Remember that buzz from last night? – 22 November 2018

Woke fairly early because we needed to get dressed, do the final pack of last night’s clothes, get fed and be out by 11am. Went in to the bathroom to boil the kettle for my coffee and Scamp’s ‘white tea’. That’s when I noticed ‘the bump’. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that someone had sneaked in during the night and injected a boiled egg into my left elbow! It was squidgy, but not sore and it was just starting to bruise. I think that bloody (literally ‘bloody’) mosquito must be lying around the room somewhere saying to itself “What the hell was I drinking last night?” Two pirotin tablets right away with the coffee. Made in the Aeropress by the way JIC because the Oomph has developed a crack.

After coffee the world looked better (it always does) but the lump was still there. Scamp had a few bites too, but none so dramatic looking as mine. We did toy with going to the in-house doctor, but the surgery didn’t open until after 10am and that was getting close to departure time. We’d decide after breakfast.

Breakfasts were designed to suit the German palette because the Riu is a German hotel. Frankfurter sausages, fried spam and boiled bacon. Such a strange diet, but fried spam is quite delicious. Not good for you, but delicious. I remember cooking it when we used to go to youth hostels, back in the early 70s. Frankfurter sausages? They’re not real sausages. Boiled bacon. Why boil when you can fry? Fried eggs were fine and the lovely dark rye bread was delicious. Loads of fruit, great for keeping you regular!!

After breakfast the bump was slightly smaller, so as I was feeling no ill effects, we decided to go ahead and book the taxi just after 11.30.

Taxi came within 5mins of being ordered and we were on our way. At the airport we couldn’t believe it, we were first in the queue. Straight through security for me, but Scamp had to be swabbed down for some reason (not given). Finally found a seat in the departure hall and then I noticed our flight was delayed. After an hour it transpired that the delay was only 15 mins. All the UK flights were delayed, apparently because of the poor weather in Lanzarote had meant a later departure for them. Yes, I could understand that, the clouds were down and it was raining hard, but why were all the other European flights not delayed? I blame Brexit.

Anyway, we took off in the rain after I’d got my last Lanzarote picture and PoD, and we were only about half an hour late getting to Glasgow where we had to wait the usual half an hour for the bags to arrive.

Home in another half an hour.

Another early rise – 15 November 2018

IMG_5304- blogThe alarm didn’t even get a chance to ring this morning.  I turned it off at 5.55am and got ready.  Today would be a long day.

Cases loaded into the boot of the Juke and we were off onto the M80 then the M8 and then parking in the multi at the airport.  All in about 20 mins.  Picked the slowest check-in queue as usual but switched to the quicker one before everyone else noticed what was happening.  Cases disposed off and through security without any trouble this time.  No scanner alert and no bags being shunted into the ‘drugs mule’ siding.  Could hardly believe it.  After the usual over priced breakfast at Frankie & Benny’s we went to the gate, boarded and departed on time.  It was after that things got a bit hairy.

It was the captain’s announcement that cabin crew should prepare for landing that started me worrying.  According to the stewardess we were still a hundred odd miles from Lanzarote and that’s about half an hour in air time.  Then when we started our final descent there was a lot of engine noise, as if the engines were labouring and instead of descending we began ascending then we’d descend again, all the while travelling through cloud without sight of land or sea.  Finally the plane started to climb fairly rapidly and when it broke through the cloud into blue sky again I assumed the captain had aborted the landing and was going for a second attempt.  Then the announcement came that the captain had indeed aborted the landing because the cloud was too low and that plus heavy rain made it difficult to see the landing lights of the runway.  He had made the decision to land at Fuerteventura which was clear of the low cloud instead. Five other planes had already tried and aborted a landing at Lanzarote and were now waiting at Fuerteventura for the weather to clear.  It had all been going so well too.

We landed at Fuerteventura amid great cheers and applause from the passengers and we waited.  Actually we didn’t have to wait all that long, only about half an hour or so and then we got a message to say that the cloud was clearing and we would be leaving for Lanzarote soon.  The captain even left the flight deck and came to tell us all face to face the reason for the failed landing and answered any questions.  Best question I heard was “What team do you support?”  His answer was “Well, what team do YOU support?”  The bloke said “Celtic!” The captain replied “Well, that’s strange, I support Celtic too!”  This got a great laugh and defused what could have been a difficult situation.

