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Today’s disaster – 23 February 2018

The good news was Scamp was much better when we woke.

I guessed she would be after a good night’s sleep, but was relieved to hear that she hadn’t been shouting down the ceramic telephone during the night. Had breakfast and sat in the living room soaking up the early spring/late winter sunshine when Scamp asked if the WiFi was off. I was doing my daily sudoku at the time and hadn’t noticed, so I checked the modem and both send and receive lights were off. I unplugged it to reset it and only when I was plugging it back in again, noticed that the light on the multipoint connector was off, so was the standby light on the TV. Oh dear, looks like there was a power outage. However, when I checked the junction box, I found that the RCD (Residual Current Device) had tripped. That usually means that some electrical item has gone faulty. I started pulling fuses from the box to try to find what was causing the fault and soon discovered it was the downstairs sockets. Went round switching them all off and then found that the culprit seemed to be the one connected to the fridge. That’s when the RCD tripped again. So it wasn’t just the fridge. Switched everything off and reset the RCD. It didn’t trigger. Started switching everything on again and unbelievably with everything on including the fridge, the RCD didn’t trip. Weird. Five minutes later the RCD tripped again. Weirder still.

Phoned Fred P who used to do PAT testing in the school to get his take on things and he told me not to just switch things off, but to physically unplug them. Did that and then plugged one thing on at a time. With nothing plugged in the RCD was fine. As soon as I plugged something in it tripped. Then it would trip with nothing plugged in. Fred phoned with the number for an emergency electrician he’d used in the past. I phoned and he came out in the afternoon. His first question was when I’d last tested the RCD. I told him I didn’t know you had to test them. Well, apparently you have to. There’s a note on the junction box to say so and he showed it to me and also showed me how to do the test … properly. Once every month or two he said. He waited while I connected everything up and gave it a good 15 to 20 minutes with everything powered before he left us. It cost £30 for the call-out, but it was worth it for the peace of mind. So the moral of the story is if you have a RCD switch and a test button, and if you have a little label on it telling you to test it regularly, do what it tells you. That way you won’t be staggering round the house like a loony trying to find all the sockets to pull.

After that I went for a walk to calm down and got a few pics of a young buck (PoD). Also got some of a goosander and a torn bit of a tree. Don’t ask why that last one. I just liked it. Saw the little white spot ladybird again, nestled in some moss. Stay where you are little ladybird, cold days are coming back.

Today’s sketch is just a bit of pencil rendering. It’s done and on time.

Tomorrow, let’s hope there are no more disasters. We have no plans.

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Oh no! Mair snow! – 6 February 2018

Woke up to a suspiciously white light coming through the curtains. It might have been sunshine, but it was more likely sunlight reflecting from lots of snow.

A cursory glance out the window confirmed that the snow lorry had indeed parked outside our house and deposited its load of snow. Went back and read for a while. Read the disappointing end to the Peter May book. It almost felt like he had got fed up writing the story and decided to tie everything up in the last five pages. Don’t you just hate books like that. I do.

A cup of coffee after my shower cheered me up and gave me the strength to face the day. I had intended to go to the gym today, but instead, decided to get my sketch done early. Today’s drawing, and it was going to be a drawing today, no paint was going to be spilt, was of Scamp’s poinsettia which she has been carefully tending for over a month now and although it’s a bit spidery now, it’s still holding some of its leaves. The secret appears to be to feed it warm water daily in a dish that the plant pot stands in. I presume that creates a moist atmosphere around the leaves and that’s what the plant needs. With the open, almost skeletal frame of a plant like this, a negative space technique seemed right. That is, instead of drawing the plant, you draw the open spaces it occupies; the spaces between the leaves and the spaces between the stems. After that’s done you can decide what part goes in front of or behind other parts. It seemed to work. It’s amazing how absorbing this technique is. I suppose it’s what makes adult colouring books so interesting, although I can’t really see that myself.

Poinsettia

While I was working on this a parcel dropped through the letterbox. A slim cardboard rectangle contained a book ‘True Story” by Jo Levy, a friend we met at salsa class, many years ago. Scamp had ordered it as an anniversary present for me. It’s a lovely wee thing. 31 drawings done by Jo, one a day, during the month of May 2017. She’s agreed to sign it, that will make it even better. Brilliant idea Jo and even more brilliant idea for a present, Scamp. I will treasure it.

