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Following my nose – 15 August 2017

The forecast for today was good, so we headed off this morning to South Queensferry.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Western world had also decided that today was the perfect day to go to South Queensferry, and they’d got there and parked before us. No room at the inn. Not to worry, we could just carry on along the road and go to Cramond. Almost as good, and it has a good ice cream van that does Mr Whippy style ice cream.

Then we got stuck behind an old ‘diddy’ who seemed determined to wear out his brakes. Ten miles an hour everywhere. I’m sure he was getting the clutch and brake mixed up, either that or he had enormous feet and was covering both pedals. The road down the hill is very narrow and there sometimes isn’t room for two cars to pass. This diddy just kept driving and forcing others to reverse out of his way. Only once did he give way. Anyway, eventually he got to the bottom of the hill and the parking place. He went one way round, I went the other. The parking place was full. Who did we meet at the other end of the carpark? The diddy. He just stopped and indicated that I should reverse. Sorry, I don’t take instructions from diddies, so I just sat and waited with my arms folded. The standard I’m not going anywhere signal. He gave up and reversed out of my way! Result! He’s probably writing a blog at this minute ranting about the ignorant man who thought he owned the road and the carpark! He’d be right too. Hope his brakes cooled quicker than his temper.

So, no room at the inn number 2. We knew there was a big wide road that we’d seen cars parked on and it ran parallel to the esplanade at Cramond, but we’d never found it. Today we needed it. By following my nose, I found it. It was a dual carriageway that apparently was just a big carpark. It was nearly empty and we got to choose our parking space. We walked along for a while, but then turned back because Scamp had spotted an ice cream van. We both had 99s. It’s ages since I’ve had a 99. So glad we found this parking place. Now all we had to do was get back out of it and onto the road home again.

That was more difficult and we had to drive almost into Embra before I could find the road back, but I did, by following my nose again. Just to be cantankerous, I didn’t take the motorway or the Forth Road Bridge (the new crossing isn’t open yet), but headed for Bo’ness instead. Stopped at a garden centre that appeared on our right and had coffee ’n’ a scone. Scamp had been looking for a pair of proper secateurs for ages and the garden centre provided them for a price she was willing to pay.

From there it was an easy drive home.

Today’s PoD was taken from the ‘new’ carpark and is entitled “Are we having fun yet?”

Today was a lovely day, but tomorrow is to be not so nice, so I may be doing some painting. Not oils this time, but acrylic and not on a canvas either, it’ll be on the inside window sills which really need another layer of varnish.

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Walking in Sunshine – 13 August 2017

There were no Perseid shooting stars to be seen last night. Even when some kind children (teenagers that is) woke me at around 3am, I staggered through to the back room observatory but still could not see any astral fireworks. I think it’s just a story put about by the media to induce insomnia in the unwary.

Today was fairly bright, then dull, then sunny, then dull. At least it wasn’t raining. Spoke to Hazy for about an hour on Skype and found out about her Amsterdam trip. Couldn’t believe it when Scamp and I were discussing Amsterdam afterwards, that it was about ten years ago we were there. How time flies.

After lunch we pottered about in the garden. Ripping out the pea plants and composting them. Planting some nasturtium seeds that I harvested last year. Just to see if they will come. Planted some seeds I harvested this year from the aquilegia. Just pottering.

Eventually I got fed up with the horticultural life and drove down to Auchinstarry for a walk in the sun. Before I went, I got the PoD which is of California Poppies in the front garden. Glorious golden colours from the Golden State. Found a host of caterpillars all squeezed on to a branch of a bush. Not sure whether they are from a moth or a butterfly. Posted the pic on Flickr. Someone there will be able to ID them. Sun was warm and the wind was light, so it was great to be out walking in such pleasant weather.

Dinner tonight was roast shoulder of pork with apple sauce from our own apples, James Grieve. Scamp made it and it was lovely. She also calculated the cooking time for the pork and it too was lovely. She had Sea Trout.

It looks as if we will be getting some rain tomorrow.

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Out for a spin – 12 August 2017

Woke up to rain, so had a lazy start to the day until the sun started to show around midday. Set off about 1 pm to go for a wee spin and to see if there was anywhere that would serve us lunch. There was.

We drove to the Oakwood garden centre near Killearn and had a decent sandwich lunch and a more than decent cafetiere of Colombian Rich coffee. I got the scenic seat looking out the picture window across the fields to the hills beyond. The view in this cafe has to be seen to be believed. After lunch we drove down through Balfron to Stirling and Waitrose where we picked up tomorrow’s dinner. Sea Trout for Scamp and Pork Shoulder for me. Lovely drive through the Stirlingshire countryside. Loads of opportunities for photos, but never took them.

