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Peacocks, Plants and a Swallow – 28 April 2018

Today wasn’t a day for going over the sea to Millport.

When we woke, the sky was clear with just a few clouds. However we just knew it couldn’t last and we were right. An hour later it had clouded over and the temperature was only 10º. We’d planned to go over the sea to Millport, but that wasn’t going to happen today.

I am planning to make a sourdough loaf on Monday. That means I have to prepare the active starter today in order to assemble the dough tomorrow (Sunday) and prove it overnight in its pretty cane basket in the fridge overnight ready for baking on Monday. That’s how it works with sourdough. It’s a three day plan process and you have to think ahead to be ready. That’s why this morning I was making up my active starter, just as the battery in the scales died. So my active starter is a kind of rough and ready one that feels right. As of now, at 11.45 it’s looking good. Tomorrow will be the big test.

The preparation of the AS was just filling in time while we decided what to do with the day. It seemed that east was better than west today so we settled on Dunfermline as a target and that’s where we went. Scamp wanted to go for a walk in the park and I wanted to look for a new book in Waterstones. On-line is cheaper, but it’s nice to just browse the books instead. You can’t really do that on-line, well, you can, but it’s not as much fun. We went to Dunfermline and had a walk in the park and found that there are still peacocks there and that’s where the PoD came from. We also found they’ve revamped the swing park to make it wheelchair friendly which is a great idea. One that more places should adopt. Only cost a little more than a ‘normal’ swing park, but the inclusion aspect is worth a lot more than the cost difference. I applaud you Dunfermline.

We’d half intended having lunch there, but instead we just had a coffee in Nero and settled on a home made curry when we got home. I did get to Waterstones and I did get a book … or two! On the way home we visited a wee garden centre and Scamp bought me a Forsythia from the sale plants and she got a wee alpine. My mum had a Forsythia plant in the garden and I always remembered it. I’ve got my own now.  On the way home I saw my first swallow this year!

Dinner tonight was a Spice Tailor curry and was good, but not nearly as good as the Butter Chicken curry we had the other night from the same company.

Swallow Watch:  This week I saw the first swallow this year and this is week 17.

Tomorrow?  Dancing in Paisley hopefully with dinner flung in for good measure.

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What a difference a day makes – 22 April 2018

When we woke this morning it was dry and with a touch of sun. It didn’t last.

The rain started just before we got up and remained for most of the morning. It was indeed going to be a stay at home day.

<Technospeak>
Last night was another technological nightmare. While I was writing the blog I was restoring a backup from just over a week ago on to the Linx 12. I’d unfortunately decided to have it verified before I installed it. It was only after it was started, and the ‘cancel’ button had become greyed out, that I realised that it was going to take a long time to check the backup. In fact, it took as long as the actual restore to check it. Rather than go to bed and leave the ‘puter churning through this process, I sat and read another few pages of my book. Eventually it did complete around 1am and just as I was shutting it down, up came the inevitable message “Configuring updates. Don’t switch the computer off”. Too late mate, It’s switching itself off. I went to bed. Well, it was worth the loss of sleep, because when I started the Linx this morning, everything was there. Not only that, the bluetooth mouse that started off this drudgery worked perfectly after I made the change noted in yesterday’s blog. I spent an hour or so adding some stuff and subtracting others until I was happy that what I had was serviceable system. I then made a backup of the up to date system. This time I made sure that I set it to check the backup after it made it. That process, conducted under Windows and utilising a USB 3 connection to the backup drive took just under 20 minutes to backup and check. A far cry from last night’s three hour marathon.
Note to self: When you use Macrium to backup a 64Gig drive, do it uncompressed! It takes a fraction of the time the compressed backup takes!
</Technospeak>

Ok, now that Scamp and JIC at least have returned, here’s the rest of the day. By the way, I made a resolution to get to bed the same day I got up, so this blog and probably others in the next week or so will be written in blocks during the day when I’ve nothing better to do and they blocks will be seamlessly welded into a complete page.

