Happy Anniversary – 17 February 2019

Forty six years ago today, we made it legal.

Today started off dull, but brightened up as the day went on. It rained too, but not all day. One of those days with a little bit of everything. Rain, wind and sunshine. No snow thankfully.

In the afternoon Scamp got fed up with me mooching around the house and sent me off to St Mo’s to get some photos and to get out of her hair. The light was really nice and I managed to get today’s PoD and a few more. Really liked the light colour in this one and the sharpness. It’s called The Finger because it does look like a finger to me, at least. Managed to slip off a slimy log and fall into a burn. The just-cleaned jacket may recover with a wipe down, or it might be another trip to the washing machine for it.

Not a lot else to say about today. Spoke to JIC in the evening after dinner and caught up with their busy lives. Then I tackled today’s sketch in my new Paperchase sketch book. I think they must have re-formulated their paper in the books. It seems a lot more absorbent than the last one I had. The watercolour washes just appeared to soak into it. However, it’s done and on time.

Gems tomorrow with salsa planned for the evening.

Forty six years ago! Were did all that time go?

Pasta Joke – 29 January 2019

Well, the predicted snow didn’t come to much. A few millimetres of manky grey sludge doesn’t constitute a snowfall.

I offered to do the shopping and returned with plain bread, milk and a dozen eggs. All will become clear.

I mixed two of the eggs with some special 00 flour that Scamp had bought last week and then kneaded the resulting mess for the required 10 minutes, wrapped it in cling film and let it cool its heels in the fridge for an hour or two, or three or five as it turned out.

We’d intended cleaning out a cupboard today, but it was a lovely bright cold day although the temperature was above zero because some of the snow was melting. Time enough to go out and get some photos and still get the cupboard cleared.

It’s never that simple. I found a few good places to shoot, mainly landscapes, but then I discovered the fruiting bodies of some moss on a few rocks. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound that interesting, but the light was so good, I had to take a few shots, quite a few shots. By the time I got back, we agreed that it was far too late to start on the cupboard, so we’re leaving it for another day, a less photogenic one. One of the moss shots made PoD.

I assembled my pasta machine and started rolling out the pasta dough from the fridge into decreasing thicknesses. It’s not nearly as easy as they show you in Masterchef. I think my dough was too wet and sticky. It seemed to want to cling to the rollers even after they had been dusted with flour. Eventually after a few tries, a lot of swearing and tantrums, we managed to make some spaghetti.

We cooked the spaghetti in boiling water just like the stuff you get in the deli at the supermarket, but it was a bit doughy and chewy. More practise needed and next time I’ll leave the dough to rest in the kitchen, not in the fridge. It’s a learning curve. However, I know this Italian bloke who might be able to show me how to cut a few corners! Tonight’s dinner was Spaghetti with olive oil for starter, then Minestrone soup and the main course was a haggis, neeps and tatties pie.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go out for dinner. 30th January.

No drops today mum – 28 January 2019

The big event today was getting my annual retinopathy scan.

Once upon a time many years ago the doc told me I had high blood pressure and it needed to be dealt with. You know those special deals you get in the supermarket, three for the price of one? Well, he talked me into getting three for the price of one. As well as high blood pressure, I’d get high cholesterol and diabetes too. Admittedly, in one blood test the sugar level in my blood was elevated, but that was because I was addicted to cheap sweeties at the time. Next blood test was back to normal, but the medical profession is dogged. No, you’re still diabetic. I told them I wasn’t diabetic and took all their tests which proved that I was right. Well, you may not be diabetic, but you are pre-diabetic. There is no way to beat them. As soon as you reach 50 you get given the trilogy HBP, Cholesterol and Diabetes, especially if you live in Scotland. The really lucky ones get COPD as well. Thankfully I’ve managed to dodge that one.

Today the nice nurse lady was taking photos of the back of my eye to see if I could jump the queue and get full blown diabetes. Usually I’m forced to have drops in my eyes that make me virtually blind for about an hour and really supersensitive to bright sun. Did I mention that the sun was really bright today? Luckily the shots turned out well without the need for drops and the sunglasses I’d left at home. Scamp had given me a lift up to the town centre because if I get drops in my eyes and am virtually blind, driving can be a problem. Not for me, but for the poor folk I run into. So it was the bus back home in time to look over Margie’s homework because it’s Monday today and Monday is Gems day. Margie had done amazingly well. The cubes she was drawing were improving out of all recognition. I’m so glad she’s finally got the hang of Two Point Perspective.

