There’s a Reason they Call it a Weather Warning…

January 26, 2016

There was a moment this morning when I thought that I was about to feature in one of those infuriating ‘cyclist collides with car’ headlines – and for once it would have been accurate (under ordinary circumstances it is usually the car doing the colliding, on the whole we cyclists prefer not to hit cars because it hurts). I was just approaching Bigtown and the wind was blowing me sideways into a row of parked cars, including one that was just at the point of pulling out when (thankfully) the driver saw me and stopped long enough for me to wrest control of my bike back from the weather gods and pedal safely away.

In truth, I probably shouldn’t have been out on the bike today, at least not in traffic. It wasn’t that I was getting wet and having an unpleasant time (I was) but the wind was gusting so hard that maintaining a straight line was a problem. I made it to yoga where I was greeted with fairly uniform horror that I’d even attempted the trip. Today was definitely a day to have taken full advantage of the fact that I work from home and done my commute in my slippers from the bedroom to the dressing gown.

The problem was, I have just signed up to a new regime in my life: I’ve got myself some shared office space in Bigtown so that I have somewhere to work that isn’t the kitchen table, and can make better use of times when I have to be in town. I’m also hoping that I can impose a bit more discipline upon myself and start to create some sort of separation between working time and non-working time. I won’t be using it every day, but I had calculated that as I tend to be in town anyway on Tuesdays and Thursdays, that I should turn those into proper working days complete with an office to go to and – more importantly – leave.

That’s the theory. And, looking at the weather warnings yesterday, I probably should have postponed testing it out until Thursday but no, I was both stubborn and stupid and decided to start as I meant to go on. Which meant not only almost cycling into the side of a car and convincing my entire yoga class that I was bordering on the insane, but also spending two hours sitting in wet socks, thinking that, while my new office has lovely speedy broadband, and shops nearby, and people who pop in and ask if I want a cup of tea while they’re making one, and all the other amenities of offices, what it didn’t have was either a Rayburn or a stash of dry socks (I had actually thought of this and brought a spare pair of socks but my boots had got so epicly wet on the ride in from the flooded roads that the dry socks then got soaked in the five minutes it took me to cycle from yoga to the new office …)

Whitesands flooded

So at about 2:30 having done enough of what I wanted to do that I could call it a success, of sorts, and with the rain in temporary abeyance, I undraped all my wet kit from the radiators where I had draped it and decided to get while the getting was good, especially as the police had closed the riverfront, including the cyclepath, and who knew how much flooding there would be on the way home. By this time the wind had died down a little so that I was at least able to make more forward than sideways progress. The rain also waited until I was out of Bigtown before it started again, this time with a headwind, and so it was just a matter of putting my head down and pedalling through the storm for home…

flooded fields

I did stop to record the conditions, and even thought about making a diversion to the ford but you know what? I’m not that dedicated a blogger after all.

waterfall in spate

This is not the ford …

Remind me not to do that again if I don’t have to, would you?

Still Invisible

January 25, 2016

I think I have complained before about the relative invisibility of our typical South West Scotland pacing-itself mizzling type of rain to both the forecasters and the rain radar. Today was one of those days, where both the Met Office and the Norwegians (the other half has taken to consulting the Norwegian weather service just in case they have any better weather on offer) were claiming that it wasn’t raining at all, backed up by Rain Today, while a quick glance out of the window revealed curtains of rain moving swiftly sideways up the valley (or ‘fast-moving fog’ as the other half described it yesterday).

It did stop, however, just in time for me to head out and I cycled off hoping that perhaps the time it had taken me to put all my wet weather kit on was enough to invoke Sod’s law, although I have no idea why, after living here for so many years, I might have thought that; still, hope springs eternal, as they say.

But not as eternally as South West Scotland’s rain and I was soon cycling into an enormous headwind and experiencing some of the other half’s fast-moving fog which was every bit as unpleasant as it sounds.

The sad part is, that was just the warm up act – we’re under another apocalyptic weather warning for heavy rain, but it doesn’t even kick in until tomorrow. It is supposedly the same storm that just buried the Eastern Seaboard of the United States under snow, but about 10 degrees warmer, so stand by for a drenching.

