Out for a test drive – 26 September 2021

Testing the red car and no coffee in a coffee shop. Strange times.

We decided we’d take the red car out for a longer run than it’s had for while. Enough to allow the alternator to generate some electrical power and store it in the battery. I suggested we drive to Robroyston and have a cup of coffee then come home. The drive was fine and the wee red car performed perfectly. The coffee shop, Costa, not so good.

There was a reasonable queue in the shop, but when I got to the front one of the baristas told me there was filter coffee and soft drinks, but no coffee, no lattes and no cappuccinos. If there was no coffee, what were they making the filter coffee with? Maybe instant coffee? Or perhaps gravy browning? To be honest, in Costa it’s difficult to tell the difference. I said “No thanks” and we left. Most of the queue left too. I’m guessing there were no HGV drivers available for the coffee delivery.

Instead we went to Lidl and bought enough to make tonight’s dinner and some other things too and drove home to get our caffeine fix. Again the wee red car behaved perfectly with a few squeaks from the brakes and maybe a noisy wheel bearing, but essentially it was working just as it should do. Now we just have to find a petrol station that’s open, without a mile long queue, and one with petrol in the pumps. That might be a bigger challenge!

After lunch and after watching Andrew Marr savaging Grant Shapps the transport minister and listening to Keir Starmer mumbling about what he’d have done if he’d been prime minister (fat chance of that), after all that, I booted up and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Sitting on an old log I found four dragonflies. I joined their group and took their photographs, individually and in pairs and trios. Never quite managed the full group photo. Well, you know how it is with group shots. There’s always somebody who blinks or looks the other way and there’s always the joker who pulls a funny face. It’s just the same with dragonflies, except with wings. One of the dragonfly photos got PoD.

Dinner tonight was Haggis Neeps and Tatties. No, it wasn’t Burns Night, it was just a great idea from Scamp that really hit the spot. It was buying the turnip from Lidl that settled the case for H,N&T. Very enjoyable and even better, there may be enough haggis left for tomorrow’s lunch.

After dinner and after watching another fascinating GP which Hamilton won <Insert boo here> and Verstappen drove a spectacular second place after starting last <Insert Hooray here> we did a bit of online investigating. Scamp found that the owner of the garage we used to take our car to for MOT and servicing has now gone into partnership in a new place. We may go and do a drive by tomorrow, just in case the wee red car need some TLC.

Spoke to Jamie in the evening and found that life was just ticking over as normal down there. Told him I was testing Dashline and Lastpass, his and Hazy’s password managers at present. I’ve Dashline working on the MBP and Lastpass on the iMac. Not much to pick and choose between them, but I’m just a week in to the test.

Tomorrow we might do that drive by, or we might go for a walk or maybe we’ll do both. Who knows? You might, tomorrow.


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.

Out early again – 30 August 2021

It’s becoming a habit, this up and out early.

The reason for today’s early rise was to take the Blue Micra to Stirling for its first service. I’ve not been too impressed with their service in the past, but was willing to give them another chance, better the devil you know … We were there early and sat for five minutes or so before we went in to hand over the keys. Once we’d signed the car over to their safe keeping we were told it would be ready “mid afternoon”. Hmm, obviously they hadn’t read the email they sent us telling us it would be ready by 12.30pm which is hardly mid afternoon. To give the young service assistant his due, he consulted with one of the more senior assistants and came back to say they could indeed have the car ready for 12.30pm. I handed over the keys and we left to find a bus to take us to Stirling itself, the dealership being on the outskirts of the city of Stirling.

Basically, we’d missed the bus and there wasn’t another one for 30 minutes. Mr Google said it would take us 20 minutes to walk into the city centre. This is beginning to sound a bit silly. Stirling is legally a City, but in reality it’s a big town with ideas above its station. From now on in today’s blog, it’s a town, with a town centre. Right? Good, let’s get on.

Mr Google was right on the money. Twenty minutes later we were walking into the town centre. We were going to got to Nero for a morning coffee, except the shop was experiencing a bit of a coffee rush and was queued out the door, so we went to a wee independent we’d been to before. It sold decent coffee and probably had cakes too.

While Scamp secured us a seat, I ordered two coffees and the slice of cake that Scamp had pointed to and watched the bloke at the counter note them down on his pad using a kind of shorthand. However when I chose an Eiffel Tower (two layers of sponge with cream in the middle and the whole thing covered with strawberry jelly and desiccated coconut) I noticed he spelled Eiffel with an “A” maybe it wasn’t an A at all, maybe it was a little drawing of an Eiffel Tower. Whatever, the coffee was weak, but the ET was excellent and he’d given me something to think about that would stay with me all day!

We walked round the Thistle Centre which used to be a thriving arcade with no empty shop fronts. Now there seemed to me more boarded up ex-shops than those open for business. It’s a terrible sight that’s becoming more and more common these days.

