21 August 2017

Courgettes

Let me begin with some clarification. Americans and indeed some other societies have a different name for the humble courgette. They call it zucchini.

Earlier on this year, I planted five courgette plants up in our vegetable plot. As usual, these plants are thriving. For some reason they appear to like our soil. I might not have much luck with carrots and certain potato varieties but I don't have to try with courgettes.

Ideally you want to pick courgettes when they are young, like this little fellow:-

Apart from anything else, such picking allows new plants to fruit. When young courgettes, can be used in various dishes as I am sure the culinary gurus who visit this blog will agree.

When growing courgettes, you should watch out because in the height of the growing season a small courgette can easily grow too big, like this handsome chap:-

At this size the courgette is still useful in the kitchen though the skin will be less tender.

Because of unsettled weather and a couple of trips away, I somehow missed the following monster courgette, growing under the foliage. I shall call him Led Zeppelin. He weighs as much as a cannonball.Apart from firing him into next door's garden, I wonder what else I could do with him. Any suggestions?

19 August 2017

Fourteenth

Regarding Monday August 14th...

As expected, Monday morning was grey and wet but I didn't mind as I was driving home. I paid one last visit to Kirkcudbright where I bought Shirley some heather soap from the Scottish tourism shop and paid a visit to The Harbour Gallery to see the fine art exhibition - an eclectic collection of pictures of Galloway. It was certainly worth the detour.

Then I was back on the A75 heading east towards Gretna then south upon the M6 into England. To my surprise the weather was clearing. At Penrith, I stopped to look at my road atlas. It gave enough detail to guide me to "The Tan Hill Inn" which sits on the moors north of Swaledale close to the ancient border between Yorkshire and Westmorland (now Cumbria).
Entering Barras
Above Barras looking west
I left the A66 at Brough and very soon Clint took me along single track roads towards the moors. The last settlement I passed through was Barras - a strung out  agricultural community. And then it was up onto the wild moorland. I had six miles to go to "The Tan Hill Inn", the highest pub on the island of Britain.
Two views of "The Tan Hill Inn"

It's wonderful that this remote pub soldiers on. It was built during the lead mining boom of the eighteenth century. The lad miners have been replaced by day visitors like me and passing hikers on The Pennine Way long distance footpath. It's somewhere I have wanted to visit for years.

Inside nearly all of the tables were occupied but there was a little copper table in the corner for Sad Sack. I had a cheese and tomato roll and a coffee and as I prised open the double glazed window for some fresh air I thought of Ted Moult and an old TV commercial for double glazing that was set in this pub - "Fit the best, fit Everest". 
 In Arkengarthdale

The drive down to Arkengarthdale and Swaledale was breathtaking. So many wonderful sights. I could have easily spent a week exploring the area but I was just passing through. In "The Tan Hill Inn" I had hatched a plan to visit The Weaver of Grass near Bellerby. Of course I didn't know if she would be in or not. I would simply chance it.

I went into the village stores in Reeth to purchase a tin of salmon. Some women like flowers or chocolates or perfume but I guessed that Pat would prefer salmon  as she is addicted to it. I walked up the driveway to the back door where a message invited me to go inside to the inner door but unfortunately the back door was locked and I couldn't see her new car in the now deserted farmyard.

Peering in through the side windows, I could see several sealed cardboard boxes. She has often referred to them in her blog as she prepares to move down the road into the little market town of Leyburn. However, it was a surprise to see so many posters of  Jim Reeves and Val Doonican plastered on the walls. I guess The Weaver is a big fan.

Then I commanded Clint to whisk me back to Sheffield. It had been a super weekend. A lovely adventure. So many glorious sights and well worth waiting for that good weather slot. Finally, here's a bull with two girlfriends seen above Ross Bay on the coast of Galloway:-

17 August 2017

Thirteenth

Regarding Sunday, August 13th....

In the B&B, I came downstairs to a delightful fried breakfast followed by a freshly prepared fruit salad. The woman who runs the place is an artist. Her pictures are displayed on most of the walls. Her black Labrador drooled as I ate my last chunk of sausage. She wasn't getting any of it.

