The first day of freedom to roam – 16 April 2021

Scamp got the choice of where to got today on our first legal cross border foray.

Anyone who knows Scamp could have predicted the trio of places she’d gladly go to on our first day of freedom. Troon would be high on the list, Cramond would also be up there, but the top destination would always be The Kelpies. So today we drove out of North Lanarkshire and into Falkirk Region which is where the Kelpies live, surfacing from the concrete just between Falkirk and Grangemouth at the end of the Forth & Clyde canal. When left the motorway and headed through Helix Park there were crowds of kids in the park and we thought we wouldn’t be able to get parked. In fact I was racking my brains to decide where else we could go. I needn’t have worried, the canny folk of Falkirk and around didn’t want to pay to see the Kelpies, so the three quid charge for a day’s parking forced them to park about a mile away at the Falkirk football ground where parking is free.

The two enormous horses apparently rearing out of the canal should inspire terror on first sight, but they don’t for us. They have a calming effect. Every time we’ve visited them it’s been this air of calm that has descended and everyone we’ve taken there has felt it too. The place was busy, but there was enough open space for everyone to find a vantage point to photograph or simply take in the view of these statues. We had an ice cream cone and sat and watched the world go by. Then we walked over the outfall of the canal and on to the other side.

The last time we were walking along the towpath of the canal we’d bumped into my ex-boss and mentor with his wife. Today, at exactly the same spot we bumped into Dave and Maureen again. Took a few minutes to catch up and then they headed off to meet their grandkids and we walked along to the next bridge over the canal and back past the giant horses again.

We found a bloke selling pizzas from a portable pizza oven and we agreed that we’d found our lunch. First time we’ve ‘eaten out’ in months and here we were out in a different county, sitting in the sun eating a mushroom pizza that was wafer thin and extremely hot and tasty.

I’d taken a few shots, but as usual I’d failed to capture the essence of the Kelpies. Today’s offering is a view from the towpath of the statues reflected in the canal with a family preparing for a sail up the canal on their boat. We agreed it must be good to just take your boat for a sail any day you wanted to. I doubt if I’ll ever know, unless my lottery numbers come up and I believe you have to buy ticket first before you have any chance of that happening.

We heard a loud spoken bloke who apparently lived on one of the houseboats moored there that the boat is always moving, except one time. If the boat isn’t moving under you, it means it’s frozen solid in the ice. I’d never considered that before. We said goodbye to the Kelpies and drove home.

Back home I took the Sony out for a walk. I wasn’t really looking for any more photos, which was lucky as I didn’t find any. I did find enjoy the walk and talked myself through some things that are changing in my photography. I’m thinking about selling one of my cameras and a load of lenses that I don’t use any more. I’ll still keep a couple of bits of glass because there’s nothing in the Sony range that does what they do. I put a prospective list in to MPB last night and got offered a favourable price. I’m leaving a final decision until after the weekend.

We had a dance practise tonight. I still can’t quite manage the steps for the end of the Tango routine, but the rest of the dances worked quite well.

It’s my turn to choose a destination for tomorrow and I have somewhere in mind. We’ll see what the weather’s like in the morning. Today was an excellent choice, Scamp. A very good day.

A beautiful day – 19 November 2020

If only we could decide what to do with it.

Neither of us could decide where to go on what would be our last free day before Lockdown 2 happened. Finally Scamp said “Take me to the Kelpies” so that’s what I did. We drove to Grangemouth on a cold, day with a temperature in single digits, low single digits.

The giant horse statues looked as magnificent as ever and even better because there were no people standing around them taking selfies or pouting at their phones. We walked round them, admired them and told them just how impressive they were. They already knew, but accepted our praise in dignified silence.

