Timing is Everything

February 29, 2016

Heading back from the village the other day I stopped to chat with a neighbour about the state of the potholes that have opened up in the roads thanks to the attentions of storms Abigail, Bawbag, Frank, Ignatius and Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all, or ‘winter’ as it used to be known.

Taking my duties as a community councillor seriously, I made sure to photograph the worst one, complete with welly boot and small dog for scale, to take to next Monday’s Community Council meeting.

unmended pothole

Today, as I pedalled out for the paper, I noticed it had got, if anything, worse and was wondering if even a visit from the Tarmac Fairy wouldn’t be better than hitting that thing at speed on my bike. But by the time I had returned lo and behold …

mended pothole
I am sure that the timing is entirely coincidental. But who says local politics changes nothing?

If only cycle paths could be had as easily as mended potholes apparently can…


February 28, 2016

Hmm. Was I ever foolish enough to claim that purple sprouting broccoli was indestructible? Over the years I’ve been growing it, I’ve certainly put that to the test, having seen my plants variously munched by caterpillars and pheasants, been felled by frost and heavy snow, bolting, and suffering from general user error and still coming up flowering in spring. This year, despite being eaten by the rabbit, they had started to recover but when I went up to check on the veg plot this afternoon (shamed into action by the other half actually starting to tidy up the garden this morning) I was distressed to notice that my celebration of their recovery had been premature

unsprouting broccoli

I don’t know what exactly is causing the damage this time. I thought we’d got rid of the rabbit, although there could still be a gap in the fence. The damage looks a bit different from when the rabbit was rampant before too – the plants look almost as if they have been gnawed

gnawed broccoli plants

Any ideas apart from extremely unambitious beavers?

The garlic, on the other hand, is going great guns. growing garlic

House Hunting, Rural Style

February 25, 2016

Me: there’s a house for sale in [village x] that might be worth a look

OH: [village x]? Isn’t that where our exchange* is?

Me: Yes. It looks quite good it’s got –

OH: Buy it.

Can you tell we’ve been having problems with our broadband recently?

*For those not familiar with rural life, when you tell anyone who knows anything about broadband that you live five miles from the exchange, normally all you get is a sorrowing yet sympathetic look and a pat on the shoulder. Still, our views are nice.

Hurry Up Spring

February 24, 2016

Cycling along with a companion the other day, we both remarked on how cheering it is to see the first flush of colour on the bare trees as the buds thicken ready to burst into leaf. It’s something we neither of us noticed until we moved up here; whether because living urban lives we weren’t as attuned to the passage of the seasons, or simply because we’ve got longer to stare at the leafless winter trees up here and try and imagine spring into happening, who knows.

first flush of spring

You can see it, can’t you?

We woke this morning to a surprise dusting of snow, with hard frost forecast again for tonight, so I suppose we should be grateful for any presentiments of spring we can get our hands on. And in the interests of full disclosure I should note that shortly after stopping to take this photo (and having a chat with the cyclist you see approaching in the distance, who turned out to be a neighbour who was combining triathalon training with the joys of utility cycling by dashing up the Col du Doctor’s Surgery to pick up a prescription) it began to sleet…

A Hard Day at the Office

February 23, 2016

I have discovered one great thing about my co-working space: on a sunny but otherwise bitterly cold day, the sun comes around in the afternoon and streams through the window and, although I cannot actually see my screen to work, neither can I bring myself to move so that it is not shining in my eyes.

Another bonus is that it is just around the corner from the Greek deli which, despite having been established in Bigtown for a couple of years now, hasn’t yet succumbed to serving haggis pannini and is one of the other half’s favourite local eateries* so it is very easy to lure him down for a sneaky lunch date.

The commute home isn’t bad either.

River Nith from the bridge

*the other one does an egg, bacon and black pudding** roll for not very much money and has made him somewhat difficult to please at any other similar establishment which has the temerity to charge more or stuff their rolls with less bacon

**and did you know that black pudding is now a superfood?***

*** according to research published by the black pudding marketing board.

Gimme Sunshine

February 20, 2016

Cycling into Bigtown today to see if anyone would turn up for our winter ride in a steady freezing drizzle, I wasn’t quite feeling the bike love. And as I came up to overtake a pedestrian out walking in the rain, I felt a little miffed at having my semi-ironic ‘good morning!’ responded to with no more than a muttered greeting. Hmmph, I thought, there’s no harm in saying something nice to the only fellow human who’s mad enough to be out in this weather.

And then as I started to pedal past, I heard him call out ‘That’s a great pannier!’ and my day improved immeasurably. There really isn’t any harm in saying something nice to any fellow humans you encounter, however miserable the weather.

cow pannier

It totally is a great pannier too

Oh, and the only other fellow human mad enough to go for a recreational cycle this morning & I had a cracking bike ride too

Blessed are those with low expectations, as sometimes they will be exceeded.

