Falling Flat

April 30, 2019

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been looking forward to this moment – Pop safely, indeed successfully, over and a chance to catch up with myself, maybe relax a bit, and generally find the rhythm of normal life again. There’s still a little post-POP admin to do, including soothing the ruffled feathers of people who want to know why they hadn’t known it was happening and feel this is somehow my fault, even after they acknowledge that they did see a few posts about it on social media but hadn’t bothered to click on the links. Yeah, I don’t know either, pal, maybe next year I’ll come round to your house and read out the POP website to you? Although I think that may not be in line with the GDPR.

Meanwhile, my recent neglect of those little life admin tasks has been catching up with me. My study looks like an explosion in a cow costume factory and my filing backlog has reached the stage where I’m only able to find stuff by identifying which strata it may have been buried in. More to the point, when I got a flat last week after our epic party ride, and noted that three patches on an inner tube was possibly a sign that I should perhaps get a spare, I didn’t get any further than forming a vague intention to buy one next time I was passing the bike shop. Obviously that meant that yesterday evening I got off the train from a meeting in Glasgow to find my bike had yet another puncture and I had neither pump, patches, nor spare inner tube to avoid the ignominious phone call for a lift home.

So today was spent practising my puncture repair technique, which I’m actually getting reasonably slick at. I would have done it all singlehandedly had not our new neighbour passed as I was fitting the tyre back on and unilaterally came over and helped me with it. Indeed, so easy has it been to get the tyre on and off that I actually double checked that the back tyre (which is only just over a year old, and therefore just getting bedded in as far as I’m concerned) really was a Marathon Plus – and not just because it has suffered four punctures in its short lifetime. This time culprit was a couple of blackthorns, and even Marathon Pluses have never quite been proof against those, but even so I don’t remember when I’ve had quite so many visits from the puncture fairy in the space of a few months.

Still, a new inner tube has been fitted, the bike is running sweetly again and I’ve even formed a very firm intention to buy another inner tube to act as a spare. And maybe do something about the fact that the front tyre is looking somewhat bald, before that comes back to bite me.

But you know, all in the fullness of time…


POP-tastic

April 28, 2019

What can I say, except that it’s been a busy weekend…

Normally Pedal on Parliament is stressful, but the stress is at least concentrated on one key question, will anyone turn up for our mass ride? And then when they do, we can repair to the pub and celebrate a job well done

This weekend we’ve had three days of wondering whether anyone would turn up to be a human bike lane, attend a school bike bus, help finish a bike lane with teddy bears (or toy hoovers), go for a mass ride in Dundee, or Aberdeen, or even Dalkeith, combine a hill climb race with a bit of guerrilla meter-maiding, or any one of a number of other mad events. And, in particular, whether anyone would want to cycle round Bigtown dressed as a cow.

Fortunately, the answer to all those questions was ‘yes – and far more than you might initially expect’ (except maybe in Bigtown, although we did at least have just enough to count as a small herd). Unfortunately, because they were all happening across the length and breadth of Scotland – and over three exhausting days – we weren’t able to repair to the pub afterwards either. We’ll have to rectify that omission soon, because the post-implementation review is the most important part of any event.

You can read about it all here and here and here. Thankfully, it wasn’t me manning the various social media feeds because just looking at them makes me feel exhausted.

And now, I need to go and remember what it was we used to do, before we did this.

cow on a bike

Photo courtesy of John Henry

 


The Cow Pannier Rides Again

April 24, 2019

When you’ve suddenly got to be in Bigtown for a photocall for the local paper, and you need to transport three spare cow costumes, because dressing up as cows for a protest ride seemed like a good idea in the pub, there is really only one tool for the job:

Cow pannier on bike

Sadly, just a temporary bodge rather than a real resurrection

When I first started cycle campaigning I think I imagined I’d be attending meetings, looking at plans for new infrastructure and maybe making the odd impassioned presentation to officials and politicians, much of which I have done. But I don’t think I bargained for dashing down to the local park to be photographed in a homemade cow costume.

In fact, cycle campaigning (at least the way I do it) has turned out to require a diverse skillset – not just costume making, but bunting manufacture, and indeed, knitting jumpers for bollards. Which is fortunate, given my deficiency in the more traditional cycling related skills of bike repairs, routefinding and even (in recent months at least) keeping the rubber side down.

But mainly, it seems to require baking, and lots of it. Which in turn requires plenty of cycling, to burn it all off.

cake

Actually, I can see no problem with this situation.

