Dancin’ – 9 April 2022

It was back to reality this morning with a bump.

Up fairly early. Washed, shaved, dressed and ready to face the day. Scamp skipped the shaving.

We were off to Brookfield to take a few more faltering steps on the way to being dancers. Today started with a fairly easy Valentino Jive which even Stewart, the teacher, got wrong to start with. We got it right most of the time, especially on the second track. Then we were straight into the Quickstep. As is usual, the teachers walked through the full routine, then danced it through at full speed, to music and we thought No Way! Heavens, there are Fishtails in it. Fishtails have been my nemesis for years now. Even when we tried the first few steps, I was just making things up until we got pulled up for it. We got pulled up quite quickly and it was Stewart who explained in simple terms what we were being asked to do. Could it really be that easy? Well, actually it could. After half an hour I was getting most of the footwork correct. After about forty five minutes I was adding in Fishtails, correctly danced for once. Of course we made mistakes, but not nearly as many as I thought we would. Needs practise, and needs practise in a big room.

Next was a short interlude of Mambo Marina sequence dance before we went back to last week’s Cha-Cha. It’s not quite as bad as it was. We have been practising it at home and I’m beginning to think I might be able to dance this some day. Maybe not some day soon, but some day. The teachers were adding some more advanced steps to fill out the dance, but we didn’t really take much notice. Best to get the basics right before we go on to advanced steps.

Driving home wasn’t as stressful as it was on Thursday, mainly because we didn’t try to cross the Kingston Bridge, but took the M74 instead. It’s a few miles longer, but at least you can travel at the legal limit all the way and not be in a start-stop line of cars with the other lanes always travelling faster than you. We may do that again.

We had picked up a lot of free food at Brookfield with a couple of loafs, half a dozen eggs and some potatoes filling our bags as we left. Such a shame that the food is being thrown away otherwise.

Scamp and I went a walk down to the shops in the afternoon and got a few things, then on the walk back, I took a detour round St Mo’s. Saw a hoverfly, first this year, sitting on some whin bushes. A bright whin flower got PoD, narrowly beating another branch of blossom.

Dinner tonight was provided by Bombay Dreams. We both ate half of our portion, leaving the other half for tomorrow’s lunch or dinner.

Got a message from Hazy to say that Neil still wasn’t getting rid of his chest infection and his dad was driving him to A&E. Message later to say that he had had tests done and he is just slowly recovering and there is nothing to worry about, thankfully.

Spent the evening catching up on yesterday’s blog post, but if I get this posted soon I will be all caught up!

With that in mind, I’m off to bed. I might read another chapter of my book James Oswald’s “All That Lives”. It’s a bit formulaic. It feels like he’s in a writing rut. Shame, because his early books were really good.

No plans for tomorrow. Hopefully it will be another beautiful day like today.

Friday the 13th – 13 August 2021

Not that I’m superstitious of course.

But first there was a funeral to attend. We’d driven the road yesterday and the sat nav had found the place. Today we were going to be brave and go sat nav free. I only made one wrong turning which was amazing in itself. After the service we drove through what used to be Burnbank to what used to be the Zambezi Hotel but is now the Villa Hotel for the traditional tea after a funeral. Apart from John, Marion and their offspring we knew nobody at the tea. We sat and talked to John and Marion for a while, then took our leave.

Drove home and changed before driving out again to get The Messages at Tesco. I needed to fill up the tank of the Blue Micra and then realised I couldn’t remember my pin. I tried two and was on my last attempt when I cancelled the transaction. Thankfully you have to input your pin before you fill up or I’d really have been in trouble. Of course Scamp could have paid with her card, but I just took my card and drove off, in a blazing huff. Back home, and after I’d cooled down, we drove to the BP garage and Scamp paid for the petrol. Then I drove back and requested a new pin from the bank feeling stupid. How could I forget my pin? I’d used it just last week to pay for the camera! I know I’ll remember it tomorrow morning.