We took off on time and had a perfect landing with even more cheers and applause from the passengers.  Unfortunately the baggage handlers couldn’t quite keep up with at least seven planes landing one after another.  It took us over an hour to get our bags from the carousel, but we got a taxi right away and only lost a couple of hours of sunshine.  For some reason there were a host of protesters outside the hotel waving flags, banging drums and shouting out in Spanish.  The receptionist seemed a bit embarrassed by it all and mumbled something about banks.

Sat on the balcony and watched the sun go down.  Had dinner at the hotel and then a few drinks before we went to watch the Jukebox show which was hilarious.  Same entertainment team as two years ago, same jokes, but whether it was the all inclusive drink or the relief that the holiday had started, but I laughed all the way through this time.

G&Ts on the balcony before we went to bed, but neither of us slept well.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for sunshine and a swim in one of the pools.

I have seen the future and it works – 15 September 2018

Electricity travels at almost the speed of light. Diesel is hard to spell and is a fossil fuel.

Today we took the ‘leccy train to Embra. We didn’t intentionally go the ‘leccy route. It just happened that the train we were waiting for was powered by the new clean, invisible power source. The Stirling train that preceded it was powered by old fashioned, smelly, hard to spell deisildesil, diesel. That’s because they don’t have electricity in Stirling yet. They still have gas lights in the street and coal fires. I do feel sorry for them.

The super fast ‘leccy train took longer than the diesel trains they are replacing. Maybe it was cheap, slow electricity they were using or maybe it was Abellio who now run Scotrail who couldn’t manage the rail system properly. Surely not! Anyway, we got to Haymarket and walked up the road for morning coffee in Nero, but not before I set the Samyang loose in Ladyfield which is a great canyon between large imposing office blocks. That’s where PoD came from. I really like the perspective this lens gives. With one in the bag, I could enjoy my morning coffee.

After that we walked up through the Grassmarket to see if anyone was actually selling grass. They weren’t, but I wasn’t surprised because I hadn’t seen anyone selling hay at Haymarket. (Sounds better with a Chic Murray delivery.) From there we headed for the Royal Mile which was mobbed. I was beginning to think that there had been an extension to the Fringe Festival, but it was just the usual bunch of escapologists, jugglers and fire eaters performing for the tourists. We’re not tourists, we LIVE in Scotland. There did seem to be quite a lot of tourists about, but I later checked and the Norwegian Jade cruise ship was docked at Leith, so that probably explained things.

We walked back down through the Old Town and from there along George Street, then back along Rose Street, eventually giving up and heading for the tea room at the National Gallery where our lunch was a shared baguette of smoked salmon with leaves and mayo and a two cups of tea, paper cups, to Scamp’s disgust. After our light lunch we just got the train home. We’d had a bit of a wander around the Capital and were ready to return to the real world.

It was a dull day weatherwise with nothing much to recommend it. I took a few more photos to test out the ability of the Samyang, but am fairly confident that at f8 or better it can handle almost anything I can throw at it. It’s a keeper, for sure.

Got the ‘leccy train back home and it was fast! Impressively so. Shave a good 10 minutes off a 45 minute journey. The folk in Stirling don’t know what they’re missing. They thought it was a great thing last year when the diesel trains replaced the steam trains they’d had for years. Not to mention that the carriages had roofs, not like the open carriages they’d had before.

Tomorrow it’s the Cumbersheugh 10k, so if we’re not out by 10am we’re locked in until midday. I don’t suppose we’ll mind as the weather is to be ‘Scottish’. Hopefully dancing later.

Another Saturday among the Airies – 1 September 2018

Will we, won’t we go to see the airies? We will! WE WILL!!

The airies (I do wish my spell checker wouldn’t change ‘airies’ to ‘fairies’) were taking part in the Scottish International Air Show.  At Ayr, just to confuse things even more.  The reason for our indecision was the weather.  It was raining at home, hopefully it wouldn’t be raining at the coast. Since the trains would be busy and there was a reduced service due to an unsafe building next to Ayr train station, we decided to take the bus. It would be full of ‘pensioners’ using their bus pass, but as we fit into that demographic too, we can’t complain. Bus journey was fine and for once the connection between the X3 and the X77 worked perfectly. Followed the crowd down to the beach where the air show was to be staged. It’s the first time I’ve been to this show, but my favourite venue of Leuchars is no longer an air base and we were on holiday and missed the other Scottish Air Show at East Fortune. Hopefully this would be a good replacement. The fact that it was free had nothing to do with our decision!

