I’m moving back – 21 December 2017

Not that anyone here will notice, but I’m writing this in Day One again. I’ve tried Journey and it’s ‘ok’, but only ‘ok’. Until it stops working completely, I’ll be using Day One and synching the ‘old school’ way.

Now, as to the day. It started out a bit misty and then the mist got thicker and thicker until it was officially fog. We were going to have lunch at The Smiddy just past the Blair Drummond turn off on the Callander road. After consideration, we decided that the fog probably really only extended to the outskirts of Cumbersheugh and we’d drive out of the fog into sunshine by the time we reached Haggs. Well, maybe not sunshine, but certainly out of the fog. Nope, that didn’t happen. It just got thicker, the closer we got to Stirling. I couldn’t believe the number of folk driving with no lights. I don’t mean fog lights, I mean any lights at all. Some had the DRL (Daytime Running Lights) on, but they come on automatically on most modern cars, but some had no lights of any kind. Yes, they could see perfectly well, but if you’re driving a grey car in fog you are kind of invisible. My cousin John told me years ago when I first got a motorbike to always drive with dipped headlights everywhere. Don’t use sidelights he told me, use headlights. They don’t cost anything more to run and one day they’ll save your life. Sensible instructions.

Anyway, we reached The Smiddy without incident and had lunch there:

  • Macaroni and Cheese with lovely chips for Scamp
  • Vegetarian (!!) Chilli for me. Quite spicy and with an extra side of Jalapeño Peppers, and they were hot!!

Afterwards I got some sausages, a Denver steak, Ham trimmings and some Venison because their on-site butcher’s shop is good quality.

Got today’s PoD there. While we were having lunch I watched the fog lift quite a bit and thought my chance of a shot of a tree lined farm track was gone. I’d taken my small tripod with me because I guessed the light would be fairly low and if the fog was lingering in the low lying areas around the restaurant then I’d need some support. It’s just a light weight tripod, not as stable as the big Manfrotto 055, but it’s great for holding the Olys. The fog was just beginning to come down again when we were leaving the restaurant and I took my chance to grab my shot before the fog became too thick and obscured everything. I think, not, that I could have waited a little longer, but I didn’t want to waste too much time before we drove home.

One more sketch to add for last week’s ink ’17.  This one, like last week’s was done on my mousemat / blotter / notepad, call it what you will.  It’s basically a doodle that evolved over a few days.  It’s in oblique projection (Aargh!  I hated oblique projection at school, both as a receiver and a giver of drawing skills), possibly the crudest form of projection, but also the easiest to learn.  It’s in ink and it’s done.  The maxim for Ink ’17.

No great plans for tomorrow. Maybe a swim. Maybe a trip into Glasgow. Depends as always on the weather.

Coffee and Beta testing – 20 December 2017

Today revolved around Coffee and Salsa. I also managed a few moments to take a some photos and a few hours to edit them into some semblance of a landscape. That’s what computers do in this house, well, my computer anyway.

The day started with an email from the developer of a piece of software I am presently evaluating asking for a couple of files and more information about a problem I’m having with it. It’s the second problem I’ve had. The first problem was simply fixed with an update, but the update seems to have caused the second problem. Those who work in problem solving will understand this as a daily situation One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back. However, this software is being sold as a full price item just now and it patently hasn’t been tested properly. Don’t these people beta test before taking folk’s hard earned cash? Or, are the first users expected to, not only pay for the software, but also beta test as they go? Then when all the bugs have been squished the company feels obliged to issue an updated version which said customers will have to shell out more money to own. It’s companies with attitudes like this that encourage piracy. Anyway, I tried to send the files he asked for, but as they amounted to just over 280MB, they would have broken the Internet, so he got a couple of smaller files that still exhibited the problem. I don’t think I’ll be buying the software because it doesn’t do anything that my present editor Lightroom can do anyway. Don’t get me started on Lightroom and Adobe who make it, though. That’s another can of worms!

