Walking – 25 May 2020

We woke to sunshine. No point in wasting it. Time to go out and walk.

We walked down through yesterday’s sketched underpass and on through the posh houses then across the dam at Broadwood. Walked round the exercise track without doing any exercises and then home for lunch.

After lunch, Scamp went for a walk around the shops and got the makings of dinner which was Veg Chilli. I started roughing out today’s sketch which was ‘Cutlery’. Officially it was ‘A Towel’, today being Towel Day to celebrate the life and work of Douglas Adams who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. If you don’t understand the towel thing, read the book. I got the basics down on my roughing sketch book then Hazy phoned so I spoke to her for a while. Scamp returned soon after that and also spoke for a while.

With the dinner planned and provisioned for and a rough sketch done, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is a White Tailed Bumblebee. Also got some clean, clear shots of one of the Canada Geese that have taken up residence in St Mo’s pond.

I quite liked tonight’s chilli, but then I would, I was chef. Scamp thought it needed more salt and also commented that it was a bit dry. I chose to disagree. There will be enough left for lunch tomorrow.

The proper drawing of the cutlery was much more difficult than I anticipated and I had decided I’d do it as an ink line drawing which leaves very little room for mistakes and corrections. In retrospect, it would have been better as a painting. Retrospect: The only 20-20 vision. It’s done and posted on Instagram and Facebook if you’re interested.

Big sensation of the day was Dominic Cummings’ refusal to accept that his actions in driving from London to Durham were a contradiction of the Government rules on Lockdown. Will he stay or will he go? That’s the question on everyone’s lips and the source of a host of memes.

Tomorrow I’m intending phoning Wheelcraft to enquire after my front wheel which they are supposed to be rebuilding. Otherwise no plans.

Sub zero – 10 May 2020

Temperatures predicted to be below zero tonight and it didn’t feel that much warmer today.

We both did a walk around the garden trying to work out what had gone wrong with the acer which is looking very sorry for itself. Scamp thinks its roots have been too wet and that could be part of the problem, but I think it’s been sitting in the sun too long too. It seems to like the shade. Perhaps it’s a combination of the two. It’s now back in the place it’s been for the last year and has had a change of compost, with more drainage so we’ll keep a watching brief on it for the next wee while. Otherwise, things are progressing well. The cold east wind today was making some of the alliums bob about a bit and we may need to give them a bit more support soon. It was one of allium heads that got PoD.

Under Scamp’s careful tutelage I made a steak pie in the afternoon. It turned out a lot better than I thought it would. Different butcher, slightly different method, but the result was the same, just as good as last time. Even better, there’s enough left over for tomorrow’s dinner.

We needed some potatoes for tonight’s dinner, so I volunteered to go out into the cold and get some. Of course I came back with a lot more than potatoes. That’s the trouble with having to queue for your shopping, you want to make sure you get everything you went for and tend to buy things you didn’t have on your list.

Spoke to JIC tonight and heard how his garden is progressing. It sounds great and I’m sure he’s not exaggerating. His garden is huge compared to ours and I know he spends a lot of time keeping it up to scratch. I don’t think I could expend that amount of energy on a garden, but I’m sure Scamp could.

Sketch for today was a pet or an animal. Damselflies are animals according to some learned people. I took them at their word and painted a blue damselfly. I’m not sure if they, or my artwork is to everyone’s taste, but that’s not the point. It’s the act of painting that it’s all about. Doing something.

I’ve closed down the wee greenhouse tonight, just incase the weather fairies have it right with their -1º in the middle of the night. I’ve got some things to do tomorrow, including cleaning up this computer. It’s running very slowly and needs a good clean out. I think the time for a new OS is getting closer too! Oh yes, and we’re hopefully getting a Tesco order delivered tomorrow as well. A busy day beckons.

Another week in Lockdown begins, and it rains – 27 April 2020

Actually, apart from not leaving the house much, life is pretty normal four us.

First thing on my list today was a haircut and as none of the barbers were open, it was down to me to do the bulk of it. Nothing fancy, just a number 4 all over. I got most of it done fairly easily, after all, I’ve done it quite often, usually one home trim in between the trips to the barbers. There is always a bit I can’t quit reach, despite using two different clippers and trying my best with two mirrors. As usual I had to give up and get Scamp to even out my difficult bit. It felt so much better to get that extra 30mm or so of hair removed. Job one done.

After our morning coffee, Scamp went for a walk to the shops and I got started on a canvas. I just can’t get the Bob Ross method out of my head, so this was another landscape, but this time it was just sky, mountains and water. No trees, no bushes and no rocks. I need a lot more practise before I attempt to add them to my landscapes. It was only repainted once and that’s not bad for me. This time it was a painting in oils. While I was trying to emulate Bob Ross, I had trouble working wet in wet with the oils. The last one was done in acrylic, mainly and I’m beginning to think that he didn’t do that painting in one shot. I think, since he was using oils, that he allowed the first layer to dry before he painted in the trees.

