An improving picture – 6 February 2021

It was actually dry when we woke today.

We’ve had so much rain recently, it was quite a surprise to look out of a window without raindrops on it. Even when Scamp announced she was going to walk down to the shops to get tonight’s dinner, it was still dry. I wasn’t going. I was staying to work on tonight’s sketch which involved people, or at least a person and I really need the practise in people drawing. When she returned, she reported that there was a bit of rain in the wind, but nothing like the last few days.

After lunch I went for a walk round St Mo’s. ‘Round the Policies’ as Colin would say. Just checking out the usual photo spots to see if there was anything worthwhile. I did see a crocodile, actually a log lying low in the water with two branch stubs that looked like eyes. Well, it looked like that to me. I thought it might make PoD, but a bit of chimping dispelled that thought. No, PoD went to some green blobs. Fruiting bodies of moss. I can’t remember when I first saw the ‘Green Blobs’, but it was many years ago and they were growing on a low tree branch. They are the most remarkable things and only really visible when you look carefully and it helps to be looking through a macro lens. With a potential PoD and a crocodile, it was time to head home.

Dinner tonight turned out to be, not the chicken that Scamp had lugged up from the shops, but a veg curry made from a Spice Tailor kit. It tasted brilliant, really superb. Scamp made it, that’s why.

With that done and the PoD sorted, I started making more detailed preparatory drawings for “Dance”. Finally got one I liked and laid on a few washes. It started to come together and that’s what went on display around the world on Facebook tonight. I know it’s not perfect, but it gives the feeling of movement, I think. That’s what I was aiming for.

Well, it stayed dry almost all day today but it’s to be much colder tomorrow if the weather fairies are to be believed. We’ll wait and wonder.

A walk in the park – 19 July 2020

The park in question was Glasgow Green. Long time no see.

Today at Scamp’s suggestion, we went for a walk along Glasgow Green. Simply ages since we’ve been down there, but today we did. We walked along to the McLennan arch. I can never remember whether it’s McLellan or McLennan. It’s definitely McLennan because I’ve just checked on Google so you don’t have to. Anyway, before I lose the thread, we walked along to the McLennan arch and from there along beside the river to the suspension bridge where eager joggers were running along it making it bounce. Always a source of amusement as long as you weren’t trying to take a photo with a slow shutter speed. I wasn’t, so it was funny.

Back home it was lunch time, then Scamp was off into the garden, weeding and pruning and generally plant bothering. I was struggling with Friday’s Sudoku. Friday’s!? I must be slipping. Eventually I gave up and wandered down to the shops via the wildflower area behind St Mo’s. Not a lot of insect life there today. A few butterflies and a ladybird that was determined to avoid the big man with the glass tube on a box. Couldn’t blame the poor thing. Imagine if you were being pursued by a giant carrying a glass tube and constantly poking it near you. That’s the stuff of nightmares. Or is that just me?
Anyway, I got the stuff I needed for pasta with meatballs. I’d made the actual meatballs earlier, a mix of pork mince and bacon which actually worked well.

Back home it was time to start making the sauce which was a basic marinara sauce same as I’d made last week. After cooking away for 40 minutes or so it was reduced enough and the meatballs were cooked. It tasted ok, but really needed something more to make it sing. Maybe a few more herbs or some spice to brighten it up. Maybe next time. Scamp has salmon with potatoes and a spoonful of my sauce. She wasn’t impressed with her salmon either. Maybe it was just us. Maybe it was just a bad day.

Pudding was “a sort of Eton Mess”. It didn’t sound all that impressive, but it tasted brilliant. Scamp as usual talking down her culinary expertise. Simple and tasty too.

Big test next. Will Scamp like the Sunday Coffee? I needn’t have worried. It got a definite thumbs up. Especial mention for the creamy foamed milk. She even bragged about it when we talked to JIC later. Found out that he doesn’t have to cool the boiler in his upmarket coffee machine because it has two boilers. One for steam and one for coffee. That explains it. Mine does the job for me and produces great espressos and has the ability to make creamy foamed milk too. You just as Scamp and she’ll tell you.

