Busy, busy, busy – 7 July 2018

Today was just a busy day.

Quiches to make in the morning, two different fillings. One my sister-in-law’s recipe for hot smoked salmon and broccoli and another with red pepper and cheese. Both for tonight’s dinner with last night’s visitors plus June and Ian. After that, my work was done and it was over to Scamp to assemble the dessert which was giant Jaffa cake and lemon syllabub. The Jaffa cake went well, but the syllabub wasn’t thickening to her satisfaction. Still, an hour or two in the fridge would surely firm it up. The ham had been roasted the day before and a slice from it proved that its cooking was perfect.

Grabbed an hour in the afternoon to get some photos in St Mo’s and the hoverfly won the PoD.

Dinner went well and we finally got to bed just before 12.

Preparation Day – 6 July 2018

A day of bad coffee, pizzas and surprise visitors

A trip to Tesco in the morning bought almost all the ingredients for tomorrows dinner with Crawford & Nancy and June & Ian. Scamp set to to build the dessert while I sat around and solved today’s Sudoku. We all have skills, we just have to utilise them the way we see best. After the prep was done, we went out for what Scamp called “a Light Lunch”. After ticking off the likely venues on our fingers, we plumped for Craigend Nursery. It’s a plant nursery, but their big claim to fame is their restaurant/cafe. We used to go there a lot, but now not so much. I know why. Burnt water pretending it’s coffee and a panini you could hammer in nails with was not what Scamp meant by “a Light Lunch”. Having said that, her Fish Finger Sandwich which was three sandwiches of hefty sliced bread filled with deep fried fish was lovely. Three slice was too much for her, so I helped her clear her plate. The attention to detail and desire to satisfy customers was evident when the girl making up the bill asked “Was everything alright?” and Scamp replied “No, not the best”. The girl’s reply was “Sorry”. No desire to ask what was wrong or even to pass it up the chain if she felt she couldn’t help us, just “Sorry”. We’re sorry too. This used to be a good place for a lunch, light or otherwise. Now it’s a victim of its own success.

Back home and there was cleaning to be done. There were also photos to be taken and I know which of these tasks was on my to-do list. Grabbed my cameras and drove down to Auchinstarry to look for the elusive kingfisher. Didn’t find it, but I did find Mrs Swan out with the weans. That became PoD. Most interesting shot was a green caterpillar on a mission to cross my path as quickly as possible. Maybe it was going to a meeting or something. Used the new macro lens at ground level to get a more interesting point of view. Oh it was hot. The day had started just over 16ºc but it must have been well above twenty now.

Walked back and made some bread dough to try out Scamp’s idea of bread rolls pinched from Epicurean, then sat in the garden for a while with Scamp, but without a drink as I was nominated driver for tonight, taking Scamp and Moira to a witches evening in Bonnybridge. It was after I got back and was halfway through dividing up the dough into the individual rolls, while heating my pizza dinner that our surprise visitors arrived. Crawford & Nancy stood on the doorstep thinking I was joking when I said it was tomorrow night they should be coming. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, them or me. I invited them in, but told them that Scamp was out for the night, but they refused. Hope they come back tomorrow!

I had intended getting a pizza from Domino’s, but after asking for an anchovy and olive pizza and being taken through the script:

“Did you say it was a pizza you wanted?” YES.
“What size pizza?” MEDIUM
“What would you like on it?” Anchovy and Olive
“Did you say Olive?” YES, and Anchovy
“We don’t have anchovies.” FORGET IT

Poor wee soul, he seemed surprised. Why didn’t I want his pizza. He could have told me at the start that they didn’t do anchovies, but that would have taken him off-script into the dangerous territory where you have to think and that just won’t do!

So, tomorrow. Should be making starter in the morning then Scamp will be assembling dessert and maybe we’ll go for lunch somewhere, but not Craigend.

Cool? – 5 July 2018

Today was supposed to be cool. Well, that didn’t work, did it?

Scamp was going to meet June and Isobel for coffee and a catch up. That gave me a few hours to do some painting. I attempted the sweet peas that were sitting on the table. I got completely lost in the complexity of the subject. Must try something simpler next time. Maybe just one or two blooms.

After lunch we went for a drive to The Fort to look for some cheap watercolour paint for me and also for something for dinner. I didn’t get the paint, certainly not at over £8 for a tube. We did get tonight’s dinner which turned out to be Sea Bass.

