Just another Friday – 9 July 2021

There wasn’t much to say about today.  The sky was Scottish white.  It was warm, too warm and we did nothing.

Some days are like that.  You keep waiting for things to get better, but mostly they just stay the same.  I was waiting for my coffee and tea to be delivered from the Bean Shop in Perth. Scamp went for a walk to the shops for tonight’s dinner and I stayed and waited for the text from the DPD man to say when the parcel would be delivered.  DPD usually text around 11am to say when it’s going to arrive.  If the text doesn’t come by then, it means it’s a later delivery.  When the text arrived it was to say that the parcel wouldn’t be delivered until later in the afternoon.  After lunch we did a quick round of the garden,  dead heading the flowers that had lost all their petals or had gone to seed.

After the parcel arrived I went for a walk.  That’s when I found the tree growing through the fence of St Mo’s school. I’ve always meant to photograph it, just in case the council take it into their heads to cut it down.  Today was the day.  Not great lighting, but a record of the event was made.  I’d taken the old Sigma 10-20mm lens and the Zenit Helios 44 58mm.  An Old Glass day. Both lenses work in manual only now which is a different experience to the automation I’m used to.  The Sigma took the shot of the tree.  Unfortunately that was about the only decent shot I got.

Dinner was an M&S curry each because it is Friday and nearly the weekend, if such a thing exists any more.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day, but that’s not what the weather fairies say.  They are predicting rain.  At least that will mean we don’t have to water the garden!

A walk, as predicted – 27 June 2021

I bowed to the inevitable.

Just a short version of our Broadwood Boarkwalk walk she said, well that’s how it started out. Scamp’s fly that way. She suckers you in with the offer of a short walk, but then she adds an extension and when she thinks you’re not paying attention another half a mile is added. That’s more or less how it happened today.

We started off walking beside the road, then over the boardwalk and back towards the dam. That’s when she posed the question, “Will we just go over the dam and down the other side?” It was a lovely warm morning with barely a breath of wind so I agreed. After the dam, we could have headed back up the hill to the sports centre and home, but ’when she thinks you’re not paying attention …’ She neatly took us up past the exercise machines instead and on to the part where the path turns and twists so you hardly notice that it’s getting steeper, at least until your legs start aching. Finally we walked past the shops where she got her daily fix of pineapple. There were no fresh pineapple chunks to be had, so she had to make do with Mango, Melon and Pineapple strips which is a poor substitute for the real thing!

Lunch was a pizza we’d bought yesterday in Lidl. I think it was a sourdough base. It certainly felt like it. Sourdough is fairly tasty, but I find it quite tough. Maybe too tough for a pizza base. Anyway it was scoffed while we watched Andrew Marr who seemed appalled that the Covid 19 virus had the temerity to infect him, just as if he was an ordinary mortal. I think he was a bit lost now that Matt Hancock has had his Half Hour of fame and has resigned as Health minister after being caught in flagrante with one of his aides. Poor man.

I took the Sony out with an old Zenit Helios 58mm lens in the afternoon. It was an experiment to see how I’d manage with a fairly modern camera and a thirty year old lens. Totally manual. No auto exposure, no auto focus. Just me a camera and a lens. Actually it worked out quite well. I was impressed with the photos and one of them got PoD!  It was a battered and bruised Peacock butterfly.  I was amazed that those damaged wings could hold it in  the air, but they did as the butterfly demonstrated by flying away as soon as I took this shot.

Our dancing in tonight’s class was the best for a long time. I was impressed, but even better, Scamp was impressed. Hopefully we’l be able to build on this during the week and be able to take over teaching the class next week. That’s the long game we’ve been working towards.

Spoke to JIC and hear a bit more about Sim’s first half marathon. Scamp was really impressed with her time. Good to hear about someone doing well.

Tomorrow Scamp is off to a tea party with the witches I might be needed as a driver, but for now I’m on an empty. I might get the bike out or maybe I’ll paint.

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.

Snow, snow, snow – 9 February 2021

Usually I’m complaining about rain. Today is was snow.

It was snowing when we woke. There was no sign of the footpath at the front of the garden. Just a flat even surface of snow from the house out to the start of the trees on the far side of the path. One set of footprints where some unlucky soul had plodded his weary way to find his car in the whiteout. We went back to bed, thankful that today we’d nowhere to go and nothing to do.

When we’d had our morning coffee and were wondering it the snow would go off today, we made the decision to clear the path to the main footpath. With two of us working at it, it didn’t take too long. Then I remembered we had a bag of salt that I ‘obtained’ from the janitor at the school. Scamp showed me where it lived at the back of the overcrowded bin shed. After some swearing I brought the bag out and spread some salt over our efforts to hopefully preserve some of the clearing we’d done. It seemed to work.

