Not the best of days – 12 February 2019

Some days are good and some are simply bad. Today was the latter.

The tree in the garden that was trimmed yesterday doesn’t look at all like we thought it would. It may take some time for it to grow into itself again, but for just now it just looks a bit ugly. We’re both agreed on that and we’re both to blame for not making it clearer to Nicky what we wanted. However, like that awful haircut we’ve all had, it will eventually grow back. Unfortunately, trees take longer than hair to grow. We may make a bird box and fix it to the tree, at least then we’ll have something interesting to watch.

It’s always going to be a bit of a wrench having to go to another salsa class and now we have confirmation that the advanced class is to close in March. We’ve discussed it a lot in the last 24 hours and have come to the conclusion that it’s not just one reason for the lack of people, there are lots of reasons:

  • The class itself was becoming stale with long complicated moves that nobody in their right mind would attempt to dance in a club.
  • The Advanced class were always being merged with classes one or two levels below us. The constant merging of classes meant that the more advanced members were having to ‘tread water’ while newer, less experienced people caught up. When they did catch up, another class would merge in and the cycle would begin again. People simply didn’t want to pay for a class where they weren’t learning anything new.
  • Jamie is a great teacher, but only when he’s there. I realise he has other commitments with his work, but when he’s not there and less able teachers are taking his place, our interest suffers and some people, again, will move away.
  • There have been comments in class about some people, usually leaders, who are too rough and are injuring some of the followers. Scamp, herself has had a few bruises from these meetings. That is a definite reason for some of the followers leaving.

I really don’t know what the answer is, there may not even be one. We’ll try tomorrow’s ‘Advanced’ class. We’ll give it a fair test and it may be the salvation of Salsa in Glasgow. At least it will be with Jamie as a teacher.

I gave both our cars a quick wash and brush up today. They needed it, then when Scamp was out to lunch with Mags I hung out the washing and that’s where I saw today’s PoD! Scamp’s Christmas Roses are still in flower and are changing colour slightly. It looks like they are going to be sliding towards pink.

Today’s sketch is four Sugardrop tomatoes I spied when I was making paella tonight. A quick 40min sketch, but with decent technique and using a real brush, not a waterbrush for a change.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and hopefully dancing at night too.

Short back and sides – 11 February 2019

Nicky, the arborist, was coming today to give our rowan tree a short back and sides. He didn’t mess around.

He arrived just after 10am and got to work straight away. He trimmed all the low lying branches and then some of the higher ones that were easy to reach with his expensive Japanese draw saw (cuts on the back stroke, like most Japanese tools). The next thing I saw was him strapping himself into his climbing harness and throwing a climbing rope over one of the sturdy upper branches. After that, he was up, up and away cutting a swathe through the branches that overhung the garden. I think it was at this point that Scamp became nervous and began to wonder if going to hack too much away. However, like a half cut head of hair looks in the hairdresser’s mirror, you have to have faith in the expert wielding the scissors, or in this case, the Japanese saw. By the time it was finished, the tree looks a lot more open. Light will get through and so will the air. He assured us that the ‘wounds’ (his word) would heal quickly and encourage new growth. Like the new hairstyle, it will take a bit of getting used to, but in a few weeks it will look fine.

All that was left was the disposal of the cuttings. That was going to take a few bucket and bag loads, about half a dozen in fact and since I was going to the skips today anyway, it seemed a good opportunity to make good the fresh start. With that in mind, and after Nicky had left we set to with the loppers and chopped all the branches into manageable pieces, bagged them and I took them in the car along with the rubbish from yesterday to the skips. The world and his wife were there too, dumping rubbish. We really do live in a throw away culture. At least the tree cuttings could be chipped and composted. Not so the rubble and timber. That will probably go to landfill.

Best laugh of the day was when we were doing our final tidy of the garden. An old bloke was walking past on the path behind the garden when I turned to Scamp to ask if some old rotten wood was going to. He turned to me and said “Would you mind keeping your voice down. You nearly woke me there.” I looked and he smile, so I said in my sincere voice. “My apologies.” We both laughed and he walked on. Just a wee bit humour gets you through the day sometimes.

After I dumped today’s stuff in the skips, I took a drive over to Fannyside Moss and got today’s PoD. It was taken with the Samyang fisheye lens. Drove back via St Mo’s with some bread to feed the wildfowl, although the greedy gulls got most of it. I know you’re not supposed to feed them on bread, but they didn’t seem to get that memo.

