Climbing and Flying – 1 September 2021

The assault on Croy Hill, the reverse direction.

Scamp suggested we go and visit Silvanus, the Roman warrior’s head that stands on the edge of Croy Hill, and instead of walking the usual path from Croy itself, we could walk along the canal and up on to the old railway line and tackle the hill from the north. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and sun, so the walk seemed like a good idea, but first I wanted a closer look at a plane.

We’ve seen and heard a Spitfire flying around the town and I wanted a closer look. With that thought in mind we drove up to Wardpark and past the airfield, but saw no evidence of the old warbird. Disappointed I drove over to Kilsyth and from there to Auchinstarry where we parked and put on sensible walking boots for the walk.

I’d forgotten just how steep the climb was from the canal up to the old mineral line, but thankfully once we had reached that path, most of the hard work was done and we were on level ground for a stretch. The statue of Silvanus was much further along than we remembered, but as we were walking I could hear the sound of the Spitfire’s Merlin engines although I couldn’t see the plane itself. I checked with Flightradar24 and found that the plane was almost over Carron Reservoir, about 5 miles away. The sound of the plane faded as it dropped behind the hills. We walked on and as we neared the statue we could hear it returning. This time, with the help of Flightradar I found it heading straight for us. I took a few photos of it before it banked and overflew the airfield before climbing and performing a neat slow roll. Then it turned and headed back with flaps and undercarriage down. A few more photos before it disappeared over the hill to the airfield. I wasn’t sure I’d captured it, but at least it was better than nothing. A little bit of research at home led me to its website. You can book a flight in this two seater Spitfire. £3,000 will get you a 30 min flight in this old lady, which is five years older than me. I may have to save my pennies for a long time before I book that flight!

We met a bloke at the statue who was a Kilsyth local and was impressed that he’d ID’d the Spitfire. He wasn’t a fan of the Silvanus head, but like us was pleased that it hadn’t been vandalised in the time it had been up on the hill. We said our goodbyes and headed up over the hill while he seemed to take a lower path. I must admit I was wary of the hill because we’d passed notices to say that the cattle were back on the hill for the winter. These cattle are big brutes, if I remember right and I don’t like cattle at the best of times. “The best of times “ being when there’s a fence between them and me. There are no fences on Croy Hill. However we didn’t meet any today and we took the ‘easier’ paths where they were available, missing out the tourist routes over the tops.

When we had passed the top and were coming down the other side I realises Scamp wasn’t behind me. I walked back, expecting to find her having a seat somewhere. She was nowhere to be seen. I shouted for her, twice, but no response. I changed to a wider path that was closer to the edge and there she was. Did she not hear me shouting? Yes, she had. That could have been a time to pick up a ‘black monkey’, but for some reason I didn’t lose it. I think I was just glad to see she hadn’t come to any harm. She said she was on the right path and knew I’d eventually realise I was on the wrong one. That could be the story of my life!

When we got back to the car it was absolutely boiling inside. Drove home with the air con on full. It was lovely.

I spent the afternoon cleaning the sensors of the two Sonys. They seem to be absolute dust magnets. They are a bit cleaner now. Not perfect, but a lot better than they were. After that I got a request from Jamie to fix a photo for Sim. It was a fairly easy bit of editing, made even easier by the new Photoshop. Scamp was cleaning up the leaves in the back garden and managed to scrape both arms raking leaves from under the blackcurrant bush. Then it was Guinness and Pimms time in the garden, in the sun.

Fish & Fried Potatoes with tomatoes for dinner. A new twist on Fish & Chips. After that we sat in the garden while I listened to the end of my Alan Parks book, Bobby March Will Live Forever. Good story with a poor reader. It was there I got PoD. I was looking at a wee single sweet pea flower backlit by the setting sun. It took a wee bit of editing to get it looking like my eyes saw it, but that’s what Lightroom excels at.

A quick practise tonight. Just about half an hour at the most, but we covered Tango, Waltz, Cha Cha and Bossa Nova in that time.

Tomorrow Scamp is intending to go for lunch with Isobel, June and Ian. I’m hopefully meeting Val for coffee in a different place, but at almost at the same time. Scamp and I will be able to compare and contrast our experiences!

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.

 

A beautiful day – 19 November 2020

If only we could decide what to do with it.

Neither of us could decide where to go on what would be our last free day before Lockdown 2 happened. Finally Scamp said “Take me to the Kelpies” so that’s what I did. We drove to Grangemouth on a cold, day with a temperature in single digits, low single digits.

