Almost shorts & tee shirt – 22 April 2021

Warmest day so far this year.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and got the lowdown on life down south. The big question of the day was “Has Joey and Jess’s baby arrived yet?” It hadn’t but there were lots of other things to talk about like having a fountain in your birdbath! That’s just showing off.

Drove out to Torwood garden centre for a look around and for grass fertiliser. Also if we just happened to find any interesting looking plants we’d maybe bring them home too. I got some curly kale plants which I much prefer to the black kale I grew last year and some cheap seed potatoes. We also got a couple of mint plants, a potted Ranunculus and the lawn feed.

Back home it was lunch time then we were out in the garden planting stuff. I planted the seed potatoes, or at least three tubers. Put the kale into the greenhouse to harden off while Scamp potted up the mint and dug out what was left of last years mint and repotted it to see if it would come. After that she stated that she was going to sit in the sun with a book. That’s when I decided it was time for a pair of shorts and a walk in the woods.

There wasn’t much to see for the ordinary punter, but if you’ve got a new toy to play with and a macro lens for it, there’s always an interesting subject or two. Today’s subject was a little fly blowing bubbles on a tree. I’ve seen photos of this activity before on various sites and wondered what was going on. It turns out that the fly cools itself by blowing out and sucking in the tiny water droplet. Why it needs to do that in Scotland, in April is beyond me. Granted, I was wearing shorts, but I had a thick hoodie on too. It wasn’t shorts and tee shirt time yet! The bubble blowing fly got PoD.

Scamp watered the garden, both front and back tonight and I’m sure the plants would feel better after that soaking. It also helped wash in the lawn feed and also the rose feed she’d put on the plants this morning. Quite the little gardening duo today.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere and maybe visit Isobel.

A day at the seaside – 21 April 2021

Off to Troon

Just as we were leaving, literally as we were going out the door, the phone rang. It was Isobel wanting a big strong man to tighten the inlet of her garden hose. No big strong men around, so I’d have to do it instead. Drove down to the village and tightened it up as far as it would go. She seemed delighted with the prompt service!

Drove on to the motorway at the Village and after navigating the lane closures in Glasgow we had an easy run down to Troon. Parked near the Ballast Bank which is a hill built as a breakwater with the ballast from ships sailing into the harbour. We climbed the Bank and got a good view of Arran from the top. Also from the top I got PoD which is a view looking over towards Ayr just south of Troon along the coast. From there we walked back into town and on along the beach to the place where the kite surfers usually park up. No kite surfers today. There was not enough wind and as a result, no waves. It must have been a neap tide because we had to walk a fair distance to find the sea. We did stand in the sea for a bit with our trainers on. Some folk were paddling, but not us, we didn’t want frostbite. The sun was warm and the sky was blue, but the breeze from the east was cool to say the least.

On the way back we had an ice cream cone each. It had warmed up by then and we were sheltered from the breeze. I was thinking about getting some chips to eat on the way back to the car, but the logistics didn’t work. If we ate the chips first, the ice cream would melt and if we ate the ice cream first, the chips would be cold. Best to leave the chips for another day.

Drove home via Morrisons supermarket because Scamp wanted brown sauce and Morrisons is the only place you can guarantee getting it. The drive home through Glasgow was easier than the drive down. Same restrictions, but less traffic, I think.

Scamp had bought two big thick slices of haddock in Morrisons and we had one of them cut into chunks as giant fish fingers for dinner. No chips or peas needed just fish fingers and an egg with beetroot. Lovely stuff.

I came home to find a blue NHS letter waiting for me. My appointment for the second jag is on Monday at Muirfield in Cumbersheugh. Thankfully it’s not a trek to Motherwell for it.

We just had some sad news tonight. Jamie Gallacher posted the news that George Brown, one of the old school Salsa dancers died yesterday. He was 80. He was a real character who was forever taking the mickey out of me. He danced Jive and Salsa too, sometimes mixing the two together. Its ages since I last saw him and Elsie, his girlfriend. A nice bloke.

No great plans for tomorrow. Maybe a trip to the garden centre. The weather looks as if it’s set fair.

A day of comings and goings – 20 April 2021

Arrivals and departures.

