Little bits of snow on the breeze – 7 February 2021

Not real snow. Not flakes of snow or blizzards, but what my mum used to call ‘Piling Snow’.

Piling snow is more like hail than snow. It’s usually the precursor to ‘real’ snow, but not today. Today it was just piling snow all day. Like little soft pills of snow. Not hard like hail, but soft and spongy like those little expanded polystyrene balls that get everywhere. Piling snow gets everywhere too, probably because it’s solid enough to bounce off the leaves of plants and soft enough not to break up when it lands. Strange stuff and it was there on the wind almost all day.

I eventually bowed to the inevitable and went for a walk in St Mo’s, but not before I made my bread from the Bread Baking Club, a present from my son and his wife. This bread was “Honey Wheat Baguettes”. Strange dough made from two types of flour, chocolate powder, coffee powder, dark brown sugar, honey, salt, butter and yeast. With it mixed, kneaded and proving I set off, wrapped up like Nanook of the North. I’d not idea what I was going to photograph today. With a cold east wind and the snow piling around me I did my best to find something interesting, but the best I could find was a little blob of moss on a tree trunk. I liked the colour and the detail in the tiny baby flowers. I also found an almost abstract collection of snow and ice on another bit of moss. The tree trunk moss won PoD the other is on Flickr if you’re interested.

Back home I baked the bread rolls in the oven once the chicken was roasted. The chicken looked delicious and it was. The nascent bread looked disgusting. I won’t tell you what it looked like! However, miracles do happen. They did happen in this case and the batch of rolls turned out very nice. Good texture and interesting taste. Even Scamp agreed and she doesn’t like honey.

Dancing class tonight was Mambo, Rumba and Jive with a bit of sequence Quickstep thrown in for good measure. Not bad in sixty minutes! We did a lot better this week, evidence that practise pays off, as does patience from Scamp. Thank you dear!

Spoke to JIC later on the phone and heard about his long term plans which sound interesting to say the least. Also, it’s even colder down south than up here.

Sketch for today was “Fishing Boat”. I’m not a very nautical person. The nearest I’ve come to a fishing boat was cod fishing on a wee boat from Troon many, many years ago. However thanks to Wikipedia image searches, I present to you the good ship INK 1125 sailing from a port near you … wherever you are.

That was about it for today. Hopefully the weather will get its act together by tomorrow and decide if it’s going to snow or not. Personally I’d prefer Not, but I don’t get to choose. We’ll take what we get.

The last long day at sea – 14 August 2019

And another beautiful day it was too.

Nothing to do except pack and we weren’t going to rush into that, thank you very much. The sun was out and we were going to make the most of it, because who knows when we’ll see it again. After all, the sun shines a lot in France, Germany and Spain, not to mention Greece and Italy. They’re all in the EU, so when Brexit happens will that mean there will be a ‘Hard Border’ between us and the sun? Will the Italians and the Spanish want to keep it all for themselves and won’t want to give any to us poor Brits? I hope not, but just in case, we were going to grab our share today. If we could find two sun beds together, that is.

We finally settled for a couple of beds up at the sharp end of the ship (Technical Term). Hot sun and a cooling breeze from the ships onward passage. Spent most of the time there before we resigned to the inevitable and went to start the packing. It was amazing how easily it all went in to one brown cloth case and one blue one. Quite remarkable. Also remarkable was that they weighed only a kilo or so more than they had when we’d dragged them to the airport two weeks ago. I’m not sure we’ll be able to say that about ourselves. If I’ve only managed to put on a kilo this fortnight, either it’s a miracle or it’s time for a new battery in the bathroom scales. It’s actually more likely that it will say “One at a time, please!”

Dinner in the sit-down Ligurian restaurant where we were “happy to share”. Had what must have been the worst steak of the holiday. It was meant to be a Rib Eye, but was slathered in a sticky brown gravy, so it was difficult to tell. Also it was tough. Getting to the end of the cruise and the bottom of the barrel of cuts of meat, perhaps.

Finally we retired to the balcony with a double gin and our own bottle of tonic to listen to the waves and watch the stars. I know where the Plough is now. If you ever read this Alex, I hope you’re impressed. That’s one thing I really enjoyed this trip was the walk on deck to see the Milky Way and watch that green laser dart about the sky. So many other things too. Maybe they deserve a blog post of their own. Lastly, I must thank Scamp for putting up with my crabbit face and bad dancing. You made it all worth while. I thank you, love.

