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Zombies and three Halyzia 16-guttata – 11 March 2018

Up early and out to get milk and bread, the staples.

It was Mothers Day today and it just didn’t seem right for Scamp to make the breakfast. She’s not my mother, but she looks after me as if she is. That’s why I got up and drove to Tesco to get the milk and bread, and also a bunch of bananas, not flowers, bananas. You can’t put flowers on your breakfast Bran Flakes, don’t be silly. Tesco looked like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie. Empty shelves everywhere. There was milk and bananas, but almost no other fruit.  [Thinks: Do zombies not eat bananas? ]  Now I know we’ve been away for a week and the snow has been bad here, but surely the Tesco lorries were getting through? I know Nicola Sturgeon was condemning the lorry drivers for clogging up the motorways with furniture lorries, but essentials like fruit and veg, that’s different. The apples and oranges should get through. Likewise the bread. My God, there was no plain loaves in the rack!! There were the thick cut loaves, but nobody eats them even if they’re were starving. Heavens, even zombies don’t eat them.

Came home made breakfast then sat down and typed up the last two days blog entries. Now we’re all up to date, I can relax. My reading public will not be on tenterhooks wondering if we got home, safely from our Week In A Warm Place.

That took me to about lunchtime and, as the sun was shining from a blue sky, after lunch I went to see if St Mo’s was still there and not under about three feet of snow still. I needn’t have worried, the swans were swimming, the birds were singing and the deer were out grazing, so I took the opportunity and snapped a few shots of them before they ran off. I also found my ladybird, the little orange one with the sixteen white spots (Halyzia 16-guttata), that I’ve been keeping an eye on since the beginning of the year. Except that it was no longer a solo ladybird, but a member of a trio. Three little vegetarian ladybirds clinging to the same tree. Two shots in the bag. Next shot was just of a pine cone with little tufts of moss growing from it. I liked it best, and it became PoD.

Dinner was a roast chicken from Tesco. At least there were plenty of them. Apparently zombies don’t like chickens, maybe chicken’s brains are too small to be worth eating. They (the zombies) do, however, like ice cream, because the freezers that are usually full of it were empty. There seemed to be no logic in the empty shelves. The ones you’d expect to be empty like the dairy aisle were full and the one’s that are more luxury items like ice cream had been pillaged. There’s just no accounting for folk.

That was about it apart from running the washing machine almost all day. Tomorrow I’ll probably put the cases away until the summer and, as it’s a Gems day, I’ll maybe go to the gym.

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The first day of 2018 – 1 January 2018

How do you make yogurt ice cream without yogurt?

You go out for a walk on New Year’s Day when Tesco is closed and try to find a shop that’s open and also, one that stocks plain, natural yogurt. The first show I tried wasn’t open, no surprise. The second didn’t stock yogurt. That meant a much longer walk to the service station that I was sure was open and might, just might have yogurt. It was and it did. Success! The yogurt ice cream would be made after all.

With that task completed, I decided I’d go out and get an outside photo for the first one of the new year, because the sun was shining. I wandered around St Mo’s looking for a likely candidate before I remembered the little ladybird I’d seen away back at the beginning of December. It was still there. What’s more, it was moving. So it didn’t hibernate after all. It had chosen the east facing side of the tree which would be in the lee of the prevailing west wind. It had also chosen a spot with a bit of cover from the rain. Since I’d last seen it, it had survived 40mph winds and temperatures of -7ºc for three or four days in succession. Tough little cookies are ladybirds and that was the PoD.

Spoke to a bloke who was walking a friendly looking dog. The bloke told me it was a flat coated retriever. It certainly seemed well looked after and he said it would be even more friendly if I had some chicken, beef or liver with me. I told him it would be lucky, all I had was some stale bread for the ducks and swans. I know you’re not supposed to feed bread to ducks, but they don’t seem to have got that email yet. We said cheerio and went our different ways.

H&N arrived early just as I was beginning to clear the table. Scamp was busy and this time she had excelled herself with Salmon En Croute with roast potatoes, carrots and sugarsnap peas. Pudding was Pears in Red Wine, served with the Yogurt Ice Cream. Best she’s made, but that was only because I went the extra mile to get the yogurt!

