Out in the countryside – 22 April 2019

We certainly were out in the countryside early this morning.

Scamp didn’t want to miss a minute of today’s beautiful weather. That’s why we were out and walking along the Forth & Clyde canal just after 10am. It seemed today was cycling day rather than Earth Day because we must have been passed by about twenty cyclists of varying degrees of fitness and skill as we walked the canal. We reached Twechar about 11am and started to walk back using the old railway as our path. That’s where today’s PoD came from. There was just a hint of blue haze as we made our way back to Auchinstarry, but I was fairly sure my software combination of Lightroom and ON1 would bring back the true colour and it did work out well. We crossed over at the Plantation and from there back on to the canal path to The Boathouse or “HEBO HOUSE” as it seems to have renamed itself. I actually like “HEBO HOUSE”. It’s got a Nordic sound to it. I’m sure the Kilsyth folk could spin a tale that it means “House by the still waters” in Lallans dialect.

Drove home and had lunch before Scamp parked her sun bed in the garden and waited for the sun to make itself known. I started on my task for the day which was to recreate the focaccia bread we’d bought in Embra on Saturday, “The day of the Signal Failure”. It was a bit of a faff making this sloppy dough. I started out making it in the food mixer, but thought I’d like to try hand kneading it, that’s when I found out just how sloppy and slithery it really was. Finally I gave in and got the Kenwood to do the heavy lifting. Bear in mind, this bread has 140ml of good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO to those in the know), whereas my usual bread dough has about 30ml. That’s how it became so slippery. However, once it was safely ensconced in its plastic tub it didn’t look so bad and after an hour it had completed its first rise. Next task was to slide it out of the tub, cut it in two and form it into two oval shapes on the baking trays. This part was easier than I’d anticipated, in fact, the worst was now past and the two focaccia breads have now been part consumed, although we did leave a bit for tomorrow. Focaccia is a dawdle as long as you have a Kenwood Chef mixer with a dough hook to do the hard work.

Basically that was it for the day. Scamp made an excellent Spaghetti dello Chef for dinner and we scoffed it and the best part of a bottle of white wine in the garden.

Spoke to JIC tonight and watched the final of University Challenge where Embra beat St Edmund Hall and the despicable Leo “Mmmmm”.

Tomorrow we’re off to Falkirk in the morning, hopefully a sunny Falkirk. Lunch for Scamp and coffee for me in the afternoon.

Marie Kondo rules OK – 19 April 2019

Today I ignored the beautiful sunshine for a while and started tidying up the top three drawers in my chest of drawers in the back bedroom. Marie Kondo, you have a lot to answer for.

It’s been coming for a while, but when Scamp was out buying Tesco today, I got started clearing out the top two drawers. Actually I’d already started on the top drawer yesterday, but hadn’t managed to file very much in the big round filing cabinet in the corner. Today was a more concerted effort. Using partly the Marie Kondo mantra of “Does this spark joy?” and partly my own “Keep, File, Chuck” method, I managed to get rid of a few more things, then allocate a particular space to the ones I wanted to keep. What was the top drawer is now the second top, because the boxes I was using for the ‘filing’ wouldn’t fit in the top drawer. The chest of drawers is designed in the architectural style where the highest drawer is the shallowest and the lowest is the deepest. It’s the way Victorian and Edwardian architects designed windows in big houses. Look some time and you’ll see how it works. So, the top drawer now only holds paper and sketch books and the second top drawer holds two main categories of objects:

  • File (pens, knives and stuff) They don’t necessarily Spark Joy, but they are useful or essential tools.
  • Keep (photos, flyers etc). They are not tools, but they remind me of something. They all Spark Joy.

That drawer is much more organised than it was before, but may not stay that way.

The third drawer is still a work in progress. It has much more Spark Joy items than the other two and will need a bit more willpower to encourage me to put things into the ‘Chuck’ pile.

Halfway through Hazy phoned and we had a long discussion about gardens, cats and birthdays. Heavens, we also managed to fit in Christmas plans, which seem to be firming up quite nicely.

