Working with the gardener – 20 May 2020

The day began at about 6am with a blackbird singing its story … loudly.

Maybe it’s something to do with these strange days, but for the first time I actually listened to the song of the blackbird. It seems to sing a story, almost as if it’s reading the news, a topic at a time. Listen to it the next time you get a chance. This isn’t a mating call, nor is it the “Dik! Did!” alarm call. This song doesn’t repeat like most birdsongs seem to. It’s a story. A story only other birds, or maybe even only other blackbirds can understand. Maybe this is all in my imagination, but I don’t think so.  I eventually had to close the window and thank the genius who invented double glazing.

I got an email from Hazy with a link to an incredible Sudoku solution for a grid with only two numbers in it. It wasn’t a normal Sudoku puzzle though. It was chess sudoku with additional rules based on the King’s move and the Knight’s move in chess. However the solution was fascinating to watch.

We walked down to the shops in the late morning to get some of the raw materials for tonight’s dinner and also something for lunch. Shops were incredibly quiet, even Aldi which is usually mobbed had no queue. For the first time this year, I think I went out without a jacket or hoodie of some description and the light bouncing off the new paving slabs at the shops was quite blinding. A warm day was on the cards.

Scamp cut the front grass and then after lunch we sat at the front for a while, soaking up the rays. Scamp had her factor 50 on just to be sure. I have to apply it to her back and the back of her neck and that’s why my hands are always white. They don’t get the chance to get a tan!

After a while Scamp disappeared for a while. I eventually found her in the back garden, gardening. The usual things. Cutting some stuff, pruning others, weeding and transplanting things. In her element. I finally agreed to be roped in and cleaned out some of the old strawberry hanging basket. Together we repotted the Skimmia into what had been the Chrysanthemum pot. Then she went and split up the Eryngium that was growing quite happily in a pot at the front. Massive big tap root on both the plants. Eventually I gave up on this gardening lark and went inside to draw today’s sketch which was on the topic of Shoes. My slipper/clogs were the model and I was fairly happy with the result. Pencil sketch only this time. By that time the gardener was finished and it was time to make the dinner. Another tray of chicken with roasted veg. Tasted quite good, but needed more salt. We’re working our way through a cookery magazine, by the way. A strange cherry flavoured jelly for dessert. Interesting, but not something I’d actually go looking for again.

PoD was a lovely delicate blue Anemone Coronaria Royale.

Too warm for central heating tonight, but I think we might need it tomorrow. It’s going to get cooler, wetter and windier as we get closer to the weekend. Oh, yes, and happy birthday to Murdo in Skye!

Tomorrow we may need to collect Scamp’s prescription so someone will be driving.

A Tick – 6 April 2020

How I hate these tiny invaders.

Found it last night as I was getting ready for bed. A tiny little black dot with a bright red surround and it was itchy. It was my first tick of 2020 and I’ve no idea how it came to be on me. I’m scrupulously careful these days when walking in long grass. Always have my jeans tucked into my socks. Never crouch down in the long grass. Rarely even put my knee on the ground. I don’t suppose it matters how, it was there and it had to be removed and the wound cleaned. Luckily Scamp had bought me a pair of needle pointed tweezers a year or two ago and they helped pull the tiny thing out. It was only about 1mm long, I had to use one of my old camera lenses as a magnifier to be sure it was a tick, although all the evidence pointed to it being one. It was. Just need to keep taking the antihistamines and using some Germoline for a few days. Covid-19 and ticks, what a wonderful world!

Hadn’t intended going anywhere today, even with the brilliant weather predicted and that’s what we did. We stayed Home. Made some soup in the afternoon and got a delivery from Tesco with about 75% of the stuff we’d ordered. Not bad really considering we didn’t have to traipse round what is now a One-Way store. That’s worse than IKEA. At least it just has arrows projected onto the floor which you can ignore. Ignore the one-way system in Tesco at your peril.

Finished painting the upstairs window sills. That’s all the sills now have at least two coats. Some have three and a couple of lucky ones have four, I think. But who’s counting. The paint has been put away for this year and the brush has been washed. I intend to do no more to it.

