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Ice is not nice – 14 December 2017

An icy morning. Jac’s taxi didn’t come, so I volunteered to drive her to the station.

It wasn’t all that cold, but it had snowed during the night and the snow had melted, then frozen again and now that ice was melting, on the surface at least and that meant it was treacherous. The Juke performed perfectly, I couldn’t fault it. Unfortunately there was a queue of traffic heading along towards St Mo’s taking the children who can’t walk if it’s cold, or windy, or wet, or dry, or too hot, or too tired, or .. well, you get the picture. I turned at the roundabout and took the longer, but much quicker way round the back of Blackwood and then through the new estates to the station. Got there with plenty of time for Jac to catch the train (the next train, that is). Came home the same way because, although the queue was shorter, it was still there and resolutely not moving. Walked back from the car and that was when I found out just how slippery the surface was. Slid all the way down the short slope to the house. Didn’t fall, luckily, but Scamp decided it would help other folk if I spread some chippings on the path. Such a simple solution and it worked.

After lunch Scamp parceled up the Christmas parcels for JIC and Sim and I took them to be posted at Tesco. Got that completed and stopped off at St Mo’s to take some foties. Liked the shot through the trees also liked the shot of the swan attempting a tricky landing on ice, but decided the trees won PoD. The rest were good, but not great. I was better prepared for the ice this time with a pair of walking boots, real ones, not Clarks flashy looking, but ultimately useless Goretex ones. The ice was melting in the areas the late sun was reaching, but as I was leaving I could see thin icy fingers stretching out across the puddles. (Oh dear, I came over all ‘Nigella’ there!)

Later in the afternoon I finished last week’s Zentangle doodle. I thought these things were beneath me, but they are more difficult than they look. You need a good eye and a steady hand to produce the accurate linework.

That was about it for the day. The highlight of the day was going to Tesco. Some days are like that.

Tomorrow, I may be joining Scamp for a coffee with Shona!

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A better day than yesterday – 7 December 2017

Yes, it was a better day than yesterday, but that wouldn’t be difficult.

We were driving to Wishaw General hospital for Scamp’s checkup today. Nothing to report, everything normal. It’s hard to believe that a year ago just now, the whole thing was just starting. Now, a year later we’re so grateful for that short conversation at salsa class.

I’d half intended driving in to Glasgow afterwards, but it was so cold and dismal, we decided to go straight home. Scamp had still a lot of prep to complete too before the Witches Christmas banquet tomorrow and I was hoping against hope that there would be a short break in the clouds to allow me to get out to take some photos. As it happened, we both achieved our stated goals.

While Scamp was out emptying the shelves at ASDA, I got ready to go out because the sun was shining. I’d just got changed and putting my boots on when the rain came on. I waited until it went off and grabbed my camera. Pity I didn’t look in the camera bag first, then I might have noticed the absence of the Tamron lens. I got today’s PoD outside the park. A rook sitting on the school railings. The pigeon above its head was a ‘lucky’. In the park I noticed a deer wandering around aimlessly just on the tree line. Carefully took out the Nikon and noticed that it had a short lens on. No long lens in the bag. Not to worry, I had my trusty Teazer in my pocket. Grabbed two shots and realised immediately that something was wrong. The camera was set to full automatic, which means its zoom is a combination of optical and digital. Never a good thing. By the time I got the settings changed, the deer, two of them were off and running into the trees. The images were useless. Basically, they were just cropped JPEG files.

Walked home with the rook photos in the bag so all was not lost and made pizza for lunch. It was good, but not great. Need more practise with oven baked pizza.

Spent the evening beginning the tidy-up for Jackie arriving next week. I’ve now found a sofa in the back room under discarded jeans, tee shirts, a couple of bags and a couple of drawing boards, so at least she’ll have somewhere to sleep! May have to continue the exercise over the weekend because I’m sure there’s a carpet under all the magazines. Looks like there’s a cold couple of days ahead with ice and snow forecast for tomorrow and into the beginning of next week.

