Stirling – 11 August 2018

The city with something for everyone.

While JIC, Sim and Steffi were visiting Stirling Castle, we too, or we two, were also in the town. It’ll never be a city to me. It’s just a jumped up town with a good curry shop and an interesting art gallery, oh yes, and a Waterstones and a Nero. The rest I can do without quite happily. Glasgow? It’s a city. Embra is a city too, Even Aberdeen is a city covered in granite and seagulls, but Stirling is just a decent sized town. Our reason for visiting today was to have lunch in that good curry shop. A few years ago it was on a downward slope, but it seems to have got its act together again and is now back on the up. New seating and maybe a bit less scruffy interior, but thankfully they decided to keep the menu as it was. Wise people. Scamp’s Veg Pakora followed by Veg Dhansak seemed to satisfy the lady and although my Haggis Pakora was a bit heavy and my Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna was a bit too spicy, it was deliciously sweet and full of flavour, so I won’t complain. It seems, like I said, that they are back on track. The foodies said so!

Had a look in the Art Gallery and appraised the offerings there. Some were just too twee and rejected out of hand, but a couple of others were in the category or “I’d but that if my lottery ticket came up”. Not having bought a lottery ticket, that purchase was unlikely, but the artist, Julian Mason, really had worked out how to paint wet water. As if I could do anything like that.

When we’d parked we couldn’t help but notice the number of Italian motorhomes that seemed to have taken over the carpark. They were still there when we were going home. Scamp thought they were something to do with the European Championships which finish tomorrow. It’s as likely an explanation as any.

Not long after we got home, the other three arrived back from Stirling Castle and Doune Castle where Steffi had re-encacted the Quest for the Holy Grail, complete with coconut shells, as so many have done in the past I seem to remember.

I drove them all in to Glasgow to meet ’The Boys’, Andy and Chris, with respective wives. We’re not expecting them back until late when old folks like us will be tucked up in bed. On the way back I got some ice cream for Scamp and me from the cafe in Muirhead. Also got some Oddfellows sweeties and a stick of Gin ’n’ Tonic rock which tasted neither of Gin, nor of Tonic. Disappointing. Oddfellows are half finished though!

Today’s PoD is Scamp’s little rose bush she has grown from seed. It’s Sunday name is Little Gem, but it’s always been called Rosie and it flowers continuously all summer. It deserves its place as PoD.

Tomorrow the visitors may be going to Embra and we may go to Glasgow. It all depends on the weather.

Waiting, waiting, waiting for the party to begin – 10 August 2018

JIC, Sim and Steffi were coming today. It’s a long drive for them and a long wait for us.

After a morning spend tidying up, Dysoning, dusting and generally making the place spick and span, we headed out in the rain to Kirkintilloch for lunch at Calders garden centre. Lunch was fine, better than a lot of places we’ve been to recently and afterwards we had a walk round the plants while the rain thumped down on the roof of the covered area. We also ventured out in the rain to rove further into the plant area. I was impressed with the way the place was set out, with very few single species arrays beside other single species arrays. Instead, most of the displays were of mixed plants, different colours, different textures and varying heights. Now that’s a refreshingly different way to show off plants. Not so good if you’re searching for a specific plant, but if you want to see what plants complement others, it’s a great idea. Unfortunately, we weren’t looking for plants today. I was looking for a new coarse rose for the watering can, specifically one that could be used to water in the nematodes I’d received in the post this morning. We found lots of ornaments, cards, books, scarves, mottos and pictures, none of which I would have in the house and none of which would be at all good for watering in the nematodes. That’s the big problem with garden centres. The outdoor part may have plenty of plants, but the indoor section is jammed full of tat!

Came home in sunshine, roseless. Then Scamp offered an old watering can with a fairly coarse plastic rose. I decided it might just do and if it didn’t, I could drill out a few of the holes with the power drill. I was right for once. It was almost coarse enough, but after drilling out most of the holes with a power drill, it was fine for the job. Or should that be coarse for the job? With the nematodes now burrowing deep into the soil to find some tasty vine weevil grubs, my work was done for the day.

