Blue Skies – 30 December 2021

Now there’s a surprise. It surprised us too, but the blue skies didn’t last – they never do these days.

At around 9am the skies were clearing and there was blue sky up there. Not a lot of it, I grant you, but it was there and there were much lighter clouds than of late. By 11am when we were setting off for a shopping expedition to Tesco, the blue sky had disappeared and the clouds were getting lower and lower. I think it was just a ruse to encourage us out.

Scamp got a phone call from Jackie in Skye and the two were blethering away, so firstly I went out with a camera to photograph an Echinacea plant that’s still flowering in the garden. Then I went upstairs to work on our kitchen calendar adding some photos that I’d shared through iCloud. Unfortunately the WiFi signal from the new modem couldn’t reach to the upstairs bedroom and I started thinking I might try one of those ‘powerline’ extenders that carry a wireless signal through the 240v cables in the house and can be picked up anywhere through a receiver. I might look into it. Anyway, I finally got the share done and half the photos inserted into the Pages document.

After she was finished on the phone, Scamp drove us in the Wee Red Car up to Tesco and we did a fair bit of shopping. Enough to keep us going into the new year which was only two days away (it’s a bit closer now). Lots of other folk were doing their last minute New Year shopping. Lots of clinks to be heard at the checkout, the sort of clinks that bottles make. We were no exception, so we have no room to talk.

When we got back we found that the Amazon fairies had been and left us a couple of parcels. Only one was really for us, or for Scamp to be more precise. It was a new pen that I couldn’t find anywhere in a 30 mile radius, but Amazon had it of course. After lunch and while Scamp was getting her Dundee cake ready for the oven, I went out to get some more photos in St Mo’s. By then the clouds were gathering and there was no sign of that lovely blue sky. I took a few photos while I was out, but nothing compared to the echinacea from the morning.

Back home it was soon time to make dinner and we’d both agreed on Mushroom Risotto. It turned out exceptionally good. Probably because I was using a ‘Risotto Paddle’ made from cherry wood and designed for mixing the risotto. It’s got a hole about 50mm diameter in the blade to increase the surface area and force the rice granules through, making the risotto much creamier. Also, the flat base and straight sides make it easy to scrape the rice from the bottom and sides of the pan. Very clever tool that does everything its been designed for. I was impressed. Thank you both for it!

We watched The Remains of the Day tonight. It was a strange film that posed more questions than it answered. It was based on a book, written by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve read one of his books and it left me with the same feeling this film did.

Tomorrow we have no plans. It’s unlikely to be dry by the looks of things, but that won’t be anything unusual. If it dries up we may go for a walk. Otherwise it will be the usual Hogmanay story of cleaning up the house ready for The Bells.

Darker not Lighter – 29 December 2021

I swear that as the day progressed it got darker, not lighter.

It started quite dark around 8am, but by about 10am there seemed to be even less light. And it rained. It kept raining most of the morning and only when the deluge faltered and eventually dried up, only then the sky began to become a bit lighter.

Scamp was using the time to continue with her work chucking out stuff. Stuff that she no longer needed and wouldn’t need anymore, mostly paperwork. Music scores and concert programmes from Gems. I’d done some cleaning of my own yesterday. I’d moved all this year’s photos, over 5,000 of them, on to the new SSD, not copied, moved. However, today I started cutting into the paperwork that had been languishing on the computer for years. I’d also found where some old software was causing problems on the drive. With the junk removed, the computer seems to be a whole lot better. Still not perfect, but better than it was. So, between us we’ve started a New Year Clean. The hard part will be continuing after the New Year.

I did manage to get out for a walk after lunch, but a walk to the shops for milk. Of course I took my camera and found the PoD in the front garden. An opening rosebud of Alec’s Red. In December! It’s still flowering. I took other photos on my way back from the shops, but none were anywhere near as good as that red rose with raindrops on it.

We watched The Glenn Miller Story later and enjoyed every minute of James Stewart as Glenn Miller. Not our era of music, but nonetheless it was brilliant.

Dinner tonight was Fish ’n’ Chips as only Scamp can make. Smoked Haddock, Marrowfat Peas and Skin-on Chips. Perfect!

As I’m writing this we’re watching a documentary about Luciano Pavarotti. Also not really my kind of music, but a really interesting program.

Tomorrow I think we may go out and look for some messages.


Longing to get past the shortest day

Another day with almost no daylight.

It becomes tedious. Day after day with no directional light. On Friday I drove to Fife and spent half an hour there in glorious sunshine. I might have to head east again to get another dose of vitamin D. Today was so dull, I swear the sun didn’t rise above the ground at all.

