Out for a run – 20 June 2020

We went for petrol today, the first since March!

We went to Tesco. Scamp was scouting around for the best deal in mobile phones and Tesco is usually up there with the best. It took us a long time to see just the extent of the queue to get in and when we did find out how long it was, we went for petrol instead. One of the advantages of being in Lockdown is that we don’t use much petrol. The last time I filled the tank was in March! From Tesco we drove to Calders where there was no queue to get in. Scamp wanted some begonias to fill up some empty tubs and, of course, some compost to help with the filling up. Got what we needed and left to see what the rest of the day offered.

It offered me a run out on the Dewdrop. For Scamp it was a seat in the sun and a Pimms to cool down with. My run took me the backroad to Kirkintilloch, then the main road back to Cumbersheugh. That’s not a road I’ll travel again on a bike if I can avoid it. No lorries, but buses and nutters doing what must have been 80 on something that is really a country road. The back road may have been a bit hilly in places, but it was much safer than the wider roads.

Back home I sat in the sun with Scamp for a while and had a glass or two of soda water and lime. Felt really dehydrated. She’d been working while I was away. There was a pot holding four begonias and another one with a heather plant and another two begonias.

We’d already agreed that we’d have a Golden Bowl dinner tonight, so after I came out of the shower I phoned our order and half an hour later, after a walk to Condorrat we were sitting down to Chicken Chop Suey (Scamp) and Special Chow Mein (Me) and Prawn Crackers to share. Lovely meal, cooked perfectly. My compliments to the chef.

Lovely email from JIC this morning asking if we’d like to join them at a farmhouse they’d booked in the Yorkshire Dales in September. That really did bring smiles to our faces. With a bit of luck, we’ll be going on holiday this year after all.

PoD was taken on that bike ride this afternoon, proving that Cumbersheugh is not always as grim as I sometimes portray it. No sketch yet, an early night for once. My aching bones need the rest.

Well, it’s been another lovely warm day, but tomorrow is forecast to bring wind and rain.  The gardens need it.

Went to see a man about a wheel – 1 June 2020

Before I went to see a man about a wheel, I had a look at the upstairs toilet. It’s been a bit flaky for a while now with the overflow running into the toilet. Usually it stops after a few minutes, but this morning it just kept running. Not dribbling either, but running fast. As soon as water was coming in, it was going out again. Couldn’t find a stopcock in the toilet area, so had to turn off the water at the rising main. Long story short, the plumber is coming tomorrow, hopefully in the morning.

Phoned the bike shop to see what the progress report was on the bike wheel. Basically there was no progress because he couldn’t find the wheel. I said I’d drive over and help him look for it. His workspace is incredible. There must be well over a hundred wheels in this tiny little room, all waiting to be repaired, plus another fifty or so rims and well over a hundred hubs. He’s a great bike mechanic, but he is so disorganised, it’s a wonder he gets anything done at all and this coming from me, a master of chaos. I found my bike wheel right away and after some discussion he said he would start it as soon as he’d finished the one he was working on. Then we had a discussion about what was wrong with the world in general and teenagers in particular. He said he’d give me a ring when the wheel was ready.

When I walked down the lane to my car I saw today’s PoD. I had brought my camera of course, for just this eventuality. As it happened, the depth of field wasn’t as good as I’d hoped, but I actually like the hills slightly out of focus. It gives more prominence to the foreground which is the interesting part.

Back home Scamp was admiring the new rose she’d bought.  It arrived earlier in a big cardboard box about a metre high and about 30cm square at the base.  It really is an impressive rose and I’ve forgotten its name already.  Now the search begins for a suitable pot to put it in.  She was tired of sunbathing which she’d been doing all afternoon I think, and wanted to go for a walk. I’d been driving in a hot car for an hour or so and I too fancied a walk. We walked to St Mo’s and went round the pond once. As usual, too many people in too small a space. About a dozen teenagers sitting swearing and drinking at the start of the forest. I wondered what Big Al would have to say about that.

Tonight I was free to sketch anything I fancied. What I chose was my dad’s Bahco shifting spanner. A lovely big heavy piece of kit made of Vanadium Steel. It made a good model with curves, straight lines and lots of texture. This was Lockdown Library No 50.  The half century!

