Tea for … Well, a Small Army, Frankly

September 15, 2018

teas sign

Normally, when a group ride goes silent, it’s because the ride leader has set too fast a pace and the participants are saving their breath for the climb in hand. But this afternoon the silence had a different source: this was no normal ride, but a ‘cake raid‘ and we had reached the legendary church tea of what I must now dub Church Tea Village and there were more important things to concentrate on than chat.

Now, I don’t know what you might have in mind when you picture something advertised as a ‘light lunch and church tea’ but – although I had been warned that the catering was substantial – I wasn’t quite prepared for what followed. After starting with some delicious home made bread, slices of melon and salad, we moved on to savoury pancakes with a choice of fillings. As these were being demolished, a plate of dutch pancakes (poffertjes) scattered with sugar and raisins arrived, which proved to be dangerously moreish.

scones and pancakes

To be honest, this would have qualified for a decent meal right there, but proved to be merely the warm up. As some were tempted by a second round of pancakes, this time loaded with nutella and marshmallows, the rest of us were piling into the scones and more pancakes (scotch ones, this time). Just as we were starting to slow down and contemplate the 20 mile ride home that lay ahead, thankfully mainly downhill, one of the group nodded to the windowsill ‘I’m just looking at what’s coming next’. For the church ladies weren’t finished with us yet.

We still had the cake trolley to deal with.

cake trolley

Top tip for church teas – when an innocent looking white haired women in a church hall offers you ‘just a normal sized slice’ of cake, get that quantified before you rashly agree to anything. Oh, and don’t sit directly opposite the scones if you find it hard to see any form of starch going to waste …

So yeah. Cycling. A great way to keep a healthy weight. Just make sure you heed the warning signs and keep away from the church teas.

 

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Timebends

September 11, 2018

Having just finished some work and finding myself with a few days off, today should, technically, have been an unusally leisurely affair, with not much to do other than plant 200 bulbs,* bake a loaf of bread, deal with a backlog of admin, pick up some flyers for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign bike breakfast and distribute them to unsuspecting cyclists, and deliver emergency coffee and cake supplies to the other half’s workplace …

…I may need to work on my definition of leisurely.

I also had to work in a detour for my ford correspondent had told me last night that the freshly laid tarmac has already, as predicted, crumbled into a mess of potholes (or ‘a road’ as we call it in Bigtownshire). Sadly there was too much water to see for myself, but it was nice to revisit an old friend.

Anyway, the upshot was that having looked at my watch and realising it was 12 o’clock and somehow the morning was gone, I found myself timetrialling into Bigtown to fit it all in – made somewhat more bearable by hitting the holy trinity on my way in of smooth tarmac, downhill and an epic tailwind. Indeed, this was, if I’m honest, one of those ‘why I cycle’ moments (but yeah, sure, it’s all about the environment and maintaining a healthy heart).

Tomorrow, though, tomorrow, I’ll get a chance to relax.**

* Damn you Crocus and your two for the price of one offers

** Maybe not


What Lies Beneath

September 5, 2018

So today (once our current hare had deigned to stop sunning itself in the back garden, preventing me from going outside & enjoying the sunshine myself) I thought I’d have a look and see how this year’s potato crop was shaping up

Pretty well, actually

digging up potatoes

Yup, very nicely indeed.

potato harvest

This is the initial* haul from the second of my three potato beds – the first had the first earlies in it (plus a fine crop of mushrooms) and we’re still only half way through those. I may need to upgrade my pototo storage solution so we can keep them through the winter and still have something to eat come Brexit.**

Meanwhile, in tenuously related news, the final chapter seems to have almost closed on our local stretch of the gas pipeline project with the mysterious pipe-and-bag arrangement now replaced with a much more engineering-y manhole cover, and the land returned to the cows.

manhole cover

Given the rate that grass grows around here, it’s already hard to imagine that there’s anything beneath this field but stones and soil, were it not for this warning sign (and incidental Gaelic lesson) and final loose ends which I have no doubt will be dealt with in the fullness of time.

pipeline warning sign

We’ll update you on this story as soon as we have news. I know, you can barely wait.