The garage phoned at about 11.30 to say that the car was ready to collect. We walked back the same way we’d come and picked up the keys, collected the paperwork and paid for an hour’s work, and drove home.

After lunch Scamp cleaned the downstairs toilet and I did the upstairs bathroom. With that done I felt I’d contributed something and went for a walk while she did the ironing. I’m not good at ironing. I put more creases in than I take out. I walked down and round the boardwalk at Broadwood for a change. I saw two ladies seemingly feeding the ducks from the boardwalk and commented on it, but was told they were feeding the fish. Sure enough the little fish were gathering to feed on the fish food they were throwing down to them. Now that’s something I’ve never seen in Cumbersheugh before. I walked round the loch a bit and included them in a photo of the loch.

No plans for tomorrow. It will be a surprise!


The man who worked in the garden – 28 May 2021

We couldn’t decide whether to trust the weather or not. NOT won.

It wasn’t a terrible day, but it wasn’t looking like it would stay dry all day, so we chose to work in the garden instead. Lots of things needed fixing, moving, cutting and filling, so there were plenty of jobs to fill our time. I started by strimming the back grass. There wasn’t much grass to strim, but just like a bad haircut, it’s the little areas with the long strands that make the place look untidy. I’d done most of the grass and weeds when the plastic cable on the strimmer broke. When I thought I’d reassemble the cutter again the drum flew off and the plastic strands became tangled into a birds nest. Ten minutes and a bit of swearing later it was working again … properly!

Scamp meantime was rearranging the flower pots. Because of tree roots in the back garden, many of the pots sit at odd angles and today it was the pieris that was causing problems. I thought it might benefit from some bark underneath it as a cushion and levelling agent. The problem was that the pieris itself is really heavy and fairly bushy, so it takes two people to manoeuvre it into place again after it’s been moved. I think it looks better now that it’s on an even keel, but I’m not sure Scamp agrees. Only time will tell once it’s settled in its place. I dug out some compost from our compost bin and used it to cover the sprouting potatoes in their bags, after I’d filtered it for slugs which were promptly despatched to the brown compost bin to go to the council recycling facility. Scamp was also adding a load of trimmings and rubbish into the same brown bin for recycling. All in all an hour and a bit’s work made the whole back garden look so much better and gave us an appetite for lunch.

After lunch we went for a walk round St Mo’s, but again, no damselflies, although the cygnets were out with mum and dad. Last night after posting the blog I was reading last year’s blog and found that a year ago yesterday I’d photographed the first damselfly of the year. So, rather than being a bit behind this year, we are actually ahead of last year’s hatch. The walk brought today’s PoD which is a snail sheltering under a leaf. I wondered, as I was taking the shot, if that snail knew more than me and perhaps rain was on the way.

Dinner tonight was Frittata. Fry up a couple of leeks with any veg or meat you fancy in an oven proof pan. Beat up eight eggs and half a cup of milk and pour over the leeks/veg/meat mixture. Cook for about 5 minutes then bake in the oven at 180c for 15 mins(ish). Done. Serves four or serves two for two days. Sorry Hazy, obviously not for you!

Today’s prompt was for “Your Car, Any Car, A Matchbox Car …”. I chose Scamp’s Wee Red Car. I took some photos of it today and tonight I attempted to draw the car from those reference photos. Trying to get realistic curves in perspective is much harder than drawing an extension cable, even a four gang, switched, three pin UK one. Believe me. However, it’s done!

So, although the majority of Scotland is now in Level 2 or below, Glasgow has to remain in Level 3 until next week at least. I feel sorry for all the restaurant owners and publicans who can’t open their doors because a fairly small section of the community can’t obey the rules. Another case of ‘one bad apple’, or so it seems.

Tomorrow we may go on the road again, somewhere, whatever the weather. That will mean filling the Blue car’s tank again. That will be the fourth time in five months! I’m not sure we can afford this luxury!

Off on our travels again – 19 May 2021

Another beautiful morning. Scamp suggested we do the ascent of Barr Hill or drive to Dunfermline for lunch. I thought if we went to Dunfermline I might get a chance to play with try out my 6 stop ND filter at Torryburn on the way home. That seemed to meet with her approval, so I bundled two cameras in the car (the tripod was already there) and off we went.

Parked at Pittencrieff Park and with the Oly in its old brown bag slung over my shoulder and the tripod left to look after the Sony in the car, we walked over the park. Trees were beautiful carrying a full head of blossom. We walked down past the big glasshouse which was locked as expected due to Covid restrictions and round the formal garden which looked well maintained although hardly any of the flowers were blooming. Just too early in the year for that. Lots of primary kids on activities week running races and having shouting matches in the big empty spaces of the park. Two folk were doing a meditation under a bit tree. I don’t know what kind of tree it was, we weren’t close enough to do an ID, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Bo tree!

