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Up the Glen – 22 May 2018

Up fairly early for a Tuesday to speak to a man from Falkirk on the phone.

The man told us that we are doing all right and that’s what we wanted to hear. To celebrate we went out to lunch, but not before we had a word with Hazy and caught up with all the news from London, discussed plans, books and the disappointment of having to wait another few days before getting a new car. Their car, not ours. After the second phone call of the morning, we did go for lunch.

We drove to the cafe at Clachan of Campsie where I had the disappointment of discovering that the cafe no longer listed their Apple, Brie and Honey sandwich. We were told that it was because not enough people liked it. Why not? Have these people no taste? It’s an absolute find, a delight of a sandwich. To her credit, the waitress said she could make me one because she had all the ingredients, but I had already ordered a bacon, brie and cranberry toastie, so that had to do instead. I’ll just have to settle for my own, homemade ABH sandwich.

After lunch we walked up the path to Campsie Glen. I’m sure my dad took us there years ago. I’m also sure that the ‘us’ in question were Mum, Dad and Me, because it was before my brother was made, and I was quite wee. Probably not even ten. I remember getting a collapsible tumbler to go, because my dad said the water was so clear you could drink it. I’ve vague memories of the place, but nowhere we went today relived that memory. Maybe we had to go further up the glen than we managed today. We both had the wrong kind of shoes for the dodgier bits of the path. Maybe next time. Just think, from Larky you’d have to get a bus in to Glasgow that would take about an hour, then get another bus to Clachan of Campsie, another hour at least. What a lot of planning. You don’t realise the things your parents did for you or the sacrifices they made. Not until it’s too late.

Took some photos there of some water running over stones, but the water was so low they didn’t amount to much. Also got some photos of Wood Avens flowers, but they were just out of focus, so didn’t appear in today’s published shots. What did appear was a photo of our red and white aquilegia which became PoD. Scamp thought it was called Strawberry Sundae. I thought it was Strawberries and Cream. After checking the label on the pot, we found its name was Swan Red and White. I prefer either of our names.

That was our day in the countryside, again under blue skies and sun. I’ve been meaning to go to Campsie Glen for years and am glad I did go today. Just a shame it wasn’t as I remember it about sixty years ago. Maybe we just didn’t go far enough. Yes, that’s it, we need to go back.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and portraits at night. Another busy Wednesday.

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The Man in the Mirror – 21 May 2018

I had homework to do for the Wednesday’s Portraiture class. Today was my first attempt.

Scamp was out with Isobel in the morning and I got started sketching my reflection in the mirror in the back bedroom. It’s been ages since I’ve attempted a self portrait. This was different because it was planned and better structured using the Andrew Loomis method. I’d even made an Autodesk Inventor model of the basic shape of a head to give me a basic understanding of the shape. We’ve still to learn the basic bits that make up a face, like Nose, Mouth, Eyes and Ears. They are important, but the basic shape of the skull is even more important. I’m beginning to understand that now. With a bit of time to myself, I had my first try at an SP.

It was rough and ready, so I set it aside and made lunch which was yesterday’s Aloo Saag bolstered with some more spinach and a few more spices. It was agreed that it was an improvement on yesterday’s. Still needs some fine tuning, and the kitchen cabinets needed a bit of fine cleaning after my attempt at liquidising the second bag of spinach. It looked like the attack of the Jolly Green Giant. Most of it was cleaned up before Scamp came home.

I wasn’t happy with my first portrait attempt, so, after lunch when Scamp and the Gems were going through their repertoire, I started the second version. One of the eyes wasn’t right and that was when I found that I hadn’t a putty rubber, essential when you’re sketching in charcoal, like I was. That gave me the impetus to go out. I bought a putty rubber and then went looking for photos. Drove to Auchinstarry and did the canal, plantation and railway walk under glorious blue skies. That built up my step count for the day and provided my PoD which is a Bum Bee’s Bum. Actually, it’s a hoverfly’s bum, but that doesn’t sound as good, does it?

Back home and I didn’t really need any dinner after a very hearty lunch, so it was tea and toast before we drove in to Glasgow for our Monday dose of Salsa. Two good classes, but so few men. Tonight’s moves for the 6.30 class were Candado Complicado, El Chullo and La Chulla. For the 7.30 class it El Cien. All doable with a bit of practise.  Step count for today is just over 15,800.  Not bad at all!

