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Barking Mad – 7 June 2018

It started out a bit cloudy today, but the sun soon burned that away.

We had nothing particular to do today and nowhere significant to go. Some days are like that, you can just relax. However, with a garden there’s little time to relax and soon we were shifting flower pots around and then we went to buy more. It seems that flower pots are like shoes, you can never have enough of them. I also suggested to Scamp that it might be a good idea to put a layer of chipped bark on the earth, especially in the pots. It acts as a deterrent to snails, discourages weed growth and helps retain moisture. So we came back with another pot and a bag of chipped bark. While Scamp did the re-potting, I helped out with the layer of bark. It certainly gives a good universal appearance to the pots and looks as if it will fulfil the other tasks too. Only time will tell.

After lunch I was encouraged to start the frame for the pea netting, so off I went to B&Q to get some wood. I used to have a regular supply of it, but alas and alack, I am no longer employed in that side of things 😉 so I had to buy some. I asked if I could borrow a saw to cut the timber to more manageable lengths but was told that service was no longer available because of H&S regulations. I suppose that’s true. Pity the trolley that kept giving me shocks in B&M this morning hadn’t been GS23’d or run past H&S. Scamp says it’s me that’s generating my own electricity and that it’s me that’s creating the sparks. Some folk say I’m a bright spark, but they’re lying.

Anyway, the 2.4m of timber fitted easily into the Juke and I dropped it off at home before going for a walk along the canal under a hot sun. Saw today’s PoD there and couldn’t resist it. It took a bit of processing in Lightroom then ON1 to get it the way I wanted it, after the camera overexposed it, but I liked the result.

Came home via Lidl to try out their supposedly excellent gin. It is excellent and to our taste test, better than the watery Aldi alternative. Maybe it’s just the different tonic.

Halfway through dinner (Paella) the rain came on, so we had to rush out to save the washing from drowning, or at least getting wet. It didn’t last long, it was really just a shower, but it did mean we didn’t have to water the garden tonight!

Tomorrow looks not as hot as today. I think it’s all going to get a bit tricky from here on in. I think I’m constructing a pea frame, so a bit cooler day will be good.

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Cliché Time – 29 May 2018

It had to happen. You simply can’t avoid it every year.

Off to dull, cloudy Falkirk this morning to get some ‘messages’. It wasn’t much of an improvement from dull, cloudy Cumbersheugh. Came home (with the ‘messages’) and had lunch. Still no sunshine and still less than comfortable temperatures. Hmm.

It was much later in the day before the cloud started to lighten and we went for a walk along the canal. The pessimist as always, I took my rainy coat because it did look as if rain might stop play. It didn’t and halfway along to Twechar I was forced to take may rainy coat off and tie it round my waist. The sun had now burned away the cloud and was shining from a big blue sky. We walked on to Twechar and then crossed over to the railway walk to take us back via the Plantation to the car. It was on the Plantation I got today’s PoD. Taken with the 30mm Panasonic macro. It was the only one of the seven shots I took that was reasonably sharp, actually very sharp. It’s a cliché, the dandelion clock or the little ‘parachutes’ that fly off from it. Every photog takes the pictures every year. We just can’t avoid it. It’s almost like it’s hard wired into our psyche that we must take that photo. Usually once we’ve taken it, we can relax until the next year. Sometimes we continue on and on taking dandelion pictures for ages until we’re sated and have to go on a dandelion diet until the next May.

I think the dull afternoon must have put a lot of people off, because we were only passed by a few runners and cyclists on our walk. Usually the canal towpath is a busy thoroughfare in mid May. Also today we only saw two dogs. That in itself is amazing. Maybe the dogs looked out at the milky white sky and said “Naw mate, no’ gaun oot today” and went back to sleep.

