E3231962- blog

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.

E3231962- blog

Coffee – 15 March 2018

Today revolved around Coffee for both of us.

Scamp was out in the morning and that gave me time to test out my theories about removing the mechanical HDD from the Mac Book Pro. They didn’t work. Neither did the MBP when I tried to power it up. Put everything back, screwed the base back on, checked that it still powered up then left it for a while. Chose to clean the shower cabinet instead. Much easier, if messier. No mylar connections, just a week and a bit’s worth of dust and gunk.

I was just finishing when Scamp came in from her coffee outing. Sat down with a ‘real’ coffee, a bridie and today’s Sudoku which took almost an hour to solve. A level 2 puzzle. Level 4 is almost impossible without some considerable help from the sudoku app on my phone.

After that it was time to meet the auld guys in a freezing town centre. Automatic doors were the problem. Actually it wasn’t the automatic doors that were the real problem. Manually operated doors and punters with one brain cell was the real problem. They open the door so it locks open and walk in forgetting that an icy blast just blows in behind them. At least the automatic doors close automatically … after about 15 minutes. It gave us something else to complain about apart from Council Tax, Income Tax and The Snow. Other topics were Lucky Bastards Swanning Off On Holiday (i.e. me). Lucky Bastards Swanning Off For A Boozy Weekend (Val) and Drawing Homework (Fred). I’ve no sympathy for that last one. He was the one who signed up for a Life Drawing course. Not my problem that the tutor was off ill and sent out a bit of homework to keep them going. Worst of all the above was the cold. They really need to do something about the heating in that great barn of a place.

Came home via Tesco to get milk and bread (staples again). Bumped into Colin who had forgotten about today’s coffee and got berated by his wife for it.

Dinner tonight was sea bream with mashed potatoes, broccoli and asparagus. Cooked to absolute perfection. Scamp made it, not me!

More research for the removal of the HDD tonight and I think there may be some swearing tomorrow when I try to implement the change. I also took the photo at the top of the page. Flooers, never a good sign. It was that kind of day, cold and damp.

Tomorrow, after the swearing, will be better we hope!

E3231962- blog

Coffee – 15 February 2018

Most days seem to revolve around one topic, and so it was today I was booked for coffee with Val and Fred.

Although the coffee, or to be more precise, the chat that came with the coffee rather than the vile stuff Costa calls coffee, the chat was the king. CDs passed round, book returned to the library of Fred, replaced with a DVD to watch. Drawings and paintings by Fred and I were critiqued by everyone. Val’s computer problems were discussed by me and him, because Fred just grunts and shakes his head when technology rears its ugly head. Memories of old Glasgow were trotted out along with names that have not seen the light of day for years. Thompson’s for coffee and tea, Epicures the deli. Dino’s the best pizza shop in the town and the wee hole-in-the-wall newsagents across from Dino’s where Val remembered buying his Italian newspaper on a Saturday morning. It was strange all three of us walking down old Buchanan Street together in our imagination, although we were years away from meeting each other, back then in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Sometimes talk and gossip lag for a while when it’s a coffee day. Today wasn’t like that. I think we all walked out feeling better than when we walked in. I know I did.

I’d grabbed a photo before I went in to the meeting. I just like the seedy decay of the broken down back of the Town Centre. With a wee bit of work there’s a world of colour and detail there just waiting to be found. Well, I like it anyway and that’s why it’s PoD.

Crofthouse - Braes, Skye

Today’s sketch was from a photo, but not one I took. It was one I searched out in Google Street View. I think it might be Braes, just south of Portree a dead end road that finishes in a turning circle where the sheep stare at you with derision as you 3, 5, 7 point turn, careful to avoid hitting them. They know you’re not a local. Locals would drive over them. Anyway, that’s today’s picture. Hopefully I’ll slap some paint on a bit of cardboard tomorrow for a wee change.

After a bit of discussion, we agreed not to go to salsa tonight. Five hours of dancing this week was enough we thought and if the weather fairies are to be believed, tomorrow is to be dry and clear so we’ll be driving to Larky to reunite me with my reading glasses and loosen £30 from my wallet for the pleasure, so no driving tonight then. Sounded good to me. Also it allowed us to have a wee glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. Sounds even better to me. We’ll see how things go.

E3231962- blog

A morning at the gee-gees – 2 February 2018

This morning broke early, too early say some, namely me.

The taxi phone didn’t ring until almost midnight last night. Apparently they were having such a good time … That meant that by the time I drove to the other side of town, picked up Scamp and Marge, dropped Marge off, returned home with Scamp and finally parked the car, it was almost 1am before I was staggering off to bed. So, when my Fitbit alarm vibrated on my wrist this morning at 8.30 it was a struggle to climb up through the layers of sleep to see the day. The up side was it was a beautiful day.

After breakfast, Scamp suggested we go to visit the Kelpies at Falkirk. That seemed like a great idea. It would get us out, give us a breath of fresh air and we wouldn’t visit any shops in the process. Besides which, the Kelpies always brighten your day no matter what mood you are in.

