Just keep on cooking – 31 January 2020

This was going to be a busy day.

Crawford, Nancy, June and Ian were coming to dinner and I was doing the main course and the pudding. Main was fairly easy Cod with Braised Peas, Lentils and Bacon. Pudding was the worry. It was Crème Brûlée. Difficult to type, but hellish to make. Basically a baked cream custard with burnt sugar on top. I might have made it before from a packet, but never from eggs, cream, sugar and lots of beating. However, the only way to do it was to get started.

Before I started, I chucked some flour, water, yeast and butter in the mixer and beat it for 10 minutes. With that done, I boiled then simmered the cream and vanilla pod (forgot to mention that in the list of ingredients). While it was simmering I separated the yolks from the whites of four eggy-weggs and beat the living daylights out of them and some sugar with a balloon whisk. Finally gave up and used the electric hand mixer. Oh, thank goodness for the person who invented electric beaters! Mixed in the creamy stuff and beat it again until it thickened, except it didn’t thicken. I don’t know what I did wrong, it just wouldn’t thicken. Eventually I just filled the ramekin dishes with the yellow mixture and stuck then in a tray filled with water and baked them for about an hour. They looked better, but still not right, but I wasn’t caring they were set to cool and later went into the fridge as a punishment for not thickening properly.

Scamp went out to lunch with the witches and I managed to grab a five minute dry spell to get today’s PoD which is one of Scamp’s Christmas Roses (Heleborus Orientalis Lenten Rose). Scamp’s contribution to tonight’s meal had been made first thing this morning and was a lovely lentil soup made from a ham hock. Thick and tasty and a lot easier to make than the Crème Brûlée.

When she came home it was time to clear the table and set it out for dinner. The visitors arrived on time and we settled down to the food. The soup tasted great. The main course seemed to go down ok, but the Crème Brûlée was a disaster. It hadn’t set properly and the burnt sugar topping was brick hard.

Other than the pudding the night was a success and we staggered off to bed around 1am.

Tomorrow we may go to Perth. You will have gathered from the lateness of the blog and the last paragraph that this a catch up, so I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you whether we went to Perth or not!

Out on the town – 30 January 2020

Today was the anniversary of the day we first met. A much more sensible anniversary than the day we married.

Simply put, if we hadn’t ever met, we wouldn’t ever have married, but if we’d met and never married, it would have made little difference to us. To other people it would have been important, but to us it would have simple have been a convenience.

We got the bus in to Glasgow today. Not the slow X3, but the much quicker X28 from Condorrat. True, we had to walk over to Condorrat, but it was worth it not to have the bus stop at every one of the 5,000 stops all the way to Glasgow. Well, it seemed like that anyway.

We went for coffee in Nero before we walked down through the town. I watched an older woman struggling with a smartphone until a young bloke helped her to dial her friend on it. After a couple of attempts she managed to complete the connection and asked the bloke the name of the coffee shop she was in. She then relayed this information to her friend who told her he/she would meet her outside the Concert Hall. Again she asked for help from the young bloke, but this time he couldn’t help as he didn’t come from Glasgow, so another couple provided directions (it was actually just next door). We take technology like smartphones for granted and for those of us who are adept at using it, we can find all the information we need at the touch of a button. For others it’s a bit of a trial. It’s easy to forget how bamboozling modern technology can be. I hope she found her friend.

We walked down Bucky Street and I grabbed today’s PoD outside the Apple shop. I wonder how much business SimplyFixIt gets from this sign? Walked further along Argyll Street an up past the old fruit market for lunch in Gandolfi Fish. Lunch was Smoked Haddock Goujons as starter for both of us followed by Oven Baked Cod with Pomme Anna and Kale for Scamp. For me it was Sea Bass and Prawn Risotto. Washed down with a bottle of Italian red. For once we had a pudding: Panna cotta with Strawberries and Basil for Scamp. All of it absolutely brilliant. Service too was done with a smile which always helps. Had a drink in the Gandolfi Bar next door, but it was a dull, cold and uninteresting place. We wouldn’t go back there, but Gandolfi Fish is on our list now.

Bus back to Condorrat and then walked home in a gathering gale with splashes of rain. It didn’t matter, because we’d had a great day.

Tomorrow we’re cooking for six!

It rained – 29 January 2020

I think it had an early breakfast to give it the strength to keep going all day.

