The sun returns – 11 December 2019

It wasn’t lost after all. I was just having a rest yesterday.

I was out early today to make sure of capturing some of those little photons and storing them away in an SD card. Yes, I was taking foties. Scamp had already been out to the doc’s for her medication check and back again. I went over to St Mo’s and got some good light. Grabbed a PoD which is a low down macro shot of some sphagnum moss strands, looking like miniature evergreens. Got back just in time to go out again to meet Colin and Fred for coffee. Scamp was off again to see what the retail paradise that is the Town Centre had to offer the discerning shopper.

The coffee snobs centred around pubs in Glasgow (a common topic among us), books and the NHS. Given that tomorrow is polling day and Fred is a political animal, it was strange that the merits and demerits of the leading campaigners did not enter into our conversation. Maybe it’s not all that strange. I think we’re all a bit jaded with the whole shebang. It’s become a tactical election. Pick the person you don’t want to win and vote for anyone else. Much like the old Scottish football question:
Question – “Who are you supporting in the World Cup?”
Answer – “Anyone who’s playing England!”
(Notice that Scotland is never mentioned. We don’t do the World Cup.)

Drove home into glaringly blinding sunshine to collect Scamp and take her to the doc’s again, this time to get her flu jag. By the time we were coming home, the sun had set and the day was sliding into evening.

When Scamp had been out earlier, she had bought the makings of Stir Fried Prawns with Singapore Noodles. Sounded great. I volunteered to make it. It tasted as good as it sounds. The sauce that came with it was labelled Soy, Chilli and Ginger, but it smelled like simple Brown Sauce, the stuff that comes out of a square bottle with letters HP at the top. The strange thing was it didn’t taste anything like it! Must have been my cooking skills that transformed it.

The weather has turned back to rain again and it’s forecast to further turn to snow during the early hours of tomorrow morning. We’re booked to take Isobel to Monklands in the morning. Let’s hope the snow has gone by then.

Solar Power – 9 December 2019

Sometimes I think I am solar powered.

Woke to sunshine this morning. Beautiful sunshine. Got up and dressed, no time to waste on a shower, I’d go dirty! Grabbed two cameras in the big black camera bag and waltzed off to St Mo’s (actually I walked, no dancing was involved) while Scamp was defrosting her car. Nearly fell on my backside when I stepped on a thin slice of ice I hadn’t noticed, but regained my balance and nobody was there to laugh at me.

No time for camera testing today. I’d (partly) mastered the buttons and dials on the LBJ and today was too good to waste on test shots. Got a few shots of interesting fungi in the woods and some backlit leaves, but nothing too special. Nothing that was a contender for PoD. It’s remarkable how quiet the shutter is. Much quieter than any of the Olys. Yes, of course I was still testing and comparing. It’s the way I am!

By the time I got back, Scamp had returned from her shopping trip and she’d put the coffee maker on. Thank you Scamp. She’d been busy because she’d made a pot of soup too and it smelled lovely. She’d also done the hoovering which has been my Monday job for the past few weeks. She just can’t sit still some days.

After lunch and after Gems had gathered I had my Monday talk about all things Art with Margie, I put my boots on again and drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal, across at the plantation then back along the railway. Got a few more shots with both cameras, two of which I knew would be on Flickr and one of which I was sure was destined to be PoD. Saw a poor luckless quad bike rider getting his/her front wheels stuck in a bog, right up to the axles. Don’t know how they were going to get out of that one, but I wasn’t going to help pull it out.

On the way back I paused to just take in the colours and shapes around me. You don’t realise just how beautiful the countryside is until you’ve had a week of rain and leaden skies. Sometimes I think I’m solar powered. I need sunlight to recharge my batteries. Without that dose of vitamin D I just get deeper and deeper down and it’s the sun on my face that lifts me, well that and Scamp’s smile. It can lift me any time. “One smile relieves a heart that grieves” Robert Graves.

