Keeping Time – 30 June 2021

You have to watch what you’re doing all the time these days.

Scamp thought she’d nicked her ankle on a thorn yesterday on our walk through the Drumpellier woods, but this morning it looked more like a bite. It didn’t prevent her from going for a walk with Veronica, but when she came back she was sure it was a bite and Veronica who’s a retired nurse agreed that she should have it looked at.

We drove up to Boots and the pharmacist agreed that she would be best with a course of penicillin, just in case. Because she was such a brave girl, she go to sit with her legs up in the sunshine in the garden while the waiter brought her a glass of her new Bramble & Raspberry Gin ’n’ Tonic.

I have been complaining loud and continuously about my Fitbit’s screen being unreadable in bright daylight, let alone sunlight. I’ve been looking for a smart watch for a few weeks and at the weekend I found what I was looking for. Checked it out in Which and read reviews. It’s a Huawei GT2e and yes, I realise it will send all my details to China. The spy satellites will be focusing on my every move. I bought it from Argos who also will have all my details and if they ever get a satellite, I’m sure it will be following me too. As will Currys and JL. I didn’t know I was so popular! Anyway, the watch looks as if it will do everything I want it to and then some. Best of all, it tells the time in bright sunlight!

I know it tells the time in bright light because I took it our for a play test in St Mo’s once I’d finally discovered how to pair it with my phone. My lens of choice was the kit lens for the Sony. I though it was excellent when I got the camera, but now I’m beginning to see why my brother favours prime lenses. Nothing to do with Amazon, a prime lens is a fixed focal length, or to put it another way, it’s not a zoom. Zoom lenses are a compromise. They are Jack of all focal lengths and master of none. Primes only have one focal length, but they usually are much better at that one. On my visit to Argos at The Fort, I took my 18mm ultra-wide prime lens and got a few shots (5 shots, all keepers). This afternoon I got fewer ‘keepers’ from more shots taken(10 shots taken, 4 keepers). Sometimes less is more. It was one of the shots taken with the 18mm lens that got PoD, Johnston Loch with the fishers just visible in their rowing boats.

A short but quite accurate dance practise tonight.  Just  the new Queen of Hearts Rumba (Where do they get these names?) and the Foxtrot routine.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go looking for flowers for one of Scamp’s elevated flower displays if her leg is up to walking.


In hot water – 29 June 2021

It wasn’t just the water that was hot, the thermometer was reading nearly 20º just after 8.30am

Yesterday we had a problem with the water boiler that is our kettle. The switch that’s meant to release the lid wasn’t working and the lid wouldn’t open. After poking around inside the lid, it seemed that the spring that lifts the lid had broken. To fix it would mean disassembling the entire boiler. The only thing to do would be to get a new one.

After a bit of browsing, it appears that water boilers aren’t all that popular. We bought the original one about ten years ago, we think. We thought they would be ten a penny now, but it seems that only Breville sell them, at least in the UK. In Australia they really are ten a penny (or Australian cent 😉). However, we both really like the idea of a kettle that delivers just one cup of boiling water, so we ordered one from Currys in Coatbridge. That gave us the opportunity to spend some time walking in the woods of Drumpellier while we waited for the text to say that the Breville was ready to pick up.

It was a lovely day for a walk in the woods. Warm with just the hint of a breeze. Definitely shorts and tee shirt weather and that’s what we were both wearing. We walked a few of our well trodden paths and basically I forgot all about Currys until we were walking back to the ice cream van and from there to the car with an ice cream cone each. Then I noticed we’d been told we were good to go.

Picked up the box from Currys and then stopped at M&S in Coatbridge to get some stuff to make dinner tonight which was going to be either two small quiches or one large one. It turned out to be one large one and one small one. Salmon, Broccoli and Potatoes in the big one and Bacon, Cheese and Tomatoes in the small one. We’ll be eating them all week, probably. We stopped at Aldi on the way home, because Scamp had tasted Bramble and Raspberry Gin at the witches day yesterday and liked it. I got a bottle and also a few cans of beer, because, as Scamp said, it was a beer day.

