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Up the Glen – 22 May 2018

Up fairly early for a Tuesday to speak to a man from Falkirk on the phone.

The man told us that we are doing all right and that’s what we wanted to hear. To celebrate we went out to lunch, but not before we had a word with Hazy and caught up with all the news from London, discussed plans, books and the disappointment of having to wait another few days before getting a new car. Their car, not ours. After the second phone call of the morning, we did go for lunch.

We drove to the cafe at Clachan of Campsie where I had the disappointment of discovering that the cafe no longer listed their Apple, Brie and Honey sandwich. We were told that it was because not enough people liked it. Why not? Have these people no taste? It’s an absolute find, a delight of a sandwich. To her credit, the waitress said she could make me one because she had all the ingredients, but I had already ordered a bacon, brie and cranberry toastie, so that had to do instead. I’ll just have to settle for my own, homemade ABH sandwich.

After lunch we walked up the path to Campsie Glen. I’m sure my dad took us there years ago. I’m also sure that the ‘us’ in question were Mum, Dad and Me, because it was before my brother was made, and I was quite wee. Probably not even ten. I remember getting a collapsible tumbler to go, because my dad said the water was so clear you could drink it. I’ve vague memories of the place, but nowhere we went today relived that memory. Maybe we had to go further up the glen than we managed today. We both had the wrong kind of shoes for the dodgier bits of the path. Maybe next time. Just think, from Larky you’d have to get a bus in to Glasgow that would take about an hour, then get another bus to Clachan of Campsie, another hour at least. What a lot of planning. You don’t realise the things your parents did for you or the sacrifices they made. Not until it’s too late.

Took some photos there of some water running over stones, but the water was so low they didn’t amount to much. Also got some photos of Wood Avens flowers, but they were just out of focus, so didn’t appear in today’s published shots. What did appear was a photo of our red and white aquilegia which became PoD. Scamp thought it was called Strawberry Sundae. I thought it was Strawberries and Cream. After checking the label on the pot, we found its name was Swan Red and White. I prefer either of our names.

That was our day in the countryside, again under blue skies and sun. I’ve been meaning to go to Campsie Glen for years and am glad I did go today. Just a shame it wasn’t as I remember it about sixty years ago. Maybe we just didn’t go far enough. Yes, that’s it, we need to go back.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and portraits at night. Another busy Wednesday.

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An afternoon among the beasties – 18 May 2018

After I drove Scamp over to meet the other ‘Witches’, the day was my own.

I chose to follow orders for a while because it suited me. I watered the garden just before 11am because the sun hadn’t forced its way through the clouds yet and it’s a sacrosanct rule that you never water flowers or veg when the sun is shining. All those little beads of water become magnifying lenses and burn the living daylights out of the plants. This was the first time the hose has been used this year. I really enjoy watering the garden with the hose. So much easier than humphing full watering cans around. Not as efficient though. There’s a fair bit of wastage with a hose as my sodden trainers were witness to. I even managed to get it wrestled through the toilet window to water the front garden too.

While I waited for the sun to burst through the clouds, I read a bit, drank a cup of weak tasteless coffee, then another cup of really good strong brew to make up for it. I doodled some sketches and I played around with some of the more esoteric aspects of this new photography program ON1. It’s absolutely enormous and like some program designed by a committee there seems to about ten ways to do exactly the same thing with the same results, but using totally different procedures. I assume they are slightly different and that’s why they are there, but to my naked eye they look the same. Finally, after having achieved absolutely nothing and learned even less, I shut up shop and went to have lunch which was another cup of coffee and a ‘piece’ (that’s a ‘sandwich’ if you’re not Scottish).

