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Panic buying – 28 December 2017

We went in to Glasgow today.

We didn’t really need anything, and we’ve done enough spending these last two or three weeks. No, we just wanted to walk round the shops (and see if there were any bargains in JL – there weren’t) and have a cup of coffee somewhere. Somehow that walk round the shops expanded to fill over 8000 steps according to my Fitbit™. It also cost us £4.50 in parking. Where that time, those steps and that money went I’ll never know. Maybe we went into a walking timewarp. Anyway, it got us out and I got a photo. The new rule about the 365 is that I must take at least one picture every day that will become part of two albums and at least one group. If you don’t do Flickr this will mean nothing to you. Today’s PoD which was categorised under Architecture, Reflections and Glasgow in Albums was a the reflection of the Pavilion Theatre, taken with the Teazer. It’s becoming a serious contender for the best camera in the world. I.e. the one you have in your pocket.

After we came home we discovered we needed milk and bread, the two staples along with photo paper that every home should have, so I volunteered to drive to the madness that is Tesco (DO YOU KNOW THAT TESCO WILL BE CLOSED FOR A DAY NEXT WEEK??? WHAT WILL WE DO???). It seemed like the whole of Cumbersheugh was in there buying every bit of food they could get their hands on. Come on people, it’s only going to be closed for one day. Got the milk and the bread and just in case there was a sudden run on photo paper, I got two packets. When I came home and parked the car, Scamp decided she needed to clear the snow and ice from her car, so, as I was dressed for Alaska, I helped her and soon we found this little red Micra under the white blanket that had covered it for the best part of a week.

The photo paper was for printing out my annual calendar and I’ve now got four copies of it without a front page yet, and without December because December isn’t finished yet and there just might be an award winning PoD picture I see in the next few days. Unlikely, but possible. Anyway, that makes it 4×11=44 full colour pages and there’s hardly any drop in the ink levels in the Epson’s tanks! Impressive. That’s what I call economy.

Temperature is -3.3º just now and I think it’s beginning to rise. Snow is forecast for around 8am tomorrow, turning to rain by afternoon. Hopefully H&N won’t be troubled by it.

I don’t think we have any great plans for tomorrow. We may go for a last swim of the year or maybe a quick turn around the gym. Then again, maybe we’ll just tidy up again and wait for our visitors.

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Masterchef – 8 December 2017

Today was Scamp’s annual Witches Christmas Dinner so it was get up, get out of bed and put your pinny on.

Scamp was first in the kitchen getting her pudding sorted. I’d taken loaf’s worth of dough out of the freezer last night and left it to defrost, then rise in the kitchen overnight. It didn’t look as if it had done much rising, but I left it on the radiator to warm up and hopefully do the business. It did rise a bit, but not as much as I’d hoped. When Scamp was finished, I turned up the oven and when it got up to temperature, I bunged it in. I still wasn’t convinced, so I made another batch of fresh dough, just in case. As it turned out, the bread was fine, so that was another load of dough in the freezer for another day. Bread done, what’s next. I started to prep the veg for the starter while Scamp sorted the table. I’d already carted the iMac upstairs away from the sticky fingers of the Witches. Prep done, there was nothing for it but to make the filo pastry nests for the quiches. It is the most fiddly stuff to work with, filo. If you so much as look at it the wrong way, it becomes desiccated and falls to pieces. However, I got the four nests made and then filled with the veg before being filled with the egg mixture. Stick it in the oven for 15 mins at the equivalent of 160ºc. They came out anaemic and liquid. Bung them in for another 5 minutes. Still not set, so turn it up a bit and bung them in again. Finally they looked ok. Had to go to Tesco for more provisions, but then it was time to make tracks before the Witches arrived.