After lunch which was delicious Cheese and Beetroot sandwiches, we started on the garden. I wanted to plant the Calabrese which is like broccoli, but Scamp suggested that it might be a good idea to put up the pea frame first, to prevent disruption of the growing plants when it’s actually needed. I agreed and got it built up quite easily. Planted the Calabrese while Scamp did all the rest of the garden work.

Sat out for a while in the sun with a glass of wine each because it was a beautiful warm spring day and Good Friday too. Found today’s PoD crawling round a garden bucket. It’s a Nut Weevil and is probably the reason my chestnuts aren’t growing this year, as the adult insect bores a hole into the nut and lays its eggs inside. The grub hatches, eats its way out and it’s goodbye Chestnut. It made a nice photo though.

Tomorrow we may go to Embra. Hoping for another sunny day. Central heating seems to be fixed by the way. Oh, yes and Hazy, I’ve got the two backups downloaded tonight. One from the old website and one from the new. Belts & Braces, that’s me!

Not such a bright day – 16 April 2019

Today was Chris’s dad’s funeral. JIC had flown up specially for it last night.

He might have come up for the funeral, but before that JIC had to take a conference call with California and China. That’s just the kind of circles he moves in these days. Half past eight this morning and he was on Skype, doing work.

The funeral went well, I suppose. Well, as good as these things get. This was the first Humanist funeral I’d been to. I don’t confess to be a Christian. I suppose the closest I can get to religion is Buddhism, but even elements of that don’t work for me. I didn’t like the delivery of the woman who took the ceremony. Maybe she was new to it, but her delivery was too fast, too rushed with pauses that were too long and sometimes in the wrong places. It didn’t have the solemnity of a Church of Scotland funeral, but the delivery there has a style all of its own too and its not a pleasant one either. I’d guess it’s only someone who knew the person who has died who can really speak about them, from the heart, and that’s what the people listening want to hear.

We went to the ‘tea’ afterwards and met a few folk we knew. I liked the way Andy, JIC and Chris shared memories of Chris’s dad. That’s more like what folk do at a traditional ‘tea’ after a funeral. They remember the good bits in a person’s life and forgive the bad bits.

In the afternoon we went for a late lunch with JIC before he got the flight home. Unfortunately time seemed to slip away and the next thing I knew it was 5pm, we should have been on our way by then and we still hadn’t had our pudding. Eventually we got served and left for the drive into Glasgow. CITRAC was displaying its usual useless nonsense. “Nineteen minutes to the airport” it said. Actually it took nearly forty five minutes through what is euphemistically called ‘Rush Hour’, except nobody was rushing. Finally dropped him off at the airport to go through security. We turned round and started to drive home when Scamp suggested we go for a coffee at Braehead. That gave just enough time for the congestion to decrease and allow us to drive at a fairly steady pace back home through the rain. The plants need the rain Scamp said. She’s probably right.

Today’s PoD was made possible by that rain on the back bedroom window. I liked it. I called it “Through the fish-eyed lens of tear stained eyes” lyrics from The Final Cut by Roger Waters. Seemed somehow fitting.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go dancing. Let’s hope it’s a happier day than today.

Tesco, Coots and Curry – 13 April 2019

Some days are filled with surprises and action. Today wasn’t one of those.

Today we went to Tesco to get the makings of tonight’s dinner. I fancied making another slow cooker curry, a vegetarian one for a change. That was one of the highlights of the day.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk over St Mo’s.  In the sunshine it was lovely and warm, but the wind was decidedly cold, coming from the Baltic the weather fairies say and I believe them. Today’s PoD was another shot of a coot sitting on its nest of twigs on the floating pontoon of horsetails. I walked on down to the BP garage to get some sparkling water to give a lift to the pakora I was planning on making for a starter for the dinner. Found a wee boy, maybe about 12yrs being questioned by a couple of women. He looked completely out of it and to start with I thought he’d been in a fight or had been climbing trees and had fallen, but it turned out he’d had a few sherbets and was just the far side of sober, or so they suspected. He did look a funny colour and they were looking after him and giving him sips of water while his mum was contacted. Me? I’d have been a bit more circumspect about getting involved. These days it’s a minefield being a good Samaritan.

