The long way home – 25 May 2022

Just like the drive up, there’s not a lot you can say about driving about 250 miles, less than 20 of those miles being on motorway.

It was a fairly decent run down, although we did have to stop for fuel at Kyle of Lochalsh and pay the exorbitant £1.93 per litre. We could have filled up at Broadford for the £1.64, but the queue to get to the pumps looked as if it would take the best part of an hour!!

Still smarting from those highland bandits, we stopped at Fort William for essentials and lunch, then it was onward and downward until we parked outside the house and then the electronics of the car did a reset again. We’ve a few things to do in the next day or two, so I’ll keep an eye on it for further problems, then book it in to get this sorted out. Also, a letter to Nissan wouldn’t go amiss.

The garden needs a bit of a tidy up, but hopefully we’ll get that done in the next few days too. Scamp’s rhododendrons look really spectacular.

Maybe a wee dram before bedtime tonight, just to settle me down.

PoD was one last look out of the front window of our holiday home onto a gloomy looking sea.

Tomorrow? Probably emptying the cases and filling the washing machine. Scamp also wants a visit to Tesco.

Boots – 23 May 2022

Today we climbed Quiraing. Not mountain climbed it, in the car, of course! Are you mad!

We drove up to see then fantastic new car park and it really was a totally different place from the one we used to know. No big boulders poking out of the hard packed earth. No mad foreigners (that includes english) parking anywhere they felt like it, which sometimes meant actually on the road. No, there is now a purpose built car park with plenty of room for everyone from normal folk to those who drive camper vans. There is a down side, of course. It’s no longer free. That didn’t seem to bother the folk who were filling up all those spaces. We didn’t stop. I’ve photographed the view from the top of Quiraing more times than I care to remember and it in all sorts of weather. No, today we were just being nosey!

We drove on to Uig and stopped at a viewpoint at the top. Just hard packed earth, but free. The whole of Uig bay was laid out below us. I took a few shots that I’d later merge into a panorama or two, then we faced the drop down into Uig proper and the tortuous hairpin in the middle of the drive. Came through unscathed and continued on to Portree. There’s nothing much to see in Uig apart from the ferry terminal to Lewis, or is it Harris? I can never remember.

We were heading to Elgol and its strange eroded rock face at the north end of what is laughingly called a beach. It’s really just a jumble of boulders from ones the size of your fist to massive ones the size of a small car. On a good day there are great views of the Cuillins. But not today. The weather was fine, in fact it was nearly perfect with white clouds in a blue sky, but unfortunately, just before we reached Sligachan, I discovered I’d not brought my walking boots. The thought of climbing over those boulders in my shoes didn’t inspire me, so we stopped and I took a few shots of the Cuillins from the almost diametrically opposite direction. Mountins continuously being covered and uncovered with cloud and with rain showers washing across them. It wasn’t Elgol, but it would do. We turned and drove back to Portree, bought some expensive petrol (£1.71 per litre) and went to Jans Vans for lunch, a hard brush for Scamp and a chilli plant for me.

From there we drove up to Staffin and went down to the beach with its grey/black sand. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a time exposure looking towards Flodigarry, using a 10 stop ND filter. I just knew you wanted to know that Jamie. Scamp hung around for a while, but then went back to sit in the car.

With a few shots in the bag and one I was sure would be PoD, I drove back to the house and we got ready for tonight’s family meal in Columba. There were eight of us being fed on Chicken or Pork or Veggie Haggis with potatoes and broccoli as side dishes. Lots of talk at the table and Scamp was interrogating Allan about the correct way to cook Jackfruit. I was impressed how much information he passed on, explaining the good and bad points of this strange vegetable that we’ve only recently discovered. A good night, even if Mairi wasn’t feeling like joining us.

We drove back to the house because June and Ian had some more preparations before they leave for home tomorrow.

It was a well filled day. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to Elgol with boots!

Washout – 20 May 2022

We’d gone out with the intention of driving down to Elgol. That didn’t happen.

