Losing it (again) 

I’ve got quite used to losing bikes. It’s been a theme in my life for the past 25 years. I’ve left a bike in Balloch after a meeting and only realised when I was getting off a train in Edinburgh; I’ve lost more than one bike after a night out at university because I forgot where, in a vast array of parked bikes, I’d left it; I’ve had many stolen – mainly through leaving them unlocked- and one I’d locked up and someone just picked up and walked off with.   

But that was the old days, now I have a Brompton and I don’t let it out of my sight. It really is the apple of my eye, long wished-for over many years for its ability to fold up. I can take it onto any train, even those that only accept bike bookings, and on buses and even into shops. (Though obviously you wouldn’t need to take it into a shop  if they weren’t so sodding valuable- you’d just lock it outside). 

  

But the joys of having a folding bike are slightly tempered by the challenges: imagine ‘Mr Bean’s Brimpton Bike Commute’ and you’ve pretty much got the picture of my daily struggles. There’s a strict order to do all the folds, rather like origami but without the easy-to-use instructions. If you do something wrong it just doesn’t work and you have to fold it up and start again. So if I’m in a rush, feel like I have an audience, or in mid-conversation I inevitably do it wrong.  

  

A few weeks ago I was visiting a friend in Edinburgh and we walked together into town, me pushing the Brompton and chatting away. Just at the top of the Mound we parted company and as I prepared to get on the bike she asked where my helmet was. “Oh dear I must have left it in Glasgow,” I said, “but don’t worry, you only really need a helmet if you’re a total idiot and fall off, because if you get run into by a bus or a lorry you’d just be dead anyway and a helmet won’t help you”

“Right. Ok then” said Jo uncertainly as she turned to wave goodbye “be careful!” 

  

I waited for the dense crowds on the Royal Mile to clear and then mounted my bike to take to the steep hill down the Mound. I pressed gently down on the right pedal to start and then the handlebars collapsed over the front of the bike and the front wheel folded around at right angles to the direction I wanted to go in. I went flying over the folded handlebars, hit the road and rolled over. 

  

Scrambling out of the tangle, part bike part human, some horrified German tourists helped me out of the path of the oncoming traffic. They seemed a bit traumatized and extremely concerned for my wellbeing while I, on the other hand, was more concerned to check whether Jo had seen the incident. Once I was sure she was’t doubled over laughing at my famous last words and posting it all to Facebook, I turned back to the Germans. No I wasn’t hurt (only a little), yes I was fine, no I didn’t need to go to hospital, yes the bike is supposed to do that (just not when I’m riding on it). Then I asked them the all important question “So what did it look like?”

  

“You flew through the air” said the German woman “like a stunt man”. 

 Reassured that I was more Mr Bond than Mr Bean, I reassembled the bike, tightening the joints I had failed to in the excitement of chat with a friend, and cycled off. 

  

But this blog is supposed to be about losing bikes, not falling off bikes so back to the subject. 

   

Despite the care and attention I’d given my beloved Brompton since I bought it second hand from a bloke at Hamilton Station, my tireless folding and unfolding to take it into work, shops, meetings, my attention somehow lapsed and I ended up leaving it on a train. In my defence I was distracted with ravenous hunger and an altercation with a vending machine at Dundee station. It wasn’t until I was home that I realised it was still on the train. The horror. The realization that I had, yet again, lost a bike. The heavy sighs and rolling of the eyes of long-suffering husband. 

 

A check of the timetables suggested the bike was now well on the way to Edinburgh and there was no point to returning to the station. It was also nearly midnight. 

   

So what does a girl do? I called lost property but it was, of course, shut. I could have gone to bed and thought about it in the morning but it was my BROMPTON. I tweeted a desperate tweet into the twitterverse. 

I didn’t expect to hear anything. I just couldn’t face the ‘not another bike’ face of the very long suffering husband (who has lived through double figures of lost bikes over the years). 

   

Then, suddenly and against all the odds, a tweet arrived. “I’ve got your bike” it said. I hardly believed it. It turned out to be the guard on the train I’d been on and she would pass the bike to a colleague coming back to Glasgow. I could pick my bike up from him at 2:10am. It was too good to be true. I raced around the house looking for wine or chocolates to give to the guard but could only found a pack of macaroons hidden behind a box in a kitchen cupboard. I set my alarm for 130am and had an hour of fitful sleep. 

