Speaking of Minor Deities…

January 31, 2013

mended pothole

… it would appear we’ve had a visit from the tarmac fairy!

partly mended pothole

I’ve never seen this mysterious being at work so I suspect she may operate under cover of darkness.* This may explain her rather capricious approach to her job… after all why else would you mend one pothole and leave another one completely untouched?

one pothole mended one ignored

Or just put a blob of tarmac down in the middle of a pothole and leave the edges open?

partly mended pothole

Or perhaps tarmac is being rationed? The fresh tarmac is the blob in the top right hand corner. The rest is basically stream bed. If I’m going to come off my bike, this is the spot where it will happen, I always feel. Do Schwalbe make tyres that deal with that?


Heh. Well I can’t quite believe I not only went out and took all those photos of badly mended potholes (I’m on the community council now, so I’ve got an excuse to get obsessive about road repairs) but actually made you sit through a whole blog post about it (and not for the first time, either). For those of you still reading, here’s a bonus photograph to compensate


Cute – or delicious – depending on your point of view

*Cynics say that she is in fact a council bloke shovelling tarmac off the back of a lorry as it goes along – but these are the sort of people who deny that Santa Claus exists.

I know it’s only evolution…

January 30, 2013


But it still feels like a tiny annual miracle every time it happens.

Only slightly tempered by the fact that the ground elder is also beginning to poke its head above the soil as well. Time to get going in the garden again

To the Weather Gods: A Vote of Thanks

January 29, 2013

No really, I think we can all agree that this past week or so you guys have excelled yourselves. Not only have you provided me with the full gamut of wintry weather with which to test my tyres, but you then thoughtfully laid on a thaw and enough rain to wash away all the snow AND reveal the hole in our roof at a time when the landlord was around to get it fixed promptly. There’s not many minor deities that display that sort of thoroughness and attention to detail, and I’d like to say now just how much I appreciate it – and I think I can safely say that we have all appreciated your hard work over the years, putting in the hours to make our weather the very … special … experience we’ve come to know and love.

It’s just – well, when it comes to the rain, I think you’ve delighted us enough. There is, truly, no snow left to melt. Honestly. I was out this morning and I looked. To be honest, you were blowing the rain into my face so thoroughly that I couldn’t really raise my eyes from the level of the road to look at anything else. There is a lot of mud, plenty puddles, some with truly impressive pot holes lurking in the bottom of them, and a few misplaced streams that have sprung directly out of the roadbed due to the sheer saturation of water in our soil. I think that we have your abundant generosity to thank for those, as well as some record readings on the level of ford. When it comes to water coming out of the sky, guys, I think we can safely say you’re second to none. Hydrologically speaking, you’re our go to gods. If I want to go out and get absolutely sodden, again, (and who knows, one of these days I might very well do) I’ll know who to call.

But don’t you think – as deities – it’s time for you to try and extend yourself a little, to think outside the box? Staying in your comfort zone all the time, you risk getting stuck in a rut, the kind with a huge muddy puddle along its length. We wonder whether, with adequate training and support, you couldn’t tackle something a little finer? Spring, for instance, even if summer might prove to be completely out of your range. Or have you considered drought work, even the odd heat wave? Is it time, in short, for you to indulge in a little blue sky thinking?

Think of it as a challenge.

Raining in my House

January 28, 2013

Well, the thaw came, exactly as predicted, with a night of heavy rain to wash the snow away – accompanied by the usual dire warnings from the BBC Terror Centre of flooding and mayhem to come.

flooded road

Which were entirely justified, as it happens – although you can’t go too far wrong predicting flooding in Bigtown these days; it’s been more or less a monthly occurrence this year. The bits you can see underwater there are a Very Important Road and some Very Important Car Parking spaces the closure of which would cause gridlock, traffic chaos, economic devastation, the opening of the Hellmouth and quite possibly the end of the world, not to mention people having to walk a few hundred yards from their cars.*

The forecast now is for more rain, for more or less the foreseeable future. Which makes it an excellent time for us to discover that there is a hole in our roof…

*I mock, but as it happened I was supposed to be holding a workshop in the building just behind where the photo was taken and six people who had booked and paid in advance didn’t show up. It turns out they really won’t come if they can’t just drive up and park outside…

Thaw Point

January 26, 2013

snowy road

I suppose it had to happen – we woke up to discover a beautiful morning, and more snow, now rapidly thawing in the sun. I needed to run some errands in town and set off happily on my bike to discover that half-compacted melting slush does not make for happy cycling, magical spiky tyres or no magical spiky tyres. Of course it doesn’t make for particularly happy driving either; I had to help push the neighbour’s van out of the driveway. I decided the errands could wait and took the camera for a walk instead


Time to enjoy the snow (and sunshine) while it lasts …



Won’t be long…

Let it Snow

January 25, 2013

more snow

We woke up this morning to more snow, and then it started snowing like it meant it

What better time for a bike ride?

