101 Uses for a Brompton: Flirting with Temptation

July 31, 2017

Attentive readers of this blog may have gleaned the information, if they read carefully between the lines, that our house is on top of a bloody big hill. I would be lying if I said that this doesn’t occasionally weigh on my mind when I’m planning my day’s activities, even if it does loom rather larger in my head than it actually ends up being on the road. I’ve tried various tactics over the last year to make getting up the hill easier – from attempting to distract myself from what I’m doing in the hope that I will look up and suddenly discover I’m almost home, to, recently, just going for it and attacking the climb to try and get it over with. These have had mixed success, and at the end of the day (and it usually is at the end of the day) the hill is still there and it’s still a bugger to get up, and I’m still in a muck sweat by the time I arrive home and collapse over my handlebars gasping for oxygen, with a little cloud of flies circling my head because that’s how slowly I ride.

So I am officially e-bike curious and when a friend from Old Nearest Village posted this on her Facebook timeline, I knew I was going to have to have a go.

e bike

As it happened, I had a meeting out west this morning and I was getting a lift from another friend who wanted to go into Bigtown shopping on the way back, so I took the Brompton, and was dropped off at the road end. That meant, by happy coincidence, I’d be riding right past her door so I arranged for a little test jaunt…

There are dozens of reviews of e-bikes out there, much more comprehensive than I can report on after a quick go up and down the nearest hill, but for what it’s worth, I can confirm that they’re a lot of fun, and that it genuinely is like having a permanent tail wind. I actually found myself out of breath as I tackled the hill, which surprised me, but then I looked down and realised I was going at over 14mph. My friend is finding that for her it smoothes out the hills and makes them all but disappear, but my instinct had been to accelerate when I felt the motor kicking in and just power up it. It was only when I eased off a bit that I felt that wonderful sensation of the bike pushing willingly on, like a horse that knows its stable is just around the corner. I can see how welcome that would be on a long and grinding hill. Well that, and blowing the cars off at the lights in turbo assist mode, of course.

The bike has many other nice features, from a wheel lock to ‘walk assist’ which is useful for pushing it up hills and ramps. I’m hoping to get another go, this time on our actual hill, just to see what it would be like, and to see whether it’s possible to take it steadily enough that I’m not a sweaty mess at the top. I think that I’m not quite ready for an e-bike yet, if only because I know that once I’ve got one, I’d never ride any of my other bikes again, and I love them too much to do that quite yet. But it’s good to know that the option is there, and that it’s opening up cycling to people who otherwise couldn’t ride a bike, because one day that person will be me.

 

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I Get Knocked Down, but I Get Back Up

July 28, 2017

Alert readers may remember that when we moved here we inherited, among other things, an olive tree in a pot. It was in a rather exposed spot, that meant we spent most of the autumn picking it up after it had fallen over in the various storms that blew in.

olive tree

The olive tree last winter

After a bit of inconclusive googling, I decided to bring it into our front porch for the winter, a kindness to which it reacted by promptly dropping most of its leaves. So then I moved it back outside in a slightly more sheltered position and it dropped most of the rest, so I just let it sit there looking a bit sad, thinking I ought to repot it or give up on it, or anyway do something about it before it died on me completely.

Obviously, I did none of those things, although I did notice that it had started putting out new leaves, which was a relief, although it was still looking a bit sorry for itself. It’s now back to about the condition it was in when we inherited it, if still a little bald.

olive tree

Anyway, I was just trimming off the branches which were still leafless this evening when I noticed this

olive flowers

I do believe its decided to flower. A crop of olives must surely be coming our way …

OK, so maybe not, but if anyone knows how to make olive trees flourish in what is effectively the anti-Mediterranean climate, without killing them with kindness, let me know.

There is other exciting tree-survivor news, but that will have to wait for another day

 


On the Map

July 26, 2017

So, next month’s adventure is taking shape and I realised I was going to need to fill a hole in my local map collection. This is the kind of shopping I like to do:

To be honest, I didn’t think that much about this picture when I tweeted it – I just had a vague inkling that some of my fellow twitterers might appreciate a nice wall of maps in the same way I did.

And as it happened, so they did as I found myself immersed in a rapidly ramifying, ever-so-slightly nerdy* multi-dimensional cheerful twitter conversation about the joy of maps which descended into the surreal in places

And at one point, Ordnance Survey themselves joined in on the foolishness of laminating tissues (it made sense in context, honestly)

Anyway, it reminded me of how Twitter used to be before everyone got so angry with everyone else and it was a pleasant break from all the arguing. I must remember to tweet more about maps whenever I need to cheer myself up (everyone else, I send dormice)

* Did you know that Northern Ireland had its own Ordnance Survey for instance? Do you have a favourite OS map edition? Or are you a fan of Harvey’s Mountain Maps, which I’d never actually heard of until last night?


