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21 Feb

Dancing and procrastination – 21 February 2018

Computers, especially when connected to the internet (are any computers not connected these days) are the ultimate procrastinator’s tool.

I sat down to write today’s blog almost 45 minutes ago.  In the intervening time I’ve read what Trump is up to this week, checked the status of my latest 28 Drawings Later sketch on FB, written an email to one of the coffee-drinkers, drunk a cup of tea and eaten two biscuits AND, only now started to write the blog.  The procrastinator’s delight.

Dancing today and for once I think I am making progress with the Waltz.  I even managed the rise ‘n’ fall for a while before it all went to pieces.  Jive was another story.  Not a good story.  I recited the words Knee, Step, Kick, Hitch, Back Step, but none of them were delivered quickly enough to my legs.  Maybe they should be connected to the internet. Maybe that would help.  No, it would just give me another excuse to procrastinate.  We couldn’t get in to the dance studio which is downstairs in a pub basement.  Two blokes were laying carpet on the newly screeded stairs, so we went for a walk until the contact adhesive they were using cured.  That’s when I found today’s photos.  Two pieces of graffiti and one ‘ghost sign’.  A ghost sign is an old sign that has been covered up for years and only recently been revealed again.  That or an old piece of signage that’s been painted on (usually) a brick wall.  That’s what today’s was.  It’s a bit of urban archeology.  Today’s PoD was the sketch of King Smiley.  Rough and ready, I was hoping it was a sketch that the artist would return to later to paint, but I think that is a bit unlikely.   We finally got down the part finished stairs to the dance studio where we did our version of the waltz and the jive then found we couldn’t get out again an hour later at the end of the class because they were laying a much bigger piece of flooring on the landing and there was no way of crossing the wet adhesive without getting firmly stuck.  We finally exited through the Fire Exit, although if H&S ever check that fire exit, the pub will be condemned with immediate effect.

Sketching

After we came home I sat down to doodle something for today’s entry and started sketching my foot, then my leg then me sketching my foot, then my …  Well, you get the idea.  I thought it was a clever idea and was pleased with the final drawing.

Salsa tonight was helping with two beginners classes.  I’m much happier helping with these classes, even Shannon’s class, than with Jamie’s grumpy Thursday class.

Tomorrow I think I’ll go in to Glasgow to get my hair cut and maybe get an outdoor sketch done.  Depends on the weather, and the state of the procrastination, of course.

 

21 Feb

Foodies – 20 February 2018

Today we had a light breakfast before getting a taxi to the station, then the train to Embra.  Today was Foodie Day!

When we got to Embra we found the bus stop for the No 34 bus that would take us to Ocean Terminal.  With diversions, because Leith Walk is partially closed, it took about 35 minutes to cover the 4 miles.  The train journey from Croy to Edinburgh only took 45 minutes.  This was the X3 of Lothian buses.  However, we were in no hurry, because we had plenty of time to find today’s destination.  Had a cup of coffee in Ocean Terminal which is really just a great shopping mall with an entrance to the Royal Yacht Britannia, Mrs McQueen’s old boat.  We weren’t going there today, we were going for lunch at The Kitchin Restaurant.  It has been booked since November, such is the waiting list.  I was thinking “it better be worth the wait”.  It was.

Nothing to look at from the road, there’s a notice on the door telling customers to enter by Commercial Quay, round the back. Inside it was dark grey paintwork with discrete little areas like booths, but more open.  The food was superb.  Just what you’d expect from a Michelin star restaurant.  I’d recite what we had, but I can do better than that, and show you the menu with our selections highlighted.  Just click it to see it better.  It’s not a link to Flickr this time, just a link to the image.  My starter was from the Vegetarian menu because we were able to mix and match between menus.We also took the matching wine pairing and that really was an eye opener.  Truly an unforgettable lunch and not a potato to be seen 😉

After lunch we walked along and got a No 16 back to Waverly and it only took about 20 minutes and that because of traffic.  Got the train to Croy and a taxi home.  Strangely enough it was the same taxi driver we had in the morning!  Really, that’s the barest of bare bones of the day.  Too much to cram in to this blog post, you need to hear about it rather than read about  it (ask about the amuse bouche Oh yes, and the bread Hazy!)  A really memorable meal and one we’d do again once we’ve saved up enough to go back DV.

