Not the best of days – 12 February 2019

Some days are good and some are simply bad. Today was the latter.

The tree in the garden that was trimmed yesterday doesn’t look at all like we thought it would. It may take some time for it to grow into itself again, but for just now it just looks a bit ugly. We’re both agreed on that and we’re both to blame for not making it clearer to Nicky what we wanted. However, like that awful haircut we’ve all had, it will eventually grow back. Unfortunately, trees take longer than hair to grow. We may make a bird box and fix it to the tree, at least then we’ll have something interesting to watch.

It’s always going to be a bit of a wrench having to go to another salsa class and now we have confirmation that the advanced class is to close in March. We’ve discussed it a lot in the last 24 hours and have come to the conclusion that it’s not just one reason for the lack of people, there are lots of reasons:

  • The class itself was becoming stale with long complicated moves that nobody in their right mind would attempt to dance in a club.
  • The Advanced class were always being merged with classes one or two levels below us. The constant merging of classes meant that the more advanced members were having to ‘tread water’ while newer, less experienced people caught up. When they did catch up, another class would merge in and the cycle would begin again. People simply didn’t want to pay for a class where they weren’t learning anything new.
  • Jamie is a great teacher, but only when he’s there. I realise he has other commitments with his work, but when he’s not there and less able teachers are taking his place, our interest suffers and some people, again, will move away.
  • There have been comments in class about some people, usually leaders, who are too rough and are injuring some of the followers. Scamp, herself has had a few bruises from these meetings. That is a definite reason for some of the followers leaving.

I really don’t know what the answer is, there may not even be one. We’ll try tomorrow’s ‘Advanced’ class. We’ll give it a fair test and it may be the salvation of Salsa in Glasgow. At least it will be with Jamie as a teacher.

I gave both our cars a quick wash and brush up today. They needed it, then when Scamp was out to lunch with Mags I hung out the washing and that’s where I saw today’s PoD! Scamp’s Christmas Roses are still in flower and are changing colour slightly. It looks like they are going to be sliding towards pink.

Today’s sketch is four Sugardrop tomatoes I spied when I was making paella tonight. A quick 40min sketch, but with decent technique and using a real brush, not a waterbrush for a change.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and hopefully dancing at night too.

Short back and sides – 11 February 2019

Nicky, the arborist, was coming today to give our rowan tree a short back and sides. He didn’t mess around.

He arrived just after 10am and got to work straight away. He trimmed all the low lying branches and then some of the higher ones that were easy to reach with his expensive Japanese draw saw (cuts on the back stroke, like most Japanese tools). The next thing I saw was him strapping himself into his climbing harness and throwing a climbing rope over one of the sturdy upper branches. After that, he was up, up and away cutting a swathe through the branches that overhung the garden. I think it was at this point that Scamp became nervous and began to wonder if going to hack too much away. However, like a half cut head of hair looks in the hairdresser’s mirror, you have to have faith in the expert wielding the scissors, or in this case, the Japanese saw. By the time it was finished, the tree looks a lot more open. Light will get through and so will the air. He assured us that the ‘wounds’ (his word) would heal quickly and encourage new growth. Like the new hairstyle, it will take a bit of getting used to, but in a few weeks it will look fine.

All that was left was the disposal of the cuttings. That was going to take a few bucket and bag loads, about half a dozen in fact and since I was going to the skips today anyway, it seemed a good opportunity to make good the fresh start. With that in mind, and after Nicky had left we set to with the loppers and chopped all the branches into manageable pieces, bagged them and I took them in the car along with the rubbish from yesterday to the skips. The world and his wife were there too, dumping rubbish. We really do live in a throw away culture. At least the tree cuttings could be chipped and composted. Not so the rubble and timber. That will probably go to landfill.

Best laugh of the day was when we were doing our final tidy of the garden. An old bloke was walking past on the path behind the garden when I turned to Scamp to ask if some old rotten wood was going to. He turned to me and said “Would you mind keeping your voice down. You nearly woke me there.” I looked and he smile, so I said in my sincere voice. “My apologies.” We both laughed and he walked on. Just a wee bit humour gets you through the day sometimes.

After I dumped today’s stuff in the skips, I took a drive over to Fannyside Moss and got today’s PoD. It was taken with the Samyang fisheye lens. Drove back via St Mo’s with some bread to feed the wildfowl, although the greedy gulls got most of it. I know you’re not supposed to feed them on bread, but they didn’t seem to get that memo.

