Not as Funny as I was in 2005*

December 31, 2014

Be that as it may, what did 2014 bring? (And yes, I am recycling material because I’ve nothing much new to say, why do you ask? All the papers are doing it…)

yard flooded

In January I got the very latest in rain protection https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/wrap-up-dry/ which was fortunate https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/01/26/surrounded/, and took up banging my head against a brick wall, aka the council https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/durr/, repeatedly https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/going-spare/ – luckily I also took up yoga https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/feeling-floaty/ so things more or less balanced out

ford almost at 2 feet

In February I found a use for a tomato https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/ruled-by-a-tomato/, took delivery of some contraband https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/fee-fi-fo-fum/ (which came up trumps, or at least beans https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/bringing-in-the-dinosaur-harvest/). With the rain continuing, we did wonder if it might be time to invest in a pedalo https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/water-water-everywhere/, although at least I remembered the simple pleasures of dry socks https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/02/12/simple-pleasures/

big digger

In March, the month I turned 45, I decided to embrace my middle-agedness with a festival weekend https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/festival-tastic/, broke all the errandoneering rules https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/hors-categorie/ and shared some exciting drainage news https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/exciting-drainage-news/ (no, really https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/21/year-end-bonus/ ) although despite all the practice I discovered I was still a complete novice at cycling in the rain https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/stinging-in-the-rain/ and lost my glasses to a passing tractor https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/24/crushed/

Brompton in the rain

In April we pedalled on parliament again https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/back-to-earth/, which is becoming something of a habit https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/the-third-sign-of-madness/ and I turned down the chance of doubling my garden size https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/n-plus-my-god-what-am-i-thinking/ (although I did later manage to acquire a greenhouse https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/gardeners-question-time-2/). The Brompton and I survived cycling in London https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/04/29/bike-the-strike/ (and not for the first time https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/03/27/canal-dreams/)

cake remnants

In May I discovered an entirely new word for hills https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/a-gap-in-the-market/ which came in handy when we decided to eat all the pies https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/as-it-turns-out-it-was-we-who-ate-all-the-pies/, but I still managed to get lost in the middle of a mass bike ride https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/05/17/space-for-cycling/. My gardening style received the Chelsea imprimateur https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/take-that/ which helped the hens convert our food yards into food inches https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/home-delivery/

Bromptons on the beach

In June, the Brompton and I continued to gad about https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/flight-of-the-bromptons/ – at least once I’d managed to leave the house https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/06/05/how-to-leave-the-house-on-a-bicycle-an-expert-guide/. Nature turned bad with the return of ASBO Buzzard https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/air-rage/ and the discovery of the ermine moth https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/06/21/mothly-harmful/, while the council did everything it could to make the papershop run more hazardous https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/youre-skidding/ and we discovered that the puncture fairy’s remit also runs in the Netherlands https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/06/30/statistics-for-dummies/

little grey cat

In July we were briefly reunited with the cat https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/07/11/101-uses-for-a-brompton-cat-reunions/. In a summer that after all the rain turned out to be good enough for snakes (and sandals) https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/07/26/snake-in-the-grass/ and going the long way round https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/the-long-way-round/ we went to the beach under the only cloud in the United Kingdom https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/haar-de-haar-haar/ and I took on the bank (the bank won) https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/bank-error-in-nobodys-favour/

monstrous potato

In August I discovered the delights of cycling with children https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/eye-opener/. The garden got out of hand, as is traditional https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/08/12/thickety-boo/ but I only failed to win big at the village show through my own stupid fault https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/08/30/robbed/

tree in the sunshine

In September, along with the rest of Scotland, I tried very hard to make up my mind https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/absolutely-positively-the-last-post-on-the-independence-referendum-i-promise/ (without much help from the politicians https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/scotland-undecides/) while the summer seemed like it would never end https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/09/21/squirrelling-away/. I got assaulted by a man with a knife https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/09/24/grooh-3/ and discovered that the most painful part was not being able to ride my bike https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/ouch-2/

A to Z and Mr Tom bar

In October the exciting drainage news just kept on coming https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/exciting-drainage-news-update/ and I made an exhibition of myself in London https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/analogue-pleasures/. I was forced to learn how the other half live https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/a-mile-in-my-shoes/ and finally ended up flouting doctors’ orders a week early https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/doctors-orders/

