The Wall – 20 January 2020

In the afternoon I climbed it and I photographed it. In the evening I hit it.

Gems were in today, as with all Mondays. I had some things to do, and thankfully I have a good pair of headphones, so I could drown out most things that bother me. They also worked on Gems. With the essential stuff done, I grabbed my camera and went for a run in the Juke.

For reasons best known to themselves, somebody has blocked the road to the Antonine Wall. It’s a dead end, but there is a neat little lay-by where I can leave the car while I walk the Antonine Wall. Now I’ve got to leave the car by the side of the road about 200m away. PITA. It’s still possible to walk round the obstruction, but not to drive past it. I wanted to get some photos from the Antonine Wall, but I’d the wrong footwear for the boggy ground, so I restricted myself to climbing part of it and using a fence post as a prop to support my Beadbag™ which would in turn steady The LBJ, which was today’s camera of choice. Got a few photos and one accidental post-focus video. Gave up after that because the light was rapidly disappearing.

Back home the accidental post-focus shot actually produced the best set of photos and that’s what created today’s PoD. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea of the area and the wall.  This shot was taken from the south side of the wall.  The rampart on the north side is much higher to keep out the wild Picts and Scots. I needed a brighter day with better lighting for a better shot.

After dinner we went off again for another visit to the world of dance. Today’s topic was Waltz, but first, one of my most hated sequence dances, the Saunter Together. It really pains me to say that I felt quite comfortable dancing this little bit of fluff. That’s no’ real dancin’! Tonight’s moves were the first half. Next week we got part two. I can hardly wait 😒. Next was the Waltz and I did quite enjoy it. We very nearly got it right twice. That’s an improvement.

The second half of the night was Tango. We’ve attempted it a couple of times with no success. Tonight it was awful. I felt just so far out of my depth. All those fiddly little steps with kicks and flicks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the lesson I just hit the wall. Enough! I never want to dance another Tango in my life. I could happily have torn off the uncomfortable dance shoes, thrown the dummy out of the pram and gone home. Except, Scamp was enjoying the dance and really looked good dancing it with the teacher. Maybe if I ask her nicely, Scamp that is, she’ll guide me in the general direction of competence. Maybe I’ll master it in the week I have before the next lesson.

Finished off with the Blue Angel Rumba which I’m almost managing. It just takes a different mindset from Salsa. It’s all about the feet and the hands just float about. Salsa is all about the hands and the feet just keep you moving.

Tomorrow the weather looks cloudy and grey. No plans yet.

Out before 11? Oh yes – 16 January 2020

Not only was I out before 11am, I was out and back with a card full of photos by 11 today.

The sun was up and so was I. I wasn’t going to waste good light like I did yesterday. Today I was going out to grab some photons and imprison them in an SD card. By the time I was actually going out, I could sense that the light was already fading, but undeterred I walked over the boardwalk and into the trees. I’d nothing really in my head for a photo, but as usual, I found some things. Mostly they were macro things. Wee things you pass by without thinking, but sometimes you have to stop and look and visualise what you could turn them into. That’s how I got today’s PoD. It’s really just an old rotting fence post with some barbed wire wound round it. I liked the different textures in the shot, but light was low, so I used the torch on my phone to give me some much needed light. Later when I was scanning the shots on the computer I realised the torch light had created a green cast. It was fairly easy to remove, but in the process it accentuated the reds in the lichen growing on the stump and also the rust on the wire. That’s what made it PoD. I could have turned it into a monochrome image, my first thought, but then I’d have missed those glorious colours.

