A hot day after a fiery night – 12 August 2020

Wild night last night with thunder and lightning around 3am.

As well as the Donner and Blitzen, torrential rain fell for most of the night I’m led to believe. “I didn’t see that, I only heard, but just to be sociable I took their word” (Today’s lyrical poetry comes from Ned Washington & Oliver Wallace). I heard the thunder and saw the lightning but was only vaguely aware of the rain thumping down. That rain though, did a lot of damage all over Central Scotland and even worse in the north east. Train derailed outside Stonehaven with three dead. The weather has not been blamed, but it hasn’t been completely ruled out.

Once the clouds had cleared here it was a lovely sunny day. Humidity was still a bit high, but nothing as bad as yesterday. I met Val up at Costa only to find that there were no seats. All the Yummy Mummies were there with their screaming weans. We decided to walk down to the other Costa, but it was just as bad, but like a dungeon because they thing using the lights will spoil the ambience. Ambience? It’s a coffee shop in Cumbersheugh. Nowhere in Cumbersheugh has ambience. Saving on electricity more like! Walked back towards the first Costa, but actually thinking about going to Calders new restaurant instead. The coffee can only be better than Costa. Surprisingly, there were plenty of seats. Most of the mummies and their weans had disappeared. Val solved the problem of the biz in the coffee shops. “Eat Out to Help Out” applies Mondays to Wednesdays and you get 50% off a meal. We found a seat and ordered £5 for two coffees and two toasted tea cakes. Bargain. Talked about everything from miniature computers to old cameras. Nearly everything we talked about was tech based, as usual. Walked back down the mall then Val said he was going for a walk to waste some time because his wife had girlfriends in and he wanted some peace and quiet. I said we’d meet up later, hopefully all four of us this time.

Back home and after lunch I took myself out to get some photos in St Mo’s. PoD was a picture of a spider I’d taken in the garden in the morning. Liked the pink/red background. Nearly PoD was a shot of a dragonfly resting in St Mo’s. I’d watched it return again and again to this perch, but simply couldn’t get the TZ90 to see it. Finally gave up and used the nuclear option (4K video Post Focus). When I got home I isolated the frame from the video that was as sharp as I was going to get, and here it is! Is this the future of photography?

We watched a couple of slide shows from Hvar last year at this time. It’s amazing the things you forget and then remember when you get the stimulus of a picture or a short video. Hvar is a lovely place. We’d love to go back there some time.

Tomorrow I may have to go and see what damage Ben has done to Shona’s bathroom door. I don’t know what else I can do to reinforce the door. Possibly a manacle round his ankle and fixed to a bolt in the living room floor would do the trick. Other than that, no plans.

A new member of the club – 11 August 2020

My pal John joined the retirees club today, so I went to see how he was settling in.

Actually he’s settling in quite well and seems perfectly happy with the prospect of all those workless days stretching out before him. We tackled about old times, friends and colleagues we’ve known. “Some are bad and some are good, some have done the best they could. Some have tried to ease my troubled mind” Lyrics are like a form of modern poetry for the masses. That one was from Tom Paxton.

After an hour or so of walking down memory lane I took my leave and drove home, stopping on the way to see if Currys in Hamilton had the Sony camera I’ve been looking for. They had Canon cameras, lots of them, but little else. Of course, none of them had batteries in them. Either that or the batteries hadn’t been charged this year. Looked at a couple of tablets too, but wasn’t impressed. I was even less impressed with the traffic jam of people trying to get out the retail park. Roadworks. That bane of everyone’s life these days, and this in a 28º heat. Thankfully the air-con took most of the sting out of that. Had a quick look in Hobbycraft at the fort to see if there were any bargains – there weren’t, despite plenty of posters saying there were. Final stop was the ice cream shop in Muirhead for a litre tub of Scottish Tablet ice cream – That’s your fault Hazy for sending the WhatsApp message!!

