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.

 

The boot’s on the other foot – 13 September 2021

Scamp needed better shod and today was the day to look for new boots.

We drove to Kirkby Stephen and went to Mad About Mountains, an outdoor clothing shop which came recommended by Sim. It certainly held a lot of stuff in a small space. Scamp tried on a few boots and liked one of them, although she did think it was a bit tight. With that in mind, she asked for the other boot of the pair to try, and that’s when the trouble started. The bloke who was serving us couldn’t find it, however he told us his boss was due in soon and he would know where the missing boot was. He also recommended two different running shoes. They weren’t boots, but what the hell! He told us to go for a coffee and his boss would have found the rogue boot by the time we came back.

Since MaM had a café at the back of the shop, we went there. Scamp had a latte and I had an americano, but neither of them were coffee. I’m almost certain they had a fair amount of Chicory in them. Almost undrinkable, but we waited a while before we went back, hopefully, to try on a PAIR of boots. Same bloke was waiting at the till doing Facebook updates by the look of things. Eventually he noticed we were there and told us that he hadn’t been able to find the boot. When I asked him if his boss had managed to find what had happened to it, he looked confused and after gathering his brain cells (both of them) together said his boss hadn’t a clue either. He had told us he only worked there two days a week. If his excuses don’t get better soon, that will reduce to zero.

Feeling a bit disappointed and disillusioned we walked along the street where we found a wee walkers shop. Two blokes were sitting outside having a smoke and a natter. One of them said we didn’t need masks because there was nobody in, and to ask him if there was anything he could help with. Scamp told him what she was looking for and long story short, ten minutes later she was walking out with a pair of leather walking boots. Remember the name Mad About Mountains and give it wide berth. Head for Eden Outdoors instead. They sell their boots in pairs!

In the evening we went for a walk, going left after leaving the house, just to try out the new boots. Apparently the boots are fine for space, not cramping Scamp’s dainty toesies, but the collar at the ankle is pressing a bit tight. Not enough to be a problem, just an inconvenience. “They’re fine!” was her comment. Tonight Jamie and Sim were cooking Naked Fish and Carrot Chips, one of their specialities. We were agreed that this was the best version yet.

PoD was a shot of an old tractor Murdo would have been proud of.

Watched the first part of a Silent Witness. It seemed a bit more interesting than the last one we saw.

Tomorrow we may go for a longer walk and try out these new boots.

 

bqb? – 7 September 2021

Today was to be a better day than yesterday, which wouldn’t be difficult.

We chose Loch Lomond to be our destination. Scamp said she wanted to go and have a cup of coffee somewhere nice. Lomond Shores which is a retail area at the south end of Loch Lomond looked as if it would fit the bill. Well, we did have coffee and a bite to eat. We even got a window seat, so that ticked both of Scamp’s boxes.

As Lomond Shores is a retail area, some retail therapy was in order. I was still looking for a decent pair of trainers for a decent price. Scamp was looking at dresses and tops, but ended up with a pair of trousers, walking trousers. Not exactly fashionable, but certainly practical and for a practical price too. I couldn’t find anything that suited my feet for any price and I’ve all but given up on the whole idea. I might just buy a pair of flip flops, preferably pink and wear them.

We had a walk around the sad wreck that used to be Maid of the Loch. She was the last paddle steamer built in the United Kingdom. I only sailed on her once, on a school trip to Rowardennan to climb Ben Lomond, back in the mid 1960s. She was a beautiful boat then, so it’s really sad to see the state she’s in now. I really can’t see this boat returning to the loch. It’s just not going to be a practical proposition. Such a shame. PoD was heavily post processed shot of the old maid taken through the railings of fence that keeps her safe for the time being.

Drove home via Stirling. It was a bit longer than the route we came, but the scenery was better and the road was much quieter. When we were driving to Loch Lomond in the morning we stopped at traffic lights before going on to the M73 and I noticed a van with a familiar logo but a strange company name. It read “bqb”, but the logo looked a lot like the DPD cube. I said this to Scamp and she laughed and told me I was looking at a DPD van in the wing mirror! We passed a house on the way home today and its name was “Gowk” Another of my mum’s words. It means an idiot. That’s what I felt like, a Gowk!

No practise tonight, but that just means there will be one tomorrow. We have no real plans for tomorrow. If the weather fairies are correct tomorrow is going to be hot and it will be the last hot day for a while, so we may go for a walk somewhere.

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!

