Leaping Day – 29 February 2020

It’s that day that only exists every four years.

To celebrate Leap Day, we went in to Stirling, in fact we went over the Tak-Ma-Doon road to Stirling. For the most part if was a jolly little run in the country, however halfway to Stirling, just as we were crossing the main road we came upon a bit of flooding. It wasn’t a problem for the Red Juke with its high clearance, but I was a bit worried incase there were any nasty little potholes lurking under that seemingly innocent water surface, but there weren’t, at least we didn’t sink into any, but it did make me think about all these poor folk down south who have been flooded out of their houses.

The next part of the journey was uphill again with no place for a lurking flood then it was down-dale and all the water would be rushing ahead of us with no time to block our path. After the downhill stretch we were on to the straight and level road where I could stop and get a few photos, one of which made PoD. It’s a wee farm under a glowering sky that promised snow. Luckily the snow had the good sense to wait for an hour or two before coming pelting down.

Stirling was busy, so busy that we couldn’t get in to Nero, so we went to a wee independent coffee shop where the coffee was poor, but the food was really good. Much better than either Costa or Nero’s usual tasteless stuff. Must go back again the next time we’re in Stirling. There being nothing else we wanted other than a wee run in the country and a bite to eat, we came back home via Waitrose where Scamp chose a basket rather than a trolley and that prompted us to buy what we needed, rather than the whole shop.  We had sleet all the way home and later in the evening the snow did make a brief appearance, but it didn’t last and it didn’t lie.  It’s getting a bit windy now as Storm Jorge slides across the country.  Allegedly we won’t get the worst of it.  There is heavy snow forecast for north of us and strong winds south of us, but as I’m writing this the bins are taking a battering from the wind.

Dinner tonight was a frugal but really tasty omelette. Peppers, onions, mushrooms and cooked ham sorted mine. Scamp’s was the same minus the cooked ham. We had considered getting a carry-out, but settled for a cooked meal because we couldn’t be bothered going out for Chinese or Indian and didn’t want to wait until 10pm to have a tepid meal delivered. A glass of wine washed the omelettes down nicely, and you can’t drink wine with a Chinese or an Indian take-away, at least we can’t.

The sketching topic was “Wedding”. Presumably it was to celebrate the fact that on Leap Day, the lady can ask the gentleman to marry them. SoD was Scamp’s suggestion. It was the bridesmaid’s basket that Hazy carried at Jackie’s wedding a few years ago … quite a few years ago! My mum crocheted the basket and formed it using sugar to stiffen it. She also dressed it with with artificial flowers. The flowers have faded a bit, but the memories are still there. That’s the last one done for this year. I may continue sketching, but if my past record is repeated, the work will peter out gradually, there being no real incentive to get things done and on time. I’ll miss it, but I can hold out until May when it returns again.

No plans for tomorrow except for dancing hopefully in the late afternoon. Real dancing. Salsa!

Storage, Lunch, Compost and Bridges – 28 February 2020

In that order. Oh yes, and Snow.

So what of the day then? Well, I fancied a trip to somewhere with technology. Somewhere with computers and hard drives and vacant sales people with limited knowledge of those things. Currys, that would fit the bill. My ever expanding photo collection would soon be in need of some extra storage space. Almost fifteen years of photos were almost completely filling the 2TB hard drive they are presently stored in. More accommodation is required and if you know what you want, how much you need and how much you’re prepared to spend, Curry’s is probably the best place to go, just don’t expect any help from the sales folk. They are there to sell, not advise. If you do ask them for advice on what desktop external hard drive to buy, you might come home with a washing machine instead, because logically, the person you spoke to hasn’t been on the computer external storage course yet, but they have successfully completed the one on washing machines. I Knew, I Wanted, I Bought … a Seagate 4TB USB3 Drive and it looks very swish.

With the purchase safely in the boot of the Juke, we went for lunch. Two Fish ’n’ Chips, one latte and one Americano. We think the indeterminate fish was River Cobbler whatever that is. It certainly wasn’t cod or haddock, but it tasted ‘fishy’ and it was hot, so were the chips and the coffee and that was all we were bothered about. Outside, the snow was pelting down. It had started as sleet, but had now graduated to real snow. Next stop Compost.

Scamp has decided that even though the weather thinks it’s still winter, in a couple of days it will be March and that’s effectively Spring, so it’s time to plant some seeds and for that you need lots of little plastic pockets, forty of them per propagator and lots of compost to fill those pockets. She already has the seeds, they’ve become a traditional Christmas present for Scamp. I’ve a packets too I think, somewhere, so I might be able to borrow one or two of those little pockets for my Teasels. I’d imagine the little seeds will be sown soon and kept inside until the temperature realises that it’s soon to be spring.

