Rain again – 5 February 2021

We went for a walk anyway. Just a fairly short walk, because the rain got heavier and more persistent.

It was just a walk around St Mo’s pond …in the rain. However, we are lucky, as Scamp keeps telling me, to have the opportunity to walk somewhere nearby with a different view from the one out of our windows. Just once round today was enough because in that time we were soaked and I’d a few things to do. I took a photo in the pouring rain and that became PoD, mainly because it was the only PoD! I did a bit of editing to it before I deemed it good enough for public consumption. Little things, like changing the sky and adding digital rain to the sky. Little things!

I had meant to write to Margie after our phone conversation the other day, so I made time for that after lunch and sent her copies of the first four sketches of the February series. Then I doodled my thoughts on today’s prompt which was “Under Water”. None of them really looked worth progressing with. Then I tried the same idea from a different viewpoint and that was a much better picture. As usually happens, that rough pencil sketch got ink added and then some watercolour and it became the finished article. Yes, I know it’s still a bit rough, but l prefer that look, rather than yesterday’s overworked sketch. Loose, that’s the word I’m looking for.

I recently bought a DTP program and yesterday I downloaded an update for it which had a few neat tricks added, so I watched a video on how to do mail merge using it. Dearie me, that must have been the least clear, most complicated tutorial I’ve ever seen. I came away knowing less than I did when I started. I even watched it again after I’d had a cup of strong coffee, but it made no difference. It was as if I was watching a technical explanation in a different language. Worse still, the video was out of sync with the soundtrack, so it was difficult to see exactly what the disinterested lady was talking about. Great program, poor tutorial.

That was about it for today. Hoping the weather improves a bit tomorrow so we can get out somewhere for a walk in the dry.

Hardly past the door – 20 January 2021

Well, actually I was out today. I took the bins out tonight, but that was it.

It was such a dull depressing day and then it started raining. Last night it snowed, just as we were going to bed, but you wouldn’t have known it this morning. The thinnest scraping of snow on the cars was all that remained of the fluffy flakes that were falling just before midnight last night. The rain today soon finished even that off.

We had a new Covid reporter today. Sharon arrived just after 11.30 and we did the needful with the swabs, then answered her questions. Thankfully it was only raining today. If she had come tomorrow there’s a good chance she’d have been covered in snow by the time we were finished.

Lunch was a rather tasteless Vegan Pizza from Pizza Express. Some things just don’t work as vegan. Vegetarian, yes, but vegan cheese is a step too far. Afterwards we did think of going for a walk, but it was that horrible clinging drizzle and neither of us could think of a good reason for going out, so we each made a cup of coffee and sat back down.

PoD was a shot from the kitchen window of a starling having its daily bath. Shot through the window using my old 300mm lens on an adapter on the Sony. Not the best prospect, but the photo was useable and it worked, just!

I was nominated to make dinner tonight which was a Chicken Cobbler. The chicken was fine, but the cobbler was a bit stodgy. Lots of work to make and lots of chopping in preparation. Might try it again with some suggestions Scamp made. I can see them working.

Today Joe Biden became President and Donald Trump left under a cloud. Fred sent me this photo. I think it sums up the day perfectly.

We’re expecting heavy snow during the night and the quantity of that snowfall will determine what we do tomorrow.

 

Walking the Canal – 12 January 2021

It was a cold start this morning, but it was worth it.

We both agreed we should go out today in the bright sunshine and under a blue sky. I defrosted the car again, but this time we both bundled into it and drove down to Auchinstarry and had a walk along the footpath almost as far as Twechar. A few other folk were also out taking advantage of the cold dry morning. The canal didn’t look as if it had thawed out this year. Lots of boulders and tree branches sitting on the ice were testament to that. I know the branches could have been floating down the canal, but I doubt they would have been that high out of the water. The boulders and stones? That’s a different story. That ice hadn’t melted for ages, maybe since the last ice age, or at least since about December last year. The path too was icy and we had to tread carefully. It’s a rough tarmac path and usually it gives good grip, but it felt like the ice had melted there and just as it was beginning to flow, the temperature had dropped again and it was frozen in place. Possibly it was black ice which is always more difficult to see than the usual frost.

