March 30, 2012

It’s not just me that likes our sunny doorstep – and it’s not just the weeds either. Shortly after I’d dealt with the cheeky dandelion (seriously, will I start needing to weed indoors soon?) I came across this fellow sitting rather sluggishly in the sun, possibly wondering if he’d emerged from hibernation too soon. He certainly stuck around while having his photo taken, although I could see his heartbeat fluttering away on his side as he watched me.

Clearly he’s been almost too slow to get away from something else (the cat?) in the past

Moments later I stepped out of the door and realised I was standing right where the lizard had been… fortunately, no sign of him on the sole of my shoe, so he must have moved away at last. Here’s hoping he stays well clear of cats – and feet – until he grows a new tail.

Excuses, Excuses

March 29, 2012

Motorists’ reasons for being late: traffic, car wouldn’t start, panic buying petrol

Cyclists’ reasons for being late: bike locked in shed, unexpected headwind, having to stop to take photographs of our neighbours’ latest arrival…

… cuteness on legs.

Fun Fun Fun till Daddy Takes the Brompton Away

March 27, 2012

One of the many reasons why a Brompton is brilliant (she says, now she’s got one … did I mention I had a new Brompton at all?) is you need never be without a bike because you can take it with you almost anywhere. So if you are, to pluck an example at random, stuck in a tin box on wheels on a gloriously sunny day, going over the top of a long climb with a two mile downhill stretch towards the nearest cafe – and you have an understanding companion (who in fact insists on you doing it) – there’s nothing to stop you from getting the Brompton out of the boot and pedalling downhill as fast as your little wheels will take you. I can confirm that this is as much of a white-knuckle ride as it sounds, even with your other half driving behind you to keep the timber lorries at bay. Fortunately the road had been recently resurfaced so there were no pot holes. I only topped 20 mph, apparently, although I have to say it felt a lot faster (and WOL was right – you do have to stop grinning on the way down because trying to hack up a fly at 20mph on a Brompton is quite tricky). There was a guy ahead of us in his convertible, living the car advert dream: empty windy road, top down, wind playing lightly over his sunburnt bald head, but I bet you that pound for pound, I was getting more fun out of my ride. AND I still have all my hair.

The idea was to pull up nonchalantly at the cafe just as all the club cyclists who had sweated up the road the hard way from Selkirk stopped in for restorative bacon rolls. This would have worked better had the cafe actually been open, of course. But at least I’d had my fill of bugs on the way down…

The OTHER reason for having a Brompton is that you feel like a proper grown-up cycling campaigner (the kind that goes on the radio to talk about their campaign). Although that’s using ‘grown up’ in its loosest possible sense…

The Best Things Really DO Come in Small Packages

March 26, 2012

So I got back from the paper run this morning to find a strange shape package had arrived:

It was one of those presents that even when you open it, takes a bit of opening

But we got there in the end (we’re not going to win any competitions though).

What can I say? As anyone who reads the blog regularly or follows me on Twitter, I’ve wanted a Brompton for ages now, without being quite able to justify the cost of a new one and not wanting to inadvertently buy a stolen bike if I went secondhand. So I just kept on mentioning the fact in the hope that the Brompton Fairy worked a bit like the Puncture Fairy, only in a more benign way. And it turns out that she does – or at least it meant that when one of my mum’s friends mentioned that she had a folding bike she have bought ages ago but was no longer able to ride due to illness, Mum and the other half was able to get on the case and a deal was done.

Now the danger is that when you get something you’ve longed for for ages, the reality can’t quite live up to the hype. I’ve ridden a couple of Bromptons, and of course admired them at various Cycling Embassy meetings over the last year, but not enough to really form much of an impression of them as a bicycle, as opposed to a really handy thing to have for travelling. What struck me the minute I started unfolding it was just how nicely and solidly it was put together, and how well thought-out the whole thing is. Which is exactly what everyone else says about them, but it’s nice to experience it for myself – and even better, with MY Brompton. My very own. And it rides very nicely too. I can confirm I needed every one of the six gears on the way to and from the village though.

Obviously a Brompton is an entirely practical bike, which will make it easy for me to get about in London and attend bike protests in Edinburgh without having to book well in advance on the train. And it will be good to have a spare bike for guests and use it for when I have a lift into town but not back again and so on. In fact there are a hundred entirely sensible reasons for owning a Brompton … but none of them entirely explain the huge grin I’ve had on my face all afternoon.


As the Waters Recede…

March 25, 2012

A new contender emerges for the worst pothole repair EVAH

No one is quite sure whether this is the council’s work, or if someone just got sick of breaking their axles and chucked a couple of bags of postcrete into the hole.

In fairness, it must be quite difficult to maintain a road that’s under water 99% of the time…

… and is mostly more hole than road.

We’ve now had more than a week of sunshine, albeit interspersed with morning mists. So far I have yet to hear anyone complain of the heat, or that their garden needs a bit of rain, but it can only be a matter of time.* As it is, I have taken the following screenshot:

I’m thinking of getting it bronzed for posterity. Truly, we may never see its like again.

* we already had the ‘enjoy it, it may turn out to be our summer’ remark though. Actually we had that in January

Here it Comes, Ready or not

March 23, 2012

There’s no getting away from it – spring is here and the vegetable planting season has begun, whether I’m ready for it or not.

