All Aboard the Skylark – 20 July 2021

We were going on a cruise.

Neil drove Hazy and us to Lakeside where we got a boat with about 300 other people for a sail down to Bowness. Originally we’d intended going down to Ambleside, but because the pier is about an hour’s walk from the town, we took the shorter option.

The place was mobbed. Lots of Scottish voices doing their Staycation. We were going to look for Lakeland, but eventually we gave up because it was too far away. About 15 miles too far away.

All the cafés were really busy, but we did manage to grab a table in a Cornish restaurant with easy access for Hazy and very good food. Just toasties, quiche and pasties but all made on the premises.

After lunch we split up Hazy went to Costa for a coffee and Neil went shopping. We wandered round the busy streets and found a Herdy shop where Scamp got a new bone china cup because she hates the thick walled cups in the house. She also bought an umbrella to ward off any rain. Not that it looked like rain would appear from the clear blue sky, but more as a preventative measure. Just as we were leaving the shop, Neil appeared on an errand from Hazy. We agreed to reconvene in Costa. While Scamp was having a latte, I had a Café Freddo (iced cappuccino). It was a delight on such a hot day. Made me think of holidays in far flung foreign climes under a similar blue sky.

After ice creams for all of us, apart from Neil who dropped his ice and was left with the cone(!), we joined the big long snaking queue for the boat back to Lakeside. Halfway down the lake, three Eurofighter Typhoons flew very low overhead as a sendoff. We were impressed by that.  Today’s PoD was the line of rowing boats on the shore of Lake Windermere at Bowness.

I went for a walk later when it was cooler and got some more moody landscapes and also some flower photos.

Scamp was cooking her signature Spicy Chicken tonight and it was a great success, as usual. Made from an old Gary Rhodes recipe. It should have been served with couscous, but she served it with new potatoes and even those who don’t eat potatoes cleared their plates. It was good to be sitting round the table eating and talking together. We should do this more often.

Tomorrow we may stay closer to home because it’s going to be very hot.

A bit of sunshine – 13 March 2020

That’s what we all need sometimes, a bit of sunshine.

There was the odd sprinkle of rain too, but that’s ok. Spoke to Hazy in the morning to explain yesterday’s blog post in more detail. After the explanation and checking that all was well down her way, we got ready and drove out to Rouken Glen in the south of Glasgow. We’d been there a few months ago and said we’d come back. It was Scamp’s suggestion of a destination today and it was a good one. The last time we were there we were looking for the waterfall, but failed to find it. Today we seemed to be surrounded by waterfalls. High drops, low splashing waterfalls and one that seemed determined to soak us with spray. I’d taken the tripod in the car, but of course I didn’t take it with me because I didn’t think we’d see any of the waterfalls. Numpty!  One of the waterfall pics got PoD.

The other thing I saw was what I think was the nymphal shuck of a damselfly or maybe a sedge. Can’t be sure that’s what it was, but almost certain. It looks like something designed by H.R. Giger. It was paper thin and must have survived the gales and the torrential rain since last summer.

Lunch was in the Boathouse Cafe next to the boating pond. Roll ’n’ Pork Sausage for me and Scrambled Egg on Toast for Scamp. Coffee was better than the usual cafe coffee. Almost as good as my new Blue Box coffee, Hazy. Much lighter than my usual Perth blend, but nice for a change. Walked back through the park and drove home just before the start of the rush hour.

Paella for dinner tonight and it was a good one. Almost, but not quite, too dry. I probably won’t be able to make one like it for ages now.

I think we’ve both come to terms with the P&O situation now. Another email arrived this afternoon to the effect that we can cancel the cruise and have our deposit refunded. We are both in agreement that it would be the best course of action in the circumstances. My thoughts are that with so many places almost in lockdown, it would not be much of a holiday anyway, even if Boris hadn’t made his declaration. Also, if we had been allowed to go, we’d have been in a bus travelling south with 40 or so others wondering if that old lady’s irritating cough is actually Covid 19 or just a cold. Imagine getting all the way to Southampton and being told you can’t board because you are showing signs of a virus you didn’t have when you left the house. Maybe for once Boris has done us a favour.

We have no plans for tomorrow. It looks like rain in the morning, clear for an hour or so and then more rain at night. Never mind, we had a good day today. We can’t be greedy.

A bit of a downer – 12 March 2020

Usually I write this blog chronologically. Today, because of an email we got from P&O, I’m cutting to the chase. Since the PM’s statement that those over 70 or with underlying health problems are advised against cruise ship travel at this time our travel insurance would be null and void. The email we received today from P&O more or less confirmed this and told us that they will contact us shortly. I imagine, since we have to pay the outstanding balance of the cruise by the end of the month, they may offer us a refund of the deposit. Princess Cruises, who are owned by Carnival Corporation have cancelled all sailings for 60 days. When we hear more, we’ll let you know the next steps.