After dinner we played Bears V Babies. A not very serious game with the most complicated rules ever. Still a good laugh and if not taken too seriously.

Resolutions for 2018
All the resolutions from 2017 plus:

  • Visit the gym or the pool at least once a week – and mean it this time!
  • Sketch at least one drawing a week. It can be in any medium, but it must be done on time.
  • Post the blog on the day it refers to unless some technical issue prevents it.
  • Get up for breakfast one day a week.

Let’s see how long they last.

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on the weather and what H&N are doing.

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The great unboxing – 25 December 2017

Christmas, it’s a great time of year, and that’s Christmas with a ‘C’, not Xmas with an ‘X’

It used to be the day for kids cycling on their new bikes or showing off their new doll’s pram and for bigger kids to be snoozing in front of the fire. I didn’t see any kids cycling or pushing prams or anything. In fact I didn’t see any kids outside today at all. The fact that it’s been raining torrentially all day long probably had something to do with that. It wasn’t the best Christmas weather, and, of course we all have central heating now, so there’s no chance of snoozing by a fire.

That’s the moan over with. Today was the great unboxing of the big box. The one that has had Scamp flummoxed since the day it made an appearance almost a week ago. I don’t think she believed me that it was double wrapped, but it was and once she had removed both layers, the secret was revealed. It was a leaf blower. I know that sounds a bit mundane and unseasonal too, but Scamp has been talking about getting one of these things for over two years now and in a moment of inspiration, I though this was just the thing. Not something predictable or something extremely expensive. Just something she’d talked about and had forgotten about until the grass cutting season was here in a few months time. Even then, she’d just say it was a silly idea. It was, but the secret is out of the box now, literally. We’ve checked it, and it works. It works very, very well! No leaves or grass cuttings will be safe now.

My best favourite prezzy was a pattern for a shirt (long and short sleeved), a tie, a bow tie and best of all, a waistcoat, although it’s an American pattern and it’s described as a vest. My mum knitted me a vest from string when I was wee. Everyone who was anyone had a string vest. They kept you warm when the weather was cold because they trapped a layer of air next to your skin. It was like wearing the future, because it was scientific. Everyone wore them under a thin white shirt at school because you could see the pattern of the vest under your shirt. That was proof that you were up to date with fashion! String vests, where are they now? Anyway, this will be my next project, a waistcoat. There’s a whole new vocabulary to learn about with ‘darts’ and ‘notches’ and ‘basting’. Sounds like a whole new language to me! That’s not to say I didn’t like the rest of the prezzies, oh no, they were all great, like the ‘Buff’ from JIC and Sim, a winter version and the jar of fizzy flying saucers from Scamp (already opened and sampled). Christmas is a great time of year for new projects.

Lunch was light. Just cold meat on a wrap for me and toast for Scamp. Dinner was Salmon for Scamp and another Steak for me. Both served with Roast Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts. Then for pudding it was Tiramisu. I was more careful with this and only ate half. The rest is in the fridge for tomorrow. Christmas is a great time of year if you don’t over-eat. I managed to err just on the side of safety and sense. Scamp is almost always sensible and she was today.

I didn’t go out today. I took today’s PoD from the kitchen. It wasn’t until I examined it on the computer that I noticed the tiny little aphids clinging to the leaflets and stem. I hadn’t realised they could survive in our sub-zero climate. You live and learn.

It was great to talk to Hazy and JIC today. Just a little time with both of them at different times of the day, because they’re both on different sides of the planet living their own lives, and that’s good. Christmas is a great time of year for keeping in touch, and we did.

Ok, boxes have been opened, the recycling bin is full of wrapping paper. It’s time to face Boxing Day and hope for just a little respite from the rain. If only so the weans can get their new bikes and prams out to show them off. We may go for a walk.

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An Old Friend Returns – 13 October 2017

There’s not much to be said about the morning. It rained and it was windy, then it rained again.

