Out for a walk – 21 September 2021

Today looked like being the best day this week, so we planned a walk.

Every time we passed Devilla forest near Kincardine we promised ourselves that we’d go for a walk in the woods. That’s where we headed today. The weather was a bit breezier and duller than we’d expected, but Scamp filled the flask and packed some biscuits so we wouldn’t starve. New boots were packed in the car and off we went.

By the time we were crossing the Kincardine Bridge into Fife, the sky was clearing and it was looking quite hopeful. Arrived at the car park which was less than half full. One of the benefits of going there on a weekday. Weekends are fairly busy. Got dressed for the walk and after a cursory glance at the map we headed off in the general direction of Peppermill Dam. Signposting is pretty hit and miss in this Forestry Commission (or Forestry and Land Scotland as it’s now known) land and the uncompacted hardcore underfoot on the main paths is treacherous to walk on. Once we were on the smaller paths near the dam the walking was much easier and we found quite a few mushrooms for me to photograph. Wandered on and found our way back to the car park with the aid of the OS app. We needed it because of the scarcity of signposts. All in all the Devilla of today needs a good makeover. The hardcore tracks are an accident waiting to happen and labelling them as “Cycle paths” must have been done by someone who hasn’t been on a bike this century. Also, people want signs to show where they are and how to get to the interesting sights in the forest. Such a shame.

Back home, I reckoned I had enough photos of mushrooms, toadstools and scenery to make a PoD and started on the seemingly never ending task of filling in the blanks of the blog. Scamp was champing at the bit to get both front and back grass cut, possibly egged on my Jamie’s comment of making the last cut of his grass while we were down in Cumbria. I helped a bit with some gentle strimming and also shifting the flower tubs in the front garden.

Dinner tonight was Beetroot Falafels from Jamie and Sim’s recipe. They tasted ok, but the star attraction was the roasted beetroot chunks. Sweet and utterly delicious.

Tomorrow Scamp is off out to lunch with the now disbanded Gems. I may paint, because the weather looks wet.

The start of a busy week – 20 September 2021

Lots of things to do this week. Some interesting, some not so. Today was a Not So.

The lady with the swabs was coming to see us today, in the middle of the afternoon. That’s the worst time to have a visitor, it just breaks up the whole day. However, it’s for a good cause and it doesn’t take very long. It’s just that it’s a bit unpleasant, sticking a swab down your throat and up your nose. As I’ve said before, better in that order than the other way round! It’s part of a Covid survey we’re doing, not, that we have Covid!

The rest of the day fitted round that event like a blanket, but some stuff got done. I went out and took some photos. I went over to St Mo’s with a plan. I took a Gorilla Pod and the Sony 7M2 with the 18mm Samyang lens. That meant I could get fairly close to the subject – mushrooms – and still manage to get some background in focus too. It also meant I didn’t have to break my back carrying the 105mm Sigma lens. The Gorilla Pod was to hold the camera and allow me to use a fairly low ISO speed. As it happened, the shutter speed for most of the shots was between 5 and 6 seconds. The shot here was my favourite of the batch. Processed in Lightroom with my version of one of Mark Galer’s presets. I liked the ethereal effect from the processing.

Tomorrow the weather looks good, so we may go out for a walk.

Rained – 19 September 2021

It rained all morning, but that didn’t bother us. We weren’t intending going far.

We spoke to Hazel in the morning and gave her updates on who did what and who cooked what when we were down in Little Musgrave. She in turn got us up to date on what the family were doing in Wimbledon and around. She gave me another password manager to experiment with. So now I have two managers looking after two computers and I’m hoping they don’t speak to each other and I can remember the passwords for each and don’t get them mixed up.

Scamp relaxed for most of the day, posting a collection of photos on FB and still found time to do some washing, so we had at least some clean clothes to wear! I spent most of my time stuck in front of the computer I’m writing this on, posting photos in Flickr, which I suppose is my version of FB. I also started writing up some blog posts that I’d condensed into bullet points to get things in (almost) the right order.

Later in the afternoon the rain stopped and I got out for a walk in St Mo’s where I found more interesting mushrooms, or at least fungi. I used to think these tiny little plants were so delicate, but after reading Merlin Sheldrake’s book Entangled Lives, I view them in a far different light. The way he describes it, fungi could mount a takeover bid for the planet and win easily. Scary stuff. Today’s find was a group of Puffball mushrooms which I don’t remember seeing before. PoD went to a group of fungi that appeared like rosettes and looked quite delicate, but remember Merlin’s words!

