Another beautiful Spring day – 20 March 2020

Apparently today was the Spring Equinox, something about the sun crossing the equator.

I don’t know if the sun was actually crossing the equator today, but we definitely saw if for a lot of the afternoon. We’d decided to go for a walk again today. A much longer walk than yesterday, about 5 miles according to my Fitbit. We were walking along the Forth & Clyde Canal from Auchinstarry Quarry to Twechar and back. Before we left Auchinstarry I grabbed a shot of two roped up rock climbers having a wee discussion of the best way to climb the rock. One in the bag.We started out on our walk with the big Bergy coats on, Scarves, Wooly Hats and Scamp even had her gloves on. I was a rock cake and kept my gloves and my hands in my jacket pockets. Halfway along the canal, the jackets were zipped down, then the scarves, gloves and wooly bunnets were pocketed away and we began to feel the heat of the sun. We some folk who had gone further and were wearing shorts, but that’s just taking things too far. It might be that Spring is just around the corner, but that was a cold wind blowing from the east. One step at a time.

When we turned at Twechar and headed face forward into that eastern breeze, the bunnets were back on and the jackets were zipped up again. Got today’s PoD just outside Twechar as an eight shot panorama created in Lightroom, then cleaned up in ON1 2019. Quite pleased with it, it showed what the light was like today. We passed a few hardy folk out walking and cycling, and even a few jogging. All of them keeping the approved 2m distance from us, just to be sure.

On the way back to the car we discussed food options for the next few days and decided another visit to the butchers was in order. With that in mind we drove to Muirhead and then split up. Scamp to check out the Co-op and me to get some meat and fish it there was any fish. There was a queue outside the butchers, and I groaned. It was Friday and it’s usually busy on Fridays, but actually this was a H&S queue, all to do with Covid 19. People were asked to wait outside and were called into the shop to reduce the risk of cross contamination. Once in I had to sanitise my hands with an alcohol gel. Perfectly sensible really in these strange days. I was looking for some more Thai Chicken Stir-Fry, but there were no chickens from any geographical location in a stir-fry sauce. Got some beef stir-fry instead. Also got some fish for Scamp and best of all, two bags of pasta. No pasta in Tesco, nor as it turned out in the Co-op, but there was some in the butchers! Strange days indeed. When we got back home, the girl next door, Angela’s daughter Lucy, came out to say that she was giving her mum a lift to her work in Asda in the mornings and if we needed anything, just to give her a list. I thought that was very kind of her and told her so. I also said that although we were fine at the moment, I’d keep her offer in mind.

With that, our exercise for the day was done. Lunch was (Just) soup and a late supper was a pizza.

The big Covid 19 announcement of the day, apart from having to queue outside the butchers and then use hand sanitiser, was that all clubs, pubs and restaurants would be closed from tonight until the foreseeable future. That also made sense to me and was entirely predictable.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk again in a different place and a different direction, no doubt. Where is not yet decided, but we will be taking a flask and ’pieces’.

House arrest for the auld yins – 15 March 2020

So Mr Hancock wants to keep the auld yins at home. He used to be funny too, in Hancock’s Half Hour. Not so funny now.

Woke to the news that the over 70s are to be isolated at home for a long time. We may be old and doddery Mr Hancock, but we can still understand numbers. How long is ’a long time?’ About as long as a piece of string I’d imagine. Left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

Anyway, on to today, proper:
Scamp drove us to Tesco to get the messages. Just the usual essentials. A bottle of Gin, a box of Tonic, a bottle of Wine and two bottles of Beer. Oh, and some of the usual extravagances like a loaf, some veg and a tin of beans. No tins of tomatoes – none on the shelf. No pasta – none on the shelf. Ditto toilet rolls and kitchen towels (who eats these?) Drove back home and disgorged the three bags of clinking essentials plus the fripperies. Lunch was a duck egg for Scamp and a omelette for me.

