A little bit of sunshine – 28 March 2020

Bright sunshine to wake up to, but it disappeared fairly quickly.

We didn’t have anywhere to go today. We had food for dinner and for lunch and anyway, there was nowhere that would welcome us. That’s one of the problems of this Coronavirus problem. Everywhere is closed. Heavens, even the children’s play parks are locked and bolted. Not that it makes any difference to the children, their mums and dads just lift them over the metre high fence and off they go to play on the swings and roundabouts. How they get them out and back home again is a different problem. We weren’t going to the play park today. The furthest Scamp went was into he front garden to repair the damage the cat had done to her planting box yesterday. It’s now covered with plant pots which should discourage the incontinent feline.

After lunch and after a consultation on what we’d have for dinner, I went out with the camera and the Benbo tripod slung over my shoulder on a strap that was originally for the Manfrotto tripod, but with a bit of adaptation suggested by Scamp worked well on the Benbo too. As has been the case these days, St Mo’s was buzzing, mainly with mums pushing prams. Social distancing is becoming more and more difficult with the number of folk wanting to use my park. I was heading into the woods where prams don’t go, so I would be safe from contamination. I was looking for the fungus with the oyster shell patterns I’d seen last week, but I didn’t find it. After searching through my images tonight I think I’ve worked out two places it could be, but that was no use to me in the trees. What I did find was today’s PoD which is three little sycamore seedlings growing in a cleft in a sycamore tree. I also found this strange black fungus which I think may be Black Tree Ear fungus so called because it is black, it grows on trees and it looks like an ear. I’m pretty sure it’s the fungus we bought and cooked from a Chinese supermarket last year. As I recall it looked dodge and tasted just OK.

Came home to find that Scamp had been baking. Not one, but two cakes. We’ve sampled both and they passed inspection, especially the sultana cake with fruit soaked in Calvados. Dinner was fish ’n’ chips, home made because I didn’t fancy standing outside the chip shop waiting for my order to be called. Normally I wouldn’t mind, but there was a cold east wind today. Speaking of which, it was a lovely morning with bright sunshine. In the afternoon when I went out with the camera, it clouded over. When I came back, blue sky reappeared and the sun shone again. What am I doing wrong?

Splashed some oil paint on my painting board today and created another masterpiece. It’ll be tacky by tomorrow, so it should take another layer of paint. Quite like oil paint, much nicer to work with than acrylic. Seems to be easier to get bright colours with it.

No plans for tomorrow, but we may need some fresh veg, so a walk to the shops may be in order.

One Week In – 23 March 2020

That’s us one week in to Self Isolation and we’re not at each other’s throats yet!

Today Scamp went out in the morning to walk to the shops to get some essentials, real essentials this time, no gin was purchased. I stayed home and removed certain articles that had been secreted in the hidden compartment of the Juke’s boot. I had been beginning to sweat about how I’d get them into the house without prying eyes catching me. It was a strange Monday. No Gems and no dancing. However, that’s one down and only eleven to go.

We decided not to go out walking together today. Scamp did a bit of gardening. I messed around with Affinity Designer which is a vector graphics app from Serif. It’s a bit like Corel Draw for beginners. Fairly easy to use, but powerful enough to be useful. I’ve got it on 90 day trial. We used to use some of their software in school, but it was always crashing and the kids got exasperated with it. Eventually NLC bought us a fairly up to date version of Corel Draw and we forgot about Serif. They (Serif) were a bit of a pest, they used to phone you up every couple of months wanting you to but more stuff. They didn’t seem to realise just how tight a technical department budget was. Anyway, I quite enjoyed making raised, sunk, fielded panels. Don’t ask, believe me it’ll bore the pants off you.

I went out for a walk in the afternoon to see if there was anything worthwhile to photograph. The best I got, and therefore PoD was a shot of daffodils on the banking of the M80 slip road. I don’t suppose I should have been there, but I got the shot and only one car blasted me with its horn. I don’t think it was the polis! Also got a nice wee shot of some fungi that looked like oyster shells, they even appeared to have a pearl at the centre. It was actually a pebble!  While I was out I saw a bee!  We’d seen one in the garden at the weekend, but this is surely proof that spring is on  the way!

