Happy Birthday JIC – 16 August 2018

Today dawned bright and clear today on JIC’s birthday, but the weather app said rain later.

With the foregoing in mind, I thought I should get the Dewdrop out and get some more practise in slipping the shoes into the SPDs. I had an appointment with the physio at 1pm, so I decided that it would be an morning run while Scamp made some Blackcurrant Jam, with a pot destined for the local garden show.

The second, trial wasn’t quite as successful as the previous. The right shoe clipped in perfectly and consistently. The left was a hit and a miss. More adjustment needed there I think. It might have been a good idea to take an adjustment spanner with me, but for the second time, I forgot. With that said, the shoes felt secure once they had been fitted into the clips and the big success is that I didn’t fall off this time!

Back home, a quick shower and I was off to see the physio. I was sure he’d sign me off, but he applied his laser again, twice! Then he stabbed five needles into my knee and had the cheek to come back about fifteen minutes later and twiddle them around to bring me even more twinges. However, again he wants to leave me for a few weeks before he sees me again and agrees that it’s an ‘Improving Situation’. More cycling recommended in the meantime to strengthen my thigh muscles.  Found the predicted rain when I left the gym and went up to the town centre, but when I arrived home the streets were dry.

Scamp was going out tonight with Isobel to an organ recital and hymn singing in the Village church. I dropped her off at Isobel’s and drove back to feed the birds and hopefully listen to a radio 4 prog I’d recorded (about the Wigtown Bookseller, Hazy). I was just finishing the bird’s meal when my phone rang. It was Scamp to tell me that the concert was next week, not tonight and could I please come and pick her up. No hurry though, because she was having coffee with Isobel.

Drove down to see Isobel’s compact and bijou garden and admire the quality and quantity of plants she has in it. Also to be amazed by her knowledge of the names and varieties of the plants. Some people just have that ability to remember all those Latin names. I know a few, but only a few.

Well, at least I could have a drink when we got back so I had a well-deserved G ’n’ T for my troubles.

Today’s PoD is the leaves on a strawberry plant in the garden. Changing colour already.

Tomorrow? Well on the cycling trip this morning I noticed that there were a few brambles ready for picking, so if it’s dry tomorrow I may go and do that.

All I can say about today is “It’s not great” – 12 August 2018

A slight case of lack of concentration.

I offered to run the visitors to the train station to get the one-an-hour train to Embra. I was too busy talking and I took the wrong turning, or it could be that the Juke thought I was going to Auchinstarry, my usual turn-off at the roundabout. Anyway, for whatever reason I took turn-off three instead of turn-off four. I could have turned around after 100 metres or so, but decided to carry on and detour through Croy because we had plenty of time. Bad decision, because just after turning in to Croy, we got a ROAD CLOSED sign. Nothing for it but to do a 180º turn and head back to the roundabout and take the correct turning. Now the time was ticking away and if I didn’t get there on time it was an hour wait for the next train. Luckily I got there in time and the visitors got their train to Embra.

Came home, picked up Scamp and off we went to the station again. This time I took the correct exit from the roundabout and we headed off in the opposite direction to the visitors. To Glasgow to see the Men’s Road Race for the European Championships with the hope that the rain that had been falling since we woke up would stop. Got the train and walked out of the station into the deluge and grabbed some shots right away. Walked around the corner and caught some more action at a corner. Corners are always good for cycle action.

<Technospeak>
With some photos in the bag we walked down to Argyle Street because I wanted to change my ideas for more interesting photos. No longer fast shutter speeds and the inevitable high ISO on a dull, overcast day like today. I chose a slow shutter speed to balance a fairly small aperture in manual exposure mode and kept the ISO low as well. That gave me the basis of the PoD that is at the top. If all of the above mean nothing to you, then just see it as a way of getting that blurred effect. Used Lightroom and ON1 to accentuate the blur and saturation of the colours. I think it worked.
</Technospeak>

We walked through the Merchant City after that, but the rain was becoming heavier as we walked and we decided enough was enough. We went for coffee in the usual Queen Street Nero and then after a few more photos we crossed the road race circuit for the last time and went for the train home. Inevitably we just missed the train. On a Sunday there are only two trains an hour to Cumbersheugh, both leaving within 15 minutes of each other, leaving a gap of 45mins to the next pair. It was the second one we’d missed. I moaned about the stupidity of Scotrail’s timetabling all the way back to watch more cycling and laconic Scamp agreed “It’s not great”. That’s about as severe as Scamp’s comments get. We got one of the new extra-long electric trains back home.

