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.

Halloween – 31 October 2017

What a dull, dank, dreary day.

It was almost 3pm before I risked leaving the house today. Up until the, it had been damp and dismal (I think that’s me got the ‘d’ alliteration out of my system). Even when I went out, I had to have the lights on in the car. This is such depressing weather, I can imagine how folk get Seasonally Affected Disorder well named by its acronym SAD. I’m glad my painting room has a daylight bulb in it and that the bathroom has daylight LED lights. Brightens up your day more than the weak yellowish sunlight does.

Only went out to get ‘messages’ for dinner. Do you know, I had to unlock the front door because I was the first one to cross the threshold! I wasn’t out long, but when I came back the headlights came on automatically on the car, because it was indeed growing dark.

I had already planned today’s PoD and it worked out quite well, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’. The ability to use the iPhone as a trigger for the camera is a great idea. Very useful for indoor shots.

Today’s sketch is the last in Inktober 2017 for obvious reasons. I can’t believe the number of folk who are asking on the Facebook ‘Inktober’ page if they can keep posting there. Eh, the clue is in the name. If you want to post your artwork, and some of it is so amazingly detailed, I think it must be drawn in advance, or nicked from the ‘net, then feel free to create your own page for NovINKber or some such. Me, I’m closing down my Flickr Inktober 2017 group on Friday. That gives the slow-coaches a couple of days to catch up. Today’s sketch is on toned Ingres paper and is of the workhorse of my sketching, the Micron 0.3mm pen and a bottle of white ink which I’ve re-discovered for adding highlights to the toned paper work. If I particularly feel like doing a sketch tomorrow, I’ll do one, but there is no pressure now to keep up with the one-a-day. It was fun last year and it was fun doing ’28 Days Later’ in February, but this year Inktober was a bit of a drag. Feeling burnt out now and looking forward to a rest (and a few early nights too!)

Tomorrow we are expecting more rain, so we may go to the gym.

Photos, Phones and Probably a Sketch – 12 October 2017

Today I intended to get the bus in to Glasgow just to have a wander, probably gather some photos and maybe get a sketch completed. That was the ‘fun’ stuff, I also wanted to get a baseline price for a new phone contract. That wouldn’t be fun.

As it turned out, Scamp offered me a lift to the station, so I got the train in instead. When I got to the station there was a fair commotion with four police cars and two ambulances sitting outside. The reason for the stramash was lying on the floor in the corridor that takes you down to the low level station. One of the ceiling panels had fallen. Usually these panels are fibreboard or plasterboard, but this part of the station dates to the 1960s and this panel was concrete! Cordons had been set up, police were taking statements from witnesses and at least one wee Glesga wummin who wanted to be seen to be ‘assisting police with their enquiries’. There were also a few ambulance personnel looking for someone to assist. Thankfully only one person was injured, but looking at the size of the concrete lumps, this could have had a totally different outcome.

I walked up Sausage Roll Street and found a sketch for the day. It wasn’t a cold day, but the wind blowing over Garnethill was cutting. I took about 15 minutes to get the bones of the sketch of St Aloysius Church. Even at the second attempt I managed to truncate it and removed the dome at the top of the tower. However, I think I got the gist of the building. Went in to Mandors and got some fabric to make a bow tie for myself. It’s printed with cameras. Quite apt I thought.

From there I walked down to Argyle Street via a couple of art galleries, looking for inspiration. Into Cass Art to browse. Just window shopping. They too had a gallery where a group of 25 artists were selling their work, so I wandered round looking for inspiration. Inspiration is a fickle thing. I found it in the first galleries, but in the Cass Art gallery I realised that my own work was actually not bad. After all this fun stuff, it was time to face Vodafone.

As predicted, all they offered was the blanket price from the website. I could have sat on my backside in front of my shiny new iMac and got that same price. In fact I had. I was told that if I was in the police, army NHS or any of 5,000 other occupations or companies, I was eligible for a discount (allegedly!), but upgrading was not due a discount. Staying with a company was not due a discount. That said, the salesperson had originally told me that I was not eligible for an upgrade because I was outwith the 70 days until the end of my contract. Also, apparently I’d phoned the shop at some point in the last week. Believe me, I wouldn’t waste any of my unlimited minutes phoning them. I just wanted a baseline price and I got their laughable offer, then left.

