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Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

Last night after being fairly well organized, Windows decided it desperately needed an update without telling anyone.

<TECHNOSPEAK>
I thought I was sorted. Blog written, photos edited and ready to be exported. All I needed to do was put everything together and upload them. Unfortunately, Windows in association with Lightroom had other ideas. First, LR wanted to export the wrong file and absolutely refused to pick the right one. ON1 was no help, because it wouldn’t load. Usually a restart will solve the problem and when I tried to restart the computer and it told me it was configuring it, I knew it had been downloading another unnecessary upgrade. That explained it, I thought. However on restarting, nothing wanted to work at all. Got fed up with its shenanigans and did an impolite shutdown. On a Mac, a polite shutdown is where you tell the ‘puter to shut down. An impolite shutdown is where you pull the plug. You don’t have that option on a laptop. Holding down the on button does the same job. Val says leave it for a slow count of ten and then restart it. That’s what I did and it worked. Everything was normal. LR exported the file and Livewriter uploaded the blog without any problem.
</TECHNOSPEAK>

That was last night, today was much better. We were out fairly early to make the most of the day at the Steam Fair in Stotfold. We were walking there, taking the path between the old mill and the mill house, the former dull and uninteresting, the latter looking very elegant, but not worth the £2M asking price. From there across the fields to Stotfold, an odd mixture of new-builds and centuries old farm buildings.

The Steam Fair was marvellous. As the name suggests, lots of steam driven machinery and transport. Even better there was a fair, a real fair with stalls, a big wheel, a helter skelter and best of all, a Wall of Death. I can’t remember exactly when I last saw a wall of death, but it must have been fifty years ago at least. We wandered round the attractions, then we three meat eaters had hot roast pork with stuffing and crackling on a roll from a stall, while the vegetarian of the group had a carton of chips. The roast pork was excellent. Wandered round a few more of the stalls and bought two wee lego ‘Weemen’. A Darth and a panda, both of which will become models in the near future, I’m sure. Visited the Mill, a real working mill powered by a waterwheel. Really looked the part, despite being burnt to the ground in the ‘80s and rebuilt. Later we had a drink in the beer tent. JIC and I had an excellent IPA. Wish I’d taken a quick snap of the barrel to record its name. Sim had Old Peculiar which I always think is a bit too sweet. Scamp had a pint of Deuchers. Glad they had a decent Scottish beer too. Foodies, yes. Drinkies, perhaps. Finally decided to call it a day after I’d stood out in the rain watching a flying display by Captain Nevil’s Flying Circus. I bought myself a couple of caps, one waterproof (allegedly) one, just a cap for the hols. You can never have too many caps or bunnets. I was really glad I’d decided to wear my rainy coat because it rained all the way home.

At night we went to the Lancers, Indian restaurant in Baldock. Food was deemed ok. Not too bad, but with strange mixtures. Scamp wasn’t impressed with her Saag Paneer which seemed to have coconut milk in it. Never seen that before, but perhaps its a regional thing in India.

Watched a couple of strange Black Mirror episodes to finish off the day. What is it about Black Mirror that makes it stick in my head long after the program has finished? They remind me of the old ’60s Outer Limits, the black and white ones.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to this place and fly back home.

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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.

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MOT, Perth and Sourdough Friends – 1 May 2018

April wasn’t the only month of early rises. We were up and out early today too.

Scamp’s wee red car was going to the car doctor for its annual checkup today. After we dropped it off, we came home to have breakfast and decide what to do with our free day. We settled on a visit to Perth to get some coffee and tea for me. The drive up north was without event and we got parked easily in the town car park. That’s one of the advantages of going midweek, the parking is so much easier. Walked in to town in the sunshine, but with a chilly wind at our back.

After a Nero coffee to sustain us, we went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went to M&S and I went book hunting. First stop was the Oxfam book shop where I usually find an art book or two. Today it was just the one. A book on watercolour. While I was in the shop my phone buzzed. Thinking it was the garage about the car, I answered. The lady on the other end told that according to their records I’d had an accident and I wasn’t at fault. Was that correct? I told her yes that was correct, but I had been killed in the accident. This seemed to be off her script and she asked me to repeat it. I told her I had been killed and I was now dead. I then told her it was my ghost she was talking to. She then got back on the script and I cut the connection. I realise now I should have gone “Woooooo!” Before I hung up. The woman at the till in the shop gave me a strange look and I explained it was simply an ambulance chaser and I liked to have a little play with them before I hung up. The last time I had the same scripted question from an ambulance chaser, my reply was “No, I was completely to blame, that’s why I’m in prison now. Please don’t call me on this number again I only use it to order my drugs.” The woman behind the till laughed and said “Good for you. I must try that some time.”

