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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Dragons are back – 4 June 2017

We had intended going to the West End Festival in Glasgow today, but decided to have a lazy day at home instead.  There was to be no procession and that’s the highlight of the event every year.

Scamp got busy planting, planting and more planting.  Me?  I went for a walk instead.  Walked around St Mo’s and got a few photos of a couple of mating damselflies.  I was using the Oly 10 because it was the most versatile tool for general shooting.  The 45-200 zoom is a great lens and works well for close ups when you attach the extension tubes.  You lose a couple of stops of exposure, but it was a bright day again and exposure wasn’t a problem.

On my second circuit of the pond, a dragonfly caught my eye.  Waited for it to land and get comfortable then got one shot before it flew away to circle the wee pond.  Then it returned to the same grass stem, but it wasn’t comfortable and with each move I made it flew off.  Eventually it settled down on a reed and I got the shot above.  I was quite pleased with it.  It’s a Four-spotted Chaser male as you probably already knew.  Set the shutter speed high (1/800) and aperture fairly deep (f9) and that amounted to an ISO of a manageable 1250.  You just couldn’t do things like that with the Teazer, so it had a day at home.  The dragonfly is a Four-spotted Chaser male but you probably knew that already.  Lots more beastie pictures on the Flickr page.

Came home and Scamp was finished working in the garden.  Finished working, but not finished with the garden.  No, she wanted to get some photos of us sitting outside with our new drinks holders.  We got them yesterday as well as a barrow load of plants.  Set up the tripod, bolted on the Oly 5 only to find that the battery was flat and the spare one had just started charging.  I tried using the Teazer, but it’s so hard to use without a flip up screen.  Eventually got the photo using Scamp’s camera and it has already been sent out to all my readers I think.

Took my dodgy left knee to the physio to see what he could deduce from a bit of prodding and pulling.  His deduction was that it was a healthy knee.  He thinks I’ve maybe nicked a ligament at the back of the knee and it’s now well on the way to being repaired.  He gave me some exercises to do and wouldn’t take any payment.  Good guy.

Today’s sketch is of the Campsie Fells viewed through the back bedroom window.  Just a quick watercolour that gains entry into J’ Ink because of the penwork.

The only fly in today’s ointment is the fact that I’ve got a fasting blood test tomorrow morning and a full dance card for the rest of the day.  Never mind, it’s all in a good cause.  May take my healthy knee out for a walk if the weather allows.

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A sea of green – 28 May 2017

I thought it would be a good idea to go down The Green this morning for a wee walk.  So did a few thousand others, it seemed.

I’d made the fatal mistake of forgetting that yesterday twenty two men had been running around a green field chasing a ball in the rain  Eleven of them got a trophy for doing the running better than the other eleven.  The ones who won the trophy were wearing green and white shirts.  The losers were wearing red.  Today we were driving against a sea of green and white tee shirts.  Luckily.  If we had been going the other way, in the direction the crowd were going, we would still be waiting in that traffic jam.  Also, we started out fairly early and the traffic was light.  Later, when we were coming home the traffic queue was from Parkhead to the slip road from the motorway, in fact they were queueing along the inside lane of the westbound M80, a distance of about 5 miles!  Fanaticism!

However, it didn’t really affect us.  We drove to the People’s Palace and parked there then went for a walk along The Green to the McLennan Arch and back along the riverside to the suspension bridge.  Along the way I spotted on Mr McGivern who was the bane of my life for the last two years as a PT.  He worked two days of the two years he was meant to be with us.  A ghost of a man who screwed the system and probably still does so.  I didn’t speak to him.

We stood on the suspension bridge and watched the people rowing up and down the river.  Young and old, fit and unfit, but everyone seemed to be enjoying the sunshine, especially after yesterday’s rain.  We headed for home after that, without even our usual tea ’n’ toast or roll ’n’ sausage.

It was on the way home we saw the extent of fandom for Celtic.  So glad we were going the other way.  After lunch and a pretty boring Monaco GP, I drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal to Twechar and back along the railway path.  Saw a Humming Bird Hawk Moth.  The first time I’ve seen one in Scotland.  Photo wasn’t all that good, because I was using the Teazer and it’s not really designed for my kind of macro photography.  Should have taken the Oly 10 as a banker.  Next time, yes, next time.  It was when I was crossing the plantation I saw Bolt.  That’s his name and his photo is at the top of the page.  Cheery wee guy and PoD.