Back home and after a morning coffee – much better today Hazy, we planned the rest of the day. I wanted a new pair of dance shoes. I’d say I needed a new pair of dance shoes, but ‘wanted’ is nearer the truth. I ‘need’ to get my old shoes re-soled, but another pair of dance shoes wouldn’t go amiss. Of course, Scamp is aways on the lookout for a new pair of sparkly dance shoes. Drove to the shop following the satnav and found it without any problem. They had the shoes I wanted, but not in my size. Bummer. Worse than that, they were sold out of gents shoe soles too! Double Bummer. The lady took my name and number and said she’d contact me when the shoes came back in to stock, possibly next week. Meanwhile Scamp had chosen one pair for herself and was considering another pair. Eventually she decided to limit herself to just the one pair, with the option to think about the other pair as a possible purchase when I was going to get mine. Devious.

We decided to go for lunch to Frankie & Benny’s for lunch. Since I was denied my dance shoes, I suggested we go to the Bishopbriggs site, where I could peruse the ‘toys’ in Currys after lunch. I’m not looking for anything in particular, but everything in general, usually the best time to window shop. That’s what we did. The satnav again did the heavy lifting and found us a way across a gloomy and dull Glasgow to the retail park. Fish ’n’ Chips for Scamp and Cheese Burger (No Mayo) for me. Lovely. By the time we were coming out, the rain had started. Saw lots of ‘toys’ in Currys, but nothing that was very interesting. Drove home through the gloom and the rain.

There was one more photo taken today and that was the new and updated Christmas Tree fairy. She’s been in need of a makeover for many years and this year she got her wish. New underskirt. Newly washed (twice washed) dress and a new pair of sparkly wings. Most of the work was down to Scamp. Before she goes back in her box and into the loft until next year it seemed like a good idea to give her a photoshoot. I do believe she’s smiling.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere. It will be cold, but clear for most of the day according to the weather people. We’ll wait and see.

Brendan Blunders In – 13 January 2020

Do these weather chappies think if you give a storm a ‘human’ name, it makes it less scary? Somebody should tell them it’s not working.

Today’s storm was named Brendan and it was a stoater. It blundered around, knocking down bins and firing the rain in your face when you weren’t expecting it. It was just an awful day. I don’t like the high winds. I don’t like thunder either. Maybe it’s the noise, I’ve never thought about it really, but I never did like high wind or thunder. I don’t mind rain or sleet or snow. They’re really just different varieties of the water that falls on you after all. Despite all that I took myself out in the wind and rain that was Brendan to get a photo or two and a writing pad. As it turned out I got four photos, all of trees blowing in the wind. All pointing straight up. All with a really slow shutter speed. None with the camera resting on the Beadbag™ which was designed for such a situation! Needless to say one of those shots became PoD.  It looks as if its been converted to mono, but it’s actually just a combination of the contrast and the dull day that leaches away all the colour.

Have you ever tried to buy a pad or writing paper. Nobody seems to write letters anymore. Yes, you can buy envelopes in all sorts of colours and sizes, but no writing paper to make the letters to put in them. I tried all the shops in our new retail park and not one of them had writing paper. A reporter’s notebook was the closest I came. I dare say email had put paid to actually writing to people. Finally I tracked down a writing pad at a wee newsagent’s in Condorrat. I’ll use it carefully and then store it somewhere safe, for the next time I need to write a letter.

After dinner we drove up to the Town Centre to go to ballroom class. Tonight we were tackling Waltz Across Texas as a sort of warm up, then it was into the waltz proper. The routine we’d started to learn last week. This time Scamp filmed the whole routine, both the ladies and the mens parts. The second hour was foxtrot. Neither of us had ever done foxtrot before, so this was all new. I think we may have about 75% of the routine in our heads now. It’s just the part where we teach our feet how to actually execute the moves that we need to perfect. We did also find a ‘bad part’ of the dance floor where we always got things wrong. I think we should mark that area with red spray paint to make it easier to avoid, and therefore make fewer mistakes. After Mr Fox’s Trot we reprised the Blue Angel Rumba. One of the expert couples even offered to take us through it and that made it a lot clearer. We have a video earmarked on YouTube for that one already, so it just needs a bit of careful watching to identify the individual parts, then they should be easier to join together. I think also I need a new pair of dance shoes. The ones I have keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the guys. Scamp’s out with Annette in the morning for coffee too. I think we both need some adult conversation!