First arrival was along thin cardboard box addressed to Scamp. The postman didn’t want to damage it by pushing it through the letterbox, so I took it from him at the door. It was the April delivery of flowers for Scamp. Part of her birthday prezzy from JIC and Sim. Just like last time the flowers looked dry and wilted but this time we had more faith in the clever preparation and packaging. Scamp also knew how to feed them and water them after the surprise of the last bunch. This one was a mix of Asters, Snapdragons (which my mum called Map Maps), Stock, Solidago and Bupleurum. The last two, we had never heard of before. They were all immediately trimmed, watered and fed and are standing proud in their place between the piano and the display cabinet. One very happy lady is Scamp!

Next visitor was the DPD man to pick up my box of lenses and a camera. Handed over the box, he stuck on a ticket and gave me the other half of the ticket as a receipt. They’re now on their way to Brighton.

Half an hour later the third visitor was a lady bearing another box, this time for me. On the strength of the offer from MPB I’d bought myself another camera. Not ‘YET’ another camera, JIC. One went out today and one came in. The camera mountain remains at the same height. This is the updated version of the camera which was travelling to Brighton. An amazing box of tricks it is too. It can do summersaults while juggling three balls and walking on a tightrope. I’m still working my way through the user’s manual, wishing it came as an audio book! By the way, I’m about two thirds of the way through What Abagail Did That Summer by Ben Aaronovitch. It’s read by Shvorne Marks. I’m getting to like the idea of someone telling me a story!

As well as all that, Scamp had been for a walk to Condorrat to post a birthday card. I’d dusted half the surfaces in the living room, taking great care to place all the Bus Stop Ladies back in their respective places and giving the wee green snake that hold my brushes a gentle rub over too. I’d also been for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD on the way back – taken with the new toy, of course.  I think it’s a Berberis thunbergii.  The leaves are beautiful in autumn. When I got back, Scamp had just finished clearing out the spice rack and had found jars in there dating back to 2005! Quite a lot of jars went in the bin today, as you can imagine.

Dinner tonight was a Scamp speciality, a prawn stir-fry. Nothing fancy, just things from the fridge and freezer that should be used up. That’s the best kind of meal. It was lovely.

We had a run through of the Bossa Nova tonight to ensure that I don’t make a complete fool of myself on Sunday. Although I wouldn’t say it was the smoothest practise we’ve had, it is beginning to flow a bit better now. Counting seems to help me. Just as long as I don’t do it out loud!

Tomorrow may be a better day than today which started wet and just became dull after that with the threat of more rain if we didn’t behave. If it’s good tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere other than Cumbersheugh.

The Fish Van – 19 April 2021

The fish van was coming today.

Actually it was the DPD van that was arriving today within a one hour slot around midday. It arrived and a lady delivered a big expanded polystyrene box which Scamp quickly opened and decanted the Haddock, Cod, Crab, Scallops and Smoked Haddock into the freezer while I played with the packets of dry ice they had been packed in. It’s amazing stuff and although I’ve seen it in stage shows and such, this was the first time I got to touch it. It was cold! Of course, once you read the warnings on the packet, you learn not to touch it with bare hands. But where’s the fun in reading instructions when you can be playing with the stuff. I got some amazing effects from dropping hot water on to the little pieces that were all that were left in the bags after their overnight journey from down in the depths of England. Little spheres of water would levitate above the solid CO₂ for long enough to photograph. I even got a CO₂ bubble to form with the gas swirling inside. Unfortunately it didn’t last long enough to get a photo. We must buy some more fish soon so I can be prepared this time and create some more special effects. Who knew science could be so much fun … as long as you read the instructions and warnings first!

It had been another beautiful morning with blue skies and bright sun as predicted by the weather fairies last night. By the time Scamp had put all the fish away and I’d finished playing experimenting, the clouds were encroaching on Cumbersheugh, also as predicted by the weather fairies. Scamp walked down to the shops in the morning while I removed the rear number plate which had been hanging on by one ‘Sticky Fixer’ for months.  I cleaned up the plate and the space on the car where it was to go and replaced it with three new stickies.  After that I took my trusty Sony with its heavy, but excellent quality macro lens for a walk in St Mo’s. Found a few things, but best shot of the day by far was the spider defending its territory on the boardwalk. That got PoD. If you view the bigger version on Flickr you’ll see that there’s a reflection of me in the spider’s large eyes.

