Preparation Day – 6 July 2018

A day of bad coffee, pizzas and surprise visitors

A trip to Tesco in the morning bought almost all the ingredients for tomorrows dinner with Crawford & Nancy and June & Ian. Scamp set to to build the dessert while I sat around and solved today’s Sudoku. We all have skills, we just have to utilise them the way we see best. After the prep was done, we went out for what Scamp called “a Light Lunch”. After ticking off the likely venues on our fingers, we plumped for Craigend Nursery. It’s a plant nursery, but their big claim to fame is their restaurant/cafe. We used to go there a lot, but now not so much. I know why. Burnt water pretending it’s coffee and a panini you could hammer in nails with was not what Scamp meant by “a Light Lunch”. Having said that, her Fish Finger Sandwich which was three sandwiches of hefty sliced bread filled with deep fried fish was lovely. Three slice was too much for her, so I helped her clear her plate. The attention to detail and desire to satisfy customers was evident when the girl making up the bill asked “Was everything alright?” and Scamp replied “No, not the best”. The girl’s reply was “Sorry”. No desire to ask what was wrong or even to pass it up the chain if she felt she couldn’t help us, just “Sorry”. We’re sorry too. This used to be a good place for a lunch, light or otherwise. Now it’s a victim of its own success.

Back home and there was cleaning to be done. There were also photos to be taken and I know which of these tasks was on my to-do list. Grabbed my cameras and drove down to Auchinstarry to look for the elusive kingfisher. Didn’t find it, but I did find Mrs Swan out with the weans. That became PoD. Most interesting shot was a green caterpillar on a mission to cross my path as quickly as possible. Maybe it was going to a meeting or something. Used the new macro lens at ground level to get a more interesting point of view. Oh it was hot. The day had started just over 16ºc but it must have been well above twenty now.

Walked back and made some bread dough to try out Scamp’s idea of bread rolls pinched from Epicurean, then sat in the garden for a while with Scamp, but without a drink as I was nominated driver for tonight, taking Scamp and Moira to a witches evening in Bonnybridge. It was after I got back and was halfway through dividing up the dough into the individual rolls, while heating my pizza dinner that our surprise visitors arrived. Crawford & Nancy stood on the doorstep thinking I was joking when I said it was tomorrow night they should be coming. I don’t know who was more embarrassed, them or me. I invited them in, but told them that Scamp was out for the night, but they refused. Hope they come back tomorrow!

I had intended getting a pizza from Domino’s, but after asking for an anchovy and olive pizza and being taken through the script:

“Did you say it was a pizza you wanted?” YES.
“What size pizza?” MEDIUM
“What would you like on it?” Anchovy and Olive
“Did you say Olive?” YES, and Anchovy
“We don’t have anchovies.” FORGET IT

Poor wee soul, he seemed surprised. Why didn’t I want his pizza. He could have told me at the start that they didn’t do anchovies, but that would have taken him off-script into the dangerous territory where you have to think and that just won’t do!

So, tomorrow. Should be making starter in the morning then Scamp will be assembling dessert and maybe we’ll go for lunch somewhere, but not Craigend.

“I ordered up some Suzette … – 27 June 2018

… I said could you please make that Crêpes.”
(Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream)

Painting class in the morning and today it was a pelican we were rendering on paper. It wouldn’t have been my first choice and in the end it looked a bit more like a distorted swan than the exotic fish eater. Still, as as I used to say, it’s done now. Scamp went dancing while I was struggling with a pelican and she was much more successful than me.

After that we went for a swim, walked round the ship and did a bit of dolphin spotting. However, there were other things in the sea, mostly junk. Bottles (maybe some with messages in), leaves, pieces of paper and a turtle. I thought it was a leaf at first, but then I realised that we were about ten decks up from the sea and there isn’t much to give a sense of scale. Then it moved its flippers and leaves don’t have flippers. It was a turtle. Too late I told Scamp and by that time it was a little brown smudge on the top of the water. We waited and waited and only saw one more. No photos I’m afraid, no time to get the camera focused on the little creatures and take the shot. Not when you’re travelling at 20 knots on an undulating sea. Still, we saw turtles. Also saw a pod of dolphins. No photos there either, but I did get a good shot of blue water where the dolphin had been.

