The last one this year – 31 December 2021

Sometimes you just have to drag yourself out to take the last photo of the year.

This was the last day of 2021. A day for thinking back to those warm sunny summer days, both of them. When the rain didn’t fall incessantly and you could ignore the weatherproofing of the camera and lens combination. When the wind doesn’t blow the flowers around just as you’re about to press the shutter button. Alas, the reality was another dull, dreary grey day. However I did go out dressed for the weather and took some photos, just like most of the other 364.

That was later in the day. Earlier a parcel had arrived that was bound for my old pal Fred who turned 70 on Christmas Day. I parcelled up the tee shirt and drove up to his house which, luckily, is only about ten minutes by car. It’s nearer an hour if you’re walking, but today wasn’t a day for walking. It was tipping it down. Torrential rain in the early morning had given way to just rain by midday. I caught Fred just as he was coming out of his car and handed over the parcel. I was going to head back via Tesco, but Fred told me there was a queue to get in to the carpark that started at the roundabout about 100m away from the actual carpark. I decided to drive home instead. There wasn’t anything on my list that was essential.

Even earlier, just as we were getting up and admiring the beautiful rain, we got a message from Jamie and then from DHL to say that a parcel would be delivered in about half an hour. We quickly dressed and unlocked the front door luckily just in time to collect the big box the man had left on the step. He looked soaked as he waved and got back in his van. The box contained a lovely hamper hand-made from willow and inside was a great selection of chocolates, biscuits jams and wine. Thank you both. That was a lovely surprise on the last day of the year.

I suggested pizza for dinner. Home made pizza. Scamp seemed happy with that. It used to be a tradition, pizza for dinner on Friday. I made the dough with plenty of time to spare for it to rise then cleaned the downstairs toilet, hoovered the downstairs rooms and then went to look at today’s photos. They were a mixed bunch. Some good, some not so good, but one stood out for me. A little dried out weed whose flowers and seeds had gone but the skeleton of the plant remained. It looked just like a Japanese pagoda to me, and that’s what I called it. The Pagoda Plant. It was PoD. The last PoD of 2021.

The pizza was exceptional. By far the best I’ve made for a long, long time. Scamp had Tuna and Sweetcorn I had Anchovies and Tuna. Both were finished with only crumbs left behind.

It’s been another strange year. Lockdowns, vaccinations, boosters and the constant threat of Covid, but it’s the holidays that will stick in my memory for a long time. Especially the first one in July when all three families came together in Cumbria. I’ll also remember climbing the Nine Standards with Jamie, Simonne, Sheila and Vixen. That was a tough one, but I did make it to the top and it was worth it. You were right, Jamie, it was a lot easier going down.

Tomorrow we have no plans. The weather looks like it might be better than today, so maybe a traditional New Year’s Day walk.

Tonight at 4pm Scamp noticed that it wasn’t quite dark outside. There was a little bit of light in the sky. The days ARE getting longer, we’re coming out of the dark.

Blue Skies – 30 December 2021

Now there’s a surprise. It surprised us too, but the blue skies didn’t last – they never do these days.

At around 9am the skies were clearing and there was blue sky up there. Not a lot of it, I grant you, but it was there and there were much lighter clouds than of late. By 11am when we were setting off for a shopping expedition to Tesco, the blue sky had disappeared and the clouds were getting lower and lower. I think it was just a ruse to encourage us out.

Scamp got a phone call from Jackie in Skye and the two were blethering away, so firstly I went out with a camera to photograph an Echinacea plant that’s still flowering in the garden. Then I went upstairs to work on our kitchen calendar adding some photos that I’d shared through iCloud. Unfortunately the WiFi signal from the new modem couldn’t reach to the upstairs bedroom and I started thinking I might try one of those ‘powerline’ extenders that carry a wireless signal through the 240v cables in the house and can be picked up anywhere through a receiver. I might look into it. Anyway, I finally got the share done and half the photos inserted into the Pages document.

After she was finished on the phone, Scamp drove us in the Wee Red Car up to Tesco and we did a fair bit of shopping. Enough to keep us going into the new year which was only two days away (it’s a bit closer now). Lots of other folk were doing their last minute New Year shopping. Lots of clinks to be heard at the checkout, the sort of clinks that bottles make. We were no exception, so we have no room to talk.

When we got back we found that the Amazon fairies had been and left us a couple of parcels. Only one was really for us, or for Scamp to be more precise. It was a new pen that I couldn’t find anywhere in a 30 mile radius, but Amazon had it of course. After lunch and while Scamp was getting her Dundee cake ready for the oven, I went out to get some more photos in St Mo’s. By then the clouds were gathering and there was no sign of that lovely blue sky. I took a few photos while I was out, but nothing compared to the echinacea from the morning.

Back home it was soon time to make dinner and we’d both agreed on Mushroom Risotto. It turned out exceptionally good. Probably because I was using a ‘Risotto Paddle’ made from cherry wood and designed for mixing the risotto. It’s got a hole about 50mm diameter in the blade to increase the surface area and force the rice granules through, making the risotto much creamier. Also, the flat base and straight sides make it easy to scrape the rice from the bottom and sides of the pan. Very clever tool that does everything its been designed for. I was impressed. Thank you both for it!

We watched The Remains of the Day tonight. It was a strange film that posed more questions than it answered. It was based on a book, written by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve read one of his books and it left me with the same feeling this film did.

Tomorrow we have no plans. It’s unlikely to be dry by the looks of things, but that won’t be anything unusual. If it dries up we may go for a walk. Otherwise it will be the usual Hogmanay story of cleaning up the house ready for The Bells.

Darker not Lighter – 29 December 2021

I swear that as the day progressed it got darker, not lighter.

It started quite dark around 8am, but by about 10am there seemed to be even less light. And it rained. It kept raining most of the morning and only when the deluge faltered and eventually dried up, only then the sky began to become a bit lighter.

Scamp was using the time to continue with her work chucking out stuff. Stuff that she no longer needed and wouldn’t need anymore, mostly paperwork. Music scores and concert programmes from Gems. I’d done some cleaning of my own yesterday. I’d moved all this year’s photos, over 5,000 of them, on to the new SSD, not copied, moved. However, today I started cutting into the paperwork that had been languishing on the computer for years. I’d also found where some old software was causing problems on the drive. With the junk removed, the computer seems to be a whole lot better. Still not perfect, but better than it was. So, between us we’ve started a New Year Clean. The hard part will be continuing after the New Year.

I did manage to get out for a walk after lunch, but a walk to the shops for milk. Of course I took my camera and found the PoD in the front garden. An opening rosebud of Alec’s Red. In December! It’s still flowering. I took other photos on my way back from the shops, but none were anywhere near as good as that red rose with raindrops on it.

We watched The Glenn Miller Story later and enjoyed every minute of James Stewart as Glenn Miller. Not our era of music, but nonetheless it was brilliant.

Dinner tonight was Fish ’n’ Chips as only Scamp can make. Smoked Haddock, Marrowfat Peas and Skin-on Chips. Perfect!

As I’m writing this we’re watching a documentary about Luciano Pavarotti. Also not really my kind of music, but a really interesting program.

Tomorrow I think we may go out and look for some messages.


Computers, Drumpellier and Drives – 28 December 2021

The computer was still acting up today, but walking in Drumpellier woods was refreshing.

It was the blue sky this morning that made us want to get up and go out somewhere. The somewhere Scamp suggested was Drumpellier and I agreed.

We walked round the pond in a clockwise direction which was the opposite to our usual mode of travel. Again, it was like walking on a travelator, everyone walking in the same direction at almost the same speed. We accelerated and walked past a lot of folk. Overtaking on bends too because we were accomplished walkers and could do that sort of thing. Scamp suggested we walk away from the travelator and head up towards the cricket pitch and that’s what we did. The walk took us out into the woods and then we followed our noses until we found a likely side path to travel on. There are literally hundreds of side paths in Drumpellier and today’s one was a path we’d walked before. It was really mucky and I don’t think Scamp was all that impressed with it, but the light was good and there was a fair bit of gentle climbing then a sharp descent on the far side. All in all it was a good walk and most enjoyable. The only down side was the lack of an ice cream van, not surprising really since it is nearly the end of December.

We drove into Coatbridge proper and I went to Currys to get yet another external SSD drive. The computer is still playing up and one possible way to fix it is to remove almost a year’s worth of photos from the internal HDD and put them on to an SSD, so creating over 300GB of extra space. Long story short, the move worked, but the problem is still there. I’ve a couple of possible fixes still in my head, but both of them are more severe and I’m loath to apply them.

Tomato soup for dinner tonight with toasted croutons. Slow cooked roasted tomatoes and peppers, the ones Scamp had bought for less than a pound yesterday. It was a bit thinner than the last batch, but it still worked. Some left for tomorrow’s lunch.

PoD went to a trio of walkers ahead of us just cresting the rise before the descent. I really liked the light on the bushes and trees.

No plans for tomorrow, but it looks wet, so maybe more computer antics.

Another dull day – 27 December 2021

Not a lot to say about today, but I’ll give you the highlights.

A late rise, which is becoming the norm these days.  I must get myself off to bed earlier, but after watching a long Christmas special Death In Paradise which just finished ten minutes ago at around 11:15pm, it doesn’t look as if I’ll manage to get to bed very early!

Problems with the iMac in what was left of the morning trailed me all day and are still not properly resolved.  I may need to move all the year’s photos on to an SSD to free up some space on the hard drive.  That may be what’s wrong.  I’m storing too much rubbish.  That could be the story of my life as I’m sure Scamp would agree.

After lunch Scamp went to the shops and I went to St Mo’s because the sky was looking brighter, although the sun was setting.  Scamp returned with a bargain pack of veg and I returned with a PoD that after some work looked good enough to earn the title.  The actual winner was a low down shot of a tree silhouetted against the sky.  That’s how it started, but I got a bit carried away with tweaking this and that and eventually it looked a bit more colourful. I like it and it got Scamp’s seal of approval too.

Dinner tonight was Tuna Pasta with a mixture of pasta shapes to use them up, Green Farfalle, Plain Fusilli and Penne coated in my speciality sugo. We topped it with grated Parmesan which isn’t really legal, because parmesan shouldn’t be added to fish dishes according to my Italian expert. It tasted fine, so it’s sometimes good to bend the rules.  Pudding was Christmas Pudding with Custard.

Struggled a bit more with the iMac later in the evening, then gave up and watched TV.

Don’t know what the weather is going to be tomorrow, so it will be a surprise!


A sprinkling of snow – 26 December 2021

Just a dusting, that’s all and even that turned to rain quite quickly.

It didn’t matter, we weren’t going anywhere today. Too cold. Too lazy. Too little chance of getting a parking space back home. Instead, I mixed the flour, salt, yeast, butter and water and kneaded the mixture for over 10 minutes then set it to prove in a bowl covered with clingfilm, then went back to the Sudoku I hadn’t finished yesterday. Gave up on that and it was time for lunch.

It was Sunday and lunch on a Sunday always centres around eggs, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, black pudding and sausage in various combinations and quantities. All that to be eaten while watching and listening to Andrew Marr mauling one of a long list of politicians. Unfortunately last week was his last show, so today we ate in silence. I’ll bet a few of those mauled politicians would be licking their previous wounds and breathing a sigh of relief.

The weather wasn’t getting any better. Still cold, still wet, but that hasn’t stopped me before and it didn’t stop me today. Big jacket on, boots, hat and gloves on and I lugged my trusty A7ii over to St Mo’s to find something interesting to photograph. My chosen target would have been a deer. I actually saw one quite close up today, certainly within the range of the 55-210mm lens I’d left on the table back home. It didn’t stay in my sights for long and was soon laughing its way across the rough grass and into the trees.

I did get a PoD which was the jaggy spikes of a whin bush, one with a watery drip at the end of the jaggy bit. It was almost beaten by a slimy looking mushroom/toadstool with an interesting pattern on its stem. I’m pretty sure I also got a photo of a chanterelle, but can’t be certain. When I got back I checked the bread dough and it was looking ready for its final shaping and proving which is best done in a sort of cane basket that creates a spiral pattern on the finished loaf and also forms the finished loaf into a sort of beehive shape, like you see in Pooh Bear books.

While I was uploading my pictures to the Mac, Scamp declared it Gin O’Clock and I agreed with all but the gin. Instead, I had a Rum ’n’ Coke, Dark Matter rum. That put a heat in me.

Back to the still unfinished Sudoku and gave in. Loaded it into an app in my phone and finished it with technological help. Done! Thankfully one of my prezzies from Scamp was a new 365 day Sudoku calendar. It’s not been opened yet. Almost a week to wait.

The bread turned out a bit flatter than I’d have liked although it tasted ok.  Too much butter in the mix, I think. Must try harder.

Dinner tonight was yesterday’s chicken bits with potatoes and brussel sprouts.

After dinner drinks were the usual latte laced with Kahlua for Scamp and a Barraquito with layers of Condensed Milk, Licor 43, Espresso and Frothy Milk for me.  The only place we’ve seen it is in Tenerife.  Mine was definitely high octane!

We’ve not seen the weather for tomorrow, but a quick glance at the weather app on my phone would seem to rule out the possibility of going far.

Happy Christmas – 25 December 2021

Christmas Day and the sun is shining. How did that happen?

After the presents were opened we both booted up and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Scamp went once round and then left to get the cooking started. I went round for a second try for a PoD, and also to get used to my new wooly hat which I needed today with the temperature just above zero. The wooly hat worked, but the PoD now so much, but at least I had contenders.

While I was out dessert had been made. We had just enough time left for a quick lunch and then an equally quick shower before our Zoom meeting with the other pairs. We ended up about three minutes late, but who’s counting. Jamie and Sim had a few problems with their webcam, but once they had it working, the took the rest of us on a live tour of the house and the garden. Both Neil and I were really impressed with Jamie and Sim’s wireless connection as they wandered round the garden showing of the surroundings as well as the garden. Vixen slept through the entire Zoom call, apparently after tiring herself out playing with the new Kong that Hazel and Neil had sent. All in all, we thought it was a great virtual visit. Almost like being there. Maybe that will happen in the new year.

A little G ’n’ T was required while the chicken was in the oven. That gave the cook a chance to relax and gave me the chance to have a first look at the photos.

Dinner was:

Starter Prawn Cocktail
Main Roast Chicken with Roast Veg
Dessert. Lime Cheesecake

Of course, we both had too much to eat and possibly to drink and it took a while for all that excess to settle down.

I’d originally though about making bread for today, but it’s been postponed until tomorrow … at least. PoD turned out to be a nearly mono photo of an old bramble bush.

Rushing now to get this blog finished and posted before Christmas Day is done for another year.

Thank you Hazel and Neil for organising the Zoom meeting. Thank you Jamie and Simonne for the virtual tour of the house and thank you Scamp for being a brilliant chef for the day.

Tomorrow we may get some snow! Whether we go for a walk or not depends on the weather really, and whether we can walk after a day of over indulgence.


A walk around part of Broadwood – 24 December 2021

It was cold and it was raining, but we went for a walk anyway.

All the shoppers seemed to have tired themselves out yesterday. Today the shops were almost deserted. Only ‘almost’ though. There were still some of the dyed in the wool ‘have to buy something, anything’ brigade out splashing their cash. We didn’t. I’d like to say we had more sense, but who was out in the rain and who was in a nice warm shop?

We did an anticlockwise version of our usual walk, starting with the exercise machines path and then across the dam, round on to the boardwalk and back along the pavement beside the main road. Today’s PoD came from the boardwalk where we disturbed a group of Tufted Ducks and they became the subject of the photo. I was surprised to see that big white disc in the sky again. I saw it last Friday over in Fife, but since then it had been hiding. There were rumours that it had been self isolating, but I couldn’t say for the truth of that. I don’t know if the sun could catch Covid. Back home it was toast and scrambled eggs for lunch, by which time the sun had disappeared again.

In the afternoon, Scamp iced the Christmas Cake and we took turns at putting the decorations on it. My first choice was the Santa on his sleigh, as always and Scamp’s was the children on their sledge. The rest we took turns at.

By that time the darkness had encroached enough for the house lights to come on and evening was in charge.

That was about it for the day’s adventures. Tomorrow we must wait to see if we’ve been good enough for Santa to have come!


The world’s gone mad – 23 December 2021

Everyone in Cumbersheugh was going shopping this morning, including us.

We drove down to the shops, because we were going for a chicken and it was probably going to be heavy. It was drizzly raining and I didn’t relish the thought of humphing a heavy chicken up from the shops in the rain. Life is miserable enough without making it worse. Anyway, that’s what I bought a car for. It’s a great thing a car, especially if you can find a place to park it!  The carpark was chockablock!

There was a long queue outside M&S and Scamp was already in it when I had finished locking the car and footering about. The queue went down fairly quickly, but it’s depressing to think that this is the way it’s going to be for at least a month. Maybe it’s just M&S, though because none of the other shops had a guard stationed at the door, counting them out and counting them in. We did get in, eventually and found almost all we needed, then we drove home in comfort.

The next thing to do was to load up the chopped up cardboard box that has been languishing in the back bedroom and take it on a one-way trip to the crusher. It really does do a great job on cardboard. Minces it up and crushes it into neat blocks. Don’t know what it does with them, but I’ve heard rumours. As well as the cardboard I’d also brought the old Wii surfboard thing that we used stand on and it would say “Measuring”. It won’t say it anymore because the Wii went away a couple of weeks ago and the board went into the General Household skip today. I had to be more careful with the twirly long lasting lightbulb that apparently contains mercury and can kill you if you even look at it the wrong way. It went into shelf with all the other curly long lasting lightbulbs that didn’t last. The guys who work in the Recycling Centre probably lob them all into the skips once everyone’s gone.

I got PoD at the Recycling Center. Lots of jolly little toys were spaced around the place, there was even a life size Santa waving to all the girls and boys. The folk that work in the place really do put on a good show every year.

On the way back I dropped in at Fred’s and gave him his card, a bag of brandy truffles and a wee prezzy for his birthday which is on Saturday, Christmas Day. It must have been a bummer for him having Christmas and Birthday on the same day with nothing to look forward to all the rest of the year. He gave me a bottle of Monkey Shoulder, a mini bottle, bigger than a miniature and smaller than a half bottle. Very nice too.

Driving up to the Recycling Centre the traffic was awful. Queues everywhere. I imagine some were heading for the vaccination centre, the rest were invading the shops. It was madness. Thankfully there was hardly any queue at the skips. Wait until Monday there will be plenty of folk there then, ridding themselves of the packaging from their children’s toys.

Back home there was a lovely smell of soup as I opened the door. That was tonight’s dinner sorted.

The last thing to do was get my hair cut. It’s been on my mind and on my head for too long. Today I sheared myself and Scamp removed all the bits I missed. It felt a lot better to be rid of it, although I’ll curse myself the next cold day!

That was it for Christmas Eve eve, the day before Christmas Eve. Not a lot of plans for tomorrow. I think we’re hoping to take it easy. Weather looks cold and dull.

The first step to a brighter day – 22 December 2021

Today the sun set ONE minute later than yesterday, but that minute was important.

I didn’t really notice much difference in the light, but Scamp was certain it was lighter this morning than it was yesterday. I’ll go with her answer.

There were presents to wrap this morning and after that, Scamp drove up to Tesco and I drove up to Costa for coffee and a panettone with Val. The panettone was his idea and with him being an Italian, I went along with it. Also he was paying today, but that’s by the way. We talked about many things, but all things tech really. Really enjoyed the conversation and actually enjoyed a toasted panettone dunked into coffee although Val says that the toasting of it isn’t very Italian. It was a cold day with rain turning to a hard sleet called Freezing Rain. It’s harder than sleet or hail and remains frozen when it lands on the ground. Dodgy stuff to walk on apparently. I offered Val a run home and for once he accepted. This wasn’t a day for going for a walk.

While I was out with Val I got a message to say that a parcel was going to arrive today in about fifteen minutes.  I phoned Scamp, but I needn’t have worried, she was at home by then and ready to receive the parcel.  Parcels have been whizzing around the country these last few days.  Thankfully I think most have now arrived at their recipients, although one more may still be on its way.

Back home I dumped the camera and we went to visit Margie. By then it was less cold than it had been, you couldn’t say it was warmer, that would give the wrong impression. We spent an interesting couple of hours talking to Margie and hearing her stories of the Larkhall folk who were in her ward at the hospital. She was shocked at the language they used, but said that they had hearts of gold. She was even more shocked when Scamp told her I was born and brought up in Larkhall. After coffee and Stollen (which she told us was meant to represent the baby Jesus lying in the manger) and with a few more stories told, we took our leave and drove home.

I didn’t have a photograph for today and couldn’t think what I would do for it. Eventually I settled on the Fairy at the top of the Christmas tree. Last week it was the turn of ’Fairy Nuff’ to shine. Tonight it was the fairy with the new white dress who shone, and she became PoD.

Later when we were watching Christmas University Challenge, a question was about a Christmas speciality which represents the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the manger and we laughed, knowing the answer was ‘Stollen’!!

Tomorrow Scamp would like to do some ‘light shopping’. I think that means we’re not going to buy the entire Tesco, just a selection from it.