Balcary Bay in sunshine

In November, despite my best efforts https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/my-long-term-vision-for-scotlands-weather/ the rain returned and I decided someone was wrong on the internet https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/rain-rain/. The Tarmac Fairy also put in an appearance https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/11/05/rarities/ despite a politician’s promise https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/09/19/theres-promises/

sun breaking through

And in December I started another possibly doomed garden project https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/project-management/ but did at least discover my own little slice of Mediterranean climate https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/i-dont-care-what-the-weather-bomb-says/. The Brompton and I continued to battle the coonsil https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/up-the-down-escalator/ – but at least, together, we survived Christmas https://cityexile.wordpress.com/2014/12/18/101-uses-for-a-brompton-surviving-christmas/

And how was your year?

*The other half’s verdict on my blog every year since I first started, almost (eek) a decade ago


Rising Above

December 29, 2014

frost and fog

The ride to the papershop did not look a particularly inviting prospect this morning. It wasn’t just the fog, or the ice on the road, but the sheer biting coldness of it all. But the paper wasn’t going to fetch itself, and besides, what is the point of having magical ice tyres if you’re going to be frightened of a bit of a chill? So, having taken the precaution of leaving a jumper warming on the Rayburn for my return, I set off.

sun breaking through

By the time I’d got through the village I was pretty glad I’d opted for the lobster gloves because the fog and the cold were unrelenting. At least I more or less had the roads to myself. In fact, I seemed to have the whole countryside to myself.

above the fog

As the road wound upwards, though, I started to climb out into the sunshine. There’s something about seeing the blue sky and the sun breaking through the last thinning veil of mist that leaves everything extra saturated and bright.

Ready to descend back into the murk once more.

back into the fog

I was glad of that jumper when I got home, I can tell you.


Unboxing

December 26, 2014

No Boxing Day ride for me (except reminiscently in the Herald bike blog) but my sister and I did stage a daring escape to the coast while the children were distracted by a DVD, so we could blow away some cobwebs of our own.*

The sea views were spectacular

foggy coast

Allegedly

haar

This was my second visit to St. Abbs this week. The last time we were rather taken by its tiny harbour, and the way the houses were jumbled into the slopes above it, each shed with a sea view (not to mention the nice little cafe selling generously proportioned fresh local crab baguettes).

St Abbs Harbour

It all looked and felt a bit more … elemental in the haar and the north wind today.

St Abbs from St Abbs head

Home tomorrow.

* we did leave some responsible adults in charge. And a few irresponsible ones as well


We’ll Weather the Weather

December 24, 2014

Let’s go for a walk, I said.

It’s a glorious day, I said.

It would be criminal to waste an afternoon like this, I said.

We need to get out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts, I said.

I had forgotten to adjust for this being Duns, home of freak weather.

raincloud over Duns

In fairness to me, it did brighten up a bit later, and we were almost dry by the time we got back in.

afternoon sunshine


Born Free

December 23, 2014

Take four children.

Stick them in a cottage in the woods with NO WIFI and hence no Minecraft.

Send them out to amuse themselves in the surrounding forest

What could possibly go wrong?

feral kids

For the record, we got four kids (and sixteen limbs) back all present and correct.


Escape Committee

December 19, 2014

I’m not the only one in the family for whom sanity is bicycle shaped… For my mum, getting out on her bike, even if just for a little while two or three times a week, is a lifeline.

Mum on Paperbike

We managed to slip out today for half an hour before the sun set.

mum on paperbike

We didn’t get very far and even if we’d had time, the mud in the grounds of Duns Castle was a bit trying (the Paper Bicycle offroads surprisingly well but I thought the Brompton would disappear in places. It’s only little…)

Paperbike on mud

And we were back in time for tea. Just as we promised we would. Sometimes the temptation must be just to keep on pedalling though…

pedalling off


101 Uses for a Brompton: Surviving Christmas

December 18, 2014

Let’s get this straight: I love my family dearly, even when there’s 11 of us crammed into one house for a week, I love the fact that our sibling rivalry has remained intact even though we’re all in our forties (this may not be 100% what people mean by ‘staying in touch with your inner child’ but, you know, rough with the smooth and all that), and I’m ecstatic about the fact that my immune system is about to be assaulted by the combined germs of four school-aged children from two different countries.