In the evening I sorted out the last of the email realignment and I think I now have a fully functioning website on a new server. This week I intend to back up the files from the old server before I clear out the server, and probably also back up the files from the new one too – Belts & Braces.
I really can’t thank Hazy enough for the research she’s done for me, not only searching out the best hosting company to go with, but also finding answers and help pages to keep me on the right lines, and then checking that her dad had pressed the right buttons in the right order and not broken anything. Couldn’t have done it without you love. You are a real gem.

The curry was a hit and a miss. Scamp didn’t like it, but I did. Such a pity, but the cauliflower pakora was a great hit with Scamp. I wasn’t so keen on it. Like I say, Hit and a Miss.

That was about it for today. Went to bed early because I hadn’t been sleeping well these last few days, so the blog was posted on Sunday!

Happy Birthday to Me – 8 April 2019

Sixty nine years ago Mr and Mrs Campbell had a wee boy. Today he’s much older, but not a lot wiser.

I had a lovely day. Breakfast in bed then opened all my parcels. Lots of imaginative things and funny cards. Lots of sweeties too. You can never have too many sweeties. Went out to lunch at The Battlefield Rest. I had Bruschetta Verdura followed by Chicken and Salsiccia Cacciatore. Scamp had Fish Crêpe followed by Haddock Risotto. Neither of us had a space for pudding. Drove back home and ordered my new slice of webspace at a much lower price than my last one. Now I just have to get the virtual removal van to take the website over to its new home, or most likely, get some clever bots to do the job for me. With the help of my favourite daughter, of course who coincidentally I spoke to on the phone just as I was wiping the sweat from my forehead.

That left just enough time to get changed into salsa clothes to go out to class. First class was a bit frantic and really quite big now. Second class had also grown in numbers and I was getting a bit worried that I’d have to dance a Birthday Rueda. That’s when the the person who’s birthday it is, in this case me, has to stand in the centre of the rueda and dance with all the girls, one after the other while everyone else shouts and claps. It didn’t happen. Oh dear, what a shame!! Maybe it was because it was my birthday, but I managed to remember the new move, not its name, of course, but I did remember the sequence of moves.

On the way home I tried to grab a shot of the lights of the football stadium shining across to the Broadwood Loch. I took the shot from the car park at the loch. My apologies to all the people sitting in the cars who felt the sudden need to be elsewhere when they saw someone walking about with a camera!

When we came back I spoke to JIC on the phone and he explained how he uses his fancy coffee filter. Tomorrow I will try again with his information in my head.

To all those at Burnside in Skye, JIC and Sim, Hazy and Neil and of course Scamp, thank you for all the prezzies and cards. You all helped me have a brilliant day. Thank you.

Tomorrow I may go to the butchers to get some nice meaty protein. Scamp is going out with Isobel to tell tall tales of our holiday.

Getting the horses cut – 14 March 2019

Today was a tidying up sort of day. A day for sorting out loose ends.

It started off with a visit to the school to pay the deposit for a retiral dinner. Met the lady in question and spent an hour chewing the fat about people we knew in the past and the less savoury ones who were in management in the present. Dropped in at my ex-department, but cautiously didn’t visit ‘my’ room. I prefer to remember it in my mind’s eye. From there I drove in to Glasgow to get the horses cut. It was an old joke when I was at school. The French for ‘hair’ is cheveux and the French for horses is chevaux. When you’re 12 it’s so, so funny to say you’re going to get your ‘Horses’ cut! Not so funny now, unfortunately.

Got a Number Four all over with eyebrows trimmed too and all for £7. A bargain at the price with a political diatribe on the failure of a Conservative government to finalise the Brexit details from the bearded one who was cutting hair (or horses) at the next chair, while my Polish barber was bemoaning the dishonesty of fellow barbers who had left with her ‘neck brush’, meaning she had to share the shop ‘hair brush’. I couldn’t say who had the more forceful opinion.

