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Visitors – 29 December 2017

Today was the second, and final leg of H&N’s journey north, and it was snowing.

The snow lasted all morning before finally petering out around lunchtime. Scamp had been a bit on edge until it actually stopped then she settled down, knowing that the worst of the weather was past. Even so, she was still determined to dust, Dyson™ (that’s like hoovering but posher), clean and polish the house at least three times until she was sure it was fit for visitors.

After lunch I went out for a walk in the snow around St Mo’s. That’s where I got today’s PoD of the coot on a mission. It was also the first time I used Picktorial in earnest. That’s right, I bought it last night, just before my demo time ran out. It really does work a lot faster and with a lot more variables than Lightroom. The only thing it doesn’t do is Asset Management, or Cataloguing as we used to call it. In fact it proudly proclaims that it is Catalog Free. Which is a fancy way of saying that it would cost too much to add in that feature and then nobody would buy it. So it looks like I’ll be using Lightroom to import my photos and do the heavy lifting in the post-processing, then use Picktorial to do the fancy stuff. You know what I mean. The little bits of pixel adjustment that nobody will ever know existed except me. Every photog does it … I think. Or maybe it is just me!

Not long after I came home and dumped the photos in Lightroom, we got the text to say the happy couple had arrived at the hotel and were going to rest from their journey, but would eat with us later. Scamp could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and relax until it was time to start the prep for dinner. On tonight’s menu was Venison Stew or Panfried Sea Bass Fillets followed by Pineapple Snow with Lime and Chilli sauce. Both visitors opted for the venison. A very good choice said the Sous Chef who had spent yesterday afternoon preparing it.

H&N arrived in the middle of a surprise snow shower and we had a great evening opening presents and generally catching up with stories from the far south. They wanted to get back to the hotel and rest, so left fairly early. Tomorrow is a rest day for both of them, and probably for us too.

Tomorrow for us consists of a shopping expedition and little else. It’s nice to have a fairly full house again and all sit round the table.

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Panic buying – 28 December 2017

We went in to Glasgow today.

We didn’t really need anything, and we’ve done enough spending these last two or three weeks. No, we just wanted to walk round the shops (and see if there were any bargains in JL – there weren’t) and have a cup of coffee somewhere. Somehow that walk round the shops expanded to fill over 8000 steps according to my Fitbit™. It also cost us £4.50 in parking. Where that time, those steps and that money went I’ll never know. Maybe we went into a walking timewarp. Anyway, it got us out and I got a photo. The new rule about the 365 is that I must take at least one picture every day that will become part of two albums and at least one group. If you don’t do Flickr this will mean nothing to you. Today’s PoD which was categorised under Architecture, Reflections and Glasgow in Albums was a the reflection of the Pavilion Theatre, taken with the Teazer. It’s becoming a serious contender for the best camera in the world. I.e. the one you have in your pocket.

After we came home we discovered we needed milk and bread, the two staples along with photo paper that every home should have, so I volunteered to drive to the madness that is Tesco (DO YOU KNOW THAT TESCO WILL BE CLOSED FOR A DAY NEXT WEEK??? WHAT WILL WE DO???). It seemed like the whole of Cumbersheugh was in there buying every bit of food they could get their hands on. Come on people, it’s only going to be closed for one day. Got the milk and the bread and just in case there was a sudden run on photo paper, I got two packets. When I came home and parked the car, Scamp decided she needed to clear the snow and ice from her car, so, as I was dressed for Alaska, I helped her and soon we found this little red Micra under the white blanket that had covered it for the best part of a week.

The photo paper was for printing out my annual calendar and I’ve now got four copies of it without a front page yet, and without December because December isn’t finished yet and there just might be an award winning PoD picture I see in the next few days. Unlikely, but possible. Anyway, that makes it 4×11=44 full colour pages and there’s hardly any drop in the ink levels in the Epson’s tanks! Impressive. That’s what I call economy.

Temperature is -3.3º just now and I think it’s beginning to rise. Snow is forecast for around 8am tomorrow, turning to rain by afternoon. Hopefully H&N won’t be troubled by it.

I don’t think we have any great plans for tomorrow. We may go for a last swim of the year or maybe a quick turn around the gym. Then again, maybe we’ll just tidy up again and wait for our visitors.

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In the footsteps of greatness – 23 December 2017

We decided we’d go to Glasgow today and we also decided to go on the bus.

