Heading South – 14 April 2022

You could say were were in train-ing for a holiday. You could say it, but only if you were into bad puns.

There wasn’t a lot to say about the day:

09:30 Taxi to the station.

09:45 Train to Edinburgh – First Class, of course.

11:00 Train from Edinburgh to Peterborough – First Class again.

14:45 Arrived in Peterborough after a somewhat disappointing lunch. A veg wrap for Scamp and a tub of veg salad for me. We made up for it with alcohol, though!

An hour to hang about in Peterborough station waiting for the next train. There’s not a lot to do in Peterborough station if you’re not a trainspotter, but I did get a photo of Scamp with a <spit> Starbucks latte, or Babychino as she described it.

15:50 Train from Peterborough to Stowmarket.

17:15 Arrived in Stowmarket.

Couldn’t find Simonne who was our chauffeuse for the final leg of the journey. She said she was in the car park, but she must have been lying … or else, there was more than one car park. Aha! There was another car park and there was Simonne! Hooray, we will go to the ‘new’ house!

It was only about a fifteen minute journey to Old Newton. After meeting and being greeted by Vixen, we went on a tour of the house, complete with the 3’-6”high doors. Almost like half a door, given that the width of it was normal. It was just the height that was a bit disconcerting.

When Jamie got home, later, it was too dark to get a tour of the garden. Instead, we had dinner of Thai Fish Cakes, which we’ve never managed to master and then we just sat and talked then watched TV for a triple episode binge of Anatomy of a Scandal which was quite interesting, or maybe we were both just zonked after a day of sitting, eating, drinking and changing trains.

Surprisingly the bed was comfortable and the room was, well, ‘roomy’. The original tenants might have been short, but they certainly liked lots of space. In a 16th century house I was expecting creepy noises in the night, but either the spirits weren’t interested or we were both too tired to be bothered, but we had an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

PoD is a rather scruffy building that used to be part of the station at Stowmarket. It might be a bit of an eyesore now, but if you look at the brickwork you’ll understand the amount of work and skill that went into the building of it.

Tomorrow we would discover the garden.

The man who worked in the garden – 10 April 2022

Well, more likely, the man who makes a mess when he tries to help the lady who actually does work in the garden.

We were gardeners today. I was planting potatoes in potato bags. Three potatoes in each of the two bags. Maris Peers. We’d planted them last year and they had produced a good yield. They have been chitting on the window sill upstairs, light but cool. The spell checker thinks they’ve been ‘chatting’ which they might well have been, but they were actually firming up their sprouting shoots in a process known as ‘chitting’. Any chatting was purely accidental. While I was doing that, Scamp was pottering around the garden, filling watering cans, emptying bins and refilling them and pruning, always pruning. We did a quick survey of the garden and I found to my surprise that the Shooting Star which I feared was dead was showing signs of decent growth. Hooray! Also a plant we got brought back from Cambo gardens in St Andrews and had recently planted in the bed outside the back window was also showing signs of shoots as was another plant whose name neither of us can remember but is planted near the Cambo. Almost everything in the garden was rosy!

After lunch I put a decent pair of boots on, not gardening boots, and went for a walk in St Mo’s. With me today I took my old Tamron long zoom and the big, heavy Sigma macro lens. In addition I took a bag of slugs. There were loads of them clambering all over the compost heap and I just wanted rid of them and the eggs they’d be laying, so I put on a pair of disposable vinyl gloves and filled a plastic bag with them, then took them for a walk in St Mo’s. I dumped them in the woods. I hate killing creatures just because I don’t like them, so re-housing them is ok. If I call it re-wilding the countryside I’ll probably get a medal for it. I got today’s PoD in St Mo’s.  It was a coot sitting on its nest, floating among the stooks of last year’s horse tails.