It was a dreich day but I did manage to get out for a walk in the afternoon and it stayed dry all the time. Just a walk through St Mo’s and with the ‘Big Dog’ to look for something that wanted its photo taken. Mr Grey was the first customer. I did see a couple of deer, but they fled too quickly. The rest was all macros. My first hoverfly photo of the year and some neat closeups of catkins. Sometimes you’re lucky if you get one decent subject, sometimes you’re overwhelmed and struggling to refine it down to one photo. I also dragged back some bracken fronds to paint on. Not paint as a subject, but to stick on the canvas and paint over for added texture! Hopefully!

Had a quick practise of the waltz for Wednesday and am much more satisfied with it. Jive? Now that’s another kettle of fish.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes and Broccoli. Scamp made it of course. She’s the fish master. Much nicer than last night’s fish supper.

Tomorrow is Gems day and hopefully a better day all round than today.

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The bird that evolution passed by – 16 April 2018

Today started off a bit cloudy, then the sun shone.

It didn’t stay for long though. The day soon degenerated to the usual cloudy with the threat of some rain and very short sunny spells. However, the temperature was high enough to convince me to go out for a walk while Gems were practising.

Drove down to Auchinstarry, parked and walked along the canal in sunshine. Grabbed some photos of some Tufted ducks. Then walked across the plantation and on to Dumbreck Marshes where I found today’s PoD. The brightly coloured pheasant is one of the stupidest of Scotland’s birds. I really do not know why they are not extinct. This one must have seen me wearing a bright blue anorak, but did it fly away? No it did not. It ran away in front of me then went back to feeding turning away from me all the time. I think they must be related to ostriches because the do the equivalent of sticking their head in the sand. They just turn away from you because, as everyone knows, if they can’t see you, you’re not there. Eventually it did fly for about fifty yards before crashing back down again. Maybe their brains are so small they can’t work out how to make the transition from walking to flying. That’s the problem with having a single core brain. Even if it had a dual core it could make the leap from running to flying. The bird that evolution passed by. Maybe more dodo than ostrich. Nice colours though.

Came back and made pesto pasta for dinner. Then it was time for dancing.

Managed a few minutes in an empty room at the STUC for some ballroom practise. I think I’ve finally got the idea of the walking backward part of the waltz. Hopefully it will be good enough for Michael on Wednesday.

Advanced 1 was quite interesting and the class were doing well with Niagra. Advanced 2 did Setenta e Jani (pronounce ‘yani’). I’m not sure I’ve actually mastered this one yet. Time will tell. After that it was Enchufe Moderno which I’ve totally forgotten and something called ‘The New One’. Good fun though.

Just found out that I picked up a tick today. First one this year, in fact, first one for a long time. Little bugger was sitting under my watch strap. A common place to find them.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Fred for coffee. Nobody else is available.

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Dancing on an empty floor – 15 April 2018

Up early to watch an exciting Chinese GP. Yes, really. Exciting!

Up early, well around 9am to watch the Chinese GP. For once it was worth getting out of bed for. Great tussle between the top teams with lots of ill will on the part of most of them. My, what spoilt brats they are.

Spoke to Hazy for a while after that and then went to work in the garden. No, really. I did actually do some creative work for a change. I built up the frame for Scamp’s broad beans to grow on. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any gardeners green twine, so the actual net the will climb on is not in place yet. Not my problem mate. I didn’t put it away. I’ll get some new twine tomorrow. With the work part completed, I skedaddled to St Mo’s to get some photos.

There wasn’t much doing across the road, but I did get one photo of a coot standing on its nest. The nest looked almost as untidy as my ‘bean frame’. PoD went to a macro shot of a tiny wee spider on a tree trunk. It could only have been 3mm long. Most impressed with the result from my pair of extension tubes.  The down side, or maybe not is that the orange ladybirds I’ve been tracking have disappeared.  Flown the coop, I hope.  Hopefully if they were egg laying earlier in the week, I’ll see the results next year.