Scamp showed me how to make Portobello mushrooms stuffed with cheese and wrapped in Parma ham. Delicious. I made Lemonade Scones which I thought were going to be underbaked in the middle, but they were perfect, at least the one we shared was.

Tomorrow, Scamp’s big day, we’d intended going to The Kelpies, but I fear the car parks there will be closed and the horses will be off limits too. It’s such a shame that this plague has hit us at the time of both our birthdays. However, we’re both still here and plodding on. We’ll find somewhere to go with a flask and a box of ‘pieces’.

So this must be Sunday – 29 December 2019

All day yesterday I though it was Sunday, but it turned out to be Saturday, so hopefully today will be Sunday. Oh for some structure to the week again!

Scamp was feeling better today, but still not back to her usual self. Another day’s rest wouldn’t hurt and would probably be a great help.

In the afternoon I laced up my boots and took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to see and nobody wanted to walk there, which was a shame because it was blue skies all round with a few clouds to make it interesting. Walking up through the trees a deer crossed the path in front of me and didn’t even notice me. They really should obey the Green Cross Code and look left, look right and look right again before crossing. It didn’t, but there were no cars coming, because there wasn’t a road.

Most of today’s shots were of lichen and fungi on trees. Bracket fungi mainly. Must look them up on the Interweb and find out more about them. Lovely detail on the underside of the brackets, looking like little 3D mazes. PoD was a tangle of leaves and grasses caught in a tree. Don’t ask me why, but I liked it right away.

Walked on down to the shops and got the makings of tonight’s dinner. Roast Chicken with Jacket Potatoes.

Struggled for the rest of the afternoon trying to install a clean version of El Capitan into the MacBook Pro. For some reason it didn’t want to install. Finally gave up and cloned in the one I’d backed up about a week ago. Now I’ve found that you can put almost any version in, not Apple legal of course, but it can be done. May try it today. It’s hand grenade time again!

“What does this little pin do? What will happen if I pull this ring?????”

Tonight Scamp was looking and feeling a lot better. Tmorrow we must go for real messages. Planning a raid on Tesco.

Solar Power – 9 December 2019

Sometimes I think I am solar powered.

Woke to sunshine this morning. Beautiful sunshine. Got up and dressed, no time to waste on a shower, I’d go dirty! Grabbed two cameras in the big black camera bag and waltzed off to St Mo’s (actually I walked, no dancing was involved) while Scamp was defrosting her car. Nearly fell on my backside when I stepped on a thin slice of ice I hadn’t noticed, but regained my balance and nobody was there to laugh at me.

No time for camera testing today. I’d (partly) mastered the buttons and dials on the LBJ and today was too good to waste on test shots. Got a few shots of interesting fungi in the woods and some backlit leaves, but nothing too special. Nothing that was a contender for PoD. It’s remarkable how quiet the shutter is. Much quieter than any of the Olys. Yes, of course I was still testing and comparing. It’s the way I am!

By the time I got back, Scamp had returned from her shopping trip and she’d put the coffee maker on. Thank you Scamp. She’d been busy because she’d made a pot of soup too and it smelled lovely. She’d also done the hoovering which has been my Monday job for the past few weeks. She just can’t sit still some days.

After lunch and after Gems had gathered I had my Monday talk about all things Art with Margie, I put my boots on again and drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal, across at the plantation then back along the railway. Got a few more shots with both cameras, two of which I knew would be on Flickr and one of which I was sure was destined to be PoD. Saw a poor luckless quad bike rider getting his/her front wheels stuck in a bog, right up to the axles. Don’t know how they were going to get out of that one, but I wasn’t going to help pull it out.

