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Hogmanay – 31 December 2017

The last day of 2017.

I suppose I should do a review of our year, but there have been so many ups and downs and they have all been recorded in these pages along with some photos to give a bit of perspective and also some colour to the day. Some dull days have contributed very little to the overall and some have produces a surprising amount. I’ve tried to write up these notes on the actual day, but sometimes I’ve left it to the next day to do the writing. Often I’ve gone just over the midnight cut-off and had to fake the publishing day. That’s as much review as I’m going to write.

Today was windy to start with. Storm Dylan visited us overnight and was on its way out when we woke, but was still gusting around until midday. After lunch of not one, but two rolls ’n’ sausage, flat sausage, I did think about going out for a walk, but then H&N arrived and the walk had to be put on hold. Next it was time to pick up Auntie June and bring her over to meet them. I managed a few minutes then to make a PoD which I’d been considering anyway. It’s the flower from the Christmas cactus. It just missed Christmas, but I don’t mind. I’ll forgive it this time because it’s had a tough year, as have we all.

June stayed for dinner tonight which was Broccoli Soup, Chicken and Mushroom pie and Lavender Panna Cotta. Various coffees followed Decaf and Caf and also one flavoured with Amaretto for June. We sat and talked for a while after that to allow the dinner to slide down, then I took June home and H&N left soon after.

It was good to have everyone round on Hogmanay. Plenty of good humoured talk and laughing a plenty. That’s what an old fashioned Hogmanay was all about.

While Scamp and I sat and watched the Christmas Lectures, I did a wee sketch. The last one of Ink ’17. Number 52. 52 sketches in 52 weeks.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow will be a new year with new challenges and new photos to take. Maybe even more sketches to draw, definitely more sketches to draw and improve on.

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Big Dogs – 26 December 2017

Today was Boxing Day, but there were no more boxes to open, so, as it had snowed during the night and it looked ‘Deepan, Krispan, Evin’, I got dressed and took the big dog for a walk.

We walked through the snow and found that the pond was covered in mist as the sun hadn’t risen to warm it up. I just missed catching Mr Grey who was fishing next to the path, behind a bush. He flew off squawking at a couple of swans that were in his way. I walked into the trees and saw the sun rising above the tops of the pines. It’s not often I’m up before the sun, these days!

Walked down through the pine trees and didn’t see a living soul. Got a few shots of the little man-made pond near the road and then followed a fresh fox’s trail through the woodland until it crossed the burn. It wasn’t my great tracking skills that let me to believe it was a fox, it was the smell that was quite strong on the snow.

I walked through the deciduous woods and by carefully choosing a point of view, got a shot of the second burn with some clean reflections and avoided both the street lights and the motorway signs. The mist helped, but it did need some ‘spotting’ in Lightroom later. It was on the way back with my ‘big dog’ that I was joined by another couple of real big dogs. I just caught a glimpse of something behind a bush and assumed it was a deer, then it formed itself into a big, and I mean Big Dogs. Two fairly heavy built Alsatian types. I’m not good on dog ID, but the other thing I was pleased to see was that they both had expensive looking harnesses on and looked well fed and looked after. I tried to ignore them and walked on when I heard one behind me. Never let a dog get behind you, someone once told me. As I turned round the second one bolted away from me towards some silent signal, presumably from the owner. My own shadow gave a high pitched yelp as if to say “Wait for me!” and ran to follow the first dog. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily I was wearing my brown corduroy trousers, so there would be no outward sign of my panic as I walked on.

Got home without meeting any more Big Dogs although I did manage to get a low down PoD shot of a new Weeman that Scamp bought me as a Chrissy Prezzy. I’d have looked a proper Charlie if anyone had seen me crouching on my knees, photographing a Lego Minifig™.

Lunch was a light wrap with cooked meat and salad veg, plus some Jalapeños. Afterwards we discussed tonight’s dinner and it resolved itself into Minestrone soup. Not difficult to make, but lots of chopping up of veg as preparation. We didn’t have any cabbage, so as Scamp wanted to go and stretch her legs, we walked down to the M&S shop at the petrol station. We didn’t really need anything apart from cabbage which they didn’t have, but I got some more cold ham and Scamp bought some Satsumas. It was more for the walk than for anything else. Stuck in the house all day yesterday makes you yearn for the outdoors.

