Old Bologna – 25 October 2019

Today was dull, really dull, so to brighten our day we went out to Italy.

I started the theme early by flying from Italy to Sicily. It was an uneventful flight until I allowed X-Plane to take control of the aircraft. It was supposed to fly it by AI, but I don’t know what the ‘I’ stood for. It certainly wasn’t Intelligence. It decided to take it away from the flight path and turn off the jet engine. After a bit of a struggle I got everything sorted out an performed a text book landing … at the designated airport, not in somebody’s garden as my brother used to do in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Back in the real world I struggled with getting email to work on the Samsung. Eventually I gave up or we wouldn’t have arrived at the restaurant in time for supper, let alone lunch. It must be at least three years since we’ve been in Vecchia Bologna, but the menu was quite familiar, the prices were a bit higher and the food was just as good as before. Next time, and I’m sure there will be a next time, we’ll book in advance to get a window seat.

Drove from there to Hobbycraft at The Fort to get some material to make a bow tie. I saw it earlier in the week and should have got it then, but the ‘fat quarter pack’ I was looking for was still there. Met Nancy when we left and made arrangements for lunch some time soon. Back via Aldi so that Scamp could test it out. That smell was still there, but again, it could have been because of the clientele although it did seem to be coming from the fruit and veg aisle.

Back home it was too dull to get an outside photo, so today’s PoD is of the last five apples from the James Grieve tree. Best year we’ve had so far.

Got a bit pissed off with the poor phone reception near the house. Can’t even get Spotify to play on the dire music system on the Juke. Eventually cooled down and accepted that EE is probably, overall the best of a bad bunch. O2 is better than all of them, but elsewhere its coverage is decidedly patchy. Vodafone is about the same as EE, but they really do make life difficult for you. I spent about an hour filling in the form to unlock my iPhone SE! O2 and EE unlock theirs after 18 months automatically. Three is just a joke – no coverage and a poor record. The moral of the tale is “Live with what you’ve got.”  What I did manage to do with the phone was finally get the email sorted.  It was the simplest thing.  The username was wrong, and that completely borked everything.  That’s not what the Samsung told me was wrong.  It told me that I hadn’t set up the PoP or the IMAP properly.  Misdirection is one of the greatest bugbears of the digital life.

Today’s Inktober topic was A Towel. This is how I spend my Friday nights now. Sitting on the toilet sketching an ink drawing of a pink towel. It’s things like this that give amateur artists a bad name!

Tomorrow we have no firm plans. It all depends on the weather fairies.

Alliums, Giant, Crocuses and Stitchery – 30 September 2019

It’s September Weekend, so no salsa and no Gems – a free Monday!

I was flying in X-Plane in the morning trying to get from Cumbersheugh to Glasgow. After getting lost twice and one crash and burn, I gave up any thoughts of being a pilot and decided we’d drive to the garden centre rather than nick a plane and fly there. There we managed to avoid two our least favourite Cumbersheugh inhabitants. To be fair, the bloke is ok and at times I feel sorry for him, but his wife can bore better than a diamond tipped drill, and with a voice to match. While avoiding them, Scamp bumped into an ex workmate, Denise. She was there with her family. Her son would have been useful to me when I was getting lost around Glasgow, because he flies helicopters, real ones.

Scamp was looking for allium bulbs, those big flower balls that are closely related to onions. She didn’t find any that she liked, but did get some lawn fertiliser, block of pansies and a decorative grass whose patterned leaves looked like sun shining through trees. Very pretty. Maybe we didn’t get the big allium, but they had a lovely display of giant autumn flowering crocuses and they made PoD.

On the way home we dropped in at B&Q and got some allium bulbs there. Drove back past the school, but the digger hasn’t started on the techy block yet. Too tough for the wee digger. They’ll need a tank to knock it down. Clyde built, it is.

Back home I struggled with sending invites to potential Inktober 2019 members. Flickr just seems to make the simplest things difficult. So far, eleven members and still they call it inactive. What do they want me to do? Answers on a postcard please.