After dropping off the ice cream, I went for a walk round St Mo’s because I’d nothing in the bag, photo wise today. Got a photo of my dragonfly model from yesterday, still posing for me, but PoD went to a mountaineering snail I saw. Not a lot else was moving in today’s overpowering heat. Humidity was high and the wind was very light, so I left a bit earlier than I’d intended and went home.

Dinner was Chicken Kebabs on a bed of Cauliflower Couscous. Sounds strange, but it tasted great – so did the tablet ice cream.

I enjoyed seeing Teflon John make a grovelling apology to all the pupils whose last week of the holidays he had completely destroyed with his decision to make the posh kids look smarter and the poor kids look stupid.  It didn’t work John.  They stood up to you and you had to back down.  Just shows that people-power does work sometimes.

Tomorrow I’m intending to meet Val for coffee and a wee chat about what’s new in the world of computers! Ah, normal service is being resumed at last.

A Dull Day – 10 August 2020

Grey sky, low cloud, thunderstorms anticipated. It didn’t look like a fun day and it lived up to that prediction.

Grabbed a shot of two crane flies on the Red Juke. Unfortunately the red colour of the car predominated and wouldn’t be calmed down with software, so the only solution was to turn it into a monochrome image which suited the graphic style of the shot. That was about all that was happening in the morning.

After lunch we waited around for a while hoping the sun would make an appearance and that the clouds would lift. Neither of those things occurred. Finally went out for a walk myself to St Mo’s. Found a very obliging dragonfly, a Common Darter. Maybe even the same one I photographed the other day. It certainly had the same demeanour. It seemed quite happy to be photographed close up. I’d brought the 30mm macro on a Panasonic camera and it needs to be really close to the subject to get the real macro effect. That mean the dragonfly’s head was about 30mm from the front element. It didn’t flinch. I reckon it knew there was nothing in that metal and glass thing that could hurt it and anyway, these creatures live their entire flying lives in a couple of weeks. The are running on fast-forward all the time. It would be off before I could have done anything aggressive, not that I would have. A Terrible Beauty indeed. The front view was a ‘given’ for the PoD. I also got a decent side view as an ‘almost PoD’.

There were a tribe of teenagers wandering home with their half empty bottles of MD (aka Mad Dog) after making the most of the last few days of their extended summer holidays. Some would have been affected by the crazy decision of the SQA to mark down the grades of some of them because they come from an historically poorly performing school. I don’t think John Swinney has actually apologised for the decision, but Nick the Chick has and I applaud her for it. Swinney should really resign now, before he is booted out.  “Robust and Rigorous” were his catchphrases back in his days as an architect of the poorly thought out Curriculum for Excrement. There was nothing Robust or Rigorous about changing the grades teachers had given pupils on the grounds of the school’s previous record.  ‘Teflon John’. Nothing sticks, until it does.

Picked some of our own peas tonight and used them in a Pea & Prawn Risotto. It was quite good, but would have been better if more of the peas were ripe. Hopefully we’ll get them later in the month.

Thunder, Lightning, Rain and Hail forecast for tomorrow. Just another typical Scottish summer’s day.

Up early for a change – 9 August 2020

I woke early, before 7am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens.

Eventually gave up sat reading for a while. About half way through “Flowers For Algernon”. Really old book I remember from Larky library around the mid ‘60s. It’s quite dated now, but an interesting concept, none the less. Finally gave up completely and got up to make breakfast.

So, we were up fairly early for a change. It was a beautiful day. Not quite as hot as yesterday which was good. We did a bit of gardening. Actually, Scamp did a bit of gardening and I started fixing up the solar cell for Scamp’s new LED light string. Finally, after a few false starts, we go a good place for the solar panel. Just a little one about 75mm by 50mm, but enough to power the lights. Many years ago, probably about 30 years ago, we all visited an Eco centre in Wales and I bought some shards of solar cells, hoping to build a small solar pane. It never got made. The cells were too fragile and most got cracked on the way home. Amazing to think you can buy a solar panel which charges a NiMH battery which in turn powers a line of fifty LEDs all for around £4. Back then, you could only have Red, Yellow and Green LEDs. Bit massive things by today’s standard which drained a battery in about fifteen minutes. Not everything was better in “the olden days”.

