Out to lunch – 2 August 2021

Away into the country.

Drove out to The Smiddy near Blair Drummond and accepted the last table they had. Not really a table, more like a shelf with two high seats to sit on. We were lucky to get it because not long afterwards people were told there was a 20min wait for a table. Also, others seemed to waltz in, have a few words with the manager and jump the queue, no questions asked. I don’t think that’s a good way to run a restaurant. At least not if you want the jilted customers to come back.

Despite the poor managerial skills, the food was good. Scamp had her usual Mac ’n’ Cheese, but a much improved cheese sauce she said. I had the fishcakes and although they were a bit small, they tasted great with big chunks of fish and floury potato. Also, they were surprisingly filling, although that could have been down to the chips I snaffled from Scamp’s plate.
All in all, a good lunch if you can get a seat.

Instead of driving straight home we took a detour further out into the country on a road we’ve been on before we think, but couldn’t recall any of the scenery on it. Driving on ‘B’ roads in the lakes may have inspired my choice of narrow roads today, but the sun was out and we were away from the towns for a while. Our detour eventually took us through Thornhill and back to The Smiddy. We didn’t go in though. We’d been lucky once today, we didn’t want to have to wait 20mins for a table and then find some friends of the owner got seated before us. We drove home instead.

I’d taken some photos before we left the restaurant and today’s PoD is the result of eight of those frames being seamlessly joined into a panorama of the Carse of Forth. The ‘Carse’ being the name given to the low lying fertile land either side of the River Forth.

Watered the garden tonight and included our next door neighbours flowers in the deluge because he’d watered ours last night. Scamp watered the back garden. We may have another good, dry day tomorrow, but after the middle of the week, things will go downhill. With that in mind, we may go out somewhere tomorrow before the rains come.

Shopping at The Fort – 23 June 2021

Today Scamp wanted to visit The Fort in Glasgow. I went along to have a browse in Waterstones.

I also wanted to have a look for a new pair of trainers. My old, much maligned Merrills are beginning to fall apart. That seems a common occurrence for me and Merrills. The boots are heading the same way, in fact they are leading the race to the tip. I didn’t see anything that inspired me to pull out my wallet and commit some of my hard earned cash to JD Sport or any other footwear purveyors. Not a total surprise to Scamp or I.

I did have a browse around Waterstones and noted a few book titles that I might add to my reading list. However, I’ll probably wait a month or so until the prices come down to something more like reality. The price of books these days!!

Met us with Scamp again and went food shopping in M&S. The till was run by someone who looked disdainfully at all these shoppers waiting for her to scan their miserable food items. Eventually, when the time came to pay she attempted a smile, but I think she needs more time in front of the mirror, practising it.

When I was wandering around this fortress earlier I noticed that almost an entire row of premises were closed and boarded up. Or, as the sign said, just ready to become “New stores you’re sure to adore”. It’s the effect of the pandemic on shops. Topshop, TopMan, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Evans and Burton all closed for good. Only one left in this block.
Who’s NEXT?
This retail disaster became my PoD. After a bit of manipulation in Photoshop, the three frame panorama looked pretty much how I’d seen it.

Back home and after lunch I started to cut down a rogue tree that has appeared between us and our next door neighbour. I asked her last week if she was really attached to it and she said no, so today I took the loppers and with help from Scamp we got about half of it cut down, chopped up and dumped in the Garden Waste bin. Thankfully it should get uplifted tomorrow, because it’s nearly full now. Scamp went off to visit her sister and while she was away I potted up a sickly looking chilli plant and half a dozen aquilegia seedlings. I had just finished and left her a note to say I was off to St Mo’s when the lady herself returned. There was nothing of note in St Mo’s. I’d seen a Fire Bug yesterday and was hoping to be able to grab a shot of it, but it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe tomorrow.

For dinner tonight Scamp made Pulled Chicken and Chipotle Black Beans. The last time she made it, there was very little chilli heat. There was tonight! Hope the remainder doesn’t get hotter for lunch tomorrow.

A quick dance practise tonight and I think we may have ironed out one of the sticky bits in the Slow Foxtrot. It’s all to do with a little twist before the second Whisk. That probably means nothing to you, although JIC may know what I’m talking about. It’s really just a little reminder to us that might explain how we’ve solved the problem.

No real plans for tomorrow. We had some rain tonight and we’re expecting more tomorrow. The gardens need it.

Exploring – 16 June 2021

Today we were off exploring the East Neuk of Fife.

We drove south from St Andrews on the coast road, like real tourists. We were just passing through Kingsbarns which is really a posh hotel and a golf course with some houses attached, when I noticed a sign for Cambo House. We’d been there many years ago to see the snowdrops that it’s famous for, great swathes of them as I remember it. No snowdrops today, but at least there was a decent amount of parking.