From the cheap bookshop I went to the expensive one, Waterstones. There was a reading group just breaking up when I went in and they were sitting right in front of the painting books. I did manage to inveigle my way in to get a look at a couple of the books, but then earwigged a conversation about Sourdough. It was when the woman said “… so when I come down the stairs in the morning I look in the jar [of starter} and say ‘how’s may little babies this morning’”. That’s when I knew she was genuine. I told her I’d baked my first successful sourdough loaf yesterday, but that it was almost completely scoffed by Scamp and me. She was really interested and asked how old my ‘babies’ were and I told her they were just over 14 days old and growing stronger each day. I think she was gratified that other ‘ordinary’ folk took up the cudgels of sourdough baking. I wished her luck with her first loaf and went out to find Scamp.

We went and bought loads of coffee and tea, but on the way Eagle Eyed Scamp saw a sale in a sports shop with some natty looking trainers in the window at a knock down price. She just can’t pass on a bargain, so it was with a shoebox in the bag that we walked down to the coffee shop.

Got to the car park and the phone rang. From the garage this time, to say the car had passed and was ready to collect. Perfect timing. When we were driving out of the car park, there was nobody in the cabin and the notice said that as there was nobody to take the fare, please leave the car park smartly. We didn’t need a second bidding. £3 saved is £3 off the price of Scamp’s smart new trainers.

Lunch in Morrison’s cafe and then back south with the weather worsening with every mile. It rained almost half the way home. Not heavy, just there and no more. Dropped Scamp off to pick up the car and came home.

I’d taken one photo today and I didn’t think it was very interesting but after processing it, it looked not too bad. It was a mosaic in the Main Street of Perth. I don’t remember seeing it before. We rarely look down. We rarely look up. We walk with our eyes open, but we don’t SEE what’s around us. We’re too busy making up to-do lists and worrying about inconsequential things we can’t change. We should be more mindful. Today’s PoD isn’t the mosaic, but it is on Flickr. Today’s PoD is the Weeman. It’s been in my head for about a week now!

Tomorrow is dancing in the afternoon, but for the reasons outlined yesterday, we will forego the pleasure of salsa at night.

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Waving goodbye to an old work friend – 10 April 2018

Today was one of those Scottish days. Dull, damp and dreary.

Slow to get started today, but I’d decided to reformat the old school laptop taking with it the last vestiges of me. Full deletion. This took a much shorter time than the last one, only about two hours which is reasonable for a 750GB drive and installation of the abominable Windows 10.

Scamp was out for coffee with a Witch friend, so I found the box for the laptop and took it up to the town centre to see what they’d give me for it. The shop was empty when I went in, but as soon as they sniffed fresh meat being delivered, all the Carbrain dead-heads were circling. Basically I handed over the machine. They confirmed the spec and told me I’d get an offer by phone or email, probably by Friday and gave me a receipt so they could do a ‘Three hour burn in test’. I didn’t want to tell them I’d done at least 30 hours of burn out test in the last week. Anyway, it’s gone and I’ll get something for it. How much I don’t know.

Next, when I came home I loaded more progs into the Linx and successfully secured the serial numbers for two of them. The rest were just Freeware – Real freeware I hasten to add. All legal and above board. Finally tonight I managed to get the email working. That was the worst struggle of all, but now it’s done.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about photos or food, which is unusual for me. I’d made a loaf last night and baked it today. It worked, but only just. It was a bit flat, so I let my sourdough starter go – down the pan. Somewhere the fishes are saying “What the F*** is that?” I’ll start a new batch tomorrow. Different recipe. Scamp made dinner. Mince ’n’ Tatties (with beetroot JIC!). Simply superb!

It wasn’t a day for photos. Today I just wanted to get the laptop off my hands, so today’s PoD is Hi Ho Silver. A funny weeman I treated myself to on Saturday. I quite liked him. Yes, I know the horse should be white and the rider should have a mask, but you get the idea!

Tomorrow is Dancing day. No time for anything else.

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Just a typical Monday – 12 March 2018

Lunch, gym/swim, dinner, dancing, home. That’s a typical Monday and that was the overview today.

