Out on the bike – 30 August 2020

With a little fruit picking too.

One of those mornings when you wake early and can’t get back to sleep, so the best thing to do is get up and have breakfast. That’s what I intended to do, but instead I took breakfast back to bed and read for an hour. After that there were dishes to do (in the dishwasher) and washing to do (in the washing machine). With the machines doing all the grunt work, I settled down to read the news on my phone with a cup of coffee and a catch-up with Scamp still in University-city, St Andrews. Hung out he washing, although the complete absence of any sort of breeze meant it would take the clothes a long time to dry, despite the warm air temperature. Not to worry, I’d plenty of time.

I took the Dewdrop out for a run, but as well as my usual camera in the rucksack, I’d a couple of poly bags to collect some brambles. Now, you may know them as Blackberrys and argue that it’s the plant that’s the Bramble. If that’s the case, then you’re probably not Scottish and definitely not Central Scottish. Here it’s the economic language. Why have two names for what is essentially the same thing. The bushes AND the fruits are Brambles. That’s it settled. Those wee black berries (note the subtle difference that space makes) were in much shorter supply than I’d anticipated and it took me some time to find a good fruit bearing bush, but eventually I managed to pick just over 300g of black fruit.

While I was out I noticed a whole host of swallows congregating on the overhead lines and wondered if it’s almost time for them to make their annual migration to warmer climes.  I also wondered, as I have before, how they know it’s time and if they can sense the change of the seasons much more accurately than we mere humans can.

I’d only been home for about 10 minutes when Scamp arrived. We compared car journeys and weather, then it was time to make dinner. Tonight we were having Veg Chilli with just about everything that wasn’t bolted down going into the pot. After some delicate adjustments to the spicing and the condiments we settled down to a fairly tasty chilli. No recipe was needed or recorded. Sometimes that’s the best way, unless you want to make a second lot sometime in the future, then you’ve to try to rack your brains to remember what went into that great chilli you made ages ago. Maybe one of these days I’ll write it down, but I doubt it.

Watched the Ferraris having a terrible time at the Belgian GP with, maybe, a little snigger. Also watched George Russel escape unscathed from what could have been a very nasty accident when a wheel from another car came bounding towards him at a reported 125mph (how do they know what speed the wheel was travelling at?).
Other than that it was a dire day for Ferrari and a great day for Mercedes and Hamilton in particular.

That was about it apart from sampling another new bottle of gin with the addition of a grapefruit slice to spice things up. PoD was a picture of three cows in a field composed using rule of thirds and PoD because I liked it.

Tomorrow we have no real plans.

The Explorer – 20 August 2020

It’s all about the Views and the Faves and the Comments.

Hazy phoned this morning and if she hadn’t I’d have struggled on with Angry Birds until the phone’s battery died. Caught up with everything that was going on down London way and picked up directions to what sounds like an interesting restaurant in Kingston. Hope the rest of your plans don’t get washed away in Friday’s rain Hazy. Enjoyed the chat and I’ll put the Utopia Avenue back on my ‘possibles’ list.

Do you remember Tuesday’s PoD? I won’t be disappointed if you’ve to rack your brains and then can’t find anything remarkable about it. It was a six frame panorama of Broadwood Loch, which in itself is a totally forgettable manmade loch. Just a big pond really, bounded on one side by a ring road and on the other side by the march of power line pylons. It’s got a ‘business park on its east end, although it looks like business isn’t really booming and on it’s west end is a car park. The least said about it the better. However, if you choose your viewpoint well to disguise the ring road, have the business park behind you and limit your view to avoid the car park and the pylons, it appear that you can take a decent landscape photo that wins a remarkable number of view and faves (favourites) with the bonus of the occasional comment. Today I woke to find that overnight I’d amassed just over 5,000 views, around 250 faves and 8 comments on Flickr. This is almost unheard of for me. On a good day I get about 50 views, half a dozen faves and the occasional comment. The reason for this interest is because some time over the last 24 hours the picture was featured in Explore which is Flickr’s much sought after ‘gold award’. Why it won this accolade and who awarded it is a secret, only known to those in the high echelons of Flickr. Whoever you are, I thank you.

After that, the rest of the day was bound to be a let down, wasn’t it? Well, not all of it. The weather that had been trying to make up its mind whether to rain or shine, settled on Shine. I’ve two old tablets that I occasionally use one, the Nexus 7 is ready to be sent to a place where old tablets go. It was groundbreaking in 2012, but now it’s just ready for breaking. The other is still running. It’s a Samsung Note 10.1 and in 2014 it was an expensive but decent machine. Now it’s sloooow. Too slow to do anything other than draw with. It has its own dedicated pen and the processor is fast enough to keep it working, but the OS is slowing it down. I could downgrade it, but that’s a pain. For less than half what I paid for it back then, I can get a faster, lighter tablet with twice the memory. That’s what I did this afternoon. Drove to Sunny Coatbridge to get a new 10.1, unfortunately without the pen. It’s a lot faster than the 2014 model and the screen is just as detailed.

With it charging, I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got almost nothing. The one shot I liked was of a mummy Coot feeding one of the baby coots. This must be the second brood she’s had because the first lot arrived around the same time as Covid-19 did, not that I’m blaming the coots for that.

