A day of two halves – 7 July 2020

The first half, the morning half we dithered for a while before deciding that it was only threatening. It wasn’t going to rain. Wrong.

We intended to drive to Drumpellier park for a walk round the loch if it wasn’t too busy. Before we were even out of the estate there were raindrops on the windscreen. By the time we were joining the M73 it was coming down in buckets. Decided we’d probably go to The Fort instead to get some more fabric to make us some new masks and a new sketch book for me.

We sat in the car, waiting for the rain to go off. It did lessen a bit and that was good enough for us. There was a queue, but then there is a queue everywhere now. Eventually we got in and got the fabric and the book. By the time we came out the rain had stopped and all the folk who had been waiting in their cars were now wandering around the shops. Too busy, we decided and headed for home. One last discussion before we reached the T junction. Right would take us to Drumpellier and left would take us home. We decided on Left. As we were driving along, we could see the Campsie Fells in the distance with the sun glancing off them. Maybe we’d made the wrong choice. Doesn’t matter, the die had been cast and we were going home for lunch.

After lunch Scamp walked down to the shops to get the makings of today’s dinner. I stayed home and started to make the new mask she wanted. I was just getting to the sewing up stage as she was returning.

Later, since the day had improved greatly from this morning’s heavy rain, we went for a walk round St Mo’s and didn’t even wear a raincoat.  Went round the pond twice and that’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a hover fly, but I can’t make up my mind which one. Hopefully someone on Flickr will know.

Dinner was an excellent Scamp meal of flattened chicken in panko breadcrumbs. There’s probably a fancy French name for ‘flattened chicken’, but that’s what it is. It was really lovely. My turn to cook tomorrow and my mind is empty. Something will float into that void before tomorrow, I hope.

Tonight’s sketch changed from a pencil sketch to a painting. It’s a house across the road from Isobel in the Village. It’s been empty for a few years and is getting really dilapidated now. Water stains all down the walls and paint daubed all over the plywood covering the walls. I liked the desolation of it and enjoyed the exercise. I was painting on slippery HP (Hot Pressed) paper that doesn’t absorb the paint as much as NOT (Not Hot Pressed) paper.  I don’t use it much, but it’s sitting in a drawer and should be used up.  I must get my new paints unwrapped an put to good use. May do that this week if I get a chance. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends a lot on the weather.

Out walking – 6 July 2020

We drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal this morning. Typically, now we are free to travel the length and breadth of the country, we stayed within the 5 mile lockdown limit!

Walked along the canal, avoiding a few cyclists and joggers on a beautiful, if slightly breezy morning. Still didn’t see any kingfishers, but did catch one of Mr Grey’s relatives hiding in the rushes on the far side of the canal. Initially he tried to hide, but then realised it was just a couple of humans out for a walk and totally ignored us. We turned around when we reached Twechar and took the railway path back to Auchinstarry. The railway path is much more sheltered than the canal towpath and as a result we could dispense with out waterproof jackets. Hardly met anyone on the path. When we were crossing the wee stone bridge at Auchinstarry I spotted a Shield Bug and that got PoD. It just ignored me for most of the time, but when I got too close it became defensive and as they have a tendency to fire smelly fluid at you if attacked, I said goodbye and took my leave.

After lunch Scamp went looking for food at the shops while I stayed home and attempted yesterday’s painting, a Ruby Wedding rose that Scamp had cut yesterday to stop it being battered by the gales. It was much more glamorous today picking up the light from the window. I didn’t do it justice, I know that, but this was the best of three attempts and would have to do. It was another catch-up.

When Scamp returned I grabbed my camera and went looking for more subjects. Found a Burnet moth behind St Mo’s school. First one I’ve seen this year. Didn’t get a chance to count its spots, just took its photo.

Tonight I did today’s sketch which turned out to be a still life pencil sketch of two apples. One of my favourite subjects, but, again, not very successful. I’m intending keeping the Lockdown Library going until we’re sure we’re out of it or until I reach my limit.

Another sketchbook filled tonight. May go looking for another one tomorrow. Otherwise no plans. Depends on the weather.

Stormy – 5 July 2020

You expect the storms in the autumn or the winter, but in July? Well, it is Scotland.

It was a windy old night last night and this morning was much the same. Thankfully as the day progressed, the storm winds regressed. Not so the rain. It pounded us relentlessly all day, with just the occasional sunny spell to trap the unwary and entice them out and then ambush them with another heavy shower.

