Eats, Shoots and Leaves*

March 16, 2016

I was in a sandwich shop in Bigtown yesterday waiting for my order of mini donuts to finish frying, as you do, and the proprietor was feeling chatty. In the time it takes for a dozen small roundels of sweet dough to float across a moat of boiling oil and be flung into a pile of sugar,** he, I and the other customer in the shop had covered the habits of Bigtown’s seagulls (not as voracious as they’re cracked up to be), the qualifications and experiences needed for a career in medical administration, the perils of running a small literary magazine, and the correct use and distinction between a semi colon and a colon.

It was only afterwards, as I biked my hot donuts post-haste to my destination, where we were to put together the next issue of the Fankle (Errandonneering ride 12 – hooray – Arts and entertainment), that it was a sign that I have begun to go native. Certainly when I had just come up from London there is no way on God’s earth that I would have answered a question like ‘so what are you getting up to this afternoon’ from a shopkeeper with anything but the blandest of responses, let alone attempt to elucidate the finer points of punctuation by way of a follow up (he was the one who brought it up, I must point out; I didn’t start it).

Of course, that’s partly because, for the first year or so at least, every conversation I had with a native of Bigtown sounded like this

Oh, and the mini donuts were absolutely delicious.

* with thanks to Paul M on Twitter for the post title

** None of your Krispy Kreme nonsense here – go on, you know you want some.

Contradicting Myself

March 12, 2016

‘Have you given up blogging then?’, the other half was asking me today (although I’m not as funny as I was in 2005, he still checks regularly, just in case the quality has improved). The truth is, I’ve been simply too busy to blog (it’s funny that this was never a problem back when I had a full time job but hey ho, that’s the joy of ‘downshifting’) although I did manage to hammer out this to help the Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative celebrate their women in cycling month and promote Pedal on Parliament to boot (you are all coming to POP aren’t you? I mean, those of you who live within a reasonable distance of Scotland. Or even those of you who don’t).

Of course, having happily written a whole guest blog about how one of the things preventing women from cycling is having to run errands that make using a bike more complicated, I’m now going to completely contradict myself – for me it’s running errands that actually gets me out on the bike in the first place. In fact in times like this, if it wasn’t for having to go and cycle for the paper or into town, I’d probably never leave the kitchen and I’d be climbing the walls by the end of the week.

papershop run

Errand six: papershop run. Distance – 11 miles, category – store, observation – however many times it happens, you *never* notice a tailwind until you turn around and it becomes a headwind

Of course, because it’s errandonneering time, I can’t *just* go and get the paper – I have to think up other categories of things to do. This made Thursday a little tricky until I had the sudden genius idea of dropping off some POP flyers with a contact in the Coonsil. I also took the time to follow my own advice and say something nice to the Coonsil sustainable travel officer, which took him by surprise…

Bike at Coonsil offices

Errand seven: Coonsil office. Distance 8 miles, category – non-store errand, observation – sometimes the carrot works better than the stick. Although I reserve the right to get out the stick again when the Coonsil are being useless.

But that wasn’t all. As part of We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote, we’re asking people to post selfies (again) in their local area in Scotland, saying what they’d vote for. Having already established that I can’t take a selfie, let along a selfie while holding a sign AND enough of the surrounding area to make it clear where you are, I headed to my chosen spot (the Burns statue on Bigtown’s High Street) and then looked around for someone who would help me with a bit of social media campaigning. After the first chap I tried decided to tell my his life story by way of explaining why he couldn’t take a photo of me with my phone (is it something in my face that encourages this? A simple ‘no’ would have sufficed), the chap sitting next to him on the bench took pity on me and helped out. And yes, you can’t actually read my sign, but I wasn’t about to complain.

Errand eight: selfie tweeting. Distance 8 miles (at least, by the time I’d got home again), category – wild card, observation – Burns was a keen proponent of active travel, having walked several miles to get to a pub when he was stuck out at Brow Well in the middle of nowhere supposedly taking the waters. As it was taking the waters by wading out into the Solway Firth in January that finished him off, this might have been a sound move had he actually stayed in the pub.

Friday was another trip, this time to Edinburgh, but because of the shortage of time, I’m afraid I got a lift in the car. I did have the Brompton though, so I managed a multimodal ride to and from the the station to the training course where I was sharing my experience of campaigning. I forgot to take any photographs on the day and, while I did consider photographing the resulting Brompton bruises (I can’t carry it up and down steps or into a crowded train without banging it against my leg) but I didn’t think the Internet was really ready for my thighs, so my train ticket on to my parents will have to do.

train tickets

Errand nine: travel to training course. Distance: 3 miles, category – work or volunteering, observation – it’s a little disconcerting to be asked to share your expertise in something even when you still feel like you’re making it up as you go along.

