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Happy Birthday JIC – 16 August 2017

Today is JIC’s birthday, so happy birthday JIC. Hope you had a better day weatherwise than we had!

Quote from yesterday’s blog:

“Today was a lovely day, but tomorrow is to be not so nice, so I may be doing some painting.”

That’s the way it turned out too. I did do a little watercolour painting in the morning, because I missed the sunshine by staying in bed too long. Only an hour after we woke up, the rain was on, so I didn’t miss all that much of the sunshine. After that it was shower after shower until they all merged into one big downpour.

Scamp wanted to clear out a cupboard and I ‘helped’ for a while before I got bored and went to sand down the window sills and give them their second coat of varnish. It was a strangely satisfying way to use the day. Standing painting while watching the rain pour down outside. By taking my time and not rushing, I actually managed to avoid getting stain on either:

a. The curtains.
b. The vertical blinds.

An amazing feat by my standards.
The great thing about applying acrylic staining varnish is that an idiot can do it and get good results. It’s not waterproof, and it’s not all that hard wearing, but it does what it says on the tin. It gives a good finish easily. That’s my kind of paint … or varnish.

After fish ’n’ chips for dinner we drove in to Glasgow to be met with worse than the usual Wednesday car crash that is the M8. By judicious changing of lanes and pleading looks with indicators on, I managed to get us to the STUC in reasonable time and just before the 6.30 class had started. And what caused this chaos? It was raining. As a result, there was local flooding. We live in Scotland. It rains occasionally, in fact, more than occasionally. It rains often. It’s not as if we are on the edge of the Gobi Desert, we’re in a temperate zone on the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean. IT RAINS HERE OFTEN. So why did the pinheads who designed the M8 not take cognisance of that fact and build in enough drainage to deal with a known situation? Answers on a postcard please.

First class – Beginners Week 2 was fun. Everyone was really enjoying it, even the helpers like us.
<RANT>Second class – Advanced (?) Too many with heads up their collective arses, thinking they know it all when in fact they need to do a bit more serious preparation which begins with listening to the teacher. It’s OK being a ‘know it all’ if you actually do know it, as some people do. However, it’s not OK if you simply want to show off, because then you don’t really know it all, if fact you know nothing. </RANT>

Came home and spoke to the birthday boy, which brings us back to the start.

I’ll say it again. Hope you had a great day JIC and I hope the sun did shine for you today.

Hoping for some sun for ourselves tomorrow between the showers.

Today’s PoD was a little setup I’ve been considering for some days, and nothing at all to do with JIC’s celebration, just incase you were wondering Sim! It was something I dreamed up to use when the weather was against me. Always good to have something up your sleeve.

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Following my nose – 15 August 2017

The forecast for today was good, so we headed off this morning to South Queensferry.

Unfortunately, the rest of the Western world had also decided that today was the perfect day to go to South Queensferry, and they’d got there and parked before us. No room at the inn. Not to worry, we could just carry on along the road and go to Cramond. Almost as good, and it has a good ice cream van that does Mr Whippy style ice cream.

Then we got stuck behind an old ‘diddy’ who seemed determined to wear out his brakes. Ten miles an hour everywhere. I’m sure he was getting the clutch and brake mixed up, either that or he had enormous feet and was covering both pedals. The road down the hill is very narrow and there sometimes isn’t room for two cars to pass. This diddy just kept driving and forcing others to reverse out of his way. Only once did he give way. Anyway, eventually he got to the bottom of the hill and the parking place. He went one way round, I went the other. The parking place was full. Who did we meet at the other end of the carpark? The diddy. He just stopped and indicated that I should reverse. Sorry, I don’t take instructions from diddies, so I just sat and waited with my arms folded. The standard I’m not going anywhere signal. He gave up and reversed out of my way! Result! He’s probably writing a blog at this minute ranting about the ignorant man who thought he owned the road and the carpark! He’d be right too. Hope his brakes cooled quicker than his temper.

So, no room at the inn number 2. We knew there was a big wide road that we’d seen cars parked on and it ran parallel to the esplanade at Cramond, but we’d never found it. Today we needed it. By following my nose, I found it. It was a dual carriageway that apparently was just a big carpark. It was nearly empty and we got to choose our parking space. We walked along for a while, but then turned back because Scamp had spotted an ice cream van. We both had 99s. It’s ages since I’ve had a 99. So glad we found this parking place. Now all we had to do was get back out of it and onto the road home again.