There was no chance of going out photographing today without a pair of waders or a wetsuit. The furthest we went was Tesco to get the makings of tonight’s dinner and also some of the makings of Friday night’s dinner. At Tesco I bumped into the bloke who used to own the garage we always took our cars to. Now his sons run the place and he’s retired. I asked him how he was getting on with having so much time to himself and although said he was keeping busy, I didn’t get the impression that he was totally relaxed with it. It takes a while to leave one lifestyle and embrace another.

Back home we ignored today’s dinner and Friday night’s dinner and concentrated on tomorrow’s itinerary and lunch. I think we have it sorted now. Hopefully I’ll be singing its praises tomorrow.

For dinner tonight Scamp made Chicken Cacciatore. It was delicious. I couldn’t attempt something like that. I’d take my hat off to her if I was wearing one.

Today’s PoD was a tabletop shot of my partly disassembled pens and a drawing to prove that I’m getting ready for 28 Drawings Later which starts on Saturday.

Tomorrow, a day in town for lunch and hopefully not so much rain.

More bloody problems – 28 January 2020

Not satisfied with yesterday’s four bottles, the vampires want more blood.

Phone call at just after 9am from the doctor’s surgery to say that the blood I gave yesterday had arrived at the lab without any labels, so could I please donate more. I tried to explain that I have a limited amount of the red stuff in my veins and it would take me a while to replenish my reserves sufficiently for another donation. We agreed a date and time and the receptionist apologised for the problem. I’m sure she’s one of the vampires, because I heard her licking her lips as she put the phone down.

When I looked out the window the ground was white. No snow was falling and the sky was clear, but all around was crisp and even, just not deep. Two out of three will do me for a photo or two. But that would be later. It wasn’t even half past nine and I had a book to finish. February’s Son. Brilliant book.

After my morning coffee and after solving an incredibly difficult Difficult level Sudoku, I went out and cleared the snow from the car and drove Scamp down to Broadwood Farm for her lunch date with Mags. Got some bread and milk on the way home and then went out for a walk in St Mo’s with three cameras. Old EPL 5 with an ultra wide lens. New GX 80 with a wide zoom and middle aged E-M1 with a macro. Surely I had everything covered? Indeed I had. Lots of photos taken and all cameras used. Haven’t picked a PoD yet as this is an early version of the Blog. Happy with what each of them produced though.

Back home again and after lunch which was a piece ’n’ roast beef with garlic and coriander, just to dissuade any more hungry vampires pretending to be from the doc’s surgery. I made some soup. What Scamp calls ‘just soup’. In other words, nothing fancy, just soup. When Scamp arrived after walking back from lunch we finally put the Christmas decorations up in the loft and by that time it was late afternoon and it was getting dark. The clouds had sneaked in when we weren’t looking and taken away all that good sunlight from this morning, but not to worry, I did get some shots to prove I was out in it. The best one turned out to be the view along the snow covered boardwalk taken with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye. Not your normal, everyday lens, but what it does, it does well.

No plans for tomorrow, we’ll have to wait and see what we get up to.

Quarterly blood letting – 27 January 2020

Some days have a wall. Something that has to be surmounted. Today it was bloodletting at midday.

Today it was time for my quarterly blood test. I felt a bit like Hancock when he hears that he has to give “a whole pint”. As the nurse counted out the four sample tubes and gaily filled them with my vital fluid, I wondered if I had any left in my body. When I got back home I found out that I did have and some of it was leaking past the plaster she’d stuck on. Not a lot, just a dribble, but you can’t go losing blood like that. I need all mine. Now I’ve just to wait until the end of the week to see if I need to meet the nurse to discuss the results or if it’s just an OK over the phone. Expecting the former, hoping for the latter.

After getting past the wall I relaxed a bit. Went out to post my old driving licence back to the DVLA, get my old dance shoes re-soled and heeled and get some more black ink to use with the adapter, or converter to use the correct term, for my collection of Lamy pens. At present the Fisk black ink is winning. It’s permanent, but doesn’t seem to have any shellac in its composition, so doesn’t clog the nib of the fountain pen. Still one more to check and that’s the W&N one I was going to get today in Hobbycraft. Almost got the full set done. Forgot to post the licence, but got the shoes booked in and I got the ink too. Bought myself an LED daylight bulb for use in a lamp in the back bedroom while I was in Hobbycraft.

