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Dancing, portraiture and faces – 23 May 2018

Dull day that started to smile in the afternoon.

Dancing the waltz is difficult, but we thought we had it fairly well under control until Michael showed us the next set of moves today. I’m sure in a couple of weeks they too will seem like child’s play. Now they are just the next hurdle to be waltzed over. Jive was just as difficult as jive usually is. Now we’re on spin number 4 of 7. It gets more complicated, even the men have a turn to do now. I’ve pretty much sorted out spins 1 and 2, 3 is a bit tricky and 4 is just a shambles. Instead of leading, I’m following, but that’s not new. It’s what I do most of the time. Still, it was enjoyable.

Walking back to the car in the sun provided today’s PoD which is a sandstone carving of a lion at the corner of the old fruit market in Glasgow. I also took photos of the ‘green men’ above the doors of the building. I remember drawing one of them in ink wash many years ago. Lovely bits of stone mason’s craft.

Back home I struggled with what was really a simple task of importing the photos into ON1. It’s simple now that I know how to do it. It most certainly wasn’t easy at the time, with hidden bits of menu that really should be more easily accessible.

Dinner was chicken breast wrapped in bacon and pan fried with boiled Jersey Royals and corn on the cob. Really tasty, Scamp. Also on the food front, I chopped up some strawberries and soaked them in vodka. They’ll stay in the fridge for a few days to flavour our Strawberry Vodka and hopefully be drunk outside in the garden under the sun.

Portrait class tonight was a bit of a disaster. A bit like Spin 4 is just now, except we’re more or less left to our own devices. I floundered a lot, trying to work out how to adapt the Loomis method to the head of the young boy we were drawing. It seemed, always, to make his head too fat. I think I’m missing something here. Must watch the videos again. On the way to pick up Fred for the class, I had to do some Genghis Pathfinder stuff to avoid the closed off road at St Mo’s School where a lorry had shed its load of wood. Not the simplest of diversions and it occurred, of course, when the factories along the road were coming out, so everywhere was chok-a-block. Managed it though.

Tomorrow we’re out early(ish). Hopefully before 11am, but I’ll have to go out even earlier to get some (very expensive £1.26 /litre) petrol.

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Dancing by the loch side – 19 May 2018

Not us, although we’d have liked to have joined them.

It was a late start this morning, later than we’d anticipated. We both overslept so I’d guess we needed the sleep. Finally we decided that it was just stupid to waste such a lovely day and we got everything ready for a run to the country, to the start of the highlands, no less, to Loch Lubnaig. Seats, picnic basket with picnic, tripod, camera bag, paints (just in case). Off we went hoping that the Royal Wedding would keep the ladies glued to the TV and that the Scottish Cup Final would do the same form the gentlemen. We were right. Apart from a slight hiccup at Blair Drummond Safari park where the weans were being taken to see the monkeys (or vice versa) there were no traffic jams, not even in blue rinse Callander where it’s usually chock-a-block on any other Saturday. We drove on to the big car park on the loch side and got a place right away. Fantastic.

Walked down to the shore and felt a cool, nearly cold breeze. But what took our breath away was a group of four folk dancing a mini rueda in the water. Even better, we recognised the moves involved. It’s one of Jamie Gal’s favourite ways to terrify the advanced dancers. It looks so simple until you try it, then you know why it’s only for the advanced group. After that the group set up a full rueda and danced for a couple of tracks. It took all our willpower not to get up and join them. After their two ruedas and a group photo, they packed up, jumped in their minibus and left. It’s been suggested that they were from an Embra salsa group, but I’m not sure that’s right. The caller was definitely foreign, possible Spanish, possibly Cuban and there were other languages there too, none of them Embra accents.

With the entertainment gone, we sat down to lunch in the lee of the car. Still sitting in the sun, but avoiding the wind. Scamp had her factor 30 on just in case. After that, she sat and read for a while and I went for a walk to get some photos. The best one was taken with my iPhone on the shore of the loch and it became PoD. Just a wee dandelion flower washed up on the loch side.

When we were driving home, just after 2.30 the afternoon traffic was building up, so my guess is that as the wedding was now past, but the cup final was still to be played, it was the women who were out driving while the men stayed in to see twenty two other men kicking a ball around a piece of grass while thousands stood and watched.

