In the Pink

May 30, 2009

An observer from outer space, had he, she or it happened to glance down in the direction of Scotland would have noticed something unusual this weekend. Well, two unusual things – the first being Scotland itself instead of the normal bank of thick cloud that conceals it from curious extra-terrestrial observers. The second would have been a million glaring spots of whiteness rapidly turning pink as the entire nation stripped off for the first really sunny day of the year. This is the second stage of the Scottish tan and is also visible from space. The third stage – rumoured, but never actually seen – is when people actually go brown.

I’m still on stage two. Turns out you can’t make up for nine months of vitamin D deficit in one day without a little collateral damage…

Plus ca Change

May 29, 2009

Having visitors means doing a bit of touristy stuff – for some reason, people aren’t all that keen on flying across the Atlantic just to sit around indoors moaning about the weather, however much they insist they want to see the ‘real Scotland’. So for me, that meant only one thing:


Not to be ridden

The bicycle museum.

Actually, it was pretty small, just a couple of rooms stuffed full of bicycles (I know, I know, what do I mean ‘just’)

cycle_museum_4 cycle_museum_2 cycle_museum_3

What interested me was how quickly the bicycle went from rather unpromising beginnings to the familiar thing we know and love today. And also how, from similarly unpromising beginnings, the UK’s beloved cycling culture even more quickly took recognisable form. For the museum was celebrating the local son, Kirkpatrick Macmillan who invented the pedal cycle and then forgot to patent it. He celebrated by cycling to Glasgow where he was promptly arrested and fined five shillings, although in fairness to the authorities he was riding on the pavement at the time. No doubt he would have run a red light too, if anyone had got round to inventing them in 1842.

And for those for whom bicycles were not their thing, there was also some sort of a castle attached.



May 28, 2009

I have always felt the cold. I grew up mainly in hot countries and have always preferred to be too hot than too cold. On a warm sunny beach in the South of England I can go blue with the cold if I attempt to do anything so foolish as swim. I may be the last known sufferer of chilblains in the developed world. There’s a reason why I have been clucking over the Rayburn like an anxious hen with a poorly chick: it’s the only thing that got me through the winter.

But it seems that, over the last year, something has shifted. I appear to have actually acclimatised to my native climate. Five months of frozen misery have realigned my temperature settings to the point where I can – sort of – stand the cold. I thought this might have happened, but I wasn’t sure until we had visitors. Suddenly, they’re the ones sitting around in their fleeces and needing the heating on, while I’m in a t-shirt and cardigan (let’s not go mad here) feeling perfectly fine. Any more of this and I will turn in to one of Those People – you know, the ones who get onto trains and fling windows open in February, and who moan about it being too hot in the summer if the sun comes out for more than three days in a row. Please feel free to shoot me if I do.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I have gone entirely native yet. The locals this week have all stripped down to the skin and are busy working on their Scottish tans*. That’s still a clout or three too far for me just yet.

*that pale white glow that’s visible from space

When will I learn…

May 24, 2009

… that there’s no point trying to take a photograph of a bluebell wood, because even the best result is never any more than a travesty.

This was the best least laughable

Things have been a bit lacklustre on this blog of late (yes, yes, I know, how can you tell?). The truth is that while I love spring, especially the whole not-being-winter part, it also makes me anxious. There’s just so much going on – everything growing so fast that you can hear it, birds arriving and singing and nesting all over the place, the hedgerow suddenly a mass of spring flowers and loveliness, and all the time the terrible feeling that it will be gone before we’ve even noticed it so hurry, hurry, hurry and go out and enjoy it. And yet, there have also been deadlines to meet, sick husbands to look after, visitors to prepare for, meals to cook and clothes to wash and dishes to do and it’s felt like, whatever I’m doing, it’s the wrong thing and besides it’s too late anyway.

So this weekend, I have been taking a bit of time just to appreciate it all. And if blogging is a little slow in the next few days it will be because we’ve got some visitors who will be helping to remind us just what a lovely place it is we live in.

