The Messages – 20 February 2020

Today we planned to go somewhere to stock up on messages.

We drove to Falkirk and just managed to miss seeing a gigantic tractor lose its trailer which was now lying on its side blocking a roundabout at the entrance to Falkirk Hospital. Police and a heavy breakdown truck in attendance trying to keep the roundabout clear. Luckily we were on the other half or the roundabout. Further down the road a fire engine was heading towards the roundabout with blue lights on. I said to Scamp “I think we’ll take a different road home.”

We bought Morrisons today. I quite like Morrisons now. They have a totally different selection from Tesco and they also sell Yorkshire Mixtures sweets. I get a bag about once a month. Today they also had £10 off my whisky of the moment. Lastly they do one of the best Roll ’n’ Sausage for a knock down price. So after we’d bought the shop and I’d headed into a snowstorm that lasted about 5 minutes to fill the Juke’s boot. After that, we had lunch.

Back home and before I sat down, I got a message again to phone the surgery. What was it this time? One of the vampires had phoned in sick with anaemia and needed a quick fix? They’d got the labels wrong again and they wanted to tell me I was pregnant? Neither of the above. It was just to tell me that the doctor had left a prescription for me at reception. They couldn’t tell me what the prescription was for or why the nurse hadn’t mentioned it to me yesterday. I just left and drove up to the health centre. Discovered that the prescription WAS for me and it was because my urine sample had shown a slight infection. It must be something to do with my age and the fact that I had a severe infection last year. They’re being ultra-cautious. Well, better to deal with it than to have the pain I had last time.

Home again and the rain that had been pelting down had stopped, so I took an hour to myself in St Mo’s and managed to catch some late afternoon sun. Favourite shot was of a multi branch Cladonia lichen. That became PoD.

Today’s SoD was to be “Sparkling”. I chose Mrs McQueen’s favourite hat. It’s got lots of sparkly bits and bobs on it, so it fit the bill perfectly. I’m quite impressed with my render of the velvet in it. It seems to hold the creases and folds well.

Tomorrow, for once, we have no plans.

Parrots, Pizza and Reverse – 12 February 2020

A strange mixture, but all in the correct order.

Last full day down south and my how the time has flown. All the things we were going to do and all the places we were going to see. Well we did do some of them and we did see some of them too. Today we were going to take Hazy to the garden centre, the same one Canute and Delia had taken us to, so I knew the route. We had some time to waste first, so I left Scamp to guard the house while I went for a walk in Horton Park.

Like I’ve said earlier, is a well kept park. Lots of little pathways going everywhere. Cycle tracks with obstacles to jump or ride over. Confusing signage which seems to point out five different ways to get to the same place, all in different directions and with different distances, and parrots! Well, actually they are parakeets, green ones that screech their way across the treetops, never coming close to the ground. Found lots of interesting little nicknacks all over the place. Rusted fenceposts that must have been pre-WW1. Little clearings in the woods and more parrots. I’d only been given an hour at most to investigate the woods, less than that once I’d navigated my way round a roundabout. Soon my phone was warning me that I’d used up half my time and it was now time to return to the house.

Managed to drive out the driveway and on to the road without hitting anything. For some reason the traffic was kind to me and allowed me a space to exit on to what is usually a very busy road. Followed the road Canute had taken and quickly found the garden centre without having to cross the standing water that had dogged his journey. Pizza in the garden centre is usually a must, but today it must have been the apprentice chef who was in charge, because when my buzzer announced its arrival from the oven, what I took charge of was a bit thin and scorched. I ate most of it. Scamp’s baked potato looked no better. Bought a few things then wheeled Hazy to the car and found out how to fold the wheelchair neatly into the boot. That’s when the trouble started.

We had to reverse out of the parking space, but every time I though I’d selected reverse, the car moved forward. I checked the gearstick to see if I had to lift the stick to select reverse, or push down on it, but neither of those was available, it was simply a case of push left, then forward … except that didn’t seem to work. Hazy even phoned Neil in Goa to find out if there was a magic word you had to use first, but he just confused me even more by saying that you moved the stick left, but kind of left and back, and then forward. If it had just been Scamp and I in the car I’d have started swearing then. If I had I’d have missed the sight of a beautiful bird, a Red Kite flying up out of a field across the road. I was half watching it the the stick slipped neatly into reverse and we were off again on our way. I was careful not to do anything stupid that necessitated reverse gear again until we arrived home and the passengers were safely in the house. Then I did the unforgivable. I read the manual. It said to use a dynamic movement to select reverse. More a curve left and forward, rather than two discrete movements. It worked like a treat. Now I saw what Neil had been describing. However, after I’d managed to get the car into the position it was in before we left, I got out, locked the door and walked away. I don’t think we’ll bother looking for a Mini as our next car.

