Boots – 23 May 2022

Today we climbed Quiraing. Not mountain climbed it, in the car, of course! Are you mad!

We drove up to see then fantastic new car park and it really was a totally different place from the one we used to know. No big boulders poking out of the hard packed earth. No mad foreigners (that includes english) parking anywhere they felt like it, which sometimes meant actually on the road. No, there is now a purpose built car park with plenty of room for everyone from normal folk to those who drive camper vans. There is a down side, of course. It’s no longer free. That didn’t seem to bother the folk who were filling up all those spaces. We didn’t stop. I’ve photographed the view from the top of Quiraing more times than I care to remember and it in all sorts of weather. No, today we were just being nosey!

We drove on to Uig and stopped at a viewpoint at the top. Just hard packed earth, but free. The whole of Uig bay was laid out below us. I took a few shots that I’d later merge into a panorama or two, then we faced the drop down into Uig proper and the tortuous hairpin in the middle of the drive. Came through unscathed and continued on to Portree. There’s nothing much to see in Uig apart from the ferry terminal to Lewis, or is it Harris? I can never remember.

We were heading to Elgol and its strange eroded rock face at the north end of what is laughingly called a beach. It’s really just a jumble of boulders from ones the size of your fist to massive ones the size of a small car. On a good day there are great views of the Cuillins. But not today. The weather was fine, in fact it was nearly perfect with white clouds in a blue sky, but unfortunately, just before we reached Sligachan, I discovered I’d not brought my walking boots. The thought of climbing over those boulders in my shoes didn’t inspire me, so we stopped and I took a few shots of the Cuillins from the almost diametrically opposite direction. Mountins continuously being covered and uncovered with cloud and with rain showers washing across them. It wasn’t Elgol, but it would do. We turned and drove back to Portree, bought some expensive petrol (£1.71 per litre) and went to Jans Vans for lunch, a hard brush for Scamp and a chilli plant for me.

From there we drove up to Staffin and went down to the beach with its grey/black sand. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a time exposure looking towards Flodigarry, using a 10 stop ND filter. I just knew you wanted to know that Jamie. Scamp hung around for a while, but then went back to sit in the car.

With a few shots in the bag and one I was sure would be PoD, I drove back to the house and we got ready for tonight’s family meal in Columba. There were eight of us being fed on Chicken or Pork or Veggie Haggis with potatoes and broccoli as side dishes. Lots of talk at the table and Scamp was interrogating Allan about the correct way to cook Jackfruit. I was impressed how much information he passed on, explaining the good and bad points of this strange vegetable that we’ve only recently discovered. A good night, even if Mairi wasn’t feeling like joining us.

We drove back to the house because June and Ian had some more preparations before they leave for home tomorrow.

It was a well filled day. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to Elgol with boots!

Off to the big city – 19 May 2022

Today we set off to visit the big city – Portree.

As usual on our first full day on the island, we set off on an anticlockwise tour of the island. The first half is the most scenic, hugging the east and north coast of the island on mostly single track roads. We met a few ‘Zoomers’ as usual. The ones who want to travel at 20mph to get a good view of the scenery, completely ignoring the signs that suggest that you use the passing places to allow faster travellers to pass you. They are just lazy or are so entranced by the views that they forget that other people behind them may need to catch a ferry, or be in a certain place by a certain time. Worse, though are the ones who own the road. They too ignore the passing places and just drive straight towards you and try to hustle you off ‘their’ road. They are the dangerous ones. We met both kinds today. We also met a herd of cattle, not ‘Highland’ cattle, just ordinary beasts with their calves running around their heels. Some tiny wee calves too. “Dog sized” was Scamp’s description and it was very true, they must have been fairly recently born.

