Coffee for two – 31 October 2019

Off to meet Val for a technological chat.

There are four of us. Fred, Val, Colin and me. We all have our specialisms. Fred likes to talk politics, books and music. Val talks technology and books. Colin talks about gardening. I talk bollocks and books, music and technology. Between us we always find some topic of conversation to take apart. Today there were only two of us and so it was Technology and Books, but mainly Technology. We discussed new phones and old computers, books we’d read or were going to read and we both told each other lies and tall stories. That’s the best bit about shooting the breeze, nobody really believes everything the other is saying.

After we were done, Val went off to meet his wife and I went home to meet mine via M&S to get some lunch. After that, we picked up June and took her to sunny Coatbridge for her eye check. While the ladies were in the clinic, I took a trip to Currys for a bit of window shopping. Found another possible replacement for the Teazer, but on further inspection it didn’t quite fit the specification I’d set for myself. The back screen doesn’t flip up. Such a pity. The Sony RX100 iii is still the front runner.

Picked up the sisters after they were finished and after dropping June off, we went home. Scamp was getting ready to assemble a fish pie, so I went out to get some photos, but it was cold and I came back with only a couple of shots. Luckily they were decent, so I present one of them as my PoD.

Tonight’s sketch, and the last one of this year’s Inktober is an umbrella. This is not just an umbrella, this is a dripping umbrella. Let’s face it, those of us who live in Scotland get plenty of opportunity to sketch them, except today. Today was a bright, cold, sunny, DRY day. Typical!

We have no plans for tomorrow, at least not yet. Looks like rain.

Two left feet – 30 October 2019

You know those days when everything goes right? I don’t.

Today started well. Scamp was out meeting a friend this morning for coffee. That gave me time to sit and draw today’s prompt which was A Houseplant. I chose one of Scamp’s Geranium cuttings. Although both back and front gardens are full of plants, this is one of the few that are allowed into the house. I believe she has it house-trained and it is careful not to leak on the window ledge it usually sits on, basking in the warm autumn sun. I quite liked the result. The pot isn’t quite right, but the plant was well drawn, I think. The good stuff ended there.

We drove in to Glasgow and in the dance class we thought we danced quite well in the free dance practise at the start of the lesson. After that I had brain-fade. Led with my left when it should have been my right. Stepped inside the lady when I should have stepped outside. Got every element of the new routine wrong. I just couldn’t put a foot right, or was that left? Whichever it was, it wasn’t the correct one. Came away really disheartened.

A coffee and a photo of 110 Queen Street helped lighten my mood, but I wasn’t a happy bunny. The only good thing I can say about today is that next week will be better. Surely it can’t be any worse.

There’s not a lot else I can say other than that I made mini lamb chops and a lamb burger for dinner and it was delicious. Mini lamb chops are made from the individual pieces of a rack of lamb, cut from the rack and pan fried. I don’t know if I’ve invented it or if it’s already a thing, but this is the second time I’ve made them and they work really well.

Got a Tesco sim and stuck it into the now unlocked iPhone SE. Now I have a serviceable phone running on O2 as well as the Samsung on EE. The camera on the Samsung is pretty poor. Not a patch on the iPhone camera, but at least I don’t have to worry about running out of space on the phone. Swings and roundabout, that’s what it’s all about.

Coffee with Val tomorrow morning and then a run to Coatbridge in the afternoon. That’s the way the day should run.

On the Bonny, Bonny Banks – 29 October 2019

Today we visited Loch Lomond.

Tuesdays are becoming the ‘just go’ days. Just get up, get out and go somewhere. Today that ‘somewhere’ was Balmaha on Loch Lomond side. To those who have never heard of it, it sounds like somewhere exotic, but you’re probably getting mixed up with The Bahamas. It was not very exotic today, in fact it was a bit cold, but when you were in the sun it didn’t feel too bad.

We had packed a flask and the usual assortment of picnic food like crisps and chocolate biscuits. Good healthy food and not in the least fattening. Before we got stuck into that we had to do some walking to get the blood flowing after our 50 minute drive. Walked down to the jetty and that’s where I got today’s PoD. It’s a two frame panorama stitched in Lightroom 6, thanks for asking. The blue sky is real and it looks exactly like the view from that pontoon today.