Arrived at the show area on the Low Green, just above the beach to find that it hadn’t started. I thought at first that they were waiting for us to arrive, but apparently they were waiting for the weather to improve and the cloud ceiling to lift. The rain that had followed us all the way from Cumbersheugh to Ayr had halted, but the clouds were still hanging low and visibility, although improving, wasn’t great. However it gave me time to grab a photo of Scamp and her favourite helicopter, the Chinook, or ‘Double Twirly’ to give it its proper name.
After about fifteen minutes or so of hanging about, the announcement was made that the Typhoon was taxiing at Prestwick. Now that would be a sight to see as you waited for your Ryanair flight, a Eurofighter Typhoon taking off!

Unfortunately the Typhoon didn’t get to show what its 1:1 power to weight ratio could do, because of the low cloud base, but it was noisy and it was fast and it made my PoD when the pilot switched on the afterburner! It was an absolute bugger to photograph, slipping in and out of focus all the time.

I won’t bore you with a list of all the planes that we saw performing, but the stand out ones for me were the DC3 and three Beech 18s formation, the Catalina and the superbly noisy and fast F18. Such a scary beast. Photos of these and others are on Flickr.

Watched the immaculate Red Arrows go through their routine with inch perfect precision. In formation all the planes’ wings were aligned perfectly and the pilots’ spatial awareness must be super accurate. They closed the show and then the rush started to get to cars, trains and buses. We just managed to get on the X77, and I mean JUST. There were eight seats left on the bus and we were four and five in the queue.

Bus back to Condorrat and a Special Fish Supper each to end a Special day. It wasn’t perfect. The Battle of Britain aircraft didn’t make it because of poor weather and there were lengthy gaps in the programme, but all in all it was enjoyable. Best of all it was free.

Tomorrow? Dancing in the afternoon, that’s all that’s planned.

Going home, flying home – 26 August 2018

It was dry for a time this morning, but it didn’t last.

It rained, then it rained harder and harder. I’d have liked to have gone a walk this morning before we got on that big bird and flew north, but the rain prevented it. There’s a great walk round the golf course near Hazy and Neil’s that takes you through some lovely old hawthorn and beech trees. Apparently, if you’re really lucky you get to see some deer too, but not today. Too wet and if it’s been raining for some time, the trees just shake their leaves and you end up wetter than ever under them. We just stayed in and talked.

Hazy decided she’d join us on our trip to Gatwick which was good. I was amazed at the amount of surface water that had gathered on the roads when we were being driven to the airport. Water with white foam on top, whipped up by the cars’ tyres. I suppose it occurs mainly after a sustained dry spell. Anyway, I imagine it was quite unpleasant to drive through. Thankfully, that was Neil’s job today.

Arrived at the airport with plenty of time in hand and volunteered to put my wheely case in the hold for free and to free up some of the overhead locker space for those who were in a hurry, unlike us. Swiftly through security and into the waiting area. Had a vile cup of brown water and a lovely pizza from Jamie Oliver’s take-away, while Scamp and a latte and an ‘OK’ Portuguese custard tart from the same. I bought a painting magazine and we went through to the gate. Boarded quickly and efficiently, unlike the SqueezyJet like boarding procedure at Glasgow.

<Technospeak>
Reading my magazine, there were two articles dealing with the hues in blue paint. One claimed that Ultramarine Blue is warmer in hue than Cerulean and the following article completely refuted that! This from what is meant to be a fairly authoritarian magazine. Any blue which tends towards red must be a warm hue. Not my opinion this time, it’s basic colour theory. Absolute crap. Stiffly worded complaint ready to be emailed to the editor forthwith.
</Technospeak>

Waited our usual half hour at Glasgow for the bags to arrive, but at least that was better than the fifty minutes the message board was predicting.
The flight distance from London to Glasgow is approximately 345miles and takes about an hour.
The distance from the plane to the carousel is approximately 0.5miles and it takes about fifty minutes.
Bus in to Glasgow and then the X3 out to Cumbersheugh. I won’t go into the comparative distances and times, I’m sure you know my thoughts on that by now.

Watched an amazingly expensive (in terms of damage to cars) first five minutes of the Belgian GP. Thankfully everyone walked away unhurt. Then it just slid into the usual boring parade of cars. <Yawn>

PoD was the view of the rain streaking across the aircraft window as we left a wet London for a wet Glasgow!

I think it may still be raining, but it’s going to be drier tomorrow, so they say. We’ll see.

The long way home – 1 July 2018

Ten hours of it.