I messed up a setting on the Sony and ended up with three photos for each one I meant to take. Don’t ask for details, just accept that it wasn’t what I intended to do and the excess have now been dumped in the bin.
Saw a duck that I thought was a Potchard, but turned out to be a Widgeon. I remember photographing it last year and being confused about its name then too.

Dinner tonight was the leftover curries from last night and it was fine. Watched a quite interesting F1 GP where Verstappen ran into car trouble and Le Clerc won the race. Unfortunately Hamilton could only manage fourth ;-).

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about all the troubles and tribulations Simonne was having in Trinidad with catching Covid and the aftermath. Also heard the exorbitant price her flight home would have cost if she hadn’t had travel insurance.

Maybe dropping off a present for Olly at his gran and papa’s tomorrow.


A busy musical day – 11 March 2022

Music rarely has a place in the blog, but it has today.

The day started with Scamp driving us to Tesco. Just a usual Friday shop. Basics and a bottle of wine. Unfortunately, the wine wasn’t for us but for friends we were visiting later.

Back home I started making dough for a loaf. I usually take a loaf to Crawford and Nancy in Larky. Scamp reckoned a small loaf would be enough for four of us and small loaves are easier to hand knead, so that’s what I did.

After lunch I went out for a walk and a hope for more frog photos, if they were still there. They were, and the photos were taken. They were taken with my big clunky Tamron 70-300mm lens. It was a great lens some years ago when I first bought it for my Nikon D7000, then things started going wrong. The Vibration Control would sometimes take a day off and just refuse to work. Focusing too was a hit and a miss. I got it repaired, and it worked for a while after that, but it really wasn’t to be trusted. Now I’ve got a Sony and a Nikon adapter which allows the lens to work in manual mode only and without VC. I don’t use a long lens very much and this one covers the times when I need a lens that’s longer than 105mm.

By the time I came back the dough had risen quite well and was ready to go into the little cane basket for its second prove as I looked through the photos from today’s shoot. Surprisingly, some were better than I’d expected. In fact one of the m made PoD.

That had given the bread time to puff up a bit and I bunged it in the oven for the required 25 mins. It came out almost as flat as a pancake. I decided we’d try it tomorrow, but there was no way it was going to Larky.

Time was getting on and it was nearly time to drive over to the the Town Behind the Wall. I was taking a ukulele and a steel strung guitar, because Crawford wanted to have a jam session with him playing uke and me playing guitar. I wasn’t looking forward to it all that much, but it was a really great evening. Both instruments were tuned together and we ran through many of his old favourites, but songs I hadn’t expected. I was very rough to start with, but as the night progressed, I started to settle in to the chord sequences. What I did find was that the finger tips of my left hand were painfully tingling. It’s been a long time since I’ve sat for an hour and a half playing a guitar.  While we were singing and playing, the ladies were in the sitting room blethering.

We left just after midnight, so as you will have guessed by now, this is a catch-up. A small glass of rum as a nightcap because I was driving to dance class in the morning, then it was off to bed.

Tomorrow we’re going to the first dance class in about five weeks. Hope we can remember which foot goes first!


Strictly a dancing day – 12 November 2021

But first a visit to the doc’s to hear the bad news.

I needn’t have worried. For the first time in years, there was no bad news from the nurse about my annual checkup. She went over my numbers and basically everything was fine. Ok, my weight was a bit higher than ideal, but as she said, “everyone has put on weight over the last year.” I left feeling much better than I had when I went in. Isn’t that what doctors surgeries are meant to do?

Next step was to collect together our latest ‘Small Electrical’ devices and take them on a one way trip to the skips. It was just small things like the old coffee grinder which would no longer switch on. Also my hard working Nexus 7 tablet. Nine years old and still working … well, it really depends what you expect from ‘working’. If you mean that you switch it on and it works, then it’s working. However those who want it to work about thirty seconds after pressing the power button and to keep working for at least five minutes after the screen appears, might be disappointed. I was one of the latter group. It had to go. It’s been replaced by a new Lenovo 8” tablet that is doing everything I expect from a tablet, except taste sugary, but that’s probably a different kind of tablet! The last thing to go was a half bottle of white spirit that I kept meaning to chuck out just for safety reasons. It, too, has now left the building. With all that done and after handing over an arm and a leg for a tank full of petrol, we were ready to go to Perth.

