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Fog – 11 January 2018

We had considered two options for today. Go to Perth or go to lunch. Lunch won.

It was foggy when I woke around 5.15 this morning. I went back to bed and when I finally broke the bounds of sleep the fog had gone. However, about half an hour later it started to sneak back around us again. We decided to go to lunch and defer the Perth trip until the weekend.

We went to the Cotton House in Longcroft and saw almost no fog, in fact there was blue sky up there. The Cotton House a Chinese and Thai restaurant and we always have the same main: Chicken Chow Mein. It’s only our starters that change.

After lunch we drove in to Dunipace and then up the Carron Valley road then over on to the Tak Ma Doon road and just had to stop because although there had been no fog all the way on the climb to the hilltop, there in front of us was a sea of fog stretching right across the valley. It was thickest over Glasgow to the right (west) and thinned out over to Grangemouth and the Forth Bridges on the left (east). This had to be PoD. I got about twenty shots of the scene before we drove down the other side and into that sea of fog. The view from the top of the hill reminded me of the fog we saw from the top of Box Hill when we were visiting H&N away back in 2007!!! Can it really be that long ago? The EXIF data rarely lies.

When I started to process the shots, that’s when the work really started. Contrast was very low and it took me quite some time to tease out the details in the images without increasing the digital noise too much. You can see the three best images above. Final decision was that bottom left was PoD.

One last thing before I close and it’s for you JIC. Have a look at this shot I saw on Flickr tonight (I don’t think it will mean much to you Hazy):

Outside Newton Stewart

If you click on it you can read the description and my comment and it will all become clear. That should take you back about forty years! It did for me.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Val, Fred and Colin. Looking forward to it.

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Persona Non Grata – 10 January 2018

Finally we did as we had promised and went to the gym, although one of us was left out in the cold.

I was thinking when I was reading in bed that we are, or at least I am, getting into a rut with every day following the same sort of routine:

  • Read for a while
  • shower
  • coffee at 11
  • lunch at 12
  • afternoon go out and find PoD
  • process PoD
  • dinner
  • repeat

We really need to break this routine. We went to the gym today just after 12noon. That broke the routine. Tried to log in at the gym and got an error message, probably because I haven’t been for ages. I could still use all the machines, but couldn’t remember the weights I should be using on some of them. Of course, none of the data was recorded but that doesn’t matter because there doesn’t seem to be any way for us to access it. Today was just a place marker to say we’d started again, so neither of us did all that much. We did have a swim afterwards and that was good. On the way out I checked at the desk to see how to get my card restarted and it was as I’d expected, I hadn’t logged in at (or in fact been to) the gym since 24th June last year and my membership had lapsed. I was soon reinstated. Scamp was not so lucky. She had been absent for longer and was now persona non grata. Her gym membership was revoked and her card confiscated then she was escorted off the premises. Well, it wasn’t as bad as that, she needs a new card which she can pick up when we return, hopefully next week.

When we came home I built up the easel and got out my acrylics and began work on a new painting. Not exactly new, it’s seen some previous iterations and is all lumps and bumps which adds to its tactile quality (snigger.) That’s when I came up with today’s PoD, entitled Happy as Larry. Slapping paint on a board always makes me happy and if a painting results from it, that’s a bonus!

Salsa tonight had far too many men so I’m doorman as I write this, making sure the new beginners are welcomed in and directed to fill in the application forms. Unfortunately I don’t get to take in any money. That would have been nice. I also had to put on my big heavy winter jacket because it’s bloody freezing here!

Tomorrow? Maybe Perth or if tonight’s fog persists, Cotton House for lunch instead.

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Chasing the Sunset – 9 January 2018

A bit of a nothing day. Not a lot to report other than the frost had all melted by about 10.30 this morning, but it was dull.

Finished off The Book of Dust. “A good read. A bit Boys Own Paper with some sweaty words”, sums it up for me.

Finally got round to posting the last calendar, JIC. Should slide through your letterbox in a day or two. Printed out another two last night and that will be the end of the calendar print for another year, unless I go the whole hog and print one for myself. Unlikely.

Driving back from Tesco I say the sky turn a golden pink colour from an already setting sun. It was just after 3pm, but that’s about the extent of the daylight at this time of the year up north. Drove round trying to find a suitable foreground for the sunset, but couldn’t find one. Eventually gave in and took a shot from behind Moodiesburn looking towards Muirhead. The resulting image that loaded into Lightroom wasn’t really what I saw, so I changed it a wee bit, and that’s what you see above as PoD.

