A non dancing Monday – 3 June 2019

Dancing with some teachers isn’t dancing, it’s repeti-ti-ti-tion.

The day began with me finding the first tick of the year. I was reading last year’s blog last night, and would you believe it, a year ago on the 1st of June I found a tick. I make the solemn pledge then “No more walking through long grass until the first frost.” Today I made the same pledge. While a nasty surprise, it gave me a chance to try out the tick remover Scamp got for me last year. First time I’ve had cause to use it. Hopefully the last for a long time. Unfortunately the wee bugger landed on the carpet when I pinged it off and that meant I got to hoover the carpet to make sure it didn’t reattach itself to me or anyone else. Then just to make sure it was definitely gone, I sprayed the carpet with fly and insect killer. Probably took a few days off my life too, breathing in the noxious fumes.

With that done and with the carpet hoovered, I phoned the butcher to order some meat for the weekend. Scamp was out visiting one of her friends who was just out of hospital. She was also taking here sister to the docs after Gems, so I was given the job of taxi driver for the other two. Not a problem really, I hadn’t intended going out. The weather was hit and miss today and that’s why I gave it a miss. Too many heavy showers and a (very) few sunny periods. Instead I headed upstairs and did a sketch from my June list. Topic was An Umbrella. It’s finished and looks ok, but not great. Actually, the practise sketch was better. That’s quite often the case with me.

After my taxi job was done and Scamp was back from the docs, having dropped June back home (she got a course of antibiotics for a chest infection), we had to decide what was happening about salsa tonight. Last night Shannon had said she was taking Jamie G’s advanced class tonight. After much soul searching and discussion we decided not to go. It’s about 40 minutes driving there and back with a boring waste of an hour dancing the same move over and over again. I know Scamp still feels bad about it and deep down thinks we should have gone, but we agreed not to and it’s done now. After dinner I finished another swift watercolour sketch of mushrooms. That the first two done. The sketch for today (3rd June) is A Bird and for tomorrow itself is A Weed. Plenty of them to practise on!

Today’s PoD is a landscape taken from the top of the Whin Edge Brae above Mollinsburn, and was taken just before one of the heaviest rain showers I’ve nearly been caught in. Luckily I was just home before the clouds broke. Scamp wasn’t so lucky and was driving through it. I’m still trying to find out what all the buttons and dials do on the new toy. It’s amazing how much it can do.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow looking for a new pair of boots. Although if I’m not walking in the long grass until the first frost, I may not need them for a while.

No more sweeties

NHS, they take away your pleasures, one at a time.

Went to the docs to get the result of my blood test in my annual checkup. Everything was fine except my diabetic sugar result which was a bit high. I know it was my own fault for pandering to my sweet tooth, but now I’m paying the price. No more sweeties for the foreseeable future 🙁

After I had been given a gentle reminder by the nurse to keep a firm rein on my sugar and fat intake, I went home to find that Scamp had bought a ready-made curry for tonight’s dinner. One more curry won’t do any harm I told her. There was no way I was asking her to take it back! It was lovely, by the way.

I sat in the garden for a while and attempted today’s sketch which was “The house you are living in”. I prefer the back of the house to the front. There’s more privacy at the back and that’s where the most interesting and older plants are. That’s why I sat under the rowan tree and sketched it from there. I used a sort of wide angle exaggerated perspective. I was happy enough with the result and then went out for a walk along the Luggie Water.

Took a longer walk than normal. Right from the waterfall all the way along almost to Condorrat. Got a few landscapes and lots of flower pics. No beasties today though. PoD went to the three poppies – Red against Green. Strongest colour contrast in the box.

Tonight I redrew the house and gave it a few washes of watercolour, but I’m not happy with the result. Too twee and too full of fine details. Tomorrow it’s a knife or a sword. I have plenty of knives to sketch, but I’ll have to go down to Millcroft to get a sword!

Dancing tomorrow, hopefully and sketching a knife.

Causing bother again – 10 May 2019

The day started well, and then it stalled at B&Q.

