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Coffee and Sourdough – 29 March 2018

Not together. No, that would not be a good idea.

Today was meant to be coffee for four, but it became coffee for three. Fred, Colin and Me. Val being laid up in bed with shingles. Poor man. The replacement of Val with Colin changed the dynamic of the group completely, and also the proportions of the coffee. Instead of two Cortados and one Americano it was one Cortado and two Americanos. Topics discussed were school awards for LGBT, FPs (Former Pupils), FCs (Former Colleagues), gardening and sketching. It was interesting to have a different perspective on things, not better or worse, just different. Maybe refreshing would be a better word.

After an hour or so we split up and went our separate ways. Me to go shopping, Fred to pick up Margo and Colin to go back to his garden. I went looking for plant labels for Scamp. That’s what she asked for and that’s what she got today. After a very late lunch I managed half an hour or so in St Mo’s looking for something interesting. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Just a rotting fencepost, but lots of lovely textures in it. I was surprised to see that the number of the ladybirds I’ve been checking had decreased. Maybe the little bit of sun we’ve had has encouraged them out to look for food. It’s good to see as it might be another sign of spring, although it looks like there’s more snow in week ahead.

Back home, I fed the hungry sourdough starter. I’ve been buying sourdough bread from Tesco ever since I read that book by the same name that Hazy recommended. It’s lovely bread. Very open textured and quite rough. Best eaten as toast I find. The secret to sourdough bread is the starter.  Basically it’s the natural yeast in wholemeal flour that’s been actively encouraged to grow and multiply in a warm, damp environment.  Apparently, and a chemist would know better, the ‘sour’ part comes from the lactic acid which is a byproduct of the action of the yeast on the starches in the flour.  On Sunday I finally began making a ‘starter’. It’s not difficult, just a bit long winded.

  • 200g Stoneground bread flour
  • 200ml Water (30ºc)
  1. Put it into a large (1litre) container and beat some air into it.
  2. Cover with a breathable covering.
  3. Leave for 48 hours.

For the next 10 days repeat the following daily:

  1. Chuck away half.
  2. Add 100g Stoneground bread flour and 100ml water.
  3. Beat some air into the mixture.

So far I’m on day 4 and the mixture is looking interesting (lots of bubbles) and smelling interesting (smells a bit like milk). Hopefully that means the natural yeasts in the flour have started working and multiplying.  And No, Hazy, I haven’t played it any music.  Maybe I’ll try some Tom Waits on it, but probably Salsa would be better!  I’ll keep you posted.

No firm plans for tomorrow. Maybe go to Dunfermline.

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Dancing, dancing, all the day – 28 March 2018

“Shoes to set my feet a dancing” definitely help too.

Wet start to the day, but there was little chance of us having any free time anyway, so weather took a back seat. After feeding my sourdough starter we fed ourselves and it was time for the first dance classes of the day. Have I mentioned the sourdough starter? I’ll try to write a bit about it tomorrow. Today is about dancing.

First class is waltz. Very demanding for me, but I feel I’m getting there now. A practise session with Scamp yesterday helped greatly. The biggest help was the lesson last week with Michael’s second-in-command. Today the boss was back and I think we both did well under his eagle eye. I really believe it’s easier dancing with proper dance shoes rather than ordinary street shoes or trainers. I’ve been dancing salsa wearing trainers for years and never bothered with ballroom shoes, but for some reason, waltz especially is much easier (or less difficult) when I’m wearing those uncomfortable dance shoes.

I was on dinner duty tonight and as Scamp reminded me that we hadn’t had our dose of pasta this week, decided to make another attempt at Spaghetti dello Chef. This time I used spaghetti, garlic, chilli flakes, capers, tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with parmesan shavings. Not as good as last week in my opinion, but Scamp said it just tasted different.

The change of plan tonight was to go to the 7.30 and 8.30 classes. Ooh, staying up late! That is much better than having to face Shannon’s boringly repetitive routines and trying to keep a smile on my face. It’s dull, dull, dull, dear. Salsa should be fun, exciting and vibrant, all the things your classes aren’t. We got there earlier than I’d anticipated, so Scamp got to dance for about ten minutes at the end of Jamie’s 6.30 class which was oversubscribed by men as usual. I just stayed in the class and typed up the first half of this blog post on my phone. The 8.30 class was a revelation. For a level 3 class they were brilliant. I think we may make this a regular occurrence.