That was more difficult and we had to drive almost into Embra before I could find the road back, but I did, by following my nose again. Just to be cantankerous, I didn’t take the motorway or the Forth Road Bridge (the new crossing isn’t open yet), but headed for Bo’ness instead. Stopped at a garden centre that appeared on our right and had coffee ’n’ a scone. Scamp had been looking for a pair of proper secateurs for ages and the garden centre provided them for a price she was willing to pay.

From there it was an easy drive home.

Today’s PoD was taken from the ‘new’ carpark and is entitled “Are we having fun yet?”

Today was a lovely day, but tomorrow is to be not so nice, so I may be doing some painting. Not oils this time, but acrylic and not on a canvas either, it’ll be on the inside window sills which really need another layer of varnish.

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Out for a spin – 12 August 2017

Woke up to rain, so had a lazy start to the day until the sun started to show around midday. Set off about 1 pm to go for a wee spin and to see if there was anywhere that would serve us lunch. There was.

We drove to the Oakwood garden centre near Killearn and had a decent sandwich lunch and a more than decent cafetiere of Colombian Rich coffee. I got the scenic seat looking out the picture window across the fields to the hills beyond. The view in this cafe has to be seen to be believed. After lunch we drove down through Balfron to Stirling and Waitrose where we picked up tomorrow’s dinner. Sea Trout for Scamp and Pork Shoulder for me. Lovely drive through the Stirlingshire countryside. Loads of opportunities for photos, but never took them.

Came home and visited St Mo’s which is where I saw today’s PoD of a rather grumpy looking Mr Grey. St Mo’s was full of weans, and I don’t mean primary school weans, I mean S3/4 14 and 15 year olds easily twenty or thirty of them roaming around trying to find something to brag to their mates about on the last few days of their summer holidays. What one of the Principal Teachers described as a ‘Tribe’. That is what they are like. Feral, that’s the only word for them, almost domesticated animals. Barely house trained. I’m glad I can walk away from them now.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of some shooting stars tonight when we pass close to the Perseids. We’ve been on intersecting orbits since 36AD or before. The first documented encounter was around that time according to Wikipedia. (I can’t be arsed with the current CE or BCE nonsense. If you feel insulted by that then tough, off you go and complain to someone who cares.)

Tomorrow the weather will be much the same as today and maybe even a little better.

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Go out walking in the rain – 6 August 2017

It wasn’t the most inspiring day today. It had been, earlier on. Then we had hills from the back window, but later in the morning the hills had disappeared under a sheet of white, low lying cloud and the rain looked as if it was just about to appear. It did, and it stayed for the rest of the day.

We didn’t have any decent bread, so when I was getting the lunch sausages out of the freezer (fried lunch on a Sunday) I pulled out a 500(ish)g piece of frozen bread dough and set it to thaw out. After lunch the rain got a bit lighter, then the sun tried to come out, failed and the rain took its place again. It was about then I decided I was going out to take some photos, in the rain if necessary. So dressed in an old pair of jeans and my trusty rainy coat, I walked over to St Mo’s to feed the ducks and hopefully get some photos. The one above is my favourite. It was taken with the Nikon and a Sigma 105mm macro lens. A beautiful lens designed for taking close-ups. No zoom. It’s a Prime and with a maximum aperture of f2.8, depth of field is minimal. If none of that makes sense to you, then I’m sorry. Let’s just say this is one of my oldest and most favourite lenses.  Brilliant for beasties!

When I got back and got changed out of the sodden boots and jeans, I started to solve a puzzle that has appeared since I started using El Cap. The problem is Photos. It’s an app that is part of OSX and every time you plug in an SD card it pops up wanting to handle your photos for you. Well, actually I have my own software to do that, thank you very much, so bog off Photos. Except, it won’t, or should I say it didn’t until I fixed it today. You see, because it’s part of the operating system, it can’t be uninstalled. Actually it can, but apparently that causes more problems than it solves. I used Keyboard Maestro, a clever little piece of software that allows you to write ‘macros’ that can go behind the Mac OS and make things happen for you. What my macro does is wait until it senses that Photos has been triggered. When it has, it immediately shuts it down. It was with great satisfaction that I watched that colourful wee icon appear on the task bar, bounce a couple of times, then bog off! Isn’t technology wonderful when it works?

Went to Salsa at La Rambla. Had tapas first and it was very good indeed. Sat with Ronnie, Sharon and Peter and were entertained all through the meal. Dancing was good, but with Cameron in charge of the music, there were a few too many bachata tunes. Glad we agreed to drive instead of getting the train. About 25 minutes journey time instead of an hour and a half. Would certainly go back.

