Crosstown Traffic

February 27, 2009

‘Yes, this road can get really busy at this time of day,’ I heard myself saying the other day, before I could stop myself. A friend was giving me a lift home and had just had to pull in to let the fourth car pass in as many miles. I mean, really.

‘You don’t believe when you move here that you’ll ever complain about the Bigtown traffic, but you will,’ someone warned me last year. I pooh-poohed it at the time. Not any more. I’ll be moaning about the lack of parking next.


February 26, 2009


We noticed the first lambs in the fields. And where there are lambs, can swallows, cuckoos, warmth and, best of all, ‘New Season Lamb’ signs in butchers’ shops be far behind?

(picture shows last year’s lambs; your mileage may vary. Serving suggestion only)

So it Turns Out…

February 25, 2009

… that if you put purple paint on aluminium, it comes out pink

What can I say? I quite like them. Although the effect is … startling.

Not as startling as a disembowelled bunny bag, but getting there

Roadkill Chic

February 24, 2009

Standing in Notso Bigtown’s only wholefood shop this afternoon, we overheard another customer showing off her latest creation to the assembled staff. This was – how can I put this delicately – a handbag made out of a squashed dead hare. (The head, deliciously, formed an integral coin purse). ‘I keep the head tucked in,’ she said, ‘because it seems to bother people when they see it. And I had to sew it up here,’ she added, showing off the finer details, ‘because it was several days dead when I scraped it off the road. It’s perfect though: combined bag, purse, and children’s toy – look, you can turn it into a puppet*.’

The overall effect was disconcerting, to say the least, mainly because the head had no glass eyes so it looked even deader than your average stuffed animal. But it would be fairly pick-pocket proof, I would have thought – any aspiring Jimmy-the-dip who reached in to that bag was going to come out with more than he bargained for.

She at least seemed to think there was a potential market for them.

‘You don’t see that many hares on the roads, though,’ someone pointed out.

‘No but there’s plenty of rabbits. I’m going to make lots of them. I’m going to call them bunny bags,’ she said.

Hopefully she won’t come to the attention of this lot (scroll down for the real nutters)

* this last is not as far-fetched as it might seem. We were delicately brought-up urban children and one of our favourite toys was an old fox stole, still with the head and paws on.


February 23, 2009

I encountered this (sadly non-mythical) beast for the first time in ages the other day. I was returning triumphant with the paper, sailing down a nice long straightish hill, when I noticed a small truck in one of the tracks meeting the road. I started to slow down, thinking the driver would pull out in front of me but he didn’t move, and I assumed he had stopped there for lunch and resumed pedalling. Slow cycling’s all very well, but sometimes you like to have a bit of momentum to get you up the next hill. So when he did pull out, just as I reached the track, I was going considerably faster than him and had to jam on the brakes to avoid ending up as part of his load. Clearly my bicycle-generated magical cloak of invisibility is still going strong, despite being practically the only moving thing for miles around.

It was all the more annoying because the other two drivers I encountered had treated me with almost exaggerated courtesy, hanging behind my shoulder until the road widened, and then passing me slowly and steadily, leaving me as much room as they could without scraping their wing mirrors off on the opposite dyke. I’ve realised now where this behaviour comes from: this is the correct way to pass someone who is riding a horse, a far more common sight around here than a cyclist.

Maybe that’s what we’ve been doing wrong all these years: if all cyclists stood six feet high at the shoulder, weighed 500kg, wore iron shoes and could kick out your windscreen when startled, we’d all get treated with the a bit more respect…

*Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You

Sheepdog Fail

February 20, 2009

For the past few weeks, the field opposite our house has played host to what we’re calling ‘sheepdog school’. Four or five dogs, all but one tied up waiting their turn, some rather pissed-off looking sheep, and a man with a piercing whistle, shouting endless instructions. It used to be held in the field further up the road, near the waterfall, but it has moved – perhaps those were the beginner sheep and these are the intermediate ones. If they’re the sheep I think they are, they certainly seem to like escaping.

