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An afternoon among the beasties – 18 May 2018

After I drove Scamp over to meet the other ‘Witches’, the day was my own.

I chose to follow orders for a while because it suited me. I watered the garden just before 11am because the sun hadn’t forced its way through the clouds yet and it’s a sacrosanct rule that you never water flowers or veg when the sun is shining. All those little beads of water become magnifying lenses and burn the living daylights out of the plants. This was the first time the hose has been used this year. I really enjoy watering the garden with the hose. So much easier than humphing full watering cans around. Not as efficient though. There’s a fair bit of wastage with a hose as my sodden trainers were witness to. I even managed to get it wrestled through the toilet window to water the front garden too.

While I waited for the sun to burst through the clouds, I read a bit, drank a cup of weak tasteless coffee, then another cup of really good strong brew to make up for it. I doodled some sketches and I played around with some of the more esoteric aspects of this new photography program ON1. It’s absolutely enormous and like some program designed by a committee there seems to about ten ways to do exactly the same thing with the same results, but using totally different procedures. I assume they are slightly different and that’s why they are there, but to my naked eye they look the same. Finally, after having achieved absolutely nothing and learned even less, I shut up shop and went to have lunch which was another cup of coffee and a ‘piece’ (that’s a ‘sandwich’ if you’re not Scottish).

After lunch I’d had enough of the Hide and Seek game the sun was playing and went to get my dinner and some petrol for the car from Tesco. Then I pointed the Red Juke at Auchinstarry and said “Go There!”. It did. Walked along the canal hoping for a sighting of the elusive kingfisher, but it wasn’t showing itself today. What I did find was my PoD, the first Scottish damselfly this year. I thought it was dead, but on careful examination, the opposite was the case. It had just released itself from its nymphal shuck and was drying its wings in the sun. Also pumping blood into those wings to stiffen them. Good luck wee red damselfly and make good use of these warm days. Rain is on its way after, or maybe including Sunday. After that I found a plethora of ‘beasties’. Spiders, beetles and flies. You’ll have to look on Flickr to find them.

Drove home and set the new, fancy, complicated combination microwave to cook my pizza dinner. It did it, perfectly. Beautifully baked, not quite Peasano quality, but good enough for me and so much better than a microwaved one with that yucky squidgy base. No, this was a firm base with a crispy topping. Superb. I hope you’re listening JIC. Fiddly to set up, but very adaptable. Tried to watch the news, but apparently there is a wedding in London tomorrow and the rest of the world had to stop turning just to watch it. I didn’t. The pizza was too good to wait for.

All too soon I got the text to say that the witches were leaving Ayr, then the inevitable “on the bus” text. Agreed to pick Scamp up at the bus stop and, of course, by that time the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. What was wrong with having that three or four hours ago? You know how photogs love directional light. So that was it. Slipping the leash for a day is a great thing. I recommend it to you all.

Tomorrow looks like the last good day for a while. I suggest we make the most of it.

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Wish I’d brought a sketchbook – 21 June 2017

You couldn’t say it rained today. It barely wet the ground, it certainly wasn’t the downpour that was predicted.

Couldn’t decide what to do with the day, but eventually Scamp suggested we go for a swim and that was what we did. Since my leg wasn’t quite back to normal, I thought a swim would be better than gym today. Pool was busy, but with hotel visitors this time, not spa punters. There were the usual fatties making a floating moveable island in the middle of the pool for others to swim around.

Went over to St Mo’s in the afternoon and got some photos of the insect life, but nothing interesting, except perhaps the shot above of a damselfly planking to show off its abs.

Dinner was a disaster. It was meant to be an authentic Chinese stir-fry using tofu, bean paste and black fungus! I tried sticking to the recipe, but the bean paste just fried itself into a solid lump … twice! Gave up and stir-fried the veg in the oil of the bean paste, then mashed up some beans with a mortar and pestle and added it with some hot water. Put the fried tofu in at the end and let it steam to cook the carrots. It tasted ok, but not really like what we had tasted when it was demonstrated at Gardening Scotland. Maybe we’ll stop for chips on the way home from salsa 😉

Saw a flash of lightning over the hills when we were driving in to salsa. Didn’t hear any thunder and the rain stayed away too. Hopefully the worst of the thunderstorms have passed us by.