PoD was a merchant ship we chased and beat on the slow race to Malta.

Tomorrow will be a long day.

At Sea – Lovely Jubbly – 9 August 2019

A sea day again.

At lunchtime we got to test out the skills of the new dance teachers. What could they teach us. They had big boots to fill. First off, they were English and had a totally different style. The bloke spoke very fast and gave the impression of being a bit nervous. The woman was much more self-assured and was obviously the brains of the operation. He did the talking, she did the thinking. They taught us the Social Foxtrot which we’d learned a long number of years ago and for some reason it had stuck in my mind. Something few dance steps do, so it was either memorable or simple! We didn’t go in the afternoon, already missing the dry humour of Stuart and Jane! Also the bloke’s constant repetition of “Lovely Jubbly” was becoming irritating.

Although there’s usually a lot to do on sea days, there’s not a lot to photograph. So, today’s PoD was a Royal Caribbean ship following us for a while.

Dinner was in the ‘council’ restaurant and although it was a ‘black tie’ affair with everyone dressed up, we had to wait for about half an hour for a table and then service was extra slow. Something is wrong with P&O. We think they have cut the staff and it’s beginning to cause problems. Lots of people are complaining about the time it takes to serve food. Lots of people are complaining about the difficulty in getting drinks in the bars, because waiter don’t seem to be interested in serving. Scamp thinks it’s linked to the drinks packages they sell. If they’ve sold a drinks package, the company already has your money in the bank, so they don’t need to work trying to sell you drinks. Makes sense. Also people are complaining about grumpy looking waiters and workers on the ship. If P&O are indeed cutting staff, then the remaining staff need to work longer hours for presumably the same wages. That leads to an unhappy workforce and an unhappy customer base. It’s a downward slope from there.

We danced for a while at night, but it wasn’t the same atmosphere and not the same music either. It sounded to me like midi tracks, or ‘Elevator Music’ as Scamp described it.

Never mind, tomorrow we’re in Dubrovnik.

At Sea – Dancing with the Australians – 7 August 2019

Today was a sea day. Not a lot to see. Lots to do though.

We’d given up on the salsa class, it was just rubbish, below even beginners level. Did the dance class and enjoyed it as much as the last one. I went to a talk about the planet (or not the planet) Pluto by the astronomer again. Fascinating, and I’m not being facetious either. When someone who knows their stuff and is totally immersed in their topic gives a talk, their enthusiasm just draws you in. I could have listened to this bloke all day.

Dinner tonight for me was Chicken Cafreal with Pulau Rice and Goan Bread. Must ask Delia how authentic it was, but I don’t really care. It was great food but  the service was slooooow in the ‘cooncil’ restaurant.

Dancing with the Australian crowd who tried to teach us the Cowboy Cha Cha. I’m still not sure we got it right, but we had a go at it.

PoD was a shot of a Royal Caribbean ship that was keeping pace with us for a while.

Tomorrow we return to Malta, mid-cruise.

A is for Atrium – 2 August 2019

Today was a sea day.

Some folk say sea days are boring – nothing to do – nothing to see but the sea, but that’s not really the case. After a good breakfast we were off wandering around the ship again and then finished our unpacking. Tonight was a ‘Black Tie’ dinner, the Captain’s reception. A chance for a weak glass of whisky or gin and a chance to hear Captain Bob’s attempts at humour, or maybe he’d just give us the safety talk again in case there was someone on board who hadn’t been bored rigid yesterday. Later in the morning we went to a dance class – Jive, but this was Ballroom Jive, not Glasgow Jive, although the couple who took the class were Scottish so that was a tick in the right box.

After lunch we went to a Salsa class, but it was all talk and stepping through the moves which is boring. There wasn’t much dancing. I don’t think I’ll go back to this one. At least in the Jive class we got ample opportunity to dance to some music. After that we went for a splash in the ‘big’ pool. Big is a bit of a misnomer as it’s anything but big. However, it’s the biggest pool on this medium/small ship. It got very busy, very quickly but we did, at least, get wet.

Second ballroom class of the day in the afternoon and it was more of a sequence jive dance. I’ve always hated sequence dancing, but this one had more fun than some. We had to leave early to get ready for the Captain’s Party and the free alcohol, while avoiding the speech.

