Driving – 10 September 2021

Feeling a lot better this morning. No sign of yesterday’s Lurgi.

We got in the car and drove to the petrol station to buy some extremely expensive petrol that only had 5% of Ethanol in it. Better the devil you know when you’re on a fairly long journey, carrying half a tonne of stuff.

Drove out of the petrol station, still smarting from the expense and joined the M80 heading in the general direction of Glasgow. Merged on to the M73 which in turn merged on to the M74. Drove sedately past the roadworks at Hamilton that are due to finish in October (year not stated), watching the train of cars, vans and lorries on the other carriageway, a train that went on and on and on. Made a mental note to exit the motorway at Canderside on our return journey and not be caught in a stramash like this.

After a hundred miles or so, Scotland became England and the M74 became the M6. Exited at Penrith and then it was on to the smaller A66. Just before the exit, the Start/Stop app in the car signalled a System Failure. This had happened before and I reported it to Nissan at the service a week ago. I was told then that the Start/Stop “… Checks a lot of parameters …” Which was technospeak for “It just does that, we can’t fix it”. Another Nissan failure on an otherwise great car.

Not long after we left the outskirts of Penrith, we were on a stretch of road which should have been dual carriageway, but was under repair, so it became a slow moving single carriageway. Just after what seemed like an hour, but was probably a lot less, we took the turn off that eventually led through narrower and narrower roads to the house. Actually overshot it, but Scamp noticed and we arrived. First to arrive again!

Cup of tea on the patio and a quick Foxtrot along the paving stones. I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone had danced a Foxtrot along that patio! Jamie and Sim weren’t far behind us, having left home long before us. Their’s a six hour journey and ours only about two. The world is ill divided.

PoD was to confirm that roses, even in England, have the same beasties we have up north. Honest, we didn’t bring them with us.
Scamp made Chicken Cacciatore for dinner and we all sat round the table, talked and ate.

Tomorrow we’re going exploring.

Some days are busy, busy, others … – 3 September 2021

Others are more like today.

Nowhere to go and nothing to do. Milky white sky and nothing to entice a photog to go out and capture the world in all its majesty. The furthest we got was a walk to the shops for milk and bread, literally. We bought milk and bread … and a packet of Jammy Joes, just for fun. I didn’t even take the camera with me because I didn’t think I’d need it. I was right.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of a little fly stuck in a spider web with another fly overseeing the prisoner. A bit sinister in black and white, but it suited the subject and the day I thought.

Even later in the afternoon I walked over to Condorrat to buy dinner: One special fish supper for me and a small fish supper for Scamp. It’s been ages since I’ve had a deep fried slice of fish done in breadcrumbs. Quite, quite delicious. A Friday treat if there is one.

On the way home I got another treat. I got to see a Friday tradition. A bloke with a burst lip got chucked out of Broden’s Bar which used to be The Masonic Bar in Condorrat. He was absolutely “rat arsed” and was shouting for somebody in the bar to come out and give him a square go. Swearing and performing a modern dance as he tried, with one arm in his jacket sleeve, to find a way of getting the other arm into the other sleeve. It’s nice to see that the old traditions aren’t dying out.

Oh, yes. One strange thing happened. I got the renewal notice for my car insurance in the post and it was LESS than I paid last year. I’ve checked it at least twice and Scamp has confirmed that it’s true. I’ll say this one more time IT’S LESS THAN LAST YEAR’S. Mind you, I’d done just over 5000 miles when the car went in for service at the start of the week!

The Spitfire flew over Westfield tonight and then disappeared into the setting sun. That’s the sun that appeared from behind the clouds about 6pm, just in time to set. I think it was having the day off.

Tomorrow we’re hoping the teachers will be able to explain where we’ve missed a step in the waltz, because we can’t find where it’s gone. It might be under the couch, I may go and look for it after I’ve posted this short blog.

Coffee and Tea – 2 September 2021

Not one, but two chances to dine out today.

Met Val at 11am for coffee and a chat, mainly about tech as usual. Any kind of tech was fair game. Val was raving about a new type of vinyl record which is heavier and less flexible than old vinyl, meaning the needle doesn’t have the same tendency to slip. I was raving about the new (to me) Sony A6000 whose sensor, although smaller than the mighty Sony A7M2 held just as much information. We both ooh’d and aah’d at each other tech, but neither of us were really interested in the other’s wonders, we were so entranced by our own.

