Leaving the House

January 20, 2011

I had a lunch date with a friend today, and though the morning was cold and frosty, the sun was out and a quick scout of the road suggested it was dry and not too slippy. I waved the other half off for his hard day of feeding the ducks and figured I’d set off at around 11:20, giving myself plenty of time to take it slowly.

It went a bit like this:

11:15 – I am in the wrong trousers (‘the Wrong Trousers, Gromit!’) so change and transfer keys into right trousers

11:18 – attempt to round up gloves, mittens, buff, hat, GPS, phone, fleece, bike bag. Have lost bike bag

11:19 – quick mental check of what I’ve forgotten, before locking door.

11:19:15 – I have forgotten GPS. Unlock door. Remember GPS is in pocket and relock door. Switch on GPS, leave it hunting satellites while I get the bike. Find bike bag still attached to the bike

11:20 – forgot to take off extra jumper (needed for sitting around the house, not for cycling). Unlock door, take off hat, take off fleece, take off buff, take off jumper, put on buff, fleece and hat, lose battle with fleece zip, swear, win battle with fleece zip, lock door again.

11:21 – attach GPS & set off. Yay!

11:22 – arse it’s cold. Why did I take off that jumper?

11:25 – first slippy bit. Road mending people have dug an enormous deep hole at the foot of the hill to get at a pipe. Fortunately they’ve put a beach’s worth of grit on the downhill bit. Ride down on my brakes anyway.

11:28 – next slippy bit, under the trees, down by the waterfall. It’s okay, if I take it slowly. Very slowly. This is not helping warm me up

11:30 – I’ve averaged 8mph so far (normal speed: 10-11 mph on average). Lunch will be cold. As will I.

11:31 – turn onto bigger road. Slippyness now extends as far as the eye can see. Proceed gingerly. It’s not as bad as it looks. I can cycle on it…

11:32 … but I’m not enjoying it. And it will only get worse. And my own personal ‘is this a good idea’ gauge (‘can you imagine this as the opening scene in an episode of Casualty?’) is flashing red. Turn around and pedal carefully back.

11:45 – ring friend and am relieved when her reply is ‘thank goodness for that’. It’s foggy and lethal down her way as well and she was going to ring to put me off but decided I could make my own decisions. We rearrange lunch.

Rearranging lunch is easy enough, but it’s not the first time I’ve had to admit defeat recently. The problem is that I can only really justify getting away with not driving the way I do if I can actually get everywhere I need to go by bike or public transport. Most of the time, I can manage, but it takes time, particularly the public transport part. But if this ice continues, I’m going to either have to admit that I’m limited in the things I can do and the places I can reliably get to by the weather (and the dark), or I’m going to have to admit that I’m dependent on lifts from others and particularly the other half, or I’m going to have to drive more. Those are the choices living out here. Well, there’s a fourth choice: the council could provide an actual useful bus service (hourly would be nice, as would running into the evening and not having to ring up the day before to book it). But as that is never going to happen, what do I do?


A Braw Bricht Moonlicht Nicht the Nicht

January 19, 2011

As of yesterday, we seem to have an entirely new and insidious kind of ice on the roads. I don’t know quite what happened – the roads don’t look icy but the surface is lethal. The bike & I got as far as the gate on my way to Bigtown yesterday and went straight back in to get the other half and the car. And it wasn’t just bikes – a friend’s husband saw ten accidents happen on the eight miles into work yesterday, car after car just sliding off the road. It’s a bit better today but there were enough invisible ice patches on the road that I didn’t fancy taking the bike down to choir. And nor, frankly, did I fancy driving – I’m not a great driver at the best of times. And getting dropped off – and picked up – for a journey of one-and-a-half miles just seemed ridiculous. So there was nothing for it but to grab a torch and walk.

Although actually the torch proved redundant for it was a lovely clear night with the full moon lighting my way far better than a few LEDs could. I still skited a bit over the ice, but at least I kept upright. And there’s something so magical about being out on a frosty moonlit night with everything so quiet and still and shadowy around me I barely even felt the cold. In this weather, there’s a lot to miss about London and its gritted roads and public transport, but for properly moonlit walks there’s no better place to be than here.

Previously on Town Mouse…

January 18, 2011

…alert readers may recall that I damaged my finger over Christmas, unwisely playing American Football with my nephews (none of this would have happened if the Americans would just play football with their feet like normal people). My finger got bent as I tried and failed to catch the ball and then proceeded to turn purple and swell up to twice its normal size. I wasn’t about to spend Christmas day in an American ER for what seemed like a trivial injury, and Dr Google prescribed ice, ibuprofen and rest so that was what I did.

mallet finger

Not really how a finger ought to be

Fast forward almost four weeks and my finger was still bent and partly swollen. I could type, which was helpful because that’s my job, but the injury was to my left hand and I’m left handed and picking up heavy things – like pint glasses, to pick an example at random – was painful so clearly something had to be done. Having consulted with my physiotherapist, who doubles as my mum, I made a doctor’s appointment & headed off to the local surgery yesterday evening expecting either the usual NHS miracle cure of ‘time heals all wounds’ or a referral to see someone else in the fullness of time, hopefully when I wasn’t working flat out to meet a deadline by the end of January. What I wasn’t expecting was to be sent straight down to A&E to get my finger splinted there and then. Apparently, what I had was a classic case of mallet finger and the only cure is to immobilise it for six weeks.

mallet finger splinted

you never know, it might work

There’s a window of opportunity with mallet finger – if you catch it and splint it in time, the tendon will generally just repair itself. Unfortunately, that window of opportunity is open for about a week. Nobody was about to come right out and say so but I was more in the territory of a window of ‘well you never know it might work and what the hell it’s cheap.’ So I’ve gone from having a partly functional if painful finger to a lump of semi-useless plastic on my dominant hand. But, as you can see, I can still type* and I can still work and while I haven’t field-tested it in the pub, I have no doubt that I can still drink. And in six weeks time, if you can bear the tension, the splint will come off and we will see if I am healed again or if I shall spend the rest of my life playing the wicked witch in panto.

