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Going for the messages – 14 March 2018

Since snow is forecast for Friday, we though it would be prudent to go get some messages today.  Also, our ballroom class was cancelled for today because the other two couples were on holiday.

Drove to Morrison’s in Falkirk to get some messages, three Tesco bags full of messages … and wine … and beer. We weren’t allowed to drink any today because of the Four Dry Days embargo. Actually, it will probably be Five Dry Days this week if I’m driving on Friday, as is likely. Anyway, Morrison’s in Falkirk was the highlight of the day really.

After lunch I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got the above PoD shot there. They are Cladonia, a type of lichen. They seem to grow on nothing. Nutrient free boulders are a typical habitat. These wee things seem to survive on air alone. Wouldn’t do for me. Certainly not after lugging three shopping bags of messages out of the car.

Salsa tonight was a game of two halves. Jamie’s first class was oversubscribed in men, so I bit the bullet and helped the other class, which Shannon ‘taught’. I wouldn’t really call that teaching. Teaching is where you increase the knowledge of your students. I didn’t see any increase in the knowledge of any of the pupils. She didn’t teach anything new, except that the girls should flirt with the guys. Not my idea of a dance class. Neither is repeating the same moves ad nauseam. What they want to do is learn, something, Shannon. Repeating the same set of moves for an hour is not teaching them to dance.

The second class started out with too many guys too, but ended up even. It was much more fun. Jamie’s classes at all levels are always fun, even when he’s a bit grumpy, which he has been in the past. Even although this was a beginners class, it was fun to help with and people were smiling. That’s what teaching is about. If you can make a class laugh while they are learning, they will come back for more.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Val and Fred in the afternoon. Scamp is having coffee in the morning with Isobel. I doubt if either of us will be having Flat Blacks.

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Another early rise – 13 March 2018

Out for 9.30am today

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Just a typical Monday – 12 March 2018

Lunch, gym/swim, dinner, dancing, home. That’s a typical Monday and that was the overview today.

Other than the above, I planted the chestnuts I’d collected last autumn. They’d been living in the cold greenhouse all through the winter and would be fairly effectively chilled, which is what they are supposed to be. Apparently it stimulates growth in the spring. Well, good luck with finding spring this year, little chestnuts. Eleven chessies are now planted out in the greenhouse. Scamp also brought her broad beans down and they’re out there too now.

Did go to the gym today and everybody else was there too. Recumbent bike, treadmill and a couple of the weigh machines was my limit today. Nothing too strenuous, although I am feeling it in my legs tonight. Although, that could be from the two hours of salsa we did tonight. One week off and there are a lot of new moves to catch up with. Some were good, some were downright awful.  Moves were ‘New One’(!!), Abanico Complicado, Salao(??) and Stormtrooper.

That’s about it really. Tonight’s PoD was in my head to do all day and was easier to set up than I thought.

Tomorrow? Scamp has a hospital appointment in the morning then a lunch appointment after that. Me, I’m the driver in the morning and maybe a cyclist after my own lunch. Oh, yes, today’s lunch was an omelette. Tossed like a pancake, the way the omelette chef did at the hotel last week. Needs a bit of tweaking, but a worthwhile attempt.

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Just another day in paradise – 08 March 2018

P1040411_2_2It’s Thursday today and that can only mean one thing.  Thursday Prezzies.  Scamp had chosen her prezzy and in late morning we walked to the shops.

That was after we lazed for an hour in the shade beside the pool.  I got fed up lazing and went to get some photos in the garden.  Saw a dragonfly, but it was doing circuits again and didn’t stop.  Sometimes it slowed down to tease the fish in the stream and let them try to catch it, but it was far too fast for them.  That’s where the PoD came from.  It’s a flowering and fruiting cactus complete with Spanish greenbottles.  Like bluebottles,  only green.  Still tired of lazing, I did some sketches of the folk lying on their sunbeds.

With one in the bag, we decanted ourselves from the sunbeds and walked down the road past the Sheraton to the first row of shops.  Had lunch (burger for me, tuna club sandwich for Scamp.)  The beers we had quenched our thirst.  Got the prezzies then walked back along the ‘new’ walkway. 

