Lockdown – 16 March 2020

It was a day of narrowing opportunities.

Planned for coffee with the auld guys. First Val called off, with a bad cough (Not Coronavirus he said). Then Colin said he was “Socially integrating with greenhouses, garden and garage”. In other words, too busy. Fred, the final invitee, asked if the coffee shop would even be open. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. That’s when I decided to cancel the whole daft idea.

Gems met and decided that they weren’t taking the risk of catching the virus by singing at Abronhill church. With that being so, Scamp made the decision to cancel practises for the foreseeable future. I know it was a hard decision to take, but when Scamp decides on something, it stays decided. She says she’ll phone the person in charge of the church group tomorrow and explain her decision.

I went to the butchers while Gems were in session. Just for some stew and sausages. I got some Thai Chicken Stir-fry too, that’s for tomorrow’s dinner. Saw nothing worth photographing while I was out. I went up to my parking place at the back of Fannyside and watched the rain float in from the west and gradually swallow up the landscape. Saw a hill catching the sun away to the east and still haven’t quite decided what it is. I thought it might be Berwick Law, but that seems unlikely now. Must take my laptop with me the next time and try to pinpoint it. Just for something to do.

Went dancing at night in Kirsty’s class. Tidied up the original waltz routine and almost go the new waltz routine working, but not quite. To Scamp’s delight we did the Sally Ann Cha-Cha to “Fireball!” I think that might be our last class for a while.

Boris’s doom-laden statement at 5.30pm today was him setting out what life is going to be like for the next 12 weeks and it’s not good. It is, however slightly more flexible than that announced on Sunday with all persons over 70 confined to the four walls of their house for 16 weeks. At least, now, we are allowed out for a walk, as long as we stay a good distance from anyone else. We may take them up on that.

Today’s PoD was captured in the rain as we left the dance class. It’s entitled “Cumbernauld. Where the streets are paved with gold.”

Tomorrow, we may go for a walk.

Cold, not Corona – 10 March 2020

Woke with a stuffed up nose and clogged ears. Not the symptoms of Covid 19, just a common cold.  Still felt miserable.

I’d said I’d go with Scamp to see how Isobel was faring with her new knee, but decided it would be better to self-isolate to use the new term for ‘stay at home’. Scamp left early to have coffee with Shona before she went to see the invalid. I took some Haliborange tablets and searched for a ball and socket head I was sure I had somewhere for the new tripod, without success (it lets you turn the camera to almost any angle). When I got fed up with searching I sat and watched the rain showers thumping down then made a pot of soup for dinner tonight, so at least all my time wasn’t wasted.

Finally took some sketch paper upstairs to draw and while telling myself that it wouldn’t be there, I searched through some boxes in the chest of drawers and immediately proved myself wrong, because there was the ball and socket head! Things are never where you expect to find them. Forgot about the drawing and started trying out the new fitment on the tripod and it worked perfectly. It was about that time I started to feel better. I also started to watch the sky in the hopes that there would be some blue among the clouds. There was none, but the clouds were clearing above the Campsie and that’s usually a good sign. A couple of hours later I made the decision to go out. The sun was shining and the clouds had cleared. So had my head.

Got the tripod set up perfectly in an awkward wee gully at the outfall of water from the pond at St Mo’s. There was a fair volume of water coursing down and it looked a likely place for a moody slow shutter shot of moving water. I shot a few at different exposure times, but wasn’t really happy with any of them. I made a mental note to take a pair of secateurs with me next time because the barbs on the bramble stems were tearing into my ankles. Spoke to Susan G who was out walking her dogs and wondering what the hell I was doing prancing around a mucky burn.

Walked round the upper path and found a much better run of water. Just a little drainage ditch with water pouring round a boulder. Another tricky position for a ‘normal’ tripod, but easy peasy for the Benbo. It’s what that tripod is made for. By the time I’d shot my fill of oily looking water, I realised it had started raining. Walked back along the boardwalk and the heavens opened. That’s when I got today’s PoD. It’s a three shot hand-held HDR image, but you probably guessed that, so I won’t bore you with the details. Second place went to the oily water shot, taken with the camera on the new tripod. Brilliant piece of British engineering.