Today’s PoD is a couple of Forsythia flowers. Last autumn I pruned the forsythia too hard. I got a gentle lecture from Scamp about next year’s flowers growing on the old wood I’d just cut off. I don’t intend to make the same mistake this year. “Prune immediately after the flowers fall, not in the autumn” is the mantra.
We still had a few flowers, despite my hacking.

Poor Boris, or BoJo and Fred calls him seems to be in a bad way. He was admitted to Intensive Care tonight after being given oxygen in the afternoon. I don’t like him, but I feel he’s in over his head with the epidemic. He just looks shattered. Who would have that job?

That more or less summed it up for the day. Tomorrow we should go out for a walk, if only for the exercise.

One Week In – 23 March 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Home – 13 February 2020

There’s not a lot you can say about going home.

It’s good to be going home to your own bed in your own house, but it’s sad to be leaving family behind. Even if plans have been made for another reunion in the near future. We just trundled our cases along to the station and caught a train, then another train and another train and another train, then a taxi. And we were home.

PoD is the iconic shot of the roof of Kings Cross station.

SoD you will see tomorrow.

Well, this won’t take long – 9 September 2019

It was raining all day. Almost. So I stayed in my room.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. It actually stopped raining for about 30 mins around 4pm. The rest of the time the weather was demonstrating its ability to produce a variety of different rain types, from straight down ’stair rods’ rain to that misty smirr that floats around in the breeze, mists up your glasses and beads on everything. Rain. We must have a hundred or more names for it, some of them preceded by a swear word.

I decided that if we were having a visitor at the end of the month, today would be a perfect day to take down some of my ‘art’ work. That took about an hour to do, find somewhere to put it and occasionally throw something out, although I believe only two items met that fate. The room looks totally different now and not too many little pin holes in the wall. I had visions of having to go round with a little tub of Polyfilla (other hole filling products are available) and a spatula filling in all the nail holes. Then I’d need to sand them all flat and finally have to paint the whole room. It doesn’t look as if that will be the case, thankfully. Of course, before I started, I photographed all four walls, not only just for the record, but also so after the visitor has gone, I can replace them all in their original positions , with the exceptions of the two rejects.

I grabbed five shots of flowers in the garden during the short gap in today’s rainfall. The best in my opinion was the bud on Alec’s Red, and that became PoD

The other day my iMac was running slowly and I resorted, for the first time with this computer, to doing a ‘repair’ start. I still didn’t find out what caused the problem, but I think I’ve caught it. Tonight in Salsa, I couldn’t remember anything, and this was in the easy intermediate class. Second class, which is more advanced, was easier thank goodness. I don’t know what went wrong in that first class. Maybe I need to hold down the CMD key down when I wake up tomorrow to do a ‘repair’ wake! Three new moves tonight: Sombrero Twist 2, Vice which is like a strangling Setenta Vice-Versa and, surprisingly, New One!

Tomorrow looks drier than today, so I may release some nematodes on the unsuspecting slugs in the compost bin, the raised bed and anywhere else that needs them.

Happy Birthday Jamie – 16 August 2019

Hope you’re feeling better than me on your birthday.

Still not quite back to normal. Can’t hear properly yet. Still feeling the sickness, but down below is an improving situation.

Went for a walk down the Luggie to see what had changed. What had changed was there was nobody to bring me lunch and I had to walk all he way along the path without a tender or even a shuttle bus to help me out. Is this normal life? I want to go back on the ship.

Got some beastie photos. Took 36 kept 8 that’s about a 1:4 ratio which is normal. PoD was a hover fly feeding.

Back to auld claes and purrich as my dad would say.

Tomorrow we may go out and have some lunch. Better remember to take my cruise card.

Causing bother again – 10 May 2019

The day started well, and then it stalled at B&Q.

It was a lovely morning. Really too lovely to lie in bed, but that’s what we both did. That’s what happens when you’re stuck in a good book. You waste the best part of the day.