Back home it was good news. Jamie Gal was in the driving seat tonight. We went in to see if the beginners class needed any helpers, but two weeks of Shannon had taken its toll and it was a vastly reduced class in the hall. An even class of leaders and followers, so we weren’t needed after all. Our own class was well attended, but the skills of the class were a fair bit below what an Advanced class should be able to demonstrate. Jamie took quite a lot of criticism for his absences and I did feel sorry for him with nobody to stand with him against the class. However it had to be said and now he knows the feelings of the class.

Came home feeling a bit deflated with the loss of two dance classes and nothing to fill the vacuum until the new year. Hopefully a new year will bring new opportunities or am I starting to sound like an astrology page from the Daily Record?

PoD today went to a dried stem of cow parsley with an out of focus background. I liked it. There’s more on Flickr.

Tomorrow we’re expecting rain and Windy Willy. That won’t be fun!

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.

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.

Hot Mulled Buckfast – 2 December 2019

Now, there’s a thought.

Went in to Glasgow at lunchtime for two reasons:

  1. It was Gems day and anywhere is better than staying in the house with them ‘singing’.
  2. I was going to get my hair cut.

Before I could escape we spoke to Hazy because it was her birthday. Hope you had a lovely day today Hazy. Twenty-one again, eh?

Didn’t even have any lunch, just drove in to The Toon and achieved both challenges at the same time. It was much, much more comfortable today. Dry (to start with) and +6ºc too. After the shearing I walked down to George Square and walked through the Christmas Market with its glittery marvels. The best of which was the stall selling Hot Mulled Buckfast. Guaranteed to take the enamel right off your teeth and rot your gut into the bargain. There just has to be an EEC regulation against the selling of this corrosive liquid.

Came back home via Asda for lentils for tonight’s dinner. That’s when the rain started and it followed me all the way home.

Got home to the news that Jamie G was on his way to London. You kept that one quiet Shannon. You posted a timetable on FB to the effect that Jamie was teaching two classes tonight, knowing that if you told the truth and said that you, yourself were teaching those classes, very few of the advanced class would arrive. Really, for the business woman you are, you should be more transparent in your dealings with your clientele. Jamie at least gave an indication that he wouldn’t be in Glasgow, but it’s still not fair on those who are paying for a monthly block of lessons. We want taught by people who know how to teach and not by those who can only teach how to do ‘Styling’ and don’t give us a chance to dance. This is a great way to lose your followers. You’ve certainly lost us. We will buy no more of your blocks, choosing for the foreseeable future to pay on a week by week basis, but in the long term … well, other opportunities may arise outside AdS.

Disappointed, but enjoyed an evening with the two sisters. Good fun, good chat and also a couple of G ’n’ Ts to relax with.

PoD was indeed the Hot Mulled Buckfast.

Tomorrow Jackie gets the early but to Skye and we may go out somewhere because it’s a Tuesday.

Cold and Frosty Morning – 1 December 2019

The rest of the day didn’t get much warmer.

Actually, I just realised tonight that we’d both achieved “out before 11am” today by accident rather than on purpose. The annual Santa Run, or Santa Dash or to give it its name this year Christmas Cracker 5k, started at 11am at Broadwood Stadium and we were standing waiting for the runners just before the start time. I felt sorry for the runners, there were more dog walkers than crowds of cheering punters there to see them off, but they didn’t seem to mind. Neither did they seem to mind the sub zero temperature or the freezing fog that covered the course. Two enterprising folk were trying to film the race using a drone. Good luck with that folks, you could hardly see the runners when they were about 100m away, even with their Pound Shop red Santa suits. That said, I commend them for their efforts and for the efforts of those who stood in the cold to cheer them on, all ten of them, and finally, the organisers who directed the runners round the correct way. It looked like almost everyone enjoyed it, everyone, that is except one wee toddler who was bawling when mum, dad and wean passed us about a quarter the way round the circuit. We went home to a house with heating on full and had lunch!

