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The Beast Shows Its Teeth – 28 February 2018

Today the snow got serious.

My Fitbit is usually a good measure of the amount of exercise I’m taking part in. In a negative way it’s also a signal of the amount of sitting on my backside I’m doing. On a reasonably active day I can achieve just under the recommended 10,000 steps. On a really active day my steps can reach 12,000. Today, as of now, I’ve only done 1,775.

The snow has been continuous today. The furthest I got was a couple of steps out the front door. Now I’d find it hard to get the door open. The snow is piling up about 20 cm up the door. Not solid snow, but blown by the strong wind so it piles up at the door. Today’s Pod was taken out the front window and shows Scamp’s ‘muffins’. Her plant pots in the front garden, looking just like iced muffins.

Today was the final day of 28 Drawings Later, and to make it a bit symmetrical, my final painting for this group was in a similar vein to the first:

All Gone

Tomorrow? I don’t know. The weather is supposed to improve slightly tomorrow, but probably only slightly.

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The Beast at the Door – 27 February 2018

Today it snowed a bit.

Spoke to Hazy on the phone in the morning and she gave us a weather report from down south and it was cold with a little snow.  Later in the day Sim posted a photo of the tiniest sprinkling of the white stuff in their garden, slightly north of Hazy and at that point we had blue skies.  Ok, there were clouds too, the majority of the sky was clear.  Later in the day the snow started, then stopped again.

Went out to Tesco and got some beefsteak tomatoes to make some soup and thought I’d do a painting of three of them with my painting mug to break up the monotony (before I made them into soup of course!)  Got some cardboard cut and primed an after lunch I got started to paint.  About halfway through the painting I began to wish that I’d stuck to ordinary tomatoes rather than beefsteak with their puffed out bits and creases. However I stuck with it and the evidence was made into soup tonight!

Before the good light disappeared I went for a walk in St Mo’s.  It was cold with that east wind and the snow was still trying hard to fall, but just not cutting it.  I got my PoD with the last of the afternoon light, before the sun disappeared behind the tree line and darkness returned.  Just after I got back, the snow started with a bit more force and this time it was falling on already frozen ground, so it’s lying.  We’re expecting some more snow tonight and in waves all day tomorrow.  Constant warnings on the TV not to travel tomorrow.  It’s OK.  If we are going dancing tomorrow afternoon, we’re going on the bus and since Salsa on a Wednesday is a optional outing, we may just stay home instead.

That about wraps us today.  Tomorrow, maybe a trip in to town for Waltzing and Jiving, but not a lot else.  Oh yes, and I have an idea for the final 28 Drawings Later picture.

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No room in the Pool – 26 February 2018

I’ll go to the gym he said and he did, well, almost.

It’s a Monday and Mondays have to be planned properly for them to work properly. This morning I was going to do my drawing / painting for 28 Drawings Later. That would leave me time in the afternoon, when Gems are here, to go to the gym as I’d said I’d do. The painting took a little longer than anticipated and it wasn’t until the second version of it was drying that I took its picture and then proceeded to completely annihilate it. However I’ve learned from my mistakes and I did remember to take a photo of it first. This is it:

The Hills

It was an attempt at colour mixing using Carol Marine’s ideas from her book ‘Daily Painting’. As an instruction on colour mixing it was good, but the landscape did have that unfinished look about it. By the time it was finished, Gems had arrived and it was time for me to make a move.