Came home and started the prep for dinner which was to be 5 A Day Chicken with Pesto. It should have been pistachio pesto, but Scamp’s avoidance of any nuts meant that I substituted pine nuts for pistachios. Apparently pine nuts aren’t really nuts at all and can be used in place of ‘real’ nuts. I was only doing the prep, because I’d spent too long in the Land of St Mo and, as we were strapped for time to get in to Glasgow to go dancing, we’d have to have our dinner after we came back.

The dungeon that is Arta was almost empty when we got there. Apparently Cameron was holding an event in competition with AdS and Rangers were getting gubbed by Celtic (as usual) and most of the guys would be there or else be too inebriated to dance. It did brighten up a bit later, or to be more precise, more people arrived. Nobody could ever call it bright. We did have a few dances and both of us tried out moves we’ve learned in the past few weeks. We really should go out more often just to practise some of our moves.

Came home and I made the dinner which turned out better than I’d hoped, but there was a lot of garlic in the mixture. Possibly (definitely) too much. Needs some tweaking, but then again don’t most recipes. Just to get them working like you imagine they should taste.

Tomorrow looks good if the weather fairies are correct. If it turns out as predicted, I’ll go for a walk along the canal. If not, then I’ll go to the gym.

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Friday The Thirteenth. Ooh Scary – 13 April 2018

Today we took the train in to Glasgow.

Scamp offered to drive us to the station, partly because it was easy to park and partly because we are hoping to go to Kilmarnock tomorrow to visit an old friend and I will be driving. Parked, walked smartly to the station and the train drove in just as we reached the platform. That was nice.

We walked down through George Square and that’s where I saw the seagulls (aka Shitehawks) having a food fight. Too good an opportunity to miss, so I grabbed a few shots. The Teazer excels in low grey light, low contrast light. It’s not so good now in bright contrasty conditions. That’s because it’s always in my jacket pocket with all the lint and oos (Remember oos? It’s a gran word for dust and wool fibres. It’s got a hard ’S’ at the end not like ooze more like the ’S’ in keys.). Oos. Try to find some today and say the word. Remember the word. Some words shouldn’t be left to die. But I digress. The oos gets into the lens and causes flare in the photos. Today the Teazer had no problem with the soft, flat, grey light.

As we walked down the same streets as we walk on a Wednesday I realised that we hadn’t practised our ballroom steps as we should have. Must get some practise done at the weekend. I refuse to have another disaster Wednesday. Scamp was heading for M&S and we went in through the side door. I told her I’d go to Millers in Stockwell Street and meet her in ten minutes. When I went to leave by the front door, Wow! There were hundreds of people milling around on Argyle Street. No, not a hyperbole, there must have been at least 200 people there and they were walking en mass up Stockwell Street, something was up. Then I noticed that one building and a shop were being evacuated across the street. There were people with clipboards, people with coloured paddles organising other folk into manageable groups and checking off names. I went back in and phoned Scamp to tell her, just in case M&S were going to follow suit when all the folk started to walk back to the building they’d recently exited. No fire engine, no police cars or ambulances. No sirens. Either it was a false alarm or today, Friday 13th, had been chosen as a safety drill by someone with a sense of humour. By the time Scamp appeared, none of the two hundred odd folk were to be seen. Weird.

Went along to Paesano and had a pizza lunch. We both had the customised pizzas we’d discussed the last time we were in Paesano and both agreed the customising is the way to go in future.

While Scamp was in a shop in Bucky Street I grabbed the shot of the bloke on the phone, talking to his Boss!!

Walked through to Cass Art and on the way grabbed my PoD outside the GOMA.  I think looks quite smart in mono.

Back home I found a parcel waiting for me. This was the second of my birthday parcels from JIC. I won’t say what it is, just that it’s very personalised and really quite funny. Photo coming soon when I get a chance to take time over the capture.

Tomorrow we are hoping to visit an old friend we haven’t seen for a long time. Looking forward to it.