After all that technospeak and computery stuff I made a couple of CDs of music I’d found on my old HP computer. The most interesting, but very Lo Fi, music was from 1991 and was of Frank Zappa being given the chance to be a DJ on Radio 1. I do not know whose it was, but whoever it was, was taking a big chance. Two other things I’d taped from the radio were of Nicky Campbell interviewing Mr Zappa and are extremely thought provoking. Anyone who thought that Zappa was just an airhead would be amazed at the logical arguments this man put forth on radio. It appears that at the time he was considering running for president. Who would you rather have as president? An absolutely out-of-his-box airhead or Frank Zappa. I’d go for Zappa every time. Better hair and he can play guitar.

The CDs were for Val and Fred. Our last coffee meeting before Christmas and probably the New Year. It was an interesting meeting with sketches reviewed, books and CDs exchanged. Arguments argued and laughs laughed. A brilliant way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. On the way home I grabbed those few minutes to take some photos of the sunset from the top of the Whinedge Brae above Mollinsburn. When I got them home, the hours of tweaking and massaging them into some form of acceptable landscape began. I think that’s when I realised that Lightroom is Lightyears ahead of the new program (Picktorial). It did exactly what was needed with the minimum of fuss. It’s not got all the bells and whistles, but it produces the goods. A time will come when I will need to leave it behind, but not yet.

Went to Salsa to find that Jamie G was not in the building, he was off ‘darn sarf’ somewhere. Class was being taken by Irene who is quite good, but seriously lacks confidence and some young guy who can dance, but it years behind Scamp, Roy or I in experience or range of moves. We stayed to help out, but thankfully made an excuse and took off after the class finished. Leaving the pair to teach the next class themselves.

Tomorrow we may go out to lunch, but not anywhere near shops.

Fish and Monkey Glands – 19 December 2017

Out early and drove to Linlithgow to get some fish to fill the freezer.

We had to go early because my coffee mountain was being delivered in the afternoon. Got the fish and also got some gin that John had recommended at Aldi in the town. Also got a couple of steaks, one of which will do for Christmas dinner.

Came home and after lunch went to dump some empties in the bottle bank, but not before photographing them! Discovered I didn’t have my phone with me. I’d intended getting more photos when I was out, but that wasn’t going to happen now. Came home to find Scamp dressed ready to go out. Her aunt was stranded at Monkey Glands (Monklands) hospital in Airdrie. As it was getting dark now, I offered to drive there with her. Came home and dropped Isobel at her house and drove home. Still no more photos, so the old bottles would have to do as PoD.

That’s about it. We now have some parcels under the tree, at last.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the boys.

Redacted – 18 December 2017

This shouldn’t take too long today.

It shouldn’t take long because most of today’s activities have been redacted by the Santa Club. That means I was parcelling stuff up while Scamp and here sister were off having lunch with Nancy at the Fort. Not the most salubrious of places to have lunch, but who am I to argue. It gave me some time to get stuff done for Santa.
Earlier I’d decided not to travel to Perf to get some coffee and tea. What’s the point in driving for two hours when I could click a few buttons and buy the same coffee and tea online with a delivery charge of only £3. As Scamp said, it would cost more than that for the parking.

Took some time out to take today’s PoD. It was a very dull day, so I made the decision to take a tabletop shot. It’s a box of soft, crumbly pastel chalks.

Tonight was the last Advanced class of the year and it was a good one, with:

  • The Hat Game (it would take too long to describe, but let’s say it always ends in chaos).
  • The Antlers Game (this is a new one, but just as chaotic and prone to cheating as The Hat Game)
  • Leaders Choice (designed to cause panic among the leaders, where they have to call out the next move – Panic and Chaos.
  • Dancing in the Dark (with Glow Sticks). This is becoming a holiday standard. Any excuse to wear glow sticks and dance a rueda in the dark.