By the time we got home the hazy clouds were solidifying and blotting out a lot more of the sun than they had when we were on the loch side. I think we can agree that we had the best of the day, despite a late start.

I spent the remainder of the day beating some flour, water and salt into what may or may not be a sourdough loaf tomorrow. It’s resting now in its basket to fluff up enough to bake tomorrow. I think Scamp wants to go to Glasgow tomorrow. Me? I’m not bothered, I had a grand day today.

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MOT, Perth and Sourdough Friends – 1 May 2018

April wasn’t the only month of early rises. We were up and out early today too.

Scamp’s wee red car was going to the car doctor for its annual checkup today. After we dropped it off, we came home to have breakfast and decide what to do with our free day. We settled on a visit to Perth to get some coffee and tea for me. The drive up north was without event and we got parked easily in the town car park. That’s one of the advantages of going midweek, the parking is so much easier. Walked in to town in the sunshine, but with a chilly wind at our back.

After a Nero coffee to sustain us, we went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went to M&S and I went book hunting. First stop was the Oxfam book shop where I usually find an art book or two. Today it was just the one. A book on watercolour. While I was in the shop my phone buzzed. Thinking it was the garage about the car, I answered. The lady on the other end told that according to their records I’d had an accident and I wasn’t at fault. Was that correct? I told her yes that was correct, but I had been killed in the accident. This seemed to be off her script and she asked me to repeat it. I told her I had been killed and I was now dead. I then told her it was my ghost she was talking to. She then got back on the script and I cut the connection. I realise now I should have gone “Woooooo!” Before I hung up. The woman at the till in the shop gave me a strange look and I explained it was simply an ambulance chaser and I liked to have a little play with them before I hung up. The last time I had the same scripted question from an ambulance chaser, my reply was “No, I was completely to blame, that’s why I’m in prison now. Please don’t call me on this number again I only use it to order my drugs.” The woman behind the till laughed and said “Good for you. I must try that some time.”

From the cheap bookshop I went to the expensive one, Waterstones. There was a reading group just breaking up when I went in and they were sitting right in front of the painting books. I did manage to inveigle my way in to get a look at a couple of the books, but then earwigged a conversation about Sourdough. It was when the woman said “… so when I come down the stairs in the morning I look in the jar [of starter} and say ‘how’s may little babies this morning’”. That’s when I knew she was genuine. I told her I’d baked my first successful sourdough loaf yesterday, but that it was almost completely scoffed by Scamp and me. She was really interested and asked how old my ‘babies’ were and I told her they were just over 14 days old and growing stronger each day. I think she was gratified that other ‘ordinary’ folk took up the cudgels of sourdough baking. I wished her luck with her first loaf and went out to find Scamp.

We went and bought loads of coffee and tea, but on the way Eagle Eyed Scamp saw a sale in a sports shop with some natty looking trainers in the window at a knock down price. She just can’t pass on a bargain, so it was with a shoebox in the bag that we walked down to the coffee shop.

Got to the car park and the phone rang. From the garage this time, to say the car had passed and was ready to collect. Perfect timing. When we were driving out of the car park, there was nobody in the cabin and the notice said that as there was nobody to take the fare, please leave the car park smartly. We didn’t need a second bidding. £3 saved is £3 off the price of Scamp’s smart new trainers.

Lunch in Morrison’s cafe and then back south with the weather worsening with every mile. It rained almost half the way home. Not heavy, just there and no more. Dropped Scamp off to pick up the car and came home.

I’d taken one photo today and I didn’t think it was very interesting but after processing it, it looked not too bad. It was a mosaic in the Main Street of Perth. I don’t remember seeing it before. We rarely look down. We rarely look up. We walk with our eyes open, but we don’t SEE what’s around us. We’re too busy making up to-do lists and worrying about inconsequential things we can’t change. We should be more mindful. Today’s PoD isn’t the mosaic, but it is on Flickr. Today’s PoD is the Weeman. It’s been in my head for about a week now!

Tomorrow is dancing in the afternoon, but for the reasons outlined yesterday, we will forego the pleasure of salsa at night.

