Shakedown Cruise

January 29, 2021

I’ve had a curious week, in that I haven’t done anything I’m actually being paid to do, and yet somehow the whole week was filled with work-shaped activities – attending meetings, writing up notes, editing documents, planning activities, and researching and writing up briefings (let this be a terrible warning to anyone who has a habit of starting cycle campaigns). Apart from one brief hour when I managed to get some gardening done, our statutory daily walk, and the glorious moment when I realised that when a meeting is held online and your part in it is done you can just … leave, I’ve basically done nothing but sit at my computer.

Today, however, I had no scheduled meetings, the weather was fine-adjusted-for-January (not actually raining, icy or blowing a hoolie) and I had a recently serviced bike that really ought to be put through its paces to check everything was working fine.

river rapids

So I can report that the Brooks saddle has been repaired and is in fact as good as new. Anyone who’s ridden a Brooks will know that this is not actually a good thing: it has been tautened to the point that it is no longer a glorious hammock of comfiness. It’s not agony, or anything, but it no longer feels quite like sitting on a sofa and it’s clearly going to take a bit of either getting used to, or breaking in.

Brooks leather saddle

There’s only one way to do that, and that’s to put in the miles on the bike. I’ve been struggling to motivate myself to ride my bike when there’s not a reason to do so, so at least this gives me a purpose to ride it a bit more in the coming weeks of lockdown.

Ford photograph showing just under a foot of water

Well, that – and checking the level on the ford of course.


Here I Come, Busy or Not

May 12, 2020

It seems we’re allowed unlimited amounts of exercise now in Scotland, which would be more exciting to me if I had even a limited time to exercise this newfound freedom. But no doubt by the time I’ve dug myself out from beneath my current stack of multiplying deadlines we’ll be back down in lockdown again, so despite not technically having the time to do it, I took the opportunity today to load up the basket of the freshly de-punctured Brompton with another batch of chlli babies and take them down to some friends in return for them not insisting on me taking away any of their spare cucumber, courgette or brussels sprout plants.*

chilli plants

Actually, this was probably allowed under the old rules – after all, I was delivering food, albeit in a very slow way – although I suspect we’re not really supposed to exchange quite so much chat (at a safe distance) in the course of such deliveries.

Either way, it gave me an opportunity to check out the state of the ford, which is bone dry; unsurprising given that the Weather Gods seem to have gone into self-isolation themselves. I don’t remember ever seeing the river so low.

dry ford

In truth, it was good to get out on the bike, whatever the reason. Running twice a week might be keeping me fit and walks in the woods are lovely and all, but they’re not the same as the couple of hours of moderate exercise that I’ve grown used to getting almost every day just in the course of running my regular errands. It might feel like it takes up time I don’t have, but at the end of the day I’m probably more productive (and certainly feel much cheerier) if I’ve been out either on the bike or in the garden.

dry waterfall

I’ll still be following the Scottish Government’s advice to stay at home rather than the UK government’s stay alert message (probably fortunately as I slept terribly last night). But, busy or not, I might have to make more time to ride my bike while stocks last. Or at least until the Weather Gods come out to play again …

bluebell wood

* They also offered a home brewed bottle of beer, but with the Brompton’s tyres at bike shop pressure, and the roads increasingly potholed, I declined the opportunity to cycle back home with what would effectively be a glass fragmentation grenade in my basket.


A Short Walk in a Different Wood

March 25, 2020

 

Today being Day-How-Can-It-Only-Be-Two of lockdown, and an impossibly lovely spring day to boot, I tempted the other half onto the bike for our state-sanctioned single period of exercise to vary our usual tramp up through the nearest woodland and back.

at the bridge

We are so massively fortunate to be here. I can’t say our roads were any quieter than normal, but that’s mainly because it’s they’re quiet all the time anyway so it’s hard to tell the difference. There were perhaps a few more bikes out on the road than normal, but we were able to keep our distance from everyone but each other and the tractor driver who decided that coronavirus or no coronavirus, a metre is plenty when you’re squeezing past a cyclist.

bikes in the woodland

I’m not really that used to just going out for a bike ride – most of my trips on the bike have a purpose in mind, however tenuous. Today was mainly just about getting out and enjoying the first properly nice day of the year, although we did also gather some wild garlic in the woods by the waterfall for our supper, which I suppose counts as going to get food.

bridge over the waterfall

Oh, and seeing as we were in the area …

low water at ford


Swee’Pea

January 12, 2020

drowned field

I suppose I should know by now that winter in Scotland means a choice between reasonably mild but wet and windy weather, or sunny and sparkly but bitterly cold weather. Yesterday was the former,* but today – through some bureaucratic error – it was both reasonably mild (above freezing, anyway) and sunny. For January, this counts as a miracle, especially as I’m not buried in work for once.

