Loveliest of Trees the Cherry Now

April 23, 2015

I had a last minute Guardian Bike Blog piece to write yesterday for Pedal on Parliament and was finding it difficult to get started, so there was nothing for it but to get myself onto my bike and hope that the words would come. I do all my best thinking on a bike, or at least that’s how it seems at the time. And besides, it was just too nice to be anywhere but outdoors.

spring trees

I even inveigled the other half along. He’s the tiny red dot, providing a bit of contrast to the first spring leaves of the trees. He’s not much one for riding at the speed of chat.

Blackthorn blossom

No cherries here (I spotted a glorious one in the middle of a wood from a train window this weekend though and have had an AE Houseman earworm ever since), so blackthorn will have to do. But frankly, all trees have a special loveliness when they first flush into leaf. I can’t get enough of that tender green.

And did I find inspiration? Well, it’s not exactly Houseman, but you can judge for yourself here.

More tree-and-cycling related shenanigans tomorrow, if I’m spared.


Sharing the Love

April 4, 2015

seeds at the seedshare

To Bigtown, to help out for an hour or so at the local guerrilla* gardening group’s seed swap, where we discovered how hard it is to give stuff away to the canny people of Bigtown, and the people of Bigtown discovered how hard it is to wriggle out of being given some seed by sufficiently enthusiastic gardeners (‘I’m no really much of a gardener’ ‘Oh well try some leeks, they’re pretty foolproof’, ‘We’ve no much room’ ‘how about some of this cut-and-come-again lettuce?’ ‘well I’ve not really actually got a garden’ ‘No problem, how about some basil, that’ll grow on a sunny windowsill’ – seriously, you think cyclists are persistent in sharing their addiction…)

plants at the seedshare

And then, the seeds and plants mostly distributed to mostly consenting adults (although if you were out shopping in Bigtown this afternoon and didn’t keep too close an eye on your bag it might be worth checking there aren’t a few unsuspected strawberry runners lurking in there with your messages) I rode home, and for the first time this year I kind of wished I had a camera running to record the ride. Not because of any horrible incident with a driver – the opposite of that, in fact. The fluid way on a bike you can slip through the traffic and escape it altogether onto the paths. And all the little interactions on the way – the two kids playing policemen who whistled at me and held up their hands to make me stop (scofflaw cyclist that I am, I pedalled off laughing), the two teenage girls practising a dance move on the bridge, the dad having a go on his daughter’s scooter. It would appear that spring has sprung and everyone has taken their mental coat off and is enjoying the release.

* “we’re not really guerrillas, but some of us are quite hairy”


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.


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