October 31, 2011

It’s definitely the time of year when a blogger’s mind turns to the problem of cold feet and, specifically, knitting socks. I’ve long had it in mind to try and recycle some of my old moth-eaten jumpers (and with the coming of the colder weather I’ve found they’ve had a nibble at my merino base layers as well, the bastards) into knitting projects, if not actually something useful.* I have one particular alpaca jumper which, while lovely and soft and stripey, also turned out to be particularly yummy to the moth palate. As I also wasn’t entirely enamoured with its style, although I love the colours, I’ve decided that it shall be transformed into alpaca socks instead, which should, frankly, keep me busy for the rest of the decade.

So far so good …

… though hopefully at least one pair will be finished before spring

(and yeah, I know you’re supposed to wash and straighten out the unravelled wool before knitting with it but it seems to knit fine as it is so I filed that one under ‘life’s too short’, along with stuffing mushrooms and ironing).
* There was one comedian – was it Jack Dee? – who had a routine about wicker making classes as occupational therapy, with wicker-unravelling classes going on in the room next door…

Battle of the Bands

October 28, 2011

As I may have mentioned before, there’s a fairly large English contingent within the village choir, amounting to about half its members. In order to make a feature of this, the choirmistress had the idea of some sort of sing off between the two groups, with the English half singing an English song and the Scottish half a Scottish one. I think she had the idea of a medley of music from two distinct, yet complementary folk traditions, bouncing off each other in an exciting and engaging way. The only problem was that, on the English side – philistines that we are – we none of us knew any English folk songs while on the Scottish side they knew some lovely ones but Scottish songs do tend towards the gloomy being mostly about exile, loss and longing with a side order of the odd light massacre. As we were all in the mood for something a little more upbeat and a little less wistful, the search for suitable songs got widened somewhat and, musically speaking, possibly went a little bit downhill.

Which is why the highlight of the next village music evening is likely to be the great musical showdown between ‘My old Man’s a Dustman’ and ‘Donald where’s your troosers’.

I for one cannot wait.

Cattle in the Mist

October 27, 2011

There was a moment yesterday morning when the sun struggled through and the whole countryside started to steam gently

Since then we’ve had nothing but rain, interspersed with heavy showers. A break in one of the latter has at least given me a chance to have a go at one of my favourite post-wet-weather activities, de-flooding the road outside the house. It takes a surprisingly small amount of leaves to completely block up the storm drains, turning the road into a minor canal. Fortunately this means that only a small amount of poking about with a stick very quickly clears the blockage with a very satisfactory gurgling sound and within half an hour the road is back to road (albeit wet road) and I can feel like I’ve done my bit.

If only everything was as easy and as satisfying to sort out, Mr Cameron and his big society would be onto something. Sadly, there are very few other problems that can be resolved by poking them with a stick, whatever the more disciplinarian wing of the Tory party might believe.

Escape Velocity

October 25, 2011

So there I was, happily shovelling manure into a wheelbarrow (bet you all wish you had MY life) on a not-actually-raining-at-the-moment afternoon, when a sinking sensation alerted me to the fact that the pool of liquid, um, something around the manure heap was busily ingesting my wellies. My feet were, in fact, vanishing into the mire and exploratory movements indicated that while I might fairly easily get them out, my wellies wouldn’t be coming too and the only thing worse than standing in a quagmire made of festering liquid horsepoo in your wellies was being standing in a quagmire made of festering liquid horsepoo in your socks.

Now fortunately, it was for just this occasion that I had read and memorised the advice on how to escape from quicksand in the Worst Case Scenario Survival handbook which lives handily beside our loo. The thing about quicksand (and, I imagine, quickmud and quickpoo) is that it flows like water, but slowly. Attempting to move your foot creates a vacuum which, as we all know, nature abhorrs. The answer is to move slowly, allowing the quickpoo to reassemble itself in the gap that’s left and releasing your body part – or welly boot – with a satisfying squelching noise.

Flushed with this success, I’m now looking forward to tackling all the other scenarios the book covers, from breaking a door down right through to alligator wrestling, landing a light plane, fending off sharks and jumping out of third floor windows into a skip full of cardboard boxes. And no, I’ve no idea under what circumstances that last one might arise, but I can assure you that when it does, I will be ready for it.

Dereliction of Duty

October 24, 2011

I have a grave confession to make. There we were, making our regular ford depth inspection visit, on a blustery but dry afternoon, when our attention was caught by the sight of something dark and sinuous slipping into the river downstream. The other half had seen it first, then I caught a glimpse later – never more than a sliver of movement and the tiniest splash, followed by a line of ripples on the water’s surface. Even so, it was unmistakeably an otter, the first one we’ve seen so close to home and a cheering sight on a very autumnal day.

It was only as we were half way home that I realised that, in all the excitement, neither of us had stopped to note the level in the ford.

It’s hard to know how the world will cope until we can update you on it tomorrow.

Wardrobe Malfunction

October 21, 2011

With the return of the cold mornings, it’s been time to start warming my clothes on the Rayburn before getting into them. And, as night follows day, remembering too late that anything with metal on it (such as, to pick an example at random, a bra clasp) should not be allowed to get too hot…

Then, as if to emphasise that I shouldn’t really be allowed out on my own, I lost yet another glove in town yesterday. However, I did at least manage to lose the right one, so the number of functioning pairs of gloves I have – at least if you don’t look too closely at them – is still one. Ha! This counts as competent in my book.

You’d never know I used to hold down an actual proper job, would you?


October 20, 2011

I had to be in town last night and cycled back with my borrowed light (which I reluctantly surrendered to its owner today), eight miles on mostly unlit, potholed, puddled roads, a journey I normally only ever tackle when there’s a full moon (or I think there is). By the time I’d left the limits of the town it was a clear and sparkly frosty night, completely dark with the moon not yet risen and all the stars above me. I encountered only one car, and one rabbit, and for the rest I had the road to myself until I passed one track and heard a shuffling of hooves and saw a huddle of (there’s no getting around this) rather sheepish looking sheep wondering if I was the farmer come to round them up. I left them to their adventure and sailed on, the only noise the sound of my bike (must oil that chain) and my breathing because I was going faster than normal to keep warm. At the top of the last hill I stopped and looked upwards just to enjoy the night sky and the incredible spread of stars above me. I stood there till my glasses steamed up and then I pedalled the last half mile home, looking forward to the moment of getting in and getting warm beside the stove.

I know I’ve already written about this light (and read the comments for some extensive and knowledgeable – not from me, I hasten to add – discussion about bike lighting), but this is not a review or anything as practical as that. It’s just an attempt to capture how liberating it is to be able to ride like the wind under the turning stars even as the first frost settles on the road.

Magical, in fact.