A Pencil – 4 July 2022

I found a pencil today. I’d searched everywhere I could think of yesterday to no avail, but today it was found.

I’d been roughing out a sketch of Jacki and Allan’s house and been using a giant A2 sheet of paper which meant I needed a nice big, thick pencil. I knew that Hazy had given me a lovely wee stubby clutch pencil many years ago and I thought it would be ideal for the purposes, but like I said in the intro, despite Scamp’s and my intensive search, we couldn’t find it. Even this morning, with the sketch half finished, I still couldn’t lay my hands on that pencil. Yesterday we had hauled out loads of boxes and chucked out lots of stuff in the process, but the pencil wasn’t to be found. This morning, after another hour’s fruitless search I remembered two places it could be. Both of them were leather shoulder bags and it was in a zipper pocket in the second bag that I found the pencil. I swear the lines I drew with that pencil were the best in the whole sketch.

What had started out as a rough, now has a splash of paint on it, but it’s still going to be a rough. I don’t think I like the photo I’m working from and need a better view. It was taken in a rush on the day before we left to come home. I don’t think I can use that as an excuse for a few days in Skye, but it’s a nice idea.

I took a walk over to St Mo’s this afternoon to clear my head and because Scamp wanted to walk over to the shops. I walked with her halfway there and then walked round St Mo’s a couple of times while she went round the shops. Lots of cow parsley flowerhead on show in St Mo’s, all bobbing around in the gusty wind, but that didn’t seem to deter the hover flies and beetles from landing on them and having lunch. It was a nightmare trying to get photos in that wind, even more challenging than yesterday along the canal. Then I found my PoD which is a plant called St John’s Wort whose main claim to fame is as a herbalist source of anti-depressant. Something to do with the flowers, it would have to be, because the seeds are deadly poison. I’ve seen those black berries in the winter and wondered why no animal or bird was eating them and now I know why. Look, but don’t touch.

I watched two more episodes of Slough House. Some of Lamb’s on-liners are pure gems, or maybe it’s just my sense of humour.

Tomorrow I’ve arranged to meet Alex in Glasgow to go to the Art Galleries. He wants to do some slow shutter arty photos, I want to go and look at a John Byrne exhibition. We’ll probably meet up later for lunch, all being well. Scamp intends to cut the front grass while I’m away.


The first of July – 1 July 2022

Hopefully a warmer and calmer month than ‘Flaming June’.

We faced the potential of more rain and drove up to Tesco for milk, bread and breakfast cereals and ended up coming home with what was a fairly substantial weekly shop.

Back home I had my usual end of month clean up of the last month’s photos. It’s amazing how many photos I take in a month, even once I’ve culled and deleted the obvious junk photos.

Because I’d cleared out some space on the computer, that gave me the chance to fill that space with more photos. That’s why I went out for a walk in the afternoon to get some photos. It was definitely going to be an insect of some description that was going to be PoD and it turned out to be a Ringlet butterfly that filled that first space in Flickr. I’m trying to actively reduce the number of photos I post in Flickr to increase the quality of my submissions.

While I was over in St Mo’s taking photos, Scamp was pruning and clearing space in the garden, digging things out and moving things around. Just keeping things in good order.

We did manage half an hour or so in the garden when I was back from my walk and Scamp had taken her gardening gloves off. Time to read a bit and have a glass of wine. Then the sun disappeared and it was time to head inside again.

Tomorrow hoping to get one more dance lesson at Brookfield before the teachers go off on their three week holiday work on a cruise ship.

Squaring the circle – 29 June 2022

Today we were in the market for some supports to help stop the sag.

We drove to Torwood and argued about discussed the various options for a support for at least one of Scamp’s roses. They really are massive and a bit lanky. Eventually we settled on two different, totally different support systems. One was interlocking metal rods that create a pentagonal frame for a basically round bush in a square pot. The other was three bamboo hoops, so essentially six legs, again supporting a round bush in a square pot with the addition of some coarse garden twine. We’ll see how they survive the summer into the autumn.