sheep in snow

I’m sure you’re all bored of me banging on about my new tyres (and believe me, it’s not just you – I’ve told half the village, my writers’ group and pretty much anyone else who was passing and wasn’t able to get away) but, actual bikes aside, I can’t think of a single thing I’ve bought in recent years that I’ve been quite as pleased with. It will take a few years before the tyres can justify themselves in financial terms but in human happiness terms they’ve already paid me back tenfold – and that’s after subtracting the negative effect of everyone I’ve bored rigid extolling their virtues. The last three winters have left me feeling trapped and grumpy whenever I couldn’t ride my bike but this morning, rolling along on the fresh snow, watching a raven doing aerial battle with a buzzard, totally alone apart from a few uncomprehending sheep, I felt invincible (possibly too invincible as I forgot to look out for potholes on one nasty bit of road – but even then, the bike handled fine and I was able to stay upright despite ending up on a crusty pile of ice and snow). The hardest part was getting going after stopping to take pictures – my tyres might be surefooted, but my boots don’t have enough grip to push myself off on the snow.

more snow falling

There’s more snow now – it’s snowed all day and probably even I wouldn’t want to be cycling on the roads at the moment until the cars have had a chance to compact it down a bit. The thaw is forecast to start tomorrow, but even if it doesn’t and it freezes and compacts and hangs around for weeks, I’m just happy to know I will still be able to ride my bike…

I Suppose it was Inevitable…

January 22, 2013
snowy hills

snowy hills

…after the last post that we should wake up to this sort of thing this morning

snow_2 snow_3

Still, it gave me a chance to further road test the tyres and they coped magnificently – although I should in the interests of accuracy point out that coming to a complete stop when travelling downhill on a mixture of ice, slush and snow is still … interesting.

Fortunately, for most of the ride, I was only stopping to take photos, so I could take my time

Afterwards, we went out for a walk – cut short half way up the local 1-in-5 hill when things got a little slithery underfoot. Time to invest in spiked shoes as well as spiked tyres? Or leave the hillsides to the sheep until spring…


Snow Fair

January 21, 2013

It has snowed ALL day – sometimes lightly, sometimes as if it means it, sometime just random flakes flying around as much up as down – but it has been just that tiny bit too warm for it to settle. This followed several days of the radio, newspaper and the whole of twitter telling me that it’s snowing!!! So while the rest of the country has been out taking arty photos and making snowmen and sledging and having the day off school, we’ve been looking at what is basically rain with good PR.

I suppose that’s what having a dandy set of ice tyres will do to your weather. But if you came here for rural snow scenes and general picturesqueness, I recommend you wander over to Mrs Uphilldowndale’s site instead. She’ll see you right…

In a World Ruled by Cars…

January 20, 2013

… 3,000 cyclists braved the cobbles…

I was going to write a long involved post reminding everyone that Pedal on Parliament will be happening again this year and urging you all to attend but fortunately one of the immensely talented POP team has gone one better and created a trailer. Look out for me, looking hassled, with a megaphone. I expect I’ll be doing a lot of that between now and May 18th…

Ice Station Lobster

January 18, 2013

‘Why are you looking at me like that? Do I look ridiculous?’ I asked as I donned buff, hat, jacket, scarf, extra socks and clumpy boots in preparation for going out on the bike.

‘No, you’re fine,’ said the other half – until I put on my gloves. ‘OK, now you look ridiculous…’

This is the downside of my magical crispy tyres: there’s now no excuse not to cycle, just because its a few degrees below freezing. So I’ve had to modify my winter wardrobe a little to cope with the cold. Mostly, riding a bike in the winter isn’t that much different from walking, so I get away with wearing what I’d wear to go outside anyway. But my hands are another matter – stuck out on the handlebars taking the brunt of the wind, they quickly feel cold, and then ache, and then go numb and then (when I finally get in and thaw them out again) feel as if someone’s just whacked them with a hammer. Given that I have such poor circulation I normally have to wear gloves to cycle even in the ‘height’ of ‘summer’, my hands are especially prone to getting chilled. So on my Christmas list I’d asked for (and got, thanks Babymother!) lobster gloves.

lobster gloves

Now in practical terms these make sense. They combine the warmth of mittens (where your fingers can keep each other warm) with some of the dexterity of gloves – I’ve never quite felt secure cycling with proper mittens on. And they do work … it’s just … well, they make you look like a mutant. A mutant with cloven hoofs where your hands ought to be. Which may not be all that helpful when dealing with drivers who think cyclists are all the spawn of Satan anyway.

Still, as I cycled home today into the biting north east wind and struggled up the longest hill to the wry salutes (from nice warm vehicles) from the workmen who were clearing out the ditch, I realised that from their point of view I was already a bit of a wierdo just for cycling in the freezing cold, regardless of what I was actually wearing. So if I’m going to be a wierdo anyway, at least I can be one with toasty warm hands.

Oh, and in case anyone was wondering about the effectiveness of those ice tyres? This is what our road looked like yesterday (and that was actually an improvement). Bike didn’t even notice

icy road surface