Not Dead Only Sleeping

March 19, 2017

‘Have you given up blogging then?’ the other half inquired rather plaintively this morning (despite the fact that I’m not, and never will be, as funny as I was in 2005).

The fact is, there’s a sweet spot between not doing anything interesting to blog about, and not having enough time to blog about it, and I’m still overshooting it. I may, technically, have become less busy at the end of last week but that doesn’t seem to have translated into my having any more time. Maybe next week …

Part of the problem is that I’m still extricating myself from the clutches of the community council in the parish I no longer live in as even an appeal from the pulpit has not yet produced a willing volunteer to become secretary in my stead. That also means helping distribute the newsletter, which the Brompton and I duly did this afternoon.

newsletter delivery route

Oh okay, so maybe it wasn’t that much of a hardship on an early spring afternoon.

Chionodoxa

Chionodoxa luciliae

In other news, my birthday present to myself has arrived a few days early.


Hares Today …

March 14, 2017

hare outside front doorAs I may have mentioned, we have a resident hare in the garden. It has a few favoured spots where it likes to hang out, and it’s a bit fly to be photographed on a mobile phone, although today I did my best when I went into our entranceway today and found we had a visitor right outside (possibly contemplating nibbling the second of the pair of little bay trees that I had been hoping would frame our doorway; it’s already decapitated the first.)

When I was in Inverness, I also got a text from the other half to tell me that not one but two hares were hanging out on the manky pink carpet, waiting for the rain to stop. As hares are largely solitary, two hares can mean only one thing: that the time has come when a young hare’s fancy turns to, well, other hares (the ‘boxing’ they are famous for in March is generally down to the female hare not yet being similarly inclined and reminding the male hare that hares are largely solitary and she would prefer to keep it that way, thankyouverymuch). So far we’ve seen neither boxing nor any sign that they are doing more than just tolerating each others’ presence, but we live in hope of more hares tomorrow.

hare haring off

Naturally this makes the hare-proof defences for the vegetable patch increasingly urgent, but for now we are just enjoying their presence and trying to work out a means by which we and the hares can continue to share the garden nicely.


Ask a Busy Woman*

March 12, 2017

Finally, after a week in which I’ve almost had to schedule every waking hour to get everything done, I have managed to hit my last deadline, and now only have a small three-city mass bike demonstration to organise plus another active travel campaign for the local elections and the small matter of everything that’s been piling up while I’ve been too busy to do it.

Pedal on Parliament

BTW we’re crowdfunding POP this year, in case you missed it on Facebook, Twitter, my emails … click picture for more details

This has meant compressing the whole of potato day into half an hour (a post in itself), not nearly enough cycling, and spending six hours on various trains on Friday working solidly on my laptop as some of Scotland’s finest scenery passed unnoticed beside me. I was putting the final finishing touches to a piece of editing as the train pulled in to Inverness, and then it was only a small matter of getting a response in to the minister’s Active Travel Task Force about why local authorities might not be putting in ambitious cycling infrastructure (am I the only person who’s a little disappointed that this doesn’t seem to involve nearly enough gunboats? Sometimes talking softly and carrying a big stick is the way to go when it comes to some coonsils. Still, hard to get a battleship right up to East Dunbartonshire, I suppose).

scenery from the train

It’s a mug’s game trying to take photographs through the train window.

As I got back on the train again yesterday, I discovered that the Glasgow train doesn’t seem to come with power sockets, meaning all my plans for another productive session on the laptop came to naught. Fortunately, by then there was only the small matter of a crowdfunding campaign to launch – and there were others who were perfectly capable of getting everything done in my absence. It was no bad thing, in the end, to be forced to spend a few hours actually appreciating the scenery, and reading the weekend papers. Luxury.

Inverness – what little I managed to see of it – seemed really nice. One day I will return and check it out properly. Apart from anything else, it’s full of bikes…

Inverness bikes

* If she’d like to sit down with a nice cup of coffee and a biscuit, while you do one of the million things she’s taken on because people keep asking her to do them because she’s a busy woman who gets things done. It’s really the least you can do.


The Proverbials

March 9, 2017

paper birch trees planted

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago

paper birch tree tubes

The second best time is now*

silver birch in tree tubes

The ridiculously oversized tree tubes will hopefully protect our twiglets from the attentions of the coos.

Mark this one down as ‘lighting a candle’, but in tree form.

Tomorrow, as part of Back on my Bike‘s plan to reach every cyclist in Scotland with the Walk Cycle Vote message, I shall be heading up to Inverness. If I ever get that song out of my head, I might be able to report back sensibly.