After lunch I’d had enough of the Hide and Seek game the sun was playing and went to get my dinner and some petrol for the car from Tesco. Then I pointed the Red Juke at Auchinstarry and said “Go There!”. It did. Walked along the canal hoping for a sighting of the elusive kingfisher, but it wasn’t showing itself today. What I did find was my PoD, the first Scottish damselfly this year. I thought it was dead, but on careful examination, the opposite was the case. It had just released itself from its nymphal shuck and was drying its wings in the sun. Also pumping blood into those wings to stiffen them. Good luck wee red damselfly and make good use of these warm days. Rain is on its way after, or maybe including Sunday. After that I found a plethora of ‘beasties’. Spiders, beetles and flies. You’ll have to look on Flickr to find them.

Drove home and set the new, fancy, complicated combination microwave to cook my pizza dinner. It did it, perfectly. Beautifully baked, not quite Peasano quality, but good enough for me and so much better than a microwaved one with that yucky squidgy base. No, this was a firm base with a crispy topping. Superb. I hope you’re listening JIC. Fiddly to set up, but very adaptable. Tried to watch the news, but apparently there is a wedding in London tomorrow and the rest of the world had to stop turning just to watch it. I didn’t. The pizza was too good to wait for.

All too soon I got the text to say that the witches were leaving Ayr, then the inevitable “on the bus” text. Agreed to pick Scamp up at the bus stop and, of course, by that time the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. What was wrong with having that three or four hours ago? You know how photogs love directional light. So that was it. Slipping the leash for a day is a great thing. I recommend it to you all.

Tomorrow looks like the last good day for a while. I suggest we make the most of it.

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Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

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

<TECHNOSPEAK>
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.
</TECHNOSPEAK>

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.

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Shorts and Tee Shirt Weather – 7 May 2018

When we woke this morning it was cloudy and dull.

It may have been cloudy and it may have been dull, but the outside temperature was already 14.4ºc. That’s only 0.6º short of official Shorts and Tee Shirt weather as decreed by me.

When I eventually dragged myself away from my book, got showered and dressed, it was definitely shorts and tee shirt time, but I retained my decorum and just wore a shirt and jeans instead. Scamp was already in the garden, watering and feeding the plants and encouraging the sun to shine down on this great land we live in. Even better, it seemed to be working. The sun was breaking through the clouds and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. Cleaned the Gaggia and which has been on my to do list for ages. Sat on the front step with Scamp and grabbed today’s PoD which is the inside of an open tulip.

After a quick trip to Tesco, lunch and a conversation with Hazy. I decided it was time to get the bike out and take it for a run. Truly this was shorts and tee shirt weather, cycling shorts and a short sleeved top. It was a good run, but there wasn’t much for the new lens to get a grip on. Back home and it as salad for dinner and a mighty good one too. Potato salad, mixed leaves, yesterday’s mutton served cold, beetroot and all washed down with a glass of vino collapso. Then a seat in the garden to let it all slide down with the last of the vino to help it on its way. After an hour or so the sun had dipped far enough down to force us back inside.  Nice to have a restful Monday with no salsa as  the STUC building is closed on bank holidays.

All in all, it was a very nice day. Unfortunately it looks like it’s all going downhill from here on in. Never mind, it was a really good summer. We enjoyed both days.

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Embra in the Spring

Today we did as we had planned and went to Embra where we found the sun.

We left Croy with the sun completely hidden behind layers of heavy cloud. It was quite warm though, so we shouldn’t complain too much.

Coffee in Nero when we got to the Capital and then a walk through the Farmer’s Market where I bought tomorrow’s dinner, a piece of mutton from Annanwater. I’d bought from them before, so was sure that it would be fresh and good quality. I think I prefer mutton to lamb now. It’s not as light a meat and needs a fair bit of care in cooking, but the taste is that much richer and deeper. (Foodie Speak)