I had intended going for a walk to get some more photos and Scamp was going for a swim, but then there was a power outage.  We didn’t fancy going down five flights of stairs, or worse, having to climb back up them again if the lifts weren’t back in business, so we waited on the balcony and had another G ‘n’ T.  By the time the power returned it was too late to go for a walk, so we went for a swim instead.  I tried out the ‘adult pool’ and it was COLD!  Freezin’!  However, I was in and I was going to do a circuit of the little island with the jacuzzi in it.  All the while I had the thought of that warm bubbly water, that WARM bubbly water.  Finally completed the circuit and did get a chance to warm up in the jacuzzi.  Scamp joined me although, theoretically she hadn’t earned the treat, her not having swum in the freezing pool avoiding the ice floes.

Walked straight across to the middle pool and it was heated!  Hadn’t really noticed it before, but after the cold pool, this one felt warm.  Swam there for a while before returning to the sunbeds to soak up some rays.  Scamp went to swim in the middle pool.

Came back, fought with Lightroom for a while then went for dinner.  After that, went and grabbed a good seat for Tina the saxophone playing singer who would play some salsa, we hoped.  She did.  We twirled and twisted with the best of them.  Not as clean a demo as last time, but we have the G ‘n’ Ts and the Rum ‘n’ Cokes to blame for that. 

Exhausted now, I’m sitting on the balcony with the waves crashing on the shore wondering what we’ll do tomorrow.  Maybe a trip to Caleta?  Maybe hire a bike and go for a run?  Maybe go and have lunch on the island?  Maybe some, but probably not all of the above.

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Sangria, Dolphins and a Demonstration – 06 March 2018

P1040326The task for today was to walk to the island for sangria.  Anything else was a bonus.

After breakfast, we sat by the pool for a while, but I was getting itchy feet and wanted to go for a walk.  The grounds of the hotel are fairly extensive and really well landscaped.  There’s  a stream running through it with fish in it.  There was a waterfall too which feeds the stream.  Along the banks of the stream there is a cat house and a fenced off area for the partly feral cats to live in.  I’m sure you’d be impressed Hazy.  That was where I headed today.  I was disappointed to hear that there was no rushing waterfall noise and that was because the waterfall wasn’t operating now.  The river is still there and the fish are enormous.  There are loads of cats too wandering around.  Some are quite dismissive of humans, as only cats can be, others are quite skittish.  This too will be quite normal for you Hazy.  Saw one of these large butterflies and managed to get a photo of it while it was feeding on some pelargonium flowers.  That is my PoD.

Wandered back to find Scamp and then we got ready and walked to the island.  It is actually an island, partly manmade I think and only accessible by a bridge.  A new bridge as it turned out.  Not more than a year old and made of good quality mahogany.  Most impressive.  We found a table and ordered a jug of sangria.  It was really quite good.  Not as good as the brandy based sangria Scamp had in Trinidad, but tastier than a  lot of red coloured water I’ve had in the past.  Lots of apple and orange bits floating in it too.  That’s when we saw the dolphins.  I’d seen some from the balcony last night, but all I really saw was the spray from their blowholes.  They were far too far away and my binoculars were no use because they were in a drawer in the back bedroom back home.  Difficult to access from that distance away.  These ones were much closer, but you could clearly see their fins and the spray when they breached.  I took a few photos and we agreed it was good to see them so close to the shore.  When I went to pay I saw one of the dolphins even closer to the island, only it appeared that there was a ball shaped object floating, now sinking, now floating again, just ahead of it.  Next time it surfaced I saw the pipe of the snorkel strapped to its head and then realised that ‘fin’ was in fact the diver’s flipper breaking the surface.  Oh dear, what a numpty.  Sangria must have been quite strong after all!

Walked back via the Spar shop in the Atlantico Centre and bought a tin of Pimento Dulce (Sweet pepper) for cooking with when we get home.  Yes, I know that I could have bought it in Tesco for about the same price, but when I use this pepper in a paella, I’ll remember the day we had sangria on the island at Caleta and saw the mysterious dolphin.

When we came back, it was time for lunch and today it was steak for me, cooked perfectly. Scamp had the vegetarian option.  After lunch Scamp and I went for a walk over the wilderness bit of the dunes.  There wasn’t much to see there, but it was good again to listen to the sea crashing in.

