Crossing the Forth – 8 September 2021

It was a lovely morning and we weren’t going to waste it.

We had a few places in mind for today. Culross (just look away and roll your eyes, Hazy), Dunfermline and Kincardine were three of them. We settled on Kincardine and drove over to Fife and parked in the free car park beside a ‘new’ Coop building. The parentheses are because I still don’t think it’s a new building. I’m pretty sure there was a residential home on that spot a few years ago, probably the last time we were there. If you looked closely you could see the outline of windows that had been bricked up, given a new coat of render then painted. Fancy wood facing to the building completed the transformation. A quick look on Google Street View when we got home confirmed the makeover. It was a nursing home that used to be on that site. You can’t kid us!

We walked down through the old part of Kincardine where all the houses seem to be dropped into place and then roads are added as an afterthought. We found or way down to the path that runs along the side of the Forth, noting on our way the big bramble bushes with a healthy number of fat berries. We’d collect some of them on our way back.

Walked along past the, now redundant, piers that originally carried in coal to the Kincardine power station, now razed to the ground. An electrical substation now occupies part of the site. Not the most scenic of views past on the right, but great views across the Forth to Airth on the south of the estuary. The Forth is tidal at this point and the tide was out this morning exposing the mudbanks on both sides.

We walked under the Clackmannanshire Bridge, an elegant structure with a really clumsy name. Some bright spark renamed it the Clacks Bridge which trips off the tongue much more easily than its sixteen letter official name. We sat for a while on a seat kindly provided by the council with a plaque to tell people how thoughtful they are. NLC, there’s things you could learn here. From the seat we could look over to some buildings that looked like a farm and a ruin that turned out to be Kennetpans Distillery, allegedly the first commercial distillery in the world.

We sat soaking up the sun for a while before we headed back the same way to the car, stopping on the way to make good our promise to pick some of those black brambles. Unfortunately we didn’t have any poly bags with us, so Scamp used one of her shopping bags which got squashed later in the boot of the car, spreading bramble juice over everything. Back at the car we were heading for that terrible place that Hazy hates, may its name never be spoken in her presence. It was mobbed. We trundled through it with two cyclists who insisted on travelling so slowly they were in danger of losing their balance (it’s the gyroscopic effect of the spinning wheels that allows bikes to stay upright). Eventually we found a parking place off the road with a vacant picnic table where we could have coffee and crisps (and a chocolate biscuit) and christen our new flask. Then it was time to drive home.

I had intended going out on Dewdrop to get more brambles but the warm weather and the chance of a midweek beer put paid to that idea. Instead I finished a pastel painting I’ve been struggling with and then joined Scamp in the garden.

Dinner tonight was Neil’s Pulled Roast Chicken with Rice. Very summery and a fitting end to a good day out. Such a pity the good weather is forecast to end tomorrow, but we enjoyed it while it lasted.

PoD went to a picture of the Clacks Bridge taken from below to make the most of its curves.

Tomorrow we may go out to lunch.

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.

Happy Birthday Jamie – 16 August 2021

Hope it was just as good a day as you hoped it would be.

As for us, a man was coming go give us giant cotton buds to stick down our throats and up our noses. Always that way round, never the nose first! Once he’d taken the swabs back and asked us our twenty questions we were free to go.

Today we were off for a spin. We drove off in the general direction of Loch Lomond, basically following our route to our dance class on a Saturday. We reached and passed that turnoff and headed further north west past the end of the airport and were just about to take the slip road for the Erskine Bridge when we saw the queue and the warning about a breakdown on the bridge, so instead of turning off, we continued straight on through Port Glasgow, Greenock and parked for a few minutes at Gourock. We sat in the car, eating Dolly Mixtures and watching a Royal Navy ship and a yacht cruising around the estuary.

From there we drove down past Cloch lighthouse and stopped at the garden centre we’d both been heading for. Had a bite to eat there. Not a very posh lunch, think more School Dinners. Steak and Sausage Pie cut from bit tray for me and a couple of dollops of Macaroni Cheese for Scamp. Both served with chips, so yes, very reminiscent of School Dinners. Having said that, it was wasn’t expensive and my steak & sausage was lovely, just the puff pastry didn’t have enough puff left. Scamp’s was a bit congealed.