When Scamp left to drive Margie home, I started preparing dinner which would be Minestrone soup. It’s the simplest soup in the world to make. You just chuck all the vegetables you have into a pot, add a tin of tomatoes and about a litre of water and boil the stuffing out the mix for an hour. Chuck in some crushed pasta after that and simmer for 15minutes. Done. The hard part is the chopping of the veg, because there is so much of it. It tasted quite good. Maybe a bit too salty, but we both survived it.

Drove to Salsa and enjoyed most of the beginners 6.30pm class and then our own 7.30pm class. Our class were doing Akia and a new move that’s been christened Russia because the couple demonstrating it on YouTube are Russian. Logical for once.

Today’s PoD was a grab shot, taken while walking home from Condorrat in the afternoon. It’s a bolt group on the bridge over the M80.

Tomorrow I think we’re cleaning out a cupboard called the Electricity Cupboard because it houses the distribution board and meter for the electricity. Heavy snow is forecast although it doesn’t seem to have started yet.

Out even earlier – 18 January 2019

Why is it when I set the alarm on my phone to make sure I wake up on time, I don’t sleep for more than an hour at a time?

Up and out for 8.20 this morning to go to the docs for a blood test at 8.50. I needed that half hour to scrape the car and get the temperature up to a reasonable level where your breath doesn’t freeze instantly in front of your face. Then I had to drive through the hosts of parents driving their children to school to make sure their little feet and knee joints didn’t wear out prematurely.

Got parked and grabbed today’s PoD of the sun colouring the sky and clouds above Carbrain. A bit of a misnomer, because everyone in Cumbersheugh knows there isn’t a brain in Carbrain. I walked a bit further and watched two women being terrorised by marauding feral seagulls behind Boots the Chemist. Great beasts of things, they were and squawking like banshees and the seagulls were almost as bad. By the time I got to the doc’s, the sun had broken free of the horizon and was lighting up the sky properly. Another shot in the bag which might have beaten the first if it wasn’t for the ugly flat roofed Carbrian flats with windows and no doors. “Blots on the Landscape”, could have been the title. Did my Tony Hancock impersonation (if that makes no sense to you, Google ‘The Blood Donor’, a Hancock classic) and then headed home for breakfast which on this cold, clear morning would be porridge and a cup of Assam. The best central heating known to man.

Scamp was determined to renew our passports online since she heard that you could take your own photo and get it validated immediately. It’s a brilliant system and I’m still not sure if it is a really clever algorithm (the word of the moment, don’t you know?) or an actual human sitting there giving thumbs up or thumbs down. Possibly this will be the ultimate Turing Test some day. Anyway, the upshot of it was we passed the test and ordered our shiny new passports. Then we’d to send our old passports off to be cancelled or redacted or simply have their corners cut off. Again will it be by machine or will it be by a minimum wage human? Who knows. Just so you know, you have to actually post the passport off, you can’t simply stuff it into the USB port in the back or side of your computer. That’s a pity. It kind of goes against the digital ethos of renewing your passport online. That said, the whole thing is much better than take the photo, fill in the form, post the lot away, wait a week, get a refusal because Gort says the corner of your mouth is slightly upturned and you might, just might be starting to smile. DO IT AGAIN PROPERLY THIS TIME. Yes, this is a big step forward, even if we don’t know if Gort is human or android.

Drove to Blantyre to Carrigan’s and had dinner tonight with Margaret and Billy. Food was good and plentiful. My roast gammon had been sitting under the heat lamp for a few minutes more than I’d have liked, but it was more than made up for with the dessert. Total silence while four of us struggled with our Tablet Ice Cream. Astounding dessert. Totally unnecessary, but total gluttony!

Managed to find my way back on to the M74 only to find the M73 turnoff was closed tonight, but then I navigated my way off and over the M74 and back on to the M73 turnoff on the other side. That confused the satnav.

Tomorrow I believe we may be going to Stirling to Waitrose for food. Hopefully we won’t be getting up early and I’m not setting my alarm, so I should sleep less fitfully than last night.

If I was a carpenter – 31 December 2018

Up, out and on the road for 10am. Unheard of.

