15 Dec

Coffee – 15 December 2017

Today I was going for coffee, but not with the usual company.

The Campsie Fells enticed me to do a wee watercolour. It’s the snow that makes the hills so interesting. It smooths the shape, levelling everything out, but at the same time it enhances the ravines that cut their way down the slopes. Thankfully the snow didn’t quite reach us, because although it’s nice to look at, to paint and to photograph, it’s not so great to fight your way through.

By the time it was finished, it was time to drive to the town centre for coffee with Shona and Scamp. Usually I have no problems getting parked in Tesco car park, but today it was chock a block. No room at the inn and non in Tesco car park either. The only solution was to park in the main center car park, across the dual carriageway. I spotted a few spaces in the far away area of the car park and headed there. Then I found the reason for those empty parking spaces. None of the roads or pedestrian areas had been gritted or cleared of snow. Three days of thawing during the day and freezing at night had made the paths un-walkable. Where the snow and ice had melted and re-frozen, the suface was like a sheet of glass. Worse, it was like a sheet of glass with water running over it. Not good for walking on, but the company who own the town centre don’t care. They seem to think that having provided a car park, they don’t need to maintain it as well. Dobbers.

Had coffee with Shona and Scamp then gave Shona run home. I was surprised at the amount of snow still lying where she lives. We have no lying snow and we live only about two miles from Shona.

When I came home, the weather looked good and I reckoned I would manage an hour of decent light, so it was boots on and grab a camera time. The paths here are just as bad as those up at the town centre and the bin that was half full of salt grit last week was now lying empty. It won’t be filled again until next autumn. Saw a couple of deer in the woods of St Mo’s and managed to get a clear shot of one of them. The hills that had impressed me were turning pink as I climbed the mound at the end of the forest. I took a series of shots at varying zoom settings. What you see above was my favourite and became PoD.

Scamp sensibly decided to forego the delights of the choir carol concert tonight as the temperature dropped down to just above zero again. I think that was the right decision.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow in the morning to get the pain over with early!

15 Dec

A better day than yesterday – 7 December 2017

Yes, it was a better day than yesterday, but that wouldn’t be difficult.

We were driving to Wishaw General hospital for Scamp’s checkup today. Nothing to report, everything normal. It’s hard to believe that a year ago just now, the whole thing was just starting. Now, a year later we’re so grateful for that short conversation at salsa class.

I’d half intended driving in to Glasgow afterwards, but it was so cold and dismal, we decided to go straight home. Scamp had still a lot of prep to complete too before the Witches Christmas banquet tomorrow and I was hoping against hope that there would be a short break in the clouds to allow me to get out to take some photos. As it happened, we both achieved our stated goals.

While Scamp was out emptying the shelves at ASDA, I got ready to go out because the sun was shining. I’d just got changed and putting my boots on when the rain came on. I waited until it went off and grabbed my camera. Pity I didn’t look in the camera bag first, then I might have noticed the absence of the Tamron lens. I got today’s PoD outside the park. A rook sitting on the school railings. The pigeon above its head was a ‘lucky’. In the park I noticed a deer wandering around aimlessly just on the tree line. Carefully took out the Nikon and noticed that it had a short lens on. No long lens in the bag. Not to worry, I had my trusty Teazer in my pocket. Grabbed two shots and realised immediately that something was wrong. The camera was set to full automatic, which means its zoom is a combination of optical and digital. Never a good thing. By the time I got the settings changed, the deer, two of them were off and running into the trees. The images were useless. Basically, they were just cropped JPEG files.

Walked home with the rook photos in the bag so all was not lost and made pizza for lunch. It was good, but not great. Need more practise with oven baked pizza.

Spent the evening beginning the tidy-up for Jackie arriving next week. I’ve now found a sofa in the back room under discarded jeans, tee shirts, a couple of bags and a couple of drawing boards, so at least she’ll have somewhere to sleep! May have to continue the exercise over the weekend because I’m sure there’s a carpet under all the magazines. Looks like there’s a cold couple of days ahead with ice and snow forecast for tomorrow and into the beginning of next week.

