I Take it All Back

June 19, 2015

So yesterday, I had a little whinge on Twitter…

It’s been building for a while. I really loved twitter when I first started using it, because as someone who lives in the middle of nowhere and works from home, it was a chance to chat with like minded people (and the occasional non-like-minded person) and it was all generally fun and friendly and if you ever asked for advice the answer was normally along the lines of ‘a large gin’ or ‘sounds like you need more chocolate’* and not ‘have you tried eating more kale?’ or ‘six glasses of water every day’. But, whether because we’re all getting grumpier, or because I follow more people, it’s all started to get a bit fractious recently. It’s not just the guy who faithfully retweets every cyclist-hating tweet he sees, although it’s not exactly a jolly way to start the day to read a bunch of strangers threatening to run bikes off the road – what really gets me down is seeing the people who mainly agree with each other falling out over some slight deviation from the Accepted Doctrine of What Will Bring About Mass Cycling (or What Would the Dutch Do?) as first laid down by Saint Freewheeler of Waltham Forest and codified and elaborated by St David of Assen. Not, I hasten to add, that I disagree with either of those fathers of the Church of Safe Separated Infrastructure. It’s just that jumping on some poor innocent’s head who’s all fired up about cycling and wants to make a difference simply because they may have mentioned wearing a helmet, or suggesting cycle training, or other heresies** isn’t exactly going to encourage them to stick with this whole cycle campaigning lark, and not go away and take up something less controversial like kitten torturing instead.***

Naturally, having added my own grumpy tweet to the general whingefest, and got a host of lovely and funny replies, I immediately cheered up and more or less forgot about it. I then, having spent an hour or two fruitlessly looking for external battery chargers, tweeted again about my broken phone and got the following immediate response

I’ll say this about Twitter – it may not be quite as good fun as it was back in the good old days but it can still beat Google when you’re looking for a quick pointer to something specific – and is full of people who will take the time not just to answer but look up the exact link you need as well. An external battery charger has been ordered and is on its way. And if it actually works, I won’t have to take back this post as well.

Hopefully this also means I’ll have a working phone and camera at the end of June, when I will be repenting of this post, and reconfirming my commitment to the cycling cause by attending what is the Annual Synod of the Church of Safe Separated Infrastructure, the Cycling Embassy AGM. Stand by for more photos of Bromptons and interesting bollards than you can shake a stick at.

* pretty much regardless of what the question was

** Any non-cyclists reading this and scratching their heads and wondering what the problem might be – trust me, don’t ask. It’s long and complicated and at the end of the day it only matters a tiny fraction of the energy that is expended on the subject…

*** And nor, frankly, is criticising people who have spent several years organising mass bike protests on the seat of the Scottish Parliament because quite a lot of the people who turn up dare to wear hi vis jackets, because really we get enough flak from the people who actually hate cyclists to have to deal with the flak from our own side about what people who have given up their Saturday afternoon to Pedal on Parliament chose to wear.

Dumb Move

June 18, 2015

As I mentioned before, my phone is on the blink. Or rather, my phone works perfectly, but can no longer be charged because its USB port is broken and fixing this requires soldering which is apparently a dark art too far for the one phone-fixing place in Bigtown. I did try and persuade the other half, who has the same model phone as me, that we could swap batteries around, effectively using his phone as an external charging device for mine, but for some reason he wasn’t too keen on this solution. I eked out my phone’s charge as long as I could but it finally started to give out the ‘out of battery distress call’ and then transformed itself into a sleek but essentially useless lump of plastic.

So now I’m a bit bereft. I have a backup phone – you know, the kind that makes phone calls and with a bit of swearing will send a text, if you can still remember how to tap out texts with just nine buttons and honestly how did we ever manage that? – so people can still reach me although, to be honest, phone calls and texts aren’t really the way I tend to communicate these days. If I want to properly communicate – emails and twitter, basically – I have to open up my laptop. Which is fine, and I’m on my computer a lot, but it’s a revelation just how dependent on my phone I’ve become for things like quickly checking my email first thing in the morning, or tweeting my way through cooking supper because there’s nothing good on the radio. Or taking photographs, given my ability to destroy every proper camera I’ve ever owned. Sitting down and turning on the computer takes time, and by the time I’ve checked my emails I’ve generally got sucked into something else and it’s an hour later and that really wasn’t the plan.

