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Sunny Skies – 18 June 2017

Sunday was a lazy day. Really, it was too hot to be anything else, and after our late night on Saturday a lazy day was called for. Scamp was doing some tidying in the garden and I was just footering around. Although I did prepare dinner which was also a lazy meal: Chicken Tagine. Just fry the onions and the chicken in the Le Creuset (other makes are available) add the spices, some chopped dates, dried apricots, orange juice and water then bung in the oven for a couple of hours.

After lunch I went for a walk down the canal leaving Scamp to garden and keep an eye on the tagine. Walked along the canal, across the plantation and onto the railway road then back to Auchnstarry. That’s where I found the lovely wee dog rose. Got passed by two guys on scrambler bikes, one, just a boy seemed amused that I was a photographer. He seemed to want his photo taken, but I had two extension tubes on the camera and I didn’t really want a macro of his face. Should probably just have taken it. He’d never know. The other guy, maybe his dad was a lot more sensible and just gave me a wave as he passed. Such a lovely day to be out walking in your shirt sleeves.

When I got back, I’d just missed JIC, so I phoned him back and we compared temperatures and had a quick catch up. Then I let him go to prepare his barbecue. Hope it worked out well J. You’ll see his card on the left above. Don’t know where he gets his sarcasm from! Hazy’s is on the right with your recommended text alteration. Hope you approve H.

We couldn’t decide whether to go to Sunday Social or not. We’d been out late dancing on Saturday. We’d have usual salsa class on Monday. Can we be bothered? Will we, won’t we? Eventually we decided; stuff it, let’s go. Driving this time. We’ve learned our lesson with trains.

Got parked no problem and had a great time at Arta. I’m beginning to like it. It’s more ‘grown up’ than The Garage. It’s just a bit dark and gloomy. Danced with four girls as well as Scamp! Feeling the effects of it now on my knees. Chicken Tagine was voted good by the Cumbersheugh jury, but both of us agreed that it was too sweet. Less fruit next time.

Preparing for another hot day tomorrow.

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The May Is Oot – 19 May 2017

It’s been a bit of a flower centred week.  Since Tuesday there seems to be nothing but flower pictures imprinted on the CCDs of my cameras.

Today we welcome summer to Scotland with the Old Scots saying “Ne’er cast a cloot until May is oot.”  Which translates to english as “Don’t discard your winter clothes until the may (hawthorn) is in bloom.” Today’s PoD was of a cluster of hawthorn blossom frothing from a bush.  I had actually gone to this spot on the Antonine Way to try out the Teazer’s ability to produce a panorama in-camera which it did and also to check its in camera time-lapse ability which I failed to achieve.  Maybe I need to read the instruction book.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS for what is basically a little point ’n’ shoot camera?  I think not!  Instruction books are for noobs.  Look, I paid good money for this camera and all its fancy modes, so it should deliver them without the need for an instruction book.  What is the camera world coming to?  It failed, in other words.  I didn’t fail, it failed.  Fin.

Made the strangest bread this morning because Scamp’s dad’s cousin was coming for dinner and she is a coeliac.  I’d never made a gluten free loaf before and when the instruction started with “beat two egg whites with two teaspoons of sugar, one teaspoon of vinegar, one teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of oil and 400ml of water”  I thought ’What is going on here?’.  However, I followed the instructions and the bread rose and was baked for the required 55min.  That’s twice the time a ‘normal’ loaf takes.  Even stranger, it looked like a cake rather than a loaf when all was done, BUT it tasted like a loaf.  Like a pan loaf and it had risen perfectly.  No soggy bottom and Isobel who has is an expert on gluten free loaves gave it her seal of approval.  She got the remainder of the loaf away with her.  I may try it again, even with its strange very white flour (that isn’t really flour) and beaten egg whites.

Scamp, June and Isobel were going to a concert in Glasgow afterwards and I was nominated driver.  When I came home I tried an install of Lightzone which is a very able Lightroom clone.  It’s free as in legally free and is cross-platform which means it works on the Mac and also on the Win 10 tablet because it has 32bit architecture.  It’s not as polished as Lightroom and doesn’t do the cataloging that is at the heart of the Adobe prog, but it’s a great piece of software.  Best of all, out of the box, it supports the Panasonic RAW files the Teazer produces.  Amazing what a little piece of free software can do.

