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An afternoon among the beasties – 18 May 2018

After I drove Scamp over to meet the other ‘Witches’, the day was my own.

I chose to follow orders for a while because it suited me. I watered the garden just before 11am because the sun hadn’t forced its way through the clouds yet and it’s a sacrosanct rule that you never water flowers or veg when the sun is shining. All those little beads of water become magnifying lenses and burn the living daylights out of the plants. This was the first time the hose has been used this year. I really enjoy watering the garden with the hose. So much easier than humphing full watering cans around. Not as efficient though. There’s a fair bit of wastage with a hose as my sodden trainers were witness to. I even managed to get it wrestled through the toilet window to water the front garden too.

While I waited for the sun to burst through the clouds, I read a bit, drank a cup of weak tasteless coffee, then another cup of really good strong brew to make up for it. I doodled some sketches and I played around with some of the more esoteric aspects of this new photography program ON1. It’s absolutely enormous and like some program designed by a committee there seems to about ten ways to do exactly the same thing with the same results, but using totally different procedures. I assume they are slightly different and that’s why they are there, but to my naked eye they look the same. Finally, after having achieved absolutely nothing and learned even less, I shut up shop and went to have lunch which was another cup of coffee and a ‘piece’ (that’s a ‘sandwich’ if you’re not Scottish).

After lunch I’d had enough of the Hide and Seek game the sun was playing and went to get my dinner and some petrol for the car from Tesco. Then I pointed the Red Juke at Auchinstarry and said “Go There!”. It did. Walked along the canal hoping for a sighting of the elusive kingfisher, but it wasn’t showing itself today. What I did find was my PoD, the first Scottish damselfly this year. I thought it was dead, but on careful examination, the opposite was the case. It had just released itself from its nymphal shuck and was drying its wings in the sun. Also pumping blood into those wings to stiffen them. Good luck wee red damselfly and make good use of these warm days. Rain is on its way after, or maybe including Sunday. After that I found a plethora of ‘beasties’. Spiders, beetles and flies. You’ll have to look on Flickr to find them.

Drove home and set the new, fancy, complicated combination microwave to cook my pizza dinner. It did it, perfectly. Beautifully baked, not quite Peasano quality, but good enough for me and so much better than a microwaved one with that yucky squidgy base. No, this was a firm base with a crispy topping. Superb. I hope you’re listening JIC. Fiddly to set up, but very adaptable. Tried to watch the news, but apparently there is a wedding in London tomorrow and the rest of the world had to stop turning just to watch it. I didn’t. The pizza was too good to wait for.

All too soon I got the text to say that the witches were leaving Ayr, then the inevitable “on the bus” text. Agreed to pick Scamp up at the bus stop and, of course, by that time the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. What was wrong with having that three or four hours ago? You know how photogs love directional light. So that was it. Slipping the leash for a day is a great thing. I recommend it to you all.

Tomorrow looks like the last good day for a while. I suggest we make the most of it.

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Shorts and Tee Shirt Weather – 7 May 2018

When we woke this morning it was cloudy and dull.

It may have been cloudy and it may have been dull, but the outside temperature was already 14.4ºc. That’s only 0.6º short of official Shorts and Tee Shirt weather as decreed by me.

When I eventually dragged myself away from my book, got showered and dressed, it was definitely shorts and tee shirt time, but I retained my decorum and just wore a shirt and jeans instead. Scamp was already in the garden, watering and feeding the plants and encouraging the sun to shine down on this great land we live in. Even better, it seemed to be working. The sun was breaking through the clouds and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. Cleaned the Gaggia and which has been on my to do list for ages. Sat on the front step with Scamp and grabbed today’s PoD which is the inside of an open tulip.