After dinner we went to wait for the singer and sax player we’d heard the last time we were here.  Unfortunately she couldn’t start until some football game was finished.  Bad planning by the hotel authorities.  Also, the germans (Small ‘g’  –  you know what that mean) had taken over all the seating and wouldn’t let anyone sit near them.  Now maybe we’ve just met some rude germans, but every time we come into contact with them, they are rude and overbearing.  Eventually we found a seat far away from the guttural shouting they call language.  Heavens, they didn’t win the first world war and they didn’t win the second word war,  They weren’t even placed!  What right do they have to be so noisy and proud of themselves?  Like I say, maybe we’ve just been unlucky.

When the music started, it was the typical middle-of-the-road stuff I hate.  Music for people who don’t like music.  However, Scamp coaxed me up to shuffle around the floor to something totally forgettable.  When we were leaving the floor she asked the singer if she could play some salsa.  Yes, she would.  She made an announcement that a couple wanted to do a salsa dance and she would play El Carnaval.  It was fast, really quite fast, but we knew it and gave it everything we had.  Not quite a perfect dance, but a good demonstration.  It certainly shut up the slimy guy who seemed to think he was John Travolta.  We got a great clap for that, then it was back to german junk and vanilla pop.  Got to keep the germans happy.  Look what happened the last twice they got upset.  We did try out our emerging Jive steps to an old Neil Diamond track and that was the end of the night.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go for a walk to the harbour.  Maybe get some food and drink on the way.

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No room in the Pool – 26 February 2018

I’ll go to the gym he said and he did, well, almost.

It’s a Monday and Mondays have to be planned properly for them to work properly. This morning I was going to do my drawing / painting for 28 Drawings Later. That would leave me time in the afternoon, when Gems are here, to go to the gym as I’d said I’d do. The painting took a little longer than anticipated and it wasn’t until the second version of it was drying that I took its picture and then proceeded to completely annihilate it. However I’ve learned from my mistakes and I did remember to take a photo of it first. This is it:

The Hills

It was an attempt at colour mixing using Carol Marine’s ideas from her book ‘Daily Painting’. As an instruction on colour mixing it was good, but the landscape did have that unfinished look about it. By the time it was finished, Gems had arrived and it was time for me to make a move.

Checked the bag first and there were a pair of trunks and also a pair of trainers in it. Got to the changing room and found that the only thing missing was a tee shirt. So, it was to be a swim rather than a gym workout today. No problem. Then I saw that the pool was full. I mean FULL. It’s a small pool and with six people in it, it’s a bit cramped. There were TEN folk in the pool. I think only six of them were actually swimming, the other four were being moving traffic islands just to give the swimmers something to navigate round. Worse than that, the jacuzzi was covered up, obviously under maintenance. So was the ice machine, although, what you need an ice machine for in Scotland in February, I don’t know. Finally the loose tiles at one of the steps into the pool hadn’t been repaired and the elegant barrier of a half submerged metal framed office chair was still there in the same place it’s been for the last two weeks. I’m beginning to think it’s an art ‘installation’. I really thing its time for whoever now owns the leisure centre to throw some money at it to get it back being usable. Heavens, they must be making enough from the ‘spa’ community who seem to inhabit the pool every day. So, managed four lengths of the pool sandwiched between two sessions in the steam room, then came home, put on headphones and completed the annihilation of the painting while Gems sung their little hearts out below.

The ‘not got a name yet’ move tonight at Salsa was interesting although you had to be a contortionist to get the final section completed. I’m not sure it will survive to next week. There were a lot of confused looks and there was a lot of shaking of heads during the class.

Today’s PoD was taken out of the kitchen window and has little to recommend it, other than the pastel colours in the background and the minimal DOF (Depth of Field). Google it.

Tomorrow we are due the first flurries of snow. Nothing that desperately needs done and nowhere special we need to be, so we can just sit and watch the flakes fall.

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Dancing and procrastination – 21 February 2018

Computers, especially when connected to the internet (are any computers not connected these days) are the ultimate procrastinator’s tool.

I sat down to write today’s blog almost 45 minutes ago.  In the intervening time I’ve read what Trump is up to this week, checked the status of my latest 28 Drawings Later sketch on FB, written an email to one of the coffee-drinkers, drunk a cup of tea and eaten two biscuits AND, only now started to write the blog.  The procrastinator’s delight.

