Parrots, Pizza and Reverse – 12 February 2020

A strange mixture, but all in the correct order.

Last full day down south and my how the time has flown. All the things we were going to do and all the places we were going to see. Well we did do some of them and we did see some of them too. Today we were going to take Hazy to the garden centre, the same one Canute and Delia had taken us to, so I knew the route. We had some time to waste first, so I left Scamp to guard the house while I went for a walk in Horton Park.

Like I’ve said earlier, is a well kept park. Lots of little pathways going everywhere. Cycle tracks with obstacles to jump or ride over. Confusing signage which seems to point out five different ways to get to the same place, all in different directions and with different distances, and parrots! Well, actually they are parakeets, green ones that screech their way across the treetops, never coming close to the ground. Found lots of interesting little nicknacks all over the place. Rusted fenceposts that must have been pre-WW1. Little clearings in the woods and more parrots. I’d only been given an hour at most to investigate the woods, less than that once I’d navigated my way round a roundabout. Soon my phone was warning me that I’d used up half my time and it was now time to return to the house.

Managed to drive out the driveway and on to the road without hitting anything. For some reason the traffic was kind to me and allowed me a space to exit on to what is usually a very busy road. Followed the road Canute had taken and quickly found the garden centre without having to cross the standing water that had dogged his journey. Pizza in the garden centre is usually a must, but today it must have been the apprentice chef who was in charge, because when my buzzer announced its arrival from the oven, what I took charge of was a bit thin and scorched. I ate most of it. Scamp’s baked potato looked no better. Bought a few things then wheeled Hazy to the car and found out how to fold the wheelchair neatly into the boot. That’s when the trouble started.

We had to reverse out of the parking space, but every time I though I’d selected reverse, the car moved forward. I checked the gearstick to see if I had to lift the stick to select reverse, or push down on it, but neither of those was available, it was simply a case of push left, then forward … except that didn’t seem to work. Hazy even phoned Neil in Goa to find out if there was a magic word you had to use first, but he just confused me even more by saying that you moved the stick left, but kind of left and back, and then forward. If it had just been Scamp and I in the car I’d have started swearing then. If I had I’d have missed the sight of a beautiful bird, a Red Kite flying up out of a field across the road. I was half watching it the the stick slipped neatly into reverse and we were off again on our way. I was careful not to do anything stupid that necessitated reverse gear again until we arrived home and the passengers were safely in the house. Then I did the unforgivable. I read the manual. It said to use a dynamic movement to select reverse. More a curve left and forward, rather than two discrete movements. It worked like a treat. Now I saw what Neil had been describing. However, after I’d managed to get the car into the position it was in before we left, I got out, locked the door and walked away. I don’t think we’ll bother looking for a Mini as our next car.

PoD is one of the old pre-WW1 fenceposts.
SoD is a rose, using what I remembered from the technique I learned from an old man on a cruise a couple of years ago.

Spent the evening packing everything into two roll along cases one bag and a rucksack. Tomorrow we’re off home.

Windy Willy – 9 February 2020

Windy Willy was doing his best to make life difficult today.

Actually, Willy had nothing to do with it today. The trouble was all caused by Storm Ciara as it swept in from the Atlantic. Even in Hazy’s fairly sheltered bungalow, the wind was fairly thumping the roof as it bounced around the houses.

The storm didn’t stop Canute and Delia arriving and taking us to lunch. Just the two of us because Hazy chose to stay and rest after the excitement of JIC and Sim’s visit and the revelations after dinner. We drove to Chessington Garden Centre. I didn’t think it would be open with all the storm warnings and Canute said there were a few trees blown down near them. However, we needn’t have worried. There were hungry people out there with money to spend, so the garden centre was open and doing a brisk trade in meals.

After lunch we browsed what was available in the garden part of the garden centre. Scamp wanted to pot up a London Pride which my mum always called Nancy Pretty so we got a bag of compost an a pot. Canute and Delia also bought something, but it’s redacted until ND comes home.