Scamp had offered to pick me up from the station, so I just got the train back after checking that it was still ok with her. Had a quick roll ‘n’ cooked ham as a late lunch and then grabbed the Nikon and went for a walk in St Mo’s. That’s where I got PoD which was the spider. I was tempted by the pic of the bloke playing slide guitar on Bucky Street. It was when I got the photo home I realised that only his right hand had false nails. Presumably to help with picking the strings. I’d love to have been in the nail bar when he walked in!

Phoned Vodafone customer service later and spoke to someone sensible who sold me the same deal as the salesman in Glasgow, but with a 20% discount. I know I could have pressed for 25% or maybe eve 30%, but he had beaten the Tesco price and it meant I was getting a new phone with more storage space for less than I paid two years ago. Result!

All of that and Seabass for dinner. A good day!

Looks like overnight rain and a wet morning commute, except we don’t commute any more. We just wait for the sun to shine, which may happen around midday with a bit of luck. No plans for tomorrow. May do the first backup of the iMac. Need to think up a name for the new phone. The last one was ‘Mambo No 5’. I’m thinking this one might be ‘Isa.’

Phones and Moans – 11 October 2017

Got to try out Skype on the iMac this morning when we had a webchat with Hazy. Seemed to work quite well, although there were more dropouts in sound and broken graphics too than usual. Maybe we should just stick to Scamp’s laptop in future. Must say that when the sound was working, it was superb quality.

Out at lunchtime to meet Val and Fred. On the way back I dropped in at Carphone Warehouse and Tesco to compare deals for a new phone that I need to get sorted for next week. CW couldn’t give me a decent quote for an iphone 6 and suggested I phone up Vody. Maybe I will. Tesco gave me a fairly decent quote on an iphone SE, but I don’t think their coverage is very good outside the central belt in Scotland. Still looking, still thinking.

Salsa tonight was a bit of a drag again. It doesn’t look as if the 7.30 Wednesday class will last past this session. Can’t say I’m all that bothered. I’m beginning to think that two classes a week are quite enough for me now. I don’t mind helping with beginners, but I don’t think we’re getting all that much out of the extra night, except some exercise. I’d rather give up the Wednesday classes and have a night’s dancing instead. That said, it’s really the driving into town Mondays and Wednesdays that’s a drag as much as the classes. I also feel that Jamie G is ‘inventing’ moves on a Monday just to keep the class going and keep the dancers interested. Some of them are too obscure to remember or too long to dance with someone who doesn’t know them. Maybe we need to give salsa break for a while.

Today’s PoD, was the leaf on the boardwalk, taken in a half hour walk round St Mo’s when I managed to get that wee bit of low sun in between the torrential rain showers. The Inktober sketch was a page marker. Just to say I’d done something. Not my best work, but it’s done.

A lot of condensation on the inside of the front windscreen of the car this afternoon, after a rain shower and the back window tonight when we left the STUC. Don’t remember having that trouble with the Megane when it was new. I should probably keep an eye on it, just in case there’s a leak in a seal somewhere.

Think I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow on the bus, just for a walk around.

Posted on the 12th because WiFi was going crazy last night, switching off and on repeatedly

Party Animals – 22 September 2017

“So do you think I’ll need another shirt to change into?” Question before leaving for John Carrigan and Natacha’s 110th Birthday Bash. “No” came the answer. By 11.30pm my shirt was sodden and Scamps dress was sticking to her. Wish I’d brought that other shirt now!

As you will have guessed today was the combined birthday party. Not a lot of Salsa or Ceilidh dancing, but a lot of Jive and Rock ’n’ Roll. I think I could handle jive, but I’m sure Scamp thinks I’d start dancing ‘jalsa’ which is half salsa, half jive. Well, it isn’t yet, but it would be. I already drive her crazy by inventing moves on the spot. How much more complicated would it be if we added in Jive? Anyway, we may give it a try!

