No rain today – 24 May 2020

Well, almost no rain, and there was a fair bit of sun.

Watched the Andrew Marr show while we had lunch and we were both shocked with his ferocity and tenacity when interviewing the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. I don’t think he asked him one question about Transport or the effects of Lockdown on it. He constantly attacked the poor guy about what he knew about Dominic Cummings and his Lockdown breaking visit to Durham. What is his problem with the man? Obviously something about him bugs poor Andrew.  Or maybe it’s both Shapps and Cummings that get under his skin, it certainly seemed so today.

We went for a walk today over to St Mo’s and from there down to Craiglinn roundabout and from there round Broadwood Stadium, in fact exactly the same path as last week, except in reverse. It certainly wasn’t cold, but it was still a bit cloudy. Still loads of people wandering around ‘getting exercise’ or to put it another way ‘getting out of the house’, something you couldn’t do yesterday or the day before because of the rash of horizontal rain.

Back home for a while, but despite carrying a camera and two lenses for the entire walk, I’d taken no photos. To right this wrong, I went out for another top-up for my step count round St Mo’s pond. No deer today, but I got a few shots of Mummy Coot feeding one of the baby coots. That provided today’s PoD.

I struggled with today’s Sketch of the Day. The topic was “Where Would You Want To Be Now?” My answer to that would be anywhere but in Lockdown. My sketch turned out to be a bit more abstract. The initial sketch, as is usual with initial sketches, was rough, but painterly. The partly finished sketch was too clinical and stale. A few paint splashes fixed that.

Tomorrow? No real plans, but it is technically a Holiday Weekend, so perhaps we’ll go for a walk if the sun shines as it should.

A walk in the morning – 18 May 2020

After the rain the world looked a better place. A place we could walk in.

We just got up about 9.30 and went out for a walk. We started off by doing the circuit of St Mo’s pond a couple of times and fed the ducks, but also the crows which sometimes get forgotten. Then following on from the success of Saturday’s extended expedition, we just walked on for a bit, then another bit and finally walked through the ‘new’ housing estate opposite St Mo’s school. It’s not really new, it’s been there for around five or six years I’d say, but still relatively new. From the estate we found our way down to the underpass and turned there for home. Scamp was eager to show me a large rhododendron bush she’d found on her walk last week. It wasn’t so much a bush as a fair sized tree. We did have a look to see if there were any cuttings we could liberate, but couldn’t find any. Pity. It was a really enjoyable walk with everything looking that bit greener after the rain.

Back home and I sorted out some photos for Alex and made some notes for my monthly email. Well two-monthly email. It seems we each take about a month to reply to the emails and we always apologise to each other for taking so long to reply. Anyway, notes made and short leet of photos selected, it was lunch time. After lunch I wrote a letter to Peter H. I don’t know if he doesn’t do email, but I sent him an email a couple of weeks ago and got no reply so perhaps it was an old address that’s still live in name only. He writes letters and I enjoy communication. Signed and sealed I walked over to Condorrat to post it and managed a detour round St Mo’s on the way back. Got today’s PoD on the boardwalk. Just a wee nettle plant rejoicing in its freedom.

Scamp suggested I make a Spaghetti a la Puttanesca (Spaghetti in a tomato, capers, black olive and anchovy sauce). She doesn’t like black olives, so I could have them and she would substitute some tuna. I’d forgotten just how good it tasted. A wee glass of merlot to wash it down.

Today’s topic for a sketch was My Breakfast. That’s mine you see here. I have three different breakfasts to choose from. Muesli, Wheetabix or Porridge. Today was porridge and that’s what I drew. I was fairly happy with it, but not over the moon. Spoon handle wasn’t right, but I did a practise one later just to see what had gone wrong. I think I’ve worked it out now.

Got a great photo from Hazy and Neil-D showing off their custom Coronavirus masks. As they were well warned in the accompanying letter, they are guaranteed not to be any preventative at all, but they do look good. First Class post only took a week to go to England!