There weren’t really enough people to make up a beginners class, and too many men again, so I stepped out … again! This time I didn’t have a sketchbook, so I’m sitting in the car, on a huff, writing the blog instead. Blog or sketch, both take about half an hour to complete. If I get one or the other done, it’s time not wasted.

Looks like the 7.30pm class is ending as well as the beginners. If it does, that will mean the end of our Wednesday exercise! That would be a shame.

Finally settled on an old favourite for the SoD (I like that abbreviation!), the Sudoku block. Trying out the Paperchase sketch book. Not nearly as much ’tooth’ as the Seawhite one. Not sure I like the lack of texture.

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The Dragons are back – 4 June 2017

We had intended going to the West End Festival in Glasgow today, but decided to have a lazy day at home instead.  There was to be no procession and that’s the highlight of the event every year.

Scamp got busy planting, planting and more planting.  Me?  I went for a walk instead.  Walked around St Mo’s and got a few photos of a couple of mating damselflies.  I was using the Oly 10 because it was the most versatile tool for general shooting.  The 45-200 zoom is a great lens and works well for close ups when you attach the extension tubes.  You lose a couple of stops of exposure, but it was a bright day again and exposure wasn’t a problem.

On my second circuit of the pond, a dragonfly caught my eye.  Waited for it to land and get comfortable then got one shot before it flew away to circle the wee pond.  Then it returned to the same grass stem, but it wasn’t comfortable and with each move I made it flew off.  Eventually it settled down on a reed and I got the shot above.  I was quite pleased with it.  It’s a Four-spotted Chaser male as you probably already knew.  Set the shutter speed high (1/800) and aperture fairly deep (f9) and that amounted to an ISO of a manageable 1250.  You just couldn’t do things like that with the Teazer, so it had a day at home.  The dragonfly is a Four-spotted Chaser male but you probably knew that already.  Lots more beastie pictures on the Flickr page.

Came home and Scamp was finished working in the garden.  Finished working, but not finished with the garden.  No, she wanted to get some photos of us sitting outside with our new drinks holders.  We got them yesterday as well as a barrow load of plants.  Set up the tripod, bolted on the Oly 5 only to find that the battery was flat and the spare one had just started charging.  I tried using the Teazer, but it’s so hard to use without a flip up screen.  Eventually got the photo using Scamp’s camera and it has already been sent out to all my readers I think.

Took my dodgy left knee to the physio to see what he could deduce from a bit of prodding and pulling.  His deduction was that it was a healthy knee.  He thinks I’ve maybe nicked a ligament at the back of the knee and it’s now well on the way to being repaired.  He gave me some exercises to do and wouldn’t take any payment.  Good guy.

Today’s sketch is of the Campsie Fells viewed through the back bedroom window.  Just a quick watercolour that gains entry into J’ Ink because of the penwork.

The only fly in today’s ointment is the fact that I’ve got a fasting blood test tomorrow morning and a full dance card for the rest of the day.  Never mind, it’s all in a good cause.  May take my healthy knee out for a walk if the weather allows.

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Another (quite) Lazy Day – 7 May 2017

The weather was to be slightly more mixed than yesterday with some cloudy spells forecast for the afternoon, and that’s the way it turned out.

I did some light gardening in the morning where I was decanting some of the compost from the bin into the raised bed while Scamp did the heavy work clearing the paving slabs in the back garden.  I also planted up some more Basil.  Gave up on the beetroot I’d planted last week and dug over the entire raised bed to mix the different layers of peat, home made compost and odds and sods of compost from the last few years.

After lunch I took a walk through St Mo’s to get some photos.  Saw a couple of beautiful ferns starting to unwind.  Apparently the name for a rolled up young fern is a ‘Crozier’  Like a Bishop’s crook.  Didn’t get photos of any damsels although I did see one.  Nor did I even see any hoverflies.  Maybe the prospect of cloudy skies made them hide, and the clouds did arrive almost perfectly on time.  They stayed for an hour or so surveying the scene from on high, then they went home for their tea.  So did I.