While I was out I took the chance of dropping in at Drumpellier to grab a photo of some of the waterbirds on the loch. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Entitled “A Tall Tail” it’s a sculpture in the middle of the loch that makes a great perch for the gulls. I think I entertained a couple sitting having coffee in their car. They couldn’t understand what the hell I was doing, apparently taking photos of, well, nothing much. Obviously didn’t understand that that’s what photogs do most of the time with the sole purpose of puzzling the Muggles.

Back home, Gems were gone, leaving only their dirty tea cups and a few uneaten biscuits. Not long after I got there, Scamp returned from dropping them off. Sat for a while tweaking the aforementioned PoD and then we had half the dinner – soup. The other half we’d have when we returned from dance class.

I must admit, although I miss salsa on a Monday night, I don’t miss the drive in to Glasgow or back out again, especially when Rangers are playing and half of Scotland squeezes on to the M8 in front of me. We had been practising the Waltz all week and do you know, the teacher didn’t even ask us to show off our prowess at that dance. However, we have now mastered the first half of the Foxtrot routine and have a fair understanding of how the second half works. We can also Saunter Together quite adequately. Next week we add both halves of that dance together to make our first real sequence dance! The new black and white dance shoes seem to work. We only stayed for an hour tonight, but may try another hour on a Wednesday when she starts another new class in Condorrat.

Just before I started this, the snow began. It was fairly heavy for a while, but it’s just light now and although the temperature is just above freezing, I don’t think it will last until morning. That’s a pity because I could take some snowy pictures.

Tomorrow Scamp is booked for lunch with Mags and I’m determined to post that DVLA letter. Whether I manage that or not is the question!

A late morning – 26 January 2020

It was a late night last night and consequently a late morning today.

We went for a walk in the morning to get milk and stuff to make dinner. As a special treat (?!) we went for coffee to Tim Hortons. Apparently they are a fast food restaurant chain in Canada. Somebody should tell the folk working in the Cumbersheugh place because the coffee was poor and took a long while to produce. Some folk seemed to like it though, because the place was busy. I’d rank it alongside Starbucks. If you want coffee go to a coffee shop. If you want Starbucks, go to a Starbucks. I don’t know what you get in a Hortons, probably a Horton or maybe burnt water. As for food, we shared a muffin which I thought was ok, but Scamp criticised for having too much bicarbonate. What she didn’t know was that the muffin was the healthiest offering they had. Everything else was fried and soaked in sugar syrup. Last complaint. I like to decide how much milk and/or sugar to put in my coffee. I don’t want some 18 year old deciding for me. Fin.

Walked back feeling that the day could only get better. It did, or it did improve slightly. After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s hoping for slightly more light than yesterday. Lots more light would be a bonus, but essentially I’m a realist, so a little more light would fit the bill. I got that little more light, and also a shower or rain, but I had to wait a while for the blue sky and that little bit of high level cloud after the rain clouds had cleared. For the last two or so weeks there have been a group of radio control freaks driving their model dune buggies over the old BMX track and yesterday I found what I think is an off road circuit just inside the tree line. Today there were only dog walkers on the paths round the pond. No dune buggies and not even any BMX riders. Deserted. PoD went to some dried out thorns caught by some of that elusive sunshine.

Back home it was more cooking tuition from Scamp to help me make the most of some 500g of nice looking shoulder steak that would become tonight’s dinner for me, while Scamp was having a really thick tuna steak. My steak was lovely, hers was a bit overdone, which is a shame, because the raw fish looked lovely. Maybe frozen too long, maybe just too thick. It could be either or possibly a combination of both. Who knows. The remainder of mine is earmarked for Tuesday’s dinner.

Spoke to JIC tonight and caught up. Neither he nor us had much to say apart from catching up with yesterday’s action at the ball and his progress at Cranford. Plans are being formulated for February.

I’m reading February’s Son and devouring it. Set in Glasgow in February 1973 and straddling the day we got married, it’s an interesting book written after a great deal of research I’d think. The writer even got the weather right for that month in that year. So strange to read about places we knew then and attitudes we lived with then.

Tomorrow it’s time to test out the step memory of the new dance shoes. We had a quick practise tonight and the feet seem to know where they should be going. Also having to do my quarterly blood letting tomorrow. Snow forecast, so maybe the off chance of some photos.

New Shoes – 25 January 2020

Off in to Glasgow for a new pair of dancing shoes.