We walked round the plants and bought an Echinacea we both liked and a terracotta pot to put it in. Scamp bought herself a top in an Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop and I got some photos.

The photos came from across the road from the garden centre where there were views across the estuary to Dunoon on one side and on the other side the remains of the the pier at what had been Hunterston Power Station. Those were just the middle ground props for the star which was the sky with it’s great cloud patterns. Well, it was for me anyway. PoD was a picture looking from Cloch towards Dunoon.

When we’d walked across the pebbly beach and on round a headland, we headed back to the car and drove on to Inverkip, then took the road over the hill to bring us back to the motorway and home.

Spoke to Jamie in the evening and found out he was intending to test his baking skills on a Swiss Roll.

Not quite the day out we’d planned, but a breath of fresh salt air and a walk along beside the Clyde estuary. Loch Lomond will have to wait for another day.

Tomorrow, Scamp is out for coffee with Isobel and I may just put pastel to paper if the weather is inclement, as seems likely and if not then I may go for a walk to see some dragons.

Driving home – 23 July 2021

It always comes to this day.

We had packed last night. Really all that had to be done was to load the car and tidy up the house. That work took about an hour and a half with all four of us doing our bit. Then the hugs and goodbyes with the promise that we’d do it again soon. I hope we do.

Drove in convoy with Hazy and Neil D until they branched off to go past Broughton in Furness and we headed for the northbound M6. A fair few holdups on the road, but once we were on the motorway it was plain sailing. Stopped at Gretna to stretch our legs and window shop, although I did buy a new kitchen knife. Then it was back on the road and home.

All the plants needed a drink, it looked like they had not had any real rain either

I’d taken some shots of the mist covered Duddon Valley with sheep coming across the field for their morning drink. That was easily the PoD.

Tomorrow we may go dancing … in a hall … with a wooden floor … wearing dance shoes … and … WITH OTHER PEOPLE IN THE ROOM!!!

Under a milky white sky – 2 March 2021

Yes, it was a milky white sky this morning. Although the weather fairies told us that the sun would come out of hiding, they forgot to mention that it wouldn’t happen until about 4pm.

There was no real need to get up and go anywhere in the Central Belt today because it looked like the white sky stretched from west to east and there was no getting away from it. Worse still, my phone was out of charge and my Kindle was too. Just to complete the trilogy, my Fitbit was telling me it was feeling a bit deflated on the power front too. I plugged in the phone and the kindle but forced the Fitbit to work for its dose of energy which it did in a disgruntled way beeping every hour to tell me to move my backside, which I also did in a disgruntled way. I blame the milky white sky for it all.

Eventually after lunch, we got ourselves in gear and went a walk to the shops. Scamp went to get milk and sensible stuff while I went for ice cream and sticky toffee pudding. Just a different kind of sensible. We carried our messages home and then while Scamp went out to comb the front grass, well, actually she was raking it, but when it was done it looked as if someone had combed it badly. While she went to do that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s. It felt a bit cold, so I wore my big Bergy jacket with its fleece, but actually it wasn’t all that bad once you were out and walking. The light was improving, but not enough to create shadows. For that you need directional light and there was none. I went to visit the ladybirds which were still hibernating and that’s when the sun started to shine, about 4pm.

Although the photos of the ladybirds are interesting to me, I realise they have limited appeal to the general public. It was while I was walking home that I tried my old 10-20mm Sigma lens and grabbed a few landscapes. When I looked at them on the computer I thought a monochrome format improved them and that’s what you see here.

Dinner tonight was Scamp’s job. She made Chickpea and Spinach Curry and I thought it was delicious. She thought it was OK, but that there was too much salt in it. She’s a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to seasoning, so I let her be right – just this once. My job was to make the flatbread and it turned out OK, but Scamp thought it was delicious. It’s not that I’m a perfectionist about flatbread …

Interesting text from Hazy this morning which I missed when my phone was filling its boots with electricity. She told me that while they were out for a walk they passed a cafe where I had coffee a few years ago and sat writing a speech for a certain wedding. Now that is nice to know. It has changed its name and probably been through a few iterations since that day, but it’s still there.

