A wild day – 13 May 2022

Feeling a lot better today.

Yesterday’s paracetamol, Vitamin C and, of course, the hot toddy must have done its work because today was a different day. Different day outside too with gale force winds for a while.

We were booked for lunch at The Cotton House and arrived to an almost full car park. Partly caused by a builders lorry taking up about four spaces. I managed to squeeze the wee blue car into a narrow space, and we were good. Starter for Scamp was Spring Rolls. Just for a change, I had Salt and Pepper Spring Rolls. Not something I’ve seen on a menu before, but if you get a chance to try them, move on to the next item. Loads of fried chopped onions and fried chopped chilli with some horrible brown breadcrumbs, also fried, on top. All of this was covering the spring rolls. I ate the spring rolls and gave up on the rest. Main for Scamp was the long time standard in this Cantonese restaurant was Chicken Chow Mein with noodles. I had Cantonese Sweet and Sour Chicken with fried rice. Both were delicious, in fact, Scamp was finished before me for once. I’m usually the glutton, not that I’m saying Scamp is a glutton. Oh no, not me! We didn’t have a dessert or even tea or coffee. We just paid the bill and left, feeling full. I took their little tub of jelly beans. It’s the only restaurant I know of that gives you a tub of jelly beans with the bill.

Back home there was a card waiting for me. A birthday card from my brother. I sent him a message to say thanks, and that because it was a little late, it was a surprise. He wrote back to say that he’d posted it first class on the 6th of April. Five weeks to travel 20 miles. That’s even slower than an X3!

Scamp was singing with Cumbersheugh Choir tonight and was leaving around 5.30pm. I was actually thinking of going to the concert, but Scamp said it wouldn’t be all that interesting. She’s very honest about these things, so I took her at her word and stayed. Didn’t do much with my free time. Browsed the photos in Flickr and posted today’s PoD which was the first of the American cowslips to flower, Shooting Stars is their name and that’s exactly what they look like.  It was taken in a lull between showers and gales when there was relative calm in the garden.  Scamp’s new rhododendron, Nancy Evans came a close second. Both are on Flickr.

Apparently the concert was well attended and it sounded a lot better than Scamp had feared, but she still insisted that I wouldn’t have liked the way that the pieces were sung.

Tomorrow we’re intending to go dancing in the morning, but the rest of the day is ours to do with as we wish.


Rain – 9 May 2022

It was one of those days that started wet and just got wetter.

We needed the rain for the garden. We’ve had a few weeks of what can only be called Drought recently. Last week that finally ended when the rain blew in from the west. However now we’ve had enough rain. The buckets are full and the garden is pleasantly refreshed. Even the grass and the woodlands are bursting with fresh green, which is a great sight to see. But you can have too much of a good thing. We need the rain to taper off a bit to let that other natural source of growth stimulation, Sunshine, start doing some good work. Let the sun shine in and let the rain go somewhere else where it will be appreciated.

Lunch was another version of Crimpet™ Thins. Scamp had cheese and beetroot. I had ham, cheese and beetroot. But while Scamp made hers the traditional way, in the toaster, I gave mine a 20 second zap in the microwave first. That gave enough heat to melt the cheese in the bread. More experimentation needed.

Because of that, and the unlikelihood of getting anywhere to take some photos today, I started doing a bit of sketching and painting. I’d really meant to make a start on EDiM (Every Day in May) on Flickr. The main site for it is on Facebook, but after a bit of a bust up with the woman who runs it there, I only post to the Flickr group. However this May is going to be very busy for us and it’s unlikely I’ll be able to complete the 31 daily sketches that are required. So with that in mind, I thought I’d do a couple of quick sketches just to show willing. They didn’t turn out very well, but it was fun trying.

While I was engrossed in my paint splashes, Scamp was doing the opposite, she was cleaning and tidying the bathroom. Like she says, it needed done and today was, if not the best day to do it, at least a better use of a dull, wet day. I know I should have helped out, but it’s a small bath room, too small for two people to work in without really getting in each other’s way. I left her to it and made dinner. Monday dinner is almost always Italian in flavour. Today it was Red Pasta. The pasta in the cupboard (today it was mixed) with a tomato based ragu containing shallots and red peppers chopped fine. It was deemed ok! Foodies! We love to discuss and critique everything we eat.

Eventually I gave in and grabbed a camera and ventured into the garden to get some photos of the rhododendron bush that’s nearly flowering … in the rain. That’s what gets photogs a bad name.