And finally, today, visiting my parents in Duns (and still mega busy – the joys of freelancing…), we did have time to pay a social call on a gardening friend of my parents, and – of course – inspect the ford.

Duns ford

Errand ten: ride to Gavinton. Distance – 4 miles, category, social call, observation – there really is very little point in having a ford with no depth gauge.

Are we nearly there yet?

Lights, Camera …

March 2, 2016

The Bigtown Cycle campaign will be heading to the Bigtown Environment Fair in a couple of weeks to try and spread the word about our activities and particularly this summer’s Bike Message Challenge (and if you’re thinking, hmm, that sounds a bit like Errandoneering but with fewer rules (and yikes, I’ve just realised that’s starting again on Friday) I admit we did totally steal the idea from Chasing Mailboxes but it’s in a good cause).

packing the bike

Star (Rhian) and propmeister (Rosie) prepare the scene for our film-making adventure

You can’t take part in the Environment Fair without providing some sort of hands-on activity. For the last couple of years we’ve let the Brompton be the star attraction, but this year we’re being a bit more ambitious and are assembling a range of practical bikes for people to try out in an attempt to convince them that it’s not positively dangerous to attempt to buy a pint of milk on a bike (as the chair of the Bigtown Retailers’ Association assured me a couple of years ago). They wanted us to make a little film about our activity to help advertise the fair, so we got a little bit creative

The idea originally was to have someone underneath the bike passing up the various items supposedly coming out of the pannier bag but as we made our preparations we realised that with a bit of careful packing we could actually fit everything in anyway, although in the interests of health and safety we decided against including a pint of milk. We wouldn’t want to give any kids watching dangerous ideas…

Winter, Actually You May be the Boss of Me…

March 12, 2015

I will be honest with you: I was not looking forward to getting out on the bike today. The forecast was for it to piss down with rain and the forecast had duly delivered. I had a number of things I needed to do in town, including return my library books – overdue library books wait for no man, woman, or fair weather cyclist – but the truth is, any other week of the year I would probably have wimped out and found a way around the problem that didn’t involve pedalling 45 minutes into the unrelenting rain (and a headwind), a damp and dripping visit to various establishments in Bigtown, and then 45 minutes pedalling back. But not this week, because this week is errandonneering week, and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to knock off three more errands in one day, especially given how far I am behind.

At this point, bike blog narrative conventions dictate that I should discover that in fact, cycling in the rain was not so bad after all, and that I was glad the challenge had got me out on the bike. Because yay, bikes!

In reality, it was every bit as wet and miserable as I had expected it to be. Looking on the bright side – and I’m conscious I’m scraping the barrel here – I did take the opportunity to discover that my new tweed cap is just as waterproof as my old one, and considerably more waterproof than any fancy new technology that has been developed in the meantime. I was also encouraged to discover that when your boots are filling up with water, it does at least take your mind off the fact that you can only use your biggest gears. And I have finally learned that when you get home from a wet ride, then life will be much more pleasant for you the next time you go out if you remember to take your soggy gloves out of your pocket and hang them up to dry along with basically all your other clothes.

wet kit

What I didn’t remember was to take any pictures until after I had set off for home again, so these will have to do.

bridge in the rain

Errand 5: sorting out a birthday card and present for a friend. Category: social call (well, remotely, anyway). Observation: there’s always one wag in Bigtown who will say ‘lovely day for it’ as they pass a drenched cyclist.



rainy road home

Errand 6: returning library books. Category: arts and entertainment. Observation: There is also always one cheerful soul in Bigtown who will say encouragingly ‘and they say it’s to stay set in like this all day’ as you set off again on your bike


coffee and doughnut

Errand 7: visiting the bank. Category: Personal business. Observation: there is no coffee and doughnut quite so well-earned as the coffee and doughnut you have after you have finally got home and into warm dry clothes after being thoroughly drenched on the bike.



Total 16 miles.

Shiny, Shiny

March 11, 2015

Hurrah for the local bike shop: despite the fact that they were booked solid with servicing until Thursday, after an SOS call yesterday morning they managed to squeeze my bike in and it is now restored (almost) to working order.

new rear mechanism

(‘you might notice it’s a bit cleaner too,’ bike shop man said dryly as I took possession. Ahem. Yes. I had noticed …)

The timing was perfect too – we were having lunch with friends (and sorting out this year’s seed order, of which more anon) so we could swing by the bike shop on the way back. Not only that, but the morning’s rain had cleared and the sun had come out and I was able to test their handiwork the best possible way: by riding the bike home. Not only that, but it counts as an errand – I hummed and hawed over the category and decided it counted as ‘Personal care’, because bikes are people too, and besides I’ve already used up my quota for ‘store’.

