A Pencil – 4 July 2022

I found a pencil today. I’d searched everywhere I could think of yesterday to no avail, but today it was found.

I’d been roughing out a sketch of Jacki and Allan’s house and been using a giant A2 sheet of paper which meant I needed a nice big, thick pencil. I knew that Hazy had given me a lovely wee stubby clutch pencil many years ago and I thought it would be ideal for the purposes, but like I said in the intro, despite Scamp’s and my intensive search, we couldn’t find it. Even this morning, with the sketch half finished, I still couldn’t lay my hands on that pencil. Yesterday we had hauled out loads of boxes and chucked out lots of stuff in the process, but the pencil wasn’t to be found. This morning, after another hour’s fruitless search I remembered two places it could be. Both of them were leather shoulder bags and it was in a zipper pocket in the second bag that I found the pencil. I swear the lines I drew with that pencil were the best in the whole sketch.

What had started out as a rough, now has a splash of paint on it, but it’s still going to be a rough. I don’t think I like the photo I’m working from and need a better view. It was taken in a rush on the day before we left to come home. I don’t think I can use that as an excuse for a few days in Skye, but it’s a nice idea.

I took a walk over to St Mo’s this afternoon to clear my head and because Scamp wanted to walk over to the shops. I walked with her halfway there and then walked round St Mo’s a couple of times while she went round the shops. Lots of cow parsley flowerhead on show in St Mo’s, all bobbing around in the gusty wind, but that didn’t seem to deter the hover flies and beetles from landing on them and having lunch. It was a nightmare trying to get photos in that wind, even more challenging than yesterday along the canal. Then I found my PoD which is a plant called St John’s Wort whose main claim to fame is as a herbalist source of anti-depressant. Something to do with the flowers, it would have to be, because the seeds are deadly poison. I’ve seen those black berries in the winter and wondered why no animal or bird was eating them and now I know why. Look, but don’t touch.

I watched two more episodes of Slough House. Some of Lamb’s on-liners are pure gems, or maybe it’s just my sense of humour.

Tomorrow I’ve arranged to meet Alex in Glasgow to go to the Art Galleries. He wants to do some slow shutter arty photos, I want to go and look at a John Byrne exhibition. We’ll probably meet up later for lunch, all being well. Scamp intends to cut the front grass while I’m away.


An injured dog – 3 July 2022

This morning, Scamp suggested a walk along the Forth & Clyde Canal. I agreed.

We drove to Auchinstarry and got what was probably the last space in the car park. I’d decided to bring two cameras with me, one with a macro lens and one with a medium long zoom, to reduce the need to change lenses out in the wild. That meant I needed the new rucksack. Actually, it worked out quite well, because although there were patches of blue sky, there were also a lot of heavy looking rain clouds. Having the rucksack meant I could carry my rain jacket but be free to walk with just a jersey and trousers. Boots, of course were mandatory for both of us and of course, Scamp chose to wear her rain jacket, just to make sure it wouldn’t rain.

Lots of folk walking dogs or walking in family groups and loads of cyclists. I couldn’t blame them, it was a lovely morning. I’d only seen a couple of hover flies in St Mo’s during the last few weeks, but there were literally clouds of them along the canal. I think the reason for that is the cow parsley and hogweed flowers are out along the side of the towpath and those flowers are very attractive to hover flies. I’d put the 50mm macro lens on the A7, but it was having a hard time focusing on the insects because there was a stiff breeze which made the big flower head bob about a lot. I wished I’d packed the long, heavy 105mm macro instead. But I carried on regardless and did manage a couple of shots that were sharp enough to keep.

We walked as far as Twechar where we left the canal tow path and crossed the road on to the old railway line and walked it. There are some lovely landscape shots to be had there and I decided I’d remove the macro lens and stick on the kit lens instead. I was half way through the transfer when a cyclist appeared heading the way we’d come. He said he thought I’d an injured dog when he saw the brown and dull green rucksack. Scamp told him “No, it’s just a man who always needs to change things!” He laughed and said that was perfectly all right! I apologised and we went our separate ways after I’d taken a few landscape photos.