After getting my photos we walked back to give some other folk a shot on the pontoon. Took some more photos near the poorly tended Tom Weir garden. Then it was back to the car for a coffee and a chocky biscuit.

Scamp fancied stopping at the Beech Tree Restaurant on the way home, so that’s what we did. Luckily the Sat Nav lady knew the way to Dumgoyne and gave us directions.

Food was good, but I got a fright when the waitress asked me if my name was Campbell and was I a Techy teacher, if so there was a young lady sitting in the corner seat who thought she knew me. It turned out to be a former pupil and thankfully, it was one of the most pleasant ones I’d taught. I went over and had a few words with her and her dad who I remembered from various parents nights. Poor girl, like so many others, she’s working in a job she doesn’t like. I know that feeling. It took me many years before I got the opportunity to do a job I really enjoyed. Hope she gets that chance before long. After being properly fed on Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, and giving father and daughter a wave on the way out, we headed for home. Today was a lovely day.

I’m still not sure if the proper term is Skullcandys or Skullcandies. I’m going with the former. These are my go-to headphones (or to be more precise earbuds) when I’m out walking by myself. They fitted the topic today perfectly and the topic was A Pair of Headphones.

Tomorrow Scamp is out in the morning and we’re hoping to dance in the afternoon.

Sunny Coatbridge – 289 October 2019

Beautiful day. Too good to stay in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Morning Walk – 27 October 2019

We hadn’t been for a Sunday morning walk for months.

We drove over to Colzium estate for a walk among the trees. They have the most amazingly coloured Japanese Maples. I’d forgotten just how many there were. Unfortunately the place was looking a bit run down. The bandstand must have been bad because it had been put in a cage, or maybe it was just falling down. Loads of trees blown down and some looked as if they’d been there some time. The curling pond was almost completely silted up. The trees that were still vertical were magnificent, but the rest of the park was looking very sad. Such a shame. I did get today’s PoD which was a blob of moss growing in a crevice of the old road bridge at Colzium.

After lunch, Scamp walked down to the new shops to get some ‘messages’ and when she returned she reported that it wasn’t as cold as she’d expected. That gave me the impetus I needed to get out myself and have a walk over St Mo’s. With the clocks going back this morning, the days seem to become a lot shorter and this is most obvious in the late afternoon. I’d a photograph in mind and it relied on bright sunlight from a low sun. I almost caught it in one shot, but I think I missed the perfect time by a few minutes. Maybe another day. I’ll use either PhotoPills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris to work out the exact timing for it next time. Great apps, they allow you to find the optimum time for directional lighting anywhere in the world. They even work with light striking along a path in Kilsyth!

I was making dinner tonight and it was Chicken Cacciatore from one of Scamp’s cookery books. It was a bit fiddly to make, but it tasted very like her’s, so I must have made it right.  On the subject of food, today my Inktober list said “Bread”, but I included a glass of wine in the background. Then I drank the wine, which was perhaps a mistake on so many levels.  I could say that I’d baked the bread myself, but in fact it was a Warburtons Multi Seed and Grain and does taste just like home made.

Spoke to JIC at night and got the full story about the dummy interview he’s sent us. We both thought he’d managed the interview really well. Although we could see that he was taking the whole thing very seriously, he did inject a bit of humour too. A scary thing to volunteer for, especially knowing it was being filmed. Well done you!

Stayed up late to watch an ‘eventful’ Mexico GP. It’s amazing to listen to the drivers’ versions of events which vary greatly from the actual scenes you’ve been watching.

Tomorrow (or to be more exact, Today) is Gems day. I’ll make a sharp exit.

Diwali and French cuisine – 26 October 2019

We heard about the Diwali festival on the radio yesterday and Scamp decided it was a fair excuse to visit our eastern neighbours – Embra.

