A day of preparation – 25 July 2021

Preparation for the arrival of the electrician on Monday.

A lazy start to the day, but then the man arrived to collect some snot and some saliva. He also asked us a lot of searching questions about our habits in the past 28 days. We answered truthfully that there had been someone in our house and we’d been in someone else’s house. We also admitted to a lot of hugging and stuff with other households. Written that way it all seems a bit decadent, but some of the folk who read these blogs know exactly what was going on! The man seemed satisfied with the answers and took our samples of bodily fluids away to be tested.

With that done, and after lunch, Scamp started clearing out cupboards to allow the electrician access to the power sockets. Meanwhile I went for a walk in St Mo’s and found a PoD in an Emerald damselfly. When I returned it was my turn to go to work, hauling out, first the dishwasher and then the beast of a washing machine. It was the hardest to manoeuvre out of its cave below the draining board of the sink, but finally it was clear of the space and the the suspect power socket was revealed. The kitchen was a mess, but at least the electrician could get to work quickly tomorrow.

Spoke to JIC and heard about the latest news from down south. Good to hear that things are finally moving there.

There wasn’t much more to say about this day, so I won’t say it.

Tomorrow another man will come and hopefully he will restore us to full electrical capabilities.

Scamp fixes the kettle – 1 July 2021

Scamp did some investigating and came up with a solution to the chemical smell from the kettle.

First, though we spoke to Hazy and I found out that there’s to be a new series of Good Omens. A sequel of sorts, but with Neil Gaiman in the writing team, it’s never going to be a simple sequel. Thank you Hazy for that heads up. It will be on Amazon Prime first, so bang goes my idea of cancelling Prime.

Scamp’s research led to an old fashioned solution to the smelly kettle, but it worked. Two tablespoons of Bicarbonate of Soda went in to the tank and then the tank was filled with tap water. It had to stand for an hour or so, so we left it while we went out to get some plants at Calders.

Today, Scamp chose a tray of Dahlias, a tray of Petunias (which always remind me of an old song “Don’t jump off the roof, Dad” Search for it on Spotify and you’ll find out why) and finally another Begonia. While she went to speak to Carol from Gems, I paid for the plants and sat cooling in the car. Isn’t air con the most wonderful invention, especially on days like today when the temperature is hovering around 25º?

With the gardening requirements met, we drove home via Tesco and got the ingredients for tonight’s dinner which was Chicken Salad, but will always be known as Neil’s Chicken Salad for the simple reason that he was the first one who made it for us.

Then it was time to wash out the kettle (it’s much easier calling it a kettle, rather than a water boiler). I gave it a good rinsing with about three changes of water. After that, to make sure the boiler part of it was rinsed too, we boiled one whole tank full of water, a cup at a time. Another rinse and we were good to go. It worked! It was as simple as that. That cleaning took all the chemical smell away. I must remember to ask a chemist how that worked 😏.

After lunch with a cup of normal tea smelling tea for me and White Tea for Scamp, she settled down to plant her new acquisitions. I grabbed the Oly this time and took it for a walk in St Mo’s and then out into the wild area that will soon become yet another Micky D’s. I got some really nice pictures of a Common Blue damselfly, but then I remembered I’d taken some photos of some roses in a vase on the coffee table after we’d spoken to Hazy. With a little jiggery pokery they shone on a dark background and became PoD.

We sat for a while in the garden before dinner, listening to John and Carlyn’s ‘’Ten Pence Mix wafting gently from their garden. Actually they played some decent music for a change (no Eagles). I had a beer and Scamp had a glass of her new best friend, Bramble & Raspberry Gin. Then it was time for Neil’s Chicken Salad.

This might have been the last of the really good weather. We’ve been warned by the weather fairies that rain is on the way, if not tomorrow, then Saturday and definitely by Sunday. We’ve had a good spell of warm sunny days, so we shouldn’t complain, but we will! Scamp’s leg is looking better today. The swelling is going down but it’s still itchy.

What we do tomorrow will depend on how near the rain clouds manage to get.

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.

Well, that was a hot one – 13 June 2021

I don’t know how far up the tube the little cylinder of mercury got, but it was quite far.

