I’m not Saying it’s All the Fault of Brexit

June 30, 2016

… but there was a cold wind blowing from the south on Friday and it seems to have brought nothing but rain, cold and almost autumnal gloom with it.

Yesterday I ended up drenched cycling home

(and no, I’ve not lived in the western half of Scotland for long enough to consider summer’s ‘slightly warmer rain’ much of an improvement over the freezing stuff we get in the winter)

Today it was at least dry outside – but without the Rayburn to dry everything my gloves, jacket and boots were still pretty sodden, so it was time for desperate measures.

The referendum fallout doesn’t get any better (although at least the Tories are now stabbing each other in the back just as enthusiastically as Labour are), but I’ve decided to try and ignore it as best I can. I know that’s a luxury that many don’t have – but hopefully the country will soon get its sense of humour and proportion back, if nothing else.

To help it on its way, have a heartwarming story of a man rescuing a lamb. You’re welcome.

(In an emergency you may also need this)

Pathetic Fallacy

June 28, 2016

rain on the river

I don’t know if it’s the return of the rain, or lack of sleep, but the reality of Brexit really began to hit home today. Normally I’m a ridiculously positive person, but I found myself almost in tears watching a video clip of vile racist abuse on a Manchester tram and wondering just what has happened to my country. There’s only so much gardening, bike riding, and sharing of black humour on Twitter that you can do – and then you wake up again in the morning and it’s still happening. We’ve voted ourselves out, nobody has a plan, the Labour party have formed a circular firing squad – the news just keeps getting worse. I’m not even going to mention the football, because there’s an unholy amount of gloating going on by the Scots, which doesn’t bode well for any future indyref debate. Last time around the independence campaign was conducted in a spirit of democracy and debate and a lack of anti-English sentiment that did Scotland proud. If there is another one, I dread it being conducted in a spirit of bitterness and resentment. There are some genies that cannot be put back into the bottle once they have been unleashed.

All I can say is this – to the Scots, the EU, to anyone listening. We’ve all had friends who’ve become troubled, who lash out in their misery and make themselves unpleasant and generally try and shake off the people who love them most and want them to be happy. Mostly we understand that that’s not the real them that’s behaving that way and that all we can do is ply them with tea and sympathy and hugs and support and shrug off the things that they say when they’re not really thinking straight. So please, tempting as it is to kick England when it’s down, and much as it deserves it, bear with my poor self-harming country anyway while it works its way through a dreadful nervous breakdown. Send it tea. Lock away the knives. And don’t let it do anything drastic if you can.

mugs and kettle

Send tea… it’s all that can save us now

And to my compatriots I would add: damn it, whatever happened to Keep Calm and Carry On? We have never needed it more than in this hour.

Moving On

June 26, 2016

I don’t think I’ve fully digested the impact of the EU referendum result yet – I don’t know that anyone has – but yesterday I had a welcome distraction in the form of my Anniversaire.

new house

Stopping for a sneak preview of the new house

chat and ride

Riding at the speed of chat


summer clouds

Frequent stops to ‘delaminate’ were needed as the weather switched between sunshine and showers

over the moor

Heading back over the hills

rolling home

Downhill (almost) all the way from here

curious cows

Wherever you stop in the country you tend to draw a curious crowd…

Good friends, good cycling, good chat and plentiful cake. I hope everyone else who’s worried about the future managed to have as excellent a weekend. When in doubt, ride a bike.

summer rainbow

Sadly the Weather Gods have resumed normal service, but even that did not dampen our spirits. Well, much.

Life Goes On

June 24, 2016

I think between them, the radio, Facebook and Twitter have said all that there is to say about the Brexit vote and has since been saying and re-saying it over and over again, so I’m not going to add to the cacophony.

broccoli plants

For us, life goes on. We transferred the money to buy the house today (quite relieved to find the banking system was still running smoothly). I planted out my broccoli plants to a background murmur of politicians trying to sound statesmanlike and everyone else trying not to panic. I’m fighting the temptation to just batten down the hatches and concentrate on our own small square of Scotland and let the UK get on with it, but then again, we’re lucky to have that option.

This seems like the best advice in the circumstances although I would say join anything – party, union, cycle campaign – that is actively trying to make Britain, or Scotland, a better place in or out of the EU (or in or out of the UK as seems increasingly likely to happen north of the border).

The Leave campaign promised us a better Britain if we had control of our destiny and plenty of people I know of – who are not racist and not idiots – agreed. I doubt that their vision of a better Britain really matches mine, but maybe we should take them at their word and start to fight for all the things we really want. For me, it’s cycle campaigning. I’m sure you all have similar causes to espouse, and we will go on fighting for them come what may.