At 9.15 my phone rang. Big Al had finished the wheel and it would be ready to pick up in the morning. I think the man must sleep in that workshop.

Hopefully the plumber will come tomorrow morning and I’ll be free to go and collect my rebuilt wheel, then we may drive down to speak to Isobel.  However, the weather doesn’t look that clever tomorrow with rain forecast and a significant drop in temperature.

Lockdown release begins – 29 May 2020

It was true, we were allowed to go out today. Nominally 5 miles, but who was counting.

We were very cool about it to start with, as you sometimes are when you’re desperate to do something, but don’t want to show it. Scamp did some washing and hung it out. I started my Sudoku and made some coffee. We watched a rather boring webinar from our man in Falkirk. We had a spot of lunch too. Moved stuff around the garden and planned some repotting. Eventually we just decided we had to go out. Somewhere … ANYWHERE!

Scamp suggested Fannyside, but we though we’d do a drive past the garden centre anyway. Again, playing it cool and saying that we’d maybe go there during the week. We drove up to B&Q, but the queue there was looooong, so we turned around and drove up the long way to Fannyside, up past Arns forest and round the top of the road. Stopped at the draw in by a stand of Scots Pines and just listened to the silence. Hardly a sound, hardly a breath of wind. We heard a cuckoo. First time I’ve heard one this year. It was miles away, but it was a measure of the lack of noise that its call came over so clearly from its perch about a mile away. Got today’s PoD which just had to be a landscape. I’ve taken so few over the last couple of months that had become a thing to savour. Got a little macro of one of a trio of flies that had socially distanced themselves on a fence post.

Drove back by the moor road and then the unspoken agreement was that we were going to Calders garden centre. Scamp wanted pots and I wanted seeds and then it seemed churlish not to buy a couple trays of cheerful red flowers. Smiles on faces all around. Not all the shelves are full and the variety of plants is still a bit poor, but it was good to be able to browse around outside without a mask. Yes, we used them inside, but for a while, outside we felt like the world was returning to normal, the old normal.

Back home I grabbed two carrots, three tomatoes an onion and half a head of broccoli, arranged them tastefully on my painting table and produced today’s sketch ‘Vegetables’. I was quite pleased with it. Really need to have a look at what paints I need as a lot of them are going down quite quickly. I should be able to get them from some online art shops.

Later it was dinner in the garden and a glass of wine to wash it down. Couple next door were having a noisy dinner with some of their relatives, but although I moaned about the noise, it was just ordinary folk letting off some of the steam they’ve been bottling up for the past couple of months.

We had our first taste of Scamp’s “Westfield Gin Company”distillation. It was very nice. Reminiscent of Elderflower Gin. We only had a small sample, then we had to try it against a commercial variety just for comparison purposes!

All in all, a good day for what might be the beginning of the end of Lockdown and a really hot one. Tomorrow is to be slightly cooler which will be a good thing.

Not so crazy busy today – 12 May 2020

I had time to sit down and solve today’s sudoku for a start, then it was the catching-up.

Two drawings needed, but lots of time to get them sorted. The first one I actually planned for once. I roughed it out to make sure everything would fit into a square grid before I got started on the real thing. That’s quite a luxury for me and it helped considerably with the design. Maybe because the prompt was Illustrate a recipe. That meant there needed to be guide lines and such. Anyway, with that done, we went over to Condorrat to get the makings of today’s dinner. It was a second attempt at the Souk Soup and we needed a chicken breast to provide the protein. Cold wind both going and coming back.

After that I started chopping up the veg and bunged everything into the slow cooker and set it for two hours worth of cooking. Then I grabbed my Oly and camera bag and went to investigate the opportunities that St Mo’s would offer a camera man. Walking across the waste ground, I noticed a group of teenage boys heading in the same direction. One had a big bag that was clinking in a bottle-like way. They looked about as apprehensive as I felt, but I told them I wasn’t intending joining them and we all laughed. I was hoping to get some shots of hoverflies on the wing, but the wind was too strong and I had to ditch the idea and come back another day. On the way back I chanced into the group again, this time they had liberated the bottles from the bag and were sitting down with a speaker providing some music. I told them I guessed they were all from the same household and a couple of them twigged and said “Oh aye we are”. “Because”, I said “if you’re not I’ll have to inform Nicola.” Again we all laughed. I wonder what they thought I was doing with a wee brown bag over my shoulder, walking into the woods.

