Up early for a change – 9 August 2020

I woke early, before 7am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I hate it when that happens.

Eventually gave up sat reading for a while. About half way through “Flowers For Algernon”. Really old book I remember from Larky library around the mid ‘60s. It’s quite dated now, but an interesting concept, none the less. Finally gave up completely and got up to make breakfast.

So, we were up fairly early for a change. It was a beautiful day. Not quite as hot as yesterday which was good. We did a bit of gardening. Actually, Scamp did a bit of gardening and I started fixing up the solar cell for Scamp’s new LED light string. Finally, after a few false starts, we go a good place for the solar panel. Just a little one about 75mm by 50mm, but enough to power the lights. Many years ago, probably about 30 years ago, we all visited an Eco centre in Wales and I bought some shards of solar cells, hoping to build a small solar pane. It never got made. The cells were too fragile and most got cracked on the way home. Amazing to think you can buy a solar panel which charges a NiMH battery which in turn powers a line of fifty LEDs all for around £4. Back then, you could only have Red, Yellow and Green LEDs. Bit massive things by today’s standard which drained a battery in about fifteen minutes. Not everything was better in “the olden days”.

With the lights strung up and tested and all Scamp’s potting up done, we adjourned for lunch. After lunch and a rest to let all that fatty goodness be digested, we went out for a walk round Broadwood Stadium avoiding kids on bikes trying to make the most of their last days of freedom before schools restart in the middle of the week. I’m sure there were teacher out there too, making the most of the last days of sunshine before they return to the grind. Oh, how I enjoy looking back at those last days of freedom from the standpoint of one who doesn’t need to do that ever again.

When we got back without having taken any meaningful photos, I grabbed a camera and went for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp went to laze in the afternoon sunshine. I came home empty handed again. I’d seen yesterday’s big blue dragonflies, but they weren’t posing for me. They had far more important things on their minds, cavorting around the wee pond at St Mo’s.

Dinner was Sea Bream with Long Stem Broccoli and Potatoes. It is one of Scamp’s specialities and it tasted as good as usual. The starter was Bruschetta made with Italian crust bread I’d bought in Perth yesterday. Delicious too.

Watched the second British GP and enjoyed an interesting ending. Thankful really that we didn’t have to sit through the whole boring race. Nothing happened that couldn’t have been predicted by anyone who follows motorsport, with the possible exception of the fall of Vettel. It looks like he really has lost the plot. “Toys out of the pram” is the phrase that springs to mind.

Spoke to JIC and gave him a fleshed out version of yesterday’s announcement that our love affair with the Red Juke is sadly coming to an end and another Nissan has now taken its place, albeit a Nissan with one less cylinder in its engine.

PoD today went to a focus stacked image of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, the beautiful Troika. Focus stacking done in-camera and very neat it was too.

Tomorrow we may have to sign a contract to give some money to Mr Nissan for the chance to use one of his Blue Micras for a few years. Other than that and the chance of thunderstorms, hopefully another sunny day.

I think it rained today – 4 August 2020

It did rain today, in fact it didn’t stop raining all day!

It was raining when we woke. It’s still raining now at just about 11.30pm. It hasn’t halted all day. The furthest I’ve been today was a drive to Tesco for ‘the messages’. We had intended walking down to the shops, but that would not have been a sensible thing to do. The smart money was on using a car for what it was bought for, making life easy.

I did manage to get a photo outside today in one of the spells of light drizzle when the weather was catching its breath. Out, grab four quick photos of the rose at the front door and back in again before I got properly soaked.

Schoolgirl is a beautiful climbing rose. I’ve photographed the buds, the opening flowers, the full flowers and what’s left after all the petals have fallen. I think the last one is my favourite stage. Great for a sort of studio setup with plenty of lights and a low ISO to minimise digital noise.

I was amazed by the number of views Schoolgirl got. The highest view count so far is from 2010 with 31,695 views, 0 comments and 0 faves. None of my other flower pictures get near that amount of attention. Could it be something to do with the name, he innocently suggests?

There was nothing else worth noting today apart from the weather forecast. According to the weather fairies, there may be a little less rain tomorrow. Hoping not to get washed away going to Stirling in the afternoon.

Confusion Reigns – 3 August 2020

Confusion may have reigned, but there wasn’t much actual rain. A bit, but not much.

I’d promised to clean up the inside of the car and that’s what I did first this morning. It’s not sparkling clean, but it’s not nearly as dirty and messy as it was. Not quite in the JIC category, more … lived in!

