Chicken Burger and Cheese Burger – 14 July 2021

Chicken Burger (No barbecue sauce). Cheese Burger (No mayo). Foodies are fastidious.

Today we drove to The Fort to spend one of our M&S vouchers on ourselves. Sometimes it’s nice to spend money you don’t really feel you’ve earned on something. Today it was mainly alcohol. For some reason you can’t spend Tesco vouchers on alcohol, petrol or tobacco products. I fail to see the common factor there, but I presume Tesco see the hidden logic.

After our splurge, we went for a walk around this emporium of retail therapy. I went to Waterstones and found a few interesting books I might try on Audible or Kindle. Probably Audible because I’ve just finished my last book and my next credit has just appeared, also because I’ve got an interesting ‘Real’ book that I can read and it’s got illustrations which obviously you don’t get with Audible. Scamp knew she’d find me browsing in Waterstones, so after she dragged me away from the books we went for lunch.

We walked over to Ben & Jerry’s. Not really B&J, but that’s what we always call it. It’s really Frankie & Benny’s. It used to be our go-to place for breakfast when we were flying off to go on a cruise or to have a late deal week in the sun. In the days before quarantine, face masks and Covid. Now it’s just a fairly cheap place for lunch. The burgers are usually good and the chips are such a temptation! Today’s choice, as you can see from the title was Chicken Burger for Scamp and Cheese Burger for me with the usual alterations. Both were delicious, but the overpriced lemonade was stale tasting. Nothing is perfect.
Stopped off at The Shops on the way home to get pineapple in M&S plus a bottle of gin and four pineapple cakes in Aldi.

I took the Dewdrop out for its second run this year and went to my usual quiet place alongside the railway. Today’s PoD came from there. Originally there were the overhead wires cutting right across the sky in the photo, but about an hour’s work put paid to them and left a much better picture. While I was walking around looking for more photos I felt wee nip on my front and brushed away what I think must have been a cleg. It had bit me right through my tee shirt. I couldn’t see a hole, so it must have been using a syringe to draw off some blood. Another nip on my shoulder a few minutes later meant that it was time to get back on the bike before my tee shirt was ruined. Luckily I had some Piriton tablets and an old tube of Anthisan cream in my saddle bag. They got to work immediately and got the swelling down. No mark to be seen now.
Took another few shots on the way home, but the Beech trees were the clear winner of PoD.

It was a lot cooler but the time I got home and the sky had clouded over quite a lot. It’s supposed to reach 27º tomorrow. We’ll believe it when we see it.

Shopping and Waterfalls – 13 July 2021

Basically in that order.

We spoke to Hazy in the morning and found out how things were progressing now that Neil-D is on his last week of teaching before his summer holidays start. Plans were discussed and decisions made. I missed the start of the call because I was playing “Dress the Dolly” to see if my suit would still fit me for the service on Saturday morning. It did.

We went shopping later in the morning and Scamp drove us to Tesco. Lots of stuff on the list to buy. Not all of it was for us, because Scamp was using up one of our Covid test vouchers and we’d already agreed that half of the value should be ploughed back into the community by way of the food bank. We both chose things to put in the bank and then we added the things we needed, finally completing the shop with things we would like. That’s how I saw the shop progressing.

Back home and after lunch Scamp was gardening and I was going out to test my 10 Stop ND filter on the waterfall of the Luggie Water. Basically the filter cuts out lots of light from reaching the sensor of the camera, allowing me to use a much slower shutter speed than normal. You’ve probably seen those moody photos of misty looking sea or clouds apparently streaking across the sky. It’s done with a dark filter. The ND part just stands for Neutral Density, in other words, it doesn’t add any colour to the shot.

The waterfall is really quite impressive for such a small river. I usually try to photograph it from below, but this time I though I’d try a view looking across the top, or down from the top. It wasn’t the best decision because the water rounded rocks at the top of the falls were slimy and slippery. I had to grab some low growing branches to keep me from falling in. Unfortunately there were nettles growing over them and I got a few nasty stings from them. They say that if you grasp a nettle quickly and hard you don’t get stung. That’s not true!

I got the shot I wanted and you can see the result above. I was quite pleased with it, but I wish now I’d taken the shot from below. I suppose I could go back and do it again some time. I maybe need to wait until there’s been some rain and the falls are flowing faster.

I walked down to the old railway bridge and tried a shot from there. To get there I had to wade through some gigantic plants about 2m high with leaves that look for all the world like rhubarb. I’m not sure if its Butterbur or Chilean Rhubarb (Gunnera tinctoria) which is an invasive plant from South America. Anyway, the shot didn’t work very well. More work needed on the ND filter.

Tomorrow we’re planning on going to The Fort and maybe having lunch there.

Keeping Time – 30 June 2021

You have to watch what you’re doing all the time these days.

