Oh Burger! – 9 January 2022

It was a day for getting your hands dirty.

I’d bought 500g of steak mince on Friday and had already made a mince pie with half of it. The other half was destined to languish in the freezer until it was old and grey, or be made into burgers today. That rhymed, but it was an accident! Better a burger than an old grey mince ball.

I put the mince into a bowl, and since it was fresh meat, I thought it deserved fresh herbs, so I ventured into the swamp that is the back garden and cut and chopped some Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. If I’d thought about it I’d have added some Parsley for obvious reasons. Added an egg to bind it (that could be a canticle line, couldn’t it) and some salt and pepper. Then it was time to get my hands dirty and massage the whole thing into a not too sticky ball that was cut into two then the balls were flattened to make rough burger shapes. One did go in the freezer, but it won’t last long in there, the other went into the fridge to chill.

Lunch time beckoned and it was an omelette for me and a slice of black pudding with some fried potatoes on the side. Was I really going to have room for dinner tonight, I asked myself? Yes, of course I would, just as long as I didn’t eat all of the omelette. For once I took my own advice. We watched and criticised the new Sunday morning politics show that’s being fronted by Sophie Raworth. Too many interruptions said Scamp.

I was just finishing off an epistle to Alex when I looked out the back window and saw a rainbow spread across the sky where there had only been grey clouds when I had started. Even better, there was sunshine too. Closed the laptop, (sorry Alex) and put on my boots and jacket and lugged a Sony A7 across to St Mo’s. Found some swans swimming in a vague line along the side of the pond and thought that might be PoD. Then I took the camera up to the small pond which was covered in ice and the ice was covered in water. I took a £1000+ camera and lens. Placed them gingerly on the wet ice of a pond. Gently pressed the shutter button. Didn’t breathe, but with my heart in my mouth whipped the camera away before the ice changed its mind. One look at the camera screen convinced me that I’d a PoD.

Walked home where I finished the email to Alex and gave him the first look at the PoD. Then it was time to cook the burger. Almost 15 minutes, 7min and a bit on each side then a resting time of about 10min while we had thin Sourdough toast and paté as a starter. Scamp had Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Baby Tomatoes and I had a Handmade Burger with potatoes. Pudding was a Christmas Pudding with Posh Madagascar Custard. Actually, the Christmas Pudding and Posh Custard was the winner for both of us.

We rested for a while after that and coffee, then spoke to Jamie and found out about Fences, Water Softeners and Gardiners.

Finally finished the Hidden Palace, Hazel. Beautifully written book. I think I now need to read book 1 again to remind myself how all this came to pass. I do hope there is a book 3.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin. I need to put some expensive alcohol in the Blue Car’s tank. I think Vodka would be cheaper than petrol, these days. <Thinks, can you run a petrol car on vodka?>

Another day of swearing – 6 January 2022

Swearing at the printer and the coffee maker, making a loaf, taking a few photos and making the dinner. My day in a nutshell.

The printer was being bad. It was as simple as that. It would print perfectly, then stop, chuck out the next two pages and then put on its red light to show it wasn’t happy. After trying lots of different things that you aren’t interested in hearing, I did what I should have done ages ago and removed it in its entirety from the iMac. Then I reinstalled all the stuff I’d taken off, and it worked perfectly for the rest of the day!

The coffee maker was being bad. I cleaned the portafilter, checked the filter itself and made sure it was clean. I checked the little hole in the filter cup wasn’t clogged. Filled it with coffee and set it to work, except it didn’t. It just held its breath and grumped, not releasing any life-giving coffee. So in true John Cleese fashion I gave it a damn good thrashing. I took the filter cup upstairs and used a nail and a cross pein hammer to enlarge that tiny little hole. No coffee ground is going to get stuck in there now. Maybe a coffee bean might manage to get lodged, but no coffee grounds. It would probably have been better to use a 1mm drill, but I didn’t have any. It worked perfectly after the thrashing.

The loaf knew better than to mess me about. It just worked, perfectly. I let the mixer do the hard kneading work and at the end of the process, a perfectly baked and slightly odd shaped loaf graced the cooling rack. Nice to know that some things just do what they’re told.