Perhaps there is an end in sight for our lockdown. If the stars align correctly we may get stage one of the release on 28th May, so the nice Nick the Chick said today. But only if we’re good!

Got a painless Click ’n’ Collect from Tesco today. I couldn’t believe how easy it was. I think we’ll do that again.

No plans for tomorrow. Maybe not such an early walk tomorrow. Must try to finish City of Windows.

Just another sunny day – 5 May 2020

It was one of those unexpectedly good days. Expected it to be overcast and right from the start it was lovely sunshine.

Possibly it was because of that sunshine, but neither of us did very much in the morning. Scamp was reading and I was struggling through today’s Sudoku. Cup of coffee each and a bit of cake. After that we agreed that we needed milk and bread, so off we trotted to the shops. Big queues everywhere except The Food Factory, so that’s where we went. They didn’t have as much as M&S or Aldi, but we weren’t looking for much, so that sufficed for our shopping.

Back home, lunch for me was a panini wrapped round some tinned red salmon and lettuce. Ages and ages since I’ve had salmon of the tinned variety. It has a totally different taste from ‘real’ salmon. Makes you wonder what it’s made from. I doubt if there’s much fish in there. Scamp had tuna with lettuce on a panini and declared it fine. There again, tinned tuna is nothing like fresh tuna. Hardly the same colour and nothing like the taste. What is it really? To finish off lunch we had a piece of banana cake. It was truly delicious. I had two bits and I think Scamp had the same.

I’d a bit more work to do in the back room. I’m thinking about making a light box to photograph my drawings in and I was scrounging around for some cardboard to make it. I think I’ve managed to find enough. May start construction tomorrow after the plans are drawn up. I’ve been watching some folk making them on YouTube and they don’t look too difficult. We’ll see.

Got fed up and decided to take the Big Dog out for a walk in St Mo’s and Scamp decided a walk would do her good, so off we went. Went round the pond twice and that’s where I got the picture of the baby coot looking really straggly and scruffy. Strange how the area around their beak is like orange fur when it will later become the iconic white plate. They were deep in the horsetails and were difficult to spot and even more difficult to get a clear shot of. I shot about 20 frames, but it was the very first one that was the best and that made PoD.

We had a bit of a dance practise tonight and covered some of the sequence dances with Scamp trying to teach me a couple of new ones she’d seen Stewart and Jane doing in their little Lockdown Videos. Really appreciate them taking the time to do them.

Tomorrow I may go cycling, just may. It was warm in the sun today, but the east wind was cold. Tomorrow is to be warmer apparently. We’ll see.

The supervisor – 22 April 2020

Who would have thought that towards the end of April Showers month we’d have to get the hose out and water the garden?

Gardening today. First I offered to strim the back grass. There is really no point in hauling out the grass cutter and doing a proper cut, because of the lumps and bumps and paving slabs that make it almost impossible to get an even cut. I chose instead to use the strimmer, but only after moving all the plant pots to give myself a fairly easy run at it. Then the pots had to be put back again and we couldn’t be sure exactly where they went. Finally Scamp declared that they were near enough right. I photographed the layout so we’d know next time.  I also took the opportunity to photograph her blue Muscari (Grape Hyacinth) and Chionodoxa luciliae (Glory of the Snow). Muscari made it to Flickr (G o t S didn’t).

The next gardening task was to fit the hose to the tap and spend a fairly pleasant half hour hosing down the back garden. I’d already soaked my sprouting peas in the bird bath to make sure they continued to sprout. Like I said, it was a fairly pleasant half hour, but not for Scamp who was leaning out the back bedroom window apparently “Just supervising.” A quick flick of the spray controller to “Full Firefighter Force” and an accurately directed jet caught her unawares and put an end to her supervision. Of course, I got pelters for that afterwards. As an act of atonement I washed all the back windows and squeegee’d them clean. I even did the awkward back door.

