Out early and out of North Lanarkshire – 31 March 2021

We’d planned to go out today, driving and walking if the weather permitted and it did, so we did too!

We drove to Chatelherault in Hamilton or Fernigair to be more exact. I was never in Fernigair, I only passed it in the bus coming home from work in Cambuslang. I must have passed it going to work too, but I was probably half asleep then. I remember that all the houses were wooden framed and painted dark brown. Now they’ve all gone and been replaced by the tiny chicken box houses that cost a fortune and become too small for a growing family which forces them to buy a bigger chicken box somewhere else. And so the money goes round.

Chatelherault was then a private estate, owned by the landed gentry and mere proles like us were not permitted to even see their grand house behind its big stone wall. Nowadays anyone can tramp round their once private estate and that was our intention today. Last night we planned our route. We’d take the low path from the ‘Big House’ down through the forest and along beside the river to the ‘White Bridge’, then climb the steps to the high path and from there back to the car. That was the plan. Plans are a great idea. Even better is ignoring them.

The walk started well and there was just the hint of blue sky breaking through the clouds. What’s more, it was quite warm. Not South of England, 24º warm, but nearer 12º Scottish warm. We wandered along the path through the trees and listened to the Avon flowing beside us on the right and to the waterfalls coursing down the side of the glen on the left. Of course I just had to try a slow shutter shot (or five) of the waterfalls. The path was fairly dry which was good because I’d worn my Merrell blotting paper boots. Their only good point is the grips on the soles that are much better at preventing slips than the polished soles of the Clarks boots. Now if I could only remove the soles from the Merrells and glue them onto the Clarks boots I’d have the ideal walking boots. Even better, if Nic the Chick would let Tiso open up sooner, I’d be able to buy a pair of boots the equal of my Frankenstein invention.

Back to the path. The path meanders horizontally and also vertically which makes it much more interesting than any road or asphalt path. Parts of it are almost straight and the gradient is gentle, but that’s because the path is following the route of an old mineral railway line. After that line ended we had to climb steps over a rocky part and then it was down the other side and we were almost at the White Bridge. There is a tubular metal barrier across the path at that point and a sign saying PATH CLOSED. The amount of boot marks and paw prints gave the lie to that notice, so we to ignored them. We both knew that the White Bridge was no longer there. Only the pillars remain. Scamp wasn’t happy with clambering over a gap in the boardwalk that would take us to the remains of the bridge and to be honest, neither was I, but I did it and came back without injury.

We discussed our best path back to the car and decided not to climb the steps to the high path, but rather take a fork in the path we’d seen on the way there, that would take us to the Old Avon Bridge. We found the fork without any trouble and followed the path below the Duke’s bridge and after a few hundred yards were at another decision. Do we follow the path to the Old Bridge or take a path up the side of the glen to the Big House. We chose the latter and it was a tough climb. A rest halfway up gave us time to catch our breath and we continued on to meet yet another level of path. From there I could see the avenue at the front of the house. It was an easy ramble from there along past the White Park cattle the estate is famed for and on to the car for a slice of orange, then home.

After we’d had lunch and I’d inspected the photos. I took a walk over to St Mo’s partly to get some more ammunition for a PoD and partly to stretch my legs. The photos didn’t really materialise, but my legs felt better for the stretching.

PoD became the photo of the Duke’s Bridge taken at the start of the walk. About seven miles walked and according to my Fitbit 16,000 steps and 69 sets of stairs climbed. Unfortunately, only 7 out of 8 active hours. The Fitbit is never satisfied!

Saw some Wood Anemones and bright yellow Celandine on our walk. Also smelled Wild Garlic which will always be called Stinking Ingins. (ingins is Scots for onions). I should have foraged some to make pesto.

Hopefully a more gentle day tomorrow. Maybe another leg stretching walk in store.

Welcome to the fairy dell – 30 March 2021

We have twinkling lights all round the garden. Now it’s a veritable fairy dell.

