothing more than the fact that I hadn’t got my phone with me. Either I had to make it to the shop or I was going to have to knock on someone’s door and ask to use their phone. And I knew that there was no way I was going back along that road except on foot. I’ve never been an adrenaline junky and I wasn’t about to start now.

Reader, I made it. It took me almost an hour (instead of 30 minutes) and I can safely say that it was the least fun I’ve ever had on a bike. The last few times I’ve ridden on the snow it’s been a little dicey in places but mostly exhilarating, but that was on perfect fresh or hard frozen snow. This was just nasty, bumpy, icy, and felt distinctly unsafe. I got to the shop and borrowed their phone and suffered the humiliation of being rescued in the car.

The irony is, that running parallel to this icy mess was some perfectly clear, smooth, gritted tarmac on Big A Road. I did toy with cycling back that way but there are no shoulders, there’s only a tiny stretch of bike path (which was – stop me if you’ve heard this one before – ungritted and uncleared) and for the rest of it I’d have had lorries sweeping past me at 60mph, probably just inches away. Call me a wimp, but I didn’t fancy that much either.

I’ve not felt the need thus far for studded tyres, despite the last two long cold winters but now I’m wondering if I shouldn’t. Or else investing in something similar to this.


Daisy, Daisy, Give me your Answer, Do

December 4, 2011

We’ve just had our first snow

So why are you still flowering in December?

I think my garden is just thoroughly confused.


Which is appropriate enough, I suppose!


The Perfect Snow

January 11, 2011

On Saturday you wake up and find your house all covered in snow…

Sunday is sunny and bright and even warm as long as you’re dressed for it…

Then on Monday, just when you’re all getting sick of it, the rain starts…

And by Tuesday it’s as if it had never been.

I never thought I’d be grateful for rain, or indeed for a day as dreich and drear as Monday proved to be, but at least our roads are now more or less clear of ice and snow.

… at least till the next time.


And Once More, with Feeling

January 8, 2011

OK, I’ll admit it. Even though I’m fairly sure I made the right, sensible, grown up decision yesterday, deep in my heart of hearts it still bugged me that I’d wimped out from a little ice. And so, when we woke up this morning to this:

and I had to make a trip into Bigtown, I knew I had to cycle. The other half was willing to offer me a lift as he was going that way anyway, but the timing was awkward and besides if we’re going to keep getting snow in the winter, I knew I was just going to have to get used to riding in it.

I’ve ridden on the snow before, but that was when I was suffering from cabin fever: anything that got me moving out of the house would have done. Now I was trying to get somewhere I actually had to be, and with the other half already left to run his own errands, there was no chance of crying off and getting a lift home if I didn’t fancy the ride back. And the really fresh snow is different, I found: lovely and fluffy and shiny and everything, but an inch is enough to make bike handling, well, interesting. Following the tyre tracks on the road meant I could keep upright, but it also meant I had very few options if I needed to change direction in a hurry.

The first mile – which had all the ups and downs – took me about 10 minutes. Actually, the ups were fine, it was the downs that were a problem. I tackled the dodgiest sections by sculling: one foot on the pedal, one foot on the ground, propelling the bike as though it were a skateboard. But mostly I just pedalled gently and concentrated hard and kept my hands off the front brake lever. The worst of it was when I got into town and onto the slushy skiddy treated roads, with all the speed cushions and actual other drivers. I was relieved that most of my journey after that was on Bigtown’s two converted railway lines which were, of course, unploughed and un-gritted, but at least meant I wouldn’t be under the wheels of a truck if I came a cropper.

The last mile on my way home was a slog with my chain skipping on every pedal stroke from the accumulation of snow on the bike, and the first flakes starting to fall again. But, for all that I got in chilled and covered in snow, I was enormously pleased with myself. I even rememebered to sluice the bike down with a bucket of warm water before I put it away – before I even got the snow off myself. After all, it was the one that was doing all the hard work. I was just along for the ride

And what a ride. I think I need a winter bike though.


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