Tonight’s sketch is a coloured pencil sketch of an orange.  I described it thus:  “Oranges make great subjects because after you draw them you can eat them and destroy the evidence of your mistakes!”

Orange

Today’s PoD was a view of reflections on the Water of Leith.

Tomorrow?  Auld claes and purrich I’m afraid!

 

21 Feb

Walking, Dancing and Backups – 19 February 2018

I’d fully intended going to the gym today, but although there was a smir of rain in the air this morning, I decided that to avoid Gems, I’d go for a walk instead. It was the right decision.

<Technospeak Alert>
In the morning I finally got my wee 2-in-1 tablet computer sorted out by using an old memory stick to boot into Windows PE and from there run a backup program to restore a backup I’d made way back in 2016. I thought it might be a bit basic, but all the apps I need are on it and I’ve even worked out how to use Microsoft Gallery to import my RAW pics. I got truly fed up with having to manipulate the EXIF data on the photos to allow Lightroom 5 to work with the RAW files from the Teazer (Panasonic TZ 70) so now I’m going to use the free and very good RawTherapee to do the heavy lifting of the RAW processing. I’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks. Right JIC you can come back in again.
</Technospeak Alert>

After successfully got rid of the baggage that Win10 leaves behind, and after lunch too, I went for a walk down by the canal.  The weather had cleared up nicely and the air was much warmer than I’d anticipated.  It actually felt like spring was in the air.  I know, there another cold snap due in a few days, but it’s Scotland.  There’s always another cold snap due in a couple of days, even in June … Especially in June!!  I even saw a hairy caterpillar, but it wasn’t caterpillaring around, it was just sitting there.  Maybe it was sunbathing, yes, that’s it.  It was sunbathing in its fur coat.  I took its photo anyway, just for the record.  Caterpillars in February!  Who knew?!  The photo at the top was my favourite of the lot I took, so that’s why it made PoD.

We went dancing at night and just for fun I asked Alexa what the travel time was to the STUC just before we left the house.  She (it?) said 25 minutes.  Twenty five minutes later I was walking along Woodlands Road looking for a parking meter that actually worked.  Glasgow council, you do realise that it’s not enough to plonk new parking meters by the side of the road?  You know you have to maintain them too, and occasionally empty the coins we commuters cram into them every time we need to park?  Duh!  So Alexa translated my speech into text, sent the text to somewhere in California accessed a database from there, checked my commute and returned the data which was turned back into speech and spoken to me in a very human sounding voice, and got it spot on right!  All of that within about five seconds.  Brilliant waste of technology, but still Glasgow council doesn’t seem to know how to operate its parking meters.  If it was up to them, high speed internet connections would be done with two shiny tin cans and a piece of coloured string.
Dancing was ‘interesting’.  We did one rueda move that didn’t have a name and seemed to confuse everyone.  Tonight’s move was ‘Stormtrooper’  Great name.  I hated it.  Then as I saw how it was working, I began to like it and later  in the night when I’d almost perfected it, I thought it was great too, just like its name.  That’s what a good teacher can achieve.

Just my glasses

Tonight’s sketch was just a 15minute shot.  A placemarker of a pencil sketch.  It’s a bit rough, but I don’t have a lot of time on a Monday.

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re off to Embra, to Leith in fact to go for a fancy lunch.

21 Feb

Timba Merchant – 18 February 2018

Like I said a few days ago, most days revolve around something. Today’s something was dancing … yet again.

Before the dancing could begin, some painting needed done. Painting in oils again, I’d practised the apple and the pear, so today I was painting the apple AND the pear, with the addition of a pink duster just to make it more difficult. I was also using a different mixture of oils. This time it was ‘normal’ oils mixed with ‘quick drying’ oils. Would it make any difference? I doubted it, but I did add some turpentine to the mix to avoid me dipping my brushes in water to clean them. Oil and water don’t mix you know! It turned out not too bad, well I think so anyway.