Drove home and sat in the garden for a while with a wee shandy each. Sitting in the sun soaking it up. Weather fairies said it would reach 20ºc today. Yes it did, but that was at 8.30am. By the middle of the afternoon it was in the high twenties.

I was cook tonight and the sea bass with broccoli and cauliflower was excellent, even if I say so myself. Just to round off the meal we had another wee seat in the garden before Scamp deemed it was time to water the plants. By then the sun was off the garden, so there wasn’t any point in sitting out any longer. Today’s PoD is a strawberry that’s growing happily in our hanging basket. A hanging basket that’s survived ice, snow, wind and now drought. Still the plant not only survives, but thrives and produces fruit. Brilliant.

While I’m typing this, I’m listening to Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964). The songs, especially Chimes of Freedom and To Ramona take me instantly back 50 years to my bedroom in Scotia. The light tonight even enhances that, it’s the warm light you get just before sunset. It’s funny how music has that power.

Tomorrow night Scamp is going to a witches dinner. I’m volunteer driver, but looking forward to another chance to paint those sweet peas.

You’ll know when you’ve been Tangoed – 4 July 2018

Yet another hot day.

Spent the morning finishing off the blogs. They’re all up and there should be no spaces now.

Drove in to Glasgow at lunch time and did a short spell of waltz and the start of Ballroom Tango. Not quite as demented as Argentinian Tango with all its flicks, kicks and ganchos, or maybe that’s still to come. For now it was a repetitive “Slow, Slow, Quick, Quick … pause” and repeat. One set going forward and one set going to the side. You have to see it to understand. After that it was Jive and Spin 5 to add to the four we already (sort of) know. Actually, Spin 5 wasn’t too bad. Spin 4 is the worst at present.

Went for a cup of tea for me and a milk shake for Scamp afterwards to slake our thirst. Watched a stretch limo pull up on a busy Queen Street to allow a bride, groom and all the hangers on to exit and have photos taken walking up the street. I though it funny to see the bridesmaids deciding it might be a good idea to lift the bride’s train. Otherwise she would have managed to clean up all the fag buts on the street. Note to american readers, that’s not what you think it is! It does however create an interesting picture in your heads, I’m sure. Wandered past the GOMA to grab a shot of Glasgow in the sun. That became PoD.

Went for a snooze when we got back. Think I might be coming down with Scamp’s cold. Just feeling a bit ‘wabbit’ tonight. Washed out. It’s all this sun that’s doing it. It’s so unusual for Scotland to have this amount of hot sun day after day. It did cloud over in the early evening today, but later it cleared away again. Due for a cool(ish) 20ºc tomorrow before it rises again for the weekend.

Tomorrow? Scamp’s meeting Isobel and June for coffee and as my coffee buddies are looking after grandchildren, I might stay at home and practise Easa’s painting method on a bunch of sweet peas.

Ticking Tuesday – 3 July 2018

Same start as yesterday. Still trying to get used to the sounds of the city back home I think.

More catchup on blog posts. Then spoke to Hazy on Skype which is now flying the Mickysoft flag and becoming an absolute bastard to use. No surprise for a Mickysoft product. If you want a good app broken, give it to Mickysoft.  After we’d signed off, I found that I’d picked up a tick yesterday. First one for ages. Must remember to be more careful.

Another trip to Tesco for more supplies and then I went for a run in the car hoping for more dragonflies up behind Fannyside Loch. Didn’t find any, but usually they are later than they are here. Ended up walking along the Luggie. Saw a deer but it was too far away and too deep in the long grass. Settled on a Red Admiral as PoD.

Later in the afternoon did more blog and Flickr posts.  Flickr now up to date.

Watered the garden in the evening and the thirsty wee plants soaked it all up.  Still hot.  G&Ts all round tonight and an early bed. Scamp’s cold seems to be improving, thankfully.

Tomorrow we’re intending to go dancing! And me wi’ a bad leg tae!

Just another Monday – 2 July 2018

Woke early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so started the blog reconstruction.  That gave Scamp an extra hour or so in bed because it looks as if she’s picked up somebody’s cold in the recycled air of the bus yesterday.

