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.


The Great Outdoors

January 6, 2014

I have to confess, it was a struggle to get myself out on the bike today. It didn’t help that we could hear it raining when we woke up and it went on raining as the day got going (I’d say dawned, but it was 11 before it even looked like actual daylight outside) to the point where the yard was beginning to flood. Apart from nipping out with a stick to clear some leaves out of the burn that runs down the side of the house in an attempt to stop the shed from flooding again, I spent most of the morning looking at the miserable weather and dreading the moment when I had to head out into it…

But, although there is something very nice about being warm and dry indoors while it’s blowing a hooly outside, the problem is you can’t stay in forever – and even if you could, in the end cabin fever would get you before January was out (or in my case, the day – as the other half discovered to his cost when I dragged him out for a lovely winter walk into the freezing slanting rain yesterday afternoon because we hadn’t been out all day) – and nor would the paper fetch itself. So with the sky finally lightening after lunch and the wind microscopically dropping, I checked the forecast, picked a moment when it wasn’t actually raining, removed a couple of layers and put them on the Rayburn (the key to endurable winter cycling is to have warm clothes waiting for you on your return) and forced myself out onto the bike (and I realise that at this point that anyone who actually had to commute to work at an actual fixed time when it was actually pissing down has zero sympathy for me at this moment – but then again, you probably get to work in a nice warm office …).

Now the thing about being indoors looking out at terrible weather is that it always looks much worse than it is. And the longer you wait indoors, the worse it seems. The truth is that in the end, even when battering into a violent headwind on a bike that has decided to subject all gear changes to a five-minute cooling off period before consenting to change (I really must clean it more), it’s never *quite* as bad as you feared. Although, I have to admit, for the first 10 minutes it was about 90% as bad as I feared, particularly the part where I came to a standstill going uphill and had to pedal to make any headway going down.

On the other hand, sailing homewards on a stupendous tailwind with the clouds finally lifting and something almost resembling sunshine lighting the hills around me felt like virtue rewarded. Especially as, once I had got home, hosed down and oiled the bike, and reunited myself with both jumpers, I didn’t have to go out again all day except to fetch the wood for the fire. And so I didn’t…


Merry Christmas

December 24, 2013

tiny christmas tree

We’ve been following the weather in the wind-and-rain-battered UK with a mixture of anxiety and relief. I hope everyone reading this made it where they wanted to get to for Christmas.

And once you’re safely indoors with the hatches battened down you could do worse than have a play with this - a hypnotic wind map of the earth… enjoy.

May all your winds be tailwinds for 2014


Testing Times

December 10, 2013

I am grateful – I suppose – to the Weather Gods for their assistance in thoroughly stress-testing my new hat with a variety of weather-related challenges. After Thursday’s workout, it got snowed on (briefly) on Friday (I was on the way to the Muckle Toon and got off the bus with an old lady who looked up and saw the snowflakes and exclaimed ‘it’s snowing!’, just as delightedly as she might have done when she was five). Then on Sunday, I was making my way back from this when it started to rain, proving that no good deed shall go unpunished. It wasn’t particularly heavy, but it was persistent, and when I finally got home after 45 minutes of it – not helped by my bottle dynamo deciding it didn’t like the wet much either – the only part of me that was really dry was my head. My leather boots were soaked through, my waterproof trousers had repeated the embarrassing crotch trick, my gloves were drenched, and although the apocalypse-proof jacket’s apocalypse-proofing had held, I had worn one layer too many and was damp from the inside, as it were.

The tweed cap is not billed as waterproof, although quite a lot of the rain was just beading on the surface of the wool, and it had soaked up some of the water. But as I was riding with my head down, it had all just gathered in the peak and then dripped off, leaving the lining completely dry. I don’t imagine it would hold off the rain entirely for three hours, but to be honest if I end up having to cycle for three hours in the solid rain, I think I’d have bigger problems to worry about than a damp head – like my sanity, for instance. Although that said, I think the traditional way to get your tweed hat to fit is to soak it thoroughly and then wear it on your head all day until it is dry or you have died of pneumonia, whichever is the soonest. So at least I would have a snugly fitting hat.

