Some cool things from the #cycling Twitter feed

 

Before I go to bed each night I read the #cycling Twitter feed. There’s some good stuff there. Here are some of the things I’ve seen recently.

I thought this was very funny: a car drove into a high-viz shop.

This is inspiring. There are 6 children on that bike! I thought I did well with two kids but this woman is definitely superwoman.

This is completely nuts and has to be seen to be believed. You’ll need to click the link to watch it.

This makes me so happy. It’s heart-warming to read news like this.

This makes me feel virtuous.

And this one was not in the cycling feed but astonishing and worth sharing.

Aberdeen Christmas Village

The Aberdeen Christmas Village is up and running again this year. We went first thing this morning to avoid the crowds and to be the first ones on the ice at the outdoor skating rink. It’s a slightly bigger rink than last year and we mostly had it to ourselves. Sunday morning at 10am is the best time to go.

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I really like the Christmas village. This year there’s a Helter Skelter.

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And a tree maze.

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Just above Union Terrace Gardens is some fantastic street art.

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I asked the kids to smile for the camera in this next one.

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Elizabeth took this last photo of me and Daniel.

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Time to put up the Christmas tree

Time to put up the Christmas tree

We always put up our Christmas tree on the first weekend in December and we’ve just done it today. We have a Timbatree which we use every year. I bought it because I wanted to reduce my impact on the environment and a Timbatree is a good way to do it while supporting a British business at the same time.

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I love the smell of the pine and I think it looks nice. The kids can also assemble it themselves now and that’s what happened today with just a bit of guidance from me.

Susan Boyle has released another Christmas album. Has everyone seen her audition on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009? It’s amazing and always makes me teary. It’s worth watching if you haven’t already seen it.

Don’t swear at mothers cycling their kids to school

I was cycling my daughter to school this morning – she is only 6 years old – and a man in a van shouted at us, “You should have a fucking helmet on”.

I was wearing a helmet. I was wearing a Hövding which is the safest most effective helmet you can buy.

I understand that the man did not realise I was wearing a helmet but even if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, his accusation is unfounded and unkind, especially given it was within ear-shot of my 6-year-old daughter. Do people who think it’s acceptable to shout accusations about helmets at cyclists do the same to smokers? Or to people who don’t get any exercise? Or to heavy drinkers?

Life is about managing risks. A sedentary lifestyle carries a far greater health risk than not wearing a bicycle helmet. If people care about cyclists, and I’ll assume the man in the van was concerned about my well-being, then what would help us most is if they lobbied the council and government to build somewhere safe for us to cycle, so we don’t have to ride alongside vans, trucks, and buses. Off-road, dedicated, cycling infrastructure will have the biggest impact on our safety.

The safest place to be a cyclist is the Netherlands. Have a look at the following video of kids cycling to school in Assen. How many helmets can you see?

From: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/09/video-roundup-children-cycling-to.html

10th Anniversary Party

10th Anniversary Party

About 10.5 years ago I bought a wedding dress to wear to my wedding which was 10 years ago yesterday. However I was 7 months pregnant at the wedding and the dress didn’t fit so I never got to wear it. Yesterday we had a party to celebrate the 10 years and I wore the wedding dress I never got to wear – it fit this time.

It’s a dress by New Zealand designer, Annah Stretton. She still makes a similar style today but I think mine is nicer than her more recent designs which don’t have the contrasting colour patterns.

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My shoes are gumboots. I dislike high-heeled shoes.

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The straps are fake pearls and the dress and the flowers are made from silk. There are also some flowers on the back. It’s a lovely dress and a timeless design.

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The necklace comes from Thailand – it was a special gift given to me about 20 years ago.

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I got Ben a bowtie with elephants on it. Here’s my first attempt at tying it.

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Several YouTube videos later and about a dozen more attempts and I got it!

We went to Duthie Park and a friend of ours took some photos.

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It was pretty cold and poor little Daniel looks freezing in this next one.

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I didn’t take any photos at the party but it was really great. There was chaos and kids everywhere. At one point Ben was seen carrying a wardrobe door downstairs from an upstairs bedroom. Elizabeth spent much of the time locked in the bedroom with a little 6-year-old boy. I think she has a boyfriend. Another group of kids was playing truth or dare and one of the dares was to jump out the window. Fortunately all our guests went home uninjured and still alive.

Party preparations!

Party preparations!

We’re having a party this evening and I ordered Marks and Spencer catering which I collected this morning. The lady in M&S asked me how far away my car was parked and I had to explain that I would be taking it all on my bike. I think she thought I was nuts. But it all fits. Who needs a car?