Anyway, this is really just a long-winded way of checking that everyone reading this in Scotland has picked out which Pedal on Parliament #PopUpPop they will be attending this weekend (and if you can’t make it, could you at least buy the t-shirt?)


Party in the Back

April 21, 2019

Old military road

So we had a party to attend this afternoon – a 70th birthday celebration, just down on the coast, a mere 24 miles away as the bike rides and while, even for me, a round trip of 48 miles* is a bit of a reach, the weather was so gorgeous we decided to go for it anyway.

spring woods

There are so many reasons for embarking on such an adventure: saving some CO2 emissions, being able to take full advantage of the party catering (delicious), having something to talk about to your fellow guests, and the chance to properly appreciate all the glories of spring as it gets into gear. But never mind all that for we came back via papershop village and our old house and that meant a chance to check out developments at the ford.

Our ford correspondent has been keeping us updated on the stupidity of surfacing a road that is underwater 90% of the time with tarmac, and its subsequent deterioration, but I haven’t had a chance to see this for myself until now. After an unprecedentedly dry spring, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out – but it turns out the powers that be are on to it. They have seen the error of their ways and reverted to concrete:

ford repairs

And they have not been messing around.

ford repairs closer

More on this important story as we get news.

* 49.9 once you’ve factored in the odd navigational error. Ahem.


Sprung

April 19, 2019

Hmm, I was hoping for a quiet week or two (workwise – the Pedal on Parliament madness is obviously in full swing) but as the fine warm sunny Easter weather has no doubt informed you, that didn’t quite happen.

fields in sunshine

Fortunately at times like these, one of the joys of being largely dependent on your bike for transport is that, however busy you are, you still end up ‘having’ to spend time out in the spring sunshine with the wind in your hair. So at least, even though I’ve had to spend more time at my desk than I’d like, especially with the garden calling, spring isn’t entirely passing me by. Yesterday as I rode down to Bigtown to drop the bike off for its annual service* the skies were filled with larks singing their little lark heads off. And today, as the other half and I rode down for a couple of errands, we found ourselves among a flock of sand martins, swooping and skittering over the river path in Bigtown, all but weaving through our wheels. As my Twitter feed has recently been dominated by the sight of netting preventing these charming little birds from nesting elsewhere, it’s nice to know ours have still found a welcome up here.**

River in Bigtown

* Like an idiot, when I was offered the bike shop’s e-bike as a ‘courtesy vehicle’ while my bike was being serviced I turned it down. Then discovered that Bigtown is actually quite big when you’re getting about on foot and instantly regretted it. Who knew?

**Seagulls, on the other hand, are still Enemy No 1.


Springiness

April 16, 2019

April seems to have been a month of easterlies up to now – bringing dry, cold weather rather than the traditional showers and – in my case at least – a welcome tailwind when climbing the hill to home. Indeed yesterday, in a boisterous hat-snatching gale, I could actually feel it like a hand on my back and my legs were suddenly very very good indeed. This made the fact that I’d had to pedal downhill on the way in worth it.

Even a withering east wind hasn’t quite managed to hold back spring, though. There’s a sudden surge of greenness everywhere (except on the big trees, which will hang on a while yet, I imagine). And today the wind relented and it got more mild (complete with the return of the April showers, possibly a good thing given our water butt is almost empty*). I even managed an hour or two in the greenhouse, potting on seedlings. I was pleased to note that my greenhouse potatoes were finally putting in an appearance after over a month

potato shoots

As, er, are the last of the stored potatoes, which I’m going to have to summon up the courage to investigate and deal with before we end up with a thriving, if cannibalistic, potato patch in our utility room.

potato shoots

And another green shoot popped up in the post this morning. This year’s PoP t-shirt is a zinger and you should definitely buy one.

Pedal on Parliament t-shirt

In other news, it’s harder to make a cow costume than you might think.

* Note to the Weather Gods – you didn’t hear me say that, OK?


Let them Eat Broccoli

April 11, 2019

Well, I hope you’re all enjoying the fine spring weather (at least for viewers in Scotland) – it is pretty much inevitable that when I’ve got a tight work deadline and a looming cycle protest (or protests – we’ve now got 17 different events planned and more in the works) to organise, that (a) everything will start to happen at once (laptop: would now be a good time to tell that you I need an update?) and (b) the sun will come out.* While I’ve been largely chained to my desk, the other half has been taking advantage of the lengthening evenings to go out and do some gardening pottering and the hares have been taking advantage of the rising sap to, er, hare around the field next door pausing only to make more hares, and it’s beginning to get on my goat. Expect it to start raining at the weekend, when at last the deadline will be over, even if the PoP preparations can only get more frantic from here.

