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Walking in a Christmas Card – 11 December 2017

Today started early, too early.

I switched off the alarm before it rang at 7.30am. A quick breakfast, dressed and out to defrost and warm up the car (it was -7ºc), then we were off into Glasgow for Scamp’s second routine hospital appointment in two weeks. There were warning signs on the motorway that things weren’t good ahead. Speed restriction signs set for 40mph. That usually means a serious bit of congestion ahead. There was serious congestion, six miles of it at just at under 10mph. I decided on a change of direction. If I left at the Stepps slip, I could circumvent the congestion and go through the outskirts of Kirkintilloch. Bad move. As soon as I left the 10mph motorway, the slip road ground to a halt and the motorway speeded up, but it was too late to change my mind, the die was cast. Not to worry, we’d plenty of time in hand for such contingencies. Eventually reached the roundabout and headed for Kirkintilloch, then I saw the queue on that road and the blue flashing lights at the head of the queue. That explained the congestion. There was an accident at the next roundabout and it looked as if everyone was heading back on to the motorway we’d just left. There was nothing for it but to rejoin the queue on the motorway and follow the sat nav. After about fifteen minutes of ‘taking the second exit’ and ‘turning left in 200yards’, the computerized voice proudly announced, “You have reached your destination” which was a dead end next to a boarded up shop with two dead cars parked outside. Shouting “Oh no it’s not” didn’t seem to help, so I did what I usually do and followed my nose for about 100yds and found the sign directing us to the hospital. Got there with time to spare and it looked like everyone else had been held up too, because we sat in the waiting room for another half an hour or so. Scamp got seen and told everything is ok, come back in six months. After a cup of coffee and a scone, we made our way home. This time the sat nav took a totally different route, through the outskirts of Glasgow and we were were home in less than 20 mins.

Next thing to do was get the room sorted for Gems Christmas party, then I volunteered to go and collect Margie while Scamp prepared the food. I then vamoosed to get some photos. I drove to Auchinstarry and walked the canal. It really was like walking inside a Christmas card. Everywhere was white and clean looking. It was cold too, but I was wrapped up well, with hat, gloves, scarf and fleece lined Bergy jacket, but I could still feel that dry cold you get on really frosty days. I’m not sure what my PoD is. I think it might be the tilted Christmas tree, which is really a frosted piece of reed poking out of the ice on the flooded Auchinstarry quarry. Decided I couldn’t hang around too long, because Scamp wanted me back for 3.30pm to take Margie back home. Managed that with a few minutes to spare.

Salsa tonight was good, mainly because we only had one new (impossible) move. The exercise was good.

Tomorrow I think I’m going in to Glasgow in the afternoon. Certainly don’t plan an early rise!

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Recovery – 4 December 2017

After an exhausting night’s dancing, today was a day to recover … for a short while before more torture dancing tonight.

The day started fairly late for me. Nearly 10.30am before I surfaced properly. After that, the first item on the agenda was to get moving and wash the car. Poor Juke was looking a bit down in the mouth and needed a swift shampoo. After that, it was nearly lunchtime. Then a short respite before Gems arrived. I just had to get out, because today the wee souls were singing Christmas Carols, my least favourite musical interlude.

I took myself off to look for photos down the Luggie. I’d only walked a few yards along the river when I disturbed a deer on the far bank. Now it’s stretching it to call the Luggie a river. It’s really a burn, or if you’re not Scottish, a stream, so the deer wasn’t far away. Perfect shot for the Oly … except:

  1. The white balance was still set for indoor lighting, so consequently everything in the finder was blue. Soon fixed that, but the deer was gone, but magically another, smaller one took its place.

  2. Tried the shot with the white balance set to auto, but when I pressed the shutter nothing happened. More correctly, something happened. The self timer was still set to 12 seconds. You’d be surprised how far a deer can run in 12 seconds. No chance.

Moral of the story is make sure your camera is on the correct settings for the conditions. Preferably before you lose the shot. I was just walking away from my lost deer when I turned and saw a third deer haring (or should that be deering) up the hill. One adult and two young deer and I missed every one of them. That left some weeds in the failing light, so that’s the reason for the esoteric and ethereal PoD.

Salsa tonight was poorly attended as salseros nursed aching legs, aching feet and a multitude of bruises inflicted by over-excited and under-experienced beginners. Ok, some of older ones should have known better and didn’t, but some of the beginners had been hitting the ‘happy water’ quite heavily before they arrived and were seriously out of control (and probably out of their box too). We went over four recent moves tonight, only one of which was entitled ‘hasn’t got a name yet’.

Off to Falkirk tomorrow to speak to the FA.