There was sad news at Salsa tonight. Our dwindling class numbers have made it impossible to continue the 7.30 Advanced class which has been running for 10 years in the same time slot in a variety of venues. We have only four weeks left in it and then we may have to look at joining the 8.30 class on a Wednesday. It’s nowhere near as good a class and the 8.30 time isn’t ideal. We may have to look for pastures new.

Today’s sketch of the banana and lime was done while listening to Masterchef, but I painted it under the light of a daylight bulb in the painting room otherwise the grinding of my teeth at the inane comments of the ‘fat bastard’ Gregg Wallace would have upset Scamp.

Tomorrow Scamp is out to lunch and I may, just may take the bike out for its first run this year.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – 22 January 2019

We woke to snow today. Not lots and not long lasting, but still snow.

It was one of those mornings when we rejoice at being retired. Not for us the scraping of the windscreen and then the slow drive to work, single file in the tyre tracks of the car in front. No, back to bed with a cup of tea and a good book. Rivers of London (book 1, Hazy). The snow came and went for most of the morning before eventually tailing off and then the slow drip, drip of the thaw started, but not before I grabbed a camera and got some macro shots of the snowmelt on the plants in the garden and also on the metal allium feature in the back garden. That’s what achieved PoD.

The furthest we went today was Tesco and only after we were sure the road was clear of the white stuff. Tonight the snow is all but gone, but the temperature is down to -2ºc as I write this.

January is a time for hanging up calendars, but I found we had misplaced one of ours. It was in a polythene bag at the side of the wardrobe in the bedroom and it came from Sardinia. It started us checking back through our photos to see what Alghero, Sardinia looked like. Scamp usually does a screen grab of the temperature every day we are on holiday and in Alghero in June it was 27ºc. That’s a nice thought to end with!

Tomorrow will probably another dancing day. I may go and get three half pans of watercolour paint to replace the ones in the Joan of Art paintbox Hazy bought me a year or so ago. I liked the tin, loved the idea and the tiny little brush, but hated the colour selection – too acidic for me. I’d been painting tonight and decided it was time to warm up the colour selection.

Every Cloud

Apparently every one of them has a shiny metallic inside covering.

Today we were awake and ready to rise from 8am. That was the earliest the “Rat Man” would arrive. With that in mind, Scamp was up and out by 9.30. I was much more relaxed and waited ‘till the end of the chapter of the excellent “Lies Sleeping”, well actually it was the end to the second chapter as it turned out. Still, I’m trying to meter myself with this book, because I know it will be another year before the next one gets published. After coffee and the first run through of today’s Sudoku puzzle, it was time to go back up stairs to clear out the top three shelves of the ‘tank press’ cupboard. It’s been called that since we moved in to the house thirty odd years ago and about twenty years since the actual hot water tank was removed. We waded into the multiple tins of paint, varnish and paint remover. We sorted through boxes of hammers, saws, chisels and gouges. We threw out a fair bit of what might be called antiques, but were really just rubbish and we put the rest back in a much more orderly manner. All this because we worried that the rodents might have built themselves a nest in that cupboard. They hadn’t, thankfully, but as Scamp said, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I have to agree the cupboard looks a lot more organised. She also said that we should look, next, at the ‘towel cupboard’. So called because it has towels in it. It’s also got loads of cables, cardboard boxes, more cables, boxes of Lego and even more cables. This may take a little longer.

After lunch the “Rat Man” phoned to say he’d be with us in about an hour, and he was as good as his word. He still seemed determined that the rodents were in the loft, but we insisted that we’d heard them last night in the ceiling void. He inspected my handiwork blocking up the hole in the downstairs cupboard and seemed very impressed. What did he expect from an ex-woodwork teacher? He did a fairly extensive survey of the outside of the house back and front and agreed with the lady on the phone who had suggested that he’d probably put down an external box with poison that it’s hoped the rodents will carry in under the house and feed the family in the nest. A sort of rodent Trojan Horse. With that done he went to inspect the house at No 26 where he thought he had seen a possible access hole near the steps to their back door. We bid him farewell and hoped that when he returned in a week’s time we’d have a quieter house.

It was a dull, dreary day, but I’d already got a PoD. While we were waiting for the “Rat Man” I had taken a few shots of Scamp’s Christmas Rose plant on the back step. The flowers are beautiful and just seem to keep coming. The best shot it at the top of the page. Camera on a Gorilla Pod allowed me to use low ISO and remote control from the phone app. That prevented me from getting grain like golfballs in the low light.