Drove up to a dull, dreich Perth, surely not how it was going to be this weekend? The hotel did nothing to lift my spirits. Allegedly the oldest established hotel in Scotland, it had hosted Bonnie Prince Charlie as a guest back in 1745 and I think it has been painted since then, maybe only once. Just a typical old, old hotel that’s like a maze inside. Ours was a tiny wee room with a lovely view of the carpark and the back of a tenement, but that wasn’t important. We were there to dance.

The was a table plan to consult as we went in to the ballroom and four dancers were already seated when we found our table. Standoffish? Just a bit. Condescending? Just a bit. Who cares, we were there to enjoy the dancing, not the company.

Dinner tonight was typical hotel food, I chose Melon with Midori as a starter, then Haggis Stuffed Chicken as my main course with Meringue and Fresh Fruit for pudding. Typical hotel food! Scamp’s starter was also Melon  but she had a main of Sweet & Sour Vegetables which apparently tasted brilliant. Pudding was a Sticky Toffee one.

With dinner over, dancing began and we threw ourselves in and had a great night. Not great dancing until the opportunity came for a bit of Salsa. Six of us could dance Cuban salsa and about six others who took to the floor danced ballroom salsa. I didn’t get a chance to see what their dancing was like, I was too busy dancing salsa.

By midnight I was totally beat, physically, as was Scamp, but we were both buzzing when we struggled through the maze to go to bed.

PoD was a photo taken in the afternoon, through the bedroom window of the backside of Perth!

Early start tomorrow for a dance lesson then an afternoon free before the formal dance at night.

Out to lunch – 22 September 2021

Scamp had arranged a lunch for Gems to mark the end of an era for the singing group.

A sad day in a way, but as she, and the other ladies, admitted, although Covid had put an end to their activities with all the churches and halls closing their doors during Lockdown, the heyday for the singing group had passed. The final decision had really been taken out of their hands. All the remaining members joined in the celebration of years of providing music and enjoyment to people who needed just that little lift. I was taxi driver for today and drove Scamp and Margie down to The Village for their lunch.

That meant I had some time on my own and nothing to do, or so I thought. I’d intended doing some painting or drawing because Inktober is just around the corner. In the end I just added some pastel to the ongoing sketch that lives in the back room. Then I started on more catch-up for the blog and finally finished the posting of photos on Flickr. Finally I made a bowl of dough to make a pizza for dinner, mine really, but I knew Scamp would sample it too.

I’d almost finished when my phone chirped to tell me it was time to go and pick up the ladies. It had turned into one of those miserable Scottish days with drizzle and rain designed to dampen anyone’s spirits, but they seemed to have had a good afternoon.

I couldn’t be bothered going out to get wet and come home with a miserable set of photos, so I put the A6000 on the Gorilla Pod and set up a tabletop display of some of our apples. Red ones are James Grieve (much redder than usual) the dull green ones are Russets. One of those shots became PoD.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go dancing, tea dancing, and there will be cake!

Away for the messages – 17 September 2021

This was nominated a Recovery Day. That’s what we did.

We needed some messages and I wanted to find out how much EE wanted from me for a reasonable amount of data and a Sim-only contract. We agreed to go to The Fort.

Scamp went to M&S and I walked round to the EE shop. Three people serving and only two customers. Waited 15 minutes, but nobody was paying any attention. I gave up and walked out. I might come back another day or I might just go to Tesco instead. The Tesco website tells you how much you get for how much money. The EE website is a maze. It tells you nothing.

Back at the car I met Scamp and we went food shopping in Morrisons then we drove home. After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp went to see how the garden was growing.