Soup, bread and a baked potato for dinner as we listened to the news that Italy was now basically cut off from the rest of the world for at least two weeks. So strange to see the Colosseum in Rome with about four people standing beside it. Similarly St Mark’s Square in Venice virtually deserted. Strange days.

No plans for tomorrow. Hoping I’ve not passed the cold on to anyone else. If I get the all clear from Scamp, we’ll maybe go dancing at the British Legion, our new venue for Wednesday night classes.

A new toy – 9 March 2020

I got the email this morning that my new tripod would be delivered today to the WEX shop in Glasgow. So I knew what the day held for me at least.

First, Scamp was off to Tesco to see if there was any food left on the shelves. Thankfully there was still some cold meat and there were bags of rolls, so lunch was sorted. While she was off on her food hunt I did the hoovering and cleaning that’s become part of Mondays for us.  A parcel arrived with the final bag of coffee that Hazy & Neil-D gave me for Christmas.  I haven’t started it yet, because I’m just finishing off the last bag which was very nice.  It took me a while to get used to the taste, because it was much lighter and fruitier than my usual ones.  I will give you an honest opinion when I’ve tried it. The email from WEX to say that the tripod was ready for collection appeared just after the cleaning business was completed.

After lunch I had a chat with Margie and she gave me an honest critique of my sketches and paintings from EDiF. It’s refreshing to have someone who paints and draws and who also has no axe to grind, tell you what you already knew. Sometimes I delude myself into thinking I’m better than I know I am. I’m not an artist. I never will be. I’ve seen real artists working and know that my work sometimes looks decent, but nothing more than that. Some of it is just plain crap and I cringe when I look back through old sketchbooks and see what I thought then was brilliant. Some of it is good though. I’ll take good, any day.

When the full complement of Gems arrived, I made my excuses and left for a drive to Glasgow. As I left the house the rain was just starting, but when I reached the motorway it was on full blast and on for the rest of the day. Picked up a far lighter tripod than I’d anticipated. This was going to be portable after all. Drove home through more rain and hauled the tripod out of its box. No instructions, but hey, it’s a tripod, how difficult could it be. Well, according to the majority of the reviews I’d read it could be very difficult. It’s been likened to “wrestling with an octopus” and “controlling a drunken giraffe”. Actually I thought it was simplicity itself to work with. Bear in mind, this was in a bedroom in a house, not in the teeth of a gale on a blasted moor, so maybe it will be difficult when I actually have to deal with it ‘in the field’. That wasn’t going to be today. Still raining.

After dinner we drove up to the dance class. I was thinking when I was driving home from Glasgow “Thank goodness I don’t have to drive in to Glasgow and back out again tonight for salsa.” It was a bit of a wrench leaving the AdS, but there were parts of it that were a total pain. Like driving into Glasgow in the rain in a traffic jam. Ten minutes up the road and we were parked and in the dance hall. Brilliant. Tonight was almost entirely devoted to a new routine to bolt on to our existing Waltz routine. It was a bit more demanding, but that’s to be expected, we are moving on after all. Scamp and I took lots of videos of the different ‘figures’ and how they are put together. Neither of us was perfect tonight, but it will get better, I’m sure.

PoD was the BENt BOlt that gives the Benbo it’s name. Apparently based on the pivot of a WW1 gun carriage!

Hopefully tomorrow I will get a chance to get it dirty in the wild world!!

Final bit of news. A dental practice in Cumbersheugh village is temporarily closed as a precaution after as positive case had been identified there. I didn’t know there were any pangolins in Scotland!

Last Dance in The Weavers – 4 March 2020

Thankfully the last dance in that pokey little room, but we beat the corners.

