E4242129- blog

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.

E4242129- blog

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.

E4242129- blog

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.

E4242129- blog

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.

E4242129- blog

A stay at home day – 20 April 2018

A day to get things done. That was the intention today and it worked … sort of.

It was an incredibly late start to the day and we probably lost the best of the day as a result, but The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an exasperatingly gripping story and one you just can’t lay down, especially when you’ve just worked out who’s talking and who they’re talking too. Just under 70% through the story and I still haven’t a clue who’s doing the murdering and even if there IS a murder. I’ll just have to wait another 30% to find out. It’s a bit like The Bone Clocks and a bit like Inception, but with Hercule Poirot type characters on each page.

When I eventually gave up, closed the Kindle and had my shower it was nearly 10.30! So much to do today. Most of it I achieved. Some I shelved for later, that indeterminate place in the future. Some things I hadn’t intended doing, I completed too. But first there had to be coffee!

After coffee I started on the bread making. Bread making used to consist of chucking the ingredients into the mixer, switching it on for 10 minutes. Then halving the dough. One half went in the freezer to be used in the future and half went to prove to make a loaf. If I was organised I’d get the dough made in the morning and the bread ready for the table by dinner time. Not so with Sourdough bread. Last night I made the ‘Leaven’ which is an extra-energetic form of the starter. Today I’d make the dough which has to be turned four times every fifteen minutes for an hour total. See? It’s quite complicated. After that it has to rest (so has the baker) before it’s tucked up in a basket and put in the fridge to sleep and dream of the nice warm oven it’s going into the next day. Three days seems to be the norm for a loaf. This is definitely not ‘fast food’. Anyway, I missed out the faff of turning it four times every fifteen minutes and went straight to dumping it in the fridge. Tomorrow we’ll see if I ever attempt another Sourdough loaf.

In between nursing and nurturing my dough, I washed the car to remove the rook crap from yesterday and even did a bit of planting in the garden. Basil (two kinds), kale and rocket were planted today. Some went out into the mini greenhouse to celebrate its first birthday and the basil went up into the front bedroom window sill to catch some rays and some heat (hopefully).

Dinner tonight was Butter Chicken from the Spice Tailor range. Lovely stuff. After that I struggled with Windows 10 trying to get it to do what it was told. Like a precocious child it did the exact opposite. Macs may be expensive, but they just work. Even the ones running El Capitan just work when compared with Windoze 10. Such a waste of time. In the later afternoon light I got my PoD which is a crocus stamen among some crocus leaves. I liked it right away.

Now I’m trying desperately to get the photos uploaded and the blog written so that I can go to bed the same day I got up. That would be another thing done!

Tomorrow? Thought of going to Embra, but Hibs are playing host to Sellic and that means loads of drunks on the train, so perhaps not. In other words, “Don’t know.”

E4242129- blog

Somewhere Nice – 19 April 2018

We said yesterday that today we’d go somewhere nice. We did.

I’d half intended that we’d get up fairly early and go somewhere for a walk today. It was the other half that won in the end. The half that said “Well, it’s pretty dull, but it might get better if I finish this chapter.” I finished the chapter. In fact we both finished a few chapters, but it was still dull outside. Finally, when Scamp asked me if I wanted the coffee maker switched on, I made the decision that we should go and chase the sun. East seemed the best bet, so we pointed the Juke at Fife and then Kinross and drove to Loch Leven.

Managed to find a parking space under some Scots Pines where rooks were busy building nests. We were just about ready to go for our walk when Scamp found out the truth in the expression about not shitting in the nest. The rooks were being very careful not to mess up the nest and dumping their ‘doings’ over the side and some of it splattered on her hair. Thankfully I just caught some on my jeans. While I was wiping her hair with a tissue, I did think about telling her that it’s meant to be lucky. I decided to bite my tongue on this occasion!

We settled on a clockwise walk round the loch and found that it was just as boring as the anti-clockwise walk we’d done many times before. We walked until we caught sight of Loch Leven’s Larder, the cafe we were going to have lunch in. We both considered walking on, but finally decided to leave that for another day, because the promised sunshine still hadn’t arrived. We could see it in the distance across the loch and also away to the west – the direction we’d come from. We walked back to the car and the scenery was better in that direction. Saw some deer down by the loch side and then spotted a pheasant in the woods. Other than that and some yellow flowers there wasn’t much to recommend the walk. We walked along this path one day a few winters ago and it looked beautiful all frosted under a blue sky. It was nothing like that today. Having said that, it was on the return journey I got the PoD of a farm. The light on the far field was a lucky. Usually I have to fake these things, but today the light lit it up for me.

