Saturday, 21st November 2020

Monday, 16th November.

Our runner beans – Scarlet Emperor – did very well and kept us supplied – over supplied often – with delicious additions to meals. Not quite knowing how germination would work out, after a slow start, maybe too early in the season , I planted everything that looked viable, and apart from one that got eaten by something – I blame wood pigeons, of which we have many, they got away well. With hindsight I planted too many. Less would have avoided over supply, and would also have made the beans easier to see and to pick. Also they grew so vigorously that it was difficult to reach the beans growing near their tops. Next year, if we are still here, the french dwarf beans will be a better bet for us as they don’t need civil engineering work before hand, and can hopefully be picked much more easily.

Today I finished removing the old plants, a messy job. They were hard to disentangle from their framework and left a considerable mess behind on the bed, and also on the path. Getting them off the framework is not yet finished, a slow and tedious job, but a great deal have been put through the shredder and are ready to be composted. My main problem is that at age 86 (87 next month) I can only manage fairly short periods of work. I keep a garden chair at the ready in the garage and have frequent rests to relieve back ache but two hours is the absolute maximum, start to finish. I can sometimes do a bit more later in the day, which is useful for tidying up if I did not manage it all earlier. My cousin, who is 10 years older than me said exactly the same thing, 10 years ago, and it is interesting to see how the same thing has happened to me in turn.

Extension building by neighbours.
This was when it all started in April.

One of the things apparently affected by Covid is building work. There are two houses close to us with jobs on. Behind us an extension is being built, and slightly further away a garage is being knocked about, whether to make a bigger garage, or to make extra living space is not clear. The extension job seems to proceed very fitfully with long intervals where nothing happens at all. On Monday of this week three vans appeared and some sort of activity commenced, but even that proceeded fitfully with breaks where they all stood around whilst one member talked to a mobile phone clamped to his ear. The gargae work proceeded apace for a time, then ceased entirely and the whole thing was boarded up, now work has restarted but at a slower pace. It is difficult to reconcile any of this with the rules about isolation and social distancing. Behind us no one wears a mask and inevitably as they work together any chance of maintaining two metres of separation is doomed to failure. Perhaps, if they work together a lot, they constitute a “bubble”.

Tuesday, 17th November.

Wednesday, 18th November.

At the end of Wednesday’s working.

Wednesday morning was quite awful, weather wise. Continuous quite heavy rain, gale force winds and cloud down on the hills. But the builders turned up late morning, and they must have known something, because the weather cleared and they had a good half days work.

Thursday, 19th November

Thursday dawned dull, wet (very) and windy to the point of gales. No sign of any workmen. About mid morning they turned up in force although the weather had not as yet moderated much. However, they knew something we didn’t, the weather rapidly improved and they cracked on. Sections of wall, timber framed and covered with chipboard or something similar appeared. I don’t know if they arrived pre fabricated or whether they were making them under their gazebo, but whatever, they went up rapidly, and the picture above shows how much progress they made in the one day from a concrete base and wooden flooring.

Friday, 20th November

Not a good day weatherwise, but the men cracked on with ceiling joists and by the end of the day they had completed the job.

Saturday, 21st November

A fine day for a change although showers built up in the afternoon. In the morning we dug up old potato plants which appeared once the runner beans had been removed. A good crop which will keep us going for some time. One of our potato tubs was showing signs of sprouting, so we tipped it out and found a small but usable crop. This is a first time effort for us, and we grew International Kidney, otherwise known as Jersey Royals. hey seem to have produce one or two largish tubers and a quantity of tiddlers which we can eat, but are not really a lot of use. The potatoes in the ground were Charlotte, and they seem to crop much better with a mixture of medium sizes and one or two whoppers which would be good for baking. Charlottes are readily obtainable from Tesco, but one is not supposed to plant these as there is no guarantee as to their being disease free. The ones we had grown were seed potatoes from a local garden centre. We have grown the Tesco variety in the past and they came up year on year with no sign of disease.

In other news, we learnt today that great grandchild No.2 is due a few days before Christmas – what better Christmas present could you have ?

