The port for Oporto – 19 June 2018

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter breakfast we joined the queue to exit the ship and get in another queue for the shuttle bus that would take us to Oporto.  You see, we weren’t really at Oporto, we were at Leixões which is the port for Oporto which isn’t actually called Oporto when you’re in Portugal, it’s called Porto.  Right, glad we’ve got that sorted out

The queue to exit the ship was long and twisting.  Just as we were beginning to see daylight, we joined another queue, coming from the opposite direction.  Twenty minutes after joining the queue, we exited on to the dock.  Then we had to go out through the beautiful terminal building and saw the extent of the queue for the bus to Oporto and immediately decided to go to Leixões instead.  I’d like to tell you it is a pretty little fishing village, but it’s not.  Apart from the cruise terminal building, it’s an ugly sprawling concrete town with two things to recommend it.  An enormous Lidl and a beautiful beach.  We visited both.

Have you ever noticed that all Lidls smell the same.  It’s not a bad smell, or even an unpleasant one, it’s just a smell.  It might be something to do with the air freshener they use.  This is the first time I’ve realised that it’s there, but it is, definitely.  Check the next time you’re in a Lidl!  Water on the ship costs £1.75 for 500ml.  Water in Lidl is €0.11 for 330ml.  It might not originate from Harrogate as the ship’s water allegedly does, but it’s still water and at roughly 15p for 500ml, it’s a lot cheaper than P&O H₂O.  We bought a bottle, to see if we could get it past Gort the guard at the ship who scans everything you bring on board.  Any alcohol you attempt to bring back is seized and held in the hold until you return to the UK.

After buying our budget water, a small bottle of orange juice, which might also be confiscated (they don’t tell you about that in the shiny brochures, do they?) and a bag of cherries which were never going to make it back to the ship, we went for a beer, because it was hot.  Just over 30ºc hot. We had a beer in a beachside cafe, then a coffee and a Portuguese custard tart that was just as good as the ones we usually have in Lisbon.  When we left I asked the waiter how to say “Thank You” and found out it is “Obrigado”.

Next we went for a walk along the prom.  That’s one of the delights of a holiday for Scamp, a walk along the prom, in the sun.  We walked right to the end of the prom, watching the surfers out catching the waves, then we turned round and had a paddle on the way back to the bus.  Just got to the port gate as the bus was arriving and surprised the driver by saying “Obrigado” rather than “Thank You” when we got off at the terminal.  The Terminal is an impressive building with swirls of white concrete covered in shiny tiles.  It really has to be seen to be appreciated.  Boarding was much easier and quicker than disembark and we grabbed the opportunity to do some sunbathing at the blunt end of the ship (technical term).  We went swimming in the little kidney shaped pool at that end and then found out that there had been a medical emergency on board and our departure would be delayed by about 40minutes.  Those 40 minutes expanded to just over two hours, but with the emergency ambulance driving slowly down the dockside, some poor couple’s holiday came to an end.  Hope the woman was ok.

Dinner was with a talkative group at our table and after that, we played cards as the show was nothing to write home about, even in a blog.

Dull, dull, dull – 20 May 2018

Just in case you didn’t guess, today was a bit dull.

In the morning we drove in to Glasgow because Scamp had an appointment with M&S to spend some money. I was looking for photos. We both got what we intended to get. Scamp completed her swimsuit ensemble and I got a few photos I’d been looking for. My favourite and PoD is above.

<Technospeak>
When we got home I resumed my work on trying to figure out what was wrong with Scamp’s computer which wouldn’t respond properly to Autoplay any more. I eventually found the problem and the solution in an old post on the internet. It involved a complicated bit of deletion using the registry editor Regedit, also known as “The Hand Grenade” (what happens if I pull this little pin out?). Luckily I was very careful which pins I pulled out and nothing went bang afterwards, but what did happen was that Autoplay now plays nice. Not perfect, just nice. Perfectly may mean more work tomorrow or some other day. For now, it nearly works.
</Technospeak>

I made dinner tonight which was the complicated and not very successful Aloo Saag. Not as good as last time. The spinach sauce was too thick and there was a taste in there that just didn’t gel. I might water it down slightly tomorrow for lunch. I also baked another sourdough loaf which was slightly more successful than the first, but not as good as the last one.  Middling.  Still some work to be done on consistency of the dough and baking time.

