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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 Fitness Regime continues – 13 June 2017

This morning, I was swearing at the WiFi extender. It had to happen.

The WiFi extender was glowing green this morning and that means it’s in the perfect place. Not too near the modem/router and not too far away. The green glow lasted until I opened my first web page, then I got the ‘No Internet’ message. Either I’d broken the Internet or the green glow had turned to a red one. Thankfully it was the second one. It’s been a long time since I’ve broken the Internet and the problem is that you can’t just go on the Internet to find out how to fix it, because you’ve broken the Internet. See? Thankfully all that was needed was for the extender to be put in another place, closer to the modem and it worked. Internet restored to full health, I went to the gym.

I thought I was having a hard time with my recumbent bike, treadmill and various weight machines, but there was one poor bloke much worse off than me. He had a Personal Trainer shouting instructions and ‘encouragement’ at him while he lifted kettle bells, bar bells and even played at making waves with a big heavy rope. We used to call it making ‘snakes’ when the kids were wee. I say ‘playing’, but there seemed to be very little enjoyment in this exercise. Once I’d done my half hour or so, I left them to it and drove home for a shower. I was just loading the boot when I noticed my extra passenger hiding behind the aerial. A spider had found a nice wee shelter and had presumably come all the way from home tucked away from the wind. Pic on Flickr.

After lunch, Scamp was off to have coffee with Isobel and I was going for a walk in the sunshine. Drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, intending to cross through the Plantation and on to the Railway path, but it was so nice and warm beside the canal that I just kept on going. About half a mile later, the rain started and from then on, it was on and off all the way. Didn’t see any kingfishers, but the swallows kept me entertained with their aerial gymnastics and one of Mr Grey’s cousins posed for a close-up. Stopped at Twechar to sketch the lift bridge that opens once, maybe twice a year. Such a waste of money.  Interesting though and the first real Urban sketch for ages.

Across the road there is an old garage, boarded up and dilapidated and ripe for a bit of fisheye magic and some HDR. After a bit of fiddling, that’s what happened.  You can see the results above..

Walked back in the rain and Scamp made dinner which was a fish fingers salad using our own spinach and lettuce. Good to use stuff we’ve grown ourselves again.

Tomorrow I got to see the doc to get the results of my blood test. Going fairly early so I can enjoy the rest of the day.

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Tying up loose ends – 22 May 2017

It’s a Monday and a day for tying up loose ends.

In the morning I started the tidy up of the back bedroom, not for any particular reason but just because I can’t find anything and if I can’t find things, then it must be bad. With that part accomplished (it’s a big job, so part accomplished is good) I had lunch and admired my tidier room.

Ok, one task (part) completed. Now as Gems were gathering I made my second prototype of the tablet holder, this time from foam cored card. It was much more stable than version one. However, as I was making it I thought of a totally different and maybe better one. That’s how products should be developed. None of this investigation nonsense. It may look good on paper, but until you start modelling it, you won’t know if it’s possible without Quantum Mechanics. If in doubt search out M C Escher’s sketches. Anyway, it works.

Before Gems got into full swing, I made my escape to tick off tasks Two and Three. Booked my ‘fasting bloods test’ with the accompanying follow up review. Walked up the slippery blue slope to the library and, by returning my books, ticked off the last task. Done

With all the work done, I drove down to Dullater to walk a different bit of the Forth & Clyde canal. After a couple of hundred yards the rain came teeming down and I headed for the car after getting a few photos with the Teazer. Next stop was a little garden centre to get some veg to plant in the raised bed. Got a tray of lettuce plants for a bargain price. First time I’ve been there. I’d tell you where it was, but it’s called Teddy’ Secret Nursery and it wouldn’t be a secret if I told everyone where it was, would it? Enough to say that it is quite ‘compact and bijou’.

Going out to salsa tonight, I noticed some yellow, slippery liquid under the front of the car. I’d noticed the same liquid earlier in the afternoon, but wasn’t sure if it had been there when I parked the car last night. Twice is too much of a coincidence. Dipped my finger in the liquid and touched it to my tongue and it had that strange sweet taste of anti-freeze. Checked the radiator overflow tank and it was low. It may be ok, but I doubt it. Looks like my car will be having a wee trip to the car hospital soon. Salsa was difficult. I just couldn’t manage to do anything right. The only way to fix it is to practise, practise, practise. Tomorrow.

Today’s PoD is a macro of a tulip flower with raindrops. Taken with the Oly 5.

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I’ve got a bike – 3 May 2017

This morning we took Scamp’s car down to the garage for its MOT.  Then back for breakfast.

