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Get the pain over with early – 16 December 2017

Up fairly early for a Saturday defrosted the car and on our way in to Glasgow to do some Christmas shopping.

Like I said yesterday, get the pain over with early. Parked no problem and the streets were almost clear of ice. In town we agreed to go our separate ways and meet up in about an hour for a coffee and an update on our progress. Actually, for once we were both finished early, so we went for a coffee and a wee pastry in Nero in Sausage Roll Street. While I was getting our order in Nero, the bloke next to me, about my age I’d guess, was huffing and puffing. I turned to him and said “It’s not that bad.” He just looked at me and said “Oh, it is. We’re just starting the shopping, but we’re having a coffee before we get going.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him we were finished and on our way after our coffee.

It was good to drive home knowing that we had the rest of the day to look forward to, with some shopping done. In town, I’d gone in to Mandors to look for material for a project I’ve got in my head and came out, instead, with a piece of vinyl printed with the Snowman™ theme. I thought it would make a good table cover. It cost a bit more than I had intended, but when I saw Scamp’s face light up as she saw it come out of the bag, I knew it was a winner.

I drove to Tesco in the afternoon, but the weather was not really good enough for a long walk so I just came home and enjoyed an hour or so not doing anything. I’d managed to get a couple of shots in Glasgow and really liked the one of the Salvation Army euphonium player so that’s why it’s PoD. I was sure that instrument wasn’t made of metal and eventually went over and asked him if it was plastic. He just smiled and said “Yes”. It must make an appreciable difference on the player’s back carrying a plastic instrument rather than a big hulking metal one. I checked when I got home and the whole thing weighs only 850g.  My next favourite photo was the sea of faces below.

Dinner was at J&M’s in Hamilton. A good night entertained by Ross and John. Food was lovely as usual, just what we’ve come to expect from Marion. Chicken with Tarragon served with carrots and potatoes in a cream sauce. Banana cake with Creole sauce. Not too late home because the temperature was dropping again.

Tomorrow? Not much. Probably cutting the rectangular Snowman™ table cover into a circular one.

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Coffee Swap-Shop – 1 December 2017

Met Val and Fred for coffee today. We really need to change our coffee day from Friday to another weekday. Costa was mobbed again and it was only by luck that Val and I managed to grab a table. Fred was later to arrive today after having to detour to the village to book his car in to have an exhaust box replaced. Swapped my new Yusuf album for a Jools album from Fred, then we critted each other’s sketches. Val has started sketching too, but is not yet prepared to share his graphics work.

It had started out a bright sunny morning, but by the time we were heading back outside, it was dull and dark. Went to Tesco to get the ingredients for tonights dinner which was an experimental Chicken Tikka. Gave Val a run home and forgot that they (the mysterious ‘They’) are still digging up sections of Forest Road. Every time I drive up that road it’s a different two sections that are being excavated or re-laid. Val was telling me that a whole section of the road subsided earlier in the week. Not surprising really with the amount of excavations that are going on. They probably dug a section up and then relaid the road surface the next day without filling in the holes first, what is now called a ‘Workmanship Error’. Workmanship Error was the excuse explanation given for the Queensferry Crossing being closed for repair months after it opened. It used to be called Bad Workmanship, but that does tend to put a negative spin on things. Error sounds more positive, something that could happen to anyone. Grabbed the chance of another sunset PoD tonight after dropping Val off. This time it’s Broadwood Loch, just further along the same pylon line as yesterday.

When I got home it was time to start the prep for the curry. I won’t go into the details here, but suffice to say it was a lengthy procedure and although it was deemed edible but ‘there were issues’, to quote Marcus Wareing the man JIC claims has the personality of a stormtrooper. Not my favouorite person on TV either. Anyway, getting back to the Chicken Tikka. It needed a lot less cream in the sauce, but apart from that it was good. Definitely worth another go.

It looks like it will warm up a bit, or to be more precise, it will thaw a bit in the next few days with positive temperatures. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It will probably involve shopping somewhere.

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Secret Squirrel Stuff – 29 November 2017

Scamp suggested that we should go for a walk this morning and offered to drive. How could I refuse?

