So, this is Sunday, isn’t it? – 16 December 2018

Yes, it was Sunday, so why did it feel like Saturday?

Well, the simple answer is because Saturday felt like a Friday and therefore it was logical that Sunday would feel like Saturday. OK?

With that in mind, we set of on to visit Stirling, pretending that it was Saturday. One of the benefits of visiting Stirling on a Sunday is that there is no charge for parking. That saved us a whole £1.40! We walked to Waitrose and bought the whole shop, then packed it carefully into the Juke’s boot and drove home.

By the time we got home there was just enough light to allow me to go a walk over to St Mo’s to grab a few shots with “The Big Dog”, i.e. the Nikon. Low light means you need a bigger sensor to grab as many of those photons as possible without resorting to a higher ISO. Bigger sensors mean less digital noise, sometimes called grain. Smaller grains means smoother images. I could have put a <Technospeak> warning there, but I just thought some of you deserved a bit of a photographic education. So now you know that to get smoother gradations you need a lower ISO and if possible a bigger sensor. There, quote that and you’ll sound so much cleverer! Got the photos and took them home to look at more closely on the ‘puter.

Earlier in the day, even before we’d gone out to buy Waitrose, we’d spoke to Hazy who updated us on all the things going on down London way. It’s nice to know that other folk are suffering from dull weather too. It’s not just us.

After perusing today’s photos and settling on a PoD, a moody shot across the boardwalk at St Mo’s, I started to make the dinner which was a vegan Spag Bol. I’ve made it before but today’s effort seemed a bit bland. Too many mushrooms or too little salt? Not sure. Scamp said it was fine, so maybe just me.

Sat down to watch the final of The Apprentice. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that it was one of the girls! Halfway through JIC which was a godsend really as two hours of TA without a break is more of a marathon than Mo Farah could withstand. Spoke for half an hour or so and got up to date on all the things going on down Cambridge way.

Finally watched the end of the epic journey to be Sugar’s next business partner. Slightly less interesting than a boring F1 GP.

Tomorrow will probably be a Monday. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Rain, sleet, snow, freezing rain, ice, plagues of frogs – 15 December 2018

We were amply warned about all of the above, except the plagues of frogs, but only the rain and a thin covering of snow appeared.

Woke to a dull leaden sky and a thin scraping of snow and expected the worst. By midday the dull leaden sky was still there, but the snow was disappearing and it was raining. Still the weather fairies predicted rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain with roads and paths being reduced to treacherous skating rinks. It rained some more.

We had decided not to go to Embra today, not because of the weather fairies predictions, but because it was just so dull. What was the point when it would be equally dull in Embra. We could save money and do some work in the house instead. I volunteered to take apart the back bedroom in the search for the rodent that still evades us. I moved my art cupboard and lifted the carpet, found a convenient floorboard to lift and found no evidence of there ever having been a rodent in that area. Before I put everything back in place, I took the opportunity to fill a big IKEA bag with a load of unwanted painting canvases and also some odds and sods from the chest of drawers. The rain was getting heavier so I postponed the dumping of the rubbish until tomorrow … at least.

That was the high point of the day. By then it was about 2pm and we were almost at twilight. Tidied the room back to its usual chaotic level and had a cup of coffee. Realised I’d very little coffee left, so ordered some from the Perth shop. Also ordered a new Toy off the Rack. A Raspberry Pi Zero W. The ‘W’ stands for WiFi.

This is a miniature computer with a 1.2GHz processor half a gig of memory WiFi and Bluetooth for the princely sum of just under £10. Ok, you have to supply your own keyboard and mouse and also a TV to see what’s going on. I runs on Linux which is a Windows-like OS that is totally free. The best part is that the whole shebang can be powered by a battery pack and is smaller than a cigarette packet. Great for experimenting with and getting your fingers burned when you have to solder some connections but if it all goes off with a bang, you’ve only spent a tenner.

