15 Dec

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.

15 Dec

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.

15 Dec

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.

15 Dec

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!

15 Dec

I want to go back! – 17 November 2017

I’ve had enough of the dull, dark, dismal days. I want to go back to the Sun, Sea and Sangria of Tenerife.

I could just finish today’s blog entry there, but there were some highlights too. In the morning we put away the holiday cases until next year. After lunch I drove up to Castle Greyskull AKA the Antonine Centre to meet Val for a coffee. Although we were without Fred for most of the meeting, we did manage to set the world to rights and decry the misery that is Windows 10. We had been ousted from our usual Costa because all the seats were taken, but the quality of the coffee in the alternative Costa was no better. One brightener was meeting an ex-pupil who asked me if I was still teaching. When I told him not to be silly he just laughed and said “I didn’t think so, because you’re smiling!” Was I always so grumpy at work? Yes, I suppose I was.

By the time we came out into the grey twilight that is afternoon up north it was raining just to make us feel even more dismal.

I drove Val and Mrs Val home before going home myself. We had Cod Chowder and a glass or two of wine for dinner and the day didn’t seem so bad then.

Today’s PoD is a placemarker. A flower dunked in a bucket of Lighroom.

Tomorrow is another day. Don’t know where it will take us, but I’ll be smiling!

15 Dec

Flying Solo – 29 September 2017

Today it was my turn to go for coffee.

Before I went I did the underpainting on my Rannoch Moor painting. It’s beginning to look better now I’ve got the proportions sorted out.

Just after midday, I met up with Val and Fred in Costa. I drove there in the Juke. I was flying solo for the first time. No Scamp as radio operator and navigator. Just me and the Juke. And I was fine. So was it. I even got a chance to use the windscreen wipers during one of the heavy rain showers we had.  I also managed to get parked almost straight and in the box at Tesco, thanks to the reversing camera.

It was when I was walking into the Antonine Centre that I realised I hadn’t taken my old satnav from the Megane. I know I won’t need it again, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

After coffee and a discussion of the state of the world, I drove Val home and he too remarked on the different view you got from the Juke’s elevated seating. After that I went to fill the tank for the first time. The garage had given me half a tank to get me started, but I wanted to fill it to the brim. Surprisingly it cost me just £30! Then when I got back in the car I realised that the petrol tank was much smaller than the Megane. It only holds about 45 litres which is worth about 300miles. That’s just enough to get us to Skye. The Megane took about 60 litres. Oh well, I’ll just have to be more frugal in my driving style, I suppose.

Came home and decided to go out to St Mo’s in the rain to get some photos. I was surprised to find the dandelions still setting seeds. I liked the detail rendered, and that’s why it got PoD. Out behind the forest I saw a trio of Garden Cross spiders on their webs. One male and two female apparently. Troilism in spiders! Who knew?

Then the salesman from the garage phoned to ask how I was finding the car. That was my chance to ask him if the satnav was still in the Megane. He went and had a look and said it was there. He even offered to drop it off on his way home. I said no, that we’d come and pick it up during the week. He must have thought I was mad. Here I am with an up-to-date large screen satnav in the car and I want my old Navman back? It’s the principle of the thing though. It put my mind at rest.

Dinner was a Chicken, Mushroom and Kale pie. Quite delicious and totally gone now.

Maybe off to Embra tomorrow. Not driving though, train is less stressful.

15 Dec

Rain and Salsa, nothing else – 24 September 2017

Rain reigned today.  It started off just dull, then the rain came and really outstayed its welcome.

Had  a Neil D lunch of last night’s Chicken Rogan Josh and it went quite nicely on toast!  Then made the mad decision to give in and allow Windows 10 to perform its upgrade to Win 10 Creators Update.  That was about 2:30pm.  It’s now about 11.45pm and it’s still doing it.  Ok, I admit I closed it down to go to the Sunday Social, but it’s been going hard at it for the last four hours and is still not finished.  I hope the Creators (or is that Creatures) are worth it.  There was a message to say that I could postpone it to allow me to back up the hard drive, but then it seemed to say “Fuck it” and started installing it anyway borking the backup.  That’s what I love about Microsoft, NOTHING.  Macs, even with the despicable El Capitan are so much more user friendly that anything Mickysoft produces.  Windows 7 was the last stable OS on a PC and then Windows 8 came along to be the ‘inbetween OS’  The one that never worked.  No Windows 9 for some reason, maybe the same reason there’s an iPhone 8 and an iPhone X, but no iPhone 9.  Windows 10 started out well, then the inevitable upgraded borked it too.  Hopefully the Creators Upgrade will sort everything out, but I doubt it.  I think I’ll just return it to factory settings after its done its worst.