With the roses now better supported and feeling uplifted ourselves we drove back via Tesco for some real essentials. Just stuff for dinner which would be the leftover curry from yesterday with the addition of one of those ‘real essentials’, decent Garam Masala. The stuff we’d been using was 90% cinnamon and 10% floor sweepings. Not good. On the way out I spotted Fred buying some flowers for Mrs Fred and we had a wee blether for a while, comparing books we’d lent each other. I knew Scamp would be waiting patiently in the car for me, but I made my excuse and left agreeing to phone Fred later in the week.

After we’d both cut ourselves to ribbons squeezing the rose bushes into their new cordons, Scamp pruned some of the plants that were running to seed and I pruned the highest of the roses that were also going over.

With the garden work done just in time to avoid a heavy shower, we waited a while for the sun to come out and went our usual ways. Scamp went to do more rearranging of plants in the garden and I went for a quick walk round St Mo’s. Two circuits gave me what I thought was a skinny little flying ant, but what turned out to be a Sabre Wasp. That became PoD.

I’d a painting to do today for one of our dance teachers. It’s been promised since March and I kept putting it off to do other ones. Today I finished it, mounted it and framed it. We’re intending to go to a Tea Dance tomorrow, so I can deliver it to him then. Hope he likes it.

Later we watched the Sewing Bee and Scamp correctly predicted the winner. Because the SB was on at the same time as Andy Murray’s second round match, we missed the thrilling second half, having watched the first half earlier. If you don’t want to know the score, look away now …

Right we’re back again. Since anyone who was interested, already knows who won and the rest of you aren’t interested, I’m not going to tell you.

Scamp was really pleased that one of the plants she’d been given when we were down at Jamie and Simonne’s was flowering. It’s a little pink geranium. She sent them a picture of it and also a picture of a rose called “Simply the Best” that looks quite startling just now. Of course she got good comments on both and she deserves them.

Tomorrow, as I said, we’re hoping to go dancing at Paisley. Other than that, nothing much planned.

Showers – 28 June 2022

It rained today, not all day, but occasional heavy showers all day.

We spent the morning looking for a pair of glasses. My glasses. My good glasses, not the cheapo readers I use most of the time, the ones I’m wearing now. No, they were the much more expensive ones I got from the opticians and the ones that, I now realise, don’t give me eye strain. We searched high and low for them, literally. We searched up on the top of cupboards and down under the settee in the living room. We looked in the kitchen, in the toilet, in the bathroom and worst of all in ‘my’ room where strange things are buried under more strange things. Eventually we gave up and had a cup of coffee each and didn’t speak about where they could be or where we hadn’t looked yet. For about half an hour we tried to put the glasses out of our heads instead of on our heads. Finally I frisked the bed for the second, or was that the third time? There, in the middle of the bed I felt a bump that shouldn’t be there. That bump was my glasses. They had been playing ‘hide and seek’ with me, and had chosen a smart hiding place, where I’d left them after I was finished reading in bed this morning. It only took us about three hours to find them. The good thing about the search was that it vastly increased my step count for the day. So, if I found my glasses, why am I wearing readers? Because the ‘lost’ pair had been bad and have been shut in the bedroom all day as a punishment. Furthermore, they have been warned that if they try that ‘hide and seek’ game again, they will be banished to ‘my’ room with all the terrors it contains!

After a lovely lunch of fried potatoes and the leftover chicken goujons from Sunday, Scamp declared that rather than go for a walk round St Mo’s, she’d rather do the ironing. I chose St Mo’s and took the Sony with its big, heavy macro lens, hoping for some wet weather shots taken in the sun during one of the dry spells. The dry spells occurred, but the sun was absent today. Instead I found a Ringlet butterfly, some more spider nests and best of all, a Plume Moth. So small and insignificant you’d pass it by, but if you look closely at this insect you will see its wings are far to narrow to carry it aloft. The reason is that when it lands, it doesn’t fold its wings along its body as most moths do, it rolls them up neatly and holds them out at its side, making a sort of cross shape.

Two of the great things about the Sony A7iii are Silent Shooting and Continuous Shooting. I won’t make Jamie yawn by explaining what they mean, although you can probably guess, I’ll just say that it means you can take lots of pictures in a very short time if you keep the shutter pressed. I managed to take about 200 shots of the Plume Moth in about two minutes. That meant I had 200 shots to look through when I got home.