Dancing today and for once I think I am making progress with the Waltz.  I even managed the rise ‘n’ fall for a while before it all went to pieces.  Jive was another story.  Not a good story.  I recited the words Knee, Step, Kick, Hitch, Back Step, but none of them were delivered quickly enough to my legs.  Maybe they should be connected to the internet. Maybe that would help.  No, it would just give me another excuse to procrastinate.  We couldn’t get in to the dance studio which is downstairs in a pub basement.  Two blokes were laying carpet on the newly screeded stairs, so we went for a walk until the contact adhesive they were using cured.  That’s when I found today’s photos.  Two pieces of graffiti and one ‘ghost sign’.  A ghost sign is an old sign that has been covered up for years and only recently been revealed again.  That or an old piece of signage that’s been painted on (usually) a brick wall.  That’s what today’s was.  It’s a bit of urban archeology.  Today’s PoD was the sketch of King Smiley.  Rough and ready, I was hoping it was a sketch that the artist would return to later to paint, but I think that is a bit unlikely.   We finally got down the part finished stairs to the dance studio where we did our version of the waltz and the jive then found we couldn’t get out again an hour later at the end of the class because they were laying a much bigger piece of flooring on the landing and there was no way of crossing the wet adhesive without getting firmly stuck.  We finally exited through the Fire Exit, although if H&S ever check that fire exit, the pub will be condemned with immediate effect.


After we came home I sat down to doodle something for today’s entry and started sketching my foot, then my leg then me sketching my foot, then my …  Well, you get the idea.  I thought it was a clever idea and was pleased with the final drawing.

Salsa tonight was helping with two beginners classes.  I’m much happier helping with these classes, even Shannon’s class, than with Jamie’s grumpy Thursday class.

Tomorrow I think I’ll go in to Glasgow to get my hair cut and maybe get an outdoor sketch done.  Depends on the weather, and the state of the procrastination, of course.


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Timba Merchant – 18 February 2018

Like I said a few days ago, most days revolve around something. Today’s something was dancing … yet again.

Before the dancing could begin, some painting needed done. Painting in oils again, I’d practised the apple and the pear, so today I was painting the apple AND the pear, with the addition of a pink duster just to make it more difficult. I was also using a different mixture of oils. This time it was ‘normal’ oils mixed with ‘quick drying’ oils. Would it make any difference? I doubted it, but I did add some turpentine to the mix to avoid me dipping my brushes in water to clean them. Oil and water don’t mix you know! It turned out not too bad, well I think so anyway.

Apple and pear

We decided to go in early today to take Will’s Styling Class. Maybe he could make me dance with style. Anything is possible in Salsa. It turned out not to be salsa, but Timba. Timba is more like Rhumba than Salsa, but it was great fun and we now how to do Pelo (or ‘potatoes’) and ‘Ki-chang!’ Or at least something like that. Like I said, it was great fun but I’m not sure I’ll ever attempt it on the dance floor outside Arta. I think I’d look a right eejit trying that stuff outside the Salsa Set.
Two of the girls from our real beginners Wednesday class appeared and Scamp and I danced with them. One of them said she trusted me because she knew I “wouldn’t throw her about or anything.” Now was that a challenge or a warning? I took it as a bit of a challenge and tried some level 2 or maybe even level 3 moves mixed in with the beginners stuff she knew. Before we started dancing I did tell her that if things got too difficult, all she had to do was let go. She did, a few times.  Scamp and I danced a few times too.  Well, more than a few times.  By  the end of it I was soaked in sweat and my brain was empty of moves, but it was good fun.  The girls seemed to have enjoyed their introduction to Social Salsa and I told them that next time I WOULD throw them about and anything.”  They laughed, thankfully.  Just remember, if the going gets tough, LET GO.  That could be a rule for life!

Drove home and Scamp made a quite delicious Trout with veg and potatoes dinner.  Honestly, the fish just flaked off the skin.  Beautiful.  Nobody, but nobody cooks fish like Scamp!

Today’s PoD is a shot of Scamp’s Broad Bean shoots.  They really are sturdy specimens and fast growing too.  She thinks she’ll put them outside in the cold greenhouse to harden off a bit.  It seems a bit harsh with more cold weather forecast for the coming weeks, but I’m sure they’ll survive.

Tomorrow is Gems day.  If the weather is set fine, I may get my bike out and see if I can cycle for a few miles without falling off.  If it’s dull and dingy I’ll go to  the gym and cycle in comfort!


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Dancing Day – 14 February 2018

Wednesday has now become dancing day.