Back home we plugged in the water boiler and filled it up, then rejected the first two litres, refilled it and Scamp had a coffee from it. Later I had a cup of tea and it was awful. Chemical, or maybe more correctly, plastic tasting. I washed the reservoir out a few times and the taste partly disappeared. I hope it’s still gone tomorrow or Currys will be getting their Breville back.

I went for a walk in St Mo’s with the macro lens on the Sony. Took about 80 photos of beasties, half of which were rejected in the first cull. Then a few more littered the cutting room floor after a second look. PoD went to a Common Blue butterfly. You may wonder where the ’Blue’ comes from. It’s only when it opens its wings you see that the inside surfaces are a beautiful blue. You might notice that it’s dicing with death because there are quite a few spider webs spun between the flowers. Oh yes, and I got a bonus greenfly too.

When I returned we assembled the two quiches and while they were baking in the oven we headed out to the garden and had a glass of the Bramble and Raspberry Gin. It tasted to me like an alcoholic mixture of Vimto and Ribena. That’s the closest I can make it. Quite refreshing on a hot day like today, but as this is a weekday, only one glass was allowed.

That was about it for today. Hopefully the One Cup water boiler will settle down and the taste of plastic tea will be but a bad memory.

Tomorrow, Scamp is booked for a walk with Veronica and I may take the bike out.


Off the leash – 28 June 2021

Scamp was off the leash today, off to a witches meeting. That left me with a day to fill and what a day it was shaping up to be.  It was going to be a scorcher.

I didn’t even have to drive her to Denny, she had a lift already arranged with Jeanette. After she left, I got the Dewdrop down from its winter pasture in the front room and after a bit of a struggle, got the tyres pumped up. A quick spray of WD40 on the chain and we were good to go, and we would have gone, but first I wanted a photo or two, so it was off to St Mo’s with the macro lens on the Sony.

The warmth in the last few days has brought on a hatch of lots of insects, but so far, no dragonflies. We still seem to be running a few weeks behind last year’s numbers. There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s just a case of making the best of the opportunities that are available. Available today were Damselflies, Soldier Beetles, Lacewings and a Grasshopper. As well as the insects there was an interesting branch of dried leaves to photograph. Yes, I can see the rolling of the eyes. Let’s just say it’s a photogs thing. The Grasshopper, because it’s such an unusual insect to find in St Mo’s, won PoD. The rest of the menagerie, and the branch are available to peruse on Flickr.

I even managed to include a quick visit to the shops halfway through my photo safari and got the ingredients for a stir-fry which would make a change from pasta on a Monday. When I got home, there was the Dewdrop looking a bit sad because I’d been off playing in St Mo’s and it hadn’t had its run. The first run of the year! Possibly tomorrow. Because I didn’t know if Scamp was needing a run home from Denny, I settled myself with my audio book and a glass of apple juice in the garden and enjoyed the peace and quiet for an hour.

When Scamp arrived home we shared a bottle of Bitter & Twisted, one of my best favourite beers. She took over my garden seat and I started dinner. This stir-fry thing is great. No real skill needed. Chop up the protein (chicken) and fry it. Chuck in some veg and fry it. Chuck in some noodles and some of the sauce and heat it through. Bingo, almost instant dinner.

Beautiful sky tonight. It started off gold and gradually segued through hot orange into pink. It was much more complex than that with at least three different layers of cloud, all changing shapes and colours at different rates.

Tomorrow looks even hotter than today. More Shorts and Tee Shirts and maybe a drive somewhere.

A walk, as predicted – 27 June 2021

I bowed to the inevitable.

Just a short version of our Broadwood Boarkwalk walk she said, well that’s how it started out. Scamp’s fly that way. She suckers you in with the offer of a short walk, but then she adds an extension and when she thinks you’re not paying attention another half a mile is added. That’s more or less how it happened today.

