The big city – 30 June 2020

Not Glasgow or Embra, but the minor city of Stirling.  Granted City status by The Queen in 2002.  Queen Lizzie, not Nicola, who is the queen in waiting.

Today we went to Stirling for ‘the messages’. Since we, the common people are still restricted to approximately five miles from home for exercise and recreation, we wouldn’t be allowed to travel the fifteen or so miles to Stirling, BUT if we were travelling for essential food supplies, like Waitrose might have, permission is granted. We drove to Stirling. Parked at an almost deserted Waitrose and went for a walk in the city centre.

It was a bit strange walking past the closed up shops in the Thistle Centre. Y’see, according to Her Majesty Nicola’s decree, only shops with an outside entrance may open. Those that only have an entrance to a mall may not. Since most of the shops in centre fail that test, they can’t open yet. In fact, only Boots can tick that box, having an entrance to the pedestrian precinct through Boots Opticians. However, WH Smith was open and it doesn’t have an outside entrance. Aha, but it does house the post office and that way it can thwart the rule. One rule for Post Offices and another for the ordinary shops. We didn’t tarry long, Scamp didn’t even go in to M&S.

We walked back to Waitrose and made a valiant attempt at buying it. I can’t say Scamp did that on her own, I aided and abetted her, buying more than we really needed, but not as much as we really wanted. It felt very strange to me to be wearing a mask and taking care to dance around people in Waitrose. It put it down to accepting the queueing and the gradual return to almost normality in Tesco and the new shops, Waitrose was a known quantity in a known town. This was the first time we’d been there since about February and you grow to expect all the restrictions in the place you live in, but once you go to somewhere you haven’t visited in a while, it feels a but alien almost. Maybe it’s just me.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp went out to cut the grass. I did the strimming round the plant pots. I was also trusted with using the blower to scatter the loose grass cuttings to the four winds. I didn’t realise just how strong the torque is in that leaf blower. It’s a powerful motor.

Afterwards I laid in a sky for a wee acrylic painting that’s been in my head for weeks. Hopefully the sky will follow tomorrow.

Headed off for a walk round St Mo’s and got another photo of a grasshopper. It may be the same one, or perhaps it’s a different one. I never got to find out its name. I thought it might make PoD, but that went to a woman walking her dog.

Not a bad day, and a day without any rain. That doesn’t look set to last. More of the wet stuff on the way and we have no plans for tomorrow, even although Cass Art will be open tomorrow! Yes, I’ve checked and it does have the required type of entrance.

It didn’t rain today … 29 June 2020

… for about an hour. The sun shone too for far less time than that. Otherwise it was same old, same old.

It was a dull rainy morning that led on to a dull rainy afternoon, but finally about 10pm I went to the door and it was dry. I’m not sure if it’s still dry. I’m not looking just in case it’s not.

I drove up to Tesco today in the rain, mainly to get my prescription from the chemist, but also to get milk and bread if there was no queue. There was no queue so I grabbed my basket, disinfected it, sanitised my hands and put on my mask. Yes, I know a two layer cloth mask isn’t going to stop the microscopic spores of the virus, but it makes me feel secure and makes folk smile because the mask has cartoon frogs on it. Scamp says it makes folk give you a wide berth, just in case you might be wearing the mask to prevent others from catching your germs. Yes, that might just be true.

Came home with a magazine, a bag of oranges, two grapefruit and a loaf, but no milk. Didn’t notice until we were having lunch and Scamp asked me where I’d put the milk. What milk? Oops.

In between showers I grabbed a few shots of flowers in the garden and it was the remains of a meconopsis that made PoD. Sometimes the remains of a flower once the petals have fallen are more interesting than the flower. I wouldn’t say that about the bright blue of the meconopsis, but it did make an interesting subject. Only one flower still to open on the plant and that will be it until next year DV.

Danced for a bit tonight, reprising a couple of sequence dances and a little bit of jive to end the session. Only half an hour or so, but I was quite pleased at remembering most of the sequence dance steps and all the Seven Deadly Spins in the correct order! Must do that more often. I’m sure Scamp enjoyed it too.

Postman knocked at the door today and left a heavy but small parcel on the step. It turned out to be a bottle of Barra Gin. Scamp had told me she’d ordered one for JIC and Sim and it had arrived last week after a lengthy wait. It turned out she’d ordered one for me too! She is well named. She can be a crafty Scamp when she turns her mind to it.

So, today was an improving picture. Tomorrow we may drive somewhere, just to get The Messages. I may even take my “I’m Away For The Messages” bag with me. Oh yes, and we might get some milk too!

Ok, you can turn the rain off now! – 28 June 2020

It was raining at 8.30 this morning at 11.40 tonight it’s still raining.

