Driving home – 23 July 2021

It always comes to this day.

We had packed last night. Really all that had to be done was to load the car and tidy up the house. That work took about an hour and a half with all four of us doing our bit. Then the hugs and goodbyes with the promise that we’d do it again soon. I hope we do.

Drove in convoy with Hazy and Neil D until they branched off to go past Broughton in Furness and we headed for the northbound M6. A fair few holdups on the road, but once we were on the motorway it was plain sailing. Stopped at Gretna to stretch our legs and window shop, although I did buy a new kitchen knife. Then it was back on the road and home.

All the plants needed a drink, it looked like they had not had any real rain either

I’d taken some shots of the mist covered Duddon Valley with sheep coming across the field for their morning drink. That was easily the PoD.

Tomorrow we may go dancing … in a hall … with a wooden floor … wearing dance shoes … and … WITH OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROOM!!!

Back to life, back to reality – 18 June 2021

The car was packed and we were driving back south.

We’d started the packing last night, so it was really just a case of tidying up the caravan. Loading all the bags, rucksacks and more bags, plus the pink fluffy plant into various places in the car and pointing it south after we’d done some more shopping at Morrisons which happened to be on our way home. I must admit it was Scamp who did most of the work. I took a phone call from Fred. Not the easiest of calls to take. I’ll leave it at that.

We chose a slightly more picturesque route home, compared to the one the sat nav had chosen for the run up to St Andrews. Basically, after the initial avoidance of Crail and Anstruther, we just hugged the coast and followed it down to Rosyth where we crossed the Queensferry Crossing which is the Third Forth Bridge and from there we followed the M8 until the M73 and then we were on home ground.

After lunch we drove to reluctantly give Annette her caravan keys back, thank her for the opportunity and convince her that we hadn’t left too much of a mess in the ‘van.

Scamp and I went for a walk later in the afternoon and got a picture of some beasties which turned out to be immature Shield Bugs. They just looked like an unruly crowd of teenagers having fun. I couldn’t get that impression out of my head. They made PoD.  We continued our walk to Condorrat and got two fish suppers to celebrate the end of the short holiday.

Thank you Annette for the chance to share your holiday home. We really enjoyed it. I’m not entirely sure we could make a case for owning one ourselves, but it was still great fun.

Tomorrow I intend to relax and try to work out the knots that have appeared in my right calf. Something to do with yesterday’s up hill and down dale walk along the Fife Coastal path. Scamp is intent on starting a week’s worth of washing!

Spring Cleaning – 15 April 2021

We had some things that either weren’t working or were surplus to requirements. We took them on a one way trip to the skips.

Scamp had been collecting bags of broken and tired looking things that were lying around the house or garden. Thankfully I was excluded from the collection although the description seemed to fit me quite well. We gathered them all up and took them to the skips. Drove back via the garden centre where we got a parsley plant, some violas and a couple of packets of seeds with compost to plant them in. Real compost this time with real soil in it, not just the dust and fibres that we dump from the hoover.

Back home and after lunch Scamp started to clear out the bin shed which, just to confuse things doesn’t have any bins in it now. Now we have wheely bins four of them that clog up the front door. Thanks for that NLC. Just what you want at your front door, four smelly bins. Anyway, I was called in to supervise the operation and ensure that all the stuff she had earmarked for the next skip deposit really was rubbish. We came to an agreement on almost all of the garden accessories. I held on to a bag or two of cement, but that was really just so she wouldn’t get things all her own way and so I could use them as bargaining chips in later discussions.

Next task for Scamp was to plant the violas and between us we completed an in depth investigation on the Gypsophila which then became a post mortem. Neither of us could find any life in the plant. However, on reading some trustworthy reports on the Interweb, it appear that the plant dies back in autumn and it is recommended that it is cut right back in spring. That’s exactly what we did today! It may live to flower again in the summer.

I went for a walk in St Mo’s in the late afternoon just to grab some photos. Instead of the Sony I took the little light Panasonic GX 80 and one lens. Today’s PoD shows that it’s perfectly capable of producing good photos from its small sensor.

We watched the first of the Sewing Bee tonight and I have to agree with Hazy that cats were never meant to wear coats. I think the same about dogs. Real ‘dugs’ have a thick coat that protects them from the cold. To some eyes they may seem ‘cute’ in their little knitted woollen jackets, but they don’t need them! The contestants were the usual mix of crazies, fanatics and chancers. Haven’t picked a likely winner yet, but if my choice of winner of the Landscape Artist of the Year (Canada) is anything to go by, it’s stick a (sewing machine) needle in a name and that is the likely winner, or that’s the one who will go out first.