Months ago we booked a meal at Epicurean, assuming that as it was the first week of the cruise, it would be menu ‘A’. It’s not as simple as that. Menus are rotated on a four or five day cycle and we got menu ‘B’ which to Scamp’s disappointment didn’t finish with a Crêpe Suzette. After what was an otherwise faultless meal we booked tonight’s dinner in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be menu ‘A’. It didn’t disappoint. We sat at the rail at the back of the ship watching the world drift by and looking out at where we’d been. Below us were the rear swimming pools and we could listen in to conversations of swimmers doing the same as us, but without the encumbrance of posh dress or heavyweight kilt, because tonight was a ‘Black & White’ dress code. National dress trumps ‘Black & White’, by the way. I’ll fill in the menu when I get a chance to check it, but what sticks in my mind were the ‘amuse bouche’, namely Bloody Mary Lollypops and Blackcurrant and White Chocolate Lollypop! Inventive.

That was about it for the day. Tomorrow it’s Gibraltar. Monkeys and cheap booze.

May leaves us – 31 May 2018

The last day of May and it left us in sunshine.

Up early for the blood-letter to do her worst, then back for breakfast before Scamp left to see the new ‘wean’. With some time to myself I set the A2 drawing pad on the easel and drew the ‘man in the mirror’ again. This time I was more pleased with the result. I got the nose right and the proportions which is what the Andrew Loomis method is supposed to help with, but I adapted rather than adopted the method to make it work for me. I suppose that’s what the tutor was talking about really when she said last night that it’s a generic method that produces a generic head. The trick is to know how to move away from that to the realistic head.

Went off to meet the Auld Guys with a lighter step, knowing that I’d got a foothold on this portrait thing, only to find that the coffee machine in the coffee shop wasn’t working. If the coffee machine stops working, does that just make it a shop then? Maybe, but it wasn’t selling anything I wanted to buy, so I met val and we went to the other Costa at the opposite end of the mall. It was not as mobbed as I thought it would be and we grabbed three seats and I phoned Fred to tell him about the change of venue.  The usual topics for discussion:

  • How we got in this mess (politics)
  • Life was so much simpler and more fun in the ’70s (nostalgia)
  • The cost of living (economics)

I also got some tips on what to see in Rome, Marseilles, Barcelona and Naples.  Not visiting some of these places, but I now know what to see and where.  Finally had to break up after a couple of coffees because of the overbearing rules on parking by Tesco.  That should really have been added to the agenda.

Came home and had just enough  time to grab a camera and get some photos of St Mo’s wildlife before dinner.  It was really muggy with a heavy feel to the air, but the sun was still shining.  Got some photos of a little deer with its nice colourful summer coat.  Loads of dragonflies, but also loads of biting beasties about, so I was quite pleased to come home to make dinner.  Dinner was mushroom burgers with potatoes and broccoli.  The potatoes and broccoli were good!

Tomorrow we are due thunder storms almost all day.  I think we’re going for the messages.

The Oyster Shed – 26 May 2018

At breakfast today Mairi was talking about The Oyster Shed.

Basically The Oyster Shed was simply a shed where they sold oysters and other seafood in Carbost. We looked for it on the web and discovered that there are two Carbosts in Skye. The one we were looking for seemed to be the furthest away (It would be, wouldn’t it) That was today sorted. We were going to Carbost, the far away one, to get some seafood.

Drove down through Portree to Sligachan and turned right, then drove through the Cuillins. From there we eventually found Carbost, but struggled to find the shed. We climbed a hill and stopped the car then stood watching and listening to a cuckoo being mobbed by sparrows. My satnav was directing me to a single track road that would allegedly lead to the shed. We got most of the way there when it looked as if the road was blocked by a van at the bottom of the hill. Not that way then. We reverse, turned and drove back down to the village. We found a sign pointing up a hill to The Oyster Shed. We seemed to walk for miles up the hill, but it was only a fifteen minute walk, but it was a steep walk. When we got to the Shed, I realised it was where the van had been parked earlier. We did get some shellfish. We got some cocktail crab claws, some crab meat and I got a mug. We got a can of lemon and mint drink which tasted like medicine as far as I was concerned. Not something I’d have again.

Walked back down that really long hill and had a picnic lunch of crisps and the lemon and mint. It didn’t matter really as the scenery and the sun made up for a lot. Watched a bunch of German teenagers hiring a boat and just managing to steer it round a couple of buoys before sailing off.

Came back through Portree and dropped Scamp off at the house then I went to see if there was room for one more at the slip. There wasn’t. That’s just ridiculous, isn’t it? No room at the slip for me. What’s the world coming to. Drove back up the road and stopped at the wee Loch Langaig to get some photos. That’s where today’s PoD came from.  Eventually came back to sit in the sun at the back of the house.

Tomorrow we pack our bags and turn the Juke to face south again.  Had a great time, but really, there are too many visitors on Skye and most of them shouldn’t be at the wheel of a pedal car, far less a real one.

Dancing, portraiture and faces – 23 May 2018

Dull day that started to smile in the afternoon.

