Slow Starter

January 3, 2018

Because I’m clearly Not Busy Enough, with the new year my thoughts have been idly turning on possible resolutions. In 2017 I not only managed to stick to my standard resolution* for the first time in ages but also managed to ‘turn left‘ for a new micro adventure every month, even if it was sometimes a very token effort indeed.

This year, as well as attempting not to start any more cycle campaigns (I need to be very careful if I see Back on my Bike coming anywhere near me with cake), I have decided I will attempt two things and you, dear blog readers, get to be bored rigid – sorry, bear witness – to my attempts. The first is to get better at maintaining my bike, of which more anon when the weather has warmed up (remind me in March or April; I have a plan for this).

The second – after a rambling new year’s eve twitter conversation (which as actually far more enjoyable than a lot of twitter conversations are these days, involving as it did no references to Donald Trump or Brexit or cycle helmets) – is to start baking sourdough bread.

I have made bread occasionally in the past, mostly wheaten loaf (or soda bread), and it’s nice enough but it’s never really stuck as a habit. The attraction of sourdough – apart from the fact that it’s complicated enough to be potentially interesting – is that your starter seems to take on the status of something between a chemistry experiment and a family pet (the most concrete advice I have been given so far is to give it a name, to encourage me to look after it properly), complete with the need to get a sitter in when you go on holiday (are there starter kennels? There probably are by now. If not, I offer you the Hipster Business Idea of 2018, coming soon to a crowdfunder near you). This seemed to me the best way to encourage me to actually keep the habit up as starter thrives on you regularly baking with it, and I’m much more likely to do something when someone is expecting me to do it, even if that someone is in fact a bunch of yeast cells named Jimmy Carter,** rather than an actual real person.

And then there’s the complication side of things. New Year’s eve found me rummaging around in the Scottish Water website trying to work out what water treatment chemicals were used in the Bigtown area to find out if I needed filtered water (it’s the chloramines, you see, they’re much more likely to kill off the organisms than plan old chlorination), and wandering the house trying to find a spot that would remain at a steady 21C (this is the problem with following American instructions for starting your starter. Also with moving out of the house with the Rayburn …). Twitter has been reasonably reassuring on this score and provided enough contradictory advice that I can go ahead and do what I was planning on anyway (sticking it next to the hot water tank).

So far – day three – and Jimmy Carter is beginning to bubble away although I suspect it will take a bit longer before he’s fully fighting fit. This weekend I will attempt to bake my first loaf of bread and hopefully the results will be at least palatable enough that I continue the experiment. And maybe even successful enough that I can quietly sweep that foolish ambition of getting better at maintaining my bike come the warmer weather …

* not starting any more new cycle campaigns – although Back on My Bike has conned me into continuing with the supposedly ephemeral Walk Cycle Vote campaign even though there won’t (we hope) be any voting to be done in 2018.

** Why, what do you call your starter?


Turning Left in Aberdeen

February 25, 2017

The problem with going off to Aberdeen to talk about cycling and listen to the stories of way more adventurous cyclists than me, is that it then seems a bit feeble to have almost reached the end of February and not even managed my one modest adventuring ambition for the month. But fortunately Back on my Bike & I had a spare* morning before our train home, and we both had bikes, so, although her idea of an adventure is also much more adventurous than mine (frankly, everyone’s idea of an adventure is more adventurous than mine) she humoured me in my suggestion that we do a little routefinding of our own today.

start of the Deeside way

Without an Ordnance Survey map, we chose a route that only we could manage to get lost on – the Deeside way (despite the sign, turning left did not get you to Peterculter…).

Deeside way

That slight hiccup aside, it was all very pleasant, and the weather was kind.

blue skies

It’s rare to see other modes asked to dismount …

I’m beginning to gain the erroneous impression that it’s always sunny in Aberdeen. Don’t disillusion me.

ex station building

The only fly in the ointment was that nobody had turned one of the many little stations still dotted along the route into a cafe serving coffee and cake. Honestly, what were they thinking?

sign about the end of the Deeside wayAlso the end of the path seems to be being turned into the Aberdeen bypass, so we never did reach Peterculter, wherever or whatever Peterculter is. We could have followed the diversion, but by this time the lack of coffee shops was beginning to tell so we headed back for the station where Aberdeen almost passed the ‘can Sally and Suzanne navigate its cycle routes by following the signs’ test – foiled only by the fact that the cycle route to the station meant going through a door into the multi storey car park. I’ve seen all sorts of barriers on cycle routes before, but a door is a new one on me (apart from the lift to the Tay Bridge, I suppose).

bucket of coffee

You know your coffee is large when it requires both hands to lift it…

After extensively recaffienating (yes, I know, Costa; we would have visited a lovely independent coffee shop had one obligingly presented itself along the way but it didn’t) it was time to get back on the train

bikes on the train

And ignore some of the loveliest views from a train window as we caught up with all the things we should have been doing instead of gadding about on our bikes.

view from the train

So that’s January and February done – just got to find time and pick a route for March…

* As in there were a billion things we could both productively be doing instead but we had examined our schedules and our consciences and decided that as long as we both worked solidly 24 hours a day for the next two months, we could spare a couple of hours to go for a bike ride.