Scamp and I agreed that the Souk Soup was better when it was made in a pot. For some reason it was too watery made in the slow cooker. The Ras el Hanout spice I used was interesting and fairly hot, but I think I prefer my own Moroccan spice mix. We’ll have the rest tomorrow and see if we change our mind.

Two pieces drawn and painted after dinner. First was fairly good and the second was just a place marker. Both posted on Instagram and FB now.

PoD went to a wide landscape taken with the wee 9mm lens cap lens for the Oly. Something went wrong with the lens because a white dot appeared in the sealed unit of the lenses. It’s sitting inside the rear element and I can’t seem to shift it. It shows on the Flickr photo, but only if you know it’s there. I’ve got another, better, lens, but the 9mm was so neat for carrying around. I’ll miss it if I can’t fix it.

We had a sprinkling of rain tonight, but not a lot.  Hoping for more tomorrow.  Other than that, nothing planned.

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.

Better than we expected – 12 April 2020

We had expected a cold, cloudy day, but we got quite a lot of sunshine.

Scamp managed to grab a delivery slot for Saturday 18th from Tesco. Isn’t it strange that something so mundane as ordering a grocery delivery can bring a smile to our faces? It’s a measure of how our lives have changed. Anyway, while she set up the Saturday delivery, I amended our Tuesday delivery, adding a few things. Mainly because I’d never done that before. It’s also strange that something that’s being done by all the supermarkets is slightly different in all of them.

Both tasks completed, we went for a walk in St Mo’s. I took the Nikon and the little Oly 5 which doesn’t get out much now. I know how it feels. The Nikon produced some brilliant macro shots of furry looking ferns, a bright green blob (also known as a moss fruiting body) an a nesting coot. The Oly 5 with the fish-eye lens attached captured a wide angle view of St Mo’s. The PoD went to the furry fern crozier. The remainder can be seen on Flickr. The park wasn’t too busy today, just a few weans on bikes and a couple of adults taking their daily exercise. Scamp took my photo on the bench I’d earmarked for last Wednesday’s shot, but I’ll keep it on my phone for now, because I look guttered. It was meant to show off the tee shirt I got from Canute, but you can hardly see it. Pity, because I quite like it.

Scamp spent a half hour or so talking to Shona on the phone. I can’t imagine how that girl copes with Ben in a flat on lockdown. Anyone who has kids at this time must be absolutely round the twist trying to find something, anything, for them to do while they’re not at school.

We both spent half an hour speaking to JIC later and marvelled at the amount of gardening they’re getting done in the warm weather they get.  Got a fair bit of slagging from him for not being able to get a delivery from Ocado.  OK JIC, I walked into that one!

One idea I’ve had started from a picture I saw on Flickr. It’s an Instagram challenge to complete a drawing a day for the lockdown period. I’m a bit late coming to it, but it sound feasible. Starting it tomorrow. Small sketch posted from my phone.

That’s it for today. A bright, sunny, spring day in lockdown. Tomorrow will probably feel more like winter if the weather fairies are to be believed.

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!

Out in the world again – 7 April 2020

We ventured out today, just for exercise. On purpose we didn’t go to the beach or to our second home in Fife.

We didn’t go out to the beach or Fife, but just in case there was somebody somewhere listening in to our conversation, Scamp sneakily said we could walk over to Condorrat (where there are shops that sell essential foodstuffs). That way, the powers that be, the police, the government and MI6 wouldn’t suspect that we were going to St Mo’s. It was a clever ruse, and it had me fooled too. I thought we were going to the butchers to get a nice juicy steak for dinner, but instead of turning right at the end of the path past the (now locked) swing park, we turned left, crossed the road and walked through St Mo’s. The diversion might have had me fooled, but the invisible trackers, that are now being designed to be injected into our bodies secretly in the anti-virus when its made, wouldn’t have been fooled by the change of direction. They would have reported back and sent a fleet of drones to pinpoint our location for a squad car of armed police to detain us under their new emergency powers. At least, that’s what I read on the InterWeb last night.

