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Coffee and Sourdough – 29 March 2018

Not together. No, that would not be a good idea.

Today was meant to be coffee for four, but it became coffee for three. Fred, Colin and Me. Val being laid up in bed with shingles. Poor man. The replacement of Val with Colin changed the dynamic of the group completely, and also the proportions of the coffee. Instead of two Cortados and one Americano it was one Cortado and two Americanos. Topics discussed were school awards for LGBT, FPs (Former Pupils), FCs (Former Colleagues), gardening and sketching. It was interesting to have a different perspective on things, not better or worse, just different. Maybe refreshing would be a better word.

After an hour or so we split up and went our separate ways. Me to go shopping, Fred to pick up Margo and Colin to go back to his garden. I went looking for plant labels for Scamp. That’s what she asked for and that’s what she got today. After a very late lunch I managed half an hour or so in St Mo’s looking for something interesting. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Just a rotting fencepost, but lots of lovely textures in it. I was surprised to see that the number of the ladybirds I’ve been checking had decreased. Maybe the little bit of sun we’ve had has encouraged them out to look for food. It’s good to see as it might be another sign of spring, although it looks like there’s more snow in week ahead.

Back home, I fed the hungry sourdough starter. I’ve been buying sourdough bread from Tesco ever since I read that book by the same name that Hazy recommended. It’s lovely bread. Very open textured and quite rough. Best eaten as toast I find. The secret to sourdough bread is the starter.  Basically it’s the natural yeast in wholemeal flour that’s been actively encouraged to grow and multiply in a warm, damp environment.  Apparently, and a chemist would know better, the ‘sour’ part comes from the lactic acid which is a byproduct of the action of the yeast on the starches in the flour.  On Sunday I finally began making a ‘starter’. It’s not difficult, just a bit long winded.

  • 200g Stoneground bread flour
  • 200ml Water (30ºc)
  1. Put it into a large (1litre) container and beat some air into it.
  2. Cover with a breathable covering.
  3. Leave for 48 hours.

For the next 10 days repeat the following daily:

  1. Chuck away half.
  2. Add 100g Stoneground bread flour and 100ml water.
  3. Beat some air into the mixture.

So far I’m on day 4 and the mixture is looking interesting (lots of bubbles) and smelling interesting (smells a bit like milk). Hopefully that means the natural yeasts in the flour have started working and multiplying.  And No, Hazy, I haven’t played it any music.  Maybe I’ll try some Tom Waits on it, but probably Salsa would be better!  I’ll keep you posted.

No firm plans for tomorrow. Maybe go to Dunfermline.

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The Fit Family – 27 March 2018

Today was gym day.

I avoided it yesterday by going cycling instead, but today I had to bite the bullet and go, because Scamp too had decided it was time to revisit the machines of torture. That said, we did take it easy in the morning and had our coffee before we grabbed the bags and went out in the rain.

It was harder than I anticipated. I did my 12 minutes on the recumbent cycle and then frittered away some more time on some of the weight machines and the treadmill before finishing up on the leg press. Scamp worked the treadmill for 15 minutes or so then competed for a place in next year’s Boat Race with a sparkling performance on the rowing machine. Next it was time for a relaxing swim and it may have been something we said or maybe the excessive sweat from my exertions was overpowering, but everyone left the pool when we went in. A few lengths of the minuscule pool and ten minutes in the sauna and we were out. That’s it for another week. Scamp thinks we might go earlier next time. She mentioned 8am, but I think (hope) that was a joke. If not, it was wishful thinking.

In the afternoon I went for a walk around St Mo’s to see if there was anything wanting its photo taken. Couldn’t see much at first, but then I spotted the little green shoots of sycamore seedlings sprouting through the leaf litter (PoD). Don’t know if many of them will survive, but it was a hopeful start seeing all the green shoots. One final shot of what may become a Larch flower (https://flic.kr/p/RZNASn). They look really remarkable when they burst into colour. Never knew pine trees had such beautiful blooms. It’s amazing what you see when you take the time. Just because there were no deer or foxes in the woods doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. You just have to look a little more carefully. It’s even better if you have a macro facility or lens for your camera. Once you’ve seen the world from 20mm in front of your nose, you’ll understand the fascination of this kind of photography.