We did the full circuit of the island and stopped at Jan’s Vans for lunch. It was extra busy today with many people walking round this hardware emporium holding buzzers that would call them when their table was ready. We didn’t have too long to wait until ours buzzed and we got seated at table 10. It was a 20 minute waiting time for food, but that didn’t bother us because we weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. I ordered “The Works” which is the middle sized All Day Breakfast. I’ve never been quite hungry enough for The Full Works. Maybe some day. Scamp, of course had Macaroni ’n’ Cheese with chips. We did have to wait about the full 20mins, but it was worth it. We followed it with coffee for me and peppermint tea for Scamp with two of the worst pineapple cakes I’ve ever had. Extra thick pastry base and a tiny teaspoon of pineapple and an equal amount of cream. Not good enough, Jan’s Vans!

Three German blokes asked a waitress for the wifi password while I was in the queue for the coffee. The girl rattled off the “TheRedBrickCafe” and was about to turn away when one asked her “Could we have that in English now?” Luckily she laughed and wrote it down for them. We forget just how quickly we speak in Scotland. There were three American ladies in front of me in the same queue, all asking questions: How hot is the chilli? Is the salad vegetarian or vegan? What kind of coffee do you use? Then a man sidled up and I thought he was going to jump the queue, but in a mid-western drawl he said “I hope you don’t mind, I’m with them.” pointing to the ladies. I said Ok, I’d trust him … this time. He half smiled and said “I have to authenticate”, and showed me his credit card. He was paying!

After we left with a couple of new cups and two microwave safe bowl for breakfast, we went to the Co-op and then home by the usual east side road. Stopping at Staffin Slip to check out the new hardcore that’s been added to the slip to provide a base for a new terminal there. Took a few photos there, but there are so many mobile homes parked there now, it’s difficult to get a clear landscape view. Driving back to the house, we caught a glimpse of the marquee that’s been erected for Saturday.

June and Ian arrived tonight after having had dinner with Jackie and Murdo. Scamp and Jackie had a long discussion about dresses and fascinators an combination fascinators and hats. Strange concoction!

Later Mairi who owns the house dropped in with a cake and some fresh eggs. Again we sat and talked. When she left, I took the two Sonys out and got today’s PoD.

Not sure what’s happening tomorrow. No firm plans made.

Me and my big mouth – 29 April 2022

You’d think I’d know by now.

Scamp was supposed to be travelling to St Andrews today for a weekend with The Witches. However the latest plan was for them to travel up together on Saturday, tomorrow. I don’t think she was too impressed with the change.

We drove to Livingston today to the “Designer Outlet” which really means last year’s fashion for cheap as chips prices. Other shops are there too, but basically it’s clothing and shoes that predominate. We split up when we got there. I was looking for a pair of cheap but waterproof trainers, Scamp was looking for another dress for the wedding. Eventually we met up and she showed me a dress that she though would work for one of the weddings. I told her I wasn’t impressed and realised immediately what a faux pas I’d made. I must say in my defence that it was my honest opinion, but I suppose I could have phrased it better. I should know that in a situation like this there is no taking back what you’ve said, but I tried oil on troubled waters, but it didn’t work. The lady was not for turning.

Instead, we went for lunch in Wagamama. Scamp had Chicken Raisukaree which is allegedly a mild curry. A mild curry doesn’t have a full red chilli chopped into it, but this one did. I had Chicken and Prawn Yaki Soba. It was a bit dry, but actually a great mix of textures. I managed to eat all of mine with chopsticks. We had a side of Ebi Katsu, prawns fried in panko breadcrumbs. Always a favourite with us.

I don’t know what magic was in that lunch, but I felt so much better after it. We drove back home to find that the plan for the weekend had changed back to the original and they were travelling up today. They were supposed to meet at Annette’s (Cocktail Witch) at 4pm. The 4pm came and went but still no firm decision, then about an hour later a text arrived to say that Jeanette (can’t remember her Witch name) would pick up Scamp (Musical Witch) in five minutes. Luckily Scamp was already packed, organised and waiting. Right on time, Jeanette arrived and whisked Scamp off to meet up with Annette.