After lunch, when we were speaking again, Scamp went out to the front with her book and read for a while in the sun.  It was warmer today, because the wind was a bit less boisterous than it has been of late . I should have been painting, but instead I went for a walk to St Mo’s. Before I went, I took some macro shots of a pair of yellow tulips. One of them made it to PoD. The only half decent shot I got in St Mo’s was one of a mummy Mallard with her brood of ducklings. Pity they were so far across the pond to be almost invisible in the ripples. I saw and captured one other interesting sign of the times. I’ve seen artists on FB painting messages on stones and leaving them for someone to find. Today I found, not one, but two on a seat in the park. It’s a nice thought that took very little time to do, but might give someone some much needed support. I hope so.

Didn’t get a painting done today, so maybe I’ll manage to play catch-up tomorrow. Hoping for a veg box delivery some time tomorrow. It’s amazing the silver linings that are appearing from these dark clouds.

Dull start – 18 April 2020

Dull start to the day, but prospects were good.

The plan for the day was to wait stay close to home in the morning just in case the Tesco man came early. By about 11am the sun was out and people were out in their gardens. Went out to speak to the next door neighbours and find out how they were coping. Just the same as us really and it looks like they are keen gardeners too almost as keen as Scamp.

I’d quoted the wrong time slot yesterday for our delivery, it was in fact 11am until midday and he arrived just before midday. With the stock cupboard back to healthy numbers, we had lunch and considered our options for the rest of the day. We needed some fruit and something for tonight’s dinner, so a walk down to the shops was in order.

Bigger queues today. My theory is that those working from home are trying their best to work what used to be a normal week, I.e. Monday to Friday. That leaves their weekend free and that freedom means they can shop. Hence the bigger queues than during the week. We got in fairly quickly to M&S. Slightly more expensive, but shorter queues, and on a day where the sun was shining, but a cold east wind was blowing, M&S was a good option.

Walked back and after some encouragement from Scamp to “Go out for your walk”, I did just that and took the Nikon out for some exercise in St Mo’s. Lots of folk walking round the pond. I don’t think the folk who designed the new boardwalk intended the widened ‘passing places’ to be used to maintain Social Distancing, but they work well in spring 2020. I had decided to wear an old hoodie instead of my fleece for a change. It was warmer and it doesn’t get out much. I think it’s about ten years old now and I’ve probably worn it less than ten times!  It was almost too warm when I was in the sun, but in the shade and in the wind it was quite cool.

I wanted a photo of a coot sitting on its nest away at the far side of the pond. The coots build their nests on floating pontoons of reeds, rushes and horsetails. This one was in an almost unreachable place. I say almost because I thought I could find a way through the bushes to get to it. It took a while and a bit of scrambling to find a spot near enough the nest, but no too near to spook the bird and with a good line of sight. The hoodie was ideal for the task. Hood up I could push my way through the brambles and hawthorn bushes to get to where I wanted to go. When I got there the coot had left the nest to chase off a potential interloper if the shape of another coot. I waited, because I was fairly sure she’d come back to the nest once the offender had been chased off. So she did after about ten minutes sailing up and down the periphery of the reed bed she returned to the nest, got comfortable and sat on the eggs again. I got as many shots as I dared without worrying about frightening the mother away. After that I made my exit.  The coot got PoD.

Back home it was curry for dinner. Not home made and not carry-out and not just any curry, this was M&S curry. I’d made flatbread in the afternoon from brown wheatmeal flour. When I got home it had risen and was looking good. Curries were hot without being too hot, my lamb rogan josh was a bit lacking in the lamb section and Scamp’s was certainly Hot, but quite good. The flatbread was a definite hit. I’ll make that again.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk as the wind is from the south and hopefully it will be a bit warmer.

Better than we expected – 12 April 2020

We had expected a cold, cloudy day, but we got quite a lot of sunshine.

