Uh Oh

November 8, 2016

There is much I have been meaning to blog about, when I got the time, but I have been gadding about again, to Perth this time for a cycling conference where unusually I didn’t come away completely depressed about the future, even though there was an actual government transport minister there, which is usually enough to pour a dose of cold water on everyone’s enthusiasm.* Of course, this may have been because someone was foolish enough to fit me up with a microphone and let me loose on the closing panel (after someone more important pulled out at the last minute

But never mind all that. Because, while I noticed ice on the puddles yesterday as I cycled down to catch the bus on my way to Perth, I really wasn’t expecting to come back this evening in increasingly heavy snow (fortunately, the other half had driven to pick me up, so I was witnessing this from inside the car. There are limits to my devotion to active travel…). We have inherited a rather sorry looking olive tree in a round-bottomed pot from the previous owners of the house, which we have spent most of the autumn picking up after it has blown over in the wind (top tip for gardeners: don’t put trees in round bottomed pots. I mean seriously, what were they thinking?) I had been meaning to find out whether to bring it indoors to our entrance way to the winter but hadn’t got round to it because it’s only the first week of November, for crying out loud. Hopefully it is not too late already…

I say nothing about the election over the water, but I do hope that when I wake up tomorrow, sorry-looking olive trees and Scottish cycling policy will still be top of my list of worries…

*Although it’s even worse when they don’t bother to turn up but post in a video presentation because there’s a much more important meeting about trains they want to be at instead



April 27, 2016

We woke this morning to clear skies and glorious sunshine – and no frost on the grass, for once, which was an improvement on the last couple of weeks. What better day, I thought, to take the peas and beans out of the greenhouse where I started them in a panic at the end of March and try and harden them off to plant them out before it’s actually May? And maybe get some washing out to boot?

hailstorm on laundry

And yes, I did stop to take a photo for the blog before rescuing the washing …

In retrospect, a day when it didn’t keep suddenly hailing, alternating with snowing, might have been better.

The weird thing was, in between hail/snow showers it was rather nice and even warm. In fact, I was sitting on the bench with my lunch when the first lot fell and it confused me because there I was enjoying the warmth of the sun, and here was this white stuff falling out of the sky – I confess, I looked up to see if there was a jackdaw or something dropping things because that made more sense than snow.

Anyway, according to all the gardening columns, hardening off your glasshouse-grown plants is a gradual process of putting them out on sunny days and progressively getting them used to the great outdoors with longer spells in the cold and eventually keeping them out overnight – not subjecting them to a day of violent freak weather conditions and hoping for the best.

broadbean seedlings

Fortunately, my peas and broad beans seem a pretty hardy bunch. With any luck they’ll survive tomorrows plague of frogs, or whatever it is the Weather Gods have in store, and I can plant them out at the weekend, ready for it to hail taxis.

Pea seedlings

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…

Viking Biking*

January 16, 2016

As we woke to another freezing morning, the other half offered to pick up the paper as he was heading into Bigtown, but I decided against. Not only have I not had a decent bike ride since Tuesday – and not to mention gone to some effort to change my bike’s tyres – but a comment yesterday had led me to this blog, being the seriously challenging winter cycling adventures of an indomitable lass in upstate New York, who appears to think nothing of cycling to work through sub-zero (that’s sub-zero Fahrenheit) temperatures at 4:30 in the morning and who feels positively cheated if the snow plough gets there before she has had a chance to break through the virgin snow herself.* So merely avoiding going out because it was a bit nippy seemed a bit feeble, and even when I started to get ready to head out and saw that it was snowing lightly I wasn’t going to be put off by a dusting of snow.

way out

Heading out to Bigtown, with just a light accumulation of snow at that point

more snow on the way back

At the same point on the way back, there was rather more…

Fans of the Weather Gods will know what happened next: it started snowing in earnest. Still, clad in lobster gloves, scarf, fleece, boots, ear warmers and, of course, my tweed cap, (I imagine cyclists in New York would laugh to hear it was just a couple of degrees below zero) I was warm enough. I’d chosen the fleece, which is green, thinking it might make me a bit more visible than my brown waxed coat, but that was a bit of a tactical error because it (and the cap) just got immediately coated in snow so I ended up nicely camouflaged. Still, anyone cycling in this weather automatically comes with a giant sign saying ‘NUTTER’ which hovers like a fifteen foot fluorescent flag over their head, so the few cars I did encounter could see me anyway, and rather better than when it’s raining when I apparently disappear. The tyres did their job, the bike performed fine (with the odd ‘interesting’ gear change once the snow had built up on the derailleur) and I got into Bigtown and back feeling just a tiny bit pleased with myself, even if it had taken me an hour and a half to cover ten miles.

snow-covered bike

Viking bike?

Of course, some of that time might have been spent stopping to take photos…

snowy river

The snow has continued ever since and is still falling. Tomorrow might be interesting.

* Copenhagenize’s coinage for the winter cyclists of Copenhagen, who at least have the luxury of their own cycle tracks which are actually ploughed and gritted. Perhaps we need another term for those of us who plug on regardless without such luxuries. #SaxonCycling has been suggested on Twitter but I think the UK equivalent should be #StiffUpperLipCycling

** Or as the other half put it, seriously impressed, ‘there’s someone even madder than you on a bike’.

Meanwhile, in Weather God Land…

January 8, 2016

‘what’s that she’s whinging on about now? There’s been too much rain recently?’

