A day for recharging batteries – 31 January 2021

After the biz of yesterday, we both agreed we needed a slower pace today.

We did think of going out for a walk in the morning, but although it was bright enough, it was cold and there was a scattering of snow on  the ground, so we talked ourselves out of it. I think I might have eaten just a little too much yesterday, so a light lunch was called for. On Friday I’d bought half a sourdough loaf I don’t really like sourdough bread to eat on its own, but toasted it is delicious, so we had scrambled egg on toast.

Feeling a lot better, I settled down to documenting yesterday’s highlights. My usual readers will probably have read all about it by now. Scamp was pruning the greenery that was covering some of the blooms we got yesterday and that made the display look even better. With photos and blog posted, I decided it was safe to go for a walk in St Mo’s. Nobody had moved from their parking spot today and I was loathe to give up my space and have to park by the side of the road when I got back from somewhere more interesting than St Mo’s. Besides, I’d left it a bit late and the light was already fading.

I walked round the pond, then out through the woodland looking for likely subjects. I wanted to try out a new focusing method on the Sony, called “Back Button Focusing”. I’d read about it before, but it seemed a bit complicated to set up although most photogs seem happy with the results. Basically, you nominate a button to be your focusing button and remove the shutter button’s ability to refresh focus. Then you can take your time focusing using the back button and when you’re happy, press the shutter to take the photo. It only took me about ten minutes to set it up and it did seem to work as described. I took some photos using it, but couldn’t work out how to return the setup to the camera default where a half press on the shutter sets focus. I decided the light was fading too much and I was almost sure I had at least one shot on the card that would make PoD, so I set off for home.  It had indeed worked. Most of the photos I’d take were solidly in focus. After re-reading the instructions I found the magic button on the camera that would not only return it to normal service, but could be used to switch on the Back Button Focusing again. PoD turned out to be a monochrome leaf dangling pitifully from a branch with new buds starting to form. The old and the new.

After yesterday’s overindulgence, tonight’s dinner was a much pared down affair. A simple Spaghetti a la Carbonara. It might have been even better if I’d cooked the spaghetti properly, but it was edible.

Dancing class tonight centred on the rumba routine we’d been learning and I’d been dreading. We had a practise before the class and it was going fine until the music started, then it went to pot. However by the end of the lesson it was looking and feeling much better. I actually enjoyed it.

Spoke to JIC and found out that Vixen now has an injured shoulder, caused, according to JIC, by her having two speeds, Full Ahead and Stop. After being out walks with her I can understand that.

A gentler G&T each tonight and an early(ish) bed again. Temperature is already heading towards zero. More snow predicted for tomorrow, the first day of February and the start of the 28 Drawings Later challenge on FB.

50 – 30 January 2021

Today it’s exactly 50 years since we first met at our friends’ engagement party. That was a Saturday too!

It was cold and frosty with just the thinnest covering of snow, so it was boots and YakTrax just in case. Not a long walk today, just a couple of circuits of St Mo’s pond. I took the Sony plus kit lens and my old Sigma 105mm macro on the adapter. The Samyang 18mm is always in the bag. That covered all the necessary bases. Two circuits was what we predicted and that’s what we did. Cold, but not absolutely freezing. Most of the photography was of landscapes with the macro lens providing some arty-farty close ups. After lunch it was time for me to give a cursory glance at the photos and for us both to begin to prepared dinner and tidy up a bit.

Later in the afternoon a knock at the door signalled the arrival of a large box of beautiful flowers from Hazy, JIC, Neil D and Sim. (Alphabetical arrangements are always safest). To say we were taken by surprise is an understatement. It’s rarely Scamp or I are lost for words, but we were today. Thank you, you lovely people.

Dinner was a sit at the table affair and a full three course meal. We decided it would be appropriate to celebrate the fifty years since we met with a glass (or two) of Prosecco before dinner.

It began with a seafood starter. Mine being Prawn Cocktail and Scamp’s was Seared Scallops. Mains were Lightly Smoked Trout for Scamp and Sirloin Steak for me, served with potatoes. Dessert was Eve’s Pudding. All washed down with a very nice red wine. Music just had to be Songs of Leonard Cohen.

Later we tasted a bottle of Dark Matter (not the whole bottle, not yet anyway!). I had a small glass, neat and Scamp had her traditional Coke with her’s. Interesting taste of spice, something hot and treacle. We may need to try some more tomorrow, just to be sure. While sampling we watched a bit of TV and decided an early night would be best before the room started spinning too fast for us to find the door.

PoD was a landscape from the morning’s photo shoot.

Tomorrow will be the day of reckoning, I’m sure.