Tomorrow? More rain I think, so more walking in the rain perhaps. Today’s title is from Alex Harvey – Faith Healer.

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Paisley Pattern and Siri – 5 August 2017

We were intending to go to Salsa in Paisley on Sunday and, as we hadn’t ever driven there, we planned a recce today.

Getting there was simple, even if Google Maps on my iPhone insisted on showing the route upside down. Just off the motorway we found the restaurant that hosts the Paisley Sunday Social. There were some parking areas around it, but nothing substantial and, as the social attracts a fair number of dancers, we decided to find a bigger car park. That’s when the trouble began. Paisley, it seems, has an even more complicated one-way system than is really necessary. After travelling round and round, we eventually found the exit and after a couple of wrong turnings, got parked. I’d just pushed the button for 2 hours parking when I noticed that you only need to pay on weekdays! No problem, at least we were parked.

Paisley is like most Central Scotland towns. It’s in a state of decline with frantic attempts by the council to make it look new and vibrant. It wasn’t working. Too many ‘pound shop’ variants and charity shops in the main street. A new shopping mall with only half the shops occupied. Cumbernauld without the concrete.

We wandered round the Abbey and surroundings, but didn’t even stay long enough to have a coffee. That shows how bad it was. I found some interesting buildings that I may go back and sketch and today’s PoD is one of them. It’s a former Territorial Army drill hall, now on the steep slope to Beyond Economic Repair. It was also falling into a big bucket of Photoshop tonight and that’s where the Haunted House look came from.

When we went back to pick up the car, I thought I remembered the street it was parked in. It’s the same street I drove a box van up to JIC and Andy’s new student flat! It’s a small world, Paisley.

After negotiating most of the one-way system, I foolishly followed Apple Maps which took me the wrong way down a one-way street! Never again Apple. Google maps may be upside down, but at least they are reasonably accurate. Eventually found the road back to Glasgow and late lunch at Milano. While there, I noticed that Apple Maps was still active on my phone, despite me having switched the phone off half an hour before. I switched it off – again. Meal was good as usual in Milano and when we got home I again noticed that the phone had switched itself on and was sitting on the lock screen. I got so mad at it I long-pressed the button, summoning the useless Siri. When it appeared, I shouted at it “Switch the fuckin’ phone off”. It switched off!!!

I wasn’t expecting that. Then I noticed, just as the display disappeared that power was down to 2%. That’s why it switched off, nothing to do with stupid Siri. Just coincidence.

No plans for Sunday, apart from Paisley.

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I didn’t know this time existed – 13 July 2017

13 July v4It was 2.30am when the alarm sounded and the day had begun.  Up and out with nothing but half a cup of tea in me.  Drove to the airport along an almost deserted motorway.  Bus from the long stay to the airport proper.  Booked in security checked and sitting at breakfast in Frankie & Benny’s just before 5am.  Only one small problem at security when they wanted to inspect my black box of wires, connectors and assorted cables.  However the poor girl got a shock when she opened the bag and smelled my almost freshly ground coffee which was leaking from the lock ‘n’ lock tub.  That put a smile on her face.  It always does.  Flight was inconsequential but apparently the landing was a bit bumpy.  I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary.  Besides, we had been warned that it might be an uncomfortable approach because of gusty winds.

Transfer to the ship from the airport was organized and quick with a half hour drive along the coast to Dubrovnik.  The ship is quite small, compared with others we’ve been on, but it has all we’ll need.  I was disappointed with the cabin, but in a way, it was what I expected from the deck plan.  Ramsay (bastard) Travel assured us it was an unrestricted view.  Unrestricted if you can ignore the chest high metal barrier three metres in front of the window and the door that cuts off our view forward.  I grumped about it all afternoon yesterday and I apologise for that now, Scamp.

After the grumping session, we went for a quick lunch in the Thomson version of ‘Smash ‘n’ Grab’, we went for a short walk into town.  We decided that we didn’t have time to go as far as the Old Town today and that when we return in a week’s time we’ll be sensible and get a taxi DV.  Walked for about an hour and then dropped into a bar for a beer.  Scamp must have been thirsty because she polished off a full pint of lager.  Cost us 50 Kuna which is about £6.50 so not bad at all.  I think we both needed a drink because the sun was shining from a clear blue sky and the temperature was 30 degrees  Walked back to the ship and found the wee market on the quayside where Scamp got a dress two years ago.

