A stay at home day – 20 April 2018

A day to get things done. That was the intention today and it worked … sort of.

It was an incredibly late start to the day and we probably lost the best of the day as a result, but The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an exasperatingly gripping story and one you just can’t lay down, especially when you’ve just worked out who’s talking and who they’re talking too. Just under 70% through the story and I still haven’t a clue who’s doing the murdering and even if there IS a murder. I’ll just have to wait another 30% to find out. It’s a bit like The Bone Clocks and a bit like Inception, but with Hercule Poirot type characters on each page.

When I eventually gave up, closed the Kindle and had my shower it was nearly 10.30! So much to do today. Most of it I achieved. Some I shelved for later, that indeterminate place in the future. Some things I hadn’t intended doing, I completed too. But first there had to be coffee!

After coffee I started on the bread making. Bread making used to consist of chucking the ingredients into the mixer, switching it on for 10 minutes. Then halving the dough. One half went in the freezer to be used in the future and half went to prove to make a loaf. If I was organised I’d get the dough made in the morning and the bread ready for the table by dinner time. Not so with Sourdough bread. Last night I made the ‘Leaven’ which is an extra-energetic form of the starter. Today I’d make the dough which has to be turned four times every fifteen minutes for an hour total. See? It’s quite complicated. After that it has to rest (so has the baker) before it’s tucked up in a basket and put in the fridge to sleep and dream of the nice warm oven it’s going into the next day. Three days seems to be the norm for a loaf. This is definitely not ‘fast food’. Anyway, I missed out the faff of turning it four times every fifteen minutes and went straight to dumping it in the fridge. Tomorrow we’ll see if I ever attempt another Sourdough loaf.

In between nursing and nurturing my dough, I washed the car to remove the rook crap from yesterday and even did a bit of planting in the garden. Basil (two kinds), kale and rocket were planted today. Some went out into the mini greenhouse to celebrate its first birthday and the basil went up into the front bedroom window sill to catch some rays and some heat (hopefully).

Dinner tonight was Butter Chicken from the Spice Tailor range. Lovely stuff. After that I struggled with Windows 10 trying to get it to do what it was told. Like a precocious child it did the exact opposite. Macs may be expensive, but they just work. Even the ones running El Capitan just work when compared with Windoze 10. Such a waste of time. In the later afternoon light I got my PoD which is a crocus stamen among some crocus leaves. I liked it right away.

Now I’m trying desperately to get the photos uploaded and the blog written so that I can go to bed the same day I got up. That would be another thing done!

Tomorrow? Thought of going to Embra, but Hibs are playing host to Sellic and that means loads of drunks on the train, so perhaps not. In other words, “Don’t know.”

Burnt Water – 17 April 2018

Coffee with Fred today. Lots of stuff to discuss.

This was a change of day for us. Usually we’re there on Thursday or occasionally Friday. This week it was Tuesday. We’d books to exchange and TV programs to criticise and building control department to castigate for messing up Fred’s daughter’s extension. Basically we just complained about stuff for a couple of hours, then agreed that we’d had a good natter.

Came out of that dive with the sour taste of the last cup of something described as ‘coffee’, but was really burnt water, or so it felt to me. Went to get some gardening and painting stuff:

  • Seed potatoes. Charlotte, one of Scamp’s favourite varieties.
  • Twine to make a climbing frame for Scamp’s broad beans.
  • Tester paint pots to use as cheap gesso for painting boards

Came home to a slightly rearranged garden again and had it explained to me. I’m sure I’ll forget the finer details, but I have the basic idea of what was achieved while I was out drinking burnt water.

Since Scamp was making dinner I had some time to go and get a photo or two in St Mo’s. Like yesterday, today was a mixture of sunshine and showers. What we used to expect in April a few years ago before the jet stream started messing around with our weather. With that thought in my mind I grabbed my jacket and camera bag and went to see what I could see. What I saw was somebody sitting on a seat looking out over the BMX track and thought it would make a decent shot, especially if I reduced it to mono and darkened the sky, cropped it and … So I took a few shots from different positions and exposure setting. Walked round the pond after that, but saw nothing else interesting.

