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Recovery – 16 June 2018

I was exhausted today, it must have been that salsa dance last night.

So tired that I slept until almost 11am. Thankfully Scamp took pity on me and let me sleep on. Woke to the news that the GSA had burned down for the second time in four years. Such a pity after all the work that’s been put into it. Thankfully the new building wasn’t touched, but the old Mac building looks like a shell now. Perhaps that’s the way it should remain.

Didn’t do very much, didn’t even have to bring the car down from where I’d parked it last night. Scamp did the honours and drove down very carefully and parked it for me.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is of a hover fly on a flowering weed. I just liked the shot. There’s a more arty one on Flickr if you care to visit it. It’s a leaf covered in water droplets from the torrential rain we had this morning.

Dinner was a frugal potatoes, fish fingers and spaghetti. Maybe frugal, but quite delicious. A house speciality.

That’s about it for today. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day, but hopefully with a good outcome.

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Zoglets Everywhere – 10 June 2018

They may be Frogs or Froglets to some, but to me they must be Zoglets.

The day didn’t start well with pain in my knee, but once I was up, showered and with a couple of paracetamol in me, I felt much better.

<Technospeak>
This bit is very complicated, so just keep your eyes closed when you’re reading it JIC. Right. Last night I made a backup of the Linx before it got a chance to install the Spring Update. After that I allowed it to do the update, as if I had a choice! It was taking hours. Two hours in, it had done less than 20%, so I halted the update process by doing that old trick of holding down the power button for ten seconds. I connected up the magic usb memory stick and the backup drive, booted to the memory stick and reinstalled the May backup which doesn’t have the overload of the downloaded Spring Update (SU) and left it there.

Today I booted that May backup. I don’t know what went wrong, because I’ve used this backup before, but everything went screwball. Restarted again and reinstalled last night’s backup with the SC taking up 10GB of extra disk space. As soon as I booted Windows asked when it should do the upgrade. Ach, to hell with it. Just do it. I’m pretty sure you can downgrade again, almost sure. This upgrade went much quicker. The whole thing was over in less than 2 hours. After I’d answered all the questions with NO, the system worked fine. I’m now toying with the idea of deleting the 19GB of ‘Windows.old’ that is Microsoft’s own backup, just in case something does go wrong. Perhaps, because of all the hassle so far, I’ll just leave it. Ok Eyes Open time JIC.
</Technospeak>

Planted my last two seed potatoes today in an enormous black bucket today. They’re meant to be ‘earlies’, just not that early. With that and with a bit of cutting and pruning I was finished with gardening for today.

Scamp chased me out, telling me to go out for a walk for half an hour. I took her at her word and went over to St Mo’s for a walk. That’s where I found the Zoglets. There must have been hundreds of them wandering around. That wasn’t PoD though, the dragonfly took that award. Surprisingly, it was the exact same dragon as yesterday’s PoD! What’s the chances of that? I did feel better after the walk. When you’re just sitting about in the house, aches in you knees seem to be there all the time with you. When you’re out walking, you’re too busy looking around you to notice the nag in your knee. Well done Scamp. Well done too for dinner tonight. Sea Bass with Broccoli and New Potatoes. Can’t go wrong with that, especially cooked by an expert.

Tomorrow? Hospital for Scamp in the morning. Scamp out for afternoon tea later and I’ve got the results of my blood test after that. Finally, we’re hoping to go dancing at STUC. Phew!

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Nematode Nemesis – 8 June 2018

Slugs and snails beware. The end is nigh.

A package dropped through the letterbox today and in it were two boxes of Nematodes. One to treat the garden and hopefully eradicate the slug infestation and another to do the same for vine weevil. I’m not sure we have vine weevil, but I suspect we have and I know for certain that we have more than our fair share of slugs. I don’t really mind the shell carrying snails, but I hate slugs. The instructions on the box said to keep them in the fridge. I said no thanks and put them outside in the bin that holds the fertiliser and compost bags.

I took some photos of the Ladybird Poppies, macro, of course, and it was one of those that became PoD. Also on the agenda for today was putting up a frame for the peas. I’d bought the wood yesterday and also some woodscrews. It’s a pain having to buy these things, but like I said yesterday, I don’t have access to these materials and consumables any more! The frame wasn’t too difficult to erect and screw in place. The netting was a bit more of a faff, getting it stretched across the frame and clipped in place with staples and cable ties. Even after all this work, the bloody minded pea plants wouldn’t hang on to the netting. The ungrateful things just hung there for a minute or so and then dropped back to the ground. After a bit of delicate weaving of the tendrils, they eventually got the idea. I think I must have planted dim peas.