Just after 12.30 we parted company, Val to meet his wife to go shopping and me to drive down to the village for lunch with June, Ian, Isobel and Scamp. We hoped that Shona would be able to join us, but she didn’t make it. The other four had ordered before I arrived, but had kept a place for me at the table. Lots for everyone to talk about and we cross-talked a lot. The problems of getting to a Skye wedding hopefully next year. The glory of new windows (not Microsoft, glass ones). How to tell when you’re too old to drive. Plus lots more. Food was passable although my panini with bacon, brie and cranberry was just a bit over stuffed and Scamp’s baked potato had been out of the oven too long and was also a bit tasteless. Foodies can always fault food.

After everyone was almost talked out and the tea had been drunk and the potatoes had been eaten we split up. Scamp was going home June & Ian were going to sort out June’s medicine and I was taking Isobel up to Tesco. While she and I was there I got carrots to make Carrot and Lentil Curry. Took Isobel back home and changed my mind about the curry, so went to M&S to get the ingredients for a stir fry. Instead of the usual sticky sauce, I took a packet of Chicken Ramen Broth to try as an alternative. It worked well, except I didn’t notice that the veg had green beans in it, one of Scamp’s “ I DON’T LIKE IT!” vegetables. I allowed her to leave them in a separate bowl. We both agreed it was a pleasant change from the sticky sweet sauce we usually have, although not as good as Scamp’s stir fry.

When I eventually got home the sun had appeared and I changed into my shots and tee shirt and went seeking Beasties. I found loads, but PoD went to a little Shield Bug.

No dancing practise tonight, but hopefully we’ll have one tomorrow. Nothing else planned as yet. Weather is beginning to head towards rain at the weekend, so maybe we should make the most of these last few warm days.

Recovery – 29 August 2021

The day after the dance was over.

I thought I’d be aching a lot more than I was today. However, an extra half hour in bed and a relaxing day wouldn’t do any harm at all. With that in mind, the most strenuous thing I did in the morning was finish Friday’s sudoku. It’s strange that you can study these fascinating puzzles for hours on end without adding one number to the grid, then pick it up the next day and see all the clues you missed. It’s almost as if some good fairy comes in overnight and writes a few extra clues for you.

After lunch we had a wander round the garden, pruning this and dead heading that. We also discussed what was going to be moved and where it was going to as well as what was going to fill its space. It’s all sorted in Scamp’s head. She was just telling me about it. Sometimes, that’s what ‘discussion’ is.

I took the Big Dog and the Big Lens out for a walk in St Mo’s where I found two dragonflies, one male and one female who were perfectly happy to sit and be photographed. It was the male that made PoD, or more precisely, the head and thorax of the male dragonfly that made PoD. Interesting too was the shield bug carrying aloft a caterpillar like a trophy. Both are available on Flickr along with the delightful Troika rose.

Dinner had a bit of a cobbled together theme with half of yesterday’s Chicken Tikka Masala added to half a Vegetable Masala plus some cauliflower and served with rice. Actually it tasted really good, as did the Eve’s Pudding that was the dessert.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about the trials of house buying. Once you’re past the initial excitement it’s all to do with money for this and more money for that. I don’t envy him this part of the game. Being Jamie, he played down his baking skills after making a Chocolate Swiss Roll.

We settled down to watch what turned out to be the shortest F1 GP in history. With only three laps completed under a safety car, in the torrential rain, Max Verstappen was declared the winner. I really felt bad for the fans who had paid to watch some racing and got to watch the rain falling.

Out fairly early again tomorrow to take the Blue car for its first service in Stirling. We may get the bus in to Stirling itself and go for a coffee.

Go West – 27 August 2021

Off to the seaside today!

We were driving down to Troon, Scamp’s Happy Place. I’d booked lunch at Scotts for 12.45pm and the sun was shining. Drove down the M77 and by the time we’d passed Kilmarnock we could see that we were leaving the blue skies behind and driving into the black clouds. It looked like the west wasn’t the best today. However we passed under the black clouds unscathed and continued on to Troon without getting one drop of rain.