It was a lovely morning. Really too lovely to lie in bed, but that’s what we both did. That’s what happens when you’re stuck in a good book. You waste the best part of the day.

However we did eventually get going and of course Scamp was out sorting the garden again. Planning new layouts of plants, new colour schemes and sometimes, just new schemes. However, she did get a chance to use our new garden table as a potting table. So much more sensible than crouching down filling pots with compost. Better for the back. Then she was off to get her hair cut while I messed around on the computer looking at stuff, electric shavers and such.

After lunch she was stuck in the house because it was raining, really raining. I went off to The Fort to buy the electric shaver of my dreams. Not quite as posh as some people with their Series 9s with their cleaning modules. Mine would be a Series 5, but a big step up from the old blunt Series 4 I’ve had for about fifteen years, we think.

On the way back I spotted some beautiful light beginning to build, so I stopped and photographed it of course. Not on the motorway, but down a wee side road on the outskirts of Cumbersheugh. I didn’t have time to change lenses, because the light itself was changing rapidly, so instead I took three shots and intended to combine them into a panorama in ON1. I think it worked very well. I’m very impressed with that application.  Oh yes, and while I was there I saw the first swallow this year.  This is week 19.

Back home is where the bother started. The plug that came with the shaver didn’t fit our old shaver adaptor. No problem I managed to slide the contacts in until the shaver started charging. After dinner (Simple Fish Stew from yesterday) Scamp was going to the choir concert with Isobel and I’d volunteered to drive. After dropping her off, I went to B&Q to get an adaptor. Saw one for £1.50. Yes, that sounded right. No it wasn’t. Checkout girl said it was £2.65. Nope, I said, ticket says £1.50. Her supervisor said £2.65. Long story short. I went and checked, photographed said box of adaptors and the price ticket, but it made no difference. The supervisor wouldn’t believe the photo. The price was £2.65. The arrogance of that woman really got to me. Her mantra must be ‘The Customer Is Always Wrong’. I left without the adaptor. Have you ever tried writing a complaint to B&Q? There is nowhere on their website where such a thing is possible, believe me, I spent half an hour scrutinising the website, but they must be so perfect, nobody ever complains. Either that or they’ve hauled up the drawbridge, lowered the portcullis and are all running around with their fingers in their ears, saying “NOPE, NO COMPLAINTS HERE”. I did eventually get my complaint written and sent to somewhere in the system. We’ll see what happens next.

Today’s topic is A Door. My answer is the Bin Shed Door. It used to house the bins, but now we have four different types and different sizes of bins, there’s no room for all of them in the shed. Now it’s crammed full of gardening stuff, that’s why it’s firmly closed and the snib is down!  Not perfect, but I like the pot of Honeybells on the doorstep. That makes up for the rest of the painting.

Tomorrow we’re going to the funeral of Crawford’s brother. After that, the day will start.

 

Out in the countryside – 22 April 2019

We certainly were out in the countryside early this morning.

Scamp didn’t want to miss a minute of today’s beautiful weather. That’s why we were out and walking along the Forth & Clyde canal just after 10am. It seemed today was cycling day rather than Earth Day because we must have been passed by about twenty cyclists of varying degrees of fitness and skill as we walked the canal. We reached Twechar about 11am and started to walk back using the old railway as our path. That’s where today’s PoD came from. There was just a hint of blue haze as we made our way back to Auchinstarry, but I was fairly sure my software combination of Lightroom and ON1 would bring back the true colour and it did work out well. We crossed over at the Plantation and from there back on to the canal path to The Boathouse or “HEBO HOUSE” as it seems to have renamed itself. I actually like “HEBO HOUSE”. It’s got a Nordic sound to it. I’m sure the Kilsyth folk could spin a tale that it means “House by the still waters” in Lallans dialect.