Tomorrow we are exercising our legal right to travel anywhere in the length and breadth of Scotland. We think we know where we’re going. Tune in tomorrow to see if we made it!

Planning is everything – 18 January 2021

Making a plan is just the start. Sticking to it is everything.

Today I had a plan. Things to do. I didn’t make a big long list and attempt to tick them all off. I know I’d cherry pick, choosing the ones I wanted to do and getting them done, leaving the rest for tomorrow or the next day. Much easier to make a short list of a few things and get them done. Three is a good number to start with. Odd numbers are good. More interesting.
Today’s list:
1. Go for a walk.
2. Get a photo.
3. Write a letter.
If I can achieve a task while engaged in another, that’s a bonus, but doesn’t leave space for an additional task. No, it leaves space for free time e.g. To play Angry Birds!

It was dry in the morning and we couldn’t decide it it was going to stay dry for long enough to go for a walk, but we both wanted to get out in the open air for a while so we went. As soon as we left the house the rain came on, as usual. We were out now and we were already wet, so we might as well go for a short walk round St Mo’s, maybe twice round.

The rain just kept coming. Sometimes light and sometimes heavy, but always there. We both knew that if we couldn’t feel it on our faces and we put our hoods down, it would start again, but we played its game anyway. We went round the pond twice. Once anti-clockwise and once clockwise. Didn’t see anything that encouraged me to take a camera out of the bag. We came home and had soup for lunch, Scamp’s “Just Soup”, good and thick.

Following its usual pattern, the rain went off, the clouds parted and the sun shone. I put my boots back on to fool it and went out into the garden instead to get a photo. The rain came back on, but I got half a dozen photos of buds on the rhododendron in the back garden. I loaded them into the computer and while Scamp talked to her wee sister on the phone, I went upstairs to write that letter. Three tasks completed.

Tonight’s dinner was more Just Soup and then Pasta a la Carbonara and a really good one too, even if I say so myself.

Today’s PoD was one of those six photos of the rhododendron buds.

Tomorrow’s list is almost full, and it looks as if the best time for a walk will be in the morning. Possibility of some snow tomorrow or Wednesday night.

Bird Watching and Lockdown – 4 January 2021

Well, let’s face it, the wasn’t much else to watch.

At first it looked like the ice had all but gone this morning, then we realised that wasn’t the black asphalt of the path we were seeing, it was the path with a clear layer of ice. No point in rushing out then, better to go back to bed and finish a chapter of our books. However, not everyone is as luck as us retired folk. Scott, the taxi driver, needed to get to and from his car safely and often during the day, so he started clearing the ice and shovelling salt and grit onto the path. It seemed to do the trick where it fell, but because there wasn’t a very active footfall on the paths, the grit and salt was not being spread by pedestrians, and wasn’t doing its job as efficiently as it should.

The reason for the layer of ice was explained in the midday weather forecast. It was all down to freezing rain, caused when rain hits an already frozen ground. A ground so cold that the rain instantly freezes. I remember this being talked about ten years or so ago in the winter of 2010/11. It looks as if it’s back again.

We had spent most of the morning and early afternoon taking down the decorations and packing them away. It never ceases to amaze me the number of things Scamp can pack into those big plastic storage boxes. Most of them are now in the loft, with only a few left to go. The room looks quite bare now and quite dull, although I must say it was a dull day.

On top of the weather problems, in the afternoon Nic the Chick explained in great detail why she had taken the decision to put all of mainland Scotland into full lockdown again. It seems like exactly the same rules as in March ’20 with no unnecessary travel no leaving the house unless for exercise or to buy food and all non-essential shops to remain closed. No meeting more than one person from another household outside. Schools to remain closed until the end of January at the earliest. It’s not a great deal different from what we, at least, have been living with for the past month or so. Oh yes, and we’ve to expect more snow by the end of the week.

So, to the birds. I wasn’t going to risk a walk today. It was really dull anyway and Scamp didn’t want to go far. We’d been watching and feeding the birds in the garden over the cold spell and today it was their turn to pay us back by posing for some photos. We’ve had a thrush who visits every day and also our resident robin who seems to think he/she owns the garden and patrols it vigorously. Blue tits, great tits and, of course, the ever present starlings. Today’s PoD is of a thoughtful looking Starling. Taken through the kitchen window.