After a cup of tea I grabbed my camera and went in search of some photos in St Mo’s. Found Mr Grey close enough to photograph, some ‘beasties’ and also some Rudbeckia flowering in the wild garden that volunteers planted a couple of years ago. The Rudbeckia won PoD, just like it did last year!!

Finally at about 7pm the visitors arrived and we spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and talking. Just really catching up. Scamp spent a short time showing off our garden front and back and we admired the veg that JIC and Sim had brought with them.

Tomorrow they go to Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument and we may go to Embra.

What you need is a dirty big spanner – 4 August 2018

Never a truer word spoken. If only I could get a dirty big spanner!

Both of us were loathe to get out of bed this morning. Both of us reading books that were totally unputdownable. Finally we sort of drew lots to decide who would go for a shower first. I chose to be the first to close the book.

With the plans for the day in ruins, we settled on Perf as Glasgow would be overrun with folk wanting to go to the Championships and Embra was winding itself up tight for the festival but the east was looking better than the west weatherwise. Also, I wanted some (more) coffee – you can never have too much coffee, can you JIC? Finally, I knew there was a good bike shop where I was sure I could get a pedal spanner. Perf it was then.

We drove through drizzle which turned to intermittent rain which turned to heavy and then torrential rain until we got to Gleneagles where the rain mysteriously stopped and blue sky opened out above us. The sun was shining and, although there were heavy black clouds in the rear view mirror, there was brightness ahead. We’d made the right decision.

Parked in our usual carpark which used to be an expensive NCP until they sold out to the Perf council who applied sensible charges. Not something that happens every day and not something that will ever happen to NLC. We walked in to the town and through the ‘farmers market’. I had a look in the Oxfam bookshop, but there wasn’t much to enthral me and the two prats who seemed to be in charge were too busy boosting each others egos with pompous reviews of films they’d seen and became so irritating I left empty handed.

Scamp suggested lunch in Cafe Tabou and we got a table without any bother, mainly because it was quite early. I’d forgotten just how good the food is there, but Salad du Chef and Traditional Cassoulet reminded me. Just simple good food well cooked and presented. Ok, it’s not quite so simple if you have to cook it yourself, but it appears to be simple food and that’s the clever part. We left feeling that we’d both eaten well. Scamp’s was Seafood Risotto followed by Coley en Croute.

Walked down to cycle shop, but he didn’t have a pedal spanner in stock. Typical. On to The Bean Shop, only to find that they’d run out of the coffee beans I was coming to buy. They’d have them in by Thursday or definitely by Friday. Disappointment number three. We went down to the river and stood on the overhanging vantage point to look down on the river. Just like being on a ship. The water was very low, even the rain we’ve had for the last week wasn’t enough to raise the water level by much. Turned and headed for the carpark although I knew there was another bike shop I could try near the carpark. Again, they didn’t have the spanner. This was beginning to sound a bit repetitive. However one of the mechanics gave me some interesting tips, like soak the joint in Coke! Apparently the phosphoric acid in Coke will destroy the aluminium oxide that causes the two metals to seize! Gave up and headed for home and Halfords.

The sun was still shining and it shone all the way to Cumbersheugh. Stopped at Halfords and yes, they did have a pedal spanner. It looked like a toy one. The handle wasn’t much bigger than the one I’d used last night. I said I wanted a ‘real’ one and he admitted that it might not be any good, then he showed me the one the bike mechanics used, but they don’t sell that one any more. Typical. It was a real one. I left empty handed for the fifth time that day.

I decided that it was worth driving in to Glasgow to see if Dales was open. Scamp agreed. Drove in parked and almost immediately found exactly what I was looking for. A sensible looking spanner with a long handle to give a decent bit of leverage and for a sensible price. Bought it, said thank you and headed home to sort that bike out!

Removed both wheels. Jammed the left crank in the workmate and tried that dirty big spanner. After the second try the white flag went up from the pedal and the bolt turned. Success at last. Both the mechanics in Perf had agreed that what was needed was a dirty big spanner. They were right. Now, before I put the SPDs on, I’m going to grease the threads well, so I don’t have to go through that rigmarole again.

PoD today was a macro shot of a rose. According to Scamp its name is Troika. It has beautiful colours and even more beautiful perfume.

