The payback day – 17 April 2022

Yesterday was the day of the big posh lunch. Today was different.

While Simonne was at church in the morning we were just wandering around the garden, or maybe it was just me who was wandering around the garden taking photos. Scamp was weeding the flower beds and Jamie was in his greenhouse. I took the opportunity to go for a walk round the church and down to that dry stream bed. Again I went right at the bottom, but went on past the bridge into uncharted territory. I soon found a path turning left dividing two field and climbing a hill. That’s where I found the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that became today’s PoD. I met a couple there who gave me directions to get back to the house by a different route, past a football park. I thanked them and followed their directions, but just as I found the combination football/cricket ground, I felt the tug of the leash. Scamp was telling me Simonne was back and it was almost lunch time. No time to find the alternative path. I retraced my steps.

After lunch we stared in the garden again. Scamp and Simonne were rooting out the weeds in the flower beds and Jamie was intent on breaking up the compacted ground near the sheds. We think the sheds had originally been stables because they had the two part doors you associate with stables. That might be a total fallacy, but it would also fit the house and garden. Anyway, there is a large area of well trodden earth at the end of the lawn and it does look like the bald patch on the back of a man’s head.

Jamie was making heavy weather of digging into the compacted earth with a trowel, so I had a scrounge around the shed to see if there was anything a bit bigger and with more heft. I found what turned out to be a garden fork adaption for digging out Ragwort from horses’ pasture land. Ragwort is a weed with bright yellow flowers. The entire plant is deadly poisonous to animals, but especially sheep and horses. I think the fork must have belonged to Simonne, but it was easily better than the trowel Jamie was using. After he saw how easily I was breaking up the soil with it, Jamie took over from me and I found a hoe in the shed and used it to further break up the bigger clods. Between us we managed to clear the entire area.

Jamie had initially thought he’d get the area raked, rolled and seeded, but he sensibly decided to leave that until the next day at least and water the beds instead. Once he’d started watering his end of the garden, Simonne started watering the flower beds and Scamp went to sit in the ‘Gallery’ and read. The place was looking a lot better and we were both pleased that we’d done at least something when we were “Dahn Sarf” as Ray, a Londoner, would say.

While they were watering the garden I found another of the elusive Bee Flies and this time I managed to get a few shots of it on my phone before it flew away. I think we’d done enough for one day. We all sat and had a beer in the Gallery which is a little lean-to sun trap on the side of the house. We listened to the church bells and the rooks, then watched the sun go down behind the church.

Later we watched a strange film “Black Crabs”. A Swedish production with badly lip synched dialog, but beautiful photography.

Tomorrow we may be going to Bury St Edmonds to walk round the abbey gardens.

The Far East – 23 August 2021

The weather seemed to be set fair so we drove out into it.

Pointed the Blue Micra in the general direction of Edinburgh and stopped driving at Cramond which was our destination for the day. The day started under a disappointing milky white sky, but as we travelled east the clouds lifted and thinned so that by the time we were parking at Cramond there was definite form to the clouds which were breaking to allow the sun through. We went for a walk.

We walked along the esplanade, again in the general direction of Edinburgh. There wasn’t much choice here, with the Forth estuary to the north, the way we’d come to the south and the River Almond cutting off our walk to the west. If we’d been there earlier we could have walked over the causeway to Cramond Island, but it looked as if the tide was on the turn, so that would have been a dangerous and wet direction to take. Maybe another day.

On the walk we found a community wildflower garden. It was carefully cordoned off and two ladies were carrying metre square grids to help them in taking serious measurements or counts of something scientific. We just liked the colour combinations of the red poppies, blue cornflower and something like a big daisy, but bright yellow. They almost made PoD, but as it happened they only played a supporting role. PoD went to a Small Copper butterfly on a fading cone flower.

I’d hoped we’d get a coffee in the wee café, but Scamp had remembered that it’s only open at weekends, so we walked on. We passed my favourite trees. I don’t know what they are. I must ask someone who knows, but they look so elegant. Tall straight trunks with little bunches of leaves at the top looking like a bad haircut. That’s when Scamp noticed someone hadn’t poop scooped and she’d walked through it. For once I played the good Samaritan and offered to take her shoe down to the sea and wash it clean. Of course, in the process I managed to confirm that the tide was indeed coming in. In to my trainers, that is! That was far enough we decided and walked back to the ice cream van that’s always parked at the roundabout that marks the west end of the esplanade. Two cones by the sea. What’s not to like?