Today’s topic for sketching was ‘Bridge’. I searched my Flickr photo stream this morning for possible subjects and arrived at a shortlist of six. After browsing them, I settled on one of Mauldslie Bridge and Gatehouse. It took about an hour to sketch and paint and ultimately reject. Redrew it and repainted it and it became SoD.

PoD was taken earlier in the day and was of a rather snowy and unimpressive Campsie Fells covered in snow. It’s a poor showing, I know, but some people have decided that the photos must go on, so I do what I can with the cards I’d dealt. Not my best work, but done and on time.

Speaking of time, it’s running on and I want to get this posted today.

Tomorrow we may go shopping in Stirling.

Getting your ducks in a line – 27 February 2020

There was snow lying this morning when we woke. Snow in February, that’s normal isn’t it? Does that mean Global Warming’s been cancelled?

Only time will tell if the proposed Global Warming has indeed been cancelled. For my part I think the snow was an oversight. It was fairly quickly removed from all gardens and some active person was actually removing it from the Campsie Fells by the time we were going out. We drove to Drumpellier and found that the snow that had been removed from Cumbersheugh had been dumped there. I presume it was Coatbridge that had paid for the snow to increase its scenic value and it had been inadvertently delivered to Cumbernauld. We walked round the loch. It was very pretty with a clear blue sky, but a cold wind and I did get today’s PoD there. It’s a Tufted duck and it was only one of the hundreds pestering the swans that are the usual stormtroopers when there’s food to be had. It made a refreshing change. Cup of coffee in the visitor centre which had an area cordoned off with serious looking red tape and heavy duty polythene that obscured our view of what was behind it. I firmly believe this is the Coatbridge way of quarantining suspected Coronavirus victims. Scary thought!
By the time we got back home all the snow had gone and half of the snow on the hills had also disappeared. Probably the work of an NLC operative with a big barrow and a few black bags. Cumbersheugh doesn’t get to keep anything. NLC just takes it away to Coatbridge or Motherwell!

After lunch I made some dough for a second attempt at Salt & Pepper bread and set it to rise while I went for a walk. I got a few more photos, but not until I’d reset the time and date on the camera. None of the other settings had been reset, only the time and date! Strange. Despite getting more photos, it was a shot of Tufty that remained the PoD.

I made some soup when I got back and also cooked some mince under Scamp’s instructions. Then I fired the bread after I’d sprayed it with water and put some pepper and sea salt on top. It rose well and tastes quite good. I had mince ’n’ tatties with beetroot. Scamp had salmon with tatties. Soup was fine. It was bean soup, to which the response is always “I don’t want to know what it was, I want to know what it is now!” Proof that the old jokes aren’t always the best.

Today’s prompt was “Duck”. This is my take on that topic. It’s a mallard I photographed last year in Cumbersheugh. And, before someone asks, NO I wasn’t tempted to draw and paint a Donald Duck instead!

We have no plans for tomorrow.

A busy day indeed – 26 February 2020

Well, I predicted it would be a busy day and for once I was completely … right!

Scamp was out in the morning to see Isobel. No coffee shop for them today Isobel phoned to ask her to come to the house instead. Too cold and with her dodgy knee, Isobel that is, she decided she’d stay at home. Quite right, I say.

While she was out I mused over what to do to cover today’s prompt, “Pink”. I eventually settled on a Pink Piglet, and so today’s sketch was born. Of course, if I’d been on the ball I’d have painted him on a page of my Pink Pig sketch book, but instead he’s on a page of the Seawhite sketch book! To start with he began to look more and more like a prominent politician, but then he began to mature into his piglet form. He’s based in part on a little piglet I painted in art class on a cruise a couple of years ago. I tried to remember all the tips the artist gave us, but after a while I just painted and it worked.

When Scamp returned, we had a swift lunch of toasted cheese on my salt and pepper bread then we were off to Falkirk Town Hall to our first Tea Dance. After 20 minutes and an aborted Saunter Together sequence dance I was ready to throw in the towel and go home, but Scamp was determined and we did get to do one of our jive fallbacks, the Seven Spins next. After that my mood lightened. At the tea break halfway through the two hour dance, a couple of people spoke to us, before that they’d been sizing us up I think. By the end of the tea break they knew we were beginners and started to encourage us up on to the floor and we started learning some of the sequence dances. Music was provided by a bloke playing a Korg keyboard and singing along to it. Perfect for us because the tracks were short enough so if we made mistakes, there was another tune along in a minute or two and we could make a sharp exit. All in all it was a success and we’re looking forward to the next one in a month’s time.