When we got back, Madeleine started a video conversation using WhatsApp. We’d never used it before, and it was really good. Much better than Skype. Skype used to be good, but since it’s been taken over by The Dark Side, it wants to run things its way. Interrupting a call to install an update. That’s just typical Microsoft. Anyway, the Whats App call worked well and Scamp got to see Ori the wonder dog as well as everyone else in the Trini house.

I got a sketch done and pre-dated it to the 24th. A lie, but a little white lie, well, a black and white lie actually. Not drawn, but painted with black Indian ink. I quite like it, but I’m not letting you see the usual big image, so don’t bother to click on it. It looks better small, I think, and it’s my blog!  The title from the lyrics of ‘The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity’ by Bridget St John.

Today we made the move to go out. Tomorrow we may go even further! Provided the weather is kind to us.

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I’m moving back – 21 December 2017

Not that anyone here will notice, but I’m writing this in Day One again. I’ve tried Journey and it’s ‘ok’, but only ‘ok’. Until it stops working completely, I’ll be using Day One and synching the ‘old school’ way.

Now, as to the day. It started out a bit misty and then the mist got thicker and thicker until it was officially fog. We were going to have lunch at The Smiddy just past the Blair Drummond turn off on the Callander road. After consideration, we decided that the fog probably really only extended to the outskirts of Cumbersheugh and we’d drive out of the fog into sunshine by the time we reached Haggs. Well, maybe not sunshine, but certainly out of the fog. Nope, that didn’t happen. It just got thicker, the closer we got to Stirling. I couldn’t believe the number of folk driving with no lights. I don’t mean fog lights, I mean any lights at all. Some had the DRL (Daytime Running Lights) on, but they come on automatically on most modern cars, but some had no lights of any kind. Yes, they could see perfectly well, but if you’re driving a grey car in fog you are kind of invisible. My cousin John told me years ago when I first got a motorbike to always drive with dipped headlights everywhere. Don’t use sidelights he told me, use headlights. They don’t cost anything more to run and one day they’ll save your life. Sensible instructions.

Anyway, we reached The Smiddy without incident and had lunch there:

  • Macaroni and Cheese with lovely chips for Scamp
  • Vegetarian (!!) Chilli for me. Quite spicy and with an extra side of Jalapeño Peppers, and they were hot!!

Afterwards I got some sausages, a Denver steak, Ham trimmings and some Venison because their on-site butcher’s shop is good quality.

Got today’s PoD there. While we were having lunch I watched the fog lift quite a bit and thought my chance of a shot of a tree lined farm track was gone. I’d taken my small tripod with me because I guessed the light would be fairly low and if the fog was lingering in the low lying areas around the restaurant then I’d need some support. It’s just a light weight tripod, not as stable as the big Manfrotto 055, but it’s great for holding the Olys. The fog was just beginning to come down again when we were leaving the restaurant and I took my chance to grab my shot before the fog became too thick and obscured everything. I think, not, that I could have waited a little longer, but I didn’t want to waste too much time before we drove home.

One more sketch to add for last week’s ink ’17.  This one, like last week’s was done on my mousemat / blotter / notepad, call it what you will.  It’s basically a doodle that evolved over a few days.  It’s in oblique projection (Aargh!  I hated oblique projection at school, both as a receiver and a giver of drawing skills), possibly the crudest form of projection, but also the easiest to learn.  It’s in ink and it’s done.  The maxim for Ink ’17.

No great plans for tomorrow. Maybe a swim. Maybe a trip into Glasgow. Depends as always on the weather.

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Ice is not nice – 14 December 2017

An icy morning. Jac’s taxi didn’t come, so I volunteered to drive her to the station.

