The Best* Thing About Having a Birthday

March 21, 2017

… is the resulting stack of to-be-read books by the bed

bedtime reading

I remember as a small child being quizzed about my birthday presents by an adult who didn’t know me very well. After I’d listed all the books I’d been given she asked, ‘but what else did you get? Didn’t you get any dolls?’

It took her about five repetitions to get the question across, because I had no idea what she was talking about (I kept hearing ‘bells’, which was only slightly more baffling to the six-year-old me than ‘dolls’) and had no conception that you might want anything more than books. If only she’d said ‘killer whale vertebra’ I’d have grasped her meaning much faster.

My birthday wishes have widened somewhat over the years, but even now, the prospect of having not just something, but a whole stack of books to read is an unalloyed pleasure, even if I’m not entirely sure when I will have the time to devour them all.

Equally delightful is a replacement apocalypse proof jacket from the other half, although on the whole I’d prefer not to put either its rain proofing or its apocalypse proofing to the test…

*Oh, okay, the best thing is cake for breakfast in bed. But this is the next best.


Another Early Birthday Present

March 20, 2017

Seriously, how cool is this?

killer whale vertebra

I mean it’s only a killer whale vertebra which a friend has passed on. Apparently there was some concern that I might not be that keen on having bits of whale skeleton brought into the house, as this is the sort of thing that wives tend to object to.

boot for scale

Boot for scale

Not this one…


Not Dead Only Sleeping

March 19, 2017

‘Have you given up blogging then?’ the other half inquired rather plaintively this morning (despite the fact that I’m not, and never will be, as funny as I was in 2005).

The fact is, there’s a sweet spot between not doing anything interesting to blog about, and not having enough time to blog about it, and I’m still overshooting it. I may, technically, have become less busy at the end of last week but that doesn’t seem to have translated into my having any more time. Maybe next week …

Part of the problem is that I’m still extricating myself from the clutches of the community council in the parish I no longer live in as even an appeal from the pulpit has not yet produced a willing volunteer to become secretary in my stead. That also means helping distribute the newsletter, which the Brompton and I duly did this afternoon.

newsletter delivery route

Oh okay, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a hardship on an early spring afternoon.

Chionodoxa

Chionodoxa luciliae

In other news, my birthday present to myself has arrived a few days early.


Hares Today …

March 14, 2017

hare outside front doorAs I may have mentioned, we have a resident hare in the garden. It has a few favoured spots where it likes to hang out, and it’s a bit fly to be photographed on a mobile phone, although today I did my best when I went into our entranceway today and found we had a visitor right outside (possibly contemplating nibbling the second of the pair of little bay trees that I had been hoping would frame our doorway; it’s already decapitated the first.)

When I was in Inverness, I also got a text from the other half to tell me that not one but two hares were hanging out on the manky pink carpet, waiting for the rain to stop. As hares are largely solitary, two hares can mean only one thing: that the time has come when a young hare’s fancy turns to, well, other hares (the ‘boxing’ they are famous for in March is generally down to the female hare not yet being similarly inclined and reminding the male hare that hares are largely solitary and she would prefer to keep it that way, thankyouverymuch). So far we’ve seen neither boxing nor any sign that they are doing more than just tolerating each others’ presence, but we live in hope of more hares tomorrow.

hare haring off

Naturally this makes the hare-proof defences for the vegetable patch increasingly urgent, but for now we are just enjoying their presence and trying to work out a means by which we and the hares can continue to share the garden nicely.


Ask a Busy Woman*

March 12, 2017

Finally, after a week in which I’ve almost had to schedule every waking hour to get everything done, I have managed to hit my last deadline, and now only have a small three-city mass bike demonstration to organise plus another active travel campaign for the local elections and the small matter of everything that’s been piling up while I’ve been too busy to do it.

Pedal on Parliament

BTW we’re crowdfunding POP this year, in case you missed it on Facebook, Twitter, my emails … click picture for more details

This has meant compressing the whole of potato day into half an hour (a post in itself), not nearly enough cycling, and spending six hours on various trains on Friday working solidly on my laptop as some of Scotland’s finest scenery passed unnoticed beside me. I was putting the final finishing touches to a piece of editing as the train pulled in to Inverness, and then it was only a small matter of getting a response in to the minister’s Active Travel Task Force about why local authorities might not be putting in ambitious cycling infrastructure (am I the only person who’s a little disappointed that this doesn’t seem to involve nearly enough gunboats? Sometimes talking softly and carrying a big stick is the way to go when it comes to some coonsils. Still, hard to get a battleship right up to East Dunbartonshire, I suppose).

scenery from the train

It’s a mug’s game trying to take photographs through the train window.

As I got back on the train again yesterday, I discovered that the Glasgow train doesn’t seem to come with power sockets, meaning all my plans for another productive session on the laptop came to naught. Fortunately, by then there was only the small matter of a crowdfunding campaign to launch – and there were others who were perfectly capable of getting everything done in my absence. It was no bad thing, in the end, to be forced to spend a few hours actually appreciating the scenery, and reading the weekend papers. Luxury.

Inverness – what little I managed to see of it – seemed really nice. One day I will return and check it out properly. Apart from anything else, it’s full of bikes…

Inverness bikes

* If she’d like to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and a biscuit, while you do one of the million things she’s taken on because people keep asking her to do them because she’s a busy woman who gets things done. It’s really the least you can do.


The Proverbials

March 9, 2017

paper birch trees planted

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

paper birch tree tubes

The second best time is now*

silver birch in tree tubes

The ridiculously oversized tree tubes will hopefully protect our twiglets from the attentions of the coos.

Mark this one down as ‘lighting a candle’, but in tree form.

Tomorrow, as part of Back on my Bike‘s plan to reach every cyclist in Scotland with the Walk Cycle Vote message, I shall be heading up to Inverness. If I ever get that song out of my head, I might be able to report back sensibly.

I wouldn’t count on it though

* Although technically, that’s the third best time, as the second best time would have been on our actual 25th wedding anniversary, which was two months ago, that being what the trees were supposed to be commemorating, but you know, it takes me a while to get around to these things**

** indeed, it might even be the fourth best time, given that we should really have waited a whole year before deciding where to put the trees, but what can I say, nobody celebrates their 26th wedding anniversary …


Trumpet Practice

March 7, 2017

In celebration of International Women’s Day tomorrow, the Women’s Cycle Forum has been compiling interviews with various cycling women around Scotland (and a few beyond). This has been a fun, interesting and slightly frustrating exercise. Fun, because it’s always fun to talk to fellow cyclists, especially if you ask them about their bikes; interesting, because some of these women are doing pretty cool stuff I didn’t really know about; and frustrating because when you ask (most) women to peer out, ever so briefly, from under that bushel where they have been hiding themselves, they claim they are not really interesting enough (this from a woman who learned to ride a bike when she was 40 and is now inspiring others to ride in a community where it has traditionally been frowned upon), fail to mention some pretty significant achievements (from someone who went from being annoyed about her commute to work to running a major cycle campaign, but didn’t really think that worth mentioning), and – almost universally – apologise because their answers might be a bit long.

As I was prompted to remark, my next venture might have to be a fund to buy all the women in the UK a trumpet of their own so they can practise blowing it.*

Be that as it may, we have bulldozed aside all demurrals, modesty, and suggestions that we not bother using any of it in case it’s too dull, you can find the results here.

Happy International Women’s Day …

* Suggestions that we could do with a job lot of mutes to keep some of the chaps’ trumpet playing down, would be entirely unworthy.