The giant horse statues looked as magnificent as ever and even better because there were no people standing around them taking selfies or pouting at their phones. We walked round them, admired them and told them just how impressive they were. They already knew, but accepted our praise in dignified silence.

We found a new path that took us round the outskirts of the sewage treatment works that was producing the awful smell. I don’t know if it was the direction the wind was blowing that was causing it, or maybe they only switch on the machinery at night in the summer to cause less offence to visitors, but it was certainly working at full blast today. The path took us along the side of the River Carron. It wasn’t the most interesting walk and we gave up after a while to walk back and go along the canal this time. It was on this path that I got PoD. Looking down the canal towards the Ochil Hills with the sun lighting up the Kelpies. It was good to be in the right place at the right time for once. We were going to have a quick coffee at the information centre, but there were a few folk waiting to get in and it was too cold to hang around. We drove home and had some “Just Soup” instead.

In the afternoon we walked down to the shops for last minute essentials for dinner (veg chilli with one of our own chillies) on the way back, Scamp offered to go straight back which allowed me half an hour to grab some more shots in St Mo’s. The Samyang was carefully supervised and although it did miss focus a couple of times, most of the shots were on target. It didn’t affect the PoD, that remained with the Kelpies.

Tonight we cleared out the boiler cupboard and now there’s garden stuff all over the house. Boiler arrives tomorrow between 7am and 9am. Engineer arrives about 9am and it’s going to be pouring by the look of the weather fairies’ report. It might be a long day.

Because of the above, we have no plans for tomorrow.

Old Friends – 29 July 2020

Today we went to see a couple of old friends.

Scamp and I went for a wee run today to see a couple of old friends. One with his head always down. Some folk say he’s watching you. The other one has his head high. Some think he’s in pain, I think he’s laughing out loud at all these little folk around him. It’s ages since we’ve visited the Kelpies, not been there for months and I think Scamp was looking forward to seeing them again. I must admit I was too. Because of the Covid-19 restrictions, the Visitor Centre was closed, but there was an ice cream van and it seemed a shame on quite a sunny day not to have one each. We walked around them and then followed our noses to the lock that allows boats access to the River Carron and thence to the Forth Estuary and the sea. We were waiting to allow a couple to cross the narrow walkway over the lock gates when I recognised them. One was a teacher in the school when I started and the other was his wife. We stood and talked for a while about our respective families. We also talked about folk we’d known and worked with, some of whom are no longer with us. Eventually we had to go, but as usual when something like that happens throughout the afternoon little snippets of memories drop into place. A nostalgic meeting. They walked back to their car and we carried on with our walk on the far side of the canal.

For all the times we’ve visited the Big Horses, this is the first time we’ve crossed the canal and seen them from the other side. You get a completely different view of them from the other side and best of all there are no pylons or power lines to erase from the resulting photographs. Today’s PoD came from the bridge further back upstream, if you can have an upstream is a canal. I’d never photographed them from that viewpoint before and it’s such a natural choice with the Ochil Hills in the background.

Back home after lunch, Scamp wanted to prune back the blackcurrant bush in the hopes that she can get rid of the virus or insects that are damaging it, I don’t think either of us is really sure that it will work, but if we don’t try, we’ll never know. I got my hands dirty planting some more carrots and kale into pots to go in the greenhouse. The kale should be ok, but I’m not sure if the carrots will work. I’ve never been successful with transplanting root crops. I also bit the bullet and spread slug pellets in the raised bed. I don’t like using them where I’m growing stuff to eat, but I reckon it’s the slugs that have taken all the carrot plants I had there. There are definitely traces of slugs on the well eaten kale leaves. I checked them and there are no signs of caterpillars, so slugs are the best bet. Let’s hope they like their last meal of blue slug pellets.

That was about it for the day. A day at the Kelpies is always uplifting, but meeting another couple of old friends just made it extra special.

Tomorrow rain is forecast, so we may ‘Go for the Messages.”

Another gardening day – 9 June 2020

For Scamp it was. I was only the labourer.

Scamp set out in the morning with her tool belt on ready to do battle with the Pieris and the Rhododendron. She worked like a trojan scraping away the moss and compacted top soil on both, then pruned the pieris then together we hauled it around until it was sitting in a better position. My job for the day was to repot the Rosemary which had been stuck in a rather small pot for quite some time now and we’d been promising it a new pot with fresh compost for a while now. Today was the day. Again, it was moved to a sunnier spot in the garden, although there wasn’t a lot of sun for it to sit in today. It was all a bit dull and grey.