This morning we were working in the garden. Scamp was doing the directing and I was doing the heavy lifting and the digging. We were moving pots around to make better use of the space we have. One of the Azaleas was travelling out near the back fence to provide some colour until the Buddleia comes into flower. That left more space between the other two azaleas. The space where the plant was moving to was very uneven and it took a bit of spade work to level it off, but that little bit of earth shifting helped provided a more stable bed for it. The place it’s in was once hidden by a metal clothes pole which I cut down last year. This new planting makes good use of a bit of wasted space.

Still on a garden theme, I got my old multi-meter out and checked the voltage of one of the batteries in the solar powered lights that ring the tree. They seemed ok and the solar cell was producing just under a volt, which should have been enough to charge the single 1.2v NiMh battery. I replaced the battery and put it all back together. Weeks ago I bought Scamp some warm white lights to run along the fence. Today I tacked them to the fence with the staple gun. With the electrical work and the landscaping done, we had lunch.

After lunch we walked down and around the boardwalk at Broadwood Loch, then over the dam and back up home. Three goons were flying kites with SNP logos from the path across the dam. That about sums up the SNP it these, its troubled times. Flying a kite indeed!

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s because I didn’t have many photos from the Broadwood walk, but found very little to interest me. That seems to be a theme these days: “very little to interest me”. I blame the restrictions on movement. I think I’ve photographed every interesting thing in St Mo’s. We need to get out somewhere else. I ended up taking the PoD in the front garden. One of the flowers on our Forsythia bush. It’s the bush where the flowers appear before the leaves.

Interesting microwave curry ready-meal from M&S tonight. Really very tasty. Must look for it cheap again some time.

Watched Line of Duty and am still confused about who did what, when, to whom and why. Are they all lying, and why does this new DCI Davidson sound as if she’s English, pretending she’s Scottish when she is actually Scottish?

It’s all too much for me, but the fairy lights are looking good. Scamp likes them. Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere south.

At last, a pineapple – 29 March 2021

It was a windy old day today and a lady arrived and asked us to stick something down our throat and then up our nose. What a fun day.

We’ll get to that in a minute, but before that I cleared my painting table and put the potting tray on it along with four flower pots and one of those plug trays that look like the inside of a chocolate box, vacuum formed for those who used to teach about such things. A bag of that disgusting peat-free compost and a trowel completed the inside gardening accoutrements. I already had the seeds in the room and I proceeded to fill the pots with compost and sow Yellow Aquilegia, Strawberry Aquilegia and plain old natural Purple Aquilegia. Next was the plug tray. It too was filled with the same compost and into it was planted peas that I’d harvested last year with this exact purpose in mind. Two peas to each compartment. They might be Boogie or Ambassador or some other pea, I’m not sure. I took everything back down to that windy garden and watered all the seeds with pure rainwater and put them in the greenhouse and zipped it up to keep out the wind and hopefully to capture some of the sun’s warmth. Let’s see what appears.

The lady arrived, an Australian lady this time. Strange, it’s always been a lady who brings these instruments of torture and asks us questions. This time she was offering another year of tests although we are only part way through this year’s lot. The next tests are blood tests and I don’t think we’ll be taking them. I don’t mind the questions and the swabs, once you’ve done them a few times aren’t really all that bad. However, we were discussing the blood tests and assume we’d wouldn’t be able to do them in the kitchen. If that’s the case, then we might have to travel to Motherwell to the big ‘Tumbling Dominoes’ centre to get the blood taken. In summer it’s an ok drive, but a waste of a morning or afternoon, but in the winter it’s a different story. We’ll wait to see if we get offered them and what the procedure will be, but I think we’re thinking we’re doing enough.

Just after she left our Tesco order arrived with a substitution of Kinder Eggs for the Cadbury’s Cream Eggs Scamp had ordered. This was a surprise to me because I didn’t remember ordering them. Scamp was annoyed because it was meant to be a surprise for me, a good surprise. So the Tesco delivery man is in the same bad books as Alexa, who divulged the content of the delivery that was to be a Scamp’s birthday surprise.

