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Slipped the leash – 21 September 2017

Scamp was off to have lunch with one of her friends. I had the day to myself!

In the morning we had a Skype with Hazy. Unfortunately it was interrupted in the middle when Skype decided it was going to do an upgrade. Now I don’t mind upgrades for most bits of software (Windows excepted), but why does a communication program break into your conversation without even a by-your-leave? The answer is because it’s owned by Microsoft. The same company that decides you need the latest upgrade to Windows 10 so badly, it installs it on your computer whether you want it or not. Thought it was your computer? Nope, it belongs to Mickysoft. Unless, of course, you took the sensible route and installed Linux.

After our on-line chat, Scamp got ready and headed off. I set too to practise some ‘painting people’ after I’d filled the washing machine and part completed today’s Sudoku and made lunch. The washing machine was a timer. I had the forty minutes it takes to do a wash to do my painting, then I’d have to hang out the washing because it looked like a good drying day with a light breeze and some splashes of sun. After that it was time to go get some photos. Walked along the canal for a bit and then cut across the plantation. It was there I met today’s PoD, the dragonfly. I think it’s a female Black Darter. Quite small, only about 30mm long. It sat on the handrail of a bridge for ages. I thought at first it was sizing up a little fly for lunch, but then decided it was just sunning itself. Probably it had been listening to the weather forecast and knew the next two days wouldn’t allow for much sun bathing.

Walked back to the car and drove to Tesco to get the makings of dinner which turned out to be a truly awful curry. The best thing about it was the flatbreads. They were excellent as usual.

By the time I got home from my walk, Scamp was back home and my day ’off the leash’ was over. I think I may have a beer tonight to commiserate with myself for making such a poor curry. Must do better.

Tomorrow centres around John Carrigan’s Birthday Bash. Should be good fun.

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When I’m cleaning windows – 19 September 2017

Sitting in the people’s palace enjoying a roll ’n’ sausage and a fairly decent cup of coffee. I’m becoming a real coffee snob, Hazy! Scamp had her usual peppermint tea and a couple of slices of toast. It seems strange sitting here on a weekday! We’d just been on a recce to find the party venue for John Carrigan’s 60th in Ibrox, deep in Bluenose territory.

Earlier in the afternoon we were walking round Glasgow Green marvelling at three blokes who were abseiling down one of the multi-story flats. We thought they were cleaning the windows, but it wasn’t until I got the photos home and processed that it became clear that they were actually repairing the windows. They were replacing the seals. Not the sort of job I’d like to be doing, even on a beautiful day like today. However, the view from the top would have been wonderful.

After lunch we drove home and I went out to see if the dragonflies were still sunning themselves up at Fannyside. They were, but their numbers well well down from last week. Only about half a dozen rather than last week’s nineteen. This time I had the proper gear. Nikon D7000 and the Sigma 105mm macro. Maybe it was because it was later when I got there, but the little dragonflies that landed seem lazy and quite happy to simply sit there and be photographed. As usual, I got the feeling that they were sizing me up as I was photographing them. Scary things dragonflies.

In the morning, I’d put what might be the finishing touches to my acrylic painting, so I present it here for your perusal.

Salesman from the garage phoned tonight with an update on the car. It might be arriving a day or two earlier. We’ll know for sure later in the week.

Finally, we don’t have a plan for tomorrow apart from Salsa at night and yesterday’s move wasn’t Sombrero Doble, it was Balsero Dos. Almost the same thing.

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The Happy Wanderers – 15 September 2017

Today we took JIC and Sim to Devilla forest in Fife to have a walk through the trees.

Devilla is a Forestry Commission site with a fair bit of parking and a few interesting walks through well maintained woodland. At weekends it gets very busy, but on a Friday morning it wasn’t overrun. We started out in sunshine, but as we continued through, the clouds rolled in. Sim and I stopped to take some photos of the pond and later a black darter dragonfly that settled near us. There was also a brilliant green dragonfly that buzzed us, but didn’t want to settle. Then a black dog, not the Black Dog, just a labrador appeared and scared away the green dragonfly. It was as we were turning away we realised that Scamp and JIC were nowhere to be seen. I reckoned that they were ahead of us heading back to the car. Sim was of the mind that they’d taken the wrong turning, after passing the pond you see above, and were walking round the pond again. We headed back to the car, but the wanderers weren’t there. We sat and waited, then Sim phoned JIC and she had been right. They’d turned left rather than right when they passed the pond. Of course they hadn’t just walked the same path again, they’d gone ever further into the forest. Anyway, when they returned, it was time for lunch.