We started off walking beside the road, then over the boardwalk and back towards the dam. That’s when she posed the question, “Will we just go over the dam and down the other side?” It was a lovely warm morning with barely a breath of wind so I agreed. After the dam, we could have headed back up the hill to the sports centre and home, but ’when she thinks you’re not paying attention …’ She neatly took us up past the exercise machines instead and on to the part where the path turns and twists so you hardly notice that it’s getting steeper, at least until your legs start aching. Finally we walked past the shops where she got her daily fix of pineapple. There were no fresh pineapple chunks to be had, so she had to make do with Mango, Melon and Pineapple strips which is a poor substitute for the real thing!

Lunch was a pizza we’d bought yesterday in Lidl. I think it was a sourdough base. It certainly felt like it. Sourdough is fairly tasty, but I find it quite tough. Maybe too tough for a pizza base. Anyway it was scoffed while we watched Andrew Marr who seemed appalled that the Covid 19 virus had the temerity to infect him, just as if he was an ordinary mortal. I think he was a bit lost now that Matt Hancock has had his Half Hour of fame and has resigned as Health minister after being caught in flagrante with one of his aides. Poor man.

I took the Sony out with an old Zenit Helios 58mm lens in the afternoon. It was an experiment to see how I’d manage with a fairly modern camera and a thirty year old lens. Totally manual. No auto exposure, no auto focus. Just me a camera and a lens. Actually it worked out quite well. I was impressed with the photos and one of them got PoD!  It was a battered and bruised Peacock butterfly.  I was amazed that those damaged wings could hold it in  the air, but they did as the butterfly demonstrated by flying away as soon as I took this shot.

Our dancing in tonight’s class was the best for a long time. I was impressed, but even better, Scamp was impressed. Hopefully we’l be able to build on this during the week and be able to take over teaching the class next week. That’s the long game we’ve been working towards.

Spoke to JIC and hear a bit more about Sim’s first half marathon. Scamp was really impressed with her time. Good to hear about someone doing well.

Tomorrow Scamp is off to a tea party with the witches I might be needed as a driver, but for now I’m on an empty. I might get the bike out or maybe I’ll paint.

A dull day – 26 June 2021

A white sky is never a good start to a day.

The white sky didn’t disappear as we hoped it would. It just hung there all day. Eventually we agreed we’d had enough. We needed carrots for tonight’s dinner and there was but a teaspoon of gin left in the Hortus bottle. The obvious solution to this dilemma was to go to Lidl in Kilsyth for necessary supplies.

We got both the necessities as well as many other things like bread and maybe tomorrow’s dinner for me. What we really needed was a walk, somewhere nice, as I’d predicted yesterday. To fulfil the prophecy we drove to Colzium and did the energy sapping walk up the avenue of trees and rhododendrons to the Big House and that’s where I found today’s PoD which is of a single rhododendron flower with a ring of pistils around it. Almost a macro, but taken with the now superb Samyang 18mm lens that’s really an ultra-wide angle, but does a good impersonation of a macro lens.

We walked on round the old driveway almost to the Tak Ma Doon road. Scamp decided we should take the path through the woods after that because “It’s not too steep”. I knew better, but I said nothing, because I know better. Less than five minutes later she realised her mistake. This is a really steep track, but it was a good day and we here having a bit of exercise on the walk. Crossed the burn at the bridge at the top of the climb and it was all downhill after that.

We got a cone each from an ice cream van on the way to the car. The bloke in the van regaled with the cost of to small businesses of our present no-cash society. I hadn’t realised just how much it costs to use these touch machines. Maybe it’s time we started going to the bank and getting some real money rather than taking the easy way out. The ice cream was good.

Back home I made carrot and lentil curry for dinner and it was just as good as it usually is, not quite as good as Scamp’s, of course, but it’s hard to improve on perfection.

Another practise of the Foxtrot again tonight and after that a sampling of the new bottle of gin.

Tomorrow we have nothing planned, but a walk is always an option.

One Italian, One Indian – 25 June 2021

Those were our choices for lunch.

Felt a bit better when I woke up this morning. So much better, in fact, that I got up to make breakfast. Well, it was my turn. By the time I was in the shower, yesterday’s tiredness and aches were gone and it was business as usual.

