Me and my big mouth – 24 December 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bored to abstraction – 21 December 2018

Full on dull dreary day. Needed some sunshine. Made my own.

Out early, well, early for me and out to Muirhead to get some meat for my Christmas Day dinner. Scamp was still in bed nursing her cold that doesn’t seem to have gotten any better overnight. An extra hour or so in bed wouldn’t do any harm.

Got to the butchers just after 10am and the queue was already the full length of the shop and it’s a fairly big shop. Lots of women serving and lots of butchers butchering and lugging great bags of different meats around. Not a place for vegans I fear. Despite the length of the queue, I was served quickly and soon I was out the door with my carnivore’s delights.

Drove home by the scenic route, but the low cloud, the poor light and the heavy rain put paid to any chance of a quick photo. So be it, maybe there would be a break in the clouds later. By the time I was home, Scamp was up and ready to go and buy what was left in Tesco. I had a coffee and started to work on using my old Samsung tablet as a screen for the Pi. Finally got it working, but it’s not the swiftest of cobbled together technology. It will do for now because it means I’m not hogging the TV.

I’d just finished squeezing my steaks and sausages into the freezer when Scamp returned with Tesco in two or three carrier bags. Lunch was a roll ’n’ sausage for me and a roll ’n’ egg for Scamp. We do eat well! Messed around with the new Toy in the afternoon because there wasn’t a hope of getting an outdoors photo.

Spoke to JIC who was on his way with Sim to Toronto hopefully if the drone that’s buzzing Gatwick runs out of battery power for an hour or so.

Tonight I cut a tangerine in half, then made another cut across the base. Sat the whole thing on a wee LED lamp and photographed it. That’s today’s PoD. Of course there’s a lot more to it than that. There’s at least two hours of post-processing and a fair bit of swearing too. However, it did bring a bit of artificial sunshine into the day, the shortest day.  From now on the light will be returning to our dark and gloomy land.

Scamp’s sister got out of hospital tonight and is back in the caring arms of her family. I thInk Scamp may go and visit with the mandatory black grapes tomorrow. Otherwise, we have no plans for tomorrow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divide and Conquer – 14 December 2018

I was first out this morning which makes a pleasant change!

I went for a walk over to St Mo’s hoping to catch some low morning light, and almost succeeded. I should have been maybe half an hour earlier then I’d have got some better angled light, but the trees with the light behind them proved useful, and made PoD. By the time I got back, Scamp was already out and on the bus to Glasgow. I just had time to dump my photos and then head off for coffee with Colin.

The great thing about having three friends with totally different, but in some ways similar interests is that when we’re all together as a group of four, nobody really has a chance to dominate the conversation with their personal stories and it’s easy for everyone to chip in. The good thing about meeting one-to-one is that you get a more in-depth talk and sometimes a chance to air your opinion or grievance without interruption. Both setups have their advantages and disadvantages and are not mutually exclusive. Some days like yesterday when talking with Val, I pick up loads of information and also enthusiasm. Today with Colin where we share a history but not any mutual interest, it’s a totally different conversation that materialises. We talked about people we’d taught and met along the way. Colin is perhaps the most forgiving and also the least acerbic of the group. Me? I just try to stir things up until an argument ensues, then walk away with a smile. Usually I get caught, but sometimes I can still play ‘devil’s advocate’ and get away with it. Not today though, Colin’s too long in the tooth for that. Parted after an hour and a half and I drove in to Glasgow to meet Scamp for lunch while Colin drove home.

Met Scamp and walked down to Paesano for lunch. The place was jumping, but since we only needed a table for two, we easily found a space at a bench. Bloke next to us just had his pizza delivered and was about to start in on it when it was just as quickly whisked away. It wasn’t his. We began talking and when ours were delivered I was about to offer him a slice when his own came. He made a very strange comment that I wouldn’t have considered making to a stranger. He turned to me and said “You don’t wonder why our generation is totally screwed when you listen to the two on my right.” The two in question were two obviously gay men and although I couldn’t hear their conversation, he obviously could. I gave a rather noncommittal reply and he continued with his lunch. I don’t know what his agenda was, but as far as I’m concerned, they can live their life as they please. “They’re not asking me for the money” as my mum would say. Live and let live has become my motto.

