Bob the Builder strikes again – 13 August 2020

A slow day to start as far as the weather was concerned, but lots to do.

Got an email from the garage with my order form for the new Micra attached. Just a formality really, but at least I now have a proper breakdown of the deal.

Shona had sent a text late in the afternoon, yesterday. Ben had broken the lock on the bathroom door. He likes to play with the water in the bath, but doesn’t realise that it’s running through into the flat below. It was mid June when I was last called to the fix the door and I screwed a hasp on to the door frame and a staple on to the door itself. It seemed ok at the time, but as I predicted at the time, the now twelve year old Ben has demonstrated that he can tear those screws out. I went to B&Q to get a couple of bolts. That meant a bag of bolts, of course. A bag of washers too. As I’d left the house without a screwdriver, I had to add one to the list as well. Unbelievably, the bag of washers which are simple steel discs about 15mm diameter with a hole in the centre was nearly twelve quid! Outrageous, but I needed them for the job. Back at the flat it was a simple job to drill the door, then drill out the staple itself to fit the bolts. Then I assembled the whole thing with a couple of those expensive washers in place and tightened one nut and a lock nut to keep the other nut from breaking in to the bathroom again. If this doesn’t work I’ll have to source a manacle to fit a twelve year old.

Back home the coffee maker was on and my roll was already buttered for me to fill with corned beef. Quite delicious and washed down with a nice strong espresso. Scamp is so good to me. While I’d been out being Bob the Builder, she’d done some washing and had thrown out some stale bread for the birds. Instead of birds, there was a Peacock butterfly perched on the slice of what had been nice Italian bread. I can’t imagine that butterflies eat bread. I took a few pics with two cameras “belts and braces” style. One of them became PoD.

After lunch we walked down to the shops, because Scamp wanted a new stiff broom to sweep the paving stones, because as we all know: A New Broom Sweeps Clean. She seemed happy with the brush and because I was in the mood for drilling holes and driving screws into things, I fixed up a hook on the fence to hold it.

No slide show tonight. This will be a long one, it’s Venice. The main reason we had a balcony cabin last year if the truth be told, and the reason we’d have had one this year if Covid-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head.

Tomorrow we may be going for lunch – to a restaurant!

A hot day after a fiery night – 12 August 2020

Wild night last night with thunder and lightning around 3am.

As well as the Donner and Blitzen, torrential rain fell for most of the night I’m led to believe. “I didn’t see that, I only heard, but just to be sociable I took their word” (Today’s lyrical poetry comes from Ned Washington & Oliver Wallace). I heard the thunder and saw the lightning but was only vaguely aware of the rain thumping down. That rain though, did a lot of damage all over Central Scotland and even worse in the north east. Train derailed outside Stonehaven with three dead. The weather has not been blamed, but it hasn’t been completely ruled out.

Once the clouds had cleared here it was a lovely sunny day. Humidity was still a bit high, but nothing as bad as yesterday. I met Val up at Costa only to find that there were no seats. All the Yummy Mummies were there with their screaming weans. We decided to walk down to the other Costa, but it was just as bad, but like a dungeon because they thing using the lights will spoil the ambience. Ambience? It’s a coffee shop in Cumbersheugh. Nowhere in Cumbersheugh has ambience. Saving on electricity more like! Walked back towards the first Costa, but actually thinking about going to Calders new restaurant instead. The coffee can only be better than Costa. Surprisingly, there were plenty of seats. Most of the mummies and their weans had disappeared. Val solved the problem of the biz in the coffee shops. “Eat Out to Help Out” applies Mondays to Wednesdays and you get 50% off a meal. We found a seat and ordered £5 for two coffees and two toasted tea cakes. Bargain. Talked about everything from miniature computers to old cameras. Nearly everything we talked about was tech based, as usual. Walked back down the mall then Val said he was going for a walk to waste some time because his wife had girlfriends in and he wanted some peace and quiet. I said we’d meet up later, hopefully all four of us this time.

Back home and after lunch I took myself out to get some photos in St Mo’s. PoD was a picture of a spider I’d taken in the garden in the morning. Liked the pink/red background. Nearly PoD was a shot of a dragonfly resting in St Mo’s. I’d watched it return again and again to this perch, but simply couldn’t get the TZ90 to see it. Finally gave up and used the nuclear option (4K video Post Focus). When I got home I isolated the frame from the video that was as sharp as I was going to get, and here it is! Is this the future of photography?

We watched a couple of slide shows from Hvar last year at this time. It’s amazing the things you forget and then remember when you get the stimulus of a picture or a short video. Hvar is a lovely place. We’d love to go back there some time.

