A Dull Day – 10 August 2020

Grey sky, low cloud, thunderstorms anticipated. It didn’t look like a fun day and it lived up to that prediction.

Grabbed a shot of two crane flies on the Red Juke. Unfortunately the red colour of the car predominated and wouldn’t be calmed down with software, so the only solution was to turn it into a monochrome image which suited the graphic style of the shot. That was about all that was happening in the morning.

After lunch we waited around for a while hoping the sun would make an appearance and that the clouds would lift. Neither of those things occurred. Finally went out for a walk myself to St Mo’s. Found a very obliging dragonfly, a Common Darter. Maybe even the same one I photographed the other day. It certainly had the same demeanour. It seemed quite happy to be photographed close up. I’d brought the 30mm macro on a Panasonic camera and it needs to be really close to the subject to get the real macro effect. That mean the dragonfly’s head was about 30mm from the front element. It didn’t flinch. I reckon it knew there was nothing in that metal and glass thing that could hurt it and anyway, these creatures live their entire flying lives in a couple of weeks. The are running on fast-forward all the time. It would be off before I could have done anything aggressive, not that I would have. A Terrible Beauty indeed. The front view was a ‘given’ for the PoD. I also got a decent side view as an ‘almost PoD’.

There were a tribe of teenagers wandering home with their half empty bottles of MD (aka Mad Dog) after making the most of the last few days of their extended summer holidays. Some would have been affected by the crazy decision of the SQA to mark down the grades of some of them because they come from an historically poorly performing school. I don’t think John Swinney has actually apologised for the decision, but Nick the Chick has and I applaud her for it. Swinney should really resign now, before he is booted out.  “Robust and Rigorous” were his catchphrases back in his days as an architect of the poorly thought out Curriculum for Excrement. There was nothing Robust or Rigorous about changing the grades teachers had given pupils on the grounds of the school’s previous record.  ‘Teflon John’. Nothing sticks, until it does.

Picked some of our own peas tonight and used them in a Pea & Prawn Risotto. It was quite good, but would have been better if more of the peas were ripe. Hopefully we’ll get them later in the month.

Thunder, Lightning, Rain and Hail forecast for tomorrow. Just another typical Scottish summer’s day.

Up early for a change – 9 August 2020

I woke early, before 7am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens.

Eventually gave up sat reading for a while. About half way through “Flowers For Algernon”. Really old book I remember from Larky library around the mid ‘60s. It’s quite dated now, but an interesting concept, none the less. Finally gave up completely and got up to make breakfast.

So, we were up fairly early for a change. It was a beautiful day. Not quite as hot as yesterday which was good. We did a bit of gardening. Actually, Scamp did a bit of gardening and I started fixing up the solar cell for Scamp’s new LED light string. Finally, after a few false starts, we go a good place for the solar panel. Just a little one about 75mm by 50mm, but enough to power the lights. Many years ago, probably about 30 years ago, we all visited an Eco centre in Wales and I bought some shards of solar cells, hoping to build a small solar pane. It never got made. The cells were too fragile and most got cracked on the way home. Amazing to think you can buy a solar panel which charges a NiMH battery which in turn powers a line of fifty LEDs all for around £4. Back then, you could only have Red, Yellow and Green LEDs. Bit massive things by today’s standard which drained a battery in about fifteen minutes. Not everything was better in “the olden days”.

With the lights strung up and tested and all Scamp’s potting up done, we adjourned for lunch. After lunch and a rest to let all that fatty goodness be digested, we went out for a walk round Broadwood Stadium avoiding kids on bikes trying to make the most of their last days of freedom before schools restart in the middle of the week. I’m sure there were teacher out there too, making the most of the last days of sunshine before they return to the grind. Oh, how I enjoy looking back at those last days of freedom from the standpoint of one who doesn’t need to do that ever again.

When we got back without having taken any meaningful photos, I grabbed a camera and went for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp went to laze in the afternoon sunshine. I came home empty handed again. I’d seen yesterday’s big blue dragonflies, but they weren’t posing for me. They had far more important things on their minds, cavorting around the wee pond at St Mo’s.

Dinner was Sea Bream with Long Stem Broccoli and Potatoes. It is one of Scamp’s specialities and it tasted as good as usual. The starter was Bruschetta made with Italian crust bread I’d bought in Perth yesterday. Delicious too.

Watched the second British GP and enjoyed an interesting ending. Thankful really that we didn’t have to sit through the whole boring race. Nothing happened that couldn’t have been predicted by anyone who follows motorsport, with the possible exception of the fall of Vettel. It looks like he really has lost the plot. “Toys out of the pram” is the phrase that springs to mind.