That meant only one thing – into the garden (I did suggest a bike ride but my suggestion was spurned). The problem is, while it might have been fine and mild today, we’ve got at least another 3 months of potential frost, snow, gales and rain (well, technically speaking, 12 months recurring of rain) and there isn’t really much you can usefully be doing in the garden at this time of the year, unless you’re of the tidying-up persuasion which I’m not for both ecological and can’t-be-arsedness reasons. I’ve mulched all the beds that need mulching and cut back all the growth that means cutting back, and the rest of the garden would be happier if I just left it alone to get on with things.

I believe this is what January plantings of sweet peas are for: scratching the gardening itch without compacting wet soil, destroying overwintering spots for wildlife, or encouraging tender shoots to sprout too early. I even had some sweet pea seeds because I took a last-minute trip to the garden centre to pick up a gift before Christmas and made the mistake of wandering into the seed department just to have a quick look at what was there and not buy anything (if anyone has actually managed this feat, please do go ahead and let me know how in the comments).

sweet pea planting materials

And so a pleasant morning in the greenhouse ensued. I don’t think I’ve ever grown them before, at least not in Scotland, so I was a little sceptical about planting them now but it seems worth a shot. I didn’t have the requisite number of toilet roll inners due to some over-efficient recycling, but we have plenty of newspaper and I bodged together some paper pots by rolling them round an old spice jar. According to some sections of the internet I was supposed to have soaked the seed overnight but I googled until I found some advice that said you didn’t need to bother, and then I split the difference and soaked them while I made and filled the pots (you all do this, right?). Twenty-four pots have been filled and planted and are on the utility room windowsill. I don’t actually have anywhere to put any sweet peas if they emerge, but I’m sure that a space will be found; for now they have done the job for which they were intended and any actual plants will be a bonus. Especially as tomorrow brings our next weather warning, and winter is all set to resume.

planted sweetpeas

* I did actually venture out for the paper in the rain, once the wind had died down a bit. Looking at the floodwater in the fields along the way, I did briefly consider that a better blogger than me would extend her trip by a few miles on the way home to check out the ford, and then I came to my senses. Fortunately, a local pal is made of sterner stuff:


Party in the Back

April 21, 2019

Old military road

So we had a party to attend this afternoon – a 70th birthday celebration, just down on the coast, a mere 24 miles away as the bike rides and while, even for me, a round trip of 48 miles* is a bit of a reach, the weather was so gorgeous we decided to go for it anyway.

spring woods

There are so many reasons for embarking on such an adventure: saving some CO2 emissions, being able to take full advantage of the party catering (delicious), having something to talk about to your fellow guests, and the chance to properly appreciate all the glories of spring as it gets into gear. But never mind all that for we came back via papershop village and our old house and that meant a chance to check out developments at the ford.

Our ford correspondent has been keeping us updated on the stupidity of surfacing a road that is underwater 90% of the time with tarmac, and its subsequent deterioration, but I haven’t had a chance to see this for myself until now. After an unprecedentedly dry spring, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out – but it turns out the powers that be are on to it. They have seen the error of their ways and reverted to concrete:

ford repairs

And they have not been messing around.

ford repairs closer

More on this important story as we get news.

* 49.9 once you’ve factored in the odd navigational error. Ahem.


Timebends

September 11, 2018

Having just finished some work and finding myself with a few days off, today should, technically, have been an unusally leisurely affair, with not much to do other than plant 200 bulbs,* bake a loaf of bread, deal with a backlog of admin, pick up some flyers for the Bigtown Cycle Campaign bike breakfast and distribute them to unsuspecting cyclists, and deliver emergency coffee and cake supplies to the other half’s workplace …

…I may need to work on my definition of leisurely.

