Another year over – 31 December 2019

And a new one about to begin.

Scamp was a bit better this morning which was a relief. She’s so rarely ill and it takes a lot to floor her, but she said she felt better. Not really well enough to get up and make breakfast, but I’ve got a tally of the number of days she’s been shirking.

It looked cold outside and the temperature was still below zero, so we weren’t in any sort of rush to go out. I did eventually go and bring the car down from where I’d parked it last night and we replaced the de-humidifier which now weighed about 400g more than when we’d put it in. That’s 400ml of water its absorbed over about six months. Actually it’s more than that. We’ve already removed about 200ml by heating it up on a radiator. I think the bag contains salt and clay. The salt being hygroscopic draws in the moisture and the clay prevents it from going back out again. Still, it works well in the wee Nissan. Mine has AC and that pumps out dry air summer and winter, so that dries the windscreen, but what is it about Japanese cars that makes them so susceptible to condensation?

We still needed some stuff for dinner tonight, so we walked down to the shops. Glad we did, because the road was just a carpark. Cars, buses and lorries all getting in each other’s way. It was traffic chaos. We found out why when we went in to M&S Food. People everywhere, probably all the ones who were causing all the road chaos. All madly grabbing things, any things, because haven’t you heard? The shops are all shut tomorrow!! Now these shops weren’t even there a few months ago and nobody died of starvation. Still we have to stockpile just in case they decide to shut the shops for two days. We got enough to make dinner. We didn’t need any more.

Walked back home and had lunch then went out to St Mo’s to take the last photos of 2019, the last photos of this 365 and the last photos of the decade. It was a lovely day. Good light again and a wee bit of frost too, just to add some sparkle. PoD was a picture of a curved grass stem with a water bead caught in a leaf joint.

Came home to find that Scamp was feeling a lot better and was making cakes for tonight. I set to and made the stew to fill tomorrow’s steak pie. A couple of weeks ago I made the prototype, this is the real deal. After that I got two of the apps I use a lot on the Mac installed, but one, the main one, Lightroom is installed, but not registered yet. I’m hoping the new year will bring me a brainwave and I’ll get it done. If not, there are always other ways round things, if you know what I mean.

That’s about it. I think we’re ready to face 2020 now the place has been hoovered, the toilet has been cleaned, the bathroom has too. I think we’re ready.

All The Best to all my readers. I hope 2020 is good to you whoever and wherever you are.

Tomorrow? Probably a late start after a late night tonight. Drink will be taken, I’m sure (it already has been!).

Sunshine! – 30 December 2019

The sky was clearing when we woke, but it took a while for it to clear completely.

Scamp was feeling a lot better today. Good enough to go for the messages. Rather than face the crowds and the traffic jams, we chose to shop locally in Tesco. I think we nearly emptied the place, judging by the amount of stuff in the trolley we wheeled to Scamp’s car. She had decided to give the Juke the day off because it had worked hard these last few weeks.

After lunch I took the ‘old’ E-M1 out for a spin round St Mo’s and got some lovely light because the clouds had all cleared away and the low sun was warming everything up. Not actual temperature ‘warming’, but colour temperature warming. The Mired value, but you don’t need, or want to know that, do you? Let’s just say it was lovely light during what’s know to photogs as the Golden Hour. Today it was macros again and my favourite and therefore the PoD was one of some moss on the limb of a tree.

By the time I was heading home, Scamp was getting ready for a Gems Christmas/New Year party at Carol’s. A good name to have for this time of year. I wasn’t invited, of course as this was a girls only night, but I was the nominated driver for Scamp and Margie. I was even getting the privilege of driving Scamp’s car, probably to extend the Juke’s holiday. Dropped the ladies off and headed home to do battle with the MacBook Pro again.

This time I was ready. I’d read the script and the the different pieces of software. The first attempt didn’t work. Apparently the secret is to change the system date of the MBP to something about two years ago and try again. I did, and it worked. Panicked after that because although the screen looked right, I had no mouse, no keyboard and no way of progressing with the install. Back to the ‘big’ computer and read the ‘Problems’ section. It was a know problem with a solution. I did a reboot and edited one small tick box before I lost control and voila! MacOS Sierra running on a 2009 MBP. You PC owners may be saying “So?”, but this is a big deal. Apple control what can and can’t be installed on their hardware, but one clever bloke has stymied that. Well done to him. Tomorrow I’ll populate it.