It’s a new dance class – 6 January 2020

And we don’t have to drive in to Glasgow to do it.

Scamp was out at a gig in Steps, not the old 80s group, but the wee place on the outskirts of Glasgow. Gems were entertaining today, the first gig of the year. I was staying home to start tidying up the back bedroom. After about an hour’s work I could confidently say I’d found the sofa. It’s not completely unearthed yet, but signs are good that it’s there. It was really horrible dull day, so I didn’t really mind a bit of housework. Then all of a sudden it started getting lighter, shadows started appearing in the room which meant there was light getting in. Yes, the clouds had a bit of texture and they were definitely getting lighter.

Time to go out. I selected Fannyside as my chosen destination because the clouds were breaking up and with a strong west wind I might get some interesting skies. What I hadn’t realised was just how cold it was with that wind. I got a few shots at my usual place beside the pine trees on the far side away from the loch, but then the light was moving and need to move with it. Drove back onto the moor road and down to a draw-in where an old peat processing plant used to be before the moratorium on industrial peat cutting was introduced. Got a bunch of shots there across the loch and the moorland behind me. Finally got a shot with an old tree in it. I’ve taken shots of that tree in all sorts of weather.

Back home I cut the sky form an east facing shot and pasted it in to a west facing shot with the tree in it. A bit of colour enhancement and some Oofle (the stuff Sooty used to use) and today’s PoD appeared.

Just as I was finishing the singer arrived home, quite delighted with the gig. Then it was time to make dinner before we headed off for our first dance class in Cumbernauld.

Lovely big hall. A bit cool, but I know from experience that it needs to be be cool when you’re dancing. We started off with a line dance of sorts, just as a warm-up. I survived it. Next was beginner’s Waltz. There were two of us couples dancing it, but Scamp and I were soon promoted to the intermediate class. Actually I could do most of the moves, but the different terminology from what I was used to and the slightly different combinations flummoxed me for a while. However, by the end of the night I was getting the hang of it. The girl who runs the class is a lovely dancer and seemed to know her stuff. I was most impressed. An hour passed really quickly, always a good sign and we both agreed we’d be back next week, all being well.

Tomorrow we are expecting heavy rain and strong winds, so whether we go out or not and where we go will be determined by the weather.

The end of an era – 16 December 2019

Tonight we said goodbye to salsa and a lot of friends. Maybe not for ever, but for the foreseeable future.

The day started me making a loaf at around 9am, just after making breakfast. Next, a valiant attempt to clear up the living room and fit six chairs round a four legged table. Not quite squaring the circle, but something like it. After that, and a fair bit of bad grace on my part, I settled down, apologised and waited until Gems had arrived for their Christmas party before heading off to Larkhall to get my new glasses which are remarkably like my old glasses but only cost me £30 for undisclosed reasons. Mumbled explanation was that it was because “I hadn’t had the old ones for long and I’d lost them, so there were simply replacements …” No, it didn’t make sense to me either. However I was happy to tap my card and pay the £30.

Drove home via The Fort (I think I should try to get a room there. It seems I’m there more often than I’m at home) the visit was also for undisclosed reasons. Grabbed a photo of the bronze deer that decorate the place, but I wasn’t sure they’d make it to the PoD and I was right. Back home, PoD went to Fairy Nuff in her rightful place on the Christmas tree.

After dinner I think we dragged our feet a bit, not really wanting to go out to the STUC building for the last time. It was one of Jamie Gal’s exuberant Party dance classes. He makes up the most interesting and at the same time chaotic games for these nights. Tonight’s games went from the usual dancing with glow sticks and grab the Christmas hat to Dancing with Crackers(?!) and Stick the Nose on Rudolph. A bit like pin the tail on the donkey, but more manic and with salsa moves buttonholed in.  Finally the big hand went to 6 and the little hand went halfway between 8 and 9 and we had to go and speak to the man who has become more than a teacher, and more than a friend for the past 12 years. He’s become an institution. We both think he was expecting our bombshell.

