The Smiddy – 20 January 2022

Out to lunch today.

Drove over to The Smiddy at Blair Drummond because it was a lovely spring-like January day and because the food is generally good and not too expensive. Great scenery too looking across the carse to the hills in the distance. I’m sure I’ve said all this before, but it bears repeating. The management of diners is improving because, while you still can’t book a table, you do get given a buzzer now when you arrive. This is a good ploy on their part, because it allows you to wander round the shop that is joined on to the cafe. While the cafe food is reasonably priced, the articles on sale in the shop range from expensive to exorbitant. Bottles of beer in the shop are more than twice the price of the same in Tesco. Lady’s masks, very prettily embroidered, are about £13 each. I though £15 was expensive for three reusable ones in Boots. Now I’m recalibrating.

We did have to wait a bit more than the ten minutes we were told when we entered, but we did get a table today! Service was slow. I had a home made beef burger that came with warm (ie, not hot) chips and the usual salad. Scamp had a Mac ’n’ Cheese also with those, just warm, chips. I don’t think they were deep fried chips, more oven baked, but they looked hand cut rather than reconstituted. But service was slow. I was glad that Scamp suggested we have coffee after we’d had our lunch. Coffee arrived without a spoon. It’s little things like that, that make you question whether you will rush back again. Yes, I realise it’s mid week and yes, I realise it was lunchtime, so it was busy, but if you want people to keep coming back you have to be on the ball these days.

I did take a couple of rushed shots while we were there, but the light was gone by then and it was my own fault for not taking them before we went in. Maybe next time, if there is a next time.

Back home after stopping at Lakeland/Sainsburys on the way for the makings of tomorrow’s pudding, I decided there was just enough light to get an hour in St Mo’s to bolster my collection from The Smiddy. It had been freezing during the night and the ponds were still frozen even late into the afternoon. I tested the ice on the wee pond and deemed it strong enough to hold the weight of the Sony with kit lens. It held, just, although there was a skin of water on top of the ice, so I was ready to whip it up and out of harm’s way at the first sound of cracking. As it turned out, the shot didn’t make the cut and PoD is a photo taken standing, with both hands on the camera, of the wee frozen pond.

WiFi disappeared tonight again at almost the same time it did yesterday. This time I phoned to complain and hopefully get an explanation. I got a sort of explanation that it’s an on-going repair. ‘They’ thought they had fixed it yesterday, but then found that the repair had failed today, so ‘they’ were working on it again tonight. I don’t know who the mysterious ‘they’ are and why they are only allowed to work at night. Maybe ‘they’ are nocturnal. Maybe Virgin are employing vampires who can’t work in daylight. That might be the case, because they are bleeding us dry for a service that’s not up to standard. The WiFi came back after a couple of hours, but the member of the Help Team I spoke to said it might happen again tomorrow until they find a solution.

So, I’d better get this posted in case it all goes a bit tricky again! Working tomorrow making dinner for Crawford & Nancy. Soup’s made tonight. Pudding is almost finished, but still lots to do tomorrow.

A bit of woodwork – 18 January 2022

But first a return to the abysmal B&Q.

I decided I’d have another look for the correct screws for the pedestal I was making to hold the new TiVo box. I found them in the place I’d been looking. I remembered that the staff don’t to bother where they put some of the boxes and bags of screws and applied that logic to finding the right size of screws. They were in a box labeled 4mm x 25mm, but the actual screws were 3.5mm diameter x 30mm. It doesn’t help when the bag containing the corner blocks states that you need number 6 gauge screws and that nomenclature was changed around the late 1990s to the much more sensible metric measurement. B&Q living in the past. I got the screws and drove home.

Before lunch I managed to get all the wood cut to size and had a freshly charge battery in the drill. The hardest bit, apart from decoding B&Q’s filing system, was sawing the wood I’d drawn the elevation and end elevation of the pedestal and added all the required dimensions, so it would be as simple as I could make it before I put saw to wood. After lunch it was just a case of assembling the structure and, for once, it was done with the minimum of swearing!