Tried to copy a folder of videos from the MBP (Mac Book Pro) to the iMac. It was doing it over WiFi and reported that it would take about an hour. Videos are notoriously large files and there were a lot of them, around fifty at last count. In fact there were more like a hundred because I converted the MOVs to MP4s to make them more portable and ensure they would play in the majority of platforms. Anyway, I decided that an hour was far too long, so I stopped the transfer and used a portable hard disk to copy the files from the MBP. Then it was a simple job to unplug the portable HD and re-plug it to the iMac. There were two partitions on the portable HD and I should issue a warning that there’s a fair amount of Technospeak in this part of the blog. If you don’t want to hear all the geek stuff, maybe you should move down to the but that says “SAFE NOW!” Anyway, now the lightweights are gone, here’s where we talk about the ‘techy’ stuff and this is where things go awry.
The HD was partitioned into two parts. Part 1 was mainly for photos backup and Part 2 was for general use. Both partitions were formatted to NTFS. Now Macs can read NTFS, but natively,they can’t write to it. When I plugged the HD into the iMac it could only read the photos part and I’d copies the files to the other part and it wasn’t showing up. It wasn’t mounted that’s why. I ejected it and plugged it back in to the MBP and it read as normal. I checked it using Disk Utility and it showed up as ok. Ejected it again and plugged it back into the iMac. Still no go. Now I said that Macs can’t natively write to NTFS, but I use a wee app by Paragon that allows the Mac to write to an NTFS disk. It also has a disk checker, so I used it to check said HD. It told me it was dirty. That’s computerspeak for something’s screwed up here. It tried then to repair the damage, but after about ten minutes had got nowhere. This needed the big guns. Ejected the disk and went upstairs to where the PCs live and powered up the laptop, then attached the HD. Yes, it loaded, but only after a lot of clicks and whines. Went into a DOS command prompt and tried to run CHKDSK which is the program that CHecKs the DiSK. Unfortunately you can’t simply do that. You need to go to the Elevated Command Prompt as an Administrator. Typical american idea. Yes, you can buy a gun, or two, or three over the counter, but you have to be Administrator to fix your own disk on your own machine! Finally typed in the command CHKDSK G: /F, pressed enter and five minutes later the job was done. Ejected the disk and re-connected it just to check, and everything was fine and dandy. Ejected it again and took it down to the iMac where it loaded as if nothing had happened. The files copied in just under 6 minutes. The entire process from cancelling the WiFi transfer had taken just short of two hours.
The moral of the story is: If it’s working, don’t mess around with it.


After the disk copying fiasco we had lunch and while Scamp was blowing up a storm on the clarinet, I slipped out to St Mo’s where I spotted the spider, the caterpillar, the chestnuts (although they were arranged tastefully first) and finally I chanced upon Mr Grey. I think it was Mr Grey my grey heron adversary in St Mo’s, but this one looked a bit thinner and smaller than Mr Grey. Maybe it’s Son of Mr Grey. I got a few photos of him before he made his exit down to the other end of the pond. I must say at this point, the photos on the retina screen look amazing. It totally transforms the editing process when you can see the detail so clearly.

Today’s sketch was of Mambo No 5, my trusty iPhone 5s. I think it deserved a photo after all the hard work its done and the hours of music its played. I even took the photo of the drawing with it, as I always do with sketches.

Now I’m off to bed. I’ve got a wee tickle in the back of my throat. Probably caught some nasty cold germs from all the sniffling passengers on the train yesterday. Looks like more rain tomorrow. Don’t have any plans, but may go somewhere for lunch.

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Photos, Phones and Probably a Sketch – 12 October 2017

Today I intended to get the bus in to Glasgow just to have a wander, probably gather some photos and maybe get a sketch completed. That was the ‘fun’ stuff, I also wanted to get a baseline price for a new phone contract. That wouldn’t be fun.

As it turned out, Scamp offered me a lift to the station, so I got the train in instead. When I got to the station there was a fair commotion with four police cars and two ambulances sitting outside. The reason for the stramash was lying on the floor in the corridor that takes you down to the low level station. One of the ceiling panels had fallen. Usually these panels are fibreboard or plasterboard, but this part of the station dates to the 1960s and this panel was concrete! Cordons had been set up, police were taking statements from witnesses and at least one wee Glesga wummin who wanted to be seen to be ‘assisting police with their enquiries’. There were also a few ambulance personnel looking for someone to assist. Thankfully only one person was injured, but looking at the size of the concrete lumps, this could have had a totally different outcome.