Dinner was roast chicken with cabbage (because it was there) and potatoes.  Lovely warm day and I well exceeded my step count.

Tomorrow, no Gems, but it’s forecast for rain.

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Tick – 26 May 2017

First tick this year. Let’s hope it’s the last. Tiny wee bugger under my watch strap. Beginning to nip now.

Another very hot day, well, very hot for Scotland. Sat out in the garden reading for a while but had to keep going in to the shade to cool down. Got he call from the car hospital about 11.00 to say that the car was ready to collect.

Picked up the car from the garage Car Hospital. They had replaced the radiator after having to remove the entire front of the car. Changed days from when my father in law and I removed the radiator from my Reliant Regal with the aid of a couple of spanners and a screwdriver. Then we took it to Hillington in Glasgow where he soldered a couple of cracks in the fins and brazed the bottom pipe back on.  Then we reinstalled it with the same two tools we’d used to remove it. Life was so much simpler then.

Drove to Torwood to get some more plants for the garden. This time the plants were herbs and vegetables. The radiator worked perfectly but unfortunately on the hottest day of the year (28ºc) the air-con has packed in. It was a very uncomfortable drive home. I think the time has come for the Megane and us to part company. I’ve enjoyed driving it for the eight years I’ve had it. It’s a bugger to park and the visibility to the rear is very poor, but other than that, it’s a very comfortable car to drive … and it goes fast, or at least it did when it was in its prime. I suppose we all did when we were younger.

I took a walk over to St Mo’s before dinner but didn’t get much. To many dobbers wandering around half cut with bottles of Buckfast. A typical Friday night in Cumbersheugh.

Today’s PoD if from the garden and is a rogue floret from one of the alliums (or allii if you’re being pedantic) in the front garden.

That was about it really. Tomorrow? Apparently we need some shopping – don’t we always? Then we need to sit indoors and watch the rain.

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Paisley Pattern – 21 May 2017

It was a lazy Sunday with a late start.  I thought we could could go down the Green for a walk, but the rain put an end to that idea.

Started making a mock-up of the stand for the tablet and got a fairly stable version after a few iterations.  Next step is the prototype.  At least that’s what I remember of the Design & Make method … or maybe it’s the prototype first then it’s the mock-up.  I never did work it out.  In fact, I don’t ever remember actually using the design method, but I was happy to teach others that it solved all their problems.  It doesn’t.

Took a walk over St Mo’s later with the Teazer and the ’50 as backup.  This might be my holiday setup if the Teazer starts to cut the mustard.  So far, it’s a hit and a miss.  It’s a nice light little camera with a long zoom.  The CCD is the problem, it’s just too small, but I have to ignore that, stop ‘pixel-peeping’ (that means examining every shot at 100% magnification) and look, really LOOK at the finished result, because after all that is the what I and everyone else will want to see.

After I got back from my photographic sojourn, it was time to get ready to dance.  Today we were going to the uncharted wilds of Paisley.  The last time I was in Paisley, I was driving a hired box van to do a flitting for you, JIC.  That was many years ago.  Checking the height and width of the van against the size of the arch leading to the flat you and Andy were renting.  Anyway, I digress, as I usually do.  We got the train from Croy to Queen Street and then another from Central to Paisley Gilmour Street and walked to La Rambala restaurant.  It was much smaller than our usual Sunday Social floor, but it felt comfortable and the smells from the Spanish restaurant that made up the other half of the building were good.  We’ll go back again and next time we’ll have tapas before dancing.

The train home was full of drunk Sellic supporters fresh from the win against Hearts, a sort of second-hand derby, a cross country derby.  Drove back from the station in sunshine, which was nice.

Today’s PoD is of a tree climbing snail from St Mo’s.  The answer is ‘Because they’re there’  You know the question.

Two little sketches to get the ‘one sketch a week’ thing up to date.  The relation is obvious.  They’re both cameras, in fact, they’re both TZs separated by about nine years which is an age in digital cameras.

Tomorrow it’s Library and Health Centre then dancing at night hopefully with a wee bit of photography in between, DV as always.