We walked over to the aviary and found one shy peacock that would strut along the outside of the fenced enclosure, take a look at us and hurry back. It did this three or four times. All the peacocks and peahens had names and identity rings on their legs. Two old guys were discussing them as if they were family members or friends they met at the pub. Today’s PoD came from there and was just a lucky shot, catching the bird with that “What you think you’re looking at?” look on its face. We said goodbye to the peacocks and the peahens and headed into town. We went in to Nero and I had the best coffee I’ve tasted (except my own) for about a year or more. After the first wave of the pandemic, Nero started selling coffee in takeaway cardboard cups and seemed determined to fill the cups to the brim, diluting the coffee so much it was undrinkable. Today’s coffee, while not up to my or JIC’s standards was certainly a much more palatable drink than those watery waste of taste cups from last year. Even better, the coffees were served in real cups. Surely a sign that things are returning to normal.

We both wanted to get a cheap Hoodie, just to keep in the car for emergencies. Right next door to Nero was Primark. Less than £20 for two hoodies seemed like a bargain. They’re not top quality, but they will serve the purpose they were bought for. We walked back to the car, not stopping to count the boarded up shops that won’t open again for some time. Some shops that have been in the town for years have now disappeared. That’s sad. Dunfermline was a bit of a ghost town before Covid hit, but not even the ghosts have gone, it seems. Maybe it will rise from the ashes, but it might take some time.

Drove back via Torryburn where I was hoping for high tide, some heavy clouds and a bit wave movement. Unfortunately, the tide was right out, the sun was shining and you couldn’t even see any waves. We didn’t even get out of the car, we just drove home.

Stopped at Tesco to get yet another birthday card (count back 9 months from mid May and that might give a clue to the reason for those births 😉). Scamp got herself a pair of leisure trousers.

Scamp had bought me a tray of Calabrese yesterday, so when we got back I planted a row of them in the raised bed and watered them in. I don’t really think they will need watered, because we’re due some heavy rain tomorrow. I also completed today’s prompt which is “The View From Your Window” That was tough. I’m not totally happy with the result, but it’s finished and it’s uploaded now, so I’ve completed today’s challenge.

Tomorrow, because of the weather forecast, I think we might go for a drive if we’re going out at all. I don’t think a walk will be on the cards.

The Fish Van – 19 April 2021

The fish van was coming today.

Actually it was the DPD van that was arriving today within a one hour slot around midday. It arrived and a lady delivered a big expanded polystyrene box which Scamp quickly opened and decanted the Haddock, Cod, Crab, Scallops and Smoked Haddock into the freezer while I played with the packets of dry ice they had been packed in. It’s amazing stuff and although I’ve seen it in stage shows and such, this was the first time I got to touch it. It was cold! Of course, once you read the warnings on the packet, you learn not to touch it with bare hands. But where’s the fun in reading instructions when you can be playing with the stuff. I got some amazing effects from dropping hot water on to the little pieces that were all that were left in the bags after their overnight journey from down in the depths of England. Little spheres of water would levitate above the solid CO₂ for long enough to photograph. I even got a CO₂ bubble to form with the gas swirling inside. Unfortunately it didn’t last long enough to get a photo. We must buy some more fish soon so I can be prepared this time and create some more special effects. Who knew science could be so much fun … as long as you read the instructions and warnings first!

It had been another beautiful morning with blue skies and bright sun as predicted by the weather fairies last night. By the time Scamp had put all the fish away and I’d finished playing experimenting, the clouds were encroaching on Cumbersheugh, also as predicted by the weather fairies. Scamp walked down to the shops in the morning while I removed the rear number plate which had been hanging on by one ‘Sticky Fixer’ for months.  I cleaned up the plate and the space on the car where it was to go and replaced it with three new stickies.  After that I took my trusty Sony with its heavy, but excellent quality macro lens for a walk in St Mo’s. Found a few things, but best shot of the day by far was the spider defending its territory on the boardwalk. That got PoD. If you view the bigger version on Flickr you’ll see that there’s a reflection of me in the spider’s large eyes.

Dinner tonight was supposed to be Spaghetti all’Amatriciana but it turned out more like a rather hot veggie chilli. Too much chilli flakes I fear. Scamp said she didn’t know how it tasted at first because her mouth was on fire. After a while it calmed down and she said it tasted ok, just too hot. Just a pinch of the fiery flakes next time, then.

Watched another Line of Duty tonight and it posed more questions than it answered. Who did what to whom and why didn’t anyone notice a gun battle? Or was that last week?

Spent an hour tonight checking that everything was packed in safely in the big box, then sealed it up and addressed it. DPD person will arrive tomorrow to take it away to give to some lucky girls and boys who, I hope will get as much enjoyment out of it as I did once they fork out some money to MPB. Hopefully the man at MPB will give me some money too for being so kind as to send him my camera and lenses.

Tomorrow doesn’t look as good as today, but that doesn’t matter really because the DPD pick up will be somewhere in the range 9am to 6pm. Hopefully we’re not waiting around for all of those nine hours! I’m sure there will be lots of other things to do.