Actually our next door neighbours woke us just after 8am with the sawing and banging associated with having more decking laid in their back garden. We were up and out almost in time to catch the 10.30 train to Embra. The key word there is “almost”. We missed it by seconds. Not to worry, we walked back to the car and waited in relative comfort for the next one. Well, if it was you, would you rather sit on a cold aluminium seat on a station platform with a cool 1ºc breeze blowing or would you sit in your cooling, but 12ºc car with soft fabric seats? I rest my case, yer honour.

Caught the next train and luckily chose the right carriage to get a seat. I’d my phone in my pocket, but, of course, my headphones were in my other jacket. Typical. Never mind it was good watching the sunny, if Arctic, countryside whizz past. There was a zoomer in the carriage. I thought he was German or possibly Austrian. Scamp thought he was Dutch, but he was definitely from the Planet Zanussi. He kept asking people questions with the Columbo catch phrase “I have one question.” He also seemed to holding a conversation with his phone, not on his phone, but with it. Really strange. Never met a German / Austrian / Dutch Zoomer before.

While he went off to find Kirkcaldy, we walked up towards the Nero for coffee. As we were walking through the architectural canyons that link the Western Approach Road with Lothian Road, we chanced upon a window cleaner washing the windows on one of the canyon sides with an enormously long brush. Strangely I’d never wondered how they washed those window. Now I know. Rattled off a half a dozen shots and knew right away that I had a potential PoD. Coffee and a pastry in Costa then a walk up through the farmers market and on to the Grassmarket. I could see Scamp’s eyes light up as we got near the Petit Paris restaurant and knew resistance was useless. That was going to be our lunch venue.

Today’s topic for sketching was Urban Sketch. It was now about 3ºc, but with windchill it would be nearer 1ºc, so I doubted that I’d be doing anything urban and still retaining my fingers, so we went for a walk instead, but just in case I’d get the opportunity, I got a cheap sketch book in Greyfriars Art Shop. Then on to the Meadows and, because the sun was in our eyes and it was blinding, we took a detour round the University, then doubled back when we found we were near Bristo Square. From there it was an easy jaunt back to the Grassmarket and Petit Paris.

Got a table easily downstairs in the dungeon. I had Lentil Stew with Bacon and Sausage. Scamp had Pan Fried Chicken Breast with Forestiere Sauce. Both were lovely, although I had an upset stomach later and the only thing I could blame was that lentil stew. Half a glass of red wine washed down my lunch and a glass and a half of the same washed down Scamp’s. Thanks for that Nicola, ya bastard!

Just managed to catch the end of the Diwali Festival group walking and dancing their way across Embra. There were two big white horses pulling the ceremonial carriage. When they were stopped on The Mound, one of them felt the need to receive itself of excess liquid. Dear me, these horses can carry a fair amount of water! I reckon it stood there for about five minutes “emptying its tanks”. Needless to say, it being Embra, after the procession had passed, the last vehicle was a street sweeper! Can’t have the horses messing up their clean streets!

Decided we’d been fed and watered and seen part of the procession, so we headed for the train and caught it this time with just a few minutes to spare. No foreign Zoomers on it, just some home-grown ones.

I chose to draw our last five apples as a replacement for the missing “Urban Sketch”. I was quite pleased with the result.

Tomorrow we have no plans. We don’t even know the predicted temperature. It’s supposed to be sunny, so we may go for a walk.

Old Bologna – 25 October 2019

Today was dull, really dull, so to brighten our day we went out to Italy.

I started the theme early by flying from Italy to Sicily. It was an uneventful flight until I allowed X-Plane to take control of the aircraft. It was supposed to fly it by AI, but I don’t know what the ‘I’ stood for. It certainly wasn’t Intelligence. It decided to take it away from the flight path and turn off the jet engine. After a bit of a struggle I got everything sorted out an performed a text book landing … at the designated airport, not in somebody’s garden as my brother used to do in Microsoft Flight Simulator.

Back in the real world I struggled with getting email to work on the Samsung. Eventually I gave up or we wouldn’t have arrived at the restaurant in time for supper, let alone lunch. It must be at least three years since we’ve been in Vecchia Bologna, but the menu was quite familiar, the prices were a bit higher and the food was just as good as before. Next time, and I’m sure there will be a next time, we’ll book in advance to get a window seat.

