All I can say about today is “It’s not great” – 12 August 2018

A slight case of lack of concentration.

I offered to run the visitors to the train station to get the one-an-hour train to Embra. I was too busy talking and I took the wrong turning, or it could be that the Juke thought I was going to Auchinstarry, my usual turn-off at the roundabout. Anyway, for whatever reason I took turn-off three instead of turn-off four. I could have turned around after 100 metres or so, but decided to carry on and detour through Croy because we had plenty of time. Bad decision, because just after turning in to Croy, we got a ROAD CLOSED sign. Nothing for it but to do a 180º turn and head back to the roundabout and take the correct turning. Now the time was ticking away and if I didn’t get there on time it was an hour wait for the next train. Luckily I got there in time and the visitors got their train to Embra.

Came home, picked up Scamp and off we went to the station again. This time I took the correct exit from the roundabout and we headed off in the opposite direction to the visitors. To Glasgow to see the Men’s Road Race for the European Championships with the hope that the rain that had been falling since we woke up would stop. Got the train and walked out of the station into the deluge and grabbed some shots right away. Walked around the corner and caught some more action at a corner. Corners are always good for cycle action.

<Technospeak>
With some photos in the bag we walked down to Argyle Street because I wanted to change my ideas for more interesting photos. No longer fast shutter speeds and the inevitable high ISO on a dull, overcast day like today. I chose a slow shutter speed to balance a fairly small aperture in manual exposure mode and kept the ISO low as well. That gave me the basis of the PoD that is at the top. If all of the above mean nothing to you, then just see it as a way of getting that blurred effect. Used Lightroom and ON1 to accentuate the blur and saturation of the colours. I think it worked.
</Technospeak>

We walked through the Merchant City after that, but the rain was becoming heavier as we walked and we decided enough was enough. We went for coffee in the usual Queen Street Nero and then after a few more photos we crossed the road race circuit for the last time and went for the train home. Inevitably we just missed the train. On a Sunday there are only two trains an hour to Cumbersheugh, both leaving within 15 minutes of each other, leaving a gap of 45mins to the next pair. It was the second one we’d missed. I moaned about the stupidity of Scotrail’s timetabling all the way back to watch more cycling and laconic Scamp agreed “It’s not great”. That’s about as severe as Scamp’s comments get. We got one of the new extra-long electric trains back home.

JIC texted to say they were on the 5.30pm train from Embra and I drove down to collect them. This time I took the correct turn at the roundabout! On the way home some eejit in a silver Audi bumped into me at a roundabout and sped off without a second thought. Wee bump to the front wing and another scrape to paint over. Luckily the dash cam got a good record of the event. I’ve reported it to the polis, but I don’t see them doing anything about it. Nobody was hurt and no real damage done. Don’t think it’s worth claiming on my insurance as I’d end up paying more in excess and my premium would just increase next year. That’s just one of the joys of motoring today.

Tomorrow looks not as bad as today. The visitors may go in to Glasgow. I’ve got to go to fill in the forms for the polis. Oh joy of joys.

Stirling – 11 August 2018

The city with something for everyone.

While JIC, Sim and Steffi were visiting Stirling Castle, we too, or we two, were also in the town. It’ll never be a city to me. It’s just a jumped up town with a good curry shop and an interesting art gallery, oh yes, and a Waterstones and a Nero. The rest I can do without quite happily. Glasgow? It’s a city. Embra is a city too, Even Aberdeen is a city covered in granite and seagulls, but Stirling is just a decent sized town. Our reason for visiting today was to have lunch in that good curry shop. A few years ago it was on a downward slope, but it seems to have got its act together again and is now back on the up. New seating and maybe a bit less scruffy interior, but thankfully they decided to keep the menu as it was. Wise people. Scamp’s Veg Pakora followed by Veg Dhansak seemed to satisfy the lady and although my Haggis Pakora was a bit heavy and my Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna was a bit too spicy, it was deliciously sweet and full of flavour, so I won’t complain. It seems, like I said, that they are back on track. The foodies said so!

