Making the change – 14 October 2019

Today there will be no lying around. Today I will be active.

That’s what I said anyway. Out fairly early to drop off another sample at the doc’s. Don’t know what they find so fascinating about my pee, but it seems to keep them amused. Back home and today’s work schedule included cleaning the downstairs toilet. It didn’t take long, certainly not nearly as long as the bathroom last week. Probably that’s partly due to the fact that it’s a tiny little space. However I did give it the full “big clean” as one of my cleaners used to call it.

After that it was lunchtime and Scamp suggested I have a couple of slices of my excellent bread with some Wiltshire ham between. What makes the bread extra excellent is that it’s made by Prince Chic (Charles to you, but Chic to his friends). I don’t suppose Chic actually mills the flour himself, but it comes from his estate and it makes very good bread. It was also cheap at Waitrose or I wouldn’t have bought it.

When Gems came in I sat and talked to Margie for a while and showed her my sketches for Inktober. Margie is always very complementary about my work, but she produces some startling paintings herself. Veronica slipped a copy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year onto the table. It seems her son-in-law is a keen wildlife photog. I wouldn’t say that what I take are wildlife photos, more landscapes and macros. I like looking at landscape photos, but find it hard to compose them properly when I’m out and about with a camera. There’s no such problems with macros. With them the big challenges are more technical, like getting the aperture right and trying to get the best use of light. Also there’s the stalking of the tiny wee insects. Great fun, but not really artistic. On first glance at the photos in the book, I’m amazed at the quality and detail. I’ll have a good look before I have to give it back next week.

To continue the ‘active’ theme, I went for a walk along the canal and then on to the railway and that’s where I saw today’s PoD. It’s an old oak tree and I just liked the way the light hit the trunk. It was good to be out in the fresh air under  a blue sky for a change. Took a few more shots, but you’ll have to visit Flickr to see them.   Walking back along the canal, I saw a goosander surface quite close to me with a fish in its beak.  Knew I didn’t have time to grab the camera from my bag and focus, so I just watched it for a while.  It looked quite pleased with it’s early dinner.  Back to M&S for the makings of our own dinner and while I was traipsing around, I got the signal that I’d completed my 10,000 steps. Happy.

Dinner tonight met with a mixed reception. I thought it was great, Scamp was more critical. It was Prawns with Spaghetti and Courgette Spaghetti. Scamp didn’t like the dill that was in it, I didn’t mind. Maybe needs a bit of work.

The topic for today was “A Rowing Boat”. There aren’t many rowing boats lying around waiting to be sketched in the Central Belt of Scotland, so this one came straight out of my head. I quite liked it.

The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and then go to the seaside. Not sure if that will be east or west coast, but the weather looks like it will be fairly dry.

Just another Monday – 7 October 2019

You know how it is when you dream a strange dream and the feeling of it stays with you all day? I had that today.

Drove down to Jim Dickson’s tyre emporium and got a couple of new front tyres put on the Juke. Not the best quality Michelins that were on it from new, but hopefully good winter boots. Only time will tell. Just managed to get back for a quick lunch before Gems descended. Sat and talked to Margie about drawing while she showed me her drawings and I showed mine. Both sets were admired by both parties. And that was the morning gone.

Took the newly booted Juke out for a run to get some inspiration for today’s Inktober sketch which was to be “A Stone”. Drove to Auchinstarry and stopped at the flooded quarry. Lots of stone there, but nothing that inspired me. Walked over the bridge that spans the infantile Kelvin and thought about drawing some of the stones that cap the upstand of the bridge. Took some photos, but without really expecting them to be useful. Further on at the edge of the canal I found a short dry stane dyke and took some photos of it, because that would make a decent sketch.

Walked along the towpath and got the first part of PoD when I took a landscape format shot along the canal with a wee lucky of a cyclist coming the other way. Took another for good measure. Walked along a bit further, but the sun was quite low and blinding, so I turned back. Because the sun was much brighter now I took a few shots from the same place as the first one and the colours in the trees were much better now. Sadly no cyclist for a point of interest.

Back home I isolated the cyclist from the earlier shots and placed him in the better landscape shots from later. After a bit of jiggery pokery he blended is well enough, and that is how you make a PoD! Photographers don’t take photos, they make them.

Salsa tonight was a bit hectic and quite good fun. A weird progressive rueda group of moves with a name that escapes me. New Move 3 from three weeks ago and Chop from a couple of years ago at least, probably nearer five! Only one class and that suited me fine.

Watched, or rather, listened to University Challenge tonight, sketched the dry stane dyke and answered a few of the questions at the same time. Who says men can’t multitask?

