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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.


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!

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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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A longer walk – 28 November 2017

Scamp was on a mission today.

First she loaded up her car with the bottles for the bottle bank and junk for the skip and off she drove to the dump to get rid of the stuff. On the way home she drove to Tesco and loaded up with more stuff, mainly food this time. She told me that although it looked cold outside, it wasn’t all that bad. I took her at her word and drove to Auchinstarry to walk the canal. I had a bit more daylight today and the light was good, so I walked out to Dumbreck marshes. Along the way I met some swans on the ice in the canal.  The water under the trees and out of the sun was frozen right across the canal.  I also got a view back to the houses beside the water which I quite liked, but the swan got PoD. Walked over the plantation and on to Dumbreck. Walked through the marshes to the edge of the wildlife reserve. Out there I saw some long tailed tits doing a bit of acrobatics in one of the trees. That’s a picture of one doing a ‘cannonball’ above. As the sun went away, it got a bit colder so I made my way back to the car. On the way I stopped for a panorama of the pond between the two paths. The red berries are deadly poison.  That’s why the birds leave them alone.  I think that about covers all the photos.

Not a bad walk. Easily covered my 10,000 steps, but sat down with a cup of coffee and a roll and that wee bugger on my wrist wanted to ‘go for a stroll’. I’m afraid I said some bad words.

While I was out, Scamp had ‘done a bit of tidying up’. She only does this when I’m out, because I just hold her back. I know that. Then she did a bit of gardening. After my late lunch I helped(?) her with a bit of DTP in MS Publisher. Not the most sophisticated DTP program, but it covers the bases, or at least it did. I couldn’t believe the amount of things I’d forgotten how to do. It used to be so simple, three years ago! Between us we got it done, but I suspect she’ll go back to her old way of doing it in MS Word in future.

Jamie phoned tonight and entertained us with a tale of the visiting Finnish group at his work who were introduced to the Epicurean delights of fish suppers. I really wonder what they thought of eating out of a piece of paper! Still, it’s a delicacy, and it’s the fare of the country, so perhaps it was the right thing to do. When in Rome …  We had stir-fry tonight, eaten from a plate, with cutlery!

Tomorrow we’ll probably end up at beginners class for Salsa. It will give us some exercise, if nothing else. Other than that, no plans.

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A Gaggle of Goosanders – 23 November 2017

Busy day. Lots of baking and cooking and clearing up and laying tables, because Isobel was coming for dinner.

Since Isobel is , I had to ignore my usual bread recipe and make bread with gluten-free flour, lots of water, lots of oil and two egg whites. I’ve made the bread before and it turned out, much to my surprise, perfectly edible. Today, I was a bit more confident than I was last time, and possibly it’s true that familiarity breeds contempt. Made the dough, or more correctly, white slurry and poured it into a cake tin to rise. I reckoned I had an hour or so free, since Scamp would be out herding Gems into Abronhill for the afternoon, so I drove down to Auchinstarry to walk the canal, the plantation and the railway.

Walking along the canal I came across a flock? Crowd? I eventually settled on Gaggle of Goosanders, sailing merrily up and down the canal. Chasing one another and diving for fish. I don’t think I’ve seen so many. Too many to count and because they were crossing paths and almost crashing into one another, a pointless task to count them. I only see them on the canal in the winter. Do they overwinter here? Must check.

Dogs. Why are there so many dogs and doggy owners in the world? They all seemed to be congregating at Auchinstarry. It seemed that everywhere I looked there were dogs or folk looking for dogs. There was one exception, apart from me. One dog seemed to be following me and also seemed to be looking for an owner. My “Sorry mate. I’m not the owner you’re looking for” didn’t faze it at all. In fact it ran ahead of me and then waited until it was sure I was catching up before running on. Did it want me to follow it, or does that only happen in Lassie (or, if you’re Scottish, Black Bob)? But then it got distracted. A cyclist came down the path going in the opposite direction and it immediately chose him as its lost owner. The last I saw of it was the black blur tailing the cyclist for all it was worth, far down the path. I hope it got home safely.

Crossed into the plantation and came upon a woman delightedly ‘training’ her Staffie to ‘SIT’ and ‘STAY’. I don’t know who was having the most fun, the dog or her. A few bends later I noticed the buzzard sitting majestically in a tree and grabbed a few shots, before being investigated by what looked like two Dobermans with half their legs cut off. Maybe they were miniature Dobermans OR, as they both had sparkly rhinestone collars, maybe they were miniature Doberwomans. I’d have asked the owner what variety of dog they were, but she swept imperiously past without a word. Thankfully the rest of the walk was dog-free as was the trip to Tesco afterwards.

Got home to find that the bread had risen quite well, too well in fact and was oozing down the sides of the cake tin and over the worktop. Oops. Time to put the oven on I think. Spent the remainder of the afternoon making Pesto and Marinara sauce to cover the Italian Chicken. Thanks again Neil D’ for that recipe. The bread baked fine and was deemed a success by Isobel and Scamp. The chicken was partly successful as we hadn’t known that Isobel didn’t eat tomatoes, but she did manage to scrape the marinara off and all in all it was a good night. Lots of entertaining stories and just good conversation.

PoD was not the Goosander or the Buzzard, but the pretty white things growing over the canal. There’s no accounting for my taste!

