A less frantic day – 6 August 2020

We were out earlier this morning and hopefully I’ll get to bed the same day I woke up.

We were out early to go for coffee with Isobel. Coffee in Costa no less, and in the Antonine Centre in Cumbersheugh and Scamp drove. We had to sign in to the Test and Trace system, but it was fairly quick and easy. The coffee, though, was the usual poor quality. Maybe I’m just getting used to my own (better) coffee or maybe it’s just Costa. Isobel kept us entertained for an hour or so and then we went our own ways. She to Tesco for the messages and us to go back home for lunch.

I’d intended to drive in to Glasgow in the afternoon to have a look at a camera in Jessops, but after checking, I found that the nearest Jessops that was open was in Gateshead. Just a wee bit too far to travel, so instead we walked down to the shops to get the requirements for tonight’s dinner, Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Cheesy Spinach. It was a lovely warm afternoon but by the time we got back to the house the clouds were gathering and it was looking like it might rain. I’d grabbed a couple of hoverfly pictures earlier in the afternoon, so instead of a walk I pruned the rose at the back door It was really needing cut back and I think today’s ‘Short Back and Sides’ will force some new growth. Scamp was also pruning and dead-heading some of the flowers. We both thought we felt the occasional spit of rain, but it never appeared.

I did a bit more research on the Micra, but found out very little of interest. Scamp’s dinner was deemed “Ok, but needing a bit more flavouring. More paprika and definitely more salt.”

A much less frantic day than yesterday, but a fairly full one too. The first time we’ve had coffee in a coffee shop (or Costa) since February! It felt a bit strange, but not as alien as it might have been.  One of the hoverfly photos made PoD.

Tomorrow we’ve to phone for a test drive and then the day is our own. What will we do? Where will we go? Who knows.

Not as oppressively warm as yesterday – 1 August 2020

That was my first thought this morning.

Not as warm. A bit fresher perhaps? Yesterday was just a bit too unScottish on the temperature scale. Today was going to be more down to earth.

We had no bread, very little fruit and no fancy little cakes, so I wandered off down to the shops in the morning. Got enough stuff to feed us for today (and a few days more if the truth be told) and a bar of chocolate for going, which I thought was very fair. Lunch was a roll ’n’ cheese for both of us, but not just ordinary rolls, no, these were Ciabatta rolls that had come all the way from Iceland, the frozen food shop, no the northerly island nation. Then we sat and wondered what to do until the live British F1 GP qualifying was due to start. We were then glued to our TV until the end of the qualifying came to a nail biting finish, or at least that’s what we were told. It was the usual faces in the usual grid slots. No nails were bitten in this house.

Later in the afternoon, I took myself and a camera out for a walk in St Mo’s while Scamp waited at home, deciding what to wear for tonight’s Zoom Dance. To be fair to her, she also prepared the “mise en place” (food and dishes preparation) for tonight’s dinner which was Smoked Salmon and Broccoli Quiche. We’d made it before, but it was really good to walk into the kitchen and find everything laid out for me. The actual cookery was easy after all that. It tasted really quite good. Not as good as Jackie’s, but a fair stab at it. Plus, of course she uses the old fashioned shortcrust pastry base while we have a new super fast method which must remain a secret!

After dinner it was a bit of a rush to get the living room rearranged in time for the dance. It’s really a good way of having a socially isolated dance without the need for face masks and all that faff. Just a computer and a space in your own home to dance. It’s amazing the amount of stuff we’d (read “I’d”) forgotten since the last one. It took me one whole track before I got the steps for the basic waltz anywhere like a dance and not just staggering blindly around the living room. The Social Foxtrot is all about dancing in never ending saw-tooth formations, even I can manage that. Salsa was … let’s say it wasn’t as smooth and faultless as it should be. All in all, it was an exercise in not falling over and no, I’d not had anything stronger than a bottle of beer at that point. However, it was great fun and good exercise too. Don’t know what the couple next door in their Jacuzzi thought! I kid you not, they have a jacuzzi in a gazebo in a garden the same size as ours. What is Westfield coming to? I think they have just too many Zs in their heads! When the Zoom dance ended we had to have a wee seat in the quiet just to allow our muscle groups to return to normal. Next one is in a couple of weeks time unless Lockdown finishes before then – we should be so lucky!