Got the message just about 11pm that a taxi was required. Checked the temperature (actual temperature, not Mired!) and it was -1ºc. Had to scrape Scamp’s car, inside and out!!

When we got back, Scamp was feeling sick. I suspected self-inflicted alcohol induced poisoning, but she said that wasn’t the case. She did look a bit under the weather and went to bed just before midnight. Hope she feels better tomorrow.

If Scamp is feeling better I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow to source some ink for the printer, or then again, I may not. It’s that certain.

So this must be Sunday – 29 December 2019

All day yesterday I though it was Sunday, but it turned out to be Saturday, so hopefully today will be Sunday. Oh for some structure to the week again!

Scamp was feeling better today, but still not back to her usual self. Another day’s rest wouldn’t hurt and would probably be a great help.

In the afternoon I laced up my boots and took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to see and nobody wanted to walk there, which was a shame because it was blue skies all round with a few clouds to make it interesting. Walking up through the trees a deer crossed the path in front of me and didn’t even notice me. They really should obey the Green Cross Code and look left, look right and look right again before crossing. It didn’t, but there were no cars coming, because there wasn’t a road.

Most of today’s shots were of lichen and fungi on trees. Bracket fungi mainly. Must look them up on the Interweb and find out more about them. Lovely detail on the underside of the brackets, looking like little 3D mazes. PoD was a tangle of leaves and grasses caught in a tree. Don’t ask me why, but I liked it right away.

Walked on down to the shops and got the makings of tonight’s dinner. Roast Chicken with Jacket Potatoes.

Struggled for the rest of the afternoon trying to install a clean version of El Capitan into the MacBook Pro. For some reason it didn’t want to install. Finally gave up and cloned in the one I’d backed up about a week ago. Now I’ve found that you can put almost any version in, not Apple legal of course, but it can be done. May try it today. It’s hand grenade time again!

“What does this little pin do? What will happen if I pull this ring?????”

Tonight Scamp was looking and feeling a lot better. Tmorrow we must go for real messages. Planning a raid on Tesco.

Busy going nowhere – 28 December 2019

Usually on a Saturday we have plans. Today we just wanted to chill out.

Woke late and took our time approaching the day. We needed some shopping, but not so much that we had to rush out and get it done. Scamp and I were feeling a bit queasy. Maybe it was just overeating and possibly a bit of over drinking too. Nothing serious, just the change of water again or something like that.

After a light lunch we walked down to the shops and bought the basics for dinner tonight. Actually, when we got back I just made a pot of soup and earmarked that as dinner. It’s not as if we need a big meal after the feasts we’ve had down south.

Scamp spent the afternoon catching up on the TV recordings we’d made while I tried to work out why we were getting 5Mb/s download speed instead of the 75Mb/s we should have. I was about to phone Virgin and vent my anger at them when I gave them one last try by doing a restore to factory settings on the modem. Amazingly, it worked! I think our bandwidth has been gradually decreasing over the months and it’s only when we got back home we’ve noticed just how bad it is. Also, it being Christmas the tree is causing an obstruction between the modem and the iMac. It’s probably a combination of factors. I hadn’t realised that a modem works better with line-of-sight. You live and learn.

Not much time for a photo today, so the best I did was the flowering cactus which is looking very pretty.

Tomorrow if we’re feeling up to it and the weather isn’t too bad, we may go dancing.

Flying home – Going home – 27 December 2019

Today was one of those lost days.

All of us knew we were on a countdown. Even Vixen seemed to realise that all was not as well as it should be.

Jamie drove us all to a garden centre. I got some seeds, Scamp got a screen cleaner for her car and J&S got seeds of the planting variety and of the bird seeding variety too. We had coffee and cakes there, of course. That’s how garden centres manage to exist during the winter. It was good to see the Christmas decorations coming down to leave room for the spring plants, no doubt. Saw and interesting plant, the Paper Bush (edgeworthia chrysantha) and that became PoD. Also noticed a lot of dead fish lying around the fish pond. Various explanations were proposed, but my best guess was a heron.