Dinner tonight was crab spaghetti. It should have been Linguini, but Scamp doesn’t care for the thicker pasta, so spaghetti it was. The crab was lovely and there was just enough chilli in it to brighten it up. Splash of white wine, a finely chopped bit of garlic, olive oil (good stuff-EVOO) and a handful of parsley with the Skye crab and you have a very tasty meal. I commend it to you.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the nurse who will draw some blood for my annual check-up, but joy of joys, it’s NOT a fasting blood test. At last we are being dragged into the 21st century. Hallelujah!

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The Man in the Mirror – 21 May 2018

I had homework to do for the Wednesday’s Portraiture class. Today was my first attempt.

Scamp was out with Isobel in the morning and I got started sketching my reflection in the mirror in the back bedroom. It’s been ages since I’ve attempted a self portrait. This was different because it was planned and better structured using the Andrew Loomis method. I’d even made an Autodesk Inventor model of the basic shape of a head to give me a basic understanding of the shape. We’ve still to learn the basic bits that make up a face, like Nose, Mouth, Eyes and Ears. They are important, but the basic shape of the skull is even more important. I’m beginning to understand that now. With a bit of time to myself, I had my first try at an SP.

It was rough and ready, so I set it aside and made lunch which was yesterday’s Aloo Saag bolstered with some more spinach and a few more spices. It was agreed that it was an improvement on yesterday’s. Still needs some fine tuning, and the kitchen cabinets needed a bit of fine cleaning after my attempt at liquidising the second bag of spinach. It looked like the attack of the Jolly Green Giant. Most of it was cleaned up before Scamp came home.

I wasn’t happy with my first portrait attempt, so, after lunch when Scamp and the Gems were going through their repertoire, I started the second version. One of the eyes wasn’t right and that was when I found that I hadn’t a putty rubber, essential when you’re sketching in charcoal, like I was. That gave me the impetus to go out. I bought a putty rubber and then went looking for photos. Drove to Auchinstarry and did the canal, plantation and railway walk under glorious blue skies. That built up my step count for the day and provided my PoD which is a Bum Bee’s Bum. Actually, it’s a hoverfly’s bum, but that doesn’t sound as good, does it?

Back home and I didn’t really need any dinner after a very hearty lunch, so it was tea and toast before we drove in to Glasgow for our Monday dose of Salsa. Two good classes, but so few men. Tonight’s moves for the 6.30 class were Candado Complicado, El Chullo and La Chulla. For the 7.30 class it El Cien. All doable with a bit of practise.  Step count for today is just over 15,800.  Not bad at all!

Tomorrow we have a telephone meeting with Andrew from ARD at 9.30 and the rest of the day is ours!

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Doon The Canal – 14 May 2018

I thought yesterday would be the end of the good weather, but I was wrong. Thankfully.

This morning was all about tidying up the loose ends of the blog and Flickr. After that was finished, it was almost time for Gems, so I made my lunch and made myself scarce. It was a beautiful warm spring day and it seemed a shame not to take advantage of it.

I drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the railway, then across the plantation. From there I walked back along the canal. I got some photos along the canal, but the PoD was one of the first I’d taken along the side of the railway walk. I hadn’t realised that the name for the unfurling fern stems was a ‘Crozier’, presumably that’s where the bishop’s crook got its name, or maybe it was the other way round. Who knows.

Came home via Lidl to get some stuff for dinner. We could have had our normal Monday Pasta, but I thought a salad would be better and got some crayfish tails and an avocado which would work well with tomatoes, beetroot and mixed leaves as a salad dinner. If we were hungry after salsa, we could always have the pasta then.

Salsa on a Monday is becoming boring for me. I quite enjoy the first advanced class, but it seems like Jamie thinks he needs to have at least two new moves every week and some of them, in fact, most of them are over-complicated and difficult to dance socially. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe we need a break from salsa for a while. I know that I’ll be missing from the Wednesday class for a while because I’m intending joining a portraiture art class this week, so that may create a natural break. However, tonight the moves were more interesting and not as complicated as some he’s been teaching.

I’d bought a couple of bottles of beer at Lidl and had the forethought to put one of them in the fridge before we went out. Two glasses of shandy went down a treat when we got home.