We arrived and walked round them, always finding something new. Some little thing or a different viewpoint. Today, my PoD was the dribbling Kelpie. Just a lamp standard on the motorway and a carefully chosen VP.

A cup of coffee and a scone each was lunch and then we drove home. Scamp was going out to meet ‘The Witches’ in the afternoon and I used that time to finish off my fourth painting of trees. Maybe the last one in the series, I’m all treed out now I think. Looking for new pastures. It was overpainted twice today and that’s on top of another two layers. One of the good things about corrugated cardboard is its strength. I put that strength to good use. If you’re looking for it, it’s here and it’s 28DL – No 2:

Four Trees

Dinner tonight was a pizza, home made and baked in the new combination microwave. Not ‘nuked’ but baked in the Convection oven. Just under 10 minutes then crisped up the base in the frying pan (no oil!). Washed down with a couple of glasses of Malbec. Hopefully getting this written earlier than normal to get to bed earlier and make up for lost sleep.

Tomorrow looks wet, so we may go to The Smiddy for lunch.

E3231962- blog

The trio becomes a quartet – 12 January 2018

Coffee with Fred and Val became Coffee with Fred, Val and Colin today. Apart from that, nothing much changed. We still drank the same miserable Costa brown water and we still discussed politics, books, music, old friends and old enemies. It’s a no-politics and a no-religion area, but all other topics are fair game. Colin provided some reminders of folk we’d forgotten, both pupils and teachers. He seemed to fit in well. He even offered to buy the coffees next time. We’ll let him join the UBI. I look forward to his input next time.

Other than that, it was a fairly dull day that brightened up a bit in the late afternoon, but stayed cold. I stopped off at St Mo’s on the way home to get some photos. You can see the result at the top of the page. It’s not much, but I was impressed with the way the ‘Teazer’ handled the sun in the frame without too much flare. There is some, but most of it was painted away in Lightroom.

Highlight of the day was mince pie. Not mincemeat pie, although it was minced meat that was in the pie. No, this was a savoury pie. Scamp tried to show me how to make it last year, but she is so much better at it than me. It’s good hot, but so much better served cold. A bit like revenge, allegedly. However, cold mince pie now gives me heartburn. It’s almost worth the pain.

That about sums up today. Maybe going on the postponed visit to Perf tomorrow. As always, it all depends on the weather.

E3231962- blog

Big Dogs – 26 December 2017

Today was Boxing Day, but there were no more boxes to open, so, as it had snowed during the night and it looked ‘Deepan, Krispan, Evin’, I got dressed and took the big dog for a walk.

We walked through the snow and found that the pond was covered in mist as the sun hadn’t risen to warm it up. I just missed catching Mr Grey who was fishing next to the path, behind a bush. He flew off squawking at a couple of swans that were in his way. I walked into the trees and saw the sun rising above the tops of the pines. It’s not often I’m up before the sun, these days!

Walked down through the pine trees and didn’t see a living soul. Got a few shots of the little man-made pond near the road and then followed a fresh fox’s trail through the woodland until it crossed the burn. It wasn’t my great tracking skills that let me to believe it was a fox, it was the smell that was quite strong on the snow.

I walked through the deciduous woods and by carefully choosing a point of view, got a shot of the second burn with some clean reflections and avoided both the street lights and the motorway signs. The mist helped, but it did need some ‘spotting’ in Lightroom later. It was on the way back with my ‘big dog’ that I was joined by another couple of real big dogs. I just caught a glimpse of something behind a bush and assumed it was a deer, then it formed itself into a big, and I mean Big Dogs. Two fairly heavy built Alsatian types. I’m not good on dog ID, but the other thing I was pleased to see was that they both had expensive looking harnesses on and looked well fed and looked after. I tried to ignore them and walked on when I heard one behind me. Never let a dog get behind you, someone once told me. As I turned round the second one bolted away from me towards some silent signal, presumably from the owner. My own shadow gave a high pitched yelp as if to say “Wait for me!” and ran to follow the first dog. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily I was wearing my brown corduroy trousers, so there would be no outward sign of my panic as I walked on.

Got home without meeting any more Big Dogs although I did manage to get a low down PoD shot of a new Weeman that Scamp bought me as a Chrissy Prezzy. I’d have looked a proper Charlie if anyone had seen me crouching on my knees, photographing a Lego Minifig™.

Lunch was a light wrap with cooked meat and salad veg, plus some Jalapeños. Afterwards we discussed tonight’s dinner and it resolved itself into Minestrone soup. Not difficult to make, but lots of chopping up of veg as preparation. We didn’t have any cabbage, so as Scamp wanted to go and stretch her legs, we walked down to the M&S shop at the petrol station. We didn’t really need anything apart from cabbage which they didn’t have, but I got some more cold ham and Scamp bought some Satsumas. It was more for the walk than for anything else. Stuck in the house all day yesterday makes you yearn for the outdoors.

When we got back, Madeleine started a video conversation using WhatsApp. We’d never used it before, and it was really good. Much better than Skype. Skype used to be good, but since it’s been taken over by The Dark Side, it wants to run things its way. Interrupting a call to install an update. That’s just typical Microsoft. Anyway, the Whats App call worked well and Scamp got to see Ori the wonder dog as well as everyone else in the Trini house.

