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So that was March? – 31 March 2018

It was the month that stated with roads closed by incessant snowfalls and the challenge of digging the car out of a snowdrift to get to the airport to go on holiday and it ends today with cold winds, rain and the threat of more snow. And they say this is British SUMMER Time?

We took the bus in to Glasgow today. We were going for lunch and nothing else, because it was a dull cold old day. After a walk up Sausage Roll Street to view the damage the fire had wrought last week (and it was extensive), we walked down to St Enoch’s to get the subway out to Kelvinbridge and thence to Paesano on Gt Western Road. Scamp found her (near) ideal pizza in a Tomato sugo (sauce) with garlic, oregano and evoo (extra virgin olive oil) with an extra of rocket. It would have been ideal without the garlic I’m told. Next time, Scamp. Next time. I had a number 4 which is Spianata spicy salami with tomato sugo, mozzarella and evoo. I found the salami too spicy and the waiter suggested that next time I should have a number 7 which is Fresh Tuscan fennel sausage with friarielli (Neapolitan wild broccoli) mozzarella and evoo. Notice there is no tomato sugo, so I just have to ask for that as an extra. I’ll try to remember that recommendation.

Lunch over we walked up a cold and breezy Gt Western Road and Scamp found a fish shop where she could stock up the freezer a bit with fishy stuff. From there we’d intended going for a drink in Òran Mór but it was too cold and we just got the underground back to Bucky Street and then the bus home.

Scoffed the other half of a bag of chocolaty things tonight with some gin to wash them down and watched La La Land. Scamp thought it was just so so, I thought it was really good apart from John Legend trying to act. Stick to the day job John.

Today’s PoD was ‘Red Shoes’ seen in Renfield Street. Actually I was photographing the glass tower building through the narrow lane. The man with the red shoes was just a lucky!

My other ‘lucky’ was the one below.  Saw it when we were walking home from the bus stop.  It was the writing on the bag that caught my eye, well, that and the ‘Bucky’ bottle.  I think that’s called Irony.

No plans for tomorrow. Just hoping for a better (warmer and brighter) day than today.

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It Rained – 30 March 2018

All day it rained.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and that may just have been the high point of the day.

After lunch we drove to Bishopbriggs to get some messages. While I was reversing into a parking space there was a bloke behind driving into the space behind. He got a bit voluble on the horn when he thought I was going to bump his shiny gunmetal sports car. I had it covered. I’ve got a reversing camera and was nicely placed in my box. He chose to reverse. When I looked, I realised why he was a bit nervous. It was only an Aston Martin he was driving. Lovely looking car, but absolutely no use to me. Too low. I could never get out of that. Probably that’s why it wasn’t on my shopping list when I bought the Juke!

By the time we got back to Cumbersheugh it was raining again. Got today’s PoD on the doorstep. Scamp’s wee violas have been a riot of colour all through the winter. They’ve been rained on, been almost blown away in the gales. They’ve had about 20cm or snow dumped on them, then frozen solid, but still they come up smiling. Lovely flowers.

This strange looking sludge isn’t the head on a pint of Guinness, it’s a shot of my active sourdough starter.  We spoke about it this morning, Hazy.  I haven’t got round to playing it some music yet.  Maybe Pink Floyd’s ‘A Saucer Full Of Secrets’ perhaps. or something from ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis?  Suggestions on a postcard please.  If this means nothing to you, read “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan and all will become clear!

Sorry folks, but that’s about it for the day. There’s not a lot else to say about the day, other than we’re going out tomorrow. Somewhere. Anywhere!

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Coffee and Sourdough – 29 March 2018

Not together. No, that would not be a good idea.

Today was meant to be coffee for four, but it became coffee for three. Fred, Colin and Me. Val being laid up in bed with shingles. Poor man. The replacement of Val with Colin changed the dynamic of the group completely, and also the proportions of the coffee. Instead of two Cortados and one Americano it was one Cortado and two Americanos. Topics discussed were school awards for LGBT, FPs (Former Pupils), FCs (Former Colleagues), gardening and sketching. It was interesting to have a different perspective on things, not better or worse, just different. Maybe refreshing would be a better word.

After an hour or so we split up and went our separate ways. Me to go shopping, Fred to pick up Margo and Colin to go back to his garden. I went looking for plant labels for Scamp. That’s what she asked for and that’s what she got today. After a very late lunch I managed half an hour or so in St Mo’s looking for something interesting. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Just a rotting fencepost, but lots of lovely textures in it. I was surprised to see that the number of the ladybirds I’ve been checking had decreased. Maybe the little bit of sun we’ve had has encouraged them out to look for food. It’s good to see as it might be another sign of spring, although it looks like there’s more snow in week ahead.