I’m still hoping the phone can be fixed, or some magic solution will be found (there are apparently actual external battery chargers, but finding one that will work with my model of phone might be interesting). Meanwhile, I’m treating this enforced period of non-smart-phoneness as somewhere between a penance and an exercise in self-denial. It might even be good for me. Maybe I’ll go back to being able to go, ooh, a couple of hours without checking my email. Or being able to read a newspaper article all the way through to the end without just quickly checking to see if anyone’s responded to me on twitter. Or finally learning how to use a real camera instead of the one in my phone.

Or I might just break down and get myself a tablet instead…

Committing Pedestrianism

May 24, 2015
Flight of pelicans

Blue skies (and scattered showers), palm trees and pelicans

So we made it to Southern California, bringing the rain with us, which I am told is a good thing, but also enough sunshine for it to have been unwise to visit the beach yesterday morning without any sunscreen. We’re not staying right on the coast (which is amazing if you look up – or out towards the ocean, but a bit depressing if you like your towns to be separated from each other by something other than a sign indicating the city limits) – but further in inland where, it turns out, despite the fact that our hotel is nestled in the bosom of the freeway, that right behind it is a bike path that runs along the creek, and would actually take us to the Historic Downtown (historic in that if there ever was a downtown, it’s now history).

The only problem is getting onto it

fenced off path

Top tip for bike path designers, fencing it off from most places (you can get on and off the freeway more frequently than you can this path) doesn’t exactly make for social safety, although at least this means that closing it at dusk is less of an inconvenience than it would otherwise be because there’s no way I’d use a path that’s fenced in like that after dark, especially given the very friendly but ever-so-slightly-sketchy looking people getting stoned under the bridge.

bike path closes at dusk sign

Still, it had its moments. And though the creek was no more than a concrete channel, also fenced off from the path, for some reason, there still was enough bird life* to make me wish I’d brought along my bird book and my binoculars for my post-breakfast constitutional. Or, indeed a bike.

flowers on the fence

And then we got into the car, and onto the freeway and went out to the park for a proper hike, like normal people.

hiking trail

Actually, that was pretty good too…

* Stilts, ibises, egrets, swallows, ducks, kildeer, and a couple of raptors, if you’re interested.

Come Fly the Friendly Skies

May 19, 2015

So we made it to Colorado, despite the best efforts of our airline which should really remain nameless although alert readers may just be able to take a guess at which one from the title. It didn’t help that we were booked to fly from Glasgow to Colorado Springs via Newark (sensible enough) and Houston (geographically senseless) – and when we got to Newark, we discovered our flight to Houston was delayed for three hours making catching our connection impossible. The airline-which-shall-remain-nameless was on top of the situation, though, and had booked us through on the next available flight from Houston to Colorado Springs, which was at 9am the next day.

‘So will the airline be putting us up in a hotel?’ we asked. The Customer Service woman looked at us as if we’d asked for the moon on a stick, dipped in chocolate and sprinkles. ‘No, we wouldn’t do that,’ she said.* Could we claim a refund? ‘Well, you can go to our website and click on our feedback form,’ she suggested, to a hollow laugh from the other half. Could she suggest anywhere we would be able to stay near Houston airport? ‘No I don’t know anything about the Houston area’ (Unfortunately she was not adjusted for sarcasm so this one went straight over her head). Could we phone our relatives who would otherwise be setting out to meet us? Well yes, we did at least get a phone call – after all, suspected murderers get nothing less – so while the other half was phoning up his parents to let them know the bad news, I went over to the departures board to have a look.

Back to the customer services desk. Could we get on that flight to Denver that was departing in an hour or so? She looked at her computer. Why, yes we could. And there was a connecting flight to Colorado Springs that would only get us in an hour later than planned – and with no need to go via Texas. Result. No guarantees that our luggage would go with us, but at this point we didn’t care (and it is, as we speak, being delivered by someone called Richard, having had an impromptu overnight stay in Houston; the luggage, that is, not Richard**). As to why the airline-that-shall-remain-nameless hadn’t thought of this itself, I have no idea. I suspect it just doesn’t have the sort of finely-tuned seek-out-an-alternative instinct that years commuting in London instils in you… Or maybe it just didn’t give a toss.

So after only 20 hours travelling we finally arrived in the lashing rain, to discover that the weather gods had preceded us by some days, presumably not having had to travel via US carriers, and the desert is looking a whole lot greener than it normally does. Indeed, the weather has been rather more Southwest Scotland than the Southwest. But the in-laws’ bikes have been brought out of the garage and patched up enough for another couple of weeks’ use … and checking the height of the water in the Fountain Creek is now the new checking the level of the ford.

