Driving – 10 September 2021

Feeling a lot better this morning. No sign of yesterday’s Lurgi.

We got in the car and drove to the petrol station to buy some extremely expensive petrol that only had 5% of Ethanol in it. Better the devil you know when you’re on a fairly long journey, carrying half a tonne of stuff.

Drove out of the petrol station, still smarting from the expense and joined the M80 heading in the general direction of Glasgow. Merged on to the M73 which in turn merged on to the M74. Drove sedately past the roadworks at Hamilton that are due to finish in October (year not stated), watching the train of cars, vans and lorries on the other carriageway, a train that went on and on and on. Made a mental note to exit the motorway at Canderside on our return journey and not be caught in a stramash like this.

After a hundred miles or so, Scotland became England and the M74 became the M6. Exited at Penrith and then it was on to the smaller A66. Just before the exit, the Start/Stop app in the car signalled a System Failure. This had happened before and I reported it to Nissan at the service a week ago. I was told then that the Start/Stop “… Checks a lot of parameters …” Which was technospeak for “It just does that, we can’t fix it”. Another Nissan failure on an otherwise great car.

Not long after we left the outskirts of Penrith, we were on a stretch of road which should have been dual carriageway, but was under repair, so it became a slow moving single carriageway. Just after what seemed like an hour, but was probably a lot less, we took the turn off that eventually led through narrower and narrower roads to the house. Actually overshot it, but Scamp noticed and we arrived. First to arrive again!

Cup of tea on the patio and a quick Foxtrot along the paving stones. I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone had danced a Foxtrot along that patio! Jamie and Sim weren’t far behind us, having left home long before us. Their’s a six hour journey and ours only about two. The world is ill divided.

PoD was to confirm that roses, even in England, have the same beasties we have up north. Honest, we didn’t bring them with us.
Scamp made Chicken Cacciatore for dinner and we all sat round the table, talked and ate.

Tomorrow we’re going exploring.

Climbing and Flying – 1 September 2021

The assault on Croy Hill, the reverse direction.

Scamp suggested we go and visit Silvanus, the Roman warrior’s head that stands on the edge of Croy Hill, and instead of walking the usual path from Croy itself, we could walk along the canal and up on to the old railway line and tackle the hill from the north. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and sun, so the walk seemed like a good idea, but first I wanted a closer look at a plane.

We’ve seen and heard a Spitfire flying around the town and I wanted a closer look. With that thought in mind we drove up to Wardpark and past the airfield, but saw no evidence of the old warbird. Disappointed I drove over to Kilsyth and from there to Auchinstarry where we parked and put on sensible walking boots for the walk.

I’d forgotten just how steep the climb was from the canal up to the old mineral line, but thankfully once we had reached that path, most of the hard work was done and we were on level ground for a stretch. The statue of Silvanus was much further along than we remembered, but as we were walking I could hear the sound of the Spitfire’s Merlin engines although I couldn’t see the plane itself. I checked with Flightradar24 and found that the plane was almost over Carron Reservoir, about 5 miles away. The sound of the plane faded as it dropped behind the hills. We walked on and as we neared the statue we could hear it returning. This time, with the help of Flightradar I found it heading straight for us. I took a few photos of it before it banked and overflew the airfield before climbing and performing a neat slow roll. Then it turned and headed back with flaps and undercarriage down. A few more photos before it disappeared over the hill to the airfield. I wasn’t sure I’d captured it, but at least it was better than nothing. A little bit of research at home led me to its website. You can book a flight in this two seater Spitfire. £3,000 will get you a 30 min flight in this old lady, which is five years older than me. I may have to save my pennies for a long time before I book that flight!

We met a bloke at the statue who was a Kilsyth local and was impressed that he’d ID’d the Spitfire. He wasn’t a fan of the Silvanus head, but like us was pleased that it hadn’t been vandalised in the time it had been up on the hill. We said our goodbyes and headed up over the hill while he seemed to take a lower path. I must admit I was wary of the hill because we’d passed notices to say that the cattle were back on the hill for the winter. These cattle are big brutes, if I remember right and I don’t like cattle at the best of times. “The best of times “ being when there’s a fence between them and me. There are no fences on Croy Hill. However we didn’t meet any today and we took the ‘easier’ paths where they were available, missing out the tourist routes over the tops.