Not so lucky 10,000 houses in Falkirk without any gas because a valve had broken and the gas board couldn’t tell when it would be fixed. Tonight they don’t seem to be any further forward.

Actually that was the total of our ventures outside today. The temperature didn’t rise above freezing and now it’s -3ºc. It looks like we might get some less cold weather in the next few days. I hope so, because I’ve committed myself to getting my hair cut this week. We were meant to be going dancing tonight in Glasgow, but we both agreed it would be better to stay home.

PoD was a person wearing a Santa beard at the start line of the race. I don’t believe that’s a real beard!

With a bit of luck, Jackie is coming down to Embra tomorrow and staying with us on Monday night. June is expected for dinner and I’m being allowed to go to Salsa by myself! We’ll see how that turns out, or even if that turns out

A bit more relaxed day – 30 November 2019

Done my bit for the ‘up early and out’ brigade.

Today was cold, really cold -3ºc when we woke. Sun was shining, but it wasn’t making much of a difference to the frozen cars in the street. Definitely a day for taking things a bit slower.

Finally in the afternoon we decided we needed the basics. Dinner for tonight, some veg and some bread. Dressed for the winter weather which was now a temperate one point something above zero and headed down to the shops. Got the bread, the veg and a chicken for tonight’s dinner and walked back.

After the walk, it didn’t seem all that cold, so rather than taking off all my layers, I simply changed my trainers for boots, grabbed a camera and went to St Mo’s to test out their new footpaths. Actually it was just a compressed hardcore base, not an actual asphalt footpath. Maybe that’s still to come, or maybe that’s as much as the finances will stretch to. After all, NLC councillors annual Christmas junket must be on the horizon now and of course that will take precedence. Anyway, the lighting was good and I got a few moody shots. Enough to give Lightroom and Photo Raw something to get their teeth into.

Got some more detailed shots of the Hair Ice I saw yesterday. Took a quick photo of it on my phone purely to get a GPS fix on it, but the phone placed it about a mile and a half away, in the middle of a housing estate. Weird! But then again, I don’t suppose Mr Android and Mrs Google had ever been to Cumbersheugh, so how would they know.

That was about it for the day. Chicken was lovely. The bread is uneaten as yet and the veg will hopefully go to making soup tomorrow. PoD was a shot of the lovely frosted reed stems poking from a frozen pond, looking like early Christmas trees.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to dance at the Sunday Social in The Record Factory, but it does depend on the weather.

Out before 11am? – 29 November 2019

That’s just too easy!

I didn’t even bother to have a shower before I went out this morning (filfy beast). I just got up and went out and the first shot was taken at 9.39am. Unfortunately, at 9.38am I realised I’d forgotten to put the Oly in my bag and the camera I had, the Teazer2, wasn’t set to take sensible photos. I don’t know what buttons I’d pressed on it the last time I’d used it, but the ISO was set at 80 (just usable). The touch screen didn’t work (don’t know why). It wouldn’t focus any closer than about 1metre. Quite simply it was AAaaargh!!! Easiest way out of this mess was to use the magic 4K photo. That’s what I did. Once I had one in the bag that I knew was in focus somewhere in the fifty odd shots this remarkable camera takes in a second and a half, I applied logic and reset it to factory settings and once I’d switched on the RAW setting and switched off the annoying beep, we were sort of in business. First worthwhile shot was 9.51. Not bad after such a poor start. Of course what I should have done was go home, pick up the Oly and start again, but the light was changing and I didn’t want to waste it. I got a few shots that looked as if they’d be useable once they’d been Lightroomed into submission. Also saw some Hair Ice. Read about it, but this is the first time I’ve seen it. Strange looking and feeling stuff. Went home, cold but reasonably happy.

