Nobel Tree

April 30, 2010

Outstanding in its own field.

One Wheel on my Wagon

April 29, 2010

There are days when cycling is just a matter of pedalling down empty rural lanes in the spring sunshine, the blackthorn bursting into flower all around you, birds singing, sheep fleeing, scattering cheery nods and waves to all as you fly past them with the wind at your back.

And there are days when your front wheel comes off.

Not, I hasten to add, when I was in motion. I had been in Bigtown to visit the library, and attend a meeting which had then been cancelled – it was shaping up to be one of those days, frankly – and I had gone on, down the river path to look at an art-cum-performance-cum-tidal-power installation that was shut down at the time of my visit. As I turned to go home, I heard a strange rubbing noise, looked down and saw that my front wheel had come out of its front wheel attachy things (you’ll excuse the technical term) and the nuts holding it on had worked themselves loose. Aargh. Naturally this happened on the day I’d not bothered with my phone because really, what could go wrong on a jaunt into Bigtown and back? I managed to get the wheel back on, but crooked, and had to limp two miles back with the front brake alternately not working and rubbing to the nearest bike shop (which was closed) and then the second nearest bike shop where a very nice young man managed to get it back on straight by hitting it with a hammer*.

‘How could such a thing have happened?’ I asked.

‘The only way is if someone didn’t put it on properly in the first place,’ he said.

Ah. That someone would be me. About two months ago I had to take the wheel off to get it in someone’s car to go for a ride, and I’d been foolhardy enough to put the wheel back on myself the second time as it seemed pretty straightforward…not in my hands, obviously. Anyway, I cycled back, into the wind, two pounds poorer and somewhat shaken in my belief that I was beginning to get the hand of these bicycle things. the other half is going to have to have a good look at my bike to see if any other important bits are in the process of coming off. Meanwhile, I think a bicycle repair course for the mechanically challenged may well be in order…

* It was a little more complicated than this, but that seemed to be the thing that did the trick. Indeed, I was a bit relieved that it took him a certain amount of monkeying about with it to get it straight, so it wasn’t just me being an idiot, but that may just be standard bike shop mechanic courtesy towards distressed female customers who have something ludicrously simple wrong with their bikes

And After all that Excitement…

April 28, 2010

…I feel I should calm your nerves with an update on the vegetable growing situation. Yeah, I know, be still your beating heart. But it really is all go on the garden front, or at least the windowsill front:

(these pictures predate the french bean which has decided to come up upside down, seriously freaking out the other half. More on that as the story develops)

And I would be seriously remiss if I didn’t fill you in on interim results on my parsnips. Previously on TownMouse, last year’s parsnips did not come up at all, apart from one seedling which promptly disappeared. This year, I went for a belt and braces approach, both chitting and potting on some of my parsnips. I successfully raised twelve, which were planted out with great care and ceremony and coddled under bottle cloches through the spring frosts. I also planted out my curly wurly parsnips, and some that I’d just chitted in a spirit of experimentation to see which method brought the best results. And then, mostly for completeness’s sake, I planted some unchitted seed as well. More than a month later, the chitted-and-potted (and suited and booted) parsnips are doing quite well, although one has vanished:

The curly wurly parsnips are down to just two, but they’re the biggest of the lot:

(picture not to scale!)

And the chitted ones are coming up quite nicely, if patchily, as well:

As are, er, the unchitted ones:

So what does it all mean, apart from the fact that I have absolutely no idea how best to germinate my parsnips? I think I’ll have to wait and see what the yield is. Watch this space, there will be numbers.

Oh and I think I may owe an apology to my broccoli, which is sprouting everywhere now. Hurray! It’s helping the spreadsheet for last year’s season creep ever closer into profit.

And it’s pretty too…

Boobquake: and the Results are in

April 27, 2010

I think you’ll find they’re pretty impressive:

Cor, look at the spike on that

Day after day of carefully crafted posts on the weather, knitting, gardening and going on bike rides are met with relative indifference, and then one post on boobs sends my hits through the roof. Cuh. Typical.

Oh, you meant the earthquakes. Well, analysis of both frequency and intensity have shown no significant increase in earthquake activity during the period of Boobquake. Sorry guys, you’re going to have to find someone else to blame.

