Adding up the numbers – 15 January 2019

Highlight of the day was a visit to Falkirk.

First things first. Before we went our exciting trip, I fixed a dodgy wire on the plug that supplied electricity to the light in the loft and that allowed me to clear out some more junk. As a result, we had a place to store the Christmas decorations and that’s what we did. The decorations are now in their storage area and the spare room is a lot tidier.

Time to get ready to meet Andrew, the FA. Nothing to do with Football or Associations. Everything to do with numbers. The numbers were good. Some tweaks had been made and were explained, graphs were demystified and the bottom line was a very acceptable number. Andrew threw in his usual deliberate mispronunciations, today best one was Angela Meerkat, thrown into a serious discussion of global finances in such a deadpan way that you wondered “Did he really say that?”. It’s just one of his eccentricities, that and his shirts. Today’s flamboyant example was covered in large wine coloured roses. His prediction that the pound would rise tonight after the vote for/against Theresa May’s Brexit bill no matter what the result, has just been proven correct. An astute man with a wicked sense of humour. Always worth listening to.

A quick visit to Morrisons for essentials, but no strawberries and churros today. Real essentials, for a change. Then it was home. The headlights came on as we left Morrisons and it was just before 3pm. It was a dull, drizzly day, but the clouds were thinning as the light was disappearing. I decided to drop Scamp off and go for a quick drive down to Broadwood Loch to grab a shot or two. As it turned out it was nine shots, and the best one was what you see above. I liked the ball sitting on the great expanse of dirty concrete under a gloomy sky. The curved railings are due to the shot being taken with the Samyang fish eye lens.

When I got back, there was a message on the phone from Pest Control at NLC to check if we still had a problem and I told him we did have last night.  He then set out the steps the council would take with the council houses one either side of us and said that we would be advised what repairs needed done to our house.  No date was given for the examination, but I think sooner rather than later given the MSP’s email.  We’ll see.

So, Theresa has lost the vote by the biggest majority in history. Will it make any difference to the price of fish? Maybe, but we’ve got enough fish in the freezer to see us through for a week or two. Interesting times ahead.

Tomorrow we may be dancing in the afternoon if Michael is fit. He texted Scamp to say he has the flu. My heart goes out to him.

Will you? Won’t you? Will you? Won’t you? – 13 January 2019

Will you join the dance?
Today we were going to Mango for the first time in many years to go to a Sunday Social, at least that’s what the plan was last night, and tentatively this morning, but plans change sometimes.

It was a windy night last night and the wind continued this morning, giving us good reason, we thought, to stay in bed and read for an extra hour or so. Then we needed to formulate a plan for the the day.

I dug out some meat to make the stew for my dinner and a piece of salmon for Scamp’s. The sky was clearing, helped by the strong westerly wind and it looked like a bright, if cold day. The temperature was theoretically 12ºc, but given the wind chill factor, it was just creeping up to about 5ºc, but like I said, it was bright and that’s good enough to encourage me out to take some photos in the wide (and wild) world after yesterday’s desktop shot. I reckoned I had enough time to grab a few photos, look for my lost Manfrotto tripod screw down by the Luggie Water and get back in time to make my stew before we went out.

The photos were slow in coming. I got some macro shots of what I think are Cladonia, but I could be wrong and a few desultory landscape shots. It was only when I started processing them that I realised the dreary landscape shots had some serious PoD potential. It took a fair bit of work in Lightroom to get them working, but it was worth it, I think.

I did have enough time to make the stew and under Scamp’s careful teaching it was turning out well. Unfortunately I’d spent too long scouring the Luggie pathways for the now admittedly lost screw to allow enough time for the stew to cook before we were intending to go out. That’s when the “Will we? Won’t we?” questions started. Did we really want to go? Well, maybe. Did we actually know if the Sunday Social was on today? Well, maybe we could check? Eventually I did some research on Facebook and found out that categorically the Sunday Social was on today from 6pm until 9pm. Now it was back to the first question, “Did we want to go?” I made the decision, yes, let’s go and check out this alternative and regular venue for dancing at a time we would be happy to attend. We are both glad we did!