We did drive down to the Co-op in Portree for something for tonight’s dinner for us, a couple of litres of milk and a bottle of gin for June. Then we took the road south although it was raining and kept going south into the teeth of a gale and driving rain until I pulled in at a parking place. The place where we’d stopped to photograph the waterfall on Wednesday. There we turned around and drove back to Jan’s Vans for lunch. It was pointless to drive on to Elgol in such weather. Sure, we might have arrived there to wall to wall sunshine. That’s quite possible on Skye. It’s also possible that there would be nowhere to park and the clouds would still be dumping rain on us. No, this was the sensible solution.

After lunch we drove back up the East road to the house. Shared out the messages with June and Ian and had a coffee in our own half of the house. All the while it was raining. But after an hour or so it began to tail off and I thought I might just get out for some photos. That happened when the sun did shine and the clouds did lift.

I drove down to Staffin shore, the beach with lovely light coloured sand. Unfortunately, today you could hardly see the sand, there were so many folk down there. Walking groups, family groups, people with dugs and just ‘folk’. Of course, they ubiquitous Camper Vans were there in their dozens too. Big bloody white boxes with a wheel at each corner. I gave up and drove down to the Slip where there were only two cars and a Manitou digger, forklift, jack of all trades. It looks brand new, so can’t belong to anyone on Skye. I got a few photos, but nothing spectacular. And, of course then the Camper Vans started arriving, so I left.

I drove up past the house, up to Loch Langaig near Flodigarry. It’s a big loch set among a horseshoe of hills. Lovely wee clean burn runs out of it and that’s what I was intending to photograph. I managed a few shots that I quite liked and decided to change lenses. When you’re in the hills, you should keep and eye on the clouds. The direction they’re coming from and how fast they’re moving. If I’d done that I might have noticed they were breaking over the hill tops and I might have got back to the car without getting soaked. I didn’t notice. I did get soaked.

But, I did get the photo. A low level view of the burn running off the loch and that became PoD. Best photographing day I’ve had since we arrived.

It’s unlikely I’ll have very much time for photography tomorrow. Lots of dressing up to do and lots of running around like a headless chicken. Isn’t that what weddings are all about?

Off to the big city – 19 May 2022

Today we set off to visit the big city – Portree.

As usual on our first full day on the island, we set off on an anticlockwise tour of the island. The first half is the most scenic, hugging the east and north coast of the island on mostly single track roads. We met a few ‘Zoomers’ as usual. The ones who want to travel at 20mph to get a good view of the scenery, completely ignoring the signs that suggest that you use the passing places to allow faster travellers to pass you. They are just lazy or are so entranced by the views that they forget that other people behind them may need to catch a ferry, or be in a certain place by a certain time. Worse, though are the ones who own the road. They too ignore the passing places and just drive straight towards you and try to hustle you off ‘their’ road. They are the dangerous ones. We met both kinds today. We also met a herd of cattle, not ‘Highland’ cattle, just ordinary beasts with their calves running around their heels. Some tiny wee calves too. “Dog sized” was Scamp’s description and it was very true, they must have been fairly recently born.

We did the full circuit of the island and stopped at Jan’s Vans for lunch. It was extra busy today with many people walking round this hardware emporium holding buzzers that would call them when their table was ready. We didn’t have too long to wait until ours buzzed and we got seated at table 10. It was a 20 minute waiting time for food, but that didn’t bother us because we weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. I ordered “The Works” which is the middle sized All Day Breakfast. I’ve never been quite hungry enough for The Full Works. Maybe some day. Scamp, of course had Macaroni ’n’ Cheese with chips. We did have to wait about the full 20mins, but it was worth it. We followed it with coffee for me and peppermint tea for Scamp with two of the worst pineapple cakes I’ve ever had. Extra thick pastry base and a tiny teaspoon of pineapple and an equal amount of cream. Not good enough, Jan’s Vans!