Back home, I finished the painting, photographed it and posted it. That was the only photo I took today. It was a clear day for the most part, but just after I’d posted the photo the snow started falling. It didn’t last, but for a while it looked as if it was on for the night.  As it happened, it was on and off all night. Next on the busy list was Wednesday dance class were we reprised the Quickstep from Monday and now it’s more firmly in my head. Not perfect yet and difficult to practise in our living room, but all the figures are now there and in the correct order, it’s just the details of the figures, the steps that need a bit of correcting. It will come. We finished with a Rumba One which we had been learninAnnoying loud music from the pub we practise in. I get the feeling some of the locals aren’t too pleased at our incursion into their territory. Hopefully Kirsty will find somewhere with a rectangular room and less noisy neighbours soon.

Today was a great help. Dancing on a dance floor among enough people to make it challenging without it being a difficulty. That’s what we’re both needing to master.

Also, this is the first time I’ve put a sketch as PoD and SoD. There just wasn’t enough time today to get a decent photo taken, so needs must.

Tomorrow, no plans as yet.

A walk by the Water – 25 February 2020

The Water in question was the Luggie Water.

Couldn’t decide what to do today, so, as it was a fairly bright morning, I took the Juke out to Cumbernauld railway station carpark (free parking) and went for a walk along the Luggie. I’d hoped the water would be racing down to give me a chance to try out some slow shutter speed shots, but although it was fairly murky, it wasn’t as high as I’d hoped. However I got some shots of steadily flowing water that I immediately knew wouldn’t be PoD material, but I took them anyway. The PoD award went to a picture of snowdrops beside the water with the sun shining through them. Very Picture Skew (picturesque).

What you don’t see in the photo, although the eagle eyed among you might just be able to make it out is a thin white line on the right side about a quarter of the way down. That’s the antenna of an insect that was hiding behind one of the flowers I cropped out. It just goes to prove that the unnaturally mild winter this year, in spite of all the floods, is having its effect on nature. These insects shouldn’t be hatching until about April at the earliest. Strange days.

Scamp made Carrot & Lentil Curry for dinner tonight. I couldn’t tell you the last time we had that. It was delicious. Some flat bread was my contribution to the meal, but I also made a first attempt at Salt & Pepper bread. Too much salt on the crust and not enough pepper, we agreed. Pudding was pancakes (Shrove Tuesday) with some of our own stewed apples defrosted from the freezer and ice cream. All in all a good dinner.

Scamp’s cold seems to be getting better at last. So we practised a bit of quickstep tonight to try to fit all the figures together into the full sequence. With the help of a couple of videos we took yesterday, things are improving. We may go to Kirsty’s class tomorrow night and we may even go to a Tea Dance in Falkirk in the afternoon. Scamp’s out in the morning with Isobel for coffee too, so it’s going to be a busy day.

Today’s SoD topic was ‘Farm’. I chose Easter Cadder Farm near Kirkintilloch as my subject, specifically a couple of cattle we met there some time ago. The farm is still there, but Beast 590454 may or may not be.
Yesterday’s topic was ‘Mandala’ and my attempt was abysmal. In an attempt to clear it out of my head I sketched a different version of it last night after I’d posted the blog. I completed it this morning and although it’s not perfect, it’s a lot better than yesterday’s. I’ll even let you see it!

So, tomorrow has the potential to be a busy day so I’m hoping to get the ‘Pink’ sketch done early. That’s the plan.

Coffee and some adult conversation – 24 February 2020

Coffee at midday with the rest of the Auld Guys.

Topics under discussion were how to fix NLC, health centres and Boris.

  • It was generally agreed that NLC are now BER (Beyond Economic Repair) which is a nice way of saying FUBAR.
  • Health centres seem to be screwing up a lot of people. Within about a 10 mile radius the three centres under discussion were all operating different systems and all of them totally inefficient. Possibly they too are BER.
  • The book I’m reading at present is Real Tigers by Mick Herron. One nasty piece of work in the book is Peter Judd who is Home Secretary — described as ‘a loose cannon with a floppy fringe and a bicycle’ has his eye on Number 10. Now Peter Judd’s initials are PJ. If you say them quickly they’d sound like BJ, then all sorts of similarities are revealed. A nice piece of satire or simply a coincidence? You choose.