It being such a dull day, I couldn’t even be bothered going over to St Mo’s to get more photos. I’d got the ones I wanted. This is the photo I went to take. The candelabra its twin are in an alley just off Queen Street and I’ve often wondered why these ornate lights are there in an alley that just hold dustbins. Maybe there’s a story there waiting to be unearthed. It didn’t win PoD because the group discussing The Duke (not to be confused with The Red Juke) was more interesting.

Did a bit of sketching while watching a boring Jools Holland, but I really need to do more, and before Wednesday. That may be the plan for tomorrow. Some decent sketching. Scamp’s going out to meet Isobel in the morning. Busy week this week, something on every day.

May The Fourth Be With You – 4 May 2018

In the morning, just to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I installed ON1 on the new Linx laptop. I also did a bit of gardening, planting peas in pots in the greenhouse. I checked the kale and it’s looking good too. Hopefully it will need thinned out in a week or so. A few straggling rocket shoots showing. Can’t exactly say they are rocketing up though.

Went up to the Costa in the already dilapidated Antonine Centre and spent a couple of hours with Fred and Val. As usual it was left to us to make some sense of the present crises in the world. We solved all the problems, the only difficulty now is getting the ’dunderheids’ in both the Labour and Tory parties to agree to our solutions. We can dismiss the Lib Dems as they are just a catch-all for all the politicos who have no interest in actual politics. We broke up the meeting with the promise to meet up again in another week or so.

Before I went out, Scamp had offered me the opportunity to make dinner tonight, which was kind of her. She went further and asked that dinner should be Paella. With that in mind, I visited Tesco to buy the makings for the paella and then headed for home. Put my DIY skills to good use screwing another boot hanger to the wall in the boiler cupboard. Hung up one set of boots and got another pair down, put them on and took the Olys and the new lens out to St Mo’s to see what wanted photographing. Nothing and nobody was playing today, so I took some photos of wild flowers instead. When I looked at them later, they were less than excellent. I’d fallen into the trap that even if you’ve got a ‘good camera’ and a ‘good lens’, it’s still the photographer who takes the picture. One day I may learn.

Made a reasonable attempt at paella and after that, installed ON1 on the MBP. I’m just after testing it and it works well.

Took PoD after dinner. It took a while for me to find a good font for the Star Wars banner, but after that was done the rest was easy. I used the well tested combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. Photoshop to blend two photos together and Lightroom to perform the levels adjustment and crops. Quite pleased with it because it had been in my head all day and now it was open to the world in Flickr.

Maybe going to Embra tomorrow where the weather might be better than the overcast grey we’ve had all day today.

Magic Millarochy – 30 April 2018

I got up at just after 8.30 this morning to make the breakfast and to fire up the oven because it was sourdough baking time again.

Yes, I’d made the leaven on Saturday and used it on Sunday to make the dough. This time I thought I’d made a stiffer dough, but when I left the dough to stand ( you don’t knead sourdough with this recipe, you fold it and then allow it to stand for half an hour or so) it became quite wet and sloppy again. That said, it had been rising happily overnight in it’s cane basket and now looked ready to bake, so I whacked it (gently) on to the pizza stone that came out blazing hot from the oven and it promptly slumped down again like a balloon that was blown up a week ago and is now a bit slack. Oh well, nothing ventured etc. I hacked into the top of it to give it space to rise and put it into the fiery furnace for about 45 minutes. When I took it out and tapped the bottom it sounded ’toom’ which was one of my mum’s words. It means empty or hollow. Try using it some time. Anyway, a hollow sound is good.

With my loaf cooling on the rack, I started to plan the rest of my day. It was a beautiful day too, Blue skies all round and a temperature that was just entering the teens. This was a Gems day, so I thought I’d go a run for a change and chose Millarochy Bay as my destination. After sharing the first cut of the loaf with Scamp, I used it to make up a packed lunch and with a flask and the makings of coffee I got in the car. Set the satnav for the postcode of the campsite near the bay and off I went. I followed the directions until I reached a sign that said ‘Road Closed’. Little was I to know that would be the first of many. Made the recommended detour and after being stuck behind a slow moving truck full of asphalt, no doubt going somewhere to fill in potholes, I took the turning to my next ‘Road Closed’. Found the detour again and was almost at my turn off when I came across a third ‘Road Closed’. This time my turn off came just before the road did close. After that it was plain sailing and I arrived at Millarochy Bay just about fifteen minutes after the satnav had initially predicted.