I got a text about an hour later to say they’d arrived. I now have what the kids at school used to call “an empty”, ie, the house to themselves. I took a walk over to St Mo’s with the Sony a7 and the big, heavy 105mm macro lens. I saw my PoD as I was walking over to the park. It was a woman walking along the avenue of trees to the shops. Of course I took more photos, but that was the stand out PoD.

After processing it and consuming a G ’n’ T, I composed this story and am now ready to post it.

Hazy, I’ve just finished Amongst Our Weapons and thoroughly enjoyed it. Although, having seen the actual Beverly Brook, I’m not sure its waters would be pure enough for a Birthing Pool. Since I got the Waterstones version, I get a few more chapters with the ‘free’ short story Miroslav’s Fabulous Hand. I don’t know if you go that.

Jamie. I’m still not completely sold on a bacon and mashed potato pizza, but I’m willing to be converted. Bubblegum ice cream on a waffle, on however is probably a step too far.

I’m off to bed now to decide how to use my free Saturday. It certainly won’t be spent ballroom dancing for an hour and a half!


The long way home – 19 April 2022

It has to be done and it’s always a drag, no matter how you travel.

After a morning trying to resist repacking the bags, I gave in and just saw staring into space for a while. One last walk round ‘The Policies’ and then Simonne was ready to squeeze us and our luggage into the car. Vixen knew something was up and was really fidgety, hardly leaving Simonne’s side, so she came too in her crate.

She dropped us off at the train station after some clever manoeuvring round back streets of Stowmarket to avoid being held up at the level crossing which has a reputation for becoming a bottleneck. We said our goodbyes and dragged our stuff onto the platform, only to be told that the train was delayed by 3mins. Given that we only had 8mins to change platforms at Peterborough, that was a bit worrying. However, the driver made up that 3 minutes easily and we actually arrived at Peterborough ahead of schedule.

On the train to Edinburgh after a mix up when whoever was reading out the sections of the platform for the different carriages got them round the wrong way. We found our seats and were fed and watered all the way to Edinburgh where we’d just missed the earlier Glasgow train. Taxi was waiting for us at the station and we were soon home.

A long day, a bit fraught at times, but listening to Alan Cumming reading “Baggage” lightened the load.

PoD was a picture taken from the viaduct crossing the Tweed into Berwick on Tweed.

Tomorrow will be a relaxing day.

Off to Falkirk – 13 April 2022

Doing patient transfer.

This afternoon we were taking Shona to Forth Valley Hospital for a checkup on the broken bone in her arm.

Once we dropped Shona off at the hospital we went for a coffee at Torwood Garden Centre. I’d taken the little Sony A6000 with its pop-up kit lens mainly because it fitted neatly in my jacket pocket. Got out of the car in the car park and saw the pastoral scene that made PoD. The fact that it was the only picture of the day is a coincidence.

We had a look round the flowers and shrubs in the garden centre and Scamp had her eye on some Violas or Pansies to fill the trough that hangs on the fence at home, but first we went for tea and a cake.

I didn’t feel right. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but eventually I decided it felt like a UTI. I’d had one before about four years ago and as the saying goes, “Once you’ve had it, you won’t forget it.” After several visits to the toilets, I was certain that was the problem. I imagined a cup of tea or maybe two would help the situation and for once I was bang on right. We’d just finish our tea when Shona phoned to say she was ready to go home. Scamp got the pansies and I managed to drop them on the way to the till. Not my fault this time, the handle of the tray had broken and like a piece ’n’ jam, they fell face down. Scamp went and chose another tray, we paid and left before anything else could happen.

Picked Shona up and drove home. After drinking about a litre of water I felt a lot better. Dinner tonight was new Jersey Royal potatoes with bacon and a burger for me and with an omelette for Scamp. You really can’t beat the taste of new potatoes.

A lot of organising was going on tonight, but I think we’re both happy with the result now.

Tomorrow will be a long day, so probably an early bed would help.

I have good news – 6 April 2022

… and I have bad news.