Canute drove us back thorough more stormy weather, flooded roads, road works fences spread across the road, tree branches blown down, the usual aftermath of a storm, except the storm was still there as the news broadcasts were happily telling us.

PoD turned out to be a fig still clinging on to the tree in H&N’s front garden.  SoD was a padlock because the prompt was “Lock”.  For some reason ink drawings get fewer ‘likes’ than watercolours in EDiF and 28 DL.  Must try a pencil sketch soon to see how that fares.

Tomorrow we may go to Epsom if the storm has subsided a bit.

The 365/6 must continue – 8 February 2020

JIC and Sim were visiting us today for lunch.

We’d bought a chicken yesterday and today it was due to be roasted. However, before that I was tasked with making some scones. I’ve only ever made them at home in our oven which I have a love/hate relationship with. Sometimes it works perfectly, but as it’s a fan-assisted gas oven, setting temperature is a bit of a hit and miss affair. Scamp is very good at getting it to the right setting for most things, but I’m always unsure exactly how it should be set. Hazy and ND have an electric eye level fan oven and it’s really easy to set and easy to use. I’d like one of those. It would go well with the four ring gas hob I’d also like. Yes, H&N have one of them too. The upshot of all this is that the scones, although made from a sticky wet dough, turned out perfectly. The best Lemonade Scones I’ve made, ever. All evenly baked and browned.

After my scones came out, the chicken went in. J&S arrived bang on time and dinner was great. Just one big family gathering. It’s such a pity ND wasn’t able to be there, but I suppose it’s a fair distance to travel from Goa just for a chicken dinner and some well baked scones. Maybe next time. It was at the end of the meal that The Next Time was revealed.

There has been some planning going on for my birthday, it seems. JIC, Hazy and ND are coming up north to celebrate with me. Unfortunately, Sim will have to dog-sit for Vixen as they can’t get her in to kennels because the visit will be during the Easter holidays. That revelation took me quite by surprise. I hadn’t expected it at all and nearly had me in tears.

The other thing that transpired was how much my readership enjoy the 365 or 366 as it is this year. So, despite my protestations that it takes a lot of time and effort, not to mention software to keep it going, it will continue. I was really sorry when JIC and Sim had to leave, but it won’t be long until Easter.

PoD was a desiccated plant in Hazy’s bathroom. I just liked it.
SoD was a wee man in a boat fishing to take the prize for “Fish”.

Tomorrow Scamp, Hazy and I have been invited out to lunch by Canute and Delia. More people. More chat, and entertaining chat too as it always is with Canute.

Kingston – 6 February 2020

Off on our travels again.

Today we’d earmarked Kingston upon Thames as the place to go. We’d been there before a few times, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go again and probably find new wonders to explore. Now that we know how to use Oyster cards and even simpler credit cards to pay on buses and trains, travel without a ticket is the way to go. Single price journeys are so much easier to work with too.

So it was a walk along to the bus stop, then the No 71 to Kingston as the lady’s voice from the speaker reminded us at every stop. Then a visit to M&S for a new bunnet followed by a coffee in Nero. After that, a walk round the market and then down by the Thames in the sunshine under a bright blue sky where we saw some cormorants drying their wings.

Lunch was Japanese street food in Itsu. Mine was a Chicken Noodle soup with lots of ginger and Scamp had a Chicken and Coconut soup. We both shared a portion of Chicken Gyoza. To finish off we had a beer in the Druid’s Head. Managed to find most of the stuff we needed for dinner in Waitrose and got the bus back to Chessington.

PoD was the Thames walkway at Kingston. SoD was a snail which was the answer to the “Crawl” topic.



Tunnels and Trains – 5 February 2020

Goin’ down south to have a good time …

Out early(ish) for the taxi to the station for the train, then another train, walked for miles through underground tunnels, then another train. Climbed the stairs and missed the next train (as usual). Got the next one and then out of the station in a strange land. Started walking to the house. Discovered I’d lost my old brown bunnet somewhere. Oh no! Thought about going back, but where would it be? At the station? On one of the many trains? In a tunnel? At another station? Impossible to work out where, so resigned myself to the fact that we’d be separated forever. Hopefully someone who needed one would find it and give it a new head to keep warm.