The carpark was very, very busy, but I was lucky enough to find a free space. Had my lunch looking out at a view similar to the PoD you see at the top of the page. Went for a walk and got a few photos, well just over fifty, but who’s counting. It was still a beautiful day and it was getting even warmer. Unfortunately it was soon time to go so I had to pack up and head back. This time the satnav took me out towards Stirling and although it was a greater travelling distance, it was on much faster roads, much wider roads too.

Started processing the photos in Lightroom and also in ON1 which I bought last night. It’s not nearly as bad as I’d initially thought and is really very adaptable. You get lost in it very easily with all the options and variations available. Some of the effects are a bit tacky and probably not much use, but some are very useful. More on this app as I dig deeper in to its potential uses.

Salsa tonight was a bit underwhelming. Too many leaders in the 6.30 class so I helped out in Will’s. Jamie’s was disappointing. Too many obscure and pointless moves now. Just because they are weird, they aren’t necessarily wonderful. Salsa moves have to be stylish or adventurous. The ones we’ve been doing for the last month have been neither. No Salsa next Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday and probably none for us on Wednesday because he won’t be taking the class. That may mean Shannon which would not be good or perhaps Irene and Andrew which I’d rather avoid.

Tomorrow Scamp’s car goes in for MOT, so we have a free day after we drop it off.

Oh, one last thing. We were driving home and came to the traffic lights at Charing Cross in Glasgow and noticed a sign saying M8 Closed Eastbound (that’s us). Oh no! The curse of the Road Closed rears its ugly head again. When the lights turned green, everybody seemed to ignore it, so that’s what we did too and there were no road works to be seen. Probably somebody’s idea of a joke, just to annoy me!

Coffee and Sourdough – 29 March 2018

Not together. No, that would not be a good idea.

Today was meant to be coffee for four, but it became coffee for three. Fred, Colin and Me. Val being laid up in bed with shingles. Poor man. The replacement of Val with Colin changed the dynamic of the group completely, and also the proportions of the coffee. Instead of two Cortados and one Americano it was one Cortado and two Americanos. Topics discussed were school awards for LGBT, FPs (Former Pupils), FCs (Former Colleagues), gardening and sketching. It was interesting to have a different perspective on things, not better or worse, just different. Maybe refreshing would be a better word.

After an hour or so we split up and went our separate ways. Me to go shopping, Fred to pick up Margo and Colin to go back to his garden. I went looking for plant labels for Scamp. That’s what she asked for and that’s what she got today. After a very late lunch I managed half an hour or so in St Mo’s looking for something interesting. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Just a rotting fencepost, but lots of lovely textures in it. I was surprised to see that the number of the ladybirds I’ve been checking had decreased. Maybe the little bit of sun we’ve had has encouraged them out to look for food. It’s good to see as it might be another sign of spring, although it looks like there’s more snow in week ahead.

Back home, I fed the hungry sourdough starter. I’ve been buying sourdough bread from Tesco ever since I read that book by the same name that Hazy recommended. It’s lovely bread. Very open textured and quite rough. Best eaten as toast I find. The secret to sourdough bread is the starter.  Basically it’s the natural yeast in wholemeal flour that’s been actively encouraged to grow and multiply in a warm, damp environment.  Apparently, and a chemist would know better, the ‘sour’ part comes from the lactic acid which is a byproduct of the action of the yeast on the starches in the flour.  On Sunday I finally began making a ‘starter’. It’s not difficult, just a bit long winded.

  • 200g Stoneground bread flour
  • 200ml Water (30ºc)
  1. Put it into a large (1litre) container and beat some air into it.
  2. Cover with a breathable covering.
  3. Leave for 48 hours.

For the next 10 days repeat the following daily:

  1. Chuck away half.
  2. Add 100g Stoneground bread flour and 100ml water.
  3. Beat some air into the mixture.

So far I’m on day 4 and the mixture is looking interesting (lots of bubbles) and smelling interesting (smells a bit like milk). Hopefully that means the natural yeasts in the flour have started working and multiplying.  And No, Hazy, I haven’t played it any music.  Maybe I’ll try some Tom Waits on it, but probably Salsa would be better!  I’ll keep you posted.

No firm plans for tomorrow. Maybe go to Dunfermline.