The morning was glorious and soon I set off for Sandgreen along a quiet lane. Checking my Ordnance Survey map, I stopped occasionally to take pictures such as the following:-
But very soon I reached Sandgreen where I looked out over Airds Bay:-
From there I backtracked - this time heading to Knockbrex and Carrick. The tide was out so I donned my walking boots and set off over the tidal flats to uninhabited Ardwall Isle. The ruins of a chapel were marked on the map but I couldn't find them. I think they were hidden by undergrowth. I walked to the west of the little island and looked north to Murray's Isles:-
To the west of  Knockbrex Hoiuse I had noticed some strange pillars protruding from the rocks. In past times, they guided boats into the estate's little harbour. With difficulty, I made my way along the rocky foreshore to photograph them:-
Back in Clint, I travelled eastwards towards Borgue where I attended the village's summer fair and won two bottles of beer. I also had a pint of: bitter shandy in The Borgue Hotel:-
My next destination was Ross. It's a hamlet near the entrance to Kirkcudbright Bay. I had spotted it when studying my map back in Sheffield. I wanted to walk round the little peninsula south of Ross Bay to see the island of Little Ross with its lighthouse, beacon and harbour house. It is currently up for sale and the starting price is just £350,000 though bidding may well push it up to the region of half a million or more.

On the foreshore I noticed an old caravan with a large Scottish flag fluttering over it.  By chance I met its occupants - Tommy and Margaret from Glasgow. Both in their seventies, they had been visiting their caravan (American: trailer) for over thirty years. Margaret was about to go swimming in the bay. We spoke about happiness, Brexit and Little Ross and Tommy explained how to circumnavigate the peninsula:-
The island of Little Ross
Black and white sheep on the slopes of Meikel Ross
By the end of this little walk  it was almost five o' clock. I headed up the western side of Kirkcudbright Bay, stopping only to spend ten minutes at Dhoon Bay:-
Then Clint and I drove on - back To Kirkcudbright. I was thirsty and quite hungry. I went into "The Steam Packet Inn" for a pint of Deuchar's bitter. There I met a local man called Jack. He had worked as a fencer for forty years - not waving swords, but building fences. He showed me his free bus pass which he had collected the day after his sixtieth birthday the previous week. He seemed confused that I, as a sixty three year old Englishman, am still not entitled to a senior citizen's bus pass. There are different rules in Scotland and some of them seem most unfair.

I enjoyed a tasty fish and chip supper in the nearby "Polarbites" fish and chip restaurant and afterwards spent an hour chattering with a couple of seniors who are touring southern Scotland in their new camper van. They even invited me inside to show off the interior of their vehicle.

I didn't make it back to the B&B till ten thirty. There was a note on the door asking me to lock up. Behind the kitchen door the malodorous black Labrador woofed a greeting as I mounted the stairs to watch football highlights on the little TV set in my room. It had been another wonderful day, exactly thirty three years since our lovely son Ian was born.

16 August 2017

Twelfth

Regarding  Saturday, August 12th....

Last Friday night, I reached The Cumbria Park Hotel in Carlisle exactly three hours after setting off from Sheffield. After a hearty breakfast, I had a little stroll round the neighbourhood and took a photograph of  a nearby pub - "The Crown" where I had enjoyed a couple of late pints. Back in the hotel car park I noticed a statue with an adjacent sign. It seems that I was standing on the site of one of the largest Roman forts that was built along the course of Hadrian's Wall during the first century BC -  Uxelodunum.
Then Clint took me back to the M6 motorway and into Scotland. I turned left just past Gretna Green and drove along the A75  under grey skies towards Dumfries. As Clint's windcreen wipers swished away the rain I was cursing the BBC weather service. Had they got the weekend wrong?  It was the promising weather forecast that had spurred me into action. However, by the time I got to Phoenix Dumfries the grey was giving way to the blue.

I headed south onto what I shall call The Desnes Ioan Peninsula as that was the medieval name for this secret corner of Scotland. You might also say that I was travelling along the East Stewartry Coast. The weather was improving all the time and I made several stops along the winding road taking several diversions and snapping lots of pictures. The roads were quiet and the sun was shining. 