Tomorrow we don’t have any plans. The weather looks like it will be the same as today. We might go out somewhere and look for breaks in the clouds.

The ice is melting – 5 January 2021

Time to get the boots and the YakTrax on and go for a walk.

Just a walk round St Mo’s, but the ice is still treacherous, even more so as there was a slight melt happening and the water was covering the ice. With care it was possible to get round and that’s what we did. Just one circuit. The ducks haven’t returned from their holiday in a warm place and it looked like the swans had become frozen to the ice that covered St Mo’s pond, but they were just pretending and got up and staggered around while we watched. The worst bit of the walk was the boardwalk, because the ice runs for the whole width of the path with no snow and therefore nowhere to get a better grip. However, again, the YakTrax proved their worth and we completed the walk intact.

I made a loaf after lunch because we needed bread or at least we would tomorrow. For speed and also because I couldn’t be bothered with the faff of hand kneading, I asked the mixer to do the hard work and it did produce a decent dough. Set it to prove and headed off to St Mo’s again for a second chance at some photos, although I reckoned I had one in the bag already.

I tried another of the daring camera on the ice shots, but the ice was melting and I could hear it creaking a bit under my boots. I could also smell the decomposing leaf mass under the ice, so it definitely wasn’t as stable as I’d have liked. Four shots and I was off onto dry land again.

Back home and an hour or so’s work and I had a mono PoD of a park bench and a colour shot of the view from the ice. The PoD came from the morning walk with Scamp and the colour shot was from the afternoon.

The bread had completed its first prove and I placed it carefully into a Banneton which is a round basket made from rattan to do the second prove. Rattan is a climbing palm that grows in Indonesia. There, you’ve learned something today. I don’t often use the banneton, but it was recommended for the long proving times necessary for sourdough bread. It certainly produced a very decorative spiral pattern on the dough which rose quite quickly in the warm living room and the bread baked beautifully. Too late for our dinner unfortunately, maybe just as well because I don’t think it would have gone too well with a fiery chicken curry. The ice cream afterwards did go well with it.

Spent an annoying hour trying unsuccessfully to get rid of some dust bunnies on my sensor. I think I ended up with more than I started off with.

Spoke to Canute tonight. We were supposed to phone him, but instead, he phoned us. Had a long talk about the ‘joys’ of grandchildren. Living with Covid and the effects it had on small retail shops. I’d forgotten that his school clothes business would now be Click ’n’ Collect. It must be so difficult for small businesses in these days of constant on – off closures. We wished him well on his operation at the end of the month.

Tonight the temperature is forecast to drop to -5ºc. We may not be going far tomorrow.

Priority Pass – 19 December 2020

Scamp had a spot booked at M&S. A spot for one!

We drove to M&S and Scamp waltzed to the front of the queue, showed the pass on her phone and walked in. I joined the rest of the proles out in the cold. We’d intending to have a look for a small turkey crown for Christmas Day. I’m afraid was look. Prices ranged from around £40 to around £70. Just a bit more than we’d intended paying. We did buy a fair load of stuff though, just to make our visit worthwhile. I got a couple of those big fat dumpy sausage rolls that used to be all the rage a year or so ago. Got them for half the price of one single Christmas version. Scamp picked up a bottle of wine too with an interesting label I’m sure we’ve seen on our table before.

We could have gone to Tesco, but it would have been jumping, I’m sure so we just drove home. Sausage roll for me for lunch and Scamp had an egg on a tattie scone. It was a bit fatty, full of breadcrumb and overall simply tasteless. I’d probably have been better getting the single Christmas version of the sausage roll. In fact I’d probably have been better with the egg on a tattie scone! What we did find was where M&S hide the Milk Chocolate & Cinnamon Tortillas, recommended by Hazy.  No, don’t make that face you lot out there. I didn’t think it would work either, but Hazy is a connoisseur of chocolate things and she said it worked. It does. Half a packet later tonight, I can vouch for that.

