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Many Hands – 27 December 2017

Today is Wednesday and on Wednesdays you get a 10% discount in B&Q if you’ve got a diamond card. Guess where we went today.

Another cold start to the day so we stayed in bed, in the warm and I eked out the first Book of Dust by allowing myself two chapters only before I got up and got dressed to face the day.

We drove to Stirling B&Q after finding the car under half a ton of snow. Actually, the snow was a blessing because it insulated the car from the frost that attacked the areas where the snow had melted. It didn’t take long to defrost and the screen blower is great for melting the ice on the windscreen. The thermometer in the car read -3º when we left the house, but by the time we got on to the motorway, less than 10 minutes later it had risen by 3º. That’s the effect of the ‘Cumbernauld Cloud’ as Scamp calls it. It’s a known fact that there are places where there are sharp differences in weather. My mum always talked about that happening halfway between Larkhall and Hamilton and the head of the geography department at school confirmed it. I wish I could remember what he called it. Anyway, when you enter Cumbernauld the weather always changes, and never for the better.

We browsed the lamps in Stirling but we had to crane our necks as they were all sitting on a shelf at least 2m above the floor. What a stupid place to put a floor lamp. Luckily we’d seen all the models in Bishopbriggs and we were pretty sure we knew what we wanted (AKA Scamp knew what she wanted). It was soon bought and paid for along with a packet of halogen lamps. Assembly, when we got home was a dawdle until it came to adjusting the final angle of the three decorative lamps that were attached to the pillar with Allen head screws. We’d remarked on how tiny the Allen key was when we were unpacking the bits and put it carefully to one side. Now it had moved, possibly of its own volition, because neither of us could remember moving it. I tried my set of Torx keys, but the smallest one was just one size too big. Where could that wee key be? We even lifted the new couches and looked underneath, but it wasn’t there. I wasn’t down the side of the cushions either (so strange to find no crisps or broken biscuits down there!) Finally, I lifted the instructions and there on the back was stuck the Allen key. After we used it to tighten the three screws, we carefully stuck it back on the instruction sheet so we’d remember where it is in the unlikely event of us having to adjust the lamps again. We’re still not sure if the light is too bright, but we’ll give it a week or so to settle in and then decide. As for now, we’ve got three floor lamps in the living room, each one different!

Walked round St Mo’s afterwards and tried another Weemen (or WeeWomen in this case) picture. This time it’s the ice skater and again, it became the PoD. This one was taken on a tiny wee pond far away from prying eyes, so no chance of looking a proper Charlie lying on the ground in the snow. “Honest officer I was just taking a photo of this little Lego™ lady skater.” The pic needed some adjustments outside Lightroom and I managed this in Pixelmator which is now very like Photoshop. Totally recommended for Macs everywhere.

Watched the ‘Big Hero 6’ movie tonight and it was was hilarious. Who says it’s a kids film? It was just good entertainment.

No plans for tomorrow.

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The day before the next day – 24 December 2017

I hope Jaime doesn’t mind me paraphrasing his ‘day after the day before’ saying.

Maybe you could remind him of it JIC. It was the day after the wedding in Trini.

Not the brightest day, mainly because it rained almost all day. Scamp forced herself out to buy what was left of Tesco – which wasn’t much. After lunch which was a Full Scottish:

  • Fried Black Pudding
  • Fried Pork Sausages (2)
  • Steamed Haggis – the healthy option
  • Fried Clootie Dumpling
  • Fried Egg

It’s sometimes called the Heart Attack Special, but that’s really only when served with fried bacon and fried, not steamed, haggis! I survived it, but afterwards decided to go for a walk to allow my stomach to digest this fat-O-rama. I walked down to the petrol station to get some more stuff for tomorrow’s lunch, because Tesco would now be closed for re-stocking and awaiting more food being helicoptered in to feed the starving thousands on Boxing Day. On the way back I got today’s PoD which was a wee garden on the top of a rotting fence post. I liked the little look-alike fir trees that were really moss. To disguise the grain of the ISO 6000 image (and because I could with a new bit of software) I added a texture screen made from a photo of some pine needles I saw further along the walk. Soooooo much easier than using texture screens way back in the days of darkroom printing.