We found a new path that took us round the outskirts of the sewage treatment works that was producing the awful smell. I don’t know if it was the direction the wind was blowing that was causing it, or maybe they only switch on the machinery at night in the summer to cause less offence to visitors, but it was certainly working at full blast today. The path took us along the side of the River Carron. It wasn’t the most interesting walk and we gave up after a while to walk back and go along the canal this time. It was on this path that I got PoD. Looking down the canal towards the Ochil Hills with the sun lighting up the Kelpies. It was good to be in the right place at the right time for once. We were going to have a quick coffee at the information centre, but there were a few folk waiting to get in and it was too cold to hang around. We drove home and had some “Just Soup” instead.

In the afternoon we walked down to the shops for last minute essentials for dinner (veg chilli with one of our own chillies) on the way back, Scamp offered to go straight back which allowed me half an hour to grab some more shots in St Mo’s. The Samyang was carefully supervised and although it did miss focus a couple of times, most of the shots were on target. It didn’t affect the PoD, that remained with the Kelpies.

Tonight we cleared out the boiler cupboard and now there’s garden stuff all over the house. Boiler arrives tomorrow between 7am and 9am. Engineer arrives about 9am and it’s going to be pouring by the look of the weather fairies’ report. It might be a long day.

Because of the above, we have no plans for tomorrow.

Old Friends – 29 July 2020

Today we went to see a couple of old friends.

Scamp and I went for a wee run today to see a couple of old friends. One with his head always down. Some folk say he’s watching you. The other one has his head high. Some think he’s in pain, I think he’s laughing out loud at all these little folk around him. It’s ages since we’ve visited the Kelpies, not been there for months and I think Scamp was looking forward to seeing them again. I must admit I was too. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions, the Visitor Centre was closed, but there was an ice cream van and it seemed a shame on quite a sunny day not to have one each. We walked around them and then followed our noses to the lock that allows boats access to the River Carron and thence to the Forth Estuary and the sea. We were waiting to allow a couple to cross the narrow walkway over the lock gates when I recognised them. One was a teacher in the school when I started and the other was his wife. We stood and talked for a while about our respective families. We also talked about folk we’d known and worked with, some of whom are no longer with us. Eventually we had to go, but as usual when something like that happens throughout the afternoon little snippets of memories drop into place. A nostalgic meeting. They walked back to their car and we carried on with our walk on the far side of the canal.

For all the times we’ve visited the Big Horses, this is the first time we’ve crossed the canal and seen them from the other side. You get a completely different view of them from the other side and best of all there are no pylons or power lines to erase from the resulting photographs. Today’s PoD came from the bridge further back upstream, if you can have an upstream is a canal. I’d never photographed them from that viewpoint before and it’s such a natural choice with the Ochil Hills in the background.

Back home after lunch, Scamp wanted to prune back the blackcurrant bush in the hopes that she can get rid of the virus or insects that are damaging it, I don’t think either of us is really sure that it will work, but if we don’t try, we’ll never know. I got my hands dirty planting some more carrots and kale into pots to go in the greenhouse. The kale should be ok, but I’m not sure if the carrots will work. I’ve never been successful with transplanting root crops. I also bit the bullet and spread slug pellets in the raised bed. I don’t like using them where I’m growing stuff to eat, but I reckon it’s the slugs that have taken all the carrot plants I had there. There are definitely traces of slugs on the well eaten kale leaves. I checked them and there are no signs of caterpillars, so slugs are the best bet. Let’s hope they like their last meal of blue slug pellets.

That was about it for the day. A day at the Kelpies is always uplifting, but meeting another couple of old friends just made it extra special.

Tomorrow rain is forecast, so we may ‘Go for the Messages.”

Another gardening day – 9 June 2020

For Scamp it was. I was only the labourer.

Scamp set out in the morning with her tool belt on ready to do battle with the Pieris and the Rhododendron. She worked like a trojan scraping away the moss and compacted top soil on both, then pruned the pieris then together we hauled it around until it was sitting in a better position. My job for the day was to repot the Rosemary which had been stuck in a rather small pot for quite some time now and we’d been promising it a new pot with fresh compost for a while now. Today was the day. Again, it was moved to a sunnier spot in the garden, although there wasn’t a lot of sun for it to sit in today. It was all a bit dull and grey.