After I completed the drawing which, although technically correct, wasn’t a patch on Jo’s cartoon drawings, I drove down to Auchinstarry and went for a walk along the canal and back along the railway. Cold and icy in places, but very enjoyable. Some days, like yesterday, you get one or maybe photos. Today I took 48, whittled them down to 18 and further reduced that to 6 of which only three were posted. This is part of the new plan. Yellow spots for ones worth considering and green spots for ‘record shots’. The some of the yellow spots become red spots because they’re going on Flickr. Once on Flickr, some more are lost because they look good on full screen, but don’t look so good as smaller resolution files on Flickr. Only one of the final selection becomes PoD and today’s shot that wins the acolade is the snow on the cow parsley heads.

Tomorrow it’s dancing, dancing and dancing again, hopefully.

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Bananas (no Pyjamas) – 5 February 2018

It was Monday and we all know how restricting that is. Today I had a plan.

Didn’t get much done this morning, but after lunch I locked myself in my room with a bunch of bananas, a sketch book and pencil and a paint box. I reckoned that was the only way I was going to get a sketch done today. It took a long while and a few wasted sheets before I was settled on, but not altogether happy with, a little painting. It could have been a lot better, but it was complete and it was in on time. All the time I was earwigging the Gems practise. We all have to make sacrifices for our art!

Bananas today

With a painting in the bag, I went looking for a PoD. The light was dying as I walked over to St Mo’s, but I got a shot of Mr Grey hiding in the shallows beneath the trees. If it was to work, I had to have a close-up of his eye because he was well hidden in the bushes and only his eye would give me the shot I wanted. I got the shot and he flew off, fed up, no doubt with my clumsy stalking technique.

Back home, I had about an hour before I made the dinner. Got the photos downloaded, then the sketch photographed and transferred too. Worked on both photos and uploaded them to FB, Instagram and Flickr. Then it was time for dinner. Spaghetti with roast peppers in tomato sauce. Then we drove in to Glasgow with CITRAC displaying a yellow warning for snow and ice during the night and the early morning hours. Hopefully that won’t bother us.

Salsa with the first class (Advanced 1) wasn’t all that demanding, but the new move in the second class (Advanced 5) was a test, not only of our abilities, but also of Jamie Gal’s memory. It may or may not be called ‘Corfu’. Jamie said he’d post the move on FB, but so far nothing has appeared. It was actually quite an interesting move. We may try it out ourselves tomorrow just to see if we can work out between us what it was all about.

For once I got parked easily back at the house. That doesn’t happen often.

I sacrificed the gym and swim for a chance to get a sketch done today. Tomorrow I intend to pay back. Gym and Swim then sketch with photography taking a back seat. That’s the plan any way!

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Snow Begone – 22 January 2018

Well, the thaw started last night and seemed to have continued its good work through the night.

Green grass was revealed in the garden, front and back as the temperature rose. It continued to rise throughout the day and even now as I’m writing this the outdoor thermometer is showing 6.1ºc. That said, it was a bit of a dull day, overcast with grey cloud. We shouldn’t complain, though, because that’s what was keeping the temperature up.

We dusted the last of the snow off both cars and then I drove us to the dump to toss the old microwave into the skip. It joined at least eight others in the ‘Small Electrical Items’ skip. Had they all been hit by some electronic lurgi at the same time or had everyone got new microwaves for Christmas? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.

After lunch I did consider going to the gym and the steam room for half an hour as I had a crick in my back that just wouldn’t go away. However, it seemed a shame to waste a silent Monday as Gems had been cancelled today because the paths, although thawing, were still quite slippery. It gave me a chance to just sit and finish today’s ‘mild’ Sudoku. After that I set to, to copy a painting I’ve got sitting on my cork board wallpaper on the iMac. Instructions for making a cork board are down here. I wasn’t all that happy with the first attempt, but then chopped a piece of corrugated card from the microwave box and painted a much better one. Well, it looked good at the time, but it may look different in the harsh light of another day.

Salsa tonight was good and we were back to Gorila again, then Jamie G changed the ending and, in my opinion totally destroyed it. He took out the lovely tricky twisty bit and put in a bland enchufé as a finish. He even gave it a ridiculous name ‘Monkey’. Possibly because he’d made a monkey out of it. His other new one is called ‘The New One’. Nothing new there. We did one more new move called Enchufé Clap which is just silly. Enchufé then clap in the air, clap behind your back, clap below your left knee, clap behind your right knee. Hmmm.