IMG_4092-2When we got back I began today’s SoD which is of an impressive road bridge across a wide estuary just outside the port.  It was a second attempt, but it turned out looking like the bridge.  I was satisfied.  More strange looks for a bit of Urban Sketching!

After the sketch was completed, it was time for the lifeboat drill.  It was the usual pantomime, but the most realistic we’ve been to with names and room numbers being checked off.  Our staff member was quite strict and officious pushing and prodding us until we were all in exactly the proscribed positions.

The drill passed and everyone walking around like Lego Men, it was time to put the lifejackets away and get ready for dinner.  Dinner was not as good as some we’ve had, and for the first time on a cruise we had to pay for a steak.  I didn’t.  Company at the table was ok, but one woman was amazed that I didn’t like Elvis! 

Went to the show which was ‘Motown’.  It was ok, but a bit too long.  Then it was a walk along the deck to see the sail away.  Strange having a sail away in the dark.  Went to watch the ‘Sailaway Party’ which seemed to be a lot of embarrassing ‘dad dancing’ before we went to bed. 

Day at sea tomorrow.  Time to relax.

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Days daze – 8 July 2017

It was late when we woke up because we’d been late going to bed last night.

Scamp decided we should go to Colzium for a walk. I thought this a bit strange, because we usually went there on a Sunday morning and today was Saturday, but it was a bright sunny day and a walk in the sun is always a good thing. Parked and went on a long wandering walk around the estate then found that the ‘clock theatre’ had been given a new lease of life as a cafe. We had a coffee and a scone each. The scones were nothing to write home about, but the coffee was absolutely terrible. Brown water with no taste. That’s not coffee. I admired the two folk running the cafe for their enterprise, but not their expertise. Must do better.

Left there and drove east. I suggested we go to Dunfermline because I wanted to go to Waterstones. Scamp agreed, but seemed surprised. Then she said, “Of course, it’s Saturday, not Sunday”. Suddenly, everything was clear. The walk, and the surprise that we weren’t just going home afterwards. It’s been such a confusing week, I can see where she got mixed up.

We walked through the park at Dunfermline and had a coffee, real coffee in Nero. She managed to get the sandals she’d been looking for in Clarks, but I still didn’t get a book.

We stopped off on the way home at Torryburn, near Culross, but it’s all right Hazy, we didn’t go to the ‘C’ place, we just skirted round it. Walked along the shore path at Torryburn, enjoying the sun. Came home and dropped in at Milano’s for late lunch. Pizza for me and Mussels for Scamp. Home and a seat in the sun, the garden with a glass of Pimms each in our glass holders. Ah, Summer!

Rain forecast tomorrow.

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Recovering from an overdose of salsa – 3 July 2017

Today was always going to be a recovery day. Dancing at the Sunday Social, then dancing at the 40th wedding anniversary celebration for Johnny and Andrea. Late drive home then crashing to get the blog done before the witching hour. I don’t suppose the wee dram helped either.

Anyway, a new day. Did a bit more gardening, but not as much as Scamp. After lunch I went for a walk to lose the black monkey that was on my shoulder all day. Went down the Luggie for a change and got the photo of the dog rose and the sketch of the railway bridge. Came home, without the monkey, had dinner and went to more salsa. That’s the day in a nutshell.

There’s not much more to say other than I hadn’t intended doing a sketch every day in July, it was just a lovely warm sunny then dull day and I love the textures of the old railway bridge. I expect some day they will have to repair or replace it, but until then I’ll admire its rusty overgrown features and photograph it or sketch it when it appeals to me.

I helped out at Cameron’s enormous beginners salsa class. He really needs the help. He’s getting better as a teacher, but really needs to “speak more clearly and distinctly” to quote Scamp. He also needs to stop referring to everyone as ‘guys’. That’s ok when you’re talking to a bunch of guys, but calling everyone ‘guys’ can be confusing for beginners to know when he’s talking to leaders and when he’s talking to followers. Maybe he will improve, or maybe as someone once said at school “He’s plateaued.” IE. ‘reached a state of little or no change after a period of activity or progress’. Only time will tell, but I, as a seasoned dancer, found today’s class confusing, so what did the beginners think.  One big bonus tonight was that Scamp drove us in and back from class.  It was so relaxing being driven, but I don’t think Scamp found it that way.  I think I may be driving on Wednesday DV.

Tomorrow we’re out fairly early. Don’t know what we will be doing after that.

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Party Time – 2 July 2017

A late start today then the day was filled with some light gardening – pruning, repotting and just generally admiring our handiwork.