<Technospeak>
I spent the afternoon clicking and typing away at the new Win10 machine, trying to get it to create a macro to allow me to log on to my blog. I can do it on the Mac using a macro created with Keyboard Maestro, but there’s nothing like that app in WindowsWorld. You have to resort to some cryptic code in AutoHotKey to get anything like the same result. I finally managed to adapt a piece of code I found on an internet forum, but it only works with Internet Explorer. It’ll be another afternoon of swearing before I can get it to do the same on Firefox. Finally when I shut down the PC it wanted to do an upgrade. Now is that different from an update? Who knows. Maybe when I switch on the computer today everything will be different. I doubt it.
</Technospeak>

A walk across St Mo’s later cleared my head and gave me some photos of dragonflies and also a couple of coots feeding their scraggy little red headed young.  A cool breeze at times, but still a beautiful day.

After dinner it was time to deal with the pesky slugs. Dissolved the contents of the nematode packet in a 5 litre bucket of water and stirred frantically. Removed 500ml (ish) into the watering can and diluted it to 5 litres of slug nemesis. Tried to water it over the raised bed with the rose, but found that the rose was too fine. Had to remove it and just pour it on. Repeated this round the plants and pots in the garden until the bucket was empty. I should have watered it in later, but it was getting a bit cool, so we left it to nature, it’s supposed to rain tonight.

Tomorrow we may go to Stirling to look for cheap trainers for me and lunch for us.

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Johnny Appleseed – 5 June 2018

Went to Livingston today to get a pair of trainers and failed, but didn’t come home empty handed.

I’d intended going to Glasgow today to get my hair cut, but, as we would probably be going there tomorrow and could accommodate the shearing in that visit.  That left the day open. An open day never stays that way for long in this house, so we drove to the retail outlet place at Livingston to look for a pair of cheap(ish) trainers for me. I didn’t find any that I’d risk my delicate little tootsies in, at least not for the price they were asking. What I did get was a pair of shoes. Nice oxblood colour sensible Clarks shoes. I’m still not sure that they are the right size, but will persevere with them for a day or two in the house and if they are too small, I’ll reluctantly take them back. Scamp says I only want them because of the colour. She could be right.

When we got back home I had time to go for a walk to St Mo’s and I took with me, in my camera bag, a trowel and a chestnut seedling that I’d grown in the greenhouse. I picked the chestnuts in October last year, overwintered them in a paper bag in the greenhouse and planted eleven out in pots in March. Of those eleven I think it’s eight that have survived and it’s now time to return them to the wild to fend for themselves. A bit like Johnny Appleseed in America, but with chestnuts instead. Maybe none of them will grow, maybe all will flourish, but it’s been fun doing it and at least they’ve had a good start.

Photos today were scarce. It was down to the ‘beasties’ as Scamp calls them to provide most of the interest. I liked the shot of the Crane Fly or ‘Jenny Long Legs’ if you come from Scotland. It should actually be a vertical format, but I turned it  horizontal to get more of the actual fly on the page. Other than that, there were dragonflies again and some fat hoverflies. Fewer damselflies than I’d have expected with the warm weather. Maybe they are falling prey to the faster flying dragons.

It was another really hot day, but later, in  the early evening it cooled down quite quickly.  So quickly in fact that Scamp postponed watering the garden until tomorrow morning.  Forecast is for more warm weather tomorrow and Thursday with cloud and the chance of rain on Friday.  Oh well, we should make the most of it and get a tan while we can.

Tomorrow it’ll probably be dancin’ and drawin’ again. If time permits, I’ll get my hair cut.

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Thunderbolts and Lightning – 1 June 2018

Very, very frightening.

Not really all that frightening as it turned out, and it didn’t last all that long either. It was a dull morning when we woke, but then the sun came out for a little while and we decided to risk a visit to Waitrose in Stirling to get the makings of tomorrow’s dinner. John and Marion were coming to dinner tomorrow and Scamp had a menu in mind that needed lots of things. I had nothing in mind. To be more exact, I had nothing in MY mind. I was just dodging along and being the driver today. Came back laden with goodies of all different kinds from the great Waitrose.

Came home and had lunch which for me was a piece on Brie, Apple slices and Honey. On brown bread it’s an absolute delight. Sat on the step at the back door eating this and watching the clouds massing. Wunderground app predicted thunderstorms by 2.15pm. It was now 1.30pm and it looked like they were on track with their predictions. At about 2.20pm the first drops of rain fell and then the distant thunder started. Soon it was all round us and lightning flashes too. It only lasted about half an hour, but the rain stayed for a couple of hours before fading away. We’d got the plants out of the greenhouse at the first drops of rain and I’m sure the plants enjoyed their little downpour. Saved us watering them. When we were sitting watching the rain I was thinking how lucky it was that we hadn’t gone to Gardening Scotland today, its opening day. It will still be there on Sunday I’m sure.

