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Magic Millarochy – 30 April 2018

I got up at just after 8.30 this morning to make the breakfast and to fire up the oven because it was sourdough baking time again.

Yes, I’d made the leaven on Saturday and used it on Sunday to make the dough. This time I thought I’d made a stiffer dough, but when I left the dough to stand ( you don’t knead sourdough with this recipe, you fold it and then allow it to stand for half an hour or so) it became quite wet and sloppy again. That said, it had been rising happily overnight in it’s cane basket and now looked ready to bake, so I whacked it (gently) on to the pizza stone that came out blazing hot from the oven and it promptly slumped down again like a balloon that was blown up a week ago and is now a bit slack. Oh well, nothing ventured etc. I hacked into the top of it to give it space to rise and put it into the fiery furnace for about 45 minutes. When I took it out and tapped the bottom it sounded ’toom’ which was one of my mum’s words. It means empty or hollow. Try using it some time. Anyway, a hollow sound is good.

With my loaf cooling on the rack, I started to plan the rest of my day. It was a beautiful day too, Blue skies all round and a temperature that was just entering the teens. This was a Gems day, so I thought I’d go a run for a change and chose Millarochy Bay as my destination. After sharing the first cut of the loaf with Scamp, I used it to make up a packed lunch and with a flask and the makings of coffee I got in the car. Set the satnav for the postcode of the campsite near the bay and off I went. I followed the directions until I reached a sign that said ‘Road Closed’. Little was I to know that would be the first of many. Made the recommended detour and after being stuck behind a slow moving truck full of asphalt, no doubt going somewhere to fill in potholes, I took the turning to my next ‘Road Closed’. Found the detour again and was almost at my turn off when I came across a third ‘Road Closed’. This time my turn off came just before the road did close. After that it was plain sailing and I arrived at Millarochy Bay just about fifteen minutes after the satnav had initially predicted.

The carpark was very, very busy, but I was lucky enough to find a free space. Had my lunch looking out at a view similar to the PoD you see at the top of the page. Went for a walk and got a few photos, well just over fifty, but who’s counting. It was still a beautiful day and it was getting even warmer. Unfortunately it was soon time to go so I had to pack up and head back. This time the satnav took me out towards Stirling and although it was a greater travelling distance, it was on much faster roads, much wider roads too.

Started processing the photos in Lightroom and also in ON1 which I bought last night. It’s not nearly as bad as I’d initially thought and is really very adaptable. You get lost in it very easily with all the options and variations available. Some of the effects are a bit tacky and probably not much use, but some are very useful. More on this app as I dig deeper in to its potential uses.

Salsa tonight was a bit underwhelming. Too many leaders in the 6.30 class so I helped out in Will’s. Jamie’s was disappointing. Too many obscure and pointless moves now. Just because they are weird, they aren’t necessarily wonderful. Salsa moves have to be stylish or adventurous. The ones we’ve been doing for the last month have been neither. No Salsa next Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday and probably none for us on Wednesday because he won’t be taking the class. That may mean Shannon which would not be good or perhaps Irene and Andrew which I’d rather avoid.

Tomorrow Scamp’s car goes in for MOT, so we have a free day after we drop it off.

Oh, one last thing. We were driving home and came to the traffic lights at Charing Cross in Glasgow and noticed a sign saying M8 Closed Eastbound (that’s us). Oh no! The curse of the Road Closed rears its ugly head again. When the lights turned green, everybody seemed to ignore it, so that’s what we did too and there were no road works to be seen. Probably somebody’s idea of a joke, just to annoy me!

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An exciting F1 GP – 29 April 2018

For once, it really was a Formula 1 Grand Prix filled with thrills and spills and best of all, Vettel didn’t get a podium.