The reason we were up early was to catch the “Rat Man” who, at 8am, was making a second visit to the house next door. I wanted to tell him personally that the droppings he’d seen in the loft were not ‘Historical’ as he supposed, but live and from an active rodent, probably one of the two I’d despatched after he left empty-handed. He wasn’t impressed and even less impressed when I asked him to come in and witness the demolition job some of the dead rodents friends had done on a bag of sultanas in one of the cupboards. Last night, they appeared to have removed a blanking piece, abseiled down from the void between the ceiling and the upstairs floor and scoffed about a quarter of the bag. He did offer some help and suggested that as well as blocking up the hole, we should first stuff it with steel wool which apparently does nasty things to the rodents teeth. He offered a few other suggestions and said he’d probably be seeing us again in a week’s time. I thanked him for his help, especially as he was covering two “Rat Men’s” positions while one is on paternity leave.

With his suggestions in mind we drove off to B&Q to get some MDF, screws and just to be sure, some expanding foam and some more poison. We had to drop in at Tesco on the way to stock up on food, because it will be closed ALL DAY tomorrow!!! Shock Horror! What will we do?? By midday I was ready for my lunch and the board was ready to screw into place. Some poison in place and steel wool carefully stuffed in to every crevice afterwards. After lunch the board was in place. I decided not to use the expanding foam after all as I was working overhead and the polyurethane foam is VERY sticky so the thought of it dripping onto my head didn’t appeal.

With my carpentry work done, I took my leave and went for a walk in St Mo’s hoping to grab some of the last good light of 2019. That’s where I got today’s PoD the last of this year’s 365. It’s the Bee Seat (my name for it). It’s a wooden seat designed and made by a local group for St Mo’s park and with a coloured engraving of a bee on one of the uprights. A great place to sit and watch the world go by, or as in today’s case, watch the Canada geese being shepherded by a vigilant swan.

Back home it was Kedgeree for dinner. A spicy kedgeree in fact. Still went down very nicely with a bottle of Spring Oak Leaf wine from Cairn o’Mohr. Very sweet dessert wine with just a hit of the tannin in the Oak. That was ‘hit’, not ‘hint’. You could definitely taste it.

After dinner I attempted the second of my pocket repairs with the sewing machine. This one was done using Scamp’s suggested method and I have to admit that it beats my method hands down. It’s a bit more extravagant on material, but if the final result is as good as it seems, it will be worth it.

I think we’ll be staying up for ‘The Bells’ tonight. Possibly we’ll need a little tincture or two to keep our eyes open after such an early rise and such an active day, but tradition must be served.

I’ve added these two pictures that came from Colin Brown (his dad and I were cousins) in Ayrshire.

Tomorrow, hopefully we will be later risers than today and hopefully not having to resort to any more morning carpentry work.

Hope 2019 is a good year to all my readers, wherever you are.  Safe flight home JIC and Sim.

Out to Lunch – 29 December 2018

So, should we got to Glasgow? Should we go to Stirling? Maybe neither.

Instead of these two destinations we chose Cumbersheugh. To be exact, we went to Milano and Scamp was driving. Scamp had a massive bowl of mussels well coated in tomato and garlic. I had a pizza with Italian sausage. With Scamp driving, I could even indulge myself with a glass of wine while Scamp had the soda water and lime. After a delicious lunch (no sarcasm for once) we drove to Tesco for milk and walked out with three bags of various provisions, and the milk.

Once we got parked again and deposited the food, I took a couple of cameras for a walk in St Mo’s because we still had sunshine and blue skies. I found an interesting shot of the hawthorn bush you see at the top of the page. For once it didn’t take a lot of work to get a decent image out of it.

When I came home from St Mo’s tonight I drilled a small hole in the plasterboard wall in the back bedroom and dropped some poison mixed with sugar into the cavity. Let’s hope a spoonful of sugar will help the medicine go down. Murdo’s suggestion. Apparently the sugar entices the rodents to take the poison. We’ll see. Later I spoke to the woman next door at 36 and she has the same problems as us. She has the “Rat Man” coming to visit on the 3rd January and will direct him to us when he is done. Val says he had the same problem years ago and the only way he got satisfaction was to get everyone on the block to keep at the council until the problem was solved. That’s what we’ll have to do to.

Tonight we had our ‘essential’ Churros from my Boxing Day walk. Despite being a little less crunchy than ‘real’ churros, they were very tasty. Now watching “Guys and Dolls” and drinking Black Rum ’n’ Cokes. One each.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll take it as it comes.

Out in the wide world – 28 December 2018

Cabin fever was taking hold. We need to GO OUT!