That was about it for the day. I think we may be going in to Glasgow tomorrow so I can get my hair cut. New year, New hair.

Me and my big mouth – 24 December 2018

I said I thought I’d sidestepped Scamp’s cold. Me and my big mouth.

Last night I was lying choking in bed with that sore throat that always tells you the cold is just waiting in the wings for you to fall asleep and then it’ll announce itself with a sickly cough that will bring you back awake again until you start to fall asleep and then the cycle will begin again. Woke this morning with a terrible taste in my mouth and a nose that was totally clogged. Still think you sidestepped it Mr C?

Felt better when I got up. It’s always better when you’re vertical. Had a shower and felt almost human again. Maybe it’s the hot damp atmosphere that does it, but it seems to loosen the gunk that clogs my nose and dampens my throat too. I even brushed my teeth to get rid of the horrible taste in there. That makes three times this year. That must be a record for me. The brushing helped, but I won’t make a habit of it.

Scamp went off to visit June and while she was away I set up the Naturewatch camera with the Raspberry Pi. It was a bit fiddly, but I got everything set up and everything fitted nicely into an old Tupperware box. Fixed it to the tree near the bird feeder and got some fairly decent shots of a selection of birds. For something this tiny it produces great pictures. When Scamp returned from her visit and announced that June was much better. I decided I’d go for a walk. I was well warned to get well wrapped up which I did.

Walked round St Mo’s which was still covered in hoar frost in the mid afternoon.  Some signs that it might be thawing, but by the time it got started properly the sun would be setting and the temperature would plummet again.  For once I got some of the good light. What’s sometimes called the “Golden Hour”. Well named today. The PoD is one of the best ones. No fakery needed here, the light was just so good.

I forgot to mention that Scamp got a text from Michael our dance teacher to say that we had won the hamper in the annual Christmas raffle. Would we be in to collect it, because he could deliver. We originally said we’d meet him in Glasgow, around 2pm to get it. However he texted to say that he was running late and it would be after 5pm before he’d be there, could he get his brother do deliver it instead. We agreed to that because his brother lived in Cumbersheugh, so it would be on his way. He arrived with it tonight. A big plastic box crammed full of chocolate and sweets and with a voucher for £20 off a pair of dance shoes which I’m sure Scamp will claim. I’ll have the Liquorice Allsorts.

Scamp spoke to the woman next door today who confirmed that she has a rodent problem too, as do the couple on the other side of us. So, we are not alone. So far our rodents are in the loft or under the floor, but not in the house, but Angela said she had seen two in her house. It’s a long time since we had mice in the house, but I phoned NLC environmental health and explained the situation. The girl I spoke to said she’d pass on the information to the sub-contractor who would contact us in a few days. Feel better now that it’s official and something is being done even if the wheels will be turning even slower than normal at this time of year.

That’s about it for now. Hope you all have a happy Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you’re with. G’night.

A day of two halves

Still taking the tablets and in the morning they appeared to be working well, very well in fact. However as the day progressed, although there were still improvements, they weren’t as great as the morning’s.

Right, enough of the moaning. I did very little else today. I went as far as the back fence and took a photo of the rose “Remember Me”.  I wanted a shot of it before it got battered by today’s gale force winds and heavy rain.  Amazingly resilient flowers, roses.

I spent the rest of the day updating Flickr and the blog. Scamp drove to Tesco and bought what we’d need for the next few days. She made an excellent Chilli for dinner.

Tomorrow is tomorrow. We’ll see what transpires.

Down the Green – 4 November 2018

We’ve been talking about it for a while, now we had to walk the walk, literally.

Drove down to Glasgow Green and walked round our usual circuit of the dear green place. Although there was very little of the ‘green’ stuff visible. Most of it was covered with protective tracks to allow the lorrys pulling the fairground rides to park up. Tomorrow is Bonfire night and The Green usually hosts the fireworks display and to entertain the crowds and to make a few bob on the side, the funfair comes to town.

That wasn’t all. Lots of rowers were out on the river. You could tell that the 8s and 4s were time-served crews, but some of the pairs and single sculls were ropey to say the least. The river was running dirty and full of debris. We watched half a tree, complete with leaves making its way downstream against groups of rowers attempting to head upstream. Eventually it was coaxed into the shallows on the park side of the river. Today’s PoD was a tight crop on one of the rowing fours. I think Scamp’s ankle was acting up because she wasn’t interested in extending our walk and settled for watching the action from the suspension bridge.

