With the Trolley Dollies – 26 March 2020

Scamp’s prescription was ready to collect. An excuse for us to go for a drive as far as the chemist and Tesco.  Scamp offered to drive and I accepted.

When we got there she went to the pharmacy queue and I went to the Tesco queue, agreeing to meet at the car. Both queues were equally long, in fact mine was probably longer, but more efficiently managed. Everyone was being careful to keep the required 2m from the person in front. It wasn’t until I was in the queue that I realised I didn’t have any bags with me, neither did I have a hat or gloves. The bags would be in the car, but not my car, Scamp’s. I could have walked along and borrowed her car keys, got the bags and taken the keys back, but when I looked behind me, the queue was even longer than when I’d joined it. So I just pulled up my hood, plugged in some music from my phone and waited, occasionally shuffling along while maintaining that 2m distance. Then I noticed everyone else, apart from me, seemed to have a trolley. I’d missed a trick there too. Not to worry, there wouldn’t be much in the store and I had only a small shopping list.

Finally got into the store, grabbed a basket and sanitised it. Compulsory it seemed. First check the pasta shelves. Glory be, they had pasta. Loads of it. Grab a bag, maybe two? No, that’s greedy, one will do. Looked behind and they had rice too! Loads of it in a couple of versions. Rice was on my mental list, so two bags of Basmati. Now, they wouldn’t have toilet rolls, would they. THEY HAD TOILET ROLLS!!! I took just one pack of nine rolls, don’t want to look like a stockpiler. Eager to get out of the store with my ill gotten gains, I forgot to get a tin of tomatoes or beans to put in the Food Bank box. Just get these essentials, and also some flowers for Scamp and go.

Then I realised I didn’t have the car key. Went looking for Scamp but I couldn’t see her in the queue. Looked inside and there was the red wooly hat. There aren’t two hats like that in the world. Walked back to the car and waited. Eventually she arrived carrying a bit bottle of medicine. We drove home and I unloaded my goodies. Oh, the excitement of unpacking, not only macaroni and rice, but also Toilet Rolls. How our lives have changed in a mere three weeks.

Tesco seem to be on top of the rationing and their systems are beginning to respond to the excessive demands of the greedy few. It’s good to see that at least someone is taking charge of things.

Toyed with the idea of going out to St Mo’s for a walk and to grab a photo, but PoD had already been taken with today’s shot I’d got of the of trolley dollies queueing outside Tesco. Instead of walking and photographing, I pinned a piece of Galleria Acrylic quality paper to my drawing board, mounted the board on my easel and proceeded to slap some acrylic paint on it in a representation of a landscape I shot at the start of January, when the world was still young. Tomorrow, when it’s dry I may slap some oil paint on top in a method recommended by the portrait artists of the year hopefuls. It won’t be a beautiful picture (it might), but it will make me think of other things than self isolating and social distancing.

While I was painting, Scamp was writing out the moves for seven sequence dances, one for every day of the week. That’s her substitute for painting. Whatever get you through the day. Spoke to my cousin Margaret in Lesmahagow tonight. She and Billy are also self isolating, but she said we’d all meet up again, probably next year “when this has all blown by”. That will be something else to look forward to.

At 8pm, on the dot the clapping started from somewhere in our square.  I think it was  the bloke who lives along the road at the corner, Wullie.  I’d forgotten that someone had decided we should all go outside at 8pm and applaud the nurses, doctors and in fact anyone in the NHS who works so hard to keep us safe and healthy.  So that’s what we did, we added our applause to the folk that were making their thanks heard.  There were even some fireworks too.  It was a sign of solidarity I suppose.

Tomorrow, beside a possible day in the art room, we may do a bit of dancing.

Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2020

Today is Scamp’s birthday, but because of Covid 19 we stayed at home.

Breakfast in bed for her, and for me. Actually that’s nothing unusual for us. One thing that retirement has taught me is that there’s no need to rush anymore. If it needs done, it will get done. If it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t needing done in the first place. After Scamp opened her parcels and almost choked at the antics of her ‘Dancing Cat’, we both finished the chapters of the books we were reading and got on with the day.