Scamp started making use of the Swiss roll tin we bought yesterday and had the sponge baked and rolled in double quick time. I’ve never seen this process before and hadn’t realised that you roll it up with the paper still attached. Then it’s put in the fridge to cool and when it’s removed, it sort of retains the shape and doesn’t crack.

Scamp offered to drive to Mango and I gratefully accepted. It’s good to be a passenger sometimes. It also gives me the chance to listen to any unusual noises from a car I’m not driving. The noises I was hearing sounded like a wheel bearing on its way out. We’ll need to get that looked at soon.

Our booking at Mango was for 12.30pm and by. the time we arrived, just in time, the restaurant was already about two thirds full. That’s always a good sign. Scamp ordered a starter of Juliette, which was deep fried pieces of pizza dough. An interesting taste, but maybe a little too heavy for a starter. Her main was Risotto Pollo. My order was Palak Vegetable Pakora with a main of Lagan Ki Boti which was Lamb in Ginger and Garlic. All were very good. Different takes on traditional Italian and Indian staples. We just had time for a dessert. Scamp’s was Tiramisu, of course. I had Turkish Delight Cheesecake. The cheesecake was the only thing that let them down. Far, far, too heavy and thick, although the topping which looked and tasted like Fry’s Turkish delight was lovely. Our bill came to £88 which was a bit steep for a three course lunch, but got a laugh and an apology from the head waiter who got it changed, quickly to the £36 it should have been.

Back home I transplanted the sole chilli plant from last year into a bigger pot with fresh compost and I also repotted two basil cuttings I’d taken last year. All three were looking a bit sickly, but hopefully they should perk up now they are in fresh soil.

Meanwhile, Scamp was making the coffee cream for the Swiss roll and also the ganache. Until about five years ago, I couldn’t have told you what a ‘ganache’ was, but with the proliferation of cooking and baking shows on TV I now know it’s the shiny soft coating on cakes and fancies. I didn’t actually see the coffee cream going into the roll, or it being re-rolled without the paper that stops it sticking together, but I did see the ganache being poured over it and it running and glistening just like it does on GBBO. It was decorated with melted white chocolate buttons as a drizzle on top and looked very professional!

With my overseeing of the baking process finished 😉, I took the Sony with only a wide angle lens and went to find something interesting in St Mo’s. The ‘something interesting’ turned out to be a low level view of a daisy on the St Mo’s school football park with a glowering sky overhead. It made a nice change to only be carrying a camera and a lens. I think my back felt the benefit. That photo got PoD.

A quick dance practise tonight, just to make sure we’re up to date with the Tango and the latest Foxtrot routines. We were! Then we found we’d forgotten the Waltz. This is what happens when you don’t get a chance to dance properly with people on a dance floor. Hopefully, soon, someone will bang the Bumbler and the Nippy Sweetie’s heads together and we’ll get a chance to dance!

Tomorrow we may go somewhere nice. Not sure where, but anywhere away from Cumbersheugh will be good.

It was a lovely morning … 24 June 2021

… but then it all got kind of wet!

Indeed the morning was lovely. Not too bright, but warm and there was always the hope that it would stay that way at least until the evening, then we’d be thankful for overnight rain. However just after lunch, when we’d decided to drive in to Glasgow, the rain started. It’s now just after 10pm and I don’t think it’s stopped yet. Now don’t get me wrong, this is exactly the kind of rain we and the plants were looking for. Nice light, soaking rain. Not a heavy cloudburst then it all dries up. No, this was what the garden needed a good continuous rain that would wet the ground through. I should have expected it to happen. The schools in Scotland broke up today for the summer holidays and it always rains on that afternoon … every year!

We did drive in to Glasgow, well actually we drove in to the Buchanan Galleries because all the shops we wanted were there. Scamp was looking for a Swiss Roll Tin and possibly a new vacuum flask to replace our two ageing ones. One of which keeps the water hot, but leaks. One which keeps the water warm but doesn’t leak. We found a flask in JL and the tin in Lakeland. I’d thought about going for a browse in Cass Art, but when it came to it, I couldn’t be bothered with a walk in the rain, so I went back to JL to look at ‘The Toys’. What I did get was a pair of suede elbow patches to repair one of my favourite rugby shirts. Even better, the patches are iron-on with holes already pierced in them for stitching on, if I decide they need the extra security. I may try them tomorrow. Once we were sure we had everything, we drove home through the rain. One stop at The Shops to get butter for the Swiss Roll and a bar of chocolate each for Scamp and me.