Anyway, today was another blustery one and I can report that, although it felt a little uneasy at times in a cross wind, the hat was 100% better at staying on my head than my glasses, which got blown off my face in a sudden gust before I could catch them. I leave it to you to imagine what it’s like looking for a pair of small brown-rimmed pair of specs on a mud-coated road with eyesight that moles laugh at. Fortunately no car came along while I was searching (and no, I haven’t got around to ordering a new pair yet, why do you ask? It’s only been four months of having them fall off my face at every possible inconvenient moment, which is but a blink of an eye in me-shopping time).

So score one to the good people of Harris and their sheep, and their magical tweed. And now I think we can say it has been very thoroughly tested and doesn’t need any more weather thrown at it for a while. Please?


Blowhard

January 3, 2012

I was wondering if I was going to get out on the bike this morning, what with today being the day for this week’s gale, and twitter being all of a twitter about 100mph winds without even so much as an amusing hashtag to suggest it wasn’t that serious. The police were warning motorists to stay at home but they didn’t say anything about cyclists so when the rain stopped and the sky cleared, even though it was still (as they say) blowing a hooly, I decided to risk it. I actually quite enjoy cycling through high winds as long as I’m on quiet back roads, and I reasoned that any trees that were thinking of falling over this winter must surely have done so by now. Out I went for an exhilarating and invigorating ride (8mph on the way out, 12.5 on the way back) and came back just as the weather got really grim feeling pretty pleased with myself.

It wasn’t till the other half ventured out to Tesco and returned that we realised that there were three trees down between here and Bigtown. Clearly some of our local trees have been just hanging on and hoping for spring – but couldn’t quite hold out any longer.

I’m beginning to know how they feel.


Blown Away

November 25, 2011

Well, the BBC Terror Centre, as Huttonian (who is back blogging again, go and say hello, he needs cheering up) likes to call it, has been busy these last two days warning us of hurricane strength winds, although in the end delivering a not-quite-hurricane-strength but still-pretty-bloody-stiffish south-westerly. I’m not complaining, mind: it was stiffish enough that I spent most of the ride down to the papershop today giving the indifferent sheep my mime-artist style ‘cyclist attempting not to go backwards even on the downhill stretches’.

On the plus side, this did mean I sailed home on a tailwind – at least until I made the turn out of Nearest Village and into our road and got hit by a gust of crosswind that not only sent me sideways across the road but also gave me the uneasy feeling of my wheels skittering out from under me in the teeth of the blast.

I stayed rubber side down this time, but clearly I’m going to need to take on more ballast for the ride. More cake, maybe?


Brace Yourself

October 17, 2011

For surely the end times are a’coming.

I headed out for the paper this morning in what I hoped would prove to be a window in the weather long enough for me to make the 11 mile round trip. In truth, by the time I’d found my keys and my bag and responded to one last email and a couple of tweets, the rain had started, but a look at raintoday suggested it would be no more than a passing shower, and that what was coming in from the north west would be much worse. I did, at least, put on the waterproof trousers, and, of course, the everything-bar-the-apocalypse-proof jacket. Thus protected, I set out into a biting headwind (mourning the loss of my waxed cap which has kept my head dry and warm ever since I moved up here – anyone know where I can get another one?). At first it wasn’t too bad, a bit blowy, but only spitting. That was just the warm up though – the rain got heavier and heavier and the wind picked up and by the time I’d got through Nearest Village and was out of the shelter of any trees, it was just flinging handfuls of water into my face so hard that it stung.

This was not a good time for the tractor driver who came up behind me to to hoot at me to remind me that his important business (turning onto Big A-Road to hold up everyone else, it transpired) was more important than my important business (it probably was but he was in a nice dry cab and I didn’t see why I should stop just because he wasn’t able to pass me). But that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst of it was getting home, unzipping my jacket and discovering that the rain had finally soaked through it to the point where it was weighed down with accumulated water. As the jacket is rated for 15,000mm of rain per 24h, or, basically, Noah’s flood, this means either its waterproofing has failed (I hope not, after only just over a year, given the amount I paid for it) or that the end of the world is nigh

Given the weather we’ve had since I got home, I’m guessing the latter.


