Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2020

Today is Scamp’s birthday, but because of Covid 19 we stayed at home.

Breakfast in bed for her, and for me. Actually that’s nothing unusual for us. One thing that retirement has taught me is that there’s no need to rush anymore. If it needs done, it will get done. If it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t needing done in the first place. After Scamp opened her parcels and almost choked at the antics of her ‘Dancing Cat’, we both finished the chapters of the books we were reading and got on with the day.

I sewed a torn seam on two of my shirt pockets, caused by stuffing my phone and my glasses in there. After finishing one shirt and starting another I promptly lost the needle and panicked because a lost needle can be a really dangerous thing in a house. You’ve heard the expression “Turned the house upside down” when looking for something? We turned the three seater sofa upside down … and then shook it, but no needle. We hoovered, we tentatively searched between the cushions. Finally, I went upstairs to carefully strip off all the clothes I was wearing to see if the needle had become lodged in them, and that’s when Scamp shouted that she’d found it. It was still tacked into the shirt I had finished repairing. We’d both looked and looked at that shirt without finding it, but there it was. Thank goodness.

By then it was coffee time and after calming down and some discussion we chose to stay at home today. Nobody, but nobody was moving their cars out. Maybe we stayed at home, but that didn’t mean we didn’t go out. Scamp planted out her two boxes of pansies in the front garden. She also did a bit of weeding and some feeding of her plants. She did a bit more pruning of bushes and plants in the back garden too.

I must admit I was tempted to go out for a walk, but I thought I’d better obey Boris’s Rules and stay home. So I took the Benbo out to the garden and set up the E-M1 and macro lens on it, turned on ‘focus stacking’ and took some 15 shots of a crocus flower. The focus stacking allows you to take a rapid number of shots, all at slightly incasing focus distances. My aim was to get a set of shots with focus settings from the very front of the nearest petal to the furthest back petal. Eventually I worked out it should be about 9 shots, not 15. Focus stacking works best with a totally still subject, and just as I pressed the shutter button each time, a tiny wee breeze would blow and start to make the crocus nod its head. I finally got the sequence I wanted without the breeze and could pack up and go inside. There I squirted the shots into the piece of software that does the magic and merges the 9 shots into one. The result you see here is what it looks like. It was done using Affinity Photo. Thanks again Hazy!

I became so engrossed in this process I forgot that I was making dinner tonight. Carrot & Lentil Curry. A long time favourite of ours. Got it made and left it to keep warm just in time to go and speak to Hazy, Neil-D, JIC, Sim and Vixen. We didn’t actually speak to Tilly and Penny, but we knew they were there too. All through the magic of Zoom™. We were very impressed with the software. Scamp was desperate to show off the Dancing Cat. I think Hazy & Neil-D thought it was funny. JIC & Sim not so much. I could just see JIC mouthing “What the hell is that” or something similar. It didn’t matter, the main thing is Scamp thought it was brilliant!

That was a good day. Curry was good. Flat bread was better and even better still was the orange and rhubarb jelly, which was superb! Best of all was the look on Scamp’s face when the Dancing Cat started his routine this morning!!

Tomorrow? Possibly more of the same, but without Zoom™.

Another rubbish day – 11 March 2020

The weather was rubbish and the car was full of it too.

High winds and lashing rain. Not much chance of getting photos taken today then. I’d resigned myself to that and decided that instead I’d take a trip to the skip with a whole load of rubbish we had collected over the years. Stuff that was clogging up the front bedroom. Last week Scamp sold the keyboard which was a big space hogger. Today it was a collection of worn out shoes, ancient electrical stuff and a footstool that looked good in IKEA, but wasn’t really comfortable when we got it built up at home. Everything was sorted into bags of Electrical, Household, Wood and Metal and I dumped it all in the skips with those headings. The car was much lighter when I got home and the front bedroom was looking a lot more like a room and less like a jumble sale too.

