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Watching the scenery go by – 20 February 2019

Scamp offered to drive into Glasgow and I readily accepted.

We drove in to Glasgow today with Scamp at the wheel in her own car. The automatic board told us there were 100 spaces in the Concert Hall carpark, however two minutes later when we tried to enter the carpark, the machine at the gate said “CARPARK FULL”. I realise that the automatic sign may not be entirely accurate, but mistaking 100 cars for spaces means it should have gone to Specsavers. We were not amused. However, we soon found a space that Scamp’s wee car could squeeze into. Luckily it is quite small, because so was that space. It’s nice being a passenger, occasionally.

Walked down to Blackfriars under lightening skies and grabbed today’s PoD in Royal Exchange Square. It was lunch time and all the ravenous office workers were piling through the arches looking for food. That one bloke seemed singleminded in his pursuit of his sandwiches.

Jive was good. We went over the Seven Spins, Ladles, The StepOver and finished with the Tangles. I thought it was Tango, but it was indeed Tangles. That took up most of the hour, then we did a quick run through of the beginning of the Rumba and the Cha-Cha, before we did a quick practise of the Quickstep. Busy, busy lesson today, but worthwhile.

Coffee in Nero to recap on what we’d learned then home again. I had to keep my mouth shut when I thought that Scamp had taken the wrong turning, it’s just that her route on to the motorway is different from mine. Not faster, not slower, just different.

Dinner was out of the freezer for me. A stew I’d made back in October last year. It tasted fine. Scamp had fish.

Worked through a pen sketch for 28 Drawings Later before we went out to salsa and that’s what you see here. It’s two glass spice jars. One rectangular and one square. I like it. I’d tried to use thick and thin lines. Thick lines go round the outside and thin ones are in the inside. It’s more complicated than that, but you get the idea.

 

Rangers were playing at home tonight and, at times, it looked as if the supporters had decided to park on the motorway and walk to Ibrox. The traffic was hardly moving. However we got to STUC only 15 minutes late. Unfortunately, there were too many men, so I sat out the first class and joined in with the second. Quite enjoyed the second.

That’s it for today, a bit rushed, but it’s late and I want to get this posted, plus after it’s on the InterWeb I’m going to update yesterday’s post with (corrected) details of yesterday’s food extravaganza. * Now completed *

Tomorrow morning is free then I’m meeting the guys for coffee in the afternoon.

Out to Lunch – 19 February 2019

Not just any old lunch. Oh no, this was lunch in a Michelin star restaurant!

The day started with a taxi to the station where we got the train to Embra. Walked along Shandwick Place from Haymarket to have coffee in a new Nero we’d found a couple of weeks ago. From there we walked up Lothian Road to get the No22 bus to Leith. In fact, to Ocean Terminal in Leith where we knew we could fritter away half an hour or so before we went in to the restaurant.

We found an interesting ‘Design Gallery’ which looked like the Embra sister of the one in Buchanan Galleries in Glasgow. The difference was many of the offerings had an Embra slant whereas the ones in Glasgow are more authentic Scottish. Oops, a bit of East / West competition crept in there. Then I found a little gem of a place, next door to the ‘Design Gallery’. This one didn’t have anything for sale, it was more like a museum, but one where people were encouraged to touch the exhibits. There was an old piano at the back of the room and, of course, Scamp just had to have a shot! Lots of lovely things in there. There was a collection of Airfix planes glued up and badly painted, but they had obviously been in a few dog-fights since their construction. We found a Bunty magazine dating from 1963. There was a toy typewriter and also a few real manual typewriters. What a lot of people would consider junk, but it was a room full of memories for people of a certain age. It’s even called The Little Shop of Memory. Brilliant idea.

About a fifteen minute walk from Ocean Terminal is the restaurant which strangely doesn’t have an entrance from the street, you have to enter from the cobbled path at the back. We were still early, so decided to have a drink before the meal. Both of us had a G ’n’ T. Scamp had boring Hendricks I had Fidra. A nice relaxing start.