Today’s PoD was a grab shot of a fat pigeon sitting on the fence at the back garden. I liked the shadows cast by the tree on its plumage. Just a grab shot through the kitchen window.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Colin because Val has shingles. Poor guy.

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Summer starts here – 25 March 2018

The start of British Summer Time and Fred and I are off to get some art inspiration and perhaps even some art if the price is right.

The clocks had jumped forward by an hour this morning. Well some of them had, the new, hooked-up, on-line ones were up to date and time, but the rest had to be pushed on an hour by hand, or more likely by finger. With that done it was time to sit down and watch the first F1 GP of the year. Felt sorry for Hamilton as he was cheated out of first place by a clever bit of rule twisting by Vettel. I don’t like Hamilton, but I detest Vettel.

Got ready to go in to Glasgow with Fred. We were going to an artist’s sale in the WASP studio. Nothing to do with White or Anglo-Saxon or Protestant, thankfully. WASPS in Glasgow are Workshop & Artists Studio Provision, and that’s where we were heading this morning to an Artist’s Clear Out Sale. Lots of stuff for sale. Ceramics, Glass, Paintings and some fabric work. Most of the prices were realistic, but a few were imaginative to say the least. I bought three ceramic bowls, small, medium and large. Fred got a brooch for his granddaughter. On the way back we passed an old school and with the sun shining on it, it looked worth a few photos. That’s what you see above. PoD was the old schoolhouse in the frame on the right. I tried a sketch of it when we got home, from the photo. It may or may not see the light of day. In fact, I may wait for the light of day to finish the washes on it.

Dancing this evening was at La Rambla in Paisley. Really enjoyable, probably because it’s weeks since we’ve been out dancing in public. No tapas today because of the length of time it took on our last couple of visits for our food to arrive, and of course, today it had been much quicker. That may have been because of a new ordering procedure suggested by Shannon, or it could have been because of the fewer numbers who were ordering food. Only time will tell.  Beautiful sunset as we were driving home after a really sunny day.

Tomorrow is Monday. That means the likelihood of gym or swim. I’ll decide which tomorrow.

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Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2018

Today is Scamp’s Birthday.

Because it was Scamp’s birthday it was my turn to make the breakfast. I also brought up the presents for her to open. After that, Hazy phoned, then we waited for the post to arrive with Hazy’s prezzy. An exciting morning.

Drove down to Troon for a walk along the beach before we went to lunch at Scott’s of Troon. On the way down, Scamp got a FaceTime call from Jaime and Madeleine from Trinidad! Most unexpected and so nice to see them again, although I didn’t contribute much to the conversation as I was driving.

Troon was busy because it was a lovely bright sunny day. Parked by the sea wall and walked along the esplanade to the sand dunes, then back along the beach to the car park. That’s where I saw the Micra driver who thought he/she was a motorcyclist. Would these people park in a disabled space? Probably not, but they think it’s fair game to park in a space for motorcycles. It would have been good if a hulking big Harley had parked right behind them, preferably with a hulking big Harley rider sitting in the saddle. That didn’t make PoD. The accolade went to THE best fig in Morrisons.

Lunch in the conservatory of Scotts was lovely, and went as follows:

Scamp:

  • Alex Vause Gin cocktail (Hic!)

  • Selection of breads (shared)

  • Smoked haddock, king prawn and pea risotto

  • Sticky Toffee Pudding Sundae

  • Coffee

Me:

  • Selection of breads (shared)

  • Roast breast of chicken with carrot puree, veg, fondant potatoes and black pudding & chorizo bon bons

  • Mini Eton Mess

  • Coffee

After that we poured ourselves into the car and drove home via Morrisons, still in the sunshine that someone had ordered for Scamp’s birthday. Whoever you were, thank you. It was worth every penny.

A lovely day with a lovely lady!

Tomorrow? Back to the real world. Hoping to go in to Glasgow with Fred to an art sale.

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Another Good Day – 20 March 2018

And I quote:

“Tomorrow, if it works out as the weather man says, will be another good day with more sunshine, temperatures scraping under double digits and light winds again. Scamp wants to go into the garden. I might get my bike out.”

Well, it did turn out as the weather man said.
– It was another good day with sunshine.
– Temperatures in the sun were probably scraping the double digits.
– The winds were light
– Scamp did go into the garden
– I DID take my bike out

Scamp started clearing up the front garden in the morning, the back garden is still under permafrost. I cleared the snow off the back step, finding the mat in the process. I then attacked the ice with a spade, but gave up when I got to the stuff that was welded securely to the concrete and resorted to a chemical attack. Instead of Novichok, I used table salt which melted the ice really quickly. Meanwhile Scamp was trying to eradicate an influx of tiny white maggots from one of her containers. She eventually gave up, washed the offending plants and dumped the compost in the brown bin (garden waste). Then she tidied up the front of the window area to let the daffodils have some air and light. The garden looked so much better after that.