Thankfully I’d a couple of blog posts written on the Linx 12×64 that were ready to post. Written on Live Writer, the best blog composer on any platform, it was an easy job to post it. Since the last two days of the cruise were sea days I wasn’t willing to pay the exorbitant price for the Maritime WiFi, so I saved the files and posted them when we were back home. Then it was down to writing a few more of the blogs from the bullet points I’d written while at sea. Catchup is the name of the game here.

After that, it was the inevitable trip to Tesco to refill the fridge, the vegetable rack and the fruit bowl.

A quick trip to St Mo’s got a few pictures to use and the dragonfly shot became PoD. While I was there I put on my Fireman Sam hat and doused a smouldering fire in the woods. What idiots thought it was a good idea to build a fire in pine woods when everything was tinder dry. I sometimes wonder if the numpties here just switch off their brains in hot weather to avoid the overheating.

That was about it for the first day back home. No dancing tonight as we didn’t know the whereabouts of our salsa teacher and I for one didn’t fancy the alternatives! Instead we watered the garden again and the refreshment seems to be working. Still hot here.

Probably more of the same tomorrow

The long way home – 1 July 2018

Ten hours of it.

The driver was a diddy. We sat for an hour past the time we should have left while he waited for someone who was already on the coach. If he’d been doing his job properly he would have counted the legs and divided by two to find that all the bodies were there. He didn’t. He should have shouted down the coach “Is there a Mrs McDonald here” to which he would have hear a reply “Yes”. He didn’t. He strutted about looking important carrying a piece of paper. “If you want to look important, carry a piece of paper with you”, I was told that years ago by a man I worked beside who carried a piece of paper with him all the time. It got worse. Once we were on the road he had to tell us over the tannoy how he was going to get us there quicker by reciting the route he was going to take. We were going home after fourteen days at sea. We didn’t care how he was going to get us there. Then came the lectures about drivers and what they were doing wrong and how he would correct their mistakes. He was a total Pain In The Arse. Thankfully he got off just after Bolton. There was applause when he left the coach. I think it was a cheer because the next bloke had to be quieter. He was. He just drove and got us back half an hour early.

Taxi from the bus station to Cumbersheugh and a cup of tea when we got home. Finally we could relax, but not before Scamp had gone out to see the damage the heatwave had done to her plants. Not a lot as it turned out, and best of all, her sweet peas were blooming.

Today’s PoD is the ugliest boat I’ve seen in a long time. I thought this was the back of the boat until I saw the anchors and realised it was the front!

Tomorrow we empty cases and put them up into the loft until next time.

Dancing the night away – 30 June 2018

Today was the last sea day of the cruise.

It was also the last full day of the cruise and the last art class and the last salsa class. Art class was a challenging painting of two strawberries. Not real ones, but a painting from a photo as all the previous ones had been. For this last class both morning and afternoon groups were joined because there was to be an exhibition of work in the afternoon. Easa’s technique is totally different from anything I’ve used before. He works in a very detailed way. As an example, after sketching the shape of the two strawberries, our first task was to draw the individual seeds. Have you ever stopped to count the number of strawberry seeds are going into your mouth? I bet you haven’t. People laugh at me because I crunch my way through all an apple apart from the stalk. “You’ll have an apple tree growing in your stomach” I’ve heard folk say. That may be so, but do you spit out all those strawberry pips too? After painting in the seeds we had to then paint round them, not all the way round all of them because he wanted some white paper left for highlights. Then we added dark red for the shadow areas and a bit of green for the leaves. When it was finished I was quite pleased with the effect. I’m glad I was in the small morning group. I couldn’t have done with all the preening that went on from some of the afternoon group.

After lunch we joined the salsa group, but only for half a class for me because I had to go set up my paintings. Afterwards, I met back up with Scamp as the salsa class finished. We didn’t go for a swim today because the thought of packing wet swim suits was just too much. Instead we started packing, well, I started packing as Scamp had already started while I was counting strawberry seeds. It’s a sad task, packing after fourteen days, but it has to be done.

Dinner tonight was with a mixed bunch. Grumpy old woman, young couple and an older couple who were ok. The girl from the young couple was full of her own self importance. She was working for Charles Hanson the auctioneer and antiques expert. It appeared that some of his expertise had rubbed off on her as she knew everything about antiques too. Some folk just love to blow their own trumpet. I reckoned the old grumpy woman was her mother. If she was, then pity the poor bloke who married the daughter. Nothing was good enough for this battleaxe.