Dressed in kilt, white shirt, black (well, almost black, frog bowtie) and waistcoat plus all the gubbins that goes with ‘highland dress’, we made our way to the Atrium. Met a woman who complemented me on my kilt and asked what clan it was. She was English, but her mother was a McDonald from Ayrshire, Maybole of all places.  Another man slightly one over the eight asked me what regiment it was, then told me I was wearing Black Watch.  I tried to explain to him that it Clan Campbell, but he wouldn’t listen.  He was either guttered or english, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Listened to Captain Bob attempt some humour and realised why he hadn’t thought to inject some into his speech the previous night. Whisky was cheapest they could find, Gin was thin, gave up and went for dinner which Scamp had booked in Cafe Jardin which used to be the hot chocolate place in the old version of this ship. Ahh! If only Cap’n Bob took some lessons from Noel, our waiter in Cafe Jardin, he’d be a hit with more than the sycophants. Noel, probably not his real name, sold us a bottle of sparkling water telling us it was an excellent vintage and he could recommend it. It’s the little things like that, that give a place a good name. Food was good. Scamp had Piedmont Red Pepper as starter and SeaBass with Cannellini Bean Mash and other stuff! I had Tiger Prawns and Tuscan Sausage then Rustic Chicken Supreme and Parma Ham with other stuff. We were supposed to have three desert plates each from a choice of six, but we chose only two each. Noel knew better and brought us all six! I’d list them, but you’d only be jealous. My favourite was Italian Poached Peach and Scamp’s was Affogato. All that for £15 for the two of us!

Tried dancing at night after I’d divested myself of the highland dress. I’ve danced salsa in a kilt before and it’s do-able, but the brogues have a mind of their own on the dance floor. Kept crashing into other folk on the dance floor. Tried dancing the Jive stuff we’d learned and gave up because I couldn’t remember the sequence. Finally gave a Salsa demo par excellence to show that we CAN dance!

PoD is boring Cap’n Bob giving his speech to …  Well, it looks like nobody was listening, but believe me there were brown-nosers aplenty eager to laugh at all his every attempt at humour.

Bed after a long day. Sea days are so boring, you know!

Dancing the night away – 30 June 2018

Today was the last sea day of the cruise.

It was also the last full day of the cruise and the last art class and the last salsa class. Art class was a challenging painting of two strawberries. Not real ones, but a painting from a photo as all the previous ones had been. For this last class both morning and afternoon groups were joined because there was to be an exhibition of work in the afternoon. Easa’s technique is totally different from anything I’ve used before. He works in a very detailed way. As an example, after sketching the shape of the two strawberries, our first task was to draw the individual seeds. Have you ever stopped to count the number of strawberry seeds are going into your mouth? I bet you haven’t. People laugh at me because I crunch my way through all an apple apart from the stalk. “You’ll have an apple tree growing in your stomach” I’ve heard folk say. That may be so, but do you spit out all those strawberry pips too? After painting in the seeds we had to then paint round them, not all the way round all of them because he wanted some white paper left for highlights. Then we added dark red for the shadow areas and a bit of green for the leaves. When it was finished I was quite pleased with the effect. I’m glad I was in the small morning group. I couldn’t have done with all the preening that went on from some of the afternoon group.

After lunch we joined the salsa group, but only for half a class for me because I had to go set up my paintings. Afterwards, I met back up with Scamp as the salsa class finished. We didn’t go for a swim today because the thought of packing wet swim suits was just too much. Instead we started packing, well, I started packing as Scamp had already started while I was counting strawberry seeds. It’s a sad task, packing after fourteen days, but it has to be done.

Dinner tonight was with a mixed bunch. Grumpy old woman, young couple and an older couple who were ok. The girl from the young couple was full of her own self importance. She was working for Charles Hanson the auctioneer and antiques expert. It appeared that some of his expertise had rubbed off on her as she knew everything about antiques too. Some folk just love to blow their own trumpet. I reckoned the old grumpy woman was her mother. If she was, then pity the poor bloke who married the daughter. Nothing was good enough for this battleaxe.

After dinner we went to the Tamarind club where there was to be a Salsa Hoedown with both the line dancers and the salsa dancers taking part with the whole thing being supervised by the Headliners theatre group. It was great fun. I didn’t do any of the line dancing, I forgot my cowboy hat, but I enjoyed the salsa. Scamp, of course took part in everything. It was a great end to the cruise and one that will stay in my memory.

Tomorrow we depart for our ten hour trip home.