PoD is one of the old pre-WW1 fenceposts.
SoD is a rose, using what I remembered from the technique I learned from an old man on a cruise a couple of years ago.

Spent the evening packing everything into two roll along cases one bag and a rucksack. Tomorrow we’re off home.

Dreadful Dancing – 3 February 2020

But before we come to that, it was a windy, wet day, but I posted a letter, solved a problem (perhaps), got rid of some stuff and I got one decent shot.

So, with Gems coming today and no Margie because she’d called off, I grabbed the letter and a bag of old laptop batteries and went out to solve a problem. The problem was the poor mpg on the Juke. I took JIC at his word and checked the tyre pressures. Front 31psi should be 36. Rear 29psi should be 31. The rear ones weren’t a problem, but the front ones certainly were. Crouched in a heavy rain shower and got them all up to the recommended pressures with the automatic pump at the petrol station, because I don’t trust my old pump that plugs into the lighter socket. It seems to be working JIC. Mpg seems to have improved after a very rough and ready check. Will keep you posted.

Next on the list was the letter. I’d recently signed myself fit in mind and body to drive a motor vehicle and was given a new plastic driving licence free of charge on the understanding that I’d cut through the old licence and return it to the DVLA. I cut it up over a week ago and today I posted it away.

The stuff I was getting rid of was a collection of old laptop batteries. Two HP and two Apple batteries. Easy peasy, there is a metal container at the recycling centre where you can drop them off. There’s a load more stuff that needs recycled from the back bedroom, but that can wait until next week.

With that all done, I drove up to Fannyside Moor looking for some inspiration. It came in the form of a bank of cloud lying over the loch. I’ve photographed that tree for many years with many cloudscapes behind it and with varying degrees of success. Today wasn’t one of the best, but it recorded the day.

With that I drove home and started to make dinner. Tonight it was red pasta day. Just a basic sugo with some finely chopped shallots and mushrooms mixed in. Seemed to work well.

Now the dancing. We started with the Saunter Together which I thought we’d mastered, but I was wrong. After a couple of dummy runs we did a passable version of the first part, but the second part still eludes me. Next was Foxtrot and I was confident we’d have that off pat. Again I was wrong. We just kept making mistakes. I got lost. Scamp was determined to turn the opposite way from the one I was trying to turn her in (for once, I was right too!). We just made a pig’s ear of it. Finally the Waltz, and finally we found we could dance that. Not perfectly, but definitely much the best of all tonight’s dances. Only stayed for an hour because our brains were befuddled.

Came home and I sketched tonight’s Burger. I don’t like salad on my burger and I detest mayo on it too, so my burger is a hamburger with a nice piece of melted cheese. If I’m going to have to draw and paint it, I might as well make it the burger I’d actually eat.

So, some successes and some work in progress. Wind seems to have died down a lot after a very stormy night last night. That said, it was sleet that was falling when we were on the way to the dance class tonight.

Tomorrow no real plans. Maybe move the settee round and clear the floor for some Foxtrot practise.

New Shoes – 25 January 2020

Off in to Glasgow for a new pair of dancing shoes.

Drove in to town and got parked directly across from the dance shop. Shoes were a good fit and far more comfortable than the old ones they are sort of replacing. Not replacing as much as sharing the limelight with. The old ones will hopefully be off to Timpson’s for new felt soles and heels. I’m going to ask if they will upgrade the memory on them at the same time, because they don’t seem to be retaining the new moves we’re doing!

The rest of the day was spent with taking photos of fence posts over in St Mo’s. Once again there was very little light and once again I forgot to take a portable LED light, so had to resort to using the torch app on the phone. It gives a good light and it’s directional too, the only thing wrong with it is the green colour cast, that’s why I reduced the photo to monochrome. Must check out the LED lights to see if they have a more neutral colour.

