The Highs and the Lows – 8 November 2019

Cameras. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Panasonic Lumix TZ70 which is a wonderful pocket camera. Long, Long zoom, shoots in the malleable RAW format, nice comfortable grip and an ideal form factor. Its big drawbacks are the small sensor (the digital “film”) and its habit of sucking in dust to the lens and ultimately to the sensor. A tiny bit of dust on a DSLR sensor is a bit of a pain, as is a tiny hair. On a sensor that’s smaller than your pinkie nail, that tiny bit of dust is a great black blob. My Teazer has a host of those blobs and now has a hair to keep them company. That’s my reasoning for looking for a replacement. Not ‘another’ camera as JIC will have it, but a replacement. One in, one regretfully out.

I’ve been charting the price fluctuations of a Sony RX100iii for the past few weeks and had a look at the camera in Jessops which was the cheapest of the local shops and Amazon too. Today when I checked, the price had risen by £30 from £449 to £479. The price hike, I presume is so they can ‘reduce’ the price again for Black Friday at the end of the month. It looked like it was out of the question, but I had a second runner in the race and thought I’d have a look at it. Went to JL and they had it in stock it was a Panasonic LX10 (I knew you’d want to know that JIC), but although it had a viewfinder, it didn’t have tilting screen which I now use a lot on my Olys. Bummer! Then I noticed in the reduced section in JL, the Sony I’d been denied by Jessops false price hike. Better than that, it was a kit, complete with a finger grip and a leather case. Best of all, it was about £100 below even the original asking price for the kit in Jessops! I took it. Things were on the up, perhaps. Scamp had got herself ‘another’ pair of jeans in M&S, so she was a happy bunny too.

Came home and went to lunch at Milano Express at Old Inns. Pizzas were a bit of a disappointment, lovely light, well-fired base, but far too heavy on the cheese. Must ask for less cheese next time. Had a relaxing lunch and Scamp was driving on a beautiful sunny day.

By the time we got home there was hardly any time to grab a photo and I did want to unpack this small miracle camera. It was small, it is tiny. Without the finger grip it’s very difficult to hold. Quite slippery. The controls, too are tiny and the menu is a labyrinth of jargon filled abbreviations. You can control the camera using NFC which is great, but the software is a bit clumsy and doesn’t always work. Also, the ‘control’ you have is whether to shoot with a time delay or not. No chance to change aperture or shutter speed. No clue what you’re focusing on. It’s all a bit hit or miss, but mostly miss. Long story short, although the camera is perfect and looks like it’s never been used, I think it may go back on JL’s shelf soon.

Today’s PoD is a slice of pomegranate, but could equally well be a slice through my befuddled brain!

Tomorrow we have no plans.

Mainly Dancing – 6 November 2019

Today was dull and cold, but the dancing was good.

We drove in to Glasgow today under a dull November sky. We’d had another short practise this morning and I felt I’d got all four parts of the new routine off pat. So what happened? Michael was back and he wanted us to dance the old routine instead, Over the Rainbow. I couldn’t say I was Over the Moon about it, but needs must when the Michael drives. He added a bit of spice to the mixture by mixing up the couples and thankfully I got one of the ‘experts’ and Scamp got Anne Marie, the second in command.

We both survived Over the Rainbow and were allowed to go back to our normal partners, then we started on the new routine, and I must admit we were almost flawless. Others weren’t so lucky, but after last week, I know how that feels. We even went on to the next part of the routine which is the Forward and Reverse Sleeves which sounds as if it’s part of a knitting pattern, more than a dance routine. It is a bit more complicated than Over the Rainbow, but that’s to be expected. The main thing is we survived Jive and then it was time for Waltz.

We weren’t so perfect with the ballroom, but we did brush up on some of the routines in both Waltz and Quickstep. Who knows, we might even be able to dance at Stuart and Jane’s Christmas Ball without crashing into folk.

Went to see Dougie’s pictures – first time for Scamp and second time for me. The ones I liked are still stunning and Scamp was impressed with the quality of the prints.

Had a look for the Sony camera in City Centre Cameras in Parnie Street, but it was out of stock. After coffee we drove home through the gathering gloom. Not even 3.30 and the light was going. Today’s PoD is of some tangled Boris Bikes on Queen Street. Nothing great about it at all, but I liked the random chaos of the grey metal frames.

Tomorrow we have no plans.

Singing, Photographs and Numpties – 2 November 2019

Today was going to be a busy day with a load of culture.

Today I was dropping Scamp off in Baillieston at midday for a choir rehearsal and then I was off into Glasgow to see Dougie’s photographs of Cuba.

The first part was fairly easy although the sat nav took us by a different route from that chosen by Google Maps. No big problem though because it got us there, possibly quicker than Google would have. Dropped Scamp off and headed for Glasgow. Took a wrong turning, but followed my nose and the lie of the land and found my way on to the M8 again at Easterhouse.

