101 Uses for a Brompton: A little light mischief

February 14, 2018

I think I mentioned I had a small intervention planned – and last night saw me heading out on the Brompton with a fellow conspirator, a stencil and two cans of entirely temporary and not at all vandalistic chalk sprays to do my first ever (and I suspect last) spot of tagging.

It was all for a good cause – lovebombing the cycle paths of Bigtown for We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote, in an idea that made absolutely perfect sense to me when it popped into my brain in September. As the date got nearer and the thought of heading out to do something that would look from the outside very much like graffiti-ing things, I have to admit I got rather cold feet on the idea, but others seemed to think it was a good idea and I had a partner in not-actually-crime who was keen and so off we went into a freezing cold night to share the cycling infrastructure love.

pink spray on boots

Graffiti on the cycle paths officer? What makes you think I had anything to do with it?

Anyway, it turns out that if you’re standing on a bridge in some parts of Bigtown late at night, apparently blatantly spray painting it, then passers by take it in their stride, with nothing more than a faintly amused note to their ‘allright?’ as they pass on by (it was the other half, blamelessly sitting in the car doing the Sudoku as he waited for me to finish, who attracted the curiosity of the police).

ILOH in orange

I’d post some daylight pictures of the resulting work, but the weather today looked like this pretty much the whole day, so you’ll have to wait.

snow on window

This is what happens when you look out of the window and say ‘it’s snowing a bit but it’s not really trying that hard’

And now I’m very much relieved the whole thing is over. Just in time to head down to London for another #5goMad adventure. Watch this space.

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Snow Dropping

February 11, 2018

Just before going to bed last night, I was confronted by this simultaneously baffling and yet distinctly terrifying tweet

It didn’t help that the Met Office had been predicting overnight snow last night and all day today – indeed it was snowing as we went to bed last night so I was fully expecting to wake up to …

snowdrops

Well, anything but sunshine and not even a flake of snow. Indeed, the sun mostly shone all day, apart from a few snow flurries, giving me a chance to empty out one of the compost daleks and ponder our composting deficiencies (of which more anon). Then back indoors to light the fire, drink coffee, thaw out, and look out of the window to discover that the Arctic Oscillation had finally gone negative on our ass as threatened

Or something.

In other news, the shop in Papershop Village is under threat. Does anyone want to buy a shop?


Next Time, we’ll Start an Actual Fire…

February 9, 2018

Things people say to you when you tell them you’re planning a pop-up parklet in a few parking spaces in Edinburgh for the Firestarter Festival:

‘Cool! Sounds fun!’

‘Why would you do that?’

‘Don’t you have a proper job?’

‘Have you done a full risk assessment?’

Things people don’t say to you when you tell them you’re planning a pop-up parklet in a few parking spaces in Edinburgh for the Firestarter Festival (but you wish they had):

‘Have you checked the alignment of the sun?’

parking spaces before

Before …

pop up park after

After …

So it turns out, St Andrews House casts a deep and brooding shadow over the road in front of it. And that on a bright, sunny, but baltic February day in Edinburgh, when you are standing deep in that shadow, staring out at the sunshine warming every other corner of the city, with the wind funnelling between the massive somewhat Nazi-esque frontage of the building and Calton Hill, you will be very glad, very glad indeed, that you chose to wear All The Merino in preparation for the day.

Sunshine Calton Hill

Sunshine on Leith and, indeed, everywhere in Edinburgh except us

That said, Scots are a hardy bunch, and also well supplied with thermal layers and turned out to be prepared to play musical instruments, fix bikes, stand around cheerfully chatting and generally making the most of it with only a few yearning glances towards the sunny sheltered patches we could have set up in, had we thought it through. We had some good conversations, made some useful connections and while we’ve clearly got a bit of a learning curve before we perfect our tactical urbanism, we can chalk this one up at the very least as a useful learning experience

hardy musicians

And lesson number one is that next time – even if we don’t actually start a fire – we will be looking for nice sheltered suntrap for our next location. Which means (as someone pointed out, cheerfully) inevitably, it will rain.


Winter Might have Renewed its Grip …

February 7, 2018

… but spring is just around the corner.

winter and spring

This is less cheering to me than you might think because spring has also become associated in my mind with the start of the cycle campaigning year, and specifically Pedal on Parliament. Much as I love the buzz of being part of a big campaigning event, I could also do without the stress.