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Magic Millarochy – 30 April 2018

I got up at just after 8.30 this morning to make the breakfast and to fire up the oven because it was sourdough baking time again.

Yes, I’d made the leaven on Saturday and used it on Sunday to make the dough. This time I thought I’d made a stiffer dough, but when I left the dough to stand ( you don’t knead sourdough with this recipe, you fold it and then allow it to stand for half an hour or so) it became quite wet and sloppy again. That said, it had been rising happily overnight in it’s cane basket and now looked ready to bake, so I whacked it (gently) on to the pizza stone that came out blazing hot from the oven and it promptly slumped down again like a balloon that was blown up a week ago and is now a bit slack. Oh well, nothing ventured etc. I hacked into the top of it to give it space to rise and put it into the fiery furnace for about 45 minutes. When I took it out and tapped the bottom it sounded ’toom’ which was one of my mum’s words. It means empty or hollow. Try using it some time. Anyway, a hollow sound is good.

With my loaf cooling on the rack, I started to plan the rest of my day. It was a beautiful day too, Blue skies all round and a temperature that was just entering the teens. This was a Gems day, so I thought I’d go a run for a change and chose Millarochy Bay as my destination. After sharing the first cut of the loaf with Scamp, I used it to make up a packed lunch and with a flask and the makings of coffee I got in the car. Set the satnav for the postcode of the campsite near the bay and off I went. I followed the directions until I reached a sign that said ‘Road Closed’. Little was I to know that would be the first of many. Made the recommended detour and after being stuck behind a slow moving truck full of asphalt, no doubt going somewhere to fill in potholes, I took the turning to my next ‘Road Closed’. Found the detour again and was almost at my turn off when I came across a third ‘Road Closed’. This time my turn off came just before the road did close. After that it was plain sailing and I arrived at Millarochy Bay just about fifteen minutes after the satnav had initially predicted.

The carpark was very, very busy, but I was lucky enough to find a free space. Had my lunch looking out at a view similar to the PoD you see at the top of the page. Went for a walk and got a few photos, well just over fifty, but who’s counting. It was still a beautiful day and it was getting even warmer. Unfortunately it was soon time to go so I had to pack up and head back. This time the satnav took me out towards Stirling and although it was a greater travelling distance, it was on much faster roads, much wider roads too.

Started processing the photos in Lightroom and also in ON1 which I bought last night. It’s not nearly as bad as I’d initially thought and is really very adaptable. You get lost in it very easily with all the options and variations available. Some of the effects are a bit tacky and probably not much use, but some are very useful. More on this app as I dig deeper in to its potential uses.

Salsa tonight was a bit underwhelming. Too many leaders in the 6.30 class so I helped out in Will’s. Jamie’s was disappointing. Too many obscure and pointless moves now. Just because they are weird, they aren’t necessarily wonderful. Salsa moves have to be stylish or adventurous. The ones we’ve been doing for the last month have been neither. No Salsa next Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday and probably none for us on Wednesday because he won’t be taking the class. That may mean Shannon which would not be good or perhaps Irene and Andrew which I’d rather avoid.

Tomorrow Scamp’s car goes in for MOT, so we have a free day after we drop it off.

Oh, one last thing. We were driving home and came to the traffic lights at Charing Cross in Glasgow and noticed a sign saying M8 Closed Eastbound (that’s us). Oh no! The curse of the Road Closed rears its ugly head again. When the lights turned green, everybody seemed to ignore it, so that’s what we did too and there were no road works to be seen. Probably somebody’s idea of a joke, just to annoy me!

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Just a Friday – 27 April 2018

No early rise today, no dramas with central heating, just a Friday.

Just a lazy start to the day and after solving the Sudoku and after lunch I drove Scamp up the ‘Toonie’ to have lunch with the other three ‘Witches’ while I converted my last surviving paper Bank of England £10 note into a safe RBS plastic tenner. After that I bought some peas to plant, a hook to make into a boot rack (DIY) and some more 10p silk emulsion paint testers to use as gesso on corrugated cardboard panels. That will make them ready to receive some oil paint.