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Home, Home on the range – 2 April 2018

Sorry Scamp. I know that song will be rattling round your head now.

Today we drove to Falkirk, because Fred had sent me an email about cheap paint and painting things in The Range in Falkirk and knowing how Scamp loves a bargain, she came too.

Fred was right, there were a load of bargains to be had in The Range which seems to be a kind of repository for all the junk that the high street shops can’t sell. Buy it in dirt cheap and sell it cheap or slightly cheaper than the high street. If you’re lucky you’ll manage to slip some things in at above high street prices and trap the unwary. Scamp is never ‘the unwary’ she has everything priced perfectly in her head. I’m the one that’s more likely to be caught out. I didn’t buy too much:

  • a small box of water soluble oils
  • a brush that was cheap, but good quality
  • a sketch book to stick in my jacket pocket (after I bought it of course!!)

Scamp bought some plants.

  • an azalea.
  • a pot of parsley

Frugal, that’s Scamp. Not mean or stingy. Frugal.

I found a Currys and went looking for laptops at a sensible price. There were a few, but there were a lot at £700+. Seven hundred quid for a laptop? I should have looked for one in The Range. They probably had some great bargains in laptops too if I only had the time and the map to find them.

The afternoon was spent tidying up the back bedroom. By tidying up I really mean chucking stuff out. It’s got to that stage. There’s just too much stuff in there and all the drawers are full. The cupboard is full too. It’s time now to put stuff, gently, in the skip. It’s heartbreaking to chuck out my desktop computer, but it’s got to go. Nobody would buy it, even on Ebay. The film scanner is connected by a SCSI cable. Nobody even knows what that is anymore. Yes JIC I know that you know it’s a Small Computer System Interface, but how many others are there around that speak that arcane language? It’ll have to go too. Decluttering, that’s what it’s all about and Spring is the time of year to do it (so I’m told). Started today by chucking out half a dozen books and a host of paintings that didn’t work. That’s one of the benefits of painting on corrugated cardboard. If they don’t work you can just bin them. Probably most folk wouldn’t notice the difference in the room, but I do and that’s what it’s all about.

About that time the snow started. Now at around 11.30pm its lying, but the stuff falling from the sky is wet, sleety snow that hopefully won’t last until morning.

PoD was a grab shot, taken from the back window and is of our resident robin puffed up against the east wind and the snow.

I don’t think we have any great plans for tomorrow. The weather will decide what we do with the day. Maybe the gym or maybe a swim. That’s about as far as we’ve go with planning.

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Dancing, dancing, all the day – 28 March 2018

“Shoes to set my feet a dancing” definitely help too.

Wet start to the day, but there was little chance of us having any free time anyway, so weather took a back seat. After feeding my sourdough starter we fed ourselves and it was time for the first dance classes of the day. Have I mentioned the sourdough starter? I’ll try to write a bit about it tomorrow. Today is about dancing.

First class is waltz. Very demanding for me, but I feel I’m getting there now. A practise session with Scamp yesterday helped greatly. The biggest help was the lesson last week with Michael’s second-in-command. Today the boss was back and I think we both did well under his eagle eye. I really believe it’s easier dancing with proper dance shoes rather than ordinary street shoes or trainers. I’ve been dancing salsa wearing trainers for years and never bothered with ballroom shoes, but for some reason, waltz especially is much easier (or less difficult) when I’m wearing those uncomfortable dance shoes.

I was on dinner duty tonight and as Scamp reminded me that we hadn’t had our dose of pasta this week, decided to make another attempt at Spaghetti dello Chef. This time I used spaghetti, garlic, chilli flakes, capers, tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with parmesan shavings. Not as good as last week in my opinion, but Scamp said it just tasted different.

