Orange is the Warmest Colour

November 2, 2018

Gosh, it’s been a bit quiet here, hasn’t it? Somehow the week ran away with me without anything too blogworthy happening, although I did witness a sheep-related miracle

Winter has also firmly arrived, forcing us to turn on the heating properly and also finally get around to installing some foil behind the radiators that are sitting on outside walls. This is probably of marginal benefit, but comes under the heading of ‘might as well’ – especially when I realised it gave me the chance to use that fabled substance from my Blue-Peter watching youth, double-sided sticky tape.*

morning sunshine

So far the weather has been erring on the cold and sparkly side, which is how I like my winters. This has led to another revelation. It turns out that cork-lining your study (and possibly also painting it orange – the brain is a funny thing) does seem to have an appreciable affect on how warm it is, or at least feels. There have been mornings when the sun has been pouring in and I have actually had to not only remove my woolly freelancer hat but also my outermost jumper and I was still Too Warm.

This is marvellous.

This afternoon I’m off to Edinburgh and then Dundee, before briefly returning home and then heading out to Stirling again, all in the name of stirring up trouble. This could mean much more frequent updates or it could mean more radio silence – keep tuning in to find out which.

* Sadly, in practice, this comes firmly under the heading of ‘never meet your childhood idols’ as it turns out that it’s fiddly and annoying to use, and not particularly brilliant at sticking things to other things, at least the brands we used.

Cold Snap

November 21, 2016

frozen puddle

I don’t know why I should be surprised – cold weather in Scotland in November,* shock horror – but even given the fact it has already snowed this month, I wasn’t expecting to wake up to temperatures of -5C this morning and neither was the poor olive tree which I still hadn’t got around to moving to the warmer climes of our porch last night. Hopefully the olive tree will wake up from its cryogenic adventure – apparently they are tougher than you might think, especially if they have been watered before they get frozen which is not a problem around here. And nor have I put the ice tyres on my bike yet, so stop asking.**

This lunchtime, once the road had safely thawed out, I headed off for the paper to discover the OTHER big disadvantage of living two-thirds of the way up a long hill, which is that when you don’t need to turn a pedal for the first ten minutes of your ride, you get very, very cold. As in cold enough to make your eyeballs ache, which is a new one on me. Looking on the bright side, I also arrived home considerably less sweaty than I usually am after tackling the chief disadvantage of living two-thirds of the way up a long hill.

olive treeI do remind myself every morning to take a moment to appreciate the views (when we can see them) because I suspect that this winter I will be regularly paying the price for our wonderfully exposed position. Even as I write, the latest weather warning is rattling the windows, but the woodburner is doing its stuff and the olive tree is safely tucked up in its winter quarters and so, for now, am I.

*especially as the Met Office has already predicted a colder than average three months, in this genuinely interesting if somewhat cagey article – I’d heard of El Nino and La Nina, and the polar vortex, but the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation was a new one on me. No mention of the weather gods, though, for some reason

** Although come to think of it, that may be the very thing we need to reverse polar vortex and unleash the Quasi-Biennial Oscillation, and return us to milder winter weather.

I’m not Saying it’s All the Fault of Brexit

June 30, 2016

… but there was a cold wind blowing from the south on Friday and it seems to have brought nothing but rain, cold and almost autumnal gloom with it.

Yesterday I ended up drenched cycling home

(and no, I’ve not lived in the western half of Scotland for long enough to consider summer’s ‘slightly warmer rain’ much of an improvement over the freezing stuff we get in the winter)

Today it was at least dry outside – but without the Rayburn to dry everything my gloves, jacket and boots were still pretty sodden, so it was time for desperate measures.

The referendum fallout doesn’t get any better (although at least the Tories are now stabbing each other in the back just as enthusiastically as Labour are), but I’ve decided to try and ignore it as best I can. I know that’s a luxury that many don’t have – but hopefully the country will soon get its sense of humour and proportion back, if nothing else.

To help it on its way, have a heartwarming story of a man rescuing a lamb. You’re welcome.

(In an emergency you may also need this)

OK, I will admit…

December 2, 2013

That suffering from a cold + December drizzle + bi-directional headwind + frozen toes = a less than pleasant experience on the bike this morning (they can’t ALL be wonderful I suppose). If Saturday’s ride was a restorative, today’s was more of a ‘it will be lovely when it stops’ affair – and, indeed, when I did stop and got in and retrieved my jumper which I had left warming on the Rayburn it was lovely. There’s nothing like going out and getting frozen for making the house feel warm – and it’s cheaper than turning on the heating.*

* ‘Have you been writing in to the Guardian?’ the other half asked this weekend as he came across this


July 2, 2013

I suppose it had to happen eventually. There’s been a bit of a lifestyle change at the Townmouse household recently, with the other half – despite his best efforts – becoming gainfully employed in a proper job, the kind you have to go to five days a week, eight hours a day, which seems a bit harsh, frankly, after having spent the last few years pottering. This means that I’ve gone from being someone who voluntarily gets on her bike in order to pick up a paper or go into town, to being someone who has to get on her bike if she wants a paper or to get into town because she doesn’t have access to any other means of transport. Whatever the weather. Now, most of the time I do that anyway, but I have to admit that if it’s a busy day and it’s sheeting down and the other half offers to drive down then generally I take him up on that offer.

Up until today, I’ve been reasonably lucky. A miraculously dry June has meant that in the last month I’ve not suffered more than a bit of drizzle. This morning, that luck ran out. It was a drizzly start and I considered postponing to see if it would improve but the weather forecast was fairly insistent that the rain would only get heavier, and the cat barometer concurred with the cat reading ‘curled up asleep all day on the sofa, wake me if it floods’. So I thought I’d nip out while it was still drizzling only for the ‘rain getting heavier’ part to start happening before I was half a mile down the road. I’d go on and describe it in more detail but I find I’ve said all I want to say about cycling in the rain already so you can just go and read it there.