In the afternoon I was enticed out but given the warning from Scamp to get home quick if the rain started. I ignore the warning, of course, but then the camera started acting up after an accidental finger press on the screen changed the setting to stupid mode and it started shooting video instead of stills. Eventually I gave up and reset it to default position, but by that time the good light had gone and so had the soldier beetle I was intending to photograph. I gave up. I had a few shots from the morning when we had that strange Scottish mixture of sunshine and showers … at the same time. The flower shots would have to do and I started to plod my weary way home. Reached the door just as the really heavy rain started. Scamp thought I was just obeying instructions and heading home before the rain came. I had to disabuse her of that notion and told her the story of the wayward camera and Stupid Mode. I don’t think she believed me.

Dinner tonight was Steak and Kidney cooked by my own fair hand. Scamp had an omelette. Both served with Jersey Royal potatoes. While I’d been out wrestling with the camera, Scamp had baked a Sultana Cake and we had a slice each with custard for pudding. Lovely!

Watched the Austrian GP, the first one of this Cover-19 season. Full of thrills, spills, bad tempers and lots of crashes. Nobody hurt thankfully, some egos bruised and a lot of very expensive equipment spread all over the race track. Let’s hope they all cool their heels before next week’s re-run.

Two of Scamp’s Sweet Peas made the PoD. The first two to flower and both survived todays gales. It was meant to be a rose for today’s sketch, but it didn’t quite make it. Perhaps it will be better tomorrow. The Lockdown Library is stalling a bit and maybe needs a rest. Maybe I should break out all the new paints and use them tomorrow. Also tomorrow, we’re hoping to go for a walk somewhere that isn’t Cumbersheugh based, because actually Lockdown had been folded up and put away in its box. The box hasn’t been locked yet and we’ve been well warned that Lockdown may yet come out of its box and restrict our movement again.

Strangers in a strange land – 4 July 2020

We should have been in foreign climes today. We felt as if we were.

We should have been halfway through a Mediterranean cruise if the dreaded Covid-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head and condemned us to three months of purgatory. Foreign countries always make us feel slightly uneasy. Most of the town and cities look quite familiar in a way. The buildings and parks, even the open space, the piazzas and squares look almost familiar, but underneath that familiarity is an undercurrent to unease because there is that constant unfamiliarity too. Things are not quite how they seem. I think that’s how I felt this morning, visiting Glasgow.

We parked at the Buchanan Galleries which in itself was strange, because there were no queues at the ticket machine. There were plenty spaces on all the levels up to three. After that the ramps to the higher levels were cordoned off. Neither of us has ever seen it so empty. Walked down the stairs, past the shuttered fire doors cutting off entrance to the Galleries themselves. Then we walked out into Glasgow itself.

We walked down Buchanan Street and although there were plenty of people there, it felt somehow unsafe. Great long snaking queues of people waiting their turn to enter the House of Apple. All of them standing in the rain waiting for their chance to hand over money, or more likely type four digits into a card machine to get their new phone, iPod or laptop. Down on Argyle Street longer queues stretched out from Primark. There was no sale on, just again the desperation to ‘buy things’. Scamp and I reckoned the queue was about 300m long. This was the first Saturday since some shops opened their doors and everyone wanted to shop.

Me? I wanted to replenish my paintbox. I’d run out of about five of my fifteen colours and the remainder were getting a bit low in their wee pans. I managed to get a full set, plus a free Kolinsky sable for just slightly more than I’d hoped to pay. That’s the cost of 70 odd days of Lockdown paintings. I tried using the student quality Cotman colours, but they are much weaker than the professional quality ones. It’s worth paying the extra. Drove home through an improving weather picture, glad to be away from the strange land we used to know so well.

After lunch we went for a walk in St Mo’s and stood watching the Tufted Duck chicks learning to dive down for food in the shallows. Such tiny wee things, they seemed right at home on the water, but were carefully monitored by Mrs Tufty.

Later we walked over to Condorrat for a Fish Supper (me) and a Black Pudding Supper (Scamp). Real treat to eat food that someone else has made. While we ate our suppers we watched the qualifying for the Austrian GP, the first one this year. What a shame that Vettel has been dropped by Ferrari he will be sadly missed 🤣😉. Hopefully Ferrari’s actions will lead to fewer crashes and a safer F1 next year when he leaves.

Today’s PoD was taken in Anchor Lane in Glasgow city centre and was dunked in buckets of Lightroom and ON1 2019 before being hung up to dry in Flickr.

Tomorrow looks like a wild day. The wind is already starting to gust. I don’t think we’ll be going far.

The sky is falling – 3 July 2020

Well, that’ the way it felt today with the amount of rain that was dropping from the sky.