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On the way to M&S I cycled through a slightly industrial area where fish is processed. Someone was out on the pavement squirting it with a hose and accidentally sprayed me with an arc of fish-perfumed water. Now I stink of fish. Nice. At least he said sorry.

The River Dee has ice in it. I’ve never seen ice in this part of the River Dee so close to the sea.

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Our pets: stick insects

Our pets: stick insects

I had dogs for 13 years and before that a cat. When Freud died a few years ago it was such a harrowing experience that I decided I couldn’t go through it again. Not soon, anyway. I still miss him and our other dog Zeki. Now we’ve got four stick insects and these creatures are very low maintenance pets.

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We feed them ivy leaves which I collect from just over the back fence. I pick long stems and stick them in water inside the insect habitat, that way the leaves stay fresh for days and I don’t need replenish them very often – usually once or twice a week. I take a peek to see how many leaves they’ve munched through and decide that way.

I bought them on eBay as nymphs which were sold as food for reptiles. These four little dudes made a very lucky escape🙂

They don’t require walking and you can go away for a weekend or even a week and not worry about them. The downside is you can’t develop a relationship with them and they don’t do very much other than look like sticks🙂

 

Frozen

Frozen

We had our first frost last week and there’s another heavy frost this morning. I went outside to take some photographs. It’s very pretty. I used to miss frosty mornings like this when we lived in Auckland.

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Here are my cyclamen surrounded by frozen leaves. Can you see the pink flowers?

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Despite the frost in our backyard things are looking bad for ice globally. This turned up in my Twitter feed yesterday:

It’s hard not to despair when very little seems to be happening on the political front with addressing global warming. But we must not lose hope. There is much individuals can do.

  1. Use renewable energy if you can. In the UK, and I suspect the same is true in other countries, you can choose your energy supplier. We use Good Energy but there are several other companies to choose from.
  2. Reduce the food products you buy that come from livestock farming. Livestock farming accounts for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transport sector put together – that’s all the bus, trains, planes, cars, and ships on the planet. I have been vegan (mostly) for more than 10 years and it’s a very healthy and much cheaper way to live. I wonder how much money I’ve saved on groceries in that time?
  3. Don’t use a car if you can walk or cycle or scooter instead. It’s a hard habit to shake but if you replace trips by car with active travel then you’ll feel better for it. Active travel improves our well-being and reduces pollution in our towns and cities.
  4. Take local holidays rather than flying to far-flung places. I’m a bit of hypocrite with this one and I’m sorry for that. I do fly but it’s mostly work-related travel these days. However I love having my family come to visit so I hope my family will ignore this suggestion. As far as I’m aware there’s no solution for air travel at this point in time. I’m hoping Elon Musk will come up with something.

Let them be scared

I’ve been completely absorbed by the earthquake news coming out of New Zealand, like news of the three cows marooned on a tiny island of pasture:

 

I am amazed by how much damage there is in Wellington given how far away it is from the quake’s epicentre – some 400km. I’m equally amazed by how well Christchurch did given it is <100km from the epicentre. Wellington has fault lines running right beneath the city that can produce earthquakes of similar size. If an earthquake 400km away can do this much damage, what will happen when the fault beneath the city ruptures. Is it better to be ignorant and pretend to yourself it will never happen? After all, what can you do? It’s not possible to move an entire city … or is it? At the very least, parliament should not be in Wellington. During times of national disaster a quick, calm, and responsive government can make a huge difference but if our leaders are trapped or dead then that card cannot be played.

Wellington should not have any buildings higher than two storeys. The city should also have a tsunami wall (maybe it already does? I have no idea). Everyone who lives there should be forced to secure their furniture. If they haven’t then insurance companies should refuse to insure them until they do. It seems drastic to have to do it but people will not bother until after the event by which time it is too late.

By contrast I’m amazed by how well Christchurch performed. This was a huge, shallow earthquake less than 100km away. As far as I’m aware there’s very little damage there, if any. Hanmer Springs also seemed to do very well and it is practically on top of the fault. Hanmer Springs is a lovely little town in Canterbury with hot springs. We went there several times, including a couple of times for some respite from aftershocks in Christchurch. All the buildings there are either single- or double storey only and made from timber.

Today I read a great article from a New Zealand-based psychotherapist about being scared and it rings so true for me. It’s ok to be scared. In fact, I would say it’s normal. We’ve evolved this way to keep ourselves safe. If you know someone who is affected by earthquakes and struggling to cope then the best thing you can do is let them talk and listen. Here’s a quote from the article:

The first thing we can do is let them be scared, let them express themselves, and not talk about the need for “resilience.”