Not as far, perhaps, as the others in the family who are further south than us. Temperatures there were close to 30º by all accounts. Thankfully we had a cooling breeze to keep us in a more temperate climate. That said, we were still pretty warm and with blue skies and occasional clouds, the world was looking quite good.

We did a bit of gardening maintenance in the afternoon and then we both went for a walk in St Mo’s, but there was little insect activity, probably on account of the strong breeze through which the dragonflies might navigate, but the poor little damselflies would find it a struggle. Scamp and I went one circuit together before she left to do some more gardening with the option of a seat in the sun later. I carried on for another round of the pond.

On that second trip round I did find a Common Blue damselfly sitting quite happily on the boardwalk warming itself in the sun. It was a bit skittish, so I took my time stalking it and grabbed a few shots before I heard heavy footsteps behind me as a young couple passed. That was enough to scare off my Common Blue. Strangely, the girl turned and looked at me as I apologised for almost blocking their path and I’m sure she was a former pupil. She was probably wondering what her old teacher was doing sprawled on the boardwalk. Possibly she would come to the wrong conclusion that I’d been consuming intoxicating liquor! That would come much later in the day.

The common blue was the best shot of the day although I did go further afield in search of something larger, but there were no dragons flying today.

I came home and found Scamp in the back garden, reading, so I made her a Pimms and had a can of lager for myself. I then spent a comfortable half an hour in the sun, listening to my next Audible choice which is book 10 in the Inspector McLean series by James Oswald. Then it was time to get dinner sorted.

Tonight, dinner was Crab and Chilli Linguini. I was being ultra-careful as crab is really quite expensive, but most of the hard work had been done for me because I was using dressed crab that had been in the freezer for a month or so and came from a company JIC had recommended. The dinner was good, but not great. My fault, or my recipe’s fault, certainly not the crab’s. Too dry was the general complaint from both of us. Maybe next time I’ll make a better job of it.

No dancing tonight. Not our fault, but problems with internet connection at the teachers’ end. After a couple of near things, it was declared a no-show and as nobody seemed to have a free evening this week, normal service will hopefully be resumed next Sunday. We did have our own practise in the living room as all the furniture had been organised for the class.

Spoke to JIC and heard about all the trials and tribulations of house hunting down south. They really are finding some strange houses and even stranger sellers. Also we learned that there are swimming pools for dogs down south. Isn’t that what ponds and lakes are for?

Annette is coming to visit tomorrow for lunch. Other than that, nothing planned.

A dull Saturday – 12 June 2021

Not a day for doing much or going anywhere, although it did brighten up later.

Scamp did a bit of tidying up in the garden and moved some plants around to give them more sun and also to put them in places where they could be seen better. I deadheaded some of the aquilegia plants to, hopefully force them to produce more flowers. Scamp also cut the grass at the front and edged it I am now reminded!

We had the other half of yesterday’s quiche for lunch. I think I prefer it cold, while Scamp definitely prefers it hot. After lunch I took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. Snapped a few damselflies, but because I hadn’t lifted the macro lens, none of them were acceptably in focus. I walked out behind St Mo’s school and disturbed a bit dragonfly. It flew around for a while before almost crashing into me. It seemed to perch in a tree, but when I looked I couldn’t find it. PoD turned out to be a little fragile looking damselfly that seemed to be playing hide and seek with me hiding behind a stem. Every time I moved, it moved too. I took some photos of it and left it to its game.

When I cropped the damselfly photo in Lightroom later, it was really a small image. However, this new Lightroom has the ability to enlarge a photo to four times it original size without losing definition. That’s what I did. The process is called ‘Enhance’ and that’s what it does. It takes a fair bit of processing power to do it and the PoD took almost 30 seconds. The wait was worth it, because the quality is quite amazing.

We walked over to Condorrat tonight to pick up a Golden Bowl dinner we’d ordered. Two Chicken Chop Suey and two Fried Rice. Just as good as it always is. It’s great that some things don’t change in this world.

After dinner, Scamp and I watered the garden, just the front garden and just with watering cans. If the warm dry weather continues we may hose back and front gardens tomorrow night. We had a quick practise later for tomorrow’s class. The routines are a bit rough, but we have most of the steps in the right place.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather brings us.


A busy day – 7 June 2021

Scamp was off to meet her sister. I was head gardener for a while.

