Jukin’ with a Boy Racer Micra – 20 September 2018

This morning the Juke went for its first service and I swapped it for a shiny black and orange Micra, just for the day.

First thought on the Micra was that it was a lot bigger and lower than Scamp’s little red car. Then I slid into the driving seat and felt that my bum might just scrape along the tarmac and I wondered if I’d be able to get back out of it again without the use of a hoist. The clutch pedal seemed to have a rather long travel, either that or my legs had shrunk. Engine sounded healthy and there seemed to be a lot of horses under the bonnet. It was, like all things good in parts. One of the good bits, apart from the horses under the bonnet was the display on the dash. Very clear and with loads of information. Analog speedo and rev counter with incongruously a digital speedo between the two dials. What? So I can compare and contrast the differences in displayed speed as I run into the bus in front of me? Outside temperature, time, fuel economy. Maybe a bit of information overload. It drove well and like Scamp said “It was a car.” It was good to have the experience of the loan. It made me happy that I’d chosen the Juke over the Micra. I couldn’t see Scamp driving it with any less reluctance than she has for the Juke. Visibility in the car is certainly not as good as ‘Big Red’ The door pillar creates a large blind spot just where the mirror already has a blind spot and that’s not a great selling point. When we went for a spin this afternoon, we were agreed we didn’t like it all that much. A bit too plasticky. The Juke may be big and heavy, but it gives the feeling of solidity. I was glad when the garage phoned to tell us the car was ready.

After our trip to Stirling to pick up the very shiny Juke we drove home. Scamp wasn’t feeling too good, so she plunked herself down with a cup of ‘white tea’ and I went out for a walk in St Mo’s which is where I got today’s PoD. It’s an amalgam of two photos. One of the face of the fly and one of the hairy wee legs. Both shots blended in Photoshop. With an ISO of 3600 it was going to be a ‘noisy’ photo without too much in the way of smooth tones, but it was that kind of day. A day that started out with bright sunshine but by 4pm it was feeling more like twilight.

Between picking up the Micra and going for a spin I’d been to the physio who was pleased with the results on my knee and after a bit of laser treatment and some pin cushion tricks I was sent on my way with the possibility of being signed off in two weeks.

I did dinner tonight and with Scamp’s help it was pan fried chicken breast with baked potato. I was careful to stick to her tried and tested method and of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it.

The above is a wee watercolour I did from a photo I saw on Flickr.  After it was done I wasn’t happy with it, so I added some pen outlines once the paint had dried and I think it improves it greatly.
Details are W&N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm Rough paper.

Don’t know what we’re up to tomorrow. I don’t expect we’ll be going far unless Scamp’s cold improves. Let’s hope it does.

Ali’s Rant – 19 September 2018

The Ali in question was the first named storm of the year, and it swept in this morning causing havoc and destruction.

Ali didn’t prevent us from having our weekly dose of ballroom, although the walk down from Buchanan Galleries to Blackfriars was ‘interesting’ and at times ‘challenging’. Enjoyed the Jive because we were reprising the First Seven Spins and adding on the Ladles and finally attempting to bolt on the Lindy Hops. We would have done more, I’m sure, but D&D were back and apparently had had their brains formatted securely in the intervening two weeks. It was back to the start for them, and us, because we were in the same (physical) class. Just different class!
Waltz was improving, just trying to get Rise and Fall included in our steps and with Quickstep it was the swooping turns at the start we were introduced to. So no new moves this week, but revision every so often is a great thing, especially to smooth off the rough corners of our dance routine.

After that we fought our way back up to the carpark and the run home. We had a tail wind on the way back, so didn’t feel the effects of the wind so much. Scamp is beginning to show signs of my cold which is a great pity. I’m really selfish with things like colds and flus and I like to keep them for myself, where possible.