All of which means I’m also falling behind on the gardening, although at least it’s chilly enough at night to mean spring is not yet completely in full flow. And I’m pleased to report that I was wrong about one thing – our leeks may be almost finished and last year’s potatoes sprouted beyond all hope but, had the worst predictions of the pundits over Brexit come to pass, we wouldn’t be completely starving after all. Despite the best efforts of the local cabbage white population and Moo-I-5 we’ve got broccoli coming out of our ears at the moment. Here’s hoping that’s not the only doom-laden prediction about the whole fiasco that will fail to come to pass …

Purple sprouting broccoli

* It’s possible that there are meteorological forces at work as well, but I prefer to blame the weather gods and sod’s law.


Reasons to be Cheerful

April 7, 2019

With everything – globally and nationally – apparently collapsing around our ears, may I note a small measure of progress, albeit locally?

One year ago, our local Farmers’ Market moved from a site by the bypass, inaccessible by bike, to Bigtown Station’s short-term car park – thereby driving a coach and horses through Bigtown’s Parking Strategy (and, indeed, iron law) that no parking space may be lost without the creation of an equal and opposite parking space, even temporarily, lest a rip occur in the fabric of space time or the Hellmouth open.*

This should have doomed it to instant failure, and yet, as we cycled down on a grey and cold and frankly not all that springy morning we discovered that the place was, as it always is, hopping. Not only were people quite capable of parking a little further away and walking over the railway bridge for their cheese, pies, other kinds of pies, four different brands of local confectionary, and haggis samosas** (but not, to the other half’s disgust, ice cream) – but they were also able to cycling there.

Compare and contrast:

bike parking

Bike parking at the Farmers’ market a year ago

market parking

Bike parking today (including a couple of tiny bikes tucked away in the middle)

Not only that, but half those bikes, I don’t even recognise

As I took a photo for Bigtown Cycle Campaign’s various social media platforms, the lady who was doing a stint as market greeter turned to me and smiled.

“Aren’t they great all these bikes? I just love seeing everyone coming in and parking their bikes. Isn’t it wonderful that people can cycle to the market now?”

Isn’t it just?

This put me in such a good mood, I didn’t have the heart to tweet this particular example of Bigtown parking at its finest (although, to be fair, I think it was probably more a case of ignoring the four-hour parking time limit yesterday, than someone wanting to be in pole position for the queue for the pies).

market parking

* actually, now I come to think of it, that might explain everything …

** don’t mock until you’ve tried them. Bigtown streetfood at its finest.


What’s Brown and Sticky?

April 3, 2019

I suppose, thinking back, I should have been forewarned when I stepped out of the cafe this lunchtime and discovered that the banging tailwind I’d sailed into Bigtown on had dropped, meaning I wasn’t going to face a banging headwind for the return, uphill, leg. As I’ve said before, this pretty much never happens, so when it does, the wary cyclist should be keeping her eyes peeled for compensatory hazards such as broken glass, untethered dogs, runaway lorries or (checks notes) sticks.

Or, more specifically, innocent looking sticks that have an unobtrusive long thin whippy twig attached that is perfect for getting itself caught up in the wheel of said cyclist when she blithely bounces her front wheel over it while turning into the local park. Cue slow motion comedy fall, fortunately unwitnessed by anyone else. This is now the second time I’ve come off my bike in ridiculous fashion in less than a year, after an entire adulthood spent largely keeping the rubber side down. All I can say is, once more I was saved by my habit of riding slowly because I have sustained nothing but bruises and not even damaged my lovely new trousers. Oh, and the bike is fine, before you ask.

You might argue that campaigners for safer cycling should probably sort out their own safety before worrying about anyone else’s (or at least, be sure to avoid any lurking sticks). But I’d argue in reply that what cyclists need is the sort of conditions where they can make stupid mistakes like that, without ending up under a timber lorry. Falling over on a path in the park is embarassing. Falling over on a busy road is potentially fatal.

All of which is a very tenuous way of saying, if you are in Bigtown and you want the sort of conditions where you can make a complete tit of yourself in safety, you may want to come and make a complete tit (or indeed udder) of yourself in public – on Bigtown’s inaugural Mad Cow Ride*

Whether I’ll get our occasional neighbours to come and join us is another question.

cows

* Originally ‘Critical Moo’ but that was a bit niche, apparently