It had been dry for most of the afternoon, but the rain came on when I was walking home, but it wasn’t such a dull day after all.

Tomorrow is Dancing Day with the possibility of a slightly different plan. Who knows?

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A Straggle of Geese – 26 March 2018

So, I thought why go to the gym when I could exercise in the open air and the sunshine. Then the sun went away.

First on the list this Monday was ‘messages’ at Tesco where I bumped into Fred out doing his messages too. There’s a character in the book I’m reading called Grumpy Bob. It could also be Grumpy Fred!

Three slices of bacon between two slices of toasted sourdough bread was lunch. Not my own sourdough, I hasten to add because my sourdough starter hasn’t started yet. It’s early days though. I only made it up yesterday and it shouldn’t show any signs of life for 48 hours. It’s living in the living room now where the temperature is more even and slightly warmer than the cupboard that was its home yesterday. Anyway, the bacon sandwich was an early lunch before getting the bike out again and getting some outdoor exercise. The sun that had promised so much in the morning had gone into hiding by the time I wheeled the Dewdrop out of the door.

Back down to the same landfill site I visited last week. While I was debating if it was warm enough to take of the leg warmers, a large skein of geese appeared flying due west. I’d have thought they would have been flying south, but they were following the train lines and heading west. The patterns they made in the sky were amazing with those birds at the front of the three or four Vee formations falling back to the rear while others took their place. Even more amazing was the sound of their calls back and forth as they flew. They were definitely talking to each other. It was the noise you hear in a large hall where hundreds of people are having scores of conversations. It really is a delight to listen to all the different voices of the birds in flight. I eventually decided that it was indeed warm enough, then realised why they call them leg Warmers. It was quite cool after I took them off.

I walked to the place I went to last week, hoping to see some newts, but none were cruising round the pond today. In fact there was very little sign of life at first glance. However, when I went for a walk I spotted the crow sitting on a vent pipe and thought it made and interesting shape. Watched Skylarks flying up from their nesting sites among the reeds and listened to their song as they rose. In fact, as I write this I’m listening to The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams. That’s what I like about Spotify, I can instantly listen to almost any piece of music as I sit at the computer or in the car. Thank you again Hazy & Neil. I just had to photograph the Coltsfoot Daisies. They always remind me of my dad. He explained to me how they always grow in the poorest ground.

When I was leaving, another two skeins of geese flew over, again flying west. They started out as one large cluster, then split into two distinct groups, seeming to prefer to fly round rather than over me. This time I took a photos and managed to fill the frame with the larger of the two groups. Once they had passed me, the joined up again and turned as one towards the south. Again the call and response from all the individuals was something wonderful to hear.

My legs were sore after today’s exercise and I probably did more work than if I’d gone to the gym, but I don’t mind. It was a day in the fresh air, but I did put the leg warmers on again for the run home.

Dinner was Prawn & Pea Risotto with a poached egg on top. I think I decided on Saturday that I’d make it for us. Scamp gave me ‘poaching pockets’ for a wee silly Christmas present and they worked perfectly, keeping the poached egg neat and tidy. Must remember next time I make it that 3 minutes is perfect for a runny egg with firm white.

Salsa tonight was fun with Jamie G giving the 6.30 class the full Uhura story to explain the move. There were a lot of puzzled looks after his ‘explanation’. Tonight’s moves were The New One and The New Thing. Interesting moves is slightly thoughtless titles.

I should mention that I know it’s a gaggle of geese, but as you can probably just see, these geese were straggling across the sky.

Tomorrow it looks like rain, so it will be the gym and maybe a swim.

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Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2018

Today is Scamp’s Birthday.

Because it was Scamp’s birthday it was my turn to make the breakfast. I also brought up the presents for her to open. After that, Hazy phoned, then we waited for the post to arrive with Hazy’s prezzy. An exciting morning.

