Big Al takes charge – 8 May 2020

Bit the bullet and called in some help.

Phoned Wheelcraft this morning and spoke to Big Al. Told him what the problem was and he said to bring the wheel in. Once he’d stripped out the ball bearings and cleaned the grease out he spotted a crack in the hub cup. It’s going to need a new hub and the wheel rebuilt. About £50. It’s a good job I didn’t get the cone off, because I’d never have thought of looking for a crack in the cup. He’s just the same as the last time I was there. Social Distancing? I don’t think he’s been listening to Boris or Nick. Three people working in that pokey wee place. Still, he knows what he’s doing and is the only one I’d trust to repair my wheel, even if it’s going to cost a bit more than I’d expected.

Drove back from Clachan of Campsie in an improving day, although there were a few heavy looking clouds hanging around the Campsie Fells as we drove past them. The rain didn’t come, though and the Juke was driving well. It’s amazing that when you’ve been travelling at walking pace for the last four our five weeks, 40mph seem really fast!

Scamp went out to get some stuff for tonight’s dinner and I walked with her part of the way, then veered off to walk round St Mo’s. I was looking for pine cones, because we’ve found that a cat (?) has been crapping in the her sweet pea box and apparently one of the best preventative measures is to cover the box in pine cones because cats don’t like to walk on them. I suppose they are quite jaggy and would hurt the poor pussy’s feet. Me, I wanted to go for land mines, but Scamp wouldn’t have that as the box is too close to the wall of the house. We’ll see how the pine cones work first.

While I was out I got today’s PoD which is a spider wrapping up a little black fly. I felt sorry for the poor fly, but in another shot you can clearly see the hooked claws on its feet. Possibly a robber fly. There are a lot of them about in the late spring and early summer. Anyway of the two shots I kept out of the 14 I took, this was the best. Not the best of a bad lot, but not far off it.

I made Asparagus with Lemon Spaghetti and Peas for dinner and despite the fact that it was very lemony, I quite enjoyed it.

Tomorrow is Saturday, but that’s just a name now. Don’t have any plans

Wheels within wheels – 7 May 2020

It’s just a wheel after all, what can be difficult.

I’ll tell you what can be difficult. Finding a spanner that actually fits the locknut on the wheel axle. That’s number 1. Finally solved that one by using a shifting spanner. Next problem was finding a spanner that would fit the inner, possibly cone nut. Not only fit, but also be thin enough to slip into the gap between the locknut and the wheel hub. It was at that point that I gave up on repairing the front wheel of the bike. I could find a spanner that fitted in the slot and seemed to be the right size. Unfortunately the nut is 13mm and the only spanner I had that was thin enough was 14mm. Sometimes you just have to take heed of these warnings and say let’s go and look at how much I’d have to pay to Halfords for a new wheel. The answer was that prices start at £65!! For a piece of Halfords trash? I’d hope not. The fact that it’s also a disk brake wheel would inevitably increase that price. I put back the rubber gaiter and the spindle and went to see if Wheelcraft were still in business. No answer on the phone. Likewise the bike shop in Cumbersheugh village. I’ll try again tomorrow. If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll order a cone spanner from Halfords and use that to strip the wheel down. At least then I’ll know if its ball bearings that’s inside or a cassette.

Halfway through the wheel struggle, I took some time out to help Scamp with manoeuvring the plant pots back into place in the front garden. She did the hard work of cutting and trimming the grass, I cleaned the mower. Gave it a spray with WD40 too to hopefully prevent more grass from sticking to the underneath. I planted the peas that I’d been growing in a plug rack, so now I have one full row of little green heads poking through the soil of the raised bed. Tomorrow I’m intending planting another rack of them. Kale will soon be ready for thinning out. Dug up the last of the black kale I planted last year. Green kale still looks good, so it will get a week or so of growing before it too is removed.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk down to the shops to get some ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner. On the way home I saw one of those three wheeler Ski Scooters that you wiggle your way along on and wondered how difficult it would be to ride that home. It was a bit rusty, but I could clean it up. Might be worth a try. Then again, I don’t know who was the last person to use it and if they had washed their hands before they were last playing with it. Probably better not. However, if it’s still there tomorrow …

Didn’t have a PoD, so had a look in the garden, but nothing really inspired me. Finally settled on a wizened tulip that was dropping its petals. It took a bit of delicate balancing to get the two final petals to stay put long enough to get the photos taken. Quite happy with the result. Reminded me of a flamenco dancer. Beautiful colours.