We drove to Stirling today. We had a baby present to buy, for a baby, strangely enough. Just to make it more interesting, I took us up the Tak Ma Doon road past Carron Bridge and on to a wee draw-in near Loch Coulter. Well, the ‘draw-in’ was actually the entrance to the Loch Coulter fishery and there were signs that may have read NO PARKING but I didn’t see them. It is so quiet up there on the high moorland, I could hear a lark then we saw two curlews and a very low rainbow, scraping over the hills. Just so good, especially at this time of year. As I was taking the first photo, a bunch of rooks lifted off from the tree near the farm. I thought I’d caught them, but I missed. While I was in the middle of photographing the landscape, I got the phone call from the garage to say that the car was ready to pick up. We drove on to Stirling.

When we parked at Waitrose in Stirling, I checked my mpg as I usually do and found I had a new best mileage of 82.2mpg! My previous best was 66.6mpg. The secret, I think, was that we had a strong tailwind from Loch Coulter all the way to Stirling and the road surface was quite poor, so my speed wasn’t very fast. Still, it’s now saved into the display and I doubt I’ll ever beat it.

M&S in Stirling provided the baby present then the shop also provided a new dress for Scamp. When we were done, Cafe Nero provided lunch for us. We walked back to Waitrose and bought a few quids worth of messages to pay for our free parking at Waitrose and we drove home. All good.

Parked at the shops in Cumbersheugh and walked down to the garage. Before we paid for the repair, the boss of the garage told us the bad news. The wee Red car is on its last legs. To pass its MOT in November it will need two new shock absorbers and a serious amount of welding on the chassis. He suggested that we need to start looking for a replacement by the end of the summer. Strangely enough we had been talking about exactly that scenario, just the other day. It was bad news, but in our heart of hearts we knew this day would come. So, it was a day of mixed fortunes.

PoD was that photo of the farm up on the moor above Stirling. After I came home and looked at the photos, I found that in two of the later shots I HAD managed to capture the wheeling rooks. It was a fairly simple procedure to cut them out in Potatoshop and paste them into the landscape. You might not be able to see them here, but they will be more visible on Flickr.

Tomorrow we may be going to a tea dance in Paisley.

Sun and Snow – 31 March 2022

Another day to sit inside in the sun and look out on the cold outside.

Just before lunch I got a WhatsApp from Alex to say that Ollie is improving. His infection is reducing and his temperature is being raised. It’s beginning to look more positive. Also, Carol, Alex’s wife is through her knee op and is feeling great, although that may be because of “some good stuff she got, post-op” as Alex put it!

The above brightened up lunch which was omelette for two. Scamp had a mushroom omelette and I had a “What’s in the fridge” omelette. Both very enjoyable. I gave Alex a quick call after lunch and he seems on top of the home situation, and sounded quite up beat.

After lunch we went shopping. Instead of the usual trail round Tesco, today we went to Lidl at Robroyston. Bought a fair amount of stuff, probably more than we need, but it was good to wander round a different set of aisles for a change.

We drove home by the back road for me to try to grab a few landscape shots. We parked by the side of the road and watched as the clouds broke and swept across the Campsie. Scamp once again demonstrated her new-found long vision by telling me there were trees on the top of one of the hills. I must admit that I could see them, but not really clearly. Definitely not as clearly as she could. I did take a few photos, but decided to call it a day when the snow started falling. It didn’t last, but it was a warning that winter isn’t finished with us yet. PoD turned out to be a nine frame panorama of the clouds breaking over Muirhead and Moodiesburn. Sometime the sky is the subject.

Dinner was a veg chilli I’d been smart enough to document in the blog on 31st October 2021. It wasn’t exactly the same and it wasn’t very spicy, but it worked and there’s more in the pot. It might go into a Lock ’n’ Lock tub and fit into the freezer for a surprise dinner, or it might get eaten tomorrow.