Drove home and had lunch before Scamp parked her sun bed in the garden and waited for the sun to make itself known. I started on my task for the day which was to recreate the focaccia bread we’d bought in Embra on Saturday, “The day of the Signal Failure”. It was a bit of a faff making this sloppy dough. I started out making it in the food mixer, but thought I’d like to try hand kneading it, that’s when I found out just how sloppy and slithery it really was. Finally I gave in and got the Kenwood to do the heavy lifting. Bear in mind, this bread has 140ml of good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO to those in the know), whereas my usual bread dough has about 30ml. That’s how it became so slippery. However, once it was safely ensconced in its plastic tub it didn’t look so bad and after an hour it had completed its first rise. Next task was to slide it out of the tub, cut it in two and form it into two oval shapes on the baking trays. This part was easier than I’d anticipated, in fact, the worst was now past and the two focaccia breads have now been part consumed, although we did leave a bit for tomorrow. Focaccia is a dawdle as long as you have a Kenwood Chef mixer with a dough hook to do the hard work.

Basically that was it for the day. Scamp made an excellent Spaghetti dello Chef for dinner and we scoffed it and the best part of a bottle of white wine in the garden.

Spoke to JIC tonight and watched the final of University Challenge where Embra beat St Edmund Hall and the despicable Leo “Mmmmm”.

Tomorrow we’re off to Falkirk in the morning, hopefully a sunny Falkirk. Lunch for Scamp and coffee for me in the afternoon.

Dancing without Numpties – 17 April 2019

Drove in to Glasgow to go dancing. Only real dancers there today.

I think there must have been a sign outside Blackfriars that read “No Numpties”. There were only five of us dancers there and all of us wanted to dance, and learn. Nobody giggled and shouted out “Look at me, I’m stupid”. Nobody stopped in the middle of the floor to have an argument. All of us were dancing, getting things wrong occasionally, but then working to put things right. What a difference it made. It made the lessons a pleasure, not a chore and we got further than we did last week when the Numpties where there. Unfortunately, somebody will take that useful sign down next week and it will be back to normal again.

In the afternoon when we got back, I ordered some coffee from the Bean Shop over the phone so I could get some Cuban Tarquino which you can only order over the phone because the website isn’t allowed to list if for a ridiculous reason that’s something to do with PayPal. After that, I went for a drive, mainly to get petrol to fill the Juke’s thimble sized tank, but also to grab a PoD which turned out to be a landscape shot across St Mo’s pond. It looked lovely and still on a calm day.

Drove through terrible traffic again to get to Salsa and quite enjoyed both classes, but I get the feeling we’re being taken for granted. Maybe I’m wrong, but it feels like we aren’t needed and, lets face it, we don’t learn much on a Wednesday night. I think we should take the occasional night off. We don’t pay for the classes, but we pay for the petrol to drive there and we pay for parking and get no thanks for it from anyone at AdS. It would be good for Jamie G to say thanks, just once in a while.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow on the bus and try to have a look at the Leonardo exhibition.

Last Full Day – 26 March 2019

Ticking off the last few things we had to do in The Warm Place.

After breakfast we took the free bus into Caleta after a mystery tour round the various hotels around the town. We were keeping a weather eye on a big black cloud that was getting ominously close and were becoming a bit concerned that we might just need the brollies we’d left in the hotel! With that in mind it was a smart walk around to see the newly renovated Ereza Mar hotel which had been partly torn down the last time we’d been on the Windy Island. It looked really smart, but that was just the white paint and the blue roof tiles. We’d seen the holes in the blockwork of the balconies!

Walking back towards the town we felt the first spits and spots of rain. Warm rain, but rain, none the less. That gave us the opportunity to nip into the Irish bar for a pint of Guinness for me and a half pint of lager for Scamp. By the time we came out the cloud and the rain had disappeared, the streets were dry and the sky was blue once again. Walked along the sands and grabbed today’s PoD which was three seats with a view, but no takers. There is a strange dearth of visitors on the beach this year. It might be something to do with Brexit that’s keeping the Brits at home, but that wouldn’t prevent the French, Germans and Italians from grabbing some early spring warmth. Can’t quite work it out, and we’ve heard quite a few people saying the same thing. Signs of the times perhaps.