We turned just before Twechar because the path narrows at that stretch and there isn’t so much to see. Scamp wasn’t impressed. I think she wanted to carry on to Kirkintilloch, but I suspected a roadblock or a path block with fifty Kirky polis waiting for us as we passed Twechar and attempted to enter East Dunbartonshire without reasonable cause. The polis would all start arguing about who would get to write the On The Spot fine and who would pocket the money. We’d have to be quiet as we sneaked away while the argument grew more and more heated. The Twechar polis would then be brought in and they in turn would challenge the Kirkintilloch polis with forming an unruly mob and breaking Covid-19 rules. That’s why we turned back. Nothing to do with the lack of photo opportunities or that I was getting cold.

The walk back was just as scenic as the walk there and I was pretty sure I’d one, if not two candidates for PoD in the bag. Passed more folk out walking in the sunshine, everyone making sure they were keeping a decent social distance. It was Scamp who noticed that the stretches of the canal that were in the sun were still frozen solid while the ice in the areas in the shade looked a lot thinner. We didn’t come to any sensible reason why. Answers on a postcard please if you have knowledge of this anomaly.

I did think of going back out again after lunch (poached egg on toast), to try out an idea for a photo, but decided I’d keep my idea until tomorrow, when more ice and possibly snow is forecast to descend.

With some time on my hands I finished off the Toilet Calendar which is finished and hanging in the little room. Both of us are pleased with it. It’s got twelve photos, six from each of us of sunny climes.

Dinner tonight was Fish and Cabbage Risotto. Sounds mingin’, I know but it’s quite delicious.

Tomorrow we have our second visit from Barbara ready to administer another test and ask more searching questions. This time we will be ready with answers without looking blankly at each other, saying “Um? … Ah? … I’m not sure.” Possibly a walk in the morning again, but this time closer to home.

Confusion Reigns – 3 August 2020

Confusion may have reigned, but there wasn’t much actual rain. A bit, but not much.

I’d promised to clean up the inside of the car and that’s what I did first this morning. It’s not sparkling clean, but it’s not nearly as dirty and messy as it was. Not quite in the JIC category, more … lived in!

With the future of the Juke in mind, I phoned Nissan to check if I was actually booked in for a meeting tomorrow (not Thursday as I’d reported in yesterday’s blog). I seemed to confuse the receptionist because I didn’t have a department or a sales person she could transfer the call to. She eventually just passed it on to the first available sales person. I then proceeded to confuse him too. Eventually I cut to the chase and asked him: “Do you have an appointment scheduled for me to visit tomorrow?” He said “No.” Not the answer I wanted, but at least we were getting somewhere. He now wanted to hand this confusing and possibly confused customer over to someone else. He opened my file and found the salesman I dealt with three years ago when I bought the Juke. He said he’d contact him and get him to phone me later. I think he went out to have lunch then and left his phone deliberately in the office. Locked in a drawer, no doubt.

Scamp wasn’t feeling so good today. She had been feeling sick during the night and hadn’t slept much. For those reasons, she had a light lunch, and so did I because I was still trying to get my head round what had happened. To clarify things we started looking at options for loans or money transfers, basically working out what was the easiest way to deal with the offloading or keeping of the Juke. With my head spinning in a different way now I suggested we take a run to Bishopbriggs to buy a 2 Terabyte removable drive to let me back up the MacBook Pro and the iMac using Time Machine. It’s an old but reliable way of backing up your entire Apple computer with more options than there are with Carbon Copier. Don’t roll your eyes JIC, I’m not going deep into the technicalities. Carbon Copier is a disaster recovery tool. Time Machine is a file recovery tool. Anyway, we drove to Bishopbriggs and bought the cheapest one I could find with a reputable make.

Back home again, I was just about to go on a ‘beastie hunt’ when my phone rang and it was the salesman who sold me the Juke trying to unravel the mess. The phone call I got last week from Renault finance was actually telling me about a discount event that runs from Wednesday 5th until Saturday. They had got their wires crossed and had also been booking people for the event from today and causing a lot of problems as a result. To simplify things I agreed that we’d to to the VIP event which will also feature an extra discount (probably less than 1%). So, I have until Wednesday to get rid of the remaining seagull crap, dust the inside of the car. Wash it down and tidy up the boot. I might get the seagull crap removed. The rest? No chance!

