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The Wall – 20 January 2020

In the afternoon I climbed it and I photographed it. In the evening I hit it.

Gems were in today, as with all Mondays. I had some things to do, and thankfully I have a good pair of headphones, so I could drown out most things that bother me. They also worked on Gems. With the essential stuff done, I grabbed my camera and went for a run in the Juke.

For reasons best known to themselves, somebody has blocked the road to the Antonine Wall. It’s a dead end, but there is a neat little lay-by where I can leave the car while I walk the Antonine Wall. Now I’ve got to leave the car by the side of the road about 200m away. PITA. It’s still possible to walk round the obstruction, but not to drive past it. I wanted to get some photos from the Antonine Wall, but I’d the wrong footwear for the boggy ground, so I restricted myself to climbing part of it and using a fence post as a prop to support my Beadbag™ which would in turn steady The LBJ, which was today’s camera of choice. Got a few photos and one accidental post-focus video. Gave up after that because the light was rapidly disappearing.

Back home the accidental post-focus shot actually produced the best set of photos and that’s what created today’s PoD. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea of the area and the wall.  This shot was taken from the south side of the wall.  The rampart on the north side is much higher to keep out the wild Picts and Scots. I needed a brighter day with better lighting for a better shot.

After dinner we went off again for another visit to the world of dance. Today’s topic was Waltz, but first, one of my most hated sequence dances, the Saunter Together. It really pains me to say that I felt quite comfortable dancing this little bit of fluff. That’s no’ real dancin’! Tonight’s moves were the first half. Next week we got part two. I can hardly wait 😒. Next was the Waltz and I did quite enjoy it. We very nearly got it right twice. That’s an improvement.

The second half of the night was Tango. We’ve attempted it a couple of times with no success. Tonight it was awful. I felt just so far out of my depth. All those fiddly little steps with kicks and flicks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the lesson I just hit the wall. Enough! I never want to dance another Tango in my life. I could happily have torn off the uncomfortable dance shoes, thrown the dummy out of the pram and gone home. Except, Scamp was enjoying the dance and really looked good dancing it with the teacher. Maybe if I ask her nicely, Scamp that is, she’ll guide me in the general direction of competence. Maybe I’ll master it in the week I have before the next lesson.

Finished off with the Blue Angel Rumba which I’m almost managing. It just takes a different mindset from Salsa. It’s all about the feet and the hands just float about. Salsa is all about the hands and the feet just keep you moving.

Tomorrow the weather looks cloudy and grey. No plans yet.

Cold and Frosty – 19 January 2020

Not just the morning, either. Most of the day was cold at least.

Not a day for doing much. Certainly in the morning at least, not a lot done. Finally agreed to go to the manky Classic Grand (so inaccurately named) for the Salsa Ceilidh. That was about it for the morning.

After lunch I went out to take some photos in St Mo’s and after that I walked down to the shops to get enough stuff to make soup for tonight’s dinner, which was to be Tomato and Red Pepper soup. Well, we’ve had two days of heavy lunches which for me included lots of red meat, so making an effort today to be meat-free was a good idea. Scamp didn’t mind, in fact she was quite like minded and soup was easy and fairly quick to make. We could have a bowl of it before we went out dancing tonight. Soup and Salt ’n’ Pepper bread to dook. Yes, that would do nicely.

The walk to St Mo’s wasn’t the best. There was very little to see and the cold west wind wasn’t conducive to spending a lot of time framing up a shot. PoD was the Whin bush, also known as Gorse, looking really jaggy. Almost making it to PoD was a landscape shot of a beautiful sky. I’ve often faked a sky to look like that. Today I just photographed it. Nice to see that skies like that actually exist outside of someone’s imagination. Speaking of imagination, I’ve an idea for a fantasy shot. I got one of the elements of it today. Really need a starlit sky for the background and although I could just download one, it would be better to create one myself. Must look out some of my old photoshop reference books.

Made the soup when I came back and almost forgot about the dancing tonight. It was a good Sunday Social with lots of folk I haven’t seen for ages turning up. Spoke to Heather and John and wished them well for their trip to Cuba this Tuesday. Seven days with ten hours of dancing tuition booked. Maybe fun, might just be purgatory. We’ll no doubt find out when they return with lots of stories and lots of photos. Really wish we were going!!

Soup was good and will be better tomorrow. Soup always is. As for the rest of tomorrow, well it’s Gems and it’s Ballroom. Hopefully our bits and pieces of practice will have rubbed off some of the rough edges.

Today we went to Embra – 18 January 2020

It’s ages since we’ve been in Embra. Not since last year at least (Ha, ha).

