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Blowing up a storm – 16 October 2017

This was a strange day. So dull when I woke I thought I’d woken in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until I looked at my watch I found out it was almost 8.30.

It didn’t get much lighter for the rest of the day. I was going to say “for the morning” but really the rest of the day was just as dull. What did happen around midday was the sky turned a dirty yellow/orange colour. Almost a sick, jaundiced looking colour. Later I found that the sky over Britain was this colour because of Storm Ophelia which was dragging up Sahara sand with debris from forest fires in Portugal and Spain playing a part. It wasn’t until much later in the afternoon that the sky cleared and normal white clouds returned. Then the clouds parted and blue sky appeared. For a very short time the sun even shone. That was when I took the PoD which is, of course the sweetpeas and the rose in the tumbler . Scamp was being my ‘studio helper’, holding the A2 sheet of white backing paper. I liked the detail that was rendered and the fact that the white flowers were just slightly lighter than the background and stood away from it.

I also used the ‘brighter’ light to complete today’s sketch which is a Self Portrait. I think it’s a fair likeness although my eye is too large. The scruffy beard and all the dark lines on my face are fairly accurate. In the morning I finished yesterday’s Inktober sketch. Or to be more exact, I drew yesterday’s sketch. It’s an old cow bell. It was my dad’s and he got if from his sister who was in Malaya back before WW2. I’ve always liked it and today was its time to shine, although I didn’t do it justice. I thought it would be an easy thing to draw, just a sphere with some bits cut out. It’s not that easy at all. I have to learn to treat subjects much more carefully. Look and examine before putting pen or pencil to paper.

Driving in to Glasgow tonight was ‘interesting’ with the winds associated with ex-Hurricane Ophelia battering us on the motorway. Coming home was not quite so bad for some reason, but we don’t get the worst of the winds until the early hours of the morning. Poor Ireland has been battered all day. Salsa itself was good tonight. Much better than last week and at the end, Jamie G offered to demonstrate the three moves we did tonight for us to video them. That’s a great idea. Scamp was the model and I think she did very well, although she wasn’t impressed.

Well, no communication from Vodafone today despite being told by Omkar yesterday that: “You would get the confirmation tomorrow.” I can quote that because Vodie sent me the transcript of our conversation. I like evidence when I’m formulating my complaint!

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll see what the wind is like.

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Wrong Tyres – 4 October 2017

Thought I’d get up out early to Jim Dicksons, only to find that there were about ten people already waiting for their tyres. Booked in and went for a walk. Shouldn’t be long the girl said. Walked down past the old school and got some photos there. Then went along to see if I see anything worth sketching, but nothing inspired me. Eventually turned back and waited in the garage, only to be told that the supplier had delivered the wrong tyres! Bloke apologised, well it wasn’t his fault, and said they’d be in about 1pm. Came home in a strop. This is what I’d given up my nice warm bed for. Calmed down when I realised they were about the cheapest around and they HAD apologised.

Finished my book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben this morning. It was translated from German, but unfortunately it was translated into american. Why can’t they translate into English? It was a good book, verging on being a great book, but there was a lot of waffle in it and at first I thought it was going to be all ‘tree hugging’, but the science in it was interesting enough to keep me reading. Thought provoking is what I’d call it.

Finally got the tyres fixed about 3pm. The correct size tyres were there. There was someone to fit them. Job done!

Carrot and Chickpea Curry for dinner. Ages since I’d made this! It was good too.

Salsa in the evening and the lights worked in the Juke. Not as bright as the Megane, but at least they were there. The beginners class had reduced from around 50 eight weeks ago to about 10 tonight. Some folk just don’t have the stamina for classes!

Today’s sketch is just a place marker.  Need to be more organized.  Get Things Done as Bowie said.

Really wet coming home, but the weather system is supposed to pass overnight with the prospect of a good day tomorrow. If it is, we’re off to DML.

 

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Today I had a plan – 2 October 2017

You should always start out with a plan. If nothing else, a list of things to do today. I had a plan, and I stuck to it (almost).