I’d dropped Scamp off at the entrance to the hospital this morning and gone to park the car. At least, for once the architects had considered the parking requirements of this new hospital, but it was when I was walking back to the hospital building that I noticed an almost total lack of sensible footpaths. Yes, there were some twisty turny pretty looking pathways, but they simply aren’t practical. Once you’ve parked at a hospital, you just want to get into the building as quickly and as safely as possible. I was mulling this over as I was walking out of St Mo’s too, when I realised that the path I was following was made by the deer. Now, here’s an idea for the architects. Instead of creating meandering paths that look pretty, but are impractical, try this. Just grass the whole area. Keep the grass cut for about a year. After that people will have made up their own minds where the paths should go. You may not like it, but they will have taken the shortest and safest routes from A to B. Now all you need to do is turn those muddy paths into real walking routes with tarmac or paving slabs. I’ll even allow you to put curves in to satisfy your artistic desires. Now everyone is happy. If you later find that a new ‘people route’ had been created, firm that up too and there you have a democratic set of walking routes. If you want you can mention that you saw the idea here!

Tomorrow it’s my turn to cook.

  1. Bread is out of the freezer tonight and thawing as I write. It should be good to prove (rise) and be baked tomorrow morning. If not I will have time to make a new batch.

  2. Veg to chop and filo pastry to form into nests for the starters. May have time to bake it before I go out, if not I’ll leave it in Scamp’s capable hands.

  3. Time to make myself scarce. I think a trip in to Glasgow is on the cards.

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Secret Squirrel Stuff – 29 November 2017

Scamp suggested that we should go for a walk this morning and offered to drive. How could I refuse?

She chose Glasgow Green as the venue and I was up for that. We usually go down the green on a Sunday morning, so it was a bit different to be driven there on a weekday. It was cold, but not uncomfortably so and we walked out to the McLennan Arch and then round past the rowing club boathouse to the viewing gallery over the Clyde. It was there I found the puffed up pigeon, the young gull and the swan. We walked on to the suspension bridge and then out to where there used to be a footbridge over the river to Richmond Park. The bridge has now been demolished but the piers still stand. Maybe they’ll build a new bridge (Aye Right!) Maybe they will, to celebrate the next millennium! We walked a bit further on and that’s where today’s PoD was created. Just a leaf with angled sunlight. I liked it right away. That was as far as we walked. Turned and walked back to the People’s Palace. On the way there we passed a group of school pupils on bikes being shown the basics of mountain biking by what I presume was their PE teacher. A good way to spend an hour or so learning a decent skill set that they can actually use. So much better than ‘book learning’. Good for you Mr Teacher, I applaud you. Coffee in the wintergarden cafe, but no Roll ‘n’ Sausage or toast, and then home.

Spoke to Hazy for half an hour or so after lunch and then Scamp decided she wanted to go in to Glasgow on some undisclosed sortie. So many ‘under the radar’ trips just before Christmas every year. I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s the subterfuge that makes it interesting. My own plans haven’t really been firmed up yet, but when they do, I’ll participate in the “I’m just going in to Glasgow”, “No, it’s alright I’ll probably just go myself” sort of Secret Squirrel stuff.

I drove Scamp to the station and then I had time to download this morning’s photos and have a look through them before I got the text to say that she was coming home on the X3. Time to make the risotto for dinner and then salsa. Salsa was quite interesting, but the class is reducing in numbers again and I felt that Jamie Gal was playing for time a bit.

It’s cold again tonight, 1.4ºc but it’s forecast to get warmer again from tomorrow night. I’m going to be the ‘roadie’ tomorrow when Gems play their second gig in a week before the Christmas break. Other than that I’m a free agent!

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A longer walk – 28 November 2017

Scamp was on a mission today.