Apple and pear

We decided to go in early today to take Will’s Styling Class. Maybe he could make me dance with style. Anything is possible in Salsa. It turned out not to be salsa, but Timba. Timba is more like Rhumba than Salsa, but it was great fun and we now how to do Pelo (or ‘potatoes’) and ‘Ki-chang!’ Or at least something like that. Like I said, it was great fun but I’m not sure I’ll ever attempt it on the dance floor outside Arta. I think I’d look a right eejit trying that stuff outside the Salsa Set.
Two of the girls from our real beginners Wednesday class appeared and Scamp and I danced with them. One of them said she trusted me because she knew I “wouldn’t throw her about or anything.” Now was that a challenge or a warning? I took it as a bit of a challenge and tried some level 2 or maybe even level 3 moves mixed in with the beginners stuff she knew. Before we started dancing I did tell her that if things got too difficult, all she had to do was let go. She did, a few times.  Scamp and I danced a few times too.  Well, more than a few times.  By  the end of it I was soaked in sweat and my brain was empty of moves, but it was good fun.  The girls seemed to have enjoyed their introduction to Social Salsa and I told them that next time I WOULD throw them about and anything.”  They laughed, thankfully.  Just remember, if the going gets tough, LET GO.  That could be a rule for life!

Drove home and Scamp made a quite delicious Trout with veg and potatoes dinner.  Honestly, the fish just flaked off the skin.  Beautiful.  Nobody, but nobody cooks fish like Scamp!

Today’s PoD is a shot of Scamp’s Broad Bean shoots.  They really are sturdy specimens and fast growing too.  She thinks she’ll put them outside in the cold greenhouse to harden off a bit.  It seems a bit harsh with more cold weather forecast for the coming weeks, but I’m sure they’ll survive.

Tomorrow is Gems day.  If the weather is set fine, I may get my bike out and see if I can cycle for a few miles without falling off.  If it’s dull and dingy I’ll go to  the gym and cycle in comfort!

 

21 Feb

Anniversary – 17 February 2018

45 years ago today we made it legal. The rest is history.

We got the bus in to Glasgow today to have lunch, a wee drink, perhaps and to celebrate our anniversary. We were heading to Sarti’s when Revolución De Cuba caught Scamp’s eye. She fancied the baked hake, wrapped in a banana leaf and the Caribbean Chicken Curry would do me. Drinks in a Cuban bar just had to be Mojitos. The Mojitos turned out to be lack lustre with too much ice, not enough alcohol, mint or sugar. Disappointing. The Caribbean Chicken Curry was deliciously fruity and hot, but lacked the volume I was expecting. Scamp’s baked hake was the same, but worse. Lacking in filling power, but also lacking in seasoning. We paid and left to have coffee in Nero with a slice of cake each, to make up for the pudding we didn’t have.

Wandered round the centre of town. I had a look in CassArt to see if I could anything with a 75% that was advertised on big billboards in the windows. I found one little taster acrylic set that almost made the cut, but wasn’t worth buying for £2.25. Walked up to JL to buy our big anniversary prezzy for us and the house, an Amazon Echo. It had been on sale for £75 earlier in the week, but now it was back to the Amazon price of £90. I was happy to walk away from it. Maybe ‘happy’ isn’t the right word, ‘settled’ maybe gives a better idea of how I felt, but Scamp convinced me that we should buy it. Which is what we did. We were going to have a drink, then get the bus home, but then I suggested getting the bus along to Craiglinn, have a drink there and walk home. That’s what we did. One dobber on the bus, a former pupil. He pontificated almost all the way home. I remember him as a pupil at school. An opinionated, but utterly useless individual. He hadn’t changed.

After a drink in the dingy, but fairly cheap Stonehouse ‘restaurant’, we walked home and plugged in the Echo. Spent an interesting hour or so trying to get ‘Alexa’ the automaton to play some music. ‘Her’ most common phrase seems to be “I’m sorry, I can’t find XXX in your music library.” I’m sorry too. She may be going back to JL.