On the way back I paused to just take in the colours and shapes around me. You don’t realise just how beautiful the countryside is until you’ve had a week of rain and leaden skies. Sometimes I think I’m solar powered. I need sunlight to recharge my batteries. Without that dose of vitamin D I just get deeper and deeper down and it’s the sun on my face that lifts me, well that and Scamp’s smile. It can lift me any time. “One smile relieves a heart that grieves” Robert Graves.

Back home it was good news. Jamie Gal was in the driving seat tonight. We went in to see if the beginners class needed any helpers, but two weeks of Shannon had taken its toll and it was a vastly reduced class in the hall. An even class of leaders and followers, so we weren’t needed after all. Our own class was well attended, but the skills of the class were a fair bit below what an Advanced class should be able to demonstrate. Jamie took quite a lot of criticism for his absences and I did feel sorry for him with nobody to stand with him against the class. However it had to be said and now he knows the feelings of the class.

Came home feeling a bit deflated with the loss of two dance classes and nothing to fill the vacuum until the new year. Hopefully a new year will bring new opportunities or am I starting to sound like an astrology page from the Daily Record?

PoD today went to a dried stem of cow parsley with an out of focus background. I liked it. There’s more on Flickr.

Tomorrow we’re expecting rain and Windy Willy. That won’t be fun!

Over the Forth on the Fifth – 5 November 2019

Yesterday was Gems day. A Tuesdays is rapidly becoming our day.

It was a lovely morning and we decided we had to go out and enjoy it. Scamp suggested Kirkintilloch and I suggested Dunfermline. Scamp then said that was her second choice and we’d go to Kirkie on our next free day, so Dunfermline it was.

The River Forth was shining beautifully when we drove over the Kincardine Bridge. I was tempted to stop, but I’d proposed Dunfermline and while Scamp wouldn’t have complained about me taking a diversion, I thought I’d better stick to the plan. We parked just at Pittencrief Park and had a walk round the park in beautiful light shining through the trees and lighting them up. Found today’s PoD there too. A genuine fairy toadstool. The notorious Fly Agaric. Look but don’t touch unless you want to wake up in hospital, or never again.

The walk up through the town was less photogenic. Boarded up shops and more than their fair share of charity shops. It was like an outdoor version of the Cumbersheugh Town Centre. Good enough for coffee and a bit to eat though. After that we just walked back to the car, via M&S for Scamp and Waterstones for me.

As we were driving home the clouds seemed to be gathering, but I don’t think they were serious about it because the forecast is for sub zero temperatures tonight because of the clear skies. Also, as we reached the Forth again on the way out of Fife, with the low sun the river was shining again. I resisted the temptation again.

Practised the Fearsome Four Jive moves for tomorrow and I seem to have a finger hold on them at last. I’ll let the little grey cells work on them overnight and file the successful method away for further reference. Tomorrow morning we’ll try again and all will be well, I’m sure.

That was about it for today. A lovely day, most enjoyable. Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re dancing again.

Meeting a man from the money trade – 22 October 2019

Drove in to Falkirk this morning to find out about finances.

Went to meet Andrew, the man with the eye-catching sox and a finger on the pulse of the stock exchange. He told us that all was good and had figures to prove it. Filled us in on what was happening with investments and stuff worldwide and how the Chinese are trying to pull the wool over some folks eyes. He didn’t actually give us his opinion of Boris.

After that it was a short trip to The Fort to see what was up with the phones debacle. After a quick check on a slow computer the man from EE found the fault. The PAC code hadn’t been entered. It is now, or so he said, and who am I to argue with him. I was merely an interested bystander feeding him the information he asked for. The transaction should be completed just after lunchtime tomorrow.

Lunch for us was a coffee and a cake each in Costa, there being no better coffee shop in The Fort. There is a Starbucks, but they don’t sell coffee, only Starbucks. Not sure what that’s made from. I knew when I was eating the chocolate caramel crispy bar that it wasn’t going to do me or my sugar level any good, but it just tasted lovely at the time. An hour later I didn’t feel so great about it. Too much sugar and fat is not good for you. To work it off a bit I walked the half a mile or so round the walls of The Fort to get the last A4 Seawhite sketch book from Hobby Craft. I’m sure it’s gone up in price since the last time I bought one, midsummer.