It was a relaxing day, because, even with our alfresco dancing lesson in Cumbria, we’ll still be a bit rusty for the real class tomorrow.

Well Done Colin – 15 September 2021

We woke to mist, or was it fog. Whatever it was, it was taking a while to clear. While it was clearing, Went out to take some photos of the sheep in the field across the road. I meant to shoot the sheep, but I got photobombed by the Shetland Pony stallion and I thought “Why not?” The resulting image worked for me.

Just after the sheep and photobombing stallion photo shoot, the mist started clearing quite rapidly and we were off to conquer the Nine Standards. The Nine Standards are nine (strangely enough), mostly conical cairns on top of Nine Standards Rigg which is over 620m above sea level. We weren’t climbing all 620m because Jamie was driving up to a parking place below the start of the main climb. Actually we’d walked the first part of it from Kirkby Stephen to the parking place last year.

The climb, or walk, started off well with Vixen leading the way and at a blistering rate. Scamp and I were bringing up the rear and I will admit that I was feeling the strain after about 20mins, even at Jamie’s relaxed pace. After a while we encouraged Jamie to go on ahead and keep Simonne company. Eventually at about two thirds distance I had to tell Scamp to leave me and walk up to meet the other two. I was almost totally exhausted. However, after about fifteen minutes rest sitting on some sheep droppings, watching the clouds form and reform over the distant hills I felt better, hoisted myself to my feet and plodded on up the never ending hill. Two more stops were needed to catch my breath and a couple of phone calls where I lied to Scamp that I was still sitting comfortably where she’d left me. No way was I going to tell her I was heading for the top. I think the others were almost ready to start the descent when I finally reached the cairns. A chocolate energy bar from Jamie and half a bottle of water sitting at one of the cairns gave me enough or a rest to start the walk down, which Jamie had repeatedly told us was much easier than the climb up.

He was right. The descent was much easier than I though it would be and best of all, instead of an ever present hill in front of us, we had a panorama of hills, blue sky and clouds to keep us interested. On the way down we met a group of three Auld Guys on their way up. We spoke a while to them. The lead walker was 76, the next was 86 and the final member was nearly 90. We were instructed to make sure to say “Well done, Colin” when we met him, and that’s what we did. He just laughed and said “Somebody must be broadcasting it!”

After Jamie drove us home we were treated to another, even more spectacular air show with a low flying helicopter another BAE Hawk. I wonder how much that operation cost. No idea where the helicopter came from, but the jet came all the way from Anglesey.

Scamp an I went for another walk along the road later in the afternoon to loosen our legs. Jamie and Simonne were making Parmigiano Chicken tonight.

The PoD wasn’t the cairns, or the view from the top, but the tree. It’s been in and out of Lightroom a few times since it was taken, but I like the look of it now.

Tomorrow is the day we all know must come. We all go home, but today was mighty!

New boots need New socks – 14 September 2021

Today we headed to Kirkby Stephen to buy a new pair of socks for Scamp’s new boots. Not surprisingly we didn’t go to Mad about Mountains, mainly because we wanted a PAIR of socks, not just one. Also the socks were for walking boots, not for running shoes. We went straight to Eden Outdoors and got two pairs of socks one pair wool and one pair cotton.

Jamie, Simonne and Vixen had left by the time we got back, heading for more hills to climb, so we had the house to ourselves. There is a long paved patio at the back of the house. Just the ideal place to dance on. We managed to get a full run at the Foxtrot and the Waltz. Of course we couldn’t do the fancy spin turns on the paving stones, but the rest of it worked well. Probably the first time we’d managed the full length of the Foxtrot.
So what did you do on your holiday?
Well, we danced the Foxtrot on the patio of the house!

Just at the end of the alfresco dance class a helicopter flew low over and apparently landed not far away, behind the house. Next a BAE Systems Hawk trainer flew over almost as low as the helicopter. It banked sharply and appeared to circle the house. Were they intent on getting a closer view of our Foxtrot? Well, it was an impressive routine, but we came to the conclusion that the helicopter had been carrying soldiers from nearby Warcop base and the jet was there to add a bit of spice to their war-games.