With the lights strung up and tested and all Scamp’s potting up done, we adjourned for lunch. After lunch and a rest to let all that fatty goodness be digested, we went out for a walk round Broadwood Stadium avoiding kids on bikes trying to make the most of their last days of freedom before schools restart in the middle of the week. I’m sure there were teacher out there too, making the most of the last days of sunshine before they return to the grind. Oh, how I enjoy looking back at those last days of freedom from the standpoint of one who doesn’t need to do that ever again.

When we got back without having taken any meaningful photos, I grabbed a camera and went for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp went to laze in the afternoon sunshine. I came home empty handed again. I’d seen yesterday’s big blue dragonflies, but they weren’t posing for me. They had far more important things on their minds, cavorting around the wee pond at St Mo’s.

Dinner was Sea Bream with Long Stem Broccoli and Potatoes. It is one of Scamp’s specialities and it tasted as good as usual. The starter was Bruschetta made with Italian crust bread I’d bought in Perth yesterday. Delicious too.

Watched the second British GP and enjoyed an interesting ending. Thankful really that we didn’t have to sit through the whole boring race. Nothing happened that couldn’t have been predicted by anyone who follows motorsport, with the possible exception of the fall of Vettel. It looks like he really has lost the plot. “Toys out of the pram” is the phrase that springs to mind.

Spoke to JIC and gave him a fleshed out version of yesterday’s announcement that our love affair with the Red Juke is sadly coming to an end and another Nissan has now taken its place, albeit a Nissan with one less cylinder in its engine.

PoD today went to a focus stacked image of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, the beautiful Troika. Focus stacking done in-camera and very neat it was too.

Tomorrow we may have to sign a contract to give some money to Mr Nissan for the chance to use one of his Blue Micras for a few years. Other than that and the chance of thunderstorms, hopefully another sunny day.

The test and the result – 8 August 2020

If, like me, you can’t be bothered about the details of the test and just jump straight to the result, here is the test in that order.

I phoned The Man in Stirling about 4pm and confirmed that we’d like to take the “Power Blue” Nissan Micra, and if the one we’d test driven this morning was available, that would be just fine.  He agreed that the one we’d road tested was available and that the paperwork would be in our hands by Monday.  You’ll note that most of our responses were in the plural.  We both liked the car and when Scamp said, after we’d road tested it: “I like it”, the deal was all but sealed.  After about an hour of driving round Stirling, Scamp and I were happy with the Micra.  Scamp said she felt quite at home with it.  I was happy with it.  Maybe not as powerful as the Juke, but not as heavy on fuel either.  Lots of lovely stuff to play with and at last, a digital speedometer display on a Nissan!  Something I’d really missed when moving from the old Megane to the Juke.  Good sound from the radio courtesy of Bose speakers and less road noise, if a little more engine noise when travelling.  Overall, it’s a car that we can both drive with confidence, and that’s what I was looking for.  Sold!

After our stressful morning we left Stirling to drive to Perth in the Juke. It was a beautiful day for the drive up to Perth but  when we got the Fair City, we found that the carpark was now an online parking carpark run using the Ringo app.  I’d read a few scathing reviews of it and decided it wasn’t for me, so promptly exited and parked across the road in a pay (using coins) carpark.  That was much better.  Maybe Ringo has improved from where it was a year or so ago, but I’ll read a few reviews first. In Perth we had our second coffee in a coffee shop this week, Nero this time just to balance things out, then while Scamp went looking for trousers in M&S, I went to get some much needed coffee beans in The Bean Shop.  Nearly maxed out the £45 ‘touch’ card limit just managing to sneak under the line.  I felt it was needed because I’d been reduced to drinking decaf coffee for a few days.  Actually ‘good’ decaf isn’t all that bad.  Perfectly drinkable and it doesn’t give you that  ‘Buzzzz’.  Bad decaf is just awful.  “Death before Decaf.”  Never a truer word spoken, Hazy!  Scamp didn’t find the trousers she was looking for and I thought I’d get my hands on the Sony camera I’d been searching for, but the bloke in the camera shop only had one which was 1p away from £1000.  I said “No Thanks”.  He didn’t look all that interested and didn’t even try to interest me in the purchase.  Perhaps it’s getting near the end of the line for small independent shops.