We both did a bit of light gardening this morning although as usual, I did the lightest possible while Scamp got stuck in and did the heavy stuff and was constantly planning changes, alterations and improvements to the layout of the plants. It’s what she does best. Me? I just footer around the edges pruning things a bit and thinking about planting things. Today I thought about planting peas and potatoes. Didn’t actually do any planting, but I thought about it, then decided that tomorrow would be a better day to do the work … or maybe Tuesday would be a better day. Hmm.  After that I did a bit more pruning.  Used the hairclippers to give myself ‘a Number 4 all over’.  I’ve had worse, fairly often and had to get Scamp to tidy up the bits I couldn’t reach.  Saved a tenner!

Watched the Baku GP with crashes galore, punctures galore and even two team mates crashing into one another. Oh how we laughed when Vettel performed what used to be called a ‘Banzai’ move and forgot he’d need to brake for the corner that was fast approaching. Went from first to fourth in one easy move. Such a shame <snigger>.

After the race we had to get ready sharpish to drive to Paisley for a tapas meal before Salsa. Food was good and I must give Shannon full marks for a sensible improvement to the ordering procedure which used to be a shambles. Now it’s a much reduced menu, but the food comes out far quicker.

After the tapas, we had a styling class with Will and although styling is not my thing, (you can tell that by today’s DIY crewcut) I did enjoy the class but maybe my partners didn’t think very much of my attempts at styling. It was a bit of fun and it would have got the dancing off to a good start, except that nobody wanted to dance after that, they all wanted to talk. We did get a few dances and I even managed to dance with two former classmates and also with one of the new ‘Improvers’.

On the road home I got today’s PoD which was taken just outside Moodiesburn. Who would have thought it would be so photogenic.

Tomorrow I may go out looking for photos after I’ve done a bit of alteration to my ‘raised bed’ Going to drill a few holes in the woodwork to erect a frame for a pea net. Guess what I’ll be planting soon after that hopefully!

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Peacocks, Plants and a Swallow – 28 April 2018

Today wasn’t a day for going over the sea to Millport.

When we woke, the sky was clear with just a few clouds. However we just knew it couldn’t last and we were right. An hour later it had clouded over and the temperature was only 10º. We’d planned to go over the sea to Millport, but that wasn’t going to happen today.

I am planning to make a sourdough loaf on Monday. That means I have to prepare the active starter today in order to assemble the dough tomorrow (Sunday) and prove it overnight in its pretty cane basket in the fridge overnight ready for baking on Monday. That’s how it works with sourdough. It’s a three day plan process and you have to think ahead to be ready. That’s why this morning I was making up my active starter, just as the battery in the scales died. So my active starter is a kind of rough and ready one that feels right. As of now, at 11.45 it’s looking good. Tomorrow will be the big test.

The preparation of the AS was just filling in time while we decided what to do with the day. It seemed that east was better than west today so we settled on Dunfermline as a target and that’s where we went. Scamp wanted to go for a walk in the park and I wanted to look for a new book in Waterstones. On-line is cheaper, but it’s nice to just browse the books instead. You can’t really do that on-line, well, you can, but it’s not as much fun. We went to Dunfermline and had a walk in the park and found that there are still peacocks there and that’s where the PoD came from. We also found they’ve revamped the swing park to make it wheelchair friendly which is a great idea. One that more places should adopt. Only cost a little more than a ‘normal’ swing park, but the inclusion aspect is worth a lot more than the cost difference. I applaud you Dunfermline.

We’d half intended having lunch there, but instead we just had a coffee in Nero and settled on a home made curry when we got home. I did get to Waterstones and I did get a book … or two! On the way home we visited a wee garden centre and Scamp bought me a Forsythia from the sale plants and she got a wee alpine. My mum had a Forsythia plant in the garden and I always remembered it. I’ve got my own now.  On the way home I saw my first swallow this year!

Dinner tonight was a Spice Tailor curry and was good, but not nearly as good as the Butter Chicken curry we had the other night from the same company.

Swallow Watch:  This week I saw the first swallow this year and this is week 17.

Tomorrow?  Dancing in Paisley hopefully with dinner flung in for good measure.

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Just a Friday – 27 April 2018

No early rise today, no dramas with central heating, just a Friday.