Apart from the walk in The Green today there wasn’t a lot going on, although I got a PoD which was the second shot I took and achieved about 15,000 steps and eight active hours. Didn’t do a sketch, will cover that tomorrow, hopefully. We may go out.

Rained again last night – 21 May 2020

Woke up this morning to wet pavements and just the hint of rain in the air. Scamp was delighted. The garden needs the rain.

By the time we were up, Scamp got a text to say her prescription was ready to pick up from the chemist, so off she went to collect it. I stayed home and flew a plane from Glasgow to Prestwick and tried to remember how to land it using ILS (Instrument Landing System). All the different planes I’ve got in my virtual hanger use different autopilots and trying to keep track of them all is difficult to say the least. Pilots may get exorbitant wages, but they certainly work for their money. It wasn’t the glorious success I hoped it would be. I also messed around with some oranges trying to get a suitable setup for Lockdown Library No 39 today, again with very little success.

Scamp arrived home with another clinking bag, but I forgave her, because there was beer in it this time as well as a bottle or two of wine. She asked me to bring down the last bag, and could I please see if the car, which was up the top of the road, would fit into a space she wasn’t confident in driving in to. It would, and I did and in the boot as a thank-you there were two new folding garden chairs. We’ve only had one chair for ages and have been talking about getting another. She had managed to get two new ones for a knock down price. Delighted!

After lunch I walked down to the shops and came home with a lavender plant for Scamp, a bee hotel for, well, for bees – obviously! Also an assortment of sweets because … well, do I need an excuse? If I do, then it was because it was a beautiful sunny day and tomorrow is looking like it will not be beautiful or sunny. Lashing rain and strong winds forecast. I got changed into a pair of shorts a tee shirt and a shirt and went off in search of photos. I got today’s PoD which was a little tree growing up through the leaf litter in the woods of St Mo’s. Caught a fleeting glimpse of a deer, but too fast and too far away for me to catch.

Came home and enjoyed a beer in the garden, then we had dinner in the garden too. Scamp had Cauliflower Cheese with Jersey Royal Potatoes. I added some grilled bacon to mine. Very nice sitting on our new chairs in the sun having dinner. Very civilised.

When it got too cool we went inside. While I was drawing and painting today’s topic which was Fruits, we watched ‘Glow Up’ on iPlayer. If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must see. It must be one of the most cringeworthy programs on TV. It’s a well tried format:

  1. Take a team of “I Want To Be On A Show” people
  2. Give them three tasks an episode
  3. Dump the weakest
  4. Repeat.

The ‘contestants’ are wannabe make-up artists and each one is more outrageous than the last. The “Judges” equally so. It’s a hoot! I recommend it to you.

That was about it. The “Fruit” turned out to be chopped up pieces of orange and I was fairly happy with the result. Viewable on Instagram or FB.

Title of today’s blog is the first line of the Tom Paxton song “The Things I Notice Now”. What do you mean “Who’s Tom Paxton?”

Tomorrow, as I mentioned, it looks like rain and gale force winds.

Just another sunny day – 5 May 2020

It was one of those unexpectedly good days. Expected it to be overcast and right from the start it was lovely sunshine.

Possibly it was because of that sunshine, but neither of us did very much in the morning. Scamp was reading and I was struggling through today’s Sudoku. Cup of coffee each and a bit of cake. After that we agreed that we needed milk and bread, so off we trotted to the shops. Big queues everywhere except The Food Factory, so that’s where we went. They didn’t have as much as M&S or Aldi, but we weren’t looking for much, so that sufficed for our shopping.

Back home, lunch for me was a panini wrapped round some tinned red salmon and lettuce. Ages and ages since I’ve had salmon of the tinned variety. It has a totally different taste from ‘real’ salmon. Makes you wonder what it’s made from. I doubt if there’s much fish in there. Scamp had tuna with lettuce on a panini and declared it fine. There again, tinned tuna is nothing like fresh tuna. Hardly the same colour and nothing like the taste. What is it really? To finish off lunch we had a piece of banana cake. It was truly delicious. I had two bits and I think Scamp had the same.