JIC texted to say they were on the 5.30pm train from Embra and I drove down to collect them. This time I took the correct turn at the roundabout! On the way home some eejit in a silver Audi bumped into me at a roundabout and sped off without a second thought. Wee bump to the front wing and another scrape to paint over. Luckily the dash cam got a good record of the event. I’ve reported it to the polis, but I don’t see them doing anything about it. Nobody was hurt and no real damage done. Don’t think it’s worth claiming on my insurance as I’d end up paying more in excess and my premium would just increase next year. That’s just one of the joys of motoring today.

Tomorrow looks not as bad as today. The visitors may go in to Glasgow. I’ve got to go to fill in the forms for the polis. Oh joy of joys.

Stirling – 11 August 2018

The city with something for everyone.

While JIC, Sim and Steffi were visiting Stirling Castle, we too, or we two, were also in the town. It’ll never be a city to me. It’s just a jumped up town with a good curry shop and an interesting art gallery, oh yes, and a Waterstones and a Nero. The rest I can do without quite happily. Glasgow? It’s a city. Embra is a city too, Even Aberdeen is a city covered in granite and seagulls, but Stirling is just a decent sized town. Our reason for visiting today was to have lunch in that good curry shop. A few years ago it was on a downward slope, but it seems to have got its act together again and is now back on the up. New seating and maybe a bit less scruffy interior, but thankfully they decided to keep the menu as it was. Wise people. Scamp’s Veg Pakora followed by Veg Dhansak seemed to satisfy the lady and although my Haggis Pakora was a bit heavy and my Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna was a bit too spicy, it was deliciously sweet and full of flavour, so I won’t complain. It seems, like I said, that they are back on track. The foodies said so!

Had a look in the Art Gallery and appraised the offerings there. Some were just too twee and rejected out of hand, but a couple of others were in the category or “I’d but that if my lottery ticket came up”. Not having bought a lottery ticket, that purchase was unlikely, but the artist, Julian Mason, really had worked out how to paint wet water. As if I could do anything like that.

When we’d parked we couldn’t help but notice the number of Italian motorhomes that seemed to have taken over the carpark. They were still there when we were going home. Scamp thought they were something to do with the European Championships which finish tomorrow. It’s as likely an explanation as any.

Not long after we got home, the other three arrived back from Stirling Castle and Doune Castle where Steffi had re-encacted the Quest for the Holy Grail, complete with coconut shells, as so many have done in the past I seem to remember.

I drove them all in to Glasgow to meet ’The Boys’, Andy and Chris, with respective wives. We’re not expecting them back until late when old folks like us will be tucked up in bed. On the way back I got some ice cream for Scamp and me from the cafe in Muirhead. Also got some Oddfellows sweeties and a stick of Gin ’n’ Tonic rock which tasted neither of Gin, nor of Tonic. Disappointing. Oddfellows are half finished though!

Today’s PoD is Scamp’s little rose bush she has grown from seed. It’s Sunday name is Little Gem, but it’s always been called Rosie and it flowers continuously all summer. It deserves its place as PoD.

Tomorrow the visitors may be going to Embra and we may go to Glasgow. It all depends on the weather.

What you need is a dirty big spanner – 4 August 2018

Never a truer word spoken. If only I could get a dirty big spanner!

Both of us were loathe to get out of bed this morning. Both of us reading books that were totally unputdownable. Finally we sort of drew lots to decide who would go for a shower first. I chose to be the first to close the book.

With the plans for the day in ruins, we settled on Perf as Glasgow would be overrun with folk wanting to go to the Championships and Embra was winding itself up tight for the festival but the east was looking better than the west weatherwise. Also, I wanted some (more) coffee – you can never have too much coffee, can you JIC? Finally, I knew there was a good bike shop where I was sure I could get a pedal spanner. Perf it was then.