I wouldn’t count on it though

* Although technically, that’s the third best time, as the second best time would have been on our actual 25th wedding anniversary, which was two months ago, that being what the trees were supposed to be commemorating, but you know, it takes me a while to get around to these things**

** indeed, it might even be the fourth best time, given that we should really have waited a whole year before deciding where to put the trees, but what can I say, nobody celebrates their 26th wedding anniversary …


Trumpet Practice

March 7, 2017

In celebration of International Women’s Day tomorrow, the Women’s Cycle Forum has been compiling interviews with various cycling women around Scotland (and a few beyond). This has been a fun, interesting and slightly frustrating exercise. Fun, because it’s always fun to talk to fellow cyclists, especially if you ask them about their bikes; interesting, because some of these women are doing pretty cool stuff I didn’t really know about; and frustrating because when you ask (most) women to peer out, ever so briefly, from under that bushel where they have been hiding themselves, they claim they are not really interesting enough (this from a woman who learned to ride a bike when she was 40 and is now inspiring others to ride in a community where it has traditionally been frowned upon), fail to mention some pretty significant achievements (from someone who went from being annoyed about her commute to work to running a major cycle campaign, but didn’t really think that worth mentioning), and – almost universally – apologise because their answers might be a bit long.

As I was prompted to remark, my next venture might have to be a fund to buy all the women in the UK a trumpet of their own so they can practise blowing it.*

Be that as it may, we have bulldozed aside all demurrals, modesty, and suggestions that we not bother using any of it in case it’s too dull, you can find the results here.

Happy International Women’s Day …

* Suggestions that we could do with a job lot of mutes to keep some of the chaps’ trumpet playing down, would be entirely unworthy.


Kill or Cure

March 6, 2017

The thing I really needed to happen this week was for someone to discover an extra day between Tuesday and Wednesday so I can actually manage to get all the things done I need to in time. The thing I really didn’t need to happen was me catching the other half’s cold, so naturally that’s the thing that did happen, although I’m still hoping the magic of cycling will see it off.

Of course for cycling to work properly, you have to not just go out on a bike, but get miserably cold and drenched, at least that’s my theory* and ordinarily, you can rely on the Weather Gods to serve up that sort of weather without too much problem. So I should probably have been unhappy at the fact that during today’s paper run, the only rain I got was the tiniest of sprinklings and a fragment of rainbow, and the rest was just surprisingly warm spring sunshine – not enough to see off even the feeblest of rhinoviruses.

fragment of rainbow

Rainbow posed by model as this was actually yesterday’s rainbow.

Still, maybe the vitamin D will do it instead, although I don’t think the sun’s quite high in the sky to generate useful amounts yet. I took my cap off all the same, and cycled along bare headed just in case. It might not be doing much for my vitamin levels, but it did feel good to have some sun on my skin.

In other news, the daffodils are almost out.

daffodils almost out
* I suspect that, like most cold remedies, it will simply serve to cut down the duration of the cold from a whole week to just seven days.


Someday my Bus will Come

March 4, 2017

So today I had to make it out to the Wild West which meant just your average multi-modal rural journey: six miles by bike (with a small portion of a popup bookshop in my Brompton’s basket) down to Big A Road, bus to Notso Bigtown, and then a lift onwards. After extensive consultation of the bus timetables, maps and Google Streetview (to check if there was a bus stop where I was planning to catch the bus – I have seriously no idea why I ever thought Google Streetview was a gimmick; I can’t imagine life without it now), I was fairly certain that I could make it in time although, as the next bus wasn’t for an hour, if I missed the first one it would actually end up being quicker just to cycle to Notso Bigtown, even with half a ton of books in the front basket.

on the road

bus stopThere’s an argument (I’ve made it myself from time to time) that more cycling could be the salvation of the rural bus service because the effective radius of a bike means that you can generally get away with taking just one bus instead of two,* and because buses can then take you further more quickly and on much scarier roads than you can comfortably manage on a bike. But then again, once you’re standing at a deserted rural bus stop with no timetable and no shelter and no indication of how you might know if you had missed the bus if you had missed it, then really nothing does seem more unlikely than the arrival of a rural bus.

Which is unfair, because the bus arrived bang on time and I even had time on the way to stop and photograph some sheep (I really will keep on posting photos of sheep here until you tell me that you’ve seen enough…).

reflective sheep

And while it will still never be my preferred mode of transport for any journey where I can feasibly ride a bike, as a writer I probably should try and spend more time on local buses. In London, when I was writing my old blog, I was continually confronted by people and little glimpses of their stories, intriguing enough at times to spark an idea or bring a character to life. This morning as we passed through one of the intervening villages, the bus picked up a cheery middle-aged woman who explained her leather jacket, eyeliner and semi-punk hairdo to the driver as she got on (I am guessing this was not her normal get up): “We all had to dress up as someone from the eighties and this was the nearest I could get to Siousxie and the Banshees. Or Siousxie and the Banshees with a shopping trolley in my case.”

You never get that kind of quality comment from a sheep.

* having to co-ordinate two rural buses turns a not-madly-convenient-but-doable journey into the sort of epic travelogue people write books about – the publishers surely only turned down Dervla Murphy’s ‘Across Galloway by Public Transport’ idea down on the grounds that it was clearly impossible and they couldn’t be responsible for sending someone off on such a fool’s errand.