The class is moving to Record Factory in the new year because the STUC building is being demolished to make way for yet more student flats. The Record Factory is less than ideal as a venue and too awkward for us to travel to every week. Jamie is becoming more sought after by universities throughout the country and beyond, which means he’ll be teaching salsa less and less. Although we will both miss his manic humour and teaching style, we have possibly found a new ballroom class in Cumbersheugh and that will be a boon on cold snowy nights. I think this is what you could call a Perfect Storm. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow to join the merry throng looking for pre-Christmas bargains of which there will be few!

Sun worship again – 15 December 2019

The sun came out to play today and so did I.

Late rising this morning again because it had been a late night last night again. After talking to Hazy in the morning, and trying to remember details of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, we had breakfast. All the while the sun was getting higher in the sky and after breakfast I simply had to go out and get some photos.

The LBJ was a bit tired (like me), so I plugged it in to charge and took the E-M1 with a zoom and the old EPL-5 with the fisheye lens and trotted off round St Mo’s. Fed the ducks and grabbed a couple of shots of a goosander and a mallard then went for a walk in the woods.

Found lots of tiny little fungi, smaller than my pinkie nail, but couldn’t quite keep them in focus. Finally moved on and got some shots looking straight up with the fisheye, the reason I’d brought it! Then I noticed the light coming through the trees and took a few of that with the same lens.
Finally headed for home where Scamp had put the coffee maker on! Thank you so much S.

After an initial look through the photos, and assuring myself there was a PoD in there, we drove in to the Byres Road to the Record Factory where music was playing, the DJ was there, but there were no dancers! Eventually Scamp and I filled the floor by ourselves and gradually, very gradually, people started to drift in. The new area for dancing isn’t nearly as big as the one we were used to in the Record Factory, but at least there are no cross-head screws sticking out of the floor! By the time we left there were about 10 people, not ten couples, just people there. Maybe it was the cold tonight, maybe there were Christmas parties on, whatever, there weren’t may people wanting to dance salsa. Plenty of cars parked everywhere, we had been lucky to get a space. Don’t know what the problem is.

Dinner tonight was a plate of soup then custard and prunes. Not a banquet fit for kings and queens, but perfectly adequate which amused JIC when he phoned.

PoD is the shot of the mallard with the lovely reflections.

Tomorrow is Scamp’s Christmas party for Gems, so I’ll probably help with that and then go somewhere quieter.

The other day – 10 December 2019

Yesterday was a beautiful winter day. This was the other day.

Today was wet with gale force winds. There was nothing good to say about it.

What I did do was tidy up loose ends. Wrote to Alex. Ordered some stuff from Amazon. Nothing all that interesting, just a book and a caddy to hopefully find out what’s on three old disk drives I found in a cupboard. They’re probably empty or unreadable, at least after I get the gizmo I’ll find out. Either way they go in the skip once I’ve disabled them.

Went to Tesco to get essentials like Milk, Bread and Chicken Stock. Put some stuff in the food bank because I felt guilty about constantly forgetting last year’s pledge to do that at least once every week. I didn’t even take a camera with me, that’s how bad it was.

In the evening it calmed down a bit. The wind died down and the rain became less intense. Now at almost 11.30 it’s starting up again. Phase two of Storm Something or Other. More wind and rain with some snow mixed in forecast for tomorrow. At least we won’t be driving in to Michael’s class tomorrow. He sent Scamp a message saying that ballroom classes are cancelled tomorrow. Little does he know that “School’s out for summer.” Well, his school is anyway. Still not sure about salsa, although it will probably be going that way anyway because the STUC is being sold to create even more student flats, and where will the salsa go then poor things? Probably either Revolution or Record Factory, that’s my guess. Neither of them are really ideal. I’m wondering if we should see it out to it’s natural end or just cut and run at Christmas. Neither way is very appealing, but in the end, it’s going to happen no matter what we think, so maybe better now than later.

