I Spy…

March 26, 2021

Among the lovely birthday presents I got last weekend was a fun new toy: a night-vision trail cam that we hope will reveal to us any nocturnal shenanigans among the local wildlife. As well as the hares we’ve seen signs of possible badger activity and footprints in the snow earlier this year suggest we also get nocturnal visits from foxes, which we never see during the day. We’ve left it out overnight for a few nights now, and so far it’s fair to say that we’re still perfecting its placement and set up so that we can capture something slightly more exciting than us putting it up and taking it down …

However, reviewing the footage one morning, I did realise (after 3 or 4 viewings) that we’d captured something here other than the sound of the Extremely Loud Blackbird who’s been delivering our five am wakeup call with enthusiasm. Have a look and see if you see what I see (keep your eyes on the bottom left corner …)

OK, so it’s not going to turn the world of wildlife filming upside down, but it gives me hope that with a bit of fine tuning we might be able to get some decent footage.

In other news, the lambs have reached the ‘lamb gang’ stage where they spend most of their time hanging out in the corners of fields getting up to mischief and generally looking as if they’d be smoking behind the bike sheds, if only they had opposable thumbs. And cigarettes. And, indeed, bike sheds.

lambs hanging out in the field

And, from the evidence of this photo, doing a little youthful experimentation into the joys of adult life too.


March 23, 2021

Well, a day of excitement for us today – not only was it Bin Day (one of the few remaining Binday Classics as we count down to the new recycling system) but it was also V-Day as we had our appointment to get our first shot of the vaccine (Astra Zeneca, thanks for asking).

I was kind of hoping for a badge, sticker, or even just the little card you get saying which vaccine you got so I could do my requisite ‘vaccination selfie’ across all my many social media platforms, but sadly they’re above such things here in Bigtownshire so we just got a leaflet about side effects, which isn’t really the same. So far I haven’t had any side effects either, apart from the commonest one of being unable to shut up about having had the vaccine. That’s probably why they don’t bother giving out a sticker, come to think of it.

In lieu of a vaccine selfie, you’ll have to make do with this incredibly accurate recreation of the attack of ASBO buzzard, courtesy of my talented friend Vicki (although if I’m honest, I’m actually much less insouciant when under attack than I appear in the picture).

Cartoon image of me on a bike being attacked by a buzzard

And now I’ll go back to what has become normality – living in our rural fastness on the top of the hill, making the occasional foray into town for the paper, and riding my bike. The only difference will be if some unwary stranger should stumble into within hailing distance, when I can waylay them and (socially distanced of course) inform them that I’ve had my vaccine…

… did I mention that we’d had our vaccines, at all?

Blue-Letter Day

March 19, 2021

I have a birthday coming up, which means the postman brings me exciting things every day but today he brought us the most exciting thing of all: our first vaccination appointments!

Blue envelopes with vaccine appointment dates

(this beats the hell out of the NHS’s birthday greetings for my 50th, which was an invitation to send them some poo in the post).

Not all of the delivered goodies are presents, though. Fortunately the other half was alert enough to realise that the package labelled ‘live plants please open immediately’ shouldn’t be squirrelled away alongside the other cardboard boxes (I’m old enough to remember when birthday presents came in actual wrapping paper) until the big day arrives. So the strawberry plants I ordered for the fruit cage got planted out today and are hanging out in the greenhouse waiting till they can go into their new home.

Strawberry plants in hanging baskets

Alongside some peas – given the mice’s exploits last year, I’m not taking any chances…

Peas suspended in the greenhouse

Not all my birthday goodies come in the post though – there’s one birthday present that I got for myself that arrives every year just when I’m beginning to wonder if it’s forgotten this time. Chionodoxa ‘Glory of the Snow’ pops up every March to cheer me up and/or remind me just how far behind I am with everything I need to do each spring…

Chionodoxa flower in lawn

On the whole, the cheering up just about balances out the unwelcome reminder. One day I’ll greet spring with equanimity, knowing that I’ve got everything in hand … right?

Call Me Mystic Meg

March 17, 2021

A year ago, I was watching my diary empty out, and looking forward to what I thought might be a few weeks of lockdown before things got back to normal and slightly dreading how busy things were going to be by, ooh, September.