I was looking forward to having a Denver Steak for my dinner tonight, but after a freezer malfunction the other day it had defrosted and when I opened the package is was a Smelly Denver Steak and was promptly consigned to the bin. Hopefully the other stuff in the freezer is OK as it was vacuum sealed and hadn’t been as badly affected as my steak. Luckily I’d bought a couple of steaks last week and one of them provided my protein intake for tonight.

Watched ‘Home’ tonight. A pointless bit of cartoon fluff that entertained perfectly. Hazy, it took me a while to work out that is was Jim Parsons voicing ‘Oh’, the Boov fugitive. Funny film when there’s nothing else worth watching. But that’s what Xmas is all about, isn’t it? Watching films you wouldn’t otherwise consider worthwhile. It’s also about ignoring the abominable ‘Muppet Movies’ that appear at this time of year. Would you believe that STV are actually advertising ET as a movie this Xmas season? It was first shown in 1982!!! It should be in black & white and have a piano accompaniment.

Anyway, by the time I get this posted the witching hour will have passed and I wish you all a happy Christmas. To those who are in cold climates, tough. You have to be to live here. To those who will spend Christmas on the beach, you lucky, lucky people. Have a Bake & Shark washed down with a Sorrel Shandy for me!

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Deep and Crisp and Even – 19 November 2017

It was a lovely frosty morning (-1ºc) with bright sunshine, so I decided to get up (fairly) early and go out to source some photos in St Mo’s.

Scamp then noticed that Hazy had phoned yesterday when we were out and because we hadn’t checked the phone when we got in, we hadn’t phoned her back. So she warned me that she was going to check if Hazy was free for the return call. I told her I had my phone with me and to text me if she was up for a call back. I’d got a couple of photos which you can see above and was just walking into the woods to see if there were any photogenic deer available when my phone vibrated to tell me that Hazy was indeed on the phone. I about turned and retraced my steps back to the house and had a chat with Hazy. After comparing notes on books we’d read, she went to rest and I went for a coffee.

From then on the temperature rose just enough to take away the frost without providing a comfortable temperature for a walk. As a result, after lunch I got a sketch done for my one-a-week personal challenge and started planning the Keyboard Maestro macro that would allow me to automate the playlist creation for the car player. I didn’t get far with that, but at least I did get the sketch done.

We headed out to Glasgow for the Sunday Social at Arta and decided to park in JL carpark rather than try for an on-street space near Arta itself. The reason was that tonight was the switch on for the Christmas lights and I just knew parking would be at a premium. Got parked easily in JL which was a surprise, but the crowds around George Square were much more than we had anticipated. Added to the fact that anti-terrorist blockades had been erected around the square, it took us ages to get down through the city to the venue.

Arta itself was quite quiet until just after the switch-on, then it livened up a bit. We left earlier than we’d intended, hoping to avoid most of the crowds, but came out just as the fireworks display started. Once we were on Buchanan Street and the fireworks had ended, the crowds (estimated at 20,000) were streaming out and heading for the carparks and the bus station. Got through without too much pushing and shoving and emerged onto Dundas Street from the carpark without too much problem. One punter was a bit annoyed that I actually wanted to drive my car out of the carpark and onto the road. He seemed to think he had right of way and could walk in front of me. A quick “Fuck Off” informed him of the error of this assumption. Got home in double quick time after that.

A dull, dreary, grey day with nothing much to recommend it apart from a walk in the frosty air and a phone conversation with Hazy this morning. Oh yes, and the dancing was good too. PoD was the frozen cow parsley.

Tomorrow is Monday with all the timetable that entails. It’s 4.5ºc just now and raining, so not much chance of a frosty walk tomorrow.

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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.

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Finally – 20 October 2017

Up and out fairly early this morning. It was light and blue sky was beginning to show and it was before 10am which is pretty good for me.

Wandered over to St Mo’s wearing my old corduroy trousers which, being brown, don’t show that they are clabbered in muck! I’d put the Sigma 105mm macro lens on the Nikon, not expecting to see any deer because they’d start grazing around daybreak when I’d still be snoring. Just entered the pine woods when I spotted movement at the bottom of the hill. At first I thought it was a young deer, then I realised it was quite a large fox. It was so intent on jumping around, presumably hunting field mice an other rodents, it didn’t notice me and this gave me time to change to the Tamron 300. I fired off ten shots hoping one of them would turn out before it heard/smelled/saw me. That gave me time to concentrate and get a better shot. I got three more shots before he/she was off, striding away out away from the trees. A couple of seconds later I caught a glimpse of his/her brush just visible behind an old stone wall going in the other direction. Now it could have been a different fox, but the one I photographed was quite large and therefore probably quite old and sly. Fly as a weasel … or a fox! I guess it was the same one, loping off in one direction and then running back the opposite way to put me off the scent. Whatever, those were the last shots I was going to get of a fox this morning. I just hoped the Tamron had performed.

