Pass the Dutchie on the Left Hand Side

February 12, 2015

So you’re in a meeting, and there’s a plate of biscuits in the middle of the table, and you’re the only one who cycled there, and it took you 45 minutes and you had to cane it into a headwind because you were late. Everyone else is doing a sterling job of ignoring the biscuits but finally somebody does start passing the biscuits round but in the opposite direction from you, and some people take a biscuit and pass them on, and some politely refuse a biscuit and pass them on, and just as it’s coming up to you, someone takes the plate, refuses a biscuit and puts the plate down beside them without passing it on.

Seriously, how long before you crack and reach for the biscuits? I think I lasted 20 minutes. In my defence, some of them were chocolate ones.

Sometimes I think all meetings with the council are not so much meetings but carefully staged psychological experiments. Which, thinking about it, would explain a lot.

Small Victories

January 24, 2015

It sometimes seems as if the embuggerisation of modern life – the process by which large corporations gradually shave away at the corners of customer service in defence of their bottom line by making their customers do the work that they used to pay staff to do while simultaneously trying to squeeze as much cash out of them as they can – is unstoppable and unrelenting. But sometimes, just sometimes, the customers fight back. And sometimes, just sometimes, they actually win. And it seems that one such tiny victory has been acheived in Bigtown, at least for now.

Normally I avoid buying my paper in WH Smith ever since they abandoned the honesty box system in favour of making you stand in an enormous queue made only longer by the need for the poor cashiers to upsell something to every single customer (would you like a bottle of water for 50p with your paper? Unfeasibly large bar of chocolate? Or how about a useless voucher that gives you 50% off everything except newspapers, books, magazines, unfeasibly large bars of chocolate and indeed everything else we actually stock in this shop?). Then, just before Christmas they brought in self-service tills, an act of genius in a shop that sells things like newspapers (which are often bought with vouchers which are enormously fiddly to use on those machines) and tobacco – which now has to be kept under the counter.

Naturally, the good people of Bigtown studiously ignored the self-service tills, as is only right and proper, and simply queued up for the remaining tills, and when I went in this morning it seems as if the customers might have won. Bigtown WH Smith still has the loathed self-service tills in place, but when I went in this morning I found they had simply turned one of them round and put a cashier behind it to ‘help’ the customers by basically scanning everything through herself, taking their money, dealing with the vouchers and issuing receipts. Presumably as far as head office is concerned, the self-service tills are doing wonderfully well – and as far as Bigtown is concerned, things are back to normal. Indeed, we’re rather better off than before, because the machines aren’t expected to do any upselling, so we no longer have to fend off huge bars of chocolate when we’re in a hurry for our change, although we do still get the useless vouchers. All they have to do now is bring back the honesty box system and my life will be complete, although I suspect what will actually happen is that head office will discover the ruse and crack down on it, and we – customers and staff – will be re-educated to use the self-service tills if it kills us all. It is, after all, the modern way.

Squatters’ Rights

January 22, 2015

I suspect just by posting this I will reveal just how very unsuited I am to yoga – no doubt I should be all about letting go of material things and concentrating on inner beauty and all that – but there is a problem: someone has stolen my spot in yoga class. I’m not sure if this is the normal way of things in yoga classes, but everyone else has been coming for aaaages and they all have their favoured spots, so newcomers get directed to a free place, usually the emergency newbie spot beside the teacher, but I lucked out early on when someone dropped out and I got a yoga-mat-sized slice of prime real estate in the corner under the heater and right by the mirror so I can discreetly check that my downward dog is channelling a stretching whippet rather than, say, a giraffe at waterhole, in so far as my hamstrings will allow.

All was going well until I had to take a break from yoga due to my hernia op. The first week back after Christmas, the class wasn’t very full and I could resume my place without any problem. But then last week – disaster. The class was rammed with both all the old timers and some newcomers and when I got there SOMEONE WAS IN MY SPOT. To add insult to injury she was wearing a top with ‘Yoga Bunny’ on it, which I feel is a low blow. I think she may have started coming while I was away and been assigned my favoured place, meaning I am now back to square one, relegated back into the newcomer’s spot alongside someone who was there for the first time. Or worse – for this week not only was yoga bunny still in my spot, still wearing the yoga bunny top, but I was assigned to a temporary place because someone couldn’t make it that week. I am now effectively homeless in my yoga class, a transient, carting my yoga mat from place to place, with a new neighbour to get used to every time. This is seriously unsettling