Came home and slapped the cheapo gesso on a cardboard panel and it looks better than the matt emulsion panels I’d made earlier in the week. Started a landscape on one of those matt emulsion panels using cheapo (again) water soluble oils. Reeves oils, not nearly as good as the Rowney or W&N ones. You get what you pay for. Still, it looked quite a lively landscape. Liked it.

Baked a loaf that had been rising in a new banneton cane basket I’d bought yesterday. Grudged the money for it, probably because it wasn’t cheapo, but you do get what you pay for because the loaf turned out perfectly round and tasted good too.

Dinner was gammon steak with sausages, egg and griddles pineapple slices. Lovely. By then Scamp had returned just in time to get ready to go out to a concert with Isobel 15 minutes later. I was taxi driver tonight. Didn’t mind it because it gave me time to develop my photos. Not a lot of material tonight as it’s been a bit of mixed up day and the weather has been the most mixed of all with rain showers, hail and bright sunshine. The PoD is the rather sad looking starling sitting on the back fence.

Just back now from taking Isobel home from the concert at Cumbernauld Theatre and then driving Scamp home. Amazed that I found a space to park in when we got home.

Tomorrow we’d planned to go to Millport (over the sea), but the weather looks as if it will be much like today, so maybe we’ll shelf that for a better day and look for something else to do.

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No Fish Today – 12 April 2018

A drive around Falkirk and Stirling was on the cards today.

<Technospeak>
In the morning, Scamp was having coffee with Isobel. I cleaned out a file on the new Linx. It’s named Windows.old and on the ‘new’ computer, it holds 12.5GB of data. That’s data that I’m not going to use again. That’s data that takes up almost 19% of the 64GB storage on the Linx. I did the sensible thing first, of course. I backed up the whole 64GB earlier in the week. I should say that I tried to just simply delete the folder last night, but I kept on hitting blocks where some files were locked and others needed approval by the ‘administrator’ i.e. me. It wasn’t just the simple fire-and-forget deletion that my Windows Explorer replacement, Directory Opus, can usually be relied upon to supply. However, after a bit of searching on the Interweb, I found an elegant solution that Microsoft actually supply. Admittedly it’s hidden deep in the pages within pages of the ‘system’. It does a good job though. 12GB of useless crap surgically removed. I may say this only once: Thank you Microsoft! Oh yes, and I did today’s Sudoku too.
</Technospeak>

When she got back, Scamp suggested we go to the fish shop in Linlithgow. We’d been planning to go for a couple of weeks now. Seemed like a plan, so off we went. Drove along the traffic jam and assault course that is a Main Street in Linlithgow only for Scamp to cry out that the shop was shut. I couldn’t look myself for the simple reason that I’d have driven into a bus or a tractor coming the other way or run one of the amazing amount of red lights on that street. You really have to have driven there to realise just what I’m talking about. I took her word for it and drove on out the other side. I could have turned at the roundabout at the end of the Main Street, but that would have meant running the gauntlet a second time and I wasn’t up for that. That took us the long road down past Grangemouth and from there along the M9 to Stirling. It gave me the opportunity to stock up on breakfast muesli and beer at Morrisons. Both essentials. It also gave Scamp a chance to buy up their entire stock of ‘cheap wine’ (her words, not mine). We also had a cheap lunch (my words). Bowl of chips (S), Roll ’n’ Sausage (me) and two cups of reasonable coffee for just over £6. That’s a good deal.

On the way home was a plant nursery Isobel had been telling Scamp about. How convenient. She got a Ladybird Poppy there and she’d also got a wee Acer in Morrisons, so she was a happy bunny. When we got home I found a confirmation email from the shop to confirm that just short of £100 would be in our account soon. I was a happy bunny.

Back home I put on my walking trousers. That’s the pair of cords with holes in the pockets and muck splattered all the way up the legs. Went for a walk round St Mo’s. Found two of the Orange 16 Spot Ladybirds I’ve been keeping tabs on since December. One looked as if it was laying eggs, but was in a really awkward place in the moss at the bottom of an ash tree, so it was difficult to be sure. PoD went to the Gorse flower. Lovely and bright.  Notice the yellow theme!

Tomorrow looks like it will be wet. Don’t know what we’ll do. Maybe go for lunch, that would be good. Not going for fish.

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Huntigowk – 1 April 2018

That’s what my mum used to call April fool. Probably meant Hunt the Gowk (fool).

