The long way home – 19 April 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomorrow will be a relaxing day.

Walking on Sunshine – 16 January 2022

No dull skies today, only blue and the big white shiny thing was up in that sky.

I was so glad to see the hill basking in the warm glow of the morning sun when I got up. What a difference a day makes. We just had to go out and enjoy that sunshine. We drove down to Auchinstarry and found a space to park at the quarry. From there we walked along the old mineral line path as far as Twechar. On the way there we stopped to let four cyclists past. Further on we bumped into a wee older man pushing his bike up the hill. He told us it wasn’t a true electric bike, it was an electric assist bike which means that if you stop pedalling, the motor stops too. He seemed to be enjoying the freedom of the bike. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet, although it’s a long time since I last took the Dewdrop out. By that time we were at the halfway point of the walk. I’d taken a few photos, but not a lot.

We crossed the road and followed the towpath back to Auchinstarry. On the way we passed a few folk out walking in the morning sunshine. A lot more photos were taken and with no wind, the reflections in the water were excellent. Most of the bikes that passed, and there were lots, were serious road bikes or hybrids, but there were a few electric bikes too. We even met the wee man on his assist bike. He seemed to be making good time, far better time than us. Back at Auchinstarry the car park had filled up quite significantly since we left the car. Every space was taken and cars were parked along the edge of the climbing wall of the quarryside too. We went to Kilsyth after that to get some potatoes for dinner and a bottle of gin for me. `

Back home and after lunch I started making some bread. Well, the mixer started making some bread and I just watched it. Then it was time to start reorganising the wires and cables behind the TV. We had discussed this last night and come to the conclusion that we could happily do without the DVD player and, since we now had a much neater TiVo box, we should try to build a pedestal for it that would hide the mass of cables that crowd into the space behind the TV. After photographing the back of the TiVo I disconnected the cables, removed the box and the, now redundant, DVD player. The next thing to do was to decide what cables were staying and what could go. Then it was time to plug everything back into the TiVo using the photo as a reference and hope it worked again. It did. For now the TiVo is sitting on a low stepping stool, but we’ve a plan to make a low pedestal from a piece of pine that has been wasting its time in a cupboard upstairs. The DVD player will go to the skip, maybe as early as tomorrow.

Next task was to get my lamb shoulder ready for the oven. Just for my reference, here is what I did:
Heat the oven to Gas 4.
Pan fry the rolled lamb shoulder
Tuck some rosemary into the meat and secure it under the string
Season with salt and pepper
Put in a roasting tray and cover with tinfoil
Cook for 1 hour
Check, then return to the oven for another hour.
Allow to cook for about 30 mins in a warm place.

This is for a piece of meat 600g approx.

PoD was a shot of a bloke walking his dog along the towpath of the canal.

Lamb was delicious. Scamp’s scallops were a disappointment. Bread looks good, although we haven’t tasted it yet

Spoke to Jamie in the evening and heard all about the extra costs in getting the house the way you want it and how the cost of every repair seems to have three zeros after the first number!

Tomorrow more sun and blue sky predicted. Another walk is on the cards I hope.

Walking on the railroad – 12 September 2021

Today we went for a walk along the old railway from Kirkby Stephen to somewhere else.  A place called Nateby, where the railway path stops and a real steam railway takes over.

Parked at the school in Kirkby Stephen and walked through a closed town.  Nothing open. Well, it was Sunday.

We walked along a path we’d taken last year and using muscle memory as our guide, found our way up on to the path of the railway and along two of the three viaducts and on until we found the third viaduct which our path ran parallel to. We should probably have walked under it to complete the trilogy and take a look at the steam railway, but instead we followed the river downstream through two fields. The second field had disinterested sheep in it. They looked, saw us and went back to eating the grass. At the end of the track we found a totally unintelligible  sign written in legalese which seemed to say that we had to go back. We did what I always do in a situation like this. We followed the path and ignored the sign. If you can’t write English in England then don’t write this gibberish. Found our way back to Kirkby Stephen and from there back to the car.

