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Summer in Scotland – 12 June 2017

Monday is Gems day. I usually get out, but it didn’t look like it today. It was dull again with rain and wind. That’s what you call Summer in Scotland.

I’d decided that today would be Boxer Shorts Day and I have finished the hard work. In fact, all the work is finished, it’s just the little bits of cleaning up than need to be done. I’ve still to give them a final press with the iron and then they will be ready for play testing. It was a bit of a challenge, Hazy, but an interesting one. I’d never have attempted it without your push. Thank you. Hopefully I’ll have pictures tomorrow.

Once that was done and lunch was over, Gems were gathering and I put my headphones on and painted for a while before biting the bullet and heading for Argos to buy a WiFi extender. Setup was simple and once the extender was paired with the modem, it worked out of the box. Now I have a decent WiFi signal in the back bedroom.

Looking forward to Salsa with Jamie tonight, but it was not to be. He had called off at the last minute because of a funeral. Some things you just can’t plan for. So it was Cameron who took both the beginners and the advanced class and he was really, really good. I was impressed.

Today’s PoD was taken from the top of phase 4 of the town centre, looking across to what I suppose must be phase 3 although it never gets called that. Its official title seems to be ‘that dump’ or ‘where the post office used to be’. It really shines in this light, doesn’t it?

Couldn’t settle on a sketch and finally decided to immortalise the two strawberries that were living on the top shelf of the fridge.  I really should have sketched them insitu, but that would have meant leaving the fridge door open for too long.

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No rain today – 14 May 2017

Well, today we were prepared for a total downpour and it didn’t happen, which was nice.

To make the most of this little surprise gift, we went for a drive.  I knew where I was going, but Scamp hadn’t a clue.  We were going to Devilla Forest in Fife.  We’d passed it many, many times on the way to other places like Dunfermline and Burntisland, but never stopped to investigate it.  It wasn’t until our last bus journey to Dunfermline it had lodged in my brain as a possible place for a walk.

It just over half an hour to get there and there was a nice big parking area.  We decided to do the fairly easy (45mins) and short Red Squirrel walk along to and round a little loch.  The path was fairly good underfoot, wide and winding through the pine trees.  Unfortunately, no squirrels of any colour were available for photographs today.  The best wildlife we saw, in fact the only wildlife was a pair of mallards on the little loch.  That said, the trees were alive with the sound of, not music, but birdlife.  Hidden wildlife.  A very enjoyable walk and one we’ll build on this summer we hope.

I had also noticed that the next turning on the road lead to a plant nursery and where there is a plant nursery these days, there’s a tea shop.  So it was with The Walled Garden.  Beautiful panoramic views across Fife from the parking area and that’s what got my PoD award.  The tea shop was fairly decent, par for the course and better than Dobbies.  Scamp got a Potentilla for the toilet bowl planter in the back garden.

When I came home there was enough time to go for a quick walk to loosen up my sore leg before dinner and I grabbed the opportunity to stride out along the Forth & Clyde Canal.  Didn’t get many more photos, but although the clouds were threatening, I stayed dry.

Haven’t seen the weather for tomorrow.  It’ll be a surprise.

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The trick is to not let on – 30 December 2016

Today, in total secrecy we slipped out of the house just before 10am and drove under leaden skies to Croy station.  There we boarded a train headed for … Embra.  The trick is to not let on.  That way you actually get to Scotland’s second city without any interference.

We had coffee in our usual Cafe Nero in Lothian Road and gazed out on light clouds with bits of blue sky.  Scamp took pity on a Big Issue seller and bought her a coffee.  A random act of kindness.  We should all do that more often.

We had intended walking through Princes Street Gardens, but they were locked and guarded by security staff.  I suppose that’s to be expected with the amount of work having to be done for the Hogmanay celebrations tomorrow.  That said, we went back the way we’d come and walked up the Grassmarket and from there on to Princes Street.  We had thought about going to JL, but it’s too depressing going into a shop in a building that’s being demolished.  A story of the irresistible force and the (literally) immovable object.  This is what happens when people don’t speak to one another.

Edinburgh was jumping!  It was almost as busy as when the Festival is in full swing.  I’d hate to think what it would be like tomorrow.  There were so many barricades around Princes Street, I said to Scamp it looked like a war zone.  Probably that’s what it will be just before The Bells tomorrow night.