Had a look in the Art Gallery and appraised the offerings there. Some were just too twee and rejected out of hand, but a couple of others were in the category or “I’d but that if my lottery ticket came up”. Not having bought a lottery ticket, that purchase was unlikely, but the artist, Julian Mason, really had worked out how to paint wet water. As if I could do anything like that.

When we’d parked we couldn’t help but notice the number of Italian motorhomes that seemed to have taken over the carpark. They were still there when we were going home. Scamp thought they were something to do with the European Championships which finish tomorrow. It’s as likely an explanation as any.

Not long after we got home, the other three arrived back from Stirling Castle and Doune Castle where Steffi had re-encacted the Quest for the Holy Grail, complete with coconut shells, as so many have done in the past I seem to remember.

I drove them all in to Glasgow to meet ’The Boys’, Andy and Chris, with respective wives. We’re not expecting them back until late when old folks like us will be tucked up in bed. On the way back I got some ice cream for Scamp and me from the cafe in Muirhead. Also got some Oddfellows sweeties and a stick of Gin ’n’ Tonic rock which tasted neither of Gin, nor of Tonic. Disappointing. Oddfellows are half finished though!

Today’s PoD is Scamp’s little rose bush she has grown from seed. It’s Sunday name is Little Gem, but it’s always been called Rosie and it flowers continuously all summer. It deserves its place as PoD.

Tomorrow the visitors may be going to Embra and we may go to Glasgow. It all depends on the weather.

Flânerie – 9 August 2018

Flânerie: Aimless strolling or lounging; idleness.

Sounds about right. I got the bus in to Glasgow and go to see a photography exhibition Steven Berkoff: Gorbals 1966. It was a really interesting exhibition. All monochrome prints of the Gorbals and from a time when I was just starting to take an interest in photography. Also from a time when I started work. There was a picture of one bloke walking past a bar with a wild head of hair. It could almost have been me. I’d never set foot in the Gorbals, and he looked a few years older than me, but it could almost have been me.

On my way down from the bus station, I took some shots of buildings and stuff that I found interesting. That’s what’s good about going in yourself. You have time to take what you like, reject what you don’t and you don’t feel that you’re holding anyone back. No need to go shopping if you don’t want to (I didn’t want to today). Most of the shots I took were buildings, but I did stray into the Merchant City Festival area on the way back and grabbed some photos of the goings on there. PoD went to the shiny glass building on Queen Street, or to be more accurate, the reflections of clouds on that building. Every time I see it, I see something different.

With a few photos in the bag and the inspiration of those old photos I got the bus back. While I was waiting this big loud english girl came along pushing a pram and with another one in tow. Then her dim looking partner brought another one along. She sat down and the inevitable phone came out. Then she started swearing at the phone about some “stupid fu$*in’ bitch” who had sent her an offensive message on Facebook and then immediately blocked her and how she couldn’t then tell her exactly what she thought of her. The noise level got really high and then the kids started crying, but she didn’t attempt to tone it down or pacify the kids. She just kept ranting on. Poor bloke, I thought. We’ve only got to put up with that for ten minutes, he’s got the rest of his life to face that. Luckily they stayed downstairs while I got upstairs and into the front seat so I could drive!

Scamp was working in the garden when I got home. We lifted the small pot of potatoes and only got 370g which was well down on the first lot. We think the problem was that the plants were too dry. Still, they tasted fine in Scamp’s Chicken with Rats and potatoes.

Tomorrow is to be much like today, dry and partly sunny. We may go out somewhere in the afternoon.

I walked into a door – 7 August 2018

Today, a Tuesday, we were going dancing.

So far we’ve had ballroom classes on a Wednesday, a Thursday and a Friday. Today we added a Tuesday to the list. The only weekday we haven’t had has been a Monday, not yet, anyway. Today saw a definite improvement. The Waltz was better and we were introduced to the mysterious Spin 7 in Jive. Even the Tango was getting better. All of this was a miracle in itself after the black monkey I brought to the basement of Blackfriars pub.