Tomorrow?  More Teazer Testing, but I refuse to read the instructions.

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Another airport, another flight – 1 May 2017

In the morning, we went for a walk round the golf course along from the house.  It was raining on and off as we walked through the woodland, but because we were walking through trees, there were plenty of places to shelter.  Labyrinth again became the word of the day.  There are so many paths through the woodland all crossing and re-crossing, it’s difficult to work out where you are going and where you’ve been.  We got ourselves lost a couple of times, but then Genghis Pathfinder chose a path I wouldn’t have chosen, but it lead back to the golf clubhouse.  Unfortunately, by the time we got there the rain was fairly heavy and there was no point in stopping for a coffee as all the inside seats were taken and not even the hardiest of smokers was risking the downpour at the outside seating.  We found our way back to the road and from there, back to the house.

ND suggested that we all go to a garden centre for lunch.  I didn’t recognise the route, but I did recognise the pizza stand and remembered that the pizzas were good indeed, but the waiting time was 25 mins and that was too long.  I chose instead to have sausage and beans with potato wedges.  It was an excellent choice.  Got some kale seeds and some spinach.  Scamp got a square of washable table cover.

All too soon, it was time it go.  Just had time to repack the bags and case and we were off to the airport again.  Seems like only yesterday we were getting picked up there.  Poor ND had to drive through torrential rain to get there, but as usual, he didn’t complain.

Case has now been dropped off and we’re through security although they did want to search my tablet separately.  I don’t know what was wrong with it.  Now I’m sitting in the departures lounge writing this up and whiling away the couple of hours until we go in the big metal tube in the sky.

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“I don’t get hangovers yet” – 23 April 2017

This morning we went for a walk round the Barras.

I was going looking for a cheap Bluetooth 4.0 dongle – it’s a bit of computer hardware, in case you don’t know.  There used to be a multitude of wee computer shops selling legitimate and highly illegal hardware and software down the Barras.  Most Barras stuff was knocked off, one way or another and everybody knew that and accepted the risk that what you were buying was either unlikely to work once you got it home or a man in a black suit wearing a cap with a black and white chequered pattern would relieve you of it as soon as you stepped away from the stall.  No guarantees, no money back, but glorious bargains to be had.  Not today and by the looks of things not ever again.  The Barras was dead.  All the wee shops and some of the bigger ones were closed and firmly shuttered.  Worst of all, there was almost nobody about..  It looks like the end of an era, and also the end of my search for a cheap Bluetooth dongle.

We walked down to Glasgow Green and strolled through the trees just springing into leaf, about a month behind the ones we walked in last week in Astwick.  That’s what happens, they get the weather, we get the scenery.  It’s a fair exchange and I like the way it’s weighted.  We were just heading for the People’s Palace for my usual Sunday roll ’n’ sausage and Scamp’s tea ’n’ toast when three girls passed us and the following snippet of their conversation floated towards me  “… I don’t get hangovers yet. I suppose I will later …”.  I felt like telling her she had to be actually drinking alcohol first.  Merely talking about it won’t have the desired effect, nor will drinking lemonade or coke.  I almost shouted “Try Buckfast.  That should work.”  She was english, which explains everything.  Just one step away from being american.  (Yes, lower case ‘e’ and lower case ‘a’.)

Today’s sketch was from the Wintergarden of the People’s Palace.  Simpler and more accurate than previous ones IMO, maybe because I was sitting down enjoying my R ’n’ S while I completed it.  The trees were Celtic trees.  Green, White, Green, White, Green.  Must have been planted by a Sellic supporter!  But then, you don’t get many trees with Blue or Red leaves do you?  The mono shot of the old shop with the ‘ghost signs’ was not from the Barras, but from quite near there.