Tomorrow I may have to go and see what damage Ben has done to Shona’s bathroom door. I don’t know what else I can do to reinforce the door. Possibly a manacle round his ankle and fixed to a bolt in the living room floor would do the trick. Other than that, no plans.

A new member of the club – 11 August 2020

My pal John joined the retirees club today, so I went to see how he was settling in.

Actually he’s settling in quite well and seems perfectly happy with the prospect of all those workless days stretching out before him. We tackled about old times, friends and colleagues we’ve known. “Some are bad and some are good, some have done the best they could. Some have tried to ease my troubled mind” Lyrics are like a form of modern poetry for the masses. That one was from Tom Paxton.

After an hour or so of walking down memory lane I took my leave and drove home, stopping on the way to see if Currys in Hamilton had the Sony camera I’ve been looking for. They had Canon cameras, lots of them, but little else. Of course, none of them had batteries in them. Either that or the batteries hadn’t been charged this year. Looked at a couple of tablets too, but wasn’t impressed. I was even less impressed with the traffic jam of people trying to get out the retail park. Roadworks. That bane of everyone’s life these days, and this in a 28º heat. Thankfully the air-con took most of the sting out of that. Had a quick look in Hobbycraft at the fort to see if there were any bargains – there weren’t, despite plenty of posters saying there were. Final stop was the ice cream shop in Muirhead for a litre tub of Scottish Tablet ice cream – That’s your fault Hazy for sending the WhatsApp message!!

After dropping off the ice cream, I went for a walk round St Mo’s because I’d nothing in the bag, photo wise today. Got a photo of my dragonfly model from yesterday, still posing for me, but PoD went to a mountaineering snail I saw. Not a lot else was moving in today’s overpowering heat. Humidity was high and the wind was very light, so I left a bit earlier than I’d intended and went home.

Dinner was Chicken Kebabs on a bed of Cauliflower Couscous. Sounds strange, but it tasted great – so did the tablet ice cream.

I enjoyed seeing Teflon John make a grovelling apology to all the pupils whose last week of the holidays he had completely destroyed with his decision to make the posh kids look smarter and the poor kids look stupid.  It didn’t work John.  They stood up to you and you had to back down.  Just shows that people-power does work sometimes.

Tomorrow I’m intending to meet Val for coffee and a wee chat about what’s new in the world of computers! Ah, normal service is being resumed at last.

A Dull Day – 10 August 2020

Grey sky, low cloud, thunderstorms anticipated. It didn’t look like a fun day and it lived up to that prediction.

Grabbed a shot of two crane flies on the Red Juke. Unfortunately the red colour of the car predominated and wouldn’t be calmed down with software, so the only solution was to turn it into a monochrome image which suited the graphic style of the shot. That was about all that was happening in the morning.

After lunch we waited around for a while hoping the sun would make an appearance and that the clouds would lift. Neither of those things occurred. Finally went out for a walk myself to St Mo’s. Found a very obliging dragonfly, a Common Darter. Maybe even the same one I photographed the other day. It certainly had the same demeanour. It seemed quite happy to be photographed close up. I’d brought the 30mm macro on a Panasonic camera and it needs to be really close to the subject to get the real macro effect. That mean the dragonfly’s head was about 30mm from the front element. It didn’t flinch. I reckon it knew there was nothing in that metal and glass thing that could hurt it and anyway, these creatures live their entire flying lives in a couple of weeks. The are running on fast-forward all the time. It would be off before I could have done anything aggressive, not that I would have. A Terrible Beauty indeed. The front view was a ‘given’ for the PoD. I also got a decent side view as an ‘almost PoD’.

There were a tribe of teenagers wandering home with their half empty bottles of MD (aka Mad Dog) after making the most of the last few days of their extended summer holidays. Some would have been affected by the crazy decision of the SQA to mark down the grades of some of them because they come from an historically poorly performing school. I don’t think John Swinney has actually apologised for the decision, but Nick the Chick has and I applaud her for it. Swinney should really resign now, before he is booted out.  “Robust and Rigorous” were his catchphrases back in his days as an architect of the poorly thought out Curriculum for Excrement. There was nothing Robust or Rigorous about changing the grades teachers had given pupils on the grounds of the school’s previous record.  ‘Teflon John’. Nothing sticks, until it does.

Picked some of our own peas tonight and used them in a Pea & Prawn Risotto. It was quite good, but would have been better if more of the peas were ripe. Hopefully we’ll get them later in the month.

