Meeting a man from the money trade – 31 May 2022

Our six monthly visit to Falkirk

We had an early morning appointment with a man who knows all the facts and figures and explains them with a large dose of humour. Always entertaining while he’s explaining how the world is turning.

With that done, the day was our own to play with and play in. First visit was to the Kelpies. I wasn’t sure exactly how to get there from deepest Falkirk. Unfortunately the sat nav wasn’t sure where we were. It was giving us the correct street names and the lady behind the map was giving the correct directions, but according to the map we were somewhere just south of Inverness. The electronics in this car are shot. However the lady with the posh voice knew where we were and where we wanted to go and she navigated us onto the road we recognised.

We parked and paid our £3. Three quid is pretty good value for a full day with the silver river horses. They alway radiate such a calm influence, it’s almost impossible to be down when you’re in their presence. We had a coffee and a coconut scone in the cafe and I took a few photos. We browsed the ‘gift’ shop but left without being tempted to buy any of the expensive merchandise. We walked round the ponds that the great beasts live in and that’s where I got PoD. It’s a bit spoilt by the pond scum. The council really should clean it up occasionally, just to make the photogs job easier.

We walked over the bridge that crosses the Forth & Clyde canal and walked along the towpath to the second bridge, recrossed the canal and drove over to Torwood, aided and abetted by that same posh lady who had in the interim fixed the display to show we were in Falkirk. Multi-talented she is.

I wanted some leeks and some curly kale at the garden centre, but there were no leeks to be had, so I had to be satisfied with the kale. Scamp collected some Violas and an orange Osteospermum. After a bit more browsing and deciding we couldn’t quite squeeze another plant pot into either front or back garden, we drove home.

Later in the afternoon Scamp planted out her new acquisitions while I made sure I did have a PoD. Actually I had quite a few contenders for that accolade, but the big wide shot of the Kelpies in their mucky bath won.

Dinner was Potatoes with Bubble & Squeak plus Haddock for Scamp and a Burger for me.

We watched another episode of Silent Witness, but maybe we’re being too critical, but it seems a bit of a fairytale these days. Too many unlikely scenarios. I suppose we must remember, It’s Not Real!

Tomorrow I’m booked to see the nurse at 4pm, but the rest of my time is my own. Scamp might have the whole day to herself!

Off the leash – 17 December 2021

Scamp was out at a Witches Christmas lunch at Moira’s. Do witches ‘do’ Christmas? Isn’t that an oxymoron? Or am I just showing off now? Answers on a postcard please.

That was after a rather fractious morning. I thought we were going to Torwood and Scamp thought we were going to Calders. After a dodgy manoeuvre crossing lanes in a thankfully fairly quiet motorway and a great deal of swearing on my part and silence on Scamp’s we did arrive safely at Calders. Later I apologised and agreed that she was right (as always).

Then, heading home empty handed, Calders not having the plant she was looking for, we dropped in at Tesco, looking for a box big enough to pack some (a lot of ) Christmas prezzies. Again I returned empty handed. No packing boxes big enough for our needs. We tried M&S, but still no packing boxes. Finally I tried Iceland and asked one of the assistants if they had any empty cardboard boxes. She asked how big and I made the usual accurate dimensions by holding my hand, palms facing and moved them from about 300mm to about 1m apart. Yes, about that size. She returned with a box nearly big enough to fit my car in. Yes, I said, that would do nicely. Thanked the young lady and we drove home with the box, now folded down, still taking up all the space in the back of the car.

After we’d bundled the box out of the car we had just enough time for a coffee before we headed off to Dunnipace to Moira’s house. As we were heading east, the sky was lightening and there was blue sky out there. After I dropped Scamp off at the lunch / party, I headed further east, asking the sat nav to give me directions to Kincardine in the Kingdom of Fife. It found it without any problem and soon I was driving over the Kincardine Bridge and parking.

I took the Benbo tripod with me. It lives most of its life in the boot of the blue car. Took my Sony A7 too. I knew where I was heading and soon I was set up on a strip of sand by the river with just enough time for half a dozen shots before the tide started lapping around the feet of the tripod. I moved back to the asphalt path and walked round the bridge itself, marvelling at the light and the open space here. Less than half an hour later I was walking back to the car, talking on my phone to Fred who had phoned me for a wee blether. After we’d said our bit and then said our goodbyes, I drove home with enough time for a plate of soup before the Tesco man brought three boxes of messages. I just decanted everything from their crates and left them on the work surface, the cooker lid and anywhere they’d sit safely, then phoned Scamp for an update on the time to pick her up.