Drove home through the same beautiful countryside under the same beautiful blue skies.  Back home, Scamp wanted to work in the garden.  I went for a walk in St Mo’s.  Lovely big blue dragonfly flying over the small pond, but not resting on anything.  Gave up on it.  Nothing else really interesting, so came home.  PoD turned out to be a pic on my phone taken in Perth outside a toy shop.  Good to see a bit of Covid-19 humour.  Dinner tonight was a salad which we ate outside in the sunshine.  Chicken and Prawn Salad.  All washed down with a glass for white.  What’s not to like.

So, the car problem looks as if it’s on the way to being solved and the sun was shining all day today.  It’s been a good day.  Let’s hope that’s a sign for  the future, for everyone.




Here be dragons – 7 August 2020

There wasn’t much to say about today other than it was a good day for dragonflies.

Scamp went shopping in the afternoon, in the huff because the rain came on this morning, just after we spoke to Hazy on the phone and heard about the predicted temperature down south. 35ºc is just too hot. We were all agreed on that. Maybe it was the thought of 35ºc down south and rain here that made her go off on a shopping expedition to Tesco. I stayed home and did nothing. I’m quite good at that now.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is an ultra close-up of a Common Darter dragonfly. Beautiful beast and quite deadly to other insects. This one was quite unconcerned and waited for me to finish my thirty odd shots of it before it flew away and I went home to make the dinner.

Actually I was desperate to see how the combination of an excellent lens and a clever camera had managed to combine 11 photos of the dragonfly into one much more detailed one. It was almost perfect and all done in about ten seconds. It might be quite an old camera now, but it can certainly beat a lot of more modern ones at this stuff.

When I got home the residual heat in the air had dried the grass and Scamp wasted no time in getting the lawn mower out and giving it a short trim. Meanwhile I sat in the garden with a cafe freddo (espresso over ice) and watched the bloke next door building something. He’s always building something. This one looked like a hexagonal pyramid, but we think it’s a gazebo to hold his jacuzzi. Last week he had a cloth gazebo to cover it, today it’s a metal framed one. Like Scamp says, it doesn’t intrude in us and I suppose it gives him something to sail his boats in.

Dinner was a hybrid. We got a sourdough pizza dough last week and today we used that pre-kneaded and already part risen dough to make the base of a pizza. It worked, kind of. The pizza was ok, but a bit tough, as a lot of sourdough breads are, but it was quite doughy in the middle. I think mine are better and Scamp agrees.

Phoned the nice man in Stirling this morning and hopefully we’re off there tomorrow for a test drive and to ask a few questions. Let’s see what the Micra has to offer.

Where did the day go? – 5 August 2020

It didn’t help getting up just before 11am.

After a cup of espresso to wake me up, I went out to clean the remnants of a six month old parking ticket from the Juke’s windscreen. Then there was some residue from electrical tape that was still showing on a door pillar. Sweetie wrappers stuck down the side of the seat were the next target for me and my Dyson. Finally there were the dust and debris in the inaccessible places under the seat and stuck fast between the seat back and the cushion, but the long nose of the Dyson proved that there was no place to hide. It looked much better when I was finished and as a bonus, I found a charging cable and a plug-in charger I’d lost months ago!

After lunch we drove through the rain to Stirling to see what the man would say about our now (almost) sparkling Juke and how much he’d want something to replace it. We arrived too early but the man was busy talking to other hopefuls. He apologised and we waited some more. My unspoken limit was 30 minutes, then we’d drive home and he’d lose a sale. Scamp’s unspoken limit was the same 30 minutes. With literally minutes to spare he finished with his two customers and he escorted us to his table, complete with the mandatory clear acrylic screen. We had a look and a seat in the new Juke. Neither of us were all that impressed. It was much bigger and clumsier looking than the Red Juke. The Micra was much smaller by comparison and the seat seemed much lower too. Finally we got round to the numbers. It wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated. We were all singing from the same hymn sheet and the bottom line was a bit better than what we’d feared. In fact, the top of the line Micra was quite well appointed for a fair price. The Juke we looked at was above our spending limit. It’s not that we couldn’t afford it as much as we didn’t want to. I don’t think we need such a big car now.