* Fellow gardeners will know that harvesting potatoes is a Zeno’s Arrow sort of an affair, with each dig yielding a few more, but still leaving enough in the ground to be a complete nuisance for years to come.

** Kidding ***

*** I hope.


Noisy Neighbours

August 23, 2018

So, we have got new neighbours over the summer, which is good because it means we’re no longer the newbies in our little group of dwellings (the oldest inhabitant is 90-odd and was born here so we’re never going to actually catch up). As custom dictates, we’ve dropped by to say hello and deliver some of their misdirected mail and, obviously, have as much of a nosy round as we* could manage within the social boundaries offered by being invited in for a cup of tea.

They have also returned the visit and we’ve since exchanged pleasantries as we pass through their yard up on one of our normal walks. And it was during one of these that we noticed they have a couple of guinea fowl – indeed they’re hard to miss because they make even more of a racket than the peacock that used to live down the road from the old place. They’re even harder to miss when you end up inadvertently herding them comically down the road in front of you as we did on our return from our walk. Fortunately, they didn’t make it into our garden but headed up the hill towards our other neighbours instead and we let them get on with it. Presumably any birds that free range must have at least more road sense than a pheasant and enough of a homing instinct to get back to their new place (unless of course the new neighbours started out with a couple of dozen of them and these are just the survivors. I hope not, because I really don’t want to cycle past a sad little heap of polka-dot feathers on the Nearest B-Road).

Anyway, whether they’ve lost their way permanently or are just of an exploring bent, this morning, we discovered we had visitors…

guinea fowl

It’s an interesting addition to the garden bird list, but I may have to upgrade my hare defences.

* And obviously by ‘we’ here I mean ‘I’ as the other half is above such things.


Thinking Outside the Phonebox

August 19, 2018

Back when I was still secretary of Old Nearest Village community council, we received word that our phone box (along with what appeared to be every other phone box in the county) was due to be removed unless we could think of a good reason why it shouldn’t be. Communities had the option to suggest alternative uses and some quite creative ones came up in the surrounding area, from a mini library and a defibrillator cabinet to an actual phone box (the village that had this radical idea now have to have a rota to make sure the statutory one phone call per three months is being made to keep it going). Sadly, Old Nearest Village had no such ideas so the phone box was carted away, no doubt to join its old bus shelter in the great scrapheap in the sky.

I was reminded of this sad tale today, after we were tempted out by a not-too-rubbish-day-considering-it’s-August for a jaunt out to a cafe for Sunday lunch, via a new-to-me route. On the way we found that one enterprising village has turned its old phone box into what is either Scotland’s smallest shop or its largest honesty box.

shop in a phone box

In other news, Bigtownshire has some jolly nice scenery and cycling, something we do occasionally tend to forget.

dappled shade on road

And now we know where to stop off should we be short of supplies on the way home…

skies and scenery


Boring: See Civil Engineers

August 17, 2018

Cycling past the gas pipeline site the other day, which has largely been sitting quietly growing grass for a few months now, I noticed two people in hard hats peering down the mysterious sticking-up pipe that was all that remained to remind us of what lay beneath. I did consider stopping and asking them what I was up to, in my capacity as local boring infrastructure reporter, but I bottled it, and cycled on.

This morning, I was excited* to see that something had changed – they’d stuck a bag over it:

pipe in bag

That doesn’t seem very engineering-y even to me. I’m genuinely intrigued as to what purpose it might serve. Any gas pipeline experts care to chip in and explain?

pipe sticking up

Sticking-up pipe in happier days…

*OK, not really.


The Weather: A Public Service Announcement

July 26, 2018

As the rest of the country swelters can I just say:

trees and river

It is not that hot here.

I don’t know about the rest of Scotland, but it was raining here just a few days ago, and it’s only really just brightened up again, and it was in fact a bit too cold to be wearing shorts yesterday.

shady path

And the grass is still green, and even though it’s reached the point today where even I will seek the shade, it’s still not that hot here.

summer woods

There are few meteorological advantages to living in this damp little corner of Scotland – but this is one of them: when the rest of the country has finally had enough of the heat, and the chorus of moaning about the weather reaches a deafening level, and everyone else is longing for it to rain …

dappled shade

… That is when we will finally have our summer.

And it’s bloody gorgeous