Spoke to JIC and gave him a fleshed out version of yesterday’s announcement that our love affair with the Red Juke is sadly coming to an end and another Nissan has now taken its place, albeit a Nissan with one less cylinder in its engine.

PoD today went to a focus stacked image of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, the beautiful Troika. Focus stacking done in-camera and very neat it was too.

Tomorrow we may have to sign a contract to give some money to Mr Nissan for the chance to use one of his Blue Micras for a few years. Other than that and the chance of thunderstorms, hopefully another sunny day.

Not as oppressively warm as yesterday – 1 August 2020

That was my first thought this morning.

Not as warm. A bit fresher perhaps? Yesterday was just a bit too unScottish on the temperature scale. Today was going to be more down to earth.

We had no bread, very little fruit and no fancy little cakes, so I wandered off down to the shops in the morning. Got enough stuff to feed us for today (and a few days more if the truth be told) and a bar of chocolate for going, which I thought was very fair. Lunch was a roll ’n’ cheese for both of us, but not just ordinary rolls, no, these were Ciabatta rolls that had come all the way from Iceland, the frozen food shop, no the northerly island nation. Then we sat and wondered what to do until the live British F1 GP qualifying was due to start. We were then glued to our TV until the end of the qualifying came to a nail biting finish, or at least that’s what we were told. It was the usual faces in the usual grid slots. No nails were bitten in this house.

Later in the afternoon, I took myself and a camera out for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp waited at home, deciding what to wear for tonight’s Zoom Dance. To be fair to her, she also prepared the “mise en place” (food and dishes preparation) for tonight’s dinner which was Smoked Salmon and Broccoli Quiche. We’d made it before, but it was really good to walk into the kitchen and find everything laid out for me. The actual cookery was easy after all that. It tasted really quite good. Not as good as Jackie’s, but a fair stab at it. Plus, of course she uses the old fashioned shortcrust pastry base while we have a new super fast method which must remain a secret!

After dinner it was a bit of a rush to get the living room rearranged in time for the dance. It’s really a good way of having a socially isolated dance without the need for face masks and all that faff. Just a computer and a space in your own home to dance. It’s amazing the amount of stuff we’d (read “I’d”) forgotten since the last one. It took me one whole track before I got the steps for the basic waltz anywhere like a dance and not just staggering blindly around the living room. The Social Foxtrot is all about dancing in never ending saw-tooth formations, even I can manage that. Salsa was … let’s say it wasn’t as smooth and faultless as it should be. All in all, it was an exercise in not falling over and no, I’d not had anything stronger than a bottle of beer at that point. However, it was great fun and good exercise too. Don’t know what the couple next door in their Jacuzzi thought! I kid you not, they have a jacuzzi in a gazebo in a garden the same size as ours. What is Westfield coming to? I think they have just too many Zs in their heads! When the Zoom dance ended we had to have a wee seat in the quiet just to allow our muscle groups to return to normal. Next one is in a couple of weeks time unless Lockdown finishes before then – we should be so lucky!

Today’s PoD was wee fly on a cow parsley head.

Tomorrow we may be aching so much we won’t be able to go out anywhere, or maybe we should just to ease those dancing muscles.

Just one of those unpredictable days – 26 July 2020

Rain and grey skies to begin the day. Brighter with blue skies to end it.

It’s Scotland, what do you expect. We sat watching the rain for most of the morning, then after lunch things started to improve and we guessed we could risk a short walk.

Before that, there were chilli plants to bring out into the sun and sweet peas to cut before they became too leggy. Also there was a fair wind blowing at times and Scamp was worried that the topmost growth would be broken, so better to cut it back a bit, rather than risk damage.

Since the sun was still shining, we walked over to St Mo’s and then went twice round the pond, because the breeze wasn’t too cool and the sun on our faces felt good, well, it did feel good to me, anyway. We even saw a dragonfly, the first for ages, weeks even. At first it was a bit skittish but then I think it realised we weren’t a danger to it and it settled on the boardwalk to allow me to photograph it. I’d only brought the 30mm macro lens which requires you to be fairly close to the subject to get a decent photo, but this little insect wasn’t bothered in the slightest, just as long as I didn’t make any quick movements, which I didn’t. Today’s PoD is testament to my patience and it’s relaxed approach to humans.

Back home it was almost dinner time and I’d a steak to cook. Scamp was having salmon as usual. The steak was just ok. It was a bit thinner than I’d expected and I think I over cooked it a bit. It was half price though, so I shouldn’t complain.