Maybe it was the getting up early yesterday to watch the Sepang GP that did it. Maybe it was that if I stayed in bed I’d be listening to the wind howling through the trees. Maybe it was because Scamp had shamed me into getting up and out. Probably all three. I got up and got going. First stop on the plan was The Fort. I was looking for two or three half pans of watercolour paint, some fixative aerosol and some magnetic plastic strip. I figured I could get them all at Hobbycraft. Next, I was going to the gym or maybe the pool to kick the dull winter blues. Thirdly I was going to get a photo and a sketch done. The magnetic strip was no problem, Hobbycraft had loads of different sizes and shapes of them. Hedged my bets by getting some strip and also some stick-on squares. Half pans were a non starter. They didn’t sell them. Fixative was too expensive at £10. So I’d have to drive in to town and go to Cass Art.

It’s wasn’t an onerous task driving into town. Just for fun I switched into Sport mode and enjoyed the acceleration driving along the motorway. Parked no bother up on St James Street. That’s not its real name. I can never remember its real name, but it’s always St James Street to us. Walked down into the town and noticed that as usual it was much calmer with the buildings to shelter us pedestrians from the wind. Except, that is when you are near the big curved glass and steel structure on Queen Street. Like the Sky Garden in London, it seems to attract the wind and magnify its effect, possibly the curved frontage has something to do with that. Got the fixative, but still couldn’t find the colours was looking for and time was ticking away if I was going to achieve number 2 on the list. Gave up and headed back to the car then drove to Westerwood where I spent half an hour in the pool, the steam room and the sauna. Drove back home and just as I was getting to the front door the sun started to shine. It lit up the two or three nasturtiums that have self-seeded in the front garden. The bright orange of the flowers against the green of the leaves made a great colour combination, and that was the photograph. Nearly there.

Sorted out (hopefully) a problem that’s stopping some people from posting to the Flickr Inktober 2017 group and by then it was time to make the dinner. Strozzapreti with tomato, red pepper and spinach sauce. Very nice. Then out to salsa.

First class was easy. Intermediate level. Next class was murder, advanced and lots of twisting, turning, ducking and swearing. I don’t know why I put myself through it. Yes I do, it’s great fun.

Yesterday, driving home in the dark I wasn’t impressed with the car headlights. Today I found out why. I was driving home with side lights. The headlights weren’t coming on. Just to be safe, tonight I drove with sidelights and front fogs. I’m going to have to take the car to Stirling tomorrow to have a word with the man. Then, turning into the estate with no cars around I turned on main beam to see if that would work. It did, and then the headlights came on! So, they have been wired up, but is there a dry joint somewhere or a loose fuse? I don’t know, but in a car barely four days old, I’d expect the lights to work. Definitely going to have to have that looked at pronto.

Finally got a sketch done about an hour ago. It’s not great, but it’s done.

Tomorrow I believe I’m in the navigator and radio operator’s seat while Scamp has the controls. We’re off to Tesco. Then Stirling.

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Inktober begins – 1 October 2017

Today is the 1st of October. For sketchers throughout the world, it’s the first of 31 days of inky fingers and that occasional sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach that tells them it’s 11pm and they haven’t done a sketch that day. On the other hand, as they reach day 31 with a complete folio, it’s a great feeling of achievement. Inktober was started by Jake Parker in 2009 as a challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavour with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year. In 2015 I signed up, but only managed five or six sketches. Last year, in 2016, I was more determined and completed all 31 sketches. I know Inktober isn’t for everyone, but the regime of a daily sketch helps keep the mind and the hand active. Some people have hosts of rules and a theme for each day of October. I try to keep it simple:

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can add a little watercolour if you want to).