Other than the above, I planted the chestnuts I’d collected last autumn. They’d been living in the cold greenhouse all through the winter and would be fairly effectively chilled, which is what they are supposed to be. Apparently it stimulates growth in the spring. Well, good luck with finding spring this year, little chestnuts. Eleven chessies are now planted out in the greenhouse. Scamp also brought her broad beans down and they’re out there too now.

Did go to the gym today and everybody else was there too. Recumbent bike, treadmill and a couple of the weigh machines was my limit today. Nothing too strenuous, although I am feeling it in my legs tonight. Although, that could be from the two hours of salsa we did tonight. One week off and there are a lot of new moves to catch up with. Some were good, some were downright awful.  Moves were ‘New One’(!!), Abanico Complicado, Salao(??) and Stormtrooper.

That’s about it really. Tonight’s PoD was in my head to do all day and was easier to set up than I thought.

Tomorrow? Scamp has a hospital appointment in the morning then a lunch appointment after that. Me, I’m the driver in the morning and maybe a cyclist after my own lunch. Oh, yes, today’s lunch was an omelette. Tossed like a pancake, the way the omelette chef did at the hotel last week. Needs a bit of tweaking, but a worthwhile attempt.

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Too Cold?? – 9 March 2018

The last full day in Fuerteventura already!

After breakfast we walked down to the island to have a jug of sangria and pose in the sunshine. It wasn’t until we were on the bridge, watching the spotted or striped fish, it was hard to tell which, swimming beneath us, it wasn’t until then we realised that the wind was the killer today. The sun was warm and the sky was fairly clear of cloud, but the wind was cooling us down very quickly. When you hear the term ‘wind chill’ you think of snow and ice, not twenty something degrees in the sun, but the chill effect is still there and I was feeling it. Scamp wasn’t so bothered, but when we got to the island cafe itself, there isn’t much shelter there, especially when the wind is from the south as it was today. We walked a circuit of the round cafe building, then regrettably left. Too cold in Fuerteventura in March, who’d have thought it.

To lift our spirits (no pun intended) we walked up to the Spar shop in the Atlantico centre and bought another bottle of gin and some tonic. We also bought some spicy pimenton for cooking when we got home and the cheapest saffron we’d ever seen. Again the intention is to leave it in the cupboard and then take it out some day to make paella and remember the day it was too cold to drink sangria in the Canaries!

Had lunch in the hotel and afterwards, Scamp wanted to do some more sunbathing in the shelter of the gardens in the hotel. I took the Troopies for a walk in the wilderness to get their photos taken. That’s them at the top of the page the PoD.  Have you ever tried to take a photo of three troopies and a Peppa Pig in a gale force wind?  It’s not easy.  Oh how we suffer for our art.

When we both returned from our last outing on the last day, we started packing, with a little gin ’n’ tonic, to lift our spirits (N.P.I.)

After dinner we went to the entertainment team show. It was dire. Not funny at all. Dancers who couldn’t dance. Singers who couldn’t sing. Jokes that simply weren’t funny. We didn’t stay to the end.

Sat on the balcony and drank too much gin again to, you’ve guessed it, lift our spirits, and that’s why the blog was late.

Tomorrow we go home.

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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.

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Persona Non Grata – 10 January 2018

Finally we did as we had promised and went to the gym, although one of us was left out in the cold.

I was thinking when I was reading in bed that we are, or at least I am, getting into a rut with every day following the same sort of routine:

  • Read for a while
  • shower
  • coffee at 11
  • lunch at 12
  • afternoon go out and find PoD
  • process PoD
  • dinner
  • repeat

We really need to break this routine. We went to the gym today just after 12noon. That broke the routine. Tried to log in at the gym and got an error message, probably because I haven’t been for ages. I could still use all the machines, but couldn’t remember the weights I should be using on some of them. Of course, none of the data was recorded but that doesn’t matter because there doesn’t seem to be any way for us to access it. Today was just a place marker to say we’d started again, so neither of us did all that much. We did have a swim afterwards and that was good. On the way out I checked at the desk to see how to get my card restarted and it was as I’d expected, I hadn’t logged in at (or in fact been to) the gym since 24th June last year and my membership had lapsed. I was soon reinstated. Scamp was not so lucky. She had been absent for longer and was now persona non grata. Her gym membership was revoked and her card confiscated then she was escorted off the premises. Well, it wasn’t as bad as that, she needs a new card which she can pick up when we return, hopefully next week.

When we came home I built up the easel and got out my acrylics and began work on a new painting. Not exactly new, it’s seen some previous iterations and is all lumps and bumps which adds to its tactile quality (snigger.) That’s when I came up with today’s PoD, entitled Happy as Larry. Slapping paint on a board always makes me happy and if a painting results from it, that’s a bonus!

