Birthday, Observed

September 29, 2019

Fifty and fabulous

I have occasionally been likened to the Queen in the past, more for my habit of not carrying any money on me than because of any truly regal qualities – but this year I seem to have added another, that of having two birthdays. The problem is that while I actually turned 50 in March this year (and, by spending the last day of my 40s climbing Slieve Donard, ensured that I more than felt my age), I didn’t formally mark the occasion (through my Anniversaire) until this weekend so that others who are more busy than me could join in …

This has proved more complicated than can really be explained in a tweet, leading to an undeserved wave of birthday wishes, but I decided in the end it was easier just to roll with it, especially when most of the day was spent having a glorious time with friends on bikes in what might very well be the last gasp of summer, leaving me no time to reply to any tweets.

As usual, chatting, cycling, navigating and eating took precedence over taking photos, but I was reminded (as I always am when I take visitors around on bikes) just what gorgeous cycling we have in the area.*

View from th top of a climb

Possibly it was a mistake to make the second leg the hilliest and most challenging stretch – but it allowed us to inspect the ford, which is always important.

ford  inspection

We also discovered that Noticeboard Tree has been upgraded to an actual noticeboard, and very smart it looks too. The ‘Teas’ sign underneath it will require further investigation …

new noticeboard

We ended with what we hoped would be a visit to the local community-run pub but, as is now traditional, it wasn’t open. Clearly the community only run the pub as and when they feel like it. Fortunately we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset instead, and besides there was beer at home.


I’m so glad I have hit on this way of celebrating my advancing years, and am determined to keep it up as long as I can – even if I have to switch to kilometres, buy an e-bike, or ultimately do it in stages.

Watch this space for 51 miles next year…

* This was brought home to me by the baffled looks on the Edinburgh contingents’ faces as I explained that I didn’t like cycling on one particular stretch of road because it was a bit busy. I think we’d been passed by about 5 cars in 15 minutes at that point …

Feeling My Age

September 23, 2018

So yesterday was the day of my Anniversaire – a 49 mile cycling jaunt with any similarly inclined friends who care to join me in celebrating another successful trip around the sun.

This was much improved by the fact that said sun actually put in an appearance, something that has not been a given in recent weeks.

anniversaire ride

It was also something of a nostalgia trip for me (if you can be nostalgic for the very recent past) as we revisited the back road to Papershop Village, reminding me just what a lovely ride that is.

road back from Papershop Village

We also paid due obeisance to the ford (to the slight bafflement of local friends who don’t actually read the blog):

inspecting the ford

I was a little worried I’d struggle this year because I have been suffering from sore quad muscles, apparently due to an unwise attempt to power up a sharp hill in top gear from a standing start a couple of days ago. But it turns out that if you take it slow enough you can still ride 49 miles with relative ease even when you can’t walk up and down stairs without making old person noises with every step.*

anniversaire ride

Even so, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself at mostly seeing off the ravages of time, up until I cycled into Bigtown this afternoon with Back on my Bike to meet an octogenarian for coffee and cycling chat. She was very polite about our epic 49-er before casually mentioning her cross-Canada cycle ride at 69 – and this summer’s 24-hour sponsored cycle challenge in which she ‘only’ managed 187 miles (not counting the ones she did on the turbo trainer in the village hall during the hours of darkness), while bemoaning the fact that the health and safety meanies had stopped her from doing her annual abseil down a local lighthouse for charity.

Clearly, I’ve got a way to go before anything I manage on a bike is in any way impressive to the average Bigtownshire senior citizen. Still, it’s good to have a stretch goal to aim for…

sunset finish

* I did better than my friend who, fresh from defying bears as she cycled epic distances over rough gravel in Newfoundland, was defeated by a broken station lift and spent the afternoon in agony in Carlisle station having put her back out carrying her bike up the stairs. Cycling, truly the way to a healthy and active middle age…

Turning Left in September

September 3, 2017

Alert readers may have noticed that I have not so far held my Anniversaire this year. This was not because I had given up in the face of the ever-increasing distance, but because this year I decided to join forces with my cycling partner in crime, and as both she and I are busy women, it took us a little time to actually schedule a date that we could both make. This weekend was that date – and fortunately St Swithin relented (almost) long enough for a few days of determinedly non-epic cycling, epic amounts of cake, and what must be the least epic camping possible.

