In, Out, Shake it all about – 14 June 2018

A busy day, in fact, a very busy day.

The day started with me dragging the brown bin and the grey bin into the teeth of a storm (Storm Hector) out to be emptied. I expected most of them to tumble and distribute their contents over the pavement, but they survived upright until the bin lorry appeared and emptied them.

Next was a bit of blood letting, the second in a fortnight. I didn’t know my blood was so interesting. When I returned with a little less blood in me than I’d gone out with, I picked up Scamp and we drove in to Glasgow to:

  1. Look for a pair of trainers for me.
  2. Have lunch in a new restaurant (to us) in the West End.
  3. Find a belt to hold up my kilt now that my waist has reduced in diameter.

Task 1. Parked at Tiso and suspended my disbelief at the prices they were asking for a pair of nylon shoes. However, I buttoned my lip and tried a few pairs on. None of them were exactly what I was looking for but some were worth looking at again. May go back again.

Task 2. Not really a task, more a test, to see just how good it was. Drove in to the city centre and got the subway out to the West End then walked down through the storm and occasional showers to La Lanterna West End. La Lanterna in the city centre is quite a Glasgow institution, one of the first, and some would argue, one of the finest Italian restaurants. I’d spotted LLWE on Monday when I went for a walk, rather than risk my knee in the advanced salsa class. Snapped the menu on my phone and booked us for lunch when we got home. It was not very busy. Just three blokes obviously having a business lunch. One of them apparently had two mouths! They were behind us, so I couldn’t confirm my theory, but the only way he could talk, constantly while eating was if he had two mouths. Also, since his cerebral cortex would have to synchronise swallowing with breathing, that would explain why he was talking absolute shite. One of those people who are so important they have to talk about themselves all the time. Have you noticed that people like that rarely ask questions, and if they do, they never listen to the answer? That’s because they know everything and don’t need your opinion, especially if it contradicts theirs. Scamp says I’m a cruel man, sometimes. Sometimes? What do you mean, Sometimes?

The food was good. Scamp had Arancini for starter and I got a bite of one – it was superb. I had Rigatoni Amatriciana with braised pig cheek instead of bacon. Scamp’s main was Hake fillet in a light tomato broth served with potatoes. I had Risotto with roasted pumpkin and wild porcini covered in parmesan shavings. Now it was lovely, but I got greedy (who me?) and scoffed the lot, which was a shame because it lay a bit heavy in my stomach for the rest of the day. We’ll certainly go back DV.

Task 3. Subway back in to Glasgow. It was now about 3pm and the train was busy. Scamp got a seat but I chose to stand. I must have looked as if I was in a bit of pain because a girl sitting opposite Scamp offered me her seat. I smiled and thanked her but said I was OK. It thought that was very kind of her and thanked her again when we left at Cowcaddens. It’s nice to see that kind of attitude in young people today. I also thought as I was getting off the train, “Maybe I just look like an old man, an auld guy, which I suppose I am.” Walked up to Bath Street to see about a belt to hold up my kilt. The girl told me that a belt wouldn’t really help and suggested I get the kilt adjusted to fit. I told her I’d been told last year that it would take a month or so for the alteration. She seemed surprised and said she could do it today if I could bring it in by 6pm. It was now 3.30pm. Yes, we could go home, get the kilt and bring it in with time to spare and that’s what we did. Drove home, picked up our bin which was lying are un the kilt, drove back to Glasgow and handed it in. Got measured and told to go for a coffee and the kilt would be ready for us in an hour. AN HOUR, not a month! Did as we were told, went to JL and had a pot of tea each which is where today’s PoD came from. I liked the shot because it looked like a still life. Walked back to the shop and tried on the kilt and knew right away, just like Cinderella did, that it was a perfect fit. The girl, I didn’t even find out her name, wouldn’t take anything for the work, but I managed to get her to accept a few quid as a token of my heartfelt thanks. Walked out of that shop feeling better than I have for at least a week. Both the girl on the train and the girl in the shop will never know just what their individual gestures meant to me today.

Tomorrow will hopefully be a less frantic day. Still stuff to do. Still people to see. Just at a less frantic pace.

People who have gardens – 3 June 2018

I always hated that song!

Despite the fact that we’d kind of slept in after a late night last night and also that it was dull and grey outside, we both agreed that Gardening Scotland would be today’s venue. So after breakfast he were up and out and driving to Embra. We got parked very easily, mainly because of the vast number of ‘helpers’ to guide us to the exact place to park. Short walk to the turnstiles and after paying our £17 each, we were in. No concession tickets at GS, mainly because almost everyone is a grey-hair.

