Expectations Management

April 30, 2016

Well, miracle of miracles, I got out and did some gardening today. I still have too much work to do, although the end may be in sight, but with Pedal on Parliament finished – meaning that it’s now possible to actually finish dealing with my emails before the next tranche arrive – and the garden backlog getting steadily more urgent, I decided that if I didn’t get out now then I might as well give up on the veg this year. All I needed was some decent weather and I could get my seed potatoes in, or at least the first and second earlies, before it was too late.

wrinkled seed potatoes

Top tip for gardeners: don’t wait until your seed potatoes look like this. Although apparently they will still grow

Now if you’d told me even a week ago that a day when there was only one sudden violent hailstorm, plus intermittent icy showers, no actual ground frost and a forecast of it not to snow again at least for a while would count as decent gardening weather, I’d have looked at you as if you were mad – but after the weather we’ve had in recent days, we’ll take what we can get, frankly…

Not Tempered to the Shorn Lamb

April 29, 2016

Cycling down for the paper today in a viciously cold wind, I was trying to work out exactly what direction it was coming from – and whether I’d be cycling back right into the teeth of it on my way home. The wind tends to swirl around a bit through the village and sometimes hides behind hedges before pouncing unexpectedly. Plus if it’s a cross wind it can feel like a head wind in both directions – and if it’s a tail wind, you never notice until it’s too late

Coming back in what turned out to be a biting north-easterly cross wind – but of course – I realised that what I should have done was looked at the fields – because all the ewes were lying down and all the lambs were huddled on their mothers’ leeward sides. They’re still little enough not to have much fat to insulate them, or much wool either, and need what shelter they can get – although it has at least stopped snowing…

Spring. Did I blink and miss it?

Your Poor Hands Look Frozen…

April 28, 2016

… exclaimed the checkout woman as I handed over my cash this morning, and looking down at them I could see her point. Five miles into an icy headwind in sleety drizzle really doesn’t do anything for your skin, and while I know that spring in Scotland can mean anything, and we can get snow in June and all that, it’s one thing knowing it in theory, and it’s another thing to be digging out the lobster gloves when it’s almost May.

If yesterday’s weather was freakish, with its alternation of hot sunshine and snow, today was just Novemberish, and we had enough of that in November frankly.

The only bright side is I’m so behind with the garden I almost look prescient. To think I used to start planting things in February…


April 27, 2016

We woke this morning to clear skies and glorious sunshine – and no frost on the grass, for once, which was an improvement on the last couple of weeks. What better day, I thought, to take the peas and beans out of the greenhouse where I started them in a panic at the end of March and try and harden them off to plant them out before it’s actually May? And maybe get some washing out to boot?

hailstorm on laundry

And yes, I did stop to take a photo for the blog before rescuing the washing …

In retrospect, a day when it didn’t keep suddenly hailing, alternating with snowing, might have been better.

The weird thing was, in between hail/snow showers it was rather nice and even warm. In fact, I was sitting on the bench with my lunch when the first lot fell and it confused me because there I was enjoying the warmth of the sun, and here was this white stuff falling out of the sky – I confess, I looked up to see if there was a jackdaw or something dropping things because that made more sense than snow.

Anyway, according to all the gardening columns, hardening off your glasshouse-grown plants is a gradual process of putting them out on sunny days and progressively getting them used to the great outdoors with longer spells in the cold and eventually keeping them out overnight – not subjecting them to a day of violent freak weather conditions and hoping for the best.

broadbean seedlings

Fortunately, my peas and broad beans seem a pretty hardy bunch. With any luck they’ll survive tomorrows plague of frogs, or whatever it is the Weather Gods have in store, and I can plant them out at the weekend, ready for it to hail taxis.

Pea seedlings

Twelve* Angry Men**

April 26, 2016

An important-looking letter arrives

I know that jury service is supposed to be a bit of an imposition – but I’m actually looking forward to it in a way. I’m trying to put my finger exactly on why this should be. Partly it’s because I’m nosy – part and parcel of being a writer – and it seems like it would be really interesting. Partly it’s because I’ll be able to claim a massive 9.8p a mile for cycling to Bigtown’s Sheriff Courts for a week (what’s the betting they won’t let me sit on any dangerous driving cases?). But mainly, after the last few weeks I’ve had it’s because the thought of spending a week largely hanging around with nothing to do seems rather appealing …

* Except it would appear it’s 15 in Scotland

** and not all men either. Or, necessarily, angry.

We Came, We PoPped, I’m Pooped

April 23, 2016

What you want words? How about some tweets instead (the ultimate in lazy blogging, I know)

The problem is, I never get a chance to look around and actually take it in on the day, I’m just too busy and too worried and then when the speeches start I’m crouched under a banner so I can see the screen of the laptop trying to extract actual sentences out of a politicians’ speech for the press release.

The Pedal on Parliament media centre at work

But here is the assembled crowd cheering as the last riders arrived at the Parliament building – 50 minutes after the first ones set off.

POP CheerAnd for those of you who don’t give a stuff about cycling or campaigning – the end is in sight. We’ll be back to gardening and swallows and imprecations towards the weather gods soon …



April 21, 2016

radio mast

It’s funny – we’ve spent 8 years here, more or less to the day, and we’ve never thought to drive up to the top of the hill to get a closer look at the radio mast* we can see from almost everywhere around here.

This evening, though, there was a beacon planned for the Queen’s 90th birthday and where else would you site it but right on the top of the hill where the mast is, and presumably for similar reasons. I’m fairly neutral on the whole monarchy thing, but I’m all for a big bonfire and it being a village event that, crucially, someone else had organised, I thought we had better go and support it.

full moon

It was only when we’d driven all the way up the hill that it struck us that the views would be fantastic – and not just because it was the only spot in the parish you couldn’t see the radio mast from.


Despite it being a gloriously warm day the wind had picked up and we didn’t wait to spot any other beacons before starting our own. The youngest inhabitant of the parish had the honour of setting the match to the bonfire and then it was the usual bonfire activity of finding the sweet spot between freezing your arse off and burning your eyebrows off.

hot bonfire

And getting close enough to toast a marshmallow or two. I wonder if you could make Tunnocks Caramel Wafers Smores?

tunnocks, marshmallows and flag
* Obviously, while a distant windfarm is considered a dreadful eyesore, a ginormous radio mast slap bang in the middle of the parish is just part of the scenery. No, I don’t really know either