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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.

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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.

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Going Home – 13 May 2018

Today the fun was over for a while and we were going home.

A laze about morning then we went to a garden centre for lunch. Saw some interesting plants for the garden, but because we were flying home, there was no opportunity to bring any of them north to visit our garden. Maybe that is a godsend with the number of planters and pots we have there now. Wandered round the shop with the usual amount of tat and junk. I bought some pea seeds to plant in addition to the ones we already have.

It doesn’t matter what you try to fill your hours with on ‘leaving day’, there’s only one thing on your mind and that’s going home. The drag of going through security and waiting for your gate to show then finding that gate, which is usually the furthest away one. Better to get started and just go. That’s what we did.

Really busy place Stanstead. Couldn’t believe the queue to drop folk off, but soon we were through security and sitting breathing in the muggy reconditioned air in the departure ‘lounge’. Then there was the hour in a metal tube in the sky before landing in a really sunny and warm Glasgow. I don’t say that very often, do I? Bus in to Glasgow, then train to Croy while being serenaded with rebel songs by a seriously guttered Sellic supporter whose wife and son tried to disown him. Thankfully he was travelling on to Stirling, although Croy would have been more fitting surely. Just going to phone for a taxi when the ‘wee bus’ appeared and we used our pensioner’s tickets again to get to Craiglinn and then walked home.

It was a lovely stay. I think we both really enjoyed it. Thank you again JIC, Sim and the new, improved Vixen. Great, relaxing few days. Too few, but sometimes it’s better leaving wanting more.

Back to auld claes and purrich tomorrow.

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Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

Last night after being fairly well organized, Windows decided it desperately needed an update without telling anyone.

<TECHNOSPEAK>
I thought I was sorted. Blog written, photos edited and ready to be exported. All I needed to do was put everything together and upload them. Unfortunately, Windows in association with Lightroom had other ideas. First, LR wanted to export the wrong file and absolutely refused to pick the right one. ON1 was no help, because it wouldn’t load. Usually a restart will solve the problem and when I tried to restart the computer and it told me it was configuring it, I knew it had been downloading another unnecessary upgrade. That explained it, I thought. However on restarting, nothing wanted to work at all. Got fed up with its shenanigans and did an impolite shutdown. On a Mac, a polite shutdown is where you tell the ‘puter to shut down. An impolite shutdown is where you pull the plug. You don’t have that option on a laptop. Holding down the on button does the same job. Val says leave it for a slow count of ten and then restart it. That’s what I did and it worked. Everything was normal. LR exported the file and Livewriter uploaded the blog without any problem.
</TECHNOSPEAK>

That was last night, today was much better. We were out fairly early to make the most of the day at the Steam Fair in Stotfold. We were walking there, taking the path between the old mill and the mill house, the former dull and uninteresting, the latter looking very elegant, but not worth the £2M asking price. From there across the fields to Stotfold, an odd mixture of new-builds and centuries old farm buildings.

The Steam Fair was marvellous. As the name suggests, lots of steam driven machinery and transport. Even better there was a fair, a real fair with stalls, a big wheel, a helter skelter and best of all, a Wall of Death. I can’t remember exactly when I last saw a wall of death, but it must have been fifty years ago at least. We wandered round the attractions, then we three meat eaters had hot roast pork with stuffing and crackling on a roll from a stall, while the vegetarian of the group had a carton of chips. The roast pork was excellent. Wandered round a few more of the stalls and bought two wee lego ‘Weemen’. A Darth and a panda, both of which will become models in the near future, I’m sure. Visited the Mill, a real working mill powered by a waterwheel. Really looked the part, despite being burnt to the ground in the ‘80s and rebuilt. Later we had a drink in the beer tent. JIC and I had an excellent IPA. Wish I’d taken a quick snap of the barrel to record its name. Sim had Old Peculiar which I always think is a bit too sweet. Scamp had a pint of Deuchers. Glad they had a decent Scottish beer too. Foodies, yes. Drinkies, perhaps. Finally decided to call it a day after I’d stood out in the rain watching a flying display by Captain Nevil’s Flying Circus. I bought myself a couple of caps, one waterproof (allegedly) one, just a cap for the hols. You can never have too many caps or bunnets. I was really glad I’d decided to wear my rainy coat because it rained all the way home.

At night we went to the Lancers, Indian restaurant in Baldock. Food was deemed ok. Not too bad, but with strange mixtures. Scamp wasn’t impressed with her Saag Paneer which seemed to have coconut milk in it. Never seen that before, but perhaps its a regional thing in India.

Watched a couple of strange Black Mirror episodes to finish off the day. What is it about Black Mirror that makes it stick in my head long after the program has finished? They remind me of the old ’60s Outer Limits, the black and white ones.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to this place and fly back home.

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Going down South–10 May 2018

Like I said yesterday, today was going to be a busy day.  Woke at the usual time, but unusually, got up and got going right away.

