Dancing first, then IKEA – 4 September 2021

Saturday is dancing day and as we almost pass IKEA on the way home it made sense to visit the yellow and blue store.

Dancing started with the Bellissima Cha Cha which we know fairly well and can dance with a fair degree of confidence. That’s what we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done with confidence which is sometimes the same thing. Next was the Foxtrot which we agreed was becoming a lot smoother. I’m not sure the teachers would entirely agree with that, but it felt that way to us. For the break in the middle it was the Rumba One which is a gentle bit of fluff danced as a sequence and apparently everyone was on the same beat for once. Next was waltz and we were told we were making things too difficult for ourselves, but we were trying to emulate the teachers in the video they sent us. We both agreed today wasn’t the time to say that, so we just kept quiet. Finally it was a Cha Cha line dance. Something I’d have baulked at before, but now I find I can do quite happily … as long as I’m not at the front! Good class, lots of stuff learned. No class next week as the teachers are off to Tenerife for a week in the sun, lucky people.

IKEA is on the way home so we stopped off there for re-sealable poly bags, a photo frame or two and some cheap serviettes that I use when painting watercolour as blotting paper if I overload my brush. Just useable stuff today and we whizzed through the checkout without a problem. We even managed to use a couple of shortcuts to save the “Yellow Brick Road” that we used to have to follow. Back to home.

After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s, but I’m beginning to get jaded with it. I’m looking for some open spaces to photograph. Some interesting landscapes with dappled sunlight. That’s not too much to ask for is it? Perhaps it is with rain forecast for tomorrow. We did have some drizzle today, but it was really just the edge of a cloud and didn’t come too much. PoD was a little Garden Cross spider on a web that looked like the high wire at the circus. The strange thing was it looked as if it had a larva of some kind on its abdomen. I’ve asked for help identifying it on Flickr.

That was about it for the first Saturday in September. We’ve both downloaded our QR codes to our phones to prove our vaccination status, although I read this morning that already it’s been shown that it can be hacked and the details changed. After the Scottish Government paying a reputed £600,000 for a Dutch company to create the code. I did think that was a fairly cheap price for the work that would be involved. It’s a true saying “if you pay peanuts you must expect monkeys.”

Holding our hands out tomorrow, expecting rain. Not sure if it will reach down as far south as us, but the highlands need the rain too.

Some days are busy, busy, others … – 3 September 2021

Others are more like today.

Nowhere to go and nothing to do. Milky white sky and nothing to entice a photog to go out and capture the world in all its majesty. The furthest we got was a walk to the shops for milk and bread, literally. We bought milk and bread … and a packet of Jammy Joes, just for fun. I didn’t even take the camera with me because I didn’t think I’d need it. I was right.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of a little fly stuck in a spider web with another fly overseeing the prisoner. A bit sinister in black and white, but it suited the subject and the day I thought.

Even later in the afternoon I walked over to Condorrat to buy dinner: One special fish supper for me and a small fish supper for Scamp. It’s been ages since I’ve had a deep fried slice of fish done in breadcrumbs. Quite, quite delicious. A Friday treat if there is one.

On the way home I got another treat. I got to see a Friday tradition. A bloke with a burst lip got chucked out of Broden’s Bar which used to be The Masonic Bar in Condorrat. He was absolutely “rat arsed” and was shouting for somebody in the bar to come out and give him a square go. Swearing and performing a modern dance as he tried, with one arm in his jacket sleeve, to find a way of getting the other arm into the other sleeve. It’s nice to see that the old traditions aren’t dying out.

Oh, yes. One strange thing happened. I got the renewal notice for my car insurance in the post and it was LESS than I paid last year. I’ve checked it at least twice and Scamp has confirmed that it’s true. I’ll say this one more time IT’S LESS THAN LAST YEAR’S. Mind you, I’d done just over 5000 miles when the car went in for service at the start of the week!

The Spitfire flew over Westfield tonight and then disappeared into the setting sun. That’s the sun that appeared from behind the clouds about 6pm, just in time to set. I think it was having the day off.

Tomorrow we’re hoping the teachers will be able to explain where we’ve missed a step in the waltz, because we can’t find where it’s gone. It might be under the couch, I may go and look for it after I’ve posted this short blog.

