Put a Lid on it

December 7, 2017

While nobody would describe me as a dedicated follower of fashion, I do notice the odd trend as it whooshes past, mostly with bafflement (and seriously, what was it with the slits in the shoulders of tops this summer? Any future period drama set in this will leave the poor wardrobe mistress frantically taking the scissors to slash through the sleeves of every top, while people scratch their heads and wonder – not for the first time – just what we were thinking in 2017). But I was heartened to note that otherwise clearly fashionable and soignee young women had suddenly started sporting practical bobble hats everywhere, even indoors (indeed, even paired with tops that left their clavicles out in the cold). Not that I had any need for a bobble hat, having my magical tweed cap to keep my head warm and dry, but it was nice to know that if I did, I’d be able to just go out and purchase one, in an actual fashion outlet, and wear it safe in the knowledge that I was in with the in crowd. And also that young women were at least keeping their heads warm, if not their shoulders

And then, the other half came home from work with just such a bobble hat, knitted by a colleague (he has such lovely workmates) who had brought in her handiwork to share. I tried it on, and it was so cosy and comfy that it was quite hard to take it off, even though wearing a hat indoors seems like a step down a slippery slope that ends with never taking your fleece off ever, even in August. Feeling a little chilly at my desk the next day, I couldn’t resist sticking the hat back on, and was surprised at how effective it was at keeping all of me warm, not just my head (more results from the Centre for the Study of the Bleeding Obvious as they come in). I fear that a line may have been crossed here, and that fingerless gloves, scarves, and the dreaded fleece will not be far behind. It is perhaps fortunate that we will be off to America, a place where they heat their houses properly, before the habit can get out of hand.

rainbow

No photo of the hat – it might be fashionable but that doesn’t mean I don’t look ridiculous in it – but this was the weather on my ride home

Still, having got caught in an icy rainshower on my way back from fetching the paper, I can not only confirm that the new jacket is (so far) Waterproof in Scotland, but that a woolly bobble hat was a very welcome thing to come home to, especially as there is now snow on the ground. Here’s hoping that the fickle finger of fashion does not move on too fast and spares me my hat, at least until the weather starts to warm up again, in, ooh, about May.

Advertisements

Harey Christmas?

November 15, 2017

So I was all set to write another grumpy post today, having received yet another unsolicited letter from a legal firm that wants us to enrich them by agreeing to sue the electricity company over the fact that there’s a cable going over our property, something we should apparently see as a dreadful imposition rather than a source of free tree surgery.

So there was much muttering about parasitic capitalism as I cycled into Bigtown to brave the Christmas music,* cheered only moderately by encountering a chap out birdwatching by bike and then only moderately more by the silver flash of fieldfares’ wings as they flocked in the hedgerows on the way back.

But then, looking out of my study window on my return I was restored by the sight of not one but two hares sauntering about the garden. We have not had hares in the garden for ages – possibly too much gardening going on, with the construction of the greenhouse and other projects – and I was beginning to wonder if we had chased them off altogether. So it was encouraging to see them back, and hopefully more more than just a passing visit…

* It turns out that the source in the shop is in fact a life-size animatronic singing Santa which interrupts its renditions of Winter Wonderland with the occasional cry of ‘Merry Christmas everyone!’ Frankly, if it makes it through to Christmas without ending up beheaded and crucified in the local primary school playground, then that end of Bigtown will not have lived up to its lawless reputation.


And the Rain it Raineth Somewhere Else

September 13, 2017

For anyone who has ever thought that ‘this blog is all right, but it really doesn’t ramble on about the joys of rural cycling in Scotland anything like enough’, all two of you, I am on the CamCycle Podcast doing just that.

I have no idea what I said because I just chatted away happily as I am wont to do, and there’s no way I’m listening to my own voice to found out, but I do remember that the opening question was about what I’d seen on my bike that week. The recording was made a couple of weeks ago and I undoubtedly rambled on about blackberries and exciting drainage works, those being pretty much the highlight of the week at the time.

I was reminded of all this today, as I cycled home from Bigtown and found myself riding in the wake of what I’m pretty sure was a merlin, using the hedge as cover as it flew along the road for a couple of hundred yards, before hopping over a hedge and disappearing from view. I can report that, while not as speedy as a peregrine, they can certainly outpace me on a bike, and it was definitely the highlight of my ride home, indeed my week.

