What’s that water falling from the sky – 18 May 2019

It rained today, almost all day, on and off. That held back the desert for a few days.

Scamp volunteered to drive us through torrential rain to Stirling to go to Dobbies to get an adaptor for the new kitchen tap to allow us to connect the hose. They didn’t have the one I’d intended getting, but we did get an alternative. Scamp got a top in a Country Casuals franchise and I got a baseball cap. Originally it was to keep the sun off my head, but there was no need for it today. Next stop was Bridge of Allan for lunch at Vecchia Bologna. Unfortunately half of Scotland decided they wanted lunch there too, so we went elsewhere. After negotiating some of BoA’s roundabouts we found a parking space on the bridge over the Allan Water and we went to the Allanwater Cafe for fish ’n’ chips. Not your ordinary fish either, but breaded fish which is a ‘special’ fish in the rest of the chip shop world. We’ve passed this wee cafe many times and always intended to go in. Today we did and our fish tea was really very good. We’ll be back, all being well.

Got back to the car and it was dry for a while as we made our way home. Got to Broadwood roundabout and found traffic chaos. Cars everywhere. Folk getting out of cars in the middle of the traffic jam, just mental. There’s only one thing that can cause such madness and it’s football. Sure enough, Clyde were playing Annan in the Scottish 27th division cup final. Eventually we got home by a circuitous route. While the shellshocked Scamp cursed herself for volunteering to drive today and settled her nerves with a ‘white tea’, I went for a walk to St Mo’s as I’d intended getting a few photos in Stirling and the airts, but the rain had put paid to that, so St Mo’s it was. Found lots of interesting stuff, but PoD went to the Snail Race down a tree trunk.

Back home and started today’s sketch which was “A collection of bottles”. All ink bottles of differing colours and designs. It appeared that every one had a different style of cap, but all one colour … black.

Made some cauliflower pakora and some onion bhajis which were deemed good enough to keep until tomorrow.

Tomorrow we may go dancing in Record Factory, but I’ll be driving!

A walk, a beer and a glass of wine – 17 May 2019

Another lazy start to another warm day.

Finally decided around midday that we would go in to Glasgow to get a birthday card and two miniatures of whisky. The reason for the whisky will become clear in a few weeks. Wandered through the Buchanan Galleries and bought two overpriced miniatures in the Whisky Shop. Across the road to Paperchase and bought a set of replacement black waterproof ink pens. Walked back up Buchanan Street and had lunch in Nero. A shared panini and a shared cake. Well, we are pensioners and have to be parsimonious. Scamp needed money from the bank and I was sent to get a plastic tub that would hold a miniature bottle of whisky. With that completed we drove home via Tesco and got the card.

Back home, (are you managing to keep up with this buying spree?) Scamp wrote the card and I checked that the bottle would fit in the tub. It did ( I bet you’re relieved). We walked over to Condorrat in the sunshine to post the card and on the way back we walked through St Mo’s so I could get a PoD which was yet another Large Red Damselfly. Rather than come straight home, Scamp suggested we continue on to the pub and I could have a quick beer and a wine for Scamp. The barman said he didn’t have any Shiraz, but he did have a Nottingham Hill. We both assured him Notting Hill would be fine. It was his first day on the job and here was I asking him for something that could have been in Swahili for all he knew. Mine was easier, just a pint of Stella. We sat in the ‘garden’ area at the back, in full sun, but sheltered from the cool east wind. It’s called a garden, but I think it’s a long time since anything has grown on that piece of land. We sat there for for about an hour sipping our drinks and discussing serious and slightly morbid topics.

Came home and I made Butter Chicken from a Spice Tailor packet served with rice and flatbread fried in a little olive oil. Quite delicious.

Today’s topic for sketching was An Old Machine. I don’t know if you’d call my dad’s hand drill a machine, but I would. Is it old? Well, I remember him getting the drill back in the ‘60s. Is that old enough for you?