Painted Hazy’s little Joan of Art paint tin as a watercolour sketch. I painted it on a wee pad of watercolour paper I found. So much nicer to paint on than the sketch book which is better for drawing on.

The news today is that people returning from all of mainland Spain and its islands must self-isolate for 14days on return.  It looks like it’s not all over yet.  Personally I blame Bumbling Boris for bragging that it will all be over before Christmas.  I seem to remember that phrase from somewhere.  It was wrong then too.

It looks like the weather tomorrow will be wet, very wet at times. June may be visiting us. Let’s hope it’s not wet all day. I want some more dragonfly pictures.

Phone – 24 July 2020

Today we to get a new phone. That should be easy, shouldn’t it?

Not so in the new world we now live in. First stop was Tesco. The cheapest and easiest to access. Two people working in the Tesco Mobile booth but only one allowed to serve customers. The other was managing the queue, i.e. Scamp. She got a price and they had the phone in stock. We were one step on the way to a successful conclusion.

To get a broader view of the other options we drove to Coatbridge, using my route, not the scenic route we took earlier in the week. Went to Carphone Warehouse at Currys. No queue this time and the girl went through the standard procedure of noting down everything up to and including what Scamp had for breakfast (Kellogg’s Special K with strawberries.). Only once she’d confirmed that Scamp didn’t want a contract with Vodafone and that she didn’t want to go with in-house iD, she told us that they didn’t have the phone she was looking for in stock and they wouldn’t be available until Monday – note, she didn’t say which Monday! We said no thanks and left to go home for lunch, but next door was an Argos where EE are based these days. Lady at the door said there wasn’t anyone at the EE stand as he was at lunch. Only one person selling? And then, only when he was there. Didn’t sound good, but par for the course these days.

After lunch we went to Bishopbriggs to another Carphone Warehouse in Currys. Waited in the queue where only one person was actually selling. After half an hour of standing around a second Carphone Warehouse operative told us that they didn’t have the phone in stock there either. Very popular he said. We’d guessed that.

Drove back to Cumbersheugh and finally sealed the deal for roughly the same price as Carphone Warehouse were promoting with EE, but that was with a ghost phone. PAK code has been entered and the final switch over should happen by Tuesday. Apparently computers don’t work weekends.

A lot of the time was spent standing around waiting in a queue. We can partly blame Covid-19. How can Tesco manage to hold a stock of phones when Carphone Warehouse seem unable to. A what the hell, Scamp has a new phone.

As for the rest of the day. When we got back home we assembled the new grass hoover and Scamp hoovered the front grass. Her first thoughts are that it’s not as good a cut as the old one, but it’s much lighter. We need to make some adjustments to the cut height and after that it should be better.

I managed an hour before dinner taking photos of ‘beasties’. Mainly hover flies and other insects. A couple of shots of a little froglet or toadlet too. It was a dusty little hover fly that got PoD.

No plans for tomorrow. It looks wet in the morning, the aftermath of the rain that’s battering down just now, but better in the afternoon. We won’t be driving far, the poor Red Juke it tired out tonight.

Another energetic day – 21 July 2020

Out early and away for a walk

Should we go out for a walk in the morning or the afternoon? You will notice that in Scamp’s question there is no third way where we don’t go for a walk, simply a choice between the morning or afternoon. I chose Morning. Not to get it over with quickly, no of course not. But the sun was shining now and it seemed a shame to leave it until the afternoon because for the past few days, the weather has deteriorated as the day progressed (and to get it over with!)

We drove down to Auchinstarry and parked in front of what used to be the He Bo House, but has now been reduced to the the B Ho. It’s not open at present and I wonder if it will ever reopen. It would be a shame if it didn’t, because we both liked it in the second stage of its existence. The first owners were not the most welcoming of people, but the ones who took it over and revamped it had made a good job of creating a warm and comfortable atmosphere. It would be a great shame to lose it now through no fault of theirs. They must fix the sign though. B Ho doesn’t work. He Bo House is much better. I’ll suggest it to them when they open their doors again.

We walked along the canal to Twechar, avoiding fishermen, cyclists (especially the one who was sitting on the only seat along the canal, talking to his watch) and joggers. Foolishly I’d taken my rain jacket expecting showers that never came and wore it round my waist like a nylon kilt for most of the walk. We turned at Twechar and started back along the old railway path. The last time we were there, the council we presume had dumped piles of topsoil near places where the path had eroded into the River Kelvin, leaving about a 1.5m drop into the water for the unwary. Today the piles had been used to fill in the eroded parts with wooden piles driven into the banking to help hold it in place. Finally, coarse grass had been planted, not seeded, but planted. Presumably the roots will also help keep the new soil in place. Let’s hope it works.