We walked along Rose Street and on to Whighams for lunch.  Breaded Haddock, chips and peas for Scamp and Pheasant, Bacon and Leek Pie with roast potatoes and roast vegetables for me.  I even risked a half pint of Deuchars.  Another very decent lunch.

This being a weekday, we had to travel off-peak, so had to get the train home by 4pm or it would turn into a pumpkin or something.  That meant we had to forego a shot on the big wheel or vertical chair-o-planes and head for the train home.  Such a pity 😉  When we got back to Croy the grey clouds were still there, maybe a bit lighter grey, but that was probably because they’d dumped some of their rain on Cumbersheugh.

Wind is getting up again tonight and it looks like rain for tomorrow.  Don’t have anything planned.

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Design Obsolescence – 22 November 2016

22-nov

My car is just coming up for eight years old.  Its had a few bits and pieces replaced since new.  The usual consumables like the oil filter and the air filter every year at servicing time.  Every couple or so years it also has needed new tyres when they run a bit thin on tread.  More expensive items like brake disks, wheel bearings and CV joints have also been replaced when necessary.  Sometimes I use good quality third party replacements, but manufacturers parts are always available at an extra cost.  Occasionally I use them when it seems prudent to do so.  All based on the trusted advice from my local garage.  It’s a good car and runs perfectly well.

My Macbook Pro is also coming up for its eighth birthday.  It’s also had a few ‘improvements’ over the years.  It’s had a memory upgrade and a new hard drive installed, then last year I added a super fast Solid State Drive.  Some from Apple and some from third party alternatives.  Now its battery is failing, so I went to the Apple store in Buchanan Street to find out how much it would cost for an Apple fitted new battery.  I was shocked to hear them claim not to have replacement batteries for “such an old computer”!  Really?  A company the size of Apple can’t source the parts to repair its own computers?  I was told by a ‘Tech’ that I would have to phone technical support to see if they still had any in stock, and if they did the repair would cost around £160.  I don’t think so.  Amazon are advertising a replacement battery for £40 and I’m not so ham fisted I can’t fit it myself.
Since I’ve had the Macbook I’ve become a great fan of Apple, but my allegiance is fading after this example of Designed Obsolescence.

Right, now that I’ve got that out of my system, here’s a synopsis of the day:

Had an entertaining phone call with Hazy in the morning (yes, I did look up the Hive – impressive structure, H), then out to visit the dentist and no fillings, no scale and polish, just a cap replacement and no charge.  What a nice man.

After lunch Scamp and I drove in to Glasgow for some pre-Christmas shopping.  Better to go mid-week when the crowds are at work earning the pennies to spend at the weekend when we head for the hills, literally.  Parked in the Buchanan Galleries carpark with its wonderful panoramic walkway to the galleries proper.  Such a great view of Glasgow (and carpark is cheaper than Concert Hall!)  I headed off to the book shop for a couple of books I’d my eye on, but which turned out to be less than enthralling.  Scamp went looking for girlie stuff.  Met up later and had my introduction to the wonders of Designed Obsolescence – Apple style.  How to kill of a potential sale in one easy lesson.

Coffee and then trudged back homeward, but not before Scamp noticed that Jacques Vert had a sale on.  I’ll give her that, she always makes it look as if it’s a great surprise to see the sale posters in the window.  More girlie stuff bought.  Walked back across the bridge to the carpark and the light was just marvellous, so I had to stop to take some photos.  Such a beautiful sunset and one you knew just couldn’t last, so I made the most of it.  If I’d hurried past I’d have saved myself £1.50 in parking money, but I’d have missed today’s PoD (I’d also have brought the price of an Apple replaced battery down to £158.50, but I’m not bitter!)

Back home I found out that the books weren’t as interesting as I’d thought and have decided to return them (in pristine condition) tomorrow.  After a lovely stirfry cooked by Scamp I made some scones that turned out the best yet!  No eggs Hazy!

Was posting a condensed version of my rant on the Buchanan Street Apple shop page on Facebook when my eye was drawn down the page to a bloke complaining about exactly the same thing.  So, I am not the only grumpy old man then.

