Up and out at stupid o’clock – 5 February 2019

I’d forgotten that 7.30AM existed. I used to be out the door and on my way to work at that time. That was just over four years ago and you tend to remember the good times and ignore the bad. 7.30AM was one of the bad times. Defrosted the car and picked up Scamp to take her to the train station. Her and half of Cumbersheugh seemed to on the way to the station at Croy this morning. Dropped her at the ticket office and drove off to park and walked back to check that she had caught the train. The train was already at the station by the time I got there, but I saw that familiar red hat on a person that was sitting in a seat. There’s only one hat like that in the world, Hazy!

With her safely on the first stage of her journey to Inverness to meet her sister, I drove home, had my breakfast, read my emails and went back to bed for an hour. I should have gone out and photographed that beautiful dawn sky before I went to bed, but I didn’t and I so regret it now.

When I got up for the second time today it was lunchtime and I had the last ladleful of my soup, then I went out to get a PoD under a much different sky. The clouds were Scottish Grey and as I walked to the car, the rain started. I drove down to the Luggie Water and found the snowdrops which were now blooming nicely. Using my glove as a cushion for the Oly and a Moleskine notebook as a wee tent to protect the lens from rain I grabbed half a dozen shots at various distances and quickly checked them to make sure they’d all worked and they had.

Back home, processed the photos and made my dinner which was chilli con CARNE, because Scamp would be having a posh lunch in Inverness, so I could have a meat dinner tonight. Dumped the chilli into the slow cooker and left it for an hour or two, plenty time to get my sketch of the day done. Today it was to be two oranges, a pear and an apple. I made the mistake of having four items in the sketch. Every beginner know you should always group odd numbered items. It was the apple that went wrong. If anyone asks me about it, I’ll just say that the apple was old and was getting a bruise at the bottom. I liked the oranges and the pear. Unfortunately you can’t clone out mistakes on a watercolour.

Scamp sent a text to say she was just passing Stirling Castle about 8.30pm and I got ready to drive in to Glasgow. Picked her up just after 9pm after doing a detour because the motorway was being repaired.

Tomorrow it’s Dancing day. Hopefully it will be Blackfriars in the afternoon and STUC salsa at night. Chilli was fine, but just a little too mild.

Joiner/Taxi Driver for a day – 24 January 2019

Chisels, hammers and drills used to be my friends. Today we have become strangers.

I was up and out at 10am to Shona’s today to fit a lock on her bedroom door to prevent her son wandering in and spraying her perfume and anti-perspirant. She’s afraid he might accidentally squirt some in his eyes.

It should have been a simple job to remove the old catch and replace it with a key operated lock. Got the old catch off without problem. Went to B&Q to get the replacement. The first thing I noticed was that the replacement was smaller than the original but that wasn’t really a problem. The next thing was the bigger problem and it was that the lock was the ‘wrong hand’. Difficult to explain, but easier to understand if you see it. The door opened to the left. The lock seemed to be for a door that opens to the right. However although a problem, it wasn’t a deal breaker. I was sure I could find a way to turn it.

When we got home I discovered in the instructions that I’d have to almost totally disassemble the lock, turn the catch round and reassemble which, if you’ve ever read a Haynes manual, “is the opposite of disassembly.” It took me twenty minutes at least to remove the spring and work out how to put it back in again. Also helpful was the illustrations in the instructions as they seemed to be for a different lock. However I did eventually get the lock reversed and reassembled.

Got it fitted and then had to cut the hole in the door jamb for the deadlock. Hammer, chisel and drill made short work of the cutting, but all the while I was very aware that downstairs there were two new babies. I hope they slept through the noise.

By 1.00pm I had to change from by joiner’s disguise to a taxi driver’s. I drove home and picked up Scamp and her keyboard, song sheets and music stands to take her to the Gems gig. Then it was back to being a joiner again.

Remember I said that the new lock was slightly smaller than the original? Well I had a cunning plan to fit a spacer to take up the slack. Cut a piece of pine to fill the space and headed back The House of Shona. Drilled the holes for the handle, drilled the hole for the key and cut it using my dad’s old keyhole saw AKA a padsaw. A tool that has only one use, but one which it does perfectly. Fitted everything, made a few adjustments and everything worked. I presume it’s still working because I haven’t had any phone calls to say that Shona is locked in the bedroom!

Still not finished, I’d to change into Taximan and head up to the gig to pick up Scamp and Margie, then deliver them home. Finally at about 4pm I was finished for the day and was absolutely knackered. A 30min snooze and a hot shower made me feel human again, or as close to human as I get. A glass of Rioja helped. It also gave me the energy to make paella for dinner.