Back home for lunch then Scamp was off to get ‘the messages’ or enough of them to make tonight’s dinner which was to be a stir-fry. I got myself ready to go for a walk, hoping to get some photos. When she returned, I walked down to the Mosswater nature reserve hoping to get some photos of dragonflies. No dragonflies or damselflies to be seen, but loads of ladybirds and one of them kindly presented itself for a photo opportunity. Difficult to get a sharp shot with an annoying breeze making everything move at the wrong time.

Walked back home and really, really enjoyed Scamp’s stir-fry with Tiramisu for pudding. Not a bad day with over 18,000 steps for me and over 12,000 steps for Scamp.

Tomorrow looks wet, very wet. An 80% chance of rain all day, that kind of wet. We may stay in.

An aching start – 12 July 2020

We were both a bit slow to rise this morning, as predicted by someone last night.

Despite all our walking every day, or at least every second day, our bodies were aching this morning. I suppose I felt it more in my upper body, arms and shoulders. Scamp said she thought it was the strain of holding the frame when we were ‘in hold’ during the ballroom dances last night. Probably, although I hate to admit it, the Salsa routines we did contributed too. More arm swinging when we’re out then. That would fit in with the ethos of Scamp’s route marches.

Not at all related to the above, I volunteered to do the strimming of the front grass. Scamp did the main grass cutting. We really need to get a new grass hoover. The safety grip doesn’t work any more and now the power plug is slipping out of the socket. Scamp will say that it doesn’t happen, but I was watching today and it slipped out on two occasions. That’s just not safe. I hope you’re reading this Scamp and take what I’m saying to heart!

After lunch, Scamp went for a walk, an energetic walk round our Broadwood route while I took some photos in the garden. Unfortunately all of the photos were rejected in the first cull. Either they were out of focus or there was obvious camera shake. When the power walker returned, I went looking for some friendly looking beasties willing to pose for me in St Mo’s and the surroundings. What I found was an acrobatic Soldier Beetle working out on the grass stems. Next up was a belligerent looking Ladybird. I gave it a wide berth, but I took its photo first.

Watched a second Austrian GP that started with a remarkable crash with both Ferraris taking each other off. That was followed by about 70 laps of boring racing. The adverts every 15mins or so were actually more interesting, then in the final three laps it all brightened up considerably with some great driving. Pity about the intervening 60 odd laps of tedium. Funny to see the awards being presented by remotely controlled trolleys! The driving of them left a lot to be desired! Maybe Vettel has found a new position!

The acrobatic soldier beetle narrowly beat the aggressive ladybird to PoD, but both are available to see on Flickr. No sketch today, but I promise I’ll do my best to catch up tomorrow.

The wrong day for a walk round a pond – 10 July 2020

We drove to Coatbridge to go for a walk. So did half of central Scotland.

In the morning Scamp drove to Tesco to get a couple of cards. I stayed home and footered. Footering is a great occupation. Basically it’s time-wasting on an Olympic scale. Today’s footering involved making an ear protector for a mask, any mask. The mask the girl next door, Lucy, made is a bit skimpy on elastic, so it tugs at my ears when I wear it. I thought I could use one of Hazy’s ideas and make a mask extender and ear protector all in one. It involved sewing up a strip of cloth, then stitching and cutting a button hole and lastly sewing on a button. After a lot of huffing and puffing, a fair bit of swearing and surprisingly, not stabbing myself with the needle I had a working prototype. It works, it’s not elegant, but it does show that may head does indeed “button up the back.” That will only mean anything to the higher echelons of UK inhabitants, i.e. those from Scotland.

Scamp drove us through one of those “passing showers” to Drumpellier park today so we could walk round the pond. When we were struggling to find a space to park the Micra we decided that the park was full. Full to overflowing might have been a more apt description. We could have found a space, but then we’d have needed to find a space in the crowd to go for a walk. You know how it was before Lockdown when you funnel into a queue to get a space on an escalator? That’s what it would have been like finding a space in the slow moving queue of people walking round the pond. I’ve never seen it so busy. Drove home again.