Last week I noticed a wee hole in the pocket lining of my ‘rainy coat’ and yesterday I found that it had escalated to a tear right along the bottom seam. It needed stitching, so after consultation with Scamp I had a plan in place and today it was time to put it to the test. It took me a while to get the settings right, but I finally settled on a zig-zag stitch with a fine stitch length. Got it done and it looks quite neat, if a bit wobbly. That was planned of course ;o). If you stitch a straight line it will just give the tear a chance to start again. A wandering stitch is much stronger!!

It being a Monday, I was on dinner duty and as usual it was pasta. I tried to spice it up with some bacon matchsticks and also sun-dried cherry tomatoes, but they didn’t suit Scamp who barely touched it before turning up her nose and declaring that she “Didn’t like it.” Some folk have no taste. Strangely, neither did the brown looking tomato pasta. I have to admit it wasn’t my best.

Tomorrow Scamp is out in the morning for coffee with Isobel, then back out at lunchtime with Mags. That gives me some free time to paint or maybe to cut out the pattern for the next waistcoat.

The Visitor Arrives – 23 September 2019

Today we were meeting a visitor from down south.

Drove to Glasgow Airport to meet Clive who was travelling up to Scotland from Southampton. I’d asked him to bring some southern sunshine with him and he was as good as his word. The sky had been a dull grey in the morning, but by the early afternoon the sun had come out to play and it stayed that way for the rest of the day.

We were surprised that he arrived so promptly because this morning it was announced that Thomas Cook had ceased trading and thousands of customers abroad were being brought back home in what was called the biggest repatriation since the second world war. The media really do like to dramatise things, don’t they. However, hype aside, we had thought there might be more congestion at the airport, but we needn’t have worried. It appeared to be business as usual. No Dakota DC3s in camouflage paint disgorging hundreds of disgruntled holidaymakers. Just the usual mid afternoon business flyers … and Clive.

Scamp made Chicken, Leeks and Peas for dinner. We had a wee dram and Scamp introduced Clive to the joys of playing the piano. He’s had the first lesson tonight and will go on to the more advanced stuff tomorrow. We sat and talked and discussed music and Hi Fi stuff and albums we’d enjoyed many years ago. Not much else to say really. Just a good relaxing night.

Today’s PoD was taken just before we left for the airport and is Scamp’s Little Gems rose, grown from seed.

Tomorrow really depends on the weather. If it’s good, we’re off to see the Kelpies and the Falkirk Wheel. If it’s not, then probably Glasgow Cathedral and Kelvingrove.

Friday 13th Very Scary – 13 September 2019

Maybe it is for some, but for us it was a good day. Got lots of little things done and a visit to some horses to boot.

In the morning I got my blood-letting organised for both my PSA test and my diabetic check. Also got my flu jag sorted. With that in hand, and after Scamp had cut some more of her sweet peas, which I just caught a waft of just now, we drove off to Tesco to post a parcel, pick up my meds and tried to get some petrol, but the petrol station was fully booked and more, so we dropped off at BP to get some expensive petrol. Plenty of pumps free there, because the petrol is that little bit costlier. Then it was off east.

Drove to Grangemouth and from there to Helix Park where the Kelpies rear out of their underwater home. Wandered round them, took some photos and just soaked up their calming atmosphere. Every time we go there, we’re impressed with the grandeur of them, just like the first time we saw them. It’s something we never tire of.

Had a spot of lunch at the cafe and then went for another walk around them before coming home. Traffic was the usual stramash on the motorway. We chose the easier route through the town centre and took a diversion down past the school to see if they’d started the demolition yet, but everything was still in place. Fought our way back home past the clot that is the new roundabout, or maybe it was a clot who designed the phasing of the lights on the new roundabout.

Back home I finished off my day with another box ticked, when I watered the end-of-season nematodes into the raised bed, various plants and two lots into the compost bin to try to curb the slug menace. We’ll see if they’re any good this time.

On the subject of slugs and snails, Scamp noticed a large snail sitting quite happily between two Hydrangea leaves this morning, so it became a possible PoD. It was later usurped by a shot of the Head-Up Kelpie surrounded by starlings. They were starting to practise a murmuration while we were there. That’ll be a sight to see later in the year. Anyway, the Kelpie and the Starlings got PoD. A great day with some rain, but lots of sunshine.

Maybe going in to Glasgow tomorrow. Weather permitting, of course.