Back home and the temperature seemed to be falling. After some bread and ham for ’real’ lunch I decided to take the Oly and the new phone (no nickname has been set for it yet, but it might be Sammy) to find out if it could control the mighty E-M1. I tested it out in St Mo’s on a couple of toadstools, because I know they’re patient and wouldn’t start messing about or running away. I couldn’t find out how to get the WiFi to work on the camera and then the bloody phone wouldn’t allow me to use it as a replacement for the back screen on the camera. I ended up just taking a couple of shots manually, actually having to press the shutter button. How ‘old school’ is that? When I got back to the house I found out what I’d done wrong. Or should that be “all that I’d done wrong”. Lots of mistakes and strangely it worked perfectly in the house. Maybe Sammy, if that’s its name, doesn’t like the cold either. Today the ‘old school’ photo of the toadstools made PoD.

Today’s topic was “A Hand”. My left hand again. The one that suffered in the first sketch of Inktober 2019 where the topic was “Ring”, well it would be, wouldn’t it. I’ve only got one left hand. This time the hand was the subject and the little Lamy pen was just a prop. While I didn’t sketch it with my left hand (obviously!), I did write “Hand” with it. Just for a bit of fun.

Tomorrow I intend to be checking the two phones, just to make sure they do as they’re told this time. Also we’re hoping to squeeze in some dancing.

Just another dancing fool – 9 October 2019

Driving through the driving rain to dance our hearts out to Michael’s tune.

Just another Wednesday. Weather was almost as bad as yesterday with more high winds blowing more rain clouds our way. Managed to avoid most of the rain on our walk down to Blackfriars. Stood and watched some brave souls abseiling down the City Chambers to give the statues a but of a wash and brush up. Thought it was Extinction Rebellion protesters at first, then realised they were wearing hi-vis jackets with a company logo on them, so they were legit. Below them they seemed to be giving away “Boris Bikes”, but on closer inspection it was just a photo opportunity to show off the new “Electric Boris Bikes”. I can’t imagine what an Electric Boris would be like. Probably he’d short circuit the National Grid.

Even further down the road there were a film crew setting up. We used to get excited when we saw film crews in Glasgow, but now it’s just par for the course and we’ve learned to ignore them. Glasgow is built on an orthogonal grid with roads running North / South and East / West, so with it’s old turn of the last century buildings it makes a decent look alike for some of the older parts of American cities. It must be a lot cheaper to seal off a portion of Glasgow that, say, Chicago. Couldn’t see what or who was being filmed today.

Dancing was quite good, but although the room is fine for Jive, it’s really too small for ballroom. We leaders keep getting told to take bigger steps in Waltz and Quickstep, but when we do, there’s so much clutter in the room we can’t fit in all the steps. Pillars in the way don’t help either. However, today we reprised the entire Over the Rainbow set and we got to dance with some of the advanced dancers which is always good, because they are so exact and so quick. We eventually gave up trying to dance round the room because people would stop and discuss who was right and who was wrong and, coupled with the two speaker stacks, the piano and the pillars there were too many obstacles in the way. Instead, we practised the short routines we’d been learning.

Coffee afterwards for our usual debrief, then back up to the car park. We weren’t so lucky on the way back and got fairly well soaked. In addition I wanted some shots to use for today’s sketch. My Inktober list for today wanted “A bird’s eye view or a worm’s eye view”. In view of the strong winds, I decided that a bird’s eye view was out of the question. Also because of the heavy rain showers, I had to give up on an in-situ sketch, so instead I took some shots to use as reference material for today’s sketch.  It’s the Cranberry’s [sic] Restaurant in Glasgow.  Interesting building with a sort of tower breaking out of the corner of it.