Didn’t see anything else of much note all along the walk through the deciduous trees, although I did see some interestingly shaped fungi. The fungi reminded me of some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural roof details. Could that be where he got his ideas from? Very Art Nouveau. The rest are just macro shots of bits of plants. I like them, but I don’t expect anyone else to.

In the afternoon Scamp decided to finally take the secateurs to the sweetpea plants that she’d lovingly grown from seed. They had provided posy after posy of flowers to brighten and scent the livingroom. The front garden will look quite bare now that they are gone. That gave us a reason to go out this afternoon to take some garden waste to the dump. Of course we should be putting it in the Brown recycling bin, but only when the cooncil decides that it can afford to buy some for us! Hell may freeze over …

Scamp was getting fired up to go to her Witches Disco Party tonight when I got an email from DPD to say that the phone would be delivered on Monday. While I was making my dinner tonight, after Scamp had left, I also got a text from the Vogons to say that someone would phone in the next half hour. Really, the Vogons must be strapped for cash, I could hardly make out a word the poor girl was saying. What it amounted to was that she was “Very, very, very, sorry”. There were probably a few more ‘verys’ there, but she did explain a few things and I did keep her on the phone for about 20 minutes before I finally acceded to her request to close the complaint. Hells Bells, the Vogons had kept me waiting for a week for my phone. I could keep her waiting for 20 minutes. That said, she was as good as her word and sent me a text later with confirmation that the phone would be delivered on Monday. She also confirmed that it was a new handset, not a second hand one as I suspected it might be. You have to be careful dealing with Vogons, as I’ve found out.

Dinner tonight was an Ostrich Sirloin Steak. I’m not sure I’ll have one again. It was a bit tough and not all that tasty. Bear in mind, though, that I was doing deals with the Vogons while I was eating it.

Tonight’s sketch is of a bottle and glass of St Peter’s Plum Porter (an alliterative stout). Very nice it tasted too.

Tomorrow? Well, it depends when Scamp arrives home and what state she’s in au matin!

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An Old Friend Returns – 13 October 2017

There’s not much to be said about the morning. It rained and it was windy, then it rained again.

Tried to copy a folder of videos from the MBP (Mac Book Pro) to the iMac. It was doing it over WiFi and reported that it would take about an hour. Videos are notoriously large files and there were a lot of them, around fifty at last count. In fact there were more like a hundred because I converted the MOVs to MP4s to make them more portable and ensure they would play in the majority of platforms. Anyway, I decided that an hour was far too long, so I stopped the transfer and used a portable hard disk to copy the files from the MBP. Then it was a simple job to unplug the portable HD and re-plug it to the iMac. There were two partitions on the portable HD and I should issue a warning that there’s a fair amount of Technospeak in this part of the blog. If you don’t want to hear all the geek stuff, maybe you should move down to the but that says “SAFE NOW!” Anyway, now the lightweights are gone, here’s where we talk about the ‘techy’ stuff and this is where things go awry.
The HD was partitioned into two parts. Part 1 was mainly for photos backup and Part 2 was for general use. Both partitions were formatted to NTFS. Now Macs can read NTFS, but natively,they can’t write to it. When I plugged the HD into the iMac it could only read the photos part and I’d copies the files to the other part and it wasn’t showing up. It wasn’t mounted that’s why. I ejected it and plugged it back in to the MBP and it read as normal. I checked it using Disk Utility and it showed up as ok. Ejected it again and plugged it back into the iMac. Still no go. Now I said that Macs can’t natively write to NTFS, but I use a wee app by Paragon that allows the Mac to write to an NTFS disk. It also has a disk checker, so I used it to check said HD. It told me it was dirty. That’s computerspeak for something’s screwed up here. It tried then to repair the damage, but after about ten minutes had got nowhere. This needed the big guns. Ejected the disk and went upstairs to where the PCs live and powered up the laptop, then attached the HD. Yes, it loaded, but only after a lot of clicks and whines. Went into a DOS command prompt and tried to run CHKDSK which is the program that CHecKs the DiSK. Unfortunately you can’t simply do that. You need to go to the Elevated Command Prompt as an Administrator. Typical american idea. Yes, you can buy a gun, or two, or three over the counter, but you have to be Administrator to fix your own disk on your own machine! Finally typed in the command CHKDSK G: /F, pressed enter and five minutes later the job was done. Ejected the disk and re-connected it just to check, and everything was fine and dandy. Ejected it again and took it down to the iMac where it loaded as if nothing had happened. The files copied in just under 6 minutes. The entire process from cancelling the WiFi transfer had taken just short of two hours.
The moral of the story is: If it’s working, don’t mess around with it.

