Before a Fall

March 31, 2016

seeds planted

As I took this photo in the greenhouse yesterday – pleased at having caught up a bit with my gardening backlog and got all the ‘sow by March’ seeds at least started in the greenhouse – I reflected that, over the years, I had managed to pick up a few bits and pieces about this grow-your-own lark (after all, making mistakes is probably the most effective way to learn). While things might change if we move to a new place with new soil and new pests and a different microclimate, at least in my old familiar plot in the walled garden I knew enough to get the growing season off to a good start in a pretty slick operation, even if I did say so myself.

With the other half’s tomatoes and tomatilloes germinating on the kitchen windowsill, and the chillie seeds enjoying the gentle heat of the rayburn, and the seed potatoes chitting nicely at the back of the greenhouse ready to be dug in, I went to bed feeling that we had done a good days’s work.

And woke to a heavy frost. I *think* the seed potatoes should have survived it, but who knows what a seed potato that has succumbed to frost looks like, compared to one that hasn’t?

Certainly not me …

Secret Squirrel

March 29, 2016

So, one of the reasons why I’ve been so busy recently has finally gone live – an interactive bit on the We Walk We Cycle We Vote website where (for viewers in Scotland) you can enter your postcode or constituency and find out where your candidates stand on active travel, and then tell them what you think about it. The other half did the clever bit, that actually makes it work* while I did what should have been the easy bit of gathering information on all the candidates standing for election and their contact details and getting them into a database.

Oddly enough, this proved quite tricky. You’d think, if you were running for election, that fairly high up on your agenda would be simple things like announcing you were running for election, and providing people with the means to contact you. And yet, a few weeks ago hardly any of the party websites had lists of candidates and those that did disdained to provide any way of contacting them beyond those annoying web forms that don’t give you any real sense of confidence that the email it supposedly generates will go anywhere but straight in the bin. Even now, with nominations closing on Friday, there are still gaps – some some parties haven’t included all their list candidates, some still treat their candidates’ email addresses like state secrets, some provide email addresses half if which ended up bouncing (naming no names, but it was the Lib Dems), and almost all of them make sure you have to click on each candidate individually to find out if there’s an email address for them at all – which is all good fun when your broadband is a rural as ours. Add in Gmail deciding this afternoon that I was a spammer because I was sending out too many emails – to be fair, it had a point – and as you can probably tell it’s been a frustrating exercise.

However, I have persevered, and with a mixture of googling and rummaging around in various Facebook ‘about’ pages, and just plain guessing (if a candidate called Firstname.Surname ever runs for office they’ll be a shoo-in) – I have managed to contact about three-fifths of the people who allegedly want to represent us in the Scottish Parliament. The rest clearly feel that not getting inundated with adverts for penis enlargements – or, indeed, requests for their policy positions on active travel – is more important than being reachable by their electorate.

Now comes the really hard part – which is deciphering the replies that have come in from the more practised candidates and trying to determine if they’re actually promising something or just writing something which semantically looks like a promise but has a way of wriggling out of your grasp like a double jointed eel when you try and pin it down. But that part, I’ll leave up to the voters to decide. If you want to play along go here and put in your postcode and see what comes up for your constituency. Bonus points to the first person who extracts an actual measurable promise out of a politician …

* And yes, I did use to be a computer programmer who managed web-based database developments in a previous life, but I have thoroughly de-skilled myself in the intervening years. Possibly the ‘managing’ bit was part of that process…

It Can’t Last …

March 28, 2016

wheelbarrow with a view

… but I actually managed to find the time to get out and do some gardening over this weekend. Not much, but a few barrowloads of manure were hacked out of the nettle heap and transferred to the greenhouse. If I get really reckless, I might even start some seeds, or just dig up the parsnips which have emerged now that the soil is warming up a bit

parsnips re-emerging

… and tomorrow, I will even be able to return to yoga. Actually, these two announcements may not be entirely unrelated…

sunshine and showers

Normal Service Resumed

March 26, 2016

rain falling

Like most of the country, we’ve had a miraculous period of settled dry weather for a couple of weeks now. As always, it has coincided with me being too busy to take much advantage of it, beyond my usual bicycle excursions – hence the rather light blogging in recent weeks – but, just as things were easing up on the work front, the Weather Gods returned from wherever it is they’ve been …

I was due to be leading a social ride in Bigtown this morning and I was extremely grateful when someone else offered to be the one who went and stood at the rendezvous point waiting for nobody to turn up, as it saved me a 45 minute ride there in the rain, followed by a 45 minute ride back, and having to get changed in the bath.

wet lawn

As it was, if I hadn’t had to empty the compost bucket and feed the landlords’ cats, I might not have ventured out at all today.