Scamp managed to grab a delivery slot for Saturday 18th from Tesco. Isn’t it strange that something so mundane as ordering a grocery delivery can bring a smile to our faces? It’s a measure of how our lives have changed. Anyway, while she set up the Saturday delivery, I amended our Tuesday delivery, adding a few things. Mainly because I’d never done that before. It’s also strange that something that’s being done by all the supermarkets is slightly different in all of them.

Both tasks completed, we went for a walk in St Mo’s. I took the Nikon and the little Oly 5 which doesn’t get out much now. I know how it feels. The Nikon produced some brilliant macro shots of furry looking ferns, a bright green blob (also known as a moss fruiting body) an a nesting coot. The Oly 5 with the fish-eye lens attached captured a wide angle view of St Mo’s. The PoD went to the furry fern crozier. The remainder can be seen on Flickr. The park wasn’t too busy today, just a few weans on bikes and a couple of adults taking their daily exercise. Scamp took my photo on the bench I’d earmarked for last Wednesday’s shot, but I’ll keep it on my phone for now, because I look guttered. It was meant to show off the tee shirt I got from Canute, but you can hardly see it. Pity, because I quite like it.

Scamp spent a half hour or so talking to Shona on the phone. I can’t imagine how that girl copes with Ben in a flat on lockdown. Anyone who has kids at this time must be absolutely round the twist trying to find something, anything, for them to do while they’re not at school.

We both spent half an hour speaking to JIC later and marvelled at the amount of gardening they’re getting done in the warm weather they get.  Got a fair bit of slagging from him for not being able to get a delivery from Ocado.  OK JIC, I walked into that one!

One idea I’ve had started from a picture I saw on Flickr. It’s an Instagram challenge to complete a drawing a day for the lockdown period. I’m a bit late coming to it, but it sound feasible. Starting it tomorrow. Small sketch posted from my phone.

That’s it for today. A bright, sunny, spring day in lockdown. Tomorrow will probably feel more like winter if the weather fairies are to be believed.

Daddy’s gone to Iceland – 10 April 2020

Yes, I know we’re supposed to stay home and keep safe this Easter Weekend, but this was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The offer was a delivery slot from Iceland for Tuesday, almost brilliant. “Almost”, because it’s for a time slot between 8am and 10am and with my luck it will be at the ‘8’ end of that time period, so I need to be up early for it. That said, it’s a slot and there aren’t many of them around. Coincidentally, it was last Friday Scamp managed to snag a slot on Tesco. Perhaps Friday’s are the key to nabbing a slot.

Scamp volunteered to go shopping to the local shops and brought back a fair amount of goodies. It was a dull start to the day, but by the time she was going out (solo) it had warmed up and the sun was shining. So much so that she came back I took the Nikon out for a walk in St Mo’s. At first I couldn’t see anything worthwhile to photograph, but then I spotted a hoverfly, first one this year and was sure I’d seen a butterfly too. It wasn’t until a bit later in a different part of the park I got a good clear shot of it. Not the best photo in the world, but my first butterfly this year. It’s a Peacock and fairly common, but it’s another sign that spring is here.

PoD was a long lens shot of a crow sitting on a branch. I liked the graphical feel of the shot. It almost looked black and white on the computer and when I changed it into true B&W I hardly noticed the difference. Second time around the pond I found the carcass of a swan. Don’t know what killed it. It could be a loose dog or a fox or daft kids throwing bricks, but there wasn’t much left of today. Then I heard a couple of swans flying overhead. They swung round the park and then landed on the pond. That sent the two resident swans into frenzy. They started puffing up their wings and heading in to separate the newcomers. It seemed like battle royal for a while, then everything calmed down. It looked like the residents won and the two visitors were being carefully monitored. Peace had broken out when I left. Didn’t get any decent shots of the action because my Tamron was in stupid mode and wouldn’t focus properly. It’s an odd beast. Sometimes it produces pin-sharp shots, others it’s a pain in the arse.