The completed support passed muster with Scamp and looked reasonable in its place under the TV. It also fulfilled its secondary purpose of disguising the rats maze of cables that run between the modem, the TiVo, the Hive controller and the TV itself. Job done.

After hoovering the back room and putting all the tools away, I put my boots on and took the new Sony to meet the wildlife in St Mo’s. I got a picture of the little orange ladybird, still hibernating. However it was after I lost my Samyang’s lens hood and was retracing my steps to find it (it’s still lost), I noticed the Dragon Tree. It’s a rotten old fallen tree, but doesn’t that look like a dragon’s head? Or do I have to decrease my gin intake? Anyway, it got PoD.

Tonight’s dinner was potatoes and cabbage for Scamp. I usually have mine with the addition of bacon, but tonight I had the remains of my roast lamb shoulder. I think it tasted even better tonight than on Sunday. It’s all gone now!

We watched the first episode of The Tourist, but neither of us was convinced by it. If you can’t relate to the actors, (I think empathise is the word) then it’s a hard ask to keep watching it. I may give it one more chance, or maybe not. Much more entertaining and just downright watchable is Around the World in 80 Days. Just good fun.

Bloke came to encourage us to push probes down our throats and up our noses. He had a good sense of humour, despite having to stand in the bucketing rain. I suppose you need a GSOH for that job.

Well, it looks like the dance classes will be free to start again after the weekend. That is good news. Most of the restrictions have been released, and not before time, say we.

Tomorrow I’m booked for coffee with Val. Scamp is intending to do some more tidying up.

Walking on Sunshine – 16 January 2022

No dull skies today, only blue and the big white shiny thing was up in that sky.

I was so glad to see the hill basking in the warm glow of the morning sun when I got up. What a difference a day makes. We just had to go out and enjoy that sunshine. We drove down to Auchinstarry and found a space to park at the quarry. From there we walked along the old mineral line path as far as Twechar. On the way there we stopped to let four cyclists past. Further on we bumped into a wee older man pushing his bike up the hill. He told us it wasn’t a true electric bike, it was an electric assist bike which means that if you stop pedalling, the motor stops too. He seemed to be enjoying the freedom of the bike. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet, although it’s a long time since I last took the Dewdrop out. By that time we were at the halfway point of the walk. I’d taken a few photos, but not a lot.

We crossed the road and followed the towpath back to Auchinstarry. On the way we passed a few folk out walking in the morning sunshine. A lot more photos were taken and with no wind, the reflections in the water were excellent. Most of the bikes that passed, and there were lots, were serious road bikes or hybrids, but there were a few electric bikes too. We even met the wee man on his assist bike. He seemed to be making good time, far better time than us. Back at Auchinstarry the car park had filled up quite significantly since we left the car. Every space was taken and cars were parked along the edge of the climbing wall of the quarryside too. We went to Kilsyth after that to get some potatoes for dinner and a bottle of gin for me. `

Back home and after lunch I started making some bread. Well, the mixer started making some bread and I just watched it. Then it was time to start reorganising the wires and cables behind the TV. We had discussed this last night and come to the conclusion that we could happily do without the DVD player and, since we now had a much neater TiVo box, we should try to build a pedestal for it that would hide the mass of cables that crowd into the space behind the TV. After photographing the back of the TiVo I disconnected the cables, removed the box and the, now redundant, DVD player. The next thing to do was to decide what cables were staying and what could go. Then it was time to plug everything back into the TiVo using the photo as a reference and hope it worked again. It did. For now the TiVo is sitting on a low stepping stool, but we’ve a plan to make a low pedestal from a piece of pine that has been wasting its time in a cupboard upstairs. The DVD player will go to the skip, maybe as early as tomorrow.

Next task was to get my lamb shoulder ready for the oven. Just for my reference, here is what I did:
Heat the oven to Gas 4.
Pan fry the rolled lamb shoulder
Tuck some rosemary into the meat and secure it under the string
Season with salt and pepper
Put in a roasting tray and cover with tinfoil
Cook for 1 hour
Check, then return to the oven for another hour.
Allow to cook for about 30 mins in a warm place.