There were no beasties posing for photos today. The bees were too busy, the beetles were beetling about, the ladybirds were lazing, even the flowers were fading. I came home almost empty handed and with no quality work.

Scamp was feeling better by dinner time and had some light tomato spaghetti. After dinner I was making my coffee when I spotted him. There is a Cyberman in my coffee machine! It took me a few seconds to prise him out and half an hour to get a tripod and camera positioned so that I could record his existence. What you see above is living proof that Cybermen exist!

Later we found that series 1 episode 1 of Line of Duty was on BBC 1 (also on iPlayer). It’s a totally believable storyline about corruption in the police and must be the best cop series on TV. I think we started watching it from about halfway through series 2 or maybe we started at series 3. Worth watching if you haven’t seen it before.

Right, so we aren’t going to Stirling tomorrow. In fact, by the looks of the weather we won’t be going anywhere tomorrow. Certainly not without a good Goretex jacket. It’s going to be wet and windy.

Webinar Day – 1 May 2020

Webinar with the man from Falkirk.

I was set up early for the webinar, but for some reason there was no sound, even on the setup screen. Tried the help page and it told me to login again and switch off the ‘unmute’ request that would pop up. Tried that, and no unmute request. Emailed the link to Scamp who got in no bother and with sound. Aha! Scamp is using Chrome. Tried the link on the iMac with Chrome and all was well. Firefox is becoming a bit of a resources hog and seems to get slower with every new iteration. It may be time to move on to something smaller and faster.

The webinar was very illuminating and also very entertaining, thanks to Andrew’s quite dry sense of humour. So deadpan, he sounds like a Yorkshire Chic Murray if such a thing could exist. Lots of graphs and charts, each one explained fully, and it appears that he’s confident we’re on the way out of this mess. Only time will tell. Q&A session afterwards was equally entertaining and the final send-off with “Well thank you all for coming, especially those who dressed for the occasion and the couple who didn’t dress at all, well, hmm…”. Typical Andrew. Facts fully explained with his calm delivery.

Got a message that my meds were ready at the pharmacy. An ideal way to test out the new battery. Out and away without any bother and only three folk in the queue in front of me. If I’d been thinking of going to Tesco instead, there would have been at least forty folk in the queue in front of me. This is the longest queue I’ve seen there. The explanation from Scamp is that it’s a Friday – traditional shopping day. Also it’s the first day in the month, a lot of folk still get paid on a Friday. Whatever the reason, we left them to their day in the chain-gang and came home. Battery is still sitting half way up the scale, so I’ll keep an eye on it for the next few days and maybe give it a longer run tomorrow or Sunday.

We walked over to Condorrat for some fresh meat and eggs at the butchers and was tempted to let Scamp bring the bag the rest of the way and then go for a wander in St Mo’s, but chose instead to come home and find a recipe for black pudding tapas we’d seen on Hairy Bikers. I don’t like them, but some of the food they make is very tasty. That’s where I got my paella recipe from years ago. It was while I was waiting outside the butchers I saw the sign on the top of the butchers van. It almost became PoD, but not quite.

I did go over to St Mo’s for a walk after I sourced the black pudding recipe and got a couple of decent shots. The winner of PoD was the crozier with a bit of back lighting to brighten it up.  The weather helped there and I almost forgot to mention that we had another unexpectedly lovely day.  It looked more like we’d have a fair dose of cloud, but it never appeared until it was time for dinner, thankfully.

Might take the Juke out for a run tomorrow just to give it a chance to charge the battery, because THERE’S NOWHERE TO GO NOW!!

Sunny Coatbrig’ – 21 March 2020

Any place as grimly industrial as Coatbridge, that has an area called Sunnyside, obviously has a sense of dark humour.

Today we went to the leafier part of Coatbridge (It will always be Coatbrig’ to me because that’s what my dad called it). We drove out to Drumpellier which has a small loch and an imaginatively designed play park based around a Crannog. There are buoys in the loch that mark out the original ‘real’ crannog that was home to Iron Age families. Some Iron Age families still live in Coatbrig’ I think.