Checked the bag first and there were a pair of trunks and also a pair of trainers in it. Got to the changing room and found that the only thing missing was a tee shirt. So, it was to be a swim rather than a gym workout today. No problem. Then I saw that the pool was full. I mean FULL. It’s a small pool and with six people in it, it’s a bit cramped. There were TEN folk in the pool. I think only six of them were actually swimming, the other four were being moving traffic islands just to give the swimmers something to navigate round. Worse than that, the jacuzzi was covered up, obviously under maintenance. So was the ice machine, although, what you need an ice machine for in Scotland in February, I don’t know. Finally the loose tiles at one of the steps into the pool hadn’t been repaired and the elegant barrier of a half submerged metal framed office chair was still there in the same place it’s been for the last two weeks. I’m beginning to think it’s an art ‘installation’. I really thing its time for whoever now owns the leisure centre to throw some money at it to get it back being usable. Heavens, they must be making enough from the ‘spa’ community who seem to inhabit the pool every day. So, managed four lengths of the pool sandwiched between two sessions in the steam room, then came home, put on headphones and completed the annihilation of the painting while Gems sung their little hearts out below.

The ‘not got a name yet’ move tonight at Salsa was interesting although you had to be a contortionist to get the final section completed. I’m not sure it will survive to next week. There were a lot of confused looks and there was a lot of shaking of heads during the class.

Today’s PoD was taken out of the kitchen window and has little to recommend it, other than the pastel colours in the background and the minimal DOF (Depth of Field). Google it.

Tomorrow we are due the first flurries of snow. Nothing that desperately needs done and nowhere special we need to be, so we can just sit and watch the flakes fall.

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Finally the bike is out – 25 February 2018

It took a lot of promises, but finally today the bike came down stairs.

When I got up this morning, it was still below zero outside. That used to be the norm in February in Scotland, but we have grown used to the milder winters of late and now if the mercury or its digital equivalent goes below that line everyone starts stockpiling food, turns the heating up full, keeps looking at the sky for the first telltale snowflake. No chance of snowflakes today with almost wall to wall blue skies, but the TV and radio news have been bombarding us with threats of ‘The Beast From The East’. Come on people, its going to get cold this week and we’re probably going to have some snow. That’s what happens in winter. Remember my warning:

Stop watching the news
Because the news contrives to frighten you.

You have been warned.

So, what has this to do with bikes. Well, nothing really, but it sets the scene. It was cold. It was cold, but the sun was doing its level best to warm the place up. I decided there and then, while I was getting the breakfast that today I’d do the bike thing.

Prevaricated for a while doing this and that. Going finding things I’d need, not least the bike itself. I knew where it was, I just had to find a way of getting it out of the room and down the stairs. Tyres weren’t totally flat and didn’t take long to pump up. So after lunch I was good to go. Oh dear, need to put my dinner in the slow cooker. It was to be shin of beef that had been marinading in the fridge overnight and now needed frying to brown it, the put in the slow cooker for about four hours. Oh yes, Scamp wanted some bread baked, so I defrosted some dough and set it to prove. Nothing else to do? Ok, best get on with it and get dressed in many layers to cut out the cold. Finally got on the bike at almost exactly 2pm. It wasn’t too cold … to start with, however once I was out of the shelter of the houses and into the open, the icy blast hit me. I wished I’d been sensible and put on my Buff™ to keep my ears warm. Too late now, I’d just have to soldier on. I’d mapped out my short, 3 mile, route and stuck to it although I realised it meant I’d have a headwind coming home. Cycled to the old disused refuse dump, now landscaped and walked around looking for something to photograph. That was after I saw that the Three Amigos, three beech trees I’ve photographed spring, summer, autumn and winter had been reduced to two. I was shocked. Those trees had stood together for years, probably they were older than me. I suppose it must have succumbed to one of the winter storms, and when I checked with the photo in the living room much later, I noticed that even then its crown was much sparser than the other two. It really was like losing an old friend. Such a shame. To kind of make up for it or to form a link of sorts, today’s PoD is of some beech leaves.

Cycled home braving the east wind that was getting stronger, but thankfully it was more a north east wind, which meant I got a bit of a push up the hill at the start of the run home.

