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Travelling on the ‘leccy – 6 January 2018

Today we got up early and drove to Croy to catch the train to Embra, but a surprise was in store!

This wasn’t a noisy old diesel train, this was a silent ‘leccy train, travelling by electricity! The future had arrived. It was seventy coaches long too, well, probably only about seven, but much longer than the usual three units. The future had arrived at last.

I’d like to say that the coaches were shining, sparkling and new, but they weren’t. They were someone else’s castoffs. You can’t expect Scotrail to pay for new platforms, new overhead power lines AND new carriages, be fair. Still the journey was smooth, comfortable and slightly slower than the old fashioned diesels. They did however get us to Haymarket much quieter than the old ones did.

I’m always a bit disappointed when I come out of the station at Haymarket. There is never a market there and very little evidence of hay. Is it like a Farmers Market which only arrives one or two days a month and we’re just not in Embra on those days? Perhaps it’s a sort of hidden, secret market that’s down an alleyway or round a corner and you need to know the password to be allowed entrance. Not that I’m at all interested in buying hay, it’s just that I hate the thought of missing out on something.

We walked up for coffee at Nero and on the way I saw today’s PoD just sitting there in front of me. The softness of the child’s bright pink woollen glove stood out so well against the clinical lines of the architecture, I just knew it would be PoD. I’d earlier taken the shot of the reflection of buildings, but the pink glove was the winner, by a mile.

After Nero, we walked down to Princes Street (No princes in evidence today) and on through a few shoe shops with no resulting purchases by Scamp, then up on to the Mound and across the Royal Mile to the Grassmarket heading for Tony Singh’s restaurant there. That was the cryptic message on yesterday’s blog. Not Ravi Shankar’s, but Tony Singh’s. However, it looked as if it was Under New Management because there was little evidence of Mr Singh’s sense of humour in the menu. It all looked very bland. Disappointed we crossed the road to Petit Paris where we knew from experience there was good wholesome French fare available, and so it turned out. Scamp had Courgette Soup and Poisson de Jour (Coley) and I had French Onion Soup and Plat de Jour (Toulouse Sausage) washed down with a glass or red wine, risking the wrath of the Scottish drink driving laws.

After lunch we wandered back down to Princes Street and walked through what used to be called the German Christmas Market, but which is now more likely to be the Polish folk selling Chinese copies of German artefacts. However, it was bright and cheery and everything was half price which must be a sickener for those who bought their Chinese knock-offs last week at full price. We didn’t buy anything, we were getting cold, so we just went for the rain home.

What a disappointment. It wasn’t a ‘leccy train, it was an old noisy diesel. What was worse was that it wasn’t seventy coaches long, just three. I felt we’d been sold short. However, the up side was that it was warm and it was a faster journey that the one in the morning.

Tomorrow it’s a Sunday Social Day, so we’re hoping to be dancing!

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A visit to the Toblerones – 25 October 2017

Today we went to visit the Toblerones.

They’re not real Toblerones, by the way. They are gigantic triangular shaped concrete blocks planted in channel between Cramond Island and Cramond shore, built during WW2 as an anti-submarine defence.  You can just see them in the bottom photo.

We parked in the new parking place on Marine Drive and went for a walk along the front in a ‘bracing breeze’. In other words, a gale. Watched other folk walking their dogs on the beach. Saw one bloke with his dog on what must have been a 50 foot leash, I kid you not! Then he looped it round his waist to save him from actually holding it to keep the dog in check. What a monkey. Some folk shouldn’t be allowed to keep dogs. Some dogs should have more sense and should run away. Maybe it did and that’s why it’s on a 50 foot leash, trying desperately to retrieve a ball that’s 51 feet away.

We had brought a packed lunch today and I was happy to get out of that cold wind (the wind is always cold over in the east coast) and have that and a cup of coffee to heat me up.

Drove back in the huff when Scamp decided to switch the sat nav off. She thought I was finished with it. Even the radio wouldn’t work. DAB radios are fine when you’re in a town or city. When your out by Kirk o’ Shotts they are useless. Finally found the FM band on the radio tonight. Such a relief to not have your reception cut out when you’re in a hollow.