SAFE NOW!

After the disk copying fiasco we had lunch and while Scamp was blowing up a storm on the clarinet, I slipped out to St Mo’s where I spotted the spider, the caterpillar, the chestnuts (although they were arranged tastefully first) and finally I chanced upon Mr Grey. I think it was Mr Grey my grey heron adversary in St Mo’s, but this one looked a bit thinner and smaller than Mr Grey. Maybe it’s Son of Mr Grey. I got a few photos of him before he made his exit down to the other end of the pond. I must say at this point, the photos on the retina screen look amazing. It totally transforms the editing process when you can see the detail so clearly.

Today’s sketch was of Mambo No 5, my trusty iPhone 5s. I think it deserved a photo after all the hard work its done and the hours of music its played. I even took the photo of the drawing with it, as I always do with sketches.

Now I’m off to bed. I’ve got a wee tickle in the back of my throat. Probably caught some nasty cold germs from all the sniffling passengers on the train yesterday. Looks like more rain tomorrow. Don’t have any plans, but may go somewhere for lunch.

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Slipped the leash – 21 September 2017

Scamp was off to have lunch with one of her friends. I had the day to myself!

In the morning we had a Skype with Hazy. Unfortunately it was interrupted in the middle when Skype decided it was going to do an upgrade. Now I don’t mind upgrades for most bits of software (Windows excepted), but why does a communication program break into your conversation without even a by-your-leave? The answer is because it’s owned by Microsoft. The same company that decides you need the latest upgrade to Windows 10 so badly, it installs it on your computer whether you want it or not. Thought it was your computer? Nope, it belongs to Mickysoft. Unless, of course, you took the sensible route and installed Linux.

After our on-line chat, Scamp got ready and headed off. I set too to practise some ‘painting people’ after I’d filled the washing machine and part completed today’s Sudoku and made lunch. The washing machine was a timer. I had the forty minutes it takes to do a wash to do my painting, then I’d have to hang out the washing because it looked like a good drying day with a light breeze and some splashes of sun. After that it was time to go get some photos. Walked along the canal for a bit and then cut across the plantation. It was there I met today’s PoD, the dragonfly. I think it’s a female Black Darter. Quite small, only about 30mm long. It sat on the handrail of a bridge for ages. I thought at first it was sizing up a little fly for lunch, but then decided it was just sunning itself. Probably it had been listening to the weather forecast and knew the next two days wouldn’t allow for much sun bathing.

Walked back to the car and drove to Tesco to get the makings of dinner which turned out to be a truly awful curry. The best thing about it was the flatbreads. They were excellent as usual.

By the time I got home from my walk, Scamp was back home and my day ’off the leash’ was over. I think I may have a beer tonight to commiserate with myself for making such a poor curry. Must do better.

Tomorrow centres around John Carrigan’s Birthday Bash. Should be good fun.

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When I’m cleaning windows – 19 September 2017

Sitting in the people’s palace enjoying a roll ’n’ sausage and a fairly decent cup of coffee. I’m becoming a real coffee snob, Hazy! Scamp had her usual peppermint tea and a couple of slices of toast. It seems strange sitting here on a weekday! We’d just been on a recce to find the party venue for John Carrigan’s 60th in Ibrox, deep in Bluenose territory.

Earlier in the afternoon we were walking round Glasgow Green marvelling at three blokes who were abseiling down one of the multi-story flats. We thought they were cleaning the windows, but it wasn’t until I got the photos home and processed that it became clear that they were actually repairing the windows. They were replacing the seals. Not the sort of job I’d like to be doing, even on a beautiful day like today. However, the view from the top would have been wonderful.