There was sad news at Salsa tonight. Our dwindling class numbers have made it impossible to continue the 7.30 Advanced class which has been running for 10 years in the same time slot in a variety of venues. We have only four weeks left in it and then we may have to look at joining the 8.30 class on a Wednesday. It’s nowhere near as good a class and the 8.30 time isn’t ideal. We may have to look for pastures new.

Today’s sketch of the banana and lime was done while listening to Masterchef, but I painted it under the light of a daylight bulb in the painting room otherwise the grinding of my teeth at the inane comments of the ‘fat bastard’ Gregg Wallace would have upset Scamp.

Tomorrow Scamp is out to lunch and I may, just may take the bike out for its first run this year.

Out even earlier – 18 January 2019

Why is it when I set the alarm on my phone to make sure I wake up on time, I don’t sleep for more than an hour at a time?

Up and out for 8.20 this morning to go to the docs for a blood test at 8.50. I needed that half hour to scrape the car and get the temperature up to a reasonable level where your breath doesn’t freeze instantly in front of your face. Then I had to drive through the hosts of parents driving their children to school to make sure their little feet and knee joints didn’t wear out prematurely.

Got parked and grabbed today’s PoD of the sun colouring the sky and clouds above Carbrain. A bit of a misnomer, because everyone in Cumbersheugh knows there isn’t a brain in Carbrain. I walked a bit further and watched two women being terrorised by marauding feral seagulls behind Boots the Chemist. Great beasts of things, they were and squawking like banshees and the seagulls were almost as bad. By the time I got to the doc’s, the sun had broken free of the horizon and was lighting up the sky properly. Another shot in the bag which might have beaten the first if it wasn’t for the ugly flat roofed Carbrian flats with windows and no doors. “Blots on the Landscape”, could have been the title. Did my Tony Hancock impersonation (if that makes no sense to you, Google ‘The Blood Donor’, a Hancock classic) and then headed home for breakfast which on this cold, clear morning would be porridge and a cup of Assam. The best central heating known to man.

Scamp was determined to renew our passports online since she heard that you could take your own photo and get it validated immediately. It’s a brilliant system and I’m still not sure if it is a really clever algorithm (the word of the moment, don’t you know?) or an actual human sitting there giving thumbs up or thumbs down. Possibly this will be the ultimate Turing Test some day. Anyway, the upshot of it was we passed the test and ordered our shiny new passports. Then we’d to send our old passports off to be cancelled or redacted or simply have their corners cut off. Again will it be by machine or will it be by a minimum wage human? Who knows. Just so you know, you have to actually post the passport off, you can’t simply stuff it into the USB port in the back or side of your computer. That’s a pity. It kind of goes against the digital ethos of renewing your passport online. That said, the whole thing is much better than take the photo, fill in the form, post the lot away, wait a week, get a refusal because Gort says the corner of your mouth is slightly upturned and you might, just might be starting to smile. DO IT AGAIN PROPERLY THIS TIME. Yes, this is a big step forward, even if we don’t know if Gort is human or android.

Drove to Blantyre to Carrigan’s and had dinner tonight with Margaret and Billy. Food was good and plentiful. My roast gammon had been sitting under the heat lamp for a few minutes more than I’d have liked, but it was more than made up for with the dessert. Total silence while four of us struggled with our Tablet Ice Cream. Astounding dessert. Totally unnecessary, but total gluttony!

Managed to find my way back on to the M74 only to find the M73 turnoff was closed tonight, but then I navigated my way off and over the M74 and back on to the M73 turnoff on the other side. That confused the satnav.

Tomorrow I believe we may be going to Stirling to Waitrose for food. Hopefully we won’t be getting up early and I’m not setting my alarm, so I should sleep less fitfully than last night.

The start of a new year – 1 January 2019

It looked a bit frosty when we woke, so we decided to take the ‘getting up’ part in a relaxed manner, as befits the first day of the year.

Normally we go for a walk on New Year’s Day and today was no exception. However, a cup of coffee came first on the agenda along with the ceremonial completion of the first Sudoku puzzle of 2019. Then we got well wrapped up and I got my old boots out. Scamp wore her new, dressy boots, but with Goretex, so sensible too. We walked round St Mo’s pond under a clear blue sky, watched the Canada Geese and the greedy gulls. We also saw the cute little golden eyed Tufted Ducks and it was one of those that made the PoD. The first PoD of 2019.

We left St Mo’s and walked down to Broadwood Loch pasts the posh houses with their inflatable snowmen and indeterminate illuminated creatures. We took a short walk round part of the Loch just to say we’d been there and then we walked back home.

