Batteries were included, fully charged and free – 30 April 2020

Woke to rain again. Just a little and it’s still not overstayed its welcome yet.

New method for the blog, as suggested by Scamp. Writing it in stages as I find time during the day so I don’t have to plug away at it until midnight. Let’s see how it works out.

Tried the car first thing and it was another no response from the battery. Phoned the emergency number after answering a couple of questions about Coronavirus for the safety of the repair man I suspect, I was told the engineer would be with me in about 90 minutes. Just over the 90 minutes later an RAC van drove slowly up the hill, he’d be looking for me then.

It only took him a couple of minutes to diagnose a faulty cell in the battery that was dragging the voltage down from 12v to 9v. Not repairable, no point in charging it and as it was within the warranty period he could replace it there and then with a new one free of charge, saving me £265. Battery was replaced and then we stood and discussed the world and the ’New Normal for a while. I didn’t mind. I started the car and he checked that everything was as it should have been before filling in the paperwork. I didn’t even have to sign anything. He wouldn’t, or that should be couldn’t accept a cup of tea for fear of being contaminated with a potential Covid-19 virus from us and by handing back a used cup, could potentially pass on a virus to us. How the world has turned since March.

We said our goodbyes and I commented that I’d shake his hand, but I wouldn’t be allowed. We went in to have our lunch and I think he did the same in his van, still with the flashers on so no questions would be asked.

After lunch I walked down to the new shops to get some chocolate for me and a set of outdoor fairy lights for Scamp. It was dry for the walk, but when I was in the shop it was teeming down outside. When I came out again it was dry. April showers, even if it’s the last day in April. I waited a while when I got back before going out for today’s photo, which was a smart decision as a hail storm descended on us. After that the sun shone again and I was out like a shot. Found today’s PoD over at St Mo’s. A dandelion on a bad hair day. I also found a pair of very wet reading glasses hanging on a tree branch on the way home. How they got there I don’t know, but I know how the owner felt, having lost more than my fair share of specs over the years.

That was about it for today. Doing the blog in stages is good as long as I stick to it. It also helps to have a laptop that uses the same blogging software as the iMac and can share the part finished articles over WiFi.

Tomorrow we are hoping to be taking part in a webinar with the bloke from Falkirk. Should be interesting.

Feeling a bit flat – 29 April 2020

Not me, so much as the car’s battery.

It all started when Scamp wanted to go out to get her pills from the chemist. Tried to start the car and … nothing. Pressed the starter again and … nothing. Flat as the proverbial pancake. Eventually had to accept the fact that it wasn’t going anywhere today and got Scamp to take us up to Boots in her car.

She went to the chemist while I went to Tesco. I had a list, a paper one, not on my phone. Nick the Chick has been telling us that we have to wear a mask when we go in to enclosed spaces where others are milling around, so I used my Buff™ pulled up over my nose like an old time bank robber in a cowboy film, The Desperado Shopper! I have a list. I do have one somewhere. I dug in every pocket, but no list was forthcoming. I remember adding something to it at home and … and … putting my pen in my pocket, but did I put my list back in my pocket, that’s the question. Nothing for it but to phone Scamp and get her memory of what was on the list downloaded to me. Ha! Not so easy in Tesco where the lead shielding they put on the roof or the force field they have round the shop won’t allow phone messages in or out. Eventually I gave up and tried to remember what we needed. Actually came home with about three quarters of what I went for, because the list was sitting on the table at home where I’d left it. Next time I go shopping I’ll take my old iPhone, not because it’s a better phone, but because it uses a Tesco sim and maybe, just maybe that will be allowed to communicate with the outside world.

Tried the car again when we got home and it tried to start this time, but just wouldn’t catch. Tomorrow I’ll phone the Nissan recovery and get someone to come out and give it a jump start.

I walked down to the new shops to buy the things I’d forgotten, or that they didn’t have in Tesco. Took my camera of course and brought it back unused with some messages.