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Saturday, 14th November 2020

Today is Prince Charles’ Birthday, and also the anniversary of the bombing of Coventry in 1940, which is when Coventry Cathedral was destroyed, in structure, if not in spirit.

This blog is a record, and a poor one at that, of the doings or lack of doings, of an elderly couple in a Scottish village cum town in South-West Scotland. We have been self isolating since 16 March. Initially we realised that we would need to start having home deliveries from Tesco for groceries.. We had been planning this for some time beforehand but just never got round to it, but now it became essential for survival. At that time the major difficulty was that of getting a delivery slot at all because the Tesco system was suddenly overwhelmed with requests. We sat up to midnight once a week on several occasions to get on to the Tesco website and bag a delivery slot before they all went. Our son and his partner were used to home deliveries from Tesco and they put us right several times when our inexperience defeated us. Gradually we improved and amazingly quickly Tesco themselves increased their delivery capacity to the point where we could get a convenient slot quite easily. We then fell into a weekly delivery routine at lunchtime on a Thursday which has continued successfully ever since, and which we shall continue if and when the need for isolation diminishes.

In the very early days a neighbour told us of a firm in Castle Douglas from whom she had regular deliveries of vegetables, so we contacted them successfully and had vegetables and dairy stuff from Grahams Dairy for several weeks. They were totally reliable and we felt sorry when, because the Tesco deliveries had become so routine we felt we did not need to use them any more.

So now every Thursday we clear the decks, get the delivery with much waving and thumbs-upping to the drivers – mainly men, but occasionally, ladies – and then everything washable goes into the sink for the soap and water treatment whilst the rest gets stored in the garage. This is not 100% convenient as I at least tend to forget what is sitting out there, and by the time we bring it in its life might be quite short. But one has to be philosophical about this and realise that we are not living in normal times and some inconvenience must be expected and lived with.

So, with food supplies sorted, and prescriptions being collected and delivered by kind neighbours we were quite comfortable. Mid way through August we found out that “shielding” has ceased in Scotland since the first of the month, so feeling somewhat embarrassed we explained to our neighbours that we had been using them under false pretences and began collecting prescriptions ourselves. I think this was the right thing to do too, because it meant that we got out and about a bit and kept in touch with the world outside even if only once in every ten days or a fortnight.

The first casualty we had was the battery in one of our cars – an elderly Toyota Aygo – but our local garage fixed that when they came to collect it for its MOT. MOTs were automatically extended by 6 months because of the pandemic, but our garage was doing some upgrading and having new MOT facilities installed which meant that they wanted to get as many MOTs done as possible to avoid log jams further down the line. Since then the Skoda battery has gone the same way (probably about 4 years old) and a new one has been fitted.

We have kept in touch with friends and relations via cyberspace, but the initial increase in messaging and phone calls died away once the pandemic became an obvious long term affair and now communications only arrive when some fairly major event occurs – such as a granddaughter upping sticks and moving lock stock and barrel to Amsterdam.

Life in Scotland has been an interesting learning experience over the last three years plus. It is not until you start by buying a house, and then going through the usual setting up of utilities that you begin to see that this is Scotland and not England and that you have come to live – to a surprising degree – in a different country even if technically it is a constituent country of “Great Britain”. One can see that in many ways, were Scotland to get its independence back very little would change for the average resident because so much is done the Scottish way anyway. The NHS is Scottish, income tax goes to the Scottish Government, Scottish Law is different, and perhaps of lesser importance to many people the, “church by law established” is the Church of Scotland and has a different polity from the Church of England altogether. I haven’t bottomed it yet, but I can see that it has an active life, a theology and governance of its own, and that it seems to work, and work well. And the thing that always amuses me, something I read about in whodunnits many years before is that lovely phrase when a crime is reported and investigated to the effect that the matter has now been referred to the Procurator Fiscal.

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Bonny bouncing emails . . .

My reply to a 38 Degrees appeal for money to support a campaign to protect the BBC from being abolished . . .