For the last four or five years a great amount of work has been going on to improve the flow or the Garrel Burn. It’s finally finished and although the path I used to walk has not seen a great improvement, it would appear that the burn now meanders rather than flows through the wetland. We walked part of it on our way back to the car. Maybe next time we’ll take the Wibbly Wobbly Way and see what improvements there are.

We went home via Lidl to get a chicken for dinner and came home with about £50 worth of chicken, bread, cherries, kitchen scales and a bottle of gin. How I wish we had a Lidl rather than a manky Aldi in Cumbersheugh.

We watched an action packed British F1 GP with dangerous looking crashes and the lead changing hands with every second that passed. Glad to see that Max isn’t having things all his own way.

Spoke to Jamie and heard how the roof problem is still on hold until the bats survey is complete. Glad we don’t have bats in our belfry. Also got advice on completing the mandatory LF test for boarding the ship. Thanks for that Jamie.

PoD was a picture of an, as yet unknown bright pink plant growing by the side of the railway path. If anyone recognises it, an ID would be appreciated.

Tomorrow we have no plans.



The first of July – 1 July 2022

Hopefully a warmer and calmer month than ‘Flaming June’.

We faced the potential of more rain and drove up to Tesco for milk, bread and breakfast cereals and ended up coming home with what was a fairly substantial weekly shop.

Back home I had my usual end of month clean up of the last month’s photos. It’s amazing how many photos I take in a month, even once I’ve culled and deleted the obvious junk photos.

Because I’d cleared out some space on the computer, that gave me the chance to fill that space with more photos. That’s why I went out for a walk in the afternoon to get some photos. It was definitely going to be an insect of some description that was going to be PoD and it turned out to be a Ringlet butterfly that filled that first space in Flickr. I’m trying to actively reduce the number of photos I post in Flickr to increase the quality of my submissions.

While I was over in St Mo’s taking photos, Scamp was pruning and clearing space in the garden, digging things out and moving things around. Just keeping things in good order.

We did manage half an hour or so in the garden when I was back from my walk and Scamp had taken her gardening gloves off. Time to read a bit and have a glass of wine. Then the sun disappeared and it was time to head inside again.

Tomorrow hoping to get one more dance lesson at Brookfield before the teachers go off on their three week holiday work on a cruise ship.

Dancin’ – 30 June 2022

Out dancing in Paisley

We drove over to Paisley just after midday for today’s tea dance. Got there late as usual. My fault again, as usual. Danced the afternoon away. We didn’t dance the Tango because we were too busy talking and we didn’t dance the Quickstep, because we can’t remember any of the steps Michael taught us and we never get a straight run at it with Stewart and Jane because we’re off visiting somewhere. One of these times we’ll get a chance for a private lesson and begin to dance the Quickstep. Everything else, Waltz, Social Foxtrot, Rumba and Cha-Cha plus innumerable sequence dances. It was a great way of adding to our step count and must have done us some good, because we were both exhausted when the ‘Last Waltz’ was called.

When the dancing was done, I gave Stewart the painting he’d asked me for back in February. It’s not the exact one he saw on Facebook, but a very good copy, and a larger copy too. I think it’s going to an 80 year old lady who simply loves ‘Green Door’ by Shakin Stevens and that’s what’s in the painting, my version of Green Door. I told him that I hoped it would exorcise that song which constantly runs through my head. I catch myself singing it at odd times through the day. It must be some kind of strange disease, because I hate that song!

As we were driving home I kept watching the great black clouds that were gathering in front of us and remembered the warning ‘Alexa’ gave this morning for thunderstorms. However, we got home without getting wet. The car took a bit of a soaking, but we were dry. Scamp’s washing that she’d left out also got an extra rinse from the rain, but the sun was warm and there was a gentle breeze, so most of them were drying. Despite that, she decided it was time to take them in and it was a good choice, because not long after that, the rain came.

