Recharging – 25 September 2021

Getting the wee red car back on the road.

Up with the bonnet and then … I found my socket set was all imperial sizes and the bolts holding the terminals to the battery were metric. My 7/16” socket was too tight and the 1/2” socket was too slack. I needed something like a 15/32” socket, or more realistically, an 11mm one. I did have a set of cheap metric sockets at one time, about a year ago, I think, but I reckon I must have thrown them out in a clear out last year. Oh well, I was going to Halfords anyway to get a battery charger. I’d add a socket set to the list.

Drove up to the retail park in my car, in heavy traffic all heading north or east. This was September weekend in Scotland a school holiday and what used to be a bank holiday too, so maybe that explained the rush into the wilds of the countryside. I wouldn’t have rushed, because it was another of those drizzly Scottish days. I got the battery charger and the cheap socket set that I won’t throw out this time and returned to remove a battery that’s only about a year old. Tried to remember which terminal you remove first and found that Mr Google had the answer. Dragged the battery up to the back bedroom and meanwhile Scamp had unboxed the charger which we plugged in and set it to work for a couple of hours, after which it merrily told us the battery was charged and being ‘maintained’ whatever that means. The instructions weren’t that explicit about that part of the charging procedure. Two hours seemed a very short time to charge a totally flat battery, but I took it out and after checking with Mr Google again connected the positive, then the negative terminal. Immediately the warning lights came on in the car which I remembered from last year when I replaced a totally dead battery. Locked the battery in place and tentatively locked the car with the fob then unlocked it again. Key in the socket turned and so did the starter motor and the engine burst into life again! Hooray! The Wee Red Car will live to fight another day. I left it to rest after the open heart surgery, but we’ll go for a run tomorrow just to give it a bit more energy.

A Piece ’n’ Egg, actually two eggs was a late lunch and then, while Scamp did a bit of baking, I took the Big Dog and the macro lens out for a walk in St Mo’s. Found a Black Darter dragonfly on the boardwalk which was very skittish to start with, but after a bit of patient crawling around the boardwalk, I managed to get a couple of shots of it. I saw one last year and was reading about it in last year’s blog post. It would have made PoD, but it was pipped to the post by a couple of mating Shield Bugs. The larger of the two (the female) was calling the shots and decided it wanted to head off while the poor male was dragged along behind. It’s a tough life and probably quite painful being a male shield bug!

Scamp had cabbage and potatoes for dinner while I had mince ’n’ tatties with some of the cabbage. Not beetroot, Jamie! We had a baked corn on the cob each from the Campbell Garden down south. Both were still perfectly fresh. Scamp’s baking had included a rhubarb and apple tart from the Campbell Garden in Scotland. Beautifully crisp pastry. One of the best she’s made.

We struggled through the first Strictly of the year, but I’ll admit I wasn’t all that interested in most of it. Did enjoy the gay couple’s tango. Brilliantly done. We used to do a routine with Jamie Gal’ where the leader became the follower and vice versa. It’s very, very confusing for both parties, but the two men were faultless tonight.

Maybe we’ll take the Wee Red Car out for a run tomorrow to give its battery another charge.

Lazy Sunday – 5 September 2021

Just as the weather fairies predicted, dull with the chance of wet later.

Last night when I was reading in bed I felt a scratch under my watch strap. It was a little eight legged friend, an arachnid, but not a spider. A little tic. It hadn’t actually pierced the skin but was wandering around looking for a good place to do so. I managed to get it on to my finger and from there on to my bedroom cabinet where its wanderings came to an end. I’ve now worked out how and where it got onto my hand and for that reason I wasn’t going to re-photograph the fungi I saw yesterday.

Instead, I made some bread. Complicated bread with dried tomatoes, garlic granules, dried basil, grated mozzarella, a medium egg and 120ml of milk as well as the usual bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar and warm water. When mixed together in the correct proportions, proved, rolled and lots of other things it was baked and produced a Pane Bianco. It smelled lovely after it was baked and tasted quite good too. Maybe not quite as good a the smell promised, but certainly worth the effort.

The furthest we walked today was down to the shops to get some veg for dinner. All today’s photos were taken in or around the house. My favourite and therefore PoD was a slow shutter/low ISO shot of a Berberis bush in the back garden.

Dinner was a chicken pasty with potatoes and mixed greens. Down to earth food is sometimes best. Watched the Dutch GP and was pleased that Verstappen won convincingly. Also like that Bottas showed a bit of spirit by going against team orders. It looks like he won’t be at Mercedes next year, so he has little to lose now, and possibly everything to gain. Good man.

That was it for a lazy Sunday. There could be worse ways to spend your time.

Tomorrow we may go out for a run if it’s dry and take some interesting landscape shots to get away from constant macros. It’s raining now. Just like the weather fairies predicted.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!