We were far too early for our lunch appointment, so we went for a walk over the ‘Ballast’, the big hill beside the saw mill, then along almost, but not quite into town. Then walked back by the low path. The Ballast is a hill, reputed to have been made from the ballast from cargo ships and also dredged material the was excavated when they were building the harbour. Its original purpose was to protect the new harbour. The great thing about it is that you can walk over the top, but on calm days like today, you can also walk round the edge on the sea side. Actually it’s a more interesting walk on windy days with crashing waves and the chance you’ll get soaked. Today the tide was out and the sea was behaving itself. We sat for a while in the car gazing out in the general direction of Arran willing it to emerge from the mist that was shrouding it. It didn’t want to play today.

We has a wee bit of excitement when we were walking round when two fast jets took off from Prestwick and did their screaming climb into the clouds. Scamp was not amused. I was!

Scotts was busy with no lunch tables available unless you’d booked. We were shown to our table and given the menus.
We shared a starter of Crispy Chicken Tempura which, then Scamp had Chicken Caesar Salad and I had Thai Spiced Breast of Chicken. We both had dessert. Scamp’s was Rhubarb and Apple Tart with Apple Ice Cream and I had plain and simple Ice Cream. The only upset was my debit card wouldn’t work in the machine, even before I tried to input my PIN. Scamp had to pay for me. Luckily the girl at the till had seen this happening before and directed us to the Bank of Scotland in the town where she said they would fix the problem. It’s quite a while since we’ve been to Scotts and I’m glad to say their standard haven’t slipped.

Found the bank and parked about half a mile away then waited to find out what was wrong. The teller asked me to put my card in the machine on her desk and saw the problem. She said she could fix it in the autoteller outside. I put my card in, it was denied, she touched a few buttons and all was well. When we got home I went to the petrol station and put some of that expensive fuel in the car and tested the work the teller had done, and of course the card worked. Let’s hope it’s a long term fix not a short term one like last time.

Checked the photos I’d taken, but there was nothing interesting enough to be PoD, so I took the Big Dog out to St Mo’s woods and found a couple of mating Crane Flies who posed for me and the PoD was sorted.

After a ‘discussion’ tonight I think we almost ready to dance the Foxtrot tomorrow, although we both agree that it might not be exactly right. I might even wash the car tomorrow if it’s a decent day.

Off the leash – 25 August 2021

 

Both of us!

Scamp was off to lunch today with two other witches. I thought I might do some phoning. First would be MPB to find out what was happening about the camera I was selling through them. I didn’t really think there was anything dodgy going on, but it’s wearing on for a fortnight since the confirmed that they had delivery of the parcel. That’s when the text came through to say they had checked the camera and agreed with my assessment of the condition. I sent my bank details and left them to the technicalities of whizzing the money over the ether.

Next phone call was to book the car in for its first service. Apparently they prefer the booking to be done online, so I went through all the hoops and the car goes in on Monday at 10am and will be ready by 12noon. Another tick in another box.

By that time, Scamp was ready to go to lunch and I’d one last phone call to make and that might be a make or break one. I was going to phone my brother who I’ve not spoken to for about six years. We correspond by email, but never speak. When I dialled the number it made a strange squeak and then nothing. No message to say that it was a wrong number or that the person was on another call, just nothing. I tried the landline because sometimes my phone gets a poor signal, but the result was the same. I’d been building up for this call and it never happened. I was disappointed. So, if you’re reading this, Alex, I did try, but presumably I’ve got an old number. Give me a ring or drop me an email and we’ll sort out this telephony stuff.

Next I wanted to renew my road tax, but when I tried the DVLA I got through to the menu, Chose the Tax My Car option and the connection went into hyperspace. The second time in about ten minutes that technology had let me down. I’d had enough. Instead of trying again, I got some bread flour, yeast, salt and oil. Added some water and kneaded my stress away.

Left the dough to prove, grabbed two cameras and camera bags, put them in the boot of the car and drove off into the … well, it was about 2 ‘o’ clock by then, so it wasn’t the sunset I was driving into, more like the sunSHINE, because it was another hot one today. I drove down to Auchinstarry, parked at the quarry and went for a long walk along part of the old railway to the Plantation. Crossed over there and walked back along the canal. Now usually if I’m walking with Scamp that will take us about half an hour to an hour. Today it took me two hours, because I was stopping a lot checking things and generally being a photog. The weather was beautiful. Almost a clear blue sky and hardly a breeze. PoD was a spider repairing its web. Getting rid of all the detritus that had been caught in it. Saw what might be a shield bug, or might be a beetle. I’ve asked for an ID on Flickr.

