Kill or Cure

March 6, 2017

The thing I really needed to happen this week was for someone to discover an extra day between Tuesday and Wednesday so I can actually manage to get all the things done I need to in time. The thing I really didn’t need to happen was me catching the other half’s cold, so naturally that’s the thing that did happen, although I’m still hoping the magic of cycling will see it off.

Of course for cycling to work properly, you have to not just go out on a bike, but get miserably cold and drenched, at least that’s my theory* and ordinarily, you can rely on the Weather Gods to serve up that sort of weather without too much problem. So I should probably have been unhappy at the fact that during today’s paper run, the only rain I got was the tiniest of sprinklings and a fragment of rainbow, and the rest was just surprisingly warm spring sunshine – not enough to see off even the feeblest of rhinoviruses.

fragment of rainbow

Rainbow posed by model as this was actually yesterday’s rainbow.

Still, maybe the vitamin D will do it instead, although I don’t think the sun’s quite high in the sky to generate useful amounts yet. I took my cap off all the same, and cycled along bare headed just in case. It might not be doing much for my vitamin levels, but it did feel good to have some sun on my skin.

In other news, the daffodils are almost out.

daffodils almost out
* I suspect that, like most cold remedies, it will simply serve to cut down the duration of the cold from a whole week to just seven days.


Someday my Bus will Come

March 4, 2017

So today I had to make it out to the Wild West which meant just your average multi-modal rural journey: six miles by bike (with a small portion of a popup bookshop in my Brompton’s basket) down to Big A Road, bus to Notso Bigtown, and then a lift onwards. After extensive consultation of the bus timetables, maps and Google Streetview (to check if there was a bus stop where I was planning to catch the bus – I have seriously no idea why I ever thought Google Streetview was a gimmick; I can’t imagine life without it now), I was fairly certain that I could make it in time although, as the next bus wasn’t for an hour, if I missed the first one it would actually end up being quicker just to cycle to Notso Bigtown, even with half a ton of books in the front basket.

on the road

bus stopThere’s an argument (I’ve made it myself from time to time) that more cycling could be the salvation of the rural bus service because the effective radius of a bike means that you can generally get away with taking just one bus instead of two,* and because buses can then take you further more quickly and on much scarier roads than you can comfortably manage on a bike. But then again, once you’re standing at a deserted rural bus stop with no timetable and no shelter and no indication of how you might know if you had missed the bus if you had missed it, then really nothing does seem more unlikely than the arrival of a rural bus.

Which is unfair, because the bus arrived bang on time and I even had time on the way to stop and photograph some sheep (I really will keep on posting photos of sheep here until you tell me that you’ve seen enough…).

reflective sheep

And while it will still never be my preferred mode of transport for any journey where I can feasibly ride a bike, as a writer I probably should try and spend more time on local buses. In London, when I was writing my old blog, I was continually confronted by people and little glimpses of their stories, intriguing enough at times to spark an idea or bring a character to life. This morning as we passed through one of the intervening villages, the bus picked up a cheery middle-aged woman who explained her leather jacket, eyeliner and semi-punk hairdo to the driver as she got on (I am guessing this was not her normal get up): “We all had to dress up as someone from the eighties and this was the nearest I could get to Siousxie and the Banshees. Or Siousxie and the Banshees with a shopping trolley in my case.”

You never get that kind of quality comment from a sheep.

* having to co-ordinate two rural buses turns a not-madly-convenient-but-doable journey into the sort of epic travelogue people write books about – the publishers surely only turned down Dervla Murphy’s ‘Across Galloway by Public Transport’ idea down on the grounds that it was clearly impossible and they couldn’t be responsible for sending someone off on such a fool’s errand.


Keeping Sunny

March 3, 2017

So this week it happened: a confluence of Pedal on Parliament planning, clashing work deadlines, impending weekend activities and general life stuff meant I had no time between Monday and today to ride my bike, even just to get somewhere, let alone go on a nice bike ride. I even had to hand over paper-fetching duties to the other half, as he was going into town anyway, as I couldn’t justify the time taken to cycle into Bigtown, which is a ninety minute round trip at the best of times.

Today, with deadlines still looming, I had a meeting in town so at least I had an excuse to get on the bike after four days of enforced inactivity. And of course, as soon as I did and got onto the B road, a driver in a four-by-four did their very best to make me regret it by passing fast and close on a bend because clearly a nanosecond’s delay in their Very Important Journey was worth forcing me onto the potholey edge of the road.

But I wasn’t going to let one extremely poorly-endowed driver, nor the four drivers following on behind who also decided to pass me a little bit closer than I would prefer, ruin my only bike ride in days. Indeed, as I got off the B-road and onto the single track roads, I did note when a white van driver waited behind me until I’d looked over my shoulder, and reached a wider part of the road, before passing with plenty of room. And when I came across him parked up at the site of the exciting road works, I stopped and let him know that it was appreciated. Yes, it’s no more than any driver should do, but sometimes you’ve got to spread the love for the people who do the right thing and he was pleased to be thanked.

After that I concentrated on enjoying the ride and all the little positive interactions I enjoyed: from the older chap who said ‘thanking you’ as I rang my bell before passing him on the bridge to the little toddler full of the joys of spring on the river path, whose grandad just gently ushered her out of the way so I could (slowly) pass, rather than snatching her to his bosom at the sight of the Dread Cyclist.

daffodils

The daffodils have not emerged in our garden yet but the ones lower down the hill are out, if not particularly well focused (I was too lazy to get off my bike and photograph them properly). It will be interesting to see how long it takes for actual spring, as measured in daffs, to work its way up to us. How long my new found positivity lasts under the onslaught of careless driving is another question.