In the afternoon we went for a walk in St Mo’s and that’s where today’s PoD came from. We’d been discussing the blue flower and trying to work out what it was. I though I’d just take a photo of it and find it on Google Images Search. Then I was photobombed by a hoverfly that just flew in and wandered over the flower. I got the photo, but I still didn’t find out what the flower was.

Back home it was a Tesco pizza for dinner and humble pie for me, forgetting my pin. Friday the Thirteenth? Indeed it was unlucky for me!

Hopefully dancing in the morning tomorrow, but no plans for the afternoon. It’ll be a surprise.

Put on your dancing shoes – 24 July 2021

First time dancing in among people for a long, long time.

Another day to get up fairly early, have breakfast and get things organised for our first face to face dance class since March 2020. We left the house at about 10.15 to drive the 30 miles to the village hall in Johnstone, near Paisley. It took all of the 45 minutes we’d allowed for the journey. Google said 34 minutes, but Mr Google wasn’t driving today, I was.

There were people inside the hall, lots of people, around 14 people and we only knew two of them, the teachers, Stewart and Jane. Oh dear, I thought. Am I going to make a fool of myself here by not knowing any of the routines. Not to worry though, I had my magic Dancing Shoes and when I lace them up and tie them it all comes flooding back. The panic, that is. That’s what comes flooding back. Aha, but we knew the first dance, it was an easy one, a Rumba One. That built my confidence. The next one was the Foxtrot and we’d practised it hard and for a long time. We’re not exactly perfect at it, but we can make it look like we are. For those who saw us dance it on Thursday and are shaking their heads, we can do it. And we did. One or two little technical points were missed, but the majority of the dance was there and we were keeping fairly well to the music too. That’s the difference with Stewart & Jane as teachers. If they see you have the basic form of the dance and are keeping up with the rest of the class, they forgive some of the errors, knowing they can go back to them later and fix them. Others are perfectionist and we’ve suffered under them before.

The third dance was a Cha-Cha and we’d covered it well on Zoom, so it was fairly easy for us. The class ended with a sort of Jive routine we’ve done loads of times and we mastered it on the second music track. All in all it was great. We’ve signed up for a ten week course that will take us into October! Strangely, I’m looking forward to the challenges we’ll face.

Drove back home and Scamp went out to buy Tesco. I stayed home and did some creative writing, converting a week’s worth of bullet points into a week’s worth of blog. When Scamp returned and she’d done two loads of washing, I went off to find a photo in St Mo’s. Returned with a few hopefuls, but today’s PoD was the hoverfly on ‘final’ to land on a cow parsley flower head.

We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the garden soaking up what might just be the last of this hot weather.

Did you know that 50 years ago on this date (also a Saturday) we got engaged!

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere after we’ve given a man some snot and some saliva!

Marmalade, Walking and a bit of DIY – 8 July 2021

Since the morning was a bit dull, Scamp suggested we water the garden.

Sounded sensible. Why do we always wait until the sun goes down before we get the hose out. If the sun isn’t coming out to play, then there’s no chance of the plants getting burned by the water from the hose. Apparently that’s why you should never water plants in direct sunlight. Whether that applies in Scotland is not proven.

We dug the hose out and I started on the front garden, the easy one. Not so many plants and they are nicely arranged around the edge of the grass whereas at the back there are sometimes three rows of pots, one in front of the other. When I was done, Scamp took over and watered the back garden. She also managed to water the kitchen floor, but we won’t go into that here. When we were done and were putting the hose away, I unplugged the gun end from the hose carrier and that’s when Scamp had a good idea. Why don’t we put up a hook in the bin shed and hang the gun end of the hose on that.

