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Hogmanay – 31 December 2017

The last day of 2017.

I suppose I should do a review of our year, but there have been so many ups and downs and they have all been recorded in these pages along with some photos to give a bit of perspective and also some colour to the day. Some dull days have contributed very little to the overall and some have produces a surprising amount. I’ve tried to write up these notes on the actual day, but sometimes I’ve left it to the next day to do the writing. Often I’ve gone just over the midnight cut-off and had to fake the publishing day. That’s as much review as I’m going to write.

Today was windy to start with. Storm Dylan visited us overnight and was on its way out when we woke, but was still gusting around until midday. After lunch of not one, but two rolls ’n’ sausage, flat sausage, I did think about going out for a walk, but then H&N arrived and the walk had to be put on hold. Next it was time to pick up Auntie June and bring her over to meet them. I managed a few minutes then to make a PoD which I’d been considering anyway. It’s the flower from the Christmas cactus. It just missed Christmas, but I don’t mind. I’ll forgive it this time because it’s had a tough year, as have we all.

June stayed for dinner tonight which was Broccoli Soup, Chicken and Mushroom pie and Lavender Panna Cotta. Various coffees followed Decaf and Caf and also one flavoured with Amaretto for June. We sat and talked for a while after that to allow the dinner to slide down, then I took June home and H&N left soon after.

It was good to have everyone round on Hogmanay. Plenty of good humoured talk and laughing a plenty. That’s what an old fashioned Hogmanay was all about.

While Scamp and I sat and watched the Christmas Lectures, I did a wee sketch. The last one of Ink ’17. Number 52. 52 sketches in 52 weeks.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow will be a new year with new challenges and new photos to take. Maybe even more sketches to draw, definitely more sketches to draw and improve on.

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The day that the rains came – 30 December 2017

It was with a great deal of pleasure that we noted it was raining this morning. Snow is nice for a while. Ice can be pretty too, but there comes a time when I’ve had enough of it and a return to the dull colours of winter are more relaxing than the pure white of snow or the shine of ice.

We went out for a wee run in the afternoon. Hazy was resting and Neil was off on an urban safari through darkest Glasgow. Dangerous territory for the uninitiated, but he survived it and even claimed to enjoy the experience. We, on the other hand just drove to Robroyston and searched ASDA for any food leftover by the ravening hoards. There was some, but not the exact food we were looking for, so we left empty handed. We did have a coffee and a toastie in Costa, but that was the extent of our travels.

Today’s PoD was taken tonight sitting on the sofa trying to arrange the new Weemen so that they had the Christmas tree lights behind them and out of focus. This was the best shot.

Tomorrow, it’s lunch with Hazel, Neil and Auntie June. I may try to get some photos in the morning if Storm Dylan has left anything in its wake.

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Visitors – 29 December 2017

Today was the second, and final leg of H&N’s journey north, and it was snowing.

The snow lasted all morning before finally petering out around lunchtime. Scamp had been a bit on edge until it actually stopped then she settled down, knowing that the worst of the weather was past. Even so, she was still determined to dust, Dyson™ (that’s like hoovering but posher), clean and polish the house at least three times until she was sure it was fit for visitors.

After lunch I went out for a walk in the snow around St Mo’s. That’s where I got today’s PoD of the coot on a mission. It was also the first time I used Picktorial in earnest. That’s right, I bought it last night, just before my demo time ran out. It really does work a lot faster and with a lot more variables than Lightroom. The only thing it doesn’t do is Asset Management, or Cataloguing as we used to call it. In fact it proudly proclaims that it is Catalog Free. Which is a fancy way of saying that it would cost too much to add in that feature and then nobody would buy it. So it looks like I’ll be using Lightroom to import my photos and do the heavy lifting in the post-processing, then use Picktorial to do the fancy stuff. You know what I mean. The little bits of pixel adjustment that nobody will ever know existed except me. Every photog does it … I think. Or maybe it is just me!

