Bank Error in Nobody’s Favour

July 31, 2014

To Bigtown, where my plan was to meet my fellow local cycle campaigners for what we like to call a board meeting (coffee and cakes at our favourite cafe) and to sort out changing the signatories on our bank account to reflect the fact that we have got a new secretary (for the last six months) and treasurer (for the last three). We haven’t been tackling this with a huge sense of urgency partly because we don’t really spend much money, well any money, so we haven’t actually needed to sort out the signatories and partly because every encounter with the bank – well, any bank – leaves one with a slight sapping of the will to live and we’ve been avoiding it. However, it’s the kind of thing that does have to get sorted eventually, and our old treasurer had managed to get 50% of the correct forms from the bank and get them signed, and I had managed to summon up the effort to take them in, only to be told that one of the forms was the wrong form and, after much poking of the computer and head scratching on the part of the bank clerk, be given two new forms, one for each new signatory, so they could prove they weren’t money launderers. I was then told to hang on to the form I had, until the new signatories had put in their forms, and then everything could go off to head office together.

One of our new signatories very efficiently gathered up all her ID and took everything into the bank where the form was carefully checked and supposedly put aside for the other forms to be taken in. The other signatory then emailed to say she planned to drop her forms in today and I, having had a bit of a premonition about it, decided to drop in the main form at the same time to check that nothing went wrong, which was a good thing because a) it turns out the first signatory’s form had already gone off to head office where they were now scratching their heads over it because they hadn’t had the main form yet, and so it was bouncing around in the system waiting for our old treasurer to reply to a letter they had sent him about it to an address he had moved out of, and b) the second signatory hadn’t brought in any ID because the form she had to fill in didn’t say anywhere that two forms of ID would be needed, despite the fact that it was a fairly crucial part of the whole process of proving you’re not a money launderer, and you’d think the bank might want to put that on the form just to save everyone some time.

I now have the horrible feeling that, once the second signatory’s form has gone in, it will sit in limbo along with my form, waiting for the first signatory’s form to arrive, which will never happen because it is already at head office, where they are waiting for the response from our old treasurer to their letter which he will not receive because he has moved to Lincoln. And so we will remain, at a bureaucratic impasse, until someone works out a way around it, the bank goes bust out of sheer inefficiency, or we all die of old age, whichever is the sooner .

Oh, and our new treasurer has just announced that she is leaving. So in a few weeks (or, more likely, months or years) we will have to do it all again. ‘Easier just to open a new bank account’, the other half suggests. I’m beginning to think he might be right.

A Beach Hut, a Cup of Coffee, and … Well, Anyone, Really

July 30, 2014

Kirkcudbright Arts and Craft Trail writers in residenceOn Friday, I shall be fulfilling TWO long-held ambitions: to become a writer in residence and to have a beach hut. Sadly, both only last for an afternoon, which is not so much a residency as an afternoon visit, and the beach hut won’t actually be on the beach but in Kirkcudbright town centre, but hey, let’s not get picky here.

I know have to think about what to do with my short residency. Hopefully people will come and say hello because otherwise I’ll have to spend two hours maintaining my unthreatening and friendly but not in any way desperate writer’s expression as last practised during my one and only bookshop signing event. I will almost definitely have brought the means of making (or at least keeping hot) some coffee because it might just lure people in (cakes, while tempting, might smack of desperation). Does coffee with a writer sound appealing? I will almost certainly have books (my own and other fellow writers-in-residence’s) to sell. And there will be paper and pens and writing prompts for anyone who wants to do some writing of their own.

And I may even get some writing done myself, but let’s not go mad here. All will depend on how much of that coffee I end up drinking on my own…

Going Postal

July 29, 2014

I had an Important Document to send off today so I took it down to Papershop Village knowing that the feral post office was supposed to be putting in an appearance there this lunchtime. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself at having remembered the post office schedule AND the Important Document, and rolled up outside the village hall where the post office makes its appearance just as it was due to open. The post office not being there yet, I went into the shop, got my paper, exchanged the statutory amount of banter, and went back out to find still no post office, but a couple of people waiting in their cars for its arrival. Fifteen minutes later, having checked with the shop and found that yes, it was supposed to have been open fifteen minutes ago but that it was a bit of a law unto itself, I decided to cut my losses and cycle home and send the other half to Notso Bigtown with the Important Document tomorrow instead. And thus are the rural postal services maintained, with maximum inconvenience to all concerned until finally the last customer gives up and they can quietly kill the whole thing off.

But never mind those old dead tree technologies, for the other half came back from Notso Bigtown last week with the exciting news that we are to get superfast broadband some time ooh at least this century. There was some sort of information stand about it in the supermarket car park and he had given them our postcode and been told that we would be having fibre put in ‘right to the premises’.

