Dull and damp – 22 June 2020

That just about sums it up for today.

Scamp was feeling a bit a bit queasy in the morning and only had a very light lunch. She didn’t feel like going anywhere, but that wasn’t a problem because the morning weather was dull leaden skies and a fair smattering of showers.

We needed milk and bread, we also needed to get out of the house. A walk in the fresh air would do us the world of good, so we walked to the shops. Not surprisingly the rain had ensured that there weren’t any big queues with the possible exception of Home Bargains which always has at least a few folk queueing. I think people queue up outside it after the doors are shut and locked at 6pm. It just seems to be what you do outside this great retail experience. We weren’t going there. We just nipped into The Food Warehouse, or Iceland as you will know it and got the essentials. That means bread, milk and chocolate biscuits. Walked back home and although we’d been prepared for one of the showers that had bedevilled us all morning, we never saw a single raindrop.

Back home I decided I’d risk a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is either a ‘toadlet’ or a ‘froglet’. I’ve yet to find a good way of telling these amphibians apart. Saw quite a few of them making heavy weather of their crossing from one side of the path to the other. Given that the stones they are navigating through, and over, are bigger than them, it must have been an exhausting journey. Most seemed to make it across safely.

Back home, Scamp was feeling a bit better. A gentle bit of retail therapy works wonders and if this Lockdown is teaching us anything, it’s that we need to take our time. Dinner was plain fare. Just spaghetti with a tomato sauce.

Today I made the decision to abandon the list and paint or draw something that interests me for a change. There are only a few days left in the list anyway and about fifty percent of these lists are just copied from the previous year, so I wasn’t missing much. Today I chose a walk we did on the bridlepaths around Baldock with JIC and Sim many years ago. It’s from a photo and dates from 2013. I remember that day well. I painted it in watercolour on watercolour paper that Scamp gave me for Christmas. This the first thing I’ve completed using it and it’s much nicer to paint on than the sketch book I’ve been using.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It rather depends on the weather and how Scamp is feeling.

Deer and a lone walker – 13 May 2020

Blue skies all around at 8.30 and the day ended that way too. Cloudy between those limits and cold too. Though some don’t feel it!

Scamp went out for a walk after lunch. I don’t know what I did to find myself left at home, but she decided she didn’t want a grumpy photographer who stops every ten minutes or so to take a photo or to look at an ‘interesting’ insect to accompany her. Maybe it was something I said. She walked round Broadwood Loch and said that it was busy in clumps, but not all that congested. She also said it wasn’t that cold, but that doesn’t mean anything, because Scamp doesn’t feel the cold. It could be snowing outside and she’d tell you it wasn’t all that cold.

While she was out, I was rebuilding the little 9mm lens. If you’ve ever had to do work on a car or any mechanical item, you’ll know that sinking feeling when you’ve just put it back together and find you’ve a handful of washers or bolts, usually tiny ones, when you’ve finished. That’s how it was for me yesterday. I had it rebuilt, then found I’d three tiny washers left and the lens wouldn’t work. Today I’d worked out where the washers came from and thankfully it wasn’t a complete strip down to replace them. I soon had them in place and everything joined up, but still the lens wouldn’t focus. Checked the workbench and found a spring that should have gone back in and hadn’t. Another strip back and replace. This time the lens worked … sort of. It now focuses at infinity, but a bit like Buzz Lightyear, it also goes beyond infinity. Something is still not right, but at least it is now useable.

Did I find out what caused all this “reduce to component parts and rebuild”? Well actually I did. It was a mark on the outside of the front element. Not a scrape, just a dirty mark. The white dot I saw on the back element was actually the reflection of the window on the extremely curved glass. Numpty!

It was only after I rebuilt it the umpteenth time I realise this, but the problem with “Infinity and beyond” had happened before, now I think about it. Two days ago a few of my shots with that lens were fuzzy and out of focus. It is simply wear on the little plastic focus lever on the lens which now moves further than it should. I need to remember not to do the Buzz Lightyear thing, and stop at ∞!

