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.

DML – 4 September 2020

As is traditional, Blue had to visit DML within the first week.

We drove the traditional route too, just to see if Blue (named by Scamp today) was big enough and strong enough for us. The route took us through blue-rinse Callander and up over the Duke’s Pass. It’s a road that has enough tight bends and sneaky climbs to test any car, but thankfully Blue passed with flying colours.

Parking was free today, presumably because of Covid restrictions, but the actual lodge was closed. The place has been called David Marshall Lodge for as long as I can remember, but recently it’s been rebadged “The Lodge”. Allegedly because nobody knew who David Marshall was. If that’s the case, build a statue to the man, place it in a prominent spot and put a plaque there explaining his significance. After all it was named in his honour after he pushed to have the lodge built. It’s in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, but I don’t see any of the pinheads deciding to rename that to “The Forest Park” because royalty are falling out of fashion (and falling out with each other). Wait until the slave stories start to come out, then there may be a change of heart.

Following the traditional route, we drove down through Aberfoyle and stopped at The Smiddy near Blair Drummond. I had a burnt burger and Scamp had Mac ’n’ Cheese, both of us had their excellent chips. Shame about the burnt burger. I don’t think that will catch on. Had a look at the lovely looking cuts of meat at the butchery counter and at the expensive groceries in the deli. Neither of us was tempted by anything there, but Scamp bought a carton of milk for more than twice the price Tesco were asking.

Drove home and again were amazed at the 60mpg we were achieving in this tidy little blue car. Not as smooth or as big as the Juke, but big enough for us and it had achieved a pass at the Dukes’s Pass.

PoD went to a view of the river that runs through the park with the waterfall in the background.

Tomorrow is Saturday and we have no plans.

The test and the result – 8 August 2020

If, like me, you can’t be bothered about the details of the test and just jump straight to the result, here is the test in that order.

I phoned The Man in Stirling about 4pm and confirmed that we’d like to take the “Power Blue” Nissan Micra, and if the one we’d test driven this morning was available, that would be just fine.  He agreed that the one we’d road tested was available and that the paperwork would be in our hands by Monday.  You’ll note that most of our responses were in the plural.  We both liked the car and when Scamp said, after we’d road tested it: “I like it”, the deal was all but sealed.  After about an hour of driving round Stirling, Scamp and I were happy with the Micra.  Scamp said she felt quite at home with it.  I was happy with it.  Maybe not as powerful as the Juke, but not as heavy on fuel either.  Lots of lovely stuff to play with and at last, a digital speedometer display on a Nissan!  Something I’d really missed when moving from the old Megane to the Juke.  Good sound from the radio courtesy of Bose speakers and less road noise, if a little more engine noise when travelling.  Overall, it’s a car that we can both drive with confidence, and that’s what I was looking for.  Sold!

After our stressful morning we left Stirling to drive to Perth in the Juke. It was a beautiful day for the drive up to Perth but  when we got the Fair City, we found that the carpark was now an online parking carpark run using the Ringo app.  I’d read a few scathing reviews of it and decided it wasn’t for me, so promptly exited and parked across the road in a pay (using coins) carpark.  That was much better.  Maybe Ringo has improved from where it was a year or so ago, but I’ll read a few reviews first. In Perth we had our second coffee in a coffee shop this week, Nero this time just to balance things out, then while Scamp went looking for trousers in M&S, I went to get some much needed coffee beans in The Bean Shop.  Nearly maxed out the £45 ‘touch’ card limit just managing to sneak under the line.  I felt it was needed because I’d been reduced to drinking decaf coffee for a few days.  Actually ‘good’ decaf isn’t all that bad.  Perfectly drinkable and it doesn’t give you that  ‘Buzzzz’.  Bad decaf is just awful.  “Death before Decaf.”  Never a truer word spoken, Hazy!  Scamp didn’t find the trousers she was looking for and I thought I’d get my hands on the Sony camera I’d been searching for, but the bloke in the camera shop only had one which was 1p away from £1000.  I said “No Thanks”.  He didn’t look all that interested and didn’t even try to interest me in the purchase.  Perhaps it’s getting near the end of the line for small independent shops.

Drove home through the same beautiful countryside under the same beautiful blue skies.  Back home, Scamp wanted to work in the garden.  I went for a walk in St Mo’s.  Lovely big blue dragonfly flying over the small pond, but not resting on anything.  Gave up on it.  Nothing else really interesting, so came home.  PoD turned out to be a pic on my phone taken in Perth outside a toy shop.  Good to see a bit of Covid-19 humour.  Dinner tonight was a salad which we ate outside in the sunshine.  Chicken and Prawn Salad.  All washed down with a glass for white.  What’s not to like.

So, the car problem looks as if it’s on the way to being solved and the sun was shining all day today.  It’s been a good day.  Let’s hope that’s a sign for  the future, for everyone.