 

“I have seen the future …” – 3 August 2021

“… and it works.” Reputed to be the words of Lincoln Austin Steffens after he had visited Russia in 1919 and had seen the new Soviet society in operation.

We did travel east today, but not as far as Russia. We went to Embra. We wanted to ‘expand our boundaries’, travel on public transport and live like ‘ordinary’ people. We survived the adventure. One of the places I wanted to see was the new St James Quarter with its roof that isn’t really a roof and its multi-storey shopping extravaganza. But first we had to get off the train at Haymarket, walk through Ladyfield (where today’s PoD came from) to Cafe Nero on Lothian Road, because that’s what we used to do when the world was a different place. The last time we were in Embra was in January 2020, by the way!

After the coffee and feeling suitably refreshed we walked round past the Usher hall and up on to the Grassmarket. Strange to see it without any stalls but with cars and buses driving past. Lots of tables set out where the stalls usually are, so the cafés and restaurants were in business. From there up the hill and round to cross the Royal Mile, then down The Mound (not the pile of turf beside Marble Arch, but the real Mound) to Princes Street Gardens. On that walk I got this shot of an old joke. Scrawled on a sign beside some scaffolding. It made me smile. Back at the stroll through Embra, we walked through the gardens and finally reached The St James Quarter which is quite impressive on a first viewing. But anything would be impressive compared to the old St James Centre which always looked like it was based on the design for Cumbernauld Town Centre. Yes, that bad!

We had a wander through one of the levels, marvelling at the amount of shops some with names we’d never seen before. Some with names we’d seen in foreign climes. Some we feel sure will last 6 months and then be replaced with shops that people will actually buy stuff from. I wanted to have a look at the ‘toys’ in JL, the new six storey JL. Why do they put the best stuff on the top level? I saw, what might be, my next camera. One version up from what I have now, but light years ahead in tech. I did say at the start “I have seen the future …”. Scamp wandered round the lower levels but didn’t buy. However she gave an ultimatum that she was looking for a new dress. I got the impression that the shortlist has already been written.

We exited the bit glitzy glass building and found our where we were. We were heading for Valvona & Corolla, only to find that it’s not there any more. We were definitely in the right place, but it wasn’t! We walk on along Rose Street to find our second choice, but it was closed. At least it was still there. Eventually we gave up and walked back up the Grassmarket and waited five minutes at Petit Paris for an outside table, because it was still a lovely, fairly warm day. Scamp had Salmon Rillette followed by fish of the day, Coley with a Basil Sauce served with mash. I had Countryside Terrine followed by Chicken Supreme with Forestière sauce, and Hazy, we hadn’t brought the voucher, but we asked if it was still valid and the reply was “Of course! Bring it next time.” Lesser restaurants would just have said no, but the trio of French blokes are better than that. We’ll know for next time.

We retraced our steps from the morning and after almost exhausting ourselves climbing about a million steps to get up from the low Kings Stables Road to the Castle Terrace, then marching down Morrison Street we managed to catch the train home with a couple of minutes to spare.

A great day. It was almost like it was before the world turned upside down.

Two days of eating out. We need to get back to cooking and eating our own food tomorrow! We might even get some rain.

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.

Crossed Wires – 28 July 2021

We were supposed to meet Isobel for coffee today. We were there, but where was Isobel?

For once there were some empty tables when we arrived at Costa, an unusual occurrence at 11am. Usually it’s really busy with mums and screaming weans and auld yins taking up the rest of the seats. However, not only were there no screaming weans, but one auld yin (don’t tell her I said that) was missing too. Where was Isobel? After ordering and consuming our coffees Scamp decided she’d better phone the missing party to find out what was wrong. The answer was that she thought Scamp had agreed to pick her up. Scamp denied that, but agreed that we’d drive down to the Village for a coffee with her in her house.

I dropped Scamp off at the house and then parked the car. This let Scamp deal with the problem before I got there. As it happened we didn’t bother with coffee, just sat talking about the holiday, dancing and families. As usual with Isobel, we were entertained for a couple of hours.

Next on the agenda was a visit to B&Q for a piece of dowel to fix the cheapo wheels bins the council granted us with. I imagine there were the cheapest, seconds they could find. The plastic pins that form the hinge for the lid are wearing and I’ve had to replace one already. Today I was replacing the other one. A piece of 15mm diameter wooden dowel would do the job nicely. It’s now done and will be tested tomorrow when the bin is emptied.