I went for a walk later in the afternoon when the wind was calming down a bit and the rain that had been on all day had stopped. I wanted to see if I could find some Larch Pineapples, also called Larch Roses apparently. I couldn’t find any although the pollen dispensers were there in their hundreds, then, high up in the tree I saw what looked like a ‘pineapple’. I walked round to the windward side of the tree and finally found a couple of ‘pineapples’ just above head height. The wind was gusting strongly on this side of the tree and out of the five shots I took, the one you see was the only survivor of the cull when I got back home, and by virtue of that, the PoD. You can see how the shape of the pine cone is already there in the petals of this flower, because that is what it will turn into, a pine cone.

Hoping for a better day tomorrow. Today was wild and wet, but warmer than it’s been of late. Tomorrow will be cooler as the wind turns more northerly, but hopefully we’ll manage a walk.

Such a dull day – 28 March 2021

We went out to the shops and that was the extent of the outside ventures today.

We wouldn’t even have gone out if we hadn’t needed milk and some fruit. That’s how bad a day it was. It started raining as we were coming home and then, just as we got in, the rain came down in torrents. It stayed almost all afternoon, only getting lighter later in the day. By then the light was failing anyway, which made a walk pointless. Instead I resorted to a flower picture. Just to make it more interesting, I did a macro of one of the fading Alstroemeria in Scamp’s vase. They actually looked better earlier in the week, but I didn’t have time to photograph them properly. Today I did have that time to be more careful with exposure and focus. I also chose to keep some colour in the background, using some carnations that were sitting on the window sill. All in all, quite happy with the result.

Dancing tonight was difficult. I think we’re fairly competent with the Rumba, but I wasn’t looking forward to the Telemark Turn in Tango. I thought it was something to do with skiing and actually it did look like I was skiing when I was dancing it. After the class was over and I had a chance to look at the video tutorial for the tango, I found where I was going wrong and I think we now look as if we are dancing, not skiing!

Spoke to JIC as we cooled down after that hot tango and got an update on life in the south with the prospect of a heat wave while we struggle to get up into the low teens.

Watched the first F1 GP of 2021 and watched the ‘delusional’ Vettel drive into Esteban Ocon’s car. Not my words, but David Coulthard’s. It looks like Vettel’s going to continue the Wacky Races style of F1 driving he started last year.

Tonight, high winds and rain made a wild and wet end to a dull day. Hopefully tomorrow will be calmer if not drier.

Some days you just can’t be bothered going out – 27 March 2021

Not a day for going out

I knew there were things I should do, but it was cold outside, in fact it hardly rose above 7º all day. In the morning I gave in to the lethargy and made the excuse that I was catching up on things I had to do in the house, but I knew that was a lie. Eventually I dragged myself and the potting table out into the garden to plant two pots of chillies. One pot of Birds Eye and one pot of Jalapeños. Then there was the basil.

I’d bought the basil from M&S or Tesco, I can’t remember which, but that doesn’t really matter, does it? They’re all probably grown in the same nursery, or more likely these days, the same factory. Anyway, it’s been producing a lot of greenery for pasta and pizzas since I bought it and is having to be watered every second day instead of once a week as it was at the start. That means it’s probably ‘pot bound’ which means its roots have used up all the food in the meagre soil it was planted in and it’s starting to strangle itself in its small pot. I released it from its prison and planted it in a bigger pot with more room for expansion. I was using peat-less compost. If you really look at this stuff, you’ll wonder what exactly is in it. It seem to be mostly stuff that comes out of the hoover bag when it gets tipped in the bin. It’s about 50% grit and sand with a few bits of chopped up organic material and some coconut fibre added for good luck. I hope the basil likes it, because we’re doing our best to preserve the peat bogs and that’s why we’re paying good money for what looks like the stuff that comes out of Dyson once the carpets have had a good going over.

After a lunch of a piece ’n’ sausage for me and a piece ’n’ egg for Scamp, we went for a walk round St Mo’s. You could actually feel that the 7º was before the subtraction for windchill. It was freezing. Of course Scamp didn’t feel it. Only one tribe was out today. Some of the braves were standing around on a mucky path drinking firewater (Buckfast). The oldest was about 16. The youngest about 11. These are the people we’re going to rely on in the a few years to be paying their way to provide for our pension. I’m not feeling confident about that. Further down the path we met three squaws (I just checked the spelling there and Google says the word ‘Squaw’ is offensive! Sorry Google, but the Squaws were offensive too.)