The coffee I’d ordered from the Bean Shop in Perth arrived just in time for lunch and after sampling some, I got dressed to go out on my bike. Glorious day if you were in the sun, quite cool in the shade. Cycled to the old tip and that’s where I got today’s PoD which is the Kirkintilloch Volcano. One day I will climb the Kirkintilloch Volcano and sit like this person did, just enjoying the view. There, that’s a challenge for this year.  I also got a photo of a newt.  Not great or crested, but a newt.  I’ve never seen one in St Mo’s and this is the first one I’ve seen for years.  Stood and watched the trains go by and listened to the silence, if you know what I mean.  It was simply wonderful to be out in the air without that cold wind dragging you down.  Maybe spring is just round the corner.  Glad I took advantage of today because the weatherwoman says it’s going to rain tomorrow. Worse still, Wunderground says it’s going to rain tomorrow and I trust Wunderground more than I trust the weatherwoman, Kawser Quamer.

Made chilli for dinner while Scamp had Rats which is her shorthand for Ratatouille.

Tomorrow is Dancing, Dancing, Dancing day we hope because we missed it last week.

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Just a Monday – 19 March 2018

Today was just a Monday.

After lunch Scamp went to collect some of the Gems ladies and reported that it was a lovely day.  I had been considering an afternoon at the gym, but it looked so good with blue skies, sunshine and light winds that I changed my mind and took the car out to Bishopbriggs to have a look at the Linx 12×64 2 ‘n’ 1 laptop.  Unfortunately in contradiction to their website, they didn’t have one.  Allegedly they had one in Coatbridge, but I wasn’t in the mood for a run out there and anyway, a walk would be much better, so that’s what I did.

I drove back to Cumbersheugh and parked down by the station then went for a walk along the Luggie Water which is where I got today’s PoD, a bunch of Snowdrops.  Thankfully most of the real show is going fast.  Warm breezes and some direct sunshine is doing the good work.  Got talking to a bloke walking an enormous Alsatian.  It started off with us complaining about  the state of the Luggie and the dearth of fish in it these days and finished with him telling me his life story.  Eventually I did manage to get away.  I felt kind of sorry for him because he just seemed to ramble on from one thing to another.  It was almost as if he had nobody to talk to and didn’t want to let you go.  Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I had to get home to make the dinner before we went out dancing.

Dinner on a Monday is pasta.  At my mum’s it was always mince ‘n’ tatties on a Monday.  Here it’s pasta.  Today, for a change, I thought I’d make a version of one of Scamp’s favourites, Spaghetti dello Chef which is spaghetti with vegetables and cheese.  Mine was spaghetti with onions, mushroons, tomatoes, peppers and capers.  Finished with parmesan shavings, fresh ground pepper, salt and extra virgin olive oil.  It was a success.

Salsa tonight was the usual chaos in the first class with lots of old moves and a few new ones.  Second class was equally chaotic with a few old moves and a few new ones.  Can’t remember the names of them all, but today’s new move was Stormtrooper 2.  We also went over Stormtrooper 1 and the one that’s still called ‘The New One’.  Apparently the cost of a block is going up for the first time in 10 years, from £35 to £40.  Nobody objected.  It’s still good value.

Tomorrow, if it works out as the weather man says, will be another good day with more sunshine, temperatures scraping under double digits and light winds again.  Scamp wants to go into  the garden.  I might get my bike out.

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To Darkest Larky – 16 March 2018

Tonight we were going to Darkest Larky to take June and Ian to meet Crawford & Nancy.

It was a dull, dismal, cold day. We decided to go out for lunch, a light lunch as we would be well fed tonight. We finally settled on The Smiddy out near Doune. Got a table easily enough and Scamp ordered Tomato soup. I fancied the Parmesan, Pancetta and Olive Quiche. Unfortunately, after taking the order, the waitress returned to say that the last piece of that quiche had just gone. Would I like the Highland Blue, Spinach and Tomato Quiche? I felt like saying “No, I’d like the Parmesan …”, but I foolishly agreed to the replacement. When it came it was a disappointingly mass-produced looking version that sat on the plate amid the mixed lettuce leaves and the sun dried tomatoes. The sun dried tomatoes were good. The rest was just as disappointing as it looked. I think The Smiddy is becoming the victim of their success. Scamp said her soup had a slightly ‘meaty’ taste to it, almost like there was marmite or something in it. We may give The Smiddy a rest for a while.