<Technospeak>
Hazy, I had a problem with WordPress last night. The editing was restricted to text input and no Visual option was available. I got the blog written and posted, but knew this was some kind of screw-up. Slept on it and this morning investigated and found it could be caused by an update of themes and plugins. Since I’d upgraded both the theme and a few plugins yesterday morning, I suspected that was the culprit. So, this afternoon I deactivated all the plugins and tested with a new post. Yes, the input screen was normal with the text and visual tabs available again. Long story short, I found the culprit to be the upgraded Wordrpress(!) Markdown plugin. I’ve deactivated it and activated all the rest, then found another Markdown plugin that did the same job without the side effects. I hope you’re impressed, and thankful that I didn’t just automatically phone the ‘helpline’. I’m guessing you would have told me to do exactly what I found on the ‘net.
</Technospeak>

That about sums up the day. Dull and dank, but with a reasonable sunset thanks to Lightroom and Picktorial. A sort of Software Sunset.

Don’t have any plans for tomorrow. May take a trip to Perf, or may leave that until Thursday.

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Pants! – 8 January 2018

Not so much pants, as trunks, or the lack of them. Everything will become clear.

Drove to Tesco in the morning to get the makings for some soup. I’d never made just ordinary vegetable soup and I fancied a go under the strict tutelage of Chef Scamp. After we got all the veg that Tesco had, I drove back and got started chopping and dicing and washing veg. Then I basically bunged it all in a pot, poured in some water and set it to boil. After it boiled I turned it down to a simmer and left it for an hour. An hour in which I had my lunch and took my PoD of a failed leaf cutting sitting on the window ledge. Then I prepared myself for the onslaught of Gems.

It’s a Monday and Mondays mean Gems. Today they returned after their Christmas break and would be in good voice (for good read Loud). I had other plans, I was going to the gym.

Drove to the gym, found a vacant locker and started to unpack my gym bag, only to find that I’d forgotten to pack my swimming trunks. Now I had two options. One was skinny dipping, but I’m a bit old for that and the other was to return home, pick up the trunks and head back to the gym. Such a waste of time. The third option was to leave it until tomorrow and go for a walk instead. I chose option three and walked along the Luggie Water for a while and got some photos of the ice on the river and also some icicles on one of the railway bridges, so all was not lost. When I finish this, I’m going to put my swimming trunks in the gym bag for tomorrow.

Salsa was fun tonight. It took me all my time remembering what name went with what move, but I was not alone by the baffled looks on some of the faces around me. Tonight’s move was Gorila (one L) and it was a twisty turny one that I must look up on YouTube.

Tomorrow the Gym with all the correct equipment? Perhaps.

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Dancin’ – 7 January 2018

It was a late start today. I hadn’t meant to sleep so long, but there are no alarms on weekends.

I spent the morning parcelling up the calendars for Dorothy and my friend Peter. I also took some time writing notes for the parcels. It was only after I’d written the address on the last envelope that I checked and found that the post office was closed on a Sunday. Oh well, they wouldn’t be uplifted until tomorrow anyway. I’ll post them tomorrow with a bit of luck.

After lunch which traditionally is a fried breakfast on a Sunday I almost managed to get Scamp to come out a walk with me, but she’d been outside and knew just how cold it was, so she decided she’d rather do some ironing than face the great outdoors. I needed a PoD and I don’t do ironing very well, so I got dressed for the arctic and drove down to Auchinstarry then walked halfway along the canal which was frozen right across and took some photos from the only seat on the path for miles. Walked back, across the plantation and from there back to the car. Not quite my 10,000 steps, but at least I was out in the fresh air. Cold fresh air to be precise. I don’t think the temperature got above zero all day.

Just had time to dump the photos in the Mac and tweak some before it was time for the big event of the day, Dancin’. Drove in to Glasgow and got parked less than 100m from Arta. Inside it was fairly busy even if it was quite early. I don’t know what they had done to the floor, but it was lethally slippy. Almost took a tumble a few times and wished I’d worn my trainers instead of my shoes with the no-grip soles. Still, it was a good night with lots of firm handshakes (only one ‘funny’ one) and lots of ’mwah’ kisses, everyone coming with a ‘Happy New Year’. That’s what I like most about the salsa community. Its friendliness.

Home to the remains of last week’s steak stew dinner reheated and none the worse for it. Also the last G ’n’ T until Friday. An extra cold one as Scamp had left the tonic in her car in today’s sub-zero temperatures. The abstemiousness starts here. Oh by the way, when I was walking back into the house after retrieving the tonic, my watch vibrated to signal that I’d completed today’s 10,000 steps. Must have been all that sliding across the dance floor!

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Travelling on the ‘leccy – 6 January 2018

Today we got up early and drove to Croy to catch the train to Embra, but a surprise was in store!

This wasn’t a noisy old diesel train, this was a silent ‘leccy train, travelling by electricity! The future had arrived. It was seventy coaches long too, well, probably only about seven, but much longer than the usual three units. The future had arrived at last.