Drove from there to Hobbycraft at The Fort to get some material to make a bow tie. I saw it earlier in the week and should have got it then, but the ‘fat quarter pack’ I was looking for was still there. Met Nancy when we left and made arrangements for lunch some time soon. Back via Aldi so that Scamp could test it out. That smell was still there, but again, it could have been because of the clientele although it did seem to be coming from the fruit and veg aisle.

Back home it was too dull to get an outside photo, so today’s PoD is of the last five apples from the James Grieve tree. Best year we’ve had so far.

Got a bit pissed off with the poor phone reception near the house. Can’t even get Spotify to play on the dire music system on the Juke. Eventually cooled down and accepted that EE is probably, overall the best of a bad bunch. O2 is better than all of them, but elsewhere its coverage is decidedly patchy. Vodafone is about the same as EE, but they really do make life difficult for you. I spent about an hour filling in the form to unlock my iPhone SE! O2 and EE unlock theirs after 18 months automatically. Three is just a joke – no coverage and a poor record. The moral of the tale is “Live with what you’ve got.”  What I did manage to do with the phone was finally get the email sorted.  It was the simplest thing.  The username was wrong, and that completely borked everything.  That’s not what the Samsung told me was wrong.  It told me that I hadn’t set up the PoP or the IMAP properly.  Misdirection is one of the greatest bugbears of the digital life.

Today’s Inktober topic was A Towel. This is how I spend my Friday nights now. Sitting on the toilet sketching an ink drawing of a pink towel. It’s things like this that give amateur artists a bad name!

Tomorrow we have no firm plans. It all depends on the weather fairies.

Dancing and a screamer – 23 October 2019

Wednesday is dancing day. Screamers are just nutters with a different name.

My new phone vibrated just after 12 noon to tell me it had changed numbers, back to the one I’ve had for the last eight(?) years. A result. Thank you to the bloke in EE who sorted it. Now I can go ahead and unlock the old phone.

Drove in to Glasgow and started again into the new routine, adding the subtly named Bump and Grind. After that is was a practise session for the Quickstep and the Waltz. I had problems with them both, but the room is simply too small to be able to go over these steps. Add two speaker stacks and a piano and it becomes more challenging. If you add the third complication of the thick couple Gary and Freda who will happily stop anywhere and discuss who was making the mistakes. Actually, like most couples both were at fault, but do they really need to block everyone else’s path while the blame each other? It appears they do.

Coffee afterwards and coming back from the toilet, I noticed an iPhone on the floor behind where a woman was sitting. I tapped her on the shoulder to tell her and she let out this cutting scream. Honest, I just tapped her on the shoulder. I didn’t think I was that scary, although years of S1 pupils at school might disagree. Some folk just want to be the centre of attention. Nutters by any other name.

Back home I went out for a walk with the “Big Dog”. Thinking that as it was really dull, the bigger sensor on the Nikon would handle it better than the Oly. I was wrong. Lots of grain showing on the images. I finally chose a shot of a swan as PoD.

When I got back it was time to get the sketch sorted out. The topic was “A Fried Egg”. Where do these people get their ideas from (it was an old list for EDIM actually)? It should have been fairly easy, but I’m not that good at getting eggs into the frying pan without breaking the yolk, (and that’s what I did with the first one.) Tomorrow I’m expected to continue the food theme!

I packed in early and that’s why this blog post is a catch up. Sorry!

Tomorrow Scamp has a gig and I may go in to Glasgow.

A rather lazy day – 20 October 2019

I only completed 4 out of 8 of my active hours, but I did complete my 10,000 steps.

Half my order from Amazon dropped through the letterbox in the morning. After a bit of a struggle and a cautious paring away of part of the SD card and SIM carrier, everything fitted and the storage memory was installed in the new Samsung. Then I spent most of the afternoon trying to find out how to download the default ringtones from the iPhone without any success. Finally gave up and went for a walk.

