Yet another beautiful day – 27 May 2020

Another day when it was criminal to lie in bed.

So out we went again. Just a short walk this time and fairly local. Didn’t drive 30 miles just to check our eyesight as the ridiculous Dominic Cummings claimed he did. Does he really think we believe him? Does he really think our collective heads button up the back? I’m sure he’s right that Boris’s head does. Just a wee walk then. Got my first damselfly shots of this year and just as I was congratulating myself on the capture, I watched a blur of red as a damselfly appeared from stage left, grabbed a moth or maybe a fly that was sunning itself on a horse tail and scoffed it for its lunch. Amazing! It was all over in a couple of seconds.

Back home well in time for our own lunch (not a moth sandwich), then waited around the house for the Asda driver to discharge his load of groceries. With all the stuff safely stashed away, Scamp went out plastered in factor 50 to read in the sun and I took the ‘big dog’ out to see what we could see. And what we saw was one deer that saw me first and wasn’t ready for its close-up, so it made a sharp exit. Saw some tadpoles that have just the hint of frog legs appearing and also spotted Mr Grey studiously stalking something at the edge of the reed beds. Got a couple of grab shots of a pale coloured damselfly among the gorse bushes, but nothing really sharp.

Spent some time when I got back sketching out the shape of the panels of Lucy’s mask. Used Inkscape which is a free, open source vector graphics package that now runs cleanly on a Mac. Much more sophisticated than it used to be in its previous incarnation. Still more clunky than Corel, but it’s free and it works. A useful tool for the arsenal.

Today’s PoD is mating damselflies. Pretty standard, but the colours look more saturated than usual. That’s probably due to the strong sunshine they were taken in. Sketch of the day was ‘Keys’ and was just another attempt at rendering metal in ink and watercolour. Not nearly as good as yesterday’s, but still a worthwhile practise piece.

Tomorrow if the weather is good we may go out walking again. If it’s not I’m going to attempt a Lucy Mask.

Another day, another walk – 26 May 2020

Today I thought it was Sunday all day long. No reason why, except for Cabin Fever.

Phoned the bike shop in the morning (once I’d established that it was Tuesday and not Sunday) and got a promise the bike wheel would be finished by the end of the week. I sincerely hope that Big Al was not suffering from the same day-dislodgement that had overcome me.

After lunch we went for a walk more or less the same one as yesterday but in a slightly different direction. By the time we got home the sun was warming the place up nicely and we took the chairs out to the garden Scamp with a Pimms and me with a beer. Read for a while then got a surprise.

The girl next door, Lucy gave us a couple of facemasks she had made for us. We both thought that was very kind of her. They were much simpler than my pattern and much more effective I’d think. Curved to fit the face. She said she’d been making them for her gran and grandpa and thought we might appreciate one each too. Like I said we thought that was good of her, but then I thought, does that make us the old people next door? Scamp said “Yes, probably”. Doesn’t matter I liked the thought and because she’s just finished a fashion design course in London, the stitching was so much better than mine!

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes, Broccoli and Cauliflower. Delicious! Scamp was chef tonight.

PoD went to a photo I took earlier in the day of a winged aphid on a rosebud. Scamp appreciated the detail in the picture, but wants rid of the beasties before they damage her roses.

Today’s topic was ‘A Pasta Dish’. I think by this time the setters were becoming tired with the whole EDiM thing and just throwing words and phrases at the list. This is my response to the prompt. There is a dish and there are two pieces of pasta, but really it’s a vehicle to practise drawing cutlery.

Tomorrow we are booked for an ASDA delivery in the afternoon, so any walks will have to be in the morning.

Walking – 25 May 2020

We woke to sunshine. No point in wasting it. Time to go out and walk.

We walked down through yesterday’s sketched underpass and on through the posh houses then across the dam at Broadwood. Walked round the exercise track without doing any exercises and then home for lunch.

After lunch, Scamp went for a walk around the shops and got the makings of dinner which was Veg Chilli. I started roughing out today’s sketch which was ‘Cutlery’. Officially it was ‘A Towel’, today being Towel Day to celebrate the life and work of Douglas Adams who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. If you don’t understand the towel thing, read the book. I got the basics down on my roughing sketch book then Hazy phoned so I spoke to her for a while. Scamp returned soon after that and also spoke for a while.