Lunch was in the Walled Garden, just along the road from the carpark. Food was fine and the cakes looked as good as they did the last time, but the coffee was almost as weak as Costa muck.

We drove to Pittencrieff park in Dunfermline for a walk around the flower beds. We went to get a photo opportunity of the ‘Fairy Castle’ that is in reality the City Chambers, but didn’t bother to visit the town itself. Best to view it from a distance.

Drove over the new Queensferry Crossing which was mildly mobbed. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but we were going north to south. South to north was a different story, with traffic attempting to merge from ever available angle.

Later we dropped JIC and Sim at Chris’s house in Caldercruix. The first time I’ve been there since John and I picked up Andy Taylor and took him to school, easily 25 years ago. It’s not improved.

Tomorrow after we drop ‘The Kids’ off, we may go out somewhere, although the weather doesn’t look a patch on today’s.

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Nnnn Nineteen – 11 September 2017

Phone call this morning from the nurse to say that the podiatrist was off ill, so my appointment today was cancelled and I’d be given a new one. Five minutes later the nurse phoned back to say that another podiatrist had been contacted and my appointment was back if I was still available. I was.

Spent the morning putting the finishing touches to my painting. When I got to the point where as Whistler allegedly said “I can do no more to it”, I stopped and tore the A2 sheet from its spiral binding and hung it on the wall. Ostensibly to dry, but also to see if I would still like it when I walked past it occasionally. I did and it’s still drying. If I hadn’t it’d be in pieces in the bin by now.

After lunch I got ready and went to meet the podiatrist who signed me off as having a fit pair of feet, which was nice. Just what I’d expected.

Dinner tonight was exactly what I’d intended. A ragu made with the pulled meat from the dinosaur bone, served with some ribbon past I found in the back of the cupboard. It was very nice. Great way to use up the meat.

Salsa tonight was a bit frantic. One move in particular had me tied up in knots. It was called Balsero Dos and I hope Jamie G forgets about it next week, but I doubt if he will. We also did Disco(very), El Paraguas and Guanabo.

Found one of the limitations of the dashcam tonight. The detail in night driving is very poor. During the day it’s fine, but the contrast is so high at night and the frame rate and the shutter speed doesn’t allow for any detail to be recorded. This was pointed up when we were passed by a boy racer along Westfield Road. When I reviewed the footage, you could see it was a red car, and that was it. No detail. Useless as evidence in an accident.  Luckily we didn’t need it.

Today’s PoD is of a bunch of dragonflies I found sunning themselves up at Fannyside. There were an incredible nineteen of them all snoozing (I think) on an old rusted gate. One even let me get to within 30mm of her (I checked, it was a female Black Darter). All the photos were taken with the Teazer. Just shows what you can do with a point ’n’ shoot camera these days.

Early rise tomorrow when we’re off to the hospital in Glasgow for Scamp’s checkup.

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Away to see the horses – 27 August 2017

Scamp suggested we go to see the Kelpies this morning and it seemed like a good way to get out and about on a Sunday morning. So did lots and lots of other people.

Despite a bit of a queue, we got parked without any trouble after paying the £3 fee which is very good these days. The place was busy and there were two bus tours just arriving but it’s a big site and we walked down to see the horses.

There really is something almost mystical about these statues. They make you smile for no reason. It’s as if they’re alive and watching you. Maybe watching over you is a better description, and going to see them is like going to meet old friends. It’s a difficult feeling to put into words, but Scamp and I are agreed about this. We wandered round the statues and as usual, I was trying to find a new angle for a photo. I think I found one today and it became my PoD, but not before Lightroom had done a bit of work on it.

After the Kelpies, we walked along through Helix park with a sinusoidal board walk through the wetlands to a massive semicircular brick and stone windbreak sheltering large circular grassed area and a circular pond with a kids play park and a cafe within easy reach. There was a path round the pond, but as it looked like it would take a good half hour or so to complete, we headed back towards the car park. Why can’t all councils spend their money on projects like this? Wouldn’t it be good to have a facility like this rather than spending half a million on the ridiculous ‘waves’ that Cumbernauld had dumped beside the dual carriageway.