Still sticking to the “Up and out before 11” mantra, we headed off for the 10.40am train from Croy. On the way we picked up the tickets for our London trip, so, a tick in two boxes. Fairly slow train, and in the same carriage as a foursome of what Scamp called “Apprentice Witches” who looked as if they were off on a Ladies Only weekend, lubricated with a bottle of cheap champagne. And why not, even ladies wot lunch are allowed a weekend off the leash occasionally.

Got off at Haymarket and were surprised with the number of polis in attendance, van loads of them. Hearts must be playing at home, I thought. I was right. Hearts were at home to Airdrie. We walked up and over to Nero on Lothian Road for our morning coffee. Suitably refreshed, we should have walked through the Farmers’ Market and over to the Grassmarket, but today was different. Instead, we walked down to Princes Street and then along its length to The Bridges. Walked over The Bridges and on to the Royal Mile. It was cold. Not bitterly cold like it sometimes is in Embra, but cold enough to require my wooly Buff, wooly had and a pair of gloves. At least it was bright as well as cold.  Took some foties on the Royal Mile and then we ducked down to the Grassmarket. This was really strange. We were going in exactly the opposite direction to what we usually go and the vistas of architecture we were seeing were totally different to those we usually see. “A change is as good as a rest”, they say and it was proving true. One thing didn’t change and that was lunch in Petit Paris in the Grassmarket. Truly French restaurant with a French menu and served by French blokes. Scamp had Crayfish in Garlic Butter and a main of Salmon Fillet with Thyme served with mash. I had Garlic and Pea soup and a main of Beef Bourguignon. Both meals were just as good as we expected them to be. I even risked the wrath of Nick the Chick with a glass or red wine.

To continue our ‘Wrong Way Round’ walk, we walked through the Farmers’ Market that was just starting to close for the day, and where I got today’s PoD of a bloke enjoying the view of the castle from the comfort of a deck chair. Then out past the Usher Hall and back to Haymarket for the train home. A much quieter train home, now that the Apprentice Witches were suitably sozzled and off making a noise elsewhere.

Not a bad day. Pity it was so cold, but the lovely meal in Petit Paris made up for the lack of warmth. PoD was indeed the bloke on the deck chair, but there are others on Flickr if you care to visit.

Tomorrow we believe there may be dancing at the Record Factory.

Another ‘out early’ day

Today we had planned to go to Troon. For once that’s exactly what we did.

Drove down to Troon on the west coast and actually got parked easily in the town. Went for a very cold walk along the front as far as the wind surfers’ carpark. Part of it was almost painless as we were protected from the onshore wind by the three meter high sand dunes. The walk back along the beach was not so comfortable, but gave us an excellent view of the two windsurfers and the kite surfer who seemed to revel in the windy conditions. Got a PoD of two people walking further along the beach than we did. It looks as if it’s a warm evening shot, but it was a bitter midday one in reality. Back in the car we drove down to Scotts for lunch.

We hadn’t booked and I was beginning to wish we had when we saw the number of people going in to the restaurant with views across the marina. I needn’t have worried, we got seated without a problem. Service was a bit slow, but then it was really busy. Food was excellent, as it always is here. Scamp chose Spinach and Potato soup followed by Smoked Haddock and Salmon Gratin. Mine was Spiced Cauliflower Beignet (a bit like mild cauliflower pakora) followed by Slow Cooked Beef Daub with Mash and Cabbage. Both meals were absolutely delicious, although my Spiced Cauliflower Beignet was that star in my eyes. Coffee to start with Tea and Coffee to finish. It was too cold a day for cold drinks.

Stopped at Morrisons on the way home for some essentials like bread and milk. Also filled up the Juke’s tank and drove home through the occasional rain shower. It may have been cold on the beach at Troon, but at least it was dry.

Back home I found a letter telling me it was time for me to update my driving license as I am fast approaching the age when I have to confirm that I am a fit and able driver, but thankfully I don’t have to resit the driving test. That might have been a problem.

Oh, yes and we booked our summer holiday. A good end to a sunny, but not exactly warm day.

Tomorrow we may go to the east, now that we’ve visited the west.

Out before 11? Oh yes – 16 January 2020

Not only was I out before 11am, I was out and back with a card full of photos by 11 today.