With the dinner planned and provisioned for and a rough sketch done, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is a White Tailed Bumblebee. Also got some clean, clear shots of one of the Canada Geese that have taken up residence in St Mo’s pond.

I quite liked tonight’s chilli, but then I would, I was chef. Scamp thought it needed more salt and also commented that it was a bit dry. I chose to disagree. There will be enough left for lunch tomorrow.

The proper drawing of the cutlery was much more difficult than I anticipated and I had decided I’d do it as an ink line drawing which leaves very little room for mistakes and corrections. In retrospect, it would have been better as a painting. Retrospect: The only 20-20 vision. It’s done and posted on Instagram and Facebook if you’re interested.

Big sensation of the day was Dominic Cummings’ refusal to accept that his actions in driving from London to Durham were a contradiction of the Government rules on Lockdown. Will he stay or will he go? That’s the question on everyone’s lips and the source of a host of memes.

Tomorrow I’m intending phoning Wheelcraft to enquire after my front wheel which they are supposed to be rebuilding. Otherwise no plans.

No rain today – 24 May 2020

Well, almost no rain, and there was a fair bit of sun.

Watched the Andrew Marr show while we had lunch and we were both shocked with his ferocity and tenacity when interviewing the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. I don’t think he asked him one question about Transport or the effects of Lockdown on it. He constantly attacked the poor guy about what he knew about Dominic Cummings and his Lockdown breaking visit to Durham. What is his problem with the man? Obviously something about him bugs poor Andrew.  Or maybe it’s both Shapps and Cummings that get under his skin, it certainly seemed so today.

We went for a walk today over to St Mo’s and from there down to Craiglinn roundabout and from there round Broadwood Stadium, in fact exactly the same path as last week, except in reverse. It certainly wasn’t cold, but it was still a bit cloudy. Still loads of people wandering around ‘getting exercise’ or to put it another way ‘getting out of the house’, something you couldn’t do yesterday or the day before because of the rash of horizontal rain.

Back home for a while, but despite carrying a camera and two lenses for the entire walk, I’d taken no photos. To right this wrong, I went out for another top-up for my step count round St Mo’s pond. No deer today, but I got a few shots of Mummy Coot feeding one of the baby coots. That provided today’s PoD.

I struggled with today’s Sketch of the Day. The topic was “Where Would You Want To Be Now?” My answer to that would be anywhere but in Lockdown. My sketch turned out to be a bit more abstract. The initial sketch, as is usual with initial sketches, was rough, but painterly. The partly finished sketch was too clinical and stale. A few paint splashes fixed that.

Tomorrow? No real plans, but it is technically a Holiday Weekend, so perhaps we’ll go for a walk if the sun shines as it should.

More wind, More wet – 23 May 2020

Thank you very much for your contribution to the watering of the garden and the ruffling of the leaves, but we have no need of your attention for now thank you. We will be in touch when we require more water from the sky.

Not just dull today. Dull, wet and windy. Nowhere to go. Nothing worth doing. Just fed up. It’s on days like this that Lockdown really bites. If it weren’t for lockdown we’d have gone out for lunch somewhere on a day like today. We wouldn’t have minded waiting to be seated in Milano or Cotton House. We’d have accepted that we hadn’t booked and couldn’t expect to be placed right away. It’s so different when there is no Milano and no Cotton House. There’s not even a Saturday, because nothing is in its familiar place, and some things may never be again.

I prowled around for a while with nothing to do. Kept thinking that the rain was drying up, then five minutes later it was battering against the window again. Eventually, after lunch I sat down in a plane at Piarco airport in Trinidad and flew to Tobago. Sunny skies and palm trees. That brightened an hour or so. Then I went and splattered some paint on a wee canvas, but that didn’t help, so I just rubbed it down and decided I’d paint something better tomorrow. Tomorrow may be a better painting day than today because the topic, which like all topics this May are Lockdown Friendly, is Where You Would Want To Be Now – using Google Street View. That’s a great topic. Pick a place and paint or draw it. Yes, I could go for that. As for today, it was a Water Glass.