Thunder, Lightning, Rain and Hail forecast for tomorrow. Just another typical Scottish summer’s day.

Up early for a change – 9 August 2020

I woke early, before 7am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens.

Eventually gave up sat reading for a while. About half way through “Flowers For Algernon”. Really old book I remember from Larky library around the mid ‘60s. It’s quite dated now, but an interesting concept, none the less. Finally gave up completely and got up to make breakfast.

So, we were up fairly early for a change. It was a beautiful day. Not quite as hot as yesterday which was good. We did a bit of gardening. Actually, Scamp did a bit of gardening and I started fixing up the solar cell for Scamp’s new LED light string. Finally, after a few false starts, we go a good place for the solar panel. Just a little one about 75mm by 50mm, but enough to power the lights. Many years ago, probably about 30 years ago, we all visited an Eco centre in Wales and I bought some shards of solar cells, hoping to build a small solar pane. It never got made. The cells were too fragile and most got cracked on the way home. Amazing to think you can buy a solar panel which charges a NiMH battery which in turn powers a line of fifty LEDs all for around £4. Back then, you could only have Red, Yellow and Green LEDs. Bit massive things by today’s standard which drained a battery in about fifteen minutes. Not everything was better in “the olden days”.

With the lights strung up and tested and all Scamp’s potting up done, we adjourned for lunch. After lunch and a rest to let all that fatty goodness be digested, we went out for a walk round Broadwood Stadium avoiding kids on bikes trying to make the most of their last days of freedom before schools restart in the middle of the week. I’m sure there were teacher out there too, making the most of the last days of sunshine before they return to the grind. Oh, how I enjoy looking back at those last days of freedom from the standpoint of one who doesn’t need to do that ever again.

When we got back without having taken any meaningful photos, I grabbed a camera and went for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp went to laze in the afternoon sunshine. I came home empty handed again. I’d seen yesterday’s big blue dragonflies, but they weren’t posing for me. They had far more important things on their minds, cavorting around the wee pond at St Mo’s.

Dinner was Sea Bream with Long Stem Broccoli and Potatoes. It is one of Scamp’s specialities and it tasted as good as usual. The starter was Bruschetta made with Italian crust bread I’d bought in Perth yesterday. Delicious too.

Watched the second British GP and enjoyed an interesting ending. Thankful really that we didn’t have to sit through the whole boring race. Nothing happened that couldn’t have been predicted by anyone who follows motorsport, with the possible exception of the fall of Vettel. It looks like he really has lost the plot. “Toys out of the pram” is the phrase that springs to mind.

Spoke to JIC and gave him a fleshed out version of yesterday’s announcement that our love affair with the Red Juke is sadly coming to an end and another Nissan has now taken its place, albeit a Nissan with one less cylinder in its engine.

PoD today went to a focus stacked image of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, the beautiful Troika. Focus stacking done in-camera and very neat it was too.

Tomorrow we may have to sign a contract to give some money to Mr Nissan for the chance to use one of his Blue Micras for a few years. Other than that and the chance of thunderstorms, hopefully another sunny day.

The test and the result – 8 August 2020

If, like me, you can’t be bothered about the details of the test and just jump straight to the result, here is the test in that order.

I phoned The Man in Stirling about 4pm and confirmed that we’d like to take the “Power Blue” Nissan Micra, and if the one we’d test driven this morning was available, that would be just fine.  He agreed that the one we’d road tested was available and that the paperwork would be in our hands by Monday.  You’ll note that most of our responses were in the plural.  We both liked the car and when Scamp said, after we’d road tested it: “I like it”, the deal was all but sealed.  After about an hour of driving round Stirling, Scamp and I were happy with the Micra.  Scamp said she felt quite at home with it.  I was happy with it.  Maybe not as powerful as the Juke, but not as heavy on fuel either.  Lots of lovely stuff to play with and at last, a digital speedometer display on a Nissan!  Something I’d really missed when moving from the old Megane to the Juke.  Good sound from the radio courtesy of Bose speakers and less road noise, if a little more engine noise when travelling.  Overall, it’s a car that we can both drive with confidence, and that’s what I was looking for.  Sold!