Soon it was time to go through the rigmarole of dressing up in 7.3m of itchy, scratchy woollen cloth. We were off tonight to the Tartan Ball. Finally got dressed and on our way. I think we got stopped at every traffic light after we came off the motorway. Parked and walked along to the manly, dirty Classic Grand. Named by someone with an imagination and a sense of humour.

Missed the first salsa hour, but got there in time for the first ceilidh hour. It was hectic. So many clumsy clots stamping out a rhythm that bore no relation to what the band was playing and with steps that the caller had apparently missed out. Bits of it reminded me of a Dashing White Sergeant we taught in Trinidad a few years ago. Some folk just looked as mystified as Blessed Be!

Enjoyed the second salsa hour of the night but as Scamp reminded me later there were much fewer dancers on the floor for that. Strange for an event that was hosted by Academia de Salsa. It was also strange to see very few folk we knew from classes. Perhaps three dance evenings in two months, in addition to normal Sunday Socials is too much. Maybe it’s because we’re not going to classes anymore and losing touch with the crowd.

After the salsa segment, it was back to ceilidh again and more stamping and ignoring of the steps. We’d had enough and Scamp’s shoes had definitely had more than enough. We drove home along an almost empty motorway, most people were still heading in to Glasgow, and arrived home at just after midnight.

As you will have gathered this is a catch-up. Tomorrow (actually today), we’re hoping to practise our waltz and foxtrot for Monday’s class.

Mirror Mirror on the wall – 24 January 2020

Well, not on the wall yet, but hopefully quite soon.

Today the red Juke took us to Falkirk to look for a shaving mirror for me. Scamp was determined to replace the one she’d bought me for Christmas from JL. I’ve tried to tell her it just needs a wee bit of glue to secure the base, but she won’t listen. It’s not the best designed, or manufactured bit of kit I’ve ever seen, but it didn’t cost the earth either and apart from the demountable base, it does work well. We couldn’t see any better mirrors in the two shops we were in, but we did see some large room mirrors which we’d been discussing. Incredible variety of styles and bling and incredible prices to match. I think we’ve narrowed down the range to a few front runners now.

After the retail park, we went to Morrisons for some essentials and something for tonight’s dinner. Oh yes, and lunch. Lunch turned out to be a bowl of chips for Scamp and a roll ’n’ sausage for me. Fairly standard fare, but cheap and cheerful. While we were there I got a text from the dance shop to say that my shoes were in and the replacement soles for the old ones were there too. We considered driving over after lunch, but I eventually decided that the traffic would be too heavy on a Friday about 3.30pm and also I didn’t have a PoD and I might just have enough time to grab one in St Mo’s when we got back. We’ll visit the dance shop tomorrow, all being well.

I did get a few potential shots, but the only one that worked well was another magpie shot. Not just one bird, four. This is a case where four in a bush is much better than one in the hand. You wouldn’t want a magpie on your hand. If you did have one, you’d need to count your fingers carefully afterwards! However, the birds in the tree was my PoD.

Made a veggie chilli from the Bosh book tonight. Very time consuming to make and not all that tasty when it was finished. We couldn’t quite put our fingers on the problem, but there was a sour taste somewhere in the sauce. I don’t think I’ll bother making it again.

So, we’re hoping to visit the dance shop tomorrow. Other than that, we have no plans.

Out into the wide white yonder – 21 January 2020

Woke up to white sky. No texture in the sky, just white.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and she gave us a glowing review of Cyrano de Bergerac with James McAvoy, as well as what’s going on down London way. After that we thought we would go out for a spot of lunch. I suggested Oakwood Garden Centre, but Scamp veto’d that because she though it was too far on such a dull day. I agreed. She suggested the wee coffee shop at Clachan of Campsie. That was about half the distance and would suit the purpose of an hour or so out and the chance of a couple of photos. Sounded like a plan, and I decided to give the “big dog” i.e. the Nikon a treat and take it out for walkies.

First we drove to Kilsyth to try out the fish shop there. We’d hear it was worth visiting. It seemed like it, but we’ll be able to tell you better tomorrow once we’ve actually eaten the fish. Then it was on to Clachan of Campsie. Yes, JIC, the bike shop is still there, unfortunately the wee coffee shop was closed and it didn’t look as if it had been open for some time. Maybe it was just closed for the winter season, although it was often busy with walkers and cyclists all through the year. It didn’t matter the reason, we weren’t getting any coffee today! Worse still, the clouds were halfway down the hillside, so there was no chance of a photo down the valley from the Crow Road carpark. Double Bummer! Drove home.

