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Slipped the Leash – 13 December 2017

This morning, Scamp and her sister were off into town. I had a chance to slip the leash.

Ended up doing a bit of sketching and pastel drawing, but nothing serious enough to be considered for public viewing. I also made some yogurt, repaired a bit of the kitchen ceiling and finished off an iron-on transfer for a tee shirt.  Eventually, after lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and just missed the last of the good light. What I did find was a quadricopter drone stuck up a tree. After a bit of work energetically throwing chunks of branches at it, it finally dropped to earth. It really was in a sorry state, but it did have a camera and after a bit of examination, I extracted the micro SD card. Like the rest of the drone it was fairly well corroded, but with some careful scraping with a scalpel, the contacts were clean enough to download the video of its last flight, all 2.5minutes of it. It’s not the best resolution, but it does show the dangers of flying too close to tall pine trees!

My one decent photo from the day and my PoD was entitled “Slipped the Leash” on Flickr. Quite fitting.

Tonight Scamp, Jackie and I drove down to Bombay Dreams for dinner with June and Ian. Our combo starter was enormous and while others less used to the size of the restaurant’s portions were eating their way through it, Scamp and I were more careful. Mains were also their usual size and just as tasty as always. Entertainment was provided by the two twin waiters. One serious, the other telling jokes with such a deadpan expression you wondered if it was a joke at all. All this while snow was falling outside. This was the first expedition in the snow in the Juke and it performed perfectly. It even climbed the hill to the house without a single grumble. Nice car.

Jackie heads to Embra tomorrow and depending on the weather we may go to Stirling.

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The end of the ice age – 12 December 2017

Woke up to -5.5ºc, but my weather app said it would rain by 2.30pm. Nah, I don’t think so, somehow.

Spent most of the morning clearing up the back bedroom for Jackie. You might not think so to look at it, but you didn’t see it before I started!

After lunch I drove in to Glasgow to BUY STUFF. It didn’t really matter what I was buying, I just had to BUY STUFF. Well, that’s the way it felt until I realised I’d just had a near miss with the Xmas shopping bug and decided to be a bit more pragmatic. While I was driving in the rain started, just after the predicted time of 2.30pm and walking down Bucky Street in the rain, yesterday’s Christmas Card feel completely disappeared. This was back to business as usual. After managing to get all the things I’d come for (and a few more), I met up with Jackie off her bus from Skye and we drove home still in the rain.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Thighs with Leeks and Petit Pois (peas to you), from a Nigella. It was full of the gorgeous grains of green from the peas and the subtle mild onionniness of the leeks, but mainly the golden goodness of the chicken thighs. There, that’s a better description in Nigella language!

Today’s PoD is of the reflections in Exchange Square in Glasgow.

Tomorrow, it looks like there may be some snow in the forecast. I think I may be pastel painting while the sisters hit the ‘Toon’.

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Under the Bridges – 9 December 2017

So, what of the day then? Well, it was cold when we woke this morning, sub-zero in fact.

We’d half intended to go to Embra, but as we both slept a little longer than we’d intended and as we then read a little longer than we’d intended, it was really too late to go to ‘Auld Reekie’ today. Instead we decided to go to South Queensferry. It’s a great place on a cold, bright, clear day and today fulfilled those specifications perfectly. Surprisingly, we found a parking place right away and then when we walked through the main car park we found there were lots of spaces. After yesterday’s experience, I guessed that everyone was in Embra or Glasgow today, frantically searching for just the right gift for someone. Maybe someone they don’t particularly like, while that other person is also searching for something someone else won’t like Both of these ‘gifts’ will soon find themselves in the council tip or in a charity shop. The recipients will be ultimately disappointed and the buyers will be out of pocket. The only winners from Xmas are the shops. Will I be taking part. Of course I will, because that’s part of the game, isn’t it?  We walked under the old bridge and that’s where most of the photos came from.  PoD was of the pillars, top right.

