There’s More that One Way to Skin a Cat …

August 18, 2022

… and there’s more than one way to add to your Eddington number. Sure it’s nice to slip off for a day out on the bike with lunch with a friend thrown in – but there are also days when the miles add up just through various errands and those count too.

Take yesterday, when a suddenly busy diary meant I had to be down in Bigtown with the Pepperpots, then race back home for an online meeting at four, before heading back into town again to lead an evening bike ride. Somehow that meant I’d racked up 45 miles which (given I’m currently working on an E of 37) will do very nicely for my totals. OK, so it wasn’t anything particularly epic, but miles is miles, and my legs were certainly telling me all about it on the climb back home last night.

I think I’ve said this before, but one of the less-commonly acknowledged benefits of cycling primarily for transport is that the busier you get, the more riding you end up doing. The Pepperpots are gradually settling in but there’s still lots to be done so I’m back and forth most days, just as in-person activities are returning more or less to their normal frequency. If I cycled mainly for exercise, or leisure, it would have been the first thing to go when the going got tough. As it is, I have a built-in minimum of 15 miles a day – which means an hour and half every day on my own, with nothing to do except pedal (and not even that on the freewheel into town). Some days, when I’m slogging up the hill into a headwind in the rain, it doesn’t exactly feel like ‘me time’. But you take the rough with the smooth and I have a feeling that it’s giving me exactly the headspace that I need at the moment.

And besides, yesterday was a glorious day as the sunshine made what turned out to be a brief encore appearance. The lightest of breezes, with coolish air but warmth from the sun, followed by a perfectly calm and warm evening (and good company on the ride to boot). Days like that, it’s a privilege to be on the bike.

Tomorrow I’m off on a different sort of adventure. More on that later, if I’m spared.


We Are Traffic

May 14, 2022

‘When you first move here, you’d never believe that you would complain about the traffic here,’ someone told me soon after we’d just moved up. ‘And then, within a year, you’ll find yourself complaining about it.’

Well, she was off by more than a decade, but with the arrival of the Pepperpots, and needing to be going around the town centre by car much more than I’ve been used to, I might just have reached that point. As a cyclist, I’ve had plenty of occasion to complain about individual drivers, but traffic is not something that particularly affects me (and nor does finding somewhere to park). But in the last few weeks I’ve suddenly found out what everyone else has been moaning about as we’ve crawled along routes I could cycle in a flash, and even on one occasion found ourselves unable to find a parking space in a town where you can basically park wherever the hell you like. My bike may not be quicker than a car at getting me the 8 miles into town (which is inconvenient when your parents’ dining room door suddenly jams itself shut with your mother’s laptop on the wrong side of it), but once in Bigtown it feels like an actual jetpack in comparison. It’s just a shame I can’t use it for transporting a couple of octogenarians.

Still, it’s been a month since my parents moved here, and the various services they need are gradually starting to fall into place. Even better, they’ve now worked out a route that enables them to walk the mile or so into town from their house which may not be quicker at their pace than driving it (although it’s a close run thing when the traffic is properly bad) but is a heck of a lot less frustating. So hopefully I will soon be able to spend less time grinding my teeth in traffic and go back to smugly whizzing past it. It will certainly be a relief. Cycling might mean headwinds, flies in your teeth and the occasional homicidal driver, but these all pale in comparison to the horrors of being stuck in traffic. Drivers, how do you manage? Is this why you’re all so cross?

Road with 'SLOW' written on it several times

Taking a Breather

April 20, 2022

It’s a very strange sensation at this time of the year, when I would normally be flat out with the organisation of Pedal on Parliament (and those of you who cycle in Scotland are coming out on Saturday to join us, yes?) to find myself watching more or less from the sidelines as it comes together without me. Meanwhile, I’ve been enjoying all the stress of a major house move without the actual moving house part as my parents settle in to their new place in Bigtown (as well as keeping things going as much as possible over at Walk, Wheel, Cycle, Vote.

However, that doesn’t mean I have completely abandoned POP. Indeed, in a fit of enthusiasm back when it was a long time in the future, I committed to cycling to Edinburgh with a small band of fellow campaigners as we reprise our ride to Glasgow for COP, only hopefully with less Novemberish weather. Unfortunately it has been brought to my attention that this is now happening in two days and I’ve done very little of the training I’d planned to do to get myself up to speed for a 60-mile first day with some significant climbing. Unless you count the fact that I’ve been riding into town and back every day (a nice 14 mile round trip with a good 300+ feet of climbing on the way home) plus whatever exercise is involved in moving boxes, opening boxes, emptying boxes, flattening boxes, and then repeating with the next set of boxes, for several hours a day. Fingers crossed that will be enough, and we’ll just have to hope that the forecast block headwind all the way up to Edinburgh is simply the Weather Gods’ little joke … Either way, after the last few days I’ve had, I still think it will feel like a break.