After a quick trip to Tesco, lunch and a conversation with Hazy. I decided it was time to get the bike out and take it for a run. Truly this was shorts and tee shirt weather, cycling shorts and a short sleeved top. It was a good run, but there wasn’t much for the new lens to get a grip on. Back home and it as salad for dinner and a mighty good one too. Potato salad, mixed leaves, yesterday’s mutton served cold, beetroot and all washed down with a glass of vino collapso. Then a seat in the garden to let it all slide down with the last of the vino to help it on its way. After an hour or so the sun had dipped far enough down to force us back inside.  Nice to have a restful Monday with no salsa as  the STUC building is closed on bank holidays.

All in all, it was a very nice day. Unfortunately it looks like it’s all going downhill from here on in. Never mind, it was a really good summer. We enjoyed both days.

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May The Fourth Be With You – 4 May 2018

In the morning, just to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I installed ON1 on the new Linx laptop. I also did a bit of gardening, planting peas in pots in the greenhouse. I checked the kale and it’s looking good too. Hopefully it will need thinned out in a week or so. A few straggling rocket shoots showing. Can’t exactly say they are rocketing up though.

Went up to the Costa in the already dilapidated Antonine Centre and spent a couple of hours with Fred and Val. As usual it was left to us to make some sense of the present crises in the world. We solved all the problems, the only difficulty now is getting the ’dunderheids’ in both the Labour and Tory parties to agree to our solutions. We can dismiss the Lib Dems as they are just a catch-all for all the politicos who have no interest in actual politics. We broke up the meeting with the promise to meet up again in another week or so.

Before I went out, Scamp had offered me the opportunity to make dinner tonight, which was kind of her. She went further and asked that dinner should be Paella. With that in mind, I visited Tesco to buy the makings for the paella and then headed for home. Put my DIY skills to good use screwing another boot hanger to the wall in the boiler cupboard. Hung up one set of boots and got another pair down, put them on and took the Olys and the new lens out to St Mo’s to see what wanted photographing. Nothing and nobody was playing today, so I took some photos of wild flowers instead. When I looked at them later, they were less than excellent. I’d fallen into the trap that even if you’ve got a ‘good camera’ and a ‘good lens’, it’s still the photographer who takes the picture. One day I may learn.

Made a reasonable attempt at paella and after that, installed ON1 on the MBP. I’m just after testing it and it works well.

Took PoD after dinner. It took a while for me to find a good font for the Star Wars banner, but after that was done the rest was easy. I used the well tested combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. Photoshop to blend two photos together and Lightroom to perform the levels adjustment and crops. Quite pleased with it because it had been in my head all day and now it was open to the world in Flickr.

Maybe going to Embra tomorrow where the weather might be better than the overcast grey we’ve had all day today.

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Waiting for the DPD man – 3 May 2018

My Panasonic 30mm f2.8 macro lens was due for delivery today.

The email arrived just after 10am to tell me that the lens would be delivered between 4.04pm and 5.04 pm. Why so exact? Anyway, that left us with the rest of the day to play with. Where should we go? We’d been to Glasgow yesterday. We’d been to Dunfermline on Saturday. Scamp suggested Stirling and that was the deal sealed.

It was a dull day with nothing to recommend it. Had a light lunch in Nero and then went to Waitrose for the messages. Came home. Not exactly the most exciting way to use your afternoon, but at least we were out for a while. I’d humphed two cameras round Stirling and hadn’t even taken one photo.

The lens arrived just after 4pm and when I unpacked it, it looked brand new. Almost untouched. Screwed it on to the Oly 5 and tested it. Oh yes! It does indeed focus down to almost nothing, and it looked really neat too. Almost brand new and sixty quid cheaper than the same lens from Jessops. Grabbed my bag again and headed over to St Mo’s just as the rain came on.

My parting words to Scamp were that I wasn’t taking the long lens because there wouldn’t be any deer to photograph. Walked through the trees to the path above the pond and there was a deer not 30m away to my left. It saw me at the same time and ran away into the deep pine forest. I was eager to try out the new lens an found some subjects in the sprouting Larch needles. ISO was a bit higher than I’d have liked, but the detail looked good on the viewing screen. Walked down through the trees and there in the open ground were two deer. Used the Teazer to grab some photos of them before they ran off. One more photo of a climbing snail and that was it for the day.