There were a lot of Asian tourists here. Maybe they were on a visiting cruise ship, or maybe it was just the one family and we just kept meeting different groups of them. We seemed to bump into them a few times as we walked along under the railway bridge. After that, we walked through the town of South Queensferry and Scamp remembered us sitting outside in a pub courtyard in warmer days, and as it was a pub courtyard, and there would be beer involved, it must have been a few years ago in more relaxed times. She also liked the way spaces in the lines of shops had been used to provide windows on the Forth and the bridge, the old bridge, the real Forth Bridge. She’s developing a good eye, is Scamp.

I think Scamp was really set on having lunch in the Italian restaurant we’ve been to a few times in Queensferry, but when we passed a second time, it was empty. An empty restaurant is not a good sign, so she made the decision to go to a busy one we’d passed. The fact that it had big picture windows was not a factor, honest. We had burgers for lunch. Chicken for Scamp and beef for me. Both lovely. I even had a Becks Blue with 0.05% alcohol, while Scamp had a latte. The only drawback was that the picture windows on to the main street had the low, bright sun shining straight in my eyes. I eventually gave in and allowed Scamp to move round the table so that I could sit with my back to the sun. The bonus was that we could both watch the tiny wee trains passing over the Forth Bridge.

Paid for lunch, walked back to the car and drove home. Took a wrong turning on the way and got the sat nav to help us out of our difficulty. It took us down a single track road, round a very posh looking farm conversion and then back along the single track onto the main road, then got us onto the M8/M9 perfectly with ease. I presume the detour round the posh houses was its version of ‘perform a U-turn when possible.’

 

Still cold tonight with the threat of snow. So, as to what we’re doing tomorrow, as Scamp says, it all depends on the weather.

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Masterchef – 8 December 2017

Today was Scamp’s annual Witches Christmas Dinner so it was get up, get out of bed and put your pinny on.

Scamp was first in the kitchen getting her pudding sorted. I’d taken loaf’s worth of dough out of the freezer last night and left it to defrost, then rise in the kitchen overnight. It didn’t look as if it had done much rising, but I left it on the radiator to warm up and hopefully do the business. It did rise a bit, but not as much as I’d hoped. When Scamp was finished, I turned up the oven and when it got up to temperature, I bunged it in. I still wasn’t convinced, so I made another batch of fresh dough, just in case. As it turned out, the bread was fine, so that was another load of dough in the freezer for another day. Bread done, what’s next. I started to prep the veg for the starter while Scamp sorted the table. I’d already carted the iMac upstairs away from the sticky fingers of the Witches. Prep done, there was nothing for it but to make the filo pastry nests for the quiches. It is the most fiddly stuff to work with, filo. If you so much as look at it the wrong way, it becomes desiccated and falls to pieces. However, I got the four nests made and then filled with the veg before being filled with the egg mixture. Stick it in the oven for 15 mins at the equivalent of 160ºc. They came out anaemic and liquid. Bung them in for another 5 minutes. Still not set, so turn it up a bit and bung them in again. Finally they looked ok. Had to go to Tesco for more provisions, but then it was time to make tracks before the Witches arrived.

Tried to park in the usual place in Auchinstarry, but there was a giant artic with the logo Scottish National Theatre on the side. In Auchinstarry? Surely not. Well, it was and there were luvvies everywhere as well as roadies setting up temporary shelters and there were also lockers spread all along one of the paths. Oh oh, this looked like serious theatre nonsense. Lots of money being flung at an outdoor contemporary dance and movement piece of pish. Council sponsored no doubt for the fourteen inhabitants of Auchinstarry. Just the thing you want to go to when the temperature is sub-zero and the wind is from the north. The mind boggles.

I parked at the Boathouse and left them to it then walked along the canal as far as the lone seat half way to Twechar. I didn’t sit down for fear of freezing to it, I just turned and walked across the plantation and on to the railway path, then back to the car.

