Exciting Drainage News Update

October 6, 2014

This spring, as I may have mentioned, the old boy, the young guy and their big yellow digger came from the council to sort out the drainage outside our house for once and for all – thereby ushering in one of the driest summers on record, but I really am not complaining. Still, we are in South West Scotland and October is already shaping up to be Octoberish with two weather warnings for excessive rain already, which means their work is getting properly stress tested at last. Of course, first we (and by ‘we’ I mean the other half of course – I’m recuperating, don’t you know, and so couldn’t possibly stick my hand into freezing cold running water) had to clear out all the leaves that had accumulated in the drains and the channel that runs along the drive. That done, the new enlarged drain pipe started clearing all the excess water like a good ‘un, and for a day or so it looked like we might even be able to spend a winter without watching four-by-fours aquaplane past our front garden through the flooded road as if they’re Moses parting the waters of the Red Sea.

flooded drive

Which was when the Weather Gods kicked the weather up a notch, and two things happened: first the water overwhelmed the new pipe and started flowing across our drive as normal, although the other half reports that it’s still sucking water down as fast as it can. And second, the new enlarge pipe overwhelmed the rest of the drains so that further down the road the water started pouring out of the drain instead of into it, so the road is still flooded more or less as normal (more committed bike bloggers than me can insert their traffic metaphor of choice here).

flooded road

Note water welling helpfully out of the drain on the left…

This may be a good thing, as our river is full. As undoubtedly is the ford, but the other half’s wellies have developed a leak and he’s not up for any walks that involve wading through our localised flooding for some reason.

not quite flooding river

In other news, I have resumed my habit of vehicular walking and will continue to ‘take the lane’ on the road down to the village until drivers learn to slow down when they pass pedestrians on wet roads rather than flying past them and drenching them from head to foot. If you see me, I’ll be slap bang in the middle of the road. And I’ll stay there until you’ve slowed to walking pace AND have acknowledged my cheery wave. Just so you know.

Normal Weather Service Resumed

October 3, 2014

wet October weather

I might as well admit right now that today was not the sort of day when I resented the fact that I couldn’t cycle. Today, in fact, was the sort of day when we got the woodburner lit early (Rayburn Man isn’t coming till Tuesday) and found useful things to do on our laptops. I’d blame convalescence but it was more just the urge to hide away from the rain…

That said, I have not been entirely housebound. For the last two days I have implemented my new plan for getting the paper – walking the 1.5 miles down to Nearest Village, where I pick it up from one of the villagers who take it in turns to fetch each others’ papers. I can finally walk at normal speed again, which means the whole thing takes about as long as it used to take me to cycle to Papershop Village but with the added bonus that, if it starts raining half way through, you get a lot less wet.

There may be other benefits too. I was a bit surprised to discover this morning that I’ve actually lost weight in the last ten days – despite the other half’s best efforts and a delivery of cake supplies (and cycling gossip and plotting) from Back on My Bike. Walking’s inefficiency has its advantages

Tomorrow I venture up to Embra for a day of cycle networking to which I invited myself after the initial suggested guest list contained no women’s names at all.* Fortunately Back on My Bike and I have some ideas about that – and meanwhile our Women’s Cycle Forum idea has grown legs (wheels?) and will be popping up in London too – with me on it. I’ll be the one trying to look like an award-winning cycle campaigner while trying not to be too intimidated by everyone else on the panel.

* Apparently because it was just an indicative list off the top of someone’s head. So that’s all right then.

Cock and Bull

September 15, 2014

I promise I’ll do a proper serious final independence referendum post as soon as I work up the energy but meanwhile I swear to God, the minute before this picture was taken these two were getting pretty frisky, except that SHE had decided she wanted to be on top. It’s for moments like these that I wish I wore a headcam.

cow and bull

Sure, they look all innocence now

In other news, the sun disappeared and the rain began again. I have discovered that my new greenhouse makes an excellent space to hide from the rain, listen to the radio, and pot up tiny seedlings. Even if I never grow anything in it properly, it’s worth it for that alone.


Gardening Leave

August 18, 2014

I’ve been having one of those days today. You know the sort, the kind that starts with your computer announcing it wants to reboot – now! – just when you’ve got up early to get something finished before an appointment which you then don’t get finished in time, because you’ve got to go and end up sitting in a waiting room for an hour – an hour! – so you’re now running doubly late so you get half way home before you remember you need to pick up milk so you have to turn back and now you’ve wasted even more time and you can’t even relax and enjoy the cycle home because even though the forecast was all sunny intervals, the reality has suddenly become heavy downpours. And I’m still theoretically having one of those days because even though I did manage to get everything done for today’s deadline, there are another two looming this week and to be honest, sitting here typing this isn’t helping.

But sometimes, especially when you have worked all weekend to get something finished and sent off only to have it greeted by an out of office reply from the person you sent it to, you’ve got to take a break. And as I was sitting having coffee on the bench my eye fell on my poor spring onions which have been sitting waiting to be planted out for weeks while I tried to find room for them in the veg plot. And as we’d finally agreed that the current batch of towering salad leaves, magnificent though they are, are becoming a bit bitter, clearly it was time to go up and get some gardening done.

towering lettuce

An hour or so later the lettuce was gone, the spring onions planted out, and I felt a little less frazzled and ready to resume my place at the grindstone.

spring onions planted out

After I’ve finished blogging this, of course…


August 12, 2014

We’re all about the casual gardening style here but I think I may have overshot the boundary between ‘deliciously informal’ and ‘inconvenient mess’ with my mangetouts, which have now formed an impenetrable thicket.

impenetrable mangetout thicket

There are mangetouts in there if you know where to look but finding them involves bodily picking up the entire tangle and rummaging around in it. As with all veg harvesting, it takes at least three iterations to even begin to feel you may have found them all, and even then you can guarantee you won’t have (see also: potatoes), which is why every time I go up to pick the next lot I find some which have clearly been beyond ready for weeks and have to be podded like conventional peas

mangetout thicket close up

Anyway, we were going to have mangetouts in our fried rice this evening but it was still hammering down and playing hunt-the-legume did not appeal, so perpetual spinach it was. Next year, I swear, I shall grow my mangetouts in regimented rows, like a proper gardener. I think I may make this resolution every year at about this time.

