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Ophelia & Vodafone. Double Trouble – 17 October 2017

Ophelia arrived early in the morning. I woke just after 4am with the wind howling around the roof. After I had a plate of cereal I went back to bed and slept until my alarm woke me at 8.30. It was however a fitful sleep.

I think, because I’d broken my sleep, it was a long time before I woke properly. Once I was fully compos mentis I phoned customer support at Vodafone to find out what had happened to my new phone. Hmm, that’s an hour of my life I won’t get back. What a total waste of time. The first guy I spoke too at least sounded apologetic and passed me on to the customer care team. That’s where the help ended. Lots of ‘sorrys’, but no shift on the script that there are no iPhone SEs anywhere. Apple don’t even have them, she said. I asked to speak to a supervisor. She said ok and put me on hold while she went for a fag. Then she came back, did some more ‘sorrys’. Again I asked to speak to a supervisor. Again she put me on hold for a while then came back and said the supervisor had agreed with her that there were no iPhone SEs anywhere in any of the shops. “None at all in the whole of the UK”, I asked. “Yes” she said. I asked her why Tesco had them in stock. Her reply shocked me. She said “Where?” She did have an Indian accent. Did that mean she was working in a far east call centre? I thought everyone in the UK knew where Tesco was. I tried a third time to get to speak to a supervisor and she said that all the supervisors were in a meeting and couldn’t be contacted. It’s not until you go start writing this down you notice things. If the supervisors were in a meeting, how did she manage to speak to one? I hate being lied to. I especially hate being lied to badly. I gave up.

When I came off the phone, I phoned the Apple shop, just to see if there was a smidgin of truth in her lies. “Did the Apple store have Iphone SEs.” “Yes.” came the answer “Both sizes and all colours.” Maybe they are keeping them because Vodafone haven’t paid their last bill.

After lunch I phoned a different Vodafone line. Have you heard the expression “A dog with a bone”? In Scotland we have our own version “A dug wi’ a burst ba’.” That’s me. This time I told the automated system that I wanted to leave the Vodies and almost laughed at the sad automated voice. All this bloke wanted to do was repeatedly try to convince me that an iPhone 6 was a better deal. Thanks to Hazy, I was forewarned and I cut the call short.

I went out for a walk to clear my head and get a few shots to make a PoD. I liked two of the images and that’s what is on the top of the page. The mono shot became PoD.

Back home I had one final phone call to make and it wasn’t to Vodafone it was to Trading Standards. I told them the sorry tale of my missing iPhoneSE and the woeful customer service at Vodafone. They gave me concise instructions on how to complain and who to complain to. If the phone is not in my hands this week I will type out that letter and post it Registered Post. After my Indian experience today, even if I have the phone in my hot little hand, I may send the letter anyway.

Dinner tonight was Simple Fish Stew. Thankfully Tesco (you have heard of Tesco haven’t you) had some simple fish!

Too frazzled for a sketch tonight, anyway I need to make up my sleep-time Ophelia stole away during the night.

Tomorrow? Weather permitting we may go out for a spin somewhere nice.

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One in, One out – 3 October 2017

Today started with Scamp driving the Juke to Tesco with me in the co-pilot’s seat. I searched all morning, but I couldn’t find my Zaphod Beeblebrox glasses. You know, the ones that go completely dark when danger threatens! It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. Apart from the seat being too close to the steering wheel (wooden blocks for the pedals I think) and the mirrors being in the wrong place it went fine. No hissy fits from either of us, and we came home without any scratches (on us or the car).

After Scamp brought the car back home. I changed cars and drove her car down to the Village to get new tyres. Yes, they had tyres to fit it, but were too busy and would be for a while. Could I come back around 3pm. No problem, I could go back and then take the Juke to Stirling to sort out the lights problem, so drove home and picked up Scamp and drove the Juke to Stirling.

The salesman was a bit bemused and told me that Yes, I had been using the correct lights and Yes, the dipped headlight was working properly. He then took it into the garage so the ‘Techies’ could have a look at it. He came back and told us that everything was fine and the Techies couldn’t find anything wrong. However, the lights looked brighter to us now. I thought I had a winner when I remembered the dash cam had been on all the time so I had a record of what had happened. Then when I checked, I couldn’t see much of what had happened because by the time we got home, the camera had overwritten part of the recording, mainly because it had filled the ‘Protected’ folder of the camera with pointless videos, each one protected so it couldn’t be overwritten. Also, I couldn’t hear anything that was being said behind our backs because Christine and The Queens was playing at full blast. Ok, problem not explained, but probably solved. Drove home.