Drove out to The Fort to waste some time and had a coffee and a panini there before driving back. My head still buzzing with Wizzard singing about how the Wished it could be Christmas every day. That seemed to be the only Christmas (or should that be ‘Xmas’?) song they had on the Fort’s iPod. The Party was winding down when I went in, but luckily I’d taken the iMac upstairs, so I could retire to the relative quiet of my room, process PoD which was the view along the canal with the sun streaming through the trees, and listen to some real music courtesy of Spotify.

Was told later that the quiches (remember the quiches?) hadn’t been set properly and Scamp had to rescue them by giving them a further 5 minutes. Basically the temperature in the recipe is wrong for our oven.

It was really cold today.  I don’t think the temperature rose much above zero.  When I got back to the house in the late afternoon, the rain that was frozen on the rear light cluster of the car when I went out was still frozen.

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on the weather I fear.

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Stirling – 6 December 2017

Dull day. We went to Stirling. We had coffee in Nero. We came home and had soup for dinner. We went to Salsa and danced an hour away with the beginners. We came home and I took a photo of the condensation on the front headlights of the Juke.  The beginning of the evidence file.

Some days are just so exciting it takes me all my time to record all the details. Then there’s days like today.

PoD is Fairy Nuff on the Christmas tree.

Tomorrow we visit Glasgow for more fun.  This time we are facing Storm Caroline which is starting to wind itself up tonight

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Number Crunching – 5 December 2017

Meeting with the FA today (no, nothing to do with football)

Drove to Falkirk today to meet with our FA for the six monthly meeting. All was good, so we went to Tea Jenny’s for lunch on the strength of it. Omelette for Scamp and Stovies for me. Lovely grub. Today’s PoD is one of their famous tea cosies. After that, a walk through the delights of Falkirk which didn’t take long. Waterstones for me and M&S for Scamp. That’s about all the High Street shopping there is in Falkirk. We did, however, go to Morrisons after that for ‘messages’ and copious amounts of alcohol. It’s Scamp’s Witches Christmas party on Friday. Copious amounts of alcohol are a must.

Came home and got the tree down. The house always looks that much cosier with the tree up and the lights on. Yes, Hazy, the letter was there in the Christmas lights box. I’ll hopefully get a shot of the tree tomorrow, just for the record. Need a bit of daylight to show it off at its best. There was precious little daylight today. Not a lot of rain, but very little light.

Finally managed to get up to date with Ink ’17 sketches as you can see.

Tomorrow we should have been taking the car in to check the condensation in the headlights, but the garage phoned to say that, as there had been no recurrence it would be pointless to investigate it and when I suggested I take a photo of the extent of condensation the next time it happens they agreed it was the most sensible solution. Apparently there is a bulletin from Nissan as so many people have had the same complaint. That means we’re free tomorrow. I think we’re still going in to Stirling, though because Scamp wants to go shopping. Stirling has a good Waterstones and a Nero, so it won’t be a totally wasted day for me.

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Coffee Swap-Shop – 1 December 2017

Met Val and Fred for coffee today. We really need to change our coffee day from Friday to another weekday. Costa was mobbed again and it was only by luck that Val and I managed to grab a table. Fred was later to arrive today after having to detour to the village to book his car in to have an exhaust box replaced. Swapped my new Yusuf album for a Jools album from Fred, then we critted each other’s sketches. Val has started sketching too, but is not yet prepared to share his graphics work.

It had started out a bright sunny morning, but by the time we were heading back outside, it was dull and dark. Went to Tesco to get the ingredients for tonights dinner which was an experimental Chicken Tikka. Gave Val a run home and forgot that they (the mysterious ‘They’) are still digging up sections of Forest Road. Every time I drive up that road it’s a different two sections that are being excavated or re-laid. Val was telling me that a whole section of the road subsided earlier in the week. Not surprising really with the amount of excavations that are going on. They probably dug a section up and then relaid the road surface the next day without filling in the holes first, what is now called a ‘Workmanship Error’. Workmanship Error was the excuse explanation given for the Queensferry Crossing being closed for repair months after it opened. It used to be called Bad Workmanship, but that does tend to put a negative spin on things. Error sounds more positive, something that could happen to anyone. Grabbed the chance of another sunset PoD tonight after dropping Val off. This time it’s Broadwood Loch, just further along the same pylon line as yesterday.