The sun was up and so was I. I wasn’t going to waste good light like I did yesterday. Today I was going out to grab some photons and imprison them in an SD card. By the time I was actually going out, I could sense that the light was already fading, but undeterred I walked over the boardwalk and into the trees. I’d nothing really in my head for a photo, but as usual, I found some things. Mostly they were macro things. Wee things you pass by without thinking, but sometimes you have to stop and look and visualise what you could turn them into. That’s how I got today’s PoD. It’s really just an old rotting fence post with some barbed wire wound round it. I liked the different textures in the shot, but light was low, so I used the torch on my phone to give me some much needed light. Later when I was scanning the shots on the computer I realised the torch light had created a green cast. It was fairly easy to remove, but in the process it accentuated the reds in the lichen growing on the stump and also the rust on the wire. That’s what made it PoD. I could have turned it into a monochrome image, my first thought, but then I’d have missed those glorious colours.

Back home and after a morning coffee – much better today Hazy, we planned the rest of the day. I wanted a new pair of dance shoes. I’d say I needed a new pair of dance shoes, but ‘wanted’ is nearer the truth. I ‘need’ to get my old shoes re-soled, but another pair of dance shoes wouldn’t go amiss. Of course, Scamp is aways on the lookout for a new pair of sparkly dance shoes. Drove to the shop following the satnav and found it without any problem. They had the shoes I wanted, but not in my size. Bummer. Worse than that, they were sold out of gents shoe soles too! Double Bummer. The lady took my name and number and said she’d contact me when the shoes came back in to stock, possibly next week. Meanwhile Scamp had chosen one pair for herself and was considering another pair. Eventually she decided to limit herself to just the one pair, with the option to think about the other pair as a possible purchase when I was going to get mine. Devious.

We decided to go for lunch to Frankie & Benny’s for lunch. Since I was denied my dance shoes, I suggested we go to the Bishopbriggs site, where I could peruse the ‘toys’ in Currys after lunch. I’m not looking for anything in particular, but everything in general, usually the best time to window shop. That’s what we did. The satnav again did the heavy lifting and found us a way across a gloomy and dull Glasgow to the retail park. Fish ’n’ Chips for Scamp and Cheese Burger (No Mayo) for me. Lovely. By the time we were coming out, the rain had started. Saw lots of ‘toys’ in Currys, but nothing that was very interesting. Drove home through the gloom and the rain.

There was one more photo taken today and that was the new and updated Christmas Tree fairy. She’s been in need of a makeover for many years and this year she got her wish. New underskirt. Newly washed (twice washed) dress and a new pair of sparkly wings. Most of the work was down to Scamp. Before she goes back in her box and into the loft until next year it seemed like a good idea to give her a photoshoot. I do believe she’s smiling.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere. It will be cold, but clear for most of the day according to the weather people. We’ll wait and see.

Not much done today – 15 January 2020

Scamp was out to meet Isobel for coffee. I put some washing on.

I know now that I should have gone out and taken some photos when there was a decent amount of light, but I didn’t. I put some washing in the machine and let it roll. Went and checked my laptop was still working and it was. Tidied up the painting / photography / drawing / repair room a bit. Not enough that anyone but me would notice. With that all done the washing was done, so I hung it up and left to go to my checkup at the dentist. Thankfully I got a clean bill of health and left with my next appointment pencilled in for some date and time in July. That’s the way the time goes. Thinking about July when it’s still January.

By the time I got home the good light had gone and Scamp had arrived back from coffee time. After lunch the weather looked settled, so Scamp hung out the clothes to dry in the just less than gale force wind. Then we went to get some compost for my peppers at Calders. Unfortunately they were in the midst of some serious reorganisation and there was no access to the area at the rear of the building where they store the compost. Instead we went to B&Q and picked up a bag and by the time we were heading home the rain started and didn’t look like stopping. Thankfully the washing wasn’t very wet because the wind had dried it more than the rain had wet it. That was just about the sum and total of our activities today.

With the rest of the afternoon to use up I offered to make some bread and when that was on the go, I also made some Lemonade Scones.  Haven’t tried the bread yet, but the scones passed the taste test easily.  Scamp made Mac ‘n’ Cheese for dinner. Simple, tasty and filling.  What more can you ask.

Today’s PoD is the ‘Mother Cactus’ which is now flowering quite happily on the window sill. Yesterday’s PoD the Geranium was a nightmare to light with LED lights. Tonight was much simpler. Just one LED light and also the room light which thankfully is a daylight bulb and nearly the same Mired value as the LED (remember Mired from a previous lesson? Basically how red or blue the light is.) Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get some photos outside in the real world.

The plan for tomorrow is to go for a new pair of dance shoes for me, and of course Scamp will need a new pair too. That’s the plan. Whether it works out that way or not is in the lap of the gods, the weather gods.

Coffee with the Cynics – 14 January 2020

You can’t beat the auld guys for cynicism. Don’t even try.