I’d dropped Scamp off at the entrance to the hospital this morning and gone to park the car. At least, for once the architects had considered the parking requirements of this new hospital, but it was when I was walking back to the hospital building that I noticed an almost total lack of sensible footpaths. Yes, there were some twisty turny pretty looking pathways, but they simply aren’t practical. Once you’ve parked at a hospital, you just want to get into the building as quickly and as safely as possible. I was mulling this over as I was walking out of St Mo’s too, when I realised that the path I was following was made by the deer. Now, here’s an idea for the architects. Instead of creating meandering paths that look pretty, but are impractical, try this. Just grass the whole area. Keep the grass cut for about a year. After that people will have made up their own minds where the paths should go. You may not like it, but they will have taken the shortest and safest routes from A to B. Now all you need to do is turn those muddy paths into real walking routes with tarmac or paving slabs. I’ll even allow you to put curves in to satisfy your artistic desires. Now everyone is happy. If you later find that a new ‘people route’ had been created, firm that up too and there you have a democratic set of walking routes. If you want you can mention that you saw the idea here!

Tomorrow it’s my turn to cook.

  1. Bread is out of the freezer tonight and thawing as I write. It should be good to prove (rise) and be baked tomorrow morning. If not I will have time to make a new batch.

  2. Veg to chop and filo pastry to form into nests for the starters. May have time to bake it before I go out, if not I’ll leave it in Scamp’s capable hands.

  3. Time to make myself scarce. I think a trip in to Glasgow is on the cards.

15 Dec

Snow and Ice – 25 November 2017

Well, for once I stayed true to my intentions. This morning I went for a cold walk in the ice and snow.

Spotted a deer standing near a pond in St Mo’s, not the big pond, but a smaller one deeper in the trees. Got a few shots of it before it took fright, bringing a bigger deer with it. I’d have liked to have got a bit closer, but that wasn’t going to happen. I was wearing my red Bergy jacket and it doesn’t blend in well with the dark trees. However I did get a few shots and that was good because I hadn’t seen any deer in St Mo’s for ages. However, it was the high key photo of Cow Parsley that won PoD.

Came back and had a shower while Scamp made some tea and toast. Lovely! That is both Scamp and the tea and toast were lovely! Scamp thought we should go in to Glasgow on the bus and I thought that was a good idea too. We took the slow bus, the X3 in and surprisingly, the driver (David, I think) was an FP. Glasgow and especially JL was absolutely jumping. I heard one woman sayin “They’re going absolutely crazy over there.” I don’t know where ‘over there’ was, but folk seemed to have decided that today was the last shopping day before Christmas, grabbing anything they could get their hands on.

We decided the Glasgow visit was a bad idea, but we’d go for lunch anyway and Pulcinella was nominated as today’s restaurant. It was a bit cold in the restaurant, but the food was as good as ever. Scamp had Minestrone and Spaghetti Pulcinella and I had Pasta e Faglioli and Penne Amatriciana, all of which was excellent.

We walked back up to Sauchiehall Street and Scamp investigated clothes shops while I browsed the book shop. After that it was coffee, a cake and home on the X3 again after just missing the much faster X28. All of this was done in a temperature that claimed it was 2ºc. I don’t believe that.

That was about it. When we got home I tried again to get the Photos app to do what I wanted and eventually gave up. Fortunately I chanced on a website that said it was still possible to download iPhoto. I was never all that enamoured of iPhoto, but I was sure it would do what I wanted. I was right. It is a much better photo management tool than the dire Photos will ever be until Apple get their finger out and make it work properly. The upshot is that my 2018 calendar is almost finished. Well, version 1 is almost finished. There will be further versions before we get to print.

Mentioning print, I think that will be tomorrow’s task, the testing and price checking of the short leet of printers to replace the old Canon Pixma whose demise I still mourn.

15 Dec

A Gaggle of Goosanders – 23 November 2017

Busy day. Lots of baking and cooking and clearing up and laying tables, because Isobel was coming for dinner.

Since Isobel is , I had to ignore my usual bread recipe and make bread with gluten-free flour, lots of water, lots of oil and two egg whites. I’ve made the bread before and it turned out, much to my surprise, perfectly edible. Today, I was a bit more confident than I was last time, and possibly it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt. Made the dough, or more correctly, white slurry and poured it into a cake tin to rise. I reckoned I had an hour or so free, since Scamp would be out herding Gems into Abronhill for the afternoon, so I drove down to Auchinstarry to walk the canal, the plantation and the railway.

Walking along the canal I came across a flock? Crowd? I eventually settled on Gaggle of Goosanders, sailing merrily up and down the canal. Chasing one another and diving for fish. I don’t think I’ve seen so many. Too many to count and because they were crossing paths and almost crashing into one another, a pointless task to count them. I only see them on the canal in the winter. Do they overwinter here? Must check.