A cold start and an early start – 3 March 2018

IMG_4667Today began early, very early, around 5.15am, but I hadn’t slept very much the night before.  Too much stuff flying through my head, plus all the unaccustomed noise from the airport just across the road.  We just got dressed, grabbed our bags and headed for check-in.  Soon we were checked in and as usual my bag got searched at security.  This time it looked like a substance search.  Thankfully I hadn’t brought any ground coffee with me this time or it might have taken a bit longer.  It didn’t help that the reader the bloke put the sample into wasn’t working and the second machine wasn’t working either.  He eventually dropped the sample in the bin and told the senior security person that it had turned out clean, and I was through.  Overpriced breakfast at Frankie  & Benny’s then the long wait for our gate to be confirmed.  Of course we were leaving from gate 30 right at the end of the long passage way.  To confuse things even more, a flight to Budapest was leaving through gate 31 right next to ours.  Thankfully we got on the right plane and were soon up into the clouds.

Arrived at Fuerteventura after a bumpy flight got a taxi to the hotel and almost cried with delight when we saw the view from the 5th floor room looking right across the pools to the sea beyond.  Brilliant!  Got changed out of Scottish clothes and into holiday ones, then went to explore and refresh our memories of Elba Sara.

 

The rest of the day was spent relaxing, eating, drinking and sunbathing.  Food was just as good as we remembered it and the skies were as blue as we remembered too.  Onward and upward!

 

PoD is a plane we saw at Fuerteventura airport.  SmurfAir.

 

Tomorrow more of the same with the chance of a swim, perhaps.

Not going out – 27 January 2018

This was the day after day at the seaside

Dull, rain and wind. That sort of summed up today. We’d half intended going to Dunfermline on the bus, but Dunf isn’t the most exciting destination on a good day, in the wet and the wind it wouldn’t have been worth the effort, so we just stayed in.

I did go out for a walk in the afternoon, just to get out of Scamp’s hair and to look for a PoD. The alien landscape above is it. It’s actually Cladonia lichen on a boulder in St Mo’s. For some reason there were thousands of them there today. Maybe it’s the unseasonably warm weather that’s made them sprout, but lichen are not fast growing, so that’s an unlikely reason. Answers on a postcard please.

Dinner courtesy of Golden Bowl, but a miniature dinosaur’s bone marinading in the fridge for tomorrow. Found a website that gives a formula for a marinade. Basically it’s an olive oil base with some garlic some acidic liquid and some herbs. Blitz the lot and put the meat in a zip-lock bag then pour the marinade over it. Seal the bag and leave for up to 24 hours. I’ll report back on the success or otherwise tomorrow.

Watched Trainspotting T2 tonight and loved it. Especially good was the extra feature with the four (five) of them talking.

No plans for tomorrow, but MUST go out somewhere!


Today’s Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
1 sprig thyme
A few basil leaves
Small handful parsley

The Great Man Delivers – 21 January 2018

It had snowed through the night, but none of the white stuff was falling from the sky when we woke. When Scamp went for her shower I was looking out the bedroom window to see if we were still blizzard free, when I saw a man wearing council overalls walking down the path, towing a green topped bin and a brown bin. Both small bins. He stopped and left them parked outside our door! Oh what excitement! Santa had delivered. This probably needs some explanation, so here goes.

Away back in October we wee informed by the Cooncil that we would be getting two new bins; a blue bin with a green lid for glass and metal food tins and a brown bin for garden waste and food waste. There was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the household because we have such limited space at the front door and to put them at the back door would mean trailing them through the house on bin day. Scamp phoned and asked for small bins and was told it wouldn’t be a problem. A month later she phoned again to ask when they would be delivered and was told that they would be delivered on 28th Nov (but they didn’t say which year!) Finally she got fed up and wrote to our MSP who sent a reply to say that he had contacted the Cooncil and would inform us of his progress. On Friday I sent the following email to Environmental Services at NLC:

Dear Santa,
I was hoping that on Christmas morning you would leave a shiny new Small Green Top Bottle Bin and a Small Brown Food/Garden Waste Bin at our door. We don’t have a chimney, so leaving them at the front door would be the best option, even although we have very little space there. I’ve already phoned the council and they said we would get them. My wife phoned them last year and they told her that the bins would be delivered by the 22nd November, but they forgot to say which year! We’ve even written to our MSP, but still we don’t have the bins. You are our last hope Santa.
Thank you,

Donald Campbell

“The squeaky wheel gets the grease”, they say. Today we got our bins. Later in the morning we stuck our house number on each bin to prove that they’re ours and there’s even some bottles in the bottle bin now. Maybe someone in the Cooncil was having a bad day on Friday and I gave them something to smile about. A little humour goes a long way, they say.