After I’d done the first cull and got rid of about 150 of them, I started making tonight’s dinner which was Carrot and Lentil Curry. An old favourite and although it wasn’t as good as Scamp’s version, it filled a wee space.

PoD went to the Plume Moth.

Almost felt sorry for Serena Williams getting beat in the first round at Wimbledon. That must be a tough fall from grace.

No plans for tomorrow yet. Weather looks similar to today with perhaps less rain.



Making an impression

Scamp, not for me.

Scamp was out this morning to the dentist, to get an impression made of a tooth that needs replaced. This has been an ongoing saga for many, many months, probably since last year. Many excuses have been made for the length of time it’s taken. Covid has been the main whipping boy, being blamed for everything, but a government that sits on its hand, rather than making decisions is a culprit that is never mentioned, but is always there in the background. Don’t get me started!

When she returned and after she told her tale of woe, she went out to get some things for tonight’s dinner while I drove in to Glasgow hoping to find a new phone that would connect consistently using Bluetooth. I tried most of the shops in the city centre, but although most of them had phones on display, many were dead with a pasted on picture of what a screen might look like, but they were not powered, probably had no innards and besides they were glued down to the stands. The ones that actually worked were the most expensive, of course, but on closer inspection, there weren’t any boxed phones visible. John Lewis, one of my favourite browsing sites had hardly any available for purchase. It’s nearly always the case now that you look, you pay and you get the tech sent to you. That’s not the way old folk like me like to work. We like to touch, lift, and play with these ‘toys’ before we pay for them, then take them away in our pocket. We don’t want to wait for a delivery from a white-van-man. Even worse, we don’t want to get home and find an email waiting for us, the gist of which is “Sorry. The article you bought is out of stock. Sucker!”

Back home the sun came out for a while. Not a long while, but enough to encourage Scamp to go and sit in the garden. I joined her and together we sat with a glass of wine and watched the bees feeding on and at the same time, pollinating the Honeybell flowers. We must have had about half an hour of peace and quiet, watching the bees and waiting for the oven ready chips to cook, taking turns at shaking them ever ten minutes or so to make sure they didn’t burn. Then Scamp went inside to fry the Giant Fish Fingers to go with them for dinner. Fish Fingers, egg, chips and peas. A decent dinner.

PoD was going to be Honeybells and Bees, but instead it became the flower heads of the fluffy Thalictrum. The flower we bought in Cambo last year.

I don’t believe we have anything planned for tomorrow.

Just out for a curry – 10 June 2022

We couldn’t decide where to go today.

Bright sunshine in the morning, but heavy showers blown along on a strong wind. I suggested we drive to Hamilton for a curry. Scamp favoured Glasgow on the bus. We settled for a curry in Stirling with the chance to do some food shopping in Waitrose.

We’ve been going to the Indian Cottage in Stirling for many years and the food is always good. Not so good today. My meal was just as good as it usually is Chicken Tikka Chilli Boonah never fails to hit the mark. Scamp’s Vegetable Dhansak, however fell short of excellent. She said the sauce was fine, but the vegetables felt a little ‘old’, and the sample I had did fit her description. She summed it up by saying that the veg tasted like frozen veg flung into the curry sauce before serving. We both agreed that what was promised as a ‘well done naan’ was nothing like a naan. Flat, tasteless with no ghee or oil to soften the bread, it was awful. I realise that restaurants have to ‘cut their cloth’ these days, but they also have to serve the food that people want to eat.

We walked back to Waitrose and bought a fair amount of food. Mainly things that we can’t get in Tesco or Morrisons. Fruit, veg, fish and meat. That about summed it up. Scamp used up a Covid voucher for a few bottles of wine too

Drove back home without meeting any of the heavy showers we’d seen in the morning, but we weren’t in the house for long before one descended on us. Others followed later in the day. I was tempted to go over to St Mo’s, but instead I sat in the garden in the sunshine watching the bees feeding on the Honeybells. I also took a few shots of them. One of those shots made PoD.

I think we’re turning the corner on foreign travel. Scamp had a look at some 7 day cruises, but it was difficult to determine if any flights were available from Glasgow. Maybe we need a visit to some travel agents to get a clearer picture of what’s actually available. Another hour out of our lives that we won’t get back.

Tomorrow looks wet and maybe that trip to Glasgow on the bus might materialise.