With a much reduced head of hair (or horses – Enough? Yes, probably) I went for a walk down the town for a coffee in Nero. Wandered through the Argyle Arcade and grabbed a few shots to create a PoD and then back up to the car park to retrieve the Juke for a decent enough price of a fiver.

Back home I had to get stuck in and clear a living space in the back bedroom for Jackie who was coming to stay the night before going back up to Skye tomorrow. After I found the sofa bed under an assortment of books, tablets, clothes and sketch pads, I started to make some pakora for the starter for tonight’s dinner. It’s such a faff to make, but once the prep is done, you can use it for a couple of days.

Visitor arrived and the pakora was deemed good enough for her to want the recipe. I tried to explain that it was a recipe handed down from mother to son or father to daughter, but I know she didn’t believe me after I said I’d send her the link to it from YouTube. Scamp made Chicken & Mushrooms with Rice and then June arrived and a coven was in session, so I cleared up the kitchen, made amoretti coffee coffee for everyone and then settled down with a glass of Grants Sherry Casked to write some emails.

Decided I just had enough time to process the PoD and post the blog before the witching hour. Hopefully I’ll make it.

Tomorrow we may go to lunch somewhere because Saturday looks snowy!

Sleet, snow, hail and rain – 10 March 2019

Set off around 9.30 for the long drive back home. It wasn’t looking like it would be a pleasant drive and it lived up to that estimate. Driving down through Skye was ok with the snow keeping mostly to the mountains and higher hills. I managed to grab a shot of the Old Man of Storr just emerging from a blizzard. That became the PoD.

Carried on down to the biscuit tin also know as Eilean Donan castle at Dornie and stopped there for a coffee and a scone each. Suitably refreshed and after I’d had a quick look at some of the paintings for sale in the shop, we got on our way again. The weather worsened quite a bit and when we passed Loch Cluanie it was down to minimal visibility and the snow was beginning to lie on the road. I expected worse would be to come when we made the turn off to climb up to the Glen Garry viewpoint because the road is very exposed. I needn’t have worried because the snow clouds didn’t break and we had a fairly easy run over to Invergarry. From there it was on and off sleet and rain all the way down to Fort Billy where we stopped for lunch.

Refuelled at Fort Billy (oh how I wish the Juke had a proper petrol tank) and set off for Glencoe. Glencoe itself was fine, but when we got up onto Rannoch Moor the snow started again in earnest and we joined a conga line of cars battling down the road. The snow and sleet stayed with us all way down to Crianlarich and eventually faded out, leaving us free to drive down to Stirling and the welcome wide lanes of the M9. We had had a blue van following us all the way from Fort Billy. He/she seemed in no hurry to pass us and we kept a steady pace all the way. Just before they turned off the M9 heading for Embra they flashed their headlights and I gave them a wave. Hope they got home safe.

The rest of the journey was thankfully boring and pedestrian compared with the highlands. Enjoyed the time with Jac & Murdo, but it was good to be home.

Tomorrow? Gems and Salsa that’s about it.

A Grey Day – 8 March 2019

A good day for dancing the greys away.

It was too dull a day for taking the Juke round the top end, so we just drove through the rain down to Portree, the big city. We headed for Jan’s Vans. A real find in Portree. Jan’s Vans is really just a big hardware store. Nothing fancy, but everything from a needle to an anchor. I’ve never actually seen any anchors in there, but I’m sure if you looked long enough you’d find one. We really were there for lunch, because it’s decent grub. Certainly not anything fancy, just good food. After lunch we went for a look round the shop part of the establishment and found lots of interesting and cheap stuff. Laces for my dancing shoes, memory foam insoles for the same. Bottle brushes that Scamp had been searching for everywhere. We passed on the ride-on mower for £2400 because it would be difficult to get it home. I suppose we could have ridden it, but it wouldn’t have been a comfortable journey.

We had a look in Skye Batiks to see if they’d any nice shirts. They did have, but not at a nice price. £50 for a short sleeved shirt is a bit expensive for me. A quick trip to the newsagent’s and that was it for Portree. We headed back up the road through the rain showers. Scamp had arranged with her sister that we could book the hall in her outdoor centre for an hour or so of dance practise. It was indeed a good idea and we got some useful dancing practise in and I grabbed PoD which was taken from one of the windows onto the wild Skye landscape.