The meal:

Clockwise from the top left:

Amuse Bouche the same onion soup as last year in baked onion with croutons and spring onions. (D&S)
Vol-au-vent filled with lamb sweetbreads and tenderstem broccoli and served with a lamb’s tongue jus. (D)
Haunch of venison with venison offal and savoy cabbage faggot and baby carrots (D)
Rhubarb and blood orange with meringue and rhubarb sorbet plus meringue lollypop sticks (D)

Apple and soufflé with vanilla ice cream (S)
Hake with seafood, octopus and gnocci – two pictures (S)
Open artichoke ravioli served with crowdie and edible flowers (S)

We went for the wine package we had last year and it was equally eye-opening. Especially the Tokay wine!  I couldn’t believe that this white wine would complement the Rhubarb pudding so well.  Startling!

After we’d dined and scoffed the wine, we got the bus to the station, then just managed to catch the Croy train.  Taxi home after a full and enjoyable day.  I hadn’t even taken one photo with a camera all day.  That’s why there’s a photo of a rhododendron bud as PoD.

I was going to use another of yesterday’s sketches as my drawing, but instead I drew my hand holding a paintbrush.  It’s not very interesting, but it does look like a hand and it’s done and on time, which is probably more than can be said of this blog post!

Best news of the day was that the Advanced Salsa class has been given a reprieve!  Don’t know how.  Don’t know why.  All I know is that it’s done and we’re both relieved.

Tomorrow?  Auld claes and purrich I think!

A Plan – 18 February 2019

On Mondays you have to have a time management plan.

Time is especially precious on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mondays because of Gems and Salsa and Wednesdays because of Ballroom and Salsa. That’s why today I tried to allocate time to activities that had to be completed. Some have to be tackled in daylight. Painting and sketching are the important ones for good natural light. Photography too, but it’s not as demanding of natural light as painting. Other things like posting images on Flickr and Facebook can be done under room lighting. With that in mind, I set out a plan of operations:

  1. Photography in daylight when there’s a bit of sun too, if possible. However, the actual taking of the photo doesn’t take all that long, so it can be done when and if the conditions are favourable.
  2. Painting and Sketching take a little longer and need some time allocated to them to make sure I don’t over run.
  3. Making dinner is determined by which classes we are going to and posting stuff online can be done any time.

So, started after lunch and got some photos taken just before the rain started and in a little pool of sunshine. Today’s PoD was one of the first croci to poke its head out of the compost. I liked the effect of the raindrops on it.

Next, today’s subject for sketching and painting was a couple of herb jars from the kitchen and a tin of Pimenton pepper. I’d had a go at the pepper tin years ago and liked the shape and also the fact that it should have a decent set of perspective lines. The finished article wasn’t really to my satisfaction because the perspective wasn’t correct, but I like the rendering of the glass jars and their contents. I tried a second drawing, drawing only this time, of the two jars. It was much better graphically, but didn’t have the watercolour effect, so the first painting won the day. All the artwork was done upstairs in the back bedroom while Gems practised their songs. Good headphones with noise reduction are a godsend.

After dinner we drove in to Salsa. It used to be the one class I could completely lose myself in if I was having a bad day at work, but since last week’s announcement that it was being terminated in four weeks, it’s lost a lot of its appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the dancing and the repartee, but it’s like I’m losing an old and trusted friend. I think even if it is reprieved, it won’t be the same. The trust would not be there any more. Hard to explain in words.

The class before ours, the beginners, were doing Sombrero. What Scamp calls the first time they are really dancing. It’s true the whoops and yells when Jamie demonstrated what they were going to learn made me smile. It almost made me smile as much as when you lead a beginner through the apparent maze of the move and they realise they’ve just done it! They did it. Well, most of them did.

Our own class were very vociferous in their condemnation of the decision to axe the Advanced class and several proposals were put forward to avert it, but I felt all the time it was a fait accompli. It was going to go ahead, no matter what we felt. Of course it was left to Jamie to fend off the questions. Shannon was obvious by her absence.