By the time we were leaving, the queue for parking far exceeded the spaces available, so the moral of the story is get there before 12noon or you will be disappointed.

After lunch I went out to St Mo’s to calm down after another ‘exciting’ F1 GP. For such a high powered, enormously expensive sport, it can be like watching a procession sometimes and as most of the drivers are so far removed from reality, it’s difficult to find any empathy with them. Who cares if Hamilton or Vettel wins? It will make no difference to the price of fish. St Mo’s was buzzing with dragonflies, ordinary flies and spiders. I suppose it’s not surprising if there are a lot of flies around, there will be a lot of spiders waiting to snap them up. However, it wasn’t a spider I saw snapping up a fly, it was a dragonfly. A big green and white dragonfly was cruising up and down the alley between the trees and then it stopped in the air just beside me and grabbed a fly that had risen from a branch. Just like that. I had no time to take a shot, but I saw it right in front of my nose!  Oh yes, and the toadstool pic was taken with the Teazer with WiFi remote control.  So much easier on old knees!

That was about it for today. Got a painting started, but I’ll have to fake a sketch this week. Nothing done so far.

Rain forecast tomorrow. Maybe going suite hunting again.

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Musical Chairs – 22 August 2017

Today we chose not to go to the gym or the pool, but instead went looking for a new suite.

Scamp chose the Birkenshaw Trading Estate as the best place to browse for a suitable replacement for our sagging two and three seaters, but first we had to find the place. It’s no longer as simple as just scooting along the A/M8 and taking the first turnoff. Nope, since the new M8 superhighway was built, nothing is simple anymore. To get to the turnoff you have to drive on until you reach the Eurocentral exit, go round two roundabouts and then back the way you’ve come, but on the old A8 until you reach the turnoff for Birkenshaw. I suppose it made sense to someone when they were designing it, but it makes no sense to me. I was only glad I’d filled the tank before we left.

Eventually found the clutter of furniture shops all selling the same stuff, it seemed, at varying prices and with varying financial incentives. We finally settled on three front runners. Of which one was lagging behind. Scamp got fed up eventually and didn’t even bother going to Sofa King, something about the name apparently (“No need to swear.” she said!), but since she’d removed that one from the list, she substituted it with another. This was an easier drive, along London Road to DFS which is where we picked up the fourth possible contender for the Suite of the Year Award. So now we’ve got it whittled down to four suites in four different shops. She thinks we should leave it for a few days and then go again to make a final decision. I agree with that strategy, and in the mean time I’ll try to find a way round the roundabouts to get us to Birkenshaw.

We did try one more ‘shop’. This one only made bespoke suites. Yes, they did make leather suites, but it “depended on our budget!” we were told. A leather hide would cost in the region of £350 and a suite would need at least 5 hides. So, that was £1750 for the hides. God knows how much the frame would cost. We smiled and left.

Came home and calmed down with a Smokalies Base which was Skye weans talk for Spaghetti Bolognese, away back when the weans were wee. Then I declared that the afternoon would be devoted to slapping oil paint on a canvas, and very enjoyable it was too. After that and before dinner, I went for a walk in St Mo’s with the Nikon. Captured some interesting dragonfly shots, the most startling of which is headlining the blog. Prime macro lenses are such an eye opener. A must if you’re interested in nature subjects like what Scamp calls ‘Beasties’.

Dinner was a prawn and pea risotto and it was very nice, even if I say so myself. Pudding was an apple pie made by Scamp from our own apples. Even better than my risotto.

Tomorrow I’m going to skip the gym/swim thing again because I’m booked in for a coffee with Fred. May do some more painting in the morning, but I’m running low on the water base oils, so I need to get two or three somewhere. Oh yes, and it’s going to rain tonight and into tomorrow morning, so the weather pixies say.

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The Dragons are back – 4 June 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pigeon Point again – Still no pigeons.

9 FebOut early again and got to Pigeon Point before the resort was fully open!  The benefit of getting there early is that you get your pick of the beach huts.  With our one selected and with sun screen slathered on, Scamp and I went for a walk in the shallows.  The water was cold, but then it was just after 9am.  The sea was much calmer today, so it was time to grab the mask and snorkel and head out to the reef.