Lots of things I could have been doing, but I chose to put my free time to good use and scrubbed out the bird bath then refilled it. My chilli plants have been desperate for more space and some real compost, not the floor sweepings B&Q seem to think they can foist off as ‘peat free’. What is this sudden panic to make everything peat free? Crofters up north have been digging it up, drying it out and burning it in their fireplaces for centuries. Suddenly they are virtually criminals because apparently that peat has been storing carbon and saving the planet. It seems strange to me that all these activists use the same terms like “locking away the carbon”. It’s as if this new jargon explains everything, when in actual fact it’s more like The King’s New Clothes. Everyone seems afraid to ask them what that means in Topsy and Tim language. How does it lock it away? Where does the peat put the carbon? I think it’s all smoke and mirrors, but probably not peat smoke. Anyway, I used some general purpose compost which may or may not have peat in it and the chillies are probably better off in it than in the B&Q floor sweepings. Rant over. After that I soaked the plants in the bird bath, muddying the water and undoing all the good work I’d done there.

Before I started the gardening I’d made a pizza dough and left it to prove in the warm living room. When Scamp came home I’d just finished rolling and stretching some of the dough to a rough circle and put it into the proving oven (the grill that had been preheated for about five minutes) to puff up. It was just a simple tomato base with extra chopped up fresh tomatoes and some grated mozzarella on top. Baked for about fifteen minutes at gas 6 – that was just a reminder for me. It was very successful.

Next Scamp wanted to wash her car, but couldn’t reach the roof, so I did that and then gave it all a bit of a soapy wash while Scamp scrubbed off the sticky sugary stuff that drips from the trees in late spring. Then I set up the hose for her to wash it all off and started on my car. It made sense to just get it all done at the same time. Thank you Bobby Flavell for the use of your outside tap again.

With the cars sparkling in the sun, Scamp decided to water the garden. Easier to use our own water for that, so I fixed up the hose and let her get on with it while I went for a walk in St Mo’s. Not a lot of movement, but one little Common Blue damselfly sat and watched me while I carefully dragged my camera out of the bag and took its picture a few times.

After dinner the Amazon man dropped off a parcel I’d ordered last night. It was a Samyang Lens Station. Basically the 18mm lens I use on the Sony camera is crap at focusing. However, Samyang will sell you a piece of kit that connects your lens through the computer to their website where you can download a new firmware file that will improve the focusing. It’s a neat scam and it certainly works! Thankfully, so did the lens afterwards, because I’d read horror stories on websites to the effect that the software could wreck your lens. Maybe it could, but it only improved mine. I’ll do a field test tomorrow just to make sure.

Finally wrote to my brother. The last email I sent him was in March! So much going on? Not really, just bad time management on my part. Must get better organised.

The last thing to do on a busy day was to have a quick dance practise just to make sure that the muscle memory was working properly. It was, after a false start!

No plans for tomorrow. We’re waiting to see what the weather will be like.

Wall to Wall sunshine – 6 June 2021

Long may it last, even if we do have to water the garden!

After lunch we went for a walk round St Mo’s pond and stood watching the damselflies. I managed to capture one or two of them, or it could be that I caught the same one once or twice. Who knows with damselflies, they all look the same, don’t they? Well maybe not, because occasionally you can spot slight differences in their wing structure, some also have defects that mark them as different from the rest, just like humans, I suspect. Anyway, I was using the Sony camera and the Sigma macro lens and I did manage to get a PoD.

From St Mo’s we went down to Broadwood Stadium to extend our walk and take in the exercise machines path, then back across the dam through the houses and the underpass before climbing the long steep hill to St Mo’s school and then home. Not a bad walk. Later I wanted to see if any dragonflies had appeared, so I went for a short walk over to the pond, but there was no sign of life and it was getting late in the afternoon, so I headed home, because tonight was a dance class and I didn’t want to be in a rush to get dinner made and get a quick practise in. I needn’t have worried, Scamp was on the ball and had my burger cooking while her scallops were waiting their turn to go in the other pan.

