Tag Archives: Scotland

Septuagerianism & The Beast from the East

But I’ll start with the beast as it arrived first. It was forecast for snow and boy, the forecast didn’t lie. Usually by March in Central Scotland it is rare to have any snow at all, but this time it piled in, driven by big winds, so we stayed put for a couple of days till it blew out.

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The front door

Then it was digging out The Square with our friends & neighbours and getting out the skies again. A couple of lovely wee tours on the boards.

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Out on the boards, heading for the hills

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Just a wee bit o’ snaw!

Then the temperature went up a bit and the roads cleared enough to be out on the bike again. So away off, so happy, despite the gunge, snow melt, gravel, potholes, cough etc.

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The long road up Redstone Rigg with John & Mike ahead.

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Redstone Rigg summit with Mike, I’ve not put on weight – gloves and hat tucked in!

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A rapid down in the Lammermuirs

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Getting the miles in, nearly home

Then my 70th loomed. We booked an away trip to Peebles, in the Scottish Borders.

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On the way down to Peebles

I took my mountain bike too, as there is a renowned trail centre there at Glentress. As my 69th year departed I took the bike out, full of ambition and headed out and up the hill behind the hotel. A few miles in and a few hundred feet up, there came the snow banks. Unfortunately it was fairly soft so I eventually gave up & slid/ cycled back down. Only just over 5 miles in just under the hour, but still fun.

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Got a half a mile further

Then off to the swim, steam room & sauna and a well earned meal.

Next day dawned with me entering a new decade, funny how many cycling bits I got as presents?

So after breakfast off on the bike to Glentress to try my luck. My old steed was misbehaving so in to the bike shop at the foot of the trails to have it sorted. The front derailleur wasn’t selecting bottom gear – absolutely essential for the day’s outing. The managed to bodge it as a normal adjustment wasn’t working, so off I went.

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Glentress trails

On up the forestry roads, once again the drifts of soft snow impeded progress, so it was ride, slither, get off, push and repeat, and repeat . . . . . .

At one point a huge logging lorry came up behind. I stopped, got off and stepped to the side. Unfortunately the snow was softer and deeper than I thought so I went down on to my back, landed upside down with my feet and hands waving in the air, like tumbled over beetle, and my bike splayed out beside me. The driver stopped to ask if I was OK, but I was just lying there laughing at the situation – so I waved him on. I eventually untangled myself, decided enough was enough as the drifts were getting deeper & set off to find a blue trail back.

With some sort of dignity restored I found the trail and set off – guess what more ride, slither, get off, push and repeat, and repeat . . . . . .

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Selfie timelapse, phone resting on gloves

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Still smiling (or is it grimacing?)

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About to head off again

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Eventually I got to The Buzzard’s Nest, no chance of trying out the fun park today. A quick chat with some sensible fat bikers the off down. It was a brilliant descent swooping along, dodging the snow banks on the berms and over the wooden humpback bridge. Suddenly I thought, this seems another level up from the blue I’d been following. I had strayed onto the red/ black run. Ah well, just have to concentrate a bit harder and take care till the bottom.

Then it was back along the cycle path.

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Castle & brooding skies on the way back

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That castle again

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Subterranean cycling

This was followed by a repeat of swim, steam room & sauna. Altogether a slightly adventurous way of spending a birthday.

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And . . . . relax!!

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Peebles museum – hydro therapy as it used to be!

Next day back home and out on the road bike again. No snow on the roads, no falling over but not as much giggling and guffawing!!

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Pedal in, Pedal on Parliament and Pedal Back

Yesterday we were outside a local bookmakers trying to inform folk of the fate of greyhounds, once their racing days are done, or if they don’t make the grade. There are plans to open a new as fair wheeching greyhound stadium in our region so try to persuade folk it’s not a good idea. Lots of information online and it’s not for the squeamish. Makes me realise how horrible some people can be.

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Going to the Dogs?