First we got a phone call from Isobel to say that she was indeed getting out today. Although she’d get transport from the ward to the car, she would need a wheelchair to get from the car to the house, because the hospital wouldn’t load us a chair. Absolute nonsense, but totally in keeping with expected NLC policy. Scamp was not to be fazed by this problem and phoned one of the Gems singers and an hour later we had a wheelchair in the back of the Juke. You don’t realise just how much room a folded up wheelchair takes up in a car. I see the problem now Hazy.

By the time we’d worked out how to transport Scamp, Isobel, me and the wheelchair from the hospital to Cumbersheugh, Isobel had phoned to say she’d been told she was going to get hospital transport. Because she had more than one step up to her door and also she only had one handrail, she needed an ambulance person to get her safely into the house. One problem solved, but now we had to return the wheelchair and also return our life to what sometimes amounts to “Normal”. We went to lunch.

Lunch was in Craigend Nursery which used to be a decent sized plant nursery with a small tearoom bolted on. Now it’s very large tearoom with a nursery bolted on almost as an afterthought. Lunch was a beef burger and chips and salad and a dollop of ‘coleslaw’ that looked like a dog had been sick on my slate (no plates, just slates. Retro chic). Scamp had a very greasy looking Mac ’n’ Cheese. I don’t think we’ll be rushing back there.

Drove back and Scamp went to offload the wheelchair while I went to visit the ducks in St Mo’s. I also walked to the shops to try to get lemongrass for tonight’s dinner. Met an old friend of ours from salsa. Haven’t seen her for years, five years at least, according to her. How time flies. Didn’t get the lemongrass, but I did get today’s PoD which looks as if it’s been taken with flash, but it was just low afternoon light. A lucky shot.

Tonight we were dancing for the final time in The Weavers. I won’t be sad to leave that horrible room with its strange angles. What we did do was produce a decent foxtrot and another ‘work in progress’ quickstep. After a long explanation of how to dance in any shape of room, we even managed to remove the corners of the room and turn them into gentle curves, just by altering stride length and not dancing in entirely straight lines. It worked!

G&Ts tonight to remove the rough edges of an awkward day. Much like The Dukes of Hazzard song “Staightenin’ the curves Flattenin’ the hills …”. Exactly like tonight’s dancing.

Tomorrow more dancing in the afternoon hopefully. In a proper room this time.

Coffee and some adult conversation – 24 February 2020

Coffee at midday with the rest of the Auld Guys.

Topics under discussion were how to fix NLC, health centres and Boris.

  • It was generally agreed that NLC are now BER (Beyond Economic Repair) which is a nice way of saying FUBAR.
  • Health centres seem to be screwing up a lot of people. Within about a 10 mile radius the three centres under discussion were all operating different systems and all of them totally inefficient. Possibly they too are BER.
  • The book I’m reading at present is Real Tigers by Mick Herron. One nasty piece of work in the book is Peter Judd who is Home Secretary — described as ‘a loose cannon with a floppy fringe and a bicycle’ has his eye on Number 10. Now Peter Judd’s initials are PJ. If you say them quickly they’d sound like BJ, then all sorts of similarities are revealed. A nice piece of satire or simply a coincidence? You choose.

With the world once again set to rights, we went our separate ways and vowed that we’d organise our next meeting in a pub in Glasgow. We’ve been saying it for years and it hasn’t transpired yet. Perhaps 2020 will be that year.

When I got home, Gems were in full voice, so I swiftly had a roll ’n’ bacon and went out into the grim sleet to see if there were any pictures out there worth taking. There were as it happened. I’d stopped on one of my favourite places for a view of the Campsie covered in snow when the clouds came down and obscured them. Then I heard the sound of geese and a large skein appeared from behind some trees. There seemed to be hundreds of birds in the group that split up and rejoined as I grabbed my camera and shot off a few frames through the smirr that had started to fog up the lens. A quick wipe with my shirt tail cured that and I go some more before they headed off north. What do they know that I don’t. The resulting image is at the top of the page.