Back at the house we arrived before the other two and grabbed the garage again.

I was chef for the night and I made the worst paella I’ve made in a long time. Really difficult to make a meal to serve 4 when you’re used to making it for 2. It’s not simply a case of doubling the ingredients. Also, trying to use someone else’s cooker didn’t help. Those are excuses, not reasons. As my dad would have said, Covered Lies. I will make something better next time.

Watched more Spitting Image tonight. Some episodes funnier than others.

PoD was a symphony of greens taken on the walk along the old railway.

Scamp may go looking for a pair of boots tomorrow as hers are hurting her feet.

Off the leash – 25 August 2021


Both of us!

Scamp was off to lunch today with two other witches. I thought I might do some phoning. First would be MPB to find out what was happening about the camera I was selling through them. I didn’t really think there was anything dodgy going on, but it’s wearing on for a fortnight since the confirmed that they had delivery of the parcel. That’s when the text came through to say they had checked the camera and agreed with my assessment of the condition. I sent my bank details and left them to the technicalities of whizzing the money over the ether.

Next phone call was to book the car in for its first service. Apparently they prefer the booking to be done online, so I went through all the hoops and the car goes in on Monday at 10am and will be ready by 12noon. Another tick in another box.

By that time, Scamp was ready to go to lunch and I’d one last phone call to make and that might be a make or break one. I was going to phone my brother who I’ve not spoken to for about six years. We correspond by email, but never speak. When I dialled the number it made a strange squeak and then nothing. No message to say that it was a wrong number or that the person was on another call, just nothing. I tried the landline because sometimes my phone gets a poor signal, but the result was the same. I’d been building up for this call and it never happened. I was disappointed. So, if you’re reading this, Alex, I did try, but presumably I’ve got an old number. Give me a ring or drop me an email and we’ll sort out this telephony stuff.

Next I wanted to renew my road tax, but when I tried the DVLA I got through to the menu, Chose the Tax My Car option and the connection went into hyperspace. The second time in about ten minutes that technology had let me down. I’d had enough. Instead of trying again, I got some bread flour, yeast, salt and oil. Added some water and kneaded my stress away.

Left the dough to prove, grabbed two cameras and camera bags, put them in the boot of the car and drove off into the … well, it was about 2 ‘o’ clock by then, so it wasn’t the sunset I was driving into, more like the sunSHINE, because it was another hot one today. I drove down to Auchinstarry, parked at the quarry and went for a long walk along part of the old railway to the Plantation. Crossed over there and walked back along the canal. Now usually if I’m walking with Scamp that will take us about half an hour to an hour. Today it took me two hours, because I was stopping a lot checking things and generally being a photog. The weather was beautiful. Almost a clear blue sky and hardly a breeze. PoD was a spider repairing its web. Getting rid of all the detritus that had been caught in it. Saw what might be a shield bug, or might be a beetle. I’ve asked for an ID on Flickr.

Came home to find Scamp sitting in the garden. Not content with going out for lunch, she’d come home and got started cutting the front grass. Then she complained that she should have cut the back grass too. I encouraged her to have a Pimms instead and I had a beer, then we sat in the garden she read her book, I listened to mine.

Dinner was a Pizza Pasta Combination (Half a pizza with a small bowl of pasta) for me and the other half of my pizza for Scamp.

Later I finally got through to DVLA using my phone as a wifi hotspot. It’s something to do with way the new modem deals with some websites. Must query it with Virgin who will deny it’s anything to do with them, of course.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow to go looking for a bank that sells beer!


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.

Away to meet Silvanus – 12 April 2021

It was a lovely day and we had already decided we’d go for a walk up Croy Hill.

Croy Hill is the easier of the two local hills. Bar Hill is a longer slog and nowhere near as dry underfoot as Croy Hill. Both of them were the sites of forts in Roman times. Little remains of the fort on Croy Hill, but on Bar Hill the remains are much more obvious. The initial climb was hard work, but then we’d a gentle rise up to the gate that leads on to the hill proper.