She chose Glasgow Green as the venue and I was up for that. We usually go down the green on a Sunday morning, so it was a bit different to be driven there on a weekday. It was cold, but not uncomfortably so and we walked out to the McLennan Arch and then round past the rowing club boathouse to the viewing gallery over the Clyde. It was there I found the puffed up pigeon, the young gull and the swan. We walked on to the suspension bridge and then out to where there used to be a footbridge over the river to Richmond Park. The bridge has now been demolished but the piers still stand. Maybe they’ll build a new bridge (Aye Right!) Maybe they will, to celebrate the next millennium! We walked a bit further on and that’s where today’s PoD was created. Just a leaf with angled sunlight. I liked it right away. That was as far as we walked. Turned and walked back to the People’s Palace. On the way there we passed a group of school pupils on bikes being shown the basics of mountain biking by what I presume was their PE teacher. A good way to spend an hour or so learning a decent skill set that they can actually use. So much better than ‘book learning’. Good for you Mr Teacher, I applaud you. Coffee in the wintergarden cafe, but no Roll ‘n’ Sausage or toast, and then home.

Spoke to Hazy for half an hour or so after lunch and then Scamp decided she wanted to go in to Glasgow on some undisclosed sortie. So many ‘under the radar’ trips just before Christmas every year. I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s the subterfuge that makes it interesting. My own plans haven’t really been firmed up yet, but when they do, I’ll participate in the “I’m just going in to Glasgow”, “No, it’s alright I’ll probably just go myself” sort of Secret Squirrel stuff.

I drove Scamp to the station and then I had time to download this morning’s photos and have a look through them before I got the text to say that she was coming home on the X3. Time to make the risotto for dinner and then salsa. Salsa was quite interesting, but the class is reducing in numbers again and I felt that Jamie Gal was playing for time a bit.

It’s cold again tonight, 1.4ºc but it’s forecast to get warmer again from tomorrow night. I’m going to be the ‘roadie’ tomorrow when Gems play their second gig in a week before the Christmas break. Other than that I’m a free agent!

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Perf – 21 November 2017

Today we thought we’d go to Perf or to give it its proper name Perth.

Now we had to decide whether to:

  • Train (costs £20 have to chance getting a space in Croy station carpark and have to change trains at a cold platform in Stirling, going and coming.)

  • Bus (Free, but then we’ve got to wait in the cold at Castle Greyskull AKA Cumbersheugh town centre and there’s only one bus an hour back from Perf, except when you actually want to come home and then there’s none that hour. How do they know when I want to come home?)

  • Drive (Petrol costs, not very relaxing and the weather is going to be tricky, but we can come home when we want and it’s comfortable – no hanging about waiting for public transport.)

No contest, we’re driving.

We were just getting ready to go when the big yellow cooncil lorry arrived and two blokes carted the three seater settee away in it. Good, one down, one to go. The weather was just miserable leaving Cumbersheugh, but it gradually got worse as we climbed up the A9 towards Perth. On the high level parts of the road we were essentially in the clouds and it felt like it with poor visibility, although a few drivers of small builders’ lorries apparently had radar fitted which allowed them to see further ahead than most of us. The benefit of this is that they didn’t have to use lights at all. Brilliant. I must look into this innovation in driving safety.

Arrived in Perth and it was simply dreich and dismal. Coffee first, then a wander round the shops. For me that meant the Waterstones and Oxfam bookshops. Got a couple of books in the Oxfam shop, but everything in Waterstones was at Christmas prices, so no good deals there. Next we went to get coffee and tea, the main reason for going to Perth in the first place. Couldn’t decide where to go for lunch and finally settled on The George for Fish & Chips with breaded haddock instead of battered. That done we walked back to the car which was at the other end of the town and got a pleasant surprise. The ticket machine was out of order at the booth, so the bloke told us we would only be charged a quid instead of the four quid we expected. Result!

Drove back down the road in worsening conditions after a quick fruitless visit to Morrisons to see if they had any St Peter’s Plum Porter – they didn’t. It wasn’t really fruitless, we did get some Russet apples, so we got some fruit!

Managed a few photos with the Teazer. PoD was the statue in the main street in Perth with his trendy Christmas scarf.

Also managed a watercolour painting from a photo taken at The Smiddy on Saturday

Tomorrow we’ve got nothing planned. May or may not go to Salsa as it’s only one beginners class, but the likelihood is that we’ll go.

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Out To Lunch – 18 November 2017

Neither of us could decide where to go today.

We’d both considered travelling to Embra on the train, but Scotland were hosting the All Blacks at Murrayfield and that meant the trains would be busy. If we’d looked a bit closer we might have noticed that the game didn’t start until after 5pm, so the 10.15am train wouldn’t have been all that busy. As it was, we waited too long and missed the sunshine again. We finally settled on M&S in Dunblane for some shopping and possibly a cup of coffee. On the way there I made the suggestion that we should maybe detour to The Smiddy, a new farm shop / tearoom just outside Doune. Yes, that met with approval. So after buying more than we needed at M&S we went through Doune, giving a nod to David Stirling on the way past. Such a great place for a memorial. With his binoculars in his hand and his coat tails flapping he looks quite the part on the hilltop. Google him if you’ve never heard of him.