However we did eventually get going and of course Scamp was out sorting the garden again. Planning new layouts of plants, new colour schemes and sometimes, just new schemes. However, she did get a chance to use our new garden table as a potting table. So much more sensible than crouching down filling pots with compost. Better for the back. Then she was off to get her hair cut while I messed around on the computer looking at stuff, electric shavers and such.

After lunch she was stuck in the house because it was raining, really raining. I went off to The Fort to buy the electric shaver of my dreams. Not quite as posh as some people with their Series 9s with their cleaning modules. Mine would be a Series 5, but a big step up from the old blunt Series 4 I’ve had for about fifteen years, we think.

On the way back I spotted some beautiful light beginning to build, so I stopped and photographed it of course. Not on the motorway, but down a wee side road on the outskirts of Cumbersheugh. I didn’t have time to change lenses, because the light itself was changing rapidly, so instead I took three shots and intended to combine them into a panorama in ON1. I think it worked very well. I’m very impressed with that application.  Oh yes, and while I was there I saw the first swallow this year.  This is week 19.

Back home is where the bother started. The plug that came with the shaver didn’t fit our old shaver adaptor. No problem I managed to slide the contacts in until the shaver started charging. After dinner (Simple Fish Stew from yesterday) Scamp was going to the choir concert with Isobel and I’d volunteered to drive. After dropping her off, I went to B&Q to get an adaptor. Saw one for £1.50. Yes, that sounded right. No it wasn’t. Checkout girl said it was £2.65. Nope, I said, ticket says £1.50. Her supervisor said £2.65. Long story short. I went and checked, photographed said box of adaptors and the price ticket, but it made no difference. The supervisor wouldn’t believe the photo. The price was £2.65. The arrogance of that woman really got to me. Her mantra must be ‘The Customer Is Always Wrong’. I left without the adaptor. Have you ever tried writing a complaint to B&Q? There is nowhere on their website where such a thing is possible, believe me, I spent half an hour scrutinising the website, but they must be so perfect, nobody ever complains. Either that or they’ve hauled up the drawbridge, lowered the portcullis and are all running around with their fingers in their ears, saying “NOPE, NO COMPLAINTS HERE”. I did eventually get my complaint written and sent to somewhere in the system. We’ll see what happens next.

Today’s topic is A Door. My answer is the Bin Shed Door. It used to house the bins, but now we have four different types and different sizes of bins, there’s no room for all of them in the shed. Now it’s crammed full of gardening stuff, that’s why it’s firmly closed and the snib is down!  Not perfect, but I like the pot of Honeybells on the doorstep. That makes up for the rest of the painting.

Tomorrow we’re going to the funeral of Crawford’s brother. After that, the day will start.


Off Home – 27 March 2019

Bags packed, ready for the off.

After an uncomfortable nightwith a swollen finger and a pain in the side after yesterday’s gymnastics, it was time for the last breakfast.

Since we didn’t need to leave the room until midday, we went for a walk along the front to soak up a last couple of hours of sunshine.  Sat on the same seat as yesterday with the same toy mouse, still unclaimed and gazed at the same sea.  Finally had to drag ourselves away.  Said goodbye to the wee toy mouse and told it we were sure someone would come back to claim it, then turned to face the journey home.

One final check of the bags before heading for reception. Sat and read for a while before we booked the taxi which arrived about two minutes later and we were off to the airport.

Whizzed through check-in and security and settled down to wait. Called to the gate earlier than we’d expected and were off home to a cold Glasgow, then drove home.

There’s not a lot more you can say about the long day at the end of a holiday, certainly not anything interesting.  It wasn’t the best holiday ever, and definitely not the best hotel we’d stayed in, but it was  a week in  the sun and it doesn’t matter what the hotel is like or the food is like, the sun’s the same for everyone, and the sun is free.

PoD was the queue at a gate in Fuerteventura airport.

Tomorrow reality will kick in!

