Bah Humbug

December 31, 2012

By the time you read this, we’ll be seeing in the New Year on a plane flying from Newark to Glasgow.

I’m hoping that any self-respecting Glaswegian will have already got themselves home for Hogmanay and we’ll have a nice empty flight, but I have a bad feeling that we may very well be spending the evening with a plane full of pissed-up Weegies. Still, as being trapped and kept up all night with a load of drunks is what your average New Year’s Eve feels like anyway, we might as well get both horrors over with in one go. In fact, the worst part of the journey will likely be getting from Glasgow to Bigtown on a day when the entire public transport system of Scotland is either shut down or hungover. And then getting ourselves acclimatised again to rural plumbing after three weeks of fire-hose strength showers.

Here’s hoping you have a pleasant and enjoyable New Year and a splendid and prosperous 2013.


More Touristing

December 30, 2012

With the last few days of our holiday suddenly upon us it’s time to do all the things we like to do when we’re here, which includes a visit to the local raptor rehabilitation centre.

We were there for the advertised 1pm talk but when the director (and sole employee) bounced in and suggested it was too cold for sitting and would we like a behind the scenes tour instead (carefully designed so that we could stand in the sun as much as possible) we jumped at the chance.*

flight cage

Flight cage where the birds learn to fly again. And another chance to post a picture of that Colorado sky

Like all these places it’s a labour of love as much as anything else. Even the rats get a good life, up to the point where they become raptor food – at one point they were discussing the possibility of putting up cold frames to grow lettuce organically year round to feed to the rats to feed to the birds. I suppose, when you’re looking after something at the top of the food chain, every link is important. Birds that had been run over by trucks, birds that had been trampled by their nest mates, even one bird that had flown into an electricity substation (they may be magnificent but they’re not generally all that bright) – all being nursed back to health to mainly be set free if there’s any chance of their survival. For us it was the chance to get up close and personal with birds that are generally no more than a passing blur – like the most gorgeous albeit elderly peregrine falcon, who’d lost none of her splendid presence despite a touch of arthritis. Or a tiny little owl – barely sparrow sized – sitting basking under a heat lamp. Or a turkey vulture who just wanted to come out and play.

Bald Eagles

Rare two-headed bald eagle. Oh all right, two bald eagles, both about 40 years old, which is about 90 in eagle years.

I was too fascinated to take many pictures and my phone wasn’t really up to the challenge anyway but here’s the best I could do. And if you’re down Pueblo way I recommend a visit – it’s free, but they’ve a lot of rats to support so I’m sure a donation would be very welcome.

Juvenile Peregrine falcon, who may be able to be released into the wild once it's regained its strength

Juvenile Peregrine falcon, who may be able to be released into the wild once it’s regained its strength

*For the last few mornings we’ve been waking up and it’s been 5 degrees. And if you’re thinking, well that’s a bit nippy but not bad for December then you’re thinking in celsius. 5 degrees Farenheit is -15 in real money. It does warm up during the day, but you definitely want to be in the sunshine if you can


Monumental

December 29, 2012

union_depot_1
So we’ve been touristing today, with a trip to the historic downtown area to see the Union Depot, which used to be the railway station, back when the city was served by no fewer than five rival train companies (and we can see how well *that* sort of competition worked out, given that there’s now no passenger trains at all).

union_depot_3

They certainly knew how to build a railway station, back then, and it’s been beautifully restored, complete with some charming period detail – and some slightly less charming ones, albeit perhaps not so very distant from the current mood…

union_depot_2

In fact the whole historic area has been nicely spruced up and is well worth a wander, especially as it’s one of the few parts of Pueblo where walking feels like a sensible mode of transport, as opposed to something you do when your car has broken down.

historic_downtown

But then we needed to actually buy something so we went to another jaw-dropping monument to late American capitalism, Sam’s Club.

sams_club

I can’t see one of these being lovingly restored in 100 years time, but you never know…


That was the Year that Was

December 28, 2012

brompton_2 brompton_3 brompton_4

It’s odd, really. It’s the time of year when people ask you what you’ve been up to, especially if they haven’t seen you for a while. And, after casting my mind back for a bit I’ve found myself saying – oh, not much, more of the same really. 2012 seemed to pass in an uneventful succession of papershop runs, gardening mishaps and rain.