Dogs. Why are there so many dogs and doggy owners in the world? They all seemed to be congregating at Auchinstarry. It seemed that everywhere I looked there were dogs or folk looking for dogs. There was one exception, apart from me. One dog seemed to be following me and also seemed to be looking for an owner. My “Sorry mate. I’m not the owner you’re looking for” didn’t faze it at all. In fact it ran ahead of me and then waited until it was sure I was catching up before running on. Did it want me to follow it, or does that only happen in Lassie (or, if you’re Scottish, Black Bob)? But then it got distracted. A cyclist came down the path going in the opposite direction and it immediately chose him as its lost owner. The last I saw of it was the black blur tailing the cyclist for all it was worth, far down the path. I hope it got home safely.

Crossed into the plantation and came upon a woman delightedly ‘training’ her Staffie to ‘SIT’ and ‘STAY’. I don’t know who was having the most fun, the dog or her. A few bends later I noticed the buzzard sitting majestically in a tree and grabbed a few shots, before being investigated by what looked like two Dobermans with half their legs cut off. Maybe they were miniature Dobermans OR, as they both had sparkly rhinestone collars, maybe they were miniature Doberwomans. I’d have asked the owner what variety of dog they were, but she swept imperiously past without a word. Thankfully the rest of the walk was dog-free as was the trip to Tesco afterwards.

Got home to find that the bread had risen quite well, too well in fact and was oozing down the sides of the cake tin and over the worktop. Oops. Time to put the oven on I think. Spent the remainder of the afternoon making Pesto and Marinara sauce to cover the Italian Chicken. Thanks again Neil D’ for that recipe. The bread baked fine and was deemed a success by Isobel and Scamp. The chicken was partly successful as we hadn’t known that Isobel didn’t eat tomatoes, but she did manage to scrape the marinara off and all in all it was a good night. Lots of entertaining stories and just good conversation.

PoD was not the Goosander or the Buzzard, but the pretty white things growing over the canal. There’s no accounting for my taste!

Tomorrow I need to remove the door to the living room and the handles from the front door as the two seater is booked to make its exit to the charity shop. Seating will be at a premium then until Monday. Scamp has suggested that we utilize the sun loungers. It seems sensible because they were hardly ever used in the garden this summer!

15 Dec

Feeling Sheepish – 30 October 2017

Today was Monday and it was cold when we woke. Not as cold as it was when I finally went to bed last night. Then it was just above zero!

It’s a Monday and that means Gems. I spent a few minutes in their company, which was possible because their ranks were depleted today. Margie had a cough that she thought was Whooping Cough (nasty) and somebody else was missing too. I was stuck in the living room waiting for my iMac to finish backing up and then I fled upstairs to tidy my room. Sounds like a punishment, doesn’t it, but believe me, the punishment was downstairs. As quickly as I could I made a sharp exit and drove away to Fannyside Moor hoping to get some landscape shots.

I got the landscapes, but they weren’t too scintillating, so I went for a walk along the narrow wee road towards the farm, hoping that a stray sunbeam would light up a farm in the distance. It did, but then the camera seemed to have amnesia and thought it didn’t have a card in the slot – it did. When I finally got it to realise this, the light had gone. However some sheep in a park on the other side of the road were wondering what on earth I was doing. I took some shots just in case anything interesting could be gleaned from them. Then I noticed the big pumped up looking sheep. It looked a proper bruiser and I realised it was a ram and obviously there to ‘service’ the sheep. It was standing next to a much smaller ewe and I thought they made a nice couple, so grabbed a few shots of them. As I was walking away I saw the other sheep with the earrings in. It seemed as if it was out for the day with its friends. A proper girls day out, so I took its photo too. Two certainties in the bag and neither of them was a landscape.

Came home and Gems were ready to leave, so I had a chance to looking at the shots. Both shots were good which was a blessing because it was now about 3.30 and the sky was already beginning to darken as it does in Scotland at this time of year. Dinner was pasta with carbonara sauce and it was time to make it.

Drove to the STUC for Halloween Salsa. It was a hoot as always. Balloons, sweets, glowsticks and silly rueda games. The man is simply mad as a brush and everyone in both classes agreed it was a brilliant night. Probaly the best laugh was La Confusion where the leaders and followers are reversed. Men become followers and ladies become leaders. Such a simple thing really, really messes with your head.

PoD was the “Me ‘n’ The Missus” and sketch today was The Teazer.

Tuesday, no plans as yet, although we may go for a swim.

15 Dec

Finally – 20 October 2017

Up and out fairly early this morning. It was light and blue sky was beginning to show and it was before 10am which is pretty good for me.