After lunch we walked to the shops to get tortilla wraps, broccoli and smoked salmon for tonight’s dinner which was to be quick quiche. Found the recipe in an old newspaper where they used a tortilla wrap instead of shortcrust pastry for the base and sides of the quiche. What a difference it makes. Done in half the time with no faffing around chilling the pastry or blind baking.

Walked back and it felt like there was just the hint of rain in the wind. I decided to ignore it and go for a walk in St Mo’s just to make sure I had a photo for today. I saw a bloke fly fishing in the pond. I’ve heard of Fly Fishing in Yemen, but this must be the first time I’ve seen anyone fly fishing in the pond at St Mo’s. I suppose it’s possible to catch perch or maybe even a small pike with a fly, but usually it’s blokes with umbrellas, gigantic bait boxes and a six pack of Tennents or the sneaky little bottle of Bucky who sit there all day. This bloke was standing and moving. He was doing some nifty casts too. It might take you some time to see him, he’s well camouflaged! That photo got PoD. Those eagle eyed out there might have noticed in the photo that there were a lot of rain splashes in the water. I decided to cut short my walk and head for home, only having a hoodie as rain protection.

The quiche was lovely. Broccoli and smoked salmon. Something Jackie taught me up in Skye. It’s a very good combination. Scamp made another quiche, a Quiche Lorraine, but the flavours weren’t as strong as the first one.

Target for today was to Draw Something Huge. After a great deal of thought, I decided on the head-up kelpie. I can’t remember if he is Duke or Baron, all I know is that the head-down kelpie likes to be called Harry the Happy Kelpie, but that’s something he told me and it’s supposed to be a secret, so don’t go blabbing it. Pencil rough then Lamy ABC kids fountain pen (great for sketching), then a gentle water wash to give some light shadows. Always difficult to sketch such an icon, but I think I got away with it.

Tomorrow it looks wet for most of the afternoon. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong. I hope I am.

Quarterly blood letting – 27 January 2020

Some days have a wall. Something that has to be surmounted. Today it was bloodletting at midday.

Today it was time for my quarterly blood test. I felt a bit like Hancock when he hears that he has to give “a whole pint”. As the nurse counted out the four sample tubes and gaily filled them with my vital fluid, I wondered if I had any left in my body. When I got back home I found out that I did have and some of it was leaking past the plaster she’d stuck on. Not a lot, just a dribble, but you can’t go losing blood like that. I need all mine. Now I’ve just to wait until the end of the week to see if I need to meet the nurse to discuss the results or if it’s just an OK over the phone. Expecting the former, hoping for the latter.

After getting past the wall I relaxed a bit. Went out to post my old driving licence back to the DVLA, get my old dance shoes re-soled and heeled and get some more black ink to use with the adapter, or converter to use the correct term, for my collection of Lamy pens. At present the Fisk black ink is winning. It’s permanent, but doesn’t seem to have any shellac in its composition, so doesn’t clog the nib of the fountain pen. Still one more to check and that’s the W&N one I was going to get today in Hobbycraft. Almost got the full set done. Forgot to post the licence, but got the shoes booked in and I got the ink too. Bought myself an LED daylight bulb for use in a lamp in the back bedroom while I was in Hobbycraft.

While I was out I took the chance of dropping in at Drumpellier to grab a photo of some of the waterbirds on the loch. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Entitled “A Tall Tail” it’s a sculpture in the middle of the loch that makes a great perch for the gulls. I think I entertained a couple sitting having coffee in their car. They couldn’t understand what the hell I was doing, apparently taking photos of, well, nothing much. Obviously didn’t understand that that’s what photogs do most of the time with the sole purpose of puzzling the Muggles.

Back home, Gems were gone, leaving only their dirty tea cups and a few uneaten biscuits. Not long after I got there, Scamp returned from dropping them off. Sat for a while tweaking the aforementioned PoD and then we had half the dinner – soup. The other half we’d have when we returned from dance class.

I must admit, although I miss salsa on a Monday night, I don’t miss the drive in to Glasgow or back out again, especially when Rangers are playing and half of Scotland squeezes on to the M8 in front of me. We had been practising the Waltz all week and do you know, the teacher didn’t even ask us to show off our prowess at that dance. However, we have now mastered the first half of the Foxtrot routine and have a fair understanding of how the second half works. We can also Saunter Together quite adequately. Next week we add both halves of that dance together to make our first real sequence dance! The new black and white dance shoes seem to work. We only stayed for an hour tonight, but may try another hour on a Wednesday when she starts another new class in Condorrat.

