At Sea – Dancing with the Australians – 7 August 2019

Today was a sea day. Not a lot to see. Lots to do though.

We’d given up on the salsa class, it was just rubbish, below even beginners level. Did the dance class and enjoyed it as much as the last one. I went to a talk about the planet (or not the planet) Pluto by the astronomer again. Fascinating, and I’m not being facetious either. When someone who knows their stuff and is totally immersed in their topic gives a talk, their enthusiasm just draws you in. I could have listened to this bloke all day.

Dinner tonight for me was Chicken Cafreal with Pulau Rice and Goan Bread. Must ask Delia how authentic it was, but I don’t really care. It was great food but  the service was slooooow in the ‘cooncil’ restaurant.

Dancing with the Australian crowd who tried to teach us the Cowboy Cha Cha. I’m still not sure we got it right, but we had a go at it.

PoD was a shot of a Royal Caribbean ship that was keeping pace with us for a while.

Tomorrow we return to Malta, mid-cruise.

Piraeus, Fish Markets and scots – 3 August 2019

Yes, you read that right, scottish with a small ’s’.

If you are a long term reader of this blog, you will already know about americans and english, unfortunately we met some scots today. Not real Scots of course. We think they might have come from Embra. But first, the rest of the day.

Woke to find the ship was being re-fuelled from a tanker boat. Took some photos and went to breakfast. Full Scottish breakfast because I’m on holiday. Then we were off to investigate Piraeus.

First we got lost because that’s what you do in a new destination, then formed a plan of sorts. We’d already agreed that we weren’t going to Athens to see the Parthenon or the Acropolis. We weren’t even going on the open topped Red Bus, because the predicted temperature was 40ºc which is just stupid-hot for us cold climate folk. We were going to head off hoping to find something interesting, get lost then make a plan. The ‘something interesting’ I found was a motorbike shop with partly eviscerated old bikes outside. Virtually everything but the frames had been stripped out. It looked like the place that motorbikes come to die. I took lots of photos and then we got to the planning.

Just in case we did get seriously lost, there was always the iPhone to rely on, but where’s the fun in that? The plan was to walk along the side of the bay, keeping the water on our left side and see what we could find. We walked for a good couple of miles and found chapels with ornate interiors, statues to apparently famous people and a shop that sold ‘chibs’, no spellchecker, not ‘Chips’, but ‘Chibs’. Seriously life threatening pieces of sharp looking metal. Everything from pen knives to Japanese Samurai swords with machetes and throwing knives in between. Crossbows, reflex bows and pistols. Try getting them through security!

Further on we had to stop, because we’d lost the sea. It was nowhere to be found, so check with the iPhone. Apple Maps had the answer and we found a way to go back that didn’t involve simply following our trail of breadcrumbs. Our route took us through a market that seemed to have a lot in common with ‘The Barras’. Loads of meat being sold from chiller cabinets. Fish in glass topped freezers and fish on slabs with the stallholders shouting that they had fresher fish than their neighbours. Loads of fruit and veg, plus, of course the usual toys and odds & ends that the sell in ’The Barras’.  Today’s PoD came from the fish market.

Stopped at a coffee shop where Scamp had a Cappuccino and I had a Frozen Cappuccino. What a taste. I had to wait ages for it because the first one the Barista made apparently wasn’t good enough and got thrown out. It was worth the wait. I’m now a convert to Cafe Freddo. At least in the summer. Bought myself a little espresso cup. Cost €2. After a while we found that we were back on the street we started from and the sea was back on our right hand side.

Went to the pool at the stern of the ship. It’s an adult pool and it’s tiny, but there are two whirlpool jacuzzis next to it. Lay and baked in the sun drinking Mojitos and thinking “This is the life”.

We went to dinner at night and were placed at a table with four of the most obnoxious individuals we’ve ever sat with. They started off by simply ignoring us, then in a condescending way they told us that they were all related (Inbred, I think is the proper term) and they apologised for leaving us out of their conversation. The ‘lady’ next to me had such a loud Morningside accent and such an enormous ‘bool in her mooth’, it was difficult to understand her. Then I realised that her slow precise speech was because she was absolutely ‘Rat-Arsed (that’s a condition about fifty stages on from ‘Three Sheets to the Wind’).  She thought she was so refined, but the smell of alcohol and smell of stale fags told the real truth. Some people should be made to wear warning signs.