Travel clinic tomorrow to book our jags for foreign climes and maybe take that book back.  Unless Apple phone in the morning and offer me a brand new Macbook Pro – top of the range and an iPhone 7 to go with it to make up for their shocking customer service today.  But then I’d wake up and it would all be a dream  😉

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The Wee Red Car – 24 September 2016

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After a wild and windy night with rain battering on the bedroom window, we woke to face the journey home.  It was still windy, it was still raining and there was no sign of either of them abating.

After breakfast I turned the car round so it was facing into the wind.  That way the boot lid wouldn’t blow up when I was loading in the camera bags, rucsacks, luggage bags, flask, poly bags, books and even more bags.  Finally we were loaded up and ready to say our goodbyes and hit the road.

The first stint was from Staffin down the east side of Skye through Portree and Broadford to the bridge.  I thought we might have trouble crossing the bridge, but the wind had dropped a bit by the time we got there and the crossing was really very easy.  On down to Dornie and a chance to grab a couple of shots of Eilean Donan Castle.  The castle that has graced a thousand biscuit tins.  Over the causeway and a stop for a coffee and a scone in the castle tea room.  Despite its tartan and shortbread overload, the coffee is surprisingly good. It was there we saw the blue Fiat 500 on the flatbed being towed by the camper van.  I liked the little touch of the hamper, clogs and tulips.

From there it was the most scenic part of the road normally, but today the weather took most of the scenery away.  Another uneventful, but boring drive to Fort William to stock up on food and drink then get back on the road again.  That’s where we picked up a Wee Red Car.  Now look, I’ve got no problem with people staying within the speed limit and Fort Billy has a 40mph limit for most of its length, but when you see the white circle with the diagonal black line, that generally mean floor the pedal for a bit.  No, the Wee Red Car was determined that 40 was a comfortable speed.  Occasionally it would accelerate to 45, then drop back to 35 just so that it wouldn’t be caught out by any average-speed-cameras that tried to pop up in front of it.  They didn’t, but better safe than sorry the Wee Red Car said.  Of course, there were plenty straights when those following could have passed the WRC, but there were always cars coming the other way.  To add to the holdup, just before the head of the glen at Glencoe, there were ‘mobile roadworks’.  This turned out to be a Cooncil van acting as a convoy vehicle to slow folk down just in case the WRC didn’t do its job properly.

I’d intended stopping at Tyndrum, but I was so determined to pass the Wee Red Car, with Scamp’s consent we just continued on.  At Crianlarich I hoped against hope that the Red Bastard would take the new road down Loch Lomond side, and when it disappeared, I gave a silent cheer.  Then a couple of miles outside the village, there it was again, two cars in front of me.  How did it get there?  We reckon WRC was stuck at 45mph and drove at that speed through the village.  I waited my chance, with unaccustomed patience, dropped a gear and hammered it past both the cars in front of me, waving a victorious ‘Vicky’ to the WRC at the front of the line.  Life after that was just a bit boring.  No more Wee Red Cars to vent my anger on.

Arrived home just after 5pm, which meant we’d spent about 7 hours on the road, about par for the course.  Of course we’d have been home an hour or so earlier if it hadn’t been for the Wee Red Car, but then I wouldn’t have had much to write about, would I?

Lazy day planned for tomorrow with little or no driving.  Thanks for a great few day Murd and Jac1.  Also thanks to Jac2 for the tour round the Cow Shed.

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Don’t Look Hazy, Just Don’t! – 29 August 2016

29 AugWe decided at the weekend that we need to get out more. In the winter it’s ok to lie in bed longer than is good for us, but in these late summer days, we should be out getting some good fresh air into our lungs. With that in mind, we set ourselves the target of being out by 10am. Today we managed that, just!

