Pizza, roses and new specs

Out at midday to catch up with Val.

Coffee in the usual place and an hour or two of chat, then back to pick up Scamp for a visit to Simpson in Larkhall to pick up new lenses for Scamp and new specs for me. Couldn’t decide on dinner and finally opted for pizza, home made of course.

After making the dough, I knew I had at least an hour to wait for it to prove before I could start, so that was as good an excuse as possible for a seat in the garden under a partly cloudy sky to read and drink a glass of wine. We even got a chance to use our Garden Scotland glass holders. Took some photos of flowers and things in the garden and the Ruby Wedding rose got PoD.

Pizzas were made and consumed and basically that was it for a warm Friday with just the hint of dampness in the air. I did detect a couple of tiny spots of rain on my Kindle, but it didn’t come to anything.

Tomorrow I think we’re going to Glasgow to see the Gay Pride march. It’s been quite an ‘interesting’ show for the last two years. Hopefully the rain will stay away for another day.

Lazers and Needles – 11 July 2018

Physio today.

Up and out early to meet the torturer. Actually he’s a very gentle torturer who tentatively prods and pushes then presses on a spot a bit harder and, as I twist, says with a smile “It hurts there then!” Oh yes, it did! He swiftly diagnosed a damaged medial ligament. Caused by not listening to Michael properly when he was demonstrating the reverse turn. Then it was on to 15 minutes of laser treatment before he started with the needles. I’ve had acupuncture before, but it’s a while since I saw them going in. Oh, they are long! It’s a strange feeling seeing them sink deeper and deeper into my leg. He finished up by giving me two exercises to give a bit more flexibility to my core. I didn’t know I had a core, but apparently I do have quite a stiff core which is also part of my problem. These are exactly the kind of exercises that JIC warns that you do a couple the days before you go back to see the physio, but you tell him you’ve been doing religiously all week and you both know you’re lying! I’m starting out with good intentions.

Got home and it was just a few minutes after 9. Had a coffee, checked my mail, checked Flickr and the inevitable FB then went out to the garden and did a bit of light pruning. Chopped the seed heads off the aquilegia.

Came in to find Scamp washing half a dozen bone handled knives. Old ones. Probably older than me. Probably a wedding present to my mum and dad. Definitely so much better than modern stainless steel ones. The handles weren’t even bone, they were that modern plastic! The only down side is that you can’t put them in the dishwasher. When they were made a dishwasher was called a scullery maid.

While Scamp went off to buy some more flowers for the garden, I grabbed my cameras and drove down to Auchinstarry for a walk along the railway out to Dumbreck Marshes, then back along the canal, still hoping to see that blue flash of the kingfisher. It wasn’t there. It must be on its holidays. What I did see was a little yellow and black striped caterpillar. I knew I’d seen it before and I reckoned it was a moth caterpillar. Tried to review the last photo and got the message “NO CARD”. Luckily I’d only taken a few shots, but the SD card was indeed missing. Still in the slot in the computer, no doubt. Swapped a card out from the Teazer that was in my pocket and I was back in business. A few steps further on I saw another couple of stripy caterpillars and got the shot. When I was checking them back home on the computer, they weren’t all that sharp. The ones I missed would have been pin sharp and full of detail. They were indeed moth caterpillars, that would grow up to be cinnabar moths in a few weeks time.

They didn’t make PoD, the view along the canal did. I liked all the tones and hues of green in the shot.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Rogan Josh from the Spice Tailor series. Easily the best and simplest curry kits in the world. Coupled with basmati rice and flatbreads it made a delicious dinner.

Went to salsa because the physio said that was ok. Danced half the first class and then all the second amid cheers from the Scottish supporters in The Schoolhouse pub magically turned into AWPE (Anyone Who’s Playing England) supporters when Croatia equalised. Probably half of them didn’t know, or care, where Croatia was, just that they had beaten ‘the auld enemy’. I didn’t hear the final cheer, but then the music was quite loud. Doing La Confusion where men become women and followers become leaders. Probably the best named move we’ve ever learned, although some of the technicalities still evade me.  I was really glad of the fans tonight, nothing to do with football, but everything to do with staying cool.  It may be getting close to the end of the heatwave, and rain may soon be on  the horizon, but the temperature is still in the mid twenties and when you’re dancing in an airless atrium of an old school you need the fans to create a circulation of air.

Home with a smile on my face tonight. It was a good day.

Tomorrow? Maybe Dunfermline on the bus.

Larky for glasses – 10 July 2018

Today we were going to the opticians in Larky.

Scamp was going for an eye check and because she felt her contact lenses weren’t quite right. I was going because I thought I needed a new pair of reading glasses. My reason was that the legs had fallen off, the frame was broken and there was only one lens in the frame. Yes, I think I may need new specs.