Got to Glasgow and parked on level 6 of Buchanan Galleries. Even then it was just a lucky space. Don’t usually have to go that high! When I was walking down to Tolcross where the exhibition was, I did notice more than the normal amount of Saltire clad Scotsmen (and women, but mainly men). The worrying bit was the amount of police roaming George Square. Much more than a normal Saturday.

Got to Dougie’s exhibition and had a word with him. Some lovely prints on the wall. Didn’t even ask the price because:

  1. If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.
  2. I’d been in such a rush to get there, I hadn’t had time to go to the bank and I only had £10 in my pocket. That said, £10 was the price of the catalogue, signed catalogue too by both artists, so not that bad.

Listened to the introduction to the gallery and the ethos behind the photos. Then the two photogs took us through a few of their photos, explaining the reasons for hanging them. Dougie spoke no Spanish and Roberto Chile, the other photog spoke no English, so the translator was kept busy. My one criticism of the event was the translator. He spoke in a monotone all the time. Shannon (Dance teacher Shannon) was there. She would have been a much better translator and would have injected a bit more life into the talk, and the occasional “Ooo la la” too. I must suggest it to Dougie.

Too many people there and too few seats, which meant I was leaving with a sore back. Walked back up the hill and found that the Saltire Army must have been breeding. There were hundreds of them all being whipped into a frenzy by some opinionated numpty with a microphone. The crowd did, however, give me the opportunity to take some crowd photos. Best one I got was That Selfie Moment which made PoD.

Walked up to the car and was trying to get out when I came across a poor woman trying to reverse what I suspect was her husband’s rather large automatic Audi out of a tight parking space. She was in a tizzy and had got herself into a position where it was almost impossible for her to move back in to the space and impossible to get out. I took the bull by the horns and gave her some simple driving instructions and between the two of us we got it out without any bumps or scrapes.

Drove to Tesco to get lunch and then realised that it was 3.30pm and Scamp’s concert started at 4.00pm. Dumped the loaf that would have been my lunch and drove back in to Baillieston and just got there in time. Thoroughly enjoyed the Faure Requiem. An hour’s peaceful music in a busy day.

Dinner was a dire curry from Bombay Dreams. Not sure what was wrong with it, but it wasn’t their best. Suffice to say if the next one isn’t any better we’ll be looking for an new Indian take-away.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk and there’s talk of a practise session for Jive, Quickstep and Waltz in the afternoon.

Sunny Coatbridge – 289 October 2019

Beautiful day. Too good to stay in.

Stayed for a while to talk to Margie and cause ructions in the Gems group, then did as I suggested I would yesterday and made a sharp exit.

Since we are taking June to get her eyes checked on Thursday, it made sense to do a quick recce of Coatbridge. I was pretty sure I knew where I was going, and I was right. More importantly, I found where the parking was. There’s not a lot of it in Coatbridge and most of it is either owned by Asda or NLC education department, neither of which I trust with the Red Juke. I’m sure there are other more secure parking places near the building. Google will know, even if I don’t.

Since I was in Coatbridge, I thought I’d have a look at the grand building Clive and I had investigated on Google Maps. It took a bit of finding, but today with the sun shining on it, it did indeed look very grand. It also looked like the original building had been there for a long time. I don’t know how much of it IS original now, but it looks expensively refurbished. Didn’t want to risk taking photos of it for fear of security taking an interest in me. Maybe another day. On the way there, I discovered that Coatbridge has a cricket club. Who would have thought that?

On the way home I stopped at St Mo’s and that’s where I got the PoD.  I just thought the nearly naked tree looked a great shape against that bright blue sky.  Later I though about straightening up the slope of the grass, but eventually decided it looked ok like that.  I must look next time and see if it really does slope.

Back home and after dinner we set off for Glasgow and Salsa. Tonight we learned that New One No 2 is now called Timber. Named after a snake I believe! Jamie G also tried to reinvent a couple of moves from last week. The first one, a Rueda move, he decided could be extended to run infinitely. It caused a fair bit of confusion. The second one which might or might not have a name could be converted to a follower’s move according to him. I don’t know if many of the followers or any of the leaders managed it.

Today the demand was for a sketch of coins or dosh or smash or loose change. I had to cadge some extra spondoolicks to bolster my meagre collection, but then, it is nearly the end of the month.

We have plans for tomorrow, but only if the weather fairies behave. It’s 1.2ºc just now, so we’ll have to be well wrapped up.

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.

Some days are good. This one was – 18 October 2019

Today started with some good news from Hazy. Well done you. I’m glad that it worked out for the best in the end. Saves a lot of hassle and neither of you need or deserve that.