Back home, I fed the hungry sourdough starter. I’ve been buying sourdough bread from Tesco ever since I read that book by the same name that Hazy recommended. It’s lovely bread. Very open textured and quite rough. Best eaten as toast I find. The secret to sourdough bread is the starter.  Basically it’s the natural yeast in wholemeal flour that’s been actively encouraged to grow and multiply in a warm, damp environment.  Apparently, and a chemist would know better, the ‘sour’ part comes from the lactic acid which is a byproduct of the action of the yeast on the starches in the flour.  On Sunday I finally began making a ‘starter’. It’s not difficult, just a bit long winded.

  • 200g Stoneground bread flour
  • 200ml Water (30ºc)
  1. Put it into a large (1litre) container and beat some air into it.
  2. Cover with a breathable covering.
  3. Leave for 48 hours.

For the next 10 days repeat the following daily:

  1. Chuck away half.
  2. Add 100g Stoneground bread flour and 100ml water.
  3. Beat some air into the mixture.

So far I’m on day 4 and the mixture is looking interesting (lots of bubbles) and smelling interesting (smells a bit like milk). Hopefully that means the natural yeasts in the flour have started working and multiplying.  And No, Hazy, I haven’t played it any music.  Maybe I’ll try some Tom Waits on it, but probably Salsa would be better!  I’ll keep you posted.

No firm plans for tomorrow. Maybe go to Dunfermline.

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Dancing, dancing, all the day – 28 March 2018

“Shoes to set my feet a dancing” definitely help too.

Wet start to the day, but there was little chance of us having any free time anyway, so weather took a back seat. After feeding my sourdough starter we fed ourselves and it was time for the first dance classes of the day. Have I mentioned the sourdough starter? I’ll try to write a bit about it tomorrow. Today is about dancing.

First class is waltz. Very demanding for me, but I feel I’m getting there now. A practise session with Scamp yesterday helped greatly. The biggest help was the lesson last week with Michael’s second-in-command. Today the boss was back and I think we both did well under his eagle eye. I really believe it’s easier dancing with proper dance shoes rather than ordinary street shoes or trainers. I’ve been dancing salsa wearing trainers for years and never bothered with ballroom shoes, but for some reason, waltz especially is much easier (or less difficult) when I’m wearing those uncomfortable dance shoes.

I was on dinner duty tonight and as Scamp reminded me that we hadn’t had our dose of pasta this week, decided to make another attempt at Spaghetti dello Chef. This time I used spaghetti, garlic, chilli flakes, capers, tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with parmesan shavings. Not as good as last week in my opinion, but Scamp said it just tasted different.

The change of plan tonight was to go to the 7.30 and 8.30 classes. Ooh, staying up late! That is much better than having to face Shannon’s boringly repetitive routines and trying to keep a smile on my face. It’s dull, dull, dull, dear. Salsa should be fun, exciting and vibrant, all the things your classes aren’t. We got there earlier than I’d anticipated, so Scamp got to dance for about ten minutes at the end of Jamie’s 6.30 class which was oversubscribed by men as usual. I just stayed in the class and typed up the first half of this blog post on my phone. The 8.30 class was a revelation. For a level 3 class they were brilliant. I think we may make this a regular occurrence.

Today’s PoD was a grab shot of a fat pigeon sitting on the fence at the back garden. I liked the shadows cast by the tree on its plumage. Just a grab shot through the kitchen window.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Colin because Val has shingles. Poor guy.

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The Fit Family – 27 March 2018

Today was gym day.

I avoided it yesterday by going cycling instead, but today I had to bite the bullet and go, because Scamp too had decided it was time to revisit the machines of torture. That said, we did take it easy in the morning and had our coffee before we grabbed the bags and went out in the rain.

It was harder than I anticipated. I did my 12 minutes on the recumbent cycle and then frittered away some more time on some of the weight machines and the treadmill before finishing up on the leg press. Scamp worked the treadmill for 15 minutes or so then competed for a place in next year’s Boat Race with a sparkling performance on the rowing machine. Next it was time for a relaxing swim and it may have been something we said or maybe the excessive sweat from my exertions was overpowering, but everyone left the pool when we went in. A few lengths of the minuscule pool and ten minutes in the sauna and we were out. That’s it for another week. Scamp thinks we might go earlier next time. She mentioned 8am, but I think (hope) that was a joke. If not, it was wishful thinking.