I’d like to say that the coaches were shining, sparkling and new, but they weren’t. They were someone else’s castoffs. You can’t expect Scotrail to pay for new platforms, new overhead power lines AND new carriages, be fair. Still the journey was smooth, comfortable and slightly slower than the old fashioned diesels. They did however get us to Haymarket much quieter than the old ones did.

I’m always a bit disappointed when I come out of the station at Haymarket. There is never a market there and very little evidence of hay. Is it like a Farmers Market which only arrives one or two days a month and we’re just not in Embra on those days? Perhaps it’s a sort of hidden, secret market that’s down an alleyway or round a corner and you need to know the password to be allowed entrance. Not that I’m at all interested in buying hay, it’s just that I hate the thought of missing out on something.

We walked up for coffee at Nero and on the way I saw today’s PoD just sitting there in front of me. The softness of the child’s bright pink woollen glove stood out so well against the clinical lines of the architecture, I just knew it would be PoD. I’d earlier taken the shot of the reflection of buildings, but the pink glove was the winner, by a mile.

After Nero, we walked down to Princes Street (No princes in evidence today) and on through a few shoe shops with no resulting purchases by Scamp, then up on to the Mound and across the Royal Mile to the Grassmarket heading for Tony Singh’s restaurant there. That was the cryptic message on yesterday’s blog. Not Ravi Shankar’s, but Tony Singh’s. However, it looked as if it was Under New Management because there was little evidence of Mr Singh’s sense of humour in the menu. It all looked very bland. Disappointed we crossed the road to Petit Paris where we knew from experience there was good wholesome French fare available, and so it turned out. Scamp had Courgette Soup and Poisson de Jour (Coley) and I had French Onion Soup and Plat de Jour (Toulouse Sausage) washed down with a glass or red wine, risking the wrath of the Scottish drink driving laws.

After lunch we wandered back down to Princes Street and walked through what used to be called the German Christmas Market, but which is now more likely to be the Polish folk selling Chinese copies of German artefacts. However, it was bright and cheery and everything was half price which must be a sickener for those who bought their Chinese knock-offs last week at full price. We didn’t buy anything, we were getting cold, so we just went for the rain home.

What a disappointment. It wasn’t a ‘leccy train, it was an old noisy diesel. What was worse was that it wasn’t seventy coaches long, just three. I felt we’d been sold short. However, the up side was that it was warm and it was a faster journey that the one in the morning.

Tomorrow it’s a Sunday Social Day, so we’re hoping to be dancing!

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Hot Stuff – 5 January 2018

It was a cold day today. Damp, dull but most of all, cold. It was that sort of cold that gets into your bones and once it’s there, it’s hard to shift it.

One way to shift it is with a warming lunch and that’s what Scamp suggested. Scrambled egg with smoked salmon on toast. Just what I needed. My suggestion for a bit of warmth, and carrying on from my NY resolutions was to spend some time in the pool – not the gym. Maybe next week, but not today. Everything in moderation, that’s the way to make it stick.

We drove to the leisure centre and although the pool was full to start with, half the folk exited when the jacuzzi became available, so we both got the chance to do a few lengths in the lovely warm water. Next was a good ten minutes in the steam room and it was HOT. I could actually feel that warmth penetrating my bones and warming from the inside. I tried the sauna too, but I feel that it dries out my skin too much and that makes me feel like I’m burning. Back it the pool for another few lengths and I was ready to face the cold again. I don’t know if it was the lunch or the swim in warm water or the steam room, but for the rest of the day I was warm.

We went out to the Red Deer (or Dead Deer as we used to call it for no reason) for dinner tonight. Y’see Hazy, I was so captivated by ND’s Lamb Duo, I just had to try it, so that’s what I had (Yes! It was as good as it looked). Scamp was less adventurous and had Fish ’n’ Chips. I also had a bottle of the worst low alcohol beer that’s ever passed my lips. Imagine a bottle of diluted treacle with some hops dunked in them and you have the makings of St Peter’s Without. I’ll certainly go without rather than drinking that brown water again.

Today’s PoD is one of my wee men almost submerged in a box of screws. It was entitled ’Screwed’ and this is the description on Flickr:

You know the feeling. You’re looking for a bolt or screw and although you’ve got a box full of them, you just can’t find the right one, and you’re screwed!

Tomorrow (whisper it) we may go to Embra for lunch at Ravi Shankar’s restaurant. Not the real name, just what Scamp called it today!

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The highlight of the day – 4 January 2018

The highlight of today was taking the cardboard boxes and the bottles to the recycling centre. Yes, it was that sort of day.

In the morning I made that drive to the recycling centre. It would have been easier if we had been supplied with a green bin (for glass) back in October when we were promised it, but we weren’t, so we had to load the car up and drive there. Everyone else was there too, but I had a smashing time dropping bottles into the big containers and listening to the crashing sounds they made.

