Safe to go back in the water – 18 September 2018

Scamp decided it was time we went swimming again and I agreed.

I’ve always thought it was a good idea to go to the gym at least once a week, in principle at least. The actual practice of getting up of my backside and going to the gym or the pool is a different thing entirely. Today we would attempt that ‘different thing’.

Given my fragile state this week, it was decided that Scamp would drive and we’d just go to the pool, not the gym. For once the pool wasn’t clogged with ladies of a certain age standing around in groups talking, or lazing in the jacuzzi when it was on its cleaning cycle. I walked in to the pool wondering if there was a shark alert I hadn’t seen because it was totally empty of people. There was water in the pool, of course and the water was fairly cool. So much more refreshing than the over warm temperatures much earlier in the year when we were last there. After two or three lengths of the tiny pool, I went to soak up some heat in the steam room. That’s when I realised that there was no door on the sauna. Listening to conversations in the steam room, it appeared that the sauna hasn’t had a door for three weeks. Something to do with it needing special hinges, apparently. Special in that they need to hold the weight of the door and allow it to swing open and closed. Perhaps they need to be hand made by a special hinge craftsperson somewhere in the European Union and Brexit is making it difficult to decide on the exact hinge design to facilitate the exit from the sauna. Perhaps they just can’t be bothered. It’s difficult to phone for a joiner when you’re sitting on your hands. The staff seem to be very good at hand sitting at Westerwood.

Well, that was the first of the winter visits for us and it was fairly successful. I’m not a great fan of the sauna, but three weeks is a long time to get a door fixed. Back home after lunch I went for a walk around St Mo’s intending to get some shots of the variety of fungi that have recently appeared. However, I forgot to bring my Gorilla Pod with me and I’d also left my phone at home, so that restricted the shots I could take. Not an excuse, just a statement. I did get a grab shot of the park bench dedicated to Rose and Spencer Tracy. Not The Spencer Tracy surely?

Came home and made that vegan Aloo Saag again. Used the Magimix this time to blitz the spinach. I didn’t think it did quite as good a job as the liquidiser, but it was much, much quicker. Just a note to self, not really for general consumption. The aloo saag was however consumed with gusto!

That was about it for the day. Just thinking about battening down the hatches before Storm Ali comes charging in tomorrow morning. Glad I’m not going to work.

With my increasing fitness, thanks in part to the swim and the heat in the steam room this morning, I think we’ll be going to Blackfriars for dancin’ tomorrow. Dancin’ at night too perhaps.

On the Rock – 28 June 2018

Today we were at Gibraltar. That little corner of a foreign land that is forever England. Not Britain, England.

Today was a short stop. We arrived at 8am and after being told for the umpteenth time not to carry anything on board “for the benefit of a stranger” (why use one word when ten would do?) we were ok to go looking for cheap booze and fags. There’s not a lot more to Gibraltar than that.

  • Well, there’s the rock, but once you’ve gone up on it and admired the view, you come back down.
  • There’s the apes, but manky beasts they are and best kept at someone else’s arms length, preferably a stranger’s.
  • There’s the hundreds of electronic and photography shops selling five year old models, slightly cheaper than Amazon and without any warranty.

Other than that, there used to be the Almeda Gardens, but the last time we went there the gardens were in a sorry state and looking the worse for wear. It used to be good fun for me watching the coming and going of the airies at the airport, especially the scary Tornados, but they’re all gone now and it’s just the occasional commercial flight that lands or takes off, so no fun today.

We got off fairly early and walked up the Main Street populated with well known UK high street shops, the aforementioned cheapo photography and computer shops and the rest are tax-free jewellery or tourist places. Scamp got a new piece for her Pandora bracelet in the shape of a dragonfly. How neat is that. She was quite taken by it and so, I must admit was I. That doesn’t mean I’m thinking about getting a Pandora bracelet any time soon.

Stopped at a street side cafe for a slice of apple pie and a coffee. I won’t tell you how much they cost, but it was extortionate. Very nice apple pie though. We bought two cards and posted them and then went back to the ship.

We went for a swim in the inside/outside pool to avoid the Great British Sailaway. One man a few nights ago was trying to get the other people at the table excited about it, telling us that “… then the bunting comes out and we have a right good singsong.” Sorry mate, allergic to bunting and don’t do singsongs. Some of these english are so easy pleased. Give them a flag and some songs their granny sang and they’re happy as a sandboy, whatever a sandboy is.

Dinner tonight was with two of the most boring couples we’ve been with. They seemed frightened to speak to us because we were obviously not english. They droned on all meal about weather, sailing and driving. Driving us away.