Tonight’s dinner was Smoked Haddock Risotto. Easy peasy risotto. No standing over a pot of boiling rice for twenty minutes. Just fry the leeks, add the rice, then add fish, stock and milk. Shove in the oven for 18mins take out and add creme fraiche and spinach leave that for 5 more minutes and serve.
Hint: For best results you should switch the oven on first. I did.

Decided today’s PoD would be an inside shot of two Horse Chestnut plants I’ve managed to get to germinate.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to make that phone call to Nissan and get the car started again.

Another delivery day of sunshine and groceries – 28 April 2020

This time Tesco were doing the needful for the groceries and the blue skies were producing the backdrop.

A dull day at 4.40am, but the birds were singing happily. Blackbirds I think, certainly not magpies that abound just now and definitely not seagulls they should be banned or better still culled.

Spent the morning clearing off the dried paint from my painting palette which is nothing more than a large white floor tile, but it has a hard glossy surface that works so well with any kind of paint and generally washes clean. It didn’t do it today, in fact I had to take some turps on a rag to it. That got the paint moving. Unfortunately it made the whole house smell too. I think I’ve finally got rid of the smell tonight. Since I had the turps out, I cleaned my oil painting brushes with it and then washed them in hot soapy water. That way they won’t pass any Covid-19 to each other.

Gary, the window cleaner came round today to make an honest fiver. Haven’t seen him in ages and we did a bit of long distance social distancing catching up. He was asking after you JIC. I don’t think you knew him Hazy. He used to go to karate class with JIC and me. Then it was lunch time.

In the afternoon I sat and struggled again with the problems of getting a Pilatus PC12 to follow a GPS trace. Finally, and I say this with a fair degree of certainty, I know how to set it properly and make the aircraft play nice. It’s just a case of knowing which of those screens to set up properly, which of the buttons to press and when. Heaven knows how real pilots know which of the buttons to press and more importantly, which NOT to press.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk round St Mo’s. Just because it was so nice, I went round twice and got a couple of photos of blossom and flowers. The blossom was Hawthorn or May Blossom. That got PoD. The other little flower I got was a Lousewort. Ugly name for a pretty little flower. I’d read last year’s blog last night and I’d photographed the same flower, but hadn’t found a name for it. Now I know. I used my old trusted Collins book Wild Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe to find it. Of course I cross-checked it with Google!

Dinner tonight was a combined affair. Scamp made Cauliflower Fritters and I made Souk Style Chicken and Chickpea Soup. It was like a soupy tagine. Very spicy, but not hot. We got the recipes from a cooking magazine and Scamp suggested we both look through it separately and write down recipes we would like to try. Not surprisingly, we both chose a lot of the same things. We’re intending to work through the list now and maybe cut a few from it to make a short list of favourites.

Tesco delivery arrived early as usual and with the wrong printout of groceries. Scamp was confused for a while and then she noticed the delivery address was wrong. Most of the stuff we ordered came this time, even bread flour. Now the problem is going to be finding yeast. We’ve enough to do for about a month, so there’s no rush for it. Just a matter of waiting until the panic buying is past its peak.

Read some sad news on the web today. Apparently John Prine a singer songwriter I’ve been enjoying for the last few months died on 7th April with complications from Covid-19. Such a pity. If you get a chance, search Spotify for Some Humans Aint Human. Clever lyrics that mean so much more nowadays.

More rain tonight, but the day was clear and sunny for most of the time. However, the weather fairies say the good weather isn’t going to last. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Another week in Lockdown begins, and it rains – 27 April 2020

Actually, apart from not leaving the house much, life is pretty normal four us.

First thing on my list today was a haircut and as none of the barbers were open, it was down to me to do the bulk of it. Nothing fancy, just a number 4 all over. I got most of it done fairly easily, after all, I’ve done it quite often, usually one home trim in between the trips to the barbers. There is always a bit I can’t quit reach, despite using two different clippers and trying my best with two mirrors. As usual I had to give up and get Scamp to even out my difficult bit. It felt so much better to get that extra 30mm or so of hair removed. Job one done.