Another hot day – 18 July 2021

It was cloudy in the morning, but it cleared up quickly. It’s 10pm now and it’s still warm.

Because there was a bit of a breeze, I set up a tripod and tried a few slow shutter shots, but the Gorillapod was too low and the Benbo wasn’t quite stable enough, so they turned out a bit shaken but not stirred. This slow shutter thing needs more practise. Made up for my disappointment by taking even more landscapes.

Scamp started to make a Swiss roll in the afternoon. She called it a “Live Bake” after the disaster of Friday. Her technique seemed to impress the assembled audience with her rolling up the baked ‘cake’ in the silicone baking paper

After lunch we sat around the house and found cool places to be. Sim went for a run. In the heat! Down the hill then up through the fields to an old ruined house then back along a single track road to the house. She declared it a good run. We took her word for it.

Later in the afternoon Scamp and I walked for half an hour along the single track road with few passing places. Fairly easy going. Harder climbing the hills coming back

JIC went for his run on the same short route we took. He was much quicker than sim.

Neil D was on dinner duty.Turkey pilau. Rice maybe a little bit stodgy he thought – we didn’t. We thought it was lovely. Just blame it on that oven, Neil.

Scamp finished the Swiss roll and coated it in ganache. I helped with the decorative white chocolate dribbles after Scamp managed to burn her fingers lifting the cup containing the melted white chocolate out of the microwave.

PoD was a Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly that Scamp and I saw on our afternoon walk.

Sprite, Gin and Rum all round tonight and an early bed again.

Canal, Canoes and Cygnets – 7 July 2021

We went for a walk.

It was a lovely morning and after Scamp had hung out the washing we got our boots on and went for a walk. We stepped out the door and the rain came on!

By the time we’d gone half a mile, the rain had stopped. For the first time in what seemed like ages, we drove down to Auchinstarry, parked and went for a walk along the canal towards Twechar. I’d been a bit sensible with the camera gear and only carried the Sony, the kit lens and the 18mm. I thought a change of subject to landscape would be good, but really it was the walk that was interesting me more and I knew Scamp would enjoy a walk in the countryside, especially on a day like today.

For once we weren’t bothered too much by cyclists. Maybe that was because it was midweek and some unlucky folk would be working. Some folk have to! We did see a few people out in Canadian style canoes, a few in kayaks and one person on a paddle board. That must the the most uncomfortable way to travel on water. Kneeling and paddling. Even for the experts, standing up and paddling doesn’t make sense to me. All the discomfort of windsurfing without the feeling of speed. Not my idea of fun at all.

Despite my desire for some landscape photography and despite actively shunning the macro lens today, I did succumb to taking a few shots of hoverflies, but only a few. With a blue sky above and lush green fields below, thanks to the recent rain, it was landscapes that won the day, especially with the activity on the canal giving an extra interest. I did think though, watching those Canadian canoes nearing Twechar, that I could almost hear the banjos playing the theme from Deliverance!

When we were almost back at the car Scamp spotted a large flotilla of cygnets following their mother down under the Auchinstarry bridge. Nine cygnets in all. Laying all those eggs must have been an experience Mrs Swan wouldn’t want to repeat again.

Back home Scamp started making another Swiss Roll. This is the second one and she seems much happier with it than last time. This time she opted not to include the ganache. On a taste test she thought it was a little dry. I just ate mine.

The swan and its nine cygnets made PoD.

No real plans for tomorrow, although we may go somewhere we haven’t been in a long time, but it’s not Venice!

Thunderstorms and torrential rain – 4 July 2021

Looks like that’s the end of the hot summer days for a while.

We knew it was going to happen. All good things must come to an end and so do the dry days. Today started out with lovely sunshine, but we knew it wouldn’t last. The weather fairies had been adamant that thunderstorms were on the way, blowing up from the south, but you always live in hope that they got it wrong. They didn’t and not long after midday the first peal of thunder sounded the end of the hot dry spell. It was followed almost immediately by a torrential shower, and that’s the way it proceeded for the rest of the day. A few rolls of the thunder drum and then the heavy rain. I’d put out all the plants in the greenhouse to grab some of that free rain and I’m sure they enjoyed it.

Although the sun had disappeared, the air was still that heavy, muggy way you get just before thunderstorms clear the air, so when there seemed to be a dry spell, I got my shorts and tee shirt on with a raincoat on top (because I’m daft, but not totally stupid) and took the weather sealed Sony and Sigma macro out for a walk in St Mo’s. I was hoping for some butterflies or maybe, if I was lucky, a dragonfly. Neither of these were forthcoming, but I did manage to grab some shots of a hoverfly, a Helophilus pendulus no less. Commonly known as a Footballer because of its striped thorax. There haven’t been many hoverflies about so far this year, so it was good to get a clean shot of one.

