Emptying bags – 18 May 2022

There’s not much you can say about driving 250ish miles with a couple of stops.

Actually it was a fairly pleasant drive up through the west highlands to Fort William where we stopped for lunch and essentials like beer, wine and prosecco, and also to take on some really expensive petrol. Not the most expensive petrol we saw, because further on in our journey at Loch Cluanie we found an out of the way hotel with petrol on sale for £1.99 per litre!

We passed Eilean Donan Castle, but didn’t stop although a lot of folk did pause to photograph the biscuit tin castle that isn’t nearly as old as it looks. No, we went on over the bridge which has lost some of its elegance with a new conveyer belt stretching out to a deep water mooring for ships to take on what looks like gravel from an excavation. Such a pity. I’d still photograph it if the light was right and then just photoshop out the offending structure. We made our second stop near Loch Ainort to photograph the falls. They weren’t as impressive as they sometimes are, but it wasn’t raining and there was the opportunity to get the camera out of the bag and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance! It’s a long time, and many cameras ago, since I last took pictures of them. That became PoD.

We didn’t bother to stop in Portree, but carried on to Digg and pulled up at Jackie and Murdo’s house around 5.30pm. Not a bad time after leaving home about 10.45am. A cup of coffee in the house and time for Scamp and her sister to catch up on preparations for Jaki’s wedding. Just a quick stop to break our journey before we drove to the cottage. Our holiday home for a week.

Just had time to start unpacking all those bags and then we walked down to J&M’s, which is barely 200m from the cottage, for dinner. After dinner and after Murdo had shooed off his brother and his sister in law, we sat in the living room, me with a glass of very nice Johnnie Walker Black Label and Scamp and sister with a G ’n’ T, while Murdo took up station in the kitchen watching Rangers ultimately lose the championship 5-4 on penalties. Such a terrible way to lose. We spoke to Mairi later and she had us in stitches with her stories of the bride and the bridesmaids antics getting a spray tan for the wedding. A spray tan in Skye?

We left later and made our way back to the cottage, were I’m writing this.

Tomorrow we may make our usual journey round the top of the island and down to Portree. The big city!

 

Heading South – 14 April 2022

You could say were were in train-ing for a holiday. You could say it, but only if you were into bad puns.

There wasn’t a lot to say about the day:

09:30 Taxi to the station.

09:45 Train to Edinburgh – First Class, of course.

11:00 Train from Edinburgh to Peterborough – First Class again.

14:45 Arrived in Peterborough after a somewhat disappointing lunch. A veg wrap for Scamp and a tub of veg salad for me. We made up for it with alcohol, though!

An hour to hang about in Peterborough station waiting for the next train. There’s not a lot to do in Peterborough station if you’re not a trainspotter, but I did get a photo of Scamp with a <spit> Starbucks latte, or Babychino as she described it.

15:50 Train from Peterborough to Stowmarket.

17:15 Arrived in Stowmarket.

Couldn’t find Simonne who was our chauffeuse for the final leg of the journey. She said she was in the car park, but she must have been lying … or else, there was more than one car park. Aha! There was another car park and there was Simonne! Hooray, we will go to the ‘new’ house!

It was only about a fifteen minute journey to Old Newton. After meeting and being greeted by Vixen, we went on a tour of the house, complete with the 3’-6”high doors. Almost like half a door, given that the width of it was normal. It was just the height that was a bit disconcerting.

When Jamie got home, later, it was too dark to get a tour of the garden. Instead, we had dinner of Thai Fish Cakes, which we’ve never managed to master and then we just sat and talked then watched TV for a triple episode binge of Anatomy of a Scandal which was quite interesting, or maybe we were both just zonked after a day of sitting, eating, drinking and changing trains.

Surprisingly the bed was comfortable and the room was, well, ‘roomy’. The original tenants might have been short, but they certainly liked lots of space. In a 16th century house I was expecting creepy noises in the night, but either the spirits weren’t interested or we were both too tired to be bothered, but we had an uninterrupted night’s sleep.

PoD is a rather scruffy building that used to be part of the station at Stowmarket. It might be a bit of an eyesore now, but if you look at the brickwork you’ll understand the amount of work and skill that went into the building of it.

Tomorrow we would discover the garden.

On the road again – 18 September 2020

There’s not much you can say about going home after a great week.

We had to be out of the house by 10am and we just made it. Both cars packed, we said our goodbyes and drove off.