First she loaded up her car with the bottles for the bottle bank and junk for the skip and off she drove to the dump to get rid of the stuff. On the way home she drove to Tesco and loaded up with more stuff, mainly food this time. She told me that although it looked cold outside, it wasn’t all that bad. I took her at her word and drove to Auchinstarry to walk the canal. I had a bit more daylight today and the light was good, so I walked out to Dumbreck marshes. Along the way I met some swans on the ice in the canal.  The water under the trees and out of the sun was frozen right across the canal.  I also got a view back to the houses beside the water which I quite liked, but the swan got PoD. Walked over the plantation and on to Dumbreck. Walked through the marshes to the edge of the wildlife reserve. Out there I saw some long tailed tits doing a bit of acrobatics in one of the trees. That’s a picture of one doing a ‘cannonball’ above. As the sun went away, it got a bit colder so I made my way back to the car. On the way I stopped for a panorama of the pond between the two paths. The red berries are deadly poison.  That’s why the birds leave them alone.  I think that about covers all the photos.

Not a bad walk. Easily covered my 10,000 steps, but sat down with a cup of coffee and a roll and that wee bugger on my wrist wanted to ‘go for a stroll’. I’m afraid I said some bad words.

While I was out, Scamp had ‘done a bit of tidying up’. She only does this when I’m out, because I just hold her back. I know that. Then she did a bit of gardening. After my late lunch I helped(?) her with a bit of DTP in MS Publisher. Not the most sophisticated DTP program, but it covers the bases, or at least it did. I couldn’t believe the amount of things I’d forgotten how to do. It used to be so simple, three years ago! Between us we got it done, but I suspect she’ll go back to her old way of doing it in MS Word in future.

Jamie phoned tonight and entertained us with a tale of the visiting Finnish group at his work who were introduced to the Epicurean delights of fish suppers. I really wonder what they thought of eating out of a piece of paper! Still, it’s a delicacy, and it’s the fare of the country, so perhaps it was the right thing to do. When in Rome …  We had stir-fry tonight, eaten from a plate, with cutlery!

Tomorrow we’ll probably end up at beginners class for Salsa. It will give us some exercise, if nothing else. Other than that, no plans.

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Printers and Mr Grey – 26 November 2017

It was another sub zero morning, but unlike recent days, it soon clouded over and the temperature rose … a bit.

After lunch we drove to Bishopbriggs to look for a photo printer at Currys superstore. They did have a few, but although they had one on show that was on my short leet, they didn’t have any for sale. The usual message of “It’s out of stock, but we can get it for you in two or three days”. Maybe I’ll have better luck in Argos tomorrow. Got so fed up I even went to ASDA to see if they had anything worth while – they didn’t.

When we came home I prepared tonight’s dinner, my dinner, that is which was Shin of Beef. Stuck it in the oven and went out for an hour in the fading light to see what was worth photographing in St Mo’s. Not a lot as it turned out. Spooked Mr Grey who flew around the pond and then settled back on the boardwalk, almost where he had taken off from. He posed there for a while which was very kind of him, otherwise I wouldn’t have a PoD. I’d intended going out for an hour or so, but had forgotten my hat and gloves and the light was really failing now, so I made my way home after half an hour.

Watched an immensely boring final F1 GP of the year. Had dinner, and yes, the shin of beef was lovely. Watched Susan Calman’s sarcastic and very funny exit from Strictly. My, what exciting lives we lead.

Tomorrow the new suite gets delivered so we have to get to bed early tonight. Our four hour delivery slot is from 7am until 11am!

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A Gaggle of Goosanders – 23 November 2017

Busy day. Lots of baking and cooking and clearing up and laying tables, because Isobel was coming for dinner.

Since Isobel is , I had to ignore my usual bread recipe and make bread with gluten-free flour, lots of water, lots of oil and two egg whites. I’ve made the bread before and it turned out, much to my surprise, perfectly edible. Today, I was a bit more confident than I was last time, and possibly it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt. Made the dough, or more correctly, white slurry and poured it into a cake tin to rise. I reckoned I had an hour or so free, since Scamp would be out herding Gems into Abronhill for the afternoon, so I drove down to Auchinstarry to walk the canal, the plantation and the railway.

