Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now

April 23, 2015

I had a last minute Guardian Bike Blog piece to write yesterday for Pedal on Parliament and was finding it difficult to get started, so there was nothing for it but to get myself onto my bike and hope that the words would come. I do all my best thinking on a bike, or at least that’s how it seems at the time. And besides, it was just too nice to be anywhere but outdoors.

spring trees

I even inveigled the other half along. He’s the tiny red dot, providing a bit of contrast to the first spring leaves of the trees. He’s not much one for riding at the speed of chat.

Blackthorn blossom

No cherries here (I spotted a glorious one in the middle of a wood from a train window this weekend though and have had an AE Houseman earworm ever since), so blackthorn will have to do. But frankly, all trees have a special loveliness when they first flush into leaf. I can’t get enough of that tender green.

And did I find inspiration? Well, it’s not exactly Houseman, but you can judge for yourself here.

More tree-and-cycling related shenanigans tomorrow, if I’m spared.


Life in the Day of a POP Organiser

April 22, 2015

… especially one who has inconveniently got a load of work deadlines right in the middle of the busiest part of organising Pedal on Parliament, and during an unexpected spring heatwave.

5am-6am: Wake up early, for a productive hour spent fretting. Wonder if I can possibly justify going to yoga this morning given the amount I’ve got on. Neck informs me in no uncertain terms that I can’t possibly justify missing yoga either. In the end the neck, and yoga wins. Balance tipped by the fact that the meditation session afterwards offers the chance of a nice nap, thereby cancelling out the hour’s fretting.

6am – 9am Get up, dressed. Check emails. Spend half an hour putting the finishing touches on a press release for POP Scotland. Check more emails. Send emails. Tweet stuff. Realise I’m about to be late and dash around the house trying to find my yoga stuff.

9am – 10am Cycle to Bigtown. Absolutely glorious morning. Shame I am going to spend most of it indoors staring at a screen. Get to yoga and nip into bike shop next door to find out if my front chainring has arrived yet. Get to class to discover Yoga Bunny just pipping me at the post for the coveted corner slot.

10am – 11:30 am Ahhh. And breathe. And I swear to God, it wasn’t me snoring at the end.

11:30 – 12 noon Rush around Bigtown doing a bit of social media stuff for someone else’s viral marketing campaign (a quid pro quo for spreading the word about POP). Discover it’s harder than it looks to hold up a sign and take a photograph of a building at the same time. How is everyone else managing it? Do they have three arms? Are they taking the photo with their nose? In the end I rope in a passer-by who turns out to recognise me because he sees me cycling past in Papershop Village. This being Bigtown, I am not in the least surprised.

Look up you don't know what you're missing

#GetDumfriesTalking Thank you random stranger who turned out not to be a complete stranger after all…

12 -1pm Pedal home. Still glorious. And at least I get an hour or so of cycling in the sunshine

1-2pm Eat lunch on the bench having dealt with the gazillion emails that have accumulated in my absence. Other half has learned that when I go in to fetch something I will not come out again because I have picked up my phone and am tapping away at it, having completely forgotten what it is I came in for.

2-3:30 pm Work. Realise how behind I am. Work some more. Check emails. Aargh. Workity work work. Emails. Work.

3:30 – 4pm Coffee on the bench. There’s vitamin D to be synthesised, you know, and we’re all deficient after a long winter.

4-5 pm Workity work work.

5pm Can’t stand it any longer. Toast on the bench in the last of the sunshine before the sun moves behind the house.

5:30 – 7:30 pm Work. Emails. Work. Emails. Facebook (it’s all POP stuff, promise). Twitter. Panic. Work.

7:30 – 8:30 pm cook dinner, phone in hand, checking emails and tweeting. Panic mildly about meeting deadline.

8:30 – 10pm – just as supper is ready, old friend rings for a chat. Haven’t spoken in ages. Fortunately she doesn’t mind me chewing in her ear as we catch up.