I struggled with, and swore at Microsoft Word for a while trying to mail merge some data from Excel into a word document. It just wouldn’t work. It took me a while to realise that when I asked Mr Google about it, that all the people with the same problem were working on Macs. Could that be the problem? Could it be so simple. The answer seemed to be a resounding YES! I tried to emulate the problem on Scamp’s PC laptop and it simply worked. I was using exactly the same files and exactly the same method and it worked. Another example of two systems just refusing to work with each other. Well, it’s done now and I’ll try to remember to use the PC the next time I’m mail merging.

Dinner was better tonight than Christmas dinner had been, even although Scamp’s salmon was dry and my steak was a bit tough. I liked the red cabbage and the roast potatoes, although Scamp says the cabbage is a ‘work in progress’. I think our demeanour was better tonight and the wine, Rosé D’ Anjou was very nice. Pudding was a quite tart apple and blackcurrant crumble with cream. Plenty left for tomorrow.

Watched the Greatest Showman which wasn’t nearly as bad as it could have been.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere for another walk, now that we’ve done our traditional New Year’s Day, Two Lochs Tour. A bit nippy tonight. It’s -0.5 as I write.

Right, that’s the first blog post of 2019 finished and posted in time.

Just the essentials – 26 December 2018

The essentials in question were milk, churros, strawberries and chocolate raisins

Felt a lot better when I woke today, and even better still after a shower. It felt like my head was my own again. It didn’t help with today’s Sudoku puzzle. You’d think that they’d make it a bit easier at Christmas, wouldn’t you? But no. Today’s was a real stinker. When I eventually solved it I had a cup of Christmas Blend coffee and then went out for a walk, I was feeling that good.

I walked over to St Mo’s, saw the group of seagulls standing on a wee hillock and took the shot. Then I went round the pond and was heading towards the Marks & Spencer food place at Broadwood roundabout, but had to stop and catch my breath because I was knackered. It’s amazing how a simple thing like a cold can sap your energy. However, I was on a mission. I was hunter-gatherer and I was out to get milk. Also the weather was more much more conducive to being out than it had been for the last few days.  No blue sky, but the clouds were quite high and it wasn’t raining.

Got to the shop and grabbed the Milk. That was when I saw the Churros and decided they’d be good for later. Next I chanced upon some Strawberries, Egyptian strawberries, but I wasn’t going to hold that against them, especially as they were reduced, being near their sell by date. Finally I grabbed a packet of Chocolate Raisins, which Scamp loves, as a thank-you for putting up with me yesterday. Got to the counter and the woman asked me “Any fuel?” I said “No, just the essentials. milk, churros, strawberries and chocolate raisins.” That made her smile, and me too when she replied “That will be £9.18 for your essentials then!” The walk back was a bit slower than the walk there and I managed to get the basis of this shot. It is a fake of course. The sky came from a library shot, but the Cow Parsley was real today. Blended seamlessly in ON1 2019.

After that we set to and cleared out the bottom level of the cupboard next to the bathroom as Angela next door said that the rodents in her house had chewed their way in there and started sniffing around some Christmas prezzies she had stored in there. We didn’t find any evidence of rodents in ours, but oh boy there was a whole load of junk, most of which has now been bagged ready to go to the dump on the next available day.

Today’s dinner was a much simpler and less extravagant affair than yesterday’s. Starter was Scamp’s “Just Lentil Soup”. Main was veg pakora I got at the butchers the other day and it was plenty hot and spicy. Pudding was a Fruited Caramel Brandy Pudding with a Brandy Caramel Sauce Centre. Quite a mouthful, as was the pudding. Oh yes, and I baked a loaf that we haven’t cut open yet, but looks good

Tomorrow we may take some plastic bags of rubbish to the tip. Maybe a walk and a light lunch somewhere too.

Christmas Day – 25 December 2018

Woke about 8.30am and then went back to sleep for half an hour. It was that kind of day.

Scamp brought me a cup of tea just after 9am I drank it and went back to sleep again. My nose was stuffed again and my ears seemed to be full of cotton wool. Slept almost until midday when I got up, showered and got dressed. I felt better until I looked out the window and saw how dull the day was.

With another cup of tea and a slice of toast in me I was ready to unwrap the parcels that had lain under the tree. As usual Scamp had surprised me with an interesting selection of goodies, some I expected, some I’d never have guessed. Then it was time to unwrap the giant parcel from Hazy and we found the reason for the size of it. It contained a giant metal sculpture of an allium. Beautiful thing. Finally we unpacked JIC & Sim’s hamper with it’s elegant selection of food and wine. So, we won’t starve and we have to find somewhere in the garden for the sculpture. Isn’t it nice to give and receive parcels at this time of year, especially when you’re not at your best!

