And I’m to be Queen of the PoP …

April 21, 2017

Well, that’s it – this weekend it’s Pedal on Parliament, and there’s not much more I can do after many frantic weeks of emailing, tweeting, messaging, planning, phoning, flyering, writing, lying awake worrying and having bizarre POP-related anxiety dreams.* In fact, there was something I could do as I was supposed to be spending this afternoon looking at the giant hole that someone has inconveniently dug right across the planned POP route in Edinburgh but I managed to miss the train attempting to do some last-minute paperwork and then got caught up in Bigtown’s rush-hour traffic – oh the irony. Fortunately there were others in the hole-inspecting team, who have inspected the hole, and so now, more or less, everything is ready to go.

Tomorrow will be the usual roller-coaster ride of fretting, anxious planning, chasing up last-minute details and almost (but not quite) forgetting in the whirl to enjoy the moment of actual achievement. Always assuming anyone actually does turn up, and that the giant hole doesn’t scupper us completely.

However, on Sunday, I hope, I will get to experience something of what it is to actually participate in POP because the PoPpers organising it in Glasgow are a formidably organised bunch, and thus my role in POP Glasgow has largely consisted of me sending them anxious messages about some detail that I had just remembered only to be told that they had thought of that three weeks ago and someone was on the case already, but thanks for the advice. Generously, they are letting me lead out the ride, granting me some sort of elder stateswoman role as the figurehead of POP – possibly to keep me out of the way of the people doing the actual work. I am working on my regal wave even as we speak, although I won’t be doing it in quite such style as this character

And then, on Monday, although the work is not yet over with the local elections still to come, I might be able to devote a little more time to all the things I used to do before the madness started.

I think I remember what they used to be …

leek seedling coming up
* The last two are not, strictly speaking, part of the preparation process but apparently unavoidable all the same.


Vote till you Boak*

April 18, 2017

Lunching with the other half today, I admitted to feeling a bit weary. There’s a lot of bitty stuff to do at the moment, not just with last-minute preparations for Pedal on Parliament but particularly with the ongoing We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaign. The good news is that we are getting lots of candidates signing up in support of our three ‘asks’. The less good news is that each one involves a little bit of work – finding the relevant tweet on Twitter, or replying to their email, finding and updating the relevant record, trying to turn a politician’s words into a firm actionable promise… nothing individually too arduous, but it is all starting to feel a bit relentless.

The long road home

The good news, as I told the other half, was that it would all be over in a few weeks. And even better, I was off to meet a couple who have agreed to take of the role of community council secretary. Their house happened to be on the reservoir road, which leads to one of my all-time favourite rides, the reservoir loop. It wasn’t exactly on the direct route home and it involved many entirely unnecessary feet of climbing, but I needed to be away from my computer for a while so I took the long road home.

Stone dykes

I got home much refreshed, ready to face the last two and a half weeks of election campaigning, happy in the knowledge that, whatever happened, there wouldn’t be any more elections after this one for at least two years.

bike on the long road home

* The #votetillyouboak hashtag has been going the rounds on social media as a way of explaining the voting system for the current local elections where it’s most effective to put everyone in order, all the way down to the person you absolutely don’t want to get elected … Unfortunately, it seems Theresa May misunderstood


Exciting* Sheep News

April 17, 2017

The field on one side of the house has suddenly been upgraded with the addition of some ewes and their lambs, who have perhaps grown a bit beyond the maximum cute stage.

growing lamb

But are beginning to look fairly delicious.

Fortunately this is not the field with the hole in the fence, which I imagine would not prove lamb-proof even with my improvised defences. Even so, I imagine my lamb-putting-back-in-field adventures are by no means over.

* Not really


Badgering On

April 15, 2017

On Monday, riding into Bigtown for an appointment, I was startled to see a badger crossing the road ahead. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, and badgers are properly nocturnal, and more to the point even if they are out in daylight they don’t generally then curl up on the verge and appear to go to sleep, before only grudgingly moving into a ditch when a curious blogger on a bike approaches.

So clearly this was not a well badger, a suspicion that was confirmed when I returned a few hours later to find it now apparently asleep on the tarmac (this is a quiet road). Despite me standing over it for a good ten minutes, and someone else approaching in a four by four, it didn’t move although it was still breathing. Sick or not, I wasn’t going to attempt to move it (even a sick badger can be quite formidable if it takes exception to your actions, however well intentioned) so finally I went home, got in touch with the SSPCA who promised to send someone round, and hoped for the best.

Sadly, the best wasn’t to be, and there was a rather sad badger corpse beside the road when I cycled past the next morning. I also contacted the Badger Trust because there had been no visible marks on the badger, so I was concerned that it might have been poisoned (badgers don’t carry TB in Scotland, but that doesn’t always make them popular with farmers). Anyway, I’ve just heard that the badger in question was probably hit by a car after all. Apparently they often sustain internal injuries without appearing to hurt. This one just took a while to die. So no crime as far as the badger trust was concerned – just another ordinary death on the roads.

Which is good news of a sort – it would be worrying to learn that someone around here was either illegally poisoning wildlife, or else was so careless with poison that badgers were getting poisoned by mistake. But then again, it’s a sign of how blase we are about roadkill that hitting a badger with your car (and they are pretty solid – I’m told they can make quite a dent) and leaving it die is okay. Sad too that my best ever look at a badger (and they are extraordinary creatures when you see them close up) was one that was dying.