Back home Scamp had guessed that I’d want the coffee machine on and it was warming up nicely when I got in. Once I’d thawed out and had looked at the results of the mornings work, and with a cup of hot Cuban coffee in me, I felt more human and knew I had at least one shot in the bag.

After that I footered (another great word) about for a while adjusting that and pruning that and generally wasting time until lunch, because it was still cold. When I went out it was just cresting the zero line. Now it was a fairly tropical 4ºc. Scamp was going out in the afternoon with the witches to celebrate one of them being released from a life of bondage at HMRC. That meant I had the afternoon and early evening to myself.

First things first, after she left, I started cooking the mince for my favourite Mince ’n’ Tatties with a slice of beetroot, except there were no tatties, so I had to bundle up again and drive down to M&S to get some. I thought the new shops would be a flash in the pan thing, but it really is becoming a boon, not having to drive round the new traffic calmed roundabout and up the road to Tesco. Yes, they are a great idea.

Finally got round to programming the second light controller for the living room. We’ve only had it for about ten years! Now we have two controlled lights. Progress!

Watched another episode of His Dark Materials although the TIVO box nearly gave up the ghost the first two times I tried to view the recording. I think we may need a new one, or possibly a new provider. Virgin Media are not the most helpful company in the world. Brilliant computer graphics in the scenes of The North. Totally believable.

Scamp arrived back home just after 8pm, driven back with Jeanette by James. I wonder if Jeanette has ever said those famous words “Home James!” Must ask her sometime.

PoD was a shot from the morning. Camera placed gingerly on the ice of a frozen pond and shutter triggered by a 2 second timer. Great idea, old technology in a very able camera.

Hopefully going out to lunch tomorrow although temperatures of -4ºc predicted overnight.

A good talking to – 28 November 2019

A better day … eventually.

Woke under a cloud, not a literal cloud because the sky was clear, but a rather black cloud that followed me about all morning. Helped Scamp tidy up the back garden. Well, I carried some of the cuttings round to the council compost bin. Cut back the two buddleia bushes and Scamp did all the rest. She didn’t seem to mind that it was cold. She had a big jacket on and I hadn’t, but that wasn’t the point, she never seems to mind the cold, especially when she’s working in the garden. Me? I always feel the cold, except when I’m taking photos of course. It used to be when I was fishing in the winter I wouldn’t feel the cold until my fingers stopped working and I had to go through that pins and needles stage, getting the blood to flow again. I made the excuse that I was going to heat up the soup for lunch and went inside.

After lunch I got her to go through yesterday’s move with me and … damnation, I’d been doing it wrong all that time. I should have been spinning on the ball of my foot. Instead I was walking round. It had the same effect, but my walking method wasn’t right. Should have known that the teacher was right. Teachers are always right, aren’t they. Unless they’re also pupils, then the water get muddied. I think that started the puncturing of the black cloud, that and a good talking to by Scamp. I felt a bit better after that. She then encouraged me (read ‘told me’) to go our for a walk.

Drove to Cumbersheugh station, parked and went for a walk down by the Luggie Water. That’s where the longer and final ‘good talking to’ happened. The remains of my black cloud lifted and dissolved in the wintry sunshine. It’s also where I got today’s PoD which is a wee thistle/dandelion plant’s parachute seedbeds that may or may not manage to blow away and start a new plant where the wind takes them. Came home feeling much, much better.

On the way back, I drove past the school and my old department is now gone. Bulldozed, flattened ready to be crushed to make the hardcore for what will be the playing fields of the new school. I quite like the idea that it will stay there in the campus. Still fulfilling a purpose. Of the destroying tank, there was no sign.

Watched the Elton John documentary tonight and enjoyed every minute. Good to hear someone open up like that. Maybe it’s something we should all do if we can do it to someone we trust. There’s a moral there somewhere.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but it’s going to be cold tonight. Should have put the blanket on the rosemary bush. Probably being a taxi driver for Scamp tomorrow night.