No plans for tomorrow. Scamp booked another slot for Click & Collect at Tesco for the 18th which is just a nice time giving a bit of space from next Monday’s delivery. Never used Click & Collect at Tesco. It will be an adventure, and a short run for the Juke. Must keep the wheels turning.

Painting without a brush – 3 May 2020

Scary business slashing away at a painting with a knife.

For some unexplained reason, I got up this morning and started cleaning up the back room. Scamp thought I was doing it to provide me with a spare bed in the event that someone was disturbing my sleep by snoring. Unlikely. Or did I mishear her, did she say that I was disturbing someone’s sleep by snoring? More likely. If it was either of those reasons, then the prompt was subliminal, I didn’t generate it knowingly. Luckily around 11am it was time to turn on the coffee machine and I gave up on the pointless exercise to return to reality, and coffee.

It looked like another beautiful day had dawned. It had taken a few hours for the weather to get its ducks in order, but now the sky looked set fair for a few hours. I took some of my plants out of the little greenhouse and set them on the grass to harden off a bit. The garden is beginning to look a lot more active with the sun last week warming up the ground and the rain at the end of the week giving some much needed moisture. I even have a pea pushing its little green head above the soil of the raised bed. One pea of the dozen or so I planted in double rows. Well, perhaps it’s one of many to come. It looks like the peas I planted in the little plug pots are beginning to show signs of growth, even a couple of the ones I held back from last years harvest and carefully dried over the winter have sprouted. The James Grieve apple tree has its first flowers and hopefully the Russet beside it will come to flower this week. My biggest surprise is the return of the American Cowslip “Shooting Star”. I’d thought it was dead and was really pleased to see some green shoots coming from it in April. Today it has three flower stalks and two flowers in bloom. I just checked and it was flowering last year on 2nd May. Just one day behind this year isn’t bad.

After lunch I got started painting. I took a photo out of the painting room window and used that as a prompt. A few heavy clouds and some blue sky over the Campsie Fells. It took about an hour and a half to get the first likeness, and another hour after that to get the details. It was all done with a painting knife or two painting knives to be precise, no brush was used. I finished it (for today) just before Scamp called me down for dinner.

Dinner tonight was Bruschetta with a base of home made bread, then a rub with garlic and topped with little vine tomatoes, basil and olive oil. Lovely starter. Main was sea bass with Jersey Royal potatoes and broccoli, washed down with Rosé D’ Anjou. Pudding was our own stewed rhubarb and custard. Quite delicious because Scamp was cooking and I volunteered to be pot washer.

Spoke to JIC and were updated on all things gardening down south and also how to deal with money grabbing cruise companies like, say P&O who withhold the deposit you’ve paid even when the cruise you booked on isn’t going to sail due to government restrictions. We may try some of his suggestions.

PoD was the apple blossom, but the Shooting Star gave it a run for its money.

With the tree lights shining multicolouredly (if that’s not a word, then it should be), that brings us to the end of another blog. Hope you enjoyed it.

Feeling a bit flat – 29 April 2020

Not me, so much as the car’s battery.

It all started when Scamp wanted to go out to get her pills from the chemist. Tried to start the car and … nothing. Pressed the starter again and … nothing. Flat as the proverbial pancake. Eventually had to accept the fact that it wasn’t going anywhere today and got Scamp to take us up to Boots in her car.

She went to the chemist while I went to Tesco. I had a list, a paper one, not on my phone. Nick the Chick has been telling us that we have to wear a mask when we go in to enclosed spaces where others are milling around, so I used my Buff™ pulled up over my nose like an old time bank robber in a cowboy film, The Desperado Shopper! I have a list. I do have one somewhere. I dug in every pocket, but no list was forthcoming. I remember adding something to it at home and … and … putting my pen in my pocket, but did I put my list back in my pocket, that’s the question. Nothing for it but to phone Scamp and get her memory of what was on the list downloaded to me. Ha! Not so easy in Tesco where the lead shielding they put on the roof or the force field they have round the shop won’t allow phone messages in or out. Eventually I gave up and tried to remember what we needed. Actually came home with about three quarters of what I went for, because the list was sitting on the table at home where I’d left it. Next time I go shopping I’ll take my old iPhone, not because it’s a better phone, but because it uses a Tesco sim and maybe, just maybe that will be allowed to communicate with the outside world.

Tried the car again when we got home and it tried to start this time, but just wouldn’t catch. Tomorrow I’ll phone the Nissan recovery and get someone to come out and give it a jump start.

I walked down to the new shops to buy the things I’d forgotten, or that they didn’t have in Tesco. Took my camera of course and brought it back unused with some messages.