I dug out my cheapo Black & Decker drill with the Ni Cd batteries that are always flat when you want to use them. Just to prove me wrong, today they had held their charge from about three weeks ago and proceeded to drill a couple of holes in the wall of the bin shed. I don’t know why that wall is made from. I don’t know what the wall was made from, but it was hard and quite thin. Probably a cement tile. Of course the holes were too small for the plastic plugs. So I carefully checked and got a drill that would do the job without being too big, just a nice tight fit. Put the first screw in and it started turning the plastic plug because the wall was too thin to grip the plastic. For some reason the other screw went in fine. After tightening the first screw by hand It was feeling a bit more secure. It was only meant to hold a coil of hose anyway so it would be fine. I haven’t checked it, but I’ve not heard any crashes from the bin shed, so perhaps for once my DIY skills have won the day.

After lunch we walked down to The Shops to get some veg and stuff for tonight’s dinner which was to be a Veggie Sausage Roll for Scamp and a Mince Pie for me. Both of them home made.

After we came back Scamp started the ironing and I took the Sony for a walk in St Mo’s. It was going to be a Beastie Day. There were lots of Soldier Beetles on the cow parsley and a strange little thin bodied moth with equally narrow wings. I didn’t quite get a clear shot of it, but I’ll keep my eye out for it now. PoD went to a Marmalade Hoverfly, named for the lovely orange coloured stripes on its body, I presume.

We had a dance practise tonight and went over the Waltz, Catherine Waltz, Tango and Bossa Nova. A bit of hesitation with the Catherine Waltz where I forgot how to do the Telemark Turn and Scamp misplaced a couple of Spin Turns, but otherwise not bad.

Tomorrow I’m waiting in for coffee and tea to be delivered. I discovered back in May that I had oodles of points I could use a the Perth coffee shop, so today’s purchase came to just over £7! If the delivery comes early we may go out somewhere.

Thunderstorms and torrential rain – 4 July 2021

Looks like that’s the end of the hot summer days for a while.

We knew it was going to happen. All good things must come to an end and so do the dry days. Today started out with lovely sunshine, but we knew it wouldn’t last. The weather fairies had been adamant that thunderstorms were on the way, blowing up from the south, but you always live in hope that they got it wrong. They didn’t and not long after midday the first peal of thunder sounded the end of the hot dry spell. It was followed almost immediately by a torrential shower, and that’s the way it proceeded for the rest of the day. A few rolls of the thunder drum and then the heavy rain. I’d put out all the plants in the greenhouse to grab some of that free rain and I’m sure they enjoyed it.

Although the sun had disappeared, the air was still that heavy, muggy way you get just before thunderstorms clear the air, so when there seemed to be a dry spell, I got my shorts and tee shirt on with a raincoat on top (because I’m daft, but not totally stupid) and took the weather sealed Sony and Sigma macro out for a walk in St Mo’s. I was hoping for some butterflies or maybe, if I was lucky, a dragonfly. Neither of these were forthcoming, but I did manage to grab some shots of a hoverfly, a Helophilus pendulus no less. Commonly known as a Footballer because of its striped thorax. There haven’t been many hoverflies about so far this year, so it was good to get a clean shot of one.

I was only taking an hour out today because I had been making some tear and share bread and it was due to go in to the oven fairly soon. As agreed, I phoned Scamp on my way home and asked her to put the oven on. My timing was good for once and I was in the house barely ten minutes when the next rain shower started.

Dinner tonight was steak for me and salmon for Scamp. Both served with potatoes, broccoli and a few mushrooms that were needing used up for me. The ‘tear and share’ bread was lovely.

Dancing was Queen of Hearts rumba followed by Foxtrot and finished with Cha-Cha to Jack Savoretti’s Dancing in the Living Room. The teachers put in some simplified chassis steps instead of the two half reverse turns for the Foxtrot and that made the dance much more danceable in our living room. The final cha-cha was fine, but the song was instantly forgettable for me. Still, a good work out and good news that there is more than a chance that we will be dancing (not in our living room) by the end of the month!

