A walk in the woods – 10 November 2018

Today started late, but not late enough for me. I was knackered.

Yesterday transitioned into today, early in the morning when our visitors left after a great night. Two retired couples comparing notes. When we finally got to bed after loading the dishwasher and tidying some of the detritus away, it must have been close to 1am and we’re not used to these late nights. So, it was a fairly late morning wakeup. Completed the remainder of the clean-up operation and finally settle down with a coffee and a sudoku sitting on the couch in the sunlight. Beautiful morning after a night of heavy rain I believe although luckily I was in the Land of Nod while the rain fell.

Scamp eventually encouraged me to drive us to some place where we could go for a walk in the fresh air. Her first suggestion was The Kelpies which, while interesting wasn’t as interesting as her second suggestion, Chatelherault for a walk through the trees. We set off for Hamilton and a walk through the trees.

It turned out to be a much longer walk than either of us had anticipated, but at least this time we were well prepared with boots and walking poles. My pole doubles as a monopod, so that makes it doubly useful for steadying the camera. Took the ‘Big Dog’ and walked as far as the closed off path to the “White Bridge”. Well, I walked on to see the White Bridge (Scamp waited at the bottom of the steps). There is little left of the White Bridge now because  unfortunately it has been stripped of its floor and handrails, so is now simply two steel beams crossing the Avon Water. Took some photos and then walked back to meet up with Scamp. Then we had to climb thousands, literally thousands of steps up to the High Parks and then back to the cafe and a hard won coffee and half a scone each.

Drove back through the heavy rain that got heavier as we approached Cumbersheugh. Dinner tonight was the remains of yesterday’s Steak Pie for me and yesterday’s Rats for Scamp. I enjoyed today’s walk, but those steps are a real killer.

We have no plans for tomorrow as yet, but we may go in and visit Shona.

Out looking for foties – 5 November 2018

It’s Monday. It’s a Gems day. I need an excuse to get out.

Dull, damp, uninspiring morning. Hoping it would get better (brighter) later, I trawled through some photos in Flickr looking for inspiration. Saw a photo of Loch Lomond with the hills just dusted with snow. That would do. Millarochy Bay would be good if the light got a bit better. As one o’ clock drew nearer and no decent light appeared, I was getting worried that it might end up being the Luggie Water or even St Mo’s again, then I had a brainwave, or something like it. I’d go up over the Tak Ma Doon road and see what the weather was like on the other side of the hills, and that’s what I did.

Passed a few cyclists on the climb of the Tak Ma Doon into the clouds and was glad I was in a car. Had a near miss with a wee white Citroen near the top of the climb, but I needn’t have worried. The wee thing looked as if it was made from paper-thin steel and would probably just have bounced off the Juke and gone flying over the dyke and down the hill using the ‘alternative route’. Crested the final rise and yes, the weather did look a bit lighter on the other side, although it was difficult to be sure because I was still in the low cloud. Noticed that the Faughlin Reservoir is now a stocked trout fishery with a stonking price of £25 per day. I used to fish it regularly some years ago for nothing. Then I remembered that that was thirty years ago! Drove on to Carron Reservoir and parked for a very realistic £2.

Walked up to past the dam and took some shots near a wooden seat dedicated to Pam Jackson, but couldn’t find anything to say who she was.
Walked on and tried some bracketed exposures of the loch, but the light was fading, so I headed back to the car.

The PoD was taken near that seat and nearly got my feet wet again. Processed in ON1 2018 and in Lightroom. It gives the feel of the place. I would go back again on a day when the light was better.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but I’m sure something will come up to grab our attention.

Perf – 30 October 2018

Today we were off to Perf. Gateway to the best coffee beans in Scotland, if not the world.

Drove up to Perf on a beautiful clear morning. That said, it became a bit cloudier as we travelled north. I’d come with gifts for the Perf folk. I donate my two bike carriers to the bike shop across the road from the car park. Neither of them fit either of our cars, and are now superfluous to our needs. They were just cluttering up the house and were going to be dumped, so if someone can get the benefit of them, all the better. I also took a load of computer books to the Oxfam shop in Perf. I’ve read them and used them well, but now I usually consult the InterWeb if I’m in need of information and besides, they were well out of date.