Came home and visited St Mo’s which is where I saw today’s PoD of a rather grumpy looking Mr Grey. St Mo’s was full of weans, and I don’t mean primary school weans, I mean S3/4 14 and 15 year olds easily twenty or thirty of them roaming around trying to find something to brag to their mates about on the last few days of their summer holidays. What one of the Principal Teachers described as a ‘Tribe’. That is what they are like. Feral, that’s the only word for them, almost domesticated animals. Barely house trained. I’m glad I can walk away from them now.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of some shooting stars tonight when we pass close to the Perseids. We’ve been on intersecting orbits since 36AD or before. The first documented encounter was around that time according to Wikipedia. (I can’t be arsed with the current CE or BCE nonsense. If you feel insulted by that then tough, off you go and complain to someone who cares.)

Tomorrow the weather will be much the same as today and maybe even a little better.

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The beginning of the end – 10 August 2017

The sun was shining when we woke this morning, but then it said goodbye as the clouds rolled in and took its place.

That more or less summed up the day. Cloudy. Not cold and not wet, just dull.

Scamp went for messages and I painted over yesterday’s twee little landscape thing. Then I did what Fred had been talking about, the technique of the moment called Acrylic Pouring. He’s got a garage to paint in, I’ve got a back bedroom with a carpet on the floor. A light coloured carpet. That restricted the Jackson Pollock in me and I took a bit more care than he would have in my search for an abstract. As is usually the case, after a bit of mixing and splashing, the basis of a landscape appeared. I let fly with another burst of acrylic paint and the landscape disappeared under some cloud, then magically reappeared. At this point, Scamp returned laden with shopping and I had to stop to help her and allow my ‘creation’ dry. Then it was lunch time.

After lunch I poked, prodded and generally abused the canvas a bit more, then went out to take some photos. I love the work the volunteers have done in St Mo’s, creating a wildflower garden. The council threw some seed down a few years ago and with much publicity claimed it had created a wildflower garden. Weeds and grass do not a wildflower garden make NLC. Thankfully the volunteers took over and finished the job. Anyway, the autumn colours of the flowers today shone in the sun that was playing hide and seek among the breaking clouds and that is my PoD.

Came home after a short walk, because there were weans everywhere, also trying to make the most of the sun on their last full week of the summer holidays. Only they were noisier and not as well behaved as me.  As I was walking home from St Mo’s, and less than 50m from home, there were two deer.  A buck and a hind, grazing as if they were out on a hillside in Glencoe.  I managed a few shots, then thought better of going closer in case I spooked them and they ran off across the busy road.  Photo on Flickr.

After dinner, which was a lovely chicken breast on a green vegetable spread (with potatoes, of course) we were just watching the girls running races on the TV (some big ‘running races’ thing in London) when I absentmindedly pinged the cap off my tooth. It had only lasted about a month! I think it may be a waste of the dentist’s and my time replacing it this time.

Whisper it. It’s going to rain tomorrow. Oh no, the beginning of the end!

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Here be Dragons – 9 August 2017

Well, the weather fairies were right again. Sorry to you folks down south, but we had another beautiful day. Not quite the wall to wall sunshine of yesterday, but not far off it.

We were headed for Devilla forest again today. We’d last been there in May and enjoyed the walk, but didn’t see any of the red squirrels that are supposed to inhabit the woodland. Didn’t see any today either, but we did see loads of dragonflies around the pond at the end of the walk. Mainly Black Darters, but there were also a couple of Emeralds that seemed to fly non-stop all the time we were there. Sometimes they’d hover almost motionless while they checked out what was happening around them. Unfortunately the Oly or its lens was unable to focus on them properly, despite the fact they were static for five or six seconds at a time. Also despite the fact that I was swearing at it the whole time. I did get some satisfactory shots of the male and female Black Darters and a nice one of an Emerald Damselfly playing hide and seek behind a reed and that became PoD.

After I’d had my fill of ‘beasties’, we drove to the Walled Garden for lunch. It was busy, but not so busy that we had to queue for a table which was better than I’d expected. After lunch we drove home.

Salsa tonight was the start of a beginners class and it was a gigantic class. Enjoyed helping, but in the 7.30pm class, I couldn’t get any of the moves right. Moves I knew well too. I think my brain must have been stuck on beginners level.

Hoping for just one more day of sunshine before it all collapses at the weekend.