Spoke to JIC later and heard about Simonne’s latest 10k which was ‘just a trail run’.  Good to hear she’s doing so well and that JIC will be getting back to the gym soon.

Tomorrow looks a lot like today has been with heavy showers and the possibility of thunderstorms for most of the day. We might manage a walk in one of the dry spells.

A cold day – 9 October 2020

We didn’t go far as a result, but we did walk to the shops to get tonight’s dinner, M&S curry.

Today was Saturday, well it was for us. For some reason, both of us were convinced it was Saturday when in reality it was Friday. The start of the mid-term holiday here and the start of what is being called Lockdown 2. While we are not exactly locked down firmly like we were in March, we are constantly being reminded that we SHOULDN’T be going outside our own region. There’s not a lot of interesting places to go in North Lanarkshire and with restaurants and bars closed, yes, it is Lockdown 2. We did, however go virtually outside our region today.

Scamp went to Skye over the phone to speak to her sister and after some consultation they agreed that it would probably be best if our proposed trip to Inverness was postponed for a variety of reasons. That’s a pity because I was looking forward to the photo opportunities of the drive up north. Maybe things will change, but I fear not.

I travelled virtually to Glasgow to see if I could get a decent price for that camera I had for a weekend last week. One shop I phoned said they had one in stock. I asked if it was a display model. The woman said “No it’s not, it’s just been in the window, but we don’t let people play with it.” Obviously she didn’t really understand the meaning of the word “Display”. It used to be a good shop when it was simply called “Quiggs”. Since it’s changed its name to “Merchant City Cameras”, it’s got delusions of grandeur. It’s not even in the Merchant City! I said I’d think about it. Which means “I think I won’t buy it.”

After lunch and our phone calls ‘outside our own region’, we walked down to the shops. When we left the house it felt fairly mild, but as soon as we turned our back on the sun and felt the cold blast of the wind the mildness disappeared. I carried the messages back and then went for a walk where I got today’s PoD which is a hover fly called a Footballer, because it looks as if it’s wearing a football strip. That and two spiders that look as if they are fighting over today’s lunch. When I tried to upload them Flickr started one of its hissy fits, All the typing and clicking I’d done was lost and gone forever. Sometimes I praise Flickr to the highest, more often though I am more truthful.

Topic today was “Throw”. More soul searching to find something thrown or something to throw. I did consider Flickr going out a window, but that might have been hard to draw. I finally chose a dart being thrown. Fairly happy with it after resolving some of Scamps honest crits.

Tomorrow WILL be Saturday and we may go for a drive Outside Our Own Region. I hope you read this Nic.

A less frantic day – 6 August 2020

We were out earlier this morning and hopefully I’ll get to bed the same day I woke up.

We were out early to go for coffee with Isobel. Coffee in Costa no less, and in the Antonine Centre in Cumbersheugh and Scamp drove. We had to sign in to the Test and Trace system, but it was fairly quick and easy. The coffee, though, was the usual poor quality. Maybe I’m just getting used to my own (better) coffee or maybe it’s just Costa. Isobel kept us entertained for an hour or so and then we went our own ways. She to Tesco for the messages and us to go back home for lunch.

I’d intended to drive in to Glasgow in the afternoon to have a look at a camera in Jessops, but after checking, I found that the nearest Jessops that was open was in Gateshead. Just a wee bit too far to travel, so instead we walked down to the shops to get the requirements for tonight’s dinner, Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Cheesy Spinach. It was a lovely warm afternoon but by the time we got back to the house the clouds were gathering and it was looking like it might rain. I’d grabbed a couple of hoverfly pictures earlier in the afternoon, so instead of a walk I pruned the rose at the back door It was really needing cut back and I think today’s ‘Short Back and Sides’ will force some new growth. Scamp was also pruning and dead-heading some of the flowers. We both thought we felt the occasional spit of rain, but it never appeared.