All of which goes to show the dangers of relying on Dr. Google for your medical advice and the drawbacks of stoicism. I’m generally a bit of a hypochondriac, to be honest, but decided to deploy the stiff upper lip for once in my life. Never again. And for all the wonders of modern medical science, nobody would answer the really burning question that I know is on all your lips: will I ever play the ukelele again?

There’s always a silver lining, isn’t there?


If you’re here because you’re looking for information about mallet fingers and want to know how it turned out, there’s an update a year on here

* and almost at my normal speed although my typing now consist of ‘tap tap tappety-tap-tap backspace backspace tap backspace tap argh backspace backspace backspace’ rather than the fluid well-oiled machine it was of old

I’ve Got a Licence to Ride…

January 17, 2011

… don’t worry, I’m not advocating licensing for cyclists (insert rant of your choice in the comments about red-light jumping, pavement-cycling, unlit lycra-clad scofflaws, preferably via your iPhone as you weave through rush-hour traffic). No, this is via the ever-inventive Karl at Do The Right Thing who has sent me my very own bike-to-work licence (actually mine is a Bike-to-the-papershop licence) complete with space for endorsing every time I actually manage to make it down to the papershop this year. Obviously, I keep all my bike miles on a spreadsheet as well, but it did strike me that it would be good to record how many of my bike trips are actual car-replacing errands. I found over Christmas that, despite the sunshine and the nice bike path, my appetite for just going out for a bike ride was quite low; what I really wanted to do was use the bike to go and do something – whether it be book shopping or lunch or just getting a cup of coffee down town. Now that we’re back and a tank of diesel costs HOW MUCH? I reckon keeping track of the number of times I save us going somewhere in the car could have a benefit. Our car is pretty efficient but in fuel alone each 11 mile round trip to the papershop costs something like 90p. Throw in a few trips to Bigtown, the village, emergency bacon runs and the like and we’re talking significant savings. Quantifiable savings. The sort of savings that make having that ‘you know how I’ve always wanted a Brompton/Dutch bike/bakfiets…’ conversation go a little easier.

You never know, it might work.

Signs Of…

January 14, 2011

… well, not spring exactly. Spring is a strong word. But there are signs that the year is on the turn: snowdrops just poking through, ground you can put a fork in, vague glimmers of daylight even after four o’clock and the landlord’s hens producing their first egg.

Oh, and the continued production of monster parsnips

I think this is the biggest yet. I’m never chitting parsnips again, I tell you.

Let There Be Light

January 13, 2011

Last night I finally got to try out my present from Babymother, a Knog Boomer light for my bike. It was nice and bright and the ride down to the village was made much less fraught, despite patchy fog and only slightly more patchy ice.*

There are plenty of bright lights out there, and I’m sure you’ll tell me about the ones you have which are brighter, better, cheaper, lighter and generally more awesome, but that’s not the point of this post. The point of the post is the way the light fits on the bike. The light itself is covered in some sort of rubbery material which stretches round the handlebar and hooks onto a catch on the body of the light. That’s it. No brackets to get stolen, no fiddling around with screws, no instructions loosely translated from the Cantonese, and above all no swearing. I went from ‘hmmm’ to ‘ooh, nifty’ to ‘Why the &*$% aren’t all lights fitted like this, there ought to be some sort of a law’ in 30 seconds flat.

I calculate that over my lifetime not only have I had to purchase a good dozen entirely incompatible light fittings for my various bikes (some of which are still rusted onto the handlebars) but spent at least six hours of my life trying to fit and/or adjust the wretched things. I’d like that time back now, please.

*although not quite bright enough to stop me hitting a patch of dirty ice and then unwisely braking requiring me to deploy God’s stabilisers and be very thankful there was only me around on the road at the time.

Lost and Found

January 12, 2011

The other half came back from Notso Bigtown today with our week’s shopping, some ‘eco logs’*, two doughnuts and my keys. When I asked Twitter where my keys were, Twitter replied: where you left them and Twitter was absolutely right. As the other half walked into the builders’ merchant where we’d bought the eco logs last week the woman behind the counter produced my keys which had been sitting there waiting for us to return. Hurrah. Now, does anyone know where my phone is?

* actually a bit more like ‘eco pellets’ but they’re a by-product from a local joiners so cheaper than the traditional bigger heat logs and, crucially, something that you can just go into a shop and buy. Unlike seasoned hardwood which, it seems, you either have to have been born here and your father and grandfather before you, or know some magic word, or possibly both, before anyone will actually sell it to you. Apart from the £6 bags from the garage which are almost as ruinous as oil