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017

4) Repeat next day

That’s enough of Inktober. What of the day? We were up and dressed early today, that is just after 8am to have breakfast watching the last ever Malaysian GP. It looked like shooty in for Hamilton starting from pole, and with Vettel starting from the back of the pack, but it wasn’t as simple as that. It rarely is. For the second time this season, it was an interesting race, even the parade lap after the chequered flag had its moments with Vettel crashing into Lance Stroll. What a numpty.

I had intended going out for a walk to clear my head after that, but I did my first Inktober sketch instead. It was a really dreadful day weatherwise. Rain, drizzle, smir, torrential. All words for rain and each of them had a place in our weather map today. You’ll notice sunshine wasn’t mentioned. It was there, but its presence was measured in seconds, not minutes and certainly not hours. A dull, dreich day.

The bright spot was Salsa at night. It should have been on in the afternoon, but after a double booking we were sidelined to Ad Lib which is actually a very nice venue. I’d go there again, mainly because I got a nice parking spot almost right outside. Well, I deserve it, having a nice new motor.

Swallow Watch:  This week I saw some swallows, on Monday I think, and this is week 40.

Tomorrow? It’s going to be windy and wet. I may go in to Glasgow to get fixative for the pastels and some watercolour half pans. If I’ve got time I might go swimming. Oh, and I need a sketch!

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Dull, Dull, Dull – 27 September 2017

There’s not a lot you can say about today. Certainly not a lot of good things anyway.

The highlight of today was driving to B&Q to buy a stepping stool and a new shower head. Now how’s that for excitement? We didn’t go for a walk. We didn’t go for a swim. We didn’t do anything.

Drove in to Glasgow to Salsa and found out that although Jamie G took the depleted beginners class, Shannon was taking the advanced class so I proposed a sharp exit. Shannon has had her fun with me as her whipping boy, but not any more. She runs a good business, but she isn’t a teacher. That’s an hour of my life I wanted to enjoy, not be told I wasn’t doing things right (i.e. her way.) We left. Just to put the tin lid on things, it rained all the way home.

Didn’t even take any decent photos because the light was so poor. Today’s PoD if you can call it that is three of Scamp’s bus-stop ladies made by Geof Cox.

Tomorrow will be better because, for one thing, tomorrow is is ‘J Day’. Hoping to paint in the morning.

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Paperwork, paperwork – 25 September 2017

 

Checked my mail this morning and the registration document for the car had arrived. That meant it was time to get the insurance arranged. Hard to believe, but in the two weeks since I last got a quote, it had gone up by £30 from both companies, Nissan and Tesco. After a bit of moaning and wheedling with Nissan I got it down by £20. Tesco, on the other hand, were as flexible as an iron bar. No way were they going to shift an inch on their extortionate quote. Such a shame as I’d been with them for three years and their quote for the Megane had been fairly good. After a bit more paperwork and emailing we were done. Looks like Thursday will be “J Day”.

After that I spent some time swearing at Windoze 10 Creature Edition. I don’t think it will be staying with us very long. Gone, now are the days when you could just access the BIOS with a couple of keys at startup. Oh no, that would be too easy. Now you have to delve into settings, restart the machine, do more configuration on the blue screen that load and then you can access the BIOS. And then you wonder why Macs are so popular? Added to all that, it runs like a slug with a hangover. I do so wish I could go back to the original Win 10 I upgraded Win 8 to. That was brilliant, well, not exactly brilliant, but sooooo much better than The Creature From The Black Lagoon I have now.

Went out for a walk later in the afternoon after I’d taken the Megane for a wash and brush up. By then the sun started poking its face through the clouds and I found it was a beautiful autumn afternoon out there, warm too. Got some photos, two of which are above. Also saw two potentials. Will keep them in mind for tomorrow, perhaps. Today’s PoD was the Brambles. Not Blackberries, that’s for the english. These are fierce, jaggy Scottish Brambles and proud of it. If you look at the Flickr version and click to magnify it there, you’ll see a wee spider waiting to catch unwary flies enticed in to sample some bramble juice. Didn’t see it when I was taking the photo, only when I got it into the computer. The other plant’s name evaded me for years, but now I know it’s a Butterbur of the genus Petasites. There, you’ve learned something today (I learned it yesterday, so I’m a day ahead of you).