June and Ian arrived at night and we headed of for Larky. Crawford and Nancy proudly showed off their new kitchen and sun-room. It really, and I mean really made us both green with envy. Such a lovely space, and so spacious too. I know Crawford put a lot of work into it and it showed. June and Ian were so wrapped up in each other, I don’t think they took much notice.

Food and drink was just as good as it usually is except for the driver who had to make do with a Coke, thankfully a Full-Fat one. Conversation and jokes rattled about among us and it was good to see that Ian gave as good as he got. The only thing missing was a big black labrador that used to come and plonk itself down at June’s feet. Unfortunately it had gone the way of all flesh. It was a docile big soul.

Never really noticed the time until Scamp said we should be going. It was 11.45.

By the time we’d dropped everyone off it was 12.30am when we found a parking space right outside the door and came home. That’s why this blog was written on Saturday.

PoD was a grab shot of croci in the garden.

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Going for the messages – 14 March 2018

Since snow is forecast for Friday, we though it would be prudent to go get some messages today.  Also, our ballroom class was cancelled for today because the other two couples were on holiday.

Drove to Morrison’s in Falkirk to get some messages, three Tesco bags full of messages … and wine … and beer. We weren’t allowed to drink any today because of the Four Dry Days embargo. Actually, it will probably be Five Dry Days this week if I’m driving on Friday, as is likely. Anyway, Morrison’s in Falkirk was the highlight of the day really.

After lunch I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got the above PoD shot there. They are Cladonia, a type of lichen. They seem to grow on nothing. Nutrient free boulders are a typical habitat. These wee things seem to survive on air alone. Wouldn’t do for me. Certainly not after lugging three shopping bags of messages out of the car.

Salsa tonight was a game of two halves. Jamie’s first class was oversubscribed in men, so I bit the bullet and helped the other class, which Shannon ‘taught’. I wouldn’t really call that teaching. Teaching is where you increase the knowledge of your students. I didn’t see any increase in the knowledge of any of the pupils. She didn’t teach anything new, except that the girls should flirt with the guys. Not my idea of a dance class. Neither is repeating the same moves ad nauseam. What they want to do is learn, something, Shannon. Repeating the same set of moves for an hour is not teaching them to dance.

The second class started out with too many guys too, but ended up even. It was much more fun. Jamie’s classes at all levels are always fun, even when he’s a bit grumpy, which he has been in the past. Even although this was a beginners class, it was fun to help with and people were smiling. That’s what teaching is about. If you can make a class laugh while they are learning, they will come back for more.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Val and Fred in the afternoon. Scamp is having coffee in the morning with Isobel. I doubt if either of us will be having Flat Blacks.

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Another early rise – 13 March 2018

Out for 9.30am today

Taking Scamp to her hospital appointment in Glasgow today. It was a bright morning, so, since it was a routing check-up, while she was in the hospital, I went for a walk to Glasgow Cathedral. That’s where I got today’s photo, more of which later. I knew I only had half an hour of ‘freedom’, so after getting some wide angle shots of the building, I sat down to draw it. Sketch it would be a better description. Bearing in mind the usefulness information from a book on sketching architecture I’d read last year, I dispensed with the details and got the important bit, the bit that interested me drawn first, then, still working roughly, added in the remainder of the building. With that down, I started adding details, again working from my centre of interest first. It’s amazing how time flies when you concentrate on something and it only seemed like a few minutes before my phone rang and it was time to meet up with the patient. Sketch was only half finished and that half was lacking sooo much detail. Not to worry, it was done. I’d drawn it with a child’s fountain pen that’s great to sketch with. I’ve learned that if you use the fountain pen upside down you can draw really fine lines with almost any nib. Great for construction lines. When you’re ready to add in the outlines, you simply turn the pen round to the normal writing position. So simple and so effective. Two pens in one.