With that problem, not exactly solved, but an explanation found, I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD. I was sure I had heard something crashing through the trees and then a deer ran across the path in front of me. It was followed a few seconds later by another deer, this one was definitely a buck. It stopped on the path, about 100m ahead of me and stared at me. I didn’t move. I’d been walking, cradling the camera in the crook of my left arm. I slid my right hand over and flicked the ‘on’ switch then grabbed four or five shots while pointing the camera in roughly the direction of the deer. It took a few paces towards me and I must have moved slightly before it headed off away down the path. I’m guessing it’s mating season just now and I may have interrupted something! I’ll take a long lens with me tomorrow if I manage to get back out there at the right time.

Today’s prompt was “Toilet Rolls”. Interesting topic that in any other year would have brought questioning looks, but this time in this year, it just brings a smile … and a sketch of toilet rolls!

Tomorrow we have no plans. Maybe a walk together.

Sub zero – 10 May 2020

Temperatures predicted to be below zero tonight and it didn’t feel that much warmer today.

We both did a walk around the garden trying to work out what had gone wrong with the acer which is looking very sorry for itself. Scamp thinks its roots have been too wet and that could be part of the problem, but I think it’s been sitting in the sun too long too. It seems to like the shade. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. It’s now back in the place it’s been for the last year and has had a change of compost, with more drainage so we’ll keep a watching brief on it for the next wee while. Otherwise, things are progressing well. The cold east wind today was making some of the alliums bob about a bit and we may need to give them a bit more support soon. It was one of allium heads that got PoD.

Under Scamp’s careful tutelage I made a steak pie in the afternoon. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. Different butcher, slightly different method, but the result was the same, just as good as last time. Even better, there’s enough left over for tomorrow’s dinner.

We needed some potatoes for tonight’s dinner, so I volunteered to go out into the cold and get some. Of course I came back with a lot more than potatoes. That’s the trouble with having to queue for your shopping, you want to make sure you get everything you went for and tend to buy things you didn’t have on your list.

Spoke to JIC tonight and heard how his garden is progressing. It sounds great and I’m sure he’s not exaggerating. His garden is huge compared to ours and I know he spends a lot of time keeping it up to scratch. I don’t think I could expend that amount of energy on a garden, but I’m sure Scamp could.

Sketch for today was a pet or an animal. Damselflies are animals according to some learned people. I took them at their word and painted a blue damselfly. I’m not sure if they, or my artwork is to everyone’s taste, but that’s not the point. It’s the act of painting that it’s all about. Doing something.

I’ve closed down the wee greenhouse tonight, just incase the weather fairies have it right with their -1º in the middle of the night. I’ve got some things to do tomorrow, including cleaning up this computer. It’s running very slowly and needs a good clean out. I think the time for a new OS is getting closer too! Oh yes, and we’re hopefully getting a Tesco order delivered tomorrow as well. A busy day beckons.

Big Al takes charge – 8 May 2020

Bit the bullet and called in some help.

Phoned Wheelcraft this morning and spoke to Big Al. Told him what the problem was and he said to bring the wheel in. Once he’d stripped out the ball bearings and cleaned the grease out he spotted a crack in the hub cup. It’s going to need a new hub and the wheel rebuilt. About £50. It’s a good job I didn’t get the cone off, because I’d never have thought of looking for a crack in the cup. He’s just the same as the last time I was there. Social Distancing? I don’t think he’s been listening to Boris or Nick. Three people working in that pokey wee place. Still, he knows what he’s doing and is the only one I’d trust to repair my wheel, even if it’s going to cost a bit more than I’d expected.

Drove back from Clachan of Campsie in an improving day, although there were a few heavy looking clouds hanging around the Campsie Fells as we drove past them. The rain didn’t come, though and the Juke was driving well. It’s amazing that when you’ve been travelling at walking pace for the last four our five weeks, 40mph seem really fast!

