And the Rain it Raineth Somewhere Else

September 13, 2017

For anyone who has ever thought that ‘this blog is all right, but it really doesn’t ramble on about the joys of rural cycling in Scotland anything like enough’, all two of you, I am on the CamCycle Podcast doing just that.

I have no idea what I said because I just chatted away happily as I am wont to do, and there’s no way I’m listening to my own voice to found out, but I do remember that the opening question was about what I’d seen on my bike that week. The recording was made a couple of weeks ago and I undoubtedly rambled on about blackberries and exciting drainage works, those being pretty much the highlight of the week at the time.

I was reminded of all this today, as I cycled home from Bigtown and found myself riding in the wake of what I’m pretty sure was a merlin, using the hedge as cover as it flew along the road for a couple of hundred yards, before hopping over a hedge and disappearing from view. I can report that, while not as speedy as a peregrine, they can certainly outpace me on a bike, and it was definitely the highlight of my ride home, indeed my week.

Naturally, I didn’t capture any of this because I was barely able to keep the bird in sight, let alone get a photo of it. So you’ll just have to enjoy the equally rare image of the rain raining on someone other than me as I rode into Bigtown at lunchtime …

rain raining somewhere else

Unusually, the weather gods didn’t manage to catch up with me all day

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Turning Left in August

August 8, 2017

Now, some of my adventuring efforts have been feeble in the extreme this year, but I think it’s safe to say that Sunday’s foray more than made up for it. Not only did I end up riding 53 miles, but I was in an area so new to me that I had to buy a whole new map, which I think we can say got a suitable baptism…

Did I mention it had been a bit wet this summer at all?

Ride to Durisdeer

Now ordinarily, an afternoon spent pedalling for miles and miles through rain which managed to get steadily worse throughout would be occasion for one long whinge on this blog, and yet strangely I found myself genuinely enjoying the ride, and it wasn’t just because of the ample tea stop in the middle.

Durisdeer Church Tea

(Although that was pretty good – and all hail the Church Tea Ladies of Durisdeer who actually serve decent coffee as well as a fantastic selection of cakes and sandwiches and don’t turn a hair when nine soaking wet cyclists show up in their remote village ready to eat them out of church and home).

It was partly the scenery (what we could see of it) and the empty roads, but it was also the company. I know that some people like riding alone and I’m quite happy to take myself off on an adventure, but what I really like is riding along with someone else, chatting about this and that, on roads or paths quiet enough that I don’t have to worry about traffic. That’s when the miles fall away, and the weather actually becomes a bonus because what could have been a grim ordeal turns into an adventure that you know will grow with the retelling.

riding in the rain

There were some speedy people on Sunday’s ride, and I probably looked a bit out of place in my tweed cap with my cow pannier that probably weighed more than their bikes. But it was my ride and it had been my idea, so I had no compunction in making them wait periodically so us back markers could catch up. And on the way home we let the speedier ones tackle the main road while the rest of us wended our way through more scenery, the rain now stopped, and the euphoria of having done this slightly bonkers thing and survived it setting in. I found myself having a series of rolling conversations with whoever happened to be next to me on the road, picking up and dropping the threads as our configuration changed, and even though my socks were soaking (and they’re still not dry) and I couldn’t take any photographs because if I took my gloves off I’d never get them back on again, it was fine.

September’s adventure is already in the planning stage, and it will likewise involve company and cake, but hopefully not *quite* as much rain. Although that is in the lap of the Weather Gods …


Nattering

August 3, 2017

We have had visitors this last couple of days – my old school pals who brought teabags (they don’t trust me after they ran out tea last time), wine and a mountain of cake, but this year forgot to bring their own sunshine – despite ample warning on the blog that St Swithin was on the warpath.

august weather

This somewhat curtailed our walking activities, although possibly enhanced the talking ones, as we caught up, and commenced setting the world to rights over a period of 24 hours. You know it’s summer in Scotland when you have both the barbecue going and the woodburning stove.

We did take the time to visit some local art.

carved cockerel

Although it wasn’t always clear what part of it was art and what not.

lost hat

A lost hat?

striding fern

A cheeky fern?

lichen covered fingerpost

A fingerpost that was gradually blending itself into the landscape?

There was more actual rather than incidental art to see, but it involved a six-mile walk through some extremely changeable* weather. And even when it wasn’t raining, the vegetation and ground was saturated enough that we got soaked anyway, just by osmosis.

windscreen viewNow that they have gone, the rain has stopped and we have suddenly got another fine evening. They didn’t believe me that on a clear day you can see the English hills from here. They’ll have to come back and experience that for themselves.