This is for a piece of meat 600g approx.

PoD was a shot of a bloke walking his dog along the towpath of the canal.

Lamb was delicious. Scamp’s scallops were a disappointment. Bread looks good, although we haven’t tasted it yet

Spoke to Jamie in the evening and heard all about the extra costs in getting the house the way you want it and how the cost of every repair seems to have three zeros after the first number!

Tomorrow more sun and blue sky predicted. Another walk is on the cards I hope.

Out for the messages – 14 January 2022

Rather than just go up the road to Tesco, we drove to Waitrose in Stirling, just for fun.

As we here heading north east to Stirling, the sky got progressively lighter and we hoped that signalled a better day ahead. We wandered round Waitrose and bought half the shop. We could have bought more, but there is only so much we can cram into the blue car’s boot.

With the Waitrose staff wondering why the shelves looked so empty, we went for a walk through Stirling. The Thistle centre looked very unloved with lots of shops still boarded up. We split up Scamp was looking for clothes and I was looking for books and tech. I found neither, but did have a happy half hour looking at things in those two categories. We drove home and unloaded the car. I’m sure I heard the shock absorbers breathing a sigh of relief.

After lunch I parcelled up the calendars and then walked over to Condorrat to send them on their way, and yes, it does have the Where Was It Took page, Hazy. I stopped in at St Mo’s on the way back and grabbed some photos. Didn’t think any of them were good enough, but then I remembered The Alien. It’s a bouncy climbing thing in the Adventure Playground. I’d photographed it just over a year ago, but I though it deserved a go with the new whizzo camera. There result of that though is today’s PoD.

Tonight’s dinner was a Charlie Bigham Veg Lasagne. Really full of flavour and one of our favourite ‘ready meals’.

As far as tomorrow goes, no dancing class yet, but the signs are looking better, so we keep our fingers crossed. Maybe a walk somewhere scenic.


A walk in the park with a new toy – 13 January 2022

Today Alex and I went for a walk in a park.

Drove to Motherwell to pick Alex up, then we drove to Hamilton and parked at the retail park. I’d hoped to get some photos of the mausoleum, but it was still covered in scaffolding, so we found our way to my second choice which was the Keith’s building. It’s a red sandstone five storey building in a state of severe disrepair. From street level it looks like an old boarded up shop, but if you see it from below in Cadzow Glen, it looks completely different. It’s grade A listed, so it can’t be demolished, but it really needs a lot of TLC to bring it back to some semblance of its former glory. We took a few photos of it from the glen, and even risked the dodgy looking stairs that lead to a high level balcony. Then we followed the Cadzow Burn up the glen to a waterfall and took another few photos there. You just can’t stop photogs taking photos of waterfalls.

Time was getting on and I knew there was a time limit for parking at the retail park, so we headed back through the maze of streets behind Cadzow Street and down to the car, stopping to photograph the ‘man with the rope’. Then we drove up to Chatelherault for a coffee and a seat. That’s when I sprung my surprise. I got a new camera yesterday. In case anyone is interested, it’s a Sony A7iii. It replaces the A7ii and is a far more complicated model than its older brother. Lots of bells and whistles, all explained in its 666 page manual. This was its first real outing taking photos instead of being tested. I was impressed. I think Alex was too.

Dropped him off at the house and came home. Lunch had been a scone with butter ’n’ jam, so I was ready for dinner which was a new version of Scamp’s Macaroni and Cheese. Just a few tweaks with the sauce and the bacon made it a totally new dish. I think I like the new version better than the old one. In fact I liked it so much I forgot to put some tomato or brown sauce on it! Maybe next time.

That was about it for today. I believe there are plans for shopping tomorrow.


Back in the saddle – 11 January 2022

After yesterday’s little hissy fit, I’ve returned to the 365 proper.