When we had passed the top and were coming down the other side I realises Scamp wasn’t behind me. I walked back, expecting to find her having a seat somewhere. She was nowhere to be seen. I shouted for her, twice, but no response. I changed to a wider path that was closer to the edge and there she was. Did she not hear me shouting? Yes, she had. That could have been a time to pick up a ‘black monkey’, but for some reason I didn’t lose it. I think I was just glad to see she hadn’t come to any harm. She said she was on the right path and knew I’d eventually realise I was on the wrong one. That could be the story of my life!

When we got back to the car it was absolutely boiling inside. Drove home with the air con on full. It was lovely.

I spent the afternoon cleaning the sensors of the two Sonys. They seem to be absolute dust magnets. They are a bit cleaner now. Not perfect, but a lot better than they were. After that I got a request from Jamie to fix a photo for Sim. It was a fairly easy bit of editing, made even easier by the new Photoshop. Scamp was cleaning up the leaves in the back garden and managed to scrape both arms raking leaves from under the blackcurrant bush. Then it was Guinness and Pimms time in the garden, in the sun.

Fish & Fried Potatoes with tomatoes for dinner. A new twist on Fish & Chips. After that we sat in the garden while I listened to the end of my Alan Parks book, Bobby March Will Live Forever. Good story with a poor reader. It was there I got PoD. I was looking at a wee single sweet pea flower backlit by the setting sun. It took a wee bit of editing to get it looking like my eyes saw it, but that’s what Lightroom excels at.

A quick practise tonight. Just about half an hour at the most, but we covered Tango, Waltz, Cha Cha and Bossa Nova in that time.

Tomorrow Scamp is intending to go for lunch with Isobel, June and Ian. I’m hopefully meeting Val for coffee in a different place, but at almost at the same time. Scamp and I will be able to compare and contrast our experiences!

Out on Dewdrop – 31 August 2021

Not really a cycle run, more a bramble hunt.

In the morning Scamp went out to get something for tonight’s dinner and came home with three Tesco bags full. While she was out I tried connecting the old Tamron zoom lens onto the Sony A7M2. I’ve made a few changes to some of the buttons and they make it easier to use the lens in manual mode. It does seem to work quite well as a manual lens now and to be honest the autofocus was never all that good. Just a pity the anti-shake doesn’t work now, it was useful. I took some photos of Scamp’s sweet peas in their wee jug that Hazy gave her and they looked quite good. Have a look on Flickr if you get a chance.

After lunch I pumped up the tyres on the Dewdrop and took it out for a short run down to an old path beside the railway where I knew I would get some brambles. Sure enough there were loads of them there and because it’s only a path and about 100m from the road, the fruit would be free from the chemicals given out by the lorries and vans that clog that road. I found another patch on the way home and managed to come home with just over 700g of black berries that are now stored in the freezer.

While I was out Scamp had been making Viennese Fingers and part coating them in dark chocolate without burning her fingers, thanks to H&N’s gift of a silicone jug. What clever folk they are. I’ve been stuffing my face with the little biscuits and can confirm that they taste as good as they look.

I was too busy picking brambles to take any photos today, so after changing out of my cycling gear I took the Sony A7 out with the macro lens attached and got some close-up shots in St Mo’s. No insects today to photograph, but I did get a chance to practise my manual focus skills again and most of the shots looked ok.  It was a Birdsfoot Trefoil that got PoD manually focused of course.

I’d heard a strange engine note while I was messing around in the morning photographing posies of sweet peas.  After a bit of checking on Flightrader 24 it turned out to belong to a Spitfire a tandem trainer version which was built in 1945, making it five years older than me.  It seemed to be based for the last couple of days at Cumbernauld Airport.  I did think I might go up and see if I could get a few photos, but I’d promised to go and hunt some brambles for Scamp, but while I was out in St Mo’s in the afternoon I caught a glimpse of the plane completing a half loop with a roll off the top, an Immelmann Turn.  Sounded wonderful.  May go and have a look for it tomorrow if it’s still there.

Also tomorrow we may go somewhere interesting for a walk, because tomorrow may be us nearing the end of these balmy end of Summer days. Plus, it will be the first day of meteorological autumn.  Night’s will be fair drawing in!

 

 

 

The Far East – 23 August 2021

The weather seemed to be set fair so we drove out into it.

Pointed the Blue Micra in the general direction of Edinburgh and stopped driving at Cramond which was our destination for the day. The day started under a disappointing milky white sky, but as we travelled east the clouds lifted and thinned so that by the time we were parking at Cramond there was definite form to the clouds which were breaking to allow the sun through. We went for a walk.