Dinner was a plate and a half of Scamp’s delicious soup which is officially called “Just Broth”. Later we had a second go with the ‘Air Fryer’ and this time it was a lot more successful. Made potato wedges that tasted just like my usual ones.

PoD is a wee Lego model of a snail, or maybe it’s a tortoise. It’s hard to tell with Lego. Anyway, I wasn’t going out today, so this was it.

Tomorrow we go searching for food for dinner, hopefully the rain will have stopped and the plagues of frogs will have dissipated by then.

Divide and Conquer – 14 December 2018

I was first out this morning which makes a pleasant change!

I went for a walk over to St Mo’s hoping to catch some low morning light, and almost succeeded. I should have been maybe half an hour earlier then I’d have got some better angled light, but the trees with the light behind them proved useful, and made PoD. By the time I got back, Scamp was already out and on the bus to Glasgow. I just had time to dump my photos and then head off for coffee with Colin.

The great thing about having three friends with totally different, but in some ways similar interests is that when we’re all together as a group of four, nobody really has a chance to dominate the conversation with their personal stories and it’s easy for everyone to chip in. The good thing about meeting one-to-one is that you get a more in-depth talk and sometimes a chance to air your opinion or grievance without interruption. Both setups have their advantages and disadvantages and are not mutually exclusive. Some days like yesterday when talking with Val, I pick up loads of information and also enthusiasm. Today with Colin where we share a history but not any mutual interest, it’s a totally different conversation that materialises. We talked about people we’d taught and met along the way. Colin is perhaps the most forgiving and also the least acerbic of the group. Me? I just try to stir things up until an argument ensues, then walk away with a smile. Usually I get caught, but sometimes I can still play ‘devil’s advocate’ and get away with it. Not today though, Colin’s too long in the tooth for that. Parted after an hour and a half and I drove in to Glasgow to meet Scamp for lunch while Colin drove home.

Met Scamp and walked down to Paesano for lunch. The place was jumping, but since we only needed a table for two, we easily found a space at a bench. Bloke next to us just had his pizza delivered and was about to start in on it when it was just as quickly whisked away. It wasn’t his. We began talking and when ours were delivered I was about to offer him a slice when his own came. He made a very strange comment that I wouldn’t have considered making to a stranger. He turned to me and said “You don’t wonder why our generation is totally screwed when you listen to the two on my right.” The two in question were two obviously gay men and although I couldn’t hear their conversation, he obviously could. I gave a rather noncommittal reply and he continued with his lunch. I don’t know what his agenda was, but as far as I’m concerned, they can live their life as they please. “They’re not asking me for the money” as my mum would say. Live and let live has become my motto.

After lunch Scamp and I split up and went our own mysterious ways and met up again at the car.  You see, you can spend even more money if there’s two of you doing it.  That’s what Xmas is all about.  Nothing at all to do with Christmas.

Drove home in the gathering gloom and the lowering temperature. Weather tomorrow looks grim with rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain forecast. All blown in on a strengthening wind. We had planned on going to Embra, but that has now been shelved for a better day.

Talking Technology

Scamp was out early to meet Isobel, I was out later to meet Val. All of us risking a dose of the cold sitting in the freezing draft in Costa Cumbernauld.

I wanted to pick Val’s brains about the new Raspberry Pi which has come a long way since the last time I played around with one back in 2014.
<Technospeak Warning>
Then it was simply a tiny bare bones computer on a PCB. Now it holds much more memory and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth and the Italian hardware genius has already played around a lot with it. I wanted it as a monitor for my bird table, and just to play around with if I’m being honest (which I sometimes am.). A “toy off the rack if you like” off the Technology Rack, that is. The idea of building and having a small, portable computer that can be run from a battery pack is very 21st century. Because it runs Linux or a compact subset of it, its OS is free, all you’re paying for is the components. With the basic model you even have to solder in some of those components! Maybe I should order some Elastoplast as a preventative measure. I’m sure there will be a lot of swearing, cursing my stupidity and also fun in this project, but at present, my imagination is doing overtime thinking about what I can do with it.
<Technospeak Complete>

Walked with Val to Tesco to get some cod for our dinner. We parted, hoping to meet again before Christmas. We did meet again because we both came out of Tesco at the same time a half hour or so later! As a result I gave Val a run home then carried on up to the back of Fannyside Moor and got today’s PoD there. Well, I got the makings of the PoD. It took a fair bit of post processing to get from what I took to what you see here. However, what you see here is what I wanted to see through the viewfinder.