Once round was enough today. The weather and the gathering of the tribe was off-putting and earlier I’d snapped a photo of a flowering currant with the actual flowers open, so POD was sorted.

Dinner was Prawn & Pea Risotto followed by Apple Crumble. First made by me and second made by Scamp, with an apple pie for tomorrow!

Watched the last of the Drawers Off series tonight and really was happy to see the back of it. I know it was just a bit of Channel 4 fun, but the ‘teacher’, Diane Ali has as much artistic talent as a tin of black paint. Her helpful hints are vague and sometimes contradictory. I think I’ve seen three good painters in the series the rest were only there to be on the telly. Hope it doesn’t come back.

What is back is F1 and tonight was the first qualifying race with the full race tomorrow. Lots of new names and some hopeful new faces, a few hopeless new faces and then there was Sebastian Vettel bringing up the rear. Somebody should tell him his time has come and gone.

Saw some pictures of Hazy’s new kitchen tonight. Most impressed. I hope it doesn’t put Scamp in the mood for a kitchen renovation!

It’s raining again tonight and it’s forecast for more of the wet stuff tomorrow. I’d better close now because we’re going to lose an hour’s sleep tonight.

Blue skies and sunshine – 26 March 2021

Also rain, sleet and hail in varying quantities, because it’s Scotland.

It was raining when we woke and it had been the same during the night, so there was no rush to get up and go out. However, later in the morning the clouds part, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. We went shopping.

We went via St Mo’s so I could get some photos. Today I was toting only the 18mm very wide angle. For once it was the right lens to have. There were some lovely cloudscapes over St Mo’s pond and I grabbed a few until the camera reported “Disk Full”. Aha, but I’d come prepared with a spare 32GB card. Plugged it in and we were in business again. One of those shots became PoD. Hardly any editing needed, almost straight out of the camera.

We walked out of the park and across the road, then down the way we’d walked on Wednesday and I’d walked yesterday, but still no deer. That didn’t matter, I was sure I had a PoD and that’s more important than the flighty deer. Walked round to the shops, just as the school was coming out for lunchtime. Thankfully they are at half capacity until after the Easter Holidays, when the whole contingent will be invited to return to lessons. That’s not to say they will all come back. I don’t see some of them ever returning after almost a year’s freedom. Feral, that’s what they’ll be. The new cavemen and women.

Got what we went for at the shops and came home for lunch. I took a few close up shots of some alstroemeria flowers, just to bolster the collectio. Later in the afternoon I got itchy feet and went out for a late walk in St Mo’s and saw a skein of geese heading north. Then as one, they turned and flew west, losing altitude all the time. They were heading for a large open field near Moodiesburn where they often break their journey north in autumn and south in spring. Another photo opportunity.

Came home to the news that Alex Salmond has announced that he’s standing for the Holyrood elections with a new party he’s created called something pretending to be Gaelic. What a Wally! It’s so transparent what he’s trying to do – to screw up Nic the Chick’s plans for world domination. Who would vote for that eejit? Then I think, but what about Trump? Millions voted for him. Maybe … No, that’s unthinkable. Isn’t it??

The remains of the Carrot & Lentil Curry for dinner but the panna cotta was finished as were the tuiles. Never mind. Hopefully there will be more some day.

Tomorrow the weather looks much the same as today, probably even worse. We may get out for a walk.

Today was dull, just dull – 25 March 2021

Not the most interesting of days. Dull grey morning with the promise of rain later.

Spent most of the morning searching for a paintbrush. Arty paintbrush, I don’t bother much with the decorating ones these days. Eventually found it in the last place I’d look, where it should be with a load of other brushes in a cup on the wardrobe. That’s the thing about putting stuff away after you’ve used it, you have to remember where ‘away’ is.

I eventually dragged myself out for a walk to the shops. Instead of going the direct route, I walked down the path Scamp and I had walked yesterday, hoping to get another view of the deer. Unfortunately the deer had other places to go today. What I did find was a whole tree’s worth of catkins. I’ve never seen so many all out together. A small section of that made PoD.

