Working Girl

February 11, 2016

After a slightly soggy start, I’ve finally got myself settled into my new office regime – culminating today in my finally remembering to take in my Aeropress AND all the bits I need to make it work so I can make properly strong* coffee. It’s handy to have a base in town – especially today when I had a couple of awkwardly timed meetings – and there are other intangible benefits too to being among people instead of sheep. I’m particularly enjoying the occasional bursts of incredibly inventive high-density swearing that float up from Bigtown’s High Street from time to time, although I could have done without this morning’s terrible busker.

There’s another bonus on the commute in too – twice in a row now, I have found myself sharing the road with a sparrowhawk which overhauls me with insulting ease and then hedgehops on and off the road ahead of me before perching up long enough for me to admire it and then disappearing off across the fields. As raptor encounters go, it beats the hell out of ASBO buzzard although I probably wouldn’t say that if I were a sparrow…

* Possibly too strong; two cups of that a day is definitely my limit especially when followed shortly afterwards by the ride home. The caffeine buzz combined with the adrenaline rush of meeting someone in a largeish lorry who had decided he didn’t need to give the approaching cyclist any room ON THE CYCLIST’S SIDE OF THE ROAD and instead could just drive straight at me (with plenty of space to his left had he wanted to use it) and expect me to give way left my heart thudding away madly for quite a while afterwards

In Which I Remember I have a Garden

February 10, 2016

As forecast, the sun came out today, the wind dropped, and though there was a bit of frost when we woke, it soon dissipated; all in all a very pleasant day, adjusted for it being February

snowdrops under the trees

I haven’t been getting up to the garden much, except to raid it in the semi dark for vegetables having forgotten that we were planning on having leek or kale for supper (there’s not much else going on veg wise, although as the soil warms up I’ll soon discover if I’ve missed any significant parsnips). It’s been too wet to do anything useful up to now – and it’s still rather squelchy underfoot, but I thought I had better check on the progress of the garlic which has survived everything storms Abigail through to Henry could throw at them and come up smiling. Kudos to Marshalls Seeds and their heritage garlic collection which has so far proved much more robust than the labels I used to mark which variety was which. I really had better relabel everything before the last traces fade irrevocably away.

garlic shoots

I thought I had also better plant out the remaining cloves which I started in pots. I think I got to them in time …

roots emerging from pots

On the way up to the garden, I noticed this tiny earthwork running across the lawn. I think it must be either trainee moles, or the voles are putting up flood defences of their own …

ridges in the grass

It Begins. Again

February 8, 2016

Actually it began a while back, but there’s nothing like getting a large box full of flyers and posters to make Pedal on Parliament (now in its fifth incarnation…) feel like it’s way too close for comfort … and there’s way too much to be done

On the plus side, those posters and flyers aren’t going to distribute themselves, and this might be the excuse I need to get out and about on my bike beyond my usual haunts, weather gods and named storms permitting

Anybody fancy giving me a hand? We can use all the help we can get.

Pedal on Parliament poster

And you have to admit, it’s a cracking poster design

This Brief Intermission in the Weather …

February 5, 2016

View from cliffs across Coldingham Bay

… brought to you by Duns, freak weather capital of the UK, which yesterday was hazily sunny, mild and calm. We even ventured to the coast for a very pleasant clifftop walk from Coldingham Bay to St. Abbs and back, with a brief stop for coffee and bacon rolls at the cafe in the harbour.

Shed in St Abb's

If I ever built a shed, it would probably end up looking exactly like this

Fishing Boat St. Abbs
This morning, checking the weather forecast, I noticed that Bigtownshire had a little weather warning all of its own, for heavy rain. And indeed as we drove up over the pass beyond St Mary’s Loch, you could see that the border was marked by the clouds closing in and the rain blotting out everything else.

Border sign

To be honest, we’d have almost been disappointed by anything else


February 3, 2016

Berwick's bridges

In a change from our usual programme of moaning about the weather, the Brompton and I have been gadding about again

There are no trains to Edinburgh at the moment because storm Andrea or Billy or Fred or whoever damaged a key viaduct on the West Coast Mainline* so that meant taking a three-hour bus trip from Bigtown, which is not my favourite way to travel although I have to admit it is scenic in parts

Dalveen Pass

The bus stopped half way at a service station in case anybody needed a comfort break, and also so that the bus driver could emerge from her cab and reminisce with the other passengers (clearly regulars) about the night they all got stuck in the snow going over the Dalveen Pass.