Loch Ard

After a shower and with dinner simmering away in the slow cooker, I painted today’s 28DL offering. It’s not really all that good, but unlike some folk, I don’t admit that on the 28DL page! That was about it for the day. The shin of beef? I’d like to say it was wonderful, but I have to be honest and admit that it was dull, tasteless and chewy. The bread? It was worse. Heavy an doughy. I’ll chuck it out for the magpies, crows and pigeons tomorrow with a warning to the smaller, lighter birds not to attempt it or like their corvine relations, they will have difficulty achieving liftoff. On that topic, Hazy, I finished Sourdough and really, really enjoyed it. On the subject of books, JIC, the books from Amazon arrived this morning. Keeping the James Oswald book for hols, but will read the start of Paint Daily tonight. I’d recommend Natural Causes by James Oswald, book 1 in the series if you fancy some Scottish crime noir set in Edinburgh with a hint of the supernatural in it. Thank you to both of you for increasing my reading library.

Tomorrow? Panic buying at the supermarket and fitting hatches that can be battened down securely. Then if there’s time, a trip to the gym, because I think my legs will be sore.

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A daunder with St Mungo – 24 February 2018

Bright day, so let’s head for Dunfermline on the bus, we said. They do say disasters come in threes, right?

Went for the bus and missed it by about three minutes. Waited in a cold wind for the next one which luckily was due in ten minutes. After a mystery tour of Condorrat and Westfield, thanks to roadworks, we reached the town centre only to find that that Dunfermline bus has been discontinued. Oh well, nothing for it but to head in the other direction and go in to Glasgow … again. We were in on Sunday for Sunday Social. Back on Monday for dancing, on Wednesday afternoon for dancing, and again on Wednesday evening for more dancing. I was in on Thursday to get my hair cut and here we were again on Saturday. We might as well move in to Glasgow for all the time we spend in our own house. Not a happy bunny, I harrumphed behind Scamp into Nero for a coffee. When we came out the black cloud had lifted. The sun was out and we had said that we’d go for a walk in the sun, so that’s what we should do. With a lightening heart I walked down Bucky Street with Scamp and even the Bastard Drummers couldn’t dent my new good humour.

We walked right down Bucky Street, past St Enoch’s (it is St Enoch’s. I heard a wee wummin’ telling her pal on the phone to meet her at St Enoch’s and you don’t argue with wee weemin’ in Glasgow.) We walked on to the Clyde Walkway, stood for a while then walked downriver under the bridges and that’s where I saw the PoD entitled “Lady in Waiting”. As Scamp said, it couldn’t have been any other title. On under more bridges until we came to the Tradeston Bridge, known to Glaswegians as “The Sqiuggley Bridge”. Why do designers and Cooncil busybodies come up with names for bridges when they know fine well the general populace will christen it with a better name. Just build the bridge and wait for its name to appear. Saves time and money.

Back across the King George V bridge and up to Pulcinella for lunch which was decidedly second class. Not just compared to Tuesday’s food, just compared to anything I could have made. Not their finest hour.

After our lunch we walked up to Sausage Roll Street. Me to the book shop. Scamp to Bonmarche. Neither of us came out with anything. Came home on the fast bus and made a couple of coffees to warm us up when we got in.

Somb'di

Today’s sketch started out as a doodle and then this strange wee man appeared.

No plans for tomorrow. That’s not true, maybe I’ll get my bike out and see if it still runs. Yes, I know I said I’d do that before, but the sunny skies are bringing that day closer.

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Today’s disaster – 23 February 2018

The good news was Scamp was much better when we woke.

I guessed she would be after a good night’s sleep, but was relieved to hear that she hadn’t been shouting down the ceramic telephone during the night. Had breakfast and sat in the living room soaking up the early spring/late winter sunshine when Scamp asked if the WiFi was off. I was doing my daily sudoku at the time and hadn’t noticed, so I checked the modem and both send and receive lights were off. I unplugged it to reset it and only when I was plugging it back in again, noticed that the light on the multipoint connector was off, so was the standby light on the TV. Oh dear, looks like there was a power outage. However, when I checked the junction box, I found that the RCD (Residual Current Device) had tripped. That usually means that some electrical item has gone faulty. I started pulling fuses from the box to try to find what was causing the fault and soon discovered it was the downstairs sockets. Went round switching them all off and then found that the culprit seemed to be the one connected to the fridge. That’s when the RCD tripped again. So it wasn’t just the fridge. Switched everything off and reset the RCD. It didn’t trigger. Started switching everything on again and unbelievably with everything on including the fridge, the RCD didn’t trip. Weird. Five minutes later the RCD tripped again. Weirder still.