Tomorrow we’re out to lunch.

Happy Anniversary – 17 February 2019

Forty six years ago today, we made it legal.

Today started off dull, but brightened up as the day went on. It rained too, but not all day. One of those days with a little bit of everything. Rain, wind and sunshine. No snow thankfully.

In the afternoon Scamp got fed up with me mooching around the house and sent me off to St Mo’s to get some photos and to get out of her hair. The light was really nice and I managed to get today’s PoD and a few more. Really liked the light colour in this one and the sharpness. It’s called The Finger because it does look like a finger to me, at least. Managed to slip off a slimy log and fall into a burn. The just-cleaned jacket may recover with a wipe down, or it might be another trip to the washing machine for it.

Not a lot else to say about today. Spoke to JIC in the evening after dinner and caught up with their busy lives. Then I tackled today’s sketch in my new Paperchase sketch book. I think they must have re-formulated their paper in the books. It seems a lot more absorbent than the last one I had. The watercolour washes just appeared to soak into it. However, it’s done and on time.

Gems tomorrow with salsa planned for the evening.

Forty six years ago! Were did all that time go?

Out for a walk – 16 February 2019

Although today started out cloudy, the weather fairies said it would brighten up. It did.

We drove to Chatelherault for a walk among the trees. It was busy, but then it was Saturday and people like to get out and about on a Saturday. We chose a path we hadn’t been on before that would eventually take us down to the old Avon Bridge. It was a fairly easy path. Wide enough and interesting enough to keep us occupied for the 1.5km that was the advertised distance. At least it was until we reached the last 100m which was a steep slope downhill and what goes down must eventually go up. We stopped for a while on the old bridge to watch the river flow and the world go by, then we made our way back along the Avon until we came to the steps that would be the Up part we’d been expecting. It was good exercise, let’s leave it at that! From there it was a leisurely stroll back to the centre and the cafe.

I went to buy lunch and Scamp went to find a table. She found more than a table, she found Crawford and Nancy’s daughter with her own daughter Imogen. By the time I got the lunches and the coffees, Imogen had been whisked away by her dad to the baby changing room. Such things were never available in our day. Soon dad arrived with Imogen wearing nappies and nothing else. Apparently she had been soaked to the skin and they’d not brought a change of clothes. However her mum soon sorted things out and Scamp got to hold her for a while. I felt a bit like the Kevin Bridges character who has to talk to a baby and all he can think of is “Ye a’ right, mate?” I try to avoid talking to babies as they usually just start crying. Imogen didn’t cry, she just wanted to test the strength of the material in my sweatshirt. Apparently it passed the test, but wasn’t deemed good enough to eat … thankfully! When they left we had another coffee because Scamp had been too busy discussing things with Imogen to drink her last cup. After that we left. It’s an ok cafe, the coffee is drinkable, but the food is dire and the prices ridiculously high.

Came home and ordered takeaway from Golden Bowl. Usual for Scamp. Sweet & Sour Pork Balls for me. Fatty pork belly deep fried in batter and served with fried rice and sweet & sour sauce. Can’t be healthy because it tastes so good. Even reading those ingredients puts about a kilo on you and elevates your sugar and cholesterol levels to the warning flashing red area. It was lovely.

Today’s PoD is a fake photo of Chatelherault House. The house is ok, but the sky came from a totally different shot. It works though! Tonight’s sketch is of the big watercolour paint box. Done while listening and partly watching a program about how big a bastard Frank Williams of the Williams F1 team was. I never liked him, but I hadn’t realised just how nasty he was.

Tomorrow it’s due to rain, so I don’t know where we’re going, if anywhere.

Perf – 15 February 2019

My coffee mountain was being eroded and in need of replenishment.