Tonight’s dinner was Cod and Sweetcorn Chowder but as usual I forgot to add the sweetcorn, so a spoonful of it was stirred into the thick soupy broth and it did no harm that it was just a wee bit cold. It’s a firm favourite now this chowder.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Colin for coffee in the same cold Costa. This time we’re meeting a bit earlier so perhaps, just perhaps we’ll get a warmer seat, or maybe we’ll abandon the cold Costa to the duller, but much warmer one at the other end of the boggin’ Antonine Centre. We’ll see.  Maybe snow tomorrow.  We’ve done not too bad getting to December before we got the white stuff.

Dancing, dancing all the day … again – 12 December 2018

We went in to Glasgow a bit earlier today, so that we could, or should I say I could do some Christmas shopping, closely monitored by Scamp.

It took us most of our time to find a place to park in Buchanan Galleries car park. We were up in level 6 for the first time in ages, that’s nosebleed territory. Even then, it was my eagle eye that spotted a hidden space. After that we walked down through George Square and down Queen Street, then on to Argyle Street. Coffee in Nero with a toastie for me and a slice of Cappuccino cake for Scamp. From there it was a short walk to Blackfriars.

Jive was good. We were the experts today. It’s always good to be the experts for a day, but you have to realise that there’s only one way to go after that, and it’s down. However we basked in the glow of Michael’s praise for an hour and it was good to see the jealousy of the other dancers. Waltz, it was even better. Finally, we had a quick introduction to the ‘Running Step’ in Quickstep. Good fun. It’s a great feeling when a plan comes together as Hannibal used to say.

On the way back I managed to grab a couple of shots of a Royal Mail Festive Post Box. I hadn’t noticed it on the way down to dancing, but Scamp had. It’s a great idea. I applaud the RM for brightening up the place. The festive post box got PoD.

Tonight after one of Scamp’s best ’Stir Fries’ we left for Salsa and had an enjoyable hour and a half of jigging. No new moves, but we did get a chance to reprise Prado.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Val in the afternoon. Don’t know what’s happening for the rest of the day.

Fit (fat?) as a butcher’s dog – 11 December 2018

Broke the bonds of sleep to switch off my alarm and fell asleep again this morning. Finally got up and brought the breakfast. Just finishing it and getting started again in my book when the sound of ladders hitting the wall announced the arrival of the window cleaners. Quickly (very quickly) got dressed and found enough money to pay them. After that we could relax and have a coffee before heading to the butcher’s to buy lots and lots of lovely meat, and fish too, because our butcher is not stuck to only red meat. Finally I got a chicken breast to make tonight’s chicken curry.

With a ton of meat in the boot of the Juke (honestly JIC, this butcher is almost as good as Chapman’s), we headed to Robroyston for coffee and to buy Asda. After coffee I had a walk round Homebase which closes in 4 days according to the hand printed notice on the door. I’ve never been in a shop that is being actively disassembled while I was in it. Got a few ‘bargains’, but as one old guy said, “It’s only a bargain if you’re going to use it.” Very true.

On to Asda where Scamp was very careful and didn’t spend as much as I thought she would, but she was working in a very targeted way buying only the essentials. Maybe to offset my extravagance in the butcher’s.