Tomorrow we have no plans, but it’s raining tonight and it’s supposed to rain almost all day tomorrow. We may go out and we may not.

Oh what a beautiful day – 12 May 2019

This wasn’t a day for lying around in bed, but we did, although not for long.

The strawberry plant in the hanging basket needed splitting up and repotting. So that was my gardening task for the day. It didn’t really take me that long, especially with the new garden table to raise things up so I wasn’t bending all the time. After splitting the original plant I had enough to fill two hanging baskets with some to spare, so that’s what I did. After that, it was wearing on to lunchtime, so we rested our trowels and forks for a while and had lunch. Watched an irritating interview on the Andrew Marr program with the despicable Nigel Farage (Who my spellchecker thinks is Nigel Garage. He has as much sincerity as a Garage). He’d make a great snake oil salesman.

I could have done a lot of things, but I eventually decided that the bike needed a run, so I dragged myself out in the warm sunshine and cycled to the spot where I can usually depend on seeing some damselflies in the summer. It’s the verge of a fair sized pond, but today it was a reed bed with little sign of any standing water. It just shows how little rain we’ve had this year. Occasionally great deluges lasting days, then nothing for the next week. Is this another sign of Global Warming? Something else that the esteemed Mr Farage doesn’t believe in. Trained by Trump perhaps? I was about to leave empty handed when I remembered another very small pond where the damselflies hang out and lo and behold there was a Large Red Damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). Got a few shots of it as it sunned itself and that made PoD.

Back home it was lamb shank for me and salmon for Scamp. Both done in the oven. The lamb shank was enormous and made great eating. Scamp’s salmon looked good too. As a surprise she’d made meringues. Light as a feather they were. There are some kept aside for tomorrow, but they are at their best straight from the oven.

Watched a boring Spanish GP before I started on today’s sketch whose topic was “Pastimes / Amusements”. My answer was “The Times Daily Sudoku” which passes a significant part of my time but is rarely amusing.

Tomorrow I’m going to lunch with Shona and she’s paying.

The Smiddy and Ladybirds – 11 May 2019

In the morning we went to a funeral. After that the day started.

In the morning we went to Crawford’s brother’s funeral. Funerals have a tendency, like black monkeys (or black dogs if you prefer) to stay with me all day. This one certainly did. We went home, got changed and drove to The Smiddy near Doune for lunch.

The drive helped to take the feeling away. That and the sunshine that we enjoyed all day. Baked Potato with Veg Chilli helped too. Scamp had her usual Macaroni and Cheese with Chips. We hadn’t really intended having such a full lunch, but the food in The Smiddy is usually very good and difficult to refuse. Outside I went to take some landscapes shots in the beautiful light that always appears near this restaurant. I did get a few, but then I managed to grab the photo that became PoD. Ladybirds doing some very unladylike things! From there we drove through Doune to Dunblane and M&S Food (more food? I hear you ask). After that it was a straight run home.

Tonight’s topic in Every Day in May, number 11, was Spring. What is more springlike than daffodils and it was a single daffy that became my sketch/painting today. I liked the blurred background, but Scamp didn’t. She liked yesterday’s painting and I didn’t. I’m glad we don’t agree on everything. That was about it for today. Scamp has more plans for the garden and maybe has a storage place for the new table. I ripped out some weeds from the retaining wall at the back of the garden and noticed that quite a few of the facing bricks need replacing. Managed to rip out a fairly large nettle and got a lovely sting from it right through one of Scamp’s heavy duty gardening gloves. Scary things, nettles.

Tomorrow looks like an even better day than today. If it lives up to predictions, we may go somewhere nice. Destination unknown at present. If not we may go dancing. It’s a wait and see kind of day.

Getting out of the house – 7 May 2019

Today we went for a drive and got a table.

