Out on the bike – 30 August 2020

With a little fruit picking too.

One of those mornings when you wake early and can’t get back to sleep, so the best thing to do is get up and have breakfast. That’s what I intended to do, but instead I took breakfast back to bed and read for an hour. After that there were dishes to do (in the dishwasher) and washing to do (in the washing machine). With the machines doing all the grunt work, I settled down to read the news on my phone with a cup of coffee and a catch-up with Scamp still in University-city, St Andrews. Hung out he washing, although the complete absence of any sort of breeze meant it would take the clothes a long time to dry, despite the warm air temperature. Not to worry, I’d plenty of time.

I took the Dewdrop out for a run, but as well as my usual camera in the rucksack, I’d a couple of poly bags to collect some brambles. Now, you may know them as Blackberrys and argue that it’s the plant that’s the Bramble. If that’s the case, then you’re probably not Scottish and definitely not Central Scottish. Here it’s the economic language. Why have two names for what is essentially the same thing. The bushes AND the fruits are Brambles. That’s it settled. Those wee black berries (note the subtle difference that space makes) were in much shorter supply than I’d anticipated and it took me some time to find a good fruit bearing bush, but eventually I managed to pick just over 300g of black fruit.

While I was out I noticed a whole host of swallows congregating on the overhead lines and wondered if it’s almost time for them to make their annual migration to warmer climes.  I also wondered, as I have before, how they know it’s time and if they can sense the change of the seasons much more accurately than we mere humans can.

I’d only been home for about 10 minutes when Scamp arrived. We compared car journeys and weather, then it was time to make dinner. Tonight we were having Veg Chilli with just about everything that wasn’t bolted down going into the pot. After some delicate adjustments to the spicing and the condiments we settled down to a fairly tasty chilli. No recipe was needed or recorded. Sometimes that’s the best way, unless you want to make a second lot sometime in the future, then you’ve to try to rack your brains to remember what went into that great chilli you made ages ago. Maybe one of these days I’ll write it down, but I doubt it.

Watched the Ferraris having a terrible time at the Belgian GP with, maybe, a little snigger. Also watched George Russel escape unscathed from what could have been a very nasty accident when a wheel from another car came bounding towards him at a reported 125mph (how do they know what speed the wheel was travelling at?).
Other than that it was a dire day for Ferrari and a great day for Mercedes and Hamilton in particular.

That was about it apart from sampling another new bottle of gin with the addition of a grapefruit slice to spice things up. PoD was a picture of three cows in a field composed using rule of thirds and PoD because I liked it.

Tomorrow we have no real plans.

Took the bike out – 15 August 2020

Went for a walk in the afternoon, hoping against hope for some sun.

It worked! The sun arrived and blue sky reigned for a while, then the wind got a bit more fierce and blew all the warmth away. It was lovely to look out at, but not so nice to be in it. We went for a walk before the wind arrived. A long walk, to post a card that won’t be picked up until Monday and will probably be delivered before the end of the week, for a birthday that’s tomorrow. Just all at sixes and sevens these days. Normal for me, but a bit unusual for Scamp. Sorry JIC!

With the card safely in the big round red box, we walked down to the shops to get what was needed for today’s dinner. Back home I couldn’t decide what to do with the rest of the day and finally got the track pump out and inflated the Dewdrop’s tyres, dressed appropriately and took it out for a spin. Not a long run, just enough to blow away the cobwebs from me and the bike. Got today’s PoD which is a bunch of early brambles. Only one of them is ripe, but it’s early days yet. We need lots more sun and a little drop more rain. We’ll probably get those two necessities, except the quantities will be reversed. It was pleasantly warm as long as you were out of the wind. Otherwise it was a bit chilly for August.

Tonight’s dinner was Cod and Prawns with Fennel and White Wine. Sounds very posh, but it’s really easy to make. Well within my capabilities.

That’s about it for today. Tomorrow is still a mystery. No plans.

Out for a run – 20 June 2020

We went for petrol today, the first since March!

We went to Tesco. Scamp was scouting around for the best deal in mobile phones and Tesco is usually up there with the best. It took us a long time to see just the extent of the queue to get in and when we did find out how long it was, we went for petrol instead. One of the advantages of being in Lockdown is that we don’t use much petrol. The last time I filled the tank was in March! From Tesco we drove to Calders where there was no queue to get in. Scamp wanted some begonias to fill up some empty tubs and, of course, some compost to help with the filling up. Got what we needed and left to see what the rest of the day offered.