With the future of the Juke in mind, I phoned Nissan to check if I was actually booked in for a meeting tomorrow (not Thursday as I’d reported in yesterday’s blog). I seemed to confuse the receptionist because I didn’t have a department or a sales person she could transfer the call to. She eventually just passed it on to the first available sales person. I then proceeded to confuse him too. Eventually I cut to the chase and asked him: “Do you have an appointment scheduled for me to visit tomorrow?” He said “No.” Not the answer I wanted, but at least we were getting somewhere. He now wanted to hand this confusing and possibly confused customer over to someone else. He opened my file and found the salesman I dealt with three years ago when I bought the Juke. He said he’d contact him and get him to phone me later. I think he went out to have lunch then and left his phone deliberately in the office. Locked in a drawer, no doubt.

Scamp wasn’t feeling so good today. She had been feeling sick during the night and hadn’t slept much. For those reasons, she had a light lunch, and so did I because I was still trying to get my head round what had happened. To clarify things we started looking at options for loans or money transfers, basically working out what was the easiest way to deal with the offloading or keeping of the Juke. With my head spinning in a different way now I suggested we take a run to Bishopbriggs to buy a 2 Terabyte removable drive to let me back up the MacBook Pro and the iMac using Time Machine. It’s an old but reliable way of backing up your entire Apple computer with more options than there are with Carbon Copier. Don’t roll your eyes JIC, I’m not going deep into the technicalities. Carbon Copier is a disaster recovery tool. Time Machine is a file recovery tool. Anyway, we drove to Bishopbriggs and bought the cheapest one I could find with a reputable make.

Back home again, I was just about to go on a ‘beastie hunt’ when my phone rang and it was the salesman who sold me the Juke trying to unravel the mess. The phone call I got last week from Renault finance was actually telling me about a discount event that runs from Wednesday 5th until Saturday. They had got their wires crossed and had also been booking people for the event from today and causing a lot of problems as a result. To simplify things I agreed that we’d to to the VIP event which will also feature an extra discount (probably less than 1%). So, I have until Wednesday to get rid of the remaining seagull crap, dust the inside of the car. Wash it down and tidy up the boot. I might get the seagull crap removed. The rest? No chance!

There were no beasties posing for photos today. The bees were too busy, the beetles were beetling about, the ladybirds were lazing, even the flowers were fading. I came home almost empty handed and with no quality work.

Scamp was feeling better by dinner time and had some light tomato spaghetti. After dinner I was making my coffee when I spotted him. There is a Cyberman in my coffee machine! It took me a few seconds to prise him out and half an hour to get a tripod and camera positioned so that I could record his existence. What you see above is living proof that Cybermen exist!

Later we found that series 1 episode 1 of Line of Duty was on BBC 1 (also on iPlayer). It’s a totally believable storyline about corruption in the police and must be the best cop series on TV. I think we started watching it from about halfway through series 2 or maybe we started at series 3. Worth watching if you haven’t seen it before.

Right, so we aren’t going to Stirling tomorrow. In fact, by the looks of the weather we won’t be going anywhere tomorrow. Certainly not without a good Goretex jacket. It’s going to be wet and windy.

F1 Frolics – 2 August 2020

First and perhaps only Live F1 broadcast this year.

Weather before that was mixed. A bit windy, a bit cloudy and the occasional splash of rain on the window just to remind us that it’s never far away in Scotland. Scamp was reduced to watching the build up to the GP because Andrew Marr was on holiday, so no political cut and thrust today. I’m sure some politicians would be breathing a sigh of relief. If you haven’t watched the GP then I won’t spoil things for you. All I’ll say is watch the first five minutes and the last five minutes, but just fast-forward past the other hour and a bit, unless you want to set the alarm and have a wee snooze.

With that done, and with nothing else to do, I took an old camera, the almost pensioned-off Oly E-M10 out for a spin round St Mo’s. It’s only when you return to an old classic like this that you realise why you sidelined it in the first place. The E-M1 has a much quieter IBIS system (image stabiliser) and a more reliable focusing power. The GX 80 has a much quieter shutter. I think the E-M10 can go back in the box for now. It’s smaller than the other two, but smaller isn’t always better. I have plans for it, so it won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. It managed to take today’s PoD with a little help from me. They are the seed pods of the Meadow Cranesbill (Geranium pratense ).

Dinner came courtesy of Holy Cow curry mixes. The only place we’ve found them is Waitrose, but they are worth searching out, and, of course, Amazon has them. Today’s variety was Delhi Tikka Masala and it was just as good as the rest, just a little milder. A decent curry made in around 10 minutes without the faff of cooking from scratch. You can probably tell that I was cooking tonight – always looking for the easy life.

