I’ve always wanted a Brompton folding bicycle, so what do you think was the chance of Management getting herself a new electric Brompton and me acting in an entirely composed and mature manner?
Quite right, no chance; “If you’re having one then so am I!” was the measured response, so, many £££ later, we find ourselves camped at Rosemarkie with his’n’hers e-Bromptons at the ready for a 21 mile power-assisted round trip to Cromarty.
The outward leg on a single-track road along the spine of the Black Isle was a hoot. The first part was all uphill for at least three miles and it was a breeze; cue a pair of smug grins. Then downhill into Cromarty – our first time there and it’s a lovely wee place – for a hardly-deserved tea stop.
Unfortunately we then got drenched in a heavy rain shower and thought about folding the bikes and catching a bus back to Rosemarkie (try doing that with a normal bike), but decided instead to set off and cycle back via the Cromarty Firth coast road.
Or at least I thought we were going to set off. Looking back I couldn’t see Management so, after a few minutes, I retraced my steps thinking she must be chatting to someone. She was, to a German chap who was asking if she was all right as she lifted herself off the grass verge after a controlled fall that was her only means of getting to a position from which she could untangle her shoelace that had wrapped itself around her chainwheel.
The route back was slightly longer than the outward trip and involved another seemingly endless uphill drag. We’d swapped batteries at the bottom because Management’s was already partly discharged when we’d set off and her’s was running out of juice. That meant she got full power assist to the top using my battery whereas I had to be more cautious using hers and work harder.
It is testament to the capabilities of these batteries and motors that she gradually pulled away to crest the hill several hundred metres ahead of me when I’m supposed to be the cyclist in the family. Still, we both got there and had a long, fast downhill run back into Rosemarkie.
… and here’s the limerick…
To avoid a whole lot of pain A lady should always refrain From crashing her bike – or exploits suchlike – When her shoelace gets stuck in her chain.
Another busy week means another last minute limerick and one that rather lacks guile.
We’ve taken Priscilla the campervan to the Isle of Mull for a few nights and managed to book on to a new site for which we are paying for an electric hook-up. Just one problem, the idiot that loaded the van (me) forgot the hook-up lead!
A camper once thought he’d be able To have power, but wasn’t quite able To make use of the hook-up (One almighty f**k-up) When he discovered he’d forgotten his cable!
(Actually, we were saved by a neighbouring camper who, fortuitously, always travelled with a spare hook-up cable. There aren’t half some helpful folk around.)
This week Management and I have travelled around the island of Ireland in Priscilla the campervan. We only had limited time and could travel no further south than Clara and Galway so Waterford, Limerick and Cork will have to await our next visit.
Talking of Limerick …
I drove across Ireland today And a thought crossed my mind on the way, That it seems quite perverse For a Limerick’s verse To end with the words ‘Galway Bay’!
I suppose my flirtations with Priscilla could be described as more mano a vano than mano amano, nevertheless we have enjoyed some quiet trysts in secluded, out-of-the-way places; however, as with any developing relationship, others may feel excluded and thus Management decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
So the three of us headed west last weekend to what must have been a couple of the warmest and sunniest March days that Wester Ross has ever experienced, and to Management’s first overnight assignation with Priscilla and me.
Because Priscilla is a bijou little thing (“reet la’al” as I would have said in my youth) we were a little worried that the two of us would overwhelm her, but we didn’t and she fit us in with room to spare.
… but the roads were awfully congested:
… and this week’s limerick is:
Anticipating a cool sense of frisson We went to the Highlands to see some Scenery galore And I’ll tell you, what’s more, We slept with Priscilla – in a threesome.
Postscript: Me, supine and snapping on our weekend away:
states that n’, the number of bikes that a cyclist needs, is always one more than n, the number (s)he already owns, for any value of n.
That’s my way of saying “I’ve just bought another one”!
My oldest road bike is almost vintage having been bought in 1992. I used it in a group ride about four years ago only for a lycra-clad short-a**e riding a carbon-fibre bike to sneeringly tell me that “You don’t see many of them nowadays” …
… which is why I was rather pleased to win a modern aluminium-framed bike a year later with carbon forks and a Campagnolo gearset. It’s amazing what the purchase of a shrink-wrapped block of Wensleydale cheese can lead to – I’d bought a promotional competition pack to mark the Tour de France’s Grand Départ from Yorkshire.