Not long after I came home and dumped the photos in Lightroom, we got the text to say the happy couple had arrived at the hotel and were going to rest from their journey, but would eat with us later. Scamp could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and relax until it was time to start the prep for dinner. On tonight’s menu was Venison Stew or Panfried Sea Bass Fillets followed by Pineapple Snow with Lime and Chilli sauce. Both visitors opted for the venison. A very good choice said the Sous Chef who had spent yesterday afternoon preparing it.

H&N arrived in the middle of a surprise snow shower and we had a great evening opening presents and generally catching up with stories from the far south. They wanted to get back to the hotel and rest, so left fairly early. Tomorrow is a rest day for both of them, and probably for us too.

Tomorrow for us consists of a shopping expedition and little else. It’s nice to have a fairly full house again and all sit round the table.

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Panic buying – 28 December 2017

We went in to Glasgow today.

We didn’t really need anything, and we’ve done enough spending these last two or three weeks. No, we just wanted to walk round the shops (and see if there were any bargains in JL – there weren’t) and have a cup of coffee somewhere. Somehow that walk round the shops expanded to fill over 8000 steps according to my Fitbit™. It also cost us £4.50 in parking. Where that time, those steps and that money went I’ll never know. Maybe we went into a walking timewarp. Anyway, it got us out and I got a photo. The new rule about the 365 is that I must take at least one picture every day that will become part of two albums and at least one group. If you don’t do Flickr this will mean nothing to you. Today’s PoD which was categorised under Architecture, Reflections and Glasgow in Albums was a the reflection of the Pavilion Theatre, taken with the Teazer. It’s becoming a serious contender for the best camera in the world. I.e. the one you have in your pocket.

After we came home we discovered we needed milk and bread, the two staples along with photo paper that every home should have, so I volunteered to drive to the madness that is Tesco (DO YOU KNOW THAT TESCO WILL BE CLOSED FOR A DAY NEXT WEEK??? WHAT WILL WE DO???). It seemed like the whole of Cumbersheugh was in there buying every bit of food they could get their hands on. Come on people, it’s only going to be closed for one day. Got the milk and the bread and just in case there was a sudden run on photo paper, I got two packets. When I came home and parked the car, Scamp decided she needed to clear the snow and ice from her car, so, as I was dressed for Alaska, I helped her and soon we found this little red Micra under the white blanket that had covered it for the best part of a week.

The photo paper was for printing out my annual calendar and I’ve now got four copies of it without a front page yet, and without December because December isn’t finished yet and there just might be an award winning PoD picture I see in the next few days. Unlikely, but possible. Anyway, that makes it 4×11=44 full colour pages and there’s hardly any drop in the ink levels in the Epson’s tanks! Impressive. That’s what I call economy.

Temperature is -3.3º just now and I think it’s beginning to rise. Snow is forecast for around 8am tomorrow, turning to rain by afternoon. Hopefully H&N won’t be troubled by it.

I don’t think we have any great plans for tomorrow. We may go for a last swim of the year or maybe a quick turn around the gym. Then again, maybe we’ll just tidy up again and wait for our visitors.

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Many Hands – 27 December 2017

Today is Wednesday and on Wednesdays you get a 10% discount in B&Q if you’ve got a diamond card. Guess where we went today.

Another cold start to the day so we stayed in bed, in the warm and I eked out the first Book of Dust by allowing myself two chapters only before I got up and got dressed to face the day.

We drove to Stirling B&Q after finding the car under half a ton of snow. Actually, the snow was a blessing because it insulated the car from the frost that attacked the areas where the snow had melted. It didn’t take long to defrost and the screen blower is great for melting the ice on the windscreen. The thermometer in the car read -3º when we left the house, but by the time we got on to the motorway, less than 10 minutes later it had risen by 3º. That’s the effect of the ‘Cumbernauld Cloud’ as Scamp calls it. It’s a known fact that there are places where there are sharp differences in weather. My mum always talked about that happening halfway between Larkhall and Hamilton and the head of the geography department at school confirmed it. I wish I could remember what he called it. Anyway, when you enter Cumbernauld the weather always changes, and never for the better.