The reason was this. When we left the house, I was ducking down to avoid a low hanging branch of the chestnut tree we park under, and simultaneously opening the car door. I whacked my nose off the corner of the door and bells started ringing in my head. I ended up with two cuts to the side of my beak. To say the red mist descended would be an understatement. The sensible thing to do would have been to go back into the house, clean the cut and maybe put some ice on my beak to halt the progress of any bruising, but when have I done anything sensible? No, I drove off with a paper hankie in one hand, dabbing away the blood when there was an opportunity. Nothing can stop the desire to go dancing. Parked in silence and that silence continued all the way down through the streets to the the basement of the pub. We arrived just in time to start the class. I firmly believe that the black monkey only leaves you when it finds some other person who deserves its attention. Some poor soul left that place with the cares of the world on their shoulders, disguised as a black monkey. Me? I was in a much better mood and Scamp breathed a sigh of relief. I don’t think she believes in black monkeys and you have to believe in them, for them to cling to you. Some call them black dogs, but for me it’s always monkeys.

Coffee after the dancing to discuss what we’d learned today and what we need to improve. We’d had a few pointers from Michael. The most enlightening for us was the importance of ‘The Frame’ and ‘The Hold’. The Hold especially made so much difference to the difficult second part of the waltz. It’s sometimes the little tweaks that make the biggest difference. The other two couples didn’t bother to use what he taught us. One couple think they know it all. The other pair have just started learning to walk upright, so it meant nothing to them.

Got today’s PoD in that storeroom of photo opportunities, The GOMA. All human life is there, and a few other species too. I got another shot too. Another sketch on a junction box at the side of Candleriggs. I’ve seen one by the same artist before only a few meters from this new one. Impressive work in what looks like wax crayon or chinagraph pencil.

Home with a sore nose. I got a few strange looks, but if asked if I was alright, I had the answer off pat.

“I walked into a door!”

Merchant City Festival – 5 August 2018

Today we tried to do as the CITRAC signs ordered and Use Public Transport.

Well, we would have used the nearest public transport, the slow X3, but it didn’t want to play today. Stood waiting and waiting before eventually giving up and walking to Condorrat. There we got the fast X something else which whisked us into Glasgow and we arrived there earlier than if we’d caught the missing X3. Went for a coffee and a wee pastry in Nero to fortify us for the day ahead, not knowing when or where we’d have time to eat again. Actually it wasn’t nearly as desperate as that. We were going to the Merchant City Festival which kicked off on Friday night, but was running at full steam today. On the way we had to cross the cycling circuit of the road race for the European Championships. Today it was Ladies day. It’s not hard to find the Merchant City, even if you’re a tourist. You just follow your ears. The sound of samba bands even drowned out the noise of whoever was on stage in George Square. Music, music everywhere, but thankfully no ‘Bastard Drummers’ or student pipers busking. Real music for a change.

First band we heard was the enthusiastic Katumba Salsa Band from Liverpool. Then, after wandering around we chanced upon the Pulse of the Place children’s band from Edinburgh who played a spirited samba version of the Doctor Who theme. Time for food again and Scamp got some churros while I waited in the queue for a margherita pizza. Both were excellent. The churros were fresh out of the deep fat fryer and covered in sugar. The pizza straight out of the wood-fired pizza oven on the back of a wee Italian three wheeler van. While we ate we listened to the Blast Furness Carnival Band. A slightly more mature group of individuals from Ulverston, dressed in striking red and black outfits. They were playing New Orleans jazz. Along the way we had bumped into Mr Mackintosh celebrating his 150th birthday and looking very spritely for his age. He was accompanied by one of his associates, both of them sporting what looked like extremely false moustaches. His wife was also with him (without moustache, false or otherwise). For some reason Chic was carrying with him a facsimile of one of his famous chairs and was encouraging people to pose on it. We rounded off today’s visit with an amazing performance of D-Construction by a French ’modern dance group’, Compagnie Dyptik. Some fantastic moves, jumps and leaps through space, all done with quite intimidating eye to eye contact and audience participation. Absolutely mesmerising.

After that we walked back through a eerily deserted looking Glasgow because all the roads had been closed for the road race. By this time the race was in its final stages and that’s where today’s PoD came from. One lone cyclist on the long descent of West George Street.