The only slight fly in the ointment was that although it now has a shiny new chain, and shiny new gears at the back and a shiny new derailleur, they didn’t have the right bits to replace the middle ring of the gears at the front, which is the only one I ever use. Mixing a shiny new chain with a worn out old set of gears is a recipe for disaster, so until the new part is in, I’m under instructions to only use the big ring and the granny ring at the front. Obviously I wasn’t going to use the granny gears, so the big ring it was…

Which, with a stiffish headwind, meant I felt every one of those eight miles home. But happy to have my bike back home and in one piece.

Spring sunshine

Category: personal care, distance 8 miles, observation: there’s a reason why I only ever use the middle ring.

Bad Brompton Owner

March 10, 2015

It was a glorious day today, the first real springlike day, which meant two things: I got an urgent job to finish, and my bikes had decided to present a united front on the whole maintenance thing, meaning neither of them was strictly ridable.

I actually feel quite bad about the Brompton. I haven’t ridden it very much since Christmas, which is never good for bikes, and over Christmas I had taken it around the forest paths in Duns which were extremely muddy. Obviously, as I love the Brompton, I should have immediately washed it and oiled it before putting it away, but we were at my parents’ and then when we came home life happened, and cleaning and lubricating it sort of slipped off my list of things to do.

The end result was that I had to abandon my plans to cycle down to yoga and spend the time restoring some degree of flexibility to the Brompton chain instead. Half a pack of wet wipes, industrial quantities of Plus Gas and a bottle of chain lube later, the Brompton was once more ridable and I am duly chastened and have promised it I will never neglect it so badly again.

So what with the bike maintenance and the work, I wasn’t expecting to add to my errandonneering total today. But then – just as I was settling down with a cup of coffee in the first actual sit-outable sunshine of the year, I realised we needed to buy milk and a couple of other urgent necessities, so I got out after all…

Brompton shopping basket

Milk, wine, Lemsip. Breakfast of champions

Category: store, distance 12 miles, observation: if you must off-road on your Brompton, make sure you clean it afterwards


March 9, 2015

I nearly missed it, but it’s Errandonneering time again. In fact, I missed the start already, and although I’ve been running plenty of bike-borne errands, I have not been amassing the evidence I need to prove it. Still, I wasn’t worried, because running errands is what I do on the bike and now that the errands have been recategorised, I even run the right sort of errands, so I was pretty certain I could catch up, as I usually do at least two or three on every trip

Take today – a trip to Glasgow for a couple of meetings, stopping off on the way to pick up the paper. I felt a bit odd taking a picture of my bike outside Bigtown Scotmid but needs must:

Bike at the shop

Category: store; observation: people actually do go out to the shop in their pyjamas and slippers …

bike on trainAnd then adventures in Glasgow including the fun of hooking my bike up on the hanging bike rack on the train (International Women’s Day appears to have reminded men not to patronise women by offering to help with lifting awkward objects above their heads; I need to work on either my upper body strength, or my damsel in distress routine).

Once in Glasgow, I had to find my way to the meeting, which actually looked fairly easy: along one of Glasgow’s actual segregated cycle tracks and then turn right at the point where it turns into crappy shared-use pavement. This was fine, until I turned right and discovered some idiot had stuck a road right up the side of a cliff:


Hill in Glasgow

Category: work (anything involving a meeting is automatically work) Observation: Glasgow is a lot more three-dimensional than I remember it being…

And then all I had to do was catch the train and ride home – a nice tidy 16 miles and two errands already under my belt. As I neared the final turn before home, I was musing on the fact that I had at least two errands to run tomorrow, and then likely another on Wednesday, and on Thursday I’d be taking the bike in for a service so pretty soon I would be caught up with the days I’d missed when CLONGG…

… my bike put a stop to all that. It seems that even having announced a long-term strategy for more bike maintenance was not enough to put a stop to its negative campaigning. It had thrown its derailleur into its back spokes, bringing it and me to an instant halt. Fortunately I was going uphill and slowly, so I stayed upright. Unfortunately, the bike wasn’t going anywhere, not even being pushed, as its back wheel was now tangled up with its gear-changing mechanism and completely locked. Time to get the phone out and call for help…

There is, fortunately, still the Brompton, although that too is long overdue a service. I can only hope that the two bikes haven’t decided to form a united front on the issue of bike maintenance otherwise my errandonneering career may be over before it’s barely begun.

