Winds of Change

March 16, 2019

So yesterday, to my great excitement, the Climate Strikes came to Bigtown which meant a) I got to go on a demo I hadn’t organised and b) I got to watch a group of young people figure out in real time how to run an effective protest – they learn fast, these kids. Even if they probably need to work a little on their chanting (and they definitely need waterproof paint for their signs if they’re going to keep protesting in South West Scotland) I’m pretty confident that by next month they’ll be a well-oiled machine, or at least they’ll manage to look that way.*

climate strikers

In a way, that might even be a shame, because the best bit for me was when we all spontaneously decided to take the protest through the streets of Bigtown without so much as a risk assessment, event management plan, or meeting with the police to agree a suitable route. Sometimes it truly is better to ask permission than forgiveness.

burns statue

Taking the strike to the people, including Robert Burns

I’ll be back, and this time I might even make my own (impeccably punctuated) sign, instead of borrowing one from a generous Young Person.

oldies against climate change

You’d think the planet would be grateful for my concern over its climate and perhaps reward me for my efforts by providing a nice tailwind the next time I had an epic (for me, I appreciate that for some people 5 miles on a bike is epic and for some people 54 miles is a nice lunchtime pootle) ride to a not-that-nearby town for a meeting. Indeed, the weather forecast suggested that that was exactly what we would get – a nice Northeasterly as we headed 18 miles south west, swinging back round to the west as we headed home (accompanied by persistent heavy rain and/or sleet, but we’ll draw a veil). Clearly this was never going to happen, but I hadn’t appreciated just how much it wasn’t going to happen until we turned onto the cycle path half a mile in and were nearly blown backwards. For the next 2 and a quarter hours we had the wind in our faces the whole way, gusting up to 40 mph. Let’s just say that we got to our meeting with barely 5 minutes to spare, looking more than windswept, and (on my part at least) unable to string a sentence together for the next 10 minutes.

Some people might call that a result …

* People keep telling me Pedal on Parliament looks like a well-oiled machine, which is enough to make a cat laugh, so I’m aware that there’s a difference.


Life in the Middle Lane

March 2, 2019

As I was outlining my plans for this weekend the other day, I realised that even though I don’t turn fifty for another few weeks, I’ve already fully embraced the reality of it ‘A fairtrade event at New Nearest Village on Saturday, then on Sunday it’s Potato Day, and we might fit in a trip to the garden centre.”

I’m not even going to pretend I’m embarrassed about it. As my contemporaries announce their impending half centuries with disbelief, I’m not all that bothered about it – much less so than turning forty or, worse, thirty. And besides, I like garden centres, and I always have (as a seven-year-old there was one at the top of our road and I was always spending my pocket money on packets of seeds). I completely failed to misspend my youth, unless by misspending you mean settling down, getting married, buying a house and working long hours to develop my career, instead of going out partying all night and smashing the patriarchy and/or capitalism by day (possibly I should have done more about the latter). My hope is that this precocious diligence (and a fair bit of luck and privilege) has set me up for a later life of growing radicalism and increased trouble making rather than sinking into the status quo. The bicycle may not have kept me as young as I might have hoped, but it has at least helped keep me at odds enough to mainstream society to want to fight for change – while my advancing years might just give me the wisdom (or cunning) to achieve it.

bike and defibrillator phonebox

A sensible parking spot for one of my advancing years

And besides, as a woman approaching fifty AND a cyclist, I should now be effectively invisible both on and off the bike. Of all the superpowers, that’s surely the most powerful one there is. I just have to work out how to put it to best use.

Once you POP…

February 27, 2019

… You can’t stop. Not (just) Pringles, but cycle protests. For yea, it is that time of the year again, when we start to gear up for Pedal on Parliament.

Although – pedants be warned – as I’ve already mentioned, this year we’re not pedalling on Parliament, but we’re going decentralised with a load of Pop-Up PoPs (did you see what we did there?) over the weekend of the 26th-28th April in the hopes that (a) nobody asks ‘why do you call it POP if you’re not pedalling on Parliament?’ and (b) having lots of people organise lots of little protests is easier than having a few people organise one big protest. You might want to check back with me in a few weeks time to see how the latter is going …

Either way, in two month’s time (assuming the country is still here and we still have things like roads and towns post a no-deal Brexit), I will either be in the final throes of a nervous breakdown, or basking in the glory of another successful POP. Or, indeed, both. Or, come to think of it, neither.

I’d just like to say now that in my next life, should I be foolish enough to take up organising cycle protests, I will arrange for them to happen in the autumn, rather than happening right in the middle of peak gardening busyness. Or perhaps I’ll just go around driving a car like a normal person and wonder what all the fuss is about.

But where would be the fun in that?

#POP2018 (5 of 230)

Slow, Slow, Quick Quick, Slow

February 22, 2019

A Public Service Announcement for All* Cyclists:

There is no such thing as a self-healing puncture. Nor, realistically, is there such a thing as a slow puncture: a slow puncture is a fast puncture that’s had the decency to warn you it’s coming. The correct response to such a courtesy from the P****** fairy, is to fix the puncture as soon as you notice it – or at least on the day after, when you don’t have to go anywhere. The incorrect response is to keep pumping up the tyre every morning in the hope that it will magically go away, until it chooses the most inconvenient time possible to become a full blown flat tyre. It seems obvious written down, so clearly this is absolutely not what I’ve been doing this week.

In other news, this is happening, almost a month earlier than last year.

daffodil blooming

I don’t wish to appear ungrateful at the current mild weather, but at this time of the year, the last thing I need is for spring to start speeding up on us.

