“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.

Out on two wheels again – 23 September 2018

Just a short run to make sure the lungs and legs are still up to cycling after the cold virus has had its wicked way.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. Almost a sin to waste it sitting up in bed reading. Almost a sin, but not quite. Unless reading in bed is now a sin.

However, all good things must come to an end and I did eventually drag myself away from my Kindle and in to the shower, thence to go downstairs where Scamp was already off buying Tesco. Yesterday she had been cutting flowers that had been battered by Wednesday’s wind. She had put them in a vase and it was sitting on the table in the living room where the light pouring in through the vertical blinds was lighting it up and throwing wonderful shadows on the table. Now that would make a good picture I said to myself. Set up the Samyang on the Oly and grabbed a few shots from different distances and angles until I was sure I’d have something decent. At least one in the bag!

I decided this good weather wasn’t going to last, so I did what I’d committed myself to yesterday and got dressed for winter cycling. Layer upon layer of thin clothes with shorts and longs, because the temperature was only just in double figures and it was just past midday. When Scamp returned with Tesco in two shopping bags, I left for a short run. Short runs never really stay short if the traffic is light and the light is good. That’s how it was today. I tried to find some swallows because I thought I’d seen and heard some last week, but alas I may have been mistaken. So definitely no swallows this is week and this is week 39. I tried to find some photos, but try as I might, there was nothing there that interested me today. Finally I gave up and made my way home, and lunch. While I was out, Scamp took brush, sponge and hot water in hand and washed her car. Not that it needed it, eh, Scamp?

<Technospeak>
After lunch I started looking at today’s captures on Lightroom and decided that the flower shots from the morning were the best of the bunch, even if I’d forgotten to set the focus. It’s so hard to go back to a manual focus lens again! Luckily I’d set a fairly small aperture and this gave me enough DOF to make the shot look as if it was in focus. It took a bit of work in Lightroom to get the levels the way I wanted them and a bit more work in ON1 to push the background out of focus enough to concentrate the eye on the flowers. Finally I returned to LR to add a bit of warmth to the shot and Bingo it was done! PoD done!
</Technospeak>

Dinner was Friday’s soup followed by yesterday’s curry reheated. Just your typical Sunday dinner!

Tomorrow we may take Big Red (that may be the Juke’s new name) out for a spin if the weather is good.

Two Firsts & A Second! – 30 August 2018

Four quid too!

Scamp was out in the morning and that gave me time to start painting my latest masterpiece. It was to be an abstract seascape. I tried using the Inktense sticks, but they didn’t look right once they were down. I think the colours are too ‘cold’, especially the blues. I’ll probably just paint over it again with acrylic tomorrow.

After that and after hanging out the washing, I went to meet Val and Colin. Coffees all round. Fred was missing because he’d to stay in to keep the plumbers on the right lines when they were rebuilding his bathroom. Colin very kindly brought my photos and painting back from the flower show, along with my winnings. Four quid for two firsts and a second! The little piggy watercolour got a first and the landscape of Quiraing also got a first in the photography section. My favourite landscape, Murdo’s old tractor with the Quiraing behind it only got a second. Now it could have been that there were on two photographs and one painting in the competition, I don’t know because we were down in England at the time, but Colin did say that competition was tough, so I’m thinking that’s good enough for me. I’m now considering entering the little piggy in the Venice Biennale. I think it has a fighting chance.

Came home and realised that I didn’t have a photo for today, so got my cycling shorts and long sleeved top on and took the Dewdrop out on the back road to Kirkintilloch. That’s where I got the PoD. I also got a fairly good shot of these four horses in a field under a glowering sky, but the landscape felt more luminous, so it won.

Fell off the bike on the way back. I think the SPDs need some adjustment or maybe some grease. Left shoe is sticking a lot. Amazingly, the right pedal is fine although it’s caked in dried mud. The left one is shiny clean and it’s the one that’s sticking. Can’t fathom it out. I’ll grease them and see if that helps. No harm done in the fall, just my pride, but luckily there was no-one there to see me!