Dancing the waltz is difficult, but we thought we had it fairly well under control until Michael showed us the next set of moves today. I’m sure in a couple of weeks they too will seem like child’s play. Now they are just the next hurdle to be waltzed over. Jive was just as difficult as jive usually is. Now we’re on spin number 4 of 7. It gets more complicated, even the men have a turn to do now. I’ve pretty much sorted out spins 1 and 2, 3 is a bit tricky and 4 is just a shambles. Instead of leading, I’m following, but that’s not new. It’s what I do most of the time. Still, it was enjoyable.

Walking back to the car in the sun provided today’s PoD which is a sandstone carving of a lion at the corner of the old fruit market in Glasgow. I also took photos of the ‘green men’ above the doors of the building. I remember drawing one of them in ink wash many years ago. Lovely bits of stone mason’s craft.

Back home I struggled with what was really a simple task of importing the photos into ON1. It’s simple now that I know how to do it. It most certainly wasn’t easy at the time, with hidden bits of menu that really should be more easily accessible.

Dinner was chicken breast wrapped in bacon and pan fried with boiled Jersey Royals and corn on the cob. Really tasty, Scamp. Also on the food front, I chopped up some strawberries and soaked them in vodka. They’ll stay in the fridge for a few days to flavour our Strawberry Vodka and hopefully be drunk outside in the garden under the sun.

Portrait class tonight was a bit of a disaster. A bit like Spin 4 is just now, except we’re more or less left to our own devices. I floundered a lot, trying to work out how to adapt the Loomis method to the head of the young boy we were drawing. It seemed, always, to make his head too fat. I think I’m missing something here. Must watch the videos again. On the way to pick up Fred for the class, I had to do some Genghis Pathfinder stuff to avoid the closed off road at St Mo’s School where a lorry had shed its load of wood. Not the simplest of diversions and it occurred, of course, when the factories along the road were coming out, so everywhere was chok-a-block. Managed it though.

Tomorrow we’re out early(ish). Hopefully before 11am, but I’ll have to go out even earlier to get some (very expensive £1.26 /litre) petrol.

The Constant Gardener – 17 May 2018

Today I had the car booked in at Halfords to get the dash cam wired in properly.

We were told that it might take up to 2 hours to do the job, but after having a quick look, the bloke said it would only take 15 minutes. He was correct. With the work done and paid for we drove to Torwood Garden Centre for Scamp to buy some (more) plants for the garden. We ended up with quite a car full, but she has it all planned out. She knows where they are all going, and I believe her. I got some leafy broccoli looking plants whose name escapes me at the moment and we also got a bay tree to replace the one we lost to the winter snows. All the rest were flowers. I’m sure they’ll all look beautiful.

Went out for a walk and left Scamp to her digging, potting and pottering. Got a good shot of Mr Grey and another of a young deer just losing its winter coat, but PoD goes to the Orange Tip butterfly that sat patiently for me to focus the new macro lens on. The lens is a prime (non-zoom) and is as sharp as a tack. You can see the butterfly above, but you’ll have to go to Flickr to see the other two.

When I came back there was just enough time for a glass of wine in the sun in the garden before dinner. Dinner tonight was Neil’s Chicken and Wild Rice Salad. It’s a firm favourite in the summer and went down especially well tonight.

Tomorrow Scamp and the Witches are off on the town, although which town isn’t totally settled yet. Me? I’m off the leash for a day, so I think I may go and take photos. Now there’s a surprise!

Going down South–10 May 2018

Like I said yesterday, today was going to be a busy day.  Woke at the usual time, but unusually, got up and got going right away.

Quick breakfast and then the slow bus to Glasgow.  Isn’t it strange to think if we had got the bus one hour earlier, it would have taken it as long to get to Glasgow as it would take to fly from Glasgow to London.  We weren’t in a rush though, we walked along three stance in the bus station to get the bus to the airport and then went through security and had a sort of lunch before getting the call to the gate and then on the plane to Stanstead.  JIC picked us up at the airport and drove us to see the ‘Devil Dog’ who was quite angelic compared with our last meeting over a year ago.  She seemed to accept us as ‘safe’ since we had been passed fit by her owners.

After settling in, downing a cup of tea, getting a tour of the garden and catching up with all things English, we settled down in the garden, enjoying the chat and the exploits of Vixen.  She really is much calmer and more settled than when we last saw her.  Still a funny dog, stalking pigeons, but never catching them.  Trying to square up to next door’s dogs who weren’t even in their garden.

Later in the evening we went for a walk across the fields with Jamie and Vixen and that’s where today’s PoD came from.  Beautiful light tonight.  It’s not surprising that everything is some much further progressed here.  Oil seed rape is almost past where back home it’s not even started flowering yet.