Drove home with the headlights on at about 2.30pm. That’s par for the course in Scotland at this time of the year.  Yesterday was the exception we always look forward to. Struggled for a picture today, so one of my ‘bankers’ was to photograph the little fairy bear know as Fairy Nuff. I got it totally wrong the other day when I named her ‘Fairy’. That name should have gone to the fairy on the top of the tree. The one with the battered silver wings, the paper underskirt and the gauze dress. She must be over 40 by now, but doesn’t look it, well not to me at least. No, this grumpy looking wee bear has been gracing our tree every year for about ten years or more and goes under the name of ‘Fairy Nuff’. It’s become a bit of a Christmas tradition to give her a chance to be POD, after all, she doesn’t get out much for the rest of the year.

Tomorrow is a dancing day. Hope my knee hold out against Michael’s stressful waltz.

The wanderer returns – 10 December 2018

Scamp was on the road this morning on the return journey from Blackpool.

I was on the road even earlier, but I was walking. Just a gentle stroll around St Mo’s ponds then a walk through the trees. I’d been up earlier to check the traps and found I’d got one rodent. I thought at first it was a mouse, but later realised it was probably a small rat. Either way, it wasn’t going anywhere so I left it to go and get some photos in the hoar frost that lay over everything. Some beautiful lighting at that time in the morning. It was one of those shots that made PoD.

Finished my walk by going in to Condorrat to get bread and a couple of rolls. One of the latter would be eaten with butter and jam, washed down with a cup of my new blend 2 parts Cuban and 1 part Kenyan beans. Count the air miles and therefore the amount of CO2 that has been spread across the world all because of my desire to drink coffee. It’s worth it.
The other roll would hold a medium-rare square sausage. So called because it’s square and it’s made of sausage meat. Clever use of language there.

After my coffee and the roll ’n’ jam, I disposed of the rodent in the trap and nearly lost a finger resetting the trap. Checked the other traps, but they were empty. Next I set to work on cutting and laying the new carpet tiles in the downstairs toilet. As usual with these things, I started out very slowly and deliberately, and finished by cutting corners, literally. You’d never tell. Strangely only one of the six tiles had its nap running the wrong way. It looks good, so good that Scamp didn’t even notice that it had been done. Not surprising as the colour of the tiles is remarkably close to the original. It’s only when you walk on the new tiles you realise the quality is much better than the thin tiles that are now in the boot of the car, ready to be taken to the dump. I think I earned that medium-rare square sausage on a well-fired roll.

Scamp eventually returned about 4pm and after dinner we went out to Salsa where we learned or for us, re-learned an old move: Setenta Batman. One of the moves which look impossible until you actually try it. Jamie G described part of it as a “Matrix style turn”. I agree, but I can do it.

Tomorrow, a lazy day, maybe a bit less cold than today, but today was much less cold than a year ago. Go look here!

You got a fast car – 9 December 2018

Today was a driving day for me and a passenger day for Scamp.

I’d intended going out early as I knew I’d be up about 8am because Scamp was getting picked up at 9.15 to go Falkirk to get the coach that was taking her and the other Witches to Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool for an overnight with dinner. Tina Turner and Neil Diamond would be there, but it was uncertain whether they would be played by the same person or by a couple. Who knows (or cares). It was when I saw Scamp off I noticed James’s car was still covered in ice and then, that mine too was frozen solid. On that basis, it might be a good idea to just have a cup of coffee before attempting to drive.

A well as the coffee, I thought this would be an opportunity to tidy out the top drawer in the ‘Painting Room (i.e. back bedroom) and that’s what I did. One old dead tablet went in the bag and one old dead Kobo e-reader joined it along with a host of boxes, odd scraps of cardboard and paper napkins for soaking up watercolour washes. Things that seem to find their way into that drawer.

With a bag full of junk of different types I drove to B&Q to look for rat traps. You see, the ‘rat man’ came last Tuesday and then again on Wednesday and declared us free of the little beasties, but we’re both sure they were just playing Hide ’n’ Seek with him. I’m not so easily put off and even better, I have a Plan. The first phase is to trap the beasts, except they only had cheap traps in B&Q and I had decided to get the better Rentokil ones. No problem, I’d drive to Bishopbriggs after I’d dumped the rubbish. Rubbish disposed of, off I went.