Out in the morning to get some chicken for tonight’s dinner, some chilli for an, as yet undisclosed, purpose and some photo paper to make a calendar for the three auld guys. Then it was down to work printing them and fitting them into their combs. Have way through the second calendar, the printer took a ‘wee flaky’ in other words, it ejected a sheet of unprinted paper and started flashing all the lights it had at its disposal. I swore at it and that didn’t help. I switched it off and back on again and that didn’t help either. Finally I resorted to the Val technique and switched it off, counted to 10 and switched it on again. That’s supposed to flush the printer’s capacitors and return it to something like factory settings. It worked. My technique would have worked too, but Scamp doesn’t like me kicking things. She says it does more harm than good. I say it doesn’t as long as you’ve got good strong boots on. We agree to disagree on that (but it would have worked). Calendars printed and assembled and in their bags, I headed out to pick up Colin. Scamp was an hour ahead of me, going to the same coffee place, going to meet Annette.

Picked up Colin at his house. He’s not too keen on driving except in bright sunshine because he needs a cataract op which should have been done a week ago, but was postponed until next week. I assured him it was nothing to worry about and everything would be so much brighter after that.

Val was buying the coffees when we arrived and Scamp with Annette were sitting just behind us, so I was on my best behaviour for a while. Topics under discussion today were The Who’s new album, Val’s Raspberry Pi adventures, The Young Royals and finally Mr Trump. We did go over other old ground, but that’s quite usual for us. Nostalgia is not what it used to be. Finally when we were all talked out we went our separate ways with me thinking “Is this the beginning of the end of the Auld Guys?” Have we talked ourselves out and need a rest for a while. Or do we just need to find a new outlet, or even a new coffee shop. Maybe next time we should adjourn to Tim Hortons to see if a change of scenery helps.

Drove back through the gathering gloom and that was only around 3pm. Daylight is at a premium in these dark January days. Hadn’t even taken the camera out of the bag today and on the way back from Colin’s, the rain started in earnest. By the time I reached home it had turned into sleet. Isn’t Scotland a lovely place at times?

PoD is of one of Scamp’s geraniums that sit flowering through the winter gloom on the bedroom window sill. This one is really past its best and should be having a rest, really, but it doesn’t seem to know how.

Tomorrow Scamp is out first for coffee with Isobel and I’m out next to go to the dentist for my six monthly checkup. Anything else is a bonus. Hoping for some free photons to light the scenery.

Brendan Blunders In – 13 January 2020

Do these weather chappies think if you give a storm a ‘human’ name, it makes it less scary? Somebody should tell them it’s not working.

Today’s storm was named Brendan and it was a stoater. It blundered around, knocking down bins and firing the rain in your face when you weren’t expecting it. It was just an awful day. I don’t like the high winds. I don’t like thunder either. Maybe it’s the noise, I’ve never thought about it really, but I never did like high wind or thunder. I don’t mind rain or sleet or snow. They’re really just different varieties of the water that falls on you after all. Despite all that I took myself out in the wind and rain that was Brendan to get a photo or two and a writing pad. As it turned out I got four photos, all of trees blowing in the wind. All pointing straight up. All with a really slow shutter speed. None with the camera resting on the Beadbag™ which was designed for such a situation! Needless to say one of those shots became PoD.  It looks as if its been converted to mono, but it’s actually just a combination of the contrast and the dull day that leaches away all the colour.

Have you ever tried to buy a pad or writing paper. Nobody seems to write letters anymore. Yes, you can buy envelopes in all sorts of colours and sizes, but no writing paper to make the letters to put in them. I tried all the shops in our new retail park and not one of them had writing paper. A reporter’s notebook was the closest I came. I dare say email had put paid to actually writing to people. Finally I tracked down a writing pad at a wee newsagent’s in Condorrat. I’ll use it carefully and then store it somewhere safe, for the next time I need to write a letter.

After dinner we drove up to the Town Centre to go to ballroom class. Tonight we were tackling Waltz Across Texas as a sort of warm up, then it was into the waltz proper. The routine we’d started to learn last week. This time Scamp filmed the whole routine, both the ladies and the mens parts. The second hour was foxtrot. Neither of us had ever done foxtrot before, so this was all new. I think we may have about 75% of the routine in our heads now. It’s just the part where we teach our feet how to actually execute the moves that we need to perfect. We did also find a ‘bad part’ of the dance floor where we always got things wrong. I think we should mark that area with red spray paint to make it easier to avoid, and therefore make fewer mistakes. After Mr Fox’s Trot we reprised the Blue Angel Rumba. One of the expert couples even offered to take us through it and that made it a lot clearer. We have a video earmarked on YouTube for that one already, so it just needs a bit of careful watching to identify the individual parts, then they should be easier to join together. I think also I need a new pair of dance shoes. The ones I have keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the guys. Scamp’s out with Annette in the morning for coffee too. I think we both need some adult conversation!