Dinner tonight was supposed to be Spaghetti all’Amatriciana but it turned out more like a rather hot veggie chilli. Too much chilli flakes I fear. Scamp said she didn’t know how it tasted at first because her mouth was on fire. After a while it calmed down and she said it tasted ok, just too hot. Just a pinch of the fiery flakes next time, then.

Watched another Line of Duty tonight and it posed more questions than it answered. Who did what to whom and why didn’t anyone notice a gun battle? Or was that last week?

Spent an hour tonight checking that everything was packed in safely in the big box, then sealed it up and addressed it. DPD person will arrive tomorrow to take it away to give to some lucky girls and boys who, I hope will get as much enjoyment out of it as I did once they fork out some money to MPB. Hopefully the man at MPB will give me some money too for being so kind as to send him my camera and lenses.

Tomorrow doesn’t look as good as today, but that doesn’t matter really because the DPD pick up will be somewhere in the range 9am to 6pm. Hopefully we’re not waiting around for all of those nine hours! I’m sure there will be lots of other things to do.



Was that a drop of rain I saw? – 18 April 2021

Indeed it was. When I was making breakfast this morning, I detected some ripples on the bird bath in the garden.

It was actually raining. The first rain we’ve had in weeks. It’s not often I get to say that. The rain stayed all day. Not constant, but just the occasional shower and not heavy either. Just a gentle dampening of the ground.

I spent most of the afternoon playing real live 3D Tetris, trying to fit six different shaped boxes into one larger box. It was one of those irritating puzzles that should be possible, but wasn’t. I think I’ve managed it now, but even Scamp who is excellent at fitting things into boxes to be posted south at Christmas couldn’t find a better use of space than I’d managed. One camera and five lenses off to find a new home somewhere, probable never to meet up again, ever. I felt quite sad.

With that done and most of the afternoon gone, I went for a quick walk in St Mo’s to see if there was anything worthwhile photographing with one of the remaining cameras. The best I could find was a couple of clumps of Cowslips, but one was past its best and the other had still to achieve full flowering. I didn’t come home empty handed, but close to it.

After dinner I grabbed a few shots of some cut flowers sitting on the kitchen window ledge. Just a few white Freesia and a red Carnation. Lovely looking texture in the freesia and the carnation added a much needed splash of colour. PoD nabbed, just before dance class started.

Dance class tonight was Bossa Nova. What my latin teacher at school delighted in telling us fourteen year old boys meant New Beat. He even asked us if we’d heard of the dance. The only dances we knew back in the early ‘60s were the Dashing White Sergeant and the Military Two Step and nobody would admit to knowing even them. Dancing was for girls and weddings. I do believe he was disappointed in our lack of enthusiasm.
My own enthusiasm for bossa nova is at the same level as it was in the (not so) Swinging Sixties. I struggled through it tonight and managed about two thirds of the routine. The final third is a mystery to me. We did an acceptable Tango and finished with the Valentino Jive and Rumba One both of the last two are sequence dances which I’ve grown to accept as worth learning.

Watched an interesting Italian GP with thrills and spills galore. It got even better when a full on fist fight looks as if it would develop. Spoke to JIC and heard more about their plans for houses and work. Good to see them getting on. They both deserve it because they both work hard.

Tomorrow we are hoping the DPD man will arrive with a box of fish for us. Dinner may still be spaghetti, but I’m willing to come and go on that score.

Day two of freedom – 17 April 2021

My choice today, so blame me, Hazy!

Today we drove to Culross. Yesterday we were warned by JIC not to waste our freedom on Helensburgh. Today Hazy would say we wasted our second day on Culross.

We got parked right away. As one person was driving out we drove in. One out, one in. It’s quite a small car park and we did have an option of another one if the main car park was full. Later in the day we found yet another parking place that we’d not noticed before. Culross is a curious place indeed. Three fairly large car parks for such a small town.

Recently I’ve been describing, partly as an aide memoire for me which routes we’ve taken on our walks. Today, using the theory that one picture is worth a thousand words, I’ll provide you with a map.

