Lost and (Almost) Found

May 10, 2017

I have much to tell you about Seville, with many photos* but you will have to wait because – as regular readers of this blog know – I live my life trailing lost belongings, and yesterday the lost belonging in question was my laptop, which is a key part of the blogging-with-photos process. I had taken it out of my wheely bag because the airline was checking the bigger carry-ons, and slipped it under the seat in front of me, and then when we were getting off the plane I was focused on getting moving because the absolute last train to anywhere even close to Bigtown left at 8:15 and I wanted to make sure I was on it and now I’d have to wait for the luggage to come out of the hold.

So it wasn’t until we were through passport control, and I had spotted my bag on the carousel and grabbed it and was about to bolt for the tram (at this point, I actually had more than an hour before I caught my train** but after many hard years of London commuting I never consider that I’ve enough time to catch a train until I’m standing on the platform waiting for it) when I remembered my laptop. Which was still under the seat that had been in front of me, and was now – it turns out – locked on a plane bound for Bristol.

At this point, naively, I had thought that someone at the customer service desk would take my seat number, alert the crew or the staff at the other end, suggest that someone could retrieve the laptop and put it in a safe place until the plane returned to Edinburgh, and then it could be handed in to lost property. However, this isn’t how airline lost property works. If it hadn’t been handed in already, nobody seemed to think it was worth letting anyone on the plane know that it was there until someone stumbled upon it or the cleaners found it when the plane got cleaned wherever it was it ended up for the night.

So this morning was spent discovering that the world of airline lost property has become, like many other things, largely outsourced. Lost property at the airport is handled by a company (which charges an unspecified fee to reunite you with it). Lost property on the airlines is handled by a different company whose call centre only operates for a few hours in the morning. The airline customer service team feel that as there is a company handling that sort of thing for them, they don’t need to do anything further. The lost property companies just sit there waiting for things to be found and handed to them, and can’t access anything that’s on a plane. As the laptop had not apparently been handed in after the plane had presumably been cleaned for the night, I pictured it spending the next few days happily travelling from Bristol to Brno to Manchester and Madrid, until somebody finally noticed it and handed it in to the lost and found, which by then could be anywhere from Aberdeen or Zagreb, where nobody would know it was mine. This is the way of the world, I realised, and there seemed to be no way to talk to an actual person who might take pity on me and follow up with somebody who could actually track it down.

And then, just as I was ready to give up, I got an email from someone at Bristol Airport who had not only read the message I sent through the ‘contact us’ form (never the most confidence-inspiring means of communication), had also gone and followed up with their security team who run their lost and found, Bristol having not apparently caught the outsourcing bug. And, oh frabjous day, despite originally telling me last night that nothing had been found – the security team did after all have my laptop.

All I have to do now is get it from Bristol back to Bigtown but that is in hand and hopefully laptop and I will be reunited before we have to depart once again (family duty calls, sorry, I will plant more trees in penance) on a plane to the US. You can be certain I will be keeping a very close eye on it this time. While undoubtedly losing something else important (Passport? Head? Husband?)  that I ought to be hanging on to…
* It’s going to be a bit embarrassing if anyone who’s not a cycle campaigner wants to see my holiday snaps: ‘so yes, these bollards are interesting because look at the little pictures of bikes on them, and this is the tree in the middle of the cycle path, and this is a stop sign for bikes and … what, any actual historic sights? Wait, I did take a photo of the cathedral, because there was this nice bike parked in front of it, it’s here somewhere, I think just after the floating bus stops …’

** Which was anyway cancelled.


Hare’s Gap

May 4, 2017

As amazing a privilege as it is to wake each morning to find not one but two hares sunning themselves in your garden (in the immortal phrasing of Dave Barry, a large main hare and a small emergency backup hare), I felt that with the advent of the veg growing season, some boundaries needed to be made quite clear.

hare habitat and non hare habitat

So far, the large main hare has been keeping to the correct side of my anti-hare fence, but I’d left a gap to get the wheelbarrow in and out and as I was about to plant out my broad beans and peas and then leave them undefended while I went to Seville, except by the other half (who is pretty much Team Hare and unlikely to do anything to stop them eating whatever they like) it was time to close the gap.

hare defences mark one

First attempt at a gate.