Today we were going out for a drive and hoping for a walk too. Scamp’s first suggestion was Devilla Forest, but when we got there, the circular car park was full and there were cars parked everywhere. On to Scamp’s suggestion number 2 which was Kirkcaldy and a walk to see the seals. Not really so bad as Devilla is about halfway between Cumbersheugh and Kirkcaldy.

We may have been about half way there, distance wise, but the twisty turny road and the 20mph zones made it feel much longer. It didn’t help when I decided to go a shortcut and found after a mile that the road was closed. OK, there was a sign in Burntisland, but it didn’t say clearly which road was closed. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Finally got to Kirkcaldy and parked with a great view of the crashing waves. Sat watching them for a while before we got out and got walking. Luckily we’d both brought boots because the path we were walking along was quite mucky. As usual, almost everyone else had a dog with them. I think we need to get a dog. Probably not a real one though. I remember JIC had a wee pull-along daschund. Maybe we should look it out and take it with us on our next walk. Then everyone will think we’re ‘normal’ walkers. Anyway, we found the ‘castle’ which is called Seafield Tower and used to be a grade B listed building, but was delisted from Category B in 2015 and has been a designated a Scheduled Monument, which smacks of “I wash my hands of it” by Historic Scotland.

It appeared that the seals which are usually there in herds sunning themselves on the rocks were on their Easter holidays and had jetted off to sunnier climes. I can’t blame them, with the prospect of more snow on the way tomorrow. However, we walked on a bit further in the vain hope of seeing some of the fat blubbery mammals. We’d have been better going up to Cumbersheugh town centre. We’d have seen a tumble-down ruin there and lots of fat blubbery mammals. Ah, but the sun was shining here!

Lunch was a cup of instant coffee and a Mars bar when we got back to the car. Then after a quick spin round Morrisons for bread, we took a much more sensible road home with no 20mph zones. Drove across the new Forth Road Bridge and home.

PoD is the view through the square window. One of the few left in Seafield Tower.  That really was a beautiful day and an interesting walk.  Isn’t it great when the sun shines and you’ve got someone you love to walk with.

Tomorrow is a day off. No dancing. No Gems. What will we do? I’ll tell you tomorrow DV.

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It Rained – 30 March 2018

All day it rained.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and that may just have been the high point of the day.

After lunch we drove to Bishopbriggs to get some messages. While I was reversing into a parking space there was a bloke behind driving into the space behind. He got a bit voluble on the horn when he thought I was going to bump his shiny gunmetal sports car. I had it covered. I’ve got a reversing camera and was nicely placed in my box. He chose to reverse. When I looked, I realised why he was a bit nervous. It was only an Aston Martin he was driving. Lovely looking car, but absolutely no use to me. Too low. I could never get out of that. Probably that’s why it wasn’t on my shopping list when I bought the Juke!

By the time we got back to Cumbersheugh it was raining again. Got today’s PoD on the doorstep. Scamp’s wee violas have been a riot of colour all through the winter. They’ve been rained on, been almost blown away in the gales. They’ve had about 20cm or snow dumped on them, then frozen solid, but still they come up smiling. Lovely flowers.

This strange looking sludge isn’t the head on a pint of Guinness, it’s a shot of my active sourdough starter.  We spoke about it this morning, Hazy.  I haven’t got round to playing it some music yet.  Maybe Pink Floyd’s ‘A Saucer Full Of Secrets’ perhaps. or something from ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis?  Suggestions on a postcard please.  If this means nothing to you, read “Sourdough” by Robin Sloan and all will become clear!

Sorry folks, but that’s about it for the day. There’s not a lot else to say about the day, other than we’re going out tomorrow. Somewhere. Anywhere!

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Feeling Refreshed – 23 March 2018

Scamp was going out for coffee with Shona, so I had all morning to swear at the Toshiba or to do some painting.

I chose painting, but there was no gesso. Gesso is a thick, sometimes textured base coat you put on the card, canvas or wood you’re going to paint on with oils or acrylic. It can almost be replaced with acrylic paint or even emulsion paint these days. I chose acrylic and slapped a muddy brown layer on both sides of the card, then hung the card up to dry. That was about 10am. I think it’s still damp tonight at 11.25pm. So, it was back to swearing at the Tosh.

