Times Tables

November 19, 2018

What with one thing and another, I seem to have spent the last three weeks on a train with one or other of my bikes. This weekend it was Glasgow and the Go Bike AGM where I was filling in for my little sister as a speaker. Bigtown to Glasgow is usually pretty civilised by train, as long as you check the football schedules before making any plans – the train is slow but scenic and takes six bikes without any need to effectively lock yourself in a cupboard and have faith that someone will let you out, unlike when travelling on Virgin, so the big bike gets to go, which is fortunate as Glasgow has potholes that would swallow a Brompton whole.

bike on train platform

There’s a snag, however. I stayed overnight in Glasgow so I wouldn’t have to be rushing for the last train or, indeed, suffer the horror that is the last train out of Glasgow on a Saturday, a journey that can sometimes be a bit … lively. Unfortunately this meant that the first train I could get home on a Sunday was at 3 in the afternoon (and the next one after that at 10), which is the sort of service you might expect from a country bus, not the direct train service between Scotland’s largest city and a fairly major town about 75 miles away. So my kind hosts were stuck with me not just overnight but well into Sunday lunchtime too.

Fortunately, it being a sunny morning and they being cyclists too, they had just the plan to fill the morning. A nice pootle round Pollok Park (and fortunately it was a pootle – these being people who think nothing of 100 mile days on the bike), followed by brunch after we’d worked up an appetite. Brunch isn’t something that’s quite reached Bigtown yet as far as I know, so it was a welcome novelty. Indeed, it was a bit of a novelty not to be rushing anywhere, so maybe the Bigtown Sunday train service has a point.

cycling in Pollok Park

Today I had the luxury of having nowhere I needed to get to other than a ride out for the paper, and nothing I had to do except make inroads into a stack of work that’s building up. I don’t think it will last – indeed I have to be in Edinburgh on Thursday, having forced lots of Important People to rearrange their schedules because – guess what – the train service meant I’d have to spend three hours hanging around before the meeting if it had been at its originally scheduled time. Ironically enough, it’s at Transport Scotland (and yes they’ve had some full and frank feedback about rail services to the South West) but it turns out even they can’t make the Transpennine Express stop at Lockerbie on a reasonable schedule.

I seem to remember I used to spend quite a lot of time complaining about the train service in London back in the day. Man, I didn’t even know I was born …

Advertisements

Degrees of Separation

October 1, 2018

So, while I was in Aberdeen this weekend, whipping up dissent and fomenting rebellion among the cycling classes, the farmer has apparently been busy and our neighbours are back.

new fence

Rather than replace the rotten fence posts on the existing fence we now have a new extra bit of fence that keeps the coos from eating the broccoli (and licking the greenhouse) but has allowed them to return to their field.

After spending a bit of time investigating whether the new fence is edible (nope), movable by head rubbing (not really) or lickable-to-death (jury still out), Moo I 5 seem to be confining their dissent to mooing at it occasionally and looking at me resentfully as I wander in my garden paradise filled with delicious things-that-aren’t-grass, from which they have been banished. Hopefully things will stay that way.

cows and fence

In other news, my bike tried to kill me yesterday, but that tale will have to wait for another day


Remoooved

September 26, 2018

For those of you eagerly awaiting a Moo-I-5 update, I have a slight confession to make. Alarmed by the fact that the fence that separated our garden from their field had become somewhat less than cow-proof (in that two of the fence posts were no longer in any meaningful sense attached to the ground), I rang the farmer before our new neighbours discovered this and became our uninvited house guests. I was expecting him to bang in a couple of fence posts and all would be good, but instead he just closed a gate and confined them to the other field, shaking his head and muttering about the fact that ‘you can grow them all the grass you like’ and that appears to have been that.

cows

 

This is good news for our trees and the bits of the veg plot within cow reach, but bad news for the blog and probably the cows too because our garden – as well as being home to tasty cow treats – is also a source of endless amusement to them in what I suspect are otherwise quite dull cow lives. Certainly, when I moseyed past this afternoon on a walk up to the woods, I quickly drew a fascinated crowd.

cows in their new field

They were also watching me over the wall as I harvested some of our purple sprouting broccoli this afternoon, no doubt hoping I’d leave some for them. Their stay out in these fields is usually quite short (and, to be brutally honest, I don’t think they go on to pastures new either). Obviously it’s ridiculous to feel guilty about the fact that I’ve banished them from half a field and some variety in their bovine lives.

more cows

And yet, somehow I do …


Uncowed

September 14, 2018

So, as I mentioned in the last post, Moo I 5 are back, and when daylight came yesterday, we could see that they had been making themselves at home…

cows in the field

You can’t really see it from the photo, but as well as giving the copper beech a trim, our new neighbours had discovered that if you leaned against the nice scratchy barbed wire hard enough, and streeeetched your neck, you could have some delicious broccoli leaves.

broccoli and cows

Note innocent expression. Do not be fooled

(this is why I’m fairly relaxed about cabbage white incursions on my brassicas. What takes several dozen caterpillars weeks of eating to acheive, is barely a second’s work for a cow).

I’ve also only just noticed the angle of that fence …

leaning fence

The ash tree has so far survived unbrowsed, although for how long we don’t know, but for one of our new birch trees, a 2m tree tube was no match for a hungry Holstein.

nibbled tree top

Possibly time to upgrade the defences … and get used to gardening with a fascinated audience again.