Phoned Fred P who used to do PAT testing in the school to get his take on things and he told me not to just switch things off, but to physically unplug them. Did that and then plugged one thing on at a time. With nothing plugged in the RCD was fine. As soon as I plugged something in it tripped. Then it would trip with nothing plugged in. Fred phoned with the number for an emergency electrician he’d used in the past. I phoned and he came out in the afternoon. His first question was when I’d last tested the RCD. I told him I didn’t know you had to test them. Well, apparently you have to. There’s a note on the junction box to say so and he showed it to me and also showed me how to do the test … properly. Once every month or two he said. He waited while I connected everything up and gave it a good 15 to 20 minutes with everything powered before he left us. It cost £30 for the call-out, but it was worth it for the peace of mind. So the moral of the story is if you have a RCD switch and a test button, and if you have a little label on it telling you to test it regularly, do what it tells you. That way you won’t be staggering round the house like a loony trying to find all the sockets to pull.

After that I went for a walk to calm down and got a few pics of a young buck (PoD). Also got some of a goosander and a torn bit of a tree. Don’t ask why that last one. I just liked it. Saw the little white spot ladybird again, nestled in some moss. Stay where you are little ladybird, cold days are coming back.

Today’s sketch is just a bit of pencil rendering. It’s done and on time.

Tomorrow, let’s hope there are no more disasters. We have no plans.

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Visiting Herr Kutz – 22 February 2018

Ok, this blog entry has been done on the 23rd for reasons that will become clear.

I set off this morning on the train in to Glasgow after Scamp kindly gave me a lift to the station. It was time to get my hair cut by someone who knew how to do it properly. The last time I had my hair cut properly, was last December or maybe November. I cut it myself in January, but as usual made a bit of a hack of it, just to keep it a bit shorter. This time I needed a bit of topiary. A bit of shaping, so it was off to the Nile Barber for some intelligent conversation and some humour as my untidy locks were snipped into shape.

It was the bloke with the beard today. He of the conspiracy theories and the liking for the Russian slant to the news. He says it gives a better balance than the BBC does. Now I like the BBC’s reporting, but while it’s not as sensationalist as some, there is a tendency to, as Morrissey said, ‘frighten you’.

Stop watching the news
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own

Spent the day in bed
Morrissey

Today he was a bit more down than I’ve heard him before, but when we had a discussion about the High School Shootings in America he became more voluble about the merits of Trump’s stance on arming the teachers. I must admit, when I first heard about DT’s proposal, I immediately remembered a line from Matt McGinn’s ‘Rap Tap Tap’:

Tak the straps fae a’ the teachers
Issue every wan a gun

Conversation drifted to legalising cannabis and then the explanation of his slightly depressed mood, when he said that he was ‘having some prostate problems.’ Poor guy. I know a couple of folk who have the same problems. Anyway, I enjoyed the conversation, and although I don’t agree with everything he said, his are intelligent and well though out arguments, always with a ‘middle ground’ stance.

Went for a walk down to CassArt and bought a couple of new pens and a wee sketch pad. St Enoch Nero provided, not only a coffee, but also a chance to do a quick sketch with my new pen, which turned out to be an old friend, a Pentel fibre tip which I hadn’t seen in years. Sketch was ok.

Nero St Enoch - Glasgow

Bus back home and listened to Dream of Gerontious on the journey. As usual, felt quite uplifted by it.

Dinner was roast chicken with baked potatoes and that’s when things went wrong. I’d also made sweet potato fritters which are also under suspicion.