Spoke to Hazy for a while and caught up with all that’s going on in London. Later we spoke to JIC in Toronto over FaceTime or whatever the WhatsApp version of that is. Managed a quick hello with Jaime and Madeleine in the same call. Dinner was a bit of a low key affair. Much lower key than usual because neither of us were feeling too bright. However, the food was good and the wine was too. We’ve decided that New Year’s Day will be our posh dinner. Hopefully by then we’ll both have put this cold behind us.

Today’s PoD was taken through the kitchen window and although it’s a bit grainy, it was shot at 25600 ISO which means it was nearly pitch black outside! Like I said at the start, it was that kind of day.

We watched a dire Strictly show and just now Gregory Porter and guests are competing to see who can murder good songs by singing them too slowly. Porter’s winning by a mile.

Hoping for a brighter day tomorrow, although by the look of the weather charts, that’s not very likely. We’ll wait and see.

Thank you all for your prezzies, they brightened my day considerably as did the wee chats.

Me and my big mouth – 24 December 2018

I said I thought I’d sidestepped Scamp’s cold. Me and my big mouth.

Last night I was lying choking in bed with that sore throat that always tells you the cold is just waiting in the wings for you to fall asleep and then it’ll announce itself with a sickly cough that will bring you back awake again until you start to fall asleep and then the cycle will begin again. Woke this morning with a terrible taste in my mouth and a nose that was totally clogged. Still think you sidestepped it Mr C?

Felt better when I got up. It’s always better when you’re vertical. Had a shower and felt almost human again. Maybe it’s the hot damp atmosphere that does it, but it seems to loosen the gunk that clogs my nose and dampens my throat too. I even brushed my teeth to get rid of the horrible taste in there. That makes three times this year. That must be a record for me. The brushing helped, but I won’t make a habit of it.

Scamp went off to visit June and while she was away I set up the Naturewatch camera with the Raspberry Pi. It was a bit fiddly, but I got everything set up and everything fitted nicely into an old Tupperware box. Fixed it to the tree near the bird feeder and got some fairly decent shots of a selection of birds. For something this tiny it produces great pictures. When Scamp returned from her visit and announced that June was much better. I decided I’d go for a walk. I was well warned to get well wrapped up which I did.

Walked round St Mo’s which was still covered in hoar frost in the mid afternoon.  Some signs that it might be thawing, but by the time it got started properly the sun would be setting and the temperature would plummet again.  For once I got some of the good light. What’s sometimes called the “Golden Hour”. Well named today. The PoD is one of the best ones. No fakery needed here, the light was just so good.

I forgot to mention that Scamp got a text from Michael our dance teacher to say that we had won the hamper in the annual Christmas raffle. Would we be in to collect it, because he could deliver. We originally said we’d meet him in Glasgow, around 2pm to get it. However he texted to say that he was running late and it would be after 5pm before he’d be there, could he get his brother do deliver it instead. We agreed to that because his brother lived in Cumbersheugh, so it would be on his way. He arrived with it tonight. A big plastic box crammed full of chocolate and sweets and with a voucher for £20 off a pair of dance shoes which I’m sure Scamp will claim. I’ll have the Liquorice Allsorts.

Scamp spoke to the woman next door today who confirmed that she has a rodent problem too, as do the couple on the other side of us. So, we are not alone. So far our rodents are in the loft or under the floor, but not in the house, but Angela said she had seen two in her house. It’s a long time since we had mice in the house, but I phoned NLC environmental health and explained the situation. The girl I spoke to said she’d pass on the information to the sub-contractor who would contact us in a few days. Feel better now that it’s official and something is being done even if the wheels will be turning even slower than normal at this time of year.

That’s about it for now. Hope you all have a happy Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you’re with. G’night.

Today I hit my target – 6 December 2018

I went for a walk.

Feeling a lot better today, managing to beat the 30min gap between toilet breaks. After lunch I decided that I’d easily have enough time to walk over to Condorrat. Well, I did it. That probably doesn’t seem such a great achievement. I’d have thought so too, but for the past couple of days I’ve been feeling knackered and also getting a bit of cabin fever.

Scamp is becoming the driver of the family. She drove up to Carrickstone to pick up Shona and then they went for coffee in the town centre. There they split up because Shona was going to Ben’s school and Scamp was going home.

Just to prove that I’ve actually been Thursday Prezzy hunting in Condorrat, today’s PoD is of two birds in a tree (not a Christmas Tree!).