I did a bit more research on the Micra, but found out very little of interest. Scamp’s dinner was deemed “Ok, but needing a bit more flavouring. More paprika and definitely more salt.”

A much less frantic day than yesterday, but a fairly full one too. The first time we’ve had coffee in a coffee shop (or Costa) since February! It felt a bit strange, but not as alien as it might have been.  One of the hoverfly photos made PoD.

Tomorrow we’ve to phone for a test drive and then the day is our own. What will we do? Where will we go? Who knows.

Not as oppressively warm as yesterday – 1 August 2020

That was my first thought this morning.

Not as warm. A bit fresher perhaps? Yesterday was just a bit too unScottish on the temperature scale. Today was going to be more down to earth.

We had no bread, very little fruit and no fancy little cakes, so I wandered off down to the shops in the morning. Got enough stuff to feed us for today (and a few days more if the truth be told) and a bar of chocolate for going, which I thought was very fair. Lunch was a roll ’n’ cheese for both of us, but not just ordinary rolls, no, these were Ciabatta rolls that had come all the way from Iceland, the frozen food shop, no the northerly island nation. Then we sat and wondered what to do until the live British F1 GP qualifying was due to start. We were then glued to our TV until the end of the qualifying came to a nail biting finish, or at least that’s what we were told. It was the usual faces in the usual grid slots. No nails were bitten in this house.

Later in the afternoon, I took myself and a camera out for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp waited at home, deciding what to wear for tonight’s Zoom Dance. To be fair to her, she also prepared the “mise en place” (food and dishes preparation) for tonight’s dinner which was Smoked Salmon and Broccoli Quiche. We’d made it before, but it was really good to walk into the kitchen and find everything laid out for me. The actual cookery was easy after all that. It tasted really quite good. Not as good as Jackie’s, but a fair stab at it. Plus, of course she uses the old fashioned shortcrust pastry base while we have a new super fast method which must remain a secret!

After dinner it was a bit of a rush to get the living room rearranged in time for the dance. It’s really a good way of having a socially isolated dance without the need for face masks and all that faff. Just a computer and a space in your own home to dance. It’s amazing the amount of stuff we’d (read “I’d”) forgotten since the last one. It took me one whole track before I got the steps for the basic waltz anywhere like a dance and not just staggering blindly around the living room. The Social Foxtrot is all about dancing in never ending saw-tooth formations, even I can manage that. Salsa was … let’s say it wasn’t as smooth and faultless as it should be. All in all, it was an exercise in not falling over and no, I’d not had anything stronger than a bottle of beer at that point. However, it was great fun and good exercise too. Don’t know what the couple next door in their Jacuzzi thought! I kid you not, they have a jacuzzi in a gazebo in a garden the same size as ours. What is Westfield coming to? I think they have just too many Zs in their heads! When the Zoom dance ended we had to have a wee seat in the quiet just to allow our muscle groups to return to normal. Next one is in a couple of weeks time unless Lockdown finishes before then – we should be so lucky!

Today’s PoD was wee fly on a cow parsley head.

Tomorrow we may be aching so much we won’t be able to go out anywhere, or maybe we should just to ease those dancing muscles.

Phone – 24 July 2020

Today we to get a new phone. That should be easy, shouldn’t it?

Not so in the new world we now live in. First stop was Tesco. The cheapest and easiest to access. Two people working in the Tesco Mobile booth but only one allowed to serve customers. The other was managing the queue, i.e. Scamp. She got a price and they had the phone in stock. We were one step on the way to a successful conclusion.

To get a broader view of the other options we drove to Coatbridge, using my route, not the scenic route we took earlier in the week. Went to Carphone Warehouse at Currys. No queue this time and the girl went through the standard procedure of noting down everything up to and including what Scamp had for breakfast (Kellogg’s Special K with strawberries.). Only once she’d confirmed that Scamp didn’t want a contract with Vodafone and that she didn’t want to go with in-house iD, she told us that they didn’t have the phone she was looking for in stock and they wouldn’t be available until Monday – note, she didn’t say which Monday! We said no thanks and left to go home for lunch, but next door was an Argos where EE are based these days. Lady at the door said there wasn’t anyone at the EE stand as he was at lunch. Only one person selling? And then, only when he was there. Didn’t sound good, but par for the course these days.

