Simple Pleasures

February 12, 2014

So I was going to entertain you all today with a long rant on the joys of rural public transport as composed by me on the two mile trudge back from the bus stop* in the freezing cold rain after I had decided against cycling today for reasons which became less and less compelling with every squelching step.

And then I got home and switched on the radio and listened to the weather news around the country and felt rather petty. There I was, sitting in the warm and dry, with a cup of coffee and a round of toast and no need to go out into the weather again, and my forty minutes in the rain and a pair of sodden shoes rather paled in comparison to what everyone else was having to put up with. After all, when was the last time I had even realised just how pleasant and comforting it is to have warm feet and dry socks? And now suddenly they seemed like one of life’s little luxuries…

I hope your heads are all above water, wherever you are.

* The bus stop for which we’re not allowed to have a bus shelter because not enough people use it because they don’t find standing around in a layby by a trunk road half a mile from their village in Scotland in winter to wait for an hourly bus that costs FIVE pounds return an attractive proposition, for some reason**

** to give you the condensed version

It’s not often…

February 11, 2014

… we sit up here and listen to the South East of England getting all our weather. I used to live in Maidenhead so the news bulletins have been a bit of a trip down memory lane, albeit one where memory lane has required a pair of chest waders and/or a rubber dinghy to negotiate.

We were forecast all sorts ourselves today from sleet to heavy rain to ice, but so far apart from one short snow flurry it’s actually been (whisper it) sunny, if cold. It only promises to be a brief respite between storms but I took the opportunity of a free afternoon after my epic work bout to go and see whether anything was going on in the garden – looks like the snowdrops have recovered from last year’s harvest, anyway.


Whether you’re flooded, soggy, or just anxiously watching the waters rise, hang on in there. Spring *is* on its way…

It has to be.

Ruled by a Tomato

February 10, 2014

Bleurgh. I’ve been a bit busy recently, doing the sort of concentrated heads-down at-a-computer type work that earns money but doesn’t really provide much in the way of blogging material unless you want to know just how stiff my neck and shoulders are (I even had to skip yoga last week). But as a result, I have been seriously using the Pomodoro Technique, as the best way of maintaining my concentration and basically getting the work done without endlessly frittering away my time on twitter. I’ve dabbled with it in the past and found it quite effective but not transformative but this time I actually went to the effort of downloading an app for my phone (there are tons of them) and doing it properly. As a result I’ve managed to do way more work than I’ve ever managed in the past, despite the fact that in essence as a technique it’s almost insultingly simple: you work for 25 minutes and then you take a short break, and then you start again. There’s something faintly ridiculous in the idea that I have to have my phone to tell me when to work and when to take a break, and yet at the same time there’s something very compelling about having a timer count down the seconds till you can take a break – and then imperiously ringing you back to work once your break is over.

And amazingly I’ve found that with the thing on I actually can resist the temptation of just quickly checking what that email is, because after all it’s only another 7 minutes and 38 seconds before I can legitimately read it and respond. Nor do I find that a quick glance at what’s going on in Twitter results in me looking up slightly dazed some time later and discovering I’ve spent the last 30 minutes looking at websites offering donkeys for sale (this really happened, although fortunately I don’t appear to have bought any donkeys). In fact, I’ve got better all round at concentrating on what I’m doing even when I don’t have the tomato ticking away in the background, although I can’t promise that substantial chunks of my time aren’t occasionally lost down internet rabbitholes. In fact the only unexpected side effect is that I’m drinking more coffee because the symbol it uses for a ‘break’ is a picture of a cup of coffee and so suggestible am I, I obediently put the kettle on…

I don’t know whether the whole Pomodoro thing is built on some actual brain science that shows that 25 minutes is the optimum time for concentrating on a task – or whether it’s just that I’ve subconsciously decided that having downloaded the thing I’m going to make it work for me. I suspect it’s a bit of both. We humans are really quite irrational creatures and apparently sometimes it makes sense to hand over some of your autonomy to a piece of software on a phone that’s pretending to be an Italian kitchen timer that’s pretending to be a tomato. At some point – probably when I need it most – my brain will rebel and I’ll stop paying attention to its commands and I’ll have to find some other technique which will work for a while in its stead. Until that day, I’ll just keep it ticking away…