Back home to do a bit of joinery, completing the duckboard for the plants to stand on.  Actually enjoyed it and it looked reasonable when it was finished.  It could maybe do with a lick of paint or stain to finish it off, but the biggest part of the work is done now.  Helped Scamp with a bit of gentle gardening after that, but nothing creative, just labouring really.

Made some bread 50/50 white flour and dark wholegrain flour from Prince Chic’s own farm.  I imagine he planted it himself and then carefully tended it, talking to it daily before harvesting it with a scythe he’d sharpened himself then grinding it carefully in an authentic and architecturally sound windmill.  Lastly he’d transport the flour by horse and cart to Waitrose where we bought it.  He’s that kind of a guy.  The bread was good, thanks Chic.

Tomorrow is Monday so it’s Gems day.  I’ll be making a hasty exit.

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To the Manor Born – 14 April 2017

Actually Wimpole is an estate, not a manor, but ’estate’ didn’t make such a good title I thought.

JIC drove us all there in the morning, and this being Good Friday, there were already hundreds, if not thousands of people there.  Most seemed to have brought their 2.5 children with then.  I did hope there were an even number of families, otherwise it might become messy with that poor 0.5 of a child wandering around.  Got parked and Sim set off in search of the ticket office and managed, somehow, to get to the front of the queue.  Tickets purchased we went in search of the formal gardens.  Most of the other families with their 2.5 children in tow were taking part in the ’Easter’ Egg Hunt which had been cunningly renamed to Cadbury’s Egg Hunt so as not to offend any non-Christians while they searched for eggs.  I thought it was a petty and childish piece of semantics and, as my mum used to say, “That’s how wars start.”

It being early spring, there weren’t a great variety of different flowers in bloom, but the colours of the daffodils and tulips made up for that.  You can see a couple of shots of them above.  As well as flowering plants, there were also veg and fruit plots and it was good to see that many of the plants had been labelled.  I learned on our visit to Kew a few years ago to photograph the label as well as the plant.

The estate farm was quite interesting, but there were too many weans squealing around the place, so I was quite glad when we left.  Even more squealing and grunting was coming from the enormous pigs in the piggery.  It’s not until you see these providers of our bacon that you realise just how big they are. Just as we were leaving the farm, which thankfully is a real farm and not just a petting zoo, an old plane flew over, a biplane.  I thought it was a Tiger Moth, and when I got home and checked the reg, I found I was right for once.  So strange looking at it through the EVF (Electronic View Finder) because it looked as if the propellor was stationary.  Must be due to the refresh rate of the EVF.

I took some photos of the Wimpole Hall itself. It was very grand and enormous.  Such a terrible waste of accommodation.  How the other half live.  Even more astounding was the view down the tree lined avenue which appears to be about a mile and a half long.  Another demonstration of one family’s wealth.

Having said all that, it was a great day out.  A bit cold, especially when you weren’t sheltered from the wind.

Back home, Sim made Trinni Stewed Chicken while Scamp watched and made mental notes.  Chicken was lovely.  Much better than anything we saw the contestants making on Masterchef later.  However I did have a nice bottle of IPA to take the edge off the bald bloke’s “Oh Mate!” exclamations.

Vixen still doesn’t seem to take too kindly to male bearded strangers, especially if they are standing.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow we may be going to Hitchin for a walk round the shops in a quiet wee town.

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Away again – 13 April 2017

Got up early, just after 6.30 to go for a walk because it was too warm!  Too warm in Scotland in April?  Walked around St Mo’s and although I saw some deer, they were too far away, so it was flooers and blossom that provided the PoD.

Scamp out for coffee with Isobel in the morning, giving me time to frame up my mixed media painting.  Not sure now if it’s the right colour of mount, maybe it’s a bit too dark.  I also managed to get my packing done for the visit down south.
After Scamp returned, I went for coffee with Val.  Fred was indisposed with flu, so sent his apologies.  Val was on good form and we discussed computers and technology in general over a couple of cups of java.

Bought a pot of Marguerites for Scamp in B&Q and they fitted perfectly into the pot vacated by the Black Eyed Susans.