I walked up Sausage Roll Street and found a sketch for the day. It wasn’t a cold day, but the wind blowing over Garnethill was cutting. I took about 15 minutes to get the bones of the sketch of St Aloysius Church. Even at the second attempt I managed to truncate it and removed the dome at the top of the tower. However, I think I got the gist of the building. Went in to Mandors and got some fabric to make a bow tie for myself. It’s printed with cameras. Quite apt I thought.

From there I walked down to Argyle Street via a couple of art galleries, looking for inspiration. Into Cass Art to browse. Just window shopping. They too had a gallery where a group of 25 artists were selling their work, so I wandered round looking for inspiration. Inspiration is a fickle thing. I found it in the first galleries, but in the Cass Art gallery I realised that my own work was actually not bad. After all this fun stuff, it was time to face Vodafone.

As predicted, all they offered was the blanket price from the website. I could have sat on my backside in front of my shiny new iMac and got that same price. In fact I had. I was told that if I was in the police, army NHS or any of 5,000 other occupations or companies, I was eligible for a discount (allegedly!), but upgrading was not due a discount. Staying with a company was not due a discount. That said, the salesperson had originally told me that I was not eligible for an upgrade because I was outwith the 70 days until the end of my contract. Also, apparently I’d phoned the shop at some point in the last week. Believe me, I wouldn’t waste any of my unlimited minutes phoning them. I just wanted a baseline price and I got their laughable offer, then left.

Scamp had offered to pick me up from the station, so I just got the train back after checking that it was still ok with her. Had a quick roll ‘n’ cooked ham as a late lunch and then grabbed the Nikon and went for a walk in St Mo’s. That’s where I got PoD which was the spider. I was tempted by the pic of the bloke playing slide guitar on Bucky Street. It was when I got the photo home I realised that only his right hand had false nails. Presumably to help with picking the strings. I’d love to have been in the nail bar when he walked in!

Phoned Vodafone customer service later and spoke to someone sensible who sold me the same deal as the salesman in Glasgow, but with a 20% discount. I know I could have pressed for 25% or maybe eve 30%, but he had beaten the Tesco price and it meant I was getting a new phone with more storage space for less than I paid two years ago. Result!

All of that and Seabass for dinner. A good day!

Looks like overnight rain and a wet morning commute, except we don’t commute any more. We just wait for the sun to shine, which may happen around midday with a bit of luck. No plans for tomorrow. May do the first backup of the iMac. Need to think up a name for the new phone. The last one was ‘Mambo No 5’. I’m thinking this one might be ‘Isa.’

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Flying Solo – 29 September 2017

Today it was my turn to go for coffee.

Before I went I did the underpainting on my Rannoch Moor painting. It’s beginning to look better now I’ve got the proportions sorted out.

Just after midday, I met up with Val and Fred in Costa. I drove there in the Juke. I was flying solo for the first time. No Scamp as radio operator and navigator. Just me and the Juke. And I was fine. So was it. I even got a chance to use the windscreen wipers during one of the heavy rain showers we had.  I also managed to get parked almost straight and in the box at Tesco, thanks to the reversing camera.

It was when I was walking into the Antonine Centre that I realised I hadn’t taken my old satnav from the Megane. I know I won’t need it again, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

After coffee and a discussion of the state of the world, I drove Val home and he too remarked on the different view you got from the Juke’s elevated seating. After that I went to fill the tank for the first time. The garage had given me half a tank to get me started, but I wanted to fill it to the brim. Surprisingly it cost me just £30! Then when I got back in the car I realised that the petrol tank was much smaller than the Megane. It only holds about 45 litres which is worth about 300miles. That’s just enough to get us to Skye. The Megane took about 60 litres. Oh well, I’ll just have to be more frugal in my driving style, I suppose.

Came home and decided to go out to St Mo’s in the rain to get some photos. I was surprised to find the dandelions still setting seeds. I liked the detail rendered, and that’s why it got PoD. Out behind the forest I saw a trio of Garden Cross spiders on their webs. One male and two female apparently. Troilism in spiders! Who knew?