Well, actually I didn’t have my tea.  I got dressed and went out dancing with Scamp to Arta, the new venue for a Sunday Social.  To say we were a bit ropey to start with would be an understatement, but by the time we were leaving we had gelled again and dancing much better.  How strange it was to walk through Glasgow afterwards in my shirt sleeves and short sleeves to boot.  Then, when we got home, I had my tea.

Yesterday’s sketch did indeed make it to Ink 17 as you can see.  Although it’s quite a simple sketch it does capture the feel of the place.  It’s done and on time.  That could be the name for this challenge rather than ‘Ink 17’.

Tomorrow?  Well, Gems are back, so I’ll have to find somewhere to make myself scarce to.  Maybe I’ll go investigating a new bit of wilderness, because the weather is set fair again.  So say the weather fairies.

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Damsel Day – 6 May 2017

After yesterday’s peregrinations across the breadth of Scotland, we had decided to have a day at home.

While Scamp went out to search for provisions, I made myself a cup of coffee and sat on the front step in the sun.  While I was sitting, I spotted this week’s potential sketch.  It’s just the house across the road.  Nothing special about it, just a corner house with some trees in front and some scrubby bushes.  Sometimes you miss what’s right in front of your face.

After lunch we went our separate ways.  Scamp to cut the grass and plant out some alpines and me to cycle, hoping for a few damselflies to photograph.  It seemed such a lovely day, it was a shame to waste it sitting around on the step or even worse still, moping around the house.

With a couple of squirts of WD 40 on the bike we were ready for the off.  The outward leg was so very easy, I knew it was a bad sign.  It was a tailwind.  The wind was from the east and also stronger than it was in the morning.  That meant it would be a headwind on the way home.  However, after wandering around for a while without any signs of insect life, I caught a few shots of a hoverfly sitting on my bike jacket.  A nice little one, with bright yellow stripes.  Maybe someone on Flickr will ID it for me.  Then I saw a little red damsel.  The first I’ve seen in Scotland this year.  I saw some in Tobago in February, but that’s a different world.  Here we don’t usually see damsels until the end of May or the beginning of June.  Early May is very unusual.  Got a few shots of it, then started to plan them a bit better, trying to get at 90º to its long body to keep as much as possible in sharp focus.  Almost impossible with the extension tubes and the very narrow depth of field.  Still, got a few ‘keepers’.  Nice colour on the body and thorax.

As I predicted, the homeward leg was a struggle with a gusty eastern wind.  Bag was heavy too with a couple of rocks to create perches for the smaller birds in the birdbath.

Dinner was the second attempt at Spanish Rice (just as good as the first.)  While I was making it, Scamp was sunning herself with a Pimms for company in the back garden.  Yes, she did have her sun cream on.

Watched the BFG on Amazon Prime tonight.  Great escapist fun.

Tomorrow?  Probably dancing in the afternoon, the rest is up for grabs.

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An Afternoon with the Beastie Boys (and Girls) – 4 August 2016

4 augNow that was a much better day, wasn’t it. The answer here was a resounding Yes! Spent the afternoon finishing off my latest read, Cloud Atlas. Not the best book I’ve ever read. Five or six disparate stories that were tenuously linked. I’d previously read The Bone Clocks and enjoyed it tremendously, but apart from the cloned server, I didn’t like any of the subjects. Maybe I wasn’t concentrating enough, but I just couldn’t see the point of the whole thing. I’d made the mistake of buying the book – physical book, from a bookshop – without even flicking through it. It was a fairly substantial paperback, but when I opened it, my heart sank. Such a small font. It made it really difficult to read, even with my best reading glasses on. That and the silly phonetic spelling made we want to give up before I’d begun. However, Kindle to the rescue, I downloaded an e-book version and at least I was able to change the font size, if not the irritating attempt at an 18th century dialogue. It’s finished. I gave it only one star on Amazon and will do the same in Goodreads. I’m glad I didn’t read it before Bone Clocks because I would have missed out on an interesting and thought provoking novel. Sorry Hazy.