Like last year, I was underwhelmed by the whole thing. I though this would be a sort of ‘mini Chelsea’. It was nothing like that. “Haun’ knitted rather than Hand made” is the phrase that springs to mind. The only exhibition gardens were the ones on pallets, from the local primary schools. And the emphasis is firmly on the word ‘Local’. Nothing outside a 30 mile radius. Surely this is Gardening SCOTLAND, not Gardening Edinburgh.

Most of the site is taken over by retail tents and stalls. Really, I don’t think we’ll be going again next year DV. It’s certainly not worth the entry fee.

Came home almost empty handed. Stopped in Linlithgow on the way to buy a bottle of Aldi gin that everybody raves about. It was quite underwhelming too. Oh dear, never pleased some people.

Today’s PoD was from a Tai Chi demonstration which was great, but the sound from the over stretched speakers was so distorted it was almost painful.

Tomorrow is Monday with all that entails.

Getting in a scrape – 2 June 2018

Today was to be wet with thunderstorms. Well, they got that right.

John and Marion were coming to dinner today, so that mean we’d be busy. Not too busy to have to stay in all day. We went out early for a run in to Glasgow. Wandered round JL, went for a coffee in Nero perused CassArt for some A2 sketching paper, but decided I’d rather pay a reasonable price in The Works instead. After that we came home. I dropped Scamp off at the house and went up the ‘Toonie’ for some extra ‘messages’.

When I got back to the car, I got a shock. Big white scrape along the front wing and black scrape below it. Paint scraped off the corner of the wing too. Drove straight to Halfords and got some touch-up paint to add to the chicken and peanuts I’d got in Tesco. Luckily, the white scrape was off the offender’s car/van and not mine. Most of it washed off and the black scrape came off too with a bit of Brasso (cheaper than T Cut and does exactly the same job). Paint isn’t quite the right colour, but it’s only a couple of chips that as Maisie would have said “A blind man, running for his life wouldn’t notice.” Still angry though. Even worse, the dash cam hadn’t been set on parking mode. It is now. However, I bet Mr White noticed the dash cam and is shitting himself wondering when the irate driver or the polis’ are going to come knocking on his door. I also bet he’ll be checking his car for ‘ten pence coach lines’ when he next parks in Tesco.

John and Marion arrived just after the predicted thunder storm having driven through the heavy rain that was also forecast. It was a late end to a frustrating day for quite a few reasons. Tomorrow will be better.

Hoping to go to Gardening Scotland tomorrow.

<NOTE: Blog written up on 3rd June>

Coming Down – 27 May 2018

“Coming down is the hardest thing”. That’s what the late Tom Petty said in “Learning to Fly”. It’s true and it’s even more true when you’re driving away from Skye and the sun is shining.

We left early, just after 10am, because we were ready and there seemed no point in prolonging the agony. The drive down was amazingly quiet, at least until we reached Rannoch Moor where we picked up some traffic. We stopped at the awkwardly named Lochan na h-Achlaise which apparently translates as Loch of the Armpit, or Loch Oxter. Anyway, that’s where I got PoD. It took a little longer to process than I’d anticipated. The basic levels and stuff was done in Lightroom and then I handed it over to ON1 for some more delicate make-up. The result went back into Lightroom for the final cropping and I’m more than happy with the final result.

Loch Oxter got quite noisy too with a collection of BMWs, Subaru Imprezas, Audis and assorted low riding Peugeots about 10 in all showing an impressive turn of speed as they turned the A82 into a drag strip. Noisy, dangerous and quite exhilaration, although others of the ‘blue rinse brigade’ were heard to say that “there’s no need for that” and “shouldn’t be allowed”. True, but that’s only because they were never young once. Some folk are born old.

Back on the road stopped for lunch at Morrisons in Fort William The next drag was a real drag. For about a mile and a half outside Callander we crawled forward in a long queue held there because of two sets of traffic lights. One set was true traffic lights at a junction and the other was a set of pedestrian lights where the ‘grannies’ were crossing and re-crossing the road just to annoy us drivers. Can’t they find somewhere better to spend their Sunday afternoon? I think it’s the same ones who where hissing and harrumphing about the folk of the testosterone brigade up at Loch Oxter.

Once we were past there, it was plain sailing all the way home. About 6 hours driving with half an hour out for lunch and half an hour out for Callander. That’s about average. It’s a long day and a long drive, but it has to be done and at least there weren’t very many potholes on the road.

Tomorrow is a relaxing day. Very little or no driving planned.

The Oyster Shed – 26 May 2018

At breakfast today Mairi was talking about The Oyster Shed.

Basically The Oyster Shed was simply a shed where they sold oysters and other seafood in Carbost. We looked for it on the web and discovered that there are two Carbosts in Skye. The one we were looking for seemed to be the furthest away (It would be, wouldn’t it) That was today sorted. We were going to Carbost, the far away one, to get some seafood.

