I’m not Saying…

March 30, 2009

… this is the most useless train announcement in the world:

‘Welcome to this Virgin Pendolino train to London Euston. I’d like to apologise to all passengers holding reservations as there are no seat reservations on this train due to a computer fault.

‘Coach E is the unreserved coach so if you don’t have a reservation today and we did have reservations then that is the coach where you could have found an unreserved seat.’

but it’s in the top one

Earth Hour

March 29, 2009

So last night we decided (well I decided and the other half went along with it for a quiet life, sensible chap) to observe earth hour. It’s a bit of a gimmick and isn’t going to save much electricity – particularly as the website urges you to live-blog your hour in the dark (er, on what exactly? A wind-up laptop connected to the internet by string?). We went the whole hog and switched off everything except the fridge and – oops – my mobile phone charger*, not just the lights. I can’t tell if anyone else locally followed suit as we can’t see anyone else’s lights usually anyway, although the other half reported having gone out for a cigarette that the glow of Bigtown on the horizon was as strong as ever. Ah well. It’s the thought that counts. If you’re reading this, Ed Miliband, that’s one vote from me for the planet.

(As an aside – Looking through the photos on the BBC it struck me that lots of the lights that were switched off for the hour could quite usefully be switched off all the time. I mean why, really, are we floodlighting the Forth Rail Bridge? Or the Houses of Parliament? Can we not remember what they look like for 12 whole hours?)

Anyway, as 9:30 rolled around we turned on the lights with some relief (knitting by candlelight isn’t even as much fun as it sounds) and went to switch the internet back on so we didn’t have to talk to each other any more. And discovered that the ants had spent a happy hour taking over the kitchen in the dark. If nothing else, I suppose it did serve to remind us that when we pesky two-legs have gone, the six-legs will be taking over. If they haven’t actually done so already on the sly that is.

This is something of a bonus post because I’m heading down to London today for a few days. I may blog, I may not, so please keep checking on an hourly basis to see whether I have or not. My stats look so much healthier if you do.


*It was charging my phone, I don’t leave it on all the time, honest

More Signs of Spring

March 27, 2009

plastic furrows

Gosh, March doesn’t seem to have got the hang of this ‘in like a lion, out like a lamb’ thing, does it? Particularly not the ‘out like a lamb part’: I have now ridden through two sets of hail in as many days. But despite the weather’s best efforts, spring is definitely on its way. Not only are the farmers busy shrink-wrapping their fields, but – with the year end looming – the council are suddenly madly resurfacing all of the roads.

Today as I made the turn through Nearest Village I saw two ominous signs: ‘Road closed ahead’ said one and ‘expect long delays’ said the other. Seeing as the usual amount of traffic on that road apart from me is about one car and two tractors an hour, the only way there could be long delays would be if they forced you to wait from when the roadworks started to when they packed it in for the day – a long delay indeed. Still, the only alternative was Big A-Road and its Bicycle Lane To Nowhere, so I pressed on, hoping there’d be room for a bike to pass at least.

It being lunchtime, when I got to the roadworks I found an abandoned big yellow machine and a stretch of pristine road – or at least almost pristine, for there was a set of footprints distinctly visible from a field gate along the road. Not wanting to mess up their nice new tarmac any more – after all, it will shortly be my nice new tarmac – I wheeled my bike along the verge until I got within sight of another big yellow machine where one of the men very kindly got out with sandwich in hand and motioned to me that it was okay to use the road.

And so it was that I got to be the very first vehicle to use the wonderfully smooth new surface: a grand opening ceremony of one. And from next week – seeing as they have conveniently resurfaced one of the steepest sections of the route – I shall – or would, if I cared about these things at all which obviously I don’t* – be setting new world records for the Fetching of a Paper from Papershop Village by Bike (Veteran Class).

*well, maybe a little bit

Brought to Book

March 26, 2009

Despite having a house full of books, I’ve been suffering from the fact that for the last couple of days I’ve had absolutely nothing to read, so today meant an urgent visit to the library. After yesterday, I decided to atone for my sins by taking the bike – helped along by the fact that the other half had taken the car for the day – which gave me an opportunity to try out some of the advice from this book – stuff I all more or less knew, but had become lazy about putting into practice. It certainly helped me tackle the Bigtown traffic with confidence and on the whole, most drivers do seem to react better to (translation: actually notice) an assertive cyclist than one who’s doing their best to ride along in the gutter.

Still, there’s not much the book could do about headwinds so today I learned the hard way that when the Met office says ‘strong to gale force north westerly winds’ this translates in cycling terms as ‘you’ll be coming back into a headwind that will bring you to a standstill in places’. Not helped by the half-a-hundredweight of books I was carrying, and the steady uphill road. It took me half an hour to get into the library and more than an hour to get home. And when I did? I found the postman had been and left me a parcel. From Amazon. Containing books.

Playing the Odds

March 25, 2009

On Wednesdays, I have to be at the eastern end of Bigtownshire, helping out with a homework club (for those poor disadvantaged kiddies whose parents don’t know how to plagiarise stuff on the internet for them like the nice middle class parents do). This means finding a parking spot in a busy town centre. There is one, but it’s only for an hour and we’re going to be at longer than that.