Drove to the petrol station which was buzzing with police and ambulances, then got into an argument with a dumbo driving a tank, you know what I mean, great big gas guzzler and a tiny wee brain behind the wheel. There he was sitting looking smug, at least a metre away from the pumps while his wife filled the tank. I tried to park beside him, but it was an impossible situation, so I drove out and back in to a different pump, but not before mouthing to him “Prick!” While I was filling my own tank he came out of his pride and joy and said “Can I help you?” I smiled at him and said “Well, you can pay for my petrol if you want.” A smile and an unexpected reply usually baffles the dumbo. “Oh, I thought you needed something from me” he said after he had thought for a while. “Well, a bit of space would have been nice.” I said and walked away. This did not compute. CPU overload. Dumbo had to get back in the tank and plug his brain into the USB socket. I paid for the petrol and when I came back out, there he was again, brain freshly rebooted. “I don’t usually drive this car.” was his starting gambit, followed by “I wasn’t doing it to be ignorant. I had to do a very tight turn.” This is what always happens when you reboot a computer, it does random things. It looked like his CPU was still in the process of rebooting and was making his mouth spout rubbish. He should remember ‘Engage brain before opening mouth’. Not a big shouting match, but it started the day well, outwitting a dumbo. When we drove out he was still trying to remember how to start the tank. Then we saw the reason for the heavy police presence. A Post Office van had embedded itself in the wall of the garage!
We drove to Culross, parked in the carpark and walked along the coastal path in the general direction of Torryburn until we came to what on Google Maps on the phone looked like a path, but in reality was a pair of overgrown tractor ruts. We headed back and found another path that, according to Google again, would take us back to the main coastal path. It did, and was much more interesting from a photographic point of view. We sat for a while and watched the world and a few boats go by then walked back to the town, but called in at the Red Lion pub for lunch on the way. Lunch was a shared Chicken Salsa Wrap with Chips and a Salad and two cups of coffee. Oh, it was hot, and so was the weather. In Scotland we moan about the weather. If it’s cold we moan. If it’s hot we moan. If it’s windy we moan. If it’s not we moan. Never satisfied, that’s us. I got a few shots of the new pier and then we went home

Salsa tonight was interesting, fast and painful for me. My shoulder complained from start to finish, but we’re home now and I’m sitting upstairs in the front bedroom avoiding the Three Sisters below. There’s a mountain range up north called the Five Sisters of Kintail. This is the Three Sisters of Cumbernauld.

More journeyings tomorrow if the weather is good. If not, I may go a-hunting the Bramble! It’s that time of year.

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Did you remember to bring the coconuts? – 24 August 2016

24 aug b2Last night we made plans to go down to Ayr, or Troon, or Largs, or Millport today. Definitely somewhere west or south west, because that’s where the best weather was to be. Today we went east, well, east (ish). Sort of north east. Not west.

We made sandwiches (pieces) and filled a flask and we left. We headed in the morning sunshine in the general direction of Stirling and thence to Callander which we hoped would be free from blue-rinsed drivers on this, our midweek journey. They usually only come out in their hordes on Sundays. Despite being in a long line of traffic behind an articulated lorry we had a fairly pleasant run through Callander and on to Lubnaig. It was Scamp’s idea to stop at the loch for a coffee. I wasn’t too sure about it to start with, but when I saw the reflections on the loch, I just knew I wanted to stop. When we stopped, we discovered that a Rabbies minibus had just arrived and there were tourists everywhere. We’re not tourists, we’re Scottish.

After coffee and fifty odd photos, we headed further up the loch and across on to the Loch Earn road. I’d half intended to drive to the end of the Loch Earn road and then drive back down the other side of the loch. I also wanted to find out where the ‘reflective man’ was. It’s a statue of a man covered in mirror tiles and it stands in the water. I knew it was on the north side of the loch, just off the road. I found it, but there were too many tourists near it. I’m not a tourist, I’m a photographer. I didn’t stop. I didn’t take the south road either, I just drove on. And on and on and on.

We passed through twee little Comrie but didn’t want to go all the way to Perth, so we turned right and pointed the car at the Braco road. We climbed up one side of a hill, across the top and down the other side, and eventually we found Braco. Braco has a main street and a shop called, conveniently, the Braco Shop. From there a signpost pointed to Stirling and we followed it and put Braco and the Braco Shop behind us. Instead of continuing to Stirling, we diverted to Doune to eat our ‘pieces’ and drink our coffee in Doune Castle, and that’s what we did.