We left with smiles on our faces, lots to investigate and talk about an a box of posh chocolates for taking part. We’ve to phone on Friday to arrange a test drive in a Micra. I’ve already driven one and liked it, although it was an automatic. Scamp has had a quick spin round the factories in the driving seat too. We both quite liked it.

Drove home through the usual 5pm traffic and sat down to look at the details of what we were about to commit to. Looked at the clock and it was 7pm! Where did the day go? Dinner was pasta and tomato sauce (with meatballs for me). More talking about money and cars afterwards and then we raided those posh, Lindt chocolates. Took today’s PoD in the fading light in the garden. It’s rain on a pea leaf. Peas are looking very good this year. May pick some at the weekend. While Scamp watched a documentary, I processed and posted the PoD. More talking after that and finally got round to writing this blog just before midnight.

Tomorrow we’re booked for coffee in Costa with Isobel. Hoping to go and look at a camera in Glasgow in the afternoon. It’s looking like a better day tomorrow. Today was dry in the morning and wet in the afternoon.

F1 Frolics – 2 August 2020

First and perhaps only Live F1 broadcast this year.

Weather before that was mixed. A bit windy, a bit cloudy and the occasional splash of rain on the window just to remind us that it’s never far away in Scotland. Scamp was reduced to watching the build up to the GP because Andrew Marr was on holiday, so no political cut and thrust today. I’m sure some politicians would be breathing a sigh of relief. If you haven’t watched the GP then I won’t spoil things for you. All I’ll say is watch the first five minutes and the last five minutes, but just fast-forward past the other hour and a bit, unless you want to set the alarm and have a wee snooze.

With that done, and with nothing else to do, I took an old camera, the almost pensioned-off Oly E-M10 out for a spin round St Mo’s. It’s only when you return to an old classic like this that you realise why you sidelined it in the first place. The E-M1 has a much quieter IBIS system (image stabiliser) and a more reliable focusing power. The GX 80 has a much quieter shutter. I think the E-M10 can go back in the box for now. It’s smaller than the other two, but smaller isn’t always better. I have plans for it, so it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. It managed to take today’s PoD with a little help from me. They are the seed pods of the Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense ).

Dinner came courtesy of Holy Cow curry mixes. The only place we’ve found them is Waitrose, but they are worth searching out, and, of course, Amazon has them. Today’s variety was Delhi Tikka Masala and it was just as good as the rest, just a little milder. A decent curry made in around 10 minutes without the faff of cooking from scratch. You can probably tell that I was cooking tonight – always looking for the easy life.

Spoke to JIC and pondered the modern way of going through an interview. First a telephone interview followed by a Zoom interview and maybe a third virtual interview. Then if you are lucky enough, being offered a position in a company you have never seen outside of a computer screen. Changed days from when, one morning, I dressed in a suit then put on waterproof trousers, waterproof jacket and motorcycle boots and set off from Larky to ride about 100miles to an interview in Creetown on a motorbike with a bag of my architectural drawings on my back. Rode back the same night. I got the job though and our family started on a big adventure in the south of Scotland. Changed days indeed.

Tomorrow I simply must hoover out the car because we’re we’ve got a meeting in Stirling on Tuesday to speak to a man about cars and money.

Not as oppressively warm as yesterday – 1 August 2020

That was my first thought this morning.

Not as warm. A bit fresher perhaps? Yesterday was just a bit too unScottish on the temperature scale. Today was going to be more down to earth.