Life on Mars

September 13, 2018

Coming back from Glasgow last night on the train that gets in at 11, there was part of me that was wishing I’d held out for a lift from the station, so that I didn’t have a 50 minute ride uphill in the dark before I was in my bed. And as I took my habitual route down the cycle path from the station, I did also find myself wondering if this was the wisest route home for a solitary female to be taking late at night. I know there are many women who find the old railway path a little too intimidated – we have it drummed into us from an early age that you don’t go into dark and lonely places alone.

But then again, I was on my bike and, rightly or wrongly, I always feel pretty invincible when I’m cycling. Sure I’ve had the odd encounter with a driver that has left me mentally planning my own funeral for the rest of the ride home, but 99.9% of the time I’ve anticipated their obliviousness and am out of harm’s way as they pull out into my path or overtake me on a blind bend. So I’m not frightened of cycling through parks or along dark cycle paths, although I keep an eye out for any obstacles or lurking figures. Indeed, now that I’ve got decent lights and my miraculous SON dynamo, I positively relish the deserted country roads at night where the only real danger is the lurking lesser-spotted pothole and my habit of riding along looking up at the night sky and ending up almost in a dyke.

And so I rode home under a sky speckled with stars, with Mars rising at my side, incredibly bright and and strikingly red. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it so clearly (and apparently it would have been even brighter a few weeks ago) and it was pretty mesmerising. Who needs a lift when you’ve got a planet escorting you home?

It was only once I’d arrived home, putting my bike away in the garage, that I heard a noise – noises – of some thing or some things out in the dark beyond the circle of the light.

The sound of breathing, of shifting weight, of movement.

The unmistakable sensation of being watched from the darkness…

Yes, Moo I 5 are back.


What are the Chances of That?

May 3, 2018

Since we’ve moved to the new house, I’ve often wondered just where our bus service goes. There’s definitely a bus that serves New Nearest Village, because I’ve seen it and it’s got a timetable that’s available in various formats including online. The problem is, I’ve seen it in a number of places which seem to make no sense as far as any route to New Nearest Village goes. Occasionally I’ve seen it running sensibly down the B road to and from the village (indeed, once I came across it on the B road twice in one day and both times the driver got my very best wave* for their extremely patient overtake), but other times I’ve seen it wandering far and wide on back country roads, often heading in precisely the wrong direction.

A look at the online timetable left us none the wiser – as far as we can tell (and it doesn’t help that there are no actual physical bus stops on the road and the bus timetable itself refers to places that even Google hasn’t heard of) it has a number of different and wildly circuitous routes and it would seem that it only goes past our own road end once a day on the way into Bigtown, and never on the way back, which makes it even less useful as a regular bus service than your average rural bus.

So I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it’s less a bus service and more a magical mystery – a bus that appears when you least expect it, going in a random direction, possibly with a handful of enchanted passengers who have been travelling the rural back roads of Bigtownshire for decades now. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised this afternoon when – pulling out around an apparently parked-up lorry whose driver suddenly decided to pull away from the kerb without either looking (I could see him not looking in his wing mirrors which is why I’d assumed he wasn’t going to pull out) or indicating, just as I was committed to my manoeuvre – the bus appeared out of nowhere coming the other way.

Fortunately, bus driver and I were both sufficiently on the ball that I didn’t end up as the filling in a lorry-bus sandwich, and I was free to cycle home in one piece, arguing furiously with the lorry driver in my head. Even so, it was just the sort of incident that might encourage a more nervous cyclist to resort to taking the bus instead.

If only she could work out where it went …

* I have a carefully calibrated set of acknowledgements to drivers who pass or overtake me ranging from a cheery salute for extra-considerate driving all the way down to the ‘what the actual F was that?’ theatrical shrug (or occasionally the ‘you have a very small endowment’ pinky waggle when needs must).


Cabin Fever

March 3, 2018

So, today should have been spent in Glasgow, in the company of approximately 50 active travel campaigners, variously networking, sharing ideas, putting the world to rights and (most likely) worrying that none of our speakers were running to time. But with the ongoing weather chaos (there are still no trains running out of Bigtown station even now) we had to reluctantly cancel. So what with that, and being ill and my Viking biking failure on Wednesday, I’ve not actually been anywhere since Sunday except out for a daily walk.

drifted snow

Today, feeling that this was getting out of hand, I decided I would either attempt to cycle down for the paper or we would dig the car out and drive down to do some recreational panic buying. No sooner had I made this decision than it began to snow again, so we dug out the car while we still could, made liberal use of the contents of the coonsil grit bin which is helpfully left right by our gate (and smells deliciously of treacle – do they mix it with molasses to make it stick or has the salted caramel fad finally jumped the shark?) and successfully made it to the main road.

It was slightly sobering to then come across an upside-down 4×4 a mile or two further down – it wasn’t exactly where I would have been cycling, but it did illustrate the fact that some people are still struggling to drive to the conditions. But, hey, apparently I’m the nutter, attempting to tackle these conditions on a bike …

Capsized vehicles aside, Bigtown was almost disappointingly back to normal – even the KFC is open again – and the supermarket’s shelves looked fairly fully stocked although we did almost end up with half a Guardian (apparently the middle bits fall out too easily and they seem to be dealing with this by bringing them out one magazine insert at a time when customers complain, rather than just sorting them all out in one go).

By the time we were heading home the snow was more or less stopped, the overturned car was being carted away and there was a sense that – the odd yellow weather warning notwithstanding – life might be returning to its normal rhythms soon. It’s been nice to have a bit of enforced downtime, I suppose, especially after a busy start to the year. But I think I’ll be ready to get out on the bike pretty soon. I just hope all the drivers out there concentrate as hard on keeping the rubber side down as I do …