We drove through drizzle which turned to intermittent rain which turned to heavy and then torrential rain until we got to Gleneagles where the rain mysteriously stopped and blue sky opened out above us. The sun was shining and, although there were heavy black clouds in the rear view mirror, there was brightness ahead. We’d made the right decision.

Parked in our usual carpark which used to be an expensive NCP until they sold out to the Perf council who applied sensible charges. Not something that happens every day and not something that will ever happen to NLC. We walked in to the town and through the ‘farmers market’. I had a look in the Oxfam bookshop, but there wasn’t much to enthral me and the two prats who seemed to be in charge were too busy boosting each others egos with pompous reviews of films they’d seen and became so irritating I left empty handed.

Scamp suggested lunch in Cafe Tabou and we got a table without any bother, mainly because it was quite early. I’d forgotten just how good the food is there, but Salad du Chef and Traditional Cassoulet reminded me. Just simple good food well cooked and presented. Ok, it’s not quite so simple if you have to cook it yourself, but it appears to be simple food and that’s the clever part. We left feeling that we’d both eaten well. Scamp’s was Seafood Risotto followed by Coley en Croute.

Walked down to cycle shop, but he didn’t have a pedal spanner in stock. Typical. On to The Bean Shop, only to find that they’d run out of the coffee beans I was coming to buy. They’d have them in by Thursday or definitely by Friday. Disappointment number three. We went down to the river and stood on the overhanging vantage point to look down on the river. Just like being on a ship. The water was very low, even the rain we’ve had for the last week wasn’t enough to raise the water level by much. Turned and headed for the carpark although I knew there was another bike shop I could try near the carpark. Again, they didn’t have the spanner. This was beginning to sound a bit repetitive. However one of the mechanics gave me some interesting tips, like soak the joint in Coke! Apparently the phosphoric acid in Coke will destroy the aluminium oxide that causes the two metals to seize! Gave up and headed for home and Halfords.

The sun was still shining and it shone all the way to Cumbersheugh. Stopped at Halfords and yes, they did have a pedal spanner. It looked like a toy one. The handle wasn’t much bigger than the one I’d used last night. I said I wanted a ‘real’ one and he admitted that it might not be any good, then he showed me the one the bike mechanics used, but they don’t sell that one any more. Typical. It was a real one. I left empty handed for the fifth time that day.

I decided that it was worth driving in to Glasgow to see if Dales was open. Scamp agreed. Drove in parked and almost immediately found exactly what I was looking for. A sensible looking spanner with a long handle to give a decent bit of leverage and for a sensible price. Bought it, said thank you and headed home to sort that bike out!

Removed both wheels. Jammed the left crank in the workmate and tried that dirty big spanner. After the second try the white flag went up from the pedal and the bolt turned. Success at last. Both the mechanics in Perf had agreed that what was needed was a dirty big spanner. They were right. Now, before I put the SPDs on, I’m going to grease the threads well, so I don’t have to go through that rigmarole again.

PoD today was a macro shot of a rose. According to Scamp its name is Troika. It has beautiful colours and even more beautiful perfume.

Tomorrow I think we may be getting Public Transport in to Glasgow to see a cycle race and then I’m hopefully going to bolt the cleats on to my new cycle shoes, bolt the new SPDs in place with the dirty big spanner and then go for a run on my carefully washed and cleaned Dewdrop.

Seized! – 3 August 2018

Right is right except when it’s wrong.

The Right in question is the right side pedal on my Dewdrop. The saying ‘Right is Right’ means the the right side pedal has a right handed thread and is always tightened to the right, i.e. clockwise. The left pedal has a left handed thread and is tightened anti-clockwise. So, to slacken or remove a left pedal you turn it to the right. That’s what I did tonight and after a couple of judicious taps with a hammer on the spanner, it slackened nicely. The right pedal was the problem, and continues to be the problem. Nothing I did would convince the pedal to slacken. It’s seized solid. I tapped the spanner lightly, heavily, I swore at it mildly, then loudly. I heated1 up the crank with a blowtorch. I soaked it in WD40 and still it wouldn’t move. In fact it has now distorted the spanner so I’m leaving it soaking and sulking in WD40 until tomorrow when hostilities will recommence, once I get a new spanner. Oh yes, and before you ask JIC, I was trying to turn it the correct way, anti-clockwise!