After our morning coffee, Scamp went for a walk to the shops and I got started on a canvas. I just can’t get the Bob Ross method out of my head, so this was another landscape, but this time it was just sky, mountains and water. No trees, no bushes and no rocks. I need a lot more practise before I attempt to add them to my landscapes. It was only repainted once and that’s not bad for me. This time it was a painting in oils. While I was trying to emulate Bob Ross, I had trouble working wet in wet with the oils. The last one was done in acrylic, mainly and I’m beginning to think that he didn’t do that painting in one shot. I think, since he was using oils, that he allowed the first layer to dry before he painted in the trees.

When Scamp got back she gave the painting her approval and then went to work in the garden. Her jobs today were to plant out her first batch of sweet peas an to split her bunches of primulas. I gave her a hand for a while, but as usual, she did most of the work, and the better work if the truth be told.

The weather fairies had warned that we would probably have some rain today and on the chart it seemed to arriving around 4pm. Just before 4.30 the first raindrops hit the back window and the garden enjoyed half an hour of rain which I’m sure did it a lot of good.

Now walk today, but I did manage to get my Eight Active Hours award on my Fitbit, mainly due to walking around that painting adding blobs and scrapes of colour. PoD went to a group of aphids on a rose leaf.

Dinner was yesterday’s curry re-heated and it wasn’t as hot as I’d feared it might be. Very tasty, even if I say so myself.

Tomorrow we are promised a delivery from Tesco around dinner time.

Not a hive of activity today – 26 April 2020

Weather had turned. Wind from the west and far too many clouds for comfortable lounging about outside.

Hardly past the door today. Even PoD was a bit of a struggle and almost too late. It’s a view into the inside of a tulip. I liked the glorious colour of the tulip. It just summed up summer, except that west wind was just a tad cool for comfort.

A very lazy day. Good to look out at, but it didn’t entice me to go out and experience its full flavour. I was quite happy, for once to be a viewer, not a participant. I did make dinner, which started out as a veg curry and turned out as a quite spicy vegetable stew. Too hot and even with the addition of some cooling coconut milk, it was still a bit fiery. The good thing about it is there’s plenty for tomorrow. The down side is that it will, in the way of curries, be even hotter tomorrow.

Spoke to JIC to garner his opinion on coffee makers in general and makes he’d recommend. Still trying to work out what would be the best option as the Gaggia is still not at its best. I think I’m down to two models now, both by different makers. Pity you can only see them in photos. It’s always more reassuring to have seen them with your own eyes. Maybe Nick the Chick will have sorted the Lockdown Release by the end of the week and JL will re-open its revolving doors to the coffee machine buying public, i.e. me. Realistically, that might just happen for the Christmas rush.

Tomorrow will be a better day and although the curry will be very hot, the predictions are that the weather won’t be.

A seat in the sun, a painting done, a bike to ride and Chinese food besides – 25 April 2020

All done within twelve hours of the hottest day so far.

Started the day by talking to Hazy. Always a good start to the day. I’ve now got instructions for making a Fat Quarter mask. Not like the one Isobel made with 8, yes EIGHT, layers of material. Her daughter asked if she could breath through it, to which she replied “No, I’ve got to take it off to breathe.” Methinks this defeats the purpose of a mask. Found out how everything was going down south and good to know that the ‘Nancy Pretty’ is growing well and starting to flower in foreign climes.

Next thing to do was to test the coffee maker and see if there are any improvements / alterations I can make. Found some interesting hints and tips on the Gaggia site, but nothing that really related to what’s going wrong with mine. Eventually gave up and made a slow cup of coffee that really tasted good. Maybe good coffee just takes a long time to brew.

Next thing on today’s agenda was to find out how to get the autopilot to work on the Garmin 530 navigational computer on the PC12. I got some useful hints and tips on a website last night and today I put them into practise and they seemed to work. The plane followed the flight plan I’d fed into it. One thing ticked off! Time for a seat in the sun just for a chance to catch some of those 20º rays. It was very pleasant sitting there with just a gentle breeze that didn’t seem to know which direction to come from, so came from them all.