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Having a Ball – 3 December 2017

Today was the Salsa Ball. Everything else paled into insignificance before this great annual event.

I did get out for an hour in St Mo’s in the afternoon, but the light was poor and fairly flat, so it wasn’t conducive to interesting textures or anything really. I did find a wee hibernating ladybird on an ash tree, never seen that before. PoD became the ‘looking down view’ of the Cladonia lichen. They look so alien, especially from this viewpoint.

Dinner tonight was a re-heated curry from last night and like second-day soup, tasted even better than it did the day before.

I’d decided to drive in to Glasgow and park directly across from the Classic Grand in the Q Park in Jamaica Street. Unfortunately the satnav couldn’t find a way in to it and kept trying to make me drive the wrong way down one-way streets. I eventually found another 24 hour Q Park, not far from Jamaica Street.

The starting time for the Ball was 8pm, but we were told the doors would be open at 7.45. When we got there, the queue outside told us that Shannon had got it wrong. Actually, it was the Classic that had it wrong, some of their staff hadn’t turned up and to be fair, it was Shannon who stepped in and took the tickets at the door. The place was mobbed! There was a bachata lesson before the dancing proper started, but there were so many folk on the floor, you couldn’t see what was going on. I think we have it on video, and Scamp liked the moves, so we may add them to our ‘repertoire’. After the bachata, Jamie Gal tried to do a glow-stick rueda, but it ended up a total shambles. There were meant to be two concentric ruedas, but it just ended as a ‘rammy’. After that it was social dancing. I got told off by Grant’s wife for not dancing with Scamp! I was just so much in demand, you see by all the beginners!!  Overall it was good, but not as good as last year.

I finally threw in the towel about 11pm. I was exhausted and my list of moves was exhausted too. Walked back to the car and found that we only had to pay £7 for the night’s parking. That’s a lot better than I had expected and a great deal more convenient than waiting for a taxi home. Ok, I didn’t get to have a drink, but neither of us usually have a drink when we’re out dancing.

As you will probably have guessed, this blog entry was written after the event, on ‘the day after the day before’ as Jaime said after the wedding in Trinidad. So ‘today’ will be a fairly restful Monday hopefully with more dancing in class tonight.

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Secret Squirrel Stuff – 29 November 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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So Suite – 28 November 2017

Up early this morning. Phone rang at 7.14am to announce the imminent arrival of our new two piece suite.

The driver said he’d be arriving in about 15 minutes and just before 7.30am the gigantic lorry made its slow approach up the hill. Less than 30 minutes later, the two seater and three seater settees were in place and the van was gone to its next destination. I thought we had had an early rise until the bloke in charge told me his day starts at 5.30am. Those are just numbers and letters. That time doesn’t really exist. The new suite is quite different from the old one. Bigger than we had imagined it and quite solid feeling. Not uncomfortably so, but firm, yes, that’s the best way to describe it, firm.

Now that we were up, it seemed a good idea to get on with the day and get stuff done. Scamp had a skirt to take back to M&S and I had a head full of hair that needed controlling The hair, not the head, you understand. To solve both problems we drove in to Glasgow and went our separate ways, agreeing to meet up later in Cafe Nero. My haircut took longer than anticipated because the barber (the one from Larky) was telling me all sorts of tall tales of girlfriends, attempted murder and suicide pacts. Haircuts are such an education in this old-fashioned barbers shop. Sometimes it’s politics, sometimes it’s tall tales, some times it’s just plain nonsense. It’s always entertaining.

When I eventually took my leave with the shearing done, I hurried up Sausage Roll Street to meet Scamp who had texted me to say she was waiting in Nero. After downing my coffee we made our way back to the car and then stopped off at Office World, an awful name for what used to be that Aladdin’s cave that used to be Staples. I was (still) looking for a printer. I didn’t see any of the photo printers that wouldn’t cost an arm and a leg for ink, but I did see an Epson that used bottles of ink. It looked like a good deal, but I wasn’t sure how good the photo quality would be. If it didn’t produce the quality I was looking for, it would certainly be much more economical than the HP that Scamp was using for her printing needs. We decided to look into it.

After lunch I had a look at the reviews and it seemed that it could indeed produce fairly decent quality photo printouts and the economy aspect was just as good as it seemed. We decided to go for it and found it was available in Argos. Quick trip to Bishopbriggs and brought the big box home in the Juke. I must say it’s a great car for carrying big boxes because you just slide them onto the raised bed in the back, not into the hold, so to speak. Even easier to get them out again. I came back the scenic route and that’s where today’s PoD came from. Half an hour of setting up and we were good to go. Text prints well and so, to my surprise do photos. Success. Of course, more testing and tweaking is necessary before I’ll be 100% sure (if I’m ever 100% sure!)