Walked over to the People’s Palace and had lunch in the Winter Garden. Such a shame that this lovely structure is to be closed indefinitely. In other words, it will be sealed off until it fails catastrophically, then it will be demolished as it is a H&S risk. That’s cheaper than repairing it. The up side of this decision is that the Councillors Christmas Junket Fund is safe for the next few years.

Had my usual roll ’n’ sausage and a cup of coffee. Scamp had peppermint tea and a piece of shortbread. Then we had a walk round the plants and saw some Dasheen which as far as we can remember is used for making Callaloo in Trinidad.

Drove back and while Scamp went out to dig up some gladioli from the front garden and ‘do a bit of tidying up’ there, I gathered my cameras and went for a walk to St Mo’s. The most interesting thing I saw was a Caddis Fly wildly out of season. They usually hatch in late spring or at the beginning of summer. Poor wee thing looked quite shell-shocked, and no wonder.

Went over to St Mo’s in the evening to see the firework display. Usual set of bangs and flashes, but notably a few purple lights in them for a change. What is it about purple? You don’t see it all that often in fireworks. I’m guessing the chemical used to give that light is more expensive than most the other colours.

Tomorrow is Gems day. I may go to the gym and I may go in to Glasgow looking for drawing ink.

So, what of the day then? – 20 October 2018

So, what of the day then?

That’s a morning question, especially an uninspiring morning question.

This morning we asked each other that question, but answer came there none for a while. It was a dull morning and we’d nothing much to do. Nothing that had to be done, nowhere we needed to go. Sometimes that’s worse than having too much on your to-do list. Finally, Scamp suggested that we go to The Fort and have lunch in Wagamama. The Fort isn’t my favourite place and as they are digging up our usual approach road to put in new water mains, that makes it even less desirable. However, it’s a long while since we’ve been to Wagamama and The Fort has a book shop now … So, lunch was the answer to the question.

Drove there via the M80 and M8 to avoid the roadworks that have plagued and still plague the other much more direct route. Had lunch, Tantanmen Beef Brisket Ramen for me and Chicken Samla Curry for Scamp. Mine was superb, but Scamp said her’s was a bit hot. Judging by the pile of rejected red chilli slices at the side of her plate, it was. After lunch Scamp went to investigate M&S and I browsed through Waterstones. Neither of us came out laden with stuff, but I saw a book that might be interesting once the price has gone down sufficiently. Something to replace the excellent House of Lies (Rebus 22) which I finished this morning.

Next, we made a half-hearted attempt to buy Morrisons, but we only made a small dent in their stock. A few bargains, breakfast muesli for me and a muffin each for coffee at home. It was raining when we came out, so we drove home.

Watched a two hour long extravaganza of pointless pre-race nonsense before the qualifying for the American F1 GP. How they managed to fill all that time I really don’t know. Most of the time we watched it on a flickering fast-forward. So many meaningless statistics produced by so many puffed up pundits. Please, I just want to see the bright coloured motors going round and round the track!

That was it for a dull day. PoD was what you see at the top. It’s raindrops on gladioli leaves. Sketch for Inktober today was a doodle done on my paper mousemat of a photograph I took ‘way back in June in sunny Barcelona. A place marker and that’s all.

This was written, as you’ve probably guessed, on Sunday. I had hoped it would be a better day, but it’s not turning out that way so far. Maybe later.

Now that’s much more like it – 14 October 2018

A much better day today. For once we thought the weather was trying to please, not punish.

Woke to milky white skies, but as the day progressed, so did the quality of the weather. By midday there were definite signs of blue skies and sunshine. Now that is more like the thing. I made the most of it by taking some shots of the light shining through the sweet pea leaves and also grabbed a shot of a hover fly on one of Scamp’s yellow flowers. I don’t know the name of the flower (or the hover fly), but I liked the shot. Immediately afterwards, Scamp decided it was time to strip out the sweet peas, so I was hoping that I’d got those shots cleanly. There would be no going back for more.