They say it’s going to warm up soon – I certainly hope so. We’ve got the woodburner going this evening, my red onions have bolted, and I was stymied by a recipe this afternoon that suggested I place the dough ‘in a warm corner of the kitchen’ to prove. I ended up sticking it on top of the computer as that would appear to be the only source of warmth there was in the house…

Wood You?

February 2, 2012

Hmm. I’m pretty sure that it was barely yesterday that we took delivery of three cubic metres of wood which we hoped would – along with the wood we’d gathered ourselves – not just last us out the winter but also give us some spare. How naive we were. It turns out that once you’ve got the woodburner going most of the time and have got used to such luxuries as not being miserably cold most of the time, the wood just sort of melts away. We’ve still got one stack of wood – which is outside under a tarp to try and get it a bit dryer as, when it comes to buying firewood there’s ‘seasoned’ hardwood, and then there’s actual seasoned hardwood, which – like the fabled towers of Shangri-la – is often talked about but very rarely available for purchase. At the present rate of progress, it’s not going to last us that long so we’ve just bought and stacked another trailer-load which ideally we’d be burning in October but I suspect we’ll dip into before spring fully arrives.

Part of the problem, paradoxically, is that the winter has so far been mild enough that what with the Rayburn going as well, we still haven’t really used the central heating this winter so the stove has been our primary source of heating. This should mean that the total cost of heating this year is much lower than before we got the stove (and for a much warmer house, or at least sitting room) but it does raise the question of when do we turn the heating on at all. Last year we didn’t run it at all in the evening, but we did in the mornings because it’s just no fun showering in a bathroom cold enough to generate its own bank of freezing fog. This year we’ve had to make a decision on a case by case basis. At first I thought that if it dropped below freezing outside we’d probably want the heating on but actually we’ve survived a few frosty nights without suffering too much. This morning, though, it was -5°C when we got up and we decided it was time to burn some oil. The conditions in the bathroom suggested a fairly simple ‘should we turn the heating on’ algorithm we can use: if there’s ice on the inside of the windows when we wake up? The heating goes on.

Wardrobe Malfunction

October 21, 2011

With the return of the cold mornings, it’s been time to start warming my clothes on the Rayburn before getting into them. And, as night follows day, remembering too late that anything with metal on it (such as, to pick an example at random, a bra clasp) should not be allowed to get too hot…

Then, as if to emphasise that I shouldn’t really be allowed out on my own, I lost yet another glove in town yesterday. However, I did at least manage to lose the right one, so the number of functioning pairs of gloves I have – at least if you don’t look too closely at them – is still one. Ha! This counts as competent in my book.

You’d never know I used to hold down an actual proper job, would you?

Those Winter Hardy Cabbages?

January 4, 2011

… turns out they’re not hardy to -18°C, or whatever it was we missed.

The broccoli’s not looking too clever either, although I think it will survive

In fact, the frost even felled the water butt. The ice bowed out the base and turned it into a giant Weeble, without the ‘won’t fall down’ bit.

In fact the whole garden is looking pretty blah. I think the ground might have thawed enough to put a fork in, and I’ve digging still to do but today? Somehow I just didn’t fancy it.

How’s your garden looking?

Bullet Dodged

January 3, 2011

Hmmm. All the conversations we’ve had since we got back locally have followed the same form. Once we have wished each other a happy new year, compared Christmas celebrations and so on, the discussion turns to the weather we missed while we were in Colorado. It’s been beautiful, sure, but it’s been absolutely bloody freezing. The lowest temperature recorded has been variously described as -12, -15 and -18°C, and if the huge chunks of ice which are still hanging about on the edge of the rivers are anything to go by those may be underestimates. Then there are the disasters, so far totalling three sets of frozen pipes (including one frozen toilet, complete with evidence of its last use entombed ice-age mammoth style in the bowl), one crashed van and three dead chickens (to put this into persepctive, we’ve only seen four people since we got back). And us? Well everything in the house has been fine, and seeing as we’ve been living for the last three years in the third coldest house in Christendom (the first and second being my parents’ last two residences) I find this a bit baffling. Add in our miraculous journeys to and from the States, dodging Snowmaggeddons at every turn and it’s beginning to look as if the Weather Gods’ vendetta against me is finally easing off, don’t you think?

In which case, now would probably be an excellent time to go up onto the roof and remove that New Year Banner before the wind gets any worse…

Back in a tick.

Cold and Colderer

November 25, 2010

Every time it has got colder this autumn (although surely it must be winter by now, no?) I think ah, yes, this is what it means to be cold. What I thought was cold before was mere chilliness, a slight nip in the air, no more than brisk autumn weather. Now it is really, properly cold. This is what winter is really all about…

…and then it gets colder again. Now last night, that really was properly cold. A fine, dry night floodlit by the moon which meant I cycled home from choir with my shadow running faintly beside me but blimey it was cold. I had failed to tuck my trousers into my socks and the chill started at my ankles and went deep into my bones. It was too cold to cycle fast because of the wind and too cold to cycle slowly and I got home shivering and grateful for the fire. And then today in the garden, my fingers didn’t so much go numb as feel as though someone had hit them with a hammer and the laundry all but freeze-dried on the line. This is cold, I thought. This is what winter feels like…

… and then I remembered that last winter there were days when I wasn’t able to get a fork in the ground and the river all but froze over and I wouldn’t have ventured out anywhere without longjohns tucked into two pairs of socks, cycling or not cycling. And I’ve decided I’d better just put another log in the stove and settle down to enjoy this balmy autumn weather while it lasts…