Tomorrow I need to remove the door to the living room and the handles from the front door as the two seater is booked to make its exit to the charity shop. Seating will be at a premium then until Monday. Scamp has suggested that we utilize the sun loungers. It seems sensible because they were hardly ever used in the garden this summer!

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Walking in the sunshine – 5 November 2017

Another cold night last night. Temperature this morning was around 2ºc. It did rise to almost comfortable numbers, as long as you were well wrapped up.

It took quite a while for the temperature to rise and that’s my excuse for not getting the bike out of the storage room. I could say cold storage, but that might be a pun too far. I didn’t take the bike. I wish I had now, because in the sun it felt warm and there was no wind.

Just after midday I decided that it would be more sensible to go for a walk in the bright sunshine and get some pictures than to drag the bike out, pump up the tyres (if I could find the pump), get dressed for cycling and head out. For some reason, Auchinstarry is becoming very popular at weekends. I think it must be a place to park the car, then take the bike along the railway path or the canal towpath. I was doing the canal towpath then the railway path.

There wasn’t all that much wildlife to see along the route, but I stopped when I was crossing the Plantation to listen and look. The sky was clear, so you could see for miles. Far enough to see a tiny wee dot that gradually circled near enough to resolve itself into a high flying buzzard. What could it see from that viewpoint? Listening, at first there was only silence. Then gradually the noises of the countyside came in, mainly rustling of the leaves in the giant copper beech beside the path. As I was beginning to hear this, a breeze blew and the leaves flew across the path. Then traffic sounds came in and a passenger plane crossed the sky heading for Glasgow and the rustling of the leaves was gone as was the buzzard. Possibly just over a minute of natural sights and sounds in a 21st century day. Worth watching and listening to if you get the chance.

Walked back to the car and joined the real world again. Drove home and processed the photos for today. Today’s PoD is the macro shot of the moss. Usually I shoot the fruiting bodies, but the red spikes made a change. I also liked the single leaf. Yes, yes, I know. NO PICTURES OF AUTUMN LEAVES. I made the rule, so I can break it. I could say it wasn’t the colours that drew me in, but it was. That and the fact that I was shooting into the light. In fact, in both cases I was shooting into the light, contre jour. I like that lighting. It can give more intense colour in the subject and less colour in the background.

Not a bad day for a walk then. Just a pity I didn’t take the bike, like everyone else at Auchinstarry.

Tomorrow I might go in to Glasgow to get a couple of cheap sketchbooks. Maybe toned ones for a change.

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Ophelia & Vodafone. Double Trouble – 17 October 2017

Ophelia arrived early in the morning. I woke just after 4am with the wind howling around the roof. After I had a plate of cereal I went back to bed and slept until my alarm woke me at 8.30. It was however a fitful sleep.

I think, because I’d broken my sleep, it was a long time before I woke properly. Once I was fully compos mentis I phoned customer support at Vodafone to find out what had happened to my new phone. Hmm, that’s an hour of my life I won’t get back. What a total waste of time. The first guy I spoke too at least sounded apologetic and passed me on to the customer care team. That’s where the help ended. Lots of ‘sorrys’, but no shift on the script that there are no iPhone SEs anywhere. Apple don’t even have them, she said. I asked to speak to a supervisor. She said ok and put me on hold while she went for a fag. Then she came back, did some more ‘sorrys’. Again I asked to speak to a supervisor. Again she put me on hold for a while then came back and said the supervisor had agreed with her that there were no iPhone SEs anywhere in any of the shops. “None at all in the whole of the UK”, I asked. “Yes” she said. I asked her why Tesco had them in stock. Her reply shocked me. She said “Where?” She did have an Indian accent. Did that mean she was working in a far east call centre? I thought everyone in the UK knew where Tesco was. I tried a third time to get to speak to a supervisor and she said that all the supervisors were in a meeting and couldn’t be contacted. It’s not until you go start writing this down you notice things. If the supervisors were in a meeting, how did she manage to speak to one? I hate being lied to. I especially hate being lied to badly. I gave up.

When I came off the phone, I phoned the Apple shop, just to see if there was a smidgin of truth in her lies. “Did the Apple store have Iphone SEs.” “Yes.” came the answer “Both sizes and all colours.” Maybe they are keeping them because Vodafone haven’t paid their last bill.

After lunch I phoned a different Vodafone line. Have you heard the expression “A dog with a bone”? In Scotland we have our own version “A dug wi’ a burst ba’.” That’s me. This time I told the automated system that I wanted to leave the Vodies and almost laughed at the sad automated voice. All this bloke wanted to do was repeatedly try to convince me that an iPhone 6 was a better deal. Thanks to Hazy, I was forewarned and I cut the call short.

I went out for a walk to clear my head and get a few shots to make a PoD. I liked two of the images and that’s what is on the top of the page. The mono shot became PoD.

Back home I had one final phone call to make and it wasn’t to Vodafone it was to Trading Standards. I told them the sorry tale of my missing iPhoneSE and the woeful customer service at Vodafone. They gave me concise instructions on how to complain and who to complain to. If the phone is not in my hands this week I will type out that letter and post it Registered Post. After my Indian experience today, even if I have the phone in my hot little hand, I may send the letter anyway.

Dinner tonight was Simple Fish Stew. Thankfully Tesco (you have heard of Tesco haven’t you) had some simple fish!

Too frazzled for a sketch tonight, anyway I need to make up my sleep-time Ophelia stole away during the night.

Tomorrow? Weather permitting we may go out for a spin somewhere nice.