After the trip to the skip, I went for a drive to see if there was anything in need of being photographed, but there was nothing the looked photographable. So, I made my way home via Tesco. There were no packets of loose pasta. Only four packets of toilet rolls on the shelf – the most expensive ones, and half a dozen bags of plain flour. These were the most obvious panic buys. I still can’t imagine why people need so many toilet rolls. Is it because the news is shite just now with every one of the so called experts contradicting themselves and talking crap? I managed to get the last bag of bread flour and a packet of spaghetti and I put a tin of soup in the food bank box. In the mean time Scamp had been out to the shops and bought dinner. Coincidentally when we both came out of our respective raided shops, the ground was white. Not with snow, but with hail. Strange days.

When I got back, I toyed with the idea of taking the Benbo for a walk, because the sun was out again, but before I could get my boots on, the clouds had closed in again and the rain came on. No point in getting wet for nothing.

Dancing tonight was in the new venue at the British Legion. Small dance floor, but level, and square (that’s not a Masonic Key Phrase by the way!). The night was devoted to sequence dances. Something I’d have turned my nose up at a year or so ago. Not now. I understand now that these are complicated dances certainly not to be sniffed at. However, I still draw the line at Line Dancing. No cowboy boots and stetson hats for me.

I did manage a PoD. It’s a Poinsettia. Scamp has had this plant since early December 2019, unfortunately it’s now getting to the end of its useful life. Before that happens, I thought I should photograph it.

Tomorrow we may go dancing in Gorbals

Cold, not Corona – 10 March 2020

Woke with a stuffed up nose and clogged ears. Not the symptoms of Covid 19, just a common cold.  Still felt miserable.

I’d said I’d go with Scamp to see how Isobel was faring with her new knee, but decided it would be better to self-isolate to use the new term for ‘stay at home’. Scamp left early to have coffee with Shona before she went to see the invalid. I took some Haliborange tablets and searched for a ball and socket head I was sure I had somewhere for the new tripod, without success (it lets you turn the camera to almost any angle). When I got fed up with searching I sat and watched the rain showers thumping down then made a pot of soup for dinner tonight, so at least all my time wasn’t wasted.

Finally took some sketch paper upstairs to draw and while telling myself that it wouldn’t be there, I searched through some boxes in the chest of drawers and immediately proved myself wrong, because there was the ball and socket head! Things are never where you expect to find them. Forgot about the drawing and started trying out the new fitment on the tripod and it worked perfectly. It was about that time I started to feel better. I also started to watch the sky in the hopes that there would be some blue among the clouds. There was none, but the clouds were clearing above the Campsie and that’s usually a good sign. A couple of hours later I made the decision to go out. The sun was shining and the clouds had cleared. So had my head.

Got the tripod set up perfectly in an awkward wee gully at the outfall of water from the pond at St Mo’s. There was a fair volume of water coursing down and it looked a likely place for a moody slow shutter shot of moving water. I shot a few at different exposure times, but wasn’t really happy with any of them. I made a mental note to take a pair of secateurs with me next time because the barbs on the bramble stems were tearing into my ankles. Spoke to Susan G who was out walking her dogs and wondering what the hell I was doing prancing around a mucky burn.

Walked round the upper path and found a much better run of water. Just a little drainage ditch with water pouring round a boulder. Another tricky position for a ‘normal’ tripod, but easy peasy for the Benbo. It’s what that tripod is made for. By the time I’d shot my fill of oily looking water, I realised it had started raining. Walked back along the boardwalk and the heavens opened. That’s when I got today’s PoD. It’s a three shot hand-held HDR image, but you probably guessed that, so I won’t bore you with the details. Second place went to the oily water shot, taken with the camera on the new tripod. Brilliant piece of British engineering.

Soup, bread and a baked potato for dinner as we listened to the news that Italy was now basically cut off from the rest of the world for at least two weeks. So strange to see the Colosseum in Rome with about four people standing beside it. Similarly St Mark’s Square in Venice virtually deserted. Strange days.

No plans for tomorrow. Hoping I’ve not passed the cold on to anyone else. If I get the all clear from Scamp, we’ll maybe go dancing at the British Legion, our new venue for Wednesday night classes.

A new toy – 9 March 2020

I got the email this morning that my new tripod would be delivered today to the WEX shop in Glasgow. So I knew what the day held for me at least.