Tomorrow we may go looking for a pair of brogues for me. No mention of another dress for Scamp. That doesn’t mean something won’t catch her eye, but I never said that.

Gardening – 8 May 2022

Scamp wanted to get the grass cut before the rains came. I wanted to plant some seeds.

Before that, Scamp started off de-icing the freezer. It’s a thankless task, so we split the job between us. Scamp started with a scraper tool and bowls of hot water to start the thaw and I took over with an assortment of kitchen tools plus knives and scrapers from my art supplies. Between us we got the job done fairly quickly.

Lunch was next and after that we started on the gardening. After a lot of huffing and puffing, we did manage to get both of these tasks completed, although I must admit that Scamp’s was by far the more energy sapping of the two. She cut the front grass, strimmed the edges and used her mighty blower to get rid of the loose cuttings. I attempted to dig into the skim of soil that covers a pile of rubble at the end of the garden and planted a row of Ammi majus, the cow parsley look-alike next to the old buddleia just to see if it would grow in such poor soil. Then I planted some Ambassador peas in a tray in the greenhouse and also a line of four of the same peas in the raised bed.

As I was working round the raised bed I saw a little daisy flower sitting in the shade with its flower head in the sun. That seemed like a good subject for the new Lensbaby Sweet 35 optic. It turned out so good, it made PoD.

While Scamp rested her back, I walked mine over to St Mo’s and got a few more with the Sweet 35. It seems a bit more extreme than the Sweet 50. The distortion is much more pronounced, which was the reason I bought it in the first place.

I was having the Lamb Flank Parcel I’d bought yesterday, for my dinner and Scamp was having a chicken pastie. Both with potatoes and carrots. Her’s seemed fine, but my lamb was fatty and probably undercooked. An hour and a half roasting in the oven at Gas 5 is nowhere nearly enough. Just a note to self for when I get round to cooking the other one that’s now in the much cleaner freezer. The other note to self is not to buy Salt & Chilli Wings from Tesco. Took far longer than the stated time and didn’t look anything like wings. Not a good impulse buy. Scamp had made a fruit salad for dessert with apples, oranges and pineapple, plus a tablespoon of Cointreau. Again, not nearly enough Cointreau, but a refreshing end to the meal.

Spoke to Jamie for a while over a very dodgy WiFi connection. Good to see them getting a bit of ‘me time’, or is that ‘us time’? Doing a bit of walking in the Lake District. Heard about plans for the future.

That was about it, except about fifteen minutes ago a tiny little tick appeared on my wrist, just crawling out from under my watch strap. It was quickly despatched before it could get stuck into my heavily medicated blood. First one I’ve seen for ages. On the subject of ‘first one I’ve seen for ages’, yesterday I saw my first swallow this year. They do say that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but I saw three. Does that make a summer then?

Maybe going looking for a pair of good sturdy brogues tomorrow as an alternative to kilt shoes. Dark brown for preference, although my fashion guru says that won’t go with the rest of the outfit.

Time to tidy up – 1 May 2022

Scamp returns today and that means the kitchen must be returned to its pristine condition. Oh dear.

As it happened, Scamp didn’t return to around 6pm which gave me plenty of leeway to make an even bigger mess of the kitchen by attempting to make a dozen English Muffins as advertised by Simon and Garfunkel in Punky’s Dilemma. Water, sugar, salt, yeast, flour, melted butter. What could go wrong!? Well, the answer was “Not much, actually.” It all went quite well considering how long it is since I’ve done any baking.

With the dough made, I left it to its own devices while I loaded the washing machine with stuff and set it to work. Then I went into the garden and planted some seeds. Teasels and a sort of Cowparsley or Hogweed called Ammi majus. The first is now in the greenhouse and the second is in the raised bed.

Lunch was another of Hazy’s “Crimpits”. This time the filling wasn’t so successful. I used grated cheese, cooked ham and beetroot. Maybe I overloaded it. Maybe it was because I was using white ‘Thins’, rather than wholewheat. Maybe it was because it was Sunday and Sunday should be a fried lunch. Anyway, I’ll try another mixture of fillings later in the week.

The dough was having a lazy Sunday and needed a bit of a talking to, so I gave it a last warning and told it to get rising or it would get kicked out, then I left it to consider its future while I took a camera and a couple of lenses to see what was hiding in St Mo’s woods.