From the above you will have gathered that I got a pair of cycling shoes and a pair of Shimano SPD pedals in, and I hate to say this, Decathlon today. Prices were as good as anywhere else and I got to try on the shoes which is one big benefit of going to an actual rather than a virtual shop. We also went to IKEA to buy some new cutlery … and a pillow for Scamp and a toilet brush and an egg slicer. Quite a random selection. I think we did really well to come home with so little! We tried to go for coffee afterwards, but the sat nav got lost. It told us to turn left at a junction that would have taken us into a Holiday Inn, then switched off. Perhaps it thought we needed the holiday.

Went out before dinner, which was the rest of yesterday’s Aloo Saag, to get some photos in St Mo’s. I took a couple of landscapes to play with in ON1 but the main subject today was ‘beasties’ as Scamp calls them or insects as the rest of us see them. Mainly wasps and hover flies today. Lots of both around hover flies won, as you can see from PoD.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. Glasgow will be jumping with these European Championships on, so we’ll probably point ourselves in a different direction, but where is anyone’s guess!


  1. Cranks are usually an aluminium alloy and aluminium expands more with heat than the steel of the pedal axle this should break the seal that has been formed between the two without melting the aluminium ;-) 

Dancin’ and Meltin’ – 2 August 2018

Raindrops keep falling …

The garden was a wonderland this morning. The drizzle and smirr we had last night had resulted in lots of little beads of water on all the plants. I tried both macro lenses on them, but surprisingly, it was the little 30mm on the Oly that produced the PoD. Raindrops on a sweet pea. With a photo in the bag, next on the agenda was dancin’.

We left early, not knowing just how busy Glasgow would be with the start of the European Championships. Traffic was light, but we had to park two floors higher than usual in the carpark and that sort of told us that the town was indeed busy. Lots of guards round George Square, looking officious, scanning people and opening their bags. Yes, I know they have to be ultra careful these days, but this was the first real day and I think they just wanted to use those scanners! Some crap bands were belting out noise from the covered stage that had been set up in the square. People I’d never heard of, although that is no indication of their fame. At least the rain had held off.

We got down to the pub, which hosts the dance class, a bit early because of our early start.  The door was locked which is unusual. A class sounded as if it was in full swing though, the previous class is an advanced jive class, one man and loads of women. We decided we’d go for a walk round the block as we were a wee bit early. Arrived back just a bit before starting time and managed to get in because one of the barmen was coming out. Nobody was dancing, then the other two couples we share the class with started in on the waltz. That’s when we realised that the class was starting at 1pm, not 1.30 as usual. Oops, we were late! Soon got into the waltz and I almost mastered the turn for the second promenade. I think I would have mastered it if it wasn’t for the other two couples standing arguing right in the dancing line. Some people are so thoughtless. After we’ve finished our line, or more likely aborted it, we clear out of the dancing space, but these other couples don’t bother and walk right in front of you. One day soon there will be a collision and there will be no dash cam to record it.

After the waltz we had a short go at ballroom Tango. It’s about as much like Argentinian Tango as Ballroom Salsa is like Cuban. It was still difficult enough for me.
Then it was jive time and we were attempting to master the first six spins. Almost did it too with a little help from Scamp telling me what spin came next. Still a bit of practise needed there. The place by this time was melting. Sweat was dripping from all of us. I think they must have had the heating turned up.

Cup of coffee in Nero to cool down, then back home. Dinner was Aloo Saag from the Bosh book and although it is fiddly to make, it tastes very authentic. Best of all, there’s enough for tomorrow too.

That was about it. The rain that threatened all day finally arrived just about 4pm and outstayed its welcome. It’s becoming a bit of a pain now. Enough rain!  Go and play somewhere else. We’ll tell you when we need you again.

Tomorrow? Maybe the dreaded Decathlon at Braehead. Worse still, it may also include a visit to IKEA!

Another wet day – 1 August 2018

We shouldn’t complain, should we.

Another day that dawned fairly bright and fairly dry, but deteriorated gradually all through the morning and then in the afternoon started a steep decline.