Butterfly memory – 12 September 2019

The day started as so many have recently with rain, but the blue skies appeared later.

Gas man came this morning to do the boiler maintenance and gave us the usual warnings that it’s getting old and needs replaced. I have days like that too sometimes.

After that we went out for the messages and managed to spend a fair amount in three different, though similar, shops. That’s the thing about choice. It gives you the opportunity to spend more. Mostly it was just stuff we needed anyway.

Just before lunch I spotted a Red Admiral feeding on the buddleia bush at the back fence. I managed to get a few shots of it before I frightened it away. Bummer.

Fred came over later in the afternoon to pick up the paintings John had delivered yesterday. We had an hour or so of fairly adult conversation and he introduced me to another interesting Gerry Cinnamon song “Diamonds in the Mud”. Worth listening to, if only for the Glasgow accent. In return I suggested he listen to “Canter” with its own collection of adult content.

When he left, so did I for a walk down Auchinstarry way. The light was really excellent by now and the hills were glowing. Today’s PoD came from the walk. It’s a group of tiny wee fungi growing on a dead tree near the Forth & Clyde canal.

When I came home, the butterfly was back on the buddleia, but this time I barely got a chance to switch on the camera before it was off. I swear it looked straight at me and flew off. I’m sure it recognised me as the big human who pointed his black box at it a couple of hours earlier. Of course it could have been a different butterfly, but that was the impression it gave me.

Cod Chowder for dinner. I thought it tasted ok and just the same as usual. Scamp thought it was thicker and tasted different. Maybe she was right.

No plans for tomorrow, but the weather looks ok. Saturday, not so.

Well, this won’t take long – 9 September 2019

It was raining all day. Almost. So I stayed in my room.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration. It actually stopped raining for about 30 mins around 4pm. The rest of the time the weather was demonstrating its ability to produce a variety of different rain types, from straight down ’stair rods’ rain to that misty smirr that floats around in the breeze, mists up your glasses and beads on everything. Rain. We must have a hundred or more names for it, some of them preceded by a swear word.

I decided that if we were having a visitor at the end of the month, today would be a perfect day to take down some of my ‘art’ work. That took about an hour to do, find somewhere to put it and occasionally throw something out, although I believe only two items met that fate. The room looks totally different now and not too many little pin holes in the wall. I had visions of having to go round with a little tub of Polyfilla (other hole filling products are available) and a spatula filling in all the nail holes. Then I’d need to sand them all flat and finally have to paint the whole room. It doesn’t look as if that will be the case, thankfully. Of course, before I started, I photographed all four walls, not only just for the record, but also so after the visitor has gone, I can replace them all in their original positions , with the exceptions of the two rejects.

I grabbed five shots of flowers in the garden during the short gap in today’s rainfall. The best in my opinion was the bud on Alec’s Red, and that became PoD

The other day my iMac was running slowly and I resorted, for the first time with this computer, to doing a ‘repair’ start. I still didn’t find out what caused the problem, but I think I’ve caught it. Tonight in Salsa, I couldn’t remember anything, and this was in the easy intermediate class. Second class, which is more advanced, was easier thank goodness. I don’t know what went wrong in that first class. Maybe I need to hold down the CMD key down when I wake up tomorrow to do a ‘repair’ wake! Three new moves tonight: Sombrero Twist 2, Vice which is like a strangling Setenta Vice-Versa and, surprisingly, New One!

Tomorrow looks drier than today, so I may release some nematodes on the unsuspecting slugs in the compost bin, the raised bed and anywhere else that needs them.

A sign of things to come perhaps – 3 September 2019

Today the Red Juke was going in for service and I had a courtesy car booked and it was a surprise!