Anyway, a photo or five in the bag and a sketch too. Not bad for half an hour’s work. Drove home and stopped at Costa in Robroyston for a coffee, or to be more precise, “a flat black is stronger and smoother than an Americano due to the coffee extraction process”. However, it still manages to taste like an Americano and cost a little more. In other words it’s a Flat Con. Once bitten …

Back home, Skyped with Hazy for a while and caught up on all  the news from her end.  Halfway through there was a helluva thump.  It sounded like a door being slammed and we thought it must have been somebody next door leaving in the huff.  It wasn’t until the Skype session was over and I looked out the window that I saw the pigeon on the front grass.  Poor wee thing had battered into the bedroom window.  Went to have a look, but it was obviously dead with a broken neck.  Bagged it and binned it.  I don’t like pigeons, but I felt sorry for it.  Now we’ve got a white ‘angel dusting’ on the bedroom window.

Scamp was out to lunch with a friend and I started to clean my coffee machine which was leaking rather than making. The reason was soon obvious, there were coffee grounds everywhere. After half an hour of scrubbing and re-assembly the coffee making process was back in full swing. Just wish I could find some way to prime it properly after cleaning. It takes ages to get rid of all the air bubbles in the system.

<boring stuff>
Next task was to process the photos. It should have been easy, but as usual it was anything but. I’d deliberately taken more than one shot of the cathedral because there were a lot of people milling around, even at that early hour. The trick to avoid that is to take a lot of shots, preferably with the camera on a tripod, mine was at home. Then you lump all the shots into Photoshop in a stack, get the prog to align them, then carefully erase the people in the top and sometimes the second top layers to reveal the building or scenery in the layers below. Sounds more complicated than it is. Then I noticed that the top of the steeple was missing from the photo, so another bit of cut ’n’ paste repaired that. Because I’d been using an ultra wide angle lens, everything was curved, so a bit more doodling on Photoshop and finally Lightroom sorted that out. It took less than five minutes to get the photos and about two hours to make the composite final image. It started out at 12MB and the composite was a whopping 720MB. Still, I got the image I wanted. All photographs are fake, remember that.
</boring stuff>

Dinner tonight was paella where I got to use the Pimenton Dulce from Fuerteventura. Happy!

Tomorrow the dance class in the afternoon is cancelled as the other two couples are on holiday this week, so we have the day to ourselves. Might have a practise session. Oh yes, and Scamp got the all-clear as we expected. Happy!!

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Zombies and three Halyzia 16-guttata – 11 March 2018

Up early and out to get milk and bread, the staples.

It was Mothers Day today and it just didn’t seem right for Scamp to make the breakfast. She’s not my mother, but she looks after me as if she is. That’s why I got up and drove to Tesco to get the milk and bread, and also a bunch of bananas, not flowers, bananas. You can’t put flowers on your breakfast Bran Flakes, don’t be silly. Tesco looked like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie. Empty shelves everywhere. There was milk and bananas, but almost no other fruit.  [Thinks: Do zombies not eat bananas? ]  Now I know we’ve been away for a week and the snow has been bad here, but surely the Tesco lorries were getting through? I know Nicola Sturgeon was condemning the lorry drivers for clogging up the motorways with furniture lorries, but essentials like fruit and veg, that’s different. The apples and oranges should get through. Likewise the bread. My God, there was no plain loaves in the rack!! There were the thick cut loaves, but nobody eats them even if they’re were starving. Heavens, even zombies don’t eat them.

Came home made breakfast then sat down and typed up the last two days blog entries. Now we’re all up to date, I can relax. My reading public will not be on tenterhooks wondering if we got home, safely from our Week In A Warm Place.

That took me to about lunchtime and, as the sun was shining from a blue sky, after lunch I went to see if St Mo’s was still there and not under about three feet of snow still. I needn’t have worried, the swans were swimming, the birds were singing and the deer were out grazing, so I took the opportunity and snapped a few shots of them before they ran off. I also found my ladybird, the little orange one with the sixteen white spots (Halyzia 16-guttata), that I’ve been keeping an eye on since the beginning of the year. Except that it was no longer a solo ladybird, but a member of a trio. Three little vegetarian ladybirds clinging to the same tree. Two shots in the bag. Next shot was just of a pine cone with little tufts of moss growing from it. I liked it best, and it became PoD.

Dinner was a roast chicken from Tesco. At least there were plenty of them. Apparently zombies don’t like chickens, maybe chicken’s brains are too small to be worth eating. They (the zombies) do, however, like ice cream, because the freezers that are usually full of it were empty. There seemed to be no logic in the empty shelves. The ones you’d expect to be empty like the dairy aisle were full and the one’s that are more luxury items like ice cream had been pillaged. There’s just no accounting for folk.

That was about it apart from running the washing machine almost all day. Tomorrow I’ll probably put the cases away until the summer and, as it’s a Gems day, I’ll maybe go to the gym.