It was a lovely morning. Blue sky and just a few thin white clouds. A perfect day to travel up to Perf for some coffee beans and some loose tea. A long way to go for coffee you say when you could just drive up to Tesco. Hmm. Does Tesco offer Cuba Turaquino? Or Honduras? Or real Columbian? Does Tesco sell loose Assam Long Leaf tea? Hmm. I didn’t think so. I could have ordered online, but the Cuban is the problem. The Bean Shop uses PayPal for online purchasing and PayPal being american can’t be used for purchases from Cuba. Obama was heading in the right direction and it looked as if he was going to remove the blockade from dealing with Cuba. The blond combover president stopped that and the upshot for me is that I can’t buy my Cuban coffee from The Bean Shop in Perf online. I can buy it perfectly legally and without problem over the counter, so that’s why we were travelling up the M9 to Perf today. Well, that and the fact that it was a lovely spring-like day for a run.

Got there and after a Nero coffee to refresh us we went for a walk to ‘The Ship’. The bit of the pavement that overhangs the Tay and always reminds us of being on a cruise. There were loads of folk there today. I managed to get PoD which was a bloke gazing out over the river. Then we walked through the riverside park and across to the playing fields, a bit we’ve never been to before in all the time we’ve walked through the park. From there it was a short walk to The Bean Shop and the coffee. With it safely in the bag we walked back through the town and drove home. The blue sky was still there and so were the few white clouds.

The sun was so welcoming, I went for a walk in St Mo’s to feed the ducks and get some more photos. Light was beginning to fade as I was heading home to more pakora and then Scamp’s Prawn Curry.

Today’s 28 Drawings sketch was done just after midnight last night and was done from a ‘Photo Booth’ shot taken on the iMac. I think it’s a fair representation of the bloke who looks out at me when I’m shaving in the morning.

When we were talking to Hazy this morning I said I’d note the music I’m listening to while I write the blog.  Today it’s Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

Tomorrow is Saturday and we have no plans.

An hour in the Toon – 14 February 2019 ♡

Actually less than an hour according to the parking machine in Cowcaddens.

Scamp was off to meet Isobel for coffee this morning, so I was free to do anything I wanted. What I ended up doing was tidying up the back bedroom even more. Scamp had left me two Creme Eggs as a Valentine’s prezzy! I had that with a coffee while I tried today’s medium Sudoku. When she came back the clouds had rolled in and it wasn’t looking like a day for going to Mugdock or anywhere else of that ilk. I had lunch and afterwards decided I’d go out somewhere to take some foties. My first choice was Haggs, down by the canal at Haggs to be more precise. I was halfway there when I made the decision that there was no point, because you really need good light for landscape, and the light was poor. So I turned back and pointed the Juke at the carpark for the Luggie. Maybe a walk down the Luggie would work. After I’d parked I reconsidered. I wanted to go and look for drawing ink in a new shop I’d found near Cowcaddens underground. I couldn’t go tomorrow, weekends are alway accounted for, so what about Monday. Nope, Monday is too busy as it is and Tuesday is accounted for. It’s in the wrong end of Sausageroll Street for a Wednesday detour, and next Thursday is coffee with the boys. Why don’t I just go today and hope to get some foties in town. Sorted. Turned round and drove into Glasgow.

Parked at Cowcaddens and walked round the disaster that is the Art School (how much does even the scaffolding cost?) Finally arriving at the Paint & Mortar shop that sells graphics stuff to students at the GSA (Glasgow School of Art), but is perfectly happy to take money from ordinary punters too. Two very helpful sales staff told me that they didn’t have the ink I was looking for. All their drawing ink had a shellac base which will completely destroy a normal fountain pen in about a week. I used to have an old Osmiroid fountain pen when I was an apprentice draughtsman. It’s the only fountain pen that would survive being filled with shellac based Indian ink. You can’t get them anymore.

I walked back to the car and grabbed a few shots in the soft light that had appeared after the clouds had broken up. One of them made PoD after a bit of post-processing in Lightroom. I was quite pleased with the effect. Put my ticket in the parking machine and I’d used less than an hour of time. Had a walk, clarified what ink I needed and got a couple of photos all in less than 60mins!

