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.

All Aboard the Skylark – 20 July 2021

We were going on a cruise.

Neil drove Hazy and us to Lakeside where we got a boat with about 300 other people for a sail down to Bowness. Originally we’d intended going down to Ambleside, but because the pier is about an hour’s walk from the town, we took the shorter option.

The place was mobbed. Lots of Scottish voices doing their Staycation. We were going to look for Lakeland, but eventually we gave up because it was too far away. About 15 miles too far away.

All the cafés were really busy, but we did manage to grab a table in a Cornish restaurant with easy access for Hazy and very good food. Just toasties, quiche and pasties but all made on the premises.

After lunch we split up Hazy went to Costa for a coffee and Neil went shopping. We wandered round the busy streets and found a Herdy shop where Scamp got a new bone china cup because she hates the thick walled cups in the house. She also bought an umbrella to ward off any rain. Not that it looked like rain would appear from the clear blue sky, but more as a preventative measure. Just as we were leaving the shop, Neil appeared on an errand from Hazy. We agreed to reconvene in Costa. While Scamp was having a latte, I had a Café Freddo (iced cappuccino). It was a delight on such a hot day. Made me think of holidays in far flung foreign climes under a similar blue sky.

After ice creams for all of us, apart from Neil who dropped his ice and was left with the cone(!), we joined the big long snaking queue for the boat back to Lakeside. Halfway down the lake, three Eurofighter Typhoons flew very low overhead as a sendoff. We were impressed by that.  Today’s PoD was the line of rowing boats on the shore of Lake Windermere at Bowness.

I went for a walk later when it was cooler and got some more moody landscapes and also some flower photos.

Scamp was cooking her signature Spicy Chicken tonight and it was a great success, as usual. Made from an old Gary Rhodes recipe. It should have been served with couscous, but she served it with new potatoes and even those who don’t eat potatoes cleared their plates. It was good to be sitting round the table eating and talking together. We should do this more often.

Tomorrow we may stay closer to home because it’s going to be very hot.

A dull day – 21 May 2021

It rained. Nice weather for ducks and also swans.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and got a low down on weather in Epsom, which sounded exactly the same as it was here. Wild and wet. Found about their trip to Wales and pleased that Neil D is expecting to return to work on Monday. A nice rambling conversation that brightened our day.

We drove to Stirling after the phone call mainly to visit Lakeland, but also to get out of the house for a while. No point in attempting a walk the rain stopped that idea. We went to the mini shopping centre that holds Lakeland and Dobbies, one of the last Dobbies after the business was chopped up and sold off. It still holds the Dobbies name, but who knows which conglomerate owns it now. The big “D” was once a garden centre, but now it’s become more of a department store with various different enterprises under its roof. Strangely, it’s possible to walk through from Lakeland to Dobbies although they are separate businesses and don’t share the tills. Scamp wanted a new cling film dispenser in Lakeland and I wanted some proofing wax or cream for my new boots. We got both, but also an assortment of other useful things, plus tonight’s dinner and a couple of plants. I took some photos of the Wallace Monument while we were there. It was a bit distant, but it was sitting under a glowering, but interesting sky. It made PoD. We drove home with a pizza for lunch from Sainsburys and tonight’s dinner from Cook. All from under that same Dobbies umbrella.

When we got home and after lunch, Scamp started the ironing and, as the rain had stopped and the clouds had lifted a bit, I went for a walk in St Mo’s, sticking strictly to the paths. Not much to photograph or to challenge the Wallace Monument for PoD, although I did laugh at the two resident swans out swimming with their seven, yes, SEVEN cygnets. Initially Mrs Swan was trailing three of them and Mr Swan escorted the other four. Then after some unseen signal the two groups of cygnets merged and created a convoy with mum at the front and dad at the back. Then off they paddled to the nest on the island. A photo is on Flickr.

We had a curry from Cook for dinner. Scamp had Chickpea Curry and I had Chicken Jalfrezi. Scamp complained that her’s wasn’t spicy enough. I had to add some yogurt to mine to cool it down. Maybe we should have mixed them for a medium hot curry. Still, it was as good as an M&S curry, but with a bit more flavour. I think we’d try it again.

I bit the bullet today and signed up for the subscription deal with Adobe. So far it’s working really well. It runs faultlessly on both machines and although it’s more expensive than other photo processors, it’s the one I know best. Some of it is pretty useless to me, but that’s always going to be the case. I’ll check it for the fourteen days I’m allowed before I need to buy it and then I’ll decide.

No sketch done today. Too much nonsense to get cleared away. I’ll do a catch up tomorrow.