Strange night tonight, not having Salsa on a Monday is quite unsettling. Hopefully Wednesday will arrive soon and we’ll get our Latin fix.

Weather seems favourable tomorrow. We may go out for a run. In the car of course!

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Rain and Salsa, nothing else – 24 September 2017

Rain reigned today.  It started off just dull, then the rain came and really outstayed its welcome.

Had  a Neil D lunch of last night’s Chicken Rogan Josh and it went quite nicely on toast!  Then made the mad decision to give in and allow Windows 10 to perform its upgrade to Win 10 Creators Update.  That was about 2:30pm.  It’s now about 11.45pm and it’s still doing it.  Ok, I admit I closed it down to go to the Sunday Social, but it’s been going hard at it for the last four hours and is still not finished.  I hope the Creators (or is that Creatures) are worth it.  There was a message to say that I could postpone it to allow me to back up the hard drive, but then it seemed to say “Fuck it” and started installing it anyway borking the backup.  That’s what I love about Microsoft, NOTHING.  Macs, even with the despicable El Capitan are so much more user friendly that anything Mickysoft produces.  Windows 7 was the last stable OS on a PC and then Windows 8 came along to be the ‘inbetween OS’  The one that never worked.  No Windows 9 for some reason, maybe the same reason there’s an iPhone 8 and an iPhone X, but no iPhone 9.  Windows 10 started out well, then the inevitable upgraded borked it too.  Hopefully the Creators Upgrade will sort everything out, but I doubt it.  I think I’ll just return it to factory settings after its done its worst.

On a brighter note, Salsa was really fun tonight.  Maybe that’s because we had tapas in the restaurant before the dancing started.  Scamp got to dance with the legendary ‘Jamie’.  Not ‘our Jamie’, nor Jamie Gal, but the strange and twisty turny ‘other Jamie’.  I think Scamp was quite taken aback when he asked her to dance.  She did look terrified when I saw her!!  I should explain that ‘other Jamie’ is an excellent dancer who we see at most of the socials.  We think he is a professional dancer.  A very smooth mover who likes to show off on the floor.  He often dances with guys too!  We did think he might be gay, but he appeared with his wife and wee boy.  I know that’s no proof of anything, but still …  He didn’t ask me to dance, of course.  There were lots of girls there tonight, most of them beginners or pre-beginners if that’s possible.  I danced with a couple of them, but it was more like giving a lesson than dancing.  Not that I minded.  Then I danced with another girl who could dance.  Unfortunately, I overstretched her knowledge with one move, Aficionado and tripped over her feet, landing on my bum amidst peals of laughter.  Shannon, the boss, had been videoing the proceedings earlier, but luckily she didn’t notice my acrobatics, so it’s just between you and me.  First time ever I’ve fallen on the dance floor!  Bummer.  Literally!

Today’s PoD came from the salsa venue, which was La Rambla in Paisley.  I saw it on the cistern in the restaurant toilet today. I just had to go back in and capture this chrome smile.  Glad nobody came in while I was taking the shot. That might have been a difficult one to explain away!

Just checked and as of 12:13am Windows 10, which was predicting 90minutes for the installation at 3pm, is at 92% complete and the helpful message reads:

This may take some time

This week’s sketch is just a doodle trying to sketch people for paintings and the theme is rain and umbrellas, as if you hadn’t guessed.  The weather fairies promise a drier day tomorrow and some sun on Tuesday.  Let’s wait and see.

Despite all the bad weather we’ve been having I still saw some swallows this week, so all is not lost.

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Party Animals – 22 September 2017

“So do you think I’ll need another shirt to change into?” Question before leaving for John Carrigan and Natacha’s 110th Birthday Bash. “No” came the answer. By 11.30pm my shirt was sodden and Scamps dress was sticking to her. Wish I’d brought that other shirt now!