Journey north was uneventful, with only one stop at Gretna Village, a retail opportunity, you might call it. That’s now what I called it. I just called it a chance to stretch my legs. Scamp took the (retail) opportunity to buy a cheap(ish) hand towel to test alongside our normal towels to see if it would be worthwhile buying some bath towels from that make. Only time (and Scamp) have the answer.

Back home with some fuel still left in the tank. Not a lot, but on our travels we’d travelled just over 375 miles and still had about 90 miles left in the tank from the petrol we’d filled up with last Friday. That’s a lot better than the Juke would have had.

PoD was a view from the same window I took last Friday’s PoD from. I like to be symmetrical when I can.

Tomorrow I do not intend to do any driving.

Ready for the off – 11 September 2020

Waiting, waiting, waiting for the party to begin.

Not exactly a party, but the start of a week in Engeland! We were leaving around 2pm to coordinate with JIC and Sim who would be leaving earlier, except, as usually happens, they were delayed, but we left around 2pm anyway, because we were excited and ready for a fun-filled week in the North Yorkshire Moors. Even the very name reminds me of The Slaughtered Lamb pub. Nah, it will be fine. Anyway, it was a chance to test out the new Micro, ‘Blue’ to put it through its paces and hopefully achieve a better mpg than the Red Juke was capable of.

We drove through the rain and little bits of sunshine all the way down until we nearly reached Penrith, that’s when the traffic started backing up on the slow lane of the M6, hundreds of yards before the first countdown marker for the exit. We didn’t mind all that much, we had plenty of time. The problem was two different diversions, both of them funnelling traffic into the exit we were taking. Coupled to that, it was Friday, early finishing day for work and school so once you’d factored that in, it was really surprising that only half an hour after we met the holdup, we were back on our way again after forcing our way through two roundabouts of merging traffic. Not an easy thing to do in a nearly new car with folk thinking they could cram you out of the way because you don’t want to scratch a new car, do you? I didn’t, but I hate queue jumpers too. So I did what I usually do in these cases and drove even slower to make them wait.

Got to the house and were just investigating the rooms when JIC and Sim arrived. That holdup had balanced our times so they weren’t that late after all. I’d grabbed the garage as our parking place to leave room for their Volvo. Only fair, I thought. To the winner, the spoils.

The PoD was the view from the upstairs lounge. As you might just be able to see, it was still raining.

Weather fairies say the weather will improve tomorrow. Let’s hope so.

Going Home – 13 February 2020

There’s not a lot you can say about going home.

It’s good to be going home to your own bed in your own house, but it’s sad to be leaving family behind. Even if plans have been made for another reunion in the near future. We just trundled our cases along to the station and caught a train, then another train and another train and another train, then a taxi. And we were home.

PoD is the iconic shot of the roof of Kings Cross station.

SoD you will see tomorrow.

Tunnels and Trains – 5 February 2020

Goin’ down south to have a good time …

Out early(ish) for the taxi to the station for the train, then another train, walked for miles through underground tunnels, then another train. Climbed the stairs and missed the next train (as usual). Got the next one and then out of the station in a strange land. Started walking to the house. Discovered I’d lost my old brown bunnet somewhere. Oh no! Thought about going back, but where would it be? At the station? On one of the many trains? In a tunnel? At another station? Impossible to work out where, so resigned myself to the fact that we’d be separated forever. Hopefully someone who needed one would find it and give it a new head to keep warm.

Got to Hazy’s house after the long walk along, almost overtaking some of the cars stuck in what seems to be a perpetual traffic jam.

At Hazy’s we met Tilly the new cat and Penny the aloof matron. It was pizza for dinner tonight. A big 12” anchovy and olive for me while Hazy and Scamp shared a mushroom, peppers and anchovy one.

PoD was a grab shot, taken at Vauxhall. SoD topic was Dotty. Two ladybirds making more ladybirds was my take on the subject.

Fairly early to bed tonight after a long day of trains, tunnels and lost bunnets.

A is for Atrium – 2 August 2019

Today was a sea day.

Some folk say sea days are boring – nothing to do – nothing to see but the sea, but that’s not really the case. After a good breakfast we were off wandering around the ship again and then finished our unpacking. Tonight was a ‘Black Tie’ dinner, the Captain’s reception. A chance for a weak glass of whisky or gin and a chance to hear Captain Bob’s attempts at humour, or maybe he’d just give us the safety talk again in case there was someone on board who hadn’t been bored rigid yesterday. Later in the morning we went to a dance class – Jive, but this was Ballroom Jive, not Glasgow Jive, although the couple who took the class were Scottish so that was a tick in the right box.