PoD was a grab shot in the dull afternoon and is possibly the worst PoD this year.

Hopefully we’ll get out somewhere interesting tomorrow and get some photos took!


Make A Corkboard

The idea of a cork board as a wallpaper came to me some time ago and it’s an easy one to implement. I downloaded a cork board image from the net and tiled it up to cover the iMac’s enormous screen. That it the base.

Now whenever I see an interesting picture or sketch I use Cmd + Shift + 4 to create a clipping tool to grab the image or part of the image as a .PNG file and save it to the desktop. To add the image to the cork board I just open the cork board image in my photo editor, (I use Pixelmator, although Photoshop does the same thing) and drag the picture into the cork board image in the photo editor, then resize it and position it. It’s on a new layer, so it floats above the cork board image.

I now save two versions of the background file. The first file is in the native format of the photo editor. This will ensure that all the different layers are saved and it’s this one I’ll reload the next time I’m going to add another idea clip. The next file to be saved is a .JPG file that will be the actual wallpaper. Make sure you remember where each one is saved, because they are not interchangeable. Finally, I just right click on the background and select Change Desktop Background. That’s how it works on a Mac, but YMMV depending on your OS.

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Snow. Snow. Thick, Thick Snow – 19 January 2018

When we woke this morning it had been snowing during the night, but the strangest news that NLC had decided that all schools in the region would close at midday. Unheard of for eight years. Is this the end of Global Warming? Does this mean that Donald Trump is right?

It’s winter. In winter it snows. If it’s a bad winter, it snows a lot. That does not mean the end of the world, or even the beginning of the end. It just means that it’s winter. Live with it. It doesn’t mean that Global Warming is not happening, it just means that the seven year cycle thing has a bit of truth in it. This is the cold winter that happens about every seven years of so.

Today we drove in to Glasgow to buy a new microwave. The stop button on our old one had, indeed, stopped working. I could say that we were looking for a more efficient one to help reduce the effects of GW, but that would be cynical and I’m not a cynic! ;-D)))))
We went to JL, because they were the cheapest for the model we were looking for and they give an extra year’s guarantee. While we were browsing the incredible selection of microwave models we discovered that yet another Scottish celeb was following us. Sanjeev Kohli AKA Navid from Still Game, AKA AJ Jandhu from River City was pretending to be considering the purchase of a fridge freezer, while constantly trying to see what we were buying. Last month it was Nicola Sturgeon AKA Nick the Chick who was stalking us through the mens wear department. In November it was Leah MacRae who plays Ellie McLean in River City who was trying to hear what we were saying in a beachside bar in Tenerife. Before that it was Wee Boab from the same soap who followed us to Costa in Robroyston. Don’t these people have their own lives to lead? Why must they live their lives vicariously through ours? I’d offer them an autograph, but that would only encourage them. Anyway, we eventually shook off Mr K and got the microwave we were looking for.

The weather did look as if it was closing in when we left Glasgow and I was glad to just drive home and get parked up before the predicted snow hit. When we got home, the sky was lightening again and I thought I’d risk an hour or so in St Mo’s to augment the few shots I’d got in Glasgow. I had just arrived back home when the snow stared. It was on and off all night after that. Tonight’s dinner was chicken cooked in the gas oven and baked potatoes cooked in the fancy new microwave. I was impressed with both.

PoD today was Mr Grey who looked imperious, stalking through the reeds on St Mo’s pond, and NO, the middle pic is not mum.

We may stay at home tomorrow if the snow is still falling. That will also put off the autograph hunters.

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A walk in the park – 18 January 2018

Today I was the driver, taking Scamp to her hospital appointment.

Scamp thought she’d be about an hour and we were in the wilderness of Springburn, so what was I going to do for an hour in this place? Well, there was a park nearby I could see people in the park but I couldn’t find a way in to it. I think I drove almost right round it and every entrance was locked and chained. Was it to keep the locals out or the wild beasts of the park in? There was a polis car parked inside. That wasn’t a good sign. Then I found a line of cars parked in the street beside a pedestrian gate. Aha, so this is how you get in! I walked around a big pond, but there was nothing interesting to photograph. Then I found a path that took me up a hill and on top of it was what must have been a boating pond. It was now half frozen and in the thawed out half there were hundreds of ducks. That’s where my PoD came from. The one above. It’s a Tufted Duck. We sometimes get them in St Mo’s, but I’ve not seen any this year. I always think they look like Daffy Duck. I also saw duck footprints, or maybe they were Coot footprints impressed into the ice and that’s what the other shot is It was a toss up to decide what pic would be PoD, but Tufty won.