In the afternoon I went for a walk around St Mo’s to see if there was anything wanting its photo taken. Couldn’t see much at first, but then I spotted the little green shoots of sycamore seedlings sprouting through the leaf litter (PoD). Don’t know if many of them will survive, but it was a hopeful start seeing all the green shoots. One final shot of what may become a Larch flower (https://flic.kr/p/RZNASn). They look really remarkable when they burst into colour. Never knew pine trees had such beautiful blooms. It’s amazing what you see when you take the time. Just because there were no deer or foxes in the woods doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. You just have to look a little more carefully. It’s even better if you have a macro facility or lens for your camera. Once you’ve seen the world from 20mm in front of your nose, you’ll understand the fascination of this kind of photography.

It had been dry for most of the afternoon, but the rain came on when I was walking home, but it wasn’t such a dull day after all.

Tomorrow is Dancing Day with the possibility of a slightly different plan. Who knows?

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A Straggle of Geese – 26 March 2018

So, I thought why go to the gym when I could exercise in the open air and the sunshine. Then the sun went away.

First on the list this Monday was ‘messages’ at Tesco where I bumped into Fred out doing his messages too. There’s a character in the book I’m reading called Grumpy Bob. It could also be Grumpy Fred!

Three slices of bacon between two slices of toasted sourdough bread was lunch. Not my own sourdough, I hasten to add because my sourdough starter hasn’t started yet. It’s early days though. I only made it up yesterday and it shouldn’t show any signs of life for 48 hours. It’s living in the living room now where the temperature is more even and slightly warmer than the cupboard that was its home yesterday. Anyway, the bacon sandwich was an early lunch before getting the bike out again and getting some outdoor exercise. The sun that had promised so much in the morning had gone into hiding by the time I wheeled the Dewdrop out of the door.

Back down to the same landfill site I visited last week. While I was debating if it was warm enough to take of the leg warmers, a large skein of geese appeared flying due west. I’d have thought they would have been flying south, but they were following the train lines and heading west. The patterns they made in the sky were amazing with those birds at the front of the three or four Vee formations falling back to the rear while others took their place. Even more amazing was the sound of their calls back and forth as they flew. They were definitely talking to each other. It was the noise you hear in a large hall where hundreds of people are having scores of conversations. It really is a delight to listen to all the different voices of the birds in flight. I eventually decided that it was indeed warm enough, then realised why they call them leg Warmers. It was quite cool after I took them off.

I walked to the place I went to last week, hoping to see some newts, but none were cruising round the pond today. In fact there was very little sign of life at first glance. However, when I went for a walk I spotted the crow sitting on a vent pipe and thought it made and interesting shape. Watched Skylarks flying up from their nesting sites among the reeds and listened to their song as they rose. In fact, as I write this I’m listening to The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams. That’s what I like about Spotify, I can instantly listen to almost any piece of music as I sit at the computer or in the car. Thank you again Hazy & Neil. I just had to photograph the Coltsfoot Daisies. They always remind me of my dad. He explained to me how they always grow in the poorest ground.

When I was leaving, another two skeins of geese flew over, again flying west. They started out as one large cluster, then split into two distinct groups, seeming to prefer to fly round rather than over me. This time I took a photos and managed to fill the frame with the larger of the two groups. Once they had passed me, the joined up again and turned as one towards the south. Again the call and response from all the individuals was something wonderful to hear.

My legs were sore after today’s exercise and I probably did more work than if I’d gone to the gym, but I don’t mind. It was a day in the fresh air, but I did put the leg warmers on again for the run home.

Dinner was Prawn & Pea Risotto with a poached egg on top. I think I decided on Saturday that I’d make it for us. Scamp gave me ‘poaching pockets’ for a wee silly Christmas present and they worked perfectly, keeping the poached egg neat and tidy. Must remember next time I make it that 3 minutes is perfect for a runny egg with firm white.

Salsa tonight was fun with Jamie G giving the 6.30 class the full Uhura story to explain the move. There were a lot of puzzled looks after his ‘explanation’. Tonight’s moves were The New One and The New Thing. Interesting moves is slightly thoughtless titles.

I should mention that I know it’s a gaggle of geese, but as you can probably just see, these geese were straggling across the sky.

Tomorrow it looks like rain, so it will be the gym and maybe a swim.

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Summer starts here – 25 March 2018

The start of British Summer Time and Fred and I are off to get some art inspiration and perhaps even some art if the price is right.

