Tag Archives: rain

Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, bicycle … rack

A splendid summer evening

Yesterday evening the boys went to Pitsford with the Scouts for the annual 7-mile cycle round the reservoir followed by a barbecue.  Until recently, the boys’ bikes have been small enough to get both of them into the boot of the car, but they will persist in getting taller, and Boy the Elder’s bike is now bigger than mine.  I was forced to buy a bike rack.

A couple of months ago I bought a large tent in the sales and a bike rack, with the intention of attempting a brief camping trip with our bicycles in the summer holidays.  I hate camping with a passion I find hard to express, but I figured that if I had a tent I could actually stand up in and a covered area for cooking if it rained, it would be marginally more tolerable.

Naturally, there is always a part of me which is utterly convinced that our holiday will be like a Famous Five novel, pedalling gaily down country lanes, picnicking on sardines, heaps of tomatoes and ginger beer.  We will then retire, tired but happy, to our tents pausing only to climb into crisp winceyette pyjamas before sleeping the sleep of the innocent.  Will it bollocks.  But I digress…

I had forgotten about the bike ride and, just as it started to rain, I realised that I needed to assemble the damned bike rack.  I opened the box and pulled out a large piece of metal and a couple of bags of straps and metal bits, which I laid out neatly on the grass by the car.

I have never owned a bike rack, and because I haven’t needed one, I haven’t paid the slightest attention to the assemblage of such items on the cars of others.  I instructed the boys to go far away from me, with the gravest of threats should they utter a single sound, and set to work.

I always read instruction booklets and never fail to be amazed at how easy it is to do things when you already know how to bloody do them!  I dutifully followed the booklet, step by step, strap by strap, ratchet by ratchet.  Then I undid all the straps and re-assembled them in the correct wotsanames.  I turned grippy things with one hand whilst trying to balance an unwieldy array of metal tubing exactly two inches above my bumper, whilst avoiding another metal tube which hovered exactly one inch in front of my right eye..

Having finally got the rack in the right position with all the metal sticking out at the correct angles, I crawled under the car in search of a hole in which to hook the bottom straps.  I drive a 12-year old, hag-ridden Ford Escort which I have decorated to look a bit like a Spitfire – the underside is not a pretty sight, particularly on a muddy, stony track, just as it has started to rain.

In all honesty,  neither was I a pretty sight by this time; dirty from the proximity to my car, sweaty with exertion, my long skirt tucked into my knickers, my wet hair plastered to my head and now covered in mud and gravel from crawling under a pseudo-Spitfire.  But England wasn’t built on glamour and competence! No sir!

After an hour of swearing, cursing and ratcheting, the thing was done, the bikes were strapped on and we were going to be 20 minutes late.  I had no time to change my clothes and we headed for Pitsford.  As the rain became increasingly torrential, badgers and rabbits started appearing in the hedgerows in pairs, holding paws and looking expectantly at the rising puddles.

I parked the car and the boys set off at top speed to catch up with the others.  I squelched across the car park in strappy sandals, my rain sodden skirt clinging to my legs in the fashion of an unpleasantly mis-shapen mermaid.

‘At least there’ll be hot dogs’ I thought, but the barbecue was wet and the Scout Leader was manfully erecting a tent in a desperate attempt to bring the spitting, smoking pile of charcoal under canvass.  I stood sullenly with damp, corned-beef arms wrapped around my dripping torso in a futile attempt to fend off certain consumption and probable mildew of the extremeties.

Eventually, thanks to the good spirits and efforts of other people, the barbecue was lit and the heavenly scent of sausages and burgers wafted through the air, just as my boys hove into view.  Boy the Younger claimed to have had a heart attack half way round and Boy the Elder had torn his trousers.  Despite my misery, I was terribly proud of Boy the Younger who has never cycled 7 miles in one go before, and I patted his soggy head and wiped the rain from his little pale cheeks as he munched on his hotdog.

‘Enough of this,’ I said ‘I’m going home, and if you want hot cocoa you had better come at once.’  They jumped into the car whilst I wrestled the bikes back onto the rack.  We drove home with all haste, wipers struggling to hold back the rain and narrowly avoiding a large wooden boat parked at the side of the A508, small animals gratefully ascending the gang plank…

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Filed under Children, General DIY, Leisure, Outdoor Activities, Wildlife

Thought for the Day: Water

Many of us in the UK have finally had a bit of rain which is finally soaking into the ground.  Anyone who has a garden will be grateful for this, although, of course, what we want is warm sunshine during the day and good old downpour at night. It is heartbreaking to see flowers and plants wilting during a hosepipe ban.

Just be aware though, that putting a garden water sprinkler on for two hours is the same as a family’s water consumption for a day.  If you love your garden, get some water butts or any old water container which can collect rain water or drain water and use that.  Washing up water that has had washing up liquid in is useful for pouring on paths and patios as it helps to keep down the weeds.

Another interesting fact that I learned recently is that the geology of an area can seriously affect water supplies.  We always raise our eyebrows in wonderment that somewhere like Manchester, where it seems to rain for 28 hours a day, could possibly suffer from drought. Well here’s the science bit.

The South East has a high proportion of chalk rocks which hold water in natural aquifers, while the North West has little natural underground storage, being predominantly sandstone, mudstone and shale,  so they experience regular cycles of drought and flood.

I like stuff like that.

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Filed under Science and Technology, The Garden

Sunday Poem 63

Apologies for the lateness of the Sunday Poem today.    Irish Alice and I Went Out last night and not only was it very late when we got back, but I made the fatal mistake of feeding her Port at two o’clock in the morning.  In the early days of our acquaintance, the misguided application of late night Ports, Rhubarb and Custards or brandies would result in torrential, albeit well-informed, lectures on the history of Irish politics.  I have put a stop to this.  Nowadays, I get the minutiae of her friends and neighbours back in Tipperary, whom I now feel I know as intimately as I know myself.  She has just left; two strong cups of tea, three Marlboro Reds and a torrent of colourful language have restored her factory settings.