Tonight’s dinner was Smoked Haddock Risotto. Easy peasy risotto. No standing over a pot of boiling rice for twenty minutes. Just fry the leeks, add the rice, then add fish, stock and milk. Shove in the oven for 18mins take out and add creme fraiche and spinach leave that for 5 more minutes and serve.
Hint: For best results you should switch the oven on first. I did.

Decided today’s PoD would be an inside shot of two Horse Chestnut plants I’ve managed to get to germinate.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to make that phone call to Nissan and get the car started again.

Another week in Lockdown begins, and it rains – 27 April 2020

Actually, apart from not leaving the house much, life is pretty normal four us.

First thing on my list today was a haircut and as none of the barbers were open, it was down to me to do the bulk of it. Nothing fancy, just a number 4 all over. I got most of it done fairly easily, after all, I’ve done it quite often, usually one home trim in between the trips to the barbers. There is always a bit I can’t quit reach, despite using two different clippers and trying my best with two mirrors. As usual I had to give up and get Scamp to even out my difficult bit. It felt so much better to get that extra 30mm or so of hair removed. Job one done.

After our morning coffee, Scamp went for a walk to the shops and I got started on a canvas. I just can’t get the Bob Ross method out of my head, so this was another landscape, but this time it was just sky, mountains and water. No trees, no bushes and no rocks. I need a lot more practise before I attempt to add them to my landscapes. It was only repainted once and that’s not bad for me. This time it was a painting in oils. While I was trying to emulate Bob Ross, I had trouble working wet in wet with the oils. The last one was done in acrylic, mainly and I’m beginning to think that he didn’t do that painting in one shot. I think, since he was using oils, that he allowed the first layer to dry before he painted in the trees.

When Scamp got back she gave the painting her approval and then went to work in the garden. Her jobs today were to plant out her first batch of sweet peas an to split her bunches of primulas. I gave her a hand for a while, but as usual, she did most of the work, and the better work if the truth be told.

The weather fairies had warned that we would probably have some rain today and on the chart it seemed to arriving around 4pm. Just before 4.30 the first raindrops hit the back window and the garden enjoyed half an hour of rain which I’m sure did it a lot of good.

Now walk today, but I did manage to get my Eight Active Hours award on my Fitbit, mainly due to walking around that painting adding blobs and scrapes of colour. PoD went to a group of aphids on a rose leaf.

Dinner was yesterday’s curry re-heated and it wasn’t as hot as I’d feared it might be. Very tasty, even if I say so myself.

Tomorrow we are promised a delivery from Tesco around dinner time.

Early delivery – 23 April 2020

Scamp’s turn for breakfast and an early knock on the door.

Our veg box arrived this morning as Scamp was making breakfast just after 8.30. What a haul it was Pineapple, Melon, Avocados, Tomatoes, Grapes, Carrots, Potatoes and lots, lots more. Far more than we expected or needed, really. I’m sure well manage to eat our way through most of it though.

Just after I’d had my shower this morning, I felt a well remembered itch on my left wrist and sure enough, there was the little black spot that turned out to be a tick, the second one I’ve had this year and hopefully the last. It had been sitting quietly underneath my watch strap. I think I may have to stick to the main paths in the parks from now until the start of the winter when they die off.

Today was bin day and we are working our way through cleaning all the bins. Today’s customer was the green bin for bottles and plastic – recycling waste. I took up the cudgels and scrubbed it out with a big hard brush. I must admit it made a fair difference to the bin and was a worthwhile use of my time. It also gave me a chance to wander around and get some sun on me.

The unthinkable happened this morning.  The coffee machine wouldn’t work.   No coffee was forthcoming from it.  In fact, nothing was coming from it.  I could hear the pump doing its best, but not a drop was coming out of the basket.  Tried the steam jet and it worked, so it wasn’t the pump that was at fault.  After a bit of rudimentary stripping down, it turned out that some gunk was stuck in the dispenser.  The bit that the spray connects to.  There are four holes in the dispenser block and none of them were working.  After a lot of poking and prodding I got three of them back in business and that was as far as I was willing to go.  I watched a video of an engineer stripping down a Gaggia like mine and knew that it was well beyond my knowledge or tools.  I put it all back together again and went looking on the Which site to see what was available.  It’s not the cost that’s the problem, it’ sourcing the things in these difficult days.  Later I managed to make a cup of coffee with it, but it took a long time.  I’m afraid you pair (you know who you are) have probably made the right decision with my birthday present.  I’ll see what happens tomorrow.