The clocks had jumped forward by an hour this morning. Well some of them had, the new, hooked-up, on-line ones were up to date and time, but the rest had to be pushed on an hour by hand, or more likely by finger. With that done it was time to sit down and watch the first F1 GP of the year. Felt sorry for Hamilton as he was cheated out of first place by a clever bit of rule twisting by Vettel. I don’t like Hamilton, but I detest Vettel.

Got ready to go in to Glasgow with Fred. We were going to an artist’s sale in the WASP studio. Nothing to do with White or Anglo-Saxon or Protestant, thankfully. WASPS in Glasgow are Workshop & Artists Studio Provision, and that’s where we were heading this morning to an Artist’s Clear Out Sale. Lots of stuff for sale. Ceramics, Glass, Paintings and some fabric work. Most of the prices were realistic, but a few were imaginative to say the least. I bought three ceramic bowls, small, medium and large. Fred got a brooch for his granddaughter. On the way back we passed an old school and with the sun shining on it, it looked worth a few photos. That’s what you see above. PoD was the old schoolhouse in the frame on the right. I tried a sketch of it when we got home, from the photo. It may or may not see the light of day. In fact, I may wait for the light of day to finish the washes on it.

Dancing this evening was at La Rambla in Paisley. Really enjoyable, probably because it’s weeks since we’ve been out dancing in public. No tapas today because of the length of time it took on our last couple of visits for our food to arrive, and of course, today it had been much quicker. That may have been because of a new ordering procedure suggested by Shannon, or it could have been because of the fewer numbers who were ordering food. Only time will tell.  Beautiful sunset as we were driving home after a really sunny day.

Tomorrow is Monday. That means the likelihood of gym or swim. I’ll decide which tomorrow.

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Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2018

Today is Scamp’s Birthday.

Because it was Scamp’s birthday it was my turn to make the breakfast. I also brought up the presents for her to open. After that, Hazy phoned, then we waited for the post to arrive with Hazy’s prezzy. An exciting morning.

Drove down to Troon for a walk along the beach before we went to lunch at Scott’s of Troon. On the way down, Scamp got a FaceTime call from Jaime and Madeleine from Trinidad! Most unexpected and so nice to see them again, although I didn’t contribute much to the conversation as I was driving.

Troon was busy because it was a lovely bright sunny day. Parked by the sea wall and walked along the esplanade to the sand dunes, then back along the beach to the car park. That’s where I saw the Micra driver who thought he/she was a motorcyclist. Would these people park in a disabled space? Probably not, but they think it’s fair game to park in a space for motorcycles. It would have been good if a hulking big Harley had parked right behind them, preferably with a hulking big Harley rider sitting in the saddle. That didn’t make PoD. The accolade went to THE best fig in Morrisons.

Lunch in the conservatory of Scotts was lovely, and went as follows:

Scamp:

  • Alex Vause Gin cocktail (Hic!)

  • Selection of breads (shared)

  • Smoked haddock, king prawn and pea risotto

  • Sticky Toffee Pudding Sundae

  • Coffee

Me:

  • Selection of breads (shared)

  • Roast breast of chicken with carrot puree, veg, fondant potatoes and black pudding & chorizo bon bons

  • Mini Eton Mess

  • Coffee

After that we poured ourselves into the car and drove home via Morrisons, still in the sunshine that someone had ordered for Scamp’s birthday. Whoever you were, thank you. It was worth every penny.

A lovely day with a lovely lady!

Tomorrow? Back to the real world. Hoping to go in to Glasgow with Fred to an art sale.

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Feeling Refreshed – 23 March 2018

Scamp was going out for coffee with Shona, so I had all morning to swear at the Toshiba or to do some painting.

I chose painting, but there was no gesso. Gesso is a thick, sometimes textured base coat you put on the card, canvas or wood you’re going to paint on with oils or acrylic. It can almost be replaced with acrylic paint or even emulsion paint these days. I chose acrylic and slapped a muddy brown layer on both sides of the card, then hung the card up to dry. That was about 10am. I think it’s still damp tonight at 11.25pm. So, it was back to swearing at the Tosh.

Actually there was very little swearing involved because I’d found an obscure website where one member claimed that it was possible to ‘refresh’ Windows 10 without losing any data or apps. Everyone else said it was impossible. I like a challenge, so I followed the blokes instructions, downloaded the ‘media creation tool’ from the Mickysoft site which took about an hour and a half, unpacked it and found I needed an 8gb memory stick. I didn’t have one that size that wasn’t being used so as it was lunchtime I called a halt to the computer nonsense and Scamp and I had lunch.