It offered me a run out on the Dewdrop. For Scamp it was a seat in the sun and a Pimms to cool down with. My run took me the backroad to Kirkintilloch, then the main road back to Cumbersheugh. That’s not a road I’ll travel again on a bike if I can avoid it. No lorries, but buses and nutters doing what must have been 80 on something that is really a country road. The back road may have been a bit hilly in places, but it was much safer than the wider roads.

Back home I sat in the sun with Scamp for a while and had a glass or two of soda water and lime. Felt really dehydrated. She’d been working while I was away. There was a pot holding four begonias and another one with a heather plant and another two begonias.

We’d already agreed that we’d have a Golden Bowl dinner tonight, so after I came out of the shower I phoned our order and half an hour later, after a walk to Condorrat we were sitting down to Chicken Chop Suey (Scamp) and Special Chow Mein (Me) and Prawn Crackers to share. Lovely meal, cooked perfectly. My compliments to the chef.

Lovely email from JIC this morning asking if we’d like to join them at a farmhouse they’d booked in the Yorkshire Dales in September. That really did bring smiles to our faces. With a bit of luck, we’ll be going on holiday this year after all.

PoD was taken on that bike ride this afternoon, proving that Cumbersheugh is not always as grim as I sometimes portray it. No sketch yet, an early night for once. My aching bones need the rest.

Well, it’s been another lovely warm day, but tomorrow is forecast to bring wind and rain.  The gardens need it.

Another dull day to start with – 14 June 2020

We’d hoped for a brighter start, but the weather fairies told us to wait and all would be sunshine an light.

Dull milky white sky, but Scamp got an email that put a smile on her face. It seemed that her new tablet case would be delivered today. We waited for a while and still the white cloud persisted. Finally after lunch the parcel arrived and so did the sunshine. Once again the weather fairies had proved that all those expensive computers were worthwhile and that we should have patience and wait for the good weather to appear.

After lunch and after watching Andrew Marr try to antagonise Rishi Sunak without success (He actually answered every question Marr fired at him) we decided what to do with what remained of the day. The walk or cycle debate was solved by me saying I’d take the sunshine as a sign that it would be a good day to cycle. Scamp did some dinner preparation and then relaxed in the garden after some ‘essential gardening’. Rearranged pots to her satisfaction. I went in search of something worth photographing using the Teazer 90. I couldn’t find it to start with, but after searching all the likely places, stated looking in the unlikely, but possible places. Finally found it in a Bergy jacket in a cupboard. Not only that, I thought I’d found my glasses that I’d lost a week ago in the same jacket. That didn’t seem likely, because the jacket had been in that cupboard for at least a month. It appears that I’ve found a pair of glasses that I thought I’d lost around Christmas last year. Still haven’t found their replacement. If its taken me six months to find one pair, and I lost the replacement pair a week ago, does that mean I’ll find them (the replacement pair) somewhere around Christmas 2020? Time scale seems to work, not sure the logic does. Personally I blame the Hortus gin!

Cycled to the waste ground near Drumgrew bridge and watched the bees gathering nectar from the flowers. Found a conducive Small Heath butterfly which sat on a Marguerite flower for enough time for me to focus and grab a few shots of it. Its wings were a bit battered and bruised, but I’m happy that my ID is correct

Back home we had some time sitting in the sun and drinking non-alcoholic Lime cordial and water while the sun slipped down the slope of the afternoon. Dinner was fillet steak from Lidl for me and salmon for Scamp with Jersey Royal potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower. Coffee in the garden afterwards. Tried Amoretto coffee for the first (and last) time. One of Scamp’s favourites. It tastes like I’d imagine liquid marzipan would. Such a waste of good coffee.

Not a bad Sunday after all, especially given the poor start. Tomorrow we have no plans, as yet.

Out for a run – 8 June 2020

On four wheels and then on two.

Scamp wanted some pots for the front garden and some compost. I wanted some Polyfilla and something to kill the bugs that are becoming a pest in the front garden.

When we went out, George was washing their car and cursing the bird crap on it. I gave him my anti-birdcrap spray and told him it worked well if you give it some time to soak through. They have a Toyota Aygo and I’d read good things about it. I asked him what it was like, knowing that he doesn’t drive, but his partner does. He said “It’s ok, but it’s a woman’s car.” Oh dear, wrong thing to say. Scamp was talking to Angela next door and both heads went up at the same time. “What did you just say??!” I think he was outnumbered and knew it. He changed the subject double quick.

We drove to B&Q, but the ‘Q’ in B&Q obviously stands for Queue, because this one stretched all the way along past Halfords. I think there must be a lot of Lockdown DIY fanatics out there, desperate for a chance to redecorate their entire house or, maybe even to build a new one. With all the money they’ll be saving by not going on holiday and all the spare time they have on their hands, why not? We weren’t that desperate, so we went to Calders instead.

