December, the shortest day.

_1360309I had my final ‘ all clear ‘ from the hospital, and yes indeed everything works as good as new. I can ride a bike, swim and sneeze without pain. It was the sneezing that was the most difficult. I am a loud sneezer and always a tryptic. I think I remember playground warnings of eyes popping out if you held in a sneeze. I just looked it up and for ‘ kid wisdom’ it is not far off.



The pain levels involved with sneezing when you are held together with pins is off the scale. You are told to hold your chest tight and clutch a pillow if you have one handy. Well, try telling a donkey to hold in all that braying and hee-hawing. It is not going to work. I had weeks of horribly painful sneezing and now at last all is well. A cold could have put me back in hospital at any time.

If you have never visited a stone circle for mid winter’s day, then it is to be recommended. The solstice is of course one of the festivals that was rather taken over by Christianity and given a make-over. Cairnholy is one of our local sights with an alignment for sun rise. A scan of the local OS map gave me the idea of visiting two other stone circles on the same day and starting after sunrise at Cairnholy.

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I did my longest ride yesterday, a 44 mile one-third gravel loop. Christmas Day is always a good day to ride a bike if for no other reason than the feeling of superiority. If there is one day in the year to get one up on the opposition it will be a hard ride on the 25th. I last pinned a number on my chest and chip on my bike years ago now, but still it feels wonderful and still rather thrilling.


The weather was not the quite so perfect. Just above freezing and with dense fog, you could have found excuses. But there was nothing on the forecast that was life threatening, not even when you averaged out the 3 weather apps that I run on my phone. Living where we do, you have to obsess about weather. We had a warmshowers guest staying a month or so ago and all power to her solo ride and the first tour ever. But she had a cavalier attitude to weather I could not believe.

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In the UK we have started to give storms names so that people panic and clear the shelves of bread and milk. Taking an average of as many apps and websites as possible she was still going to be heading the wrong way into a storm that she knew nothing about.

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We have three friends who have taken up cycling at the end of the summer and have yet to see the link between which day to ride a bike and the weather forecast. The Christmas Day ride could not have been done the day before. One app said +3’c and another -3’c which would mean too much ice on the roads for a safe ride. The app that gave +3’c is usually the pessimistic one, so that was strange. An almost full moon that night with the brightest of stars and geese flying over the house gave early signs that -3 was going to win. It did, proving that you have to use more than one apps.


Esther has a sketching project at the moment – to do a sketch every day of December. Now, these are not trying to push back the frontiers of western art. Esther has a style she used on our world bike ride – just 10 minutes with a biro to get the outline and fill it in that evening. She uses a plastic brush and ultra small water colour box. It is all about the moment, the essence of place. As a way of communicating with people when you do not have language it is perfect.





12 thoughts on “December, the shortest day.

    1. Karen – for such a small country there are so many wonderful things here in Scotland. Very few people visit Galloway where we live – a bit of a challenge as we have a cycle holiday company – but when they do get here, they fall in love with the place & people.

  1. Wow warren & ester you too are two ate a great writer and artists… enjoy. Steve at cyclery usa riverside California. ..

    1. Steve – California is about as big as the whole of Scotland, it may even be bigger. We love showing off our little corner of Scotland – quick sketches and some photos remind us why we live here and ride bikes.

  2. Nice Christmas and New Year gift Warren and Esther. You may not have intended it as such, but that is the way I took (accepted) this post. Wishing you the best New Year possible.

  3. I think your sketches / paintings are marvellous, and I’m extra pleased to recognise all four locations (considering that the nearest is 120 road miles from my home).

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