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.

Driving – 10 September 2021

Feeling a lot better this morning. No sign of yesterday’s Lurgi.

We got in the car and drove to the petrol station to buy some extremely expensive petrol that only had 5% of Ethanol in it. Better the devil you know when you’re on a fairly long journey, carrying half a tonne of stuff.

Drove out of the petrol station, still smarting from the expense and joined the M80 heading in the general direction of Glasgow. Merged on to the M73 which in turn merged on to the M74. Drove sedately past the roadworks at Hamilton that are due to finish in October (year not stated), watching the train of cars, vans and lorries on the other carriageway, a train that went on and on and on. Made a mental note to exit the motorway at Canderside on our return journey and not be caught in a stramash like this.

After a hundred miles or so, Scotland became England and the M74 became the M6. Exited at Penrith and then it was on to the smaller A66. Just before the exit, the Start/Stop app in the car signalled a System Failure. This had happened before and I reported it to Nissan at the service a week ago. I was told then that the Start/Stop “… Checks a lot of parameters …” Which was technospeak for “It just does that, we can’t fix it”. Another Nissan failure on an otherwise great car.

Not long after we left the outskirts of Penrith, we were on a stretch of road which should have been dual carriageway, but was under repair, so it became a slow moving single carriageway. Just after what seemed like an hour, but was probably a lot less, we took the turn off that eventually led through narrower and narrower roads to the house. Actually overshot it, but Scamp noticed and we arrived. First to arrive again!

Cup of tea on the patio and a quick Foxtrot along the paving stones. I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone had danced a Foxtrot along that patio! Jamie and Sim weren’t far behind us, having left home long before us. Their’s a six hour journey and ours only about two. The world is ill divided.

PoD was to confirm that roses, even in England, have the same beasties we have up north. Honest, we didn’t bring them with us.
Scamp made Chicken Cacciatore for dinner and we all sat round the table, talked and ate.

Tomorrow we’re going exploring.

Dancing first, then IKEA – 4 September 2021

Saturday is dancing day and as we almost pass IKEA on the way home it made sense to visit the yellow and blue store.

Dancing started with the Bellissima Cha Cha which we know fairly well and can dance with a fair degree of confidence. That’s what we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done with confidence which is sometimes the same thing. Next was the Foxtrot which we agreed was becoming a lot smoother. I’m not sure the teachers would entirely agree with that, but it felt that way to us. For the break in the middle it was the Rumba One which is a gentle bit of fluff danced as a sequence and apparently everyone was on the same beat for once. Next was waltz and we were told we were making things too difficult for ourselves, but we were trying to emulate the teachers in the video they sent us. We both agreed today wasn’t the time to say that, so we just kept quiet. Finally it was a Cha Cha line dance. Something I’d have baulked at before, but now I find I can do quite happily … as long as I’m not at the front! Good class, lots of stuff learned. No class next week as the teachers are off to Tenerife for a week in the sun, lucky people.

IKEA is on the way home so we stopped off there for re-sealable poly bags, a photo frame or two and some cheap serviettes that I use when painting watercolour as blotting paper if I overload my brush. Just useable stuff today and we whizzed through the checkout without a problem. We even managed to use a couple of shortcuts to save the “Yellow Brick Road” that we used to have to follow. Back to home.

After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s, but I’m beginning to get jaded with it. I’m looking for some open spaces to photograph. Some interesting landscapes with dappled sunlight. That’s not too much to ask for is it? Perhaps it is with rain forecast for tomorrow. We did have some drizzle today, but it was really just the edge of a cloud and didn’t come too much. PoD was a little Garden Cross spider on a web that looked like the high wire at the circus. The strange thing was it looked as if it had a larva of some kind on its abdomen. I’ve asked for help identifying it on Flickr.

That was about it for the first Saturday in September. We’ve both downloaded our QR codes to our phones to prove our vaccination status, although I read this morning that already it’s been shown that it can be hacked and the details changed. After the Scottish Government paying a reputed £600,000 for a Dutch company to create the code. I did think that was a fairly cheap price for the work that would be involved. It’s a true saying “if you pay peanuts you must expect monkeys.”

Holding our hands out tomorrow, expecting rain. Not sure if it will reach down as far south as us, but the highlands need the rain too.

Some days are busy, busy, others … – 3 September 2021

Others are more like today.