After that, and after deciding what we’d have for dinner, we had lunch. Then we went to Tesco. Scamp drove and we filled the car with all the stuff we needed for the next few days, mainly food. When we got back I found some stew in the freezer and set it to defrost while I grabbed a last hour of daylight in St Mo’s. That’s where I got today’s PoD which is an ultra wide-angle view of the pond and the boardwalk. It’s just an ordinary pond, but the ultra-wide makes it look like something special I think.

All the time we’d been checking on H&N’s second leg of their journey home. They were leaving the relative calm of the midlands and heading for the stormy zone around London, but we soon got the message that they were home and the cats had been collected and they too were home.

Dinner for me was stewed steak with potatoes, turnip and carrots. Substitute haggis for stewed steak and you have Scamp’s dinner. My thanks to Scamp for the clear and concise instruction on how to cook the stew without burning but with added flavour. Next time I’ll try to fly solo.

So, the highlight of the day really was smashing the bottles in the recycling bin. A close second was finding that the stew was beautifully tender and tasty. It was also good to know that H&N arrived home safely.

Tomorrow we may go to the gym or to the pool for a swim. Also, the other pair leave Tobago and the sun to face the long flight home. Glad you got a few dry, windy, sunny days after all that rain.

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All Good Things – 3 January 2018

Today H&N were off on the road back home.

We saw them off in the morning and then we drove in the opposite direction, out to Stirling to take our minds off their departure. The rain started almost as soon as we left the house and got gradually worse.

All I wanted in Stirling was a new Sudoku calendar and I got one half price in Waterstones. It was round about then my phone chirped and I found a list of WhatsApp messages between H&N and Neil ‘D’s family. It was a brilliant idea to set that up Hazy. Set our mind at rest knowing where you were at any time and also knowing that the weather hadn’t been as bad as we had feared.

We didn’t linger long in Stirling. Went for a bite to eat and a coffee in Nero and came home via Waitrose, of course and that’s where I got the PoD. Scamp was the model. The rain had come and gone all afternoon, never completely leaving but getting quite heavy at times. Thankfully the winds were not as bad as those down south.

One look at today’s photos convinced me that colour was not an option and I simply cropped the best one and did a fairly simple levels adjustment and then converted to mono. I read a comment on Flickr last night by one of my contacts, Seaton Carew (Not his real name). He said :

”you only look at a colour picture, you read a black&white image”

I think that’s true

Tonight’s dinner was Potatoes, Cabbage and Bacon. An old favourite.

Hopefully we’ll go out again tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t rain all day. Hopefully H&N will continue their journey in better weather. You’ve always got to be hopeful. The Sudoku was hard!

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Day Two – 2 January 2018

A day when it was raining as we woke up and it’s still raining now at just after 11pm.

Hazy texted in the morning to say they were off to Dundee to meet one her friends. That left us with the rest of the day to ourselves. We were also at a loose end as we had planned to go out somewhere, but as the weather wasn’t suitable for going for a spin, we stayed in. Scamp did a bit more tidying and I finished off the calendars. Messed around with a couple of bits of software in the hopes that I could change the front page, but eventually gave up. We had lunch.

In the afternoon, the sun shone and there was blue sky with fluffy white clouds. My hopes did rise a bit at the prospect of a decent hour or so of dry weather, but it was just a passing hole in the clouds and it was letting even more rain fall through to wet us and the already saturated ground more than it had before. I could have read another chapter in The Book of Dust, but the hero is battling through a flooded town at present, so that wouldn’t take my mind off the incessant rain. I chose instead to take today’s PoD which has as a backdrop an old preparatory sketch of mine for an oil painting. It turned out that I liked the sketch better than the resulting painting. I liked the photo, but decided to add to it with some paint daubs from Pixelmator™. I think they added something to the shot and didn’t stand out too much as adulteration.

Dinner tonight was Pasta Carbonara. It was good to get back to plain ordinary food again. While we were eating dinner Hazy phoned to invite us to dinner with them. We explained that we were actually in the middle of ours, but would join them for coffee. Actually, we had a drink (non-alcoholic for me) and then pudding and coffee later. It was in the Red Deer and the puddings were lovely, although the coffee was a bit weak for me. The puddings were Apple Pie – Scamp and Neil D and Coconut Ice Cream for Hazy while I had Melba Mallow Mess (a lovely alliterative plateful). After that we said our goodnights and headed back to our respective places. Unfortunately they leave tomorrow, but it was good to have them here for a while and we had, as Canute said, ‘Precious days’ with them.

Tomorrow we will be in the grip of Storm Eleanor makes its way across the country. H&N will be driving south through the remnants, but I don’t think we’ll be going far.