The Wall – 20 January 2020

In the afternoon I climbed it and I photographed it. In the evening I hit it.

Gems were in today, as with all Mondays. I had some things to do, and thankfully I have a good pair of headphones, so I could drown out most things that bother me. They also worked on Gems. With the essential stuff done, I grabbed my camera and went for a run in the Juke.

For reasons best known to themselves, somebody has blocked the road to the Antonine Wall. It’s a dead end, but there is a neat little lay-by where I can leave the car while I walk the Antonine Wall. Now I’ve got to leave the car by the side of the road about 200m away. PITA. It’s still possible to walk round the obstruction, but not to drive past it. I wanted to get some photos from the Antonine Wall, but I’d the wrong footwear for the boggy ground, so I restricted myself to climbing part of it and using a fence post as a prop to support my Beadbag™ which would in turn steady The LBJ, which was today’s camera of choice. Got a few photos and one accidental post-focus video. Gave up after that because the light was rapidly disappearing.

Back home the accidental post-focus shot actually produced the best set of photos and that’s what created today’s PoD. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea of the area and the wall.  This shot was taken from the south side of the wall.  The rampart on the north side is much higher to keep out the wild Picts and Scots. I needed a brighter day with better lighting for a better shot.

After dinner we went off again for another visit to the world of dance. Today’s topic was Waltz, but first, one of my most hated sequence dances, the Saunter Together. It really pains me to say that I felt quite comfortable dancing this little bit of fluff. That’s no’ real dancin’! Tonight’s moves were the first half. Next week we got part two. I can hardly wait 😒. Next was the Waltz and I did quite enjoy it. We very nearly got it right twice. That’s an improvement.

The second half of the night was Tango. We’ve attempted it a couple of times with no success. Tonight it was awful. I felt just so far out of my depth. All those fiddly little steps with kicks and flicks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the lesson I just hit the wall. Enough! I never want to dance another Tango in my life. I could happily have torn off the uncomfortable dance shoes, thrown the dummy out of the pram and gone home. Except, Scamp was enjoying the dance and really looked good dancing it with the teacher. Maybe if I ask her nicely, Scamp that is, she’ll guide me in the general direction of competence. Maybe I’ll master it in the week I have before the next lesson.

Finished off with the Blue Angel Rumba which I’m almost managing. It just takes a different mindset from Salsa. It’s all about the feet and the hands just float about. Salsa is all about the hands and the feet just keep you moving.

Tomorrow the weather looks cloudy and grey. No plans yet.

Cold and Frosty – 19 January 2020

Not just the morning, either. Most of the day was cold at least.

Not a day for doing much. Certainly in the morning at least, not a lot done. Finally agreed to go to the manky Classic Grand (so inaccurately named) for the Salsa Ceilidh. That was about it for the morning.

After lunch I went out to take some photos in St Mo’s and after that I walked down to the shops to get enough stuff to make soup for tonight’s dinner, which was to be Tomato and Red Pepper soup. Well, we’ve had two days of heavy lunches which for me included lots of red meat, so making an effort today to be meat-free was a good idea. Scamp didn’t mind, in fact she was quite like minded and soup was easy and fairly quick to make. We could have a bowl of it before we went out dancing tonight. Soup and Salt ’n’ Pepper bread to dook. Yes, that would do nicely.

The walk to St Mo’s wasn’t the best. There was very little to see and the cold west wind wasn’t conducive to spending a lot of time framing up a shot. PoD was the Whin bush, also known as Gorse, looking really jaggy. Almost making it to PoD was a landscape shot of a beautiful sky. I’ve often faked a sky to look like that. Today I just photographed it. Nice to see that skies like that actually exist outside of someone’s imagination. Speaking of imagination, I’ve an idea for a fantasy shot. I got one of the elements of it today. Really need a starlit sky for the background and although I could just download one, it would be better to create one myself. Must look out some of my old photoshop reference books.

Made the soup when I came back and almost forgot about the dancing tonight. It was a good Sunday Social with lots of folk I haven’t seen for ages turning up. Spoke to Heather and John and wished them well for their trip to Cuba this Tuesday. Seven days with ten hours of dancing tuition booked. Maybe fun, might just be purgatory. We’ll no doubt find out when they return with lots of stories and lots of photos. Really wish we were going!!

Soup was good and will be better tomorrow. Soup always is. As for the rest of tomorrow, well it’s Gems and it’s Ballroom. Hopefully our bits and pieces of practice will have rubbed off some of the rough edges.

Today we went to Embra – 18 January 2020

It’s ages since we’ve been in Embra. Not since last year at least (Ha, ha).