Drove down to Troon for a walk along the beach before we went to lunch at Scott’s of Troon. On the way down, Scamp got a FaceTime call from Jaime and Madeleine from Trinidad! Most unexpected and so nice to see them again, although I didn’t contribute much to the conversation as I was driving.

Troon was busy because it was a lovely bright sunny day. Parked by the sea wall and walked along the esplanade to the sand dunes, then back along the beach to the car park. That’s where I saw the Micra driver who thought he/she was a motorcyclist. Would these people park in a disabled space? Probably not, but they think it’s fair game to park in a space for motorcycles. It would have been good if a hulking big Harley had parked right behind them, preferably with a hulking big Harley rider sitting in the saddle. That didn’t make PoD. The accolade went to THE best fig in Morrisons.

Lunch in the conservatory of Scotts was lovely, and went as follows:

Scamp:

  • Alex Vause Gin cocktail (Hic!)

  • Selection of breads (shared)

  • Smoked haddock, king prawn and pea risotto

  • Sticky Toffee Pudding Sundae

  • Coffee

Me:

  • Selection of breads (shared)

  • Roast breast of chicken with carrot puree, veg, fondant potatoes and black pudding & chorizo bon bons

  • Mini Eton Mess

  • Coffee

After that we poured ourselves into the car and drove home via Morrisons, still in the sunshine that someone had ordered for Scamp’s birthday. Whoever you were, thank you. It was worth every penny.

A lovely day with a lovely lady!

Tomorrow? Back to the real world. Hoping to go in to Glasgow with Fred to an art sale.

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Feeling Refreshed – 23 March 2018

Scamp was going out for coffee with Shona, so I had all morning to swear at the Toshiba or to do some painting.

I chose painting, but there was no gesso. Gesso is a thick, sometimes textured base coat you put on the card, canvas or wood you’re going to paint on with oils or acrylic. It can almost be replaced with acrylic paint or even emulsion paint these days. I chose acrylic and slapped a muddy brown layer on both sides of the card, then hung the card up to dry. That was about 10am. I think it’s still damp tonight at 11.25pm. So, it was back to swearing at the Tosh.

Actually there was very little swearing involved because I’d found an obscure website where one member claimed that it was possible to ‘refresh’ Windows 10 without losing any data or apps. Everyone else said it was impossible. I like a challenge, so I followed the blokes instructions, downloaded the ‘media creation tool’ from the Mickysoft site which took about an hour and a half, unpacked it and found I needed an 8gb memory stick. I didn’t have one that size that wasn’t being used so as it was lunchtime I called a halt to the computer nonsense and Scamp and I had lunch.

Set off to Sunny Coatbridge to see if I could get my hands on a Linx 12×64, because according to the Currys website, they had them in stock. I wandered round the lovely, selection of laptops. Some too big 17”. Some too small 10”. None just right 12”. So, feeling a bit like Goldilocks I went looking for an assistant who wasn’t checking his Facebook status to ask if they had the elusive Linx. The bloke I asked didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, but thankfully the youngster beside him who was just putting his phone away said he thought the had run out of them, but he’d check. He did and they had one left in the store, but it was in a box and he couldn’t open it. Bummer. But at least they had them. Maybe Stirling would have one, but that would be another day. Got a cheap memory stick and left.

Drove up to a dead end road at the back of Cumbersheugh Airport that cuts across the Antonine Wall and that’s where I got PoD. Looking North across Banknock, not to be confused with Bangkok. Sounds similar, different planet!

Came home via The Works to get some gesso, so over the weekend, I can paint, if not a masterpiece, at least something to take my mind of the failure of this wee drive to refresh my old PC laptop.

What a surprise! It took about five hours, but at the end of that I have a working Window’s 10 laptop. The ‘media creation tool’ and the memory stick did their work flawlessly. Not only that, the re-install did not touch any of my apps. Fantastic. Give that man on the obscure website a coconut. The laptop will still need to be reset properly and securely before I trade it in, but that was a ‘Wee Challenge’ that worked out well.

