Chasing Shadows

December 2, 2017

Today was one of those days when I kept getting distracted by the view and dashing out with my phone in a vain attempt to capture some feeble sense of what it was that had captivated me.

mist beneath us

The problem with views is that by their nature they are very far away, and unless you’re in the Alps or something, the interesting bit – the bit where, for the want of a more precise definition, the sky meets the ground – tends to be quite narrow. Add in a phone camera which doesn’t have a great deal of dynamic range, no zoom lens and – let’s be frank – a fairly rubbish photographer, and I end up with a lot of photographs of the fields in front of our house and some clouds and no sense of the wonderful interplay of light and mist and shade over Bigtown that I was actually trying to capture.

dramatic cloudscape

Still, I keep trying.

In the end, I got on the bike and cycled down into it (well, I had to get the paper anyway) to discover that, once you’re in the thick of it, a wonderful interplay of light and mist and shade translates into mizzling rain.

in the cloud

And then I came home and dashed out again to try and capture the sunset, with similarly unsatisfying results.

winter sunset

I could probably take better photos if I had an actual camera and learned how to use it but what these views really make me want to do is learn to paint. Or maybe just learn to be content to look.

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Ride Like the Wind, Be Home for Tea*

January 20, 2016

afternoon light

Dashing back from an important coffee-and-gossip session this afternoon, trying to beat the fading light (with my winter wheels on, I no longer have my hub dynamo and I had forgotten to bring my emergency backup front light), I couldn’t help but stop to snatch a photo of the light and mist and late afternoon sky

Further on, with the sunset gathering momentum, and just as I was wondering whether I had time to stop to take another photo, I noticed a car stopped by the side of the road and a woman leaning over the gate, (proper) camera in hand, who had clearly had the same thought. A friend, in fact, and a much better photographer than I am,** so in the end I discovered I did have time to stop, if only for a brief chat.***

And then I really did have to ride like the wind – if the wind rode a rather over-laden touring bike with spiked winter tyres – if I was to be home for tea.

I made it, you’ll be relieved to know

* motto of the sadly no-longer-updated Highway Cycling Group

** I was hoping she’d have posted her photo by now so you could see the sunset in its real glory but nothing so far (updated – you can see the results here if you click through  to the ‘extras’)

*** I’d say that this was one of the pleasures of cycling, but actually round here drivers think nothing of stopping side by side for a blether if they pass someone they know, and sometimes quite a prolonged one.


Thaw Point

January 18, 2016

snow on plants

I was expecting a challenging ride down to the papershop today because the forecast was for it to barely lift above freezing. Yesterday was so still and so cold that the snow didn’t melt at all, and the roads were just packed snow by the end of the day, with no sign of the tarmac underneath.

snow on trees

But this morning it was a little warmer and there was a fine misting drizzle and by the time I got out on the bike the road was more slush than anything. The thaw has already reached that nasty gloomy drippy squelchy stage, like the snotty part of a cold, and while I welcome the signs of impending improvement, I can’t say it’s all that attractive.

snowy track

So you’ll just have to vicariously enjoy our walk through the woods yesterday, which was a perfectly gorgeous winter’s day. What with the roads and the snow, we weren’t going anywhere, and neither, it seemed, was anybody else.

snow_woods snow_woods_2

We forget, sometimes, how beautiful a place it is that we live in, and how privileged we are to have it mostly to ourselves.

snow, trees and gate

In other news, I think the garlic may be getting cold enough now

garlic under snow

There are some garlic bulbs somewhere underneath all that…


Sight for Sore Eyes

June 3, 2015

my own bike

After a fortnight on a borrowed bike, getting back to my own was almost as good as getting back to my own bed (in fact better, as it was so bloody freezing when I got into bed last night I found myself shivering uncontrollably even with a hot water bottle. Whose idiotic idea was it to turn off the Rayburn on the flimsy grounds that it would be June when we got back from the States?*). It felt a little skittery for the first few hundred yards – although whether that was the effect of switching from a weighty hybrid with knobbly tyres, or just general high spirits on the bike’s part after two weeks in a shed, I don’t know.

cows in the road

It was good to be back on the old papershop run too, even though the traffic was terrible (I adopted the correct procedure for allowing cows to pass me and with a bit of eye rolling they made it past), and ASBO buzzard did a few warning traverses as I crossed into its territory, although without actually attacking.

bluebell wood

Bluebells. Obviously they were about five times as lovely as they look here, but you’ll just have to imagine it

The bluebells are still going strong (the first rule of bluebell woods is you don’t try and take photographs of bluebell woods because you will be disappointed by the results but I couldn’t resist).

may / hawthorn flower

The may is out although it’s still a bit nippy for any over-enthusiastic clout casting.