After lunch I decided that I wasn’t going to sit around all day and got my boots on and went for a walk along the canal and across the plantation to the old railway. I’d intended walking back along the side of the Garrell Burn, but with all the rain we’d had in the last week, the path was flooded in a few places, so I satisfied myself with taking a few ‘selfies’ using the Samyang. You’ll have to go to Flickr to find the evidence. Just click on the Picture of the Day at the top of the page to be redirected. With the road blocked, I walked back along the same path I’d taken to get there, and back along the canal. That’s where PoD came from. This was taken with my new iPhone app, Procamera. The amazing thing about it is the ability to save images as RAW files, meaning that post-processing is possible in Lightroom. That explains the superb photographic quality of the shot. Sorry JIC, a little bit of technospeak slipped in there.

Came home and decided that Scamp’s Chicken Broth tasted so good that I’d rather have that than go dancing in Glasgow. Anyway, although Scamp claims that her ankle is ok, we both know that she lies through gritted teeth where dancing is concerned. We backed out and stayed at home, rather than go to Mango. Chicken broth for dinner followed by chicken omelettes. Just lovely.

I’m really pleased with today’s Inktober sketch. I did something similar last year, or maybe it was in February this year, anyway, it’s a bit of a drawing within a drawing if you see what I mean.

That was about it for a lovely day and while watching Countryfile (without the despicable ‘Tom’ or John Craven) we saw the long range weather forecast for the week and the temperature is to drop tonight, but there will be much less rain and wind which is a blessing.

Tomorrow is Gems, so I may go for a swim or failing that, a run on Dewdrop.

Ali’s Rant – 19 September 2018

The Ali in question was the first named storm of the year, and it swept in this morning causing havoc and destruction.

Ali didn’t prevent us from having our weekly dose of ballroom, although the walk down from Buchanan Galleries to Blackfriars was ‘interesting’ and at times ‘challenging’. Enjoyed the Jive because we were reprising the First Seven Spins and adding on the Ladles and finally attempting to bolt on the Lindy Hops. We would have done more, I’m sure, but D&D were back and apparently had had their brains formatted securely in the intervening two weeks. It was back to the start for them, and us, because we were in the same (physical) class. Just different class!
Waltz was improving, just trying to get Rise and Fall included in our steps and with Quickstep it was the swooping turns at the start we were introduced to. So no new moves this week, but revision every so often is a great thing, especially to smooth off the rough corners of our dance routine.

After that we fought our way back up to the carpark and the run home. We had a tail wind on the way back, so didn’t feel the effects of the wind so much. Scamp is beginning to show signs of my cold which is a great pity. I’m really selfish with things like colds and flus and I like to keep them for myself, where possible.

I wasn’t keen on going out for a walk with Ali still prowling around, although he was looking like a shadow of his former self, so instead I photographed the roses that were sitting on the coffee table with my glamorous assistant holding a piece of A2 paper behind them to hide the untidy living room. The roses are Sheila’s Perfume on the left and Peace on the right.  Scamp brought them in from the garden to prevent Ali from running away with them or battering them flat.  I’m quite impressed with the photo. It’s been through the mill a bit with changes here and softening edges there, but it looks like I wanted it to and that’s what counts.

Dinner tonight was the remains of yesterday’s Aloo Saag which was actually more Saag than Aloo, but there were flatbreads and rice to pad it out and it was declared fine. Better than yesterday’s in my opinion, but that’s often the way with soups and curries.

Scamp declared herself fit enough to go to 7.30 class tonight in STUC and it was a shambles.  They just don’t listen to what’s being taught, they think they can make it up themselves and they can’t.  The class is supposed to be level 4, but they make, and keep making elementary mistakes like turning left, not right.  Simple things.  I know we’ve all done it, I’ve done it, but I stop, think and try to fix it.  They don’t.  Numpties.  It’s partly Shannon’s fault for merging classes from different levels and calling them by the higher number.  What I mean is:  There aren’t enough students in a level 3 class to make it cost effective to run.  Rather than tell them that, she lumps them in with a level 4 class and calls the combined class Level 4.  This makes it twice as difficult for the teacher of the combined class and means that the level 3 students are struggling to keep up with the level 4 pupils in the class or the level 4 pupils get bored having to repeat level 3 moves with the influx students.  It’s never going to be a good way to teach, and it’s long term pain for short term (financial) gain.  Not the best way to run a railroad … or a salsa class.

Tomorrow the car goes in for service and I am getting a courtesy car. Wonder what it will be. We’ll all find out tomorrow. Me first, then Scamp and then you lot!