Still sticking to the “Up and out before 11” mantra, we headed off for the 10.40am train from Croy. On the way we picked up the tickets for our London trip, so, a tick in two boxes. Fairly slow train, and in the same carriage as a foursome of what Scamp called “Apprentice Witches” who looked as if they were off on a Ladies Only weekend, lubricated with a bottle of cheap champagne. And why not, even ladies wot lunch are allowed a weekend off the leash occasionally.

Got off at Haymarket and were surprised with the number of polis in attendance, van loads of them. Hearts must be playing at home, I thought. I was right. Hearts were at home to Airdrie. We walked up and over to Nero on Lothian Road for our morning coffee. Suitably refreshed, we should have walked through the Farmers’ Market and over to the Grassmarket, but today was different. Instead, we walked down to Princes Street and then along its length to The Bridges. Walked over The Bridges and on to the Royal Mile. It was cold. Not bitterly cold like it sometimes is in Embra, but cold enough to require my wooly Buff, wooly had and a pair of gloves. At least it was bright as well as cold.  Took some foties on the Royal Mile and then we ducked down to the Grassmarket. This was really strange. We were going in exactly the opposite direction to what we usually go and the vistas of architecture we were seeing were totally different to those we usually see. “A change is as good as a rest”, they say and it was proving true. One thing didn’t change and that was lunch in Petit Paris in the Grassmarket. Truly French restaurant with a French menu and served by French blokes. Scamp had Crayfish in Garlic Butter and a main of Salmon Fillet with Thyme served with mash. I had Garlic and Pea soup and a main of Beef Bourguignon. Both meals were just as good as we expected them to be. I even risked the wrath of Nick the Chick with a glass or red wine.

To continue our ‘Wrong Way Round’ walk, we walked through the Farmers’ Market that was just starting to close for the day, and where I got today’s PoD of a bloke enjoying the view of the castle from the comfort of a deck chair. Then out past the Usher Hall and back to Haymarket for the train home. A much quieter train home, now that the Apprentice Witches were suitably sozzled and off making a noise elsewhere.

Not a bad day. Pity it was so cold, but the lovely meal in Petit Paris made up for the lack of warmth. PoD was indeed the bloke on the deck chair, but there are others on Flickr if you care to visit.

Tomorrow we believe there may be dancing at the Record Factory.

Another ‘out early’ day

Today we had planned to go to Troon. For once that’s exactly what we did.

Drove down to Troon on the west coast and actually got parked easily in the town. Went for a very cold walk along the front as far as the wind surfers’ carpark. Part of it was almost painless as we were protected from the onshore wind by the three meter high sand dunes. The walk back along the beach was not so comfortable, but gave us an excellent view of the two windsurfers and the kite surfer who seemed to revel in the windy conditions. Got a PoD of two people walking further along the beach than we did. It looks as if it’s a warm evening shot, but it was a bitter midday one in reality. Back in the car we drove down to Scotts for lunch.

We hadn’t booked and I was beginning to wish we had when we saw the number of people going in to the restaurant with views across the marina. I needn’t have worried, we got seated without a problem. Service was a bit slow, but then it was really busy. Food was excellent, as it always is here. Scamp chose Spinach and Potato soup followed by Smoked Haddock and Salmon Gratin. Mine was Spiced Cauliflower Beignet (a bit like mild cauliflower pakora) followed by Slow Cooked Beef Daub with Mash and Cabbage. Both meals were absolutely delicious, although my Spiced Cauliflower Beignet was that star in my eyes. Coffee to start with Tea and Coffee to finish. It was too cold a day for cold drinks.

Stopped at Morrisons on the way home for some essentials like bread and milk. Also filled up the Juke’s tank and drove home through the occasional rain shower. It may have been cold on the beach at Troon, but at least it was dry.

Back home I found a letter telling me it was time for me to update my driving license as I am fast approaching the age when I have to confirm that I am a fit and able driver, but thankfully I don’t have to resit the driving test. That might have been a problem.

Oh, yes and we booked our summer holiday. A good end to a sunny, but not exactly warm day.

Tomorrow we may go to the east, now that we’ve visited the west.

Brendan Blunders In – 13 January 2020

Do these weather chappies think if you give a storm a ‘human’ name, it makes it less scary? Somebody should tell them it’s not working.