I don’t think the rain has stopped all day. We did expect some heavy rain from the forecast yesterday, but we also expected some dry spells. The heavy rain came, but the dry spells went somewhere else for the day. Because of that, there wasn’t much to report.

Scamp watched a bit of TV and did a bit of tidying around the house. I made a three layer mask prototype.

Scamp spoke to Shona for a while on the phone. We both spoke to JIC later and found out that his new car, his first Brand New Car was ‘nice.’ A nice car.

I sketched a couple of apples for today’s sketch using my 49year old Parker fountain pen. I photographed our yellow nasturtiums for PoD.

Today we should have been sailing away from Southampton on our Med cruise.

Those were the headlines. Tomorrow will be better, surely. I’ll hope I’ll be able to tell you that tomorrow.

Thunder and more rain – 27 June 2020

Although it wasn’t raining when we woke, it wasn’t long in arriving.

When it came, it came with a vengeance. Heavy rain in fairly lengthy showers. Then there were a couple of peals of thunder, but neither of us saw any lightning. With that said, I grabbed a few shots in the garden, including the PoD which was a Marmalade hover fly (Episyrphus balteatus) resting on the pea netting. At first I though it was dead and tangled in a spider web, but after the next rain shower I checked and it was gone. Probably off to shelter somewhere less exposed to the elements.

The rain water was obviously doing the peas a lot of good because the first couple of flowers were emerging. That’s a good sign, because the plants are already about 20cm from reaching the top of the pea frame. It looks like I might get six pea plants this year. Four of them are from new seeds and two are peas I held over from last year. Carefully dried on the window ledge and planted with the rest in the greenhouse. Actually I planted four of last year’s peas, but only two germinated. They are al bit slower than the new ones, but let’s hope they do flower and produce pods.

Using our skill and judgement to determine the best time to take a walk down to the shops, we managed to get there, queue for M&S, get tonight’s dinner (take-away curry) and get back without getting wet. We’d just got home when the rains came on again. That’s a skill passed down from mother to son when you come from the country. Or father to daughter if you live in Easterhouse oops Provanhall!

Curry was lovely. Scamp had the standard Goan Veg Curry. I had the Superior Chicken Tikka Masala (£1 more). Both were delicious, although I now detect that there was some garlic in mine. A fair amount of garlic! Ice cream sundae to act as pudding, from Iceland (cheaper than Tesco, but probably from the same factory.)

Today’s sketch was my pair of Merrell ‘hiking shoes’. Not the most comfortable trainer type shoes I’ve ever had and certainly not the most hard wearing. There are cracks in the front already after less than a year. Still, they have Goretex and that keeps my feet dry. Decided a pen sketch would be better than watercolour after yesterday’s disappointing painting. Actually enjoyed the drawing. Quite relaxing. You can tell I enjoyed it because I feel willing to share it here.

Tomorrow it looks like the same mix of weather, without the thunder, but with heavier and slower moving rain bands. May not be going out.

Rain – 26 June 2020

We were warned about thunderstorms, but we must have dodged them. Not so lucky with the rain though!

I don’t know if we dodged the forecast thunderstorms or if I just slept through them, but not so lucky with the rain. Woke about 5am to torrential rain thumping straight down on the trees outside. I think it continued all morning although I didn’t surface again properly until about 9am and it was raining heavily then too, but not as heavy as in the middle of the night. After a while it seemed to get fed up and turned to intermittent displays of precipitation. Finally giving up entirely just after midday.

We had made a few forays into the garden in between shower to prune things (Scamp) and photograph things (me). It was only after lunch, well after lunch that I felt safe enough to venture over to St Mo’s for some serious photography. Unbelievably in just about an hour I took 100 photos. Exactly 100 photos. Most were culled in the first serious look, that left me with 45. The more critical cull followed and now I’m down to 32, with only one PoD which is a Footballer. The nickname for Helophilus pendulus a hoverfly that mimics a wasp for protection from predators.  Funnily enough I found it beside a school football park.  How convenient was that?

Struggled to find a subject to paint today but I wasn’t giving in and going back to the list. Instead, I chose one of Scamp’s garden plants, a Campanula which has pretty blue/violet flowers. I really struggled with the painting and, as you can see by its absence here, I’m still not 100% happy with it. However, it’s done and it covers Lockdown Library No 74.

That was about it for today. We’re still not out of the woods yet. More thunderstorms and more rain forecast for tomorrow. Don’t think we’ll be going far.

Hot! – 25 June 2020

We were warned it was going to be hot today. They weren’t wrong.