It wasn’t the brightest of days, in fact it was a bit overcast with a hint of rain in the wind. I’d thought of going to Bowling near Dumbarton, but I reckoned I wouldn’t get very interesting photos with the lack of light in the morning, so we went to Ikea instead. I wanted to get some of the drawer dividers we’d been using for the Marie Kondo stuff and Scamp just wanted a wander around looking at nothing in particular and everything in general. We ended up buying a garden table for a knock down price, a wooden one that looks as if it will be useful, not only for eating off, but also as a potting bench. Had lunch in Ikea and got a quid or two off our meal with the Family Card. A pain in the backside to fill in the detailed application for and they must have been hewing the card from a solid block of plastic, judging by the time it took to come. However it saved us money, so we shouldn’t complain.  We both had the fish ‘n’ chips.  It was supposed to be cod and I’d guess it swam in the same sea as the cod, but that’s as close as it got to being that fish.  Chips were good.

The rain got heavier after we left Glasgow and it looked as if it was settling in to be another dull day. I moped upstairs for a while trying to find something to draw to fulfil the brief of “Something that makes you sad”. I though of an empty bottle of beer which usually makes me sad, but I just couldn’t get it to look like I wanted it to. Decided that the rain had lessened to a drizzle and went for a walk in St Mo’s as much for a break as for any inspiration. However, on my way back, I passed the burger van that’s parked over there and saw the sign for the umpteenth time. This time I took a couple of shots. The one you see here is the best one, I think. Processed in ON1 2019 and then just a little bit of levels in Lightroom, it became PoD.

With the photo done and posted, Scamp and I shared the last two choc ices and that’s when I saw my sketch. To quote from the title: “I’m always sad when the last choc ice is gone!” I posted it in FB and then had a look at what everyone else had done and it was “Saving the planet”, “Protect the Bees”, fluffy bunnies, kittens and babies with tears in their eyes. It seems that I’m the only one with a sense of humour.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go dancing in the afternoon and in the evening too.

Another lazy day – 6 May 2019

This is getting boring. Tomorrow we must try to break out of Cumbersheugh!

The furthest we got today was the mighty Tesco. We needed milk and some veg for tonight’s dinner (Aloo Saag). We got it, we came back, we had the last of Scamp’s soup for lunch and then Scamp went out gardening.

I went upstairs to tackle today’s challenge which was the unlikely subject for me “Your daily work/office”. That’s a tricky one for someone who’s retired. I don’t actually have a “work” and certainly not an “office”. I thought of all the places I have worked, some of which could be called “offices”, but none of them impinge on my life now. Upstairs in the back bedroom is the closest I’m going to get to an office and I suppose you could call my daily photograph or my daily sketch this month a “daily work”. So that was that. It was either a sketch of a camera or of the bedroom. I settled on drawing what was in front of me, the drawing board with a couple of paintboxes an assortment of brushes and a pencil, plus odd bits and pieces. I drew it in pencil first and then outlined the result in pen, before laying down some watercolour washes. It looks ok and some people even “liked” it on FB. I’m surprised and delighted in equal measure. Tomorrows topic is “Something that makes you sad”. Hmm, that could be work itself!

I didn’t do much gardening today, I generally leave the ‘getting your hands dirty’ stuff to Scamp. She’s better at it than me. However I did put up a frame for her sweet peas at the front of the house, then she put up a bit of netting on the fence at the back for a second batch. Now she’s talking about putting netting on to the rowan tree and training yet more sweet peas up that. We’ll be overrun soon with pretty perfumed flowers. Later when I was bringing some of our most recent sowings from the greenhouse so they could get the benefit of the rain, because it was a rainy-shiny kind of day, I noticed that my leek seeds are sprouting. That’s good to know. Hopefully they will provide the basis for some soup one day. The leeks I planted last year seem to have survived the winter and are beginning to show signs of fattening up.

Today’s PoD was taken in the garden too. It’s a strawberry plant has been sitting on high in a hanging basket all winter and now it’s starting to flower again. It really deserves to be replanted and given some decent compost. Perhaps tomorrow.

Tomorrow, apart from the proposed bit of gardening we have no plans, but we really need to get away from the house, somewhere scenic perhaps.