Anyway, in the real world, we went for a walk in St Mo’s. It was fairly quiet with no cars in the car park and only a handful of people walking around in the sunshine taking in all the vitamin D that was available. There wasn’t much to see, but I did take another low down landscape for St Mo’s from the far side of the pond. I’d say that it was the best of the photos I took today, but it was really one of only two photo that survived the cull when I got them into the ‘puter back home. The main reason I didn’t take any more was that the battery indicator on the camera was flashing red, warning me no doubt that it was about to shut down. I’ve never seen it flash red before and the camera did take about three hours to replenish the battery from my fastest fast charger, so it must have been pretty empty.

Back home I managed to repair the pocket on a pair of jeans. I hate throwing out a perfectly good pair of jeans, just because the pockets are worn through, not with cash I hasten to add, but with my keys. Making the repair pocket isn’t a problem, it’s the topology of pockets that gives me a headache. It’s like working with a cloth Klein Bottle, where the inside becomes the outside and vice versa, plus you have to work out how to get the bloody thing into a position that allows the sewing machine needle to do its work. Finally after three dummy runs, with me as senior dummy, I botched it together. It’s not the finest piece of sewing I’ve done, but I think I’ve saved another pair of jeans from the bin. Now I’ve just found another pair in need of a new pocket. I’ll possibly leave that until next week when my head has stopped hurting.

According to government sources tonight, Boris is in good spirits and is stable. It didn’t mention exactly what the spirits were and if it was overindulging in them that had led to the initial instability. We wish him well. Better the devil you know …

Tomorrow is the big day. The weather doesn’t look great, but I think we may go looking for a park bench, quietly.

Taps off weather? – 5 April 2020

17ºc predicted for today. I used to define 15ºc as ‘Shorts & Tee Shirt weather’. I don’t think it quite reached the 17º today.

In fact it hardly reached the heady heights of 15ºc once windchill was taken into account. Yes, I was wearing a tee shirt, but it was under a shirt which itself was under a zip-up cardigan, so I don’t think it was in the spirit of the Shorts & Tee Shirt region. It certainly fell quite short of the Shorts requirement. Just to be sure that frostbite wasn’t going to figure in the report, I was also wearing a fleece to go out into St Mo’s in the afternoon.

I was hoping to see some deer, I’m always hoping. I’d come prepared with the camera set to shutter priority, lens pre-focused to infinity and long lens attached to the Oly. Just got clear line of sight to see the white tail of my quarry disappearing over yonder hillock, easily 200m away. Oh well, landscapes don’t run away and neither do little beasties, well, they do, but not so fast that I can’t catch them on camera. Switched to a macro lens and went looking for some slower, less easily frightened sycamore seedlings to stalk. Got a few, then I heard the crashing sound away to my left. It must be one, or possibly two dogs I’d seen earlier, excitedly chasing a ball. No, out of the corner of my eye I saw a deer, a roe deer buck with neat little antlers charging down the line of the bushes not 20m away. Wrong lens on the camera. Do I have time to change? Yes! Without moving my head I got the lens out of the camera bag, disengaged the bayonet on the macro lens and removed it, then, with both lenses in my hands and none on the camera, the deer turned and looked straight at me. I thought I’d got away with it, then it must have sensed or scented me and it ran off to join its mate, because the first one I was sure was a doe. Oh well, screwed up again. How often has Scamp heard me say “Wrong lens”. This time it wasn’t WRONG lens, it was NO lens on the camera!
Gave up on the deer hunt, took some desultory photos of sycamore seedlings and walked out to of the woods. Walked right round the pond and took a few shots across it of the reflections and last year’s horsetails blocking it up. That became PoD.

We’d spoken to Hazy in the morning and found that they had beautiful blue skies down London way. At that time we had dull grey skies. That didn’t prevent Scamp from doing a bit of transplanting and potting up of last year’s cuttings. She really does have green fingers. A great deal of her cuttings take root. Some of mine do, but she beats me for skill and enthusiasm. Hazy reported that more of the nasturtiums she’d planted in their window box had germinated too.