One of my first stops was in New Abbey where you will find the ruins of the pleasantly named Sweetheart Abbey. It was founded in 1275 by Dervorguilla of Galloway in  memory of her recently departed husband. After his death,  Dervorguilla apparently carried his embalmed heart everywhere she went - in a casket made from silver and ivory. I wonder why this practice isn't followed in modern times. It shows true love. She was even buried with said heart.
Sweetheart Abbey rising above the houses in New Abbey
The John Gray scarecrow in New Abbey
Down the coast, I took a detour to the village Carsethorn which was once a medieval port. There's a pub there, a telephone box and a few houses that look out over The Solway Firth. At low tide, the waters recede significantly leaving sand banks, mud flats and occasional quicksands. It's paradise for seabirds and waders but challenging for sailors and watersports enthusiasts.
Tidal flats at Carsethorn
And then I travelled on to the hamlet of Overton. At the junction with the main road there's a quirky bus shelter which local children have vandalised decorated while waiting to travel to school in Dumfries:-
Onwards to Southerness with its lighthouse. Close by there's a holiday site with static caravans, a pub, an amusement arcade and a fish and chip shop. I ate golden chips from a polystyrene container and drank tea from a cardboard container before visiting the "table top sale" in the pub. Most of the stuff displayed belonged in a rubbish bin so I didn't stay long.
Southerness Lighthouse
This blogpost could easily stretch as long as as a roll of toilet paper but I'm trying to reduce it down to a few sheets. After Southerness, I headed west through Caulkerbush and Heughs of Laggan to Sandyhills Bay and  Portling. Images from these places are shown below:-
At Sandyhiills Bay
Portling House enjoys magnificent views across The Solway Firth
Clint and I then travelled inland to Dalbeattie but we didn't stop there. We cut south into what was now the old county of Kirkcudbrightshire. I was conscious of the time as I travelled around the next peninsula, arching round towards to the county town but I made a few more stops. For example:-
Orchardton Tower
The ruins of  Dundrennan Abbey
Even though I hadn't travelled far and had taken my time over the journey from Dumfries I realised that I had missed so much along the way. For example, I didn't even drive into Rockcliffe and as I say I missed Dalbeattie entirely. But it was now late afternoon and I had to press on to Kirkcudbright - my Shangri La, my San Francisco - the place I had been dreaming of for several weeks.
A view of Kirkcudbright from Toll Booth House
 Finally, I made it there - Kirkcudbright - "the artists' town" and joy upon joy there were no double yellow lines, no parking machines in the car park and no parking enforcement officers strolling around like stormtroopers. It was indeed a modern day Nirvana. I treated myself to a pint of shandy in The Kirkcudbright Bay Hotel and then strolled around the little town for a while before heading to my B&B accommodation in the hamlet of Girthon. 
Church ruin by Kirk House in Girthon
I was staying in Kirk House by the ruined church. After an hour's rest, I headed into the old mill town Gatehouse of Fleet for more exploration and my evening meal which was ordered in a busy pub called "The Masonic Arms" - just off the high street.
A window  in Gatehouse of Fleet
It had been a wonderful day. So many lovely sights. I was already looking forward to Sunday August 13th which will be the subject of my next blogpost.

14 August 2017

Explanation

The Old Hall in Bellerby
The weekend's weather forecast was encouraging so on Friday evening I headed north to Carlisle, Then on Saturday morning I crossed over the border into Scotland and headed west to Dumfries before cutting south along the coast, meandering and stopping occasionally to explore what to me was unfamiliar territory. And beautiful it all was as I  followed the twisting road to Kirkcudbright.

At five o'clock I reached my B&B in the hamlet of Girthon. It is run by an artist called Sheena. Her paintings filled the walls of the old Kirk House. That was my base. And on a bright and summe
ry Sunday,  I continued my tootling around Galloway with various stops for photographs.

Such a lovely corner of this great island. So green. So peaceful and with so many wonderful coastal vistas. I didn't return to the B&B till ten thirty. Sheena had left a little note on the door asking me to lock up. It had been a brilliant and memorable day.

Some future blogposts will report this weekend in closer detail. I snapped more than two hundred pictures but don't fret, you won't have to suffer all of them!

Today, after lunch in England's highest pub - "The Tan Hill Inn" I thought I would pay another well-known blogger a visit. I sped into the  North Yorkshire village of Bellerby. That's where Pat, The Weaver of Grass currently resides. Unfortunately, she wasn't in but I peered through her windows and saw some of the boxes she has been filling ahead of her impending move to the nearby market town of Leyburn.

I left her a tin of salmon rather than flowers. If you read her blog you may have also deduced that Pat is seriously addicted to salmon. Lunching out regularly, she just can't get enough of  this particular fish species. It would have been nice to spend an hour with her and I would also have got to meet her trusty hound - Tess.

Instead, I headed back down the A1 towards Sheffield.

11 August 2017

Statecraft

"Our republic is a responsible nuclear state that, as we 
made clear before, will not use nuclear weapons first 
unless aggressive hostile forces use nuclear weapons to 
invade upon our sovereignty,"
- Kim Jong-un speaking at The House of Culture 
in Pyonyang. North Korea May 1st 2016

10 August 2017

Bellicosity

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen... he has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power - the likes of which this world has never seen before..." 
- Donald Trump speaking at The Trump National
 Golf Center. Bedminster N.J. 8/8/17