After dinner (Chicken with a mushroom and shallot sauce since you’re asking), I started to process the pics. About two hours later, after a fair bit of swearing, I finally exported the finished result into Flickr. Takes about two or three minutes to take the shots and two hours to make the picture. The new software I’m using on trial is ON1 2018 and it is very flash, a bit heavy on special effects and unable to export without crashing (twice). I may not shell out the $69 for the pleasure of beta testing their dodgy software for them.

We did manage a bit of dance practise tonight again. Just the waltz, but I’m happier with it after yesterday and today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tomorrow is dancing day!

Coffee and Sourdough – 29 March 2018

Not together. No, that would not be a good idea.

Today was meant to be coffee for four, but it became coffee for three. Fred, Colin and Me. Val being laid up in bed with shingles. Poor man. The replacement of Val with Colin changed the dynamic of the group completely, and also the proportions of the coffee. Instead of two Cortados and one Americano it was one Cortado and two Americanos. Topics discussed were school awards for LGBT, FPs (Former Pupils), FCs (Former Colleagues), gardening and sketching. It was interesting to have a different perspective on things, not better or worse, just different. Maybe refreshing would be a better word.

After an hour or so we split up and went our separate ways. Me to go shopping, Fred to pick up Margo and Colin to go back to his garden. I went looking for plant labels for Scamp. That’s what she asked for and that’s what she got today. After a very late lunch I managed half an hour or so in St Mo’s looking for something interesting. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Just a rotting fencepost, but lots of lovely textures in it. I was surprised to see that the number of the ladybirds I’ve been checking had decreased. Maybe the little bit of sun we’ve had has encouraged them out to look for food. It’s good to see as it might be another sign of spring, although it looks like there’s more snow in week ahead.

Back home, I fed the hungry sourdough starter. I’ve been buying sourdough bread from Tesco ever since I read that book by the same name that Hazy recommended. It’s lovely bread. Very open textured and quite rough. Best eaten as toast I find. The secret to sourdough bread is the starter.  Basically it’s the natural yeast in wholemeal flour that’s been actively encouraged to grow and multiply in a warm, damp environment.  Apparently, and a chemist would know better, the ‘sour’ part comes from the lactic acid which is a byproduct of the action of the yeast on the starches in the flour.  On Sunday I finally began making a ‘starter’. It’s not difficult, just a bit long winded.

  • 200g Stoneground bread flour
  • 200ml Water (30ºc)
  1. Put it into a large (1litre) container and beat some air into it.
  2. Cover with a breathable covering.
  3. Leave for 48 hours.

For the next 10 days repeat the following daily:

  1. Chuck away half.
  2. Add 100g Stoneground bread flour and 100ml water.
  3. Beat some air into the mixture.

So far I’m on day 4 and the mixture is looking interesting (lots of bubbles) and smelling interesting (smells a bit like milk). Hopefully that means the natural yeasts in the flour have started working and multiplying.  And No, Hazy, I haven’t played it any music.  Maybe I’ll try some Tom Waits on it, but probably Salsa would be better!  I’ll keep you posted.

No firm plans for tomorrow. Maybe go to Dunfermline.

Coffee – 15 March 2018

Today revolved around Coffee for both of us.

Scamp was out in the morning and that gave me time to test out my theories about removing the mechanical HDD from the Mac Book Pro. They didn’t work. Neither did the MBP when I tried to power it up. Put everything back, screwed the base back on, checked that it still powered up then left it for a while. Chose to clean the shower cabinet instead. Much easier, if messier. No mylar connections, just a week and a bit’s worth of dust and gunk.

I was just finishing when Scamp came in from her coffee outing. Sat down with a ‘real’ coffee, a bridie and today’s Sudoku which took almost an hour to solve. A level 2 puzzle. Level 4 is almost impossible without some considerable help from the sudoku app on my phone.