And talking of hunt-the-legume, the dinosaur eggs have produced dinosaurs.

mystery bean pods

Recipes for something resembling borlotti beans welcomed.

Be Prepared

July 4, 2014

It rained all day today. This wasn’t exactly a surprise because a) this is South West Scotland, and ‘raining’ is the factory setting, and b) the BBC has been forecasting rain all day today for the past week. Well, OK, maybe the second part was a bit of a surprise because the weather forecasts haven’t been all that accurate in recent weeks, but I can hardly say I wasn’t warned.

The rain left me with a dilemma: set out for the paper in the rain early on and get it over with, or wait around and see whether or not it was going to defy all forecasts and clear up. The latter was quite tempting because, well, it was raining, and it’s always hard to make yourself go out on the bike in the rain when you don’t absolutely have to.

Of course, for those of you all shaking your heads and muttering to yourselves ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, there’s only bad clothing’ – we’ve dealt with this topic many times before, and I’m afraid it’s total bollocks. Decent rain gear does one thing and one thing only, and that is it makes sitting around after you’ve been riding in the rain more pleasant, because you’re not sloshing about in your socks. However, unless you’re one of those ‘oh I love cycling in the rain it’s so refreshing’ types, in which case you’re a bit strange or possibly just don’t live in South West Scotland so the novelty hasn’t worn off yet, then riding in the rain is not fun.

At this point, I do have to confess that, despite six years of accumulating rain gear and living in a place where there are dozens, if not exactly 600, words for rain reflecting the fact that it rains A LOT, I still do suffer from bad clothing. Or more to the point, I have spent the last few weeks of miraculously fine weather lollygagging about enjoying the sunshine, rather than doing sensible things like re-proofing my everything-but-the-apocalypse jacket, and finding some replacement gloves.

four left hand gloves

Just how does this happen?

Or maybe just some right hand gloves. Because my 100% perfect record of only losing the right glove continues unabated. I have no idea how this happens, but it does. If there’s anyone out there who tends to lose the left glove and who has quite small hands and a fondness for leather driving gloves, please do get in touch and we can work something out.

And for those hanging on with bated breath to find out what I decided: I went out in the rain, and I got wet, and it was fairly miserable, and I came back and got changed into dry clothes and spent the rest of the day feeling glad that I didn’t have to go out in that. Which, on a day like today, counts as a win.

Still, at least I discovered that buzzards don’t like the rain either.

Stinging in the Rain

March 22, 2014

Thursday was one of those days when you look out of the window and think “thank God I don’t have to cycle anywhere today in that” as the rain lashes sideways past the window. The only problem was I did have to cycle somewhere in it; I had to be in Bigtown to catch a bus to go and meet someone. I told myself that it always looks worse from inside than it does when you’re actually out in it, put on the full monty raingear (apocalypse-proof jacket, rain skirt, leggits, tweed cap, gloves), remembered to pack a spare pair of gloves (I have yet to track down a pair of actually waterproof gloves, and there are few things more miserable than putting on wet gloves after you’ve been sitting in the warm and dry, so the only option is to pack as many pairs of gloves as you have journey legs) and set off.

As I’d hoped, it wasn’t too bad at first. The trip into Bigtown is generally done with a tailwind, and rain is a lot less unpleasant when it isn’t being blown into your face. In fact, I was cycling along musing about the fact that I’ve probably ridden through more rain in the past year than I have in my whole life up to then, and that I’ve gradually accumulated the right kit, and a few ideas, to make the whole wet-weather cycling thing if not pleasant, then bearable. I started putting together in my head a blog post of all the things I’ve learned in the last year to provide others with the benefit of my accumulated wisdom, entirely forgetting that I had not only blogged the day before about the imminent arrival of spring – but had also tweeted happily about the joys of cycling with a tail wind…

So I shouldn’t really have been surprised when the tail wind suddenly sprang round to hit me hard right in the face – enough to actually bring me to a standstill – and whipped off my cap and flung it into a puddle before settling into a punitive gusty cross wind for the rest of the ride into town. In the course of the next 30 minute I was to learn several entirely new and exciting facts about cycling in the rain when you have angered the weather gods:

1. Tweed floats. Indeed, an upside-down cap can sail quite a distance along a puddle when the wind takes it

2. Leggits are no protection to your shoes if you have to wade through the water to retrieve your hat.

3. A rain skirt is no protection at all when it is blowing a hooly and the rain is simultaneously coming at you from the side, front, above and possibly below

4. When your apocalypse-proof jacket starts to let in water, the pockets are where the water will accumulate and are therefore a poor choice of place to store your mobile phone, your Guardian voucher, and your dry gloves

5. There is no weather so unpleasant that it cannot be made more unpleasant by a driver choosing to pass you at speed through a puddle.

In fairness, I can’t really blame number five on the Weather Gods (but seriously drivers, what is it with close passing cyclists in the rain? Do you think we are out there getting wet for fun?)

By the time I had reached the bus stop and steeled myself to spend the rest of the day in wet socks, I had decided to hold off on that ‘top tips’ post until I had another decade or so’s experience to draw on. Meanwhile, I will rever to my former position, that the best wet weather gear of all is a roof.

Anyone commenting to the effect that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing, will be hunted down and drowned.


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