My first attempt at a gate was pleasingly rustic, but effectively lasted 12 hours before it blew over. It was time for something less decorative and more solid. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to create anything like that, so I just bodged it as usual.

hare defences mark two

Ah sod it

It’s well known in the UK cycle infrastructure world that there’s no bodge so half-arsed that putting up a sign won’t magically make it work. I didn’t have a cyclists dismount sign handy, so I made one of my own.*

no hares

Looking forward to coming back and finding that at least some of my poor seedlings will have survived …

seedlings planted out

*Obviously, hares can’t read, so I drew a picture as well. I’m not a complete idiot.


Ford Auld Lang Syne

May 2, 2017

Cycling back from the Community Council meeting this evening with a song in my heart – for I had finally handed over the secretaryship to not one but two people* – and several insects in my eye – for the warm weather has brought the bugs out in profusion – I passed the turnoff to the ford. And as there was daylight still (and how nice it is to cycle in daylight in the evening), I thought why not.

Dear readers, I bring you for possibly the last time, the ford:

the ford

It’s been a dry spring, all in all.

* It’s always very satisfying when it takes more than one person to replace you


Vamos a Sevilla

May 1, 2017

And then, with a bang – almost as if the Weather Gods were paying attention to our puny human calendars – it is May and suddenly there as proper warmth in the air. The hare has gone from sitting looking hunched and miserable in the wind to stretching out sparked out in the sunshine (at least until its pesky human hosts attempt to go out and photograph it.) And I, who have been thinking every day as I get dressed how sick I am of my winter clothes, had to shed not just my gloves and hat but actual jacket on the cycle into Bigtown this afternoon.

I had better get used to it, because on Thursday, as soon as the election is safely over (at least the local one – when it comes to the general election, I’m just putting my fingers in my ears until its over, although I will vote, don’t worry), I am off with my wheely suitcase but not my bike to Edinburgh and thence to Seville where the same gang of four who took a highly serious study tour to Amsterdam back in September will be conducting a thorough investigation into the cycling infrastructure of ‘build it and they will come’ poster child, Seville.

And by thorough we mean really thorough because it’s well known that I can get lost getting out of a wardrobe, so we’re likely to end up giving any wayfinding in the city a brutal workout (obviously my companions are all skilled navigators AND know how to use the GPS on their phones, but I’ve a tendency to be impatient and lead from the front whether I know where I’m going or not. POP organisers, you can stop sniggering at the back now). We’ll also be ensuring that the infrastructure can be as easily used when you’re coming back from the bar as when you’re going to it, and that the bike hire system can be worked out by someone whose Spanish has been learned from a phone app that is heavy on phrases like ‘where is the train station?’ and ‘would you like more beer?’ but rather lighter on phrases like ‘give it some welly‘ which is, as I recall, the key to getting a Boris Bike out of the docking station. If our trip to Amsterdam is anything to go by, there will undoubtedly also be testing of the ease of using bikes for spontaneous shopping trips, finding a decent cup of tea, riding a bike having been lured into drinking mojitos and discovering how many kms of Seville’s segregated bike network need to be ridden to work off excessive consumption of tapas and other Spanish goodies.

I think even the most earnest of kerb nerds would agree, that’s a pretty good assessment of a city’s bike infrastructure. Although we’re open to inspecting any interesting floating bus stops, innovative junctions or nicely angled kerbs should anyone want us to have a look. And if you’ve any other suggestions, bike-related or not, for what to see, do, eat, drink or experience in Seville, bring them on.


101 Uses for a Brompton: Plant Shopping

April 29, 2017

Coming into New Nearest Village was a sight to gladden any gardener’s eye …

Plant Sale sign

I’ve been feeling a bit bad that I haven’t really had a chance to attend any of the many events that seem to enliven the village scene – compared with Old Nearest Village, it’s a hotbed of activity, but it always seems to coincide with me having something else on. So when I realised I could get to the annual plant sale this weekend, I hopped on the Brompton with great excitement. I do love a village plant sale as they tend to combine randomness with cheapness, and you never quite know what you’re going to find.