That’s how the day started.  Since we were up and about early, we decided to make the best of what was shaping up to be a beautiful day.  We drove to Torwood Garden Centre to get some plants and ended up with nine plants and a bird bath.  We’ve been looking for a bird bath since Trinidad, back in February, but couldn’t find one we liked or didn’t grudge the exorbitant price for.  This one was exactly what we wanted.  Made from concrete, fairly small and fairly priced.  We’d originally intended continuing on to Stirling, but changed our plans and just went home so that the plants could find their way into their new homes, assisted by gardner Scamp of course.

Back home we had just had lunch when the garage phoned to say the car had passed and was ready to collect.  We brought it home and as the gardening needed expert hands, Scamp decided to carry on with that while I dragged the bike out for a run.  For the first time this year, I took it on the bike rack to Auchinstarry and cycled along the canal almost to Kirkintilloch and then back again along the railway.  Going out was fine with the sun on my face and the wind at my back.  The run back wasn’t so idyllic, but it was still enjoyable.  I think everybody who had a bike was out on it today, or at least that’s what it seemed.  Not surprising on such a lovely warm, if windy day.  Tracked it on my new FitBit and was surprised at the amount of data it generated.

Salsa tonight was good although the drive in was a not much fun with traffic jams because of a breakdown in the middle lane just at the busiest spot near the Royal Infirmary.  Poor woman who had to escort her kids on to the fencing at the edge (there isn’t a hard shoulder at that part), then get them back again into the breakdown truck, with their cases!

Looks like tomorrow is going to be much the same as today.  Maybe going to Stirling.

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One Swallow – 24 April 2017

I started early this morning, going to the library then taking a walk down the Luggie.

Today’s PoD was taken on the walk to the library.  It proves that the sun can make even the ugliest building look good, not great, just good.  Let’s not get carried away here. It’s still a pretty ugly piece of concrete.

Didn’t get much along the Luggie, mainly because it was just too cold.

After lunch I went for a walk along the canal from Auchinstarry and got caught in a hailstorm blowing down from the north.  Not many photos there either.  However, despite the biting wind and the driving hail, I saw two swallows.  Now, as we all know, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but do two swallows make a decent spring?  I think that maybe they do.  On the way back along the railway path I saw about a dozen of the birds flying low over a pond.  Low flying swallows means poor weather coming, but at least they are here, just a day later than last year.

Scamp wanted to get in two salsa classes tonight and I was happy to comply.  By the end of the two hours I was dead beat, but according to my Fitbit, I’ve taken just over 19,000 steps today.  That must be a record.

This is a short blog entry because I’m trying desperately to get to bed the same day I woke up.  I might even achieve it.

Tomorrow?  Haircut probably.  It’s getting like a ‘pure afro.’

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So, that was March – 31 March 2017

Fred requested a coffee meeting today.  Scamp and I had already planned to go out for lunch, but she convinced me to go and meet Fred instead, too readily for my liking.  She then declared that she was going shopping for some clothes and that was why she was foregoing lunch, we could always do lunch tomorrow.

While she was out I layered on some washes on a sketch I’d done last night.  It looked reasonable and I managed, what for me was a decent graduated sky.  It seemed no time until she was back and it was time for me to go meet Fred.

His real reason for meeting was because I had offered him a loan of a book on perspective, his new pet project.  Not easy perspective either, but the awkward Curvilinear Perspective as loved by M. C. Escher, although my own efforts are much more grounded in mundane reality than his were.  We sat and talked a while although he seemed a lot more politically motivated than usual.  He did however give me a quick tutorial on drawing noses. He’s really good at sketching faces, especially good at quick sketches and getting a decent likeness too.  I’ve just finished putting his ideas into practice and they seem to work.

After putting the Tories and Labour firmly in their place and decrying the traitors among the Greens we went our separate ways.  Him to Tesco for shopping, me to Lidl for shopping (and beer).  On the way back, I stopped at The Boathouse at Auchinstarry to go for a walk along the south bank of the canal out in the direction of Falkirk.  The path didn’t go anywhere near Falkirk, but turned off after a hundred yards and headed up towards Croy to an area called Nethercroy, through some old tall trees swaying in a strong wind.  I followed the path until I came to a gate where the notice warned that cattle would be grazing on the hill from the beginning of April.  I didn’t fancy meeting early arrivals and anyway, I wasn’t really dressed for hillwalking, so I turned round and went in search of interesting photos.

I’d already taken some pics as information for preparatory sketches with the aim of developing a larger piece.  It might work, it might not.  Saw some moss growing on some old stonework and got a few shots of that and caught some nice light with the 20mm lens on the M5 too.