Dinner tonight deserves special mention. It was Chicken Milanese with potatoes and a big hunk of broccoli. Scamp showing just how good a cook she is. Absolutely delicious.

Tomorrow Scamp is out to lunch with the witches. May take the Dewdrop out again along the same road as today. I’ve a hankering to climb the Kirky Volcano. It’s actually an old pit bing, but from certain angles it looks like a volcano.

Cool? – 5 July 2018

Today was supposed to be cool. Well, that didn’t work, did it?

Scamp was going to meet June and Isobel for coffee and a catch up. That gave me a few hours to do some painting. I attempted the sweet peas that were sitting on the table. I got completely lost in the complexity of the subject. Must try something simpler next time. Maybe just one or two blooms.

After lunch we went for a drive to The Fort to look for some cheap watercolour paint for me and also for something for dinner. I didn’t get the paint, certainly not at over £8 for a tube. We did get tonight’s dinner which turned out to be Sea Bass.

Drove home and sat in the garden for a while with a wee shandy each. Sitting in the sun soaking it up. Weather fairies said it would reach 20ºc today. Yes it did, but that was at 8.30am. By the middle of the afternoon it was in the high twenties.

I was cook tonight and the sea bass with broccoli and cauliflower was excellent, even if I say so myself. Just to round off the meal we had another wee seat in the garden before Scamp deemed it was time to water the plants. By then the sun was off the garden, so there wasn’t any point in sitting out any longer. Today’s PoD is a strawberry that’s growing happily in our hanging basket. A hanging basket that’s survived ice, snow, wind and now drought. Still the plant not only survives, but thrives and produces fruit. Brilliant.

While I’m typing this, I’m listening to Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964). The songs, especially Chimes of Freedom and To Ramona take me instantly back 50 years to my bedroom in Scotia. The light tonight even enhances that, it’s the warm light you get just before sunset. It’s funny how music has that power.

Tomorrow night Scamp is going to a witches dinner. I’m volunteer driver, but looking forward to another chance to paint those sweet peas.

Somewhere Nice – 19 April 2018

We said yesterday that today we’d go somewhere nice. We did.

I’d half intended that we’d get up fairly early and go somewhere for a walk today. It was the other half that won in the end. The half that said “Well, it’s pretty dull, but it might get better if I finish this chapter.” I finished the chapter. In fact we both finished a few chapters, but it was still dull outside. Finally, when Scamp asked me if I wanted the coffee maker switched on, I made the decision that we should go and chase the sun. East seemed the best bet, so we pointed the Juke at Fife and then Kinross and drove to Loch Leven.

Managed to find a parking space under some Scots Pines where rooks were busy building nests. We were just about ready to go for our walk when Scamp found out the truth in the expression about not shitting in the nest. The rooks were being very careful not to mess up the nest and dumping their ‘doings’ over the side and some of it splattered on her hair. Thankfully I just caught some on my jeans. While I was wiping her hair with a tissue, I did think about telling her that it’s meant to be lucky. I decided to bite my tongue on this occasion!

We settled on a clockwise walk round the loch and found that it was just as boring as the anti-clockwise walk we’d done many times before. We walked until we caught sight of Loch Leven’s Larder, the cafe we were going to have lunch in. We both considered walking on, but finally decided to leave that for another day, because the promised sunshine still hadn’t arrived. We could see it in the distance across the loch and also away to the west – the direction we’d come from. We walked back to the car and the scenery was better in that direction. Saw some deer down by the loch side and then spotted a pheasant in the woods. Other than that and some yellow flowers there wasn’t much to recommend the walk. We walked along this path one day a few winters ago and it looked beautiful all frosted under a blue sky. It was nothing like that today. Having said that, it was on the return journey I got the PoD of a farm. The light on the far field was a lucky. Usually I have to fake these things, but today the light lit it up for me.