No one wants to feel afraid, but it is also an incredibly useful emotion. It makes us listen to Tsunami warnings, make choices to move to safety and protect our loved ones. It also brings us together.

It also motivates us to secure our furniture and mitigate risks which could, one day, save our lives.

Aberdeenshire in the autumn

Aberdeenshire in the autumn

 

These photos were taken in the woodland on the estate at Crathes Castle. We went to the Exclusively Highlands craft fair there today – I prefer buying locally made items as Christmas gifts rather than mass-produced stuff from China. It’s nice to know I’m supporting the local economy and at the same time lessening my impact on the environment since most of the things at these craft fairs are made with locally-sourced materials and by individuals in their homes. They’re also made with true craftsmanship and not something out of a giant factory on the other side of the planet. At the Exclusively Highlands fair everything is handmade in Scotland.

The woodlands around the castle are beautiful. This is probably one of my favourite landscapes – forests and lochs. I like hills too.

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I was very taken with the moss on this tree.

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There are supposed to be otters here but we’ve never seen any.

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This tree is enormous.

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And yes, in case anyone is wondering, I know there has been another severe earthquake in New Zealand. I still get Geonet notifications delivered to my phone for all New Zealand earthquakes above 4.0 and I’ve had more than 50 text messages today. I’ve been closely following the events and my thoughts are with everyone affected. The worst damage is the psychological impact – the fear of what might come next and when. Don’t underestimate that.

A letter for Donald Trump from my 9-year-old

Daniel wrote a letter to Donald Trump.

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This letter is for Donald Trump.

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Dear Mr Trump. Can you please give Molly her water back. Please.

This part is for Trump’s workers. Why did you listen to Trump and cut off her water and build a road. Why did you do it. Why why why why?

By the way please do something about climate change. Please.

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Please give her water. Glass of water.

Why would people vote for someone who has cut off the water supply of a 92-year-old? If my 9-year-old can understand the importance of having clean drinking water, why can’t Donald Trump?

Some light in the darkness

Donald Trump has won the election. It’s an understatement to say I’m shocked. The majority have voted for a man who leads by bullying, fear, and intimidation. We can kiss the climate good bye – it was nice knowing you, planet, but we don’t care about future generations after all, it seems. We are impressed by wealth and power. Just writing this makes me want to puke. So where is the light, you ask? It’s something my son did yesterday that I want to share.

Daniel had an idea to create a rewards system at home to allow him to earn points for good things. He came up with the following chart of things he can earn points for and how many points he gets.

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I’m not sure what the “mummy star awards” are. The third item is very funny. It says, “No complaining at food story”. That’s the vegetarian cafe we sometimes go to. The chart is a great success so far – yesterday both children did their homework without me having to ask them. We’ve negotiated a special reward for when they reach 100 points – dinner at Pizza Express🙂

The mighty bakfiets

The mighty bakfiets

I’ve started cycling Busby (bakfiets) again. I’ve had it with Harald (Butchers and Bicycles). We cycled to Newton Dee on Saturday and took both cargo bikes. The plan was the children could cycle themselves as far as possible and when they got tired we’d put their bikes in Busby and they could sit and ride in Harald. It was a bit of a disaster. Daniel complained the entire time about his uncomfortable seat. Elizabeth cried about having cold feet. And my arse is still sore thanks to the new haemorrhoid bike seat. I’ve since put my old uncomfortable seat back on Harald. Busby also had a problem with brakes but I’ve since managed to fix that. Oh and it also poured with rain.

I have now accepted that Harald was a waste of money. It’s particularly disappointing because the amount we spent on him is around the amount it would cost the four of us to fly home to see our families. Instead we got a bike that I find very uncomfortable to ride and not very suitable with heavy cargo in a city with hills. Anyone want to buy a second-hand Butchers and Bicycles trike? Going cheap🙂

Busby the bakfiets on the other hand is a work of art. Despite having one less wheel I find him more stable and much easier to manoeuvre. The main problem is Busby is heavy, especially with a 9-year-old and 6-year-old (soon to be 10 and 7). When I first got Busby the kids were 6 and 4. I think what I should have done is add electric assist to Busby instead of getting a new bike. This is also very expensive to do however I’ve seen this new product called add-e. Has anyone had any experience with it?

If Aberdeen had cycling infrastructure my problem would be solved because the children could cycle themselves around instead of me having to take them. But there isn’t any cycling infrastructure and so they’d be cycling alongside cars, trucks, and buses which I don’t want.

