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!

Canal, Herons and Ducklings – 4 May 2021

Today started wet, but with the promise of better things to come shortly.

For once the weather fairies got it right. By about 10.30, the weather was improving and the rain had stopped. We drove down to Auchinstarry and got parked right away. We walked along the Forth & Clyde canal to Twechar. Along the way we saw Mrs Mallard out for a swim with the chicks and further along we found a grey heron stalking its prey on the far side of the canal. Mrs Mallard and the young yins got PoD for obvious cuteness reasons. The heron almost made it to PoD but then it plunged its beak into the shallows and came up empty. You could almost hear it say “Damn and Blast” or something of that order! If it had caught a minnow or a little perch I might have made the capture PoD, but it didn’t, so PoD went to the Cute Family.

Walked back along the old railway and found that the ongoing works to improve the burn and the paths had forced the closure of one of the main paths. It had been open the last time we walked along there, but not now. Work was supposed to be complete by January 2021, but perhaps rain stopped work or Covid 19 reduced the workforce or … (Fill in a suitable, but not necessarily believable third reason). There wasn’t much to see on the way back and the rain we’d been avoiding was being blown in from the west, so I didn’t waste too much time. Light on the hills was not as good as it could have been because of the clouds advancing with the rain.

Home via Croy and then on to Tesco. I did wonder how sensible it was driving a blue car through Croy, but it was uneventful today. Loaded up with mainly bread, milk and fruit at Tesco and then home for lunch.

In the afternoon I completed today’s painting which was Dewberries. No, I hadn’t heard of them either, but they fitted with day four of EDiM and it was either that or a Star Wars themed sketch for “May the Fourth be with you” day. Both the Dewberries and yesterday’s Carrots are now on Flickr.

Tied up my peas to encourage them to climb up the netting of the frame for the raised bed. Also swathed the rosemary bush because sub zero temperatures are forecast for tonight. My Dodecatheon or Shooting Star plant was also needing staking because of the cold east wind that had appeared in the afternoon. Replaced one of the pea plants which had got broken, probably by wind damage, but tying them back to the netting should prevent any more accidents.

That was about it for today. Tomorrow Scamp is out for coffee with June in the morning and I’m hoping to get some painting done for letter E.

The first day of freedom to roam – 16 April 2021

Scamp got the choice of where to got today on our first legal cross border foray.

Anyone who knows Scamp could have predicted the trio of places she’d gladly go to on our first day of freedom. Troon would be high on the list, Cramond would also be up there, but the top destination would always be The Kelpies. So today we drove out of North Lanarkshire and into Falkirk Region which is where the Kelpies live, surfacing from the concrete just between Falkirk and Grangemouth at the end of the Forth & Clyde canal. When left the motorway and headed through Helix Park there were crowds of kids in the park and we thought we wouldn’t be able to get parked. In fact I was racking my brains to decide where else we could go. I needn’t have worried, the canny folk of Falkirk and around didn’t want to pay to see the Kelpies, so the three quid charge for a day’s parking forced them to park about a mile away at the Falkirk football ground where parking is free.

The two enormous horses apparently rearing out of the canal should inspire terror on first sight, but they don’t for us. They have a calming effect. Every time we’ve visited them it’s been this air of calm that has descended and everyone we’ve taken there has felt it too. The place was busy, but there was enough open space for everyone to find a vantage point to photograph or simply take in the view of these statues. We had an ice cream cone and sat and watched the world go by. Then we walked over the outfall of the canal and on to the other side.

The last time we were walking along the towpath of the canal we’d bumped into my ex-boss and mentor with his wife. Today, at exactly the same spot we bumped into Dave and Maureen again. Took a few minutes to catch up and then they headed off to meet their grandkids and we walked along to the next bridge over the canal and back past the giant horses again.

We found a bloke selling pizzas from a portable pizza oven and we agreed that we’d found our lunch. First time we’ve ‘eaten out’ in months and here we were out in a different county, sitting in the sun eating a mushroom pizza that was wafer thin and extremely hot and tasty.

I’d taken a few shots, but as usual I’d failed to capture the essence of the Kelpies. Today’s offering is a view from the towpath of the statues reflected in the canal with a family preparing for a sail up the canal on their boat. We agreed it must be good to just take your boat for a sail any day you wanted to. I doubt if I’ll ever know, unless my lottery numbers come up and I believe you have to buy ticket first before you have any chance of that happening.