Nowhere to go and nothing to do. Milky white sky and nothing to entice a photog to go out and capture the world in all its majesty. The furthest we got was a walk to the shops for milk and bread, literally. We bought milk and bread … and a packet of Jammy Joes, just for fun. I didn’t even take the camera with me because I didn’t think I’d need it. I was right.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of a little fly stuck in a spider web with another fly overseeing the prisoner. A bit sinister in black and white, but it suited the subject and the day I thought.

Even later in the afternoon I walked over to Condorrat to buy dinner: One special fish supper for me and a small fish supper for Scamp. It’s been ages since I’ve had a deep fried slice of fish done in breadcrumbs. Quite, quite delicious. A Friday treat if there is one.

On the way home I got another treat. I got to see a Friday tradition. A bloke with a burst lip got chucked out of Broden’s Bar which used to be The Masonic Bar in Condorrat. He was absolutely “rat arsed” and was shouting for somebody in the bar to come out and give him a square go. Swearing and performing a modern dance as he tried, with one arm in his jacket sleeve, to find a way of getting the other arm into the other sleeve. It’s nice to see that the old traditions aren’t dying out.

Oh, yes. One strange thing happened. I got the renewal notice for my car insurance in the post and it was LESS than I paid last year. I’ve checked it at least twice and Scamp has confirmed that it’s true. I’ll say this one more time IT’S LESS THAN LAST YEAR’S. Mind you, I’d done just over 5000 miles when the car went in for service at the start of the week!

The Spitfire flew over Westfield tonight and then disappeared into the setting sun. That’s the sun that appeared from behind the clouds about 6pm, just in time to set. I think it was having the day off.

Tomorrow we’re hoping the teachers will be able to explain where we’ve missed a step in the waltz, because we can’t find where it’s gone. It might be under the couch, I may go and look for it after I’ve posted this short blog.

Coffee and Tea – 2 September 2021

Not one, but two chances to dine out today.

Met Val at 11am for coffee and a chat, mainly about tech as usual. Any kind of tech was fair game. Val was raving about a new type of vinyl record which is heavier and less flexible than old vinyl, meaning the needle doesn’t have the same tendency to slip. I was raving about the new (to me) Sony A6000 whose sensor, although smaller than the mighty Sony A7M2 held just as much information. We both ooh’d and aah’d at each other tech, but neither of us were really interested in the other’s wonders, we were so entranced by our own.

Just after 12.30 we parted company, Val to meet his wife to go shopping and me to drive down to the village for lunch with June, Ian, Isobel and Scamp. We hoped that Shona would be able to join us, but she didn’t make it. The other four had ordered before I arrived, but had kept a place for me at the table. Lots for everyone to talk about and we cross-talked a lot. The problems of getting to a Skye wedding hopefully next year. The glory of new windows (not Microsoft, glass ones). How to tell when you’re too old to drive. Plus lots more. Food was passable although my panini with bacon, brie and cranberry was just a bit over stuffed and Scamp’s baked potato had been out of the oven too long and was also a bit tasteless. Foodies can always fault food.

After everyone was almost talked out and the tea had been drunk and the potatoes had been eaten we split up. Scamp was going home June & Ian were going to sort out June’s medicine and I was taking Isobel up to Tesco. While she and I was there I got carrots to make Carrot and Lentil Curry. Took Isobel back home and changed my mind about the curry, so went to M&S to get the ingredients for a stir fry. Instead of the usual sticky sauce, I took a packet of Chicken Ramen Broth to try as an alternative. It worked well, except I didn’t notice that the veg had green beans in it, one of Scamp’s “ I DON’T LIKE IT!” vegetables. I allowed her to leave them in a separate bowl. We both agreed it was a pleasant change from the sticky sweet sauce we usually have, although not as good as Scamp’s stir fry.

When I eventually got home the sun had appeared and I changed into my shots and tee shirt and went seeking Beasties. I found loads, but PoD went to a little Shield Bug.

No dancing practise tonight, but hopefully we’ll have one tomorrow. Nothing else planned as yet. Weather is beginning to head towards rain at the weekend, so maybe we should make the most of these last few warm days.

Recovery – 29 August 2021

The day after the dance was over.

I thought I’d be aching a lot more than I was today. However, an extra half hour in bed and a relaxing day wouldn’t do any harm at all. With that in mind, the most strenuous thing I did in the morning was finish Friday’s sudoku. It’s strange that you can study these fascinating puzzles for hours on end without adding one number to the grid, then pick it up the next day and see all the clues you missed. It’s almost as if some good fairy comes in overnight and writes a few extra clues for you.