  
When I arrived at Queen street having negotiated Sauchiehall street at 145am, dodging between hundreds of taxis and trying not to run over drunken revellers spilling all over the street, the station was all shut up. I wandered around until I found a sliding door I could prise open and found the station deserted except for two police officers. 

  

“How did you get in here?” said a burly station employee who appeared as the train drew in “you managed to pry open a door? An’ with the Polis here an aw”

  

And all of a sudden I was joyfully reunited with my bike. I tried to hand over the macaroons but the guard refused to take them. I tweeted profuse thanks to the  Dundee train guard who was now off-shift and headed home. 

  

The next day Ruedi was extremely surprised that I had actually managed to retrieve my bike but rather perturbed at the loss of some macaroons he has secreted away. I directed him to the car, “The guard wouldn’t accept them” I explained. 

  

“Oh” he said, a little puzzled, fetching them and handing them back to me. “Happy Anniversary.”

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Vending Machine Venting

Right. This is going to be a rant. A hypoglycemic rant as it goes. A veritable raging hangry rant.  

I’ve just found out what the most effective way of getting a hungry person off on a rant. It’s a vending machine that just eats money. Yes it swallows it whole and refuses to regurgitate a snack. A vending machine in a station late at night with no prospect of nutriment between here and Glasgow. (With here being Dundee). 

 And not only that, Ladies and Gentlemen, a jobsworth station employee with his jobsworth flourescent tabard and his hipster beard. 

 It’s the perfect storm. 

 So I put in my £1 in and it swallows it. I exclaim to noone in particular that the machine has stolen my money and a man standing along the platform looks round and says “it stole my money too”. So we drag the aforementioned station person over to the machine and he says “not my responsibility mate”

 “But it’s swallowing everyone’s money” said the man. 

 “Can’t do anything about it mate. I can’t touch the machine” says the beard. 

 “You could put a sign on it” I suggest. “It would stop that guy chucking his money into it” I say, pointing at another man with his coin poised over the slot. 

 “DONT PUT YOUR MONEY IN THERE” we shout at him in unison, he looks startled and scuttles away. 

 We turn back to the station employee 

“I can’t touch the machine, it’s not station property” he says. 

 “Would you be able to touch it if you wanted to buy something from it?” I ask, genuinely interested in his philosophical position. “What about if it were about to fall and crush your granny, could you touch it then?”

 “I can’t help you” he continues increasingly desperately. 

 “Ok” I say “How about you just stick a wee notice on it. You don’t even need to touch the machine. Just stick it on with blue tack or double sided sticky tape.” I am beginning to get slightly manic in my sugar-deprived state.  

I decide to take direct action and switch the machine off at the wall. 

  “You can’t do that” the station man says

 “But you haven’t touched it and I solved the problem of you being complicit in this fraud”

 He switches it on again. 

 I spot a couple of policemen with a group of drunken football fans and march over to get their legal advice. 

 “Is the train station responsible if that machine is committing fraud? And they know it and refuse to shut it down or label it out of order?” I ask. 

 But I don’t have time to hear the answer. The train has pulled in and I have to sprint up the platform to fetch my bike and jump on. Switching the vending machine back off again in the dash. 

 But just as the train fires up to leave I spot a man with a beenie hat and a forlorn looking collie dog on a lead by the vending machine. He has switched it back on and is poised to put some money in once he has decided on an item. I throw myself back to the closing doors of the train and shout. “STOP. Don’t put your money in there.” He turns to me with a look of mild surprise then turns back to contemplating the crisp selection. 

“No it will swallow your money. I turned it off to stop people doing it”. 

He now looked as folorn as his dog, “Really? Will it definitely not work? I’m so hungry I actually feel like putting the money in anyway.” He said as the doors closed and the train pulled away.

 By now I really REALLY need some food. But what are the chances that there will be a snack trolley on board. 

But miraculously there is. And I even find enough cash, despite the criminal vending machine, for a packet of crisps and a twix. 

