P1040780- blog

Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

Last night after being fairly well organized, Windows decided it desperately needed an update without telling anyone.

I thought I was sorted. Blog written, photos edited and ready to be exported. All I needed to do was put everything together and upload them. Unfortunately, Windows in association with Lightroom had other ideas. First, LR wanted to export the wrong file and absolutely refused to pick the right one. ON1 was no help, because it wouldn’t load. Usually a restart will solve the problem and when I tried to restart the computer and it told me it was configuring it, I knew it had been downloading another unnecessary upgrade. That explained it, I thought. However on restarting, nothing wanted to work at all. Got fed up with its shenanigans and did an impolite shutdown. On a Mac, a polite shutdown is where you tell the ‘puter to shut down. An impolite shutdown is where you pull the plug. You don’t have that option on a laptop. Holding down the on button does the same job. Val says leave it for a slow count of ten and then restart it. That’s what I did and it worked. Everything was normal. LR exported the file and Livewriter uploaded the blog without any problem.

That was last night, today was much better. We were out fairly early to make the most of the day at the Steam Fair in Stotfold. We were walking there, taking the path between the old mill and the mill house, the former dull and uninteresting, the latter looking very elegant, but not worth the £2M asking price. From there across the fields to Stotfold, an odd mixture of new-builds and centuries old farm buildings.

The Steam Fair was marvellous. As the name suggests, lots of steam driven machinery and transport. Even better there was a fair, a real fair with stalls, a big wheel, a helter skelter and best of all, a Wall of Death. I can’t remember exactly when I last saw a wall of death, but it must have been fifty years ago at least. We wandered round the attractions, then we three meat eaters had hot roast pork with stuffing and crackling on a roll from a stall, while the vegetarian of the group had a carton of chips. The roast pork was excellent. Wandered round a few more of the stalls and bought two wee lego ‘Weemen’. A Darth and a panda, both of which will become models in the near future, I’m sure. Visited the Mill, a real working mill powered by a waterwheel. Really looked the part, despite being burnt to the ground in the ‘80s and rebuilt. Later we had a drink in the beer tent. JIC and I had an excellent IPA. Wish I’d taken a quick snap of the barrel to record its name. Sim had Old Peculiar which I always think is a bit too sweet. Scamp had a pint of Deuchers. Glad they had a decent Scottish beer too. Foodies, yes. Drinkies, perhaps. Finally decided to call it a day after I’d stood out in the rain watching a flying display by Captain Nevil’s Flying Circus. I bought myself a couple of caps, one waterproof (allegedly) one, just a cap for the hols. You can never have too many caps or bunnets. I was really glad I’d decided to wear my rainy coat because it rained all the way home.

At night we went to the Lancers, Indian restaurant in Baldock. Food was deemed ok. Not too bad, but with strange mixtures. Scamp wasn’t impressed with her Saag Paneer which seemed to have coconut milk in it. Never seen that before, but perhaps its a regional thing in India.

Watched a couple of strange Black Mirror episodes to finish off the day. What is it about Black Mirror that makes it stick in my head long after the program has finished? They remind me of the old ’60s Outer Limits, the black and white ones.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to this place and fly back home.

P1040780- blog

Down Glasgow Green – 20 August 2017

True to our challenge, we were out pretty early today and off down Glasgow Green.

Went for our usual walk around The Green to see the newbies taking their first steps on the road (or should that be water) to becoming competent rowers. There were lots of them out splashing about on the water. Lots of older gentlemen on bikes, carrying megaphones were shouting instructions to the more seasoned rowers. I don’t know if any of them were actually listening to these encouragements, in fact I think I heard one shout back “Why don’t you fuck off ya bastard”. Of course I could have been mistaken.

We went to the People’s Palace for the usual roll ’n’ sausage for me and toast for Scamp, but horror of horrors, it wasn’t flat sausage, it was two pork links in the roll and even worse, my coffee and Scamp’s tea came in a cardboard cup! What it the world coming to when you can’t get flat sausage or real crockery? Actually the link sausages were very nice, but the brown water was not coffee. By the time we were leaving some of the Ls, the Gs and the Bs, Ts and Is were gathering for some sort of festival thing which took up most of the Green. At first, thought it was a circus that had set up, and after some consideration, I was probably right!  Glasgow Pride weekend continues.

The afternoon was a bit of a lazy time. Didn’t do much other than work up an ink and wash drawing from an ink sketch I’d done in the winter garden. I’m not that impressed with it, but it’s done and there is some ink in it and it’s finished. Just got it finished and my pen disintegrated, spilling ink over my nice new watercolour pad. No great loss, it’s not such a brilliant pad. Might be good for acrylic, but the grain pattern is too regular for real watercolour work. Still worth the £3.  While I was engaged in this artistic endeavour, Scamp was completing one of her digital jigsaws.

