Boots – 23 May 2022

Today we climbed Quiraing. Not mountain climbed it, in the car, of course! Are you mad!

We drove up to see then fantastic new car park and it really was a totally different place from the one we used to know. No big boulders poking out of the hard packed earth. No mad foreigners (that includes english) parking anywhere they felt like it, which sometimes meant actually on the road. No, there is now a purpose built car park with plenty of room for everyone from normal folk to those who drive camper vans. There is a down side, of course. It’s no longer free. That didn’t seem to bother the folk who were filling up all those spaces. We didn’t stop. I’ve photographed the view from the top of Quiraing more times than I care to remember and it in all sorts of weather. No, today we were just being nosey!

We drove on to Uig and stopped at a viewpoint at the top. Just hard packed earth, but free. The whole of Uig bay was laid out below us. I took a few shots that I’d later merge into a panorama or two, then we faced the drop down into Uig proper and the tortuous hairpin in the middle of the drive. Came through unscathed and continued on to Portree. There’s nothing much to see in Uig apart from the ferry terminal to Lewis, or is it Harris? I can never remember.

We were heading to Elgol and its strange eroded rock face at the north end of what is laughingly called a beach. It’s really just a jumble of boulders from ones the size of your fist to massive ones the size of a small car. On a good day there are great views of the Cuillins. But not today. The weather was fine, in fact it was nearly perfect with white clouds in a blue sky, but unfortunately, just before we reached Sligachan, I discovered I’d not brought my walking boots. The thought of climbing over those boulders in my shoes didn’t inspire me, so we stopped and I took a few shots of the Cuillins from the almost diametrically opposite direction. Mountins continuously being covered and uncovered with cloud and with rain showers washing across them. It wasn’t Elgol, but it would do. We turned and drove back to Portree, bought some expensive petrol (£1.71 per litre) and went to Jans Vans for lunch, a hard brush for Scamp and a chilli plant for me.

From there we drove up to Staffin and went down to the beach with its grey/black sand. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a time exposure looking towards Flodigarry, using a 10 stop ND filter. I just knew you wanted to know that Jamie. Scamp hung around for a while, but then went back to sit in the car.

With a few shots in the bag and one I was sure would be PoD, I drove back to the house and we got ready for tonight’s family meal in Columba. There were eight of us being fed on Chicken or Pork or Veggie Haggis with potatoes and broccoli as side dishes. Lots of talk at the table and Scamp was interrogating Allan about the correct way to cook Jackfruit. I was impressed how much information he passed on, explaining the good and bad points of this strange vegetable that we’ve only recently discovered. A good night, even if Mairi wasn’t feeling like joining us.

We drove back to the house because June and Ian had some more preparations before they leave for home tomorrow.

It was a well filled day. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get to Elgol with boots!

I have good news – 6 April 2022

… and I have bad news.

We drove to Stirling today. We had a baby present to buy, for a baby, strangely enough. Just to make it more interesting, I took us up the Tak Ma Doon road past Carron Bridge and on to a wee draw-in near Loch Coulter. Well, the ‘draw-in’ was actually the entrance to the Loch Coulter fishery and there were signs that may have read NO PARKING but I didn’t see them. It is so quiet up there on the high moorland, I could hear a lark then we saw two curlews and a very low rainbow, scraping over the hills. Just so good, especially at this time of year. As I was taking the first photo, a bunch of rooks lifted off from the tree near the farm. I thought I’d caught them, but I missed. While I was in the middle of photographing the landscape, I got the phone call from the garage to say that the car was ready to pick up. We drove on to Stirling.

When we parked at Waitrose in Stirling, I checked my mpg as I usually do and found I had a new best mileage of 82.2mpg! My previous best was 66.6mpg. The secret, I think, was that we had a strong tailwind from Loch Coulter all the way to Stirling and the road surface was quite poor, so my speed wasn’t very fast. Still, it’s now saved into the display and I doubt I’ll ever beat it.

M&S in Stirling provided the baby present then the shop also provided a new dress for Scamp. When we were done, Cafe Nero provided lunch for us. We walked back to Waitrose and bought a few quids worth of messages to pay for our free parking at Waitrose and we drove home. All good.

Parked at the shops in Cumbersheugh and walked down to the garage. Before we paid for the repair, the boss of the garage told us the bad news. The wee Red car is on its last legs. To pass its MOT in November it will need two new shock absorbers and a serious amount of welding on the chassis. He suggested that we need to start looking for a replacement by the end of the summer. Strangely enough we had been talking about exactly that scenario, just the other day. It was bad news, but in our heart of hearts we knew this day would come. So, it was a day of mixed fortunes.