After lunch we had a wander round the garden, pruning this and dead heading that. We also discussed what was going to be moved and where it was going to as well as what was going to fill its space. It’s all sorted in Scamp’s head. She was just telling me about it. Sometimes, that’s what ‘discussion’ is.

I took the Big Dog and the Big Lens out for a walk in St Mo’s where I found two dragonflies, one male and one female who were perfectly happy to sit and be photographed. It was the male that made PoD, or more precisely, the head and thorax of the male dragonfly that made PoD. Interesting too was the shield bug carrying aloft a caterpillar like a trophy. Both are available on Flickr along with the delightful Troika rose.

Dinner had a bit of a cobbled together theme with half of yesterday’s Chicken Tikka Masala added to half a Vegetable Masala plus some cauliflower and served with rice. Actually it tasted really good, as did the Eve’s Pudding that was the dessert.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about the trials of house buying. Once you’re past the initial excitement it’s all to do with money for this and more money for that. I don’t envy him this part of the game. Being Jamie, he played down his baking skills after making a Chocolate Swiss Roll.

We settled down to watch what turned out to be the shortest F1 GP in history. With only three laps completed under a safety car, in the torrential rain, Max Verstappen was declared the winner. I really felt bad for the fans who had paid to watch some racing and got to watch the rain falling.

Out fairly early again tomorrow to take the Blue car for its first service in Stirling. We may get the bus in to Stirling itself and go for a coffee.

Off the leash – 25 August 2021

 

Both of us!

Scamp was off to lunch today with two other witches. I thought I might do some phoning. First would be MPB to find out what was happening about the camera I was selling through them. I didn’t really think there was anything dodgy going on, but it’s wearing on for a fortnight since the confirmed that they had delivery of the parcel. That’s when the text came through to say they had checked the camera and agreed with my assessment of the condition. I sent my bank details and left them to the technicalities of whizzing the money over the ether.

Next phone call was to book the car in for its first service. Apparently they prefer the booking to be done online, so I went through all the hoops and the car goes in on Monday at 10am and will be ready by 12noon. Another tick in another box.

By that time, Scamp was ready to go to lunch and I’d one last phone call to make and that might be a make or break one. I was going to phone my brother who I’ve not spoken to for about six years. We correspond by email, but never speak. When I dialled the number it made a strange squeak and then nothing. No message to say that it was a wrong number or that the person was on another call, just nothing. I tried the landline because sometimes my phone gets a poor signal, but the result was the same. I’d been building up for this call and it never happened. I was disappointed. So, if you’re reading this, Alex, I did try, but presumably I’ve got an old number. Give me a ring or drop me an email and we’ll sort out this telephony stuff.

Next I wanted to renew my road tax, but when I tried the DVLA I got through to the menu, Chose the Tax My Car option and the connection went into hyperspace. The second time in about ten minutes that technology had let me down. I’d had enough. Instead of trying again, I got some bread flour, yeast, salt and oil. Added some water and kneaded my stress away.

Left the dough to prove, grabbed two cameras and camera bags, put them in the boot of the car and drove off into the … well, it was about 2 ‘o’ clock by then, so it wasn’t the sunset I was driving into, more like the sunSHINE, because it was another hot one today. I drove down to Auchinstarry, parked at the quarry and went for a long walk along part of the old railway to the Plantation. Crossed over there and walked back along the canal. Now usually if I’m walking with Scamp that will take us about half an hour to an hour. Today it took me two hours, because I was stopping a lot checking things and generally being a photog. The weather was beautiful. Almost a clear blue sky and hardly a breeze. PoD was a spider repairing its web. Getting rid of all the detritus that had been caught in it. Saw what might be a shield bug, or might be a beetle. I’ve asked for an ID on Flickr.

Came home to find Scamp sitting in the garden. Not content with going out for lunch, she’d come home and got started cutting the front grass. Then she complained that she should have cut the back grass too. I encouraged her to have a Pimms instead and I had a beer, then we sat in the garden she read her book, I listened to mine.

Dinner was a Pizza Pasta Combination (Half a pizza with a small bowl of pasta) for me and the other half of my pizza for Scamp.

Later I finally got through to DVLA using my phone as a wifi hotspot. It’s something to do with way the new modem deals with some websites. Must query it with Virgin who will deny it’s anything to do with them, of course.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow to go looking for a bank that sells beer!

 

Out for coffee with Margie – 19 August 2021

But before that, there was the problem of petrol.