The hill was hoachin’ with walkers. Families, couples and solo walkers too, all headed up and over the hill from both east and west directions. I think one thing was attracting them. Rumour had it that there was a new occupant of the hill. He was over 6m tall and a bit of a hard man. Some called him Silvanus, the Roman’s spirit of the fields, but to me he was Heavy Heid. We were expecting to see him just outside Croy village, but there was no sign of the giant man. It wasn’t until we were walking down the other side towards Dullatur that we got our first sighting of Heavy Heid. He’s quite an impressive sight, looking out to the north and the wild tribes he was helping to protect the civilised southerners from. He was designed by Svetlana Kondakova and really looks the part of a roman centurion.

We took some photos of Heavy Heid, one of which became PoD and then headed back to the car by a lower path that turned out to be the track of an old mineral railway that carried the coal from a colliery near Auchinstarry to the steel making plants of Glasgow and the rest of the central belt. Found some Wood Sorrel plants which are related to Oxalis. Signage on the path could have been better, but luckily there were some walkers out today and they helped us by giving exact directions to get back to Auchinstarry.

Back home in time for lunch. It was an interesting walk. Strenuous climbs in places and then quiet walks through the woods beside the canal. A round trip too, which is always a good thing. I hate going for a walk and then having to come back along the same path. Much more satisfying to find a different way home.

Scamp was eager to get the front grass cut and she wanted the cutter raised on the mower. That change of height of only about 10mm made all the difference it seemed. She did the mowing, I did the strimming. It did look better when we were finished, even if I beheaded one of the daffs when I was strimming.

Tomorrow, Scamp is booked for a walk round St Mo’s with Veronica. I might finally do some painting. I’ll also need to have a look at the iMac which seemed to have a hissy fit tonight.


Lovely to look at but baby it’s cold outside – 21 March 2021

It was one of those days that looked inviting with blue skies and bright sun, but when you were out you felt the cold of the westerly wind.

I must admit that after lunch I was tempted to go out, it looked so sharp and clear with the blue sky and the sun. Eventually I gave in and grabbed the Sony fitted with the macro lens (unused today) and a Samyang 18mm in the bag. Almost immediately after parking at the station car park I changed the lenses round. The 18mm was going to be more useful today.

I walked along almost the Cumbersheugh length of the Luggie Water, an insignificant stream that used to hold some good sized trout, but is now so overfished that there is very little sport to be had. Carried on, crossing the road and walking down towards Condorrat, but couldn’t find much to interest me, or even to take the camera out of the bag. Turned and walked back and found a couple of paving stones that gave me access to a little drainage pond that empties out into the Luggie. Grabbed a very low viewpoint shot across the pond to a line of trees almost hiding the view of some houses. Seemed like that was one in the bag. I backtracked a bit and managed another low down shot of the Luggie itself with the railway bridge, poetically named Bridge SCM3 132/676, in the background. The 18mm is not the easiest lens to achieve spot on autofocus with, but it does take very good and very wide-angle photos for an economy price. Two in the bag. Of course, I took a lot more, because you can never be sure about photos. What looks good in the viewfinder may not turn out the way you’d hoped. It’s alway better to take a second (or third of fourth …) shot. So I did.

Back home it was Sea Bream with potatoes and carrots. Scamp thought the skin was underdone, but I disagreed. It smelled and tasted of the sea and the partly mashed carrots were brilliant!

In the dance class tonight we demonstrated just how badly we can dance rumba. Both of us made mistakes, me more than Scamp, of course. Then it was on to Tango with more opportunities for disasters and I did manage to provide them. I knew at the end of one ‘figure’, I should be pointing my left foot, but it just didn’t want to point. It’s a very well brought up foot and knows it’s rude to point. The right foot, however, is always ready to point, kick and tramp on any other feet in the vicinity and it gave me a proper showing up. In the end, the left foot got the idea and danced with pointed perfection.

Spoke to JIC on the phone later and he commiserated, knowing full well the problems with Tango. It’s a complete contrast to all the other dances we do. Not smooth, more staccato. Not a case of sliding your foot across the floor, more like stamping. It’s a nightmare. Well, it is for now!