Tomorrow we have a telephone meeting with Andrew from ARD at 9.30 and the rest of the day is ours!

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The Constant Gardener – 17 May 2018

Today I had the car booked in at Halfords to get the dash cam wired in properly.

We were told that it might take up to 2 hours to do the job, but after having a quick look, the bloke said it would only take 15 minutes. He was correct. With the work done and paid for we drove to Torwood Garden Centre for Scamp to buy some (more) plants for the garden. We ended up with quite a car full, but she has it all planned out. She knows where they are all going, and I believe her. I got some leafy broccoli looking plants whose name escapes me at the moment and we also got a bay tree to replace the one we lost to the winter snows. All the rest were flowers. I’m sure they’ll all look beautiful.

Went out for a walk and left Scamp to her digging, potting and pottering. Got a good shot of Mr Grey and another of a young deer just losing its winter coat, but PoD goes to the Orange Tip butterfly that sat patiently for me to focus the new macro lens on. The lens is a prime (non-zoom) and is as sharp as a tack. You can see the butterfly above, but you’ll have to go to Flickr to see the other two.

When I came back there was just enough time for a glass of wine in the sun in the garden before dinner. Dinner tonight was Neil’s Chicken and Wild Rice Salad. It’s a firm favourite in the summer and went down especially well tonight.

Tomorrow Scamp and the Witches are off on the town, although which town isn’t totally settled yet. Me? I’m off the leash for a day, so I think I may go and take photos. Now there’s a surprise!

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The man who worked in the garden – 15 May 2018

Of course the woman who worked in the garden was there too!

It was a lovely morning, but unlike yesterday, it didn’t last. The clouds started to roll in, just as the weather fairies had predicted. However, it wouldn’t prevent us from doing a bit of digging in the garden. Before all that though, Scamp decided we should both visit Tesco, me as passenger in the Red Juke. I was most impressed with the work Mr Tesco had done on the store’s carpark. Before we left for our sojourn to the south, the carpark had been a disaster area. Full of ruts and potholes. Now it seemed that the poor man had been out all weekend labouring under the hot sun to make it a much nicer place to park with all the ruts filled, likewise the potholes and even new while lines marking out the boxes. I was just a little bit annoyed that Scamp managed to place the Red Juke right in the middle of one of those white boxes. I felt I should have been like Cherish, the judge from GBBO The Professionals and started measuring with my metal ruler, but I didn’t. I just put it down to beginners luck.

Back home, we got to work:
Scamp cutting the front grass and pruning. I kept moving because it looked as if she was pruning everything that was standing still.
Me when I wasn’t avoiding the secateurs, I was digging a hole and planting my birthday buddleia, planting some English peas (Boogie) and thinning out my kale. We were just finished our respective tasks when the rain started. Very light, but there all the same. It was lunch time.

The rain continued for most of the afternoon until I eventually got fed up and went in search of ‘beasties’ in St Mo’s. Found a tiny little spider, but had to give up on it because the light wasn’t very good deep in the woods, then I spotted a quite attractively patterned moth, but it saw me at the same time and flew off. Finally I cornered a bored or tired fly that sat patiently for its close up. That was PoD. Came home had dinner watched TV. Lots of little bits of work done today. Feeling better for it.

Tomorrow it’s not the danceathon its been of late as we’re only doing the ballroom and jive classes. I’ve got a portraiture class at the college in the evening. Student, not teacher, just in case you think I’m getting a bit above myself. Scamp’s having a week off to decide whether to face the M80/M8 traffic jam to go to two low level salsa classes. It’s an experiment. It may work or it may not. It just depends on how things pan out.

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Doon The Canal – 14 May 2018

I thought yesterday would be the end of the good weather, but I was wrong. Thankfully.

This morning was all about tidying up the loose ends of the blog and Flickr. After that was finished, it was almost time for Gems, so I made my lunch and made myself scarce. It was a beautiful warm spring day and it seemed a shame not to take advantage of it.

I drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the railway, then across the plantation. From there I walked back along the canal. I got some photos along the canal, but the PoD was one of the first I’d taken along the side of the railway walk. I hadn’t realised that the name for the unfurling fern stems was a ‘Crozier’, presumably that’s where the bishop’s crook got its name, or maybe it was the other way round. Who knows.