Actually there was very little swearing involved because I’d found an obscure website where one member claimed that it was possible to ‘refresh’ Windows 10 without losing any data or apps. Everyone else said it was impossible. I like a challenge, so I followed the blokes instructions, downloaded the ‘media creation tool’ from the Mickysoft site which took about an hour and a half, unpacked it and found I needed an 8gb memory stick. I didn’t have one that size that wasn’t being used so as it was lunchtime I called a halt to the computer nonsense and Scamp and I had lunch.

Set off to Sunny Coatbridge to see if I could get my hands on a Linx 12×64, because according to the Currys website, they had them in stock. I wandered round the lovely, selection of laptops. Some too big 17”. Some too small 10”. None just right 12”. So, feeling a bit like Goldilocks I went looking for an assistant who wasn’t checking his Facebook status to ask if they had the elusive Linx. The bloke I asked didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, but thankfully the youngster beside him who was just putting his phone away said he thought the had run out of them, but he’d check. He did and they had one left in the store, but it was in a box and he couldn’t open it. Bummer. But at least they had them. Maybe Stirling would have one, but that would be another day. Got a cheap memory stick and left.

Drove up to a dead end road at the back of Cumbersheugh Airport that cuts across the Antonine Wall and that’s where I got PoD. Looking North across Banknock, not to be confused with Bangkok. Sounds similar, different planet!

Came home via The Works to get some gesso, so over the weekend, I can paint, if not a masterpiece, at least something to take my mind of the failure of this wee drive to refresh my old PC laptop.

What a surprise! It took about five hours, but at the end of that I have a working Window’s 10 laptop. The ‘media creation tool’ and the memory stick did their work flawlessly. Not only that, the re-install did not touch any of my apps. Fantastic. Give that man on the obscure website a coconut. The laptop will still need to be reset properly and securely before I trade it in, but that was a ‘Wee Challenge’ that worked out well.

Speaking about coconuts, Scamp made Coconut and Fish Curry for dinner and it was really, really nice. Didn’t sound nice, I know, but it worked so well. The flavours blended beautifully.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for a sunny day for someone’s birthday and a trip down to Troon for lunch.

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Wednesday is Dancing day – 21 March 2018

I struggled with the Toshiba Windows 10 laptop for an hour or so in the morning, by which time it had loaded windows, but not so far that it would actually do anything. The desktop wallpaper had loaded and the ‘quick start’ icons were there, but the trackpad didn’t respond and neither did the keyboard. I eventually gave up and switched on the Mac. Ten seconds later I was in business. Same processor. Same memory. Different planet. I don’t actually use the laptop any more and am beginning to think that I’ll securely wipe the drive, reinstall Win10 and trade it in for a new Linx 12×64 to use as a holiday laptop. Windows 10 is a disaster for me.

After lunch we drove in to town for the first two dance classes. The first one was Waltz and we did quite well at it, which was especially satisfying because we hadn’t practised in the three weeks since our last lesson. Next class was Jive and although we were just reprising the routine we’ve been learning, it began to flow much more smoothly than it had. Heavens, we even managed the Boston Hitch … without a hitch. Cup of coffee and then home, but not before I grabbed my one shot of the day. Except, when I got it home and into the computer, I found that the camera had chosen a shutter speed of 1/8sec when it should really have been about 1/40th. Why it did that, I do not know, but I have now reset the camera to factory settings and then re-programmed all my previous settings. Unfortunately, by the time I did all that, it was dark outside, so I couldn’t test it to see if my drastic measure had cured the problem or not. It’s still under warranty, so worst case, I can send it for repair.

Dinner was the same as yesterday for both of us which was good because it was quick to prepare and of course Rats or Chilli always tastes better on the second day. Salsa was ok, but I could happily do without the Wednesday beginners classes. Yes, we’re helping the beginners, but we get very little out of it. I know Scamp likes to help, so for the time being I’m happy to go along.

Tomorrow I’m planning a sketching day in Glasgow if the rain stays away. If it rains I’ll still go in and hopefully get today’s aborted shot. Today’s PoD is tomatoes on the draining board!