I started a petition recently to get cycling infrastructure to and from the local primary school. If you live in Aberdeen please consider signing my petition:

https://www.change.org/p/keep-our-children-safe-3355ed9f-d327-4399-bb0e-7d58edf09e63

Daniel told me yesterday he finds Busby more comfortable to sit in. They have to sit on the floor of the box but I’ve put two pillows in there so it’s very soft. A nice man at the bike shop also gave me some fairy lights for Busby so now Busby has fairy lights too.

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How to keep your feet warm in winter

How to keep your feet warm in winter

I get cold feet. I’ve tried lots of things like wearing thick socks and sometimes two layers of socks. I have lots of good winter boots but still I get cold feet. This afternoon I had cold feet and decided to crochet myself a pair of leg warmers. I haven’t owned leg warmers since the 1980s when they were fashionable thanks to the movie Flashdance.

I finished my leg warmers, put them on, and within 10 minutes my feet were warm. Amazing! I was so focused on my feet that I didn’t think about my ankles. Keep your ankles warm and your feet will probably be warm too. Why didn’t I think of this before?

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You’ve Been Trumped Too

Here’s the trailer for the You’ve Been Trumped Too documentary about Donald Trump. The full documentary was screened on Facebook on Thursday night after a crowd-sourced funding campaign. I didn’t see it because it was at a time suited for Americans which makes sense since they’re about to decide whether to make this man president of the United States. However I’ve got the first movie on DVD (reviewed here) and we’ll definitely get this one when it comes out. (**UPDATE – The film is still available on Facebook now –  https://www.facebook.com/youvebeentrumpedtoo/videos/1207455525956400/)

In the first movie I was horrified when I discovered Donald Trump’s golf course had cut off the water supply of his elderly neighbour for a week. It turns out that week is now 5 years and 92-year-old Molly Forbes is still without running water. This is completely disgraceful. If that was me and I had done that to someone else I would feel terrible and fix it immediately. The fact that it hasn’t been fixed after all these years says to me that Donald Trump doesn’t care about anyone else other than himself. A person like that should not be a leader, not ever.

I want to make the world a better place. I want to do the right thing and be kind to people, animals, and the planet. That’s all that really matters. I expect leaders to do the same. Donald Trump is the antithesis of this. He’s selfish, lacks a conscience, and tramples over anything and everyone to get his own way without giving any thought to how it will affect others. Please, please, if you get to vote in the next US election do not vote for this man.

Government loses fight to poison the people

I’ll acknowledge there’s a bit of click bait with my title but it’s not so far from the truth. Yesterday the high court ruled that the British government’s plans for tackling air pollution are so feeble they’re illegal. Air pollution from motor vehicles kills 50,000 people every year and the government is required under EU law to keep pollution within certain targets. If these targets are exceeded then they’re supposed to to do something about it as quickly as possible.

In 2015 Client Earth sued the government over the issue and won. In response the government produced a plan to tackle the problem only Client Earth said the plan was ineffective and took them to court a second time this year. The judge ruled in favour of Client Earth yesterday and the government must now produce a more effective plan to tackle the problem which is a good result for all of us.

While I’m really happy with the outcome I feel angry and disappointed that a charity had to sue the government just so the population can breath clean air. Why can’t the government do the right thing and address the problem without the need for all this time and money spent on legal fees? I would love it if people stopped driving cars when they don’t need to. I would love it if people bought electric cars instead. I would love it if people walked, cycled, or used public transport. But they don’t and they won’t unless the government steps in.

On other matters I was out on Busby today because Harald has a flat tyre. Harald has puncture-proof tyres but I cycled over a particularly long thorn yesterday. I was unlucky. However it was nice riding a bakfiets again. I’m getting good at switching between the two bikes. Previously it would take me about a week or two to get used to the steering on Busby because the front wheel is so far away from the handlebars but I have no problems now. I can go from one bike to the other and feel fairly comfortable almost right away. I am more comfortable on Busby but he’s such a heavy bike and I struggle with a full load on hills now.

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Busby has a chain guard which meant I could wear my lovely long tartan skirt and I got a couple of compliments about it from on my bike.

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The Haemorrhoid bike seat

The Haemorrhoid bike seat

First there was the condom poncho. Now I bring you the Haemorrhoid bike seat.

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I just got this new seat for my bike. The fantastic bike shop let me try three different seats for comfort. This one was the best. I haven’t ridden any great distance on it yet so I can’t give a full review but on my short trips to and from school it has been great.

PS: I don’t have haemorrhoids. I’m vegan and eat a lot of fiber🙂

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