That was about it for the day. I did a bit of retail therapy at Currys in Bishopbriggs, looking for a microwave to replace our un-switchoffable present one. I also sneaked a look at 7″ tablets to replace my ageing Nexus 7 which was dragging its heels a bit. However, when I got home I researched the problem and decided that a factory reset might solve the problem. It looks as if it has. My fingers are still crossed, but it looks as if it has regained its previous speed. Now I just have to find out how to do a factory reset on a Panasonic microwave. That might be a bit more difficult.

Well, the snow is gradually disappearing and the rain that’s fallen today has helped with that. However, there’s more work to be done. Tomorrow, we have no plans.  It depends, as usual, on the weather.

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No Swimming – 14 January 2018

After a late start today, Scamp decided it was time to start dusting the shelves, wardrobe and anything else that didn’t move. This gave me the incentive to move.

I drove down to Auchinstarry and noticed right away that the ‘Cooncil’ had put up a new notice by the flooded quarry. It read “No Swimming”. Maybe they were just trying to get in ahead of the rush of folk ready to be first to swim across the murky waters of the quarry and whatever lies beneath its oily skin. However it’s January. The water still has ice floes on it and it’s rumoured polar bears have been seen on one of its islands. I haven’t seen anyone stripping off and going for a mid-winter dip in the inviting waters, but I’m sure if they were determined to face the host of infections lurking in the depths, a ‘Cooncil’ notice wouldn’t dissuade them. Possibly a Health ’n’ Safety audit was the reason or maybe someone with too much time on their hands had committed a Risk Assessment to paper. Maybe as the end of the financial year approaches, they just had to spend their available money or risk losing it next year. Whatever it was, I’m sure the inhabitants of Kilsyth and District will completely ignore it, as did the swans and the mallards.

As I walked over the bridge over the Kelvin, I grabbed a shot of the moss growing in the cracks and that became my PoD. It looked like two wee green hills with alien trees growing on them. There wouldn’t be much else to test my photographic skills for the rest of the walk. I was walking into a western wind and it was much colder than the 7ºc that had been the reading on the thermometer in the car. I was quite glad when I put my back to it on the walk back to the car park. I’d managed to get a couple of pics of a duck on the canal. I couldn’t remember if it was a Goosander or a Merganser, but tonight the Internet provided the answer. It was a female Goosander. It was a grainy one too at 7200 ISO! The day was getting darker, the further I walked.

Dinner tonight was the remains of Thursday’s mince pie and if anything, it had improved by resting in the fridge for a few days.

A surprisingly good program on TV tonight was an interview with Mrs McQueen, telling about her coronation and explaining that when she was wearing the crown she couldn’t look down because she thought she’d break her neck trying to raise her head again. Not surprising when you realise that the crown weighs 5lb. That’s the equivalent of two and a half bags of sugar! Just imagine carrying that around on your head. Really excellent program that didn’t condescend, just gave you an insight into the pomp and circumstance of these royal occasions that we plebs will never get to take part in. Scariest bit was when she smiled. Can’t remember seeing her smile before.

Tomorrow is Monday so it’s Avoid The Gems Day. Gym ’n’ Swim probably.

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Visitors – 29 December 2017

Today was the second, and final leg of H&N’s journey north, and it was snowing.

The snow lasted all morning before finally petering out around lunchtime. Scamp had been a bit on edge until it actually stopped then she settled down, knowing that the worst of the weather was past. Even so, she was still determined to dust, Dyson™ (that’s like hoovering but posher), clean and polish the house at least three times until she was sure it was fit for visitors.

After lunch I went out for a walk in the snow around St Mo’s. That’s where I got today’s PoD of the coot on a mission. It was also the first time I used Picktorial in earnest. That’s right, I bought it last night, just before my demo time ran out. It really does work a lot faster and with a lot more variables than Lightroom. The only thing it doesn’t do is Asset Management, or Cataloguing as we used to call it. In fact it proudly proclaims that it is Catalog Free. Which is a fancy way of saying that it would cost too much to add in that feature and then nobody would buy it. So it looks like I’ll be using Lightroom to import my photos and do the heavy lifting in the post-processing, then use Picktorial to do the fancy stuff. You know what I mean. The little bits of pixel adjustment that nobody will ever know existed except me. Every photog does it … I think. Or maybe it is just me!