We left them to their sibling ramblings and left before coffee to watch three boys crucifying pop songs. Scamp liked the songs, I didn’t

Oh yes and one last thing. There’s a bell tower in Piraeus that plays “Never on a Sunday” on the hour, every hour!  I’m sure you feel better for knowing that.

Tomorrow it’s Mykonos.

A is for Atrium – 2 August 2019

Today was a sea day.

Some folk say sea days are boring – nothing to do – nothing to see but the sea, but that’s not really the case. After a good breakfast we were off wandering around the ship again and then finished our unpacking. Tonight was a ‘Black Tie’ dinner, the Captain’s reception. A chance for a weak glass of whisky or gin and a chance to hear Captain Bob’s attempts at humour, or maybe he’d just give us the safety talk again in case there was someone on board who hadn’t been bored rigid yesterday. Later in the morning we went to a dance class – Jive, but this was Ballroom Jive, not Glasgow Jive, although the couple who took the class were Scottish so that was a tick in the right box.

After lunch we went to a Salsa class, but it was all talk and stepping through the moves which is boring. There wasn’t much dancing. I don’t think I’ll go back to this one. At least in the Jive class we got ample opportunity to dance to some music. After that we went for a splash in the ‘big’ pool. Big is a bit of a misnomer as it’s anything but big. However, it’s the biggest pool on this medium/small ship. It got very busy, very quickly but we did, at least, get wet.

Second ballroom class of the day in the afternoon and it was more of a sequence jive dance. I’ve always hated sequence dancing, but this one had more fun than some. We had to leave early to get ready for the Captain’s Party and the free alcohol, while avoiding the speech.

Dressed in kilt, white shirt, black (well, almost black, frog bowtie) and waistcoat plus all the gubbins that goes with ‘highland dress’, we made our way to the Atrium. Met a woman who complemented me on my kilt and asked what clan it was. She was English, but her mother was a McDonald from Ayrshire, Maybole of all places.  Another man slightly one over the eight asked me what regiment it was, then told me I was wearing Black Watch.  I tried to explain to him that it Clan Campbell, but he wouldn’t listen.  He was either guttered or english, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Listened to Captain Bob attempt some humour and realised why he hadn’t thought to inject some into his speech the previous night. Whisky was cheapest they could find, Gin was thin, gave up and went for dinner which Scamp had booked in Cafe Jardin which used to be the hot chocolate place in the old version of this ship. Ahh! If only Cap’n Bob took some lessons from Noel, our waiter in Cafe Jardin, he’d be a hit with more than the sycophants. Noel, probably not his real name, sold us a bottle of sparkling water telling us it was an excellent vintage and he could recommend it. It’s the little things like that, that give a place a good name. Food was good. Scamp had Piedmont Red Pepper as starter and SeaBass with Cannellini Bean Mash and other stuff! I had Tiger Prawns and Tuscan Sausage then Rustic Chicken Supreme and Parma Ham with other stuff. We were supposed to have three desert plates each from a choice of six, but we chose only two each. Noel knew better and brought us all six! I’d list them, but you’d only be jealous. My favourite was Italian Poached Peach and Scamp’s was Affogato. All that for £15 for the two of us!

Tried dancing at night after I’d divested myself of the highland dress. I’ve danced salsa in a kilt before and it’s do-able, but the brogues have a mind of their own on the dance floor. Kept crashing into other folk on the dance floor. Tried dancing the Jive stuff we’d learned and gave up because I couldn’t remember the sequence. Finally gave a Salsa demo par excellence to show that we CAN dance!

PoD is boring Cap’n Bob giving his speech to …  Well, it looks like nobody was listening, but believe me there were brown-nosers aplenty eager to laugh at all his every attempt at humour.

Bed after a long day. Sea days are so boring, you know!

Baking, Cooking, Talking, Raining – 27 July 2019

Today we woke to rain, and it looked as if it was on for the day.