Not happy with doing it once, we did it all over again in the next class. Brilliant fun and free chocolate to boot. What’s not to like. There never has been a teacher like Jamie Gal and there never will be his equal. A legend.

Tomorrow, the coffee is delivered and if there’s time we’ll go to Linlithgow to get fish.

Circling the square – 17 December 2017

We looked out this morning and decided today was going to be an inside sort of day.  It was raining and the clouds were low.

I hauled out the old HP computer from the cupboard in the back room and proceeded to plug things like a keyboard, a mouse and a monitor into it. It looks very complicated at the back of an old desktop. The back of the iMac has a few USB ports, a couple of Thunderbolt sockets, an Ethernet port, a headphone socket and a card reader aside from a kettle plug socket. They all sit in a neat row. Not so the old PC. It’s got two monitor sockets, four USB sockets a Firewire 400 socket and RS232 port an Ethernet port, a socket for an aerial for WiFi, mouse ports, speaker sockets, keyboard sockets. That’s only the back. The front has even more USB, Firewire and other ports for plugging in a toaster, a microwave oven and a thing for taking the stones out of horses hooves. Is it any wonder that the power supplies fail fairly often? Well, here’s the most surprising thing about the whole shebang. I plugged in the keyboard, the mouse, the monitor and the power supply. I switched it on and it worked. First time. It loaded WIndows XP and was ready for business in about five minutes. I was astounded. It takes longer than that for my Win 10 laptop to get past the POST screen and I’m not kidding. Most of the rest of the day was spent investigating all the files I’d stashed away in this leviathan. Its pair of massive 250GB hard drives were loaded with software, files and photos that hadn’t seen the light of day for about nine years. HP should use this as a new marketing campaign. HP Old Tech “It Just Works”.

The Snowman™ table cover had to be cut down to size today. Today we weren’t ‘squaring the circle’. We were ‘circling the square’. Actually Scamp decided that she’d rather have an octagonal shape rather than a circle. I was happy with that, because it’s easier to cut four straight lines than one circle. At least, if you want it to look reasonable. It was put in place after that and it’s sitting right in front of me as I type. I have to say it looks really good. Super glad I bought it now.

The rest of the day was just spent lounging around, well for me at least. Scamp had ‘busy’ things to do and I was happy to let her do them. I went for a walk over St Mo’s and got the photo you see at the top of the page. It’s not brilliant, but it’s a fairly decent landscape. It’s not the landscape that made me take it. Here’s what I wrote about it in Flickr:

Loads of frogspawn in the pond in the spring, then damselflies a little later followed by dragonflies later in the summer. Today, all that was visible was water on top of ice. However, I know that below that there is life waiting to evolve into walking flying creatures next year when the temperature rises again.

That was about it for the day.

Tomorrow Scamp is meeting Nancy for lunch and I may go for coffee in Perth, or I may not. There, Indecision is my byword.

Get the pain over with early – 16 December 2017

Up fairly early for a Saturday defrosted the car and on our way in to Glasgow to do some Christmas shopping.

Like I said yesterday, get the pain over with early. Parked no problem and the streets were almost clear of ice. In town we agreed to go our separate ways and meet up in about an hour for a coffee and an update on our progress. Actually, for once we were both finished early, so we went for a coffee and a wee pastry in Nero in Sausage Roll Street. While I was getting our order in Nero, the bloke next to me, about my age I’d guess, was huffing and puffing. I turned to him and said “It’s not that bad.” He just looked at me and said “Oh, it is. We’re just starting the shopping, but we’re having a coffee before we get going.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him we were finished and on our way after our coffee.

It was good to drive home knowing that we had the rest of the day to look forward to, with some shopping done. In town, I’d gone in to Mandors to look for material for a project I’ve got in my head and came out, instead, with a piece of vinyl printed with the Snowman™ theme. I thought it would make a good table cover. It cost a bit more than I had intended, but when I saw Scamp’s face light up as she saw it come out of the bag, I knew it was a winner.