PoD went to Bridge SCM3 132/676, but the little drainage pond got its day in the sun, literally. Both are on Flickr.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but we need bread and something for lunch, so a trip to the shops is not out of the question.


Butterflies, Viaducts and Beer – 17 September 2020

In that order!

The butterflies were feeding on ivy flowers on Frank’s Bridge in Kirkby Stephen. As far as I could tell they were all Red Admirals. They were taking a fair bashing from the honeybees whose territory they seemed to have invaded. The bees made their displeasure felt by apparently deliberately bumping them off the flowers. A strange behaviour I’ve never witnessed before.

Over the bridge, we were discussing which way to go, when a dog walker told us there was a great view from the hill beside the cricket ground. We thanked her and climbed the hill to the viewpoint at the top and she was correct. There was a great view all around from the top. Because the hill was fairly high, it was an uninterrupted view too. We met a couple from Durham who were also admiring the view. I took a few photos which turned into a 360º panorama which in turn would turn into a Tiny Planet. A bit of a cliché, but I haven’t done one in a long time, so that makes it ok. It became PoD, despite the fact that Scamp doesn’t like it.

Said goodbye to the Durham couple and walked down the other side of the hill and basically retraced our steps from Monday’s visit. Aha, but Scamp had other plans. After reaching the part where we would have turned right and walked back into town, we continued on using a wee lane to cut off a long corner on the road and almost reached a quarry entrance before we turned on to the old railway path. I like old railways, especially ones that have been turned into safe walkways that cut across country. It’s usually easy to imagine steam trains running along these arteries before Dr Beeching and his cuts destroyed the British rail network, back in the ‘60s. This one led immediately on to the Merrygill Viaduct over the Hartley Beck. We continued on to the Podgill Viaduct which crosses the Podgill Hole (!) which is another tributary of the River Eden.

There was a viewing gallery at the Podgill Viaduct, down 42 steps from the path. Fairly easy going down, but a killer coming back up. However it did give us a good view of the viaduct from below.

Climbed back up those 42 killer steps and walked back into the town. Got a seat quickly at the wee café Scamp had her eye on since Monday and had lunch there washed down with a half pint of Bitter & Twisted each, before heading back to the house. Well, we also had to stop for some bread and a cake each at the town bakers and some bulbs and another pot of marmalade from the deli.

Dinner tonight was a carry-out. Sim had phoned in an order for Chinese which JIC went to collect while I waited at Coast to Coast for three Fish & Chips. One door and a queue where you wait to place and pay for your order. Another where you queue to collect that order. One woman who shouts at you because you obviously don’t know how this works (she seems to be the only one who does) and one woman who for some reason treats you like a human. Good chips and excellent fish though.

More TV tonight and more pyrotechnics from the battlefield too.

Packing tonight, because it’s the long way home tomorrow.

Another energetic day – 21 July 2020

Out early and away for a walk

Should we go out for a walk in the morning or the afternoon? You will notice that in Scamp’s question there is no third way where we don’t go for a walk, simply a choice between the morning or afternoon. I chose Morning. Not to get it over with quickly, no of course not. But the sun was shining now and it seemed a shame to leave it until the afternoon because for the past few days, the weather has deteriorated as the day progressed (and to get it over with!)

We drove down to Auchinstarry and parked in front of what used to be the He Bo House, but has now been reduced to the the B Ho. It’s not open at present and I wonder if it will ever reopen. It would be a shame if it didn’t, because we both liked it in the second stage of its existence. The first owners were not the most welcoming of people, but the ones who took it over and revamped it had made a good job of creating a warm and comfortable atmosphere. It would be a great shame to lose it now through no fault of theirs. They must fix the sign though. B Ho doesn’t work. He Bo House is much better. I’ll suggest it to them when they open their doors again.