Walked around St Mo’s for an hour to clear my head. Took a few arty shots, but I liked them. Found the chestnut tree had disgorged it’s autumn load of chessies. You may call them Conkers if you’re English, or even Chestnuts if you’re not from the UK, but to me they will always be chessies, because that’s what we called them when I was wee. Playing chessies at school was a great way to keep warm, and to arrive in the classroom with bloody knuckles. The twelve I brought home were destined to be PoD. Later they will overwinter in the little greenhouse and then hopefully be planted in the spring when the world warms up again.

After much soul searching between us, we finally decided to go dancing tonight and although I was brain-dead as far as moves were concerned and I also had a sore back, I did enjoy the exercise. Walking back up Bucky Street my Fitbit buzzed to tell me the 10,000 had been completed. Always makes you feel good, that.

Got home to find another parcel waiting for me. The last two bits of yesterday’s order. The new phone now has a new jacket to keep it warm in the winter. After a late dinner, we spoke to JIC and it was during the phone call that he said when referring to the ringtones, “Somebody must know how to get them.” That set me thinking. Perhaps I’d been tackling this problem the wrong way. What if somebody else had had the same problem, but they had found the solution. And so it was that some smart American in 2010 had not only found the solution to downloading the standard iPhone ringtones, he or she had also gone and Zipped them into a neat little file and posted it on the Internet. Hooray! It was the work of about ten minutes to unzip them, upload the necessary ones to the new SD card in the phone and install them. Brilliant. An afternoon wasted, but a result!! Thank you JIC for the advice.

Today’s topic for sketching was “A Camera”. I think Scamp laughed out loud when I told her. “Which one will you choose” she asked. There’s a famous photogs saying :

The best camera in the world is the one in your pocket

In my case it’s got to be, either the TZ70 or the iPhone. Both immediately accessible but the TZ70 (Codename Teazer) just wins with its super zoom and the ability to shoot in RAW. That’s the sketch done.

Tomorrow is Gems day. Time for a sharp exit for me.

Out to Lunch – 19 October 2019

We’d half intended taking the train to Embra today, but that was before the rains came.

Judging by the weather forecast yesterday, the east was going to be battered with rain, so Embra was off the list for today. With that said, we couldn’t decide where to go for lunch. Sometimes that’s what it comes down to now. Not so much where will we go today, more where will we go to lunch today. Italian or Indian that was the first choice. Scamp suggested Vecchia Bologna in Bridge of Allan, but sometimes it’s booked solid at weekends, so then what about a curry. Either Hamilton or Stirling. It’s a while since we’ve been to Stirling for a curry, so that was it settled. I wanted to get a case or some sort of protection for the new phone and there was a good stall in the Thistle Centre where I could get one. If we’d gone to Hamilton I’d have managed to get some material there for my new waistcoat project. So, either destination suited me.

Drove to Stirling on a bright morning. Curry was fine. We both have our favourites in this restaurant and that was what we had. Scamp – Veg pakora and Vegetable Dhansak. Me – Chicken pakora and Chicken Tikka Chilli Bhuna. Both deemed excellent.

Went looking for the stall that used to be in the Thistle Centre, but it seemed to have disappeared, then I noticed that it was now a shop in the centre. They did have the cover for the phone, but there were no prices visible. When I asked the bloke how much they were, he seemed to pluck the price from midair. £10 he said. They looked exactly the same as ones I’d seen in Amazon for £5 before I left. I suppose the lease for a shop is much more expensive than for a market stall, but I didn’t want to contribute a fiver to that fund. Said thanks, but no thanks and left empty handed.

Scamp was a bit more successful in getting a bargain from the beleaguered Bonmarché which has just gone into administration. The second of her shops to fall by the wayside this week, Watt Bros having failed on Friday.

Back home I ordered some new toys for the new phone including a cheaper case than the bloke was selling in Stirling. After that I went for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of a Jenny Long Legs in the late afternoon sun. Today’s topic for Inktober was “A Coffee Grinder”.  JIC bought me this Krups Coffee grinder a few years ago and it has give absolutely amazing service. The grinder burrs are probably needing replaced now but it works tirelessly to reduce Cuban, Sumatran and Colombian beans to a useful and consistent grind.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go dancing at the new venue of Revolution. Other than that, no plans.