Went to Loch Leven’s Larder for lunch.  It wasn’t as busy as I’ve seen it, but still doing a fair trade. Years ago it was just a rough and ready farm cafe that served good food. Now it’s a cafe bolted on to a deli a kitchen shop, an ice cream parlour and a shop selling overpriced tat. Ok, maybe that’s being a bit harsh, and it is catering to a certain demographic. I’m not in that group.  While we were having lunch the sun was just coming out and the view across the loch was beautiful.  Just our luck.  We were inside when the sun was out!

Drove home using the satnav after I took a wrong turning. Stopped for a while at Torryburn in Fife and there’s a couple of shots of it on Flickr if you’re interested.

Highlights for us:

  • Walking in warm weather
  • Watching swans taking off and landing
  • Light reflecting on glider’s wings

Lowlights:

  • Don’t walk under rooks nest building!
  • Wee black flies!

Tomorrow I think Scamp wants to do some gardening. I may cycle if the weather’s as warm as today.

Once upon a time 47 years ago – 30 January 2018

Yes, on the 30th of January 1971, Scamp and I met for the first time. She wasn’t called Scamp then, she laboured under her old name, but not for long!

We’d already planned to get the bus into Glasgow today and that’s what we did. Just waited at the bus stop for less than five minutes when the bus arrived. It was going to be a good day.

Walked through JL without visiting the ‘Toy Shop’, the one on the second floor that has the computers, tablets and cameras. No, I was going to be brave, I wasn’t going there today. Straight through and out the other side without with hardly a backward glance. Then down Bucky Street in bright sunshine and a cold wind down to Nero at St Enoch’s for coffee. From there we took the subway out to Byres Road, but not before I got today’s PoD which is at the top of the page. There’s another one from the same spot taken a few seconds before that way, vying for first place, but dropped to second because it didn’t fit my title just as neatly. It did, however get a place on Flickr, so I’ll let the great Flickr public decide which is the stronger.

At the West End we went for a walk to the Botanic Gardens and showing my resolve again, I didn’t go in to the Kibble Palace and waste gigabytes of space taking shots that I knew in my heart of hearts wouldn’t work. Instead we walked round the gardens in that cold wind, although the sun had disappeared. We saw what appeared at first to be a union meeting. Lots of folk in hi-vis jackets being harangued by some bloke. On closer inspection and with a bit of earwigging on my part, it appeared that they were in fact being given fairly detailed instructions on pruning plants, by a professor type bloke, you know the type; long hair, long beard, no hi-vis, very animated. The sort of bloke “who speaks loudly” in restaurants as John Cleese once said. The hi-vis brigade looked really bored, not to say pissed off. My heart went out to them.

Actually, we agreed that this was the first time we’d ventured further than the hothouses in the park and there were a lot of interesting things to see. Well, let me rephrase that to; there will be a lot of interesting things to see there once they are actually growing (and when the cold wind has gone). Definitely worth checking out in a few weeks time.

We walked down Byres Road and had lunch in Usha’s Indian restaurant (no professor types speaking loudly though). Got the subway back to Glasgow and went for a wee drink in Lauder’s Old Folks Home Bar. Drink was cheap and we were close to average age for the clientele. This was a quote from a bloke speaking to Scamp, think about it:

“You stop liking snow when you have to buy your own shoes”

Here’s a last thought for two of my readers. If it wasn’t for two folk going to a party forty-seven years ago, And if it wasn’t for one of those folk losing a guitar on the train, you wouldn’t be here today!

Tomorrow, I may return to The Toon. Looking for a bit of Tweed!

Out To Lunch – 18 November 2017

Neither of us could decide where to go today.