Next we had to decide what we were doing for lunch. Scamp had an Itison voucher for Cafe Tabou which is now under new ownership. We decided to give them a try and see if they’d kept up the excellent standard of the previous owners. For starter, Scamp had Roast Red Pepper Chick Pea Ragout with Tempura of Fish and I had Salad Du Chef.
For main she had Breaded Plaice Fillet with Chips(!) and I had French Black Pudding & Pork Belly. She was perfectly happy with her selection, I felt the main was a bit tasteless, although the caramelised apples and cider sauce was lovely. Worth another Itison voucher some time. When we came out the streets were just drying after a heavy rain shower and you could feel that there was still a bit of rain on the breeze.

After the lunch, we went for walk to get the coffee and tea that I so desperately needed. Then a walk along to the the viewing gallery over the River Tay. Beautiful light on the trees on the far bank and the sun was shining now on the bridge, so that became my PoD after it was de-fished (no fish were injured in the operation) and some work done on the levels. Samyang 7.5 is a really versatile lens.

With the river inspected, we headed back to the car and the drive home through some beautiful light with nowhere to stop and record it. We also passed through some heavy rain showers that had probably created that beautiful light on the hills.

Sat and sketched my teacup and two digestive biscuits for today’s Inktober sketch. Thirty sketches in and only one left to do tomorrow. Tomorrow as I’m sure you know by now is one of those busy days with two dancing classes and the driving to get there, there’s not much time for dawdling, so I already have a plan for tomorrow’s sketch. It will need a bit of preparation, part of which I have already done with the assistance of an Excel spreadsheet. Art and computing are not the easiest bedfellows, but hopefully one will help with the other if I have my way.

Tomorrow is a dancing day. Anything else will just have to fit in with that!

Walking in sunshine – 29 October 2018

Today I thought I’d go to the gym, or maybe a swim. Instead, I did a bit of sunbathing.

Well, Sunbathing might be a bit of a stretch, but a walk in the sun, now that would be a more pleasant way to spend the afternoon rather than swimming in a crowded pool or sweating it out in the gym.

That’s what I did. While Gems were being put through their paces I was making paces along the canal and across the plantation then back to the car. The light was beautiful this afternoon. One of those days with golden light. Managed to miss a lot of the good light, but also grabbed some too so I did bring some of the sunshine home with me in the little black boxes with the glass things in the front. PoD went to the one you see at the top of the page. It took a bit of post-processing which I won’t bore you with, but it went through a couple of pieces of software until I was happy with the result.

Driving home I came to the roundabout at the bottom of the road to find a blue car, maybe a Ka sitting on its roof with the windscreen in smithereens an the doors wide open. A crowd round it seemed to be consoling a young asian girl who looked as if she was in shock. Not the sort of thing you see everyday! When we went out to salsa tonight I noticed that two of the steel barrier poles on the roundabout had been flattened, I presume by a flying blue car. Nobody seemed to be seriously injured, but someone was not going to have a happy Monday night.

After I came home I settled down to sketch a bowl of pears that was just sitting there waiting to be recorded on paper. I was quite pleased with the way it went and decided to put it away and have a better look with a more critical eye when we came back from salsa.

Tonight was Jamie Gal’s Halloween Party – for the advanced class. Some dancers who had fallen away a bit appeared to bolster our numbers and we all had a great time. Played the Hat Game. Everyone tries to grab a hat from the present wearer’s head and when the music stops the wearer gets a prize. Simple and funny. In the past it has led to fights on the dance floor with bodies rolling around shouting “IT’S MINE!”. We were a bit more restrained tonight. Jamie had a new game “Sort of ready”. Which usually means he has the gist of it, but some of the a lot of the details need ironing out. The basis of the game was that we’d dance a Rueda until somebody stopped the music, then there would be a task given out. The task was to grab a roll of toilet paper from a stack in the middle of the floor and wrap up your partner like a mummy. I thought we did well, but Thomas went just that extra mile and ended up with some toilet paper stuffed up his nose as well as being wrapped in it. Probably the best game Jamie has invented recently. He tried to film some of our legendary Dancing In The Dark Rueda with his drone, but it didn’t want to play nice tonight and I think he aborted that part.

Came home and reviewed the sketch, changed some bits, but basically just cleaned it up and posted it. Inktober 2018 No 29 in the bag.

It’s cold tonight again. Just 0.5ºc. Tomorrow we may go to Perth.