PoD was that photo of the farm up on the moor above Stirling. After I came home and looked at the photos, I found that in two of the later shots I HAD managed to capture the wheeling rooks. It was a fairly simple procedure to cut them out in Potatoshop and paste them into the landscape. You might not be able to see them here, but they will be more visible on Flickr.

Tomorrow we may be going to a tea dance in Paisley.

Sun and Snow – 31 March 2022

Another day to sit inside in the sun and look out on the cold outside.

Just before lunch I got a WhatsApp from Alex to say that Ollie is improving. His infection is reducing and his temperature is being raised. It’s beginning to look more positive. Also, Carol, Alex’s wife is through her knee op and is feeling great, although that may be because of “some good stuff she got, post-op” as Alex put it!

The above brightened up lunch which was omelette for two. Scamp had a mushroom omelette and I had a “What’s in the fridge” omelette. Both very enjoyable. I gave Alex a quick call after lunch and he seems on top of the home situation, and sounded quite up beat.

After lunch we went shopping. Instead of the usual trail round Tesco, today we went to Lidl at Robroyston. Bought a fair amount of stuff, probably more than we need, but it was good to wander round a different set of aisles for a change.

We drove home by the back road for me to try to grab a few landscape shots. We parked by the side of the road and watched as the clouds broke and swept across the Campsie. Scamp once again demonstrated her new-found long vision by telling me there were trees on the top of one of the hills. I must admit that I could see them, but not really clearly. Definitely not as clearly as she could. I did take a few photos, but decided to call it a day when the snow started falling. It didn’t last, but it was a warning that winter isn’t finished with us yet. PoD turned out to be a nine frame panorama of the clouds breaking over Muirhead and Moodiesburn. Sometime the sky is the subject.

Dinner was a veg chilli I’d been smart enough to document in the blog on 31st October 2021. It wasn’t exactly the same and it wasn’t very spicy, but it worked and there’s more in the pot. It might go into a Lock ’n’ Lock tub and fit into the freezer for a surprise dinner, or it might get eaten tomorrow.

I suppose it all depends on what we do tomorrow. We may go in to Glasgow for a wander, but that depends on the weather. Temperature is supposed to go down to -3ºc tonight. Just think, a few days ago I was sitting reading in the garden wearing shorts and tee shirt. That’s Scotland for you!

Coffee with a crowd – 9 February 2022

Four of us meeting for coffee. When was the last time that happened?

Up and out fairly early to meet Val, Colin and John for coffee and a blether this morning, and there was a lot of blethering! I’d forgotten to tell John which of the town’s three Costas we were meeting in, but after that we got down to the business of comparing ailments, discussing our latest tech and telling tall stories. Two hours flew past before we knew it and it was time to say cheerio until the next meeting. Hopefully we’ll be able to coax Fred to join us next time.

After the coffee we all made our separate ways home. I dropped in at Tesco on the way to get some baby wipes to allow Scamp to swab her eyelids, apparently it has to be done twice a day for a week before the op. After lunch I watched the hail battering down and decided to wait a while before going out again. Later, I took a calculated risk thinking that I might manage to get a few photos at St Mo’s then get down to the shops and back before the next shower. I almost made it too. I just lingered too long getting photos of the pond looking very placid. Five minutes later I was being battered by hail. I did get to the shops, though and brought back the necessities for making tonight’s stir-fry dinner.

The photos weren’t too bad. I was using an old 10-20mm wide angle Nikon lens bolted onto an adapter which in turn was connected to the A6000. After reading about it last night I managed to get the combination to focus manually and was really pleased with the finished result. A worthwhile PoD.

Today’s prompt was Cherry Pink & Apple Blossom White. I sort of knew it as a piece of music my dad used to have, played on trumpet by Eddie Calvert. I never even knew there were lyrics for it. I listened to both today, the Eddie Calvert version and the sung version and wondered why they added lyrics.
But today’s sketch didn’t come from either, it came from a suggestion from Scamp that I draw a couple of paint pots. That sounded like a good idea and that’s what you see here!
Doesn’t it irritate you when the colour that goes on the wall is nothing like the one on the paint chart or the paint tin? I think that’s what happened to this poor decorator.

A short dance practise tonight with Mambo Marina, Tina Tango and two variations on the Rumba. Meanwhile our two dance teachers are sunning themselves in the Caribbean! It’s just not fair.

