Winter, Actually You May be the Boss of Me…

March 12, 2015

I will be honest with you: I was not looking forward to getting out on the bike today. The forecast was for it to piss down with rain and the forecast had duly delivered. I had a number of things I needed to do in town, including return my library books – overdue library books wait for no man, woman, or fair weather cyclist – but the truth is, any other week of the year I would probably have wimped out and found a way around the problem that didn’t involve pedalling 45 minutes into the unrelenting rain (and a headwind), a damp and dripping visit to various establishments in Bigtown, and then 45 minutes pedalling back. But not this week, because this week is errandonneering week, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to knock off three more errands in one day, especially given how far I am behind.

At this point, bike blog narrative conventions dictate that I should discover that in fact, cycling in the rain was not so bad after all, and that I was glad the challenge had got me out on the bike. Because yay, bikes!

In reality, it was every bit as wet and miserable as I had expected it to be. Looking on the bright side – and I’m conscious I’m scraping the barrel here – I did take the opportunity to discover that my new tweed cap is just as waterproof as my old one, and considerably more waterproof than any fancy new technology that has been developed in the meantime. I was also encouraged to discover that when your boots are filling up with water, it does at least take your mind off the fact that you can only use your biggest gears. And I have finally learned that when you get home from a wet ride, then life will be much more pleasant for you the next time you go out if you remember to take your soggy gloves out of your pocket and hang them up to dry along with basically all your other clothes.

wet kit

What I didn’t remember was to take any pictures until after I had set off for home again, so these will have to do.

bridge in the rain

Errand 5: sorting out a birthday card and present for a friend. Category: social call (well, remotely, anyway). Observation: there’s always one wag in Bigtown who will say ‘lovely day for it’ as they pass a drenched cyclist.

 

 

rainy road home

Errand 6: returning library books. Category: arts and entertainment. Observation: There is also always one cheerful soul in Bigtown who will say encouragingly ‘and they say it’s to stay set in like this all day’ as you set off again on your bike

 

coffee and doughnut

Errand 7: visiting the bank. Category: Personal business. Observation: there is no coffee and doughnut quite so well-earned as the coffee and doughnut you have after you have finally got home and into warm dry clothes after being thoroughly drenched on the bike.

 

 

Total 16 miles.


Bad Brompton Owner

March 10, 2015

It was a glorious day today, the first real springlike day, which meant two things: I got an urgent job to finish, and my bikes had decided to present a united front on the whole maintenance thing, meaning neither of them was strictly ridable.

I actually feel quite bad about the Brompton. I haven’t ridden it very much since Christmas, which is never good for bikes, and over Christmas I had taken it around the forest paths in Duns which were extremely muddy. Obviously, as I love the Brompton, I should have immediately washed it and oiled it before putting it away, but we were at my parents’ and then when we came home life happened, and cleaning and lubricating it sort of slipped off my list of things to do.

The end result was that I had to abandon my plans to cycle down to yoga and spend the time restoring some degree of flexibility to the Brompton chain instead. Half a pack of wet wipes, industrial quantities of Plus Gas and a bottle of chain lube later, the Brompton was once more ridable and I am duly chastened and have promised it I will never neglect it so badly again.

So what with the bike maintenance and the work, I wasn’t expecting to add to my errandonneering total today. But then – just as I was settling down with a cup of coffee in the first actual sit-outable sunshine of the year, I realised we needed to buy milk and a couple of other urgent necessities, so I got out after all…

Brompton shopping basket

Milk, wine, Lemsip. Breakfast of champions

Category: store, distance 12 miles, observation: if you must off-road on your Brompton, make sure you clean it afterwards


HTFU

March 7, 2015
plants outside greenhouse

Note the blurred effect from them blowing in the wind … sorry plants!

‘You haven’t left your poor plants out in this?’ asked the other half as I dragged myself away from the fire to go and put my random perennials back into the greenhouse before nightfall. I am in the process of hardening them off which means lugging them all out of the greenhouse in the morning and letting them get used to life in Scotland rather than the Mediterranean climate of the greenhouse. Today was supposed to be reasonably mild and damp, which seemed like a perfect introduction to their new life, but what the forecast had forgot to mention was that it would also be blowing a hooly. I suppose getting used to the wind is probably good for them too…

They’re now safely back under glass again, alongside my haul from potato day, which I’ve decided to chit up in the greenhouse.

potatoes chitting

I should probably have noted what they all are (it is written on the bags at least, so I should be able to work it out). From memory, definitely Highland Burgundy, because you’ve got to have a potato that stays that purple even when it’s cooked, and Golden Wonder, which made nice big bakers last year, and Pink Fir Apple because it’s the one everyone says you should get. I was too late for some of my other choices (Charlotte and, tragically, Shetland Black) so the rest are the usual random mix of potatoes with interesting names and ones that sounded like they might fit my requirements. Given that they all end up being mixed up in the potato bin after harvest, I still haven’t formed any really strong preferences about varieties. To be absolutely honest, they still mostly taste like potatoes, however wonderful and home grown they might be…

I am experimenting with growing some super early potatoes in the greenhouse, however. And I finally got an explanation for the exploding potato problem on Gardener’s Question Time the other week: I’m harvesting them too late, according to Bob Flowerdew, allowing the starch to develop. So I’ll be digging them up earlier this year to see if that helps.