Dance class tonight started with Mambo Marina which is a fairly old sequence dance that we learned months ago, but of course I’d forgotten bits of it. A quick reprise from Scamp and I was good to go. The Foxtrot was going to be next and it was nowhere near as easy as the MM. Lots of little tricky bits to it and we couldn’t agree on the correct footwork, but Jane and Stewart soon ironed out our problems and it was plain sailing after that. Last part of tonight’s lesson was the Cha-Cha. It is such an energy sapping dance. Most of the moves are fine, but it’s that little cha-cha step that has to be done right to keep in the tempo of the dance, that’s the problem. However, we managed to get it completed without too much trouble. We sat in the garden to cool down after that with a couple of beers. It really was a beautiful night.

Spoke to JIC later and got the low down on house hunting in and around Cambridge, Simonne’s run today and how JIC’s ankle injury is doing. Gave him some sage advice from his gran on how to prevent birds from eating all his veg. Black thread was her secret weapon. I imagine it works equally well with English sparrows as it did with Scottish ones! I hope so anyway.

Watched a Crash – Bang, Baku GP. Not driver errors this time, but tyre failures. More like Wacky Races than a GP!

Tomorrow morning Scamp is off to have coffee with June. I’m hoping to finish my epistle to Alex.

Coffee for three – 4 June 2021

For the first time in ages we had a quorum when the call went out for coffee.

Scamp was away first to meet Veronica for a walk around Broadwood Loch. I was next, away to meet Val for coffee. We had barely sat down when Colin joined us. I’d missed his reply to my email invitation. For the first time in ages most of us were available. Fred had to call off as he was taking his wife to a hospital appointment. As you can imagine, discussions were wide ranging and interesting but without politics rearing its ugly head. Time just flew by and it was Val who had to leave first to meet his wife to go shopping. That seemed to break the spell and we all left to go our separate ways.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp drove us up to Tesco and we did a bit of shopping. Just essentials today, although I did get a few bottles of beer and Scamp selected a suitable bottle of wine, oh yes, and some ice cream. Like I said, just the essentials.

Back home, I grabbed the Sony with its big, heavy, slow macro lens, put it in a small rucksack and went over to St Mo’s on a damsel-hunt. I couldn’t find anything worth taking the camera out of its bag for, but wandered round the pond and then tried again. Immediately I found a couple of Large Red damselflies sitting on the upstand of the boardwalk. Took a few shots, then went looking for a dragonfly or two, but none were there to be found today. Walked back and found the two damselflies were now joined in the mating position with the male grasping the female at the back of her head. They sat quite patiently and gave me the opportunity to get some detailed photos. The Sigma 105mm may be big, heavy and slow to focus, but it really does resolve a lot of detail when it gets the chance. The mating pair became PoD. The rucksack makes it much easier to carry heavy kit like the Sony/Sigma pair although it is a bit more awkward to get quick access to the camera compared to the black Lowepro sling bag.

Scamp went out to sit and read in the garden later while I made Paella for dinner. It turned out really well although I hadn’t done anything different to what I’d done many times before. It’s probably just an extra gram or two of spice or herbs that tilts the flavour enough to make things taste different.

Tomorrow we may go out to get some more compost for the rhododendron and I may shovel some more earth on the potatoes which are showing their green leaves above the soil again.

An undecided day – 1 June 2021

It’s wasn’t us who were undecided, it was the weather.

It looked as if it would be another scorching day when we woke, but it never really reached full scorch. It was warm, but not bright all the time. The sun came and went for most of the day.

The first task today was to water the garden. Scamp did the front and I did the back. I think I got the heavy end of the stick, because there are only about a dozen pots of plants at the front and easily, easily thirty at the back. However, it was my choice and it was good just walking about spraying water on the thirsty plants. It also gave me a chance to stand there and admire all the things we’ve grown. Such a variety of flowers, greenery and vegetables.

After we put the hose away and had a coffee we had some admin to do. The boring things like backing up my photos, paying off my debts and also changing providers for house insurance. The problem is there’s no real shortcut to them, but they have to be done. One thing I didn’t have to do today was a sketch. May is over and with it, EDiM. I’ll miss it in some ways, but in others I’m really glad I don’t have to start working on a sketch at 10pm, then trying to get it into the computer and posted on Flickr before I write the blog. As it is, it’s just before 10pm now and I’m already halfway through the blog.