Back home I decided there was enough light to warrant a walk to St Mo’s where I got today’s PoD which is a toadstool I saw emerging on Saturday. It’s grown a fair bit since then. I thought I’d get home dry, but that wasn’t going to happen. I got soaked, but at least it was on the way back.

Tomorrow I go to see the nurse about my blood results and Isobel is coming to lunch.

Jag in the morning for my flu jag. What a way to start a Saturday – 5 October 2019

Flu jag on a dull day then problems solved.

At least 10 folk before me in the queue to get their flu jag, but I’d barely had time to fill in the form before I was called. No problems with it so far and if it keeps the flu away from me, I’ll be a happy bunny.

What to do with the rest of the day on such lovely afternoon with threatening rain that would soon be more than a threat? We went to lunch, that’s what we did. Drove to the Cotton House which has been completely renovated. No big fish tank taking up half the width of the restaurant, just a skimpy wee narrow one as you walk in. It looks like there are now fewer tables too with discrete little booths dotted around. Actually, I preferred the old style. However the one thing they haven’t changed is the menu or the chef. Thank goodness for that. Still got Spring Rolls and Chicken Noodle Soup as starters for Scamp and me. Scamp went for Chicken Mushroom which looked very like Chicken Chop Suey and I had the traditional Chicken Chow Mien. Both delicious. Slightly smaller portions than before, but quite adequate as a lunch. We hadn’t booked, so were given a one hour time slot which meant we had to forego coffee. We’ll be back again, hopefully soon.

I offered to drive to Robroyston so that we could have the coffee we’d missed and Scamp could browse Watt Bros and I could browse B&M. Slumming it today you see. I found the tablet support I’d inadvertently dumped in a skip last week for the same price as the Ikea version, but it appeared that the tills were down and judging by the vacant look on the cashier’s face, his brain was down too. Oh dear, I should have known that it was just too good to be true. Gave up after five minutes and no sign of the meltdown ending, so I left to find Scamp in Watt Bros looking a bit worried as half the displays were empty. Surely Watt Bros weren’t going to the wall too. We’ll accept some things, but Watt Bros failing is a step too far. Where will she go for Christmas prezzies now? Maybe it’s just a re-stocking exercise and everything will be glittery, red and green for Christmas soon. Hopefully.

The coffee in Costa gave us a chance to unburden ourselves. We were tentatively booked for three Christmas Balls. I love the Salsa Christmas Ball, but I hate the venue which is the Classic Grand. It’s a glorified bingo hall. It’s manky with a capital M. It’s dark and I reckon it’s also a fire hazard with those narrow exit stairs. Basically it gives me the creeps. Strangely, Scamp felt the same, she also complained that there weren’t enough seats, so we scrubbed that one off the list.
Michael’s Christmas Ball is in the Redhurst Hotel which is out on the southern edge of Glasgow and is a nightmare to park at. I don’t mind that, but he, being a drag artist, is always wanting to drag (no pun intended) that into the night somewhere. It gives me the creeps. Scamp doesn’t really mind that, she just doesn’t like the venue. Agreed, we scrub that one too.
Finally we’ve been offered a place at a table at the Christmas Ball hosted by Stuart and Jane (our good dance teachers from the cruise). We are both agreed that we should accept that one. So Scamp said she’d confirm that as soon as we got home. All that sorted out over a Flat White and a Latte and a pastry each. Two minds set at rest. Two balls cancelled. One ball accepted and, Scamp being as good as her word, texted the confirmation to Stuart and Jane when we got back home. Done and Sorted!

When we got home, I decided to go for a walk in St Mo’s to get some foties. Luckily there were some fungi pushing up from the forest floor and the little umbrellas became PoD.

Topic for today’s Inktober was ‘Build’, so my answer was an Escher-like impossible stair.

Tomorrow I was thinking of going for a walk along Glasgow Green, but that may depend on the weather. It’s raining now.

Inktober 2019 begins and so does Winter – 1 October 2019

Scamp was going out for coffee, then she was going out for lunch and I was a happy bunny for once because Inktober 2019 had appeared on Flickr menu. It was cold today.

