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Falkirk and Satnavs – 19 October 2017

Yesterday I said we’d go to Falkirk today and that’s what we did.

We started out going to Torwood Garden Centre for a quick lunch. The car park was almost completely full. It didn’t look as if we were getting lunch here today. That’s what happens when the kids are off school for the October Week and mum & dad are working. Kids get dumped on the grandparents and since the weather is bad, where will we go? Let’s go to the garden centre for lunch. It seemed that all the grannies and grandpas in the area were there with a million weans. The noise in the restaurant was unbearable so we left. Maybe next week when the little darlings are back in ~~prison~~ school.

Switched on the satnav and told it to take us to Falkirk. (Torwood is half way between Falkirk and Stirling.) It took us by the most direct route and got us there much quicker that I could have done. Went to Morrisons and spent the GNP of a small country on food. Then Scamp wanted one-last-try to get a cheap and cheerful costume for tomorrow night. We drove to the Party Shop. I didn’t need the satnav for that. I knew where I was going. Finally we got the costume in this gigantic barn of a shop. More like a warehouse than a shop.

Decided the motorway at Haggs would be congestion city at the time we were leaving, just before 4pm, so decided to go the backroad through Slamannan and the satnav reminded me of the right route to take through Falkirk. I don’t know if it was a quicker road, I doubt it, but it was much more interesting than growling my way through yet another traffic jam.

The weather was bad today. Lots of different varieties of rain, but all of them wet and all of them falling from a leaden sky. Much like yesterday, but wetter. I did try to go out and get some photos, but decided it was not going to happen. That’s why it’s another Weemen shot. It might be the start of a short series, we’ll see.

My sketch for today is a nod to a former colleague Jim Belky. He is a brilliant cartoonist and has a really sharp wit. This is almost a copy of a self portrait he did for me one day. It looks like him and I’ve seen that expression many times. Thanks Jim. As you will see. The Vogon battle goes on. They still claim they don’t know when the phone will be available. Really? You expect me to believe that? “Aye Right!” as Jim would say!

Heard this when Tom Hanks was being interviewed on TV tonight. The question was “… and what about Trump”

Hanks “We’ve had fools who were presidents and we’ve had good people who were presidents.”
Interviewer “So what is Trump?”
Hanks “Well, let’s say he’s not brilliant.”

Tomorrow? Depends on the weather.

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Blowing up a storm – 16 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Phones and Moans – 11 October 2017

Got to try out Skype on the iMac this morning when we had a webchat with Hazy. Seemed to work quite well, although there were more dropouts in sound and broken graphics too than usual. Maybe we should just stick to Scamp’s laptop in future. Must say that when the sound was working, it was superb quality.

Out at lunchtime to meet Val and Fred. On the way back I dropped in at Carphone Warehouse and Tesco to compare deals for a new phone that I need to get sorted for next week. CW couldn’t give me a decent quote for an iphone 6 and suggested I phone up Vody. Maybe I will. Tesco gave me a fairly decent quote on an iphone SE, but I don’t think their coverage is very good outside the central belt in Scotland. Still looking, still thinking.

Salsa tonight was a bit of a drag again. It doesn’t look as if the 7.30 Wednesday class will last past this session. Can’t say I’m all that bothered. I’m beginning to think that two classes a week are quite enough for me now. I don’t mind helping with beginners, but I don’t think we’re getting all that much out of the extra night, except some exercise. I’d rather give up the Wednesday classes and have a night’s dancing instead. That said, it’s really the driving into town Mondays and Wednesdays that’s a drag as much as the classes. I also feel that Jamie G is ‘inventing’ moves on a Monday just to keep the class going and keep the dancers interested. Some of them are too obscure to remember or too long to dance with someone who doesn’t know them. Maybe we need to give salsa break for a while.

Today’s PoD, was the leaf on the boardwalk, taken in a half hour walk round St Mo’s when I managed to get that wee bit of low sun in between the torrential rain showers. The Inktober sketch was a page marker. Just to say I’d done something. Not my best work, but it’s done.

A lot of condensation on the inside of the front windscreen of the car this afternoon, after a rain shower and the back window tonight when we left the STUC. Don’t remember having that trouble with the Megane when it was new. I should probably keep an eye on it, just in case there’s a leak in a seal somewhere.

Think I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow on the bus, just for a walk around.

Posted on the 12th because WiFi was going crazy last night, switching off and on repeatedly

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DML – 5 October 2017

We had decided that if the day was good and sunny we’d go to DML to show it to the Red Juke. It was, and we did.