Got parked just off the building site that is Sauchiehall Street and walked round the corner to Mango. Got there about 6.15 and found that there were people already on the dance floor, which is a good sign. It was looking good. We joined in and danced for an hour and a half almost no-stop. Met old friends we hadn’t seen for years and new friends we see every week at class. It’s now going to be on our calendar for the foreseeable future.

Came home and heated the stew, cooked the salmon and the veg and shared a bottle of wine. Spoke to JIC on the phone and the world seemed brighter than it had for weeks, at least for me it did.

Will we? Yes, we will.

Tomorrow it’s the dentist for me in the morning. Oh what fun.

The “Rat Man”cometh – 11 January 2019

Today we were expecting the “Rat Man”to call and hoping he’d call early so we could go out to lunch. He didn’t, he came in the middle of the day and spoiled our plans.

So the “Rat Man”came and found that the trap he’d put down in the back garden had not been touched, which we both found a bit surprising because we’d had a few nights without any rodents. However, when he checked at No 36 he found that all the poison he’d put down was gone. Maybe we’ve found the source of the problem. He’d put the poison down in the loft there and he suspected the access route was through a hole in the flashing at their gable end. Since their loft is at the same level as our upstairs floor, it seems there may be access from No 36 to our ceiling void. I’ll need to check that. When he’d laid down some fresh poison next door he came round and explained that as there was nothing to find in our house he was signing us off. I suppose that’s logical, but I will miss him, because I got fed up typing “Rat Man” for the blog and I created a Keyboard Maestro shortcut which would type “Rat Man” for me if I typed R M! He said that he’d be back to check No 36 again next week, but he’d drop in to see what progress we’d had. As a leaving gift, he gave me a couple of blocks of poison on a wire trace that he encouraged me to lob up into the ceiling void and check it next week by pulling it out with the wire. I took it and removed the blanking plate then lobbed it like he suggested and then replaced the plate. Now we wait and see!

<Technospeak>
With the coast clear, I grabbed the Nikon and a couple of lenses and walked around St Mo’s for an hour. It was only when I came back that I realised the aperture had been set to f22, which is a tiny wee hole letting very little light through. The camera doesn’t want to use a really slow shutter speed, so it compensates by using a very high ISO speed. High ISO speeds mean lots of digital noise which used to be called ‘noise’. It gives lots of tiny little coloured dots on the photo, especially noticeable in areas of flat tone, like the sky and on still water. All my photos had those tiny little dots. Despite my processing you can still see them in the PoD. Disappointed.
</Technospeak>

Scamp gave me a fright when she came back early from Tesco saying the car was making a ‘funny noise’. I feared the worst, but it turned out she had accidentally run over a tube of plumber’s mastic and the goo had covered one of her tyres. As she was driving it was curing and coming off in strands, banging against the wheel arch and making the ‘funny noise’. No damage done and after we’d taken it for a test drive most of it had rubbed off the tyre. Breathe again.

Tomorrow we may go to Hamilton for a curry if the weather is decent.

Another beautiful day – 9 January 2019

Beautiful, but cold.

All the cars were frozen when we got up today, but we were determined to make the most of the beautiful day, so we got up and I went out to defrost the car. I’ve got a sort of love – hate relationship with the Juke. Somethings about it just irritate me. Some things I love. I’d like a car that has a heated front screen, but the Juke has the next best thing. Press the demise/defrost button and the blower starts going full blast and all of that blast is directed towards the windscreen and using the side jets, to the side windows. Wishing two or three minutes the screen and the side window are clear. It helped today that the sun was just creeping round to spread some heat on the top corner of the windscreen, but most of the work was done by that defrost button.

