Taking the Plunge

June 6, 2016

The fine weather continues, and frankly it’s beginning to be a bit unnerving. It was positively HOT yesterday and again today, and although the Met Office keeps threatening rain, it’s always receding into the future as the blue skies continue. It’s getting harder and harder to remember that this is NOT NORMAL and should not be relied upon – instead I am making plans involving casually agreeing to do a 30 mile round trip by bike one evening to meet a book group, thinking it will be a lovely to cycle in the warmth of a summer evening, even though this is a couple of weeks off, by which time it may well be raining frogs.

And today I went a step further and took to the water not once but twice. I’ve always been a bit sniffy about the rebranding of swimming anywhere but a pool as ‘wild swimming’ and I’ve plunged myself into enough freezing Scottish burns as a child to feel that it’s more about the mortification of the flesh than anything you might expect to enjoy, but today a friend texted me to meet her at the waterfall and ‘bring my swimming things’. I don’t know who was more surprised, she or I, when I did just that and immersed myself in the surprisingly only a bit icy water.*

pool below the waterfall

And then when the other half return mid afternoon and we decided it was TOO HOT to sit on the bench – and yet too nice to do anything else – there was only one thing for it: ride up to the reservoir and swim properly (is it wild swimming in a reservoir? Surely that’s at least semi tame).

And here’s the thing: it was amazing. The top few inches of the water were nigh-on bath temperature, with cooler depths below, and I can only describe the sensation of swimming through it as like sliding through silk as the waters mixed around us. It was still warm enough at five to lie in the sun and dry off and then pedal home wondering why we’ve spent eight years living so near the reservoir and never thought to swim in it. And then we remembered that was because we’ve never been TOO HOT up here before.

It surely cannot last, mind.

clouds building

* to be completely honest, I only actually took the plunge initially because I slipped when I was up to my knees, otherwise I’d probably still be standing there trying to decide whether to go in or not.

Meanwhile at the Met Office …

June 2, 2016

blue skies

‘There seems to be something wrong with our new supercomputer

‘How so?’

‘Well, I’ve checked the data twice, calibrated all the calculations, re-run the forecasts again and again and it’s still showing South West Scotland basking in sunshine.’

‘What’s the rest of the UK doing?’

‘Rainy. Cold. There’s flooding in France. But it also keeps coming up as taps aff in Glasgow and they’ve had their week of summer already.’

‘Ah well, that can’t be right then. I told you not to allow it to upgrade to Windows 10’

‘So what should I do? I’ve already tried switching it off and switching it on again.’

‘Oh just do a manual override and go back to the default setting. Overcast should do it.’

‘But I’ve just checked the satellite images and it’s showing actual sunshine this morning.’

‘Well, sunny intervals then. But don’t whatever you do forecast a week of glorious sunshine for that corner of the world or we’ll be a laughing stock.’

‘But …’

‘Remember the “barbecue summer”?’

‘You’re right. Cloudy it is.’

Hopefully, the Weather Gods have been equally bamboozled by the forecasts and won’t notice what’s actually going on for a while longer. Not quite ready to give this up…

Fly in the Ointment

May 29, 2016

greenery in the garden

We’ve had some unforecasted nice weather in recent days, and the countryside has reached that perfect late-spring pitch, with the air absolutely heady with blossom (and wild garlic, but let’s not spoil the image too much). Yesterday morning I had to cycle to Notso Bigtown and was struck by the carpets of white and pink flowers taking over from the bluebells under the trees, although I was unfortunately running late and hadn’t time to take a decent photo. Coming home again I was struck by how gorgeous everything is as the trees are just bursting into leaf.

I sometimes feel guilty about time spent in the garden or on the bench or out on my bike when in reality I should be at the computer working (or writing …) but fine days at this time of the year are precious indeed and really shouldn’t be squandered indoors. So today, although I didn’t have all that much time to spare, I made sure that I at least cycled down to the village to stick up a poster and cycled back savouring every minute

Right up until I inhaled a fly and nearly cycled off the road trying to spit it out. Remind me to keep my open-mouthed wonder to when I’m off the bike in future, won’t you?

Carpe Diem

May 11, 2016

morning shadows

Yesterday I had a thing in Edinburgh which meant getting up at silly o’clock to cycle to catch the bus to catch the train, to be there for ten. Actually, once I’d got over the whole having to wake at half past five part, there was something rather nice about being out on such a perfect May morning with nothing moving on the road except me and the loose calf (how do they get out of fields with such ease and make such a meal about getting back in again?).

Edinburgh castle

It was glorious in Edinburgh too – and our vantage point at the National Museum of Scotland gave us a wonderful view out over the rooftops. Fittingly, given the subject of the meeting was air pollution, there was a bit of that too, or the view would have been even more splendid.

hazy rooftop view

If we’ve learned anything in the past eight years, it’s that you have to be ready to enjoy the summer whenever it arrives, because it could happen at any time. This week might be it for 2016 – and at least riding a bike means I have the chance to get out and experience it even when duty calls and I have to spend the bulk of the day in meetings of various kinds.

evening light

Remind me of that when I’m moaning about getting drenched and frozen in the depths of winter. Or, possibly, June …

Expectations Management

April 30, 2016

Well, miracle of miracles, I got out and did some gardening today. I still have too much work to do, although the end may be in sight, but with Pedal on Parliament finished – meaning that it’s now possible to actually finish dealing with my emails before the next tranche arrive – and the garden backlog getting steadily more urgent, I decided that if I didn’t get out now then I might as well give up on the veg this year. All I needed was some decent weather and I could get my seed potatoes in, or at least the first and second earlies, before it was too late.

wrinkled seed potatoes

Top tip for gardeners: don’t wait until your seed potatoes look like this. Although apparently they will still grow

Now if you’d told me even a week ago that a day when there was only one sudden violent hailstorm, plus intermittent icy showers, no actual ground frost and a forecast of it not to snow again at least for a while would count as decent gardening weather, I’d have looked at you as if you were mad – but after the weather we’ve had in recent days, we’ll take what we can get, frankly…

Not Tempered to the Shorn Lamb

April 29, 2016

Cycling down for the paper today in a viciously cold wind, I was trying to work out exactly what direction it was coming from – and whether I’d be cycling back right into the teeth of it on my way home. The wind tends to swirl around a bit through the village and sometimes hides behind hedges before pouncing unexpectedly. Plus if it’s a cross wind it can feel like a head wind in both directions – and if it’s a tail wind, you never notice until it’s too late

Coming back in what turned out to be a biting north-easterly cross wind – but of course – I realised that what I should have done was looked at the fields – because all the ewes were lying down and all the lambs were huddled on their mothers’ leeward sides. They’re still little enough not to have much fat to insulate them, or much wool either, and need what shelter they can get – although it has at least stopped snowing…

Spring. Did I blink and miss it?

Your Poor Hands Look Frozen…

April 28, 2016

… exclaimed the checkout woman as I handed over my cash this morning, and looking down at them I could see her point. Five miles into an icy headwind in sleety drizzle really doesn’t do anything for your skin, and while I know that spring in Scotland can mean anything, and we can get snow in June and all that, it’s one thing knowing it in theory, and it’s another thing to be digging out the lobster gloves when it’s almost May.

If yesterday’s weather was freakish, with its alternation of hot sunshine and snow, today was just Novemberish, and we had enough of that in November frankly.

The only bright side is I’m so behind with the garden I almost look prescient. To think I used to start planting things in February…


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