After lunch I assembled my long lens on the Sony and grabbed some shots of the blue tits and robins in the garden. I felt sorry for the wee ground feeding birds in the back garden, so we found an old plastic tray and filled it with birdseed, leaving it in the back garden. It was soon cleared, so we refilled it and that lasted for a couple of hours and provided today’s PoD. It was taken on my old Tamron 300mm lens that never really worked properly on the D7000. It certainly works on the Sony. Then a heavy shower of snow covered the seed tray and by that time the light was going. Unfortunately the snow showed no signs of giving up.

Dinner tonight was Spaghetti a la Anything in the Fridge. It worked quite well, but could have been better. The Sticky Toffee Pudding however was excellent again.

We had a quick reprise of the rumba routine tonight and watched a few of our old salsa moves. Old being the operative word as some of those videos go back to 2010!

Sketch tonight was “Walk”. I’d already decided I wasn’t going out in that snow which was now nearly up to the top of my wellies. No, today’s sketch was purely out of my imagination aided and abetted with some images from Google Images. I looks reasonable and will do the job.

Tomorrow looks cold, with temperatures not likely to go into the positive numbers at all. We may stay in.

The Golden Hour – 29 January 2021

We were waiting for a parcel, a parcel for Scamp this morning. That and the fact it was raining meant we simply HAD to stay in.

Once the parcel had arrived, just after 11.30 we could safely have lunch without worrying about going to the door, with clown red mouth, to collect the parcel from the DPD, because it was tomato soup for lunch and it always gives me a clown red mouth. With the parcel safely delivered, opened and the contents tested (moisturiser and girlie stuff) and with lunch over, Scamp went out to post a letter while I footered about on the computer before getting my boots ready and going for carnivore food for tomorrow’s dinner. The pescatarian was having fish, of course. We almost passed like ships in the night, me going, her returning at the door. I took a detour and walked round the back of St Mo’s school on my way to the shops, hoping for something interesting to cross my path, but I came home with wet feet, two bags of messages and half a dozen uninteresting photos. However …

However, as I was coming home the sky was clearing and the rain had definitely stopped, so I quickly changed sox and boots and lenses and went out again with the short lens setup. Sigma 10-20mm on an adapter, standard kit lens and Samyang 18mm. The light responded happily to my change of kit. The low sun was shiny and gold and it was lighting up the trees beautifully. I took the shot, but knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a bit more drama and the best way to get it is to shoot into the sun. Forget the rule that says you should always have sun over your left shoulder. Rules were made for folk to break them. I chose a spot on the boardwalk that allowed me to shoot in to the sun and get a bit of reflection from the sky on the clear channels around the pond’s edge. About twenty photos later I came home much happier than I’d been coming home from the shops.

Photos roughly processed and favourites earmarked for further tweaking, I started the dinner. Dinner itself was easy, it was just a case of reheating yesterday’s curry, warming up the flatbread dough that was left over from last night and cooking the rice. We’d decided to have pakora as well as the curry, as a kind of starter. The last time I made it, I made too much and we ended up the starter became the dinner. Not so this time. Four mushroom pakora to share and about ten cauliflower pakora to share, not too big pieces either. It actually turned out quite good. I’ll never be able to make that batter again, because it was a bit of this, a bit of that and just enough sparkling water to make it sticky without being stodgy or runny. It was voted a success. A wee glass of cheap red afterwards sealed the meal.

Later in the evening a G&T while we watched the comedy show pretending to be a whodunnit called Death in Paradise. Worth watching just for the tropical views.

The picture of the Golden Hour (the hour just before the sun sets) got PoD. Old glass on a new camera.

Tomorrow we’re planning to go for a walk and later have a posh dinner in.


More dancing – 24 January 2021

A lesson this time, not a dance.

Yet another cold morning. It was -4ºc when Scamp was making the breakfast.

Of course we weren’t getting up at that time. Never on a Sunday! However, once we’d had breakfast showered and were ready to face the day I did take a walk to examine the frost on the car and managed to get a couple of photos of the little ice crystals. One was posted on Flickr, but it didn’t achieve PoD.

It wasn’t until well after midday that we steeled ourselves and went for a walk around St Mo’s pond. I took a few more frosty photos there and it was one of them that produced the tiny frozen trees that made PoD. It was a close run thing with my other favourite photo, a leaf covered with hoar frost.