It does get difficult sometimes to keep finding interesting subjects to photograph, but it’s important to remember the associated benefits. It gets me out in the fresh air, although it also ensures that I spend more time than I should in post processing. It keeps the little grey cells working and when I do get a good photo, or find something I thought I’d lost, like today, it does feel good.

The day didn’t start well. We went to a funeral for a girl I don’t remember meeting. She was the daughter-in-law of one of Scamp’s oldest friends. Funerals are never pleasant occasions, but when it’s for someone with her whole life still to live, it’s worse than normal. That’s all I’m going to say, except I have never seen the chapel at Daldowie as full as it was this morning.

Drove home in blinding sunshine and got on with the day. The sunshine mellowed a bit as the day progressed, but there was still blue sky up there and there was directional light. I took a camera for a walk, while Scamp stayed home and read. I was framing a shot through some trees when I thought I saw a ladybird on a tree beyond my framed shot. It was indeed an orange ladybird with white spots. Possibly the one I’ve been looking for since about November. It was still tucked up neatly in a knot in the trunk. This time I know which tree to look for. It’s the one two trees east of the one with the stick. You’ll know it when you see it, well, you won’t but I will.

That ladybird changed the complexion of the day completely. Unfortunately, none of the photos I took did it justice, so it didn’t get PoD. That award went to an orange coloured leaf, beautifully textured and almost translucent when seen against the light. There is another photo on Flickr that I worked on a tiny little bit tonight. It dates from September 2005, over sixteen years ago! It’s worth a look.

Scamp made Carrot and Lentil Curry tonight. It’s not he hottest curry in the world, but what it lacks in heat, it makes up for in taste. An old favourite.

I don’t think it’s going to be as good a day weatherwise tomorrow, but we may go out again for a spin. Need to get a wall calendar some time soon!

Almost cut my hair – 10 January 2022

I didn’t actually. It’s much deeper.

“Almost cut my hair” is a song by Stephen Stills on the “Déja Vu” album, away back in 1970. It seems to be about almost making a bad decision, one you will regret for a long time and once that decision is made, you can’t go back to how it was before. Today started as a dull day and just got more gloomy as the morning changed to afternoon and by about 3pm there was no point in going out to grab a photo. I almost decided to call a halt to the 365. I’m finding it harder to get fresh ideas for photos. The lack of decent directional light, day after day is part of it and I think the other part is needing to get out and look for new photographic opportunities. So, almost cut my hair, but not quite, not yet anyway.

What I did do was to dig through the archives to find some old stuff, old digital negatives from Skye and places like that. Places we haven’t been for a long time, years even, and try processing them again. Today’s one is on Flickr if you wish to have a look.

Today’s PoD turned out to be two little cat salt and pepper pots. Scamp bought them some years ago in a warm place. When they sit on the table they make us smile and remember past holidays. The are awkward to use because rather than having one hole in the top for salt or lots of smaller ones for pepper, both of them have three holes. It makes it a game of chance, a lucky dip whether you get salt or pepper.

We did go for a spin today over to Coatbridge to buy a WiFi extender. Two boxes, one you plug into the mains and connect to the modem. The other you put somewhere with a poor wireless signal. Plug it in to the mains and search for it with whatever device you are using. Once you find it you type in the password from the box and like magic it connects through the first box to the modem and you have an excellent signal. That sounds a bit complicated, but it is much simpler to do than to describe. Best of all, it just works!

I also got some more photo paper and made us a calendar for the toilet. I know it sounds sort of weird, having a calendar in the toilet, but every month in it has a different holiday picture. Like the wee cats it brings back memories of warmer places. The ‘real’ calendars are printed and bound and ready to fly to deserving people in the next few days. I’ve even done a “Where Was It Took” page especially for you Hazy. I’m struggling at the moment to remember how to mail merge it from Excel to Word.

That was about it for the day I almost cut my hair. We had pasta and tomato sauce for dinner. Scamp had bought M&S Plant Kitchen veggie balls. We tried them in with the pasta and tomato sauce. They were boggin. If you’re ever in Marks and you see them, just walk on by. That’s our recommendation.