 

 

 

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.”

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.

Just another dancing fool – 9 October 2019

Driving through the driving rain to dance our hearts out to Michael’s tune.

Just another Wednesday. Weather was almost as bad as yesterday with more high winds blowing more rain clouds our way. Managed to avoid most of the rain on our walk down to Blackfriars. Stood and watched some brave souls abseiling down the City Chambers to give the statues a but of a wash and brush up. Thought it was Extinction Rebellion protesters at first, then realised they were wearing hi-vis jackets with a company logo on them, so they were legit. Below them they seemed to be giving away “Boris Bikes”, but on closer inspection it was just a photo opportunity to show off the new “Electric Boris Bikes”. I can’t imagine what an Electric Boris would be like. Probably he’d short circuit the National Grid.

Even further down the road there were a film crew setting up. We used to get excited when we saw film crews in Glasgow, but now it’s just par for the course and we’ve learned to ignore them. Glasgow is built on an orthogonal grid with roads running North / South and East / West, so with it’s old turn of the last century buildings it makes a decent look alike for some of the older parts of American cities. It must be a lot cheaper to seal off a portion of Glasgow that, say, Chicago. Couldn’t see what or who was being filmed today.

Dancing was quite good, but although the room is fine for Jive, it’s really too small for ballroom. We leaders keep getting told to take bigger steps in Waltz and Quickstep, but when we do, there’s so much clutter in the room we can’t fit in all the steps. Pillars in the way don’t help either. However, today we reprised the entire Over the Rainbow set and we got to dance with some of the advanced dancers which is always good, because they are so exact and so quick. We eventually gave up trying to dance round the room because people would stop and discuss who was right and who was wrong and, coupled with the two speaker stacks, the piano and the pillars there were too many obstacles in the way. Instead, we practised the short routines we’d been learning.

Coffee afterwards for our usual debrief, then back up to the car park. We weren’t so lucky on the way back and got fairly well soaked. In addition I wanted some shots to use for today’s sketch. My Inktober list for today wanted “A bird’s eye view or a worm’s eye view”. In view of the strong winds, I decided that a bird’s eye view was out of the question. Also because of the heavy rain showers, I had to give up on an in-situ sketch, so instead I took some shots to use as reference material for today’s sketch.  It’s the Cranberry’s [sic] Restaurant in Glasgow.  Interesting building with a sort of tower breaking out of the corner of it.

Back home I decided there was enough light to warrant a walk to St Mo’s where I got today’s PoD which is a toadstool I saw emerging on Saturday. It’s grown a fair bit since then. I thought I’d get home dry, but that wasn’t going to happen. I got soaked, but at least it was on the way back.

Tomorrow I go to see the nurse about my blood results and Isobel is coming to lunch.

A museum, a castle and a statue – 27 September 2019

A day out and about in the rain.

Despite the rain this morning, Clive and I drove over to Coatbridge to go to Summerlee. Summerlee has changed its name at least three times since it opened, but basically it’s an industrial museum. Lots of interesting exhibits of machinery and historical items, all with an industrial connection to Lanarkshire. Some were made here and some were used here. It brought back a lot of memories to me and also to Clive, I’m sure. Back out into the rain after an hour or so and drove home.

Lunch, then out again. This time we were going up the Tak Ma Doon road, over the top and on to Stirling, taking in the scenery as we went. Drove up to Stirling Castle and had a short walk down into the upper part of the town. We were just too late to have a decent look inside the castle grounds, and to walk through the grounds of the Church of the Holy Rude.

Back in the Juke and on to David Stirling’s monument between Dunblane and Doune. I must say, this is my favourite panorama anywhere in the local area. The light on the hills, the animation of the statue with his coat apparently blowing in the wind and reason for it being there make it worth visiting. David Stirling was the man who started the SAS. Drove back home along the M9 and M80 with far less than the expected miles of jams to contend with which was a great bonus.

Tonight we went out to dinner at Milano. We all had pizza. Scamp had a Vegetarian Pizza while Clive and I had Quattro Stagioni Calzone. I meant to photograph the calzones. It’s the first time I’ve seen a pizza dough sliced into four pockets and each pocket filled with a different filling. Really excellent. Scamp discovered that we were sitting next to three girls she used to know and one of them knew a woman I worked with in Cumby High! What are the chances of that?

Drinks all round when we got home to celebrate an excellent week. Really enjoyed Clive’s company and sense of humour. He brightened up our week, hope we did the same for his.

On a sad note, we discovered today that Dorothy died last night. The funeral is on the 8th of October.

PoD for today is a pano made up from six portrait frames. Taken from Stirling Castle.

Tomorrow we are aiming to get up at 6am for an early breakfast before we drive Clive to the airport.

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.