At sea – 29 June 2018

Today in art class we were painting a pig. Let’s face it there are plenty to choose from on this ship. There are fat pigs, male chauvinist pigs, ugly pigs and just plain porkers, but this was a happy little pig leaning on a fence. I tried to follow Easa, the teacher’s, instructions, but found it difficult to start with painting the eyes first. It goes against all the watercolour rules of leaving details to the end and also of painting light to dark. However it worked better than I thought and his colour combinations and mixing instructions worked well. I liked my little pig. It should appear soon on Flickr, but not until the blog is complete and the PoDs are in place. I’ll let you know when.

Salsa class was more turns, which give my knee gyp, and more additions to the routine. The sad thing is that this is ballroom salsa. In Cuban salsa, and even in LA as far as I can see you never dance a routine. Yes, in class, in a learning environment you dance in a circle (rueda) and all do the same moves, but not when out dancing. Then it’s freestyle, so we’d never use the kicks and flicks. Still, it’s good fun and with such a camp and fun teacher you can’t help but think it’s “FAB!”

Dinner was booked for 7pm in Sindhu, the Indian restaurant on board, but that didn’t prevent us from having some Aloo Saag and Muttar Paneer for lunch. Lovely stuff.

Later, once we’d given it a chance to be digested, we went swimming in the inside/outside pool. Later when Scamp had gone to the cabin to get ready for tonight, I did a wee sketch of the pool area. Again, it may appear on a blog posts or Flickr later TBC.

Sindhu dinner which was also the last of the formal (AKA Dress The Dolly) nights was disappointing. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was just not as good as the last time when we’d been overwhelmed by the range and quality of the food.

Afterwards we went to the show in Arena. It was a life history of Burt Bacharach (!!) We rated it as ‘poor’. Certainly not one of Headliners best performances.

“I ordered up some Suzette … – 27 June 2018

… I said could you please make that Crêpes.”
(Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream)

Painting class in the morning and today it was a pelican we were rendering on paper. It wouldn’t have been my first choice and in the end it looked a bit more like a distorted swan than the exotic fish eater. Still, as as I used to say, it’s done now. Scamp went dancing while I was struggling with a pelican and she was much more successful than me.

After that we went for a swim, walked round the ship and did a bit of dolphin spotting. However, there were other things in the sea, mostly junk. Bottles (maybe some with messages in), leaves, pieces of paper and a turtle. I thought it was a leaf at first, but then I realised that we were about ten decks up from the sea and there isn’t much to give a sense of scale. Then it moved its flippers and leaves don’t have flippers. It was a turtle. Too late I told Scamp and by that time it was a little brown smudge on the top of the water. We waited and waited and only saw one more. No photos I’m afraid, no time to get the camera focused on the little creatures and take the shot. Not when you’re travelling at 20 knots on an undulating sea. Still, we saw turtles. Also saw a pod of dolphins. No photos there either, but I did get a good shot of blue water where the dolphin had been.

Months ago we booked a meal at Epicurean, assuming that as it was the first week of the cruise, it would be menu ‘A’. It’s not as simple as that. Menus are rotated on a four or five day cycle and we got menu ‘B’ which to Scamp’s disappointment didn’t finish with a Crêpe Suzette. After what was an otherwise faultless meal we booked tonight’s dinner in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be menu ‘A’. It didn’t disappoint. We sat at the rail at the back of the ship watching the world drift by and looking out at where we’d been. Below us were the rear swimming pools and we could listen in to conversations of swimmers doing the same as us, but without the encumbrance of posh dress or heavyweight kilt, because tonight was a ‘Black & White’ dress code. National dress trumps ‘Black & White’, by the way. I’ll fill in the menu when I get a chance to check it, but what sticks in my mind were the ‘amuse bouche’, namely Bloody Mary Lollypops and Blackcurrant and White Chocolate Lollypop! Inventive.

That was about it for the day. Tomorrow it’s Gibraltar. Monkeys and cheap booze.

Posh frock, Posh togs for posh dinner – 21 June 2018

P1040992- blogToday we had posh dinner booked in Epicurean.

Art class in the morning, and as we were at sea today, we were painting a rose.  The view from the room on deck 18 showed only sea and sun.  Unfortunately the sun disappeared about an hour after we started.  It might have disappeared before that, but I was concentrating so much on the rose and the teacher’s method of painting the petals, I didn’t notice anything around me.  The class swot’s voice droned on, but I managed to tune it out.  That’s a skill Scamp has that I covet!  The method for the red rose was, working petal by petal:

  1. Paint on a strong wash of Cadmium Red.

  2. Using a damp brush, remove any highlights while the red wash is still wet.

  3. Allow the wash to dry slightly then add the shadow areas using Alizarin Crimson.

  4. Continue using this method until all the petals are done.

  5. With a damp brush blend the shadows were necessary.

  6. Mix a dark using Alizarin Crimson and Intense Blue and paint in the small areas of deep shadow.

With the rose successfully painted I had just enough time to catch the end of Scamp’s line dance and got a short video of it for reference later.  HER reference, not mine, I hasten to add.