With the world once again set to rights, we went our separate ways and vowed that we’d organise our next meeting in a pub in Glasgow. We’ve been saying it for years and it hasn’t transpired yet. Perhaps 2020 will be that year.

When I got home, Gems were in full voice, so I swiftly had a roll ’n’ bacon and went out into the grim sleet to see if there were any pictures out there worth taking. There were as it happened. I’d stopped on one of my favourite places for a view of the Campsie covered in snow when the clouds came down and obscured them. Then I heard the sound of geese and a large skein appeared from behind some trees. There seemed to be hundreds of birds in the group that split up and rejoined as I grabbed my camera and shot off a few frames through the smirr that had started to fog up the lens. A quick wipe with my shirt tail cured that and I go some more before they headed off north. What do they know that I don’t. The resulting image is at the top of the page.

Dancing tonight was a reprise of waltz which I will tentatively say we can now complete without arguing 75% of the time. After that we did some foxtrot and made a bit of hash of it, but nothing that can’t be improved with some more practise. New to us tonight was quickstep. Now we’ve done quickstep with Michael, but this was quickstep with names for all the steps and the figures and it seemed to flow much better than when we were dancing it in Blackfriars. I’m not saying we have it off pat yet, it’s still a work in progress, but we’re about half way there. Feeling much better about this dancing lark.

I’m not publishing my attempt at a Mandala which is today’s challenge. I wasted an hour of my life drawing it and I don’t intend to foist it on anyone else. If you want to see it go to FB or Flickr.

Tomorrow, no plans, but I think we’ll be practising the quickstep figures.

Woke to Sunshine! – 23 February 2020

How nice to see a bit of sunshine again after all the rain and wind.

It was cold but bright and I really enjoyed my morning coffee sitting on the sofa in the sun. You could actually feel the warmth of the sun. Of course it did rain to, but not enough to speak of, so I won’t speak of it.

After lunch and after watching Andrew Marr doing battle with Nicola Sturgeon who put up a valiant fight I have to admit, I went out for a walk. Fell on my backside taking lots of photos of cladonia variants, but I only took five of the little yellow crocus growing in the front garden. One of the many Scamp has planted there. It was the little yellow crocus that got PoD and I didn’t even fall on my backside taking it!

Even managed to plant some Chestnuts in pots in the wee greenhouse .  Hopefully they will be more successful than last year’s no-show, but there’s no guarantee of that with wild seeds!

Swordfish steak for Scamp’s dinner with potatoes and cabbage. For me, exchange Rump steak for Swordfish. Just a relaxing day after yesterday’s dance extravaganza. The sunshine lasted all day with the occasional rain shower to remind us that it’s still winter. Apparently we will be reminded even more strongly later tonight or early tomorrow morning when snow showers are forecast across the central belt. May have to change my plans as I’m hoping to meet the Auld Guys for coffee tomorrow. Let’s hope not.

Spoke to Jamie and heard about his forthcoming surprise trip to Boston. It’s a work trip, but it’s still a trip to the US. More power to his elbow, he certainly works for it.

SoD prompt was ‘Gate’ and I struggled with this one. It’s a gate we passed on the banks of Loch Leven in Fife. Such skill splitting the bar and then producing the curves. I’m not sure I’ve done it justice, but it’s as good as I can make it.

As I’ve said, I should be meeting the Auld Guys tomorrow for coffee and adult conversation. Maybe even a bit of book swapping. It all depends on the weather.

Dancin’, really Dancin’ – 22 February 2020

Just another day of rain and wind and occasional snow, but with the chance of some brightness in the evening.

A parcel arrived for Scamp at midday. It was the long awaited pair of Adesso slippers. The first pair were the wrong size, my mistake. This pair, like Cinderella’s fitted perfectly. Anniversary present ticked off!

Today’s prompt was ‘Rain’. Now that should have been easy given that we’ve had nothing else pouring out of the sky for weeks now. Like the tiger, this drawing was scribbled down this morning on my ‘doodle sheet’ and despite trying to redraw it various times, I liked the feel of this original.

PoD was a picture I took in the downstairs toilet with one of those occasional spells of sun shining brightly behind the plants.

We went to Frankie & Benny’s at The Fort for lunch. Unfortunately, it seemed as if almost all of the east end of Glasgow were there too. The place was jumping and half of them were noisy weans. To compete with the noise of the conversations, the staff had turned up the volume of the music system, it seemed. Even despite all that, the food was good Cheeseburger (No mayo) and Fish ’n’ Chips. Guess who had what!