Walking along the canal I came across a flock? Crowd? I eventually settled on Gaggle of Goosanders, sailing merrily up and down the canal. Chasing one another and diving for fish. I don’t think I’ve seen so many. Too many to count and because they were crossing paths and almost crashing into one another, a pointless task to count them. I only see them on the canal in the winter. Do they overwinter here? Must check.

Dogs. Why are there so many dogs and doggy owners in the world? They all seemed to be congregating at Auchinstarry. It seemed that everywhere I looked there were dogs or folk looking for dogs. There was one exception, apart from me. One dog seemed to be following me and also seemed to be looking for an owner. My “Sorry mate. I’m not the owner you’re looking for” didn’t faze it at all. In fact it ran ahead of me and then waited until it was sure I was catching up before running on. Did it want me to follow it, or does that only happen in Lassie (or, if you’re Scottish, Black Bob)? But then it got distracted. A cyclist came down the path going in the opposite direction and it immediately chose him as its lost owner. The last I saw of it was the black blur tailing the cyclist for all it was worth, far down the path. I hope it got home safely.

Crossed into the plantation and came upon a woman delightedly ‘training’ her Staffie to ‘SIT’ and ‘STAY’. I don’t know who was having the most fun, the dog or her. A few bends later I noticed the buzzard sitting majestically in a tree and grabbed a few shots, before being investigated by what looked like two Dobermans with half their legs cut off. Maybe they were miniature Dobermans OR, as they both had sparkly rhinestone collars, maybe they were miniature Doberwomans. I’d have asked the owner what variety of dog they were, but she swept imperiously past without a word. Thankfully the rest of the walk was dog-free as was the trip to Tesco afterwards.

Got home to find that the bread had risen quite well, too well in fact and was oozing down the sides of the cake tin and over the worktop. Oops. Time to put the oven on I think. Spent the remainder of the afternoon making Pesto and Marinara sauce to cover the Italian Chicken. Thanks again Neil D’ for that recipe. The bread baked fine and was deemed a success by Isobel and Scamp. The chicken was partly successful as we hadn’t known that Isobel didn’t eat tomatoes, but she did manage to scrape the marinara off and all in all it was a good night. Lots of entertaining stories and just good conversation.

PoD was not the Goosander or the Buzzard, but the pretty white things growing over the canal. There’s no accounting for my taste!

Tomorrow I need to remove the door to the living room and the handles from the front door as the two seater is booked to make its exit to the charity shop. Seating will be at a premium then until Monday. Scamp has suggested that we utilize the sun loungers. It seems sensible because they were hardly ever used in the garden this summer!

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What’s Cookin’ – 27 October 2017

Almost from first thing this morning somebody was cooking, because Crawford and Nancy were coming to dinner.

Scamp started early on her desserts, later I was baking bread and later she was on the main course, closely followed by me doing my mise en place or to put it another way, Getting Stuff Ready for the starter. So, we were a bit backward today, starting with the desserts and finishing with the starter. In between time Scamp went for messages and, later, so did I. Wow, that was about it! Now the puddings are done Giant Jaffa Cake & Grown up Banoffee Pie. Main is nearly ready and it’s Chicken with Tarragon and Leeks. As soon as I get this finished the Mini Quiche starters will be going into the oven (how mini, just one each).  In between times I managed to get my new iPhone (named See Saw) connected and working.  Isn’t it wonderful to have a phone that can hold two days worth of music and still have room to spare.  Unfortunately, I had to sacrifice a few of my favourite apps because they won’t work on the new OS.  Oh well, nothing lasts forever.

Five hours later:
Well that went down well. The starters were consumed as was the main. The overall impression from us pair was that the Giant Jaffa Cake was too dry and the Grown up Banoffee Pie was too heavy. Scamp thought it was too chocolatey, but nothing can be too chocolatey, can it? Otherwise it was a great night with memories, stories told and jokes laughed at. What more can you ask for. Even the alcohol-free beer got a thumbs up from Crawford.