Escher, Dancing and Good Light – 5 May 2019

Today’s challenge was “Your Favourite Artist”.

Where do you start? Who do you choose? Vincent Van Gogh would be a good place to start, then there would be Constable, Turner, Seurat, Durer. Closer to home there’s Peploe, or any of the Scottish Colourists. Plus of course The Glasgow Boys and Glasgow Girls. It could of course be a musician or a singer or anyone from any of the arts. I finally settled on MC Escher. Mainly because I like the range of his work, not just the Impossible Staircase (which is now attributed to Penrose) and the ever flowing Waterfall. His tessellation’s are amazing and his use of spherical perspective is great to look at, but almost impossible to replicate. That brings up the question of what do I do to represent him. I chose to try to work out how the Impossible Staircase was drawn. I found the answer in the repository of all things, YouTube. All human life is there … as well as a few things that most definitely are not human. What you see below is my attempt.

That was as much thinking and working as I did today. Well I did some lifting and carrying for Scamp in her ever increasing gardening exploits, trying her hardest to get the sun loving plants to the front of the house and those that prefer shade to the back. Today the Hydrangea was taken from the back to the front. Some things that are now at the front, like the tulips, will soon be moved to the back to rest after their flowering is over. For myself, I contented myself with planting some more peas because the first lot haven’t shown their little green heads. I remember Ann McPherson’s Maxim: Buying plant the plants at Easter that will die. Buy and plant the ones in May that will grow.” It works, you know. Especially if you live in Scotland.

Went dancing at the Record Factory this afternoon. Had a late lunch or an early dinner whatever you want to call it, it was fish ’n’ chips by the way at the venue and it was pretty good value. We may do that again. For some reason, nobody wanted to dance. We were first up on the floor and nobody joined us. The next two tracks were played and nobody got on their feet. Eventually people danced. It was a packed dance floor for a couple of hours then things started to fade off again. On the way to the car I got today’s PoD. Beautiful lighting on the Glasgow Uni tower, framed by a demolition crane!

Tomorrow we are in no rush to go out. No Gems and no Salsa at night. What will we do with our time?

May the Fourth be with you – 4 May 2019

The weather fairies warned us that today would be cold with a wind from the Arctic bringing the possibility of sleet and snow. It did feel cold when we woke and despite the blue sky and sunny spells, the temperature didn’t rise much. Since we had nowhere in particular to go, we just had a day at home. Sometimes it’s better to stay home at weekends and do your travelling on weekdays when other folk are working.

Scamp was about to throw out some tulip flowers when I saw the beautiful texture and colour of their petals glowing in the sunshine. I set a camera on the table and taped a bit of tracing paper behind the flowers to allow light through, but soften the view of the living room. It took a few shots and a lot of changes to settings before I got the shot I wanted.

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I finally decided that one shot wouldn’t do the job. It needed too much depth of field and the only way I was going to get it was by taking at least five shots of the subject. One at the very front petal, one at the extreme back petal and at least three in between. Actually it took seven shots. The technique is called Focus Stacking and takes ages to post-process. The more shots you take, the more accurate your final shot will be, but the more time you’ll be stuck in the computer deleting bits of the different layers. Luckily ON1 2019 has focus stacking built in and the hard work is done for you. Like all AI things, it does need some human intervention to get it exactly right. That’s what I did … for about two hours, but I think the final image was worth the effort.
</Technospeak>

Scamp made her version of Minestrone soup for dinner and I made a lovely Tear ’n’ Share bread to go with it. It was a bit like a focaccia but with tomatoes in it and less oil. It should have had mozzarella in it too, but we only had green and blue mozzarella with a Use By date of the middle of March, so we decided not to use it. The dough was really sloppy but the bread was lovely and so was the soup.

Today’s challenge on EDiM was Star Wars Day. The closest I could get to it was the heads of four Lego Troopies. Just pen for a change and a challenge.

Tomorrow we may go dancing at the Record Factory.