Up and out fairly early so that we could come back home early too. Walked over to Condorrat to get what is really a limited stop bus. One that takes about 20mins to go in to Glasgow rather than the X3 which takes 45mins on a good day. Public transport? People don’t use it because they don’t want to waste an extra 25 mins of their time when they could be doing something interesting.

Walked through JL looking for nothing in particular and expecting no great bargains. We were not disappointed, there were no bargains today on Christmas Eve eve. What we did see on the ground floor was greatness indeed. Her Majesty Nicola (Nick the Chick) Sturgeon was parading herself in front of her loyal subjects (and us.) I was awestruck. It is only rarely that I find myself in the same square meterage as such a royal personage. Then she was gone to grace some other unworthy commoners. I may never was these shoes again. They may have stepped in the footsteps of Wee Nick. Not to be confused with Auld Nick, although to some there is little difference.

Coffee was called for, then we walked down Bucky Street and while Scamp wandered in and out of shops, I managed to grab some photos. A few of which you see here. PoD was definitely the shot looking down Bucky Street with the subway sign at the bottom of the frame.

Lunch was in Paesano’s and it was as good as ever. Scamp deemed her potato, onion and sumo (no cheese) special to be ‘Ok’, but can we take the word of someone who doesn’t eat the crust of the pizza? I think not, dear readers.

Dropped in to Cass Art to buy a Catalyst painting wedge as used by the winner of Landscape Artist of the Year. I think it automatically confers his skill into your painting. That’s what I’m hoping anyway. I also bought a tube of Sap Green paint to replenish the pan of my painting box. It’s much cheaper to fill the pan with paint from a tube and allow it to dry overnight, than to but a replacement pan. You get two or three fills from a tube that costs almost the same as the pan. On a whim I also bought a tear-off palette for oils and acrylics. I usually use a big white tile as a palette, but I thought I’d buy a chuck-away one for a change. It means I can pose like a real artist when I’m painting.

We got the bus home. I bet Queen Nick didn’t. I’ll bet if she had wanted to get the bus, some of her minions would have made sure it actually arrived, unlike ours. Public transport? People don’t use it because they can’t be sure if the bus will arrive.

Since it was Christmas, the TV was crap, so we settled on Netflix as an alternative. Watched an eminently forgettable bit of fluff that kept us amused for a couple of hours.

WiFi is unpredictable tonight, so this may not be posted until tomorrow, due to circumstances beyond our control.

No plans for tomorrow. Just waiting for Santa.

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We went for a swim – 22 December 2017

The day dawned dull and wet, but no fog.

However, by about 11am the fog van had arrived and was dumping its grey load on Cumbersheugh. We sat discussing what to do, and it was me who suggested going for a swim. It turned out to be a great idea. There were two people in the jacuzzi and one woman swimming in the pool when we arrived. Unprecedented room in the pool. We were only going to the pool, because we weren’t feeling energetic enough to attempt the gym. We spent just over half an hour enjoying the freedom of the facilities before we headed for home and lunch.

After lunch I drove to B&Q to get some silicone to reseal the shower cabinet in the bathroom and to get some photos of the statue of Arria which stands above the M80 and at the back of the graveyard. It was getting dark by that time and I was surprised at the number of people out walking dogs in the grey gloaming.

Came home and noticed when I was getting the fish out of the freezer for tonight’s dinner (simple fish stew) that the meat I’d put in yesterday wasn’t frozen. I think I might not have closed the freezer door properly and so we had to set the machine to fast freeze just to make sure that everything was frozen properly. I think we’ve managed to catch it in time. It was mainly the meat in the upper compartment that was affected and most of it is either needing to be chucked out anyway, or it was only just put in. It’s still on fast freeze now and will remain at that setting until I go to bed.

The picture of Arria made PoD as there wasn’t much else to compete with it. Like yesterday, I’d hoped for more fog to give it that etherial quality, but by the time I got there, the fog had turned to rain.

Watched JIC and Sim’s flight cross the Atlantic and stop over in St Lucia and then carry on to Trinidad, all on Flight Radar 24. Amazing use of technology. Hope you pair enjoy the upgrade in temperature from our 10ºc to your 29ºc.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow and we may go to Embra or we may not go anywhere at all. It all depends on the weather.

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I’m moving back – 21 December 2017

Not that anyone here will notice, but I’m writing this in Day One again. I’ve tried Journey and it’s ‘ok’, but only ‘ok’. Until it stops working completely, I’ll be using Day One and synching the ‘old school’ way.