We had intended to drive in to Glasgow today for a walk down Bucky Street and then, maybe along Argyle Street and up past a certain art shop in Queen Street, then drive back home. That was the plan yesterday, but it didn’t quite work out that way. First off we needed to take Scamp’s wee car out for a run. Just to make sure that the battery was charged and that it was continuing to charge. It passed both tests with flying colours. It started first time and with Scamp driving and me as radio operator, we managed to code in the security number correctly. Who among my readers could tell me that they’d have the radio security number for their car, ten years after they bought it? Scamp knew exactly where the four digit code was and even corrected me when I initially typed it in wrongly. Ms Memory, that’s Scamp!

She had decided that she’d drive in to Robroyston, turn there and come home. Halfway along the motorway, with blinding rain and spray it didn’t look as if we’d get that far, but she stuck it out and we turned at the retail park and drove straight back home without stopping. Battery seems to be charging properly and no problems with it at all. The rain seemed even worse coming home and we were both glad to park up and have lunch. One trial over.

In the afternoon I walked down to the shops and got the shopping for tonight’s dinner in M&S where I was complimented on my frog mask, but reminded that from Monday, masks will be mandatory in shops. Shoppers will not be allowed to enter M&S without one. Not everyone is happy about it, it seems, but it doesn’t bother either of us. A mask is now just something you keep in your back pocket or your bag and slip it on as soon as you enter an enclosed space. How easily we become used to the new regime.

I managed to grab one shot today. Taken from the living room window, it’s a close up of a pink rosebud from the climbing rose at the back door. Scamp reckons it came from my mum and dad’s house in Larky. That might be true. Anyway, the rosebud made PoD.

Dinner was disappointing despite all the ingredients looking like they worked together. It was a ‘healthy’ recipe, not so much a low salt as a no salt recipe. There is no point in making an ultra low salt recipe if, in the end, it tastes of nothing. Salt is there for a purpose. It’s a flavour enhancer. True, too much is dangerous, but too much of anything is dangerous. I may try it again but with the addition of that four letter flavour enhancer this time. Vegetable, Herb and Smoked Trout Patties if you must know.

I had a drawing for yesterday, but was too tired to post it, so it went in today. It was Glasgow’s pigeons sitting on one of the old buildings in Argyle Street. Today’s is a still life of the fruit bowl. Drawn on a rough textured cheap sketch book from Cass Art using a cheap compressed charcoal pencil from The Works. It just shows that not all art materials need to be expensive. The pencil and paper work so well together, they are great to draw with.  Both drawings now on Instagram and FB.

Tomorrow looks to be much less wet than today and we may go out. That’s all I’m saying.

Feeling a bit run down – 2 July 2020

You know how some days you feel a bit lacklustre and not exactly full of energy. That’s how Scamp’s wee red car felt today.

We had spent the morning lounging around and too lazy to do much. Although the wonders of shopping in Glasgow were drawing us in to the big city, inertia was holding us fast. Eventually we decided that today was a lovely sunny day after a few wet and dull days, and we should both make the most of it. Tomorrow promises to be wet and windy. That might be a better day to wander round the shops. Our decision was to go and do some food shopping because Scamp was chef tonight, then I might go out for a run on the Dewdrop. Scamp’s car hadn’t turned a wheel for about a month, so she offered to drive, except …

When she turned the key in the ignition the starter coughed a few times and then went silent. She tried again and it was like a death rattle. Lifted the bonnet, but there was nothing to see. After my recent problems with the Juke, I suspected a flat battery. Scamp tried phoning for the AA which is run through our bank, but there was a 20min wait in a queue, even to find out if we were covered for home start. I phoned Jim Dickson our go-to place for all car consumables to find out how much a new battery would cost. It was a lot less than Kwik Fit or AA were quoting, like a hundred pounds more in the case of the AA.

After a fair bit of swearing and about half an hour’s work the old battery came out and I took it for a run to see what Mr Dickson would say about it. He (or as it turned out, she because it was Ms Dickson who was in charge today) said yes, they had one in stock and for once it was the cheap one we needed. Back home I wrestled the new battery into place and nearly wrecked a Torx spanner tightening the retaining bolt. Before I connected the terminals back in place I did check with Mr Google who told me that I was correct in assuming that the negative terminal was the first to be connected. I don’t know where I’d remembered that from, because it’s a very long time since I’ve replaced a battery in a car. With everything connected, the key turned, the engine started an Scamp had a smile on her face again.