We walked up the path beside the river as far as the falls at the old ruined mill. Again I’d been hoping that a wee cafe that used to be there would be open, but it was under reconstruction, so no coffee today. There’s a great old tree next to the path. It sits on a steep slope and over the years the rain washing down that slope has removed most of the soil from its roots and they are now exposed to the air and covered in colourful fungi. Unfortunately it now has a white “X” painted on its trunk, so it may not have much longer to be climbed on by decades of children.

Back home I made a sort of salmon and pea tagliatelle which was less than successful. Maybe it’s worth another try.

Tomorrow looks like another dry day. Scamp has a hair appointment in the morning, but the afternoon might be free.

Electricity is wonderful – 26 July 2021

It was all over so quickly.

We’d expected to be without power for all morning and possibly for most of the day, however it took the electrician about half an hour to diagnose the problem and solve it. In the end it had been a fault between the old unused socket behind the washing machine and a wall socket near the sink. He still didn’t quite explain what he did, but all the sockets are now working and even the one behind the washing machine is safe although I don’t think we’ll ever use it again, just in case. There was one more problem to fix and that was getting money out of a cash machine to pay for the repair. Scamp had to try three different machines before she could get them to hand over the money, our money! That’s the thing about banks, they think because we give them our money to look after, that they get to keep it. That’s not how it works, they only get to play with it. They have to give it back when we need it. Anyway, she did, finally get the cash machine to give us some of our money and we gave it to the electrician. Paid in full and now we can use all the electricity we want.

After I’d put the washing machine and the dishwasher back in place and made sure they were working and the water had been switched on again, we had lunch. Then I grabbed the Sony and drove up to Fannyside and walked along the road to look for dragonflies, but found none. I did find a lot of white butterflies. Not Cabbage Whites as I thought, but Green Veined Whites apparently, according to Mr Google. They didn’t make PoD, a strip of moss fruiting bodies got that accolade. Actually it was growing vertically, but I turned it through 90º and it looked better.

While I was at Fannyside I was interrogated by an old bloke who was taking his equally old pal for a drive round the Arns/Fannyside circuit. He kept calling me “Son”, which I thought was quite funny as he wasn’t that much older than me!

Tomorrow we might just was some dishes in the dishwasher and wash some clothes in the washing machine, just because we can!

Today we went to Glasgow – 12 July 2021

Off to the Toon

We drove in to Buchanan Galleries this morning and got parked on level 3. Until Covid-19 made home working the norm and commuting a thing of the past, parking anywhere below level 5 would have been impossible. Today it’s become just a normal occurrence.

We walked up a busy Sausage Roll Street (real name Sauchiehall Street). I went left to get my hair cut and Scamp continued on to look for a dress shop. While I was waiting for the sole barber to finish the bloke in the chair, I noticed Scamp outside. I wondered what could be wrong, but it turned out that the shop no longer existed. Like so many it had become a victim of the same change in ways of working that allowed parking on level three of the car park. It is down to insufficient footfall. The barber, when he was cutting my hair said the same thing. He finished cutting my hair around 12.30 and I had been the second customer that day.

I met Scamp and we went for a walk through the town. Nobody in the Central Belt talks about the City of Glasgow. Glasgow is The Town or The Toon if you’re my age. Edinburgh is A City, Glasgow is The Town.

I wanted to have a look in a charity shop that used to specialise in cameras and lenses, but I think they are just starting to get back on their feet after the stramash of the last year and a half. They didn’t seem to have anything to interest me. We walked down to Argyle Street and for coffee and a bite to eat in Cafe Nero. Then it was on to Queen Street where Scamp wanted to visit Next and I didn’t. I did wander into and out of Cass Art. Nothing much to interest me there. However I noticed a shoe style that Scamp likes in Shuropody next door. Managed to catch her as she was walking past and she got a new pair of shoes that she wears about the house like slippers! We went home.