It was just above freezing when we arrived back at the house. Dinner tonight was Bacon and Borlotti Beans. Now becoming a firm favourite. Then we had to move all the furniture around for tonight’s dance class. First off was a reprise of last week’s Mambo Marina followed by our ongoing stumbles through Rumba and finished off with the Midnight Jive. We weren’t too bad at that. It was me stumbling round the rumba that was the low point. Even with Stewart and Jane’s encouragement, we are finding it hard. Not insurmountable, just difficult. It doesn’t help that we are dancing on a carpet and they are demonstrating on a polished wooden floor. However, the hour passed fairly quickly and with a bit of practise over the next few days we’ll get there, I’m sure. If not, we’ll have invented an new dance, The Stumble Rumba. It does have a certain ring to it!

Spoke to JIC at night and were surprised to hear that they had had a full day of snow and we had none. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. You never know what we’ll wake up to tomorrow!

Tomorrow morning I’m supposed to be doing a rubbish uplift for Shona. Hope the skips have been emptied over the weekend to make room for it all.



Bird Watching and Lockdown – 4 January 2021

Well, let’s face it, the wasn’t much else to watch.

At first it looked like the ice had all but gone this morning, then we realised that wasn’t the black asphalt of the path we were seeing, it was the path with a clear layer of ice. No point in rushing out then, better to go back to bed and finish a chapter of our books. However, not everyone is as luck as us retired folk. Scott, the taxi driver, needed to get to and from his car safely and often during the day, so he started clearing the ice and shovelling salt and grit onto the path. It seemed to do the trick where it fell, but because there wasn’t a very active footfall on the paths, the grit and salt was not being spread by pedestrians, and wasn’t doing its job as efficiently as it should.

The reason for the layer of ice was explained in the midday weather forecast. It was all down to freezing rain, caused when rain hits an already frozen ground. A ground so cold that the rain instantly freezes. I remember this being talked about ten years or so ago in the winter of 2010/11. It looks as if it’s back again.

We had spent most of the morning and early afternoon taking down the decorations and packing them away. It never ceases to amaze me the number of things Scamp can pack into those big plastic storage boxes. Most of them are now in the loft, with only a few left to go. The room looks quite bare now and quite dull, although I must say it was a dull day.

On top of the weather problems, in the afternoon Nic the Chick explained in great detail why she had taken the decision to put all of mainland Scotland into full lockdown again. It seems like exactly the same rules as in March ’20 with no unnecessary travel no leaving the house unless for exercise or to buy food and all non-essential shops to remain closed. No meeting more than one person from another household outside. Schools to remain closed until the end of January at the earliest. It’s not a great deal different from what we, at least, have been living with for the past month or so. Oh yes, and we’ve to expect more snow by the end of the week.

So, to the birds. I wasn’t going to risk a walk today. It was really dull anyway and Scamp didn’t want to go far. We’d been watching and feeding the birds in the garden over the cold spell and today it was their turn to pay us back by posing for some photos. We’ve had a thrush who visits every day and also our resident robin who seems to think he/she owns the garden and patrols it vigorously. Blue tits, great tits and, of course, the ever present starlings. Today’s PoD is of a thoughtful looking Starling. Taken through the kitchen window.

The diet has started. We are doing our best to eat and drink healthily. No alcohol until Friday and smaller portions at mealtimes. We’ll see how long it lasts.

Tomorrow we may go out for that ‘exercise walk’ if the paths are safe to walk.

Another cold start to the day – 30 December 2020

Temp was -3.7ºc this morning. We were in no rush to go out.

Instead, Scamp started baking a couple of Dundee cakes. They should have had whisky in them, but she doesn’t like the taste if it (why!!?) so she substituted Calvados instead. I gave her a bit of help with the logistics. I held the paper cases open while she spooned the mixture in. I’m useful for some things.

With the cakes in the oven, I was staring out the window and I realised that there was a Long Tailed Tit pecking at the fat block that hangs from the tree. As we watched, it was joined by another four of them. They are very rarely seen near houses, preferring open country. I thought that if I grabbed my camera and went through the manipulations that are necessary to connect it to the adapter and to the long lens, the birds would be long gone. But no. They were still there. I managed two shots, then a blackbird seemed to startle them and they flew off. I guessed that now they’d found the fat blocks, they’d be back and sure enough about five minutes later they were crowding round the food. I managed a few more shots before they flew off again looking for something extra to finish their lunch.

Our own lunch was now calling us and I used the heat from the oven to warm through my slice of mince cake (I’ve got the last bit in the fridge for tomorrow). It was delicious and it disappeared in no time.

I wanted some more ammunition just incase the bird pictures didn’t work out, so I dressed for the just above zero weather and walked round St Mo’s. Scamp isn’t too keen to go walking in this icy weather, so she stayed home to admire her cakes and do some cleaning. I did get a few shots in St Mo’s, but nothing to compare with the birds from this morning. I walked down past the back of the school to the shops, but saw nothing of note. I was hoping for some deer, but they were off somewhere else today.