We walked along the esplanade, again in the general direction of Edinburgh. There wasn’t much choice here, with the Forth estuary to the north, the way we’d come to the south and the River Almond cutting off our walk to the west. If we’d been there earlier we could have walked over the causeway to Cramond Island, but it looked as if the tide was on the turn, so that would have been a dangerous and wet direction to take. Maybe another day.

On the walk we found a community wildflower garden. It was carefully cordoned off and two ladies were carrying metre square grids to help them in taking serious measurements or counts of something scientific. We just liked the colour combinations of the red poppies, blue cornflower and something like a big daisy, but bright yellow. They almost made PoD, but as it happened they only played a supporting role. PoD went to a Small Copper butterfly on a fading cone flower.

I’d hoped we’d get a coffee in the wee café, but Scamp had remembered that it’s only open at weekends, so we walked on. We passed my favourite trees. I don’t know what they are. I must ask someone who knows, but they look so elegant. Tall straight trunks with little bunches of leaves at the top looking like a bad haircut. That’s when Scamp noticed someone hadn’t poop scooped and she’d walked through it. For once I played the good Samaritan and offered to take her shoe down to the sea and wash it clean. Of course, in the process I managed to confirm that the tide was indeed coming in. In to my trainers, that is! That was far enough we decided and walked back to the ice cream van that’s always parked at the roundabout that marks the west end of the esplanade. Two cones by the sea. What’s not to like?

We walked up the path beside the river as far as the falls at the old ruined mill. Again I’d been hoping that a wee cafe that used to be there would be open, but it was under reconstruction, so no coffee today. There’s a great old tree next to the path. It sits on a steep slope and over the years the rain washing down that slope has removed most of the soil from its roots and they are now exposed to the air and covered in colourful fungi. Unfortunately it now has a white “X” painted on its trunk, so it may not have much longer to be climbed on by decades of children.

Back home I made a sort of salmon and pea tagliatelle which was less than successful. Maybe it’s worth another try.

Tomorrow looks like another dry day. Scamp has a hair appointment in the morning, but the afternoon might be free.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!

Out early again – 11 August 2021

Another fairly early rise, but not for photography this time.

Scamp had had an uncomfortable night with what seemed like the beginnings of a urine infection. She phoned the surgery just after 8am and they referred her to the pharmacist. We drove up there after it opened and when she had discussed things with the pharmacist, they recommended a course of antibiotics. I’m sure the ten minute wait for them must have felt like ten hours. Back home she was feeling better by lunchtime and I made some soup for lunch, well, I opened the tin and heated the soup. That’s the same thing as making some soup! It must have been good soup because she looked and sounded better after that.

I had intended going out this morning to test run the new camera, but the foregoing put paid to that and now that the patient was on the mend, the rain started. The weather fairies suggested that it might go off around 4pm. It was fairly thumping down. Not quite a thunderstorm, but not just light rain. I had found some repair patches that would fix the tear in my raincoat, so I spent an hour or so cutting them to the right shape and ironing them on. Since I had the iron on anyway, I ironed the elbow patches on to my old ‘Dennis’ rugby shirt. I’ve been meaning to do it for ages and now it’s half done. I’ve just to stitch them on and I’ll be happy with the repair.

About 5pm the rain did turn off and after checking that the patient had everything she needed I went for that walk in St Mo’s. I think I must have been the only person to risk a walk today. There was very little activity out in the park, but I did see a little snail hanging upside down from some wild flowers, choosing the best ones to eat. That was done with the Big Dog and got PoD, but the Little Dog got a quite good shot of fallen leaves. That was a strong contender. Both are on Flickr.

Scamp seems a lot better tonight and she’s already gone to bed to catch up on the sleep she missed last night.

Tomorrow we will see how the land lies before deciding what we’re doing. It looks like another wet day.

Recording Studio – 4 August 2021

Scamp did the clever music stuff, I was just the techy.

First there were messages to do, but I wasn’t needed for that, so I kept a low profile and allowed Scamp to do the donkey work. Just to show that I wasn’t shirking the work entirely, I removed the fairy lights from the back fence. I could just have cut the wires and ripped them all down, but I wanted to find out what was causing them to fail. I think it might be bird damage. The wee birds trot happily along the fence looking for beasties to eat. I think one or more of them have pecked through the wire. I was just finishing when Scamp appeared with the shopping.