I had intended going out to St Mo’s after the rain stopped and the sun came out, but I decided instead to take some garden photos and the little spider got PoD. I found a tick on my leg this morning. Probably only the second or third this year, so I’ve made myself a solemn promise; no more walking through the long grass until the first frost.

Dinner tonight was disappointing. It was a steak from Morrisons and it was as tough as old boots, not that I’ve actually eaten Old Boots, but from the reactions of those who have, it’s not a pleasant experience.

Tomorrow, as I said, we have visitors to dinner. I’ve not got much to prepare, just a loaf, sourdough of course. Hopefully it will be risen and ready to bake tomorrow morning. Maybe we’ll go in to the town for an hour or so in the morning after the baker has deemed the loaf edible.

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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.

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A day of rest – 28 May 2018

I think we deserved it.

It may have been designated a day of rest, but Scamp didn’t get that memo. She was out cutting the front grass, strimming it and then began strimming the back grass. I did rake the cuttings from the back grass and dumped them in the compost bin, so I did contribute, but the majority of the work was done by Scamp. I don’t know where she gets the energy from. Just to make it look as if I was getting in the act, I planted some peas and then planted out my kale seedlings. At least I got my hands dirty.

After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and was amazed to see not one, but five dragonflies flying circuits round the wee pond at St Mo’s. Five dragonflies and it’s still May. Unbelievable. I caught one while it was resting and that made PoD. Lots of damsels out today too, so some of them join the dragon on Flickr with a pine flower to keep them company. It appears it’s the male flower and will turn into a pine cone later in the year.

Came home and got changed out of tee shirt and shorts into dressier pink shirt and trousers, no, not pink trousers(!) and Scamp drove us down to Milano for dinner. Pizza Italiana for me and Pizza Primavera for her. Both delicious. New pizza chef I think.

Back home we sat outside with a wee glass of wine and later we sampled our Strawberry Vodka, but it wasn’t as good as it usually is. Maybe the strawberries weren’t ripe enough or maybe I should have stored it in the cupboard, not the fridge. Both changes will be made in the next batch DV.

Another beautiful day and hopefully more to come. I think we may be going shopping in Falkirk if everything turns out as planned.

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The Man in the Mirror – 21 May 2018

I had homework to do for the Wednesday’s Portraiture class. Today was my first attempt.

Scamp was out with Isobel in the morning and I got started sketching my reflection in the mirror in the back bedroom. It’s been ages since I’ve attempted a self portrait. This was different because it was planned and better structured using the Andrew Loomis method. I’d even made an Autodesk Inventor model of the basic shape of a head to give me a basic understanding of the shape. We’ve still to learn the basic bits that make up a face, like Nose, Mouth, Eyes and Ears. They are important, but the basic shape of the skull is even more important. I’m beginning to understand that now. With a bit of time to myself, I had my first try at an SP.

It was rough and ready, so I set it aside and made lunch which was yesterday’s Aloo Saag bolstered with some more spinach and a few more spices. It was agreed that it was an improvement on yesterday’s. Still needs some fine tuning, and the kitchen cabinets needed a bit of fine cleaning after my attempt at liquidising the second bag of spinach. It looked like the attack of the Jolly Green Giant. Most of it was cleaned up before Scamp came home.

I wasn’t happy with my first portrait attempt, so, after lunch when Scamp and the Gems were going through their repertoire, I started the second version. One of the eyes wasn’t right and that was when I found that I hadn’t a putty rubber, essential when you’re sketching in charcoal, like I was. That gave me the impetus to go out. I bought a putty rubber and then went looking for photos. Drove to Auchinstarry and did the canal, plantation and railway walk under glorious blue skies. That built up my step count for the day and provided my PoD which is a Bum Bee’s Bum. Actually, it’s a hoverfly’s bum, but that doesn’t sound as good, does it?

Back home and I didn’t really need any dinner after a very hearty lunch, so it was tea and toast before we drove in to Glasgow for our Monday dose of Salsa. Two good classes, but so few men. Tonight’s moves for the 6.30 class were Candado Complicado, El Chullo and La Chulla. For the 7.30 class it El Cien. All doable with a bit of practise.  Step count for today is just over 15,800.  Not bad at all!

Tomorrow we have a telephone meeting with Andrew from ARD at 9.30 and the rest of the day is ours!

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An afternoon among the beasties – 18 May 2018

After I drove Scamp over to meet the other ‘Witches’, the day was my own.