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Rain again – 7 August 2017

It was another day like the day before. It was fairly dry in the morning, although it had rained during the night. However, it didn’t last long. By midday the rain was on and it stayed that way with brief dry spells when the rain was catching its breath, then later in the afternoon it came on and forgot to go off.

Eventually, like on Sunday, I went for a walk over to St Mo’s. By that time the rain was lessening and I managed to get some pics of some insects. The sedge was my favourite, probably a Caddis Fly. Beloved of anglers everywhere. Caddis fly larvae ( called Stick Bait) live on the bottom of ponds and build themselves a shell of gravel and bits of stick. The larvae itself is creamy white with a brown head and is great bait for trout. The fly is more often fished as a dry fly imitation on the surface of the water. At least that was the case the last time I went fishing, a long, long time ago.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to get these shots correct first time, so this is a combination of two shots welded together.

Salsa was enthusiastic and exhausting tonight. I managed to do two classes and that explains the exhaustion.

On the way home there was a beautiful sunset, with golden clouds in an otherwise clear sky. A miracle after the day.

Tomorrow is set fair according to the weather fairies. Dry would be good.

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Go out walking in the rain – 6 August 2017

It wasn’t the most inspiring day today. It had been, earlier on. Then we had hills from the back window, but later in the morning the hills had disappeared under a sheet of white, low lying cloud and the rain looked as if it was just about to appear. It did, and it stayed for the rest of the day.

We didn’t have any decent bread, so when I was getting the lunch sausages out of the freezer (fried lunch on a Sunday) I pulled out a 500(ish)g piece of frozen bread dough and set it to thaw out. After lunch the rain got a bit lighter, then the sun tried to come out, failed and the rain took its place again. It was about then I decided I was going out to take some photos, in the rain if necessary. So dressed in an old pair of jeans and my trusty rainy coat, I walked over to St Mo’s to feed the ducks and hopefully get some photos. The one above is my favourite. It was taken with the Nikon and a Sigma 105mm macro lens. A beautiful lens designed for taking close-ups. No zoom. It’s a Prime and with a maximum aperture of f2.8, depth of field is minimal. If none of that makes sense to you, then I’m sorry. Let’s just say this is one of my oldest and most favourite lenses.  Brilliant for beasties!

When I got back and got changed out of the sodden boots and jeans, I started to solve a puzzle that has appeared since I started using El Cap. The problem is Photos. It’s an app that is part of OSX and every time you plug in an SD card it pops up wanting to handle your photos for you. Well, actually I have my own software to do that, thank you very much, so bog off Photos. Except, it won’t, or should I say it didn’t until I fixed it today. You see, because it’s part of the operating system, it can’t be uninstalled. Actually it can, but apparently that causes more problems than it solves. I used Keyboard Maestro, a clever little piece of software that allows you to write ‘macros’ that can go behind the Mac OS and make things happen for you. What my macro does is wait until it senses that Photos has been triggered. When it has, it immediately shuts it down. It was with great satisfaction that I watched that colourful wee icon appear on the task bar, bounce a couple of times, then bog off! Isn’t technology wonderful when it works?

Went to Salsa at La Rambla. Had tapas first and it was very good indeed. Sat with Ronnie, Sharon and Peter and were entertained all through the meal. Dancing was good, but with Cameron in charge of the music, there were a few too many bachata tunes. Glad we agreed to drive instead of getting the train. About 25 minutes journey time instead of an hour and a half. Would certainly go back.

Tomorrow? More rain I think, so more walking in the rain perhaps. Today’s title is from Alex Harvey – Faith Healer.

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Out for a walk – 3 August 2017

This morning Scamp was out to Costa with her sister and I spent a reasonably happy hour backing up the July pics on to external hard drive. After that, I started reorganising Lightroom’s storage areas to make more sensible use of the space available. Such an interesting morning. I didn’t mind, it was raining all the time.

After lunch I took myself out in the sunshine, that had now replaced the rain, for a walk along the canal, but failed again to see the elusive kingfisher. Some day I’m sure I’ll see him again. What I did see was a family on a narrowboat sailing serenely along the canal, heading towards Auchinstarry. There was a couple at the front seated in chairs either side of the door and another three at the back, steering. The man at the front gave me a nod as they passed. It seemed such a leisurely way to spend a sunny afternoon.

Cut across the plantation and on to the railway walk, then on to Dumbreck before retracing my steps and heading back to the car along the old railway. It was only when I was crossing the plantation that I saw anything interesting and that was the flowers buds that became PoD.

Scamp made dinner today and it was a lovely stir fry.

Spoke to JIC later and got all the news on his trip to San Francisco.

Just a nice lazy day after the rain cleared, that is.

Tomorrow? Maybe Perth.