The day had improved greatly since we left the house and when we returned, Scamp set to, to rake up the leaves from next door’s tree. It might be in Angela’s garden, but it will always be referred to as Betty’s tree, Betty being the previous tenant. I got my, now manky, shorts on (retrieved from the washing basket!) and took my Sony with the Sigma lens for a walk in St Mo’s. I took lots of photos, but really wasn’t all that impressed with the results. The PoD went to a picture of another battered and bruised butterfly. This one was a Ringlet. Second favourite was this one, taken outside the GOMA on Queen Street.

Dinner tonight was Pasta with Pesto. Too much garlic in the pesto and maybe a mixture of leaves is better than just basil. I’ll try to remember that next time.

We watched the first University Challenge of the new series and saw Glasgow Uni soundly beaten by some London mob. Really, they both were thick! I think I answered almost as many questions as either team. I don’t think the London mob will go far.

Not a bad day. Scamp came home from The Town with a new dress and a new pair of shoes. I came home with a new haircut. Number 3 on the side and back, Number 4 on top. Apparently that’s called Two Guards!

Tomorrow we’re probably going shopping … or so I’m told.

Just an ordinary Friday – 2 July 2021

We went for the messages, Scamp did some housework, I went for a walk. That’s about it really!

While I’ll admit that Scamp did some housework, I had hoovered the kitchen before I’d even had my breakfast this morning. Granted, when I’d been making the breakfast I’d accidentally spilled half a box of bran flakes on the kitchen floor, but that’s a mere detail. I hoovered the kitchen.

We went for the messages. Scamp drove to Tesco and we collected the usual essentials but also bought some milk to put in between the wine bottles to stop them clinking.

I went for a walk in St Mo’s later in the afternoon and PoD was a Red Admiral butterfly, although a Lacewing was a close competitor, as was a little Ringlet butterfly. These words, Red Admiral, Lacewing, Ringlet and even Butterfly are ones we only use for three or four months a year in Scotland. After that the most common word is rain. Which neatly brings me to the next topic.

All the way through my walk I’d been watching the black clouds that were looming from the south. Just as I was getting to the house, I felt the first drops of rain. Scamp was just hanging out the clothes, fresh from the washing machine and was loathe to bring them in again, but resistance was futile. The rain just got heavier. She brought them in. Strangely, about a couple of hours later the rain stopped, the sun shone and it was a beautiful evening, but it was too late to risk putting the washing out again.

I used the new toy on my wrist to log my walk today and was surprised at just how accurate it was. Not only that, the amount of data it collected and sent to its masters in China will all be analysed by their top scientists to try to steal even more of my identity. I now know how many minutes and seconds it takes for me to walk a mile and how many Kcal I burn in the process (not enough says Scamp). Still it’s an amazing piece of tech. It even has a torch built in. That’s a godsend if you want to raid the drinks cupboard while Scamp is in her bed and I’m supposed to be writing the blog!

We watched poor Bandy Andy doing his best to play against his younger, fitter, but less bionic opponent.  However, it was all in vain.  Proving that old age and treachery won’t always beat youth and exuberance.

Tomorrow we have rain, hail, thunder and lightning forecast for our entertainment. I think the shorts and the tee shirts will be in the washing machine and I’ll be looking out my jeans and my rainy coat. No real plans.

In hot water – 29 June 2021

It wasn’t just the water that was hot, the thermometer was reading nearly 20º just after 8.30am

Yesterday we had a problem with the water boiler that is our kettle. The switch that’s meant to release the lid wasn’t working and the lid wouldn’t open. After poking around inside the lid, it seemed that the spring that lifts the lid had broken. To fix it would mean disassembling the entire boiler. The only thing to do would be to get a new one.

After a bit of browsing, it appears that water boilers aren’t all that popular. We bought the original one about ten years ago, we think. We thought they would be ten a penny now, but it seems that only Breville sell them, at least in the UK. In Australia they really are ten a penny (or Australian cent 😉). However, we both really like the idea of a kettle that delivers just one cup of boiling water, so we ordered one from Currys in Coatbridge. That gave us the opportunity to spend some time walking in the woods of Drumpellier while we waited for the text to say that the Breville was ready to pick up.

It was a lovely day for a walk in the woods. Warm with just the hint of a breeze. Definitely shorts and tee shirt weather and that’s what we were both wearing. We walked a few of our well trodden paths and basically I forgot all about Currys until we were walking back to the ice cream van and from there to the car with an ice cream cone each. Then I noticed we’d been told we were good to go.