First, Scamp was off to Tesco to see if there was any food left on the shelves. Thankfully there was still some cold meat and there were bags of rolls, so lunch was sorted. While she was off on her food hunt I did the hoovering and cleaning that’s become part of Mondays for us.  A parcel arrived with the final bag of coffee that Hazy & Neil-D gave me for Christmas.  I haven’t started it yet, because I’m just finishing off the last bag which was very nice.  It took me a while to get used to the taste, because it was much lighter and fruitier than my usual ones.  I will give you an honest opinion when I’ve tried it. The email from WEX to say that the tripod was ready for collection appeared just after the cleaning business was completed.

After lunch I had a chat with Margie and she gave me an honest critique of my sketches and paintings from EDiF. It’s refreshing to have someone who paints and draws and who also has no axe to grind, tell you what you already knew. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking I’m better than I know I am. I’m not an artist. I never will be. I’ve seen real artists working and know that my work sometimes looks decent, but nothing more than that. Some of it is just plain crap and I cringe when I look back through old sketchbooks and see what I thought then was brilliant. Some of it is good though. I’ll take good, any day.

When the full complement of Gems arrived, I made my excuses and left for a drive to Glasgow. As I left the house the rain was just starting, but when I reached the motorway it was on full blast and on for the rest of the day. Picked up a far lighter tripod than I’d anticipated. This was going to be portable after all. Drove home through more rain and hauled the tripod out of its box. No instructions, but hey, it’s a tripod, how difficult could it be. Well, according to the majority of the reviews I’d read it could be very difficult. It’s been likened to “wrestling with an octopus” and “controlling a drunken giraffe”. Actually I thought it was simplicity itself to work with. Bear in mind, this was in a bedroom in a house, not in the teeth of a gale on a blasted moor, so maybe it will be difficult when I actually have to deal with it ‘in the field’. That wasn’t going to be today. Still raining.

After dinner we drove up to the dance class. I was thinking when I was driving home from Glasgow “Thank goodness I don’t have to drive in to Glasgow and back out again tonight for salsa.” It was a bit of a wrench leaving the AdS, but there were parts of it that were a total pain. Like driving into Glasgow in the rain in a traffic jam. Ten minutes up the road and we were parked and in the dance hall. Brilliant. Tonight was almost entirely devoted to a new routine to bolt on to our existing Waltz routine. It was a bit more demanding, but that’s to be expected, we are moving on after all. Scamp and I took lots of videos of the different ‘figures’ and how they are put together. Neither of us was perfect tonight, but it will get better, I’m sure.

PoD was the BENt BOlt that gives the Benbo it’s name. Apparently based on the pivot of a WW1 gun carriage!

Hopefully tomorrow I will get a chance to get it dirty in the wild world!!

Final bit of news. A dental practice in Cumbersheugh village is temporarily closed as a precaution after as positive case had been identified there. I didn’t know there were any pangolins in Scotland!

A Mickey Bow! – 8 December 2019

Another dull, dark, dreary day. Rain from morning until night. However, I did, under Scamp’s careful tutelage make a steak pie for my dinner, she had salmon. After that, I just sat at the computer and moped.

In the afternoon I decided to walk to the shops to get puff pastry for the pie. It gave me a walk, even if it was in the rain and maybe, just maybe a chance to get a photo. You can probably tell from the photo at the top of the page that I was unsuccessful in that respect. I took the LBJ and tried, oh how I tried to get it to focus. It wouldn’t. I think the thing is just stupid. I think as well as the usual CPU it’s got a NUMPTYU. When the CPU gets fed up working it switches over to the NUMPTYU and it does whatever it wants to, as long as it contradicts what I want. Came home empty handed.

Finally I settled on another still life. This time the subject was my new bow tie and, as it’s a Disney bow tie, it’s only fair to call it a Mickey Bow. It tried tying it as usual, round my neck, but it’s not like a normal tie that you can loosen and pull gently over your head, as Number 1 Son used to do. The only way I could get it off was by cutting off my nose and possibly my ears. I felt that was just too much of a sacrifice for a photo, anyway the blood would probably stain the bow tie. I finally applied some maths to the problem.

If my collar size is 16.5”, that is the circumference, “C”, of the circle that is my neck.