We browsed the lamps in Stirling but we had to crane our necks as they were all sitting on a shelf at least 2m above the floor. What a stupid place to put a floor lamp. Luckily we’d seen all the models in Bishopbriggs and we were pretty sure we knew what we wanted (AKA Scamp knew what she wanted). It was soon bought and paid for along with a packet of halogen lamps. Assembly, when we got home was a dawdle until it came to adjusting the final angle of the three decorative lamps that were attached to the pillar with Allen head screws. We’d remarked on how tiny the Allen key was when we were unpacking the bits and put it carefully to one side. Now it had moved, possibly of its own volition, because neither of us could remember moving it. I tried my set of Torx keys, but the smallest one was just one size too big. Where could that wee key be? We even lifted the new couches and looked underneath, but it wasn’t there. I wasn’t down the side of the cushions either (so strange to find no crisps or broken biscuits down there!) Finally, I lifted the instructions and there on the back was stuck the Allen key. After we used it to tighten the three screws, we carefully stuck it back on the instruction sheet so we’d remember where it is in the unlikely event of us having to adjust the lamps again. We’re still not sure if the light is too bright, but we’ll give it a week or so to settle in and then decide. As for now, we’ve got three floor lamps in the living room, each one different!

Walked round St Mo’s afterwards and tried another Weemen (or WeeWomen in this case) picture. This time it’s the ice skater and again, it became the PoD. This one was taken on a tiny wee pond far away from prying eyes, so no chance of looking a proper Charlie lying on the ground in the snow. “Honest officer I was just taking a photo of this little Lego™ lady skater.” The pic needed some adjustments outside Lightroom and I managed this in Pixelmator which is now very like Photoshop. Totally recommended for Macs everywhere.

Watched the ‘Big Hero 6’ movie tonight and it was was hilarious. Who says it’s a kids film? It was just good entertainment.

No plans for tomorrow.

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Big Dogs – 26 December 2017

Today was Boxing Day, but there were no more boxes to open, so, as it had snowed during the night and it looked ‘Deepan, Krispan, Evin’, I got dressed and took the big dog for a walk.

We walked through the snow and found that the pond was covered in mist as the sun hadn’t risen to warm it up. I just missed catching Mr Grey who was fishing next to the path, behind a bush. He flew off squawking at a couple of swans that were in his way. I walked into the trees and saw the sun rising above the tops of the pines. It’s not often I’m up before the sun, these days!

Walked down through the pine trees and didn’t see a living soul. Got a few shots of the little man-made pond near the road and then followed a fresh fox’s trail through the woodland until it crossed the burn. It wasn’t my great tracking skills that let me to believe it was a fox, it was the smell that was quite strong on the snow.

I walked through the deciduous woods and by carefully choosing a point of view, got a shot of the second burn with some clean reflections and avoided both the street lights and the motorway signs. The mist helped, but it did need some ‘spotting’ in Lightroom later. It was on the way back with my ‘big dog’ that I was joined by another couple of real big dogs. I just caught a glimpse of something behind a bush and assumed it was a deer, then it formed itself into a big, and I mean Big Dogs. Two fairly heavy built Alsatian types. I’m not good on dog ID, but the other thing I was pleased to see was that they both had expensive looking harnesses on and looked well fed and looked after. I tried to ignore them and walked on when I heard one behind me. Never let a dog get behind you, someone once told me. As I turned round the second one bolted away from me towards some silent signal, presumably from the owner. My own shadow gave a high pitched yelp as if to say “Wait for me!” and ran to follow the first dog. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily I was wearing my brown corduroy trousers, so there would be no outward sign of my panic as I walked on.