It wasn’t all that cold, but it had snowed during the night and the snow had melted, then frozen again and now that ice was melting, on the surface at least and that meant it was treacherous. The Juke performed perfectly, I couldn’t fault it. Unfortunately there was a queue of traffic heading along towards St Mo’s taking the children who can’t walk if it’s cold, or windy, or wet, or dry, or too hot, or too tired, or .. well, you get the picture. I turned at the roundabout and took the longer, but much quicker way round the back of Blackwood and then through the new estates to the station. Got there with plenty of time for Jac to catch the train (the next train, that is). Came home the same way because, although the queue was shorter, it was still there and resolutely not moving. Walked back from the car and that was when I found out just how slippery the surface was. Slid all the way down the short slope to the house. Didn’t fall, luckily, but Scamp decided it would help other folk if I spread some chippings on the path. Such a simple solution and it worked.

After lunch Scamp parceled up the Christmas parcels for JIC and Sim and I took them to be posted at Tesco. Got that completed and stopped off at St Mo’s to take some foties. Liked the shot through the trees also liked the shot of the swan attempting a tricky landing on ice, but decided the trees won PoD. The rest were good, but not great. I was better prepared for the ice this time with a pair of walking boots, real ones, not Clarks flashy looking, but ultimately useless Goretex ones. The ice was melting in the areas the late sun was reaching, but as I was leaving I could see thin icy fingers stretching out across the puddles. (Oh dear, I came over all ‘Nigella’ there!)

Later in the afternoon I finished last week’s Zentangle doodle. I thought these things were beneath me, but they are more difficult than they look. You need a good eye and a steady hand to produce the accurate linework.

That was about it for the day. The highlight of the day was going to Tesco. Some days are like that.

Tomorrow, I may be joining Scamp for a coffee with Shona!

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Number Crunching – 5 December 2017

Meeting with the FA today (no, nothing to do with football)

Drove to Falkirk today to meet with our FA for the six monthly meeting. All was good, so we went to Tea Jenny’s for lunch on the strength of it. Omelette for Scamp and Stovies for me. Lovely grub. Today’s PoD is one of their famous tea cosies. After that, a walk through the delights of Falkirk which didn’t take long. Waterstones for me and M&S for Scamp. That’s about all the High Street shopping there is in Falkirk. We did, however, go to Morrisons after that for ‘messages’ and copious amounts of alcohol. It’s Scamp’s Witches Christmas party on Friday. Copious amounts of alcohol are a must.

Came home and got the tree down. The house always looks that much cosier with the tree up and the lights on. Yes, Hazy, the letter was there in the Christmas lights box. I’ll hopefully get a shot of the tree tomorrow, just for the record. Need a bit of daylight to show it off at its best. There was precious little daylight today. Not a lot of rain, but very little light.

Finally managed to get up to date with Ink ’17 sketches as you can see.

Tomorrow we should have been taking the car in to check the condensation in the headlights, but the garage phoned to say that, as there had been no recurrence it would be pointless to investigate it and when I suggested I take a photo of the extent of condensation the next time it happens they agreed it was the most sensible solution. Apparently there is a bulletin from Nissan as so many people have had the same complaint. That means we’re free tomorrow. I think we’re still going in to Stirling, though because Scamp wants to go shopping. Stirling has a good Waterstones and a Nero, so it won’t be a totally wasted day for me.

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Deep and Crisp and Even – 19 November 2017

It was a lovely frosty morning (-1ºc) with bright sunshine, so I decided to get up (fairly) early and go out to source some photos in St Mo’s.

Scamp then noticed that Hazy had phoned yesterday when we were out and because we hadn’t checked the phone when we got in, we hadn’t phoned her back. So she warned me that she was going to check if Hazy was free for the return call. I told her I had my phone with me and to text me if she was up for a call back. I’d got a couple of photos which you can see above and was just walking into the woods to see if there were any photogenic deer available when my phone vibrated to tell me that Hazy was indeed on the phone. I about turned and retraced my steps back to the house and had a chat with Hazy. After comparing notes on books we’d read, she went to rest and I went for a coffee.

From then on the temperature rose just enough to take away the frost without providing a comfortable temperature for a walk. As a result, after lunch I got a sketch done for my one-a-week personal challenge and started planning the Keyboard Maestro macro that would allow me to automate the playlist creation for the car player. I didn’t get far with that, but at least I did get the sketch done.

