Cat and Mouse

August 31, 2011

‘You know, I could have sworn I saw a mouse go under there…’

‘Maybe I can sort of hoick it out?’

‘Or try and get it from the other side?’

‘rats, it’s made a run for the car’

(I’m not making much progress with the weeding, am I?)

If any of you are looking at those pictures and going ‘aww how cute’ (and I missed the one when she was holding the basket up with her head), she subsequently slightly spoiled the image by playing with the wretched mouse for the entire afternoon, including, apparently, picking it up and carrying it closer to the car or the neighbour’s van once it had got too tired or demoralised to run fast enough to make for decent sport…

An Onion a Day…

August 30, 2011

August is almost over, and the plot is looking a little shaggy, though it’s not too bad considering the amount of rain we’ve had.  I do seem to have grown rather a lot of onions though:

(and these are just the normal onions, the red ones are still in the ground)

Now the advice for onions is clear: dry them out thoroughly to ripen them before you store them. According to the experts, the best way to do this is to leave them in the sun for a few days or (when my fellow Scottish residents have finished laughing and/or weeping) somewhere ‘warm and dry’.

The nearest we have to that is the shed complex – well, there is the living room, I suppose, but the other half prefers the garden to stay out of the house as much as possible for some reason. Now by London standards we have an almost unimaginable amount of shed space but somehow it seems to have spontaneously generated an enormous amount of junk (not to mention the fact that one whole shed is reserved for the swallows who are generating a healthy amount of guano in it at the moment). So my first task was to try and find some space, and my second task was to bodge together some sort of an onion-drying rack. Fortunately, among the junk I managed to find enough boxes of similar height, an old clothes horse and some garden netting so, killing two birds with one stone, I created this:

They probably won’t dry anyway, because half of them are bull-necked (too much nitrogen, apparently. I will never understand the finer points of soil nutrition) but I’m still quite pleased with my bodging efforts. I leave it to you lot in the comments to tell me how I could have done it better.

Confessions of a Fair-Weather Cyclist

August 29, 2011

‘Oh so you’re a fair weather cyclist, are you?’ the guy asked as I was discussing arrangements to join a charity CTC ride over the weekend. During the five minutes we’d been on the phone, the heavens had opened and about an inch of rain had been dumped on the surrounding countryside, and I wasn’t sure I felt that a 20-mile jolly, tea and buns or no tea and buns, was going to be all that appealing if it continued

I suppose, in many ways I am a fair weather cyclist; I mostly avoid riding in the rain if I can. My schedule is more or less my own so I can generally wait it out if it’s raining and if it doesn’t stop, we use the car. And, frankly, I can’t see the point of going out for what is basically a fun ride when it’s no fun at all in the rain. Now that I’ve got the apocalypse-proof jacket, I’m more likely to risk it starting to rain when I’m on the bike, and riding in the rain usually isn’t all that bad (although it can still be quite grim if it puts its mind to it), but setting out in it? No, not if I can help it. But then, on the other hand, I cycle all through the year, through wind and ice and snow, and I wonder how many of the people who were planning on turning up on a Sunday run in August can really say that, particularly those who start off by driving to the rendezvous in their car? Not that I’m judging or anything. Well maybe a little bit, but not as much as calling someone a fair-weather cyclist.

As it happened, the weather was looking dodgy and I had stuff to do (and I actually did it too, which is something of a first) so I decided against the jolly and ended up cycling down to the garage instead for some milk, a far less scenic, but possibly more useful ride. And as I ground my way back into the teeth of a distinctly autumnal headwind, with a sprinkling of drizzle thrown in for the hell of it, any passing person might have heard the sound of muttering through clenched teeth:

‘call me a fair-weather cyclist would they? I’ll show them fair-weather cycling, I will …’

Yeah, it still rankles…

Puzzle Picture

August 28, 2011

Can you see it?

I confess I only did because I saw it in flight and watched it settle.

I don’t know if Google image search is getting better, or I’m getting better at guessing what search terms to use, but it appears to be an Angle Shades moth

Springing Up

August 26, 2011

Round here, we’re pretty used to puddles, and water running across and along the road. But lately it’s occured to me that sometimes the puddles aren’t exactly where you’d expect them – like halfway up a hill – even on those rare occasions when it hasn’t actually been raining for a day or so:

… almost as if there’s so much water in the ground it’s just seeping right through the tarmac wherever it finds a weak spot.

I mean, is that even normal? Or are we gradually reverting to the primoridial swamp?


August 25, 2011

I’m not here, tonight, I’m guesting here.

(I’m not sure if it entirely counts as a ‘guest blog’ when you’re the secretary of an organisation so they can hardly stop you from writing stuff and putting it up on their website but hey, it makes me feel like a proper grown up blogger to say I’ve done a guest blog post, so that’s what I’m calling it)

For those of you who just read on Facebook / RSS feeds and never click through to the links, here it is in its entirety:

Calling all cyclists – in fact no, not ‘cyclists’ – calling all everyone: do you want to see decent cycle paths in your neighbourhood and town? Do you want to be able to ride your bike without having to battle with traffic? Do you want not to have to plunge around a three-lane roundabout on your bike (or walk slowly around the outside to avoid it)? Do you want to see your kids cycle to school? Are you, indeed, a kid who’d like to cycle to school, or even better, home from school or to the park or to the shops? Would you like cycling to be something you decide to do because it’s the quickest, easiest, cheapest way to get around rather than because you find skydiving too tame to generate enough adrenaline? Have you ever not cycled anywhere because it just felt too scary to do so? Or do you feel you can only cycle helmeted and girded for battle, poised to accelerate out of trouble, with all five senses doing overtime, all the time? Have you ever looked across the North Sea at what they’re doing for bikes in the Netherlands or Denmark and thought, you jammy lot, why can’t we have even a tenth of that over here?