But that will have to wait for Monday. Tomorrow we have plans to ride bikes and eat cake and forget about politics and that’s the only really sane response to this morning’s news.

Doing the Messages

June 23, 2016

We’ve got one week to go on our local Bike Message challenge (‘doing the messages’ is Scots for going shopping which sort of makes sense if you look at it sideways). Technically I’m not eligible to complete it as I’m helping run the damn thing, but I like collecting the stickers anyway and it’s a chance to chat with the various shopkeepers taking part and see how they’re getting on.

Bike Message Challenge cards

It’s been a revelation just how many little independent shops there are in Bigtown – and so it’s no hardship to try somewhere new for a change. But there is a downside, which is it takes twice as long. Not because the shops are necessarily inefficient, it’s just that the conversations are so interesting compared with the formulaic interactions you get in the larger shops it’s sometimes hard to get away. Like the story I was told in the newsagent today about a local couple – he from Norway, she from Bigtown – who met when she was the cook on a whaling ship in South Georgia; they bonded after he had tried it on with her and she had dealt him a mighty right hook on the nose. I can’t imagine that many women would hold their own on a Norwegian whaler in the South Atlantic, but I’m somehow not surprised that a local-born lass would be one of them…

And then it’s always dangerous to nip into the local farm produce and greengrocers thinking you’ll just pick up a couple of oranges…


Lucky I have a very capacious (Dutch) bike bag

(and as Twitter would like to point out – French rims, Dutch light, German dynamo hub and mudguards … and Scottish rust. Thanks, Twitter)

Binge Gardening

June 22, 2016
garden after

Yes this is the ‘after’ shot, not the ‘before’

I’ve finally had time this week to try and catch up with the garden – just in time to leave it next month, but never mind. In among the weeds that were threatening to take over the courtyard completely I found not only this rather creepy zombie rabbit statue but a couple of spots in the flowerbed where chilled hare has obviously been hanging out (its ‘form’ apparently). I tell myself that this shows we have a wildlife-friendly approach to gardening, rather than something approaching a wilderness in the flowerbeds.

dead bunny statue

The garden may not look too much better, at least to the naked eye, but I have carted away two barrowloads of vegetation which has to represent progress in some measure.

barrowload of weeds

And I was happy to see that at least some of my random perennials have survived beneath all of the weeds.

random perennial

I heard on the radio as I weeded that purposeful work out among nature has a powerful effect on the mood. Radio 4 did its best counteract that by then following up with wall-to-wall EU referendum coverage. But even so, I feel I’ve spent a worthwhile day and am now ready to face whatever Thursday’s vote may bring.

Don’t forget to vote, those of you who can.

I’m Not Convinced…

June 20, 2016

X95: where every journey is an adventure

…That as bus route straplines go (and since when did bus routes start having their own straplines?), ‘Where every journey is an adventure’ is precisely what I want out of a bus journey, but that may be why I’m not in bus marketing.

brompton on bus

Fortunately there were no unexpected adventures for the Brompton and me as we made our way multimodally from Duns to home. By car this is a 2.5 hour drive, 3 hours if you stop for coffee in Moffat. By public transport this meant a 45 minute drive to Galashiels, 2 hour bus ride to Carlisle, 40 minute wait, 45 minute train journey to Bigtown and a 45 minute cycle home (OK, so maybe that was a bit of an adventure).

Still it made for excellent progress on my sock, which has been sadly hampered by my failure to get selected for jury service earlier this month.

sock progress

Knitting: Turning every inconvenience into a sock

Nearing the Longest Day

June 18, 2016

As this time of the year approaches I always suffer from a slight sense of guilt that I’m not out there, enjoying every minute of those long summer days that we’ve looked forward to all through the darkness of winter. There’s so many things I could be doing – gardening, walking, riding my bike – and yet somehow there I am pinned to the sofa by my laptop either working or doing work-shaped things until it’s time to go to bed.

afternoon clouds

Yesterday evening, however, I had been invited to go and talk to a lovely bookgroup about my book. The only catch was, it was fifteen miles away by bike along narrow winding rolling back roads.

the road ahead

Oh what a hardship.

afternoon light

A terrible hardship.

road ahead part two

It didn’t finish until nearly nine, and then it was time to set off again, fortified by cake and a glass (or two – they were small glasses) of wine to the good…

road home

Like I said, a terrible hardship

evening skies

I didn’t get home till it was nearly dusk.