No plans for tomorrow. High winds and snow predicted.

Coffee with Val – 19 January 2022

Out for coffee and a blether with Val.

As usual, Val was sitting there waiting for me when I arrived dead on 11am. It had been a beautiful morning with a sky that started off blue overhead and changed to a lovely warm pink over the hills, with the retiring moon sitting above the houses, away to the west. Of course I just had to open the back window to take a photo … or four.

We had coffee and a panettone each and sat discussing the world, food and technology for an hour and a half. The time just seemed to fly past and then Val had to go for a walk to prevent his legs from seizing up and I went to take some photos up on Fannyside. It’s a great place on a good day with views over the local countryside to the south and the chance to watch the cloud shadows over the Campsies to the north. The south view won today and that’s where today’s PoD came from. A herd of curly haired sheep mainly brown, but some black. Possibly a ram in with them, but that was a guess because they were hiding among the Scots Pine trees and some were so hungry they were eating the bark!

Drove home and had lunch then Scamp continued with the work she’d been doing in the morning. Dusting is not my favourite task, but I felt shamed into helping because the sun shining brightly in the front windows seemed to highlight all the dust sitting on any flat surface. I took the big bookcase behind my chair as my target for the day. I tried dusting the top shelf without moving the books, but it was impossible, so I removed all the books and put them in piles on the table. In between the bigger books I found a map and pictures of Venice my dad had brought or sent back from Italy during WW2. I remember him taking the book out of the bureau and showing us the map of the islands and pointing out where his billet was. There it was on the back page, neatly printed with an arrow to show where it was. It’s very fragile now and I might scan the pictures for posterity, but it’s folded up again and back in its place in the bookcase. If I hadn’t been so determined to dust the shelf properly today, I’d never have found it. I thought it was lost for good.

The wifi disappeared again tonight for a couple of hours. It seems that there are a few problems with both TV and broadband signals in the area.

It was cold today, but the bright sun made it feel warmer than it was. Hoping for the same weather tomorrow. We may go out somewhere for lunch.

Magpies and mushrooms – 13 December 2021

Photography started really early today.

While I was making breakfast today I watched a magpie struggling to peck some fat from the bird feeder in the garden. It was sitting on a low branch, too low for it to reach the bird feeder, but it didn’t have the sparrow’s and blue tit’s ability to hover and feed. They aren’t quite as elegant as humming birds, but they do get the job done. Poor magpie eventually gave up, but not before I’d taken a few shots.

After breakfast we drove up to NEXT to get a parcel Scamp had ordered and was delivered to the shop. We were still waiting for the other parcel that should have been delivered to the house on Friday. It was a Christmas present for Nancy who we visited on Saturday. That’s why alternative arrangements and prezzies were required. Next we drove down to Tesco at Craigmarloch and got Scamp’s meds, plus some food necessities. Milk, veg, yoghurt, two bottles of rum and a bottle of wine, oh yes, and bread. Just the essentials!

Back home and after lunch I booked an engineer from Virgin to come on Thursday and see what can be done about the modem. Then it was time to go for a walk in the woods with a camera or two. My favourite from that trip was a close up shot of some deformed mushrooms. They almost look as if they had deflated, like a burst football. It was that image that made me think they might be ageing Puffball mushrooms. They became PoD and I’ve just had a message on Flickr confirming that they are indeed puffballs. It’s good to have experts on hand, even if they are virtual experts.

Not a lot else done today. It was quite dull with no texture in the sky until quite late in the afternoon, then the setting sun found some blue sky and proceeded to change its colour to a lovely shade of violet. Dark at the top and lighter lower down. It was such a pity there was nothing to give a focal point of interest, although I did of course photograph the sky anyway. Not long after I arrived back home the missing parcel arrived. Allegedly it should have been here by 1pm. It finally came around 4pm, but at least it did come!

Tomorrow we have an appointment with a consultant to hear what he has to say about Scamp’s eyes. Hopefully he will be able to give us a more realistic time frame for the procedure than the NHS.

An improving picture – 20 November 2021

A very dull start to the day, but the weather improved as the day went on.

Not the most interesting of days. A bit dull to start with, but that was before the rain came and dampened our spirits even more. I messed around with the new external SSD drive (which is bad English, because the ‘D’ in SSD actually stand for Drive, so what I’ve written in Solid State Drive drive which is nonsense and a wasteful use of the word ‘drive’. The pedant’s pedant, that’s me). I copied X-Plane to it and then ran it from there rather than from the computer’s hard disk. The difference in speed was appreciable. Loading took about a quarter the time. Clever little bit of kit, the SSD.