Started an email before dinner, which for both of us was a reheat of yesterday’s, but we weren’t complaining. Finished the email after dinner. It was a difficult one to write, but I felt I had to write it to a friend who is facing cancer for the second or third time in their life. He’s a nice guy who doesn’t let it get him down. An example to us all.

Finally settled down to sketch the Water Glass and ended up fairly happy with it. It’s not really great, but I feel it’s ‘painterly’ enough to pass muster.

Today’s PoD is one of my chilli plants, a Cayenne pepper. This little guy has been sitting on the kitchen window sill since he was a seed. Now he’s produced a flower, so maybe he’s actually a she!

It actually looks as if the weather will be better tomorrow. Not so much rain and lessening wind an the chance, just the chance of some sunshine. We’ll see. We have no plans.

Windy and Wet – 22 May 2020

That about summed it up. Windy and Wet.

Parcelled up some fabric to post to my cousin’s granddaughter to make some masks. Pretty Mickey Mouse fabric. There’s no sense in making boring masks when you can make ones that will make someone else smile. Good idea Gemma.

Had to wait outside the post office in the rain while some ‘zoomer’ had a long conversation with the woman behind the counter I thought the bloke in front of me was going to hook him (in a suitably Socially Distanced way, of course). When the zoomer came out the whole queue gave a great sigh of relief.

That was about the highlight of the day. No gardening was possible due to the wind and rain. We just stayed in. Well, I did sneak out during a dry spell to grab today’s PoD which should have been a blurred shot of the rhododendrons blowing in the gale force wind, but none of the shots were deemed worthwhile, so a static one had to fill the bill.

Dinner for me was a mince pie. Not like a mutton pie or a scotch pie, but a pie made with puff pastry and mince. A real mince pie like my mum made. Scamp talked me through the making of it one more time. I think I’ve got in in the grey cells now.

Tonight’s sketch was to be A Book, a Newspaper or a Magazine. I chose Magazine, because I don’t read fairy stories, so the newspaper was out. A book is basically a rectangular prism, but a magazine can be folded and when it’s opened out it’s got curves and little shadow areas. This is a food magazine, so although, unlike oranges, you can’t eat it, you can eat the things it teaches you to make. That’s good enough for me.

Hopefully the wind will calm down tomorrow and we’ll get out for our daily exercise.

Rained again last night – 21 May 2020

Woke up this morning to wet pavements and just the hint of rain in the air. Scamp was delighted. The garden needs the rain.

By the time we were up, Scamp got a text to say her prescription was ready to pick up from the chemist, so off she went to collect it. I stayed home and flew a plane from Glasgow to Prestwick and tried to remember how to land it using ILS (Instrument Landing System). All the different planes I’ve got in my virtual hanger use different autopilots and trying to keep track of them all is difficult to say the least. Pilots may get exorbitant wages, but they certainly work for their money. It wasn’t the glorious success I hoped it would be. I also messed around with some oranges trying to get a suitable setup for Lockdown Library No 39 today, again with very little success.

Scamp arrived home with another clinking bag, but I forgave her, because there was beer in it this time as well as a bottle or two of wine. She asked me to bring down the last bag, and could I please see if the car, which was up the top of the road, would fit into a space she wasn’t confident in driving in to. It would, and I did and in the boot as a thank-you there were two new folding garden chairs. We’ve only had one chair for ages and have been talking about getting another. She had managed to get two new ones for a knock down price. Delighted!

After lunch I walked down to the shops and came home with a lavender plant for Scamp, a bee hotel for, well, for bees – obviously! Also an assortment of sweets because … well, do I need an excuse? If I do, then it was because it was a beautiful sunny day and tomorrow is looking like it will not be beautiful or sunny. Lashing rain and strong winds forecast. I got changed into a pair of shorts a tee shirt and a shirt and went off in search of photos. I got today’s PoD which was a little tree growing up through the leaf litter in the woods of St Mo’s. Caught a fleeting glimpse of a deer, but too fast and too far away for me to catch.

Came home and enjoyed a beer in the garden, then we had dinner in the garden too. Scamp had Cauliflower Cheese with Jersey Royal Potatoes. I added some grilled bacon to mine. Very nice sitting on our new chairs in the sun having dinner. Very civilised.