We walked from the carpark to what I thought must be the House and paid our entrance fee that was really the entrance to the walled garden. If I’d been more observant, I might have decided not to shell out a few quid just to see a walled garden. There’s one in Colzium that’s really well laid out and free. But, Scamp likes gardens of all descriptions and also we’d paid our money so we went to see the gardens.

What a garden this was, not the manicured garden like Colzium. No neat borders with carefully labeled plants. This was a real garden with plants of all descriptions everywhere. Herbs, roses, herbaceous, veg patches, fruit trees, in fact everything that we’ve got in our garden, including a knowledgeable gardener which we also have in Scamp! We wandered round and I took loads of photos. Glad I’d brought the macro lens today. We found a strange plant with pink fluffy flowers and aquilegia-like leaves. We asked the gardener what it was and I showed her a photo of it, but she dismissed it as “not a very good photo”! Cheek! However, she laughed, so I didn’t take too much offence. She knew what the plant was, but couldn’t quite remember the name of it. She was a volunteer gardener and said the head gardener would know. We stood talking to her for a while comparing this garden with its dry, light soil with our builders rubble that’s covered by a thin layer of topsoil that turns into a swamp every time it rains. After that we left to see what else we could find.

We walked out of the garden and down the path to the beach. That’s when we saw Cambo House. It’s an impressive Big House set in acres of lawns. Private, of course, but if you’ve got a house like that, you want to keep it good and not let the proles in. It was Scamp who saw the robot lawnmower trundling around the garden in what seemed like random directions. We stood watching it for a while before we continued our walk down beside a wee burn on a path that reminded me for the second time of Colzium with the winding path beside the Colzium Burn. I saw a beautiful spread of bright red poppies as we neared the beach and managed to make a panorama of it back at the caravan. The poppies reminded me of summer holidays in East Lothian where they seemed to grow in all the barley fields around Ormiston.

The beach itself was a bit like any other with a path between it and the Kingsbarns golf course. There seems to be a never-ending succession of golf courses along this part of the Fife coast. After a walk along the beach, we turned and walked back on the path, then found an easier path back past the Big House to what must have been farm buildings that housed the shop and the cafe. We had intended having a coffee and a bite to eat, but there were no tables, all socially distanced around the courtyard. We decided we’d continue our exploration and see if Crail or Anstruther had anything better to offer. At least we’d be able to get something to eat there.

Crail was a disaster for parking. We did find a place down by the harbour, but all the narrow streets were clogged with cars parked on both sides of the road so we headed off to Anstruther. It turned out to be even more disappointing. No places in the carparks and a similar congestion. Why don’t we go back to Cambo and see if there are any tables free now. We did and there were. We had a slice of excellent Tortilla each and a cup of coffee to go with it, plus a Portuguese custard tart to share. Even better, we wandered round the shop and found the pink fluffy plant we’d seen, so we bought it. It’s a Thalictrum Aquilegiifolium. Feeling much happier than the last time we exited Cambo a couple of hours before, we drove back to the caravan.

Tonight we thought we’d walk in to town and have dinner in Little Italy which came recommended. Yesterday we had thought to have lunch there. The sign said open 12.30 until Late and it was about 4pm, so it should be fine. Unfortunately when we asked for a table we were told they were closed. There were people still sitting at tables, but they were closed. Maybe 4pm is late in St Andrews. Today we were refused entry again. This time, allegedly, the restaurant was fully booked. Have you ever had the feeling that your face doesn’t fit? Instead we found ourselves standing outside a pizza restaurant when a Canadian drawl behind us said “You won’t be disappointed”. As I turned round I honestly thought it was Shannon from salsa. It wasn’t, but she was right, we weren’t disappointed. The restaurant looked very like Paesano. The menu was in a similar style and even the pizzas were familiar looking. I’m glad we didn’t get in to LI. This was much better all round. It was called Mozza. If your ever in St Andrews, try it out. You won’t be disappointed.

Walked back to the caravan via the harbour. Walked along the harbour wall and watched some teenagers jumping into the water. Posh english teenagers probably from one of the private schools.

Sat and watched the sun go down with a couple of G&Ts out on the decking of the caravan.

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.

Another beautiful Spring day – 20 March 2020

Apparently today was the Spring Equinox, something about the sun crossing the equator.

I don’t know if the sun was actually crossing the equator today, but we definitely saw if for a lot of the afternoon. We’d decided to go for a walk again today. A much longer walk than yesterday, about 5 miles according to my Fitbit. We were walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal from Auchinstarry Quarry to Twechar and back. Before we left Auchinstarry I grabbed a shot of two roped up rock climbers having a wee discussion of the best way to climb the rock. One in the bag.We started out on our walk with the big Bergy coats on, Scarves, Wooly Hats and Scamp even had her gloves on. I was a rock cake and kept my gloves and my hands in my jacket pockets. Halfway along the canal, the jackets were zipped down, then the scarves, gloves and wooly bunnets were pocketed away and we began to feel the heat of the sun. We some folk who had gone further and were wearing shorts, but that’s just taking things too far. It might be that Spring is just around the corner, but that was a cold wind blowing from the east. One step at a time.