There was a deer hiding there, but it saw me long before I saw it. It was last seen heading in the general direction of Glasgow at a fair rate of knots. PoD was a shot of a larch branch with fresh green needles that had captured some of yesterday’s rain and was holding on to it. I liked that.

Back home the dough was more than doubled in size. It’s amazing what a threat will do. I chopped it up into 12 little 77.33g balls and rolled them until they were smooth, flattened them and dusted them with a mixture of flour and semolina before cooking six of them in the frying pan (without oil),then baking them in the oven. As usual with our gas oven the timing was a bit hit and miss, and more miss than hit in this case. Some worked ok, some were underdone. There are another six in the fridge chilling tonight. Hopefully I’ll be more successful tomorrow. I suppose it doesn’t help that in Scotland we don’t eat many English muffins, so I didn’t really know what the texture should be like.

Halfway through the cooking and baking I got a WhatsApp from Jamie asking if we could do a FaceTime from New York. I explained that Scamp was still on the way home from St Andrews, but I was available. The next thing I knew, I was looking at Jamie with skyscrapers in the background. It felt such a surreal thing to do, to talk to someone I knew, thousands of miles away and in real time. I know this sounds incredibly old fashioned to some folk, but I’ve never had the need to do Face Time over a long distance before. It quite took my breath away. Thank you for that opportunity Jamie. Such a pity Scamp couldn’t have joined in too. And then he was off to catch his train to the airport to fly home. Safe flight home Jamie.

Scamp arrived about half an hour later, with lots of interesting foody things. Duck eggs, Ginger and Leek sausages, an interesting looking quiche, a jar of garlic piccalilli and two sticky cakes that we’re keeping for tomorrow. The sausages and a duck egg with some bacon became my dinner and mixed well with the piccalilli. Scamp said the quiche was ‘just all right’, but the pastry was lovely.

It’s great to have a bit of freedom, but its even better when you’re back home again. Lots of stories still to tell, I’m sure.

Somebody is coming to see us tomorrow to invite us to swab our throats and noses, then ask us those difficult searching questions.

Old Friends – 28 April 2022

Off to Clydeside today, not to be confused with Clydebank!

We were off to have lunch with Crawford and Nancy at Gouldings garden centre. We’d forgotten to collect some photos of Jamie and Simonne’s nearly new house, so after a mad scramble we managed to export around fifteen photos and put them on a tablet to take with us. That left us just a wee bit late, but we made up some time on the motorway and thankfully there wasn’t a queue to get over Garrion Bridge. C&N had waited in the queue and been shown to a table, so we could just walk past the queue waiting to be allocated a table and just waltz in, like royalty!

Food was just as good as it always is. Not fancy, Fish Cakes for the ladies, Fish for Crawford and Scampi for me, all served with chips and salad. Dessert was equally easy to remember. Three slices of Rhubarb Pie and one Apple Pie, washed down with coffee. We sat and talked about what we’d been doing, where we’d been going and what plans we had for the summer. Just old friends sitting talking and holding on to a table while the queue to get in got longer and longer!

Scamp had a music stand for Nancy and Nancy had some music for Sheila. Fair exchange etc. We said our goodbyes, hands were shaken, hugs were hugged and we went our separate ways. They were going to collect their granddaughter from nursery and we were going to the plant nursery to get some more flowers for the garden.

After that we headed for home. Scamp was itching to get her new plants into the soil we hope they’ll grow in and I wanted to plant my last two seed potatoes. We both accomplished our tasks and in addition I took on the task of turning the compost in the bin, just to make sure it’s well mixed.

I had half intended taking a camera for a walk round St Mo’s, but saw two pretty blue anemone flowers in a pot on the back step. That became PoD.

A good day with great company. Also some work done in the garden. Tomorrow we may go dress hunting again in the Middle East.


Going for the messages – 27 April 2022

Scamp wanted messages. I suggested Morrisons at Falkirk. The suggestion was accepted.

We drove to Morrisons and left the car there while we walked back into town to try to find a dress shop called Frox. It didn’t seem to be where Scamp thought it was. What was there, was another dress shop which looked more like a wedding shop to me. Definitely not what she was looking for. Neither was Frox when we did eventually find it. In fact, every second shop in Falkirk town centre seemed to have posh frocks and require you to make an appointment first. We gave up on it for today and went to get the messages in Morrisons – no appointment required!