Rangers were playing at Ibrox tonight and rabid ‘Gers supporters were out in their thousands, all of them on the M8. Scamp suggested that we take her short-cut through the town when we were going to the Salsa class, and proved that the human sat nav is way, way better than the Nissan one. I was impressed, but tried not to show it, because that would make her big headed. Salsa was much better this week than last. Still exhausting, but at least I got most of the moves right.

Today’s Pod is daisies at Cramond and the sketch for today is of the other kind of Toblerones 😉

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and maybe a trip into the toon – solo!

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Untrained – 30 September 2017

We had intended to take the train to Embra today. Scamp even drove us to the station in her car, but …

When we got there we found out that due to safety checks on the line between Haymarket and Waverley, trains (if they weren’t cancelled) were stopping at Linlithgow, about 20 miles from Embra, and it was up to you to get from Linlithgow to Embra. That’s Scotrail for you. Make it up as you go along. If the problem is between Haymarket and Waverley, both in Embra, why are they stopping the trains 20 miles away? That’s a pretty big safety zone.  Must be the wrong kind of leaves on the line again.

Anyway, we told the nice ticket man that we wouldn’t be travelling on his maybe-not-cancelled train today and drove home to change cars and drive (me driving this time) to Perf, not Embra. It was a pleasant drive up the A9 to the Fair City of Perth. Car performed perfectly and I finally got the hang of the new cruise control. I also tried out the speed limiter, but that’s not as much fun. Best of all, I tried out Sport mode which gives you a nice little whack of G-force as you accelerate! Only to be used sparingly as it does eat up your fuel consumption. All in all it’s a really nice car to drive. I’m very impressed.

Perf was busy as usual on a weekend. Far too many people around I much prefer going on a weekday. Got some coffee, some tea and some dried fruit to make my breakfast compote. Fruit for the compote, there’s no coffee or tea in it. Just thought I’d make that clear. While we were there and while Scamp was shopping in Marks, I wandered round the outside of St John’s Kirk, the big church in the middle of the town. I got a sketch done. It’s a bit ropey, but with a bit of tweaking from the photo I took, it should do. Tomorrow is the start of Inktober 2017 and I need to get myself back in harness to do a sketch a day. There’s a wee challenge for you Hazy. One sketch every day, posted on Flickr. You can add it to my group if you want. Only one real rule. The predominant medium must be ink, hence the name. You too, JIC. Get started sketching. Fifteen minutes in your lunch break is all you need!!
Today’s PoD is a wide angle shot from the walk round the church. I also liked the monkey gargoyle!

A couple of weeks ago Scamp came across an envelope from a school venture with a £10 note in it. It was surplus money from a school trip we went on twenty odd years ago. It wasn’t my money and the school doesn’t exist any more, so today it went into a charity tin in the Heart Foundation shop in Perf. They will be able to use it. I’d already checked with the bank and it was still legal tender.

Back home, dinner was a Scamp speciality, Prawn Stir fry. Spicy and hot, but very, very good.

I’d been reading a book about painting with pastels in an Oxfam bookshop in Perf.  I don’t think you draw with pastels, you paint with them.  I hadn’t really used pastels, except for messing around with them for a graphics topic for school.  Today I pinned a sheet of Ingres paper on an old drawing board and painted a landscape.  The same one I’d been tentatively poking paint at for the last week.  This one took maybe half an hour?  It’s rough, but I like it.  Maybe I’ll fix it and frame it.

Tomorrow looks wet. I think we’re going dancing at night because the usual Sunday Social venue is double booked and we lose. Should still be fun.

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Gardening Scotland – 3 June 2017

We had planned to go to Gardening Scotland in Embra today.  We had intended to get the train to Haymarket, then get a No 98 bus to Ingliston Show Ground.  That plan was scuppered when I woke with a pain in my stomach.  Actually, the pain had been there all night, on and off.  My prediction was trapped wind, possibly too much information there.  Anyway, there was no way we were getting the 10:12 train from Croy.

Just before 11am I made the decision to drive there.  Yes, there would be queues, but there would be queues for the bus too, and probably the train would be busy into the bargain.  We were driving, the die was cast.