Just before lunch we started to look at setting up the recording studio. Scamp had been asked if she could play a piece of music on her piano and put it onto CD, so Veronica could play the CD and sing to it at her daughter’s wedding. We could do this between us, we’ve done it before, but first we’d to work out how we managed it the last time. We started off with Scamp’s Windows laptop. I got Audacity, an excellent free music editing app, downloaded and running. As far as I could remember the procedure was to get a line out from the piano, plug it in to the headphone socket of the laptop and fool the laptop into using it as an input. Windows didn’t like that and refused to work with us. I then tried my new Apple laptop, with the same lack of success. We adjourned for lunch and a think.

I tried doing the same thing with my old Apple laptop and got a bit further, but still no real success. Finally, after reading a couple of explanations on the Net I worked out how it was done, on a Mac at least. We managed to get the track recorded from the piano and into the computer, but there is a dodgy key on the piano which plays a rough note, that’s the only way I can describe it. It just sounds rough. I went for a walk! I got PoD which is a bunch of Forget Me Nots in a lovely little bit of sunshine. I came back with an elegant solution.

Could she, I asked Scamp, play the tune in a different key which wouldn’t use the dodgy piano key? Then we could record it and get a clean result and using Audacity, change the key to make it sound like a clean version of the original. “Yes” was the answer once she’d worked out what I had in my head. While she set about transposing the music in her head, I made the dinner which was Prawn & Pea Risotto with our own peas. Pods in the stock and peas in the pot! It was really quite good, augmented with some frozen peas.

Back in the studio we were good to go. We recoded the music without a problem. Re-transposed it electronically in the laptop and then looked around for the CD burner. We’re still looking! It must be in the house and I think we both looked everywhere it could be but it’s still hiding. My inelegant solution was to copy the MP3 Audacity created on to a memory stick and plug it into my old Toshiba laptop running Windows 7. After a struggle we finally got it to burn the CD using Windows Media Player. Ancient technology. We played the track on the CD player and it sounded perfect. So here’s the pathway to our success.

Fairly new HP laptop – couldn’t record
Almost new Apple laptop – couldn’t record
Old Apple laptop – could record, but couldn’t burn CD
Old Tosh laptop – managed to burn the CD.

I hope Veronica likes the track and doesn’t decide she’ll sing a different song. I don’t know how these bands manage to record albums. I’m presuming they have a few old Mac laptops lying around to record the tracks and a couple of 20 year old Tosh laptops to burn the demo CDs.

That was our day. Just a musical extravaganza. It looks like rain tomorrow, so I don’t expect we’ll be going far.

A busy morning after a late night – 31 July 2021

Out and on the road to ballroom class in Johnston, just after 10am.

Drove out via the M73, then the M74 to avoid the M8 and Charing Cross where they, the ubiquitous ’they’ are still playing with their new pedestrian bridge which will be being lowered into place right about now (11.30pm on 31st of July). However, this morning the ground work would have been nearing completion and the M8 would have be a greater shambles than usual. The drive out was fairly easy and I only needed minimal prompt from the lady who lives inside the sat nav.

First dance was an easy sequence dance which got us all up on our feet. Next we did a reprise of the Foxtrot from last week. A few rough edges were cleaned up and by the end of that section we were agreed that it was flowing a lot better. Third dance was a Sweetheart Cha Cha. Cha Cha is not my favourite dance and neither of us knew this one although everyone else in the room knew it or had at least learned it some time in the past. However, Jane and Stewart after a couple of quick demos just dived straight into it and we were floundering. This is the first time I’ve criticised their teaching. Up until now, be it Zoom lessons or live lessons in a hall or even on a cruise, I’ve felt they took time to teach everyone. Today I felt that we were not given any real instruction at all. We are paying our money just like everyone else, so we should be given the same teaching as everyone else. I felt shortchanged. I’m sure Scamp will disagree, but this is my opinion.

Drove home by the M8 just to see if it was as bad as I’d thought it might be. It was slow, but not nearly as bad as the westbound lanes. I think it’s one of those occasions where both routes end up taking the same amount of time. M8 is shorter but with more stop and go traffic. M74 is longer, but the traffic flows much better. You pays your money and you takes your chance.

I went out in the afternoon to grab some photos and my favourite was a low level shot of a little yellow flower whose name escapes me. The last PoD of July 2021.

Watched Kubo and the Two Strings, a fairly interesting animation that kept us amused for the evening. Thank you Hazy and Neil D.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk down to Glasgow Green. Not been there in ages.

Coffee with Val – 29 July 2021

Just Val and me today.