The sun was coming and going all day, but thankfully without any of the nasty wet stuff falling from the sky. Scamp was making an apple pie to go with the dinner and another pear pie too. Me? I was going out to take photos and, as Scamp said, to talk to the deer and the frogs. She knows me so well. I did actually see a deer, just as I was entering the tree line at St Mo’s. Unfortunately it heard my heavy footsteps crunching through the leaf litter and it was off like the wind. I loosed off one shot at it with my trusty Oly E-M1 and 200mm lens, but all I got for my trouble was a blurred shot of a deer’s white tail as it danced daintily around the trees and away.

That was the last deer I saw today. It obviously didn’t want to talk to me. The frogs, on the other hand were much more receptive to my thoughts on Covid 19 and its implications for the over 70s. They listened with rapt attention while I laid out the reasons why the government’s position on the latest proposals was untenable. I took some shots of them while we were discussing it, but as I stood up, they all disappeared into the murky St Mo’s pond without even a ripple of applause. That’s why none of their photos are appended here. They just didn’t deserve that publicity. Instead, PoD went to a photo of a green shoot against some of last year’s moss fruiting bodies. Some jiggery pokery was done on the shot in ON1 and I think it worked quite well.

On the way home I heard an unfamiliar aircraft sound and searched Flightradar24 on my phone for it, but it wasn’t listed.  The only plane near me was a high flying jet.  On looking for more information I found it was a Cirrus Aviation  Vision SF 50.  I’d never seen one in the real world, but it’s my favourite plane in X-Plane 11, and there it was directly above me.  A tiny wee white dot in the sky.  I even managed to get a few shots of it and at maximum zoom, you can just make out the ‘V’ shaped tail.  It made my day!

Dinner for me was gammon steak with cauliflower cheese and potatoes. Scamp had the same minus the gammon steak. Her apple & cinnamon pie served with cream was the pudding, followed by Sunday coffee (coffee with amaretto.)

Spoke to JIC tonight and he poured oil on troubled waters again and put our minds at rest with his Sensible Science. Glad to hear that Sim is feeling a bit better now too.

Tomorrow may (or may not) be the last Gems meeting for some time. Scamp is going to ask them how they feel about suspending it for a few weeks. I’m doing the same with coffee for the Auld Guys. We may go to dance class later if we’re allowed 😉

A walk by the Water – 25 February 2020

The Water in question was the Luggie Water.

Couldn’t decide what to do today, so, as it was a fairly bright morning, I took the Juke out to Cumbernauld railway station carpark (free parking) and went for a walk along the Luggie. I’d hoped the water would be racing down to give me a chance to try out some slow shutter speed shots, but although it was fairly murky, it wasn’t as high as I’d hoped. However I got some shots of steadily flowing water that I immediately knew wouldn’t be PoD material, but I took them anyway. The PoD award went to a picture of snowdrops beside the water with the sun shining through them. Very Picture Skew (picturesque).

What you don’t see in the photo, although the eagle eyed among you might just be able to make it out is a thin white line on the right side about a quarter of the way down. That’s the antenna of an insect that was hiding behind one of the flowers I cropped out. It just goes to prove that the unnaturally mild winter this year, in spite of all the floods, is having its effect on nature. These insects shouldn’t be hatching until about April at the earliest. Strange days.

Scamp made Carrot & Lentil Curry for dinner tonight. I couldn’t tell you the last time we had that. It was delicious. Some flat bread was my contribution to the meal, but I also made a first attempt at Salt & Pepper bread. Too much salt on the crust and not enough pepper, we agreed. Pudding was pancakes (Shrove Tuesday) with some of our own stewed apples defrosted from the freezer and ice cream. All in all a good dinner.

Scamp’s cold seems to be getting better at last. So we practised a bit of quickstep tonight to try to fit all the figures together into the full sequence. With the help of a couple of videos we took yesterday, things are improving. We may go to Kirsty’s class tomorrow night and we may even go to a Tea Dance in Falkirk in the afternoon. Scamp’s out in the morning with Isobel for coffee too, so it’s going to be a busy day.