Salsa tonight was great. It was in Arta and Grant was DJ, so the music was danceable. There weren’t many men there, and as a result, I was in great demand. I don’t think I sat down for more than two dances in succession. Totally wabbit I was by the end of the night.

Tomorrow we may go to the gym or for a swim if we can remember how to get there. It’s been a long time.

P1040780- blog

Gay for a Day – 19 August 2017

The sun enticed us out of bed and stayed with us until we left the house. After that it rained a bit, but it didn’t dampen our intent to go in to Glasgow on the bus. We were going to see the ‘maddies’ at Gay Pride.

We’d been to see the gay pride march last year, hoping to see one of Scamp’s old friends from work with her wife. Sorry, but I still find that a hard thing to say. Anyway, we didn’t see either of them and today was much the same. We started out with a coffee in Nero and then walked up Sauchiehall Street to Waterstones. On the way I went in to Tiger to get a pair of readers, because I had forgotten mine. In there, I picked up a watercolour block for the princely sum of £3! That’s about a quarter the price of the same sized article in Cass Art and they are the cheapest art shop in town. I’m not expecting much. It’s not going to be hand-made 100% rag paper, but for £3 you can’t expect miracles. Some people would say I always expect miracles! I was just going in to Waterstones when this bloke asked me how I was doing and if I was enjoying my retirement. I could almost see the Identikit pictures fluttering across my internal scanner as I tried to place him. Salsa? No, not salsa. High School? No, not high school, but there was a hook there. Teacher then? Yes. PT Tech from somewhere near. Kilsyth? Yes, that’s it. Isn’t the human brain wonderful. It’s been over three years since I’d last met Andy and I’ve had almost no connection to teaching since then, but the filters and sorts on my organic database worked their magic again. We talked for a while about people we knew and the state of Scottish education. I knew it was going downhill, you only have to watch the Scottish news to see that, but it’s much more pointed when you are getting the full story from someone at the chalkface. It was good speaking to him. I always got on well with him at PTs meetings. He was one of the quieter ones who had no need for arse licking. One of the few. We said our goodbyes and I wandered the bookshop trying to make sense of some of the things he had told me. For once I didn’t even add a book to my book list.

Met Scamp who had been raking through the bargain at M&S, then we walked down Buchanan Street to watch the march. We missed the start of it, but caught the most of the celebration. It never ceases to surprise me just how good natured this march is. Yes, it’s noisy and yes there are a lot of politicos there, but there is no bad feeling or even a harsh word. Everyone is just there to have a good time.  Even the rain showers didn’t dampen their enthusiasm. I got a few shots, quite a few, and when it was over we went to Cafe Andaluz for a tapas lunch washed down with a nice glass of red. After lunch we did a bit more shopping. Alliterative Sparkly Sandals for Scamp. For me, an inconclusive attempt to get a pair of jeans that I like at a price I was willing to pay. Possibly an impossible proposition.

To round off our day we dropped in to the Horse Shoe Bar for a little drink before we got the bus home. I don’t think Scamp was too comfortable on a shoogly bar stool. She’s not used to drinking at height.

Oh, today’s title doesn’t refer to us, at least I don’t think it does.  It was a discussion we had as we were walking back up Buchanan Street, wondering how many of those marching today with their rainbow colours and sequins were actually L or G or B or T or I.  We reckoned on about 50%.  The rest were just there for the fun of it or to support friends.  Why not?  That’s what life is all about.

Tomorrow? Maybe a walk in the morning. Tomorrow may be the first day of a new regime. A fitness regime. We’ll see how long it lasts.

P1040780- blog

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.

P1040780- blog

Around and about – 15 April 2017

Today we started out being driven to Hitchen for lunch and a walk around the shops.  It seemed like a plan as the sun was out and it was fairly warm.

It seems a pleasant wee town with a busy market in the centre.  Had lunch in a Greek restaurant.  I had lamb casserole as my main after a starter of Borek which is filo pastry filled with Greek feta cheese & spinach.  Afterwards we went for a walk around the main part of the town where a Sikh group were giving out free food and cans of juice to anyone who wanted it, free of charge as part of their Vaisakhi festival.  We had just had lunch, but there were big queues at the stall, happy to make the most of the food on offer.  It appears that there is such a thing as a free lunch!