Drove down through Portree to Sligachan and turned right, then drove through the Cuillins. From there we eventually found Carbost, but struggled to find the shed. We climbed a hill and stopped the car then stood watching and listening to a cuckoo being mobbed by sparrows. My satnav was directing me to a single track road that would allegedly lead to the shed. We got most of the way there when it looked as if the road was blocked by a van at the bottom of the hill. Not that way then. We reverse, turned and drove back down to the village. We found a sign pointing up a hill to The Oyster Shed. We seemed to walk for miles up the hill, but it was only a fifteen minute walk, but it was a steep walk. When we got to the Shed, I realised it was where the van had been parked earlier. We did get some shellfish. We got some cocktail crab claws, some crab meat and I got a mug. We got a can of lemon and mint drink which tasted like medicine as far as I was concerned. Not something I’d have again.

Walked back down that really long hill and had a picnic lunch of crisps and the lemon and mint. It didn’t matter really as the scenery and the sun made up for a lot. Watched a bunch of German teenagers hiring a boat and just managing to steer it round a couple of buoys before sailing off.

Came back through Portree and dropped Scamp off at the house then I went to see if there was room for one more at the slip. There wasn’t. That’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? No room at the slip for me. What’s the world coming to. Drove back up the road and stopped at the wee Loch Langaig to get some photos. That’s where today’s PoD came from.  Eventually came back to sit in the sun at the back of the house.

Tomorrow we pack our bags and turn the Juke to face south again.  Had a great time, but really, there are too many visitors on Skye and most of them shouldn’t be at the wheel of a pedal car, far less a real one.

Over the top end – 25 May 2018

As usual when we’re on Skye, the first day is a trip round the top end of the island.

A fairly late start to allow the alcohol in my system from last night to dissipate, just in case Nick the Chick’s meanies decided to stop us for any reason. So we left around 11am and pointed the Juke’s nose north. We managed to avoid a lot of potholes, broken verges and subsidence on our journey to Uig. We decided not to visit The Hungry Gull because it seemed a bit cheeky. Almost as if we were asking for a free lunch, which we weren’t. Then when we were climbing the hill out of Uig, we bumped into Wee Jacqueline and Betty (Cockapoo) out for a walk. Stopped to talk for a while, but eventually had to move on as we were getting black looks by locals and visitors alike as we were causing a road block. Stuff them.

We drove down the other side and had lunch at Jan’s Vans. We bought a wee delicate plant that looked a bit like an orchid, but obviously wasn’t because it was flowering in Skye. We visited Skye Batiks and scamp got a bag and another wee bag. I look at the shirts, but decided that £50 was a bit too much for a short sleeved shirt. On the way back to Staffin we took a detour to the slip and sat for an hour or so watching the waves crashing. Spoke to a bloke while I was taking photos of Thrift plants and he told me that a great white was allegedly cruising the straits between Skye and the mainland and that a pod of dolphins had been seen too. We had a look with binoculars, but saw nothing. Such a beautiful day though. Temperatures in the mid 20s and blue sky everywhere.

Back at Digg I went looking for photos on the croft. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s another of Murd’s Duds that have been sitting on the croft for years.

Spent the next few hours processing the shots.

Tomorrow we are going out or staying on the croft. There, it’s that decisive.

Going up country – 24 May 2018

We were on our way north today.

Waited for the bin men to empty our bins and then we were off with a quick stop to fill up with the £1.30/litre gold plated, diamond encrusted petrol, (Well, it should be at that price.) then we were off up the road. First stop Fort William for lunch and a comfort break. Back on the road and the next stop was just outside Kyle just to stretch my legs. After that it was Portree for a quick top up of slightly cheaper (!!) petrol and then the last leg up to Staffin. The roads were fairly clear most of the way with the occasional slow tourist to pass, but drop a gear and press the ‘sport mode’ button and they’re history. That button will now be called the ‘overtake button’. Hit one big heavy pothole just before Staffin and after that, became ultra cautious which was just as well, considering the chasms between Staffin and Digg.

Dinner tonight was chicken stuffed with haggis and chicken stuffed with black pudding for me and just plain pan fried chicken for Scamp. All were excellent. Washed down with a pint of McEwan’s Export.

Later a wee dram to ease me to sleep. How quiet it is and how light, with just a glimmer in the sky at 11.10pm. Skye is a marvellous place, despite the potholes.

Things to remember today?:

  • The crowds of tourists around the Commando Monument at Spean bridge.
  • Seeing a plane (Tucano?) flying low above the loch on the Caledonian Canal.
  • Pressing the overtake button in anger for the first time.
  • That can of McEwan’s Export – how well did it go down?
  • PoD – the stacked up trolleys at Morrisons in Fort William.
  • Scotland in the sun.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to drive round the top end.

