Shiny, Shiny

May 25, 2017

And not just the strange bright light in the sky, either…

Well, I made it home safely yesterday evening, finally, after about 24 hours of travelling and today’s chore was finally reuniting myself with my old laptop, which had returned from its adventure in Bristol about 12 hours after we’d left for the US. The excitement had barely abated when a knock on the door came and a UPS delivery man arrived with my new laptop which is not, in fact, shiny at all but a rather sleek matt black. It has a super-duper screen, all the battery life you can shake a stick at and any other number of bells and whistles which I hope will make it worth the ‘how much?!’ I paid for it.

It also has Windows 10 and a new version of Office. I’m sure both have many fine features and one day I will work out what they are but for now I am wrestling with the fact that nothing is where I expect it to be and that Microsoft have, in their wisdom, removed Picture Manager from the current Office installation, apparently on the grounds that it was a nice little application that allowed people (me) to very quickly crop, adjust and compress a photo with a minimum amount of fuss and clearly nobody wants that in the modern age. A quick google has revealed that there are alternatives and when our rural broadband has finished downloading the resulting 300MB file, I will be able to resume adding photos to the blog. Just as soon as I work out the setting that allows me to transfer files from my phone via Bluetooth without having to individually give permission to accept each one. Nobody say get a Mac.*

So you’ll just have to hang on a bit longer for illustrated hare news, gardening updates and the glory that is Scotland in May when the may is out. Clouts may very well have been cast…

Oh and delighted to discover that my compatriots are treating terrorism – and the political response to it – with a little derisive mockery. I knew the UK wouldn’t let me down.

* Or &%*$ Linux. Thank you.


Homeward Bound

May 23, 2017

I was going to blog last night about our urban osprey spotting adventures but then I heard the horrific news about Manchester and it all seemed a little pointless.

bike and spring flowers

In an hour or two I set off on the long journey home, alone, because the other half is staying on an extra week to spend a bit more time with his parents. I don’t know what the mood is like in the UK, because I’m getting my news from a mixture of Twitter and the US news networks, but I’m hoping I will get back to the usual mixture of off-colour humour, persistent grumbling about peripheral issues and quiet acts of kindness that has traditionally got us through these sorts of attacks in the past. There’s a lot I haven’t recognised about my own country in recent months, but when our ability to take the piss in the face of danger deserts us, then I know that we are truly lost.

On a cheerier note, we were out for a last bike ride this morning and got chatting to a young Glasgwegian lad with a nice looking touring set up who is busy cycling across the United States. We’ve lived near Bigtown long enough now that we were completely unsurprised to discover he had done some of his medical training at Bigtownshire Hospital, and was good pals with the son of our GP. But of course. Indeed, these days wherever we might roam – Outer Mongolia, say, or half way up Kilimanjaro, or down at the bottom of the Marianas Trench – we’d be surprised and disappointed not to bump into someone from Bigtown who knew someone we knew.


I Suppose it was Inevitable…

May 20, 2017

I gather the weather has been all taps aff at home – but (and you can stop sniggering at the back, please) over here in Colorado the weather has been distinctly … well, Scottish.

abandoned jeep

Nothing daunted by the cold and threatened rain (I believe the words ‘I’m not made of sugar’ may have crossed my lips) I headed out on my own  on the bike this morning to check out the height of the Fountain Creek, because nobody else wanted to join me, for some reason.

Fountain creek flowing

Ford lovers, this will have to do. The Americans don’t put depth gauges in their rivers though, for some reason

Of course, it started raining the minute I got on the bike, but I could hardly turn back so I pressed on anyway, glad that I had, in a moment of madness at home, packed a pair of gloves as well as a rain jacket.

Sidewalk closed

The river path is currently undergoing some work, which hopefully will not be undone again by the latest rain. As there was nobody around, and the alternative involved sprinting across a road, I am sorry to say that I just ignored this sign.

spring flowers

On the other hand, I have never seen Colorado looking more green and the spring flowers are all in bloom. Some of them more springlike than others

cactus flowers

For those of you enjoying warm sunny May weather in our absence, you are most welcome.