Scamp thought she’d nicked her ankle on a thorn yesterday on our walk through the Drumpellier woods, but this morning it looked more like a bite. It didn’t prevent her from going for a walk with Veronica, but when she came back she was sure it was a bite and Veronica who’s a retired nurse agreed that she should have it looked at.

We drove up to Boots and the pharmacist agreed that she would be best with a course of penicillin, just in case. Because she was such a brave girl, she go to sit with her legs up in the sunshine in the garden while the waiter brought her a glass of her new Bramble & Raspberry Gin ’n’ Tonic.

I have been complaining loud and continuously about my Fitbit’s screen being unreadable in bright daylight, let alone sunlight. I’ve been looking for a smart watch for a few weeks and at the weekend I found what I was looking for. Checked it out in Which and read reviews. It’s a Huawei GT2e and yes, I realise it will send all my details to China. The spy satellites will be focusing on my every move. I bought it from Argos who also will have all my details and if they ever get a satellite, I’m sure it will be following me too. As will Currys and JL. I didn’t know I was so popular! Anyway, the watch looks as if it will do everything I want it to and then some. Best of all, it tells the time in bright sunlight!

I know it tells the time in bright light because I took it our for a play test in St Mo’s once I’d finally discovered how to pair it with my phone. My lens of choice was the kit lens for the Sony. I though it was excellent when I got the camera, but now I’m beginning to see why my brother favours prime lenses. Nothing to do with Amazon, a prime lens is a fixed focal length, or to put it another way, it’s not a zoom. Zoom lenses are a compromise. They are Jack of all focal lengths and master of none. Primes only have one focal length, but they usually are much better at that one. On my visit to Argos at The Fort, I took my 18mm ultra-wide prime lens and got a few shots (5 shots, all keepers). This afternoon I got fewer ‘keepers’ from more shots taken(10 shots taken, 4 keepers). Sometimes less is more. It was one of the shots taken with the 18mm lens that got PoD, Johnston Loch with the fishers just visible in their rowing boats.

A short but quite accurate dance practise tonight.  Just  the new Queen of Hearts Rumba (Where do they get these names?) and the Foxtrot routine.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go looking for flowers for one of Scamp’s elevated flower displays if her leg is up to walking.


Off the leash – 28 June 2021

Scamp was off the leash today, off to a witches meeting. That left me with a day to fill and what a day it was shaping up to be.  It was going to be a scorcher.

I didn’t even have to drive her to Denny, she had a lift already arranged with Jeanette. After she left, I got the Dewdrop down from its winter pasture in the front room and after a bit of a struggle, got the tyres pumped up. A quick spray of WD40 on the chain and we were good to go, and we would have gone, but first I wanted a photo or two, so it was off to St Mo’s with the macro lens on the Sony.

The warmth in the last few days has brought on a hatch of lots of insects, but so far, no dragonflies. We still seem to be running a few weeks behind last year’s numbers. There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s just a case of making the best of the opportunities that are available. Available today were Damselflies, Soldier Beetles, Lacewings and a Grasshopper. As well as the insects there was an interesting branch of dried leaves to photograph. Yes, I can see the rolling of the eyes. Let’s just say it’s a photogs thing. The Grasshopper, because it’s such an unusual insect to find in St Mo’s, won PoD. The rest of the menagerie, and the branch are available to peruse on Flickr.

I even managed to include a quick visit to the shops halfway through my photo safari and got the ingredients for a stir-fry which would make a change from pasta on a Monday. When I got home, there was the Dewdrop looking a bit sad because I’d been off playing in St Mo’s and it hadn’t had its run. The first run of the year! Possibly tomorrow. Because I didn’t know if Scamp was needing a run home from Denny, I settled myself with my audio book and a glass of apple juice in the garden and enjoyed the peace and quiet for an hour.

When Scamp arrived home we shared a bottle of Bitter & Twisted, one of my best favourite beers. She took over my garden seat and I started dinner. This stir-fry thing is great. No real skill needed. Chop up the protein (chicken) and fry it. Chuck in some veg and fry it. Chuck in some noodles and some of the sauce and heat it through. Bingo, almost instant dinner.

Beautiful sky tonight. It started off gold and gradually segued through hot orange into pink. It was much more complex than that with at least three different layers of cloud, all changing shapes and colours at different rates.

Tomorrow looks even hotter than today. More Shorts and Tee Shirts and maybe a drive somewhere.

A dull day – 26 June 2021

A white sky is never a good start to a day.

The white sky didn’t disappear as we hoped it would. It just hung there all day. Eventually we agreed we’d had enough. We needed carrots for tonight’s dinner and there was but a teaspoon of gin left in the Hortus bottle. The obvious solution to this dilemma was to go to Lidl in Kilsyth for necessary supplies.