Tomorrow I think we may be getting Public Transport in to Glasgow to see a cycle race and then I’m hopefully going to bolt the cleats on to my new cycle shoes, bolt the new SPDs in place with the dirty big spanner and then go for a run on my carefully washed and cleaned Dewdrop.

Seized! – 3 August 2018

Right is right except when it’s wrong.

The Right in question is the right side pedal on my Dewdrop. The saying ‘Right is Right’ means the the right side pedal has a right handed thread and is always tightened to the right, i.e. clockwise. The left pedal has a left handed thread and is tightened anti-clockwise. So, to slacken or remove a left pedal you turn it to the right. That’s what I did tonight and after a couple of judicious taps with a hammer on the spanner, it slackened nicely. The right pedal was the problem, and continues to be the problem. Nothing I did would convince the pedal to slacken. It’s seized solid. I tapped the spanner lightly, heavily, I swore at it mildly, then loudly. I heated1 up the crank with a blowtorch. I soaked it in WD40 and still it wouldn’t move. In fact it has now distorted the spanner so I’m leaving it soaking and sulking in WD40 until tomorrow when hostilities will recommence, once I get a new spanner. Oh yes, and before you ask JIC, I was trying to turn it the correct way, anti-clockwise!

From the above you will have gathered that I got a pair of cycling shoes and a pair of Shimano SPD pedals in, and I hate to say this, Decathlon today. Prices were as good as anywhere else and I got to try on the shoes which is one big benefit of going to an actual rather than a virtual shop. We also went to IKEA to buy some new cutlery … and a pillow for Scamp and a toilet brush and an egg slicer. Quite a random selection. I think we did really well to come home with so little! We tried to go for coffee afterwards, but the sat nav got lost. It told us to turn left at a junction that would have taken us into a Holiday Inn, then switched off. Perhaps it thought we needed the holiday.

Went out before dinner, which was the rest of yesterday’s Aloo Saag, to get some photos in St Mo’s. I took a couple of landscapes to play with in ON1 but the main subject today was ‘beasties’ as Scamp calls them or insects as the rest of us see them. Mainly wasps and hover flies today. Lots of both around hover flies won, as you can see from PoD.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. Glasgow will be jumping with these European Championships on, so we’ll probably point ourselves in a different direction, but where is anyone’s guess!


  1. Cranks are usually an aluminium alloy and aluminium expands more with heat than the steel of the pedal axle this should break the seal that has been formed between the two without melting the aluminium ;-) 

Dancin’ and Meltin’ – 2 August 2018

Raindrops keep falling …

The garden was a wonderland this morning. The drizzle and smirr we had last night had resulted in lots of little beads of water on all the plants. I tried both macro lenses on them, but surprisingly, it was the little 30mm on the Oly that produced the PoD. Raindrops on a sweet pea. With a photo in the bag, next on the agenda was dancin’.

We left early, not knowing just how busy Glasgow would be with the start of the European Championships. Traffic was light, but we had to park two floors higher than usual in the carpark and that sort of told us that the town was indeed busy. Lots of guards round George Square, looking officious, scanning people and opening their bags. Yes, I know they have to be ultra careful these days, but this was the first real day and I think they just wanted to use those scanners! Some crap bands were belting out noise from the covered stage that had been set up in the square. People I’d never heard of, although that is no indication of their fame. At least the rain had held off.

We got down to the pub, which hosts the dance class, a bit early because of our early start.  The door was locked which is unusual. A class sounded as if it was in full swing though, the previous class is an advanced jive class, one man and loads of women. We decided we’d go for a walk round the block as we were a wee bit early. Arrived back just a bit before starting time and managed to get in because one of the barmen was coming out. Nobody was dancing, then the other two couples we share the class with started in on the waltz. That’s when we realised that the class was starting at 1pm, not 1.30 as usual. Oops, we were late! Soon got into the waltz and I almost mastered the turn for the second promenade. I think I would have mastered it if it wasn’t for the other two couples standing arguing right in the dancing line. Some people are so thoughtless. After we’ve finished our line, or more likely aborted it, we clear out of the dancing space, but these other couples don’t bother and walk right in front of you. One day soon there will be a collision and there will be no dash cam to record it.