10pm – 11pm Work. Eyes propped up by matchsticks, but thank goodness for the yoga nap. Ahem. meditation. Finish work. Bed

5am Wake up fretting …


Vengeance is Theirs…

April 12, 2015

The ‘Friends’ of Bigtown’s park are a lovely bunch. Enthusiastic, committed volunteers who only want to see their newly refurbished park used and loved by everyone in the town, supported by a similarly enthusiastic and proactive coonsil officer. They are also, clearly, terrible sinners in the eyes of the Weather Gods; I am, by comparison, their ewe lamb.*

Exhibit one: Easter last year. The opening of the newly refurbished park. All week, the sun shines. Then, on the day of the actual festivities, for which we had arranged a family ride among other events, the heavens open and it rains all day, until all chance of fun has evaporated and then the sun comes out and the evening is rather gorgeous

Coincidence? Perhaps. But then, Exhibit two: the Christmas fun day in the park. Lots of activities planned including our cycling Santa and Christmas bike ride, for which many reindeer heads had been created. OK, so a weekend in December is always going to be a bit of of a gamble, but we weren’t expecting rain, hail, sleet and horizontal snow – right up to the moment when the decision was taken to cancel, upon which it naturally cheered up.

And then today. Exhibit three. Another Easter fun day with a bike treasure hunt planned. I have to say, my expectations for the day were fairly well managed by now, although we’ve had almost a week of glorious weather, The forecast was for heavy showers, which can mean anything. This morning the Met Office had moderated that to ‘light rain’ which sounded like an improvement until I realised this was just the Met Office averaging out ‘heavy rain’ and ‘no rain’ over the course of the day, which is not the same thing at all. But never mind, we had a gazebo to shelter under, while should any kids actually turn up, they could be out in the rain hunting hidden bike parts. The rain duly started as I was preparing to set off so I packed spare gloves and dry socks and donned my rain gear. And then the rain started to look a bit funny. A bit like snow. A lot like snow, actually. Snow AND rain. Rather hard icy painful sort of snow, as I discovered as I pedalled doggedly into Bigtown, arriving just in time to learn that the event had been called off.

Well, I say called off. Postponed to next week, in fact, although I’m not sure we will be joining them this time around. Not unless they’re planning some serious whisky libations to the Weather Gods, possibly backed up with a goat sacrifice or three. Otherwise who knows what weather we might have to endure.

wet cycling kit

Still, at least my kit might have dried off by then. Oh and the minute I got home? It stopped snowing and the sun came out.

* Actually come to think of it, that enthusiastic coonsil official may be the problem – can’t have the natural order of things turned on its head like that…


Out Like a Lion

March 31, 2015

There was a moment or so last week when it started to feel as if spring had, if not arrived, was at least texting us to let us know that it was on its way. This week has proved that that was somewhat premature – the first clue being the fact that we woke to a smattering of snow yesterday, the second being the fact that the birds were flying backwards today, which is never a good sign when you’ve got a TOHH* journey ahead of you.

But, you know, I had yoga to go to, and an important literary plotting meeting to attend, followed by an hour of fantasy cycling-infrastructure shopping with someone in the council who can’t, sadly, actually implement any of my plans but is prepared to indulge me while I explain them, which amounts to a significant step forward in these parts. The journey into town was completed in record time, aided by a massive tailwind, and I did hope that the wind might drop before I had to head home, but I was disabused of that notion after filtering to the front of a queue of traffic at the lights, foolishly failing to change down a gear, and then discovering when I attempted to set off again that I was barely able to move into the wind. Fortunately, the drivers behind were extremely patient with me and hung back until there was space for them to safely pass, for which I was enormously grateful, given the cross winds which threatened to send me half way across the road at times.

As for the last few miles home, I can only say that was the longest 40 minutes of my life (time does funny things when you’re plugging into a headwind; I was convinced I’d been riding for at least an hour when I got home). I don’t think I’ve ever ridden into anything like it, particularly when it started snowing again. It didn’t help when a car suddenly appeared about a foot to my right, having come up behind me without my hearing a thing, and passed me on a narrow bend as if I simply wasn’t there, thereby undoing all the warm fuzzy goodwill I’d been feeling towards the drivers of Bigtown up to that point.