Queue there was zero. We walked straight in and I got lumbered with one of their unwheelable, unsteerable and heavy low trolleys. They really are a nightmare, but I knew I needed one of these clumsy behemoths to carry the compost bags safely. We got the pots and compost and a bug spray to kill off whatever it is that’s destroying Scamp’s eryngium buds in the front garden. Loaded up the Juke and off we went home via the new shops. Scamp went to get lunch and I went to get some lock ’n’ lock storage alternatives and some jammy cakes and oh look, a Toblerone fell into my basket! Also noted that Home Bargains were selling the same bug killer for half what we paid. Bummer!

Lugged the compost and stuff in and had lunch. Then organised a photo of the car to draw later. Scamp had started repotting a rose and splitting up a heather plant, so I thought it was high time I was out of there and getting photos. Cycled to the off road path beside the railway and stood, resting my bum on the crossbar of the bike while gazing across to the Two Amigos (the two beech trees that used to be three) and feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Sometimes that’s what you need. Just some quiet time in the sun. No need for foreign holidays and the stress of air travel. Just some time in the sun.

Got back home and made Pesto Pasta for dinner. It was lovely at the time, but the garlic is beginning to make its presence felt now.

PoD was some foxgloves glowing in the sun. Three sketches added to the Lockdown Library on Instagram. All caught up and once this blog is posted I’ll be off to bed.

Tomorrow? Looks like it will be decent for most of the day, but deteriorating in the late afternoon.

Big Al takes charge – 8 May 2020

Bit the bullet and called in some help.

Phoned Wheelcraft this morning and spoke to Big Al. Told him what the problem was and he said to bring the wheel in. Once he’d stripped out the ball bearings and cleaned the grease out he spotted a crack in the hub cup. It’s going to need a new hub and the wheel rebuilt. About £50. It’s a good job I didn’t get the cone off, because I’d never have thought of looking for a crack in the cup. He’s just the same as the last time I was there. Social Distancing? I don’t think he’s been listening to Boris or Nick. Three people working in that pokey wee place. Still, he knows what he’s doing and is the only one I’d trust to repair my wheel, even if it’s going to cost a bit more than I’d expected.

Drove back from Clachan of Campsie in an improving day, although there were a few heavy looking clouds hanging around the Campsie Fells as we drove past them. The rain didn’t come, though and the Juke was driving well. It’s amazing that when you’ve been travelling at walking pace for the last four our five weeks, 40mph seem really fast!

Scamp went out to get some stuff for tonight’s dinner and I walked with her part of the way, then veered off to walk round St Mo’s. I was looking for pine cones, because we’ve found that a cat (?) has been crapping in the her sweet pea box and apparently one of the best preventative measures is to cover the box in pine cones because cats don’t like to walk on them. I suppose they are quite jaggy and would hurt the poor pussy’s feet. Me, I wanted to go for land mines, but Scamp wouldn’t have that as the box is too close to the wall of the house. We’ll see how the pine cones work first.

While I was out I got today’s PoD which is a spider wrapping up a little black fly. I felt sorry for the poor fly, but in another shot you can clearly see the hooked claws on its feet. Possibly a robber fly. There are a lot of them about in the late spring and early summer. Anyway of the two shots I kept out of the 14 I took, this was the best. Not the best of a bad lot, but not far off it.

I made Asparagus with Lemon Spaghetti and Peas for dinner and despite the fact that it was very lemony, I quite enjoyed it.

Tomorrow is Saturday, but that’s just a name now. Don’t have any plans

Wheels within wheels – 7 May 2020

It’s just a wheel after all, what can be difficult.

I’ll tell you what can be difficult. Finding a spanner that actually fits the locknut on the wheel axle. That’s number 1. Finally solved that one by using a shifting spanner. Next problem was finding a spanner that would fit the inner, possibly cone nut. Not only fit, but also be thin enough to slip into the gap between the locknut and the wheel hub. It was at that point that I gave up on repairing the front wheel of the bike. I could find a spanner that fitted in the slot and seemed to be the right size. Unfortunately the nut is 13mm and the only spanner I had that was thin enough was 14mm. Sometimes you just have to take heed of these warnings and say let’s go and look at how much I’d have to pay to Halfords for a new wheel. The answer was that prices start at £65!! For a piece of Halfords trash? I’d hope not. The fact that it’s also a disk brake wheel would inevitably increase that price. I put back the rubber gaiter and the spindle and went to see if Wheelcraft were still in business. No answer on the phone. Likewise the bike shop in Cumbersheugh village. I’ll try again tomorrow. If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll order a cone spanner from Halfords and use that to strip the wheel down. At least then I’ll know if its ball bearings that’s inside or a cassette.