I wasn’t keen on going out for a walk with Ali still prowling around, although he was looking like a shadow of his former self, so instead I photographed the roses that were sitting on the coffee table with my glamorous assistant holding a piece of A2 paper behind them to hide the untidy living room. The roses are Sheila’s Perfume on the left and Peace on the right.  Scamp brought them in from the garden to prevent Ali from running away with them or battering them flat.  I’m quite impressed with the photo. It’s been through the mill a bit with changes here and softening edges there, but it looks like I wanted it to and that’s what counts.

Dinner tonight was the remains of yesterday’s Aloo Saag which was actually more Saag than Aloo, but there were flatbreads and rice to pad it out and it was declared fine. Better than yesterday’s in my opinion, but that’s often the way with soups and curries.

Scamp declared herself fit enough to go to 7.30 class tonight in STUC and it was a shambles.  They just don’t listen to what’s being taught, they think they can make it up themselves and they can’t.  The class is supposed to be level 4, but they make, and keep making elementary mistakes like turning left, not right.  Simple things.  I know we’ve all done it, I’ve done it, but I stop, think and try to fix it.  They don’t.  Numpties.  It’s partly Shannon’s fault for merging classes from different levels and calling them by the higher number.  What I mean is:  There aren’t enough students in a level 3 class to make it cost effective to run.  Rather than tell them that, she lumps them in with a level 4 class and calls the combined class Level 4.  This makes it twice as difficult for the teacher of the combined class and means that the level 3 students are struggling to keep up with the level 4 pupils in the class or the level 4 pupils get bored having to repeat level 3 moves with the influx students.  It’s never going to be a good way to teach, and it’s long term pain for short term (financial) gain.  Not the best way to run a railroad … or a salsa class.

Tomorrow the car goes in for service and I am getting a courtesy car. Wonder what it will be. We’ll all find out tomorrow. Me first, then Scamp and then you lot!

Safe to go back in the water – 18 September 2018

Scamp decided it was time we went swimming again and I agreed.

I’ve always thought it was a good idea to go to the gym at least once a week, in principle at least. The actual practice of getting up of my backside and going to the gym or the pool is a different thing entirely. Today we would attempt that ‘different thing’.

Given my fragile state this week, it was decided that Scamp would drive and we’d just go to the pool, not the gym. For once the pool wasn’t clogged with ladies of a certain age standing around in groups talking, or lazing in the jacuzzi when it was on its cleaning cycle. I walked in to the pool wondering if there was a shark alert I hadn’t seen because it was totally empty of people. There was water in the pool, of course and the water was fairly cool. So much more refreshing than the over warm temperatures much earlier in the year when we were last there. After two or three lengths of the tiny pool, I went to soak up some heat in the steam room. That’s when I realised that there was no door on the sauna. Listening to conversations in the steam room, it appeared that the sauna hasn’t had a door for three weeks. Something to do with it needing special hinges, apparently. Special in that they need to hold the weight of the door and allow it to swing open and closed. Perhaps they need to be hand made by a special hinge craftsperson somewhere in the European Union and Brexit is making it difficult to decide on the exact hinge design to facilitate the exit from the sauna. Perhaps they just can’t be bothered. It’s difficult to phone for a joiner when you’re sitting on your hands. The staff seem to be very good at hand sitting at Westerwood.

Well, that was the first of the winter visits for us and it was fairly successful. I’m not a great fan of the sauna, but three weeks is a long time to get a door fixed. Back home after lunch I went for a walk around St Mo’s intending to get some shots of the variety of fungi that have recently appeared. However, I forgot to bring my Gorilla Pod with me and I’d also left my phone at home, so that restricted the shots I could take. Not an excuse, just a statement. I did get a grab shot of the park bench dedicated to Rose and Spencer Tracy. Not The Spencer Tracy surely?

Came home and made that vegan Aloo Saag again. Used the Magimix this time to blitz the spinach. I didn’t think it did quite as good a job as the liquidiser, but it was much, much quicker. Just a note to self, not really for general consumption. The aloo saag was however consumed with gusto!