And have you ever thought, yes, but it will never happen and there’s nothing I can do about it anyway?

There is something you can do. It may not work, it may be a futile quixotic gesture, it may end in failure and disappointment. But it’s something and it’s a lot easier than learning Dutch and moving to Amsterdam would be.

You can go on a picnic.

Yep, it’s as easy as that. A picnic on the 3rd September in Central London, at the official launch of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. With your bike. And your kids (or someone else’s – just ask their parents’ permission first) and your mum or dad or gran or grandad or cousins or anyone else who wants to show up and say: ‘yes, we would like to be able to ride our bikes in safety and comfort every day.’ Because riding a bike should be as easy as riding a bike. Because riding a bike should be a bit of a picnic, every day.

And if you can’t make it to our picnic – and we know London’s a long way off for many – how about this: have your own picnic. Dress up a bit, and make a day of it. Bring your family. Bring your bikes. Take a photo of it all and send it to us and we’ll add them to our site and to our virtual picnic, all around the country.

You never know, it might work.

I’ll see you there, I hope.

Help! Send Irishpeople!

August 24, 2011

We’re getting behind with the potatoes.

These are just some of the second earlies – we’ve only just got through the Shetland Darks – and there’s another whole bed to come, not to mention two full beds of maincrops. While the mains should store reasonably well in hessian sacks inside cardboard-lined metal dustbins (although who has actual sacks any more these days? My other gardening friend had to order hers specially off the internet at vast expense), the earlies need eating up and I had fondly imagined we would keep up with them as they grew. I have no idea why I imagined this as we didn’t last summer or the summer before, but there you go. We just don’t eat potatoes all that much in the summer. The other half and I have enough Irish ancestry between us that we should be sitting down to a plate of spuds with every meal but somehow the rival delights of rice, spaghetti or nice crusty bread always seem to trump the tatties (in fact, left to himself, the other half wouldn’t bother with any starch at all). It’s a shame because everything else in the veg patch is looking pretty weedy (with the exception of the weeds, of course) while the potatoes have been going great guns. I suppose I should just admit defeat, bow to the climate and grow nothing but neaps and tatties. Of course, the year I do that will be the year the blight hits

Still, with the weather the way it’s been, the Rayburn should be going on again soon. And then we’ll be in the market for all those big comforting hearty meals that need a plateful of spuds to balance them out…

The Auld Alliance

August 23, 2011

(there’s a bench that my parents own on which pretty much all the new arrivals and additions to the extended family get their photos taken. I think we might have to start a similar tradition for our ever-expanding bike stable)

I don’t know. I keep taking pictures of this bike and they don’t really capture the essence of it, somehow. You’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s a bike with real presence and though in no way a ‘cycle chic’ bike it is exceedingly stylish in a very French way.

Oh and it’s fast. I realised as I pedalled sweatily after the diminishing dot on the horizon that, new bike or no new bike, I was not going to be getting any sort of sort of company on the way down for the paper because it doesn’t appear to do ‘slow’ – in fairness, the other half did try – and so my preferred style of pootling along at chatting speed wasn’t going to cut it. I had hoped that the difference in our speeds before was mainly due to the fact that in France I was on an old mountain bike I’d dug out of a shed, but no. Even on my own bike, the only way I could keep up at all was to get right onto the other half’s wheel and stay tucked in out of the headwind while pedalling like the clappers. And while that’s fun once in a while (and I think we did the papershop run in record time) it takes almost as much concentration as riding in traffic if you’re not going to end up catapulting off the road at the first touch of the brakes.

We celebrated the bike’s first proper Scottish outing by buying a big jar of Nutella – well, it was on special offer, after all. No baguettes, but maybe after a few more rounds of Nutella toast the other half will have slowed sufficiently that I can keep pace with him in the hills. Until then, this is about the only chance you’ll get to see our two bikes side by side:

The Best Things Come in Small Packages

August 22, 2011

Guess what arrived by courier today from France?

It’s still being extensively fettled in the shed, but I’m hoping for some company down to the papershop tomorrow…

Friends don’t Let Friends Grow Carrots

August 21, 2011

‘What I don’t understand,’ said my gardening friend as we peered at the cossetted handful of carrots I had managed to produce, ‘is how they manage to sell them so cheaply in the shops.’

I had been explaining to her the process by which I had – through diligent chitting, growing on, planting out, covering under cloches, losing most to slugs and repeating several times – raised precisely a dozen carrots. I have not pulled any of them up because, if the last lot of carrots is anything to go by, they never ever look as good as they do when they’re still in the ground and you can’t see what devastation lurks below. And it’s not as if I even like the things. I really should remember that when the seed catalogues are weaving their dangerous magic.

Next year, I swear, if I so much as hint I’m planning to plant them again, you have my full permission to come round and hit me with a stick until I come to my senses. Think of it as an intervention.

See also: tomatoes.