Up fairly early, even although I’d just started my new Ben Aaronovitch book “Lies Sleeping”. It’s a good book so far, but there was blue sky out the window and shadows in the room, which meant the sun was up and shining. Today we were going out for lunch. I’d already decided in my own head where we should go. I rejected Scamp’s first suggestion that we should go to Glasgow so I could get my hair cut. No, maybe next week, or next year, whichever came first. Her second suggestion was either a case of mind reading or just synchronicity. “Why don’t we go to the Smiddy at Stirling for lunch?” That was it settled. The Smiddy for their delicious Mac ’n’ Cheese for Scamp and Veg Chilli for me. Also the chance to get a photo or two at the place where there’s always good light.

Drove there and got a table right away which was a surprise because the place was jumpin’, mostly with Hooray Henrys from ‘Darn Sarf’ as Ray would say, up in Scotland for New Year. Then came the downer. New menu. No Veg Chilli. Yes, they had Veg Korma, but that simply wouldn’t do. Next best thing was Chicken ’n’ Chorizo with Beans ’n’ Tomatoes. Yes, that sounded interesting. It was very good! I could probably make it at home too. Nothing too difficult there. Basically the ingredients were in the name.

Outside I got some shots that could be converted into a decent photo or two. I was toting the ‘Big Dog’ today because, although it was blue skies when I left the house, you never know what you’re going to meet outside Stirling. I needn’t have worried, the skies were clear, the only problem was shooting directly into the sun. I like the finished article which you will see above.

Home and then I was out to the Central Health Centre for a blood test. Results probably on Monday. If not, then next year. Grabbed another couple of shots of Cumbersheugh College before I headed home.

Just finished watching the first episode of Billy Connolly’s life story, and it was funny for folk like us who had lived through similar times and similar situations. Probably means nearly nothing to young viewers.

Tomorrow? Maybe Glasgow on the bus. Need to but a cheap hole saw, because Scamp has a plan to defeat the rodents and is sounds interesting.

Me and my big mouth – 24 December 2018

I said I thought I’d sidestepped Scamp’s cold. Me and my big mouth.

Last night I was lying choking in bed with that sore throat that always tells you the cold is just waiting in the wings for you to fall asleep and then it’ll announce itself with a sickly cough that will bring you back awake again until you start to fall asleep and then the cycle will begin again. Woke this morning with a terrible taste in my mouth and a nose that was totally clogged. Still think you sidestepped it Mr C?

Felt better when I got up. It’s always better when you’re vertical. Had a shower and felt almost human again. Maybe it’s the hot damp atmosphere that does it, but it seems to loosen the gunk that clogs my nose and dampens my throat too. I even brushed my teeth to get rid of the horrible taste in there. That makes three times this year. That must be a record for me. The brushing helped, but I won’t make a habit of it.

Scamp went off to visit June and while she was away I set up the Naturewatch camera with the Raspberry Pi. It was a bit fiddly, but I got everything set up and everything fitted nicely into an old Tupperware box. Fixed it to the tree near the bird feeder and got some fairly decent shots of a selection of birds. For something this tiny it produces great pictures. When Scamp returned from her visit and announced that June was much better. I decided I’d go for a walk. I was well warned to get well wrapped up which I did.

Walked round St Mo’s which was still covered in hoar frost in the mid afternoon.  Some signs that it might be thawing, but by the time it got started properly the sun would be setting and the temperature would plummet again.  For once I got some of the good light. What’s sometimes called the “Golden Hour”. Well named today. The PoD is one of the best ones. No fakery needed here, the light was just so good.

I forgot to mention that Scamp got a text from Michael our dance teacher to say that we had won the hamper in the annual Christmas raffle. Would we be in to collect it, because he could deliver. We originally said we’d meet him in Glasgow, around 2pm to get it. However he texted to say that he was running late and it would be after 5pm before he’d be there, could he get his brother do deliver it instead. We agreed to that because his brother lived in Cumbersheugh, so it would be on his way. He arrived with it tonight. A big plastic box crammed full of chocolate and sweets and with a voucher for £20 off a pair of dance shoes which I’m sure Scamp will claim. I’ll have the Liquorice Allsorts.

Scamp spoke to the woman next door today who confirmed that she has a rodent problem too, as do the couple on the other side of us. So, we are not alone. So far our rodents are in the loft or under the floor, but not in the house, but Angela said she had seen two in her house. It’s a long time since we had mice in the house, but I phoned NLC environmental health and explained the situation. The girl I spoke to said she’d pass on the information to the sub-contractor who would contact us in a few days. Feel better now that it’s official and something is being done even if the wheels will be turning even slower than normal at this time of year.