Got to Hazy’s house after the long walk along, almost overtaking some of the cars stuck in what seems to be a perpetual traffic jam.

At Hazy’s we met Tilly the new cat and Penny the aloof matron. It was pizza for dinner tonight. A big 12” anchovy and olive for me while Hazy and Scamp shared a mushroom, peppers and anchovy one.

PoD was a grab shot, taken at Vauxhall. SoD topic was Dotty. Two ladybirds making more ladybirds was my take on the subject.

Fairly early to bed tonight after a long day of trains, tunnels and lost bunnets.

Flying home – Going home – 27 December 2019

Today was one of those lost days.

All of us knew we were on a countdown. Even Vixen seemed to realise that all was not as well as it should be.

Jamie drove us all to a garden centre. I got some seeds, Scamp got a screen cleaner for her car and J&S got seeds of the planting variety and of the bird seeding variety too. We had coffee and cakes there, of course. That’s how garden centres manage to exist during the winter. It was good to see the Christmas decorations coming down to leave room for the spring plants, no doubt. Saw and interesting plant, the Paper Bush (edgeworthia chrysantha) and that became PoD. Also noticed a lot of dead fish lying around the fish pond. Various explanations were proposed, but my best guess was a heron.

Back home for lunch and to say our goodbyes to Sim and Vixen then it was the long drive to the airport. JIC doesn’t seem to mind the long drive and I used to enjoy them too. Not so much now, or maybe I’m just not so used to driving now that I’m not having to do a daily commute. When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, maybe I’ll do a bit more.

Grabbed a quick snack at the airport and soon were called to the gate and on to the plane. Pleasant flight up. It’s strange to be on the plane for just an hour. We’re so used to the three and four hour flights to warm places, not to mention the seven hour flights to Trinidad. Excitement at Glasgow when the plane was met by four police who huckled to slightly inebriated guys off for questioning and a bit of finger wagging. When we entered the terminal, there they were getting a severe dressing down. While we waited for Scamp’s luggage they reappeared swaggering in the door. Not in the least looking worried and proceeded to take some selfies with a couple of older women who apparently had spoken up for them to the police. We hadn’t heard any commotion on the flight, so either they had been carrying on at Stanstead or it was just a bit of over reaction. Well done to the ladies for standing up for them.

Drove home and had a wee glass of G&T to settle us down.

Tomorrow we may need to go for messages.

The day after – 26 December 2019

Drove down to meet H&N at Starbucks!!!!

I thought it was going to be lunch, but it was more like coffee and cake, or, considering this was Starbucks, Starbucks and cake. It ended up just being six people talking round a table and it was good. Lovely mural on the wall. At first I though it was a repeating pattern, but then realised there were no repeats. Yes, there were things that looked like repeats, but no actual tessellation. Then I noticed the signature and date and that confirmed that it wasn’t wallpaper, it was an artwork. Very nice. Remember I said that, it’s not often I say good things about Starbucks.After the hugs and goodbyes, we drove home and got ready for the outdoors. Graham Water was our destination and we were walking anti-clockwise this time … in the rain. It could have been a dreich walk across muddy grass and even muddier paths, but the scenery kept changing as we went through woodland, down dips, up hills and into little villages. Past strange cottages with gargoyles on the eaves and then dwarfed by fields of three metre high corn. Occasionally catching glimpses of the Water itself. Eventually we reached a place where the flood waters stretched right across the road and it wasn’t clear how deep it was. We’d done enough. We turned back and I got a chance to photograph the old church that became PoD, although it could have been the grass or the gargoyles that got that honour. No, it was the church.