We had no bread, very little fruit and no fancy little cakes, so I wandered off down to the shops in the morning. Got enough stuff to feed us for today (and a few days more if the truth be told) and a bar of chocolate for going, which I thought was very fair. Lunch was a roll ’n’ cheese for both of us, but not just ordinary rolls, no, these were Ciabatta rolls that had come all the way from Iceland, the frozen food shop, no the northerly island nation. Then we sat and wondered what to do until the live British F1 GP qualifying was due to start. We were then glued to our TV until the end of the qualifying came to a nail biting finish, or at least that’s what we were told. It was the usual faces in the usual grid slots. No nails were bitten in this house.

Later in the afternoon, I took myself and a camera out for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp waited at home, deciding what to wear for tonight’s Zoom Dance. To be fair to her, she also prepared the “mise en place” (food and dishes preparation) for tonight’s dinner which was Smoked Salmon and Broccoli Quiche. We’d made it before, but it was really good to walk into the kitchen and find everything laid out for me. The actual cookery was easy after all that. It tasted really quite good. Not as good as Jackie’s, but a fair stab at it. Plus, of course she uses the old fashioned shortcrust pastry base while we have a new super fast method which must remain a secret!

After dinner it was a bit of a rush to get the living room rearranged in time for the dance. It’s really a good way of having a socially isolated dance without the need for face masks and all that faff. Just a computer and a space in your own home to dance. It’s amazing the amount of stuff we’d (read “I’d”) forgotten since the last one. It took me one whole track before I got the steps for the basic waltz anywhere like a dance and not just staggering blindly around the living room. The Social Foxtrot is all about dancing in never ending saw-tooth formations, even I can manage that. Salsa was … let’s say it wasn’t as smooth and faultless as it should be. All in all, it was an exercise in not falling over and no, I’d not had anything stronger than a bottle of beer at that point. However, it was great fun and good exercise too. Don’t know what the couple next door in their Jacuzzi thought! I kid you not, they have a jacuzzi in a gazebo in a garden the same size as ours. What is Westfield coming to? I think they have just too many Zs in their heads! When the Zoom dance ended we had to have a wee seat in the quiet just to allow our muscle groups to return to normal. Next one is in a couple of weeks time unless Lockdown finishes before then – we should be so lucky!

Today’s PoD was wee fly on a cow parsley head.

Tomorrow we may be aching so much we won’t be able to go out anywhere, or maybe we should just to ease those dancing muscles.

Rain in all its forms – 30 July 2020

Today was wet, really wet, soaking wet in fact.

It was that typical Scottish summer day. Every form of rain you could imagine falling incessantly from the sky. It didn’t come as a surprise, we knew from the weather reports that today was going to be a washout, so we’d planned for it. We went for the messages!

We drove to Waitrose in Stirling in the morning. We needed shopping and there was no point in wasting the warm sunny day that had been promised for Friday, so we thought it made sense to use up Thursday wandering round Waitrose filling a trolley. When we got to the till I thought we’d actually managed to buy Waitrose. We nearly did.

Coming back, the rain was even worse and the spray thrown up by the cars was like diving through fog. I was amazed at the number of drivers who chose not to use lights. The ones who had no rear lights were bad enough, but it was the ones who didn’t even daytime running lights who were the worst. A grey car driving through heavy spray on a dull day without lights is almost invisible from front or rear. Rant over.

The rain continued into the afternoon and as I didn’t have a photo, I took a walk in the rain to see if I could find some moody raindrop pictures. Instead I found some Yarrow plants. One shot of them became PoD.

After dinner I settled down to paint a wee jam jar of lavender flowers. Scamp had cut them yesterday and I’d dropped them into an jam jar of water to stop them wilting. Today that jam jar and its flowers became the subject of a wee watercolour. It’s up on Instagram, but I’ll let you have a look at it here too. I’m quite pleased with it.

Tomorrow is forecast to be the best day of the week with predicted temperatures in the mid 20s here in the Central Belt. Down in London it’s going to be over 30º. Too hot for me! Hope you enjoy it Hazy and Neil-D. Hope the Cambridge pair have a more sensible temperature.

We may go for a walk somewhere if tomorrow is going to be Summer!