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.

Back to life, back to reality – 18 June 2021

The car was packed and we were driving back south.

We’d started the packing last night, so it was really just a case of tidying up the caravan. Loading all the bags, rucksacks and more bags, plus the pink fluffy plant into various places in the car and pointing it south after we’d done some more shopping at Morrisons which happened to be on our way home. I must admit it was Scamp who did most of the work. I took a phone call from Fred. Not the easiest of calls to take. I’ll leave it at that.

We chose a slightly more picturesque route home, compared to the one the sat nav had chosen for the run up to St Andrews. Basically, after the initial avoidance of Crail and Anstruther, we just hugged the coast and followed it down to Rosyth where we crossed the Queensferry Crossing which is the Third Forth Bridge and from there we followed the M8 until the M73 and then we were on home ground.

After lunch we drove to reluctantly give Annette her caravan keys back, thank her for the opportunity and convince her that we hadn’t left too much of a mess in the ‘van.

Scamp and I went for a walk later in the afternoon and got a picture of some beasties which turned out to be immature Shield Bugs. They just looked like an unruly crowd of teenagers having fun. I couldn’t get that impression out of my head. They made PoD.  We continued our walk to Condorrat and got two fish suppers to celebrate the end of the short holiday.

Thank you Annette for the chance to share your holiday home. We really enjoyed it. I’m not entirely sure we could make a case for owning one ourselves, but it was still great fun.

Tomorrow I intend to relax and try to work out the knots that have appeared in my right calf. Something to do with yesterday’s up hill and down dale walk along the Fife Coastal path. Scamp is intent on starting a week’s worth of washing!

Exploring – 16 June 2021

Today we were off exploring the East Neuk of Fife.

We drove south from St Andrews on the coast road, like real tourists. We were just passing through Kingsbarns which is really a posh hotel and a golf course with some houses attached, when I noticed a sign for Cambo House. We’d been there many years ago to see the snowdrops that it’s famous for, great swathes of them as I remember it. No snowdrops today, but at least there was a decent amount of parking.

We walked from the carpark to what I thought must be the House and paid our entrance fee that was really the entrance to the walled garden. If I’d been more observant, I might have decided not to shell out a few quid just to see a walled garden. There’s one in Colzium that’s really well laid out and free. But, Scamp likes gardens of all descriptions and also we’d paid our money so we went to see the gardens.

What a garden this was, not the manicured garden like Colzium. No neat borders with carefully labeled plants. This was a real garden with plants of all descriptions everywhere. Herbs, roses, herbaceous, veg patches, fruit trees, in fact everything that we’ve got in our garden, including a knowledgeable gardener which we also have in Scamp! We wandered round and I took loads of photos. Glad I’d brought the macro lens today. We found a strange plant with pink fluffy flowers and aquilegia-like leaves. We asked the gardener what it was and I showed her a photo of it, but she dismissed it as “not a very good photo”! Cheek! However, she laughed, so I didn’t take too much offence. She knew what the plant was, but couldn’t quite remember the name of it. She was a volunteer gardener and said the head gardener would know. We stood talking to her for a while comparing this garden with its dry, light soil with our builders rubble that’s covered by a thin layer of topsoil that turns into a swamp every time it rains. After that we left to see what else we could find.

We walked out of the garden and down the path to the beach. That’s when we saw Cambo House. It’s an impressive Big House set in acres of lawns. Private, of course, but if you’ve got a house like that, you want to keep it good and not let the proles in. It was Scamp who saw the robot lawnmower trundling around the garden in what seemed like random directions. We stood watching it for a while before we continued our walk down beside a wee burn on a path that reminded me for the second time of Colzium with the winding path beside the Colzium Burn. I saw a beautiful spread of bright red poppies as we neared the beach and managed to make a panorama of it back at the caravan. The poppies reminded me of summer holidays in East Lothian where they seemed to grow in all the barley fields around Ormiston.