Earlier in the day I framed the big A2 painting based on a London skyline and it’s hanging at the top of the stairs. Looking good too. It’s in an old IKEA frame that was just the right size and the mat is not real matting board, but a piece of cardboard Fred gave me ages ago. I think it sits well in the frame.

I went out to get some photos but the Luggie wasn’t looking very photogenic until I noticed the time and had to hurry home to get ready to go out. Then the sun came out and I got a couple of shots. This one looks good, but it could have been so much better if the light had been better earlier. That said, it’s a place marker and the 365 needed a photo, this was it.

I started writing this at 10.35pm while Scamp was dancing the Slosh or some other mindless line dance, and it’s now twelve fifty ish and it’s time for me to go to sleepy bye byes.

Nighty night readers.

Sunny Skies – 16 May 2017

Although there were torrential rain showers today, for the most part the sun shone.

Drove to Falkirk to speak to our FA, and the news was good. To celebrate, we went to Vecchia Bologna for lunch, but that’s when things started to slide. Starter of Caprese Salad was great with the addition of Parma ham just to make it special, but the mains were nothing to write home about. Scamp’s Spaghetti dello Chef was overloaded with pasta and my Pasta del Contadia was heavy and overcooked. For once we left without having coffee and, after conferring, decided we won’t be back for a while. Driving home was when the torrential rain appeared and even with the wipers on double speed the windscreen wasn’t clearing very well.

Got home to find that the cabin we’d booked for the cruise was on the promenade deck. Not exactly a clear view, but better than having a lifeboat hanging outside your window, I suppose. Not all that impressed with Ramsay Travel’s handling of the booking, but it’ll have to do, I suppose 😉

Went out for a drive to get some tablet ice cream later because the sun was shining and it looked like a beautiful evening. It was, but the cafe was closed so we had to make do with Tesco ice cream when we got home. The silver lining was that I got the landscape photo from the backroad from Moodiesburn to Cumbersheugh. More garden photos on Flickr.

Weather is supposed to be better tomorrow. Just as long as the rain isn’t torrential.

Happy Birthday to Me – 8 April 2017

Another year older.

After I opened my birthday prezzies this morning (thank you all!) and had my breakfast, it was time to head out.  My choice of destination.  I chose Broadford and that’s where we went today.  It’s ages since I’ve been to Broadford.  Obviously, we’ve passed through it ever time we come to Skye, but we rarely stop and get out of the car there.  Hazy phoned me just as we stopped and parked.  Had a pleasant talk with her, even if the temperature she was talking about down there was almost twice what we were enduring.  That said, they have the weather, we have the scenery and we were staring out  the windscreen at that sort of scenery.  Out across the water was the pier  and the youth hostel.   But, as Scamp said, no dolphins.  You can’t have everything.

We went for a walk along the shore walk, then down the road before Scamp found a coffee shop where we stopped for a coffee and a scone.  Unfortunately, it was a cheese scone and I ordered it with butter AND JAM.  Apparently, you don’t have jam on a cheese scone.  Coffee was the best I’ve had on the island with the exception of Jackie’s of course.  It was just after I started it, I discovered that I didn’t have my phone.  Oh dear, did I drop it on the walk or did I leave it in the car?  Only one way to find out.  I had to curtail my coffee and go find out.  It was in the car.  Thank you, the birthday fairies who look after lost phones.

Drove back up the road and parked ourselves by the slip to watch the waves and listen to the birds.  Went looking for photos and found that there were even more wee men parked around the boathouse.  I don’t know who is planting them there, but whoever they are, they have a great supply of araldite to weld them to the stone.

Drove Scamp back to the house and dumped the day’s photos on the Mac before venturing out for the last sortie of the week, up again to Loch Gangaig.  On the way there I caught sight of a couple of walkers up on a ridge heading for the Quiraing.  I was cold a couple of thousand feet below them and with the comfort of the car beside me, I’d imagine they were much colder and less comfortable where they were.  Got a few photos of the loch and one or two of the wee lochan I’d visited yesterday.  After that, there was nothing for it but to head back to Burnside for a dram and a plate of Mince ’n’ Tatties.  Superb.  Thank you Jackie.