Dancing and cakes and more dancing – 28 August 2021

The dancing on a Saturday is obvious, the cakes, maybe not so, nor the more dancing. Hopefully this will help

We drove through the usual Saturday morning traffic to the dance class in Bridge of Weir and on the way in, picked up a loaf and a chocolate muffin. These, and many other offerings are given away free every week. It’s still not clear, yet who provides them, but they are all nearing the end of their Best Before date and are free to a good home. Last week it was a cheese loaf – which tasted better than it sounds – and doughnuts. It’s a little sweetener (no pun intended) for the rigours of the dance class.

Today we started the class with a Saunter Together. At one time this was my most despised dance, now it’s just another sequence dance. Next up was Foxtrot which we thought we’d put to bed last night, but the teachers found various defects in the routine that we’ll try to remember how to fix in the coming days, all being well. Next, just to give our head a chance to assimilate that information, was the Bossa Nova danced to Iko Iko, a song we’ve been trying to remember since the last time we danced to it a fortnight ago. Then I was time for the Waltz and we are rank beginners at this. We only know the simplest form of Stewart and Jane’s version and even then we were making mistakes. The expression “Every day is a school day” was never truer then today! Finally we danced the Valentino Jive which we learned on a cruise ship in a different world, where masks were for Halloween and a vaccination was something you got when you were going on holiday to a far away country. That was a tough morning’s work, for us and probably for the teachers too.

Back home and with our heads clearing a bit after information overload, we had lunch. After that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s, in the sunshine while Scamp tidied up the kitchen and listened to some music. There was very little life about, certainly no animal life and very little insect activity … or so it seemed at first. Macro is such a strange land. I though I was taking a photo of a dandelion parachute which ended up out of focus or blurred because of the breeze but in the corner and reasonably sharp was a battle between a spider and what looked like a tick. I hope the spider won. PoD, however went to wild raspberry fruit. Just the one and a nicely translucent too.

After dinner, which was an instant curry from M&S, simply because we didn’t have very much time to cook today, we got ready to go to a 50th birthday party. We were surprised when Jacqui invited us to her birthday party in The Savings Bank in Glasgow. We’d planned it all out yesterday. Drive in to Concert Square car park, walk down to Buchanan Street subway and get a train to Bridge Street then walk to the venue. For once it worked like clockwork. The place wasn’t too busy when we got there and we snaffled two seats beside Jim Brown. In the time we were there we met loads of folk who used to go to Salsa. Sat and talked to a few of them and even got to dance … SALSA!! First time in ages we’ve danced salsa on a dance floor. Not a living room floor! I did manage to spill half a glass of non-alcoholic beer over Scamp’s lovely dress. I’m not sure I’ll be able to live that down, but apart from that we had a great time and left just after 10.30pm, in time to miss the subway train and had to wait the interminable 10 Minutes until the next one.  Even got a parking place back home.  Some special wee God was looking after us tonight.  Thank you.

Tomorrow we have no plans, except to have a long hot shower to ease those long forgotten muscles we’ve used tonight!

Go West – 27 August 2021

Off to the seaside today!

We were driving down to Troon, Scamp’s Happy Place. I’d booked lunch at Scotts for 12.45pm and the sun was shining. Drove down the M77 and by the time we’d passed Kilmarnock we could see that we were leaving the blue skies behind and driving into the black clouds. It looked like the west wasn’t the best today. However we passed under the black clouds unscathed and continued on to Troon without getting one drop of rain.

We were far too early for our lunch appointment, so we went for a walk over the ‘Ballast’, the big hill beside the saw mill, then along almost, but not quite into town. Then walked back by the low path. The Ballast is a hill, reputed to have been made from the ballast from cargo ships and also dredged material the was excavated when they were building the harbour. Its original purpose was to protect the new harbour. The great thing about it is that you can walk over the top, but on calm days like today, you can also walk round the edge on the sea side. Actually it’s a more interesting walk on windy days with crashing waves and the chance you’ll get soaked. Today the tide was out and the sea was behaving itself. We sat for a while in the car gazing out in the general direction of Arran willing it to emerge from the mist that was shrouding it. It didn’t want to play today.

We has a wee bit of excitement when we were walking round when two fast jets took off from Prestwick and did their screaming climb into the clouds. Scamp was not amused. I was!