After lunch we went to a Salsa class, but it was all talk and stepping through the moves which is boring. There wasn’t much dancing. I don’t think I’ll go back to this one. At least in the Jive class we got ample opportunity to dance to some music. After that we went for a splash in the ‘big’ pool. Big is a bit of a misnomer as it’s anything but big. However, it’s the biggest pool on this medium/small ship. It got very busy, very quickly but we did, at least, get wet.

Second ballroom class of the day in the afternoon and it was more of a sequence jive dance. I’ve always hated sequence dancing, but this one had more fun than some. We had to leave early to get ready for the Captain’s Party and the free alcohol, while avoiding the speech.

Dressed in kilt, white shirt, black (well, almost black, frog bowtie) and waistcoat plus all the gubbins that goes with ‘highland dress’, we made our way to the Atrium. Met a woman who complemented me on my kilt and asked what clan it was. She was English, but her mother was a McDonald from Ayrshire, Maybole of all places.  Another man slightly one over the eight asked me what regiment it was, then told me I was wearing Black Watch.  I tried to explain to him that it Clan Campbell, but he wouldn’t listen.  He was either guttered or english, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Listened to Captain Bob attempt some humour and realised why he hadn’t thought to inject some into his speech the previous night. Whisky was cheapest they could find, Gin was thin, gave up and went for dinner which Scamp had booked in Cafe Jardin which used to be the hot chocolate place in the old version of this ship. Ahh! If only Cap’n Bob took some lessons from Noel, our waiter in Cafe Jardin, he’d be a hit with more than the sycophants. Noel, probably not his real name, sold us a bottle of sparkling water telling us it was an excellent vintage and he could recommend it. It’s the little things like that, that give a place a good name. Food was good. Scamp had Piedmont Red Pepper as starter and SeaBass with Cannellini Bean Mash and other stuff! I had Tiger Prawns and Tuscan Sausage then Rustic Chicken Supreme and Parma Ham with other stuff. We were supposed to have three desert plates each from a choice of six, but we chose only two each. Noel knew better and brought us all six! I’d list them, but you’d only be jealous. My favourite was Italian Poached Peach and Scamp’s was Affogato. All that for £15 for the two of us!

Tried dancing at night after I’d divested myself of the highland dress. I’ve danced salsa in a kilt before and it’s do-able, but the brogues have a mind of their own on the dance floor. Kept crashing into other folk on the dance floor. Tried dancing the Jive stuff we’d learned and gave up because I couldn’t remember the sequence. Finally gave a Salsa demo par excellence to show that we CAN dance!

PoD is boring Cap’n Bob giving his speech to …  Well, it looks like nobody was listening, but believe me there were brown-nosers aplenty eager to laugh at all his every attempt at humour.

Bed after a long day. Sea days are so boring, you know!

It’s surely not that time already – 1 August 2019

My initial thought as the alarm sounded at 3.15am. No time or desire for a shower, because it didn’t really feel like we’d been asleep, despite the comfortable room and bed. Just wanted to get out and get going.

Walked across to the terminal and checked in without waiting in a queue. Then we found out why. The security was where the queues were. We were there too early because it didn’t look as if they opened until 5am. Then the gates lit up and we were through. Something in or on me triggered the metal detector and I got the full body scan. I think it might have been my old amalgam fillings that the metal detector didn’t like. Basically, everything went as smoothly as any airport departure can. Loads of leg room on the Jet2 plane, but oh those annoying announcements were doing my head in “Remember to Bookle Up” What on earth is a ‘Bookle’?

Out of the plane, picked up the cases followed the ‘Orange Bats’ to the waiting coach and from there we were in the P&O machine. Possibly the most efficient embarkation system in the world.

Malta was hot. Thankfully we only had to wait about an hour for our cabin to be ready and then we could get changed into shorts and shirts and explore. The cabin was lovely. The balcony is maybe just a little tight, but it’s a great viewing gallery. The first thing that caught my eye was a crane painted like a giraffe! Much of the ship was as we remembered it, but it wasn’t until later that we realised some things had moved around in the recent refurbishment.

Because it was still afternoon we had plenty of time to go back ashore and get some tonic for the gin we were allowed to carry on board. We just wandered around the tourist shops and cafes by the portside.