Tomorrow looks a bit less sunny and warm, but I’m sure it won’t be a great hinderance. I’m sure we’ll find something to do.

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The bird that evolution passed by – 16 April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Walking, Dancing and Backups – 19 February 2018

I’d fully intended going to the gym today, but although there was a smir of rain in the air this morning, I decided that to avoid Gems, I’d go for a walk instead. It was the right decision.

<Technospeak Alert>
In the morning I finally got my wee 2-in-1 tablet computer sorted out by using an old memory stick to boot into Windows PE and from there run a backup program to restore a backup I’d made way back in 2016. I thought it might be a bit basic, but all the apps I need are on it and I’ve even worked out how to use Microsoft Gallery to import my RAW pics. I got truly fed up with having to manipulate the EXIF data on the photos to allow Lightroom 5 to work with the RAW files from the Teazer (Panasonic TZ 70) so now I’m going to use the free and very good RawTherapee to do the heavy lifting of the RAW processing. I’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks. Right JIC you can come back in again.
</Technospeak Alert>

After successfully got rid of the baggage that Win10 leaves behind, and after lunch too, I went for a walk down by the canal.  The weather had cleared up nicely and the air was much warmer than I’d anticipated.  It actually felt like spring was in the air.  I know, there another cold snap due in a few days, but it’s Scotland.  There’s always another cold snap due in a couple of days, even in June … Especially in June!!  I even saw a hairy caterpillar, but it wasn’t caterpillaring around, it was just sitting there.  Maybe it was sunbathing, yes, that’s it.  It was sunbathing in its fur coat.  I took its photo anyway, just for the record.  Caterpillars in February!  Who knew?!  The photo at the top was my favourite of the lot I took, so that’s why it made PoD.

We went dancing at night and just for fun I asked Alexa what the travel time was to the STUC just before we left the house.  She (it?) said 25 minutes.  Twenty five minutes later I was walking along Woodlands Road looking for a parking meter that actually worked.  Glasgow council, you do realise that it’s not enough to plonk new parking meters by the side of the road?  You know you have to maintain them too, and occasionally empty the coins we commuters cram into them every time we need to park?  Duh!  So Alexa translated my speech into text, sent the text to somewhere in California accessed a database from there, checked my commute and returned the data which was turned back into speech and spoken to me in a very human sounding voice, and got it spot on right!  All of that within about five seconds.  Brilliant waste of technology, but still Glasgow council doesn’t seem to know how to operate its parking meters.  If it was up to them, high speed internet connections would be done with two shiny tin cans and a piece of coloured string.
Dancing was ‘interesting’.  We did one rueda move that didn’t have a name and seemed to confuse everyone.  Tonight’s move was ‘Stormtrooper’  Great name.  I hated it.  Then as I saw how it was working, I began to like it and later  in the night when I’d almost perfected it, I thought it was great too, just like its name.  That’s what a good teacher can achieve.

Just my glasses

Tonight’s sketch was just a 15minute shot.  A placemarker of a pencil sketch.  It’s a bit rough, but I don’t have a lot of time on a Monday.

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re off to Embra, to Leith in fact to go for a fancy lunch.

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Oh no! Mair snow! – 6 February 2018

Woke up to a suspiciously white light coming through the curtains. It might have been sunshine, but it was more likely sunlight reflecting from lots of snow.

A cursory glance out the window confirmed that the snow lorry had indeed parked outside our house and deposited its load of snow. Went back and read for a while. Read the disappointing end to the Peter May book. It almost felt like he had got fed up writing the story and decided to tie everything up in the last five pages. Don’t you just hate books like that. I do.