Got home without meeting any more Big Dogs although I did manage to get a low down PoD shot of a new Weeman that Scamp bought me as a Chrissy Prezzy. I’d have looked a proper Charlie if anyone had seen me crouching on my knees, photographing a Lego Minifig™.

Lunch was a light wrap with cooked meat and salad veg, plus some Jalapeños. Afterwards we discussed tonight’s dinner and it resolved itself into Minestrone soup. Not difficult to make, but lots of chopping up of veg as preparation. We didn’t have any cabbage, so as Scamp wanted to go and stretch her legs, we walked down to the M&S shop at the petrol station. We didn’t really need anything apart from cabbage which they didn’t have, but I got some more cold ham and Scamp bought some Satsumas. It was more for the walk than for anything else. Stuck in the house all day yesterday makes you yearn for the outdoors.

When we got back, Madeleine started a video conversation using WhatsApp. We’d never used it before, and it was really good. Much better than Skype. Skype used to be good, but since it’s been taken over by The Dark Side, it wants to run things its way. Interrupting a call to install an update. That’s just typical Microsoft. Anyway, the Whats App call worked well and Scamp got to see Ori the wonder dog as well as everyone else in the Trini house.

I got a sketch done and pre-dated it to the 24th. A lie, but a little white lie, well, a black and white lie actually. Not drawn, but painted with black Indian ink. I quite like it, but I’m not letting you see the usual big image, so don’t bother to click on it. It looks better small, I think, and it’s my blog!  The title from the lyrics of ‘The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity’ by Bridget St John.

Today we made the move to go out. Tomorrow we may go even further! Provided the weather is kind to us.

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The great unboxing – 25 December 2017

Christmas, it’s a great time of year, and that’s Christmas with a ‘C’, not Xmas with an ‘X’

It used to be the day for kids cycling on their new bikes or showing off their new doll’s pram and for bigger kids to be snoozing in front of the fire. I didn’t see any kids cycling or pushing prams or anything. In fact I didn’t see any kids outside today at all. The fact that it’s been raining torrentially all day long probably had something to do with that. It wasn’t the best Christmas weather, and, of course we all have central heating now, so there’s no chance of snoozing by a fire.

That’s the moan over with. Today was the great unboxing of the big box. The one that has had Scamp flummoxed since the day it made an appearance almost a week ago. I don’t think she believed me that it was double wrapped, but it was and once she had removed both layers, the secret was revealed. It was a leaf blower. I know that sounds a bit mundane and unseasonal too, but Scamp has been talking about getting one of these things for over two years now and in a moment of inspiration, I though this was just the thing. Not something predictable or something extremely expensive. Just something she’d talked about and had forgotten about until the grass cutting season was here in a few months time. Even then, she’d just say it was a silly idea. It was, but the secret is out of the box now, literally. We’ve checked it, and it works. It works very, very well! No leaves or grass cuttings will be safe now.

My best favourite prezzy was a pattern for a shirt (long and short sleeved), a tie, a bow tie and best of all, a waistcoat, although it’s an American pattern and it’s described as a vest. My mum knitted me a vest from string when I was wee. Everyone who was anyone had a string vest. They kept you warm when the weather was cold because they trapped a layer of air next to your skin. It was like wearing the future, because it was scientific. Everyone wore them under a thin white shirt at school because you could see the pattern of the vest under your shirt. That was proof that you were up to date with fashion! String vests, where are they now? Anyway, this will be my next project, a waistcoat. There’s a whole new vocabulary to learn about with ‘darts’ and ‘notches’ and ‘basting’. Sounds like a whole new language to me! That’s not to say I didn’t like the rest of the prezzies, oh no, they were all great, like the ‘Buff’ from JIC and Sim, a winter version and the jar of fizzy flying saucers from Scamp (already opened and sampled). Christmas is a great time of year for new projects.