Today’s PoD was an attempt at a reflection / distortion shot of the Saturday crowds in Glasgow.
Yesterday’s and today’s 28 Drawings Later paintings are oils. Yesterday’s is the orange and today’s is the apple. Used a mixture of oil paints and then realised that although the Water Soluble Oils and the Fast Drying Oils mix happily, if you add water to them, only the WS Oils will dilute and then separate from the FD Oils. Obvious really when you think about it. Pity I hadn’t thought about it before I messed them up! Still, the survived long enough to be photographed and entered. Oh yes, and Scamp bought me a new phone case with the camera aperture the correct size and in the correct position, so no more dark shadows I hope.

Tomorrow? It’s a Sunday Social day, so dancing, of course.

21 Feb

Pizza No2 this week – 16 February 2018

New glasses were high on today’s acquisitions.

So we headed off to Larky for the second time this week. Paid my £30 and picked up my reconditioned specs. And what do we do now? Scamp thought we should drive to Glasgow and then go home. I had other ideas. In to Glasgow, but then out the other side. Down the motorway and Oh dear! Oh dear JIC, over the Erskine bridge and on to Helensburgh! But fear not JIC, no walk along the front today, it was far too cold for that. No, the furthest we got was the chip shop for a Helensburgh Pizza Neapolitan and a bag of chips. Both eaten in the car looking out to sea (or Greenock) watching the Hebridean Princess doing twirls, as Scamp called these nautical manoeuvers, in the middle of the Clyde estuary. It was bright sunshine, but although the temperature gauge in the car read 8ºc, it felt much closer to zero than that when we were walking back with the pizza and the chips. There are a selection of restaurants in Helensburgh, I hasten to add, but none of them come anywhere near the chip shop on the front for the quality of the pizzas. It’s gone through a fair few owners since we started darkening its door, but they have all provided excellent bread spread with tomato sauce, cheese and a variety of toppings. Oh yes, and chips, of course. Don’t forget the chips. More power to your elbow chip shop man and woman.

After pizza and chips, we headed for Waitrose, yet another Waitrose, for some more provisions and, more importantly a cup of something hot and coffee tasting. Their ‘flat white’ is much better than Costa’s offering and today’s slice of Salted Caramel Slice was the best ever accompaniment to Napolitana pizza.

Left Helensburgh and drove home along the M8 again, into ever increasing density of traffic, but it would have been much worse if we’d have gone through Clydebank and then through the seeming thousands of little villages with their 30mph limits. Much better to face the M8, with the knowledge that it would all screw up the nearer we got to the Kingston Bridge. Actually, considering it was a Friday at around 4pm, the traffic wasn’t horrendous. Just a bit clogged up. Today, however, we weren’t under any time constraints, so we just took it easy and went with the flow.

PoD today was a seat on the pier at Helensburgh. It was bright, almost too bright for the Teazer (which looks as if it’s collected a few dust bunnies on its sensor), but it was too cold to sit for long, if at all. No sketch or painting today. I’d intended doing an oil for a change, but it turned out my oil paints were dead. Just thickened, unusable blobs of putty. I’ll do catch-up tomorrow I hope.

Until then Good Night and Happy Anniversary to H&N! Hope you had as good a day as us today.

21 Feb

Coffee – 15 February 2018

Most days seem to revolve around one topic, and so it was today I was booked for coffee with Val and Fred.

Although the coffee, or to be more precise, the chat that came with the coffee rather than the vile stuff Costa calls coffee, the chat was the king. CDs passed round, book returned to the library of Fred, replaced with a DVD to watch. Drawings and paintings by Fred and I were critiqued by everyone. Val’s computer problems were discussed by me and him, because Fred just grunts and shakes his head when technology rears its ugly head. Memories of old Glasgow were trotted out along with names that have not seen the light of day for years. Thompson’s for coffee and tea, Epicures the deli. Dino’s the best pizza shop in the town and the wee hole-in-the-wall newsagents across from Dino’s where Val remembered buying his Italian newspaper on a Saturday morning. It was strange all three of us walking down old Buchanan Street together in our imagination, although we were years away from meeting each other, back then in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Sometimes talk and gossip lag for a while when it’s a coffee day. Today wasn’t like that. I think we all walked out feeling better than when we walked in. I know I did.