Once Scamp had recovered from that and from the numbness from the jag she got so the dentist could fill her tooth, I cancelled my contract with the Vodies, requested my PAC code and asked for the iPhone to be unlocked. Free at last from Vodafone! Then we drove up to Tesco to see how much it would cost for a new phone. I already knew, but it made sense to ask an expert and to get a chance to look at and touch the new piece of plastic and glass. With that in mind, I could go in to Glasgow and see what the big three would offer.

First stop was going to be O2, but there was a climate protest going on outside the shop and I had to get some photos of that first. The girl in the shop was trying hard to push the Huawei and I didn’t really want that. I’ve already got a Samsung tablet that works really well and I thought I’d like a Samsung phone too. I hate being pushed into something, so I said thanks, but no thanks.

Next stop was EE. Nobody there was interested in speaking to us, so we left and I got today’s PoD which was a wee man playing the fiddle and walking the tightrope at the same time. Very clever. Got a few photos and dropped a quid or so in his hat.

No point in going in to Vodafone, so I dropped in to Carphone Warehouse instead where one bloke explained the difference between the Huawei and the Samsung. He seemed to come down on the side of Samsung, my side. I said I’d think about it and we went to Paesano to think about it.

With a number 1 (no garlic, extra rocket) for Scamp and a number 3 for me, we mulled over the options and I almost decided to go for the Tesco deal, using O2 masts. Walked back down the road and had a coffee in Nero to further digest the pizza and the technology overload. Came out and decided to try Carphone Warehouse. Spoke to a different bloke who explained the options in my price range and I settled on an EE Samsung A40 64GB. It looks like it will do everything I want. Hopefully it will do the business for the 24 months I’m booked for DV. Still need to use my iPhone for a while until the PAC code brings my number in to the new phone, hopefully on Monday.

Today’s Inktober called for “Nuts” I chose the edible variety. Of course I could have opted for the steel, brass or copper, hexagonal or square variety but you can’t eat your subject when you do that. Eating your subject removes the ability to compare the sketch with the posed subject. Something I try to do if at all possible.

No plans for tomorrow. It was to be Embra, but the weather in the east is to be worse than here in the almost west, so don’t know where we’ll go.

Another day not wasted – 17 October 2019

Today we had decided we’d go out somewhere again. I chose where today.

Out fairly early and I thought I knew how to get to Rouken Glen in Glasgow, but I came off the M77 one slip road too early and ended up having to program the sat nav and drive through a cluster of roads I’d never been on before. Next time I’ll trust the sat nav and not my intuition. Got there after a grand tour of the South Side. Found a place to park, squeezing into a space in a car park that was designed for about 300 cars, with only about 20 actual cars in it.

Scamp wanted some crocus bulbs to plant in the front grass. It’s not a lawn, it’s not a green, it’s front grass. She planted some last year about this time and they looked lovely in little groups in the springtime. The first packet, in fact the only packet I saw on the rack was called Dorothy. Bright yellow crocuses. Very fitting in view of our visit to Ayrshire last week, so we took them. Also got a packet of loose crocus bulbs in what we hope were mixed colours. Scamp also got a pot of mixed, real, heather. They also had imitation heather which looked real, but wasn’t as interesting as the real, real heathers we got. I got a kit for growing chillies. Finally, we got an oval planter which was great for carrying all the other things. We put them in the Juke boot and went for a walk, because, although we had driven through a few rain showers on our way to the South Side of Glasgow, it was fine now and the sun was shining. Walked around the park and admired the trees in leaf. It was one of those trees, a Hornbeam that made PoD. Try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of the flare from the sun, so I just had to accept it and I now think it looks ok. I did manage to use my adaptable lens hood to good effect later in the walk.

Loads of folk had arrived while we were walking and there must have been about 30 cars now in that big car park. It seemed that most of them had disgorged weans and dogs, because they were everywhere. Many of the weans were gathered under big spreading Chestnut trees picking up chessies or conkers if you’re English. Anyway, great fun was being had by all.

We had a quick lunch in the garden centre. Soup was good. Cakes were excellent but coffee was dire. I think the espresso machine was only there for show. I’m certain my coffee came out of a jar, not a bean. There was certainly a degree of sleight of hand in its making.

Drove home and just as we were getting out of the car, the rain appeared and stayed on and off all afternoon. Scamp didn’t even get her heather planted, but I expect she will tomorrow.

Today’s topic from my Inktober list was “Crumpled Paper”. Crumpled paper may sound simple to draw, but it a difficult subject to draw in ink. With pencil you can add a bit of soft shading. That’s not really possible in ink, especially if you’re just using ink. I could have used a water brush to soften the edges of the lines and give a bit of tonality, but I decided not to and to draw with pen only for a change. This is the result. Parts are good, parts are not. That’s just the way it is sometimes.

Scamp had dentist in the morning tomorrow. We may go in to Glasgow later, depending on the weather and the denture situation.