Then while Scamp went window shopping for clothes, I browsed Waterstones. Bought myself a book on painting with acrylics, something I’ve not dabbled in recently. It’d make a change from watercolours and ink.

When we got back to the car, we had to sit for a while to allow the blizzard conditions to decrease. No snow was lying, but it was certainly coming along, almost horizontally, quite fast. After that, the sun came out and there was blue sky above. Scotland, at least three seasons in one day.

All of this was the precursor for the main event of the day, Dancing. We were off to darkest Paisley to a community hall for a night of waltz, foxtrot, possibly quickstep and probably jive. Dancing with Stewart and Jane’s class. As like the Christmas dance, we were welcomed into the bosom of the company and found that three of those at the table had been on our last cruise with us! Great fun, although my waltz wasn’t quite as swish as it could have been and my salsa was a bit rusty, but We Danced, and in company too!

Arrive home just before midnight, so obviously this is a catch-up

Zog meets a Frog – 21 February 2020

A whole day without a phone call from the doctor! What’s wrong, have I offended someone?

It was another horrible day. Wind and rain in varying amounts and intensities. Didn’t do much and didn’t go very far. What we did do was practise the Foxtrot and the Waltz ‘figures’ just in case we want to dance them tomorrow. Actually I’d gone for a walk in the afternoon and found a piece of open ground in the middle of the trees and there I had a short solo practise of the figures in the Foxtrot, because that’s the dance we know the least about. I must have looked what my mum would have called ‘a proper chookie’ (a fool) if anyone had caught a glimpse of me dancing through the trees!

It was when I was coming back from my outdoor dance class that I saw two frogs in an amorous embrace attempting to get out of a fast flowing burn that had appeared overnight. The lady frog was trying to climb up a crumbling banking without much success, so I lifted them both out of the burn and placed them on the grass, took their photo and then put them down in a more gently sloping sandbank to allow them the opportunity to continue on to dry land or reenter the stream. I thought as I was walking away that it must be the first time I’ve handled a frog since I was a wee boy. One of the photos I took was sharp enough to become PoD. Zog meets a Frog.

Today’s topic was ‘Olive’. I tried all sorts of still life setups with black olives and also the green variety. None of them appealed to me, then I thought of the most famous Olive of all, Ms Oyl. I also wanted a fairly easy drawing after yesterday’s complicated crown.

Tomorrow’s task is ‘Rain’. I think I might be able to construct something around that theme, considering we’ve hardly had one dry day since Christmas. Only other plans for tomorrow are to go out for lunch somewhere if we don’t get blown or washed away.

The Messages – 20 February 2020

Today we planned to go somewhere to stock up on messages.

We drove to Falkirk and just managed to miss seeing a gigantic tractor lose its trailer which was now lying on its side blocking a roundabout at the entrance to Falkirk Hospital. Police and a heavy breakdown truck in attendance trying to keep the roundabout clear. Luckily we were on the other half or the roundabout. Further down the road a fire engine was heading towards the roundabout with blue lights on. I said to Scamp “I think we’ll take a different road home.”

We bought Morrisons today. I quite like Morrisons now. They have a totally different selection from Tesco and they also sell Yorkshire Mixtures sweets. I get a bag about once a month. Today they also had £10 off my whisky of the moment. Lastly they do one of the best Roll ’n’ Sausage for a knock down price. So after we’d bought the shop and I’d headed into a snowstorm that lasted about 5 minutes to fill the Juke’s boot. After that, we had lunch.

Back home and before I sat down, I got a message again to phone the surgery. What was it this time? One of the vampires had phoned in sick with anaemia and needed a quick fix? They’d got the labels wrong again and they wanted to tell me I was pregnant? Neither of the above. It was just to tell me that the doctor had left a prescription for me at reception. They couldn’t tell me what the prescription was for or why the nurse hadn’t mentioned it to me yesterday. I just left and drove up to the health centre. Discovered that the prescription WAS for me and it was because my urine sample had shown a slight infection. It must be something to do with my age and the fact that I had a severe infection last year. They’re being ultra-cautious. Well, better to deal with it than to have the pain I had last time.

Home again and the rain that had been pelting down had stopped, so I took an hour to myself in St Mo’s and managed to catch some late afternoon sun. Favourite shot was of a multi branch Cladonia lichen. That became PoD.

Today’s SoD was to be “Sparkling”. I chose Mrs McQueen’s favourite hat. It’s got lots of sparkly bits and bobs on it, so it fit the bill perfectly. I’m quite impressed with my render of the velvet in it. It seems to hold the creases and folds well.

Tomorrow, for once, we have no plans.