Three German blokes asked a waitress for the wifi password while I was in the queue for the coffee. The girl rattled off the “TheRedBrickCafe” and was about to turn away when one asked her “Could we have that in English now?” Luckily she laughed and wrote it down for them. We forget just how quickly we speak in Scotland. There were three American ladies in front of me in the same queue, all asking questions: How hot is the chilli? Is the salad vegetarian or vegan? What kind of coffee do you use? Then a man sidled up and I thought he was going to jump the queue, but in a mid-western drawl he said “I hope you don’t mind, I’m with them.” pointing to the ladies. I said Ok, I’d trust him … this time. He half smiled and said “I have to authenticate”, and showed me his credit card. He was paying!

After we left with a couple of new cups and two microwave safe bowl for breakfast, we went to the Co-op and then home by the usual east side road. Stopping at Staffin Slip to check out the new hardcore that’s been added to the slip to provide a base for a new terminal there. Took a few photos there, but there are so many mobile homes parked there now, it’s difficult to get a clear landscape view. Driving back to the house, we caught a glimpse of the marquee that’s been erected for Saturday.

June and Ian arrived tonight after having had dinner with Jackie and Murdo. Scamp and Jackie had a long discussion about dresses and fascinators an combination fascinators and hats. Strange concoction!

Later Mairi who owns the house dropped in with a cake and some fresh eggs. Again we sat and talked. When she left, I took the two Sonys out and got today’s PoD.

Not sure what’s happening tomorrow. No firm plans made.

Emptying bags – 18 May 2022

There’s not much you can say about driving 250ish miles with a couple of stops.

Actually it was a fairly pleasant drive up through the west highlands to Fort William where we stopped for lunch and essentials like beer, wine and prosecco, and also to take on some really expensive petrol. Not the most expensive petrol we saw, because further on in our journey at Loch Cluanie we found an out of the way hotel with petrol on sale for £1.99 per litre!

We passed Eilean Donan Castle, but didn’t stop although a lot of folk did pause to photograph the biscuit tin castle that isn’t nearly as old as it looks. No, we went on over the bridge which has lost some of its elegance with a new conveyer belt stretching out to a deep water mooring for ships to take on what looks like gravel from an excavation. Such a pity. I’d still photograph it if the light was right and then just photoshop out the offending structure. We made our second stop near Loch Ainort to photograph the falls. They weren’t as impressive as they sometimes are, but it wasn’t raining and there was the opportunity to get the camera out of the bag and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance! It’s a long time, and many cameras ago, since I last took pictures of them. That became PoD.

We didn’t bother to stop in Portree, but carried on to Digg and pulled up at Jackie and Murdo’s house around 5.30pm. Not a bad time after leaving home about 10.45am. A cup of coffee in the house and time for Scamp and her sister to catch up on preparations for Jaki’s wedding. Just a quick stop to break our journey before we drove to the cottage. Our holiday home for a week.

Just had time to start unpacking all those bags and then we walked down to J&M’s, which is barely 200m from the cottage, for dinner. After dinner and after Murdo had shooed off his brother and his sister in law, we sat in the living room, me with a glass of very nice Johnnie Walker Black Label and Scamp and sister with a G ’n’ T, while Murdo took up station in the kitchen watching Rangers ultimately lose the championship 5-4 on penalties. Such a terrible way to lose. We spoke to Mairi later and she had us in stitches with her stories of the bride and the bridesmaids antics getting a spray tan for the wedding. A spray tan in Skye?

We left later and made our way back to the cottage, were I’m writing this.

Tomorrow we may make our usual journey round the top of the island and down to Portree. The big city!

 

Back and Forth – 11 May 2022

After yesterday’s strange behaviour of the Blue car, I was hoping for some resolution, or at least an explanation.

Before that could happen, there was some coffee to be drunk and some stories to be told. Before even that, Scamp was out to get her hair cut. With that done successfully, we headed hesitantly to the Costa in the Town Centre. Nothing untoward happened and the blue car behaved very well.