Today we weren’t interested in the history and pre-history of Coatbrig’, we were more interested in a walk round the loch in the fresh air. Contrary to our usual route, we took the anti-clockwise path, walking against the usual flow of prams, bikes and weans on those strange three wheeled scooter things that the weans move with a skiing motion. They always looked awkward to me and the weans seemed to be having a hard time getting them to go where they wanted. It didn’t take us long to get round the loch and there wasn’t all that much to see I’m afraid. The camera stayed quite happily in its bag for the whole circuit. The visitor centre and tea shop was firmly locked and bolted shut as per Boris’s instructions, so there was nothing for it but to drive back home again. Of course we could have turned around and unwound ourselves by walking round again by the clockwise route, but there would still have been very little to tempt the photographer in me and we’d still have to find a way past the skiing tricycle owners. Nah, we just went home for lunch.

Before we’d gone out we were talking to the couple in the pensioner’s house next to us and again they were offering to bring us back any messages we needed. I think they’re both younger than us, but it is strange to be “the old people”. I haven’t seen myself as old until this year. Yes I refer to Colin, Fred, Val and me as The Auld Guys, but that’s tongue in cheek. To think of myself as ‘old’ is uncomfortable. However, it was kind of them to think of us.

After that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s and found my old adversary Mr Grey, or at least one of his family stalking frogs, I think, in St Mo’s pond. While he stalked, I stalked him and got a few shots before he took off on those enormous wings and flew off. I was ready for him though. I’d set the camera to motor drive (Slow) and managed to grab a few images as he glided past on the tree line. My favourite, and therefore PoD was what you see here and only shows his head after I made a hash of panning. It’s always been difficult to pan and take multiple shots on an SLR. With a DSLR it’s no different. The only camera to allow you to see what you’re taking without interruption is a rangefinder. There are very few digital rangefinder cameras and the ones there are, are above my budget. So for me it’s press the button and hope for the best. I may try to pan with the shutter set to electronic some time. I believe that works. Next time I’ve got decent light and a suitably slow flying heron I’ll test out the theory.

Dinner tonight was paella and Scamp suggested that we reduce the quantity to reduce the waste. It should have been easy, but I don’t think I got the amount of stock right. Needs more testing. Everything needs testing, it seems.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go out walking in the fresh air again, probably in the afternoon. Weather looks much like today, that is cold and a bit dull, but we’ll hope for better.

Getting your ducks in a line – 27 February 2020

There was snow lying this morning when we woke. Snow in February, that’s normal isn’t it? Does that mean Global Warming’s been cancelled?

Only time will tell if the proposed Global Warming has indeed been cancelled. For my part I think the snow was an oversight. It was fairly quickly removed from all gardens and some active person was actually removing it from the Campsie Fells by the time we were going out. We drove to Drumpellier and found that the snow that had been removed from Cumbersheugh had been dumped there. I presume it was Coatbridge that had paid for the snow to increase its scenic value and it had been inadvertently delivered to Cumbernauld. We walked round the loch. It was very pretty with a clear blue sky, but a cold wind and I did get today’s PoD there. It’s a Tufted duck and it was only one of the hundreds pestering the swans that are the usual stormtroopers when there’s food to be had. It made a refreshing change. Cup of coffee in the visitor centre which had an area cordoned off with serious looking red tape and heavy duty polythene that obscured our view of what was behind it. I firmly believe this is the Coatbridge way of quarantining suspected Coronavirus victims. Scary thought!
By the time we got back home all the snow had gone and half of the snow on the hills had also disappeared. Probably the work of an NLC operative with a big barrow and a few black bags. Cumbersheugh doesn’t get to keep anything. NLC just takes it away to Coatbridge or Motherwell!

After lunch I made some dough for a second attempt at Salt & Pepper bread and set it to rise while I went for a walk. I got a few more photos, but not until I’d reset the time and date on the camera. None of the other settings had been reset, only the time and date! Strange. Despite getting more photos, it was a shot of Tufty that remained the PoD.