Scotts was busy with no lunch tables available unless you’d booked. We were shown to our table and given the menus.
We shared a starter of Crispy Chicken Tempura which, then Scamp had Chicken Caesar Salad and I had Thai Spiced Breast of Chicken. We both had dessert. Scamp’s was Rhubarb and Apple Tart with Apple Ice Cream and I had plain and simple Ice Cream. The only upset was my debit card wouldn’t work in the machine, even before I tried to input my PIN. Scamp had to pay for me. Luckily the girl at the till had seen this happening before and directed us to the Bank of Scotland in the town where she said they would fix the problem. It’s quite a while since we’ve been to Scotts and I’m glad to say their standard haven’t slipped.

Found the bank and parked about half a mile away then waited to find out what was wrong. The teller asked me to put my card in the machine on her desk and saw the problem. She said she could fix it in the autoteller outside. I put my card in, it was denied, she touched a few buttons and all was well. When we got home I went to the petrol station and put some of that expensive fuel in the car and tested the work the teller had done, and of course the card worked. Let’s hope it’s a long term fix not a short term one like last time.

Checked the photos I’d taken, but there was nothing interesting enough to be PoD, so I took the Big Dog out to St Mo’s woods and found a couple of mating Crane Flies who posed for me and the PoD was sorted.

After a ‘discussion’ tonight I think we almost ready to dance the Foxtrot tomorrow, although we both agree that it might not be exactly right. I might even wash the car tomorrow if it’s a decent day.

Out for coffee with Margie – 19 August 2021

But before that, there was the problem of petrol.

Drove up to Tesco to check if my credit card would work with what I thought was my PIN, after the debacle with another of my cards last week. If it did, I was intending to bring back a loaf and get petrol. It did and I got the loaf, unfortunately the petrol station was under reconstruction which was annoying because that’s why I’d gone to Tesco in the first place. However, I’d just have to go back to BP on my way home, which is what I did. Bought £40 worth of that liquid gold which according to my dashboard computer would cover me for just over 400 miles. That got me doing some quick mental arithmetic while I was driving home (who says men can’t multitask?) that meant a quid would get me roughly 10 miles of travel and that’s before you consider Road Tax, Insurance and depreciation. Maybe I should start cycling everywhere instead.

However, if Scamp and I were taking Margie out to Torwood Garden Centre for coffee and a cake, I’d need a tandem with a little two wheeled buggy behind for Margie if I was to change to the eco-friendly method of travel. I put the though aside to suggest it to Scamp at a later date – Oops, too late, it’s out of the bag now!

We picked up Margie (in the car) and drove to Torwood. While I parked the car, the ladies went in and found us a table. It was a great afternoon. We talked about loads of things and I was pleased that she included Tarri in the conversation, but in a realistic, matter of fact way. She is a very practical woman, Margie. After coffee and a scone each we went for a walk round the plants. I could see that Scamp was casting a searching eye over various flower pots and their contents. I think we may be making a return journey to the Garden Centre soon.

While we had been in Torwood, Scamp had asked one of the gardeners how to deal with her ailing 35 year old blackcurrant bush and had been told to prune it to open it out and also to clear away all the leaves from the ground underneath the plant. That made some sense to us and she got started when we got back. We’d dropped Margie off at her house on the way. While she was hard at work with that, I started to pin up our new fairy lights to the fence. They seem to work and are lit as I write this.

With that done, I left her to pruning and dead-heading and took the Sony out for a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to see on a day that had dulled down a lot from its promising start earlier in the day. Lots of flies on knapweed and one of them achieved PoD. I was trying out lots of different tricks and tips to make the Sony focus more accurately. I don’t know if the problem is with the lens or with the camera or, more likely, a bit of both.

Another practise session tonight trying to make sense of the Melody Foxtrot sequence dance. It must be one of the most complicated and totally useless dance sequences designed by humans. I think after about a dozen walk throughs we have a fair idea how it works (famous last words!). We also covered the second half of the Foxtrot sequence without anyone falling out with anyone else and almost no swearing.

Tomorrow we may attempt to drive to Hamilton, just for a laugh … and a curry.

Shopping in Stirling – 18 August 2021

We were away for the messages.

