And I’m to be Queen of the PoP …

April 21, 2017

Well, that’s it – this weekend it’s Pedal on Parliament, and there’s not much more I can do after many frantic weeks of emailing, tweeting, messaging, planning, phoning, flyering, writing, lying awake worrying and having bizarre POP-related anxiety dreams.* In fact, there was something I could do as I was supposed to be spending this afternoon looking at the giant hole that someone has inconveniently dug right across the planned POP route in Edinburgh but I managed to miss the train attempting to do some last-minute paperwork and then got caught up in Bigtown’s rush-hour traffic – oh the irony. Fortunately there were others in the hole-inspecting team, who have inspected the hole, and so now, more or less, everything is ready to go.

Tomorrow will be the usual roller-coaster ride of fretting, anxious planning, chasing up last-minute details and almost (but not quite) forgetting in the whirl to enjoy the moment of actual achievement. Always assuming anyone actually does turn up, and that the giant hole doesn’t scupper us completely.

However, on Sunday, I hope, I will get to experience something of what it is to actually participate in POP because the PoPpers organising it in Glasgow are a formidably organised bunch, and thus my role in POP Glasgow has largely consisted of me sending them anxious messages about some detail that I had just remembered only to be told that they had thought of that three weeks ago and someone was on the case already, but thanks for the advice. Generously, they are letting me lead out the ride, granting me some sort of elder stateswoman role as the figurehead of POP – possibly to keep me out of the way of the people doing the actual work. I am working on my regal wave even as we speak, although I won’t be doing it in quite such style as this character

And then, on Monday, although the work is not yet over with the local elections still to come, I might be able to devote a little more time to all the things I used to do before the madness started.

I think I remember what they used to be …

leek seedling coming up
* The last two are not, strictly speaking, part of the preparation process but apparently unavoidable all the same.


Vote till you Boak*

April 18, 2017

Lunching with the other half today, I admitted to feeling a bit weary. There’s a lot of bitty stuff to do at the moment, not just with last-minute preparations for Pedal on Parliament but particularly with the ongoing We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote campaign. The good news is that we are getting lots of candidates signing up in support of our three ‘asks’. The less good news is that each one involves a little bit of work – finding the relevant tweet on Twitter, or replying to their email, finding and updating the relevant record, trying to turn a politician’s words into a firm actionable promise… nothing individually too arduous, but it is all starting to feel a bit relentless.

The long road home

The good news, as I told the other half, was that it would all be over in a few weeks. And even better, I was off to meet a couple who have agreed to take of the role of community council secretary. Their house happened to be on the reservoir road, which leads to one of my all-time favourite rides, the reservoir loop. It wasn’t exactly on the direct route home and it involved many entirely unnecessary feet of climbing, but I needed to be away from my computer for a while so I took the long road home.

Stone dykes

I got home much refreshed, ready to face the last two and a half weeks of election campaigning, happy in the knowledge that, whatever happened, there wouldn’t be any more elections after this one for at least two years.

bike on the long road home

* The #votetillyouboak hashtag has been going the rounds on social media as a way of explaining the voting system for the current local elections where it’s most effective to put everyone in order, all the way down to the person you absolutely don’t want to get elected … Unfortunately, it seems Theresa May misunderstood


N Plus – Steady On

April 11, 2017

Well, I had a tragic badger story I was going to share with you this evening but it’s all gone a bit CSI:Bigtown with talk of post mortems and special operations units, so you’ll have to wait for that one until I’ve got a conclusive ending, if I ever do.

However I did get the bike serviced, and it now has a completely new drive train and pedals and very spiffy it looks too, as well as being disconcertingly quiet.* As I was picking it up, the bike shop guy pointed to what looked like a motorbike in the corner of the shop and suggested I give it a go.

Let me just say now that I have absolutely no need for an electric fat bike, and that spending over £3,000 on an electric fat bike would be an act of lunacy, and that they have no practical use whatsoever, and that anyway, a bike that looks like a motorbike is clearly a bonkers idea. I am, after all, a serious cycle campaigner whose bike is her means of transport and nothing more, and who favours practical things like mudguards and hub gears over something whose sole purpose seems to be to make you laugh out loud with joy the minute you get on board.

So clearly that was not me riding round the gravel patches in the bike shop car park this afternoon, laughing like a loon.

Obviously.

Man, I’d love to ride it up the hill to our house though. And then cross-country back to Bigtown. Always assuming I was going to give it back …

* two people now have told me they know I’m arriving before I appear because they recognise the sound of my bike, suggesting this service may have been long overdue.


Turning Left in April

April 8, 2017

Cyclists for next 12 miles

A rare confluence of events today left me with a freeish day (mostly due to things I was intending to do not being ready for me to work on them, so I’ll pay for it later) and a sunny forecast. What to do? I had intended to wash my bike before its service (I never usually remember to do this) and maybe get on with the garden but then I had a bright idea on Twitter

The only problem is, even on a nice day, it’s quite tricky to find cyclists to flyer in Bigtown who might be interested in coming to an event in Edinburgh or Glasgow. But then I remembered that there was some sort of a road race going on in a village not too far away from here. Time for another mini adventure

The problem was, I was only able to get away at around 11:30 (a ‘free’ day is a relative concept here), the village was several miles away, the race started at 11, and I cycle very slowly. I had no idea how long these races take, or whether I would make it in time before the riders all finished and dispersed. So I slightly reluctantly took the most direct route despite it being all on roads with white lines down the middle, something I generally try and avoid (we’re a bit spoilt for quiet roads around here, what can I say?)