We got both the necessities as well as many other things like bread and maybe tomorrow’s dinner for me. What we really needed was a walk, somewhere nice, as I’d predicted yesterday. To fulfil the prophecy we drove to Colzium and did the energy sapping walk up the avenue of trees and rhododendrons to the Big House and that’s where I found today’s PoD which is of a single rhododendron flower with a ring of pistils around it. Almost a macro, but taken with the now superb Samyang 18mm lens that’s really an ultra-wide angle, but does a good impersonation of a macro lens.

We walked on round the old driveway almost to the Tak Ma Doon road. Scamp decided we should take the path through the woods after that because “It’s not too steep”. I knew better, but I said nothing, because I know better. Less than five minutes later she realised her mistake. This is a really steep track, but it was a good day and we here having a bit of exercise on the walk. Crossed the burn at the bridge at the top of the climb and it was all downhill after that.

We got a cone each from an ice cream van on the way to the car. The bloke in the van regaled with the cost of to small businesses of our present no-cash society. I hadn’t realised just how much it costs to use these touch machines. Maybe it’s time we started going to the bank and getting some real money rather than taking the easy way out. The ice cream was good.

Back home I made carrot and lentil curry for dinner and it was just as good as it usually is, not quite as good as Scamp’s, of course, but it’s hard to improve on perfection.

Another practise of the Foxtrot again tonight and after that a sampling of the new bottle of gin.

Tomorrow we have nothing planned, but a walk is always an option.

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.

Roses, Keys and Stitchery – 14 June 2021

A dull, cold day the temperature didn’t rise much above 14º.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, but windy day. Today was cold, windy and a bit dull, but you can’t win them all which might be the Scotland team’s motto having failed to win their first game in the Euros.

Annette visited today and keys changed hands. I’ll say no more than that. While Scamp and her were deep in conversation I cut two fading roses, took them upstairs and set up a small tabletop studio to photograph them before they completely fell apart. For the first time ever, I think, I used the MBP as a monitor and shot the pictures tethered to the Sony. Once you get past the restrictions of using the poor Sony software, the results were really good. The whole process could have been a lot easier if a bit of thought and some better programming had been put in place by Sony, but at least it worked and was an improvement over the phone app I’d used before. One of the rose photos got PoD. Annette was leaving just as I was finishing. It was strange to see her red Juke sitting just up the hill from our blue Micra. I still miss the Juke a bit, but I prefer the better mpg of the Micra.

Lunch was another quiche with the same ingredients, smoked salmon and broccoli, as last time, but this time we used a tortilla wrap for the base. So much simpler. It was voted a success. Worth doing again but with an extra egg next time.

I’d bought myself a pair of walking trousers last week and like the previous pair I got last year, they were too long. Tonight I got the sewing machine out tonight and folded up the hem on the legs and sewed it. I thought the poor machine was going to have a heart attack as it hammered away at the heavy cotton which was triple thickness and even thicker at the seams. However it seemed come through it unscathed. Just to be sure I did a wee test piece after I was finished both legs and it sounded fine again.

I’m still thinking about formatting the disk on the iMac and re-installing the OS. Too many little quirks are appearing. I think there is a lot of junk on the OS and also in the unused programs that is just taking up space. Tonight I think I’ve discovered how to copy off the Keychain and then re-install it. That would be very useful.
The foregoing is really just for my benefit.

Tomorrow we’re waiting for the post. We may go out for a spin.

A dull Saturday – 12 June 2021

Not a day for doing much or going anywhere, although it did brighten up later.

Scamp did a bit of tidying up in the garden and moved some plants around to give them more sun and also to put them in places where they could be seen better. I deadheaded some of the aquilegia plants to, hopefully force them to produce more flowers. Scamp also cut the grass at the front and edged it I am now reminded!

We had the other half of yesterday’s quiche for lunch. I think I prefer it cold, while Scamp definitely prefers it hot. After lunch I took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. Snapped a few damselflies, but because I hadn’t lifted the macro lens, none of them were acceptably in focus. I walked out behind St Mo’s school and disturbed a bit dragonfly. It flew around for a while before almost crashing into me. It seemed to perch in a tree, but when I looked I couldn’t find it. PoD turned out to be a little fragile looking damselfly that seemed to be playing hide and seek with me hiding behind a stem. Every time I moved, it moved too. I took some photos of it and left it to its game.

When I cropped the damselfly photo in Lightroom later, it was really a small image. However, this new Lightroom has the ability to enlarge a photo to four times it original size without losing definition. That’s what I did. The process is called ‘Enhance’ and that’s what it does. It takes a fair bit of processing power to do it and the PoD took almost 30 seconds. The wait was worth it, because the quality is quite amazing.

We walked over to Condorrat tonight to pick up a Golden Bowl dinner we’d ordered. Two Chicken Chop Suey and two Fried Rice. Just as good as it always is. It’s great that some things don’t change in this world.