Came home via Lidl to get some stuff for dinner. We could have had our normal Monday Pasta, but I thought a salad would be better and got some crayfish tails and an avocado which would work well with tomatoes, beetroot and mixed leaves as a salad dinner. If we were hungry after salsa, we could always have the pasta then.

Salsa on a Monday is becoming boring for me. I quite enjoy the first advanced class, but it seems like Jamie thinks he needs to have at least two new moves every week and some of them, in fact, most of them are over-complicated and difficult to dance socially. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe we need a break from salsa for a while. I know that I’ll be missing from the Wednesday class for a while because I’m intending joining a portraiture art class this week, so that may create a natural break. However, tonight the moves were more interesting and not as complicated as some he’s been teaching.

I’d bought a couple of bottles of beer at Lidl and had the forethought to put one of them in the fridge before we went out. Two glasses of shandy went down a treat when we got home.

Tomorrow looks a bit less sunny and warm, but I’m sure it won’t be a great hinderance. I’m sure we’ll find something to do.

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Dull day – Wasted day – 9 May 2018

It was one of those days. We’ve all had one of those days. I had one today.

I really couldn’t be bothered doing anything. Scamp suggested we go to Livingston again and maybe it would have been better to do that but I didn’t and I regret it now. It’s usually better to do something, even something you’re not too keen on, than doing nothing.

Lunch was a kipper and I wish now I had hadn’t that, which kind of contradicts my previous statement but my stomach is upset and I blame that kipper. I think it had been in the freezer too long.

I did one positive thing today and that was to plant the remaining three Charlotte seed potatoes in a big pot. Not much to say for a day. Even my step counter shows only 4,020 steps after two hours of salsa. For some reason salsa doesn’t register on the Fitbit. Neither does jive although we didn’t have a jive or a waltz class as both the teachers are on holiday this week. Waltz seems to fair better. That may be because there is a fair bit of walking involve in it and heavy stepping too. Scamp says playing the piano is good for faking exercise and I’ve found that if I wear the Fitbit on my right wrist, chopping veg is good for maintaining a healthy if fake count.

As you will have gathered I’m back home now and my stomach has settled a lot. Maybe the jumping up and down at salsa jiggled the kipper around and made it think it was back in the sea again, or maybe it was the two Imodium I took before we went out. Possibly that’s too much information.

PoD today was a grab shot through the rain and demonstrates the incredible close focus of the new lens. That water drop was about 2mm diameter! Most impressive.

Tomorrow will be unlike today because we will both be busy all day. That, in itself will make a pleasant change.

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Shorts and Tee Shirt Weather – 7 May 2018

When we woke this morning it was cloudy and dull.

It may have been cloudy and it may have been dull, but the outside temperature was already 14.4ºc. That’s only 0.6º short of official Shorts and Tee Shirt weather as decreed by me.

When I eventually dragged myself away from my book, got showered and dressed, it was definitely shorts and tee shirt time, but I retained my decorum and just wore a shirt and jeans instead. Scamp was already in the garden, watering and feeding the plants and encouraging the sun to shine down on this great land we live in. Even better, it seemed to be working. The sun was breaking through the clouds and it looked like it was going to be a lovely day. Cleaned the Gaggia and which has been on my to do list for ages. Sat on the front step with Scamp and grabbed today’s PoD which is the inside of an open tulip.

After a quick trip to Tesco, lunch and a conversation with Hazy. I decided it was time to get the bike out and take it for a run. Truly this was shorts and tee shirt weather, cycling shorts and a short sleeved top. It was a good run, but there wasn’t much for the new lens to get a grip on. Back home and it as salad for dinner and a mighty good one too. Potato salad, mixed leaves, yesterday’s mutton served cold, beetroot and all washed down with a glass of vino collapso. Then a seat in the garden to let it all slide down with the last of the vino to help it on its way. After an hour or so the sun had dipped far enough down to force us back inside.  Nice to have a restful Monday with no salsa as  the STUC building is closed on bank holidays.

All in all, it was a very nice day. Unfortunately it looks like it’s all going downhill from here on in. Never mind, it was a really good summer. We enjoyed both days.

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Maybe that was summer – 6 May 2018

It was sunshine and blue skies when we woke today and it more or less stayed that way all day for a change.