Dinner was a new version of Spaghetti a la Carbonara, made without cream. Using cheddar cheese instead of parmesan and with peas. Our peas. The second flush of peas and they tasted ok. Jury is still out on the Carbonara. Scamp thought it was good, I wasn’t so sure. Like yesterday’s curry, it’s worth trying again.

The final count as I write this blog is   6,620 views  276 faves  8 comments.

Looks like wind and rain for all of us tomorrow, so it’s definitely a ‘wait and see’ day.

A Craw – 18 July 2020

Burds. Always a good photo opportunity.

I was making my morning coffee today when a big craw flew down to have a peck at a couple of dodgy apples I’d sliced up and put out in the back garden. Stuck a 45-200mm zoom on the camera and snapped a few shots through the kitchen window. Half a dozen shots in the bag and it was only about half past ten. That’s good going for a Saturday morning.

After that, the action slowed a bit. Sat and did yesterday’s Sudoku (still not finished). Ordered a couple of UV filters from Amazon. Browsed the news and before I knew it, midday had arrived and it was lunch time. After lunch and another cup of coffee, Scamp suggested a walk. We walked down past Broadwood Stadium, on to the Auchinstarry road then onward to the Mosswater Nature Reserve. Scamp wasn’t impressed with it. Nothing to see and a bit too enclosed. I’d agree that as a ‘nature reserve’ there’s nothing very interesting to look at, but you have to remember this is an annex of NLC, which is not the most innovative or forward thinking of councils at the best of times. Here was a piece of low lying marsh land they couldn’t build on, couldn’t sell, so what better to do than make a couple of paths through it, cut the hedges once every ten year and call it a Nature Reserve.

We crossed the road to another piece of marsh ground with a path round the wettest part. It wasn’t so overgrown and apparently was marginally more interesting. Be that as it may, it was a bright sunny day with occasional threats of rain, we were outside without any crowds and we didn’t have to wear a face mask, so it wasn’t all bad.

Walked back and about fifteen minutes later our Tesco order arrived 45 minutes early. Well, it’s Saturday and the bloke was probably anxious to finish his shift ahead of time and get home.

Dinner was Italian themed. Scamp made Bruschetta as a starter and I used up yesterday’s marinara sauce to make Spaghetti with Tuna. After an argument about whether Scamp had asked for pasta or spaghetti we had a couple of glasses of wine and I promptly fell asleep on the couch. Woke a couple of hours later and sketched today’s offering which is my W&N field painting box, although it’s never been used to paint a field, or even been opened in a field. Still it made an interesting pencil sketch. PoD went to the picture of the crow from the morning.

Tomorrow we may be going for a walk down the Green on Scamp’s suggestion. Sounds like a plan!

Strangers in a strange land – 4 July 2020

We should have been in foreign climes today. We felt as if we were.

We should have been halfway through a Mediterranean cruise if the dreaded Covid-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head and condemned us to three months of purgatory. Foreign countries always make us feel slightly uneasy. Most of the town and cities look quite familiar in a way. The buildings and parks, even the open space, the piazzas and squares look almost familiar, but underneath that familiarity is an undercurrent to unease because there is that constant unfamiliarity too. Things are not quite how they seem. I think that’s how I felt this morning, visiting Glasgow.

We parked at the Buchanan Galleries which in itself was strange, because there were no queues at the ticket machine. There were plenty spaces on all the levels up to three. After that the ramps to the higher levels were cordoned off. Neither of us has ever seen it so empty. Walked down the stairs, past the shuttered fire doors cutting off entrance to the Galleries themselves. Then we walked out into Glasgow itself.

We walked down Buchanan Street and although there were plenty of people there, it felt somehow unsafe. Great long snaking queues of people waiting their turn to enter the House of Apple. All of them standing in the rain waiting for their chance to hand over money, or more likely type four digits into a card machine to get their new phone, iPod or laptop. Down on Argyle Street longer queues stretched out from Primark. There was no sale on, just again the desperation to ‘buy things’. Scamp and I reckoned the queue was about 300m long. This was the first Saturday since some shops opened their doors and everyone wanted to shop.

Me? I wanted to replenish my paintbox. I’d run out of about five of my fifteen colours and the remainder were getting a bit low in their wee pans. I managed to get a full set, plus a free Kolinsky sable for just slightly more than I’d hoped to pay. That’s the cost of 70 odd days of Lockdown paintings. I tried using the student quality Cotman colours, but they are much weaker than the professional quality ones. It’s worth paying the extra. Drove home through an improving weather picture, glad to be away from the strange land we used to know so well.

After lunch we went for a walk in St Mo’s and stood watching the Tufted Duck chicks learning to dive down for food in the shallows. Such tiny wee things, they seemed right at home on the water, but were carefully monitored by Mrs Tufty.

Later we walked over to Condorrat for a Fish Supper (me) and a Black Pudding Supper (Scamp). Real treat to eat food that someone else has made. While we ate our suppers we watched the qualifying for the Austrian GP, the first one this year. What a shame that Vettel has been dropped by Ferrari he will be sadly missed 🤣😉. Hopefully Ferrari’s actions will lead to fewer crashes and a safer F1 next year when he leaves.

Today’s PoD was taken in Anchor Lane in Glasgow city centre and was dunked in buckets of Lightroom and ON1 2019 before being hung up to dry in Flickr.

Tomorrow looks like a wild day. The wind is already starting to gust. I don’t think we’ll be going far.

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.