When we turned at Twechar and headed face forward into that eastern breeze, the bunnets were back on and the jackets were zipped up again. Got today’s PoD just outside Twechar as an eight shot panorama created in Lightroom, then cleaned up in ON1 2019. Quite pleased with it, it showed what the light was like today. We passed a few hardy folk out walking and cycling, and even a few jogging. All of them keeping the approved 2m distance from us, just to be sure.

On the way back to the car we discussed food options for the next few days and decided another visit to the butchers was in order. With that in mind we drove to Muirhead and then split up. Scamp to check out the Co-op and me to get some meat and fish it there was any fish. There was a queue outside the butchers, and I groaned. It was Friday and it’s usually busy on Fridays, but actually this was a H&S queue, all to do with Covid 19. People were asked to wait outside and were called into the shop to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Once in I had to sanitise my hands with an alcohol gel. Perfectly sensible really in these strange days. I was looking for some more Thai Chicken Stir-Fry, but there were no chickens from any geographical location in a stir-fry sauce. Got some beef stir-fry instead. Also got some fish for Scamp and best of all, two bags of pasta. No pasta in Tesco, nor as it turned out in the Co-op, but there was some in the butchers! Strange days indeed. When we got back home, the girl next door, Angela’s daughter Lucy, came out to say that she was giving her mum a lift to her work in Asda in the mornings and if we needed anything, just to give her a list. I thought that was very kind of her and told her so. I also said that although we were fine at the moment, I’d keep her offer in mind.

With that, our exercise for the day was done. Lunch was (Just) soup and a late supper was a pizza.

The big Covid 19 announcement of the day, apart from having to queue outside the butchers and then use hand sanitiser, was that all clubs, pubs and restaurants would be closed from tonight until the foreseeable future. That also made sense to me and was entirely predictable.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk again in a different place and a different direction, no doubt. Where is not yet decided, but we will be taking a flask and ’pieces’.

Smiddy for lunch – 14 March 2020

We just wanted to get out today and the Smiddy at Blair Drummond fitted the bill

Drove out there through occasional drizzle, but with the chance of some brightness too. I realised we’d made the right choice when I saw the specials menu. Baked potato with Veg Chilli, Jalapeños and Sour Cream. Haven’t had that in ages. They also had Erdinger no-alcohol beer on the drinks menu, so I had that too. For Scamp it was Mac ’n’ Cheese with the Smiddy hand cut Chips (Skin on), washed down with a glass of red. If I’m going to be picky, and I do have my foodie credentials to uphold, the potato felt as if it had been under the heat lights for a while and the chilli tasted like a re-heat, rather than fresh. Like I say, being picky. Scamp bought some fresh veg from the deli. She always prefers fresh veg, not packed in cling film. Things you can lift and check the condition. Ok, you maybe pay more that at Tesco, but you get to choose what you’re buying.

While she was making her selection, I took the opportunity to grab some photos of the Gargunnock Hills which were managing to find some sunshine from somewhere. The sky was broken and there was light up there, but not a lot. Today’s PoD shows the resulting panoramic image, built from five frames. It looks like I saw it.

Then, as the rain was starting, we headed back home. As we were driving past Stirling, the road was very wet but the sun was shining brightly. A typical Scottish day. It seemed as if we’d just missed a heavy rain shower, although we were about five miles north and we had only had spits and spots of the wet stuff.

I thought there was going to be enough light to go for a walk in St Mo’s when we got home, but although it didn’t actually rain, it was just too dull. You know my saying by now. “It’s all about the light”. I took one record shot of a pine tree “Pineapple” and that was out of focus, so glad I got the pano from the Smiddy.

While I was out, Scamp started in the back garden. Mainly cleaning up and freshening the soil round the plants, but also a bit of pruning. The rose between us and our next door neighbour was getting bit unruly and spreading into the poor woman’s garden. A few clips with the secateurs soon brought it into line with where it should be. Some of the plants are beginning to show new growth, so I expect she’ll be wanting to get started on the rest of the garden soon, all being well. I’ll try not to get roped in too much.

Watched half of a recorded program about figure drawing. Not something I’d like to have a go at. Portraiture maybe, with a teacher who could actually demonstrate the techniques, not like the one I went to at Cumbersheugh College a year or so ago. However, the hour of the program I watched was interesting enough to go back to another time and see the second half.

Overall not a bad day. In fact it was a much better day than some poor people on a Jet 2 holiday were having when their plane did a ‘U turn’ on the way to Tenerife and flew back to the UK, because the company decided that was the safest option. What a disappointment that would be!

No Sunday Social tomorrow. AdS have cancelled all socials and all classes for at least a fortnight and more likely a month due to Covid 19. It’s all becoming a bit claustrophobic now. We may go for a walk somewhere tomorrow if it’s dry.