Drove in to town and got parked directly across from the dance shop. Shoes were a good fit and far more comfortable than the old ones they are sort of replacing. Not replacing as much as sharing the limelight with. The old ones will hopefully be off to Timpson’s for new felt soles and heels. I’m going to ask if they will upgrade the memory on them at the same time, because they don’t seem to be retaining the new moves we’re doing!

The rest of the day was spent with taking photos of fence posts over in St Mo’s. Once again there was very little light and once again I forgot to take a portable LED light, so had to resort to using the torch app on the phone. It gives a good light and it’s directional too, the only thing wrong with it is the green colour cast, that’s why I reduced the photo to monochrome. Must check out the LED lights to see if they have a more neutral colour.

Soon it was time to go through the rigmarole of dressing up in 7.3m of itchy, scratchy woollen cloth. We were off tonight to the Tartan Ball. Finally got dressed and on our way. I think we got stopped at every traffic light after we came off the motorway. Parked and walked along to the manly, dirty Classic Grand. Named by someone with an imagination and a sense of humour.

Missed the first salsa hour, but got there in time for the first ceilidh hour. It was hectic. So many clumsy clots stamping out a rhythm that bore no relation to what the band was playing and with steps that the caller had apparently missed out. Bits of it reminded me of a Dashing White Sergeant we taught in Trinidad a few years ago. Some folk just looked as mystified as Blessed Be!

Enjoyed the second salsa hour of the night but as Scamp reminded me later there were much fewer dancers on the floor for that. Strange for an event that was hosted by Academia de Salsa. It was also strange to see very few folk we knew from classes. Perhaps three dance evenings in two months, in addition to normal Sunday Socials is too much. Maybe it’s because we’re not going to classes anymore and losing touch with the crowd.

After the salsa segment, it was back to ceilidh again and more stamping and ignoring of the steps. We’d had enough and Scamp’s shoes had definitely had more than enough. We drove home along an almost empty motorway, most people were still heading in to Glasgow, and arrived home at just after midnight.

As you will have gathered this is a catch-up. Tomorrow (actually today), we’re hoping to practise our waltz and foxtrot for Monday’s class.

Mirror Mirror on the wall – 24 January 2020

Well, not on the wall yet, but hopefully quite soon.

Today the red Juke took us to Falkirk to look for a shaving mirror for me. Scamp was determined to replace the one she’d bought me for Christmas from JL. I’ve tried to tell her it just needs a wee bit of glue to secure the base, but she won’t listen. It’s not the best designed, or manufactured bit of kit I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t cost the earth either and apart from the demountable base, it does work well. We couldn’t see any better mirrors in the two shops we were in, but we did see some large room mirrors which we’d been discussing. Incredible variety of styles and bling and incredible prices to match. I think we’ve narrowed down the range to a few front runners now.

After the retail park, we went to Morrisons for some essentials and something for tonight’s dinner. Oh yes, and lunch. Lunch turned out to be a bowl of chips for Scamp and a roll ’n’ sausage for me. Fairly standard fare, but cheap and cheerful. While we were there I got a text from the dance shop to say that my shoes were in and the replacement soles for the old ones were there too. We considered driving over after lunch, but I eventually decided that the traffic would be too heavy on a Friday about 3.30pm and also I didn’t have a PoD and I might just have enough time to grab one in St Mo’s when we got back. We’ll visit the dance shop tomorrow, all being well.

I did get a few potential shots, but the only one that worked well was another magpie shot. Not just one bird, four. This is a case where four in a bush is much better than one in the hand. You wouldn’t want a magpie on your hand. If you did have one, you’d need to count your fingers carefully afterwards! However, the birds in the tree was my PoD.

Made a veggie chilli from the Bosh book tonight. Very time consuming to make and not all that tasty when it was finished. We couldn’t quite put our fingers on the problem, but there was a sour taste somewhere in the sauce. I don’t think I’ll bother making it again.

So, we’re hoping to visit the dance shop tomorrow. Other than that, we have no plans.

On the bus today – 23 January 2020

Still sticking to the “up and out” ideal, (yes that was Ideal, not Idea!) just not driving today.