The day that the rains came down – 8 June 2022

And stayed all day.

I decided that I’d let the day simmer along and hopefully the rain would stop or maybe I’d find something useful to do. The latter came first, but ultimately the former happened.

I had at least half a dozen boxes of bread ingredients that have been sitting on a unit in the living room for, well, ages. I picked the bottom one and started mixing up a loaf. The actual loaf was a Swiss Farmer’s Loaf and it started out as a sticky dough and ended up looking nothing like the picture in the booklet said it would. I think this is only the second failure I’ve had. I say failure, but it was perfectly edible, it just didn’t look like the book said. Probably my fault more than theirs. It was a good way to while away an hour or so of a day when I’d no intention of going out anyway, so no real loss.

After lunch it began to look as if the sun might just make an appearance, but there were no guarantees. Scamp had started making a couple of sultana cakes. She was halfway through the process when the mixer made a strange noise. When we let it cool for a while and tried again, the problem was still there. Another one with no user serviceable parts inside, so it was down to hand beating the mixture. Of course, I couldn’t do that, so Scamp did it all by herself. Probably better really. I’d just have made a mess.

I went out for a walk in the drizzle with the Sony. Thankfully the rain soon dried up and left behind clouds of little flies that got in my eyes up my nose and into my mouth when I was walking. I did get a photo of a much less invasive fly. It just sat on top of a desiccated weed and allowed me to photograph it. It also gave me a chance to use some of the more esoteric functions of the camera. Only available if the correct buttons are pressed in the correct order. That’s the Sony way! The fly became PoD. It was really tiny, about 3mm long. Got home to find Scamp’s bread coming out of the oven, smelling lovely.

Dinner tonight was Fish ’n’ Oven Chips. So much easier than deep frying and almost as good.

It was really dull for most of the day, but tomorrow looks a bit better. Hopefully I’m taking Scamp’s wee red car down to the village to get a new exhaust, then we’re booked for taking Shona to Falkirk. That’s where the planning ends. We’ll see what happens.

Maybe the last sunny day – 5 June 2022

A bit of a lazy, sunny Sunday, but it looks like it’s downhill for the weather now.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and caught up on all that was happening with them and the extended family. Neither of them feeling fully fit yet, but that’s to be expected. Sometime you just have to take things a bit easier and let the world turn at its rate.

We started out doing a bit of gentle garden work under a warm sun, but with a cool breeze. For me, today’s work meant pruning away seed heads on the aquilegia just to make sure they don’t seed everywhere as they did last year, dead heading the lupins, and checking that we hadn’t lost any peas, kale or leeks over the past couple of days. It looks to me as if I’ve already lost a pea plant, but there was no sign of slug trails, so maybe it was one of the hungry birds that had done the dirty on me. I’ll maybe do my mum’s trick and stretch some black cotton thread across the raised bed. Scares the living daylights out of the birds! Scamp, of course was right in there in the front garden, digging out weeds and cutting down excess growth in the bushes.

Soon it was lunch time and after that, Scamp went walking down to the shops to get some stuff for tonight’s dinner while I prepared mine. Today I was cooking some diced pork I’d bought months ago. Neither of us had any experience of cooking it, so I stuck fairly close to a recipe I’d downloaded from BBC Food. Basically you fried off the meat to start with and put it in a slow cooker, then it was the turn of some bacon to be fried and added to the slow cooker next the veg was cooked and added with an uncooked peeled, cored and chopped apple. Finally, in went about half a bottle of cider, some herbs and some water and half a chicken stock cube. Put the lid on and cook on low for six hours, it said. I didn’t have six hours, so I cooked it on auto for about four hours and the meat was falling off the fork when it came out.

While Scamp rested I went out with a macro lens on the camera hoping to see that dragonfly again. My backup was some yellow flag irises that I reckoned would be in flower by now. No dragonfly to be seen, but the irises were beautiful. They got PoD I also found that the newly sown grass football park behind St Mo’s school has some lovely wee red poppies in with the grass seed.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard all about bat investigations and preparations for exiting his present employment to head for pastures new. Never easy, although I must say that it’s a very long time since I had to do that. Some time around 1980 I believe!

Tomorrow I think I’m taking the wee Red car down to the village to see about a new exhaust.