Dorothy’s funeral tomorrow.

Kelpied – 24 September 2019

Today we were all Kelpied!

Today dawned dry but a bit dreary. However, it soon brightened up and we thought we’d risk a run to the Kelpies. It all went well until we were almost at the M9 then the car seemed to be misfiring, which is strange because it had been running so well since its last service. I hadn’t bought petrol from anywhere other than my usual two petrol stations and I hadn’t run the level down until the red light came on. So that should rule out the possibility of a little bit of dirt getting in to the carburettor or the jets, whatever it is the Juke has. Made the decision to detour via the Nissan garage in Stirling, where the service manager came to see what the problem was. He gave it a fair run through the gears, fierce acceleration and gentle driving, but could not replicate the problem. There was little more the poor man could do, but he took it in to the service bay, put it on the computer and pronounced it clean. No problems listed. Finally he suggested we drive off and if the problem reared its head again, we should book it in for a full day check. Clive and I were puzzled. We couldn’t agree on a possible cause and he knows a lot more about cars than me. It ran perfectly for the rest of the day.

Got to the Kelpies and wandered round them just taking them in. Glad to see that Clive was equally entranced with these beautiful equine sculptures. We both took lots of photos of them from different angles and in different lighting conditions. Scamp was also taking photos, but I think we were the subjects. People are more important than places to her and that’s probably her greatest photographic strength. She captures people very much better than me.

From Grangemouth, we said goodbye to the Kelpies and headed round the outskirts of Falkirk to The Falkirk Wheel. The giant boat lift was one of the things that Clive had wanted to see and we arrived just as it was doing a lift, so he got to see it in action right away. I took the car away to park it and met them in the shadow of the great wheel where we discussed the mechanics of this modern wonder. We waited for another boat to be lifted and after a swift look in the visitor centre, I found the one ticket machine that was working and paid for our parking. For a visitor centre which was meant to show this wonder of engineering design, there were a host of machines with OUT OF ORDER signs on them. Almost nothing of any note was working. Poor show Falkirk. Drove home and arrived just as the rain was starting.

PoD was a view of the Kelpies reflected in the turning pool of the canal.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow, but it depends on the weather.

Another day on the bike

That makes it sound as if I was cycling all day. It wasn’t really like that. Not quite the Tour de France.

Neither Scamp nor I could decide what to do with today. We didn’t really want to go in to Glasgow again, besides, there were four Orange Lodge marches planned. Four! Thats about five too many for me, and before you say, No, I don’t want any of the Republican marches either. So where else could we go? Stirling was discussed and rejected. I offered to drive us to Mugdock park, but that didn’t fit either today. Finally we went to the Fort for a cup of coffee and a wander around the shops. I got some bits and pieces to hopefully make a prototype of the lens hood.

After a Costa lunch we came home and I got changed, dropped the back seats on the Juke and took the bike down to Auchinstarry. The actual carpark at Auchinstarry Quarry was completely full. Not one space, so I turned and drove up the the Hebo House and found one of the last four available spaces. Took the bike out and cycled off down the railway path as far as Twechar and that’s where I got today’s PoD. It’s an old garage that looks good in glancing low sun. I just missed that sun by about an hour today. I’ll check with an app tonight and try to get there at a better time tomorrow. There are apps for absolutely everything these days. Mine is called Photo Pills.

Back along the canal into the headwind, but I didn’t mind, because the sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was warm. It’s still quite warm at 11.42pm and I’m sitting here in a short sleeved cycling shirt and jeans, feeling quite comfortable. It can’t last. It won’t last. We’re forecast to have some rain tomorrow evening

Back home again I started the next phase of Make The Back Room Look Liveable. After an hour of moving stuff around it looks like a room again. Just a few things to shift tomorrow and we’re ready for Clive.

No plans for tomorrow. No dancing booked and like I said it’s not looking as clever as it was today. However, we had a good day today, so shouldn’t grumble.

Friday 13th Very Scary – 13 September 2019

Maybe it is for some, but for us it was a good day. Got lots of little things done and a visit to some horses to boot.

In the morning I got my blood-letting organised for both my PSA test and my diabetic check. Also got my flu jag sorted. With that in hand, and after Scamp had cut some more of her sweet peas, which I just caught a waft of just now, we drove off to Tesco to post a parcel, pick up my meds and tried to get some petrol, but the petrol station was fully booked and more, so we dropped off at BP to get some expensive petrol. Plenty of pumps free there, because the petrol is that little bit costlier. Then it was off east.