After lunch Scamp and I split up and went our own mysterious ways and met up again at the car.  You see, you can spend even more money if there’s two of you doing it.  That’s what Xmas is all about.  Nothing at all to do with Christmas.

Drove home in the gathering gloom and the lowering temperature. Weather tomorrow looks grim with rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain forecast. All blown in on a strengthening wind. We had planned on going to Embra, but that has now been shelved for a better day.

The wanderer returns – 10 December 2018

Scamp was on the road this morning on the return journey from Blackpool.

I was on the road even earlier, but I was walking. Just a gentle stroll around St Mo’s ponds then a walk through the trees. I’d been up earlier to check the traps and found I’d got one rodent. I thought at first it was a mouse, but later realised it was probably a small rat. Either way, it wasn’t going anywhere so I left it to go and get some photos in the hoar frost that lay over everything. Some beautiful lighting at that time in the morning. It was one of those shots that made PoD.

Finished my walk by going in to Condorrat to get bread and a couple of rolls. One of the latter would be eaten with butter and jam, washed down with a cup of my new blend 2 parts Cuban and 1 part Kenyan beans. Count the air miles and therefore the amount of CO2 that has been spread across the world all because of my desire to drink coffee. It’s worth it.
The other roll would hold a medium-rare square sausage. So called because it’s square and it’s made of sausage meat. Clever use of language there.

After my coffee and the roll ’n’ jam, I disposed of the rodent in the trap and nearly lost a finger resetting the trap. Checked the other traps, but they were empty. Next I set to work on cutting and laying the new carpet tiles in the downstairs toilet. As usual with these things, I started out very slowly and deliberately, and finished by cutting corners, literally. You’d never tell. Strangely only one of the six tiles had its nap running the wrong way. It looks good, so good that Scamp didn’t even notice that it had been done. Not surprising as the colour of the tiles is remarkably close to the original. It’s only when you walk on the new tiles you realise the quality is much better than the thin tiles that are now in the boot of the car, ready to be taken to the dump. I think I earned that medium-rare square sausage on a well-fired roll.

Scamp eventually returned about 4pm and after dinner we went out to Salsa where we learned or for us, re-learned an old move: Setenta Batman. One of the moves which look impossible until you actually try it. Jamie G described part of it as a “Matrix style turn”. I agree, but I can do it.

Tomorrow, a lazy day, maybe a bit less cold than today, but today was much less cold than a year ago. Go look here!

Half an hour of sunshine – 30 November 2018

That’s about all we got today. Took the opportunity and said thank you very much.

Today’s weather didn’t appear to be fierce enough to qualify for a name, but it was a bit windy and a lot wet. Drove Scamp to the train station for her expedition into the heart of a Glasgow Christmas. Do you know, yesterday I used the word ‘sortie’ to describe today’s visit. Last night, when I was reading the blog entry for the 29th November 2017, I discovered that I’d used exactly the same word for exactly the same visit! A creature of habit, that’s me. After dropping Scamp off at the station in the rain, I drove to Tesco to get some veg for tonight’s dinner which was going to be Aloo Saag, but later changed to Paella.

Back home I’d intended tidying up the bedroom (again). Again, it didn’t happen. Got a phone call from the Environmental Health to say that the Rodent Investigator would call on Tuesday. That should give me plenty of time to tidy that room … perhaps!

In the afternoon, I decided that Paella would be a lot easier to make than Aloo Saag, so I drove to Kilsyth to get the makings. Waiting to pay at the till Scamp texted to say she was on the way home by train. Luckily the station is on the road home, so I just managed to get there before the train arrived in the rain. From just after 10am until about 2.30pm the rain had been doing its best to make life miserable in the central belt of Scotland. After we drove home the sun came out. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity and grabbed my camera bag, put on my leaky boots and walked over to St Mo’s. Caught a nice bit of blue sky with fluffy clouds and just a hint of sunshine. The rest of the sunshine, my dear readers is fake, but it looks the part and it the photo became PoD!