The change of plan tonight was to go to the 7.30 and 8.30 classes. Ooh, staying up late! That is much better than having to face Shannon’s boringly repetitive routines and trying to keep a smile on my face. It’s dull, dull, dull, dear. Salsa should be fun, exciting and vibrant, all the things your classes aren’t. We got there earlier than I’d anticipated, so Scamp got to dance for about ten minutes at the end of Jamie’s 6.30 class which was oversubscribed by men as usual. I just stayed in the class and typed up the first half of this blog post on my phone. The 8.30 class was a revelation. For a level 3 class they were brilliant. I think we may make this a regular occurrence.

Today’s PoD was a grab shot of a fat pigeon sitting on the fence at the back garden. I liked the shadows cast by the tree on its plumage. Just a grab shot through the kitchen window.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Colin because Val has shingles. Poor guy.

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A Straggle of Geese – 26 March 2018

So, I thought why go to the gym when I could exercise in the open air and the sunshine. Then the sun went away.

First on the list this Monday was ‘messages’ at Tesco where I bumped into Fred out doing his messages too. There’s a character in the book I’m reading called Grumpy Bob. It could also be Grumpy Fred!

Three slices of bacon between two slices of toasted sourdough bread was lunch. Not my own sourdough, I hasten to add because my sourdough starter hasn’t started yet. It’s early days though. I only made it up yesterday and it shouldn’t show any signs of life for 48 hours. It’s living in the living room now where the temperature is more even and slightly warmer than the cupboard that was its home yesterday. Anyway, the bacon sandwich was an early lunch before getting the bike out again and getting some outdoor exercise. The sun that had promised so much in the morning had gone into hiding by the time I wheeled the Dewdrop out of the door.

Back down to the same landfill site I visited last week. While I was debating if it was warm enough to take of the leg warmers, a large skein of geese appeared flying due west. I’d have thought they would have been flying south, but they were following the train lines and heading west. The patterns they made in the sky were amazing with those birds at the front of the three or four Vee formations falling back to the rear while others took their place. Even more amazing was the sound of their calls back and forth as they flew. They were definitely talking to each other. It was the noise you hear in a large hall where hundreds of people are having scores of conversations. It really is a delight to listen to all the different voices of the birds in flight. I eventually decided that it was indeed warm enough, then realised why they call them leg Warmers. It was quite cool after I took them off.

I walked to the place I went to last week, hoping to see some newts, but none were cruising round the pond today. In fact there was very little sign of life at first glance. However, when I went for a walk I spotted the crow sitting on a vent pipe and thought it made and interesting shape. Watched Skylarks flying up from their nesting sites among the reeds and listened to their song as they rose. In fact, as I write this I’m listening to The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams. That’s what I like about Spotify, I can instantly listen to almost any piece of music as I sit at the computer or in the car. Thank you again Hazy & Neil. I just had to photograph the Coltsfoot Daisies. They always remind me of my dad. He explained to me how they always grow in the poorest ground.

When I was leaving, another two skeins of geese flew over, again flying west. They started out as one large cluster, then split into two distinct groups, seeming to prefer to fly round rather than over me. This time I took a photos and managed to fill the frame with the larger of the two groups. Once they had passed me, the joined up again and turned as one towards the south. Again the call and response from all the individuals was something wonderful to hear.

My legs were sore after today’s exercise and I probably did more work than if I’d gone to the gym, but I don’t mind. It was a day in the fresh air, but I did put the leg warmers on again for the run home.

Dinner was Prawn & Pea Risotto with a poached egg on top. I think I decided on Saturday that I’d make it for us. Scamp gave me ‘poaching pockets’ for a wee silly Christmas present and they worked perfectly, keeping the poached egg neat and tidy. Must remember next time I make it that 3 minutes is perfect for a runny egg with firm white.

Salsa tonight was fun with Jamie G giving the 6.30 class the full Uhura story to explain the move. There were a lot of puzzled looks after his ‘explanation’. Tonight’s moves were The New One and The New Thing. Interesting moves is slightly thoughtless titles.

I should mention that I know it’s a gaggle of geese, but as you can probably just see, these geese were straggling across the sky.

Tomorrow it looks like rain, so it will be the gym and maybe a swim.

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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.