Walked up to the Grassmarket and after perusing the stalls with exorbitant prices for food (well, it is tourist season and a bank holiday to boot) we settled on Petit Paris, the inevitable choice for both of us. Lovely French restaurant run by French blokes where the food, as well as being French is lovely.
Starters:
Green Pea and Garlic soup for Scamp
Pan fried Brie wrapped in Filo for me
Mains:
Fillet of Cod with Mash for Scamp
Beef Bourguignon for me
I even risked Nick the Chick’s anger by having a glass of red wine. When we came out the Grassmarket was mobbed. Tourists everywhere. It looked like a score of tourist busses had just disgorged their passengers and driven off. We walked up West Bow Street which was where I got the PoD of two biddies scoffing their lunch, sitting on the pavement. From there we walked across the Royal Mile and down the steps to the National Gallery. Stood and watched an ok guitarist, piper and drummer busking. Nothing special, but it entertained the bank holiday crowds. This was all done under blue skies I hasten to add. One of the advantages of going to Embra is that because it’s the capital, it gets better weather than the Glasgow area. I think it’s written into a statute somewhere.

Scamp was on the hunt for a new pair of dance shoes and there is a really good dance ware shop on Rose Street, so that was our next port of call. After securing that purchase (to be delivered to the house next week) we dropped in at Waterstones where I browsed the books, but didn’t find anything I wanted to buy. We were fed and fed up by this time, so after a walk through Princes Street Gardens we got the train home. As we travelled west, we lost more and more of the blue sky and it was replaced by more and more grey clouds. Arrived back at Croy and found it as we’d left it, grey, damp and warm. At least we had some east coast sun today.

Watched an ok, but nothing special film ‘Dough’ on Netflix.

Tomorrow should be a better day if the weather fairies are to be believed. Let’s wait and see. Some stuff needs to be taken to the dump, some gardening needs to be done and the bike needs another outing. Also, some mutton needs to be cooked. Hopefully some of these tasks will be completed, and hopefully under blue skies!

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Waiting for the DPD man – 3 May 2018

My Panasonic 30mm f2.8 macro lens was due for delivery today.

The email arrived just after 10am to tell me that the lens would be delivered between 4.04pm and 5.04 pm. Why so exact? Anyway, that left us with the rest of the day to play with. Where should we go? We’d been to Glasgow yesterday. We’d been to Dunfermline on Saturday. Scamp suggested Stirling and that was the deal sealed.

It was a dull day with nothing to recommend it. Had a light lunch in Nero and then went to Waitrose for the messages. Came home. Not exactly the most exciting way to use your afternoon, but at least we were out for a while. I’d humphed two cameras round Stirling and hadn’t even taken one photo.

The lens arrived just after 4pm and when I unpacked it, it looked brand new. Almost untouched. Screwed it on to the Oly 5 and tested it. Oh yes! It does indeed focus down to almost nothing, and it looked really neat too. Almost brand new and sixty quid cheaper than the same lens from Jessops. Grabbed my bag again and headed over to St Mo’s just as the rain came on.

My parting words to Scamp were that I wasn’t taking the long lens because there wouldn’t be any deer to photograph. Walked through the trees to the path above the pond and there was a deer not 30m away to my left. It saw me at the same time and ran away into the deep pine forest. I was eager to try out the new lens an found some subjects in the sprouting Larch needles. ISO was a bit higher than I’d have liked, but the detail looked good on the viewing screen. Walked down through the trees and there in the open ground were two deer. Used the Teazer to grab some photos of them before they ran off. One more photo of a climbing snail and that was it for the day.

Walked back and was immediately impressed with the quality of the photos from the lens. Prime lenses are notable by their excellent quality and this one is no exception.

Dinner tonight was Aloo Sag or Potato and Spinach Curry to you and me. It took me over an hour of constant preparation and cooking to get it made, but it was really, REALLY good. Just a tad too hot perhaps, but very good sauce. Impressed.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Val.

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Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?

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An exciting F1 GP – 29 April 2018

For once, it really was a Formula 1 Grand Prix filled with thrills and spills and best of all, Vettel didn’t get a podium.