* as in changing from ‘wet’ to ‘very wet’


St Swithin You Bastard

August 1, 2017

It’s fair to say that the weather has been a bit of a mixed bag since, well, St Swithin’s day, effectively, with the weather gods and/or the good saint dishing up some combination of sunshine and showers  changing at fifteen minute intervals, and with the forecast being more of the same for the foreseeable future.

This evening, though, it relented long enough to grant us a beautiful summer evening, just in time for my ride home from the pub. I really had no option but to stop and capture the moment.

evening sky

We do live in a genuinely beautiful part of the world. And occasionally the clouds part long enough for us to appreciate it.

evening sky


Wetter than Wet

July 22, 2017

I was woken this morning by the sound of the rain on the skylight above our bed, a sound which is more soothing when you’ve not got a fun family ride planned for the afternoon. The forecast spent the day varying between ‘apocalyptic’ and ‘plague of frogs’ before settling on thundery showers. But then, as the time came to set off for Bigtown on the bike, the rain had stopped, the wind was at my back and it was all looking very …

storm clouds

… well, threatening, if I’m honest.

rainy riverfront

And by the time I had got to Bigtown it had stopped making threats and was concentrating on fulfilling them.

rainy river

After 20 minute or so sheltering under a tree with the few mad souls who had also shown up, talking about the various interesting ways lightning can kill you and discussing whether the distant patch of brightness off to the east signalled a let up in the rain (it didn’t) the thunder started in earnest and we decided to call it a day. The only problem was, I still had 8 miles of cycling to get home. I could have stopped off for a warming cup of tea with one of my fellow nutters, but the forecast was for more to come and I decided that I’d rather spend the next 40 minutes getting miserably wet and then getting dry, than spend them sitting around in damp things and then having to go out in it anyway.

You know how you think ‘well, at least I can’t get any wetter’ once you’ve been out in the rain? Well I’m here to tell you that you actually can, especially when the roads have become rivers and half the junctions have become giant puddles and nothing – with the exception of your magical Harris tweed cap – is proving properly Waterproof In Scotland. There’s wet, and then there’s the realisation (once you get home and are carting your clothes up to the bathroom to dry off) that you’ve just lugged an additional 3 litres of water up the hill in your socks alone.

There was a moment, as I battered through the water sluicing across the road beneath my wheels, the cows watching me pityingly from under the trees where they had taken shelter, when the thought did occur to me that the ford would be pretty impressive right now. I’m sure a dedicated blogger would have gone and looked.

That blogger is not me.


Happy St Swithin’s Day

July 15, 2017

A friend, whose birthday it is, reminded me that today is St Swithin’s Day

St Swithin’s day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithin’s day if thou be fair
For forty days ‘twill rain nae mare

About that …

harebells in the rain

Today it stopped raining just long enough for our afternoon summer ride but – crucially – not long enough to not drench me on the ride out and the ride back.

Obviously, this is just a legend,* and not weather forecasting – because even up here it never actually rains for 40 days in a row – but it does have a grain of truth in that by mid July the weather does seem to have more or less settled into the pattern that it will follow over the rest of the summer (and here’s a slightly more scientific argument to back me up). Which means we can look forward to another 40 days of hopefully checking the weather forecast for the odd sunny day here and there, while the part of my Twitter timeline that lives down South bangs on about how hot it is.

Speaking of legends, I have now cycled past the spot where gooseberry man was three times, and seen no sign of any gooseberry bushes. I’m beginning to think I made it up. Can you get pop up gooseberry bushes?

* Incidentally, I always thought that the legend came about because St Swithin gave his cloak to a beggar, and then the sun shone for 40 days so he didn’t need it, but I appear to have completely made that up because according to the internet, it was St Martin who went around giving out cloaks, St Swithin was just a bit choosy about where he was buried.


Summer Comes but Once a Year

July 12, 2017

Sometimes Twitter gets it bang on

As is traditional when we get a couple of days’ sunshine, I am currently stuck under a pile of All The Work, so I’ve mostly had to just sit and watch it out of my study window, but I did have an afternoon appointment in town.

summer clouds

You honestly couldn’t pay me to drive on a day like today, because it was my only real chance to enjoy the sunshine.

On my way in I encountered a friend, a photographer, who has started this little project on Facebook. After chatting for a while, she offered to add me to the roster of ‘humans’ and took my photo there and then,* and then we went on our way

It was only as I was riding home again later in the afternoon, that it struck me how fortunate we are to live in a place where one can have a brief photo shoot in the middle of the road, and not be interrupted by a single vehicle, and not even think it remarkable.

summer reflections

It scrubs up quite well when the sun shines, too.

* As I have to write a few words before it gets put up, I may not be appearing there for a while