But, as there’s only so much sitting around in one room waiting for your turn to charge up your electronic gadget of choice that one person can do, I made sure that one thing got packed before anything else:

Brompton packed in boot

This way we might actually all survive.


Up the Down Escalator

December 16, 2014

I can’t say I was looking forward to this morning: a couple of hours spent at the Coonsil in order to speak at the planning committee. One of the depressing things about cycle campaigning is that it turns out you don’t end up spending much time thinking up lovely new cycling routes you’d like to see and making positive suggestions about how to get them – instead you spend the bulk of your time fighting off plans that will make things worse. And even more depressing is the fact that this isn’t because of some evil sinister anti-bike lobby, but because 99% of the people involved with the council (or anything really) give absolutely no thought to the impact something might have on cycling and no clue about what is required, so it’s your job to be constantly alert to everything that’s going on and spend your evenings reading planning documents, and your mornings in meetings where people say things like ‘this would have to be considered a Section 69 matter’, just in order to prevent some piece of idiocy happening before it’s too late. Like making people dash across a 60mph road in a ‘gap in the traffic’ (in the words of the roads officer) in order to get to the hospital, to take an instance at random.

So I wasn’t in the best of moods when I got to town, despite some sparkling winter sunshine, but I had fifteen minute to kill and so I took the Brompton on a tour of the bridges of Bigtown and reminded myself that it’s not a half bad place, all things considered.



Suspension bridge

A miracle really.

Devorgilla bridge

Refreshed, I went in, said my piece, fielded some not unintelligent questions from the councillors, and left feeling somewhat hopeful that a massive own goal can somehow be avoided as long as we keep up the pressure. But oh how much better it would be if we didn’t have to battle every step of the way just to keep things from getting worse…

blue skies

Normally at this time of year I would be tantalising you with deep blue Colorado winter skies. This will have to do…


From the Sublime (ish) …

December 15, 2014

Two vignettes from our village carol singing:

Vignette one: the apple-cheeked villagers gather outside one of the cottages in the main street where an elderly couple live: she would have been out singing with us if she could but he is ill and too frail to be left on his own so we have come to them and strike up, surprisingly tunefully, Once in Royal David’s City, his favourite carol. The pair of them come to the door to listen and to tell the truth it’s kind of hard to hit those high notes when you’ve got a bit of a lump in your throat, but that’s Christmas.

Vignette two: safely in the village hall, replete with mince pies and tea and more or less thawed out, the village children volunteer to sing a couple of the carols that they have learned in school. They acquit themselves remarkably well with ‘Away in a Manger’ – from memory no less – and then launch into the inevitable ‘Little Donkey’* by way of an encore, once more from memory. The first verse passes off without hitch, and they launch boldly into the chorus, which goes well. Then they start the next verse … only they have forgotten the rest of the words so they sing the first verse again. And then the chorus. And then the first verse again. Slowly it dawns on the hall that we may very well be trapped into an eternity of Little Donkey, a carol that most people feel has delighted them enough the first time they heard it, and there seems no way out until the choirmistress – with the aplomb of someone who has spent a good few years wrangling our choir into a semblance of order – calls out ‘and we’ll all join in for the last chorus!’ and the evening is salvaged.

And if we all stumbled out into the darkness later with ‘little donkey … carry Mary … on the dusty … road’ stuck irretrievably in our heads, well it’s just a sign that no good deed ever goes unpunished.

Fortunately my sister seems to have had better luck.

*awkward because when the choirmistress was taking requests earlier, the table at the back had expressly asked for ‘anything but Little Donkey’


Doctor Bike

December 12, 2014

There are days when you hum and haw over whether to put your ice tyres on the bike or not

black ice on road

This morning was not one of them.

I had to be in town all day and while the other half had, as he always does, kindly offered me a lift, I’ve been spending too much time stuck indoors and not enough time on the bike lately. A little bit of swearing and percussive maintenance later and the bike was shod in its magical spikes and I was away in the winter sunshine.

winter sun

I’d woken this morning with a dose of the grumps, but a bike ride and a day spent happily absorbed helping out with a spot of cut paper animation restored my equilibrium. Even being sleeted on on the way home couldn’t quite dampen my mood.