Didn’t get out to grab some photons today, so it’s flooers again for a PoD. I like this little Christmas cactus. Scamp repotted it earlier in the year and it seems to appreciate the extra food and drainage it’s now getting. There are a few buds on it and this is the biggest. Maybe we should give mummy cactus a bit of a refresh too. She’s been going for a long time now and is beginning to show her age. Maybe that would be a nice Christmas present for her.

Tomorrow Scamp has a review at the docs and I’ve got coffee booked with Colin and Fred. On a Wednesday too! Shock Horror!!

Solar Power – 9 December 2019

Sometimes I think I am solar powered.

Woke to sunshine this morning. Beautiful sunshine. Got up and dressed, no time to waste on a shower, I’d go dirty! Grabbed two cameras in the big black camera bag and waltzed off to St Mo’s (actually I walked, no dancing was involved) while Scamp was defrosting her car. Nearly fell on my backside when I stepped on a thin slice of ice I hadn’t noticed, but regained my balance and nobody was there to laugh at me.

No time for camera testing today. I’d (partly) mastered the buttons and dials on the LBJ and today was too good to waste on test shots. Got a few shots of interesting fungi in the woods and some backlit leaves, but nothing too special. Nothing that was a contender for PoD. It’s remarkable how quiet the shutter is. Much quieter than any of the Olys. Yes, of course I was still testing and comparing. It’s the way I am!

By the time I got back, Scamp had returned from her shopping trip and she’d put the coffee maker on. Thank you Scamp. She’d been busy because she’d made a pot of soup too and it smelled lovely. She’d also done the hoovering which has been my Monday job for the past few weeks. She just can’t sit still some days.

After lunch and after Gems had gathered I had my Monday talk about all things Art with Margie, I put my boots on again and drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal, across at the plantation then back along the railway. Got a few more shots with both cameras, two of which I knew would be on Flickr and one of which I was sure was destined to be PoD. Saw a poor luckless quad bike rider getting his/her front wheels stuck in a bog, right up to the axles. Don’t know how they were going to get out of that one, but I wasn’t going to help pull it out.

On the way back I paused to just take in the colours and shapes around me. You don’t realise just how beautiful the countryside is until you’ve had a week of rain and leaden skies. Sometimes I think I’m solar powered. I need sunlight to recharge my batteries. Without that dose of vitamin D I just get deeper and deeper down and it’s the sun on my face that lifts me, well that and Scamp’s smile. It can lift me any time. “One smile relieves a heart that grieves” Robert Graves.

Back home it was good news. Jamie Gal was in the driving seat tonight. We went in to see if the beginners class needed any helpers, but two weeks of Shannon had taken its toll and it was a vastly reduced class in the hall. An even class of leaders and followers, so we weren’t needed after all. Our own class was well attended, but the skills of the class were a fair bit below what an Advanced class should be able to demonstrate. Jamie took quite a lot of criticism for his absences and I did feel sorry for him with nobody to stand with him against the class. However it had to be said and now he knows the feelings of the class.

Came home feeling a bit deflated with the loss of two dance classes and nothing to fill the vacuum until the new year. Hopefully a new year will bring new opportunities or am I starting to sound like an astrology page from the Daily Record?

PoD today went to a dried stem of cow parsley with an out of focus background. I liked it. There’s more on Flickr.

Tomorrow we’re expecting rain and Windy Willy. That won’t be fun!

A relaxing day – 7 December 2019

After yesterday’s energetic day and late night, today was a day of recovery.

The daylight just sidled in past the curtains this morning. I took longer than usual to drag myself from dreamland. Finally emerged from the shower just about 10.30. Scamp, of course had been up and dressed and sitting with her cup of coffee by the time I appeared downstairs. A drop too much whisky last night was the problem.