We’d both considered travelling to Embra on the train, but Scotland were hosting the All Blacks at Murrayfield and that meant the trains would be busy. If we’d looked a bit closer we might have noticed that the game didn’t start until after 5pm, so the 10.15am train wouldn’t have been all that busy. As it was, we waited too long and missed the sunshine again. We finally settled on M&S in Dunblane for some shopping and possibly a cup of coffee. On the way there I made the suggestion that we should maybe detour to The Smiddy, a new farm shop / tearoom just outside Doune. Yes, that met with approval. So after buying more than we needed at M&S we went through Doune, giving a nod to David Stirling on the way past. Such a great place for a memorial. With his binoculars in his hand and his coat tails flapping he looks quite the part on the hilltop. Google him if you’ve never heard of him.

Couldn’t remember whether it was right or left leaving Doune – it was left! Five minutes down the road took us to the Smiddy. I was watching the light on the hills as we approached it and was pleased that I managed to grab just a little of the magic before it blew away. The Smiddy is a bit twee and expensive, but the views are good and so is the food, so we weren’t complaining. We were just having a light lunch, intending to have a curry delivered tonight for supper, but both our lunches were substantial enough to stand by themselves, so the curry was postponed until another day.

By the time we left, the light was beginning to fail and evening was approaching fast. Spent the evening working out how to create a playlist on a USB drive to play in the car. It’s remarkably simple to do, just the Mac software makes it a bit of a tedious task. However, it worked and I’ve tested it in the car. Now what I need to do is create a Keyboard Maestro macro to do the heavy lifting for me. That should be a fun job for a wet afternoon. Lots of swearing and talking to myself.

Todays PoD is a heavily edited picture of the light on the hills from The Smiddy.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go dancing in the late afternoon, but the Christmas lights get switched on in Glasgow tomorrow afternoon, so traffic will be hectic and parking places at a premium. Wish me luck.

Brie, Apple & Honey again – 16 November 2017

A cold clear start to the day. Blue sky and sunny, but low temperatures.

I suppose I should have gone out early to get some photos, but I didn’t and by the time we were heading out, the clouds were gathering. We drove to Clachan of Campsie, not to Wheelcraft, but to the gallery tearoom and that’s where I got my second brie, apple and honey sandwiches. If you’ve not tried it, you are really missing out. I’ve tried it on brown bread and on white now and I think brown is the winner. Last time I had it in the gallery the apple was sliced micro thin. This time they were in big chunks. I think big chunks suit the rustic theme here. Sorry, got a bit cheffy there 😉

Got caught by the rain on the way home. We were just in Torrance, so it’s true that “Down came the rain in Torrance” – Gospel Chorus. Then as we were almost home on the motorway, the rain was still falling but the sun was shining from a bright blue sky! It’s Scotland, you expect that sort of thing!

When we arrived home I did go out for an hour or so to get PoD which might look quite good, but that’s only thanks to the adjustment brush and the graduated filters that brought some life to the sky. Still, it was worth it to see the final result.

Drove in to Glasgow tonight to help out at yet another beginners class, this time in Barca.  It was a good laugh and I think we both enjoyed it.  Didn’t enjoy the walk back to the car though.  Too many wideos and jakies hanging around Glasgow at that time of night.  However, it did increase our step-count for the day.

Tomorrow is coffee with Val. The rest of the day will revolve around that.

Walking in the sunshine – 5 November 2017

Another cold night last night. Temperature this morning was around 2ºc. It did rise to almost comfortable numbers, as long as you were well wrapped up.

It took quite a while for the temperature to rise and that’s my excuse for not getting the bike out of the storage room. I could say cold storage, but that might be a pun too far. I didn’t take the bike. I wish I had now, because in the sun it felt warm and there was no wind.

Just after midday I decided that it would be more sensible to go for a walk in the bright sunshine and get some pictures than to drag the bike out, pump up the tyres (if I could find the pump), get dressed for cycling and head out. For some reason, Auchinstarry is becoming very popular at weekends. I think it must be a place to park the car, then take the bike along the railway path or the canal towpath. I was doing the canal towpath then the railway path.