That was about it for the day. Just thinking about battening down the hatches before Storm Ali comes charging in tomorrow morning. Glad I’m not going to work.

With my increasing fitness, thanks in part to the swim and the heat in the steam room this morning, I think we’ll be going to Blackfriars for dancin’ tomorrow. Dancin’ at night too perhaps.

Cold begone! – 17 September 2018

Woke with a fairly clear head this morning and the roughness in my throat had gone. I was miraculously cured!

Just as well really because today is Monday and that’s Gems’ Day. There is no way I could have gone to my bed and stayed there all day while they were singing. What I did do was strip out some old silicone sealant from the shower cabinet and dry out the resulting cavity. Then resealed it and left the bathroom smelling strongly of vinegar. It’s not the best repair in the world, but I think it’s waterproof, or at least better than it was which is the next best thing. Tomorrow, I have to put the shower cabinet back together again with more silicone.

With that done I was free to go out and take some photos. I drove up to the back of Fannyside to see if there were any likely subjects. I found a field with some black sheep that looked as if they’d just arrived from the sales. Usually sheep spread themselves thinly across a field, but this lot were all bunched together and when one of them ventured away from the crowd, the rest followed like … er … sheep! Must visit them next week to see if they’ve settled in a bit better.

My subjects today were macros. A scary looking Daddy Longlegs spider, some Cladonia lichen and some moss fruiting bodies. And the winner is <Cue Drum Roll> The Cladonia. It was a neat, low, tight bunch and that helped keep them nicely in focus.

Scamp was eager to help out with the beginners 6.30 class tonight, so we left early. Unfortunately there was an EIS union meeting in the main hall of the STUC building, so parking was at a premium and we were lumped in a small room on the second floor. Worse still, it was a carpeted room. It’s really hard to dance on a carpet, and especially hard to dance salsa on a carpet. They were doing turns tonight and with the friction of my feet on the carpet, it wasn’t doing my poor wee knee any good. Thankfully the meeting finished before our own class started and we were back on a hard slippy floor. Tonight’s move was called ‘Seo’. Not its real name of course. That was just the name of one of the dancers in a video the teacher had learned the move from. Jamie G once taught a move called Setenta Batman. We searched YouTube to find that move without any success until years later when another teacher told the class that the move was called Setenta Batman because the teacher in the video was wearing a Batman tee shirt. You get used to this method of naming moves after a while.
Andrew and, the newly returned to the fold, Megan had their first beginners class tonight. Apparently it went really well. I don’t imagine we will be helping with that class … Ever!

Tomorrow we may be going for a swim. If so, I may go to the gym and loosen up my leg on the bikes. First time since the spring, I believe!

I’ve got the Cold – 16 September 2018

Woke with a sore throat. It couldn’t have been last night’s rum ’n’ blackcurrant, surely. The Ribena is supposed to be good for you!

Felt as rough as my throat. Had breakfast and gargled with some awful Listerine which usually sorts it out pronto, but it didn’t today, so pulled up the covers and went back to bed. Surfaced an hour or so later feeling just the same. Decided that I’d better get up. Vertical is sometimes better than horizontal with the cold. The hot shower helped a bit, but only a bit.

Watched an ‘eventful’ Singapore GP with very little to recommend it other than Vettel coming in third. They really need to do something about Perez before he kills or maims someone. Crashing into someone you’re racing because the won’t let you past is a sign of the wrong temperament for a racing driver.

Decided that as the rain had gone off, I’d get covered up well and go for a walk in St Mo’s. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Also decided that I wasn’t fit to go dancin’, certainly not salsa dancin’, so we stayed at home. I felt sorry because I’d also done Scamp out of her evening’s dancin’. Hopefully I’ll be fit for class tomorrow.

That was it for a dull day in the rain. Tomorrow will be better.

I have seen the future and it works – 15 September 2018

Electricity travels at almost the speed of light. Diesel is hard to spell and is a fossil fuel.