Now, as to the day. It started out a bit misty and then the mist got thicker and thicker until it was officially fog. We were going to have lunch at The Smiddy just past the Blair Drummond turn off on the Callander road. After consideration, we decided that the fog probably really only extended to the outskirts of Cumbersheugh and we’d drive out of the fog into sunshine by the time we reached Haggs. Well, maybe not sunshine, but certainly out of the fog. Nope, that didn’t happen. It just got thicker, the closer we got to Stirling. I couldn’t believe the number of folk driving with no lights. I don’t mean fog lights, I mean any lights at all. Some had the DRL (Daytime Running Lights) on, but they come on automatically on most modern cars, but some had no lights of any kind. Yes, they could see perfectly well, but if you’re driving a grey car in fog you are kind of invisible. My cousin John told me years ago when I first got a motorbike to always drive with dipped headlights everywhere. Don’t use sidelights he told me, use headlights. They don’t cost anything more to run and one day they’ll save your life. Sensible instructions.

Anyway, we reached The Smiddy without incident and had lunch there:

  • Macaroni and Cheese with lovely chips for Scamp
  • Vegetarian (!!) Chilli for me. Quite spicy and with an extra side of Jalapeño Peppers, and they were hot!!

Afterwards I got some sausages, a Denver steak, Ham trimmings and some Venison because their on-site butcher’s shop is good quality.

Got today’s PoD there. While we were having lunch I watched the fog lift quite a bit and thought my chance of a shot of a tree lined farm track was gone. I’d taken my small tripod with me because I guessed the light would be fairly low and if the fog was lingering in the low lying areas around the restaurant then I’d need some support. It’s just a light weight tripod, not as stable as the big Manfrotto 055, but it’s great for holding the Olys. The fog was just beginning to come down again when we were leaving the restaurant and I took my chance to grab my shot before the fog became too thick and obscured everything. I think, not, that I could have waited a little longer, but I didn’t want to waste too much time before we drove home.

One more sketch to add for last week’s ink ’17.  This one, like last week’s was done on my mousemat / blotter / notepad, call it what you will.  It’s basically a doodle that evolved over a few days.  It’s in oblique projection (Aargh!  I hated oblique projection at school, both as a receiver and a giver of drawing skills), possibly the crudest form of projection, but also the easiest to learn.  It’s in ink and it’s done.  The maxim for Ink ’17.

No great plans for tomorrow. Maybe a swim. Maybe a trip into Glasgow. Depends as always on the weather.

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Get the pain over with early – 16 December 2017

Up fairly early for a Saturday defrosted the car and on our way in to Glasgow to do some Christmas shopping.

Like I said yesterday, get the pain over with early. Parked no problem and the streets were almost clear of ice. In town we agreed to go our separate ways and meet up in about an hour for a coffee and an update on our progress. Actually, for once we were both finished early, so we went for a coffee and a wee pastry in Nero in Sausage Roll Street. While I was getting our order in Nero, the bloke next to me, about my age I’d guess, was huffing and puffing. I turned to him and said “It’s not that bad.” He just looked at me and said “Oh, it is. We’re just starting the shopping, but we’re having a coffee before we get going.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him we were finished and on our way after our coffee.

It was good to drive home knowing that we had the rest of the day to look forward to, with some shopping done. In town, I’d gone in to Mandors to look for material for a project I’ve got in my head and came out, instead, with a piece of vinyl printed with the Snowman™ theme. I thought it would make a good table cover. It cost a bit more than I had intended, but when I saw Scamp’s face light up as she saw it come out of the bag, I knew it was a winner.

I drove to Tesco in the afternoon, but the weather was not really good enough for a long walk so I just came home and enjoyed an hour or so not doing anything. I’d managed to get a couple of shots in Glasgow and really liked the one of the Salvation Army euphonium player so that’s why it’s PoD. I was sure that instrument wasn’t made of metal and eventually went over and asked him if it was plastic. He just smiled and said “Yes”. It must make an appreciable difference on the player’s back carrying a plastic instrument rather than a big hulking metal one. I checked when I got home and the whole thing weighs only 850g.  My next favourite photo was the sea of faces below.

Dinner was at J&M’s in Hamilton. A good night entertained by Ross and John. Food was lovely as usual, just what we’ve come to expect from Marion. Chicken with Tarragon served with carrots and potatoes in a cream sauce. Banana cake with Creole sauce. Not too late home because the temperature was dropping again.