Now I needed a painting for yesterday and possibly another for today. I started with a copy of the Bob Ross painting I’d watch him complete yesterday in less than an hour. I set to to repeat the process using acrylic paint on a canvas, although now I suspect he was using oils. Surprisingly, the finished art work passed the critical judgement of my panel, Scamp and Fred. Both agreed it worked, although both suggested different improvements that could be made. I ignored both, of course and just did what I wanted to do. Second drawing was a pencil sketch selfie done looking in the mirror. It’s not bad, but it looks like the artist as a young man. Slightly dishonest, but still there’s a hint of me there.

We thought we might do Golden Bowl for dinner tonight and I pumped up the tyres on the Dewdrop and took it over to Condorrat to find out if it was truly open. Spoke to a young Chinese lady who was checking for customers and they were indeed open for business. Phone orders only and there was just one person waiting for his collection. Cycled home and phoned in the order. It was on the way back that I got today’s PoD. The outdoor gym machines tied up with red and white tape to decree them off limits. A token gesture.

Half an hour later I cycled back to collect our meal. About ten other hopefuls were waiting too, but it wasn’t long before I took my chance and asked for my collection. Paid for it cash, which in itself is unusual these days. Chicken Chop Suey and Fried Rice (x2) was great after having cooked for ourselves these last three or four weeks. The bike ran well, but I think the front wheel bearing needs some attention. It’s either that or the front disk brakes need alignment. Enjoyed the run in the sun.

It seemed as if the next door neighbours on our left were having a party tonight. Scamp reckoned it was someone’s birthday. They’d sneaked in the back way and Angela had let down a ladder so they could climb up into the garden. Isn’t it a shame that people feel the need to go to such lengths just to meet up with family. In a way these restrictions are taking away people’s human rights. If a family want to be together to celebrate a birthday, they should be allowed to do so as long as they realise the risk they are taking. We are moving towards a police state these days and some folk think that’s a good thing. Some folk in power, that is.

We did a wee bit of ballroom practise tonight and then to round the session off, two Salsa tracks to see what we could remember.

Well, the best of the weather looks like it’s past. Next week we run the risk of rain and single digit temperatures. Oh well, it was good while it lasted and it lifted our spirits too. No plans for tomorrow.

Another lovely day. Make the most of it – 24 April 2020

It was a lovely warm day. Blue skies and wall to wall sunshine. Best of all, there was little or no wind to cool us.

To make the most of it, we sat outside in the morning and soaked up some rays. I even wore my shorts to grab as much sunshine as I could. Coffee maker was working, a bit arthritically, but working none the less and I enjoyed a cup in my folding seat at the front door. Stayed there more or less all morning with the occasional walk round the block to make sure we weren’t becoming too sedentary.

I did make one foray inside and that was to order an aeroplane. It’s a Pilatus PC12 and retails at an eye-watering $5.36M (+VAT). I managed to beat them down to £18 (+VAT). It may be delivered this year, but I have the X-Plane 11 version to fly until it can be shipped. It’s a beautifully kitted out plane and I’ve not even crashed it yet. With the deal done and downloaded, I retired to the front lawn to plan my flights and soak up some rays with another cup of coffee. I managed to nab a PoD which was a little beetle that kept circling us and eventually landed on Scamp’s coffee cup. It had previously landed on my hand, but I wasn’t quick enough to snap it. I named it Alexander for obvious reasons.

In the afternoon, after a lunch of Piece ’n’ Flat Sausage for me and Piece ’n’ Egg for my co-pilot, we went for a short constitutional round St Mo’s. Place was dull and fairly empty, so the photo of Cowslips was all I got.

Tonight’s dinner was a salad with Salmon for Scamp and an overcooked rump steak for me. Salad was lovely, but my steak was too tough.

Watched an interesting film on Amazon Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. The key words in the title were ‘Ballroom’ and ‘Dancing’. It was entertaining and interesting. Well, it passed an hour and a half and took our minds of Sturgeon’s revelation that things wouldn’t return to ‘normal’ until next year at least and that social distancing wouldn’t go away until the autumn, if then. Yes, we want to be treated like adults, Nick, but we like fairy stories at bedtime!