I’d a bit more work to do in the back room. I’m thinking about making a light box to photograph my drawings in and I was scrounging around for some cardboard to make it. I think I’ve managed to find enough. May start construction tomorrow after the plans are drawn up. I’ve been watching some folk making them on YouTube and they don’t look too difficult. We’ll see.

Got fed up and decided to take the Big Dog out for a walk in St Mo’s and Scamp decided a walk would do her good, so off we went. Went round the pond twice and that’s where I got the picture of the baby coot looking really straggly and scruffy. Strange how the area around their beak is like orange fur when it will later become the iconic white plate. They were deep in the horsetails and were difficult to spot and even more difficult to get a clear shot of. I shot about 20 frames, but it was the very first one that was the best and that made PoD.

We had a bit of a dance practise tonight and covered some of the sequence dances with Scamp trying to teach me a couple of new ones she’d seen Stewart and Jane doing in their little Lockdown Videos. Really appreciate them taking the time to do them.

Tomorrow I may go cycling, just may. It was warm in the sun today, but the east wind was cold. Tomorrow is to be warmer apparently. We’ll see.

A cold start – 13 April 2020

It had been cold during the night, but once the sun broke through, it soon warmed up and turned into another beautiful day.. Nothing much to do today and no need to go anywhere.

In the afternoon I went for a walk with the Nikon, a long tele lens and a macro lens. Carried the Oly 5 with Samyang 7.5mm lens in my pocket, just in case anything worked for it.

I’d had a problem yesterday with the Nikon. Some of the pics were blurry. Couldn’t explain it because they were all shot at 1/800th sec shutter which should have dealt adequately with camera shake. After some research, I began to suspect mirror slap which means that the mirror flipping up causes internal vibrations in the camera. Fancy modern cameras have a setting that reduces it, but the D7000 is the oldest of the 7000 series and doesn’t have that facility. What it does have is ‘Quiet Mode’ which I think may be the predecessor to the damping of the mirror. I switched it on today and it seemed to work. No visible, or should I say less visibly blurred shots. I’ll keep a watching brief.

I wanted to get some Hover Fly photos, but the hover flies, though hovering happily wouldn’t stay still once they’d landed which led to some interesting shots of empty grass stems. Also, they were easily spooked and so I couldn’t get close enough to use the macro lens and was trying my best with the long lens. It’s not nearly as good at fine detail as the macro. However, I did get some decent shots after a while.

Walking back home I noticed the light shining through the larch tree pine needles and they weren’t bothered by me getting close with the macro lens. One of the shots of them made PoD.  Polis car drove round St Mo’s car park when I was walking home, then positioned itself at the entrance.  Not so much looking for ‘baddies’ as much as acting as a deterrent for anyone foolish enough to think they can drive to the park to go for a walk.  Warning, police state approaching!

Back home, we sat in the garden for a while and enjoyed the late afternoon sun before it began to cool and I went in to make the dinner. Unusually for a Monday, it wasn’t pasta, but risotto. Chicken and Mushroom risotto. Worked out fine, and the next bit is just a reminder for me if I have to make it again.
Pan fried the chicken pieces in oil, then made the stock for the risotto. Once it was hot I transferred the chicken pieces from the pan to the stock pot. That way the flavour of the chicken juices was added to the stock. Seemed to work.

Put a sketch on Instagram today. Just a pencil sketch of a wee bowl that sits beside the TV. It looked lovely in the sunlight this morning. It’s the first of my Lockdown Library. Don’t know how long the series will continue. We’ll have to wait and see.

Up early tomorrow to get our Iceland delivery, all the way from Reykjavík I believe.

Better than we expected – 12 April 2020

We had expected a cold, cloudy day, but we got quite a lot of sunshine.

Scamp managed to grab a delivery slot for Saturday 18th from Tesco. Isn’t it strange that something so mundane as ordering a grocery delivery can bring a smile to our faces? It’s a measure of how our lives have changed. Anyway, while she set up the Saturday delivery, I amended our Tuesday delivery, adding a few things. Mainly because I’d never done that before. It’s also strange that something that’s being done by all the supermarkets is slightly different in all of them.

