101 Uses for a Brompton: Rescuing Visitors

July 25, 2016

‘Help’ came the voice over the phone. ‘My phone is dying and I’m lost. How do I find your house?’ – our visitor from London had got lost on the way and was having a bit of a Withnail moment. Four phone calls later it became clear that my attempt to describe where we lived and his attempts to describe where he was were doomed to failure – the things that stand out to Londoners (‘I can see cows! A big barn! There are some sheep!) weren’t really serving to narrow things down any (and there was no handy water feature to help either). our friend has excellent pub radar but it doesn’t help when we’re miles from a pub in any direction, which may have been the problem…

water feature

In the end I decided – having determined roughly where I thought he was and and which direction he was going – it would be easier to hop on the Brompton and go and meet him before he took another wrong turn. Fortunately I was right, and he was going the right way (not a given) or we might have chased each other around Bigtownshire all evening. I could then just fold up the bike and throw it in the car and guide him home.

In a way, it’s nice to know there’s someone out there whose sense of direction is worse than mine.


Cat Three Doughnut Run

July 21, 2016

over the bridge

In retrospect, I probably should have paid attention to the fact that our new house was on a road that was classed as a Category 3 climb in the Tour of Britain. I’ve tried using this entertaining tool but it can’t do much with a place which is up a serious hill from almost everywhere – although it does produce this illuminating ride profile, which confirms my initial feeling that we had better savour the views from the house (which are extensive, when the weather is playing ball) because I will have earned every minute of them.

ride profile

This week, a confluence of deadlines has meant I’ve left the other half doing all the decorating. Feeling somewhat guilty about this, I decided to take a detour on my ride home from Bigtown this afternoon to deliver some emergency doughnuts to the new house. I did either this ride or the one from the house (which is not much flatter) every day last week and by the end of it I was feeling it in my legs. Today, I was in a hurry and even though it was warm and muggy and I was riding into the wind, it did start to feel a bit easier. I doubt I’ll ever actually arrive at the house looking cool, calm and collected, but I may actually manage a daily trip for the paper without having to revert to an e-bike.

road past fields

And there’s always the bonus that any doughnut consumed at the top will count as calorie free.

through the woods

 


Catching up

July 19, 2016
tandem school run

Sister and niece doing the tandem school run.

I have been gadding about this weekend and have lots to write about – from an updated school run by tandem to the latest Cycling Embassy AGM jaunt to Cambridge, but those will have to wait until I have time to do them justice. Meanwhile, the other half has been nobly cracking on with the house while I’ve been swanning about in the subtropical south. So I can report that we* have got the first room more or less painted (hello Dulux Almond White) while I have been acquainting myself with updates in the world of DIY (sanding sponges, where have you been all my life?) and finally choosing colours for the rooms we’re* going to paint before the move.

In other news, I went up to the walled garden this morning to open up the greenhouse and a large rabbit sauntered out of my potato beds and sat staring at me in a nonchalant manner before sauntering further into the herbaceous border. This may make the fact that I forgot to leave instructions on watering the next batch of lettuce seedlings somewhat irrelevant, although whatever it is it’s eating now, it’s not the half-bolting lettuces they were supposed to replace…

* And obviously by ‘we’ I mean ‘he’


First Harvest

July 14, 2016

Well, I thought I knew from long experience what all the weeds were that grew around here, but these ones around the new house had me a bit baffled:

unfamiliar weeds

They sort of looked familiar, but I couldn’t quite place them. It took a visiting gardening friend to put her finger on it

‘Are those … parsnips?’

weeded parsnips

Why yes, it appears that is exactly what they are. Sadly, weed-proof membrane means they aren’t likely to be growing into anything sensible – but then again, we’ve had mad parsnips before


Light Relief

July 13, 2016

One of the joys (not) of buying a house is dealing with all the utility companies allegedly competing for our business in the UK’s supposedly efficient free market system – one of these days I will be able to relate to you the full saga of our ‘related MPAN’ which apparently leaves us tied to one electricity company until I can get someone to take responsibility for sorting it out or hell freezes over, whichever is the soonest – and today it was the turn of the telephone engineer. We’d arranged that he’d meet us up at the new house some time between 1pm and 6pm and the other half was heading there but had various shopping errands to run first. So as I pedalled up the last hill to the house on my bike just a shade after 1 I was a bit worried to see a white van coming down again, thinking that the other half might have missed the engineer.

‘Are you coming from <ridiculously long name of new house>?’ I asked

‘Yeah, but there was nobody there. Couldn’t get in,’ said the stony faced engineer.

‘That’s our house,’ I said. ‘I can let you in just now.’

‘Too late now. You missed your slot,’ he said, even more stony faced.