Lunch was light. Just cold meat on a wrap for me and toast for Scamp. Dinner was Salmon for Scamp and another Steak for me. Both served with Roast Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts. Then for pudding it was Tiramisu. I was more careful with this and only ate half. The rest is in the fridge for tomorrow. Christmas is a great time of year if you don’t over-eat. I managed to err just on the side of safety and sense. Scamp is almost always sensible and she was today.

I didn’t go out today. I took today’s PoD from the kitchen. It wasn’t until I examined it on the computer that I noticed the tiny little aphids clinging to the leaflets and stem. I hadn’t realised they could survive in our sub-zero climate. You live and learn.

It was great to talk to Hazy and JIC today. Just a little time with both of them at different times of the day, because they’re both on different sides of the planet living their own lives, and that’s good. Christmas is a great time of year for keeping in touch, and we did.

Ok, boxes have been opened, the recycling bin is full of wrapping paper. It’s time to face Boxing Day and hope for just a little respite from the rain. If only so the weans can get their new bikes and prams out to show them off. We may go for a walk.

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The day before the next day – 24 December 2017

I hope Jaime doesn’t mind me paraphrasing his ‘day after the day before’ saying.

Maybe you could remind him of it JIC. It was the day after the wedding in Trini.

Not the brightest day, mainly because it rained almost all day. Scamp forced herself out to buy what was left of Tesco – which wasn’t much. After lunch which was a Full Scottish:

  • Fried Black Pudding
  • Fried Pork Sausages (2)
  • Steamed Haggis – the healthy option
  • Fried Clootie Dumpling
  • Fried Egg

It’s sometimes called the Heart Attack Special, but that’s really only when served with fried bacon and fried, not steamed, haggis! I survived it, but afterwards decided to go for a walk to allow my stomach to digest this fat-O-rama. I walked down to the petrol station to get some more stuff for tomorrow’s lunch, because Tesco would now be closed for re-stocking and awaiting more food being helicoptered in to feed the starving thousands on Boxing Day. On the way back I got today’s PoD which was a wee garden on the top of a rotting fence post. I liked the little look-alike fir trees that were really moss. To disguise the grain of the ISO 6000 image (and because I could with a new bit of software) I added a texture screen made from a photo of some pine needles I saw further along the walk. Soooooo much easier than using texture screens way back in the days of darkroom printing.

I was looking forward to having a Denver Steak for my dinner tonight, but after a freezer malfunction the other day it had defrosted and when I opened the package is was a Smelly Denver Steak and was promptly consigned to the bin. Hopefully the other stuff in the freezer is OK as it was vacuum sealed and hadn’t been as badly affected as my steak. Luckily I’d bought a couple of steaks last week and one of them provided my protein intake for tonight.

Watched ‘Home’ tonight. A pointless bit of cartoon fluff that entertained perfectly. Hazy, it took me a while to work out that is was Jim Parsons voicing ‘Oh’, the Boov fugitive. Funny film when there’s nothing else worth watching. But that’s what Xmas is all about, isn’t it? Watching films you wouldn’t otherwise consider worthwhile. It’s also about ignoring the abominable ‘Muppet Movies’ that appear at this time of year. Would you believe that STV are actually advertising ET as a movie this Xmas season? It was first shown in 1982!!! It should be in black & white and have a piano accompaniment.

Anyway, by the time I get this posted the witching hour will have passed and I wish you all a happy Christmas. To those who are in cold climates, tough. You have to be to live here. To those who will spend Christmas on the beach, you lucky, lucky people. Have a Bake & Shark washed down with a Sorrel Shandy for me!

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In the footsteps of greatness – 23 December 2017

We decided we’d go to Glasgow today and we also decided to go on the bus.

Up and out fairly early so that we could come back home early too. Walked over to Condorrat to get what is really a limited stop bus. One that takes about 20mins to go in to Glasgow rather than the X3 which takes 45mins on a good day. Public transport? People don’t use it because they don’t want to waste an extra 25 mins of their time when they could be doing something interesting.