Dropped the Duke off and drove the Micra down to the tyre place. It was empty. Bloke asked me what I wanted done and when I told him two new front tyres, he said he only had one. Could I bring it back tomorrow. Oh well, what’s one more day, one more journey.

Drove home. You can guess the rest. Yes, dropped off the Micra and picked up my camera and took the Duke down to Auchinstarry which is where I got all of today’s pics and a sketch as well.  Bathtime for the Ducks got PoD.

Tomorrow I’ll take the Micra for new tyres. Hopefully they will have tyres and staff to fit them. Oh yes, tried the lights tonight and they are much brighter than yesterday. I still wonder what they did in the garage!

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Slipped the leash – 21 September 2017

Scamp was off to have lunch with one of her friends. I had the day to myself!

In the morning we had a Skype with Hazy. Unfortunately it was interrupted in the middle when Skype decided it was going to do an upgrade. Now I don’t mind upgrades for most bits of software (Windows excepted), but why does a communication program break into your conversation without even a by-your-leave? The answer is because it’s owned by Microsoft. The same company that decides you need the latest upgrade to Windows 10 so badly, it installs it on your computer whether you want it or not. Thought it was your computer? Nope, it belongs to Mickysoft. Unless, of course, you took the sensible route and installed Linux.

After our on-line chat, Scamp got ready and headed off. I set too to practise some ‘painting people’ after I’d filled the washing machine and part completed today’s Sudoku and made lunch. The washing machine was a timer. I had the forty minutes it takes to do a wash to do my painting, then I’d have to hang out the washing because it looked like a good drying day with a light breeze and some splashes of sun. After that it was time to go get some photos. Walked along the canal for a bit and then cut across the plantation. It was there I met today’s PoD, the dragonfly. I think it’s a female Black Darter. Quite small, only about 30mm long. It sat on the handrail of a bridge for ages. I thought at first it was sizing up a little fly for lunch, but then decided it was just sunning itself. Probably it had been listening to the weather forecast and knew the next two days wouldn’t allow for much sun bathing.

Walked back to the car and drove to Tesco to get the makings of dinner which turned out to be a truly awful curry. The best thing about it was the flatbreads. They were excellent as usual.

By the time I got home from my walk, Scamp was back home and my day ’off the leash’ was over. I think I may have a beer tonight to commiserate with myself for making such a poor curry. Must do better.

Tomorrow centres around John Carrigan’s Birthday Bash. Should be good fun.

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Deadly in all but name – 12 September 2017

Drove in to Glasgow in the morning for Scamp’s appointment at the ‘Royal’. She was hardly in when she was back out again, but at least that means there was little to comment on, which is good.

Continued in to Glasgow and got my hair cut. Chose a conservative Nº 4 because the temperature is dropping away these days. This morning the temp was 11.3ºc when I got up, just after eight. Got a book I’d been considering ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ in Waterstones. Cup of coffee in Nero and we were on our way back down Sausage Roll Street for the run home and a sausage roll for lunch. Before lunch however, we had to go and buy lots of things in Tesco, just to make sure their shares don’t plummet.

I went out in the afternoon for a walk, to grab some photos and to hopefully forage some brambles. Had the walk, got the photos and scraped up some brambles, but not many. Maybe it’s my lack of head insulation, but it did feel a bit cooler today, almost cold in the breeze. Came home and made Pasta Genovese for dinner. Always a good filling meal. Fiddly to make the pesto, but we can use it again tomorrow.

That’s about it. Today’s PoD is the Solanum Dulcamara or woody nightshade. The little bright red, deadly berries. Even the birds won’t eat them, that’s a good indication.

Tomorrow I am attempting to clear out the last drawer in the chest of drawers while Scamp goes out for coffee with Annette. What fun filled lives we lead.

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Look for the Juke – 29 August 2017

Went to Stirling today hoping for a test drive in a Juke, just to clear the air and get the car out of my system. They didn’t have one.

Well, that’s not completely true. They had lots of cars, even lots of Jukes, just none that we could take for a test drive today. We did get to sit in one and the nice lady took our details and hopefully we’ll get that test drive on Friday.

Since we were in Stirling and PC World was just down the road, we went there looking for a printer to replace the one that’s languishing in the boot of the car at present. They didn’t have one.

