Reasons to be Cheerful

April 7, 2019

With everything – globally and nationally – apparently collapsing around our ears, may I note a small measure of progress, albeit locally?

One year ago, our local Farmers’ Market moved from a site by the bypass, inaccessible by bike, to Bigtown Station’s short-term car park – thereby driving a coach and horses through Bigtown’s Parking Strategy (and, indeed, iron law) that no parking space may be lost without the creation of an equal and opposite parking space, even temporarily, lest a rip occur in the fabric of space time or the Hellmouth open.*

This should have doomed it to instant failure, and yet, as we cycled down on a grey and cold and frankly not all that springy morning we discovered that the place was, as it always is, hopping. Not only were people quite capable of parking a little further away and walking over the railway bridge for their cheese, pies, other kinds of pies, four different brands of local confectionary, and haggis samosas** (but not, to the other half’s disgust, ice cream) – but they were also able to cycling there.

Compare and contrast:

bike parking

Bike parking at the Farmers’ market a year ago

market parking

Bike parking today (including a couple of tiny bikes tucked away in the middle)

Not only that, but half those bikes, I don’t even recognise

As I took a photo for Bigtown Cycle Campaign’s various social media platforms, the lady who was doing a stint as market greeter turned to me and smiled.

“Aren’t they great all these bikes? I just love seeing everyone coming in and parking their bikes. Isn’t it wonderful that people can cycle to the market now?”

Isn’t it just?

This put me in such a good mood, I didn’t have the heart to tweet this particular example of Bigtown parking at its finest (although, to be fair, I think it was probably more a case of ignoring the four-hour parking time limit yesterday, than someone wanting to be in pole position for the queue for the pies).

market parking

* actually, now I come to think of it, that might explain everything …

** don’t mock until you’ve tried them. Bigtown streetfood at its finest.

Advertisements

In Like a Sea Lion

March 13, 2019

I suppose people who install solar panels shouldn’t really be surprised when the result is unrelenting rain, interspersed with occasional sleet and snow.

sleet in march

“February fill-the-dykes”, our neighbour the oldest inhabitant is fond of saying, but as February didn’t really oblige this year, March has stepped in instead. We’ve had two nights of heavy rain blattering against the skylight in our bedroom which – when combined with high winds and thunder and lightning right overhead – tends to cross the fine line between ‘lovely and cosy to listen to when tucked up in bed’ and ‘lying awake worrying whether the solar panels are still attached.’

full river

We woke this morning to no power – fortunately just a tripped circuit breaker so I did not have to face the prospect of getting up without coffee – and no internet – less fortunately, a dead router – suggesting one of the lightning bolts came a bit close for comfort but we were back up and in time for me to head off, suitably caffeinated,* for a meeting about trains which was marginally more exciting than it sounds.**

Riding back I was pleased to notice that the brand new lambs were wearing their little plastic cagoules as the Met Office is predicting another night of double-dot rain. I might grumble at having it hammering on the skylight overhead, but at least I’m not out in it in nothing but a woolly jumper and a plastic bag…

lamb in waterproof coat

* The current coonsil austerity drive has extended from No Biscuits at meetings, which was bad enough, to No Tea and Coffee which I believe is banned under European human rights legislation, especially if it’s going to be conducted entirely in technical terms.

** top tip when in a meeting full of Serious Transport Men: don’t refer to the stopping service between Bigtown and Glasgow as ‘the chuffer’ as apparently that is not the correct technical term.


More Sheep Adventures

February 19, 2019

Setting off unforgivably late this morning, having already been delayed by a soft back tyre, a talkative neighbour and my unfailing need to act out a demonstration of ‘more haste, less speed’ whenever under pressure to do something to the bike quickly,* I worked out I could still be on time if I stepped it up a gear. As long as I didn’t encounter too many tractors attempting to squeeze past each other on a narrow section of road (just the one pair) and any wayward sheep I would be …

… which was when I saw the sheep caught up in barbed wire. For it is February, which means we’re getting into prime sheep escapology-and-attempted-suicide season (it runs from approximately the beginning of February until the 31st of January, as far as I can tell, but it peaks as spring approaches), and someone on the pipeline project had left a stretch of loose fencing, including barbed wire, just hanging about where they’d cut the fence to put a gate in. Obviously, this wasn’t in a field with actual sheep in it, but it was next to one, and that meant that at least one sheep had got out and was now tangled up in the loose wire and pinging around like a panicked woolly pinball trying to get itself free.

Late though I was, this didn’t look like it would end well for the sheep and, this being the countryside, there was nobody about who looked like they’d be any better at fence de-sheeping than me. So I stopped, approached the gate, and stood with my bike plotting how I might manage to grab hold of and subdue what was quite a large and by now quite panicky sheep, remove the barbed wire, and get it back in its field without doing any damage to myself or the sheep.

Fortunately, at that point the sheep spotted the scariest thing in the known world – my bike – ripped itself free from the wire, and then – in an act of genius unparalleled in the sheep world – got itself back into its field through the same hole in the fence from whence (from the evidence of the wool left all around it) it had escaped.

I live in fear that one day the bike won’t work its magic and I’m actually going to have to free a sheep from something, but so far it’s been 100% effective at injecting some sense of self-preservation into their little woolly heads. Long may it last.

sheep escape

Barbed wire, sans sheep

Oh, and I time-trialled it the rest of the way into Bigtown and was a scant three minutes late.

* For reasons known only to my subconscious, when returning to the house to pump up a tyre in a hurry, I always seem to decide that leaving the bike at the gate, going to get the track pump from the garage, walking back to the bike with the pump, walking back to the garage to return the pump, and then walking back to the bike to set off again will be quicker than just wheeling the bike up to the garage in the first place. No, I don’t know either.


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 …


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.