Dancing tonight was a reprise of waltz which I will tentatively say we can now complete without arguing 75% of the time. After that we did some foxtrot and made a bit of hash of it, but nothing that can’t be improved with some more practise. New to us tonight was quickstep. Now we’ve done quickstep with Michael, but this was quickstep with names for all the steps and the figures and it seemed to flow much better than when we were dancing it in Blackfriars. I’m not saying we have it off pat yet, it’s still a work in progress, but we’re about half way there. Feeling much better about this dancing lark.

I’m not publishing my attempt at a Mandala which is today’s challenge. I wasted an hour of my life drawing it and I don’t intend to foist it on anyone else. If you want to see it go to FB or Flickr.

Tomorrow, no plans, but I think we’ll be practising the quickstep figures.

Just keep on cooking – 31 January 2020

This was going to be a busy day.

Crawford, Nancy, June and Ian were coming to dinner and I was doing the main course and the pudding. Main was fairly easy Cod with Braised Peas, Lentils and Bacon. Pudding was the worry. It was Crème Brûlée. Difficult to type, but hellish to make. Basically a baked cream custard with burnt sugar on top. I might have made it before from a packet, but never from eggs, cream, sugar and lots of beating. However, the only way to do it was to get started.

Before I started, I chucked some flour, water, yeast and butter in the mixer and beat it for 10 minutes. With that done, I boiled then simmered the cream and vanilla pod (forgot to mention that in the list of ingredients). While it was simmering I separated the yolks from the whites of four eggy-weggs and beat the living daylights out of them and some sugar with a balloon whisk. Finally gave up and used the electric hand mixer. Oh, thank goodness for the person who invented electric beaters! Mixed in the creamy stuff and beat it again until it thickened, except it didn’t thicken. I don’t know what I did wrong, it just wouldn’t thicken. Eventually I just filled the ramekin dishes with the yellow mixture and stuck then in a tray filled with water and baked them for about an hour. They looked better, but still not right, but I wasn’t caring they were set to cool and later went into the fridge as a punishment for not thickening properly.

Scamp went out to lunch with the witches and I managed to grab a five minute dry spell to get today’s PoD which is one of Scamp’s Christmas Roses (Heleborus Orientalis Lenten Rose). Scamp’s contribution to tonight’s meal had been made first thing this morning and was a lovely lentil soup made from a ham hock. Thick and tasty and a lot easier to make than the Crème Brûlée.

When she came home it was time to clear the table and set it out for dinner. The visitors arrived on time and we settled down to the food. The soup tasted great. The main course seemed to go down ok, but the Crème Brûlée was a disaster. It hadn’t set properly and the burnt sugar topping was brick hard.

Other than the pudding the night was a success and we staggered off to bed around 1am.

Tomorrow we may go to Perth. You will have gathered from the lateness of the blog and the last paragraph that this a catch up, so I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you whether we went to Perth or not!

Cold and Frosty – 19 January 2020

Not just the morning, either. Most of the day was cold at least.

Not a day for doing much. Certainly in the morning at least, not a lot done. Finally agreed to go to the manky Classic Grand (so inaccurately named) for the Salsa Ceilidh. That was about it for the morning.

After lunch I went out to take some photos in St Mo’s and after that I walked down to the shops to get enough stuff to make soup for tonight’s dinner, which was to be Tomato and Red Pepper soup. Well, we’ve had two days of heavy lunches which for me included lots of red meat, so making an effort today to be meat-free was a good idea. Scamp didn’t mind, in fact she was quite like minded and soup was easy and fairly quick to make. We could have a bowl of it before we went out dancing tonight. Soup and Salt ’n’ Pepper bread to dook. Yes, that would do nicely.