Beadbags, planter ponds and fairy wings – 12 January 2020

It was dry today, but there was still a lot of water about.

It was when we were looking out the window this morning that Scamp noticed we had a new pond in one of her planters. The water was easily 50mm deep. I tipped out most of the water and moved the planter over to a dryer bit of the garden where it could drain away more easily. However, the pot was so heavy it still sank down into the soil, thereby blocking the drainage holes again. Even when I lifted it up onto the step, the holes were still being blocked. I finally resorted to using two pieces of wood to act as supports to raise the pot up off the concrete step and finally the water began to drain. The water I’d poured off initially was still sitting on the depression the pot had made when I last looked. That’s how saturated the ground it today.

Scamp had a birthday present for one of her friends and I wanted a new Sudoku calendar, so we headed to The Fort which is the nearest place with a bookshop. While she went to shop for a prezzy, I went to Waterstones and got my calendar half price. Result! Next thing she wanted was crepe paper to make the fairy’s underskirt. Got that and returned to wait for Scamp in the car.

Back home after lunch I took two cameras and the new ‘beadbag’ out to St Mo’s to test the practicality of it and to get some photos, hopefully. The best of the day, and PoD, was a sunset view along the boardwalk, not take with the assistance of the beadbag, but I did get a photo of it being used.

Back home I removed the wings from the fairy, photocopied them in the scanner and used the photocopy as a template to cut out a new pair of sparkly wings. They’re not perfect, but they are a lot better than the ones she had at Christmas. Scamp, meanwhile, worked on the underskirt which is what she wanted the crepe paper for. It’s looking good and if she can get the dress cleaned properly we’ll be ready to reassemble the Christmas Fairy.

Gave the MBP another full charge today and it seems be working properly with its new battery, touch wood.

Tomorrow I’m planning to post some calendars and write some letters. Gems will be here too! Back to the same old, same old.

Rain, rain, rain – 11 January 2020

It was wet today, in fact it never stopped.

It was obvious from early today that it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the last three or four days. We’d intended going out for lunch, but I’d ordered a new battery for the MBP and it was supposed to be delivered today. It was, but the delivery bloke didn’t even knock the door, he just left the parcel in the bin shed. That said, it was absolutely tipping it down when he came, so I couldn’t really blame him for not waiting at a possibly locked door.

It must have taken me at least ten minutes to disconnect the old battery, remove it, replace it with the new one and reconnect it. Then it took about two hours to charge it. The best advice I had from the ‘net was to leave it charging for at least a further two hours, which I did. In the meantime I tested and tasted my bacon, haggis, pork and whisky sausages. They were good, and an interesting taste. That’s as much as I’m saying just now. Had some of Hazy’s Columbian coffee too. It was much sharper and more bitter than my usual drink but, again, worth trying a second or third cup tomorrow.

After lunch we decided we’d eat in tonight and Fish Curry was on the menu. It should really be Egg Curry, but if you substitute fish for eggs it works equally well. It’s really a dhal with a lot of red lentils in it and also some coconut milk. We’ve been making it for years. It originated from a recipe book we bought in Woolworths. Remember them? I drove up to Tesco to try to post some of the calendars, but the post office closed at 12.30 and it was now past 2.30, so I missed it by a mile. Came home with rice for the curry and a couple of bottles of alcoholic beverages.

Time for laptop phase 2. Unplugged it and it started. The guide said to run it until it shut down. That took just over four hours, during which time we made the curry and ate half of it, leaving the remainder for tomorrow’s dinner (it was still raining by the way). We also watched an hilarious episode of Bake Off with The Derry Girls. Not something I’d have considered funny, but it just worked.

The laptop is now on phase 3 of its calibration cycle. It’s switched off and will remain switched off for at least five hours. That means it should be switched on about 2am. That’s where the “at least” factor kicks in. It may get switched on around 9am tomorrow, but not before.

Scamp and I had fun trying to fill a beanbag with polystyrene beads (does that make it a beadbag?). Eventually these beads with minds of their own were safely ensconced in their little bag and sewn in. I used it to prop up the camera which produced tonight’s PoD which is the Weemen ‘helping’ to swap out the new battery for the old one.

Tomorrow, on paper, looks better than today, but that wouldn’t be difficult. We’ll wait and see. No definite plans.