Today we took the ‘leccy train to Embra. We didn’t intentionally go the ‘leccy route. It just happened that the train we were waiting for was powered by the new clean, invisible power source. The Stirling train that preceded it was powered by old fashioned, smelly, hard to spell deisildesil, diesel. That’s because they don’t have electricity in Stirling yet. They still have gas lights in the street and coal fires. I do feel sorry for them.

The super fast ‘leccy train took longer than the diesel trains they are replacing. Maybe it was cheap, slow electricity they were using or maybe it was Abellio who now run Scotrail who couldn’t manage the rail system properly. Surely not! Anyway, we got to Haymarket and walked up the road for morning coffee in Nero, but not before I set the Samyang loose in Ladyfield which is a great canyon between large imposing office blocks. That’s where PoD came from. I really like the perspective this lens gives. With one in the bag, I could enjoy my morning coffee.

After that we walked up through the Grassmarket to see if anyone was actually selling grass. They weren’t, but I wasn’t surprised because I hadn’t seen anyone selling hay at Haymarket. (Sounds better with a Chic Murray delivery.) From there we headed for the Royal Mile which was mobbed. I was beginning to think that there had been an extension to the Fringe Festival, but it was just the usual bunch of escapologists, jugglers and fire eaters performing for the tourists. We’re not tourists, we LIVE in Scotland. There did seem to be quite a lot of tourists about, but I later checked and the Norwegian Jade cruise ship was docked at Leith, so that probably explained things.

We walked back down through the Old Town and from there along George Street, then back along Rose Street, eventually giving up and heading for the tea room at the National Gallery where our lunch was a shared baguette of smoked salmon with leaves and mayo and a two cups of tea, paper cups, to Scamp’s disgust. After our light lunch we just got the train home. We’d had a bit of a wander around the Capital and were ready to return to the real world.

It was a dull day weatherwise with nothing much to recommend it. I took a few more photos to test out the ability of the Samyang, but am fairly confident that at f8 or better it can handle almost anything I can throw at it. It’s a keeper, for sure.

Got the ‘leccy train back home and it was fast! Impressively so. Shave a good 10 minutes off a 45 minute journey. The folk in Stirling don’t know what they’re missing. They thought it was a great thing last year when the diesel trains replaced the steam trains they’d had for years. Not to mention that the carriages had roofs, not like the open carriages they’d had before.

Tomorrow it’s the Cumbersheugh 10k, so if we’re not out by 10am we’re locked in until midday. I don’t suppose we’ll mind as the weather is to be ‘Scottish’. Hopefully dancing later.

Coffee and the Bridge to Nowhere – 14 September 2018

Coffee first then a walk over the bridge from nowhere to nowhere.

I met Fred for a coffee and a wee natter this morning. Just the two of us. We’d both forgotten to invite Val and Colin, so we share the blame. Topics were mainly about painting, drawing and photography. No politics for a change.

When we were done, instead of going our separate ways, we went by the new bridge. It’s not really new, it’s been there for a few years now, but few people cross it, so it’s new to a lot of folk. I’d never had cause to cross it until today, because both of us were parked on the north of Central Way that bisects the town centre and the coffee shop is on the south side. Here’s the first amazing thing. You don’t need to climb any stairs to get on to the bridge, there’s a lift. Hardly anyone crosses this bridge, but there’s a lift. The second amazing thing is that the voice that tells you “Doors Closing”, “Lift Going Up”, “Level One” etc, have a Scottish accent! The third, and probably the most amazing thing is that the lift and the bridge haven’t been vandalised yet. Maybe that’s because the lift and bridge take you from a ground level carpark to an upper story carpark. Who in their right mind builds a bridge and installs a lift to take you from one carpark to another. There is no direct access to any offices or shops from this bridge, just carparks. Maybe it was designed by a forgetful driver who couldn’t remember where he’d left his car and wanted easy access between the two possible sites. Who knows. It’s just another Cumbersheugh Anomaly. What it did do was give me PoD, so it can’t be all bad. One more strange anomaly is that when you do get across there’s a covered walkway along the side of the carpark, but only for about 20m then it just stops. The walkway continues, but then it’s open to the elements. It’s as if they just got fed up with the idea and abandoned it. It’s typical of Cumbersheugh, half finished. Walked across the wasteland of the upper carpark in the rain and drove home.

