OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Walking in Sunshine – 13 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here be Dragons – 9 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh What a Beautiful Day – 8 August 2017

After two days of almost continuous rain, today’s blue skies and sunshine were a great relief. Scamp was going out for lunch with a friend and I was painting in the morning, but determined to get the bike out and turn the wheels a few times.

I set out for Auchinstarry to park and then cycle along the railway to Twechar and from there, take the road to Kirkintilloch, then cycle back along the canal to Auchinstarry. A nice easy run of a little more than 10 miles.

Lots of folk were out today, and not just the usual dog walkers either. What looked like a Summer School group were learning about rock climbing at Auchinstarry. Halfway along the railway path two women were having a picnic with their weans, sitting on an old iron bridge over the Garrell Burn. After that, it was just road traffic all the way to Kirkintilloch. Walked up the steep hill to reach the canal (That’s where today’s PoD came from) and then took the towpath from there to Twechar. Passed lots of cyclists on the way. Some gave a nod, some pretended I wasn’t there (Bike Snobs), some shouted a cheery ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ or the West of Scotland ‘Aye’ as we passed.

Changed my mind at Twechar and headed back along the railway again. The main reason is that the canal tow path gets really busy with cyclists and fishermen in the summer and the path narrows fairly frequently making crossing and overtaking difficult. I stopped to take some ‘beastie’ photos at Dumbreck Marshes and met a bloke who was extolling the joys of cycling. He realised he was preaching to the converted, but we agreed it was a great way to get some enjoyable exercise. He was on his way back from the Falkirk Wheel and was sitting having his lunch with his iPhone playing some music through a Bluetooth speaker in his rucksack. We wished each other an enjoyable run home and I was on the last leg of my run. Didn’t pass anyone else on the way back and then watched some blokes doing a bit of dangerous looking rock climbing in Auchinstarry Quarry where there is a sheer drop into very deep water. Rather them than me.

Back home, it was paella for dinner and I had volunteered for cooking duty. Turned out not to bad.

Tomorrow is to be more of the same. Hopefully they get it right again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rain again – 7 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Go out walking in the rain – 6 August 2017

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

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

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

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

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Normal service has resumed – 31 July 2017

Ok, today was a better day. More like a normal Monday. Out in the morning and drive to Falkirk for some messages, then back for lunch.

After lunch I took the bike out for a run. Poor thing hasn’t been out for ages. After a couple of miles I noticed that the mileometer wasn’t recording distance and the display was dim. The dim display is solved by replacing the battery, but no amount of juggling the sender unit would encourage the miles to click up. Then I realised that the solution is in the name. The system is wireless and the unit on the forks is a sender. To send it needs a power source. Therein lies the problem and the solution, hopefully. Both sender and receiver need new batteries. I’ve never replaced the sender battery before, and I’ve had the milo for over five years. Granted it doesn’t go many miles now, but that is still good battery life.

It was a westerly wind today which meant a headwind going out but a tailwind coming home. The best situation.

Took the Teazer with me today because it’s light and slips easily into my pocket. It seems to have performed quite well, especially in macro mode. Got some interesting shots of black and yellow striped caterpillars which may be from the Cinnabar Moth. Hopefully someone on Flickr will confirm. Also caught a glance of a Burnett Moth before it was blown away on a westerly gust. That was it for wildlife. Add in a few shots of the Three Amigos (my favourite three beech trees) and that was it for photography too. Having said ‘that was it for wildlife’, I mean interesting, pretty wildlife. The air seemed to be full of ugly biting insects. For that reason alone, I was glad to leave.

I also had dinner to make before we went to salsa, and a tailwind to look forward to. Dinner was ‘Red Spaghetti’ or spaghetti with a tomato sauce to you.

Motorway was extra busy tonight. 49 minutes to the airport. 18 minutes on a good day. However we arrived almost in time which was lucky because Scamp wanted even more messages from one of the shops near the STUC.

Tonight’s move was Prado. Not its real name, so don’t bother Googling it.

And that’s July done and dusted!

Tomorrow can be summed up in two ‘C’ words. Cleaning and Cooking.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Woof! – 6 July 2017

It was another up and out early(ish) day. This time it was me needing the repair.