Went to Loch Leven’s Larder for lunch.  It wasn’t as busy as I’ve seen it, but still doing a fair trade. Years ago it was just a rough and ready farm cafe that served good food. Now it’s a cafe bolted on to a deli a kitchen shop, an ice cream parlour and a shop selling overpriced tat. Ok, maybe that’s being a bit harsh, and it is catering to a certain demographic. I’m not in that group.  While we were having lunch the sun was just coming out and the view across the loch was beautiful.  Just our luck.  We were inside when the sun was out!

Drove home using the satnav after I took a wrong turning. Stopped for a while at Torryburn in Fife and there’s a couple of shots of it on Flickr if you’re interested.

Highlights for us:

  • Walking in warm weather
  • Watching swans taking off and landing
  • Light reflecting on glider’s wings

Lowlights:

  • Don’t walk under rooks nest building!
  • Wee black flies!

Tomorrow I think Scamp wants to do some gardening. I may cycle if the weather’s as warm as today.

E4242129- blog

Dancing Day – 18 April 2018

Today we were better prepared for Michael’s class and I was better prepared for Michael too.

We had one quick possibly three minute practise in the living room before we went in to Glasgow. Just enough to prove to ourselves (i.e. ME) that we had mastered the first run of steps from the Box Step through the Whisk & Wing to the Chasse then on through the difficult (for me) reverse section and the Promenade into the corner. We didn’t have enough room to do the prepare step for the Natural Turn and the turn itself, but we were sure we could wing it (no pun intended).

In Glasgow we were sure we could do it, but I stumbled a bit in the reverse section and that’s when Michael pounced and started to tell me what I had done wrong. I knew what I had done wrong and I also knew that he wasn’t going to give me another lecture that just wasted more of our precious time. I turned to meet him face to face and told him that his constant interruptions were doing more harm than good because it was destroying our flow. I think he needs face to face contact to know that you’re speaking to him, because he does have a hearing problem. I also believe he uses that as a way to ignore you. He didn’t get the chance to ignore me. He agreed, but still showed me what I was doing wrong, I accepted it, but that was the last correction he made in the hour we were there. Maybe he wasn’t best pleased with me speaking back to him, but I don’t care. Both waltz and jive were much better than last week. That doesn’t mean that I can do either with any degree of skill, but we are much better than when we started.

On the way back to the car I got today’s PoD. Well, it’s actually two photos merged in Photoshop. Not the most successful piece of photo manipulation, but not bad. Again, the photos took about five minutes and the post processing took around two hours.

Wednesday dinner is a much more leisurely affair now that we are going to the later salsa classes. On today’s menu was Prawn & Pea Risotto. It was deemed the best I’ve made by the food critics (Scamp and me). I think it was down to the vast amount of butter I used.

In class tonight, we finished with La Rosa, Zorro and Infinity. All rueda moves and all utterly confusing. I imagine these are their real names because Jamie just rhymed them off so quickly. I must look them up some time on YouTube.

Not a bad day and a warm one too with lots of sunshine on offer. Tomorrow looks like being even better, so we may go out somewhere nice.

E4242129- blog

Burnt Water – 17 April 2018

Coffee with Fred today. Lots of stuff to discuss.

This was a change of day for us. Usually we’re there on Thursday or occasionally Friday. This week it was Tuesday. We’d books to exchange and TV programs to criticise and building control department to castigate for messing up Fred’s daughter’s extension. Basically we just complained about stuff for a couple of hours, then agreed that we’d had a good natter.

Came out of that dive with the sour taste of the last cup of something described as ‘coffee’, but was really burnt water, or so it felt to me. Went to get some gardening and painting stuff:

  • Seed potatoes. Charlotte, one of Scamp’s favourite varieties.
  • Twine to make a climbing frame for Scamp’s broad beans.
  • Tester paint pots to use as cheap gesso for painting boards

Came home to a slightly rearranged garden again and had it explained to me. I’m sure I’ll forget the finer details, but I have the basic idea of what was achieved while I was out drinking burnt water.

Since Scamp was making dinner I had some time to go and get a photo or two in St Mo’s. Like yesterday, today was a mixture of sunshine and showers. What we used to expect in April a few years ago before the jet stream started messing around with our weather. With that thought in my mind I grabbed my jacket and camera bag and went to see what I could see. What I saw was somebody sitting on a seat looking out over the BMX track and thought it would make a decent shot, especially if I reduced it to mono and darkened the sky, cropped it and … So I took a few shots from different positions and exposure setting. Walked round the pond after that, but saw nothing else interesting.

After dinner (Chicken with a mushroom and shallot sauce since you’re asking), I started to process the pics. About two hours later, after a fair bit of swearing, I finally exported the finished result into Flickr. Takes about two or three minutes to take the shots and two hours to make the picture. The new software I’m using on trial is ON1 2018 and it is very flash, a bit heavy on special effects and unable to export without crashing (twice). I may not shell out the $69 for the pleasure of beta testing their dodgy software for them.