Sat on a seat beside a child’s lost toy mouse and had an ice cream, just looking out to sea. Then we said goodbye to the toy mouse and walked on to see the fish in the little river that flows out of Elba Sara. I got some photos of a bird that might be a Turnstone, but PoD remains the three seats.

Just sat by the pool in the afternoon, but the clouds were massing again and it wasn’t looking as good as it had done earlier.

Getting ready for dinner, I slipped getting out of the bath that doubles as a shower. Banged my side against the bath and staved my finger. Silly old fool. It felt reminiscent of November in Lanzarote when I woke up on the last day with a lump the size of an egg on my elbow and no knowledge of how it had happened.

Dinner wasn’t anything special to write home about, so I won’t.

Spent our last evening packing and re-packing the bags and cases. I really must review my bag packing list. With a bit of re-organising I manage to get the carry-on bag down to 4.3kg which was much better than the vastly overloaded 8kg going out.

Tomorrow it’s going to be a long day.

Less than manic Monday – 18 March 2019

Broke the surface just after 8am, then promptly fell asleep soon after and didn’t rise until 11am.

Must have needed the sleep! Spoke to Hazy on the phone for a while, then my morning coffee mix of Cuban and Sumatran beans woke me up properly. Did a bit of sketching with Margie in the early afternoon before I got itchy feet and went out for a drive to find a PoD. I drove all round the locale before I found what I was looking for, accidentally.

I’d driven up the Whin Edge Brae, so called because of the whin (gorse) bushes that line it. I chose this location because the light on the hills looked as if it would be interesting. I thought I’d get a decent set of frames, from which I could build a panorama of the Campsies. It was while I was grabbing these images that I heard the skein of geese approaching. Finished the pano frames and then managed to frame the skein just above a spot of sunshine on the Campsie Fells. I’d like to say that they were flying south, but they were actually heading due west at the time. Just after I took the shot the whole group banked through 180º and turned due east and were last seen heading for Edinburgh, or Embra to give it its proper name. I’m guessing they were looking for a large enough field or loch to land and feed then rest for the night. I’m sure they knew where they were going.

Drove in to the STUC building tonight for Salsa and enjoyed taking the beginners through their paces with Balsero being the highlight of their night. The advanced class were a bit down on leaders, Jamie and I being the only two men there. Scamp had to stand in as a leader and managed to lead the new move, Prisma perfectly.

Tomorrow we may go the Stirling or Glasgow for some shopping and lunch.

Oh no! Snow! – 16 March 2019

We were promised snow today, and we got it.

For about an hour it snowed this morning, then the snow turned to sleet, and later to rain. It didn’t keep us in, we’d already agreed we weren’t going out today, so the snow, sleet, rain didn’t change things.

Like a dug wi’ a burst ba’ I continued on my project to get Linux on to the Linx. Eventually I had to agree with the experts who said it couldn’t be done. It can’t. The dug has finally buried the burst ba’. Well, maybe, but it knows where it buried it and it can dig it up again later for another go.

To take my mind off the ba’, I restarted my apple a day project with a painting on expensive Waterford 140lb NOT watercolour paper (NOT stands for Not Hot Pressed, i.e. not perfectly smooth). It was good to paint on paper that doesn’t soak up the paint right away and also doesn’t rub through at the slightest pressure from the brush. I found the paper in a drawer in the painting room. It must be well over twenty years old!

I finally dragged myself out later in the afternoon to plod over to Condorrat because we’d run out of milk and bread. I returned with the aforementioned staples plus chocolate, fudge, a pineapple cake and a rhubarb pie. Equally essential staples! So far we’ve still got the chocolate, but the rest are gone, apart from the bread and milk of course, we’re still working our way through them.

Today’s PoD was taken in St Mo’s, a short diversion from the road back from the shops. It looks like a log jam, but it’s fallen horsetails, one of the oldest groups of grasses. The genus can be traced back 250 million years.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go to Salsa in Paisley. The last La Rambla salsa social because the restaurant is being taken over by the next door sushi restaurant and salsa isn’t a very Japanese dance. I’ll miss the food, but I won’t miss the terrible service.