Checked the photos and knew right away that they were a good set. Fifty three shots taken, five rejected immediately. That left 48 good sharp shots. That must be a success record for me. Phoned Scamp at 5pm to tell her I was on my way. I always get lost going into Moira’s estate. Today I’d set myself markers and knew where to turn left and when to turn right. For some reason it worked perfectly. Spoke to the witches. Moira as welcoming as ever and Annette pretending she was drunk and convincing nobody. It’s all just a laugh and good friendship. Unfortunately Covid had put an end to the Auld Guys coffee mornings in Costa and beers in The Horseshoe Bar. Maybe they’ll return next year, but I have my doubts. Dinner for me was a rather excellent, but gigantic pizza. Half waiting for me for lunch tomorrow.

The real bad news of the day was that the dance class has failed to generate enough interest from dancers this week and Stewart informed us that it is with regret that tomorrow’s class is cancelled. I hope this is all to do with last minute Christmas shopping and not Covid and it will return stronger in the new year.

PoD was a picture of the Kincardine Bridge with afternoon sunshine lighting it up.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere scenic and somewhere without shops.

Like being on holiday – 13 November 2021

Back to our regular Saturday class, in a different venue.

Breakfast in the restaurant of the hotel. Just like being on holiday in Lanzarote or Fuerteventura, but just a tad cooler. Not self service either, but the same food choices. Tinned fruit cocktail for each of us, then a choice of eggs, sausage (veg and pork) hash browns, beans, tomatoes and bacon. I suppose you could have had all of the above if you wanted, but we restricted ourselves to what we felt was appropriate. Restaurant was busy, but we got the chance to share a table, strangely enough with two of the folk who had been at our table last night.

After breakfast, Scamp and I went for a walk through the town that was just waking up. Strange to see Perth at this early hour. We walked down to ‘The Ship’ which is really the viewing platform. A curved platform that cantilevers out over the river and gives you the feeling that you are indeed on a ship. Walked back to the hotel ready to start the class.

The lesson today was the Vogue Waltz. As usual, it looked impossible when the teachers danced it through. Then we had the step by step walk through and it began to look possible. Danced the whole thing and the individual figures began to fit together. The problem, as always would be when we tried to dance it again after an hour or so.

Afternoon was free time. We went for a coffee in Nero then walked over the middle bridge of the three over the river to the gardens on the other side. Bright sunny autumn day. Beautiful colours in the trees and we found a couple of ponds with great reflections of the church. Walked down as far as the railway bridge and then walked back through the gardens to the upstream bridge. Watched two punters, one in a kayak and the other on a paddle board making light work of the rapids below the bridge. Got some coffee, tea and a replacement plunger for my Aeropress at the Bean Shop. By then we decided it was lunch time and I suggested a pizza in Pizza Express. I had a pizza, Scamp had a chicken salad. Both filled a wee space! Time to go back and get ready.

Posh frock and suit for dinner. It was meant to be a black tie event. I had a black tie, but no black suit, so my dark grey one would have to do. Dinner was much the same as the yesterday’s. Service was even slower than usual. Waiter seemed to stomp of in the huff when a bloke at our table complained of a draught from the door into the kitchen. He didn’t seem to want to serve the coffee after the meal. Eventually Scamp had to ask for coffee and he did serve it, if reluctantly. You just can’t get the staff these days. We were a full complement at the table tonight with a couple from Dundee taking the last two seats. Bloke as a bit of a pain, complaining that they shouldn’t have same sex couples on Strictly and that they needed a man and a woman as presenters, not two women. His wife was extremely condescending and just wanted to talk about herself and her family. Nice dancers, nasty people. Glad when they had to leave early.

We danced all night, completing another two salsa routines with Peter and Gillian. Was that ‘completing’ or ‘competing’? I’m not too sure! It was fun whatever slant you take.

Dragged ourselves off to bed just after midnight.

Today’s PoD was that reflection of the church I mentioned.

Just an hour’s ‘tea dance without the tea’ tomorrow. Then it’s the long road home.

A day in the Toon – 11 November 2021

The first for a long while.

We got parked on level 4 of Buchanan Galleries, which a couple of years ago would have been impossible. Today there were lots of spaces on level 4, and I even missed a few on level 3.

First stop was Paesano for a lunchtime pizza. Even Paesano was quiet today. Maybe something to do with COP26 or maybe something to do with the ongoing pandemic. Whatever it is, it’s not a good sign. Pizzas were lovely. My number 3 (anchovy and olive) had a few more slices of garlic than normal and I liked that. Scamp had her new normal number 1 (tomato sugo, no cheese no cheese extra rocket and mushrooms) was perfect for her. Her usual complaint was that the base was too thin.