With no time to get an outdoor photo, today is a ‘Flooer Day’. Crop of one of Scamp’s cut flowers won PoD.

Tomorrow? Maybe a visit to Glasgow to get a shirt for tomorrow night.

Every Cloud

Apparently every one of them has a shiny metallic inside covering.

Today we were awake and ready to rise from 8am. That was the earliest the “Rat Man” would arrive. With that in mind, Scamp was up and out by 9.30. I was much more relaxed and waited ‘till the end of the chapter of the excellent “Lies Sleeping”, well actually it was the end to the second chapter as it turned out. Still, I’m trying to meter myself with this book, because I know it will be another year before the next one gets published. After coffee and the first run through of today’s Sudoku puzzle, it was time to go back up stairs to clear out the top three shelves of the ‘tank press’ cupboard. It’s been called that since we moved in to the house thirty odd years ago and about twenty years since the actual hot water tank was removed. We waded into the multiple tins of paint, varnish and paint remover. We sorted through boxes of hammers, saws, chisels and gouges. We threw out a fair bit of what might be called antiques, but were really just rubbish and we put the rest back in a much more orderly manner. All this because we worried that the rodents might have built themselves a nest in that cupboard. They hadn’t, thankfully, but as Scamp said, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I have to agree the cupboard looks a lot more organised. She also said that we should look, next, at the ‘towel cupboard’. So called because it has towels in it. It’s also got loads of cables, cardboard boxes, more cables, boxes of Lego and even more cables. This may take a little longer.

After lunch the “Rat Man” phoned to say he’d be with us in about an hour, and he was as good as his word. He still seemed determined that the rodents were in the loft, but we insisted that we’d heard them last night in the ceiling void. He inspected my handiwork blocking up the hole in the downstairs cupboard and seemed very impressed. What did he expect from an ex-woodwork teacher? He did a fairly extensive survey of the outside of the house back and front and agreed with the lady on the phone who had suggested that he’d probably put down an external box with poison that it’s hoped the rodents will carry in under the house and feed the family in the nest. A sort of rodent Trojan Horse. With that done he went to inspect the house at No 26 where he thought he had seen a possible access hole near the steps to their back door. We bid him farewell and hoped that when he returned in a week’s time we’d have a quieter house.

It was a dull, dreary day, but I’d already got a PoD. While we were waiting for the “Rat Man” I had taken a few shots of Scamp’s Christmas Rose plant on the back step. The flowers are beautiful and just seem to keep coming. The best shot it at the top of the page. Camera on a Gorilla Pod allowed me to use low ISO and remote control from the phone app. That prevented me from getting grain like golfballs in the low light.

That was about it for the day. I think we may be going in to Glasgow tomorrow so I can get my hair cut. New year, New hair.

A day of two halves

Still taking the tablets and in the morning they appeared to be working well, very well in fact. However as the day progressed, although there were still improvements, they weren’t as great as the morning’s.

Right, enough of the moaning. I did very little else today. I went as far as the back fence and took a photo of the rose “Remember Me”.  I wanted a shot of it before it got battered by today’s gale force winds and heavy rain.  Amazingly resilient flowers, roses.

I spent the rest of the day updating Flickr and the blog. Scamp drove to Tesco and bought what we’d need for the next few days. She made an excellent Chilli for dinner.

Tomorrow is tomorrow. We’ll see what transpires.

Back in the cold country – 23 November 2018

First things first, get rid of the egg!

Breakfast then a visit to the doc’s. Receptionist gave me an appointment for 3.15 THE SAME DAY!! Wow, it must be serious! You don’t usually get an appointment for at least a week in advance.

Back home and Scamp made a valiant attempt to buy Tesco. She almost managed it, I thought the trolley was going to collapse under the weight of the goods in it. Unloaded the car and had lunch then started writing up the blogs from the shorthand notes I’d made on my iPhone. It’s actually easier to write up the blog on my phone than on the PC laptop, but transferring them from the phone to a PC is almost impossible. I finally settled on emailing them from the phone to the iMac, cutting out the middle man of the PC. There’s got to be a simpler way than this Apple.