It was raining after lunch and we waited a while before committing to a walk. Usual fairly short walk down to the loch, back along the boardwalk and the long way round the exercise machines. One of the machines found its way on to Flickr after it had been converted to B&W, but wasn’t PoD. On the way home, Scamp suggested that she was going back to the house, but if I wanted I could do a lap of St Mo’s pond. I did two laps but it was on the first one that I found the PoD. It had been raining on and off when we were walking round Broadwood, but when I reached St Mo’s the sun came out and gave a beautiful light show on the trees of the far bank. Knew I didn’t have time to switch lenses to capture the whole scene, so took a series of shots to be made into a panorama later. That panorama worked well and became PoD.

While I was re-heating the leftover curry from last night I was half listening to Nic laying down the law for the next three or four weeks. I’d previously listened to Boris’s bumbling and at times incoherent ramblings that pretended to be a press briefing. At times I think that Nicola is too cautious and too quick to shut things down, but oh my, I’m so glad we have her sensible approach rather than what has been described as Boris’s “Battle of Britain rhetoric”. The man simply does not inspire confidence. She does. So, basically from the end of next week we’ll almost all be in lockdown again. You can give it a number if you like, but basically it’s lockdown again. I suppose it has to be done. For England, to control the virus. For Scotland, to prevent the virus spreading north. You know it makes sense (unless you’re listening to Boris).

Tomorrow the weather looks wet again. We may go out for a walk.

Coffee with the family – 18 December 2020

Today we were out early (10.30am) is early, to have coffee with Shona, but more of the clan were already there.

I wasn’t going to go, then I felt bad about it and changed my mind at the last moment. Scamp said she was going to take the blue car anyway, because her red micra has a crack in the windscreen. Not a bit crack, but enough to put her off driving it, just in case. When I agreed to come, I told her she was driving. We weren’t going far, just up to the town centre. Got there almost on time (my fault for my procrastination) and found that not only was Shona there, but Isobel was too. I wondered if Scamp had got her days mixed up, but no, it was Isobel who had her time mixed up. She got there for 10am to meet one of her friends and it turned out she should have been there for 11am. She didn’t mind, she said, she’d just wait. And she did. Because of the Covid rules in Scotland, she wasn’t allowed to join Shona, Scamp and I as that would have made an outlawed 3 families at a table. It gets so complicated with all these rules, not to mention the fact that all four nations in the UK have their own rules and none of the four seem to have a common ground. That’s what happens when you have headless chickens and Bumbling Boris in charge. Chaos!

We sat for an hour listening to Shona telling all her news and there was lots of it too. You don’t realise how lucky you are until you hear someone explaining all the tangled web of their own life. After about an hour we were all up to date with what had happened recently and we had a few laughs too. Shona always finds something to laugh at. We said our goodbyes and Scamp drove us home. When we left the carpark at around midday, the automatic headlights came on. That will tell you how little daylight there is in Scotland in mid December.

After lunch two parcels arrived in quick succession. One from Hazy and, we think, one from Canute. The light, which had improved when we arrived home was failing at around 2pm, so I packed my camera bag and went for a walk in St Mo’s. I wanted a mono shot to continue my week of black & white photos. Then I got talking to one of the two guys who was running RC (Radio Control) cars on the BMX track and I took a few photos of the car running over the jumps. One of the photos made PoD.  The mono shot didn’t quite make the cut, but it’s on Flickr.

Back home I’d volunteered to make a veg curry from scratch and got started with the flat bread dough before I made the curry. It took longer than I thought (it usually does!) but by 7pm we were eating a fairly decent veg curry with potatoes, butternut squash, courgettes and chickpeas in it. Like I said, it was a bit hot, but not too hot … just! More left for tomorrow, but it will need some yoghurt to cool it down I think.

That was about it for today. Looks wet for tomorrow and we’ve nowhere to go. Scamp has booked a slot at M&S, so we may do some shopping.


The Ladies – 15 December 2020

Parcels to send today. Going down south by different routes.