Halfway through the wheel struggle, I took some time out to help Scamp with manoeuvring the plant pots back into place in the front garden. She did the hard work of cutting and trimming the grass, I cleaned the mower. Gave it a spray with WD40 too to hopefully prevent more grass from sticking to the underneath. I planted the peas that I’d been growing in a plug rack, so now I have one full row of little green heads poking through the soil of the raised bed. Tomorrow I’m intending planting another rack of them. Kale will soon be ready for thinning out. Dug up the last of the black kale I planted last year. Green kale still looks good, so it will get a week or so of growing before it too is removed.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk down to the shops to get some ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner. On the way home I saw one of those three wheeler Ski Scooters that you wiggle your way along on and wondered how difficult it would be to ride that home. It was a bit rusty, but I could clean it up. Might be worth a try. Then again, I don’t know who was the last person to use it and if they had washed their hands before they were last playing with it. Probably better not. However, if it’s still there tomorrow …

Didn’t have a PoD, so had a look in the garden, but nothing really inspired me. Finally settled on a wizened tulip that was dropping its petals. It took a bit of delicate balancing to get the two final petals to stay put long enough to get the photos taken. Quite happy with the result. Reminded me of a flamenco dancer. Beautiful colours.

No plans for tomorrow. Scamp booked another slot for Click & Collect at Tesco for the 18th which is just a nice time giving a bit of space from next Monday’s delivery. Never used Click & Collect at Tesco. It will be an adventure, and a short run for the Juke. Must keep the wheels turning.

Out early and on the Dewdrop – 6 May 2020

I’d considered going out yesterday, but realistically it was too cold. Yes, it was warm, hot even in the sun, but the wind was cooling, too cooling. What I did say was that I would go today and I did. The wind had dropped and it was a really enjoyable run, but after only about twelve years, it looks like I need re-grease the front wheel bearings. I’d have thought the bearings would have lasted longer than 12 years 😉 I need to have a serious look at them tomorrow to find out if they can be cleaned and re-greased or if I need to buy a new cassette unit. Still, it was a good run on a warm day and contributed to my daily exercise. Got a PoD too. It turned out to be a Drinker Moth caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria).

Back home after lunch I’d half decided to go out for a walk to get some more photos, but a seat in the sun, joining Scamp at the front door was an even better option so I took that with both hands. Read a few more chapters from my latest book City of Windows. Enjoying it. Saw my first swallows while I was sitting there. It was the screaming sound they make that alerted me. Maybe they were house martins or swifts. I don’t know the difference. Must find out.

When Scamp decided that it was warm enough to take her lounger to the back garden, I finally gave in and took the Oly out for a walk in St Mo’s. It would probably have been better if I’d taken the SD card with me, but luckily there wasn’t much to photograph. Then when I was walking back across the BMX track a damselfly lifted off in front of me. No time to take a photo, even if I’d had an SD card!

By the time I came back empty handed, it was cooling down a bit and we ate our kedgeree inside, but took our tinned peaches in lime jelly outside with us. Coffee outside after that, then out of a clear blue sky a little cloud appeared and obliterated the sun. Then that same cloud grew bigger and didn’t seem to want to leave the sun. That’s when I decided it was getting too cool for comfort. Shades of what’s to come if the weather fairies are to be believed.

That was a good day. The first real run with the Dewdrop this year, my first swallow this year and my first damselfly this year. I’m happy with that.

A seat in the sun, a painting done, a bike to ride and Chinese food besides – 25 April 2020

All done within twelve hours of the hottest day so far.

Started the day by talking to Hazy. Always a good start to the day. I’ve now got instructions for making a Fat Quarter mask. Not like the one Isobel made with 8, yes EIGHT, layers of material. Her daughter asked if she could breath through it, to which she replied “No, I’ve got to take it off to breathe.” Methinks this defeats the purpose of a mask. Found out how everything was going down south and good to know that the ‘Nancy Pretty’ is growing well and starting to flower in foreign climes.

Next thing to do was to test the coffee maker and see if there are any improvements / alterations I can make. Found some interesting hints and tips on the Gaggia site, but nothing that really related to what’s going wrong with mine. Eventually gave up and made a slow cup of coffee that really tasted good. Maybe good coffee just takes a long time to brew.