Drove up to Tesco to check if my credit card would work with what I thought was my PIN, after the debacle with another of my cards last week. If it did, I was intending to bring back a loaf and get petrol. It did and I got the loaf, unfortunately the petrol station was under reconstruction which was annoying because that’s why I’d gone to Tesco in the first place. However, I’d just have to go back to BP on my way home, which is what I did. Bought £40 worth of that liquid gold which according to my dashboard computer would cover me for just over 400 miles. That got me doing some quick mental arithmetic while I was driving home (who says men can’t multitask?) that meant a quid would get me roughly 10 miles of travel and that’s before you consider Road Tax, Insurance and depreciation. Maybe I should start cycling everywhere instead.

However, if Scamp and I were taking Margie out to Torwood Garden Centre for coffee and a cake, I’d need a tandem with a little two wheeled buggy behind for Margie if I was to change to the eco-friendly method of travel. I put the though aside to suggest it to Scamp at a later date – Oops, too late, it’s out of the bag now!

We picked up Margie (in the car) and drove to Torwood. While I parked the car, the ladies went in and found us a table. It was a great afternoon. We talked about loads of things and I was pleased that she included Tarri in the conversation, but in a realistic, matter of fact way. She is a very practical woman, Margie. After coffee and a scone each we went for a walk round the plants. I could see that Scamp was casting a searching eye over various flower pots and their contents. I think we may be making a return journey to the Garden Centre soon.

While we had been in Torwood, Scamp had asked one of the gardeners how to deal with her ailing 35 year old blackcurrant bush and had been told to prune it to open it out and also to clear away all the leaves from the ground underneath the plant. That made some sense to us and she got started when we got back. We’d dropped Margie off at her house on the way. While she was hard at work with that, I started to pin up our new fairy lights to the fence. They seem to work and are lit as I write this.

With that done, I left her to pruning and dead-heading and took the Sony out for a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to see on a day that had dulled down a lot from its promising start earlier in the day. Lots of flies on knapweed and one of them achieved PoD. I was trying out lots of different tricks and tips to make the Sony focus more accurately. I don’t know if the problem is with the lens or with the camera or, more likely, a bit of both.

Another practise session tonight trying to make sense of the Melody Foxtrot sequence dance. It must be one of the most complicated and totally useless dance sequences designed by humans. I think after about a dozen walk throughs we have a fair idea how it works (famous last words!). We also covered the second half of the Foxtrot sequence without anyone falling out with anyone else and almost no swearing.

Tomorrow we may attempt to drive to Hamilton, just for a laugh … and a curry.

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!

Well, we asked for rain – 8 August 2021

Never happy. We needed rain for the garden, but now we’ve got it we want it to stop.

This wasn’t a day for going out. Scamp wasn’t feeling too good anyway and the poor weather put the tin lid on it. What I did do was pack up the Panasonic GX80 that I’m selling to MPB. All the bits are there and even the users manual is still in the box. Well, who reads users manuals anyway. Users only read them if they get stuck and there’s never an answer to your problem in there.

After lunch I was getting fractious, so despite the fact that it was still raining I put on my raincoat and shorts (Raincoat to keep most of me dry. Shorts because there’s less to get wet!) and went for a walk in the woods. Managed to get some photos of hoverflies on the wing using the Sony with manual focus. Quite impressed with the results. While I was out I found a wasp’s nest (called a ‘byke’ in Scotland). It was in a hole between two tree roots and looked as if it had been dug up, probably by a badger. Loads of wasps working hard to move the grubs and close up the torn walls of the nest. I got a few photos, but then the wasps were taking an interest in me taking an interest on them, so I left them too it. It’s the first time I’ve seen a wasp’s nest under the ground.

Dinner for me was two lamb chops cooked under supervision from Scamp who was feeling a bit better by then. I was also cooking her trout fillet and we shared some cabbage and the last of our first lot of potatoes.

Thankfully today was the closing ceremony of the Olympics so now the TV schedules might get back to normal again. We haven’t watched much of it. There’s so little that interests us.

I’ve signed up for a five day course on portrait painting using pastels. It’s free on a private Facebook page, but the pastels they are recommending amount to around £100 plus a further £30 for paper. I might watch the videos, but I’ll be using my ten quid pastels and my five quid paper!

PoD was a pretty wee hoverfly, but the wasps are on Flickr too.

Tomorrow looks slightly better than today, but I don’t think we’ll be going far.