The big hand had reached 11 and the little hand was crawling towards 3 and it was time to go to the doc’s to see if they would simply chop off my left hand above the elbow or try to decontaminate it a different way. Nurse had a look and said “Wow!” I showed her the photo Scamp had taken on Thursday morning and she said “WOW!!”. She decided that a course of penicillin would do the trick, after questioning me if I’d fallen or banged my elbow. I could see her thinking that I’d probably been under the influence and had fallen without remembering it, but unfortunately I’d been (nearly) sober all the time. She finally agreed that it was probably an infected insect bite. I thought again about the mosquito’s doc asking it if it had taken any controlled substances in the last 24 hours, and it replying “Well, there was this one bloke who must have been taking some strange concoction of pills …”

I’d about 15 mins to wait for my prescription in the chemist so I took a walk into Tesco to see what was on the Black Friday sale. There seemed to be quite a buzz around the TV stand. Folk weren’t exactly fighting for them, but they were certainly going out the store at quite a lick. I spotted one of those No-Oil fryers and thought “Why not!” I don’t think Scamp was too impressed, but we’ll see how it works when I can get round to it tomorrow.

PoD was a flower a Lisianthus to be more exact. Flooers are never a good sign. Must get out tomorrow and get some photos.

Pansies and Painting – 18 October 2018

Pansies were what Scamp requested for her Thursday.

Bright sunny start to the day. It was good just sitting on the sofa in the sunshine. However, when I went out to retrieve the bin after it had been emptied, it was cold and there were cars everywhere. Is this a result of the general lack of money. This is the middle of the October week. A week when everyone goes away for a few days because the schools are off, or at least they used to do that. Maybe there’s less money around and it’s a stay at home holiday now.

I started looking for something to sketch and put pen to paper up in the back bedroom, just doodling really, then it started to become a drawing of the top of my painting cupboard and, because it was almost all straight lines, it became a perspective drawing. I left it for a while and Scamp and I went out for lunch at a garden centre nearby, well it’s in Falkirk, but that’s not really that far.

The place was full of old folk, most of them older than us! Almost all of them had weans with them. Grandweans I’d guess and that began to strengthen my theory about a general lack of money. Our soup and a coffee (with a shared Vanilla Slice) was a fairly frugal lunch too. Scamp got some bright yellow pansies, winter flowering pansies and some little daisy like flowers that looked nice and cheery.

Came home and decided the drawing looked ok. Sometime you just have to walk away from a sketch and come back with fresh eyes. It looked ok, but it needed a bit of colour to cheer it up and that’s what I did, then left it again to go and take some photos in St Mo’s. That’s where the PoD came from. Again, I took the ‘Big Dog’, but this time I took the Sigma 10-20mm wide angle lens. I really miss the flip up screen the Olys have, but the quality is so much better from the Nikon. Didn’t see much else that interested me. The fight between the swans seems to be reaching phase 2 with one (the loser?) sitting out on the grass while the others swam in the pond. Took a few HDR bracketed shots and a few panorama shots too, but the light was going and so was I.

Added a bit more colour to the sketch and that’s what you see here. Some might say it’s more a painting than an ink sketch, but there’s ballpoint ink and drawing ink in it, so it’s as much an ink sketch with paint than a painting with ink outlines.

Scamp’s says the tooth is still not properly fixed yet, but it won’t be until she goes back to get it treated next week. Maybe it’s more the bill that’s giving her pain!

On Reporting Scotland today there was a report that the Winter Garden at the People’s Palace is to be closed indefinitely at the end of the year. Apparently it needs at least £5m worth of repairs! The People’s Palace too will close for a shorter time, but the Winter Garden is where I have my roll ’n’ sausage and Scamp has her two slice of toast of the occasional Sunday morning, and where I go for a walk among the plants. What are we going to do? Glasgow Council, get your finger out and get this fixed pronto, Tonto!

Tomorrow is to be a bit cloudier than today. No plans yet.

Callum – 12 October 2018

Well, he didn’t stay long did he. Although he did knock down two of our bins on the road out.

I think we were in a neat little pocket of still air while Storm Callum was bustling about all around us. Nice of him to topple our garden rubbish bin and our recycling bin as he left. He did drop a lot of rain though. It started about midday, just as I was heading out to meet Fred and I think it’s still raining yet at just before 10.30pm. What’s more, there’s a second, even heavier lot ready and waiting for us tomorrow. Oh what fun. And we were worried that there might be a drought during the summer. We were praying that they wouldn’t have a hosepipe ban! Now we’re more worried about flash floods.

