Here be Phantoms

February 28, 2012

‘They’ve repaired that nasty pothole at least’ my neighbour remarked as she gave me a lift home from choir last week. To be honest ‘that nasty pothole’ doesn’t really narrow it down that much as after two icy winters and a year of rain our road is more pothole than anything else, but I knew the one she meant: a deep little bugger lurking just as you come round the bend from the bridge outside the village, just ready to catch the unwary wheel of a car (or a bike). It’s been filled in to the usual man-with-a-bucket-of-tarmac standards, but it has at least been filled, along with a few others on the road – signs that the year-end-spend frenzy might be upon us.

Still, filled or not, I still find as I come round that bend on my way back from the papershop that I swing wide to avoid it, or the place where it used to be. The pothole has gone but its music linger on, so ingrained is it in my muscle memory to take that corner as if it were there. The question now is which will come sooner: my finally learning I don’t need to avoid it, or the return of the pothole as the crappy patch wears away again.

Actually, don’t bother to answer that – I think we can all make an educated guess…

Questions, Questions

February 27, 2012

Dressing this morning …

“I wonder whether I can still fit into my smart trousers?”

“In fact, I wonder whether I can still find my smart trousers?”

*rummages through floordrobe, finds them at the bottom of the heap*

“I wonder how anyone will even know these are my smart trousers?”

For future reference, if it looks as if I’ve been gardening in them, they’re not my smart trousers. Unless, that is, I forgot I was wearing my smart trousers and went out gardening anyway

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

February 24, 2012

Along with other, less certain, signs of the impending spring (like being lured into wearing only one jumper by the warmth of a sheltered corner, only to subsequently regret it when you emerge into the full force of a north-westerly wind) – this morning brought us the first tentatives rehearsals of our friend the wakey wakey bird. One day, remembering that I am supposed to be some sort of a bird watcher, I will stumble blearily from my bed and identify exactly what he* is, but for now I shall content myself with lying under the covers half welcoming his return along with the brighter weather … and half wishing him, and three-and-twenty of his closest associates, baked in a pie

* something tells me it’s a he

Nothing to See Here, Move Along

February 23, 2012

While I am not, repeat not, planting anything until it’s absolutely properly spring, there’s obviously no harm in getting the bed ready for the broad beans – you know, just in case some elves come in and get your broad beans started for you when you’re not looking. And if, when you’re getting the bed ready for the broad beans which you’ve no intention of planting for ages, you were to happen to come across two heads of garlic that you had unaccountably missed when harvesting last year, and which had been happily sprouting away over the winter in the wrong place, then it absolutely does not count as planting things if you were to carefully fork them up and break them apart and then dig a hole for them in the place where you might have planted them (had you been planting things) and bury them carefully root-side down and sprouty-side up in neat little rows. No, that doesn’t count as planting stuff at all, it’s just tidying up.

It was pretty satisfying all the same, though.


February 22, 2012

There are some mornings when you wonder whether it was entirely worth getting up. Not only was the weather hideous – undoing all of the last couple of weeks’ worth of reasonably dryish weather in one night – but when I did get up, bleary-eyed, to make coffee I saw the butter dish sitting out on the table. Thinking I’d be helpful, I moved it up to its normal spot on the shelf above the Rayburn – it’s the only way it remains spreadable rather than chiselable. As I put it up I dislodged a picture that was propped up on the shelf, saved the picture but failed to save the butter dish, which shattered into approximately a million pieces. Not only that, but I’d also managed to turn off the oil flow to the Rayburn, something we didn’t notice until it was too late, the burner was out and the temperature was dropping to the floor…

Fortunately, after an anxious wait for it to cool down enough so that we could relight it and a scrabble through the instructions, the other half managed to get it going and it seems to have forgiven us, for now at least and I have managed to go the rest of the day without breaking anything, which I’m counting as a win given the way it started. And I’ve reminded myself that the only thing I’m qualified to do before I’ve had coffee of a morning is make coffee and not attempt anything more complicated than that in future. The weather hasn’t exactly improved, but then there was a guy on the radio banging on about drought and how it needed to drizzle solidly for 6 weeks in order for water shortages to be avoided, but that was never going to happen. That’s just the sort of challenge the weather gods are hardly going to take lying down, is it? I just wish they’d improve their aim.