While I went for a walk in the sunshine down to a charity shop in the merchant city to look for an old manual lenses and then on to Cass Art to see what was going cheap, Scamp was going clothes shopping. We agreed to meet later in Buchanan Galleries.

Only one lens in the charity shop and it was an M42 thread teleconverter. Something that goes between the camera and the lens to increase the focal length. Makes the lens into a telephoto, in other words. Not what I was looking for. Maybe next time.

Cass Art had a sale on with 20% off across the board. Not an ‘up to’ 20% reduction, just an honest 20% off everything. I bought two ‘concertina’ A5 sketch books and a bright red bag to carry then in.

Walking back to meet Scamp, I found today’s PoD, a queue of punters waiting at a bus stop outside Queen Street station with a sign above that read “Now is the time to come”. We’ve all stood at a bus stop willing the bus to come! Scamp hadn’t found any clothes that she was happy to spend money on, but she did find some pretty coloured and smelling shower gel.

Met Scamp and remembered that I needed a black belt for the weekend. Not the most exciting thing, but I found what I was looking for in JL. We went home. The clouds were gathering by then and I think we had had the best of the day.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk to the shops and it started raining. It’s definitely raining now. Just what the weather fairies predicted.

Tomorrow morning I’m off for my ‘annual’ checkup with the nurse. The first in almost two years.

The first day of freedom to roam – 16 April 2021

Scamp got the choice of where to got today on our first legal cross border foray.

Anyone who knows Scamp could have predicted the trio of places she’d gladly go to on our first day of freedom. Troon would be high on the list, Cramond would also be up there, but the top destination would always be The Kelpies. So today we drove out of North Lanarkshire and into Falkirk Region which is where the Kelpies live, surfacing from the concrete just between Falkirk and Grangemouth at the end of the Forth & Clyde canal. When left the motorway and headed through Helix Park there were crowds of kids in the park and we thought we wouldn’t be able to get parked. In fact I was racking my brains to decide where else we could go. I needn’t have worried, the canny folk of Falkirk and around didn’t want to pay to see the Kelpies, so the three quid charge for a day’s parking forced them to park about a mile away at the Falkirk football ground where parking is free.

The two enormous horses apparently rearing out of the canal should inspire terror on first sight, but they don’t for us. They have a calming effect. Every time we’ve visited them it’s been this air of calm that has descended and everyone we’ve taken there has felt it too. The place was busy, but there was enough open space for everyone to find a vantage point to photograph or simply take in the view of these statues. We had an ice cream cone and sat and watched the world go by. Then we walked over the outfall of the canal and on to the other side.

The last time we were walking along the towpath of the canal we’d bumped into my ex-boss and mentor with his wife. Today, at exactly the same spot we bumped into Dave and Maureen again. Took a few minutes to catch up and then they headed off to meet their grandkids and we walked along to the next bridge over the canal and back past the giant horses again.

We found a bloke selling pizzas from a portable pizza oven and we agreed that we’d found our lunch. First time we’ve ‘eaten out’ in months and here we were out in a different county, sitting in the sun eating a mushroom pizza that was wafer thin and extremely hot and tasty.

I’d taken a few shots, but as usual I’d failed to capture the essence of the Kelpies. Today’s offering is a view from the towpath of the statues reflected in the canal with a family preparing for a sail up the canal on their boat. We agreed it must be good to just take your boat for a sail any day you wanted to. I doubt if I’ll ever know, unless my lottery numbers come up and I believe you have to buy ticket first before you have any chance of that happening.

We heard a loud spoken bloke who apparently lived on one of the houseboats moored there that the boat is always moving, except one time. If the boat isn’t moving under you, it means it’s frozen solid in the ice. I’d never considered that before. We said goodbye to the Kelpies and drove home.

Back home I took the Sony out for a walk. I wasn’t really looking for any more photos, which was lucky as I didn’t find any. I did find enjoy the walk and talked myself through some things that are changing in my photography. I’m thinking about selling one of my cameras and a load of lenses that I don’t use any more. I’ll still keep a couple of bits of glass because there’s nothing in the Sony range that does what they do. I put a prospective list in to MPB last night and got offered a favourable price. I’m leaving a final decision until after the weekend.

We had a dance practise tonight. I still can’t quite manage the steps for the end of the Tango routine, but the rest of the dances worked quite well.

It’s my turn to choose a destination for tomorrow and I have somewhere in mind. We’ll see what the weather’s like in the morning. Today was an excellent choice, Scamp. A very good day.

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.

The shortest day – 21 December 2020

We don’t get much light at the best of times, but today was dark.