Not Single Spies

February 18, 2016

frosty vegetation

While my more optimistic commenters might believe that after two bike maintenance disasters in a row I was due for a break, I know that the iron law of narrative tripartism determines that all things happen in threes, whether in fiction or in real life.

ice on puddle

So I was encouraged to wake this morning to a sparkly frosty day and an icy ungritted road, with a meeting* to get to long before the sun would have a chance of thawing the worst of it

ice on road

Of course, I thought, here comes the third thing! I have to change to my ice tyres, and my bike maintenance triple will be complete. I set to work and was pleased to discover I had got my wheel-swapping time down to just 15 minutes, not counting the time taken for the other half to further tighten the wheel nuts, explain why I’d used the wrong spanner and generally fail to be impressed at my bike maintenance prowess.

winter spiked tyre

Nothing daunted, I raced off for my meeting, enjoying all the gnarly ice, certain that I’d made the right decision in swapping out my tyres, and arriving at my meeting bang on time.

I suppose none of you will be surprised to learn that when I emerged an hour later, my back tyre was completely flat.

And nor were there any doughnuts.

* And by ‘meeting’, I mean heading to a local coffee shop for bike-related plotting on the promise that Thursday was ‘doughnut day’** and that the doughnuts in question were particularly delicious.

** we cyclists laugh in the face of hidden sugar***

*** Although frankly, if you’re going to hide sugar, a doughnut is a terrible place to do it.

Well, Finally

February 16, 2016

It’s not often I get this right but this morning, having emerged from my yoga class to see that it wasn’t yet raining, and knowing that the forecast was swithering between diabolical and merely dire, I abandoned my plans to spend the rest of the day in my co-working office and hopped straight back on the bike to get home before the impending weather warning made good on its promises.

The wind was already strong enough to snatch my cap from my head as I crossed the river, forcing me to stuff it in my bag for safe keeping. As I got out of town I was sheltered from the worst of the crosswind by the hedges but I could see the electricity wires all being blown sideways by its force and hear every loose bit of metal in every farm yard banging as I passed. It was only as I turned into the wind for the last couple of miles that I really felt its force, and by then the rain had started, and hail too for I was crunching little pellets of ice between my gritted teeth as I put my head down and powered for home. I arrived damp and chilled, and feeling as if I had been freshly sanded down.

All the same, as I stood by the Rayburn and watched the rain get blown past with increasing force, in warm dry clothes and with a cup of coffee in my hands, I was smug as only a cyclist can be smug who knows she has beaten the weather for once – and that she doesn’t have to go out in it again…

Bike Maintenance Redux

February 15, 2016

It’s fair to say the last two days have not represented a pinnacle of my bike maintenance skills. Yesterday, what was supposed to be a social bike ride turned into a puncture fixing refresher course involving a grand total of four inner tubes, something of a record for me (the inner tube with the leaky valve that was causing my front tyre to go flat in the first place; the ‘spare’ inner tube that had supposedly been repaired after the last puncture that proved not to be particularly repaired after all; the replacement inner tube hurriedly bought at Halfords which I punctured trying to get my Marathon Pluses back on; and the other replacement inner tube which the nice girl mechanic at Halfords fitted with practised ease in about the time it had taken me to work out which way round my front wheel went while simultaneously managing not to make me feel entirely the incompetent fool that she and I both secretly knew I was).

Today, with the sun shining and the frost confining itself to sparkling attractively on the grass, I set off for the paper with the only fly in the ointment being the fact that my front derailleur was proving difficult to trim so that my chain didn’t rattle against it, something that had been bugging me for a while. Unfortunately I had forgotten the cardinal rule of all bike maintenance: never ignore a new noise. I was just at the outskirts of Papershop Village when the chain snagged on what proved to be a sheared-off front derailleur

Fortunately, the bike was rideable home (as long as I didn’t hit too many potholes; this is harder than it sounds at the moment) as that would have been a long old walk of shame otherwise…

Off to the bike shop tomorrow, I think.

Oh Deer

February 12, 2016

It’s been creeping up on us for a while, but even so I was a little disoriented this afternoon to realise it was five o’clock already because there was still plenty of light in the sky

setting sun

Just enough time to nip out and do a little garden pottering, even if all I achieved was to clear out some of the nettle roots from the manure heap …

lilac coloured mushrooms

… and admiring the freaky purple mushrooms that have sprung up all over it

Pulling nettle roots is strangely absorbing, actually. It’s a bit like untangling knitting wool – you have a feeling it’s not the most productive thing you could be doing with your time yet somehow you cannot stop, as there’s always another good tangled clump to tease out and then another, and another …

By the time I’d torn myself away the light was fading and it was only then I noticed the young dead deer that had been lying less than 5 yards away from where I was standing. Too gruesome for photos, you’ll be glad to hear, although how I managed to overlook it I have no idea*

* I did consider making that the title of the post but it was a bit too close to the bone to be funny