Highlights of the day were the flowers in the garden of the court house and the cheap booze and fags.

Alghero – 26 June 2018

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Today we were in Sardinia.  We’d been there before, but not to this port.  That meant we didn’t have to go looking for a pizza shop or an art shop we’d been to on previous years!

Spent the morning in the pool again and then decided it was time to go ashore.  Today we had to get a Tender ashore.  As usual with P&O, the organization of the disembarkation was really well done.  Issued with tickets and told to wait in one of the restaurants until our number was called.  It was only about twenty minutes of a wait before we were called, then it was all aboard the Skylark for the short trip to the harbour. 

Alghero was a lovely little place.  One of those places you take an immediate liking to.  Old houses and a few Roman ruins.  Twisty, winding streets with lots of trees and little parks.  Nothing new or brash.  Not a lot of shops and the ones that were there were small jewellery shops or touristy ones.  No big stores, not even a supermarket.  Loads of cafes too.  We stopped and had lunch in one.  I had a pizza and Scamp demolished Spaghetti with Scampi (prawns) and Tomatoes.  Both were voted very good.  The only down side was the number of flies.  Earlier we saw a fountain that would scoot water up at random intervals in the street.  We stood for a while watching kids running round and through it, almost willing the water to start an soak them, but eventually they got fed up waiting and ran away … dry.  There were really large (3m long) posters on the walls of buildings showing old people around the town.  I was really impressed with the quality of them.  They seemed to be part of an exhibition.  We didn’t linger long after our lunch and soon got the tender back to the ship.

Dinner was at a table with a strange assortment of people.  A family where the father was really obnoxious and sarcastic to his wife who hardly spoke and a daughter who seemed quite ‘normal’ by comparison.  The other person at the table ‘Barbara’ was playing the ‘little old lady’ card.  She pretended that she was a little bit lost, but managed to wangle a full bottle of wine from the wine waiter by claiming she had handed over her wine card. (When you buy a bottle of wine and don’t drink it all, you can reserve the remainder for the next day and are given a card with a number on it.  That same number is written on to the bottle label.)  I’d seen her take out the card and then slide it into a side pocket of her purse.  After that she berated the wine waiter and told him she had definitely given him her card.  The daughter of the family of the family had seen the subterfuge too, but Barbara got a full bottle to replace her half empty one they couldn’t find without the matching number.  Must try that trick some time.

Not a lot going on after dinner, so a couple of drinks and then it was time for bed, and a sea day tomorrow.

Civitavecchia – 25 June 2018

P1050163- blogDespite all our plans and research, we decided not to go to Rome today.  Instead we’d go round Civitavecchia again.

This was definitely a bus into town day.  It’s a long walk to the town from where the ship was berthed.

As usual there was an enormous queue when we first looked, but we weren’t in a hurry.  Went for a swim in the inside/outside pool.  Finally decided to go about 11.30.  Queue by that time was minimal and we got on the bus which was just arriving.  My main task today was to get some watercolour paint.  Burnt Umber if you must know.  I had a bit left in the pan in the paintbox, but a tube bought in a holiday place always brings reminders of it on dark winter days. I remembered chancing upon a stationers shop that sold art materials the last time we were in the town and I was sure I could find it again. I did eventually find the shop, but they didn’t have any watercolour paint.  Acrylic and Oils, even some pastels and marker pens, but no watercolour.  Well, at least the shop was still there, almost where I remembered it to be.

Scamp was looking for a pizza restaurant where she remembered us having a pizza and using their WiFi the last time we were here.  Despite looking in all the places it remained elusive.  We had a beer each in a little street cafe instead and that was good enough for me.  The place hadn’t changed much, but we did find a street we hadn’t been on before and while we investigated it, I noticed the clouds were drifting in.  Scamp said she thought she’d hear a clap of distant thunder too.  Not good.  As we walked down the street, I came across an artist’s shop!  It stocked W&N paints too, but it was closed, probably for lunch.  It didn’t matter, those clouds were definitely getting blacker and closer and the thunder was coming closer too.   It was time to go back on the ship.  If I got a chance I’d come back and get the paint.  If not, then maybe tomorrow.

Just got the bus back to the ship and were inside when the rain came on, and it stayed on all afternoon.  Spent the rest of the day in the inside/outside pool swimming and soaking in the hot tubs.  I didn’t get back in to town for that paint, although the rain disappeared just before we left the port.

Dinner was in the sit down restaurant.  We had two young(ish) boys at our table.  About 18/19 years old.  Scamp and I reckoned they ‘were an item’.  It certainly seemed like it, but they were good company and didn’t seem at all fazed by talking to all these ‘oldies.’