First job was to get my hair cut. Number three all over followed by a number two to clean up the fluffy bits at the nape of my neck. I’m always amazed at the amount of hair that falls in clumps on the carpet as I’m cutting. A bit thank you to Scamp because she did quality control on the operation and was the one who used the number two cutter to achieve perfection on the neck line. It’s such a great feeling when you step out of the shower and dry your hair in about 20 seconds flat.

With the big job over, we walked down to the shops and bought a new set of coloured lights to go round the tree in the garden. It brightens up the place and although the last lot hardly lasted a month, it was worth the fiver. It wasn’t until we got home we found that someone had swiped the solar cell from the box. Not only that, they’d just ripped it off the cable, so it would be almost no use to them.

After lunch Scamp was going to see her sister, so she got her money back on the lights. While she was off to see big sis, I walked round St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of an Azure damselfly. I also saw three dragonflies doing circuits and bumps at the pond. I imagine one of them was the one I saw emerging yesterday. Walked over to the shops and bought some pineapple cakes sweets and ice-cream, The healthy option.

Dinner tonight was smoked salmon and broccoli quiche with a salad. Very nice indeed. Sat in the garden and listened to the bloke next door pontificating on a range of topics, but mainly The Eagles. We discussed Scamp’s idea for a storage unit for the paved area of the back garden, but mainly we just soaked up some rays. It seemed sensible because it doesn’t look as if there are going to be many sunny days for a while. Thunder and lightning forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Heavy rain too, which should mean we don’t have to water the garden.

Today’s painting was a watercolour of a plantain flower. Not the Caribbean green banana, but an insignificant little plant that produces a brown and white flower on a long stem. If you live in the UK you’ll have seen them on any patch of waste ground.  They are also known as Ribwort.

As usual, no plans for tomorrow. It definitely depends on the weather!

Disobeying orders – 24 June 2020

Well, not really. We were travelling more than 5 miles from home, but not for exercise or leisure, we were going shopping. Honest!

In the morning we did a bit of cutting and cropping of various bushes. Scamp was dead heading anything that didn’t move and I was taking cuttings from a rosemary bush, then giving it a more serious short back and sides. Might have to do my own hair tomorrow if I can find the time, but I’ll use a pair of clippers, not a pair of secateurs.

We drove to The Fort after the gardening was deemed done and walked around shops that were now coming out of the mothball stage they’ve been in since March. There was a lot more activity in them than I’d anticipated. All sorts of shops, too. It seems that Nick the Chick has turned a corner and is actually taking steps to get people back to ‘normal’ and perhaps trying to kick start business into life again. Let’s hope it’s not too little, too late.

However, this was not leisure or exercise although to the casual observer it might have looked like that. No, we got back in the car and drove on to Morrisons and bought such essentials as yoghurt and fish plus a couple of bags of Yorkshire Mixture sweeties. The place was busy but not overcrowded. We did, however, have our masks on, unlike most of the Glaswegians who are made of sterner stuff and don’t need such fripperies.

Back home lunch was two ‘pieces’ on corned beef with a fair dash of brown sauce for me and one ‘piece’ on cheese for Scamp. Then it was out to sit in the sunshine for a while. I chose not to take the lazy route and went for a walk round St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is a dragonfly emerging from its nymphal stage. They can live for about two years as a nymph in shallow water before emerging and turning into the adult flying insect. They only live out of the water for about two months maximum. It’s a hard life being a dragonfly.

No sketch today. Too warm, couldn’t find anything interesting, just couldn’t be bothered, to be honest. Maybe I’ll do catchup tomorrow. No other plans for tomorrow, but it’s going to be hot we’re told and with the threat of thunderstorms too.

Another dull, wet one – 23 June 2020

Much the same as yesterday. Woke to grey skies and wet ground.

Scamp was feeling much more like herself today and we went out for a walk in the afternoon. It was dry almost all the way down around the exercise trail behind Broadwood stadium, then just a little way round the side of the loch. That’s where we bumped into David, the bloke who used to own the garage I we got our cars serviced and MOT’d in. He ran a good business and I could tell he’d hated having to retire from it. It was him who suggested, four years ago, that it might be time for me to let go of the Renault Megane, because I’d guessed, but he knew it was going to cost me a lot more in time and money to keep it on the road than it was worth. We stood and talked for about twenty minutes, observing social distancing as just about everyone does these days. It was good to speak to him and find out what he was up to now and how they were coping with lockdown. When we left him and headed up the hill towards home, we both suspected there was just the hint of rain in the air and it did actually rain for the last hundred yards to the house, but just enough to dampen our hair, not actually get us wet.

I’d taken some photos in the garden earlier in the day and I took some more when the rain eased off. It was one of the early ones that got PoD.  It’s a Jenny Long Legs (Crane Fly) dangling on my pea netting. Poor wee thing. I quite liked a close-up shot of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, Remember Me. It didn’t quite make PoD, but it is on Flickr.