C = πD where D is the diameter of the circle

By transposition D = C/π

So, roughly 16/3

Even more roughly 5”

Yet more roughly still, equal to the diameter of the yoghurt maker in the upstairs tools cupboard.

So, I tied the tie round the yoghurt maker, which was a lot easier than I thought, and carefully slipped it off. Voila, a subject for tonight’s PoD.

Tomorrow it’s Gems and they’re rehearsing, so I’m going out. Afterwards, we’re hoping against hope that it’s Jamie G who’s in the chair for salsa, but it looks like it’s the end of the advanced class for us. I think we may be going to a ballroom class instead of salsa on a Monday night. The end of an era.

A relaxing day – 7 December 2019

After yesterday’s energetic day and late night, today was a day of recovery.

The daylight just sidled in past the curtains this morning. I took longer than usual to drag myself from dreamland. Finally emerged from the shower just about 10.30. Scamp, of course had been up and dressed and sitting with her cup of coffee by the time I appeared downstairs. A drop too much whisky last night was the problem.

Finally got ourselves going just after midday and drove through torrential rain to Stirling. I’d woken with a stuffed up nose and with cotton wool or something like it in my head. One good cure for it, I’ve found, is a good hot curry. That’s what we were going to Stirling for. One of the chefs must have looked out of the kitchen and said, “He needs a good hot curry” and that’s what I had. My usual curry in the Indian Cottage is a Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna with a little bit of chopped up raw green chilli on top. Today the chefs decided I needed half a green chilli. Dutifully I ate it. It was hot and delicious. Scamp had her usual Vegetable Dhansak which she said was “Spicy”. I tried some of hers and couldn’t taste anything through the fire in my mouth from my green chillies. Just what the doctor ordered.

Went back home via Waitrose and drove through another deluge. On one occasion the wash from a car in the outside lane completely swamped our windscreen wipers. Lots of standing water.

The day had stared off dull and became gradually worse as the sun gave up the struggle of forcing some light through the clouds. Absolutely no chance of any photos outside today, so it’s flooers again. Just messing about with the new camera and some old lenses. PoD was one of the best shots.

Scamp’s been in touch with a ballroom teacher in Cumbersheugh and we may have found a solution of sorts to two problems. The classes are on a Monday evening which would conflict with Jamie G’s Salsa class, but if he continues to avoid his teaching duties, we may be losing that anyway. Also, we are now agreed that Michael is history, so another ballroom teacher will be a fresh start.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for some scattered showers and some broken cloud. We’ve had enough of the rain now thank you.

I saw the sun today – 6 December 2019

Not for long and it was late in the day, but it was definitely there.

My little grey cells must have been doing overtime while I slept last night. This morning I’d puzzled out what went wrong with the bow tie yesterday. I think the problem may lie with the pattern. I don’t think it’s symmetrical and I remember the very first time I made a bow tie, I carefully numbered the pieces so I wouldn’t get lost. If I’m right, the pieces have to be assembled in a specific order. It’s one of those things that is easy to demonstrate, but almost impossible to write down. Suffice to say I had a plan. Unfortunately I didn’t have any more of the lovely red print I was using yesterday, but I did have a nice white based one and that might just do.

Did as I had the first time and after cutting out all the pieces, I numbered them all so I would know better what I was doing. Also, I cut the interfacing slightly smaller than the fabric. Long story short, it worked. After a final hand sewing, I now have a festive bow tie to wear tonight to Stuart & Jane’s Christmas ball. I have other clothes to wear too, but the bow tie will be the star.

With that done, lunch was calling to us and Scamp suggested we go back to Frankie & Benny’s again which is precisely what we did. Note to self: Cheese Burgers are good too, but tell them to hold the mayo. Way too much.

Having nothing else to go for, we drove home and I grabbed the chance of some decent light for a quick shot. Well, it would have been a quick shot except I must have pressed a button somewhere, a button that shouldn’t have been pressed, because it switched off the viewfinder and the rear screen. Shooting blind, I got the shot and swore much more than is good for anyone’s blood pressure. Back home I finally managed to get the viewfinder and then the rear screen working again and went for a grumpy walk to St Mo’s. The best of the light had gone by this time, but I did get a few moody sky shots. The best made PoD.

