Punctureproof in Scotland

November 21, 2017

“Well, at least it will give you a chance to test if your new jacket* is Waterproof in Scotland”, the other half observed as he watched me don waterproof trousers and gaiters ready to cycle down to the station on my way to Embra this morning. As bright sides go, this felt less than compelling but as it turned out, by the time I had wrestled all the various bits of conflicting velcro that hold my rain gear together, stuffed dry socks and gloves into my bag (the only thing worse than spending the whole day in wet socks is putting wet gloves on to cycle home), and got the bike out, the rain had eased off, which if I’m honest is the way that I always hope raingear will work.

Feeling pleased that I had cheated the Weather Gods out of a home win, I headed off, not hearing the wry chuckle of the Puncture Fairy who when hedgecutting season is in progress, laughs in the face of puncture resistant tyres and – it turns out – Slime-filled inner tubes. At least, that was the conclusion I reached as I got to the main road and registered the thumpa-thumpa-thump of a flat tyre. Pushing the bike hurriedly home to grab the Brompton and a lift from the other half, I discovered that my raingear may or may not be Waterproof in Scotland but is not Breathable when Pushing a Bike Up a Hill in a Hurry so either way I end up damp, but at least I did get the pleasure of hopping out of the car when we hit the first morning tailback in Bigtown, unfolding the Brompton and cycling merrily away from the traffic.

Tomorrow (which, if the Met Office’s rain warning is anything to go by, looks like a good day for testing if the house is Waterproof in Scotland, never mind my jacket) I shall have to track down the source of the problem and discover whether dealing with a slime-filled inner tube which didn’t do its job is as nasty as people say. And then on Thursday I get to go to Embra all over again to kick off the planning for next year’s POP.

Did I say that I hadn’t been all that busy recently? Silly me.

* It claims to be ‘tested on Cornish clifftops‘ but a) that is not Scotland and b) you notice it doesn’t say whether it actually passed the test …


Those Who Dig in Glass Houses

November 7, 2017

The weather seems to have made a decisive shift from ‘variable’ to ‘downright bonkers’ in recent days – yesterday started with a sharp frost, then turned into a stinging cold drizzle (as a passing neighbour commented as she overtook me, “it’s wet and cold and miserable, what are you DOING?”), and then, as I reached the outskirts of Bigtown with the sun struggling to come out, the wind suddenly turned almost warm: not exactly an oven door opening, but maybe something like a tumble dryer. Today we woke to blustery wind and rain and overnight temperatures of 11 degrees, while tonight – having cycled back from the community council meeting wondering if I should have put my magical ice tyres on – it is once more officially effing bloody cold.

frosty morning

Still, whatever the weather, at the moment it doesn’t matter because our main outdoor project is effectively indoors: digging out where the greenhouse beds. The idea is to replace the current mixture of (inevitably) gravel and rather compacted clay soil with whatever will grow us lots of tomatoes and chillies. Following my usual technique I have googled various gardening sites to find one which agrees with what I was thinking of doing anyway, and decided we’ll probably go with a mixture of one third soil, one third sand and one third peat-free compost.*

greenhouse progress

So this afternoon I spent a happy few hours out of the wind and the wildly variable weather, shovelling the soil and gravel into our ever growing heap, removing an encouraging number of worms (some slightly shorter than they might have been originally, sorry worms) to safety, and remembering not to chuck the bigger stones too carelessly towards the open door…

* It appears that the whole peat vs peat-free compost question is as controversial in a gardening forum as helmets are on a cycling forum; having stumbled upon some entertainingly bonkers but very heated ‘debates’ on the subject, I decided to stick to lurking.

Making the Most of Meetings

November 4, 2017

So today I had to be at someone else’s AGM in Notso Bigtown. I had an offer of a lift but as my fellow attendee was also a cyclist, and the forecast was for a lovely day, I had a much better idea.

en route to the meeting

The meeting, like most meetings, was probably best filed under ‘one and half hours of my life I’ll not get back’ – and there were NO BISCUITS despite being organised by cyclists – but Notso Bigtown is 20 miles away as the bike flies (19 miles there and 21 miles back to avoid a horrendous hill from a standing start). In my book, a total of four hours of riding, mostly on roads where we could chat as we went, the excuse to wolf down an egg, sausage and tattie scone roll, and racing back home in the gathering dark with the wind at our backs, to arrive just as a glorious moon was rising, meant we ended the day ahead on points.


Even so, it’s not too much to ask that all meetings come with biscuits, is it?

Breaking the Waves

October 21, 2017

danger breaking waves signI’ll be honest – I thought this sign was a little bit over-the-top when I saw it on the harbour wall when we arrived this week. Don’t they know that one of the chief pleasures in Newcastle during blowing weather is going down to the sea front to watch the waves crashing over the wall?