When it got too cool we went inside. While I was drawing and painting today’s topic which was Fruits, we watched ‘Glow Up’ on iPlayer. If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must see. It must be one of the most cringeworthy programs on TV. It’s a well tried format:

  1. Take a team of “I Want To Be On A Show” people
  2. Give them three tasks an episode
  3. Dump the weakest
  4. Repeat.

The ‘contestants’ are wannabe make-up artists and each one is more outrageous than the last. The “Judges” equally so. It’s a hoot! I recommend it to you.

That was about it. The “Fruit” turned out to be chopped up pieces of orange and I was fairly happy with the result. Viewable on Instagram or FB.

Title of today’s blog is the first line of the Tom Paxton song “The Things I Notice Now”. What do you mean “Who’s Tom Paxton?”

Tomorrow, as I mentioned, it looks like rain and gale force winds.

Working with the gardener – 20 May 2020

The day began at about 6am with a blackbird singing its story … loudly.

Maybe it’s something to do with these strange days, but for the first time I actually listened to the song of the blackbird. It seems to sing a story, almost as if it’s reading the news, a topic at a time. Listen to it the next time you get a chance. This isn’t a mating call, nor is it the “Dik! Did!” alarm call. This song doesn’t repeat like most birdsongs seem to. It’s a story. A story only other birds, or maybe even only other blackbirds can understand. Maybe this is all in my imagination, but I don’t think so.  I eventually had to close the window and thank the genius who invented double glazing.

I got an email from Hazy with a link to an incredible Sudoku solution for a grid with only two numbers in it. It wasn’t a normal Sudoku puzzle though. It was chess sudoku with additional rules based on the King’s move and the Knight’s move in chess. However the solution was fascinating to watch.

We walked down to the shops in the late morning to get some of the raw materials for tonight’s dinner and also something for lunch. Shops were incredibly quiet, even Aldi which is usually mobbed had no queue. For the first time this year, I think I went out without a jacket or hoodie of some description and the light bouncing off the new paving slabs at the shops was quite blinding. A warm day was on the cards.

Scamp cut the front grass and then after lunch we sat at the front for a while, soaking up the rays. Scamp had her factor 50 on just to be sure. I have to apply it to her back and the back of her neck and that’s why my hands are always white. They don’t get the chance to get a tan!

After a while Scamp disappeared for a while. I eventually found her in the back garden, gardening. The usual things. Cutting some stuff, pruning others, weeding and transplanting things. In her element. I finally agreed to be roped in and cleaned out some of the old strawberry hanging basket. Together we repotted the Skimmia into what had been the Chrysanthemum pot. Then she went and split up the Eryngium that was growing quite happily in a pot at the front. Massive big tap root on both the plants. Eventually I gave up on this gardening lark and went inside to draw today’s sketch which was on the topic of Shoes. My slipper/clogs were the model and I was fairly happy with the result. Pencil sketch only this time. By that time the gardener was finished and it was time to make the dinner. Another tray of chicken with roasted veg. Tasted quite good, but needed more salt. We’re working our way through a cookery magazine, by the way. A strange cherry flavoured jelly for dessert. Interesting, but not something I’d actually go looking for again.

PoD was a lovely delicate blue Anemone Coronaria Royale.

Too warm for central heating tonight, but I think we might need it tomorrow. It’s going to get cooler, wetter and windier as we get closer to the weekend. Oh, yes, and happy birthday to Murdo in Skye!

Tomorrow we may need to collect Scamp’s prescription so someone will be driving.

Getting things done – 19 May 2020

Some days it pays to have a plan and stick to it. Some days not.

Today was in the latter category, but still fulfilled the title of the blog. I lay a little longer than I should have, just to finish City With Windows. A good book that I’d recommend to you, especially if you like American crime novels. After I rose and had my shower I started on today’s drawing. Today’s topic was A Pillow and that was right in front of me, so I did a quick sketch to see how it looked. It worked, but the paper I was using wasn’t conducive to watercolour, so I redrew it on my standard 160gms Seawhite sketchbook. It looked fine, but would probably look even better with a watercolour wash. However, I’ve been caught before and this time I took a quick snap with my phone to make sure I had a copy of the pencil sketch incase I screwed up the watercolour. I didn’t screw up for once and the pillow looked better with the part watercolour, part pencil sketch. At least, that’s what I think.