We started off at the car park. Almost immediately, I got PoD which is a view of the ‘new’ pier with the precarious looking wooden walkway out to it. Then we walked on a narrow path between the, now defunct railway and the sea wall as far as the start of the reclaimed area that now landlocks Preston Island. We continued our walk beside the sea on our right and the lagoons protected by a chain link fence on the left, listening to larks ascending. It’s only in quiet undisturbed places like Preston Island that you hear skylarks now. They used to be everywhere, now they are getting very rare. We sat on some rocks and after I’d photographed what I think are fossils on the boulders that form the breakwater, we decided we’d turn our walk into a circular tour of the once island. Walked round the closed off area reclaimed by dumping ash from the now almost completely demolished Longannet power station. It was a coal fired power station and there must have been thousands of tons of ash dumped on this land to reclaim it from the salt water of the estuary. It wasn’t the prettiest walk, but the sun was shining and we weren’t climbing any great hills today, so we were just enjoying life.

Walking through an avenue of trees on the north side of the reclaimed land I took a photo of a couple cycling along in front of us (it’s on Flickr) and realised that almost all the cyclists I’d seen today were about our age and almost every one of them was seated on an electric bike. Scamp say’s it’s just the fashion, but maybe it’s going to be the way forward. I’m not sure it’s the right way. I think folk see electric power becoming popular as a ‘green’ alternative to petrol in cars and assume it’s the same for bikes. Surely the ‘greenest’ form of travel is by human power. After all, it keeps you fit. There are no batteries to charge or to replace and it’s cheaper. That said, I’d like to try an electric bike some time!

We came back almost the same way as we went out, except we were on the other side of the railway line. Loads of people and their dogs walking along the path. Everyone rejoicing in their new found freedom. I often think I’ve lost something, a pen, a brush, something I’d hate to lose, only to find it later. The joy it brings to find you’ve not lost something you thought was gone for ever is a great feeling. I believe it’s the same with our freedom being returned after we thought we’d lost it for good.

Tomorrow we may drive to Glasgow Green for a walk, if the weather holds out.


The first day of freedom to roam – 16 April 2021

Scamp got the choice of where to got today on our first legal cross border foray.

Anyone who knows Scamp could have predicted the trio of places she’d gladly go to on our first day of freedom. Troon would be high on the list, Cramond would also be up there, but the top destination would always be The Kelpies. So today we drove out of North Lanarkshire and into Falkirk Region which is where the Kelpies live, surfacing from the concrete just between Falkirk and Grangemouth at the end of the Forth & Clyde canal. When left the motorway and headed through Helix Park there were crowds of kids in the park and we thought we wouldn’t be able to get parked. In fact I was racking my brains to decide where else we could go. I needn’t have worried, the canny folk of Falkirk and around didn’t want to pay to see the Kelpies, so the three quid charge for a day’s parking forced them to park about a mile away at the Falkirk football ground where parking is free.

The two enormous horses apparently rearing out of the canal should inspire terror on first sight, but they don’t for us. They have a calming effect. Every time we’ve visited them it’s been this air of calm that has descended and everyone we’ve taken there has felt it too. The place was busy, but there was enough open space for everyone to find a vantage point to photograph or simply take in the view of these statues. We had an ice cream cone and sat and watched the world go by. Then we walked over the outfall of the canal and on to the other side.

The last time we were walking along the towpath of the canal we’d bumped into my ex-boss and mentor with his wife. Today, at exactly the same spot we bumped into Dave and Maureen again. Took a few minutes to catch up and then they headed off to meet their grandkids and we walked along to the next bridge over the canal and back past the giant horses again.

We found a bloke selling pizzas from a portable pizza oven and we agreed that we’d found our lunch. First time we’ve ‘eaten out’ in months and here we were out in a different county, sitting in the sun eating a mushroom pizza that was wafer thin and extremely hot and tasty.

I’d taken a few shots, but as usual I’d failed to capture the essence of the Kelpies. Today’s offering is a view from the towpath of the statues reflected in the canal with a family preparing for a sail up the canal on their boat. We agreed it must be good to just take your boat for a sail any day you wanted to. I doubt if I’ll ever know, unless my lottery numbers come up and I believe you have to buy ticket first before you have any chance of that happening.