I sewed a torn seam on two of my shirt pockets, caused by stuffing my phone and my glasses in there. After finishing one shirt and starting another I promptly lost the needle and panicked because a lost needle can be a really dangerous thing in a house. You’ve heard the expression “Turned the house upside down” when looking for something? We turned the three seater sofa upside down … and then shook it, but no needle. We hoovered, we tentatively searched between the cushions. Finally, I went upstairs to carefully strip off all the clothes I was wearing to see if the needle had become lodged in them, and that’s when Scamp shouted that she’d found it. It was still tacked into the shirt I had finished repairing. We’d both looked and looked at that shirt without finding it, but there it was. Thank goodness.

By then it was coffee time and after calming down and some discussion we chose to stay at home today. Nobody, but nobody was moving their cars out. Maybe we stayed at home, but that didn’t mean we didn’t go out. Scamp planted out her two boxes of pansies in the front garden. She also did a bit of weeding and some feeding of her plants. She did a bit more pruning of bushes and plants in the back garden too.

<Technospeak>
I must admit I was tempted to go out for a walk, but I thought I’d better obey Boris’s Rules and stay home. So I took the Benbo out to the garden and set up the E-M1 and macro lens on it, turned on ‘focus stacking’ and took some 15 shots of a crocus flower. The focus stacking allows you to take a rapid number of shots, all at slightly incasing focus distances. My aim was to get a set of shots with focus settings from the very front of the nearest petal to the furthest back petal. Eventually I worked out it should be about 9 shots, not 15. Focus stacking works best with a totally still subject, and just as I pressed the shutter button each time, a tiny wee breeze would blow and start to make the crocus nod its head. I finally got the sequence I wanted without the breeze and could pack up and go inside. There I squirted the shots into the piece of software that does the magic and merges the 9 shots into one. The result you see here is what it looks like. It was done using Affinity Photo. Thanks again Hazy!
</Technospeak>

I became so engrossed in this process I forgot that I was making dinner tonight. Carrot & Lentil Curry. A long time favourite of ours. Got it made and left it to keep warm just in time to go and speak to Hazy, Neil-D, JIC, Sim and Vixen. We didn’t actually speak to Tilly and Penny, but we knew they were there too. All through the magic of Zoom™. We were very impressed with the software. Scamp was desperate to show off the Dancing Cat. I think Hazy & Neil-D thought it was funny. JIC & Sim not so much. I could just see JIC mouthing “What the hell is that” or something similar. It didn’t matter, the main thing is Scamp thought it was brilliant!

That was a good day. Curry was good. Flat bread was better and even better still was the orange and rhubarb jelly, which was superb! Best of all was the look on Scamp’s face when the Dancing Cat started his routine this morning!!

Tomorrow? Possibly more of the same, but without Zoom™.

One Week In – 23 March 2020

That’s us one week in to Self Isolation and we’re not at each other’s throats yet!

Today Scamp went out in the morning to walk to the shops to get some essentials, real essentials this time, no gin was purchased. I stayed home and removed certain articles that had been secreted in the hidden compartment of the Juke’s boot. I had been beginning to sweat about how I’d get them into the house without prying eyes catching me. It was a strange Monday. No Gems and no dancing. However, that’s one down and only eleven to go.

We decided not to go out walking together today. Scamp did a bit of gardening. I messed around with Affinity Designer which is a vector graphics app from Serif. It’s a bit like Corel Draw for beginners. Fairly easy to use, but powerful enough to be useful. I’ve got it on 90 day trial. We used to use some of their software in school, but it was always crashing and the kids got exasperated with it. Eventually NLC bought us a fairly up to date version of Corel Draw and we forgot about Serif. They (Serif) were a bit of a pest, they used to phone you up every couple of months wanting you to but more stuff. They didn’t seem to realise just how tight a technical department budget was. Anyway, I quite enjoyed making raised, sunk, fielded panels. Don’t ask, believe me it’ll bore the pants off you.

I went out for a walk in the afternoon to see if there was anything worthwhile to photograph. The best I got, and therefore PoD was a shot of daffodils on the banking of the M80 slip road. I don’t suppose I should have been there, but I got the shot and only one car blasted me with its horn. I don’t think it was the polis! Also got a nice wee shot of some fungi that looked like oyster shells, they even appeared to have a pearl at the centre. It was actually a pebble!  While I was out I saw a bee!  We’d seen one in the garden at the weekend, but this is surely proof that spring is on  the way!