Picked up the box from Currys and then stopped at M&S in Coatbridge to get some stuff to make dinner tonight which was going to be either two small quiches or one large one. It turned out to be one large one and one small one. Salmon, Broccoli and Potatoes in the big one and Bacon, Cheese and Tomatoes in the small one. We’ll be eating them all week, probably. We stopped at Aldi on the way home, because Scamp had tasted Bramble and Raspberry Gin at the witches day yesterday and liked it. I got a bottle and also a few cans of beer, because, as Scamp said, it was a beer day.

Back home we plugged in the water boiler and filled it up, then rejected the first two litres, refilled it and Scamp had a coffee from it. Later I had a cup of tea and it was awful. Chemical, or maybe more correctly, plastic tasting. I washed the reservoir out a few times and the taste partly disappeared. I hope it’s still gone tomorrow or Currys will be getting their Breville back.

I went for a walk in St Mo’s with the macro lens on the Sony. Took about 80 photos of beasties, half of which were rejected in the first cull. Then a few more littered the cutting room floor after a second look. PoD went to a Common Blue butterfly. You may wonder where the ’Blue’ comes from. It’s only when it opens its wings you see that the inside surfaces are a beautiful blue. You might notice that it’s dicing with death because there are quite a few spider webs spun between the flowers. Oh yes, and I got a bonus greenfly too.

When I returned we assembled the two quiches and while they were baking in the oven we headed out to the garden and had a glass of the Bramble and Raspberry Gin. It tasted to me like an alcoholic mixture of Vimto and Ribena. That’s the closest I can make it. Quite refreshing on a hot day like today, but as this is a weekday, only one glass was allowed.

That was about it for today. Hopefully the One Cup water boiler will settle down and the taste of plastic tea will be but a bad memory.

Tomorrow, Scamp is booked for a walk with Veronica and I may take the bike out.

 

A walk, as predicted – 27 June 2021

I bowed to the inevitable.

Just a short version of our Broadwood Boarkwalk walk she said, well that’s how it started out. Scamp’s fly that way. She suckers you in with the offer of a short walk, but then she adds an extension and when she thinks you’re not paying attention another half a mile is added. That’s more or less how it happened today.

We started off walking beside the road, then over the boardwalk and back towards the dam. That’s when she posed the question, “Will we just go over the dam and down the other side?” It was a lovely warm morning with barely a breath of wind so I agreed. After the dam, we could have headed back up the hill to the sports centre and home, but ’when she thinks you’re not paying attention …’ She neatly took us up past the exercise machines instead and on to the part where the path turns and twists so you hardly notice that it’s getting steeper, at least until your legs start aching. Finally we walked past the shops where she got her daily fix of pineapple. There were no fresh pineapple chunks to be had, so she had to make do with Mango, Melon and Pineapple strips which is a poor substitute for the real thing!

Lunch was a pizza we’d bought yesterday in Lidl. I think it was a sourdough base. It certainly felt like it. Sourdough is fairly tasty, but I find it quite tough. Maybe too tough for a pizza base. Anyway it was scoffed while we watched Andrew Marr who seemed appalled that the Covid 19 virus had the temerity to infect him, just as if he was an ordinary mortal. I think he was a bit lost now that Matt Hancock has had his Half Hour of fame and has resigned as Health minister after being caught in flagrante with one of his aides. Poor man.

I took the Sony out with an old Zenit Helios 58mm lens in the afternoon. It was an experiment to see how I’d manage with a fairly modern camera and a thirty year old lens. Totally manual. No auto exposure, no auto focus. Just me a camera and a lens. Actually it worked out quite well. I was impressed with the photos and one of them got PoD!  It was a battered and bruised Peacock butterfly.  I was amazed that those damaged wings could hold it in  the air, but they did as the butterfly demonstrated by flying away as soon as I took this shot.

Our dancing in tonight’s class was the best for a long time. I was impressed, but even better, Scamp was impressed. Hopefully we’l be able to build on this during the week and be able to take over teaching the class next week. That’s the long game we’ve been working towards.

Spoke to JIC and hear a bit more about Sim’s first half marathon. Scamp was really impressed with her time. Good to hear about someone doing well.