Just a lazy start to the day and after solving the Sudoku and after lunch I drove Scamp up the ‘Toonie’ to have lunch with the other three ‘Witches’ while I converted my last surviving paper Bank of England £10 note into a safe RBS plastic tenner. After that I bought some peas to plant, a hook to make into a boot rack (DIY) and some more 10p silk emulsion paint testers to use as gesso on corrugated cardboard panels. That will make them ready to receive some oil paint.

Came home and slapped the cheapo gesso on a cardboard panel and it looks better than the matt emulsion panels I’d made earlier in the week. Started a landscape on one of those matt emulsion panels using cheapo (again) water soluble oils. Reeves oils, not nearly as good as the Rowney or W&N ones. You get what you pay for. Still, it looked quite a lively landscape. Liked it.

Baked a loaf that had been rising in a new banneton cane basket I’d bought yesterday. Grudged the money for it, probably because it wasn’t cheapo, but you do get what you pay for because the loaf turned out perfectly round and tasted good too.

Dinner was gammon steak with sausages, egg and griddles pineapple slices. Lovely. By then Scamp had returned just in time to get ready to go out to a concert with Isobel 15 minutes later. I was taxi driver tonight. Didn’t mind it because it gave me time to develop my photos. Not a lot of material tonight as it’s been a bit of mixed up day and the weather has been the most mixed of all with rain showers, hail and bright sunshine. The PoD is the rather sad looking starling sitting on the back fence.

Just back now from taking Isobel home from the concert at Cumbernauld Theatre and then driving Scamp home. Amazed that I found a space to park in when we got home.

Tomorrow we’d planned to go to Millport (over the sea), but the weather looks as if it will be much like today, so maybe we’ll shelf that for a better day and look for something else to do.

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The Gas Man Returns – 26 April 2018

Another early rise.

The gas man phoned at 8.15 this morning to say that he was on his way, but asked me first to unscrew a bleed screw at the top of the boiler. When I did this, there was a hiss of escaping air and then a few gurgles. Still nothing from the boiler. When he came in he diagnosed the problem right away. I’d switched it off at the boiler and forgotten to switch it back on again. Numpty. That didn’t explain the inability of the boiler to fire up on Tuesday night though, for that he diagnosed an air lock which I’d partly resolved by unscrewing the bleed screw. He bled the air chamber inside the boiler and now it’s working perfectly, in fact it’s much better than it’s been for months, if not years. We now have instant HOT water in the upstairs bathroom, something we’ve never really had. So here’s a hint for you readers. If your central heating won’t come on, check that it’s actually switched on.  We’re now talking about getting a Hive to give us even more control over our heating.

With that problem solved we went in to Stirling to get some messages. Just the usual day’s shopping in Waitrose, then back home for lunch. Weather was traditional April showers with intervals of really bright sunshine in between.

After lunch I went out for a walk and managed to get a photo of some Wood Anemone flowers down by the banks of the Luggie Water and that became the PoD as you can see. There wasn’t much else to see today and although the sky was interesting, there wasn’t much in the landscape to create a foreground, so it was ‘flooers’ again, I’m afraid.

Dinner was more of yesterday’s Simple Fish Stew. The fish might have been simple, but the stew was a whole host of complex flavours and tasted even better today. Scamp had bought some rhubarb in Waitrose and while I was out stravaigin’ the countryside, she had made the most delicious Rhubarb Pie for desert. It was so good, I had two pieces.

On the dot at 7.30pm the boiler fired up and in fifteen minutes the room was warm. It’s amazing what you can do if you switch the bloody thing on first 😉

Tomorrow is Scamp’s day. She’s out for dinner with The Witches and out in the evening with Isobel at Cumbernauld Theatre to a choir concert. I’m taxi driver, probably in both cases, but certainly at night. Morning’s free I think.