The rest of the day was a bit of a non-event after that. It started snowing heavily soon after the bins arrived and didn’t stop until about 4pm. We should have been going to Salsa about 4pm, but the decision was made earlier in the afternoon to cancel today’s dancing because of the weather.

Today’s PoD was planned and shot in about 15minutes, but I was happy with the result.

Tonight it’s raining and tomorrow the temperature is forecast to rise to about 5ºc and 10ºc on Tuesday! That, along with the rain, should put paid to the snow for a wee while. Hopefully we will get out somewhere tomorrow.

Chasing the Sunset – 9 January 2018

A bit of a nothing day. Not a lot to report other than the frost had all melted by about 10.30 this morning, but it was dull.

Finished off The Book of Dust. “A good read. A bit Boys Own Paper with some sweaty words”, sums it up for me.

Finally got round to posting the last calendar, JIC. Should slide through your letterbox in a day or two. Printed out another two last night and that will be the end of the calendar print for another year, unless I go the whole hog and print one for myself. Unlikely.

Driving back from Tesco I say the sky turn a golden pink colour from an already setting sun. It was just after 3pm, but that’s about the extent of the daylight at this time of the year up north. Drove round trying to find a suitable foreground for the sunset, but couldn’t find one. Eventually gave in and took a shot from behind Moodiesburn looking towards Muirhead. The resulting image that loaded into Lightroom wasn’t really what I saw, so I changed it a wee bit, and that’s what you see above as PoD.

<Technospeak>
Hazy, I had a problem with WordPress last night. The editing was restricted to text input and no Visual option was available. I got the blog written and posted, but knew this was some kind of screw-up. Slept on it and this morning investigated and found it could be caused by an update of themes and plugins. Since I’d upgraded both the theme and a few plugins yesterday morning, I suspected that was the culprit. So, this afternoon I deactivated all the plugins and tested with a new post. Yes, the input screen was normal with the text and visual tabs available again. Long story short, I found the culprit to be the upgraded Wordrpress(!) Markdown plugin. I’ve deactivated it and activated all the rest, then found another Markdown plugin that did the same job without the side effects. I hope you’re impressed, and thankful that I didn’t just automatically phone the ‘helpline’. I’m guessing you would have told me to do exactly what I found on the ‘net.
</Technospeak>

That about sums up the day. Dull and dank, but with a reasonable sunset thanks to Lightroom and Picktorial. A sort of Software Sunset.

Don’t have any plans for tomorrow. May take a trip to Perf, or may leave that until Thursday.

Get the pain over with early – 16 December 2017

Up fairly early for a Saturday defrosted the car and on our way in to Glasgow to do some Christmas shopping.

Like I said yesterday, get the pain over with early. Parked no problem and the streets were almost clear of ice. In town we agreed to go our separate ways and meet up in about an hour for a coffee and an update on our progress. Actually, for once we were both finished early, so we went for a coffee and a wee pastry in Nero in Sausage Roll Street. While I was getting our order in Nero, the bloke next to me, about my age I’d guess, was huffing and puffing. I turned to him and said “It’s not that bad.” He just looked at me and said “Oh, it is. We’re just starting the shopping, but we’re having a coffee before we get going.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him we were finished and on our way after our coffee.

It was good to drive home knowing that we had the rest of the day to look forward to, with some shopping done. In town, I’d gone in to Mandors to look for material for a project I’ve got in my head and came out, instead, with a piece of vinyl printed with the Snowman™ theme. I thought it would make a good table cover. It cost a bit more than I had intended, but when I saw Scamp’s face light up as she saw it come out of the bag, I knew it was a winner.

I drove to Tesco in the afternoon, but the weather was not really good enough for a long walk so I just came home and enjoyed an hour or so not doing anything. I’d managed to get a couple of shots in Glasgow and really liked the one of the Salvation Army euphonium player so that’s why it’s PoD. I was sure that instrument wasn’t made of metal and eventually went over and asked him if it was plastic. He just smiled and said “Yes”. It must make an appreciable difference on the player’s back carrying a plastic instrument rather than a big hulking metal one. I checked when I got home and the whole thing weighs only 850g.  My next favourite photo was the sea of faces below.

Dinner was at J&M’s in Hamilton. A good night entertained by Ross and John. Food was lovely as usual, just what we’ve come to expect from Marion. Chicken with Tarragon served with carrots and potatoes in a cream sauce. Banana cake with Creole sauce. Not too late home because the temperature was dropping again.

Tomorrow? Not much. Probably cutting the rectangular Snowman™ table cover into a circular one.