Brompton basket with plants

The Brompton’s basket takes a nice number of plants, with a bit of creative packing, but also acts as a useful brake on my acquisitiveness. As it is, I’ve now got a couple of dozen nasturtium seedlings to prick out, in my ample spare time…

plant sale haul

In the end, it wasn’t a bad haul for £13 (plus a jar of strawberry jam tucked into my jacket pocket which I did think might have made for an interesting medical puzzle had I come off my bike …)

Roseroot

Most of the plants were ones I was looking out for anyway, but this (Roseroot, or Rhodiola rosea) was a new one to me and looks like it would be a nice funky addition to the garden. The internet suggests it can be used to treat mild depression, among other things, although to be honest there’s not really a huge amount of evidence behind it.

strawberry plants

If these strawberry plants come good, though, that will definitely serve to cheer us all up.


Angry Person in Local Newspaper

April 28, 2017

It’s not often I get spontaneously contacted by the local paper for a sadface photo* but I was rung up on Monday in my role as (outgoing!!!) secretary of Nearest Village Community Council to see if I could go and be angry by the river where someone had flytipped some old computers into the water.

flytipped computers

Actually this wasn’t too hard because it’s a particularly lovely spot. The last time I was looking over the bridge parapet it was to admire an otter, so finding that someone had used it to dump a load of electrical goods was pretty gutting. There’s a fair bit of flytipping near by (it’s a quiet road and vans can pull right off the road and out of sight) – but normally they confine themselves to chucking it into the bushes, not the river. I even folded my arms at one point, I was that cross.

Bridge over the river

Anyway, whether it was the folded arms that did it or what, I don’t know, but it attracted the attention of the local angling association who manage the fishing on that stretch of the river, and today they went on a slightly unorthodox fishing expedition and very efficiently cleared out the river. Unfortunately, there’s no sign that the police are at all interested in catching the perpetrators, or we would have gladly dropped off the hard drives so they could see if any identifying details could be retrieved.

Fishing expedition

If only all my sadfaces were so immediately effective. I wonder if the anglers might also be interested in building cycle lanes?

*Despite rumours to the contrary, it is not a statutory requirement that I be in the paper every week although my role in the Bigtown cycle campaign means I do seem to have to do more than my fair share of Angry People in Local Newspapers poses.


Hare Brained

April 27, 2017

As spring (or ‘spring’, as it’s been rebranded after the last couple of days of icy winds and the odd shower of is that … snow?) advances, the garden is slowly revealing itself. Or at least, what survives of the garden after, apparently, ten years of neglect and rampant chickens, if our neighbours’ stories of the previous owners are anything to go by. Probably not plants that are going to need a whole lot of cosseting to survive.

Dicentra formosa

Dicentra formosa (according to Professor Google) which has popped up in one of the bits down to be managed by strimmer…

There’s a lot of it, so my strategy was to try and identify which bits of the garden I would try and change this year, which bits I would try to maintain as they are, and which bits would be left to be managed by strimmer until we have decided what to do with them and have the time to take them on.

hare hiding

spot the hare

Since the advent of the junior hare, however, the garden has been reclassified into ‘hare habitat’ and ‘non-hare habitat’. The hare, being downright adorable, gets to have whichever bits of the garden it likes to sit in (currently: under a pile of willow sticks that were going to be burnt, in a clump of weeds by a wall that were going to be weeded, next to the bench where we like to have our coffee in the sunshine, and tucked into a huge clump of grass beside an old tree stump where it has created a hare-shaped hole (technically a ‘form’). I’ve managed to retain the veg patch, the front lawn and, so far, the house although if it wanted to come in, I can’t imagine us denying it.

hare form

Hare-shaped hole in the grass

So the gardening will be somewhat patchy this year – but we’re not complaining. When the hare is around, and visible from the windows in the house, it’s actually quite hard to tear yourself away in case it does something extra cute like scratch its nose, pull down its ears to nibble at the tips of them, or stretch out one or more of its improbably long legs before settling down to look inscrutable again in its chosen spot.

hare in weeds

hare, what hare?

It’s also quite hard to go out to the garage for more fuel for the fire, or do any gardening, or generally do anything, without scaring it off, so we’ve been reduced to walking the long way around the house to the garage, or practising our special nonchalant ‘hare, what hare?’ walk as we skirt past it as unobtrusively and unscarily as possible.

hare running away

Sometimes this works better than others.

Hares aren’t territorial, so we know that this one is really only visiting and eventually it will move on and we will get full access to our garden again. But gosh we’ll be sad to see it go …