Scamp had taken the Wee Red Car out for a spin in the morning, just to make sure its battery was well charged, and also to get some messages. Fruit, veg a half price Christmas Pudding and a packet of tooth brushes were here prizes today. Oh yes, and I can report that the wee red car is looking very pumped up after its run. Pumped up and sparkling, actually, as you can see!.

It had been a very dull, wet and cold day with not a hint of sunshine until about 3pm when the sun broke loose from the clouds and shone on Cumbersheugh! On with the boots, camera in the bag and out looking for photos. I managed to grab a few shots of a couple of Coots before the swans came, demanding to be fed. Tomorrow I’ll take them some of the bread I made on Sunday. They won’t come asking again. They might not even get to the other side of the pond before they have that sinking feeling. It was a heavy loaf.

Dinner was Chicken Curry made with real chicken dated August 2021. Last year’s chicken that had been hiding at the back of the freezer. That poor cooker. It had all its four rings burning brightly. It’s a wonder it didn’t melt! One ring for the curry, one for the rice, one for the flat bread and one for the leftover chicken that couldn’t be re-frozen or put into the fridge while raw, but could go in after it had been cooked. Maybe it was because I couldn’t stand the heat, but I was finding it hard to keep my cool in the kitchen. More swearing ensued. Finish the day as you started it, that’s my motto!

Tomorrow there is snow forecast. In fact as I look out the window, it’s arriving early. We might manage a walk tomorrow, it depends if we get snowed in or not!

It’s raining again – 3 January 2022

I’m beginning to sound like a broken record, but hopefully there are better days ahead.

It might be that it’s just this dull time after the sparkle of Christmas and the fireworks of New Year (yes, there were fireworks still, despite Omicron). Now that we’ve exited the weekend and are back to what my dad used to call “Auld Claes and Purrich”. You’ve probably heard me talk about it before, but it really sums this month up. It’s all over for another year. This week the decorations come down, the tree is packed away and the Christmas cards are put into the recycling bin. It’s back to normal life.

With that gloom out of the way, what were we going to do with today? First thing was to cut some kale to add to the leftover yesterday’s soup. Put a little iron in your diet. It won’t do you any harm and it might just do you some good.

Next we changed the jolly Snowman tablecloth for a clean and lighter coloured one. That meant the computer could go back on the table and I could get some things ironed out that needed fixing. I did eventually get round to it, but it took a little (a lot) more time than I’d anticipated. It always does. By that time it was lunch time and the soup was ready.

After lunch I went out looking for some photo paper, but Tesco had none, in fact neither of the two Tescos had any photo paper. I got some heavyweight high quality paper that might do at a pinch, but I’m not sure it’s quite photo paper standard. We’ll see. I also bought another pair of cheap true wireless headphones. Skullcandy this time. My original TWH are losing their pairing ability and music jumping through my head from one side to the other is ok for Pink Floyd, but not for more gentle sounds and really, really distracting when you’re listening to YouTube videos. The sound from the Skullcandys is usually good, but these were cheap and so is the sound. Oh well, at least the music doesn’t jump through my head. While I was out I dropped by Broadwood Loch looking for a suitable PoD, but I’d left it a bit late and the sun was setting. A bunch of young gulls gave me a chance to use the long zoom lens on the A6000. Not brilliant, but with a bit of work, it looked not bad.

Back home I struggled further with the Lightroom Catalog Problem and got things working. All it needed was a night’s sleep last night and all the knots that were tying up the problem fell away and the problem was solved.

Dinner was three different types and colours of pasta shapes with a Carbonara sauce. Followed by the remains of yesterday’s apple pie served with custard. Perfect end to any meal.

No plans for tomorrow. The weather fairies say the North wind will blow and we may have snow and what will the robin do then, poor thing? Probably the same as us, have dinner and try to keep warm. The temp just now has just gone sub-zero and I’m off to bed. G’night.

A Visitor – 2 January 2022

Rather late breaking the surface this morning, but the morning was good.

We’d both quite a lot to do today. Shona was coming to dinner. To that end, dinner would need to be made. I was doing the bread and the soup. Scamp was making the main and the pudding. I had the easier job of the two.