In spite of the weather, or maybe because of it, I decided that today wasn’t going to be a macro day or a flower day. Every month I make a screensaver of the last month’s PoDs and when I previewed the July screensaver it appeared to be totally composed of those beastie and flowery photos. No mono. No landscapes, few cityscapes and no faces. That, I’m sure is what made me want to shoot a landscape (or two) today.

With that in mind, I drove up to Fannyside, intending to get some landscape shots in the dull weather, then the rain came on, but that might just add a bit of moodiness to the images, I thought. That’s when I saw the burned out van. Hmm. I’d fitted a wide angle lens to the Nikon and that van just screamed out for wide angle, moody sky and monochrome. Unfortunately, the sky was anything but moody. It was milk bottle white behind the van. Turn through 90º and the sky was a bit more interesting, so concentrate on getting a good shot of the van and then composite the sky in later. Not PS this time, but ON1. I’d seen it done the other night on a YouTube video. It wasn’t quite as easy as it appeared (is it ever?), but I managed it without the aid of Photoshop. Quite liked the finished effect.

By the time I was coming home the rain was ramping up, or thumping down if you prefer it. I don’t think that would have added anything to the photo. I liked it as it was. Nice to see some mono and landscape squirting out of Lightroom for a change.

I danced salsa for two hours tonight and enjoyed most of it. Especially because my knee wasn’t hurting as bad as last week. I think it may be on the mend, but the big test will be tomorrow. Horrendous traffic going in 24 minutes allegedly between Junction 13 and Charing Cross (normally 6 minutes). Although there was an accident after Junction 16, most of the holdup seemed to be folk travelling in to Glasgow to see the opening of the European Championships. I hope they weren’t expecting something like the Olympic Games. This is Glasgow. Two bottles of fizzy water and half a dozen sparklers, that’s all you’ll get. Anyway, we managed to slip into the moving part of the queue on the motorway without causing any problems and made Charing Cross in record time.

Tomorrow we’re dancing ballroom and jive or jive and ballroom, who knows at 1pm. Unless we get a text before then to ask if he can change it to 5.30am on Saturday. Don’t laugh, it’s well within the bounds of possibility.

Goodbye July – 31 July 2018

Not Flaming June, but Toasty July.

It’s certainly been a July to remember with temperatures into and above the mid twenties here in relatively cool Scotland. Hints of hosepipe bans and serious warnings of the dangers of the “Taps Aff” culture. When will we see your likes again?

After scanning Facebook and the InterWeb, we decided that the fish shop in Linlithgow was indeed still in business and had been closed the last time we went because they were on holiday. We were wrong. The shop was closed as we drove past unless they have changed their window display to soft furnishings to dissuade some customers and so avoid crowding out the shop. Disappointed, we drove as far as the Coop carpark, squeezed our way past the abandoned cars and went to Aldi instead. Came home and checked again on FB and on the InterWeb and although it does say that the shop is still there, it makes no mention of soft furnishings. Maybe it’s just a front.

After lunch Scamp started ‘sorting out’ another cupboard while I just mooched around. The weather had taken a down turn since the morning and it now looked like rain. My weather app said rain was likely at 2.15 and when Scamp took a break from her reorganisation at 2.25 she reported that it was indeed raining. Amazingly accurate, but ultimately disappointing. No cycling today.

Today’s PoD nearly never appeared. Sometimes I think I’m only taking photos to complete the 365 for that day. Sometimes that IS the case. That’s not the way photography should be. Maybe I need a break from it. Anyway, today’s PoD was one I’d been considering for a week or so. The ‘Spiny Alien’ is actually an early chestnut I found near the People’s Palace in Glasgow.
<Technospeak>
The photo was taken with my new macro lens and this lens doesn’t have enough depth of field (DOF) to cover both the chestnut and the minifig, so the best way to achieve the full depth is to take two photos. One focusing on the chestnut and the other focusing on the minifig. Then combine the two in Photoshop. Unfortunately it’s really difficult to get them both into the old version of PS I have. I was watching an ON1 video of a similar problem last week and used that method to fix this one. It worked perfectly mainly because the camera was firmly fixed on a tripod for both shots, so alignment wasn’t an issue. That pleased me.
</Technospeak>

Tomorrow we have no dancing in the afternoon, but we are still dancing at night. Unless Michael changes it again tomorrow morning. He’s already changed it from Friday to Thursday. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow.