When I started the car this morning to drive up to the town centre, the headlights came on. It was just after 10.30am. Today was the Shortest Day.  The Winter Equinox.  I was going to meet Val for coffee and a wee technology catchup. When we were waiting to be served one of the staff in Costa was a bit too aggressive, shouting at us to step back, step back. He seemed to think that the 2m distance measures on the floor were underestimates. I realise they are under pressure, but they have to realise that their customers are people and treat them appropriately. I didn’t shout at him, why should he shout at me. The rest of the staff were relaxed and treated all the customers with good humour. “One bad apple … “

We spent an interesting hour or so, catching up and discussing Val’s new electronics projects using Arduino kits which remind me of the electronics boards we used in school for a while in Tech Studies. He’s really getting into this area of experimentation which is not surprising with his electronics background and his programming skills learned from the Raspberry Pi.

After I left him I went to look for a pair of walking boots to replace the leaky Merrells. The only place in Cumbersheugh where you can get them is Sports Direct. None of the boots they had on display looked like they would be better than the Merrells, in fact one of them proudly displayed the fact that they weren’t waterproof. Really? What use are walking boots that don’t even claim to be waterproof? Are they only for wearing indoors. I could almost forgive them if they had been fashionable, but they just look like big clumpy brown boots, boots that would melt in the rain, though. I went home.

After lunch we headed back out again, this time to Tesco and got a turkey crown that didn’t cost as much as the Queen’s Crown. It was a bit smaller and didn’t have the bacon wrapping that the M&S offering had, but I’m sure it will be dressed up well once Scamp gets started.

After we got back and stored all the food away, I went for a walk in St Mo’s. It was already growing dark, but I wanted to take a photo outside on the shortest day of the year. I got a few candidates, but PoD went to an almost monochrome shot of reeds reflected in the still waters of the pond. A few ripples too to add some texture. If you look carefully you can see little green leaves showing above the water.

I made tomato soup for dinner and it was so good, Scamp, after finishing her first bowl, immediately refilled it. Having said that, it could have been the croutons that brightened it up. More left for lunch tomorrow.

We missed the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn tonight. It happened around 5pm and apparently would have looked like the Star of Bethlehem, except in the north-west not the east. Perhaps it did look spectacular, but we wouldn’t have been able to see it because it was raining at the time of the conjunction. The rain coming from the big black clouds that covered the whole sky. Gallingly, those clouds rolled away later, once both planets were below the horizon.

Tomorrow Scamp’s car is getting its windscreen repaired. It’s got a crack , down near the dashboard and that crack isn’t going to get any smaller, so she bit the bullet and paid the excess so that person from Autoglass would come to the house and repair it. Other than that, nothing else we need to do, except watch the days lengthen as we head towards Spring.

Lockdown Blues – 20 December 2020

We’re not really there yet, but we know it’s coming.

I suppose I should get the pencils sharpened and the pens refilled for more lockdown sketches, because we are being condemned to at least three weeks of virtual lockdown as Nic puts most of Scotland into level 4 as a precaution. Yes, it makes sense, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

We were entertained by Andrew Marr this morning tearing at the poor health minister Matt Hancock like a demented Jack Russell. The poor man hardly got a chance to answer one question before another two were being fired at him by Marr. I think we both felt just a little bit sorry for him. He managed to parry a few of Marr’s thrusts, but I’m sure he felt punch drunk after doing down for the third time in round two.

It was a dull day weather wise too. A bit wet at times, but mainly just grey. However I got my boots on, grabbed the camera bag and headed off to get some photos. My first stop was the tree where the little ladybird had been hibernating before my too bright light disturbed it. At first I couldn’t see it, then I found it about 50cm further up the trunk. Grabbed a few shots, both with the old Sigma lens and also with the Sony. The Sony won hands down, but now I realise that the anti-shake wasn’t set to the correct focal length for the Nikon which is quite an old lens and doesn’t send all its information to the camera electronically. Still, I got a few shots to remind me of where it was.

The ladybird didn’t make PoD, but another spot in the woods gave me a pretty landscape type shot. It looks so calm, but beyond that fence there is a four lane motorway with all sorts of vehicular transport rumbling along it day and night, summer and winter. There’s hardly a ripple on that wee stream to distort the tree reflections. PoD, even before I processed it. I also grabbed a mono shot of some weeds which completes a full week of monochromatic images.

Spoke to JIC in the evening and found out that both he and his sister are in level 4. That’s the whole family in it! Have we been bad or something? Is it because I called the respective leaders Bumbling Boris and The Littlest Witch? If so, I’m sorry, but they both deserve it. The leaders, not the siblings, that is.