Today’s storm was named Brendan and it was a stoater. It blundered around, knocking down bins and firing the rain in your face when you weren’t expecting it. It was just an awful day. I don’t like the high winds. I don’t like thunder either. Maybe it’s the noise, I’ve never thought about it really, but I never did like high wind or thunder. I don’t mind rain or sleet or snow. They’re really just different varieties of the water that falls on you after all. Despite all that I took myself out in the wind and rain that was Brendan to get a photo or two and a writing pad. As it turned out I got four photos, all of trees blowing in the wind. All pointing straight up. All with a really slow shutter speed. None with the camera resting on the Beadbag™ which was designed for such a situation! Needless to say one of those shots became PoD.  It looks as if its been converted to mono, but it’s actually just a combination of the contrast and the dull day that leaches away all the colour.

Have you ever tried to buy a pad or writing paper. Nobody seems to write letters anymore. Yes, you can buy envelopes in all sorts of colours and sizes, but no writing paper to make the letters to put in them. I tried all the shops in our new retail park and not one of them had writing paper. A reporter’s notebook was the closest I came. I dare say email had put paid to actually writing to people. Finally I tracked down a writing pad at a wee newsagent’s in Condorrat. I’ll use it carefully and then store it somewhere safe, for the next time I need to write a letter.

After dinner we drove up to the Town Centre to go to ballroom class. Tonight we were tackling Waltz Across Texas as a sort of warm up, then it was into the waltz proper. The routine we’d started to learn last week. This time Scamp filmed the whole routine, both the ladies and the mens parts. The second hour was foxtrot. Neither of us had ever done foxtrot before, so this was all new. I think we may have about 75% of the routine in our heads now. It’s just the part where we teach our feet how to actually execute the moves that we need to perfect. We did also find a ‘bad part’ of the dance floor where we always got things wrong. I think we should mark that area with red spray paint to make it easier to avoid, and therefore make fewer mistakes. After Mr Fox’s Trot we reprised the Blue Angel Rumba. One of the expert couples even offered to take us through it and that made it a lot clearer. We have a video earmarked on YouTube for that one already, so it just needs a bit of careful watching to identify the individual parts, then they should be easier to join together. I think also I need a new pair of dance shoes. The ones I have keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the guys. Scamp’s out with Annette in the morning for coffee too. I think we both need some adult conversation!

Beadbags, planter ponds and fairy wings – 12 January 2020

It was dry today, but there was still a lot of water about.

It was when we were looking out the window this morning that Scamp noticed we had a new pond in one of her planters. The water was easily 50mm deep. I tipped out most of the water and moved the planter over to a dryer bit of the garden where it could drain away more easily. However, the pot was so heavy it still sank down into the soil, thereby blocking the drainage holes again. Even when I lifted it up onto the step, the holes were still being blocked. I finally resorted to using two pieces of wood to act as supports to raise the pot up off the concrete step and finally the water began to drain. The water I’d poured off initially was still sitting on the depression the pot had made when I last looked. That’s how saturated the ground it today.

Scamp had a birthday present for one of her friends and I wanted a new Sudoku calendar, so we headed to The Fort which is the nearest place with a bookshop. While she went to shop for a prezzy, I went to Waterstones and got my calendar half price. Result! Next thing she wanted was crepe paper to make the fairy’s underskirt. Got that and returned to wait for Scamp in the car.

Back home after lunch I took two cameras and the new ‘beadbag’ out to St Mo’s to test the practicality of it and to get some photos, hopefully. The best of the day, and PoD, was a sunset view along the boardwalk, not take with the assistance of the beadbag, but I did get a photo of it being used.

Back home I removed the wings from the fairy, photocopied them in the scanner and used the photocopy as a template to cut out a new pair of sparkly wings. They’re not perfect, but they are a lot better than the ones she had at Christmas. Scamp, meanwhile, worked on the underskirt which is what she wanted the crepe paper for. It’s looking good and if she can get the dress cleaned properly we’ll be ready to reassemble the Christmas Fairy.

Gave the MBP another full charge today and it seems be working properly with its new battery, touch wood.

Tomorrow I’m planning to post some calendars and write some letters. Gems will be here too! Back to the same old, same old.

The Secret Garden – 10 January 2020

Today we were heading south to East Kilbride.

Sticking to our stated objective, i.e. if it’s clear, let’s go out, we set off for East Kilbride for a walk in Calderglen Country Park, after I’d scraped the car and warmed it up. Finding EK wasn’t a problem and finding the location of the park was easy too. Finding a way in was a different matter entirely. The satnav took us past some extensive roadworks to the entrance, or so we though. Turned off the main road onto what appeared to be the entrance to the park and saw the big sign that said No Entrance to Country Park. Very helpful. So if that wasn’t the entrance, where was it? There were another two entries for Calderglen on the satnav. The second one took us to exactly the same road with the exact same sign. It was only after driving around for a while and stopping in an industrial estate, Scamp found an address for Calderglen Museum. Surely there would be someone there who could tell us where the secret park was. We set off again and my face fell when I saw us approaching those roadworks again. It was just as we passed them Scamp noticed a narrow road through the chainlink security fencing with what looked like a stone building behind it. Could that be the museum? We turned at that bloody yellow sign, drove back and down the road we found Calderglen Country Park. No sign, no arrows saying country park this way. Nothing. Isn’t it just like Scotland to hide things. We have all these wonderful attractions, but we won’t tell anyone where they are. It’s almost as if we’re ashamed of them.