On a brighter note, Salsa was really fun tonight.  Maybe that’s because we had tapas in the restaurant before the dancing started.  Scamp got to dance with the legendary ‘Jamie’.  Not ‘our Jamie’, nor Jamie Gal, but the strange and twisty turny ‘other Jamie’.  I think Scamp was quite taken aback when he asked her to dance.  She did look terrified when I saw her!!  I should explain that ‘other Jamie’ is an excellent dancer who we see at most of the socials.  We think he is a professional dancer.  A very smooth mover who likes to show off on the floor.  He often dances with guys too!  We did think he might be gay, but he appeared with his wife and wee boy.  I know that’s no proof of anything, but still …  He didn’t ask me to dance, of course.  There were lots of girls there tonight, most of them beginners or pre-beginners if that’s possible.  I danced with a couple of them, but it was more like giving a lesson than dancing.  Not that I minded.  Then I danced with another girl who could dance.  Unfortunately, I overstretched her knowledge with one move, Aficionado and tripped over her feet, landing on my bum amidst peals of laughter.  Shannon, the boss, had been videoing the proceedings earlier, but luckily she didn’t notice my acrobatics, so it’s just between you and me.  First time ever I’ve fallen on the dance floor!  Bummer.  Literally!

Today’s PoD came from the salsa venue, which was La Rambla in Paisley.  I saw it on the cistern in the restaurant toilet today. I just had to go back in and capture this chrome smile.  Glad nobody came in while I was taking the shot. That might have been a difficult one to explain away!

Just checked and as of 12:13am Windows 10, which was predicting 90minutes for the installation at 3pm, is at 92% complete and the helpful message reads:

This may take some time

This week’s sketch is just a doodle trying to sketch people for paintings and the theme is rain and umbrellas, as if you hadn’t guessed.  The weather fairies promise a drier day tomorrow and some sun on Tuesday.  Let’s wait and see.

Despite all the bad weather we’ve been having I still saw some swallows this week, so all is not lost.

15 Dec

A rather full day – 17 September 2017

When we woke this morning, someone was shouting at us from a loud hailer from the general direction of the football stadium. It appeared that the Cumbernauld 10K had started. We really should go and watch.

We walked down through the new housing estate and found that the all the races had started. The 1K were already home, the 3K were due at any minute and the 10K were halfway round the pond. All this had happened while we were having our breakfast and reading in bed. We watched the 3K folk finishing and by the time their stragglers were coming to the stadium, the first of the 10K were in sight. We watched a few of them enter the stadium, then walked back along the road clapping to encourage the runners as we went. I find now if I stand in one place for too long, I get a back pain. Gentle moving eases it. Running 10K wouldn’t help though!

We did see one accident while we were watching. One man, not a competitor took a tumble on the grass beside the footpath and fell heavily on his shoulder. He started screaming in pain and holding his shoulder. The First-Aider got him to cross his arms in front of his chest and hold opposite shoulders. Classic textbook broken collar bone injury. He was eventually carted off in a wheelchair into the VIP area. Possibly that’s where he wanted to go in the first place, but a rather extreme way of getting entrance.

We walked back home and were just making lunch when JIC and Sim arrived back with Chris and Yvonne. After catching up with C & Y they left to go home and we booked an early dinner at Milano’s, then headed off to Chatelherault near Hamilton to go for a walk through the trees. We walked over the Duke’s Bridge, but when we got there and found that almost all the trees had been felled leaving the valley down to the Avon Water looking very different from the last time Scamp and I had been there. More of the Hunting Lodge was open than last time so we wandered round some of the rooms and I got some photos before we headed home.

Dinner in Milano’s was good, but the pizzas were not as brilliant as they used to be. New chef, or maybe just a weekend stand in? Only time will tell. Halfway through the meal Sim discovered that their flight had been put back 2 hours! So, would we go back home or did they just want to go to the airport? They chose to go in the hope that the flight would get away quicker.

We drove home from the airport and watched an interesting and, for once, exciting F1 GP from Singapore. I won’t say who won in case you haven’t seen it yet.

A rather full day, but an enjoyable one.

I’ve been meaning to post a weekly note on my blog to try to track down the week the swallows arrive and leave. This week I saw some swallows and this is week 38.

