Turns Out we are Made of Sugar After All

July 31, 2008

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday and this poor excuse for a posting today. I’m only doing it in a blatant bid for internet sympathy. You see, the thing is, it was raining ALL DAY yesterday, with only brief pauses for the weather gods to gather more rain. The other half did offer to drive down and fetch the paper for me but I was having none of it. ‘If I can’t cycle in the rain in the summer, I’m not going to get out at all on the bike in the winter, am I?’ I pointed out and off I went, smugness radiating from every pore. And at first, it wasn’t too bad. I had my scary yellow jacket on, which only gets an outing when it’s raining these days because it’s the only lightweight waterproof I own, and my waxed cap, and lightweight trousers because – firm subscriber as I am to the idea of cycling in normal clothes – jeans in the rain on a bike rapidly turn into the least practical form of clothing since concrete boots were invented. The rain even slackened off a little, to a misty drizzle, most of the way. It was fine. I even thought to myself as I came round the bend into Nearest Village, with only a couple of miles to go, ‘why, this is not bad at all. People who don’t cycle in the rain are just wimps. We’re not made of sugar, after all. We won’t melt.’

And then the weather gods heard me, and the heavens opened. That scary yellow jacket? Not waterproof at all.

And so today I’m sick. Bah. And I can’t even take the day off, because I appear to have already taken the rest of my life off. I knew there’d be a catch somewhere…

This one’s for Steve

July 29, 2008

There’s a stretch of A Road between us and Notso Bigtown. Not one of your nationally important, single digit A Roads – it doesn’t have any dual carriageway, for example, or even any Little Chefs. But it’s big enough: proper white lines, multi-lane roundabouts, crawler lanes, speed cameras, big lorries, snack vans and more lay-bys than you can shake a stick at. As of a few months ago – about the time we arrived – they had some major roadworks on that stretch, strained mightily & brought forth a gnat: a bike lane. Not much of a bike lane, admittedly. For a start it runs from one arbitrary point in the middle of nowhere to another not terribly far away arbitrary point in the middle of nowhere. For another start, it’s shared with any pedestrians there might happen to be, my least favourite sort of bike lane. And for a third start, it’s only on one side of the road so that any bikes actually using it westbound are forced to ride against the traffic – never fun in the hours of darkness, and dangerous if any cars want to turn across the lane, although at least the shortness of the bike lane means that at least is not going to happen. But hey, it’s a bike lane and even if it was only built because the powers that be had targets for putting in so many kms of bike lane and no targets for putting them anywhere actually useful, it’s the only bike lane that A road’s got if you don’t count the (I swear to God) nine-inch wide red-tarmacked extravaganza that runs through Papershop Village. Which I don’t

And that, my friends, is why it was an extremely bad place for twat tourist family to park their twat tourist car and get out their twat picnic table and start having a picnic. You’d think after passing about nineteen dozen of them, they’d have known what a lay-by looked like by now, and that the picture of the bike and it being a bit narrow might have tipped them off, but no. That’s holiday makers for you, I’m afraid. Leave your brains behind.

Looks like the tourist season is in full swing up here in the middle of nowhere. And I don’t think I’m going to like it one bit…

Seconds Out, Round Two

July 28, 2008

Readers beware, this blog may be about to take another turn for the sentimental: our local swallows have hatched a second brood and we shall undoubtedly be inundated with baby birds shortly.

Last time it took less than three weeks to go from this

Swallow's Egg

to this

Young Swallows - 2

Let’s see how long it takes them this time.

While Shepherds Washed their Socks by Night

July 26, 2008

There’s two ways to round up sheep, it seems. You can get yourself a border collie puppy from a long line of champion sheepdogs, train it up until it obeys your slightest command, and trek out with it to a remote hilltop and stand whistling complicated instructions until the sheep are safely gathered in.


You can just drive to the edge of the field, honk your horn a few times and watch the sheep come running. I’m guessing the latter approach involves tasty sheep treats (erm, grass?) and sheep that haven’t worked out where the last batch of lambs went to.

None Shall Pass

July 25, 2008

All those of you who are drivers out there are going to hate this story, but here goes. We were heading south on a minor A road, on our way to form a light afternoon snack for the entire Scottish population of mosquitoes, when we were overtaken by a big estate car. No surprises there: the other half is still trying for the high score on the MPG readout on the car. But ahead of us was a motor caravan and the road was an A road in name only; it barely even ran to a white line down the middle, although there was at least no grass growing down the centre either. And the driver of the caravan was in no mood to let the middle-aged-man-racer past where there wasn’t room to do so. It went nicely into the left on the bends, but where the road straightened, and a suicidal lunatic might possibly have scraped by, out it drifted into the middle. The car behind was weaving frantically, frustration in every line. Meanwhile, the other half was cackling with manic glee. Clearly he’s been screamed past by one overgrown boy racer too many and was enjoying the vicarious revenge.