Signs of …

March 19, 2014

Cycling back from Bigtown yesterday (category: lunch (& also plotting but that doesn’t seem to have an Errandoneering category), distance: 16 miles, observation: “where did that bastard headwind come from all of a sudden?”) I was struck by the way the trees have reached the point where they are almost-but-not-quite in leaf, giving everything a faint wash of colour, like the promise of something.

trees almost bursting into leaf

And the landlords’ hens have resumed their visits to our garden – here they are inspecting my work on the flowerbeds. I hope they have the same appetite for slugs as their predecessors.

hens in flowerbed
Plus the lambs have gone from unphotographable dots in the distance to just-about photographable fuzzballs on springs, if you excuse my camera phone’s excuse for a ‘zoom’. (Sure they look cute, but that one on the right went on to sexually harass his brother/sister all around the field (well, I’m guessing it’s a ‘he’))

little lambs
Adding it all up, I think that means winter is loosening its grip on us, slowly but surely. And that means I am definitely behind with the gardening. Already

Someone remind me how this horticultural therapy for stress relief is supposed to work again?

Hors Categorie

March 13, 2014

So, I’ve been getting behind with this errandonneering lark in recent days. Not the errandonneering itself, which has been going strong, but the record keeping. Partly because I’ve been busy busy (those errands won’t run themselves you know), but also because none of the errands I run ever seem to fit neatly into the categories provided. Take Tuesday, when I had a busy day – a meeting at the coonsil (let’s see, community meeting?), with a side trip to the post office and the bank. Now I don’t know about you, but to me, those are quintessential errands, the kind of thing I can remember my mother doing (and oh the endless hours spent waiting for grown ups to finish having incredibly boring conversations in banks, with nothing to amuse yourself with but those pens attached to their bases by the little chain, which would leak incredibly sticky ink which then got onto your hands and, inevitably, your face without you noticing until you’d walked around half the day with blue freckles) (actually, now I come to think of it, that was in fact last week). And yet there is no category for ‘going to the post office’ or even ‘boring admin stuff’. Clearly my life has become completely out of synch with the normal world, at least as far as my errands go: everyone else is going out for coffee and or breakfast or having manicures, while everything I do seems to only fit under the heading of ‘wild card’ and I’m reluctant to play my two jokers this early in the game. I’m beginning to think I should take up having manicures, or going to work, or something drastic like that, to make my errands fit.

So, for anyone still awake, here are those errands in full:


rhino sculpture

Errand #3 – trip to the post office. category: work (I was posting off a contract, and as I work from home it’s about my only chance to use that one). Observation: I am out of synch with the modern world. (The photo shows Bigtown’s Rhinos rather than the post office because how boring is a post office? Too boring even to photograph, that’s how boring).

bikes at council office

Errand #4 – meeting with coonsil, with fellow cycle campaign member and errandonneer @RutherfordRosie. Category: community meeting. Observation: the coonsil has a sustainable transport person who we’d never even heard of who is different from the other sustainable transport person we had heard of and works for a different department and seems to actually know what he’s talking about and does things. No wonder they’ve been keeping him under wraps.

Total: 16 miles



There are lambs there, honest…

Errand #5 – fetching paper. Category: store, other. Observation: the first lambs have appeared in the fields but they’re very far away.

bike at dusk outside choir

Errand #6 – village choir. This was also my after dark ride, using my bottle dynamo light. Category: I thought long and hard about this and decided that seeing as I’d been staring at a computer all day and was feeling a bit frazzled and I felt a lot better after a couple of hours singing and I’ve already used up community meeting then this counts as ‘personal care and health’. Observation: I agreed with a couple I passed on the way to the village that the drainage works on the hill near the house had been nicely done and it was about time…

Total 14 miles


repaired shoes on bike

Errand #7 – getting the other half’s shoes re-soled. Category: I don’t know – personal care and health? (See, I told you it was complicated). Observation: amazingly, you can still get things repaired these days.

bike at the station

Errand #8 – meeting someone at the station to show them around Bigtown’s finest, and less-than-finest cycling infrastructure. Category: this would have been another head scratcher, but fortunately we stopped for lunch, so lunch. Observation: even with two of you, white vans still pass you as if you weren’t there.


Errand #9 – meeting a friend to divvy up the seeds from our joint seed order. Category: we had tea as well, meaning I could count this as ‘coffee or dessert’, even though tea patently isn’t coffee (I might be getting the hang of this errandonneering lark). Observation: we seem to have got carried away again and ordered all manner of strange things, like pink broad beans and fennel, and apparently I agreed to try growing sweetcorn again, although I have no memory of it.

bike at the butchers

Errand #10 – stopping off on the way home to pick up lamb steaks for tomorrow’s supper. Category: um, does a butcher count as a grocery store? Observation: I was half way home before I remembered I had also meant to stop off at the library, which actually has a category all of its own, but I had forgotten.

Total 32 miles.

Blimey, I’m almost done…