By the time I was finished, Scamp had been on the phone to the doc to get her reflux medication changed to one that would actually work. After Ranitidine had been recalled she was on a couple of meds that didn’t work or weren’t as good as it. Since it doesn’t look as if it will return in the near future, having been found to be a probable human carcinogen, she needed to find a replacement. I hope she’s found it this time.

After lunch I wrote to Alex sharing photographic experiences and some photos. It’s been too long since I took the time to write to him. We used to converse with emails passing between us every fortnight, now it’s every month and sometimes longer. Must make the effort to close the gap.

Later in the afternoon, when the rain that had threatened all day finally arrived, I took some photos of the Rhododendron and Geum in the garden. With the warmth last week and the rain this week the garden is starting to take off. Of course the rain didn’t last and the sun broke through. When it shone on the rhododendron, the pieris and the American cowslip they really shone and I realised, not for the first time that all the work Scamp puts into the garden isn’t a waste of time. The sun didn’t last long, because the rain returned. One of the shots of the rhododendron got PoD.

I’m writing this at just after 9.30pm and once it’s posted I’ll have completed almost everything I’ve been intending to do for a long time.

Tomorrow we may have to visit the pharmacy to pick up Scamp’s meds. Other than that, no plans. But sometime you still get more things done when you don’t have a plan.

A walk in the morning – 18 May 2020

After the rain the world looked a better place. A place we could walk in.

We just got up about 9.30 and went out for a walk. We started off by doing the circuit of St Mo’s pond a couple of times and fed the ducks, but also the crows which sometimes get forgotten. Then following on from the success of Saturday’s extended expedition, we just walked on for a bit, then another bit and finally walked through the ‘new’ housing estate opposite St Mo’s school. It’s not really new, it’s been there for around five or six years I’d say, but still relatively new. From the estate we found our way down to the underpass and turned there for home. Scamp was eager to show me a large rhododendron bush she’d found on her walk last week. It wasn’t so much a bush as a fair sized tree. We did have a look to see if there were any cuttings we could liberate, but couldn’t find any. Pity. It was a really enjoyable walk with everything looking that bit greener after the rain.

Back home and I sorted out some photos for Alex and made some notes for my monthly email. Well two-monthly email. It seems we each take about a month to reply to the emails and we always apologise to each other for taking so long to reply. Anyway, notes made and short leet of photos selected, it was lunch time. After lunch I wrote a letter to Peter H. I don’t know if he doesn’t do email, but I sent him an email a couple of weeks ago and got no reply so perhaps it was an old address that’s still live in name only. He writes letters and I enjoy communication. Signed and sealed I walked over to Condorrat to post it and managed a detour round St Mo’s on the way back. Got today’s PoD on the boardwalk. Just a wee nettle plant rejoicing in its freedom.

Scamp suggested I make a Spaghetti a la Puttanesca (Spaghetti in a tomato, capers, black olive and anchovy sauce). She doesn’t like black olives, so I could have them and she would substitute some tuna. I’d forgotten just how good it tasted. A wee glass of merlot to wash it down.

Today’s topic for a sketch was My Breakfast. That’s mine you see here. I have three different breakfasts to choose from. Muesli, Wheetabix or Porridge. Today was porridge and that’s what I drew. I was fairly happy with it, but not over the moon. Spoon handle wasn’t right, but I did a practise one later just to see what had gone wrong. I think I’ve worked it out now.

Got a great photo from Hazy and Neil-D showing off their custom Coronavirus masks. As they were well warned in the accompanying letter, they are guaranteed not to be any preventative at all, but they do look good. First Class post only took a week to go to England!

Perhaps there is an end in sight for our lockdown. If the stars align correctly we may get stage one of the release on 28th May, so the nice Nick the Chick said today. But only if we’re good!

Got a painless Click ’n’ Collect from Tesco today. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I think we’ll do that again.

No plans for tomorrow. Maybe not such an early walk tomorrow. Must try to finish City of Windows.