A Nation of Shopkeepers

July 5, 2019

I remain, frustratingly, cameraless after one repair attempt failed leaving me with a phone that will now not focus at all unless I use it in selfie mode. This is particularly annoying as Moo-I-5 have made an unexpectedly early return and I’m sure will be providing entertaining* blogging material as soon as they have got over the ‘Nooo!! Scary humans!’ stage of their visit (meanwhile the cows in the other two fields near our house have discovered each other and have spent the last two days mooing yearningly at eachother across the front corner of our garden).

Bike hub shopfront

So I’ve been trawling back through earlier photos and realised I forgot to announce that I have taken up shopkeeping – or, more accurately, voluntarily minding the Buddies accessible bike hub one day a week. It’s fair to say I’m not rushed off my feet just yet, although I have rented out one bike, shown a couple of prospective punters round, directed numerous confused people towards the ‘real’ bike shops in the town, and spent much of the rest of the time in an undeclared war with the illegal parkers of the supposedly pedestrianised street the shop is on. If a space does open up outside the shop, my job then is to dash round as fast as possible (which is not particularly fast) with the rickshaw bike or other contraptions to fill the space before the spot is nabbed by someone else who’s ‘just dropping something off’ to one of the other shops, a task which apparently takes all day. I can then amuse myself by watching through the window as drivers think they’ve scored a spot and then discover they’ve been gazumped by a bicycle. Or, when I fail to get to the space first, then at least I can enjoy counting the number of direct hits Bigtown’s seagulls score on the scofflaw parkers (there’s a reason all those bikes are sporting saddle covers, and it’s not just to advertise the Bigtown Cycle Campaign.

If nothing else, I’ve found myself a quiet (and internet-free) spot in town to get on with some work and/or knitting while I wait for the good folk of Bigtown to come in for a nosey, so it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned. Watch this space for exciting tales of retailing or parking war triumphs – or at the very least, some progress on my latest knitting project

* adjusted for the peculiarly low standards of this blog.

Reasons to be Cheerful

April 7, 2019

With everything – globally and nationally – apparently collapsing around our ears, may I note a small measure of progress, albeit locally?

One year ago, our local Farmers’ Market moved from a site by the bypass, inaccessible by bike, to Bigtown Station’s short-term car park – thereby driving a coach and horses through Bigtown’s Parking Strategy (and, indeed, iron law) that no parking space may be lost without the creation of an equal and opposite parking space, even temporarily, lest a rip occur in the fabric of space time or the Hellmouth open.*

This should have doomed it to instant failure, and yet, as we cycled down on a grey and cold and frankly not all that springy morning we discovered that the place was, as it always is, hopping. Not only were people quite capable of parking a little further away and walking over the railway bridge for their cheese, pies, other kinds of pies, four different brands of local confectionary, and haggis samosas** (but not, to the other half’s disgust, ice cream) – but they were also able to cycling there.

Compare and contrast:

bike parking

Bike parking at the Farmers’ market a year ago

market parking

Bike parking today (including a couple of tiny bikes tucked away in the middle)

Not only that, but half those bikes, I don’t even recognise

As I took a photo for Bigtown Cycle Campaign’s various social media platforms, the lady who was doing a stint as market greeter turned to me and smiled.

“Aren’t they great all these bikes? I just love seeing everyone coming in and parking their bikes. Isn’t it wonderful that people can cycle to the market now?”

Isn’t it just?

This put me in such a good mood, I didn’t have the heart to tweet this particular example of Bigtown parking at its finest (although, to be fair, I think it was probably more a case of ignoring the four-hour parking time limit yesterday, than someone wanting to be in pole position for the queue for the pies).

market parking

* actually, now I come to think of it, that might explain everything …

** don’t mock until you’ve tried them. Bigtown streetfood at its finest.

Free Parking

July 10, 2014

A local biking person was shocked (she’s young) to discover that – while Bigtownshire Council has been eeeeever so slooooowly considering maybe thinking about developing a cycling strategy but, you know, all in the fullness of time and only if there’s nothing urgent going on with the buses, let’s not go mad here – Bigtown has long had a parking strategy and that parking strategy is that for every parking space that is lost, a new parking space has to be created.