Scamp showed me how to make Portobello mushrooms stuffed with cheese and wrapped in Parma ham. Delicious. I made Lemonade Scones which I thought were going to be underbaked in the middle, but they were perfect, at least the one we shared was.

Tomorrow, Scamp’s big day, we’d intended going to The Kelpies, but I fear the car parks there will be closed and the horses will be off limits too. It’s such a shame that this plague has hit us at the time of both our birthdays. However, we’re both still here and plodding on. We’ll find somewhere to go with a flask and a box of ‘pieces’.

Mothers Day – 22 March 2020

I made the breakfast. I even sliced up a banana for Scamp, with none for me. I did this only for Scamp on behalf of the weans … and because banana on my porridge would be a step too far.

Today was shearing day. The thatch that’s been growing under my nose and around my mouth was getting far too lush. It had to go. So I took it upon myself to give it a quick Number Four. I possibly could have gone to a number three, but it was just 1.9ºc when I was making breakfast and, at my age I need a bit of insulation on the upper lip and the chin, so a number four it was.

After hacking away for a while and washing all the clippings away I felt ready to face the day. Scamp was already speaking to Hazy on the phone when I went downstairs. She didn’t even notice my carefully sculpted facial hair. Neither did Hazy, but as this wasn’t a video call or FaceTime, I’ll forgive her. It was only hours later when I told her about my barbering skills she looked and said “Oh, yes”. That’s all you get for all the planning and careful cutting then. Hmph!

It being Mothers Day, Scamp had the choice of where to go for our daily walk. She chose St Mo’s surprisingly. I thought she’d want to go to Broadwood, which I find boring, but she likes. No, she thought there would be fewer people at St Mo’s after yesterday’s crowds at Drumpellier. It was another beautiful day and there were a few folk, mainly mums and dads with a single wean. They weren’t observing the proper social distancing rules, but I suppose they were all living under the same roof, so what’s the point of maintaining the 2m exclusion zone when you’re outside if you’ll be sitting in the same room when you get home. I did get what turned out to be today’s PoD on our walk, it was another of those flowering currants, but this time about half of the flowers had opened. I was hoping to get a chance to take some more later in the walk or even later in the day, but technology got in the way. After we’d done our circuit of St Mo’s, Scamp suggested we walk down through Condorrat and over the ‘Red Bridge’. That extended our walk a bit, even if it was beside a busy road, still quite busy even with so much isolation going on. The motorway however was almost deserted. I’m pretty sure we could count on the fingers of one hand, the number of cars and lorries that passed under our feet as we crossed the Red Bridge. The M80 was carrying its lightest traffic load for a long, long while.

After we got back, Scamp took the bull by the horns and instituted a video call to her sister in Skye. I was most impressed with the ease she did it with. A real tech genius Scamp is. I’ll be going to her for help with all my problems now!

Later, I thought I’d go for a solo walk around St Mo’s to see if Mr Grey had returned. He had, but he was away on the far side of the pond, well out of reach of the 200mm lens. I tried to get some macro shots of some nicely lit moss spores, but for some reason still to be explained, the shutter seemed to fire, but no photos were recorded. That’s the reason we ‘chimp’ (check the image on the back screen of the camera) but I had confidence in the ability of the E-M1, misplaced confidence it seemed.

Dinner tonight was the second half of the Thai Chicken Stir-Fry for Scamp and the first half of a Beef Stir-Fry for me. Both with egg noodles instead of the usual rice for a change. Scamp’s was fine, if a bit oily. Mine was so hot it would have set the oil on fire. The girl in the butchers said it had “a bit of a kick”. I’d say! A kick like a mule. I’ll treat it with caution when I get round to eating the other half. It’s in the freezer at present, I hope it hasn’t melted anything in there!

Spoke to JIC later and got his take on Covid 19. He’s much more down to earth than the BBC. It’s good to hear a more reasoned, grounded voice on the subject.

Tomorrow we may go for messages. Just ordinary messages and if we find toilet rolls, buy lots and lots of them!

Another rubbish day – 11 March 2020

The weather was rubbish and the car was full of it too.