The Great Scape

June 16, 2016

OK, I’ll confess that I originally took this photo partly because it was cool but mainly because I wanted to google what was going wrong with my garlic that was making the flower stems come out all curly

garlic stems

This shows how little I know because I found out that not only are garlic flower stems (scapes, apparently, to those in the know or those who have recently typed ‘curly garlic stems’ into Google anyway) meant to be curly, they’re also considered a delicacy.

harvested scapes

A little nibble of a freshly cut stem had me a bit dubious – ‘pungent’ doesn’t even begin to describe it – but the Internet assured me that, once sautéd in a bit of olive oil and then roasted on a pizza, they would be delicious.

And bugger me, if the Internet wasn’t bang to rights. As tasty as asparagus but with a (much milder once cooked) wonderfully garlicky flavour.

parsnip flowers

Ahem. This is not because I never got round to harvesting the last parsnips. It’s to attract beneficial hoverflies. Or something

Must google to see if there’s anything you can do with parsnip flowers …

nettle and ground elder

Fortunately this part of the garden is not under my charge. It does have a certain magnificence to it though

… or nettle and ground elder

Be Afraid

June 14, 2016

curious cows

I’ve been meaning to blog about the EU referendum (it seemed only fair, after I devoted so much time to the Scottish one) and have even got as far as drafting a post a couple of times but to be honest until a few weeks ago it’s not really been that much in the foreground. Compared to the the Indyref, when nobody seemed to be able to talk about anything else, the EU referendum has largely just been something that’s on the news and not anything anybody really discussed. If anything, my reaction was to kick back, crack open the popcorn, and enjoy the spectacle of the Tory party tearing itself apart over a referendum that the remain side would – surely – comfortably win.

That has changed now that it’s starting to look as if we might be heading for Brexit, if the polls are anything to go by. Quite apart from the fact that not 18 months ago Scotland was being told that if we wanted to guarantee our place in the EU we should vote to stay in the UK – insert hollow laugh here – this is a terrible idea. A few weeks ago I would have thought that I could leave it at that, on the assumption that pretty much everyone else who reads this blog would understand that this is a terrible idea, on a par with making Donald Trump US President. But it seems that even right-thinking people (and I’m assuming here that most of you here are generally fairly green, liberal, un-xenophobic types given that you’re reading a blog written by a green cycling feminist who knits her own socks and grows her own veg and is married to a foreigner, unless you’re going under deep cover to infiltrate the very heart of the enemy) are confused about whether they should support Britain remaining in the EU, possibly because the campaign on both sides has been pretty appalling.

So this afternoon, I was on my favourite cycling forum when the referendum thread finally flared into life and I took the opportunity to put into words the reason why I will be voting to remain. People seemed to find it helpful so I’m posting it here too. I doubt it will change anyone’s mind, but maybe it will be enough to swing one or two waverers into the remain camp and more importantly down to the polling station. And at least I will have tried:

“For all its problems, the EU is the only thing preventing us from entering a giant race to the bottom. When you hear business people talking about ‘red tape’, they’re not talking about bent bananas, by and large they’re talking about things like not forcing people to work more than 48 hours a week, giving them lunch breaks, providing maternity leave, animal welfare standards, clean air and water legislation and reducing landfill. Given what’s happened with things like zero hours contracts, I’m fairly sure that the minute we pull out of the EU the pressure will be on from the more unscrupulous employers to dismantle all these things that are getting in the way of sweating every last short term penny out of their employees and assets. Once that’s happened, the scrupulous employers will have to follow suit or go bust.

The whole point of the EU is that it pools sovereignty so that countries can’t start to undercut each other in this way. Sure we’re competing with China which does not have all that legislation – but at the moment, if I want to buy something which has at least met a minimum ethical standard for workers, then a ‘made in EU’ label gives me some level of reassurance. The EU can also impose some of its standards on countries that want to import to it. Which is why our beef isn’t laden with growth hormones the way it is in the US, and any genetically modified produce has to be labelled as such. At the moment, our workers’ rights legislation is driven by stroppy French unions, not enfeebled UK ones; our food standards are driven by the Italians, Spanish and French, who actually care about what they put in their mouths; and our animal welfare standards are driven by animal-loving Brits who don’t have the stomach for the worst excesses of factory farming.

It’s precisely *because* it’s not fully democratic that it is able to drive up standards in the single market against market forces that would like to drag them down. Personally, that alone is enough for me to want it to continue.”

So there you go. The case for remain, as explained to a cycling forum based in a city I don’t even live in. And if that doesn’t help you decide, you may find the following briefing useful as it seems to contain a rather larger ratio of fact to wild-eyed spin than most of the material put out by either camp.

And the cows? Well I was going to make some sort of elaborate analogy drawing together EU farming policies, mad cow disease, butter mountains and bullshit but actually they just amused me on my ride home from the pub this evening.