We heard a loud spoken bloke who apparently lived on one of the houseboats moored there that the boat is always moving, except one time. If the boat isn’t moving under you, it means it’s frozen solid in the ice. I’d never considered that before. We said goodbye to the Kelpies and drove home.

Back home I took the Sony out for a walk. I wasn’t really looking for any more photos, which was lucky as I didn’t find any. I did find enjoy the walk and talked myself through some things that are changing in my photography. I’m thinking about selling one of my cameras and a load of lenses that I don’t use any more. I’ll still keep a couple of bits of glass because there’s nothing in the Sony range that does what they do. I put a prospective list in to MPB last night and got offered a favourable price. I’m leaving a final decision until after the weekend.

We had a dance practise tonight. I still can’t quite manage the steps for the end of the Tango routine, but the rest of the dances worked quite well.

It’s my turn to choose a destination for tomorrow and I have somewhere in mind. We’ll see what the weather’s like in the morning. Today was an excellent choice, Scamp. A very good day.

Walking the canal – 3 April 2021

It was too good a day to spend inside reading.

Indeed it was a day, for getting your boots on and going for a walk along the canal bank. Drove to Auchinstarry and rejected the first car park without looking. Not nearly enough space there. Luckily, at about 10am we found a space in the car park at the quarry. Boots on, new boots for me, and off along the canal tow path. There were crowds of people out there making the best use of the warm weather and the sun. Some were walking in groups, some were in twos, like us and some were going solo. It didn’t matter, as long as they were out, taking advantage of the Easter holiday and the sun. A little note here: As far as I’m concerned, this is the Easter holiday. For as long as I can remember it’s been the Easter holiday because it falls at Easter. I realise there are some who will say it should be called the Spring holiday because Easter may cause offence to those who are not Christian. I don’t consider myself a Christian, but I still say it’s the Easter holiday, because that’s what I was brought up to call it. If you don’t like that, then call it what you think it should be, just don’t expect me to change my opinion.

It wasn’t just walkers out in the fresh air, there were cyclists and joggers too. It seemed that everyone wanted a slice of this warm weather and the feeling that the world was changing for the better. Yes, I know there is forecast to be an Arctic Blast tomorrow, but we’ll deal with that when/if it comes.

We walked along as far as Twechar, then crossed the road and took a different path back, along the old mineral railway line. It was supposed to be upgraded by January past, but they’re still working on it. However, I must say it looks a lot more accessible than it used to. There’s even a tarmac path along part of it, which might be going a bit far for a rural pathway. A good solid hardcore base with some gravel on top would have sufficed as long as it was done properly. Let’s see if it survives the first hard frost.

When we got back to the car, the car park that had been only half full was now chockablock. Cars everywhere and at least two cars cruising up and down hoping for a space. One of them would manage to get into the space we left, but which one would be quick enough, I couldn’t say. We were heading to Kilsyth and Lidl. We went looking for bread and a bottle of gin. We put a whole lot more than that into the trolley. Why are we the ones who trundle forward in the queue only to find that the computer till goes down just as we’re about to put our purchases on the conveyer belt? It mainly seems to happen in Lidl. Last time it was an idiot woman who tried to use a cancelled credit card to pay for her goods. That caused the computer to have a hissy fit and the woman to say she couldn’t see what she’d done wrong. Maybe it’s Kilsyth people who don’t understand how these things work. Today it was the receipt dispenser that went on strike. The manager did his best. He pushed a pen into it, but that didn’t seem to work. I can’t see why. Then, I think he went for his tea because he went into his office and didn’t come back, leaving the till operator to punch button after button on the till to no avail. I’d imaging Ctrl Alt Del key combination, pressed twice would fix things. Either that or pull the plug and push it back in, then wait twenty minutes. Tills are probably running on Windows Vista. (In joke!) When we finally sneaked into another queue and got served, we drove home for lunch.

After lunch we sat on the front step reading. Totally different from sitting inside reading. Scamp had a Pimms and I had a can of Guinness to cool us down, it really was that hot. All the while the iMac was doing a complete backup now I was sure Mojave was working. I knew it would take hours, so I just let it get on with it. I got fed up with just sitting there reading and the Guinness was finished anyway, so I slunk away with the camera to walk a circuit of St Mo’s. Yes, the Fairy Garden is still there, looking pristine. After a couple of photos and one circuit of the pond I wandered over to Condorrat and got a bag of chips to share with Scamp and also a box of Cannoli. This was greeted with great smiles when I returned home. We sat on the front steps in the sun eating chips. What could be more natural.