Scamp went out to get some stuff for tonight’s dinner and I walked with her part of the way, then veered off to walk round St Mo’s. I was looking for pine cones, because we’ve found that a cat (?) has been crapping in the her sweet pea box and apparently one of the best preventative measures is to cover the box in pine cones because cats don’t like to walk on them. I suppose they are quite jaggy and would hurt the poor pussy’s feet. Me, I wanted to go for land mines, but Scamp wouldn’t have that as the box is too close to the wall of the house. We’ll see how the pine cones work first.

While I was out I got today’s PoD which is a spider wrapping up a little black fly. I felt sorry for the poor fly, but in another shot you can clearly see the hooked claws on its feet. Possibly a robber fly. There are a lot of them about in the late spring and early summer. Anyway of the two shots I kept out of the 14 I took, this was the best. Not the best of a bad lot, but not far off it.

I made Asparagus with Lemon Spaghetti and Peas for dinner and despite the fact that it was very lemony, I quite enjoyed it.

Tomorrow is Saturday, but that’s just a name now. Don’t have any plans

Shopping, the new way – 31 March 2020

New day, new rules.

Drove to Tesco today with Scamp, only to be told that the rules had changed:

  • One trolley per household.
  • One person per trolley.

Scamp had the shopping list in her head. She hadn’t committed it to her phone or a notepad, so she got to be the one to enter the golden portal to do the shopping. I went back to sit in the car and enjoy the sunshine, because the sun was shining quite brightly this morning. When she arrived back at the car, her trolley was brimming with stuff. All useful and mostly edible stuff too. Biggest shop she’s done in a long time, she said. Given that there was a bottle of whisky, another of gin and three bottles of wine, plus the groceries, I’d say we did not too badly from our big spend. Lots of folk were spending much more. Those were the ones with the extra large trolleys. I’m sure some of them had a forklift truck parked in the carpark to get their stuff home.

After all the stuff was put away, and after lunch, Scamp went out to ‘clear out the bin shed’. The bin shed is where lots of the gardening stuff is kept and it occasionally deserves a good clean out. By the time I’d changed into my painting togs, she had everything out of the shed and on the path. It was probably getting in poor Bobby Flavel’s way. He lives at the corner house and is never happier than when he’s got something to do. He’d already dug his garden, swept the path and then swept the road outside. No kidding! Now he was cutting the grass for Angela (next door) who is off work and self isolating. Not only cutting the grass, but also edging it too and doing a great job. Me, I had already scraped the front sill and started painting it. The external acrylic paint is great stuff, especially when painting on warm concrete. It dries almost instantly. So, it was like the old story about the Forth Bridge. When they’d finished painting it, the went back to the start and did it all again. Once I’d finished the 2.5m length of the front sill, the bit I’d started at was dry and ready for a second coat. Two coats should do. Next the back window that I did yesterday, but wasn’t satisfied with. I’d already scraped it too and gave it a fresh coat. Maybe one more coat for it will do, maybe tomorrow.

Would I? Wouldn’t I? Eventually I did go out for a walk in St Mo’s. Walking through the woods is perfect for isolation. Usually nobody and nothing there to bother me. Today was different. Turned a corner and less than 20m away was a Roe deer, a doe, happily grazing. Luckily I had the right lens on for once and got one shot. Then its head went up and away it ran. Took another shot, but I knew it was too soft. First one looked good though. I think it was the sound of the shutter that startled it. Next time I’ll remember to use silent (electronic) shutter. If there is a next time. This is the first time for months I’ve actually managed to get a decent shot of a St Mo’s deer, or any deer for that matter.

Walked back and took some shots of strange wee flower things on a little larch. They didn’t work, but I’m hoping to go back tomorrow and have another go, weather permitting, because we’re due some gales on Thursday. Possibly snow on Friday.