Anyway, despite them, we found the park and off we went for a walk. Crossed the river at the Horseshoe Falls and walked along the path on the side of a steep ravine to the South Bridge. We did continue on a bit, but not knowing how far, or where the path led, we doubled back and took the path on the other side of the river. Some lovely waterfalls on both sides of the river that goes by the name of the Rotten Calder River. Rotten is apparently a corruption of Red because of the ironstone deposits the river runs over. Back at the cafe we had a cup of lightly browned hot water with some milk in it. Apparently it was a Flat White. It, and Scamp’s Latte was made from coffee bags. Like tea bags but with coffee in them. I haven’t seen them for ages and hope it’s an equally long time before I see them again. After that we walked home.

Today’s PoD was taken on the South Bridge and is a little Ash propeller. The ones that twirl like little helicopters in the autumn. Best of a bad lot I’m afraid.

Back home a parcel of coffee was waiting for me. It was part of my Christmas present from Hazy & ND. I look forward to tasting it tomorrow. I know it’s beans, so it can’t be coffee bags! Thank you both, and it was good to talk to you this afternoon Hazy.

After I washed the Juke and while I ordered a replacement battery for my now not even archive MBP, Scamp was carefully removing the almost 50 year old dress from the Christmas tree fairy and planning a way to rebuild it. The fairy will look so much better when it’s finished. Hopefully the same will be said about the MBP once its battery is replaced.

Tomorrow looks wet, in fact the weather is getting ready for it just now with some practise showers, so we may not go far.

Earwigging – 9 January 2020

As soon as the sky cleared today we were off on our travels.

Today Scamp suggested we should go to The Smiddy for lunch and a chance for me to take some foties. I thought it was a good idea, but added a stop at Muirhead for some carnivore food. It was actually in the opposite direction, but would only take us half an hour at the worst. Stocked up on sausages, mince, burgers and chicken and then we were off along the M80 and M9 then the A84 to Blair Drummond and the destination for today. Two toasties, one each. Cup of coffee (me) and peppermint tea (Scamp) and an opportunity to earwig the conversation between two ‘auld guys’ talking about somebody digging the founds or ’foonds’ (foundations) for a house by hand. I say we were earwigging, but it was difficult to avoid one side of the conversation which was broadcast at full blast. It was when the auld guy started elaborating that he’d seen this man “… in the pishin’ rain wi’ an auld coat oan, digging’ away …”, that’s when I smiled. I could just picture this man digging the foundations of his house with rain dripping off his auld coat and running down his neck too no doubt. I felt like thanking them when they got up to leave. Just two auld guys.

We left soon after and I got four sausages made with haggis, streaky bacon, pork and whisky. They’re in the freezer now. I’m keeping them for the weekend because they sound interesting. Back in the car we headed towards Doune, but never reached it. I took a road we’d never been on before, the B8032 that took us by a twist, turny, up and down way to Callander. The land of the blue rinse brigade on a Sunday outing, but today was Thursday so we were safe.

Parked near the river, very near the river which was coming up to meet us. Scamp had noticed the sand bags stashed at the side of the entrance and it looked like they’d be needed soon. The riverside carpark is quite often flooded but today it wasn’t too bad by Callander standards. We went for a walk through the town which looked as if it was shut, but there were a few shops open. Lots and lots of charity shops, which is a mark of small towns in Scotland these days. Bought a few cakes to have when we got home. It was a bit cool today and I think we were both quite pleased to be back in the car. A pleasant enough drive home except the bright low sun was a pain and I had to resort to sunglasses. Sunglasses in January? Who ever heard of such a thing.

PoD is a picture of the gulls sailing down the river in the carpark at Callander with Ben Led in the background.

Tomorrow looks like the last of the dry(ish) days for a while, so if it’s fine and clear we’ll probably go out for a while.

Hooray the sun is working today – 8 January 2020

A lovely change from yesterday. The sun was shining.

OK, it only lasted for about an hour, but even as the first raindrops fell, the sky was lightening again in the west. Another day when it would be wise to go out and have a walk in the sun. Scamp’s first suggestion of Muiravonside was the one that we chose. It’s years and years since we’ve been there and according to the satnav it’s only about 13 miles away.

