November 20, 2009


There was a moment yesterday when I thought we really were going to be underwater. The waves were lapping at the entrance to the other half’s chief shed, and already creeping up the garage floor. With the bikes and other vulnerable stuff moved to higher ground, we had to drive to Notso Bigtown, wondering what we would be coming back to. Coming back, through driving rain we saw the jewelled glint of eyes in the hedgerow – a dozen miserable sheep, huddled in what little shelter there was.


But fortunately, the waters had begun to recede before we went to bed last night and this morning the yard was clear, the sun was out and the wind was drying up the worst of it. I even cycled down to get the paper, although I came back soaked from the knees down, having had to negotiate more floods than I had ever seen before. The ground is completely and utterly saturated now, and every dip and hollow is an impromptu lake, every ditch and stream is overflowing. Parts of Bigtown are still underwater, and there’s more rain to come, although not on the scale we’ve seen this week.

But never mind all that, I hear you cry, what news of the ford? Well, such is our dedication to the blog that yesterday morning, before all the drama began, we headed out in the rain to check the level. And I think you’ll agree that this time we have a new high score.


(You’ll note that this is not photographed from the traditional angle. But that would have meant crossing the bridge and you know what? I didn’t fancy it…)


Forget Sandbags, Send Gopherwood

November 19, 2009

Met Office: bringing joy across the nation

‘I hope you aren’t washed away,’ a friend emailed last night having seen the forecast – our London friends do seem to like to keep track of our weather, and let us know when it’s shaping up to be truly dreadful. I was initially inclined to pooh-pooh the Met Office and its dire forecasts and severe weather warnings, particularly for ‘heavy rain’. I mean, how bad could it be? But that was before we realised that the reason why our front yard hadn’t flooded yet was because the flood was building up in the back and – when the other half had cleared the blockage that was threatening to overwhelm the damp proof course (apparently we have one…) – is now also flooding in the front. We have deployed our only sandbag, and are now moving things out of the most threatened of the other half’s shed empire onto higher ground.

There’s more to say, and pictures, but if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and google ‘cubits’ and work out how to build an ark.

Nothing but a Number

November 18, 2009

November’s been a fairly rubbish month for cycling. Well, for most things, actually, but what with the weather and everything else I’ve been out on the bike just a handful of times. This is bad for the body and bad for the soul but most of all it’s bad for my numbers, and particularly my unofficial New Year’s resolution goal of increasing my Eddington number by one every month, not that numbers are important at all in cycling, ahem*. My problem is that I’ve been pretty successful to date and my E number is now 20. My tactic for increasing it is to aim for a ride at least two miles longer than the number I’m currently working on – to get a few more for the next target under my belt – which means planning rides of at least 23 miles these days. As my longest regular ride is 20 miles, even with the odd mapping detour (which are getting harder to come by), progress is definitely slowing down.

But today is a Wednesday, the day that the BNCC – a sort of Cycle Social unplugged, now I come to think of it – meet up and the weather was not as horrible as had been promised. I checked the schedule for their next meeting point and I could make it if I hustled. So, without stopping to think too hard about it, I hopped on my bike and was off. We’ve had some really biblical weather recently, and the roads were fairly flooded, it was cold and it was grey but the rain held off long enough for me to get there and back undrenched. I made in time for tea and chat and some rather excellent parsnip soup. And then I plugged my way home again, tireder, colder, achier and much much happier than I have been for a while. Thirty miles of November riding will do that to a person, I find.

*Ok, maybe a bit.

Feeling Social?

November 17, 2009

JustWilliams alerted me to the existence of Cycle Social, a sort of Facebook (gearbook?) for cyclists. I joined, partly because I was momentarily startled by the existence of an actual member in the area – people aren’t very wired around here as a rule. Looking at it more closely, I can see that it could become just another online discussion forum for cyclists, and a place for people to gather behind their screens and reinforce their prejudices and point and laugh at other people who are, in some way, doing it wrong. But then again, it could also become something much more interesting than that – a place where people who cycle could find out about other people who cycle and even – you know, if they wanted to – go and meet up with them. Go on a bike ride even. Out there in the real world.

So if the thought doesn’t bring you out in hives, why not join up? They’re in the middle of discussing how best to improve the site and make it more of a social thing, rather than just a cycling thing, so now’s your chance to shape it into something you might like. And it seems to me it might just be a good central point for anyone who’s interested in promoting cycling – fast, slow, and all speeds in between – to get together with others and feed their obsession, sorry that should say healthy and wholesome hobby.