Today felt more positive. It was POP day. Pedal on Parliament is a demo keep up the pressure to improve sustainable transport with making roads safer for cyclists, better and more bike paths and many other issues to do with cycling and walking.

Many pals were away doing the Tour de Lauder, but I hadn’t signed up this year.

So I set off for Edinburgh. Despite a chilly northerly wind I weeching along, averaging almost 18mph for the first 15 miles, then traffic lights, junctions, back roads and the odd bad turn or two slowed me down. When I arrived at the Meadows, quite a few folk had turned up already. I chatted with a few folk I knew, or just met.P1250079

As the crowds grew, crossing over the Meadows and then round the corner and along the way, it felt great to be part of this movement. The assortment of bikes was amazing. Big, big ones, wee ones, balance bikes, cargo bikes, racers, single speed, tatty auld yins, trailers, tagalongs, recumbents, hand pedalled  etc., etc. – wonderful.IMG_4036IMG_4031IMG_4037IMG_4039P1250081IMG_4038

The participants were also a mixed bunch, from the very young to the old and from all over the world it seemed too.P1250068P1250090P1250088P1250091P1250089P1250092

After riding in hard I started to chill down, but eventually we set off. It was wonderful to see so many cyclists unified and moving together. I was with a couple of guys hand pedalling their way along and it was nice to chat. Lots of support from passers by too. When we stopped at traffic lights or for emergency vehicles it was a chance to have a wee chat to pedestrians going past and explain what it was all about.P1250095IMG_4040P1250097P1250098P1250100

When we arrived at the Scottish Parliament there were to be speeches etc., but I was too chilly to stay. An acquaintance I met asked me if I was cold, when I asked how he knew he said my lips were purple!!P1250104

So I set off home, with a climb over Arthur’s Seat to help warm me up, as well as trying to cycle hard and get some feeling back to my fingers. With stops for  traffic lights, the odd wrong way and a ‘comfort’ break behind a big tree. I mainly sped back, and even warmed up.

IMG_4034After a great day’s adventure, including a fast off-road route for a few miles – it’s great having a road back with suspension – I was back home. After I stopped some other cyclists arrived in The Square and stopped for a break, so I pottered over for a wee chat. All in all, despite the chill I wouldn’t have missed it, and it’s another drip that might help wear away the status quo?IMG_8723

Trust, Squirt and Beauty

My 100th post apparently, not bad for an occasional blog I suppose?

It may sound a bit of a dubious title, but bear with me.

Trust in this instance is not believing in something or someone, but an anti-oderant which I have used for years. I don’t like having smelly armpits when working hard on the bike so this is a product that really works for me. It allows you to sweat, works for several days and has no aluminium or other harmful ingrediants. Only drawback is when it fades there is little warning. But I am sure my fellow cyclists and other humans appreciate the effect. It comes in a tiny, tiny jar which seems ultra expensive till, after use, you realise it lasts for months.

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Trust – doesn’t seem much but . . . .

Squirt I have written about before. It’s a special dry lube.Our roads are $%£!@(!! round here. They are full of potholes, gravel, mud, puddles, salt in winter etc. etc. So it gives the bike and its components a hard time.

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The road out of our village 2 days ago

Chains usually last about 3,000 mile if I’m lucky. Cassettes and chainrings get a bit of a battering too. For over a year now I’ve been using special dry lube called Squirt. I’ve found it excellent, even in these conditions. I recently changed my chain and found it had done 5,000 miles and wasn’t even fully stretched. No need to change the cassette or chainring either, so it’s win, win. One of the other things is cleaning – just a quick hose down and all the gubbins is washed away, a quick dry off and a lube and that’s it! Means the cassette, stays, derailleurs clean off easy as well. And finally, there’s the smoothness. The chain just seems to run quieter and feel better. So definitely works for me.

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Squirt, works well for me.