Scamp drove away to meet her big sister for a coffee. She told me she was going to take the long way round to the town centre, just to give the Wee Red Car a good chance to fully charge its battery and basically get everything moving again. It seemed to work, because when she came back she was smiling. It’s good to be independent and not rely on others. I’m just glad the battery held its charge, but I think it’s just the cold weather and Scamp not being able to drive for a month that allowed the battery to discharge. Or it could be that the wee car is getting fed up with all those dull cloudy days too.

While she was out, I started the tidying up of the back bedroom. It’s going to take more than a morning’s work to get it back in business, but today was a start. The sofa is almost cleared and the table too. I chopped up that enormous packing box from last week. We eventually found we could do without it. There are a couple of fairly large expanses of corrugated card that might hold a coat of gesso and fit on a drawing board, so I could paint on them. The rest of them will go into the paper shredder at the skips. If I get things sorted I can maybe get my sewing machine out and take up the second pair of lined walking trousers. Maybe!

When Scamp returned she brought me a bottle of gin, a present from June. A birthday present for my 70th last year! Typical June. When she says she’s going to do something, she does it. Maybe not right away, but it’s there in her head and she is a determined lady when she puts her mind to it. Scamp even sang Happy Birthday to me from June. What a lovely surprise.

We’d a lot going on today. Your parcel was picked up right when DPD said it would be and it’s now winging its way to you, pair, Hazy and Neil. The lady who does the Covid survey was coming in the afternoon to take samples and ask us questions. A mysterious parcel was dropped at the door by the Amazon man, but now it’s disappeared! With all that going on and with the lack of light, I’d no real opportunity to get out for a walk and some photos. Instead, I got the Benbo tripod out of the car and took some photos in the garden. That way I could use as slow a shutter speed as I wanted to get the low ISO number that would ensure I didn’t have ’grain the size of golf balls’ as we used to say back it the ‘wet film’ days. The best one, and PoD, was a low level shot of a Christmas rose, one of Scamp’s favourites called Christmas Carol. There are others too on Flickr.

I toasted June with a G ’n’ T tonight and Scamp had a glass of wine. Well, it may be dull, but it’s nearly Christmas.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere for a walk or maybe a stroll round Glasgow.


Up early again! – 11 December 2021

Hopefully for the last time this for a while.

We were off again to drive to the dance class in Bridge or Weir or near there anyway in heavy rain. Halfway to Glasgow we saw the sign: “Accident after Junction 15”. Oh dear, just two weeks before Christmas so, everyone would be heading into town and someone makes a bad decision that causes everyone behind to slow down and eventually stop. Hopefully nobody got hurt, just a bit of bruised pride and a few hundred quids worth of damage that insurance would take care of … for a fee. A fee that would show itself on next year’s car insurance. As it turned out, with a bit of judicious lane changing we still made it to class with about five minutes to spare. We saw no sign of an accident after Junction 15, so there probably had been a bump but the walking wounded had been escorted off the road and what we had to deal with was the aftermath clogging the road.

Today started with a Saunter Together. A simple wander around the floor where we made more mistakes than we’ve made for ages. I put it down to both our heads being full of what had been happening during the week and also of what was to come. Next was the Rumba. There had been quite call-offs today, and Jane said she thought it wasn’t so much the weather that was putting folk off, it was the Rumba. She might be right. It’s not that it’s totally unknown to us, we can do more than half of it without thinking, it’s the bit after that with its complicated Circular Hip Twists and Alternative Sliding Doors. Where do they get these names from? The final bit that seemed to floor everybody but us is really an old salsa move called Sombrero Doble and we can do that no problem. We finished up with the bit of fun that’s called the Christmas Pudding Rock with its ear worm track: I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas. Then it was back to the racetrack for the run home.

We made good time until we were well past the usual blockade of cars queueing for the Braehead exit or poaching, driving slowly in lane two then trying to squeeze into the real exit lane. We even managed to pass blockade two where the world and his wife decide at the last minute to cross two busy lanes to get on to the M74 exit. It was just after that when all three remaining lanes came to a standstill. The annoying CITRAC signs were flashing their 40mph warnings. I think we were lucky if we were doing the 4mph from there for the five miles to reach our turn off onto the M80. All of this was in drizzle, rain and waves of manky water being splashed up by cars on the opposite carriageway. Thankfully the weather improved after we left the M8 and we managed a normal run home from there.