Fortunately that’s not the only wildlife sightings we’ve been getting in recent days though. Our adult hares have now been joined by a leveret which has taken to ambling around the garden in an extraordinarily fluffy and endearing way which makes up for its habit of nibbling on the flowers. Hopefully it will stay where it is and not venture too far onto the roads …


Facts in the Ground

April 13, 2017

Well, I don’t technically have enough time for gardening, but then again, I don’t have enough time to go insane either, so a bit of prophylactic horticultural therapy seemed in order. And besides, gardening has to be done when it has to be done, so if I was going to grow any veg at all this year, I had to get planting

seeds in modules

Seeds in the ground. Well, in pots anyway

So broad beans, peas, beetroot and leeks planted, because that was what my gardening pals had left over or what was still in date in my seed stash. Beans, kale, broccoli and squash still to come. I look back fondly on the days when I carefully planned out my seed order and rotation strategy…

Fork in the ground

Fork in the ground. Actually the soil is pretty good, albeit 50% willowherb root by volume

And I reasoned that digging this bed over now and then planting some actual plants in it would be less time consuming in the long run than trying to keep on top of the nettles, willowherb and brambles that were in it last year (this actually makes for quite an impressive display, but I don’t think Chelsea will ever come around to that). It means breaking the habit of a lifetime and going and splashing money out on plants, rather than seeds, but I have garden vouchers …

And now, back to the campaigning coal face.


N Plus – Steady On

April 11, 2017

Well, I had a tragic badger story I was going to share with you this evening but it’s all gone a bit CSI:Bigtown with talk of post mortems and special operations units, so you’ll have to wait for that one until I’ve got a conclusive ending, if I ever do.

However I did get the bike serviced, and it now has a completely new drive train and pedals and very spiffy it looks too, as well as being disconcertingly quiet.* As I was picking it up, the bike shop guy pointed to what looked like a motorbike in the corner of the shop and suggested I give it a go.

Let me just say now that I have absolutely no need for an electric fat bike, and that spending over £3,000 on an electric fat bike would be an act of lunacy, and that they have no practical use whatsoever, and that anyway, a bike that looks like a motorbike is clearly a bonkers idea. I am, after all, a serious cycle campaigner whose bike is her means of transport and nothing more, and who favours practical things like mudguards and hub gears over something whose sole purpose seems to be to make you laugh out loud with joy the minute you get on board.

So clearly that was not me riding round the gravel patches in the bike shop car park this afternoon, laughing like a loon.

Obviously.

Man, I’d love to ride it up the hill to our house though. And then cross-country back to Bigtown. Always assuming I was going to give it back …

* two people now have told me they know I’m arriving before I appear because they recognise the sound of my bike, suggesting this service may have been long overdue.


Turning Left in April

April 8, 2017

Cyclists for next 12 miles

A rare confluence of events today left me with a freeish day (mostly due to things I was intending to do not being ready for me to work on them, so I’ll pay for it later) and a sunny forecast. What to do? I had intended to wash my bike before its service (I never usually remember to do this) and maybe get on with the garden but then I had a bright idea on Twitter

The only problem is, even on a nice day, it’s quite tricky to find cyclists to flyer in Bigtown who might be interested in coming to an event in Edinburgh or Glasgow. But then I remembered that there was some sort of a road race going on in a village not too far away from here. Time for another mini adventure

The problem was, I was only able to get away at around 11:30 (a ‘free’ day is a relative concept here), the village was several miles away, the race started at 11, and I cycle very slowly. I had no idea how long these races take, or whether I would make it in time before the riders all finished and dispersed. So I slightly reluctantly took the most direct route despite it being all on roads with white lines down the middle, something I generally try and avoid (we’re a bit spoilt for quiet roads around here, what can I say?)

minor A road

It was only once I arrived, in what was for me record time, that I realised it might have been a good idea to find out some details before setting off, like where the race was finishing for example. The streets were completely deserted of anyone, including cyclists, except for one chap pottering along on an old racing bike in jeans and a rather smart shirt, and a mother cycling with her two kids along the pavement. Thinking I’d wasted my time and missed the whole thing – apart from the whole going on a nice bike ride on a sunny afternoon part – I circled the streets one more time until I came across rather more parked cars than normal, many with bike racks on them. Aha.

lone cow

Lone cow in a field full of sheep, looking about as discomfited about it as I was

Then the first cyclists started appearing over the horizon. I was in time. The problem was they had just finished a hard race and were more interested in picking it over with their mates and talking about their wattage and who got dropped on that hill and who shouldn’t have attacked and who should, than they were in taking my flyers. I was also feeling a little out of place with my bike and pannier that probably weighed twice what some of the riders weighed, let alone their bikes. But fortunately the race organisers very kindly let me say a few words and dish out some flyers and, after a brief detour to the local shop (where I also encountered one of my candidates for the council and was able to give him a Walk Cycle Vote postcard), I headed for home satisfied at another adventure completed, and the word spread a little further about my various campaigns.

back roads home

The road back was somewhat more my style too.

beech avenue

How we suffer for our cause…

Obligatory sheep photo