After the waltz we had a short go at ballroom Tango. It’s about as much like Argentinian Tango as Ballroom Salsa is like Cuban. It was still difficult enough for me.
Then it was jive time and we were attempting to master the first six spins. Almost did it too with a little help from Scamp telling me what spin came next. Still a bit of practise needed there. The place by this time was melting. Sweat was dripping from all of us. I think they must have had the heating turned up.

Cup of coffee in Nero to cool down, then back home. Dinner was Aloo Saag from the Bosh book and although it is fiddly to make, it tastes very authentic. Best of all, there’s enough for tomorrow too.

That was about it. The rain that threatened all day finally arrived just about 4pm and outstayed its welcome. It’s becoming a bit of a pain now. Enough rain!  Go and play somewhere else. We’ll tell you when we need you again.

Tomorrow? Maybe the dreaded Decathlon at Braehead. Worse still, it may also include a visit to IKEA!

Gardening on a grand scale – 27 July 2018

Gardening 24/7? Not for me.

The day started with me doing patient transport to Stobhill so Shona could return her ambulatory BP monitor and I, for one, am glad I don’t have to type that phrase again this week. With that done, and the miracle of being able to park just at the front door of the hospital for the second day in a row, I drove home to pick up the loaf I’d baked last night (sorry, forgot to mention that in the blog for the 26th July) and head off to Colin’s house for coffee.

He’d sent me his postcode, but I knew there were at least three houses there, so which one? I parked across the road and decided that the first on the list was the best bet, and there he was pottering. Isn’t that what all gardeners do in a greenhouse? Anyway, this was a real greenhouse with the heady aroma of ripening tomatoes and earth. It also looked like a greenhouse with trowels, pots, seed packets and plants. I really meant to get a photo, it would have made an beautiful B&W shot. Maybe next time if I’m allowed. His first question was “Where’s Scamp”. Of course he used her ‘real name’ which is NOT Scamp. I explained that she was busy gardening, i.e. pruning ‘things’ and cutting the grass. Oops. Now that I realise what I’d written, it did sound as if Scamp was joining me. Anyway Colin took me a conducted tour of his garden which is extensive and all encompassing. When I saw his show chrysanthemums with their paper hats on, it took me back about 55 years to my Uncle George growing his show chrysanthemums, although he never called them Chrysanthemums, he called them ‘Crysants’, and thankfully, that’s what Colin called them too. Actually, when I smelled the tomatoes, that took me back to my Uncle Jimmy’s smallholding where he grew tomatoes. He was always at pains to tell me never to eat a tomato without sprinkling it with salt. Try it with and without. You’ll never eat tomatoes without salt again. Jimmy and George were brothers-in-law. The link between the too was Uncle Jimmy’s wife, my Uncle Jean and Uncle George’s sister. She was a scary woman, but she put up with me eating strawberries on her smallholding when I was supposed to be weighting them for market, because she was my mum’s cousin. Confused? Don’t worry. There’s nothing so complicated as families.

After our garden tour we had coffee and a fairly extensive chat with Colin and Evelyn for an hour or so, before it was time for me to go and I wasn’t allowed to go empty handed, so tomatoes, chillies and a cucumber were pressed upon me and off I went. It was a lovely day although the heat was becoming oppressive in the latter part of the afternoon.

Back home we had a wander through our small patch and I got some photos. Star of the day was to be a wasp drinking from the birdbath, but then I got a nice shot of a Potentilla and that immediately became PoD, mainly due to the colour contrasts between the blues in the background and the orange flowers.

Just before we decided to come in after dinner, the first peal of thunder sounded. Later there was some lightning and more thunder. It’s even rained a bit tonight, but we really need more. I’m sure it will come over the weekend.

Good day. Really enjoyed the visit to a big garden, however, our own little postage stamp is a lot easier for us to manage. Tomorrow? Maybe lunch in Glasgow and a look for a pair of SPD pedals and shoes.