Aloo Saag for dinner. It too is a pain in the arse to make, but it usually tastes brilliant. Didn’t quite hit the mark tonight. Too much salt or too little spinach, I’m not sure which, but the result was the same – too salty, the customer said.

We did a bit of dancing practise tonight. Waltz No 1 and Waltz No2, then Foxtrot and finally Quickstep. All done to music too. These practise sessions work for me. They just get the muscle memory working.

As usual no plans for tomorrow. We’ll take the day as it comes.

Short and sweet – 9 April 2020

Not a lot to say about today, so this will be short and sweet.

After the excitement of yesterday, today was a bit of a let down as far as the weather was concerned. I presume a lot of work went in to getting the weather just right for my birthday, so today was recompense for that. It started off dull and grey and eventually deteriorated into drizzly rain tonight.

In the afternoon I did manage to drag myself out to St Mo’s to get a few photos, but the PoD was taken earlier in the garden with a little bit of light, not actually very bright light, but light none the less and I’ll take that. The subject is Scamp’s Pieris, variety Forest Flame. It really lives up to its name with bright red leaves in the spring and the promise of its tiny little white bell flowers to come in late April and early May. It’s a real uplifting bush, especially on a dull day.

Yesterday both the usual park benches were in use and today nobody wanted to sit in the damp and decidedly cold east wind. I can’t blame them really. Lots of geese seem to have taken up squatter’s rights in the pond and the two swans are making a show of telling them who’s pond it is. Like two big white polis, they patrol the perimeter of the pond shouting “Move along there. Nothing to see.” In swan-speak, of course.

So that was it for today. Another two prezzies today, one from Neil-D’s mum and dad and another from Gems, well probably Margie really! Lovely lady.

Tomorrow we must a-foraging for milk, bread and possibly eggs. Just down to the local shops, because it’s unlikely there will be any slots for Tesco and we can’t understand the workings of the ASDA Click ’n’ Collect layout.

There you are. I told you it would be short and sweet, and it was.

A walk in the park – 3 April 2020

What’s the point of having a Fitbit if you don’t use it?

That’s the question Scamp asked me yesterday, so I did. I wore it today. As I sit here writing this blog, I’ve achieved 10,803 steps. A lot of those steps were gathered walking round Broadwood Loch this afternoon. Scamp wanted to go for a walk and as there was a bit of hit and miss sunshine, I went with her. We walked down to Broadwood and then round the loch. Not the most interesting walk in the world, but it got us out and moving. I managed to get a couple of shots of a Crested Grebe, not sure if it’s a Great Crested, but it was quite a good one. There wasn’t much else to see, but on the plus side, there weren’t a lot of people around either, so that was a bonus. I wanted to see if there was a way to photograph the outfall from the loch, but it’s carefully managed so that the actual waterfall is obscured from view. I may have another look sometime, but on a cursory glance today and a couple of preparatory shots through the railings, it’s a no-go. Pity.

Came home and Scamp made a startling discovery. She’d logged in to Tesco and found a whole page of free slots for home delivery. I was dubious to begin with, but it looked genuine, so she has completed her order and the goods should be arriving on Monday. No guarantee that they will actually have the advertised articles in stock come Monday, but if it means we don’t need to queue along with all the masked minions, I’m up for it. If it means we don’t have to lug great bags of potatoes and tins up from M&S I’m doubly up for it. We’ll see.

I made red lentil curry for dinner to be served with the remainder of Wednesday’s chicken and it was while I was making it I got today’s PoD of the crow making off with a bit of stale bread. Actually, the better shot for me, although the quality was poor, was the one here of a crow dunking its bread in the birdbath to soften it. Now I’ve heard of this before, in fact, my dad used to tell me tales of crows soaking their bread. I though it was just that, a tale, but today I saw it happen before my eyes. Bread must have been just a little too hard for him! Curry was voted hot, but just on the safe side of too hot. There is some left over to use tomorrow with some fish or some eggs. Both work well with it. Might try to get some coconut milk to calm it down because it will have ‘matured’ by then!