Came home and after manipulating the image, I got stuck into making some pakora using a new recipe I’d found on YouTube. Mercifully it worked because there was a fair bit of prep needed. It still needs a bit more work, but the basis is there now. Scamp agreed that it tastes a lot better than that first recipe. Dinner tonight was a curry from ASDA and we both agreed it better than the Tesco version.

Watched the Sewing Bee tonight while I copied one of Tuesday’s photos of Scamp’s Christmas Rose. Not entirely satisfied with with it, but it’s not too bad. Halfway through the 28 Drawings already. How time flies.  I don’t know how those people in the GBSB can take an old pair of jeans and make a dress out of it without a pattern.  I think I’m doing well if I can repair a pocket.  Making a bow tie is the limit of my abilities.  Maybe I will start that waistcoat this year.

Don’t have any plans for tomorrow. Weather fairies seem to think it’s going to be good, but they said that about today and although it did eventually brighten up, it took it’s own sweet time about it. Still, probably go somewhere nice.

An improving situation – 13 February 2019

Ah, today was better. Even got praise from Michael and that’s praise indeed!

Scamp was up and out early for a checkup and I started to tidy up the painting room. Only those with very good eyesight would have noticed the subtle differences, but I knew they were there.

When Scamp returned we had a quick lunch and then drove in to Glasgow for Ballroom and Jive. Michael seemed to think we were doing well and remembering all his little pointers, like closing your feet after every move in ballroom and Quickstep. Scamp and I did an almost perfect Jive routine with nobody watching, then when the two teachers were watching, my technique went haywire. It was a typical case of brain fade. Spin four went wrong and I just couldn’t do anything right for the remainder of the track. After that little blip, things got a lot better and I got praise for “almost getting it right”. That’s great praise from the pedant’s pedant.

Walked out of Blackfriars on a high and went for a coffee in Nero, stopping on the way to admire and photograph the distorted reflection of Ingram Street on that beautiful glass building. It became today’s PoD.

Pasta for dinner and then out to the 7.30 improvers Salsa class, only to find that it too is closing because of lack of numbers. What is going wrong with AdS. I have my suspicions, and I’ve said so to Scamp. She disagrees, but we will see what transpires in March when two classes now will close. We didn’t stay for the 8.30 class. That would mean we don’t get home until after 10pm. I’ve got stuff to do then and besides, there are too many ‘clowns’ in the 8.30 class.

Came home and finished off a painting I’d started in the afternoon. I tried three paintings of the two apples, but none of them were any good. Eventually started eating one of them (the apples, not the paintings) and decided it made a much more interesting subject, and the rest is history.

That was about it for today. It looks like Wednesday salsa will be with the Improvers at 6.30. Not sure what else will fill our time. I think it may be Bachata. Not my favourite dance, but better than nothing and I know Scamp likes it.

Tomorrow Scamp has coffee booked with Isobel in the morning, but we may go to Mugdock for a walk in the afternoon. Ages since we’ve been there.

Not the best of days – 12 February 2019

Some days are good and some are simply bad. Today was the latter.

The tree in the garden that was trimmed yesterday doesn’t look at all like we thought it would. It may take some time for it to grow into itself again, but for just now it just looks a bit ugly. We’re both agreed on that and we’re both to blame for not making it clearer to Nicky what we wanted. However, like that awful haircut we’ve all had, it will eventually grow back. Unfortunately, trees take longer than hair to grow. We may make a bird box and fix it to the tree, at least then we’ll have something interesting to watch.

It’s always going to be a bit of a wrench having to go to another salsa class and now we have confirmation that the advanced class is to close in March. We’ve discussed it a lot in the last 24 hours and have come to the conclusion that it’s not just one reason for the lack of people, there are lots of reasons:

  • The class itself was becoming stale with long complicated moves that nobody in their right mind would attempt to dance in a club.
  • The Advanced class were always being merged with classes one or two levels below us. The constant merging of classes meant that the more advanced members were having to ‘tread water’ while newer, less experienced people caught up. When they did catch up, another class would merge in and the cycle would begin again. People simply didn’t want to pay for a class where they weren’t learning anything new.
  • Jamie is a great teacher, but only when he’s there. I realise he has other commitments with his work, but when he’s not there and less able teachers are taking his place, our interest suffers and some people, again, will move away.
  • There have been comments in class about some people, usually leaders, who are too rough and are injuring some of the followers. Scamp, herself has had a few bruises from these meetings. That is a definite reason for some of the followers leaving.