After lunch we walked to the shops to get tortilla wraps, broccoli and smoked salmon for tonight’s dinner which was to be quick quiche. Found the recipe in an old newspaper where they used a tortilla wrap instead of shortcrust pastry for the base and sides of the quiche. What a difference it makes. Done in half the time with no faffing around chilling the pastry or blind baking.

Walked back and it felt like there was just the hint of rain in the wind. I decided to ignore it and go for a walk in St Mo’s just to make sure I had a photo for today. I saw a bloke fly fishing in the pond. I’ve heard of Fly Fishing in Yemen, but this must be the first time I’ve seen anyone fly fishing in the pond at St Mo’s. I suppose it’s possible to catch perch or maybe even a small pike with a fly, but usually it’s blokes with umbrellas, gigantic bait boxes and a six pack of Tennents or the sneaky little bottle of Bucky who sit there all day. This bloke was standing and moving. He was doing some nifty casts too. It might take you some time to see him, he’s well camouflaged! That photo got PoD. Those eagle eyed out there might have noticed in the photo that there were a lot of rain splashes in the water. I decided to cut short my walk and head for home, only having a hoodie as rain protection.

The quiche was lovely. Broccoli and smoked salmon. Something Jackie taught me up in Skye. It’s a very good combination. Scamp made another quiche, a Quiche Lorraine, but the flavours weren’t as strong as the first one.

Target for today was to Draw Something Huge. After a great deal of thought, I decided on the head-up kelpie. I can’t remember if he is Duke or Baron, all I know is that the head-down kelpie likes to be called Harry the Happy Kelpie, but that’s something he told me and it’s supposed to be a secret, so don’t go blabbing it. Pencil rough then Lamy ABC kids fountain pen (great for sketching), then a gentle water wash to give some light shadows. Always difficult to sketch such an icon, but I think I got away with it.

Tomorrow it looks wet for most of the afternoon. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. I hope I am.

The Blessing – 21 December 2019

Yesterday I said that just to be out for a walk in the open air without any shops would be a blessing. Today we were blessed with open air and no shops.

Initially we drove to Stirling with the possibility of travelling onward through Callander to Lubnaig or east to a wee loch we’ve been to a few times but can’t remember the name of. We visited neither of these places today. Instead I pointed the Juke towards the compass direction with the most likelihood of some sun, back along the M9 intending to visit The Kelpies. Then Scamp suggested we go to Culross instead (Sorry Hazy), and that is where we ended up.

Culross actually ticked all the boxes:

  • A walk
  • Open air
  • No Shops

We walked along at the side of the now obsolete mineral railway line from Longannet power station to the manmade lagoons near Low Valleyfield. I was intending to take some shots of the boardwalk and new pier at Culross, but then five boys on bikes ruined my shot, or so I thought. They walked and one cycled along the boardwalk, from there on to the pier and finally on to the rocks. I don’t usually allow people in my landscape shots, using Lightroom to unceremoniously delete them. This time I used them. They made an interesting focal point with the sky and sea as a backdrop. That had the makings of a PoD.

We walked along towards what’s known as Preston Island although it’s now a headland. I presume it once was an island before the slag and cinders from the power station were dumped there to reclaim the land. By the time we got there the light was failing so we turned and headed back. I took a few more photos, but nothing as good as the boys on the rocks.

Drove home and before dinner I did a bit of digital cut ’n’ paste to get me the composition I wanted and was really quite pleased with the result.  The Five Stages of Man.

Dinner tonight was going to be a carry-out curry or Chinese, but eventually we settled on a staple: Fish Fingers and Egg with Chips and Spaghetti. And some people call us ’Foodies’!!

Tomorrow we have nothing planned, but if the weather’s good I’m hoping to get some more photos.

Kelpied – 24 September 2019

Today we were all Kelpied!