“I have donated to this appeal, but I do so with the caveat that I think the BBC has to be prised out of the hands of those who grip it at the moment and reorganised along better lines. Once upon a time “educate and inform” was writ large in its charter, but that seems to be very attenuated now. It seems to be “bread and circuses” to divert attention from real issues. If – for example – a Government Minister tells lies on air I think the BBC has a DUTY to say so, and to explain WHY they are lies. Currently it just lets them talk and makes no comment. This is not impartiality whatever the BBC says. It smacks of condonation.”

Having sent it off, back bounces a reply to say that “this is a non-monitored address” – so one rather loses heart.

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Chirrup, don’t Twitter . . .

If you feel a need to sing, go to the side bar and find “Chirrup“.

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Dependable engines help you to sleep at night . . .

Fifty plus years ago we used to sit behind these dependable engines and I always thought as we did our pre flight inspections that this maker’s plate was like a little pep talk. In our local area a forced landing was just about possible, but once away from base on a cross country exercise we were either over empty, hot, scrub, or more mountainous territory around the Great Rift Valley.

However, we also took the Beaver’s earlier little brother, the Chipmunk down to Mombasa – but I cannot for the life of me remember why now – and they performed just as well on De Havilland Gypsy Majors. The Chipmunk was only a later version of the earlier generation of De Havilland “Moths” which successfully fluttered all over the place piloted by intrepid aviators pre war, many of them women.

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Tea Hee . . .

One of the odd things that has happened during our Sars-Cov-2 isolation has been the media attention given to tea bags – yes, tea bags ! They suddenly discovered that tea bags sometimes do not compost completely, something which this writer has known for many years. They decompose pretty thoroughly but leave a ghostly wraith of themselves which does not break down, and which, it now turns out, is plastic added to stop the tea bag disintegrating in the water. I used to pick out these ethereal corpses and put them in the wheelie bin. However, it also transpires that this plastic can diffuse into the tea that you make and drink, and that this may or may not be harmful. The media, of course, plump for harmful and may well be right.

Forlife Stump Tea Pot,
https://www.forlifedesignusa.com/products/stump-teapot,
the tea pot used by the writer

This prompted a cessation of tea bag purchases and a change to loose tea. It immediately became apparent that Tesco, from whom we get our groceries by home delivery while all this isolation is upon us, sell very little loose tea – but they do have a line of their own bog standard tea. Some of this was ordered and . . . turns out to be excellent ! It is a reminder of how tea used to be when I was a boy and makes me realise how much we have been missing by using tea bags (of many different makes) over the years. So now the garden has nasty looking brown patches all over it as it get dosed with used tea daily. But I bet they will compost over the winter.

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Ken Bridge . . .

As you can see, this is the Ken Bridge near New Galloway, and it is a photo or post card from 1910. If you went there today it would not look very different. The water level today might be a little higher as it is now controlled by being a part of Loch Ken and the Galloway Hydro Electric scheme. The water level is decided by a barrage at Glenlochar at the southern end of the loch, and not so far from Kirkcudbright.

The white building is now the Kenbridge Hotel, who, back in the pre Covid days, did a very good Sunday carvery lunch. I do not know how they have fared this year. Their web site does not give much away – but like many businesses these days they seem to do more on Facebook, and their page there seems quite active.

The photo comes from Facebook, from a site that regularly puts up pictures of the local area from the past.

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M. Barnier speaks . . .

My blog entry from elsewhere . . . .

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Hold the Front Page . . .

“Hold the Front Page !”

A new blog in a time of disease and pestilence – and that’s only the Government.

The idea behind this blog is to show that we are still alive, and although not going out very much,very often, or very far, we ain’t dead yet.

So, stick around and let’s see if there is any mileage in this . . .

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The “Albatross” . . .

A view we have not seen since before March this year, and quite possibly since 2019. This is from the first floor of the Harbour Cottage Gallery and was taken by Susan Metcalfe who was having an exhibition there at the time. The trawlers go out from Kirkcudbright across to the waters off the isle of Man (I think !) to fish for scallops which are then processed locally. From time to time a vessel turns up and takes away a great mass of scallop shells to the Netherlands where they use them for something.

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