I also had to work in a detour for my ford correspondent had told me last night that the freshly laid tarmac has already, as predicted, crumbled into a mess of potholes (or ‘a road’ as we call it in Bigtownshire). Sadly there was too much water to see for myself, but it was nice to revisit an old friend.

Anyway, the upshot was that having looked at my watch and realising it was 12 o’clock and somehow the morning was gone, I found myself timetrialling into Bigtown to fit it all in – made somewhat more bearable by hitting the holy trinity on my way in of smooth tarmac, downhill and an epic tailwind. Indeed, this was, if I’m honest, one of those ‘why I cycle’ moments (but yeah, sure, it’s all about the environment and maintaining a healthy heart).

Tomorrow, though, tomorrow, I’ll get a chance to relax.**

* Damn you Crocus and your two for the price of one offers

** Maybe not


Breaking Ford News

July 24, 2018

My spies report with stunning news: the Tarmac Fairy has got a bit ahead of herself

tarmacked ford

She’s only gone and tarmacked the ford.

This has incited some local discussion on the advisability of putting tarmac on a piece of road that is, by design, underwater for most of the year. There’s a reason most fords are made of concrete.

Could it be that, like everyone else in the country, the coonsil have been so beguiled by the heatwave that they have forgotten that it will eventually end?

dry ford

Or do they know something we don’t?

(photos courtesy of Steve Jefkins)


Showing Up

September 29, 2017

One of the things I have been pondering for a while is how campaigners (and indeed writers and other people trying to make the world a better place by whatever means at their disposal) can support each other. There are many facets to this, some philosophical and some practical, but one really simple thing is simply to show up for stuff.

morning clouds

And so, I’ve been making an effort to get out and support other people’s events, even if they don’t feel like a massive priority for me. Sometimes this has felt like a hardship, but on the whole it’s quite nice to be at an event where your only responsibility is to exist.

morning clouds and sunshine

And when it means cycling to Old Nearest Village on a dewy not-quite-managing-to-rain morning to eat cakes and drink tea and exchange gossip in the name of defeating cancer, I can’t even pretend it was an imposition.

ford no progress

(They don’t seem to be making much progress with the ford though, for some reason. They’d better hurry before that paint wears off altogether)

Tomorrow I will be here, being blissfully no-longer-in-charge, but hopefully supportive of those who are.

I could actually get used to this.


Unexciting Ford News

September 14, 2017

I had a prescription to pick up this afternoon, at Nearest Village, and then needed to head to Bigtown to get the paper. As these are in opposite directions to each other, the sensible thing to do would have been to head directly to Nearest Village and then turn around and head to Bigtown, but we’ve already established that that just seems like a waste of time, so I decided to take the back route out of the village, down one of my favourite hills, and swing by the ford, partly for old time’s sake, but mainly because I had received word that the road there was to be closed due to essential ford maintenance works.

road heading downhill

This seemed like an exciting opportunity to catch the concrete fairy at work (that being the only other maintenance the ford has ever received in this blog’s lifetime), so off I went pausing only to wonder why it is that you can never take a picture of a road that gives any real sense of how steeply it is either rising or falling (actually, I also paused to take a photo of the impressive looking spider on the bike racks at the doctor’s surgery, but because my phone camera will never focus in on an interesting close object when there’s a fascinating stretch of concrete behind it to focus on instead, you’ll just have to believe me).

One swooping descent later, I reached the ford, to discover that nothing was happening, probably because it was running with 5 inches of water, although why the coonsil (or the concrete fairy) hadn’t thought this might be the case after a month when it has rained most days at least some of the time, I don’t know.

the ford, unchanged

More on this non-story as it develops.

Meanwhile, down in Bigtown, something stirs


Ford Auld Lang Syne

May 2, 2017

Cycling back from the Community Council meeting this evening with a song in my heart – for I had finally handed over the secretaryship to not one but two people* – and several insects in my eye – for the warm weather has brought the bugs out in profusion – I passed the turnoff to the ford. And as there was daylight still (and how nice it is to cycle in daylight in the evening), I thought why not.

Dear readers, I bring you for possibly the last time, the ford:

the ford

It’s been a dry spring, all in all.

* It’s always very satisfying when it takes more than one person to replace you