The other day the other half was enjoying a cigarette and watching the show as usual. All the tied-up dogs were yipping and bouncing and doing the sheepdog equivalent of sticking their hand in the air and shouting ‘please sir, me sir, I know the answer sir, ask me sir’ while their hapless classmate went through its routines. The field is hilly, so depending on where they are, you don’t always get such a good view, and on this occasion all the other half could make out of its progress was this:

‘Come by, Robbie, come by, steady, steady, come by phweeeep come on, steady, steady, steeeeeeady Robbie, come by phwip phwip phwip, Robbie!*’

Followed by

‘Now then. Where have the bloody sheep gone?’

*actual words may have varied. I don’t speak sheepdog, but that’s sort of what it sounds like

Get Knitted

February 19, 2009

So, as I mentioned earlier, knitting’s a bit addictive…

I started off simply enough with a hat, using a free pattern I found on the interwebs:

Officially 'Not Bad' according to the other half

Officially 'Not Bad' according to the other half

This would have gone better had I realised that UK and US knitting needle sizes aren’t just different but completely backwards, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. ‘Wow,’ said the other half, showing great faith in my talents, ‘that’s not actually that bad, will you knit me one?’

So I did (although he seems to have hidden it – or maybe he’s actually wearing it – so you’ll just have to believe me).

Then I knitted a scarf to go with my hat:

it was supposed to be longer but I ran out of wool

it was supposed to be longer but I ran out of wool

And then I went a bit mad and actually ordered some wool (cocaine might well have been cheaper) and knitted this:

Still waiting for me to work out how to knit handles

Still waiting for me to work out how to knit handles

Which was supposed to shrink down to lap-top bag size when I felted it but didn’t. It seems that all those airy felting instructions you read on the internet about just putting stuff in the washing machine presupposes a rufty-tufty top-loading American washing machine that washes things so that they stay washed, not one of our wimpy European front-loading eco-friendly washers that just sort of dabs them clean.

So anyway, nothing daunted, I then started to branch out and knitted a hot-water bottle cover which was based on this but with several off-piste additions of my own:

Like a tiny jumper, for someone with no arms. Or legs.

Like a tiny jumper, for someone with no arms.

Then I went even madder and knitted this:

Knitted felted mug cosy, patent pending

Knitted felted mug cosy, patent pending

Which is a mug cosy of completely my own design, albeit following the rather more detailed instructions for felting on the excellent ‘Knit like a Pirate’ site. The other half reports he can now eke out his coffee for fifty percent longer than before without it getting stone cold. This has made him correspondingly fifty percent harder to get out of bed in the mornings, especially with the nice snuggly hot-water bottle in there.

So … now what? A brief glance through the world of knitting websites suggests there’s nothingon earth you can’t knit, if you try hard enough. I’ve got three or four smallish balls of wool sitting tempting me on the kitchen counter… what would you knit?

Seriously Outclassed

February 18, 2009

So I set out this morning for my first meet up with my new cycling buddies. I worked out a route – fifteen miles each way – that I was fairly certain wouldn’t kill me, especially as I would be stopping for lunch half way through, and set off, slightly anxious about being late and thereby breaking their only rule. Thirty miles in total might not seem much to some people, but the longest ride I’ve done to date was 19 miles, and my bike is making some seriously worrying new rattling noises, so I was a little apprehensive, and quite pleased that I was going to be able to huff and puff up the worst hills by myself and not in some group ride where I would be holding everybody up.

Of course, as I did huff and puff up the worst hill, I caught up with two of them (this is no reflection on our relative speeds – they waited for me at the top) and we fell in together. While not, perhaps, actually in their nineties, they were certainly past retirement age and a good twenty years plus older than me. So I was a little dismayed, as we finally reached the pub and I collapsed at the nearest table, to learn that not only had they come from five miles further away, but that they were planning a slightly more challenging route on the way back (‘it’s a wee bit hilly’). We were then joined by another chap who lived only ten miles away, so had taken a more scenic route – 25 miles more scenic to be precise – to compensate.