No real plans for Saturday, but we might go out somewhere for a walk. It’s forecast to be a brighter, but colder day than today.

 

Irvine No More – 1 May 2021

Driving down to Irvine, but not to the seaside, well not right away.

In the morning Scamp was off to the hairdresser. I was just messing about, checking the fennel seeds I’d planted last week and they were shooting up! Then I gave the rosemary in the garden a feed of Miracle Grow. I’d to make up a gallon and I finished off the can by feeding the kale and peas in the raised bed, then sprinkled the rest on random flower pots in the garden.

By the time Scamp returned with her hair carefully coiffed it was time to get ready for Peter’s party. The party was in Irvine and it would take us the best part of an hour to get there. Of course, that would only happen if I stuck to the route the sat nav gave me and didn’t find myself on a slip road leading to a traffic jam caused by road repairs on a bank holiday weekend. After a lengthy delay and failing to avoid potholes, we finally got back on the right road and arrived at Peter and Gillian’s earlier than the other couple who were also in our slot.

The party was a relaxed affair with copious amounts of food, some of which we took home with us as did the other couple. She was fine. She (can’t remember her name) was a cancer nurse who explained what the real truths are about numbers of patients during the pandemic. The number of patients seeking and getting treatment had increased which is in direct contrast to the story the BBC are putting about. But as always with news, good news doesn’t sell newspapers. Or increase ratings, it would seem. He was a bit of a pain. An architect, which set my teeth on edge right away. Architects are always known to the draughtsmen as “… that fuc*ing architect …”. Apparently he was a comic too with lots of really funny stories, well, he thought they were funny anyway. Oh yes and they were always accompanied with funny noises. Oh what fun he was.

Actually the time passed quite quickly and although there was a cold wind blowing, it wasn’t really too bad sitting in the garden under a gazebo. Peter’s story of their night of Prosecco at a hotel on the Royal Mile WAS funny. A hotel with a Prosecco button you could press and a waiter appeared with two glasses of fizz! Now that sounds like fun. Fred gave me a Beer Button for my birthday once, but it didn’t work as well as Peter’s!

I could see Scamp wanting to go for a walk in their garden which was, shall we say, extensive. Gillian didn’t quite explain how far it extended, but they have a sit-on Husqvarna lawnmower to cut the grass. That should give you an idea of the size we’re talking about.

When we left, Stewart and Jane were arriving for the second session of the day. More food, more cakes and more Prosecco would be brought for them too.

When we left, we drove to Irvine harbour for a walk. It was cold and we could see the rain clouds blowing in from the direction of Arran. It was a short walk and Scamp wasn’t shod for the rough paths, so after a few photos, we headed home following directions this time. PoD went to a picture of the harbour with a bloke hurrying home ahead of the coming rain.

I do have a painting done for EDiM it’s two apples. I’ll post it tomorrow. Too late tonight to do that.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk. Day two’s painting will hopefully be Bananas. Do you see a pattern forming? ‘E’ is the hard one!

 

Morning walk at Fannyside – 9 April 2021

A quick visit to Val than a drive in the country.

I was checking out my Tamron (not my Tampon as my spellchecker thought it was) 70 – 300mm lens on Val’s old Nikon D70. The lens did work, if sporadically. At different times during the five minute test, the focus worked and the anti-shake worked, but only once did they both work together. It looks like it’s not going to be saleable, which is a shame. How it came to this sorry state, I don’t know, but it has and now I can only use it as a manual lens without anti-shake. I think, instead, I’ll just replace it.

I didn’t want to linger at Val’s because I knew he was busy today and also I really shouldn’t have been in his house at all with all the Covid restrictions. So, I made my excuses and left to take a drive up into the country behind Fannyside Loch and parked up by the sheep’s field where only the wind through the trees created any sound. That’s where today’s PoD came from. I was just walking and taking the odd photo when a little spot of sunshine lit up the hill and I grabbed the shot without thinking.

Drove home and had lunch. That’s when we heard the news that the Duke of Edinburgh had died. What should have been the news at midday was extended. In fact it might even have segued into the evening news. It made me wonder how they’d managed to fill the hours with news that had broken only a few hours before. I presume that since the last time the Duke had come home from hospital there had been an unofficial leak about the real state of his health which allows all the news channels to gather all their clips and photos to build these obituaries that they show with such sad faces. Scamp says that she’s sorry for Mrs McQueen because a death of anyone is a great loss to someone. I’d agree with that.