High winds and lashing rain. Not much chance of getting photos taken today then. I’d resigned myself to that and decided that instead I’d take a trip to the skip with a whole load of rubbish we had collected over the years. Stuff that was clogging up the front bedroom. Last week Scamp sold the keyboard which was a big space hogger. Today it was a collection of worn out shoes, ancient electrical stuff and a footstool that looked good in IKEA, but wasn’t really comfortable when we got it built up at home. Everything was sorted into bags of Electrical, Household, Wood and Metal and I dumped it all in the skips with those headings. The car was much lighter when I got home and the front bedroom was looking a lot more like a room and less like a jumble sale too.

After the trip to the skip, I went for a drive to see if there was anything in need of being photographed, but there was nothing the looked photographable. So, I made my way home via Tesco. There were no packets of loose pasta. Only four packets of toilet rolls on the shelf – the most expensive ones, and half a dozen bags of plain flour. These were the most obvious panic buys. I still can’t imagine why people need so many toilet rolls. Is it because the news is shite just now with every one of the so called experts contradicting themselves and talking crap? I managed to get the last bag of bread flour and a packet of spaghetti and I put a tin of soup in the food bank box. In the mean time Scamp had been out to the shops and bought dinner. Coincidentally when we both came out of our respective raided shops, the ground was white. Not with snow, but with hail. Strange days.

When I got back, I toyed with the idea of taking the Benbo for a walk, because the sun was out again, but before I could get my boots on, the clouds had closed in again and the rain came on. No point in getting wet for nothing.

Dancing tonight was in the new venue at the British Legion. Small dance floor, but level, and square (that’s not a Masonic Key Phrase by the way!). The night was devoted to sequence dances. Something I’d have turned my nose up at a year or so ago. Not now. I understand now that these are complicated dances certainly not to be sniffed at. However, I still draw the line at Line Dancing. No cowboy boots and stetson hats for me.

I did manage a PoD. It’s a Poinsettia. Scamp has had this plant since early December 2019, unfortunately it’s now getting to the end of its useful life. Before that happens, I thought I should photograph it.

Tomorrow we may go dancing in Gorbals

A walk by the Water – 25 February 2020

The Water in question was the Luggie Water.

Couldn’t decide what to do today, so, as it was a fairly bright morning, I took the Juke out to Cumbernauld railway station carpark (free parking) and went for a walk along the Luggie. I’d hoped the water would be racing down to give me a chance to try out some slow shutter speed shots, but although it was fairly murky, it wasn’t as high as I’d hoped. However I got some shots of steadily flowing water that I immediately knew wouldn’t be PoD material, but I took them anyway. The PoD award went to a picture of snowdrops beside the water with the sun shining through them. Very Picture Skew (picturesque).

What you don’t see in the photo, although the eagle eyed among you might just be able to make it out is a thin white line on the right side about a quarter of the way down. That’s the antenna of an insect that was hiding behind one of the flowers I cropped out. It just goes to prove that the unnaturally mild winter this year, in spite of all the floods, is having its effect on nature. These insects shouldn’t be hatching until about April at the earliest. Strange days.

Scamp made Carrot & Lentil Curry for dinner tonight. I couldn’t tell you the last time we had that. It was delicious. Some flat bread was my contribution to the meal, but I also made a first attempt at Salt & Pepper bread. Too much salt on the crust and not enough pepper, we agreed. Pudding was pancakes (Shrove Tuesday) with some of our own stewed apples defrosted from the freezer and ice cream. All in all a good dinner.

Scamp’s cold seems to be getting better at last. So we practised a bit of quickstep tonight to try to fit all the figures together into the full sequence. With the help of a couple of videos we took yesterday, things are improving. We may go to Kirsty’s class tomorrow night and we may even go to a Tea Dance in Falkirk in the afternoon. Scamp’s out in the morning with Isobel for coffee too, so it’s going to be a busy day.

Today’s SoD topic was ‘Farm’. I chose Easter Cadder Farm near Kirkintilloch as my subject, specifically a couple of cattle we met there some time ago. The farm is still there, but Beast 590454 may or may not be.
Yesterday’s topic was ‘Mandala’ and my attempt was abysmal. In an attempt to clear it out of my head I sketched a different version of it last night after I’d posted the blog. I completed it this morning and although it’s not perfect, it’s a lot better than yesterday’s. I’ll even let you see it!