That’s about it for now. Hope you all have a happy Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you’re with. G’night.

Bored to abstraction – 21 December 2018

Full on dull dreary day. Needed some sunshine. Made my own.

Out early, well, early for me and out to Muirhead to get some meat for my Christmas Day dinner. Scamp was still in bed nursing her cold that doesn’t seem to have gotten any better overnight. An extra hour or so in bed wouldn’t do any harm.

Got to the butchers just after 10am and the queue was already the full length of the shop and it’s a fairly big shop. Lots of women serving and lots of butchers butchering and lugging great bags of different meats around. Not a place for vegans I fear. Despite the length of the queue, I was served quickly and soon I was out the door with my carnivore’s delights.

Drove home by the scenic route, but the low cloud, the poor light and the heavy rain put paid to any chance of a quick photo. So be it, maybe there would be a break in the clouds later. By the time I was home, Scamp was up and ready to go and buy what was left in Tesco. I had a coffee and started to work on using my old Samsung tablet as a screen for the Pi. Finally got it working, but it’s not the swiftest of cobbled together technology. It will do for now because it means I’m not hogging the TV.

I’d just finished squeezing my steaks and sausages into the freezer when Scamp returned with Tesco in two or three carrier bags. Lunch was a roll ’n’ sausage for me and a roll ’n’ egg for Scamp. We do eat well! Messed around with the new Toy in the afternoon because there wasn’t a hope of getting an outdoors photo.

Spoke to JIC who was on his way with Sim to Toronto hopefully if the drone that’s buzzing Gatwick runs out of battery power for an hour or so.

Tonight I cut a tangerine in half, then made another cut across the base. Sat the whole thing on a wee LED lamp and photographed it. That’s today’s PoD. Of course there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s at least two hours of post-processing and a fair bit of swearing too. However, it did bring a bit of artificial sunshine into the day, the shortest day.  From now on the light will be returning to our dark and gloomy land.

Scamp’s sister got out of hospital tonight and is back in the caring arms of her family. I thInk Scamp may go and visit with the mandatory black grapes tomorrow. Otherwise, we have no plans for tomorrow.

So, this is Sunday, isn’t it? – 16 December 2018

Yes, it was Sunday, so why did it feel like Saturday?

Well, the simple answer is because Saturday felt like a Friday and therefore it was logical that Sunday would feel like Saturday. OK?

With that in mind, we set of on to visit Stirling, pretending that it was Saturday. One of the benefits of visiting Stirling on a Sunday is that there is no charge for parking. That saved us a whole £1.40! We walked to Waitrose and bought the whole shop, then packed it carefully into the Juke’s boot and drove home.

By the time we got home there was just enough light to allow me to go a walk over to St Mo’s to grab a few shots with “The Big Dog”, i.e. the Nikon. Low light means you need a bigger sensor to grab as many of those photons as possible without resorting to a higher ISO. Bigger sensors mean less digital noise, sometimes called grain. Smaller grains means smoother images. I could have put a <Technospeak> warning there, but I just thought some of you deserved a bit of a photographic education. So now you know that to get smoother gradations you need a lower ISO and if possible a bigger sensor. There, quote that and you’ll sound so much cleverer! Got the photos and took them home to look at more closely on the ‘puter.

Earlier in the day, even before we’d gone out to buy Waitrose, we’d spoke to Hazy who updated us on all the things going on down London way. It’s nice to know that other folk are suffering from dull weather too. It’s not just us.

After perusing today’s photos and settling on a PoD, a moody shot across the boardwalk at St Mo’s, I started to make the dinner which was a vegan Spag Bol. I’ve made it before but today’s effort seemed a bit bland. Too many mushrooms or too little salt? Not sure. Scamp said it was fine, so maybe just me.

Sat down to watch the final of The Apprentice. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that it was one of the girls! Halfway through JIC which was a godsend really as two hours of TA without a break is more of a marathon than Mo Farah could withstand. Spoke for half an hour or so and got up to date on all the things going on down Cambridge way.

Finally watched the end of the epic journey to be Sugar’s next business partner. Slightly less interesting than a boring F1 GP.

Tomorrow will probably be a Monday. Let’s hope it stays that way.