Monthly Archives: April 2013

Put not your trust in Traveline

It is delightful to have a Scottish travel card and to be able to use buses for free. when I had a meeting of the Scottish Episcopal Historians group in Dundee on Saturday starting at 11 am I decided that economy and ecology dictated using the bus.

Accordingly I spent some time researching times and buses on the Traveline website, which is very clunky indeed to use, as every place has to be verified. When I type ‘Buchanan Street Bus Station, Glasgow’ do I indeed mean Glasgow City? Er, yes. I was very careful to put the right date, as Saturday buses can be different. With a sinking heart I realised that in order to go by bus I would need to leave the house at ten to seven in the morning, which meant starting on the animal work at ten to six, and therefore, allowing for some organising and stretching, waking up at half past five. Driving meant leaving at 8.30 and therefore rising at a civilised seven. Still …

I booked the 8.30 bus form Glasgow and resigned myself to catching the 7.30 from Kilmarnock.

I drove to Kilmarnock. I parked. I waited for the bus, which did not come. I checked the bus stop paper-behind-glass timetable, and it appeared that on Saturdays there was no 7.30 bus. The next one would make me miss the connection I had booked. I therefore got in my car and drive to the nearest park and ride, and tried to catch the underground – the train left just as I arrived, and the next one was ten minutes later, and it got me to the bus station just in time to see my bus departing. Had I only driven straight to the park and ride I would have been in plenty of time. Still …

I enquired when the next bus would get me to Dundee – and the next bus was fully booked – bus travel would now get me there horribly late. ‘This happens all the time with Traveline…’ sighed the girl behind the counter.

Having now wasted a fiver, I went back to my car and began the drive to Dundee. It was expensive and wasteful and I had now been travelling for nearly two hours.  Still …

I got to Dundee just before 11. I had sat nav. I got to a roundabout just in front of my destination. It was utterly shut. I could not turn left. There was no indication of how one might later turn left, where there were endless obstructions.  In vain I sought a way – my poor sat nav did not understand and endlessly tried to re-route me to the roundabout. I sought to climb above it so as to drop down. The sat nav offered bus routes, and pedestrianised streets. On and on I drove.  My desperation increased. Finally, I managed to climb and fall slowly down to my destination, where I finally arrived at ten to twelve.  I had been travelling for five hours. The bus should have taken an hour less and driving should have taken a little over two. Gentle reader, put not your trust in Traveline…



It is one of the definitive points of the year for me – the most distinctive sound of, well, not quite spring, but pre-spring. A moment from which there is no turning back, on the path to spring, but not quite spring. It usually comes in February or March, and if March then in very early March.

It is the moment I first hear the mating call of the male frogs, or as I privately call it, frog-off.  This year I heard it for the first time last night – 11 April.  that is about a month late. Still, it is a happy sound, a positive sound. It is the most joyful of sounds.

Happiness is a warm hosepipe

The hosepipe was limp and warm in my hand this morning, which was a first since some time in February. Upland Ayrshire has not been exempt from the cold weather that has frozen the UK for the last month. The hosepipe has been stiff and cold.

The truth is that we have neither had the coldest conditions not the warmest. We have had snow, and one day thanks to drifts I was snowed it – and the drifts have only just thawed, though it was tiny frozen rumps that were left, like melted snowmen.

It has been the mis-match with the light which has been most strange. Some of the usual spring events are triggered by light. The geese, for instance, have been laying since February, and one is now sitting, and the curlews have arrived, poor things. Dear knows how they have managed to keep themselves fed, because the ground has been frozen solid, and I should not think they could have got their beaks in even in the ditch edges. The pied wagtails are here too, to breed. But the tits all fled, despite fat balls to feed them. It was just too cold, and they went further down the hill side.

There are, as yet, no frogs, and most of the time the pond has been frozen solid. However, the heron has arrived to frog, so I suspect she thinks things are stirring, and the pond is now thawed, because the nights have only been down to minus two, and the days up to a giddy 6 or 7.

Plant life has pretty solidly followed temperatures, and interestingly so have the guinea fowl, who have not yet laid an egg (I kept them in for a few days, to be certain of this. They were not amused …). The fields, not just mine, but all around, are bare and grey and brown. At the very best it will be another month before there is any grass at all, even if this week we get the few days of mild wet weather we so badly need.

This weather doubles, perhaps trebles, my work load. I am still damping hay for the ponies, and the poultry get little supplement from either insects or plants.  The sheep cannot be safely left out, and need to come in at night, and need to be fed hay and ‘cake’ (sheep muesli), and got buckets of water.  I am not alone in having extra work and expense, but I and the thousands in the same boat will not half be glad to see a real spring.

Joy, real simply joy

The small boy, the tiny boy, set off across the grass towards the duckpond, and I lumbered after him, retrieving him before he hurtled into the icy water. Scotland was not warm this Easter Monday. ‘Small children have such joy,’ I remarked to my companion. ‘Before life knocks it out of them’ she rejoined a little gloomily.

And suddenly I knew the answer – not to the Universe, which I already knew to be 42. Rather to the question posed earlier. The question of why I gave up good sleep on Easter Sunday, and appeared somewhat dozy at lunch when I could just have had a leisurely breakfast and really enjoyed the day.

There is not one simple answer to be given, but try this for size. I went to that place, a place some 22 miles from where I live, at that time, seven am,  and after feeding my livestock, and walking the dog, and on the morning the clocks changed, I went there because I knew that there I would find adults showing every sign of just that same joy in being. That is a very precious thing.