Waiting, waiting, waiting for the party to begin – 10 August 2018

JIC, Sim and Steffi were coming today. It’s a long drive for them and a long wait for us.

After a morning spend tidying up, Dysoning, dusting and generally making the place spick and span, we headed out in the rain to Kirkintilloch for lunch at Calders garden centre. Lunch was fine, better than a lot of places we’ve been to recently and afterwards we had a walk round the plants while the rain thumped down on the roof of the covered area. We also ventured out in the rain to rove further into the plant area. I was impressed with the way the place was set out, with very few single species arrays beside other single species arrays. Instead, most of the displays were of mixed plants, different colours, different textures and varying heights. Now that’s a refreshingly different way to show off plants. Not so good if you’re searching for a specific plant, but if you want to see what plants complement others, it’s a great idea. Unfortunately, we weren’t looking for plants today. I was looking for a new coarse rose for the watering can, specifically one that could be used to water in the nematodes I’d received in the post this morning. We found lots of ornaments, cards, books, scarves, mottos and pictures, none of which I would have in the house and none of which would be at all good for watering in the nematodes. That’s the big problem with garden centres. The outdoor part may have plenty of plants, but the indoor section is jammed full of tat!

Came home in sunshine, roseless. Then Scamp offered an old watering can with a fairly coarse plastic rose. I decided it might just do and if it didn’t, I could drill out a few of the holes with the power drill. I was right for once. It was almost coarse enough, but after drilling out most of the holes with a power drill, it was fine for the job. Or should that be coarse for the job? With the nematodes now burrowing deep into the soil to find some tasty vine weevil grubs, my work was done for the day.

After a cup of tea I grabbed my camera and went in search of some photos in St Mo’s. Found Mr Grey close enough to photograph, some ‘beasties’ and also some Rudbeckia flowering in the wild garden that volunteers planted a couple of years ago. The Rudbeckia won PoD, just like it did last year!!

Finally at about 7pm the visitors arrived and we spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and talking. Just really catching up. Scamp spent a short time showing off our garden front and back and we admired the veg that JIC and Sim had brought with them.

Tomorrow they go to Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument and we may go to Embra.

A day of three halves – 26 July 2018

Hospital patient ambulance driver, laser patient, cyclist

Up and out early(ish) to take Shona to Stobhill Hospital to get her ambulatory BP monitor. For some reason, I got parked right at the front door of the hospital and then had a leisurely half hour watching the drivers circling around hoping for a non-existent parking space. Drove the patient back home and got in just in time for a cup of coffee before lunch.  Then I ordered more coffee and tea from The Bean Shop, to make sure there is plenty for our visitors from down south.

After lunch I started back on an old task, namely that of Annette’s Nexus 7 which I’d found another, yet another possible solution for. It didn’t work, and neither did the Nexus. However, I now have the solution and this one will work. It’s a heavy duty poly bag. You put the offending article in the bag, whisper the magic words and Abracadabra (That’s not the magic word) once you’ve hit the bag four or five times with a claw hammer, the problem is solved. It’s no longer bricked, it’s now broke. I’ll never have to waste another hour of my life trying to solve a wee challenge, as Val would say.

Once I’d settled on the Final Solution, I felt so much better and headed to the physio. As well as being a physio, David is an enthusiastic cyclist. I needed his recommendation for somewhere to get a new pair of cycling shoes and a pair of SPD pedals. His answer was Wiggle. It’s an on-line sports supplier. I’ve had a look and the prices are good and if it’s good enough for an exacting cyclist like him, it will be good enough for me. After that, he lasered me and stuck pins in, then lasered me again just for luck. Knee felt better after that.

Came home and dinner was ready. Salad with our own potatoes, (the last of batch one) salad leaves, tomatoes and prawns. Scamp had the same but with salmon instead of prawns. As the sun was still high in the sky and the temperature still in the 20s, I took the bike out to see if any beasties wanted their photos taken. Not a lot did, but on the way back I passed a field of barley and though I might get a landscape shot instead. I didn’t like the shot once I’d taken it, but as I was walking away I spied a ladybird on one of the stalks, and that became PoD.

Tomorrow I’m a hospital patient ambulance driver and then I’m off to have coffee with Colin, maybe in his greenhouse. Rain, life giving rain is forecast for tomorrow and lots of it to judge by the weather map. We’ll see.

Larky for glasses – 10 July 2018

Today we were going to the opticians in Larky.

Scamp was going for an eye check and because she felt her contact lenses weren’t quite right. I was going because I thought I needed a new pair of reading glasses. My reason was that the legs had fallen off, the frame was broken and there was only one lens in the frame. Yes, I think I may need new specs.

Thankfully, after inspecting my glasses, the optician agreed that it was probably time I had new glasses. Scamp also needed new lenses, but he also told her that she had the beginnings of a cataract and that although it would take about five years to mature, when it does and when she has the operation, she will be able to see perfectly for the first time ever without lenses or contacts! How amazing is that?

After that revelation, we drove down Clydeside for a light lunch. We ended up at Sandyholm which is now the ubiquitous Dobbies. I hesitantly ordered a pot of peppermint tea for Scamp and, hesitantly, an Americano coffee for me. My record on coffees hasn’t been all that good recently, but I needn’t have worried. The coffee was fine. So was Scamp’s sandwich plus my panini was just as it should be soft and warm. If anyone was needing nails hammered in they’d need to use a hammer instead or go to Craigend Nursery to get an alternative impelling agent. We’d already bought a couple of plants from what looked like a new nursery further along the road, with the unusual name of “The Flower Fairies”. That isn’t the kind of name I’d expect from a plant nursery, certainly not down Clydeside. Still, we had a look at the plants on display at Sandyholm and as usual with a Dobbies franchise, they looked a little worse for wear. Admittedly the weather has been unusually hot these past weeks, but that’s no excuse for not watering the plants you’re hoping to sell.

Drove home through Netherburn. The houses in the scheme had been tarted up, but the occupants still had those low brows and stared in suspicion at a red Juke driving round. You could almost see the brain cells working “That’s a STRANGER”. Drove out in the direction of Craignethan Castle and were surprised at the amount of new houses being built on what used to be the railway. Noted that the primary school was gone leaving only the iron railings. It’s amazing the changes in a place after thirty odd years.

Back home Scamp finished pulling the fruit from the blackcurrant bush and then started pruning it back. I finally watered the Vine Weevil nematodes into anything that looked like it needed it and then finished off with a feed of seaweed fertiliser.

Spoke to JIC tonight and exchanged views on our holidays. Ours was totally different from theirs, but both lots seemed to be satisfactory.

Today’s PoD is Scamp’s sweet peas, the second picking.

Out early tomorrow to see the physio and no ballroom dancing in the afternoon as it was cancelled by Michael. Maybe, just maybe going to salsa at night.

Busy, busy, busy – 7 July 2018

Today was just a busy day.

Quiches to make in the morning, two different fillings. One my sister-in-law’s recipe for hot smoked salmon and broccoli and another with red pepper and cheese. Both for tonight’s dinner with last night’s visitors plus June and Ian. After that, my work was done and it was over to Scamp to assemble the dessert which was giant Jaffa cake and lemon syllabub. The Jaffa cake went well, but the syllabub wasn’t thickening to her satisfaction. Still, an hour or two in the fridge would surely firm it up. The ham had been roasted the day before and a slice from it proved that its cooking was perfect.

Grabbed an hour in the afternoon to get some photos in St Mo’s and the hoverfly won the PoD.

Dinner went well and we finally got to bed just before 12.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.