I really don’t know what the answer is, there may not even be one. We’ll try tomorrow’s ‘Advanced’ class. We’ll give it a fair test and it may be the salvation of Salsa in Glasgow. At least it will be with Jamie as a teacher.

I gave both our cars a quick wash and brush up today. They needed it, then when Scamp was out to lunch with Mags I hung out the washing and that’s where I saw today’s PoD! Scamp’s Christmas Roses are still in flower and are changing colour slightly. It looks like they are going to be sliding towards pink.

Today’s sketch is four Sugardrop tomatoes I spied when I was making paella tonight. A quick 40min sketch, but with decent technique and using a real brush, not a waterbrush for a change.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and hopefully dancing at night too.

Short back and sides – 11 February 2019

Nicky, the arborist, was coming today to give our rowan tree a short back and sides. He didn’t mess around.

He arrived just after 10am and got to work straight away. He trimmed all the low lying branches and then some of the higher ones that were easy to reach with his expensive Japanese draw saw (cuts on the back stroke, like most Japanese tools). The next thing I saw was him strapping himself into his climbing harness and throwing a climbing rope over one of the sturdy upper branches. After that, he was up, up and away cutting a swathe through the branches that overhung the garden. I think it was at this point that Scamp became nervous and began to wonder if going to hack too much away. However, like a half cut head of hair looks in the hairdresser’s mirror, you have to have faith in the expert wielding the scissors, or in this case, the Japanese saw. By the time it was finished, the tree looks a lot more open. Light will get through and so will the air. He assured us that the ‘wounds’ (his word) would heal quickly and encourage new growth. Like the new hairstyle, it will take a bit of getting used to, but in a few weeks it will look fine.

All that was left was the disposal of the cuttings. That was going to take a few bucket and bag loads, about half a dozen in fact and since I was going to the skips today anyway, it seemed a good opportunity to make good the fresh start. With that in mind, and after Nicky had left we set to with the loppers and chopped all the branches into manageable pieces, bagged them and I took them in the car along with the rubbish from yesterday to the skips. The world and his wife were there too, dumping rubbish. We really do live in a throw away culture. At least the tree cuttings could be chipped and composted. Not so the rubble and timber. That will probably go to landfill.

Best laugh of the day was when we were doing our final tidy of the garden. An old bloke was walking past on the path behind the garden when I turned to Scamp to ask if some old rotten wood was going to. He turned to me and said “Would you mind keeping your voice down. You nearly woke me there.” I looked and he smile, so I said in my sincere voice. “My apologies.” We both laughed and he walked on. Just a wee bit humour gets you through the day sometimes.

After I dumped today’s stuff in the skips, I took a drive over to Fannyside Moss and got today’s PoD. It was taken with the Samyang fisheye lens. Drove back via St Mo’s with some bread to feed the wildfowl, although the greedy gulls got most of it. I know you’re not supposed to feed them on bread, but they didn’t seem to get that memo.

There was sad news at Salsa tonight. Our dwindling class numbers have made it impossible to continue the 7.30 Advanced class which has been running for 10 years in the same time slot in a variety of venues. We have only four weeks left in it and then we may have to look at joining the 8.30 class on a Wednesday. It’s nowhere near as good a class and the 8.30 time isn’t ideal. We may have to look for pastures new.

Today’s sketch of the banana and lime was done while listening to Masterchef, but I painted it under the light of a daylight bulb in the painting room otherwise the grinding of my teeth at the inane comments of the ‘fat bastard’ Gregg Wallace would have upset Scamp.

Tomorrow Scamp is out to lunch and I may, just may take the bike out for its first run this year.