When Scamp got back she gave the painting her approval and then went to work in the garden. Her jobs today were to plant out her first batch of sweet peas an to split her bunches of primulas. I gave her a hand for a while, but as usual, she did most of the work, and the better work if the truth be told.

The weather fairies had warned that we would probably have some rain today and on the chart it seemed to arriving around 4pm. Just before 4.30 the first raindrops hit the back window and the garden enjoyed half an hour of rain which I’m sure did it a lot of good.

Now walk today, but I did manage to get my Eight Active Hours award on my Fitbit, mainly due to walking around that painting adding blobs and scrapes of colour. PoD went to a group of aphids on a rose leaf.

Dinner was yesterday’s curry re-heated and it wasn’t as hot as I’d feared it might be. Very tasty, even if I say so myself.

Tomorrow we are promised a delivery from Tesco around dinner time.

Another lovely day. Make the most of it – 24 April 2020

It was a lovely warm day. Blue skies and wall to wall sunshine. Best of all, there was little or no wind to cool us.

To make the most of it, we sat outside in the morning and soaked up some rays. I even wore my shorts to grab as much sunshine as I could. Coffee maker was working, a bit arthritically, but working none the less and I enjoyed a cup in my folding seat at the front door. Stayed there more or less all morning with the occasional walk round the block to make sure we weren’t becoming too sedentary.

I did make one foray inside and that was to order an aeroplane. It’s a Pilatus PC12 and retails at an eye-watering $5.36M (+VAT). I managed to beat them down to £18 (+VAT). It may be delivered this year, but I have the X-Plane 11 version to fly until it can be shipped. It’s a beautifully kitted out plane and I’ve not even crashed it yet. With the deal done and downloaded, I retired to the front lawn to plan my flights and soak up some rays with another cup of coffee. I managed to nab a PoD which was a little beetle that kept circling us and eventually landed on Scamp’s coffee cup. It had previously landed on my hand, but I wasn’t quick enough to snap it. I named it Alexander for obvious reasons.

In the afternoon, after a lunch of Piece ’n’ Flat Sausage for me and Piece ’n’ Egg for my co-pilot, we went for a short constitutional round St Mo’s. Place was dull and fairly empty, so the photo of Cowslips was all I got.

Tonight’s dinner was a salad with Salmon for Scamp and an overcooked rump steak for me. Salad was lovely, but my steak was too tough.

Watched an interesting film on Amazon Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School. The key words in the title were ‘Ballroom’ and ‘Dancing’. It was entertaining and interesting. Well, it passed an hour and a half and took our minds of Sturgeon’s revelation that things wouldn’t return to ‘normal’ until next year at least and that social distancing wouldn’t go away until the autumn, if then. Yes, we want to be treated like adults, Nick, but we like fairy stories at bedtime!

Tomorrow looks like being the last of the good weather with the possibility of rain on Sunday and almost definitely next week sometime. The gardens need it, but we want sunshine! With that said, there is just the chance of a Golden Bowl dinner tomorrow.

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.

East wind, Cold wind – 17 April 2020

It was a bit dull dreich looking out at it today. Outside it was quite cold too.

It didn’t feel like a day for venturing far. In the afternoon the sun did try to get through, but without much success. I finished off the trees painting and it’s hanging in Instagram as I write. It’s number five in an as yet undisclosed number of sketches loosely linked by the title Lockdown Library. I’ve now decided that they will all be square format to fit in with the original Instagram ideal. How long it lasts and what the medium is each day is, shall we say, loose at present.

I did encourage myself to go out to St Mo’s in the afternoon to get some photos and some exercise. It’s so easy on these dull days to just sit there on the sofa while the day drifts by. The prospect of getting some photos to brighten up the blog and to add to the 366 encourages me to go out. All you youngsters who are now furloughed (if that is even a word), and all of you who are working from home, use these home-days as a taste of how life might be when you’re retired (if that is even a word when you reach 65, 70, 75 …).

There wasn’t much to photograph today. I did see a deer, but it saw and heard me too and was off. He/she needn’t have bothered. I was only armed with the E-M1 and a 30mm lens. The deer would have had to have been inside the social distancing limit for me to get a photo. What I did get was the cheery couple of Wood Anemones you see here. I also took inspiration from Ruth Spigelman on Flickr and attempted a ‘Fly Day Friday’. There were some flies around and the one I chose was black and looked a bit like a flying ant. I expect that come next Friday I’ll have forgotten all about Fly Day Friday. Not many people walking round St Mo’s today, but a constant stream combining their exercise walk with a shopping for essentials down at the new shops. We may go there tomorrow after our delivery from Tesco which is scheduled for between 12noon and 1pm.