I drove to Tesco in the afternoon, but the weather was not really good enough for a long walk so I just came home and enjoyed an hour or so not doing anything. I’d managed to get a couple of shots in Glasgow and really liked the one of the Salvation Army euphonium player so that’s why it’s PoD. I was sure that instrument wasn’t made of metal and eventually went over and asked him if it was plastic. He just smiled and said “Yes”. It must make an appreciable difference on the player’s back carrying a plastic instrument rather than a big hulking metal one. I checked when I got home and the whole thing weighs only 850g.  My next favourite photo was the sea of faces below.

Dinner was at J&M’s in Hamilton. A good night entertained by Ross and John. Food was lovely as usual, just what we’ve come to expect from Marion. Chicken with Tarragon served with carrots and potatoes in a cream sauce. Banana cake with Creole sauce. Not too late home because the temperature was dropping again.

Tomorrow? Not much. Probably cutting the rectangular Snowman™ table cover into a circular one.

Coffee – 15 December 2017

Today I was going for coffee, but not with the usual company.

The Campsie Fells enticed me to do a wee watercolour. It’s the snow that makes the hills so interesting. It smooths the shape, levelling everything out, but at the same time it enhances the ravines that cut their way down the slopes. Thankfully the snow didn’t quite reach us, because although it’s nice to look at, to paint and to photograph, it’s not so great to fight your way through.

By the time it was finished, it was time to drive to the town centre for coffee with Shona and Scamp. Usually I have no problems getting parked in Tesco car park, but today it was chock a block. No room at the inn and non in Tesco car park either. The only solution was to park in the main center car park, across the dual carriageway. I spotted a few spaces in the far away area of the car park and headed there. Then I found the reason for those empty parking spaces. None of the roads or pedestrian areas had been gritted or cleared of snow. Three days of thawing during the day and freezing at night had made the paths un-walkable. Where the snow and ice had melted and re-frozen, the suface was like a sheet of glass. Worse, it was like a sheet of glass with water running over it. Not good for walking on, but the company who own the town centre don’t care. They seem to think that having provided a car park, they don’t need to maintain it as well. Dobbers.

Had coffee with Shona and Scamp then gave Shona run home. I was surprised at the amount of snow still lying where she lives. We have no lying snow and we live only about two miles from Shona.

When I came home, the weather looked good and I reckoned I would manage an hour of decent light, so it was boots on and grab a camera time. The paths here are just as bad as those up at the town centre and the bin that was half full of salt grit last week was now lying empty. It won’t be filled again until next autumn. Saw a couple of deer in the woods of St Mo’s and managed to get a clear shot of one of them. The hills that had impressed me were turning pink as I climbed the mound at the end of the forest. I took a series of shots at varying zoom settings. What you see above was my favourite and became PoD.

Scamp sensibly decided to forego the delights of the choir carol concert tonight as the temperature dropped down to just above zero again. I think that was the right decision.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow in the morning to get the pain over with early!

Ice is not nice – 14 December 2017

An icy morning. Jac’s taxi didn’t come, so I volunteered to drive her to the station.

It wasn’t all that cold, but it had snowed during the night and the snow had melted, then frozen again and now that ice was melting, on the surface at least and that meant it was treacherous. The Juke performed perfectly, I couldn’t fault it. Unfortunately there was a queue of traffic heading along towards St Mo’s taking the children who can’t walk if it’s cold, or windy, or wet, or dry, or too hot, or too tired, or .. well, you get the picture. I turned at the roundabout and took the longer, but much quicker way round the back of Blackwood and then through the new estates to the station. Got there with plenty of time for Jac to catch the train (the next train, that is). Came home the same way because, although the queue was shorter, it was still there and resolutely not moving. Walked back from the car and that was when I found out just how slippery the surface was. Slid all the way down the short slope to the house. Didn’t fall, luckily, but Scamp decided it would help other folk if I spread some chippings on the path. Such a simple solution and it worked.