Drove to Grangemouth and from there to Helix Park where the Kelpies rear out of their underwater home. Wandered round them, took some photos and just soaked up their calming atmosphere. Every time we go there, we’re impressed with the grandeur of them, just like the first time we saw them. It’s something we never tire of.

Had a spot of lunch at the cafe and then went for another walk around them before coming home. Traffic was the usual stramash on the motorway. We chose the easier route through the town centre and took a diversion down past the school to see if they’d started the demolition yet, but everything was still in place. Fought our way back home past the clot that is the new roundabout, or maybe it was a clot who designed the phasing of the lights on the new roundabout.

Back home I finished off my day with another box ticked, when I watered the end-of-season nematodes into the raised bed, various plants and two lots into the compost bin to try to curb the slug menace. We’ll see if they’re any good this time.

On the subject of slugs and snails, Scamp noticed a large snail sitting quite happily between two Hydrangea leaves this morning, so it became a possible PoD. It was later usurped by a shot of the Head-Up Kelpie surrounded by starlings. They were starting to practise a murmuration while we were there. That’ll be a sight to see later in the year. Anyway, the Kelpie and the Starlings got PoD. A great day with some rain, but lots of sunshine.

Maybe going in to Glasgow tomorrow. Weather permitting, of course.

Butterfly memory – 12 September 2019

The day started as so many have recently with rain, but the blue skies appeared later.

Gas man came this morning to do the boiler maintenance and gave us the usual warnings that it’s getting old and needs replaced. I have days like that too sometimes.

After that we went out for the messages and managed to spend a fair amount in three different, though similar, shops. That’s the thing about choice. It gives you the opportunity to spend more. Mostly it was just stuff we needed anyway.

Just before lunch I spotted a Red Admiral feeding on the buddleia bush at the back fence. I managed to get a few shots of it before I frightened it away. Bummer.

Fred came over later in the afternoon to pick up the paintings John had delivered yesterday. We had an hour or so of fairly adult conversation and he introduced me to another interesting Gerry Cinnamon song “Diamonds in the Mud”. Worth listening to, if only for the Glasgow accent. In return I suggested he listen to “Canter” with its own collection of adult content.

When he left, so did I for a walk down Auchinstarry way. The light was really excellent by now and the hills were glowing. Today’s PoD came from the walk. It’s a group of tiny wee fungi growing on a dead tree near the Forth & Clyde canal.

When I came home, the butterfly was back on the buddleia, but this time I barely got a chance to switch on the camera before it was off. I swear it looked straight at me and flew off. I’m sure it recognised me as the big human who pointed his black box at it a couple of hours earlier. Of course it could have been a different butterfly, but that was the impression it gave me.

Cod Chowder for dinner. I thought it tasted ok and just the same as usual. Scamp thought it was thicker and tasted different. Maybe she was right.

No plans for tomorrow, but the weather looks ok. Saturday, not so.

Riding with the Dewdrop – 23 July 2019

Another hot, hot day. Decided in the morning that a cooling run along the canal would be the thing to do.

In the morning, while Scamp was out buying Tesco and meeting June for coffee, I wandered round the garden taking some photos. Best one of the lot, or at least the most startling was this one of a fully open Gazania. It beat a spider and some pretty red Verbena to become PoD.

After lunch I got the Dewdrop for the first run for ages. Since April in fact! All it took was some air in the tyres and a slight adjustment to the front brakes. Took the front wheel off and with the back seats down and a tarpaulin over them as protection, it fitted perfectly into the back of the Juke for the short journey to Auchinstarry.

Fair few people out on bikes along the canal. Didn’t go quite as far as Kirkintilloch, stopped about halfway between Twechar and the Board Burn. Cycled back along the line of the old mineral railway, hoping to get back into Kilsyth, but the path became too rough for the hybrid tyres and I had to go back and along the usual way to Auchinstarry. A good run and a few photos taken, but nothing spectacular enough to warrant posting.

Sat in the garden with a glass of sparkling water, but we both chose to have a Mojito after dinner. After dinner, but before the Mojitos, I finished off the sewing of the lining of the waistcoat. Now all I have to do is make the buttonholes. Not as easy as it sounds.

Tomorrow may be a day for dancing in the afternoon, but not in the evening. It’s a long way to travel just for one class that isn’t even our own, but we’ll see what the day is like tomorrow. Thunder and lightning forecast overnight tonight.

24ºc in Scotland – 27 June 2019

Out early to see a consultant at Monklands Hospital, then the day was our own.

Consultant took less than five minutes to sign me off as clear of any serious problems. That was a great start to the day.