A day of three halves – 26 July 2018

Hospital patient ambulance driver, laser patient, cyclist

Up and out early(ish) to take Shona to Stobhill Hospital to get her ambulatory BP monitor. For some reason, I got parked right at the front door of the hospital and then had a leisurely half hour watching the drivers circling around hoping for a non-existent parking space. Drove the patient back home and got in just in time for a cup of coffee before lunch.  Then I ordered more coffee and tea from The Bean Shop, to make sure there is plenty for our visitors from down south.

After lunch I started back on an old task, namely that of Annette’s Nexus 7 which I’d found another, yet another possible solution for. It didn’t work, and neither did the Nexus. However, I now have the solution and this one will work. It’s a heavy duty poly bag. You put the offending article in the bag, whisper the magic words and Abracadabra (That’s not the magic word) once you’ve hit the bag four or five times with a claw hammer, the problem is solved. It’s no longer bricked, it’s now broke. I’ll never have to waste another hour of my life trying to solve a wee challenge, as Val would say.

Once I’d settled on the Final Solution, I felt so much better and headed to the physio. As well as being a physio, David is an enthusiastic cyclist. I needed his recommendation for somewhere to get a new pair of cycling shoes and a pair of SPD pedals. His answer was Wiggle. It’s an on-line sports supplier. I’ve had a look and the prices are good and if it’s good enough for an exacting cyclist like him, it will be good enough for me. After that, he lasered me and stuck pins in, then lasered me again just for luck. Knee felt better after that.

Came home and dinner was ready. Salad with our own potatoes, (the last of batch one) salad leaves, tomatoes and prawns. Scamp had the same but with salmon instead of prawns. As the sun was still high in the sky and the temperature still in the 20s, I took the bike out to see if any beasties wanted their photos taken. Not a lot did, but on the way back I passed a field of barley and though I might get a landscape shot instead. I didn’t like the shot once I’d taken it, but as I was walking away I spied a ladybird on one of the stalks, and that became PoD.

Tomorrow I’m a hospital patient ambulance driver and then I’m off to have coffee with Colin, maybe in his greenhouse. Rain, life giving rain is forecast for tomorrow and lots of it to judge by the weather map. We’ll see.

DIY – 23 July 2018

Today I did some woodwork.

Before the woodwork, there was the dentist to prepare for. You know how you always give your teeth an extra scrub with the brush and maybe rinse with some mouthwash before you go to meet the dentist for your checkup? Well, that’s probably the only time my teeth see the brush, although I must admit I use a fair amount of mouthwash throughout the year. Everything was going swimmingly until I put brush in mouth and moved it around, that’s when I found a tiny chip of enamel had come loose from what turned out to be a small tooth, next to my incisor. What better time for it to happen than ten minutes before I was due to see the dentist. He brushed (no pun intended) it aside saying it was only a tiny chip and that he could simply smooth it into the curve of the tooth. I told him to go ahead. Other than that, my gums and teeth were fine. Total cost £2.48. A bargain to get out so easily.

With my tooth fixed, I went home to have lunch and test out my newly remodelled denture on a piece ’n’ ham. After that Scamp started one of those sentences that begin with “Do you know that piece of decking?”. Yes dear, I know that piece of decking. She wanted me to make a base for an old decorative planter we call the rockery in the back garden. For years its been supported precariously on some broken bricks to keep it up from the paving stones in front of the kitchen window. For years I’ve been threatening to make something more substantial to hold it. It looked like today was the day. An hour later after some measuring, sawing, drilling and driving in screws, it was done. No need for painting as the decking and the rest of the wood had been pressure treated, so it shouldn’t rot (fingers crossed). Best of all, it fitted into the space provided and left sufficient room around it for Scamp to squeeze in some other smaller plant pots to tidy the place even more. She was happy, I was happy that I’d eventually got round to doing a job that had been on my list for a long time. Two satisfied gardeners.

Before dinner I took a walk to St Mo’s and got a few beastie pictures as Scamp calls them. My favourite is the delightful beastie at the top of the page. I don’t know what kind of fly it is, but it’s quite nasty looking up close.