Drove to Stirling in the morning and was passing the ‘New Shops’ just around 9.30am. The new M&S food store was opening at 10am and the crowds, half an hour before it opened were a very, very long snaking queue along the shop frontage, along part of the car park and down the side of the building. At a guess, I’d say between 500 and 700 people were standing in the rain hoping for one of the Golden Tickets that would give them up to £200 worth of shopping vouchers and a bad dose of the flu in to the bargain. I phoned Scamp to warn her that she was too late already. She just laughed

I had to wait half an hour for the courtesy car to be delivered, but when it arrived it was a ’19 plate Micra. Then the service manager dropped the bombshell. It was also an Automatic. I’ve only rarely been in an automatic car and certainly never driven one. How was I going to get this home? Luckily the lady was very positive about it and explained quietly how it worked and drove me round the block. She then offered to sit with me to allow me to get used to driving it round the block. Oh dear I must have looked terrified, but I took her up on her offer anyway. Then it was time for me to ‘go solo’. Despite knowing that there was no gearstick, I still tried to change up and down with the drive selector for the first few roundabouts, then concentrated a bit more and found it was quite a natural way to drive. When I got it home, I took Scamp out for a drive, but she refused to have a go. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to a completely new driving style. By the time I was taking it back, it was as natural as any other car I’ve driven.

When I got to the garage the same lady came to deal with me and all I said was “Well, that was a lovely car.” I didn’t add “I want one.”, but she knew that was in my head. However, outside was a shiny clean Red Juke that will need two new front tyres this year, so I put the thoughts of an Automatic Micra to the back of my mind for now, paid for my day’s insurance and left with a smile on my face. Western Nissan aren’t so bad after all.

The drive back home took almost twice as long as going, because everyone in Central Scotland seemed to want to go the same way. I was hungry and was looking forward to Scamp’s Prawn Stir Fry for dinner, otherwise I’d have taken it for a run away from the motorway bizz to test out the updated sat nav card they’d plugged in as part of the service. Maybe we’ll get a chance to try it out tomorrow.

PoD was a shot of the last of Scamp’s sweet peas standing up to the incessant rain today. We were promised some sun. We got rain instead.

No dancing tomorrow because Scamp has an appointment with the doc to check out the insect bites she’s got, and no other plans. No dancing at night either because Jamie the Salsa teacher won’t be there. Even worse, he won’t be there next week either.

A portrait session – 30 August 2019

Today we were out fairly early to drive to Larky.

We should have been going to Crawford & Nancy’s for dinner tonight, but since Scamp’s pain started, she can’t sit for longer than about an hour without stretching out (which she’s doing just now), so we decided to cancel tonight. When Scamp suggested to Nancy that they could meet for coffee, just to catch up, Nancy invited us out to the house instead. That’s what we did. The best of both worlds. Scamp got to meet up with Nancy and also to play with Imogen, C&N’s granddaughter, and I got a chance to catch up with Crawford. All of that within a timeframe of an hour and a bit which was comfortable for Scamp.

While we were there I managed to take a few (over 60) photos of Nana, Papa and Imogen. The light was really good in their new sitting room although it was tipping it down outside. Really pleased with the results from the E-M1 with the 30mm lens. It’s becoming a well used combination. The 14mm lens would have been too short and would have caused distortion and the 45-200mm would have been too long. The 30mm was the ‘Goldilocks Option’ – just right!  Imogen herself was a great model who happily posed for photo after photo.  Beautiful blue eyes and for most of the time a happy temperament.  Happy for her papa to teach her some basic gymnastics.

Tried to drive down to Asda in Larky when we left, but had difficulty finding it. It’s stuck down behind the baths and next to the new, new Larkhall Academy. I say ‘new, new’ because there have been two new academies since I went to the original one back in the ‘60s. That makes me feel ancient.

Drove home in the rain that had been falling incessantly since early morning, in fact, since last night. Took today’s PoD of a poor waterlogged Gazania in the back garden with a lens hood made from a piece of A4 paper folded in half and wrapped around the lens, not so much to keep out the sun as to keep out the rain. Useful thing to keep in the camera bag.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for a little bit of sun for a trip to Muirhead for Colin’s Flower Show.

When the cat’s away – 26 August 2019

The mice can do as they please.

Scamp was out on the town with her friends today, so I had the whole day to do as I pleased, and I was pleased to do very little.

I started out having a battle with the printer, trying all the combinations and permutations of settings to get a decent print of a photo for a competition. It’s never exactly the simple setting. There’s always another tweak to be done to get it just right. I think I’ve found it, but I won’t know until tomorrow when I test the setting with another photo that’s on a removable HD stored away somewhere upstairs.