The only solution, other than turning up half an hour early and reclaiming my territory that way, which I suspect is a major breach of yoga etiquette and besides may start an arms race I can’t hope to win, is to wait it out and hope that yoga bunny sees the light and takes up pilates or Zumba or something more suitable, leaving me with vacant possession. Barring any further surgery, I should be able to outwait her. She may be more punctual than me, but I have both time and patience on my side, and besides, I’m not having to do yoga with me glaring at me resentfully from an inferior temporary spot in the draught from the door, if you see what I mean. At least it gives me an incentive to turn up rather more regularly than I was in the past, which should be good for my neck and back. Or at least it would be, if only I could ungrit my teeth…

And breathe…


December 9, 2014

Hold the front page – the other half and I had a Christmas party to go to yesterday evening (drinks, nibbles and chit chat rather than loud music and dubious substances, and the sad truth is I prefer it that way these days and if I’m honest probably always have). As I got out my sole remaining party outfit I reflected that it dated back to the last millennium. Indeed, I may very well have seen in the millennium in it, come to think of it. One of the advantages of regular cycling is that you can at least still fit into the clothes you bought in your twenties. And one of the advantages of not going to parties very often is that you don’t wear out your party clothes, although cycle chic or no cycle chic, I don’t recommend that you do too much cycling in them if you want them to last.

Growing up I always hoped I’d become one of those women with a ‘unique, timeless style’ that people always seem to admire, even as they chase down the latest ephemeral trend themselves. In my head, I pictured this as a process whereby, perhaps at the unimaginably old age of 40, I would go out to a number of sophisticated shops and purchase an incredibly chic wardrobe of timeless classics, accessorise them with something unique that only I would have thought of, and stride off, impeccably put together, into a tasteful sunset. What I have discovered actually happens is that you stop buying any clothes unless you happen across the kind of clothes you feel comfortable in, regardless of what actually happens to be in fashion. And then at the ripe age of 45 you do a quick tally in your head and realise you have a total of five grey jumpers in subtly different styles and shades – and then do a recount and discover that it is in fact six. And that your idea of the new fashion season is the big switch from grey jumpers to checked shirts in the summer, and back to grey jumpers (black jumpers are also acceptable) in the winter. And you only read the fashion pages to a) laugh and b) discover when grey jumpers / flat shoes / checked shirts are in again so you can rush out to shops to stock up. And that you are in fact fine with that.

At the moment, I’m in two minds as to whether this means I have at last achieved a ‘unique timeless style’ of my own – or that I am, in fact, a bloke.

In other news Hoggs of Fife are advertising their moleskin trousers as having a ‘new fashionable low-rise cut’. Disaster. I may have to get myself a shotgun after all

Right Twice a Day

November 26, 2014

For those waiting with bated breath for an update, I am still watchless and if anything further from a solution than before. I have long been one of those people who, entirely unscientifically, ‘stops’ battery powered watches (which I have now remembered is another reason why I went for the expensive mechanical watch in the first place – I think I remember this afresh every time it goes in for a service and I have to look for a temporary replacement). It’s unscientific because if you search for information about the phenomenon you will get a lot of scientists explaining how this is a common fallacy due to people misunderstanding electromagnetic fields and confirmation bias and all that (see also: the puncture fairy), which all makes perfect sense. And indeed, it is perfectly true that once you’ve killed your first two or three battery powered watches you stop buying expensive ones, so it does become something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And I do understand that the plural of ‘anecdote’ is not ‘data’ and that I am likely to start looking out for watches stopping on me and use that to reinforce my belief that I kill watches, while overlooking all the times I’ve had a battery-powered watch that didn’t die, at least immediately etc. etc.

None of which was much comfort yesterday when I took my old running watch in (a Timex no less, with a built in light) for a new battery only to be told it was dead as a dodo and would have to be sent off to be serviced. Nor when the other half came in late last night having not realised how late it was because his watch – which I had been wearing overnight for the last week or two and which had hitherto been entirely reliable for at least the last 15 years – had stopped.

Sceptics will be delighted to learn that the other half’s watch just needed a new battery; time will tell whether he’s willing to risk letting me wear it again all the same. And I still have no working watch, although I have noticed that I still manage to wake up at roughly the time I need to in the morning (perhaps we could have a scientific explanation of that too?). Meanwhile, maybe any scientists wishing to explore the whole watch stopping phenomenon would like to send me some watches on an entirely randomised basis? I promise to report my findings faithfully, although for it to be a completely fair trial, they would obviously need to be quite expensive ones…

Time Out of Joint

November 18, 2014

November beeches

I have a watch, a very nice watch. A beautiful mechanical self-winding watch with a glass back so that you can see all the tiny parts ticking away inside. It needs no battery and will last for decades: the absolute antithesis of today’s short-term, throwaway society. There’s just one tiny problem. Every few years (technically every 3 years, but that’s never going to happen), if I want it to function as an actual working timepiece as opposed to a piece of wrist-borne kinetic sculpture, it has to be sent off to a specialist horologist to be taken apart by highly trained elves, cleaned in unicorn’s tears, and dusted with fairy diamonds (judging by the cost), a process which takes several weeks. Oh, and it also doesn’t keep very good time, but that might just be because I’m a bit slow to send it off to the elves because I could in fact buy a very nice watch for the cost of having it serviced. In fact, adding it up, I could have replaced the whole watch by now, but that would be a terrible waste.

