That Heatwave in Full

July 2, 2015


Awake to drizzle, and the news that the UK is in the grip of a heatwave, something that apparently knocks the Greek crisis, refugees, striking French ferry workers and even British players not quite losing at tennis out of the headlines. My Twitter timeline fills up with people telling me how hot it is already. Head out into the scorching 15 degree temperatures and intermittent rain for the village school bike picnic…

By the time we have escorted all the kids up to the caravan park and round and back down again, and ushered them back to school, the rain has stopped and the sun is edging out. Cycle into Bigtown for a paper and get a bit warm. Cool off the minute I get into the house, which is several degrees cooler than, apparently, the rest of the entire planet, according to  my Twitter feed.

As evening comes we realise we’re better off outside, where it is finally warm enough to eat outside. Sit out into the long evening, accompanied by Chilled Hare, who has decided to join us, and enjoying the fragrance of the night-scented stock for the first time since I planted it. Feel that this is the life.


Awake to clouds, but as we open the door and go outside we realise the heat has finally arrived, except in the house, of course. Rashly change into shorts. Head up to the walled garden until even I have to admit that it is too hot to do anything sensible. Tweet, to let everyone know how hot it is, in case there’s anyone left who may not have realised it (perhaps they, too, live in a damp Scottish stone cottage).

We take the bikes to Bigtown to recce a route and stop for lunch at the Greek cafe which has managed to survive two years still serving actual Greek food, rather than succumbing to dishing up haggis panini, the signature dish of all other Bigtown eateries.* For about half an hour, as we sit at the outside tables watching the world go by and listening to the assembled Greek population of Bigtown set the world to rights(I assume they were talking about the crisis, but who knows – Greek, like Italian, seems to make any discussion sound like an impassioned political argument; they may just have been reading tweets out to each other about how hot it was) it feels as if we are on holiday. Cycle home to find my timeline full of people’s cancelled trains and sweaty tube journeys and general meltdowns and feel a bit smug. Admittedly, by now it is raining, but it is warm rain.


Awake to fog, and the news that yesterday was the hottest July day in the history of ever. Up here, normal service has resumed, the shorts go back into the drawer, and the neighbour takes delivery of a lorry load of firewood.

Still, it was nice while it lasted.

* I swear I am not making this up.

Here it Comes, Ready or Not

June 10, 2015

I had a ton of things to do today, none of which involved going out on a bike, but you don’t have to live in Scotland very long to realise that summer can happen at pretty much any time of the year, without warning, and when it does you’d better seize the moment because it’s unlikely to hang around. So, after dutifully slaving away at my laptop all morning, after lunch we slipped the leash, just for an hour or so.

There had been rumours of golden eagles up beyond the reservoir, but in truth we needed very little excuse to tackle what is one of my favourite rides. summer road The road up top of the climb
No eagles, in the end, just a couple of well-behaved buzzards. But we did hear a cuckoo calling, and the sound of a curlew, and we sat and ate cherries in the welcome breeze at the top and then we careered down the hill and rode home through the dappled shade of the river valley. If this is the only summer we get, at least we’ll know we made the most of it

shady summer road

That said, it’s forecast to be sunny again tomorrow…

Beating the Bounds

June 2, 2015

I’ve nothing coherent to say, after an overnight flight from Colorado to Glasgow, via Dusseldorf, a route even the passport official found highly amusing (that’s the point when I knew I was in Glasgow actually. They never crack a laugh anywhere else) but the minute I sit down I start to fall asleep so I thought I’d bung up a few photos and ramblings in the interests of keeping myself awake past 8pm…

The other half is still in the US for a week so I promised I’d send him a picture of the greenhouse, which is looking pretty good

greenhouse in June

As far as my part of the veg plot goes, however, we’d probably better draw a veil. Something has been taking ‘mangetout’ all too literally, for a start

nibbled mangetout

I gather the weather gods have been busy here while we’ve been away but a truce was called this evening, and everything was very lush and green

spring trees

And you didn’t think I’d miss out the ford… (apparently I should have seen it yesterday, when it was really raging)

Ford in June

Now I just have to manage a whole week on my own. That should be interesting

Riders on the Storm

May 29, 2015
river walkway

For information, Escondido, *this* is how you do a river path…

We have returned to Pueblo, Colorado, which is currently on course for record rainfall levels in May.* Unlike Southwest Scotland, though, the rain seems to be concentrated in intense bursts rather than the sort of pacing-itself drizzle we’re used to. So today, although the clouds were building ominously over the mountains, we felt the need to burn off our lunch at Papa Jose’s by cycling to the secondhand bookshop to stave off the danger of running out of things to read.