Came home to find Scamp sitting in the garden. Not content with going out for lunch, she’d come home and got started cutting the front grass. Then she complained that she should have cut the back grass too. I encouraged her to have a Pimms instead and I had a beer, then we sat in the garden she read her book, I listened to mine.

Dinner was a Pizza Pasta Combination (Half a pizza with a small bowl of pasta) for me and the other half of my pizza for Scamp.

Later I finally got through to DVLA using my phone as a wifi hotspot. It’s something to do with way the new modem deals with some websites. Must query it with Virgin who will deny it’s anything to do with them, of course.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow to go looking for a bank that sells beer!

 

Out for a walk – 22 August 2021

Or two, in my case.

It was a warm sunny morning, but we didn’t really get going until the afternoon. We finally decided to walk round Broadwood again, but the opposite way round, just to be different. There wasn’t a lot to see, but when we came out at the wee pond near the Irn Bru factory, I did see a dragonfly sunning itself on the top of one of the NLC signs telling you what to look for. It could have been a living advert for the woodland walk, but it got its photo taken anyway. A few steps further on, there was another dragonfly, also sunning itself on a wooden fence. I tried for its photo, but couldn’t get through the grass that was shielding it. I gave up and eventually it did too and flew away. Still, I had one in the bag.

Back home I had a look through the afternoon’s shots and, yes, there was at least one shot of the dragonfly that would pass muster. However, there were more things out there, I was sure. So I left Scamp to read and went for a short walk in St Mo’s. Found more small dragonflies sitting on the upstand of the boardwalk and included them in my photos. Even better I found a Leaf-hopper, a bright green leaf-hopper (Cicadella viridis) and took its picture too. I tried a Wolf spider, but couldn’t get it all in focus. There was a Garden Cross spider but it was too far away and there was no way I was wading into the murky waters of St Mo’s pond. It’s bad enough when you don’t know what you’re walking in, but it’s worse if you do!  The leaf-hopper got PoD, just beating the posing dragonfly from earlier in the day.

Decided that I had enough and came home to make dinner which tonight was Naked Fish and Carrot Chips. I thought we had everything to make the dish, but then found we had no garlic. I added garlic granules but they didn’t quite cut it. Also, the carrot chips weren’t very chip-like. Discussion later with the chef himself, disclosed that he thinks there should be more cornflour than the recipe says. I agree with Jamie, that would probably work. We were discussing this when he phoned after the dinner was made and eaten. We also found out about how things are down Cambridge way. You forget that England has different rules and timings than up here. Schools are still on holiday there while they are back at work here. House buying seems to work on mystery and black magic there whereas it might be archaic here, but it’s much more clear cut.

Scamp had been working hard trying to learn some of the figures and their link steps form the second half of the Foxtrot routine. My versions were different, but between us we managed to get everything sorted out and it now looks doable again. It just needs a few more practise sessions and we’ll have a full foxtrot.

Tomorrow seems to be even better than today and today was good. Not too bright and sunny, but warm. Tomorrow we are governed by high pressure, so we should be dry at least. No plans.

Out for coffee with Margie – 19 August 2021

But before that, there was the problem of petrol.

Drove up to Tesco to check if my credit card would work with what I thought was my PIN, after the debacle with another of my cards last week. If it did, I was intending to bring back a loaf and get petrol. It did and I got the loaf, unfortunately the petrol station was under reconstruction which was annoying because that’s why I’d gone to Tesco in the first place. However, I’d just have to go back to BP on my way home, which is what I did. Bought £40 worth of that liquid gold which according to my dashboard computer would cover me for just over 400 miles. That got me doing some quick mental arithmetic while I was driving home (who says men can’t multitask?) that meant a quid would get me roughly 10 miles of travel and that’s before you consider Road Tax, Insurance and depreciation. Maybe I should start cycling everywhere instead.

However, if Scamp and I were taking Margie out to Torwood Garden Centre for coffee and a cake, I’d need a tandem with a little two wheeled buggy behind for Margie if I was to change to the eco-friendly method of travel. I put the though aside to suggest it to Scamp at a later date – Oops, too late, it’s out of the bag now!