We heard a loud spoken bloke who apparently lived on one of the houseboats moored there that the boat is always moving, except one time. If the boat isn’t moving under you, it means it’s frozen solid in the ice. I’d never considered that before. We said goodbye to the Kelpies and drove home.

Back home I took the Sony out for a walk. I wasn’t really looking for any more photos, which was lucky as I didn’t find any. I did find enjoy the walk and talked myself through some things that are changing in my photography. I’m thinking about selling one of my cameras and a load of lenses that I don’t use any more. I’ll still keep a couple of bits of glass because there’s nothing in the Sony range that does what they do. I put a prospective list in to MPB last night and got offered a favourable price. I’m leaving a final decision until after the weekend.

We had a dance practise tonight. I still can’t quite manage the steps for the end of the Tango routine, but the rest of the dances worked quite well.

It’s my turn to choose a destination for tomorrow and I have somewhere in mind. We’ll see what the weather’s like in the morning. Today was an excellent choice, Scamp. A very good day.

Spring Cleaning – 15 April 2021

We had some things that either weren’t working or were surplus to requirements. We took them on a one way trip to the skips.

Scamp had been collecting bags of broken and tired looking things that were lying around the house or garden. Thankfully I was excluded from the collection although the description seemed to fit me quite well. We gathered them all up and took them to the skips. Drove back via the garden centre where we got a parsley plant, some violas and a couple of packets of seeds with compost to plant them in. Real compost this time with real soil in it, not just the dust and fibres that we dump from the hoover.

Back home and after lunch Scamp started to clear out the bin shed which, just to confuse things doesn’t have any bins in it now. Now we have wheely bins four of them that clog up the front door. Thanks for that NLC. Just what you want at your front door, four smelly bins. Anyway, I was called in to supervise the operation and ensure that all the stuff she had earmarked for the next skip deposit really was rubbish. We came to an agreement on almost all of the garden accessories. I held on to a bag or two of cement, but that was really just so she wouldn’t get things all her own way and so I could use them as bargaining chips in later discussions.

Next task for Scamp was to plant the violas and between us we completed an in depth investigation on the Gypsophila which then became a post mortem. Neither of us could find any life in the plant. However, on reading some trustworthy reports on the Interweb, it appear that the plant dies back in autumn and it is recommended that it is cut right back in spring. That’s exactly what we did today! It may live to flower again in the summer.

I went for a walk in St Mo’s in the late afternoon just to grab some photos. Instead of the Sony I took the little light Panasonic GX 80 and one lens. Today’s PoD shows that it’s perfectly capable of producing good photos from its small sensor.

We watched the first of the Sewing Bee tonight and I have to agree with Hazy that cats were never meant to wear coats. I think the same about dogs. Real ‘dugs’ have a thick coat that protects them from the cold. To some eyes they may seem ‘cute’ in their little knitted woollen jackets, but they don’t need them! The contestants were the usual mix of crazies, fanatics and chancers. Haven’t picked a likely winner yet, but if my choice of winner of the Landscape Artist of the Year (Canada) is anything to go by, it’s stick a (sewing machine) needle in a name and that is the likely winner, or that’s the one who will go out first.

Tomorrow we are exercising our legal right to travel anywhere in the length and breadth of Scotland. We think we know where we’re going. Tune in tomorrow to see if we made it!

Walking in the woods – 14 April 2021

Off to Motherwell in the morning to get lost and then found.

We parked in the little carpark. Really too small a carpark for such a large area to walk in. Having said that, it’s never been empty and it’s also never been full, so maybe it’s just the right size.

It was a beautiful day. Around 7am it had been bright with blue sky and sunny. However when I went to make breakfast at around 9am a heavy mist had appeared from somewhere and it had blotted out the sun. Made breakfast for us and went back to bed thinking that today was a write-off. I needn’t have worried because by 10am the mist had disappeared, although the folk in Kilsyth were still holding on to it because mist, fog and low cloud seems to roll down from the Campsies on one side and from Cumbersheugh on the other. We were back on track again.