We were going out tonight to a meal in Glasgow to celebrate Scamp’s sister’s birthday which is actually tomorrow. Unfortunately she’ll be on her way to Southampton tomorrow for a holiday cruise to the Canaries. The meal was in the Premier Inn on Sausage Roll Street and although there were no sausage rolls involved, it was a good night. Most enjoyable. Again, because drink would be taken, we got the bus in to Glasgow and the bus back again. Sometimes I feel we spend half our lives on the x3.

That was about it for a wet and windy Friday in September. Tomorrow we may go east to Embra where you get a better class of weather than here.

Posh Fish ’n’ Chips – 13 September 2018

But without the chips.

Today we went to The Barras to have lunch in A’Challtainn Fish Restaurant. Drink would be taken, so we went in to Glasgow on the bus. Coffee in Nero and then a walk down Bucky Street and across the Merchant City to Glasgow Cross, then off into the depths of The Barras. I found it difficult to work out where I was for a while. There were buildings where there used to be empty spaces. There were empty spaces where there used to be buildings. Some of the buildings that were where I left them the last time I was there had now been wrapped up like Christmas prezzies and were being shot blasted. As we walked past these plastic covered buildings I wondered what it must be like working in those conditions. It was noisy enough outside, it must be (literally) deafening inside.

Thankfully Bill’s Tool Store was still there, so we had a landmark. We were headed further in to the Barras to a place called BaaD (Barras art and Design) bad acronym. We were booked for 1.30 and it was only just after 1pm when we arrived, but it wasn’t a problem because they weren’t busy. The food was lovely. Scamp had a starter of Smoked Salmon Crab Cannelloni. The Cannelloni turned out to be a slice of smoked salmon wrapped round a portion of crabmeat. My starter was Grilled Sardines. Both starters were served with Smoked Herring Roe which I can remember having when I was really young because my mum loved it. I didn’t, and I still don’t.
Mains were:
Scamp – Sorched Scottish Salmon, Lime Pickled Fennel & Smoked Mussels
Me – Crab Linguini, chilli, garlic, lemon, white wine & parsley
Both had complementary Smoked Herring Roe.
We finished off with coffee.
All in all, the food and service were exceptional. Who would have thought that there would be a posh fish restaurant in the Barras (and no chips).

After our lunch we walked back up through the town and got the bus back home. Not before I got today’s PoD outside TJ Hughes. I’m not sure if it looked better in colour or mono. I risked the colour version.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred at midday and dinner with June, Ian, Jackie and Murdo in the evening all being well. Might even have fish ’n’ chips!

Shiny and clean again – 12 September 2018

No drilling the wall this morning, but we were up early anyway.

I thought that as the car would be going in for its first service next week, I should make an effort and give it a bit of a wash and brush up. It didn’t take too long and then I took it for a run to Craigmarloch to dry it off. Of course, when I was coming back the rain came on to wash away any remaining suds. Saw the strangest thing when I got to the Broadwood roundabout. The lights were at green for me, but one bloke held at the red light decided he could nip in in front of me, then seemed to realise that the roundabout IS actually light controlled. By this time he was halfway across the road and blocking both lanes. When he’d sheepishly reversed back behind the line, I just managed to get past on amber. What a numpty. Having said that, I’ve done the same thing myself a few times.

Drove a clean car in to Glasgow to go to ballroom class. Managed to get a few shots of the shiny reflective building with the new toy, but the PoD was a view of Buchanan Galleries through the glass brick windows of the car park.