Set off to Sunny Coatbridge to see if I could get my hands on a Linx 12×64, because according to the Currys website, they had them in stock. I wandered round the lovely, selection of laptops. Some too big 17”. Some too small 10”. None just right 12”. So, feeling a bit like Goldilocks I went looking for an assistant who wasn’t checking his Facebook status to ask if they had the elusive Linx. The bloke I asked didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, but thankfully the youngster beside him who was just putting his phone away said he thought the had run out of them, but he’d check. He did and they had one left in the store, but it was in a box and he couldn’t open it. Bummer. But at least they had them. Maybe Stirling would have one, but that would be another day. Got a cheap memory stick and left.

Drove up to a dead end road at the back of Cumbersheugh Airport that cuts across the Antonine Wall and that’s where I got PoD. Looking North across Banknock, not to be confused with Bangkok. Sounds similar, different planet!

Came home via The Works to get some gesso, so over the weekend, I can paint, if not a masterpiece, at least something to take my mind of the failure of this wee drive to refresh my old PC laptop.

What a surprise! It took about five hours, but at the end of that I have a working Window’s 10 laptop. The ‘media creation tool’ and the memory stick did their work flawlessly. Not only that, the re-install did not touch any of my apps. Fantastic. Give that man on the obscure website a coconut. The laptop will still need to be reset properly and securely before I trade it in, but that was a ‘Wee Challenge’ that worked out well.

Speaking about coconuts, Scamp made Coconut and Fish Curry for dinner and it was really, really nice. Didn’t sound nice, I know, but it worked so well. The flavours blended beautifully.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for a sunny day for someone’s birthday and a trip down to Troon for lunch.

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Fire! – 22 March 2018

I decided to have some ‘me time’ today in Glasgow.

The plan was for me to take the bus in to Glasgow and then go to the West End on the subway for some sketching in the Botanic Gardens, then grab that shot from yesterday when I returned to the City Centre. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

On the way in there was an enormous pall of smoke on the horizon. A really mucky looking pall of smoke. Then I noticed Scamp had sent me a text to say that there was a big fire on Sauchiehall Street (AKA Sausage Roll Street). As we got near Glasgow I could see that it was indeed a big fire. Came out of the bus station and wandered round the side of the Concert Hall to see if there were any photos to be taken. There were, and hundreds of people were taking them with every conceivable photographic device, from old clunky SVGA point ’n’ shoot cameras to professional full-frame DSLRs and everything in between. And then there were the phones. This was a big incident. I took some right away with the Teazer.
First rule of photography: Take the shot, then think about it. You might not get another chance.

After that I started looking for a decent angle and a way to isolate some of the action. I took about 15 – 20 shots before the police came and ordered us across the road, behind a newly erected safety cordon. Really, it was like herding cats. Some folk moved away as directed while others, new on the scene said “Oh, what’s happening there?” and slipped under the cordon (because it wasn’t applicable to them, obviously) and calmly started shooting with their shiny new smartphones. I sometimes feel that the police can be a bit overpowering and heavy handed, but today they deserved medals, each and every one of them for not losing their cool and just huckling some of the numpties off to Stewart Street (polis station). By that time I had all the shots I wanted and walked down Bucky Street to get the subway to Kelvinbridge.

Walked up Great Western Road to the Botanics and after a walk round the Kibble Palace, I went back out and started sketching the Victorian glasshouse in all its wrought iron glory. Not the best sketch I’ve done, but it got the gist of the building. Also, although the temperature was almost 10ºc, it was still cool. Maybe too cool to be sitting on a park bench for the half hour it took for the sketch.

Back down Byres Road and got the subway back to Glasgow. Took it to St Enoch’s to the Nero for a spot of light and late lunch. Nice wee alliteration there! Walked up Bucky Street to the new even more extreme cordon, this time cutting off Jessops and the other Cafe Nero (glad I hadn’t banked on getting my lunch in there!) The polis had craftily blocked off one of the entrances to Buchanan Galleries and just extended the cordon across the road there. Everyone was behaving themselves now because the flames were almost out and there wasn’t much to see. Out through JL and was just crossing over to the road when I saw the shot on the right at the top. It looked like a film set. Now if that had been London or Birmingham or Manchester, the words on everyone’s lips would have been “Terrorist Incident”. In Glasgow it was “So is Lauders Bar open?” (Lauders is the pub on the corner next to the fire.)

PoD was the firefighters on the extended platform, top left. Whatever these blokes get paid, it’s not enough.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. Scamp’s meeting Shona for a catch-up. I might paint.