September 18, 2018
Normally, September’s habit of delivering a settled spell of sunny mild weather just as you’ve given up on seeing the sun in any meaningful sense before April is the only compensation we get after a rubbish summer. So this year, having had an actual summer for once, it seems a bit churlish to complain of this September’s endless succession of wind, rain, unforecasted showers and now an amber weather warning courtesy of the impending Storm ‘Ali’. The problem is, we’ve taken to planning around these Indian summers, and this week sees us hosting the Bigtown Bike Breakfast, so I’m complaining anyway, churlish or not.
Today, after a miserable start, we had enough of a break in the weather for me to spend a little time out flyering Bigtown’s hardy cycle commuters to let them know there were free bacon rolls in the offing just for the pleasure of riding to work by bike – and by ‘flyering’ I mostly mean ‘standing in one part of the cycle path watching all the cyclists whizz by unflyered on a different section of the path and then, when I have relocated to the place where all the cyclists were before, watching them zip past the spot where I was standing originally’.
Empty cycle path
Even when I did track down a few cyclists, there was the challenge of getting them to take a flyer without physically impeding their progress. My technique for this is to smile, stand off to one side, and hold the flyer out for an easy passing grab. Mostly they were happy enough to either take one on the fly (kudos to chap cycling along no handed making a phone call who spotted me, switched his phone to the other hand, grabbed the flyer with a brief thumbs up, and continued on his way without even breaking cadence), or slow or even stop for a brief chat. But there’s always one or two who have to swerve past me unnecessarily with a look that suggests I was attempting to hand them a bag of dog poo or a fizzing stick of dynamite marked ACME. Your loss, miserable cycling people, that’s all I can say. May all your winds be headwinds, and your roads scattered with blackthorn…
On the plus side, one cyclist actually caught me: he was on his e-bike and I think had chased me down on the road in for the express pleasure of telling me all about it, so delighted was he with his new machine. (If you are a cycle campaigner in need of cheering up, I suggest you find your nearest e-bike and ask its owner what they think of it. You’re almost guaranteed to get a ‘cycling has transformed my life’ story which can keep you going through the next three meetings where the coonsil explain why they can’t put a decent cycle track in somewhere because they need a redundantly wide road to stay that way ‘as a spare‘). It was a pleasure to reward him with the news of a free breakfast, although as he was already the happiest cyclist in Bigtown, I’m not sure he needed the boost. Still, to those that have shall be given …
September 15, 2018
Normally, when a group ride goes silent, it’s because the ride leader has set too fast a pace and the participants are saving their breath for the climb in hand. But this afternoon the silence had a different source: this was no normal ride, but a ‘cake raid‘ and we had reached the legendary church tea of what I must now dub Church Tea Village and there were more important things to concentrate on than chat.
Now, I don’t know what you might have in mind when you picture something advertised as a ‘light lunch and church tea’ but – although I had been warned that the catering was substantial – I wasn’t quite prepared for what followed. After starting with some delicious home made bread, slices of melon and salad, we moved on to savoury pancakes with a choice of fillings. As these were being demolished, a plate of dutch pancakes (poffertjes) scattered with sugar and raisins arrived, which proved to be dangerously moreish.
To be honest, this would have qualified for a decent meal right there, but proved to be merely the warm up. As some were tempted by a second round of pancakes, this time loaded with nutella and marshmallows, the rest of us were piling into the scones and more pancakes (scotch ones, this time). Just as we were starting to slow down and contemplate the 20 mile ride home that lay ahead, thankfully mainly downhill, one of the group nodded to the windowsill ‘I’m just looking at what’s coming next’. For the church ladies weren’t finished with us yet.
We still had the cake trolley to deal with.
Top tip for church teas – when an innocent looking white haired women in a church hall offers you ‘just a normal sized slice’ of cake, get that quantified before you rashly agree to anything. Oh, and don’t sit directly opposite the scones if you find it hard to see any form of starch going to waste …
So yeah. Cycling. A great way to keep a healthy weight. Just make sure you heed the warning signs and keep away from the church teas.
September 13, 2018
Coming back from Glasgow last night on the train that gets in at 11, there was part of me that was wishing I’d held out for a lift from the station, so that I didn’t have a 50 minute ride uphill in the dark before I was in my bed. And as I took my habitual route down the cycle path from the station, I did also find myself wondering if this was the wisest route home for a solitary female to be taking late at night. I know there are many women who find the old railway path a little too intimidated – we have it drummed into us from an early age that you don’t go into dark and lonely places alone.