  Back at my seat as I munch happily away I contemplate submitting the conundrum to Radio 4s “Moral Maze” to solve. I imagine Michael Burke’s soporific voice 

 “And today on Moral Maze we are discussing the agency of an out of order snack machine. 

Stay tuned in while we put the case to the panel”

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

  Kat 24/11/2017 

The mysterious case of the disappearing clothes. 

It’s not often us conservationists get to dress up and go to a fancy meal in an extremely fancy hotel. And that’s what makes the Nature of Scotland awards so special: a fabulous meal with sparkling company and wearing shoes that certainly wouldn’t be practical for the day-job. 

 
It’s always a memorable event but this year will be memorable for another reason: between arriving at the venue and leaving a few hours ago, I have somehow lost my clothes. Not the clothes I am currently wearing I hasten to add, the clothes I had arrived in before changing into my finery.

 
When I went to change back into them for the dash to the train they weren’t in my bag. “Why wouldn’t they be here?” I thought, indignantly. Surely someone wouldn’t rifle past my wallet to steal a pair of brown trousers and a top I got 5 years ago from the Salvation Army shop. 

 
Truly a conundrum. I thought my way back through the evening. I’d arrived in work clothes and gone straight to the toilets to change so I went back to check. The toilet I’d changed in was engaged. I waited. But time was marching on and the last train to Glagsow was going in 15 minutes. I contemplated shouting over the door “Erm excuse me. Have I left my clothes in there?” Then I thought better of it and sprinted off for the train. I stopped on the way out at reception to ask if any clothes had been handed in.

 The concierge kept a totally straight face as he received the information and then turned to a colleague saying “this lady has lost her, um, some, well, items. And wonders if they have been handed in” 

 

“My clothes” I quickly clarified in case they thought it was something worse. But no-one had seen them. I dashed off.
 

Fortunately I hadn’t lost my comfortable boots with my clothes as there would have been no sprinting in those shoes: skyscraper platforms. A type of shoe I have neither worn before nor owned (the extent of my previous high heels experience extending to a vertiginous one and a half inches above floor level). 

 
No, these completely unsuitable and almost unwearable shoes actually belong to my 14 year old daughter who, having discovered it was a black tie event, poured scorn on my choice of shoe. 

 

“You can’t go out dressed like that mum.” She said, perfectly horrified, in almost the same tone I’d use as she struts out to a party in a lacy midriff-bearing ensemble. “See those shoes, they are just awful. Mum” she says “Awful granny shoes. Yuk”

 

Well what else will I wear then? I blustered. 

 
“Theeeeese” she purred appearing cradling a pair of ridiculously high black suede heels.

 

I squeaked at them in parental shock, demanding what they were and why a 14 year old owned them. My daughter recoiled theatrically.  “My babies” she said defensively as she stroked the shoes like a Bond villain with her cat. “And you certainly won’t be borrowing them them.”

 
It needed a bit of negotiating but, eventually, after agreeing to pay for a new dress for the school Christmas dance, I got to wear the shoes. 

 Still musing over the whereabouts of my clothes I ran, Cinderella-like, in full length party gown (heels in bag) through Edinburgh in fear of missing the last train. And on the platform, when I arrived in a whirl of stress, I found three people from my table at the dinner. We greeted each other and I casually commented that I wished I was wearing the clothes I’d arrived in but couldn’t find them. 

 

“Sooooo. You mean you’ve lost your clothes at the hotel?” Asked one of the women slowly, as if to make sure she caught what I’d said correctly and then everyone fell about laughing. 

 
“Oh I found some clothes in the ladies loo” piped up another woman. 

“When I came in to the toilet there were two women discussing the clothes.” She said “one was asking ‘Is it just a coat?’ And the other said it was definitely a full set of clothes. And socks.”

 

She said that the three of them were musing over how on earth someone’s clothes got to be in a toilet cubicle and what had happened to the owner. 

 

“I thought we should take them to reception as lost properly” she said “but then we thought – what if the owner comes back for them and they aren’t there? So we left them. They’re probably still there.”

 
And perhaps they are still there… It’s now late and the party is over. I think I’ll need to make an awkward phone call to the hotel in the morning to try and retrieve them. The explaining is going to be fun. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

B