Today dawned dry but a bit dreary. However, it soon brightened up and we thought we’d risk a run to the Kelpies. It all went well until we were almost at the M9 then the car seemed to be misfiring, which is strange because it had been running so well since its last service. I hadn’t bought petrol from anywhere other than my usual two petrol stations and I hadn’t run the level down until the red light came on. So that should rule out the possibility of a little bit of dirt getting in to the carburettor or the jets, whatever it is the Juke has. Made the decision to detour via the Nissan garage in Stirling, where the service manager came to see what the problem was. He gave it a fair run through the gears, fierce acceleration and gentle driving, but could not replicate the problem. There was little more the poor man could do, but he took it in to the service bay, put it on the computer and pronounced it clean. No problems listed. Finally he suggested we drive off and if the problem reared its head again, we should book it in for a full day check. Clive and I were puzzled. We couldn’t agree on a possible cause and he knows a lot more about cars than me. It ran perfectly for the rest of the day.

Got to the Kelpies and wandered round them just taking them in. Glad to see that Clive was equally entranced with these beautiful equine sculptures. We both took lots of photos of them from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Scamp was also taking photos, but I think we were the subjects. People are more important than places to her and that’s probably her greatest photographic strength. She captures people very much better than me.

From Grangemouth, we said goodbye to the Kelpies and headed round the outskirts of Falkirk to The Falkirk Wheel. The giant boat lift was one of the things that Clive had wanted to see and we arrived just as it was doing a lift, so he got to see it in action right away. I took the car away to park it and met them in the shadow of the great wheel where we discussed the mechanics of this modern wonder. We waited for another boat to be lifted and after a swift look in the visitor centre, I found the one ticket machine that was working and paid for our parking. For a visitor centre which was meant to show this wonder of engineering design, there were a host of machines with OUT OF ORDER signs on them. Almost nothing of any note was working. Poor show Falkirk. Drove home and arrived just as the rain was starting.

PoD was a view of the Kelpies reflected in the turning pool of the canal.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow, but it depends on the weather.

Friday 13th Very Scary – 13 September 2019

Maybe it is for some, but for us it was a good day. Got lots of little things done and a visit to some horses to boot.

In the morning I got my blood-letting organised for both my PSA test and my diabetic check. Also got my flu jag sorted. With that in hand, and after Scamp had cut some more of her sweet peas, which I just caught a waft of just now, we drove off to Tesco to post a parcel, pick up my meds and tried to get some petrol, but the petrol station was fully booked and more, so we dropped off at BP to get some expensive petrol. Plenty of pumps free there, because the petrol is that little bit costlier. Then it was off east.

Drove to Grangemouth and from there to Helix Park where the Kelpies rear out of their underwater home. Wandered round them, took some photos and just soaked up their calming atmosphere. Every time we go there, we’re impressed with the grandeur of them, just like the first time we saw them. It’s something we never tire of.

Had a spot of lunch at the cafe and then went for another walk around them before coming home. Traffic was the usual stramash on the motorway. We chose the easier route through the town centre and took a diversion down past the school to see if they’d started the demolition yet, but everything was still in place. Fought our way back home past the clot that is the new roundabout, or maybe it was a clot who designed the phasing of the lights on the new roundabout.

Back home I finished off my day with another box ticked, when I watered the end-of-season nematodes into the raised bed, various plants and two lots into the compost bin to try to curb the slug menace. We’ll see if they’re any good this time.

On the subject of slugs and snails, Scamp noticed a large snail sitting quite happily between two Hydrangea leaves this morning, so it became a possible PoD. It was later usurped by a shot of the Head-Up Kelpie surrounded by starlings. They were starting to practise a murmuration while we were there. That’ll be a sight to see later in the year. Anyway, the Kelpie and the Starlings got PoD. A great day with some rain, but lots of sunshine.

Maybe going in to Glasgow tomorrow. Weather permitting, of course.