We drove east to Cramond, home to the giant toblerones and the nice wee cafe beside the River Almond. That was where we were headed, to the river walk. Unfortunately when we reached the cafe it was closed. It looked as if it had been closed for quite some time and there was an advert looking for kitchen staff. However, there were no kitchen staff in evidence, so we walked further up the river, past the ruins of the mill where today’s PoD came from and on until we reached the steps that lead up and over the cliffs and down the other side, then they go over another set of cliffs and down the other side of them. We decided that was too much of the up and over stuff, and postponed it until another (warmer) day.

Since it was now around midday, we were mindful of the fact that the sun would soon be dipping towards the horizon and also that a spot of lunch would be good. We knew of another cafe in the village and walked to that, but there was no room at this particular inn today. There was nothing for it but to grab a shot of the toblerones sparkling in the sunshine and looking good with the tide just starting to come in from a long way out, and go home.

Stopped at The Gyle shopping centre to go for lunch at Morrisons and to get some provisions too. Roll ’n’ Sausage for me, bowl of chips for Scamp and two coffees for just over six quid was a bargain. Then it was back in the Juke and home along the M8 for a change. And, for a change we made really good time on a road that’s almost always congested.

Spoke to Hazy for a while when we got home.  She had read yesterday’s blog to see what our plans were for today and time her call perfectly.  Good to catch up with all that’s going on “”, as Ray would say

Dinner was an old favourite, Mac & Cheese with extra bacon for me. Then it was time for Wednesday Salsa. I danced half of the 6.30 class and then the whole 7.30 class. Thoroughly enjoyed both. Coming home they were digging up the motorway or pretending to at least and we had to sit at every traffic light all the way from Charing Cross to Cumbernauld Road in Dennistoun. I didn’t count them, just harrumphed as the next one ahead turned from amber to red. Sometime’s you’re lucky and sometimes you’re not. Tonight was NOT!

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the boys. Adult entertainment. There may be strong language from the start as they say on the BBC.

If I was a carpenter – 31 December 2018

Up, out and on the road for 10am. Unheard of.

The reason we were up early was to catch the “Rat Man” who, at 8am, was making a second visit to the house next door. I wanted to tell him personally that the droppings he’d seen in the loft were not ‘Historical’ as he supposed, but live and from an active rodent, probably one of the two I’d despatched after he left empty-handed. He wasn’t impressed and even less impressed when I asked him to come in and witness the demolition job some of the dead rodents friends had done on a bag of sultanas in one of the cupboards. Last night, they appeared to have removed a blanking piece, abseiled down from the void between the ceiling and the upstairs floor and scoffed about a quarter of the bag. He did offer some help and suggested that as well as blocking up the hole, we should first stuff it with steel wool which apparently does nasty things to the rodents teeth. He offered a few other suggestions and said he’d probably be seeing us again in a week’s time. I thanked him for his help, especially as he was covering two “Rat Men’s” positions while one is on paternity leave.

With his suggestions in mind we drove off to B&Q to get some MDF, screws and just to be sure, some expanding foam and some more poison. We had to drop in at Tesco on the way to stock up on food, because it will be closed ALL DAY tomorrow!!! Shock Horror! What will we do?? By midday I was ready for my lunch and the board was ready to screw into place. Some poison in place and steel wool carefully stuffed in to every crevice afterwards. After lunch the board was in place. I decided not to use the expanding foam after all as I was working overhead and the polyurethane foam is VERY sticky so the thought of it dripping onto my head didn’t appeal.

With my carpentry work done, I took my leave and went for a walk in St Mo’s hoping to grab some of the last good light of 2019. That’s where I got today’s PoD the last of this year’s 365. It’s the Bee Seat (my name for it). It’s a wooden seat designed and made by a local group for St Mo’s park and with a coloured engraving of a bee on one of the uprights. A great place to sit and watch the world go by, or as in today’s case, watch the Canada geese being shepherded by a vigilant swan.