Today’s PoD was wee fly on a cow parsley head.

Tomorrow we may be aching so much we won’t be able to go out anywhere, or maybe we should just to ease those dancing muscles.

Phone – 24 July 2020

Today we to get a new phone. That should be easy, shouldn’t it?

Not so in the new world we now live in. First stop was Tesco. The cheapest and easiest to access. Two people working in the Tesco Mobile booth but only one allowed to serve customers. The other was managing the queue, i.e. Scamp. She got a price and they had the phone in stock. We were one step on the way to a successful conclusion.

To get a broader view of the other options we drove to Coatbridge, using my route, not the scenic route we took earlier in the week. Went to Carphone Warehouse at Currys. No queue this time and the girl went through the standard procedure of noting down everything up to and including what Scamp had for breakfast (Kellogg’s Special K with strawberries.). Only once she’d confirmed that Scamp didn’t want a contract with Vodafone and that she didn’t want to go with in-house iD, she told us that they didn’t have the phone she was looking for in stock and they wouldn’t be available until Monday – note, she didn’t say which Monday! We said no thanks and left to go home for lunch, but next door was an Argos where EE are based these days. Lady at the door said there wasn’t anyone at the EE stand as he was at lunch. Only one person selling? And then, only when he was there. Didn’t sound good, but par for the course these days.

After lunch we went to Bishopbriggs to another Carphone Warehouse in Currys. Waited in the queue where only one person was actually selling. After half an hour of standing around a second Carphone Warehouse operative told us that they didn’t have the phone in stock there either. Very popular he said. We’d guessed that.

Drove back to Cumbersheugh and finally sealed the deal for roughly the same price as Carphone Warehouse were promoting with EE, but that was with a ghost phone. PAK code has been entered and the final switch over should happen by Tuesday. Apparently computers don’t work weekends.

A lot of the time was spent standing around waiting in a queue. We can partly blame Covid-19. How can Tesco manage to hold a stock of phones when Carphone Warehouse seem unable to. A what the hell, Scamp has a new phone.

As for the rest of the day. When we got back home we assembled the new grass hoover and Scamp hoovered the front grass. Her first thoughts are that it’s not as good a cut as the old one, but it’s much lighter. We need to make some adjustments to the cut height and after that it should be better.

I managed an hour before dinner taking photos of ‘beasties’. Mainly hover flies and other insects. A couple of shots of a little froglet or toadlet too. It was a dusty little hover fly that got PoD.

No plans for tomorrow. It looks wet in the morning, the aftermath of the rain that’s battering down just now, but better in the afternoon. We won’t be driving far, the poor Red Juke it tired out tonight.

Tweaking – 17 July 2020

Not so much tweaking as returning the DL to factory settings and starting again.

It took me ages to work out exactly how to return the DL to the default state. In fact it was only when I watched a YouTube video I discovered the correct key presses and dial twists to do and the order they had to be done in to achieve this. Finally it was in out-of-the-box state and ready to be tweaked. Actually, I decided that out of the box was a producing a decent espresso and a very nice cappuccino. After that I re-read the instructions, always a last resort, but sometimes necessary. It was there I discovered how to cool the overheating boiler. Amazing the things you find out when you read the instructions.

Shona was coming to lunch today and Scamp volunteered to go and meet her at the shops. Shona’s first time at the new shops and I think she was impressed. I was finishing off the swearing at the DL when they arrived. I was also finishing off cleaning up the mess in the kitchen. Possibly the cause of the earlier swearing.