Tomorrow? Not much. Probably cutting the rectangular Snowman™ table cover into a circular one.

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Slipped the Leash – 13 December 2017

This morning, Scamp and her sister were off into town. I had a chance to slip the leash.

Ended up doing a bit of sketching and pastel drawing, but nothing serious enough to be considered for public viewing. I also made some yogurt, repaired a bit of the kitchen ceiling and finished off an iron-on transfer for a tee shirt.  Eventually, after lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and just missed the last of the good light. What I did find was a quadricopter drone stuck up a tree. After a bit of work energetically throwing chunks of branches at it, it finally dropped to earth. It really was in a sorry state, but it did have a camera and after a bit of examination, I extracted the micro SD card. Like the rest of the drone it was fairly well corroded, but with some careful scraping with a scalpel, the contacts were clean enough to download the video of its last flight, all 2.5minutes of it. It’s not the best resolution, but it does show the dangers of flying too close to tall pine trees!

My one decent photo from the day and my PoD was entitled “Slipped the Leash” on Flickr. Quite fitting.

Tonight Scamp, Jackie and I drove down to Bombay Dreams for dinner with June and Ian. Our combo starter was enormous and while others less used to the size of the restaurant’s portions were eating their way through it, Scamp and I were more careful. Mains were also their usual size and just as tasty as always. Entertainment was provided by the two twin waiters. One serious, the other telling jokes with such a deadpan expression you wondered if it was a joke at all. All this while snow was falling outside. This was the first expedition in the snow in the Juke and it performed perfectly. It even climbed the hill to the house without a single grumble. Nice car.

Jackie heads to Embra tomorrow and depending on the weather we may go to Stirling.

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The end of the ice age – 12 December 2017

Woke up to -5.5ºc, but my weather app said it would rain by 2.30pm. Nah, I don’t think so, somehow.

Spent most of the morning clearing up the back bedroom for Jackie. You might not think so to look at it, but you didn’t see it before I started!

After lunch I drove in to Glasgow to BUY STUFF. It didn’t really matter what I was buying, I just had to BUY STUFF. Well, that’s the way it felt until I realised I’d just had a near miss with the Xmas shopping bug and decided to be a bit more pragmatic. While I was driving in the rain started, just after the predicted time of 2.30pm and walking down Bucky Street in the rain, yesterday’s Christmas Card feel completely disappeared. This was back to business as usual. After managing to get all the things I’d come for (and a few more), I met up with Jackie off her bus from Skye and we drove home still in the rain.

Dinner tonight was Chicken Thighs with Leeks and Petit Pois (peas to you), from a Nigella. It was full of the gorgeous grains of green from the peas and the subtle mild onionniness of the leeks, but mainly the golden goodness of the chicken thighs. There, that’s a better description in Nigella language!

Today’s PoD is of the reflections in Exchange Square in Glasgow.

Tomorrow, it looks like there may be some snow in the forecast. I think I may be pastel painting while the sisters hit the ‘Toon’.

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Under the Bridges – 9 December 2017

So, what of the day then? Well, it was cold when we woke this morning, sub-zero in fact.

We’d half intended to go to Embra, but as we both slept a little longer than we’d intended and as we then read a little longer than we’d intended, it was really too late to go to ‘Auld Reekie’ today. Instead we decided to go to South Queensferry. It’s a great place on a cold, bright, clear day and today fulfilled those specifications perfectly. Surprisingly, we found a parking place right away and then when we walked through the main car park we found there were lots of spaces. After yesterday’s experience, I guessed that everyone was in Embra or Glasgow today, frantically searching for just the right gift for someone. Maybe someone they don’t particularly like, while that other person is also searching for something someone else won’t like Both of these ‘gifts’ will soon find themselves in the council tip or in a charity shop. The recipients will be ultimately disappointed and the buyers will be out of pocket. The only winners from Xmas are the shops. Will I be taking part. Of course I will, because that’s part of the game, isn’t it?  We walked under the old bridge and that’s where most of the photos came from.  PoD was of the pillars, top right.

There were a lot of Asian tourists here. Maybe they were on a visiting cruise ship, or maybe it was just the one family and we just kept meeting different groups of them. We seemed to bump into them a few times as we walked along under the railway bridge. After that, we walked through the town of South Queensferry and Scamp remembered us sitting outside in a pub courtyard in warmer days, and as it was a pub courtyard, and there would be beer involved, it must have been a few years ago in more relaxed times. She also liked the way spaces in the lines of shops had been used to provide windows on the Forth and the bridge, the old bridge, the real Forth Bridge. She’s developing a good eye, is Scamp.