It being Easter, there were a few others stalls dotted around, a town crier shouting the odds and even a couple of Imperial Stormtroopers searching for those droids, I presume.  We were looking for Just Desserts, a dessert restaurant, but it when we found it, it was closed, not just for Easter, but for good.   It had had its just desserts.  Instead of a dessert, we settled for a posh, artisan coffee shop.  Coffee was lovely, if  a bit sharp and there were loads of cakes on display.  JIC and I had Yoghurt and Cranberry slice.  Best laugh of the day was when I went to the toilet and found the toilet brush was stuck in a Starbucks mug!  Someone with a sense of humour and an opinion of Starbucks much like my own.

Back in the town the Vaisakhi procession was in full swing with drummers and marchers who were preceded by two men spraying water on the road in front of the markers, presumably to ritually clean it for them.  It was all quite a jolly and colourful affair in the sunshine.  However, our parking time was nearly up, so we made our way past and old church back to the car with a few minutes to spare.

Went out later to see the new Mill House and it’s quite a revelation although there is still a fair bit of scaffolding enclosing it.  Sketched it, but I’m not impressed with the sketch.  May redo it later.

Dinner should have been in the Benington Bell which is a traditional British pub serving traditional Trinidad food!  I had Aloo Pies to start with, but everybody else had Salt Fish and Tomato.  Main for me was Lamb Curry for me and for everyone else was Chicken Curry.  I just like to be different.  Unfortuntely, Sim wasn’t feeling too good, so we just ate and left. (Since I’m writing this on Sunday, I can tell you that she was fine after a night’s sleep.) The food was really, and I mean really excellent.  Thank you JIC and Sim for that.

When we got home, Sim went for a snooze while we watched Black Mirror on Netflix.  Interesting programme.  Must search for it when we get back home.

Tomorrow (or to be truthful, today 😉 we’re hoping to visit a garden centre.)

P1040780- blog

Bike Porn – 4 September 2016

Today, for the first time ever, or at least for a number of years, the Tour of Britain cycle race started from Glasgow.

We drove in early to be sure of getting a good place and spent an hour or so wandering around the pits, with me marvelling at the equipment on display.  All of it shiny and clean.  Something you can’t say about my own bike.  There were bikes everywhere.  On the team cars there were wheels, frames, complete bikes.  Enough to cover every eventuality.  As well as equipment, there were also the mobile homes for the teams.  Scamp was wondering why someone called Wiggins needed two mobile homes, and if he was actually in one of them.  The enormous crowd round them seemed to think he was.  I did actually grab a shot of him later in one of the race pics.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t actually focusing on him, but rather on the rider behind him as he was wearing a white top that helped the camera achieve focus better than on the superstar in front.

Bike Porn 4 SeptAfter our *’pit walk’* we walked over to the corner of George Street and Montrose street to get a good view of them coming along the straight.  After the usual preliminaries of motorcycles, polis and team cars, the juniors came through, followed a few minutes later by the professionals.  That’s when I noticed the error on the card – not writing!  Flicked the card out and wrote to the other card.  One big benefit of the D7000 is its two card slots.  I got a few shots there, but they were only cruising at this time, just the warm-up for the real race.  After the warm-up we had a few minutes to choose a different viewpoint and I moved round the corner a bit to get some shots of the riders coming round that tight bend before climbing up the fairly steep hill towards Cathedral Street.  Scamp stayed almost where she was to act as a spotter!  We had a bit of entertainment when a guy on the First Aid bike bravely pedaled up Montrose Street to a massive cheer from the crowds.

Scamp tipped me the wink that the peloton was coming and I got ready.  Hammered off about ten shots as they rounded the bend and hoped for the best, then the camera jammed.  Don’t know yet what it was.  Yes, the buffer was full and emptying itself, but the lens wouldn’t focus.  Swore for a bit, but I’d got most of the photos I wanted.  Then as mysteriously the problem went away and I got some shots of the cavalcade of team cars driving up Montrose Street.

Cycling 4 sepI thought they had another lap to do round the city centre circuit, so we wandered down to Ingram Street, but they had gone past on Clyde Street and over the bridge heading for Castle Douglas and we were heading home.  Before we went I got a photo of a bloke standing across the road.  We’re both sure it’s Scamp’s cousin, an ex-polis who took early-early-retirement and went to live in Spain.  Home on holiday or another Brexit Exit?  We’ll never know because she wasn’t absolutely certain it was him.

Had lunch and watched another *’exciting’* F1 GP, at least that’s what the over-enthusiastic Ben Edwards told us.  I think he must have been watching a different race, or maybe you just had to be there.

Sunday Social in the early evening was good, except there seemed to be two salsa tracks to one bachata which became boring after a while.  One or two bachata dances a night are good enough for me.  Tonight was overkill.  We think someone wanted extra practise time.  Spoke to Carol and Ailsa whom we haven’t seen for ages.  Sti.