Next thing on today’s agenda was to find out how to get the autopilot to work on the Garmin 530 navigational computer on the PC12. I got some useful hints and tips on a website last night and today I put them into practise and they seemed to work. The plane followed the flight plan I’d fed into it. One thing ticked off! Time for a seat in the sun just for a chance to catch some of those 20º rays. It was very pleasant sitting there with just a gentle breeze that didn’t seem to know which direction to come from, so came from them all.

Now I needed a painting for yesterday and possibly another for today. I started with a copy of the Bob Ross painting I’d watch him complete yesterday in less than an hour. I set to to repeat the process using acrylic paint on a canvas, although now I suspect he was using oils. Surprisingly, the finished art work passed the critical judgement of my panel, Scamp and Fred. Both agreed it worked, although both suggested different improvements that could be made. I ignored both, of course and just did what I wanted to do. Second drawing was a pencil sketch selfie done looking in the mirror. It’s not bad, but it looks like the artist as a young man. Slightly dishonest, but still there’s a hint of me there.

We thought we might do Golden Bowl for dinner tonight and I pumped up the tyres on the Dewdrop and took it over to Condorrat to find out if it was truly open. Spoke to a young Chinese lady who was checking for customers and they were indeed open for business. Phone orders only and there was just one person waiting for his collection. Cycled home and phoned in the order. It was on the way back that I got today’s PoD. The outdoor gym machines tied up with red and white tape to decree them off limits. A token gesture.

Half an hour later I cycled back to collect our meal. About ten other hopefuls were waiting too, but it wasn’t long before I took my chance and asked for my collection. Paid for it cash, which in itself is unusual these days. Chicken Chop Suey and Fried Rice (x2) was great after having cooked for ourselves these last three or four weeks. The bike ran well, but I think the front wheel bearing needs some attention. It’s either that or the front disk brakes need alignment. Enjoyed the run in the sun.

It seemed as if the next door neighbours on our left were having a party tonight. Scamp reckoned it was someone’s birthday. They’d sneaked in the back way and Angela had let down a ladder so they could climb up into the garden. Isn’t it a shame that people feel the need to go to such lengths just to meet up with family. In a way these restrictions are taking away people’s human rights. If a family want to be together to celebrate a birthday, they should be allowed to do so as long as they realise the risk they are taking. We are moving towards a police state these days and some folk think that’s a good thing. Some folk in power, that is.

We did a wee bit of ballroom practise tonight and then to round the session off, two Salsa tracks to see what we could remember.

Well, the best of the weather looks like it’s past. Next week we run the risk of rain and single digit temperatures. Oh well, it was good while it lasted and it lifted our spirits too. No plans for tomorrow.

Just another Monday – 7 October 2019

You know how it is when you dream a strange dream and the feeling of it stays with you all day? I had that today.

Drove down to Jim Dickson’s tyre emporium and got a couple of new front tyres put on the Juke. Not the best quality Michelins that were on it from new, but hopefully good winter boots. Only time will tell. Just managed to get back for a quick lunch before Gems descended. Sat and talked to Margie about drawing while she showed me her drawings and I showed mine. Both sets were admired by both parties. And that was the morning gone.

Took the newly booted Juke out for a run to get some inspiration for today’s Inktober sketch which was to be “A Stone”. Drove to Auchinstarry and stopped at the flooded quarry. Lots of stone there, but nothing that inspired me. Walked over the bridge that spans the infantile Kelvin and thought about drawing some of the stones that cap the upstand of the bridge. Took some photos, but without really expecting them to be useful. Further on at the edge of the canal I found a short dry stane dyke and took some photos of it, because that would make a decent sketch.

Walked along the towpath and got the first part of PoD when I took a landscape format shot along the canal with a wee lucky of a cyclist coming the other way. Took another for good measure. Walked along a bit further, but the sun was quite low and blinding, so I turned back. Because the sun was much brighter now I took a few shots from the same place as the first one and the colours in the trees were much better now. Sadly no cyclist for a point of interest.

Back home I isolated the cyclist from the earlier shots and placed him in the better landscape shots from later. After a bit of jiggery pokery he blended is well enough, and that is how you make a PoD! Photographers don’t take photos, they make them.

Salsa tonight was a bit hectic and quite good fun. A weird progressive rueda group of moves with a name that escapes me. New Move 3 from three weeks ago and Chop from a couple of years ago at least, probably nearer five! Only one class and that suited me fine.

Watched, or rather, listened to University Challenge tonight, sketched the dry stane dyke and answered a few of the questions at the same time. Who says men can’t multitask?

Dorothy’s funeral tomorrow.