Finally got ourselves going just after midday and drove through torrential rain to Stirling. I’d woken with a stuffed up nose and with cotton wool or something like it in my head. One good cure for it, I’ve found, is a good hot curry. That’s what we were going to Stirling for. One of the chefs must have looked out of the kitchen and said, “He needs a good hot curry” and that’s what I had. My usual curry in the Indian Cottage is a Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna with a little bit of chopped up raw green chilli on top. Today the chefs decided I needed half a green chilli. Dutifully I ate it. It was hot and delicious. Scamp had her usual Vegetable Dhansak which she said was “Spicy”. I tried some of hers and couldn’t taste anything through the fire in my mouth from my green chillies. Just what the doctor ordered.

Went back home via Waitrose and drove through another deluge. On one occasion the wash from a car in the outside lane completely swamped our windscreen wipers. Lots of standing water.

The day had stared off dull and became gradually worse as the sun gave up the struggle of forcing some light through the clouds. Absolutely no chance of any photos outside today, so it’s flooers again. Just messing about with the new camera and some old lenses. PoD was one of the best shots.

Scamp’s been in touch with a ballroom teacher in Cumbersheugh and we may have found a solution of sorts to two problems. The classes are on a Monday evening which would conflict with Jamie G’s Salsa class, but if he continues to avoid his teaching duties, we may be losing that anyway. Also, we are now agreed that Michael is history, so another ballroom teacher will be a fresh start.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for some scattered showers and some broken cloud. We’ve had enough of the rain now thank you.

I saw the sun today – 6 December 2019

Not for long and it was late in the day, but it was definitely there.

My little grey cells must have been doing overtime while I slept last night. This morning I’d puzzled out what went wrong with the bow tie yesterday. I think the problem may lie with the pattern. I don’t think it’s symmetrical and I remember the very first time I made a bow tie, I carefully numbered the pieces so I wouldn’t get lost. If I’m right, the pieces have to be assembled in a specific order. It’s one of those things that is easy to demonstrate, but almost impossible to write down. Suffice to say I had a plan. Unfortunately I didn’t have any more of the lovely red print I was using yesterday, but I did have a nice white based one and that might just do.

Did as I had the first time and after cutting out all the pieces, I numbered them all so I would know better what I was doing. Also, I cut the interfacing slightly smaller than the fabric. Long story short, it worked. After a final hand sewing, I now have a festive bow tie to wear tonight to Stuart & Jane’s Christmas ball. I have other clothes to wear too, but the bow tie will be the star.

With that done, lunch was calling to us and Scamp suggested we go back to Frankie & Benny’s again which is precisely what we did. Note to self: Cheese Burgers are good too, but tell them to hold the mayo. Way too much.

Having nothing else to go for, we drove home and I grabbed the chance of some decent light for a quick shot. Well, it would have been a quick shot except I must have pressed a button somewhere, a button that shouldn’t have been pressed, because it switched off the viewfinder and the rear screen. Shooting blind, I got the shot and swore much more than is good for anyone’s blood pressure. Back home I finally managed to get the viewfinder and then the rear screen working again and went for a grumpy walk to St Mo’s. The best of the light had gone by this time, but I did get a few moody sky shots. The best made PoD.

Drove in to Renfrew for Stuart & Jane’s Christmas Ball and had a ball ourselves. Sitting at a table with three other couples about the same age as us. Not at all like the crowd at Michael’s dance. I’m not just saying that because we’re in the process of cutting links with him, this was a great night’s entertainment, thankfully without a drag show in the middle this time. S&J were low key all the way through the night, but they still gave us a great welcome and also kept the ball rolling. We even got a salsa spot, albeit with another six dancers, but they were really the support act! I think we may go to the next social in February, if we’re spared.

Arrived home at just after midnight. Sitting now with a (not-so) little whisky nightcap. Scamp took the sensible option and had Ovaltine.

That was a good night, so goodnight.