A curry at last! – 3 May 2019

Today we drove in to Hamilton for that long awaited curry. It was worth the wait.

Took our time breaking surface in the morning. Well, you don’t want to rush into things, so you? So after a coffee, and after Scamp had been for the ‘messages’, and after I’d started the pencil sketch for today’s challenge in EDiM, we headed off to Hamilton for a wander round what shops are left, and a curry in the Bombay Cottage. We agreed that it must have been the ‘hot chef’ who was on duty today. Pakora was hot and so were both our curries. Enjoyed it though.

Went for a walk through the town which is looking more and more dilapidated every time we visit. Cumbersheugh is an eyesore too, but there isn’t much worth saving here. There is in Hamilton and you get the feeling that nobody can be bothered. Newly renovated Town Hall, but not a lot more. I had a browse through the art shop (Ink Spot), but there wasn’t much that interested me. I got fed up listening to an opinionated little 12/13year old spouting out in a lah-de-dah voice about Manga to anyone who would or wouldn’t listen. She just reminded me of Moonunit Zappa’s voice in Valley Girls “Barf me OUT”. We left and I got a potential PoD. One of a selection of comical sculptures dotted around Hamilton. They’re about the only things that would make me smile in this town.

We drove home and I put some ink on the pencil sketch, but it didn’t look any better, so I went out to see if there were any photos wanting taken over in St Mo’s, but there weren’t. That didn’t stop me taking some more, but none of them surpassed “The Man Wi’ A Dug Oan His Heid”, so it retained its PoD position.

Finally put some watercolour on the sketch and discovered that the lovely sepia fineliner I’d been using wasn’t water resistant when it bled into the washes. Never mind, there was meant to be a lot of rust splashes on the paintwork of the tractor and the sepia fitted right in.  Topic was ‘Some Agricultural Machinery’.

That was about it for the day. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow or where we’ll be doing it. It’s forecast for cold winds from the Arctic and even sleet showers. We’ll wait and see.

Beer is the answer, now what was the question? – 30 April 2019

A day in town with the guys and being a good Samaritan.

Scamp offered me a run to the train station to have a 10min trip into Glasgow, rather than the 45min trip the X3 forces on me. I was meeting the Auld Guys for a few beers, some adult conversation and a cheap lunch. Before that I had some time to spare, so I went for a look in JL. Where I saw a bloke attempting to buy a camera for his daughter. She wanted one with a viewfinder, but the one he had his eye on didn’t have one. The assistant told him that nothing in that price range had viewfinders. She went to get the keys to the cabinet to show him some considerably more expensive ones, that’s when the Good Samaritan butted in. I pointed to a Teazer (TZ70) which was much closer to his price range than the £650 Sony the assistant was touting and told them that it had a viewfinder. Even better I had my Teazer in my pocket to show him. He seemed happy that it had a viewfinder and gave it over to his daughter so that she could try it. She said it was just what she was looking for. By then the assistant had returned and the man pointed at the Teazer in the case and said that “This Gentleman” (that’s me by the way) “says that one has a viewfinder”. The assistant agreed that the Lumix was a good make and confirmed that it did indeed have a viewfinder. I left them to test it out for themselves. I hate to see people being given that kind of sales pitch. A Gentleman and a Good Samaritan and it wasn’t even 11.30am!

Met up with the other three in the Horse Shoe Bar. It looked like a pensioners day out today. Not one person under the age of 60 drinking in that bar. Val and Jack couldn’t make it. Jim B couldn’t come today for some undisclosed reason. Had a good gossip about school stuff we don’t have to worry about anymore, then went upstairs for lunch. Three courses for a fiver! That’s a cheap lunch. After that it was home time.

Fred and I got the train home and Scamp very kindly dropped Fred off before we went home too. A good day out.  Scamp had managed to get the grass cut while I was away and just in time too, because when we were going home it started to drizzle.  It’s good for the garden!

Today’s PoD was taken from the top of Buchanan Street in the town.

Tomorrow it’s dancing again. Hopefully better than last week.