Today’s SoD topic was ‘Farm’. I chose Easter Cadder Farm near Kirkintilloch as my subject, specifically a couple of cattle we met there some time ago. The farm is still there, but Beast 590454 may or may not be.
Yesterday’s topic was ‘Mandala’ and my attempt was abysmal. In an attempt to clear it out of my head I sketched a different version of it last night after I’d posted the blog. I completed it this morning and although it’s not perfect, it’s a lot better than yesterday’s. I’ll even let you see it!

So, tomorrow has the potential to be a busy day so I’m hoping to get the ‘Pink’ sketch done early. That’s the plan.

The Wall – 20 January 2020

In the afternoon I climbed it and I photographed it. In the evening I hit it.

Gems were in today, as with all Mondays. I had some things to do, and thankfully I have a good pair of headphones, so I could drown out most things that bother me. They also worked on Gems. With the essential stuff done, I grabbed my camera and went for a run in the Juke.

For reasons best known to themselves, somebody has blocked the road to the Antonine Wall. It’s a dead end, but there is a neat little lay-by where I can leave the car while I walk the Antonine Wall. Now I’ve got to leave the car by the side of the road about 200m away. PITA. It’s still possible to walk round the obstruction, but not to drive past it. I wanted to get some photos from the Antonine Wall, but I’d the wrong footwear for the boggy ground, so I restricted myself to climbing part of it and using a fence post as a prop to support my Beadbag™ which would in turn steady The LBJ, which was today’s camera of choice. Got a few photos and one accidental post-focus video. Gave up after that because the light was rapidly disappearing.

Back home the accidental post-focus shot actually produced the best set of photos and that’s what created today’s PoD. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea of the area and the wall.  This shot was taken from the south side of the wall.  The rampart on the north side is much higher to keep out the wild Picts and Scots. I needed a brighter day with better lighting for a better shot.

After dinner we went off again for another visit to the world of dance. Today’s topic was Waltz, but first, one of my most hated sequence dances, the Saunter Together. It really pains me to say that I felt quite comfortable dancing this little bit of fluff. That’s no’ real dancin’! Tonight’s moves were the first half. Next week we got part two. I can hardly wait 😒. Next was the Waltz and I did quite enjoy it. We very nearly got it right twice. That’s an improvement.

The second half of the night was Tango. We’ve attempted it a couple of times with no success. Tonight it was awful. I felt just so far out of my depth. All those fiddly little steps with kicks and flicks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the lesson I just hit the wall. Enough! I never want to dance another Tango in my life. I could happily have torn off the uncomfortable dance shoes, thrown the dummy out of the pram and gone home. Except, Scamp was enjoying the dance and really looked good dancing it with the teacher. Maybe if I ask her nicely, Scamp that is, she’ll guide me in the general direction of competence. Maybe I’ll master it in the week I have before the next lesson.

Finished off with the Blue Angel Rumba which I’m almost managing. It just takes a different mindset from Salsa. It’s all about the feet and the hands just float about. Salsa is all about the hands and the feet just keep you moving.

Tomorrow the weather looks cloudy and grey. No plans yet.

Beadbags, planter ponds and fairy wings – 12 January 2020

It was dry today, but there was still a lot of water about.

It was when we were looking out the window this morning that Scamp noticed we had a new pond in one of her planters. The water was easily 50mm deep. I tipped out most of the water and moved the planter over to a dryer bit of the garden where it could drain away more easily. However, the pot was so heavy it still sank down into the soil, thereby blocking the drainage holes again. Even when I lifted it up onto the step, the holes were still being blocked. I finally resorted to using two pieces of wood to act as supports to raise the pot up off the concrete step and finally the water began to drain. The water I’d poured off initially was still sitting on the depression the pot had made when I last looked. That’s how saturated the ground it today.

