Turning Left

January 4, 2017

road left

I had occasion to visit our new Nearest Village this morning. As I turned left out of our road end, it occurred to me how infrequently I do this. Since moving, almost every bike ride I’ve done has involved turning right, down towards Bigtown. The odd bit of gadding about around Scotland aside, I have basically been wearing even more of a groove with the bike than I did before, when at least I had two regular routes instead of one. I’m generally a creature of habit, but this is getting a bit boring even for me.

I’m not usually one for New Year’s resolutions (apart from the one about not starting any new cycle campaigns, which I normally manage to keep for at least three months into the year) but this year I thought I might at least shake things up a bit. Nothing so formal as a resolution, but let it be known here* that I shall aim for at least one mini adventure, where by ‘adventure’ I mean ‘going somewhere new by bike’ in a way that involves at the very least getting the old Ordnance Surveys out and possibly even getting lost.

Largely this will mean turning left – to explore the roads north and west of here, roads which I’ve done very little cycling on in the past because it’s all been a little bit out of reach. So this should be the opportunity to take advantage of the move and see what new and exciting places I can discover.

Time permitting, of course …

* I had thought that publicly stating such intentions was a good way of holding oneself accountable, but according to the ever-erudite City Cycling Edinburgh forum, in fact it can be counterproductive as that way you get the pleasure of approbation for just saying you’ll do something and don’t bother to follow through. So you’ll just have to hold me to account here yourselves, if you want any vicarious adventuring

Crawl Space

October 3, 2016

After months and months of what has felt like October weather (wet, blowy, chilly but not freezing), October has decided to get going with a couple of days to gladden the soul.

october skies

The only thing distinguishing it from June (platonic June, that is, not the actual June we had, which was a bit like October, or at least the way October usually is, rather than the October we are actually having, which is a bit like – oh, never mind) is that it’s been a bit nippy at night. Not quite frost, yet, but getting there.

Which is bringing the matter of our insulation into sharp relief. The good news is that the new house has plenty of insulation in the loft. Some of it is even installed where you would expect it to be, between the joists, some of it was installed against the coombes or whatever the slopey bits are, and is now falling off in places, and some of it is still in its roll after whoever it was who installed it got bored of the project and left it in a discreet corner of the attic. In a way, it’s quite encouraging because sorting out the insulation is doable and not particularly expensive if you do it yourself, and it makes a massive difference to your bills – all in all, a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, the shape of the upstairs means that doing it ourselves means me inching along in the triangular gap between the roof and the bedroom wall, using my elbows and toes, because it’s too narrow to properly crawl. My reconnaissance mission on Friday was a good reminder that it’s been far too long since I went to yoga (and besides, I don’t think there’s a pose called downward SAS commando), and I woke up on Saturday wondering if I was coming down with a chest infection because it hurt to breathe, until I remembered that I had spent Friday using muscles that I clearly otherwise only use when I cough.

At some point – perhaps after an intensive yoga retreat to get bendy enough – I’m going to have to go back in there and actually start putting in insulation, which should be interesting. It’s fortunate that I’m not claustrophobic, although I can report that when you’ve crawled as far as you can into a tiny narrow space under the roof, and realised you can’t get any further because there’s a board missing, and you’re going to have to work out how to reverse – then that is a very bad time to have the thought ‘what happens now if the house catches fire?’

house on the hill

The joys of home ownership, eh?

It’s About Time

August 26, 2016

Apologies for the lack of posting in recent days – I’ve been busy, but with the sort of routine boring things that don’t really generate much that is blogworthy,* even allowing for the very generous definition of ‘blogworthy’ used on this site.

wall planner

When we moved, I carefully kept aside all the things I knew I was going to have to put my hands on in short order, while packing up all the things I wouldn’t need for aaaaages – ooh at least the end of August – into various boxes. This evening, I realised that almost a month has passed since we moved and it’s beginning to wear thin as an excuse. In short, the time had come and had to rootle through the unpacked boxes looking for things like the tin that used to live on the windowsill in the old sitting room with the duplicate receipt books in it (popup bookshop) not to mention the file of random correspondence and minutes (community council meeting) and bag of useful material for handing out at bicycle promotion events (bike breakfast) – oh and the large hairy spider (actually I was trying quite hard not to put a hand on that one it scuttled out of one of the boxes). And the fact that I don’t actually yet have anywhere to put all the stuff away into now that it’s unpacked suggests that my settled intention to be a bit more organised now that I have my own study may be something of a work in progress.


First find your desk

However, I have finally bought myself a wall planner so I can at least see how stupidbusy I’m about to get before it happens, although it’s slightly terrifying to discover it’s already almost filled in up until mid December, and we haven’t even started planning the new Pedal on Parliament yet…

* I did consider writing a short disquisition on my new rotary dryer, taking into consideration its place in the class hierarchy vis-a-vis the washing line and the pulley rack – with a short detour into the signifiers inherent in the Belfast sink – but it would only make all of my English readers think less of me, while baffling all of the non Brits** who had no idea there could be a class-based component to laundry accessories.