A cup of coffee after my shower cheered me up and gave me the strength to face the day. I had intended to go to the gym today, but instead, decided to get my sketch done early. Today’s drawing, and it was going to be a drawing today, no paint was going to be spilt, was of Scamp’s poinsettia which she has been carefully tending for over a month now and although it’s a bit spidery now, it’s still holding some of its leaves. The secret appears to be to feed it warm water daily in a dish that the plant pot stands in. I presume that creates a moist atmosphere around the leaves and that’s what the plant needs. With the open, almost skeletal frame of a plant like this, a negative space technique seemed right. That is, instead of drawing the plant, you draw the open spaces it occupies; the spaces between the leaves and the spaces between the stems. After that’s done you can decide what part goes in front of or behind other parts. It seemed to work. It’s amazing how absorbing this technique is. I suppose it’s what makes adult colouring books so interesting, although I can’t really see that myself.

Poinsettia

While I was working on this a parcel dropped through the letterbox. A slim cardboard rectangle contained a book ‘True Story” by Jo Levy, a friend we met at salsa class, many years ago. Scamp had ordered it as an anniversary present for me. It’s a lovely wee thing. 31 drawings done by Jo, one a day, during the month of May 2017. She’s agreed to sign it, that will make it even better. Brilliant idea Jo and even more brilliant idea for a present, Scamp. I will treasure it.

After I completed the drawing which, although technically correct, wasn’t a patch on Jo’s cartoon drawings, I drove down to Auchinstarry and went for a walk along the canal and back along the railway. Cold and icy in places, but very enjoyable. Some days, like yesterday, you get one or maybe photos. Today I took 48, whittled them down to 18 and further reduced that to 6 of which only three were posted. This is part of the new plan. Yellow spots for ones worth considering and green spots for ‘record shots’. The some of the yellow spots become red spots because they’re going on Flickr. Once on Flickr, some more are lost because they look good on full screen, but don’t look so good as smaller resolution files on Flickr. Only one of the final selection becomes PoD and today’s shot that wins the acolade is the snow on the cow parsley heads.

Tomorrow it’s dancing, dancing and dancing again, hopefully.

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A morning at the gee-gees – 2 February 2018

This morning broke early, too early say some, namely me.

The taxi phone didn’t ring until almost midnight last night. Apparently they were having such a good time … That meant that by the time I drove to the other side of town, picked up Scamp and Marge, dropped Marge off, returned home with Scamp and finally parked the car, it was almost 1am before I was staggering off to bed. So, when my Fitbit alarm vibrated on my wrist this morning at 8.30 it was a struggle to climb up through the layers of sleep to see the day. The up side was it was a beautiful day.

After breakfast, Scamp suggested we go to visit the Kelpies at Falkirk. That seemed like a great idea. It would get us out, give us a breath of fresh air and we wouldn’t visit any shops in the process. Besides which, the Kelpies always brighten your day no matter what mood you are in.

We arrived and walked round them, always finding something new. Some little thing or a different viewpoint. Today, my PoD was the dribbling Kelpie. Just a lamp standard on the motorway and a carefully chosen VP.

A cup of coffee and a scone each was lunch and then we drove home. Scamp was going out to meet ‘The Witches’ in the afternoon and I used that time to finish off my fourth painting of trees. Maybe the last one in the series, I’m all treed out now I think. Looking for new pastures. It was overpainted twice today and that’s on top of another two layers. One of the good things about corrugated cardboard is its strength. I put that strength to good use. If you’re looking for it, it’s here and it’s 28DL – No 2:

Four Trees

Dinner tonight was a pizza, home made and baked in the new combination microwave. Not ‘nuked’ but baked in the Convection oven. Just under 10 minutes then crisped up the base in the frying pan (no oil!). Washed down with a couple of glasses of Malbec. Hopefully getting this written earlier than normal to get to bed earlier and make up for lost sleep.

Tomorrow looks wet, so we may go to The Smiddy for lunch.

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No Swimming – 14 January 2018

After a late start today, Scamp decided it was time to start dusting the shelves, wardrobe and anything else that didn’t move. This gave me the incentive to move.