The walk to St Mo’s wasn’t the best. There was very little to see and the cold west wind wasn’t conducive to spending a lot of time framing up a shot. PoD was the Whin bush, also known as Gorse, looking really jaggy. Almost making it to PoD was a landscape shot of a beautiful sky. I’ve often faked a sky to look like that. Today I just photographed it. Nice to see that skies like that actually exist outside of someone’s imagination. Speaking of imagination, I’ve an idea for a fantasy shot. I got one of the elements of it today. Really need a starlit sky for the background and although I could just download one, it would be better to create one myself. Must look out some of my old photoshop reference books.

Made the soup when I came back and almost forgot about the dancing tonight. It was a good Sunday Social with lots of folk I haven’t seen for ages turning up. Spoke to Heather and John and wished them well for their trip to Cuba this Tuesday. Seven days with ten hours of dancing tuition booked. Maybe fun, might just be purgatory. We’ll no doubt find out when they return with lots of stories and lots of photos. Really wish we were going!!

Soup was good and will be better tomorrow. Soup always is. As for the rest of tomorrow, well it’s Gems and it’s Ballroom. Hopefully our bits and pieces of practice will have rubbed off some of the rough edges.

Coffee with the Cynics – 14 January 2020

You can’t beat the auld guys for cynicism. Don’t even try.

Out in the morning to get some chicken for tonight’s dinner, some chilli for an, as yet undisclosed, purpose and some photo paper to make a calendar for the three auld guys. Then it was down to work printing them and fitting them into their combs. Have way through the second calendar, the printer took a ‘wee flaky’ in other words, it ejected a sheet of unprinted paper and started flashing all the lights it had at its disposal. I swore at it and that didn’t help. I switched it off and back on again and that didn’t help either. Finally I resorted to the Val technique and switched it off, counted to 10 and switched it on again. That’s supposed to flush the printer’s capacitors and return it to something like factory settings. It worked. My technique would have worked too, but Scamp doesn’t like me kicking things. She says it does more harm than good. I say it doesn’t as long as you’ve got good strong boots on. We agree to disagree on that (but it would have worked). Calendars printed and assembled and in their bags, I headed out to pick up Colin. Scamp was an hour ahead of me, going to the same coffee place, going to meet Annette.

Picked up Colin at his house. He’s not too keen on driving except in bright sunshine because he needs a cataract op which should have been done a week ago, but was postponed until next week. I assured him it was nothing to worry about and everything would be so much brighter after that.

Val was buying the coffees when we arrived and Scamp with Annette were sitting just behind us, so I was on my best behaviour for a while. Topics under discussion today were The Who’s new album, Val’s Raspberry Pi adventures, The Young Royals and finally Mr Trump. We did go over other old ground, but that’s quite usual for us. Nostalgia is not what it used to be. Finally when we were all talked out we went our separate ways with me thinking “Is this the beginning of the end of the Auld Guys?” Have we talked ourselves out and need a rest for a while. Or do we just need to find a new outlet, or even a new coffee shop. Maybe next time we should adjourn to Tim Hortons to see if a change of scenery helps.

Drove back through the gathering gloom and that was only around 3pm. Daylight is at a premium in these dark January days. Hadn’t even taken the camera out of the bag today and on the way back from Colin’s, the rain started in earnest. By the time I reached home it had turned into sleet. Isn’t Scotland a lovely place at times?

PoD is of one of Scamp’s geraniums that sit flowering through the winter gloom on the bedroom window sill. This one is really past its best and should be having a rest, really, but it doesn’t seem to know how.

Tomorrow Scamp is out first for coffee with Isobel and I’m out next to go to the dentist for my six monthly checkup. Anything else is a bonus. Hoping for some free photons to light the scenery.

A bargain perhaps – 19 December 2019

One of those days when nothing seemed to happen.

Scamp went out to Tesco in the morning for essentials of the season. Shortbread and wrapping paper and stuff. I went out to B&Q and got a planter for her spring flowering bulbs. While I was out I parked at St Mo’s and went for a quick walk around the loch. The lighting was decent, but nothing great, much like the day. The sun stayed low all day and seemed to be having a problem cutting through the light cloud, resulting in a low amber coloured light. PoD was a trio of trees in silhouette.