I couldn’t be bothered going over to St Mo’s after the rain stopped. Instead I took some photos in and around the garden, but they weren’t that good. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t make a silk purse out of that sow’s ear. It was after our, Bacon and Borlotti Beans, dinner when I took a look outside and saw the light shining through the rain and the roses that grow round the back door. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Roses in the rain.

For once, I enjoyed the tea dance. I felt at home with most of the dances, even the social foxtrot which we’ve never managed, we did quite well today. It wasn’t full of fancy moves, it was just moving to the music, but that’s what dancing is, isn’t it?

Absolutely no plans for tomorrow, but there will be something, you can bet your boots on that.

Thirty years a slave – 27 June 2022

Scamp reminded me that eight years ago today I retired after thirty years a slave.

My good (for ‘good’ read ‘only’) suit was going to the dry cleaners today, hopefully to remove some mysterious marks on the jacket. Since the dry cleaners is next to Tesco, it seemed a shame not to go and get some messages and Scamp’s meds. So we ended up with a fair load to bring back.

Back home Scamp started phoning P&O to check when we could book seats on the plane, only to find after 45minutes hanging on the phone that we do that through Jet 2. However, at least the procedure on Jet2 was really easy. One down. Next we had to get proof of Covid vaccination printed off. Two down, but still more than a few to go.

After lunch we went for a walk round St Mo’s. Once round for Scamp and twice round for me. One of the little green spiders with a red spot near its spinneret caught my eye. Pretty colour patterns on a reed leaf also appealed, but it was a Honeysuckle flower I saw on my way home that got PoD.

Spoke to Jamie tonight and heard about gardening in that enormous garden of his. Also, preparations for moving to a new job are high in his mind.

After dinner we watched Andy Murray get safety through his first match at Wimbledon.

Not a lot done today, but important things ticked off the list. Oh yes, and Scamp has a tiny baby tomato on her plant!

Tomorrow’s activities depend greatly on the weather.


Recovery – 26 June 2022

We got to bed too late last night and suffered the consequences today.

With that in mind, we decided to have a more relaxed day today and possibly get to bed at a more reasonable hour. Hopefully on the same day we got up. So here I am writing this blog at 22:50. That means I have just about an hour to get all the ducks in a row and in the right order. Here goes!

A late start to the day, but that was inevitable. We filled the washing machine and set it to work. The poor thing must have been almost totally full, but it struggled manfully with the load. Then Scamp phoned June to see if she was at home and entertaining visitors. She answered “Yes” to both questions, so Scamp gathered together all the things belonging to either June or Ian that she (Scamp) had brought back from Skye and hadn’t got round to returning to their rightful owner(s). Then she drove up to June’s house and deposited them and basically had a good blether with June for the rest of the morning. Me? I just messed around as I usually do on a Sunday morning. Doing nothing, but filling my time with it!

After Scamp had returned and we’d had lunch the washing was done, but it looked like it was raining, so we waited before committing to hanging out the washing. When the rain came on in a more serious way, Scamp gave up on the idea of hanging out the washing and just hung most of it on airers of various types around the house.

In between the showers, the sun nearly came out and the sky got a bit brighter, lighting up some alliums in a bunch of cut flowers on the table. I took some photos of the flowers and one of them eventually became PoD. I used the LensBaby Sweet 35, but didn’t actually label the photo with that as there is a bit of snobbery in photographic circles about using LensBaby lenses. I can’t see why. It’s a distorting lens, yes, but all lenses distort reality to some degree. To ostracise cheap(ish) lenses purely because they are not made by Nikon, Canon or Sony is simple snobbery, and it has no place in my photography.