To make sure we were doing it right, we drove through ‘Blue Rinse’ Callander to take the Duke’s Pass to DML. It will now be renamed the Juke’s Pass. It was on this road that we realised one of the shortfalls of DAB radios. They are fine in the Central Belt and Glasgow, but take one to anywhere slightly hilly and out of town, for instance, the Juke’s Pass and the reception becomes patchy to say the least. We stopped to try to figure it out which allowed the wee silver car in front of us, the one that only had first and second gear, to get away from us. Started off again and enabled Sport Mode. I can now verify that the Juke can corner with the best of them. Scamp doesn’t like Sport Mode. Unfortunately she couldn’t find the Zaphod Beeblebrox glasses. It goes like stink, even up the steepest hills.

We got to DML It’s never going to be ’The Lodge’1 we parked in the designated place where we park every new car we get. It’s a tradition as you well know. That’s The Juke there in the picture, looking quite Flame Red.

We put our walking boots on. Mine clabbered in muck and Scamp’s showroom clean and walked to the waterfall which was looking very dramatic today with the water running off a spate after yesterday and the day before’s rain. The place was busy with a bus tour party, mostly American’s. The Capital letter means they didn’t get in my way while I was photographing the waterfall and weren’t loud and shouty as they sometimes are.

Had a bowl of soup in the cafe that purported to be leek and potato, but no leeks or potatoes were observed although it had been blitzed to death, so any constituent parts would have been microscopic. However, it was hot (very hot) and warmed us up.

Drove back through Aberfoyle and stopped for coffee at the new place, the Smiddy near Blair Drummond. Coffee was ok, but not great and Ginger and Cranberry scone was worth experimenting with. We’ll add it to our ’Worth Trying Again’ list.

Stopped once more at Dobbies for Scamp to add another rose to her collection. This one was Peace. One of my mum’s favourites.

Tomorrow if it’s as good as today, we may go to Mugdock to a craft sale for a Dementia charity.


  1. If you come from Larky, ’The Lodge’ can either mean a protestant extremist organisation or a very secretive, but not secret (honest, nothing secret here) organisation. Both excuses for cheap bar prices. Count the ’rubber men’ outside either of their premises and you’ll agree. 
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Wrong Tyres – 4 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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One in, One out – 3 October 2017

Today started with Scamp driving the Juke to Tesco with me in the co-pilot’s seat. I searched all morning, but I couldn’t find my Zaphod Beeblebrox glasses. You know, the ones that go completely dark when danger threatens! It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated. Apart from the seat being too close to the steering wheel (wooden blocks for the pedals I think) and the mirrors being in the wrong place it went fine. No hissy fits from either of us, and we came home without any scratches (on us or the car).

After Scamp brought the car back home. I changed cars and drove her car down to the Village to get new tyres. Yes, they had tyres to fit it, but were too busy and would be for a while. Could I come back around 3pm. No problem, I could go back and then take the Juke to Stirling to sort out the lights problem, so drove home and picked up Scamp and drove the Juke to Stirling.

The salesman was a bit bemused and told me that Yes, I had been using the correct lights and Yes, the dipped headlight was working properly. He then took it into the garage so the ‘Techies’ could have a look at it. He came back and told us that everything was fine and the Techies couldn’t find anything wrong. However, the lights looked brighter to us now. I thought I had a winner when I remembered the dash cam had been on all the time so I had a record of what had happened. Then when I checked, I couldn’t see much of what had happened because by the time we got home, the camera had overwritten part of the recording, mainly because it had filled the ‘Protected’ folder of the camera with pointless videos, each one protected so it couldn’t be overwritten. Also, I couldn’t hear anything that was being said behind our backs because Christine and The Queens was playing at full blast. Ok, problem not explained, but probably solved. Drove home.

Dropped the Duke off and drove the Micra down to the tyre place. It was empty. Bloke asked me what I wanted done and when I told him two new front tyres, he said he only had one. Could I bring it back tomorrow. Oh well, what’s one more day, one more journey.

Drove home. You can guess the rest. Yes, dropped off the Micra and picked up my camera and took the Duke down to Auchinstarry which is where I got all of today’s pics and a sketch as well.  Bathtime for the Ducks got PoD.

Tomorrow I’ll take the Micra for new tyres. Hopefully they will have tyres and staff to fit them. Oh yes, tried the lights tonight and they are much brighter than yesterday. I still wonder what they did in the garage!

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Today I had a plan – 2 October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Inktober begins – 1 October 2017

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

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

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017

4) Repeat next day

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

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

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

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

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

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Untrained – 30 September 2017

We had intended to take the train to Embra today. Scamp even drove us to the station in her car, but …

When we got there we found out that due to safety checks on the line between Haymarket and Waverley, trains (if they weren’t cancelled) were stopping at Linlithgow, about 20 miles from Embra, and it was up to you to get from Linlithgow to Embra. That’s Scotrail for you. Make it up as you go along. If the problem is between Haymarket and Waverley, both in Embra, why are they stopping the trains 20 miles away? That’s a pretty big safety zone.  Must be the wrong kind of leaves on the line again.