Tried to park in the usual place in Auchinstarry, but there was a giant artic with the logo Scottish National Theatre on the side. In Auchinstarry? Surely not. Well, it was and there were luvvies everywhere as well as roadies setting up temporary shelters and there were also lockers spread all along one of the paths. Oh oh, this looked like serious theatre nonsense. Lots of money being flung at an outdoor contemporary dance and movement piece of pish. Council sponsored no doubt for the fourteen inhabitants of Auchinstarry. Just the thing you want to go to when the temperature is sub-zero and the wind is from the north. The mind boggles.

I parked at the Boathouse and left them to it then walked along the canal as far as the lone seat half way to Twechar. I didn’t sit down for fear of freezing to it, I just turned and walked across the plantation and on to the railway path, then back to the car.

Drove out to The Fort to waste some time and had a coffee and a panini there before driving back. My head still buzzing with Wizzard singing about how the Wished it could be Christmas every day. That seemed to be the only Christmas (or should that be ‘Xmas’?) song they had on the Fort’s iPod. The Party was winding down when I went in, but luckily I’d taken the iMac upstairs, so I could retire to the relative quiet of my room, process PoD which was the view along the canal with the sun streaming through the trees, and listen to some real music courtesy of Spotify.

Was told later that the quiches (remember the quiches?) hadn’t been set properly and Scamp had to rescue them by giving them a further 5 minutes. Basically the temperature in the recipe is wrong for our oven.

It was really cold today.  I don’t think the temperature rose much above zero.  When I got back to the house in the late afternoon, the rain that was frozen on the rear light cluster of the car when I went out was still frozen.

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on the weather I fear.

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Away to see the horses – 27 August 2017

Scamp suggested we go to see the Kelpies this morning and it seemed like a good way to get out and about on a Sunday morning. So did lots and lots of other people.

Despite a bit of a queue, we got parked without any trouble after paying the £3 fee which is very good these days. The place was busy and there were two bus tours just arriving but it’s a big site and we walked down to see the horses.

There really is something almost mystical about these statues. They make you smile for no reason. It’s as if they’re alive and watching you. Maybe watching over you is a better description, and going to see them is like going to meet old friends. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words, but Scamp and I are agreed about this. We wandered round the statues and as usual, I was trying to find a new angle for a photo. I think I found one today and it became my PoD, but not before Lightroom had done a bit of work on it.

After the Kelpies, we walked along through Helix park with a sinusoidal board walk through the wetlands to a massive semicircular brick and stone windbreak sheltering large circular grassed area and a circular pond with a kids play park and a cafe within easy reach. There was a path round the pond, but as it looked like it would take a good half hour or so to complete, we headed back towards the car park. Why can’t all councils spend their money on projects like this? Wouldn’t it be good to have a facility like this rather than spending half a million on the ridiculous ‘waves’ that Cumbernauld had dumped beside the dual carriageway.

By the time we were leaving, the queue for parking far exceeded the spaces available, so the moral of the story is get there before 12noon or you will be disappointed.

After lunch I went out to St Mo’s to calm down after another ‘exciting’ F1 GP. For such a high powered, enormously expensive sport, it can be like watching a procession sometimes and as most of the drivers are so far removed from reality, it’s difficult to find any empathy with them. Who cares if Hamilton or Vettel wins? It will make no difference to the price of fish. St Mo’s was buzzing with dragonflies, ordinary flies and spiders. I suppose it’s not surprising if there are a lot of flies around, there will be a lot of spiders waiting to snap them up. However, it wasn’t a spider I saw snapping up a fly, it was a dragonfly. A big green and white dragonfly was cruising up and down the alley between the trees and then it stopped in the air just beside me and grabbed a fly that had risen from a branch. Just like that. I had no time to take a shot, but I saw it right in front of my nose!  Oh yes, and the toadstool pic was taken with the Teazer with WiFi remote control.  So much easier on old knees!

That was about it for today. Got a painting started, but I’ll have to fake a sketch this week. Nothing done so far.

Rain forecast tomorrow. Maybe going suite hunting again.

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Losing your memory – 9 July 2017

It started off just dull, then the rain came.