After lunch I watched a video by Robin Wong explaining how to do some clever things with the E-M1 mk2. I’ve had the camera for about six months now and hadn’t realised you could do these things. Later I took the Oly out to see if his tricks worked, and of course they did. He’s a really clever guy and when I came home I found another video showing more clever tricks that I’ll test tomorrow, all being well.

Today’s PoD was shot in St Mo’s and is a worm’s eye view of Horsetails growing through gaps in the boardwalk. Almost as soon as they get about 5cm above the decking, they get trodden on or kicked until the break. Still they just keep growing. Horsetails can be traced back to the early Jurassic period. If they survived the dinosaurs, I’m sure they’ll not be destroyed by a few booted walkers.

Tomorrow I’m booked to meet Val for coffee. I’m hoping he knows I’m not coming to pick him up!

Crossed Wires – 28 July 2021

We were supposed to meet Isobel for coffee today. We were there, but where was Isobel?

For once there were some empty tables when we arrived at Costa, an unusual occurrence at 11am. Usually it’s really busy with mums and screaming weans and auld yins taking up the rest of the seats. However, not only were there no screaming weans, but one auld yin (don’t tell her I said that) was missing too. Where was Isobel? After ordering and consuming our coffees Scamp decided she’d better phone the missing party to find out what was wrong. The answer was that she thought Scamp had agreed to pick her up. Scamp denied that, but agreed that we’d drive down to the Village for a coffee with her in her house.

I dropped Scamp off at the house and then parked the car. This let Scamp deal with the problem before I got there. As it happened we didn’t bother with coffee, just sat talking about the holiday, dancing and families. As usual with Isobel, we were entertained for a couple of hours.

Next on the agenda was a visit to B&Q for a piece of dowel to fix the cheapo wheels bins the council granted us with. I imagine there were the cheapest, seconds they could find. The plastic pins that form the hinge for the lid are wearing and I’ve had to replace one already. Today I was replacing the other one. A piece of 15mm diameter wooden dowel would do the job nicely. It’s now done and will be tested tomorrow when the bin is emptied.

After lunch I watched a video by Robin Wong explaining how to do some clever things with the E-M1 mk2. I’ve had the camera for about six months now and hadn’t realised you could do these things. Later I took the Oly out to see if his tricks worked, and of course they did. He’s a really clever guy and when I came home I found another video showing more clever tricks that I’ll test tomorrow, all being well.
On the subject of PoDs, July 23rd’s PoD the mono shot of the sheep at the house in Cumbria won Explore on Flickr.  Explore means it was one of the best shots of the day.  I was quite impressed, but not surprised, as it was a lovely shot, even if I say so myself!

Today’s PoD was shot in St Mo’s and is a worm’s eye view of Horsetails growing through gaps in the boardwalk. Almost as soon as they get about 5cm above the decking, they get trodden on or kicked until the break. Still they just keep growing. Horsetails can be traced back to the early Jurassic period. If they survived the dinosaurs, I’m sure they’ll not be destroyed by a few booted walkers.

We had been warned that there would be thunder and lightning during the night with heavy rain in the early hours.  There were a few peals of thunder, but very distant.  However, the rain did make an appearance and was welcomed by plants in the garden, but more will be needed before they will be happy.  How strange it is to wish for rain!

 

Tomorrow I’m booked to meet Val for coffee. I’m hoping he knows I’m not coming to pick him up!

Driving – 11 June 2021

A second visit to Ravenscraig.

We had just left the house when the rain started, but it didn’t linger. It was only telling us that it was still there, still wetting the ground, still watering thirsty plants, still wetting the washing that should have been drying on the ‘whirly’. We picked up Shona and then drove out to Ravenscraig. Accidentally I took a different route which seemed much quicker than the one the sat nav thought was best. We drove past my old work place in Newarthill, now a housing estate with no sign of the huge factory that once stood there.

It took a bit longer for Shona to get her jag, this her second AZ jag. She seemed little bothered by the event, although she was probably relieved the the whole thing was over, or at least over for now. We drove back to Cumbersheugh and went for coffee in Costa at the end of the depressing Antonine Centre. I wondered, not for the first time, what Antoninus Pius would have thought of this concrete and steel monstrosity that now bears his name. Shona had insisted that she was buying today and we agreed that would be great. Even Costa coffee has improved since lockdown has been eased. For one thing, they’ve gone back to using real cups and saucers, not those big cardboard half pint tumblers they used when everyone had to do take-away. For another they simply fill the cup now, rather than attempt to fill the big half pint tumbler with water to make sure it was filled to the brim although they still only put a single shot of coffee in it. It wasn’t just Costa either, Nero were just as bad. Today’s PoD came from Costa. Looking up from my seat at the lattice of dirty windows and just the corner of a manky water stained ’sail’ above the Costa cafe counter.