Next I’d to book my car in for its annual service. The service is already paid for as part of the leasing deal. However the person on the end of the line announced that the manufacturer suggests that the air con should be checked every two years and that check is not part of the servicing agreement. I said “No thanks.” to the £99 (plus VAT) check. If the manufacturer deems it necessary to do this check every two years, it should be part of the servicing agreement. They try to catch you any way they can. Never trust a car salesman. Used car or brand new, they are all shysters.

Final thing on my checklist of “What you need to do this morning” was to dig out a big bucket load of soil from my raised bed and replace it with fresh compost from the composter. Got that done and then planted my curly kale and leeks, even remembering to water them in.

By then lunch was beckoning and it looked quite bruschetta shaped to me. It was while I was making it I spotted the robin having a look at my handiwork, not the prints. No he was more interested in that fresh new soil and he promptly got stuck in turning some over and grabbing what was hiding underneath. He seemed to look up at me and say “There you go mate, that’s me cleared some of the beasties out for you!” Grabbed his photo with the Nikon. It’s ages since I used it, but the quality is really good. I’d forgotten quite how good it is.

Powered up X-Plane and had a ‘quick’ flight. Took off from Glasgow and flew to Prestwick partly using instruments and partly by visual. It’s quite the most fascinating program, but it really makes you think about the technicalities of flying and the things that could go wrong. I was watching a program about pilots and one bloke said something along the lines of “If a car breaks down on the motorway, you coast onto the hard shoulder and somebody will come and help you. If you break down in a plane, you’re on your own!” Anyway, after safely landing at Prestwick I started a new flight in a glider and found that you can fly from Strathaven airfield. We just passed it, in the real world, on Saturday!

Salsa at night and the first class was fairly easy. Scamp joined us for the second class and it was a bundle of fun. Lots of new moves and a couple of older ones we’d forgotten Nudo was the one that caused the most hilarity.

PoD was the Robin, of course.

Tomorrow my turn to be out for a while meeting the boys for coffee.

Finally up to date! – 22 August 2019

Today the blog came up to date. Flickr’s up to date with the option to add more holiday photos when I want to. Blog is up to date and posted. Just today’s post to get done before the witching hour and all will be well.

So, today. It started out well in the morning with some sunshine and a bowl of porridge from oats I’d bought in Wales. They needed to go, as did the older ones that were taking up space in the cupboard. Today we needed a good clear out and Scamp was the one to do it! I just bought new porridge oats. She did all the cleaning of the house. I got the last of the washing into the machine.

Scamp decided that it would rain later, so it would be a good idea to cut the grass in the morning. That’s when we found the strimmer cord, not the electric cable, but the cord that whirls round at a fair rate of knots and severs the grass, was dead. Every time we pulled out a new bit and switched on the machine the cord would break again. Need to get a new cord. Bear in mind that this is the original cord. Since the grass still needed cut, we hauled out the mower and while I moved all the pots and troughs around, Scamp cut the back grass. While she was busy upstairs cleaning stuff, I offered to cut the front grass. The mower has been playing up for year, at least three years. The blade is chipped and blunt, but the dangerous bit is that the interlock that will switch off the mower when you release the handle doesn’t work any more and hasn’t for some time. For someone who is usually safety conscious, Scamp was quite laissez faire about the lack of a safety cut-off. For me, I’d say it was becoming a liability and we need to think of getting a new one. I think I may have talked her round, but if she reads this, she’ll stonewall again. Won’t you dear?

With the cleaning done and the front and back grass cut it was lunchtime. Earlier in the day I’d bitten the bullet and bought X-Plane 11. A pure indulgence. Some would call it a game, but what do they know. It’s a flight simulator with very realistic graphics and it had just finished downloading. That gave me something to do in the afternoon when the rains came. I did fly it a couple of times but had to go out and get the PoD sorted out. It turned out to be an orange Rudbeckia flower I saw in St Mo’s. Dinner was a roast chicken and it was cooking while I was out walking. Cooking in the new roasting pan Scamp had bought yesterday. It’s still sitting in that pan while I’m writing this and the smell is very tempting. Unfortunately, Scamp has just put it in the fridge so it’s out of sight, out of mind!

No plans for tomorrow yet, although we might go to the Strathaven Balloon Festival if the weather is decent tomorrow evening.