Well, that’s not completely true. (Does this sound like groundhog day?) They had a few printers. Most of them were for Home or Office and only two were marked Photo. One, a Canon and one an Epson. Not an Epsom as the Head of Computing at the school insisted on calling them. I’d have liked a printer that was designed to print photos, but both the PC World offerings were printer/scanners. I don’t need a scanner, I’ve got a really good one. Why would I want to pay for a scanner I didn’t need? Both the alleged ‘photo’ printers used four photo inks and one text printing black cartridge. Proper photo printers have five photo inks, sometimes with a black text cartridge. I wasn’t impressed. Nobody came near me to offer a test drive either. It would be good if you could do a test print on the printer you’re interested in buying. Nobody would think of buying a laptop without first checking how fast apps load and how clear the screen is, but you have to trust the hyperbolic manufacturer’s claims for printers. Once you get it home and find it print pictures that look like something out of Minecraft, you can’t take it back and complain. Well, you could, but nobody at PC World would listen to you. Maybe I’ll just keep the old printer and try to coax it back from the dead.

The day started earlier with me attempting with a fair degree of success to tidy up the back room. I did find the sofa that was hidden under holiday stuff. It took some time and effort, but now it has reappeared, it gives me the impetus to clean up the rest of the room. It should only take another three or four days. Ok, a week tops.

The day finished with a walk along the canal. A place to unwind and do some tidying up of my head. As you can see from the confusing jumping back and forward in the blog, I need more of this ‘head time’. Today’s PoD is a Red Admiral that I managed to grab a few photos of at Dumbreck Marshes. Then it was home for fish pie! A nice end to a day in the sun. Some things done, some things in the pipeline.

Tomorrow is to be much like today apparently and as today was warm and sunny, I’ll take that and say thank you very much.

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Painting again – 17 August 2017

It was a lovely warm sunny morning, but rather than go out walking, for some cantankerous reason, I decided to stay in to sand and paint the upstairs window ledges.

I think it was because the sun was warm and that would help the varnish to dry quicker. I got all three rooms finished in about an hour or so. Looks so much better now. They will probably need another coat, but no great rush.

After lunch I went out for a walk along the canal and out to Dumbreck Marshes. Got some more shots of the caterpillars, as you can see. After some investigation tonight, I discovered they were Buff-tip moth caterpillars. The key was that inverted ‘V’ on the head. Glad that’s sorted. There weren’t so many of them today. Maybe the gusty winds have blown the rest away. Weather was fine going out, but torrential rain showers on the way back to the car.

I was on dinner duty today and the Curried Chicken and New Potato Traybake didn’t exactly hit the spot. Chicken breast was too dry although the legs were fine. Potatoes took too long, so maybe parboil them next time. Other than that, it was fine and easy to make.

Heavy rain and high winds forecast for tomorrow. More painting maybe.

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Oh What a Beautiful Day – 8 August 2017

After two days of almost continuous rain, today’s blue skies and sunshine were a great relief. Scamp was going out for lunch with a friend and I was painting in the morning, but determined to get the bike out and turn the wheels a few times.

I set out for Auchinstarry to park and then cycle along the railway to Twechar and from there, take the road to Kirkintilloch, then cycle back along the canal to Auchinstarry. A nice easy run of a little more than 10 miles.

Lots of folk were out today, and not just the usual dog walkers either. What looked like a Summer School group were learning about rock climbing at Auchinstarry. Halfway along the railway path two women were having a picnic with their weans, sitting on an old iron bridge over the Garrell Burn. After that, it was just road traffic all the way to Kirkintilloch. Walked up the steep hill to reach the canal (That’s where today’s PoD came from) and then took the towpath from there to Twechar. Passed lots of cyclists on the way. Some gave a nod, some pretended I wasn’t there (Bike Snobs), some shouted a cheery ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ or the West of Scotland ‘Aye’ as we passed.

Changed my mind at Twechar and headed back along the railway again. The main reason is that the canal tow path gets really busy with cyclists and fishermen in the summer and the path narrows fairly frequently making crossing and overtaking difficult. I stopped to take some ‘beastie’ photos at Dumbreck Marshes and met a bloke who was extolling the joys of cycling. He realised he was preaching to the converted, but we agreed it was a great way to get some enjoyable exercise. He was on his way back from the Falkirk Wheel and was sitting having his lunch with his iPhone playing some music through a Bluetooth speaker in his rucksack. We wished each other an enjoyable run home and I was on the last leg of my run. Didn’t pass anyone else on the way back and then watched some blokes doing a bit of dangerous looking rock climbing in Auchinstarry Quarry where there is a sheer drop into very deep water. Rather them than me.