Despite the lack of wind and only a slight swell, there was still a fair bit of silt in the water and visibility wasn’t that great.  However, IMG_3755it was good to swim in the sea without getting hypothermia.  After a while I swam back to the shore and met Scamp who wanted to have a deeper paddle and test the improved buoyancy you get from sea water.  We just messed around in the fairly shallow water for a while and she did try a few strokes before we got out again.  Sat watching the colours in the sea and sky for a while then had an early lunch of biscuits and cheese, washed down with some fruit juice.  After that Scamp and I went for a walk along the beach and watched the pelicans diving for fish.  Scamp found a wee bit of coral to take back and then she found a sea urchin shell.  Walked back to the beach hut and did a quick sketch of the lifesaver’s hut.

Back at the beach hut, a hoard of americans arrived (lower case shows my respect for them).

  The older ones were about our age and were quiet and quite biddable.  The younger ones were noisy and american.  What more can I say.  Each one seemed to want to project their inherent stupidity louder than the last.  Big Chief Stupid had his hair shaved at the sides and left long on top.  Such a good look.  I may grow my hair long this year and emulate him.  I won’t, however, plaster my arms and legs with ‘artistic’ tattoos.  To quote from Lou Reed “Stick a fork up their ass and turn them over, they’re done!”  Actually Lou was quoting from his friend, Donald, so maybe that’s a cyclic quote!?  We stayed a bit longer, I had another snorkelling mission then I went looking for a Sarong for Scamp, it being Thursday. Bought one from an old guy sitting on the beach with the sarongs hung up and drying in the breeze.  He even demonstrated the different ways to tie it.

Back at the apartment, I wanted to go out and get some pics of the pelicans fishing from the beach that had disappeared yesterday.  Today was better, but the waves were now attempting to cover it.  Walked along to where the pelicans were, and found a white bull in the field behind me  – no fence!  I said bye-bye to the bull and made a hasty retreat.  On the way back, I found a dragonfly, right next to me on a bush.  Dragonflies in February, now there’s a thing!  Got lots of photos.

Out to Karawak again for dinner.  Two waiters instead of waitresses tonight and it was Cajun Chicken for me and Mahi Mahi fish for the others.  I didn’t enjoy it as much as last night, but I was in the minority.

Back at the apartment, Jaime, Scamp and I went to watch the limbo dancer.  I think now we saw him the last time we were here, but he was entertaining with his fire eating and his clowning around.

We went to bed early because we’ll be up early tomorrow for the plane back to Trinidad.

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Just another Sunday – 05 February 2017

5 FebScamp went to church with M&J in the morning and I stayed home to clean up the blog and hopefully get some photos, but the rain came on.  In fact, the rain came straight down.  Ori (the dog) and I looked at one another and the silent message passed between us “I’m not going out in that!”  So we waited and eventually the rain abated and became a drizzle, a warm drizzle that dried on you almost immediately.  Also, the rain that had fallen had dried up too.  Five minutes later the sun came out, but didn’t stay long because more heavy clouds came in.  I gave up and sat watching the birds having their early morning bath.  We really must get a bird bath for the garden at home. 

When the promised rain failed to appear I changed into swimming trunks (they dry quicker than shorts) and went for a walk in the garden.  Found an empty shell of a wasp’s nest and marvelled at the construction.  Entrance / exit tunnel and all those little identical hexagonal cells, and all made from something as thin as paper.  Amazing.  I found a shield bug on a leaf looking like it was guarding its eggs.  Even saw a little orange dragonfly, but it was far too quick for me.  Gardens are wonderful places if you just have time to look.

Scamp returned with M&J bearing Doubles.  Doubles are two squares of thin fried dough, wrapping up a paste of chickpeas, onions, pepper and spices.  Apparently it used to be considered poor man’s IMG_3730food, but we all agreed it was delicious.  By then the sun had come out and it was hot, so it was time to get some serious sketching done.  So I put on my sketching hat, some sun cream and some insect repellent and went in search of a suitable subject. I finally settled on some plant pots hiding away at the back of the garden.  I had a reasonable rendering of them when Scamp came to tell me it was lunch time.  Lunch was a pork chop for the carnivores and salmon for Scamp the pescatarian with cassava root.  We’d never had cassava before, but it was really tasty.  Scamp described it well, as a nutty potato.  We must search it out and try cooking it some time soon.  Definitely on our to-do list.  With lunch out of the way, I found a new subject.  One that could be drawn from the comfort of the veranda.  I chose Next Door’s Utility room with its big square plant pots on the roof.  Both pots overflowing with roses.  It was basically architectural with strong perspective, a happy marriage for me.  I even added a wee touch of colour to add a wee bit of brightness. I liked it.  Still do.