Dinner tonight was Fennel, Prawns and Haddock. It should have been Cod instead but the Haddock was there anyway and it fitted the bill. We used the first of our own leeks too and they were lovely along with the slow cooked fennel.

Spoke to Jamie and found out more about the air display we missed on Thursday afternoon. It sounded quite spectacular and I was sorry we hadn’t seen it, but needs must when you need to get home in time to grab a parking space!

Tomorrow the lady will come to see us with her probing questions and then we will probe our throats and nose cavities. All for the sake of Science!


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.

We took Katy skating – 23 January 2021

It was a cold start again. No snow and only a little bit of ice, but frost covering all the cars.

We decided we’d make a fairly leisurely start today. In fact it was well into afternoon before we booted up and walked around St Mo’s. I reckoned there would be enough ice for Katy and there was. I took Scamp on a trek out into the wild woods at the back of St Mo’s. I thought I’d make a slight detour to show her my hibernating ladybird, but shock, horror, no ladybird. Perhaps the two sunny days recently have brought it out of its winter sleep. Let’s hope so. We did find a lush crop of hair ice on the exact same log I’d found it earlier in the month. Plenty of other logs nearby in the same state of degradation with no sign of the strange ice formation on them. Apparently it’s linked to a specific type of fungus. Strange stuff.

Katy had been wanting to go skating for weeks, but the thaw had put paid to her chances. I was sure the ice would be thick enough today and it was … but only just. I got her to pose and even as I was setting up the camera, I could tell that the ice was starting to melt. I could even see the dead leaves under the ice moving in the current. Took a swift half dozen or so shots from various angles. Some with extra illumination, some not. As we were walking away from the tiny pond I ’chimped’ them and none of them were truly sharp. Not to worry I was sure I’d find a more accessible shot on the other side of the big pond.

We walked round the pond after we’d survived the tangled brambles and the two leaps of faith across the burn. There I found what I was looking for. The rain from last week had frozen solid on the path making walking it without YakTrax treacherous. Not so for a minifig with ice skates. Katy posed again and this time I got the shot. Not perfect, but much better than the first shots. I have to be careful here. Katy is not technically a Weeman. She is a WeeWummin. She’s my ice skater. She made PoD.

Dinner was Fish Fingers and Baked Potato for Scamp and M&S Beef Burger with Baked Potato for me. Both washed down with a glass of Malbec. Not the best tasting wine I’ve ever had. It tasted raw and bitter to me, although Scamp found it really nice.

Entertainment started at 7.30pm in the form of a Zoom Dance. It was a particularly well attended dance and our feet are feeling the effects of dancing the night away. It finished just half an hour ago. Great fun as usual and another Zoom Class to look forward to tomorrow.

Apart from the dance class we may go out for a walk if the weather is conducive. It may be cold tomorrow as the temperature is -2.4c just now.

Man in the red coat – 16 December 2020

But not the one you might think off at this time of year.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning. Covid seems to be on the rise in London, especially in the schools where both staff and pupils seem to be the badly affected. Thankfully, they will be on their Christmas break from Friday, so that might give things a chance to calm down. We exchanged updates on parcels and Hazy suggested we might like Chocolate Tortillas from M&S. I’m not sure it’s quite my sort of thing, but I’m willing to have a go because there is chocolate involved.

My first task was to get the Christmas cards organised with the “Our 2020” sheets. Scamp had agreed to post them for me. That left me free to start my email to my brother and select some photos to go with it. I’d been getting on quite happily with my task when Scamp returned from posting the cards, carrying a big cardboard box of chips. The chip shop had been open she said, as if that was reason enough. We shared them and they were lovely, and definitely not fattening, because they were our lunch.