Now for the best – beauty. This is supposedly in the eye of the beholder, if so, as I’ve said before, there is so much for to gaze on round here that it becomes a feast. The scenery, the animals, plants & birds, the skyscapes, the weather effects and some of the human structures are there for the joy of the beholder. But enough of waxing lyrical, I’ll leave you with the second hand experience of a selection of photos.

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Amazing clouds at North Berwick

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East Linton sunset

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A curlew

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A patriotic tower, Belhaven

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Looking over Dunbar harbour – not exactly native species!!

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Now a house, used to be an airfield control tower

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Deer in the afternoon

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A wonderful sculpture celebrating the Eyemouth disaster. The figures are tiny.

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A Gardiner Malloy statue in Dunbar, two men to load, one fishwife to carry!

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A ribbon of light along the Biel Burn, flowing under ‘The Bridge to Nowhere’

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Sun and shadows at sunset

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Tree at sunset, up from the village of Spott.

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Dunbar harbour, with a rare Icelandic gull somewhere there.

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Mist pouring over Traprain Law

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I didn’t cycle this one up to Lawhead

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Remains of a bike left in the tree for decades as a memorial, there’s a stone nearby

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Cycling past & through brussel sprout leaves

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Another sunset ride – Aberlady church

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Coastguard on the lookout, North Berwick

Why I love my Village

I love living here, despite being a newcomer of only 15 or 16 years.

We are near enough from Edinburgh to be able to get in OK if needed, but far enough away to have loads of things happening.

So what does go on then?

First of all, a quick visit to the shops just down the street can result in a 20 minute or so expedition, chatting to folk on the way, going off to the deli or home with someone you meet, helping out a stranger with something and so on.

The Sweetie Shop

The Chemists

The village is expanding as quantities of new houses have been built and more are being planned, but the village has always been growing. What I dislike is the uniformity of the new houses being built. As the village formed it grew up all higgidly piggildy as there were no planning regulations. Folk added a porch on, an extra floor and another as the fancy took them. In many ways the regulations make things safer, more efficient and environmentally friendly but at the same time the designers/ architects can’t get their heads around the creativity for new buildings that will also fit in an older setting with an acceptable profit margin.

Rant over (for now).

The Flying Scotsman whooshes past the former station

Some of the older houses

The High Street

You can tell the new folk to the village, you meet them, say “Hi, how are you doing” and they give you a look of what appears to be mistrust. Hopefully this will change as they grow into life here.

So what makes it so good? Of course – the folk who live and/ or work here. They keep an eye out for each other but will leave each other alone if needed. When something goes wrong a pot of soup will land on your doorstep, or maybe a jar of jam, dangling in its bag from the door handle, or maybe a book.

The community joins in a lot, old and young. We have a very vital Community Hall, well booked for most of the week. We have a Gala which is well attended, the community choir, a community cinema, Christmas market, scouts, guides, brownies etc., horticultural societies who plant boxes around the village and encourage others to do the same.

Filming at the old mill for Outlander

Building a set for the Drama Group

The VR stands for Queen Victoria (Victoria Regina) so wasn’t fitted yesterday

A cargo bike outside the Community Hall
We also have a good variety of shops, a couple of inns, all sorts of trades folks and so on.

Volunteers run a Christmas Market and this year we (the community cinema group Pix in the Stix) put up an open air screen and showed a couple of films and a show of snowy/ icy photos from her to the Alps and Himalayas. Luckily the weather goddesses were kind. It was above freezing and hardly a breath of wind.

The community choir sings at the Christmas Market

Our Community Cinema puts on some films and a snowy/ icy photo show for the market

The last thing to mention here are the surroundings. We have a river (the Tyne) running through the village, the beach and sea just 10 minutes away by bike, woods, hills and moors, castles, old churches and historic sites and buildings all within easy reach, the joys (mostly) of the weather always changing and a fascinating geology.