Drove in to Renfrew for Stuart & Jane’s Christmas Ball and had a ball ourselves. Sitting at a table with three other couples about the same age as us. Not at all like the crowd at Michael’s dance. I’m not just saying that because we’re in the process of cutting links with him, this was a great night’s entertainment, thankfully without a drag show in the middle this time. S&J were low key all the way through the night, but they still gave us a great welcome and also kept the ball rolling. We even got a salsa spot, albeit with another six dancers, but they were really the support act! I think we may go to the next social in February, if we’re spared.

Arrived home at just after midnight. Sitting now with a (not-so) little whisky nightcap. Scamp took the sensible option and had Ovaltine.

That was a good night, so goodnight.

The end of a beautiful friendship – 4 December 2019

Almost made the 11am cut-off.

Just after 11am I took a the new little brown job out for a walk in St Mo’s along with a few of my little bayonet fitting pieces of expensive glass. It was a dull day, but I wanted to see how it coped with dull Scottish weather. The answer was, not all that well. The kit lens was fine, but when I put on the macro, it just didn’t want to focus. Couldn’t work out how to set it to manual focus (Don’t worry JIC, almost done with the technospeak) and it has started raining. Didn’t want to get the little brown job wet, because it was going back to JL in the afternoon, so it went back in the bag.

I wanted to see how NLC and their helpers were getting on with the upgrade to the footpath. Work is progressing well on the new boardwalk, but less than half the footpath has been tarmacked so far. Hopefully it’s a temporary setback.

Home just in time to stuff a piece ’n’ bacon in my face before getting ready to drive in to Glasgow.

Michael was in charge today and no sign of Anne Marie. We started off by dancing Over the Rainbow with the ‘expert girls’, then Michael began correcting some of the individual elements. The bane of my life since last week, Spin 4, was amongst them, but his teaching was clear and not all that repetitive. It was going to be ok. Messed up a few of the moves in the new routine, but that was to be expected. Then it was time for waltz.

We made a small mistake at one corner and he started tearing our routine apart. Told us we were doing it all wrong. Told us we’d missed out two steps. Now Scamp is brilliant at getting the counts right and she argued with him that although she’d made a mistake at the corner, the rest was fine. So he took her through some steps we’d never seen before and tried to baffle us with maths. It didn’t work. We both told him that we’d never seen those steps before. He seemed to lose it at that point, shouting “Check your phone. Check your phone.” I told him I didn’t need to check my phone, I knew we were right. (I did check tonight and we WERE right.). Then he switched to Quickstep, but not before he had danced the proper routine, the one we recorded about a year ago, the one I checked tonight, and said that’s how it should be done. He wouldn’t listen to us when we told him that was a different set of steps from the one he’d done, not ten minutes before, but he’d switched on his Rubber Ear by then and was hiding behind it. I don’t know if he realised it was all over by then, but we had.

We walked up through the Christmas Market on George Square and bought two Coconut Buns. Delicious cold, but heavenly when warm.

Back home I got instruction from Scamp on how to make a stir fry and I showed her how to thread the needle on my sewing machine and how to do the basic stuff (all I can do, to be honest).

Sitting watching The Apprentice I started fiddling with the Little Brown Job (it’s got tan coloured leatherette trimming) and found lots of interesting and useful things. Lots more than just manual focusing. It’s a keeper.

PoD was some stacked architecture from Glasgow.

Tomorrow we’re booked for coffee with Crawford & Nancy.

Lost in Coatbridge – 3 December 2019

Not the place to get lost really.

Jackie left early to go for the bus home from Glasgow. As usual she booked herself a taxi, because she didn’t want to bother us. It was good to see her. We must visit Skye soon.

We set off ourselves a bit later in search of a walk in the fresh air at Drumpellier Park on the edge of Coatbridge. It was a fine day, not sunny, not bitterly cold and dry into the bargain. A comfortable walk around an essentially dull big pond, watching the ducks and swans being ice-breakers and cutting through the thin surface layer of ice. Had a coffee and shared a muffin in the cafe and gazed out over the pond. Great view across the water and although I said it wasn’t cold, it wasn’t too warm either, so a heat in the cafe was ideal.

