Mental Note to Self

May 31, 2008

The Scottish Sun, while an elusive creature, once it gets going can be just as fearsome as its Southern cousin…

The problem is, on days like today when it’s been china blue sky and fluffy white clouds all day, it seems criminal not to go and sit in it, given all the months of drear and dreich that we’re going to have to endure over winter. And summer, too, for that matter.

Which is why I now have reverse short marks on my legs, and a nose that can be seen from space.

Popping Out for a Paper Part 3

May 30, 2008

Those of you awaiting with bated breath my resolution to the great newspaper buying dilemma – and I know there are a lot – will be pleased to hear that a solution has been found. On Wednesday, shrugging off the fact that it was what the Irish called a ‘grand soft day*’ I took the chance and cycled back down to the local shop which had such a casual attitude to paper-stocking the last time. There I found not one but THREE Guardians (I only bought one, though – you can’t stock up on newspapers for the next few days) and the woman announced that she’d had a word with the distributor to get more copies delivered. This seems to be the way things work around here: people aren’t huge on telling you that they’re planning on doing something to sort out a problem, they just go ahead and do it. Or not, of course, and there’s no way of telling which it will be. Coming from London, I find this a little frustrating, particularly when the plumber shows up at random times unannounced and then is put out that you’re not in waiting for him, but it does make a refreshing change from all those people (British Telecom, you know who you are) who tell you that they’re definitely going to sort something out and then do bugger all about it.

So anyway, newspapers there were – which was fortunate because by the time I got home I was so wet I’d stopped worrying about trench foot and was worrying more about trench knee – and I have secured my supply by having them set one aside for me on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I am now saving the planet the grand total of 24 miles worth of non-petrol burned per week, not to mention enriching the local economy to the tune of 80p every other day. I’m sure you can see my shining smug halo of goodness from London, if you squint a bit. It’s not easy being green out here in the country, I tell you. Next challenge: getting a bus. To anywhere…

* trans: only raining a little bit. Followed by raining quite hard on the way back

Tanks for the Memory

May 28, 2008

We are in the midst of swapping oil tanks – from an old metal one to something that is apparently ‘bunded’ which is obviously much better and is certainly an excellent new word for my vocabulary if only I know what it meant. Now to the urban mind, swapping oil tanks seems like it ought to be a simple matter: install new oil tank, take oil out of old tank and put it into new tank, plumb in new tank, take away old tank. Wrong. First of all, the plumber had a better idea: install new oil tank, link old oil tank to new oil tank, let some oil run from old tank to new tank, plumb new tank into house. (Only of course what actually happend was: install new oil tank, link old oil tank to new oil tank, let oil run from old tank to new tank, plumb new tank into house, introduce muck into Rayburn intake, spend three days eating sandwiches and salad). And that made a certain sort of sense, especially when we had had many dire warnings about what happens to people who pump oil from one tank to another and stir up the sediment and end up with the Rayburn engineer moving in permanently with them to save time. There was still a few hundred litres of oil in the old tank, but we thought we’d let it settle for a while, and let the Rayburn bed in with the new tank and avoid airlocks* and all sorts of other nasties. And besides, meanwhile more oil had arrived – unordered – 900 litres of it – aka a lot of money. But that was still okay, because oil is just going up and up in price and maybe it would be better to buy it now rather than wait until we had to sell off a spare limb in order to fill the tank later. And then men came and pumped out our old tank and took it and the oil away. And this was not okay because we had paid for that oil, and we didn’t know who these men were or where our oil was going or when we might get paid for it. And then finally, after we had talked to the letting agent about all this to-ing and fro-ing of oil, more men came and tried to pump the oil out of the new tank as well. At which point the other half put his foot down, and sent them away.

I think some sort of compromise has been reached whereby they stop pumping oil back and forth and instead calculate how much oil they’ve delivered, minus how much oil they have taken away and we pay them for the difference. Hopefully before America declares war on Iran, or Venezuela, or Texas and the price of oil shoots up again. It seems to me like the obvious answer to the situation, but I’m probably wrong. After all, what do we city folk know about oil tanks? Very little, it would seem.

* Like Warlocks, but worse

I Scream, You Scream

May 26, 2008

So, an is-it-or-isn’t-it Bank Holiday Weekend (I never know, in Scotland) & the other half and I have been visiting various workshops and studios for the local open house arts’n’crafts weekend. This has left the other half with a serious case of shed envy – which can be fatal if left untreated – with not just ample sheds and outhouses on display but all manner of funky machinery to be admired and the introduction of the word ‘tooloholic’ into our vocabulary.

And it’s given me the chance to scope out some places far more remote and empty than where we are. Yesterday we were up in the high moorlands in a landscape empty of almost everything but sheep and conifer plantations, visiting a workshop where a young furniture designer was just starting out. We discussed the various inconveniences of rural living. ‘It’s not so bad,’ his wife pointed out. ‘We get a milk delivery every few days.’ ‘And,’ he added, ‘there’s an ice cream van.’

We expressed our disbelief. But no, every Tuesday at 4pm (you sense this might be the highlight of their week), Mr Whippy comes chugging over the hill and stops and puts on his chimes. It can hardly be worth the diesel, you’d think, but the whole village queues up for their 99’s and if anyone’s away, someone else will buy their ice-cream for them and puts it in the freezer.