Firstly, the weather was fine, dry and bright, so we went for a walk round the pond at St Mo’s. As is becoming traditional, Scamp went for one circuit and I stayed for two. On the second circuit I got a fairly decent shot of a couple of swans looking a bit more animated than is usual for swans. I also spooked a couple of mallards that flew off behind the swans. That picture made PoD and you can just see the two ducks above the swan on the left. Flickr gives a better view.

I got back home before Scamp and started on the bread dough. I was using a flour new to me called Half and Half. Half wholemeal and half whiter flours. It was a bit heavier to knead than plain flour, but was single source, both grains being ground at the same mill. I’m not sure that makes a difference, but provenance seems to be the fashionable thing to have these days.

With the dough in a bowl for its first proving, it was time for lunch. Next for me was to get the soup ready. It was ‘Just Soup’. In other words, anything you can find in the fridge or the veg basket is fair game. Once I had it simmering away, I handed over to Scamp who was making the pastry for an apple pie, again using our apples. I’d hardly started getting the photos into Lightroom when I heard a wail of woe from the kitchen. It seemed the lid for the food processor had cracked almost completely round the rim, with just about 20mm worth holding together. I had a look at it and thought there was just enough strength in the clip to do the job today and after that we’d need to have a go at fixing it or buy a new one. The clip slides into a slot in the body which actuates the safety lock, allowing the motor to start. Indeed there was just enough strength in the clip to complete today’s pastry mixing. Amazon, of course, has the replacement part. Until then, I think some carefully placed Araldite will keep it going.

So bread dough risen and in the ‘beehive’ prover, pastry chilling in the fridge and photos posted on Flickr, a message told us that our guest was on her way. Dinner was a bit later than we’d anticipated, but we did have time to blether away to Shona. We heard how Ben is away at his dad’s this weekend and how things are progressing in the new house. Lots of things seem to need some snagging and some have already been done. All in all she’s glad to be in a house of her own and not on the top floor of a block of flats. Dinner seemed to go well, despite being late and Scamp’s chicken wrapped in pancetta was lovely. My bread was really too warm to cut and suffered for that. The soup needed salt according to Scamp, but neither Shona nor I were bothered. Pudding was beautiful. I hope there’s some left for tomorrow.

Shona seemed to relax after dinner and we sat talking for quite a while. I’d imagined it would be difficult to get a taxi for her with it being just the day after New Year’s Day, but she got one right away when she phoned.

After she left we watched another episode of Around the World in 80 Days. It’s an old story, but well told. I think we both enjoyed it and relaxed for a while.

Just after dinner, Canute phoned to see how we were faring against Omicron. We already knew that their family had come down with it and I could hear the croak in his voice. It seems that Delia is feeling a bit better today as is he. They are still isolating though for their 7 days.

Before lunch today we had both taken a Lateral Flow test just to be sure that Shona would be safe from us, and she said tonight that she had done the same last night. It’s amazing that we bandy the words ‘Lateral Flow’ about, but I have no idea what is flowing and what special significance ‘lateral’ has.

So a good day and a busy one, but we did manage a walk in the morning before the rain came late in the afternoon, and we were entertained by Shona’s tales.

Tomorrow the weather is going to get colder with sub-zero temperatures predicted in the evening. Hopefully that will mean clear skies, but no guarantee. If it’s dry we’ll be walking.

A walk around part of Broadwood – 24 December 2021

It was cold and it was raining, but we went for a walk anyway.

All the shoppers seemed to have tired themselves out yesterday. Today the shops were almost deserted. Only ‘almost’ though. There were still some of the dyed in the wool ‘have to buy something, anything’ brigade out splashing their cash. We didn’t. I’d like to say we had more sense, but who was out in the rain and who was in a nice warm shop?

We did an anticlockwise version of our usual walk, starting with the exercise machines path and then across the dam, round on to the boardwalk and back along the pavement beside the main road. Today’s PoD came from the boardwalk where we disturbed a group of Tufted Ducks and they became the subject of the photo. I was surprised to see that big white disc in the sky again. I saw it last Friday over in Fife, but since then it had been hiding. There were rumours that it had been self isolating, but I couldn’t say for the truth of that. I don’t know if the sun could catch Covid. Back home it was toast and scrambled eggs for lunch, by which time the sun had disappeared again.