It rained and rained, just like the weather fairies had predicted. We gave up on the idea of going in to Glasgow. Standing in the rain in George Square listening to any kind of band isn’t the best use of a day. Instead, we threw ourselves into the preparations for John & Marion’s dinner. In my case, quite literally.

Scamp had been using the mixer in the morning, while I was clearing the dining table of computer and photographic junk. When she was finished I started weighing out flour and stuff to bake a loaf. I was just putting the bowl with the flour, yeast, water mixture into the mixer cradle when the whole thing slipped out of my hands and fell onto the hall carpet. The disgusting mess of slurry took both of us about half an hour to clean up. Then I had to start all over again and be more careful this time putting the bowl back in the cradle. Switched on and let it do its stuff for ten minutes. That gave me time to take the Dyson’s beater head to bits to clean the dough out of it. The bread actually turned out well, I was fairly pleased with it.

Still it was raining, but in one of the few dry spells I took the chance to go into the garden to get some photos. The rasps were PoD, but on Flickr you can see Scamp’s new Gypsophila. My mum was very proud of her great big gypsophila bush in the front garden. It really was a beautiful big plant. Maybe Scamp’s will grow to that size in a few years. The rasps won PoD because of the bright colours Red against Green is always a strong colour combination.

Dinner tonight was Melon Balls as starter, Lamb Leg Steaks with Potatoes and Calabrese as main (Scamp substituted Salmon for Lamb) and Syllabub as pudding. There was also cake in the form of Scamp’s Apple & Lemon Sandwich Cake which, in my opinion was better than last time although Scamp disagreed.

Sat talking after dinner for ages, just catching up with old friends. It was a great night.

Tomorrow (actually today, because it was a very late night, so this is catch-up) we will finish the washing up and put all the posh stuff back in the cupboards and hope we get some dry spells to go for a walk.

The Merchant City Festival – 25 July 2019

A day for celebration in more ways than one.

In the morning, we spoke to Hazy for a while and hopefully took her mind of the rising temperature in London. Then, while Scamp was out being made even more beautiful, I cut five buttonholes in the LEFT side of the waistcoat. I reminded myself that it was the LEFT side every time I picked it up, just in case of last minute errors. Then I carefully hand sewed the buttons on to the right side, carefully, because I’d pushed a needle into my thumb a few times when I was practising this skill. No blood was spilt this time and when I finally stitched the belt buckle to the back of the waistcoat, it was finished. Not only that, but it fitted too with just an inch or so to spare around the waist. One happy bunny. Well, actually two happy bunnies because I think Scamp was almost as happy as me when she returned and saw the finished article.

After a quick lunch we went for a walk down the Luggie in the hopes that there would be a breeze to cool us, because it was extremely hot. Over 30ºc in Scotland it simply ridiculous. It wasn’t much cooler, but we did walk the length of the. Luggie and I got some photos, but none of them made PoD. That came later.

When we got back we took a trip in to Glasgow to see the start of the Merchant City Festival. We’ve been for at least the last two years and it’s always been fun. Today wasn’t. There was supposed to be a parade, but it seemed that three or four groups of performers were strutting their stuff along the street, posing for photos from anyone holding anything that looked like a camera. I took a few, but my favourite, and PoD was a candid of a woman whose expression said that she didn’t want to be there. Maybe it was just that I’d caught a fleeting glance, or maybe she was as bored as I was. Bumped into Kul (Kulwinder) who we haven’t seen for years. Also caught up with Mhairi who had a stall in the handicrafts area. The whole street area was as congested as it usually was, but where were the little icons, like the Cavemen from three (?) years ago? Where were the Mr Mackintoshes with their chairs from last year? No sign of the scary French-type dancers who we’re sure were part of Christine & The Queens group. The whole event seemed a bit flat. On the way out we bumped into one last salsa dancer. We don’t know her name, but she’s John’s partner, dance partner at least if not life partner. Crazy in a good way.

Back home we had a fish supper each for dinner and prepared to be melted during the night. Wish we’d bought a fan!

Catching up – 17 June 2019

I was up about 7.30 this morning firing up the computer and burning my fingers on my bowl of porridge.