When I looked at the photos back home in Lightroom, the moss shots were all disappointing.  Very unsharp and blurry.  The common factor in them all was an aperture of f7.1 which is pretty wide at the long end <Ignore this, everyone, it’s for my own benefit, so I don’t do it again!> I usually set f9 minimum for the 45-200 lens and that would have sharpened up the images so much better than f7.  Moral of the story, check your settings BEFORE taking the shot.  The M5 shots were fine.  Prime 20mm lens at f10 can’t fail!

Came home and found that Scamp had been very busy preparing an Un-Birthday dinner.  Portobello mushrooms with spinach and cheese topped with Parma ham, roasted under the grill.  Gammon steak with potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and roast parsnips.  Same for Scamp, but without the gammon steak (obviously).  Pineapple snow with chilli sauce for pudding!  Absolutely perfect.  Now I know why she was so happy for me to go and meet Fred.

Tomorrow we may go and have the lunch we missed today.

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Happy Birthday Netta – 4 March 2017

Today centred around Scamp and her ladies singing at a friend’s birthday party.  A special birthday party, the friend was 90 today.  She used to be a senior member of Gems and that’s why the ladies were singing at her party.  Me?  I was chauffeur and roadie again.  I didn’t really mind, because it gave me a couple of hours free to do as I pleased.

I first set out to do some beer shopping in Lidl and then went looking for a subject.  I settled on the Falkirk Wheel where I knew I could find some longboats tied up.  By the time I got there the best of the day’s light had gone and a cold easterly wind was getting up, but there were plenty of boats to photograph and with the canal as smooth as a millpond, the reflections were good.  They would have been even better if the water hadn’t been so dirty.  Not as dirty as the Falkirk Wheel.  According to the notice near the entrance, its annual maintenance takes place towards the end of December.  I don’t know if they didn’t do it this year or maybe they are still trying to source the cleaning materials, but the wheel is manky.  There’s no other word for it.  The site itself is cordoned off with loads of miles of security fencing and signs saying its a construction site.  That wouldn’t be so bad if there was any evidence of construction taking place, but there was none.  I got there at 4pm and the entire place was closed.  Again, giving the benefit of the doubt, maybe they are still working on the winter timetable.  Being more realistic, maybe Central Region just don’t care, or don’t have the funds to maintain this massive structure.  It certainly is a sad sight just now.

Beer bought, photos taken, I was heading back to the car when I got the call from Scamp to go pick her up.  The birthday girl was looking great and if I hadn’t know her age, I’d never have guessed.

Let’s hope tomorrow is a better day.

One last thing, I finally got round to adding a gallery of my 28 Drawings Later … sketches.  Do go and have a look when you have time.  They are accessed from Galleries (duh!) from the blue bar at the top of the page.  I don’t have a clue where you find them on a phone or a tablet.  Seek and ye shall find!
Remember when you’re viewing that it’s not the skill or the artifice you are admiring, it’s the dedication to put pen, pencil and brush to paper, one day after another for a month.

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Deteriorating weather – 27 February 2017

Scamp wanted to go shopping for a birthday present for one of her friends.  She had set a time limit of 10am.  We had to be up and out, presumably dressed, by then.  We achieved this with 1 minute to spare!

We drove to Robroyston in sunshine and went our separate ways when we got there.  Her to her favourite shop, me to Homebase to look for a birdbath.  Didn’t find one, but she found exactly what she wanted.  Coffee in Costa and then back home via the garage to book the Megane in for MOT and service, and the weather was still holding out.

Scamp then wanted to refresh her skills, recording some piano music with Audacity.  Then we spent almost half an hour trying to get the stupid Media Monkey software to find the DVD drive.  Even worse, iTunes couldn’t find it either, so we had to email the MP3 file to me so I could burn it on to a music CD.  Eventually it worked, but now I have to find out what’s wrong with the burner software on her PC.

Clouds were beginning to mass over in the west when I was making my lunch which was two butterflied sausages in between two slices of my delicious bread.  Stunning!  While she was out gathering the Gems from around Cumbersheugh, I got away for a walk.  By the time I got to Auchinstarry, the clouds had covered the sky and I was struggling to find anything interesting to photograph.  Got a couple of shots of dried up and frosted plants, but still no sketch.  Penultimate day in the 28 Drawings … challenge.  On the way back, I thought, why not attempt the bridge over the canal.  Viewed it from both sides and decided the view from the west was best and set to.  It was an awkward bugger.  The bridge is on a slope and doesn’t cross the canal at 90º, making the perspective very difficult.  When I finally finished it, I photographed it so I could check vanishing points when I got home, and it’s a good job I did, because a couple were a wee bit out, but they were easily corrected.  Also, the shading needed altering.  Fixed it sharpish and now I’m thinking it’s really a situation for curvilinear perspective.  I may redraw it some time using those VPs.  For now, it’s done and posted. Fin.