Couldn’t remember whether it was right or left leaving Doune – it was left! Five minutes down the road took us to the Smiddy. I was watching the light on the hills as we approached it and was pleased that I managed to grab just a little of the magic before it blew away. The Smiddy is a bit twee and expensive, but the views are good and so is the food, so we weren’t complaining. We were just having a light lunch, intending to have a curry delivered tonight for supper, but both our lunches were substantial enough to stand by themselves, so the curry was postponed until another day.

By the time we left, the light was beginning to fail and evening was approaching fast. Spent the evening working out how to create a playlist on a USB drive to play in the car. It’s remarkably simple to do, just the Mac software makes it a bit of a tedious task. However, it worked and I’ve tested it in the car. Now what I need to do is create a Keyboard Maestro macro to do the heavy lifting for me. That should be a fun job for a wet afternoon. Lots of swearing and talking to myself.

Todays PoD is a heavily edited picture of the light on the hills from The Smiddy.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go dancing in the late afternoon, but the Christmas lights get switched on in Glasgow tomorrow afternoon, so traffic will be hectic and parking places at a premium. Wish me luck.

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Caught! – 26 October 2017

Today, as promised, I drove in to Glasgow

Ostensibly I was going to buy a white pen, and a pad of coloured paper and maybe to ask for some help from one of the Apple Geniuses (or is that Genies!) and possibly to get a photo and finally, a sketch over a cup of decent coffee would help. I actually achieved all of the above, but not all in Glasgow, as you will find out.

Paperchase didn’t have any white pens nor did they have pads of coloured paper. So, it was on to Cass Art with a stop off at the Apple shop first to speak to a Genius or a Genie if one were available. I was trying to find out how to transfer the apps and their data from the Mambo No 5 to the new and as yet unnamed new iPhone SE. I got an answer and it seems like it would work, but I have to confer first with my own Apple Genius to make sure they spoke the truth. Anyway, one tick on the list.

Cass Art had the pen and it looked as if it would work for my purpose. Unfortunately the sales person was having a long discussion with someone I took to be a customer, but who turned out to be the manager. It was only when she walked round to the stand by the tills to continue the conversation that I realised she worked for Cass Art. Both of them continued to blank me as I stood waiting to be relieved of my £3. Only when I turned to replace the pen in the rack did one of them, I don’t know which, ask if I needed any help. I told them I didn’t and left. This is the second, and last time I’ve had problems with Cass Art.

With Cass Art off my Christmas card list, it was down to Millers and glory be, they did have the pen and the paper. A bit more expensive than Cass, but much better to deal with. That made three ticks on the list.

Continued my sojourn to The Fort looking for a book (it wasn’t on the list.) Didn’t get it, but I did get a photo which you will see above. Only one task to complete, the sketch possibly over a cup of coffee.

I was early for once getting to Costa in Cumbersheugh and settled in the only seat available. What better place to do some sketching than over a cup of coffee. I decided that the lady at the next table would be a good subject to sketch. Didn’t notice that she’d seen me. She even came over to speak. I’m not sure if she was impressed with the sketch, but she was impressed with my bravery, drawing in public. We discussed Landscape Artist of the Year for a while and then she took her leave. Whoever you were, lady with the striped top in Costa today, thanks for speaking. Brightened my day! Also, the last tick in the last box.

Tomorrow it’s the in-house version of Masterchef (without the fat baldy bloke.)

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Follow the yellow brick road – 24 October 2017

Today we went to Ikea, where you have to follow the ‘yellow brick road’ round the store, except …

Actually, the yellow brick road with the arrows painted on the floor has been modernised, updated and illuminated.  Now its a light that projects an arrow on the floor.  How enterprising.  I found it less intimidating.  I could stand under the projector and the arrow disappeared.  That meant I was free to go wherever I pleased, without being condemned to go where the arrow pointed, because I was controlling the arrow!!  Excellent.  We just browsed the ground floor of the store because we were looking for a floor lamp.  We didn’t find one that Scamp liked.  I got a frame for the pastel picture and tonight I cut a mat and framed it.  It’s hanging behind me now, but it’s a bit dark in this corner and I think I might move it.