Then it was time to get organized properly and get the bus into Glasgow.  Then the airport bus to be told that the plane was delayed by 20min.  What do you expect from EasyJet?

Pleasant flight and was met by JIC at Stanstead.

Long day, many miles travelled by car, bus, bus, plane and finally car.

Vixen didn’t seem too impressed with me, although Scamp was readily accepted.  Maybe she’ll be better tomorrow.

Going for a walk through the gardens of a stately home tomorrow, hopefully.

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The end of summer – 28 March 2017

Like they say, “What a difference a day makes”.  Gone were the blue skies, gone was the sun, and with it the warmth.  At least it was dry, but the forecast for tomorrow is for wall to wall rain.  That being so, I rest my case m’lud.  The end of summer.

Up and out early to take the Megane to the garage for new front brake disks and pads and a new trackrod .  Spoken like someone who knows exactly what they are.  I know what brake disks are and what the pads do.  I’ve also got a basic knowledge of what a trackrod does and the fact that it’s got an end, probably a beginning too.  What I can say for certain is that, combined, they cost pennies short of £300 which was duly paid around lunchtime when I went to collect the car.  A car that will now stop when you tell it to, and one that will go round corners properly.

Earlier, partly to take my mind off the fact that the Megane was under the knife, and partly because we needed ‘messages’, Scamp drove me to Asda at Robroyston with the inevitable coffee at Costa afterwards.  It was there we saw a *STAR*.  ’Shellsuit Bob’ from River City, no less!  Looking much the same as he does on TV.  Our lives will not be the same from now on, knowing that ’Shellsuit Bob’ is a real person.  We watched River City tonight knowing that we had been sitting within feet of a *STAR*.

After lunch and having picked up the car, the sky lightened a bit and I went out to see what I could see (and photograph) over in St Mo’s.  Took my new favourite lens with me, hoping for some macro shots.  It’s amazing what you see when you’re looking for close-ups.  Most of todays pics were taken with the D7000 and Sigma 105mm combo.  Obviously the deer shot was taken with the 300mm end of the Tamron, and it looked quite good.

Hopefully off for beer and pizza with the Auld Guys tomorrow … in the rain.

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British Summer Time – 26 March 2017

None of your Daylight Saving Time.  This is British Summer Time.  Two sunny days in a row means it’s Summer and we are in Britain, at least until Nick the Chick gets her Second Referendum, then her Third, then her Fourth until the people give her the result she craves, because it his her job to protect Scotland! Cue the fanfare and  the cheering crowds.  But I digress.  We don’t save daylight here.  Sometimes I wish we could.  I wish we could bottle it up and bring it out on cold December days when the starlings are making their tuneless twittering noises in the skeleton trees and it’s dull, grey and just miserable.  If we had a bottle of Daylight, we could open it up and everything would be lovely.  Unfortunately, it’s not like that, so we make the most of two days of sunshine back to back, like we did today.

Scamp wanted to do a bit of gardening with the scary gardening gloves Hazy sent.  I wanted to get the bike out and go cycling just because I could.  I even put a pair of shorts on!  I didn’t go far, just a few miles, because this is only the second time I’ve been out this year on Dewdrop.  Got a photo of a zombie frog and a blue vent cover the birds have been crapping on and a strip of silver birch bark the sun was shining through, turning the silver to gold.  Best of all, I got a bit lost coming home and came upon the branch of cherry blossom.  Imagine, I’ve been living in the place for around thirty years and I still manage to get lost!

Came home and watched a really boring F1 GP.  Really, the cars look like they did back in the 1950s with big triangular fins and wide tyres. Also, what’s with the multitude of spoilers and wings?  They look like boy-racer specials.  Despite all the changes and supposed improvements, the excitement just wasn’t there.

Dinner was a beautiful piece of haddock with sautéed potatoes.  Quite delicious.

Tomorrow may be warm and a bit sunny, but low pressure is ensuring that the weather is on a downward path again.  I knew it couldn’t last.