Then the salesman from the garage phoned to ask how I was finding the car. That was my chance to ask him if the satnav was still in the Megane. He went and had a look and said it was there. He even offered to drop it off on his way home. I said no, that we’d come and pick it up during the week. He must have thought I was mad. Here I am with an up-to-date large screen satnav in the car and I want my old Navman back? It’s the principle of the thing though. It put my mind at rest.

Dinner was a Chicken, Mushroom and Kale pie. Quite delicious and totally gone now.

Maybe off to Embra tomorrow. Not driving though, train is less stressful.

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Paperwork, paperwork – 25 September 2017


Checked my mail this morning and the registration document for the car had arrived. That meant it was time to get the insurance arranged. Hard to believe, but in the two weeks since I last got a quote, it had gone up by £30 from both companies, Nissan and Tesco. After a bit of moaning and wheedling with Nissan I got it down by £20. Tesco, on the other hand, were as flexible as an iron bar. No way were they going to shift an inch on their extortionate quote. Such a shame as I’d been with them for three years and their quote for the Megane had been fairly good. After a bit more paperwork and emailing we were done. Looks like Thursday will be “J Day”.

After that I spent some time swearing at Windoze 10 Creature Edition. I don’t think it will be staying with us very long. Gone, now are the days when you could just access the BIOS with a couple of keys at startup. Oh no, that would be too easy. Now you have to delve into settings, restart the machine, do more configuration on the blue screen that load and then you can access the BIOS. And then you wonder why Macs are so popular? Added to all that, it runs like a slug with a hangover. I do so wish I could go back to the original Win 10 I upgraded Win 8 to. That was brilliant, well, not exactly brilliant, but sooooo much better than The Creature From The Black Lagoon I have now.

Went out for a walk later in the afternoon after I’d taken the Megane for a wash and brush up. By then the sun started poking its face through the clouds and I found it was a beautiful autumn afternoon out there, warm too. Got some photos, two of which are above. Also saw two potentials. Will keep them in mind for tomorrow, perhaps. Today’s PoD was the Brambles. Not Blackberries, that’s for the english. These are fierce, jaggy Scottish Brambles and proud of it. If you look at the Flickr version and click to magnify it there, you’ll see a wee spider waiting to catch unwary flies enticed in to sample some bramble juice. Didn’t see it when I was taking the photo, only when I got it into the computer. The other plant’s name evaded me for years, but now I know it’s a Butterbur of the genus Petasites. There, you’ve learned something today (I learned it yesterday, so I’m a day ahead of you).

Strange night tonight, not having Salsa on a Monday is quite unsettling. Hopefully Wednesday will arrive soon and we’ll get our Latin fix.

Weather seems favourable tomorrow. We may go out for a run. In the car of course!

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Slipped the leash – 21 September 2017

Scamp was off to have lunch with one of her friends. I had the day to myself!

In the morning we had a Skype with Hazy. Unfortunately it was interrupted in the middle when Skype decided it was going to do an upgrade. Now I don’t mind upgrades for most bits of software (Windows excepted), but why does a communication program break into your conversation without even a by-your-leave? The answer is because it’s owned by Microsoft. The same company that decides you need the latest upgrade to Windows 10 so badly, it installs it on your computer whether you want it or not. Thought it was your computer? Nope, it belongs to Mickysoft. Unless, of course, you took the sensible route and installed Linux.

After our on-line chat, Scamp got ready and headed off. I set too to practise some ‘painting people’ after I’d filled the washing machine and part completed today’s Sudoku and made lunch. The washing machine was a timer. I had the forty minutes it takes to do a wash to do my painting, then I’d have to hang out the washing because it looked like a good drying day with a light breeze and some splashes of sun. After that it was time to go get some photos. Walked along the canal for a bit and then cut across the plantation. It was there I met today’s PoD, the dragonfly. I think it’s a female Black Darter. Quite small, only about 30mm long. It sat on the handrail of a bridge for ages. I thought at first it was sizing up a little fly for lunch, but then decided it was just sunning itself. Probably it had been listening to the weather forecast and knew the next two days wouldn’t allow for much sun bathing.

