Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Bike and soap

A little while ago I lent my lovely bike, Claud, to some guy and he killed it.* It was my fault, of course; I had left the derailleur system rather badly adjusted, so when this guy dropped it into bottom gear (something I would never do, which is why I didn't pick up on the problem) the dangly bit that holds the chain in the correct position (sorry - please stop me if my language gets too technical) leapt into the back wheel, mangling the chain, much of the making-it-go-forward system, bending a few spokes and bending the frame. The front fork and wheel, the handlebars, and the saddle are still good, but it was not economically viable to repair, especially given Claud's age (44).

I have been meaning to replace Claud for some time, as my other bike is also not in excellent condition;** generally I prefer my bikes to have two pedals. However I cannot afford a new bike, especially not the sort I would particularly like to own. There is a place in town which recycles bikes and sells them on for much less than a new bike would cost, but that is only open during working hours; I happen to work during working hours.

On Friday I decided to take action: I put an advert in our local swap shop e-mail. This came out on Sunday. Today I had an e-mail from a lady who has just the sort of bike I am looking for, apparently. It is 20 years old, so it has a bit of history,*** and it was once used to cross the Sierra Nevada (is that a thing one can do with the Sierra Nevada? If not, it wasn't used for that, after all). It sounds as though it has a cross-bar which goes across, and so will take my lock without any problems. I am looking forward to collecting it.

Of course, this being a swap shop, I have to give something in return. I shall be giving peas, artichokes, french beans (purple) and radishes from my vegetable patch, and some homemade soap. This was the perfect excuse to make some more soap - I hadn't made any since March, and my supplies of nice soaps I would be happy to give to people I don't know well have diminished, along with my supplies of really gentle soap for my poor, delicate skin.****

I therefore made two soaps from the same batch of oils. I took one lot out early and made an unscented cold process soap, which will be ready within six weeks, and left the rest in to make a lime and lemon scented hot process soap, which will be ready after I cut it tomorrow. I shall give some of that soap away to the bike lady, and I hope to make another batch, too. The other batch can be mostly lavender cold process soap, with some jasmine hot process soap to give away.

I made an infusion of alkanet in olive oil to colour my next batch. Alkanet is dark red, and the infusion will be, too. However, it will probably turn the soap blue, lilac, purple or grey, possibly red; apparently it depends on the pH of the soap. I don't quite know what causes the pH of the soap to vary, or what sort of pH leads to what sort of colour, so I have no idea how it will turn out. It should be interesting, though. It is a natural colouring, so it is therefore entirely safe and lovely and better than the artificial alternative in every way. It adds an element of unpredictability... I shall have to make sure I don't use hemp oil or avocado oil in the soap, as the yellow/green could alter the final colour in a negative way.

That was my idea of a less boring post. Perhaps photos would make it less eye-gougingly dull for the rest of you. I should work on that. Perhaps I shall.

*Note how the bike gets a name but the man does not.

**It was acquired by accident, when I was in the middle of my dissertation. Making it work seemed like impossibly good fun at the time, but less fun after I had submitted. I have now accepted that its destiny is to be fixed by someone else.

***I like bikes to have history. I wonder if this is a self-protection mechanism: I know that I am not getting a new bike, so I come up with an obscure reason why old bikes are better anyway. They are more solidly built. 1988 was a peak year for quality bike production. (Oh, but I did love the 1964 one - much more than I love the 1973 one, which is out to claim as many victims as it can. She was named Marigold the Death Bike by her first owner, and has tried to kill three people. I was recommended to put her on the tip rather than return her to her owner. Instead she languishes in my parents' basement, having the occasional part (saddle post) stolen by my little sister. This was not a popular move. The bike is no longer comfortable to ride. But I digress.)

****Stupid poor, delicate skin. Drives me mad. I am not the sort of person to have allergies and sensitive skin. I am an 'I can do that' sort of person, and I would like 'that' to include eating bread, pasta, cake, sausages and all sorts of other tasty but gluten-containing foods, using scented moisturiser, using biological washing powder and shaving my legs.*****

*****Yes, that's a lovely image, isn't it? You're welcome.

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