Thankfully, after inspecting my glasses, the optician agreed that it was probably time I had new glasses. Scamp also needed new lenses, but he also told her that she had the beginnings of a cataract and that although it would take about five years to mature, when it does and when she has the operation, she will be able to see perfectly for the first time ever without lenses or contacts! How amazing is that?

After that revelation, we drove down Clydeside for a light lunch. We ended up at Sandyholm which is now the ubiquitous Dobbies. I hesitantly ordered a pot of peppermint tea for Scamp and, hesitantly, an Americano coffee for me. My record on coffees hasn’t been all that good recently, but I needn’t have worried. The coffee was fine. So was Scamp’s sandwich plus my panini was just as it should be soft and warm. If anyone was needing nails hammered in they’d need to use a hammer instead or go to Craigend Nursery to get an alternative impelling agent. We’d already bought a couple of plants from what looked like a new nursery further along the road, with the unusual name of “The Flower Fairies”. That isn’t the kind of name I’d expect from a plant nursery, certainly not down Clydeside. Still, we had a look at the plants on display at Sandyholm and as usual with a Dobbies franchise, they looked a little worse for wear. Admittedly the weather has been unusually hot these past weeks, but that’s no excuse for not watering the plants you’re hoping to sell.

Drove home through Netherburn. The houses in the scheme had been tarted up, but the occupants still had those low brows and stared in suspicion at a red Juke driving round. You could almost see the brain cells working “That’s a STRANGER”. Drove out in the direction of Craignethan Castle and were surprised at the amount of new houses being built on what used to be the railway. Noted that the primary school was gone leaving only the iron railings. It’s amazing the changes in a place after thirty odd years.

Back home Scamp finished pulling the fruit from the blackcurrant bush and then started pruning it back. I finally watered the Vine Weevil nematodes into anything that looked like it needed it and then finished off with a feed of seaweed fertiliser.

Spoke to JIC tonight and exchanged views on our holidays. Ours was totally different from theirs, but both lots seemed to be satisfactory.

Today’s PoD is Scamp’s sweet peas, the second picking.

Out early tomorrow to see the physio and no ballroom dancing in the afternoon as it was cancelled by Michael. Maybe, just maybe going to salsa at night.

Preparation Day – 6 July 2018

A day of bad coffee, pizzas and surprise visitors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Rock – 28 June 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May leaves us – 31 May 2018

The last day of May and it left us in sunshine.

Up early for the blood-letter to do her worst, then back for breakfast before Scamp left to see the new ‘wean’. With some time to myself I set the A2 drawing pad on the easel and drew the ‘man in the mirror’ again. This time I was more pleased with the result. I got the nose right and the proportions which is what the Andrew Loomis method is supposed to help with, but I adapted rather than adopted the method to make it work for me. I suppose that’s what the tutor was talking about really when she said last night that it’s a generic method that produces a generic head. The trick is to know how to move away from that to the realistic head.

Went off to meet the Auld Guys with a lighter step, knowing that I’d got a foothold on this portrait thing, only to find that the coffee machine in the coffee shop wasn’t working. If the coffee machine stops working, does that just make it a shop then? Maybe, but it wasn’t selling anything I wanted to buy, so I met val and we went to the other Costa at the opposite end of the mall. It was not as mobbed as I thought it would be and we grabbed three seats and I phoned Fred to tell him about the change of venue.  The usual topics for discussion:

  • How we got in this mess (politics)
  • Life was so much simpler and more fun in the ’70s (nostalgia)
  • The cost of living (economics)

I also got some tips on what to see in Rome, Marseilles, Barcelona and Naples.  Not visiting some of these places, but I now know what to see and where.  Finally had to break up after a couple of coffees because of the overbearing rules on parking by Tesco.  That should really have been added to the agenda.

Came home and had just enough  time to grab a camera and get some photos of St Mo’s wildlife before dinner.  It was really muggy with a heavy feel to the air, but the sun was still shining.  Got some photos of a little deer with its nice colourful summer coat.  Loads of dragonflies, but also loads of biting beasties about, so I was quite pleased to come home to make dinner.  Dinner was mushroom burgers with potatoes and broccoli.  The potatoes and broccoli were good!

Tomorrow we are due thunder storms almost all day.  I think we’re going for the messages.

Shorts and Tee Shirt Weather – 7 May 2018

When we woke this morning it was cloudy and dull.

It may have been cloudy and it may have been dull, but the outside temperature was already 14.4ºc. That’s only 0.6º short of official Shorts and Tee Shirt weather as decreed by me.

