A Short Ride (without nuts)

October 14, 2015

autumn leaves

Buoyed by last year’s hazelnut bonanza, and with an unseasonably sunny October afternoon suddenly going spare, the other half and I ventured out on our bikes to see if we could find some hazelnuts the squirrels didn’t need.

two hazelnuts

Last year must have been a one-off though. This was 50% of our haul.

hazelnut shell


There were signs we’d been beaten to some of them by one Mr S. Nutkin esq., but not that many. Better get feeding our red squirrels this winter…

It wasn’t an entirely wasted trip though.

October trees

October trees

After all, it was by bike.

October trees

On the Sunny Side

October 1, 2015

Well, summer left it late, but it finally made it up here – yesterday was the first day I have been Too Hot since the beginning of July. Of course, it has coincided with work deadlines and a bunch of self-inflicted stress, but I still had to cycle into Bigtown today to pick up the paper and my Ivor Cutler t-shirt (long story) and I wasn’t the only one out on the bike either – at one point there must have been four of us all riding along the same road,* which I can assure is not Normal for Bigtown. Every single one of us, as we encountered each other, exchanged the look which goes ‘whatever else may be going on in our lives, you and I, at least we have managed to arrange things so that today, of all days, we are out in this weather on our bikes. We therefore win.’ I think you know the one I mean.

Now all I have to do is hold that thought for when October arrives properly and I am plodding into a blustery headwind, with my feet sloshing around in my shoes.

*The one where the cycle path – a shared use pavement – decides to switch from one side of the road to the other half way along, before disappearing altogether; unsurprisingly none of us were using it. I like my off-road cycling infrastructure as much as the next Cycling Embassy member, but I’d prefer it not to be completely bonkers.

Sure Signs?

September 14, 2015

leaves turningI’m in danger of becoming one of those annoying people who actively looks forward to autumn (woodsmoke! Crisp piles of leaves! Back to school! Oh do please kindly sod off…) although a walk this afternoon left me somewhat confused as to whether autumn is on its way or not – and before you suggest it, there’s no point consulting the weather; apart from a few warm sunny days we’ve not exactly had a summer yet, although this doesn’t stop it going straight to autumn, do not pass Go, do not collect 200…

There are signs that the leaves are on the turn in some of the more hysterical trees (beech, I’m looking at you) but although we should be knee-deep in blackberries by now, it seems that only a few of them have got the memo:

sole ripe blackberry

After last year’s bonanza I’ve been actively keeping an eye on the hazelnuts to see if we can’t beat the squirrels to at least a handful but so far they’re looking pretty green and sitting tight in their cups.

green hazelnuts

And the rose hips have gone … strangely fluffy. Google tells me this is Rose Moss Gall caused by a parasitic matriarchal wasp which has largely dispensed with the need for males [insert your own jokes based on tired stereotypes, and then feel free to give each other a kicking in the comments] infesting a rose hip. It’s actually kind of cool

rose moss gall

But hazelnuts and weird wildlife aren’t the reason why we’re welcoming the coming of the cooler weather. It’s the fact that tomorrow Rayburn Man is coming and the Rayburn will be lit again, with much ceremony. Warm towels ahoy. I can’t wait…

In the Nile

August 17, 2015

We woke to a bright but chilly morning this morning, and condensation on the windows – a sign that for all the warmth of the sun we’re (finally) getting, the end of summer is looming before it has barely got into its stride.

But never mind all that, she says, sticking her fingers into her ears and singing very loudly. For I had a jacket-hat-and-glove-free ride down to the papershop today and there have been very few of those this summer so far. And as I cycled up past one farmyard, I noticed that the steading roof was almost covered in house martins, and they all of them took off at my approach so that the air was filled with their chittering little calls and the flashes of their white rumps in the sunshine.

The fact that I’m sitting here now wishing I had a jumper on, and with darkness outside the window (and it only 9:30pm) is neither here nor there. Summer isn’t over yet … how can it be when it has hardly begun?

Don’t Take My Sunshine Away

July 31, 2015

Oh the excitement. We have had houseguests – two old school friends who I don’t see very often but who have somehow managed (through thick and thin) to retain the essential qualities that made us all such good friends back when we were all 11. The last time we met up, we had an hour for lunch and had to cram in half a lifetime’s worth of catching up into that time which meant talking so fast we had a conversation so dense it risked forming the informational equivalent of a black hole. This year, I invited them down to stay the night so we could catch up properly, while the other half very sensibly discovered he had some important appointments elsewhere.

They came bringing the sunshine, as well as half a case of wine, their own teabags (not taking any chances in a coffee-drinking household) and enough food for a small army. Being regular blog readers, they immediately insisted on inspecting the ford (about four inches) and the vegetable patch (sadly rabbit-chewed these days; the little furry blighters are eating everything but the bastarding lettuce, of which we have a glut) but for some reason declined the chance to cycle down to Papershop Village and go mano-a-mano with ASBO buzzard. Instead we walked (top tip for cyclists: if you suddenly have to start walking about on foot, don’t wear wellies as it’s even more hard work than ordinary walking. Honestly, if God had wanted us to walk everywhere, he wouldn’t have given us bicycles). As I took them up through the woods yesterday evening to look for chanterelles, and then down to the pond at the back of the house to sit on the little jetty and watch for pondlife and set the world to rights, I realised with a bit of a jolt that I hadn’t been into the woods or up to the pond for months.

This morning, after the Brompton had been properly admired (I had to get on the big bike and give chase as it turned out to be too much fun to come back in time for second breakfast), knitting tips exchanged, the world finally and firmly set to rights for one last time, and – crucially – the stock of spare tea bags exhausted, our guests finally dragged themselves away, taking the sunshine with them.

Still, despite the fact that it has been raining solidly almost since the minute they turned the corner of our road, our visitors have reminded me how lucky we are to live where we do. And just as soon as it stops raining, I shall make the time to go out and appreciate it all once more.

Although, at least until the blisters have healed, I think I shall stick to the bike…

The Only Forecast Worse…

July 20, 2015

…than the one which stubbornly refuses not only to correctly forecast the rain, but even to acknowledge that it is raining at all, is the one which correctly forecasts the fact that it will be hosing it down just as you are at the furthest point from home, and which you decide to ignore because, well, I’m not entirely sure why I ignored it, now I come to think of it. Probably because it’s been so wrong and so variable in the past that the one time it decides to be bob on, I no longer believe it.

Oh and ASBO buzzard decided to have a go at me again as well. As if I needed anything else coming at me out of the sky.

Having got home and got dry I was still pretty chilled and we ended up lighting the fire this evening. Summer, eh? Remind me why I moved to Scotland …

I suppose that’s what I get for attempting to enjoy what the weather gods throw at me.

Gone with the Wind

July 17, 2015

We seem to have had nothing but windy days all year, but it’s been a while since I’ve celebrated the joys of heading out on the bike when it’s blowing a bit of a hooly (as long as the winds are going in the right direction that is). Today was perfect: not raining, not all that cold, and exactly aligned with the bulk of my route home so that when I turned the corner and got it at my back it felt as if I had dropped into a pocket of still air.

I might have struggled into the headwind on the way out but as I sailed through the village on my return I heard the wind singing in the wires and it felt like it was singing my tune…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 521 other followers