The drive to Embra couldn’t have been better, well, it could if some diddy hadn’t decided Saturday would be a good day to plonk some cones on the road outside Grangemouth so half a dozen road menders could get a Saturday shift out of digging up a traffic island.  Looks like a plan.  Road will be busy with folk going to Gardening Scotland.  Nobody really believes the M8 is running smoothly, so let’s dig up the M9 and cause chaos.  I really believe that’s how these idiots think.

After Grangemouth-Gate we reached Embra without any further problem.  Parking was a dawdle with lots of guides to get you parked quickly and efficiently.  Then I managed to ping the crown off one of my teeth.  Tiny wee thing, but my tongue still manages to find the crevice it was covering.  Walked the half a mile to the entrance gate.  It was only when we got there, Scamp realised she’d left her purse in the car.  We walked all the way back, retrieved the purse, walked back and went in.  Almost felt sorry for the ‘Fat Family’ who were just about to pay up when an official told them they couldn’t take a dog in with them.  It wasn’t a dog, it was a Pug.  Mrs Fat shouted to Mr Fat “Hold it.  They say we can’t take the dog in.”  Mr Fat replied “Can’t take the dog in?”  Mrs Fat “Can’t take the dog in.”  (Don’t you just love conversations like that?)  Then Mr Fat said “You could take dogs in last year.”  However, the official was adamant that No, you couldn’t take the dog in, and No you couldn’t take it in last year either.  Unfortunately, at that point Scamp had paid and we were in, so I don’t know the upshot of Pug-Gate.  It did entertain me for a wee while.

We had hoped for Chelsea with heather and thistles, but this was more of a horticultural show / shopping experience than a garden show.  That said it didn’t prevent us from buying lots of plants and a neat little trolly to drag them home with.  I think we would go again next year all being well, but probably go on the Friday when everything was sparkling and new.

Back home the M8 and drove through a thunder storm then managed to miss the Stirling turn off for the second time in a couple of weeks.  Must be more observant.

Today’s sketch was a last minute affair.  Nothing fantastic, just a coffee cup.

Not sure what’s happening tomorrow.  Depends on my insides again.

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A bit of culture – 11 May 2017

Where else would we get Culture, but Embra.  Today we were going to the ballet.

We set off in the mid morning, not as early as we usually leave on a Saturday, and intended walking down to get the bus to Croy, but one of our neighbours was taking his ‘big car’ out for a drive and offered us a lift.  Thank you Bobby.  Caught the train to Embra, but not before we had to move along the platform as we appeared to be blocking the entrance to a honeybee’s nest in a drainage pipe in the wall. From Haymarket we did our usual walk up to get our morning coffee in Nero, then on up Lothian Road for a change and from there to the Grassmarket.  Saw a couple of interesting litter bins there, but you’ll have to go to Flickr to see that photo.

To begin our cultural visit, we went to the National Museum of Scotland.  It’s a long while since I’ve been there and there have been a great number of improvements.  When I was very wee, my dad took me to the museum when we were on our summer holidays at my Aunt Sarah’s.  I think he enjoyed the visit as much as me.  There were always loads of glass cases with models in them and there was always a well thumbed button on the case.  If you pressed the button marvellous things happened.  Tiny little lights came on in rooms in the dioramas, wheels turned, signals changed.  In other words, they came alive.  The last time I was there nothing worked.  Today, I was transported back to that wee boy, there with his dad, pressing buttons, because everything was working again.  Even better, lots of other wee boys and girls were running around the place pressing buttons, pulling levers and watching things working.  Brilliant fun.

The main event today was Ballet at the Festival Theatre and that was our next stopping point.  We were there in plenty time, which was just as well, as there were hundreds of stairs to climb up to the top floor where our seats awaited us.  Possibly the most uncomfortable seats it’s been my bum’s displeasure to sit on, but these are the sacrifices we must make for our art.  The ballet, The Red Shoes was fascinating.  How those blokes did the jump with a pirouette in mid air, I’ll never know.  The first half dragged on a bit too long for me (and my sore bum), but the second half flew past in a trice.  I’d go back again.  Best bit for me was when Scamp shouted “Oops!” just as the heroine was knocked down by a train!  Can’t take her anywhere.
Today’s PoD is of one of the Art Deco lights in the theatre.