The rest of the day:

It had snowed during the night and this morning there was some snow on the hills and a little in the garden, but it disappeared before we were heading out for the Tea Dance at Gorbals sports centre. Lovely big hall and easy parking. Dancers weren’t as friendly as some we’ve met, but we did meet and talk to a few folk. Danced a reasonable Waltz a pathetic Quickstep and lots of sequence dances. Overall, it was a pleasant afternoon.

Chicken Tikka for dinner and it was HOT! Worth trying again, but only if I tone down the chilli. However, I did use some of the ingredients to compose a still life and that became the PoD. Not very interesting, but I wasn’t in a very good place when I was taking it.

Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – 22 January 2019

We woke to snow today. Not lots and not long lasting, but still snow.

It was one of those mornings when we rejoice at being retired. Not for us the scraping of the windscreen and then the slow drive to work, single file in the tyre tracks of the car in front. No, back to bed with a cup of tea and a good book. Rivers of London (book 1, Hazy). The snow came and went for most of the morning before eventually tailing off and then the slow drip, drip of the thaw started, but not before I grabbed a camera and got some macro shots of the snowmelt on the plants in the garden and also on the metal allium feature in the back garden. That’s what achieved PoD.

The furthest we went today was Tesco and only after we were sure the road was clear of the white stuff. Tonight the snow is all but gone, but the temperature is down to -2ºc as I write this.

January is a time for hanging up calendars, but I found we had misplaced one of ours. It was in a polythene bag at the side of the wardrobe in the bedroom and it came from Sardinia. It started us checking back through our photos to see what Alghero, Sardinia looked like. Scamp usually does a screen grab of the temperature every day we are on holiday and in Alghero in June it was 27ºc. That’s a nice thought to end with!

Tomorrow will probably another dancing day. I may go and get three half pans of watercolour paint to replace the ones in the Joan of Art paintbox Hazy bought me a year or so ago. I liked the tin, loved the idea and the tiny little brush, but hated the colour selection – too acidic for me. I’d been painting tonight and decided it was time to warm up the colour selection.

“I ordered up some Suzette … – 27 June 2018

… I said could you please make that Crêpes.”
(Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream)

Painting class in the morning and today it was a pelican we were rendering on paper. It wouldn’t have been my first choice and in the end it looked a bit more like a distorted swan than the exotic fish eater. Still, as as I used to say, it’s done now. Scamp went dancing while I was struggling with a pelican and she was much more successful than me.

After that we went for a swim, walked round the ship and did a bit of dolphin spotting. However, there were other things in the sea, mostly junk. Bottles (maybe some with messages in), leaves, pieces of paper and a turtle. I thought it was a leaf at first, but then I realised that we were about ten decks up from the sea and there isn’t much to give a sense of scale. Then it moved its flippers and leaves don’t have flippers. It was a turtle. Too late I told Scamp and by that time it was a little brown smudge on the top of the water. We waited and waited and only saw one more. No photos I’m afraid, no time to get the camera focused on the little creatures and take the shot. Not when you’re travelling at 20 knots on an undulating sea. Still, we saw turtles. Also saw a pod of dolphins. No photos there either, but I did get a good shot of blue water where the dolphin had been.

Months ago we booked a meal at Epicurean, assuming that as it was the first week of the cruise, it would be menu ‘A’. It’s not as simple as that. Menus are rotated on a four or five day cycle and we got menu ‘B’ which to Scamp’s disappointment didn’t finish with a Crêpe Suzette. After what was an otherwise faultless meal we booked tonight’s dinner in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be menu ‘A’. It didn’t disappoint. We sat at the rail at the back of the ship watching the world drift by and looking out at where we’d been. Below us were the rear swimming pools and we could listen in to conversations of swimmers doing the same as us, but without the encumbrance of posh dress or heavyweight kilt, because tonight was a ‘Black & White’ dress code. National dress trumps ‘Black & White’, by the way. I’ll fill in the menu when I get a chance to check it, but what sticks in my mind were the ‘amuse bouche’, namely Bloody Mary Lollypops and Blackcurrant and White Chocolate Lollypop! Inventive.

That was about it for the day. Tomorrow it’s Gibraltar. Monkeys and cheap booze.

All at sea – 20 June 2018

IMG_4962- blogThere’s not a lot you can write about sea days other than you are at sea for a whole day.

