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.

Up the Glen – 22 May 2018

Up fairly early for a Tuesday to speak to a man from Falkirk on the phone.

The man told us that we are doing all right and that’s what we wanted to hear. To celebrate we went out to lunch, but not before we had a word with Hazy and caught up with all the news from London, discussed plans, books and the disappointment of having to wait another few days before getting a new car. Their car, not ours. After the second phone call of the morning, we did go for lunch.

We drove to the cafe at Clachan of Campsie where I had the disappointment of discovering that the cafe no longer listed their Apple, Brie and Honey sandwich. We were told that it was because not enough people liked it. Why not? Have these people no taste? It’s an absolute find, a delight of a sandwich. To her credit, the waitress said she could make me one because she had all the ingredients, but I had already ordered a bacon, brie and cranberry toastie, so that had to do instead. I’ll just have to settle for my own, homemade ABH sandwich.

After lunch we walked up the path to Campsie Glen. I’m sure my dad took us there years ago. I’m also sure that the ‘us’ in question were Mum, Dad and Me, because it was before my brother was made, and I was quite wee. Probably not even ten. I remember getting a collapsible tumbler to go, because my dad said the water was so clear you could drink it. I’ve vague memories of the place, but nowhere we went today relived that memory. Maybe we had to go further up the glen than we managed today. We both had the wrong kind of shoes for the dodgier bits of the path. Maybe next time. Just think, from Larky you’d have to get a bus in to Glasgow that would take about an hour, then get another bus to Clachan of Campsie, another hour at least. What a lot of planning. You don’t realise the things your parents did for you or the sacrifices they made. Not until it’s too late.

Took some photos there of some water running over stones, but the water was so low they didn’t amount to much. Also got some photos of Wood Avens flowers, but they were just out of focus, so didn’t appear in today’s published shots. What did appear was a photo of our red and white aquilegia which became PoD. Scamp thought it was called Strawberry Sundae. I thought it was Strawberries and Cream. After checking the label on the pot, we found its name was Swan Red and White. I prefer either of our names.

That was our day in the countryside, again under blue skies and sun. I’ve been meaning to go to Campsie Glen for years and am glad I did go today. Just a shame it wasn’t as I remember it about sixty years ago. Maybe we just didn’t go far enough. Yes, that’s it, we need to go back.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and portraits at night. Another busy Wednesday.

Going Home – 13 May 2018

Today the fun was over for a while and we were going home.

A laze about morning then we went to a garden centre for lunch. Saw some interesting plants for the garden, but because we were flying home, there was no opportunity to bring any of them north to visit our garden. Maybe that is a godsend with the number of planters and pots we have there now. Wandered round the shop with the usual amount of tat and junk. I bought some pea seeds to plant in addition to the ones we already have.

It doesn’t matter what you try to fill your hours with on ‘leaving day’, there’s only one thing on your mind and that’s going home. The drag of going through security and waiting for your gate to show then finding that gate, which is usually the furthest away one. Better to get started and just go. That’s what we did.

Really busy place Stanstead. Couldn’t believe the queue to drop folk off, but soon we were through security and sitting breathing in the muggy reconditioned air in the departure ‘lounge’. Then there was the hour in a metal tube in the sky before landing in a really sunny and warm Glasgow. I don’t say that very often, do I? Bus in to Glasgow, then train to Croy while being serenaded with rebel songs by a seriously guttered Sellic supporter whose wife and son tried to disown him. Thankfully he was travelling on to Stirling, although Croy would have been more fitting surely. Just going to phone for a taxi when the ‘wee bus’ appeared and we used our pensioner’s tickets again to get to Craiglinn and then walked home.

It was a lovely stay. I think we both really enjoyed it. Thank you again JIC, Sim and the new, improved Vixen. Great, relaxing few days. Too few, but sometimes it’s better leaving wanting more.

Back to auld claes and purrich tomorrow.

A daunder with St Mungo – 24 February 2018

Bright day, so let’s head for Dunfermline on the bus, we said. They do say disasters come in threes, right?

Went for the bus and missed it by about three minutes. Waited in a cold wind for the next one which luckily was due in ten minutes. After a mystery tour of Condorrat and Westfield, thanks to roadworks, we reached the town centre only to find that that Dunfermline bus has been discontinued. Oh well, nothing for it but to head in the other direction and go in to Glasgow … again. We were in on Sunday for Sunday Social. Back on Monday for dancing, on Wednesday afternoon for dancing, and again on Wednesday evening for more dancing. I was in on Thursday to get my hair cut and here we were again on Saturday. We might as well move in to Glasgow for all the time we spend in our own house. Not a happy bunny, I harrumphed behind Scamp into Nero for a coffee. When we came out the black cloud had lifted. The sun was out and we had said that we’d go for a walk in the sun, so that’s what we should do. With a lightening heart I walked down Bucky Street with Scamp and even the Bastard Drummers couldn’t dent my new good humour.

We walked right down Bucky Street, past St Enoch’s (it is St Enoch’s. I heard a wee wummin’ telling her pal on the phone to meet her at St Enoch’s and you don’t argue with wee weemin’ in Glasgow.) We walked on to the Clyde Walkway, stood for a while then walked downriver under the bridges and that’s where I saw the PoD entitled “Lady in Waiting”. As Scamp said, it couldn’t have been any other title. On under more bridges until we came to the Tradeston Bridge, known to Glaswegians as “The Sqiuggley Bridge”. Why do designers and Cooncil busybodies come up with names for bridges when they know fine well the general populace will christen it with a better name. Just build the bridge and wait for its name to appear. Saves time and money.

