More em… bicycles, birds etc.

An interesting week in many respects. The weather has picked up slightly inasmuch as it is sunny and cold and icy rather than grey and cold and icy. Inspired by the possible imminence of Spring I found myself down at Lochwinnoch on Monday signing up to be an official RSPB volunteer (no hang on, I’m going to give that a capital letter as it is a job title of sorts) an official RSPB Volunteer. Got my induction from my new friend Allan with whom I shall sook in big time as he knows and has worked with Simon King. Did my first stint on Wednesday and ended up nannying two 15-year old Johnstone High pupils who were thre as part of their Curriculum for Excrement oops sorry, Excellence. One of them didn’t like getting cold (for which read he didn’t like temperatures below that of a conventional oven) or dirty, bless him. The other was quite good right up to the point when I asked what other options he could have chosen and why he’d elected to come here. He responded that it was either here or the Erskine Hopsital (for war veterans and invalids) and he hadn’t fancied sitting around listening to all those old people going on about the 60s. I’ll give you old people, sonny James! Anyway we painted a fence – that is if “painting” is the correct term for ladling as much paint as you can on to your brush and then throwing it at the fence. There can’t be too many fences round RSPB property (or anywhere else for that matter) whose paintwork owes more to Jackson Pollock than to that irritating DIY gobshite off the Ronseal adverts! It was fun and certainly beat sitting in the house thinking up novel ways to avoid doing the ironing! Back on Monday for another stint.

Bonsai activity was restricted mostly to general tidy up. The trees have responded well to being in the greenhouse over the winter and my azalea which I cut back drastically with the assistance of Kev Bailey, has never stopped popping out new growth. it did slow down noticeably but it is already resuming business as normal. That means few if any flowers this year but also means I will be able to do the rest of the hard prune-back come the early summer.

And of course the bicycle. I don’t think I said last week that my targets for January were met. Imagine that: me missing an opporchancity to boast about 450 miles in three weeks. I am now cracking ahead with the February ones and am on course for achieving my first 1000 miles by the end of the month. 700 reached today (Saturday). I actually got the bike out the kitchen on Thursday despite it being bitterly cold when you were out of the direct sun, but I got the chance to try the speed track at Bellahouston Park and have a run round the rest of the grounds, including the 1km top circuit and its hills, which range from a grade 3 to the steepest at Grade 8. Made it twice but had to cop out on the third attempt as I thought I was going to throw up my lunchtime coffee. That stretch is only about 50m long too! What a wuss! As luck would have it, Friday was the perfect cycling day for the time of year but I was unavailable – a fact I am not going to moan about given that I was attending the funeral of Lorraine Ferri, my friend Aldo’s wife, who died after a long and frequently extremely painful battle with cancer. Such things rather do put one’s little trifling matters into perspective and when I consider what she (and Aldo) must have borne with colossal courage, strength of character and most of all humour, I feel enormously guilty at even thinking, as I do on occasion, that my life is shit when quite clearly it is not. Today of course was cold and icy when I got up, and remained so right through to mid-day. Decided to do my target 33 miles indoors, which I did despite the cadence reader packing in part-way through. And the sod’s law doubly whammy kicked in when two miles from the end, the sun came out to the point where a ride outdoors was do-able. Bugger! Had gone for a speed run so was knackered! Looks better again for tomorrow and Monday so here’s hoping as I want to try out my new route. Got a mere 12 weeks to get up to the standard of the Etape Caledonia – 80 miles at average speed 14 on moderately challenging ground. I could possibly do 20-30 miles comfortably, but desperately need to get back on to the real road regularly to get “match fit” for that one. My new route takes me over from the Maryhill locks (furrin readers, I do mean locks as opposed to lochs!) over to the Falkirk Wheel (don’t Google that until I can give you pictures) and back again.

Bird visitors to the garden this week include my elusive tits which made a welcome return for the first time this year. Before we go down a Frankie Howerd route here, please note I am talking about Aegithalos caudatus – the Long Tailed Tit – of which there are plenty at Lochwinnoch but are infrequent here in the garden. So there. I can now, just as I was able to with the Nyger seed feeder, add a justification for my fat balls.

And in case you are still sniggering like an eejit, here is what I mean:

Long Tail Tit on the fat balls

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