Back home and drying out, dinner for Scamp was another whole sea bass and for the rest it was Wagyu steak. Extortionate price, but amazing taste and texture. I can’t remember what we had in accompaniment, the steak was the star. Tasting almost like fillet and almost like ham, but softer than both. Beautiful. I wonder if the butcher in Muirhead will have some? Finished off with Christmas Pudding and Brandy Cream. I may never eat again!

More TV at night and we decided to leave the packing until tomorrow. Tomorrow we must go back up north.

And so this is Christmas – 25 December 2019

My usual step count is between 8,000 and 11,000. Today my step count was 1,238.

I was hardly past the door today although it was a bright, cold day. I did take some macro shots of the Cladonia forest that grows along the front fence at the house. I also grabbed shots of an iconic robin sitting on a branch, just outside the front window. It was one of those shots that got PoD.

Hazy phoned to say they’d be with us about 2pm and they arrived on time. In the interim we stuffed our faces with vol au vents and called that lunch. When the visitors arrived we shared out the presents. Vixen went crazy, not satisfied with opening her own presents, she wanted to open everybody’s. Then she found her present from Hazy and ND, a Kong. From then on nobody and nothing was more interesting than ripping the kong to pieces. Who would have thought that two tennis balls, one with a squeaker would command such attention. Crazy dog carefully buried it under her bed then dragged everything out to ‘find’ it again.

Dinner was roast chicken with stuffing and Spanish Rice which is rice with onions, peppers and bacon, all chopped up very fine. Delicious. It’s on our list to try soon. Pudding was, of course, Christmas Pudding or/and Apple Crumble laced with Brandy. Just about too much, but not quite.

After H&N left for the hotel, we settled down to watch TV and laugh even more at Vixen’s antics.

Tomorrow we need to go for a walk!

A walk in the countryside – 24 December 2019

Heard JIC and Sim get up to take Vixen out around 7.30am. Neither of us were interested in joining them.

After breakfast we got a message from Hazy to say they were intending leaving about midday. It looks like everything is going to schedule.

JIC, Scamp and I went out for a walk out through Astwick, being careful not to blink so we wouldn’t miss it. From there up the path between the fields. The other two kept stopping when I was taking photos, but eventually they gave up and walked on slowly while I grabbed shots of strange plants and vistas which were very English. Got my PoD on the walk. A shot of a farm with nice leading lines along the furrows in the field. Got a text from Hazel at 12.08 to say they were on their way. Right on time. On the way back I stopped to take a photo of some dead nettles flowering outside the church at Astwick. Weeds flowering in late December!

Hazy and ND arrived for coffee and to assure us that they were here on time and settled in their hotel which is just down the road. Good to see both her and JIC just talking.

Dinner tonight was:

Whole sea bream (head on) for Scamp
Cooked ham for the carnivores.
Both served with cooked split peas. They reminded me of the pease brose my mum used to make.

Watched a film at night, Earth From Space – BBC Scotland. Really brilliant pictures, but depressingly stilted delivery from the voice over.

Tomorrow it’s Christmas. “Let’s hope it’s a good one without any fear”

Watching the Airies – 23 December 2019

Off on our travels again.

Apart from checking, re-checking and partly unpacking then repacking we didn’t do much. About 1pm we drove to the airport through the rain. For once I got through security without having my bags checked. Even walked through the metal detector with my belt still on and didn’t trigger the flashing lights!

Since we were kind of on holiday, I risked a half pint of Peroni at an extortionate price. Grabbed a PoD of the airport with one plane against a Glasgow sunset. It’s becoming a tradition when going on holiday. Soon we were called to the gate and then we were ‘flying through the air, sitting in armchairs at 35,000 feet’ as someone once said.

The bags came quickly at Stanstead and JIC was soon driving us through the English night. Nice car, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the heated seats! Would Vixen still remember us, or would there be a barking fit. Needn’t have worried, there he was, showing his excitement at seeing us again.

A glass or two of excellent wine, a lovely orzo salad (Orzo and Rice – hadn’t realised they went so well together), some catching up chat and a fairly early bed.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk