Meeting a man from the money trade – 31 May 2022

Our six monthly visit to Falkirk

We had an early morning appointment with a man who knows all the facts and figures and explains them with a large dose of humour. Always entertaining while he’s explaining how the world is turning.

With that done, the day was our own to play with and play in. First visit was to the Kelpies. I wasn’t sure exactly how to get there from deepest Falkirk. Unfortunately the sat nav wasn’t sure where we were. It was giving us the correct street names and the lady behind the map was giving the correct directions, but according to the map we were somewhere just south of Inverness. The electronics in this car are shot. However the lady with the posh voice knew where we were and where we wanted to go and she navigated us onto the road we recognised.

We parked and paid our £3. Three quid is pretty good value for a full day with the silver river horses. They alway radiate such a calm influence, it’s almost impossible to be down when you’re in their presence. We had a coffee and a coconut scone in the cafe and I took a few photos. We browsed the ‘gift’ shop but left without being tempted to buy any of the expensive merchandise. We walked round the ponds that the great beasts live in and that’s where I got PoD. It’s a bit spoilt by the pond scum. The council really should clean it up occasionally, just to make the photogs job easier.

We walked over the bridge that crosses the Forth & Clyde canal and walked along the towpath to the second bridge, recrossed the canal and drove over to Torwood, aided and abetted by that same posh lady who had in the interim fixed the display to show we were in Falkirk. Multi-talented she is.

I wanted some leeks and some curly kale at the garden centre, but there were no leeks to be had, so I had to be satisfied with the kale. Scamp collected some Violas and an orange Osteospermum. After a bit more browsing and deciding we couldn’t quite squeeze another plant pot into either front or back garden, we drove home.

Later in the afternoon Scamp planted out her new acquisitions while I made sure I did have a PoD. Actually I had quite a few contenders for that accolade, but the big wide shot of the Kelpies in their mucky bath won.

Dinner was Potatoes with Bubble & Squeak plus Haddock for Scamp and a Burger for me.

We watched another episode of Silent Witness, but maybe we’re being too critical, but it seems a bit of a fairytale these days. Too many unlikely scenarios. I suppose we must remember, It’s Not Real!

Tomorrow I’m booked to see the nurse at 4pm, but the rest of my time is my own. Scamp might have the whole day to herself!

Back to life – 30 May 2022

Back to reality. Back to the here and now.

Woke this morning feeling better than yesterday. Things to do today included cutting the back grass and tidying up the back bedroom. Neither of them were done.
Constant short rain showers put an end to any idea of cutting the grass, either front or back (it was the same rain that was falling on the front and the back grass).
Constant short spells of interest in tidying up the back bedroom weren’t long enough for any sustained work being done. Maybe tomorrow.

I couldn’t really tell you what I did today other than go for a walk in St Mo’s late in the afternoon. It was quite warm with the threat of more rain when I went out, but that rain didn’t materialise, mainly because I chose to wear my raincoat. If I’d left home in jeans and a tee shirt you can bet your bottom dollar I’d have got soaked. I did get a photo of another damselfly though. This one was a Large Red, but it didn’t get PoD. That went to a field of yellow buttercups. They are Scamp’s worst enemy when they appear in the garden, but she doesn’t mind them when they are in someone else’s!

We both did a bit of tidying and moving stuff around in the back garden while we waited for the grass to dry (which wasn’t going to happen any time soon). And while we were giving the plant pots new positions, we fed some of them with some revolting looking seaweed fertiliser. Apparently it’s great stuff, but take my word for it, don’t drink it. It’s definitely for plants only.

What I did manage to do today was order three memory sticks from Amazon. Do you know that if I’d bought six of them instead of three, they would be worth exactly what my old MacBook Pro is worth today. Best price I’d get for it is £30!

That was about it for the day. Tomorrow we may be going to see a man in Falkirk and after that we might just go to see the Kelpies

The morning after – 29 May 2022

Thankfully I hadn’t had a lot to drink on Saturday, but even so, I did feel better after a shower in the hotel room’s wet-room.

We had a breakfast, the high point of which was watermelon chunks, there was no other fruit option. Dried up sausages, leathery bacon and tasteless black pudding. To quote Scamp “It filled a wee space”. We handed in our keys and drove home.

Travelling over the Kingston Bridge at around 10.30am is quite a delight, compared to the usual mile and a half of stop-go traffic jam that greets us any time after about 11am. For once I had nothing to complain about.

Back home we unloaded the car and Scamp loaded the washing machine, then we had lunch.

After that and after deciding we would eat out of the freezer today, I took a camera and the big macro lens out for a walk in St Mo’s and saw a blue flash when I was walking across the boardwalk. It was a damselfly. A Common Blue. The first one I’d seen this year, and a welcome sight. That made PoD. A walk in the woods couldn’t improve on that picture, so I headed home.

Watched a scary Monaco GP which started under the safety car in full wet conditions and ended with a fairly interesting last few laps. One scary looking crash when Mick Schumacher’s car hit the barrier and split into two. It’s testament to the fitness of these young drivers and to the safety features of modern F1 cars.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about their short visit to Germany for a wedding and his twisted ankle. Compared and contrasted our gardens and weather. He sounded almost as tired as we felt.

I’d a few photos to look through, about 150 to work through, weeding out the weak and out of focus ones, but really not a bad haul from Saturday’s wedding on a camera that’s a pretty old design and a lens that’s not rated by anyone except me, I think. I’d been using the A6000 and the kit lens. Hoping to get a cheap memory stick tomorrow to stick the photos on for John & Marion.

A wee dram later for me and a rum ’n’ coke for Scamp to help us get a decent night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we may do some grass cutting if the weather stays dry.

Another Wedding – 28 May 2022

Just back from one, and off to another.

A bit less of a drive to this one, thankfully, but equally scenic. We followed the sat nav to Hamilton and on to the church in deepest Fairhill. I think I’d have struggled to find it without electronic assistance. After the service we drove through the labyrinth that is East Kilbride, missed my turning twice, but then on to the motorway down to the Fenwick Hotel, dumped our luggage there and got a taxi to the very posh Rowallan Castle in Ayrshire.

There are two castles in the grounds. We were heading for the ‘new’ castle which dates from around the turn of last century while the smaller ‘old’ castle dates from the 12th century. Still the ‘new’ castle looked the part with a grand entrance stairway, a library with a secret door and another door leading to a balcony where the great and the good could look down on the peasants below.

Lots of canapés being served and also plenty of alcoholic beverages freely available. We wandered around taking photographs of anyone and everyone we saw, hoping there would be more than a handful of folk who’s faces we’d know. PoD was a low viewpoint shot of a wee daisy growing through a crack in the paving stones with a kiltie disappearing into the distance.

Soon we were called to the ballroom where the tables were set. All the tables were named after places Laura and Ross had visited. We were on table Prague. Most of the folk at the table were friendly with the odd one or two who were just a bit stand-offish. We ignored them as they ignored us.

Speeches were the usual mix of rushed in-jokes and muttered wedding banality. The exception was John, father of the bride who, although he stumbled a bit at the start, showed his teacher’s training with a clear and measured delivery thereafter.

The meal was lovely. A fixed menu Chicken Liver Paté with Tomato Chutney to start. Main was Supreme of Chicken with Fondant Potatoes and a hot Pink Peppercorn sauce. Sticky Toffee Pudding with Baileys Ice Cream was the dessert. No coffee, but there was a free Cocktail Hour after the meal. I had a Bramble and Scamp had a Passionfruit Mojito. Both freshly made and quite delicious, but totally different from each other.

While we were comparing and contrasting the cocktails, the staff were hard at work changing the room where the meal had been served back into a ballroom, if a quite small ballroom, given the size of the castle. The band were loud, I mean LOUD. Too loud for the size of the room in my opinion. Maybe I’m just showing my age! After the couple’s first dance which was one of those embarrassing holding-hands ring around the roses dances that never really morphed into something like a real dance, the band really got going and it felt like a mosh pit rather than a ballroom. The less said about that the better. I prefer music you can hear, not the kind that you feel as a vibration in your chest. The young folk seemed to like it, but there wasn’t much for the over-30s to enjoy. John seemed to be ensconced in the library most of the time talking to folk, although we did stand together on an outside area watching a hare running across the greens of the golf course as the sun went down.

We had a taxi booked for midnight when it appeared that the band would finish playing. It didn’t appear. I phoned the hotel to see if there was anything they could do. Twice I phoned and it was just after 12.30 when a taxi appeared with the excuse that the IT in the taxi office had collapsed and all the bookings had been lost. In other words the drawing pin that held the big bit of paper with the bookings to the wall had come out and nobody could find it. However, we were past caring. We got into the taxi got to the hotel and fell into our beds.

Tomorrow would be another day. Hopefully a quieter, less hectic day.

Preparations – 27 May 2022

One day’s rest and back to preparations again.

More washing in the morning. Thankfully, Scamp took charge of that. Then a fruitless walk for her over to Condorrat looking for roses. We have our own roses, but they are either too big or not quite opened yet, so not suitable for today’s task. Finally gave in and had lunch. Scamp’s attempt at making Crimpets with plain brown bread was a bit of a disaster. Maybe they weren’t pressed enough. Maybe they don’t work with ordinary bread. Maybe there was just a little bit too much filling. Whatever the reason, the Crimpet came apart in the toaster and it took a bit of jiggery pokery with a knife (the toaster was unplugged) to get the remains of the Crimpet out. Inedible was the word that sprang to mind. Glad I had nothing to do with it this time.

After lunch Scamp started the ironing and the first item to receive a pressing was my kilt. A kilt is a heavy garment and it took two of us, one manoeuvring it around the ironing board and the other applying the steam iron to get the creases out from where they shouldn’t be while leaving the creases in where they should. It didn’t take that long and the result once she was finished was amazing. Then I spent half an hour trying to work out how and where to put the kilt pin. It’s a fiddly little thing with a lock that doesn’t lock. I think I’ve got it sorted with a tiny bit of black electrical tape. The whole thing looks so much better now.

While Scamp started on the bulk of the ironing, I took the camera for a walk around St Mo’s. Once round the pond and a wander into the woods before I took a walk down behind St Mo’s school and found today’s PoD which is a Flag Iris just about ready to burst into the sunlight. The real reason I was walking this path was to go to the shops looking for roses. White ones or pink ones were on today’s list, so I got both just in case I chose the wrong ones, as is my wont.

Back home it was time for dinner which today was Scamp’s macaroni cheese with streaky bacon on mine. Toasting hot and delicious as usual. The wind that had been gusting all day had calmed down by evening, thank goodness. This is really strange weather for May.

Tomorrow we’re intending to take a run to Hamilton and perhaps a little further.

The day after – 26 May 2022

Today was always going to be a day of recovery.

First thing on the cards was to start the washing. Scamp got the washing machine loaded early and after waiting for a clear spell without any rain, she hung it out to be blown about in a strong gusty westerly wind.

We agreed we weren’t going far today. The furthest we went was Tesco for all the things we need to replenish the stores cupboard and the fridge. Scamp drove the wee Red car to Tesco, and just for the sake of it, I tried to open the boot and surprise, surprise, it worked! The boot opened. It hasn’t worked for ages and I thought I’d have to strip down the inside coverings of the boot to find the switch that had stopped working. It looks, now as if the switch has just come loose. Not a completely reliable boot yet, but a step in the right direction.

With the food bought and the cupboards full again, we had lunch. Then I was considering taking a camera around St Mo’s when the rain came on and it was heavy so we had to bring all that washing in again. Later, I did manage to get over to St Mo’s. Photography was difficult in the wind, but in sheltered spots the sun was bright and warm. A little Garden Cross spider made PoD.

Scamp walked down to the shops to get some smoked fish for dinner and I made Haddock and Cabbage Risotto.

I think we accomplished what we set out to do today. A day of recovery. No plans for tomorrow as yet.

The long way home – 25 May 2022

Just like the drive up, there’s not a lot you can say about driving about 250 miles, less than 20 of those miles being on motorway.

It was a fairly decent run down, although we did have to stop for fuel at Kyle of Lochalsh and pay the exorbitant £1.93 per litre. We could have filled up at Broadford for the £1.64, but the queue to get to the pumps looked as if it would take the best part of an hour!!

Still smarting from those highland bandits, we stopped at Fort William for essentials and lunch, then it was onward and downward until we parked outside the house and then the electronics of the car did a reset again. We’ve a few things to do in the next day or two, so I’ll keep an eye on it for further problems, then book it in to get this sorted out. Also, a letter to Nissan wouldn’t go amiss.

The garden needs a bit of a tidy up, but hopefully we’ll get that done in the next few days too. Scamp’s rhododendrons look really spectacular.

Maybe a wee dram before bedtime tonight, just to settle me down.

PoD was one last look out of the front window of our holiday home onto a gloomy looking sea.

Tomorrow? Probably emptying the cases and filling the washing machine. Scamp also wants a visit to Tesco.

Elgol – 24 May 2022

Today we finally made it to Elgol.

That strange place where the road leads to the sea and stops there. When the light is right and the Cuillins are lit by it it’s magical. Also when the light is poor, it’s mystical, seeing the mountains appear and disappear as the clouds break. Whatever the weather, you can turn your back on the crammed car parks, the pop-up coffee booths, the stalls selling trips out on RIBs to the islands and be somewhere else. Unfortunately there are masses of people arrive here, stop and say “Is that IT?” “Is this why we drove for miles and miles along a single track road in the rain, to see some mountains and some sea?” YES! “There’s not even a decent chip shop” NO! That’s part of its charm. Have I given you the impression that, I like Elgol?

It is a long drive from Staffin. All the way south to Broadford on the ‘main’ road. Then onto the single track road out to the west to Elgol. It’s around 55 miles and takes about one and a half hours. Going back it’s another 55 miles and another hour and a half because there is no alternative route. We stopped for petrol in Portree on the way down and drove down to just past Broadford where we stopped at Loch Cill Chriosd. A lovely quiet spot with beautiful views on a good day and today was a good day. There’s an old ruin of a church there, the Church of Kilchrist, but I was more interested in the landscape round the loch which is almost covered with rushes. On a day with little wind, the loch produces beautiful reflections. It was almost perfectly still today, although there was a shower of rain. Photos taken we pressed on to Elgol.

It was really busy. Cars and vans of the camper variety parked everywhere and anywhere. Scamp saw a likely place to park up near the village hall. There was one space left. Luckily we only had one car. She took some photos and then went to the village hall which had a tea shop beside it. I’d remembered my boots this time, so I headed down to the ‘beach’. As I’ve said before ‘beach’ is a misnomer. There’s no way you could erect your deck chair on this beach with rocks that are graded from fist sized stones to man sized boulders (or should that be ‘person sized?). However, those boulders didn’t stop a bridal party in suits and sticky-out white dress tying the knot beside the big eroded cliff! I was a bit peeved at first because that was one of the spots I wanted to photograph, but they were there first and I was only a nuisance photog who would have to be photoshopped out of their photos later.

The weather was jsut perfect and I got the photos I wanted with the equipment I wanted to use. I’d brought my old 10-20mm Sigma ultra-wide lens, fitted on the A6000 camera. It’s a really good lens that only works in manual these days, but I don’t mind that because it produces such good results. I’d brought the A7iii and kit lens as well, but having both meant I didn’t have to swap lenses. Someone had been thoughtful enough to sail a three masted sailing ship into position below one of the mountains as an extra little interest point.
After a while I’d taken all the photos I wanted and headed back up the steep hill to the tea shop where I thought Scamp would be waiting, but she was off on her own climbing a hill to another viewpoint, but had seen me and come back down again. I know now that we should have walked back up to the viewpoint, but honestly I was knackered with climbing that hill. A cup of tea helped and then we drove back those 55 miles to the house.

Earlier in the day we’d said goodbye to June and Ian who were off in the morning with Jackie to catch the bus that would take them down to Glasgow. I didn’t really envy them the trip, with their first, and only, stop in Fort William. Then the next half of the journey to Glasgow itself, then another bus to Cumbersheugh. In another way I did envy them the ability to just sit there in relative comfort instead of having to drive down the road. That’s what we’d have to do tomorrow.

We’d been invited to Jackie and Murdo’s for dinner. It was a reasonably comfortable night, so we just walked down to Burnside. I was cautious with my alcohol intake because I knew I was driving us home the next day. Scamp got the offer of a dress for the next wedding from Jackie, an offer she couldn’t or wouldn’t refuse, so we carried that back to the house later. We’d still a few things to pack, so with that done we went to bed, because tomorrow was going to be a long day.

PoD just had to be Elgol!

The only plan for tomorrow was to stop at Columba for a slice or two of the wedding cake, then drive, drive, drive.

Boots – 23 May 2022

Today we climbed Quiraing. Not mountain climbed it, in the car, of course! Are you mad!

We drove up to see then fantastic new car park and it really was a totally different place from the one we used to know. No big boulders poking out of the hard packed earth. No mad foreigners (that includes english) parking anywhere they felt like it, which sometimes meant actually on the road. No, there is now a purpose built car park with plenty of room for everyone from normal folk to those who drive camper vans. There is a down side, of course. It’s no longer free. That didn’t seem to bother the folk who were filling up all those spaces. We didn’t stop. I’ve photographed the view from the top of Quiraing more times than I care to remember and it in all sorts of weather. No, today we were just being nosey!

We drove on to Uig and stopped at a viewpoint at the top. Just hard packed earth, but free. The whole of Uig bay was laid out below us. I took a few shots that I’d later merge into a panorama or two, then we faced the drop down into Uig proper and the tortuous hairpin in the middle of the drive. Came through unscathed and continued on to Portree. There’s nothing much to see in Uig apart from the ferry terminal to Lewis, or is it Harris? I can never remember.

We were heading to Elgol and its strange eroded rock face at the north end of what is laughingly called a beach. It’s really just a jumble of boulders from ones the size of your fist to massive ones the size of a small car. On a good day there are great views of the Cuillins. But not today. The weather was fine, in fact it was nearly perfect with white clouds in a blue sky, but unfortunately, just before we reached Sligachan, I discovered I’d not brought my walking boots. The thought of climbing over those boulders in my shoes didn’t inspire me, so we stopped and I took a few shots of the Cuillins from the almost diametrically opposite direction. Mountins continuously being covered and uncovered with cloud and with rain showers washing across them. It wasn’t Elgol, but it would do. We turned and drove back to Portree, bought some expensive petrol (£1.71 per litre) and went to Jans Vans for lunch, a hard brush for Scamp and a chilli plant for me.

From there we drove up to Staffin and went down to the beach with its grey/black sand. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a time exposure looking towards Flodigarry, using a 10 stop ND filter. I just knew you wanted to know that Jamie. Scamp hung around for a while, but then went back to sit in the car.

With a few shots in the bag and one I was sure would be PoD, I drove back to the house and we got ready for tonight’s family meal in Columba. There were eight of us being fed on Chicken or Pork or Veggie Haggis with potatoes and broccoli as side dishes. Lots of talk at the table and Scamp was interrogating Allan about the correct way to cook Jackfruit. I was impressed how much information he passed on, explaining the good and bad points of this strange vegetable that we’ve only recently discovered. A good night, even if Mairi wasn’t feeling like joining us.

We drove back to the house because June and Ian had some more preparations before they leave for home tomorrow.

It was a well filled day. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to Elgol with boots!

The day after – 22 May 2022

… the night before.

This was going to be a day of recovery. Recovery from too much to drink, from too much food and from too much dancing in new shoes.

We didn’t break surface until after 9am. Tea in bed with a good book. Then after that and after showering away yesterday’s excesses, breakfast proper. A look out the window confirmed our suspicions that there wouldn’t be much sunshine today. There would, however be a lot of rain.

Scamp went next door to speak to her sister and to see how she and Ian were getting on. She had walked much further than I had. I didn’t even pass the threshold. I took today’s PoD from the open kitchen window.

I did, however, have to go to the door in the afternoon when an american lady decided she’d just drop in to see us. I don’t know who she was or what she thought she was doing, but she soon got as far as the front hall before she got the “bum’s rush”. She allegedly thought this was a B&B and her husband wanted to use our ‘rest room’. I told her very little, and directed her to the house at the end of the drive. I know there is a sort of open door policy in the Highlands and Islands, but it’s strictly for locals, not for americans wanting to use our facilities. Anyway, we don’t have a room to rest in.

The rest of the day was without incident, but with a lot more rain. It was fish and chips for dinner. Both of which were cooked in the oven. Not an exceptional meal, but after yesterday’s excesses, something more grounded was required today.

Watched the Spanish GP, a boring race with little to recommend it.

Tomorrow we’re invited to dinner at Columba. A family dinner.