When we came out of Ikea at Braehead, Scamp wanted to go for a cup of coffee, so me being a bit flash, typed Costa into the satnav and sure enough it showed all the nearby Costas.  Off we went following the directions.  Only, it took us down a filter lane at a roundabout, then promptly changed its mind and decided we should have gone straight ahead.  Worse still, the filter lane became the slip road on to the motorway, taking us back into Glasgow.  After much swearing and harrumphing by me, we settled on going to  the Costa at Robroyston instead.  Much easier to navigate.  Possibly the worst part of the whole escapade was that I KNEW where the Costa was, I was just following the sat nav to see if it knew an alternative route.  I’ll be more circumspect when taking its instructions in future.

Back home I started looking for a website where I’d used a Java powered page that worked out optimal rebates for a picture mat.  That’s the edge bits round the aperture that you see the picture through.  I found the references to the page, but apparently the page itself has disappeared.  Every link gave an error 404 (not found).  Gave up eventually and took some useful information from a picture framers forum, then started to write my own program in Excel.  Mine only uses metric sizes, although I did see one written for Excel where you could put in sizes down to 1/16th inch accuracy.  I’m still not sure how the writer managed to code the conversion to decimal inches and then back again to fractions for the output.  Too much work.  I remember working out sizes  of bolt groups for steelwork using feet and inches and being so relived when we went over to the metric system.  Anyway, I got it working and it produces a decent mat.

After the mammoth calculations in Excel, I went out to St Mo’s to clear my head and try to get some photos.  It had been a decidedly wet drive in through Glasgow in the morning, and a dry and bright drive home, but by the time I went out for a walk it was just our usual dull.  Today’s photo I liked because of the twists and turns in the dried weed, but the ISO was 1000!

Yes, I did open the box.  I’m sure you knew I would Hazy. Like I said in the description of the sketch on Flickr:

*I opened the box, and inside was a thin slab of black glass with a silver rim. Amazingly this slab of glass can bring me pictures from all around the world and allow me to speak to people thousands of miles away. I call it black magic!*

When I look back on it, it’s been a busy day.  Most days are now we’re retired.  When did we ever have the time to work, or to put it another way, what did we have to give up to allow us to work?

Tomorrow the weather should be better than today.  We may go out and take pieces!

 

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Phones and Moans – 11 October 2017

Got to try out Skype on the iMac this morning when we had a webchat with Hazy. Seemed to work quite well, although there were more dropouts in sound and broken graphics too than usual. Maybe we should just stick to Scamp’s laptop in future. Must say that when the sound was working, it was superb quality.

Out at lunchtime to meet Val and Fred. On the way back I dropped in at Carphone Warehouse and Tesco to compare deals for a new phone that I need to get sorted for next week. CW couldn’t give me a decent quote for an iphone 6 and suggested I phone up Vody. Maybe I will. Tesco gave me a fairly decent quote on an iphone SE, but I don’t think their coverage is very good outside the central belt in Scotland. Still looking, still thinking.

Salsa tonight was a bit of a drag again. It doesn’t look as if the 7.30 Wednesday class will last past this session. Can’t say I’m all that bothered. I’m beginning to think that two classes a week are quite enough for me now. I don’t mind helping with beginners, but I don’t think we’re getting all that much out of the extra night, except some exercise. I’d rather give up the Wednesday classes and have a night’s dancing instead. That said, it’s really the driving into town Mondays and Wednesdays that’s a drag as much as the classes. I also feel that Jamie G is ‘inventing’ moves on a Monday just to keep the class going and keep the dancers interested. Some of them are too obscure to remember or too long to dance with someone who doesn’t know them. Maybe we need to give salsa break for a while.

Today’s PoD, was the leaf on the boardwalk, taken in a half hour walk round St Mo’s when I managed to get that wee bit of low sun in between the torrential rain showers. The Inktober sketch was a page marker. Just to say I’d done something. Not my best work, but it’s done.

A lot of condensation on the inside of the front windscreen of the car this afternoon, after a rain shower and the back window tonight when we left the STUC. Don’t remember having that trouble with the Megane when it was new. I should probably keep an eye on it, just in case there’s a leak in a seal somewhere.

Think I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow on the bus, just for a walk around.

Posted on the 12th because WiFi was going crazy last night, switching off and on repeatedly

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Untrained – 30 September 2017

We had intended to take the train to Embra today. Scamp even drove us to the station in her car, but …

When we got there we found out that due to safety checks on the line between Haymarket and Waverley, trains (if they weren’t cancelled) were stopping at Linlithgow, about 20 miles from Embra, and it was up to you to get from Linlithgow to Embra. That’s Scotrail for you. Make it up as you go along. If the problem is between Haymarket and Waverley, both in Embra, why are they stopping the trains 20 miles away? That’s a pretty big safety zone.  Must be the wrong kind of leaves on the line again.

