Out Like a Lion

March 31, 2015

There was a moment or so last week when it started to feel as if spring had, if not arrived, was at least texting us to let us know that it was on its way. This week has proved that that was somewhat premature – the first clue being the fact that we woke to a smattering of snow yesterday, the second being the fact that the birds were flying backwards today, which is never a good sign when you’ve got a TOHH* journey ahead of you.

But, you know, I had yoga to go to, and an important literary plotting meeting to attend, followed by an hour of fantasy cycling-infrastructure shopping with someone in the council who can’t, sadly, actually implement any of my plans but is prepared to indulge me while I explain them, which amounts to a significant step forward in these parts. The journey into town was completed in record time, aided by a massive tailwind, and I did hope that the wind might drop before I had to head home, but I was disabused of that notion after filtering to the front of a queue of traffic at the lights, foolishly failing to change down a gear, and then discovering when I attempted to set off again that I was barely able to move into the wind. Fortunately, the drivers behind were extremely patient with me and hung back until there was space for them to safely pass, for which I was enormously grateful, given the cross winds which threatened to send me half way across the road at times.

As for the last few miles home, I can only say that was the longest 40 minutes of my life (time does funny things when you’re plugging into a headwind; I was convinced I’d been riding for at least an hour when I got home). I don’t think I’ve ever ridden into anything like it, particularly when it started snowing again. It didn’t help when a car suddenly appeared about a foot to my right, having come up behind me without my hearing a thing, and passed me on a narrow bend as if I simply wasn’t there, thereby undoing all the warm fuzzy goodwill I’d been feeling towards the drivers of Bigtown up to that point.

Fortunately, we have recently been extensively testing the proposition ‘it is not possible to have too much cake’** due to a backlog of over-ripe bananas, which obviously have to be turned into banana bread and/or Ruby Tandoh’s banana thyme cake, combined with a belated birthday present of more cake which arrived in the post yesterday (complete with candles, naturally, you’ve got to love my friends). So the other half was able to revive me with plenty of carbohydrate when I finally staggered in the door, looking as if I had been freshly sandblasted. The rest of the day has been spent firmly on the sofa, waiting for April…

*tailwind out, headwind home; HOTH is the correct configuration for cyclists.

** preliminary results suggest that it is both logically and practically true.


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


Sure Signs of Spring

March 6, 2015

Photographs of tiny white dots purporting to be lambs:

lambs

These lambs are both small and far away

My winter scarf knitting project finally nears completion:

Almost completed scarf

The scarf, in fairness, was a bit of a latecomer to the winter knitting programme. I had been rummaging around in the bargain bin of the local knitting shop in search of unfeasibly bright yarn, for some reason, when I came across a bargain ball of self-striping wool. It turned out not to be suitable for the project I had in mind for it, but I started playing around trying to see if I could get the colours to line up vertically with each other. Self-striping wool can leave you feeling like a bit of a passenger in your own knitting, but to get the effect I wanted meant something a bit more dynamic: adding a stitch or two at one end, and removing a stitch or two at the the other as needed, until I realised I had started to create a bias-knit scarf.

Well, biasish.

colour mistake

The perils of not paying attention at the crucial moment

Turns out knitting and trying to keep up with what’s going on in Wolf Hall might be a multi task too far.

Anyway, it should also add a bit of brightness to my outfit on the bike, which is otherwise a bit subfusc. And it seems to have done its job in that the forecast now is for mild spring weather. You don’t get that from a hi vis vest…


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


A Tale of Two Climates

February 7, 2015

This afternoon I headed up to the greenhouse for a little pottering in my own pet Mediterranean climate (my random perennial experiment is still going strong, amazingly), trying not to let time’s winged chariot breathe too heavily down my my neck, whatever other gardeners in the village might say.

winter_trees_2

And then I walked down the road where a nice temperature inversion was keeping everything in the depth of winter, in the fog. Normally it’s us who gets the fog while everywhere else basks in the sunshine, so it was nice to be able to walk back up the hill and into the sunshine again.

winter_trees

 

winter_trees_3

winter_trees_4

In other news, the gardening neighbours are moving out (I don’t think it’s anything I’m doing, but who knows). We’re hoping the next set of tenants will be a little more slapdash in their gardening approach, although the current lot have given them something of a head start…

winter_trees_5

Must get my seed order in.


Po(o)ped

April 25, 2014

Today I got up at 5:15 am to help out at Bigtown’s bike breakfast (fab time was had by all, despite the lack of bacon … we made sure there was real coffee though; some things are not negotiable), pedalled home, read about a thousand emails, wrote a press release, sent about 300 emails, read all the replies, packed, pedalled back to Bigtown to get on a bus and a train to Embra, sat around worrying about things like whistles and bamboo poles and laminated signs and MSPs’ contact details and did we have enough string and all the other things involved in running a mass protest, went to the pub to sit around doing more worrying, and have finally bailed out before I flaked out under the table in exhaustion.

So you’ll forgive me if, in lieu of a blog post, I give you a picture of a tree

tree coming into leaf

Tomorrow it will all be over…

With any luck there will still be a bit of spring left to enjoy


Half Sprung

April 15, 2014

waiting bike

It’s a tough life, but today I had to add a few extra miles to my route back from Bigtown after yoga to deliver some Pedal on Parliament flyers to a local cafe and farm shop. The sun was blazing down* and dazzlingly bright, but I battled on up hill and down dale, stopping only for a cold drink and a a rest once I had arrived there.

hedgerows and trees

The hedgerows are full of green and blossoms and the skies were full of singing larks, but the trees remain resolutely wintry. We’re not there yet, not quite. There’s still springing to be done…

wintry trees

Sometimes it’s hard work bringing about safer cycling in Scotland, but someone’s got to do it…

gate and green field wintry tree two trees

* you may laugh, but I had not really factored in the insulating effect of having my yoga leggings on under my normal trousers and I was genuinely boiling by the time I got there and was able to do a quick change routine in the loo. It was so hot I even considered nipping behind a bush and just continuing in my leggings but they contain lycra and I was concerned someone might think I was a real cyclist.


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