After lunch I went in search of milk down at the shops. Beginning to see more and more people wearing masks now. Some, in fact most, seem to be home made. I might look for a pattern and put some of my ‘fat corners’ to good use. I did see a couple of example patterns somewhere and read of people having irritation from the elastic rubbing on their ears. There was a suggestion that you could modify the design to have a strap with a button and another with a button hole which would fasten behind the head instead. I don’t think I’d adopt that method it sounds a bit like “Do you think my heid buttons up the back?”

Hauled my bag of milk and chocolate (that’s the prize for going) back home and hadn’t taken one photo. Then I remembered the little basil seedlings that are growing on the kitchen window sill. They became the PoD.

Dinner tonight was an old time favourite. Cabbage, bacon and potatoes. Sounds uninteresting but it’s truly delicious.

Played a bit of catch-up with the Lockdown Library for Instagram. I got painter’s block yesterday, so today I’d two drawings to do. Actually I did do a quick sketch of my dance shoes last night, but wasn’t happy with it. Today I added some brushed on black ink and they came alive. So that worked for yesterday. Today’s sketch was a simple one of my old iPhone SE. Now it seem so small.

Tomorrow I may HAVE to cut my hair. It’s getting to be really annoying and messy. Its time may have come.

The supervisor – 22 April 2020

Who would have thought that towards the end of April Showers month we’d have to get the hose out and water the garden?

Gardening today. First I offered to strim the back grass. There is really no point in hauling out the grass cutter and doing a proper cut, because of the lumps and bumps and paving slabs that make it almost impossible to get an even cut. I chose instead to use the strimmer, but only after moving all the plant pots to give myself a fairly easy run at it. Then the pots had to be put back again and we couldn’t be sure exactly where they went. Finally Scamp declared that they were near enough right. I photographed the layout so we’d know next time.  I also took the opportunity to photograph her blue Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) and Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow). Muscari made it to Flickr (G o t S didn’t).

The next gardening task was to fit the hose to the tap and spend a fairly pleasant half hour hosing down the back garden. I’d already soaked my sprouting peas in the bird bath to make sure they continued to sprout. Like I said, it was a fairly pleasant half hour, but not for Scamp who was leaning out the back bedroom window apparently “Just supervising.” A quick flick of the spray controller to “Full Firefighter Force” and an accurately directed jet caught her unawares and put an end to her supervision. Of course, I got pelters for that afterwards. As an act of atonement I washed all the back windows and squeegee’d them clean. I even did the awkward back door.

After lunch, when we were speaking again, Scamp went out to the front with her book and read for a while in the sun.  It was warmer today, because the wind was a bit less boisterous than it has been of late . I should have been painting, but instead I went for a walk to St Mo’s. Before I went, I took some macro shots of a pair of yellow tulips. One of them made it to PoD. The only half decent shot I got in St Mo’s was one of a mummy Mallard with her brood of ducklings. Pity they were so far across the pond to be almost invisible in the ripples. I saw and captured one other interesting sign of the times. I’ve seen artists on FB painting messages on stones and leaving them for someone to find. Today I found, not one, but two on a seat in the park. It’s a nice thought that took very little time to do, but might give someone some much needed support. I hope so.

Didn’t get a painting done today, so maybe I’ll manage to play catch-up tomorrow. Hoping for a veg box delivery some time tomorrow. It’s amazing the silver linings that are appearing from these dark clouds.

A nice day for a stake – 21 April 2020

Not a spelling mistake. Not a very meaty stake.

The apple tree, our big James Grieve apple tree has been staked for a long number of years now. When the original stake was put in, the tree had barely started fruiting. Last year it was becoming quite bent and bowed with the weight of the apples on its much longer branches. That was when we decided it needed a better support. Today I cut up a lovely piece of mahogany used to be a ‘stretcher’ for holding up the washing line before the whirly came into our lives and the washing line became redundant. The stretcher originated from the woodwork department of a certain high school that doesn’t exist any more and for a years or so has been propping up the fence at the back door. Today it was repurposed as the support for the apple tree.

With the prop cut to length and sharpened to a fair point, it should have been easy to hammer it in to the ground, secure the branch to it and remove the old support. Things that should be easy rarely are as any DIY person will tell you. First it was almost impossible to hammer the new stake into the ground with the old one in place without damaging all the flowers on that branch, so with Scamp holding the branch, I cut off the cable tie securing the tree to the old stake and carefully removed the stake. Next there was what we will call ‘a discussion’ as to exactly where the new stake would go. Polis were not called to intervene, but it was a close run thing. Eventually we found a place that we could both agree on and the stake was duly battered into place. The branch was secured to the stake with a cable tie, cushioned with a couple of old socks. That seemed to work the last time and hadn’t damaged the branch unduly. We may replace the original stake just to provide extra support if we think the tree needs it, but for now it should be ready to carry the masses of fruit we’re hoping for, if I haven’t destroyed all the flower buds.