I did get one more shot and it became the PoD. A little clump of Coltsfoot Daisies growing beside the footpath on the way home. Lovely flowers, they bloom just around Easter every year. They always remind me of my dad for some reason. That’s not a bad thing at all.

I’d made stew for dinner tonight and it was lovely. Of course it was under the strict tutelage of Scamp, the number one stew chef in this house. I stewed a couple of sausages in it for good measure and they were the stars of the show. Left just enough to have for lunch tomorrow.

Practised our dancing routines tonight. We’re probably building in a lot of mistakes and short cuts I realise, but Kirsty’s not the perfectionist that Michael was, so it will be ok. What Michael did do, and did well, we both agree was teach us how to Jive and those moves are hard wired into our heads now. We reprised them too. Actually we remembered a lot of them we haven’t danced since about November last year. He might have been was a pain in the backside, but he did know his jive steps.

Tomorrow we have no real plans. Must get the upstairs sills cleaned down and maybe a coat of paint on them too. Must also get something done about staking the apple tree. Depends if we can get some wood from B&Q.

It was a dull day – 27 March 2020

Not really a day for doing much. It started cold and dull and that theme extended through the day.

What we did do was go for a walk. Across to St Mo’s and round the pond once. Took some photos of what I think were rasp flowers, wild rasps. Not really much interest in them though, so the photos didn’t work very well. That’s usually the way of things when your heart isn’t in the subject, then you’re really only treading water. Not quite two weeks in and I’m becoming jaded. I took a couple of shots of a woman sitting with her dog on a bench at St Mo’s. Seemed to sum up Self Isolation. More like self enforced isolation. That became PoD.

Walked home and did a bit of watercolour painting. Again, I wasn’t really interested and it showed in the painting. Tomorrow I’ll slap some colour on the drab acrylic painting I tried yesterday and see if that lifts my spirits.

What I did do was clean the bathroom and ungunge the trap in the shower. I didn’t think it was really necessary until I started and then I discovered it really, really was necessary. Latex gloves are great things for using when you’re cleaning the bathroom, just incase you’ve not noticed, or not cleaned a bathroom recently. While I was gainfully employed with this work, Scamp was cleaning out her fancy steam iron. We were shocked at the amount of what looked like crystals in the tank. I presume these are left behind after the steam has been generated. It just shows that it’s not just pure H20 that’s coming through the tap. Scary. With the boiler cleaned out she was ready to do the ironing proper.

That was about it for the day. Blue Dragon Ramen Noodles with Chicken for dinner. It was a hit and a miss. I voted Hit, and not just because I made it. Scamp didn’t like the noodles, so it was a miss from her. May try another of their offerings, the next time I go for the long wait at Tesco.

Discovered that a cat had been using Scamp’s sweet pea box as a toilet, so today I sprinkled a fairly heavy dose of ground white pepper on the compost.  If you see a cat sneezing a lot, you’ll know where it came from.  Sorry Hazy, but it needs to be told how to behave properly.

No plans for tomorrow. Where can we go anyway? Enforced isolation is becoming boring.  However, it’s worse for some.  ‘Poor’ Boris has tested positive for Covid 19.  Is this to garner sympathy, or to show that he’s suffering with his plebs people?  If it’s good enough for Prince Chic, it’s good enough for Boris.  What a pair.

Zog meets a Frog – 21 February 2020

A whole day without a phone call from the doctor! What’s wrong, have I offended someone?

It was another horrible day. Wind and rain in varying amounts and intensities. Didn’t do much and didn’t go very far. What we did do was practise the Foxtrot and the Waltz ‘figures’ just in case we want to dance them tomorrow. Actually I’d gone for a walk in the afternoon and found a piece of open ground in the middle of the trees and there I had a short solo practise of the figures in the Foxtrot, because that’s the dance we know the least about. I must have looked what my mum would have called ‘a proper chookie’ (a fool) if anyone had caught a glimpse of me dancing through the trees!