Walked back to the car and drove to Tesco to get the makings of dinner which turned out to be a truly awful curry. The best thing about it was the flatbreads. They were excellent as usual.

By the time I got home from my walk, Scamp was back home and my day ’off the leash’ was over. I think I may have a beer tonight to commiserate with myself for making such a poor curry. Must do better.

Tomorrow centres around John Carrigan’s Birthday Bash. Should be good fun.

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When I’m cleaning windows – 19 September 2017

Sitting in the people’s palace enjoying a roll ’n’ sausage and a fairly decent cup of coffee. I’m becoming a real coffee snob, Hazy! Scamp had her usual peppermint tea and a couple of slices of toast. It seems strange sitting here on a weekday! We’d just been on a recce to find the party venue for John Carrigan’s 60th in Ibrox, deep in Bluenose territory.

Earlier in the afternoon we were walking round Glasgow Green marvelling at three blokes who were abseiling down one of the multi-story flats. We thought they were cleaning the windows, but it wasn’t until I got the photos home and processed that it became clear that they were actually repairing the windows. They were replacing the seals. Not the sort of job I’d like to be doing, even on a beautiful day like today. However, the view from the top would have been wonderful.

After lunch we drove home and I went out to see if the dragonflies were still sunning themselves up at Fannyside. They were, but their numbers well well down from last week. Only about half a dozen rather than last week’s nineteen. This time I had the proper gear. Nikon D7000 and the Sigma 105mm macro. Maybe it was because it was later when I got there, but the little dragonflies that landed seem lazy and quite happy to simply sit there and be photographed. As usual, I got the feeling that they were sizing me up as I was photographing them. Scary things dragonflies.

In the morning, I’d put what might be the finishing touches to my acrylic painting, so I present it here for your perusal.

Salesman from the garage phoned tonight with an update on the car. It might be arriving a day or two earlier. We’ll know for sure later in the week.

Finally, we don’t have a plan for tomorrow apart from Salsa at night and yesterday’s move wasn’t Sombrero Doble, it was Balsero Dos. Almost the same thing.

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The Happy Wanderers – 15 September 2017

Today we took JIC and Sim to Devilla forest in Fife to have a walk through the trees.

Devilla is a Forestry Commission site with a fair bit of parking and a few interesting walks through well maintained woodland. At weekends it gets very busy, but on a Friday morning it wasn’t overrun. We started out in sunshine, but as we continued through, the clouds rolled in. Sim and I stopped to take some photos of the pond and later a black darter dragonfly that settled near us. There was also a brilliant green dragonfly that buzzed us, but didn’t want to settle. Then a black dog, not the Black Dog, just a labrador appeared and scared away the green dragonfly. It was as we were turning away we realised that Scamp and JIC were nowhere to be seen. I reckoned that they were ahead of us heading back to the car. Sim was of the mind that they’d taken the wrong turning, after passing the pond you see above, and were walking round the pond again. We headed back to the car, but the wanderers weren’t there. We sat and waited, then Sim phoned JIC and she had been right. They’d turned left rather than right when they passed the pond. Of course they hadn’t just walked the same path again, they’d gone ever further into the forest. Anyway, when they returned, it was time for lunch.

Lunch was in the Walled Garden, just along the road from the carpark. Food was fine and the cakes looked as good as they did the last time, but the coffee was almost as weak as Costa muck.

We drove to Pittencrieff park in Dunfermline for a walk around the flower beds. We went to get a photo opportunity of the ‘Fairy Castle’ that is in reality the City Chambers, but didn’t bother to visit the town itself. Best to view it from a distance.

Drove over the new Queensferry Crossing which was mildly mobbed. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but we were going north to south. South to north was a different story, with traffic attempting to merge from ever available angle.

Later we dropped JIC and Sim at Chris’s house in Caldercruix. The first time I’ve been there since John and I picked up Andy Taylor and took him to school, easily 25 years ago. It’s not improved.

Tomorrow after we drop ‘The Kids’ off, we may go out somewhere, although the weather doesn’t look a patch on today’s.