Weather Gods in Action

February 9, 2014

Shortly after posting Friday’s little challenge, I headed off to the station for the weekend and had to stop and capture this:

passing storm

Even as I watched, a shaft of sunlight slanted through the rain (‘quick, get your shovel out and start digging – that’s where the pot of gold is’ said a passing cyclist)


From the amount of rain on the road, they had only missed me by a matter of minutes…

Signs of … Something

February 7, 2014

I was a bit startled, when cycling through the village, to be accosted by a fellow gardener and asked if I was planning on going to potato day again this year. Already? I thought. It’s not even as if winter has properly started yet, and here people are planning for spring. And then I was startled again as I stuck my head out of the door to chat with a passing neighbour and found not just sunshine but – out of the wind, anyway – actual warmth. Looking around there are snowdrops everywhere, daffodils poking their leaves up out of the swamp that passes for the countryside, birds going bananas in the hedgerows. Time to start panicking about the garden again

The problem is that, with storm after storm marching through, we seem to have had nothing but an endless October this winter. It’s been so mild, I was picking caterpillars out of my kale the other day. There’s been no sense of anything going properly dormant and hence no sense of the impending spring. And I’ve barely been able to touch the garden because even if I wasn’t too busy, it’s far too wet to do anything but plan out where to construct the rice paddies…

broad beans

Still, she says, recklessly tempting fate, at least the broad beans are hanging on in there…

Anyone else still feel they’re waiting for winter to arrive?

I’ll Be Dammed

February 4, 2014


I wandered up to our local beauty spot the other day to inspect the amount of water going over the waterfall, by way of a change from checking the levels on the ford (I don’t know why I bother as the photograph I took of it was so similar to the one taken a month ago I initially thought I’d saved the file twice).

leaf gutters

leaf ‘gutters’ two weeks on

I was last there a couple of weeks ago, during an earlier wet spell – or possibly just earlier in same wet spell, it’s hard to tell these days, as there seems to be no let up.* While I was last there I found there was water running over the road and right across the bridge because there were leaves blocking their route to the river, so I spent a contented ten minutes or so rearranging the leaves to form a little gutter mainly because I enjoy that sort of thing although I told myself it was a social service in case the water froze and made the bridge all slippery. I didn’t think anything more of it until I came up again this time and found that my handiwork appeared to have survived, and the water was still heading down towards the culvert, which pleased me more than was strictly reasonable. Either that, or there’s someone else in the area who likes to do a bit of amateur hydrological engineering, which wouldn’t surprise me in the least – it’s about the only entertainment to be had around here while the weather is the way it is.

Of course, adding more water to the river may not be my most brilliant idea right now

swollen river

*and while we’re on the subject, BBC Weather Centre, please note the difference between ‘calm day with sunny spells’ as advertised this morning and ‘howling southerly gale with intermittent squally showers’, as actually delivered, because some of us use the weather forecast to make plans, not just for the pleasure of listening to your mellifluous tones. I’m glad we’ve cleared that up.

New Scriptwriters, Please

February 3, 2014

So community council night tonight, and I was a bit surprised to find the ‘police matters’ section conducted in an atmosphere of suppressed hilarity as it didn’t deviate much from its usual course (two police officers we’ve never seen before, nor will we ever see again, come in and introduce themselves as our community policepeople, tell us that there’s no reported crime in the parish, warn us about the latest wheeze among the rural criminal classes – currently wheely-bin towing, whereby young people in cars hang out of the passenger window to grab a wheely bin and then see how far they can tow it before abandoning it three miles down the road in a ditch – inform us that they haven’t found our statues yet, ask us if we’ve anything to report, and leave with relieved looks on their faces). It was only after they’d safely gone that the chair – having kept an admirably straight face throughout – asked if anyone else had noticed that they’d walked in and and officer one had greeted us with ‘Hello, hello, hello’, while officer two had added ‘evening all’…

It made a change from the usual agenda items of dog poo and potholes, I suppose.