Out dancing tonight and the new(ish) move tonight was Hlar. I think it’s short for Hilarious. It’s the one where the leader balances on one foot while the follower drags him round in a circle. Don’t attempt it on a carpet, or on solid floor with ‘sticky’ shoes.

Came home and tested the new settee. It’s growing on me. Also, it smells New!

Tomorrow, taking stuff to the dump, that’s all that’s planned. Life will find a way to fill in the spaces.

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Cabin Fever – 22 November 2017

It was so dull today I had no incentive to get past the door until about 5.30pm

Just dull and dreary. Rain too, all day. The highlight tonight was going to salsa. Dancing with the beginners gave us both a bit of a lift. Tomorrow, although it will be busy, will be better, MUST be better.

Couldn’t think of a suitable shot. Tried a few, but eventually settled on a ‘Weeman’ picture. One of my favourites is the Ninjar. Yes, I know he’s really a a Ninja, but he’s a Scottish ninja, which makes him a ninja ned or to use Nedspeak, a Ninjar. He’s currently on patrol down in Oz protecting ‘Oor Kez’ from marauding beasties and mad Labourites. She’ll be alright. She’s got the Ninjar on her side, watching her back.

Cooking all day tomorrow for Isobel.

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Right Said Fred – 20 November 2017

Woke to a light grey Scottish sky. Light in colour but heavy with rain which they were proudly pouring down on us and it continued to pour down all day.

The big job this morning was the decanting of the the three-seater settee to the front garden for uplift tomorrow by the cooncil van. With typical NLC efficiency they had confirmed that the uplift would be some time between 7.30am and 6pm. However they forgot to confirm the day, so all we have is the word of the person on the other end of the phone last week. We tried twisting and turning the settee every which way, but it simply wouldn’t go through the door. The door had to come off. Still we needed that extra 20mm or so. The feet had to come off too. with that done, we now had the settee in the hall where it could be maneuvered more easily. Now we just had to get it through the front door. Again we twisted it and turned it, but it wouldn’t go. I did think about taking the door off, but that meant using a set of Allen Keys and they were in a cupboard that was blocked by the settee. Then I had the eureka moment. I didn’t need to take the whole door off, just removing the handles would be enough. So that is what I did and with a push and a shove a grunt or two and a few muttered sweary words the settee landed in the front garden, where it now resides until its uplift by the cooncil, some time between 7.30am and 6pm, hopefully tomorrow. Now we just need to go through the same procedure on Friday when the two-seater gets uplifted by a furniture charity, but we’ll leave the professionals to bring in the new settee next Monday. If you get a chance, look up “Right Said Fred” by Bernard Cribbins on Spotify. You’ll understand how this furniture removal thing works!

After we’d tidied up the living room and the hall, it was time for Gems to arrive although the sopranos were sitting were sitting on dining room chairs and the altos were on the two-seater. I didn’t wait to hear the comments, I headed to the leisure centre for a swim (hopefully), a sauna (probably) and a shot in the steam room (definitely). As it happened, I managed all three, although there were a lot of people in the pool for a while. I came away feeling a lot better than when I’d gone in. The heat and gentle exercise seemed to relax my poor battered, stretched and twisted body. I’m getting too old for this furniture moving lark.

Came home and it was time for dinner (chilli for me. Baked potato for Scamp) before we drove in to Glasgow for our Monday double dose of salsa. We hadn’t been to any class above level two for two weeks and it showed in our dancing, well, in mine at least. However we enjoyed the moves we learned which were Eva, Disco, Iadonovan and Puerto. I’d never have remembered them, but Jamie G demonstrated them at the end of the class and encouraged us to video them. Evalina from the 6.30 class also told us that there is a private WhatsApp group for sharing salsa videos from class. That would be useful. It was while we were in class that I realised I hadn’t put kidney beans into the chilli. Funny the things you think about at the most inappropriate times!

I grabbed a few shots after the removal was done, but before Gems arrived. Just a few shots in the garden taken despite the rain. The raindrops won PoD.

We had planned to go to Perth tomorrow, but now we’re not so sure. It looks like it will be Wet, Wet, Wet. Without Marti Pellow!

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Deep and Crisp and Even – 19 November 2017

It was a lovely frosty morning (-1ºc) with bright sunshine, so I decided to get up (fairly) early and go out to source some photos in St Mo’s.