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You shall go to the ball – 25 April 2018

I had an idea at 4.30am

I woke at 4.30 this morning with an idea in my head. Today we were hardly going to be in the house. We were off to Glasgow to waltz and jive at midday and we wouldn’t get back until around 4pm. After dinner we were going to be off again to salsa for another couple of hours. We’d out of the house more than in it and wouldn’t notice that the heating was off, so why not cancel the repair to the boiler and re-schedule it for tomorrow. That’s what we did. There was no problem re-scheduling and we both got to dance practise. Simple. I don’t usually get good ideas in the middle of the night, but today I did.

Waltz was good, so good that we got to go on to the next dance which was Quickstep. I was so good at it, that I was too quick for quickstep and had to be slowed down. Michael wasn’t there, it was Ann Marie, his second in command, who took the class and went over the first steps in quickstep. It seems too simple, I’m sure it’s not. Jive was just the reprise of the first routine and also the First Spin of the Seven Spins. Ann Marie was answering questions about a dance this Sunday. The stupidest question was by one girl who asked “See this dance, do WE get to dance too?” Obviously she’d led a sheltered life and had never been to a dance before. They not only walk among us, some of them dance among us too!

On the walk back to the car I grabbed a few shots of the characters outside the Gallery Of Modern Art (GOMA) in Queen Street. My favourite and PoD is at the top of the page.

Salsa tonight was again a lot of fun. We managed three, well, actually two and a half classes tonight and needless to say both our fitbits were registering all green for our activities. I’m quite happy to admit that I was totally shattered coming out of the STUC afterwards. Drove home to a cold house with the hope that the repair man can get the boiler going again tomorrow, because it now won’t even try to start up.

So again the repair man will be knocking on the door between 8am and 12 noon tomorrow. We’ll have to be up and ready. That means an early(ish) bed. G’night!

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The gas man cometh and great winds did blow – 24 April 2018

The gas man came early which gave us the impetus to get up.

The gas man phoned just after 8.30 to say he’d be with us in about 20 mins. So that was it, put the book down, get dressed and get the front door open. Shower later. This is the earliest we’d been up since November! That in itself is scandalous. The central heating check didn’t take too long and for once there wasn’t a heavy push to replace the boiler. It was more a case of “If it’s not broke, don’t buy a new one … yet”.

With the rest of the day to play with we sat down with a cup of coffee. Scamp sat to read, I sat to do today’s Sudoku. After that and a quick run to Tesco to get tonight’s dinner, Scamp decided she’d go for a swim. I wanted to paint another masterpiece. She had her swim and I made a mess. Used black lacquer instead of black acrylic and then sprayed water on it to completely botch it up. Not to worry, it was just a small abstract. It was certainly abstract now. It may dry and it may not. I don’t really mind which. After that and after trying to clean the brushes with Hammerite thinners which will usually clean anything I was left with three claggy, oily feeling brushes. Tried heavy duty detergent on them and that didn’t work. I now have them steeping in warm water and will try using white spirit on them tomorrow. They weren’t expensive brushes, it’s just the challenge that’s keeping me going at it.

With the aborted abstract congealing on a board, I set about a landscape painting of the hills from the back window. Almost successful. Such a damning statement! Then Scamp arrived home just as the sun was coming out for the hundredth time today and she wanted to cut the front grass. Afterwards she was delighted with the speed at which she could blow the grass cuttings across the path into the trees. What would have taken about 15 minutes of heavy brush work was achieved by the Christmas Big Box Toy in about 20 seconds. Honestly, that was all it took. I think she was a bit disappointed because she wanted to play with it for a little longer. She’s had to wait four months to get to play with it and it was all over in half a minute.

The sun came out just before dinner and illuminated the garden. I quickly grabbed the Nikon and took a few macro shots of flower buds, mainly the Pieris which should by rights be a mass of red and orange foliage by now. Unfortunately it’s just the buds that are red at present, but it will be much more colourful by next week. One of the shots became PoD.