Both tasks completed, we went for a walk in St Mo’s. I took the Nikon and the little Oly 5 which doesn’t get out much now. I know how it feels. The Nikon produced some brilliant macro shots of furry looking ferns, a bright green blob (also known as a moss fruiting body) an a nesting coot. The Oly 5 with the fish-eye lens attached captured a wide angle view of St Mo’s. The PoD went to the furry fern crozier. The remainder can be seen on Flickr. The park wasn’t too busy today, just a few weans on bikes and a couple of adults taking their daily exercise. Scamp took my photo on the bench I’d earmarked for last Wednesday’s shot, but I’ll keep it on my phone for now, because I look guttered. It was meant to show off the tee shirt I got from Canute, but you can hardly see it. Pity, because I quite like it.

Scamp spent a half hour or so talking to Shona on the phone. I can’t imagine how that girl copes with Ben in a flat on lockdown. Anyone who has kids at this time must be absolutely round the twist trying to find something, anything, for them to do while they’re not at school.

We both spent half an hour speaking to JIC later and marvelled at the amount of gardening they’re getting done in the warm weather they get.  Got a fair bit of slagging from him for not being able to get a delivery from Ocado.  OK JIC, I walked into that one!

One idea I’ve had started from a picture I saw on Flickr. It’s an Instagram challenge to complete a drawing a day for the lockdown period. I’m a bit late coming to it, but it sound feasible. Starting it tomorrow. Small sketch posted from my phone.

That’s it for today. A bright, sunny, spring day in lockdown. Tomorrow will probably feel more like winter if the weather fairies are to be believed.

The day that never really began – 2 April 2020

Some days are full of things to do some are not. Today was in the latter group.

It was a cold day with strong winds in the morning and early afternoon. It didn’t lend itself to gardening or to photography, so Scamp resorted to dusting the bedroom furniture. I started tidying up the back bedroom, but soon tired of that. Spoke to Colin on the phone and found that he didn’t do “the what’s appy thing” so I didn’t go as far as trying to talk him through Zoom™. Did find out that his son-in-law is volunteering to deliver folk’s Click and Collect groceries in the surrounding villages. We agreed this was a very useful task, but only if you can actually get a C&C slot. The problem seems to be people block booking slots and the supermarkets are unable (or unwilling) to do anything about it. Still, an admirable use of time and labour.

After lunch, Scamp wanted a loaf, so I offered to make one, rather than wait in a long queue to get one loaf and feel foolish, having waited all that time with just a loaf to show for it. I knew I’d end up buying a basket of stuff we didn’t need. We have loads of flour, some of it getting close to its Use By date, so this was an ideal way to do something useful with it. Made the dough and left it to prove then went out for a walk just in case there was anything interesting out in the Coronavirus world, because although there were scattered clouds, the wind had died down. I did get a few pictures of some dogwood branches with the buds just opened and the leaves caught in the transmitted light of centre-jour (backlighting). Interesting, but not brilliant. It was only when I got home I saw a wee daisy just starting to shut down for the night because the sun was dipping down behind some houses. That became PoD.

Scamp made a lovely Chicken Stir Fry for dinner. No sticky chilli sauce, just veg, rice, chicken and a great deal of skill. A little soy sauce just as extra seasoning and it was perfect.

We had a dance practise tonight. Foxtrot, Quickstep and New Waltz with some jive routines we hadn’t practised in too long a time. Really enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s the practise at home that burns the routines into your memory. At least it’s that way for me. I won’t claim that I got it all right, but the majority of it worked … eventually. Before that we joined a straggling few at 8pm to clap for the NHS. Not nearly as many as last week.

Watched the national news tonight and oh my they are so depressing. Such a difference from the Scottish news who are quite upbeat by comparison. Scamp thinks it’s because the geography is so different in Scotland in that we have a lot of open space around us, unlike London where everyone lives in each other’s pockets. Whatever way it finally turns out, we can only look after ourselves and try our best to keep healthy.

Tomorrow, getting colder according to the weather folk. Maybe even snow.  Probably stay in and eat the bread I made.