Got the X3 back home, yes they were running. Then had sausages, home-made beef burger, accidentally deconstructed beef olive (which will be forever called beef Clive in this house – long story) and a baked potato for dinner. Scamp had a parsimonious baked potato and beans. Followed by Scamp’s pineapple sorbet. After our usual Sunday coffee (with alcohol), we inspected the two hundred odd photos and videos and reflected on a good day.

Tomorrow, Scamp is booked for coffee in the morning and again in the afternoon. I’m going to fit the pedals on my bike and the cleats on my shoes and hopefully take the bike out without falling off!

Dancin’ and Meltin’ – 2 August 2018

Raindrops keep falling …

The garden was a wonderland this morning. The drizzle and smirr we had last night had resulted in lots of little beads of water on all the plants. I tried both macro lenses on them, but surprisingly, it was the little 30mm on the Oly that produced the PoD. Raindrops on a sweet pea. With a photo in the bag, next on the agenda was dancin’.

We left early, not knowing just how busy Glasgow would be with the start of the European Championships. Traffic was light, but we had to park two floors higher than usual in the carpark and that sort of told us that the town was indeed busy. Lots of guards round George Square, looking officious, scanning people and opening their bags. Yes, I know they have to be ultra careful these days, but this was the first real day and I think they just wanted to use those scanners! Some crap bands were belting out noise from the covered stage that had been set up in the square. People I’d never heard of, although that is no indication of their fame. At least the rain had held off.

We got down to the pub, which hosts the dance class, a bit early because of our early start.  The door was locked which is unusual. A class sounded as if it was in full swing though, the previous class is an advanced jive class, one man and loads of women. We decided we’d go for a walk round the block as we were a wee bit early. Arrived back just a bit before starting time and managed to get in because one of the barmen was coming out. Nobody was dancing, then the other two couples we share the class with started in on the waltz. That’s when we realised that the class was starting at 1pm, not 1.30 as usual. Oops, we were late! Soon got into the waltz and I almost mastered the turn for the second promenade. I think I would have mastered it if it wasn’t for the other two couples standing arguing right in the dancing line. Some people are so thoughtless. After we’ve finished our line, or more likely aborted it, we clear out of the dancing space, but these other couples don’t bother and walk right in front of you. One day soon there will be a collision and there will be no dash cam to record it.

After the waltz we had a short go at ballroom Tango. It’s about as much like Argentinian Tango as Ballroom Salsa is like Cuban. It was still difficult enough for me.
Then it was jive time and we were attempting to master the first six spins. Almost did it too with a little help from Scamp telling me what spin came next. Still a bit of practise needed there. The place by this time was melting. Sweat was dripping from all of us. I think they must have had the heating turned up.

Cup of coffee in Nero to cool down, then back home. Dinner was Aloo Saag from the Bosh book and although it is fiddly to make, it tastes very authentic. Best of all, there’s enough for tomorrow too.

That was about it. The rain that threatened all day finally arrived just about 4pm and outstayed its welcome. It’s becoming a bit of a pain now. Enough rain!  Go and play somewhere else. We’ll tell you when we need you again.

Tomorrow? Maybe the dreaded Decathlon at Braehead. Worse still, it may also include a visit to IKEA!

Another wet day – 1 August 2018

We shouldn’t complain, should we.

Another day that dawned fairly bright and fairly dry, but deteriorated gradually all through the morning and then in the afternoon started a steep decline.

In spite of the weather, or maybe because of it, I decided that today wasn’t going to be a macro day or a flower day. Every month I make a screensaver of the last month’s PoDs and when I previewed the July screensaver it appeared to be totally composed of those beastie and flowery photos. No mono. No landscapes, few cityscapes and no faces. That, I’m sure is what made me want to shoot a landscape (or two) today.

With that in mind, I drove up to Fannyside, intending to get some landscape shots in the dull weather, then the rain came on, but that might just add a bit of moodiness to the images, I thought. That’s when I saw the burned out van. Hmm. I’d fitted a wide angle lens to the Nikon and that van just screamed out for wide angle, moody sky and monochrome. Unfortunately, the sky was anything but moody. It was milk bottle white behind the van. Turn through 90º and the sky was a bit more interesting, so concentrate on getting a good shot of the van and then composite the sky in later. Not PS this time, but ON1. I’d seen it done the other night on a YouTube video. It wasn’t quite as easy as it appeared (is it ever?), but I managed it without the aid of Photoshop. Quite liked the finished effect.