In the afternoon, Scamp iced the Christmas Cake and we took turns at putting the decorations on it. My first choice was the Santa on his sleigh, as always and Scamp’s was the children on their sledge. The rest we took turns at.

By that time the darkness had encroached enough for the house lights to come on and evening was in charge.

That was about it for the day’s adventures. Tomorrow we must wait to see if we’ve been good enough for Santa to have come!


Magpies and mushrooms – 13 December 2021

Photography started really early today.

While I was making breakfast today I watched a magpie struggling to peck some fat from the bird feeder in the garden. It was sitting on a low branch, too low for it to reach the bird feeder, but it didn’t have the sparrow’s and blue tit’s ability to hover and feed. They aren’t quite as elegant as humming birds, but they do get the job done. Poor magpie eventually gave up, but not before I’d taken a few shots.

After breakfast we drove up to NEXT to get a parcel Scamp had ordered and was delivered to the shop. We were still waiting for the other parcel that should have been delivered to the house on Friday. It was a Christmas present for Nancy who we visited on Saturday. That’s why alternative arrangements and prezzies were required. Next we drove down to Tesco at Craigmarloch and got Scamp’s meds, plus some food necessities. Milk, veg, yoghurt, two bottles of rum and a bottle of wine, oh yes, and bread. Just the essentials!

Back home and after lunch I booked an engineer from Virgin to come on Thursday and see what can be done about the modem. Then it was time to go for a walk in the woods with a camera or two. My favourite from that trip was a close up shot of some deformed mushrooms. They almost look as if they had deflated, like a burst football. It was that image that made me think they might be ageing Puffball mushrooms. They became PoD and I’ve just had a message on Flickr confirming that they are indeed puffballs. It’s good to have experts on hand, even if they are virtual experts.

Not a lot else done today. It was quite dull with no texture in the sky until quite late in the afternoon, then the setting sun found some blue sky and proceeded to change its colour to a lovely shade of violet. Dark at the top and lighter lower down. It was such a pity there was nothing to give a focal point of interest, although I did of course photograph the sky anyway. Not long after I arrived back home the missing parcel arrived. Allegedly it should have been here by 1pm. It finally came around 4pm, but at least it did come!

Tomorrow we have an appointment with a consultant to hear what he has to say about Scamp’s eyes. Hopefully he will be able to give us a more realistic time frame for the procedure than the NHS.

A long lie-in – 12 December 2021

At last a lazy lie-in. I did enjoy that.

We had booked an engineer’s call today and he arrived just as the final F1 GP of the year was starting. Poor guy, Simon was his name and we think he was Polish. He looked a bit out of his depth. He did all the things that I’d already done. He reset the modem to factory settings and he tried connecting using what we thought was his phone and he got through to all the sites we couldn’t reach. However, neither Scamp nor I could. We were still getting the error message. After a few phone calls back to base he tried using what was his personal phone and hit our problem. His previous connection had been done with his Virgin PDA which he admitted had a lot more software on it that allowed it to shortcut the normal wireless routes.

In the midst of all this I asked him about all the corruption we were getting on the TV and asked if it was just cables needing cleaned. He agreed that it was the usual cause. However once he’d checked the connections, he said that wasn’t the case here, it was the hard drive in the TiVo box that was giving the problem. He went to his van and returned with what looked like a new modem, but it was a new set top box, not a TiVo this time. He fitted the new box, and set it up while still struggling with the modem problem. Eventually he gave up, gave me his phone number and told me he’s go and discuss it with his manager and get back to me.

We sat there in amazement. We’d been trying for years to get Virgin to admit that the corruption was due to a dodgy hard drive, but they insisted it was just the cables that needed cleaned. All we needed to do was book a service engineer and Bingo, a new set top box appears. It’s about a quarter the size of the old one and much, much faster. All this time I’ve been blaming the TV for taking so long to connect to iPlayer and it was the TiVo box all the time.