Enough of this, let’s talk about poetry.  Anthony Thwaite is a writer who has been deeply involved in English literary life; in addition to 15 volumes of his own poetry, he has been a publisher and literary editor of magazines such as The Listener and the New Statesman, and is an executor of the estate of Philip Larkin.  His work is broad and expansive and extends from homage to Larkin to more lyrical and romantic work.  He has an honorary D.Litt from the University of Hull, and was made an OBE in 1990. He has lectured at universities worldwide, including Japan and Libya (where he spent his military service), and he is the co-editor of The Penguin Book of Japanese Verse.

I came across this poem last week, curled up late at night in front of the fire, in a browned and brittle Penguin anthology, recently extracted from the Age Concern Bookshop in Harborough.  Something about this poem sets all one’s senses tingling.  I could hear and feel  the voices in the pub, the smell, the textures, that strange solitude of being in a pub alone, other humans but no connection.  Very moving.

Mr Cooper – by Anthony Thwaite (1930 – )

Two nights in Manchester: nothing much to do,
One of them I spent partly in a pub,
Alone, quiet, listening to people who
Didn’t know me.  So I told the bloody sub-
Manager what he could do with it . . . Mr Payne
Covers this district – you’ll have met before?

Caught short, I  looked for the necessary door
And moved towards it; could hear, outside, the rain.

The usual place, with every surface smooth
To stop, I suppose, the aspirations of
The man with pencil stub and dreams of YOUTH
AGED 17.  And then I saw, above
The stall, a card, a local jeweller’s card
Engraved with name, JEWELLER AND WATCHMENDER
FOR FIFTY YEARS, address, telephone number.
I heard the rain falling in the yard.

The card was on a sort of shelf, just close
Enough to let me read this on the front.
Not, I’d have said, the sort of words to engross
Even the keenest reader, nothing to affront
The public decency of Manchester.
And yet I turned it over.  On the back
Were just three words in rather smudgy black
Soft pencil:  MR COOPER – DEAD.  The year

Grew weakly green outside, in blackened trees
Wet grass by statues.  It was ten to ten
In March in Manchester.  Now, ill at ease
And made unsure of sense and judgement when
Three words could throw me, I walked back into
The bar, where nothing much had happened since
I’d left.  A man was trying to convince
Another man that somehow someone knew

Something that someone else had somehow done.
Two women sat and drank the lagers they
Were drinking when I’d gone.  If anyone
Knew I was there, or had been, or might stay,
They didn’t show it.  Good night, I almost said,
Went out to find the rain had stopped, walked back
To my hotel, and felt the night, tall, black,
Above tall roofs.  And Mr Cooper dead.

There was an error on WordPress which wouldn’t let me do linking, so if you want to go to Amazon to find this book , click on the link below.  I will try again later.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collected-Poems-Anthony-Thwaite/dp/1904634397/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1290336930&sr=1-3

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A Cheap Day Out on a Rainy Day

Hurricane Jigsaw 27.07.09The school holidays are always a challenge when you have lively children, and although the older ones should be able to entertain themselves at least some of the time, we all need a bit of fresh air to run off energy and clear our heads.

Today the weather was very changeable but, as rain is not actually dangerous, we donned our wellies and macs and set off for Borough Hill, an  Iron Age hill fort run by Leicester County Council and, importantly, free.  There is nothing there but stunning views, cows and sheep and plenty of trees to climb, and we spent a glorious hour running around, getting stuck in rabbit holes and throwing dried sheep poo at each other (although perhaps I should draw a discreet veil over that.  Do make sure to wash your hands after throwing sheep poo…).

However, huge black clouds soon rolled in and we pulled up our hoods and ran back to the car.  It was now lunchtime and the boys needed feeding.  Eating out can often be more expensive than the trip itself and I would normally take a modest picnic on a walk – nothing exotic, sandwiches, crisps or raisins, fruit, a home made flapkack or a Penguin and fruit juice decanted into re-used soft drink bottles are perfectly adequate and healthy.  But today was clearly not an al fresco opportunity.   Everyone must explore their own environment to find  good cheap places to eat, but as a starting point, I would recommend investigating your local garden centres.  Many of them have excellent, cheap snacks and often children’s lunch boxes for as little as £2 which nearly always have a little puzzle book or game.  Although we all know of certain fast food chains that offer similar value, one should always support local business first, or our towns and villages will wither away.  We found a delightful garden centre on our way home which not only offered delicious food but also had gift shops, clothing, books and a play area.  I enjoyed oohing and aahing over plants for my impending garden and they had a super time in the play area.

It was now absolutely torrenting with rain so we agreed that we would go home and do something together.  Like most of you, I have an extremely busy life and, sadly, have little opportunity to spend as much time as I would like with my children. It was therefore  a real pleasure for us all to sit down with a jigsaw puzzle, intermittently arguing about who’d lost the pieces, enduring The Cat tormenting us by relentlessly sitting in the middle of the half finished puzzle and finally relinquishing the last piece to my elder son who could then claim that he’d done the lot.

I live in a country village, but I have lived in the city and I know that amenities vary greatly.   Most areas have parks or somewhere to walk and you’d be amazed at where you can get to on a bus.  Council or Tourist Information offices have great information about days out and how to get there, so make the most of them.

Would you like to try my recipe for the stickiest flapjacks in existence?  Then you must keep visiting The Wartime Housewife dear Bloggers, who knows what you might find!

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Filed under Children, Outdoor Activities