After that it was time to meet the auld guys in a freezing town centre. Automatic doors were the problem. Actually it wasn’t the automatic doors that were the real problem. Manually operated doors and punters with one brain cell was the real problem. They open the door so it locks open and walk in forgetting that an icy blast just blows in behind them. At least the automatic doors close automatically … after about 15 minutes. It gave us something else to complain about apart from Council Tax, Income Tax and The Snow. Other topics were Lucky Bastards Swanning Off On Holiday (i.e. me). Lucky Bastards Swanning Off For A Boozy Weekend (Val) and Drawing Homework (Fred). I’ve no sympathy for that last one. He was the one who signed up for a Life Drawing course. Not my problem that the tutor was off ill and sent out a bit of homework to keep them going. Worst of all the above was the cold. They really need to do something about the heating in that great barn of a place.

Came home via Tesco to get milk and bread (staples again). Bumped into Colin who had forgotten about today’s coffee and got berated by his wife for it.

Dinner tonight was sea bream with mashed potatoes, broccoli and asparagus. Cooked to absolute perfection. Scamp made it, not me!

More research for the removal of the HDD tonight and I think there may be some swearing tomorrow when I try to implement the change. I also took the photo at the top of the page. Flooers, never a good sign. It was that kind of day, cold and damp.

Tomorrow, after the swearing, will be better we hope!

Another early rise – 13 March 2018

Out for 9.30am today

Taking Scamp to her hospital appointment in Glasgow today. It was a bright morning, so, since it was a routing check-up, while she was in the hospital, I went for a walk to Glasgow Cathedral. That’s where I got today’s photo, more of which later. I knew I only had half an hour of ‘freedom’, so after getting some wide angle shots of the building, I sat down to draw it. Sketch it would be a better description. Bearing in mind the usefulness information from a book on sketching architecture I’d read last year, I dispensed with the details and got the important bit, the bit that interested me drawn first, then, still working roughly, added in the remainder of the building. With that down, I started adding details, again working from my centre of interest first. It’s amazing how time flies when you concentrate on something and it only seemed like a few minutes before my phone rang and it was time to meet up with the patient. Sketch was only half finished and that half was lacking sooo much detail. Not to worry, it was done. I’d drawn it with a child’s fountain pen that’s great to sketch with. I’ve learned that if you use the fountain pen upside down you can draw really fine lines with almost any nib. Great for construction lines. When you’re ready to add in the outlines, you simply turn the pen round to the normal writing position. So simple and so effective. Two pens in one.

Anyway, a photo or five in the bag and a sketch too. Not bad for half an hour’s work. Drove home and stopped at Costa in Robroyston for a coffee, or to be more precise, “a flat black is stronger and smoother than an Americano due to the coffee extraction process”. However, it still manages to taste like an Americano and cost a little more. In other words it’s a Flat Con. Once bitten …

Back home, Skyped with Hazy for a while and caught up on all  the news from her end.  Halfway through there was a helluva thump.  It sounded like a door being slammed and we thought it must have been somebody next door leaving in the huff.  It wasn’t until the Skype session was over and I looked out the window that I saw the pigeon on the front grass.  Poor wee thing had battered into the bedroom window.  Went to have a look, but it was obviously dead with a broken neck.  Bagged it and binned it.  I don’t like pigeons, but I felt sorry for it.  Now we’ve got a white ‘angel dusting’ on the bedroom window.

Scamp was out to lunch with a friend and I started to clean my coffee machine which was leaking rather than making. The reason was soon obvious, there were coffee grounds everywhere. After half an hour of scrubbing and re-assembly the coffee making process was back in full swing. Just wish I could find some way to prime it properly after cleaning. It takes ages to get rid of all the air bubbles in the system.