Scamp had mentioned that she fancied going to Sainsbury’s for the messages this week. The nearest one, that didn’t run the risk of five miles of queues because of road works, was in Stirling. As far as we knew, there would be no problem with folk digging up the road there, so off we went. We drove through the Raploch, once the worst housing estate in Scotland, now very up-market and the worst place to drive through in Scotland. Every few yards the road surface changes from tarmac to concrete to granite tiles. Speed bumps everywhere, and in the tiled areas they are colour matched to the tiles which makes driving very tricky, but ensures you keep within the 20mph limit. We found Sainsbury’s without any problem and I discovered I’d a message from Jamie with some very good news.

Lots of interesting things to buy in Sainsburys. First supermarket I’ve been in where they sell watches! Whatever next. But it felt like we’d gone back in time a year and a bit, because a lot of the shelves were empty. Not enough delivery drivers we’re told. Well, some of you silly buggers voted for Brexit and swallowed every fairy tale you were told. It looks like reality is coming home to bite you now that there aren’t enough low paid foreign workers wanting to come to the UK to work.

We’d found an interesting historical artefact when we were checking out the road to Sainsbury’s. There’s a Beheading Stone on a hill near the supermarket. We’d half intended going for a look, but as far as we could tell, there were no beheadings scheduled for today. Maybe another day then.

Back home we potted up the echinacea we bought on Monday. We’d bought a clay pot for it and Scamp had had it soaking in the bird bath for a few days. You have to do that with clay pots because otherwise they will draw water away from the compost and allow it to evaporate into the air. After we’d potted the plant up we gave it a good drink of pure rain water we’d collected during the heavy rain last week. Then it got to sit in the sun for a while at the front of the house, while a rose that had sat there all summer went to the back garden to rest a while.

I finally chopped and sawed down the remaining trunk and branches of the tree that had been growing between Angela’s garden and ours. The loppers did most of the work on the branches, but I had to resort to a panel saw for the trunk. I’d been talking to Fred before that and he was telling me that he recycles all his tree branches with a shredder. I don’t think we have enough trees to warrant the purchase of a shredder, but it would have been useful today. However, it all went into the brown bin today and it gets lifted tomorrow.

Went for a walk in the woods of St Mo’s later and got today’s PoD. It’s a little ball of moss on a dead tree branch. I liked the way the sun was just catching the moss. Not everyone’s favourite, but I liked it which is the reason it got PoD.

A longer and calmer practise tonight trying to put together the ‘back end’ of the foxtrot routine. Sometimes if feels more like a ‘backside’ rather than a back end, but it’s coming together slowly.

Tomorrow we are intending to take Margie out for coffee somewhere.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!

Out early for a dance or five – 14 August 2021

The new normal for a Saturday. Up and out by 10.15.

Drove to Johnstone, flying solo. I did have a radio operator, but didn’t have the backup of sat nav. You have to fly solo some time. You can’t always be relying on instruments to guide you, besides it was a fairly easy route to follow.

Started with a couple of sequence dances and finished with a line dance! Oh No! I’ll be buying a Stetson hat and a pair of cowboy boots soon! In between there were more additions to the Foxtrot to contend with and more detail in the Sweetheart Cha Cha. We managed it, but with a bit of difficulty for both of us.

Came home and had lunch then we lifted our second, and last “tattie bag” and got a fair amount to tatties for tomorrow’s dinner and a few more days besides. Then Scamp wanted to do some pruning and I went to the butchers to get sausages for tomorrow’s breakfast, stew for a steak pie and free range eggs. On the way home I stopped at St Mo’s and nabbed a little dragonfly, a Common Darter, for today’s PoD. Still shooting with the new A6000 which is so much lighter than the E7m2. Image quality is a bit lower than its big brother, but not so much that it is getting sent back. The kit lens is one of Sony’s failures, but I’ve enough lenses to go round without having to use that bit of plastic. It’s a keeper.

Dinner was from Golden Bowl and was our usual selection: Chicken Chop Suey for Scamp and Special Chow Mein for me. Both up to the usual high standard. Watched one of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which was just mindless entertainment, no thinking required.

Tomorrow we may go for a drive somewhere scenic if the weather is as good as today.

Friday the 13th – 13 August 2021

Not that I’m superstitious of course.

But first there was a funeral to attend. We’d driven the road yesterday and the sat nav had found the place. Today we were going to be brave and go sat nav free. I only made one wrong turning which was amazing in itself. After the service we drove through what used to be Burnbank to what used to be the Zambezi Hotel but is now the Villa Hotel for the traditional tea after a funeral. Apart from John, Marion and their offspring we knew nobody at the tea. We sat and talked to John and Marion for a while, then took our leave.