We headed out to Glasgow for the Sunday Social at Arta and decided to park in JL carpark rather than try for an on-street space near Arta itself. The reason was that tonight was the switch on for the Christmas lights and I just knew parking would be at a premium. Got parked easily in JL which was a surprise, but the crowds around George Square were much more than we had anticipated. Added to the fact that anti-terrorist blockades had been erected around the square, it took us ages to get down through the city to the venue.

Arta itself was quite quiet until just after the switch-on, then it livened up a bit. We left earlier than we’d intended, hoping to avoid most of the crowds, but came out just as the fireworks display started. Once we were on Buchanan Street and the fireworks had ended, the crowds (estimated at 20,000) were streaming out and heading for the carparks and the bus station. Got through without too much pushing and shoving and emerged onto Dundas Street from the carpark without too much problem. One punter was a bit annoyed that I actually wanted to drive my car out of the carpark and onto the road. He seemed to think he had right of way and could walk in front of me. A quick “Fuck Off” informed him of the error of this assumption. Got home in double quick time after that.

A dull, dreary, grey day with nothing much to recommend it apart from a walk in the frosty air and a phone conversation with Hazy this morning. Oh yes, and the dancing was good too. PoD was the frozen cow parsley.

Tomorrow is Monday with all the timetable that entails. It’s 4.5ºc just now and raining, so not much chance of a frosty walk tomorrow.

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Recovery Mode – 15 November 2017

Woke to dull, grey, cold Scotland.

However, a night in your own bed works wonders. Much lighter breakfast than we’ve been used to last week, but that won’t do any harm and will, hopefully remove some of those extra kilos we’ve both gained.

Today consisted of making inroads in the piles of washing, emptying suitcases and re-stocking the fridge. I went out at about 2.30 to get some photos, forgetting that the light goes around 3pm. That makes today’s grab shots the best I’ve got. Even at that, I was working at 10,000 ISO which accounts for the amount of digital noise in the pics.

Did go to salsa tonight and only stayed to help at one beginners class, then came home. But great news, Glasgow Cooncil have found some parking meters in a skip somewhere and they take the new pound coins, so no more harassing people for their old now non-legal pound coinage.

Finally got a chance to display my sketch of last week.  The view from the roof terrace down onto the complex beside us.  It looked nice, but the grass is always greener … !

Don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. It’s too late to think and I’ve finally cleared my blog backlog. Is that what ‘blog’ stands for? Does it stand for BackLOG? It seems to for me.

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Halloween – 31 October 2017

What a dull, dank, dreary day.

It was almost 3pm before I risked leaving the house today. Up until the, it had been damp and dismal (I think that’s me got the ‘d’ alliteration out of my system). Even when I went out, I had to have the lights on in the car. This is such depressing weather, I can imagine how folk get Seasonally Affected Disorder well named by its acronym SAD. I’m glad my painting room has a daylight bulb in it and that the bathroom has daylight LED lights. Brightens up your day more than the weak yellowish sunlight does.

Only went out to get ‘messages’ for dinner. Do you know, I had to unlock the front door because I was the first one to cross the threshold! I wasn’t out long, but when I came back the headlights came on automatically on the car, because it was indeed growing dark.

I had already planned today’s PoD and it worked out quite well, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’. The ability to use the iPhone as a trigger for the camera is a great idea. Very useful for indoor shots.

Today’s sketch is the last in Inktober 2017 for obvious reasons. I can’t believe the number of folk who are asking on the Facebook ‘Inktober’ page if they can keep posting there. Eh, the clue is in the name. If you want to post your artwork, and some of it is so amazingly detailed, I think it must be drawn in advance, or nicked from the ‘net, then feel free to create your own page for NovINKber or some such. Me, I’m closing down my Flickr Inktober 2017 group on Friday. That gives the slow-coaches a couple of days to catch up. Today’s sketch is on toned Ingres paper and is of the workhorse of my sketching, the Micron 0.3mm pen and a bottle of white ink which I’ve re-discovered for adding highlights to the toned paper work. If I particularly feel like doing a sketch tomorrow, I’ll do one, but there is no pressure now to keep up with the one-a-day. It was fun last year and it was fun doing ’28 Days Later’ in February, but this year Inktober was a bit of a drag. Feeling burnt out now and looking forward to a rest (and a few early nights too!)

