Summer Comes but Once a Year

July 12, 2017

Sometimes Twitter gets it bang on

As is traditional when we get a couple of days’ sunshine, I am currently stuck under a pile of All The Work, so I’ve mostly had to just sit and watch it out of my study window, but I did have an afternoon appointment in town.

summer clouds

You honestly couldn’t pay me to drive on a day like today, because it was my only real chance to enjoy the sunshine.

On my way in I encountered a friend, a photographer, who has started this little project on Facebook. After chatting for a while, she offered to add me to the roster of ‘humans’ and took my photo there and then,* and then we went on our way

It was only as I was riding home again later in the afternoon, that it struck me how fortunate we are to live in a place where one can have a brief photo shoot in the middle of the road, and not be interrupted by a single vehicle, and not even think it remarkable.

summer reflections

It scrubs up quite well when the sun shines, too.

* As I have to write a few words before it gets put up, I may not be appearing there for a while

101 Uses for a Brompton: Ferrying Cake

July 8, 2017

I’ve long argued that the rural economy around here runs largely on tray bakes and our local summer bike rides are no exception – since we’ve started providing home baking as part of the package, numbers have gone from strength to strength.

There’s just one problem: much as I love my cow pannier bag, it’s exactly the wrong shape for carrying cake tins, so everything I bake has had to be robust enough to handle being stuffed into it sideways. There’s a reason why cyclists are so fond of flapjacks, which are effectively indestructible. This week, though, I was experimenting with iced lemon cupcakes* which meant a more civilised conveyance was required. I’m pleased to report that the cakes made it down intact, and the leftovers were also safely carried back up the hill to home, where I suspect they will not last long.

cake tin in Brompton Basket

*top tip: lemon curd combined with icing sugar makes a wonderfully quick and easy lemon icing**

** top tip no 2: don’t try and eat the surplus with a spoon when you make too much though. A little goes a loooong way

Just Plants in the Wrong Place

July 7, 2017

With what feels like an infinite amount of gardening to be done, I’m taking a pragmatic approach towards what is a weed and what is to be tolerated at least for now.


Buddleia for instance: wildlife friendly, covered in flower spikes and currently giving off a rather gorgeous gentle scent as I pass one bush right by the path. OK, so I probably don’t need dozens of them dotted around the garden, but for now they can stay.


And foxgloves, objectively, are rather splendid with their huge flower spikes. A bank of them gently dancing in the breeze and catching the evening sun is exactly the sort of effect I’m going for in the garden. Just because they also grow in every hedgerow is no reason to turn my nose up at them, although I may try and introduce more white ones over time.


Mimulus can apparently be a bit of a pest and an invasive, but for now it’s clumping itself rather elegantly around Mostly,* the fine piece of garden statuary that for some reasons our predecessors left behind.

oriental rhubarb

On the other hand, these are not ginormous dock flowers, as my mother thought but the seed heads of our oriental rhubarb which tower above everything else. If I’m absolutely honest, I’d probably rather have the culinary kind but it is rather architectural in an ‘oh my God what is that?’ sort of way


And this lychnis was a gift from a neighbour’s garden and I can’t get enough of it.

I am slowly hatching plans for what should go where, but it will all take time. So for now, I’m managing with what I’ve got and hoping that it doesn’t all get out of hand.

* Because she’s mostly armless

First Find your Veg Plot

July 6, 2017

We needed potatoes tonight, and the first of the earlies were likely to be ready. There was just one problem …

overgrown veg

I’ve been neglecting the veg plot recently, it’s safe to say. There’s just too much other garden to be getting on with, not to mention all the other things I’ve been doing and so I’ve been letting the hares keep on top of the weeding, without, it must be said, a great deal of success.

Fortunately, most of what’s in the plot this year is stuff that can just get on with things themselves, like broad beans

broad beans

And potatoes of course.

First potatoes

First crop of new potatoes. Very satisfying

Mental note to self: next year, plant the earlies right by the entrance to the plot, instead of deep in the back corner.

veg plot found

By tradition, all home grown veg is nothing less than delicious.

potatoes being cooked

And these were no exception.


Very British Problems

July 5, 2017

So when you’ve told someone that you’re going to be late to a meeting because you’ve got another meeting beforehand and they’re eight miles apart and you are travelling by bike …

… and then your first meeting is effectively cancelled because nobody shows up …

… and it’s pissing down, and has been all day, and your waterproof trousers have proved Not Waterproof in Scotland, and your only spare gloves are your ridiculous winter ones …

path end

Do you a) cycle as quickly as possible to your second meeting and take the opportunity to dry off, because that would be the sensible thing to do?

interesting new signage

Or b) decide to add an extra couple of very wet miles to your route so that you don’t have to show up early having said you’d be late, a decision that appeared to make the most sense to me at the time?

At least option b gave me the opportunity to photograph some new cycling infrastructure…

Ride Leader

July 1, 2017

So, one advantage of how slowly I cycle up the hill on my way home is that if the cows are standing at the gate at the field near the top then I can start talking to them as I approach and – because they are cows and are generally a bit bored and possibly hoping for tasty cow treats – when I then tell them to follow me as I pass …

hello cows

… they generally do.

This probably amuses me more than it should.

Looking but not Seeing

June 30, 2017

I was in town today running various errands, and also hunting out poor on-road cycling infrastructure to use in the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’s latest toy, Insert Loved One Here.

insert loved one here

Actually, one of the good things about cycling in Bigtown, it’s that we don’t have too much of this sort of thing. The Coonsil’s approach to cycling may be lacking – we may not have a joined up network and it may be shared with pedestrians and their extendadogs, and it may take a week to cross at the lights, and they may never grit the paths in winter – but at least they mostly recognise that slapping some paint and a poorly drawn bicycle onto a scary road isn’t going to help much.

Still, I knew that there was a roundabout near Morrison’s that had some ‘suicide’ lanes around the outside (funnily enough, it’s where half the cyclists in Bigtown have been knocked off their bikes, it seems) so I headed there and took a couple of photos, then joined the road with the worst cycle lane in Bigtown on it where I failed to take any photos because I was concentrating on not being squashed by left-turning traffic. That left the roundabout by the station, which also has a few faded bike lanes around the edge – but it was getting a bit late and I had things to do, so I decided the one photo I had would be good enough and headed home.

cycle lane

And it was only as I reached the turnoff at the outskirts of Bigtown that I noticed this beauty, a bike lane that I never use because of all the places where I may want to be on my bike, cycling right across the mouth of a road used by bin lorries and into the back of a parked car is never one of them. I must have cycled past it literally hundreds of times but its existence has barely registered on me, despite the fact that I spend far more time than is healthy thinking and talking about cycling infrastructure.

No wonder the drivers don’t see us. Frankly, as a species, we’re just very poorly adapted to driving something as fast and as dangerous as a car, compared to something like a horse which notices absolutely everything. You can forget the driverless car – when it comes to transport our real mistake was to persist with the horseless carriage.*

* Although, having cycled through the residue left by the horse element of Bigtown’s Guid Nychburris parade, I can see that there are some downsides to using equines for urban transport