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Testing – 12 May 2017

Scamp kindly offered me a run to the train station today because I wanted to go camera shop window shopping and she didn’t.

First stop was Jessops.  It used to be good, a long time ago, then it became truly terrible and eventually died.  It was taken over and re-energised by Peter Jones famous for Dragon’s Den.  For a while it became more like a photography shop again, but recently it’s become run down, staffed by people who don’t know what they’re talking about and just plain crap.  However, it was there or JL.  At least you can pick up the cameras in Jessops, even if most of them have almost no charge in the battery.  The big failing point for Jessops is the staff.  They think they know it all, and they don’t.  For selling point ’n’ shoot cameras to little old ladies, they’re fine.  Ask them questions about the more juicy details of a camera’s specification and you get that rabbit in the headlights look.  Either that or they tell you the first thing that comes into their head and then argue black is white that they’ve ‘Read it in a review’.  No you haven’t mate, you just made that up.  That was the case today.  Apparently Panasonic are wrong to say that the sensor size in the TZ 70 and the TZ60 are exactly the same size.  The schoolboy who served me today told me that the TZ70’s sensor is ‘just slightly bigger’.  Utter crap.  “Could I put a card in it, to try it?” I asked Mr Know-it-all. “Eh no actually.  Sorry.  You need a screwdriver to take the security device off.”  So you expect me to pay three hundred odd quid without checking the quality of the lens?  “Yes.  Sorry.”  See what I mean about Jessops.  They’re on the slippery slope.

JL were worse.  After waiting for 15 minutes for a promised sales assistant to allow me to touch the TZ70, one arrived and opened the case.  “Could I put a card in it, to try it?” I asked, “Yessssss??” was the hesitant reply. “If you …..”I didn’t wait to find out what I had to do, I just stuck an SD card in the camera and took a couple of shots.  It seemed ok.  “Can you tell me what the ring around the lens does?” I asked.  “I think it’s for focusing or something, but I’m not sure”  was the answer.  Her parting shot was the winner for me: “If you’ve got any questions, just come and ask me.”  By this time, I’d had enough.  I thanked my assistant and went to get the train home.

When I got back home, I eagerly fired up Lightroom to see what the purloined shots from the TZ70 with the ‘slightly bigger sensor’ would look like.  I’d deliberately chosen RAW and JPG files as the format.  Sorry JIC, is this giving you a headache?  Anyway, poor little Lightroom 5 just stared at the grey square in  the import dialog and said “I don’t know what this is.”  It appears that the RAW file requires Lightroom 6 to open it.  All that time wasted!  But there was an elegant solution (isn’t there always?)  It seems like that if you edit the EXIF (which is the little database inside almost every computer file) and change the camera model from TZ70 to TZ60, it will load perfectly.  I did and it did.  The result wasn’t earth shattering.  Well, the subject was a rack of ‘toy cameras’ in JL, so the subject matter wasn’t fantastic, but the quality wasn’t either.  It wasn’t bad, considering that the sensor (the digital ‘film’) is about half the size of an adult male’s pinkie nail.  It just wasn’t what I’m used to.  Size IS everything in cameras.

I think I’ve talked myself out of a superzoom compact camera.  I much prefer the quality of my Olys, despite their weight.  I took them out to run around St Mo’s for a while later in the afternoon sunshine.  That’s where today’s PoD came from.  It’s a Jenny Long Legs, also known as a Crane Fly.  The other two scary flies didn’t make it to PoD, but are available for your inspection on Flickr.

Tomorrow it’s going to rain.  So say the weather pixies.

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Karma – 9 May 2017

It began last night when we were getting in to the car after leaving salsa, I asked Scamp if she had had her handbag with her when she went in, knowing that I had it under my jacket, because she had been too busy gossiping to pick it up when she left.  When she ran across the road I called her back and told her I had just put it in the boot of the car.  Almost total silence all the way home.  Later I apologised (of course) and the matter was forgotten.