‘Apparently there’s only one traffic warden for this half of the county,’ says the friend who’s giving me a lift. ‘And she’s not particularly diligent. Shall we risk it?’

And so we do. So far, she hasn’t put in an appearance. And I know that when she finally does haul herself out of bed and ticket us we’ll be bang to rights but it won’t stop us from being massively indignant all the same. I’m getting far too used to this car culture lark.

Coming up soon: bloody cyclists, why can’t they just get out of the way?

Address Verification, Rural Style

March 24, 2009

The other half is on the phone to the Council tax helpline and has just given our address and postcode.

Call Centre Operative: ‘Oh, Nearest Village, whereabouts in Nearest Village?’

Other Half: long detailed explanation that is the only way to give directions where the roads have no names and the houses have no numbers

Call Centre Operative: Oh right I stay* up near the church further long explanation – it’s nice around there isn’t it?

I’m guessing that either Bigtown Council haven’t bought into the whole outsourcing thing, or that the training for Bangalore call centre staff is incredibly detailed. They’ve got the accent spot on too, apparently.

*Nobody lives anywhere around here. You just stay.

Round Scotland with a Cooker

March 23, 2009

I don’t know if it’s a class thing or an urban thing or what, but I’ve always primarily considered Freecycle as being a way of getting rid of stuff, not of actually getting something. But today there was an electric cooker on offer: old but not much used because it had been a backup for an Aga and thus perfect as a backup for our Rayburn. On the off-chance I replied, knowing that usually anything offered on Freecycle gets snapped up in seconds and got a response within the hour. Hurrah. Obviously my subtle Rayburn name dropping had done the trick and we had been selected for the Freecycle largesse. Off we went, only getting lost once, and were soon the proud owners of a vintage looking cooker only slightly larger than we could actually fit in our car.

Fortunately the other half, being a bloke, and the sister of the cooker owner, being one of those rural people who knows how to do things, managed to lash the tailgate of the car down fairly securely with a skipping rope while I stood around making unhelpful suggestions and we set off with the wind playing the open back of the car like a bottle – a very disconcerting noise. A couple of hernias and a slipped disc later and the cooker was in situ and is now facing off the Rayburn with a ‘huh, try breaking down now, you useless hunk of cast iron, and see how much they care’ look on its face.

Of course we haven’t actually wired it in and seen if it will work yet, so there’s still time for all this to go horribly wrong. But if it does work, and if the whining noise from G***** M****** gets any louder, it means we will now be able to turn the Rayburn off in the summer when (okay, if) it ever does get ‘too hot’ in here. A concept I’m still having difficulty imagining at the moment, to be frank…

Signs of Spring

March 21, 2009

Ok, the spring equinox might have been technically yesterday but as far as I’m concerned it’s not officially spring until my birthday*.
To celebrate, I persuaded the other half out on one of his quarterly bike rides, helped along by the spring sunshine and the need to work off his three-layer devil’s food cake.

We went on my favourite ride – round the reservoir and past the giant topiary bird in the middle of nowhere where I finally managed to stop to take a picture.


There were a fair few** other cyclists who had emerged for the fine weather, but for the most part the roads were deserted, including this rustic dual-carriageway


Despite the fact that he cycles now once every three months, and spends far less time on the internet reading about cycling than me, the other half quickly became the customary diminishing blue dot on the horizon, but because it was my birthday, he did wait for me at the top of the hills


To cap it all off, as we whizzed down the other side, we passed a whole field full of my favourite breed of cow (is it weird to have a favourite breed of cow?) and their calves

And how did I know it was really spring? Because I ingested my first insect of the season. Just the first of many for the year, I suspect.

(phew. That’s the last time I try and lay out pictures and words in a complicated way in wordpress. If you’re reading this in IE and it’s all over the place – get a proper browser)

* I went from being thirty-*cough* to just *cough*, if you’re interested
** two

I Imagine…

March 20, 2009

… it would be possible to spend all of the daylight hours…

fruit of an hour's weeding

fruit of an hour's weeding

… for the rest of my natural life…

I swear that wasn't there a minute ago

I swear that wasn't there a minute ago

… and still not make a dent in the ground elder population.

several years to go...

several years to go...

Perhaps, rather than fighting it, we should work out whether it’s possible to eat it?

Watch this Space

March 19, 2009

Gosh it was absolutely gorgeous today. In a fit of what might be insane optimism, I have celebrated by doing some planting: my parsnips have gone in, and some of my garlic, plus the first sowings of my baby-leaf lettuce and broad beans.

Here’s the end result:
Yup, it’s a lot of bare earth. But there are seeds under there, honest, and if you go in close you’ll see the garlic too.

In case any of you are wondering, the plants on the right aren’t some misguided attempt to grow tonic water from bulbs (everyone knows it grows on trees) but my mini cloches intended to keep my broad bean seeds (beans?) from forming an early lunch for some hungry mice.

So now all I have to do is watch and wait, and occasionally dig them up to see if they’re growing yet.