Only half a day – 12 July 2018

I woke about 5.30 this morning and just couldn’t get back to sleep.

After I finally entered dreamland, it took me ages to find the exit. I felt really rough. My throat was dry and itchy and my head felt thicker than normal. It was Scamp’s turn to get breakfast, which was just as well. I ate my muesli, drank my tea, turned over and went back to sleep. Scamp woke me at 11 with another cup of tea and some toast. That gave me enough strength to go, get showered, get dressed and do my exercises (see JIC, even when I’m feeling ill, I do as the physio tells me). Feeling a lot better, I re-entered the land of the living around midday. Wandered round the garden and decided it was time for lunch.

After two boiled eggs Scamp drove us to Asda for the messages. We usually go to Tesco, but we went to Asda for a change. I used to avoid it because that’s where all the school kids went to shoplift shop. Now, after four years of freedom, I hardly recognise any of them and none of them seem to recognise me, thank goodness. Possibly they see me smiling and think “Nah. Couldn’t be him”. Laden down with goodies and not so goodies, we made our way back home.

The back garden, especially looked a bit in need of watering, so I unrolled the hose and gave everything a good blast. I didn’t have anything as a photo, so I took a walk to St Mo’s. It still strikes me as strange to go over there wearing a pair of shorts and a tee shirt. Unnatural. Found myself a PoD in the picture of a hover fly apparently egg laying. I was quite impressed with the quality of image from the Nikon and the Sigma 105mm. I also got a shot of a flower head set out in a pentagon. Most unusual. I didn’t notice what the plant looked like, but I’ll go back tomorrow with my plant book and try to find it.

When I came home I sat in the garden for a while before we had dinner, Stir Fry. After dinner we soaked up the last of today’s sun before we went in.

Had intended going to Embra at the weekend, but apparently there are to be rallies there complaining about Donald Trump being allowed to visit Scotland or to breathe air or something. Anyway, it won’t make any difference to DT and it would probably spoil our day, so we’re going to choose a different, non-DT destination.

Tomorrow the plan is to get up at a normal time, meet Val for coffee and then go to Larky to pic up our optical devices,

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.

Embra in the Spring

Today we did as we had planned and went to Embra where we found the sun.

We left Croy with the sun completely hidden behind layers of heavy cloud. It was quite warm though, so we shouldn’t complain too much.

Coffee in Nero when we got to the Capital and then a walk through the Farmer’s Market where I bought tomorrow’s dinner, a piece of mutton from Annanwater. I’d bought from them before, so was sure that it would be fresh and good quality. I think I prefer mutton to lamb now. It’s not as light a meat and needs a fair bit of care in cooking, but the taste is that much richer and deeper. (Foodie Speak)

Walked up to the Grassmarket and after perusing the stalls with exorbitant prices for food (well, it is tourist season and a bank holiday to boot) we settled on Petit Paris, the inevitable choice for both of us. Lovely French restaurant run by French blokes where the food, as well as being French is lovely.
Starters:
Green Pea and Garlic soup for Scamp
Pan fried Brie wrapped in Filo for me
Mains:
Fillet of Cod with Mash for Scamp
Beef Bourguignon for me
I even risked Nick the Chick’s anger by having a glass of red wine. When we came out the Grassmarket was mobbed. Tourists everywhere. It looked like a score of tourist busses had just disgorged their passengers and driven off. We walked up West Bow Street which was where I got the PoD of two biddies scoffing their lunch, sitting on the pavement. From there we walked across the Royal Mile and down the steps to the National Gallery. Stood and watched an ok guitarist, piper and drummer busking. Nothing special, but it entertained the bank holiday crowds. This was all done under blue skies I hasten to add. One of the advantages of going to Embra is that because it’s the capital, it gets better weather than the Glasgow area. I think it’s written into a statute somewhere.

Scamp was on the hunt for a new pair of dance shoes and there is a really good dance ware shop on Rose Street, so that was our next port of call. After securing that purchase (to be delivered to the house next week) we dropped in at Waterstones where I browsed the books, but didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. We were fed and fed up by this time, so after a walk through Princes Street Gardens we got the train home. As we travelled west, we lost more and more of the blue sky and it was replaced by more and more grey clouds. Arrived back at Croy and found it as we’d left it, grey, damp and warm. At least we had some east coast sun today.

Watched an ok, but nothing special film ‘Dough’ on Netflix.

Tomorrow should be a better day if the weather fairies are to be believed. Let’s wait and see. Some stuff needs to be taken to the dump, some gardening needs to be done and the bike needs another outing. Also, some mutton needs to be cooked. Hopefully some of these tasks will be completed, and hopefully under blue skies!

Foodies – 20 February 2018

Today we had a light breakfast before getting a taxi to the station, then the train to Embra.  Today was Foodie Day!

When we got to Embra we found the bus stop for the No 34 bus that would take us to Ocean Terminal.  With diversions, because Leith Walk is partially closed, it took about 35 minutes to cover the 4 miles.  The train journey from Croy to Edinburgh only took 45 minutes.  This was the X3 of Lothian buses.  However, we were in no hurry, because we had plenty of time to find today’s destination.  Had a cup of coffee in Ocean Terminal which is really just a great shopping mall with an entrance to the Royal Yacht Britannia, Mrs McQueen’s old boat.  We weren’t going there today, we were going for lunch at The Kitchin Restaurant.  It has been booked since November, such is the waiting list.  I was thinking “it better be worth the wait”.  It was.

Nothing to look at from the road, there’s a notice on the door telling customers to enter by Commercial Quay, round the back. Inside it was dark grey paintwork with discrete little areas like booths, but more open.  The food was superb.  Just what you’d expect from a Michelin star restaurant.  I’d recite what we had, but I can do better than that, and show you the menu with our selections highlighted.  Just click it to see it better.  It’s not a link to Flickr this time, just a link to the image.  My starter was from the Vegetarian menu because we were able to mix and match between menus.We also took the matching wine pairing and that really was an eye opener.  Truly an unforgettable lunch and not a potato to be seen 😉

After lunch we walked along and got a No 16 back to Waverly and it only took about 20 minutes and that because of traffic.  Got the train to Croy and a taxi home.  Strangely enough it was the same taxi driver we had in the morning!  Really, that’s the barest of bare bones of the day.  Too much to cram in to this blog post, you need to hear about it rather than read about  it (ask about the amuse bouche Oh yes, and the bread Hazy!)  A really memorable meal and one we’d do again once we’ve saved up enough to go back DV.

Tonight’s sketch is a coloured pencil sketch of an orange.  I described it thus:  “Oranges make great subjects because after you draw them you can eat them and destroy the evidence of your mistakes!”

Orange

Today’s PoD was a view of reflections on the Water of Leith.

Tomorrow?  Auld claes and purrich I’m afraid!

 

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!

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!

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.

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.

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.

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.