After our stressful morning we left Stirling to drive to Perth in the Juke. It was a beautiful day for the drive up to Perth but  when we got the Fair City, we found that the carpark was now an online parking carpark run using the Ringo app.  I’d read a few scathing reviews of it and decided it wasn’t for me, so promptly exited and parked across the road in a pay (using coins) carpark.  That was much better.  Maybe Ringo has improved from where it was a year or so ago, but I’ll read a few reviews first. In Perth we had our second coffee in a coffee shop this week, Nero this time just to balance things out, then while Scamp went looking for trousers in M&S, I went to get some much needed coffee beans in The Bean Shop.  Nearly maxed out the £45 ‘touch’ card limit just managing to sneak under the line.  I felt it was needed because I’d been reduced to drinking decaf coffee for a few days.  Actually ‘good’ decaf isn’t all that bad.  Perfectly drinkable and it doesn’t give you that  ‘Buzzzz’.  Bad decaf is just awful.  “Death before Decaf.”  Never a truer word spoken, Hazy!  Scamp didn’t find the trousers she was looking for and I thought I’d get my hands on the Sony camera I’d been searching for, but the bloke in the camera shop only had one which was 1p away from £1000.  I said “No Thanks”.  He didn’t look all that interested and didn’t even try to interest me in the purchase.  Perhaps it’s getting near the end of the line for small independent shops.

Drove home through the same beautiful countryside under the same beautiful blue skies.  Back home, Scamp wanted to work in the garden.  I went for a walk in St Mo’s.  Lovely big blue dragonfly flying over the small pond, but not resting on anything.  Gave up on it.  Nothing else really interesting, so came home.  PoD turned out to be a pic on my phone taken in Perth outside a toy shop.  Good to see a bit of Covid-19 humour.  Dinner tonight was a salad which we ate outside in the sunshine.  Chicken and Prawn Salad.  All washed down with a glass for white.  What’s not to like.

So, the car problem looks as if it’s on the way to being solved and the sun was shining all day today.  It’s been a good day.  Let’s hope that’s a sign for  the future, for everyone.




Here be dragons – 7 August 2020

There wasn’t much to say about today other than it was a good day for dragonflies.

Scamp went shopping in the afternoon, in the huff because the rain came on this morning, just after we spoke to Hazy on the phone and heard about the predicted temperature down south. 35ºc is just too hot. We were all agreed on that. Maybe it was the thought of 35ºc down south and rain here that made her go off on a shopping expedition to Tesco. I stayed home and did nothing. I’m quite good at that now.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is an ultra close-up of a Common Darter dragonfly. Beautiful beast and quite deadly to other insects. This one was quite unconcerned and waited for me to finish my thirty odd shots of it before it flew away and I went home to make the dinner.

Actually I was desperate to see how the combination of an excellent lens and a clever camera had managed to combine 11 photos of the dragonfly into one much more detailed one. It was almost perfect and all done in about ten seconds. It might be quite an old camera now, but it can certainly beat a lot of more modern ones at this stuff.

When I got home the residual heat in the air had dried the grass and Scamp wasted no time in getting the lawn mower out and giving it a short trim. Meanwhile I sat in the garden with a cafe freddo (espresso over ice) and watched the bloke next door building something. He’s always building something. This one looked like a hexagonal pyramid, but we think it’s a gazebo to hold his jacuzzi. Last week he had a cloth gazebo to cover it, today it’s a metal framed one. Like Scamp says, it doesn’t intrude in us and I suppose it gives him something to sail his boats in.

Dinner was a hybrid. We got a sourdough pizza dough last week and today we used that pre-kneaded and already part risen dough to make the base of a pizza. It worked, kind of. The pizza was ok, but a bit tough, as a lot of sourdough breads are, but it was quite doughy in the middle. I think mine are better and Scamp agrees.

Phoned the nice man in Stirling this morning and hopefully we’re off there tomorrow for a test drive and to ask a few questions. Let’s see what the Micra has to offer.

A less frantic day – 6 August 2020

We were out earlier this morning and hopefully I’ll get to bed the same day I woke up.

We were out early to go for coffee with Isobel. Coffee in Costa no less, and in the Antonine Centre in Cumbersheugh and Scamp drove. We had to sign in to the Test and Trace system, but it was fairly quick and easy. The coffee, though, was the usual poor quality. Maybe I’m just getting used to my own (better) coffee or maybe it’s just Costa. Isobel kept us entertained for an hour or so and then we went our own ways. She to Tesco for the messages and us to go back home for lunch.

I’d intended to drive in to Glasgow in the afternoon to have a look at a camera in Jessops, but after checking, I found that the nearest Jessops that was open was in Gateshead. Just a wee bit too far to travel, so instead we walked down to the shops to get the requirements for tonight’s dinner, Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Cheesy Spinach. It was a lovely warm afternoon but by the time we got back to the house the clouds were gathering and it was looking like it might rain. I’d grabbed a couple of hoverfly pictures earlier in the afternoon, so instead of a walk I pruned the rose at the back door It was really needing cut back and I think today’s ‘Short Back and Sides’ will force some new growth. Scamp was also pruning and dead-heading some of the flowers. We both thought we felt the occasional spit of rain, but it never appeared.