Finally getting my hands dirty – 3 June 2022

About time too!

Went out this morning to get some bread from Tesco and hopefully post some photos to Hazy. The bread was no problem, but the post office was shut, as was the local one in Condorrat. Don’t blame me, blame Mrs McQueen and her Platignum Jubbly holiday. Ok, if I’d posted the parcel yesterday it wouldn’t have been a problem, but I didn’t. I still blame Mrs McQueen for it. If not her, then Boris. That’s the obvious fall back, Blame Boris.

Came home with the beautifully wrapped parcel and a loaf plus a couple of bars of chocolate for being a good boy. With that done, and not done, we started in the garden. I found a single pea had germinated from the five I’d planted in the raised bed, so I carefully dug it out and put it aside. Then I added some compost to the raised bed to replace all the stuff I’d dug out since the end of last years growing season. After that, this year’s planting could begin.

I planted four peas, plus the pea I’d recovered earlier in the back row of the raised bed. Next line was four curly kale plants. While I was planting them, I found what looked like another kale plant left over from last year. It turned out to be a piece of kale stem with a little green leaf sprouting from the middle of it. There was no sign of any root on what you might call a cutting, but the leaf looked healthy. Just for luck, I planted it with the rest of the kale. Next line was four leeks and that was the raised bed about full.

I’d five leeks left, so I emptied out last year’s plant pot that held about six leeks. Chucked half of the compost away and all the leek roots. Mixed what was left with some fresh composts and refilled the pot, then planted the remaining five leeks in the pot. Watered everything in as all the gardening programmes say you should and left then to sink or swim. Meanwhile, Scamp was potting up her new hydrangea and rearranging other plants to give them a better chance of catching some sunshine.

At that point, I felt I’d done more than enough gardening, so I grabbed a camera and a 105mm macro and went over to St Mo’s hoping to see a dragonfly I’d seen yesterday. I didn’t find it, but what I did find was a lazy Large Red damselfly which was compliant enough to sit there while I took a few photos of it. One of them made PoD.

Dinner tonight was a pizza we bought in Sainsbury’s yesterday and very nice it was too. Sainsbury’s always have produced good pizzas.

We may be dancing tomorrow or we may not. It seems there are only two couples definitely going to class. Hopefully we’ll find out in the morning. Mrs McQueen has a lot to answer for, I’ll tell you that, her and her Platignum Jubbly celebration.

The morning after – 29 May 2022

Thankfully I hadn’t had a lot to drink on Saturday, but even so, I did feel better after a shower in the hotel room’s wet-room.

We had a breakfast, the high point of which was watermelon chunks, there was no other fruit option. Dried up sausages, leathery bacon and tasteless black pudding. To quote Scamp “It filled a wee space”. We handed in our keys and drove home.

Travelling over the Kingston Bridge at around 10.30am is quite a delight, compared to the usual mile and a half of stop-go traffic jam that greets us any time after about 11am. For once I had nothing to complain about.

Back home we unloaded the car and Scamp loaded the washing machine, then we had lunch.

After that and after deciding we would eat out of the freezer today, I took a camera and the big macro lens out for a walk in St Mo’s and saw a blue flash when I was walking across the boardwalk. It was a damselfly. A Common Blue. The first one I’d seen this year, and a welcome sight. That made PoD. A walk in the woods couldn’t improve on that picture, so I headed home.

Watched a scary Monaco GP which started under the safety car in full wet conditions and ended with a fairly interesting last few laps. One scary looking crash when Mick Schumacher’s car hit the barrier and split into two. It’s testament to the fitness of these young drivers and to the safety features of modern F1 cars.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about their short visit to Germany for a wedding and his twisted ankle. Compared and contrasted our gardens and weather. He sounded almost as tired as we felt.

I’d a few photos to look through, about 150 to work through, weeding out the weak and out of focus ones, but really not a bad haul from Saturday’s wedding on a camera that’s a pretty old design and a lens that’s not rated by anyone except me, I think. I’d been using the A6000 and the kit lens. Hoping to get a cheap memory stick tomorrow to stick the photos on for John & Marion.

A wee dram later for me and a rum ’n’ coke for Scamp to help us get a decent night’s sleep.

Tomorrow we may do some grass cutting if the weather stays dry.