I made some soup when I got back and also cooked some mince under Scamp’s instructions. Then I fired the bread after I’d sprayed it with water and put some pepper and sea salt on top. It rose well and tastes quite good. I had mince ’n’ tatties with beetroot. Scamp had salmon with tatties. Soup was fine. It was bean soup, to which the response is always “I don’t want to know what it was, I want to know what it is now!” Proof that the old jokes aren’t always the best.

Today’s prompt was “Duck”. This is my take on that topic. It’s a mallard I photographed last year in Cumbersheugh. And, before someone asks, NO I wasn’t tempted to draw and paint a Donald Duck instead!

We have no plans for tomorrow.

Perf – 20 August 2019

Today was a red letter day. Today the retail park opened its doors.

Today the first shop in the new retail park opened. It’s only been about 30 years since the first road sign was erected, directing drivers to the, soon to be built, retail park. Thirty years. That’s not bad for Cumbersheugh.

However, that’s not where we were going. We were off to Perth, or Perf to give it its proper name. We were going for the run up the M9 hoping for some sunshine to show off the scenery and I was hoping to get some coffee and tea, plus some for Hazy. Drive up was quite decent with sunny spells and then sudden showers.

Went for a walk through the town and found an Artisan Bakery, with Artisan prices, but the bread looked good so we splashed out and bought a sun-dried tomato loaf and a sultana bread, like a pale version of a hot cross bun, oh yes, and a slice of pizza which looked good.

Got the coffee and tea and walked down to the viewing gallery over the Tay. It always reminds us of standing at the rail of a cruise ship. Today was no exception. That was about it for Perf. Drove back into heavy rain at both the places I was hoping to take some photos.

On the way home, and just before home we turned into the new retail park and went to see how big the queues were at the first shop to open (and only one so far). Queues were pretty long and the shop which is really Iceland was extra busy. Prices were good overall, but as Scamp said, it depends on what you’re buying.

Today’s PoD turned out to be a little set up I’d been thinking about for some time and a copy of one I’d seen on Flickr. It’s a Fimo pea in a pea pod. The Happy Pea!

Tomorrow it’s just a normal Wednesday – Dancing (x2) hopefully.

Dubrovnik – Astronauts, Bungee Jumping and Christina O – 10 August 2019

Arrived in Dubrovnik to find that we were berthed under the enormous bridge, not right under because we wouldn’t fit!

Breakfast on the upper deck just to make the most of another glorious day with wall to wall sunshine.

Took the shuttle bus in to town and met the most horrendous traffic jam. Only found out later that there had been two car accidents on the way to the old town, which partly explained the jam. Also it was Sunday and all the Croatians were converging on Dubrovnik.

Walked in to the old town and decided that £25 to walk the walls in the already blazing heat wasn’t going to happen. We’d walked the walls before and didn’t really feel the need to do it again. Maybe if they’d paid us the £25 we might have thought about it, but only maybe. We didn’t spend too long in the old town. Just long enough to see the statue of the man with the golden nose (?) and to have a drink by the harbour, then it was back to the long, long queue for the bus back to the ship. By long, long I really mean long, (x25) long queue. It seemed to stretch halfway back to the ship. I took the executive decision and stopped a taxi. €14 to the cruise terminal. Sounded good, then an American girl asked if she could share the taxi with us. We said ok, because it was a set price fare. She asked if she could contribute to the fare, but we had it all in hand, so she got a free ride to the cruise terminal which is also the ferry terminal. She got the free ride and we got to be good Samaritans. Ten minutes we were getting on the ship.

We’d seen the stylish boat moored next to ours and Scamp was the one who looked it up on her phone. It was called the Christina O and had originally been owned by Aristotle Onassis. It was named after his daughter. It’s had a chequered history which makes interesting reading. While we were admiring it from the balcony, its entire crew appeared and lined up on the deck. We were going out for a walk anyway, honest, so we did a slow walk past the yacht to see who of the great and the good got out of a black people carrier and after shaking hands with the crew, climbed the steps into the luxury that €630,000 per week to hire can give you. We walked on and bought a bottle of water at the ferry shop.