About an hour or so after dinner, Scamp felt a bit sick and then was sick. That’s most unusual for her. I’m the one with the dicky stomach. The sickness and then diarrhoea went on for a good couple of hours and I was beginning to get a bit worried when it started to subside and she began to feel better and also get her colour back. She went to bed early feeling very tired. I decided to join her later once I’d cleared up.

This morning she was back to her usual self, ready to meet today’s problem!

TBC

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Dancing and procrastination – 21 February 2018

Computers, especially when connected to the internet (are any computers not connected these days) are the ultimate procrastinator’s tool.

I sat down to write today’s blog almost 45 minutes ago.  In the intervening time I’ve read what Trump is up to this week, checked the status of my latest 28 Drawings Later sketch on FB, written an email to one of the coffee-drinkers, drunk a cup of tea and eaten two biscuits AND, only now started to write the blog.  The procrastinator’s delight.

Dancing today and for once I think I am making progress with the Waltz.  I even managed the rise ‘n’ fall for a while before it all went to pieces.  Jive was another story.  Not a good story.  I recited the words Knee, Step, Kick, Hitch, Back Step, but none of them were delivered quickly enough to my legs.  Maybe they should be connected to the internet. Maybe that would help.  No, it would just give me another excuse to procrastinate.  We couldn’t get in to the dance studio which is downstairs in a pub basement.  Two blokes were laying carpet on the newly screeded stairs, so we went for a walk until the contact adhesive they were using cured.  That’s when I found today’s photos.  Two pieces of graffiti and one ‘ghost sign’.  A ghost sign is an old sign that has been covered up for years and only recently been revealed again.  That or an old piece of signage that’s been painted on (usually) a brick wall.  That’s what today’s was.  It’s a bit of urban archeology.  Today’s PoD was the sketch of King Smiley.  Rough and ready, I was hoping it was a sketch that the artist would return to later to paint, but I think that is a bit unlikely.   We finally got down the part finished stairs to the dance studio where we did our version of the waltz and the jive then found we couldn’t get out again an hour later at the end of the class because they were laying a much bigger piece of flooring on the landing and there was no way of crossing the wet adhesive without getting firmly stuck.  We finally exited through the Fire Exit, although if H&S ever check that fire exit, the pub will be condemned with immediate effect.

Sketching

After we came home I sat down to doodle something for today’s entry and started sketching my foot, then my leg then me sketching my foot, then my …  Well, you get the idea.  I thought it was a clever idea and was pleased with the final drawing.

Salsa tonight was helping with two beginners classes.  I’m much happier helping with these classes, even Shannon’s class, than with Jamie’s grumpy Thursday class.

Tomorrow I think I’ll go in to Glasgow to get my hair cut and maybe get an outdoor sketch done.  Depends on the weather, and the state of the procrastination, of course.

 

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Foodies – 20 February 2018

Today we had a light breakfast before getting a taxi to the station, then the train to Embra.  Today was Foodie Day!

When we got to Embra we found the bus stop for the No 34 bus that would take us to Ocean Terminal.  With diversions, because Leith Walk is partially closed, it took about 35 minutes to cover the 4 miles.  The train journey from Croy to Edinburgh only took 45 minutes.  This was the X3 of Lothian buses.  However, we were in no hurry, because we had plenty of time to find today’s destination.  Had a cup of coffee in Ocean Terminal which is really just a great shopping mall with an entrance to the Royal Yacht Britannia, Mrs McQueen’s old boat.  We weren’t going there today, we were going for lunch at The Kitchin Restaurant.  It has been booked since November, such is the waiting list.  I was thinking “it better be worth the wait”.  It was.