Flood Defences

December 7, 2015

There was only one choice of footwear for the ride down to the papershop today

cycling in wellies

I have yet to work out what additional information a ‘Flood’ sign brings to the party here, or most places, to be honest. This has long puzzled me (it’s not as if this one was any deeper or more dangerous to cross than any of the other stretches of flooding we see without the benefit of signs).

flood ahead

Still, they do seem to lead interesting lives. This one has clearly been in the wars. If may even be the one that had all but grown into the landscape on the outskirts of Papershop Village – perhaps washed free by the recent flooding?

battered flood sign

On the way home, I was rewarded by the sun coming out and catching everything with a fleeting brush of glorious light

fleeting winter sunshine

Meanwhile, up at the greenhouse …

garlic emerging

But I (and you) will have to wait for the next thrilling installment of GarlicWatch because tomorrow we pack our bags and head to Glasgow (trains and weather warnings permitting) to fly the next morning to Colorado where we shall, hopefully, be seeing a lot more of the sun, and a lot less flooding. And hopefully, a restored river path.

Don’t tell the Weather Gods…


November 29, 2015

Well, the weather continues grim. We haven’t had the snow that Scotland was getting further north, but the rain has been coming down stairrods and then coming sideways stairrods, if that’s possible, which now I come to think of it makes more sense for stairrods. It did ease off a bit this afternoon and the sun even came out but only for long enough to lure us out for a walk, before resuming in earnest before we could even contemplate checking the level of the ford.

road flooding

But who needs a ford, when your whole road network consists of running water? The other half was slightly disconcerted to notice that, when I cleared the leaves out of one of the drains, the water started to bubble up directly through the tarmac. Further up the road, a culvert must have got blocked somewhere and a burn has redirected itself into a field, through a wall and across the road into the field that the farmer spent all of the summer extensively and probably expensively draining.

water everywhere

It was also flooding somewhat outside our gate so I duly went out with the stick* to see what I could do. A bit of leaf clearing aside, the answer was ‘not much’: the field drain was draining water as fast as it possibly could, just not as fast as it was falling out of the sky.

field drain draining

None of this bodes well for the outside garlic, although I did manage to dash up this morning before the worst of it started and give it some protection with some bottle cloches before the soil got even more waterlogged (I know there are holes in the top of some of them; they still seem to provide a bit of protection from the worst of the weather). Whether they will make a blind bit of difference when the whole county is effectively sloshing about, remains to be seen.

garlic under cloches

*Oh and drivers? Please don’t try and rush me when I am out in the middle of the road with my stick. I am out there for your benefit and no, I’m not going to move over so you can roar past at top speed through the flood. And yes, the more reluctant you are to slow down when you see me, the longer it will take me to get out of the way.


November 10, 2015

Bad news, regular blog readers: it seems that even after being freshly re-proofed, my everything-but-the-apocalypse-proof jacket is letting in a bit of damp at the shoulders and the sleeves. Perhaps it is finally wearing out – it is beginning to look a little faded and frayed around the seams (but then again, that’s generally when my clothes are just getting comfortable). Either that, or this actually is the apocalypse (‘which would explain a lot’ the other half said).*

Either way, I’m going to need a new jacket because if the end times are coming you wouldn’t want to face them in anything but a breathable but otherwise completely impermeable outer garment, and neither would you want to live in South West Scotland, frankly. Any suggestions? The local horse riders (who fear for my safety in my current ninja getup) would prefer it if it wasn’t black…

*’Apocalypse Abigail‘ according to the Met Office** – although really, I do think they should stop messing around and just let the people of Glasgow decide what the storms are called

** although it seems the Met Office folk in Aberdeen are made of sterner stuff and have pointed out that wet and windy weather in November is normal for Scotland.

Small Mercies

November 6, 2015
walk cycle vote flag

My Walk, Cycle, Vote flag looking like I feel…

Help, how has it got to be Friday? I know blogging has been light of late, but this is getting ridiculous. In my defence, there’s only so many posts I can spin out of days spent desperately trying to get a load of urgent work done in the week after I told the other half that I wasn’t going to accept any more jobs in November, having spend our holiday in Northern Ireland working, and then promptly accepted one.