Dinner tonight was lemony creamy pasta with smoked salmon. It came from a Tesco recipe card and it worked. Well, it was a bit too lemony for my taste, but Scamp liked it. After that it was time for Salsa and I must admit I wasn’t looking forward to it tonight, for some reason, however it was a lot of fun. Again, possibly too much exercise for my poor knee, but it always seems looser after a good salsa workout. Today’s torture was Enchufé Moderno and Mascarita.  Came out feeling much better and dripping with sweat.  Although there was a lot of heavy rain tonight, the really hot weather continues.

Tomorrow two meetings. Meeting Fred for coffee at midday and then at night, meeting Becky Chambers to buy her new book Record of a Spaceborn Few. Looking forward to both.

Turning the Tables – 20 July 2018

Found some woodwork to do for a change.

Scamp was off visiting one of her old friends out near Denny which left me with nothing to do and all morning to do it. It was raining for a change, so cycling was out. I could have gone to the gym, but that didn’t hold any fascination for me, so I started to tackle a bit of homework that’s been on my to-do list for a long time. My dad had an old folding card table, beech framed and covered with a green baize top. I’ve used it as a computer table and a painting table for years now, but the baize was torn and peeling off and the top was sagging in the middle. It really needs a new top and a new piece of green baize. Today I stripped the green felt off then carefully removed the hardboard top. That left the rebate in the top filled with the glued on felt. It took me over an hour, working with a couple of chisels to cut, pare and scrape the felt off. Then I had to decide what to do about the top. I’m still not sure. It really should be replaced, but I’m thinking it might be an idea to use plywood in place of hardboard because it is more stable. Went to price 3 or 4mm plywood in B&Q. I need a piece 503mm square, but the biggest offset they had was only 450mm wide. The only other option was a 2m x 0.6m sheet at an exorbitant price. I’ll have a look around. Maybe I’ll be able to find an off-cut down the Barras. Anyway, the hard work is done now, just the reassembly to do.

Did think of going over to St Mo’s to see if anything wanted its photo taken, but the day was unispiring with little directional light, so it was a last minute garden safari instead. It secured me PoD which is a flower from one of my Ambassador pea plants.

No plans for tomorrow. It’s forecast to be a better day than today, but we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Only half a day – 12 July 2018

I woke about 5.30 this morning and just couldn’t get back to sleep.

After I finally entered dreamland, it took me ages to find the exit. I felt really rough. My throat was dry and itchy and my head felt thicker than normal. It was Scamp’s turn to get breakfast, which was just as well. I ate my muesli, drank my tea, turned over and went back to sleep. Scamp woke me at 11 with another cup of tea and some toast. That gave me enough strength to go, get showered, get dressed and do my exercises (see JIC, even when I’m feeling ill, I do as the physio tells me). Feeling a lot better, I re-entered the land of the living around midday. Wandered round the garden and decided it was time for lunch.

After two boiled eggs Scamp drove us to Asda for the messages. We usually go to Tesco, but we went to Asda for a change. I used to avoid it because that’s where all the school kids went to shoplift shop. Now, after four years of freedom, I hardly recognise any of them and none of them seem to recognise me, thank goodness. Possibly they see me smiling and think “Nah. Couldn’t be him”. Laden down with goodies and not so goodies, we made our way back home.

The back garden, especially looked a bit in need of watering, so I unrolled the hose and gave everything a good blast. I didn’t have anything as a photo, so I took a walk to St Mo’s. It still strikes me as strange to go over there wearing a pair of shorts and a tee shirt. Unnatural. Found myself a PoD in the picture of a hover fly apparently egg laying. I was quite impressed with the quality of image from the Nikon and the Sigma 105mm. I also got a shot of a flower head set out in a pentagon. Most unusual. I didn’t notice what the plant looked like, but I’ll go back tomorrow with my plant book and try to find it.

When I came home I sat in the garden for a while before we had dinner, Stir Fry. After dinner we soaked up the last of today’s sun before we went in.

Had intended going to Embra at the weekend, but apparently there are to be rallies there complaining about Donald Trump being allowed to visit Scotland or to breathe air or something. Anyway, it won’t make any difference to DT and it would probably spoil our day, so we’re going to choose a different, non-DT destination.

Tomorrow the plan is to get up at a normal time, meet Val for coffee and then go to Larky to pic up our optical devices,