Flight Path

October 12, 2015

The geese have been returning for the past couple of weeks; I caught flight after flight of them honking their way south as I cycled to the station on my way to Glasgow.

geese overhead

Cycling home again, on a curiously mild October evening I was reminded that our other migrants, the swallows, have long gone. Unfortunately not so the insects they feed on, which are now thick in the air. I had to be rather thoroughly ‘debugged’ when I finally got in. Normally by this stage in the year you can cycle in relative safety without having to pick things with legs out of the corners of your eyes* for the rest of the day.

As a fellow cyclist put it a propros of funding for cycling infrastructure, among other things, ‘Aye the swallows have all fucked aff tae Africa and the bats are all gone intae hibernation so there’s naebody tae eat them but us. Perhaps if we promised to cycle around mair wi’ our mouths open they’d build us the cycle lanes to dae it in.’

It’s worth a shot, I suppose. No other argument seems to be getting through so far…

* still better than London bogeys though


October 6, 2011

One downside of the mildish autumn so far (we may not have had the glories of an Indian summer but we have had some slightly warmer rain) is that when the rain stops the air seems to be composed of about 90% insect by volume, according to my not-very-scientific sampling method of cycling through it. I rode into town last week on a glorious evening and the next morning realised that the gunk I was wiping out of my eyes had tiny legs and wings in it. And cycling down to choir last night I passed unexpectedly through such a dense cloud that I was still coughing them up as we started on the first song. Suggestions that we warm up with ‘there was an old woman who swallowed a fly’ were not gratefully received

Come back, swallows, all is forgiven…

No Flies on Me

July 14, 2010

I don’t know if this is revenge on my earlier post, but we certainly seemed to be more plagued by flies than usual this year. It’s actually not too bad on the bike, as long as you move above a certain speed, but trying to do anything in the garden has become a nightmare. I’ve tried to cultivate a zen-like patience around them but then they just start crawling over your face. And it’s their persistence that really gets me. I’m beginning to suspect that I have my own personal cloud of flies which lies in wait for me just outside the door, ready to resume their favourite activity: driving me clean out of my mind.

This morning, for example, all I had to do was pick some (or rather as much as I could reasonably fob off on them) salad to take to my parents. I started off – bloody fly – carefully selecting a variety of – aargh, bloody fly – different types of – gerroff fly – lettuce leaves, trying to balance – I said, gerroff bloody fly – not harvesting too much from any one – sodding bloody fly – plant while not picking leaves that were too – AAARGH gerroff – big and therefore bitter and avoiding – I SAID GERROFF fly – ones that had been too munched by the slugs – bastarding sodding flies – or too small and assessing – AAARGH GERROFF YOU BASTARDING SODDING FLIES – which were in danger of bolting and picking out the – RIGHT THAT’S IT I GIVE IN FLIES YOU WIN I’M GOING IN YOU BLASTED SODDING BASTARDING FLIES.

Which is why my parents were presented with a whole cos lettuce this afternoon, torn up by the roots.

Midgies? Pah, I’ll take midgies any day of the week over flies*.

* Just one more in a long line of statements I know I’ll come to regret.

Spit or Swallow

July 6, 2010

The first summer we had up here, I went to great lengths to cycle with my mouth shut to avoid inhaling any flies, which is harder than it sounds when a) there are hills and b) you talk as much as I do.

The second summer we had up here I found myself spending a lot of time hacking and choking in a desperate attempt to get rid of the flies I had inhaled before they went down one way or the other.

This summer? I’m just swallowing them and hoping they’re not wasps. Saves a lot of time and effort and makes you sound less like a cat with a hair ball.

And next year? Next year I’ll probably be heading out for a quick pedal round the block in the evenings to ensure I get my quota of delicious flying protein in. Either that, or I’ll have turned into a lizard.

What do you do?

Rain or Shine

November 6, 2008

Wet or dry, there’s only really two basic types of cycling conditions round here: bloody cold, and insects. Two days of milder weather, while nice on the not-freezing-to-death front and all, have resulted in the return of the flies. I really MUST learn to cycle with my mouth shut.

And in other news, I was in Bigtown this morning attending a training course at a community centre that – among other things – promotes healthy eating. ‘It’s easy to find,’ I was told. ‘Just opposite the McDonalds’. You put the help where it’s needed most, I suppose. Still, it gave me an idea: who’s for my new high-protein eat-and-exercise-simultaneously vertebrate ingestion cycling diet?

Courtesy Car

August 8, 2008

I never thought I’d say this, but there’s such a thing as a driver being too polite. The car in question – and it was a 4X4 too – stopped at the junction with another road so there would be plenty of room for me to pass. The problem was that he was also at the top of a hill, and I was still at the bottom. Not a huge hill, but big enough and the kind that I would usually want to take in my usual, steady, doggedly plodding style. But he was waiting, so I had to get out of the saddle and accelerate up, smiling gratefully through gritted teeth. It’s not as though the road itself was all that narrow – a tractor had already squeezed past me without too much inconvenience to either party. I wonder if this wasn’t in fact not a courtesy at all, but some sort of a mind game instead – the car driving equivalent of this, perhaps.

Meanwhile, in other news, I have discovered that when it comes to insect ingestation, the one thing worse than swallowing a fly is inhaling it. So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go cough up a lung.

There was an Old Woman Who…

July 23, 2008

…although less of the old woman part, at thirty-*cough* I reckon I still qualify as youngish. And I didn’t go so far as to swallow the rest of the livestock, although a spider might have sneaked in there at some point while I was coughing and spluttering and not paying much attention. But I did swallow a fly. Gack. Must learn to keep my mouth shut when I cycle.

Indeed, some people might say, not just when I’m cycling…

The Problem With…

July 14, 2008

… slow bicycling is that the flies find it easier to keep up with you. And if flies are irritating when you’re on foot, they’re absolutely infuriating on a bike. There’s a long, long hill coming back from the paper shop, and I’d pretty much shot my bolt getting out of the saddle to accelerate past a tractor that had kindly stopped to wait for me to go through. So I had reached the stage of just plodding doggedly upwards when the flies gathered. Perhaps it was the sweat, perhaps, like the buzzard, they were too impatient to wait for me to collapse, or perhaps it amuses them to drive cyclists to distraction. Fortunately, once the tractor had gone there was no-one to see me cycling along with my hands whirling madly about my head. I’m beginning to envy the horses their tails – do you think I could fit one on a bike?

Looking on the Bright Side…

June 30, 2008

…The steady light rain that starts whenever we head out for a walk does at least keep off the worst of the flies. We have yet to encounter the dreaded midge – a beast that looms as large as some mythical monster whenever this part of Scotland is discussed – but the flies seem irritating enough, at least to us newbies. They seem attracted to walkers and gather over our heads in columns as we go, so that from a distance we must have the appearance of being trailed by a pillar of smoke, like the Israelites in the desert, only without the sunshine. When it is not raining, I try and cultivate a stoical indifference to the flies – teeth clenching is good for the jaw line after all – while the other half opts for a maddened hand waving, which presumably tones the upper arms. Either way, I’m disappointed that the presence of such an abundance of insect life in our vicinity does not mean that we are also trailed by swallows, swifts, martins and flycatchers who are all surely missing a trick here. If rhinos can have oxpeckers, and even crocodiles their own personal toothcleaning avian companion, why cannot walkers attract a companion bird or two to keep them insect free? I’d even put up with the poo.