Oh, and cycling in the rain

socks and gloves drying on the Rayburn

What more is there to say about that either, except that the best thing about it is when you get home and get to stop and dry off and watch the rain lashing against the window from the correct side of the glass?

rainy afternoon

Yesterday I got a drenching, and today I got another with bonus headwind plus the fact that I’d been lured out by a break in the weather (‘they were just gathering themselves to have a proper go’ as Papershop Woman put it) so I didn’t bother with my brand new waterproof-albeit-not-entirely-in-Scotland trousers.

On the plus side, on the way back, I spotted what must surely have been ASBO Buzzard being mobbed by crows.

I can’t tell you how that brightened my day.

Waterproof in Scotland?

October 5, 2015

Some time back in the distant past – or rather August – I was tempted by the Vulpine sale and ordered a nice merino polo top (one can never have too many merino tops) and, more daringly, a their “Epic” cotton rain trousers, reduced from how much!?! to just how much?! in the sales. Close inspection of the fine print suggests that they were merely rain-resistant rather than rain proof, but the cheery person who mans (or possibly womans) their twitter feed seemed convinced they would be ideal for the local conditions

Fast forward a few days and the trousers arrived and, magically, fit, despite the fact that I have – contrary to the trouser design ordinance of 1998 – hips, thighs, and a waist. They also looked very smart, at least adjusted for being a piece of clothing I own, and come in a colour other than grouse-shooting green. More importantly for the first six weeks I owned them they worked in exactly the way you want rain gear to work: it was never actually raining when I had to go out on the bike (there was one close call, but by the time I’d put the trousers on, it had stopped).

Unfortunately, possibly due to an unwary tweet to a Portlander who was also wondering where her rain had gone, the Weather Gods came back from their extended early autumn break and unleased a goodly portion of September’s rain on us today. Which was the day I had to cycle into Bigtown, spend a morning sitting in a meeting with the coonsil (and then going out and looking at various places where they might put some signs up to let cyclists know that – no pressure – but instead of pedalling down a horrible trunk road with HGVs roaring past you at two minute intervals, you could instead turn off onto a nice almost traffic-free route which has up to now been more or less the secret of a few locals, something which it has only taken the powers that be about 5 years to try and organise). The sort of day for which a pair of smart but rain-resistant trousers might have been invented.

So how did they do? Well, on the way in, they proved pretty good. Obviously I had used the intervening weeks of dry weather beforehand to not get round to re-proofing my jacket or re-waxing my boots so my feet and arms were a bit soggy, but the rain beaded up nicely on the trousers and then quickly dried and they were also not at all sweaty. The sitting in meetings part they performed with aplomb, looking at least as smart as anything anyone else was wearing and not being too rattly when I walked. Add in all the nice details (tab to keep the cuff out of the chain, magnetic button on the back pocket, hell, just having pockets which is not a given on women’s trousers) and I was pretty pleased.

On the way home, the rain was not so much heavier but – in the mysterious way that rain does around here – managed to be significantly wetter. Let’s just say that there are days when you get in and take your jacket and shoes off when you get in and put them in the hallway. And there are days when you take your jacket and shoes and gloves off and put them by the Rayburn to dry. And there are days when you get in and have to strip right down to your smalls in the bathroom and hang everything up in the bath to avoid flooding the kitchen floor – while silently blessing the fact that your towel is still hanging up on the Rayburn rail keeping warm – and today was one of those days. I can report that, as advertised, Vulpine Epic rain trousers are *not* waterproof in Scotland under those conditions BUT that my legs were the second dryest part of me after the ride. And the dryest? The top of my head, protected by my magical tweed cap – which has so far proved itself resistant to everything Scotland can throw at it. I’m guessing they know a thing or two about rain in Harris…

Vulpine are currently running a customer survey which is probably worth doing for the giggles if nothing else (no other cycling company that I know of acknowledges that ‘anything as long as there is cake’ is as much a type of cycling as the usual boring categories of road, mountain biking etc.). I’ve already filled it in, which is a shame because otherwise I’d be back on there now suggesting that if they really want to achieve ‘waterproof in Scotland’ status, they need to be looking into tweed.