Back home it was Kedgeree for dinner. A spicy kedgeree in fact. Still went down very nicely with a bottle of Spring Oak Leaf wine from Cairn o’Mohr. Very sweet dessert wine with just a hit of the tannin in the Oak. That was ‘hit’, not ‘hint’. You could definitely taste it.

After dinner I attempted the second of my pocket repairs with the sewing machine. This one was done using Scamp’s suggested method and I have to admit that it beats my method hands down. It’s a bit more extravagant on material, but if the final result is as good as it seems, it will be worth it.

I think we’ll be staying up for ‘The Bells’ tonight. Possibly we’ll need a little tincture or two to keep our eyes open after such an early rise and such an active day, but tradition must be served.

I’ve added these two pictures that came from Colin Brown (his dad and I were cousins) in Ayrshire.

Tomorrow, hopefully we will be later risers than today and hopefully not having to resort to any more morning carpentry work.

Hope 2019 is a good year to all my readers, wherever you are.  Safe flight home JIC and Sim.

Me and my big mouth – 24 December 2018

I said I thought I’d sidestepped Scamp’s cold. Me and my big mouth.

Last night I was lying choking in bed with that sore throat that always tells you the cold is just waiting in the wings for you to fall asleep and then it’ll announce itself with a sickly cough that will bring you back awake again until you start to fall asleep and then the cycle will begin again. Woke this morning with a terrible taste in my mouth and a nose that was totally clogged. Still think you sidestepped it Mr C?

Felt better when I got up. It’s always better when you’re vertical. Had a shower and felt almost human again. Maybe it’s the hot damp atmosphere that does it, but it seems to loosen the gunk that clogs my nose and dampens my throat too. I even brushed my teeth to get rid of the horrible taste in there. That makes three times this year. That must be a record for me. The brushing helped, but I won’t make a habit of it.

Scamp went off to visit June and while she was away I set up the Naturewatch camera with the Raspberry Pi. It was a bit fiddly, but I got everything set up and everything fitted nicely into an old Tupperware box. Fixed it to the tree near the bird feeder and got some fairly decent shots of a selection of birds. For something this tiny it produces great pictures. When Scamp returned from her visit and announced that June was much better. I decided I’d go for a walk. I was well warned to get well wrapped up which I did.

Walked round St Mo’s which was still covered in hoar frost in the mid afternoon.  Some signs that it might be thawing, but by the time it got started properly the sun would be setting and the temperature would plummet again.  For once I got some of the good light. What’s sometimes called the “Golden Hour”. Well named today. The PoD is one of the best ones. No fakery needed here, the light was just so good.

I forgot to mention that Scamp got a text from Michael our dance teacher to say that we had won the hamper in the annual Christmas raffle. Would we be in to collect it, because he could deliver. We originally said we’d meet him in Glasgow, around 2pm to get it. However he texted to say that he was running late and it would be after 5pm before he’d be there, could he get his brother do deliver it instead. We agreed to that because his brother lived in Cumbersheugh, so it would be on his way. He arrived with it tonight. A big plastic box crammed full of chocolate and sweets and with a voucher for £20 off a pair of dance shoes which I’m sure Scamp will claim. I’ll have the Liquorice Allsorts.

Scamp spoke to the woman next door today who confirmed that she has a rodent problem too, as do the couple on the other side of us. So, we are not alone. So far our rodents are in the loft or under the floor, but not in the house, but Angela said she had seen two in her house. It’s a long time since we had mice in the house, but I phoned NLC environmental health and explained the situation. The girl I spoke to said she’d pass on the information to the sub-contractor who would contact us in a few days. Feel better now that it’s official and something is being done even if the wheels will be turning even slower than normal at this time of year.

That’s about it for now. Hope you all have a happy Christmas, wherever you are and whoever you’re with. G’night.

Blue Skies and a Little Drop of Poison – 22 December 2018

Blue skies for a while today. Maybe Hazy was right, maybe this is Spring!