From Airdrie we drove to Livingston because I was looking for a pair of decent trainers at the discount outlets there. Didn’t get any. What I did see were a pair of black shoes, the exact same model as the ones I was wearing. The shoes in the shop were black, like I said. Mine were a medium grey. Have they been bleached in the sun or washed in the rain. Probably a bit of both. Although I didn’t get trainers, Scamp got a new dress and we bought a new general purpose knife for the kitchen.

Drove home and the temperature from the car thermometer went up to 24ºc. Now that’s definitely “Taps Aff” weather, but I restrained myself an turned up the air con.

Back home Scamp got her sun cream on and then started cutting the front grass. I put my shorts on and drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, crossed over and back along the old railway. Got a host of photos of damselflies and hoverflies. The PoD was a shot of a damselfly having its lunch, a smaller fly caught in flight. The actual damselfly is about 40mm head to tail.

The temperature we noted in the car continued well into the afternoon and I regretted not putting some of Scamp’s sun cream on my exposed skin. It was a beautiful day and if the weather fairies are to be believed, we should have a similar, if not hotter day tomorrow. We even had our dinner tonight outside in the garden such a treat eating in the great outdoors … in Scotland … without our coats on!

Tomorrow we are hoping to get the bus in to Glasgow and go for a walk, somewhere scenic.

Out for a walk – 20 June 2019

It’s been a long time since I’ve been down to Auchinstarry. Today I resolved to fix that.

The only thing of note I had on my To Do list today was to wash and reproof my ‘rainy coat’. To keep it company in the machine, I added Scamp’s blue jacket. They’re now dry and ready for use again.

After that and a morning plugging away at the computer and putting a gallery of photos from Wales on the blog (have a look if you like), I decided to go for a walk. After all, I’ve got a new pair of good boots and it would be a shame not to wear them. Walked along the railway path and then across the plantation. From there it was an easy stroll back along the canal. I thought I’d try for another Focus Stack in the wild this time, but it wasn’t to be. Light too low, hand too shaky, shutter speed to low. Take your pick, it just didn’t work, although I didn’t know that at the time. It was only once I got back home I noticed that some frames were shaken and some were just out of focus. I’ll try again another time. Got today’s PoD of the swan family out for a paddle along the Forth & Clyde canal. Also got a couple of close up shots of beasties.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Cornish potatoes and broccoli from somewhere else. Not a lot more to say about today, other than it was a bright day for the most part with a sprinkling of rain occasionally and torrential rain at other times, but mainly bright sunshine. Colours were shining clearly and the boots seemed to enjoy being out for a walk.

Tomorrow Scamp is booked for lunch with the Witches in the afternoon and I have no plans. Maybe a bit of light painting will go down well.

Out to lunch – 23 May 2019

Today we were going out to Hebo House for lunch.

If you don’t understand what Hebo House is, don’t Google it. The original sign read THE BOAT HOUSE (all caps). After the original owners sold up, some of the sign’s letters disappeared and it now reads HE BO HOUSE, hence Hebo House. Much better when it’s not shouting at you too. It’s been re-opened for some time now, but the present owner(s) can’t be bothered to fix the sign. Maybe they too like the kudos of the Hebo House. The lunch was quite good, by the way. Mine was a burger and it worked for me. Scamp had a chicken burger that also looked good.

Now that we were fed and watered (soft drinks only) we went for a walk along the canal, mainly because my task for today was “A bridge over a river or canal”. We walked under the bridge, and I took photos from both sides and neither looked interesting enough to sketch. The other thing was the temperature. The car thermometer said 14ºc, but outside the wind sucked a lot of that heat away. We didn’t walk far. We just headed for Lidl in Kilsyth for essentials (wine, beer and ice cream) and came home. I still hadn’t a photo, so I drove down to the Luggie and went for a walk, because the sun had come out and it became pleasantly warm. Not only did I get my PoD shot of the railway arches, but I also got the ink sketch for today’s EDiM topic: A bridge over a river or canal: Bridge over Luggie Water. This is a lovely place for a walk. Along beside the Luggie Water under this bridge and then under the arches of the railway bridge. A lovely place … in the daylight at least! Don’t go after dark. Not without kevlar armour and a very big stick.

Used one of my sketches as today’s drawing and slapped some paint on it tonight. I like it.  Like Scamp says, “You can walk into it”.  Made a pizza tonight just for a wee snack since we hadn’t had anything substantial since early afternoon and the pizza was slightly overdone, but very nice.

That was it for the day. Tomorrow I’m having coffee with Fred at lunchtime and maybe a pizza for lunch before that. I believe someone is going to have to make a focaccia at some time too.