Windy Willy – 23 October 2018

Windy Willy was whirling past the house this morning.

Willy went to bother some other folks in the afternoon, but has returned to blow on us this evening.

It was a day of eating out of the freezer, for no other reason than we’ve a lot of stuff in there that’s needing used up. Scamp chose a chunk of salmon and I chose a short rib. The salmon just needed defrosting, but the short rib needed a marinade to get to work on it once it had defrosted. I made my usual marinade. It’s got four basic ingredients:

  • An acid
  • A sugar
  • A salt
  • A flavouring

Today’s mix was

  • White wine vinegar and balsamic vinegar for the acid
  • A squirt of honey for the sugar
  • A shake of soy sauce for the salt
  • A spoonful of mustard for the flavour

You can make it using your own ingredients, but the basic Acid, Sugar, Salt, Flavouring mix works well. There’s probably a Phd Chemist who could explain why it works 😉 but I’m not really bothered, it just works for me.
I put the marinade into a poly bag, shook it a bit to make everything mix properly and then dumped the meat in it and left it to rest in the fridge for an hour. While I was waiting for the marinade to work its magic, I baked a pizza from a bit of dough I’d taken from the freezer with the meat. Pizza wasn’t startling, but it did for lunch. I’d also brought some dough from the freezer, so I baked that into a loaf. When it was done I fried the meat in some oil in the Le Creuse, added some chopped onion and a chopped pepper then put the lid on an put it in the oven and turned the gas down to gas 3. It worked away at that for an hour or so before I turned it down and added some water and a chopped carrot. Lots of work, but fairly easy work.

Scamp wasn’t for going out, so I went out for a walk along the Luggie and that’s where PoD came from. Slow shutter speed this time. No complicated Photoshop actions and scripts. Must look for a decent pair of boots. My usual boots have no grip in muddy clay and they’re beginning to leak. Also got Inktober 23 done. It wasn’t until I came home that I realised that I’d drawn the exact same sketch before.  Finally found it on Flickr.  It was drawn in July last year.

Hopefully, tomorrow we’ll be dancing if we can get past the closed streets because Hollywood is coming to Glasgow!

 

Now that’s much more like it – 14 October 2018

A much better day today. For once we thought the weather was trying to please, not punish.

Woke to milky white skies, but as the day progressed, so did the quality of the weather. By midday there were definite signs of blue skies and sunshine. Now that is more like the thing. I made the most of it by taking some shots of the light shining through the sweet pea leaves and also grabbed a shot of a hover fly on one of Scamp’s yellow flowers. I don’t know the name of the flower (or the hover fly), but I liked the shot. Immediately afterwards, Scamp decided it was time to strip out the sweet peas, so I was hoping that I’d got those shots cleanly. There would be no going back for more.

After lunch I decided that I wasn’t going to sit around all day and got my boots on and went for a walk along the canal and across the plantation to the old railway. I’d intended walking back along the side of the Garrell Burn, but with all the rain we’d had in the last week, the path was flooded in a few places, so I satisfied myself with taking a few ‘selfies’ using the Samyang. You’ll have to go to Flickr to find the evidence. Just click on the Picture of the Day at the top of the page to be redirected. With the road blocked, I walked back along the same path I’d taken to get there, and back along the canal. That’s where PoD came from. This was taken with my new iPhone app, Procamera. The amazing thing about it is the ability to save images as RAW files, meaning that post-processing is possible in Lightroom. That explains the superb photographic quality of the shot. Sorry JIC, a little bit of technospeak slipped in there.

Came home and decided that Scamp’s Chicken Broth tasted so good that I’d rather have that than go dancing in Glasgow. Anyway, although Scamp claims that her ankle is ok, we both know that she lies through gritted teeth where dancing is concerned. We backed out and stayed at home, rather than go to Mango. Chicken broth for dinner followed by chicken omelettes. Just lovely.

I’m really pleased with today’s Inktober sketch. I did something similar last year, or maybe it was in February this year, anyway, it’s a bit of a drawing within a drawing if you see what I mean.

That was about it for a lovely day and while watching Countryfile (without the despicable ‘Tom’ or John Craven) we saw the long range weather forecast for the week and the temperature is to drop tonight, but there will be much less rain and wind which is a blessing.