Flooded bike path

Yup, definitely still closed

We were hopeful that the absence of a path closed sign on the river path meant that the flooding had receded but it quickly turned out that it just meant someone had stolen the sign.

bike path continues

It did look as if we could scramble along the bank some way and rejoin the path downstream, thereby avoiding the Enormous Scary Junction but after I spotted a snake in the undergrowth we decided that tangling with the traffic would be preferable, although in the end we managed to scramble up a bank and avoid the worst bit of the road. We then misread the signs (and by ‘misread the sign’ I mean ‘believed the sign helpfully directing bikes to the river path didn’t involve going over an enormous scary bridge’) and did enough riding in traffic to make tangling with snakes look like the better option. But we arrived at the book shop unscathed by either pickup trucks or snakes, and then found the slightly less scary route back to the coffee shop that gives you 10% if you come by bike where we sat in the welcome shade and had a giant coffee (the ‘small’) and watched the clouds get slightly more ominous as time passed.

Solar Roast coffee

10% off if you come by bike…

Then it was a simple matter of racing the rain home – arriving, very satisfyingly, just as the first drops began to fall.

storm approaching

* If any other drought-struck region would like us to come and visit and bring the weather gods with us to sort out their water table, our rates are very reasonable…


May 15, 2015

We’re off on our holidays on Monday – two weeks of sunshine* in Colorado with a side trip to Southern California.

I had thought that the last few weeks would be a time of catching up with various tasks that had been neglected in the run up to PoP, getting my garden ready, and generally enjoying the delights of spring. I don’t know WHY I thought this, because it seems to be an iron law that you never get less busy, only more so, and besides, a gardener’s work is never done, even if the gardener in question hasn’t ended up with two big freelance work deadlines on top of each other.

I did manage to escape for a run down to the papershop on the bike today, and caught the woods just at the point before the bluebells burst properly into flower.

bluebells not quite in flower

I’ll be quite sad to miss them in their pomp, but I am looking forward to the break… And only another million things to finish before I can go and enjoy it.

* Having said that, I was informed with some satisfaction the other day that Colorado was suffering heavy snow last week (and there’s been heavy rain washing out roads in Pueblo), while I heard on the radio recently that it’s supposed to be an El Nino year this year, which can mean flooding in California. So I’ll be packing the apocalypse-proof jacket just in case…

The Little Chilli that Might

May 2, 2015

chilli plants

One use we’ve decided to put our greenhouse to is growing chillies – not the fearsomely hot ones (I hope) but some of the sweeter, milder ones. Several varieties of seeds were ordered, and they all germinated very nicely, except for the serrano chillies which didn’t come up at all and then, naturally, became the one variety we absolutely had to have. A quick consultation with Professor Google suggested soaking the seeds in warm water overnight, so we split the remaining seeds into two batches and soaked one lot, and planted them all, lovingly spraying them with a mist of water and keeping them warm on the shelf over the Rayburn. Finally, just as we were ready to give up, one sole serrano chilli seedling emerged (out of the unsoaked seeds, if anyone’s interested), looking rather weedy compared to its robuster relatives.

All was going fairly well, the bigger chilli seedlings had been pricked out into individual modules and were ready to be transferred up to the greenhouse, when disaster struck: our sole precious serrano seedling had got knocked and was looking pretty broken.

broken chilli seedling

After all the effort we’d gone to to germinate it, we couldn’t quite give up on it, so we left it on the kitchen windowsill and the next morning it still wasn’t actually dead yet, and the morning after that it was looking a bit perkier, and after a few days it seemed to be straightening itself out somewhat, although it’s never going to win any prizes, other than for perseverance in the face of adversity, which I’m 100% certain isn’t a category in the village show, although I said that about comedy vegetables last year.

serrano chilli seedling

Not dead yet

The first of its cousins have now been planted out in the greenhouse and are looking pretty good, which is something of a relief as my gardening pal in the village keeps threatening to come up and visit my veg plot. They might just serve to distract him from the state of the rest of my beds, which are suffering from a certain ‘just in time’ management approach to preparation and planting at the moment which is threatening to tip over into ‘just too late’ in some areas (it helps if you remember to actually plant your fennel…). Although, in my defence, we’ve got a yellow warning of snow tonight, which makes planting out my spring onions feel less than urgent… and the fact that I’ve already planted out my salad leaves feel positively foolish.

The Weather Gods Giveth…

April 27, 2015

So you’ve invited several thousand people to Edinburgh on their bikes to tell their politicians they want to see a cycle friendly country. And come Friday evening the forecast is for heavy rain, and on Saturday morning the actuality is heavy rain, and you’re busy rewriting an expectations-managing press release …

and then something odd happens.

The sun came out

The rain stops. And the sun comes out.

bikes at POP on the Royal Mile

And so did all the cyclists.

and now it's snowing

Nothing is free in this world, however. So I suppose I should not have been startled to look up this afternoon and discover that it was snowing.

bamboo on a bike

Oh, and for those wondering how you carry bamboo on a bike? You ask a nice man to do it for you. Either that, or our head marshal is trying out for the Edinburgh University Quidditch team.


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