After dinner, it was my turn to do the dishes, but there was no hot water. Checked the boiler and sure enough the flame light was out. Pressed the reset button, but the power light was resolutely off. Unplugged it and re plugged it, but still no joy. Phoned Scottish Gas and the call centre girl told me she’d booked an engineer, the same one who had broken a working boiler this morning. He’d call between 12 and 6 tomorrow. I told her that was poor service, but I realised as I was saying it that she was just the messenger who didn’t want shot. She said I should visit the Scottish Gas website to see what freebies and great offers were available. I declined. She signed off by telling me to “have a great night”!!

Tomorrow? Waiting for the gas man I suspect.

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A sewing day – 23 April 2018

Today I had intended to do a bit of sewing, because the weather was dull and rainy.

That was in the morning, but after lunch it brightened up a bit. However, it wouldn’t take too long to run up a bag for my dance shoes. Would it? Actually it didn’t take that long after all. I’d already discussed the design with Scamp and had a fair idea how to progress. I had a bit of problem with the stitch tension (should this be under a <Technospeak> warning ;-). I just turned a couple of dials to different numers and it all seemed to settle down. I started out with setting 2 and finished up with setting 3 on both the dials (that was just for me to remind me what I did). The bag is a bit bigger than the original, but that’s not a bad thing. It just means I have more room and it was easier to make the big one than the small one. Still lots of coffee beans left just in case I need something else coffee themed! Thanks Hazy.

Downstairs Gems were practising and for a while I put up with it, but eventually I had to resort to Spotify and a pair of uncomfortable, but great sounding headphones. They did their work and soon Gems and the sewing machine faded under Daily Mix 2.

Later, after my dancing bag was finished, I grabbed the Nikon bag and went for a walk over to St Mo’s. Not a long walk, and there wasn’t much to see, but I did get some macro shots and a PoD which was the green alien at the top of the page. It’s actually a fern frond emerging from the leaf litter. The Sigma 105mm macro lens is really great. The only thing it lacks is anti-shake, but you can’t have everything I suppose.  I got one other photo of interest.  It’s a bunch of Cowslip flowers.  When I was reading the blog for 19th April 2017 I noticed the photo of the flowers.  Then when I was out yesterday there were the same flowers in the same place!  This must be the time of year they flower, even given the fact that everything else in the garden and in the wild is at least a month behind just now.  Just thought you’d like to see them.  Compare them with the shot on 19th April 2017 from the Archive section of the blog.

Salsa tonight was exhausting but good fun. New move was Leoncio Complicado which was a name we both remembered but we didn’t have a record of it in our library, well, we did have but it was a YouTube video, not one of us dancing it, which makes me think that it wasn’t a great success with the class and fell from favour. That’s a pity because it’s quite a stylish move with difficult turns for the leader. We’ll give it another try.

Tomorrow the gas man cometh to give the boiler its annual service. It should be before 1pm. Don’t know what we’ll do with the rest of the day. Weather doesn’t look very promising.

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What a difference a day makes – 22 April 2018

When we woke this morning it was dry and with a touch of sun. It didn’t last.

The rain started just before we got up and remained for most of the morning. It was indeed going to be a stay at home day.

<Technospeak>
Last night was another technological nightmare. While I was writing the blog I was restoring a backup from just over a week ago on to the Linx 12. I’d unfortunately decided to have it verified before I installed it. It was only after it was started, and the ‘cancel’ button had become greyed out, that I realised that it was going to take a long time to check the backup. In fact, it took as long as the actual restore to check it. Rather than go to bed and leave the ‘puter churning through this process, I sat and read another few pages of my book. Eventually it did complete around 1am and just as I was shutting it down, up came the inevitable message “Configuring updates. Don’t switch the computer off”. Too late mate, It’s switching itself off. I went to bed. Well, it was worth the loss of sleep, because when I started the Linx this morning, everything was there. Not only that, the bluetooth mouse that started off this drudgery worked perfectly after I made the change noted in yesterday’s blog. I spent an hour or so adding some stuff and subtracting others until I was happy that what I had was serviceable system. I then made a backup of the up to date system. This time I made sure that I set it to check the backup after it made it. That process, conducted under Windows and utilising a USB 3 connection to the backup drive took just under 20 minutes to backup and check. A far cry from last night’s three hour marathon.
Note to self: When you use Macrium to backup a 64Gig drive, do it uncompressed! It takes a fraction of the time the compressed backup takes!
</Technospeak>

Ok, now that Scamp and JIC at least have returned, here’s the rest of the day. By the way, I made a resolution to get to bed the same day I got up, so this blog and probably others in the next week or so will be written in blocks during the day when I’ve nothing better to do and they blocks will be seamlessly welded into a complete page.