Scamp had a birthday present for one of her friends and I wanted a new Sudoku calendar, so we headed to The Fort which is the nearest place with a bookshop. While she went to shop for a prezzy, I went to Waterstones and got my calendar half price. Result! Next thing she wanted was crepe paper to make the fairy’s underskirt. Got that and returned to wait for Scamp in the car.

Back home after lunch I took two cameras and the new ‘beadbag’ out to St Mo’s to test the practicality of it and to get some photos, hopefully. The best of the day, and PoD, was a sunset view along the boardwalk, not take with the assistance of the beadbag, but I did get a photo of it being used.

Back home I removed the wings from the fairy, photocopied them in the scanner and used the photocopy as a template to cut out a new pair of sparkly wings. They’re not perfect, but they are a lot better than the ones she had at Christmas. Scamp, meanwhile, worked on the underskirt which is what she wanted the crepe paper for. It’s looking good and if she can get the dress cleaned properly we’ll be ready to reassemble the Christmas Fairy.

Gave the MBP another full charge today and it seems be working properly with its new battery, touch wood.

Tomorrow I’m planning to post some calendars and write some letters. Gems will be here too! Back to the same old, same old.

Another year over – 31 December 2019

And a new one about to begin.

Scamp was a bit better this morning which was a relief. She’s so rarely ill and it takes a lot to floor her, but she said she felt better. Not really well enough to get up and make breakfast, but I’ve got a tally of the number of days she’s been shirking.

It looked cold outside and the temperature was still below zero, so we weren’t in any sort of rush to go out. I did eventually go and bring the car down from where I’d parked it last night and we replaced the de-humidifier which now weighed about 400g more than when we’d put it in. That’s 400ml of water its absorbed over about six months. Actually it’s more than that. We’ve already removed about 200ml by heating it up on a radiator. I think the bag contains salt and clay. The salt being hygroscopic draws in the moisture and the clay prevents it from going back out again. Still, it works well in the wee Nissan. Mine has AC and that pumps out dry air summer and winter, so that dries the windscreen, but what is it about Japanese cars that makes them so susceptible to condensation?

We still needed some stuff for dinner tonight, so we walked down to the shops. Glad we did, because the road was just a carpark. Cars, buses and lorries all getting in each other’s way. It was traffic chaos. We found out why when we went in to M&S Food. People everywhere, probably all the ones who were causing all the road chaos. All madly grabbing things, any things, because haven’t you heard? The shops are all shut tomorrow!! Now these shops weren’t even there a few months ago and nobody died of starvation. Still we have to stockpile just in case they decide to shut the shops for two days. We got enough to make dinner. We didn’t need any more.

Walked back home and had lunch then went out to St Mo’s to take the last photos of 2019, the last photos of this 365 and the last photos of the decade. It was a lovely day. Good light again and a wee bit of frost too, just to add some sparkle. PoD was a picture of a curved grass stem with a water bead caught in a leaf joint.

Came home to find that Scamp was feeling a lot better and was making cakes for tonight. I set to and made the stew to fill tomorrow’s steak pie. A couple of weeks ago I made the prototype, this is the real deal. After that I got two of the apps I use a lot on the Mac installed, but one, the main one, Lightroom is installed, but not registered yet. I’m hoping the new year will bring me a brainwave and I’ll get it done. If not, there are always other ways round things, if you know what I mean.

That’s about it. I think we’re ready to face 2020 now the place has been hoovered, the toilet has been cleaned, the bathroom has too. I think we’re ready.

All The Best to all my readers. I hope 2020 is good to you whoever and wherever you are.

Tomorrow? Probably a late start after a late night tonight. Drink will be taken, I’m sure (it already has been!).

Sunshine! – 30 December 2019

The sky was clearing when we woke, but it took a while for it to clear completely.

Scamp was feeling a lot better today. Good enough to go for the messages. Rather than face the crowds and the traffic jams, we chose to shop locally in Tesco. I think we nearly emptied the place, judging by the amount of stuff in the trolley we wheeled to Scamp’s car. She had decided to give the Juke the day off because it had worked hard these last few weeks.