cuteness_on_legsAnd yet, when I look back properly I find that in January I learned to eat – if not love – mushrooms, became a proper cyclist, lost my mobile phone (oh, okay, that’s not very surprising) and organised our spice rack (amazingly, it’s still organised too). In Feburary the bike got to go back to its home town  and got properly lit up. In March we got a cute new neighbour not to mention a cute new bike and I took up extreme Bromptoneering.
Setting out
In April I helped organise a wee demo (and did I mention we’re doing it again?). In May we almost took up involuntary bee keeping and in June I first encounted Asbo Buzzard  – and the ford closed to pedestrians sign was finally removed  (although, as it later turned out, by the postman rather than the roads people) – oh and I wrote what has turned out to be one of my more popular posts, for those visiting via Google, anyway. In July I survived my first serious assassination attempt since leaving London  (unless you count aerial bombardments).

view from the train

bike to school 2

In August, I began to wonder if I might actually be getting the hang of this whole living in the country thing  – and got more value out of a Highland Rover ticket than anyone may ever have done before – as well as introducing my Mum to the delights of N+1. In September I nearly broke another mobile phone  (it’s still hanging in there though) and did my first, and possibly last ever school run – oh, and became a community councillor (with special responsibilities for delinquent wildlife, apparently).

dandelion rootIn October I won at weeding  but was reduced to begging for comments (keep them coming, incidentally) – while Asbo Buzzard recruited reinforcements. In November I finally gave up on my attempt to singlehandedly keep all of the local livestock where it belongs – and actually managed to write something for publication. And this month – I’ve been dabbling in the law and train driving while thankfully leaving the weather at home

winter sunshine

So the next time someone asks me what I’ve been up to I can either back them into a corner and tell them all about it AT GREAT LENGTH … or I can just give them the URL of the blog and let them experience that pleasure in the comfort of their own home.

So how was your 2012?


Have a Very Merry Christmas

December 25, 2012

tiny treeEven if it’s only a tiny one…

 


But Meanwhile, What News of the Ford?

December 23, 2012

Actually I can’t really help you with that at the moment – but someone did wonder idly at breakfast this morning what the level was at the reservoir, in light of the recent lack of rain. This was all the excuse we needed to take the bikes (I should say that there has been no let up in the onslaught of cookies and other treats since we have arrived, not to mention mexican food, so all this cycling is, in calorific terms, more or less just standing still) on an epic journey to check the level of the reservoir, an idea that was a lot better in theory when we were standing inside the house and looking at all the blue skies and sunshine than it turned out in practice when we set off into the teeth of a ferocious headwind. It’s never a good sign when you have to pedal going downhill, put it that way, and once the road turned uphill, it wasn’t just in calorific terms that we were standing still…

But for a Brit starved of sunshine, it was still too good a day not to be outdoors so I did my best to cling on to the other half’s slipstream and we made it to the top of the dam with only a minimum of wondering what on earth we thought we were doing.

reservoir looking low
I can therefore report that 1) the water looks pretty low and 2) they really should paint depth gauges onto these things if they want their tourism industry to take off.

And on the way down (which was fairly epic with the wind behind us…) I did manage to stop and take a photo of a road sign that should strike a chill into the heart of serious bike accumulators everywhere. Clearly, a place where someone’s beloved steed was lost…

n-1 cove


And a Merry Christmas to you too…

December 23, 2012

Bike-friendly business, Colorado style …

ride a bike, get 10% off

As a bonus, we got to sit in the sun and drink our coffee and watch the giant monster pick-ups pull up outside the cowboy supply store across the block.

Only in America


Not So Smart

December 21, 2012

With the year drawing to a close, alert readers may have noticed that, despite our exciting new smart meters being fitted, I haven’t been posting any details of the results. You may have thought that was because even I drew the line at such a dull post, but that’s only because you haven’t been paying close attention to the blog. After all, I never drew the line at sharing the glories of my vegetable growing spreadsheet.