Mum and aunt with brompton

Fortunately, these past couple of days we have had a little help, first in the form of my aunt and uncle who have come to help out with the move. My aunt has bought herself a new Brompton and nothing would stop her from riding it down with me into town yesterday, or indeed, cycling into Bigtown Police station on a rescue mission after my Dad dropped his phone. 101 uses for a Brompton continues

Meanwhile, the wee hare, noting that nobody has had time to do any gardening, has been getting on with trimming the lawn edges for us, much to the detriment of my ability to concentrate on getting any work done. Although gardening can be tiring work, so it spends a fair bit of time just chilling out as only hares know how.

Young hare sitting looking relaxed in garden

One day soon, I hope to be joining it.


Stretching a Point

April 16, 2022

It seems it was over 8 years ago that I first dipped a toe into yoga. Since then, I’ve gone from irregularly attending a weekly class, to doing regular yoga videos at home, to doing yoga pretty much every morning once the pandemic hit and we were all stuck at home anyway. And then a few weeks ago, being too busy in the morning, I tried an evening session and was struck by how well I slept and how nice and mobile my neck was in the morning. Ever since, I’ve started doing ten or so minutes of yoga in the evening as well, which is great for stress and general bendiness, and unwinding the various kinks of the day.

The problem I now have is that if, for any reason, I skip the evening yoga, then I have a terrible night’s sleep (heaven forfend that I skip the morning routine). So I’m now stuck on two yoga sessions a day just to keep pace with the stresses of modern daily life and my ever-advancing years, and that’s just the start of it. I can’t help but wonder if this ends with about half of my waking hours spent undoing the damage I’m inflicting on myself during the other half. Or I could just not spend hours on my phone doing the damage in the first place, but let’s not go mad here…

In other news, I have now lived in the country long enough that I can get lambs back in their field by just pointing at them as I cycle past and saying ‘oy, you lot, get back in your field’, whereupon they do so, as meek as, well, lambs.

Parents sitting on a bench

In other other news, the Pepperpots have landed and I never want to see another box again in my life.


Pull Yourself Together

April 10, 2022

So as I’ve mentioned before, my parents are moving to Bigtown shortly and as the daughter on the ground I’ve had various tasks to sort out, not least finding a set of stopgap curtains for the big bay window in the sitting room, so that my mum didn’t need to go looking for something more permanent until they’d got settled in.

This initially proved a challenge even to my advanced charity shop hunting skills, as finding a pair of nice looking curtains of the right size is hard enough; finding two matching pairs, or even two pairs that might coordinate with each other, takes more luck and/or time than I had to spare. It says something about my spatial reasoning ability, that I was a couple of weeks into this particular mission before it occurred to me one afternoon on the bike (where I have all my best ideas), that if I couldn’t find two matching pairs of smaller curtains, then I could, with the application of some scissors and rudimentary sewing skills, turn one big pair into two.

Coincidentally, just as I’d had this genius idea, and secured a pair of curtains that were roughly the right length and width, I got an email about a ‘repair cafe’ at New Nearest Village so off I went with my new purchase up the hill to see if anyone could help. As it happened, the lady with the sewing machine was an ex-curtain maker who could talk me through the whole process. These were lined curtains (‘bagged out’ as they are apparently known in the trade, and I do love a technical term) and could be sewn up on the inside to produce a neat edge even without a sewing machine (fortunately I had plenty of Zoom meetings instead). So after much measuring and pinning and checking and measuring again, the curtains were cut and ready to be sewn.

Sewing is a struggle for anyone as spatially challenged as I am, because everything has to be done inside out and backwards, and even though I’d been shown exactly what to do, it all felt so counterintuitive that I must have turned the damn things inside out and right side in half a dozen times before I was convinced it would work. But work it did, and today we hung the curtains and even though they’re not quite the perfect fit, they’ll do the job until they can be replaced. And all for the princely sum of £6.

curtains hung up in a bay window

And then on Wednesday, the big move begins, and with it what will effectively be a new chapter for all of us. For almost my entire adult life, I’ve never actually lived in the same place as any of my family and while I know this is just normality for most people, the prospect of living more or less on each others’ doorsteps feels like uncharted territory. In a good way, I hasten to add…

parents under the Leaderfoot viaduct

So please welcome Mr & Mrs Pepperpot to the blog. And now, back to the hare content …