When I eventually dragged myself away from my book, got showered and dressed, it was definitely shorts and tee shirt time, but I retained my decorum and just wore a shirt and jeans instead. Scamp was already in the garden, watering and feeding the plants and encouraging the sun to shine down on this great land we live in. Even better, it seemed to be working. The sun was breaking through the clouds and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. Cleaned the Gaggia and which has been on my to do list for ages. Sat on the front step with Scamp and grabbed today’s PoD which is the inside of an open tulip.

After a quick trip to Tesco, lunch and a conversation with Hazy. I decided it was time to get the bike out and take it for a run. Truly this was shorts and tee shirt weather, cycling shorts and a short sleeved top. It was a good run, but there wasn’t much for the new lens to get a grip on. Back home and it as salad for dinner and a mighty good one too. Potato salad, mixed leaves, yesterday’s mutton served cold, beetroot and all washed down with a glass of vino collapso. Then a seat in the garden to let it all slide down with the last of the vino to help it on its way. After an hour or so the sun had dipped far enough down to force us back inside.  Nice to have a restful Monday with no salsa as  the STUC building is closed on bank holidays.

All in all, it was a very nice day. Unfortunately it looks like it’s all going downhill from here on in. Never mind, it was a really good summer. We enjoyed both days.

MOT, Perth and Sourdough Friends – 1 May 2018

April wasn’t the only month of early rises. We were up and out early today too.

Scamp’s wee red car was going to the car doctor for its annual checkup today. After we dropped it off, we came home to have breakfast and decide what to do with our free day. We settled on a visit to Perth to get some coffee and tea for me. The drive up north was without event and we got parked easily in the town car park. That’s one of the advantages of going midweek, the parking is so much easier. Walked in to town in the sunshine, but with a chilly wind at our back.

After a Nero coffee to sustain us, we went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went to M&S and I went book hunting. First stop was the Oxfam book shop where I usually find an art book or two. Today it was just the one. A book on watercolour. While I was in the shop my phone buzzed. Thinking it was the garage about the car, I answered. The lady on the other end told that according to their records I’d had an accident and I wasn’t at fault. Was that correct? I told her yes that was correct, but I had been killed in the accident. This seemed to be off her script and she asked me to repeat it. I told her I had been killed and I was now dead. I then told her it was my ghost she was talking to. She then got back on the script and I cut the connection. I realise now I should have gone “Woooooo!” Before I hung up. The woman at the till in the shop gave me a strange look and I explained it was simply an ambulance chaser and I liked to have a little play with them before I hung up. The last time I had the same scripted question from an ambulance chaser, my reply was “No, I was completely to blame, that’s why I’m in prison now. Please don’t call me on this number again I only use it to order my drugs.” The woman behind the till laughed and said “Good for you. I must try that some time.”

From the cheap bookshop I went to the expensive one, Waterstones. There was a reading group just breaking up when I went in and they were sitting right in front of the painting books. I did manage to inveigle my way in to get a look at a couple of the books, but then earwigged a conversation about Sourdough. It was when the woman said “… so when I come down the stairs in the morning I look in the jar [of starter} and say ‘how’s may little babies this morning’”. That’s when I knew she was genuine. I told her I’d baked my first successful sourdough loaf yesterday, but that it was almost completely scoffed by Scamp and me. She was really interested and asked how old my ‘babies’ were and I told her they were just over 14 days old and growing stronger each day. I think she was gratified that other ‘ordinary’ folk took up the cudgels of sourdough baking. I wished her luck with her first loaf and went out to find Scamp.

We went and bought loads of coffee and tea, but on the way Eagle Eyed Scamp saw a sale in a sports shop with some natty looking trainers in the window at a knock down price. She just can’t pass on a bargain, so it was with a shoebox in the bag that we walked down to the coffee shop.

Got to the car park and the phone rang. From the garage this time, to say the car had passed and was ready to collect. Perfect timing. When we were driving out of the car park, there was nobody in the cabin and the notice said that as there was nobody to take the fare, please leave the car park smartly. We didn’t need a second bidding. £3 saved is £3 off the price of Scamp’s smart new trainers.

Lunch in Morrison’s cafe and then back south with the weather worsening with every mile. It rained almost half the way home. Not heavy, just there and no more. Dropped Scamp off to pick up the car and came home.

I’d taken one photo today and I didn’t think it was very interesting but after processing it, it looked not too bad. It was a mosaic in the Main Street of Perth. I don’t remember seeing it before. We rarely look down. We rarely look up. We walk with our eyes open, but we don’t SEE what’s around us. We’re too busy making up to-do lists and worrying about inconsequential things we can’t change. We should be more mindful. Today’s PoD isn’t the mosaic, but it is on Flickr. Today’s PoD is the Weeman. It’s been in my head for about a week now!

Tomorrow is dancing in the afternoon, but for the reasons outlined yesterday, we will forego the pleasure of salsa at night.

Peacocks, Plants and a Swallow – 28 April 2018

Today wasn’t a day for going over the sea to Millport.