That said, I have come to realise that the minute I’m not completely flat out busy, I start looking around for other projects to get involved with, so perhaps it’s safer for all concerned this way.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying:

Pedal on Parliament save the date Saturday April 28th

Time to start spreading the word


Taking it to the Streets

February 2, 2018

chalk heart

So I’ve been saying for a while now that as campaigners, we need to get out of our social media bubble and do more in the real world. And obviously by ‘we’, I mean ‘everyone else’, because getting out there and doing stuff in the real world doesn’t really change much when you have cows for neighbours, and even then only a few months of the year.

Still, Back on my Bike has ways of digging me out of my rural fastness to join her for some event or other. The most effective involves suggesting things that aren’t going to happen for a ridiculously long time so I don’t need to worry about them, and then filling me with enough coffee and cake that we can hatch all sorts of ridiculously ambitious ideas about what we could do in the unlikely event that we make it through to the new year alive.

And then suddenly it is February 2018 and as part of the Firestarter Festival (launched by the First Minister no less), we seem to have rashly agreed to transform four parking spaces in the middle of Edinburgh into a pop-up park, and turn a dead space for cars into a welcoming place for people. In February. Yeah, that February, the cold one.

Fortunately, my partner in crime is the most organised person in the world, so has done the bulk of the actual work, which means it will actually happen, rather than remaining a beautiful idea. So now all we need is some actual people to come and enjoy it. If you’re in Edinburgh next Friday, please do drop by. We can’t guarantee Nicola will join us, but you never know.

Meanwhile, I have been busy plotting another real-world intervention, of which more anon…


101 Uses for a Brompton: Going Singing

January 31, 2018

As I mentioned, I’ve been trying out a new choir (if it was the sort of choir where it was the other way round, I’d probably not have got very far, but they claim to be able to work with ‘the voice you have’ …). The main reason for choosing this choir, which is in Notso Bigtown (there are others which are nearer) is because a pal and ex choir member from Old Nearest Village found out about it and offered to give me a lift there and back. But this means her first driving five miles in the wrong direction to our house and then turning around to go back past her house on our way out. Clearly this is just dispiriting, even in a car, so after trying a few cunning alternative routes which turned out to be slower, I decided the easiest thing would be to ride the Brompton down to hers, at least on evenings when it isn’t snowing, pissing down or hailing frogs, all of which seem equally likely given the weather we’ve had recently (snowing again today, thank you, although none of it seems to have stuck around). It cuts out at least one of the unnecessary journeys, and crucially it’s almost all downhill, so it doesn’t feel like anything but a pleasure on my part.

So last night, I zoomed happily down the hill, blessing my new C&B Seen lights (which I should probably review one of these days), and arriving feeling refreshed and ready to head off for a happy evening of singing, and learning, and generally not looking at a screen, which is all good.

Even better is the fact that we pass through the village on the Big A Road that has recently had two Stoplights of Shame installed. These are amazing. If you’re detected doing more than 30 as you get into the village outskirts, they turn red on you and you have to sit there for all to see, having saved precisely no time. Instant karma. There was of course an almighty fuss when they were first installed and they were taken down to be tweaked after people complained they were stopping people who weren’t speeding, but they’re now back up again and working a treat. I have to admit I love the wonderfully sedate pace everyone now adopts through the village (there might even have been some unholy cackling), at least until the last SoS is negotiated. Why we don’t have these installed everywhere I have no idea. They’re bloody brilliant.

And the choir? Well they seem to be coping with the voice I have, which is only really an alto in the sense that I can’t hit any of the higher notes, rather than being particularly comfortable in the lower ranges. We’re learning some quite challenging-to-me stuff, but so far we have always managed to pass through the ‘God we’ll never get this’ stage, to the ‘hang on, that sort of makes sense’ stage to the ‘oh wow actually that managed to sound quite good’ part, at least for a line or two. And no being singled out or shamed, at least unless my pal puts her foot down on our way home.


Watching Where the Wind Blows

January 29, 2018

One of the advantages of our house on the side of the hill is that you can watch the weather coming out of the windows at the back – and then going away again out the front (assuming normal prevailing winds apply and the weather actually is planning on leaving, which isn’t always a given).

So it was very satisfying to be able to time my trip to Bigtown this afternoon just behind this heavy shower – just moderating my speed enough to stay out of its skirts.

rain falling on Bigtown

Even better to get to the roundabout on my way into town and realise that the queue of cars that has built up is merely stuck behind a working bin lorry, leaving me able to filter past the lot of them and skip onto the roundabout scot free.

It’s little moments like this that make it all worth while.