I Brake for Baby Birds

July 25, 2017

It’s that time of year when the hedges are full of recently fledged birds, all a bit, well, crap, in the endearing way baby birds are. Which is fine, until they launch themselves in front of your bike and, like learner drivers, prove to be a bit slower off the mark than you were quite expecting. Twice now I’ve had to jam on the brakes to prevent myself from rear-ending a low-flying beginner that hadn’t quite made it to safety.

Sadly, it also means too many sad little flattened feathery corpses on the road. so far I’ve seen an oystercatcher, a rook, several blackbirds, a goldfinch, a yellowhammer and any number of unidentifiable little brown jobs (I really should probably get back to filling in Splatter Project reports).

It was cheering, though, to pass a hedgeful of a flock of something – hard to tell what when you’re zooming past. One went, and then another, and then they were all pouring out of the hedge to get away, hunners of them, chirping as they flew, setting the whole field beside me in motion. It was a laugh-out-loud kind of sight, the way they just kept coming as I passed, as if the hedge itself were taking flight.

And not a one ended up under anyone’s wheels, which counts as a bonus at this time of year.


Wetter than Wet

July 22, 2017

I was woken this morning by the sound of the rain on the skylight above our bed, a sound which is more soothing when you’ve not got a fun family ride planned for the afternoon. The forecast spent the day varying between ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘plague of frogs’ before settling on thundery showers. But then, as the time came to set off for Bigtown on the bike, the rain had stopped, the wind was at my back and it was all looking very …

storm clouds

… well, threatening, if I’m honest.

rainy riverfront

And by the time I had got to Bigtown it had stopped making threats and was concentrating on fulfilling them.

rainy river

After 20 minute or so sheltering under a tree with the few mad souls who had also shown up, talking about the various interesting ways lightning can kill you and discussing whether the distant patch of brightness off to the east signalled a let up in the rain (it didn’t) the thunder started in earnest and we decided to call it a day. The only problem was, I still had 8 miles of cycling to get home. I could have stopped off for a warming cup of tea with one of my fellow nutters, but the forecast was for more to come and I decided that I’d rather spend the next 40 minutes getting miserably wet and then getting dry, than spend them sitting around in damp things and then having to go out in it anyway.

You know how you think ‘well, at least I can’t get any wetter’ once you’ve been out in the rain? Well I’m here to tell you that you actually can, especially when the roads have become rivers and half the junctions have become giant puddles and nothing – with the exception of your magical Harris tweed cap – is proving properly Waterproof In Scotland. There’s wet, and then there’s the realisation (once you get home and are carting your clothes up to the bathroom to dry off) that you’ve just lugged an additional 3 litres of water up the hill in your socks alone.

There was a moment, as I battered through the water sluicing across the road beneath my wheels, the cows watching me pityingly from under the trees where they had taken shelter, when the thought did occur to me that the ford would be pretty impressive right now. I’m sure a dedicated blogger would have gone and looked.

That blogger is not me.


Beating Around the Bush

July 19, 2017

Alert observers around here may have noticed in recent days a cyclist going even more slowly than normal along one stretch of road, sometimes even on the wrong side of it, paying more attention to the hedgerow than the (fortunately non-existant) traffic. The cyclist, for I am she, has been looking for that damned gooseberry bush ever since I first met gooseberry man and has been seriously beginning to wonder if he and his gooseberries were an elaborate, if disappointingly quotidian, hallucination.

Today, I thought I’d give it one last go. I’d even googled pictures of gooseberry bushes to be sure I knew what to look our for. I cycled down along the stretch of the road where I’d see gooseberry man at effectively walking pace, peering at every bush. The whole way down the road, and nothing. Crossed at the crossroads, picked up speed, glanced over to my left and bingo.

Gooseberries

Please tell me these are gooseberries …

Of course by this time I was running late so I didn’t have time to stop to pick any, and besides, I actually have no idea how to tell if they are ripe. A quick further google suggests that they are ripe when they are neither too soft nor too hard, which leaves me none the wiser. I shall have to go down and give them all a squeeze tomorrow.


Reaping What I Sow

July 18, 2017

One of the great pleasures of growing your own veg is being able to magic up a meal out of the garden when you suddenly remember that you were supposed to have gone shopping for a vital ingredient of the meal you had actually planned.

beetroot harvest

Of course the meal in question is usually some variation on the theme of ‘random veg frittata’, but this is usually pretty delicious, so I’m not complaining.

In fact, though I’ll undoubtedly come to regret saying this, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the veg plot so far. Despite radical neglect from me, and the attention of the hares, it does seem as if the whole no-dig and plenty of organic matter approach has worked remarkably well. It’s all a bit unruly and I can barely get to my peas to harvest them but they are growing better than they did in the old plot.

lush growth in the veg plot

As long as I can find them while they’re still sweet enough to eat straight from the pod, then that counts as a win. Peas rarely make it to the kitchen in this household.

peapod

And my neglect of some of the wilder corners of the rest of the garden has also reaped an unexpected reward. I decided to leave some of the wild raspberry canes when I noticed they were producing fruit, and as a bonus, one of them is producing yellow raspberries, which are absolutely delicious.

Now I just have to work out how to incorporate them into the rest of the garden…