Back home and after dinner we had a fair bit of excitement when the chimney in the house caught fire and the fire brigade had to called. As it’s a volunteer group the men had to be assembled and driven up to the house in their brand new fire engine. It didn’t take much more than fifteen minutes and the fire was out by the time they arrived, but it was quite a worrying time. The guys were really efficient and put everyone’s mind at rest when they checked the chimney and the wall with their heat sensitive camera. Later we managed to settle down with a G&T for some and a dram for others to calm us down. It will be talk of the township tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for better weather and less excitement.

Taking the road north – 7 March 2019

Up and out by 10am. It was going to be a long day.

Topped up the Juke’s tank and pointed the nose at the M80 heading north. Passed Stirling, Calander and on past Loch Lubnaig through some beautiful sunshine and some heavy showers. Didn’t stop until Crianlarich for a ‘comfort break’ then back on the road to Rannoch Moor to grab some photos. Some things I can resist, but the mountains surrounding Rannoch Moor, especially when they’ve had a dusting of snow? No, that’s an impossibility. I just had to take the shot. I’ve taken it many, many times in all sorts of weather conditions, but it never looks exactly like I saw it in my mind’s eye.

Next stop was Morrison’s at Fort William (Fort Billy as we used to call it) for lunch and more fuel for the Juke. That was the easy part past. Next was a long slog up past Spean Bridge and then when we were past Invergarry we were on the road to Skye that took us past Eileen Donan castle the cover of so many biscuit tins and over the bridge to Skye proper. Finally reaching Jackie & Murdo’s croft just after 4pm.

Passed some beautiful countryside on those 240 odd miles, but I only took the half a dozen photos at Rannoch. Wish now we’d taken a little more time and grabbed some more images.

I suppose I should have gone out for a walk down by the slip, but I was tired and a glass of wine and a wee dram put paid to any ideas of more driving tonight.

Tomorrow, maybe a wee tour of the north end of the island.

Apprentice Drivers – 2 March 2019

Scamp was out this afternoon with Isobel and June (a girls afternoon out) at Cumbersheugh Theatre to see Sister Act. I volunteered to be driver. I’ve tried to park at the theatre many times before and know just how stupid people are. Today the stupid ones stayed at home it was the apprentice stupids who were out driving. As if it wasn’t bad enough having to manoeuvre around a bus, an actual bus in this tiny excuse for a carpark, there were holes with crowd of potholers complete with ropes and crash helmets waiting to investigate them. As if this wasn’t bad enough, one woman decided it would be good to go round the one way system the wrong way. When she was eventually discouraged from this suicidal move, the bus driver decided it was time to get back out, so we had to wait while he drove down the single track road avoiding more potholes and drivers coming the opposite way. Actually, the bus was a godsend because it cleared a path for the rest of us to get out of this disaster waiting to happen.

I just went home and painted a couple of apples, read a few pages in my latest book and browsed the InterWeb for holidays somewhere warm and dry without potholes. All too soon it was time to pick the ladies up. Thankfully Scamp suggested I wait five or ten minutes for the majority of the dodgem drivers to get out before I made my bid. Before I left the house I ordered a curry from Bombay Dreams, intending to pick it up when we were on our way home after dropping off the others.

Bombay Dreams usually produces lovely food. Today was an exception. The curries were ready and waiting for us when we arrived, but were cooling considerably sitting next to the front door. Naan bread was dead by the time we got to it and although the pakora tasted fresh, the curries were disappointing. It was maybe just a bad day or a new chef, but you’re only as good as your last meal in this game.

PoD was cut flowers. Not the most inspiring photo I’ve ever taken, but it was ok.

We watched Zootropolis to brighten our evening. It was a film Scamp had recorded at Christmas and was head and shoulders away from the junk that was being offered on a Saturday night by any of the terrestrial channels.

Hoping to go dancing to a new venue tomorrow.