March 26, 2013

I really wasn’t expecting much of my ride to the papershop this morning. To be honest, I was only going out to see whether the snow had been flattened down enough that I could pick my way through the worst bits and I was fully expecting to have to turn round long before I’d got anywhere near Papershop village but look!

wall of snow

It was very odd to be cycling between walls of snow, head high in places, especially with the hillsides mostly green and free of the stuff. It seems all the roads around have been ploughed, even the ford road (scraping off several years’ accumulation of mud and vegetation in the process). It’s narrow though – exactly a vehicle’s width in most places. A couple of times I had to tuck myself into a niche in the snow to let an oncoming vehicle through – and had a nice chat with the white van man who stopped to wind down his window to say thank you. For once round here the bike really was the quicker option, once you factor in reversing half a mile to find a space where two cars can pass…

I’m not the only one who prefers to make direct contact with the ground, picking her way very carefully through the deeper bits of snow …

cat and snow

Although I noticed that when she thought there was a mouse to hunt, she forgot all about it

cat footprints

In other news, it’s been trying to snow all day, but I’m ignoring it.

Egging them on

January 12, 2012

blah blah blah

So I learned yesterday that 350 people on bikes and on foot on a rawish January Wednesday lunchtime is enough to winkle a transport minister out of his office … but not really enough to make him change his mind. From what I could hear of Keith Brown’s response it was along the lines of ‘well it’s nice to see lots of people passionate about their little single issue, and we’d love to give you more money but we grown up politicians have to make difficult decisions and besides those bastards at Westminster have cut our funding but never mind there’s lots of other sources of money that may help encourage cycling (if we’re not squandering it all on electric cars) if you don’t mind a pig in a poke and besides, you never know, the councils may step into the breach…’ (I may have paraphrased a little).

So was it a waste of time? Well, the BBC covered it reasonably well, these things have to start small, and if what’s going on in London is anything to go by they can grow until they’re unignorable. As with so many of these things, aside from posing for the cheesy photos (‘can everyone hold their helmet up in the air please’ … er…), most people spent their time catching up with other bikey people and meeting new ones. It’s out of that kind of networking that real movements can grow up, if people are angry enough. Watch this space.

The other thing I learned yesterday was as I stood outside Laid Back Bikes in Marchmont Crescent, waiting to mount my lovely borrowed Paper Bike (more on this tomorrow) to ride it down to the demonstration. A car roared past, there was a shout and an egg came flying past to break against the glass of the shop window – missing me, fortunately, as I was in my grey wool cycle chic coat, not my everything-bar-the-apocalypse jacket. Now Laid Back Bikes, as its name suggests, specialises mainly in recumbents, the Paper Bike being a bit of a new direction. I knew that some people find recumbents and their wee flags a little odd, but I didn’t realise the hostility had grown to the point of drive-by eggings. And in Edinburgh, too! What would they do to them in Glasgow?

Oh, and if anyone’s wondering, there were no Socialist Worker placards, although there were some lovely pre-prepared ones for the disorganised all the same. It looks like the end times really are upon us…

Bike Bingo

September 19, 2011

Right, I’ve been in the Netherlands for less than a day and already I’ve got my Dutch bicycling bingo card almost full: Bike with flowers in the basket? check! Old guy cycling along at a stately pace with his knees out, waving at his friends? check! Other old guy on a sit-up-and-beg bike with tri bars out the front (it’s for the headwinds, you know)? check! Gaggle of teenagers cycling five abreast while texting each other? check! Dude cycling along bolt upright with his hands in his pockets? check! Girl on a bike with crutches? check! Implausibly cute apple-cheeked baby carried on a sling by Dad on a bike? check! Stations stuffed full of bikes, bikes tethered to railings by canals, bikes with beer crates on the back, bikes with teenagers riding sidesaddle on the rack, bikes with adults riding sidesaddle on the rack, cargo bikes, delivery bikes, folding bikes, bikes, bikes, bikes … check, check, check, check, check. We even saw a guy in full lycra and a helmet, because truly there is every kind of bicycle imaginable. I’m sorry, I think I’ve gone a bit delirious.

I hope to post something a little more coherent later, but so far the Netherlands is proving to be exactly as I imagined it only a little bit more so. Though my B&B is right next to a motorway, so it’s not quite Nirvana yet…

Mad Dogs and Ecossais

July 19, 2011

So we’re sitting outside the local cafe, about half way through lunch (course three of five, coffee and wine included)* when the rain rolls in as it has been rolling in at regular intervals since the weather gods got wind of our whereabouts on about day three of our trip. At first the other diners simply huddled closer until the wind started flinging the rain water that had pooled on the canopy onto the outer tables and then, one by one gave up and fled indoors. All except us, of course, although fortunately we’d bagged the one relatively rain-proof outdoor spot, and besides I was in my everything-bar-the-apocalypse-proof jacket. The proprietor even came out to apologise for the weather but I managed to summon enough French to explain that we lived in Scotland and this was normal where we came from.

it followed me home, can I keep it?

Actually, the real reason we were sitting outside was that the other half has been doing a bit of impulse shopping. We had gone back to the bike-rental place to return one bike (I’m borrowing my sister’s) and discuss extending the rental on the other one. As we walked into the office we couldn’t help but clock the beautiful old-school racing bike leant up against the desk and asked if it belonged to the guy behind it. No, he said, it was for sale. How much? “Cent Euro.”

Well, what would you have done? Given that renting a fairly plodding mountain bike for the remainder of our stay would have cost 70 Euros, the fact that we have absolutely no idea how to get it home on the TGV and Eurostar, not to mention Virgin Trains, paled into insignificance. The bike is as close to weighing almost nothing as it’s possible for a bike to be, it appears to have barely been ridden, at least recently, and it looked as out of place among the rest of the rental stock as a thoroughbred in a field of donkeys. We couldn’t leave it there. I was reminded of the holidays as a child when I had spent all week befriending some appealing-looking stray dog and pleading with my parents to let me take it home with us. So now we are the owners of a fine French racing bike and a bit of a logistical problem, but at least the bike won’t have to spend six months in quarantine and the other half has suddenly rediscovered his interest in cycling.

The one fly in the ointment is that we don’t have a decent lock (apart from anything else it would double the weight) so that means all our dining will have to take place al fresco, rain or no rain, while we keep an eye on it.

Oh, and it has magical properties too: it makes the other half disappear into a rapidly-diminishing dot on the horizon.

I think that’s a sight I’m increasingly going to have to get used to, once we get it home.

*This came highly recommended as the place where all the local workmen gathered for lunch. It was certainly good value, but I wonder if French tourists eagerly seek out the sort of greasy spoon which would be the English or Scottish equivalent, and what they would make of it if they did**

** That said, the egg, bacon and black pudding roll for £2 at the cafe at the Bigtown industrial estate not only comes highly recommended but probably also costs about the same, calorie per calorie, as our lunch. Fine dining indeed.