I was only taking an hour out today because I had been making some tear and share bread and it was due to go in to the oven fairly soon. As agreed, I phoned Scamp on my way home and asked her to put the oven on. My timing was good for once and I was in the house barely ten minutes when the next rain shower started.

Dinner tonight was steak for me and salmon for Scamp. Both served with potatoes, broccoli and a few mushrooms that were needing used up for me. The ‘tear and share’ bread was lovely.

Dancing was Queen of Hearts rumba followed by Foxtrot and finished with Cha-Cha to Jack Savoretti’s Dancing in the Living Room. The teachers put in some simplified chassis steps instead of the two half reverse turns for the Foxtrot and that made the dance much more danceable in our living room. The final cha-cha was fine, but the song was instantly forgettable for me. Still, a good work out and good news that there is more than a chance that we will be dancing (not in our living room) by the end of the month!

Spoke to JIC later and heard about Simonne’s latest 10k which was ‘just a trail run’.  Good to hear she’s doing so well and that JIC will be getting back to the gym soon.

Tomorrow looks a lot like today has been with heavy showers and the possibility of thunderstorms for most of the day. We might manage a walk in one of the dry spells.

One Italian, One Indian – 25 June 2021

Those were our choices for lunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Driving – 11 June 2021

A second visit to Ravenscraig.

We had just left the house when the rain started, but it didn’t linger. It was only telling us that it was still there, still wetting the ground, still watering thirsty plants, still wetting the washing that should have been drying on the ‘whirly’. We picked up Shona and then drove out to Ravenscraig. Accidentally I took a different route which seemed much quicker than the one the sat nav thought was best. We drove past my old work place in Newarthill, now a housing estate with no sign of the huge factory that once stood there.

It took a bit longer for Shona to get her jag, this her second AZ jag. She seemed little bothered by the event, although she was probably relieved the the whole thing was over, or at least over for now. We drove back to Cumbersheugh and went for coffee in Costa at the end of the depressing Antonine Centre. I wondered, not for the first time, what Antoninus Pius would have thought of this concrete and steel monstrosity that now bears his name. Shona had insisted that she was buying today and we agreed that would be great. Even Costa coffee has improved since lockdown has been eased. For one thing, they’ve gone back to using real cups and saucers, not those big cardboard half pint tumblers they used when everyone had to do take-away. For another they simply fill the cup now, rather than attempt to fill the big half pint tumbler with water to make sure it was filled to the brim although they still only put a single shot of coffee in it. It wasn’t just Costa either, Nero were just as bad. Today’s PoD came from Costa. Looking up from my seat at the lattice of dirty windows and just the corner of a manky water stained ’sail’ above the Costa cafe counter.

We sat and drank our coffee while we listened to Shona’s news. Some bad, but mostly good. It’s heartening to hear that she seems to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long tunnel, but it appears that the light is real. Then it was time to take her home and thank her for lunch.

Before we’d gone out this morning I’d made the dough for a Spelt and Walnut loaf. It had been proving for about four hours and was ready to be shaped into a loaf ready for the oven. Once that was done, I could turn my thought to dinner. It was to be a quiche filled with broccoli and chunks of smoked salmon, a recipe I’d pinched from Jackie. I didn’t have time to make the shortcrust pastry for the base, so I drove up to Tesco to get some ready made. Bumped into Mrs Begg from CHS and had a few words with her. Back home I was happy to be led through the mysteries of making a quiche by Scamp and as soon as the bread came out of the oven, the quiche replaced it with a small apple turnover too, to make best use of the left over pastry. Loaf, quiche and turnover were successful.

Watched an hour of nostalgia on BBC 4. A Singers Songwriters compilation that we hadn’t seen before. Wonderful music by singers we’d grown up listening to.

No plans for tomorrow. Today has been a day of passing showers, some of which took some time to pass by. Tomorrow looks the same.

A busy day – 7 June 2021

Scamp was off to meet her sister. I was head gardener for a while.

Lots of things I could have been doing, but I chose to put my free time to good use and scrubbed out the bird bath then refilled it. My chilli plants have been desperate for more space and some real compost, not the floor sweepings B&Q seem to think they can foist off as ‘peat free’. What is this sudden panic to make everything peat free? Crofters up north have been digging it up, drying it out and burning it in their fireplaces for centuries. Suddenly they are virtually criminals because apparently that peat has been storing carbon and saving the planet. It seems strange to me that all these activists use the same terms like “locking away the carbon”. It’s as if this new jargon explains everything, when in actual fact it’s more like The King’s New Clothes. Everyone seems afraid to ask them what that means in Topsy and Tim language. How does it lock it away? Where does the peat put the carbon? I think it’s all smoke and mirrors, but probably not peat smoke. Anyway, I used some general purpose compost which may or may not have peat in it and the chillies are probably better off in it than in the B&Q floor sweepings. Rant over. After that I soaked the plants in the bird bath, muddying the water and undoing all the good work I’d done there.