Just to get us out for a walk, we went down to the shops for milk and of course came back with all sorts of things, like duck eggs, yoghurt and teacakes. The teacakes we toasted when we got home and that cheered us up. While I was waiting for them to brown, I spotted the starlings mobbing round the suet candle on the tree in the garden. Grabbed the Nikon and fixed on the 300mm lens. When I got back they had all gone. The culprit, a magpie, was sitting on the fence with a look that said “Who? Me?” I took his photo and liked it when it had been turned into a mono shot. That’s the PoD.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Curry. New recipe that I’ll edit and use again. Basically you chop up the chicken as usual and then add a half a tablespoon each of a selection of spices and a tablespoon of white wine vinegar. Mix it up with your hands, and fry the chicken then add half a tin of tomatoes, some chopped up chilli and some water, bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour. Serve with rice and for us, flatbread! Recipe here:

Worth a try.

That’s it for today. Weather looks similar tomorrow, so we’ll have to wait and see how we feel about going out.

Another ‘out early’ day

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Out before 11? Oh yes – 16 January 2020

Not only was I out before 11am, I was out and back with a card full of photos by 11 today.

The sun was up and so was I. I wasn’t going to waste good light like I did yesterday. Today I was going out to grab some photons and imprison them in an SD card. By the time I was actually going out, I could sense that the light was already fading, but undeterred I walked over the boardwalk and into the trees. I’d nothing really in my head for a photo, but as usual, I found some things. Mostly they were macro things. Wee things you pass by without thinking, but sometimes you have to stop and look and visualise what you could turn them into. That’s how I got today’s PoD. It’s really just an old rotting fence post with some barbed wire wound round it. I liked the different textures in the shot, but light was low, so I used the torch on my phone to give me some much needed light. Later when I was scanning the shots on the computer I realised the torch light had created a green cast. It was fairly easy to remove, but in the process it accentuated the reds in the lichen growing on the stump and also the rust on the wire. That’s what made it PoD. I could have turned it into a monochrome image, my first thought, but then I’d have missed those glorious colours.

Back home and after a morning coffee – much better today Hazy, we planned the rest of the day. I wanted a new pair of dance shoes. I’d say I needed a new pair of dance shoes, but ‘wanted’ is nearer the truth. I ‘need’ to get my old shoes re-soled, but another pair of dance shoes wouldn’t go amiss. Of course, Scamp is aways on the lookout for a new pair of sparkly dance shoes. Drove to the shop following the satnav and found it without any problem. They had the shoes I wanted, but not in my size. Bummer. Worse than that, they were sold out of gents shoe soles too! Double Bummer. The lady took my name and number and said she’d contact me when the shoes came back in to stock, possibly next week. Meanwhile Scamp had chosen one pair for herself and was considering another pair. Eventually she decided to limit herself to just the one pair, with the option to think about the other pair as a possible purchase when I was going to get mine. Devious.

We decided to go for lunch to Frankie & Benny’s for lunch. Since I was denied my dance shoes, I suggested we go to the Bishopbriggs site, where I could peruse the ‘toys’ in Currys after lunch. I’m not looking for anything in particular, but everything in general, usually the best time to window shop. That’s what we did. The satnav again did the heavy lifting and found us a way across a gloomy and dull Glasgow to the retail park. Fish ’n’ Chips for Scamp and Cheese Burger (No Mayo) for me. Lovely. By the time we were coming out, the rain had started. Saw lots of ‘toys’ in Currys, but nothing that was very interesting. Drove home through the gloom and the rain.

There was one more photo taken today and that was the new and updated Christmas Tree fairy. She’s been in need of a makeover for many years and this year she got her wish. New underskirt. Newly washed (twice washed) dress and a new pair of sparkly wings. Most of the work was down to Scamp. Before she goes back in her box and into the loft until next year it seemed like a good idea to give her a photoshoot. I do believe she’s smiling.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere. It will be cold, but clear for most of the day according to the weather people. We’ll wait and see.

The Secret Garden – 10 January 2020

Today we were heading south to East Kilbride.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hooray the sun is working today – 8 January 2020

A lovely change from yesterday. The sun was shining.

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

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

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

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

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