Salsa tonight had far too many men so I’m doorman as I write this, making sure the new beginners are welcomed in and directed to fill in the application forms. Unfortunately I don’t get to take in any money. That would have been nice. I also had to put on my big heavy winter jacket because it’s bloody freezing here!

Tomorrow? Maybe Perth or if tonight’s fog persists, Cotton House for lunch instead.

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Hot Stuff – 5 January 2018

It was a cold day today. Damp, dull but most of all, cold. It was that sort of cold that gets into your bones and once it’s there, it’s hard to shift it.

One way to shift it is with a warming lunch and that’s what Scamp suggested. Scrambled egg with smoked salmon on toast. Just what I needed. My suggestion for a bit of warmth, and carrying on from my NY resolutions was to spend some time in the pool – not the gym. Maybe next week, but not today. Everything in moderation, that’s the way to make it stick.

We drove to the leisure centre and although the pool was full to start with, half the folk exited when the jacuzzi became available, so we both got the chance to do a few lengths in the lovely warm water. Next was a good ten minutes in the steam room and it was HOT. I could actually feel that warmth penetrating my bones and warming from the inside. I tried the sauna too, but I feel that it dries out my skin too much and that makes me feel like I’m burning. Back it the pool for another few lengths and I was ready to face the cold again. I don’t know if it was the lunch or the swim in warm water or the steam room, but for the rest of the day I was warm.

We went out to the Red Deer (or Dead Deer as we used to call it for no reason) for dinner tonight. Y’see Hazy, I was so captivated by ND’s Lamb Duo, I just had to try it, so that’s what I had (Yes! It was as good as it looked). Scamp was less adventurous and had Fish ’n’ Chips. I also had a bottle of the worst low alcohol beer that’s ever passed my lips. Imagine a bottle of diluted treacle with some hops dunked in them and you have the makings of St Peter’s Without. I’ll certainly go without rather than drinking that brown water again.

Today’s PoD is one of my wee men almost submerged in a box of screws. It was entitled ’Screwed’ and this is the description on Flickr:

You know the feeling. You’re looking for a bolt or screw and although you’ve got a box full of them, you just can’t find the right one, and you’re screwed!

Tomorrow (whisper it) we may go to Embra for lunch at Ravi Shankar’s restaurant. Not the real name, just what Scamp called it today!

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Day Two – 2 January 2018

A day when it was raining as we woke up and it’s still raining now at just after 11pm.

Hazy texted in the morning to say they were off to Dundee to meet one her friends. That left us with the rest of the day to ourselves. We were also at a loose end as we had planned to go out somewhere, but as the weather wasn’t suitable for going for a spin, we stayed in. Scamp did a bit more tidying and I finished off the calendars. Messed around with a couple of bits of software in the hopes that I could change the front page, but eventually gave up. We had lunch.

In the afternoon, the sun shone and there was blue sky with fluffy white clouds. My hopes did rise a bit at the prospect of a decent hour or so of dry weather, but it was just a passing hole in the clouds and it was letting even more rain fall through to wet us and the already saturated ground more than it had before. I could have read another chapter in The Book of Dust, but the hero is battling through a flooded town at present, so that wouldn’t take my mind off the incessant rain. I chose instead to take today’s PoD which has as a backdrop an old preparatory sketch of mine for an oil painting. It turned out that I liked the sketch better than the resulting painting. I liked the photo, but decided to add to it with some paint daubs from Pixelmator™. I think they added something to the shot and didn’t stand out too much as adulteration.

Dinner tonight was Pasta Carbonara. It was good to get back to plain ordinary food again. While we were eating dinner Hazy phoned to invite us to dinner with them. We explained that we were actually in the middle of ours, but would join them for coffee. Actually, we had a drink (non-alcoholic for me) and then pudding and coffee later. It was in the Red Deer and the puddings were lovely, although the coffee was a bit weak for me. The puddings were Apple Pie – Scamp and Neil D and Coconut Ice Cream for Hazy while I had Melba Mallow Mess (a lovely alliterative plateful). After that we said our goodnights and headed back to our respective places. Unfortunately they leave tomorrow, but it was good to have them here for a while and we had, as Canute said, ‘Precious days’ with them.

Tomorrow we will be in the grip of Storm Eleanor makes its way across the country. H&N will be driving south through the remnants, but I don’t think we’ll be going far.