With the job done we had lunch. After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which I think is a hover fly. It might be a honey bee, but I’m fairly certain it’s a hover. It was another beautiful day if you could find somewhere sheltered from a fierce eastern wind. It might be blowing in from the North Sea, but it felt as if it was coming from the Arctic. Still the whin bushes were glowing in the sunshine and the pine trees behind them were providing a barrier to that wind.

Went looking for a wooden box I made when I was an apprentice away back in the late 60s. Didn’t find it, but Scamp found a few strips of colour negatives and we scanned them into the iMac. Some good memories there. I’ll distribute some of them when I’ve got them all scanned.

Before dinner I started on today’s Lockdown Library painting. Tonight it was to be four pears. Laid down some basic washes and left it there to go and sample Scamp’s veggie chilli. It was delicious. One of those dishes that taste so good you forget there’s no meat in it. After dinner I laboured on at the painting and finally got it to a stage I was fairly happy with. It’s photographed and up on Instagram.

No plans for tomorrow, other than maybe another dance practise.

Another beautiful day in the sun – 11 April 2020

Woke to grey skies and the threat of rain, but then the sun came out.

Lunch today was a reheat of yesterday’s Saag Aloo toned down a bit with some extra cream and a little water to reduce the effect of the salt and also to cool the chilli! Like most curries, it improved with age.

We needed milk today and it was my turn to go for the messages. I thought I could link it in with a walk in the park, but then decided it would be better for my step count if I did two separate walks. First one was to M&S for the essentials: Milk, cheese and tomatoes. Dumped the messages in the kitchen and took my camera for a walk in St Mo’s.

Beautiful day, bright sunshine and warm if you were out of the wind, which I made sure I was for most of the walk. Definitely saw few hoverflies and another couple of peacock butterflies. Didn’t get many photos, the spotted a couple walking along the boardwalk and grabbed the shot. I liked the way it was framed. Back home, Scamp was going out to sit in the back garden, so I joined her with a glass each of red wine. It was comfortably warm with just a little cooling breeze blowing in from the west, but the temperature was certainly high teens. It’s going to be much cooler (colder!) tomorrow with the wind swinging to the north. We stayed in the garden discussing possible rearrangements of plants and planting. Took a few shots of one of Scamp’s Christmas Rose plants. I used the Nikon with the 105mm macro lens and it did a really good job of the close up. That became PoD. Did a bit of gentle pruning and retired to the house when the sun went down. Take the chance of a seat in the sun while you can.

Scamp had found a YouTube channel with a full length stage version of JC Superstar filmed in Manchester arena. That was tonight’s entertainment. Very good interpretation of one of our favourite films. We’d actually intended watching the DVD of the film tomorrow night. Maybe we still will, or we may leave it until Monday.

It looks like the weather’s changing overnight, so we may not be sunning ourselves tomorrow!

Short and sweet – 9 April 2020

Not a lot to say about today, so this will be short and sweet.

After the excitement of yesterday, today was a bit of a let down as far as the weather was concerned. I presume a lot of work went in to getting the weather just right for my birthday, so today was recompense for that. It started off dull and grey and eventually deteriorated into drizzly rain tonight.

In the afternoon I did manage to drag myself out to St Mo’s to get a few photos, but the PoD was taken earlier in the garden with a little bit of light, not actually very bright light, but light none the less and I’ll take that. The subject is Scamp’s Pieris, variety Forest Flame. It really lives up to its name with bright red leaves in the spring and the promise of its tiny little white bell flowers to come in late April and early May. It’s a real uplifting bush, especially on a dull day.

Yesterday both the usual park benches were in use and today nobody wanted to sit in the damp and decidedly cold east wind. I can’t blame them really. Lots of geese seem to have taken up squatter’s rights in the pond and the two swans are making a show of telling them who’s pond it is. Like two big white polis, they patrol the perimeter of the pond shouting “Move along there. Nothing to see.” In swan-speak, of course.

So that was it for today. Another two prezzies today, one from Neil-D’s mum and dad and another from Gems, well probably Margie really! Lovely lady.

Tomorrow we must a-foraging for milk, bread and possibly eggs. Just down to the local shops, because it’s unlikely there will be any slots for Tesco and we can’t understand the workings of the ASDA Click ’n’ Collect layout.

There you are. I told you it would be short and sweet, and it was.