Tomorrow looks like being the last of the good weather with the possibility of rain on Sunday and almost definitely next week sometime. The gardens need it, but we want sunshine! With that said, there is just the chance of a Golden Bowl dinner tomorrow.

Early delivery – 23 April 2020

Scamp’s turn for breakfast and an early knock on the door.

Our veg box arrived this morning as Scamp was making breakfast just after 8.30. What a haul it was Pineapple, Melon, Avocados, Tomatoes, Grapes, Carrots, Potatoes and lots, lots more. Far more than we expected or needed, really. I’m sure well manage to eat our way through most of it though.

Just after I’d had my shower this morning, I felt a well remembered itch on my left wrist and sure enough, there was the little black spot that turned out to be a tick, the second one I’ve had this year and hopefully the last. It had been sitting quietly underneath my watch strap. I think I may have to stick to the main paths in the parks from now until the start of the winter when they die off.

Today was bin day and we are working our way through cleaning all the bins. Today’s customer was the green bin for bottles and plastic – recycling waste. I took up the cudgels and scrubbed it out with a big hard brush. I must admit it made a fair difference to the bin and was a worthwhile use of my time. It also gave me a chance to wander around and get some sun on me.

The unthinkable happened this morning.  The coffee machine wouldn’t work.   No coffee was forthcoming from it.  In fact, nothing was coming from it.  I could hear the pump doing its best, but not a drop was coming out of the basket.  Tried the steam jet and it worked, so it wasn’t the pump that was at fault.  After a bit of rudimentary stripping down, it turned out that some gunk was stuck in the dispenser.  The bit that the spray connects to.  There are four holes in the dispenser block and none of them were working.  After a lot of poking and prodding I got three of them back in business and that was as far as I was willing to go.  I watched a video of an engineer stripping down a Gaggia like mine and knew that it was well beyond my knowledge or tools.  I put it all back together again and went looking on the Which site to see what was available.  It’s not the cost that’s the problem, it’ sourcing the things in these difficult days.  Later I managed to make a cup of coffee with it, but it took a long time.  I’m afraid you pair (you know who you are) have probably made the right decision with my birthday present.  I’ll see what happens tomorrow.

After lunch I went in search of milk down at the shops. Beginning to see more and more people wearing masks now. Some, in fact most, seem to be home made. I might look for a pattern and put some of my ‘fat corners’ to good use. I did see a couple of example patterns somewhere and read of people having irritation from the elastic rubbing on their ears. There was a suggestion that you could modify the design to have a strap with a button and another with a button hole which would fasten behind the head instead. I don’t think I’d adopt that method it sounds a bit like “Do you think my heid buttons up the back?”

Hauled my bag of milk and chocolate (that’s the prize for going) back home and hadn’t taken one photo. Then I remembered the little basil seedlings that are growing on the kitchen window sill. They became the PoD.

Dinner tonight was an old time favourite. Cabbage, bacon and potatoes. Sounds uninteresting but it’s truly delicious.

Played a bit of catch-up with the Lockdown Library for Instagram. I got painter’s block yesterday, so today I’d two drawings to do. Actually I did do a quick sketch of my dance shoes last night, but wasn’t happy with it. Today I added some brushed on black ink and they came alive. So that worked for yesterday. Today’s sketch was a simple one of my old iPhone SE. Now it seem so small.

Tomorrow I may HAVE to cut my hair. It’s getting to be really annoying and messy. Its time may have come.

The supervisor – 22 April 2020

Who would have thought that towards the end of April Showers month we’d have to get the hose out and water the garden?

Gardening today. First I offered to strim the back grass. There is really no point in hauling out the grass cutter and doing a proper cut, because of the lumps and bumps and paving slabs that make it almost impossible to get an even cut. I chose instead to use the strimmer, but only after moving all the plant pots to give myself a fairly easy run at it. Then the pots had to be put back again and we couldn’t be sure exactly where they went. Finally Scamp declared that they were near enough right. I photographed the layout so we’d know next time.  I also took the opportunity to photograph her blue Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) and Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow). Muscari made it to Flickr (G o t S didn’t).