A few weeks ago, just as we were parking for Gardening Scotland, I pinged the cap from one of my front teeth. Today I’d have to pay up and get the nice dentist man to stick a minuscule piece of resin to the tusk and then get his assistant to bombard it with her ultra-sonic ray gun. The whole procedure took less that 15 minutes, including the “That’ll be twenty quid then sir.” I can’t complain, it was my own stupid fault. Plus I made the appointment on Tuesday and got it done on Thursday. Try doing that at our doctors surgery. Scamp phoned for an appointment on Tuesday and the soonest they could give was next Thursday. Reason? The nurse is on holiday. Fair enough, the nurse is due a holiday like everyone else, but don’t they have a replacement? It’s a blood sample they’re doing, not open heart surgery! Anyway, the tooth is fine and Scamp’s decided to keep her blood for a while.

We drove to Torwood Garden Centre in the sunshine for lunch and to get some potting compost, but before we went, I grabbed a quick shot of Alec’s Red doused with last night’s rain. I knew we’d also end up buying at least one plant at Torwood, and so it turned out. Lunch was fine we both had the quiche which was neatly presented in its own wee filo pastry bowl. Very neat. Must try that some time. After lunch and after browsing round the plants, Scamp chose a nice fiery red Alstroemeria. As I was picking up the plant, I felt my finger brush something and thought it might have been a slug, but when I looked, it was just a bit of bark. “Just bark” I said. Scamp looked up at me, all innocence and said “Woof!” Then almost collapsed in a fit of the giggles. This from the woman who has had a sense-of-humourectomy. She just takes me by surprise sometimes and that is one of the reasons I love her so much.

By the time we got home, the clouds were gathering and it looked decidedly like rain. I was glad we’d bought that wee folding trolley thing at Gardening Scotland. It came in very handy for carting the three bags of compost from the car to the house. With them safely stashed beneath the tree just in case it rained, I settled down to lift our first batch of potatoes. Planted nearly three months ago in a big plastic pot, the shaws were turning yellow and I fancied they were ripe for picking. For once, I was right. We got nearly 800g from three seed potatoes, variety Charlotte.  Best we’ve had for a long time. The other pail is a wee bit behind and won’t be ready for another month I reckon. We had Salmon in a Creamy Leek Sauce and New Potatoes for dinner. Your own produce always tastes good.

The Alec’s Red got PoD, but the gigantic bee on the flowers at the garden centre came a close second.

Tomorrow? Coffee with Fred and Val and maybe a run into town if I can be bothered.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wish I’d brought a sketchbook – 21 June 2017

You couldn’t say it rained today. It barely wet the ground, it certainly wasn’t the downpour that was predicted.

Couldn’t decide what to do with the day, but eventually Scamp suggested we go for a swim and that was what we did. Since my leg wasn’t quite back to normal, I thought a swim would be better than gym today. Pool was busy, but with hotel visitors this time, not spa punters. There were the usual fatties making a floating moveable island in the middle of the pool for others to swim around.

Went over to St Mo’s in the afternoon and got some photos of the insect life, but nothing interesting, except perhaps the shot above of a damselfly planking to show off its abs.

Dinner was a disaster. It was meant to be an authentic Chinese stir-fry using tofu, bean paste and black fungus! I tried sticking to the recipe, but the bean paste just fried itself into a solid lump … twice! Gave up and stir-fried the veg in the oil of the bean paste, then mashed up some beans with a mortar and pestle and added it with some hot water. Put the fried tofu in at the end and let it steam to cook the carrots. It tasted ok, but not really like what we had tasted when it was demonstrated at Gardening Scotland. Maybe we’ll stop for chips on the way home from salsa 😉

Saw a flash of lightning over the hills when we were driving in to salsa. Didn’t hear any thunder and the rain stayed away too. Hopefully the worst of the thunderstorms have passed us by.

There weren’t really enough people to make up a beginners class, and too many men again, so I stepped out … again! This time I didn’t have a sketchbook, so I’m sitting in the car, on a huff, writing the blog instead. Blog or sketch, both take about half an hour to complete. If I get one or the other done, it’s time not wasted.