Today, my big excitement of the week was needing to go to the surgery to pick up a prescription and taking the opportunity to go the long way round …

Empty rural road

(well, on roads like this, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Another empty quiet road

I no longer even pretend to think I know what lies ahead and yet, in contrast to last year, my diary is filling up rather than emptying out as we all just go ahead and make plans anyway (I’ve even tentatively started planning an event in September). Tomorrow, I’ve got the excitement of meeting a pal for a (takeaway) coffee and a socially distanced natter (there might be some PoP planning in there too). Gosh, I might even get some cake – I’ve been carrying around the same pocket full of change since the beginning of March; it will be beyond exciting to actually spend it.

Exciting Refuse Collection News

March 12, 2021

As if this week’s gradual easing of lockdown (group rides may resume!) wasn’t excitement enough, the coonsil is risking tipping us all over the edge into hysteria with the announcement that Binday is about to get 300% more exciting.

As if the mild jeopardy of potentially getting the time wrong isn’t enough, come April we’re going to have to join pretty much the entire rest of the planet in knowing which bin (or, in our case, bag) to put out on which day. In other words, the coonsil has finally acknowledged that its fancy Italian waste recycling plant doesn’t actually work as advertised, and is bringing back doorstep recycling 11 years after it told us to recycle our old recycling bins.

Hilarious as it is to watch the local Facebook groups descend into apoplexy at the thought of having to sort their own rubbish and generally get used to A New Thing, the truth is, the system will actually present us with some difficulty. Our rubbish gets picked up from the road end, so it’s a nice 20-minute walk down there of a Tuesday morning with our one very light bag of rubbish (everything else being either composted or stored in the garage to be taken down to the waste recycling centre where they actually recycle things instead of turning perfectly good recyclable materials into road aggregate). We’d like to show willing with the new system but four-week’s worth of paper and card is likely to weigh a fair bit – not to mention the fruits of my can-collecting habit. It would be somewhat ironic if we ended up resorting to using the car on bin day just to do our bit for the environment.

Bike with trailer with recycling bin

We may end up just recycling the plastic bottles using the new system and continuing to run our own domestic recycling centre (where it does get driven down into Bigtown, but at least we can combine it with another errand). Such are the complications of attempting to do the right thing for the planet.

More on the topic, as they say, as this story develops. I know, you can hardly wait.

How Many Polar Bears in Pairs

March 5, 2021

As we stumble towards our first anniversary in lockdown, I’m sure many* of you are wondering how one might organise a bicycle-related demonstration in the middle of a pandemic, or whether I’m enjoying a nice quiet spring this year…

Ha ha ha, of course not. Pandemic or no, the Scottish elections will soon be upon us. Currently the Scottish political world may be transfixed by Alex Salmond’s attempt to bring down Nicola Sturgeon (about which I have MUCH TO SAY but it’s probably best left for another forum) and no doubt the election proper will be dominated by constitutional issues, but Scotland is hosting the UN Climate Conference this year and we’ll be doing what we can to put active travel on the agenda. Scottish government transport policy has moved on slightly from ‘build a dual carriageway between every city’, but not much, and with a climate emergency looming we felt that there could be a bit more emphasis on the wonderfully elegant solution to sustainable transport that is the bicycle, and a bit less on ‘maybe electric cars will save us at some unspecified time in the future’.

And so … a pedalling polar bear, and an invitation to everyone to shine a light on active travel in any number of creative ways on April 24th. If nothing else, I’m looking forward to spending a month or so cycling around with a ‘This machine fights climate change’ sign on my bike.

Polar bear with bike captioned 'This machine fights climate change'

And because I wasn’t busy enough, we’ve also relaunched our election-focused active travel campaign as an inclusive streets campaign, because if you think cyclists have it hard, disabled people (some of whom are also cyclists of course) have it harder, and without the option to just dismount when the going gets tough. So we want to make sure they were included when we talked about active travel.

Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote logo

All this means that my poor garden will continue to get short changed again, although we are making progress on the fruit cage at least. It’s lucky that Gardeners’ Question Time keeps emphasising the need for us to have less tidy gardens. I consider myself ahead of the curve on that one.

Partially completed fruit cage

* or, more realistically, none.