That was about it. Hoping for high temperatures this weekend, but not as high as the folk down south will be getting. Might get some things done in the garden. I’m thinking Scamp may want to cut at least some of the grass if it stays dry long enough.

Mothers Day – 22 March 2020

I made the breakfast. I even sliced up a banana for Scamp, with none for me. I did this only for Scamp on behalf of the weans … and because banana on my porridge would be a step too far.

Today was shearing day. The thatch that’s been growing under my nose and around my mouth was getting far too lush. It had to go. So I took it upon myself to give it a quick Number Four. I possibly could have gone to a number three, but it was just 1.9ºc when I was making breakfast and, at my age I need a bit of insulation on the upper lip and the chin, so a number four it was.

After hacking away for a while and washing all the clippings away I felt ready to face the day. Scamp was already speaking to Hazy on the phone when I went downstairs. She didn’t even notice my carefully sculpted facial hair. Neither did Hazy, but as this wasn’t a video call or FaceTime, I’ll forgive her. It was only hours later when I told her about my barbering skills she looked and said “Oh, yes”. That’s all you get for all the planning and careful cutting then. Hmph!

It being Mothers Day, Scamp had the choice of where to go for our daily walk. She chose St Mo’s surprisingly. I thought she’d want to go to Broadwood, which I find boring, but she likes. No, she thought there would be fewer people at St Mo’s after yesterday’s crowds at Drumpellier. It was another beautiful day and there were a few folk, mainly mums and dads with a single wean. They weren’t observing the proper social distancing rules, but I suppose they were all living under the same roof, so what’s the point of maintaining the 2m exclusion zone when you’re outside if you’ll be sitting in the same room when you get home. I did get what turned out to be today’s PoD on our walk, it was another of those flowering currants, but this time about half of the flowers had opened. I was hoping to get a chance to take some more later in the walk or even later in the day, but technology got in the way. After we’d done our circuit of St Mo’s, Scamp suggested we walk down through Condorrat and over the ‘Red Bridge’. That extended our walk a bit, even if it was beside a busy road, still quite busy even with so much isolation going on. The motorway however was almost deserted. I’m pretty sure we could count on the fingers of one hand, the number of cars and lorries that passed under our feet as we crossed the Red Bridge. The M80 was carrying its lightest traffic load for a long, long while.

After we got back, Scamp took the bull by the horns and instituted a video call to her sister in Skye. I was most impressed with the ease she did it with. A real tech genius Scamp is. I’ll be going to her for help with all my problems now!

Later, I thought I’d go for a solo walk around St Mo’s to see if Mr Grey had returned. He had, but he was away on the far side of the pond, well out of reach of the 200mm lens. I tried to get some macro shots of some nicely lit moss spores, but for some reason still to be explained, the shutter seemed to fire, but no photos were recorded. That’s the reason we ‘chimp’ (check the image on the back screen of the camera) but I had confidence in the ability of the E-M1, misplaced confidence it seemed.

Dinner tonight was the second half of the Thai Chicken Stir-Fry for Scamp and the first half of a Beef Stir-Fry for me. Both with egg noodles instead of the usual rice for a change. Scamp’s was fine, if a bit oily. Mine was so hot it would have set the oil on fire. The girl in the butchers said it had “a bit of a kick”. I’d say! A kick like a mule. I’ll treat it with caution when I get round to eating the other half. It’s in the freezer at present, I hope it hasn’t melted anything in there!

Spoke to JIC later and got his take on Covid 19. He’s much more down to earth than the BBC. It’s good to hear a more reasoned, grounded voice on the subject.

Tomorrow we may go for messages. Just ordinary messages and if we find toilet rolls, buy lots and lots of them!