We were going to a 40th wedding anniversary party with dancing, salsa dancing that is, and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. I never do look forward to parties as most people who know me will understand. For all the years I’ve been a teacher, I’m not a people person. Look at my photos and count how many have people in them. Look at my sketches and count how many have people as the main subject. Perhaps that’s why I took today’s photo. It’s a picture of a person – sort of, it’s just not a human person. It’s a wee lego stormtrooper. That makes it two steps away from a human and he’s holding a Tic Tac head. The title is “Alas poor Yorick”.

Anyway, today was Sunday, still is, and it was a Sunday Social day too. We had considered all the possible variations of travel and came up with the best solution being to take the car and drive to deepest, darkest Rutherglen after the social. Social was good and we both got a few dances.

I think we arrived too early at the party. Too early being 7.15ish. The cake had been cut and the toasts toasted. So it was that awkward time when nobody wants to move too far. Photos are still being taken and its too early for the family to leave. Luckily, Scamp found a baby to talk to and its mum to talk to too. Then other Salseros started to arrive and Shannon began to get things organised for the dancing to begin. We danced a silly rueda and then split up into couples and started dancing properly. Despite the fact that I wasn’t drinking, because I was the driver, I did enjoy myself a lot. We congratulated the happy couple and left just after 10pm.  I had actually enjoyed the night although at times I felt like a fish out of water.

It took us much longer than it should have to get home because the slip road to Stirling was closed. Why do the motorway contractors trumpet the announcement that the new motorway is now open when from 8pm to 8am they are still repairing and finalising the construction? Be honest for once and deliver the works once they are complete.

Home by 11pm. Should have take us 20 mins, not double that.

Tomorrow? Maybe a swim and a gym.

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The search continues – 28 June 2017

Today we drove to Stirling because at Springkerse in the town (I know, Mrs McQueen made it a city in 2000, but it’s still a town to me) at Springkerse there are a host of car retailers.

First stop was Arnold Clark for a look at a Renault. The Megane we looked at was too big, definitely too big, so was the price. It came off the list right away. Next up was the Clio from the same garage. It was much more like what we had in our heads, and after some jiggery pokery with the figures, so was the price. Had a seat in one and quite liked it. Were offered a test drive, but declined. Once our shortlist is complete we’ll use test drives to whittle it down.
Next up was Peugeot. Maybe we got off to a bad start by not having an actual model in mind, maybe he took a look at the scruffy jeans and dirty old rugby shirt and decided we couldn’t afford anything but a second hand car, but although he was pleasant enough, he wasn’t as enthusiastic as he could have been. We sat in a 208, but it was a second-hand bottom of the range model and it wasn’t what I was looking for. Off the list.
Last for the day was Nissan. Scamp didn’t like the Juke – I didn’t really think she would. It’s too big she said. We looked at the new Micra. The dealer said it was actually bigger than the Juke. He lied, it’s not. It is marginally smaller. I didn’t like it, Scamp did. He did offer us an interesting test drive option, whereby we could take the car for up to 24 hours and give it a long test. Nissan would even pay for the insurance! Again, after number crunching he came up with a much better price than the lady in Glasgow had offered. I think the Juke and the Micra both stay on the list, but I also think that Macklin Motors in Glasgow are now off the list.
That was the end of testing for today.

Had coffee in Stirling and then I needed to get a sketch done, and that is what you see here. I’ve been reading an excellent sketching book by Liz Steel entitled Five Minute Sketching – Architecture. I can’t say with any honesty that I can achieve the five minutes yet, but I’m putting a lot of her ideas into practise. I’m a lot better pleased with it than I was with yesterday’s effort.

When I got home, Scamp was on cooking duty so I had almost an hour in St Mo’s and came upon the little deer almost right away. As usual, I had the wrong lens on the Nikon, but managed to change and grab a few shots before Bambi took off.

Salsa tonight was a bit of a mix up with Jamie G taking over one of Colin’s classes and trying to teach a move that was new to both his class and Colin’s. Of course, us as old hands knew it (Romeo and Juliet) It was a bit of a shambles to start with, but then it began to flow a lot better. Let’s hope they all, or at least most of them, come back next week.

Beautiful sunset tonight after a lovely day with loads of sunshine.  I didn’t photograph the sunset.  Yes, it was lovely, but everyone forgets that if you don’t have a decent foreground and an interesting midground, a beautiful sunset is just some oversaturated colours flung together.  So speaks Oscar the Grouch!

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It’s supposed to rain.