Watched the second episode of Quiz. Yes, Hazy we can see how this is quite intriguing. Earlier we went through the four ballroom dances we (kind of) know, this time dancing them to music.

Possibly shopping tomorrow and finding places for all the groceries from Tesco.

Just another glorious day – 15 April 2020

Long may they last.

More sunshine and more warmth. Gentle breeze that didn’t really cool things down dramatically.

I walked down to the shops to get some basil for dinner and a couple of limes to make Mojitos. As it happened, the basil was used for dinner, but we both agreed the Macaroni with Bacon, Peas and Basil was promising a bit more flavour than it was producing. More, or stronger, cheese and a bit more of the creamy sauce was both our suggestions. The limes weren’t used, however. Maybe at the weekend we’ll have a couple of Mojitos to let us pretend we’re in sunny climes. I went for limes and basil, but returned with wine (never a bad thing) pizzas (they were cheap) and chicken goujon things which went into the freezer to be discovered some day when we’ve nothing in our mind for dinner. Sat in the garden and soaked up some rays when I came back from the shops. The shops were fairly quiet for a change. No need to queue at M&S!

Earlier in the day we were working in the garden. Scamp got the front grass cut and I’m sure she’ll feel better for that. She managed to do the whole grass, yet still avoid the delicate looking little Stock flower that was growing through the grass. Now that’s skill. I planted some more peas (Ambassador) in little planters this time. I also planted some teasel seeds in a tray. We brought the seeds up from our visit to Hazy in January, when N-D was off in Goa. Not sure they’ll thrive here, but I’ll try.

While I was on my way to the shops, I took a detour through St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of a ladybird taking the high road over the edge of a leaf. First ladybird I’ve seen this year, a Seven Spot.

Had a short dance practise tonight.  Jive was the subject, but we couldn’t remember how to do one of the moves, the Whip Throwaway.  It was never a favourite, but now it seems to be lost in both our heads.  Maybe a night’s sleep will bring it back.

Weather looks dull for tomorrow, but we can’t complain because the past few days have been glorious. No real plans for tomorrow. Today’s sketch was a poor rendition of an apple. I must do better tomorrow.

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.

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!

Daddy’s gone to Iceland – 10 April 2020

Yes, I know we’re supposed to stay home and keep safe this Easter Weekend, but this was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

The offer was a delivery slot from Iceland for Tuesday, almost brilliant. “Almost”, because it’s for a time slot between 8am and 10am and with my luck it will be at the ‘8’ end of that time period, so I need to be up early for it. That said, it’s a slot and there aren’t many of them around. Coincidentally, it was last Friday Scamp managed to snag a slot on Tesco. Perhaps Friday’s are the key to nabbing a slot.

Scamp volunteered to go shopping to the local shops and brought back a fair amount of goodies. It was a dull start to the day, but by the time she was going out (solo) it had warmed up and the sun was shining. So much so that she came back I took the Nikon out for a walk in St Mo’s. At first I couldn’t see anything worthwhile to photograph, but then I spotted a hoverfly, first one this year and was sure I’d seen a butterfly too. It wasn’t until a bit later in a different part of the park I got a good clear shot of it. Not the best photo in the world, but my first butterfly this year. It’s a Peacock and fairly common, but it’s another sign that spring is here.

PoD was a long lens shot of a crow sitting on a branch. I liked the graphical feel of the shot. It almost looked black and white on the computer and when I changed it into true B&W I hardly noticed the difference. Second time around the pond I found the carcass of a swan. Don’t know what killed it. It could be a loose dog or a fox or daft kids throwing bricks, but there wasn’t much left of today. Then I heard a couple of swans flying overhead. They swung round the park and then landed on the pond. That sent the two resident swans into frenzy. They started puffing up their wings and heading in to separate the newcomers. It seemed like battle royal for a while, then everything calmed down. It looked like the residents won and the two visitors were being carefully monitored. Peace had broken out when I left. Didn’t get any decent shots of the action because my Tamron was in stupid mode and wouldn’t focus properly. It’s an odd beast. Sometimes it produces pin-sharp shots, others it’s a pain in the arse.

Aloo Saag for dinner. It too is a pain in the arse to make, but it usually tastes brilliant. Didn’t quite hit the mark tonight. Too much salt or too little spinach, I’m not sure which, but the result was the same – too salty, the customer said.

We did a bit of dancing practise tonight. Waltz No 1 and Waltz No2, then Foxtrot and finally Quickstep. All done to music too. These practise sessions work for me. They just get the muscle memory working.

As usual no plans for tomorrow. We’ll take the day as it comes.