When we woke, the sky was clear with just a few clouds. However we just knew it couldn’t last and we were right. An hour later it had clouded over and the temperature was only 10º. We’d planned to go over the sea to Millport, but that wasn’t going to happen today.

I am planning to make a sourdough loaf on Monday. That means I have to prepare the active starter today in order to assemble the dough tomorrow (Sunday) and prove it overnight in its pretty cane basket in the fridge overnight ready for baking on Monday. That’s how it works with sourdough. It’s a three day plan process and you have to think ahead to be ready. That’s why this morning I was making up my active starter, just as the battery in the scales died. So my active starter is a kind of rough and ready one that feels right. As of now, at 11.45 it’s looking good. Tomorrow will be the big test.

The preparation of the AS was just filling in time while we decided what to do with the day. It seemed that east was better than west today so we settled on Dunfermline as a target and that’s where we went. Scamp wanted to go for a walk in the park and I wanted to look for a new book in Waterstones. On-line is cheaper, but it’s nice to just browse the books instead. You can’t really do that on-line, well, you can, but it’s not as much fun. We went to Dunfermline and had a walk in the park and found that there are still peacocks there and that’s where the PoD came from. We also found they’ve revamped the swing park to make it wheelchair friendly which is a great idea. One that more places should adopt. Only cost a little more than a ‘normal’ swing park, but the inclusion aspect is worth a lot more than the cost difference. I applaud you Dunfermline.

We’d half intended having lunch there, but instead we just had a coffee in Nero and settled on a home made curry when we got home. I did get to Waterstones and I did get a book … or two! On the way home we visited a wee garden centre and Scamp bought me a Forsythia from the sale plants and she got a wee alpine. My mum had a Forsythia plant in the garden and I always remembered it. I’ve got my own now.  On the way home I saw my first swallow this year!

Dinner tonight was a Spice Tailor curry and was good, but not nearly as good as the Butter Chicken curry we had the other night from the same company.

Swallow Watch:  This week I saw the first swallow this year and this is week 17.

Tomorrow?  Dancing in Paisley hopefully with dinner flung in for good measure.

A stay at home day – 20 April 2018

A day to get things done. That was the intention today and it worked … sort of.

It was an incredibly late start to the day and we probably lost the best of the day as a result, but The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an exasperatingly gripping story and one you just can’t lay down, especially when you’ve just worked out who’s talking and who they’re talking too. Just under 70% through the story and I still haven’t a clue who’s doing the murdering and even if there IS a murder. I’ll just have to wait another 30% to find out. It’s a bit like The Bone Clocks and a bit like Inception, but with Hercule Poirot type characters on each page.

When I eventually gave up, closed the Kindle and had my shower it was nearly 10.30! So much to do today. Most of it I achieved. Some I shelved for later, that indeterminate place in the future. Some things I hadn’t intended doing, I completed too. But first there had to be coffee!

After coffee I started on the bread making. Bread making used to consist of chucking the ingredients into the mixer, switching it on for 10 minutes. Then halving the dough. One half went in the freezer to be used in the future and half went to prove to make a loaf. If I was organised I’d get the dough made in the morning and the bread ready for the table by dinner time. Not so with Sourdough bread. Last night I made the ‘Leaven’ which is an extra-energetic form of the starter. Today I’d make the dough which has to be turned four times every fifteen minutes for an hour total. See? It’s quite complicated. After that it has to rest (so has the baker) before it’s tucked up in a basket and put in the fridge to sleep and dream of the nice warm oven it’s going into the next day. Three days seems to be the norm for a loaf. This is definitely not ‘fast food’. Anyway, I missed out the faff of turning it four times every fifteen minutes and went straight to dumping it in the fridge. Tomorrow we’ll see if I ever attempt another Sourdough loaf.

In between nursing and nurturing my dough, I washed the car to remove the rook crap from yesterday and even did a bit of planting in the garden. Basil (two kinds), kale and rocket were planted today. Some went out into the mini greenhouse to celebrate its first birthday and the basil went up into the front bedroom window sill to catch some rays and some heat (hopefully).

Dinner tonight was Butter Chicken from the Spice Tailor range. Lovely stuff. After that I struggled with Windows 10 trying to get it to do what it was told. Like a precocious child it did the exact opposite. Macs may be expensive, but they just work. Even the ones running El Capitan just work when compared with Windoze 10. Such a waste of time. In the later afternoon light I got my PoD which is a crocus stamen among some crocus leaves. I liked it right away.

Now I’m trying desperately to get the photos uploaded and the blog written so that I can go to bed the same day I got up. That would be another thing done!

Tomorrow? Thought of going to Embra, but Hibs are playing host to Sellic and that means loads of drunks on the train, so perhaps not. In other words, “Don’t know.”