I suppose it all depends on what we do tomorrow. We may go in to Glasgow for a wander, but that depends on the weather. Temperature is supposed to go down to -3ºc tonight. Just think, a few days ago I was sitting reading in the garden wearing shorts and tee shirt. That’s Scotland for you!

Strathaven – 29 March 2022

We went to Larky, but Millheugh was shut, locked and bolted.

Scamp was out in the morning to meet Shona for coffee and I was feeling a bit down. The sun had forgotten to get up today and it was grey skies all around. Then I told myself to get up off my backside, put my old boots on and get out into the garden and start by chopping down the kale.

The kale is past its best now and is beginning to shoot. It really needs to be cropped, chopped and frozen if we aren’t to lose it. That was the easy bit. The little leeks were next to go from the raised bed. For some reason they just never took off like they should have done. Maybe they weren’t fed enough, or the compost was exhausted, but it seemed to feed the kale without any problem. Whatever the reason, they were coming out today and going into the soup later. That almost cleared out the bed, but there was a little bunch of aqilegia that I’d sheughed in (dug a hole and shoved it in to be reclaimed later) last year some time. I dug it out, split it into two plants and repotted it.

I spread some of Scamp’s cure-all fertiliser, Fish, Blood and Bone over the bed and started to fork it in. That’s when I discovered that at least one edge board of the raised bet has rotted right through. It will have to be replaced, but I don’t think the rot has stopped there.

It was round about then, Scamp returned with a bag of rolls for lunch. Bacon roll for lunch for me. Roll ’n’ Cheese for Scamp. After lunch we got ready and drove to Larky to donate Scamp’s now redundant reading glasses to the opticians to go to folk who need them. I went to B&M to get some superglue to fix my old Flying Tiger specs. Then we drove down to Millheugh where the big grassy bank beside the Avon Water has been barricaded because of unexplained dangers I get the impression they barricades and signs aren’t all that official. No explanations why you can’t fish there either. That’s Larky for you. It’s a different world, beyond the law.

Since Millheugh was closed and the weather was improving, I thought we might drive to Stonehouse. Got there, but there wasn’t anything interesting to photograph, so we travelled on to Strathaven. Parked in the bit car park on the Park and went for a walk through what used to be a great park, and actually, it’s looking quite good again. Some work being done on sprucing up the flower beds. A brilliant mural on the gable end of the toilets. Obviously aimed at children with bright colours and things to find in the painting. I may post it on Flickr.

I was photographing the trees growing beside the Powmillon Burn when a man, about my age commented on the blossom on a fruit tree we’d just passed. He gave me directions to a place to photograph behind Strathaven Castle. We couldn’t go today, but I said I’d go back on a day with better lighting, and I meant it. Then the strangest thing happened, he told us that he’d been diagnosed with dementia. It’s one of those times when you don’t know what to reply. He said he had had the test but was quite dismissive about it. Neither of us thought he really believed it was true. I was right about his age. He was a year older than me. Also, he went to Larkhall Academy. In those days, children who went to Strathaven Academy would leave school after third year. Only a few came to Larkhall for fourth to sixth year. I would almost certainly have been there when he came to the Academy.

We drove home by a twisted, circuitous route that brought us back via Millheugh, then it was a straight road through Larky to the motorway and home. I made soup as I’d intended with the leeks and some kale with carrots, turnip and some lentils. It was really good. I was impressed, even if it was 7pm before we got to eat it with a roll each.

PoD was a shot of East Church House, now a hotel beside the Powmillon Burn.

Tomorrow we have no plans.

Waiting for a parcel – 22 March 2022

You wait all morning and then two come at once.

I got an email yesterday to say that a parcel would arrive for me today. It was a new, well, second hand, lens. Not your normal lens. It’s a bendy twisty turn round corners lens called a Lensbaby. It wasn’t too expensive in the camera lens terms. I ordered it last week and it was coming today! Also coming today was a birthday prezzy for Scamp. Scamp was going to the dentist today and I was hoping that her parcel would arrive while she was away. It didn’t happen.