The next gardening task was to fit the hose to the tap and spend a fairly pleasant half hour hosing down the back garden. I’d already soaked my sprouting peas in the bird bath to make sure they continued to sprout. Like I said, it was a fairly pleasant half hour, but not for Scamp who was leaning out the back bedroom window apparently “Just supervising.” A quick flick of the spray controller to “Full Firefighter Force” and an accurately directed jet caught her unawares and put an end to her supervision. Of course, I got pelters for that afterwards. As an act of atonement I washed all the back windows and squeegee’d them clean. I even did the awkward back door.

After lunch, when we were speaking again, Scamp went out to the front with her book and read for a while in the sun.  It was warmer today, because the wind was a bit less boisterous than it has been of late . I should have been painting, but instead I went for a walk to St Mo’s. Before I went, I took some macro shots of a pair of yellow tulips. One of them made it to PoD. The only half decent shot I got in St Mo’s was one of a mummy Mallard with her brood of ducklings. Pity they were so far across the pond to be almost invisible in the ripples. I saw and captured one other interesting sign of the times. I’ve seen artists on FB painting messages on stones and leaving them for someone to find. Today I found, not one, but two on a seat in the park. It’s a nice thought that took very little time to do, but might give someone some much needed support. I hope so.

Didn’t get a painting done today, so maybe I’ll manage to play catch-up tomorrow. Hoping for a veg box delivery some time tomorrow. It’s amazing the silver linings that are appearing from these dark clouds.

A nice day for a stake – 21 April 2020

Not a spelling mistake. Not a very meaty stake.

The apple tree, our big James Grieve apple tree has been staked for a long number of years now. When the original stake was put in, the tree had barely started fruiting. Last year it was becoming quite bent and bowed with the weight of the apples on its much longer branches. That was when we decided it needed a better support. Today I cut up a lovely piece of mahogany used to be a ‘stretcher’ for holding up the washing line before the whirly came into our lives and the washing line became redundant. The stretcher originated from the woodwork department of a certain high school that doesn’t exist any more and for a years or so has been propping up the fence at the back door. Today it was repurposed as the support for the apple tree.

With the prop cut to length and sharpened to a fair point, it should have been easy to hammer it in to the ground, secure the branch to it and remove the old support. Things that should be easy rarely are as any DIY person will tell you. First it was almost impossible to hammer the new stake into the ground with the old one in place without damaging all the flowers on that branch, so with Scamp holding the branch, I cut off the cable tie securing the tree to the old stake and carefully removed the stake. Next there was what we will call ‘a discussion’ as to exactly where the new stake would go. Polis were not called to intervene, but it was a close run thing. Eventually we found a place that we could both agree on and the stake was duly battered into place. The branch was secured to the stake with a cable tie, cushioned with a couple of old socks. That seemed to work the last time and hadn’t damaged the branch unduly. We may replace the original stake just to provide extra support if we think the tree needs it, but for now it should be ready to carry the masses of fruit we’re hoping for, if I haven’t destroyed all the flower buds.

With the job done we had lunch. After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which I think is a hover fly. It might be a honey bee, but I’m fairly certain it’s a hover. It was another beautiful day if you could find somewhere sheltered from a fierce eastern wind. It might be blowing in from the North Sea, but it felt as if it was coming from the Arctic. Still the whin bushes were glowing in the sunshine and the pine trees behind them were providing a barrier to that wind.

Went looking for a wooden box I made when I was an apprentice away back in the late 60s. Didn’t find it, but Scamp found a few strips of colour negatives and we scanned them into the iMac. Some good memories there. I’ll distribute some of them when I’ve got them all scanned.

Before dinner I started on today’s Lockdown Library painting. Tonight it was to be four pears. Laid down some basic washes and left it there to go and sample Scamp’s veggie chilli. It was delicious. One of those dishes that taste so good you forget there’s no meat in it. After dinner I laboured on at the painting and finally got it to a stage I was fairly happy with. It’s photographed and up on Instagram.

No plans for tomorrow, other than maybe another dance practise.