Back across the King George V bridge and up to Pulcinella for lunch which was decidedly second class. Not just compared to Tuesday’s food, just compared to anything I could have made. Not their finest hour.

After our lunch we walked up to Sausage Roll Street. Me to the book shop. Scamp to Bonmarche. Neither of us came out with anything. Came home on the fast bus and made a couple of coffees to warm us up when we got in.

Somb'di

Today’s sketch started out as a doodle and then this strange wee man appeared.

No plans for tomorrow. That’s not true, maybe I’ll get my bike out and see if it still runs. Yes, I know I said I’d do that before, but the sunny skies are bringing that day closer.

More dancin’ – 8 February 2018

I think the car can now drive itself into Glasgow. It’s been in five times this week.  Once on Sunday, once on Monday, twice on Wednesday and once today. Enuff!

Today I found that the single bike carrier I used on the Megane won’t fit on the Juke. Even worse, it won’t fit on Scamp’s car either. That’s a real shame as it was easy to fit on and take off and the bike was really secure on it. Now I’ve got to test the old carrier to see if it will fit in either of our cars. It’s a bit more universal, but its heavier and clunky to fit and remove, but if it allows me to take the bike to more interesting places than the ten miles or so of busy roads near the house, it will be worth it.

Drove up to the leisure centre in the afternoon to find it absolutely full of folk. Most of them were from the spa. They have no right to be there when we want to swim. I think I’ll write to my MSP about it. It’s simply not good enough. However, we did get a swim and I got a couple of sessions in the steam room and felt the benefit of it. I think it must have been all yesterday’s dancing that has tired out my poor wee legs.

Tonight we drove in to Glasgow for more dancing. This time we were helping out at two beginners classes in Barca in Prince’s Square. I don’t know if it was the venue, which is a normally busy restaurant, or the beginners themselves, because they didn’t seem to be the brightest lights on the tree, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. I think we’ll go back again next week, but after that we have to discuss and assess the situation. I don’t mind helping out with classes, but the driving miles add up and tonight I’m absolutely exhausted.

Sketch for today is a practise drawing of a face. Nobody’s face in particular, just a drawing of two eyes and a nose, hopefully in the correct places. Make of it what you will:

Do Call

The PoD is three spoons sitting on the draining board. I just liked the high contrast feel and the reflections.

Tomorrow? I think we’re going for the messages and that’s about it.

Travelling on the ‘leccy – 6 January 2018

Today we got up early and drove to Croy to catch the train to Embra, but a surprise was in store!

This wasn’t a noisy old diesel train, this was a silent ‘leccy train, travelling by electricity! The future had arrived. It was seventy coaches long too, well, probably only about seven, but much longer than the usual three units. The future had arrived at last.

I’d like to say that the coaches were shining, sparkling and new, but they weren’t. They were someone else’s castoffs. You can’t expect Scotrail to pay for new platforms, new overhead power lines AND new carriages, be fair. Still the journey was smooth, comfortable and slightly slower than the old fashioned diesels. They did however get us to Haymarket much quieter than the old ones did.

I’m always a bit disappointed when I come out of the station at Haymarket. There is never a market there and very little evidence of hay. Is it like a Farmers Market which only arrives one or two days a month and we’re just not in Embra on those days? Perhaps it’s a sort of hidden, secret market that’s down an alleyway or round a corner and you need to know the password to be allowed entrance. Not that I’m at all interested in buying hay, it’s just that I hate the thought of missing out on something.

We walked up for coffee at Nero and on the way I saw today’s PoD just sitting there in front of me. The softness of the child’s bright pink woollen glove stood out so well against the clinical lines of the architecture, I just knew it would be PoD. I’d earlier taken the shot of the reflection of buildings, but the pink glove was the winner, by a mile.

After Nero, we walked down to Princes Street (No princes in evidence today) and on through a few shoe shops with no resulting purchases by Scamp, then up on to the Mound and across the Royal Mile to the Grassmarket heading for Tony Singh’s restaurant there. That was the cryptic message on yesterday’s blog. Not Ravi Shankar’s, but Tony Singh’s. However, it looked as if it was Under New Management because there was little evidence of Mr Singh’s sense of humour in the menu. It all looked very bland. Disappointed we crossed the road to Petit Paris where we knew from experience there was good wholesome French fare available, and so it turned out. Scamp had Courgette Soup and Poisson de Jour (Coley) and I had French Onion Soup and Plat de Jour (Toulouse Sausage) washed down with a glass or red wine, risking the wrath of the Scottish drink driving laws.

After lunch we wandered back down to Princes Street and walked through what used to be called the German Christmas Market, but which is now more likely to be the Polish folk selling Chinese copies of German artefacts. However, it was bright and cheery and everything was half price which must be a sickener for those who bought their Chinese knock-offs last week at full price. We didn’t buy anything, we were getting cold, so we just went for the rain home.

What a disappointment. It wasn’t a ‘leccy train, it was an old noisy diesel. What was worse was that it wasn’t seventy coaches long, just three. I felt we’d been sold short. However, the up side was that it was warm and it was a faster journey that the one in the morning.

Tomorrow it’s a Sunday Social Day, so we’re hoping to be dancing!