All this helps foster a good outdoor community, be it the football team, tennis players or the walkers, runners, canoeists, sailors, skiers and cyclists (like myself).

Phantassie Doocot (a Doo is Scottish for a pigeon)

One of the old gravestones in the graveyard

Giant leeks and onions at the show

A local heron at the Linn (the waterfall)

So if you asked me where I would choose to live if I could stay anywhere – the answer, as you might guess is – here!!

A Wee Bit of a Ride

Early September – it was time for the Tour of Tweeddale again.

Tweeddale is in the Scottish Borders and is a fabulous venue for cycling of all sorts. I’ve done this event for the last five years, since it started. The distance in the past has varied from 85 to 99 miles but this time it was just over the 100 mile mark.

So having done what I hoped was sufficient training, I met up with some cycling pals ready for the off from Peebles. Another couple joined us on the line so a nice group of five were ready to go. I had stayed in the town the night before so had till 7.30 to wake up and get ready. In previous years, it was over an hour to drive down, so usually up at 5.30 to 6 am and I’m not good at mornings.

It was a chilly start, but not desperate and we were soon away and getting warmed up. The first section headed eastwards down beside the River Tweed on the back roads of the Tweed  Way. It was gorgeous, zooming up and mainly down with the wind behind and good views as we sped along. After the first 20 miles we left the Tweed Valley and climbed up and over to descend towards Selkirk.

We bypassed the town and headed for The Swire, otherwise know as the Witchy Knowe, the first real and steepest climb of the day.

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First food stop, bottom of ‘The Swire’

A quick food stop and then on up.

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Ronnie replenishing

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Theo at the bottom of the Swire

A lovely climb, reasonably steep but at a fairly constant gradient, and the countryside looked fabulous in the sun.

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Heading up the Swire from the north

Up and over the cattle grid and a swoop down to the next valley.

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Top of the Witchy Knowe

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Bottom of the Swire

In a wee while came Berrybush, another lovely climb, less steep but extensive forestry at the top.

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A wee break before the climb – the bottom of Berrybush

We hurtled back down and arrived at the Gordon Arms for the next food stop. Ah, the soup – just brilliant. The volunteers were great, the food stops full of lovely stuff and some chat with other riders in the sun, bliss or what.

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The Gordon Arms, 2nd food stop

Then back on the bikes to trundle down to Moffat, except for one thing. The wind was head on and mush stronger than expected, having been forecast to come up later. So it was a bit of a gruelling ride down with us swapping leads while the others sheltered behind. But, as compensation, the scenery was fabulous, with the gentle border hills vivid green in the sun, St. Marys Loch glinting and outlining the sailing boats busy out racing and the occasional bursts of chat when a lull in the wind allowed.

We rattled through Moffat, just stopping at road junctions, before heading for the last real climb of the day – The Devil’s Beeftub. This was the long one, 6 1/2 miles of climbing ascending just over 1000 feet, but not too steep and highly enjoyable, especially with the wind behind us now. After the climb it was a rapid descent for over 25 miles back to Peebles, going so well we even ignored the food stop on the way.

So at the end of the trip a great ride together.

ps. I am working on the video – you have been warned!!

Lang Time Away

It’s been quite a while since I posted. An event happened that has thrown me for a while. I’ve also been away to weddings, visits, swimming with newts, cycling etc.

The event that upset me was the death of a former colleague and sometime partner in skiing, mountaineering, climbing, canoeing etc. over the years.

He fell off a descending a 4,000 metre peak in the Alps, which I had also climbed some years back.  He was a well respected mountaineer, known over the world and was usually a very safe pair of hands in the hills. We taught Outdoor Education in similar schools in Edinburgh in areas of multiple deprivation so had much in common in our outlook on life and education.

His commemoration was packed, with folk outside, me included, listening on a loudspeaker relay.  It was very, very moving.