So why buy another bike? Simples! The road bikes are terrific for tarmac, but not so good over slightly rougher surfaces and my travels with Priscilla (posts passim) lend themselves to both tarred and non-tarred outings. So I need a bike for each (of course I do).
The new one is of the ‘adventure bike’ genre: carbon forks with generous tyre clearance for fatter tyres, disc brakes and reduced gearing on the chainset (ideal for a moderately overweight recreational cyclist aka a MORC), but with road bike geometry and clearance for mudguards it makes for an ideal winter bike too. Win-win!
Postscript: I was given a road bike for my 21st birthday, but remember little of it other than its saddle was nicked when it was securely racked outside a hall of residence in Dundee. Some while later the rest of it was nicked too.
I wondered at the time whether the thief followed the advice that I was given when I asked a girl off my course (who I thought of as a rather reserved and quiet lass): “How can I ride it without its saddle?” Reserved and quiet maybe, but also blunt, coarse and to the point: “Stick it up your a**e and pedal like f**k!” she said. I never saw her in the same light again!
I’m quite pleased to see the back of 2016, but for what it’s worth here are some pics for my ‘best of’ compendium for the year …
Best new experience of the year:
A bread-making course at ‘Bread Ahead’ (Borough Market, London). Just me and a bunch of Chelsea girls loafing around …
Best ice-cream of the year:
Beating Zanoni’s of Vienna by a short head was the first ice-cream pit stop of the year.
Best blog idea of the year:
A limerick a week. How else can one show one’s proficiency at celebrating #TeamDemelza in verse with an anapestic meter and strict rhyme scheme?
Best cycle ride of the year:
Finally, at the age of 24, Firstborn scraped her knee whilst participating in a physical outdoor activity. Her mother was so proud 🙂
Best health tip of the year:
… and from the Graun: Bike rides and hot baths – a fitness match made in heaven and it’s official!
Best impression of a marine mammal of the year:
Management performing dolphinarium tricks (we’d boycotted Marineland Mallorca whilst on holiday) with Firstborn as the ‘trainer’.
Best meal of the year:
The most hotly contested category of all. It could easily have been the baked brie at the Crofters Bistro, Rosemarkie, or the scallops at the Applecross Inn or the mega-breakfast at the Hatton Locks café or the liver and bacon at the Tigh an Eilean Hotel, Shieldaig. But by a country mile, ‘hats off’ please to the Gasthaus Ubl in Vienna for keeping traditional Austrian cuisine alive and at its best. Roast pork, sauerkraut and dumplings like my Grandma used to make. Großartig!
Best sausage of the year:
Another Viennese delight – mit brot und senf, of course
As sensitive bio-indicators of atmospheric pollution, these lichens growing on a wooden bench seat next to the main road through Lochcarron attest to the freshness of its air. Unusually for Scotland the air was still on the day this picture was taken, making it the best fresh air of the year!
Best concert of the year:
No real competition here. Bellowhead on a Saturday night at the London Palladium during the band’s farewell tour. Simply awesome.
I’d like to think that only classy items will be given a home in Priscilla the campervan. However, I wasn’t sure that the words ‘classy’ and ‘egg cup’ could ever go together until I saw these little buckets; just had to buy a couple …
I once tried to persuade Management and the rest of the tribe to adopt the same colour scheme for our front room. They just laughed 🙁
Meantime, an egg joke …
A couple of days ago I found a heron’s nest and smashed all the eggs in it, but I’ve no egrets now!
I fancied an early autumn trip over to Shieldaig in Wester Ross to try the informal campsite on the community grazings and it just so happened to coincide with two of the finest October days that I can remember: no rain, no wind, very sunny (and very warm in the sun) and too late in the year for midges. Idyllic!
Just getting there was impressive enough with terrific views of Torridon …
… not to mention the location and views from the grazings
… or from the bedroom window!
I took the bike with me and had a couple of short rides. It is much hillier than I remembered for cycling and some of the steep ramps finished me off sooner than I would have liked, but I’m not going to complain when everyone else is having to be at work during the week (and just to rub it in: Q – what’s the technical term for a fine sunny day after two days of wind and rain? A – Monday!).