It was when I was coming back from my outdoor dance class that I saw two frogs in an amorous embrace attempting to get out of a fast flowing burn that had appeared overnight. The lady frog was trying to climb up a crumbling banking without much success, so I lifted them both out of the burn and placed them on the grass, took their photo and then put them down in a more gently sloping sandbank to allow them the opportunity to continue on to dry land or reenter the stream. I thought as I was walking away that it must be the first time I’ve handled a frog since I was a wee boy. One of the photos I took was sharp enough to become PoD. Zog meets a Frog.

Today’s topic was ‘Olive’. I tried all sorts of still life setups with black olives and also the green variety. None of them appealed to me, then I thought of the most famous Olive of all, Ms Oyl. I also wanted a fairly easy drawing after yesterday’s complicated crown.

Tomorrow’s task is ‘Rain’. I think I might be able to construct something around that theme, considering we’ve hardly had one dry day since Christmas. Only other plans for tomorrow are to go out for lunch somewhere if we don’t get blown or washed away.

Tiger – 4 February 2020

A beautiful bright morning. Seemed a shame to waste it.

Drove over to Drumpellier Park and walked round the loch in the sunshine. On the far side of the loch the water had overflowed into the bank of trees and it looked just like a mangrove swamp. We were expecting to see crocodiles in the water and a snake or two hanging from the trees, but all we saw were a gang of Mallards quacking away as they paddle through the maze of tree trunks. We went for a coffee in the wee cafe, at least it was coffee we asked for, but I think we got Babychinos instead. There certainly wasn’t much coffee in evidence. The place seemed to be full of mums and babies, three of whom were having a laughing competition to see who could make the most noise. Even the scones were a disappointment today. Not a good day at the cafe.

Drove home and after lunch I thought I should start today’s sketch and the topic was Tiger. I’d thought of doing a Tiger Lily or a De Havilland Tiger Moth, but finally put pen to paper and copied a tiger from a Google Images shot. My first attempt wasn’t all that good, so I tried a practise piece on my doodle sheet, beginning with the nose rather than the eyes. Then the beast you see above appeared through the doodles! It became PoD.

Scamp and I were discussing PoDs this morning and I was admitting that the quality of my PoDs of late has not been really worthy of the name. On dull, wet, dark days it’s difficult to find suitable subjects for the PoD, or even a decent photo to put into the 365. I’m loathe to stop the 366, but I have to say that the time it takes to make a silk purse from a pig’s ear photo, even in the best of software is disproportionate to the quality of the finished product. Also, taking the photos, processing them, sketching something that fits the February day’s prompt and then posting both shots, plus the blog takes a lot of time. As some of you will have noticed, if anything else happens on any given day, the blog is the one that suffers and I find myself playing catch-up next day.

With that in mind, and it being February, I intend to still take a photo if the light and the weather suits, but hopefully I’ll manage to complete a drawing or painting from the month’s list and this will become PoD. Hopefully once February is over and we are into the lighter days of March there will be more opportunities for photos DV. If not, then I will probably suspend the 366 and just post the occasional good quality photo.

Plans have been made for tomorrow. Hoping for some decent light to get some photos too.

Sunshine and Showers – 16 November 2019

A day of mixed fortunes.

In the morning after breakfast, we found a sheltered place and went sunbathing for an hour or two.

After that we walked to market in Caleta. It was the usual junk. Michael Kors bags, tourist tat and cheap belts. I actually heard a ‘Looky-looky man’ at a belt stall say “Looky-looky is no charge!” There was nothing much to see there so we walked down to the town and then chose to walk back along the walkway to the hotel.

Just as we were arrived, the rain came on. We had a beer in the sheltered part under cover, then lunch. After lunch I chose to go for a walk to the crashy waves and Scamp went to sunbathe. Both of us had to give up and come back because of rain showers and the cold wind.
I did get some photos of the waves and of the camels going home for the night. It was the camels photo that made PoD.