We were going to have a pizza for dinner tonight, so I made up some dough and set it to prove. Scamp wanted to post a card, so we got ourselves organised and started to walk over to Condorrat. Then she decided to move her car from the top of the road down to nearer the house and I was given the duty of posting the card. Found a happy crowd of folk at what was The Masonic in Condorrat drinking beer outside, legally, for the first time in months. Walked back through St Mo’s and caught a couple of Soldier Beetles in flagrante. I think that’s the default position for soldier beetles, hence their nickname Bonking Beetles. That became PoD.

Ok admission time. I admit I was a bit down last night and decided to stop the Lockdown Library. For whatever reason, it’s been reinstated as part of my daily routine again, for a while at least. Today’s offering as well as yesterday’s (yes, I did one yesterday) is up on Instagram.

No plans for tomorrow, and yes, the pizza was lovely. Pizza Napolitana on on half and Pizza Napolitana without olives on the other half.

halves two of day A – 8 July 2020

In other words, just the same as yesterday, except the other way round. The morning was bright and shiny today and got progressively duller and wetter as time went on.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and caught up on all things around and about Epsom. Glad to hear that they, like us are getting out again, even if it is only a run in the car. Later, after morning coffee and a first go at today’s ‘Fiendish’ Sudoku, we revised our plans for the day. We’d initially though about driving somewhere scenic and going for a walk, but the weather was already deteriorating and the sun had disappeared. We decided to have lunch and see if there was an improvement in the situation.

Scamp had been bitten on our walk yesterday and it looked to me like a cleg bite. She’d taken Piriton last night and again this morning. She’d also applied some Anthisan antihistamine and the combination seemed to work. After lunch she took the same medicine before we went out for a walk round Broadwood. Bumped into Glenda Begg  halfway round. She is a Special Needs teacher at the new Academy and had just finished her volunteer shift supervising kids at Broadwood Stadium which is the local ‘Hub’ where school age kids can go during the summer holidays. She was telling us that today there were three volunteers to 130 weans (I refuse to use the children-and-young-people ‘word’ that the Scottish Government use for ‘weans’). That’s a 40:1 ratio. NLC are happy because they don’t have to pay anyone and can brag about how they are making provision for under 18s.

Walked back past the shops and bought the makings for tonight’s dinner. I was ‘chef’. It turned out quite well. Baked Haddock and Cabbage Risotto. Dead easy because the oven does all the hard work.

PoD was a close up of a Honeysuckle flower we saw on our walk. Sketch was a pencil sketch of a beer can (unopened)!

Watched two excellent short videos today, Fatbaws and Larchvies. Both are parts of the Scenes for Survival series from BBC Scotland. Google them, they are excellent and there’s a lot more where they came from. Really short, around 20 minutes long and some are a lot shorter. So far they all seem to be monologues. Those with little time for reading could always play them in their new car on the way to work! 😉

The weather for tomorrow seems to be much like today was, i.e. better early than late. We may go for that longer walk if we get the chance.

Out walking – 6 July 2020

We drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal this morning. Typically, now we are free to travel the length and breadth of the country, we stayed within the 5 mile lockdown limit!

Walked along the canal, avoiding a few cyclists and joggers on a beautiful, if slightly breezy morning. Still didn’t see any kingfishers, but did catch one of Mr Grey’s relatives hiding in the rushes on the far side of the canal. Initially he tried to hide, but then realised it was just a couple of humans out for a walk and totally ignored us. We turned around when we reached Twechar and took the railway path back to Auchinstarry. The railway path is much more sheltered than the canal towpath and as a result we could dispense with out waterproof jackets. Hardly met anyone on the path. When we were crossing the wee stone bridge at Auchinstarry I spotted a Shield Bug and that got PoD. It just ignored me for most of the time, but when I got too close it became defensive and as they have a tendency to fire smelly fluid at you if attacked, I said goodbye and took my leave.

After lunch Scamp went looking for food at the shops while I stayed home and attempted yesterday’s painting, a Ruby Wedding rose that Scamp had cut yesterday to stop it being battered by the gales. It was much more glamorous today picking up the light from the window. I didn’t do it justice, I know that, but this was the best of three attempts and would have to do. It was another catch-up.

When Scamp returned I grabbed my camera and went looking for more subjects. Found a Burnet moth behind St Mo’s school. First one I’ve seen this year. Didn’t get a chance to count its spots, just took its photo.

Tonight I did today’s sketch which turned out to be a still life pencil sketch of two apples. One of my favourite subjects, but, again, not very successful. I’m intending keeping the Lockdown Library going until we’re sure we’re out of it or until I reach my limit.

Another sketchbook filled tonight. May go looking for another one tomorrow. Otherwise no plans. Depends on the weather.