I still hadn’t really taken any photos with the new lens, but finally I got to use it for an indoor shot of some of Scamp’s Alstromeria flowers and it was one of them that made PoD, although it wasn’t actually taken with the 55-210mm tele lens, but with the macro instead. The daylight at 2pm was so poor we had the house lights on.

At about 6pm we got ready and left for Larky for dinner Crawford & Nancy’s, via Tesco to pick up a bunch of flowers and a bottle of Prosecco for Nancy. She should have been getting a different Christmas prezzy, but NEXT didn’t manage to deliver it on Friday when it was supposed to arrive. I blame Covid and failing that, Boris.

Dinner was lavish as usual. It’s nice to have dinner that neither of us has made, just for a change. We sat and got the benefit of their log burner and were entertained by their black labrador rolling around on the rug fighting with a dog chew. He really is the lankiest labrador I’ve ever seen. Eventually we left just before midnight and drove along an almost deserted motorway for a change. It’s a delight to drive at night sometimes.

Tomorrow I’m hoping for a lie-in after three hectic days of early rises. That and some sunshine, or am I asking for too much there?

Hoovering the grass – 27 November 2021

Just like hoovering the living room, but better fun.

Last night Storm Arwen dropped a bundle of leaves in the front garden, a big bundle! I think it was the way the wind was swirling round the houses that caused a mini whirlwind which gathered all the leaves then when it ran out of energy it dropped them in the front garden. First task today was to gather them together and dump them in the bin. Luckily, a few years ago I got Scamp a leaf blower for her Christmas. When she cuts the grass, she uses it for blowing all the grass cuttings off the path and into the wooded area across from the house. It came with attachments that turned it from a blower to a ‘sooker’. I used it in ‘sook’ mode this morning to hoover up two black bags worth of leaves from the garden. As well as sucking the leaves up, it also chops them up, so we now have the garden refuse bin full of chopped up leaves. Some of it will go into the compost bin when I’ve time to decant them. It seems a shame to just chuck them out when they could be helping to make compost. With the path now clear and most of the garden holding only a sprinkling of leaves I reassembled the machine back to a blower again and it went to sleep in the cupboard again, dreaming of blowing grass again (not that kind of blowing grass 😉) .

After the ferocity of yesterday, today was a welcome relief. Just a quiet, cold Saturday. The furthest we went was a walk to the shops to get a chicken for tonight’s dinner, and, of course some ice cream cones, 99s. The shops were really busy. I don’t think people wanted to go far today because it was just above freezing and there were hints in the forecast that snow wasn’t out of the question, even to lower levels. Luckily none of the white stuff has been seen yet.

We watched an embarrassing special broadcast headed by Boris explaining the new procedures to tackle the latest Covid variant, Omnicron. Neither of us can understand how that man got into the position he is in. When reading from a script he is bearably literate. As soon as he goes off script he just rambles into unfinished sentences. The poor man is totally out of his depth and really should admit it.

PoD was a little Cyclamen battered and bruised from last night’s storm. I photographed it in the back garden this morning when the sun was shining and the temperature was just above zero.

Tomorrow we may go for the messages, just to get out of the house and I might remember to book a Tesco delivery too!


Dull, Dull, Dull – 16 November 2021

We had wished for sunshine today, but apparently it was out of stock.

Since I was up first for a change and it wasn’t actually raining, I grabbed the Sony and went for a walk … round the garden. That’s where I got today’s PoD which is a lovely little Fuchsia hanging on a hook in the back garden. It’s splash of colour was very welcome.  Came back in because the rain had started and stayed on for the day.

I’d just come back in when Hazy phoned. We had a long talk about consultations, because it’s not just Scamp who’s having problems just now. Hazel is steeling herself for a hospital appointment, Neil is being overloaded with school work and his granny isn’t doing too well either. I think it’s something to do with the time of the year. There seems to be a dip in enthusiasm just after the clocks go back. Daylight seems in short supply and darkness comes early. Nothing to look forward to until Christmas and that’s still over a month away.

I drove down to the shops to get tonight’s dinner and that was the extent of our travel. A load of scaffolding was delivered to the ‘pensioners’ house next door. It appears that there is work to be done on the roof. That was a little bit of excitement on a really dull day.

Scamp is sticking to her pledge and working with the glasses, even although they are heavy and keep pulling down on her nose. If I get finished this blog tonight, that will be me up to date. Take a few days off from blog posting and it takes more than a few to get it up to date. It’s good fun to read what happened last year though!

Tomorrow I’ve got a coffee appointment booked with Val. That might brighten my day, and give Scamp a rest from me!