We both did a bit of light gardening this morning although as usual, I did the lightest possible while Scamp got stuck in and did the heavy stuff and was constantly planning changes, alterations and improvements to the layout of the plants. It’s what she does best. Me? I just footer around the edges pruning things a bit and thinking about planting things. Today I thought about planting peas and potatoes. Didn’t actually do any planting, but I thought about it, then decided that tomorrow would be a better day to do the work … or maybe Tuesday would be a better day. Hmm.  After that I did a bit more pruning.  Used the hairclippers to give myself ‘a Number 4 all over’.  I’ve had worse, fairly often and had to get Scamp to tidy up the bits I couldn’t reach.  Saved a tenner!

Watched the Baku GP with crashes galore, punctures galore and even two team mates crashing into one another. Oh how we laughed when Vettel performed what used to be called a ‘Banzai’ move and forgot he’d need to brake for the corner that was fast approaching. Went from first to fourth in one easy move. Such a shame <snigger>.

After the race we had to get ready sharpish to drive to Paisley for a tapas meal before Salsa. Food was good and I must give Shannon full marks for a sensible improvement to the ordering procedure which used to be a shambles. Now it’s a much reduced menu, but the food comes out far quicker.

After the tapas, we had a styling class with Will and although styling is not my thing, (you can tell that by today’s DIY crewcut) I did enjoy the class but maybe my partners didn’t think very much of my attempts at styling. It was a bit of fun and it would have got the dancing off to a good start, except that nobody wanted to dance after that, they all wanted to talk. We did get a few dances and I even managed to dance with two former classmates and also with one of the new ‘Improvers’.

On the road home I got today’s PoD which was taken just outside Moodiesburn. Who would have thought it would be so photogenic.

Tomorrow I may go out looking for photos after I’ve done a bit of alteration to my ‘raised bed’ Going to drill a few holes in the woodwork to erect a frame for a pea net. Guess what I’ll be planting soon after that hopefully!

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Peacocks, Plants and a Swallow – 28 April 2018

Today wasn’t a day for going over the sea to Millport.

When we woke, the sky was clear with just a few clouds. However we just knew it couldn’t last and we were right. An hour later it had clouded over and the temperature was only 10º. We’d planned to go over the sea to Millport, but that wasn’t going to happen today.

I am planning to make a sourdough loaf on Monday. That means I have to prepare the active starter today in order to assemble the dough tomorrow (Sunday) and prove it overnight in its pretty cane basket in the fridge overnight ready for baking on Monday. That’s how it works with sourdough. It’s a three day plan process and you have to think ahead to be ready. That’s why this morning I was making up my active starter, just as the battery in the scales died. So my active starter is a kind of rough and ready one that feels right. As of now, at 11.45 it’s looking good. Tomorrow will be the big test.

The preparation of the AS was just filling in time while we decided what to do with the day. It seemed that east was better than west today so we settled on Dunfermline as a target and that’s where we went. Scamp wanted to go for a walk in the park and I wanted to look for a new book in Waterstones. On-line is cheaper, but it’s nice to just browse the books instead. You can’t really do that on-line, well, you can, but it’s not as much fun. We went to Dunfermline and had a walk in the park and found that there are still peacocks there and that’s where the PoD came from. We also found they’ve revamped the swing park to make it wheelchair friendly which is a great idea. One that more places should adopt. Only cost a little more than a ‘normal’ swing park, but the inclusion aspect is worth a lot more than the cost difference. I applaud you Dunfermline.

We’d half intended having lunch there, but instead we just had a coffee in Nero and settled on a home made curry when we got home. I did get to Waterstones and I did get a book … or two! On the way home we visited a wee garden centre and Scamp bought me a Forsythia from the sale plants and she got a wee alpine. My mum had a Forsythia plant in the garden and I always remembered it. I’ve got my own now.  On the way home I saw my first swallow this year!

Dinner tonight was a Spice Tailor curry and was good, but not nearly as good as the Butter Chicken curry we had the other night from the same company.

Swallow Watch:  This week I saw the first swallow this year and this is week 17.

Tomorrow?  Dancing in Paisley hopefully with dinner flung in for good measure.

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Just a Friday – 27 April 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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