For the last few months, my watch has been showing distinct signs of unhappiness and I’ve been vaguely meaning to do something about it, an intention reinforced by the fact that the strap broke and – thinking that I might as well get a new gryffon hide strap from the elves whie they were at it – I haven’t replaced it, instead wearing my watch rather precariously on a rubber wristband advertising a firm of cycle injury solicitors. Despite this, I hadn’t actually done anything about it other than think ‘I really must get my watch serviced’ at increasingly frequent intervals until Thursday when, being in Glasgow with half an hour to kill, I impulsively dropped into a watch place to find out if they could get it serviced. They could (they gave me back my wristband; I don’t think they were very impressed. I just hope I’m to be allowed to have the watch back…), and it is off to the elves for at least 6 weeks, leaving me watchless

Despite everyone telling me nobody wears a watch any more, that’s what your phone is for, I’m finding this quite difficult. I do like to know what time it is at any given moment in the day. I particularly like to know what time it is when I wake up in what might be the middle of the night and it’s dark out. The other half kindly lends me his at night, but it doesn’t have luminous hands so I would have to turn on the light to find out that it’s four in the morning and only half an hour since I last turned on the light to find out what time it is, which would probably get a bit old quite quickly for the other half. I could keep my phone by my bed but I’d rather keep it out of the bedroom because I’d only end up replying to emails or going onto twitter and forget to check what time it was. So either I have to find myself a cheap, ideally secondhand, watch with a luminous dial or I’m going to have to train myself to not want to know what time it is in the middle of the night.

A quick scout around the charity shops of Bigtown suggests that the latter is going to be easier. It seems watches do not come as standard with luminous hands. I find this baffling, to be honest. Am I really the only person who wants to be able to tell the time in the dark? Is it really such an odd thing to do? What do the rest of you do?

Oh and the photo? No reason, really, but even on a fool’s errand, a sunny morning in November on the bike is a pleasure that should be shared.

Mission Quite Possible

September 28, 2014

Today was the day when autumn really felt as if it had arrived. A definite tang of woodsmoke in the air, and the road is a mess of leaves and smashed conkers. ‘You’ll discover how the other half live,’ someone said at the village coffee morning on Friday, learning I wasn’t allowed to cycle for a while. ‘I know, it’s terrible,’ I said. ‘I meant how much better it is,’ he replied. ‘You can get to places in half the time and go twice as far.’ I suppose he’s right, especially as by the time I get back on my bike, winter will be closing in on us. Too easy just to keep driving, or letting the other half drive, more likely.

So I’m determined to get walking as much as I can, if only to help maintain my cake-based lifestyle. Once I can walk to the village (about 1.5 miles away) I can get the bus, which gives me a semblence of independence back, adjusted for the rural bus service. Yesterday I had a popup bookshop to help run, which meant a lot of standing and some walking around (mainly to distract myself from the risk of carrying anything heavier than a cup of tea) but I haven’t actually managed to go for an actual walk since my operation. So today I decided we were going to check the level on the ford.

road back from the ford

Road back from the ford. Who put that hill there? Also all those leaves…

A friend who’s been in a similar situation (albeit an actual caesarian rather than the world’s tiniest hernia) advised me that the real problem was that things turn out to be an awfully long way back when you’re recovering. This proved to be the case with the ford, too. We had to stop a couple of times while I reminded myself to slow down, the road having developed a number of hitherto unnoticeable hills. The main problem is I can’t stand up straight properly without feeling as though something is going to go ping, and without standing up straight you can’t walk properly, just sort of shuffle along, which is frustrating and after a while I forget and start to stride out and then ouch. In the end it took 45 minutes to cover the total distance of 1 mile, so that’s only about twice as long as it would ordinarily take. Operation walk to the village might be a few days off for me yet.

But you don’t care about any of that, you’re wondering what the level was in the ford. Well, despite some actual rain in recent days, it’s still dry as a bone, as it has been all summer.

dry ford

We will bring you updates as soon as the situation changes


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