Back home for lunch and to say our goodbyes to Sim and Vixen then it was the long drive to the airport. JIC doesn’t seem to mind the long drive and I used to enjoy them too. Not so much now, or maybe I’m just not so used to driving now that I’m not having to do a daily commute. When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, maybe I’ll do a bit more.

Grabbed a quick snack at the airport and soon were called to the gate and on to the plane. Pleasant flight up. It’s strange to be on the plane for just an hour. We’re so used to the three and four hour flights to warm places, not to mention the seven hour flights to Trinidad. Excitement at Glasgow when the plane was met by four police who huckled to slightly inebriated guys off for questioning and a bit of finger wagging. When we entered the terminal, there they were getting a severe dressing down. While we waited for Scamp’s luggage they reappeared swaggering in the door. Not in the least looking worried and proceeded to take some selfies with a couple of older women who apparently had spoken up for them to the police. We hadn’t heard any commotion on the flight, so either they had been carrying on at Stanstead or it was just a bit of over reaction. Well done to the ladies for standing up for them.

Drove home and had a wee glass of G&T to settle us down.

Tomorrow we may need to go for messages.

The day after – 26 December 2019

Drove down to meet H&N at Starbucks!!!!

I thought it was going to be lunch, but it was more like coffee and cake, or, considering this was Starbucks, Starbucks and cake. It ended up just being six people talking round a table and it was good. Lovely mural on the wall. At first I though it was a repeating pattern, but then realised there were no repeats. Yes, there were things that looked like repeats, but no actual tessellation. Then I noticed the signature and date and that confirmed that it wasn’t wallpaper, it was an artwork. Very nice. Remember I said that, it’s not often I say good things about Starbucks.After the hugs and goodbyes, we drove home and got ready for the outdoors. Graham Water was our destination and we were walking anti-clockwise this time … in the rain. It could have been a dreich walk across muddy grass and even muddier paths, but the scenery kept changing as we went through woodland, down dips, up hills and into little villages. Past strange cottages with gargoyles on the eaves and then dwarfed by fields of three metre high corn. Occasionally catching glimpses of the Water itself. Eventually we reached a place where the flood waters stretched right across the road and it wasn’t clear how deep it was. We’d done enough. We turned back and I got a chance to photograph the old church that became PoD, although it could have been the grass or the gargoyles that got that honour. No, it was the church.

Back home and drying out, dinner for Scamp was another whole sea bass and for the rest it was Wagyu steak. Extortionate price, but amazing taste and texture. I can’t remember what we had in accompaniment, the steak was the star. Tasting almost like fillet and almost like ham, but softer than both. Beautiful. I wonder if the butcher in Muirhead will have some? Finished off with Christmas Pudding and Brandy Cream. I may never eat again!

More TV at night and we decided to leave the packing until tomorrow. Tomorrow we must go back up north.

And so this is Christmas – 25 December 2019

My usual step count is between 8,000 and 11,000. Today my step count was 1,238.

I was hardly past the door today although it was a bright, cold day. I did take some macro shots of the Cladonia forest that grows along the front fence at the house. I also grabbed shots of an iconic robin sitting on a branch, just outside the front window. It was one of those shots that got PoD.

Hazy phoned to say they’d be with us about 2pm and they arrived on time. In the interim we stuffed our faces with vol au vents and called that lunch. When the visitors arrived we shared out the presents. Vixen went crazy, not satisfied with opening her own presents, she wanted to open everybody’s. Then she found her present from Hazy and ND, a Kong. From then on nobody and nothing was more interesting than ripping the kong to pieces. Who would have thought that two tennis balls, one with a squeaker would command such attention. Crazy dog carefully buried it under her bed then dragged everything out to ‘find’ it again.

Dinner was roast chicken with stuffing and Spanish Rice which is rice with onions, peppers and bacon, all chopped up very fine. Delicious. It’s on our list to try soon. Pudding was, of course, Christmas Pudding or/and Apple Crumble laced with Brandy. Just about too much, but not quite.

After H&N left for the hotel, we settled down to watch TV and laugh even more at Vixen’s antics.