Spoke to JIC and pondered the modern way of going through an interview. First a telephone interview followed by a Zoom interview and maybe a third virtual interview. Then if you are lucky enough, being offered a position in a company you have never seen outside of a computer screen. Changed days from when, one morning, I dressed in a suit then put on waterproof trousers, waterproof jacket and motorcycle boots and set off from Larky to ride about 100miles to an interview in Creetown on a motorbike with a bag of my architectural drawings on my back. Rode back the same night. I got the job though and our family started on a big adventure in the south of Scotland. Changed days indeed.

Tomorrow I simply must hoover out the car because we’re we’ve got a meeting in Stirling on Tuesday to speak to a man about cars and money.

Rain in all its forms – 30 July 2020

Today was wet, really wet, soaking wet in fact.

It was that typical Scottish summer day. Every form of rain you could imagine falling incessantly from the sky. It didn’t come as a surprise, we knew from the weather reports that today was going to be a washout, so we’d planned for it. We went for the messages!

We drove to Waitrose in Stirling in the morning. We needed shopping and there was no point in wasting the warm sunny day that had been promised for Friday, so we thought it made sense to use up Thursday wandering round Waitrose filling a trolley. When we got to the till I thought we’d actually managed to buy Waitrose. We nearly did.

Coming back, the rain was even worse and the spray thrown up by the cars was like diving through fog. I was amazed at the number of drivers who chose not to use lights. The ones who had no rear lights were bad enough, but it was the ones who didn’t even daytime running lights who were the worst. A grey car driving through heavy spray on a dull day without lights is almost invisible from front or rear. Rant over.

The rain continued into the afternoon and as I didn’t have a photo, I took a walk in the rain to see if I could find some moody raindrop pictures. Instead I found some Yarrow plants. One shot of them became PoD.

After dinner I settled down to paint a wee jam jar of lavender flowers. Scamp had cut them yesterday and I’d dropped them into an jam jar of water to stop them wilting. Today that jam jar and its flowers became the subject of a wee watercolour. It’s up on Instagram, but I’ll let you have a look at it here too. I’m quite pleased with it.

Tomorrow is forecast to be the best day of the week with predicted temperatures in the mid 20s here in the Central Belt. Down in London it’s going to be over 30º. Too hot for me! Hope you enjoy it Hazy and Neil-D. Hope the Cambridge pair have a more sensible temperature.

We may go for a walk somewhere if tomorrow is going to be Summer!

One really wet day – 27 July 2020

Dreich – a well used Scottish word summed up today.

Rain in all its forms today. Heavy rain, light rain, smirr, drizzle, we had them all. Then after a full day of the wet stuff it dried up about 8pm and gave us a beautiful sunset. That’s Scotland for you.

Spoke to Hazy on the phone for a while in the morning and spoke to JIC in the evening, so it was a fairly phone filled day as you will find out below.

Scamp’s sister came over from Eastfield to have her lunch and a natter, leaving me a chance to get the sewing machine out and create another face mask. I wasn’t totally happy with it, in fact it’s one of the worst designs I’ve seen so far. It goes in the bin.

Because of the weather, there wasn’t much chance to take any outside photos. The closest I got was taking out my chilli plants to get watered with clean, unchlorinated stuff, but I had a look around and couldn’t see anything worth switching the camera on for.

Later in the afternoon Scamp brought a Ruby Wedding rose in from the garden to prevent it being battered by the rain. I took one look and decided I’d found my PoD. Beautiful texture and colours with a few raindrops to give some highlights. Done!

Most of the rest of the day was spent tweaking the last few apps on Scamp’s new A41 phone. It’s much like mine, but her apps are nothing like my collection, so I was working with one eye on the phone and one on the help files I’d found on the net. Together the two eyes finally got the better of the phone demons and everything fell into place.  I think that’s us all set.  The phone number is updated. Most, if not all the apps are in place and working.  Just a few more checks and we’re done.

Struggling with Luminar 4 now on the Mac.  It used to work really well, now after an update it’s going like an arthritic slug.  Do slugs get arthritis, I wonder? If they don’t, they should. They’ve eaten holes in my kale plants and I’m sure its them that are responsible for  the disappearing carrots.  I’ve had enough for one day.  I’m off to bed.

Scamp is out with the Witches tomorrow and it looks like a good day.  I may go out and take some photos.

Just one of those unpredictable days – 26 July 2020

Rain and grey skies to begin the day. Brighter with blue skies to end it.