Walked back and was immediately impressed with the quality of the photos from the lens. Prime lenses are notable by their excellent quality and this one is no exception.

Dinner tonight was Aloo Sag or Potato and Spinach Curry to you and me. It took me over an hour of constant preparation and cooking to get it made, but it was really, REALLY good. Just a tad too hot perhaps, but very good sauce. Impressed.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Val.

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Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?

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A glass of vino in the garden – 21 April 2018

I was up early (for a Saturday), but not to go anywhere, although the sun was shining.

No, today was baking day for my third sourdough loaf. I started it on Thursday evening when I made the Leaven, the preparation of active yeast. Then yesterday was making the dough which had cooled in the fridge and increased its size overnight and today it would be baked in a very hot oven that I put on just before 9.00 this morning. I left it for half an hour with a pizza stone in it, then I carefully slid the oversize dough on to the stone and shut the door. Left it for 30 mins before I had a quick look and it seemed ok. I was in two minds whether to give it the full hour or do what seemed right. I settled on staying with the recipe and gave it the full hour. Then turned the oven down and let it have an extra 15 mins at the lower temp, all as the instructions said. When it came out, it really looked the part and when it was sitting cooling on the wire rack it started crackling which is a sign of a nice crispy crust. Ok, time to have breakfast.

Later in the morning we deemed it to be cool enough and I cut the traditional slice from the fat end, spread it with butter and halved it between us. It was the best so far. Still a bit heavy at the bottom, but a definite improvement on what had gone before.

It had turned into a beautiful day, but neither of us really wanted to go anywhere. The roads would be mobbed on this the first really hot day of the year and we didn’t want to spend it sitting in a traffic jam so Scamp sat and read for a while and I completed two days worth of Sudoku while the sun shone in through the open window. Part of Buddhist meditation is called ‘just sitting’ and that’s what we were doing.

However, things were needing done and Scamp went off to plant out her sweet peas while I fiddled with the computer. Then we decided to go our for a light lunch, so we drove to Robroyston and had reasonable Costa coffee. Better than burnt water, but not as good as mine or Nero’s. Went in to Glasgow and got a bluetooth mouse for the new Linx. Got it home and it kept making the ‘puter crash. It worked on the Mac, but everything does, it was just the Windows 10 PCs that crashed. Gave up and went outside to have a glass of vino with Scamp sitting in the back garden in the sun. That’s where I saw today’s PoD. I can’t remember the name of the plant but it simply takes over the border by the back door. Dies down to nothing in the winter then sprouts up merrily the next spring. My mum called it Spirea, but that’s not its real name. Anyway, a macro shot of one of the sprouting buds made PoD.

Finally found a solution to the bluetooth problem. You just find the bluetooth radio in Device Manager and go to power options and set it to not shut down the radio. Just unticking the box does it. Simple.
<That note was for me for the next time I have the problem. I’ll remember that I wrote it down here … I hope!>

Dinner was a fish supper from the chip shop in Condorrat. Delicious, but I’m suffering for it now.

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Saturday in the Toon – 7 April 2018

Today Scamp had booked lunch for us in Chaophraya Thai restaurant.

Got the bus in to town and went for a wander up Sausage Roll Street. Stood gaping with the others at the demolition of the New City Palace restaurant, Greggs, The Works and who knows what else? They might even have to demolish Lauders! It will have a lot of smoke damage from the fire next door, but will any of the clientele notice? Probably not. It will just add to the ambience.

While Scamp looked for holiday stuff, I went to Waterstones. Found a book I was looking for, but didn’t buy it until I’d consulted Amazon. Glad I did. Waterstones price for the ‘real book’ £12.50. Amazon price for the kindle version £0.99! No contest. Did buy myself a ‘paintery and painterly’ book with some very interesting techniques in it. May try them out this week. Got a bargain of two posh rugby shirts for less than half price in M&S. Walked down the town looking for somewhere to get a drink. Found Drury Street Bar where Scamp had a G ’n’ T and I had a pint of draught Joker IPA, except it tasted exactly like the bottled version. Not real ale then. Quite a young person’s pub with everyone playing games :-/ Can’t imagine what the members of the UBI club would think about Dungeons & Dragons! Then it was time for lunch.