I’d grabbed a photo before I went in to the meeting. I just like the seedy decay of the broken down back of the Town Centre. With a wee bit of work there’s a world of colour and detail there just waiting to be found. Well, I like it anyway and that’s why it’s PoD.

Crofthouse - Braes, Skye

Today’s sketch was from a photo, but not one I took. It was one I searched out in Google Street View. I think it might be Braes, just south of Portree a dead end road that finishes in a turning circle where the sheep stare at you with derision as you 3, 5, 7 point turn, careful to avoid hitting them. They know you’re not a local. Locals would drive over them. Anyway, that’s today’s picture. Hopefully I’ll slap some paint on a bit of cardboard tomorrow for a wee change.

After a bit of discussion, we agreed not to go to salsa tonight. Five hours of dancing this week was enough we thought and if the weather fairies are to be believed, tomorrow is to be dry and clear so we’ll be driving to Larky to reunite me with my reading glasses and loosen £30 from my wallet for the pleasure, so no driving tonight then. Sounded good to me. Also it allowed us to have a wee glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. Sounds even better to me. We’ll see how things go.

21 Feb

Dancing Day – 14 February 2018

Wednesday has now become dancing day.

Today started with driving Scamp to her hospital appointment and surprise, surprise, there was a space in the car park for once. Sat with a coffee and a 2 for 1 doughnuts in the cafe reading my latest Hazy find, ‘Sourdough’. You were right H, it’s a great antidote to the heavy and sluggish ‘Rotherweird’ which was Rather to Weird for me. It’s now languishing in the ‘Maybe Later’ folder on the Kindle. Sourdough is much lighter and funnier. Thanks again H.

Drove from there in to Glasgow just before lunch time to go to Waltz and Jive classes. Before the class we went for lunch at Paesano, and the No 3 (anchovy and olive) was as good as ever, as was Scamp’s No 1 Sugo (no cheese) apparently. The only thing missing was a glass of red wine, but you can’t have drive and wine in the same sentence. If you do, it could lead to a sentence of a different kind. Waltz was a bit of a problem for me with two left feet. You see, in Salsa the man always leads with his left foot. In Waltz, the man generally does so to, but occasionally he leads with his right, and that’s where the problem comes in. My left foot KNOWS that it always leads, so that’s what it does. Here’s a quote from Robin Sloan’s Sourdough:

When you walk, you look forward, not down at your feet, because you are confident they are where you expect them to be, obeying your commands. That’s a pretty cool feature.

Well Mr Sloan, that may be true, but not if you’re trying to dance Waltz with Salsa trained feet. It is not at all a ‘cool feature.

The Jive was much better. I think we cracked it today. Well, most of it anyway.

Came home and then decided we’d go to the beginners salsa classes to give my left foot its head if you know what I mean.
Jamie G wasn’t there so we were getting Will who is quite stylish an has the enviable skill of being able to dance as a guy or a girl. I’m sure Jamie G can do it too, but he doesn’t offer to do it in class. Will had no problem with it, although some of the guys in the class found it a bit off putting to start with. Jamie returned in time for the second beginners class and it was fun as usual.

Have you seen this man?

I did a quick selfie with a photo from PhotoBooth on the iMac. That worked in two ways:
1. No squinting in a mirror and trying to draw at the same time.
2. The screensaver kicks in after 5 minutes, so that gives me a timer.
So, one sketch in three sessions, i.e. 15 minutes. Not a bad likeness I’m told by Scamp, although I think the right eye (my left) is too big. Other than that it’s not too bad.

Today’s PoD was taken walking over the walkway between the carpark and JL in Glasgow and is a silhouette of the city centre architecture under a wild sky. I like it.

Tomorrow I’m booked for coffee with Fred and Val.