A confusing day – 4 November 2021

Today we were driving to East Kilbride to Hairmyres hospital for Scamp to get her eye test. She has a cataract in one eye and our optician had written to the hospital recommending her for cataract surgery. Last week we got the letter inviting her to go for a check up. We had to cancel a tea dance in Paisley, so we were hoping the test would be the first step to the removal of the cataract. We were making a big sacrifice here, you understand.

But before any of this could happen I had to go and see the bank manager and apply for a bank loan to pay for the tank full of petrol I’d need. Well, I didn’t need a full tank, but a considerable amount and it costs a lot of money these days to run a car. The bank manager ok’d the loan which I can pay back at a reasonable 55% interest. I may have to put a padlock on the filler cap now to prevent folk syphoning off this precious liquid.

We drove to the hospital and got parked, then went looking for the clinic. Of course I couldn’t stay with Scamp because of whatever restrictions they’d enforced now, so I left her to it and went looking for something to photograph. As I was finding my way out of the labyrinth that is Hairmyres, I thought my phone beeped at me, but no message showed up on the screen. Then I got a phone call from Scamp to say ‘Just wait, I won’t be long. I’ll explain.’

The explanation was that they couldn’t do the assessment because she was wearing contact lenses. She should have been told to stop wearing them for four weeks before she came for the assessment (two weeks for normal lenses, four for gas permeable). Otherwise they couldn’t take measurements from her eyes for the replacement lens(es). I’m sure she’ll explain much better than I can to you two. Disappointed, relieved, angry, all these emotions seemed to come to the fore as we drove home. She admits herself that she just ranted at me most of the way home. Which was fine. What it did do was give her a chance to get it out of her system and plan ahead. She’s managed to get an appointment with the optician for tomorrow morning. After that we will know better what the situation is and possibly have a way forward.

We discussed the whole thing at length when we got home and agreed that things would become clearer after we’d spoken to the optician tomorrow. We might even go for lunch in Hamilton afterwards.

Because of the mixed up day, today’s PoD became the last rose to flower in the garden. The last rose of summer, one of this year’s purchases and a replacement for one we used to have in one of our gardens, years ago, Prima Ballerina. A pretty little rose with a nice scent.

That’s all for now. It’s been a busy, mixed up sort of day. Hoping for some clarity if not resolution tomorrow (apologies for two unintended puns!)

Another wet one – 27 October 2021

Where is all this rain coming from?

The rain seems never ending these days. If it doesn’t rain in the morning, it rains in the afternoon. If it doesn’t rain in the morning or the afternoon it’s a miracle. We haven’t had any miracles for a while. But we shouldn’t complain because some places in Southern Scotland have a prediction for 200mm of rain in a day. Thankfully, this far, we haven’t had that amount, but we have two water buckets and a watering can in the back garden. The smaller of the two water buckets has been overflowing for days now, the other bucket is three quarters full and the watering can will be full by now. Then the weather fairies have the cheek to give us more rain tomorrow.

I did nip out with the Sony and the big macro lens in one of the spells of drizzle to get some photos. The best one of the lot was the fuchsia that hangs from a hook on the fence. At least that wee flower has a chance to discard its excess water, the ones on the ground are now waterlogged. The fuchsia got PoD.

That was about the extent of my walk today. A wander round the garden (like a teddy bear) and a walk up to the corner to put the bin out.

Today’s prompt was “Spark”. What do you draw for that? I chose a spark plug. Without these little wonders of technology our petrol driven cars wouldn’t work. I did try to add a spark, but it didn’t look right, so I removed it.

Well, sorry people, that was it for today. Not a day for going out and not a lot that I wanted to do in the house either. Scamp made soup, so at least we’ll have something to eat tomorrow.

Out early tomorrow to take the Wee Red Car for its MOT. Then we’ll wander round the house with our fingers crossed until we get the phone call.

Life in the twilight zone – 26 October 2021

Not the scary one, just the one where the sun never seems to rise.

Scamp was out early to go to the Post Office in Eastfield which is where she’d been told there was a parcel waiting for her, the one she’d missed yesterday. When she got there the woman in the PO said she didn’t have it or couldn’t find it, but would have another look and would phone her to update her. We didn’t hold out much hope for that happening. We’ve not had a great deal of success with Parcelforce.

Scamp was going out to lunch with the witches later, and I was off the leash. Yesterday I’d a couple of things in mind for today. I was intending to fix a grip on the cooker top and maybe get round to taking up my walking trousers, because they are way too long. If time and weather permitted I thought I might go up to the Carron reservoir to get some photos and some fresh air. One look out the window in the morning put paid to that last idea. Time might have permitted, but the weather certainly wouldn’t. It really looked like the sun had forgotten to rise. The other ideas would be the fallbacks.