This, inevitably, is the catch-up write up.

The Golden Hour – 29 January 2021

We were waiting for a parcel, a parcel for Scamp this morning. That and the fact it was raining meant we simply HAD to stay in.

Once the parcel had arrived, just after 11.30 we could safely have lunch without worrying about going to the door, with clown red mouth, to collect the parcel from the DPD, because it was tomato soup for lunch and it always gives me a clown red mouth. With the parcel safely delivered, opened and the contents tested (moisturiser and girlie stuff) and with lunch over, Scamp went out to post a letter while I footered about on the computer before getting my boots ready and going for carnivore food for tomorrow’s dinner. The pescatarian was having fish, of course. We almost passed like ships in the night, me going, her returning at the door. I took a detour and walked round the back of St Mo’s school on my way to the shops, hoping for something interesting to cross my path, but I came home with wet feet, two bags of messages and half a dozen uninteresting photos. However …

However, as I was coming home the sky was clearing and the rain had definitely stopped, so I quickly changed sox and boots and lenses and went out again with the short lens setup. Sigma 10-20mm on an adapter, standard kit lens and Samyang 18mm. The light responded happily to my change of kit. The low sun was shiny and gold and it was lighting up the trees beautifully. I took the shot, but knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a bit more drama and the best way to get it is to shoot into the sun. Forget the rule that says you should always have sun over your left shoulder. Rules were made for folk to break them. I chose a spot on the boardwalk that allowed me to shoot in to the sun and get a bit of reflection from the sky on the clear channels around the pond’s edge. About twenty photos later I came home much happier than I’d been coming home from the shops.

Photos roughly processed and favourites earmarked for further tweaking, I started the dinner. Dinner itself was easy, it was just a case of reheating yesterday’s curry, warming up the flatbread dough that was left over from last night and cooking the rice. We’d decided to have pakora as well as the curry, as a kind of starter. The last time I made it, I made too much and we ended up the starter became the dinner. Not so this time. Four mushroom pakora to share and about ten cauliflower pakora to share, not too big pieces either. It actually turned out quite good. I’ll never be able to make that batter again, because it was a bit of this, a bit of that and just enough sparkling water to make it sticky without being stodgy or runny. It was voted a success. A wee glass of cheap red afterwards sealed the meal.

Later in the evening a G&T while we watched the comedy show pretending to be a whodunnit called Death in Paradise. Worth watching just for the tropical views.

The picture of the Golden Hour (the hour just before the sun sets) got PoD. Old glass on a new camera.

Tomorrow we’re planning to go for a walk and later have a posh dinner in.


Baking and house building – 28 January 2021

We thought it might be a good idea to go out early for our walk, and it was.

We walked down round the path to Broadwood and, after some discussion, went round the boardwalk. At first there seemed to be no birds on the water at all. Then I spotted what looked to be a grey heron, but a small, scraggy one. It was standing on the ice that still coats Broadwood looking very sorry for itself. I took a few photos, expecting it to fly off immediately it saw me, but instead it decided that it too wanted to go on a walk and disappeared round the corner, on foot (or on claw). I’m thinking now it might have been a young or perhaps sickly bird. Must check the next time we’re down that way.

We walked round one of our normal routes, noting the speed at which the new Covid testing station had been built in the carpark of Broadwood Stadium. It shows what can be done if the need arises.

Back home and after lunch the weather closed in even more. That fine smirr of the morning was now a drizzle and heading to full tilt rain. I decided the grey heron photo from the morning would be PoD. Scamp decided it was time we started making the Gingerbread House. That is, it was time I started making the Gingerbread House. She was simply the overseer, the ‘Gaffer’ and I was the labourer. I know my place. Bear in mind that this project started out as hers, then became a joint effort and now it was all mine. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I know, I’ve been there before. Apron on, time to get started.

Melted the butter over a low gas and added the sugar, then transferred the dank brown sludge to a big bowl and after letting it cool a bit, added the flour then kneaded it into a soft(ish) ball of dough. Chopped it in two and rolled out each piece and placed two templates on top and cut round the rectangle (Roof/Wall) and the triangle (End Wall). Did the same with the other piece of dough. Crushed up some sweets and poured the resulting scraps into the window holes of the Roof/Wall. We should have made a video of me smashing a poly bag of sweets with a claw hammer. Really funny, really satisfying! Scamp cut out two ‘adorable’ gingerbread people from the leftover dough, two Christmas trees and two candy canes, all using templates she’d prepared earlier. Baked the lot in the oven for about 15mins and surprise, surprise they actually looked like they’d work!