I met Val and we had Flat Whites and a cake each. He was telling me he’d had a fall and showed me the bruises to prove it. He has been renovating a 1946 radio. Val loves a challenge and this was certainly that. Of course, something of that age doesn’t have transistors inside, it runs on valves. Glass valves with all sorts of coils and things inside them and a multitude of pins protruding from the base. I told him I remember my dad taking the valves out of our old radio and cleaning all those fine pins with emery paper, dusting them off and carefully putting them back in place. It was a wonderful thing when he could tune into radio stations in faraway places and hear folk talking in foreign languages. Nowadays we just take without thinking that you can see and hear what’s happening all over the globe, instantly on TV or on your phone even. I admire Val’s ability to rebuild these old devices.  I showed him the photos in a photobook Scamp and I had had printed of our long weekend in Old Newton.  Jamie and Simonne, he was very impressed with the house and garden, as was Isobel when she saw the book.

I had a word with Isobel who was with Sheila in a different part of Costa’s. She looks so much younger now that she doesn’t need glasses after her cataract surgery. A very independent woman she delighted in telling me that she manages to put her drops in by herself.

I drove Val home because he’s feeling a bit stiff after his fall and also because he’s lost a bit of his confidence. Then I went and filled up the blue car before picking up Scamp and Isobel then took the lady with the new all seeing eye back to the Village.

Drove to Stirling, ready for a fight, as Scamp described it. The young bloke on the desk listened to my story and started telling me they didn’t have any free appointments today, then when I said I needed the car for next week he relented and managed to get me a slot at 4pm today. I thanked him and we drove home, had a bit of lunch before hoovering up all the sticky tree buds that always appear at this time of year. When I thought the car was looking at least a bit tidier than it had been I drove to Stirling again. Dropped off the keys and sat down to read my Kindle which I’d been bright enough to bring with me. Just over an hour later the young bloke came over and showed me the printout from the computer the blue car had been connected to. He agreed that there half a dozen different failures the test had thrown up. The mechanic had cleared all the fails and re-tested the car and it came up clean, so it was safe to drive. I thanked him for getting me the slot and for dealing with it so promptly, and I was on my way back home, through the rush hour traffic. I’d hate to have to drive through that every day. Fish and chips for dinner. Just what I needed after a stressful day.

The weather today was wild! Gusty wind blowing in heavy rain showers and then blowing them away again to let the sun shine though. PoD was a shot taken in the garden. It’s an azalea that lives in a sheltered corner of the garden and is flowering beautifully just now.

Tomorrow we are hoping for a more relaxing day, although it looks like rain for at least some of it.

Sensible Shoes – 10 May 2022

We were going in to Glasgow today to get me a pair of sensible shoes. They would make a change from the black Ghillie brogues I have just now. The brogues themselves are actually quite comfortable, but the long laces criss-crossing the knee length kilt socks are awkward things to tie and uncomfortable after a while. I thought I’d try a pair of brown brogues instead. The first shop I tried had a pair that seemed to be what I was looking for. Foolishly I didn’t try them on, but went looking to see if there was anything else in a similar style.

There were loads of shoes in a similar style, but none that caught my eye. One pair looked the part, but when I tried them on, there was something just not right about them. Scamp noticed the creases in the leather that showed that they have been tried at home and returned as not suitable. They weren’t suitable for me either. There were brogues in dark brown, tan and even yellow. Brogues made from leather with tartan patches, some with tweed patches. Some were definitely meant for tramping the peat bogs of Wester Ross, weighing in at about a hundredweight each and others so thin you could spit peas through them. M&S had a great selection in every size under the sun … except mine. Eventually, after a coffee and a croissant in Nero I made my decision to go back to the first shop and try on that pair. They fitted perfectly. The looked like I wanted them to look. They were solid without being too clumpy. I bought them. The assistant wanted to put them in a machine that would spray them with some undisclosed liquid that would make them waterproof, stain-resistant, crease resistant and self ironing. She seemed quite disappointed when I said I’d polish them myself with shoe polish.

We drove home after Scamp had picked some cosmetics to make her look even more beautiful than she already is, if that’s possible. On the way to the car I grabbed a couple of photos from the JL bridge. One of them became PoD after some gentle toning and tweaking in Lightroom.