The diet has started. We are doing our best to eat and drink healthily. No alcohol until Friday and smaller portions at mealtimes. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Tomorrow we may go out for that ‘exercise walk’ if the paths are safe to walk.

The end of a year – 31 December 2020

A year we won’t forget, although most of us will wish we could.

It was snowing when I was making breakfast and it continued to show well into the afternoon. I finally put on my boots and snow gaiters and went for a walk in a sort of sleety drizzle over to St Mo’s and found my PoD. Not taken with the fancy Sony, but with my old Teazer TZ70 which is clean for now after being hoovered out a year or so ago and left to recover from that shock. It’s now much cleaner than it’s replacement, the the TZ90 that is a dust magnet. Anyway, PoD was a moorhen striding out across the snow on the frozen St Mo’s pond. Almost, but not quite black & white. A couple of circuits of the pond told me that there were no other animals or birds looking to be models for me, so I headed home.

It’s traditional to do a bit of tidying up on Hogmanay and as I said last night, I booked myself in to clean the kitchen cupboards, just the outsides, of course. Heavens, it would take a week to clean the outsides AND the insides. I’d like to say it wasn’t such a terrible task. I’d like to say that, but the truth is it was just as bad as I expected. I think we may have to reduce the amount of frying we do, especially deep fat frying. It’s not until you try to clean a cooker hood that you realise just how sticky everything becomes. However, it’s done now and the kitchen looks better for it.

I think Scamp may be coming down with the cold that I thought I had yesterday. Strangely I feel much better today and now she sounds like I did. Let’s hope she recovers as quickly as I did.

Dinner tonight was paella made in the new pan. It worked, but only just. Not the best pan for cooking a rice dish. All those little rice granules get caught in the same ribs that make steaks or chicken breasts taste great.
Note to self: Horses for Courses.
Paella may have been a miss, but the Viennese Shortbread, Scamp made was melt in the mouth. Lots more in a Lock ’n’ Lock box for tomorrow.

Temperature is a positive 3.7ºc now and the snow is still melting. If it freezes later in the night the roads will be a mess. I’m just glad I’m not having to drive. I couldn’t tell you the last time our respective cars turned a wheel. There’s just been no point, so they’ve been parked up for ages. Must make the effort in the new year, i.e. from tomorrow.

No real plans for tomorrow. We’ll probably stay up for “The Bells” tonight, have a dram or a gin and go to bed.

Looking back is what we do on this day, but this isn’t a year I want to look back on. Restrictions, Lockdowns and disappointments marred a terrible year. We can only hope that next year will be everything this year hasn’t been.

I think that’s my wish for 2021. I hope all my readers have a happy and a healthy New Year. Let’s keep looking forward, not looking back.

We were up early again – 17 November 2020

That’s Friday sorted

Not to go out this time, but we both got up early because we had a phone call booked with British Gas to agree a suitable day to get the new boiler installed. The call would be some time between 9.30am and 1pm today, hence our decision to get up and face the day. Of course, we could have just lain in bed and taken the call there, but just in case those clever British Gas bods had a way of turning on the webcam that might be fitted to our landline phone and caught us lounging around, we decided it would be safer to get up and have breakfast downstairs.

The call came at just after 11am. The first available slot they could offer was Friday 20th November. Couldn’t they have come sooner? We didn’t ask that question, we just said “That will do nicely.” Boiler get delivered between 7 and 9am on the day and the fitter arrives at 9am. It will probably take most of the day. Now Thursday is to be a very cold day with wind from the north and scattered wintry showers that might just reach us. Let’s hope Friday is a balmy sun drenched day.

The other thing that happens on Friday is we go up to Level 4 of the Scottish government anti-covid restrictions. It starts at 6pm on Friday and lasts for three weeks. It shouldn’t make much difference to us, really. We probably won’t feel like travelling far if the cold weather continues. We’ll be legally restricted to the NL council area for that time. Legally, because the restrictions have now been written into law and can be enforced by the police. They’ll be installing smart cameras and have unmarked police cars on the motorway at Castlecary to trap any unwary travellers hoping to nip along to Falkirk on the fly. Three weeks of no fun and local walks I think.

It rained almost all day and with gusty winds too, it was a day for working inside. Before lunch I repaired two of my masks and produced a really neat job, even if I say so myself. If the rainy weather continues, I may make another one or two. Maybe even try a new design I saw somewhere.

It was a truly awful day today. After the good news about the boiler I grabbed a rucksack and walked down to the shops in the rain. Scamp was baking so she stayed in. The rucksack was a great idea for going to the shops. We go there to get stuff for the dinner and to stretch our legs, not our arms, and today’s lot was quite heavy. I may use that wee bag again.