We let the gingerbread and our tempers cool while I made Carrot & Lentil Curry with Flatbread for dinner. Curry was good. Flatbread was exceptional.

Assembly was the bit that worried me, but the glue we made with beaten egg white and icing sugar was fantastic, if a bit messy, especially when a bit of back pressure on the piping bag allowed some of the mixture to escape back up the bag and onto the carpet (oops!). Actually, the assembly was a dawdle. I was expecting some of the disasters you see on GBBO, but it just worked. That’s what happens when two professionals follow the instructions. Decoration was a bit clumsy, I admit I have to work on that, but the overall effect was ok and much improved by Scamp’s careful placing of the Smarties, althought I do believe she sampled a few. Thank you JIC for an imaginative Christmas present. We both had a good laugh.

Now the Grey Heron photo got PoD, but I’ve made the corporate decision to use the Gingerbread House as the lead on the blog.

It’s really raining now, teeming down, but the weather fairies say it will dry up by tomorrow morning, so we might get out a walk. If not, we’ve a cake to eat.

The researcher returns – 27 January 2021

A different researcher this time, another lady. Same tests unfortunately.

We had an early(ish) appointment this morning. 10am is early for us, but we were there, ready for the tasty swabs (yuk), but feeling better about it because we had been paid last week and Scamp had already spent half of hers on foodbank food in Tesco. I’m planning to do the same this week. Today’s Q&A only lasted fifteen minutes because we’re getting a bit more prepared for the questions. However the ONS are keeping us on our toes by adding questions and re-writing others. Sneaky.

With the test done and the world starting to defrost a bit, I volunteered to go for a walk in St Mo’s to check out the state of the paths and the general ‘walkability’ of the place. I also planned to take a few photos, of course.

I was intending grabbing a shot of a woolly hat sitting on a fence post. I’d seen it a couple of days ago and thankfully it was still there. Don’t know why this particular piece of headwear caught my eye, but it did and it made PoD. I took a landscape of the snowy wastes on the edge of the pond too, more or less a record shot, but it also went in to Flickr. The last one to enter today was an old shot from 27th January 2020. It was taken with the Nikon D7000 from the back bedroom looking towards the Meikle Bin and with a bit of jiggery pokery it looked presentable. It fits my new category of Throwback. I see a lot of folk on Flickr doing it and thought I’d have a go.

After lunch I convinced Scamp that a walk round St Mo’s was possible, so we booted up and walked the wild and icy paths round the pond. I won’t say it was the most interesting walk we’ve had, but it got us out in the fresh air for a while, fresh air and drizzle to be more precise.

Back home I ticked off one of my tasks for the day and wrote an email to the Auld Guys. Just a catch-up to say how we were spending our time. So far, only Val has got back to me. I’m going to suggest we try a five way video call using Zoom. It might work for some it might not for others. It’s worth a try.

Scamp and I had discussed changing the date for what would have been the Easter cottage holiday. It was either change the date or cancel. We settled on changing the date to July and that’s now done. Hopefully we will have been released from Lockdown by then.

Next thing to do was to phone John Malley and that’s what I did. Marion is teaching from home with two live teaching sessions per day and then four single person video calls for pupils having problems with the work. Ross is still working from home and Laura is now engaged to (Big) Ross. I think that’s you all caught up with what’s happening in Hamilton and area.

Dinner tonight was a superb Fish ’n’ Chips with beetroot and tomato sauce. Home cooked, of course by the pescatarian cook.

Most of the snow, slush and ice has now gone and the paths are preparing for the next load to be dumped on us, perhaps tomorrow morning. If it’s dry we’ll go for a walk. Maybe a drive then a walk.

Rain, Sleet and Snow – 26 January 2021

Not a lot to recommend it, really.

It wasn’t a day for going out for a walk and even with a weatherproof camera, not a day for photography either. We were both happy to stay inside, even if it was a bit boring.

We did get a phone call from Hazy and that cheered us up. She even gave us a list of programmes to watch on the TV. Glad to hear a Librarian’s job has appeared at last. You’ve waited a long time for that. We hope you really enjoy it and end up running the show!

In the end I sat and watched a tutorial on Affinity Designer software. Not the most riveting visual feast, but very informative. Although I taught vector graphics to Higher level I was completely self taught. We didn’t get much opportunity to go on training days because money at school was always tight and any tutorials we could find were so far out of date to be absolutely useless. I wish I’d had this 2hr 45min video tutorial then. I’ve learned more in the first half hour than I had with all those old typed out and badly photocopied pages.