Still, weather or no weather – and it’s definitely not no weather out there at the moment – were I in London right now I’d be on this.

Best of luck guys

A Bit Seedy

February 21, 2012

woo hoo – it’s taken its time, but our joint seed order has finally arrived which meant an excuse to go down to my gardening buddy’s for lunch and the big divvying up of the seeds…

It wouldn’t be a seed order if some of them hadn’t actually arrived yet, and others weren’t randomly different from what we’d ordered, but we got our French beans for free so we aren’t complaining. There was a fair bit of ‘what were we thinking?’ as we went through our more adventurous purchases (I mean, really, celeriac?) but mainly it’s a mix of old favourites, new adventures and crops drinking at the last chance saloon – I’m looking at you, sweetcorn. And I have definitely, definitely, definitely NOT ordered any carrots.

The tricky bit now is to contain my excitement, put the seeds away, and concentrate on getting the veg bed ready. Last year I planted pretty much everything too early and that’s always a recipe for disaster. So if you catch me sneaking a few things onto the windowsill in pots before it’s at least March, do me a favour and stop me. I’ll thank you for it in the end.

Although … maybe a few broad beans in early wouldn’t hurt… no?

See you, Jimmy

February 20, 2012

It was an exciting weekend for my bike as it returned to its ancestral home, Glasgow, albeit just for one day. The occasion was the Cycling Embassy’s infrastructure tour, which I won’t bore you with here (I’ll bore you with it elsewhere, don’t worry). Getting there on the train means a 40 minute ride to the station for the once-every-three hours, two-hour long chuffer service (it’s all of 75-odd miles, but never mind that – look at the lovely scenery!). Thus my Saturday started with me waking in the dark and listening to the rain splattering energetically against the window and wondering why I hadn’t taken up knitting advocacy or something equally indoorsy.

Fortunately, a glitch in the Weather Gods’ system meant I managed to ride to the station during the 40 minute break in the rain and was safely under the canopy discovering I’d forgotten my bike lock when the heavens opened again. And amazingly, despite a forecast bordering on the apocalyptic, another 15 or so hardy souls turned up for the event and even though we did get snowed on a little and were visited by the puncture fairy and I discovered that my back brake wasn’t working (I don’t really need to stop the bike much around here, so it doesn’t really arise. Oops), it was an interesting (adjusted for being mainly about cycle infrastructure) day out all round.

Heading back, after an after tour tour of the pubs of Glasgow looking for one that wasn’t absolutely rammed on a Saturday night – a mission akin to trying to find a decent piece of cycling provision in the average UK city – I got on a train that turned out to be full of Rangers fans (do they know that peace has more or less broken out in Northern Ireland, btw? Do you think maybe someone should tell them?) and reached Bigtown at 9pm ready for the 8 miles back – the first time I got to try out my dynamo lighting for real.

So what’s the verdict? Well the first thing is that, if anyone tells you they ‘hardly feel’ the effect of a dynamo on a bike, then they’re either lying or have legs of steel. The second is that it lights up the road like nobody’s business, possibly even better than the light I borrowed last year. The third is that a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale and a bag of chips are not, perhaps, the ideal pre-ride meal for someone who wants to test out their dynamo for the first time, although I’m not sure exactly would have been – maybe spinach?

I woke up on Sunday morning with leaden legs, feeling absolutely shattered. And then the sun came out and as we were out of milk, we did the run again in the afternoon down to the local garage and I remembered that the road back from Bigtown always feels like extra hard work, seeing as it’s uphill and into a headwind.

I reckon on balance, the dynamo adds about an extra 10 mph to the wind in your face, although it does seem to feel like harder work the slower you go; struggling up the final bit of hill at the end of a long ride was just cruel. On the plus side, the way it lights up the road means you can get up to speed on the downhill bits and take a run at the next climb. For people whose brakes have gone a bit kaput, it’s reassuring to know you’ll be able to see what’s up ahead in good time. If I were commuting home in the dark five days a week I’d probably lay out the cash to get a rechargeable system, just because I think it would be pretty wearing every day and I don’t really want to end up with the legs of Chris Hoy. But for the use I want to put it to – the occasional trip into town of an evening, and back and forth to the village, it will be fine. More than fine, in fact, if the night is as black and as starry and sparkly as Saturday was.

And now, I think it might be time to get that bike down to the bike shop for a bit of love and attention to those brakes…