Wandered over to St Mo’s wearing my old corduroy trousers which, being brown, don’t show that they are clabbered in muck! I’d put the Sigma 105mm macro lens on the Nikon, not expecting to see any deer because they’d start grazing around daybreak when I’d still be snoring. Just entered the pine woods when I spotted movement at the bottom of the hill. At first I thought it was a young deer, then I realised it was quite a large fox. It was so intent on jumping around, presumably hunting field mice an other rodents, it didn’t notice me and this gave me time to change to the Tamron 300. I fired off ten shots hoping one of them would turn out before it heard/smelled/saw me. That gave me time to concentrate and get a better shot. I got three more shots before he/she was off, striding away out away from the trees. A couple of seconds later I caught a glimpse of his/her brush just visible behind an old stone wall going in the other direction. Now it could have been a different fox, but the one I photographed was quite large and therefore probably quite old and sly. Fly as a weasel … or a fox! I guess it was the same one, loping off in one direction and then running back the opposite way to put me off the scent. Whatever, those were the last shots I was going to get of a fox this morning. I just hoped the Tamron had performed.

Didn’t see anything else of much note all along the walk through the deciduous trees, although I did see some interestingly shaped fungi. The fungi reminded me of some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural roof details. Could that be where he got his ideas from? Very Art Nouveau. The rest are just macro shots of bits of plants. I like them, but I don’t expect anyone else to.

In the afternoon Scamp decided to finally take the secateurs to the sweetpea plants that she’d lovingly grown from seed. They had provided posy after posy of flowers to brighten and scent the livingroom. The front garden will look quite bare now that they are gone. That gave us a reason to go out this afternoon to take some garden waste to the dump. Of course we should be putting it in the Brown recycling bin, but only when the cooncil decides that it can afford to buy some for us! Hell may freeze over …

Scamp was getting fired up to go to her Witches Disco Party tonight when I got an email from DPD to say that the phone would be delivered on Monday. While I was making my dinner tonight, after Scamp had left, I also got a text from the Vogons to say that someone would phone in the next half hour. Really, the Vogons must be strapped for cash, I could hardly make out a word the poor girl was saying. What it amounted to was that she was “Very, very, very, sorry”. There were probably a few more ‘verys’ there, but she did explain a few things and I did keep her on the phone for about 20 minutes before I finally acceded to her request to close the complaint. Hells Bells, the Vogons had kept me waiting for a week for my phone. I could keep her waiting for 20 minutes. That said, she was as good as her word and sent me a text later with confirmation that the phone would be delivered on Monday. She also confirmed that it was a new handset, not a second hand one as I suspected it might be. You have to be careful dealing with Vogons, as I’ve found out.

Dinner tonight was an Ostrich Sirloin Steak. I’m not sure I’ll have one again. It was a bit tough and not all that tasty. Bear in mind, though, that I was doing deals with the Vogons while I was eating it.

Tonight’s sketch is of a bottle and glass of St Peter’s Plum Porter (an alliterative stout). Very nice it tasted too.

Tomorrow? Well, it depends when Scamp arrives home and what state she’s in au matin!

15 Dec

No animals were injured – 30 August 2017

Spent an hour this morning cleaning out one of the drawers in the chest of drawers. It was the least opened one, the bottom one. Actually, one of the easiest to do because there was less junk in it. I also took down some of my old paintings and filed them away. Still loads to do, but a little every day makes it easier, or so Scamp says.

Just before lunch, Scamp decided that she was going to shell out on a portable Dyson. We’d talked about it before, but she had decided then that it wasn’t all that necessary. However, while I had been looking at printers in PC World, she had been comparing and contrasting the different models of Dyson. This just shows how PC World has changed. A few years ago it was a world of PCs with the occasional Mac to keep the weirdos happy, but now half the stores are taken up with white goods or vacuum cleaners, TVs and other non PC (in its widest sense) items. No longer can you talk to geeks about SCSII cables, USB gender changers and portable hard drive speeds. Now it’s just a household electrical store. It’s just not the same. It’s not a place to spend a wet Sunday afternoon in mooching around the latest desktop computer and comparing specs and prices. What it the world coming to?

Thankfully Scamp wanted to go to JL for the Dyson. At least there the salespeople have had a bit of training and seem to know what they’re talking about, as opposed to PC World and Currys where they haven’t a clue. The downside of the loss of the Geek! After testing out the different models, she settled on a Dyson V7. Halfway between the underpowered V6 and the scary V8 Animal. The lady had asked us if we had a dog and I had started to get worried. Maybe you had to have one to qualify for the purchase of the cleaner. Or maybe they were giving one away with every purchase. I don’t like dogs and I’ve heard they don’t even taste like chicken … er, but moving right along. The reason she had asked was that the scary ’Animal’ range is intended for picking up animal hair. She wasn’t all that clear about what you did with it after you’d picked it up. I remember Hazy talking about ‘knitting with cat hair’. So no, we could make do with the ordinary V7.