Tomorrow is Gems, so I may go for a swim or failing that, a run on Dewdrop.

The calm before the storm – 11 October 2018

Today was quite bright when we woke, but soon it dulled over. A taste of what’s to come.

Storm Callum is due to make landfall during the night, but today was a mediocre day which started well, but deteriorated as the day progressed. Yes, we did have some sunny spells, but they were short and not really all that sweet. Lots of sharp heavy showers. After I’d finished my Sudoku this morning, I decide to abandon my proposed trip to Glasgow as the first of the heavy showers dropped on us. What’s the point of sitting in a damp bus to wander round Glasgow in the rain, getting wetter all the time and then to get the damp bus home again. I’m not selling it to you, am I? No, better to just sit here and watch the rain, hoping that the rain would go off for long enough for me to get some photos.

After lunch, the rain stopped and Scamp went out to buy Asda while I took the car out for a run round the outskirts of Cumbersheugh looking for photos. Up round Abronhill, passing my old school on the way and impressed with the look of the buildings. Passed Abronhill and then down to Haggs. I was intending to go for a walk along the canal, but the dry spell finished and the rain came down again. Enough. I changed my plans and headed home via Kilsyth without any photos.

By the time I got home, the rain had stopped and I risked taking a chance to get some photos over at St Mo’s before the next shower. I made it and that’s where today’s PoD came from. I was just heading home when the next shower arrived.

Tonight’s sketch was done while glancing at a dire programme with an unlikely storyline about three unlikely chefs driving round Italy to cook a meal for one of their number’s cousin’s wedding. Yes, it was that bad. Gordon Ramsay, Gino D’Acampo and an embarrassed looking Fred Sirieux. We were only watching it because there was nothing much else on TV and it was about Italy. I don’t mind swearing, in fact I do practise the skill myself, but I can’t stand Ramsay’s swearing for effect. The sketch isn’t all that great. I can’t blame the program for that, although I’d like to.

Tomorrow, I don’t think we’ll be going far although I’m meeting Fred for coffee at midday.

Over to Fife – 6 October 2018

Late to bed last night, so I took a relaxed attitude to rising.

Eventually after some important computer work we set out just after 12 noon. The big question on both our lips was “Do we turn left or right at the roundabout?” Scamp chose Right. That excluded Glasgow and places west, but opened up the opportunities of the mystical East. It could be Stirling, Falkirk or maybe Dunfermline. However it was none of these, although Dunfermline was close. In fact it was Crossford. When we lived near Clydeside, there was a village called Crossford with the emphasis on the first syllable. The Fife Crossford has the emphasis on the second syllable. Who decides these things? I don’t know. We were going to a wee plant nursery with a decent selection of good quality plants and reputedly a tea shop too. As it turned out the plants were in a sorry state and so was the fare in the tea shop. I don’t think we’ll be back.

Scamp ordered a chicken burger and I had the hand made quiche. I’m pretty sure my quiche was indeed hand made because it was thick, hot and full of flavour. Scamp’s ‘chicken’ burger was anything but those descriptions. No, that’s not true, it was hot. Thick? I think not, at about 10mm thick at its most portly. Flavour, yes, there was flavour there, but we weren’t sure what it was. In fact, it looked like a flat sausage with those big white pills of gristle that make the Lorne sausage so tasty. But this was supposed to be chicken. It looked as if it had never seen a chicken or any other type of foul. Foul may be too strong a word, but “it wisn’ae nice’. I felt so sorry for her, but there was bacon in my quiche and that wouldn’t have suited the vegetarian in her either.
After our lunch we wandered round the plants and they were not in the best of condition. Yes, I realise this is the end of the growing season, but these plants were very poorly looking. If the RSPCA is against animal cruelty, this plant nursery should be reported to the RSPCP. Fairley’s Garden Centre, do yourself a favour, give it a miss.

On the way home we sat for an hour in blazing sunshine admiring the view from Torryburn across the Forth to Grangemouth. Not the most interesting of views, but the cloudscape and the wide view from the carpark made up for that. Today’s PoD came from there.

Today’s Inktober sketch is based on a still from a TV program about Scotland’s lochs. I think it’s Plockton, but wherever it is, it’s a beautiful place.

Tomorrow we are dancing, ballroom dancing in the afternoon! Not sure I’m looking forward to it, but it’s something we have to do. Dancing among other people! Ooh Scary!