He did phone back and said that it looks as if some of the sites have blocked our IP address. We need to phone Customer Services and ask to be put through to the Faults Team who should be able to change the default IP address. I realise this is just gobbledegook to you Jamie, but maybe your sister will understand it a bit better.

The story doesn’t end there. The window cleaner came to get his money tonight and he said “I think you’ve left a brief case out in the rain” pointing at a very wet black shape that did in fact look like a brief case sitting on one of our bins. As I reached for it, I realised it was our old TiVo box. Poor Simon, he was so bamboozled by our problem that he left the box sitting there while he went looking for the external connection box to make sure the problem wasn’t there. It’s lying in the kitchen now drying out gradually, but I don’t think it will ever dance with the Bolshoi again!

Watched a confusing F1 GP on and off while the repair was going happening. It was more ‘Off’ than ‘On’ as the new box was taking ages to boot up. Great to see Verstappen win, but to be honest, neither of them covered themselves in glory. It was also good to see that smug smile wiped from Toto Wolf’s face when he realised what was happening. So much hype, so much macho posturing from the team principals, so much bad feeling. Then the the drivers themselves fist bumped and behaved like sportsmen on screen despite what they said off screen. A strange day. It might be worth watching the highlights just to see how stupid it all was.

Almost no chance for photos today. The furthest I was away from the house was to bring the car down to our parking space from where I’d parked it last night. PoD was a shot of some starlings sitting in the bare trees trying to find some berries for their dinner. Ours was beef burger for me, veggie sausages for Scamp, both served with roasted veg. Scamp’s Christmas Sponge for pudding, served with custard.

Tomorrow we’re going for the messages and to get Scamp’s meds. I also need to call the faults team.

Feeding the Jucks – 3 December 2021

Feeding the jucks with the wrong food, apparently.

It was a lazy start to the day. Not really cold, dull and cloudy with the occasional burst of sunshine. Not enough sunshine and not really warm enough to encourage me to leave the comfort of the house though. It wasn’t until after lunch that I took that step. Scamp wasn’t really interested in going for a walk, and I didn’t blame her.

The temperature was cooling down when I finally took the steps that led me outside. Toting both cameras again. A6000 with the macro lens and A7m2 with the standard lens for a change. I also had a loaf of green speckled bread under my arm to feed the ever hungry ducks and swans. That was my first task, to feed those hungry beaks.

A great way to start a food fight is to chuck a slice of bread into St Mo’s pond. Gulls, ducks, swans, coots and geese all diving in as if they’d never been fed for weeks. More like minutes, actually. With all the bread gone and the big daddy swan hissing his discontent at me, I emptied all the crumbs from the paper and went on my way.

I met a bloke who told me I shouldn’t really be feeding the birds with bread, because it’s not good for them. He wasn’t quite as confrontational as that, nor was he as blunt, but I got his message. I asked him what I should be giving them and he replied, sweetcorn. Apparently the enjoy sweetcorn and it’s good for them. Easily digested, he said. Then we discussed the age of the swans and how they live in different ponds, the same way we go visiting relatives and friends in other parts of the country. He did seem to know a fair bit about them and was happy to share his knowledge without making a nuisance of himself.

While I was walking round the pond thinking about what he’d said, I spotted some Canada geese in one of the quieter and deeper parts of the pond. Canada geese sometimes overwinter at the pond, but get a hard time from the resident two swans who are forever hustling them about. I took a few photos with the 6000 and the birds didn’t immediately fly away. In fact they swam a bit closer. I took some more shots with the A7 and the sun came out, lighting the trees on the far side of the pond. Potential PoD in the bag.

I was heading for the rough ground behind the pond hoping for a similar shot to yesterday’s with the low sun giving some warm light. I was much too early, probably an hour too early. I did get an interesting shot with decent light of a single cow parsley stem holding water drops in its claw-like seed heads. Another possible PoD.

After processing at home it was the geese that won the day, but the cow parsley shot is in Flickr for your perusal. Not a bad day’s photography, and a bit of information on feeding the swans stored away.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Biriyani. Spicy hot and not really a great taste. Apparently it can do some damage to your liver too. Don’t think we’ll be eating enough of it to do that much damage.