Back home, it was paella for dinner and I had volunteered for cooking duty. Turned out not to bad.

Tomorrow is to be more of the same. Hopefully they get it right again.

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Out for a walk – 3 August 2017

This morning Scamp was out to Costa with her sister and I spent a reasonably happy hour backing up the July pics on to external hard drive. After that, I started reorganising Lightroom’s storage areas to make more sensible use of the space available. Such an interesting morning. I didn’t mind, it was raining all the time.

After lunch I took myself out in the sunshine, that had now replaced the rain, for a walk along the canal, but failed again to see the elusive kingfisher. Some day I’m sure I’ll see him again. What I did see was a family on a narrowboat sailing serenely along the canal, heading towards Auchinstarry. There was a couple at the front seated in chairs either side of the door and another three at the back, steering. The man at the front gave me a nod as they passed. It seemed such a leisurely way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Cut across the plantation and on to the railway walk, then on to Dumbreck before retracing my steps and heading back to the car along the old railway. It was only when I was crossing the plantation that I saw anything interesting and that was the flowers buds that became PoD.

Scamp made dinner today and it was a lovely stir fry.

Spoke to JIC later and got all the news on his trip to San Francisco.

Just a nice lazy day after the rain cleared, that is.

Tomorrow? Maybe Perth.

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The auld alliance, Venice – 17 July 2017

18 JulyToday was Venice. That meant an early start to watch the sail in. It was almost as good as it was two years ago. Then we had a running commentary. This time we had nothing. I’m getting used to ‘nothing’ with Thomson. Cheap and nasty.   However, Venice is always a great port to visit.  Multinational, multicultural and a great place to get wedding photos taken if you’re from China, Japan or Korea, apparently.

We got the ‘cooncil’ water taxi from just along from the ship to St Mark’s Square for half the price that Thomson were asking.  Walked into the square and were amazed by the crowds.  Just as amazed as we were the last time, and the time before that.  The queue was starting to build for the Doge’s Palace, but Scamp noticed that there was virtually no queue to get to the top of the Campanile (bell tower).  We’d never been up it before, so today it seemed the thing to do.

First Surprise.  You access the top of the bell tower by lift, not stairs.  I’m guessing it’s possible to climb to the top if you are of that frame of mind, but we were happy to just let the lift take the strain.  The lift was really smooth going up and the view from the top was amazing.  It’s not really the top, it’s the viewing gallery at the top of the square tower,  There is a tight little spiral staircase in a wrought iron cage that probably goes right up past the bells and into the pyramidal space at the very top, but unfortunately, the gate to the staircase was locked so we couldn’t go up.  That’s our excuse and we’re sticking to it.  As you can imagine, we both took lots of photos of Venice from the top of the Campanile.  Well, more photos of Venetian roofs than of Venice itself, but it was a great sight with views to the north, south, east and west.
Second Surprise.  The Bell Tower’s bells are there and intact.  All greased and ready for action.  I became a bit nervous as the big hand on my watch crept towards the 12, but it passed without a bell being struck.  Scamp guessed that the bells don’t ring because of H&S.  Too many people would be suing the city for bell induced deafness if they rang out in that confined space.
All too soon it was time to go back down to earth.  The lift was just as swift going down as it was going up, although Scamp noticed that the lift operator looked as if he was offering up a prayer!  Maybe he was just hoping time would pass quickly until his lunch.
Remember I mentioned the Oriental Weddings?  When we got out of the lift there was a bride and groom getting in.  Bride all decked out in her white wedding dress and groom in tails.  What a strange place to get your wedding photos done, in a bell tower.

With our unexpected visit past, I tried a sketch of the Campanile, but if you sit anywhere in the square, you’re expected to pay an exorbitant fee, so I had to stand and I couldn’t get the perspective right, so I scrapped it and decided to try again when we came back.  Scamp was on a mission to find a special cafe that sold Cannoli which are little pastry tubes filled with cream.  We’d had them the last time we were there and Scamp was sure she could find the cafe.  Like a bloodhound on the scent, she led us almost straight to the shop!  Amazing!  It was beside the Grand Canal, just down from the Rialto bridge.  We both had Cannoli and cappuccino.  A bloke sitting in the cafe looked over longingly and rubbed his belly and raised his eyebrows in a question.  I smiled and just nodded.