Walked through JL looking for nothing in particular and expecting no great bargains. We were not disappointed, there were no bargains today on Christmas Eve eve. What we did see on the ground floor was greatness indeed. Her Majesty Nicola (Nick the Chick) Sturgeon was parading herself in front of her loyal subjects (and us.) I was awestruck. It is only rarely that I find myself in the same square meterage as such a royal personage. Then she was gone to grace some other unworthy commoners. I may never was these shoes again. They may have stepped in the footsteps of Wee Nick. Not to be confused with Auld Nick, although to some there is little difference.

Coffee was called for, then we walked down Bucky Street and while Scamp wandered in and out of shops, I managed to grab some photos. A few of which you see here. PoD was definitely the shot looking down Bucky Street with the subway sign at the bottom of the frame.

Lunch was in Paesano’s and it was as good as ever. Scamp deemed her potato, onion and sumo (no cheese) special to be ‘Ok’, but can we take the word of someone who doesn’t eat the crust of the pizza? I think not, dear readers.

Dropped in to Cass Art to buy a Catalyst painting wedge as used by the winner of Landscape Artist of the Year. I think it automatically confers his skill into your painting. That’s what I’m hoping anyway. I also bought a tube of Sap Green paint to replenish the pan of my painting box. It’s much cheaper to fill the pan with paint from a tube and allow it to dry overnight, than to but a replacement pan. You get two or three fills from a tube that costs almost the same as the pan. On a whim I also bought a tear-off palette for oils and acrylics. I usually use a big white tile as a palette, but I thought I’d buy a chuck-away one for a change. It means I can pose like a real artist when I’m painting.

We got the bus home. I bet Queen Nick didn’t. I’ll bet if she had wanted to get the bus, some of her minions would have made sure it actually arrived, unlike ours. Public transport? People don’t use it because they can’t be sure if the bus will arrive.

Since it was Christmas, the TV was crap, so we settled on Netflix as an alternative. Watched an eminently forgettable bit of fluff that kept us amused for a couple of hours.

WiFi is unpredictable tonight, so this may not be posted until tomorrow, due to circumstances beyond our control.

No plans for tomorrow. Just waiting for Santa.

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We went for a swim – 22 December 2017

The day dawned dull and wet, but no fog.

However, by about 11am the fog van had arrived and was dumping its grey load on Cumbersheugh. We sat discussing what to do, and it was me who suggested going for a swim. It turned out to be a great idea. There were two people in the jacuzzi and one woman swimming in the pool when we arrived. Unprecedented room in the pool. We were only going to the pool, because we weren’t feeling energetic enough to attempt the gym. We spent just over half an hour enjoying the freedom of the facilities before we headed for home and lunch.

After lunch I drove to B&Q to get some silicone to reseal the shower cabinet in the bathroom and to get some photos of the statue of Arria which stands above the M80 and at the back of the graveyard. It was getting dark by that time and I was surprised at the number of people out walking dogs in the grey gloaming.

Came home and noticed when I was getting the fish out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner (simple fish stew) that the meat I’d put in yesterday wasn’t frozen. I think I might not have closed the freezer door properly and so we had to set the machine to fast freeze just to make sure that everything was frozen properly. I think we’ve managed to catch it in time. It was mainly the meat in the upper compartment that was affected and most of it is either needing to be chucked out anyway, or it was only just put in. It’s still on fast freeze now and will remain at that setting until I go to bed.

The picture of Arria made PoD as there wasn’t much else to compete with it. Like yesterday, I’d hoped for more fog to give it that etherial quality, but by the time I got there, the fog had turned to rain.

Watched JIC and Sim’s flight cross the Atlantic and stop over in St Lucia and then carry on to Trinidad, all on Flight Radar 24. Amazing use of technology. Hope you pair enjoy the upgrade in temperature from our 10ºc to your 29ºc.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow and we may go to Embra or we may not go anywhere at all. It all depends on the weather.