‘I’m not holding my breath,’ the other half said when I expressed some excitement at the prospect of being able to watch unlimited numbers of cat videos (and, indeed, get a nice smooth strip of tarmac all the way up our road to ride my bike on, which is almost as thrilling). ‘But I did get a free pen.’ And indeed, having checked the website it appears we are included in the ‘rest of Scotland’ part of the project, not a phrase which fills you any great sense of urgency. I did have a look at the map of the planned roll out and found that it would be much more helpful if anyone had bothered to label it with the names of the exchanges (or indeed, with the name of anything) so, as I have foolishly failed to memorise the shape and size of the area our exchange covers, I can’t quite work out if we’re getting our superfast broad band by the end of this year or sometime in 2017. I then tried to look on the BT site but that had an interactive map on it which – stop me if you’ve worked this one out already – doesn’t load all that well if you’re using rural broadband.

Still, at least we have our free pen. I could even use it to send letters while we wait to be connected to the 20th century, if only I could work out where our post office has gone.

Gardeners’ Question Time

July 28, 2014

Purple sprouting broccoli plants

Here’s a little mystery for you all: where are all the caterpillars? We picked some kale a few weeks back and despite them being netted, there were a few green caterpillars lurking on the leaves, more or less as I expected. Since then we’ve had lots of lovely weather and lots of white butterflies fluttering about the plot but when I pulled up the netting to have a look and pick off the worst of the infestation before it got out of hand there weren’t any. And nor is it the effectiveness of my netting, either, because there are none on the purple sprouting broccoli either, which is unnetted. Very odd. And yes, I do realise  that by posting this I will be completely inundated with the things before the week is out.

greenhouse in walled garden

And here’s another question: if a gardener who doesn’t particularly like tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers or chillies were to suddenly find themselves with the use of a greenhouse (what can I say, it was just looking sad and empty and I couldn’t resist), what should she grow in it? Beyond ‘extra salad’, I’m struggling a little, frankly, although there are some in the village who use theirs to get extra early potatoes. I suppose I could grow tomatoes, peppers, courgettes, cucumbers and chillies for the other half, who likes all of those things and has been struggling bravely through a diet of kale and, er, more kale in recent years.

greenhouse interior

In other news, the dinosaur eggs are flowering.

mystery beans flowering

Snake* in the Grass

July 26, 2014

Riding home from this afternoon’s family ride and hoping to beat the forecast rain, I came across what looked like an enormous earthworm on the road. As I cycled past I realised it wasn’t an earthworm but a slow worm and doubled back to check it out.

slow worm

Feet for scale. And also to prove that it’s been warm enough this summer to wear actual sandals

At first I thought it might be dead, but it began making its way steadily across the road, just not very quickly. Not wanting to see it squashed by a passing tractor, I hunted around for a stick to pick it up with, thinking I might speed the road crossing process up a bit before anything came to run it over but it turns out that picking up something that looks that much like a snake, even though you know it’s not a snake and it’s anyway really tiny, is something that is quite hard to bring yourself to do.

So I just sort of stood over it and ushered it in its unhurried progress across the road, ready to stop any traffic that came along. I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to explain to any of our neighbours that I was there acting as a lollipop lady for what was to all intents and purposes a snake, but fortunately our road is extremely quiet, and even though slow worms really are very very slow, nothing came along before it was safely across.

Good deed for the day completed, I rode home where I was rewarded by being caught in the rain as I went out to pick Swiss Chard for our supper. No good deed, and all that…

* Not actually a snake, of course, but a lizard with no legs. Which you would have thought would be a pretty good working definition of a snake, but apparently not. Herpetologists, eh?

Glasgow Cycles Better

July 25, 2014

Gadding about continued today with not just an al fresco bike breakfast this morning (Breakfast ouside! I could get used to this weather) but a trip up to Glasgow to hand in a petition suggesting that the Commonwealth Games legacy would be a whole lot more legatastic if it involved some decent cycle infrastructure, if only so visiting cycling teams would have somewhere to train that wasn’t the M74 (‘it was the only stretch of road in the place that didn’t have any potholes on it’ according to one wag this morning. And probably didn’t look any more terrifying than the roads they were techincally allowed to cycle on).

Glasgow Cycles Better Please!

With apologies to Roger Hargreaves

Of course you can’t just hand over a petition these days, you have to make a bit of a splash. We weren’t sure how much of a splash we could manage at a week’s notice on a weekday morning in a city with a wee sporting event going on at the same time, but we didn’t do too badly.

Getting ready for the photographers

One lap of George Square, and a very hot photo opportunity in the sun later, the politicians got given their petition, made their speeches (‘lots of big ideas in the pipeline, very difficult to reassign road space, need the political will, blah blah blah) and we were all able to disperse. Pedal on Parliament it wasn’t, but events like these probably do as much to keep chipping away at the giant wall of ‘can’t’ that seems to surround any prospect of better cycling in this country.