There wasn’t all that much wildlife to see along the route, but I stopped when I was crossing the Plantation to listen and look. The sky was clear, so you could see for miles. Far enough to see a tiny wee dot that gradually circled near enough to resolve itself into a high flying buzzard. What could it see from that viewpoint? Listening, at first there was only silence. Then gradually the noises of the countyside came in, mainly rustling of the leaves in the giant copper beech beside the path. As I was beginning to hear this, a breeze blew and the leaves flew across the path. Then traffic sounds came in and a passenger plane crossed the sky heading for Glasgow and the rustling of the leaves was gone as was the buzzard. Possibly just over a minute of natural sights and sounds in a 21st century day. Worth watching and listening to if you get the chance.

Walked back to the car and joined the real world again. Drove home and processed the photos for today. Today’s PoD is the macro shot of the moss. Usually I shoot the fruiting bodies, but the red spikes made a change. I also liked the single leaf. Yes, yes, I know. NO PICTURES OF AUTUMN LEAVES. I made the rule, so I can break it. I could say it wasn’t the colours that drew me in, but it was. That and the fact that I was shooting into the light. In fact, in both cases I was shooting into the light, contre jour. I like that lighting. It can give more intense colour in the subject and less colour in the background.

Not a bad day for a walk then. Just a pity I didn’t take the bike, like everyone else at Auchinstarry.

Tomorrow I might go in to Glasgow to get a couple of cheap sketchbooks. Maybe toned ones for a change.

Strathaven & Sunday School Trips – 2 November 2017

Just another of Scotland’s spelling mistakes. Not pronounced Strath Aven, but Stray Ven. Why? It just is.  OK?

Drove up to Strathaven and parked just off the Common Green then walked to the park. As I was getting my camera bag out of the car I saw my PoD, that’s it up at the top. It was the low directional light I liked and the way it produced the radiating shadows from the gate. One in the bag almost before we’d even gone a step!

Still, the reason we were in Strathaven was to go for a walk in the park. If you live, or have lived in Lanarkshire, you will almost certainly have been to Strathaven Park at some time in your life. Years ago it was THE place to go for Sunday School Trips. That was back in the days when almost everyone you knew went to Sunday School every Sunday. I was going to say we went there religiously, but thought better of it! A Sunday School Trip was just a giant picnic somewhere, once a year in the summer. If it rained, and it usually did, a church hall would have been commandeered and there we would eat our ‘pieces’, cakes and biscuits. We would drink our diluted orange juice or milky tea both would have been dispensed from giant teapots. Pre-made milky tea straight from the teapot? Maybe that’s why I gave up drinking my tea with milk when I was about 15. Sunday School Trips were sometimes to the coast, like Ayr or Troon, but sometimes it was to a park, like Strathaven Park, or John Hastie Park to give it its proper name. As I remember it, it was great fun, but those were simpler times and a day in the park with cold meat paste ‘pieces’ washed down with cool milky tea wouldn’t interest too many of today’s teenagers. <Reading that back, I sound like some old codger!>

It had been a cold morning and I almost expected to see ice on the boating pond, but it was just one big flat calm stretch of water. That’s it above, sort of. It’s been dunked in a bucket of Photoshop and wrung out to dry. It’s actually a mirror image of the boating pond and what you see is the reflection slightly desaturated and cropped to remove the ‘real’ scene. I think it’s quite effective.

We had lunch in a wee cafe we went to the last time we were in Strathaven. Last time we sat outside in the sun, but that was August and this was November and the temperature was around 9ºc so we had an inside seat.

We left Strathaven behind and headed up the road to Muirkirk. It was a pleasant enough run on a beautiful day, but when we go there, it was shut. Not just one shop, but both shops were shut! Not much of a tourist trap then. Maybe we went there on the wrong day, but I don’t think so. Drove back by a different route through Douglas then on to the M74 and home.

Beautiful day, good company and an interesting walk, even if I was walking through a different park, one from fifty years ago.

Tomorrow we have lunch booked.