minor A road

It was only once I arrived, in what was for me record time, that I realised it might have been a good idea to find out some details before setting off, like where the race was finishing for example. The streets were completely deserted of anyone, including cyclists, except for one chap pottering along on an old racing bike in jeans and a rather smart shirt, and a mother cycling with her two kids along the pavement. Thinking I’d wasted my time and missed the whole thing – apart from the whole going on a nice bike ride on a sunny afternoon part – I circled the streets one more time until I came across rather more parked cars than normal, many with bike racks on them. Aha.

lone cow

Lone cow in a field full of sheep, looking about as discomfited about it as I was

Then the first cyclists started appearing over the horizon. I was in time. The problem was they had just finished a hard race and were more interested in picking it over with their mates and talking about their wattage and who got dropped on that hill and who shouldn’t have attacked and who should, than they were in taking my flyers. I was also feeling a little out of place with my bike and pannier that probably weighed twice what some of the riders weighed, let alone their bikes. But fortunately the race organisers very kindly let me say a few words and dish out some flyers and, after a brief detour to the local shop (where I also encountered one of my candidates for the council and was able to give him a Walk Cycle Vote postcard), I headed for home satisfied at another adventure completed, and the word spread a little further about my various campaigns.

back roads home

The road back was somewhat more my style too.

beech avenue

How we suffer for our cause…

Obligatory sheep photo


If I Ever Go on Mastermind…

April 7, 2017

… My specialist subject can be ‘Scottish local authority election candidates, May 2017’

We have finally got the Walk, Cycle, Vote candidate database up and running, complete with funky mapping based ward finder courtesy of the other half, and we’re on the hunt for contact details for all the candidates (and there are over 2,500 of them). This is surprisingly difficult. You would think that, were you running for office, that you would want to let your electorate know what your policies were and how they might contact you, but you would largely be wrong. We have someone on the case truffling out the various twitter accounts, Facebook pages and websites-that-haven’t-been-updated-since-2015. And I’ve been doing the checking, data munging (it is a word) and generally falling down a rabbithole of wondering why some local parties’ Facebook pages need to have a description on them saying that THIS is the official Facebook page and we should ignore anything with a similar name that isn’t the official Facebook page and not believe anything that’s on it.

We also had a brilliant Women’s Cycle Forum Hustings in Glasgow at the brilliant Glasgow Women’s Library, with loads of brilliant and interesting and passionate women, but I haven’t had time to write it up yet, so you’ll just have to believe me.

The election is in less than a month (and Pedal on Parliament is in just over a fortnight). I don’t know whether to be relieved that the end is in sight, or panic, so I’m alternating between the two.


To Do List

March 31, 2017
sunlight and shadows on the field

No reason for including this photo, except that I do love the way the sunlight moves over the landscape and picks out the contours in this field

I was awake this morning at 2am with a list of all the things I had to remember to do today churning around in my head (I actually got up and wrote the list … it’s the only way to get back to sleep if you’re plagued by this sort of thing). And then I’ve been on the go from the moment I actually got up – one of those days that just feels a bit relentless, with every new email a new thing to do. It reminds me of when I had a proper job as a manager and often I would get into work at 8:30 and open my email then spend the time until 6:30 just reacting to stuff until it was time to go home, without having done any of the things I’d hoped to get done in the intervening ten hours (if anyone was wondering why I might quit a well-paying job in a fantastic institution, well, that’s your answer).

I’m not complaining – I have brought this on myself, and I’m doing something I feel passionate about, and it’s only for the next few weeks, and I’m working with a great group of fellow campaigners whose enthusiasm and energy is brilliant and amazing even as it generates ever more stuff that needs to be done. And it helps that, for the last three days the rain has been equally relentless so I have felt absolutely no resentment at being chained to the computer alternately answering emails and looking at lists of local authority candidates (which is more interesting than it sounds, but only slightly).

Freshly laid tarmac

But the problem is I had resolved to try a new route on the bike every month this year, and somehow it’s already the last day in March. And all I had time for this afternoon was a dash up to New Nearest Village to pick up a prescription. This might mean a new stretch of road, but only in the sense that the tarmac had been freshly laid, not a new route

But, with the sun finally putting in an appearance, I did realise that I had an opportunity to do the tiniest bit of exploring along a road that leads out of the village and through a tiny hamlet past the school. So I took it.

The road not yet taken

As new routes go, ‘detouring half a mile out of your way’ is a box-ticking exercise that the coonsil would be proud of, but what can I say, needs must when the devil drives.

sun and clouds

I shall do better in April, I hope. But don’t count on it.


Some Politics is More Local than Others

March 29, 2017

As my twitter timeline went into meltdown over the triggering of Article 50, I was busy concentrating on some rather more local politics. For today was not just momentous/disastrous (delete as applicable silently in your head and don’t feel you have to tell me in the comments) for Brexit, it was also the day nominations closed for the Scottish local elections, blowing the starting whistle on the Walk Cycle Vote campaign.

So today has mostly been spent starting to get a mass of unruly data into something that will ultimately become our candidate database – and marvelling at the vagaries of local politics. This, it appears, gets progressively more idiosyncratic the further you are from the centre, with some of the outlying parts of Scotland eschewing party politics altogether, and others featuring a bewildering array of independents (if anyone would like to explain to me the difference between aligned and unaligned independents I’d be grateful). Interestingly, while some council wards are hotly contested, with ten or more candidates battling it out for just three seats, in others candidates have already been elected unopposed. I hope you’re happy with the coonsil, people of South Kintyre, because you aren’t going to get a chance to tell your candidates at the ballot box this time around. Shame it’s too late to get a Cycling Party together in time for the nominations.

And, talking of rotten boroughs, today was an even more momentous day in local politics as someone has finally come forward to be secretary of Old Nearest Village community council. Oh frabjuous day. I don’t know her, but she knows me – for as I rang her up to seal the deal before she got cold feet, she asked me if I’d been out on my bike on such a grim day. Clearly my reputation precedes me …