Remembered to take the photos of the wasp’s nest and got it done along with the flower photos before it got totally dark. Haven’t posted them on Flickr because it went into one of its ‘Bad Panda’ strunts again.  Why do these things always happen on weekends?  Because Yahoo don’t employ enough people to fix it.  They want rid of Flickr which is becoming a money pit for them.

The remainder of the day was spent packing.  Off on our travels again tomorrow with a bit of luck.

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Mojitos & Earwigging – 9 November 2016


This being our last full day in Lanzarote 2016, we took our time and made the most of it, but took it easy too.

We sat by the pool for a while after breakfast because it was very warm, possibly the warmest of the days, but a cooling breeze kept the temperature within a reasonable range.  We stayed there until after lunch when we walked along in the direction of the airport, with the task of finding a coloured strap for Scamp’s case to make it easier to find on the carousel at Glasgow … when the moving belt eventually squeaks into life.  After selecting a suitable strap we settled in a bar with two mojitos.  Real ones, not the pre-made, out-of-a-bottle ones they ply the unwary with at the hotel, topped up with a teaspoon of their watered down ‘local’ rum.  These weren’t the strongest mojitos we’ve had, but they were very tasty and went down a treat.

While we were there we were earwigging a scam being played out by an old white haired bloke with a beard and his wife behind us.  Scamp was shocked at the length of the claws his wife had, you couldn’t call them nails, these were full-on talons.  Anyway the old beardy had got wind of the fact that a bloke who owned a bar in Arrecife had a backup battery for his own bar that he didn’t need and wanted rid of.  According to his electrician friend, the bloke in Arrecife didn’t know what it was worth and would be happy to sell it on for a fraction of what it was worth.  OK?  The scene has been set.
So, old beardy bloke and Eagle Claw are plotting their pitch to Mr Arrecife.  They decide that they’ll tell the bloke they are interested in his backup battery to use to keep their two fishtanks running when there is a power outage.  The electrician has already told them that this battery will run all the electrical requirements for a bar; fridge, freezer, air-con, pumps, lighting, the lot for 10 hours, and they’re going to tell the bloke that they want it to power their fish tanks.  It made we wonder just how bit these fish tanks were, or how ingenuous they thought Mr Arrecife was.  Beardy thought they could get the battery for under €400.  The phone call was duly made and either the electrician was playing both sides against one another, or Mr Arrecife wasn’t as stupid as Beardy thought, because a figure of €1500 was being bandied about.  The call ended with Beardy telling Eagle Claw that he could probably beat him down to around the €400.  I hope he’s got a good baseball bat to beat him with, either that or he’ll have to threaten Mr A with Eagle Claw.  We’ll never know the outcome.

We walked back to the hotel and while Scamp went for to grab some more rays, I went for a last walk over the lava rocks.  Now, not all of the wilderness is rocky, there are dried up riverbeds, Arroyos that occasionally carry enough water to allow plants to survive and it was one of those areas that gave me the little green leaves.  Like I found in Fuerteventura there are lots of shells here, embedded in the soft dry clay and the lowering light brought out their textures.  At last, I found myself a dragonfly.  Apart from the unlucky pair laying eggs in a swimming pool, this was the first dragon I’d seen.  It was very delicate and thin, not like the big bruisers we get in Scotland.  However, the light was getting poor and I grabbed a couple of shots and then headed back to the hotel.

It was a Rock Show in the theater and it wasn’t quite dire, but it wasn’t all that good either.  There was a lot of shouting, enthusiastic applause and whistling coming from about four folk at the back of the audience, quite near us.  It was totally unwarranted and I have to admit, I think they were ‘Rent-a-mob’, bought in to encourage some interest in the miming and aping on stage.

That was it, apart from a G&T on the balcony to finish the bottle and the initial packing.  Another holiday draws to a close.