Drove out of the gates of the park and turned right. After about half a mile I got a bit worried, because I couldn’t remember seeing those buildings when we came in. Turned at a school, I definitely couldn’t remember that. Lost, we switched on the sat nav and asked it to find the Fort. It directed us back the way we’d come. I didn’t think that was right either, but followed its instructions for a while before I went my own way again. Nope, that wasn’t right either. Finally after checking with Google Maps, I agreed that we had to go back the way we’d come and found the proper road. Trick was to turn left on exiting the park THEN turn right. Dumplin’! ( A “dumplin’ “ is like a “numpty”, but not as stupid. )

Found the Fort and got a few things for making parcels for Christmas. Then Scamp suggested we drive in to Glasgow because Santa was going halfers with me on my Christmas Prezzy. It’s (yet) another camera. This one is new. My first new camera for a month and before that? About ten years, maybe more. So, don’t start you pair! You know who you are.

Back home it was soup and Spaghetti Carbonara for dinner. Best I’ve made for ages, although Scamp’s Lentil Soup came a close second.

Testing the camera tonight, I found a big dust bunny on the sensor. This is a new camera and the sensor has dust on it and not just a microscopic particle, this one was bit. I was tempted to take it back, but then I tried my trusty blower on it and that did the trick. It’s a nice bit of kit this. It’s a bit smaller than the rest of my M43 cameras, but has that magic 4K Post Focus trick up its sleeve. Hopefully the best of both worlds. Even better, it came with a 12-32mm lens which I loved until it fell apart on me when we were down in Wales. Hopefully this one will last longer.

PoD was a Convolvulus stem making a neat helix on a cow parsley. Taken at Drumpellier before we got lost in darkest Coatbridge.

Tomorrow, hopefully we’re dancing again and I think I’ve worked out how to do that bloody spin 4 properly.

Pythagoras, Roast Chicken and a Baked Potato – 9 November 2019

It was a cold start to the day and it only gradually got warmer. The best thing that happened today was Roast Chicken and a baked potato. Pythagoras was useful too.

It was one of those days that my dad used to warn me about. “When you’re retired,” he told me, “you don’t get weekends.” It’s true. Weekends are just like any other day … almost. Mondays are different. Mondays are days to wake early. Walk to the window and look at the rain streaming down, then go back to bed for an hour. Today was Saturday and we didn’t have anywhere we wanted to go. So we got up and sat and read the news on tablet or on computer.

I decided I’d best take the new piece of technology out for a test drive. It performed well enough, but not enough to convince me not to return it to JL. It might get packed up tonight, but more likely tomorrow morning. It’s good, but not worth the money that’s being asked for it. It’s touted as being a 1” sensor, but the actual dimensions of the sensor are 13.2mm by 8.8mm. Now, applying Pythagoras to that will give you a diagonal size of 15.86mm. As far as I can remember, 1” = 25.4mm, so the diagonal of the sensor in this camera and others like it is in fact 0.62 of an inch. That’s if and only if the entire sensor is used, because it never is! Do you realise that the ‘camera’ inside a phone is actually smaller than your pinkie nail? Like all things photographic, it’s a con. One of the photos I took with the ‘medium dog’, the Oly E-M1 graces the top of this page and became PoD. It’s a close up of the seed head of cow parsley. Shot against the sun it’s quite pretty IMO.

Lunch could have been in a restaurant or cafe somewhere, but ended up being a piece ’n’ black pudding for Scamp and a piece ’n’ bacon for me. Suitably refreshed, we started making plans for dinner and my suggestion of roast chicken met with Scamp’s approval. We walked down to the shops and got a chicken and other stuff for dinner. The car park was full, absolutely full. Maybe some folk were hoping for a glimpse and perhaps a selfie with Denise Van Outen whoever she is, because she was opening Matalan this morning, but I imagine she would be well gone by the time we arrived.

It’s a pleasant walk down to the shops now. I imagine Tesco is feeling a slight pinch, but nothing too serious. The roast chicken and baked potatoes were lovely. Even better, there’s more for tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I have no plans, but I my parcel up the Sony camera and give someone else the chance to be disappointed with it. Scamp is doing stuff in the house, I believe.