Tomorrow, we drive south.

Spring? – 5 March 2017

There’s a smell in the air around the end of August, beginning of September.  It’s the unmistakable smell of autumn.  Possibly an amalgam of the smell of fallen leaves, beginning to decay and that sharp tang of the first frosts.  I notice it every year.  What I’ve never analysed is the smell of spring.  I recognised it yesterday.  It’s a warm, happy smell.  It may be the fragrance of the new growth and of the first flowers, daffodils and crocuses for the main part, but it is definitely there.  The promise that winter is on the way out.  It’ll be snowing tomorrow, just to prove me wrong.

It was a bright sunny day after a rainy damp start.  When we got up, I started the slow cooking of the lamb shank I was having for dinner, while Scamp went for the messages.  When she got back, we started making the pudding which was to be Pineapple Snow.  I say WE were making the pudding, but I was just stirring the sauce while Scamp did the clever stuff.  We had decided to go to Will’s styling class at the Garage before the Sunday Social, so that defined the shape of the day.  However, as the afternoon wore on and we I got involved in the making of the pudding, it became obvious that we weren’t going to make that early class.  That left with the opportunity to walk through St Mo’s and hopefully get some springlike photos.  I took ‘Big Dog’ (the Nikon) with ‘Wee Dog’ (the Oly 5) in my pocket.  Best of both worlds.  No sign of any deer or of Mr Grey.  There were a couple of cormorants in the pond, probably visitors from Broadwood Loch where there are a strong contingent now.  What I did get were some photos of Sphagnum Moss fruiting bodies or the flowers to be precise sitting on some very bright green moss.

When I got back, we drove into Glasgow, watching a gigantic pall of smoke all the way in.  It turned out to be a fairly extensive fire at a scrapyard in Govan.  While I was glancing at it and not knowing at that stage what was causing it, I was thinking that by the colour of the smoke, it was some dirty and probably heavy duty stuff that was burning.  If that was so and all that muck was being lifted by the heat into the atmosphere, where would it eventually condense out and what damage would it do when it landed?  When we found out the cause of the smoke, I began to think about the toxic chemicals in that smoke drifting across the sky.  Makes you wonder what effects it has on wildlife when it eventually comes back down to earth.

After we parked and were walking down Sausage Roll Street, the light on The Beresford was beautiful and I grabbed a couple of iPhone shots.  Salsa was good, and at times relentless.  I was quite pleased when Scamp called a halt.

The slow cooked lamb shank was delicious, but the star of the show was definitely the Pineapple Snow.  Quite the most stunning dessert, mainly due to my expert stirring.  If there’s one thing I’m good at it’s stirring!

Bow Tie – 14 January 2017

Firstly, you will have noticed that there is no photo of the bow tie.  That’s because it’s not quite finished yet.  It’s a prototype, made from a pillowslip, not something you’d expect to wear to a posh do, but essential as a practise piece.  I learned a lot from making it and I made it exactly as if it was made from the finest silk.  I stuck closely to the instructions and followed every step.  I made mistakes along the way, but hopefully I have learned from them.  Tomorrow I hope to iron (yes, along the way I’ve also learned how to iron) the prototype and finish off the sewing.  I might even try to tie it.  Every day’s a school day.

After the sewing session, we drove to Vecchia Bologna for lunch.  The place was mobbed, Scamp said it was the end of an Itison voucher offer.  We had to wait a little longer than usual for the food, but when it came, it was as good as ever.  Neither of us wanted or particularly needed anything in Stirling, so we just drove home and I went out for a walk through the ice and snow to St Mo’s.  Managed to surprise two deer, but the quality was so poor, they didn’t get published.  I did, however like the shots from the Oly 5 with the 9mm lens and that’s what you see above.

Tonight, I made some scones and have bread proving as I write this hoping to get it baked later.  Baking scones, baking bread, sewing and ironing.  Don’t tell me I’m not in touch with my feminine side!

As a bit of serendipity, you should read what I wrote last year on the 14th of January.  There should be a link to ‘A Year Ago Today’ at the bottom of the right hand column.  Navigate to the 14th from there.  Amazing synchronicity!