Back home I began baking. Yesterday we had panna cotta for pudding. It was meant to have a tuile on top. A round wafer thin biscuit curved into a cylinder. Tuiles need to be very thin, so I’d watched folk making them on Monsterchef and they scrape the mixture over a template to get the initial round biscuit batter onto the greaseproof paper. In the morning I’d made these templates. Now I was going to see if they worked. Surprisingly they did and although the baking process was a bit hit and miss, we had a tuile each with tonight’s panna cotta. I’ve learned what my mistakes were from Scamp and will try again soon. Ingredients were:
Soft Butter
Icing Sugar
Plain Flour
The whites of two eggs (sorry Hazy)
All the above in 50g quantities and mixed in that order. Bake for 4mins or so at 180ºc, just in case you fancy trying it.

Scamp had spent the afternoon and some of the morning making Carrot & Lentil Curry. It was very good too. We both agreed it was quite spicy hot, but Scamp was adamant that no chilli powder had been added, just Garam Masala which isn’t spicy. A mystery.

Spent the evening trying to work out how to get a video to play using chapter marks in any of Win 10’s video players. Eventually gave up, installed VLC which, although clumsy, did work. I hate Windoze.

It’s raining quite heavily now, but it’s forecast to be clear tomorrow for a while. We may go somewhere for a walk. If we leave it too late there is the chance of ‘wintry showers’. Brrrr!

Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2021

Up and out fairly early.

Had to get up and go out to get the makings of today’s dinner which would be Cod and Prawns with Fennel and White Wine. Sounds really posh, but is fairly easy to do, successfully. However, it does require Cod and Prawns as main constituents and I’d forgotten to get them yesterday. Also, pudding would be Panna cotta which really needs double cream and whole milk, also on the ‘forgotten’ list. So a quick run up to Tesco was in order. Because the ‘birthday girl’ enjoys the odd glass of Kraken dark rum, and because of a price reduction of the same in Tesco, it seemed the right thing to do to add a bottle to the list. Managed to curb my spending to those essentials, and drove home.

After a light lunch and with the panna cotta cooling, we headed off for a walk round the Broadwood Stadium, route, because the clouds were gathering and it would have been pushing our luck to go the full Broadwood Loch path. On the way there, we saw a young deer buck happily grazing by the side of the path. I grabbed half a dozen shots of it before it loped off a few yards than stood in open ground staring at us and looked like it was saying “are you still there?” Spoke to a couple who were walking the opposite direction and agreed that the animals seem to be less frightened of us humans. Probably a side effect of Covid because a lot more of us humans are invading the animals’ space. Not only heavy cloud, but also a cold wind when you were exposed to it might have encouraged us to walk that little bit faster round the Broadwood paths.

When we got home I thought I might have just enough time to go round St Mo’s a couple of times to augment my deer photos. I visited the ladybirds still hibernating in the woods and grabbed a few shots just to remind me of when I’d last seen them, because they will be leaving soon. Nothing else interesting poked its head out to see me.

Back home it was full tilt into prep for dinner. One thing I’ve learned from Scamp and from my one day at cookery school is mise en place, or ‘setting up’. I’ve tried to use it more and more in my recent cookery. Just getting everything at least ready, if not measured before I start. It saves time when the gas is turned on!

Starter tonight was Pizza Bread Bruschetta. Main was Cod and Prawns with Fennel and White Wine. Pudding was Panna Cotta with Raspberries. All worked out well and were deemed a success.

Hazel and Neil had organised a Zoom call tonight with Jamie and Simonne for the Birthday Girl. We had an enjoyable hour talking to them all. What a wonderful idea Zoom is. Not quite as good as face to face meeting, but better than a simple phone call. Great catchup you people. Thanks for organising it.

Well, that was a busy day. PoD was a photo I took of blossom on a fruit tree near Broadwood Stadium. Those who are observant will notice that the blog is now HTTPS after I eventually set up my security properly. I don’t think it will make any difference to your connection, but if it does, drop me a line. Tomorrow, relaxing I hope!

A dull day – 23 March 2021

After all those lovely sunny days it was a bit of a downer to have a couple of dull days. Not to worry, the sun might come back tomorrow.