* Or possibly just me

Mood Inversion

February 15, 2019

I have to admit, I did wonder this morning why I’d agreed to meet someone in Bigtown at 10 am – cutting right into my most productive working hours. Especially when I opened the curtains and realised that despite some giddy talk from the BBC weather presenters about springlike weather, it was actually pretty frosty out (fortunately, not icy enough to make me regret removing the ice tyres although had I had a winter bike …)

misty morning

But it’s hard to beat a temperature inversion for making for a gorgeous ride down the hill and into town. Partly because Bigtown looks better when its veiled in mist (don’t we all), partly because, well, just look at it.

It’s interesting to actually feel the temperature inversion too, not just see its effects. It was distinctly colder by the time I’d reached the river valley, as well as mistier. The frost was gone where the sun had hit it, but only just

And by the time I was riding home, buoyed by the enthusiasm of someone who’s putting his money where his mouth is when it comes to Bigtown cycling, it was really jolly nice indeed. Perhaps not the giddy heights promised by the weather forecast, but definitely a bonus for February, when you take what you can get, weather wise

Some days, work just has to wait…


February 14, 2019

Well, huh. No sooner had I almost half persuaded myself that I was going to be forced to get another bike – something one can usually rely on one’s fellow cyclists to fully back you over – than one of my commenters (who I believe is no stranger to the lure of N+1 himself) points out a reasonably priced hub dynamo which, combined with a triumphant sub-15 minute wheel swap on Monday morning, has somewhat destroyed my case for a spot of winter bike shopping. Now, this would normally appeal to my frugal nature because even bike shopping is not something to be rushed into, but I had been feeling the need for cheering up.

For, not only does my shoulder continue to give me grief, but I have now become so self-conscious about my poor posture that I no longer know what I should be doing with my head so as not to damage my neck – I have reached the stage where I would honestly welcome the ability to take the damn thing off and carry it under my arm. I even agreed to acupuncture at the physio which left me in the position of both hoping it worked because that way I might not need to resort to beheading myself to get a decent night’s sleep, and hoping it didn’t because rearranging my entire world view to one where moving around the chi energy actually proved effective would be almost as painful. In the end, karma had the last laugh because I woke up yesterday with a painful crick in my neck suggesting that a) the acupuncture actually did something, albeit that something was make it worse, and b) the yoga teachers are possibly right when they say that sore necks are a symptom of being unable to see both sides of the issue. So yeah, thank you universe (and I’ve now at least got an appointment with the GP to see if western medicine can at least manage not to make the whole thing worse).

Just to put the tin lid on it, yesterday morning, I was then forwarded an email about my bike outings with the Buddies, because apparently ‘concerns have been raised’ (ah the masterful use of the passive voice) that they have been seen going out cycling alongside someone who wasn’t wearing a magic plastic hat. The emailer had already been sent off with a nicely callibrated flea in their ear (I wouldn’t be working with these guys if they weren’t able to handle busybodies with one hand behind their backs or, indeed, their heads under their arms), but even so, it did nothing to lighten my mood. Normally, the answer to that would be going out on the bike, but the shoulder is starting to impinge on that too, and – short of getting myself a proper Dutch bike – does even worse things to my head and neck* than sitting slouched on the sofa with the laptop, so even a ride into town and back didn’t do it for my mood.

So I did the next best thing and asked Twitter to cheer me up, which it duly did with a slew of Dad jokes and other cheering responses and this afternoon capped it off with this:

If I were in the market for a winter bike, I think I may have found it.

* If I could take my head off and ride with it under my arm, do you think the helmet police would still moan about what I was wearing on it?

Get Thee Behind Me …

February 10, 2019

Me a couple of days ago: I’ve got around 20 minutes on this fine, almost springlike day, before I need to set off into town. How can I be most productive?

*prepares batch of sourdough, sends an important email, orders a repeat prescription, leaves house with five minutes in hand, feeling almost like an organised person.*

Brain: don’t forget you need to swap the ice tyres back off your bike.

For yes, it has reached the time of the year when the ice tyres’ role is to be in the wrong place – either off the bike when it is icy, or on the bike when it is not. The latter wouldn’t matter that much – I quite like the rice crispy noise they make on the tarmac and it helps alert pedestrians to my presence behind them far more effectively than the bell-or-no-bell calculation – except that my hub dynamo is on my non-winterised front wheel so at this time of the year it’s a choice between grip or lights (this winter, I’ve been running my dynamo lights day and night because even during the day the sun is so low it’s bound to be in someone’s eyes).

snow-covered bike

What do you look for in a winter bike?

I could get a set of battery lights, but space on my handlebars is at a premium and charging them is a pain, especially when they’re only occasionally used. I could get a second dynamo for my winter wheels, but a nice hub dynamo costs How Much!? and – such are the quirks of the human brain – it seems somehow less wasteful to get a whole new winter bike with a dynamo to use on the icy days than it does to get just a new front wheel with a dynamo that will barely be used.

Obviously, any cyclist reading this will be muttering ‘N+1’ and urging me to go for the new bike, but I do feel any additional bike would have to earn its keep, beyond just spiky wheels, and fill a niche my current steeds aren’t currently filling. But I have to admit, I’m a tiny bit tempted by the thought of a new-to-me bike. Given I already have a comfy touring bike and a Brompton, and any new bike would still have to get me up our hill (so no heavy mountain bike), if you were in my shoes, what would you go for?