 

 


Hare Today, No Veg Tomorrow

May 15, 2017

We’ve been sadly deficient in hares for the last few days, which is a great sadness to us because it’s been a huge privilege to be able to watch them chilling out in our back garden.

So I was quite excited the other morning to see something moving through the garden and snapped a quick somewhat hazy photo (I had just got out of the bath…)

hare in the veg plot

Hmm. Perhaps they can’t read after all. I thought my sign was pretty clear.

After it had had a nibble of the potato leaves, it hopped over my hare defences with insolent ease.

Unfortunately, we are off (again, I know, but family calls) to Colorado for a week leaving the hares in charge. At best this may bode ill for the vegetables. At worst, they may have moved in and changed the locks. I’m ruling nothing out.

Even if the latter, I think the other half is still Team Hare.


Step Aside ASBO Buzzard

May 13, 2017

So, I’ve never really quite understood why the good people of Bigtown were so down on the local gull population. It’s near enough to the sea that you’re going to expect there to be gulls and personally I think they give a town a holiday-ish air. I can understand it if you’ve got one that’s built a nest on your house and is busy defending it against all comers, including you, or if you’ve just lost half your chips to an avian maurauder, but otherwise a bird is a bird, even if it’s a bit shouty. Of all the things that’s wrong with Bigtown, I wouldn’t even have put ‘seagulls’ in the top ten, but it invariably comes up in the list of complaints about the place, usually as part of the holy trinity of local issues (dog poo and potholes being the other two of course) – to the point where an Urban Gull Task Force* has apparently been set up to combat them.

And then I was standing innocently minding my own business on the High Street this morning when I felt what appeared to be half a bucket of something being emptied over my head. And realised that I had been literally dumped on from a great height. It turns out that a herring gull can unleash an extraordinary amount of crap in one go and this one had scored a direct hit on my hat, saddle, shoe, back, jacket hood, arm, and both the outside and inside of my Brompton basket.

Oh, and top tip to those in a similar situation: don’t try and get any sympathy from someone who’s spent a season in the Farne Islands.

* As a side note, ‘task forces’ are clearly one of those things, like ‘tsars’, that have suffered from serious devaluation over the years. The first time the UK deployed a task force, it retook the Falklands. The Transport Minister recently set up an Active Travel Task Force to tackle the growing backlash against cycling infrastructure which, disappointingly, has confined itself to calls for evidence and hasn’t got a single battleship. That’s hardly going to bring East Dunbartonshire Council to heel, now, is it?


Civilian Cycling

May 12, 2017

bike at the cathedral

There is much chat among cycle campaigners about ‘citizen’ or ‘civilian’ cyclists – those people who are just using their bikes to get around, generally in their ordinary clothes, looking relaxed and happy, rather than (as Mikael Colville Anderson described the average London cyclist) as if they were being hunted down by dogs.*

I even try and fulfil this role myself, adjusted for the Scottish weather and my general inability to put together an outfit that by any stretch of the imagination could be described as ‘chic’. Maintaining a relaxed and happy mien is sometimes possible as long as I stick to the rural back roads and Bigtown’s somewhat patchy off-road network, but there’s always a point here or there where I have to take my life into my own hands, assume everyone is out to kill me and generally gird myself for battle before taking on the traffic.

In Seville, despite a complete lack of wayfinding so we were lost more often than we were found (for some reason my companions allowed me to navigate) this never happened once. Seville’s comprehensive cycle network meant we could just cycle around like civilians, if not actually like the Sevillanos themselves, who can generally be seen cycling along no handed, rolling a cigarette, perhaps with a pal perched in the front basket of their hire bike.

map of knowledge

The marked up map from the bike hire company which not only described the main cycle routes, but also flagged up the best tapas places.

There has already been much digital ink spilled on our Seville cycle trip, which had its own hashtag (yes, we are aware there are only four of us), a storify, and a rather more serious dissection of what makes it work as a cycling city despite there being many things which were less than ideal about its cycling infrastructure. So I don’t have much more to add here, except to show you my holiday snaps, some of which are actually a bit holidayish, albeit with perhaps a little more emphasis on bikes and urban design than is strictly conventional

sightseeing by bike

smiley bollard

shady bike lane

flamenco by bike

shady square.