House arrest for the auld yins – 15 March 2020

So Mr Hancock wants to keep the auld yins at home. He used to be funny too, in Hancock’s Half Hour. Not so funny now.

Woke to the news that the over 70s are to be isolated at home for a long time. We may be old and doddery Mr Hancock, but we can still understand numbers. How long is ’a long time?’ About as long as a piece of string I’d imagine. Left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

Anyway, on to today, proper:
Scamp drove us to Tesco to get the messages. Just the usual essentials. A bottle of Gin, a box of Tonic, a bottle of Wine and two bottles of Beer. Oh, and some of the usual extravagances like a loaf, some veg and a tin of beans. No tins of tomatoes – none on the shelf. No pasta – none on the shelf. Ditto toilet rolls and kitchen towels (who eats these?) Drove back home and disgorged the three bags of clinking essentials plus the fripperies. Lunch was a duck egg for Scamp and a omelette for me.

The sun was coming and going all day, but thankfully without any of the nasty wet stuff falling from the sky. Scamp was making an apple pie to go with the dinner and another pear pie too. Me? I was going out to take photos and, as Scamp said, to talk to the deer and the frogs. She knows me so well. I did actually see a deer, just as I was entering the tree line at St Mo’s. Unfortunately it heard my heavy footsteps crunching through the leaf litter and it was off like the wind. I loosed off one shot at it with my trusty Oly E-M1 and 200mm lens, but all I got for my trouble was a blurred shot of a deer’s white tail as it danced daintily around the trees and away.

That was the last deer I saw today. It obviously didn’t want to talk to me. The frogs, on the other hand were much more receptive to my thoughts on Covid 19 and its implications for the over 70s. They listened with rapt attention while I laid out the reasons why the government’s position on the latest proposals was untenable. I took some shots of them while we were discussing it, but as I stood up, they all disappeared into the murky St Mo’s pond without even a ripple of applause. That’s why none of their photos are appended here. They just didn’t deserve that publicity. Instead, PoD went to a photo of a green shoot against some of last year’s moss fruiting bodies. Some jiggery pokery was done on the shot in ON1 and I think it worked quite well.

On the way home I heard an unfamiliar aircraft sound and searched Flightradar24 on my phone for it, but it wasn’t listed.  The only plane near me was a high flying jet.  On looking for more information I found it was a Cirrus Aviation  Vision SF 50.  I’d never seen one in the real world, but it’s my favourite plane in X-Plane 11, and there it was directly above me.  A tiny wee white dot in the sky.  I even managed to get a few shots of it and at maximum zoom, you can just make out the ‘V’ shaped tail.  It made my day!

Dinner for me was gammon steak with cauliflower cheese and potatoes. Scamp had the same minus the gammon steak. Her apple & cinnamon pie served with cream was the pudding, followed by Sunday coffee (coffee with amaretto.)

Spoke to JIC tonight and he poured oil on troubled waters again and put our minds at rest with his Sensible Science. Glad to hear that Sim is feeling a bit better now too.

Tomorrow may (or may not) be the last Gems meeting for some time. Scamp is going to ask them how they feel about suspending it for a few weeks. I’m doing the same with coffee for the Auld Guys. We may go to dance class later if we’re allowed 😉

Lunch at The Cotton House – 7 March 2020

That’s what I was looking forward to.

A lazy morning watching the rain and, for me, testing out the sketch book I got yesterday. The rain just kept coming and the sketch book didn’t hold a wash very well, but did respond nicely to pencil, so that was ok.

Drove through the rain and darkening skies to The Cotton House. The “The” appears to be important, no just Cotton House. The definite article seems to be important here, possibly because it is the only definite article in the English language. There, you probably didn’t know that and now you do. You’ve learned something today.

Scamp had Thai Spring Rolls followed by Chicken Chow Mein. For me it was Chicken Noodle Soup followed by Chicken Green Pepper in Black Bean Sauce with Noodles. Both were deemed excellent, but that’s what you expect at TCH. Inside it’s gone through some changes, but the food is just as good as it always was. That’s why we booked a table today, because you just have to on a Saturday. Scamp’s coffee and my Chinese tea afterwards were disappointing, but I suppose some corners have to be cut to keep the price of lunch to an acceptable level. I’ll forgive them.