This in a way is odd, because as it happens, ‘lost’ parking spaces are quickly found again – there’s a street right on the edge of the town centre (where there has been rash talk of a bike contraflow lane) which has had double yellows on it for as long as we have lived up here, and people still park on it as if they weren’t there, despite it being ooh, 50 yards from an enormous, free (good Lord, you wouldn’t want to make people pay for parking would you?) car park, which complements the many dozens of other free car parks dotted around the town centre. Indeed, when I decided to join in the fun by parking my bike on the double yellows outside the bike shop (hey, I’ve got a kick stand now, which means I can just park it anywhere, as long as I don’t mind doing the 50 yard dash back towards it when it inevitably falls over as soon as I’ve gone out of sight), I was amused by all the filthy looks I got from drivers who were trying to park illegally on that street and had found that one of THEIR illegal parking spaces was being taken up by a bicycle. You could almost see them looking around for a traffic warden, except that all the traffic wardens have gone (replaced by the police allegedly), to universal rejoicing earlier this year. Oh how they regret that now…

Still, I got some inkling how they felt when I rounded the corner to meet a fellow bike conspirator at one of our favourite coffee and cake emporia to find that MY bike parking (leaning it up against the window where I could keep an eye on it) had been blocked by tables and chairs and people sitting around in the sunshine as though we were in France or something. The horrors. Fortunately we were able to score a table in the sun (and view of our bikes) ourselves – and were mollified by the proprietress coming out and inquiring about ‘one of those big planter bike parking things‘.

Clearly all my energetic tweeting about cake is beginning to pay off as the local coffee shops, if nothing else, start to realise that their real profit lies in the hollow legs and bottomless appetites of the local cycling community, and Bigtown’s parking strategy is about to get a lot more complicated … It’s not exactly a cycling strategy, but it’s a start.

Good Parking Makes Good Neighbours

March 17, 2014

So we have new neighbours again (I don’t know what we’re doing to frighten people away – maybe it’s the blog?) and it’s a sign of how long I’ve been out of London that I didn’t bother hanging around the garden in order to bump into them when they were moving in, but just boldly knocked on their door and introduced myself on my way back from getting the paper.

There’s a slightly ticklish issue with getting new neighbours, which is that we have a shared yard for parking and although there’s masses of space (I know, I have to weed the gravel), there’s one particular spot where if someone parks their car, it makes it very awkward for others to turn around, and that seems to be the very spot where people choose to park their cars if not directed to otherwise. Now the last thing we want to be is the sort of neighbours who introduce ourselves by telling people where they should park, not least because that’s exactly what our original neighbour did when we moved in (and the next thing we knew, he was kneeling in the yard in full camo gear, zeroing the sight of his air rifle on the garage door, but that may be unrelated). On the other hand, neither do we want to be the sort of neighbours who burn with hidden resentment at the fact that people are parking in the wrong spot, a resentment made worse by the fact that we haven’t actually told them that they’re parking in the wrong spot, so we can’t actually blame them and yet, somehow, we do – a situation that can only end in broken wing mirrors, or indeed, air rifles.

So fortunately our new neighbours who appear very nice, pretty much opened the conversation by asking where they should park and so all is so far sweetness and light.

Now all we need is for them to get a cat.

staring cat

Playing the Odds

March 25, 2009

On Wednesdays, I have to be at the eastern end of Bigtownshire, helping out with a homework club (for those poor disadvantaged kiddies whose parents don’t know how to plagiarise stuff on the internet for them like the nice middle class parents do). This means finding a parking spot in a busy town centre. There is one, but it’s only for an hour and we’re going to be at longer than that.

‘Apparently there’s only one traffic warden for this half of the county,’ says the friend who’s giving me a lift. ‘And she’s not particularly diligent. Shall we risk it?’

And so we do. So far, she hasn’t put in an appearance. And I know that when she finally does haul herself out of bed and ticket us we’ll be bang to rights but it won’t stop us from being massively indignant all the same. I’m getting far too used to this car culture lark.

Coming up soon: bloody cyclists, why can’t they just get out of the way?

Let’s Do the Time Warp Again

March 11, 2009

‘This can’t be right,’ I told the other half as we pulled up outside the pub on one of our rare (ok, first) nights out up here.

‘Why not?’

‘Well, this is the pub we’re going to, isn’t it?’


‘And this is us parking on the street just outside it. I mean, right outside the door.’

‘You got a problem with that? It’s a legal space, isn’t it?’

‘You can’t just drive somewhere and park right outside the place you’re going to.’

‘Why not?’

‘It just feels wrong. Is this the seventies or something? You can’t simply drive somewhere and then just park, for free, right outside it. Not in a town. That just doesn’t happen.’

And then we went inside, and the beer was 99p a pint. It wasn’t even that cheap when I was at uni…