And when I was riding home from Bigtown this evening I had to keep stopping to take photos because it was just so lovely.

road_home road_home_2 road_home_3

Oh all right, the fierce headwind might have had something to do with it as well…

Rather less lovely was the horrifically road-killed deer that’s festering half way down the road to the village. I did take a picture, but it’s too grim to post. Normally any deer get scooped up for venison pretty quick but this was clearly too mangled. Drivers, please slow down on rural roads, even if you don’t care about me you surely don’t want to hit Bambi…

* Mine


Tap* Aff

March 18, 2015

hazy hills

Oh what an errandonneering day I could have had today – a dental appointment in Notso Bigtown, with a side trip to pick up the paper and deliver POP flyers to any likely looking destination. Any sane person would probably feel that 13+ miles each way by bike is a bit excessive for a 20 minute check up and a scale and polish. But the other half needed the car, and the weather forecast was unusually optimistic, and the bulk of my cycling in recent weeks has been up and down the road to Bigtown, so I didn’t really much encouragement to recast it as a nice bike ride with a small dental appointment attached. Which makes a whole lot more sense that way round.

road ahead

The promised sunshine was hazy rather than glorious, but it was certainly warmer than it has been all year, so I soon stopped to peel off my jumper and then, daringly, my gloves. Pausing only to pick up the paper and drop off some Pedal on Parliament flyers (‘Oh, I’ll give one to Roland’, said Papershop Bloke. ‘Why, is he a keen cyclist then?’ ‘No, he hates them. When the police came round to warn him because some cyclist had reported him for his driving, he said next time he saw one he’d run them over.’ Hopefully he won’t be turning up in Edinburgh on the 25th of April, in a tank), I was soon out beyond my normal daily cycling round and remembering why I like riding my bike around here so much.

downhill_ahead

Sadly, my camera doesn’t seem to manage to capture the steepness or otherwise of a hill. This is one of those ‘check your brakes’ descents that means I never take this road the other way (and yes, it is a national cycle route. Perhaps we should all have a whip round and buy Sustrans a map with some contour lines on it)

Teeth given a clean bill of health, and with more POP flyers distributed to Notso Bigtown’s three (count ’em) bike shops, I had to hurry back a bit faster than I would normally like, because I was expecting an important work-related phone call. I’m glad I took the opportunity to escape while I did because looming work commitments, not to mention organising a wee demonstration in Edinburgh, mean that opportunities for sunny cycle rides on flimsy excuses might be a little thin on the ground in the next few weeks.

And I wasn’t the only one lured out by the sunshine, either…

lizard on the cobbles

Approximately 4/5 of a lizard.

*because let’s not go mad here. Removing just the one layer is quite sufficient in March


It is not Spring

February 16, 2015

It will not be spring for some time (calendar dates notwithstanding), there are still pockets of snow lurking in the lee of the dykes, the north wind can still deliver a sharp nip when it gets up and there is undoubtedly more weather coming our way.

And yet

sunshine on trees

The trees are starting to show that first fuzz of colour that promises leaves.

winter_birch

And in the sunshine, you can almost feel the warmth.

Bit of a contrast with the last pictures of trees I posted, anyway


Vision Accomplished

November 24, 2014

After a bit too much gadding about and far too much dual-ended candle consumption, yesterday was a day to get away from the dreaded laptop and take our binoculars out for a nice walk. And as it turns out all you need to do is publish your long-term vision for more sunshine* and lo and behold, it shall be so, at least as far as Sunday was concerned.

So we got ourselves down to the coast

Balcary Bay in sunshine

It really was rather glorious. I was taking photos blind because there was too much sunshine to see what was going on, but it seems to have worked out.

Cliffs

Not shown in the photos were the porpoises glimpsed coming up for air out to sea, the rock doves (oh, okay, they’re probably feral pigeons, but they live on the sea cliff miles and miles from the nearest McDonald’s so they must surely have reverted back to the original bird by now) whooshing over the cliff edge with a great rush of wings at top speed, and the interesting little brown bird that we pursued through the gorse hoping for a rock pipit or at the very least a stonechat but which turned out to be a robin.

cliff-edge donkeys

These natives were mostly friendly, although we decided not to get on the cliff side of them – they had the air about them of animals that would not stint in their search for concealed polo mints in people’s pockets, and if that meant nudging an unlucky hiker over the drop, well, no omelettes without breaking eggs and all that.

wall with lichen

And if lichen is a sign of unpolluted air, then we were getting it by the lungful.

All in all, a grand restorative day, and just what the doctor ordered. We don’t really take advantage of our glorious surroundings anything like frequently enough. Something to bear in mind.

* I’d love to say that the Scottish Government’s vision of direct, safe, well connected cycle routes on major roads had also magically appeared but clearly that level of wishing and hoping takes a little longer.