We did manage a bit of dance practise tonight again. Just the waltz, but I’m happier with it after yesterday and today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tomorrow is dancing day!

E4242129- blog

The bird that evolution passed by – 16 April 2018

Today started off a bit cloudy, then the sun shone.

It didn’t stay for long though. The day soon degenerated to the usual cloudy with the threat of some rain and very short sunny spells. However, the temperature was high enough to convince me to go out for a walk while Gems were practising.

Drove down to Auchinstarry, parked and walked along the canal in sunshine. Grabbed some photos of some Tufted ducks. Then walked across the plantation and on to Dumbreck Marshes where I found today’s PoD. The brightly coloured pheasant is one of the stupidest of Scotland’s birds. I really do not know why they are not extinct. This one must have seen me wearing a bright blue anorak, but did it fly away? No it did not. It ran away in front of me then went back to feeding turning away from me all the time. I think they must be related to ostriches because the do the equivalent of sticking their head in the sand. They just turn away from you because, as everyone knows, if they can’t see you, you’re not there. Eventually it did fly for about fifty yards before crashing back down again. Maybe their brains are so small they can’t work out how to make the transition from walking to flying. That’s the problem with having a single core brain. Even if it had a dual core it could make the leap from running to flying. The bird that evolution passed by. Maybe more dodo than ostrich. Nice colours though.

Came back and made pesto pasta for dinner. Then it was time for dancing.

Managed a few minutes in an empty room at the STUC for some ballroom practise. I think I’ve finally got the idea of the walking backward part of the waltz. Hopefully it will be good enough for Michael on Wednesday.

Advanced 1 was quite interesting and the class were doing well with Niagra. Advanced 2 did Setenta e Jani (pronounce ‘yani’). I’m not sure I’ve actually mastered this one yet. Time will tell. After that it was Enchufe Moderno which I’ve totally forgotten and something called ‘The New One’. Good fun though.

Just found out that I picked up a tick today. First one this year, in fact, first one for a long time. Little bugger was sitting under my watch strap. A common place to find them.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Fred for coffee. Nobody else is available.

E4242129- blog

Dancing on an empty floor – 15 April 2018

Up early to watch an exciting Chinese GP. Yes, really. Exciting!

Up early, well around 9am to watch the Chinese GP. For once it was worth getting out of bed for. Great tussle between the top teams with lots of ill will on the part of most of them. My, what spoilt brats they are.

Spoke to Hazy for a while after that and then went to work in the garden. No, really. I did actually do some creative work for a change. I built up the frame for Scamp’s broad beans to grow on. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any gardeners green twine, so the actual net the will climb on is not in place yet. Not my problem mate. I didn’t put it away. I’ll get some new twine tomorrow. With the work part completed, I skedaddled to St Mo’s to get some photos.

There wasn’t much doing across the road, but I did get one photo of a coot standing on its nest. The nest looked almost as untidy as my ‘bean frame’. PoD went to a macro shot of a tiny wee spider on a tree trunk. It could only have been 3mm long. Most impressed with the result from my pair of extension tubes.  The down side, or maybe not is that the orange ladybirds I’ve been tracking have disappeared.  Flown the coop, I hope.  Hopefully if they were egg laying earlier in the week, I’ll see the results next year.

Came home and started the prep for dinner which was to be 5 A Day Chicken with Pesto. It should have been pistachio pesto, but Scamp’s avoidance of any nuts meant that I substituted pine nuts for pistachios. Apparently pine nuts aren’t really nuts at all and can be used in place of ‘real’ nuts. I was only doing the prep, because I’d spent too long in the Land of St Mo and, as we were strapped for time to get in to Glasgow to go dancing, we’d have to have our dinner after we came back.

The dungeon that is Arta was almost empty when we got there. Apparently Cameron was holding an event in competition with AdS and Rangers were getting gubbed by Celtic (as usual) and most of the guys would be there or else be too inebriated to dance. It did brighten up a bit later, or to be more precise, more people arrived. Nobody could ever call it bright. We did have a few dances and both of us tried out moves we’ve learned in the past few weeks. We really should go out more often just to practise some of our moves.

Came home and I made the dinner which turned out better than I’d hoped, but there was a lot of garlic in the mixture. Possibly (definitely) too much. Needs some tweaking, but then again don’t most recipes. Just to get them working like you imagine they should taste.

Tomorrow looks good if the weather fairies are correct. If it turns out as predicted, I’ll go for a walk along the canal. If not, then I’ll go to the gym.