Half Cut

March 1, 2017

One of the plants we inherited in the garden is a corkscrew hazel. Or rather, a corkscrewish hazel, because over the years, the non-corkscrewing bit has clearly been allowed to grow and has started to take over.

corkscrew hazel

I was in two minds about what to do about this. If you want to keep the corkscrew form, you need to cut out the straight growth. On the whole, I wasn’t much of a fan of these contorted forms and a proper coppice that produced actual hazelnuts might have been preferable, so I was considering just leaving it. But I’ve since been hatching a plan to produce a hare-proof edge for my new vegetable plot and some hazel stakes and sticks wouldn’t go amiss as part of that plan. And clearly, straight stakes are preferable to corkscrew ones, so that made my mind up: the normal growth was for the chop.

corkscrew hazel after pruning

Actually, now that it’s been cut, I’m beginning to see the appeal

hazel sticks

I have a cunning plan for these, watch this space

And we have exciting* piles of sticks for use in the hare-defences.

Other interlopers will not be as easily repelled

ground elder

Aaargh

* In the very specific meaning of the word ‘exciting’ as used in this blog


Spring has … ah

February 27, 2017

So I was hanging out the washing this morning, listening to all the birds out there singing their feathery little heads off, and noting how the sun has finally inched its way up in the sky to the point where it reaches over the top of the roof and so can help dry the laundry. And I was thinking that, these days, spring tends to invoke a sense of impending panic as much as anything else, what with Pedal on Parliament and now Walk Cycle Vote and never even mind the veg plot. Having a garden, fantastic as it may be for one’s mental health, does nothing but intensify the feeling of time galloping past with too much to do and not enough time to do it in.

However, this morning, I didn’t feel quite so much panic as I probably should. It’s not that everything is under control, exactly, but I’m just trying to deal with it. PoP is run under anarchist collective lines, which means there’s really no point trying to draw up any sort of detailed plan for anything, you just have to go with it; as a kill-or-cure treatment for control freakery and terminal anxiety it is highly recommended. And it probably helps that the garden is still under wraps and the longer I leave it there, the better it will probably be (technically, I should probably sit out the whole growing season to get rid of the worst perennial weeds but I’m not sure I can face another 12 months of staring at what is becoming increasingly manky carpet*). So I went inside to start work, happy to celebrate the impending arrival of spring, rather than try and push it back into its box until I was ready for it.

And then I looked up an hour or so later and noticed it was snowing.

*Indeed some of it seems to have got into the spirit of the thing and has started to go green


Turning Left in Aberdeen

February 25, 2017

The problem with going off to Aberdeen to talk about cycling and listen to the stories of way more adventurous cyclists than me, is that it then seems a bit feeble to have almost reached the end of February and not even managed my one modest adventuring ambition for the month. But fortunately Back on my Bike & I had a spare* morning before our train home, and we both had bikes, so, although her idea of an adventure is also much more adventurous than mine (frankly, everyone’s idea of an adventure is more adventurous than mine) she humoured me in my suggestion that we do a little routefinding of our own today.

start of the Deeside way

Without an Ordnance Survey map, we chose a route that only we could manage to get lost on – the Deeside way (despite the sign, turning left did not get you to Peterculter…).

Deeside way

That slight hiccup aside, it was all very pleasant, and the weather was kind.

blue skies

It’s rare to see other modes asked to dismount …

I’m beginning to gain the erroneous impression that it’s always sunny in Aberdeen. Don’t disillusion me.

ex station building

The only fly in the ointment was that nobody had turned one of the many little stations still dotted along the route into a cafe serving coffee and cake. Honestly, what were they thinking?

sign about the end of the Deeside wayAlso the end of the path seems to be being turned into the Aberdeen bypass, so we never did reach Peterculter, wherever or whatever Peterculter is. We could have followed the diversion, but by this time the lack of coffee shops was beginning to tell so we headed back for the station where Aberdeen almost passed the ‘can Sally and Suzanne navigate its cycle routes by following the signs’ test – foiled only by the fact that the cycle route to the station meant going through a door into the multi storey car park. I’ve seen all sorts of barriers on cycle routes before, but a door is a new one on me (apart from the lift to the Tay Bridge, I suppose).

bucket of coffee

You know your coffee is large when it requires both hands to lift it…

After extensively recaffienating (yes, I know, Costa; we would have visited a lovely independent coffee shop had one obligingly presented itself along the way but it didn’t) it was time to get back on the train

bikes on the train

And ignore some of the loveliest views from a train window as we caught up with all the things we should have been doing instead of gadding about on our bikes.

view from the train

So that’s January and February done – just got to find time and pick a route for March…

* As in there were a billion things we could both productively be doing instead but we had examined our schedules and our consciences and decided that as long as we both worked solidly 24 hours a day for the next two months, we could spare a couple of hours to go for a bike ride.


Time and Motion

February 23, 2017

So I’m gadding about again tomorrow, back to Aberdeen to talk about the Women’s Cycle Forum  so naturally I was still writing my presentation at the last minute. Well, I say writing, but my tactic with giving presentations is to throw together a lot of slides with images that illustrate what I want to say, and then stand in front of them and just wing it, because I’ve spent way too many hours of my life listening to a man in a suit reading his Powerpoint slides to us. It generally makes for an amusing,* if occasionally a bit random, presentation but it does take forever to create the slides, as I worked out this evening

pie_chart
Anyway, if you want to find out whether I ever did track down that image of a princess doll in a ball dress on a toy bike with a cup holder** that I thought was a celebration of cycle chic and everyone else on Twitter thought was the worst case of pinking it and shrinking it they’d seen in ages, then get yourselves along to Aberdeen to hear from a couple of awesome cycling women, and me.

* At least I hope it’s amusing. People laugh, anyway, and you don’t always get that in road safety conferences.

** Spoiler alert: I didn’t