This morning, Scamp drove up to see what was left to buy in Tesco. The answer was “Not Much”, but she bought it anyway. I stayed at home nursing a sore throat. Heaven forbid I’ve caught her cold. When she returned it was my turn to go out. I drove out to B&Q and got some rat and mouse poison. If they are avoiding my traps, maybe it’s time to bring out the big guns. Chemical weapons, WMDs. I’m reluctant to use dirty tactics, but as someone said “They’re living in my house and they’re not paying rent.” So I baited the box and placed it in the loft secured by a couple of strips of duct tape. Have you ever tried using duct tape while wearing latex gloves? It’s not easy. If your mind drifts to more erotic images, forget it. This was fully clothed, in a cold loft, surrounded by itchy fibreglass insulation and a few mouse droppings. There, that should clear things up. Set another trap where I thought I heard the little blighter last night. I’ll leave the latest devices in place for a day or two before I check them again.

With my chemical weapons in the boot, I left B&Q and drove up the Arns Road. It’s a mile and a half of single track road with no passing places behind Abronhill. Lovely low angled light from a sun that was heading for the horizon and I managed to get a couple of shots of a new build house on a hill. One of the shots was out of focus, so luckily the other made up for it. Squirted it through Lightroom and it came out looking like the one at the top of the page.

Came home and after solving today’s Sudoku, it was time to get ready to go to J&M’s in Hamilton. Lovely dinner there and a chat with Laura who was home for Christmas. Unfortunately the effervescent Ross was otherwise engaged tonight, so no tall tales from him.

Left just before 10pm as Scamp was beginning to suffer from her cold again. I’m hoping I’ve sidestepped the worst of it, but just to be sure I’m having a little whisky nightcap while I write this with the option of a double dose of vitamin C afterwards.

Tomorrow all depends on the weather. Hopefully it will be like today’s morning and afternoon (sunny) and not like tonight’s drive to Hamilton and back (wet). It also depends on Scamp’s cold.

A ‘lovely’ day – 20 December 2018

Woke to rain, and that set the theme for the day.

Scamp was still suffering from a heavy cold, but was determined to meet Nancy at The Fort (our second home this week, it seems). I stayed in to wait for a parcel for the new Toy Off The Rack. It didn’t come. However I did get some other things parcelled up, things that had been lingering in the back bedroom for weeks. Hope they haven’t gone mouldy in that time. Anyway, they’re under the tree now, under the watchful eyes of Fairy and Fairy Nuff.

With a bit of peace and quiet to myself, I set to and made a couple of videos on One Point and Two Point Perspective for Margie, one of Scamp’s Gems singers who does a lot of sketching and painting, but has never mastered perspective. Hopefully they should help. Links at the bottom of the page in case you’re interested. I say I made a couple of videos. In actual fact I made about half a dozen, but most of them showed the bald patch on the top of my head, rather than any drawing. I just couldn’t get the camera in the right position, even when I was using the big Manfrotto tripod behind me in its most inelegant yoga position with one leg pressed horizontally against the wall while resting on the chest of drawers and the other two legs at various angles and extensions on the floor. I eventually gave up and used a neat little iPhone holder that Hazy gave me years ago and fixed it on the small Manfrotto tripod, sitting on the tabletop and filmed the whole thing on the iPhone. That worked perfectly. Simplest is sometimes best.

When Scamp returned I went out to get stuff for dinner and to take some photos. Today’s PoD is of part of the Antonine Wall at the east of Cumbersheugh. It was taken in the last of the afternoon light and in what turned out to be a fifteen minute window in the rain that persisted the rest of the day. Tried processing it in Lightroom and On1 and the latter won hands down. Ok, it’s not perfect, but neither was the weather. Dinner was chicken curry made with the excellent Patak’s Paste Pots.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to go to the butchers to get my Christmas steak.

Link 1: One Point Perspective

Link 2: Two Point Perspective

So, this is Sunday, isn’t it? – 16 December 2018

Yes, it was Sunday, so why did it feel like Saturday?