Shona kept us up to date on how things were progressing with Ben’s move to Secondary School. Heavens, it seems like no time since he was a fairly tiny little baby in Andrew’s arms. Hard to believe that was over eleven years ago! After a while I left the two women to their women’s talk and went clear up the painting room so that I could actually find room to paint in it. I almost succeeded, but that’s about as far as I usually get.

Later in the afternoon, Scamp took Shona home and I settled down to make my first real cappuccino according to the DL recipe I found on the ‘net’, but a recipe from DL that wasn’t included with the coffee maker! It tasted fine. I was quite proud of myself as I cooled the boiler without any further help. Barista? Me? Not yet, but I’m on my way to being one! After that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s in the rain and grabbed PoD which is a hover fly in flight. I was impressed. Loads of teenagers hanging around the wooded part of the path again. Not causing bother, just nowhere to go, nothing to do apart from being noisy. Was I the same when I was that age? I don’t remember being that noisy, but it’s different when you’re there, not looking down from the heights of fifty odd years.

Dinner tonight was Italian Chicken from one of Neil-D’s recipes and it worked well. Best thing about it was that I had plenty Pesto and Marinara Sauce left over to be used in the next few days.

I struggled for a sketch/painting and settled for Scamp’s sunflowers as a subject. Not big or brash enough, but worth working on. Maybe something to do tomorrow, because the weather looks wet!

A day of two halves – 7 July 2020

The first half, the morning half we dithered for a while before deciding that it was only threatening. It wasn’t going to rain. Wrong.

We intended to drive to Drumpellier park for a walk round the loch if it wasn’t too busy. Before we were even out of the estate there were raindrops on the windscreen. By the time we were joining the M73 it was coming down in buckets. Decided we’d probably go to The Fort instead to get some more fabric to make us some new masks and a new sketch book for me.

We sat in the car, waiting for the rain to go off. It did lessen a bit and that was good enough for us. There was a queue, but then there is a queue everywhere now. Eventually we got in and got the fabric and the book. By the time we came out the rain had stopped and all the folk who had been waiting in their cars were now wandering around the shops. Too busy, we decided and headed for home. One last discussion before we reached the T junction. Right would take us to Drumpellier and left would take us home. We decided on Left. As we were driving along, we could see the Campsie Fells in the distance with the sun glancing off them. Maybe we’d made the wrong choice. Doesn’t matter, the die had been cast and we were going home for lunch.

After lunch Scamp walked down to the shops to get the makings of today’s dinner. I stayed home and started to make the new mask she wanted. I was just getting to the sewing up stage as she was returning.

Later, since the day had improved greatly from this morning’s heavy rain, we went for a walk round St Mo’s and didn’t even wear a raincoat.  Went round the pond twice and that’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a hover fly, but I can’t make up my mind which one. Hopefully someone on Flickr will know.

Dinner was an excellent Scamp meal of flattened chicken in panko breadcrumbs. There’s probably a fancy French name for ‘flattened chicken’, but that’s what it is. It was really lovely. My turn to cook tomorrow and my mind is empty. Something will float into that void before tomorrow, I hope.

Tonight’s sketch changed from a pencil sketch to a painting. It’s a house across the road from Isobel in the Village. It’s been empty for a few years and is getting really dilapidated now. Water stains all down the walls and paint daubed all over the plywood covering the walls. I liked the desolation of it and enjoyed the exercise. I was painting on slippery HP (Hot Pressed) paper that doesn’t absorb the paint as much as NOT (Not Hot Pressed) paper.  I don’t use it much, but it’s sitting in a drawer and should be used up.  I must get my new paints unwrapped an put to good use. May do that this week if I get a chance. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends a lot on the weather.

Thunder and more rain – 27 June 2020

Although it wasn’t raining when we woke, it wasn’t long in arriving.