Sleet, snow, hail and rain – 10 March 2019

Set off around 9.30 for the long drive back home. It wasn’t looking like it would be a pleasant drive and it lived up to that estimate. Driving down through Skye was ok with the snow keeping mostly to the mountains and higher hills. I managed to grab a shot of the Old Man of Storr just emerging from a blizzard. That became the PoD.

Carried on down to the biscuit tin also know as Eilean Donan castle at Dornie and stopped there for a coffee and a scone each. Suitably refreshed and after I’d had a quick look at some of the paintings for sale in the shop, we got on our way again. The weather worsened quite a bit and when we passed Loch Cluanie it was down to minimal visibility and the snow was beginning to lie on the road. I expected worse would be to come when we made the turn off to climb up to the Glen Garry viewpoint because the road is very exposed. I needn’t have worried because the snow clouds didn’t break and we had a fairly easy run over to Invergarry. From there it was on and off sleet and rain all the way down to Fort Billy where we stopped for lunch.

Refuelled at Fort Billy (oh how I wish the Juke had a proper petrol tank) and set off for Glencoe. Glencoe itself was fine, but when we got up onto Rannoch Moor the snow started again in earnest and we joined a conga line of cars battling down the road. The snow and sleet stayed with us all way down to Crianlarich and eventually faded out, leaving us free to drive down to Stirling and the welcome wide lanes of the M9. We had had a blue van following us all the way from Fort Billy. He/she seemed in no hurry to pass us and we kept a steady pace all the way. Just before they turned off the M9 heading for Embra they flashed their headlights and I gave them a wave. Hope they got home safe.

The rest of the journey was thankfully boring and pedestrian compared with the highlands. Enjoyed the time with Jac & Murdo, but it was good to be home.

Tomorrow? Gems and Salsa that’s about it.

Going our separate ways – 4 March 2019

I took the chance to slip the leash today, for a little while.

Scamp had the second gig of the year at Stepps and, as she didn’t need a roadie so I set off early to visit a new camera shop in Glasgow. The satnav lady knew where it was and got me there without a problem. They didn’t have the tripod I was looking for, but I didn’t really think they would have. It’s rather a niche model and I’ve read conflicting reports about it. I just wanted to have a look at it first hand before I parted with a hundred smackeroonies. The bloke in the shop couldn’t have been less interested:

“Do you have a Benbo Trekker tripod?”
”No. You have to order them from the website.”
“It’s just that I’d rather see it to make sure it will do what I want before I commit myself to buying it.”

Obviously not going for salesman of the month then?

Drove back in the general direction of Home using the satnav again. Because of the one-way system return was not the reverse of going, in this case, but the satnav lady knew this too. Once I was on the M8 heading roughly east I switched the satnav lady off and let her go back to sleep. Drove past Home and onward to Stirling where I turned off and took the back road up and over the Tak Ma Doon road, stopping near Loch Coulter to grab some shots to make a panorama later and also a grab shot of the straight road that looks as if it goes all the way to the Ochil Hills. The panorama became PoD. From there it was a lovely run in the springlike sunshine all the way home. Piece ’n’ flat sausage for my lunch and then after I’d dumped the images on the computer, I started today’s apple picture. It looks reasonable and hopefully you’ll be able to check my progress (or regress) soon on the website when I post the first seven. It’s an enjoyable task the painting and drawing of the apples, or at least it has been so far. May even branch out into ink or acrylic later. For just now it’s basically pencil and watercolour.

When Scamp came home I made a delicious tuna pasta. I say ‘delicious’, because we both agreed it was. Don’t know what I did differently this time, but I think it may have been some posh tomato concentrate. Must look for more of it the next time we’re buying Tesco.

Energetic beginners class in STUC and an advanced class where I couldn’t put a foot right. Every move a disaster. Even worse, I knew most of the moves. Just couldn’t get the moves into my head right. I think I just need to think less and go with the flow some times. Must practise Agamemnon this week to get rid of the rough edges. Still lots of laughs.

Tomorrow we have a free day. I think we may be going plant hunting again, although the weather looks rough. We’ll wait and see.