When I got home it was time to start the prep for the curry. I won’t go into the details here, but suffice to say it was a lengthy procedure and although it was deemed edible but ‘there were issues’, to quote Marcus Wareing the man JIC claims has the personality of a stormtrooper. Not my favouorite person on TV either. Anyway, getting back to the Chicken Tikka. It needed a lot less cream in the sauce, but apart from that it was good. Definitely worth another go.

It looks like it will warm up a bit, or to be more precise, it will thaw a bit in the next few days with positive temperatures. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It will probably involve shopping somewhere.

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Secret Squirrel Stuff – 29 November 2017

Scamp suggested that we should go for a walk this morning and offered to drive. How could I refuse?

She chose Glasgow Green as the venue and I was up for that. We usually go down the green on a Sunday morning, so it was a bit different to be driven there on a weekday. It was cold, but not uncomfortably so and we walked out to the McLennan Arch and then round past the rowing club boathouse to the viewing gallery over the Clyde. It was there I found the puffed up pigeon, the young gull and the swan. We walked on to the suspension bridge and then out to where there used to be a footbridge over the river to Richmond Park. The bridge has now been demolished but the piers still stand. Maybe they’ll build a new bridge (Aye Right!) Maybe they will, to celebrate the next millennium! We walked a bit further on and that’s where today’s PoD was created. Just a leaf with angled sunlight. I liked it right away. That was as far as we walked. Turned and walked back to the People’s Palace. On the way there we passed a group of school pupils on bikes being shown the basics of mountain biking by what I presume was their PE teacher. A good way to spend an hour or so learning a decent skill set that they can actually use. So much better than ‘book learning’. Good for you Mr Teacher, I applaud you. Coffee in the wintergarden cafe, but no Roll ‘n’ Sausage or toast, and then home.

Spoke to Hazy for half an hour or so after lunch and then Scamp decided she wanted to go in to Glasgow on some undisclosed sortie. So many ‘under the radar’ trips just before Christmas every year. I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s the subterfuge that makes it interesting. My own plans haven’t really been firmed up yet, but when they do, I’ll participate in the “I’m just going in to Glasgow”, “No, it’s alright I’ll probably just go myself” sort of Secret Squirrel stuff.

I drove Scamp to the station and then I had time to download this morning’s photos and have a look through them before I got the text to say that she was coming home on the X3. Time to make the risotto for dinner and then salsa. Salsa was quite interesting, but the class is reducing in numbers again and I felt that Jamie Gal was playing for time a bit.

It’s cold again tonight, 1.4ºc but it’s forecast to get warmer again from tomorrow night. I’m going to be the ‘roadie’ tomorrow when Gems play their second gig in a week before the Christmas break. Other than that I’m a free agent!

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Printers and Mr Grey – 26 November 2017

It was another sub zero morning, but unlike recent days, it soon clouded over and the temperature rose … a bit.

After lunch we drove to Bishopbriggs to look for a photo printer at Currys superstore. They did have a few, but although they had one on show that was on my short leet, they didn’t have any for sale. The usual message of “It’s out of stock, but we can get it for you in two or three days”. Maybe I’ll have better luck in Argos tomorrow. Got so fed up I even went to ASDA to see if they had anything worth while – they didn’t.