Later I went back to my epistle and after finishing at a reasonable juncture, I grabbed the camera bag and took a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to photograph, but I liked the absurdity of a M&S shopping trolley (without Chocolate Tortillas) standing at the starting gate of the BMX track. Is this a new dangerous sport? Shopping trolley BMX? That might just do for a fun picture. Further on I walked along the outlet burn of the pond. I was looking to see if there was any prospect of a slow shutter speed shot of the moving water. There was, but it would need some careful descending to get there without sliding on my bum down the steep sides of the burn. Then I found a tiny wee toadstool, slightly the worse for wear poking through the leaf litter. That would make a challenging photo with only a kit lens. The burn is virtually on the edge of the school fence and as I was kneeling down trying to achieve focus on this wee toadstool I heard someone, definitely a child and probably a boy, cry “Hey!”. Then “Hey! Man in the red coat.” Then the sound of running feet before I could shout “Aye, but not the one you were thinking of.” Maybe he thought I’d been out warming up the sleigh and had fallen out into the muck beside the burn. He’ll probably go home tonight and say “Mum. Guess who I saw today …”

Well, I did get focus on the wee toadstool and it became PoD. Santa was never found and My brother’s email winged its way off to Motherwell soon after I got back.

Tonight we were disappointed with the judges choice of Portrait Artist of 2020. We were equally disappointed with his portrait of Carlos Acosta. I suppose it was fitting because 2020 has been such a disappointing year in so many ways.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin, although we need to be back for a Tesco order that’s due to arrive around 5pm.

Dull December – 9 December 2020

Out for a walk around Broadwood.

We thought it would be a good idea to go out for a walk in the morning when there is at least a chance of getting back in the light. It sort of worked. I took the Sony with me, but it never got out of the bag. We walked round the boardwalk and watched the goosanders and the tufted ducks diving into the sludgy water, fishing for minnows or small perch.  Then  along the dam  past the walkers having their tea and blocking the whole width of the path.  From there we went down the other side and up along the exercise machines path before going through the tunnels under the roundabout and back home. About an hour in all and fairly comfortable temperature, but the sun never shone all the way. Dull and cloudy, but good company and conversation.  I suppose this sort of weather is all you can expect at this time of year in Scotland. Scotland in Lockdown in Winter. What a marvellous time of the year.

After lunch I was determined to get a photo, so while Scamp walked over to get stamps at the post office, I walked around St Mo’s and found today’s PoD. Tiny little toadstools growing on the branch of a dead tree. Managed to find some light behind them and it helped a bit, but not a lot. Without some real sunshine there is no colour. And also  without some decent light you are really pushing even a good camera like the Sony.  Maybe tomorrow the sun will break through and we’ll get some decent photos.

Those two walks were the highlights of the day. Actually the first one was so much better than the second. I’m becoming fed up with St Mo’s. The whole place is like a quagmire. The continuous rain every two or three days doesn’t get a chance to drain away on the occasional dry days then more rain piles in on already saturated ground. However, Scamp keeps reminding me that it’s only a couple of weeks until the shortest day and after that the days will begin to lengthen and lighten.

Today felt like a repeat of yesterday. Went for a walk. Came home. Even dinner today was just the same as yesterday. Tomorrow we may have something different and maybe a walk in a different place if it’s dry.

Getting out and about – 7 December 2020

We went for the messages.

In the morning we drove to Tesco for bread, milk and apples. Fairly basic. We came home with a whole lot more than those essentials, but no more gin. Bumped into Colin C and Evelyn and got some of his news. Some of his extended family had picked up the the infection and had to self isolate, so Colin and Evelyn were looking after them, when it should be the other way around. He said he’d seen Fred when he came into the store, but there was no sign of him. He was probably hiding.

Back home and after lunch Scamp decided the paths were safe enough to go for a walk in St Mo’s, just to get some fresh air. We did one circuit of the pond and crossed paths with a bloke I usually bump into there and pass the time of day. He does clockwise circuits, I do anti-clockwise. I hadn’t realised until he said so. We’re both usually there alone, today he was with (I assume) his wife and I was with Scamp. I was just saying to Scamp that I usually bump into him on my circuit of the pond and she said “He’s probably saying that to his wife too.” So it was confirmed, the woman was his wife. Women know these things.

I’d got three photos in all the time we were out and I swithered (Great word it means I couldn’t make up my mind) about using them or going out to get more. Got slightly better photos of the ladybird (still only one) and some fungi with ice on the top, but PoD went to the landscape. Taken about the same time of day as yesterdays and has the same basic colours. Yesterday’s colours were part of the ‘cheating’ today’s colours have not been messed with.