Rain forecast for tomorrow, but it had been a lovely sunny day today.  Just right for a nice bike ride.

P1040780- blog

Cushions – 20 August 2016

20 augSome people will complain about anything.  Today as we were getting off the bus in Glasgow, one wee woman was berating the driver because the seats were too hard on the bus.  She told him in no uncertain terms that he should be supplying cushions for the seats.  The poor man just agreed with her.  It was certainly the path of least resistance today.  The bus he was driving was definitely a bit rickety and seemed to be playing the complete percussion section of the First Bus Orchestra all by itself, but cushions?  I think that might be a step too far.

We had been promised rain today and we got it in abundance.  After walking down Buchanan Street in the rain, it simply got heavier as we waited to see the Gay Pride march go past.  We felt really sorry for them plodding along in the rain trying to look suitably festive in their rainbow capes, rainbow flags and rainbow scarves, soaked to the skin.  Scamp was looking for one of her friends who was supposed to be taking part, but she later confessed that said friend was probably still in the pub.  I might have felt sorry for the marchers, but I felt even more sympathy for the poor drivers in town who had to sit and wait for about half an hour for the parade to pass through, with only two short breaks to allow the traffic jam to partly clear.  Polis were nowhere to be seen at any of the road junctions.  Total shambles.

Lunch was a pizza each in Mediterranianeo in Ingram Street, then we went for a walk in the rain to get a couple of DVDs for tonight’s viewing and avoid another night of the dreadful Rio Olympics.  Then it was home again on the bus, and who was sitting behind us?  That’s right, that same wee woman.  It was a different bus from the one we went in on and the seating on this one was far superior.  I don’t know if she critiqued the cushioning as she left the bus, but I wouldn’t have put it past her.  See JIC, it’s not just me.

Dry weather forecast for tomorrow.  Not sunny, but dry.  We’ll take that.

P1040780- blog

Serendipity – 6 August 2016

6 AugLast night was a late night. It was Saturday morning about 1am when I finally dragged myself to bed. As a result, we woke late this morning, or should I say ‘later’ this morning. We had intended to go to Edinburgh, hereinafter referred to by its proper name of Embra. It was touch and go whether we would go or not, but finally we decided that we should just go, as there was nowhere else that interested us.

In Embra we walked through the Conference Square canyon.  I hadn’t realised just how ugly the Conference Centre was.  What a waste of concrete.   From there, up the Grassmarket through the crowds and on to the Royal Mile. That’s where the real ‘Maddies’ were. For a fair few blocks, the Royal Mile is pedestrianised at festival time and so it was today. Scamp was interested in a couple of groups of a cappella singers and I was just interested in taking photos of the nutters.

The fringe is interesting, but after a while you get fed up listening to the hype from these self centred eejits and have to get back to reality. That is what we did. We walked down The Bridges and on to the St James Centre. What a disaster that is now. All that’s left in the entire centre is John Lewis. Everything else is closed. It appears that the whole site is being rebuilt while the JL shop remains open. It is a really depressing site (and sight) and will remain that way for FOUR years. The new centre isn’t due to open until 2020. There are loads of ‘artists impressions’ or AutoCad renders of the proposed new retail opportunity. It looks very smart, but it is very difficult to work out what you are looking at as there are no landmarks on the beautifully rendered artwork, and let’s face it, it’s Embra. It has a few landmarks!

From the disaster that was the St James Centre, we walked through St Andrew’s Square (there are a lot of saints in Embra!) and on to George Street. Like the Royal Mile, part of George Street was pedestrianised for the festival with lots of drinks venues pitched on the roadway. We stopped at one for a beer (an expensive beer at £2.50 for a half pint!) and that’s where the ‘Serendipity’ came in. We were sitting at a table across from an older woman. As usual, Scamp got into conversation with her, but I must admit that for once she didn’t instigate it. It turned out that she was on a bus tour to see the Tattoo and she had come from Cambridge. She knew Baldock and also Little Downham. However, she had lived in South Wales before she got married and knew where Scamp’s aunt lived in Maesteg. Thirdly, she had been to Inverness last year and had gone on another bus tour to Skye and stayed in the Pink House in Portree! It was almost as if she had read our minds and plotted three places where we had synchronicity.

When we left her and George St then turned onto Princes Street, we could feel that the weather had turned.  It was cooler and there were spits and spots of rain in the wind, so we headed for the train and home. No lunch out today, but dinner was provided by Golden Bowl and was delicious. Rain and high winds forecast for tomorrow and I’ve got an appointment with the physio to see what’s wrong with my shoulder. Maybe he’ll just give it a rub with the magic sponge and it will be as good as new. Maybe!