After lunch we swam in the covered pool, because the sun wasn’t quite getting through the cloud cover.  Lounged in the jacuzzi for a while too and my leg felt better.  By the time we were finished, the sun was back in control.

We had booked a dinner in Epicurean and it was just as good as the last time, two years ago.  We both had Lobster Thermidore as a main after Scamp’s starter of Trio of Tomatoes and mine of Two Types of Smoked Salmon.  Pudding for Scamp was a White Chocolate Sphere with Popcorn served with Creme Brulee.  I had Banana and Peanut Canneloni.  Coffee and truffles to finish.  Amuse Bouche at the start and end Start was Mexican Surprise which was baby tomato on a bed of white guacamole.  At the end it was a delicious deconstructed G&T.  Everything was photographed, of course.  That was menu 2.  We immediately booked for next week to get a taste of menu 1.  We also went straight to Sindu to book a night there too.  Food?  It’s what we do!

Watched the sun go down over the sea!

All at sea – 20 June 2018

IMG_4962- blogThere’s not a lot you can write about sea days other than you are at sea for a whole day.

It started off with some sun and a bit of haze on the horizon, but soon that sun was disappearing and the clouds were rolling in.  One of the benefits of being on a P&O ship is the variety of things to do on a sea day.  Today after breakfast I took a trip to Metropolis on Deck 18 for the Art class while Scamp went to the line dancing class.  Today we were painting penguins.  A strange subject given our position just off the south of Spain.  As the last class, Easa had provided us with a wee photo of the subject.  A mummy and baby penguin.  After we sketched it, he took us through the process of painting it.  I believe that each subject concentrates on a particular skill.  Today’s was mixing a black.  It’s fairly simple if you know your colour wheel and is usually a blue and a brown.  That’s what he recommended and that’s what I used.  Unfortunately, there were too many diddies in the class who couldn’t find the blue and then couldn’t find the brown, so a lot of time was wasted.  As a result, the class over-ran and I had a salsa class to go to at 11am and had to give my apologies and make a run for it.

Salsa was a fun class.  Great fun.  The leader is as gay as a gay thing and is constantly encouraging everyone to “Get your hips moving.”  It’s pretty basic stuff for us, but at least we get a chance to dance afterwards when everyone gets a bit of ‘practise time’.  After lunch we sat and listened to frau Sturmbahnfuhrer screaming at the poor people whose only fault in life was a desire to learn Cha – Cha.  We couldn’t help but compare and contrast our teacher with this demon.  One making dancing fun, one making it a drudge and a competition.

Outside things were looking grim.  Grey cloud and a very slight wind that wasn’t going to shift them very much.  Never mind, there were things to do.  There were brides to ooh and ahh at and lots of rubbish oops, bargains to be bought.  Also, tonight was a Gala Captain’s Reception.  We’d no intention of going to meet the captain who is apparently on the short leet for the most boring speaker on P&O.  However, it was a chance to wear my kilt and cause a stir.  As it happened, one of the people at our table was from Aberdeen.  Maybe it was a long time ago, but at least he was Scottish and the accent was there.  Like a lot of folk, the more we spoke to him, the stronger the accent became.  Pleasant enough crowd.  One woman was from the afternoon art class.  She talked about going on P&O in the ‘60s when there was a severe demarcation between First class and Second class passengers accommodation.  It still exists.  There is an area cordoned off at the front of the ship for those who are willing to pay the subsidy.  They have better sunbeds, their own pool and sauna.  They don’t tell you that in their fancy brochure. 

Tonight’s show was the best we’ve seen by far.  Brilliantly staged with a ‘roadie’ entertaining the crowd at the start.  Then, near the end the lights went out and a message came over the system saying that there were technical difficulties and the program would proceed as soon as possible.  After the spoof at the start, everyone thought this was just another joke.  It wasn’t.  Some folk left, but we waited for the finale.  I think they sang every rock anthem that was written.  Silly wee story, but nobody noticed because the production was so slick apart from that one problem.

That was it for the day at sea.  Sat and finished my painting of the penguins and went to bed.