When it came, it came with a vengeance. Heavy rain in fairly lengthy showers. Then there were a couple of peals of thunder, but neither of us saw any lightning. With that said, I grabbed a few shots in the garden, including the PoD which was a Marmalade hover fly (Episyrphus balteatus) resting on the pea netting. At first I though it was dead and tangled in a spider web, but after the next rain shower I checked and it was gone. Probably off to shelter somewhere less exposed to the elements.

The rain water was obviously doing the peas a lot of good because the first couple of flowers were emerging. That’s a good sign, because the plants are already about 20cm from reaching the top of the pea frame. It looks like I might get six pea plants this year. Four of them are from new seeds and two are peas I held over from last year. Carefully dried on the window ledge and planted with the rest in the greenhouse. Actually I planted four of last year’s peas, but only two germinated. They are al bit slower than the new ones, but let’s hope they do flower and produce pods.

Using our skill and judgement to determine the best time to take a walk down to the shops, we managed to get there, queue for M&S, get tonight’s dinner (take-away curry) and get back without getting wet. We’d just got home when the rains came on again. That’s a skill passed down from mother to son when you come from the country. Or father to daughter if you live in Easterhouse oops Provanhall!

Curry was lovely. Scamp had the standard Goan Veg Curry. I had the Superior Chicken Tikka Masala (£1 more). Both were delicious, although I now detect that there was some garlic in mine. A fair amount of garlic! Ice cream sundae to act as pudding, from Iceland (cheaper than Tesco, but probably from the same factory.)

Today’s sketch was my pair of Merrell ‘hiking shoes’. Not the most comfortable trainer type shoes I’ve ever had and certainly not the most hard wearing. There are cracks in the front already after less than a year. Still, they have Goretex and that keeps my feet dry. Decided a pen sketch would be better than watercolour after yesterday’s disappointing painting. Actually enjoyed the drawing. Quite relaxing. You can tell I enjoyed it because I feel willing to share it here.

Tomorrow it looks like the same mix of weather, without the thunder, but with heavier and slower moving rain bands. May not be going out.

Rain – 26 June 2020

We were warned about thunderstorms, but we must have dodged them. Not so lucky with the rain though!

I don’t know if we dodged the forecast thunderstorms or if I just slept through them, but not so lucky with the rain. Woke about 5am to torrential rain thumping straight down on the trees outside. I think it continued all morning although I didn’t surface again properly until about 9am and it was raining heavily then too, but not as heavy as in the middle of the night. After a while it seemed to get fed up and turned to intermittent displays of precipitation. Finally giving up entirely just after midday.

We had made a few forays into the garden in between shower to prune things (Scamp) and photograph things (me). It was only after lunch, well after lunch that I felt safe enough to venture over to St Mo’s for some serious photography. Unbelievably in just about an hour I took 100 photos. Exactly 100 photos. Most were culled in the first serious look, that left me with 45. The more critical cull followed and now I’m down to 32, with only one PoD which is a Footballer. The nickname for Helophilus pendulus a hoverfly that mimics a wasp for protection from predators.  Funnily enough I found it beside a school football park.  How convenient was that?

Struggled to find a subject to paint today but I wasn’t giving in and going back to the list. Instead, I chose one of Scamp’s garden plants, a Campanula which has pretty blue/violet flowers. I really struggled with the painting and, as you can see by its absence here, I’m still not 100% happy with it. However, it’s done and it covers Lockdown Library No 74.

That was about it for today. We’re still not out of the woods yet. More thunderstorms and more rain forecast for tomorrow. Don’t think we’ll be going far.

A nice day for a stake – 21 April 2020

Not a spelling mistake. Not a very meaty stake.

The apple tree, our big James Grieve apple tree has been staked for a long number of years now. When the original stake was put in, the tree had barely started fruiting. Last year it was becoming quite bent and bowed with the weight of the apples on its much longer branches. That was when we decided it needed a better support. Today I cut up a lovely piece of mahogany used to be a ‘stretcher’ for holding up the washing line before the whirly came into our lives and the washing line became redundant. The stretcher originated from the woodwork department of a certain high school that doesn’t exist any more and for a years or so has been propping up the fence at the back door. Today it was repurposed as the support for the apple tree.