The bloke next door appears to have discovered fire. He had built a log fire in a big metal bowl in the garden yesterday and again tonight he did the same. It stinks the whole street. I don’t expect it will last long, I hope it doesn’t. When the rain arrives, possibly tomorrow, it will put the fire out and by the time the wood dries out he’ll have forgotten how to make fire again, I’m sure.

PoD was taken as we started our walk along the canal at Auchinstarry.

Weather is forecast to take a turn to the worse tomorrow with high winds blowing from the Arctic and threats of snow even down to low levels. I don’t think it will reach us, but you never know. May do some baking!

Sunshine again – 22 February 2021

Beautiful morning, so up and out in the morning.

We drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the towpath of the canal out to Twechar and back along the old railway. On the way out we saw two Goosanders with two ducklings. First time I’ve seen baby goosanders. Loads of cyclists out this morning making good use of the springlike weather. We found some snowdrops at the start of the railway path, a great swathe of them. Wonderful views of the hills too. It was good to be standing in the countryside, actually IN the countryside for a change.

The walk back along the railway was a bit of a disappointment. The works that have been ongoing since autumn and now proudly advertised with a big billboard are still only part complete. True, the path through Dumbreck Marshes had been upgraded and a couple of the big holes where the River Kelvin had worn away the side of the paths had been repaired. How long the repairs will last I wouldn’t like to say, but that was it. That’s a good few month’s ‘work’ with very little to show for it. Scamp seemed to just accept it and I ranted about what a waste of money it was. Then I shut up … for a while.

Drove back for lunch and did a bit of painting, catching up on yesterday’s sketches that I’d had a mental block with. Finally got yesterday’s and today’s drawings done. PoD was a gloomy looking landscape shot of sheep in a field near Auchinstarry.

All in all, it was a good day. Still experimenting with and testing the new lens. Trying different subjects. Today’s sheep picture was taken with it and although it’s classed as a short telephoto, it does produce really sharp landscape images. I’ve still not quite worked out how to best use it as the macro it’s supposed to be. To be honest, though, it’s not the best time of year to be photographing macros. In another two or three weeks there might be some more interesting things to photograph.

Tomorrow it is going to rain a lot, by the look of the weather map, so we will be stuck inside I presume because we’ve only one pair of wellies between us!

Walking the Canal – 12 January 2021

It was a cold start this morning, but it was worth it.

We both agreed we should go out today in the bright sunshine and under a blue sky. I defrosted the car again, but this time we both bundled into it and drove down to Auchinstarry and had a walk along the footpath almost as far as Twechar. A few other folk were also out taking advantage of the cold dry morning. The canal didn’t look as if it had thawed out this year. Lots of boulders and tree branches sitting on the ice were testament to that. I know the branches could have been floating down the canal, but I doubt they would have been that high out of the water. The boulders and stones? That’s a different story. That ice hadn’t melted for ages, maybe since the last ice age, or at least since about December last year. The path too was icy and we had to tread carefully. It’s a rough tarmac path and usually it gives good grip, but it felt like the ice had melted there and just as it was beginning to flow, the temperature had dropped again and it was frozen in place. Possibly it was black ice which is always more difficult to see than the usual frost.

We turned just before Twechar because the path narrows at that stretch and there isn’t so much to see. Scamp wasn’t impressed. I think she wanted to carry on to Kirkintilloch, but I suspected a roadblock or a path block with fifty Kirky polis waiting for us as we passed Twechar and attempted to enter East Dunbartonshire without reasonable cause. The polis would all start arguing about who would get to write the On The Spot fine and who would pocket the money. We’d have to be quiet as we sneaked away while the argument grew more and more heated. The Twechar polis would then be brought in and they in turn would challenge the Kirkintilloch polis with forming an unruly mob and breaking Covid-19 rules. That’s why we turned back. Nothing to do with the lack of photo opportunities or that I was getting cold.

The walk back was just as scenic as the walk there and I was pretty sure I’d one, if not two candidates for PoD in the bag. Passed more folk out walking in the sunshine, everyone making sure they were keeping a decent social distance. It was Scamp who noticed that the stretches of the canal that were in the sun were still frozen solid while the ice in the areas in the shade looked a lot thinner. We didn’t come to any sensible reason why. Answers on a postcard please if you have knowledge of this anomaly.