Salsa was complicated tonight and although Cameron and I had a near collision on the dance floor, it all ended well and was great fun.  New move is Trompo which means Spinning Top.  Ma heid wiz spinnin’ and no mistake!

After a deteriorating day today, tomorrow seems to be the opposite with gradually improving weather, or so the weather folk say.  As ever, we’ll wait and see.

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A Dull Day – 8 January 2017

The dull day was probably what gave me the incentive to get the new sewing machine out and finally attempt to fix the pocket on a pair of jeans.

I’d ‘had a go’ at fixing it a week or so ago, but after researching the problem on the ‘net, I felt more confident that the method I’d seen would solve the problem.  Actually I’d seen two different methods, and I was going to attempt the easier and less complicated one.  That tutorial didn’t have that confidence destroying phrase “This is the tricky bit”.  I liked that.  After half an hour or so of sewing, re-threading the needle and more sewing, but without swearing, I now have a fair degree of confidence in the longevity of my repair, or Alteration as I described it recently in FB.  Hope you don’t read this Joyce.  I’d hate to disabuse you of the notion that I’ve taken up dressmaking in a professional capacity.  I’m hoping to fix a couple of pairs of jeans and also make myself a bow tie.  Little Black Dresses for Scamp may take a bit more time.  So, one down, another three to go!

I was going stir crazy, so in the afternoon I drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, through the plantation to the railway walk, then back along a different railway walk to the carpark again.  It really was a dull day.  I’d set my Nikon to a Manual exposure of 1/500th sec @ f9 and a floating ISO the other day.  That meant the D7000 calculated it would require an ISO of 25600 today.  That’s in the ‘WTF let’s have a go’ range.  You’ll get a picture, but you may not be able to see it in all the digital noise.  It produced the picture at the top and the one at the bottom right in the mosaic.  I’ve deliberately converted the top one to mono because it disguises the grain/digital-noise that the high ISO produces.  The other pic, my favourite and therefore PoD was at a much lower ISO of 4000 and taken with the Oly 5.  It was resting on the stonework of an old bridge and also had a much shorter lens, so could be relied upon to give a sharp image at a low shutter speed.  Sorry JIC, edging into technospeak again.  Sim will understand.

The bridge itself was interesting from another point of view.  All along the top edge are what I’d describe as lens shaped cuts which look like the shapes you’d get if you were sharpening a knife or a scythe.  Could that be what caused them?  I’ll photograph them the next time I’m crossing the bridge on a sunny day.  Also inscribed on the top of a stone near the middle of the bridge are the initials  ‘IW’.  They have been carved with care into the stone and both letters have serifs on them.  Often, old graffiti has these serifs and shows that care has been taken when carving them.  Intriguing.

First Sunday Social of 2017 today and I was really rusty.  Thank goodness classes start tomorrow.  We both need the exercise and the practise.

No idea what the weather is to be tomorrow.  Hopefully kinder to photographers than it’s been today.

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Walking through the Gloaming – 15 December 2016

I’ve started a bad habit of allowing the blog to get away from me.  These last couple of days have seen me in the morning playing catch-up to get the blog posted, yesterday’s blog that is.  Today I’m finishing today’s blog today.

Not a lot of work done this morning.  Scamp was hard at work buying Tesco again and cooking all day for the Witches Christmas Party while I farted about.  There, that’s the honest truth, well, almost the truth.  I did get my 2017 calendar sorted out, so that’s one thing done.

I went for more ‘messages’ – you remember what messages are, don’t you – after lunch and took Scamp’s advice to carry ONE camera with me.  I chose the E-M5 with a short zoom lens and no EVF (Electronic View Finder).  Very pocketable.   I walked the short walk round the railway walk, across the tree plantation and back along the canal while the light changed from blue to a glorious orange gloaming.  Some beautiful lighting on the hills, but the short lens was struggling to make anything of it.  By comparison, the short focal length lens made the skies look good.

Since Tesco was now closed for restocking, after Scamp had bought everything it had, I went to Kilsyth to Lidl to get some odds and ends there and in B&M (my new favourite shop).  Bought far more than I intended to, so Scamp’s enthusiasm must be catching.  When I got home and after dinner, I started on my part of tomorrows banquet.  Now, at 10.30pm I’ve done my bit too.  The pudding is setting in the fridge and the bread is proving in the kitchen.  Some more work to be done tomorrow, but less frantic I hope.

I’m intending giving the WCP a body swerve tomorrow.  I’m booked for coffee and a chat with Fred and Val tomorrow midday and after that, well as Del Boy said, “The world’s my lobster”.