By the time we got back Sim had returned from work.  It was soon time for dinner which was Mackerel tray bake with rice.  Very messy to eat, but lovely.

We watched a Black Mirror episode at night which I can’t get out of my head.  Could they really plug in to someone’s memories as easily as that?  I’m sure it’s not that far fetched.

Vixen decide it was time for us all to go to bed and actually I was ready for an early night.

Tomorrow we go to Baldock I believe.

Wet and Warm – 8 May 2018

My weather app said rain by 12.30. The BBC app said rain by 11.30. Who would win? Well, it wouldn’t be us, because we would get rained on for sure.

It was a dull morning. So dull that I had to put my bedside light on to read my book. One of the big drawbacks with ‘real books’ is that they aren’t backlit. You will have heard that complaint before if you are a regular reader (regular as in its proper meaning, “Recurring at uniform intervals” not the american meaning of “normal”). Unfortunately it didn’t look as if it going to get much lighter any time soon, so although it didn’t appeal, I had to get up and face the grey day.

Scamp had a parcel to post, so we walked over to Condorrat to post it and when we were coming back almost exactly at 11.30 the rain started. The BBC had won. Basically, that was it on for the day. Yes, it did get heavier and then it got lighter, but it was always there. It might have been rain, but it was warm rain because the temperature was high, which takes some of the sting out of the wetness.

Since we didn’t have anywhere to go today and nothing of any importance to do, I suggested we go to Livingston after lunch to get me a new pair of trainers. We got as far as Baillieston and had been driving in torrential rain when I called a halt because there was no real need for us to go today and it was just stupid driving a 70 mile round trip just for a cheap pair of trainers. We turned at the roundabout and came home where the rain had turned to a light drizzle. That’s the way it continued for most of the afternoon.

Eventually I got fed up and went looking for subjects in St Mo’s later in the afternoon. I’d hardly gone 100 yards when the rain returned with a vengeance. Is it me I asked? I was beginning to think so. I sheltered under some trees for a while until the worst had passed then made my way over to see if St Mo’s looked any better under a cloudy sky. It didn’t, but there were a few interesting things there to photograph. My favourite by far was the two snails racing each other up a tree trunk. Heavens, the snails were out in their hundreds, all climbing trees. I’m guessing the rain had loosened the fungus on the tree bark and the snails could have a feed on it. That’s my theory anyway. By the time I was coming home the sun was shining and the clouds were breaking up to show blue sky.

Even now at 11.20pm the sky appears to be clear, but according to the weather fairies it’s to be a wet old day tomorrow, so maybe we’ll go for a swim.

Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?

You’ve NOT got mail – 9 April 2018

Wasted an hour today trying to get Windows 10 Mail to work with my blog account.

Mickysoft, here’s an idea: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.

Windows 7 worked superbly. Still does on Scamp’s laptop. Microsoft fixed it with Windows 8.
Windows 8, the great white wonder was a great white disaster. People just went back to Windows 7, supported or not.
Windows 10 was the biggest con in technology. It was free, but you now no longer own or control your computer, Microsoft does. Big, buggy, bloatware.
Windows Live Writer was a great little piece of blogging software. Windows 10 killed it.
Windows Live Mail was an ok email program until the latest Windows 10 upgrade killed it.
Now we are stuck with Windows Mail. It’s an absolute bastard to work with. It simply does not work. It tells you you are connected and everything is ok, then it decides that your password is wrong. It’s not wrong, the software is wrong. Will they fix it? I doubt it. Going back to Gmail on the Linx. Windows Mail isn’t worth the effort.

Went out for a walk down the Luggie to clear my head after the technology overload. Found some toads making more toads in a pond besides the bridge and that’s what became PoD. It was a lovely day with warm sunshine and just a gentle breeze. Daffies are flowering and it feels like spring.

Salsa tonight was hard work. I don’t know why, it just was. It should have been fairly easy in the level 4 class, but the heat was building as it usually does in that small room and there was no fan tonight. Advanced class wasn’t just as bad as we were in the big hall with greater air flow. However, I still felt it was a drag. We discussed it on the way home and maybe Scamp is right that Jamie is trying too hard to come up with new moves every week. Maybe we should be going back to older, more polished moves that really work. Maybe too, he has too much going on in his life to devote all his time to salsa. Who knows. Glad we’ve got ballroom dancing to fall back on too. It’s new, but there seems to be a progression that works. One of the girls from the advanced class was in a ballroom competition and we were watching the video of her waltz and it looked very swish. That’s what we are aiming for. Aye Right!

Scamp is out tomorrow for coffee with one of her witches. I think I’ll try to do a final clean out of the Tosh laptop and take it up to the second hand shop and sell it. May even find time to go for a run on the Dewdrop!