Oh, and the food was incredible, the Sevillians use their oranges to make wine not marmalade, which is a massive improvement, the flamenco was pretty damn amazing …

passion for tea

… and the Spanish even manage to make an acceptable (I’m told) cup of tea.

* indeed, I think this may be in the draft Tory manifesto …


Lost and (Almost) Found

May 10, 2017

I have much to tell you about Seville, with many photos* but you will have to wait because – as regular readers of this blog know – I live my life trailing lost belongings, and yesterday the lost belonging in question was my laptop, which is a key part of the blogging-with-photos process. I had taken it out of my wheely bag because the airline was checking the bigger carry-ons, and slipped it under the seat in front of me, and then when we were getting off the plane I was focused on getting moving because the absolute last train to anywhere even close to Bigtown left at 8:15 and I wanted to make sure I was on it and now I’d have to wait for the luggage to come out of the hold.

So it wasn’t until we were through passport control, and I had spotted my bag on the carousel and grabbed it and was about to bolt for the tram (at this point, I actually had more than an hour before I caught my train** but after many hard years of London commuting I never consider that I’ve enough time to catch a train until I’m standing on the platform waiting for it) when I remembered my laptop. Which was still under the seat that had been in front of me, and was now – it turns out – locked on a plane bound for Bristol.

At this point, naively, I had thought that someone at the customer service desk would take my seat number, alert the crew or the staff at the other end, suggest that someone could retrieve the laptop and put it in a safe place until the plane returned to Edinburgh, and then it could be handed in to lost property. However, this isn’t how airline lost property works. If it hadn’t been handed in already, nobody seemed to think it was worth letting anyone on the plane know that it was there until someone stumbled upon it or the cleaners found it when the plane got cleaned wherever it was it ended up for the night.

So this morning was spent discovering that the world of airline lost property has become, like many other things, largely outsourced. Lost property at the airport is handled by a company (which charges an unspecified fee to reunite you with it). Lost property on the airlines is handled by a different company whose call centre only operates for a few hours in the morning. The airline customer service team feel that as there is a company handling that sort of thing for them, they don’t need to do anything further. The lost property companies just sit there waiting for things to be found and handed to them, and can’t access anything that’s on a plane. As the laptop had not apparently been handed in after the plane had presumably been cleaned for the night, I pictured it spending the next few days happily travelling from Bristol to Brno to Manchester and Madrid, until somebody finally noticed it and handed it in to the lost and found, which by then could be anywhere from Aberdeen or Zagreb, where nobody would know it was mine. This is the way of the world, I realised, and there seemed to be no way to talk to an actual person who might take pity on me and follow up with somebody who could actually track it down.

And then, just as I was ready to give up, I got an email from someone at Bristol Airport who had not only read the message I sent through the ‘contact us’ form (never the most confidence-inspiring means of communication), had also gone and followed up with their security team who run their lost and found, Bristol having not apparently caught the outsourcing bug. And, oh frabjous day, despite originally telling me last night that nothing had been found – the security team did after all have my laptop.

All I have to do now is get it from Bristol back to Bigtown but that is in hand and hopefully laptop and I will be reunited before we have to depart once again (family duty calls, sorry, I will plant more trees in penance) on a plane to the US. You can be certain I will be keeping a very close eye on it this time. While undoubtedly losing something else important (Passport? Head? Husband?)  that I ought to be hanging on to…
* It’s going to be a bit embarrassing if anyone who’s not a cycle campaigner wants to see my holiday snaps: ‘so yes, these bollards are interesting because look at the little pictures of bikes on them, and this is the tree in the middle of the cycle path, and this is a stop sign for bikes and … what, any actual historic sights? Wait, I did take a photo of the cathedral, because there was this nice bike parked in front of it, it’s here somewhere, I think just after the floating bus stops …’

** Which was anyway cancelled.