When Scamp had left for lunch with Jeanette, I drove down to Wardpark to book Scamp’s car in for MOT. I drove rather than phoned because the sky might have brightened up and I might manage to get some photos, but it didn’t and I didn’t. I just drove home again and started cutting up my walking trousers. It sounds a bit drastic, but it really wasn’t. I had a plan and it involved sewing and cutting and pressing and it worked. The trousers are now a good 40mm shorter than they were and don’t get caught in the heels of my boots. By the time I’d done that and cleared up the back bedroom a bit, because that’s where I draw at night in October and also where I photograph the drawings to go in the blog and on Flickr. Even I get fed up with tripping over cables, although Scamp won’t believe that. I was just finishing and making a late lunch when Scamp reappeared. I hadn’t noticed the time, but two and a half hours had passed since she left.

When I got back from the garage, there was a note to say that a parcel weIt was in the bin store. I wasn’t sure if it was for me or her, but was pretty sure this was the missing one. It was for me, and it was a bottle of the hand wash that I’d been raving about after we left Bombay Cottage last week, or was that the week before? Anyway, here was the very bottle and it was just the same perfume. That was a brilliant surprise! Thank you, Scamp. I’m still not all that clear on the details of the travels of this parcel, but all’s well that ends well.

PoD turned out to be a detail from a vase of flowers that I sat on the worktop in the kitchen, catching what light was available at the time. It needed 20 seconds of exposure to get the shot, but it was worth it.

Sketch prompt was ‘Connect’. Have you ever stopped to count all the different cables and connectors you have? I don’t have the time to do it, but there must be close on a hundred different pieces of wire and plastic that connect something to something else in the house. Then there are all the duplicates and triplicates and … ! These are some of mine.

No plans for tomorrow because the weather fairies are predicting that tomorrow will be episode two of Life In The Twilight Zone


Down the Canal – 11 October 2021

Out fairly early since there was a fair amount of blue sky.

By the time we were actually on the road most of that blue was replaced by grey and an ominous amount of clouds rolling over from the Campsie Fells, but we got parked easily at the Hebo House and walked along the side of the Forth & Clyde canal in the general direction of Twechar. We met hardly anyone along the path. A few cyclists and that was about it. After my lucky spotting of a kingfisher last week with Alex, I was hoping we’d get lucky and see one today, but there were no sightings of that blue flash. We did see one of Mr Grey’s family on the far bank, but he was almost invisible among the reeds.

As we were about to cross the road and head back on the path of the old mineral railway we saw a man with twa dugs. As well as the dugs, he was trailing a long lead and I mean LONG. I’d estimate it to be about nine or ten metres long. He crossed the road and I had visions of the lead getting tangled in a car going in the opposite direction and he with the dogs being dragged along behind it. Unfortunately that never happened. I’m guessing it was a running lead to let the dogs get some exercise, but he really should have been more careful.

We spotted loads of fungi on the way back along the path and I took the opportunity to photograph a few. We also saw a ’workie’ in full workie gear sitting near one of the barriers keeping pedestrians away from the Never-ending Story that is the upgrade of the paths along that stretch. For once there were no notices telling the public (ie, us) what was happening now to these excavations, tree felling, tree planting and general works that seem to have been going on for about three years with little sign of completion any time soon. However we did see one of the mythical workies today. Rarer that a kingfisher.

I got PoD along the path. A pretty little pink flower of the genus Impatiens glandulifera or Himalayan Balsam. It’s a large annual plant native to the Himalayas but is now present across much of the the UK and is considered an invasive species in many areas. I don’t think it does nearly as much harm as the workies and their upgrades. Right, I think I’ve said enough on that subject.

We did manage to complete the walk without getting wet. In fact as soon as we closed the car doors, the first raindrops appeared on the windscreen. Drove home, had lunch and Scamp went out to work in the garden, repotting some flowers and planting new bulbs for next year. Meanwhile I cooked some steak and kidney, some of which will hopefully be my dinner tomorrow. The rest will go in the freezer to be a welcome dinner in the future.

Today’s sketch was to be Sour. I sketched a lemon from the fridge and faked a slice of lemon behind it. Splashed some watercolour on it and that will be another day completed in Inktober. Not the finest painting or sketch I’ve done, but it’s been posted. Inktober is not nearly as full of participants or sketches as it was last year, but then Flickr is much the same.

That was about all we did today. No plans for tomorrow. Weather looks like an improving picture.