After dinner we went to the Tamarind club where there was to be a Salsa Hoedown with both the line dancers and the salsa dancers taking part with the whole thing being supervised by the Headliners theatre group. It was great fun. I didn’t do any of the line dancing, I forgot my cowboy hat, but I enjoyed the salsa. Scamp, of course took part in everything. It was a great end to the cruise and one that will stay in my memory.

Tomorrow we depart for our ten hour trip home.

At sea – 29 June 2018

Today in art class we were painting a pig. Let’s face it there are plenty to choose from on this ship. There are fat pigs, male chauvinist pigs, ugly pigs and just plain porkers, but this was a happy little pig leaning on a fence. I tried to follow Easa, the teacher’s, instructions, but found it difficult to start with painting the eyes first. It goes against all the watercolour rules of leaving details to the end and also of painting light to dark. However it worked better than I thought and his colour combinations and mixing instructions worked well. I liked my little pig. It should appear soon on Flickr, but not until the blog is complete and the PoDs are in place. I’ll let you know when.

Salsa class was more turns, which give my knee gyp, and more additions to the routine. The sad thing is that this is ballroom salsa. In Cuban salsa, and even in LA as far as I can see you never dance a routine. Yes, in class, in a learning environment you dance in a circle (rueda) and all do the same moves, but not when out dancing. Then it’s freestyle, so we’d never use the kicks and flicks. Still, it’s good fun and with such a camp and fun teacher you can’t help but think it’s “FAB!”

Dinner was booked for 7pm in Sindhu, the Indian restaurant on board, but that didn’t prevent us from having some Aloo Saag and Muttar Paneer for lunch. Lovely stuff.

Later, once we’d given it a chance to be digested, we went swimming in the inside/outside pool. Later when Scamp had gone to the cabin to get ready for tonight, I did a wee sketch of the pool area. Again, it may appear on a blog posts or Flickr later TBC.

Sindhu dinner which was also the last of the formal (AKA Dress The Dolly) nights was disappointing. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was just not as good as the last time when we’d been overwhelmed by the range and quality of the food.

Afterwards we went to the show in Arena. It was a life history of Burt Bacharach (!!) We rated it as ‘poor’. Certainly not one of Headliners best performances.

On the Rock – 28 June 2018

Today we were at Gibraltar. That little corner of a foreign land that is forever England. Not Britain, England.

Today was a short stop. We arrived at 8am and after being told for the umpteenth time not to carry anything on board “for the benefit of a stranger” (why use one word when ten would do?) we were ok to go looking for cheap booze and fags. There’s not a lot more to Gibraltar than that.

  • Well, there’s the rock, but once you’ve gone up on it and admired the view, you come back down.
  • There’s the apes, but manky beasts they are and best kept at someone else’s arms length, preferably a stranger’s.
  • There’s the hundreds of electronic and photography shops selling five year old models, slightly cheaper than Amazon and without any warranty.

Other than that, there used to be the Almeda Gardens, but the last time we went there the gardens were in a sorry state and looking the worse for wear. It used to be good fun for me watching the coming and going of the airies at the airport, especially the scary Tornados, but they’re all gone now and it’s just the occasional commercial flight that lands or takes off, so no fun today.

We got off fairly early and walked up the Main Street populated with well known UK high street shops, the aforementioned cheapo photography and computer shops and the rest are tax-free jewellery or tourist places. Scamp got a new piece for her Pandora bracelet in the shape of a dragonfly. How neat is that. She was quite taken by it and so, I must admit was I. That doesn’t mean I’m thinking about getting a Pandora bracelet any time soon.

Stopped at a street side cafe for a slice of apple pie and a coffee. I won’t tell you how much they cost, but it was extortionate. Very nice apple pie though. We bought two cards and posted them and then went back to the ship.

We went for a swim in the inside/outside pool to avoid the Great British Sailaway. One man a few nights ago was trying to get the other people at the table excited about it, telling us that “… then the bunting comes out and we have a right good singsong.” Sorry mate, allergic to bunting and don’t do singsongs. Some of these english are so easy pleased. Give them a flag and some songs their granny sang and they’re happy as a sandboy, whatever a sandboy is.

Dinner tonight was with two of the most boring couples we’ve been with. They seemed frightened to speak to us because we were obviously not english. They droned on all meal about weather, sailing and driving. Driving us away.

Highlights of the day were the flowers in the garden of the court house and the cheap booze and fags.