Dinner tonight was Loch Trout with potatoes, carrots and broccoli.  Absolutely delicious.  Scamp made it of course and although I’m not a great fish fanatic, I thought this was extremely tasty.  Almost as good was pudding which was cake and custard.  Some things, although they are simple are simply the best things to have.

Spoke to JIC later and he explained to me in Topsy & Tim terms how the government labs are using antibodies to give results in Coronavirus tests. Very well done JIC, I understood a lot of that explanation. They also had had a springlike day down Cambridge way with warm temperatures and clear skies. Eventually we did get clear skies too, in fact I’m maybe being a bit critical when I say we didn’t reach the predicted 17º. It probably was that in the shelter from the wind here. Actually about 7.30am I looked out the back window and the sky was that lovely orange-pink colour you get in early morning springtime. Maybe spring is really here.

Today the Scottish chief medical officer Dr Catherine Calderwood was forced to resign after admitting that she’d travelled from Edinburgh to her second home in Fife, not once, but twice recently. This was in direct contradiction of her own advice to the Scottish public. Foolish, but aren’t we all at times? Don’t we all think we’re above the law? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

Tomorrow we will be waiting patiently for our food delivery from Tesco.

Another beautiful Spring day – 20 March 2020

Apparently today was the Spring Equinox, something about the sun crossing the equator.

I don’t know if the sun was actually crossing the equator today, but we definitely saw if for a lot of the afternoon. We’d decided to go for a walk again today. A much longer walk than yesterday, about 5 miles according to my Fitbit. We were walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal from Auchinstarry Quarry to Twechar and back. Before we left Auchinstarry I grabbed a shot of two roped up rock climbers having a wee discussion of the best way to climb the rock. One in the bag.We started out on our walk with the big Bergy coats on, Scarves, Wooly Hats and Scamp even had her gloves on. I was a rock cake and kept my gloves and my hands in my jacket pockets. Halfway along the canal, the jackets were zipped down, then the scarves, gloves and wooly bunnets were pocketed away and we began to feel the heat of the sun. We some folk who had gone further and were wearing shorts, but that’s just taking things too far. It might be that Spring is just around the corner, but that was a cold wind blowing from the east. One step at a time.

When we turned at Twechar and headed face forward into that eastern breeze, the bunnets were back on and the jackets were zipped up again. Got today’s PoD just outside Twechar as an eight shot panorama created in Lightroom, then cleaned up in ON1 2019. Quite pleased with it, it showed what the light was like today. We passed a few hardy folk out walking and cycling, and even a few jogging. All of them keeping the approved 2m distance from us, just to be sure.

On the way back to the car we discussed food options for the next few days and decided another visit to the butchers was in order. With that in mind we drove to Muirhead and then split up. Scamp to check out the Co-op and me to get some meat and fish it there was any fish. There was a queue outside the butchers, and I groaned. It was Friday and it’s usually busy on Fridays, but actually this was a H&S queue, all to do with Covid 19. People were asked to wait outside and were called into the shop to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Once in I had to sanitise my hands with an alcohol gel. Perfectly sensible really in these strange days. I was looking for some more Thai Chicken Stir-Fry, but there were no chickens from any geographical location in a stir-fry sauce. Got some beef stir-fry instead. Also got some fish for Scamp and best of all, two bags of pasta. No pasta in Tesco, nor as it turned out in the Co-op, but there was some in the butchers! Strange days indeed. When we got back home, the girl next door, Angela’s daughter Lucy, came out to say that she was giving her mum a lift to her work in Asda in the mornings and if we needed anything, just to give her a list. I thought that was very kind of her and told her so. I also said that although we were fine at the moment, I’d keep her offer in mind.

With that, our exercise for the day was done. Lunch was (Just) soup and a late supper was a pizza.

The big Covid 19 announcement of the day, apart from having to queue outside the butchers and then use hand sanitiser, was that all clubs, pubs and restaurants would be closed from tonight until the foreseeable future. That also made sense to me and was entirely predictable.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk again in a different place and a different direction, no doubt. Where is not yet decided, but we will be taking a flask and ’pieces’.