I was just wondering how we could retrieve the situation when he suddenly cracked, burst out laughing and confessed he’d just been in the house, the phone line was working, he’d left the other half with some cable and extension boxes to play with and that I needed to get on with sanding the skirting boards and we should be painting the hall a nice bright lime green in his opinion.

If only the electricity meter situation can be as easily sorted, I will be a happy woman.

Oh and for those wondering what my new papershop run will look like, this should give you an idea. It’s a long way down…

new papershop run


Sigh

July 12, 2016

It’s been a busy few weeks for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign. We had our Bike Message challenge, with a Bike Curious family cycling day following hard on its heels. With that out of the way, it was just the small matter of our weekly summer rides, which have grown and grown over the four years we’ve been running them and can often muster a couple dozen adults and kids, which makes quite a sight massed along the cycle paths of Bigtown.*

Over time, the summer rides have become, if not a well-oiled machine, then at least a machine whose chain is not bright orange with rust (unlike some of our participants’). The routes are all tried and tested ones that it’s possible to take a five-year-old on a bike along without the ride leader suffering palpitations. Starting at a local park, they almost all run along the river, over a nice foot and cycle bridge, which connects us via a quiet residential street to a choice of traffic-free or almost traffic-free routes north, west and northeast. The bridge is the only one which crosses the river in town that doesn’t have cars, a flight of steps, or a cyclist dismount sign on it. It is, in short, essential to making our summer rides the enjoyable, unstressed experience that we hope will encourage more families to get active, which just happens to be one of the coonsil’s stated goals too.

So guess which bridge the coonsil has decided to close for the duration of the summer, starting yesterday, without warning us?

I give up, I really do. As a cycle campaign, we’ve tried not to be too much of a giant pain in the backside of the coonsil although the coonsil might differ on that point. We’ve tried to keep our powder dry for the big battles while trying to cooperate over matters of joint interest. Running family-friendly rides, for instance, or our annual bike breakfast to bring together cycle commuters, councillors and officials in a celebration of cycle commting. In return we receive precisely zero cooperation from them. The only time we’re ever consulted about anything is when they need to show community support for a funding application in which case we’re shown the completed drawings with a week to go and asked to give our approval. The rest of the time, if we want any warning about anything happening (good or bad) we have to keep an eye on a website which, while not exactly on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’ (to shamelessly steal from Douglas Adams), isn’t exactly anywhere obvious either. Like the coonsil’s own website, for instance.

I’ll tell you this. In five years as a local campaigner, the biggest victory we ever won was after some anonymous nutters covered the town in colourful reflective knitting which got us into the ‘and finally’ slot on Reporting Scotland and resulted in the quiet removal of several barriers and chicanes after a decent interval had passed. Nothing else – not polite emails, not letters to councils, not meetings with officials, not quiet behind-the-scenes lobbying with national organisations, not trying to work in partnership, not anything – has been anything like as effective as holding them up to ridicule on the evening news.

They should consider themselves warned …

* Although we rarely are massed because we’ve had quite a decent success in getting novice cycling families to join us which is great but means that they are usually on bikes that have spend the preceding 12 months in the shed, and so after about 15 minutes the ride has usually split up while one mechanical issue or another is sorted.


Moving On

July 11, 2016

I’d thought I’d have a few more chances to savour the papershop run on the bike, but with the house being in entirely the wrong direction, and with many more days worth of stripping, scraping, sanding, priming, painting, deciding the colour was wrong, and repainting in the offing before we move in, I can no longer afford to be spending an hour cycling down for the paper and back, and then another half hour on to the house. So with some reluctance, I have cancelled my paper order at Papershop Village, said my farewells to Papershop Woman and Papershop Bloke and the woman I sometimes chat to when I see her out walking as I pass her on the bike, and remembered to savour something of the ride as I barrelled home on a tailwind.

view from the papershop run

Last chance to enjoy the view at the top of the hill

It’s hard to appreciate a route you do two or three times a week for several years, but now that I won’t be doing it much any more, I’ve realised I’ve been somewhat taking the ride for the paper for granted. After all, there are cyclists who actually have to seek out a scenic 11-mile round trip on rolling and almost deserted country roads, whereas I tend to just ride through it on autopilot, when I’m not actually being divebombed by enraged raptors.

Speaking of which, I did wonder whether ASBO buzzard wouldn’t take the opportunity to put in one last appearance but it has been conspicuous by its absence this year – whether because it’s chilled out somewhat or gone to the great telegraph pole in the sky. I’d say I was disappointed that I didn’t hear the maddened onrush of wings as it made a final attack. But that would be a lie.

I wonder what adventures await me on my new cycling routes …


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