Fortunately, we have recently been extensively testing the proposition ‘it is not possible to have too much cake’** due to a backlog of over-ripe bananas, which obviously have to be turned into banana bread and/or Ruby Tandoh’s banana thyme cake, combined with a belated birthday present of more cake which arrived in the post yesterday (complete with candles, naturally, you’ve got to love my friends). So the other half was able to revive me with plenty of carbohydrate when I finally staggered in the door, looking as if I had been freshly sandblasted. The rest of the day has been spent firmly on the sofa, waiting for April…

*tailwind out, headwind home; HOTH is the correct configuration for cyclists.

** preliminary results suggest that it is both logically and practically true.


A Rainy Sunday Morning…

March 29, 2015

.. and the other half rendering the kitchen temporarily uninhabitable by making banana bread;* what to do?

greenhouse in March

Aha

planted seed trays

A bit of seed planting

notebook with planting plan

A bit of light plot-plotting

Never has the sound of rain on the roof sounded sweeter.

* I love the stuff, especially his chocolate-chip version, but I can’t stand the smell of bananas, especially overripe ones, until they’ve been safely transformed.


Tap* Aff

March 18, 2015

hazy hills

Oh what an errandonneering day I could have had today – a dental appointment in Notso Bigtown, with a side trip to pick up the paper and deliver POP flyers to any likely looking destination. Any sane person would probably feel that 13+ miles each way by bike is a bit excessive for a 20 minute check up and a scale and polish. But the other half needed the car, and the weather forecast was unusually optimistic, and the bulk of my cycling in recent weeks has been up and down the road to Bigtown, so I didn’t really much encouragement to recast it as a nice bike ride with a small dental appointment attached. Which makes a whole lot more sense that way round.

road ahead

The promised sunshine was hazy rather than glorious, but it was certainly warmer than it has been all year, so I soon stopped to peel off my jumper and then, daringly, my gloves. Pausing only to pick up the paper and drop off some Pedal on Parliament flyers (‘Oh, I’ll give one to Roland’, said Papershop Bloke. ‘Why, is he a keen cyclist then?’ ‘No, he hates them. When the police came round to warn him because some cyclist had reported him for his driving, he said next time he saw one he’d run them over.’ Hopefully he won’t be turning up in Edinburgh on the 25th of April, in a tank), I was soon out beyond my normal daily cycling round and remembering why I like riding my bike around here so much.

downhill_ahead

Sadly, my camera doesn’t seem to manage to capture the steepness or otherwise of a hill. This is one of those ‘check your brakes’ descents that means I never take this road the other way (and yes, it is a national cycle route. Perhaps we should all have a whip round and buy Sustrans a map with some contour lines on it)

Teeth given a clean bill of health, and with more POP flyers distributed to Notso Bigtown’s three (count ’em) bike shops, I had to hurry back a bit faster than I would normally like, because I was expecting an important work-related phone call. I’m glad I took the opportunity to escape while I did because looming work commitments, not to mention organising a wee demonstration in Edinburgh, mean that opportunities for sunny cycle rides on flimsy excuses might be a little thin on the ground in the next few weeks.

And I wasn’t the only one lured out by the sunshine, either…

lizard on the cobbles

Approximately 4/5 of a lizard.

*because let’s not go mad here. Removing just the one layer is quite sufficient in March


Puttzing about

March 16, 2015

What with all the gadding about I’ve been doing recently, it’s actually been a while since I simply cycled down to the shop for the paper, but today I got to do just that. And although it was a cold day and spitting lightly with rain, it was a relief to get back on the rolling back road to Papershop Village, with almost no other traffic but me and the bike. I was relieved to note that, despite using the bigger front ring, I found the hills pretty easy all the way there. Clearly, I thought to myself, I’d got a fair bit fitter over the last couple of weeks. All this gadding about must be doing me some good.

And then I turned around and discovered I was suffering from PUTS: previously unnoticed tailwind syndrome.

We’ve been here before…


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