Pork Dumplings and then Thai Green Chicken Curry for me and Veg Tempura and Thai Red Prawn Curry for Scamp. Both served with Jasmine Rice. Starters and mains were the usual exceptional quality.  Only slight disappointment was Scamp’s Coconut Ice Cream and my Moroccan Mint Tea. Scamp’s complaint was that it was just ice cream with a bit of coconut – as she said, we’ve tasted the REAL stuff in Trinidad and in Tobago. My complaint was the MMT was advertised as Loose Tea and what I got was a tea bag in hot water. Not the same thing. Foodies, what can you do to satisfy them?

Bus home afterwards and although the weather had been warm and dry, just got in and  the rain came on and stayed on all evening.  Watched the qualifying for the F1 GP in Bahrain and then the final portrait of some american actress, Kim Cattrall, painted by the winner of Portrait Artist 2018. The portrait, to our eyes, was poor with only a passing resemblance to the actress. Having said that, she got what she deserved. She was so full of herself and her love for Liverpool (which she left when she was three months old according to Wikipedia). Who knew what she actually looked like.

Still plugging software into the new Linx. It’s still holding a good charge and joy of joys, Lightroom 6 on it reads the problematic Panasonic TZ70 raw files. You don’t need to know what that is. Just accept it that it’s a very good thing!

PoD, in fact almost the only picture of the day is of some bloke looking really lost and alone in Buchanan Street. Almost feel sorry to post it!

Tomorrow? Don’t know. May go to a food fair in Glasgow. Foodies? Us? May go cycling if the weather stays warm (9ºc just now at 11.30pm). Who knows. I get to decide, apparently.

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Biting the bullet – 6 April 2018

Today wasn’t as bright as yesterday. Maybe that was summer and we’re into autumn?

<Technospeak>
My old, not excessively old, maybe seven years old Toshiba laptop had been backing up my ‘Data’ partition overnight. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but when I woke this morning it was finished. I woke it, ejected the backup drive and, as someone on the net described it, pressed the ‘Kill button’. A couple of hours later the ‘quick reinstall’ had completed. The Data partition had been deleted and probably formatted. The C: drive had also been cleaned out and a new version of Windows had been installed. Everything seemed ok and everything seemed to move with the same sluggishness as before. Welcome to Windows 10 (this may take some time). I think that’s the full name of Windoze 10. I had a friend in Australia who always referred to Windows as Windoze. Then, ten or so years ago we didn’t know how lucky we were. Now we really have a Win Doze. The most sluggish OS in the galaxy.
</Technospeak>

We went out for a late lunch at the Torwood Garden Centre after my technology overload. I think it must have been Greyhairs’ Day today. We may have been the only ones with our own teeth. (Oops, sorry H!). After our repast, we went for a walk through the plants. Scamp bought me an early birthday prezzy of a Buddleia. It’s the plant you see flowering on spare ground and beside rail tracks. Unfortunately it doesn’t flower for me in the garden. I’ve been trying to grow them for years without success. Maybe this time will be different. Scamp also got some plants for herself and a couple of big pots to put them in. Packing them in to the car wasn’t a problem as I’d discovered the versatility of the boot which converts from a flat floor to a deep pit. Very smart. You have to see it, I’m not going to try to explain how it works. Believe me it does.