Scamp then noticed that Hazy had phoned yesterday when we were out and because we hadn’t checked the phone when we got in, we hadn’t phoned her back. So she warned me that she was going to check if Hazy was free for the return call. I told her I had my phone with me and to text me if she was up for a call back. I’d got a couple of photos which you can see above and was just walking into the woods to see if there were any photogenic deer available when my phone vibrated to tell me that Hazy was indeed on the phone. I about turned and retraced my steps back to the house and had a chat with Hazy. After comparing notes on books we’d read, she went to rest and I went for a coffee.

From then on the temperature rose just enough to take away the frost without providing a comfortable temperature for a walk. As a result, after lunch I got a sketch done for my one-a-week personal challenge and started planning the Keyboard Maestro macro that would allow me to automate the playlist creation for the car player. I didn’t get far with that, but at least I did get the sketch done.

We headed out to Glasgow for the Sunday Social at Arta and decided to park in JL carpark rather than try for an on-street space near Arta itself. The reason was that tonight was the switch on for the Christmas lights and I just knew parking would be at a premium. Got parked easily in JL which was a surprise, but the crowds around George Square were much more than we had anticipated. Added to the fact that anti-terrorist blockades had been erected around the square, it took us ages to get down through the city to the venue.

Arta itself was quite quiet until just after the switch-on, then it livened up a bit. We left earlier than we’d intended, hoping to avoid most of the crowds, but came out just as the fireworks display started. Once we were on Buchanan Street and the fireworks had ended, the crowds (estimated at 20,000) were streaming out and heading for the carparks and the bus station. Got through without too much pushing and shoving and emerged onto Dundas Street from the carpark without too much problem. One punter was a bit annoyed that I actually wanted to drive my car out of the carpark and onto the road. He seemed to think he had right of way and could walk in front of me. A quick “Fuck Off” informed him of the error of this assumption. Got home in double quick time after that.

A dull, dreary, grey day with nothing much to recommend it apart from a walk in the frosty air and a phone conversation with Hazy this morning. Oh yes, and the dancing was good too. PoD was the frozen cow parsley.

Tomorrow is Monday with all the timetable that entails. It’s 4.5ºc just now and raining, so not much chance of a frosty walk tomorrow.

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Brie, Apple & Honey again – 16 November 2017

A cold clear start to the day. Blue sky and sunny, but low temperatures.

I suppose I should have gone out early to get some photos, but I didn’t and by the time we were heading out, the clouds were gathering. We drove to Clachan of Campsie, not to Wheelcraft, but to the gallery tearoom and that’s where I got my second brie, apple and honey sandwiches. If you’ve not tried it, you are really missing out. I’ve tried it on brown bread and on white now and I think brown is the winner. Last time I had it in the gallery the apple was sliced micro thin. This time they were in big chunks. I think big chunks suit the rustic theme here. Sorry, got a bit cheffy there 😉

Got caught by the rain on the way home. We were just in Torrance, so it’s true that “Down came the rain in Torrance” – Gospel Chorus. Then as we were almost home on the motorway, the rain was still falling but the sun was shining from a bright blue sky! It’s Scotland, you expect that sort of thing!

When we arrived home I did go out for an hour or so to get PoD which might look quite good, but that’s only thanks to the adjustment brush and the graduated filters that brought some life to the sky. Still, it was worth it to see the final result.

Drove in to Glasgow tonight to help out at yet another beginners class, this time in Barca.  It was a good laugh and I think we both enjoyed it.  Didn’t enjoy the walk back to the car though.  Too many wideos and jakies hanging around Glasgow at that time of night.  However, it did increase our step-count for the day.

Tomorrow is coffee with Val. The rest of the day will revolve around that.

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Messages and Beer – 1 November 2017

Yet another dull, dreich day.

I thought we should really go out somewhere today, even if it was just to get messages. That’s what we did. We drove to Falkirk in the rain, essentially to get some beer. I did get some beer, it wasn’t the beer I’d gone for, but at least we got out. We just drove home after that, again in the rain. It was that sort of day. A day when you felt you had to go out, but when you were out you didn’t want to be there, if that makes sense. Maybe it’s something that just happens to me!

The same thing happened later in the afternoon when I walked over to St Mo’s to see if there were any photos wanting to be taken. Then the sun came out and I started to enjoy the experience. I also started to actively look for photos instead of just clicking the shutter. Making photos rather than just taking them.

Processed the photos when I got back and then it was time for dinner which was fish ‘n’ chips made tonight by Scamp.

Drove to salsa and am at present sitting out writing the blog because there are far too many men and most of the beginners are so thick they can’t count. They also don’t seem to know the difference between Forward and Back. I feel sorry for Jamie because he’s trying his best to explain the moves, but some people don’t seem to listen.

Tomorrow it looks like it will be dry, bright and cold. We may go out tomorrow if we can borrow a coat to wear!