Speaking about coconuts, Scamp made Coconut and Fish Curry for dinner and it was really, really nice. Didn’t sound nice, I know, but it worked so well. The flavours blended beautifully.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for a sunny day for someone’s birthday and a trip down to Troon for lunch.

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Fire! – 22 March 2018

I decided to have some ‘me time’ today in Glasgow.

The plan was for me to take the bus in to Glasgow and then go to the West End on the subway for some sketching in the Botanic Gardens, then grab that shot from yesterday when I returned to the City Centre. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

On the way in there was an enormous pall of smoke on the horizon. A really mucky looking pall of smoke. Then I noticed Scamp had sent me a text to say that there was a big fire on Sauchiehall Street (AKA Sausage Roll Street). As we got near Glasgow I could see that it was indeed a big fire. Came out of the bus station and wandered round the side of the Concert Hall to see if there were any photos to be taken. There were, and hundreds of people were taking them with every conceivable photographic device, from old clunky SVGA point ’n’ shoot cameras to professional full-frame DSLRs and everything in between. And then there were the phones. This was a big incident. I took some right away with the Teazer.
First rule of photography: Take the shot, then think about it. You might not get another chance.

After that I started looking for a decent angle and a way to isolate some of the action. I took about 15 – 20 shots before the police came and ordered us across the road, behind a newly erected safety cordon. Really, it was like herding cats. Some folk moved away as directed while others, new on the scene said “Oh, what’s happening there?” and slipped under the cordon (because it wasn’t applicable to them, obviously) and calmly started shooting with their shiny new smartphones. I sometimes feel that the police can be a bit overpowering and heavy handed, but today they deserved medals, each and every one of them for not losing their cool and just huckling some of the numpties off to Stewart Street (polis station). By that time I had all the shots I wanted and walked down Bucky Street to get the subway to Kelvinbridge.

Walked up Great Western Road to the Botanics and after a walk round the Kibble Palace, I went back out and started sketching the Victorian glasshouse in all its wrought iron glory. Not the best sketch I’ve done, but it got the gist of the building. Also, although the temperature was almost 10ºc, it was still cool. Maybe too cool to be sitting on a park bench for the half hour it took for the sketch.

Back down Byres Road and got the subway back to Glasgow. Took it to St Enoch’s to the Nero for a spot of light and late lunch. Nice wee alliteration there! Walked up Bucky Street to the new even more extreme cordon, this time cutting off Jessops and the other Cafe Nero (glad I hadn’t banked on getting my lunch in there!) The polis had craftily blocked off one of the entrances to Buchanan Galleries and just extended the cordon across the road there. Everyone was behaving themselves now because the flames were almost out and there wasn’t much to see. Out through JL and was just crossing over to the road when I saw the shot on the right at the top. It looked like a film set. Now if that had been London or Birmingham or Manchester, the words on everyone’s lips would have been “Terrorist Incident”. In Glasgow it was “So is Lauders Bar open?” (Lauders is the pub on the corner next to the fire.)

PoD was the firefighters on the extended platform, top left. Whatever these blokes get paid, it’s not enough.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. Scamp’s meeting Shona for a catch-up. I might paint.

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Just a Monday – 19 March 2018

Today was just a Monday.

After lunch Scamp went to collect some of the Gems ladies and reported that it was a lovely day.  I had been considering an afternoon at the gym, but it looked so good with blue skies, sunshine and light winds that I changed my mind and took the car out to Bishopbriggs to have a look at the Linx 12×64 2 ‘n’ 1 laptop.  Unfortunately in contradiction to their website, they didn’t have one.  Allegedly they had one in Coatbridge, but I wasn’t in the mood for a run out there and anyway, a walk would be much better, so that’s what I did.