It got cold enough during the evening for those in tents to need quilted jackets and bobble hats when sitting around their stoves; no such necessity with Priscilla although my clothes were pretty Baltic to get in to in the morning (memo to self: switch heater on for 15 minutes before exiting the sleeping bag).
The weather was perfect for my trip. It’s nice to be able to shoot off at the last minute when the forecast is for such fine weather, but for those who can’t be quite so choosy and always seem to end up getting wet on their trips west, here’s a camper’s rhyme that I learned whilst at primary school:
Whether the weather be fine Or whether the weather be not. Whether the weather be cold Or whether the weather be hot. We’ll weather the weather Whatever the weather Whether we like it or not!
Postscript: Since when did ‘bobble hats’ become ‘beanies’? Or more precisely, when did they become ‘pom-pom beanies’? According to an article last year in the fashion pages of the Graun: “There is no doubt that when future generations prise open the fashion time capsule marked “Winter 2015”, it will contain a beanie hat with a furry pom-pom on top“. The accompanying pictures were of bobble hats, referred to in the article as ‘pom-pom beanies’, with several costing less than a tenner. A couple were designer ones north of £100 including this one from net-a-porter.com:
… or as one of the comments to the Graun article said: “Pom-pom beanie, my a**e!”
Well, Priscilla and I have now spent a couple of nights together and I have to say things are looking good between us. Our first trip was over to Ullapool to scout out the area as a base to cycle from. Looks good! Free all-day car parking near the ferry terminal should be fine for a few hours out on the bike and the nearby public loos with a shower facility mean that I can avoid the campervan equivalent of a bed bath to clean up afterwards. There’s also loads of convenient off-road laybys for overnighting, so no need for site fees 🙂
After looking over Ullapool we pootered back eastwards to lay-up close to Rosemarkie on the Moray Firth so that I could get to Chanonry Point early the next day to view the Moray Firth dolphins (parking at the Point is next to impossible for late arrivers). I got further east than anticipated and overnighted at the Clootie Well near Avoch in a small forest car park. It was quite spooky due to the cloots hanging from the trees. These are rags left by folk seeking for their ills to be cured; they provide an eery backdrop in the dark.
The car park was quiet other than for the owls hooting through the night and the local dogging fraternity (… only joking, to the best of my knowledge no dogging occurred even though the car park bore a striking resemblance to that of the ‘Camping’ episode in the TV show ‘Not Going Out’ where Lee, the show’s chief protagonist, tried to prove his manliness by joining his mates on a camping weekend in the middle of a dark, spooky forest that turned out to be … you’ve guessed it … a dogging hotspot).
So no ‘canines’, but the dolphins were around the following morning porpoising gently rather than putting on a proper show for us, and the sun, although welcome, was in exactly the wrong place to photograph them. Still, it was a splendid situation and I can recommend the Rosemarkie Beach Café for a late brunch.
The second trip was to overnight at Ballater. Free parking in the village centre provided the base for a 40 mile ride from Deeside across to Donside via Glen Gairn and the Old Military Road. The first 12 miles included some very steep ramps (see ‘Bring back the birch’, May) and due to the excess baggage that I’m still carrying there were a couple that I had to push up rather than pedal. After that the worst was over and there were some terrific downhill runs before stopping for coffee in Bellabeg; itself winding down quietly after the weekend’s highland games at the Lonach Gathering. The return leg to Ballater via the Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve was altogether easier even though the hills at the start of the day had rather knackered me. Still, it wasn’t work and the sun was shining so I didn’t mind. I strongly suspect that this may become a favourite cycling route
Another lay-by, another night. A bit noisy with passing traffic this time, but up with the lark for a bacon butty breakfast in Ballater and a supposedly gentle ride along the 10 miles of tarmac to Loch Muick. Well, under normal circumstances it would have been gentle, even if it is mostly an uphill drag along the glen; however, yesterday’s hills had been more tiring than I thought so it was a bit tougher than it should otherwise have been, but coming back? Glorious! Downhill all the way (in a good way, unlike post-middle-age life generally)!
So, that’s a couple of trips out with Priscilla and two great successes, both helped by the arrival of a little bit of fine weather. We really do live in a beautiful part of the world (it helps when the sun is shining) and to be out and about breathing in the freshest of air and looking at the most splendid of views is truly invigorating – especially when everyone else is at work!