The rain didn’t stop Fred and I meeting to set the world to rights as we sometimes have to do just before the weekend. Even Val made it for half an hour or so. While I was waiting for them, I thought I’d fill in the time and the last page of my sketchbook with a little drawing of the bloke sitting at the next table. He had his back to me as he read the paper, so there was little chance of him objecting to being my model for the day. Unfortunately, there are few interesting features on the back of a person’s head, so it was a bit of a dull sketch. So dull in fact that I forgot to sign it, so that was done on a separate sheet and pasted on in Photoshop. Yes, I could have done it in ON1, but that would have taken at least an hour and Photoshop’s so much easier when you’ve been using it for a while.

Drove home accompanied by a high pitched squeal from the car. The rain was torrential at the time and I’d nowhere to stop, so I soldiered on and it suddenly stopped. As the wipers were on full at the time, trying to clear the windscreen and the cavity where their motor sits was full of leaves, I suspect that’s what was causing the squeal. The mashed up leaves I found in the cavity when I got home seemed to bear out that theory, but I’ll keep a listening ear out for strange noises for the next few days.

Scamp made Chicken Curry for dinner and I made flatbread, saltless flatbread (by accident). Tasted strange, was perfectly edible.

Today’s PoD is ‘Flooers’, never a good sign. Other than raindrops running down the window (and I’ve done that already) there wasn’t much more I could do. I liked the close-up, almost macro shot of the anthers and stigma look really alien.

Hoping to get the bus in to Glasgow tomorrow to go for lunch in the rain!

Scone Palace – 24 September 2018

Went to Scone, but didn’t get one!

We’d been saying for ages that we should go to Scone Palace. Scamp had an Itison voucher which was valid until October and as time was marching on and it was a beautiful morning, we decided that today was the day.

Drove up there with the satnav taking us a circuitous route around the motorway system on the outskirts of Perth but it was down to Scamp in Genghis Pathfinder mode to spot the turnoff for the Palace. Parked up, got our tickets and went looking for the entrance. At first we thought it was closed for the day, but then got inside to be warned that we weren’t allowed to take photos. What is it with these big houses that they take your money, then lay down the law about what you can and can’t do. I remember once being told in a National Trust place that photography damages the fabric of the building! Well, it would if you had a big full frame camera with battery pack and you started banging it off the walls, but I don’t believe cameras steal your soul and I don’t believe they can damage the fabric of a building. Philistines! Interior was interesting, but I can’t imagine what life must have been like in a great gloomy mansion like that, not even having the pleasure of taking some photos for fear that your hobby would bring the place down around your ears.

I much preferred the walk through the trees, especially the pinetum with its enormous redwood. Just walking in the sunshine under these trees, smelling the pine resin scents was a tonic in itself. We also inspected the kitchen garden, but it looked as if almost everything had been harvested fairly recently. There was very little of interest to see apart from some overgrown flowers and a poly tunnel with tomatoes and courgettes. There were some cordon grown plums, but two fat ladies were picking and eating the plums, at least, I hope they were plums or else there will be two fat, dead ladies in Scone tonight. Our last stop on the tour of the gardens was the maze and we wandered round half of it before finding the way to the fountain in the centre and so to the exit.

Before our walk in the woods, we stopped in the cafe for two baked tatties with haggis, two coffees and a shared strawberry tart, just to fortify us. Food was good and reasonably priced, but the prices in the ‘gift shop’ were daylight robbery. I know, we should have had a scone instead of a strawberry tart, just to say we had a scone at Scone, but we didn’t. Maybe next time DV.

Drove back into Perth and stopped to get coffee beans and, because we could, we went to Nero for more coffee, then we drove home through the usual stramash at Dunblane and again at Haggs. Gave up at the latter and took the longer, but quicker way home through Kilsyth and Dullatur.

PoD was a view of the ‘chapel’ which is actually a mausoleum.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow, but today was a good day. Glad we went, pity about the scone!

Out on two wheels again – 23 September 2018

Just a short run to make sure the lungs and legs are still up to cycling after the cold virus has had its wicked way.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. Almost a sin to waste it sitting up in bed reading. Almost a sin, but not quite. Unless reading in bed is now a sin.

However, all good things must come to an end and I did eventually drag myself away from my Kindle and in to the shower, thence to go downstairs where Scamp was already off buying Tesco. Yesterday she had been cutting flowers that had been battered by Wednesday’s wind. She had put them in a vase and it was sitting on the table in the living room where the light pouring in through the vertical blinds was lighting it up and throwing wonderful shadows on the table. Now that would make a good picture I said to myself. Set up the Samyang on the Oly and grabbed a few shots from different distances and angles until I was sure I’d have something decent. At least one in the bag!