I only grabbed two shots today the best of which is above. No sketch done yet, but I’ve got a note from the boss to say I’m excused as long as I promise to catch up tomorrow.

The dishwasher’s on and sleepy time beckons at 12:20AM. G’ night.

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Just another dull Sunday – 15 October 2017

It was a dull day when we woke and it didn’t improve much throughout the day.

The highlight was a phone call from JIC.

Went for a walk to St Mo’s and got the three photos above. Quite liked the shot of Mr Grey standing in the greenery. I’d promised not to post pics of the autumn leaves, but that was never going to stand, was it? That’s why the pic of the tree was there. Sometimes I can see the title of the shot before I take it. That’s the reason for the photo of the bloke with the dog. The John Hiatt song just played in my head when I saw the dog turn and look at me.

Sorry to say, that’s about it, apart from a less than helpful email from Vodafone to tell me that my phone won’t be delivered after all. When will it be delivered? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Apparently Apple haven’t delivered them because of the weekend. Does the weekend last from Thursday night to Sunday now? Are Vodafone so strapped for cash that they buy their phones in ‘penny numbers’? Not impressed.
Tonight I went online and did a text chat with ‘Omrar’ who said I MIGHT get it tomorrow and then finally that I will get a confirmation of delivery tomorrow. We’ll see. Strangely enough this is exactly the same as happened when I got Mambo No 5 two years ago.

Tomorrow is batten down the hatches day as ex-hurricane Ophelia makes landfall across northern Britain. We tied up the sweetpea frame this afternoon, just in case.

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Today I became a Windows Hater – 14 October 2017

The day started well. The wee tickle in the back of my throat had gone. Partly this was due to me taking a fairly big slug of Benylin and partly due to me taking an extra dose of vitamin C tablets with some honey, both just before I went to bed. I don’t know if the Benylin helped with the cough, but it did certainly get me to sleep double quick and I had the longest and best sleep I’ve had in weeks.

That was the good news. The weather outside was grim. When I woke it was light and there was just the hint of some sun, but that gradually faded to the usual grey. We couldn’t decide what to do and I think we were both waiting for the weather to improve. It didn’t and as we had nowhere we needed to be and nothing we needed to do, we went out of a run to that awkwardly named Chatelherault. Thank goodness for Ctrl V. Scamp chose the top route this time and I suggested we walk to the Green Bridge. It’s many, many years since I’ve been to the Green Bridge at Maryhoses. Unfortunately, we hadn’t brought the walking poles with us and the path down the hill to the river was really steep and slippery with muck. Scamp decided she wasn’t going to risk it and I agreed, so we walked back along the path to Chatelherault and had coffee and a pineapple cake (pure indulgence) for our efforts.

I got a couple of photos at Chatelherault and then we came home.

I’ve got a 2TB desktop HD. It’s got two partitions (Don’t worry. Not too much technospeak) Tonight I planned to use the PC to copy files from one partition to the other to free up space to make a backup drive for the iMac. I set the PC to copy the 300GB of photos (copies, of course). It reported that it would take about 4 hours. That was ok, I used a program that would allow ‘unattended copying’. To do that you just specify what to do on certain occasions and the program does the rest. No problem then? After about two hours I went to check how it was progressing, only to find that Windows 10 had installed an update and restarted the machine, halting the copying and switching off the drive in the process. The upshot is that the drive is now unreadable. I read so many tirades on the net about Windows being unmanageable these days since Windows 10 has taken over, but until tonight I didn’t really believe them. I do now. The iMac may have cost a lot of money and I know that Apple too has its flaws, but tonight’s escapade was pure vandalism by a company that expects us to trust them. I am now a fully paid up Windows Hater.

Tonight’s sketch is of riverside apartments beside the River Clyde at Glasgow Green. It was done from a photo, but that’s ok by me. It’s done and on time.

I’m going to bed now to prevent me from having another rant about Windows fuckin’ Updates.

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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.

SAFE NOW!

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.