We walked to the shops to get some creme fraiche for tonight’s dinner which was Haddock & Cabbage Risotto. We also got other stuff that wasn’t essential for tonight’s dinner, but did make the pudding better. Ice cream, just in case you were wondering. It was cold walking down to the shops, into the wind, but was almost warm coming home with the wind at our back. Even so there was just a light sprinkling of that fine snow, almost like tiny polystyrene beads. Strangely, when we did find a weather forecast tonight in the midst of all the sad faces of the royal correspondents, there was mention of the white stuff making a reappearance tomorrow or Sunday night.

Apart from my lens test and the walk in the country we didn’t do much today. I don’t think we have any plans for tomorrow, but it looks cold again.

Out for a walk – 16 March 2021

Another beautiful day with a wraparound blue sky to boot.

Far too good a day to lie in bed, or even to stay in the house. We had to get out … somewhere.

The ‘somewhere’ turned out to be Chatelherault in Hamilton. Now technically, that’s outside our region, but is still in Lanarkshire, so as far as I was concerned we were within our rights to go there. We got there fairly early, just after 11am and trotted off round the high level path going clockwise. We had no definite destination in mind, but I thought The Green Bridge would give us a good walk. We could always cut it short if we needed to. We passed a lot of folk who were walking anticlockwise. There will always be a few who want to do it “the wrong way.” We also passed and were passed by other walkers doing it the right way, clockwise. The path was fairly mucky in places and that was when we realised we’d left the walking poles in the car. They would have been especially useful when we were on the final descent to the Green Bridge down the slippery, mucky steps. We were warned by a couple of ladies that the last time they had walked it, they found that the path was flooded at the bottom and they had to detour over a fence into a field. Today it was flooded again, but some kind souls had built a raised path through the water and we managed to keep our feet dry.

I thought that we’d be able to take an easier path along the side of the Avon Water back to the visitor centre, but I realise now I was getting the green bridge and the white bridge mixed up. We had to cross the green bridge and climb up the path on the other side that would eventually take us along to the Cadzow Oaks and over the Duke’s Bridge, back to the car park. It was a long walk. Much longer that we’d anticipated, but really good on such a wonderful spring day.

On the green bridge itself, I was talking to a woman who came from Larkhall and sharing our memories of it- My mum used to take Alex and I down there. I think we used to get the bus down to Millheugh and we’d walk along the side of the river to Maryhoses where the green bridge is. It was a steel bridge then and it was painted green. These days it’s wooden and unpainted. It used to have drainage holes in the floor where you could drop stones through. A bloke on a bike cycled past while we were talking and on the sandy bank of the river set up a hammock to rest his weary legs … and look ‘cool’. Another cyclist was trying to cross over onto an island, lost his footing and ended up in the river. We passed him later on the path, looking muckier that ever. A long walk, but most enjoyable.

Back home we did a sort of check over the garden. What was growing and what wasn’t. Overall, it looks as if a lot of the plants have survived the vicious winter. Some work still to be done, but not as much as I’d feared.

PoD was a shot of the Duke’s Bridge just as we were setting off.

Tomorrow we are booked to take Shona for her jag in Motherwell.

The Golden Hour – 29 January 2021

We were waiting for a parcel, a parcel for Scamp this morning. That and the fact it was raining meant we simply HAD to stay in.

Once the parcel had arrived, just after 11.30 we could safely have lunch without worrying about going to the door, with clown red mouth, to collect the parcel from the DPD, because it was tomato soup for lunch and it always gives me a clown red mouth. With the parcel safely delivered, opened and the contents tested (moisturiser and girlie stuff) and with lunch over, Scamp went out to post a letter while I footered about on the computer before getting my boots ready and going for carnivore food for tomorrow’s dinner. The pescatarian was having fish, of course. We almost passed like ships in the night, me going, her returning at the door. I took a detour and walked round the back of St Mo’s school on my way to the shops, hoping for something interesting to cross my path, but I came home with wet feet, two bags of messages and half a dozen uninteresting photos. However …

However, as I was coming home the sky was clearing and the rain had definitely stopped, so I quickly changed sox and boots and lenses and went out again with the short lens setup. Sigma 10-20mm on an adapter, standard kit lens and Samyang 18mm. The light responded happily to my change of kit. The low sun was shiny and gold and it was lighting up the trees beautifully. I took the shot, but knew it wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted a bit more drama and the best way to get it is to shoot into the sun. Forget the rule that says you should always have sun over your left shoulder. Rules were made for folk to break them. I chose a spot on the boardwalk that allowed me to shoot in to the sun and get a bit of reflection from the sky on the clear channels around the pond’s edge. About twenty photos later I came home much happier than I’d been coming home from the shops.