Scamp had a 10am appointment with Isobel and then a 12 noon appointment with Mags. Because it’s the first of the month I had some backing up of images to do, but that could be done by the computer without any input from me, other than to initiate the copying. I had also given myself the job of taking rubbish to the tip. One old SCSI scanner that never really worked and a bag of rubbish, which we’ll come back to later. We both got on with our respective duties and we bumped into each other after I’d been to the tip and she had been for coffee. I was heading back for lunch and she was heading out for lunch. My what busy lives we lead. I’d also checked on Inktober on Flickr and done a bit of armchair flying while she was out. Flying was a work in progress, but Flickr was looking good for once with 19 members. I’ve just checked and now we’re up to 34! Not everyone will participate, I realise that, but 34 is a very good start. I also cut out the patterns for the new waistcoat. A much more manageable set of pieces. Only six templates. We’ll see how simple the stitching is later.

After lunch, more armchair flying and then a walk to St Mo’s because the light was good even if the temperature was still in single figures (9.9ºc counts as single figures, just). I got well wrapped up, but needn’t have worried because the sun was actually quite warm and as long as I wasn’t in the shade, it was quite pleasant. The sun was low when I was almost ready to come home and that led to some interesting effects, resulting in me being later than I’d intended. The PoD was one of the last ones from the walk and was taken with the 14mm lens to give a bit of depth to the shot.

Tonight I did my first Inktober 2019 sketch, straight out of the ‘Official’ promos. The topic was ‘Ring’. I took the easy route and drew my hand with my wedding ring. It’s a bit rough, but I haven’t done much sketching since May. Quite enjoyed it though. Tomorrow’s theme is ‘Mindless’ and I’ve no idea what to do for it. Maybe because I’m mindless – now there’s an idea.

Tomorrow it’s back to Ballroom and Jive. No Salsa because it’s the lady with the “Oo la la”. No real dancing, just learning to raise your hand and shout “Oo la la”!

Oh yes, the rubbish thing. I bought a tablet stand from Ikea months ago because it was an ideal shape to hold my sketchbook for photographing the Inktober sketches. Guess what was in the bag of rubbish I took to the tip! Even worse, I put it in the bag in purpose. I’d forgotten I’d need it tonight. Numpty.

The Visitor returns home – 28 September 2019

Last night was a fairly late night, but this morning was an even earlier one.

Alarm was set for 6am, but I managed to switch it off before it woke us. Clive was already up and drinking his breakfast Cranberry juice. He thought he’d get away with that, but Scamp pressed him to have at least a digestive biscuit with his morning coffee. I can’t face a day on an empty stomach, so I had my breakfast muesli and a cup of tea, Scamp too had breakfast, then we were off to take Clive to the airport.

We were both sad to see him go. Dropped him at the airport in plenty of time to navigate his way through security and then get settled. He’d been a splash of sunshine on an otherwise dull week, and just as when anyone leaves, the house felt that little bit quieter and less colourful without him.

We’d planned to go to Edinburgh today because we knew we’d be up and out early anyway, but when we got back from the airport, we both agreed it would be good to have a lazy day. Couldn’t quite decide what to do with the rest of the day, but finally settled on going to Hamilton for a curry. That’s what we did, then, because there is so little of interest in Hamilton, we just came home. Food in the Bombay Cottage was just as good as ever.

Back home I thought there would be just enough light to give me a chance of getting some photos in St Mo’s, so that’s what I did. In the woods the light levels were that bit lower, but I still got a few shots. PoD was the branch of Larch pine needles turning yellow. The larch is one of the few deciduous pines. Also found a spiky bracket fungus, but you’ll have to go to Flickr to see that.

That was about it, other than sitting in judgement on the first ‘real’ Strictly heat. That and watching the qualifying for the Russian F1 GP.

No plans for tomorrow.

Early night tonight for a change, so I’m off. G’night!