Now the Juke is a strange car. Two weeks ago and early last week before the Lurgi struck, it was running like an arthritic slug. Today it was raring to go. Pulling at the leash like a mad thing. I must give it a rest more often … and put some high fibre fuel in it too to keep its engine from getting clogged. Maybe it’s the sunshine that’s making it run better, because there was a wall to wall blue sky today. Got the traps and drove home to set them. I put two in the loft and then put a mousetrap in under the kitchen floor. Let’s see what they produce.

With hands carefully washed, I started to make my dinner which was Pork Osso Bucco, slow cooked and with a Mirepoix (!) which apparently is a sauce made from vegetables. I spoke to Scamp while I was making it.  Of course, she already knew what a Mirepoix was.  Her hotel is on the seafront at Blackpool but on the outskirts.  She even sent me a picture of her ‘sea view’.  Yes, you can see the sea, if you look very closely! My dinner tasted lovely. I restrained myself and left half for tomorrow. Best recipe I’ve found for that meat.

In the evening I watched the final ’Trust’ and most, well some, well very little was made clear, but the tale was well told and the acting from everyone apart from Paul’s mother was superb. Spoke to Jamie for a while and found out more about their Welsh excursion. Then watched Fast and Furious 6 trying to work out which parts had been filmed in Glasgow. I saw two definites and two maybes.

PoD was from the drive back from Bishopbriggs. I really liked the way the white house stood out from the sky.

Tomorrow? More tidying and checking the traps.

Feelin’ Good – 8 December 2018

Thankfully, just after ‘Hump Day’ the middle day of the antibiotic course I’m feeling a lot more like myself, crabbit, sarcastic and generally a nuisance.

I didn’t venture out again today although it was a beautiful bright day, well, it was for a while. After that the clouds rolled in and the bright light disappeared. At least the wind had finally calmed down. Scamp was busy writing Christmas cards and I had a pile to sign. After that we had to run the gauntlet of mail merging the addresses database with the MS Word template that holds the place markers. It’s always a bit of a faff. It should be easy, but somehow Word never saves the settings, no matter how many different ways I change the settings. It really is a clever thing, the mail merge and once it’s set up it should be simplicity itself to run, but it isn’t. I shouldn’t complain. At least Word has a mail merge facility. There’s nothing like one in Pages, Apple’s little toy word processor. That might be because I’ve a really old version and haven’t updated it for years. Back at the PC we finally linked to the database and printed out the address labels. So I’ve got a big bundle of cards to stuff into a post box tomorrow.

Today’s PoD is of the wee man plant pot holder that sits in the downstairs toilet. He makes me smile and look at those luminous green eyes.

I meant to mention yesterday that the Christmas Tree is now up and Fairy Nuff is in her rightful place at the top. Her second in command Grumpy Bear is also sitting among the branches. The Christmas lights box was opened and the letter from last year was read. Heads were nodded at achievements and “Hmm”s were hummed at things not done, that should have been. If this means nothing to you, it’s just that you’re not ‘family’ and therefore not party to this annual event.

I said back there that I have to post some cards tomorrow. Since Scamp will probably be half way to Blackpool for her Witches Short Break, I will have to drive the car, my car, myself. This should be achievable as I’ve managed to sit at the computer for an hour or so at a time today without too much discomfort. That, therefore, is the target for tomorrow:

To Drive To Tesco And Post Some Christmas Cards.

A day of two halves

Still taking the tablets and in the morning they appeared to be working well, very well in fact. However as the day progressed, although there were still improvements, they weren’t as great as the morning’s.

Right, enough of the moaning. I did very little else today. I went as far as the back fence and took a photo of the rose “Remember Me”.  I wanted a shot of it before it got battered by today’s gale force winds and heavy rain.  Amazingly resilient flowers, roses.

I spent the rest of the day updating Flickr and the blog. Scamp drove to Tesco and bought what we’d need for the next few days. She made an excellent Chilli for dinner.

Tomorrow is tomorrow. We’ll see what transpires.