Drove through rain and sun, but the Juke didn’t seem to be in a good mood today and also the mileage was only reading about 36mpg. Maybe JIC was right about the tyre pressure being the problem. I might check it tomorrow. It was sunny when we arrived, but the wind was quite strong over in the east and it was a cold wind too. Walked around one of the easy walks and then through the farm. Just a kids farm really with lots of birds and smaller animals to see, as well as some big fat pigs, a couple of highland cattle and also a couple of horses. After that we walked down to the river and that’s where I got today’s PoD which is the River Avon which begins its life strangely enough near Fannyside where I was on Monday. It was the Nikon that took the photo.  I was carrying both Nikon and Oly cameras, but I was surprised at how little I remembered about setting up the Nikon.  I couldn’t even remember the shortcut to format the disk.  Must be getting too used to the little Oly and Pana cameras that make everything so easy. On the way to the river we passed a load of apple trees growing beside the path, each one with its own little name plate on a wooden post beside it. Scamp was quite pleased to see a James Grieve. It was a bit younger and straighter than ours. Hope it fruits as well as ours. It was a steep path down to the river, but we didn’t really notice until we had to climb back up again. We were a bit out of breath after the climb.

Drove back and I thought I might have a chance of a photo or two in St Mo’s after a late lunch, but the clouds rolled in in earnest and the rain started again, so I left it for another day and went to collect my pills instead.

An email has just come in as I’m writing this to say that I’ve been fully reimbursed for the purchase of ON1 2020.  That was much quicker than I expected.  In the morning, I’ll check if the money is in the bank.

I think we’re both agreed we’ll go back to Muiravonside again, all being well. Tomorrow looks clear and cold again with just the chance of some showers, so with a bit of luck and good timing we may manage another walk in the sunshine.

Windy and Warm – 7 January 2020

I thought I’d woken up in the middle of the night and then notice it was about 8.15am and it was dark outside.

It stayed like that all day with only about 30 minutes in the middle of the day when there was light on the horizon, but it didn’t last. Scamp wanted to go shopping today and that’s what we did. Because the only place she knew she could get some of today’s messages was Morrisons, and in an attempt to offset the shortfall in their winter sales figures, that’s where we were going. Next question was where. Falkirk is our usual preferred shop, but with the strong winds, especially in the east and the heavy rain showers, I suggested we go to The Fort instead. Closer and quicker to get to. Also, I wanted some stuff from Hobbycraft at The Fort. With that settled, we wrapped up well and drove off. It may have been stormy and wet, but it was also warm. The car thermometer read 12ºc when we left the house.

So we got what we wanted in Morrisons, except the bottle of Grants Sherry Casked which was absent from the shelves and also the Yorkshire Mixture which was also missing. Could it be the same person who had a taste for sweeties and whisky? Did they perhaps drop a couple of sweeties in their dram? Maybe I should try that. We bought a bag of polystyrene beads for me to make a bean bag to rest my camera on when taking low macro shots (they came in handy later). We also bought some sparkly foam backed card to make The Fairy a new pair of wings. Scamp is going to wash The Fairy’s dress, make her a new underskirt and also repair her wings. The Fairy is almost 50 years old and hasn’t had her dress cleaned or her underskirt replaced in all that time. Her wings have been repaired once or twice, but really do need to be renewed. Happy with our purchases we headed home.

Scamp went out to get her hair cut after lunch and came back looking even more beautiful than normal (if that’s possible). Then I discovered I needed spring onions for tonight’s dinner (Pad Thai), so I wrapped up well, stuck in a pair of headphones and enjoyed a walk in the rain with The Uncle Devil Show to get the spring onions. That’s when I noticed my thighs were aching a bit, presumably from the two days dancing I’d had Sunday and Monday.

The Pad Thai worked really well. It was from a kit, but the only pre-prepared ingredient was the sauce, I’m sure I can find a recipe for it on the net and make my own. Noodles make a nice change from rice. After that I had to find a PoD. I found it in the bag of polystyrene beads. I sat a bunch of grapes on the bag of polystyrene beads. Lit it from below with two LED lights. Then used reflected light from a third LED light to remove some of the shadows from the grapes. PoD done.

Before I wrote this blog I cancelled my upgrade to ON1 2020. Too many bugs in it that would be caught, quote ’in a future update’. Sorry, but I paid for software, not to be a beta tester.

Tomorrow I may tackle the making of the bean bag. Also, we may go out somewhere for a walk if there’s any light and if the wind abates.