I chose to follow orders for a while because it suited me. I watered the garden just before 11am because the sun hadn’t forced its way through the clouds yet and it’s a sacrosanct rule that you never water flowers or veg when the sun is shining. All those little beads of water become magnifying lenses and burn the living daylights out of the plants. This was the first time the hose has been used this year. I really enjoy watering the garden with the hose. So much easier than humphing full watering cans around. Not as efficient though. There’s a fair bit of wastage with a hose as my sodden trainers were witness to. I even managed to get it wrestled through the toilet window to water the front garden too.

While I waited for the sun to burst through the clouds, I read a bit, drank a cup of weak tasteless coffee, then another cup of really good strong brew to make up for it. I doodled some sketches and I played around with some of the more esoteric aspects of this new photography program ON1. It’s absolutely enormous and like some program designed by a committee there seems to about ten ways to do exactly the same thing with the same results, but using totally different procedures. I assume they are slightly different and that’s why they are there, but to my naked eye they look the same. Finally, after having achieved absolutely nothing and learned even less, I shut up shop and went to have lunch which was another cup of coffee and a ‘piece’ (that’s a ‘sandwich’ if you’re not Scottish).

After lunch I’d had enough of the Hide and Seek game the sun was playing and went to get my dinner and some petrol for the car from Tesco. Then I pointed the Red Juke at Auchinstarry and said “Go There!”. It did. Walked along the canal hoping for a sighting of the elusive kingfisher, but it wasn’t showing itself today. What I did find was my PoD, the first Scottish damselfly this year. I thought it was dead, but on careful examination, the opposite was the case. It had just released itself from its nymphal shuck and was drying its wings in the sun. Also pumping blood into those wings to stiffen them. Good luck wee red damselfly and make good use of these warm days. Rain is on its way after, or maybe including Sunday. After that I found a plethora of ‘beasties’. Spiders, beetles and flies. You’ll have to look on Flickr to find them.

Drove home and set the new, fancy, complicated combination microwave to cook my pizza dinner. It did it, perfectly. Beautifully baked, not quite Peasano quality, but good enough for me and so much better than a microwaved one with that yucky squidgy base. No, this was a firm base with a crispy topping. Superb. I hope you’re listening JIC. Fiddly to set up, but very adaptable. Tried to watch the news, but apparently there is a wedding in London tomorrow and the rest of the world had to stop turning just to watch it. I didn’t. The pizza was too good to wait for.

All too soon I got the text to say that the witches were leaving Ayr, then the inevitable “on the bus” text. Agreed to pick Scamp up at the bus stop and, of course, by that time the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. What was wrong with having that three or four hours ago? You know how photogs love directional light. So that was it. Slipping the leash for a day is a great thing. I recommend it to you all.

Tomorrow looks like the last good day for a while. I suggest we make the most of it.

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The man who worked in the garden – 15 May 2018

Of course the woman who worked in the garden was there too!

It was a lovely morning, but unlike yesterday, it didn’t last. The clouds started to roll in, just as the weather fairies had predicted. However, it wouldn’t prevent us from doing a bit of digging in the garden. Before all that though, Scamp decided we should both visit Tesco, me as passenger in the Red Juke. I was most impressed with the work Mr Tesco had done on the store’s carpark. Before we left for our sojourn to the south, the carpark had been a disaster area. Full of ruts and potholes. Now it seemed that the poor man had been out all weekend labouring under the hot sun to make it a much nicer place to park with all the ruts filled, likewise the potholes and even new while lines marking out the boxes. I was just a little bit annoyed that Scamp managed to place the Red Juke right in the middle of one of those white boxes. I felt I should have been like Cherish, the judge from GBBO The Professionals and started measuring with my metal ruler, but I didn’t. I just put it down to beginners luck.

Back home, we got to work:
Scamp cutting the front grass and pruning. I kept moving because it looked as if she was pruning everything that was standing still.
Me when I wasn’t avoiding the secateurs, I was digging a hole and planting my birthday buddleia, planting some English peas (Boogie) and thinning out my kale. We were just finished our respective tasks when the rain started. Very light, but there all the same. It was lunch time.

The rain continued for most of the afternoon until I eventually got fed up and went in search of ‘beasties’ in St Mo’s. Found a tiny little spider, but had to give up on it because the light wasn’t very good deep in the woods, then I spotted a quite attractively patterned moth, but it saw me at the same time and flew off. Finally I cornered a bored or tired fly that sat patiently for its close up. That was PoD. Came home had dinner watched TV. Lots of little bits of work done today. Feeling better for it.

Tomorrow it’s not the danceathon its been of late as we’re only doing the ballroom and jive classes. I’ve got a portraiture class at the college in the evening. Student, not teacher, just in case you think I’m getting a bit above myself. Scamp’s having a week off to decide whether to face the M80/M8 traffic jam to go to two low level salsa classes. It’s an experiment. It may work or it may not. It just depends on how things pan out.