<boring stuff>
Next task was to process the photos. It should have been easy, but as usual it was anything but. I’d deliberately taken more than one shot of the cathedral because there were a lot of people milling around, even at that early hour. The trick to avoid that is to take a lot of shots, preferably with the camera on a tripod, mine was at home. Then you lump all the shots into Photoshop in a stack, get the prog to align them, then carefully erase the people in the top and sometimes the second top layers to reveal the building or scenery in the layers below. Sounds more complicated than it is. Then I noticed that the top of the steeple was missing from the photo, so another bit of cut ’n’ paste repaired that. Because I’d been using an ultra wide angle lens, everything was curved, so a bit more doodling on Photoshop and finally Lightroom sorted that out. It took less than five minutes to get the photos and about two hours to make the composite final image. It started out at 12MB and the composite was a whopping 720MB. Still, I got the image I wanted. All photographs are fake, remember that.
</boring stuff>

Dinner tonight was paella where I got to use the Pimenton Dulce from Fuerteventura. Happy!

Tomorrow the dance class in the afternoon is cancelled as the other two couples are on holiday this week, so we have the day to ourselves. Might have a practise session. Oh yes, and Scamp got the all-clear as we expected. Happy!!

A daunder with St Mungo – 24 February 2018

Bright day, so let’s head for Dunfermline on the bus, we said. They do say disasters come in threes, right?

Went for the bus and missed it by about three minutes. Waited in a cold wind for the next one which luckily was due in ten minutes. After a mystery tour of Condorrat and Westfield, thanks to roadworks, we reached the town centre only to find that that Dunfermline bus has been discontinued. Oh well, nothing for it but to head in the other direction and go in to Glasgow … again. We were in on Sunday for Sunday Social. Back on Monday for dancing, on Wednesday afternoon for dancing, and again on Wednesday evening for more dancing. I was in on Thursday to get my hair cut and here we were again on Saturday. We might as well move in to Glasgow for all the time we spend in our own house. Not a happy bunny, I harrumphed behind Scamp into Nero for a coffee. When we came out the black cloud had lifted. The sun was out and we had said that we’d go for a walk in the sun, so that’s what we should do. With a lightening heart I walked down Bucky Street with Scamp and even the Bastard Drummers couldn’t dent my new good humour.

We walked right down Bucky Street, past St Enoch’s (it is St Enoch’s. I heard a wee wummin’ telling her pal on the phone to meet her at St Enoch’s and you don’t argue with wee weemin’ in Glasgow.) We walked on to the Clyde Walkway, stood for a while then walked downriver under the bridges and that’s where I saw the PoD entitled “Lady in Waiting”. As Scamp said, it couldn’t have been any other title. On under more bridges until we came to the Tradeston Bridge, known to Glaswegians as “The Sqiuggley Bridge”. Why do designers and Cooncil busybodies come up with names for bridges when they know fine well the general populace will christen it with a better name. Just build the bridge and wait for its name to appear. Saves time and money.

Back across the King George V bridge and up to Pulcinella for lunch which was decidedly second class. Not just compared to Tuesday’s food, just compared to anything I could have made. Not their finest hour.

After our lunch we walked up to Sausage Roll Street. Me to the book shop. Scamp to Bonmarche. Neither of us came out with anything. Came home on the fast bus and made a couple of coffees to warm us up when we got in.

Somb'di

Today’s sketch started out as a doodle and then this strange wee man appeared.

No plans for tomorrow. That’s not true, maybe I’ll get my bike out and see if it still runs. Yes, I know I said I’d do that before, but the sunny skies are bringing that day closer.

Anniversary – 17 February 2018

45 years ago today we made it legal. The rest is history.