*You know all that burdensome red tape that company bosses are always complaining the EU weighs them down with? Things like ‘if you strand your airline passengers in Texas overnight because reasons, you have to actually make sure they have somewhere to stay’? These are exactly the sort of regulations that those dastardly Eurocrats in Brussels are strangling red-blooded businesses with. The bastards.

** Update: just as I was about to post this, it arrived.

Lest we Forget

May 7, 2015

The problem with getting involved in something that leaves you stupidbusy for weeks, is that – when it’s finally over, and the thing you rashly got involved with a few days later is also over, and you’ve had the weekend when you didn’t manage to do anything except look dazed and delete an accumulation of emails, some of which you discover you subsequently still need* – then you discover that not only do you now have an accumulated month’s worth of stuff to do and about two weeks to do it in, but that your brain has quietly fried itself under the strain and is no longer capable of retaining all the things it needs to do.

Which is presumably why I have in recent days managed to schedule something on a Monday morning forgetting that every Monday morning is spent crouched over a keyboard frantically summarising 700 bike blog posts into one not-exactly coherent narrative, forgotten to do something I’d promised someone I’d do about a week ago, forgotten to pick up cocoa on my way back from Bigtown this afternoon, which is a problem when you’ve invited several hungry cyclists to join you for a 46-mile anniversaire jaunt at the weekend and you need to feed them brownies, and – just now – forgotten I’d left the washing out on the line with an overnight frost forecast (and while I’m at it, what’s with all the frost in MAY, Weather Gods?)

At least I did not forget to vote, although I did forget to post this in time to remind anyone else to vote, so there’s no point in linking to this.

Meanwhile, if I’ve promised to do something and not got back to you about it, now might be a good time to send a little reminder …

* Fortunately every email anyone sends these days includes the text of all preceding emails in it so all you have to do is wait for someone to send you a reply (and can also be quite illuminating when they get forwarded on to us trailing unintentionally revealing content…)


March 3, 2015

We’ve been visiting my parents’ for the last few days, enjoying an enforced broadband holiday due to either incompetence on BT’s part or the incredible coincidence of my parents’ router stopping working at exactly the same time as their engineers were doing something to the lines locally.

I’d love to say that I took the opportunity to free myself from the tyranny of the screen, reconnect with my loved ones, and made the most of this opportunity to get on with the things that really matter; I’ll leave it up to you to imagine how much time I instead spent pecking away at emails on my phone and fleeing to the free WiFi (but rather expensive beverages) of Costa Coffee in Berwick when things got out of hand.

However, it has allowed me to boil my blogging down to the following concentrated essence. I might not have gained much time out of the experience, but look how much time you have saved:


potato day sold out

Potato day. Starts at 11:00 am. Do not, whatever you do, arrive any later than, say 11:15…

Sally Port gate in Berwick

You’ve got to love a town that reserves a special gate just for you

snow on hills

Home again. Clouds gathering over Bigtownshire, as per usual

Ancient History

February 17, 2015

Of all the things I needed this afternoon, with a busy evening planned (of which, possibly, more anon), and an hour or so to kill in town, having the cash machine to decide to reboot itself in the middle of giving me some cash, was probably somewhere between ‘a hole in the head’ and ‘a slap in the face with a wet fish’.

Adding insult to injury, was the fact that, as it rebooted itself and I stood there staring at it, only just coming to terms to the fact that I was about to be left with no cash and no means of getting cash and no means of buying anything without cash, I noticed that the cashpoint was running on OS2 Warp.

For those of you of tender years, OS2 Warp was the operating system IBM brought out in the early nineties to challenge Windows and my first ever proper job in IT was porting software onto it, which will tell some of you just how ancient I really am, and certainly in IT years.* It was a steaming pile of matters arising then, and I don’t imagine it’s much better now. ‘Isn’t rebooting something supposed to make it work again?’ asked the other half when I texted him to bring me over some cash. From what I remember of OS2 Warp, nothing short of percussive maintenance with an axe was going to make a cash machine running OS2 Warp better which – curiously enough – was exactly what I wanted to do.

And how was your afternoon?

*Only last night I was reminiscing happily about the Y2K panic, which some of you may have heard your grandparents talk about.


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