I don’t know if Val has fallen out with Fred, but he never mentioned whether he had invited him or not and I didn’t ask. I thought I’d show him my new Huawei watch, but surprise, surprise, Val had one too. Like a couple of school kids we compared watch faces. He pinched one of mine and I pinched one of his. An hour and a half seemed to fly past and for once we didn’t just talk ‘tech’. It was more about trying to get back to ‘normal’. Maybe not real normal, more like this new normal. Still, it was a step in the right direction.

Back home Scamp was just getting ready to go and dead head some flowers, so I took the opportunity to grab some pictures of some of her favourites. That’s why today’s PoD is a bunch of Osteospermum all vying for the best place in the photo. I was impressed with the way the Sony dealt with the red roses. The Oly was much quicker to focus, but it oversaturate the reds, the Sony gave a much more realistic rendition of the reds. Something to do with the bigger sensor perhaps?

I did go for a walk in St Mo’s later in the day and got a decent macro of a shieldbug apparently steeling itself for a leap into space. In reality it was fighting with a wolf spider. I don’t think the spider came out on top this time. Maybe it got sprayed by the shieldbug. They don’t call it a stinkbug for nothing.

Back home it was veg chilli for dinner and as usual I made too much. Oh well, we can eat if for lunch tomorrow.

And with that, you are all caught up.  Two week’s worth of blog written.  I’m glad it’s done.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow if the weather permits.

Cars on the rooftop – 19 July 2021

Today we went to Broughton in Furness to see what was there.

We parked in the village square and walked down the Main Street. There wasn’t a lot to see, it looked like a sleepy little market town. One busy pub on a corner, as most pubs seem to be, especially old ones. It was earmarked for a visit later.

We walked further down the hill away from the retail centre and found a petrol station/garage with an interesting display of what looked like old pedal cars on its roof. Further still down the hill there was a sign pointing down an avenue of trees to a woodland walk and ponds. We agreed that we should investigate.

The path ran straight for as far as we could see with the back gardens of houses on both sides for the first 100m or so. The ones on the right were well manicured, while some of the ones on the left were a bit overgrown, but looked as if they had been well maintained in the past with vegetable plots laid out neatly below the weeds. Others, of course were pristine. Best of all, near the path was a community garden with a sign saying that everything was free to a good home. I suppose that’s what you expect in a small rural community.

We walked for a mile or so along the path and found the ponds, two of them. The first one was almost dried up with little sign of life, but further on was the second pond. This one had a bit more shelter from the sun and near the edge I could see what I think were dace feeding in the shallows. Also a few ducks, mallards, soaking up the rays on the pebbly shore.

The woodland walk and the ponds were part of Broughton Tower estate and private property, but with access allowed to the public. There was a large area of grassland with paths leading up to the Big House which we glimpsed through the trees, but didn’t investigate because we were walking back along the path and out into Broughton again.

We found a street running parallel to the Main Street with a neat little deli at the end where Scamp bought some lovely fat cherries and I got a pack of dates which I intend to eat this time, instead of keeping them in the fridge!

By this time it was definitely Beer o’ Clock, so we took a seat at the pub we’d noticed earlier and Scamp had a half pint of lager and I had a half pint of very dry stout. I wish I’d remembered the name of the stout, because it was just excellent. If we ever go back to this area again I’ll search it out.

Took a wrong turning heading out of the town and ended up on narrower and narrower roads, then the sat nav pulled us out of trouble again and got us on the right road. Halfway along the narrow wee road to the house we came on a traffic jam. A car and a van were blocking the road trying to do the “two into one won’t go” trick and neither were willing to give ground. Eventually the car driver who was at the front of our line of vehicles, reversed, down the wrong side of the road, ending up in a ditch. That allowed the van to wriggle through the gap and the rest of our line of cars and vans to pass. I don’t know when or how the car driver got out of the ditch, but nobody was stopping to help him/her.

Later in the day I went for a walk along our narrow road and got a few photos of flowers and landscapes in the low afternoon sun. The harebells got PoD.

JIC was chef tonight Turkey Parmagiano which was delicious and will be added to our own list of things to try. It was their standard Monday dinner, just as our Monday dinner is Pasta with either a Tomato or Carbonara sauce.

I attempted a Milky Way photoshoot when the sky looked dark enough, but it wasn’t a great success. I think Photopills may be right when it seemed to indicate that the Milky Way wasn’t visible from our global position at this time. Anyway, the midges were definitely visible and biting!

Tomorrow we may go sailing!