Spent about an hour trying to finance Scamp’s game playing with a Google Play gift card, only to find that I’d paid it into the wrong account. Why do they make it so difficult and complicated.

Drove Scamp through the traffic jam of busses and cars taking weans home early from St Mo’s school. Christmas holidays have started in earnest. Scamp was going to Jeanette’s for Afternoon Tea, not High Tea as I described it yesterday. My mistake. I decided to go the long way home partly to avoid the traffic jam round the school and partly to see if there was anything more interesting to photograph. There wasn’t.

Wrapped up some secret stuff while I wouldn’t be disturbed and frittered away some more time on-line. That’s when I noticed an offer from ON1 reducing the price of version 2020 by a tenner. That sounded like my kind of offer. I’d been hoping they’d reduce the price over Christmas and New Year, but wasn’t sure. Paid the money and am now the owner of Photo RAW 2020. Not the “Happy” owner, just the owner. Some of the rough edges of the software are still there. The supposedly non-destructive editing isn’t exactly as it says on the tin. Most things are, but unless I’m missing something, there are elements that are still destructive. It’s certainly faster than the 2019 version. Much fewer ‘spinning beachballs’ and if they stick to their previous plan of removing the rough edges as the year goes on, I’ll forgive them.

Scamp texted to say she was getting a lift home from Annette who, like me is finding her Juke is more thirsty recently than she’d been led to believe. I imagine the cold weather means the car needs to run on ‘choke’ for longer than in the summer. I think we should just do away with winter and have Spring, Summer and Autumn. Returning to Spring after that. I’ll suggest it to Boris and I’m sure he’ll consider it in his next manifesto.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow, just for the fun of it!

The end of an era – 16 December 2019

Tonight we said goodbye to salsa and a lot of friends. Maybe not for ever, but for the foreseeable future.

The day started me making a loaf at around 9am, just after making breakfast. Next, a valiant attempt to clear up the living room and fit six chairs round a four legged table. Not quite squaring the circle, but something like it. After that, and a fair bit of bad grace on my part, I settled down, apologised and waited until Gems had arrived for their Christmas party before heading off to Larkhall to get my new glasses which are remarkably like my old glasses but only cost me £30 for undisclosed reasons. Mumbled explanation was that it was because “I hadn’t had the old ones for long and I’d lost them, so there were simply replacements …” No, it didn’t make sense to me either. However I was happy to tap my card and pay the £30.

Drove home via The Fort (I think I should try to get a room there. It seems I’m there more often than I’m at home) the visit was also for undisclosed reasons. Grabbed a photo of the bronze deer that decorate the place, but I wasn’t sure they’d make it to the PoD and I was right. Back home, PoD went to Fairy Nuff in her rightful place on the Christmas tree.

After dinner I think we dragged our feet a bit, not really wanting to go out to the STUC building for the last time. It was one of Jamie Gal’s exuberant Party dance classes. He makes up the most interesting and at the same time chaotic games for these nights. Tonight’s games went from the usual dancing with glow sticks and grab the Christmas hat to Dancing with Crackers(?!) and Stick the Nose on Rudolph. A bit like pin the tail on the donkey, but more manic and with salsa moves buttonholed in.  Finally the big hand went to 6 and the little hand went halfway between 8 and 9 and we had to go and speak to the man who has become more than a teacher, and more than a friend for the past 12 years. He’s become an institution. We both think he was expecting our bombshell.

The class is moving to Record Factory in the new year because the STUC building is being demolished to make way for yet more student flats. The Record Factory is less than ideal as a venue and too awkward for us to travel to every week. Jamie is becoming more sought after by universities throughout the country and beyond, which means he’ll be teaching salsa less and less. Although we will both miss his manic humour and teaching style, we have possibly found a new ballroom class in Cumbersheugh and that will be a boon on cold snowy nights. I think this is what you could call a Perfect Storm. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow to join the merry throng looking for pre-Christmas bargains of which there will be few!