Dinner tonight was Haggis, Neeps and Tatties. What a brilliant brightener for a dull day. Just as long as you don’t ask what was in the haggis. You don’t want to know.

That was about it for today. Hoping to meet Val for coffee and some technological chat tomorrow and then Scamp and I might visit Tesco to look for a turkey, a small one, if such a thing exists.

Season of mists – 9 November 2020

Today dawned a bright day. Too good to stay in.

By 11am we were walking along past what was The Hebo House restaurant until they fixed the sign. Anyway we were walking past it and up on to the towpath of the Forth & Clyde canal. The view along the canal with Barr Hill in the distance covered by low cloud or mist, I’m not sure which was too good to miss, so I grabbed the chance to take a few photos. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of swans flying overhead and waited a second or two to grab one shot of a trio of swans flying over. Just a pity I didn’t get their reflection in the canal.

We walked on down to the old railway line path from Auchinstarry to Twechar. It appears that the work on upgrading the paths is ongoing and will be so until mid December. We crossed over at the plantation and back up onto the canal towpath again from there we walked back to Auchinstarry and the car which was patiently waiting for us. On the way back we noticed someone had formed a wee flower and a heart from copper wire and mounted it on a tree stump. It looked really good sitting there in the sun and I grabbed a shot or two of it. By the time we got home the light was disappearing and the mist was coming down.

Not satisfied with the photos I’d taken, although they looked good on the ‘puter, I went out for a walk in the afternoon to see if St Mo’s had anything to offer. I think I left it too long. The mist and clouds were now obliterating the sun and destroying any decent light, so I was struggling to get anything decent. I did try a few shots of spiders on the whin bushes, but they were too small in the frame and difficult to focus on, so I gave up. The PoD would be the canal with the flypast of the swans, with second prize going to the wee flower sculpture.

We had booked a WhatsApp video call with an agent from Scottish Gas to give us a quote for a new boiler. In these Covid days it seems that visual visits are the way things are being done. When he phoned to confirm he asked if it would be ok to use new software they were trialling instead of WhatsApp and we agreed. After a false start we got connected and he took us through the areas he needed to photograph to get the information to build the quote. About fifteen minutes later he called back with the quote and then emailed the details to us. An interesting and useful exercise. Now we need to get a comparative quote from a local gas fitter.

Watched a Nigella recipe programme tonight where she made a curry whose main constituent parts were cauliflower and chopped up banana skins. I’m not sure I’m ready for that yet.

No plans as yet for tomorrow, although weather looks a bit like today.

Pizza! – 10 September 2020

Today we were heading for Glasgow.

A bit of window shopping in JL but nothing even barely whetted my appetite, so we went for a walk down Bucky Street and then I suggested we see if we could get a table in Paesano. We got there just after it opened, so we could get a table. We had our details taken and our temperature checked and were deemed fit and healthy enough to eat a pizza. We had our favourites. Scamp had her own design No1: (Tomato sugo, oregano, olive oil, no garlic, no cheese, extra rocket.)
I had a No 3: (Tomato sugo, capers, olives, anchovies, mozzarella and olive oil)
They arrive about three minutes after we ordered them. Even after we had finished and paid and were on our way out, the place wasn’t nearly as busy as it used to be. Surely this new-normal can’t stay this way. Things must change.

I had a wander round CassArt and got the Posca white acrylic paint brush I was looking for, a sketchbook of kraft paper and a white marker. Rather a frugal amount. I was being careful. Just a few things I can’t get anywhere else.

Had a coffee in Nero but it felt watery and tasteless, partly because it was filling the entire cardboard cup which must have been a ‘large’ size and the server probably thought that a ‘regular’ in that big cup looked a bit mean. Next time I’ll ask for a ‘regular’ size in a half cup. Maybe I’m spoilt now by my own version of coffee from the De’Longhi, but before Covid, Nero made good coffee. This stuff tasted like Costa. Not impressed.

Grabbed a couple of street shots outside the GOMA in Queen Street, but wasn’t all that impressed with the result. Also tried to get some reflections from the frontage of the new Queen Street Station, but there was too much rubbish lying around, destroying the effect. Once it get’s cleaned up, possibly by the end of the century it might be possible to get better shots. As it was, a digitally altered shot of the GOMA got PoD.

Had the second batch of our potatoes for dinner tonight. Mine with bacon and mixed beans, Scamp chose not to have the bacon and stuck to Potatoes and Beans. Both were very nice, but then again, these were Artisan Potatoes!

That’s about it for today. Tomorrow there is rain forecast and lots of it too. Lovely!