“When you’re retired … – 29 September 2018

… you don’t have weekends.” So my dad said, and it’s true.

Sat on the couch discussing our options for the day. We could go to Glasgow, but we were there yesterday. We could go to Stirling, but there’s nothing much there that we want to do. Then Scamp suggested we go for lunch to The Smiddy near Doune. There, that’s it settled.

We went to Smiddy for lunch. I had veg chilli. I’d forgotten just how good it was, especially with lots of chopped jalapeño peppers on top and sour cream to cool down with. Scamp had her usual mac and cheese with chips. Just good wholesome food. I forgave the Smiddy for their poor offering the last time we were there. I had a look at their butchery counter, but didn’t find anything that tempted me. Although the Picanha steak looked interesting, it was not interesting enough to encourage me to part with the money for it. Maybe next time. That’s another thing I like about the Smiddy. They do have unusual cuts of meat.

While we were there I took some photos of the flat carse countryside. The light around the restaurant is beautiful and shows of the scenery so well. Usually I’d say that the scenery is beautiful, but it’s really the light here that’s so good. It is all about the light you know! Today’s PoD came from there. It is in fact two photos merged. The tree and the lane are one shot and the background hills are from another. The photos were merged in ON1 and saved just before it crashed. ON1 is a piece of software I want to like, but it’s still very rough around the edges and quite prone to crashing. Definitely going to keep using Lightroom for the moment.

We came home via Waitrose and got tomorrow’s dinner there, and a host of other things as well. It’s almost as bad as buying Tesco!

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends on the weather.

Walking with the Romans – 27 September 2018

Watched the light disappearing this morning until it felt light twilight was approaching.

It didn’t look as if I was going to get any photograph worth its name today as clouds crowded in and the sunlight disappeared. Even worse, the software I bought earlier in the year wouldn’t start, telling me that my trial period had finished and asking me to log in. Went online and their website seemed to be ok, in fact I’d been on that same website two days ago watching the webinar presentation of their sparkling new 2019 version of the software. It didn’t impress me much. Lots of pretty colours and stuff, but nothing substantial. In fact when I’d asked a question on the webinar about the possibility of a history panel making an appearance in the new version, the answer came back that it would perhaps be included in an update later in 2019. So, in other words, no chance. You see, a history panel isn’t whizzo. It isn’t colourful, it’s practical. Lightroom has had it since version 1. With 61 votes it is the fifth most requested feature by users on the ON 1 website but has never been implemented while a keyword listing feature with one vote has been implemented in the new release. So much for being the company that listens to the users. They certainly weren’t listening to the users who were complaining bitterly about not being able to use the software this morning. It was only when America came on-line that the problem was solved, without a word of apology from the company that listens to the users.

After lunch, when I’d cooled down, I did go out and drove to the old road to Banknock. Its been closed for many years now. Initially it was because a railway bridge needed to be strengthened, but then it was discovered that the road was subsiding. Rather than fix it, the council made the decision to close the road. That’s the way it works (or doesn’t) in NLC. The worst council in Scotland.
I parked and walked up on to the Antonine Wall the northern Roman wall across Scotland. It wasn’t really much of a wall. Not like the one Hadrian built to keep out the Picts. That was a real wall built from stone. The Antonine wall by comparison was a turf and wood wall on a stone foundation with a deep ditch on the northern side to help repel the wild folk from Banknock and district. Now it’s covered with trees, mainly oaks that have suffered in the recent gales. Others have apparently been ‘made safe’ according to the notice that tells the unwary that the path is closed. Not very closed, because the five bar gate is easy to climb. It was on the top of the wall that I got today’s PoD. To tie up this and the previous paragraph, I used the working ON1 2018 software to process the PoD, although I did finish it off in Lightroom. Some of the fanatics supporters of ON 1, mostly americans were salivating at the prospect of what the new software could do, while aware that they couldn’t run their present 2018 version. Most said they had ditched Lightroom in preference to the ON 1 2018. I though “Babies and Bathwater”. Repent at leisure.

That’s the ranting over for today, I think. Dinner tonight was a second attempt at Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese. It worked, but maybe not as well as the last time.

Tomorrow? No real plans. Shopping for baby stuff for a newborn, perhaps.