I think Scamp was really set on having lunch in the Italian restaurant we’ve been to a few times in Queensferry, but when we passed a second time, it was empty. An empty restaurant is not a good sign, so she made the decision to go to a busy one we’d passed. The fact that it had big picture windows was not a factor, honest. We had burgers for lunch. Chicken for Scamp and beef for me. Both lovely. I even had a Becks Blue with 0.05% alcohol, while Scamp had a latte. The only drawback was that the picture windows on to the main street had the low, bright sun shining straight in my eyes. I eventually gave in and allowed Scamp to move round the table so that I could sit with my back to the sun. The bonus was that we could both watch the tiny wee trains passing over the Forth Bridge.

Paid for lunch, walked back to the car and drove home. Took a wrong turning on the way and got the sat nav to help us out of our difficulty. It took us down a single track road, round a very posh looking farm conversion and then back along the single track onto the main road, then got us onto the M8/M9 perfectly with ease. I presume the detour round the posh houses was its version of ‘perform a U-turn when possible.’

 

Still cold tonight with the threat of snow. So, as to what we’re doing tomorrow, as Scamp says, it all depends on the weather.

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Masterchef – 8 December 2017

Today was Scamp’s annual Witches Christmas Dinner so it was get up, get out of bed and put your pinny on.

Scamp was first in the kitchen getting her pudding sorted. I’d taken loaf’s worth of dough out of the freezer last night and left it to defrost, then rise in the kitchen overnight. It didn’t look as if it had done much rising, but I left it on the radiator to warm up and hopefully do the business. It did rise a bit, but not as much as I’d hoped. When Scamp was finished, I turned up the oven and when it got up to temperature, I bunged it in. I still wasn’t convinced, so I made another batch of fresh dough, just in case. As it turned out, the bread was fine, so that was another load of dough in the freezer for another day. Bread done, what’s next. I started to prep the veg for the starter while Scamp sorted the table. I’d already carted the iMac upstairs away from the sticky fingers of the Witches. Prep done, there was nothing for it but to make the filo pastry nests for the quiches. It is the most fiddly stuff to work with, filo. If you so much as look at it the wrong way, it becomes desiccated and falls to pieces. However, I got the four nests made and then filled with the veg before being filled with the egg mixture. Stick it in the oven for 15 mins at the equivalent of 160ºc. They came out anaemic and liquid. Bung them in for another 5 minutes. Still not set, so turn it up a bit and bung them in again. Finally they looked ok. Had to go to Tesco for more provisions, but then it was time to make tracks before the Witches arrived.

Tried to park in the usual place in Auchinstarry, but there was a giant artic with the logo Scottish National Theatre on the side. In Auchinstarry? Surely not. Well, it was and there were luvvies everywhere as well as roadies setting up temporary shelters and there were also lockers spread all along one of the paths. Oh oh, this looked like serious theatre nonsense. Lots of money being flung at an outdoor contemporary dance and movement piece of pish. Council sponsored no doubt for the fourteen inhabitants of Auchinstarry. Just the thing you want to go to when the temperature is sub-zero and the wind is from the north. The mind boggles.

I parked at the Boathouse and left them to it then walked along the canal as far as the lone seat half way to Twechar. I didn’t sit down for fear of freezing to it, I just turned and walked across the plantation and on to the railway path, then back to the car.

Drove out to The Fort to waste some time and had a coffee and a panini there before driving back. My head still buzzing with Wizzard singing about how the Wished it could be Christmas every day. That seemed to be the only Christmas (or should that be ‘Xmas’?) song they had on the Fort’s iPod. The Party was winding down when I went in, but luckily I’d taken the iMac upstairs, so I could retire to the relative quiet of my room, process PoD which was the view along the canal with the sun streaming through the trees, and listen to some real music courtesy of Spotify.

Was told later that the quiches (remember the quiches?) hadn’t been set properly and Scamp had to rescue them by giving them a further 5 minutes. Basically the temperature in the recipe is wrong for our oven.

It was really cold today.  I don’t think the temperature rose much above zero.  When I got back to the house in the late afternoon, the rain that was frozen on the rear light cluster of the car when I went out was still frozen.

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on the weather I fear.