I got a sketch done and pre-dated it to the 24th. A lie, but a little white lie, well, a black and white lie actually. Not drawn, but painted with black Indian ink. I quite like it, but I’m not letting you see the usual big image, so don’t bother to click on it. It looks better small, I think, and it’s my blog!  The title from the lyrics of ‘The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity’ by Bridget St John.

Today we made the move to go out. Tomorrow we may go even further! Provided the weather is kind to us.

E3231962- blog

Coffee and Beta testing – 20 December 2017

Today revolved around Coffee and Salsa. I also managed a few moments to take a some photos and a few hours to edit them into some semblance of a landscape. That’s what computers do in this house, well, my computer anyway.

The day started with an email from the developer of a piece of software I am presently evaluating asking for a couple of files and more information about a problem I’m having with it. It’s the second problem I’ve had. The first problem was simply fixed with an update, but the update seems to have caused the second problem. Those who work in problem solving will understand this as a daily situation One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back. However, this software is being sold as a full price item just now and it patently hasn’t been tested properly. Don’t these people beta test before taking folk’s hard earned cash? Or, are the first users expected to, not only pay for the software, but also beta test as they go? Then when all the bugs have been squished the company feels obliged to issue an updated version which said customers will have to shell out more money to own. It’s companies with attitudes like this that encourage piracy. Anyway, I tried to send the files he asked for, but as they amounted to just over 280MB, they would have broken the Internet, so he got a couple of smaller files that still exhibited the problem. I don’t think I’ll be buying the software because it doesn’t do anything that my present editor Lightroom can do anyway. Don’t get me started on Lightroom and Adobe who make it, though. That’s another can of worms!

After all that technospeak and computery stuff I made a couple of CDs of music I’d found on my old HP computer. The most interesting, but very Lo Fi, music was from 1991 and was of Frank Zappa being given the chance to be a DJ on Radio 1. I do not know whose it was, but whoever it was, was taking a big chance. Two other things I’d taped from the radio were of Nicky Campbell interviewing Mr Zappa and are extremely thought provoking. Anyone who thought that Zappa was just an airhead would be amazed at the logical arguments this man put forth on radio. It appears that at the time he was considering running for president. Who would you rather have as president? An absolutely out-of-his-box airhead or Frank Zappa. I’d go for Zappa every time. Better hair and he can play guitar.

The CDs were for Val and Fred. Our last coffee meeting before Christmas and probably the New Year. It was an interesting meeting with sketches reviewed, books and CDs exchanged. Arguments argued and laughs laughed. A brilliant way to spend a Wednesday afternoon. On the way home I grabbed those few minutes to take some photos of the sunset from the top of the Whinedge Brae above Mollinsburn. When I got them home, the hours of tweaking and massaging them into some form of acceptable landscape began. I think that’s when I realised that Lightroom is Lightyears ahead of the new program (Picktorial). It did exactly what was needed with the minimum of fuss. It’s not got all the bells and whistles, but it produces the goods. A time will come when I will need to leave it behind, but not yet.

Went to Salsa to find that Jamie G was not in the building, he was off ‘darn sarf’ somewhere. Class was being taken by Irene who is quite good, but seriously lacks confidence and some young guy who can dance, but it years behind Scamp, Roy or I in experience or range of moves. We stayed to help out, but thankfully made an excuse and took off after the class finished. Leaving the pair to teach the next class themselves.

Tomorrow we may go out to lunch, but not anywhere near shops.

E3231962- blog

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.

E3231962- blog

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.

E3231962- blog

Number Crunching – 5 December 2017

Meeting with the FA today (no, nothing to do with football)

Drove to Falkirk today to meet with our FA for the six monthly meeting. All was good, so we went to Tea Jenny’s for lunch on the strength of it. Omelette for Scamp and Stovies for me. Lovely grub. Today’s PoD is one of their famous tea cosies. After that, a walk through the delights of Falkirk which didn’t take long. Waterstones for me and M&S for Scamp. That’s about all the High Street shopping there is in Falkirk. We did, however, go to Morrisons after that for ‘messages’ and copious amounts of alcohol. It’s Scamp’s Witches Christmas party on Friday. Copious amounts of alcohol are a must.

Came home and got the tree down. The house always looks that much cosier with the tree up and the lights on. Yes, Hazy, the letter was there in the Christmas lights box. I’ll hopefully get a shot of the tree tomorrow, just for the record. Need a bit of daylight to show it off at its best. There was precious little daylight today. Not a lot of rain, but very little light.

Finally managed to get up to date with Ink ’17 sketches as you can see.

Tomorrow we should have been taking the car in to check the condensation in the headlights, but the garage phoned to say that, as there had been no recurrence it would be pointless to investigate it and when I suggested I take a photo of the extent of condensation the next time it happens they agreed it was the most sensible solution. Apparently there is a bulletin from Nissan as so many people have had the same complaint. That means we’re free tomorrow. I think we’re still going in to Stirling, though because Scamp wants to go shopping. Stirling has a good Waterstones and a Nero, so it won’t be a totally wasted day for me.