And the reason I was up at that ungodly hour was to get the blogs posted and the photos uploaded to Flickr. By about 4pm it was all sorted. Although I must admit I did stop to take some photos and to have lunch. Also managed to get some essentials, milk and bread from Tesco. Other than that, it was computer-catch-up today.  Scamp was out all day enjoying herself while I was busy beavering away. But now we are sorted. The PoDs have been uploaded for the world to gaze at in admiration. The golden words have been pouring from my keyboard and you lucky readers can now follow us on our travels through Wet Wales. I hope you enjoy the stories and pictures.

Went dancing tonight to Jamie Gal’s mad class where we learned a new move from last week called mysteriously “New Move” there was also the “Walking Shoulder” move. That one trips off the tongue, now, doesn’t it? Finally there was a reprise of an older move called Lotus or Lotis, not sure which. Altogether a confusing evening of salsa. Confusing but fun, though as all his classes are.

<Technospeak>
PoD was a focus stacked shot of a Schoolgirl rose that I pruned today. Oh yes, that’s another thing I did today, I dead-headed some of the roses. So focus stacking is where you take a load of shots of an object with the camera on a tripod. After every shot you change the focus very slightly so you get a series of ‘slices’ of the object. When you’ve got enough (seven in this case), you bundle them all into a piece of clever software (ON1 Photo Raw 2019) and it layers them all together and deletes all the out of focus bits to leave a composite image that looks totally sharp from front to back. I don’t know the exact method for the rebuild, but I believe it’s all done by tiny little men (and women) who snip all the sharp bits out and reassemble them like a very complicated jigsaw puzzle. The main thing is it works. That’s how I made today’s PoD.
</Technospeak>

No plans for tomorrow, but I’m hoping to get out for a while. Out in the open air and away from the computer.

Home Time – 15 June 2019

Time to say our goodbyes and point the Juke’s red nose north.

Up about 7am and got the last of the stuff packed into the juke’s boot. Wished everyone a safe journey home and headed for Aberystwyth one last time go stock up on essentials before we set the sat nav for Home.

Drove through some beautiful countryside I’m told, although I didn’t see much of it. I was two busy watching the grey asphalt run under our tyres. Saw a friendly group of cyclists going our way and a load of others with racing numbers on their bikes going the other way. I didn’t envy them their run through the mountains. Stopped at Chester services and grabbed two clean shots of an Airbus Beluga. It must be the ugliest aircraft ever built. Only had my iPhone to record the shot, but at least I got it. That wasn’t the best shot of the day. PoD went to a shot taken from the house looking up through the garden to Sim taking her last shots of the landscape round the house, and there was blue sky and sunshine too.

The rest of the journey was uneventful and we arrived home in sunshine at around 5pm

Tomorrow will be a lazy day. No driving.

Venison, Dancers and that railway walk again – 14 June 2019

Time to get your feet wet!

JIC and Sim were off into Aberystwyth for supplies so we had the morning to do as we pleased. Heavy rain last night had swollen the burn that runs down the side of the house, that meant it was just screaming out for a slow-shutter series of photos. Dragged the tripod out of the car and got started. About fifty shots later I was done. It was one of the fifty that got PoD. I got my boots wet, but thankfully my feet stayed dry.

Time to start prepping for tonight’s dinner which would be Venison Casserole. We’d brought the slow-cooker with us along with a kilo of venison from the butcher in Muirhead. There would be nine for dinner tonight. Eight for venison with Scamp preferring he non-meat ‘Rats’. Nine in total because Madeleine had invited an old school friend of hers with her husband to spend the day with them and have dinner. That’s why I was prepping the casserole just before lunch.

After the slow cooker was doing its thing, and lunch had been served to Madeleine and her guests, we minions left for one last long walk. This time we were going all the way along the railway before turning up the hill and heading for high ground where we hoped we’d get a good view. We got to the end of the railway and started to turn up the hill when Sim called a halt. There were bullocks and cows in the field we were in and she didn’t know how Vixen would react to them, so we turned round and went all the way down the hill towards a river ford. About three quarters of the way down we heard a dog barking. Again we stopped while an expeditionary force went to investigate. We couldn’t find any sign of dogs, but there were a couple of houses and everyone down here seemed to have dogs of some description, so we aborted that route and headed back along the railway line then up that bloody hill again.