Never ones to do things by halves, Suzanne and Lizzie arrived on the Friday evening by train, cycled with me to the house, and pitched their tents on our front lawn.* On Saturday, we cycled back down to Bigtown to pick up three more nutters who think that riding 48 miles for no reason other than to celebrate it not being my birthday was a good way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

group at the station, ready to set off

In order to fulfil my own daft microadventure rules, we also had to ride a new-to-me route – starting out along the route of my last adventure, but then turning left. Fortunately, the weather was much improved – I’m not sure I could have handled another day in the pouring rain, however good the company. Other than a new route the rest of it followed established protocol:

A stop at a cafe to refuel

cafe open

Enjoying the incredibly empty and picturesque backroads of Bigtownshire, something I never tire of sharing with people who haven’t cycled them yet

empty roads

Riding at the speed of chat (you know that the pace has gone awry when you can’t hear everyone yacking away as we pedal along), with plenty of stops along the way to admire the view, take off or put on layers as the sun went in and out, and check the map.


And most importantly, stuffing ourselves with tea and cake once we got home, before a final loop to mop up the crucial last mile.**

Apart from one short stretch of road, it was extremely pleasant all round – including an amazing 3-mile descent with just the right combination of steepness, bendiness, and lack-of-carness to make it a pure joy. It was perhaps a little bit too up-and-down to be completely chilled, and my legs are making sure to tell me all about it today whenever I need to go upstairs (or indeed get off the sofa), but I still feel that this is by far the most civilised way to mark the passing of the years, and I hope one that I will continue for as long as the years mount up.

anniversaire final figures

The final tally

Thank you to those who came and all who continue to indulge me in this endeavour …

* they were offered actual beds inside the actual house, but apparently they preferred sleeping outside in all their clothes to ward of hypothermia, because – okay, I never quite fathomed that part, but hey ho, takes all sorts and all that

** I had slightly miscalculated the distance, so we ended up with a final bit of off-road madness up the track behind our house to get the last 0.67 miles in. If I’d realised earlier, we could have made a slight detour to visit the ford. Maybe next year …

Moving On

June 26, 2016

I don’t think I’ve fully digested the impact of the EU referendum result yet – I don’t know that anyone has – but yesterday I had a welcome distraction in the form of my Anniversaire.

new house

Stopping for a sneak preview of the new house

chat and ride

Riding at the speed of chat


summer clouds

Frequent stops to ‘delaminate’ were needed as the weather switched between sunshine and showers

over the moor

Heading back over the hills

rolling home

Downhill (almost) all the way from here

curious cows

Wherever you stop in the country you tend to draw a curious crowd…

Good friends, good cycling, good chat and plentiful cake. I hope everyone else who’s worried about the future managed to have as excellent a weekend. When in doubt, ride a bike.

summer rainbow

Sadly the Weather Gods have resumed normal service, but even that did not dampen our spirits. Well, much.

A Few More Miles on the Clock

May 10, 2015

view looking west

As is now traditional (three years in a row is a tradition, right?), I celebrated 46 years on this planet yesterday by dragging along a few game souls for a 46-mile ride.

climbing to the top of a hill

We took it at an easy pace, with plenty of stops to admire the view at the top of the hills

Two beech trees

Ponder why it might be that one beech tree was almost in full leaf and one was still barely in bud

slow worm

Help slow worms across the road (something of a hobby of mine)

blethering at the waterfall

And, of course, have a blether

final GPS reading

In the end I overshot somewhat, but I wasn’t complaining.

blue skies

With thanks to the Weather Gods who decided to wait until today before unleashing rain and gales upon us.

As it Turns Out, it Was we Who Ate All the Pies

May 31, 2014

Well, I don’t know quite what happened there, but through some existential mix up with the weather gods we had the most glorious weather today, despite the fact that I had invited a bunch of people from all corners of the country to join me on a 45-mile ride. And despite the best efforts of my bike to scupper the outing by getting its chain jammed all but irrevocably behind the cogs, we made it to our lunch stop in reasonable time, where the ordering got a little complicated as we totally cleaned them out of pies.

setting off from the train station

Then it was over the hills and far away, via Papershop Village (naturally) to home, where they all but cleaned me out of cake.

cake remnants

And then, for the die hards, we did the final loop around the reservoir to make up the last miles and enjoy one of my favourite rides of all time, although now sadly bereft of its statues after one of them got nicked last year.

road ahead

All in all a good day’s riding, although by the time I’d ridden up the road and back to see some of my guests off I found I’d overshot a little…

GPS reading - 46 miles

There are worse mistakes to make. And worse ways to mark the passage of the years.

Anyone else make a point of riding their age?