Today we went to Linlithgow to get some fish for dinner and also to stock up the freezer.  After leaving the fishmongers we went for a coffee in a wee coffee shop across the road.  It was quite expensive and tasteless coffee, but  the chicken soup we had was excellent.  In general it was quite an expensive wee coffee shop where a panini was almost eight quid!  Eight quid for a long roll with cheese and a slice of ham?  I don’t think so.  We just had chicken soup and coffee, poor coffee.  There were painting for sale in the shop too, and they were as bad as the coffee, tasteless.  Anyway, we paid and left then went back to the car.  We’d almost reached it when I turned to Scamp and said “Camera Bag!”.  I handed her the shopping bag and hared off to the coffee shop.  Thankfully some kind soul had handed the bag in and we were reunited.  That’s Karma.

Sat for a while in the sun in the garden today.  The wind was westerly and milder than of late.  It had been cloudy in the morning, but by the time we were driving to Linlithgow, the sun was shining.  As I’m writing this, the sky is still blue with not a cloud to be seen.

However, you don’t get your 365 done by sitting around in the garden.  Well, you can, but sometimes you have to wander further afield if you want some decent photos.  Today’s decent photos were taken in St Mo’s in the late afternoon.  They are of Orange Tip butterflies – males.  Both genders have the underwing pattern, but only the males have the bright orange tips to their wings.  As usual, I started off a good distance away from them and grabbed a few shots, then moved closer. for another shot, then closer still.  What you have to avoid is your shadow covering the butterflies because they seem to be very sensitive to changes in light level.  It probably triggers their flight response.  The only way to get closeups with the ‘wee dog’ is to use extension tubes and that’s what produced both today’s shots.  Extension tubes with a zoom lens is a great tool for macro work.  I like it.

Scamp made a salad for dinner and it was delicious.  After going to Linlithgow, we didn’t use any of their fish, it went straight into the freezer.  I had about half an Arbroath Smokie in my salad and despite it having been in the freezer for about six months, it tasted perfectly fine.  Mind you, it was cured and smoked and frozen, so it should have been perfectly preserved!

Tomorrow, I’ve got the Dentist in the morning.  What we do afterwards hinges on that being a good meeting.

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Breaking new ground – 8 May 2017

A Monday is Scamp’s Gems day, so generally, I make myself scarse. Today I’d decided to go exploring.

The morning was all about gardening. Added some more compost and soil to the raised bed and gave it a good soaking.  Then replanted the beetroot. Hopefully it will grow this time. Also planted out five of the peas I’ve been bringing on inside and hardening off in the mini greenhouse. Planted some spinach and kale in trays and put them into the space the peas have vacated in the mini greenhouse. I also planted out the strange wee plants I’ve been growing from seed since last autumn.  I don’t know what they are, or where they came from.  Maybe they will grow into a gigantic bean stalk.  That was enough work for one day, so the man who worked in the garden went and had lunch then got ready to go out.

I’d intended cycling to a wee nature reserve on the Auchinstarry road.  We’ve lived here for thirty odd years and this is the first time I’ve visited it.  Got there and found it’s a lot bigger than it looks from the road. Unfortunately it was nowhere near the building I wanted to photograph. I think it’s a ventilation shaft for an old mine. I couldn’t even see where it was from the nature reserve. More investigation required.

While I was sitting sunning myself in what was a natural suntrap, protected from the cool east wind, I managed to get a few shots of a hover fly and that’s my PoD.

I decided I had to find that wee building and cycled out along the Kirkie road and eventually found it half a field away!  Maybe tomorrow or later in the week I’ll visit it, on foot.

Carried on to the Drumgrew bridge and followed my nose into what used to be an old dump, but now looks as if it is being redeveloped. Lots of fenced off areas and warnings about Japanese Knotweed, so I kept well away. Two deer, a doe and a buck weren’t so bothered and casually walked across in front of me. Of course both cameras were in my bag and by the time I’d retrieved the Oly 10 the deer had realised they were not alone and jumped the fence totally ignoring the warning signs. Hooligan deer, obviously!

That was about it as far as cycling and photography was concerned. Am now standing as acting doorman at STUC building while Scamp gets a chance to dance as a follower for a change.

Salsa was as energetic and as brain taxing as ever with one old and one new move.  The old move was Tresario Doble and the new one was Agamemnon.  Nobody seemed to like Agamemnon, well, nobody except Jamie G.  It might grow on me.

Tomorrow?  Maybe a visit to Glasgow.  Got stuff to get.