After we’d loaded the car we went back and had a nice cheap lunch in Morrisons. Roll ’n’ sausage for me, tub of chips for Scamp and two cups of coffee for less than a tenner. That’s good value.

Back home I planted two of our last potatoes in an old compost bag using some soil from the raised bed mixed with some stuff our home composter made. Both lots seemed perfectly useable, but both were very dry. A good soaking with the watering can ensured they’d be damp enough for a few days. Scamp was planting a couple of fuchsias we’d got in Falkirk.

Back home I got dressed for wandering around St Mo’s and took the Sony A7iii with kit lens and a wide angle and got today’s PoD which is a larch pineapple that’s beginning to look more like a pineapple now that its been pollenated and beginning to plump up. It is actually beginning to look like a pine cone now, although it’s a green one at present.

Sat and watched the first episode of Sewing Bee and despaired at some of the work the judges were praising to the highest. I could have done better! Just in case you’re reading this, Jamie, while we were in Morrisons I bought a box of Estrella and we had a bottle while we watched the Sewing Bee. Thanks for introducing me to a nice summer beer.

That was about it for the day. Another beautiful day that took a while to get going, but turned out well.

We’re probably going to meet Crawford & Nancy for lunch at Gouldings garden centre on Clydeside. Scamp wants more plants although she says she doesn’t know what!

Dancin’ – 21 April 2022

Today Scamp wanted to go dancing in Paisley. It seemed only fair as I’m intending going on a photo walk with Alex tomorrow.

In the morning Scamp asked if I’d noticed the flowers on the magnolia in the back garden, I hadn’t. Last year it was feeling a bit sorry for itself and I think only about half the flowers came out. Today it was covered in white flowers. Obviously, whatever Scamp is doing is helping this old tree. I took a few photos of it, more for a record of the unexpected flowering than anything, but one of those photos turned out to be PoD.

We drove in to Paisley in the afternoon and had a hit and a miss day as far as dancing skill went. Most of the sequence dances came back to me eventually, but the waltz and quickstep were not our best. However, we did enjoy the day and the banter from the others sitting having tea. Well, it was a tea dance!

Back home and after dinner I started to rebuild the blog. Lots of writing to do and lots of photos to process. That’s why this is a catch-up as most of you will realise. The other thing I did was plant some of the basil seeds that Scamp had bought me. They are at present sitting in the sun in the front bedroom.

Tomorrow Alex and I are hoping to go to Paisley (again) to photograph the abbey and the Anchor Mill near the river.

Recovery – 20 April 2022

Today was a getting back to normal day. Auld Claes and Purrich.

We went for the messages in the morning. Just the usual things and a wander round Tesco with a trolley. Not a lot of fun, but it has to be done.

Later, after lunch, Scamp was working in the garden, cutting the front grass and feeling grateful that we don’t have an enormous lawn, so do not need a petrol driven mower that just runs away with you. I too the Sony over to St Mo’s and set it loose taking photos of the whin bushes that are in full golden bloom just now. Basically that was it for the day. One of the pictures of the whin bushes got PoD.

Tomorrow we may be going dancing in Paisley.

Last full day – 18 April 2022

Our last full day at the house and we wanted to cram everything we could into those 12 waking hours.

It started off with a walk round the garden and the outside of this remarkable house and also some time for interior shots. I was glad I’d brought along the 18mm wide angle lens. Really useful for showing off the odd shaped rooms. Flowers, oh yes, lots of photos of flowers, but also photos of plants in Jamie’s greenhouse. Not just the immediate environs either, but also the church next door, St Mary’s. A few shots of that too. I’d thought I might get a last walk through it and down to the wee bridge, but there just wasn’t enough time.

Jamie drove us to look for some plants at a garden centre. The first place we went to had some plants they wanted and bought, but no compost which they needed. The second one was more like a retirement home for ill and dying plants. Not worth the name of a garden centre. The third one did have plants, compost and seeds. They didn’t want the seeds, but we did. I wanted Teasel seeds, but I also grabbed Yellow Rattle, Basil and Rocket micro greens. Scamp bought me a packet of Ammi majus which look like Cow Parsley, so hopefully I can have some in the garden, to save me walking to St Mo’s to capture hoverflies in the summer. Thanks Scamp!