We got the bus in to Glasgow today to have lunch, a wee drink, perhaps and to celebrate our anniversary. We were heading to Sarti’s when Revolución De Cuba caught Scamp’s eye. She fancied the baked hake, wrapped in a banana leaf and the Caribbean Chicken Curry would do me. Drinks in a Cuban bar just had to be Mojitos. The Mojitos turned out to be lack lustre with too much ice, not enough alcohol, mint or sugar. Disappointing. The Caribbean Chicken Curry was deliciously fruity and hot, but lacked the volume I was expecting. Scamp’s baked hake was the same, but worse. Lacking in filling power, but also lacking in seasoning. We paid and left to have coffee in Nero with a slice of cake each, to make up for the pudding we didn’t have.

Wandered round the centre of town. I had a look in CassArt to see if I could anything with a 75% that was advertised on big billboards in the windows. I found one little taster acrylic set that almost made the cut, but wasn’t worth buying for £2.25. Walked up to JL to buy our big anniversary prezzy for us and the house, an Amazon Echo. It had been on sale for £75 earlier in the week, but now it was back to the Amazon price of £90. I was happy to walk away from it. Maybe ‘happy’ isn’t the right word, ‘settled’ maybe gives a better idea of how I felt, but Scamp convinced me that we should buy it. Which is what we did. We were going to have a drink, then get the bus home, but then I suggested getting the bus along to Craiglinn, have a drink there and walk home. That’s what we did. One dobber on the bus, a former pupil. He pontificated almost all the way home. I remember him as a pupil at school. An opinionated, but utterly useless individual. He hadn’t changed.

After a drink in the dingy, but fairly cheap Stonehouse ‘restaurant’, we walked home and plugged in the Echo. Spent an interesting hour or so trying to get ‘Alexa’ the automaton to play some music. ‘Her’ most common phrase seems to be “I’m sorry, I can’t find XXX in your music library.” I’m sorry too. She may be going back to JL.

Today’s PoD was an attempt at a reflection / distortion shot of the Saturday crowds in Glasgow.
Yesterday’s and today’s 28 Drawings Later paintings are oils. Yesterday’s is the orange and today’s is the apple. Used a mixture of oil paints and then realised that although the Water Soluble Oils and the Fast Drying Oils mix happily, if you add water to them, only the WS Oils will dilute and then separate from the FD Oils. Obvious really when you think about it. Pity I hadn’t thought about it before I messed them up! Still, the survived long enough to be photographed and entered. Oh yes, and Scamp bought me a new phone case with the camera aperture the correct size and in the correct position, so no more dark shadows I hope.

Tomorrow? It’s a Sunday Social day, so dancing, of course.

Coffee – 15 February 2018

Most days seem to revolve around one topic, and so it was today I was booked for coffee with Val and Fred.

Although the coffee, or to be more precise, the chat that came with the coffee rather than the vile stuff Costa calls coffee, the chat was the king. CDs passed round, book returned to the library of Fred, replaced with a DVD to watch. Drawings and paintings by Fred and I were critiqued by everyone. Val’s computer problems were discussed by me and him, because Fred just grunts and shakes his head when technology rears its ugly head. Memories of old Glasgow were trotted out along with names that have not seen the light of day for years. Thompson’s for coffee and tea, Epicures the deli. Dino’s the best pizza shop in the town and the wee hole-in-the-wall newsagents across from Dino’s where Val remembered buying his Italian newspaper on a Saturday morning. It was strange all three of us walking down old Buchanan Street together in our imagination, although we were years away from meeting each other, back then in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Sometimes talk and gossip lag for a while when it’s a coffee day. Today wasn’t like that. I think we all walked out feeling better than when we walked in. I know I did.

I’d grabbed a photo before I went in to the meeting. I just like the seedy decay of the broken down back of the Town Centre. With a wee bit of work there’s a world of colour and detail there just waiting to be found. Well, I like it anyway and that’s why it’s PoD.

Crofthouse - Braes, Skye

Today’s sketch was from a photo, but not one I took. It was one I searched out in Google Street View. I think it might be Braes, just south of Portree a dead end road that finishes in a turning circle where the sheep stare at you with derision as you 3, 5, 7 point turn, careful to avoid hitting them. They know you’re not a local. Locals would drive over them. Anyway, that’s today’s picture. Hopefully I’ll slap some paint on a bit of cardboard tomorrow for a wee change.