That about sums today up. It rained, then for half an hour the sun shone weakly before setting.

Tomorrow we may go shopping in Stirling. What fun!

Coffee with Val – 26 November 2018

Hopefully a caffeine injection would jolt me from my lassitude.

I don’t think the coffee did any good. It was Costa coffee after all, but the conversation with Val and his enthusiasm for his new-found interest in ornithology via his bird cam brightened my day. He’d built the bird cam from bits and kits bolted on to his Raspberry Pi micro computer. The results were impressive. So impressive that I began to think I might have a go at it. Then he began to explain the coding side of it in Python and another exotic programming languages and I could see hours and hours of error trapping and bug finding in lines and lines of code. I’ve done that in the past and know just how much of my life I sacrificed to it. No, I decided. I’d waste my time and money on hands-on photography instead.

My hands-on photography today was done along the banks of the Luggie Water and the PoD is of a couple of leaves of grass with some raindrops. Simple and quite effective.

Got home and found an email from ON1 explaining how to fix my problem. I tried it and it didn’t work. Another email to the Techys. Then it was time for dinner (Spaghetti a la Campbell). Basically it’s just mixing together stuff that’s in the fridge and with some base tomato sauce and chucking in some spaghetti. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Today’s mixture of bacon, cherry tomatoes, onions and garlic with a good tin of tomatoes got a better than average vote from both of us.

Next we were out to Salsa. Really small class for the 7.30 group. Most unusual for this crowd. In fact it now looks as if we will be banished to the ‘wee room’ next week. That’s something that hasn’t happened for ages. Scamp reckons it’s because Jamie G has been off working at his real job or on holiday somewhere for odd Mondays since the summer. I think he’s right. When word gets out that he’s not here, the class numbers plummet. We caused a stir tonight as well when I told Shannon in front of the class that we wouldn’t be going to the Christmas Ball on Saturday because the ticket says 9.00pm start and now it looks like it won’t start until around 11pm. That’s too late for us. We’re not like the youngsters who are happy to dance until the early hours. We’d expected to be leaving around 11pm, not starting then. I think the galling thing is that she knew about this change, but kept it a secret. That’s the really unfair part of it. Oh well, the cat is out of the bag now and she can lump it, because we don’t like it.

Got another email from the Techys at ON1 with a file that sorted out the problem I’d had. I have to applaud their speedy response to questions and problems. That’s what makes you stay with a company.

Tomorrow Scamp has a lunch appointment and I may go take some photos.

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!

Strange things afoot in St Mo’s – 27 October 2018

Off on the bus to Glasgow on the coldest day since March

Got the fast bus in to Glasgow, well the sort of fast bus. Certainly not the slow bus anyway. Wandered round JL looking at kettles! Such exciting lives we live. Then a leisurely walk down Bucky Street so Scamp could buy some Christmas prezzies (spoiler alert! None of them were kettles!). Outside the shop there was a bloke busking. When we came out, the song he was singing sounded like one by Phil Campbell and his singing was like Phil Campbell too. I’m still not sure, but it could have been him.

Got the subway to Kelvinbridge and walked up to Paesano. Had our favourite pizzas. No1 for Scamp: plain pizza with sugo, added rocket and no garlic (no cheese). For me it was a straight No5. We even had an ice cream each to finish (on the coldest day since April). Bumped into Dr Barbara and Callum with the boys in Paesano. Got the train back into town and went in to JL and bought a kettle!

When we got home I took a walk to St Mo’s and there was a fair buzz about the place. Lots of groups setting up stalls and things. I think it must have been from the Secondary school. Everything with a Halloween theme of course! Pumpkins spread all along the boardwalk and the seat in the park covered in fake spiderweb and covered in giant spiders. I got a few shots although the light was really low by that time.

PoD, however came from the Teazer in Glasgow. A reflection in a shop window.

Today’s sketch was another from the photograph library. It came from 2017 and is the church across the fields from JIC and Sim.  Slightly better than a place marker, but not by much.  Must try to get more sketching done outside in the real world.  Only four more days in Inktober 2018.

Tomorrow we have no plans. It’s a long time since I’ve been able to say that.

“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.