In the afternoon, once the sun had found a way to shine out through the cloud layer, I took the Sony out for a walk in St Mo’s. I found a little Garden Cross spider that now has a place on Flickr, but PoD was really the sky. As I came out of the woods on to the boardwalk, and I saw the sky, I knew that would be PoD. It took me quite a while to find the right spot, angle and lens for the photo. Even then I dithered for a while choosing from two different trees. I finally chose the fragile looking birch to be the focus. Hardly any post processing for once.

Back home we decided on Fish ’n’ Chips for dinner. I walked over to Condorrat about half past four and by the time I was coming back it was almost totally dark. I noticed the moon rising over the town centre and it looked like a full moon, but apparently that was last night. Still, it was glowing well over the Thunder Dome as John used to call it.

We watched the qualifying for the Quatar GP, but I’m growing tired with the politics and general bad feeling between the leaders. I’ll still watch it to see who wins, but Verstappen’s constant flouting of the rules and Hamilton’s aggression is putting me off. It’s come down to a two horse race and I wouldn’t back either of them.

Tomorrow looks better than today, so maybe we will get out for a walk. If not, a wee dance practise wouldn’t do any harm.

A change of scenery – 28 September 2021

This was a lazy day and a wet one too.

Scamp was out meeting Annette for a coffee and I put some washing in the machine and set it to work while I worked upstairs. I removed the part finished pastel painting I’d been working on, because I wasn’t going to take it any further. It’s now pinned on the wall for appraisal.

Next task was to get my pens washed and primed ready for Inktober which is fast approaching. It’s a footery job. First you have to soak the nibs in a cleaning solution that has cleaned so many pens that it’s become 75% ink itself. Next that solution has to be washed out and the nibs dried. Finally I filled the pens with Higgins black fountain pen ink. My favourite drawing ink. Three pens are now ready to produce some excellent artworks, or failing that, my usual clumsy attempt at ink sketches.

The last task on my list was to produce a photo for the title page of this year’s Inktober group. The photography took about fifteen minutes, but trying to import the shot into Flickr is a nightmare. It tells you to drag the picture to your chosen position, but you can’t drag it. Actually it was fine where I’d put it, then when you save it, it changes the whole format of the title. It’s no use complaining to the staff on their badly named “Help” page. All they say is try to find a workaround. Excuse me, I’m paying for the privilege of finding my own workaround. That doesn’t seem like a good deal from my point of view. I get that the staff are actually unpaid volunteers, but who, then is collecting my subs every year? And what are they doing for that payment?
Answers, as always, on a postcard.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood because I found a tick on my arm this morning. A tiny little one that’s now a lot flatter than it was earlier on. I hate ticks.

With the pens washed, the title page finished and my anger abating, I hung out the washing and that was when Scamp returned. When we were having lunch some workies, who had erected scaffolding yesterday at a house across the road started stripping the roughcast off its gable end. The noise really got on my nerves, so I suggested we go out for a walk, and then noticed it was raining. Should I take the washing in, or let it have an extra rinse. “Leave it”, was Scamp’s suggestion as she started moving the furniture around. That’s the signal for a dance practise and that’s what we did for about half an hour, maybe not as long as that. It took my mind off the rain and the incessant hammering. Then the sun came out, so I got the Big Dog and a couple of lenses and went to take some photos down at Broadwood Loch. That’s where today’s PoD came from.

When I came home I made Carrot and Orange soup which was nowhere near as delightful as it sounds. Neither of us could agree on what was wrong with it, but we did agree that it wasn’t nice. Back to the drawing board. I’m thinking Carrot and Ginger or Carrot and Apple for tomorrow, perhaps.

Tomorrow we may go for a run somewhere we haven’t been for a long time. That’s all I’m saying just now.

Well Done Colin – 15 September 2021

We woke to mist, or was it fog. Whatever it was, it was taking a while to clear. While it was clearing, Went out to take some photos of the sheep in the field across the road. I meant to shoot the sheep, but I got photobombed by the Shetland Pony stallion and I thought “Why not?” The resulting image worked for me.

Just after the sheep and photobombing stallion photo shoot, the mist started clearing quite rapidly and we were off to conquer the Nine Standards. The Nine Standards are nine (strangely enough), mostly conical cairns on top of Nine Standards Rigg which is over 620m above sea level. We weren’t climbing all 620m because Jamie was driving up to a parking place below the start of the main climb. Actually we’d walked the first part of it from Kirkby Stephen to the parking place last year.