Took it home and plugged it in to give it a full charge and while Scamp caught up with her soap watching, I wandered round St Mo’s and just missed Mr Grey. He was hiding in the bushes but when he saw me he was off like a shot squawking his derision at me. I did manage to grab the snail on the dried cow parsley seed head. There wasn’t much colour about it, so I turned it into a mono shot and that seems to suit it.

Salsa tonight was ok, but my feet were killing me wearing the dancing shoes. They are the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I couldn’t bear to wear them for any more than the beginners class. I may forget to take them next time we go dancing!
In the advanced class we went over Espejo.

No plans for tomorrow. Just hope we’re not driving again.

15 Dec

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!

15 Dec

Continuing the journey into reality – 29 July 2017

The day dawned dull and damp, but we forced ourselves to get up and go out.

Scamp noticed the squirrel sitting at the end of our fence. It sat there for ages, ignoring the rain and high winds. Liked this shot best, so it became PoD.

We took a trip to B&Q and Dobbies to look for secateurs. What an exciting life we live eh? Didn’t get any.

Back home we lifted the second pail of potatoes and got 640g from two seed potatoes. That with our remaining peas will form the veg input to tomorrow’s dinner. Although there is a lot of water lying in the back garden and we do have a bird bath, but I have to admit that the trout we’re having wasn’t farmed in our garden.

Tonight’s dinner came courtesy of Golden Bowl. It’s ages since I had Sweet & Sour Pork Balls. Low in saturates, high in polyunsaturates and low in cholesterol. As long as you don’t eat it, that is. On the way back from Condorrat, two blokes on the radio were talking about a Pizza Crunch which is basically a cheap pizza dipped in batter and deep fried. Usually eaten with chips. That made me feel a bit better about my Chinese meal.

That was the sum and substance of our Saturday. Hopefully tomorrow will see us knocking at the door of reality.

15 Dec

It rained – 29 June 2017

Today it was supposed to rain and it did.  It forgot to stop.

To cure our cabin fever we drove to Bishopbriggs to have lunch in M&S and to get some messages. My roll ’n’ bacon was lovely, the coffee, not so, too weak. Scamp’s tommy mato soup was lovely, her coffee, no so, too strong. Neither of us happy. Maybe Hazy was right, maybe I am a coffee snob. Maybe Scamp and I should have simply swapped cups, but I’ve only just thought of that solution, and it’s far too late. Maybe we’ll know for next time.

While Scamp went to look for bargains in Next, I went to look at the toys in the PC World toyshop. Tried again to like the new 64 bit Linx 2-in-1 computer / tablet, but failed. Still couldn’t get the touch pad to work in a predictable way. Instead I watched a crowd of wee boys, S1 and S2 I’d reckon, baiting the security guards and the assistants by splitting up and messing about with the ‘tronic stuff while one or two were pretending to steal stuff. First day of the school holidays and it’s raining. Can’t blame them for looking for some entertainment.

After we came home, I got itchy feet again and went for a walk in the rain to St Mo’s and spotted a hedgehog in the distance. At first I thought it was a rabbit, then realised that rabbits hop and hedgehogs amble. I can’t remember the last time I saw a hedgehog, but there it was walking along the path towards me. Just out looking for its supper, before I went home to make ours (fish curry for us, and I think the hedgehog was having slugs.) I had to use flash because the light level was so low at 5 o’clock in the afternoon in June! That’s Scotland fur ye!

So, at least I had a PoD. Couldn’t settle on a sketch and then I spied my A6 Moleskine. I could draw that, and so I did. I did think about sketching it open at a page with a drawing of it open at a page and on that page was a drawing of it open … You get the idea I’m sure. A bit like an Escher sketch. It’s called the Droste Effect and you can get a plugin for that ill named Photoshop clone ‘The Gimp’ that will produce the effect with a little bit of Higher maths applied, but it really is a bit of a cliché. That’s why the sketchbook is open at a blank page. Not a deep meaning, that’s just how it was, sitting on the table.

Tomorrow Scamp is going into Glasgow for lunch with the Witches and I may go in to Glasgow myself to do the final ’June Ink’ drawing for this year. I might also get myself a new Moleskine sketchbook to replace the one that is now full, if I can remember the exact kind it was. There are so many different types and surfaces, not all conducive to watercolour washes.