I drove back to Cumbersheugh and parked down by the station then went for a walk along the Luggie Water which is where I got today’s PoD, a bunch of Snowdrops.  Thankfully most of the real show is going fast.  Warm breezes and some direct sunshine is doing the good work.  Got talking to a bloke walking an enormous Alsatian.  It started off with us complaining about  the state of the Luggie and the dearth of fish in it these days and finished with him telling me his life story.  Eventually I did manage to get away.  I felt kind of sorry for him because he just seemed to ramble on from one thing to another.  It was almost as if he had nobody to talk to and didn’t want to let you go.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I had to get home to make the dinner before we went out dancing.

Dinner on a Monday is pasta.  At my mum’s it was always mince ‘n’ tatties on a Monday.  Here it’s pasta.  Today, for a change, I thought I’d make a version of one of Scamp’s favourites, Spaghetti dello Chef which is spaghetti with vegetables and cheese.  Mine was spaghetti with onions, mushroons, tomatoes, peppers and capers.  Finished with parmesan shavings, fresh ground pepper, salt and extra virgin olive oil.  It was a success.

Salsa tonight was the usual chaos in the first class with lots of old moves and a few new ones.  Second class was equally chaotic with a few old moves and a few new ones.  Can’t remember the names of them all, but today’s new move was Stormtrooper 2.  We also went over Stormtrooper 1 and the one that’s still called ‘The New One’.  Apparently the cost of a block is going up for the first time in 10 years, from £35 to £40.  Nobody objected.  It’s still good value.

Tomorrow, if it works out as the weather man says, will be another good day with more sunshine, temperatures scraping under double digits and light winds again.  Scamp wants to go into  the garden.  I might get my bike out.

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Oh no! More snow – 18 March 2018

Looked out this morning and the snow was still falling.

The snow continued all day, it may still be falling, I haven’t the heart to check. It did put a bit of a dampener on the day. Having said that, it did tail off for a while in the afternoon, and tomorrow is supposed to be a bit warmer.

On Friday night, or to be more exact, Saturday morning when we got back from Larky, the kitchen fluorescent light wouldn’t work, so we suspect it needed a new tube. This morning I got the steps out, took the bulb out, cleaned the contacts and plugged it back in and it worked. Either a dirty contact was the problem or, more likely, the spider who usually maintains the light was dead. Its poor wee desiccated carcass was lying on the diffuser. It had had a hard life, poor thing.

With the light sorted, I started restoring my Linx to a previous incarnation. After a few false starts, I finally got it done and it has screwed up Windows Update, because there’s not enough room on the C:\ drive for it to download the latest update. Two fingers up to you Mr Windows 10! Now I just have to remember the sequence of operations to fool Lightroom into believing that the TZ70 is actually a TZ60. Don’t worry Scamp and JIC, I’m not going into details, it would be gobbledegook to you, and Hazy only speaks IOS now.

After lunch Scamp and I had a discussion and decided to make a final decision about the Sunday Social later in the afternoon. I went out for a walk around St Mo’s to get some last pictures of the snow before it disappears until December (ever hopeful). There weren’t many animal tracks to be seen. I did see some frog spawn in the ponds, but no sign of their creators. I was reading last year’s blog (You can too, there’s a link from this page if you’re reading on a tablet or a computer. Can’t remember how to access it on a phone) and read that the larch trees were pushing out their little ‘shaving brush’ needles, but there were none in evidence today. I won’t be sure that the bad weather is past until I see the larch trees showing some green and the deciduous trees showing some leaf. Trees know more than you think they do. Read ‘The Hidden Life of Trees’ by Peter Wohlleben if you don’t believe me. This man knows a thing or two about trees.

When I came back, not exactly frozen because I had layer upon layer of clothes on, we made the decision to stay put today and leave the Sunday Social to the warmer weather that’s coming. You could see that neither of us really wanted to cancel, but it was the sensible thing to do and sometimes, just sometimes we are sensible.

Today’s PoD is the Cladonia shot on the right.

Hopefully everything will be better in the morning and the snow will be on its way to some other more deserving recipients. That will mean it will be a normal Monday with all that that entails.