15 Dec

Out West – 9 September 2017

Today after a lazy morning without any drawer rearranging, we drove down to Kilmarnock to see our friend Dorothy and her son, Colin.

Well, that was the intention, but we got as far as the Robroyston turn-off before CIRTRAC lit up with the happy news that there had been an accident after junction 16 of the M8. Just what we needed! Not to worry, it’s never usually as bad as they predict. A mile or so later, it was as bad as they predicted, in fact it was worse. The queue had backed up on to the M80 we were on. I took the next exit on to the M8 going in the opposite direction. From there we could go south on to the M74 and then take the exit to East Kilbride and from there onto the M77. Sounds complicated, but it was preferable to sitting in the carpark that is the M8 when there’s an accident somewhere ahead. As it happened we got to Dorothy’s place only about fifteen minutes late.

We spent about an hour with Dorothy, showed her some of our holiday pics, but she began to feel tired and we left her with her son looking after her. She looked a bit more tired than the last time we’d visited and we did have far too many holiday pics. We really need to make the effort to visit more often, but not stay as long.

It was still a lovely day, so we decided drive on down to Troon. Got parked without any bother at the harbour carpark and walked from there into town. The town was jumping. Hunners of people on the beach, but thankfully only dogs in swimming. If there were folk in swimming, they would probably have needed an ambulance in attendance. The sun was warm, but I’d imagine there were baby icebergs out there in the wet stuff. Wandered round the ‘town centre’ to give it the benefit of the doubt. Scamp wanted to go for lunch at The Lido. I’m not a big fan of it. You always have to wait ages for a table, even if you’ve phoned ahead to book one. Once you’re seated, you have to wait ages for the food. However, the food, when it arrives is worth the wait … almost. I suggested we give Scotts a go. It’s from the same stable as The Lido so hopefully the same quality of food, but without the wait. I was right on both counts. Food was great – Fish ’n’ Chips for Scamp (what a surprise) and Roast Chicken for me, but roast chicken with Smoked Carrot Puree among the sides! Interesting taste. The most remarkable thing though was driving into the restaurant carpark. It brought me in mind of Crews Inn at Chagauramas in Trinidad. Without the palm trees obviously. Sitting looking out at the boats in the marina under a beautiful blue sky just emphasised that memory. I think we’ll be back … to Scotts that is. I’d love to think that one day we’d go back to Crews Inn at Chagauramas too with its lethal brandy based Sangria.

Today’s PoD was taken just outside Dundonald on  the hill up from Troon and is looking over Troon to Arran.  I just had to stop to grab a shot or two … or twenty eight!  It’s been through Lightroom a few times, but I like the finished result.  Click on it to see it bigger in Flickr as usual.

Tomorrow we leave the blue skies behind and return to the land of the rain. Oh well, at least we had one really good day this week.

15 Dec

Drawer No 2 – 8 September 2017

The task today was to clear up the second drawer of the four.

I thought this was going to be an easy job, but after an hour and another poly bag in the bin, I had a semblance of order in the second drawer. It has become my ‘paper drawer’. Watercolour paper, pastel paper, photo paper, even tracing paper. Now the top drawer looks a mess again by comparison.

Coffee with the guys today and perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve found the happy medium with Cumby Costa. Mocha Cortado to start and a double espresso after an hour or so. We talked a lot across a wide range of topics and finished discussing the start of construction of the new Cumbernauld Academy or Cumbernauld Atrocity as Fred will have it.

Because this was in my head when I drove away from Tesco, I just had to see what was happening to my old school. It appears that the concrete columns have been poured and there’s a bit of work on the concrete too. Basically it’s at the stage of being a quagmire with some concrete pillars poking out of it. One day it may come together, but for now, all I can say is that it’s in exactly the place that the architects intended it to be in.

Drove around looking for a subject for today’s PoD. It took me quite a while, but eventually I decided to have a look at the Falls of Luggie. That’s not its real name, but it’s a small waterfall on the Luggie Water, and Falls of Luggie makes it sound spectacular. A long shutter speed would have been good, but I didn’t bring a tripod. I’ve got two good tripods and I keep on telling myself to leave one in the car. I only need one at home. I made do with the slowish shutter. Slow enough to blur the water, but fast enough to hand hold. Couldn’t decide whether the 45mm or the 9mm worked better. The result is above.

Tomorrow we go to visit Dorothy and it’s supposed to be a better day, although today wasn’t all that bad.