Dancing, portraiture and faces – 23 May 2018

Dull day that started to smile in the afternoon.

Dancing the waltz is difficult, but we thought we had it fairly well under control until Michael showed us the next set of moves today. I’m sure in a couple of weeks they too will seem like child’s play. Now they are just the next hurdle to be waltzed over. Jive was just as difficult as jive usually is. Now we’re on spin number 4 of 7. It gets more complicated, even the men have a turn to do now. I’ve pretty much sorted out spins 1 and 2, 3 is a bit tricky and 4 is just a shambles. Instead of leading, I’m following, but that’s not new. It’s what I do most of the time. Still, it was enjoyable.

Walking back to the car in the sun provided today’s PoD which is a sandstone carving of a lion at the corner of the old fruit market in Glasgow. I also took photos of the ‘green men’ above the doors of the building. I remember drawing one of them in ink wash many years ago. Lovely bits of stone mason’s craft.

Back home I struggled with what was really a simple task of importing the photos into ON1. It’s simple now that I know how to do it. It most certainly wasn’t easy at the time, with hidden bits of menu that really should be more easily accessible.

Dinner was chicken breast wrapped in bacon and pan fried with boiled Jersey Royals and corn on the cob. Really tasty, Scamp. Also on the food front, I chopped up some strawberries and soaked them in vodka. They’ll stay in the fridge for a few days to flavour our Strawberry Vodka and hopefully be drunk outside in the garden under the sun.

Portrait class tonight was a bit of a disaster. A bit like Spin 4 is just now, except we’re more or less left to our own devices. I floundered a lot, trying to work out how to adapt the Loomis method to the head of the young boy we were drawing. It seemed, always, to make his head too fat. I think I’m missing something here. Must watch the videos again. On the way to pick up Fred for the class, I had to do some Genghis Pathfinder stuff to avoid the closed off road at St Mo’s School where a lorry had shed its load of wood. Not the simplest of diversions and it occurred, of course, when the factories along the road were coming out, so everywhere was chok-a-block. Managed it though.

Tomorrow we’re out early(ish). Hopefully before 11am, but I’ll have to go out even earlier to get some (very expensive £1.26 /litre) petrol.

Dancing by the loch side – 19 May 2018

Not us, although we’d have liked to have joined them.

It was a late start this morning, later than we’d anticipated. We both overslept so I’d guess we needed the sleep. Finally we decided that it was just stupid to waste such a lovely day and we got everything ready for a run to the country, to the start of the highlands, no less, to Loch Lubnaig. Seats, picnic basket with picnic, tripod, camera bag, paints (just in case). Off we went hoping that the Royal Wedding would keep the ladies glued to the TV and that the Scottish Cup Final would do the same form the gentlemen. We were right. Apart from a slight hiccup at Blair Drummond Safari park where the weans were being taken to see the monkeys (or vice versa) there were no traffic jams, not even in blue rinse Callander where it’s usually chock-a-block on any other Saturday. We drove on to the big car park on the loch side and got a place right away. Fantastic.

Walked down to the shore and felt a cool, nearly cold breeze. But what took our breath away was a group of four folk dancing a mini rueda in the water. Even better, we recognised the moves involved. It’s one of Jamie Gal’s favourite ways to terrify the advanced dancers. It looks so simple until you try it, then you know why it’s only for the advanced group. After that the group set up a full rueda and danced for a couple of tracks. It took all our willpower not to get up and join them. After their two ruedas and a group photo, they packed up, jumped in their minibus and left. It’s been suggested that they were from an Embra salsa group, but I’m not sure that’s right. The caller was definitely foreign, possible Spanish, possibly Cuban and there were other languages there too, none of them Embra accents.

With the entertainment gone, we sat down to lunch in the lee of the car. Still sitting in the sun, but avoiding the wind. Scamp had her factor 30 on just in case. After that, she sat and read for a while and I went for a walk to get some photos. The best one was taken with my iPhone on the shore of the loch and it became PoD. Just a wee dandelion flower washed up on the loch side.

When we were driving home, just after 2.30 the afternoon traffic was building up, so my guess is that as the wedding was now past, but the cup final was still to be played, it was the women who were out driving while the men stayed in to see twenty two other men kicking a ball around a piece of grass while thousands stood and watched.

By the time we got home the hazy clouds were solidifying and blotting out a lot more of the sun than they had when we were on the loch side. I think we can agree that we had the best of the day, despite a late start.

I spent the remainder of the day beating some flour, water and salt into what may or may not be a sourdough loaf tomorrow. It’s resting now in its basket to fluff up enough to bake tomorrow. I think Scamp wants to go to Glasgow tomorrow. Me? I’m not bothered, I had a grand day today.

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.