Tomorrow we are expecting more rain, so we may go to the gym.

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Stirling – 21 October 2017

After a particularly lazy start we drove to Stirling. It had been a fairly bright morning, but as I stepped out of the front door, the first drops of rain fell.

That’s the way it continued all day. Lunch was in the poshed-up Indian Cottage. Well, it’s now got cloth table covers and cloth napkins, but the food, thankfully, was just the same. There were a few additional items on the menu, but we are creatures of habit and pick the same selection every time. Prices increased to cover these additions, of course. Still, the lunch was good and Scamp asked for a ‘well-done’ naan bread and that’s exactly what we got.

Wandered round the depressing Thistle Centre, now partly closed off for some reason not disclosed at present. Had a look in Waterstones, but their prices are undercut by Tesco, not to mention Amazon, but at least you can browse and see what’s available and that’s why I occasionally buy a book or two there.

Cafe Nero was our next stop for a coffee and a chance to watch the world go by, or at least Stirling go past the window for half an hour. While we were sitting I got this sketch done. I realise it’s quite light and not very detailed, but I like it for that alone. Next, Waitrose for more ‘messages’ before the drive home.

There was just enough light when we got home for me to do a recce of St Mo’s for a photo opportunity. The only thing worth shooting was a spider building its web, so that would have to do.

Attempted to repair some of the rips and tears in my old jeans with the sewing machine tonight, but I think to be realistic I need one of those embroidery feet. It’s like a normal foot, but it does embroidery. I’m sorry if you don’t understand, but you really have to be a machinist to fully comprehend the details of this skill. In other words, I haven’t a clue.

Tomorrow? No idea. Suggestions on a postcard please.

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Inktober begins – 1 October 2017

Today is the 1st of October. For sketchers throughout the world, it’s the first of 31 days of inky fingers and that occasional sinking feeling in the pit of their stomach that tells them it’s 11pm and they haven’t done a sketch that day. On the other hand, as they reach day 31 with a complete folio, it’s a great feeling of achievement. Inktober was started by Jake Parker in 2009 as a challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits. It has since grown into a worldwide endeavour with thousands of artists taking on the challenge every year. In 2015 I signed up, but only managed five or six sketches. Last year, in 2016, I was more determined and completed all 31 sketches. I know Inktober isn’t for everyone, but the regime of a daily sketch helps keep the mind and the hand active. Some people have hosts of rules and a theme for each day of October. I try to keep it simple:

1) Make a drawing in ink (you can add a little watercolour if you want to).

2) Post it online

3) Hashtag it with #inktober and #inktober2017

4) Repeat next day

That’s enough of Inktober. What of the day? We were up and dressed early today, that is just after 8am to have breakfast watching the last ever Malaysian GP. It looked like shooty in for Hamilton starting from pole, and with Vettel starting from the back of the pack, but it wasn’t as simple as that. It rarely is. For the second time this season, it was an interesting race, even the parade lap after the chequered flag had its moments with Vettel crashing into Lance Stroll. What a numpty.

I had intended going out for a walk to clear my head after that, but I did my first Inktober sketch instead. It was a really dreadful day weatherwise. Rain, drizzle, smir, torrential. All words for rain and each of them had a place in our weather map today. You’ll notice sunshine wasn’t mentioned. It was there, but its presence was measured in seconds, not minutes and certainly not hours. A dull, dreich day.

The bright spot was Salsa at night. It should have been on in the afternoon, but after a double booking we were sidelined to Ad Lib which is actually a very nice venue. I’d go there again, mainly because I got a nice parking spot almost right outside. Well, I deserve it, having a nice new motor.

Swallow Watch:  This week I saw some swallows, on Monday I think, and this is week 40.

Tomorrow? It’s going to be windy and wet. I may go in to Glasgow to get fixative for the pastels and some watercolour half pans. If I’ve got time I might go swimming. Oh, and I need a sketch!