Lunch, Linx and Linux – 15 March 2019

We were up and about early this morning to make sure Jackie got her taxi on time to take her in to Glasgow.

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After our visitor had left I settled down to a relaxing hour of Sudoku wrangling while Scamp played Spider on her tablet. While I was sudoku solving I got the idea that I should maybe try putting Linux into the old Linx tablet. Maybe that would stop the continuous annoying demands that I update Windows 10 on it. I needed to download the Linux file on a PC, which was when I discovered that the modem driver on the Linux was screwed. In fact it was so seriously screwed that Windows couldn’t fix it. What it did tell me was to go online and search for a solution there. That would be difficult with no internet connection because of the fault. Eventually I gave up and just restored the entire OS from a backup. Long story – short, I wasted the entire morning fixing Windows problems and didn’t even get the Linux installed. Maybe tomorrow?!
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Drove out to The Smiddy for lunch. Mac ’n’ Cheese for Scamp and Chicken, Chorizo, Tomato and Beans for me. Bought a chump chop (lamb) which might possibly be tomorrow’s dinner for me and also a chunk of Blue Murder cheese which is a very nice blue cheese. Didn’t buy the aptly named “Minger” cheese which tasted just as it’s name would suggest. Drove home through the wild winds, driving sleet and blinding sunshine! Welcome to Scotland!

When we got home the rain and sleet halted, but the winds and the sunshine persisted, so I grabbed my boots and went for a walk in St Mo’s looking for a decent picture. I think I got one and that’s it at the top of the page. The tree that was swaying dangerously in the wind the other day was still there, still swaying. Bumped into Susan Greenshields on my way home and she was as grumpy as ever. Nice to see that some things and some people never change.

Made some more pakora in the evening and it tasted quite good again, but still needed something else. Don’t know what. Had another half hearted try at the Linux thing later and eventually found that it can’t be done. Something about a 64 bit processor and a 32bit BIOS that isn’t really a BIOS, but an EFI. It’s an EFFING pain in the arse if you ask me.

Tomorrow snow is forecast, so we won’t be going far.

Sleet, snow, hail and rain – 10 March 2019

Set off around 9.30 for the long drive back home. It wasn’t looking like it would be a pleasant drive and it lived up to that estimate. Driving down through Skye was ok with the snow keeping mostly to the mountains and higher hills. I managed to grab a shot of the Old Man of Storr just emerging from a blizzard. That became the PoD.

Carried on down to the biscuit tin also know as Eilean Donan castle at Dornie and stopped there for a coffee and a scone each. Suitably refreshed and after I’d had a quick look at some of the paintings for sale in the shop, we got on our way again. The weather worsened quite a bit and when we passed Loch Cluanie it was down to minimal visibility and the snow was beginning to lie on the road. I expected worse would be to come when we made the turn off to climb up to the Glen Garry viewpoint because the road is very exposed. I needn’t have worried because the snow clouds didn’t break and we had a fairly easy run over to Invergarry. From there it was on and off sleet and rain all the way down to Fort Billy where we stopped for lunch.

Refuelled at Fort Billy (oh how I wish the Juke had a proper petrol tank) and set off for Glencoe. Glencoe itself was fine, but when we got up onto Rannoch Moor the snow started again in earnest and we joined a conga line of cars battling down the road. The snow and sleet stayed with us all way down to Crianlarich and eventually faded out, leaving us free to drive down to Stirling and the welcome wide lanes of the M9. We had had a blue van following us all the way from Fort Billy. He/she seemed in no hurry to pass us and we kept a steady pace all the way. Just before they turned off the M9 heading for Embra they flashed their headlights and I gave them a wave. Hope they got home safe.

The rest of the journey was thankfully boring and pedestrian compared with the highlands. Enjoyed the time with Jac & Murdo, but it was good to be home.

Tomorrow? Gems and Salsa that’s about it.