Nothing to look at from the road, there’s a notice on the door telling customers to enter by Commercial Quay, round the back. Inside it was dark grey paintwork with discrete little areas like booths, but more open.  The food was superb.  Just what you’d expect from a Michelin star restaurant.  I’d recite what we had, but I can do better than that, and show you the menu with our selections highlighted.  Just click it to see it better.  It’s not a link to Flickr this time, just a link to the image.  My starter was from the Vegetarian menu because we were able to mix and match between menus.We also took the matching wine pairing and that really was an eye opener.  Truly an unforgettable lunch and not a potato to be seen 😉

After lunch we walked along and got a No 16 back to Waverly and it only took about 20 minutes and that because of traffic.  Got the train to Croy and a taxi home.  Strangely enough it was the same taxi driver we had in the morning!  Really, that’s the barest of bare bones of the day.  Too much to cram in to this blog post, you need to hear about it rather than read about  it (ask about the amuse bouche Oh yes, and the bread Hazy!)  A really memorable meal and one we’d do again once we’ve saved up enough to go back DV.

Tonight’s sketch is a coloured pencil sketch of an orange.  I described it thus:  “Oranges make great subjects because after you draw them you can eat them and destroy the evidence of your mistakes!”

Orange

Today’s PoD was a view of reflections on the Water of Leith.

Tomorrow?  Auld claes and purrich I’m afraid!

 

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Walking, Dancing and Backups – 19 February 2018

I’d fully intended going to the gym today, but although there was a smir of rain in the air this morning, I decided that to avoid Gems, I’d go for a walk instead. It was the right decision.

<Technospeak Alert>
In the morning I finally got my wee 2-in-1 tablet computer sorted out by using an old memory stick to boot into Windows PE and from there run a backup program to restore a backup I’d made way back in 2016. I thought it might be a bit basic, but all the apps I need are on it and I’ve even worked out how to use Microsoft Gallery to import my RAW pics. I got truly fed up with having to manipulate the EXIF data on the photos to allow Lightroom 5 to work with the RAW files from the Teazer (Panasonic TZ 70) so now I’m going to use the free and very good RawTherapee to do the heavy lifting of the RAW processing. I’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks. Right JIC you can come back in again.
</Technospeak Alert>

After successfully got rid of the baggage that Win10 leaves behind, and after lunch too, I went for a walk down by the canal.  The weather had cleared up nicely and the air was much warmer than I’d anticipated.  It actually felt like spring was in the air.  I know, there another cold snap due in a few days, but it’s Scotland.  There’s always another cold snap due in a couple of days, even in June … Especially in June!!  I even saw a hairy caterpillar, but it wasn’t caterpillaring around, it was just sitting there.  Maybe it was sunbathing, yes, that’s it.  It was sunbathing in its fur coat.  I took its photo anyway, just for the record.  Caterpillars in February!  Who knew?!  The photo at the top was my favourite of the lot I took, so that’s why it made PoD.

We went dancing at night and just for fun I asked Alexa what the travel time was to the STUC just before we left the house.  She (it?) said 25 minutes.  Twenty five minutes later I was walking along Woodlands Road looking for a parking meter that actually worked.  Glasgow council, you do realise that it’s not enough to plonk new parking meters by the side of the road?  You know you have to maintain them too, and occasionally empty the coins we commuters cram into them every time we need to park?  Duh!  So Alexa translated my speech into text, sent the text to somewhere in California accessed a database from there, checked my commute and returned the data which was turned back into speech and spoken to me in a very human sounding voice, and got it spot on right!  All of that within about five seconds.  Brilliant waste of technology, but still Glasgow council doesn’t seem to know how to operate its parking meters.  If it was up to them, high speed internet connections would be done with two shiny tin cans and a piece of coloured string.
Dancing was ‘interesting’.  We did one rueda move that didn’t have a name and seemed to confuse everyone.  Tonight’s move was ‘Stormtrooper’  Great name.  I hated it.  Then as I saw how it was working, I began to like it and later  in the night when I’d almost perfected it, I thought it was great too, just like its name.  That’s what a good teacher can achieve.

Just my glasses

Tonight’s sketch was just a 15minute shot.  A placemarker of a pencil sketch.  It’s a bit rough, but I don’t have a lot of time on a Monday.

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re off to Embra, to Leith in fact to go for a fancy lunch.