Walked back down The Bridges and had a quick drink in a pub we passed, then down to the Grassmarket where Scamp and I agreed on an interesting looking Italian restaurant.  Had pizza bread to share as a starter, then Scamp had Mushroom Risotto and I had Spaghetti Arrabiata.  Her’s was garlicky and creamy, mine was hot and spicy.  We’ll be back.

Train back was very busy and then we got a taxi to the house.  A lovely day of culture.  Tomorrow?  Maybe Glasgow.

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A day at the Toblerones – 22 April 2017

Not real Toblerones, just my nickname for the anti-submarine defences on the Forth at Cramond.

We walked up the path beside the River Almond past the ruins of the old mill, or should I say through the ruins because the walls are still there with archways and window spaces, but the roof is long gone.  We didn’t get much further past the dam because the path has been closed off by the council as being in a dangerous state.  Such a shame as it’s only a very short stretch of path that’s been condemned, about 3 or 4 metres really.  It appears from the maps that have been posted that beyond that it’s fine.  Anyway, that was the end of our riverside walk.  Saw a Japanese bloke on our way down the river kitted out in chest-high waders and with a fly rod.  I didn’t think he’d get anything today, then a couple of mayflies flew past, so the flies are emerging in the warm weather we’ve been having and he might have caught something after all.

We stopped for lunch at the wee cafe at the Mill House.  My lentil soup and toastie was great, but Scamp’s poached egg on avocado and sourdough bread looked a bit insipid and underdone.  She wasn’t impressed and told the owner so.  The cheese scone she received to replace the poached egg was too hard for her taste.  She really is spoilt after having tasted my scones 😉

After our aborted lunch we walked down and had a Mr Whippy ice cream each!  There were no words of dissent!  To walk them off, we strode out along the esplanade watching weans on bikes, neds on bikes, weans on scooters, dugs (not on bikes or scooters) folk in paddling!  It really is a bit early for paddling.  Yes, we did it in January, but that was in Trinidad!  Walked for about a mile or so and turned back to the car and drove home.  Lovely day, walking in the sunshine in good company.

Eventually relented and found a human in Currys and got the keyboard I wanted.  Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet.  Scamp says it’s about not cutting off your nose to spite your face, or am I mixing my metaphors now?

Before we went out, I got a book delivered, a painting book.  I’d borrowed it from the library and it was worth buying.  Unfortunately, it was out of print but available for a few quid second hand.  It almost cost as much to post as to buy, but it was in almost perfect condition.  I’d consider this option in future.  Maybe I’ve just been lucky today or maybe second hand books, like second hand cameras are worth looking at.

Tomorrow?  Maybe a walk down the green to collect more steps, miles and maybe even stairs climbed.

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Embra – 25 March 2017

We took the train to Embra this morning in the sunshine that was predicted would last all day.  It did.  Blue skies over Embra, but also over Cumbersheugh which was a greater surprise.

Wandered up the Grassmarket and decided that we’d just have an early lunch at Petit Paris, except that it was 12.00 and we were half an hour too early.  Rather than be disappointed like yesterday, we sat in the Grassmarket in the sunshine and waited until nearly 12.30 and then made our way down to the restaurant.  Scamp had Soup de Provence and I had what I always have there, French Onion Soup because they do it so well.  For main we both had Poisson de Jour which for Scamp was Coley with Red Pepper Sauce, served with mashed potatoes.  Mine was the same, except they had run out of Coley, so I had Cod.  Same difference.   Scamp had a crêpe with Grand Marnier for pudding and I had coffee.  I took a risk and had a glass of house red with my meal.  Ha, ha Nick the Chick, I wipe my nose with your drink driving limit!

Walked back down the Grassmarket rather than go up past the Royal Mile and all the twee gift shops, because, to be honest, the only reason we were there was to have lunch.  Got a book I’ve been looking for, for ages in Waterstones and then got a cut-price Bergy jacket in Tiso’s.  Actually it’s exactly the same as the one I’ve had for ever except it doesn’t have inside pockets.  Same style, same material almost, even same colour.  Boring, that’s me.  It was a bargain.  You can’t let a bargain go past, can you?