We could have done with him today. Still hunting art, we ended up at a tiny seaside spot where the signs resolutely point out that there is no parking in the village (a lie, as it turned out) and the double-yellows start well outside the 30mph signs. The is-it-or-isn’t-it Bank Holiday crowd played on the sandy beach, trudged up and down the spectacularly badly signposted jubilee walk, and turned pink in the sun. But there was no ice cream to be had, and the only cafe (teas, coffees, light lunches, home baking) was firmly closed. Where was Mr. Whippy when we needed him? Over the hills, no doubt, bringing solace and frozen vegetable oil to furniture makers, potters, painters, glass-blowers and hand weavers everywhere.

Back Again, Again

May 23, 2008

Hopefully for the duration this time. Nice as it was to see London’s filthy streets and pass a ranting man in a glittery purple cowboy hat while pretending nothing was happening, I’m not sure I can handle too much of Virgin Rail’s pile ’em high and sell ’em not particularly cheap approach to train travel. My booked seat today was a triple whammy – airline style AND backwards facing AND not by the window*, but the train was so crowded there was no chance of slinking off to find a better one. And I was quite glad I hadn’t when Mr. Grumpy got on at Crewe. First he evicted the woman who’d sat in his seat up to that point, in which he was technically justified but he did it with a graceless truculence that did him no favours. Then he removed MY bag from the overhead shelf above MY seat, thwacked me on the head with the strap, handed it to someone else, and when I’d claimed it and wondered gently where I was supposed to put it, demanded it went under my seat to make room for his bag. Finally, having arranged the world to his satisfaction, he sat down in his aisle seat, blocking in the passenger sitting next to him and announced he was going to sleep. Which he did.

At that point, a prolonged game of musical chairs ensued as various people reclaimed their reserved seats and started swapping places so people could sit together. And I’m sure – in a crowded train, with very little room for manouevre – that it was pure coincidence that at the end of it, the young woman with the fractious but lively baby ended up sitting right behind Mr Grumpy for the rest of the trip north…

*Forgive me for channeling my old blog here, but I find now I can’t actually take a train journey without mentally blogging it in my head

London Again

May 21, 2008

Well, Heat magazine comes out every week, you know*

Actually, I’m going down to do this. But also to use up all the unused pay-as-you-go on my oyster. And you’ll be pleased to hear that I’m leaving the wheely suitcase at home this time.

Back on Friday, hopefully to a warm Rayburn and a recovered other half

*err, does it? I have no idea.

Popping Out for a Paper, Part 2

May 20, 2008

On Saturday I thought I had the paper question sorted – a village shop a mere 25 minutes cycle away, making an hour in all (ten minutes being the minimum amount of time needed for a transaction in a local shop). Today, the other half having gone down in sympathy with the Rayburn with blocked tubes himself, I set off on a rescue mission to get some rizlas, Tunes, and a paper, not to mention some glorious exercise down sunny country lanes and free protein in the form of bugs*.

Once in the shop, where there were, of course, no Guardians (‘sometimes they deliver one and sometimes they don’t,’ the woman said as though this were a charming eccentricity of local life and not a supply-chain cock up that was about to lose her a loyal customer), I waited behind a meter reading man who was trying to get directions and finding out the hard way that this was the sort of place where everything has three names: the name on the map, the name the locals know it by, and the name you’re looking for it under. Alongside me, shop woman and meter-reading guy were two elderly local chaps busy discussing the case.
‘The Village, X**,’ said the meter-reading guy, naming the name of the village.
‘Aye, X, aye,’ said Local 1
‘That’s this village, aye,’ said Local 2
‘but is there some place here that’s particularly called “The Village”?’ asked the meter reading guy.
‘Aye,’ said Local 1
‘All of it,’ said Local 2, helpfully.
‘Or sometimes it’s called Nine-Mile Bar,’ added Local 1 just to muddy the waters.
‘What name was it?’ asked Local 1 after it became clear that this wasn’t helping.
‘Davies,’ said the meter reading guy, probably breaking three separate provisions of the Data Protection Act
‘Oh aye, Davies, that’s the daughter’s name,’ said Local 1
‘Or was it the father,’ said Local 2
A discussion ensued as to whether it was Davies Pere or fille which went on for some time until the meter reading guy gave up to find someone perhaps less helpful but more informative. By the time I had come out of the shop and was preparing for the hills home, he was in the clutches of a third local giving detailed instructions on how to get to somewhere else entirely:

‘And then when you get past the new bit of the road you’ll see a sweep round to the right and all those houses there they’re called the Bourne.’
‘The Bourne?’
‘Aye, well it depends on where you’re coming from. What name did you say it was?…’

And I cycled off wondering whether the meter reading guy was perhaps the new guy and whether the others at the depot regularly sent off the new guy on a wild goose chase to the Village X to track down the more elusive addresses, because everybody else had failed. And I was half way up the second hill before I wondered whether anyone in village X ever in fact got their meter read at all…

* handy when you have no cooker

** obviously not actually X, you understand