Because I didn’t get out to take any photos, I had to rely on the old faithful, flowers. Cut flowers, because the only flowers showing in the garden are the Christmas Roses and they’ve all been photographed out. Likewise the Christmas flowering cacti. The ‘mother’ plant is now producing the most gorgeous bright pink flowers, but I feel it too has been over photographed. Today it was the chance of Eryngium to take centre stage. This plant, also known as Sea Holly is one of Scamp’s favourites and rapidly becoming one of mine too. Not bright and showy, but the spiky dark blue flowers are eye-catching in their own way. They became PoD.

I did have one piece of good news. I got my appointment for the Covid vaccine. I’ll have to wait a fortnight to get it, but I’m not complaining … for once!

Tomorrow is looking like it will be better than today, so we may get out for a walk.

The Bin Man and The Girls – 25 January 2021

Today I was a bin man. Not for us, but for my niece, although a few of our empty bottles went along for the ride.

Our niece was having problems getting her rubbish collected and she asked me to help her out. It wasn’t really a problem. She’d done all the hard work of sorting into different bags. I was just the transport to the council skips. For once there was no queue and no need to check proof of residential status. Just an “Ok buddy. Go right in.” Shona had done a good job of sorting all the paper, cardboard, general waste and glass. All I had to do was chuck the bags in the skips, empty the paper in the bins and the cardboard into the hopper for the crusher. Then the good bit, smashing the bottles in the big steel boxed with the rubber seals over the openings. I just love that smashing sound. Someone once told me that it’s only men who have a fascination with bonfires and throwing anything into them that isn’t bolted down. The same is true with water. Women want to walk beside it. Men want to throw things into it. Apparently it’s the same with recycling centres. Men love throwing empty bottles into those boxes to hear the smash. It’s some primal instinct.

With that done I drove up to Fannyside to see The Girls. The sheep, some white, some black who live in a field up there. The last time Scamp and I were there, the sheep stood for ages, like statues, watching us. Today they were more interested in their lunch which the farmer had just served. I took their photo anyway, because I knew they expected it. Nice backdrop of the Campsie Fells and their light covering of snow with cloud shadows giving some added 3D effects. On the way back I stopped to grab a shot of an old ruined farm which, according to the OS map is Jawhill. It’s very picturesque and would be even more so if it wasn’t for those bloody wind farms behind it, two different ones. Blots on the landscape.

Stopped at Tesco on the way home for food. Veg for soup and also milk and bread. When I got home, and after lunch, Scamp went out on a foraging mission armed with her shopping voucher from the Office for National Statistics and Oxford Uni. We had decided that we’d both use half our money to buy food for the local food banks and half we’d keep. Seems only fair. She returned looking pleased with herself. Half of her first payment now gracing the food bank donation box in Tesco. My turn later in the week.

It was Burn Night tonight and it’s traditional in this house to have Haggis, Neeps (which my spellchecker doesn’t understand) and Tatties (which it does!). So that was dinner sorted. Scamp was cooking. I was footering about with today’s photos. ‘The Ladies’ won PoD as I knew they would and should.

It started snowing about an hour ago and it’s still hard at it. I expect it will be mostly gone by tomorrow because it’s forecast to turn to rain later, but then again, they might get it completely wrong. We can only wait and see. If the weather is decent we might go for a walk.

More dancing – 24 January 2021

A lesson this time, not a dance.

Yet another cold morning. It was -4ºc when Scamp was making the breakfast.

Of course we weren’t getting up at that time. Never on a Sunday! However, once we’d had breakfast showered and were ready to face the day I did take a walk to examine the frost on the car and managed to get a couple of photos of the little ice crystals. One was posted on Flickr, but it didn’t achieve PoD.

It wasn’t until well after midday that we steeled ourselves and went for a walk around St Mo’s pond. I took a few more frosty photos there and it was one of them that produced the tiny frozen trees that made PoD. It was a close run thing with my other favourite photo, a leaf covered with hoar frost.

It was just above freezing when we arrived back at the house. Dinner tonight was Bacon and Borlotti Beans. Now becoming a firm favourite. Then we had to move all the furniture around for tonight’s dance class. First off was a reprise of last week’s Mambo Marina followed by our ongoing stumbles through Rumba and finished off with the Midnight Jive. We weren’t too bad at that. It was me stumbling round the rumba that was the low point. Even with Stewart and Jane’s encouragement, we are finding it hard. Not insurmountable, just difficult. It doesn’t help that we are dancing on a carpet and they are demonstrating on a polished wooden floor. However, the hour passed fairly quickly and with a bit of practise over the next few days we’ll get there, I’m sure. If not, we’ll have invented an new dance, The Stumble Rumba. It does have a certain ring to it!