Photos roughly processed and favourites earmarked for further tweaking, I started the dinner. Dinner itself was easy, it was just a case of reheating yesterday’s curry, warming up the flatbread dough that was left over from last night and cooking the rice. We’d decided to have pakora as well as the curry, as a kind of starter. The last time I made it, I made too much and we ended up the starter became the dinner. Not so this time. Four mushroom pakora to share and about ten cauliflower pakora to share, not too big pieces either. It actually turned out quite good. I’ll never be able to make that batter again, because it was a bit of this, a bit of that and just enough sparkling water to make it sticky without being stodgy or runny. It was voted a success. A wee glass of cheap red afterwards sealed the meal.

Later in the evening a G&T while we watched the comedy show pretending to be a whodunnit called Death in Paradise. Worth watching just for the tropical views.

The picture of the Golden Hour (the hour just before the sun sets) got PoD. Old glass on a new camera.

Tomorrow we’re planning to go for a walk and later have a posh dinner in.

 

Just walking in the rain – 17 January 2021

It was raining when we woke and it stayed raining until early afternoon.

When the rain switched off for a while, we went for a walk. Down to Broadwood Loch today along, with what seemed to be, hundreds of others. At first I thought there might be a football game on, or a BMX race perhaps. Both stadium and BMX track are close to one another and sandwich a big parking area between them. That big parking area was full of cars when we walked down over the boardwalk and across the dam. But it was neither the football nor the BMX that was drawing the crowds. It was the sunshine and the fresh air that enticed the people to leave their cars and walk round the loch. A conveyer belt of people, it seemed like, were walking round the big pond in both directions. We took a different route and walked round the exercise machines instead. Easier to maintain social distancing there.

We continued our walk up under the underpasses at the roundabout and it was there that the rain returned. It had made a tentative attempt at a shower earlier, but this had definitely the look of a whole afternoon of rain and that’s what it turned out to be. I could have sneaked in a quick circuit of St Mo’s, but I’d forgotten my phone and felt slightly compromised without it, so I joined Scamp and walked home instead.

I was in charge of dinner tonight and it was to be Lemon Chicken with Za’atar. Lots of lemons and lots of spices in a complicated recipe with a marinade. However it followed the standard rule of Acid, Oil, Salt and Spices or Herbs, so I trusted it. It was soon mixed up and put in the fridge to infuse with the chicken breasts for a couple of hours. Time to wash my red Bergy jacket that really, and I mean REALLY needs washed and proofed. With that done and the photos (all three of them) reviewed in Lightroom, it was time for a cup of tea.

Two hours later the chicken came out of the fridge smelling ‘interesting’. Poured it into a roasting tray and slid it into a hot oven for 45mins. Meanwhile I picked PoD which was a view looking across the ice sheet that covered Broadwood Loch. All three were the same view in different formats, portrait, landscape and squint. I picked my favourite and uploaded it.

Chicken came out of the oven smelling beautiful and so it tasted. All that prep had come good in the end and even although I don’t really like lemon in food, I enjoyed this recipe. Definitely worth making again with some subtle changes.

The big deal of the day was our first virtual dance class with Stewart & Jane. After a dodgy start when they started teaching a different version from the video they’d sent us, it worked out well and we coped with it fairly happily and without too many mistakes. Roll on next week. Today was Rumba part 1 and Mambo. Next week we continue with Rumba. Learned a lot tonight and enjoyed it.

Spoke to JIC and heard more detail about his recent good news. We can’t say too much about it just now, but glad he passed his MBA with Distinction. Well done that man.

Tomorrow we have no plans, other than to get our Tesco order. If it’s dry we may go for a walk. If it’s not we won’t. I’ve got a letter to write and the final Christmas decorations to put in the loft.

Not so crazy busy today – 12 May 2020

I had time to sit down and solve today’s sudoku for a start, then it was the catching-up.

Two drawings needed, but lots of time to get them sorted. The first one I actually planned for once. I roughed it out to make sure everything would fit into a square grid before I got started on the real thing. That’s quite a luxury for me and it helped considerably with the design. Maybe because the prompt was Illustrate a recipe. That meant there needed to be guide lines and such. Anyway, with that done, we went over to Condorrat to get the makings of today’s dinner. It was a second attempt at the Souk Soup and we needed a chicken breast to provide the protein. Cold wind both going and coming back.