Grabbed a few shots in the garden, mainly of flowers and a quarter of a Calendula got PoD. Watched a second episode of Rankin Pontificates, some sort of photography challenge, but really a vehicle for that man. Not impressed. That may be the last one I watch. Sorry Hazy. It looked good, but so far it isn’t for me.

Feeling like I’ve a cold coming on which is a shame because Scamp has booked us in at Mango, a new(ish) Italian/Indian restaurant near the mighty Cotton House. I’m sure I’ll be feeling a bit better by then. A small glass of Dark Matter spiced rum with a splash of water in it is helping. A couple of paracetamol tablets will also aid recovery and guarantee a good night’s sleep – That sounds a bit like an advert, doesn’t it? Maybe that’s where I got it from.

Ok, off to bed early tonight and we’ll see if the morning brings a visit to Mango!

Shopping at The Fort – 23 June 2021

Today Scamp wanted to visit The Fort in Glasgow. I went along to have a browse in Waterstones.

I also wanted to have a look for a new pair of trainers. My old, much maligned Merrills are beginning to fall apart. That seems a common occurrence for me and Merrills. The boots are heading the same way, in fact they are leading the race to the tip. I didn’t see anything that inspired me to pull out my wallet and commit some of my hard earned cash to JD Sport or any other footwear purveyors. Not a total surprise to Scamp or I.

I did have a browse around Waterstones and noted a few book titles that I might add to my reading list. However, I’ll probably wait a month or so until the prices come down to something more like reality. The price of books these days!!

Met us with Scamp again and went food shopping in M&S. The till was run by someone who looked disdainfully at all these shoppers waiting for her to scan their miserable food items. Eventually, when the time came to pay she attempted a smile, but I think she needs more time in front of the mirror, practising it.

When I was wandering around this fortress earlier I noticed that almost an entire row of premises were closed and boarded up. Or, as the sign said, just ready to become “New stores you’re sure to adore”. It’s the effect of the pandemic on shops. Topshop, TopMan, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Evans and Burton all closed for good. Only one left in this block.
Who’s NEXT?
This retail disaster became my PoD. After a bit of manipulation in Photoshop, the three frame panorama looked pretty much how I’d seen it.

Back home and after lunch I started to cut down a rogue tree that has appeared between us and our next door neighbour. I asked her last week if she was really attached to it and she said no, so today I took the loppers and with help from Scamp we got about half of it cut down, chopped up and dumped in the Garden Waste bin. Thankfully it should get uplifted tomorrow, because it’s nearly full now. Scamp went off to visit her sister and while she was away I potted up a sickly looking chilli plant and half a dozen aquilegia seedlings. I had just finished and left her a note to say I was off to St Mo’s when the lady herself returned. There was nothing of note in St Mo’s. I’d seen a Fire Bug yesterday and was hoping to be able to grab a shot of it, but it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe tomorrow.

For dinner tonight Scamp made Pulled Chicken and Chipotle Black Beans. The last time she made it, there was very little chilli heat. There was tonight! Hope the remainder doesn’t get hotter for lunch tomorrow.

A quick dance practise tonight and I think we may have ironed out one of the sticky bits in the Slow Foxtrot. It’s all to do with a little twist before the second Whisk. That probably means nothing to you, although JIC may know what I’m talking about. It’s really just a little reminder to us that might explain how we’ve solved the problem.

No real plans for tomorrow. We had some rain tonight and we’re expecting more tomorrow. The gardens need it.

Up Hill and Down Dale – 22 June 2021

It was a beautiful morning and we were off early to Chatelherault in Hamilton.

I usually take one camera with two or three lenses. Today I took two cameras and two lenses. That meant I didn’t have to change lenses out in the wild, windy, dusty woods. It sounded like a good plan.