Doune Castle is where bits of “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was filmed. One of the great scenes in the film is where the knights pretend to ride horses while their pages click coconut shells together to simulate the sound of the horses hooves. Part of that scene was filmed around the castle. A few years ago when we were at Doune Castle an American boy pulled a couple of coconut shell halves from his bag and proceeded to clip-clop around the internal square of the castle while his mother filmed him. Like I say, he was American. When we were sitting in that same internal square today, Scamp asked me “Did you remember to bring the coconuts?” Had you worked out the cryptic clue Hazy?

While we were there, I got a sketch done of the castle tower. It’s only when you sit and study these old castles, you realise how different they are from todays buildings All the windows are different sizes and shapes, as are the doors. You can see where bits have been added, bits removed holes have been cut in the walls, only to find that they are in the wrong place, so the holes are bricked up and covered over. Just like Cumbersheugh Town Centre in fact. History repeats itself. However, the castle was much more fun to sketch than CTC.

When we got home, Scamp suggested we walk to the local pub for fish and chips and a pint. I thought it was a wonderful idea. A great end to a great day.

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Sitting in the Sun and Begbie Returns – 29 May 2016

29 MaySunshine again!  Today we went to Loch Lubnaig, just north of the ‘Geriatrics’ Sunday Favourite’ Callander.  We were late leaving and I just knew we were going to run into queues along the route.  First bottle neck would be Dobbies garden centre just outside Stirling – It wasn’t too bad for a change.  Next on the list would be Blair Drummond Safari Park.  It was just as bad as I expected.  All these families eager to see the wild animals.  The queue was quite long, but as I drove past I glanced right and that was where the queueing really started and went on as far as the eye could see.  Maybe it’s the passengers in the cars that would be wilder than the animals by the time they got parked.  I wished them luck.  Strangely, the rest of the journey was uneventful, even Chronic Callander and we got parked at the new lochside parking at Lubnaig without any trouble.  An hour later, things were a bit more frantic in the carpark with cars abandoned everywhere.  People just seemed to park wherever there was a space long enough and wide enough for their car, with no thought of how other drivers were going to negotiate their exit.  They were in their space and that’s all that mattered.  Dobbers!

Lunch was a roll ‘n’ sausage for me and a roll ‘n’ egg for Scamp.  That was the last of the rolls and the last of the eggs.  We got ours and that’s all that mattered!  Loads of people there.  Must have been well over 100.  That’s what happens when you build a carpark at a scenic spot, provide facilities and catering.  If you build it right, people will come.  Think on this NLC.  After a couple of hours sitting in the sun, we decided to head home.  Scamp to do some gardening, me to cycle.  However, a pair of numpties were parked right behind us and didn’t look like moving.  No problem.  I put on my Begbie voice and they shifted sharpish.  Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished ‘The Blade Artist’ which is the story of how Begbie, the psycho from Trainspotting’s life has panned out.  Anyway, homeward through the legions of Grey Hairs out for ice cream and chips in Callander.

Got a few photos of a little red damselfly while out on my bike and Scamp got her pansies planted.

Swallows are flying lower today which means the weather may not be as good tomorrow.

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Snow Ride – 28 April 2016

combo bToday after a dodgy night with an upset stomach I was feeling a lot better.  The upset was mainly due to too many Terry’s chocolate orange slices, but I don’t think the couple of mouthfuls of sour beer helped.  Anyway, I made a decent attempt at finishing off the breakfast that was set down to me.  It had snowed during the night and the hills across the loch from the hotel looked as if they had been dusted with icing sugar.  Outside the window as we finished breakfast, it was obvious that the icing sugar was an illusion because big fat flakes of snow were falling on the garden.  Nothing else for it but to get going, and that’s what we did.  Packed the car and headed out past the big garage behind the hotel that held, not a car, but a large model railway layout.  We saw it yesterday and I had hoped to have a word with the designer as he tended to it, but today the door was firmly shut.  Good idea, because I don’t think snow and model railways mix very well.

We drove over the bridge, turned left at the roundabout and then under the same bridge, hoping for some photos of Castle Stalker and maybe Oban.  It wasn’t going to happen.  The snow just kept coming and on a twisty coast side I didn’t get much of a chance to watch the scenery.  Castle Stalker came and went without a photo being taken.  In fact, without us stopping.  The sea was choppy and with the driving snow the view wasn’t what I was looking for.  Maybe another day, a warm day with a nice sunset behind the castle, or at least, no snow.