I drove down to Auchinstarry and noticed right away that the ‘Cooncil’ had put up a new notice by the flooded quarry. It read “No Swimming”. Maybe they were just trying to get in ahead of the rush of folk ready to be first to swim across the murky waters of the quarry and whatever lies beneath its oily skin. However it’s January. The water still has ice floes on it and it’s rumoured polar bears have been seen on one of its islands. I haven’t seen anyone stripping off and going for a mid-winter dip in the inviting waters, but I’m sure if they were determined to face the host of infections lurking in the depths, a ‘Cooncil’ notice wouldn’t dissuade them. Possibly a Health ’n’ Safety audit was the reason or maybe someone with too much time on their hands had committed a Risk Assessment to paper. Maybe as the end of the financial year approaches, they just had to spend their available money or risk losing it next year. Whatever it was, I’m sure the inhabitants of Kilsyth and District will completely ignore it, as did the swans and the mallards.

As I walked over the bridge over the Kelvin, I grabbed a shot of the moss growing in the cracks and that became my PoD. It looked like two wee green hills with alien trees growing on them. There wouldn’t be much else to test my photographic skills for the rest of the walk. I was walking into a western wind and it was much colder than the 7ºc that had been the reading on the thermometer in the car. I was quite glad when I put my back to it on the walk back to the car park. I’d managed to get a couple of pics of a duck on the canal. I couldn’t remember if it was a Goosander or a Merganser, but tonight the Internet provided the answer. It was a female Goosander. It was a grainy one too at 7200 ISO! The day was getting darker, the further I walked.

Dinner tonight was the remains of Thursday’s mince pie and if anything, it had improved by resting in the fridge for a few days.

A surprisingly good program on TV tonight was an interview with Mrs McQueen, telling about her coronation and explaining that when she was wearing the crown she couldn’t look down because she thought she’d break her neck trying to raise her head again. Not surprising when you realise that the crown weighs 5lb. That’s the equivalent of two and a half bags of sugar! Just imagine carrying that around on your head. Really excellent program that didn’t condescend, just gave you an insight into the pomp and circumstance of these royal occasions that we plebs will never get to take part in. Scariest bit was when she smiled. Can’t remember seeing her smile before.

Tomorrow is Monday so it’s Avoid The Gems Day. Gym ’n’ Swim probably.

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Dancin’ – 7 January 2018

It was a late start today. I hadn’t meant to sleep so long, but there are no alarms on weekends.

I spent the morning parcelling up the calendars for Dorothy and my friend Peter. I also took some time writing notes for the parcels. It was only after I’d written the address on the last envelope that I checked and found that the post office was closed on a Sunday. Oh well, they wouldn’t be uplifted until tomorrow anyway. I’ll post them tomorrow with a bit of luck.

After lunch which traditionally is a fried breakfast on a Sunday I almost managed to get Scamp to come out a walk with me, but she’d been outside and knew just how cold it was, so she decided she’d rather do some ironing than face the great outdoors. I needed a PoD and I don’t do ironing very well, so I got dressed for the arctic and drove down to Auchinstarry then walked halfway along the canal which was frozen right across and took some photos from the only seat on the path for miles. Walked back, across the plantation and from there back to the car. Not quite my 10,000 steps, but at least I was out in the fresh air. Cold fresh air to be precise. I don’t think the temperature got above zero all day.

Just had time to dump the photos in the Mac and tweak some before it was time for the big event of the day, Dancin’. Drove in to Glasgow and got parked less than 100m from Arta. Inside it was fairly busy even if it was quite early. I don’t know what they had done to the floor, but it was lethally slippy. Almost took a tumble a few times and wished I’d worn my trainers instead of my shoes with the no-grip soles. Still, it was a good night with lots of firm handshakes (only one ‘funny’ one) and lots of ’mwah’ kisses, everyone coming with a ‘Happy New Year’. That’s what I like most about the salsa community. Its friendliness.

Home to the remains of last week’s steak stew dinner reheated and none the worse for it. Also the last G ’n’ T until Friday. An extra cold one as Scamp had left the tonic in her car in today’s sub-zero temperatures. The abstemiousness starts here. Oh by the way, when I was walking back into the house after retrieving the tonic, my watch vibrated to signal that I’d completed today’s 10,000 steps. Must have been all that sliding across the dance floor!