Now that the ‘long hot summer’ is in recess, I have time to share my time travel feelings that it brought on. The last time we had such a long spell of hot and dry weather, 1976, I lived outside Dublin and went swimming every day. I wanted to swim off the ‘Forty Foot‘ but it was men-only at that time. As a keen swimmer I resented the exclusion of women at the best swimming spot on the East Coast of Ireland. I would go into the water at Sandycove Beach nearby and swim around to the Forty Foot, to the displeasure of the naked male swimmers there.
Sometimes I would be brave enough to try to go into the sea at the Forty Foot but was always challenged and prevented from doing so by men who were big enough and angry enough for me to leave, having made my personal protest. Protests, individual and group, continued until the men-only restriction was lifted but that was many years later. Have a men-only swimming spot if you wish, but not in the very best place on the coast. My days of swimming in the sea are not over but I’ve not been back to the Forty Foot since then. Must put it on my travel agenda!
Image from http://outdoorswimming.ie/Co/Dublin/40_foot.html
My trusty Brompton started the day in Oxford with the local Freedom from Torture group and enjoyed travelling from Oxford Parkway station, with its easy access, café (for me, the Brompton doesn’t drink coffee) and lifts. After a trouble-free trip to London, I used my new Garmin to get me to Kings Cross. That was a bit traumatic but is all part of the learning with this not-user-friendly Garmin. Then we both (Brompton and I) had a lovely trip to Edinburgh, where our adventures began. Having safely ridden from Bletchley to Oxford the previous day and across London earlier, I had three near-death experiences in the 10 minutes it took me to ride home from Edinburgh Waverley. Welcome home!
I needed to get my PC to the repair shop and had the ‘good’ idea of taking it on the Brompton. It did fit, as you can see, but it’s not really a good idea to clatter a PC over the Edinburgh cobbles. It arrived safely but I took it home in a taxi, going back to the lovely PC Repairman (who fixed it on the spot) for the Brompton. An exciting day, even by my standards!
Shout out to the Scotland Police service on Mull. That the Busessan Police Station looks squint in this photo is a reflection of it being on a hill and me doing this on my phone.
Following the aggressive motoring incident the police at Bunessan were very sympathetic. Because of the lack of signal I was only able to get back to them by dropping in – more like jumping up as the station is up a steep incline. Cyclists categorise roads by steepness of course. The police officer on duty took my complaint seriously and said that she could take it much further if I had video evidence. That’s a real incentive to get a camera thing for my helmet. Meantime I hope that their call to that murderous driver gives him something to think about when he next encounters old ladies on bikes on a single track road. I really appreciated the support from the police here.
I feel the need to give a shout out to the wonderful Pennyghael Stores on the way West from Craignure on the Island of Mull. Open six days a week, the cheerful owner makes everyone welcome. She makes wonderful soup and sells a good range of groceries and gifts. It’s worth cycling over that mountain pass just to call in for soup, coffee or cake -or all three.
Things went downhill after Pennyghael, though not geographically. Bad driving, which is common, turned murderous at one point. The driver was a bit disconcerted to find me taking a photo of his car further down the road . Police HQ were not too interested but the local police were and are coming to Iona to take a statement. The driver clearly mistook me for someone he could try to kill . Wrong call.
Scotland has been having unusually warm and dry weather and the result is the worst midgie season on record. These are tiny black insects that can drive a reasonable person wild, itchy and sore. Like me. Fortunately I’ve brought my midgie repellent with me to the West of Scotland because Oban is sold out of all midgie-related products and has been for several days.
The favoured midgie repellent is a body lotion, Skin so Soft, by Avon which was found to sort out the midgies and is now sold as a repellent. It smells lovely! Lia wants to export some so we hope that the shops can restock soon.
Isn’t this cute? The three-year old mostly sat in a child seat on the cross-bar, in front of his Dad. The little fellow’s bike fitted quite neatly into his Dad’s backpack. When the situation allowed, three-year-old Ollie got on his own bike and had a cycle around or down a suitable traffic-free hill track. Meeting this family and their bikes was icing on the cake of a lovely sunny day at Rothiemurchas in the Scottish Highlands. Check out the café there when you are in the area!