There was an irony which he would have loved. Des was a keen cyclist and the family had asked for a cortège to accompany him on his final journey. About 40 of us gathered at the undertakers, along with a police escort. The wickerwork coffin was to be carried on a cycle tandem with a side car type arrangement. When it was placed on top the tyre was flat. The undertakers didn’t have a pump. They asked us for one and out of all of us only two of us had one. As the undertakers finished pumping up the tyre, one of Edinburgh’s tourist buses stopped opposite with the banner Majestic Tours on the side. All in all a real send-off which Des would have really chuckled at.

I was very much affected by his death and miss seeing his posts of adventures round the world, online banter and very occasional meetings.

Life goes on – I think I’m getting to the age where folk will pass away more often but it doesn’t make it any easier.

Coming up at the weekend is the Tour of Tweeddale sportive. This is a lovely, laid back event in the Scottish Borders which I’ve taken part in for the last 5 years. The long route, which I’m doing is just over 100 miles this year, the forecast so far is reasonable, there are some some good hills and I’ll be together with some good companions. It looks like the usual superb day out, if a longish one.

Finally, as usual, some recent pics from our part of the country.

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Harvest time around the village

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The London train passes the former station

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Up in the hills, the coos & sheep

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One of our rougher hill roads, this is one of the better sections

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Up high in the Scottish Borders

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After the deluge – heading for Sunny Dunny (Dunbar)

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A wee coo at peace with the world, ignoring the cyclist passing

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On a local walk

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Fa’side Castle, a great sight on a ride

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Mending our old bridge, been there several hundred years already

The 30 minute job and smelly me

The cranks felt like they had a bit of a clunk on the downstroke, just not quite right. Had a check, yes the bottom bracket was on the way out. No problem- order a new one, undo the cranks, then unscrew the old one, reassemble with the new one and go, go, go.
That was the theory anyway.

So waited for the order to arrive, meantime hoping the old one wouldn’t disintegrate. It didn’t. Next free day, down to work. Out with the allen keys, pop off the first crank. Unscrew the second, but no go, bit more force – still no, gentle taps with soft mallet. Then !?{}#%!#%{[}¥, the allen key was just turning round. So off to Chris at the garage, an amazing cyclist, after messing around with various cludges a nicely hammered in tork did the trick. Back home, screw out one side of the bottom bracket, then screw out the other – oh no, more !?{}#%!#%{[}¥. The whole casing, with the bottom bracket part firmly inside, came away from the frame. Not good, to say the least!

So, tried to unscrew it, no go. Needed a bit more oomph. Time to phone a friend. Eventually got hold of pal Gus, popped over and with a mole wrench, bench vice and metre long metal pipe somehow got the thing apart, without damaging the casing.

Back home, lots of reassembling with adhesive and grease, each in the right areas and wait till morning to see if it all worked. Unfortunately the floating screw holding the cable guides in place had gone as well, so a bit more adhesive there as well.

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Underneath my poor muddy bike, showing the relevant bits

So wheeled the bike out for riding with the team, no problem. Smooth again, just have to check that everything stays firm. So that 30 minute job, which took 3 hours seems to have done the trick.

Next job, cassette and chain – now that should only take me . . . . . . . ?

Now for the smelly bit. Riding along yesterday was lovely as ever. Past the bluebell woods with a good wind pushing me on.

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Bluebell woods with late daffodils clinging on

A newly surfaced road up in the nearby foothills was an absolute joy. Then a bit later on going past Frizells Wood I smelt a strong odour. I’m usually pretty good at keeping clean and using antioderant, but this was pervasive. Then it hit me, the wild garlic flowers were out with their pungent scent, not altogether unpleasant. By the way, who was Frizell? No idea, and I haven’t been able to find out.

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Wild garlic (ramsons), pretty but pungent

ps. Chain broke at the end of a ride today, luckily near the top of the hill beside the village. New chain & cassette went on a treat.

And a final recent photo

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The Flying Scotsman steams through the village past the old station on its way to Edinburgh