Tomorrow we’re out in the morning but the afternoon doesn’t have anything planned for it. You’ll find out if we do anything interesting. No hair will be cut!

Oh Burger! – 9 January 2022

It was a day for getting your hands dirty.

I’d bought 500g of steak mince on Friday and had already made a mince pie with half of it. The other half was destined to languish in the freezer until it was old and grey, or be made into burgers today. That rhymed, but it was an accident! Better a burger than an old grey mince ball.

I put the mince into a bowl, and since it was fresh meat, I thought it deserved fresh herbs, so I ventured into the swamp that is the back garden and cut and chopped some Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. If I’d thought about it I’d have added some Parsley for obvious reasons. Added an egg to bind it (that could be a canticle line, couldn’t it) and some salt and pepper. Then it was time to get my hands dirty and massage the whole thing into a not too sticky ball that was cut into two then the balls were flattened to make rough burger shapes. One did go in the freezer, but it won’t last long in there, the other went into the fridge to chill.

Lunch time beckoned and it was an omelette for me and a slice of black pudding with some fried potatoes on the side. Was I really going to have room for dinner tonight, I asked myself? Yes, of course I would, just as long as I didn’t eat all of the omelette. For once I took my own advice. We watched and criticised the new Sunday morning politics show that’s being fronted by Sophie Raworth. Too many interruptions said Scamp.

I was just finishing off an epistle to Alex when I looked out the back window and saw a rainbow spread across the sky where there had only been grey clouds when I had started. Even better, there was sunshine too. Closed the laptop, (sorry Alex) and put on my boots and jacket and lugged a Sony A7 across to St Mo’s. Found some swans swimming in a vague line along the side of the pond and thought that might be PoD. Then I took the camera up to the small pond which was covered in ice and the ice was covered in water. I took a £1000+ camera and lens. Placed them gingerly on the wet ice of a pond. Gently pressed the shutter button. Didn’t breathe, but with my heart in my mouth whipped the camera away before the ice changed its mind. One look at the camera screen convinced me that I’d a PoD.

Walked home where I finished the email to Alex and gave him the first look at the PoD. Then it was time to cook the burger. Almost 15 minutes, 7min and a bit on each side then a resting time of about 10min while we had thin Sourdough toast and paté as a starter. Scamp had Roasted Cauliflower with Roasted Baby Tomatoes and I had a Handmade Burger with potatoes. Pudding was a Christmas Pudding with Posh Madagascar Custard. Actually, the Christmas Pudding and Posh Custard was the winner for both of us.

We rested for a while after that and coffee, then spoke to Jamie and found out about Fences, Water Softeners and Gardiners.

Finally finished the Hidden Palace, Hazel. Beautifully written book. I think I now need to read book 1 again to remind myself how all this came to pass. I do hope there is a book 3.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin. I need to put some expensive alcohol in the Blue Car’s tank. I think Vodka would be cheaper than petrol, these days. <Thinks, can you run a petrol car on vodka?>

Snow there anymore – 8 January 2022

The snow had almost gone when we woke today.

It was raining and the rain seemed to persist all day. On and off with little respite from it. We didn’t need to go out anywhere, so we didn’t. But that’s not true, we did go out, making the excuse that we needed milk, but that was in the afternoon. We just sat and read the news in the morning.

Eventually it seemed like a good idea, after lunch to go for a walk, more for the exercise than to get photos or to buy some milk. Two circuits of St Mo’s provided enough photographic evidence for today’s PoD which is an amalgam of two photos. Most of the leaf was sharp and detailed in the first shot, but the little curl at the top left of the leaf was sharper in the second. I used Affinity Photo, a much maligned, but very useful photo app to carefully glue the two images together to get the best of both world. Then it was back to Photoshop to deal with the ‘grain like golfballs’ that the process creates. There is no point in having two spectacularly useful apps and relying only on one. An Ansel Adams quote springs to mind: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

After walking round St Mo’s pond twice, once clockwise and once anti-clockwise, we continued down to the shops just as the rain started, and split up. Scamp to go to M&S while I went to Home Bargains. We met up again as the rain was tailing off and walked home.