We keep on keeping on…

Home, James

July 24, 2014

Just to say that the weather cleared up and the other half got his dip on the way home…

St Mary's Loch

… or ‘wild swim’ as I believe we must call it now.

Haar de Haar Haar

July 23, 2014

So the forecast this week is just glorious – sunshine all week – and as we are on a flying visit to Duns, we got a bit overexcited with the thought of a visit to a proper beach, seeing as Bigtownshire beaches tend towards the estuarine which is fine if you like a day’s trek across mud for a paddle but not exactly swimmable. We filled the car with beach towels and swimming things and sun cream and set off in a state of great anticipation, forgetting that fine weather across the country generally means an easterly wind, and an easterly wind on the east coast generally means the dreaded haar, which stands for ‘horrible air all around’ according to my aunt.

The haar itself might have burned off, but the cloud was clinging stubbornly on by lunchtime, so as the rest of you basked in the sunshine and sent me the odd gloating tweet, we set off today for the beach anyway to sit under the cloud.

After all, there were still rockpools to explore

sea anemone in rockpool

And the other half had brought his special beach camouflage outfit, which worked a treat.

beach camouflage outfit

And cloudbathing is the new sunbathing – haven’t you heard?

clouds over cocklawburn beach

Naturally, the sun appeared as soon as we got about a mile inland on the way back…

We’ll be back to sunny West Scotland tomorrow, if we’re spared.


July 21, 2014

It seems like I’ve barely unpacked my bag from last week’s trip before I’m packing again to head off tomorrow, and today was a busy day with a meeting in Bigtown with a strangely switched on local politician (I’d like to predict she’ll go far…) followed by a doctor’s appointment plus some work to do and a blog roundup to, well, round up.

In times like these, you’d think that the 50 minutes needed to cycle into town – and the 30 minutes in the opposite direction and up a major climb to the doctor’s surgery – just add to the burden of the day. And I suppose there are times when I resent the fact that I can easily spend 2 or more hours just getting around due to my insistence on combining living in the middle of nowhere with not liking to drive, although to be fair, those are mostly on the days when it’s raining.

But when the air is warm and scented, and the tarmac on the hill down from the doctor’s is smooth and freshly laid (and not loose chippings), and the only traffic is a herd of cows coming back from milking and two fighter jets ripping through the valley on their sides like something from the future, and the harebells are out in the hedgerows, and there’s time enough to get home and have a coffee on the bench with the other half, who is newly liberated from his Proper Job – then I don’t resent it at all.

There will be time enough to be busy busy busy later, after all.


July 18, 2014

I had an hour to kill at Carlisle station as I changed trains. After the madding crowds of Euston (and today the melting heat), Carlisle always comes as a bit of a relief, and while normally I’d chafe at the thought of a whole hour hanging around for a train, today I was happy just to pick up a coffee and a Snickers bar and chill out reading the paper and generally watching the world go by both in reality and on Twitter.

This process was made strangely more pleasant by the mysterious appearance of a square of astroturf and a bench which, combined with a bit of summer warmth, magically transformed a stretch of platform into something resembling a park. I don’t know why, it’s really only plastic, but it turned a wait into a pleasant interlude. We humans are strange and rather gullible creatures, I suppose. Certainly by the time I had finished my coffee and my train was ready, I had been joined by a few others who were enjoying hanging out on the ‘grass’.

Astroturf patch at Carlisle Station

Jolly nice and everything, but not actually a real park

Previously this little patch had a table footy table on it and appeared to be something to do with the World Cup. But now it’s sprouted a banner suggesting it’s celebrating the imminent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow (or at least helping Virgin flog train tickets). And why not? We’re all excited about a bit of sporting action coming to a city that could probably do with the boost, and it means that Glasgow has got itself a shiny new velodrome and a mountain biking park – and that for one day at least, when they close the roads for the racing, a mass of cyclists will be able to ride Glasgow’s streets without fearing for their lives. But after the games have gone, what legacy will there be for cycling? Well, apart from a few new cycle stands dotted around Scotland, not a whole lot. Some shared use pavement down to the new mountain biking course. Half a path to the Velodrome that is great until it runs out and then it isn’t. A reminder that the speed limit for cycling in Glasgow’s parks is 5mph. Oh, and they’ve closed the main traffic-free route along the Clyde for the duration of the Games because obviously, er, no I’m not entirely sure why they’ve done that either.

There’s a parallel, I’m sure, between a small patch of pretend park in Carlisle station, and a great big patch of pretend cycling legacy in Scotland’s largest city, which I’ll leave it up to you to draw for yourselves. But if anyone reading this wants to see an actual real legacy from the games then it’s not too late to sign this. And if you really want to make an impact, you could join myself, Magnatom and others when we go to hand it in next Friday. If only so the next time I go up to Glasgow with my bike, I don’t end up in fear for my life

Which would make my mum happy, if no-one else.