Back to normal tomorrow…

Storm in a D-cup

April 26, 2010

I cannot let today pass without mentioning that today is boobquake. In the name of science, women are invited to dress as immodestly as they can, in order to see whether it does, indeed, cause an increase in the number of earthquakes. Sadly, as I’m not particularly endowed in that department (and the day I was patted down in Belfast airport by the security chap as he had taken me for a boy and he didn’t notice his mistake is still engraved upon my soul. I grew my hair after that), I’m not sure my puny cleavage will add to the effect. But if the sun comes out any more I’m planning on taking off my jumper and believe me, that’s quite a step for Scottishkind.

If you’re reading this and you’ve got the wherewithal, join in! It’s science! And besides, it should be fun. Thanks to Aviatrix to the heads (or some other part of the anatomy) up.

Do you Tweet Under your own Name?

April 24, 2010

You know, I could have signed up to twitter aaaaages ago. I remember when it first began to appear on the radar and I toyed with the idea of signing up then, like all the cool kids were. But I recognised that it had the potential to be the crack cocaine of blogging and I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend my life tweeting ‘I’m on the loo’ to anyone who was interested (and then obsessively checking my stats to see if anyone actually was). Then, of course, Stephen Fry got stuck in a lift and Twitter got really big, and it seemed like it was too late to sign up without looking like one of those me too people who signs up for everything they’ve read about in the Technology Guardian*. So I sat it out and waited for twitter to go the way of Friends Reunited and Second Life and all my favourite bloggers to come back and write proper posts instead of chatting to their twitterbuddies in the sidebar of their blogs. By then I’d found out, rather reluctantly, that twitter was actually quite useful for keeping track of breaking stories and not just a load of people telling each other what they’d had for lunch. But that still didn’t make it something I was going to do myself – my life is barely filled with enough incident to feed the blog, let alone keep up a constant stream of commentary:

Oooh, car gone past. And another one. And a tractor. It’s like Picadilly Circus up here.

But Twitter showed no sign of going away. Not only that, but not having a twitter account was becoming a bit like not having an email address, or a mobile phone: it wasn’t making me look as though I was being a bit cool and reticent and not jumping on the latest bandwagon, it was making me look like somebody’s grandmother. So I have cracked, and done the deed – look out for articles in the popular press about the ‘death of twitter’ any moment now. That’s usually what happens when I join in the latest craze, after all.

All that was left was for me to choose a username. No doubt, if I had signed up back when I first thought of it I could even have been ‘disgruntled’ but that has gone. So I’ve decided to tweet under my real name, or as much of it as I can reasonably fit into a twitter handle (they wanted to leave off the last ‘e’! Don’t they realise that makes me come from Lancashire instead of Yorkshire? Can’t have that). You can follow me here, and please do because I look a bit of a Norma NoMates at the moment.

Anyway, must go, because Twitter is calling. There’s three cars gone past in the last half hour, for one thing…



April 23, 2010

My friend rang yesterday, all excited. I’m a bit surprised, because I’d only just been on the phone to her that morning arranging our next ride. But she’s found a bike! She came off the phone to me and drove up the road to where a young lad has opened up a business selling bikes and found herself a great second hand bike for 45 quid. ‘What kind of bike is it?’ I ask. ‘Purple,’ she replies. ‘I’ve got some ankle boots with four inch heels that will really go with it.’

Naturally I had to go up and have a look for myself, while my friend was getting her mudguards fitted. He’s getting bikes from police auctions and car boot sales and the like and doing them up for a modest profit. They’re mostly the sort of bikes you see around here, hybrids and mountain bikes, but there’s a few real gems and nothing at more than 90 pounds.  Fortunately, I’d left my money and my cards behind so I couldn’t buy anything myself, but I think there will need to be a better equipped expedition up there shortly for a real poke around. After all, we’ll need a couple of bikes for any guests we have to ride, and maybe a winter bike for me to ride, and the other half could do with something faster than his current bike. And a folder would come in handy, maybe for a trip to London or beyond. And, who knows, I may revise my opinion of mountain biking or even take up cyclocross. And did I mention he had a unicycle? Yes, there’s always a reason why one could buy another bike.