Decided on an early(ish) dinner because at 8.30pm we had to play ‘Dress the Dolly’ with our lifejackets in the most excruciating safety drill. Captain Bob gave everyone a warning that they must do as he instructed or he’d want to know the reason why. What a dick. He’s coming right off my Christmas Card list. Really, I know it’s a serious business and is (apparently) a legal requirement, but inject a little bit of humour Bob and you might put the message across more smoothly.

Disappointed at dinner when we were shown to a table for two. One of the great things about cruising is meeting people and there was no opportunity for that tonight. Maybe it was because we were early and the ship wasn’t very full yet, but I hope that’s the reason.

We didn’t have the usual sailaway, but maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. I hate the jingoism of it. The reason was they wanted to play with two of the lifeboats, or they were painting the ship or something. I think Captain Bob was just in another of his moods.

PoD was the Giraffe Crane which stood across the port from our cabin.  Really did look like a giraffe!

Early to rise, late to bed. It’s been a long day!

Driving, driving all the day – 8 June 2019

Left the house just after 10.30am. Arrived in Wales at about 6.30pm

Actually left the house at 10.15. Couldn’t remember if I’d lifted the MBP power supply. Decided to check. Thankful that I did, because it was still plugged in to the multi point socket in the livingroom. Finally on the road at 10.30, but without the Aeropress or the breakfast cereals or the beer, but we didn’t know that until around 6pm when we were 300 miles down the road.

Fairly easy run down until we reached junction 26 of the M6. Warning signs for the last 30 miles telling us about a 90min delay after junction 26. Decided to take a diversion through Liverpool. Lost our way despite using two phone sat navs and the in-car one. Finally drove along narrow lanes with 2metre high hedges on the outskirts of Aberystwyth and actually found the house with little problem after that. It was signposted just as the letter had said.

Dinner and chat for a few hours, plus a few drinks and bed.

Weather driving down was terrible for the most part with torrential rain, but for once, there were almost no roadworks.

We’re walking, not driving tomorrow.

Walking with dinosaurs – 18 April 2019

Went to Glasgow to see what Leonardo had been up to.

We decided to go on the bus, because I’d been driving quite a lot and also, so we could have a drink before we came home. We had a coffee in the toon and then we got the subway out to Kelvin Hall and walked along to Kelvingrove Art Gallery. Walked around the Dippy the Diplodocus exhibit, and although it was large, I’d imagined it was much bigger. Nicely balanced though, with a long neck and a long tail keeping Dippy in equilibrium.

Found the Leonardo exhibit and we were amazed with the condition of the drawings. True Mrs McQueen has been looking after them and she’s been doing a good job, but the detail in the drawings was so clear and the paper was so clean I was impressed. Beautiful detail in the drawings, especially the studies of grasses and plants. The only thing I was disappointed in was the lack of mention of his tutor, Jim Belkevitz. Any child who was in my drawing class knows that Leonardo was a genius because he could draw a circle freehand, and the man who taught him that was Mr B.

Scamp wanted to listen to the organ recital and I wanted to go and see the Glasgow Boys paintings.  I saw the painting of Anna Pavlova which Fred gave JIC and Sim for a wedding present.  Theirs is a print of course, but the real thing is very impressive.  Also saw the Dali picture that poor Neil went to see, only to find out that it was on load to a New York gallery.

Got the bus back in to town and had lunch in Paesano with a glass of wine each to compensate for travelling by public transport. Then Scamp went to look in M&S and I went to wander through CassArt. Both of us came away empty handed.

Back home, I noticed that the overflow from the central heating boiler was dripping water. Checked the boiler and found that the pressure gauge was well into the high pressure red area. Phoned the gas board and after chatting on-line with someone somewhere in the world, but I guess India, I was told that a technician visit was booked for Saturday. Until then I was told best not to use the boiler. I couldn’t remember how to decrease the pressure in the system, because there isn’t a stopcock like there was in the old boiler, but then I found articles online that said to drain one of the highest radiators with the system switched off. I did that and the pointer came down into the middle green area, so we got some heat tonight after all, but that still doesn’t explain why the pressure was so high when we got home, so it still need expert help.

PoD was a picture of a man with his granddaughter (?) photographing Dippy. I think he was more interested in the dinosaur than she was.

Tomorrow my coffee is being delivered, so one of us will have to stay at home for that.