After lunch we drove home and I went out to see if the dragonflies were still sunning themselves up at Fannyside. They were, but their numbers well well down from last week. Only about half a dozen rather than last week’s nineteen. This time I had the proper gear. Nikon D7000 and the Sigma 105mm macro. Maybe it was because it was later when I got there, but the little dragonflies that landed seem lazy and quite happy to simply sit there and be photographed. As usual, I got the feeling that they were sizing me up as I was photographing them. Scary things dragonflies.

In the morning, I’d put what might be the finishing touches to my acrylic painting, so I present it here for your perusal.

Salesman from the garage phoned tonight with an update on the car. It might be arriving a day or two earlier. We’ll know for sure later in the week.

Finally, we don’t have a plan for tomorrow apart from Salsa at night and yesterday’s move wasn’t Sombrero Doble, it was Balsero Dos. Almost the same thing.

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The Happy Wanderers – 15 September 2017

Today we took JIC and Sim to Devilla forest in Fife to have a walk through the trees.

Devilla is a Forestry Commission site with a fair bit of parking and a few interesting walks through well maintained woodland. At weekends it gets very busy, but on a Friday morning it wasn’t overrun. We started out in sunshine, but as we continued through, the clouds rolled in. Sim and I stopped to take some photos of the pond and later a black darter dragonfly that settled near us. There was also a brilliant green dragonfly that buzzed us, but didn’t want to settle. Then a black dog, not the Black Dog, just a labrador appeared and scared away the green dragonfly. It was as we were turning away we realised that Scamp and JIC were nowhere to be seen. I reckoned that they were ahead of us heading back to the car. Sim was of the mind that they’d taken the wrong turning, after passing the pond you see above, and were walking round the pond again. We headed back to the car, but the wanderers weren’t there. We sat and waited, then Sim phoned JIC and she had been right. They’d turned left rather than right when they passed the pond. Of course they hadn’t just walked the same path again, they’d gone ever further into the forest. Anyway, when they returned, it was time for lunch.

Lunch was in the Walled Garden, just along the road from the carpark. Food was fine and the cakes looked as good as they did the last time, but the coffee was almost as weak as Costa muck.

We drove to Pittencrieff park in Dunfermline for a walk around the flower beds. We went to get a photo opportunity of the ‘Fairy Castle’ that is in reality the City Chambers, but didn’t bother to visit the town itself. Best to view it from a distance.

Drove over the new Queensferry Crossing which was mildly mobbed. Not as bad as I thought it would be, but we were going north to south. South to north was a different story, with traffic attempting to merge from ever available angle.

Later we dropped JIC and Sim at Chris’s house in Caldercruix. The first time I’ve been there since John and I picked up Andy Taylor and took him to school, easily 25 years ago. It’s not improved.

Tomorrow after we drop ‘The Kids’ off, we may go out somewhere, although the weather doesn’t look a patch on today’s.

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The day that the rains came down – 7 September 2017

Today it was raining in the morning when we woke.

Later in the morning, when I was feeding the birds, it was raining.

When I went to the docs to get my retinopathy test, it was raining. When I came out it wasn’t raining, it was monsooning, if monsooning is a word. If it isn’t a word, then it should be, because this is what I imagine a monsoon to be like. By the time we got home, we because Scamp had kindly offered to drive me to the docs in case I got drops in my eyes and couldn’t see to drive. When we got home it was just raining again.

I had intended going in to Glasgow in the morning to get my hair cut, but there was no way I was travelling far in this weather. Instead, I stayed home and completed another painting. This time, I’m ready to post a pic. I’ll also include yesterday’s painting which I chose to keep unaltered.

Dinner was what Scamp called ‘comfort food’ and with good reason. A plate of soup for us followed by Bubble ’n’ Squeak for Scamp and Stew with Potatoes and Cabbage for me.

PoD was the strawberry flower in the hanging basket (bottom right). It was taken during the lighter rain through the open back door, from the shelter of the kitchen. Oh yes, and it’s still raining!

More rain forecast for tomorrow, but it will be better rain than today’s. At least we don’t have the devastating 120mph winds they’re getting in the Caribbean with Storm Irma.