Back home and after dinner, it was the Long Tailed Tits that made Pod. I also got my first two or three calendars printed. Then the printer started banding a bit, so I think it needs the ink reservoirs refilled. I may do that tomorrow.

Tomorrow being Hogmanay, it’s the day for cleaning before we usher in a new year. I’ve volunteered to wash down the kitchen cabinets which are really badly in need of cleaning. Scamp will no doubt be similarly engaged elsewhere in the house.

Shopping, Snow and White Flamingos – 29 December 2020

It had snowed during the night, not a lot, but a covering. Very crisp, very even, just not deep.

We stayed in during the morning waiting for the snow to melt away, it didn’t, in fact it’s still there just the same as it was this morning. We were having a piece on fried egg for lunch. If you don’t understand this description, imagine a slice of bread, buttered. Lay a fried egg on it and then, carefully, place another slice of buttered bread on top. There you have it, a piece on fried egg! Well, to get back to the story, Scamp took an egg from the egg box and attempted to crack it with a knife. Except, instead of making a nice wee crack in the shell, she sliced the egg in two! Neither of us had ever seen that trick done before. What a mess to clean up.

After lunch we went a walk to the shops. The paths looked treacherous, but weren’t too bad. Scamp had been smart enough to book a slot at M&S. I haven’t managed to master that bit of online trickery yet, so I went for a waltz round Home Bargains instead. Got a couple of things and met her outside. Then we walked home.

I only came home to keep her company and to pick up my lumberjack’s hat and a long lens to take some interesting photos of the birds on the ice at St Mo’s. The swans were practising their Flamingo routine, tucking their head under their wing. That became PoD. I was surprised there was so much ice still because the temperature was rising.

Walked round to the wee pond and the lighting was good, so I got some wide angle shots of it too.

On the way home I saw a powered paraglider off to the east. I was hoping the pilot would fly over the pond, but whoever it was flew away south after circling for a while over the town centre I would presume. It would have been a great view from that thing today as long as you were well wrapped up. The temperature may have been rising, but the sun was dipping down by the time I left St Mo’s and I think the temperature was hovering around zero by that time.

Back home Scamp gave me a run down on how to make a mince pie. Very simple, but simple things are never the easiest to make. I made a fair fist of it, although I think I was a bit too easy on the salt. Must be more generous with it next time, all being well. Watched Zog and the Flying Doctors tonight. Great film, absolutely fascinating to have a film made about me!

No plans for tomorrow. It may be Cod with Prawns and Fennel for dinner.

It was Monday – 28 December 2020

It gets harder to work out what day it is just now.

It was dry this morning, but it was also cold. Because of that we didn’t move much until after lunchtime and judging by the line of frosted cars, most folk were thinking along those lines too. The temperature wasn’t rising very much to encourage anyone to go out, but we eventually decided we’d go out for a walk.

Since we didn’t know what the paths would be like, we limited ourselves to a walk round St Mo’s pond. Even then we had to be careful and constantly watch to see where was ice and where was asphalt. The rough paths under the trees were fine, but the lower lying paths were so treacherous we chose to walk on the grass rather than the asphalt. I’d taken the Tamron long lens with me on the adapter and it worked as well as it could in the low light that marks December. PoD turned out to be a coot picking its way carefully across the ice on the pond. So it’s not just us who are minding our feet! The boardwalk was icy, but walkable with care. The grit that’s bonded to the wooden boards seems to provide a decent grip as long as you’ve got boots on.

Back home I processed today’s pictures and posted them while Scamp read. Dinner was spaghetti, red spaghetti as it’s known in the house. A tomato base with something from the veg selection in the fridge flung in. Today it was a bit of fennel, a couple of shallots, a handful of cherry tomatoes and the same of mushrooms. Apart from the tomatoes which went in whole, everything chopped up fine and sweated down before adding half a tin of tomatoes. It’s a hit or a miss each week whether it’s “great”, “reasonable” or “in the bin and we’ll have a pizza.” Today was “reasonable”.  Scamp’s leftover trifle needed no such evaluation, it won the “Great!” complete with exclamation mark.

Watched Singing in the Rain which we’d recorded yesterday. Absolutely brilliant film with amazing dance routines. Scamp’s just finished watching Strictly’s Top 25 which was a pale version of ‘Singing’!

Looks like more sub-zero temperatures tonight and most of tomorrow. Scamp’s got a slot booked for M&S tomorrow afternoon. If the paths are bad we may drive down. If not, that will be our walk for the day.