After dinner, Scamp and I watered the garden, just the front garden and just with watering cans. If the warm dry weather continues we may hose back and front gardens tomorrow night. We had a quick practise later for tomorrow’s class. The routines are a bit rough, but we have most of the steps in the right place.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather brings us.


A day in “The Toon” – 10 June 2021

Glasgow, that is, not a Cartoon.

We were going to JL to look for towels. Well, Scamp wanted to buy some towels, but as the towels are on the same floor as the ”Toys”. I helped for a while before I went to see what goodies were available to purchase. There were lots of ‘returns’ and ‘reductions’, but I’ve seen the sort of thing that JL calls ‘returns’ and I’ve bought one or two, but almost immediately returned them myself. Some have obviously been dropped, some come in boxes that have been used as footballs in a playground but some are genuine bargains. None of the bargains were available today, but there was a nice Sony 6500 camera whose box was held together with half a roll of sellotape and a bit of duct tape. A snip at just under £1.5k! Really? You expect people to shell out real money for that? Thankfully Scamp led me away from these ‘bargains’.

We walked down Bucky Street and from there to George Square where we watched two blokes on a part recumbent tandem, cycling round the square. It looked a bit strange because the bloke at the front was cycling like it was a recumbent and steering while the one on the back was cycling upright, like a normal bike. It all looked a bit Heath Robinson.

We walked down Queen Street to Cass Art where I wanted to get a couple of tubes of their own make watercolour paint. It’s a lot cheaper than W&N and not too bad at all. With the paint bought we waked down and along to St Enoch’s Square for coffee and a panini each for lunch. Outside I took some shots of the subway entrance which looks like part of a futuristic spaceship. It made PoD, which is a miracle as it’s almost all out of focus. If you look closely at the pigeons on top of the domed shape, you will see they are not nearly in focus. The moral of the story is that if you want to fiddle with the settings on a complex camera, try to remind yourself of that when you go to take photos. Of course I didn’t notice my error until we got home.

On the way home we stopped at Tiso for Scamp to have a look for a replacement weatherproof jacket since her old one is getting a bit tatty. We were both shocked by the limited range of sizes in the ladies jackets and also the price! I got the last pair of size 36 walking trousers. This is my second pair, I’ve already got a pair of lined trousers, this pair are unlined, ‘summer’ trousers.

Back home we had Bacon and Borlotti Beans and it was as good as it usually is. It did try to rain when we left Glasgow which, if it had continued would have washed some of the sticky sugar that drips on the cars from the trees outside the house. Unfortunately it stopped as quickly as it had come. It must have been one of those ‘passing showers’ the weather fairies talk about. We need real rain!

Tomorrow we are booked to do a return trip to Ravenscraig with Shona to get her second jag. She’s offered to take us for a coffee afterwards. What a nice girl!

Coffee for three – 4 June 2021

For the first time in ages we had a quorum when the call went out for coffee.

Scamp was away first to meet Veronica for a walk around Broadwood Loch. I was next, away to meet Val for coffee. We had barely sat down when Colin joined us. I’d missed his reply to my email invitation. For the first time in ages most of us were available. Fred had to call off as he was taking his wife to a hospital appointment. As you can imagine, discussions were wide ranging and interesting but without politics rearing its ugly head. Time just flew by and it was Val who had to leave first to meet his wife to go shopping. That seemed to break the spell and we all left to go our separate ways.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp drove us up to Tesco and we did a bit of shopping. Just essentials today, although I did get a few bottles of beer and Scamp selected a suitable bottle of wine, oh yes, and some ice cream. Like I said, just the essentials.

Back home, I grabbed the Sony with its big, heavy, slow macro lens, put it in a small rucksack and went over to St Mo’s on a damsel-hunt. I couldn’t find anything worth taking the camera out of its bag for, but wandered round the pond and then tried again. Immediately I found a couple of Large Red damselflies sitting on the upstand of the boardwalk. Took a few shots, then went looking for a dragonfly or two, but none were there to be found today. Walked back and found the two damselflies were now joined in the mating position with the male grasping the female at the back of her head. They sat quite patiently and gave me the opportunity to get some detailed photos. The Sigma 105mm may be big, heavy and slow to focus, but it really does resolve a lot of detail when it gets the chance. The mating pair became PoD. The rucksack makes it much easier to carry heavy kit like the Sony/Sigma pair although it is a bit more awkward to get quick access to the camera compared to the black Lowepro sling bag.

Scamp went out to sit and read in the garden later while I made Paella for dinner. It turned out really well although I hadn’t done anything different to what I’d done many times before. It’s probably just an extra gram or two of spice or herbs that tilts the flavour enough to make things taste different.

Tomorrow we may go out to get some more compost for the rhododendron and I may shovel some more earth on the potatoes which are showing their green leaves above the soil again.