Anyway, we told the nice ticket man that we wouldn’t be travelling on his maybe-not-cancelled train today and drove home to change cars and drive (me driving this time) to Perf, not Embra. It was a pleasant drive up the A9 to the Fair City of Perth. Car performed perfectly and I finally got the hang of the new cruise control. I also tried out the speed limiter, but that’s not as much fun. Best of all, I tried out Sport mode which gives you a nice little whack of G-force as you accelerate! Only to be used sparingly as it does eat up your fuel consumption. All in all it’s a really nice car to drive. I’m very impressed.

Perf was busy as usual on a weekend. Far too many people around I much prefer going on a weekday. Got some coffee, some tea and some dried fruit to make my breakfast compote. Fruit for the compote, there’s no coffee or tea in it. Just thought I’d make that clear. While we were there and while Scamp was shopping in Marks, I wandered round the outside of St John’s Kirk, the big church in the middle of the town. I got a sketch done. It’s a bit ropey, but with a bit of tweaking from the photo I took, it should do. Tomorrow is the start of Inktober 2017 and I need to get myself back in harness to do a sketch a day. There’s a wee challenge for you Hazy. One sketch every day, posted on Flickr. You can add it to my group if you want. Only one real rule. The predominant medium must be ink, hence the name. You too, JIC. Get started sketching. Fifteen minutes in your lunch break is all you need!!
Today’s PoD is a wide angle shot from the walk round the church. I also liked the monkey gargoyle!

A couple of weeks ago Scamp came across an envelope from a school venture with a £10 note in it. It was surplus money from a school trip we went on twenty odd years ago. It wasn’t my money and the school doesn’t exist any more, so today it went into a charity tin in the Heart Foundation shop in Perf. They will be able to use it. I’d already checked with the bank and it was still legal tender.

Back home, dinner was a Scamp speciality, Prawn Stir fry. Spicy and hot, but very, very good.

I’d been reading a book about painting with pastels in an Oxfam bookshop in Perf.  I don’t think you draw with pastels, you paint with them.  I hadn’t really used pastels, except for messing around with them for a graphics topic for school.  Today I pinned a sheet of Ingres paper on an old drawing board and painted a landscape.  The same one I’d been tentatively poking paint at for the last week.  This one took maybe half an hour?  It’s rough, but I like it.  Maybe I’ll fix it and frame it.

Tomorrow looks wet. I think we’re going dancing at night because the usual Sunday Social venue is double booked and we lose. Should still be fun.

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Flying Solo – 29 September 2017

Today it was my turn to go for coffee.

Before I went I did the underpainting on my Rannoch Moor painting. It’s beginning to look better now I’ve got the proportions sorted out.

Just after midday, I met up with Val and Fred in Costa. I drove there in the Juke. I was flying solo for the first time. No Scamp as radio operator and navigator. Just me and the Juke. And I was fine. So was it. I even got a chance to use the windscreen wipers during one of the heavy rain showers we had.  I also managed to get parked almost straight and in the box at Tesco, thanks to the reversing camera.

It was when I was walking into the Antonine Centre that I realised I hadn’t taken my old satnav from the Megane. I know I won’t need it again, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

After coffee and a discussion of the state of the world, I drove Val home and he too remarked on the different view you got from the Juke’s elevated seating. After that I went to fill the tank for the first time. The garage had given me half a tank to get me started, but I wanted to fill it to the brim. Surprisingly it cost me just £30! Then when I got back in the car I realised that the petrol tank was much smaller than the Megane. It only holds about 45 litres which is worth about 300miles. That’s just enough to get us to Skye. The Megane took about 60 litres. Oh well, I’ll just have to be more frugal in my driving style, I suppose.

Came home and decided to go out to St Mo’s in the rain to get some photos. I was surprised to find the dandelions still setting seeds. I liked the detail rendered, and that’s why it got PoD. Out behind the forest I saw a trio of Garden Cross spiders on their webs. One male and two female apparently. Troilism in spiders! Who knew?

Then the salesman from the garage phoned to ask how I was finding the car. That was my chance to ask him if the satnav was still in the Megane. He went and had a look and said it was there. He even offered to drop it off on his way home. I said no, that we’d come and pick it up during the week. He must have thought I was mad. Here I am with an up-to-date large screen satnav in the car and I want my old Navman back? It’s the principle of the thing though. It put my mind at rest.

Dinner was a Chicken, Mushroom and Kale pie. Quite delicious and totally gone now.

Maybe off to Embra tomorrow. Not driving though, train is less stressful.