Work done, I had an hour to spend walking over St Mo’s before dinner. Came back and sat in the garden with a pint of Guinness while the chef prepared dinner which turned out to be a lovely Paneer Curry. Quite the best curry I’ve had in a long time. I must get the recipe!

While I was out I got today’s PoD which is a seven spot ladybird. Managed a shot of a hoverfly masquerading as a bee too. I took the ladybird with a conventional shot, but the hoverfly was captured using Post Focus. It’s really an extremely short video that allows you to select one frame to download and turn into a JPEG file. Yes, JIC I know that’s Technospeak and you weren’t warned. Sorry. Just call it Black Magic! That’s how it seems to me and I know how it works.

Because of the battery problems, I didn’t really get round to doing a sketch until just before I started the blog, but it is done and will be posted tomorrow, all being well. Also tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow if the rain isn’t too heavy.

Back to rain and leaden skies – 1 July 2020

After a wee respite yesterday, the weather reverted to normal.

Yesterday was just a ‘lucky’. Today it rained for most of the day, but there were a few intervals when the sun looked as if it was going to shine on us, but then it disappeared again.

It was my turn to cook from a trio of magazines. We’d both chosen things that sounded interesting and to kick it off, I was going to make Fennel, Leek and Smoked Salmon Fritatta. Unfortunately we didn’t have any leeks or smoked salmon. We did however have a fennel bulb, so that was a start. After lunch we walked down to the shops in the rain to get the missing ingredients. Apart from the rain it was fairly pleasant. When you look out at the drizzle falling you instantly think of the cold and damp. It was damp, but not cold.

Decided I’d better go out and see if I could photograph anything interesting. I wasn’t really expecting to see anything and I wasn’t disappointed. Hardly a beastie was stirring today. I got a PoD which looks like a little stunted tree, but is actually a little stunted Cladonia lichen. That was about it. Stood and watched two guys racing their radio controlled petrol driven dune buggies over the BMX track. Incredible speeds they get up to once they’ve built up a head of torque. Some magnificent jumps too.

The Fritatta worked out well, although the instructions suggested a 15 minute bake in the oven at gas 4 (180ºc) and that was nowhere near enough. It took twice that long. It could, however be our oven that’s at fault. If it says gas 4, we usually use halfway between 4 and 5. I’ve never managed to successfully calibrate the temperature settings. Maybe someday.

Sketch today was a trio of mushrooms that were heading for the compost bin until I retrieved them temporarily to paint them. It took two attempts and the second was by far the best. I used Cotman colours which aren’t quite as strong as the professional range. I’ve run out of quite a few colours in the W&N professional paintbox and hopefully will get it refilled soon. Until then I’ll use the Cotman colours. I also used Cass Art watercolour paper and it made a bit difference again.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow just to see how the city is faring. Some shops are already open and it looks like John Lewis is reopening on Monday. Things might be slowly returning to something like normal. Did I mention Cass Art opened today. That’s got nothing at all to do with the intended visit to Glasgow. 😉

The big city – 30 June 2020

Not Glasgow or Embra, but the minor city of Stirling.  Granted City status by The Queen in 2002.  Queen Lizzie, not Nicola, who is the queen in waiting.

Today we went to Stirling for ‘the messages’. Since we, the common people are still restricted to approximately five miles from home for exercise and recreation, we wouldn’t be allowed to travel the fifteen or so miles to Stirling, BUT if we were travelling for essential food supplies, like Waitrose might have, permission is granted. We drove to Stirling. Parked at an almost deserted Waitrose and went for a walk in the city centre.

It was a bit strange walking past the closed up shops in the Thistle Centre. Y’see, according to Her Majesty Nicola’s decree, only shops with an outside entrance may open. Those that only have an entrance to a mall may not. Since most of the shops in centre fail that test, they can’t open yet. In fact, only Boots can tick that box, having an entrance to the pedestrian precinct through Boots Opticians. However, WH Smith was open and it doesn’t have an outside entrance. Aha, but it does house the post office and that way it can thwart the rule. One rule for Post Offices and another for the ordinary shops. We didn’t tarry long, Scamp didn’t even go in to M&S.

We walked back to Waitrose and made a valiant attempt at buying it. I can’t say Scamp did that on her own, I aided and abetted her, buying more than we really needed, but not as much as we really wanted. It felt very strange to me to be wearing a mask and taking care to dance around people in Waitrose. It put it down to accepting the queueing and the gradual return to almost normality in Tesco and the new shops, Waitrose was a known quantity in a known town. This was the first time we’d been there since about February and you grow to expect all the restrictions in the place you live in, but once you go to somewhere you haven’t visited in a while, it feels a but alien almost. Maybe it’s just me.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp went out to cut the grass. I did the strimming round the plant pots. I was also trusted with using the blower to scatter the loose grass cuttings to the four winds. I didn’t realise just how strong the torque is in that leaf blower. It’s a powerful motor.