Scamp went on a raiding party to Tesco in the morning while I went on a fruitless search for a very old Mac installation disk. Found lots of disks, most of them junk, but some that we’d been looking for last week, but no sign of the iLife disk. However I did find a small app on the App Store that did what I needed to do, which if you’re interested, was to put markers on a video so we could quickly go to different sections. Very useful for the dance teachers instruction videos. By that time Scamp had returned with only one bag of shopping. Very restrained for her!

A couple of parcels arrived for Scamp just before lunch. One remains unopened as yet, we’ll reveal all the secrets tomorrow.

After lunch we went for a walk round St Mo’s. It was a bit cold, and the weather, although promising great things, remained firmly grey. We watched one of the resident swans chasing away some hoping to be resident geese. It all got a bit fiery for a while, then calmed down again. Twice round the pond sufficed for Scamp, but I had business to do at the shops, so I left her to return home by herself while I went off on a secret mission.

When I returned, dinner was being prepared. Mince ’n’ tatties with beetroot for me and veg sausage and tatties with beans for Scamp. After dinner I had some more secret stuff to do upstairs and that took up most of the evening.

PoD went to a shot of flowers on the whin bushes at the back of St Mo’s.

Mojave seems to be behaving itself. It had a wee hissy fit last night, but eventually cooled down. Lightroom seems to be clashing with it a bit, but we’ll get by that in due course.

Tomorrow is Scamp’s big day. Lots of work for me.

Deep breath and here we go – 22 March 2021

Today I left Sierra behind and found Mojave.

I’ve been running Sierra on the iMac since I bought it about four years ago. It’s been getting slower and slower all that time. Finally, today, after making another backup and filing away some important passwords, I ran the Mojave installer and went to have my lunch. I fidgeted and paced the floor like a dafty on and off for about half an hour after that. Actually, the time scale the installer gave was almost correct and after an hour I had a new, responsive operating system. I’m quite impressed with it and have learned a lot in the process. The main thing I’ve learned is to let the computer and the code I’m injecting get on with things and don’t poke about in it. I’ll try to remember that when things go wrong as they did about half an hour ago when my memory usage was red-lining and one app was taking up twice as much physical memory as I have installed. Don’t ask me how that’s possible, I don’t know, but it just is.

It was a dull day, so I suppose it was the perfect day to do this kind of messing around. It didn’t actually rain, but it looked like it wanted to. Scamp was busy doing housework while I was pacing the floor and swearing at anything that got in my way. Eventually, I closed the computer down, grabbed my camera and went for a walk in St Mo’s. For the last week the weather has been really like spring, but today it was as if we’d returned to winter. Cold wind, grey sky and not a lot of light. However I was out. I did two circuits of the pond and then came home with a few photos, two of which got red spots, which means they were good enough to post on Flickr. PoD went to the photo of the red flower with the zig-zag stem. I also took a few shots of desiccated weeds. The structure of weeds is really interesting. As someone who used to make a living drawing structural steelwork, these featherlight vertical structures are amazing. They can sway in the breeze and not break. They have evolved to cope with wind, rain, snow, sun and ice. If you study them, they are incredibly strong for their light weight. Anyway, as I photographed some weeds a line from a George Gerdes song popped into my head, “Seeds that I’ve sown were all a bunch of weeds”. When I got back home I searched for George Gerdes and found that he had died of a brain aneurysm on January 1st this year. He was 72. We heard him sing at a Loudon Wainwright concert in Glasgow away back around 1974. RIP George. I loved the humour of your songs.

We had a quick attempt at the figure we learned yesterday, The Five Step, but after Scamp trod on my toe and I trod on hers, both by accident, we decided to call it a day and try agin tomorrow.

There will be some worried faces in the SNP party tonight since Nicola Sturgeon was cleared of ‘breaching the ministerial code’, which is legalese for ”She didnae dae it!” That means all those who had their daggers drawn ready to take her down will be keeping a low profile for some time to come. I’m not saying she’s vindictive, oh no, I didn’t say that. I’ve always said she was the best leader we’ve ever had. Ahem, I think I got away with that.

Tomorrow looks reasonable weather wise, but we may get some of the wet stuff.