So, tomorrow has the potential to be a busy day so I’m hoping to get the ‘Pink’ sketch done early. That’s the plan.

Woke to Sunshine! – 23 February 2020

How nice to see a bit of sunshine again after all the rain and wind.

It was cold but bright and I really enjoyed my morning coffee sitting on the sofa in the sun. You could actually feel the warmth of the sun. Of course it did rain to, but not enough to speak of, so I won’t speak of it.

After lunch and after watching Andrew Marr doing battle with Nicola Sturgeon who put up a valiant fight I have to admit, I went out for a walk. Fell on my backside taking lots of photos of cladonia variants, but I only took five of the little yellow crocus growing in the front garden. One of the many Scamp has planted there. It was the little yellow crocus that got PoD and I didn’t even fall on my backside taking it!

Even managed to plant some Chestnuts in pots in the wee greenhouse .  Hopefully they will be more successful than last year’s no-show, but there’s no guarantee of that with wild seeds!

Swordfish steak for Scamp’s dinner with potatoes and cabbage. For me, exchange Rump steak for Swordfish. Just a relaxing day after yesterday’s dance extravaganza. The sunshine lasted all day with the occasional rain shower to remind us that it’s still winter. Apparently we will be reminded even more strongly later tonight or early tomorrow morning when snow showers are forecast across the central belt. May have to change my plans as I’m hoping to meet the Auld Guys for coffee tomorrow. Let’s hope not.

Spoke to Jamie and heard about his forthcoming surprise trip to Boston. It’s a work trip, but it’s still a trip to the US. More power to his elbow, he certainly works for it.

SoD prompt was ‘Gate’ and I struggled with this one. It’s a gate we passed on the banks of Loch Leven in Fife. Such skill splitting the bar and then producing the curves. I’m not sure I’ve done it justice, but it’s as good as I can make it.

As I’ve said, I should be meeting the Auld Guys tomorrow for coffee and adult conversation. Maybe even a bit of book swapping. It all depends on the weather.

Curry and Dancin’ – 19 February 2020

Today we finally went for a curry in Hamiton after I’d been to the doc’s.

Yesterday I got a message  asking me to contact the doctor’s surgery re: the results of my blood test.  I phoned and was told that the doctor had looked at the results and my Haemoglobin level was too high and the nurse wanted to check it.  I made an appointment for this morning and the nurse went over all the results, but never mentioned haemoglobin.  When I queried it, it turned out the receptionist had got mixed up between haemoglobin and haemoglobin – sugar level. Yes, the sugar level was a bit high, but lower than it had been at my last test.  Panic over.  Nothing to worry about.

With that out of the way and another awful day of wind and rain in almost equal quantities we drove to Hamilton for a curry in the Bombay Cottage. Food was as plentiful as always. Starters were obviously freshly cooked but my main tasted a bit like it was a re-heat.  Scamp’s was fine but a bit spicy.  Still, that is just nit picking because this is one of the best Indian restaurants we’ve been to.

Hamilton, as I’ve said before is a bit of a ghost town now, compared to what it used to be like. For that reason and because of the weather we didn’t linger long. Visited Currys on the way home to see how much it would cost for another desktop hard drive for photos. Easy answer, they didn’t have any. Also it seemed to be Union Meeting day with all the sales staff in a huddle round a table, presumably discussing something so important they couldn’t (be bothered to) help customers. And then they complain that on-line shopping is killing the High Street. Hamilton High Street is already dead and buried and the same is about to happen to the retail park.

Back home, a grab shot of some daffs on the doorstep produced an acceptable PoD. SoD topic was ‘Phone’. Since most mobile phones are simply featureless black slabs of glass and plastic, I thought I’d go back a decade and sketch our old house phone. Nice curves and rectangles. Somehow more soul than and Android/Apple glass slab.

We went dancing tonight in The Weavers in Condorrat. Not the biggest dance floor in the world and probably the strangest shape for one, being a distorted rhombus, Awkward to dance round. Especially so, if like me you are awkward to start with. Made a hash of the Foxtrot which we later put down to the teacher having cut a portion of it out to make it danceable in the space we had. Back home we went over the ‘figures’ again and sorted some of it out.