Scamp was chef today and Carrot & Lentil Curry was on the menu. Always a firm favourite in this house. I made the flatbread, but it turned out a bit salty. The curry was fine, but more fiery than Scamp had intended. Still worth going for seconds, because there was ice cream to cool our mouths afterwards. More curry in the fridge for tomorrow, but unfortunately no more ice cream!

Tonight’s painting was going to be a landscape, but it just didn’t work out right. It was overworked and you just can’t do that in watercolour. I gave it up and changed completely in the second painting of an anemone flower. I liked it, although there are a few errors I didn’t see until I photographed it. Still, it’s done and it is miles better than that landscape was going to be.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere just to get one of the cars moving and to get ourselves out again.

Dull and damp – 22 June 2020

That just about sums it up for today.

Scamp was feeling a bit a bit queasy in the morning and only had a very light lunch. She didn’t feel like going anywhere, but that wasn’t a problem because the morning weather was dull leaden skies and a fair smattering of showers.

We needed milk and bread, we also needed to get out of the house. A walk in the fresh air would do us the world of good, so we walked to the shops. Not surprisingly the rain had ensured that there weren’t any big queues with the possible exception of Home Bargains which always has at least a few folk queueing. I think people queue up outside it after the doors are shut and locked at 6pm. It just seems to be what you do outside this great retail experience. We weren’t going there. We just nipped into The Food Warehouse, or Iceland as you will know it and got the essentials. That means bread, milk and chocolate biscuits. Walked back home and although we’d been prepared for one of the showers that had bedevilled us all morning, we never saw a single raindrop.

Back home I decided I’d risk a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is either a ‘toadlet’ or a ‘froglet’. I’ve yet to find a good way of telling these amphibians apart. Saw quite a few of them making heavy weather of their crossing from one side of the path to the other. Given that the stones they are navigating through, and over, are bigger than them, it must have been an exhausting journey. Most seemed to make it across safely.

Back home, Scamp was feeling a bit better. A gentle bit of retail therapy works wonders and if this Lockdown is teaching us anything, it’s that we need to take our time. Dinner was plain fare. Just spaghetti with a tomato sauce.

Today I made the decision to abandon the list and paint or draw something that interests me for a change. There are only a few days left in the list anyway and about fifty percent of these lists are just copied from the previous year, so I wasn’t missing much. Today I chose a walk we did on the bridlepaths around Baldock with JIC and Sim many years ago. It’s from a photo and dates from 2013. I remember that day well. I painted it in watercolour on watercolour paper that Scamp gave me for Christmas. This the first thing I’ve completed using it and it’s much nicer to paint on than the sketch book I’ve been using.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It rather depends on the weather and how Scamp is feeling.

The day the rains came – 21 June 2020

Thankfully they did remember a previous appointment and left us after a while.

It was a wet start to Fathers Day. However a couple of cheerful cards and a useful prezzy that I’d quite forgotten about, but someone had remembered brightened the day. Thank you both. Also the offer of a Zoom catch-up later in the day since actual face to face connection is still a promise for the future.

After lunch and after watching Nick Robinson gently take apart the Health Secretary in as skilful a piece of interrogation as you’re likely to see on TV, I started on a final sketch for yesterday’s drawing assignment which was still in the outline sketch stage when I went to bed last night. Eventually I gave up on it and started another, simpler, sketch that is viewable on Instagram and Facebook, but not here. It’s not that good IMHO. With that done and posted, and with my dinner of stewing steak bubbling away, I was ready to face the rest of the day and was actively considering a walk in the rain when I realised the big hand was at 3 and the little hand had slipped down just past 5. Where had the day gone? I decided to take my time as Scamp poured a small glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin and sat with my sudoku of the day for the remains of the hour.

Got Scamp’s computer set up for Zoom and we had about 45 minutes of worthwhile three way chat with the three families. Whoever invented Skype and Zoom deserves all the praise for a wonderful way of bringing families together in these trying times.

Then it was dinner and my stew was lovely. After dinner and Scamp’s fruit crumble, the coffee and a tot of alcoholic relaxant I inked in today’s sketch which was of the handlebars and headstock of my Dewdrop. Couldn’t quite decide whether to leave it as a line drawing or add a wash, finally chose to add a part wash and leave the rest as a line drawing. Probably the worst of both worlds. Not to worry, it’s done and on time.  PoD went to a grab shot this morning of the pansies in the elevated tub hanging on the fence.

Tomorrow is Monday and we have no plans. Nowhere we need to go and nothing we need to get. That’s what retirement is all about.

Thank you to Hazy, JIC, Neil-D, Scamp and Sim (alphabetical is the fairest way) for a lovely day.