Blown Away

May 24, 2011

‘Do you think the tree is going to be all right blowing like that in this wind?’ the other half asked me at some point yesterday afternoon.

‘It’ll be fine,’ I said. ‘It’s pretty sturdy, and besides birch are fairly bendy. It’s the ones that don’t bend that you have to worry about.’

‘Plenty of birches come down in the back woods though,’ the other half said.

‘Yeah, but they’re all thin and top-heavy. This one will be fine.’

Which just goes to show how much I know about trees.

‘Um, look at the tree now,’ the other half said a few hours later

An entire day of high gusting winds, rain and saturated ground had half uprooted the tree, leaving it finely balanced, but rocking with every gust. While the other half – a man with his priorities right – went to rescue his bird feeder, I rang the landlord and we stood and watched it for another hour not quite falling and not quite not falling until a man came with a chainsaw and put it out of its misery.

It could have been a lot worse. The tree managed to fall between the woodshed and the road, missing the telephone wire, our car, the house, the cat and any passing people on the road. The part of the garden it mostly landed on was the part that was getting a bit out of hand, and now I feel that at least I didn’t waste too much time weeding that end of the flowerbed. If it had been anywhere else, we might have had a go at righting it – sometimes they will just re-seat themselves, none the worse for wear – but we just couldn’t risk it that close to the road. And it was ‘only’ a birch tree, not an ancient, magnificent oak or beech, something worth making an effort to save.


But all the same, a tree is a tree is a tree and I do feel bad now for enjoying the wind so much earlier. And extra light or no extra light, I feel the view from our kitchen window this morning is rather diminished by its loss.


Although, looking on the bright side, that is quite a lot of firewood…


BDHW*

November 21, 2008

Brrr. As predicted with much excitement by what Huttonian likes to call the BBC Terror Centre, the wind has shifted around from our prevailing south and south-westerlies to the north. (A cold snap – in November! – who would ever have thought it?) But anyway, the point is, it managed to do the shift during the five minutes today that I was exchanging pleasantries in the papershop.

No prizes for guessing the prevailing direction of my ride into – and home from – the shop. Suffice it to say, that I’ve never come to a standstill going downhill before…

*Bi-directional head wind


All Bluster

November 10, 2008

You know it’s going to be an exciting ride when even the birds are going sideways…

Today was a wild one. I’ve dealt with headwinds before, but this was more than that, a twisting blustery wind that lay in wait behind hedges and dykes and pounced out through the gaps and round corners. One moment I’d be going forwards, the next sideways, the next struggling to make any progress at all. At one point – inching my way up a hill into the teeth of it – I was seriously wondering why I was doing this on a bike and not in a nice enclosed car. But then I turned the corner into a sheltered spot as the gradient eased and the sun came out and it was just me and the bike on an empty road, sailing along through the hills. Bliss. And besides, I was the warmest I had been for days.

Coming back was an exhilarating roller coaster ride, the kind that made me wish I had a speedo on my bike, not to mention better brakes. And then I encountered my first truly thoughtless driver in months. It was a long straight section of road, downhill, the wind at my back and I was cruising, but she was going faster. The first I knew of it was when a bolt of bright blue streaked past an inch from my handlebar and then she was past with no more than a guilty glance in her rear view mirror* to acknowledge that I was there at all. One unruly gust of wind and I could have been under her wheels or, worse, scratching her shiny paintwork.

This is the kind of near-miss, nobody-hurt, nothing-to-see-here-move-along encounter with drivers I used to have all the time in London, but out here things happen at higher speeds and anyway I’m not used to them any more. Still, as the other half unsympathetically said when I got home, it gives you something to blog about.

* here’s hoping she can’t lip read. Or maybe that she can


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