But then again, I was on my bike and, rightly or wrongly, I always feel pretty invincible when I’m cycling. Sure I’ve had the odd encounter with a driver that has left me mentally planning my own funeral for the rest of the ride home, but 99.9% of the time I’ve anticipated their obliviousness and am out of harm’s way as they pull out into my path or overtake me on a blind bend. So I’m not frightened of cycling through parks or along dark cycle paths, although I keep an eye out for any obstacles or lurking figures. Indeed, now that I’ve got decent lights and my miraculous SON dynamo, I positively relish the deserted country roads at night where the only real danger is the lurking lesser-spotted pothole and my habit of riding along looking up at the night sky and ending up almost in a dyke.
And so I rode home under a sky speckled with stars, with Mars rising at my side, incredibly bright and and strikingly red. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so clearly (and apparently it would have been even brighter a few weeks ago) and it was pretty mesmerising. Who needs a lift when you’ve got a planet escorting you home?
It was only once I’d arrived home, putting my bike away in the garage, that I heard a noise – noises – of some thing or some things out in the dark beyond the circle of the light.
The sound of breathing, of shifting weight, of movement.
The unmistakable sensation of being watched from the darkness…
Yes, Moo I 5 are back.
September 11, 2018
Having just finished some work and finding myself with a few days off, today should, technically, have been an unusally leisurely affair, with not much to do other than plant 200 bulbs,* bake a loaf of bread, deal with a backlog of admin, pick up some flyers for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign bike breakfast and distribute them to unsuspecting cyclists, and deliver emergency coffee and cake supplies to the other half’s workplace …
…I may need to work on my definition of leisurely.
I also had to work in a detour for my ford correspondent had told me last night that the freshly laid tarmac has already, as predicted, crumbled into a mess of potholes (or ‘a road’ as we call it in Bigtownshire). Sadly there was too much water to see for myself, but it was nice to revisit an old friend.
Anyway, the upshot was that having looked at my watch and realising it was 12 o’clock and somehow the morning was gone, I found myself timetrialling into Bigtown to fit it all in – made somewhat more bearable by hitting the holy trinity on my way in of smooth tarmac, downhill and an epic tailwind. Indeed, this was, if I’m honest, one of those ‘why I cycle’ moments (but yeah, sure, it’s all about the environment and maintaining a healthy heart).
Tomorrow, though, tomorrow, I’ll get a chance to relax.**
* Damn you Crocus and your two for the price of one offers
** Maybe not
September 2, 2018
The good thing about having Bigtown farmers’ market move to the train station, where it is easily accessible by bike (instead of out on the bypass where it was only accessible by bike if you were completely fearless) is that on a pleasant Sunday morning it’s a real joy to pootle down to fill your boots (and your panniers) with good things.
The downside is that when the weather decides it’s going to be one of those days when the forecast says it won’t rain, and the rain radar says it isn’t raining, and yet wet stuff is unmistakably coming out of the sky and continues to do so all day – you* still feel obliged to go down there by bike.
Looking on the bright side (if you squint a bit, anyway) I do at least now know that the raingear I reproofed on Friday in an unusually far-sighted move, is still Waterproof in Scotland. Plus, of course, the small matter of coming home with a bike pannier full of pies.
However, I really hope that September is not starting as it means to go on, because in the course of the month, I seem to have planned two epic rides for cake, one accessible bike open day and a bike breakfast. Here’s hoping the raingear won’t be too severely tested over the coming weeks…
* And by ‘you’ obviously I mean ‘I’ because the other half sensibly felt absolutely no compunction at spending the morning on a nice dry sofa.
August 31, 2018
When you’re painfully aware that summer is really on its way out …
Sometimes you’ve got to turn a ride for the paper into being a tourist in your own town.
And take the scenic route back, of course.
In the absence of artisinal glaces, there may have been mini donuts consumed
Meanwhile, in baffling pipeline news, the workmen at the site were apparently been spending the afternoon building little stacks of rocks. Perhaps they too want to pretend they’re on holiday.
August 29, 2018
Riding back from New Nearest Village this afternoon, just as I got to the foot of the Totally Unnecessary Hill that lies between our house and the village, I spotted an older couple, possibly touring, turning onto the road about 100 yards in front of me.
As I started the winding climb, I couldn’t help but consider what friendly, encouraging words I might exchange with them as I (younger, unladen) inevitably overhauled them with their panniers and their more advanced years. I was even planning some route advice they might benefit from to avoid the worst of this less-than-bike-friendly road, assuming they were heading to Bigtown and might not know the slightly longer but flatter route I have perfected.
I might even have sped up a bit on the climb, because you do when there are riders in front and you want to get the slightly awkward overtaking part over with. And With the bends in the road, and the passing cars, and the irritating noise my front derailleur has taken to making, it took me a while to realise that in fact my elderly friends were leaving me for dust on the steepest part of the climb.
By the time I’d panted my way to the top, they were long gone.
Photo because when you’ve been thoroughly bested on a climb, the best thing is to pretend you were just stopping to take photos