It was a dull, dreich morning, but there were a few brighter periods. We’d bought some large bamboo canes to increase the height of the sweet pea frame and today we just got it built when the rain came. It forgot to go away again. Actually it did dry up for a wee while, but not long enough to entice me out.

What I did do was try to fix Scamp’s computer which has developed a memory problem, but nothing serious. I’d pulled the memory board out of the seating and then pushed it back in. It’s a simple thing that usually works. It didn’t. I remember Val telling me once that if the computer appears to start but there is no display, then memory is the problem and that is what was happening.  It had gone from a minor problem to an absolute disaster. I had taken the usual precautions.  I had earthed myself before I touched the memory module and even made sure I didn’t move my feet on the carpet in case I generated a static charge that if transferred to the chips on the memory board would fry them. I took a deep breath and told Scamp “I might have blown the computer.” To her praise, she just said “Ok. What do you want me to do? Shouting at you won’t do any good.” I took it apart again and nearly made the fatal mistake of removing the memory with the battery still attached! After plugging the memory module in again, it powered up. Thank goodness. Now, looking back, I think either a tiny bit of dust had found its way into the memory slot and it was preventing a proper connection or I simply hadn’t seated it properly. Anyway, it lived to fight another day … and so did I. It’s still not fixed. It may need a new memory board, because it’s losing its memory, but it is no worse than it was yesterday.

I finally decided that I wasn’t going to get a walk outside today and took a few shots from the back door. Next door’s washing line made today’s PoD. The highlight of today was roast chicken with potatoes and cabbage. Lovely!  I made some bread but it was too late for dinner, so we’ll enjoy it tomorrow.

It was a poor day for photography today and it looks as if we get to do it all again tomorrow.

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Birlin’ round Stirlin’ – 10 June 2017

It wasn’t the brightest day when we got up today, but there was the prospect of better weather. We had been to Glasgow yesterday and there were twenty two men running around a piece of grass there today, so we headed in the other direction instead. We went to Stirling.

Drove from improving weather into drizzly rain and parked in the Cooncil carpark and paid our £1.40 for a day’s parking which must be the best value in Central Scotland. Before we got out of the car we agreed on ‘doing lunch’ and in particular, going for a curry.

We went to our usual curry shop and it was fairly busy at just past midday. Ordered and, by the time the starters had arrived, so had about ten other folk who were queueing out into the street. One dafty was standing half in and half out of the door, keeping it open so a cool breeze would waft over us all. If it had been January instead of June he would have got the “Shut the F&%$£@G door” message from everyone near the gale that would have blown in. Some people are not simply stupid, they are self-centred (if I’m going to be cold, everyone’s going to be cold) and stupid. A dangerous combination. Curry, by the way, was back to its old excellent standard as agreed by both of us. Only the pre-chopped nan bread was a disappointment.

Wandered around a damp Farmers Market in the town and then through the Thistle Centre where there seems to be a virus striking the shops in some areas with more boarded up than operating. Had a quick look in Waterstones, but there wasn’t much to tempt me to even get my Bento wishlist out of my pocket.

Walked back to the car in the sunshine that had blown in from the west I think. We stopped off at Waitrose to stock up on essentials and that’s where I got today’s PoD.

Back home I did some tidying in the garden. I planted out a few of the remaining spinach plants and then put pea netting around some of the pea plants. With strong wind forecast for the next few days, the pea plants may need that structure.

Today’s sketch was a last minute shot as anyone can see. Tomorrow’s will be better. That’s becoming a bit of a mantra these days, I realise, but at least I’m getting one decent drawing a week, so the J’ Ink (which will soon become June Ink I think) is working.