We sat and drank our coffee while we listened to Shona’s news. Some bad, but mostly good. It’s heartening to hear that she seems to be seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a long tunnel, but it appears that the light is real. Then it was time to take her home and thank her for lunch.

Before we’d gone out this morning I’d made the dough for a Spelt and Walnut loaf. It had been proving for about four hours and was ready to be shaped into a loaf ready for the oven. Once that was done, I could turn my thought to dinner. It was to be a quiche filled with broccoli and chunks of smoked salmon, a recipe I’d pinched from Jackie. I didn’t have time to make the shortcrust pastry for the base, so I drove up to Tesco to get some ready made. Bumped into Mrs Begg from CHS and had a few words with her. Back home I was happy to be led through the mysteries of making a quiche by Scamp and as soon as the bread came out of the oven, the quiche replaced it with a small apple turnover too, to make best use of the left over pastry. Loaf, quiche and turnover were successful.

Watched an hour of nostalgia on BBC 4. A Singers Songwriters compilation that we hadn’t seen before. Wonderful music by singers we’d grown up listening to.

No plans for tomorrow. Today has been a day of passing showers, some of which took some time to pass by. Tomorrow looks the same.

Pencils, paints and brushes – 1 February 2021

February and two sketching challenges begin today.

Another day in the frozen north. No snow, just frost on the cars. We didn’t need to go out, so we stayed in until we were sure that things were warming up, then we made our move.

We were heading down and round Broadwood today. The main paths were mostly clear and thawing nicely, but in the shade of the trees round the boardwalk at Broadwood the ice was as treacherous as usual. Today’s PoD was taken from there. It looks like the whole loch is just one big sheet of ice, but five minutes away, round the corner it’s open water. Strange. We watched a Goosander slipping and sliding on the ice trying to grab what appeared to be a piece of lemon.  It eventually gave up and went back to fishing. Thankfully round the corner the paths were much clearer. We walked our usual route round the end of the loch and on over the dam then down near Blackwood and back up to the stadium. That took us neatly to the shops. I was the only one carrying money, so I got to go to M&S to get veg for tonight’s dinner and a loaf.

Back home and after lunch I got a call from Colin to reassure me that he was keeping fine, with a bit of a chest infection, but definitely ONLY a chest infection. He’d been to see two doctors on Zoom or something like it and they had prescribed an antibiotic which he says is working. It must be cold today because he said he was going to work in his big heated greenhouse, but ended up coming back into the house for a heat. While we were talking he was watching his wife going for her second circuit with the dog “Round the Policies” as he puts it. A walk round his enormous garden. We chatted for a while about things in general and commiserated with each other for holidays lost and cancelled and agreed to keep in touch.

Ray was the only one of the Auld Guys who still hadn’t replied to my email from last week, so I phoned him, or tried to. The phone rang for about seven rings then stopped and a lady’s voice told me “Thank you. GOODBYE!” As abruptly as that. No chance to leave a message. Strange. I checked on the computer if I had the correct number, but it was. I thought I’d leave it for a while and phone later.

Dinner tonight was Chicken stuffed with spinach and wrapped in Parma Ham with oven roasted chips (home made). A Scamp creation which went down very nicely. Pudding was Cherry Crumble. Again, from Scamp’s fair hands. Equally delicious. Then the phone rang. It was Ray. Great to hear his voice. We discussed phones, RSPB Garden Bird Watch and how boring life is now. He’s a bit put out, because Nic hasn’t sent him a letter with his vaccine appointment yet and I’ve got mine (strangely the same day as Colin’s wife’s – but in a different town). I suggested the lack of letter might have been down to him being English. He just harrumphed! We also agreed to keep in touch.

In the afternoon I put on the heater in my room and started on the first prompt for Every Day in February and 28 Drawings Later. The prompt was “Coffee”. I managed that, as you can see. Not my best, but I’m a bit rusty and also I couldn’t find my favourite ‘Sword Brush’. I’ve found it now buried under a pile of papers on the dining table. I’m hoping for a better result from tomorrow’s prompt.

That’s about it for today. A day with a walk, two contacts made and a coffee cup painted, not to mention that chicken with parma ham.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but snow is forecast for during the night, so we will be at the mercy of the elements again.