Spoke to JIC at night and were surprised to hear that they had had a full day of snow and we had none. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. You never know what we’ll wake up to tomorrow!

Tomorrow morning I’m supposed to be doing a rubbish uplift for Shona. Hope the skips have been emptied over the weekend to make room for it all.



We took Katy skating – 23 January 2021

It was a cold start again. No snow and only a little bit of ice, but frost covering all the cars.

We decided we’d make a fairly leisurely start today. In fact it was well into afternoon before we booted up and walked around St Mo’s. I reckoned there would be enough ice for Katy and there was. I took Scamp on a trek out into the wild woods at the back of St Mo’s. I thought I’d make a slight detour to show her my hibernating ladybird, but shock, horror, no ladybird. Perhaps the two sunny days recently have brought it out of its winter sleep. Let’s hope so. We did find a lush crop of hair ice on the exact same log I’d found it earlier in the month. Plenty of other logs nearby in the same state of degradation with no sign of the strange ice formation on them. Apparently it’s linked to a specific type of fungus. Strange stuff.

Katy had been wanting to go skating for weeks, but the thaw had put paid to her chances. I was sure the ice would be thick enough today and it was … but only just. I got her to pose and even as I was setting up the camera, I could tell that the ice was starting to melt. I could even see the dead leaves under the ice moving in the current. Took a swift half dozen or so shots from various angles. Some with extra illumination, some not. As we were walking away from the tiny pond I ’chimped’ them and none of them were truly sharp. Not to worry I was sure I’d find a more accessible shot on the other side of the big pond.

We walked round the pond after we’d survived the tangled brambles and the two leaps of faith across the burn. There I found what I was looking for. The rain from last week had frozen solid on the path making walking it without YakTrax treacherous. Not so for a minifig with ice skates. Katy posed again and this time I got the shot. Not perfect, but much better than the first shots. I have to be careful here. Katy is not technically a Weeman. She is a WeeWummin. She’s my ice skater. She made PoD.

Dinner was Fish Fingers and Baked Potato for Scamp and M&S Beef Burger with Baked Potato for me. Both washed down with a glass of Malbec. Not the best tasting wine I’ve ever had. It tasted raw and bitter to me, although Scamp found it really nice.

Entertainment started at 7.30pm in the form of a Zoom Dance. It was a particularly well attended dance and our feet are feeling the effects of dancing the night away. It finished just half an hour ago. Great fun as usual and another Zoom Class to look forward to tomorrow.

Apart from the dance class we may go out for a walk if the weather is conducive. It may be cold tomorrow as the temperature is -2.4c just now.

Colzium Explored – 22 January 2021

It was a cold start, but clear. Scamp suggested we go for a walk. I suggested Colzium.

So we drove over to Colzium Estate on the outskirts of Kilsyth. We’d walked it many times, but today we took a different path. Not really a new path, but one that’s been closed for a few years for reinstatement of fences. It is a steep and winding path that leads up the side of the Colzium Burn to a wee bridge over the burn, then down the other side past an unofficial animals’ graveyard. It was a tough climb, but it was a beautiful day and the light was perfect. Got a few slow shutter shots of the waterfalls from the bridge at the top, but it was one of the faster shutter shots that eventually became PoD. After that we walked on past the house and the bloke who was working his metal detector over the grassy park area. I wonder what he was looking for. There was a battle near there hundreds of years ago, but not on the site he was prospecting. Maybe he knew better than the historians.

We walked a path to the right which climbed up a hill and turned out to have been the drive into Colzium house from the Tak ma Doon road. We didn’t go on to the road, but took a path to the right which led down and round to the walled garden of the estate. On the way we passed a sign for the ruins of Colzium Castle. I never even knew such a place existed. What little is left of it is now been build into the side of a house on the estate. Back round to Colzium House and then round the boating pond which has now silted up so badly there’s hardly enough water for the ducks and swans to swim in. From there we walked back to the car and drove home. An interesting morning that stretched into the afternoon and helped us amass just over 5000 steps.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Curry. I was reading about it in January 22nd 2000 blog last night. I’d forgotten all about this easy as pie chicken curry. If you care to look it up you can find a link to the recipe that’s still live. It certainly is easy and tasty.

The photo from the top of the Colzium Burn got PoD after a bit of massaging in two different apps. However, it doesn’t matter how it got there, it’s the result that counts!

Scamp got a bit of bad news this morning. Netta Lennox died yesterday. Hazy, you might remember her from choir. She was a lovely lady, one of the original Gems. She was over 90 and had been ill for some time.

Tomorrow looks cold. It’s just below zero now and still dropping. We may go out somewhere if it warms up.