Afterwards I laid in a sky for a wee acrylic painting that’s been in my head for weeks. Hopefully the sky will follow tomorrow.

Headed off for a walk round St Mo’s and got another photo of a grasshopper. It may be the same one, or perhaps it’s a different one. I never got to find out its name. I thought it might make PoD, but that went to a woman walking her dog.

Not a bad day, and a day without any rain. That doesn’t look set to last. More of the wet stuff on the way and we have no plans for tomorrow, even although Cass Art will be open tomorrow! Yes, I’ve checked and it does have the required type of entrance.

Thunder and more rain – 27 June 2020

Although it wasn’t raining when we woke, it wasn’t long in arriving.

When it came, it came with a vengeance. Heavy rain in fairly lengthy showers. Then there were a couple of peals of thunder, but neither of us saw any lightning. With that said, I grabbed a few shots in the garden, including the PoD which was a Marmalade hover fly (Episyrphus balteatus) resting on the pea netting. At first I though it was dead and tangled in a spider web, but after the next rain shower I checked and it was gone. Probably off to shelter somewhere less exposed to the elements.

The rain water was obviously doing the peas a lot of good because the first couple of flowers were emerging. That’s a good sign, because the plants are already about 20cm from reaching the top of the pea frame. It looks like I might get six pea plants this year. Four of them are from new seeds and two are peas I held over from last year. Carefully dried on the window ledge and planted with the rest in the greenhouse. Actually I planted four of last year’s peas, but only two germinated. They are al bit slower than the new ones, but let’s hope they do flower and produce pods.

Using our skill and judgement to determine the best time to take a walk down to the shops, we managed to get there, queue for M&S, get tonight’s dinner (take-away curry) and get back without getting wet. We’d just got home when the rains came on again. That’s a skill passed down from mother to son when you come from the country. Or father to daughter if you live in Easterhouse oops Provanhall!

Curry was lovely. Scamp had the standard Goan Veg Curry. I had the Superior Chicken Tikka Masala (£1 more). Both were delicious, although I now detect that there was some garlic in mine. A fair amount of garlic! Ice cream sundae to act as pudding, from Iceland (cheaper than Tesco, but probably from the same factory.)

Today’s sketch was my pair of Merrell ‘hiking shoes’. Not the most comfortable trainer type shoes I’ve ever had and certainly not the most hard wearing. There are cracks in the front already after less than a year. Still, they have Goretex and that keeps my feet dry. Decided a pen sketch would be better than watercolour after yesterday’s disappointing painting. Actually enjoyed the drawing. Quite relaxing. You can tell I enjoyed it because I feel willing to share it here.

Tomorrow it looks like the same mix of weather, without the thunder, but with heavier and slower moving rain bands. May not be going out.

Rain – 26 June 2020

We were warned about thunderstorms, but we must have dodged them. Not so lucky with the rain though!

I don’t know if we dodged the forecast thunderstorms or if I just slept through them, but not so lucky with the rain. Woke about 5am to torrential rain thumping straight down on the trees outside. I think it continued all morning although I didn’t surface again properly until about 9am and it was raining heavily then too, but not as heavy as in the middle of the night. After a while it seemed to get fed up and turned to intermittent displays of precipitation. Finally giving up entirely just after midday.

We had made a few forays into the garden in between shower to prune things (Scamp) and photograph things (me). It was only after lunch, well after lunch that I felt safe enough to venture over to St Mo’s for some serious photography. Unbelievably in just about an hour I took 100 photos. Exactly 100 photos. Most were culled in the first serious look, that left me with 45. The more critical cull followed and now I’m down to 32, with only one PoD which is a Footballer. The nickname for Helophilus pendulus a hoverfly that mimics a wasp for protection from predators.  Funnily enough I found it beside a school football park.  How convenient was that?

Struggled to find a subject to paint today but I wasn’t giving in and going back to the list. Instead, I chose one of Scamp’s garden plants, a Campanula which has pretty blue/violet flowers. I really struggled with the painting and, as you can see by its absence here, I’m still not 100% happy with it. However, it’s done and it covers Lockdown Library No 74.

That was about it for today. We’re still not out of the woods yet. More thunderstorms and more rain forecast for tomorrow. Don’t think we’ll be going far.