Went to kids club after dinner and it was the best entertainment of the night. Guitarist on at the upstairs bar could play, but couldn’t sing and didn’t seem to know the correct words to any of the songs.
Gave up and took our drinks upstairs. Apart from the sunbathing morning, it had been a disappointing day in a disappointing hotel.

Tomorrow will be better.

Diwali and French cuisine – 26 October 2019

We heard about the Diwali festival on the radio yesterday and Scamp decided it was a fair excuse to visit our eastern neighbours – Embra.

Actually our next door neighbours woke us just after 8am with the sawing and banging associated with having more decking laid in their back garden. We were up and out almost in time to catch the 10.30 train to Embra. The key word there is “almost”. We missed it by seconds. Not to worry, we walked back to the car and waited in relative comfort for the next one. Well, if it was you, would you rather sit on a cold aluminium seat on a station platform with a cool 1ºc breeze blowing or would you sit in your cooling, but 12ºc car with soft fabric seats? I rest my case, yer honour.

Caught the next train and luckily chose the right carriage to get a seat. I’d my phone in my pocket, but, of course, my headphones were in my other jacket. Typical. Never mind it was good watching the sunny, if Arctic, countryside whizz past. There was a zoomer in the carriage. I thought he was German or possibly Austrian. Scamp thought he was Dutch, but he was definitely from the Planet Zanussi. He kept asking people questions with the Columbo catch phrase “I have one question.” He also seemed to holding a conversation with his phone, not on his phone, but with it. Really strange. Never met a German / Austrian / Dutch Zoomer before.

While he went off to find Kirkcaldy, we walked up towards the Nero for coffee. As we were walking through the architectural canyons that link the Western Approach Road with Lothian Road, we chanced upon a window cleaner washing the windows on one of the canyon sides with an enormously long brush. Strangely I’d never wondered how they washed those window. Now I know. Rattled off a half a dozen shots and knew right away that I had a potential PoD. Coffee and a pastry in Costa then a walk up through the farmers market and on to the Grassmarket. I could see Scamp’s eyes light up as we got near the Petit Paris restaurant and knew resistance was useless. That was going to be our lunch venue.

Today’s topic for sketching was Urban Sketch. It was now about 3ºc, but with windchill it would be nearer 1ºc, so I doubted that I’d be doing anything urban and still retaining my fingers, so we went for a walk instead, but just in case I’d get the opportunity, I got a cheap sketch book in Greyfriars Art Shop. Then on to the Meadows and, because the sun was in our eyes and it was blinding, we took a detour round the University, then doubled back when we found we were near Bristo Square. From there it was an easy jaunt back to the Grassmarket and Petit Paris.

Got a table easily downstairs in the dungeon. I had Lentil Stew with Bacon and Sausage. Scamp had Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Forestiere Sauce. Both were lovely, although I had an upset stomach later and the only thing I could blame was that lentil stew. Half a glass of red wine washed down my lunch and a glass and a half of the same washed down Scamp’s. Thanks for that Nicola, ya bastard!

Just managed to catch the end of the Diwali Festival group walking and dancing their way across Embra. There were two big white horses pulling the ceremonial carriage. When they were stopped on The Mound, one of them felt the need to receive itself of excess liquid. Dear me, these horses can carry a fair amount of water! I reckon it stood there for about five minutes “emptying its tanks”. Needless to say, it being Embra, after the procession had passed, the last vehicle was a street sweeper! Can’t have the horses messing up their clean streets!

Decided we’d been fed and watered and seen part of the procession, so we headed for the train and caught it this time with just a few minutes to spare. No foreign Zoomers on it, just some home-grown ones.

I chose to draw our last five apples as a replacement for the missing “Urban Sketch”. I was quite pleased with the result.

Tomorrow we have no plans. We don’t even know the predicted temperature. It’s supposed to be sunny, so we may go for a walk.