So it was a perfect day for a walk in Barons Haugh. This time we were heading over the hill and down to the bird sanctuary with its hides, then followed the Clyde downstream past some posh, make that ‘very posh’ and ugly houses. Then on to an underpass to Strathclyde Park. Stopped there for a few slices of apple that Scamp had thoughtfully sprinkled with lemon juice to stop them discolouring and give them a bit of freshness. Unfortunately the only way back was to follow the path we’d just travelled. As I’ve said before, I don’t like walking the same path in both directions. Next time we’ll do a round trip.

What did we see today? Lots of flowers for a start. One I still can’t ID. It might be a Summer Snowflake which I’ve never heard of before, but it made PoD. We also found one single Snake’s Head Fritillary. I’ve never seen one in the wild, but I did try to grow some once. They flowered, then just disappeared, never to return. We found an island in the Clyde. It had once been a car. You could clearly see the four wheels. It was upside down and had been there long enough for a tree to start growing from the chassis! How it got there remains a mystery.

Climbing back up the hill to the car was a bit energy sapping, but taking it slow and steady got us to the top. We passed and then were re-passed by two young guys on bikes. I don’t think they’ll cycle that road again. This wasn’t a path to cycle on a Halford’s bike. I hope their legs were in better shape than mine. When we got home I had to walk about for a while to east the cramp in my calves. I feel much better now, but tomorrow the stairs might be a trial.

I don’t think we’ll be going far tomorrow. A trip to the skips is on the cards, just to get rid of some junk.

Still didn’t get that painting done – 13 April 2021

Scamp went out for a walk with Veronica and it should have been a golden opportunity for an hour’s painting, but other stuff came first.

I wanted to have a deeper dig into some of the secrets of these two new software packages. Today it was Capture One’s turn. It’s very powerful and with great power comes great confusion. There seems to be ten different ways to do the simplest thing. Unfortunately, all the ten different ways produce slightly different results and none of them exactly what I’d intended. I’ve been using Lightroom since version 1 back in 2007. Over the intervening years I’d worked through five other versions and built up a library of tweaks and plug-ins. Capture One is like starting again. Nothing seems familiar. Maybe it’s too big a step.

The other thing I’d to do was to remove our coloured lights from the rowan tree in the garden. They hadn’t worked properly since the snow earlier in the year and although I’ve replaced the NiMh battery, there hasn’t been a light from it in about a month. It was time to call it quits and take it to the skip. Actually it didn’t take long to take it down and remove all the staples that were holding the wiring. By that time Scamp had returned .

After lunch we walked down to the shops to get a flower pot for an Astilbe plant Scamp was donating to Isobel. I’d intended walking part of the way back and then going for a jaunt in St Mo’s, because it was a lovely day with quite a few spells of decent sunshine, but I’d left my phone at home. Isn’t it strange how controlled we are by these slabs of glass and silicon? Well, for under 50s it’s just part of life, but for those of us who grew up using call boxes to make phone calls. The mobile phone is a help and a hindrance. I walked back with Scamp to get the phone.

I was hoping against hope for just one damselfly in St Mo’s. I’d seen a hoverfly last week, but today I had to make do with the skittish spiders, Wolf Spiders. They seem to live under the boardwalk, but on warm day, especially sunny days they come up to bask in the rays. I managed to catch one who was watching me as I was watching it. Later in the year they are easier to photograph with their bundle of eggs carried on their back. Apparently the warmth of the sun helps the eggs to hatch. Too early for that today, these ones were hunting, but dismissed me as too big and stringy to make a decent meal!

Back home it was time to put up the new lights under the careful instruction of Scamp. Then it was time for dinner which was potatoes, beans and either veggie sausages (Scamp) or beef burger (me).

Watched the final of Landscape Artist of the Year (Canada) and sure enough, the worst painting of the lot won the prize. If you’d given one of those wolf spiders a brush and some paint it could have made a better job of it.

There was great news announced today. From Friday we will be able to travel the length and breadth of Scotland. The Scottish world is once again our oyster!! Non-essential shops are still shut. Restaurants are not allowed to open. Pubs too are still closed, but at least we can travel to discover if the sea is still there. We will have to take a flask of coffee and pieces. We’ve effectively been locked down for the last five months. What will the world look like? Will we still remember it?

Tomorrow we may go for a walk.