Lunch was a piece ’n’ banana. Fresh bread and a banana. The only thing that would make it better was a sprinkling of sugar, but I decided to forego that pleasure. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. I took a walk over St Mo’s later, but there wasn’t much to see although I did get one decent photo which is on Flickr.

Scamp was off to choir tonight, so I was going to be a salsa helper all by myself. The class was much the same as last week. We went over the same moves as last week and then Jamie added in Damé then, just for the hell of it, Damé Dos. It’s about a level 3 move, but the folk all enjoyed it. Really, it could have been carnage, but it didn’t. Great fun.

When I got home and pressed the button to stop the engine, all the lights in the car went out and it wouldn’t start again. The car wouldn’t lock and the boot wouldn’t open. Inside my car’s key fob there is a hidden key. I used it to lock, then unlock the car. Then I started it as normal, well nearly normal. It appears that the trip mileage had been reset and also the mpg was reset. The second time this has happened in the last couple of weeks. I’m taking it to the garage tomorrow.

Tomorrow, apart from a trip to Stirling we’re both hoping to go for coffee. Me with Val and Scamp with Isobel.

Dancin’, Drivin’ and Helensburgh – 7 May 2022

That was the day in three words. Sorry about the last sweary word, Jamie!

Drove to Brookfield today and found that instead of the quickstep we’d been practising, we were dancing a Foxtrot, a Tango Serida, a <spit> Cha-Cha, a ‘Baby’ Waltz and as many sequence dances as they could cram in. I actually enjoyed the Foxtrot. Quite an elegant dance. The tango serida was just a bit of meaningless fluff. Instantly forgettable. The cha-cha I almost managed and the ‘baby’ waltz is just a waltz we’ve been messing about with for weeks now. Could be useful for dances if nobody knows what it should REALLY look like! Thankfully there weren’t too many sequence dances to fit in as time was tight. All in all, not as bad as it could have been.

<Warning DON’T read this Jamie>
It had been a 20mph drag getting through the roadworks on the M8 this morning and I’d no intention of facing them again on the way back, so I suggested we go for a drive to Helensburgh. When we got there, OH NO! The carpark was gone. The big carpark with a million space and no charge for parking was gone. In its place was a steel and glass featureless lump. Apparently it is a Leisure Centre. A Leisure Centre in Helensburgh is a bit pointless. Most of the inhabitants are well over 80 and the rest are sailors who work at the naval base a few miles up the estuary and who have their own free (I guess) leisure centre at the base. Finally found a place to park, and had to pay! For the first time in Helensburgh, we had to pay! What is the world coming to. Even worse, the pizza shop was closed. We walked along the esplanade and I took a few photos of wee dinghies sailing and trying to race in an almost complete calm. Had a coffee and a panini each in a busy little Costa off the main road. Scamp found another clothes shop and bought a dress. Further on she found a matching fascinator that didn’t look like a black widow spider! My purchases of the day were a few slices of black pudding, two lamb and sausage meat patties and two Italian sausages that smelled strongly of garlic. We drove back home with out touching the roadworks on the M8.
<OK Jamie. It’s safe to come back>

That was about it for the day. A photo of the wee dinghies trying to race became PoD. Dinner was Chicken Pasta in a Tomato Ragu. More a Monday dinner than a Saturday, but it filled a wee space.

Tomorrow I must go out and take some meaningful photos. I just feel I’m treading water these days and need to get out and take photos of things that interest me. Also I really need to do something about my phone. It’s beginning to fail in quite a few ways. Any suggestions or recommendations would be welcome.

Change of plan

Driving to Perth for coffee. But …

I intended driving up to Perth today to get some coffee from my favourite tea and coffee shop, but on the way there I was calculating how much petrol I’d use and how much the drive would cost me. When I worked it out, it would be way cheaper to just order it online and pay the £3 delivery charge. So I changed my destination to Kincardine. At least I could get a walk and some different photos, plus free parking. The weather wasn’t great, with the rain clouds building from the west, but I got some interesting views, well, I think so anyway. The rain was just starting when I was halfway home, it hasn’t stopped. Kincardine did, however, provide today’s PoD.