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I didn’t know this time existed – 13 July 2017

13 July v4It was 2.30am when the alarm sounded and the day had begun.  Up and out with nothing but half a cup of tea in me.  Drove to the airport along an almost deserted motorway.  Bus from the long stay to the airport proper.  Booked in security checked and sitting at breakfast in Frankie & Benny’s just before 5am.  Only one small problem at security when they wanted to inspect my black box of wires, connectors and assorted cables.  However the poor girl got a shock when she opened the bag and smelled my almost freshly ground coffee which was leaking from the lock ‘n’ lock tub.  That put a smile on her face.  It always does.  Flight was inconsequential but apparently the landing was a bit bumpy.  I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.  Besides, we had been warned that it might be an uncomfortable approach because of gusty winds.

Transfer to the ship from the airport was organized and quick with a half hour drive along the coast to Dubrovnik.  The ship is quite small, compared with others we’ve been on, but it has all we’ll need.  I was disappointed with the cabin, but in a way, it was what I expected from the deck plan.  Ramsay (bastard) Travel assured us it was an unrestricted view.  Unrestricted if you can ignore the chest high metal barrier three metres in front of the window and the door that cuts off our view forward.  I grumped about it all afternoon yesterday and I apologise for that now, Scamp.

After the grumping session, we went for a quick lunch in the Thomson version of ‘Smash ‘n’ Grab’, we went for a short walk into town.  We decided that we didn’t have time to go as far as the Old Town today and that when we return in a week’s time we’ll be sensible and get a taxi DV.  Walked for about an hour and then dropped into a bar for a beer.  Scamp must have been thirsty because she polished off a full pint of lager.  Cost us 50 Kuna which is about £6.50 so not bad at all.  I think we both needed a drink because the sun was shining from a clear blue sky and the temperature was 30 degrees  Walked back to the ship and found the wee market on the quayside where Scamp got a dress two years ago.

IMG_4092-2When we got back I began today’s SoD which is of an impressive road bridge across a wide estuary just outside the port.  It was a second attempt, but it turned out looking like the bridge.  I was satisfied.  More strange looks for a bit of Urban Sketching!

After the sketch was completed, it was time for the lifeboat drill.  It was the usual pantomime, but the most realistic we’ve been to with names and room numbers being checked off.  Our staff member was quite strict and officious pushing and prodding us until we were all in exactly the proscribed positions.

The drill passed and everyone walking around like Lego Men, it was time to put the lifejackets away and get ready for dinner.  Dinner was not as good as some we’ve had, and for the first time on a cruise we had to pay for a steak.  I didn’t.  Company at the table was ok, but one woman was amazed that I didn’t like Elvis! 

Went to the show which was ‘Motown’.  It was ok, but a bit too long.  Then it was a walk along the deck to see the sail away.  Strange having a sail away in the dark.  Went to watch the ‘Sailaway Party’ which seemed to be a lot of embarrassing ‘dad dancing’ before we went to bed. 

Day at sea tomorrow.  Time to relax.

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The Glorious Twelfth – 12 July 2017

The weather was glorious today. Better than the forecast had promised. Now, I don’t often say that!

Scamp was out early to get her eyebrows done. I had intended getting mine done, but feared I’d be told “Hopeless cases not accepted.” When she came back we dithered about for a while before deciding that we’d go out for lunch. Somewhere nice, was Scamp’s request. She’d thought about going to South Queensferry, but I don’t think either of us fancied the long drive, so we settled for a slightly shorter drive to The Stables, just outside Kirkintilloch. The food is usually good and there’s also a pleasant wee walk along the canal. The Stables won.

Got parked easily and followed the path on to the towpath and along towards Bishopbriggs. Walked for about a mile or so and then came back the same way, avoiding cyclists be-helmeted and the others who live dangerously. They’re the ones who are immortal (so far).

Lunch for Scamp was her usual Fish ’n’ Chips and mine was Southern fried chicken on the bone. Both were deemed decent enough food. Scamp had a glass of wine and I had a Becks Blue. The first mouthful of the ‘beer’ was ok, but after that I sensed a chemical tinge to it that I didn’t like. However, you could almost convince yourself that you were drinking beer.

Came home and Scamp went to cut the grass while I almost managed a snooze.

Salsa tonight was a great laugh. With even numbers it was inevitable that we’d be doing rueda moves, and so it was. Great fun was had by all.

Today’s PoD is of a piece of artwork on the side of a barge on the canal. Saw this and thought of you Hazy!

Deteriorating weather conditions tomorrow, but at least we had a scorcher today. Scamp even had her sun cream on!