I decided this good weather wasn’t going to last, so I did what I’d committed myself to yesterday and got dressed for winter cycling. Layer upon layer of thin clothes with shorts and longs, because the temperature was only just in double figures and it was just past midday. When Scamp returned with Tesco in two shopping bags, I left for a short run. Short runs never really stay short if the traffic is light and the light is good. That’s how it was today. I tried to find some swallows because I thought I’d seen and heard some last week, but alas I may have been mistaken. So definitely no swallows this is week and this is week 39. I tried to find some photos, but try as I might, there was nothing there that interested me today. Finally I gave up and made my way home, and lunch. While I was out, Scamp took brush, sponge and hot water in hand and washed her car. Not that it needed it, eh, Scamp?

<Technospeak>
After lunch I started looking at today’s captures on Lightroom and decided that the flower shots from the morning were the best of the bunch, even if I’d forgotten to set the focus. It’s so hard to go back to a manual focus lens again! Luckily I’d set a fairly small aperture and this gave me enough DOF to make the shot look as if it was in focus. It took a bit of work in Lightroom to get the levels the way I wanted them and a bit more work in ON1 to push the background out of focus enough to concentrate the eye on the flowers. Finally I returned to LR to add a bit of warmth to the shot and Bingo it was done! PoD done!
</Technospeak>

Dinner was Friday’s soup followed by yesterday’s curry reheated. Just your typical Sunday dinner!

Tomorrow we may take Big Red (that may be the Juke’s new name) out for a spin if the weather is good.

Ali’s Rant – 19 September 2018

The Ali in question was the first named storm of the year, and it swept in this morning causing havoc and destruction.

Ali didn’t prevent us from having our weekly dose of ballroom, although the walk down from Buchanan Galleries to Blackfriars was ‘interesting’ and at times ‘challenging’. Enjoyed the Jive because we were reprising the First Seven Spins and adding on the Ladles and finally attempting to bolt on the Lindy Hops. We would have done more, I’m sure, but D&D were back and apparently had had their brains formatted securely in the intervening two weeks. It was back to the start for them, and us, because we were in the same (physical) class. Just different class!
Waltz was improving, just trying to get Rise and Fall included in our steps and with Quickstep it was the swooping turns at the start we were introduced to. So no new moves this week, but revision every so often is a great thing, especially to smooth off the rough corners of our dance routine.

After that we fought our way back up to the carpark and the run home. We had a tail wind on the way back, so didn’t feel the effects of the wind so much. Scamp is beginning to show signs of my cold which is a great pity. I’m really selfish with things like colds and flus and I like to keep them for myself, where possible.

I wasn’t keen on going out for a walk with Ali still prowling around, although he was looking like a shadow of his former self, so instead I photographed the roses that were sitting on the coffee table with my glamorous assistant holding a piece of A2 paper behind them to hide the untidy living room. The roses are Sheila’s Perfume on the left and Peace on the right.  Scamp brought them in from the garden to prevent Ali from running away with them or battering them flat.  I’m quite impressed with the photo. It’s been through the mill a bit with changes here and softening edges there, but it looks like I wanted it to and that’s what counts.

Dinner tonight was the remains of yesterday’s Aloo Saag which was actually more Saag than Aloo, but there were flatbreads and rice to pad it out and it was declared fine. Better than yesterday’s in my opinion, but that’s often the way with soups and curries.

Scamp declared herself fit enough to go to 7.30 class tonight in STUC and it was a shambles.  They just don’t listen to what’s being taught, they think they can make it up themselves and they can’t.  The class is supposed to be level 4, but they make, and keep making elementary mistakes like turning left, not right.  Simple things.  I know we’ve all done it, I’ve done it, but I stop, think and try to fix it.  They don’t.  Numpties.  It’s partly Shannon’s fault for merging classes from different levels and calling them by the higher number.  What I mean is:  There aren’t enough students in a level 3 class to make it cost effective to run.  Rather than tell them that, she lumps them in with a level 4 class and calls the combined class Level 4.  This makes it twice as difficult for the teacher of the combined class and means that the level 3 students are struggling to keep up with the level 4 pupils in the class or the level 4 pupils get bored having to repeat level 3 moves with the influx students.  It’s never going to be a good way to teach, and it’s long term pain for short term (financial) gain.  Not the best way to run a railroad … or a salsa class.

Tomorrow the car goes in for service and I am getting a courtesy car. Wonder what it will be. We’ll all find out tomorrow. Me first, then Scamp and then you lot!