To my daily readers, my apologies for the late arrival of this blog post, but I was running a bit late last night after deciding to bake a loaf and then make a late evening pizza which was very nice thank you.  Anyway, I decided to write it fresh today (Sunday) when my head was a bit clearer.  Nothing to do with the Raspberry Vodka I’d had earlier, nothing at all 😉

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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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“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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Just Get Up Ya Lazy Sod – 3 March 2017

I usually list my alarms on the iPhone by where we were when they were created, however, today’s alarm which was sandwiched between ‘Last Day Cruise 2011’ and ‘Dubrovnik’ and was called ‘Just Get Up Ya Lazy Sod’.  It was for 6.15am!

Today, Scamp was to go to the hospital to be assessed by the plastic surgeon for a further operation on the site of the mole.  Unfortunately, the hospital was in Greenock, just over 40 miles away and on the other side of Glasgow.  Google estimated the time to get there for 9am was from 1 hour to  1 hour 40 minutes.  At the worst estimate, that’s an average speed of 24mph,  which is quite slow for, in fact illegal for, a motorway, but realistic for the M80/M8 at any peak time.  So that explains the 6.15am alarm.  I’d intended leaving at 7am and as the temperature last night was forecast to be below zero for most of the night, I knew I’d have to get out early to get the car warmed up and the windscreen scraped.  Not like the lucky folk with their heated front screens 😉

As usual when I know I’ve an alarm set, I seem to sleep for two hours at a time before waking, then as the allotted time approaches I enter deep sleep, only to get a rude awakening with some awful chime from the phone.  That’s what it was like today.

After prepping the car, we had a quick breakfast and were off, just after 7am.  Cutting a long story short, we entered the quagmire of traffic of the M80 / M8 intersection.  From there to the Kingston Bridge it was nose to tail and constantly changing to the lane that was moving fastest.  Luckily all those Monday and Wednesday nights stood me in good stead and I found the fastest lane through.  After the Kingston, it was good going for a while, until we reached Greenock, in fact. The scenery was beautiful all the way down the estuary, with pockets of fog and mist creating perfect photo opportunities.  Unfortunately, you can’t use ‘Photo Opportunity’ as a reason for stopping on the hard shoulder of a motorway.  Personally, I can’t understand why.

Almost at the hospital, we hit the ‘Road Closed – Follow Diversion’ sign.  For once, I followed the diversion with Scamp acting as a navigator who was becoming more and more concerned that we seemed to be going in the wrong direction, then seeing where it was leading us and confirming that we were, indeed, heading in the right direction.  Parked at the hospital with 10minutes to spare from the Google worst estimate.  Impressive, Mr G!

In and out of the consultant’s office within about 30 minutes, then it was the simpler route back to Glasgow, but the good light and the good photo opportunities were gone by now, of course.  Parked up on what will always be St James St. in Glasgow and went for a coffee in JL with Scamp before leaving her to meet up with ’The Witches’.  After doing some window shopping, I drove back home to a cold, dreich, Cumbersheugh.  I had thought I’d manage to get my bike out, but it was the cold east wind that put an end to that idea, so I did a bit of painting instead.  I also made some bread dough and retained enough to make a pizza.

Went for a late afternoon walk around St Mo’s, but there was nothing of interest to photograph.

Scamp arrived back about 7.30pm after having had a ‘Day in the Toon’.  It’s almost 11pm now and it’s been a long day, so I’m heading for the Land of Nod.

Good Night!

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No Dough – 20 February 2017

Scamp was at the physio this morning. I started a wee watercolour of the hills at the back, because the light was wonderful with wee floating cloud shadows drifting across them. It turned out better than I anticipated.

I’d taken a frozen chunk of dough out of the freezer last night and left it to defrost and rise overnight.  It did defrost, but it didn’t rise.  I tried to encourage the yeast to start working again by warming the loaf tin in some warm water, but it resisted my attentions. I eventually turned on the heating and put the embryonic bread on the radiator to warm up.