We discussed dinner and set plans for Chicken Goujons with potatoes and broccoli. All was fine and well, until Scamp took the chicken out of the fridge and asked me to smell it. It was definitely off and went in the bin. I volunteered to walk down to the shops to get more. It wasn’t really raining by then, just a smirr in the wind but the wind was gusty and cold.

We were fated not to have those chicken goujons today, because the chicken fillets I’d bought turned out to be a bit tough. However they weren’t so tough that we couldn’t eat them.

We got a message from Jamie to say that they’d been working in the garden all day and time had just disappeared, they’d phone tomorrow. At least they had some sun by the sound of things. We’d just had wind and rain.

I did get a chance to write to Alex. Hope he’s feeling better and we can do a catch-up this week.

Tomorrow, we have to take my good suit (ie the one that fits me) to the cleaners to get some stains removed. Other than that nothing much to do. Weather looks better than today, but Tuesday? You don’t want to know what the weather forecast is for Tuesday.

Well, that was a long day – 22 June 2022

Today was the longest day. I used to argue with my dad about which was the longest day. You were right dad, the 22nd June

After a cup of coffee each, Scamp announced that she was going to the shops to get something for lunch, but before that she suggested Kedgeree for dinner. That suited me and I got a slab of smoked haddock out of the freezer. It was just warm enough to walk to the shops wearing shorts. I thought I’d made the wrong decision at first, but when you’re walking you don’t notice the cool breeze so much.

We walked back and made some lunch. Mine was roast ham, lettuce, baby tomatoes and sweet peppers in a wrap. Scamp had a tomato sandwich. After lunch, Scamp went out to work in the garden. I’d done some gardening yesterday, so that was my work done for the week. Instead, I took the Sony with a short macro lens and a Lensbaby for a walk in St Mo’s. Saw a sneaky spider on a grass flower waiting to ambush any unsuspecting insects and used the Lensbaby to photograph some wild Geraniums bobbing around on the breeze. The geraniums got PoD.

Back home I did a bit of painting, well it was more a case of just slapping some paint on a sketch I did last week. The paint improved the sketch, but then again, covering it in a coat of Crown gloss would have improved it too, in my opinion. I wasn’t impressed.

Tonight’s dinner was Kedgeree which is one of Scamp’s specialities. Spicy but not too hot and lots of lovely smoked haddock in it to give that salty taste to the rice. All topped off with an egg that was just runny and no more. Lovely meal.

Watched another Sewing Bee tonight, but I think it was last week’s episode. I won’t say who left tonight just in case any of my readers haven’t watched it yet. I’d intended watching the first episode of Slough House tonight on Apple TV+ after I signed up to Apple for at least a month. I’d just finished Mick Herron’s latest book, Bad Actors. In the epilogue he explains all the shenanigans that went into making the film for Apple.

Tomorrow we’re booked for coffee with Isobel and after that a visit to Calders is on the cards to find a circular metal support to carry the weight of the flowers on Scamp’s latest rose – Lady of Shalott.

Out for lunch, a drink and some history – 20 June 2022

We took the bus today, but not into Glasgow.

We got the bus up to the Town Centre and then another one out to Dunfermline. Scamp’s suggestion and a very good one too. Walked through the town that’s now become a city, having been granted city status by Mrs McQueen at her Platignum Jubbly. We walked on into Pittencrief Park and down to the Peacock cafe in the park. There we made a mistake and had a coffee and a scone in the outside terrace. Please, someone, remind me never to have coffee and a scone in that cafe again! Especially if I know I’m intending having fish ’n’ chips and a pint in Wetherspoon’s later. What should have been a flat white became a latte. The excuse was that the dishwasher in the cafe was broken and they had to resort to disposable cups. That was fine, but why did they put one shot in the mug sized cup then fill it to the brim with milk? Worse still, why did I drink it?