By the time I was coming home the rain was ramping up, or thumping down if you prefer it. I don’t think that would have added anything to the photo. I liked it as it was. Nice to see some mono and landscape squirting out of Lightroom for a change.

I danced salsa for two hours tonight and enjoyed most of it. Especially because my knee wasn’t hurting as bad as last week. I think it may be on the mend, but the big test will be tomorrow. Horrendous traffic going in 24 minutes allegedly between Junction 13 and Charing Cross (normally 6 minutes). Although there was an accident after Junction 16, most of the holdup seemed to be folk travelling in to Glasgow to see the opening of the European Championships. I hope they weren’t expecting something like the Olympic Games. This is Glasgow. Two bottles of fizzy water and half a dozen sparklers, that’s all you’ll get. Anyway, we managed to slip into the moving part of the queue on the motorway without causing any problems and made Charing Cross in record time.

Tomorrow we’re dancing ballroom and jive or jive and ballroom, who knows at 1pm. Unless we get a text before then to ask if he can change it to 5.30am on Saturday. Don’t laugh, it’s well within the bounds of possibility.

Lunch at the Lantern – 28 July 2018

Too wet for Embra, so Glasgow for lunch today.

Today dawned wet and miserable. Almost a complete turnaround from yesterday and with the promise of more to follow. We got the bus in to Glasgow. That’s becoming the rule rather than the exception these days. It takes a bit more time than driving, but means we can both have a drink with our lunch. Went for a drink in All Bar One, forever to be known as Al Barone to us. G ’n’ T for Scamp and a pint of Joker IPA for me. From there on to La Lanterna where we had lunch booked. Lunch for Scamp was Arancini, followed by Penne with Chicken and Mushroom and I had Bruschetta followed by Risotto with Salsiccia and Sun Blushed Tomatoes. Both were deemed excellent and possibly just too much or too filling, which probably amounts to the same thing. I know that mine lingered with me for a fair time afterwards. Maybe just too rich. Still, it was a good lunch. We’ll probably be back.

A walk around town afterwards, still looking for extra cutlery that’s proving elusive. Bought a pair of linen trousers in the sale in Debenhams. Got today’s PoD on Queen Street. It’s reflections on that great mirror of a building on that street, just across from the GOMA. After that it was the bus home.

Spent the night watching Wreck it Ralph! Simple things and simple minds. Just escapist fun which is always good.

Tomorrow? As I said, it looks like more of the same and possibly even wetter than today. May stay at home, but it doesn’t look as if we’ll need to water the garden!

Just a wee bit dancin’ – 25 July 2018

After all the excitement yesterday, today was a normal Wednesday.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and compared our experiences of the Becky Chambers Q&A. As you would expect, we both had different expectations and feelings about the night, but both agreed it was interesting.

Because of the summer holidays or maybe because of the hot weather, classes for ballroom are at random times and days today it was normal day but at 12.30 instead of 1.30. We had almost a private lesson again and went over Spin 6 again and also got introduced to Spin 7. This is Jive I’m talking about here. After that we went over the second half of the waltz routine, the bit I’ve been struggling with for weeks. It’s the strangest thing, some times it works perfectly and others it is a shambles. Towards the end, I was beginning to get the hang of it, but Anne Marie, the teacher we’ve had for the last two weeks is off to Australia tomorrow to see her daughter, so we’ll be in Michael’s hands for the next month or so. We’ll survive.

Took my bike out in the afternoon for another 25 minutes of actual cycling with a half hour or so’s interruption for photo taking. As it turned out, none of the photos were very good, so I fell back on an iPhone shot I’d taken in Glasgow earlier of two bottles talking to each other. At least, that’s how I saw it. I didn’t stage it, they were like that when I got there “Honest mister!” That became PoD.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Thai Flavours. Cooked en papillote (i.e. cooked in greaseproof paper). It’s a lovely way to cook fish, but I think I overdid the ginger. I’ll stick strictly to the recipe next time.