While I was cleaning up the photos, Scamp was talking to her sister on the phone and sharing news and views with Skye. Then I found an excellent set of tutorial videos on the Synology NAS by a bloke on YouTube. If you’re interested, it’s called mydoodads. Much, much better than the tutorials from Synology itself.

Well, it seems that JIC has to wait for a while for his chance to complete his Cranford course. The tutor was in touch to say that he had a ‘family emergency’ and would re-schedule. No luck son. Some folk just have to do it the hard way … every time.

Rain forecast for tomorrow, so we’ll have to wait and see if a walk is on the cards.

Driving through the labyrinth – 14 November 2020

We had a big ball of string with us, just in case.

Drove in to Glasgow in the morning because the weather fairies said nasty weather was coming our way in the afternoon. They were almost right, as usual. The nasties were coming our way, blown in from the Atlantic by the Jet Stream. There wasn’t a JS when I was attempting to understand geography at Larky Academy. All we could afford was the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic Drift – which was the real name of what’s left of the Gulf Stream when it arrives battered and bruised after a long trip from Mexico to Scottish shores. Anyway the Jet Stream seems to be to the air, what the Gulf Stream is to water. It’s also a pain in the backside because it always dumps its unwanted wind and rain on Scotland and it was coming to a place near us in the afternoon, or so they said. What actually happened was the morning was ok, just ok and the afternoon was dull. The rain got dumped in the evening. It’s still being dumped now. For all those meteorological reasons we drove in to Glasgow in the morning to pick up a duvet cover we’d ordered from JL.

To get to the pick-up place you have to pick up a ticket at the entrance to the car park, drive through the labyrinth that is the Buchanan Galleries car park until you come to the gate that takes you to the pick-up area. There you stick your ticket in the machine and if it doesn’t have a hissy fit and spit your ticket back at you, it allows you to enter the sanctum. From there, suitably PPE’d you enter the collection area and after showing your collection barcode then flashing your picture ID, you get the item you have already paid for.
It sounds a bit archaic, but it works and best of all you don’t have to pay to park if all you want to do is just pick something up. The item in question was a duvet cover we’d ordered during the week. Scamp checked it while we were in the sanctum, just to make sure it was the right pattern and the right size. It was and after that we drove home.

With that excitement over we had lunch and I took the Sony out for a walk. The best of a bad lot today was a picture of some tree fungus in St Mo’s. By the time I was walking home it was growing dark and it was only about 2.30pm! Some of the street lights were on. It was that kind of day.

There’s not a lot else I can say about today other than it was almost exactly what the weather fairies predicted. If they’re to believed tomorrow will be much the same. Oh what fun!

Light – 10 November 2020

The fog was there when we woke this morning and it stayed all day

One of those days where there wasn’t much to encourage us to go out. Although it wasn’t cold, it felt damp and uncomfortable. Although I managed to do my ‘8 active hours’ according to the Fitbit, I couldn’t telly you how I achieved them. It felt like a day of sitting around.

It wasn’t until late in the afternoon that I managed to shift myself enough to go out to get some photos. I walked over to St Mo’s looking for some macro subjects to ignite my interest. The subjects were there, but I really needed the light to be better. More light would help and some of it needed to be directional. I had hopes that there might be some late sunshine when the clouds parted slightly to expose a tiny sliver of blue sky. However the tear in the clouds soon healed again and the sun was lost for another day. I found a small toadstool growing on the edge of the pine woods and tried unsuccessfully to get a decent, sharp image of it. That’s when I switched my phone on and used its torch to give me that directional light. It worked and I had my PoD.

Also on my phone came the news that North Lanarkshire was to remain in level 3 of the restrictions after threats that we’d be elevated to level 4 which is basically full lockdown again. Skye, on the other hand were downgraded to level 1 which gives them a bit more freedom. Back home Scamp was talking to Jackie in Skye and congratulating her on her freedom.

She, Scamp, had been to Condorrat while I was out and had bumped into Chris Davies’ mum again. Hadn’t seen her for years and then bumped into her twice in a week. Sometimes life’s like that.

It was Scamp’s turn to make dinner and tonight I got to choose between two different offerings. I chose Kedgeree and it was a great choice and a great dinner. Tasty and just nicely curry flavoured.

Today may have been dull, but tomorrow will be wet, WET, WET. Not a Scottish rock band from the ’80s. More a Scottish weather pattern. We may go out, just to get away from the house for a while.