The driver was a diddy. We sat for an hour past the time we should have left while he waited for someone who was already on the coach. If he’d been doing his job properly he would have counted the legs and divided by two to find that all the bodies were there. He didn’t. He should have shouted down the coach “Is there a Mrs McDonald here” to which he would have hear a reply “Yes”. He didn’t. He strutted about looking important carrying a piece of paper. “If you want to look important, carry a piece of paper with you”, I was told that years ago by a man I worked beside who carried a piece of paper with him all the time. It got worse. Once we were on the road he had to tell us over the tannoy how he was going to get us there quicker by reciting the route he was going to take. We were going home after fourteen days at sea. We didn’t care how he was going to get us there. Then came the lectures about drivers and what they were doing wrong and how he would correct their mistakes. He was a total Pain In The Arse. Thankfully he got off just after Bolton. There was applause when he left the coach. I think it was a cheer because the next bloke had to be quieter. He was. He just drove and got us back half an hour early.

Taxi from the bus station to Cumbersheugh and a cup of tea when we got home. Finally we could relax, but not before Scamp had gone out to see the damage the heatwave had done to her plants. Not a lot as it turned out, and best of all, her sweet peas were blooming.

Today’s PoD is the ugliest boat I’ve seen in a long time. I thought this was the back of the boat until I saw the anchors and realised it was the front!

Tomorrow we empty cases and put them up into the loft until next time.

Napoli – 24 June 2018

P1050113- blogNaples today.  28c predicted and achieved.

Yes, it was Naples today, but we weren’t in a rush.  We chose to spend most of the morning in and around the pool.  It was quietly relaxing with all the maddies off on tours round Sorrento, Capri, Pompeii and Vesuvius.  Us, we were going looking for a pizza shop.  In Naples.  It has a few pizza shops!

We never did find that pizza shop, although I was sure I knew exactly where it was … a few times.  I knew it was on a side street to the main road that was up a hill.  Scamp knew it was to the right when you left the ship.  It turned out both of us were wrong.  We wandered round some of the seediest parts of Naples and that’s where I got today’s PoD.  Some really dodgy areas near the docks.  A bit like Carbrain.  Ok to walk through in daytime, not worth risking at night.  I’d hate to have a new car in Naples.  Every one we saw today had bashes and scrapes.  Some were missing windows, nearly all had broken lights or cracks in the windscreen.  It’s when you see the traffic and when you try to cross the street, you realise how they get into that state. 

We eventually gave up on our search for the ultimate pizza shop (that’s twice in two days!) and settled for a busy pizzeria near the port.  It was all going well until I tipped over my beer and soaked the table.  It was all sorted quickly.  Table was cleared and we were moved to another one.  A fresh pint was brought at no charge and we both had our pizzas.  Mine was a bit underdone, but it wasn’t until I started to eat it that I realised it had no sugo (tomato sauce).  Another silly mistake.  Had an extra glass of wine just to be sociable and paid about half the price we’d have paid at home, so left a good tip for the entertainment and good humour of the waiters.

Going through security today was much more laid back.  I triggered the alarm going through the scanner.  The Italian polis looked at me.  I said “Shit.  Forgot my watch.” he shrugged and said “OK.”  That’s how it should be done!

Back on the ship we both decided we’d have a light dinner at Smash & Grab, and that’s what we did.  Went to a really awful Tropical Party on the pool deck which consisted of drunk punters shouting a lot.  Not my idea of fun, nor Scamp’s.  Ended up going to the posh, quiet downstairs bar for a Long Island Iced Tea for Scamp and a Jolly Olly IPA for me. 

Early bed again and more of the same tomorrow in Civitavecchia, but without the beer waterfall, hopefully.

The Dark Side – 18 June 2018

IMG_4954-Edit-Edit- blogToday started early, very early, around 2am early.

Up and a glass of OJ as breakfast, then a last scout around switching power off here and there until the phone rang twice to announce the arrival of the taxi.  A quick drive to the bus station where the bus was waiting.  Then we were off proper.  First stop was services in the north of Engerland, near to where JIC and Sim would be out walking Vixen in a few hours time.  Probably for the first time in her life, and maybe the first in mine too, we had breakfast in Macdonald’s.  Who’d have thought it, the foodies in Micky D’s, but little did we know that more and worse indignity was to come.