Sure Signs of Spring

March 6, 2015

Photographs of tiny white dots purporting to be lambs:

lambs

These lambs are both small and far away

My winter scarf knitting project finally nears completion:

Almost completed scarf

The scarf, in fairness, was a bit of a latecomer to the winter knitting programme. I had been rummaging around in the bargain bin of the local knitting shop in search of unfeasibly bright yarn, for some reason, when I came across a bargain ball of self-striping wool. It turned out not to be suitable for the project I had in mind for it, but I started playing around trying to see if I could get the colours to line up vertically with each other. Self-striping wool can leave you feeling like a bit of a passenger in your own knitting, but to get the effect I wanted meant something a bit more dynamic: adding a stitch or two at one end, and removing a stitch or two at the the other as needed, until I realised I had started to create a bias-knit scarf.

Well, biasish.

colour mistake

The perils of not paying attention at the crucial moment

Turns out knitting and trying to keep up with what’s going on in Wolf Hall might be a multi task too far.

Anyway, it should also add a bit of brightness to my outfit on the bike, which is otherwise a bit subfusc. And it seems to have done its job in that the forecast now is for mild spring weather. You don’t get that from a hi vis vest…


Every Silver Lining

February 26, 2015

Today was supposed to be another mainly pottering sort of day – a little light stick poking when the scheduled rain had stopped seeing as how the drains were flooding again, some work, some emails, preparing the dough for some scientifically proven chocolate-chip cookies, possibly a wander down to the post box if I was feeling adventurous. And then I noticed that the other half – who was away feeding the ducks – had forgotten to take the newspaper voucher with him. This little green book of vouchers, while technically saving us money, seems to have turned into a major logistical hazard because it only saves you money if you remember to bring the little vouchers with you,* but driving all the way back to pick up the forgotten voucher obviously negates all that. So, with the rain stopped and the sun emerging – *sigh* – I was forced to ride into Bigtown for the paper after all.

I know what you’re thinking: that’s a plus, right? The sun is out, you’re on your bike, why not burn off those chocolate-chip cookie calories in advance, it’s win win. And yes, so it is, at least on the way to Bigtown, adjusted for the fact that my bike – despite all the lovely things I’ve said in public about future bike maintenance strategies and stakeholder bike maintenance forums – is still negatively holding out for some actual bike maintenance and refusing to go into any gear other than ‘too low for riding along on the flat’ and ‘too high for going up a pigging hill’, and the latter only accompanied by the usual symphony of squeaking

On the way back from Bigtown, however, there was an icy headwind. Again. And I may have cast a few imprecations in the other half’s direction as I battered into it for what seemed like an hour. Funny how you never notice the tailwind anything like as much, isn’t it?

Oh and I still haven’t oiled that bike chain yet. But I will…

*Papershop village usually let us bring it along next time, but Tesco for some reason seem less keen on that arrangement


Sales Pitch

February 24, 2015

I had a train to catch this morning, which meant getting up at some ungodly hour – although sadly I actually woke up at a marginally more godly hour which meant scrambling out of the house in more of a hurry than I like to be, thinking ‘ah is that rain? Probably not heavy enough for the full rain gear, might just get away with it…’

Three minutes down the road, the Weather Gods woke up and started turning the taps on. I didn’t fancy two hours in the train in wet trousers so I stopped and pulled out my rain skirt and attempted to put it on in a hurry. This proves easier to do when you’re not battling a stiff breeze and frozen fingers and watched by a curious crowd of sheep* and hurrying to get the whole palaver out of the way before one of your neighbours drives past and finds you apparently dressing on the side of the road. I was just bending down to finish off the final step (attaching the elastic cord that keeps the whole thing from turning into a spinnaker) when a little dog appeared behind my legs, closely followed by concerned dogwalking neighbour who had spotted my bike sans me, and then me apparently doubled over in agony, and was checking to see if I was okay.

Having reassured her I was fine, and merely eccentric, not injured, told her I was rushing for the train and then explained why I wasn’t on my usual train-catching bike (the Brompton; I had no idea people were paying such close attention), I zoomed off again (tailwind assistance fortunately enhanced by the rain skirt) into the now clearing weather. The rain skirt works best as a rain repelling device, I’m finding, and the more complicated it is to put it on, the better.

Still it was absolutely pissing down by the time I pulled into the station forecourt with  five minutes to spare, so that’s something. And a fellow passenger was very taken with the rain skirt – I had by this time abandoned all pretence at decorum and just whipped it off in the booking office – so there’s that too. Why cycle clothing companies aren’t inundating me with free samples of their wet-weather gear I will never know. Round here, even the non-cyclists can see the benefits.

* None of them was called Keith; I checked.


It is not Spring

February 16, 2015

It will not be spring for some time (calendar dates notwithstanding), there are still pockets of snow lurking in the lee of the dykes, the north wind can still deliver a sharp nip when it gets up and there is undoubtedly more weather coming our way.

And yet

sunshine on trees

The trees are starting to show that first fuzz of colour that promises leaves.

winter_birch

And in the sunshine, you can almost feel the warmth.

Bit of a contrast with the last pictures of trees I posted, anyway


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