But then the wind picked up and the waves got going and as I was out today just at the top of the tide, I could see (from a safe distance) that the waves were breaking right over the harbour wall as if it wasn’t there and I thought maybe they had a point.

harbour wall

You’ll have to click for bigness – it was a very a safe distance

The sea front is a little bit more sheltered but if you do want to go out and capture the drama of the waves then I have a couple of top tips for you:

waves crashing over sea front

One is to actually make sure your camera lens hasn’t fogged up so your most dramatic shots are actually in focus:

blurry waves

And tip number two is to remember that waves can also come from behind you … so keep an eye out if you don’t want to end up drenched from tip to toe…

water spilling over the wall

That Hurricane Damage in Full

October 17, 2017

Having read some of the tweets from Ireland during Ophelia’s visit yesterday, I’ll spare you my eerie calm before the storm and weird blood-red sun anecdotes (but you know, it was very strange). When the storm finally arrived, we lay in bed last night listening to it hammering around the house hoping that the greenhouse would survive and glad that at least we’d given the two trees most likely to cause any damage a haircut.

With the cold light of morning we went out to survey the damage:

headless daleks


Our dalek army had been decapitated (fortunately, we had spent Sunday filling the two new bins with the contents of the pile-o’-stuff, so we only had to retrieve the lids, not go hunting for the bins themselves).

felled tree

One of our wedding anniversary twiglets had been blown over, although it was possible to resurrect it as it had only bent, not snapped.*

battered tree

The cows’ tree – whose tree tube had suffered somewhat from their enthusiastic attention – appeared battered but unbowed.

And you’ll be pleased to note from the photo above that the greenhouse is still standing and indeed completely unscathed, testament to the efforts of the other half and a friend, who spent two days constructing it.  Other than that, as the wind had helpfully blown away all the leaves that had fallen already, the garden actually looked tidier than it was before the storm.

Tomorrow we set off for Northern Ireland – or what’s left of it – for what we’re confident will be a sunshine break, very glad that we didn’t book the ferry for today as we had originally planned.

* I would claim this as a metaphor but two of the other trees we planted this spring didn’t survive, so I’m not reading too much into their fate, just at the moment.

Early Doors

October 14, 2017

Ever since I inadvertently angered the Weather Gods by implying that they couldn’t make it drizzle all day any more, they’ve been steadily proving me wrong. Today, after optimistically putting out and then taking back in the washing, forgetting that Bigtownshire specialises in its own special kind of rain that the forecasters can’t see, let alone forecast, I headed for Bigtown for a spot of history and poetry.

Forgotten Doors

One of the ‘forgotten doors’ of Bigtown, resurrected for the afternoon

Poetry readings, in my experience, are generally held indoors in the warm and dry and accompanied by wine and even nibbles. Clearly this is a tactical error: it turns out that if you invite people instead to march through Bigtown unrefreshed in the drizzle, instead of the usual turnout of the poet, the poet’s mates, and the odd lost soul who has wandered in by mistake, you get a veritable crowd.

gathered audience

Trust me, this is a giant crowd for poetry …

So many, in fact that the combined effect of distance, umbrellas and traffic completely drowned out the poets, so after a while I peeled off to head home while I still had parts of me that weren’t drenched. I clearly haven’t the stamina for poetry in Scotland.

And neither, I noted, do the local cows.

cows sheltering from the rain

Still, I can at least confirm that the new pannier is definitely Waterproof in Scotland.

More weather related shenanigans to come as we attempt to get to Norn Iron in the teeth of the remains of Hurricane Ophelia…

I Feel it in my Fingers, I Feel it in my Toes

October 11, 2017

Yesterday, enjoying coffee and cake with a friend in a cafe, as an unexpected shower suddenly emptied the High Street, I mentioned how we’d barely had a day all summer when it hadn’t rained at least once. “At least it’s better than those days when it just rains steadily all day,” my friend pointed out. “True,” I said, and then added before anyone could stop me, “We don’t seem to get those so often as we used to.”

park after the rain

Regular readers of this blog will know exactly what happened next. Especially as I was supposed to be spending this afternoon at an event in the Bigtown Park in which the Weather Gods take a particular interest. Although, to be fair, once I’d headed out on the bike sans spare gloves and waterproof trousers on the (as it turned out) flimsy grounds that the forecast was for it to clear up, it went from steady pacing-itself drizzle to steady pacing-itself drizzle interspersed with apocalyptic stairrods. This lasted all the way into Bigtown, and up to the other end of town where I needed to pick up a bike trailer, then cleared up into a glorious sunny autumn afternoon, so that everyone at the event could say ‘and isn’t it lovely that the rain stopped just in time?’ and I could smile through gritted teeth and tried not to let my socks squelch too loudly.

Park after the rain

Bigtown has apparently been found to be the happiest place in Scotland, from which I can only surmise that they were mostly surveying the local ducks.

Park after the rain

That said, the park does scrub up rather nicely when it has been well rinsed. Very, very well rinsed.

bike, trailer and tree

And I can report that the fastest way to tow a bike trailer home, is to concentrate on how wonderful it will be to peel off your sodden socks and sit down with dry feet in front of the fire.