Sunday 28 February 2016

A Run to the Coast and Looking Forward to the Riding Season

This, for me, is an optimistic time of year. You can see winter coming to an end. It's still cold, but much brighter recently and the darkness of winter is receding. It's early yet and March is the month that winter turns to spring but there are signs. I've been doing some work on the FJ and thinking about runs for the coming year.   

I got the bike out for a run today to the Ayrshire coast in sunny but cool weather.

The FJ with snow capped Goat Fell on the Isle of Arran in the distance. I'm planning a trip round the island this year.
The FJ with its new brakes. I've been having trouble with the front brakes for a while so I decided to transplant the whole system - master cylinder, hoses, calipers and discs - from the old FJ. With a fresh set of pads they were working well.
Old mile stone
The famous Turnberry golf course. What sort of person might own a fancy place like this…
The harbour at Girvan

Becoming a more common sight - an electric vehicle charging station
The back roads were a nightmare. It's muck spreading season and the farmers don't mind spreading some of it here.
The whin is starting to bloom

Friday 26 February 2016

In the News - Ted Cruz, Serial Killer?

From the Independent 26th Feb 2016

One's a Republican contender for the US presidency; the other is an unidentified serial killer who stalked north California in the 1960s and 70s and may have murdered up to 28 people. But for a surprising number of Americans, they could be one and the same person.

More than a third of people surveyed in a Florida poll think Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz could be the mysterious Zodiac killer. In a poll that revealed Donald Trump was easily leading nearest rival Marco Rubio head-to-head in the Sunshine State, some people seemed more concerned with the results of the survey’s final question: “Do you think Ted Cruz is the Zodiac killer, or not?” Of Floridians polled, 10 per cent said yes, 62 per cent said no and 28 per cent were unsure - meaning 38 per cent were not entirely ruling out the theory. Ahead of the GOP presidential debate on Thursday night, US polling firm Public Policy Polling asked its Twitter followers to decide its final poll question – with the overwhelming winner being the Cruz/Zodiac conundrum. 

"So then I stabbed her like this" - only kidding, Ted
The Zodiac killings are one of the most enduring murder mysteries in recent American history. Between 1968 and 1969 a serial killer murdered two men and three women, either by shooting or stabbing them. The killer taunted police and press with a series of cryptic messages, in which he identified himself using the Zodiac sign. He was never found and could have killed dozens more. A film about the killings, Zodiac, starring Jake Gyllenhall, was released in 2007. The link between Ted Cruz and the Zodiac killer, though frivolous, is well established. A tweet jokingly claiming Cruz and the Zodiac were one and the same first appeared in 2013, according to the Daily Dot.

As the GOP’s presidential candidate race has heated up, the gag has snowballed, to the point that a Google search of Cruz’s name brings up the Zodiac killer as one of the top results. For the record, Ted Cruz was born in Canada in 1970, two years after the first confirmed Zodiac killing in California. 

Monday 22 February 2016

The Bridges of Peebles

After a miserably wet weekend this morning dawned sunny & tolerably mild so I took the CBF for a short run to Peebles.
Flooded field near Eaglesham
I stopped at the Old Manor Brig (1702) that crosses Manor Water. This is shut to traffic, but I'm sure on one would mind a bike using it. This made me think that there were some interesting bridges in the town.

Up the hill from the old bridge is a good view of the new Manor Bridge over the River Tweed.
Tweed Bridge in the town
The bridge has a bit of history. From below you can see the original 15th century arch widened on both sides in 1834 and a further widening (in red stone on the right) in 1900.
The bridge has some quirky cast iron street lamps. The Tweed is famous for salmon fishing but these are suppose to be dolphins.

Places of interest
Priorsford Bridge dates from 1905.
I went to find another footbridge in the town. This was built in late 19th C by the railway company to help people get to the train station. It has unusual underslung bars. I wonder if this was added later after it was found that the bridge was a bit bouncy?
Ducks in the burn
Post boxes in the UK were painted gold in towns that had a gold medal winner in the 2012 London Olympics

Peebles Fish Bar gets my seal of approval! 

Sunday 21 February 2016

Classic Punditry

Andy Gray, former Scottish footballer turned pundit, makes an arse of himself after the Paris St Germain v Chelsea Champions League match. Gray helpfully translates an interview with PSG defender David Luiz using his "O Level in French" (a basic school qualification) Fellow Scot Graham Souness then points out that Brazilian Luiz was, in fact, speaking in his native Portuguese.

video here 

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Snow Ride Video

There is snow in the hills north of Glasgow and I went to find it yesterday. On one back road I found more than I had bargained for.

Watch in HD on YouTube here

Sunday 14 February 2016

If You Seek Happiness....

The European Commission has published a list of the happiest cities in Europe. 

Here's the top 10:

  1. Aalborg, Denmark
  2. Copenhagen, Denmark
  3. Reykjavik, Iceland
  4. Zurich, Switzerland
  5. Graz, Austria
  6. Oslo, Norway
  7. Malmo, Sweden
  8. Munich, Germany
  9. Vienna, Austria
10. Newcastle, England

So the conclusion seems to be - if you want to be happy live somewhere cold and expensive. 

Aalborg - it looks ok
The locals seem friendly

Wednesday 10 February 2016

A Journey of Discovery to Dumfriesshire

Today dawned bright but icy. But after a long period of rain I had to get out on the bike. So, well wrapped up, I headed south. 
The CBF on the back roads near Kirkconnel
Dumfries. It looks nice now but the River Nith flooded the town last month.
Al fresco dining in February!
If you follow this blog you'll know that I like castles. There are plenty of them in Scotland and there's nothing like an ancient pile of rubble to improve the landscape. But today I'm seeking an older type of fortification. Prior to stone, castles were made of earth and wood. These were know as "motte and bailey" castles. The motte was a mound onto which a keep was built and the bailey was an enclosed area. They were surrounded by a ditch and timber palisade fence.

This type of castle was introduced by the Normans in the 11th century and replaced by stone castles by the end of the 13th century. A good example of the motte and bailey is near the village of Haugh of Urr* in Dumfriesshire. It was built in the mid 12th century and is notable for the size of the bailey - about 5 acres - so space for a fair sized village. 

* A splendid name - rhymes with the Scottish "loch" - a sound not used in English - so they have trouble with this.

The Motte of Urr

Seeing it is one thing but getting to it another. Access is via a ford - but not today.
I doubt that a car or bike would ever be able to cross the River Urr
An aerial  view shows the layout.
How it would have looked.
The earthworks are in good condition 700 years after the castle was abandoned.
Part of the ditch is filled with water - so this is the moat around the motte
From the top of the motte there is a good view along the River Urr
Spottes Hall in Haugh of Urr - a 18th century country house
The church in Parton
The 16th century old church in the grounds (it seems common in Scotland to leave the ruin of an old church in the grounds of a newer one)
Inside the old church is the grave of probably Scotland's greatest scientist, James Clerk Maxwell.
Snowdrops in the graveyard - the first flowers of the year to bloom

Outside the town there is an old railway bridge over Loch Ken. I would have liked to explore but it was well fenced off.
The sun - a rare sight recently.