Today! Scamp was out in the morning having coffee with family. After finishing CA, I set to, to hoover, or to be more exact, Dyson the downstairs. That done and Facebook checked out, I attempted today’s Hard sudoku. It was certainly hard. Just after 10pm tonight I finished it using more than a few ‘hints’ from Enjoy Sudoku on my phone.  Anyway, it too is done. As you can imagine, I called a halt to the number crunching earlier, in time for lunch. Afterwards, the weather was still holding up so I went out on my bike, looking for beasties. Hoped to find some dragonflies in far flung places, but none were to be found. Instead, I found a couple of hover flies, a hungry damselfly, a crane fly AKA Jenny Longlegs and a Burnet Moth. I’ve not seen any Burnet Moths for the last couple of years and it was a pleasure to find a couple of photogenic ones today. It was a pleasant day for cycling. Not much wind, warm without being hot and with just a few rain showers to cool a lazy cyclist down without getting too wet.

Tomorrow will be a busy day, so I’m glad I got some relaxation time today.

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More Repairs – 9 July 2016

8 july bThe Megane was due in at the garage for 8am, so it was another early rise, this time for both of us.  Got it down there on the dot at 8am.  Back for breakfast then just after that, decided to set the garden back the way it was before the fence went up.  Almost the way it was.  Scamp wanted the compost bin put in a new position, so clearing a space for it and levelling it was the first order of the day.  With that sorted, we could procede to refill it from the six black bin bags we’d filled with the compost.  Then plants in their pots had to be relocated round the periphery of the garden.  Some trimming next.  Two branches of the Rowan Tree were encroaching in the neighbour’s garden, so I lopped them off.  Dead headed the Schoolgirl rose at the front and that’s where I found the caterpillar.  It ended up in the front grass to fend for itself.

Just before lunch, the garage phoned to say that the Megane was ready and for once the bill was slightly smaller than we had estimated.  Every little helps.  Picked up the car and came home for a well earned lunch.  After that, I drove us in the Megane with its new CV joint boot to Bishopbriggs to get a lightweight Manfrotto tripod I fancied.  It will probably be a ‘car tripod’ as the big Manfrotto is a bit of a tight squeeze in the boot.  It really is a neat little thing and is much less cumbersome than the big 055CL.  However, I will keep the 055 to hold the D7000 because it feels much more secure on the big Tri.

Went for a walk over St Mo’s and got the shot of the damselfly.  The Pana lens wouldn’t focus on the damsel because it found the daisies in the background more attractive, so I used manual focus and focus peaking on the ’10 to get accurate focus on the insect and it worked perfectly.  The butterfly is a Ringlet and this is the first time I can recall seeing this name.

One wee sad thing today, but a happy thing too.  Val wanted a DSLR.  He’d been given one by one of his friends, but that person asked for it back.  He’s been looking for a cheap second hand one for a while with no success.  I had a D70 that’s been redundant since I got the D7000, so I stuck on the Nikkor 70-200mm and gave them to him.  I think he liked them.  I hope he enjoys using them as much as I did.  A wee bit sad for me parting with them, because they’ve both been great tools for me, but hopefully a happy day for Val, who’s going through a bad patch just now.

More problems uploading to Flickr tonight.  That’s the second time this week.  I finally got the images uploaded, but I think I may be looking for a new repository for my images soon, along with a few other people according to the forums on the net.

It’s not been a bad day at all weatherwise.  A little rain in the morning, but lots of blue skies and a lovely sunset tonight.  Let’s hope for more of the same tomorrow.

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Sitting in the Sun and Begbie Returns – 29 May 2016

29 MaySunshine again!  Today we went to Loch Lubnaig, just north of the ‘Geriatrics’ Sunday Favourite’ Callander.  We were late leaving and I just knew we were going to run into queues along the route.  First bottle neck would be Dobbies garden centre just outside Stirling – It wasn’t too bad for a change.  Next on the list would be Blair Drummond Safari Park.  It was just as bad as I expected.  All these families eager to see the wild animals.  The queue was quite long, but as I drove past I glanced right and that was where the queueing really started and went on as far as the eye could see.  Maybe it’s the passengers in the cars that would be wilder than the animals by the time they got parked.  I wished them luck.  Strangely, the rest of the journey was uneventful, even Chronic Callander and we got parked at the new lochside parking at Lubnaig without any trouble.  An hour later, things were a bit more frantic in the carpark with cars abandoned everywhere.  People just seemed to park wherever there was a space long enough and wide enough for their car, with no thought of how other drivers were going to negotiate their exit.  They were in their space and that’s all that mattered.  Dobbers!