I’d already taken what I was sure would be my PoD. It was two of my carrots. The birds pulled most of the first lot out then the snails finished almost all or the rest off. I eventually resorted to the blue slug pellets and that seemed to put an end to their raids. The two you see were all that was left to two rows of them in my raised bed. I’ve got a few growing in the ‘Tattie Bags’, but they’re not making much headway there at all. I think these two are my lot for this year. If I get a chance to grow them next year I’ll stretch some black thread across the bed like my mum did. It terrifies the sparrows and finches. The tiny wee carrots tasted lovely.

Hopefully we’re going to The Fort tomorrow I’m hoping to rebuild the camera box that sits in my black shoulder bag and am intending to use either Plastazote (Thick, strong foam plastic) or Foamboard (A sandwich of card outer layers and a middle layer of Styrofoam). Both of these thing I should be able to get in Hobbycraft at The Fort. Scamp’s going for something too, but as yet it is undisclosed.

Scamp’s booked to get her hair cut tomorrow afternoon, so we have to drive to the shops in the morning. Another early rise in store.

Stitchery and Boozy Pudding – 8 November 2020

A day for putting things right. A day for mending. A wet, dull day. A day for getting things done.

The main reason I was mending and putting things right and also for getting (some) things done was that it was indeed a wet, dull day.

Before lunch I’d made some bread, well made the dough at least, well made the dough in the mixer and then adjusted it by hand. That was the delicate, skilled work. The rest was just grunt work. After lunch I adjourned to the sewing room where three pairs of jeans awaited my attentions. Scamp stayed downstairs and talked to herself while she made a … well, let’s contract it to Boozy Christmas Pudding, it’s got a much longer name than that, but cutting to the chase, that’s it. Once assembled it was to be cooked for three and a half hours in a slow cooker. It looked messy, so I let her get on with it.

First thing for me to do was fix a worn pocket in one pair of jeans. As the next pair would need exactly the same repair done, so ideally I should make all my mistakes on the first pair and then sail through the second. For once, that’s exactly what happened. The first pair was a pain in the backside. Cut the wrong shape of patch. Got in a fankle (another good Scots word) sewing the patch onto the pocket. Eventually got it fixed and it looked and felt ok, so I went down to see how the chef was getting on. She was almost ready to put the assembled pudding in the slow cooker. Got it in without too much trouble which meant she had three and a half hours to sit and wait. I started jeans two’s pocket.

This one was easier and soon I had two useable pairs of jeans that had been malingering in the back bedroom for months. The next pair needed a hem turned up. It was a bit of a struggle to get the sewing machine to accept that it could actually pierce the double, double thickness of denim that would form at the doubled up side seams, but with a bit of a run at it, together we achieved a reasonable result. Like the pockets, once I’d done one leg, the other one was a dawdle. Make that three pairs completed!

We were having Duck Legs with Orange Sauce for dinner. Actually M&S had done the hard work. All I had to do was take the duck legs out of the bag and bake them in the oven I’d just taken the loaf out of, for 30 mins. Covered them in Orange Sauce after that and another ten minutes in the oven saw them cooked. They actually tasted really good. I wondered as I was eating mine if they had both come from the same duck. Were they ‘handed’, you know, left and right legs? I hadn’t thought to look. They both looked about the same size, but how would you know these things? We rarely think that what we’re eating walked this earth with us. Maybe I should go vegan. Nope, chicken curry would put an end to that idea!

The time to open the slow cooker had arrived and Scamp carefully undid the string that held the tinfoil lid in place and the smell that wafted out was simply divine! Boozy? Yes. Fruity? Yes. We got a big slice each and slathered it in cream and discovered that it tasted as good as the smell. The rest is now in the fridge for tomorrow, but I fear it won’t taste as good as today’s offering. Pity, Hazy. It’s got eggs in it.

Spoke to JIC tonight just as I was beginning a swearing session at the Sony for not working with the remote app on my phone. The poor boy wasn’t feeling well with clogged sinuses, and on his weekend off too. That’s just not fair. However we talked for a while about Mr Trump, boilers and stuff.

I went back up to the Photography room (because the sewing machine had been put away again) and proceeded to take today’s PoD manually. Came down stairs and tried again, because I’m like a dug wi’ a burst ba’, and lo and behold the bloody thing worked. I’ve a feeling it’s only doing it to annoy me!