‘not only that, but it’s too mild

‘I think we can do something about that …’

And so they did

snow faling

It was just fat comedy flakes at first, so I set off for the paper anyway, without bothering to change to my winter wheels with their magical ice tyres. It wasn’t actually all that cold and my main problem initially was the snow melting into my trousers – I’ve never had to ride along brushing the accumulation of snow off my thighs before.

car tracks on snowy road

Having stopped in nearest village for a chat (‘it’s no weather for cycling’ ‘I thought I’d get out before it gets any worse’) and set off again in snow that was now steadily settling I was beginning to regret not having the spikes. It wasn’t too slippery on the fresh snow, but it was getting thick enough that it was quite hard going – and where the few cars had passed the snow was distinctly squirrelly underfoot.

So I stuck to the middle of the road and concentrated on pedalling steadily and smoothly uphill and not gathering too much speed downhill.

snow on trees

And enjoying it.

snow on gate

I was quite pleased to find it was mostly melting on the way back. The night is forecast to be cold, however, so I think the magical ice tyres will be going on …

Vengeance is Theirs…

April 12, 2015

The ‘Friends’ of Bigtown’s park are a lovely bunch. Enthusiastic, committed volunteers who only want to see their newly refurbished park used and loved by everyone in the town, supported by a similarly enthusiastic and proactive coonsil officer. They are also, clearly, terrible sinners in the eyes of the Weather Gods; I am, by comparison, their ewe lamb.*

Exhibit one: Easter last year. The opening of the newly refurbished park. All week, the sun shines. Then, on the day of the actual festivities, for which we had arranged a family ride among other events, the heavens open and it rains all day, until all chance of fun has evaporated and then the sun comes out and the evening is rather gorgeous

Coincidence? Perhaps. But then, Exhibit two: the Christmas fun day in the park. Lots of activities planned including our cycling Santa and Christmas bike ride, for which many reindeer heads had been created. OK, so a weekend in December is always going to be a bit of of a gamble, but we weren’t expecting rain, hail, sleet and horizontal snow – right up to the moment when the decision was taken to cancel, upon which it naturally cheered up.

And then today. Exhibit three. Another Easter fun day with a bike treasure hunt planned. I have to say, my expectations for the day were fairly well managed by now, although we’ve had almost a week of glorious weather, The forecast was for heavy showers, which can mean anything. This morning the Met Office had moderated that to ‘light rain’ which sounded like an improvement until I realised this was just the Met Office averaging out ‘heavy rain’ and ‘no rain’ over the course of the day, which is not the same thing at all. But never mind, we had a gazebo to shelter under, while should any kids actually turn up, they could be out in the rain hunting hidden bike parts. The rain duly started as I was preparing to set off so I packed spare gloves and dry socks and donned my rain gear. And then the rain started to look a bit funny. A bit like snow. A lot like snow, actually. Snow AND rain. Rather hard icy painful sort of snow, as I discovered as I pedalled doggedly into Bigtown, arriving just in time to learn that the event had been called off.

Well, I say called off. Postponed to next week, in fact, although I’m not sure we will be joining them this time around. Not unless they’re planning some serious whisky libations to the Weather Gods, possibly backed up with a goat sacrifice or three. Otherwise who knows what weather we might have to endure.

wet cycling kit

Still, at least my kit might have dried off by then. Oh and the minute I got home? It stopped snowing and the sun came out.

* Actually come to think of it, that enthusiastic coonsil official may be the problem – can’t have the natural order of things turned on its head like that…

Frozen Out

February 3, 2015

frozen pond

It’s cooooold at the moment. I knew this cycling home from the Community Council meeting last night when it felt like my cheeks were freezing in the wind, and I knew it when we woke to ice on the inside of the windows … and I knew it this morning when I set off before the sun had properly got up to go and be photographed for the paper about icy cycle paths.*

winter dawn

But if I had wanted confirmation, I would have got it when it took five minutes for the teacher to defrost the door lock so we could get into our yoga class this morning. ‘What’s the opposite of hot yoga?’ someone asked. That’ll be Scottish yoga, I guess.

For those awaiting with bated breath for updates on the Yoga Wars front, Yoga Bunny has proved herself a fair weather bunny and hasn’t appeared for the last two weeks, along with almost all of the newbies. But I’m too cowardly to demur when the teacher tells me where to go, and besides, I’m getting to like my new mat neighbour. So I am practising my zen mindset and remaining in my alloted temporary slot until its owner comes back from her computer course. And then I shall strike, and the corner space will be MINE.

snowdrops in snow

In other news, the snowdrops are out. Their timing is terrible, but I suppose they’re tougher than they look…

* for a minute when I got to the newspaper offices I thought we’d been foiled by the council actually clearing the path because the icy rutted mess that I’d originally complained about was suddenly beautifully clear. But fortunately their zeal or their salt had run out about ten yards further on so there was plenty of ice for me to be photographed on doing my Angry People in Local Newspapers face