When we came home I prepared tonight’s dinner, my dinner, that is which was Shin of Beef. Stuck it in the oven and went out for an hour in the fading light to see what was worth photographing in St Mo’s. Not a lot as it turned out. Spooked Mr Grey who flew around the pond and then settled back on the boardwalk, almost where he had taken off from. He posed there for a while which was very kind of him, otherwise I wouldn’t have a PoD. I’d intended going out for an hour or so, but had forgotten my hat and gloves and the light was really failing now, so I made my way home after half an hour.

Watched an immensely boring final F1 GP of the year. Had dinner, and yes, the shin of beef was lovely. Watched Susan Calman’s sarcastic and very funny exit from Strictly. My, what exciting lives we lead.

Tomorrow the new suite gets delivered so we have to get to bed early tonight. Our four hour delivery slot is from 7am until 11am!

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A Gaggle of Goosanders – 23 November 2017

Busy day. Lots of baking and cooking and clearing up and laying tables, because Isobel was coming for dinner.

Since Isobel is , I had to ignore my usual bread recipe and make bread with gluten-free flour, lots of water, lots of oil and two egg whites. I’ve made the bread before and it turned out, much to my surprise, perfectly edible. Today, I was a bit more confident than I was last time, and possibly it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt. Made the dough, or more correctly, white slurry and poured it into a cake tin to rise. I reckoned I had an hour or so free, since Scamp would be out herding Gems into Abronhill for the afternoon, so I drove down to Auchinstarry to walk the canal, the plantation and the railway.

Walking along the canal I came across a flock? Crowd? I eventually settled on Gaggle of Goosanders, sailing merrily up and down the canal. Chasing one another and diving for fish. I don’t think I’ve seen so many. Too many to count and because they were crossing paths and almost crashing into one another, a pointless task to count them. I only see them on the canal in the winter. Do they overwinter here? Must check.

Dogs. Why are there so many dogs and doggy owners in the world? They all seemed to be congregating at Auchinstarry. It seemed that everywhere I looked there were dogs or folk looking for dogs. There was one exception, apart from me. One dog seemed to be following me and also seemed to be looking for an owner. My “Sorry mate. I’m not the owner you’re looking for” didn’t faze it at all. In fact it ran ahead of me and then waited until it was sure I was catching up before running on. Did it want me to follow it, or does that only happen in Lassie (or, if you’re Scottish, Black Bob)? But then it got distracted. A cyclist came down the path going in the opposite direction and it immediately chose him as its lost owner. The last I saw of it was the black blur tailing the cyclist for all it was worth, far down the path. I hope it got home safely.

Crossed into the plantation and came upon a woman delightedly ‘training’ her Staffie to ‘SIT’ and ‘STAY’. I don’t know who was having the most fun, the dog or her. A few bends later I noticed the buzzard sitting majestically in a tree and grabbed a few shots, before being investigated by what looked like two Dobermans with half their legs cut off. Maybe they were miniature Dobermans OR, as they both had sparkly rhinestone collars, maybe they were miniature Doberwomans. I’d have asked the owner what variety of dog they were, but she swept imperiously past without a word. Thankfully the rest of the walk was dog-free as was the trip to Tesco afterwards.

Got home to find that the bread had risen quite well, too well in fact and was oozing down the sides of the cake tin and over the worktop. Oops. Time to put the oven on I think. Spent the remainder of the afternoon making Pesto and Marinara sauce to cover the Italian Chicken. Thanks again Neil D’ for that recipe. The bread baked fine and was deemed a success by Isobel and Scamp. The chicken was partly successful as we hadn’t known that Isobel didn’t eat tomatoes, but she did manage to scrape the marinara off and all in all it was a good night. Lots of entertaining stories and just good conversation.

PoD was not the Goosander or the Buzzard, but the pretty white things growing over the canal. There’s no accounting for my taste!

Tomorrow I need to remove the door to the living room and the handles from the front door as the two seater is booked to make its exit to the charity shop. Seating will be at a premium then until Monday. Scamp has suggested that we utilize the sun loungers. It seems sensible because they were hardly ever used in the garden this summer!