The beach itself was a bit like any other with a path between it and the Kingsbarns golf course. There seems to be a never-ending succession of golf courses along this part of the Fife coast. After a walk along the beach, we turned and walked back on the path, then found an easier path back past the Big House to what must have been farm buildings that housed the shop and the cafe. We had intended having a coffee and a bite to eat, but there were no tables, all socially distanced around the courtyard. We decided we’d continue our exploration and see if Crail or Anstruther had anything better to offer. At least we’d be able to get something to eat there.

Crail was a disaster for parking. We did find a place down by the harbour, but all the narrow streets were clogged with cars parked on both sides of the road so we headed off to Anstruther. It turned out to be even more disappointing. No places in the carparks and a similar congestion. Why don’t we go back to Cambo and see if there are any tables free now. We did and there were. We had a slice of excellent Tortilla each and a cup of coffee to go with it, plus a Portuguese custard tart to share. Even better, we wandered round the shop and found the pink fluffy plant we’d seen, so we bought it. It’s a Thalictrum Aquilegiifolium. Feeling much happier than the last time we exited Cambo a couple of hours before, we drove back to the caravan.

Tonight we thought we’d walk in to town and have dinner in Little Italy which came recommended. Yesterday we had thought to have lunch there. The sign said open 12.30 until Late and it was about 4pm, so it should be fine. Unfortunately when we asked for a table we were told they were closed. There were people still sitting at tables, but they were closed. Maybe 4pm is late in St Andrews. Today we were refused entry again. This time, allegedly, the restaurant was fully booked. Have you ever had the feeling that your face doesn’t fit? Instead we found ourselves standing outside a pizza restaurant when a Canadian drawl behind us said “You won’t be disappointed”. As I turned round I honestly thought it was Shannon from salsa. It wasn’t, but she was right, we weren’t disappointed. The restaurant looked very like Paesano. The menu was in a similar style and even the pizzas were familiar looking. I’m glad we didn’t get in to LI. This was much better all round. It was called Mozza. If your ever in St Andrews, try it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Walked back to the caravan via the harbour. Walked along the harbour wall and watched some teenagers jumping into the water. Posh english teenagers probably from one of the private schools.

Sat and watched the sun go down with a couple of G&Ts out on the decking of the caravan.

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!

We went for a spin – 12 February 2021

Yesterday we dug the car out and today we were taking it for a quick run to find the way into the Vaccination Centre.

The place was called The Muirfield Centre and before that it was Muirfield Primary school. Confusingly it’s still called The Muirfield Centre, but it’s a completely new building in a slightly different position. The access road we used to know no longer leads to it. However the new road (are you still with me) was easy to locate as there were signs pointing out the way. Found it. Car park was mobbed of course, but we weren’t waiting, we were just driving back home again today.

Parking back at the house was a bit dodgy and after a bit of wheel spin we dug the car a track through the ice to allow it to reverse into our space. All well.

After lunch we went for a walk round Broadwood Loch. We wore the YakTrax and were glad we did. Bits of the path were covered in a couple of centimetres of solid ice. Most of the water of the loch was thawed although there was a skin of ice in places. For once, all the geese, ducks and swans had moved en masse away from the car park and the free food, to the other side of the loch to gossip, paddle in the water and slide on the ice. It made an interesting photo, but PoD turned out to be a couple of folk waking under the trees across the loch from us.

After dinner, Scamp wasn’t feeling too well and ended up being sick. We think it might have been the mayonnaise in her tuna and baked potato that caused it. She went to bed early with Nurse Zog making sure she was comfortable every fifteen minutes or so.

I did, however manage to slap some paint on one of my sketch books to produce a reply to the prompt of “Meadow”. We don’t really have meadows in Scotland. We have fields, but not meadows.

We have been promised more snow tomorrow with the prospect of rain on Sunday. Thank goodness. When did we last wish for rain?

As you will have gathered, this is a catch up blog post and I can assure my readers that Scamp is fit and well and happily tidying things up today.