Well, the simple answer is because Saturday felt like a Friday and therefore it was logical that Sunday would feel like Saturday. OK?

With that in mind, we set of on to visit Stirling, pretending that it was Saturday. One of the benefits of visiting Stirling on a Sunday is that there is no charge for parking. That saved us a whole £1.40! We walked to Waitrose and bought the whole shop, then packed it carefully into the Juke’s boot and drove home.

By the time we got home there was just enough light to allow me to go a walk over to St Mo’s to grab a few shots with “The Big Dog”, i.e. the Nikon. Low light means you need a bigger sensor to grab as many of those photons as possible without resorting to a higher ISO. Bigger sensors mean less digital noise, sometimes called grain. Smaller grains means smoother images. I could have put a <Technospeak> warning there, but I just thought some of you deserved a bit of a photographic education. So now you know that to get smoother gradations you need a lower ISO and if possible a bigger sensor. There, quote that and you’ll sound so much cleverer! Got the photos and took them home to look at more closely on the ‘puter.

Earlier in the day, even before we’d gone out to buy Waitrose, we’d spoke to Hazy who updated us on all the things going on down London way. It’s nice to know that other folk are suffering from dull weather too. It’s not just us.

After perusing today’s photos and settling on a PoD, a moody shot across the boardwalk at St Mo’s, I started to make the dinner which was a vegan Spag Bol. I’ve made it before but today’s effort seemed a bit bland. Too many mushrooms or too little salt? Not sure. Scamp said it was fine, so maybe just me.

Sat down to watch the final of The Apprentice. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will tell you that it was one of the girls! Halfway through JIC which was a godsend really as two hours of TA without a break is more of a marathon than Mo Farah could withstand. Spoke for half an hour or so and got up to date on all the things going on down Cambridge way.

Finally watched the end of the epic journey to be Sugar’s next business partner. Slightly less interesting than a boring F1 GP.

Tomorrow will probably be a Monday. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Talking Technology

Scamp was out early to meet Isobel, I was out later to meet Val. All of us risking a dose of the cold sitting in the freezing draft in Costa Cumbernauld.

I wanted to pick Val’s brains about the new Raspberry Pi which has come a long way since the last time I played around with one back in 2014.
<Technospeak Warning>
Then it was simply a tiny bare bones computer on a PCB. Now it holds much more memory and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth and the Italian hardware genius has already played around a lot with it. I wanted it as a monitor for my bird table, and just to play around with if I’m being honest (which I sometimes am.). A “toy off the rack if you like” off the Technology Rack, that is. The idea of building and having a small, portable computer that can be run from a battery pack is very 21st century. Because it runs Linux or a compact subset of it, its OS is free, all you’re paying for is the components. With the basic model you even have to solder in some of those components! Maybe I should order some Elastoplast as a preventative measure. I’m sure there will be a lot of swearing, cursing my stupidity and also fun in this project, but at present, my imagination is doing overtime thinking about what I can do with it.
<Technospeak Complete>

Walked with Val to Tesco to get some cod for our dinner. We parted, hoping to meet again before Christmas. We did meet again because we both came out of Tesco at the same time a half hour or so later! As a result I gave Val a run home then carried on up to the back of Fannyside Moor and got today’s PoD there. Well, I got the makings of the PoD. It took a fair bit of post processing to get from what I took to what you see here. However, what you see here is what I wanted to see through the viewfinder.

Tonight’s dinner was Cod and Sweetcorn Chowder but as usual I forgot to add the sweetcorn, so a spoonful of it was stirred into the thick soupy broth and it did no harm that it was just a wee bit cold. It’s a firm favourite now this chowder.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Colin for coffee in the same cold Costa. This time we’re meeting a bit earlier so perhaps, just perhaps we’ll get a warmer seat, or maybe we’ll abandon the cold Costa to the duller, but much warmer one at the other end of the boggin’ Antonine Centre. We’ll see.  Maybe snow tomorrow.  We’ve done not too bad getting to December before we got the white stuff.