After a bit of discussion, we agreed not to go to salsa tonight. Five hours of dancing this week was enough we thought and if the weather fairies are to be believed, tomorrow is to be dry and clear so we’ll be driving to Larky to reunite me with my reading glasses and loosen £30 from my wallet for the pleasure, so no driving tonight then. Sounded good to me. Also it allowed us to have a wee glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. Sounds even better to me. We’ll see how things go.

Dancin’, Dancin’, Dancin’ – 7 February 2018

Did I mention that we were dancin’ today?

Scamp was out in the morning which gave me some time to slap some acrylic paint on a piece of corrugated cardboard. It had already been primed with a mix of green, red and blue paint yesterday. Then after a quick lunch when Scamp returned, we were off the other first and second dance class.

First class was Waltz and it was not as frantic or as difficult as the first one a fortnight ago, mainly because we’d been practising. Second class immediately afterwards was Jive and it was difficult. Much more footwork than I’d imagined. After that we just drove back home

While Scamp made the dinner, I returned to the painting and blocked in the mass of the foliage, the foreground grass and the area between that would be the trunks of some trees. After dinner (fish curry made with yesterday’s daal and a couple of pieces of smoked haddock – quite delicious) we got ready for the next lot of dancing.   Luckily it would be easy because we were helping out at beginners classes.  There were too many men as usual at the first class, so I helped out with Shannon’s beginners.  A bit of a culture shock as the moves aren’t very well explained, nor is the timing very clear, but she does make sure the basics are covered again and again and again.  I won’t say any more as I would go on for quite some time.  Next class was also a beginners class, but much more fun and no poking fun at folk who couldn’t get things right, but that’s just Jamie’s way.  A much more gentle and considerate approach.

Came home and slapped the sky in and also added the highlights on the trees and it is now up for perusal on Flickr and Instagram:

Five Trees

Today’s PoD was seen at Candleriggs in Glasgow.  It should spell Candleriggs Square, but someone has nicked a few of the letters.  It reminded me of the anagram round in Countdown.  “Could I have a consonant please.”

I think Scamp is off having coffee AGAIN tomorrow, so I’ll probably clean up the mess in the back room and see what’s what.  May go dancing at night!!

Coffee and dirty pictures – 1 February 2018

We had a quick coffee this afternoon, Val, Fred and me to discuss Fred’s dirty pictures.

Not very dirty pictures, certainly not in the usual sense of the word. They were quite finger marked and smudged, but that’s part of the technique of sketching with sanguine chalk. He’d been to the first of his Life Classes yesterday and was eager to show us the results. They were all female nudes, but very artfully posed. It’s not a thing I’ve ever considered myself. I find it hard enough drawing the little matchstick men and women who inhabit my urban landscapes, but the thought of drawing all that musculature and skeletal framework just turns me off. Maybe that’s why I stick to urban and architectural scenes. You know where you are with buildings. Mostly they are composed of straight lines although with designers making more use of 3D modelling software, and the influence of CNC machines, more and more buildings are taking on curvaceous and sinuous lines. Anyway, both Val and I were impressed with his work and even more so when he explained that he was given 10 minutes max for each sketch. I imagine it’s difficult for the model to hold the pose for much longer than that.

When I got home, I grabbed my camera and walked over to St Mo’s and that’s where I got the shot at the top. A lovely sunset over St Mo’s pond.

Scamp was out for the evening at a dinner party for Gems. I’m taxi driver and am sitting here writing this and waiting for a phone call to say the “Taxi for Campbell” is required.

As well as that I got a first sketch done for 28 Drawings Later and that’s what you see below.  I was quite pleased with it.  The first one I’ve done in ages.  Hopefully I’ll manage to get the other 27 done and in on time.

No great plans for tomorrow.  Scamp’s out for coffee tomorrow.  I might go for a walk.