It’s Scotland, what do you expect. We sat watching the rain for most of the morning, then after lunch things started to improve and we guessed we could risk a short walk.

Before that, there were chilli plants to bring out into the sun and sweet peas to cut before they became too leggy. Also there was a fair wind blowing at times and Scamp was worried that the topmost growth would be broken, so better to cut it back a bit, rather than risk damage.

Since the sun was still shining, we walked over to St Mo’s and then went twice round the pond, because the breeze wasn’t too cool and the sun on our faces felt good, well, it did feel good to me, anyway. We even saw a dragonfly, the first for ages, weeks even. At first it was a bit skittish but then I think it realised we weren’t a danger to it and it settled on the boardwalk to allow me to photograph it. I’d only brought the 30mm macro lens which requires you to be fairly close to the subject to get a decent photo, but this little insect wasn’t bothered in the slightest, just as long as I didn’t make any quick movements, which I didn’t. Today’s PoD is testament to my patience and it’s relaxed approach to humans.

Back home it was almost dinner time and I’d a steak to cook. Scamp was having salmon as usual. The steak was just ok. It was a bit thinner than I’d expected and I think I over cooked it a bit. It was half price though, so I shouldn’t complain.

Painted Hazy’s little Joan of Art paint tin as a watercolour sketch. I painted it on a wee pad of watercolour paper I found. So much nicer to paint on than the sketch book which is better for drawing on.

The news today is that people returning from all of mainland Spain and its islands must self-isolate for 14days on return.  It looks like it’s not all over yet.  Personally I blame Bumbling Boris for bragging that it will all be over before Christmas.  I seem to remember that phrase from somewhere.  It was wrong then too.

It looks like the weather tomorrow will be wet, very wet at times. June may be visiting us. Let’s hope it’s not wet all day. I want some more dragonfly pictures.

Burnin’ a hole in ma’ pocket – 16 July 2020

Since early April I’ve had a gift card that’s been “burning a hole in my pocket.” My son and daughter collaborated and gave me the card as part of my birthday presents intending it to be used to pay for an espresso machine to replace my old and failing Gaggia. Unfortunately just after they bought it, Covid-19 took over the world and all the shops closed. Of course I could have used it on-line, but being an auld guy, I like to see and touch what I’m buying, so I waited and waited and I pondered. I changed my mind umpteen times, but in the end I got it down to two machines. Today I chose the De Longhi and it’s lovely. So small, so compact and yet so versatile. Starts in a flash and produces good, strong coffee. It was worth the wait to have a second birthday three months after the first! Thank you again Hazy, JIC, Neil-D and Sim (alphabetical is the fairest way!).

We’d driven in to Glasgow in the morning to have a look in John Lewis although I knew they didn’t have any in stock, because I’d checked before we went out, and so hadn’t brought the gift card. They lied. Not one, but two boxed machines sitting there large as life. Still the visit wasn’t wasted because Scamp managed to buy ‘a few things’ in JL. She went in to Lakeland to buy cling film and came out with a skillet (fancy name for a frying pan) too. We drove home. After lunch I made my decision, grabbed the gift card, drove back to JL and bought the machine before anyone else could deprive me of it.

Spent what was left of the afternoon building it up and making a mess of coffee all over the kitchen. The De Longhi is a bit more complicated to work than the old Gaggia. I imagine once you’ve got it set up to your specification, all will be well. I’ve had over ten years of adjustments incorporated into the Gaggia and when it’s on song, it produces good coffee. I’ve yet to hit that sweet spot with the DL. It’ll come. We just have to discuss things, DL and I and come to an agreement. A meeting of minds, coffee minds.

I’d grabbed a picture of a Grey Glasgow from the Buchanan Galleries bridge, but realised it was almost an exact copy of one I’d taken before at least twice. It just like the front cover of Deacon Blue’s ’Raintown’. Dull, dull, dull. When I was puzzling over the instructions of the DL for the umpteenth time, I notice two of Scamp’s roses glowing in the sunshine which was streaming in the window in one of the few dry spells of the day. Grabbed a couple of shots and one of them made PoD. Sketch of the Day just had to be the New Toy.

Tomorrow we have no plans although Shona might be coming for lunch. Ben’s off on holiday at his dad’s and Shona’s got ‘an empty’!

Zooming over to Falkirk – 14 July 2020

Not literally, but virtually.

We had a Zoom meeting today with Andrew, the man from Falkirk. All seems to be well and we don’t need to make any changes at the moment, but he advised us that he’ll be getting in touch to make some amendments to things before the New Year.