Not long after I came home and dumped the photos in Lightroom, we got the text to say the happy couple had arrived at the hotel and were going to rest from their journey, but would eat with us later. Scamp could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and relax until it was time to start the prep for dinner. On tonight’s menu was Venison Stew or Panfried Sea Bass Fillets followed by Pineapple Snow with Lime and Chilli sauce. Both visitors opted for the venison. A very good choice said the Sous Chef who had spent yesterday afternoon preparing it.

H&N arrived in the middle of a surprise snow shower and we had a great evening opening presents and generally catching up with stories from the far south. They wanted to get back to the hotel and rest, so left fairly early. Tomorrow is a rest day for both of them, and probably for us too.

Tomorrow for us consists of a shopping expedition and little else. It’s nice to have a fairly full house again and all sit round the table.

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Big Dogs – 26 December 2017

Today was Boxing Day, but there were no more boxes to open, so, as it had snowed during the night and it looked ‘Deepan, Krispan, Evin’, I got dressed and took the big dog for a walk.

We walked through the snow and found that the pond was covered in mist as the sun hadn’t risen to warm it up. I just missed catching Mr Grey who was fishing next to the path, behind a bush. He flew off squawking at a couple of swans that were in his way. I walked into the trees and saw the sun rising above the tops of the pines. It’s not often I’m up before the sun, these days!

Walked down through the pine trees and didn’t see a living soul. Got a few shots of the little man-made pond near the road and then followed a fresh fox’s trail through the woodland until it crossed the burn. It wasn’t my great tracking skills that let me to believe it was a fox, it was the smell that was quite strong on the snow.

I walked through the deciduous woods and by carefully choosing a point of view, got a shot of the second burn with some clean reflections and avoided both the street lights and the motorway signs. The mist helped, but it did need some ‘spotting’ in Lightroom later. It was on the way back with my ‘big dog’ that I was joined by another couple of real big dogs. I just caught a glimpse of something behind a bush and assumed it was a deer, then it formed itself into a big, and I mean Big Dogs. Two fairly heavy built Alsatian types. I’m not good on dog ID, but the other thing I was pleased to see was that they both had expensive looking harnesses on and looked well fed and looked after. I tried to ignore them and walked on when I heard one behind me. Never let a dog get behind you, someone once told me. As I turned round the second one bolted away from me towards some silent signal, presumably from the owner. My own shadow gave a high pitched yelp as if to say “Wait for me!” and ran to follow the first dog. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily I was wearing my brown corduroy trousers, so there would be no outward sign of my panic as I walked on.

Got home without meeting any more Big Dogs although I did manage to get a low down PoD shot of a new Weeman that Scamp bought me as a Chrissy Prezzy. I’d have looked a proper Charlie if anyone had seen me crouching on my knees, photographing a Lego Minifig™.

Lunch was a light wrap with cooked meat and salad veg, plus some Jalapeños. Afterwards we discussed tonight’s dinner and it resolved itself into Minestrone soup. Not difficult to make, but lots of chopping up of veg as preparation. We didn’t have any cabbage, so as Scamp wanted to go and stretch her legs, we walked down to the M&S shop at the petrol station. We didn’t really need anything apart from cabbage which they didn’t have, but I got some more cold ham and Scamp bought some Satsumas. It was more for the walk than for anything else. Stuck in the house all day yesterday makes you yearn for the outdoors.

When we got back, Madeleine started a video conversation using WhatsApp. We’d never used it before, and it was really good. Much better than Skype. Skype used to be good, but since it’s been taken over by The Dark Side, it wants to run things its way. Interrupting a call to install an update. That’s just typical Microsoft. Anyway, the Whats App call worked well and Scamp got to see Ori the wonder dog as well as everyone else in the Trini house.

I got a sketch done and pre-dated it to the 24th. A lie, but a little white lie, well, a black and white lie actually. Not drawn, but painted with black Indian ink. I quite like it, but I’m not letting you see the usual big image, so don’t bother to click on it. It looks better small, I think, and it’s my blog!  The title from the lyrics of ‘The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity’ by Bridget St John.

Today we made the move to go out. Tomorrow we may go even further! Provided the weather is kind to us.

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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!