After lunch and before she left for the dentist, the DPD man arrived with both parcels. I might still have got away with it, except as he was photographing it and signing it into his handheld device, he said “These David Austin roses are expensive, but they are good.” I knew then the game was up and brought both parcels into the living room where Scamp was laughing her head off. Well, it just extended the birthday celebrations I suppose. The rose I’d chosen was, thankfully, on her short list. It’s a Lady of Shalott.

After the excitement she came down to reality with a bump when she found out that she’d need a crown on her tooth. When she told how much it would cost, I thought it might be a real crown! Another long wait to get it done too. First appointment she was given was for mid June! Also, our dentist is retiring next week. He was good, well, I liked him anyway. So now we need to hope that the new lady dentist who is his replacement will take us both on as NHS patients and end the misery of me being NHS and Scamp being private.

I was just getting the mower out to cut the front grass when Scamp arrived back with her sorry tale about an expensive piece of porcelain. She told me to leave the grass cutting to her and go out an play with the new toy. I didn’t need told twice. I just laced up my boots and got on with the test.

It really is a weird piece of equipment. The body of the lens is in two parts, held together in a ball and socket joint. The lens itself fits into this contraption. There is no electronic connection to the camera itself an very little assistance to focusing the beast. The image in the viewfinder took a bit of getting used to, but I could see how the thing worked after I’d taken a few experimental shots. First thoughts are that it’s not a lens for everyday photography, but it does things I’ve never seen before from a lens. I’ll keep it for a while at least.

Today’s PoD wasn’t taken with it. That shot camera from a ‘normal’ Samyang 18mm lens. A bit of tweaking in Lightroom revealed the image you see of St Mo’s under a wonderful sky. The weird photos are on Flickr.

Tomorrow we may be going for a walk if the weather holds. If not, then it’s maybe a trip into Glasgow.

One out, one in – 15 March 2022

DPD were working overtime today.

My Sony A7ii was being collected this morning to go to MPB in Brighton. Later in the day I was expecting a box of coffee and tea from The Bean Shop in Perth. One out, one in.

The DPD man came to collect my camera right on time and off it went with a sticker on it that had the same number as the sticker that’s fixed with a magnet to the fridge door. One down. Not long after I got the message to say that my driver would deliver my parcel just after midday. Sure enough, the bloke knocked the door and photographed me lifting the parcel from the mat. I will drink tea and coffee today!

That left the rest of the day free. It’s a while since we’ve been out for a walk together. Scamp sometimes walks down to the shops herself and I often walk round St Mo’s myself. I suggested to her that maybe we should both go out together today. Just a walk round Broadwood Loch. She agreed and we walked down towards the loch, but she wasn’t interested in doing the round trip, so we chose the shorter version, over the plastic boardwalk and down round the new water management drainage ditch (first time we’ve been round that) and then round the exercise machines before stopping at the shops for oranges and milk. I did think of going for a circuit of St Mo’s pond, but decided just to go home as I’d a few shots that looked interesting.

Dinner tonight was Creamy Chicken, Mushrooms and Rice. Another Scamp favourite. She thought it needed salt and pepper. I agreed on the salt. It was actually fine without it, but the salt just gave it a bit more taste.

Heard the news from Nick the Chick that we have to wear face masks in shops and on public transport until the beginning of April. A bit disappointing, but that’s just the way her head works. Belts & Braces are her style and you have to believe she’s doing it for the good of our health, rather than to look good to the great unwashed as some other politicians do.

We had a quick practise at the new waltz and I think I can tentatively say that I can complete the first section without too many mistakes. I’m not sure I’ll be able to say that again tomorrow, but maybe the dancing gods will look down and smile at my attempts.

PoD turned out to be a shot I took with the A6000 from the boardwalk. Actually, it’s gone through a fair number of changes since it landed on Lightroom this afternoon. A lot of changes, but for the better.

It’s my turn to go for coffee tomorrow. Meeting John and Val at Costa in the morning. The rest of the day is our own.