I did a bit more research on the Micra, but found out very little of interest. Scamp’s dinner was deemed “Ok, but needing a bit more flavouring. More paprika and definitely more salt.”

A much less frantic day than yesterday, but a fairly full one too. The first time we’ve had coffee in a coffee shop (or Costa) since February! It felt a bit strange, but not as alien as it might have been.  One of the hoverfly photos made PoD.

Tomorrow we’ve to phone for a test drive and then the day is our own. What will we do? Where will we go? Who knows.

Where did the day go? – 5 August 2020

It didn’t help getting up just before 11am.

After a cup of espresso to wake me up, I went out to clean the remnants of a six month old parking ticket from the Juke’s windscreen. Then there was some residue from electrical tape that was still showing on a door pillar. Sweetie wrappers stuck down the side of the seat were the next target for me and my Dyson. Finally there were the dust and debris in the inaccessible places under the seat and stuck fast between the seat back and the cushion, but the long nose of the Dyson proved that there was no place to hide. It looked much better when I was finished and as a bonus, I found a charging cable and a plug-in charger I’d lost months ago!

After lunch we drove through the rain to Stirling to see what the man would say about our now (almost) sparkling Juke and how much he’d want something to replace it. We arrived too early but the man was busy talking to other hopefuls. He apologised and we waited some more. My unspoken limit was 30 minutes, then we’d drive home and he’d lose a sale. Scamp’s unspoken limit was the same 30 minutes. With literally minutes to spare he finished with his two customers and he escorted us to his table, complete with the mandatory clear acrylic screen. We had a look and a seat in the new Juke. Neither of us were all that impressed. It was much bigger and clumsier looking than the Red Juke. The Micra was much smaller by comparison and the seat seemed much lower too. Finally we got round to the numbers. It wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. We were all singing from the same hymn sheet and the bottom line was a bit better than what we’d feared. In fact, the top of the line Micra was quite well appointed for a fair price. The Juke we looked at was above our spending limit. It’s not that we couldn’t afford it as much as we didn’t want to. I don’t think we need such a big car now.

We left with smiles on our faces, lots to investigate and talk about an a box of posh chocolates for taking part. We’ve to phone on Friday to arrange a test drive in a Micra. I’ve already driven one and liked it, although it was an automatic. Scamp has had a quick spin round the factories in the driving seat too. We both quite liked it.

Drove home through the usual 5pm traffic and sat down to look at the details of what we were about to commit to. Looked at the clock and it was 7pm! Where did the day go? Dinner was pasta and tomato sauce (with meatballs for me). More talking about money and cars afterwards and then we raided those posh, Lindt chocolates. Took today’s PoD in the fading light in the garden. It’s rain on a pea leaf. Peas are looking very good this year. May pick some at the weekend. While Scamp watched a documentary, I processed and posted the PoD. More talking after that and finally got round to writing this blog just before midnight.

Tomorrow we’re booked for coffee in Costa with Isobel. Hoping to go and look at a camera in Glasgow in the afternoon. It’s looking like a better day tomorrow. Today was dry in the morning and wet in the afternoon.

I think it rained today – 4 August 2020

It did rain today, in fact it didn’t stop raining all day!

It was raining when we woke. It’s still raining now at just about 11.30pm. It hasn’t halted all day. The furthest I’ve been today was a drive to Tesco for ‘the messages’. We had intended walking down to the shops, but that would not have been a sensible thing to do. The smart money was on using a car for what it was bought for, making life easy.

I did manage to get a photo outside today in one of the spells of light drizzle when the weather was catching its breath. Out, grab four quick photos of the rose at the front door and back in again before I got properly soaked.

Schoolgirl is a beautiful climbing rose. I’ve photographed the buds, the opening flowers, the full flowers and what’s left after all the petals have fallen. I think the last one is my favourite stage. Great for a sort of studio setup with plenty of lights and a low ISO to minimise digital noise.

I was amazed by the number of views Schoolgirl got. The highest view count so far is from 2010 with 31,695 views, 0 comments and 0 faves. None of my other flower pictures get near that amount of attention. Could it be something to do with the name, he innocently suggests?

There was nothing else worth noting today apart from the weather forecast. According to the weather fairies, there may be a little less rain tomorrow. Hoping not to get washed away going to Stirling in the afternoon.