Quick breakfast and then the slow bus to Glasgow.  Isn’t it strange to think if we had got the bus one hour earlier, it would have taken it as long to get to Glasgow as it would take to fly from Glasgow to London.  We weren’t in a rush though, we walked along three stance in the bus station to get the bus to the airport and then went through security and had a sort of lunch before getting the call to the gate and then on the plane to Stanstead.  JIC picked us up at the airport and drove us to see the ‘Devil Dog’ who was quite angelic compared with our last meeting over a year ago.  She seemed to accept us as ‘safe’ since we had been passed fit by her owners.

After settling in, downing a cup of tea, getting a tour of the garden and catching up with all things English, we settled down in the garden, enjoying the chat and the exploits of Vixen.  She really is much calmer and more settled than when we last saw her.  Still a funny dog, stalking pigeons, but never catching them.  Trying to square up to next door’s dogs who weren’t even in their garden.

Later in the evening we went for a walk across the fields with Jamie and Vixen and that’s where today’s PoD came from.  Beautiful light tonight.  It’s not surprising that everything is some much further progressed here.  Oil seed rape is almost past where back home it’s not even started flowering yet.

By the time we got back Sim had returned from work.  It was soon time for dinner which was Mackerel tray bake with rice.  Very messy to eat, but lovely.

We watched a Black Mirror episode at night which I can’t get out of my head.  Could they really plug in to someone’s memories as easily as that?  I’m sure it’s not that far fetched.

Vixen decide it was time for us all to go to bed and actually I was ready for an early night.

Tomorrow we go to Baldock I believe.

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Shorts and Tee Shirt Weather – 7 May 2018

When we woke this morning it was cloudy and dull.

It may have been cloudy and it may have been dull, but the outside temperature was already 14.4ºc. That’s only 0.6º short of official Shorts and Tee Shirt weather as decreed by me.

When I eventually dragged myself away from my book, got showered and dressed, it was definitely shorts and tee shirt time, but I retained my decorum and just wore a shirt and jeans instead. Scamp was already in the garden, watering and feeding the plants and encouraging the sun to shine down on this great land we live in. Even better, it seemed to be working. The sun was breaking through the clouds and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. Cleaned the Gaggia and which has been on my to do list for ages. Sat on the front step with Scamp and grabbed today’s PoD which is the inside of an open tulip.

After a quick trip to Tesco, lunch and a conversation with Hazy. I decided it was time to get the bike out and take it for a run. Truly this was shorts and tee shirt weather, cycling shorts and a short sleeved top. It was a good run, but there wasn’t much for the new lens to get a grip on. Back home and it as salad for dinner and a mighty good one too. Potato salad, mixed leaves, yesterday’s mutton served cold, beetroot and all washed down with a glass of vino collapso. Then a seat in the garden to let it all slide down with the last of the vino to help it on its way. After an hour or so the sun had dipped far enough down to force us back inside.  Nice to have a restful Monday with no salsa as  the STUC building is closed on bank holidays.

All in all, it was a very nice day. Unfortunately it looks like it’s all going downhill from here on in. Never mind, it was a really good summer. We enjoyed both days.

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Just a Friday – 27 April 2018

No early rise today, no dramas with central heating, just a Friday.

Just a lazy start to the day and after solving the Sudoku and after lunch I drove Scamp up the ‘Toonie’ to have lunch with the other three ‘Witches’ while I converted my last surviving paper Bank of England £10 note into a safe RBS plastic tenner. After that I bought some peas to plant, a hook to make into a boot rack (DIY) and some more 10p silk emulsion paint testers to use as gesso on corrugated cardboard panels. That will make them ready to receive some oil paint.

Came home and slapped the cheapo gesso on a cardboard panel and it looks better than the matt emulsion panels I’d made earlier in the week. Started a landscape on one of those matt emulsion panels using cheapo (again) water soluble oils. Reeves oils, not nearly as good as the Rowney or W&N ones. You get what you pay for. Still, it looked quite a lively landscape. Liked it.

Baked a loaf that had been rising in a new banneton cane basket I’d bought yesterday. Grudged the money for it, probably because it wasn’t cheapo, but you do get what you pay for because the loaf turned out perfectly round and tasted good too.

Dinner was gammon steak with sausages, egg and griddles pineapple slices. Lovely. By then Scamp had returned just in time to get ready to go out to a concert with Isobel 15 minutes later. I was taxi driver tonight. Didn’t mind it because it gave me time to develop my photos. Not a lot of material tonight as it’s been a bit of mixed up day and the weather has been the most mixed of all with rain showers, hail and bright sunshine. The PoD is the rather sad looking starling sitting on the back fence.

Just back now from taking Isobel home from the concert at Cumbernauld Theatre and then driving Scamp home. Amazed that I found a space to park in when we got home.

Tomorrow we’d planned to go to Millport (over the sea), but the weather looks as if it will be much like today, so maybe we’ll shelf that for a better day and look for something else to do.