The airshow went on for quite a while, but eventually they all calmed down and JS&V returned from their walk. We went out for another test walk with the new boots and socks. The socks were an improvement on the old ones and made the boots more comfortable. So said Scamp and she should know.

We made quiche for dinner. Instead of a baked pastry base, we used tortillas we’d bought in the morning. Scamp made Quiche Lorraine and I made Jackie’s Smoked Salmon and Broccoli Quiche. Both turned out fine and we’d made enough for all of us with some to spare for tomorrow.

PoD was an old barn we saw on our late afternoon walk. For once I didn’t photograph the jet or the helicopter!

Tomorrow we may go climbing a mountain.

Coffee with Val – 29 July 2021

Just Val and me today.

I don’t know if Val has fallen out with Fred, but he never mentioned whether he had invited him or not and I didn’t ask. I thought I’d show him my new Huawei watch, but surprise, surprise, Val had one too. Like a couple of school kids we compared watch faces. He pinched one of mine and I pinched one of his. An hour and a half seemed to fly past and for once we didn’t just talk ‘tech’. It was more about trying to get back to ‘normal’. Maybe not real normal, more like this new normal. Still, it was a step in the right direction.

Back home Scamp was just getting ready to go and dead head some flowers, so I took the opportunity to grab some pictures of some of her favourites. That’s why today’s PoD is a bunch of Osteospermum all vying for the best place in the photo. I was impressed with the way the Sony dealt with the red roses. The Oly was much quicker to focus, but it oversaturate the reds, the Sony gave a much more realistic rendition of the reds. Something to do with the bigger sensor perhaps?

I did go for a walk in St Mo’s later in the day and got a decent macro of a shieldbug apparently steeling itself for a leap into space. In reality it was fighting with a wolf spider. I don’t think the spider came out on top this time. Maybe it got sprayed by the shieldbug. They don’t call it a stinkbug for nothing.

Back home it was veg chilli for dinner and as usual I made too much. Oh well, we can eat if for lunch tomorrow.

And with that, you are all caught up.  Two week’s worth of blog written.  I’m glad it’s done.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow if the weather permits.

Surveyed – 21 June 2021

A phone call with Hazy and the lady with the cotton buds.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning, glad that she’s feeling a bit better. Heard all her news and we filled in the details of our visit to St Andrews the details that hadn’t been recorded in the blog, that is. Also found out the back story of the Merlin Sheldrake book.

Then it was time to finish playing catch-up with the blog. Photos processed and uploaded. Blog written, but the posting left to later because lunch was on the horizon.

After that the lady with the cotton buds appeared. A new lady who hadn’t been before. Unfortunately the sampling technique hadn’t changed and was just as uncomfortable as ever. I think we are both glad we made the decision not to go with Phase 2: The Blood Letting! Just too invasive. However, we were able to answer “Yes” to a couple of questions about having people in the house, and seemed to surprise her by saying the we’d been to a restaurant more than once in the last seven days. Come on, we may be careful, but we do like to get out too!

Now that the survey was finished for this month I celebrated by going for a walk in St Mo’s. Scamp didn’t want to go today, but agreed that she’d join me tomorrow if I was going out. There were a few flying subjects today. A damselfly and a couple of strange looking little flies. The damselfly won PoD. Still haven’t seen very many dragonflies.

It had been a warm day again with very little breeze, but the weather fairies are warning us that the temperature is set to drop a bit in the next few days. That won’t be as good for daytime activities, but for sleeping at night it will be much more comfortable. The last few nights have been just too warm. Also there is the chance of rain by the end of the week. I don’t mind that, as long as it remembers to turn off after a while.

Tomorrow we may go for that walk. Somewhere nice, perhaps.