We walked out feeling full and walked round the park. I forgot to mention that it was an absolutely stunning day. Wall to wall sunshine. After we’d done a circuit of the park we went to inspect the flower gardens. The one thing I will say about the park is that the gardeners do an excellent job. The place is immaculate.
The glasshouse in the park is rarely open, but today it was and we really enjoyed the varied and specialised plants growing there. My favourite was the Bougainvillea hanging above the fish pond. Beautiful big orange flowers, glowing in the sunshine.

We eventually left, because the heat was becoming difficult to bear and I fancied a walk to the Abbey which isn’t far from the glasshouse as the crow flies, but the problem was we weren’t crows and we weren’t flying. So, we’d to walk down an the old worn stone steps into Pittencrief Glen and then follow the river upstream until we found a bridge to cross the river. Then, of course we had to climb the same amount of stairs we’d just descended to get up to the abbey.

It was worth the climb. We couldn’t get in to the ground floor area of the abbey because the stone flagged floor was being steam cleaned, but we might go back another day. Scamp wanted to look inside the abbey church which is really two churches joined together. Very impressive stonework inside and beautiful architecture. My favourite part of it was the flying buttresses outside and the perspective looking through them. Scamp was more interested in the stained glass windows, some of which looked really old.

Outside we found we were only a five minute walk back to the town/city. I always thing of places like Glasgow, Edinburgh or London when I hear a place being called a city. Dunfermline is really more like a small town, but someone thought it would be a good idea to give it a bit of a boost by nominating it to be a city and Mrs McQueen or one of her advisors agreed. Money probably changed hands too. Anyway, after some dithering and a seat in the park, we decided we would go for lunch in Wetherspoons, so we had a small fish ’n’ chips each with mushy peas. Scamp had a glass of wine and I had a pint of lager and all for the princely sum of fifteen quid.

After that we made our way back to the bus station and caught the bus home. For the first time on my new smart watch, I achieved my 10,000 steps. Let’s hope there are plenty more.

PoD was a shot I took just after we arrived and it shows the turrets of the City Chambers of Dunfermline towering like a Disney palace above the city’s rooftops.

That was a good day. Scamp suggests that we should have one day a week where neither of us drives. I think that’s a good idea. Tomorrow looks a lot cooler and duller than today, so maybe some gardening and just maybe a trip to the dump.

Dancing in the Sunshine – 19 June 2022

None of yer Slow – Slow – Quick – Quack – Slooow, ballroom dancin’. Dancin’! Reely dancin’. Salsa dancin’.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and thanked her for her very funny card (No, I wasn’t offended, I can improve in the resit!), and her Father’s Day present. It’s official now, I’m an Artist! I’ve got the mug to prove it! Good to know that you didn’t have too much trouble with thunderstorms down south.

It was a lovely morning and I’d actually planned to go for a walk in Colzium estate, but left it too late, as usual. Instead we took our time over lunch and then got ready to drive down to Glasgow Green for today’s main event. Shannon the salsa teacher had organised a Salsa Picnic, bring your own blanket and food. We got there just as things were heating up and after meeting folk we hadn’t seen for years, we did manage a few dances. Then more chatting to old friends, then Shannon started a Rueda where we dance with a partner in a big circle and the leader calls out the move and everyone performs it at the same time. Then we change parters when we’re told to and so it goes on. That’s the theory, anyway. In reality it never works quite as smoothly or as simply as that. Some folk had never danced a Rueda before, others thought they knew, but didn’t. It was what it usually is, a car crash. But, and this is the most important thing, but it was a good humoured car crash. Nobody fell out with anyone else, everybody, even me was kind and considerate to everyone else.

However, dancing two Ruedas, one after the other and energetic couple dancing too takes it out of us ‘oldies’, so we excused ourselves and went for a walk round Glasgow Green where there seemed to be an early Gay Pride meeting for teens. We walked round it but didn’t buy into it. We’ll wait for the real Gay Pride procession in Glasgow on Saturday. So much more, I don’t know, maybe just grown up!