After lunch I took the ‘old’ E-M1 out for a spin round St Mo’s and got some lovely light because the clouds had all cleared away and the low sun was warming everything up. Not actual temperature ‘warming’, but colour temperature warming. The Mired value, but you don’t need, or want to know that, do you? Let’s just say it was lovely light during what’s know to photogs as the Golden Hour. Today it was macros again and my favourite and therefore the PoD was one of some moss on the limb of a tree.

By the time I was heading home, Scamp was getting ready for a Gems Christmas/New Year party at Carol’s. A good name to have for this time of year. I wasn’t invited, of course as this was a girls only night, but I was the nominated driver for Scamp and Margie. I was even getting the privilege of driving Scamp’s car, probably to extend the Juke’s holiday. Dropped the ladies off and headed home to do battle with the MacBook Pro again.

This time I was ready. I’d read the script and the the different pieces of software. The first attempt didn’t work. Apparently the secret is to change the system date of the MBP to something about two years ago and try again. I did, and it worked. Panicked after that because although the screen looked right, I had no mouse, no keyboard and no way of progressing with the install. Back to the ‘big’ computer and read the ‘Problems’ section. It was a know problem with a solution. I did a reboot and edited one small tick box before I lost control and voila! MacOS Sierra running on a 2009 MBP. You PC owners may be saying “So?”, but this is a big deal. Apple control what can and can’t be installed on their hardware, but one clever bloke has stymied that. Well done to him. Tomorrow I’ll populate it.

Got the message just about 11pm that a taxi was required. Checked the temperature (actual temperature, not Mired!) and it was -1ºc. Had to scrape Scamp’s car, inside and out!!

When we got back, Scamp was feeling sick. I suspected self-inflicted alcohol induced poisoning, but she said that wasn’t the case. She did look a bit under the weather and went to bed just before midnight. Hope she feels better tomorrow.

If Scamp is feeling better I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow to source some ink for the printer, or then again, I may not. It’s that certain.

Cross country – 13 December 2019

Started out fairly early to order a new pair of reading glasses.

Ended up crossing the country to get some coffee in Perth and watching some beautiful scenery pass the window.

Got the coffee and had some coffee with a panini and that was lunch sorted, but it was a cold Perth day and we headed for home after that. Stopping at a mobbed Morrison’s for petrol and also got two bags of Yorkshire Mixture, sweeties I got while we were in Wales. I was going to order them from Amazon, but someone there commented that you could get them cheaper at Morrisons and so it was!

Stopped just outside Perth to grab a photo or two. A skyscape rather than a landscape. There was certainly more colour and life in the sky than in the land. The ploughed fields just gave a bit of gravity to anchor the sky.

The nearer we got to home, the heavier the clouds became and soon their load of rain began to spill down too. It started as just sprinkles and then got more serious rain. Strangely however, the rain stopped when we got to Cumbersheugh. Dinner was fish ’n’ chips from Condorrat. Sometimes being an ex-teacher has its benefits. An FP on making up the orders got me to the front of the queue. That was nice of her. Can’t even remember your name, but thanks anyway.

Isobel phoned to check if Scamp was going to the choir concert and after checking that the taxi was available, she agreed. While she was out, I tested out my new gizmo that allows me to read ancient hard drive technology. The hard drive that interested me most was a ‘massive’ 120gb 3.5” IDE drive. That’s really old tech to most folk nowadays. Just think, you could copy all the info on that drive to an SD card now. Anyway, it had loads of memories on it and a lot of absolute rubbish too. That, in itself, paid for the gizmo.

PoD is that cloudscape from Perth

No plans for tomorrow other than John & Marion’s for dinner.

The sun returns – 11 December 2019

It wasn’t lost after all. I was just having a rest yesterday.