21 Feb

Larky – 13 February 2018

First things first, I was feeling a lot better when I got up this morning. That said, I didn’t rise until about 11am!

The predicted snow didn’t arrive here today, thankfully. After a restful night, I got up and got showered and made a plan for the day. Last week, I’d dropped my reading glasses in Arta the dark dingy hole we now dance in on occasional Sundays. I managed to avoid standing on them, but found I’d scratched one of the lenses, right in the middle. Sunday past, I dropped them on the path outside the house and luckily one of our neighbours found them and handed them in. Thanks Scott. Then that Sunday afternoon I dropped them on another dance floor in Paisley, scratching the other lens. Plan for the day was to take them to the optician in Larkhall and get them fixed.

Drove to Larky on a bright, very bright, sunny day and was told that I’d just missed the uplift, so the glasses would be back on Thursday after 1pm. Since Thursday afternoon is booked for coffee with Fred, I imagine it will be Friday before we are reunited. I can survive with a pair of ‘readers’ until then.

Instead of driving straight home, I took a fancy to a run down to Millheugh to see what was happening at the salmon ladder they were building. The answer was ‘not a lot’. Work seemed to have stopped, and after talking to a bloke who seemed to be taking it upon himself to clean up the grassy area of Millheugh next to the Avon Water, there won’t be anybody near the place until ‘the better weather’. That means Easter at least. Stood talking to him for a while. Took some photos of the run off from the Lade that used to carry water to the Bleachfield Works, but now is just a silted up piece of slow running water that’s being clogged by broken walls and tree roots. Another example of cooncils not caring enough to maintain things. No, it won’t make a good photo opportunity for councillors in the local press, but it still needs to be done. The bloke said he was supposed to be meeting a councillor today, but he was late. “Yes,” I thought, “extended lunch no doubt.” We said cheerio and headed back home.

That was about the extent of our travels today. Nice to see Larky again, but sad to see houses going up everywhere. I suppose that’s progress to some.

IMG_4583- blog-1

It’s another house that became the subject of today’s sketch. It’s on Skye, but I couldn’t tell you where. I found it on Google Street View a year or two ago. It’s very grand and baronial with its little round tower. Somehow I don’t think it was built by a local.

PoD was the bottom water shot from Millheugh.

Tomorrow it’s Hospital for Scamp’s appointment, followed by Waltz lesson and then Jive lesson, hopefully with the chance of a cup of coffee somewhere between the three. Maybe Salsa at night because we missed out on Monday’s. Depends on the weather, although now doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for tomorrow.

21 Feb

Snow begone (again) – 12 February 2018

By the time we got up today the snow was well on the way to disappearing. Good riddance.

Wasn’t feeling myself today. Just felt tired and listless. Pains in my stomach too. Don’t know what caused it. I’d say last night’s tapas, but they tasted good and the chilli had so little ‘carne’ in it, it was almost vegetarian. Yes, I know veg can upset your stomach too. Basically I just need to wait it out. Brought the car down from its abandonment last night, and parked it properly outside the house.

After lunch I went for a snooze while Scamp went for the messages. I just wasn’t up to it and she was happy to drive because the snow had disappeared completely. The snooze helped and I decided to get out and see if some fresh air would help. That’s where I got today’s shot. Saw two deer. Haven’t seen any for ages and on the way back I saw two herons! Scamp reckons they are Mr & Mrs Grey. I suppose that could be true. Either that or it’s an infiltrator looking for a face-off with Mr Grey. They squawked a bit at each other and then flew off in opposite directions. The walk and the fresh air did help a bit, but dinner was a plate of Scamp’s magic lentil soup and it did more than anything else to make me feel better.

In the evening I didn’t feel like going to salsa and Scamp agreed that we should stay at home.  I stuck a bit of corrugated cardboard on the easel and painted a still life. It’s pretty basic, but halfway through I realised that the pain in my stomach had gone. The painting might be poor, but it forced me to stop thinking about myself for a while.

Fruit

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on how I’m feeling and on the weather. There’s more snow forecast for tonight into tomorrow. Maybe the gym for a light bit of stretching.