I came home via Tesco to get something for lunch and some milk. No alcohol today. Now, I’m not saying that’s because Scamp isn’t at home this weekend, that’s purely coincidental!

Struggled with my Sudoku after the late lunch but it still remains unsolved until tomorrow. Couldn’t quite decide what would be dinner tonight. Would it be home made pizza or Golden Bowl. I eventually gave in and had Golden Bowl make me a fairly decadent Sweet and Sour Chicken Balls with Fried Rice. My only complaint was the fried rice was a bit soggy, but the sweet and sour was delicious. I know I’ll suffer for it tonight, but I don’t really care.

Finally finished Amongst Our Weapons. The little short story at the end was confusing, but added to the title, I felt.

I’ve just finished a photo swap with Alex showing our favourite photos from the last week or so. Really good to have someone to bounce ideas off.

Jamie sent some cracking photos of his day off in NYC. Beautiful skyline behind him on the boat. I really hope Time Square is equally good. You deserve it Jamie.

That’s it for today. Now I need to go and get the house looking more like a home than a student flat!

Tomorrow Scamp returns and expects everything to be just like she left it! It might be!

Me and my big mouth – 29 April 2022

You’d think I’d know by now.

Scamp was supposed to be travelling to St Andrews today for a weekend with The Witches. However the latest plan was for them to travel up together on Saturday, tomorrow. I don’t think she was too impressed with the change.

We drove to Livingston today to the “Designer Outlet” which really means last year’s fashion for cheap as chips prices. Other shops are there too, but basically it’s clothing and shoes that predominate. We split up when we got there. I was looking for a pair of cheap but waterproof trainers, Scamp was looking for another dress for the wedding. Eventually we met up and she showed me a dress that she though would work for one of the weddings. I told her I wasn’t impressed and realised immediately what a faux pas I’d made. I must say in my defence that it was my honest opinion, but I suppose I could have phrased it better. I should know that in a situation like this there is no taking back what you’ve said, but I tried oil on troubled waters, but it didn’t work. The lady was not for turning.

Instead, we went for lunch in Wagamama. Scamp had Chicken Raisukaree which is allegedly a mild curry. A mild curry doesn’t have a full red chilli chopped into it, but this one did. I had Chicken and Prawn Yaki Soba. It was a bit dry, but actually a great mix of textures. I managed to eat all of mine with chopsticks. We had a side of Ebi Katsu, prawns fried in panko breadcrumbs. Always a favourite with us.

I don’t know what magic was in that lunch, but I felt so much better after it. We drove back home to find that the plan for the weekend had changed back to the original and they were travelling up today. They were supposed to meet at Annette’s (Cocktail Witch) at 4pm. The 4pm came and went but still no firm decision, then about an hour later a text arrived to say that Jeanette (can’t remember her Witch name) would pick up Scamp (Musical Witch) in five minutes. Luckily Scamp was already packed, organised and waiting. Right on time, Jeanette arrived and whisked Scamp off to meet up with Annette.

I got a text about an hour later to say they’d arrived. I now have what the kids at school used to call “an empty”, ie, the house to themselves. I took a walk over to St Mo’s with the Sony a7 and the big, heavy 105mm macro lens. I saw my PoD as I was walking over to the park. It was a woman walking along the avenue of trees to the shops. Of course I took more photos, but that was the stand out PoD.

After processing it and consuming a G ’n’ T, I composed this story and am now ready to post it.

Hazy, I’ve just finished Amongst Our Weapons and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although, having seen the actual Beverly Brook, I’m not sure its waters would be pure enough for a Birthing Pool. Since I got the Waterstones version, I get a few more chapters with the ‘free’ short story Miroslav’s Fabulous Hand. I don’t know if you go that.

Jamie. I’m still not completely sold on a bacon and mashed potato pizza, but I’m willing to be converted. Bubblegum ice cream on a waffle, on however is probably a step too far.

I’m off to bed now to decide how to use my free Saturday. It certainly won’t be spent ballroom dancing for an hour and a half!