Naturally, I didn’t capture any of this because I was barely able to keep the bird in sight, let alone get a photo of it. So you’ll just have to enjoy the equally rare image of the rain raining on someone other than me as I rode into Bigtown at lunchtime …

rain raining somewhere else

Unusually, the weather gods didn’t manage to catch up with me all day


Entrapment

September 4, 2017

Regular readers will know, I’m all for a bit of citizen science, so when I heard about the Big Wasp Survey I thought I might as well sign up. It ticked all the right boxes: a little bit of diy trap building (but nothing so complicated I couldn’t manage – although possibly my effort could stand to be a little less wonky), learning new things about wasps, and beer (not quite as good as cake, but maybe they’ll do an ant survey next year …)

wasp trap with beer

The only problem was the beer part – you don’t need very much beer, and obviously throwing beer away would be a terrible shame. As it happened, nobody who came over the weekend fancied a beer, so there were no open bottles I could pinch a few millilitres from for my trap. So, once the dust had settled and everyone had left on Sunday, I was forced to drag myself off the sofa and have myself a beer.

It’s amazing the sacrifices we all have to make for the advancement of knowledge…


Peak Swallow

August 25, 2017

If there’s one thing we’ve missed since we moved to the new house, it’s been having a whole shed just for the swallows which meant a ringside seat when the various broods fledged and – having mastered the whole swooping-out-of-the-window trick – started practising their flying around the yard. Indeed, having resident swallows is a great way of marking the passage of the seasons: from the cheery moment when the first one arrives back from Africa, chattering busily about its journey, to the sudden silence when you realise that they have gone, and they didn’t even say goodbye.

trainee swallows

Trainee swallows on the roof below our bedroom window. Paving beyond demonstrates our relaxed gardening approach …

So we were pleased when we looked out of the window the other morning and discovered not one but dozens of swallows, some still clearly novice flyers, swooping round our garden and perching all over the roof of the house. At one point there were well over 30 all lined up on the wires, and it’s been very distracting trying to work with a bird zooming past my study window at warp speed approximately every 30 seconds.

Not having hosted their nests in our own garden means we can’t feel quite such a sense of proprietorial pride in these birds but, as the other half pointed out, at least our somewhat relaxed attitude to gardening means there’s plenty of insect life around for them to hoover up. Plus there’s the fact that I ride so slowly up the hill that I’ve usually gathered my own personal cloud of flies by the time I get to the house (and if the swallows were to learn that and start greeting my approach by swooping round my head for a free snack, how cool would that be?).

swallow food

We have various plans for the garden, from a greenhouse to a sitooterie* but so far they have not quite extended to building a swallow shed, especially as both the neighbouring farms feature steadings with plenty of swallow habitat. Still, if a corner of the garden somewhere proves hospitable to hirundines (house martins are also welcome, and possibly easier to accommodate), then that will be a massive plus. Meanwhile, we shall continue to enjoy any birds who grace us with their presence, however fleeting.

* The place in the garden where you can sit oot, obviously


I Brake for Baby Birds

July 25, 2017

It’s that time of year when the hedges are full of recently fledged birds, all a bit, well, crap, in the endearing way baby birds are. Which is fine, until they launch themselves in front of your bike and, like learner drivers, prove to be a bit slower off the mark than you were quite expecting. Twice now I’ve had to jam on the brakes to prevent myself from rear-ending a low-flying beginner that hadn’t quite made it to safety.

Sadly, it also means too many sad little flattened feathery corpses on the road. so far I’ve seen an oystercatcher, a rook, several blackbirds, a goldfinch, a yellowhammer and any number of unidentifiable little brown jobs (I really should probably get back to filling in Splatter Project reports).

It was cheering, though, to pass a hedgeful of a flock of something – hard to tell what when you’re zooming past. One went, and then another, and then they were all pouring out of the hedge to get away, hunners of them, chirping as they flew, setting the whole field beside me in motion. It was a laugh-out-loud kind of sight, the way they just kept coming as I passed, as if the hedge itself were taking flight.

And not a one ended up under anyone’s wheels, which counts as a bonus at this time of year.


Beating Around the Bush

July 19, 2017

Alert observers around here may have noticed in recent days a cyclist going even more slowly than normal along one stretch of road, sometimes even on the wrong side of it, paying more attention to the hedgerow than the (fortunately non-existant) traffic. The cyclist, for I am she, has been looking for that damned gooseberry bush ever since I first met gooseberry man and has been seriously beginning to wonder if he and his gooseberries were an elaborate, if disappointingly quotidian, hallucination.

Today, I thought I’d give it one last go. I’d even googled pictures of gooseberry bushes to be sure I knew what to look our for. I cycled down along the stretch of the road where I’d see gooseberry man at effectively walking pace, peering at every bush. The whole way down the road, and nothing. Crossed at the crossroads, picked up speed, glanced over to my left and bingo.

Gooseberries

Please tell me these are gooseberries …

Of course by this time I was running late so I didn’t have time to stop to pick any, and besides, I actually have no idea how to tell if they are ripe. A quick further google suggests that they are ripe when they are neither too soft nor too hard, which leaves me none the wiser. I shall have to go down and give them all a squeeze tomorrow.