We turned off before we saw what happened. No doubt the road finally straightened enough that the caravan had to give way, and the estate car got past and hopefully not into the nearest stone dyke. As a cyclist, I’ve long wanted to do what that caravan driver did, but I’ve never quite had the guts, at least not on a bike. I’ve never seen the attraction of a motor caravan holiday, not since the disastrous one we had in my childhood* – in the west of Scotland, now I come to think of it – where it rained for a fortnight. But now, I may have to reconsider.

*and if Huttonian can refrain from mentioning the porta-potty story, I would be grateful. Bringing it up at my wedding was bad enough…

Ickle Lambs

July 24, 2008

They were bouncing around in the fields when we arrived, looking all cute and white and fluffy. They’ve been gambolling around ever since, getting slightly less ickle but still pretty cute, and even more fluffy. When it was wet and miserable, you’d see them lying on top of their mothers’ backs, keeping out of the mud. When it was sunny and bright they’d play games – king of the castle, tag, grandmothers’ footsteps with any passer by who stopped when they were close enough to the wall.

None of which adorableness mattered a damn when we saw the sign in the butcher’s window: local new season lamb. And you know what? They’re not just cute, they’re delicious. Sorry lambs…

There was an Old Woman Who…

July 23, 2008

…although less of the old woman part, at thirty-*cough* I reckon I still qualify as youngish. And I didn’t go so far as to swallow the rest of the livestock, although a spider might have sneaked in there at some point while I was coughing and spluttering and not paying much attention. But I did swallow a fly. Gack. Must learn to keep my mouth shut when I cycle.

Indeed, some people might say, not just when I’m cycling…

That’ll Teach Me

July 22, 2008

Woke up this morning to an inexplicably cheerful lineup on the Today programme: all good news (cure for cancer found, Karadjic captured, petrol prices down). Even yesterday in parliament reported an outbreak of agreement between the major parties. And then they came to the weather. ‘A nice week in prospect,’ the weather man said, as cheerful as the rest of them. ‘Except for western Scotland…’

Weather gods. You taunt them at your peril.

Not so Slow Cycling

July 21, 2008

We have been battling with bank helplines all morning, trying to persuade the ones that have changed our address that moving house is not in itself sufficiently suspicious to warrant freezing our accounts, and trying to persuade those that haven’t changed our address yet that they might like to. ‘Oops,’ said the friendly young man I spoke to on one, ‘looks like somebody pressed the wrong button there.’ And these are the people we’re entrusting our money to…

But the sun was still, inexplicably shining* and so we decided to stop pressing 2 if it was a savings account and 3 if it was to inform them of a change of address, followed by #9 if we wanted to be promised the chance to speak to a human only to be cut off after 20 minutes of europop, and get ourselves out on our bikes. And oh what a ride it was. Down through the shade of the trees and out onto the rolling empty lanes. Up, up, up past the reservoir and a few scattered picnickers. Over the cattle grid and suddenly into different country altogether: moorland, empty of everything but sheep and the little local cattle, the closest that cows get to panda bears. We pause at the top of the climb, mostly so I can catch up, and admire the view. Then it’s down, gingerly, round switchback turns on a loose-chip road surface, using the whole width of the road. There are no cars, no people, just birds flying out of our path. Then a long roll back into the gentler countryside, and the dotted white cottages and farms, and the cool shade of the trees once more. It’s the perfect circular ride, uphill out and downhill back, and – in the words of the Highway Cycling Group – home in time for tea.

It’s costing us a lot to live here, if you count in the lost earnings from our London jobs. One of the reasons we’re battling with the banks is to maximise our savings so we can afford to do it as long as we can. On days like today, on rides like that, it’s worth every penny.

*Moments after posting yesterday’s entry, the clouds gathered and a few drops of rain fell – just enough to show that the weather gods were listening & that they were still in charge. Fortunately it was just a warning shot across my bows and abnormal service has since resumed.

Surely Some Mistake

July 20, 2008

We woke up this morning to brilliant sunshine and a glorious blue sky. Nothing new there – we are regularly woken at 6am by a gorgeous morning which can be guaranteed to disappear before the coffee has been made – but today it has persisted, despite all of our unfailing rain-making activities: going for a run, putting on laundry, even recklessly donning shorts. We even have visitors on their way and still there is nothing up there but breezy sunshine and the occasional fluffy white cloud…

I’ve checked the calendar, and it’s still apparently summer. Do you think there has been a mistake?