I was out early today to make sure of capturing some of those little photons and storing them away in an SD card. Yes, I was taking foties. Scamp had already been out to the doc’s for her medication check and back again. I went over to St Mo’s and got some good light. Grabbed a PoD which is a low down macro shot of some sphagnum moss strands, looking like miniature evergreens. Got back just in time to go out again to meet Colin and Fred for coffee. Scamp was off again to see what the retail paradise that is the Town Centre had to offer the discerning shopper.

The coffee snobs centred around pubs in Glasgow (a common topic among us), books and the NHS. Given that tomorrow is polling day and Fred is a political animal, it was strange that the merits and demerits of the leading campaigners did not enter into our conversation. Maybe it’s not all that strange. I think we’re all a bit jaded with the whole shebang. It’s become a tactical election. Pick the person you don’t want to win and vote for anyone else. Much like the old Scottish football question:
Question – “Who are you supporting in the World Cup?”
Answer – “Anyone who’s playing England!”
(Notice that Scotland is never mentioned. We don’t do the World Cup.)

Drove home into glaringly blinding sunshine to collect Scamp and take her to the doc’s again, this time to get her flu jag. By the time we were coming home, the sun had set and the day was sliding into evening.

When Scamp had been out earlier, she had bought the makings of Stir Fried Prawns with Singapore Noodles. Sounded great. I volunteered to make it. It tasted as good as it sounds. The sauce that came with it was labelled Soy, Chilli and Ginger, but it smelled like simple Brown Sauce, the stuff that comes out of a square bottle with letters HP at the top. The strange thing was it didn’t taste anything like it! Must have been my cooking skills that transformed it.

The weather has turned back to rain again and it’s forecast to further turn to snow during the early hours of tomorrow morning. We’re booked to take Isobel to Monklands in the morning. Let’s hope the snow has gone by then.

A good talking to – 28 November 2019

A better day … eventually.

Woke under a cloud, not a literal cloud because the sky was clear, but a rather black cloud that followed me about all morning. Helped Scamp tidy up the back garden. Well, I carried some of the cuttings round to the council compost bin. Cut back the two buddleia bushes and Scamp did all the rest. She didn’t seem to mind that it was cold. She had a big jacket on and I hadn’t, but that wasn’t the point, she never seems to mind the cold, especially when she’s working in the garden. Me? I always feel the cold, except when I’m taking photos of course. It used to be when I was fishing in the winter I wouldn’t feel the cold until my fingers stopped working and I had to go through that pins and needles stage, getting the blood to flow again. I made the excuse that I was going to heat up the soup for lunch and went inside.

After lunch I got her to go through yesterday’s move with me and … damnation, I’d been doing it wrong all that time. I should have been spinning on the ball of my foot. Instead I was walking round. It had the same effect, but my walking method wasn’t right. Should have known that the teacher was right. Teachers are always right, aren’t they. Unless they’re also pupils, then the water get muddied. I think that started the puncturing of the black cloud, that and a good talking to by Scamp. I felt a bit better after that. She then encouraged me (read ‘told me’) to go our for a walk.

Drove to Cumbersheugh station, parked and went for a walk down by the Luggie Water. That’s where the longer and final ‘good talking to’ happened. The remains of my black cloud lifted and dissolved in the wintry sunshine. It’s also where I got today’s PoD which is a wee thistle/dandelion plant’s parachute seedbeds that may or may not manage to blow away and start a new plant where the wind takes them. Came home feeling much, much better.

On the way back, I drove past the school and my old department is now gone. Bulldozed, flattened ready to be crushed to make the hardcore for what will be the playing fields of the new school. I quite like the idea that it will stay there in the campus. Still fulfilling a purpose. Of the destroying tank, there was no sign.

Watched the Elton John documentary tonight and enjoyed every minute. Good to hear someone open up like that. Maybe it’s something we should all do if we can do it to someone we trust. There’s a moral there somewhere.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but it’s going to be cold tonight. Should have put the blanket on the rosemary bush. Probably being a taxi driver for Scamp tomorrow night.