We walked along the canal to Twechar, avoiding fishermen, cyclists (especially the one who was sitting on the only seat along the canal, talking to his watch) and joggers. Foolishly I’d taken my rain jacket expecting showers that never came and wore it round my waist like a nylon kilt for most of the walk. We turned at Twechar and started back along the old railway path. The last time we were there, the council we presume had dumped piles of topsoil near places where the path had eroded into the River Kelvin, leaving about a 1.5m drop into the water for the unwary. Today the piles had been used to fill in the eroded parts with wooden piles driven into the banking to help hold it in place. Finally, coarse grass had been planted, not seeded, but planted. Presumably the roots will also help keep the new soil in place. Let’s hope it works.

Back home for lunch then Scamp was off to get ‘the messages’ or enough of them to make tonight’s dinner which was to be a stir-fry. I got myself ready to go for a walk, hoping to get some photos. When she returned, I walked down to the Mosswater nature reserve hoping to get some photos of dragonflies. No dragonflies or damselflies to be seen, but loads of ladybirds and one of them kindly presented itself for a photo opportunity. Difficult to get a sharp shot with an annoying breeze making everything move at the wrong time.

Walked back home and really, really enjoyed Scamp’s stir-fry with Tiramisu for pudding. Not a bad day with over 18,000 steps for me and over 12,000 steps for Scamp.

Tomorrow looks wet, very wet. An 80% chance of rain all day, that kind of wet. We may stay in.

Making the change – 14 October 2019

Today there will be no lying around. Today I will be active.

That’s what I said anyway. Out fairly early to drop off another sample at the doc’s. Don’t know what they find so fascinating about my pee, but it seems to keep them amused. Back home and today’s work schedule included cleaning the downstairs toilet. It didn’t take long, certainly not nearly as long as the bathroom last week. Probably that’s partly due to the fact that it’s a tiny little space. However I did give it the full “big clean” as one of my cleaners used to call it.

After that it was lunchtime and Scamp suggested I have a couple of slices of my excellent bread with some Wiltshire ham between. What makes the bread extra excellent is that it’s made by Prince Chic (Charles to you, but Chic to his friends). I don’t suppose Chic actually mills the flour himself, but it comes from his estate and it makes very good bread. It was also cheap at Waitrose or I wouldn’t have bought it.

When Gems came in I sat and talked to Margie for a while and showed her my sketches for Inktober. Margie is always very complementary about my work, but she produces some startling paintings herself. Veronica slipped a copy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year onto the table. It seems her son-in-law is a keen wildlife photog. I wouldn’t say that what I take are wildlife photos, more landscapes and macros. I like looking at landscape photos, but find it hard to compose them properly when I’m out and about with a camera. There’s no such problems with macros. With them the big challenges are more technical, like getting the aperture right and trying to get the best use of light. Also there’s the stalking of the tiny wee insects. Great fun, but not really artistic. On first glance at the photos in the book, I’m amazed at the quality and detail. I’ll have a good look before I have to give it back next week.

To continue the ‘active’ theme, I went for a walk along the canal and then on to the railway and that’s where I saw today’s PoD. It’s an old oak tree and I just liked the way the light hit the trunk. It was good to be out in the fresh air under  a blue sky for a change. Took a few more shots, but you’ll have to visit Flickr to see them.   Walking back along the canal, I saw a goosander surface quite close to me with a fish in its beak.  Knew I didn’t have time to grab the camera from my bag and focus, so I just watched it for a while.  It looked quite pleased with it’s early dinner.  Back to M&S for the makings of our own dinner and while I was traipsing around, I got the signal that I’d completed my 10,000 steps. Happy.

Dinner tonight met with a mixed reception. I thought it was great, Scamp was more critical. It was Prawns with Spaghetti and Courgette Spaghetti. Scamp didn’t like the dill that was in it, I didn’t mind. Maybe needs a bit of work.

The topic for today was “A Rowing Boat”. There aren’t many rowing boats lying around waiting to be sketched in the Central Belt of Scotland, so this one came straight out of my head. I quite liked it.

The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and then go to the seaside. Not sure if that will be east or west coast, but the weather looks like it will be fairly dry.