Just on the off chance that today WAS summer, we made the most of it. Scamp was doing the most in the garden, of course. Putting up sweet pea netting, although I did the structural part and fixed the high bits. Pruning the blackcurrant bush. Repotting everything she could find. Cutting the front grass and having great fun blowing the cuttings into the trees. Generally being the gardener. Me? Well, apart from being the designer of the sweet pea frame, I wandered round looking at things and taking photos of the tulips, one of which became PoD. Oh yes and I planted the first batch of Charlotte potatoes.

After lunch I took a load of junk and garden waste to the council tip. There were signs on all the skips to the effect that you weren’t allowed to put soil in them. Why not, and if you’re not to put them in a skip in the tip, where are you meant to dump the soil? If you can’t dump it legally then illegally is the only other option. Then they wonder why people are fly-tipping. Joined up thinking is a step too far for NLC. Anyway, I joined everyone else by emptying the contents of my bag in the skip. “Honest mister, it wasn’t soil, it was compost.”

Back home, I roasted my mutton and put it in the slow cooker for it to do its magic for four hours or so. By then the sun had gone behind a cloud and I sat for an hour struggling with Keyboard Maestro, a really clever piece of Mac magic that allows you to create macros to do clever stuff once you’ve written the code. It was the writing of the code, or to be more exact, the syntax of the code that was messing me about. I gave up after a while and joined Scamp with a G ’n’ T and a book in the garden. It was really lovely for a while, although the sun kept disappearing behind the odd cloud. Veg to go with my mutton (or hogget) was carrot and fennel, sliced thin, fried in butter and then put into the slow cooker to stew in the juices from the hogget. (It tasted lovely by the way. Quite like fennel now.

After dinner and a glass of wine I sat down again, determined to work out how to fix the syntax of the code. Finally I cracked it and this is what it does if you hold down Control + Option + Command and press the ‘3’ key:

Y6 – 365/126 – Photo1952

That means that this is the 6th year of my 365s. The picture at the top of the page is the 126th of this year’s 365 and it’s photo 1,952 to be given the title PoD. There, don’t you feel better for knowing that?

Tomorrow looks like it will be much the same as today, if not better, but after that it’s the downward slope into rain and ‘seasonal average’ temperatures. It’s coats-on time again, so we should make the best of it.

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Waiting for the DPD man – 3 May 2018

My Panasonic 30mm f2.8 macro lens was due for delivery today.

The email arrived just after 10am to tell me that the lens would be delivered between 4.04pm and 5.04 pm. Why so exact? Anyway, that left us with the rest of the day to play with. Where should we go? We’d been to Glasgow yesterday. We’d been to Dunfermline on Saturday. Scamp suggested Stirling and that was the deal sealed.

It was a dull day with nothing to recommend it. Had a light lunch in Nero and then went to Waitrose for the messages. Came home. Not exactly the most exciting way to use your afternoon, but at least we were out for a while. I’d humphed two cameras round Stirling and hadn’t even taken one photo.

The lens arrived just after 4pm and when I unpacked it, it looked brand new. Almost untouched. Screwed it on to the Oly 5 and tested it. Oh yes! It does indeed focus down to almost nothing, and it looked really neat too. Almost brand new and sixty quid cheaper than the same lens from Jessops. Grabbed my bag again and headed over to St Mo’s just as the rain came on.

My parting words to Scamp were that I wasn’t taking the long lens because there wouldn’t be any deer to photograph. Walked through the trees to the path above the pond and there was a deer not 30m away to my left. It saw me at the same time and ran away into the deep pine forest. I was eager to try out the new lens an found some subjects in the sprouting Larch needles. ISO was a bit higher than I’d have liked, but the detail looked good on the viewing screen. Walked down through the trees and there in the open ground were two deer. Used the Teazer to grab some photos of them before they ran off. One more photo of a climbing snail and that was it for the day.

Walked back and was immediately impressed with the quality of the photos from the lens. Prime lenses are notable by their excellent quality and this one is no exception.

Dinner tonight was Aloo Sag or Potato and Spinach Curry to you and me. It took me over an hour of constant preparation and cooking to get it made, but it was really, REALLY good. Just a tad too hot perhaps, but very good sauce. Impressed.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Val.

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Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?