Or it might just turn out to be another talking shop, in which case it will be a pity, but it will have been worth a try all the same. I’ll be there to see how it turns out, so if you see me, give me a wave (you’ll know me, because I’m the one dressed as a penguin).

You never know, it might turn out to be fun

Scottish Stuff for Scottish People

November 16, 2009

Oh goody, an email from the Scottish Book Trust advertising a one-day seminar that would be right up my street. Packed full of useful and interesting stuff, and a bargain at £15 to boot. I download the booking form, but that is as far as I get for it is not for me: I may live in Scotland, pay my taxes in Scotland, even have been partially educated in Scotland, but this is for graduates of Scottish Universities and Scottish Universities only.

There can be – how shall I put this? – a provincial air to Scotland at times. What I would call a little-Englandish mindset, were it a few miles further south. Last summer there was a nasty spat between the RSPCA and the SSPCA about the RSPCA daring to advertise in Scotland when any money donated would end up rescuing English (or Welsh or Irish) dogs and not their Scottish brethren, while everybody else just scratched their heads and wondered why we needed two charities doing exactly the same thing on different sides of the border and spending good time and money having a turf war over it to boot. But it’s not just them. There’s Scottish versions of pretty much every charity – even the poppies, I noticed, surely a national symbol if ever there was one, announce that they are Scottish poppies, for a Scottish charity. I’m not begrudging the Scots their share of the cake (indeed, I’m happy to partake in the much more generous Scottish system myself, and very grateful that the rest of the country feels obliged to bribe them to stay in the union), but it’s not exactly Culloden we’re remembering on November the 11th. Although actually, up here maybe it is.

But then, I suppose, the Scots have to compensate a little for their centuries of occupation, their total exclusion from mainstream British society, and the BBC’s habit of ending all weather forecasts with the words ‘and finally, Scotland…’. After all, America might have elected a black president at last, but how many more years will this oppressed and noble people wait before you can imagine Britain having a Scottish Prime Minister?

…oh no, hang on, wait…


November 15, 2009





It is now fixed, with the help of Google and a community of  people out there who like their keyboards to be really, really clean and who tell you all about it on the internet. There are two ways to clean a laptop keyboard, apparently. The official way is to use a can of compressed air but really, I draw the line at buying a tin of air. The other way is to lever off all the little keys and clean out underneath them, which is not recommended.

So, after some thought – and having had a poke about with a little rubber bulb thing that blew non-compressed air – I naturally had a go at removing the keys. I didn’t go for the space bar straight away – I’m not that reckless – but after 17 years working in IT I had never had cause to use the ‘Alt Gr’ key, so I decided to practise on that first. Then having mastered removing and replacing that I moved onto the ‘B’ key, being near the middle of the space bar. First I removed an impressive amount of fluff, which helped a little bit, but still the space bar was sticking. Then I had a bit more of a rummage about and managed to hoick out a stone.

To give you an idea of the scale, it was like this, but smaller. Although not much. Seriously, who on earth gets gravel in their keyboard? Had it been chocolate biscuit crumbs, it would have been understandable, but not stones. Perhaps it was left there by the ants?

Close Encounters of the Furred Kind

November 13, 2009

I don’t think I shall ever tire of all the wildlife I encounter on my bike, always excepting the flies. Today, besides a red squirrel crossing, and the usual quota of buzzards, I found myself following a tiny little rabbit scampering along the road. After a while, realising it wasn’t going to get away, it bounded into the grass on the verge* and hunched down pretending it wasn’t there, even as I stopped to have a closer look. Too cute, and naturally I had no camera with me so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

And coming back the other day I came across one of its bigger, faster cousins. I don’t often see hares on the road, but when I do I always like to race them even though I never win. This time, even going downhill, whenever I got close the hare just picked it up a gear and raced away until I sat up and let it have the victory, not wanting to chase it full pelt around a corner and under the wheels of a tractor. One of these days I’ll have my GPS on the bike during one of these encounters and I’ll let you know just how fast a hare can go. Or at least, given I never catch them, just how fast a hare can go minus a bit, when it’s not really trying. For the absolute top speed, I’m going to have to get into some serious training.

* making it some kind of bunny genius