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Happy Birthday Scamp – 24 March 2017

Today is Scamp’s birthday.  She had chosen to go to see the live sized portrait of Graham Norton by Gareth Reid in Cass Art and then go for lunch at Vecchia Bologna, so we set off on the round trip after parcels and cards had been opened.  Also after we had a Skype call with Hazy.

As well as visiting the portrait artist’s exhibition, Scamp did a bit of shopping and we had a coffee before returning along the M80 to Bridge of Allan to Vecchia.  Unfortunately, when we arrived the usual waiter came to meet us and tell us that the kitchen had closed early and they were not taking any more diners.  Oh well, there was nothing for it but to head back along the M80 again because Scamp had chosen Milano as her second choice of lunch venue.  Almost as good as Vecchia, but not quite.

When we got home, I helped her out of her massive crepe bandage and got her settled and headed off to St Mo’s while she was on the phone to Jackie.  Got a few macro shots of larch flowers, looking like miniature pineapples.  Also took a four shot vertorama ( vertical panorama ) which I later merged together in Autopano.

Tonight being Red Nose Day, we chose a film from Netflix, only to find that the internet connection was flaky and we had to give up on it.  Ended up watching Steve Jobs from DVD instead.

Overall, not a bad day.  Not as good as it could be, but sometimes life is like that.

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Lunch at Cruise Inn – 12 February 2017

12 Feb  

It’s Sunday and Scamp was going to church with Madeleine and Jaime and I thought I should get up and do something IMG_3769_3769too.  So, after they’d left leaving Ori and I in charge, well, really it was Ori who was in charge and I was just getting in the way of his morning nap.  With Ori concentrating on his sleep pattern,I started a sketch of the house from a viewpoint at the front gate.  I gave myself a time limit of one hour and managed to get it completed in just over that time.  I’m quite happy with it apart from one little mistake.  By the time I was finished, I just had enough time for a shower before the others came home.  Ori was still sleeping.

We had a light breakfast because we were booked for lunch at the Cruise Inn at the place that begins with a C and I can never remember its name.  I’m going to look it up now.  Ok, it was Chaguaramas.  Bing had the answer.  I hate Bing – It’s like most things Microsoft.  It’s crap.  I did say ‘most’ things.  Excel is brilliantly powerful and Live Writer is the best blogging prog I’ve used, but Bing is just painful to use. Why is it called Bing?  Apparently because it was short and memorable(?), but we all know it’s Because It’s Not Google, and in my opinion, it never will be.  Anyway, we were going to Chaguaramas for lunch at the Cruise Inn.  In the mean time I managed to capture a couple of shots of the Monarch butterfly that’s been annoying me all holiday.  It thought it was out of reach, high in a tree, but it reckoned without the power of the 200mm lens on the Oly 10.  It was snapped!  As was the wee bit of bright pink blossom.

The Cruise Inn is a lovely place, especially if you are a sailor.  I’m not, but it’s still a great location, right on the seafront with a vista that takes in fishing boats, skiffs, real yachts and big mega pretend yachts owned, no doubt by millionaires.  We weren’t coming to see the boats, we were coming for lunch and I was going to have a glass of their very alcoholic Sangria.  It turned out to be not as good as the last one the others had, but it was still very rich and tasty.  I think we were all a bit disappointed when we were told that it was a buffet on a Sunday, but hey ho, it’s still food.  Indeed it was food and food a plenty.  We started with a salad and then went for the meat and fish option.  Then there was the dessert menu to investigate.  Really, I think Jaime and I did overdo it a little bit, well, a lot really.  It’s hard not to when there is this much food on offer.  That’s what I love and hate about buffets.  I love the selection, I hate the fact that I just pig out.  One day I’ll learn, maybe!

When we got home, I had to go for a snooze.  The food and the heat just got to me.  It was lights out for a while.

Later, we started the inevitable packing.  I’m about half packed just now.  I’ve now got to decide exactly what to wear on the plane and the train as we move from 25o to 5o.

Listened to some ‘pan’ from the semifinals at Savannah.  It’s nothing like the real thing.  Jaime is still listening to it on TV now.  Despite my wee snooze this afternoon, I’m beat and beddy byes is calling.  Good NIght.