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A cold day in the toon – 17 March 2018

Late getting up and moving this morning and there was just a hint of snow on the ground.

After last night, we decided to get the bus into Glasgow. Everybody else had decided that was the way to travel too. But the time we were coming out of Muirhead, the bus was full, especially full of weans. Scamp thought it was Dad Takes The Kids Out Day. I thought she was probably right.

Went to look for a holiday laptop in JL. Sorry JIC an Scamp, whizz on to the next paragraph.  Y’see the problem is I like using Lightroom 6 which will allow me to process the RAW files from all my cameras, but LR6 on a PC only works with Windows 64 bit. The little Linx tablet I use is great, but its version of Windows is 32 bit. For stress-free work, I need a small (11” ish) laptop that works in 64bit. I thought I’d found the ideal one in an HP Stream, but warning bells were ringing. I’d seen a lot of them for sale really cheap as refurbished models and although their spec mentioned that they used Windows 10 64bit, when I did some digging, I discovered that the big problem was that they only had 32GB of storage and now that Windows 10 automatically updates itself regularly, it fills up that 32GB really quickly with its update files. This slows the system down and even worse, the processor is a Celeron which is slow to begin with. Bah! Back to the start.

Ok, JIC and Scamp, you can take off the blindfold and the headphones and return to the blog.

After a coffee in Nero we walked down Bucky Street and along to Argyle Street. Scamp was going to M&S and I was going to Millers Art Shop I was looking for a new brush. Got one after paying more than I’d intended and Scamp added a few new holiday clothes to her Wishlist. We couldn’t decide were, or even if we were having lunch. It was so cold and there were flakes of snow blowing around and basically we had been out for an hour or so. The decision was made to just go home and order take-away tonight. Got to the bus station just as the bus started reversing, but the driver stopped and let us in. Thank you Mr Driver.

Back home we had a Golden Bowl dinner and watched TV before Scamp went to bed earlier than last night and I wrote up two days’ blog posts. PoD is called Behind Bars. It’s a shot of part of a panoramic painting on a building on Argyle Street through some scaffolding poles.

Tonight it’s snowing again. Hopefully it will be gone tomorrow afternoon and we’ll get to Sunday Social. If not we’ll stay at home.

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Going for the messages – 14 March 2018

Since snow is forecast for Friday, we though it would be prudent to go get some messages today.  Also, our ballroom class was cancelled for today because the other two couples were on holiday.

Drove to Morrison’s in Falkirk to get some messages, three Tesco bags full of messages … and wine … and beer. We weren’t allowed to drink any today because of the Four Dry Days embargo. Actually, it will probably be Five Dry Days this week if I’m driving on Friday, as is likely. Anyway, Morrison’s in Falkirk was the highlight of the day really.

After lunch I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got the above PoD shot there. They are Cladonia, a type of lichen. They seem to grow on nothing. Nutrient free boulders are a typical habitat. These wee things seem to survive on air alone. Wouldn’t do for me. Certainly not after lugging three shopping bags of messages out of the car.

Salsa tonight was a game of two halves. Jamie’s first class was oversubscribed in men, so I bit the bullet and helped the other class, which Shannon ‘taught’. I wouldn’t really call that teaching. Teaching is where you increase the knowledge of your students. I didn’t see any increase in the knowledge of any of the pupils. She didn’t teach anything new, except that the girls should flirt with the guys. Not my idea of a dance class. Neither is repeating the same moves ad nauseam. What they want to do is learn, something, Shannon. Repeating the same set of moves for an hour is not teaching them to dance.

The second class started out with too many guys too, but ended up even. It was much more fun. Jamie’s classes at all levels are always fun, even when he’s a bit grumpy, which he has been in the past. Even although this was a beginners class, it was fun to help with and people were smiling. That’s what teaching is about. If you can make a class laugh while they are learning, they will come back for more.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Val and Fred in the afternoon. Scamp is having coffee in the morning with Isobel. I doubt if either of us will be having Flat Blacks.