We picked up Margie (in the car) and drove to Torwood. While I parked the car, the ladies went in and found us a table. It was a great afternoon. We talked about loads of things and I was pleased that she included Tarri in the conversation, but in a realistic, matter of fact way. She is a very practical woman, Margie. After coffee and a scone each we went for a walk round the plants. I could see that Scamp was casting a searching eye over various flower pots and their contents. I think we may be making a return journey to the Garden Centre soon.

While we had been in Torwood, Scamp had asked one of the gardeners how to deal with her ailing 35 year old blackcurrant bush and had been told to prune it to open it out and also to clear away all the leaves from the ground underneath the plant. That made some sense to us and she got started when we got back. We’d dropped Margie off at her house on the way. While she was hard at work with that, I started to pin up our new fairy lights to the fence. They seem to work and are lit as I write this.

With that done, I left her to pruning and dead-heading and took the Sony out for a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to see on a day that had dulled down a lot from its promising start earlier in the day. Lots of flies on knapweed and one of them achieved PoD. I was trying out lots of different tricks and tips to make the Sony focus more accurately. I don’t know if the problem is with the lens or with the camera or, more likely, a bit of both.

Another practise session tonight trying to make sense of the Melody Foxtrot sequence dance. It must be one of the most complicated and totally useless dance sequences designed by humans. I think after about a dozen walk throughs we have a fair idea how it works (famous last words!). We also covered the second half of the Foxtrot sequence without anyone falling out with anyone else and almost no swearing.

Tomorrow we may attempt to drive to Hamilton, just for a laugh … and a curry.

An afternoon in the country – 17 August 2021

The morning was work. The afternoon was photography.

Scamp was off to have coffee with Isobel in the morning and I was left to my own devices. First thing to do was to investigate the leaking shower cabinet. It turned out to be a leak in two corners. One tiny little drip and one a bit bigger. Both were being caused by mould growth in the sealant between the glass and the ceramic base of the shower. Half an hour of poking and prodding with a wee round pointed device whose original purpose was to score cardboard teased most of the gunge out and allowed me to start to dry the offending parts. Left them to dry out properly by themselves and started the second, and bigger, task.

The top of the chest of drawers in my room has not seen the light of day for about a year. Today I was set to remedy that. I had a big IKEA bag ready to hold the stuff that was going to the skips, that meant most of it. Some things I didn’t really want to chuck away, but I had to ask myself if I was ever likely to use it again and if I wasn’t, was I emotionally attached to it. If the answer to either of those questions was YES, then it got to stay for six months. If the answer to both question NO, then it was going to the skip, via the IKEA bag. Some things even got he heave after failing only one test. Sometimes you have to be ruthless. As the bag got fuller and fuller, the top of the chest of drawers magically appeared.

After Scamp came back and we had lunch, I took all the stuff in the car to the skips. Heavens, Jamie, you’re not going to believe this, but I even parted with a camera. A working camera! I won’t list all that went to landfill, but there was a a lot. With the boot of the car empty I could go to B&Q to get a tube of sealant for the shower, and have somewhere to put it. Next stop was Screwfix for a Hive plug socket. The number of times I’ve left the house and driven to the bottom of the road wondering if I’ve left the phone charger or some other piece of dodgy equipment switched on. Now I can check on my phone if it’s on and with a touch of the screen, turn it off. Hopefully it will be worth the money in peace of mind. Two things in the boot. Time for some photo opportunities.

Drove up to Fannyside Moor and found an old fencepost strapped to its new replacement with its great collection of mosses and lichen. It looked like a little garden, although one comment on Flickr likened it to a “micro rainforest”. I understand what he meant. It got PoD. Found a little wee ladybird with sixteen spots. Dark red wing covers and white spots. It’s a Cream-spot Ladybird (Calvia quattuordecimguttata) and it’s not very rare.

Back home, Scamp made Sea Bass with asparagus and home grown Potatoes. Absolutely brilliant. Later we had a quick practise of the final parts of the Foxtrot we’ve been learning. I say ’final’, but it’s likely the teachers will add another two or three little bits to the end of the routine.

No plans for tomorrow, although a trip out for ‘the messages’ is not out of the question.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!