By then, Scamp had returned with her ankle strapped up and we had lunch before she went out to get Gems.  I was swithering whether to go out on my bike, go to the gym or go for a walk.  I’d a pain in my back and any of these would help.  However, as the sun was still shining, I decided that the gym was out, and as there was a gusty wind, maybe cycling would be a bit difficult.  So, by a process of elimination, a walk was the winner.  I was looking for somewhere that would produce a photo and also a sketch.  I finally settled on the railway again, because it’s near the hills and I quite fancied a photo of those cloud shapes on the land.

I got the photo, but saw nothing that encouraged the sketchbook out of my bag, then I saw the old house that I’d sketched before and that became my SoD (Sketch of the Day).  It’s a strange house, with dormer windows, extensions and an old, old wall round it.  There’s ivy too clinging to the gable end.  The sketch is quite representative, but I think the chimney is a bit out of scale.

Salsa tonight was hard work.  Hard work remembering the moves and hard work keeping going for a full hour after three weeks of lazing around.  Still very enjoyable and although we only stayed for an hour tonight, we may go for two hours on Wednesday, all being well.  Surprisingly, all the moves had names tonight!

No real plans for tomorrow, but we’re probably going food shopping.  Oh what fun.

The bread?  Oh, it rose perfectly, then it stuck to the loaf tin and just wouldn’t come out.  I should have realised it had its own plans for the day when it took so long to rise.

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Third Time Lucky – 03 February 2017

3 Feb2

We were driving down to Chaguaramas, on the north western tip of the island, for a stroll on the boardwalk, but when we got on to the highway, Jaime discovered that he’d forgotten to take his pills, so we turned at the first available place and headed back.  On the way we stopped to get some fresh fruit from a stall at the side of the road.  At the house Jaime and Madeleine went in to drop off the fruit.  Then it was back to the highway again.  It was then that Jaime discovered that he’d dropped off the fruit, but forgotten to take his pills, so it was back round the loop for a second time, and this time he did remember to take his pills and we headed back on to the highway for the third time that day.

When we got to Chaguaramas we parked and took a walk heading east along the boardwalk.  The boards themselves are not made of wood, but of plastic coated MDF.  A strange choice for a walkway open to the ocean because it soaks up water, expands and breaks apart, but I suppose costs must be cut somewhere.  The area around the boardwalk seemed to be in a state of flux and it wasn’t clear if the area had been developed then fallen into disrepair or if it was still being constructed.  I would venture to say it was the former.  When we stopped to admire a Tamarind tree two Indian blokes came over and spoke to us.  It turned out they were putting in a quote to renovate the boardwalk area and this confirmed my suspicion that maintenance is the problem here.  As we were heading back to the car, one of he security men came over and talked to us and almost his first question was “What do you think about Theresa May?”  I have to say that most of the people we’ve met here have been very friendly and interested in these Scottish visitors.

The short beach at Chaguaramas is well used mainly by coloured bodies.  I think we were the only white faces to be seen.  It’s quite an industrial looking area, but the water was clean.  Apparently the beach is man-made.  Nobody seemed to mind that and lots of folk were out enjoying the water.  All except one wee toddler who wasn’t enjoying being washed in a cold foot bath outside the toilet block.

When we left there we went to the Cruise Inn where the other three had the strongest sangria I’ve ever tasted and I had a Heineken ‘Green Tea’.  We were going to have lunch there, but Scamp suggested we go back next Sunday for dinner and that seemed to satisfy everyone.

On the way home we stopped to buy some Hops Bread which is like a soft roll with a light crust on top.  It’s got a very yeasty smell and tastes lovely.  I’m intending to try making some when we get home.

IMG_3698After lunch which was the recycled remains of yesterday’s curry with a slice of reheated shepherd’s pie for me I started on today’s sketch.  What you see is the second one as I wasn’t happy with the result of the first one.  I’m not terribly happy with this one either.  It’s a bit squint and not all that interesting, but it will have to do.  It’s a sketch and it’s done in time.

Madeleine and Jaime were busy all evening trying to cut through the red tape that ties up all passport applications for Venezuela.   I wish them luck in their quest.