It was a dreich day but I did manage to get out for a walk in the afternoon and it stayed dry all the time. Just a walk through St Mo’s and with the ‘Big Dog’ to look for something that wanted its photo taken. Mr Grey was the first customer. I did see a couple of deer, but they fled too quickly. The rest was all macros. My first hoverfly photo of the year and some neat closeups of catkins. Sometimes you’re lucky if you get one decent subject, sometimes you’re overwhelmed and struggling to refine it down to one photo. I also dragged back some bracken fronds to paint on. Not paint as a subject, but to stick on the canvas and paint over for added texture! Hopefully!

Had a quick practise of the waltz for Wednesday and am much more satisfied with it. Jive? Now that’s another kettle of fish.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes and Broccoli. Scamp made it of course. She’s the fish master. Much nicer than last night’s fish supper.

Tomorrow is Gems day and hopefully a better day all round than today.

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A glass of vino in the garden – 21 April 2018

I was up early (for a Saturday), but not to go anywhere, although the sun was shining.

No, today was baking day for my third sourdough loaf. I started it on Thursday evening when I made the Leaven, the preparation of active yeast. Then yesterday was making the dough which had cooled in the fridge and increased its size overnight and today it would be baked in a very hot oven that I put on just before 9.00 this morning. I left it for half an hour with a pizza stone in it, then I carefully slid the oversize dough on to the stone and shut the door. Left it for 30 mins before I had a quick look and it seemed ok. I was in two minds whether to give it the full hour or do what seemed right. I settled on staying with the recipe and gave it the full hour. Then turned the oven down and let it have an extra 15 mins at the lower temp, all as the instructions said. When it came out, it really looked the part and when it was sitting cooling on the wire rack it started crackling which is a sign of a nice crispy crust. Ok, time to have breakfast.

Later in the morning we deemed it to be cool enough and I cut the traditional slice from the fat end, spread it with butter and halved it between us. It was the best so far. Still a bit heavy at the bottom, but a definite improvement on what had gone before.

It had turned into a beautiful day, but neither of us really wanted to go anywhere. The roads would be mobbed on this the first really hot day of the year and we didn’t want to spend it sitting in a traffic jam so Scamp sat and read for a while and I completed two days worth of Sudoku while the sun shone in through the open window. Part of Buddhist meditation is called ‘just sitting’ and that’s what we were doing.

However, things were needing done and Scamp went off to plant out her sweet peas while I fiddled with the computer. Then we decided to go our for a light lunch, so we drove to Robroyston and had reasonable Costa coffee. Better than burnt water, but not as good as mine or Nero’s. Went in to Glasgow and got a bluetooth mouse for the new Linx. Got it home and it kept making the ‘puter crash. It worked on the Mac, but everything does, it was just the Windows 10 PCs that crashed. Gave up and went outside to have a glass of vino with Scamp sitting in the back garden in the sun. That’s where I saw today’s PoD. I can’t remember the name of the plant but it simply takes over the border by the back door. Dies down to nothing in the winter then sprouts up merrily the next spring. My mum called it Spirea, but that’s not its real name. Anyway, a macro shot of one of the sprouting buds made PoD.

Finally found a solution to the bluetooth problem. You just find the bluetooth radio in Device Manager and go to power options and set it to not shut down the radio. Just unticking the box does it. Simple.
<That note was for me for the next time I have the problem. I’ll remember that I wrote it down here … I hope!>

Dinner was a fish supper from the chip shop in Condorrat. Delicious, but I’m suffering for it now.