Big Boots To Fill – 30 July 2018

I wanted to take my bike out today, but off-road, not on-road.

I’d seen a bloke down at Auchinstarry with a Juke, casually sliding his mountain bike into the car once the back seats had been folded down. I knew the car had a good big boot, but the secret to the ease with which he could carry his bike is that once the seats are folded down, the raised boot deck provides a flat surface from the rear of the car to the back of the front seats. If he could do it, so could I. I forgot that he had a mountain bike and I have a hybrid. His wheels are just that bit smaller than mine. That meant I had to remove my front wheel to make the bike fit, but fit it did. I also had to cover the folded down back seats with a sheet of heavy duty polythene that I found up in the loft. The main thing is it worked.

Cycled along the railway path almost to Twechar, then took a right turn and cycled along a rough track through some fairly recently planted trees out almost to Queenzieburn and from there back to Twechar. From there I went along the canal to the steps to Shiva Pend which is a tunnel under the Forth & Clyde canal to allow a burn to run down to join the River Kelvin. It’s a strange wee place which was built apparently in the 18th century. Wandered around there watching tiny wee trout trying to catch flies while I was trying to take some photos. Climbed back up to the canal and realised that it was beginning to rain. Down at the pend the overhanging trees had given some shelter, so I hadn’t noticed the rain. I decided that would do for today and headed back to Auchinstarry along the canal and passed four blokes in two canoes. Crossed over at the Plantation where I got today’s PoD which is a Painted Lady butterfly sunning itself on the warm stones. I thought I’d avoided the rain, but then it came on with a vengeance and I got back to the car just before I got completely soaked. Bike dismantled and back in the car then up the road.

Scamp made dinner tonight while I got ready to go to salsa. Salsa was all twists and turns and awkward moves which didn’t do my poor wee knee any good, but I survived and it feels a bit better tonight. Tonight’s move was called Venezuela. Jaime would approve.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but the weather looks wetter than today.

A day out in the Clacks – 16 July 2018

Nothing to do with communication systems in the Diskworld

A Monday without Gems and also without Salsa is a strange thing, but so it was today. We were going out to explore. I thought, as it was a fairly bright sunny day we should go for a walk and suggested Gartmorn Dam near Alloa.

It’s well signposted almost from the Clacks (Clackmannanshire) bridge but when you turn off through a housing scheme, not an estate, a scheme – it’s different. When you turn off you have to run the gauntlet of the slalom through the cars and vans parked both sides of the road, with the added interest of the speed bumps. It would appear that the locals are no fans of the speed bumps either as many of them have been removed by some clever folk who have access to the special spanners used to fix them. I can see why. Speed bumps are a deterrent when they aren’t on your own territory, then they are just a nuisance, so it they are demountable, demount them. Once you get there, it’s actually a really pretty looking pond. It appears that nobody knows exactly when the dam was built, but the estimate is some time around the start of the 17th century. It’s a decent size with a good path round the 3mile perimeter. We didn’t actually walk all the way round today, although we walked about half way round the last time we were here, about two years ago and almost the same again on the other side of the reservoir today, so that’s us been all the way round by my reckoning. Today’s PoD shows the view across the reservoir to the Ochil Hills.

On our way round we found a dilapidated sunken garden that was in real need of some TLC. Hmm the ‘cooncil’ can afford to put in speed bumps that nobody wants, but they can’t afford to look after a garden. We watched a young couple paddling an inflatable dinghy on the reservoir. A cleg found me and sucked a bit of my blood, the last meal it had before being flattened. We watched two wee boys jumping off a filter in the reservoir with increasingly innovative dives, egged on by no less a person than Scamp. We drank some coffee, although to give mine the name coffee was a misnomer (it was a Babyccino with something brown added for colour.) We had a couple of lovely fruit scones and Scamp managed to tear a hole in her tee shirt on a rose bush. Most of all, we had a great day out, except for the cleg bite and the torn tee shirt.

Came home and the sun was still shining. I intended taking my bike out for a run while Scamp pruned the rose at the front door, but I lay down and had a snooze on the couch instead, waking up just in time for dinner.

Now that was a good day out.

Tomorrow we have no plans.