The climb, or walk, started off well with Vixen leading the way and at a blistering rate. Scamp and I were bringing up the rear and I will admit that I was feeling the strain after about 20mins, even at Jamie’s relaxed pace. After a while we encouraged Jamie to go on ahead and keep Simonne company. Eventually at about two thirds distance I had to tell Scamp to leave me and walk up to meet the other two. I was almost totally exhausted. However, after about fifteen minutes rest sitting on some sheep droppings, watching the clouds form and reform over the distant hills I felt better, hoisted myself to my feet and plodded on up the never ending hill. Two more stops were needed to catch my breath and a couple of phone calls where I lied to Scamp that I was still sitting comfortably where she’d left me. No way was I going to tell her I was heading for the top. I think the others were almost ready to start the descent when I finally reached the cairns. A chocolate energy bar from Jamie and half a bottle of water sitting at one of the cairns gave me enough or a rest to start the walk down, which Jamie had repeatedly told us was much easier than the climb up.

He was right. The descent was much easier than I though it would be and best of all, instead of an ever present hill in front of us, we had a panorama of hills, blue sky and clouds to keep us interested. On the way down we met a group of three Auld Guys on their way up. We spoke a while to them. The lead walker was 76, the next was 86 and the final member was nearly 90. We were instructed to make sure to say “Well done, Colin” when we met him, and that’s what we did. He just laughed and said “Somebody must be broadcasting it!”

After Jamie drove us home we were treated to another, even more spectacular air show with a low flying helicopter another BAE Hawk. I wonder how much that operation cost. No idea where the helicopter came from, but the jet came all the way from Anglesey.

Scamp an I went for another walk along the road later in the afternoon to loosen our legs. Jamie and Simonne were making Parmigiano Chicken tonight.

The PoD wasn’t the cairns, or the view from the top, but the tree. It’s been in and out of Lightroom a few times since it was taken, but I like the look of it now.

Tomorrow is the day we all know must come. We all go home, but today was mighty!

Happy Birthday Jamie – 16 August 2021

Hope it was just as good a day as you hoped it would be.

As for us, a man was coming go give us giant cotton buds to stick down our throats and up our noses. Always that way round, never the nose first! Once he’d taken the swabs back and asked us our twenty questions we were free to go.

Today we were off for a spin. We drove off in the general direction of Loch Lomond, basically following our route to our dance class on a Saturday. We reached and passed that turnoff and headed further north west past the end of the airport and were just about to take the slip road for the Erskine Bridge when we saw the queue and the warning about a breakdown on the bridge, so instead of turning off, we continued straight on through Port Glasgow, Greenock and parked for a few minutes at Gourock. We sat in the car, eating Dolly Mixtures and watching a Royal Navy ship and a yacht cruising around the estuary.

From there we drove down past Cloch lighthouse and stopped at the garden centre we’d both been heading for. Had a bite to eat there. Not a very posh lunch, think more School Dinners. Steak and Sausage Pie cut from bit tray for me and a couple of dollops of Macaroni Cheese for Scamp. Both served with chips, so yes, very reminiscent of School Dinners. Having said that, it was wasn’t expensive and my steak & sausage was lovely, just the puff pastry didn’t have enough puff left. Scamp’s was a bit congealed.

We walked round the plants and bought an Echinacea we both liked and a terracotta pot to put it in. Scamp bought herself a top in an Edinburgh Woollen Mill shop and I got some photos.

The photos came from across the road from the garden centre where there were views across the estuary to Dunoon on one side and on the other side the remains of the the pier at what had been Hunterston Power Station. Those were just the middle ground props for the star which was the sky with it’s great cloud patterns. Well, it was for me anyway. PoD was a picture looking from Cloch towards Dunoon.

When we’d walked across the pebbly beach and on round a headland, we headed back to the car and drove on to Inverkip, then took the road over the hill to bring us back to the motorway and home.

Spoke to Jamie in the evening and found out he was intending to test his baking skills on a Swiss Roll.

Not quite the day out we’d planned, but a breath of fresh salt air and a walk along beside the Clyde estuary. Loch Lomond will have to wait for another day.

Tomorrow, Scamp is out for coffee with Isobel and I may just put pastel to paper if the weather is inclement, as seems likely and if not then I may go for a walk to see some dragons.