Actually, a couple of weeks of miraculously okay weather – and the fact that I haven’t started any new cycle campaigns for over a month now – means that I’ve more or less caught up with myself and the garden status is now:

  • winter veg eaten up and removed to make way for the next crop (well, mostly – any new leek recipes greatly appreciated)
  • beds dug over and ready for planting (well, mostly)
  • manure spread where needed (well, mostly)
  • perennial weeds dug out and roots removed for burning (well, mostly)
  • planting plan worked out and documented (well, mostly – it helps if you don’t forget the onions in your first draft)
  • seeds arrived and first lot germinating on a sunny windowsill (well, mostly. Okay, the broad beans are in and that’s about it. But I fully intend to start the peas tomorrow. And the parsnips once I’ve got the bed ready for them…)


So I’m … okay I’m a little behind but I’m no longer waking up at 4am to fret about it.

Well, mostly.

Remind me how this horticultural therapy lark is supposed to work again?

Bring on the Safety Ducks

March 22, 2012

So, it was my birthday yesterday, and there is exciting birthday-related news but you will just have to wait until Monday because that’s when I have to wait till. Suffice it to say that between them my mother and the other half have excelled themselves and it turns out that if you ask for something often enough then eventually it may actually happen. Indeed, I believe that several major world religions are based around just such a premise, though I may be simplifying a tad here.

But anyway – while you, and I, wait with bated breath, I bring you exciting news which is that the ford is almost dry* – for what must be the first time since last April. We went down to check it out for ourselves and on the way back, as we passed the smallholding we like to think of as the Petting Zoo, noticed that two of their ducks were out on on the other side of the road, enjoying the find afternoon. Just as we watched them dither on the verge, apparently deciding whether to cross for home, we heard the thunder of an approaching quarry lorry, scourge of our otherwise peaceful roads. The ducks seemed to hesitate, then think about it, then step out into the road anyway, quacking companionably to each other and making no real effort to hurry. We both winced and couldn’t quite bear to look but lo and behold the lorry – and bear in mind I’ve seen quarry lorries force whole families into the ditch without even slowing as they charge down the road – braked to a walking pace as the two ducks crossed entirely unscathed, without so much as a feather out of place.

There’s been a bit of a campaign against the lorries, which aren’t supposed to use our road at all as it’s not rated for heavy traffic, but nothing has had any effect. The alternative route takes them too far out of the way and so they will continue to cut through whether we like it or not. But now that we know they brake for ducks (though I’ve seen a couple of flattened hens, so it’s not for all poultry) then maybe all we need to do is take on a pair or two each, and let them roam… eventually it’s got to end up being quicker for them to go the long way round.

*The ‘ford closed to pedestrians‘ sign is still there, however, and we believe will be now until the end of time

Make Do and Mend

March 20, 2012

The problem with knitting your own socks, is you feel compelled to darn them too:

Clearly alpaca, while lovely and soft and warm, is not particularly hard wearing. My darning skills are about as effective as the council’s pothole mending ones but I’m hoping this way I can make them last long enough for me to knit the next pair.

And talking of potholes, look:

After two years when we’ve had nothing but road patching, last year’s mild winter has clearly left enough in the budget to put in some shiny new road! This stretch used to include a shocking section which was actually dangerous because it left you with a choice between swerving right across the road or risking coming off on what was basically loose scree. The other stretch they did wasn’t quite as bad – in fact I can’t really remember it being that bad at all, although I suspect my tolerance for potholes is quite high as I’m mostly able to go around them.

In the four years we’ve been up here, they’ve managed to do three sets of resurfacing on the Papershop village road, each amounting to about half a mile. So at the present rate of progress, they should have completely resurfaced it in, oh about another eight years.

By which time, if the last lot of shiny new road is anything to go by it should be time to start again:

It’s just like knitting socks, when you think about it.

All Change Please

March 19, 2012

the last of the parsnips…

… the first of the weeds.

Oh, okay, daisies aren’t really weeds. But they are a sign that we need to step up the cobble clearing. Now that they think they may actually finish painting the Forth Bridge, may I humbly suggest weeding our cobbles as a replacement metaphor?

Hark Hark!

March 17, 2012


It was truly glorious today, sunny and warm and definitely spring, although not *quite* so warm that setting off without my gloves on was a sensible idea (fortunately I’ve been got that way before and I had them in my pocket). I had a meeting in town and on days like today I wouldn’t have driven in for it had you paid me. I was hoping to leave in good enough time that I could pedal sedately and arrive looking sleek and cool and a true advertisement for cycle chic although in the end what happened was I was busy replying to emails until almost the last minute and then I made a last minute decision to swap my jumper for a shirt (no jumper!) and then another last minute decision to take my jacket after all, just to be safe, and then I remembered that the meeting was at the top of a biggish hill so I arrived in my usual glowing (as in ‘glowing like a horse’) condition, not aided by the fact that I only realised when I was almost there that I’d been gardening in the shirt and it showed. So that’s cycle chic as in ‘wear what you’d normally wear’ not cycle chic as in ‘actually looking chic’ – unless the gardening look is now in & the models have been stalking down the catwalk in cords with muddy knees and carefully applied dirt under their fingernails. Still, at least my jacket wasn’t on inside out, not of course that that ever happens.

But all this is by the by to what I wanted to say which was that although the swallows haven’t yet arrived (and I wish they’d hurry up because the bugs are getting out of hand already), I did at least have time to hear – and savour – the first mad twittering of a lark, invisibly high in the blue, blue sky. And if that’s a sound that doesn’t make your morning, then nothing will.