Dancing – 16 October 2019

Unlike yesterday, we woke to rain.

However, as the morning progressed, so the weather improved and by midday the sun was shining. Time to go out and do some dancing.

No Michael today, so we had Anne Marie. Today we went over Somewhere Over The Rainbow again, and again we wore away some of the rough edges of the routine. I think it’s about as good as it’s going to get. I just hope we can remember:

a. The sequence of the moves.
b. The little tweaks we learned today.

If we can do that, I think we can progress on to the moves we learned today. New moves for an, as yet unnamed, Jive routine. One of the moves we’d done before, but the name evades Scamp and I and the second one we’re calling Knee, 3 kicks, because that’s a basic description of it. That was all Jive. We didn’t have time to do any waltz, but we did cover a new routine we’re learning for Quickstep. As with all quickstep routines, it’s the combination of Slow and Quick that cause me the most of my problems. Scamp seems to have no difficulty with them at all. It ’s just the way her brain works I think. Wired differently from mine.

Back home there was just enough time for a quick walk over to St Mo’s to feed the ducks on the remains of my loaf and some other bread that was as dry as a bone in the kitchen. The ducks didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. I got today’s PoD walking in the woods. I’d have liked to have used the 9mm lens, but I hadn’t brought it. The 14mm did a fairly good job and I was happy with the result.

Today’s sketch task was “A Frog”. I tried a quick sketch in the morning of Kermit who holds some lavender in the back bedroom. It wasn’t very successful and Scamp told me the head was the wrong shape. This confirmed what I already thought. After dinner I had another go and took more time to get the proportions of the poor frog’s head a bit better. Yes, it worked better this time. The only problem is the poor soul looks a bit sad. It’s hard to get Kermit’s quizzical expression just the way he looks on TV. Never mind, it’s a fair likeness. Tomorrow it’s “Crumpled Paper”. Inktober brings loads of that!

Tomorrow we’re hoping to be up and out early because the weather looks better in the morning.

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.

Rain, Rebellion and Revolution – 6 October 2019

Woke to rain and hope JIC and Sim were having better weather for their 10k.

It continued to rain all morning, but by early afternoon there was the odd glimpse of sunshine. Not enough to tempt me out to take some foties, but there was the prospect of a dry hour later in the day.

I did manage to get a sketch done, though. After some soul searching I’d decided to rebel against the ‘Official’ Inktober prompts as being too vague and open ended, airy fairy even. However I still liked the idea of a prompt list, so I used a list for Every Day In May (EDiM) which I’d truncated to 30 topics and intended using for June (EDiJ), but then the trip to Wales made that impractical, so it’s languished on one of the wallpapers of the iMac. It was simplicity itself to chop the first five days off the list then add one on to the end to achieve the full quota of days. Yes, I know there are simpler ways to do it, but this one worked for me. That meant that today was “Something metallic and shiny”. I looked like I’d fallen into the trap I was trying to avoid, then I found the teaspoon drying on the draining board. It was metallic and shiny, and so today’s Inktober sketch was born.

With one in the bag, and the rain going off, I took my camera bag and walked around St Mo’s for a while and found today’s PoD. Actually I found it walking to St Mo’s rather than in the park. I was fed up taking dull autumn shots and set myself the task of shooting something colourful and the Berberis leaves were certainly that. Brightened up my mood too. I got a few other shots in St Mo’s, but the berberis was easily the winner of PoD.

When I came home I made some soup under Scam’s careful tutelage. I’ve made soup before, of course, but this was broth and made with a leek, a few carrots and a handful of broth mix. I’m a time and temperature person. I like to measure things accurately so that I can replicate them. Soup making by Scamp’s method (and my mum’s) is nothing like that. It’s “about that amount of water” and “just a pinch of this”. Very different to my careful weighing and reading the meniscus of water in a measuring jug. However, it worked, as I knew it would.

With the PoD done, the sketch also online and a plate of good soup in us we were ready to go dancing. A new venue tonight was Revolution in Mitchell Street. Big dance floor, but everywhere was just oh, so sticky. Once Shannon had dusted it with copious amounts of talc it was useable. Unfortunately we’d chosen to sit right under a speaker and by the time the music started properly, there were no other seats left. We’ll choose more wisely next time.

Back to have a baked potato each with Lamb Rack (for me) and Salmon Fillet (for Scamp). Not a bad day.

Spoke to JIC and found out the 10k had gone well with both of them achieving good times, but I think Scamp was disappointed that although Sim was ready for a Half Marathon, JIC wasn’t that keen.  Best to know your limits is my tuppence worth.  Know how far to push it but no further.

Tomorrow I’m intending going to see how much a pair of front tyres will cost me at Jim Dickson’s in the Village and try to get tomorrow’s sketch of “A Stone” done fairly early.