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.

Adventures in Freecycling

February 13, 2009

I’m a huge fan of Freecycle. I’m a fan in theory and, having used it in London to de-clutter before the move, I’m more or less a fan in practice although there does seem to be a large overlap between people who use freecycle and people who regard turning up at the agreed time and place to pick up something to be surrendering to the man. But rural Freecycling isn’t quite like London Freecycling. For a start, there’s less of it – Bigtownshire’s freecycle gets about a tenth of the number of messages than Lambeth’s does – and for another start, as Huttonian and Country Strife have noticed over in Berwickshire, Freecycle in rural areas is less a recycling service and more a sort of cargo cult where there’s no request too ambitious (we’ve seen wanted posts for sheds, caravans, games consoles and even cars) nor too specific – a mahogany tv cabinet, for example, or long curtains ‘cottagey design preferred’ – to be worth a shot*. The other half’s theory is that whereas Freecycle in London is basically a service whereby strangers come to your house and donate you a few cubic feet of free space (far more expensive than stuff), out here everybody has access to enough sheds, garages, barns and other outbuildings that there’s no real reason why their extra stuff wouldn’t stay in storage forever if people didn’t come out and ask.

But anyway, the neighbour had moved out hurriedly and left us with a random collection of stuff to get rid of, so Freecycle it was. I braved the very bossy moderators who like leaving ‘helpful’ annotations on your messages if you get the format wrong, my two ‘offered’ posts passed muster, and I was shortly inundated with people wanting airgun manuals, gardening books and an old carpet. I made my selection (first come first served, although I’m sometimes tempted to choose on the basis of ‘anyone who doesn’t use ‘LOL’ as punctuation and knows where to put an apostrophe’ if that would actually leave me with anyone to choose from) and arranged a time for pick up. As a bonus, two (out of three – the airgun nut hasn’t shown up yet, do you think I should be worried?) were bang on time and as a double bonus the carpet guy rewarded me with a box of chocolates. That’s something I never got in London. I wonder what he’d have given me in exchange for a car?

*And, if the ‘received’ messages are anything to go by, often fulfilled.

Information for Stalkers*

February 12, 2009

On Saturday, yes Valentine’s day, I shall be here doing this.

*I’m fairly sure I nicked this line from JonnyB’s Private Secret Diary but it seems to have gone now.

It Gets Worse

February 11, 2009

So we’re sitting having lunch, and I’m feeling that there’s still a small corner left that needs to be filled

Me: I was thinking of having some toast, do you want some?

OH: you might struggle a bit

Me: why, where has all the rest of the bread gone?

OH: …

Me: you fed it to the birds, didn’t you?

It’s a slippery slope, I tell you.

Dependency Culture

February 10, 2009
What do we want? More bread...

What do we want? More bread...

Now, listen up, birdies. We’re feeding you to be nice, right, and it’s our bread (okay, well it’s the heels but even so) we’re putting out for you – and not just any bread either, that’s Tesco’s Finest that is. And we’re cutting it up in nice small beak-sized pieces, and buying expensive bird peanuts, and fat balls to boot. And yes, you do repay us by having interesting bird-fights outside the kitchen window, but even so, we’re doing you a favour. So the other half would like to be able to step outside for a cigarette occasionally without having a delegation of blackbirds coming and yelling to him about the slack service.

And don’t even get me started on the subject of crapping on the car…