After lunch we went to Bishopbriggs to another Carphone Warehouse in Currys. Waited in the queue where only one person was actually selling. After half an hour of standing around a second Carphone Warehouse operative told us that they didn’t have the phone in stock there either. Very popular he said. We’d guessed that.

Drove back to Cumbersheugh and finally sealed the deal for roughly the same price as Carphone Warehouse were promoting with EE, but that was with a ghost phone. PAK code has been entered and the final switch over should happen by Tuesday. Apparently computers don’t work weekends.

A lot of the time was spent standing around waiting in a queue. We can partly blame Covid-19. How can Tesco manage to hold a stock of phones when Carphone Warehouse seem unable to. A what the hell, Scamp has a new phone.

As for the rest of the day. When we got back home we assembled the new grass hoover and Scamp hoovered the front grass. Her first thoughts are that it’s not as good a cut as the old one, but it’s much lighter. We need to make some adjustments to the cut height and after that it should be better.

I managed an hour before dinner taking photos of ‘beasties’. Mainly hover flies and other insects. A couple of shots of a little froglet or toadlet too. It was a dusty little hover fly that got PoD.

No plans for tomorrow. It looks wet in the morning, the aftermath of the rain that’s battering down just now, but better in the afternoon. We won’t be driving far, the poor Red Juke it tired out tonight.

Tweaking – 17 July 2020

Not so much tweaking as returning the DL to factory settings and starting again.

It took me ages to work out exactly how to return the DL to the default state. In fact it was only when I watched a YouTube video I discovered the correct key presses and dial twists to do and the order they had to be done in to achieve this. Finally it was in out-of-the-box state and ready to be tweaked. Actually, I decided that out of the box was a producing a decent espresso and a very nice cappuccino. After that I re-read the instructions, always a last resort, but sometimes necessary. It was there I discovered how to cool the overheating boiler. Amazing the things you find out when you read the instructions.

Shona was coming to lunch today and Scamp volunteered to go and meet her at the shops. Shona’s first time at the new shops and I think she was impressed. I was finishing off the swearing at the DL when they arrived. I was also finishing off cleaning up the mess in the kitchen. Possibly the cause of the earlier swearing.

Shona kept us up to date on how things were progressing with Ben’s move to Secondary School. Heavens, it seems like no time since he was a fairly tiny little baby in Andrew’s arms. Hard to believe that was over eleven years ago! After a while I left the two women to their women’s talk and went clear up the painting room so that I could actually find room to paint in it. I almost succeeded, but that’s about as far as I usually get.

Later in the afternoon, Scamp took Shona home and I settled down to make my first real cappuccino according to the DL recipe I found on the ‘net’, but a recipe from DL that wasn’t included with the coffee maker! It tasted fine. I was quite proud of myself as I cooled the boiler without any further help. Barista? Me? Not yet, but I’m on my way to being one! After that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s in the rain and grabbed PoD which is a hover fly in flight. I was impressed. Loads of teenagers hanging around the wooded part of the path again. Not causing bother, just nowhere to go, nothing to do apart from being noisy. Was I the same when I was that age? I don’t remember being that noisy, but it’s different when you’re there, not looking down from the heights of fifty odd years.

Dinner tonight was Italian Chicken from one of Neil-D’s recipes and it worked well. Best thing about it was that I had plenty Pesto and Marinara Sauce left over to be used in the next few days.

I struggled for a sketch/painting and settled for Scamp’s sunflowers as a subject. Not big or brash enough, but worth working on. Maybe something to do tomorrow, because the weather looks wet!