Back home we watched Best Marigold Hotel again.  Still has the same magic as the first time we saw it.

A lazy day in the sun.  Bought some fat hand made sausage rolls and some pork sausages too at the Farmers Market, so that’s tomorrow and probably Monday’s lunch sorted.  Hoping for more sunshine tomorrow.  Always hoping!

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The trick is to not let on – 30 December 2016

Today, in total secrecy we slipped out of the house just before 10am and drove under leaden skies to Croy station.  There we boarded a train headed for … Embra.  The trick is to not let on.  That way you actually get to Scotland’s second city without any interference.

We had coffee in our usual Cafe Nero in Lothian Road and gazed out on light clouds with bits of blue sky.  Scamp took pity on a Big Issue seller and bought her a coffee.  A random act of kindness.  We should all do that more often.

We had intended walking through Princes Street Gardens, but they were locked and guarded by security staff.  I suppose that’s to be expected with the amount of work having to be done for the Hogmanay celebrations tomorrow.  That said, we went back the way we’d come and walked up the Grassmarket and from there on to Princes Street.  We had thought about going to JL, but it’s too depressing going into a shop in a building that’s being demolished.  A story of the irresistible force and the (literally) immovable object.  This is what happens when people don’t speak to one another.

Edinburgh was jumping!  It was almost as busy as when the Festival is in full swing.  I’d hate to think what it would be like tomorrow.  There were so many barricades around Princes Street, I said to Scamp it looked like a war zone.  Probably that’s what it will be just before The Bells tomorrow night.

We walked along Rose Street and on to Whighams for lunch.  Breaded Haddock, chips and peas for Scamp and Pheasant, Bacon and Leek Pie with roast potatoes and roast vegetables for me.  I even risked a half pint of Deuchars.  Another very decent lunch.

This being a weekday, we had to travel off-peak, so had to get the train home by 4pm or it would turn into a pumpkin or something.  That meant we had to forego a shot on the big wheel or vertical chair-o-planes and head for the train home.  Such a pity 😉  When we got back to Croy the grey clouds were still there, maybe a bit lighter grey, but that was probably because they’d dumped some of their rain on Cumbersheugh.

Wind is getting up again tonight and it looks like rain for tomorrow.  Don’t have anything planned.

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Just for a change – 28 November 2016


Just for a change today, I got the bus to Perth.  Now this may be a spoiler alert for Hazy, but I’m sure you expected I’d have to take the trip to Perth, didn’t you!

These CityLink buses are really comfortable.  Did you know they have heaters that work!  Isn’t that a simply wonderful innovation?  Typically one X3 bus in 100 has working heaters, and that’s the one you get every day in the summer and the heating is on full blast and the windows won’t open.  In the winter, it’s the one with the sign that says “SORRY NOT IN SERVICE” or more often in Scotland “A’HM NO WORKIN’”.  So, a comfortable journey north to the fair city of Perf.  It’s a bit like Embra which is also known by some of its inhabitants as Edinburgh.  Embra is its more usual and useable name.  Perf is much better than Perth IMO and MO is the only one that counts in this blog.  By the way, I once got an irate comment from an Edinburger on Flickr to the effect that: “It’s actually Edinburgh, not Embra, I know, I live there.”
My reply was: “That’s a shame, but I suppose somebody has to live in Embra, and it is Embra, hen.  It’s Embra, it’s always been Embra and it always will be Embra.  I know, because I’ve been there … once.  But it’s alright, I’ve had my jags.”  She didn’t reply to that – too many big words in it, I think.
Perf’s a nice place, I like it.  It’s pretty and has nice buildings, but the folk are not so stuck up as Embra folk.  It’s got a good coffee shop, an independent camera shop and a great second-hand bookshop too.