Anyway, we told the nice ticket man that we wouldn’t be travelling on his maybe-not-cancelled train today and drove home to change cars and drive (me driving this time) to Perf, not Embra. It was a pleasant drive up the A9 to the Fair City of Perth. Car performed perfectly and I finally got the hang of the new cruise control. I also tried out the speed limiter, but that’s not as much fun. Best of all, I tried out Sport mode which gives you a nice little whack of G-force as you accelerate! Only to be used sparingly as it does eat up your fuel consumption. All in all it’s a really nice car to drive. I’m very impressed.

Perf was busy as usual on a weekend. Far too many people around I much prefer going on a weekday. Got some coffee, some tea and some dried fruit to make my breakfast compote. Fruit for the compote, there’s no coffee or tea in it. Just thought I’d make that clear. While we were there and while Scamp was shopping in Marks, I wandered round the outside of St John’s Kirk, the big church in the middle of the town. I got a sketch done. It’s a bit ropey, but with a bit of tweaking from the photo I took, it should do. Tomorrow is the start of Inktober 2017 and I need to get myself back in harness to do a sketch a day. There’s a wee challenge for you Hazy. One sketch every day, posted on Flickr. You can add it to my group if you want. Only one real rule. The predominant medium must be ink, hence the name. You too, JIC. Get started sketching. Fifteen minutes in your lunch break is all you need!!
Today’s PoD is a wide angle shot from the walk round the church. I also liked the monkey gargoyle!

A couple of weeks ago Scamp came across an envelope from a school venture with a £10 note in it. It was surplus money from a school trip we went on twenty odd years ago. It wasn’t my money and the school doesn’t exist any more, so today it went into a charity tin in the Heart Foundation shop in Perf. They will be able to use it. I’d already checked with the bank and it was still legal tender.

Back home, dinner was a Scamp speciality, Prawn Stir fry. Spicy and hot, but very, very good.

I’d been reading a book about painting with pastels in an Oxfam bookshop in Perf.  I don’t think you draw with pastels, you paint with them.  I hadn’t really used pastels, except for messing around with them for a graphics topic for school.  Today I pinned a sheet of Ingres paper on an old drawing board and painted a landscape.  The same one I’d been tentatively poking paint at for the last week.  This one took maybe half an hour?  It’s rough, but I like it.  Maybe I’ll fix it and frame it.

Tomorrow looks wet. I think we’re going dancing at night because the usual Sunday Social venue is double booked and we lose. Should still be fun.

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Flying Solo – 29 September 2017

Today it was my turn to go for coffee.

Before I went I did the underpainting on my Rannoch Moor painting. It’s beginning to look better now I’ve got the proportions sorted out.

Just after midday, I met up with Val and Fred in Costa. I drove there in the Juke. I was flying solo for the first time. No Scamp as radio operator and navigator. Just me and the Juke. And I was fine. So was it. I even got a chance to use the windscreen wipers during one of the heavy rain showers we had.  I also managed to get parked almost straight and in the box at Tesco, thanks to the reversing camera.

It was when I was walking into the Antonine Centre that I realised I hadn’t taken my old satnav from the Megane. I know I won’t need it again, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

After coffee and a discussion of the state of the world, I drove Val home and he too remarked on the different view you got from the Juke’s elevated seating. After that I went to fill the tank for the first time. The garage had given me half a tank to get me started, but I wanted to fill it to the brim. Surprisingly it cost me just £30! Then when I got back in the car I realised that the petrol tank was much smaller than the Megane. It only holds about 45 litres which is worth about 300miles. That’s just enough to get us to Skye. The Megane took about 60 litres. Oh well, I’ll just have to be more frugal in my driving style, I suppose.

Came home and decided to go out to St Mo’s in the rain to get some photos. I was surprised to find the dandelions still setting seeds. I liked the detail rendered, and that’s why it got PoD. Out behind the forest I saw a trio of Garden Cross spiders on their webs. One male and two female apparently. Troilism in spiders! Who knew?

Then the salesman from the garage phoned to ask how I was finding the car. That was my chance to ask him if the satnav was still in the Megane. He went and had a look and said it was there. He even offered to drop it off on his way home. I said no, that we’d come and pick it up during the week. He must have thought I was mad. Here I am with an up-to-date large screen satnav in the car and I want my old Navman back? It’s the principle of the thing though. It put my mind at rest.

Dinner was a Chicken, Mushroom and Kale pie. Quite delicious and totally gone now.

Maybe off to Embra tomorrow. Not driving though, train is less stressful.