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Irvine no more – 14 April 2018

Today we were going to visit Dorothy.

After a quick lunch we headed off to Ayrshire. Met up with Colin and spent just half an hour with Dorothy who was looking good, but was complaining of feeling dizzy so we agreed that a shorter visit was ideal this time. We’ll try to visit more often now, but not linger as long as we used to. It was good to talk to Colin too and find out how the rest of the family were getting on.

Instead of driving home afterwards, we took a wee diversion to Irvine. It’s a long time since we’ve been there. Twenty five years or so Scamp thinks! None of it looked familiar. We parked down near the ‘Innovation Bridge’ which looked less than innovative in its present dilapidated state. It originally had a moving centre span, but it looks like that has now been removed completely. That leaves the ‘Big Idea’ science centre isolated and quite dead. Such a shame after so much money was ploughed into it. PoD was the view through the security gate looking across the bridge (top pic).

Drove back via Waitrose in Newton Mearns at the posh end of Glasgow. Loaded the car up with more provisions than we’ll need in months and came home. Interesting run to Irvine, but not much to see once you get there. May visit in the summer to walk on the beach. Looks like a good coffee shop there, so that may be a bonus.

We’ve just looked at Hazy’s new back garden on Flickr and are very impressed with the work. It makes the back of the house so much bigger looking and much brighter too. Good decision, even if the frogs won’t agree!

Dinner tonight was courtesy of Bombay Dreams and I think my eye was bigger than my belly. Suffering a bit, but I’m sure I’ll sleep it off.

Tomorrow? Not sure. I think we’re dancing in the afternoon at a Social, other than that, maybe a walk.

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Another day older – 8 April 2018

Hopefully not (too much) deeper in debt.

Yesterday I got to bed just before I became 68. Today I woke to the reality of it. We had intended going in to a food festival in Glasgow, but after due consideration and the fact that the rain had stopped, I decided to go out and cycle. Scamp decided to work in the garden. Very satisfactory decisions for both of us.

While I was getting dressed for cycling, Scamp had been giving the back garden the once over and she’d found an old clay flowerpot which was being used by about forty, yes FORTY (I did a rough count) slugs. Big fat Irish Yellow Slugs. I’d post the picture, but it would put you off your breakfast … lunch …. and dinner. We could have salted them, but the resulting slime is even more disgusting than the molluscs. The more humane option was to put the pot, complete with slugs in a poly bag and take it into the country and release them there. Now I’d heard that slugs are homing creatures and will easily find their way back to their home garden if it’s half a mile away. This lot were going five miles away and they went there in a poly bag in my back pack and they couldn’t see where we went. I released them after turning the bag round three or four times so they wouldn’t know which way was home. Also they’d have to cross three main roads to get back here. I think we’re safe. They’re gone.

Got some pics there the PoD was the monochrome shot of the brambles.

Had a lovely day. Thank you JIC, Sim, Hazy and Neil. Most of all, thank you Scamp for planning my day. You said you didn’t, but I know you did.

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To Darkest Larky – 16 March 2018

Tonight we were going to Darkest Larky to take June and Ian to meet Crawford & Nancy.

It was a dull, dismal, cold day. We decided to go out for lunch, a light lunch as we would be well fed tonight. We finally settled on The Smiddy out near Doune. Got a table easily enough and Scamp ordered Tomato soup. I fancied the Parmesan, Pancetta and Olive Quiche. Unfortunately, after taking the order, the waitress returned to say that the last piece of that quiche had just gone. Would I like the Highland Blue, Spinach and Tomato Quiche? I felt like saying “No, I’d like the Parmesan …”, but I foolishly agreed to the replacement. When it came it was a disappointingly mass-produced looking version that sat on the plate amid the mixed lettuce leaves and the sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes were good. The rest was just as disappointing as it looked. I think The Smiddy is becoming the victim of their success. Scamp said her soup had a slightly ‘meaty’ taste to it, almost like there was marmite or something in it. We may give The Smiddy a rest for a while.

June and Ian arrived at night and we headed of for Larky. Crawford and Nancy proudly showed off their new kitchen and sun-room. It really, and I mean really made us both green with envy. Such a lovely space, and so spacious too. I know Crawford put a lot of work into it and it showed. June and Ian were so wrapped up in each other, I don’t think they took much notice.

Food and drink was just as good as it usually is except for the driver who had to make do with a Coke, thankfully a Full-Fat one. Conversation and jokes rattled about among us and it was good to see that Ian gave as good as he got. The only thing missing was a big black labrador that used to come and plonk itself down at June’s feet. Unfortunately it had gone the way of all flesh. It was a docile big soul.

Never really noticed the time until Scamp said we should be going. It was 11.45.

By the time we’d dropped everyone off it was 12.30am when we found a parking space right outside the door and came home. That’s why this blog was written on Saturday.

PoD was a grab shot of croci in the garden.