While we were in Virtual Space, there was a knock at the door and a mysterious parcel was left on the step. It wasn’t a mystery to me, I knew what was in it. After the meeting, Scamp asked who was at the door and I pointed to the tall cardboard box sitting in the hall. She knew immediately what it was. The Gertrude Jekyll rose had arrived in a similar one. After “oohing” and “ahhing” she opened the box and allowed the rose to see daylight after being cooped up for a couple of days. Then she took it outside and gave it a drink. Tomorrow we will go and find a suitable container to plant it in. It will also need a fair amount of compost to fill it up. This rose is Comte de Chambord.

In the afternoon Scamp went to visit Isobel with her birthday present, which was the other Coreopsis plant we got last Thursday. While she was out I started clearing up the painting room, then got sidetracked into a WhatsApp text conversation about painting with Fred. A few sarcastic comments from both of us confirmed that it’s time we went for a coffee some time soon, all of us, that is. I don’t think we’ll be going for a beer any time soon. The thought of taking the bus into Glasgow, or even the train doesn’t entice me at all. Maybe in a few months if the situation improves it might be possible. The other option is for someone to volunteer to be nominated tee-totaler for the day. That’s not all that practical either. Maybe coffee with the Auld Guys will do for now.

After our correspondence I went for a walk down to the shops because we needed milk, Scamp wanted oranges and I wanted apples. Hoped to get a PoD on the way. I finally got one on the way back. It’s a Dead Nettle, so called because the leaves don’t sting. In fact I was reading an article online that said if you chew up a dead nettle leaf and spread it on an insect bite, it takes the sting out of it. Not sure I fancy that, but it might be worth trying some time.

Did a wee pen sketch of a mug and a spoon for Sketch of the Day. I was quite pleased with it. Did it with a 0.4mm rollerball.  Very slippery to sketch with, but the line remains 0.4mm because unlike felt tip fineliners, rollerballs don’t wear down. Or at least, not as much.

Scamp got an email from the Beechgrove Garden telling her that a question she’d asked about pests on the blackcurrant bush had been answered in a video.  She even got a name check by one of the presenters.  She’s famous now!!

No real plans for tomorrow other than compost and a plant pot for The Comte!

Paint and painting – 13 July 2020

Once more into The Fort, dear friend, once more.

Despite spending a fair amount on a new full paint box, I still needed more paint. Two of my half pans were empty in my old box. One was Cerulean Blue, a sky blue. I got one in the new box. The other empty pan had held Hooker’s Green Named after an English botanist and illustrator William J Hooker, not for any other reason. Not that I would know about such things, you understand. The new paintbox didn’t have Mr Hooker’s green and the reason the half pan is empty is because I use it a lot. Today I intended to go to The Fort to get a tube. It’s not essential as a colour, because you can mix a fair representation of it using a couple of colours with a third to adjust the intensity, but to have one to hand would be good. Scamp decided she’d come along. She’d spent the morning browsing B&Q looking at lawnmowers. We’d had a discussion and she agreed that the old mower probably needed to be replaced for H&S reasons and she’s still speaking to me!

I got the paint, £5 for a 5ml tube. Multiply £5 by the 18 colours in the new box and you see how much it costs to paint some watercolours. Of course I didn’t pay that for the paintbox. Also, paints come in four price bands. My HG was in band 1 the lowest price. Some are much more expensive, just under £10 for the most expensive (and most poisonous!) paint in the price bands. Still I was happy to pay to be able to mix some good dark greens.

Meanwhile Scamp was off window shopping. She came back empty handed but smiling because she’d been out in the sunshine and seen some pretty dresses. Unfortunately there was no point in buying any because there’s nowhere to wear them to. I think we are now coming down from the high of dancing – virtually – with other people for an hour and a half on Saturday. Now we are realising that it may be some time before we will dance with people again. We were supposed to be trying out dancing in the open air on Wednesday with our dance class, led by the teacher, but we’ve since heard that has been veto’d. Presumably, the dance board wouldn’t allow it on H&S grounds or their insurance wouldn’t cover it. Such a pity. It would have been interesting.

Grabbed a shot of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, Sheila’s Perfume. It looked stunning back lit in the garden this morning. That made PoD. I’d actually completed a painting for Lockdown Library yesterday, but didn’t think it was good enough. Today I had a second look and it’s fine. It has been posted on Instagram. Today’s painting is of the two wee chickens that make up our cruet set. I’ve done them before, but that was a while ago and I don’t mind painting them again. They always make us smile.

Not much more to add today. Doing a Zoom meeting tomorrow with the man from Falkirk. Hopefully it will go well.