The pub was pretty soon taken over with lycra and cycling talk, with me still the youngest there by some margin (and probably still the pinkest in the face too). We had excellent soup and tea and sandwiches and the conversation turned to types of bikes as my own was busy letting the side down in the carpark outside. ‘Och I used to have a mountain bike,’ said one of my new companions with a twinkle in her eye. ‘Back when I was climbing Munros, we got one to ride down those long tracks so we could do 2 or 3 of them in a day. But I’ve done all the Munros now so I sold it and stick to my road bike.’

After lunch, I turned down their offer of joining them on the tougher route and plugged my way back steadily up and down the many hills on this, the not so hilly route. They’re going to be climbing a mountain tomorrow. As for me, if my legs are anything to go by, I will be setting myself the challenge of climbing out of bed. When I grow up, I think I want to be like them. And I definitely want one of their bikes…

Cyclist? What Cyclist

February 17, 2009

Last time I was out on the bike, I saw nobody on the road for the whole ride. Not one car, not one tractor, not one dog-walker, or fellow cyclist, or boy racer or lorry or anyone at all – until, that is, I was climbing the hill out of Papershop village. Naturally it was then that my gears, which have been giving me the usual gyp all week, decided to slip just as I was standing on the pedals for extra oomph – and just as I was passing (and cheerfully greeting) a nice friendly woman from the village out walking her dog. Fortunately, it being a hill and all, I was going slow enough that I merely slipped off the pedals and remained upright so the only damage – apart from my pride – was two nice pedal-shaped bruises, one for each leg.

It’s not often I miss London and its little ways. But as I brushed off her concern, and that of her dog, and pedalled pinkly away, this was one of them. Because if you want to make a bit of a twit of yourself in public then London – with its eight million witnesses, none of whom have seen a thing – is the place to do it. But if you want your idiocy to be discussed forever in the village shop, then try somewhere a little more quiet.

Or you could try posting about it for all to read on the internet, I suppose…

A House of Two Halves

February 16, 2009

Something odd has happened to the weather these last two days – it’s gone all mild. Warm, even. I’ve had to shed a couple of layers even when I’m just sitting in the kitchen, let alone doing anything more active in the garden. Whether this is spring, or some sort of softening up process before the next onslaught, I don’t know but for now it’s jolly pleasant.

At least, it’s pleasant in the kitchen, and it’s pleasant outside too – although we’re not talking shorts here, this is still Scotland. But the cottage is – like a lot of the cottages round here – built on a sort of railway carriage principle with all the rooms in a long line. The bathroom, spare bedroom, other half’s cave, and kitchen are all in a row and the heat from the rayburn alone is enough to keep them at 18° C. Then there’s a tiny entranceway, and beyond that – in what we’re calling the north wing – the sitting room and beyond that the main bedroom. We can’t open the door from the kitchen to spread the heat into there because it would all go out of the front door on the way. So any heating is left to the fireplace, which doesn’t really do much, and the central heating, which is too expensive and inefficient to run for more than an hour or two a day. The upshot is that we moved out to the spare bedroom long ago, and confine our visits to our bedroom to brief raids for clean socks, and only have a fire when we’re also running the heating, just to take the chill off the rest of the room.

With the milder weather, I started thinking we should maybe move back to our own bedroom and reacquaint ourselves with the rest of our clothes. But I’ve just measured the temperature both outside and in the bedroom. A balmy 11° C on the front step, even out of the sun. And a rather less balmy 9° C indoors. At least, I think it’s 9° . The thermometer doesn’t actually register any lower
If anyone’s living in the tropics, and wants somewhere cool to retreat to in the heat of the day, can I recommend a Scottish stone-built cottage? A bit of a bugger to ship out, and you’ll probably have to hose it down periodically to keep it nice and damp, but other than that, it’s absolutely the thing.