Then we were off again, being driven to Bury St Edmonds to go for a walk through the Abbey gardens. Clever planting in the gardens with good colour combinations. We took more photos of the ruins in the gardens, but time constraints didn’t allow us a chance to visit the actual abbey. Maybe another time, if we’re allowed back. Outside the big ornate front entrance to the gardens there were a bollard and a post box that had been yarn bombed. I don’t know what I liked best, the Easter bunny or the flower garden with the bee. Both fun additions to the street furniture.

We had a rather high cholesterol lunch in Cafe Nero. My favourite being a Chouxnut which Jamie called a Croconut because that’s what they are called in the US where he’d seen them first. It is a soft choux pastry filled with white chocolate mousse topped with caramel biscuit fondant and crushed biscuits. Delicious and very fattening, but who’s counting when you’re on your holidays! I haven’t seen them up north, but maybe that’s a good thing.

Then we were driven back to the house, because Jamie wanted to show off his latest acquisition, a petrol driven lawn mower. Not a ride-on one, although that may come. Scamp was the first to try it out and found it a little bit more demanding than she’d anticipated. I have a video! I was a bit more cautious, since I’d had a chance to watch Scamp’s antics and realise that you don’t just go full speed all the time. I don’t do the ‘grass hoovering’ at home, but I can see how much of a boon this must be when you have such a big lawn on a slope.

Jamie wanted a head and shoulders shot for his profile page and I took a few shots when we were finished playing with the new toy. After a bit of cosmetic adjustments in Lightroom he was satisfied with the result.

After that it was time to start stuffing all our clothes into our bags, and for me, finding places to store cameras, lenses and all the assorted paraphernalia that photogs carry about with them. We had a final drink and then it was time for bed.

PoD was an ingenious lock on a little shed which holds the gas canisters that provide the means of cooking in the house.

Tomorrow is the long journey home.

The payback day – 17 April 2022

Yesterday was the day of the big posh lunch. Today was different.

While Simonne was at church in the morning we were just wandering around the garden, or maybe it was just me who was wandering around the garden taking photos. Scamp was weeding the flower beds and Jamie was in his greenhouse. I took the opportunity to go for a walk round the church and down to that dry stream bed. Again I went right at the bottom, but went on past the bridge into uncharted territory. I soon found a path turning left dividing two field and climbing a hill. That’s where I found the Small Tortoiseshell butterfly that became today’s PoD. I met a couple there who gave me directions to get back to the house by a different route, past a football park. I thanked them and followed their directions, but just as I found the combination football/cricket ground, I felt the tug of the leash. Scamp was telling me Simonne was back and it was almost lunch time. No time to find the alternative path. I retraced my steps.

After lunch we stared in the garden again. Scamp and Simonne were rooting out the weeds in the flower beds and Jamie was intent on breaking up the compacted ground near the sheds. We think the sheds had originally been stables because they had the two part doors you associate with stables. That might be a total fallacy, but it would also fit the house and garden. Anyway, there is a large area of well trodden earth at the end of the lawn and it does look like the bald patch on the back of a man’s head.

Jamie was making heavy weather of digging into the compacted earth with a trowel, so I had a scrounge around the shed to see if there was anything a bit bigger and with more heft. I found what turned out to be a garden fork adaption for digging out Ragwort from horses’ pasture land. Ragwort is a weed with bright yellow flowers. The entire plant is deadly poisonous to animals, but especially sheep and horses. I think the fork must have belonged to Simonne, but it was easily better than the trowel Jamie was using. After he saw how easily I was breaking up the soil with it, Jamie took over from me and I found a hoe in the shed and used it to further break up the bigger clods. Between us we managed to clear the entire area.

Jamie had initially thought he’d get the area raked, rolled and seeded, but he sensibly decided to leave that until the next day at least and water the beds instead. Once he’d started watering his end of the garden, Simonne started watering the flower beds and Scamp went to sit in the ‘Gallery’ and read. The place was looking a lot better and we were both pleased that we’d done at least something when we were “Dahn Sarf” as Ray, a Londoner, would say.

While they were watering the garden I found another of the elusive Bee Flies and this time I managed to get a few shots of it on my phone before it flew away. I think we’d done enough for one day. We all sat and had a beer in the Gallery which is a little lean-to sun trap on the side of the house. We listened to the church bells and the rooks, then watched the sun go down behind the church.

Later we watched a strange film “Black Crabs”. A Swedish production with badly lip synched dialog, but beautiful photography.

Tomorrow we may be going to Bury St Edmonds to walk round the abbey gardens.