Looks like the 7.30pm class is ending as well as the beginners. If it does, that will mean the end of our Wednesday exercise! That would be a shame.

Finally settled on an old favourite for the SoD (I like that abbreviation!), the Sudoku block. Trying out the Paperchase sketch book. Not nearly as much ’tooth’ as the Seawhite one. Not sure I like the lack of texture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A clean bill of health – 14 June 2017

Out to the docs this morning for the results of my blood test. Everything was fine. The sister asked me if I keep active. I said I did, but didn’t tell her about the wee man on my wrist who pops up every day at ten minutes to the hour and encourages me to “Go for a stroll”.

Scamp and I went to lunch at Cotton House, Chinese / Thai restaurant. We were pretty sure we’d get a table, but went early, just in case. We were only the second couple there when we went in, but by the time we were leaving around 1pm the place was 75% full. Very popular is Cotton House. We were boring today and had Spring Rolls to start and then Chicken Chow Mein.

On the way home we went to B&Q for yet more garden stuff and other odds and ends and that’s where I saw and captured the bronze beetle, shining in the sun.

When we got back Scamp noticed that Hazy had phoned and we talked for nearly an hour about this and that. It was good to have a wee chat while Scamp laboured hard cutting the front grass.

Salsa tonight was a bit low key with very few beginners in the first class and not enough girls in the second. Shannon had to encourage a few of the girls from her class to join in, but that wasn’t really fair because they weren’t experienced enough to enjoy the moves. I think there will be a few classes combining in the next few weeks. It always happens in the summer.

Watched an interesting documentary about Billy Connolly being painted and photographed to celebrate his 75th birthday. Worth a watch on iPlayer.

Today’s sketch is a W&N Indian Ink bottle. I like it because of the highlights that make it look like glass.

Tomorrow is Coffee with Fred day, while Scamp goes galavanting to Falkirk.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Fitness Regime continues – 13 June 2017

This morning, I was swearing at the WiFi extender. It had to happen.

The WiFi extender was glowing green this morning and that means it’s in the perfect place. Not too near the modem/router and not too far away. The green glow lasted until I opened my first web page, then I got the ‘No Internet’ message. Either I’d broken the Internet or the green glow had turned to a red one. Thankfully it was the second one. It’s been a long time since I’ve broken the Internet and the problem is that you can’t just go on the Internet to find out how to fix it, because you’ve broken the Internet. See? Thankfully all that was needed was for the extender to be put in another place, closer to the modem and it worked. Internet restored to full health, I went to the gym.

I thought I was having a hard time with my recumbent bike, treadmill and various weight machines, but there was one poor bloke much worse off than me. He had a Personal Trainer shouting instructions and ‘encouragement’ at him while he lifted kettle bells, bar bells and even played at making waves with a big heavy rope. We used to call it making ‘snakes’ when the kids were wee. I say ‘playing’, but there seemed to be very little enjoyment in this exercise. Once I’d done my half hour or so, I left them to it and drove home for a shower. I was just loading the boot when I noticed my extra passenger hiding behind the aerial. A spider had found a nice wee shelter and had presumably come all the way from home tucked away from the wind. Pic on Flickr.

After lunch, Scamp was off to have coffee with Isobel and I was going for a walk in the sunshine. Drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, intending to cross through the Plantation and on to the Railway path, but it was so nice and warm beside the canal that I just kept on going. About half a mile later, the rain started and from then on, it was on and off all the way. Didn’t see any kingfishers, but the swallows kept me entertained with their aerial gymnastics and one of Mr Grey’s cousins posed for a close-up. Stopped at Twechar to sketch the lift bridge that opens once, maybe twice a year. Such a waste of money.  Interesting though and the first real Urban sketch for ages.

Across the road there is an old garage, boarded up and dilapidated and ripe for a bit of fisheye magic and some HDR. After a bit of fiddling, that’s what happened.  You can see the results above..

Walked back in the rain and Scamp made dinner which was a fish fingers salad using our own spinach and lettuce. Good to use stuff we’ve grown ourselves again.

Tomorrow I got to see the doc to get the results of my blood test. Going fairly early so I can enjoy the rest of the day.