Tomorrow evening we are doing a WhatsApp with a man from British Gas to see how much they want to supply and fit a new boiler. The one we have at present is about 20 years old. We’ll be talking big numbers, I’m sure.

A busy day – 3 November 2020

The Gas Man was coming today, but we weren’t sure when, exactly.

So we did what we usually do in a situation like this:

  • We got up early
  • We emptied the boiler cupboard
  • We waited
  • And waited
  • We gave up!

I went upstairs and started building the bookcase we’d got yesterday. It would never hold books, but would make a decent sized small cupboard to relieve give us some floor space in the ‘wee bedroom’. It was much easier to build than it looked and will probably hold enough stuff to make it a worthwhile investment. Scamp seems happy with it and that’s what counts.

After lunch we got the call to say the man was on his way and he arrive about 20 minutes later. We got the usual warning that the boiler was running about 80% efficiency and there was a problem getting replacement parts. We’d been expecting that and we agreed to an online discussion of a replacement. He had a problem getting connected, but we have that too. It’s one of the annoyances when you live in the valley between phone masts. We’re not sure now his message to his HQ went through. Unfortunately we can’t access the British Gas website since we got our new superfast modem. We always get a DNS error now. Since we can connect perfectly well from our phone using our feeble 4G signal, the problem would appear to be with Virgin. I spent over an hour tonight trying to find a way to speak to someone there, on live chat or by landline, but they seem to have dropped the portcullis, raised the drawbridge and blamed Covid. I wonder how many other businesses will claim that same excuse.

We went out for a walk after the man had gone. It was still a lovely day although it seems to be getting colder now.  We walked down round Broadwood Stadium and along the boardwalk beside the loch. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s one of the pylons that circle the loch, looking like one of the Martian war machines from War of the Worlds with its deadly Heat Ray. On the way back I went for an extra circuit of St Mo’s and Scamp headed for home but bumped into Chris’s mum, Carolyn. They hadn’t seen each other for years and I was glad I’d chosen the St Mo’s circuit otherwise I’d have felt like the (actual) odd man out. Back home I’d left some stew on the slow cooker, but it turned out really tough. We’re not sure why. It might be the meat itself or maybe it wasn’t cooked for long enough or the temperature was too low. It’s had another four hours tonight, so I’d imagine it will be well cooked for tomorrow’s lunch.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow. We might make a big break for freedom and go in to Glasgow or we may be like little good mice and do what our mistress tells us. (Aye Right!!)

A Visitor – 23 July 2020

A busy morning in the house.

Visitor coming today, so the house had to be made to look like a house and not a jumble sale. Tables to clear, floors to hoover and work to be done elsewhere. Scamp’s aunt/cousin (It’s complicated as most families are) was coming to visit and Scamp wanted everything looking nice. I did my best. I cleared the table. It took three armfuls and three journeys up and down the stairs to put most of the stuff away in the back room. Now I can’t find anything in the back room, but that’s ok, because I’m the only one who goes in there. Scamp just opens the door, looks in and sighs.
Isobel had been complaining to Scamp the last time they were on the phone that her daughter had bought her a mask, but it was really uncomfortable, so I suggested I make her one as a belated birthday present. That seemed to pass muster as a good idea. So that was my job thing morning after the table clearance. I got it finished just before lunch.

After lunch, Scamp went out to get Isobel. She had a new knee fitted earlier in the year and has some mobility issues as a result, so we’d agreed that Scamp would pick her up and I would drop her back at the house later. While she was out, I grabbed my camera and went out to see if I could get any photos. Found a tiny little orange spider in the middle of its web on a gypsophila plant. Got a few photos of it, but of course it was that first one that got PoD. The raindrops looked like star trails coming out of the web.

When they arrived Scamp gave Isobel the Royal Tour of the front garden. Then it was coffee time and a wee natter before we reviewed the back garden. She seemed quite impressed and the garden did look good in the sunshine. After a while Isobel announced it was time for her to go back home and I was chauffeur. Got her settled and had a walk round her garden, amazed as always at her memory for all the plants names.

Took my leave and drove home via Tesco to fill up the thirsty Juke. I was chef tonight and it was an old favourite, paella. Not real paella, because I can’t eat mussels, but it’s a fair compromise that looks and tastes like a real paella.

No sketch tonight, at least, not one posted. I did sketch half a pepper, but it’s not worth posting. Lockdown Library may be closed, but I still intend to post any decent sketches on Instagram and Facebook. Just not every day.

Tomorrow we may go somewhere nice for a walk.