On the way home I bit the bullet and told Scamp I was going to but a Linx 12×64. I was going to buy it from the bastard Curry’s too, because they were the cheapest. Drove to Coatbridge to do the deed and as usual, went in and recited the name of the tablet. “No, we don’t have any.” was the reply. I told the bloke that they had them last week. He checked the system while telling me that “That was last week. Maybe we’ve sold it since then”, but he did it with a smile and was multitasking, so I knew he was an AI, not a Sales Droid. Turned out they had one and I grabbed it before they could tell me they’d need to set it up for me and that would cost another forty quid, but I’d get a setup USB stick. I also said no to the usual offer of an insurance money pit. To be fare to the Droid who’d taken over the selling of the device, he didn’t push it. Well, it was a Friday afternoon and his sights were on a Buckfast bottle chilling nicely for him in the fridge at home. A fridge not bought from Curry’s I’d guess.

Drove home and went out for a walk round St Mo’s while the laptop was charging up and downloading the 3Gb updates. 3Gb! That’s massive. Anyway, St Mo’s provided today’s PoD which is the pic of the seat with a view over the BMX track. Nice.

Long story short. The Linx 12×64 works well and those nice people at Adobe even allowed me to install Lightroom 6 on it for nothing. Legally too I hasten to add before you say ‘Hmm, all his software costs him nothing’. New leafs people, new leafs! Tomorrow I’ll probably find there’s another 3Gb download waiting for me! For today I’m a happy bunny who’s double formatting his old Tosh data drive one more time for luck. It goes on sale on Monday.

Tomorrow we’re going in to Glasgow not to look at laptops, but hopefully to have lunch in Chaophraya. Going in on the bus too because drink will be taken I think.

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Leaving on a jet plane – 10 March 2018

To take our minds off the inevitable, we went for a walk to the fort across from the hotel.

We don’t think it’s a real fort. Maybe there was a fort there some time ago, but it looks like this was built for the tourists. I’d seen people on top of it, but couldn’t find a way in. Then we walked round it and there was the stairway on the outside at the back. No handrail, just steps, so maybe it was a real fort after all. Anyway, it was a shame not to climb it, so I did. Not a great view from the top because it’s not such a big fort, but at least I’d done it.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was time to go and get a taxi to the airport. Taxi came quickly and we were right at the front of the queue waiting for the check-in. Through check-in, and through security with ease, that’s when the disaster struck. While we were in duty free, I realised I didn’t have my boarding card. Now I had to have had it to get through security, so somewhere between there and the duty free, I’d dropped it. Checked the carry-on bag three or four times, then Scamp checked it. Went down the stairs to security and told my sorry tale to one of the security guards who then took me to a senior security man. He must have heard this story hundreds of times in hundreds of languages. He immediately went to check the conveyer belts and there on the floor beneath one was my boarding card. Absolutely brilliant! I could have hugged him, but since he had an automatic pistol and a baton like a baseball bat on his belt, I just thanked him and shook his hand and babbled my thanks. We would go home after all!

When I got back to Scamp, she took the boarding card from me and told me I was too stupid to look after it. She’s probably right. She went off for a walk. I got my sketch book out and did a bit of de-stressing sketching. Not the best of sketches, but it kept my mind off what might have been.

It wasn’t too long a wait for the call to gate, but then a longer wait to actually be released on to the plane. Comfortable flight, watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. We’d ordered an in-flight meal and I chose Chicken Curry. Luckily, before I opened it, the word Mussels caught my eye. It appears the sauce for the CHICKEN curry is made with shellfish, especially Mussels! I explained that I take a severe allergic reaction to mussels and got it changed, but nobody had heard of mussels being used in a chicken curry sauce.
To make me feel better, Scamp bought me a new watch I’d seen two or three years ago on the Thomas Cook flight. It’s a ‘good’ watch, a Citizen Eco Drive. Nice clear analog face. A ‘toy of the rack’ to take my mind off two near misses 😉

Arrived in Glasgow to single digit temperatures and torrential rain, but no snow, thankfully, although there were piles of the dirty white stuff everywhere where it had been bulldozed off the roads.

Today’s PoD is from the plane just passing over Puerto del Rosario in Fuerteventura.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow is for returning to normal.

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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.