Drove home and changed before driving out again to get The Messages at Tesco. I needed to fill up the tank of the Blue Micra and then realised I couldn’t remember my pin. I tried two and was on my last attempt when I cancelled the transaction. Thankfully you have to input your pin before you fill up or I’d really have been in trouble. Of course Scamp could have paid with her card, but I just took my card and drove off, in a blazing huff. Back home, and after I’d cooled down, we drove to the BP garage and Scamp paid for the petrol. Then I drove back and requested a new pin from the bank feeling stupid. How could I forget my pin? I’d used it just last week to pay for the camera! I know I’ll remember it tomorrow morning.

In the afternoon we went for a walk in St Mo’s and that’s where today’s PoD came from. We’d been discussing the blue flower and trying to work out what it was. I though I’d just take a photo of it and find it on Google Images Search. Then I was photobombed by a hoverfly that just flew in and wandered over the flower. I got the photo, but I still didn’t find out what the flower was.

Back home it was a Tesco pizza for dinner and humble pie for me, forgetting my pin. Friday the Thirteenth? Indeed it was unlucky for me!

Hopefully dancing in the morning tomorrow, but no plans for the afternoon. It’ll be a surprise.

Driving, Walking and Raining – 12 August 2021

With a few sunny spells too.

We’ve promised John and Marion that we’ll be at her dad’s funeral tomorrow in High Blantyre at 10am. We were up fairly early today, so we left the house at 9.30am to do a trial run to the crematorium to check out the traffic at about the time we’d leave tomorrow. We arrived almost at 10am, so our intended leaving time of 9.15 tomorrow looked ok.

Instead of coming straight home, Scamp suggested we go to Drumpellier for a walk round the loch. She hasn’t really been out of the house since Monday, so a walk in the park would do her some good, and do me some good too. This is the last week of the school holidays with teachers going back to work today and tomorrow and those lovely children (yes, that was sarcasm!) going back on Monday. There were quite a lot of children making the most of their last few days of freedom accompanied by mums, dads, grans and grandpas, all glad to see them going back to school. Add in the usual pensioners getting in their daily exercise and you can imagine, it was a busy place.

We walked the usual “travelator” circuit for a bit and then took one of the paths into the woods just to get out of the crowds. We walked through the Peace Garden which was looking a bit sorry for itself with long grass, weeds and overgrown bushes. Such a shame that the council doesn’t do more to keep these places tidy. Yes, I know they are strapped for cash, but it isn’t until you work for a council that you see the money that’s wasted every year. I guarantee there are ways the council could redirect some of that wasted money to make these places look better. However, in doing that, they’d be admitting that the money was wasted in the first place, so it’s never going to happen.

We left Drumpellier to the mums, dads, grans and grandpas, plus the weans, of course and headed for Morrisons at The Fort. Just messages today. No time for essentials like gin or whisky, so no fun either. From there it was back home.

After lunch I spoke to Fred on the phone for about an hour and heard his news.

Up until then it had been a fairly pleasant day although the clouds were gathering now. I was just putting my jacket on to go for a walk in St Mo’s when the rain started and it was heavy rain. The shower lasted about half an hour before it dwindled away to just the occasional spits and spots. I took that as a sign that I’d get a second walk of the day. I was walking over to St Mo’s when I saw a woman waking her dog on the footpath through the trees. Once I’d retrieved the Wee Dog from my rucksack and focused I had a chance to get three decent shots. In one of them the woman was standing in a patch of sunlight. That became PoD. A bit of ‘shopping’ to get it from the raw image to the one you see here.

Some recipes are fickle. You make one mistake and the whole thing turns to a tasteless mush, or a bitter inedible mess. Carrot and Lentil Curry isn’t like that. I used the wrong seeds. Should have been fennel and I used cumin. I used double the amount of lentils. I missed out the garlic that should have gone in. I even allowed it to burn dry. However, it turned out really alright! In fact it tasted better than alright and that wasn’t just my description, Scamp agreed. That’s a good standby recipe, one you can work with.

Quick dance practise tonight because I really need to concentrate a lot more on steps and frame and a hundred and one other things. Tina Tango was looking better after some help from dance maestro Scamp.

Tomorrow a funeral in the morning and then the rest of the day will, hopefully, be our own.