I did think of going back out again after lunch (poached egg on toast), to try out an idea for a photo, but decided I’d keep my idea until tomorrow, when more ice and possibly snow is forecast to descend.

With some time on my hands I finished off the Toilet Calendar which is finished and hanging in the little room. Both of us are pleased with it. It’s got twelve photos, six from each of us of sunny climes.

Dinner tonight was Fish and Cabbage Risotto. Sounds mingin’, I know but it’s quite delicious.

Tomorrow we have our second visit from Barbara ready to administer another test and ask more searching questions. This time we will be ready with answers without looking blankly at each other, saying “Um? … Ah? … I’m not sure.” Possibly a walk in the morning again, but this time closer to home.

Out walking in the morning – 11 December 2020

Scamp decided we should walk the canal this morning.

We drove to Auchinstarry hoping to walk along the railway path since it should nearly be finished by now, but when we got to the plantation path the men in the yellow suits were still wandering around behind the wire fences. I assume they are almost finished, but it’s hard to tell. Anyway, we weren’t getting to go that way today, that was for sure.

Instead, we crossed at the plantation and walked up onto the canal footpath at the other end. From there we walked on heading for Twechar. Found today’s PoD on a dull day. It was a Grey Heron standing on the far side of the canal. Far too far away for the Sony to get a decent image, so it was down to the TZ90 to get the job done. At about the same point I got a dull landscape shot of the Campsie Fells, but once it had been processed in ON1 2020 and then Lightroom, it looked a lot better and it got second place. We stopped and turned not long after that because the canal runs straight and boring after that. The bends are the most interesting areas of this stretch.

We watched a Cormorant fishing as we walked on. We were both amazed at the length of time it managed to stay under water and how far it could swim in that time. It kept its distance from us and as soon as we got too close it would fly off. The rest of the walk was uneventful. After the walk we drove to Lidl for one or two things and came home with two bags full. Lots of meat, fish and chicken mainly. Now we need to find a home for it all in the freezer tomorrow.

Dinner was Chicken Stir Fry form Lidl with me cooking. It wasn’t too bad. A bit spicy, but also tasty. Cooked it with noodles for a change from rice.

Watched the first episode of The Queen’s Gambit. It was ok. I liked the chess play part and well remember Ian McKay, a prodigy when I started at CHS playing ’Simos’. A simultaneous set of games, just like on the film. He also won every one. He could also play Simos blindfolded. I wonder what became of him.

Nic the Chick gave us some bad news this morning. Yes, all the shops were open again. Yes, the restaurants would be open from tomorrow. However it’s against the law for anyone to travel outside their local authority area. How nasty is that. She’s changed her name to The Littlest Witch!

Tomorrow looks even more wet than today. It did rain a bit when we were walking the canal, but tomorrow looks like more serious rain. We’ll have to wait and see just how wet it’s going to be as we joyfully tramp round our local authority area. At least until Monday 😉.

Out for a walk – 25 November 2020

Lovely sunny morning. Too good to waste. Off to walk the canal

Drove to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal passing some folk and avoiding the cyclists. Beautiful light, but low lying cloud on the Campsies to the north. There was very little wind and so the reflections of the trees were almost mirror perfect. Took a fair amount of photos. Even found a bunch of Ragwort looking bright and cheerfully yellow beside the canal and a cow parsley plant still in bloom. Scamp found a wee bunch of white flowers whose name escapes me growing at the side of the path. I’m guessing the vegetation is well sheltered by Bar Hill and the trees that overgrow the canal itself. We had to walk back by the same path from Twechar because our alternative route back by the old railway is still being upgraded. Thankfully fewer cyclists on the way back and only a few joggers. The good light was disappearing too as the clouds merged together.

Back home and after lunch we spoke to Hazy for half an hour and caught up on what’s happening down south. Like JIC she agreed that it’s pretty much life as usual, just a bit duller. We discussed books and she and her mum discussed clothes. It was good to speak to her.

The sun had disappeared when we returned from our walk, but later it started to show its face again, so I put my boots on and went out to investigate the photo opportunities of St Mo’s. They were few and far between and then my camera ran out of film, digital film and I had no spare card, so I had to come home to find I’d missed a call from Val. Scamp was heading off to the shops and I spent a pleasant hour on the phone to Mr Rinaldi, my go-to guru for all things computer. I was intrigued to find that his WD Mycloud NAS had died recently too. I think that settles it. I won’t be throwing any more good money at Western Digital.