I am not sure that you can see this particularly well but this bike (not mine) has a bluetooth speaker in one of the water-bottle holders. The cyclist plays music from his phone as he pedals along. It’s handy on the canal towpath where other path users can hear him. I had some adventures with this cyclist. First he helped me to do a photoshoot with a banner at Falkirk Grahamston station where we arrived. He had been explaining that he didn’t like hills and was just out for a day instead of ‘sitting at home watching the telly and growing old’. If he didn’t smoke and did eat breakfast he might manage hills a bit better, but I refrained from sharing that insight.
After the photoshoot I caught up with him at the top of the hill to Falkirk High (the clue is in the name). He decided he was going to cycle with me, all 30 miles back to Edinburgh. To my subsequent shame, I wasn’t too keen on that but didn’t object. We headed West and our first challenge was the very-long and very-dark canal tunnel. Happily I have integral bike lights which helped a lot and I emerged safely at the other end. My new-found friend didn’t. After waiting a bit, I went on and had a lovely ride. I sat to eat a sandwich at Linlithgow where a kayak race was starting and my cycling friend pedalled past with his bluetooth pop music. He didn’t see me then but I came upon him further along the canal, having stopped for a smoke. I stopped to chat and found, when I restarted, that I had a puncture. He very kindly did most of the repair for me. I was prepared enough to have everything I needed except wet wipes, which are environmentally un-friendly anyway. Half-an-hour later we were on our way again and I managed to get home, showered, changed and to the for a delightful concert that afternoon.
I have to say that bus travel in Ireland is just grand when you are used to the particular bus. But not otherwise. The bus that I wanted had a clear timetable online and a bus stop in the real world, which clearly said ‘X20’ on the route I wanted. However, ‘everyone knows’ that it goes from a different place. That I had checked out that different place and still couldn’t find the X20 probably reflects my diminishing powers of managing out there in the world.
Anyway, I got a three-wheeler thing that went through all the villages imaginable. I think that they built some of them just to make the bus trip longer. At the end of it was a warm welcome and a catch-up with a friend from childhood. That I messed up our communications too is just one more indication of seniorhood. The great joy is that it doesn’t matter at all.
Another joy is that Spring thinks it has arrived here in Ireland. Gorgeous magnolias are bursting into life in Maynooth and you can go for a walk without a hat and gloves.
I’m on the train to Englandshire and have the real pleasure of sharing space with a group of young women heading to Newcastle for a ‘hen night’. They are young (early twenties at the most) and had travelled very little, particularly by train. They are bemused that their phones know where they were; they are recounting advice from their Grannies about not drinking too much and are generally good company.
We got into conversation (not that I never need an excuse) because one of them was showing another the contents of her make-up bag. It matches her suitcase so she is gorgeous before she ever starts on the make-up process. I took a photo of it with my keep cup for perspective, that is size perspective and approach-to-travelling perspective. My suitcase for a week’s holiday is not much bigger than her wonderful make-up bag!
On International Women’s Day I’d like to pay tribute to all the women who made my life today as a woman in the Global North possible. The women who fought for our right to vote, to work outside the home, to be paid something approaching the same as men, to have bank accounts, own our homes and live in safety are to be celebrated and appreciated.
There is also the huge army of women who moved those changes along by living their lives as independent women, always working towards change in society. One such woman that I want to celebrate today is ‘Jean’ who was 92 last month. She has always lived her life in accordance with her beliefs in equality, social justice and peace. She is a role model of positivity and fearlessness in the face of the many injustices that surround us. After a lifetime of working to improve the lives of others, as a social worker and then as a volunteer in many roles, here she is making marmalade as a fund-raising activity in support of survivors of torture in the UK. After the photos, she served me tea in her china cups with her home-made biscuits.
It is women like ‘Jean’ who have changed the world thus far. We must not drop the baton that she is passing on. We must continue to #PressforProgress