From the cafe we crossed the Rialto and followed our noses for a while.  I was half looking for an art shop I’d been to the last time we were in Venice and I was hoping to get another sketch book there.  Not that I really needed a sketch book, it was more the idea than anything.  We didn’t find it, but we did find a square with a Leonardo exhibition.  I wasn’t really interested in going in, but I spotted another campanile near by and managed a reasonable sketch of it.  The sun was hot, but I found some shade under a tree to get the sketch done.  However, I thought it was time we were heading back.  On the way back we passed a wee pizza shop and, after some arguing about whether we should stop or go on, sat ourselves down at the only free table, ordered a pizza each and a carafe of red wine.  I don’t know who spoke first, the bloke sitting next to me or me, but when I turned round, I realised that here was the man from the Cannoli cafe.  I tried to explain and suddenly the penny dropped with him too.  “Oh yes, the little pastry!”.  It turned out he was French (Note capitalization = Nice Couple.  We had earlier had a short conversation with a nice, quietly spoken American [same capitalization rule applies]).  It turned out they were French but had a son who lived and worked in Glasgow “Good beer!  Good whisky – Not Johnny Walker.”  Our conversation was a bit stilted.  He had little english and I had no French, but we got by.  He asked what about Brexit and I told him I wasn’t in favour.  Should Scotland break from england?  Oh yes, we were both in agreement with that. Finally it was time for them to leave so we shook hands and Scamp offered “Bon Chance”.  A reaffirming of the Auld Alliance.

With the bill paid and a chance encounter under our belt, we headed back to St Mark’s and only had about 5mins to wait for the water taxi back to the boat.  Got there and we both went for a snooze ready for the sailaway to begin at 6pm.  Oh, the entertainment officer was almost wetting his pants with excitement, it was going to be a wonderful sailaway, one we’d remember for ever.  Six o’clock came and went and still we were firmly connected to Venice by our pedestrian access umbilical.  Also, there was no sign of the port workers who would undo the great ropes tying the ship to the bollards. Half past six and we were still waiting.  Finally after sitting in the hot sun for forty five minutes without any message from the captain or anyone else, one bloke with a black bag appeared sauntering on board and the umbilical was removed, the port staff arrived and departure began. Thomson, you need to start a conversation with your passengers.  You need to explain what’s going on, even if it’s bad news.  Thomson, you’re going the same way as P&O.  You have your ‘fanboys’, but thinking passengers like us will just take our money elsewhere.

Dinner tonight was in Smash ‘n’ Grab again.  It was Curry Night and it was lovely again.  Smash ‘n’ Grab might be a bit antisocial, but the food is better than in the waiter service restaurant IMO.  Danced to a couple of songs by Strumjam, then coffee and ‘white tea’ before bed.

Zadar tomorrow.

This blog and the previous two were brought to you by Free Zadar WiFi.

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The Glorious Twelfth – 12 July 2017

The weather was glorious today. Better than the forecast had promised. Now, I don’t often say that!

Scamp was out early to get her eyebrows done. I had intended getting mine done, but feared I’d be told “Hopeless cases not accepted.” When she came back we dithered about for a while before deciding that we’d go out for lunch. Somewhere nice, was Scamp’s request. She’d thought about going to South Queensferry, but I don’t think either of us fancied the long drive, so we settled for a slightly shorter drive to The Stables, just outside Kirkintilloch. The food is usually good and there’s also a pleasant wee walk along the canal. The Stables won.

Got parked easily and followed the path on to the towpath and along towards Bishopbriggs. Walked for about a mile or so and then came back the same way, avoiding cyclists be-helmeted and the others who live dangerously. They’re the ones who are immortal (so far).

Lunch for Scamp was her usual Fish ’n’ Chips and mine was Southern fried chicken on the bone. Both were deemed decent enough food. Scamp had a glass of wine and I had a Becks Blue. The first mouthful of the ‘beer’ was ok, but after that I sensed a chemical tinge to it that I didn’t like. However, you could almost convince yourself that you were drinking beer.

Came home and Scamp went to cut the grass while I almost managed a snooze.

Salsa tonight was a great laugh. With even numbers it was inevitable that we’d be doing rueda moves, and so it was. Great fun was had by all.

Today’s PoD is of a piece of artwork on the side of a barge on the canal. Saw this and thought of you Hazy!

Deteriorating weather conditions tomorrow, but at least we had a scorcher today. Scamp even had her sun cream on!