Tomorrow Scamp is off to a tea party with the witches I might be needed as a driver, but for now I’m on an empty. I might get the bike out or maybe I’ll paint.

Just out for a stroll – 17 June 2021

Today we were going for a pleasant walk along the Fife coastal path.

We were out a bit later than normal today, but it wasn’t far to the coastal path. It runs along the cliffs, about 100m from the caravan. The path is fairly wide and solid underfoot. It climbs steadily inland for a stretch, skirting the side of the travelling caravan section of the park. After that the path becomes a bit narrower, but still a good walking surface. Further on it’s yet another golf course that’s on one side and the sea on the other. Soon after that the path drops away after a few steep climbs on hand laid steps and then an equal number of steps down the other side, finally settling on level with the rough beaches and boulders.

The biggest of the boulders stands next to the Rock and Spindle which is a sea stack, part of a volcano which erupted about 295 million years ago and punched through the pre-existing rocks. So says Mr Google anyway. The Rock is an impressive towering chunk of basalt. The Spindle is about 4m diameter, roughly wheel shaped and with a radiating pattern of something far too difficult to explain here (in other words, I don’t know).  As you can see,  The Rock and Spindle made PoD for today. We walked a bit further on, but the path became very vague after crossing a rock fall and we decided that although a coffee in the clubhouse of the golf club might be very nice, we couldn’t see an obvious way to get to it from the shore, so we headed back towards civilisation. Rather than climb all those steps up and over a bit of headland, I suggested we walk round it on the beach and meet the path on the far side. That seemed to be the sensible solution and, strangely for one of my brainwaves, it actually worked. We though we were doing well on this trek and were congratulating ourselves on our achievement. Then we were passed by a couple of runners, one going one way and the other going the other. How crazy do you have to be to run on an undulating path with stepping stones on a blisteringly hot day? As is usual with long walks in unfamiliar territory, our return seemed a lot quicker than the outward journey and we were soon back in the caravan.

Tonight’s dinner was to be a salad with a cooked chicken. To that end, we drove to Morrisons and bought the essentials for dinner, plus a bottle of beer for me and a couple of cans of Pimms for Scamp. Drove back and sat on the decking with a Pimms for Scamp and a beer for me. You could see how these static caravans worked, or to be clearer, how the people worked with these caravans. Mostly they seemed to be empty during the week, but at the extended weekends that seem to be the way things are now, they got busier. Today is Thursday and already there is more activity around caravans that have been empty since we arrived. Also the age of the people seems to be tending to the younger groups. Maybe the retired community live here all week, possibly for weeks at a time while those condemned to work for a living 😏 make use of the facilities at weekends.

I haven’t mentioned the weather much.  Perhaps that’s because I didn’t want to spook things.  The weather in Fife has been extraordinary.  Blue skies, light clouds for most of the time.  Just the very occasional light shower, the edge of a cloud.  Quite breezy, but oh how a caravan creaks an clicks as the aluminium panels heat up and expand it the sun. Then in the evening you have the same acoustics as the same panels contract again.  Also, as Annette is quick to tell you, you’re living in a tin can with little insulation, so the heat can be oppressive and the cold, severe.  Luckily we only had to suffer the heat.

Dinner was just as we’d intended Chicken and salad leaves with some crusty bread. We relaxed for a while on the decking with a ‘thin’ G&T each. A long day ahead tomorrow and a drive home. It had been a great few days and we must thank Annette for her offer!

Early bed tonight for an early(ish) rise tomorrow.

Chasing Butterflies – 29 April 2021

The butterflies almost won.

Scamp was off having coffee with Annette and I had intended to start a watercolour practise piece in preparation for Every Day in May, but then I though it would be a good idea to give some of the plants their freedom and planted out half a dozen peas and the same amount of kale. The peas were grown from last years peas, but the kale was bought as plug plants. With that done and a cup of coffee I started yesterday’s Sudoku. I was just getting to the sticking place with it when my Fitbit reminded me that I needed to get off my backside.

It was dry and the sun was shining, but I knew from my gardening that it wasn’t all that warm out there, and of course there was the risk of a wee April shower, so I dressed appropriately for a walk in St Mo’s.