Just before I started this, the snow began. It was fairly heavy for a while, but it’s just light now and although the temperature is just above freezing, I don’t think it will last until morning. That’s a pity because I could take some snowy pictures.

Tomorrow Scamp is booked for lunch with Mags and I’m determined to post that DVLA letter. Whether I manage that or not is the question!

On the bus today – 23 January 2020

Still sticking to the “up and out” ideal, (yes that was Ideal, not Idea!) just not driving today.

Walked to Condorrat to get the fast bus in to Glasgow. In the town we went for coffee first and then went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went looking for a cheap tartan skirt for the tartan ball. I went to look at a camera in Jessops. Found the camera, but the security cable on it was about 20cm long. How am I supposed to try out a camera that I can’t even get up to eye level? Gave up. Next one I wanted to look at had a similarly short steel cable and also the attaching clip was pointed straight at me. If I’d managed to get the camera to eye level, that clip would have caused me an injury. When an assistant asked me if she could help, I tried to explain the danger of the protruding clip. She then explained condescendingly that they need the security because “.. people do try to steal things you know …”. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the security cable, but the protruding clip that I was concerned about. She seemed to realise that a sale was not imminent and finished the conversation by asking if there was anything else she could help me with. I said “Don’t bother, I’ll just take my business elsewhere.” Jessops seems to be in trouble, financially, again. With staff like her, I can understand why.

Still fizzing, I met with Scamp further down the road. She hadn’t found a skirt. We tried one of the plethora of cheap ’Scottish’ shops that have invaded Glasgow and Edinburgh. Kilts made from cloth you could spit peas through, for £15. Nothing she would demean herself with there either. We agreed to split up again and meet up in Princes Square.

I was looking for a refillable reservoir for one of my Lamy pens, because ’28 Drawings Later’ is looming next Saturday, the 1st of February. I expected I would get one in The Pen Shop in Princes Square, but I might just pick one up in Cass Art. No, Cass Art failed me on that, none. Walked through to The Pen Shop and on the way got the PoD which is a statue by Shona Kinlock called “As Proud As” with reference to the peacock which stands behind the wee man. On to The Pen Shop. They didn’t have the adapter either. Neither did whatever Millers is called now, but they did have some black ink, so I got that at least. They suggested other places, but as Scamp was on the last stop on her Tartan Tour which was M&S and I was meeting her there and then going for lunch which I hoped would be Paesano, I decided I’d try Amazon instead. We met and it was Paesano who would be graced by our presence. I was delighted!

Just two of our usual pizzas, but because we were bussing, not driving, I was allowed a glass of house red!

Up the road to the bus station and grabbed one of the new route X25 buses. It’s a lot faster than the sluggish X3, but slower that the Stagecoach X something-or-other. Best of all, its new route takes it past the new shops, so as we needed bread we could get the bus to the shops today!

It was jolly exciting sitting in a bus that was driving down past St Mo’s and St Mo’s school, round the roundabout and stopping at the bus stop just at the new shops. You can tell we don’t get out much, can’t you?

That was all the excitement we could stand for one day. Oh by the way, Scamp did get a tartan(ish) skirt. Tomorrow we have no plans.

Kelpied – 24 September 2019

Today we were all Kelpied!

Today dawned dry but a bit dreary. However, it soon brightened up and we thought we’d risk a run to the Kelpies. It all went well until we were almost at the M9 then the car seemed to be misfiring, which is strange because it had been running so well since its last service. I hadn’t bought petrol from anywhere other than my usual two petrol stations and I hadn’t run the level down until the red light came on. So that should rule out the possibility of a little bit of dirt getting in to the carburettor or the jets, whatever it is the Juke has. Made the decision to detour via the Nissan garage in Stirling, where the service manager came to see what the problem was. He gave it a fair run through the gears, fierce acceleration and gentle driving, but could not replicate the problem. There was little more the poor man could do, but he took it in to the service bay, put it on the computer and pronounced it clean. No problems listed. Finally he suggested we drive off and if the problem reared its head again, we should book it in for a full day check. Clive and I were puzzled. We couldn’t agree on a possible cause and he knows a lot more about cars than me. It ran perfectly for the rest of the day.