When it’s not raining, that is.

Get Yer Clouts Off

May 22, 2009
May is Out

May is Out

And it’s actually warm too. But I’ll be keeping the thermals handy all the same … just in case.

Could you Buy one Book?

May 21, 2009

No, not mine, (You’ve already bought mine, right?) but one from Salt Publishing. They’re a fantastic little independent press – and nothing to do with me – who are struggling in the current climate. They concentrate on short stories and poetry and have a bright future – but only if they can survive the gloomy present.

Go on, you know you want to. After all, you’ve already bailed out all of those banks and those car companies with your taxes – and did you get anything in return? This way, you’ll also get a book. And that’s the sort of bail out I can recommend…

More here.

Unintended Consequences

May 20, 2009

I was chatting with someone the other day about the joy of compost (I know, I know) and specifically the smug happiness you get when turning all your kitchen waste into something useful instead of landfill.

‘I’m not really all that into gardening,’ he said. ‘But I really do like putting stuff into the compost. In fact, I’ve started choosing my food on the basis of how much compostable waste it’s going to generate …’

The Letter of the Lore

May 19, 2009

As I was searching for weather lore the other day I stumbled across one I’d not heard for a long time:

Rain before seven, shine before eleven.

It struck me at first that this was no more than a fancy way of saying our weather is so changeable that whatever it’s doing now, it won’t be doing the same thing in four hours time*. And besides in my experience it’s more likely to be ‘shine before seven, rain before eleven’ as I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been woken up by bright sunshine, and lain for a few happy minutes in bed planning all the exciting non-rain-related things I can do with the day (normally laundry, such is the variety of my life, but never mind. We make our own entertainment up here in the country) only for it to have commenced pissing down again by the time I’ve had my shower.

But anyway – and there is a point here – yesterday, just before seven as it happens, I woke up to the sound of it pissing down already. Hmm, I thought. The morning wore on and the rain continued and by 10:45 the cars out front were sending up sheets of water as they passed. Great skeins of rain were sweeping along the valley, obscuring my view of the hills. So much for traditional wisdom, I thought. but then, right on cue, just before eleven, the sun came out.

It was still raining, mind, but it was an improvement.

*This reminds me – and yes, I am rambling, thank you for pointing that out – of the time when I was asked by a South African at a bus stop ‘how long does the rain usually goes on for here?’ This floored me – I mean, do some countries have rain that goes on for a usual amount of time? So in the end, after some thought I replied ‘oh, anything between twenty minutes and three days’ which, coincidentally, would also have done as the answer to the question ‘when is the bus likely to show up?’**

** except in the country, of course

I am Ready for my Close-up

May 18, 2009


Clout Casting, Revisited

May 15, 2009

Hmm. A couple of weeks back, believing spring – if not summer – to be imminent, I miscalculated somewhat. Wanting to keep my carbon footprint down, and tread lightly on the earth and all that, we began the process of turning the Rayburn down, preparatory to turning it off for the summer. I had expected that it would take a few weeks at least for it to start to clog up and make that sputtering noise that signals its demise, and the plan was to let it do that, switch it off when it was spluttering its last and then get it serviced and relit when it started to grow cold again*

Readers, it took a week. We switched it off a couple of days ago and have been miserable ever since. The other half has retreated to his cave with the fan heater and I have been back in thermals, several layers and my fleece (except when I have to go outside where it is considerably warmer than indoors). It probably won’t even save us, and the planet, any oil, as we’ve just broken down and switched on the heating for the first time since February – which just goes to show how effective the Rayburn is, whatever certain Guardian Journalists Who Ought to Know Better might say. Meanwhile we now have a very large, very heavy, very cold, and rather sad looking tea-towel holder in our kitchen. And the weather has turned absolutely vile.

George M******, if you’re reading this, you win. You bastard …

*Sometime in July, if last year was anything to go by.