Before I started the gardening I’d made a pizza dough and left it to prove in the warm living room. When Scamp came home I’d just finished rolling and stretching some of the dough to a rough circle and put it into the proving oven (the grill that had been preheated for about five minutes) to puff up. It was just a simple tomato base with extra chopped up fresh tomatoes and some grated mozzarella on top. Baked for about fifteen minutes at gas 6 – that was just a reminder for me. It was very successful.

Next Scamp wanted to wash her car, but couldn’t reach the roof, so I did that and then gave it all a bit of a soapy wash while Scamp scrubbed off the sticky sugary stuff that drips from the trees in late spring. Then I set up the hose for her to wash it all off and started on my car. It made sense to just get it all done at the same time. Thank you Bobby Flavell for the use of your outside tap again.

With the cars sparkling in the sun, Scamp decided to water the garden. Easier to use our own water for that, so I fixed up the hose and let her get on with it while I went for a walk in St Mo’s. Not a lot of movement, but one little Common Blue damselfly sat and watched me while I carefully dragged my camera out of the bag and took its picture a few times.

After dinner the Amazon man dropped off a parcel I’d ordered last night. It was a Samyang Lens Station. Basically the 18mm lens I use on the Sony camera is crap at focusing. However, Samyang will sell you a piece of kit that connects your lens through the computer to their website where you can download a new firmware file that will improve the focusing. It’s a neat scam and it certainly works! Thankfully, so did the lens afterwards, because I’d read horror stories on websites to the effect that the software could wreck your lens. Maybe it could, but it only improved mine. I’ll do a field test tomorrow just to make sure.

Finally wrote to my brother. The last email I sent him was in March! So much going on? Not really, just bad time management on my part. Must get better organised.

The last thing to do on a busy day was to have a quick dance practise just to make sure that the muscle memory was working properly. It was, after a false start!

No plans for tomorrow. We’re waiting to see what the weather will be like.

What a difference a day makes – 3 June 2021

Today dawned dull, cloudy and wet.

It wasn’t actually raining when we woke, but it had been. The streets were wet and those clouds showed no sign of breaking up any time soon.

After we finally got out of bed and dressed we noticed a visitor on the kitchen window. I don’t know what kind of fly it is, but I’m sure I’ve seen one before somewhere, probably on a window. I got a few shots with the Oly then for good measure, I took some more with the Sony. Sony won hands down. That was six shots in the bag, and one of them became PoD, but only after a fair bit of work. The great thing about the Sigma 105mm macro on the Sony is the detail it finds in things. The bad thing about it is the detail if finds in things. I’d washed that window on Monday or Tuesday. Today was Thursday and the window was covered in pollen which the camera and lens captured just as perfectly as it captured the detail in the fly’s wings and body. It took about an hour’s work to retain the fly’s details while blurring out the dust and pollen from the window glass. Photoshop is a cracking tool once you have time to work out how to use it!

We drove to Falkirk in the late morning to pick up our wedding rings that had been faultlessly repaired by the lady at McMaster’s. Mine cost nothing to resize, presumably because she could reuse the gold dust she’d cut off and because it was only 9ct. Scamp’s on the other hand was quite expensive because it needed a relatively large piece of 18ct gold inserted. It doesn’t matter, we are both now wearing the rings we exchanged when we got married.

On the way back we stopped at Torwood to get a pot and some compost to plant Scamp’s new rhododendron. After lunch Scamp started the baking of a tray of ‘Brookies’ which I’m told are Brownie Cookies. I went out for a walk in St Mo’s and continued on to the shops to get milk and some marshmallows which I seem to have become addicted to recently. No photos were taken in St Mo’s because there were no insects of any description flying today. When I got back home the baking was in full swing and by dinner time there was a box of Brookies to share. They weren’t as sweet as the usual brownies I’ve tasted, but had a nice crunch to them. Lots more there for tomorrow.

The clouds finally parted and the sun shone for an hour at night and we had a walk in the garden, deciding what to put where now that there’s a new plant to fit in. We’re still not decided on the final position, but I’m sure we’ll find enough of a space to squeeze it in.

I’m adding another photo from yesterday into today’s blog. Walking round the gardens yesterday, I found what looked like a good composition looking past the Reg Butler sculpture ‘Girl’, through the gap in the hedge to the people in the distance. However these two folk wouldn’t budge. In frustration, I took the shot anyway, including them. Just as I was pressing the shutter I heard the girl say “It’s not a very good sculpture is it? It looks corroded or something”. To which her partner replied “Hmm.”
Those who Can, Do. Those who Can’t, become critics. Thank goodness for the almost silent shutter on the Oly!!

Tomorrow I’m hoping to meet Val for coffee and a catch up and Scamp is intending going walking with Veronica.