We walked back to the Doulton Fountain where the salsa was going on. We had another dance and then found more folk we hadn’t met face to face for years. I took a few photos, but my favourite and PoD was one of an Indian group having a big family picnic on the grass of The Green. One of the salsa dancers had brought his drone along and was filming the dancing from an elevated position. However, my little brain was full and I’d danced almost all moves at least twice. That’s what happens when you don’t practise every week, you just remember the moves you like the best. We drove home.

We sat in the garden for a while with a good book each soaking up some sun and watching the busy bees. Since it was Father’s day, I got to choose my dinner. I chose Mince ’n’ Tatties and Scamp chose ‘Rats’. It’s nice to get real (not posh, not fancy) food.

Spoke to Jamie later and told him I appreciated the ’Scottish’ Father’s day card from my ‘Wane’ not ‘Wain’ as some say or ‘Wean’ as it should be. Good to hear that they are bat free at present. If you have any more problems with the bats, just call in Hazy and Neil, they have experience dealing with the flying rats!

A few more minutes out in the sun, then it was time to call a halt, because that east wind was becoming a bit cool, so it was time to bring the seats in and shut the back door.

That was a good day. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So did Scamp. So nice to have a dance in the sunshine and to have such a clever and thoughtful family behind you.

Maybe going east tomorrow and maybe on the bus.

A more relaxed day – 18 June 2022

After yesterday’s busy day, a more relaxed attitude was required.

Up fairly early and showered, then when I was getting dressed, Scamp said there was no rush. I said “I know” because I was well organised this morning, dressed and ready well before our 10am start for the drive to dance class. Then she said that not enough people were available and the class had been cancelled late last night but she hadn’t noticed the message coming in. That put a whole new complexion on things. Actually I was in two minds about it. Pleased, because I hate driving through the road works on the M8, but sad because, despite my protestations, we are beginning to move better on the dance floor and we’ve missed a lot of classes recently. It would not surprise me if the teachers called a halt to the Saturday morning class in the summer, simply because there are fewer and fewer people available at this time of the year. Oh well, it would be a more relaxing day than we had planned.

So after changing back into shorts and tee shirt, I sat around for a while and didn’t do anything useful, while Scamp read. I’m pleased that I chose the Fitbit after all. It’s got a ‘get up and move’ feature that buzzes you if you’ve been sitting too long and tells you to get up and get at least 250 steps completed within a time limit of 15 minutes. That seems a long time to complete the 250 steps, but believe me it is so easy to say “Oh I’ll just sit for five minutes and then complete the steps” then find 16 minutes later that you’ve not done it. So I did do it when I was told to. At least once today!

After a grand lunch of tea and toast with beans, because I for one had eaten far too much yesterday, we planned the rest of the day. I wanted to get a sketch book from Hobbycraft at The Fort and Scamp had vouchers to use in Boots.

Neither of us could believe the crowds at The Fort. There are three gigantic car parks and each one seemed full. We were lucky and got a space right away, but there was a constant stream of cars prowling around looking for an empty slot. I got my sketch book and Scamp got her perfume. Neither of us were all that keen to say, so we gave up our parking slot, which disappeared before we’d driven round the corner, and drove home.

When we got home the rain started. We could see it coming across the hills when we were nearly home and Scamp managed to get the clothes in off the whirly just in time before the rain appeared.  Thankfully the blustery wind today had dried them well.  I took a few shots of flowers in the garden in the drizzly rain and the PoD by a nose was the new Hydrangea panticulata whose flowers actually do change hue as the seasons change, but the Shooting Star seedpods were a close second.

Dinner tonight was a reheated yesterday’s Chicken Cacciatore with some Jersey Royals added for good measure. Even better today, I thought, because the sauce had thickened even more.

Tomorrow we may go dancing at a Salsa picnic on Glasgow Green if the weather is kind to us.