** Any Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish readers would just roll their eyes.

Territorial Gains

August 19, 2016

I have been doing some weeding.

weeded scree slope

Actually, I will say one thing about the baffling landscaping of this garden: it’s blissfully easy to weed, at least the bits which have been refashioned as a scree slope. Anyone who has ever battled with creeping buttercup would relish being able to not just pull up a single clump, but have half a dozen more follow, attached by their runners, as easily as detaching a strip of velcro.

artificial stream

Other bits are slightly more hard work (and where the dandelions have got their roots through the landscaping fabric and into the soil below, they have grown to the size of cabbages). We have yet to work out where the pump is for the water feature, but if we can get it working, this (above) will be a miniature streambed.*

work in progress

There’s plenty more clearing to be cracking on with – but I’m conscious of imperial overreach: there’s no point clearing out a bed if you haven’t anything to put into it. I’m not finding too many decent plants among the weeds – apparently the landscaping was done by the previous owners but one, and has since suffered a decade of neglect and death-by-hens – and I’m too tight to go and buy actual plants so I may have to start another batch of random perennials to get me started.

pink geranium

One of the nicer plants found lurking among the weeds

I did get a tour of the garden at the neighbouring farm, and the promise of a few offshoots in autumn, once things are dying down. They had the most amazing clumps houseleeks (‘deafy lugs’ around here apparently) growing on the steading wall, which must have been decades old. I wonder if anyone would notice a few going awol. Indeed, I’m beginning to cast covetous glances on any interesting plant I spy.

I am now beginning to understand why the gardeners at Kew were so leery of visiting old ladies with capacious handbags and a certain glint in their eye…

*I’m minded to put in a miniature ford to go with it

Final Ford News

July 29, 2016

Well we did it – or at least we’ve translocated ourselves and all our stuff to the new house

Paradoxically, despite moving to what is technically a larger house (but with less shedage) we appear to have no room for half of our stuff. This confirms my suspicions that the stuff does actually breed while you’re not looking.

Blogging has been light because we’ve been fairly busy over the last few days, but we did take the opportunity the other night to play one last round of ‘guess the level of the ford’.

Final ford reading

Final ford reading

The other half was delighted to have the winning guess in what will likely be our final bout. Or maybe we will find another ford.

Moving: A Progression

July 27, 2016

moving boxes

Moving -1 month: Before we move, I’m going to go through everything and find a home for all that stuff which I’m not using but someone could make use of.

Moving -2 weeks: Well, OK, we don’t have time for that now, but before we move, I *am* going to go through everything and make sure everything that can be recycled gets recycled.

Moving -1 week: Well, OK, we don’t have time for that now, but before we move, I *am* going to go through everything and throw away anything we aren’t going to use again before the bins go out.

Moving -2 days: Wait, is there room in the van for this box of random crap because even though I suspect I don’t need any of it, it’s in a box already and I’m not going to take it out again?

Moving +1 day: Before we move next time, I’m going to go through everything and find a home for all that stuff which I’m not using but someone could make use of …

Just to complicate matters, the new house does not have a wheelie bin, because the rubbish is collected from the road end, which is about 500 yards away from the house. Instead we get an allocation of official coonsil bags to use over the course of the year – anything not in an official coonsil bag won’t get ‘uplifted’ as it is described around here. Only it’s right on the border between Bigtown bin lorry territory and Notso Bigtown bin lorry territory and it seems never the twain shall meet: we can’t pick up our bags from Bigtown because they have to be Notso Bigtown bags, even if they’re actually the same bags and Notso Bigtown is twice as far away as Bigtown. I could have argued the toss on that one, but at this stage in the game (moving -2 days, ish, depending on how things go tomorrow) it’s easier just to go and get the damn bags, move everything to the new house and then throw it all away…

There is final ford news, but it will have to wait until tomorrow.

Cat Three Doughnut Run

July 21, 2016

over the bridge

In retrospect, I probably should have paid attention to the fact that our new house was on a road that was classed as a Category 3 climb in the Tour of Britain. I’ve tried using this entertaining tool but it can’t do much with a place which is up a serious hill from almost everywhere – although it does produce this illuminating ride profile, which confirms my initial feeling that we had better savour the views from the house (which are extensive, when the weather is playing ball) because I will have earned every minute of them.

ride profile

This week, a confluence of deadlines has meant I’ve left the other half doing all the decorating. Feeling somewhat guilty about this, I decided to take a detour on my ride home from Bigtown this afternoon to deliver some emergency doughnuts to the new house. I did either this ride or the one from the house (which is not much flatter) every day last week and by the end of it I was feeling it in my legs. Today, I was in a hurry and even though it was warm and muggy and I was riding into the wind, it did start to feel a bit easier. I doubt I’ll ever actually arrive at the house looking cool, calm and collected, but I may actually manage a daily trip for the paper without having to revert to an e-bike.

road past fields

And there’s always the bonus that any doughnut consumed at the top will count as calorie free.

through the woods