Tomorrow we’re intending going for the messages.

Just keep on cooking – 31 January 2020

This was going to be a busy day.

Crawford, Nancy, June and Ian were coming to dinner and I was doing the main course and the pudding. Main was fairly easy Cod with Braised Peas, Lentils and Bacon. Pudding was the worry. It was Crème Brûlée. Difficult to type, but hellish to make. Basically a baked cream custard with burnt sugar on top. I might have made it before from a packet, but never from eggs, cream, sugar and lots of beating. However, the only way to do it was to get started.

Before I started, I chucked some flour, water, yeast and butter in the mixer and beat it for 10 minutes. With that done, I boiled then simmered the cream and vanilla pod (forgot to mention that in the list of ingredients). While it was simmering I separated the yolks from the whites of four eggy-weggs and beat the living daylights out of them and some sugar with a balloon whisk. Finally gave up and used the electric hand mixer. Oh, thank goodness for the person who invented electric beaters! Mixed in the creamy stuff and beat it again until it thickened, except it didn’t thicken. I don’t know what I did wrong, it just wouldn’t thicken. Eventually I just filled the ramekin dishes with the yellow mixture and stuck then in a tray filled with water and baked them for about an hour. They looked better, but still not right, but I wasn’t caring they were set to cool and later went into the fridge as a punishment for not thickening properly.

Scamp went out to lunch with the witches and I managed to grab a five minute dry spell to get today’s PoD which is one of Scamp’s Christmas Roses (Heleborus Orientalis Lenten Rose). Scamp’s contribution to tonight’s meal had been made first thing this morning and was a lovely lentil soup made from a ham hock. Thick and tasty and a lot easier to make than the Crème Brûlée.

When she came home it was time to clear the table and set it out for dinner. The visitors arrived on time and we settled down to the food. The soup tasted great. The main course seemed to go down ok, but the Crème Brûlée was a disaster. It hadn’t set properly and the burnt sugar topping was brick hard.

Other than the pudding the night was a success and we staggered off to bed around 1am.

Tomorrow we may go to Perth. You will have gathered from the lateness of the blog and the last paragraph that this a catch up, so I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you whether we went to Perth or not!

Not much done today – 15 January 2020

Scamp was out to meet Isobel for coffee. I put some washing on.

I know now that I should have gone out and taken some photos when there was a decent amount of light, but I didn’t. I put some washing in the machine and let it roll. Went and checked my laptop was still working and it was. Tidied up the painting / photography / drawing / repair room a bit. Not enough that anyone but me would notice. With that all done the washing was done, so I hung it up and left to go to my checkup at the dentist. Thankfully I got a clean bill of health and left with my next appointment pencilled in for some date and time in July. That’s the way the time goes. Thinking about July when it’s still January.

By the time I got home the good light had gone and Scamp had arrived back from coffee time. After lunch the weather looked settled, so Scamp hung out the clothes to dry in the just less than gale force wind. Then we went to get some compost for my peppers at Calders. Unfortunately they were in the midst of some serious reorganisation and there was no access to the area at the rear of the building where they store the compost. Instead we went to B&Q and picked up a bag and by the time we were heading home the rain started and didn’t look like stopping. Thankfully the washing wasn’t very wet because the wind had dried it more than the rain had wet it. That was just about the sum and total of our activities today.

With the rest of the afternoon to use up I offered to make some bread and when that was on the go, I also made some Lemonade Scones.  Haven’t tried the bread yet, but the scones passed the taste test easily.  Scamp made Mac ‘n’ Cheese for dinner. Simple, tasty and filling.  What more can you ask.

Today’s PoD is the ‘Mother Cactus’ which is now flowering quite happily on the window sill. Yesterday’s PoD the Geranium was a nightmare to light with LED lights. Tonight was much simpler. Just one LED light and also the room light which thankfully is a daylight bulb and nearly the same Mired value as the LED (remember Mired from a previous lesson? Basically how red or blue the light is.) Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get some photos outside in the real world.

The plan for tomorrow is to go for a new pair of dance shoes for me, and of course Scamp will need a new pair too. That’s the plan. Whether it works out that way or not is in the lap of the gods, the weather gods.