Got to the Kelpies and wandered round them just taking them in. Glad to see that Clive was equally entranced with these beautiful equine sculptures. We both took lots of photos of them from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Scamp was also taking photos, but I think we were the subjects. People are more important than places to her and that’s probably her greatest photographic strength. She captures people very much better than me.

From Grangemouth, we said goodbye to the Kelpies and headed round the outskirts of Falkirk to The Falkirk Wheel. The giant boat lift was one of the things that Clive had wanted to see and we arrived just as it was doing a lift, so he got to see it in action right away. I took the car away to park it and met them in the shadow of the great wheel where we discussed the mechanics of this modern wonder. We waited for another boat to be lifted and after a swift look in the visitor centre, I found the one ticket machine that was working and paid for our parking. For a visitor centre which was meant to show this wonder of engineering design, there were a host of machines with OUT OF ORDER signs on them. Almost nothing of any note was working. Poor show Falkirk. Drove home and arrived just as the rain was starting.

PoD was a view of the Kelpies reflected in the turning pool of the canal.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow, but it depends on the weather.

Dancing and The Wullies – 19 June 2019

The dancing was in Glasgow and the Wullies were of the “Oor” variety and were everywhere in Glasgow.

Spent the morning making a set of Wales photos to go into a gallery on this website. They aren’t quit ready yet, but hopefully they will be soon. After lunch we drove in to Blackfriars for a torturing class of ballroom and jive.

It wasn’t that the moves were difficult, or even new. It was just that we’d had Wales and walks in our heads for the last week, with no time for dancing or dancing practise. Now it was all a blur again. At least that’s what it seemed like for me. Jive didn’t jell. Waltz didn’t flow as it should and although Quickstep was better than the other two, it too wasn’t “Our finest hour” as Scamp described it. A cup of coffee afterwards helped with the pain, but a lot of practise is needed before next week.

Then, there were the “Wullies”. They were everywhere we looked. They were painted “Oor Wullies”, made of fibreglass and larger than life size. After some research when we got home, I discovered there were 59 of them dotted around Glasgow and the West. The first one we saw, and my favourite so far is Oor Charles, modelled on Charles Rennie Macintosh. I got a few more, but Oor Charles got PoD. If this paragraph made no sense to you, then:

  1. You should read the Sunday Post, just the comics page though.
  2. Wait until we get to The Broons.

Salsa tonight for me was only about the 6.30 class. The 7.30 class was oversubscribed in leaders, so I was superfluous and took myself out to be doorkeeper. That’s where I wrote most of this blog. The Intermediate class at 6.30 were doing Pachangero which is one of Scamp’s favourite moves. They are a really good class and most of them are picking up the moves really quickly. Scamp drove tonight which made life a lot easier for me. Thanks S.

Tomorrow we have no plans. Maybe go for some messages!

A day at the seaside – 11 June 2019

The young ones were off for a walk round a pond. We were going to the seaside

JIC, Sim and Sophie were taking Vixen for a walk around a couple of lakes with unpronounceable Welsh names. Madeleine and Jaime were staying at home. We were off to Aberystwyth. The first problem was getting the car’s sat nav to recognise Aberystwyth. It seemed to be fascinated by somewhere called Aberri… something. Finally tricked it into accepting the proper spelling and off we went into the rain. Driving around on these narrow roads with the high hedges was bad enough in the dry, but in the pelting rain it was a whole new challenge, but the sat nav lady did talk us through the rain and the narrow roads to get us to Aberystwyth, so it did know where we wanted to go all the time.

We went to Morrisons because it was the first supermarket we passed, then drove in to the town. We parked down by the harbour on one side and one of the beaches on the other side. Neither was very inviting in the torrential rain, but we zipped up our rainy coats and walked out into the wet stuff. About twenty minutes after we left the car, I discovered that my rainy coat was no longer waterproof. We ducked into a Nero for lunch and a chance to dry out.

When we came out it was drying up nicely, so we went for a walk up the main street and then back down towards the other beach, although it wasn’t really dry enough for a walk along it or a paddle in the water. Took a few photos of the headland and the funicular railway framed by grey sea and slightly lighter grey sky, and also the lady on the pillar that Scamp felt looked like Mary Poppins.

Our parking ticket was up, but we’d used up almost all of it anyway and so we drove off and found a Tesco the sat nav didn’t know about (ha!) and a very posh one too. Then we drove home through the rain that had returned.

Chicken on peas and leeks for dinner. Our chance to cook.