It started off with some sun and a bit of haze on the horizon, but soon that sun was disappearing and the clouds were rolling in.  One of the benefits of being on a P&O ship is the variety of things to do on a sea day.  Today after breakfast I took a trip to Metropolis on Deck 18 for the Art class while Scamp went to the line dancing class.  Today we were painting penguins.  A strange subject given our position just off the south of Spain.  As the last class, Easa had provided us with a wee photo of the subject.  A mummy and baby penguin.  After we sketched it, he took us through the process of painting it.  I believe that each subject concentrates on a particular skill.  Today’s was mixing a black.  It’s fairly simple if you know your colour wheel and is usually a blue and a brown.  That’s what he recommended and that’s what I used.  Unfortunately, there were too many diddies in the class who couldn’t find the blue and then couldn’t find the brown, so a lot of time was wasted.  As a result, the class over-ran and I had a salsa class to go to at 11am and had to give my apologies and make a run for it.

Salsa was a fun class.  Great fun.  The leader is as gay as a gay thing and is constantly encouraging everyone to “Get your hips moving.”  It’s pretty basic stuff for us, but at least we get a chance to dance afterwards when everyone gets a bit of ‘practise time’.  After lunch we sat and listened to frau Sturmbahnfuhrer screaming at the poor people whose only fault in life was a desire to learn Cha – Cha.  We couldn’t help but compare and contrast our teacher with this demon.  One making dancing fun, one making it a drudge and a competition.

Outside things were looking grim.  Grey cloud and a very slight wind that wasn’t going to shift them very much.  Never mind, there were things to do.  There were brides to ooh and ahh at and lots of rubbish oops, bargains to be bought.  Also, tonight was a Gala Captain’s Reception.  We’d no intention of going to meet the captain who is apparently on the short leet for the most boring speaker on P&O.  However, it was a chance to wear my kilt and cause a stir.  As it happened, one of the people at our table was from Aberdeen.  Maybe it was a long time ago, but at least he was Scottish and the accent was there.  Like a lot of folk, the more we spoke to him, the stronger the accent became.  Pleasant enough crowd.  One woman was from the afternoon art class.  She talked about going on P&O in the ‘60s when there was a severe demarcation between First class and Second class passengers accommodation.  It still exists.  There is an area cordoned off at the front of the ship for those who are willing to pay the subsidy.  They have better sunbeds, their own pool and sauna.  They don’t tell you that in their fancy brochure. 

Tonight’s show was the best we’ve seen by far.  Brilliantly staged with a ‘roadie’ entertaining the crowd at the start.  Then, near the end the lights went out and a message came over the system saying that there were technical difficulties and the program would proceed as soon as possible.  After the spoof at the start, everyone thought this was just another joke.  It wasn’t.  Some folk left, but we waited for the finale.  I think they sang every rock anthem that was written.  Silly wee story, but nobody noticed because the production was so slick apart from that one problem.

That was it for the day at sea.  Sat and finished my painting of the penguins and went to bed.

Out for a Spin – 26 January 2018

Today we went to the seaside.

We had decided that if the weather was kind to us we’d go out west and head for Troon. We walked in blinding sunshine along the beach for a mile or so with all the dog walkers and their assorted dogs. The sea was well out today, the tide must have been at its lowest point. Although the sun was low and very bright, it was cold but for once there was no wind. I think Scamp would have walked further, but I called a halt after about an hour and we turned and made our way back the same way we’d come. Scamp said it was just like being on the treadmill at the gym. I think that’s the wrong way round. Surely the gym imitates life, not the other way round. Anyway, I’ve still to see this marvellous video attraction. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it out next week and not have to tap the sand out of my trainers afterwards.

Lunch was in Scotts which is becoming a firm favourite. Every time we go there it’s like being in the Crews Inn at Chaguaramas in Trinidad. The temperature is a bit different and the distant scenery is too, but the boats in the marina and the general layout of the place remind us both of a wonderful lunch and the most alcoholic sangria I’ve ever tasted. No alcohol today because I was driving, but Erdinger’s Alcohol Free ‘beer’ is now top of the list for a beer flavoured drink. Food was Chicken Stroganoff followed by Seasonal Fruit Crumble for Scamp and a Beef Burger followed by Key Lime Pie for me. The whole thing rounded off with coffee and the shortest shortbread I’ve had in a long time. Lovely! Service could have been a bit quicker, but otherwise it was excellent. We both agreed it was a great day out at the seaside.

PoD was the red boat passing Arran, although it was a tough call between that and the people silhouetted on the beach. The bottle was just a fun grab shot for a Flickr group called One Bottle.

Tonight we made the decision and we are going on a cruise in the summer. Not a balcony cabin, but an Ocean View. Next best thing. Booked and deposit paid.

Tomorrow? It looks like rain, so we may be going more local than today. It all depends on the weather. How many times do I end a blog with that?