Walked to Condorrat to get the fast bus in to Glasgow. In the town we went for coffee first and then went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went looking for a cheap tartan skirt for the tartan ball. I went to look at a camera in Jessops. Found the camera, but the security cable on it was about 20cm long. How am I supposed to try out a camera that I can’t even get up to eye level? Gave up. Next one I wanted to look at had a similarly short steel cable and also the attaching clip was pointed straight at me. If I’d managed to get the camera to eye level, that clip would have caused me an injury. When an assistant asked me if she could help, I tried to explain the danger of the protruding clip. She then explained condescendingly that they need the security because “.. people do try to steal things you know …”. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the security cable, but the protruding clip that I was concerned about. She seemed to realise that a sale was not imminent and finished the conversation by asking if there was anything else she could help me with. I said “Don’t bother, I’ll just take my business elsewhere.” Jessops seems to be in trouble, financially, again. With staff like her, I can understand why.

Still fizzing, I met with Scamp further down the road. She hadn’t found a skirt. We tried one of the plethora of cheap ’Scottish’ shops that have invaded Glasgow and Edinburgh. Kilts made from cloth you could spit peas through, for £15. Nothing she would demean herself with there either. We agreed to split up again and meet up in Princes Square.

I was looking for a refillable reservoir for one of my Lamy pens, because ’28 Drawings Later’ is looming next Saturday, the 1st of February. I expected I would get one in The Pen Shop in Princes Square, but I might just pick one up in Cass Art. No, Cass Art failed me on that, none. Walked through to The Pen Shop and on the way got the PoD which is a statue by Shona Kinlock called “As Proud As” with reference to the peacock which stands behind the wee man. On to The Pen Shop. They didn’t have the adapter either. Neither did whatever Millers is called now, but they did have some black ink, so I got that at least. They suggested other places, but as Scamp was on the last stop on her Tartan Tour which was M&S and I was meeting her there and then going for lunch which I hoped would be Paesano, I decided I’d try Amazon instead. We met and it was Paesano who would be graced by our presence. I was delighted!

Just two of our usual pizzas, but because we were bussing, not driving, I was allowed a glass of house red!

Up the road to the bus station and grabbed one of the new route X25 buses. It’s a lot faster than the sluggish X3, but slower that the Stagecoach X something-or-other. Best of all, its new route takes it past the new shops, so as we needed bread we could get the bus to the shops today!

It was jolly exciting sitting in a bus that was driving down past St Mo’s and St Mo’s school, round the roundabout and stopping at the bus stop just at the new shops. You can tell we don’t get out much, can’t you?

That was all the excitement we could stand for one day. Oh by the way, Scamp did get a tartan(ish) skirt. Tomorrow we have no plans.

Out for a walk – 22 January 2020

Much better looking day today, even some sunshine when we woke (whisper it).

After breakfast and a couple of chapters of my newest book (that’s about five chapters for Scamp) and then showered, dressed and out. Today’s destination was Mugdock Country Park in East Dumbartonshire.

Followed the satnav to go there and got parked without any problem and got the walking boots on. The girl who was parked next to us warned us that the paths were quite mucky and she was indeed correct. Walked down past the converted stables and on to the old ruined Craigend Castle, now protected from the punters by a security fence. Got a few shots there, pushing the camera gingerly through the gaps at the joints of the fence. It was the Nikon’s day out again today after it produced the goods yesterday. Further on in a stand of trees, big redwoods, we could hear a woodpecker, but couldn’t quite see it, then another one started up and it seemed a bit like call and response for a while. I was walking through the trees trying to locate the tree the nearest one was in when both of them stopped. Then I did see one fly away across the woods to where the other one seemed to be. No photos though. Scamp had followed me in to the woods and she was the one who noticed the daffodil and maybe snowdrops green spikes sticking up through the leaf litter. Hope I didn’t tramp on any on my way in. I was more careful on the way out.

We walked on to Mugdock Castle and that’s where today’s PoD of the Summer House came from. Just a ruin now, it must have been a fair sized fortress in it’s day back in the 17th century. From there we walked round Mugdock Loch and followed our noses back to the coffee shop at the centre. Two coffees, one roll ’n’ egg, one roll ’n’ sausage (with fried onions!) all for just over £8. A bargain and we’d earned it with our walk.

Drove back home through Bardowie. Drove right past your friend’s house there, Hazy. We couldn’t remember her name. Then we were on a well kent road all the way home. Enjoyed the walk. Enjoyed the company and enjoyed the food. Not a bad day at all. We’ve vowed to go back again soon and take a different road next time.

Dinner tonight was fish and chips with haddock from the fish shop in Kilsyth. A fitting end to the day.

Tomorrow I’ve suggested we go in to Glasgow on the bus.