Back on the coach and down even deeper south for a short stop to change drivers and a chance to stretch our legs, then it was a longer run and a longer stop at the end of it near Warwick this time we were forced to join the Dark Side.  The only option for coffee was That Whose Name Must Not be Spoken.  So it was burnt water for drinking.  Scamp wisely opted for peppermint tea.  I must admit though that their Spiced Beef on a Bagel was quite excellent and the spicing on the beef successfully masked the taste of the burnt water they advertised as coffee.  To prove that we did in fact visit TWNMNBM, I took a photo of Scamp sitting in front of their logo and it became PoD.  The driver we’d picked up just outside Manchester was a PITA who thought he was a comedian and a fount of all knowledge.  I think his name was Richard, because he sounded like a Dick.  However he got us to Southampton in double quick time and the usual efficient P&O embarkation procedure took over from there.  The cabin is small, but perfect for our needs.  Just before we left Southampton with no fanfare or even a notification from the bridge, it started raining, then the mist came down and we settled inside after taking some photos of Britannia and the Queen Mary 2 to unpack.

Dinner was in the “Sit down and be served” restaurant and was sooo much better than Thompson last year.  Later we went to the upstairs lounge on the top floor to listen to a pianist who was really just too far over the top to be comfortable.  Impressive playing, but the singing was dire.

Early bed for us after a long day.  Getting to bed at 10pm means we’ve been on our feet for almost 20 hours. 



Coming Down – 27 May 2018

“Coming down is the hardest thing”. That’s what the late Tom Petty said in “Learning to Fly”. It’s true and it’s even more true when you’re driving away from Skye and the sun is shining.

We left early, just after 10am, because we were ready and there seemed no point in prolonging the agony. The drive down was amazingly quiet, at least until we reached Rannoch Moor where we picked up some traffic. We stopped at the awkwardly named Lochan na h-Achlaise which apparently translates as Loch of the Armpit, or Loch Oxter. Anyway, that’s where I got PoD. It took a little longer to process than I’d anticipated. The basic levels and stuff was done in Lightroom and then I handed it over to ON1 for some more delicate make-up. The result went back into Lightroom for the final cropping and I’m more than happy with the final result.

Loch Oxter got quite noisy too with a collection of BMWs, Subaru Imprezas, Audis and assorted low riding Peugeots about 10 in all showing an impressive turn of speed as they turned the A82 into a drag strip. Noisy, dangerous and quite exhilaration, although others of the ‘blue rinse brigade’ were heard to say that “there’s no need for that” and “shouldn’t be allowed”. True, but that’s only because they were never young once. Some folk are born old.

Back on the road stopped for lunch at Morrisons in Fort William The next drag was a real drag. For about a mile and a half outside Callander we crawled forward in a long queue held there because of two sets of traffic lights. One set was true traffic lights at a junction and the other was a set of pedestrian lights where the ‘grannies’ were crossing and re-crossing the road just to annoy us drivers. Can’t they find somewhere better to spend their Sunday afternoon? I think it’s the same ones who where hissing and harrumphing about the folk of the testosterone brigade up at Loch Oxter.

Once we were past there, it was plain sailing all the way home. About 6 hours driving with half an hour out for lunch and half an hour out for Callander. That’s about average. It’s a long day and a long drive, but it has to be done and at least there weren’t very many potholes on the road.

Tomorrow is a relaxing day. Very little or no driving planned.

Going up country – 24 May 2018

We were on our way north today.

Waited for the bin men to empty our bins and then we were off with a quick stop to fill up with the £1.30/litre gold plated, diamond encrusted petrol, (Well, it should be at that price.) then we were off up the road. First stop Fort William for lunch and a comfort break. Back on the road and the next stop was just outside Kyle just to stretch my legs. After that it was Portree for a quick top up of slightly cheaper (!!) petrol and then the last leg up to Staffin. The roads were fairly clear most of the way with the occasional slow tourist to pass, but drop a gear and press the ‘sport mode’ button and they’re history. That button will now be called the ‘overtake button’. Hit one big heavy pothole just before Staffin and after that, became ultra cautious which was just as well, considering the chasms between Staffin and Digg.

Dinner tonight was chicken stuffed with haggis and chicken stuffed with black pudding for me and just plain pan fried chicken for Scamp. All were excellent. Washed down with a pint of McEwan’s Export.

Later a wee dram to ease me to sleep. How quiet it is and how light, with just a glimmer in the sky at 11.10pm. Skye is a marvellous place, despite the potholes.

Things to remember today?:

  • The crowds of tourists around the Commando Monument at Spean bridge.
  • Seeing a plane (Tucano?) flying low above the loch on the Caledonian Canal.
  • Pressing the overtake button in anger for the first time.
  • That can of McEwan’s Export – how well did it go down?
  • PoD – the stacked up trolleys at Morrisons in Fort William.
  • Scotland in the sun.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to drive round the top end.