Dalveen Pass

the Dalveen Pass

Once in Edinburgh, there were other, rather more civilised conveyances on offer, although I decided to stick to the Brompton.

Urban Arrow cargo bike

Then it was on to the East Coast Mainline to Berwick. I had half an hour to kill before an appointment and spent it enjoying the winter sunshine.

Berwick Viaduct

Hopefully Storm Ignatius or Jason or Xerxes or whoever is next will leave this viaduct intact.

* and can I just pause here to have a small moan about the fact that when the Forth Road Bridge was closed for a couple of weeks before Christmas you would have thought that civilisation was on the verge of collapse as Scotland’s entire transport network was severed at a blow, whereas we’ve now been without a train connection except for the scenic but not exactly speedy single track line up to Glasgow since 2015 and where are our emergency debates in Parliament? Not sure whether it’s because it’s just trains and everyone knows that important people go around in cars, or because it’s Bigtownshire and nobody else in Scotland has noticed, but either way…

For this Relief, No Thanks

February 1, 2016

For Gertrude, read Henry; are we bored of the storms yet? The highlight of today’s ride to the papershop was the fact that it STOPPED RAINING and that it STAYED STOPPED long enough for me to ride very slowly into the wind all the way down to Papershop Village and then very quickly home again. Although we haven’t had the scary 80mph gusts that closed the Forth Road Bridge this afternoon, it was windy enough that – having stopped to chat with someone out on the road – I discovered that, humiliatingly, I couldn’t actually get going again until I had walked the bike to the top of the next hill and could get a bit of graviational assistance. I was certainly grateful to the driver of the pickup truck that waited patiently behind me as I plugged painfully up the last hill before Papershop Village (when I did stop to let him pass I almost go blown into the dyke so they were right not to attempt to overtake when I was in motion)

No trees have come down, at least that I’ve seen, but the Tree that Says No Thanks has now become somewhat more abrupt in its refusal:

Tree says No

Apologies for the quality of the image – not sure if it was a steamed up camera lens or the wind blowing so hard I couldn’t hold it steady. Either way I kind of like the effect

I’m not sure if this is Henry’s doing, or just thrifty preparation for the referendum campaign.

Tomorrow I head for Embra for a Walk Cycle Vote meeting and then a plotting session for the Women’s Cycle Forum in which we plan our next steps towards world domination (wouldn’t you like to live in a world run by women who cycle? There are worse constitutional arrangements…) and then on to Duns, if I am spared. Hopefully everything will still be standing on our return.

Flinging Caution to the Winds

January 29, 2016

I had rather resigned myself to not cycling for the paper today when I looked at the forecast last night and saw we had no fewer than four weather warnings in the offing, one of them an amber one. I don’t know about anyone else but I’m getting thoroughly sick of having to peel off all my wet things every time I get home and hang them in the bath so they don’t leave puddles on the kitchen floor.

So today, when we got up and discovered that it was just blowing a hooly, and not actually raining – indeed that the skies were clear and the sun was shining – I cast caution aside and not only hung out some washing to dry (very firmly pegged out), and then set off for the paper.

Unfortunately, our eco washing machine had overridden my instruction to just do a quick wash and had gone for the full three-hour laid-back stop-for-a-little-rest-between-stages wash so by the time I actually got on the bike the clear skies were gone, but it still wasn’t looking that bad, and the birds were no longer flying backwards. By the time I got to Papershop Village, into a stiff headwind, that had deteriorated to threatening skies and the odd spot of drizzle.

‘You might just make it back before you get soaked,’ Papershop Woman said cheerily as I left. More to the point, I thought as the rain started coming down, if I really hurried I might just get back in time to rescue the laundry as the skies to the east were still bright and a small patch of blue seemed to hover right over where I was heading. In fact, I realised, as I turned out of the shop and got the wind at my back I didn’t actually have a choice: Storm Gertrude was going to hurry me on my way whatever I did.

So off we raced, Gertrude and I, with the bright spot of sky always tantalisingly up ahead and the rain soaking my back. There were corners which I took a little faster than I meant to – and hills which I flew up with barely a pedal stroke. I no longer track my rides on GPS but I think I must have broken some personal land speed records – and I got home to discover the rain had arrived just a few minutes before me, and hadn’t really got down to giving the laundry that extra rinse it didn’t really need. Just a few rain spots speckling the clothes

Nothing the Rayburn can’t handle

I still had to undress in the bath though


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