Dinner was a delicious plate of Fish Fingers, Egg and Spaghetti. An absolute favourite in the house. Just tasty welcoming food. I had intended to sketch the egg shells for today’s sketch, but it wasn’t happening and I needed to get the PoD into Flickr. A view of the canal from Auchinstarry achieved that little bit of fame. I also needed, still do, to get the blog written and posted. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll end there and get that done.

If the weather is fine tomorrow we’re going out for a walk. If not we’re not.

A beautiful day – 19 November 2020

If only we could decide what to do with it.

Neither of us could decide where to go on what would be our last free day before Lockdown 2 happened. Finally Scamp said “Take me to the Kelpies” so that’s what I did. We drove to Grangemouth on a cold, day with a temperature in single digits, low single digits.

The giant horse statues looked as magnificent as ever and even better because there were no people standing around them taking selfies or pouting at their phones. We walked round them, admired them and told them just how impressive they were. They already knew, but accepted our praise in dignified silence.

We found a new path that took us round the outskirts of the sewage treatment works that was producing the awful smell. I don’t know if it was the direction the wind was blowing that was causing it, or maybe they only switch on the machinery at night in the summer to cause less offence to visitors, but it was certainly working at full blast today. The path took us along the side of the River Carron. It wasn’t the most interesting walk and we gave up after a while to walk back and go along the canal this time. It was on this path that I got PoD. Looking down the canal towards the Ochil Hills with the sun lighting up the Kelpies. It was good to be in the right place at the right time for once. We were going to have a quick coffee at the information centre, but there were a few folk waiting to get in and it was too cold to hang around. We drove home and had some “Just Soup” instead.

In the afternoon we walked down to the shops for last minute essentials for dinner (veg chilli with one of our own chillies) on the way back, Scamp offered to go straight back which allowed me half an hour to grab some more shots in St Mo’s. The Samyang was carefully supervised and although it did miss focus a couple of times, most of the shots were on target. It didn’t affect the PoD, that remained with the Kelpies.

Tonight we cleared out the boiler cupboard and now there’s garden stuff all over the house. Boiler arrives tomorrow between 7am and 9am. Engineer arrives about 9am and it’s going to be pouring by the look of the weather fairies’ report. It might be a long day.

Because of the above, we have no plans for tomorrow.

Season of mists – 9 November 2020

Today dawned a bright day. Too good to stay in.

By 11am we were walking along past what was The Hebo House restaurant until they fixed the sign. Anyway we were walking past it and up on to the towpath of the Forth & Clyde canal. The view along the canal with Barr Hill in the distance covered by low cloud or mist, I’m not sure which was too good to miss, so I grabbed the chance to take a few photos. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of swans flying overhead and waited a second or two to grab one shot of a trio of swans flying over. Just a pity I didn’t get their reflection in the canal.

We walked on down to the old railway line path from Auchinstarry to Twechar. It appears that the work on upgrading the paths is ongoing and will be so until mid December. We crossed over at the plantation and back up onto the canal towpath again from there we walked back to Auchinstarry and the car which was patiently waiting for us. On the way back we noticed someone had formed a wee flower and a heart from copper wire and mounted it on a tree stump. It looked really good sitting there in the sun and I grabbed a shot or two of it. By the time we got home the light was disappearing and the mist was coming down.

Not satisfied with the photos I’d taken, although they looked good on the ‘puter, I went out for a walk in the afternoon to see if St Mo’s had anything to offer. I think I left it too long. The mist and clouds were now obliterating the sun and destroying any decent light, so I was struggling to get anything decent. I did try a few shots of spiders on the whin bushes, but they were too small in the frame and difficult to focus on, so I gave up. The PoD would be the canal with the flypast of the swans, with second prize going to the wee flower sculpture.

We had booked a WhatsApp video call with an agent from Scottish Gas to give us a quote for a new boiler. In these Covid days it seems that visual visits are the way things are being done. When he phoned to confirm he asked if it would be ok to use new software they were trialling instead of WhatsApp and we agreed. After a false start we got connected and he took us through the areas he needed to photograph to get the information to build the quote. About fifteen minutes later he called back with the quote and then emailed the details to us. An interesting and useful exercise. Now we need to get a comparative quote from a local gas fitter.

Watched a Nigella recipe programme tonight where she made a curry whose main constituent parts were cauliflower and chopped up banana skins. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.

No plans as yet for tomorrow, although weather looks a bit like today.