Tomorrow looks windy and I’m losing so much weight with this enforced dieting, I’m a bit worried I’d blow away if I went for another walk! Hoping for another improvement.

Coffee with Val – 26 November 2018

Hopefully a caffeine injection would jolt me from my lassitude.

I don’t think the coffee did any good. It was Costa coffee after all, but the conversation with Val and his enthusiasm for his new-found interest in ornithology via his bird cam brightened my day. He’d built the bird cam from bits and kits bolted on to his Raspberry Pi micro computer. The results were impressive. So impressive that I began to think I might have a go at it. Then he began to explain the coding side of it in Python and another exotic programming languages and I could see hours and hours of error trapping and bug finding in lines and lines of code. I’ve done that in the past and know just how much of my life I sacrificed to it. No, I decided. I’d waste my time and money on hands-on photography instead.

My hands-on photography today was done along the banks of the Luggie Water and the PoD is of a couple of leaves of grass with some raindrops. Simple and quite effective.

Got home and found an email from ON1 explaining how to fix my problem. I tried it and it didn’t work. Another email to the Techys. Then it was time for dinner (Spaghetti a la Campbell). Basically it’s just mixing together stuff that’s in the fridge and with some base tomato sauce and chucking in some spaghetti. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today’s mixture of bacon, cherry tomatoes, onions and garlic with a good tin of tomatoes got a better than average vote from both of us.

Next we were out to Salsa. Really small class for the 7.30 group. Most unusual for this crowd. In fact it now looks as if we will be banished to the ‘wee room’ next week. That’s something that hasn’t happened for ages. Scamp reckons it’s because Jamie G has been off working at his real job or on holiday somewhere for odd Mondays since the summer. I think he’s right. When word gets out that he’s not here, the class numbers plummet. We caused a stir tonight as well when I told Shannon in front of the class that we wouldn’t be going to the Christmas Ball on Saturday because the ticket says 9.00pm start and now it looks like it won’t start until around 11pm. That’s too late for us. We’re not like the youngsters who are happy to dance until the early hours. We’d expected to be leaving around 11pm, not starting then. I think the galling thing is that she knew about this change, but kept it a secret. That’s the really unfair part of it. Oh well, the cat is out of the bag now and she can lump it, because we don’t like it.

Got another email from the Techys at ON1 with a file that sorted out the problem I’d had. I have to applaud their speedy response to questions and problems. That’s what makes you stay with a company.

Tomorrow Scamp has a lunch appointment and I may go take some photos.

On the Beach – 20 November 2018

We’ve been left. We’ve been right. Today we went straight ahead, across the road and down to the beach.

Paddled in the sea and walked right. Sea was cold but not as rough as the day we went to see the airies.

Walked up through the holiday houses and continued left into Puerto del Carmen and found the post boxes, loads of them! Posted the cards.

Stopped for lunch (burgers with chips) washed down with a beer and a G&T respectively in The Galleon II. A decent Irish pub. Earwigged a conversation between two ‘nice boys’ sitting behind. Watched the yachts sailing past far out in the sea, disappearing then reappearing behind some decorative trees.

Bought some stuff to take back home to the cold country. All the cheap shops are owned or run by Asians!

Back at the hotel Scamp sat and read by the pool and I went to get more photos. Most interesting was a locust and an unconfirmed sighting of a Shrike. I’m beginning to think that the ‘dragonfly’ I was was in fact a locust. They make the same clattering noise with their wings that a dragonfly makes and are just large enough to be mistaken for a small dragon.

Dinner was in the Mexican restaurant at the hotel. It was just ok. The strangest thing I had was Chicken with Mole sauce. The Mole sauce that the chicken is coated in is made from paprika and dark chocolate. Very strange how the sweet spicy sauce works with the chicken. Quesedilas were good to. Afterwards we got an inside seat at the bar with no problem. Not so many German voices now, more English and Irish.

Played UNO and I think I won, but not by the margin Scamp achieved last night.

Tonight’s ‘Acrobat’ show was poor. Two guys who were the acrobats and a girl whose job was to shout “Woo!” at random intervals. Her specialty seemed to be dropping hula hoops. One of the guys was a ‘strongman’. The other did the best act of the night inside a giant hula hoop, looking like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian man.

Sat listening to a singer who thought she was better than she was, accompanied by a good guitarist. Had one dance. Other dancing couple had one dance too. I don’t think the singer wanted us there disturbing her concert. Good luck with the singing career dear, just don’t give up the day job.

Sat on the balcony with G&Ts watching the stars.