A glass of beer and a G&T sent us off to bed.

Tomorrow it’s Alghero in Sardinia.

Memories of Civitavecchia were the thunderstorm and the new bus parking area next to the castle and the water feature that’s under construction there.  Impressive.  We didn’t even have time for a walk along the prom!

Napoleon City–23 June 2018

P1050080- blogToday we were in Ajacio, in Corsica.

Corsica is a little bit of France stuck in the middle of the Mediterranean, next to Italy.  It’s where Napoleon was born.  There are statues of him round every corner.  We wandered through a market and then went to a Spar shop to get tonic for the G&Ts.  I was also running low on coffee for the Oomph so I bought some Mexican coffee there.  Next to the Spar was a wee bakers.  We stopped there to share an apricot tart with our coffees which Scamp said were too strong.  She always says the coffee is too strong.  Walked through the town half looking for a restaurant we’d been in two years ago.  We didn’t find it.  Finally went back to the ship and got stopped twice at security.  Not the coffee, me.  I get fed up with all these security checks.

Went for a swim in the indoor pool which had its ceiling retracted so it was an outdoor, indoor pool today.

Dinner was in the sit down restaurant. It was also a ‘dress the dolly dinner’ (a black tie dinner.) You’ve seen ostriches?  You know how their eyes are large and sort of stuck on the sides of their head?  And they have long eyelashes?  The woman sitting next to me must have ostrich genes in her DNA (that’s probably the wrong scientific description JIC.) She really looked like an ostrich. Even worse, the bloke sitting opposite her told her she had the most beautiful eyes of anyone he’d seen on the ship.  Maybe he was an ostrich too.  I think he’ll also be a dead ostrich now after his wife deals with him.

Show tonight was about musicals, but modern ones.  The only bad one was That Bloody Lion King which I detest.  Other than that, it was great.  Headliners are a really good show company.

Tomorrow it’s Naples.  Land of the Pizza.

Posh frock, Posh togs for posh dinner – 21 June 2018

P1040992- blogToday we had posh dinner booked in Epicurean.

Art class in the morning, and as we were at sea today, we were painting a rose.  The view from the room on deck 18 showed only sea and sun.  Unfortunately the sun disappeared about an hour after we started.  It might have disappeared before that, but I was concentrating so much on the rose and the teacher’s method of painting the petals, I didn’t notice anything around me.  The class swot’s voice droned on, but I managed to tune it out.  That’s a skill Scamp has that I covet!  The method for the red rose was, working petal by petal:

  1. Paint on a strong wash of Cadmium Red.

  2. Using a damp brush, remove any highlights while the red wash is still wet.

  3. Allow the wash to dry slightly then add the shadow areas using Alizarin Crimson.

  4. Continue using this method until all the petals are done.

  5. With a damp brush blend the shadows were necessary.

  6. Mix a dark using Alizarin Crimson and Intense Blue and paint in the small areas of deep shadow.

With the rose successfully painted I had just enough time to catch the end of Scamp’s line dance and got a short video of it for reference later.  HER reference, not mine, I hasten to add.

After lunch we swam in the covered pool, because the sun wasn’t quite getting through the cloud cover.  Lounged in the jacuzzi for a while too and my leg felt better.  By the time we were finished, the sun was back in control.

We had booked a dinner in Epicurean and it was just as good as the last time, two years ago.  We both had Lobster Thermidore as a main after Scamp’s starter of Trio of Tomatoes and mine of Two Types of Smoked Salmon.  Pudding for Scamp was a White Chocolate Sphere with Popcorn served with Creme Brulee.  I had Banana and Peanut Canneloni.  Coffee and truffles to finish.  Amuse Bouche at the start and end Start was Mexican Surprise which was baby tomato on a bed of white guacamole.  At the end it was a delicious deconstructed G&T.  Everything was photographed, of course.  That was menu 2.  We immediately booked for next week to get a taste of menu 1.  We also went straight to Sindu to book a night there too.  Food?  It’s what we do!

Watched the sun go down over the sea!

The gas man cometh and great winds did blow – 24 April 2018

The gas man came early which gave us the impetus to get up.

The gas man phoned just after 8.30 to say he’d be with us in about 20 mins. So that was it, put the book down, get dressed and get the front door open. Shower later. This is the earliest we’d been up since November! That in itself is scandalous. The central heating check didn’t take too long and for once there wasn’t a heavy push to replace the boiler. It was more a case of “If it’s not broke, don’t buy a new one … yet”.