With the prop cut to length and sharpened to a fair point, it should have been easy to hammer it in to the ground, secure the branch to it and remove the old support. Things that should be easy rarely are as any DIY person will tell you. First it was almost impossible to hammer the new stake into the ground with the old one in place without damaging all the flowers on that branch, so with Scamp holding the branch, I cut off the cable tie securing the tree to the old stake and carefully removed the stake. Next there was what we will call ‘a discussion’ as to exactly where the new stake would go. Polis were not called to intervene, but it was a close run thing. Eventually we found a place that we could both agree on and the stake was duly battered into place. The branch was secured to the stake with a cable tie, cushioned with a couple of old socks. That seemed to work the last time and hadn’t damaged the branch unduly. We may replace the original stake just to provide extra support if we think the tree needs it, but for now it should be ready to carry the masses of fruit we’re hoping for, if I haven’t destroyed all the flower buds.

With the job done we had lunch. After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which I think is a hover fly. It might be a honey bee, but I’m fairly certain it’s a hover. It was another beautiful day if you could find somewhere sheltered from a fierce eastern wind. It might be blowing in from the North Sea, but it felt as if it was coming from the Arctic. Still the whin bushes were glowing in the sunshine and the pine trees behind them were providing a barrier to that wind.

Went looking for a wooden box I made when I was an apprentice away back in the late 60s. Didn’t find it, but Scamp found a few strips of colour negatives and we scanned them into the iMac. Some good memories there. I’ll distribute some of them when I’ve got them all scanned.

Before dinner I started on today’s Lockdown Library painting. Tonight it was to be four pears. Laid down some basic washes and left it there to go and sample Scamp’s veggie chilli. It was delicious. One of those dishes that taste so good you forget there’s no meat in it. After dinner I laboured on at the painting and finally got it to a stage I was fairly happy with. It’s photographed and up on Instagram.

No plans for tomorrow, other than maybe another dance practise.

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.

<Technospeak>
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.
</Technospeak>

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.

Another beautiful day in the sun – 11 April 2020

Woke to grey skies and the threat of rain, but then the sun came out.

Lunch today was a reheat of yesterday’s Saag Aloo toned down a bit with some extra cream and a little water to reduce the effect of the salt and also to cool the chilli! Like most curries, it improved with age.

We needed milk today and it was my turn to go for the messages. I thought I could link it in with a walk in the park, but then decided it would be better for my step count if I did two separate walks. First one was to M&S for the essentials: Milk, cheese and tomatoes. Dumped the messages in the kitchen and took my camera for a walk in St Mo’s.

Beautiful day, bright sunshine and warm if you were out of the wind, which I made sure I was for most of the walk. Definitely saw few hoverflies and another couple of peacock butterflies. Didn’t get many photos, the spotted a couple walking along the boardwalk and grabbed the shot. I liked the way it was framed. Back home, Scamp was going out to sit in the back garden, so I joined her with a glass each of red wine. It was comfortably warm with just a little cooling breeze blowing in from the west, but the temperature was certainly high teens. It’s going to be much cooler (colder!) tomorrow with the wind swinging to the north. We stayed in the garden discussing possible rearrangements of plants and planting. Took a few shots of one of Scamp’s Christmas Rose plants. I used the Nikon with the 105mm macro lens and it did a really good job of the close up. That became PoD. Did a bit of gentle pruning and retired to the house when the sun went down. Take the chance of a seat in the sun while you can.

Scamp had found a YouTube channel with a full length stage version of JC Superstar filmed in Manchester arena. That was tonight’s entertainment. Very good interpretation of one of our favourite films. We’d actually intended watching the DVD of the film tomorrow night. Maybe we still will, or we may leave it until Monday.

It looks like the weather’s changing overnight, so we may not be sunning ourselves tomorrow!