We’d walked down to the shops after lunch and bought what we needed for dinner which was to be a stir fry. On the way back I veered off to walk round St Mo’s, hoping for a chance to snap those dragonflies from yesterday. They seemed to have disappeared. Maybe the lack of constant sun was giving them problems. I think they need the sun to keep their bodies warm. I did almost capture a little red damselfly and a Jenny Long Legs, but it was a couple of Wolf Spiders that took most of my attention. The one of the female trailing her egg sac got PoD. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but anyway, they like to bask in the sun with their load because the heat helps the eggs to hatch. It looks such an uncomfortable existence. Almost as uncomfortable as a woman in the last weeks of pregnancy. The swelling is proportionally the same.

It sounds like most of our time was spent being active or doing work, but that’s only half the story. Although it wasn’t exactly wall to wall sunshine today it was still warm enough to sit in the garden with a beer and that’s what we did for the odd hour or two, just reading or daydreaming.

Dinner tonight, as I said, was a stir fry. Scamp made hers with rice as the base and I used noodles for mine. Hers looked a lot better than mine, but mine tasted good. I’d do that again. Maybe even without the tuition from my wife next time!

So, photos are in Flickr and the blog is just about to be posted and it’s just after 10pm. That must be a record … if it all works out.

While some of Scotland went down to level 1 today, most of the Central Belt were fated to remain in level 2. It’s not a big benefit for us really. More people from more households could meet indoors and soft play centres could open again, but neither of these would affect us. It appears that Covid cases are on the rise again across the Central Belt and this is a preventative measure. Better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.

Tomorrow we may be going east to look at some flowers.

Another day too good to waste

Up fairly early and out for a walk in the woods.

Scamp drove us to Drumpellier where we joined the conveyer belt of folk out for a walk in the sunshine. It really was a beautiful day and there were literally hundreds of people in the park, all carefully socially distant. How many times have we walked on that same conveyer belt but never investigating the woods? What an opportunity lost. This was our third trek into the cool shade of the trees. Lots to see if you look. Today we saw a Jay. Years since I’ve seen one with its bright blue band on its wings. Almost got a shot of it on the wing and looking as if it was heading straight for me, but it was out of focus. I did get a static shot of it and, although you can see the blue stripe, you can’t quite see its head because it was in shadow. Pity. We walked on and tried a new path, but found it just lead on to the road backtracked and found a path we’d been on before. Followed if for a mile or so then chose a new one, just to see where it went. It turned out to circle the cricket pitch we’d found last time. From there, all the paths were ones we’d already investigated. Walked back to the car and stopped for an ice cream on the way. The place was even busier now. There was even a bloke busking to a pre-recorded backing track. Never seen that in Drumpellier before. He didn’t seem to be making much.

Back home and after lunch Scamp got the folding seats out and set up in the sun. It seemed a sensible way to spend a warm afternoon on the last day of May. The month started with us driving down to Irvine to go to the first High Tea of Peter’s two day birthday. Along the way it had been a month of stretching our wings, getting gradually further away from the house and the walks round Broadwood, although the weather hadn’t always been great. Wettest on record some said, but it was dry today and the sun was out and I was listening to Rebus on my headphones.

Later I went out for a walk because I wasn’t sure I had any decent shots from today’s walk and could hardly believe that there were two dragonflies circling the small pond the boardwalk crosses. They were busy making more dragonflies, so paid no heed to me, but were far too far away and too fast to catch with a camera. I did see a couple of damselflies too, but they were too skittish, probably avoiding the bigger dragonflies. The best shot I took was just a branch of May blossom. It looked ok.

Dinner tonight was a salad with tuna pasta and curry rice which was just ok. Scamp had boiled the rice earlier and I added the curry powder and some curry paste, but it didn’t taste like I expected. However the pasta was lovely and worked so well on a warm day. We sat outside for a while to soak up some extra rays, but I nearly fell asleep and we retired to the house to tidy up and for me to get started on the last EDiM drawing of 2021.

Today’s prompt was your computer mouse. Rather than draw my usual mouse I drew an old corded mouse. It works when no other mouse will. It’s not as flaky as the Apple Magic Mouse 2 and it doesn’t use batteries that fail when you really need them, like the Logitech ones. There’s a place for old tech, even these days.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for another good day and we’re hoping to get out for a walk.