When we got to Oban we had to navigate its maze-like one way system.  When we eventually got the hang of it, we couldn’t find a place to park which was within walking distance of the main street.  By this time the snow had turned to sleet, so we both agreed to come back another day.  A warm day waiting for the sunset behind the castle and definitely no snow – or sleet.  Am I expecting too much?

Off on the road to Crianlarich which was a logistical nightmare finding the correct route through that one way system again, but we managed it.  Sleet had turned back to snow and it was getting heavier.  I remembered bits of the road through the Pass of Brander and I remember my dad telling me that birds didn’t fly over it because of the number of hawks that nested there.  I was watching the windscreen wipers and noticed that they didn’t have that much work to do as the streamlining of the car eased the snowflakes over the windscreen rather than splatting them on to it.  I even turned the wipers off and it made very little difference.  I think the fact that the snow flakes were light and fluffy meant that they floated better and this helped the effect.  Still it’s an impressive demonstration of the streamlining of modern cars.

Met the main road at Tyndrum and drove down past Crianlarich and stopped for a while just to get a rest from driving.  From there it was a fairly easy run to Lubnaig as the snow was lessening.  Stopped at the parking place at Lubnaig and had coffee and a jam scone each.  That’s where today’s photos came from.

Stopped at Dobbies in Stirling for Scamp to get some pansies to decorate her pots in the garden and that was the end of the run south.  There were blue skies over Cumbernauld when we arrived home, but soon after hail battered down and then the snow started.  Hoping for a better day tomorrow.

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Up North – 27 April 2016

combo bAfter a lazy morning (well, yesterday was a bit frantic, so we are due a lazy morning) we headed off just after midday bound for Ballachulish in Lochaber.

I just had to stop on Rannoch Moor to get one last time lapse. Yes, I know it’s old hat now, but just one more wouldn’t hurt. After 15 minutes I had my 10 seconds of video and 100 frames of high quality RAW files I’ll never use again. Such a waste and such a hammering the camera shutter takes making those 10 seconds of video. The good thing about travelling with two cameras is the ability to wander around taking shots while you’re waiting for the 100 shots to be taken. Saw a wee lizard on the moor. Didn’t realise you got them this far north. Maybe it was on its holidays.

Continued up to Ballachulish and booked in. As it was the end of an Itison deal, the hotel was full, but Scamp had pre-booked and also upgraded to a loch-view room with, as it turned out, a jacuzzi bath! Unfortunately neither of us could be bothered to try it out.

Went for a walk to Bishop’s Bay, a place we’d been the last time we were here, back in October 2015. The scenery and views were just as spectacular as last time. Time for dinner when we got back. Food was good, but our supercilious waiter needs to work a bit on his people skills. Scamp ordered scallops and he assumed she was ordering for both of us! What? Does his mummy order for him when he goes out to a restaurant. I had a burger which was fine and Scamp had a seabass fillet, but I’ve seen bigger sardines. She decided to have pudding and ordered sticky toffee pudding with ice cream. I ordered gin and tonic pannacotta and after leaving, he returned to ask if I wanted ice cream or cream with it. I was a bit bemused as you don’t usually have anything with pannacotta, but settled for the cream. I needn’t have bothered. It came as it was without an accompaniment and also without any semblance of G or T in its flavour.

I’d just remembered that the hotel had a lovely microbrewery IPA and we went through to the bar after our meal to see if it was still available. There was the pump with the River IPA. Unfortunately, there also was Mr Personality, the original dumb waiter.  Scamp had a G&T and I asked for an IPA. The scoosh from the tap signalled that the cask needed changing. “It’ll only take a minute” he said. He was right. It only took him a minute to come back and say “mvbemdm fnsn dm” or something like that. He certainly speaks fluent Mumble. It translates as “I don’t know how to change the cask”.  I asked for a pint of the River Blonde beer instead. I’m still not sure if he used a clean glass or the dirty one from the aborted IPA, but the beer was boggin’. I had two mouthfuls and left it on the table. The last time we were here there certainly was Service With A Smile. This time was different. Maybe we were just unlucky or maybe this is a turn in fortune for the Loch Leven Hotel. Only time will tell.

Hoping to head south via Oban tomorrow. Also hoping for decent weather, much like today’s.