Parcels loaded into the car this morning and off to post them. One going by Royal Mail because the postman knows where our son and his wife live. One going by DPD because they are cheaper. It’s a race then. Which one wins. Which one gets there quickest. We’ll find out later in the week, hopefully.

With the heavy posting done, it was time for a drive into the wilds. The wilds of Fannyside Moor. It was a beautiful morning with blue sky and just a little cloud or two. Once we got there we just sat in the car and listened. Listened to nothing. Just the distant sound of the occasional car running across the moss. That’s the peat moss, the moorland road across the peat moss. A single track road with passing places in the middle of the Central Belt in Scotland. Not ten miles from Cumbersheugh and it’s a single track road with passing places. This is the 21st century isn’t it. Anyway, we sat and listened to the radio for a while and then let the silence rule us. Perfect peace.

When we got out we found a bunch of ladies standing watching. Lady sheep, that is. Some black and some white, but all waiting and watching. Sheep have this disturbing way of looking at you that makes you think you should really turn round because something may be creeping up on you from behind. They also look as if they’re sizing you up, challenging you. Actually, I think they were just waiting for the farmer to bring their lunch. I took some photos and we walked down the road a way. Took some photos of an old ruined farmhouse and then came back. They were still there, the ladies. Still watching. Still waiting. Took some more photos and they all drifted away, bored with the show.

Drove home for lunch and Scamp went to visit her sister while I filled my birthday pen and started on the pile of unwritten Christmas cards. I got halfway through them when Scamp returned. I’d had enough of that for now, so I grabbed my camera and went to bolster my collection of photos. I needn’t have bothered. It was too late and the rain came on. I get the feeling it just waits for me some times. Came home and had a look at the photos, but as I suspected, they weren’t worth the bother. Went back to finish off the cards.

I don’t usually approve of the ‘one size fits all’ catch up ‘what we did this year’ stories that used to be all the rage at Christmas, but I decided that this year had been such a momentous one it was worthwhile cataloging it. If for nothing else, it showed our friends that they are not alone. We’ve all had a terrible year. Some worse that others, but nobody got away lightly in 2020. I’ll include it in some of the Christmas cards, just to keep folk in the loop.

Tomorrow we pay another whack of money to Royal Mail when we have to buy the second dose of stamps for this load of cards.

Tomorrow looks wet for most of the morning and early afternoon. What fun today was, though. I wonder if those sheep are still standing. Watching, Waiting.

Back to my old self – 14 December 2020

I felt a lot better when I got up this morning, thankfully.

Scamp was out early to meet Isobel for coffee. Although I feel fine, I didn’t want to risk spreading my cold germ with Isobel and anyway, you probably know my thoughts on Costa coffee. With some peace and quiet, I managed to tweak some of the settings on the Synology NAS to make it run a bit quieter while still doing its technological housekeeping. Now I just have to work out how to get it to clean the shower and empty the dishwasher.

When Scamp came home she brought with her half a dozen rolls and a packet of square sliced sausage. Well, that was my lunch sorted. Actually I was a bit more careful than normal and only had the one roll and one sausage. The rest of the sausages I’ve frozen and bagged. After lunch the sky was clearing from its usual featureless milky white. Scamp was getting herself organised to start packing boxes for delivery down south. I was getting myself organised for taking photos.

I did a couple of circuits of the pond at St Mo’s, then I had a walk into the woods to see if the ladybird was still there. It was, but when I turned on my portable LED light it started moving, maybe the light was just too bright. I decided enough was enough and took my leave. PoD went to an initially dodgy shot of a couple of trees. Initially dodgy, but with a bit of work in Lightroom it turned out ok. It’s mono, but that ticks the ‘Mono Monday’ box in my Flickr albums. Next time I might remember to check my settings BEFORE taking the shot, rather than after. It’s a bit like the snooker player’s maxim, “Chalk the cue before you take the shot.”

Although I feel a lot better, I’m going to have another early night with extra vitamin C and maybe a couple of paracetamol.

I’m just watching the weather forecast as I write this and it looks set fair for us tomorrow. We might get out for a walk somewhere it it keeps dry.