After lunch Scamp parceled up the Christmas parcels for JIC and Sim and I took them to be posted at Tesco. Got that completed and stopped off at St Mo’s to take some foties. Liked the shot through the trees also liked the shot of the swan attempting a tricky landing on ice, but decided the trees won PoD. The rest were good, but not great. I was better prepared for the ice this time with a pair of walking boots, real ones, not Clarks flashy looking, but ultimately useless Goretex ones. The ice was melting in the areas the late sun was reaching, but as I was leaving I could see thin icy fingers stretching out across the puddles. (Oh dear, I came over all ‘Nigella’ there!)

Later in the afternoon I finished last week’s Zentangle doodle. I thought these things were beneath me, but they are more difficult than they look. You need a good eye and a steady hand to produce the accurate linework.

That was about it for the day. The highlight of the day was going to Tesco. Some days are like that.

Tomorrow, I may be joining Scamp for a coffee with Shona!

Slipped the Leash – 13 December 2017

This morning, Scamp and her sister were off into town. I had a chance to slip the leash.

Ended up doing a bit of sketching and pastel drawing, but nothing serious enough to be considered for public viewing. I also made some yogurt, repaired a bit of the kitchen ceiling and finished off an iron-on transfer for a tee shirt.  Eventually, after lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and just missed the last of the good light. What I did find was a quadricopter drone stuck up a tree. After a bit of work energetically throwing chunks of branches at it, it finally dropped to earth. It really was in a sorry state, but it did have a camera and after a bit of examination, I extracted the micro SD card. Like the rest of the drone it was fairly well corroded, but with some careful scraping with a scalpel, the contacts were clean enough to download the video of its last flight, all 2.5minutes of it. It’s not the best resolution, but it does show the dangers of flying too close to tall pine trees!

My one decent photo from the day and my PoD was entitled “Slipped the Leash” on Flickr. Quite fitting.

Tonight Scamp, Jackie and I drove down to Bombay Dreams for dinner with June and Ian. Our combo starter was enormous and while others less used to the size of the restaurant’s portions were eating their way through it, Scamp and I were more careful. Mains were also their usual size and just as tasty as always. Entertainment was provided by the two twin waiters. One serious, the other telling jokes with such a deadpan expression you wondered if it was a joke at all. All this while snow was falling outside. This was the first expedition in the snow in the Juke and it performed perfectly. It even climbed the hill to the house without a single grumble. Nice car.

Jackie heads to Embra tomorrow and depending on the weather we may go to Stirling.

The end of the ice age – 12 December 2017

Woke up to -5.5ºc, but my weather app said it would rain by 2.30pm. Nah, I don’t think so, somehow.

Spent most of the morning clearing up the back bedroom for Jackie. You might not think so to look at it, but you didn’t see it before I started!

After lunch I drove in to Glasgow to BUY STUFF. It didn’t really matter what I was buying, I just had to BUY STUFF. Well, that’s the way it felt until I realised I’d just had a near miss with the Xmas shopping bug and decided to be a bit more pragmatic. While I was driving in the rain started, just after the predicted time of 2.30pm and walking down Bucky Street in the rain, yesterday’s Christmas Card feel completely disappeared. This was back to business as usual. After managing to get all the things I’d come for (and a few more), I met up with Jackie off her bus from Skye and we drove home still in the rain.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Thighs with Leeks and Petit Pois (peas to you), from a Nigella. It was full of the gorgeous grains of green from the peas and the subtle mild onionniness of the leeks, but mainly the golden goodness of the chicken thighs. There, that’s a better description in Nigella language!

Today’s PoD is of the reflections in Exchange Square in Glasgow.

Tomorrow, it looks like there may be some snow in the forecast. I think I may be pastel painting while the sisters hit the ‘Toon’.