As you will have guessed today was the combined birthday party. Not a lot of Salsa or Ceilidh dancing, but a lot of Jive and Rock ’n’ Roll. I think I could handle jive, but I’m sure Scamp thinks I’d start dancing ‘jalsa’ which is half salsa, half jive. Well, it isn’t yet, but it would be. I already drive her crazy by inventing moves on the spot. How much more complicated would it be if we added in Jive? Anyway, we may give it a try!

Earlier in the day I framed the big A2 painting based on a London skyline and it’s hanging at the top of the stairs. Looking good too. It’s in an old IKEA frame that was just the right size and the mat is not real matting board, but a piece of cardboard Fred gave me ages ago. I think it sits well in the frame.

I went out to get some photos but the Luggie wasn’t looking very photogenic until I noticed the time and had to hurry home to get ready to go out. Then the sun came out and I got a couple of shots. This one looks good, but it could have been so much better if the light had been better earlier. That said, it’s a place marker and the 365 needed a photo, this was it.

I started writing this at 10.35pm while Scamp was dancing the Slosh or some other mindless line dance, and it’s now twelve fifty ish and it’s time for me to go to sleepy bye byes.

Nighty night readers.

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Dull, Dull, Dull – 20 September 2017

Today was very dull. The light was almost nonexistent. As a guide, we left for Salsa at 5.45pm and the car lights came on automatically and it had rained almost all day. However, before we get to that, other things happened.

Scamp had loads of ironing to do and for the first time in ages, I volunteered to help. That shows just how fed up I was. I managed to do three of my salsa shirts and two runners for the top of the drawers in the bedroom. I know she carefully filtered the selection to give me the easy ones, but at least it was five things she didn’t have to do. I managed to get them all done without burning them … or myself. I know I’ve now created a precedent, but I’ll deal with that on another day. A sunny day.

I added some watercolour to the sketch I did yesterday and it looked a bit better for that. I took four shots of a fuchsia in the garden and used Photoshop to create a ’stack’ which is just what it says. Every photo in the stack was sharp in a different area and the idea is to create a composite of all the ’good bits’ while hiding all the ‘bad bits’. I think it worked. I leave the final decision to you.

Salsa tonight was the highlight of the day. Seeing the beginners class actually dancing I mean reelly dancing was great and the numbers in the 7.30pm advanced class were very healthy again. That’s not to say they will stay healthy, we can but hope.

Tomorrow looks rainy, so I think I’ll do some painting.

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Creepy Building – 18 September 2017

It’s Monday and that means two things. Gems and Salsa.

While Gems were going through their paces I used the time to get a painting idea out of my head. I had a couple of old canvases that I’d painted over and were unallocated at present, so I started into them using some acrylics and some heavy body gel to give a bit of impasto. I was quite pleased with the effect and may work into it a bit more to brighten some areas of the hills to give it a bit more form.

That done, I drove to the Fort to buy a book from Waterstones – “How to paint people quickly” by Hazel Soan. I’m aware that I haven’t posted an ink sketch this week, but the matter is in hand.

On the way back from Glasgow, I stopped at Gartloch, where the ruin of the old mental hospital stands in the middle of an exclusive housing development. I took a few photos, but didn’t linger long. It felt like I shouldn’t be there. I can’t imagine what it must have been like being incarcerated in this victorian monstrosity. I’d heard it described as being like the set of a horror film, but it’s not until you see it, you fully appreciate what that means. I can’t understand why anyone in their right mind (no pun intended) would pay to live next to this scary big group of buildings, because this isn’t just one pile of sandstone, this is a whole group of them. No glass in the windows. Most of them and all the doors boarded up. I didn’t linger long, but I’d always told myself I’d visit it one day. It’s done now.

On a brighter note, Salsa tonight was great fun. Advanced class did Guanabo, Disco, Sombrero Doble Balsero Dos and ’The New One’.

Tomorrow we go to ‘recce’ the venue for a birthday party on Friday for John Carrigan.