Madeleine was holding court in the kitchen when we got back and after we’d got cleaned up and changed, we finalised the cooking of the dinner while they chatted noisily in the background. Dinner was well received, as well it should have been. Then we found out that we had a lot in common with the two visitors. He, Peter, had been a college lecturer and head of department. Both he and Alison were ballroom and Latin dancers. We shared tales of Fishtails and Turkish Towels. Overall it was a good night. After that it was time to start the packing and we really got most of it done with just enough time left for a last drink with no TV, then it was time for bed and a long drive for all of us the tomorrow.

Another walk for everyone – 13 June 2019

Today the forecast wasn’t too clear, so we went for a shorter walk, closer to home, then yet another for the hardy.

Before we left, Jaime showed us his amazing darts prowess.  He’d managed to get two darts in the outer ring of the bull and the final one in  the bull itself.  Quite astounding from a man who couldn’t get all three darts in the board yesterday!  Some would doubt him and say he’d set it up, but who could be so mean hearted?

JIC and Sim were the nominated drivers and they took all seven of us, eight if you include Vixen a couple of miles along the road to a forest walk along the river. It was a pleasant enough walk without any hills, but with some boggy bits. Vixen seemed to enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate her swimming skills in the river, although the water was fairly rushing down and quite brown. I got a second chance at photographing the red and black insect we’d seen earlier in the week. It turned out to be a froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata). We also came across a little lizard which Scamp got some good photos of and so did I. PoD went to the long lazy drip sliding off a fern frond. I’m thinking it might have been a slug or snail trail that had attracted the rain water. Looked quite remarkable anyway.

Back home for lunch and then JIC, Sim, Sophie and us were off again. This time to investigate the old railway line halfway down the road from the house. It’s a steep decline to the bridge over the railway and I wasn’t looking forward to the climb back up! We walked part of the way along, but as we were cooking tonight, we decided not to go the full stretch of the path and came back early. I was right. The climb back up the road to the house was hard work, but we made it without stopping.

Dinner tonight was Fish and Egg Curry. An unlikely combination that actually works very well.

Aberystwyth without the rain – 12 June 2019

It was a very different place.

JIC, Sim and Sophie were going for a long walk today. We didn’t fancy that. There had been a change of plan and we were making tomorrow’s dinner as well as Friday’s, so we needed some extra supplies. I suggested that we take Madeleine and Jaime in to Aberystwyth with us and go for a walk in what we hoped would be the dry, if not the actual sun, and that’s what we did.

The trio left and entrusted us with the main door key. Soon after that we too left. Aberystwyth was dry when we arrived after meeting a milk tanker on a narrow road with very few passing places. Luckily we met at one of those places or it would have been Juke Soup! These narrow country lanes are not meant for wide cars like the Juke and even less for hulking great milk lorries, but we both came through unscathed. We parked at the exact same place as yesterday and walked along towards the castle.

After investigating the ruins, we wandered past the University and in to town proper. Coffee in Nero, just like yesterday and then walked back along the prom past the statue of the Mary Poppins lady and back to the car. Next stop Morrisons to get the extra food needed for tomorrow’s dinner, then home.

After unloading the car I was deciding whether or not to go for a walk when I got in conversation with the man who owned the house and most of the land on that side of the road and he told me how the house was renovated. I’d thought the beams that held up the ceilings (and provided Jaime and me with so many lumps on our head when we forgot to Duck not Grouse) were Greenheart, but he said they were more likely to be Oak and had come from the masts of ships which had been decommissioned in the 1700s. He’d heard about Cumbersheugh, but had never been there. I told him that’s what I’d have recommended. Interesting talking to someone who has a totally different lifestyle to mine.

Not long after that, the rain started and we went our different ways. Then the trio returned with Vixen ‘covered in ticks’. Poor dog, I know how he feels.

Then it was time for the Trinny Trio to start making dinner which was Stew Chicken and Macaroni Pie. Immediately I smelled it, I remembered eating it in Trinidad. It tasted just as good as it smelled.

Apparently tomorrow morning is to be wet, but the afternoon will be better. We may be going for a walk somewhere not strenuous and without ticks. Good luck with that.