Tomorrow we may be going to dance class. To that end, Scamp and I had a quick practise of the Christmas Pudding Rock. Just a made up Christmas sequence dance. A bit of fun. Other than that, not much planned.


Not enough milk bottles – 18 November 2021

We were waiting for the call to tell us that Scamp’s glasses were ready. It never came, and neither did they.

Scamp had been told that the glasses would be at the opticians today by around 1.30pm. When no phone call came, she left it a while, then phoned them. She was told that the glasses hadn’t been delivered, but she’d contact the supplier and find out what had gone wrong. Then she would phone us back. An hour later and still no phone call, she phoned the optician again and was told that they were being tracked. Who was doing the tracking, and where the glasses were, she wasn’t saying. We’re guessing that their top sleuths are on the case with specialised glasses sniffing dogs and a police helicopter is standing by in case it is needed. Then again, it might just be a case of not enough milk bottles. We’ll see what happens tomorrow and hopefully Scamp will see too!

With the excitement over and a disappointed Scamp, I gave her some space and went for the messages. It had been suggested that paella might be a good dinner tonight, so I was heading off to get some chicken. Of course I took a camera although the sun was setting and I went via St Mo’s, just in case. As I turned a corner and came out of some overhanging trees, I spooked a group of mallards in the pond. They started squawking their warning cry and I knew they were going to do their vertical take-off trick. I had the wrong lens on the camera and the wrong settings too, but I had no choice. I got three shots before they disappeared. One of those three got PoD.

We did a tiny little bit of dancing today. Just a quick run through of the New Vogue Waltz. Just to refresh my memory. If we have enough time tomorrow I’ll get Scamp to take me through it in more detail.

Autumn days are so short, especially on dull days. If you don’t go out early or when there is the slightest break in the clouds, you’re fighting to get enough light to get a decent photo. Must take my own advice and do that tomorrow.

Otherwise, I hope we are going to Larkhall, although my faith in Simpson Opticians is becoming very tarnished.

Walking round Broadwood – 12 October 2021

It was such a dull day with the ever-present threat of rain … again.

We were sitting doing nothing all morning when Scamp declared that she was going out for a walk. I was told I could join her if I wanted to, but if not she would go herself. I didn’t see it as a challenge, exactly, but decided I’d tag along for the walk. I’d been yawning most of the morning and needed the exercise. So did my A6000 and my TZ 90 that I’d recently hoovered out to get rid of most of the dust between the elements of the lens. This would be a good chance to see if it had worked.

Broadwood was Scamp’s choice of venue. It’s certainly not mine. It’s just a big manmade pond that had great potential as a watersports venue, but the council refused to fund it, so they left it as it was and by doing so, called it a wildlife area. It does have a path round around it and an extension of the path into the woods is at least slightly more interesting. However, we weren’t going into the woods today because after a few days of rain the paths get flooded and too muddy to walk through without wellies, or better still waders. Today we were just doing the circuit. I did manage to take a few photos, but not too many as the sun never really got its act together and the clouds broke, only to reform again in heavier clumps. PoD was a shot of a cormorant on what used to be called Swan Island, but which is now owned by the cormorants and mallards. It was taken by the TZ90 and seems to be proof that the clean up worked, at least on a dull day. The big test will be when the sun shines. Then the remaining dust spots will show themselves.

Back home and after lunch the rain that never came was still threatening, and since I had a potential PoD I started processing the photos I’d taken. I also did some research for today’s sketch which was “Stuck”. I’d already decided what it was to be, I just needed a picture to get the angle of the shoe correct. As usual, Google Images came up trumps. Finally I phoned Fred and arranged a meeting for coffee tomorrow morning. We should have been going to Margie’s in the afternoon tomorrow, but she has a trapped nerve in her leg and called off. I understand just how painful that can be now.

Steak and kidney for me for dinner with potatoes and cauliflower. Scamp substituted lentil based veggie mince for steak and kidney and both plates looked remarkably similar.

Tomorrow morning Scamp is booked at Tim Hortons for coffee with Jeanette and I’m hoping to meet Fred at Costa.