Dinner tonight, we’d agreed would be courtesy of Golden Bowl. One Chicken Chop Suey with Fried Rice and one Special Chow Mein. I walked over to Condorrat to get them around 5pm and the paths were treacherous. Neither gritted nor snowploughed, they were one long sheet of ice. Luckily the grass on the verges was walkable with care, but there were a few dicey moments. I should really have worn my Yak Trax.

We watched some silly TV, including the first (and hopefully last) Masked Singer. Death in Paradise, after that was a serious manhunt by comparison.

Tomorrow it looks like more rain is forecast in the morning but with the hopes of a brighter and drier afternoon.

The snow came – 7 January 2022

When we woke, the land had been changed overnight.

Everywhere was blanketed in snow and there was even some more of the white stuff fluttering down from the clouds, but the sun was shining so it wasn’t all bad.

I put my boots on and went out early because the temperature was rising and there was water dripping from the tree in the garden. Not a second to waste if I was going to get the best snowy pictures today. The roads looked a bit slippery, so I decided I’d walk over to St Mo’s rather than driving much further. Surprisingly, with the schools still on holiday and a fair fall of snow on the ground, there were no sledges or sledgers to be seen. A sign of the times. In my day we couldn’t wait to get out there and freeze our extremities with sledging and snowball fights.

I didn’t have time for snowball fights. I was toting the A6000 with a macro lens and the A7 with an 18mm wide angle. One in each jacket pocket. First real target was a rosehip cluster on a bush just past the carpark. That got something worthwhile in the bag. Next was the lone tree in St Mo’s. Looking very elegant with a dusting of snow still clinging to its branches and a crow up near the top. I expected the bird to fly off as I got closer and closer, taking shots all the time. It never moved, almost daring me to come closer. I gave in eventually and let it win the standoff this time. Down on the boardwalk there were more photos to take of snowy footprints, but I was sure one of the tree shots would get PoD. I walked round the pond twice, taking pot shots all the time, but not really being satisfied with anything. Eventually I’d had enough and went home to get warm.

A cup of coffee soon warmed me up, and after lunch the postman came with some Christmas cards, delivered almost a month past their posting date. Also two letters for Scamp which apparently showed that the date for her op had been put back a day. That meant the op was now set for a Friday and we knew that the surgeon didn’t work on a Friday. She struggled through the maze of “Press 1 for blah. Press 2 for blah blah, etc. After waiting for about fifteen minutes, she finally got through to a human who told her that yes, the date on the letter was correct, but said she’d transfer her to the Eye Clinic, then cut her off. I found the phone number for the Eye Clinic and Scamp phoned it and spoke to someone who explained that the date on the letter was for a post-op check and that she was scheduled for the op on the Thursday with the surgeon we’d met back in December.

All was well, so to allow her to cool down, I went for a walk over to Condorrat to get some mince and potatoes for dinner. I also managed ten minutes in St Mo’s first. That’s where the real PoD came from. Happier with it than with any of the other shots.

Got instruction when I got back on how to build a mince pie the way my mum used to make it. It wasn’t nearly as good as my mum’s, and nowhere as good as Scamp’s, but it worked and surprisingly I don’t feel any reflux effects from it … so far.

Watched a film recommended by Hazy, ‘Judy’, about Judy Garland. If half of it was true, it must have been a terrifying childhood. You don’t realise just how lucky you are sometimes. After that we watched a Monty Don program about gardens in Venice. It was just like being there. Unfortunately, when we looked out the window afterwards, it wasn’t the Grand Canal we saw, but a garden with half melted snow that looked like it was beginning to freeze. Oh well!

Tomorrow looks like the thaw will start. Let’s hope it clears the snow away and we get out somewhere, anywhere.