Tomorrow we need to go for a walk!

A walk in the countryside – 24 December 2019

Heard JIC and Sim get up to take Vixen out around 7.30am. Neither of us were interested in joining them.

After breakfast we got a message from Hazy to say they were intending leaving about midday. It looks like everything is going to schedule.

JIC, Scamp and I went out for a walk out through Astwick, being careful not to blink so we wouldn’t miss it. From there up the path between the fields. The other two kept stopping when I was taking photos, but eventually they gave up and walked on slowly while I grabbed shots of strange plants and vistas which were very English. Got my PoD on the walk. A shot of a farm with nice leading lines along the furrows in the field. Got a text from Hazel at 12.08 to say they were on their way. Right on time. On the way back I stopped to take a photo of some dead nettles flowering outside the church at Astwick. Weeds flowering in late December!

Hazy and ND arrived for coffee and to assure us that they were here on time and settled in their hotel which is just down the road. Good to see both her and JIC just talking.

Dinner tonight was:

Whole sea bream (head on) for Scamp
Cooked ham for the carnivores.
Both served with cooked split peas. They reminded me of the pease brose my mum used to make.

Watched a film at night, Earth From Space – BBC Scotland. Really brilliant pictures, but depressingly stilted delivery from the voice over.

Tomorrow it’s Christmas. “Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear”

Watching the Airies – 23 December 2019

Off on our travels again.

Apart from checking, re-checking and partly unpacking then repacking we didn’t do much. About 1pm we drove to the airport through the rain. For once I got through security without having my bags checked. Even walked through the metal detector with my belt still on and didn’t trigger the flashing lights!

Since we were kind of on holiday, I risked a half pint of Peroni at an extortionate price. Grabbed a PoD of the airport with one plane against a Glasgow sunset. It’s becoming a tradition when going on holiday. Soon we were called to the gate and then we were ‘flying through the air, sitting in armchairs at 35,000 feet’ as someone once said.

The bags came quickly at Stanstead and JIC was soon driving us through the English night. Nice car, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the heated seats! Would Vixen still remember us, or would there be a barking fit. Needn’t have worried, there he was, showing his excitement at seeing us again.

A glass or two of excellent wine, a lovely orzo salad (Orzo and Rice – hadn’t realised they went so well together), some catching up chat and a fairly early bed.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk

The Shortest Day – 22 December 2019

And it felt like the shortest day too. Very little sunlight finding it’s way to the Scottish earth today.

Apart from having a lot to accomplish today, there wasn’t much incentive to get up and get started, but we did. Calendars to print. Doors to fix. Dinner (mine) to cook. Tidying up to be done. Just normal day to day stuff, but it all seems to mount up some days. Today was that day. Also, there was the usual photo to be taken in almost twilight.

I went to B&Q to get the stuff to fix the door. After lunch I started my dinner – Lamb Shoulder Shank, slow cooked. With that on its way, I went out and took some photos. Mostly macro photos and mostly macro photos of Cladonia lichen. Found some Cladonia Bellidiflora which are like normal green/blue cladonia but with red tips to the crown. Not particularly rare, but it’s a long time since I’ve seen any round here. That pic made PoD. Like I said, there wasn’t much light around and most of the pics were taken at ISO 3200. I know that sounds like technospeak, but to give an indication of the low light, normal photos for most of the year are taken at ISO 200 to 400. 3200 means that there is only about a 1/16th the light available at ISO 200. Dull, dull, dull. Yes, the maths is dull, but the light, more so.

To brighten up this shortest day we watched a BBC re-run of a re-run of a re-run of the five year old Penguins of Madagascar. Still as funny and still finding little quotes throughout the film.

Lamb was lovely and not too fatty. Scamp had salmon as usual. Both of us finished off a bottle of Barolo we’d started last night.

Spoke to JIC later in the evening and were pleased to hear that there wasn’t any serious flooding down by. Sorry to hear that Sim has to work on the 27th in her new job with no holiday allowance as yet.

Well, it was a dull day, but the good news is that after 2am on Monday, the days will start getting longer and Scamp will give a sigh of relief as her SAD husband starts to come out of the long winter tunnel.

No big plans for tomorrow.