Lunch was a roll ‘n’ sausage for me and a roll ‘n’ egg for Scamp.  That was the last of the rolls and the last of the eggs.  We got ours and that’s all that mattered!  Loads of people there.  Must have been well over 100.  That’s what happens when you build a carpark at a scenic spot, provide facilities and catering.  If you build it right, people will come.  Think on this NLC.  After a couple of hours sitting in the sun, we decided to head home.  Scamp to do some gardening, me to cycle.  However, a pair of numpties were parked right behind us and didn’t look like moving.  No problem.  I put on my Begbie voice and they shifted sharpish.  Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished ‘The Blade Artist’ which is the story of how Begbie, the psycho from Trainspotting’s life has panned out.  Anyway, homeward through the legions of Grey Hairs out for ice cream and chips in Callander.

Got a few photos of a little red damselfly while out on my bike and Scamp got her pansies planted.

Swallows are flying lower today which means the weather may not be as good tomorrow.

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Of Books and Bookshops – 11 May 2016

comboA few years ago I bought a Kindle. Scamp thought I was mad. Then I bought her a Kindle and she realised the potential of this little slab of plastic and ‘tronics. Since then we’ve both had an on/off relationship with e-readers. Mostly on. I like the instant result from downloading a book. I like being able to carry a dozen books around with me on my slate. I like being able to read late at night by my illuminated screen without disturbing anyone. I like the novelty of having an on-board dictionary where I can discover, not only the meaning of a word, but also its derivation. We don’t have a bookshop in the town and I have to travel in to Glasgow or Stirling to peruse bookshelves. I could go to the library, but somehow that’s not as satisfying as handling and owning a new book, maybe it’s the owning part that’s the most important. If I didn’t have the money, I’d have to rely on our local library and maybe I should use it more, because if I don’t use it I could lose it, but mostly I’m sold on digital downloads.

Sometimes I deliberately buy a book, a physical book, just because I like the weight of it in my hand, or the tactile feel of turning a paper page, rather than the pretence of stroking a screen. Or sometimes, especially with a newly published book it’s actually cheaper to buy a book than a digital download. I have on occasion bought a non-fiction download, but I’ve never been totally satisfied with them even if I can search through them much more easily than with the printed article. There’s a place for books and equally there’s a place for Kindles.

I was thinking about this today when we were in Waterstones in Glasgow. I saw their Book of the Month and thought it looked interesting, then said to myself “I’ll add that to my Book LIst”. However, although I added it to the list I’ve got on my phone, I mentally added it to a paper book list, not an e-book list or just a must read list. Maybe some books are better read in printed form rather than electronically. For my birthday, Hazy gave me two paperback books and Scamp gave me a book token. Maybe that’s what’s reawakened my interest in printed media. I know I’ll probably take my Kindle on holiday with me, but I might just take a book too.

After we came back from Glasgow Scamp got settled in her chair at the front door. I took the shot of the disintegrating tulip. Tulips have no shame. They quite blatantly display their naughty parts for public gaze. With at least one decent photo in the bag, I got the bike rack out and took the bike down to Auchinstarry then cycled along the canal to Kirkintilloch. The only real reason anyone would go to Kirky is for the exercise of cycling along the canal tow path. Other than that, it has little to recommend it. On the way I saw the little pink blossom with its translucent green leaves beside the canal.  Also, saw my first damselfly of the year.  Not the best photo, but it was down in an overflow channel from the canal and I wasn’t going to go down to get a better shot. Turned at Kirky and came back, knowing that I’d be heading into that same east wind from yesterday and the day before. It was heavy going for a while, but quite exhilarating too. Got back and joined Scamp for a relaxing hour in the sun before dinner.

Another beautiful day. More of the same tomorrow? Yes please!