Anyway, purchases purchased I got the equally comfortable bus back down the road to less than scenic Cumbersheugh where they are painting the lovely butter coloured bricks of the town centre with a coat of ‘nearly black’.  Cooncil must have got a job lot of the paint going cheap.  I think it probably was originally black masonry paint, but they didn’t have enough to finish the job, so they got some equally cheap out-of-date emulsion for B&Q and just mixed it in to make the masonry paint go further.  That would explain the slightly purple tinge to the finished product.  If it looks boggin’ paint it black, that’ll fix it and make it look stylish into the bargain.  Aye Right.

Kizomba was a bit of a shambles tonight.  Class was a bit smaller with a lot of new faces.  Mainly black faces, so maybe friends of one of the teachers.  Also faces that were looking bemused most of the time because it appears this is the first time they had met this dance.  Methinks it might have been Rentamob, there to pad out the numbers.  ‘Left’ and ‘right’ seemed to be new concepts for some.  One girl had to be dragged away from her phone and on to the dance floor to help balance the numbers.  She was irate, because she didn’t know how to do the dance and didn’t want to learn.  Hmm, not impressed.

It also looked like our salsa teacher wasn’t present and no announcement was made about who would be taking his class. This gave us a bit of concern and made us wonder if it would be one of the, how should I put this, less able and teachers of AdS.  We needn’t have worried, Will took it and introduced us to a trio of twisty, turny moves that were a lot of fun.  The next class was not so lucky, but we were out the door by the time the music started.

Maybe going to do a painting tomorrow.  If I can remember how!

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Embra – 8 October 2016


Embra was the choice today.  Now I won’t go in to the semantic arguments, the place is called ‘Embra’ and that’s it.

The train was fairly busy, but not excessively so – there’s a reason for this sentence.  As usual we got off at Haymarket and walked up towards the tea shop.  It was shut!  I should have checked his website, it was there in black and white, or red and white actually.  Go there, you’ll understand.  At the top of the road was the Exhibition Centre and also an enormous queue of middle aged and older folk.  Behind us too was a long train of people of that same demographic, most of whom had filled the seats on the train.  When we got to the Exhibition Centre the explanation was plain.  It was a Tesco wine tasting.  The early arrivals were already getting pissed oops, sampling and this lot seemed to be waiting for the first lot to be poured out the door.  We moved on.  Coffee in Cafe Nero then a walk through the farmers’ market.  I got some hogget for dinner tomorrow.  I suppose this is where farmers’ markets win.  Hogget is a lamb between a year and two years old.  I’ll taste it tomorrow.

On the subject of food, we went to a wee French place on the Grassmarket for lunch.  We’d been there a few months ago, well February actually, I hadn’t realised it was that long ago.  French Onion Soup again for me – creature of habit and Toulouse Sausage with mustard sauce and mash.  Scamp had Crayfish in a Garlic butter, a very garlic butter followed by Chicken Supreme with six thrice cooked chips.  Foodies? Us?  Surely not!  Both meals were voted excellent and I’ll say it again, we’ll be back.

Walked round to John Lewis and went back to 1984.  Not the date, the book!  Apparently the St James Centre is being … refurbished … reimagined. Perhaps demolished is a better description.  All the shops are now closed and shuttered, except John Lewis.  They didn’t get that memo, it seems.  It appears that it will remain like that until 2020 when, overnight, a new great new ‘retail opportunity’ will rise phoenix-like from the ashes.  Whether it will include John Lewis we’ll have to wait four years to find out.  For now, it feels as hopeless as the novel 1984 did.

Got the train home and, if you remember back to the second paragraph, first sentence of this epistle, it was a fairly busy train in the morning.  The afternoon train to Glasgow was mobbed, by a much younger contingent, mainly young men dressed in tartan and with lion rampant flags tied round their necks.  Yes, Scotland were playing football in Glasgow.  It turned out they were playing Lithuania (I think it was a Lithuanian school team – a primary school team).  The fans all seemed excited and were guzzling Becks like there was no tomorrow.  It might have been to induce a coma that would prevent them from seeing the game which was due to start at about 7.30pm.  This was the 3.30pm train.  The game ended in a 1-1 draw.  It’s easy to become cynical about football fans, especially Scottish football fans.  Too easy.

One sketch done for Inktober.  I’m happy with it.  Done in public in Princes Street Gardens.  Another step forward.