Meanwhile my friend is looking at her new bike with a glint in her eye and planning some improvements in the way of bike bling. ‘What this bike needs…

I think the local economy is about to get a bit of a boost.

Till my Fingers Bleed

April 22, 2010

Alert readers will remember that it’s been just over a month since I got my new ukulele and I have absolutely no doubt that you’re all waiting with bated breath to find out how I’m getting on. Well, I have been practising it regularly (it strikes me that if I’d put as much effort into practising any of the many instruments I’d tried and failed to learn as a child, I might actually have got somewhere by now. Truly, youth is wasted on the young), although much of that time is spent checking on the progress of and admiring my callouses – typing currently feels a little wierd where I’ve been hardening my fingertips by holding down the strings. I haven’t quite mastered Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – although surely it’s only a matter of time – but I did eventually find the excellent (but sadly unfinished) Uke School and finally got to the point where I could not only play a song with chord changes, but play it at the speed at which it was normally sung. Okay, so the song in question is ‘Happy Birthday’, but everybody’s got to start somewhere. So last night, as I was demonstrating my prowess to the other half (he was not impressed), he decided to look up the Guardian’s birthday column to find someone whose birthday it was so I could sing it for them, because it’s a bit wierd singing it to anyone else.

Which is how we found ourselves last night sitting at the kitchen table, singing Happy Birthday to the Queen. Truly, life does not get much more rock and roll than this.

Broken Britain

April 21, 2010

I got back yesterday to the news that somebody has flytipped an old cooker in the clear-felled bit of forest down the road. I was going to report it, but I checked the council website and found they’ll only act if it’s on council land and it’s up to the landowner if it’s anywhere else. There is a number you can ring, but that’s only for dobbing someone in if you’ve seen them flytipping, not for getting it cleared up. It’s a bit tough on the landowner having to get rid of someone else’s rubbish, but if it isn’t cleared soon it will only attract more dumped waste. Grrr. We might as well still be living in Lambeth where there were dumped kitchen appliances under every railway bridge, possibly gone feral and almost certainly breeding.


the depths they'll sink to

But that isn’t all. We saw the council van down working on the ford this afternoon and naturally we had to go and have a look and a chat. They were taking advantage of the dry weather to fix the epic potholes the frost had left and clear out the blocked pipes under the road bed (we may have trouble reaching any new high scores if this goes on). We pointed out the broken plank on the foot bridge and the chatty chap told us how his colleague had driven the snow plough down the one-in-five hill last winter (‘you just point it down the hill, and let it go where the road takes you’). And then we admired their pothole filling progress (quick drying cement is the key, apparently). ‘We only fixed it last year and now look at it,’ he said. ‘And we had to replace the water depth level signs because someone had pinched them. They’re made of aluminium, you see, so they’re worth money. They’re riveted on now, but if someone wants them, they’ll take them.’

Seriously, is nothing sacred? Still, maybe if the metal prices go up again, the cooker problem will solve itself…

Trains, Trains and Automobiles

April 20, 2010

This is never going to work, I thought to myself as I had a closer look at the schedule National Rail had helpfully given me. I had just spent two days in Nottingham catching up with an old friend and was attempting to get home and, while the UK train network is very good (I mean, adjusted for being the UK train network) at getting people into the Great Wen and back out again, it’s not really designed for getting people swiftly and easily from one non-Great Wen bit of the country to another. So here I was, about to take a bus followed by four trains (run by four different train operating companies, natch) each with no more than a 9 minute interchange between them. How could that possibly work?

Would you believe me if I said ‘like clockwork’? No, really. And this despite one leg of the journey being on one of those one-car chuffers that meandered to Crewe via such places as Blythe Bridge, Longport and possibly even Royston Vasey. The only hiccup came at the end when the other half was late picking me up because he’d been stuck behind a tractor, but that’s the sort of delay I can handle. And now I’m home, shattered (I’d blame the trains but I think some alcohol may have been involved at some point) and plotting how not to go anywhere anytime ever again.

And thanking my lucky stars I wasn’t trying to fly…