But in fact, the reason is much simpler than that. Despite my poor gadget track record, I haven’t yet managed to break the smart meters – but I do appear to have broken the entire smart metering project as the website we’re supposed to log into to get the results has suffered unexpected technical difficulties (possibly I should have warned them…). So we’re still waiting to get our hands on the figures for the last few months’ oil consumption. Well, apart from the figures we’ve worked out for ourselves through the use of our mark one smart meter, the graduated stick. Proof yet again – if proof were needed – that there’s very little in life that can’t be managed somehow by poking it with a stick.


So Sue Me

December 20, 2012

The predicted snow arrived this morning (don’t worry, it’s due to be sunny and 60F by the weeekend, oh no, hang on, you weren’t worrying about that were you?). After it had finished falling, and the wind had finished blowing it around so much, we went out with the snow shovel and shovelled it off the driveway and the sidewalk (that’s pavement to anyone who doen’t speak American) as is the American way – or rather I shovelled and the other half gave expert advice culled from a childhood growing up in Minnesota and then went inside to supervise from the warmth of the house, the novelty of shovelling snow having thoroughly worn off for him round about when he was ten.

I relate this entirely unremarkable tale because if you were to mention anywhere in the UK that members of the public might want to go out and clear the snow off the pavement outside their house then you are generally greeted with the sort of alarm that an elderly maiden aunt might greet the suggestion that she join an orgy. Because if you were to do that you might – no indeed, you almost certainly would – get sued. Despite the fact that nobody has ever been sued for clearing snow and never will be sued for clearing snow, it has somehow got lodged into the British psyche that personal injury lawyers lurk behind every bush, possibly disguised as snowmen, waiting for someone to so much as brush a flake off their front step so they can leap out, push some passing old dear over, and then slap a lawsuit on the offending householder. I was out the council training for being a community councillor and they were wheeling out their winter preparedness scheme which consisted of getting local volunteers to clear snow off the pavements and gritting them so that people might have a fighting chance of stepping outside their front door without breaking a leg. It went like this:

Council chap: just to get it out of the way first, you won’t get sued

Fellow trainees: but what if we do get sued?

Council chap: honestly, you won’t get sued

Fellow trainees: can we get people to sign something to say they won’t sue us?

Council chap: nobody has ever been sued

Fellow trainees: Should we get insurance against getting sued?

Fellow trainees: what if they sue us for *not* clearing the snow?

Fellow trainees: what if we ask someone to clear the snow and they keel over with a heart attack and then sue us?

Me: *silently loses will to live*

Sadly, I still don’t know the official Bigtownshire Council method for approved snow shovelling because we ran out of time for the actual training. This goes a long way to explaining why, the minute it snows, every pavement immediately becomes almost impassable and everyone ends up having to walk in the road.

Now clearly, I’d prefer it if the council cleared and gritted the pavements (and the cycle paths of course) and left it to motorists to voluntarily shovel and grit the roads if they wanted to go anywhere, but even I know that’s not going to happen for a while. And meanwhile, I’d like it a lot if the pavements were cleared, however amateurishly, preferably before they had become icy death traps. So here, people of Britain, is a public service announcement, just for you:

IF THE MOST LITIGIOUS SOCIETY ON EARTH CAN SHOVEL ITS SIDEWALKS WITHOUT FEAR OF LAWSUITS THEN WE, PROUD INHERITORS OF THE BLITZ SPIRIT, DEFEATERS OF THE HUN, NOT TO MENTION VICTORS IN ONE WORLD CUP, CAN ALSO CLEAR OUR PAVEMENTS AND WE WILL NOT GET SUED

I hope I’ve made that clear.


Oh Deer

December 19, 2012

Someone around here isn’t *quite* getting into the Christmas spirit, it looks like

hanging reindeer

I don’t think Santa’s going to be calling at their house in a hurry…

Meanwhile, if you can spot the deer in this picture, you’re doing well. There is one, honest, but for some reason they like to keep themselves well hidden…

spot_the_deer

Storms are forecast for tonight, so we’ve been out enjoying the sunshine while it lasts

winter sunshine