After that we drove home via Tesco for essentials like milk and stuff for tomorrow’s dinner. Oh yes, and toilet rolls. Because we need them. Nothing to do with the dreaded Coronavirus or Covid 19, whichever you prefer. It seems that shelves in supermarkets across the world are becoming depleted and the most sought after articles are toilet rolls. That’s a load of shite if you ask me. Come on, you expected that, didn’t you?

Scamp was selling her old keyboard and asking a ridiculously small amount of money, but it was her keyboard to sell (don’t panic people, it’s not the Clavinova) and the woman arrived this afternoon to buy it. I think it was much bigger and more complicated than she realised. She seemed overwhelmed by it, but money crossed hands and there’s more space now in the front bedroom.

I’d thought of going out for a walk in St Mo’s today when we got back from lunch, but the light was failing even at about 4pm, so I gave up on that. We’ve had almost a week of dry shiny weather and we’ve forgotten just how dull it can get by 4 o’clock. Today reminded us. With that in mind I took a bit of broccoli, a bag of yellowing parsley, a few mushrooms and a bag of coffee beans upstairs and arranged them, tastefully on an A3 piece of cartridge paper and photographed them. Then, in ON1, I added a bit of grassy field to the foreground. Imported the resulting image into Luminar 4 and added one of my skies, but missed a bit of it and that bit rankled with me, so … I exported the image to an old version of Photoshop, cut out that bit and then pasted a new bit in behind the hole then exported the image back into Lightroom. Cropped it, adjusted the levels and that’s what you see up at the top. Photography took about 15 minutes. Post-processing took a couple of hours. That’s what digital photography is all about. A PoD was created.

On Netflix we watched three episodes of a documentary about the 2019 F1 GPs from the viewpoint of the smaller teams, not the big three. Really interesting. Also watched another video about an actor chef being tutored by a real chef. How to make an omelette, followed by how to cook a steak. A massive steak, but it was set in America where they don’t do things by half.

Tomorrow we aren’t going dancing, but we may be practising. More rain forecast.

Cold and Frosty – 19 January 2020

Not just the morning, either. Most of the day was cold at least.

Not a day for doing much. Certainly in the morning at least, not a lot done. Finally agreed to go to the manky Classic Grand (so inaccurately named) for the Salsa Ceilidh. That was about it for the morning.

After lunch I went out to take some photos in St Mo’s and after that I walked down to the shops to get enough stuff to make soup for tonight’s dinner, which was to be Tomato and Red Pepper soup. Well, we’ve had two days of heavy lunches which for me included lots of red meat, so making an effort today to be meat-free was a good idea. Scamp didn’t mind, in fact she was quite like minded and soup was easy and fairly quick to make. We could have a bowl of it before we went out dancing tonight. Soup and Salt ’n’ Pepper bread to dook. Yes, that would do nicely.

The walk to St Mo’s wasn’t the best. There was very little to see and the cold west wind wasn’t conducive to spending a lot of time framing up a shot. PoD was the Whin bush, also known as Gorse, looking really jaggy. Almost making it to PoD was a landscape shot of a beautiful sky. I’ve often faked a sky to look like that. Today I just photographed it. Nice to see that skies like that actually exist outside of someone’s imagination. Speaking of imagination, I’ve an idea for a fantasy shot. I got one of the elements of it today. Really need a starlit sky for the background and although I could just download one, it would be better to create one myself. Must look out some of my old photoshop reference books.

Made the soup when I came back and almost forgot about the dancing tonight. It was a good Sunday Social with lots of folk I haven’t seen for ages turning up. Spoke to Heather and John and wished them well for their trip to Cuba this Tuesday. Seven days with ten hours of dancing tuition booked. Maybe fun, might just be purgatory. We’ll no doubt find out when they return with lots of stories and lots of photos. Really wish we were going!!

Soup was good and will be better tomorrow. Soup always is. As for the rest of tomorrow, well it’s Gems and it’s Ballroom. Hopefully our bits and pieces of practice will have rubbed off some of the rough edges.