With the rest of the day to play with we sat down with a cup of coffee. Scamp sat to read, I sat to do today’s Sudoku. After that and a quick run to Tesco to get tonight’s dinner, Scamp decided she’d go for a swim. I wanted to paint another masterpiece. She had her swim and I made a mess. Used black lacquer instead of black acrylic and then sprayed water on it to completely botch it up. Not to worry, it was just a small abstract. It was certainly abstract now. It may dry and it may not. I don’t really mind which. After that and after trying to clean the brushes with Hammerite thinners which will usually clean anything I was left with three claggy, oily feeling brushes. Tried heavy duty detergent on them and that didn’t work. I now have them steeping in warm water and will try using white spirit on them tomorrow. They weren’t expensive brushes, it’s just the challenge that’s keeping me going at it.

With the aborted abstract congealing on a board, I set about a landscape painting of the hills from the back window. Almost successful. Such a damning statement! Then Scamp arrived home just as the sun was coming out for the hundredth time today and she wanted to cut the front grass. Afterwards she was delighted with the speed at which she could blow the grass cuttings across the path into the trees. What would have taken about 15 minutes of heavy brush work was achieved by the Christmas Big Box Toy in about 20 seconds. Honestly, that was all it took. I think she was a bit disappointed because she wanted to play with it for a little longer. She’s had to wait four months to get to play with it and it was all over in half a minute.

The sun came out just before dinner and illuminated the garden. I quickly grabbed the Nikon and took a few macro shots of flower buds, mainly the Pieris which should by rights be a mass of red and orange foliage by now. Unfortunately it’s just the buds that are red at present, but it will be much more colourful by next week. One of the shots became PoD.

After dinner, it was my turn to do the dishes, but there was no hot water. Checked the boiler and sure enough the flame light was out. Pressed the reset button, but the power light was resolutely off. Unplugged it and re plugged it, but still no joy. Phoned Scottish Gas and the call centre girl told me she’d booked an engineer, the same one who had broken a working boiler this morning. He’d call between 12 and 6 tomorrow. I told her that was poor service, but I realised as I was saying it that she was just the messenger who didn’t want shot. She said I should visit the Scottish Gas website to see what freebies and great offers were available. I declined. She signed off by telling me to “have a great night”!!

Tomorrow? Waiting for the gas man I suspect.

The Fit Family – 27 March 2018

Today was gym day.

I avoided it yesterday by going cycling instead, but today I had to bite the bullet and go, because Scamp too had decided it was time to revisit the machines of torture. That said, we did take it easy in the morning and had our coffee before we grabbed the bags and went out in the rain.

It was harder than I anticipated. I did my 12 minutes on the recumbent cycle and then frittered away some more time on some of the weight machines and the treadmill before finishing up on the leg press. Scamp worked the treadmill for 15 minutes or so then competed for a place in next year’s Boat Race with a sparkling performance on the rowing machine. Next it was time for a relaxing swim and it may have been something we said or maybe the excessive sweat from my exertions was overpowering, but everyone left the pool when we went in. A few lengths of the minuscule pool and ten minutes in the sauna and we were out. That’s it for another week. Scamp thinks we might go earlier next time. She mentioned 8am, but I think (hope) that was a joke. If not, it was wishful thinking.

In the afternoon I went for a walk around St Mo’s to see if there was anything wanting its photo taken. Couldn’t see much at first, but then I spotted the little green shoots of sycamore seedlings sprouting through the leaf litter (PoD). Don’t know if many of them will survive, but it was a hopeful start seeing all the green shoots. One final shot of what may become a Larch flower (https://flic.kr/p/RZNASn). They look really remarkable when they burst into colour. Never knew pine trees had such beautiful blooms. It’s amazing what you see when you take the time. Just because there were no deer or foxes in the woods doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. You just have to look a little more carefully. It’s even better if you have a macro facility or lens for your camera. Once you’ve seen the world from 20mm in front of your nose, you’ll understand the fascination of this kind of photography.

It had been dry for most of the afternoon, but the rain came on when I was walking home, but it wasn’t such a dull day after all.

Tomorrow is Dancing Day with the possibility of a slightly different plan. Who knows?

Just another day in paradise – 08 March 2018

P1040411_2_2It’s Thursday today and that can only mean one thing.  Thursday Prezzies.  Scamp had chosen her prezzy and in late morning we walked to the shops.