Well, except for one important thing, obviously

checking the level of the ford

Normal blogging service should also resume too, hopefully.

felled daffodil

Meanwhile Happy Easter, everyone.

Sure Signs of Spring

March 22, 2016

Greyish brown blobs of frogspawn in every puddle and ditch…


… and litle white blobs fleeing over the hill at the sight of a blogger with a camera phone

fleeing sheep and lambs

You’ll just have to take my word for it that the lambs are gambolling away like gooduns and are very cute, but a tad flighty.

Batteries Not Included

March 21, 2016

It was my birthday today and, while nobody gave me what I really wanted, which was a whole week of time to catch up with myself, I had many fine presents, including a new Brooks saddle for my Brompton and books from my Amazon wishlist.

bike stand

what’s in the box?

The other half, displaying rather more faith in my skills than I have myself has given me a lovely Park Tools bike maintenance stand. I did have a vague plan to get it assembled this afternoon and photograph it with my bike on it and maybe even investigate the latest New Noise that I shouldn’t be ignoring, but after it took me several minutes just to wrestle the box open (it was fastened with about 17 of those giant brass staples that say whoever fastened it meant for it to stay fastened) I realised I was not going to have the time even to unpack everything, let along work out how to put it together so I just peered into the bottom to see if they had included a tiny bike mechanic along with all the other bits.

Sadly he or she seems to have got lost in the post, so I will have to wait until the weekend to do justice to what appears to be a Serious Piece of Kit. Meanwhile, if any of you have any spare time lying around, please send it my way. I promise I will use it well.


March 18, 2016

I’ve often wondered why I seem to be constantly running to catch up with myself but never quite manage to get through everything I need done.

I got up this morning, ready to tackle the job I’d been working on last night (till 11pm, eek, if you’re interested in work-life balance, can I suggest you never ‘downshift’ and take up a freelance career?) and didn’t quite get finished, before I went on to finish the other job that was queued up behind it to meet my Friday deadline and then have time in the evening to catch up with all the other things that have been piling up recently, including preparing for the Bigtown Environment Fair.

bus consultation posterAnd then I saw in my email that I’d been invited to an event on Facebook which turned out to be a petition against cutting the local bus service.* I signed, obviously, if only as a counter to the campaign to dual Big A Road, but did wonder whether there was a consultation exercise going on as it’s usually more effective to respond to those than sign a petition. It turns out that the consultation exercise consists of this poster (not sure exactly where it’s been put up – you’d hope in bus stops, but perhaps in car showrooms …) and a two week window when people can respond. There’s nothing on the relevant website, and if it wasn’t for the local Greens there wouldn’t have even been a consultation at all.

Rural bus services are a complicated subject and there’s no doubt that some of them cost a lot and don’t really deliver much benefit.** But you can’t just slash them with no warning when it’s often the most vulnerable people in society who depend on them. So rather than settling down immediately to crafting an executive summary for a report on empowering rural communities, there I was attemptin to actually empower a rural community to save its bus services. No doubt the coonsil will go ahead and do what it wants anyway but at least we will have tried.

And now, back to the grindstone…

* I was actually quite surprised to learn that Bigtownshire actually runs enough evening and Sunday buses to make them worth axing as Nearest Village certainly doesn’t have any, but then again, that’s why I don’t use the bus any more which is why the buses are so empty and why they have to be cut further …

** See also: massive boondoggle road dualling projects that carve up half the country and cost billions to shave all of five minutes off the journey to Notso Bigtown.