Waltz is getting smoother. Quickstep is getting quicker and Lindy Hops are as bad as ever. Almost a private lesson today as the rest of the class were rated as ‘Beginners’ and I think we are now ‘Improvers’. Knee was sore, but I had taken Scamp’s advice and downed a couple of Paracetamol before I left the house and they kept things manageable.

After class, Scamp had business in town and I went for a browse in CassArt. Didn’t find anything but students with lists of things to buy for their courses and grants that no doubt would be reducing by the minute.

Drove home and discovered that Jamie G was not taking the salsa class tonight. Nobody was willing to say who the teacher would be, which can only mean one thing, or one person. We made the decision that it was too wet to go tonight with no sign of any fun in the class. We’d supplement our Salsa time on Sunday with a Sunday Social instead, hopefully.

Tomorrow we’re booked for lunch at a posh fish and chip shop in The Barras!

What’s he building in there? – 11 September 2018

Title courtesy of Tom Waits, fitted this morning perfectly.

We have been in the habit of having breakfast in bed most mornings, but this morning our new next door neighbour decided it was time for us to stop this leisurely pursuit when he started drilling into the wall on the other side with a hammer drill. I don’t know what he was doing, but by the sound of it, he was hoping to strike oil, or maybe open a hole into our bedroom so he could have a word with us. I imagine he was putting up shelving in his attic which would be about level with our upstairs, his being a single storey and ours being a double. Anyway, my book was getting boring and his boring was getting on my nerves, so I got up, dressed and went down stairs. That’s when the drilling in the wall stopped!

I had intended to go looking for another body repair shop to fix the scrape in the car door today, but before I could really do that, I had to at least try to clean it up a bit. When I got started with a cloth and some Brasso (just the same as T Cut, but a fraction of the price), I found that the paint layer was undamaged. One tiny little chip and that was all. I decided to forego the expense of the body shop until it’s necessary, some time in the next two years. Procrastination is the name of the game! I’d just wash the car instead. That’s when the rain started. Did I say “Procrastination”? Maybe I’d wash the car tomorrow. The rain was getting heavier anyway.

It stayed raining for most of the afternoon, at least until the DPD man came with two parcels. One contained coffee and the other my new, well new to me, Samyang 7.5mm. I stuck it on the camera and took a few shots of the living room and laughed at the size of it, the living room, that is. I now know how estate agents get those shots of enormous rooms. Super Wide Angle Lenses, that’s how. I took some of the garden too and noticed that the rain had stopped. Too late to wash the car now, there were new toys to play with!

Walked round a bit of Broadwood Loch and got the PoD above and a whole lot of others besides. The lens is a lot bigger and bulkier that the slim Oly 9mm, but there are a host more controls. The images it creates are sharp and really well saturated. I think this one’s a keeper. It better be, it’s paid for now.

Dinner tonight was fish pie. Very tasty. Followed by Apple Pie using our own James Grieve apples and this is where the InterWeb is such a mine of sometimes useless and often fascinating information. Did you know that most apple trees have diploid chromosomes? I’m sure one or two of you out there are saying “Doesn’t everyone know that they have two chromosomes?”. The rest of us are saying “Does it make them taste better?” Most people know that you have to cross fertilise apple trees, that is you can’t have two apple trees of the same variety and hope that they will pollenate each other, but did you know that some trees are partially self fertilising? Apparently it all depends on the spring weather. If it’s a dry, warm spring, the chances of success are better than if it’s the damp and cold spring weather we usually have. Our James Grieve is a partially self fertilising and that brings me round to how I found out all this information and so much more. You see, I was just wondering if it was “I before E” in Grieve. It was, but I got drawn away from my spell checking into the private lives of our apple trees. Aren’t computers wonderful. You’d never go and look up an encyclopaedia to check a spelling and get drawn in like you can on a computer. With that thought I’ll finish this blog for today.

Tomorrow we’re dancing in the afternoon and hopefully at night too.