After that I started chopping up the veg and bunged everything into the slow cooker and set it for two hours worth of cooking. Then I grabbed my Oly and camera bag and went to investigate the opportunities that St Mo’s would offer a camera man. Walking across the waste ground, I noticed a group of teenage boys heading in the same direction. One had a big bag that was clinking in a bottle-like way. They looked about as apprehensive as I felt, but I told them I wasn’t intending joining them and we all laughed. I was hoping to get some shots of hoverflies on the wing, but the wind was too strong and I had to ditch the idea and come back another day. On the way back I chanced into the group again, this time they had liberated the bottles from the bag and were sitting down with a speaker providing some music. I told them I guessed they were all from the same household and a couple of them twigged and said “Oh aye we are”. “Because”, I said “if you’re not I’ll have to inform Nicola.” Again we all laughed. I wonder what they thought I was doing with a wee brown bag over my shoulder, walking into the woods.

Scamp and I agreed that the Souk Soup was better when it was made in a pot. For some reason it was too watery made in the slow cooker. The Ras el Hanout spice I used was interesting and fairly hot, but I think I prefer my own Moroccan spice mix. We’ll have the rest tomorrow and see if we change our mind.

Two pieces drawn and painted after dinner. First was fairly good and the second was just a place marker. Both posted on Instagram and FB now.

PoD went to a wide landscape taken with the wee 9mm lens cap lens for the Oly. Something went wrong with the lens because a white dot appeared in the sealed unit of the lenses. It’s sitting inside the rear element and I can’t seem to shift it. It shows on the Flickr photo, but only if you know it’s there. I’ve got another, better, lens, but the 9mm was so neat for carrying around. I’ll miss it if I can’t fix it.

We had a sprinkling of rain tonight, but not a lot.  Hoping for more tomorrow.  Other than that, nothing planned.

Another beautiful Spring day – 20 March 2020

Apparently today was the Spring Equinox, something about the sun crossing the equator.

I don’t know if the sun was actually crossing the equator today, but we definitely saw if for a lot of the afternoon. We’d decided to go for a walk again today. A much longer walk than yesterday, about 5 miles according to my Fitbit. We were walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal from Auchinstarry Quarry to Twechar and back. Before we left Auchinstarry I grabbed a shot of two roped up rock climbers having a wee discussion of the best way to climb the rock. One in the bag.We started out on our walk with the big Bergy coats on, Scarves, Wooly Hats and Scamp even had her gloves on. I was a rock cake and kept my gloves and my hands in my jacket pockets. Halfway along the canal, the jackets were zipped down, then the scarves, gloves and wooly bunnets were pocketed away and we began to feel the heat of the sun. We some folk who had gone further and were wearing shorts, but that’s just taking things too far. It might be that Spring is just around the corner, but that was a cold wind blowing from the east. One step at a time.

When we turned at Twechar and headed face forward into that eastern breeze, the bunnets were back on and the jackets were zipped up again. Got today’s PoD just outside Twechar as an eight shot panorama created in Lightroom, then cleaned up in ON1 2019. Quite pleased with it, it showed what the light was like today. We passed a few hardy folk out walking and cycling, and even a few jogging. All of them keeping the approved 2m distance from us, just to be sure.

On the way back to the car we discussed food options for the next few days and decided another visit to the butchers was in order. With that in mind we drove to Muirhead and then split up. Scamp to check out the Co-op and me to get some meat and fish it there was any fish. There was a queue outside the butchers, and I groaned. It was Friday and it’s usually busy on Fridays, but actually this was a H&S queue, all to do with Covid 19. People were asked to wait outside and were called into the shop to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Once in I had to sanitise my hands with an alcohol gel. Perfectly sensible really in these strange days. I was looking for some more Thai Chicken Stir-Fry, but there were no chickens from any geographical location in a stir-fry sauce. Got some beef stir-fry instead. Also got some fish for Scamp and best of all, two bags of pasta. No pasta in Tesco, nor as it turned out in the Co-op, but there was some in the butchers! Strange days indeed. When we got back home, the girl next door, Angela’s daughter Lucy, came out to say that she was giving her mum a lift to her work in Asda in the mornings and if we needed anything, just to give her a list. I thought that was very kind of her and told her so. I also said that although we were fine at the moment, I’d keep her offer in mind.

With that, our exercise for the day was done. Lunch was (Just) soup and a late supper was a pizza.

The big Covid 19 announcement of the day, apart from having to queue outside the butchers and then use hand sanitiser, was that all clubs, pubs and restaurants would be closed from tonight until the foreseeable future. That also made sense to me and was entirely predictable.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk again in a different place and a different direction, no doubt. Where is not yet decided, but we will be taking a flask and ’pieces’.