Today started with driving Scamp to her hospital appointment and surprise, surprise, there was a space in the car park for once. Sat with a coffee and a 2 for 1 doughnuts in the cafe reading my latest Hazy find, ‘Sourdough’. You were right H, it’s a great antidote to the heavy and sluggish ‘Rotherweird’ which was Rather to Weird for me. It’s now languishing in the ‘Maybe Later’ folder on the Kindle. Sourdough is much lighter and funnier. Thanks again H.

Drove from there in to Glasgow just before lunch time to go to Waltz and Jive classes. Before the class we went for lunch at Paesano, and the No 3 (anchovy and olive) was as good as ever, as was Scamp’s No 1 Sugo (no cheese) apparently. The only thing missing was a glass of red wine, but you can’t have drive and wine in the same sentence. If you do, it could lead to a sentence of a different kind. Waltz was a bit of a problem for me with two left feet. You see, in Salsa the man always leads with his left foot. In Waltz, the man generally does so to, but occasionally he leads with his right, and that’s where the problem comes in. My left foot KNOWS that it always leads, so that’s what it does. Here’s a quote from Robin Sloan’s Sourdough:

When you walk, you look forward, not down at your feet, because you are confident they are where you expect them to be, obeying your commands. That’s a pretty cool feature.

Well Mr Sloan, that may be true, but not if you’re trying to dance Waltz with Salsa trained feet. It is not at all a ‘cool feature.

The Jive was much better. I think we cracked it today. Well, most of it anyway.

Came home and then decided we’d go to the beginners salsa classes to give my left foot its head if you know what I mean.
Jamie G wasn’t there so we were getting Will who is quite stylish an has the enviable skill of being able to dance as a guy or a girl. I’m sure Jamie G can do it too, but he doesn’t offer to do it in class. Will had no problem with it, although some of the guys in the class found it a bit off putting to start with. Jamie returned in time for the second beginners class and it was fun as usual.

Have you seen this man?

I did a quick selfie with a photo from PhotoBooth on the iMac. That worked in two ways:
1. No squinting in a mirror and trying to draw at the same time.
2. The screensaver kicks in after 5 minutes, so that gives me a timer.
So, one sketch in three sessions, i.e. 15 minutes. Not a bad likeness I’m told by Scamp, although I think the right eye (my left) is too big. Other than that it’s not too bad.

Today’s PoD was taken walking over the walkway between the carpark and JL in Glasgow and is a silhouette of the city centre architecture under a wild sky. I like it.

Tomorrow I’m booked for coffee with Fred and Val.

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Sudoku, Salsa and Snow – 11 February 2018

Lots of planning today, but not a lot done really. Mainly planning for storage of stuff, when the real solution is a good clear out. That day is getting closer!

Today we had committed ourselves to going for lunch/dinner at La Rambla in Paisley. Three tapas for just over a tenner is a bargain. The only problem is the laid back, i.e. horizontal attitude of the serving staff. I don’t think any of them have been to a catering college to learn how to serve tables. A half hour wait for food is quite normal. Apparently one of the ‘managers’ was complaining that he didn’t understand why people were coming up to the bar to order drinks. Didn’t these people realise there was table service? Eh, no mate, there isn’t. Maybe there is meant to be, but it’s just not happening. Try putting yourself in our shoes. Try being a customer, a thirsty customer and you’ll see how it’s essential to go to the bar and buy your drink there to avoid desiccation. I’m not altogether certain that there are any kitchen staff. I’m beginning to think that it’s the waiter and waitress that take the order, cook the food and serve it. The drinks waiter is a joke. I saw him trying to take away a half empty glass of wine from a customer, then stand and wait at the table while she finished it. Maybe that’s what he thinks a waiter does, wait. Anyway we finally got served an my food was really good as usual, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to La Rambla again for tapas, or anything else except dancing.

Dancing was good. Shannon was DJ and worked hard to get the dance floor filled. Came out to find that it had snowed and the streets were icy with melted, then refrozen snow. As we got neared Cumbersheugh the lying snow got thicker and thicker. Had trouble encouraging the Juke up the hill and then the fun of skidding about into a parking place. Don’t think Scamp was impressed. Actually the snow was much easier to walk on than the pavements of Paisley.

PoD is the green blobs. Taken in St Mo’s by the fading afternoon light before the snowfall. Sketch is of my Saturday and Sunday Sudoku. It’s a bit of a page marker, but it’s done.

Tomorrow? Finding the car and then working on a plan to get it down the road and parked again!