A lot of the fruit trees in the park were beginning to show off their blossom and I took a few shots of them, then I went looking for damselflies to photograph, but there were none. It must be almost time for them to crawl up the reeds, shake off their shuck and fly away. However there were none today. Further into the woods there were a host of butterflies. This time of year, late April and early May is the time to catch the Orange Tip butterflies. That’s what I started chasing. However, every time I got near to one it would fly off, leaving me empty handed. Finally one landed on a dandelion flower and I did get the chance to shoot a few frames of it. It was one of them that made PoD. Lunch was beckoning and I headed home.

I hadn’t been in the house five minutes when the rain started battering on the window. That was lucky. I’m not usually as lucky. I’m usually just thinking about coming home as the first drops start falling. The first drops of a downpour.

Scamp arrived just after I’d finished lunch and I went off to go shopping in Tesco. I saw a good deal on true headphones and treated myself. It took me ages to get them paired to my phone. They paired right away to the tablet and to Scamp’s phone, but point blank refused to connect to mine. Then, suddenly they were working and at full volume. I think I’ve manage to get the better of them now and they are behaving quite well. Time will tell if they are as useful as I think they’ll be.

I’m still thinking about getting another MacBook Pro, because although I got the old MBP to run Mojave after a little tweak, it won’t run the new editing software, I’m guessing its because the processor in the MBP isn’t quite up to the task. I’ve seen what I’d like now and Scamp agrees with me, but I’m still not sure. I’ll sleep on it, at least for tonight.

With that in mind, I’m off to bed. No real plans for tomorrow, other than buying a bottle of something for a man who has everything. No JIC, it’s not you, although you do almost qualify!

Butterflies, Viaducts and Beer – 17 September 2020

In that order!

The butterflies were feeding on ivy flowers on Frank’s Bridge in Kirkby Stephen. As far as I could tell they were all Red Admirals. They were taking a fair bashing from the honeybees whose territory they seemed to have invaded. The bees made their displeasure felt by apparently deliberately bumping them off the flowers. A strange behaviour I’ve never witnessed before.

Over the bridge, we were discussing which way to go, when a dog walker told us there was a great view from the hill beside the cricket ground. We thanked her and climbed the hill to the viewpoint at the top and she was correct. There was a great view all around from the top. Because the hill was fairly high, it was an uninterrupted view too. We met a couple from Durham who were also admiring the view. I took a few photos which turned into a 360º panorama which in turn would turn into a Tiny Planet. A bit of a cliché, but I haven’t done one in a long time, so that makes it ok. It became PoD, despite the fact that Scamp doesn’t like it.

Said goodbye to the Durham couple and walked down the other side of the hill and basically retraced our steps from Monday’s visit. Aha, but Scamp had other plans. After reaching the part where we would have turned right and walked back into town, we continued on using a wee lane to cut off a long corner on the road and almost reached a quarry entrance before we turned on to the old railway path. I like old railways, especially ones that have been turned into safe walkways that cut across country. It’s usually easy to imagine steam trains running along these arteries before Dr Beeching and his cuts destroyed the British rail network, back in the ‘60s. This one led immediately on to the Merrygill Viaduct over the Hartley Beck. We continued on to the Podgill Viaduct which crosses the Podgill Hole (!) which is another tributary of the River Eden.

There was a viewing gallery at the Podgill Viaduct, down 42 steps from the path. Fairly easy going down, but a killer coming back up. However it did give us a good view of the viaduct from below.

Climbed back up those 42 killer steps and walked back into the town. Got a seat quickly at the wee café Scamp had her eye on since Monday and had lunch there washed down with a half pint of Bitter & Twisted each, before heading back to the house. Well, we also had to stop for some bread and a cake each at the town bakers and some bulbs and another pot of marmalade from the deli.

Dinner tonight was a carry-out. Sim had phoned in an order for Chinese which JIC went to collect while I waited at Coast to Coast for three Fish & Chips. One door and a queue where you wait to place and pay for your order. Another where you queue to collect that order. One woman who shouts at you because you obviously don’t know how this works (she seems to be the only one who does) and one woman who for some reason treats you like a human. Good chips and excellent fish though.

More TV tonight and more pyrotechnics from the battlefield too.

Packing tonight, because it’s the long way home tomorrow.