We started off going over the Duke’s Bridge, then turned left. Then … They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here are one thousand words:

Actually the walk started at the chequered flag, but I forgot to start the OS app when we left the car and we walked the route anti-clockwise.  Oops.

After a gentle, but constant climb we reached the first of the Down Dale stage, immediately followed by an Up Hill part. That was the first of many, but generally it was just a walk. We found some newts in a pond. I couldn’t see if they were of the Great Crested variety, but they were definitely newts. Found some damselflies there too. Found a mountain bike partly disassembled and lying in the trees just off the path. Thrown there in disgust it appeared. After an hour or so of walking we started the descent to the Avon Water and the Green Bridge. As I’m sure I’ve said before, the Green Bridge is not green. It’s just that silvery grey of weathered wood. The original bridge on that spot was made of steel and it was painted green. It was one of my mum’s favourite places to take us in the summer holidays, with a bag full of pieces and a vacuum flask of tea. Great days.

We stopped at the bridge to rest a while then crossed it knowing that this was the halfway point and one of the biggest ‘Up Hills’ was ahead of us. After walking on an elevated path through the trees, usually between two pools of water which today were bone dry, the path turned and started climbing in a series of awkwardly long steps. Up and up and up until we found the seat at the top, thankfully, vacant. Scamp had come prepared for this with a plastic tub of apple slices liberally doused with lemon juice. I had a bottle of water in my rucksack too. After we’d caught our breath, we vacated the seat to two ladies who had just finished the climb. They were as thankful as us for the rest.

I found the walk from the top of the steps to the Visitor Centre a bit boring compared with the outward leg, but Scamp wasn’t concerned. I usually hate golf courses, but I was glad to see one appearing on our right side, because that meant we were nearly at the Visitor Centre. When we got there, we had a coffee with an apple pie for Scamp and a scone for me. After that it was a case of changing boots for something more comfortable and driving home.

Back home we stopped off at M&S for beef burgers for me and some fruit for both of us. Back at the house we sat in the sun in the garden with a beer and a Pimms. I’ll let you guess who got what. Dinner was the remaining Trout fillet for Scamp and an M&S burger for me. Later we watched Bakeoff the Professionals while most of Scotland watched the Scotland team be ousted from the Euros.

PoD turned out to be landscape view through the trees to another group of trees on the horizon.

Tomorrow the weather looks a bit wet for a change and we’re looking for something less strenuous to fill our day.

Surveyed – 21 June 2021

A phone call with Hazy and the lady with the cotton buds.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning, glad that she’s feeling a bit better. Heard all her news and we filled in the details of our visit to St Andrews the details that hadn’t been recorded in the blog, that is. Also found out the back story of the Merlin Sheldrake book.

Then it was time to finish playing catch-up with the blog. Photos processed and uploaded. Blog written, but the posting left to later because lunch was on the horizon.

After that the lady with the cotton buds appeared. A new lady who hadn’t been before. Unfortunately the sampling technique hadn’t changed and was just as uncomfortable as ever. I think we are both glad we made the decision not to go with Phase 2: The Blood Letting! Just too invasive. However, we were able to answer “Yes” to a couple of questions about having people in the house, and seemed to surprise her by saying the we’d been to a restaurant more than once in the last seven days. Come on, we may be careful, but we do like to get out too!

Now that the survey was finished for this month I celebrated by going for a walk in St Mo’s. Scamp didn’t want to go today, but agreed that she’d join me tomorrow if I was going out. There were a few flying subjects today. A damselfly and a couple of strange looking little flies. The damselfly won PoD. Still haven’t seen very many dragonflies.

It had been a warm day again with very little breeze, but the weather fairies are warning us that the temperature is set to drop a bit in the next few days. That won’t be as good for daytime activities, but for sleeping at night it will be much more comfortable. The last few nights have been just too warm. Also there is the chance of rain by the end of the week. I don’t mind that, as long as it remembers to turn off after a while.

Tomorrow we may go for that walk. Somewhere nice, perhaps.