When we came back, I went for a snooze while Scamp went and read for a while on deck. She came back and told me there were people bungee jumping from the bridge. I took my camera and went to see what I could see. Luckily for me one bloke was getting ready to launch himself into oblivion. Got the camera ready and just as he jumped the viewfinder went black. The battery was dead. Just my luck. However I did watch this bloke plummet down until he almost touched the water 49m below. Rather him than me.

At dinner we were all discussing what we did in the real world. One wee girl of about 6 or 7 asked the man sitting across from her what he did. He said he was an astronaut. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face, or the disappointment when he started to laugh and told her he was just joking.

PoD was an island we saw as we were sailing away from Dubrovnik. It looked like something from a Peter Jackson film.

Tomorrow we’re going to be in Hvar, also in Croatia.

Valletta, Malta – The Smug Smugglers – 8 August 2019

 

Today we woke to the sight of the Giraffe Crane. I think it had missed us.

After breakfast we walked along the front to the super-fast glass elevator that took us up to the viewing platform and the gun battery. We weren’t very interested in the gun battery, but we took some photos from the viewing platform, just for the sake of it.

Then we walked into the town. It looked a lot like the town we’d seen two years ago, but some things had changed. At the top of the main shopping street there was a fountain and an open tiled plaza where there had been a building site before. Also two very photogenic sets of steps were now complete where they had only gone half way up the last time.  Beautiful light on the sand coloured stone.

We stopped at a cafe for a drink and the owner(?) told me after a joke that he had been married for 47 years. I told him he was beating me by a year. We had a laugh. I had a beer and Scamp had a fresh orange juice. We paid our bill and said goodbye to the man with another joke.

We wandered round some more and Scamp was looking for somewhere for lunch. She found a little backstreet restaurant called D’ Office Bistro. I suggested Bruschetta to share as a starter and then we both had Chicken Caesar Salad. Scamp found they had a bottle of Rosé d’ Anjou on the menu, so we had that. The whole thing was gorgeous. Walked away feeling happy.

I wanted to buy some paint, Burnt Umber which is a dark brown that I use a lot. After just one wrong turning, I found the art shop I’d been in two years ago and got a tube of the paint and also a pan of Vandyke Brown which looked good. <I know this is nonsense to you, but it’s a reminder to me>.

I also wanted a cheap Malta tee shirt and Scamp wanted a coverall for when the sun gets too hot. I think the woman selling them diddled us, but that was probably ok. I needed some coffee too and found it in a wee shop down a side street. Next on my list was some electrical insulating tape and jewellers screwdrivers. The tape is to cover three little clips that keep stabbing into my fingers on my sporran. The screwdrivers are to fix the legs on my ’designer’ glasses which are the only pair I have left. My optician’s glasses broke a couple of days ago and refuse to go back together again. Hopefully I’ll have a pair to go back to from Simpsons. I found a wee ironmonger’s shop, again, down a side street and he had exactly what I wanted. Ironmongers shops are like hen’s teeth. When did you last see one? The owner was another character. He told me a story about his trip to Scotland and how he just had to get out of the car and stare at the scenery near Aviemore. He told me a good joke he read on a tea towel in Edinburgh too. Scamp reckons he’ll dine out on the story about the Scotsman who emptied his pockets and found that he’d just the right amount of money to pay for his tape and screwdrivers.

Back at the ship and in the duty free shop we took the risk and bough a bottle of gin, hoping we’d hit it lucky and get it past the guards. Got there and the scanner was covered up. Result! We will drink gin after all!

Scamp wanted to go back ashore to buy a wee dish she’d seen last week and we had a drink too. Scamp had a Rum ’n’ Coke and I had a very stiff Margherita. I could hardly walk back to the ship.

We dined at The Beach House tonight, which is the starboard side of Smash ’n’ Grab by day. My steak on a stone was good. My Hush Puppy starter tasted like … Well, let me put it this way, a pair of Hush Puppy shoes would have more flavour. The Key Lime Pie thing was much the same. Nice sorbet, but the rest had no taste. Through the middle of the meal we had to listen to boring Cap’n Bob’s lifeboat drill and I noticed that either he has a repetitive speech problem with some words or else it was the same speech as last week played back.

Tomorrow is a sea day with new dance instructors.