Went to salsa tonight and enjoyed the 7.30 class, but my knee was getting sore towards the end, so we didn’t stay for the 8.30 class, which was a shame for Scamp.  Another hot day.  We were so glad of the fans at the STUC.

Tomorrow morning I’m taking Shona to get an ambulatory BP monitor fitted in the morning. What fun for her! Physio in the afternoon.

Coffee, Sycophants and Nits – 24 July 2018

Coffee with Fred to start the day off.

Actually coffee wasn’t until midday and the day was well and truly started by then. Topics for discussion today were shed building, the dangers of dodgy wiring and laying paving slabs. All mixed in with our usual critiques of each other’s paintings.

After lunch Scamp and I started working on her garden videos which are a great way of recording what was where in the garden in July 2018. Finally got them converted to a reasonable size and a usable format then put them on the website. They will stay there for a week or so.  Here’s the link

Dinner was home grown potatoes with cabbage (and bacon for me). Then it was time to go meet an author.

Got in early to Glasgow because I wanted to have a look for a PoD. I found it up at the Art School. I went there to see if I could get some moody shots of the shell of the Mackintosh building which is being partly demolished amid great weeping and wailing from the vociferous luvvies who attended it. Glasgow council has finally made a courageous decision not to throw any more cash than is necessary at this money pit. One fire is a real shame. Two fires is a message. Let it go. Others will disagree, let them. My blog, my opinion. Anyway, I couldn’t get a decent shot past or over the safety cordon, so I chose instead to shoot some shots of the new building. I hadn’t noticed the stylised bird shape etched on to the surface of the building. I liked the way it shone in the sun and doesn’t it look a bit like a phoenix? Not exactly rising from the ashes, but it is a bit of a coincidence. It was an easy PoD. Not so easy to process. That took Lightroom 6 for levels correction of perspective, Photoshop CS3 for adjustments to the sky. (The cloud just wasn’t quite in the correct place) and finally ON1 for extra colour tweaking. Ansel Adams was right, you don’t take a photo, you make it.

Finally got to the book signing which was on the top floor of Waterstones where there is a bar! Who knew?! Got a seat then became fidgety and started writing … in pencil … on a notebook – old style. This is what I wrote:

I’m sitting at the top floor of Waterstones in Glasgow waiting for Becky Chambers to appear to talk about her new book. I already have the book and also a birthday prezzy for Murdo which I got half price! Two rows in front of me is a girl with nits. She must be because she has a classic ‘bowl cut’ about an inch clear of her ears. Her hair is shaved into the wood below that line. Its awful looking, It’s the same cut as all the boys with nits had in Larky when I was wee, back in the ’50s. It probably cost her a fortune.
All around is the twittering noise of the twittering masses of the twenty-something, excitedly discussing what they’ve just read and how much they are going to enjoy this reading tonight. I must be the oldest here. The old bloke who’s stumbled in here thinking it was a political meeting or something. I feel so out of place. I’m not tweeting, I’m not twittering, I’m not excited. I don’t even have my phone out. Most folk in the room are on their phones, no doubt tweeting their excitement while verbally twittering. I must be the only one here who’s writing with a pencil on a notebook. The Nits Girl is making me itchy.
UPDATE – We’ve now had our safety talk and know where the nearest exit is. We haven’t yet had the life vest demo but the fasten seatbelt light comes on. Then I hear the captain call “Cabin crew, doors to automatic and cross check”. We’re off. She’s here!!!

After all that, the talk was just ok. A few dull questions from the Waterstones bloke and then the usual fanboys (and fangirls) with their hands up, shouting “Me miss!”, “Me miss!” Then it was over. Time to go home. Interesting to see Ms Chambers, but not something I’d write home about. Oh! I just did!

Watched “Rip It Up” tonight. A quite forgettable Haun’ Knitted Scottish production about how we started the rock scene for the whole world. EXCEPT, when Lulu was the subject, Scamp remembered being in the crowd that was there to watch her in Easterhouse. I’d downloaded the program at the weekend and when I watched it on the computer frame by frame, look what appeared. A star is born, and it isn’t Lulu!

Dancin’ early tomorrow then maybe manage another run on the bike.