That was after we lazed for an hour in the shade beside the pool.  I got fed up lazing and went to get some photos in the garden.  Saw a dragonfly, but it was doing circuits again and didn’t stop.  Sometimes it slowed down to tease the fish in the stream and let them try to catch it, but it was far too fast for them.  That’s where the PoD came from.  It’s a flowering and fruiting cactus complete with Spanish greenbottles.  Like bluebottles,  only green.  Still tired of lazing, I did some sketches of the folk lying on their sunbeds.

With one in the bag, we decanted ourselves from the sunbeds and walked down the road past the Sheraton to the first row of shops.  Had lunch (burger for me, tuna club sandwich for Scamp.)  The beers we had quenched our thirst.  Got the prezzies then walked back along the ‘new’ walkway. 

I had intended going for a walk to get some more photos and Scamp was going for a swim, but then there was a power outage.  We didn’t fancy going down five flights of stairs, or worse, having to climb back up them again if the lifts weren’t back in business, so we waited on the balcony and had another G ‘n’ T.  By the time the power returned it was too late to go for a walk, so we went for a swim instead.  I tried out the ‘adult pool’ and it was COLD!  Freezin’!  However, I was in and I was going to do a circuit of the little island with the jacuzzi in it.  All the while I had the thought of that warm bubbly water, that WARM bubbly water.  Finally completed the circuit and did get a chance to warm up in the jacuzzi.  Scamp joined me although, theoretically she hadn’t earned the treat, her not having swum in the freezing pool avoiding the ice floes.

Walked straight across to the middle pool and it was heated!  Hadn’t really noticed it before, but after the cold pool, this one felt warm.  Swam there for a while before returning to the sunbeds to soak up some rays.  Scamp went to swim in the middle pool.

Came back, fought with Lightroom for a while then went for dinner.  After that, went and grabbed a good seat for Tina the saxophone playing singer who would play some salsa, we hoped.  She did.  We twirled and twisted with the best of them.  Not as clean a demo as last time, but we have the G ‘n’ Ts and the Rum ‘n’ Cokes to blame for that. 

Exhausted now, I’m sitting on the balcony with the waves crashing on the shore wondering what we’ll do tomorrow.  Maybe a trip to Caleta?  Maybe hire a bike and go for a run?  Maybe go and have lunch on the island?  Maybe some, but probably not all of the above.

No room in the Pool – 26 February 2018

I’ll go to the gym he said and he did, well, almost.

It’s a Monday and Mondays have to be planned properly for them to work properly. This morning I was going to do my drawing / painting for 28 Drawings Later. That would leave me time in the afternoon, when Gems are here, to go to the gym as I’d said I’d do. The painting took a little longer than anticipated and it wasn’t until the second version of it was drying that I took its picture and then proceeded to completely annihilate it. However I’ve learned from my mistakes and I did remember to take a photo of it first. This is it:

The Hills

It was an attempt at colour mixing using Carol Marine’s ideas from her book ‘Daily Painting’. As an instruction on colour mixing it was good, but the landscape did have that unfinished look about it. By the time it was finished, Gems had arrived and it was time for me to make a move.

Checked the bag first and there were a pair of trunks and also a pair of trainers in it. Got to the changing room and found that the only thing missing was a tee shirt. So, it was to be a swim rather than a gym workout today. No problem. Then I saw that the pool was full. I mean FULL. It’s a small pool and with six people in it, it’s a bit cramped. There were TEN folk in the pool. I think only six of them were actually swimming, the other four were being moving traffic islands just to give the swimmers something to navigate round. Worse than that, the jacuzzi was covered up, obviously under maintenance. So was the ice machine, although, what you need an ice machine for in Scotland in February, I don’t know. Finally the loose tiles at one of the steps into the pool hadn’t been repaired and the elegant barrier of a half submerged metal framed office chair was still there in the same place it’s been for the last two weeks. I’m beginning to think it’s an art ‘installation’. I really thing its time for whoever now owns the leisure centre to throw some money at it to get it back being usable. Heavens, they must be making enough from the ‘spa’ community who seem to inhabit the pool every day. So, managed four lengths of the pool sandwiched between two sessions in the steam room, then came home, put on headphones and completed the annihilation of the painting while Gems sung their little hearts out below.

The ‘not got a name yet’ move tonight at Salsa was interesting although you had to be a contortionist to get the final section completed. I’m not sure it will survive to next week. There were a lot of confused looks and there was a lot of shaking of heads during the class.

Today’s PoD was taken out of the kitchen window and has little to recommend it, other than the pastel colours in the background and the minimal DOF (Depth of Field). Google it.

Tomorrow we are due the first flurries of snow. Nothing that desperately needs done and nowhere special we need to be, so we can just sit and watch the flakes fall.