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Out for a spin – 12 August 2017

Woke up to rain, so had a lazy start to the day until the sun started to show around midday. Set off about 1 pm to go for a wee spin and to see if there was anywhere that would serve us lunch. There was.

We drove to the Oakwood garden centre near Killearn and had a decent sandwich lunch and a more than decent cafetiere of Colombian Rich coffee. I got the scenic seat looking out the picture window across the fields to the hills beyond. The view in this cafe has to be seen to be believed. After lunch we drove down through Balfron to Stirling and Waitrose where we picked up tomorrow’s dinner. Sea Trout for Scamp and Pork Shoulder for me. Lovely drive through the Stirlingshire countryside. Loads of opportunities for photos, but never took them.

Came home and visited St Mo’s which is where I saw today’s PoD of a rather grumpy looking Mr Grey. St Mo’s was full of weans, and I don’t mean primary school weans, I mean S3/4 14 and 15 year olds easily twenty or thirty of them roaming around trying to find something to brag to their mates about on the last few days of their summer holidays. What one of the Principal Teachers described as a ‘Tribe’. That is what they are like. Feral, that’s the only word for them, almost domesticated animals. Barely house trained. I’m glad I can walk away from them now.

Hoping to catch a glimpse of some shooting stars tonight when we pass close to the Perseids. We’ve been on intersecting orbits since 36AD or before. The first documented encounter was around that time according to Wikipedia. (I can’t be arsed with the current CE or BCE nonsense. If you feel insulted by that then tough, off you go and complain to someone who cares.)

Tomorrow the weather will be much the same as today and maybe even a little better.

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The Fitness Regime continues – 13 June 2017

This morning, I was swearing at the WiFi extender. It had to happen.

The WiFi extender was glowing green this morning and that means it’s in the perfect place. Not too near the modem/router and not too far away. The green glow lasted until I opened my first web page, then I got the ‘No Internet’ message. Either I’d broken the Internet or the green glow had turned to a red one. Thankfully it was the second one. It’s been a long time since I’ve broken the Internet and the problem is that you can’t just go on the Internet to find out how to fix it, because you’ve broken the Internet. See? Thankfully all that was needed was for the extender to be put in another place, closer to the modem and it worked. Internet restored to full health, I went to the gym.

I thought I was having a hard time with my recumbent bike, treadmill and various weight machines, but there was one poor bloke much worse off than me. He had a Personal Trainer shouting instructions and ‘encouragement’ at him while he lifted kettle bells, bar bells and even played at making waves with a big heavy rope. We used to call it making ‘snakes’ when the kids were wee. I say ‘playing’, but there seemed to be very little enjoyment in this exercise. Once I’d done my half hour or so, I left them to it and drove home for a shower. I was just loading the boot when I noticed my extra passenger hiding behind the aerial. A spider had found a nice wee shelter and had presumably come all the way from home tucked away from the wind. Pic on Flickr.

After lunch, Scamp was off to have coffee with Isobel and I was going for a walk in the sunshine. Drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, intending to cross through the Plantation and on to the Railway path, but it was so nice and warm beside the canal that I just kept on going. About half a mile later, the rain started and from then on, it was on and off all the way. Didn’t see any kingfishers, but the swallows kept me entertained with their aerial gymnastics and one of Mr Grey’s cousins posed for a close-up. Stopped at Twechar to sketch the lift bridge that opens once, maybe twice a year. Such a waste of money.  Interesting though and the first real Urban sketch for ages.

Across the road there is an old garage, boarded up and dilapidated and ripe for a bit of fisheye magic and some HDR. After a bit of fiddling, that’s what happened.  You can see the results above..

Walked back in the rain and Scamp made dinner which was a fish fingers salad using our own spinach and lettuce. Good to use stuff we’ve grown ourselves again.

Tomorrow I got to see the doc to get the results of my blood test. Going fairly early so I can enjoy the rest of the day.

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Just under the wire – 11 June 2017

With a little bit of luck, I’ll manage to get this posted before the witching hour.

Today was dull.  Dull weather, dull feeling and dull food.  Here’s the breakdown, but first I’ll publish so I’m just in under the wire!

Ha, ha.  Managed to get it sneaked in.  Right, today the weather was dull and cloudy with the threat of rain and gale force winds later.  The rain came soon enough and with the strengthening winds, the showers came and went quickly.  I managed to get out between a couple of them and get some photos of Mr Grey playing hide ‘n’ seek among the horsetails in St Mo’s pond.  I couldn’t quite get close enough with the 45-200 on the Oly 10, but the longer lens of the Teazer worked its magic again and that gave me a PoD.

Dinner for me was Lamb Leg Steaks.  I don’t know if I overcooked them, if they should really be eaten fresh, not frozen or if they were just tough pieces of meat, but they were like eating bits of leather.  Not nice.  Just to match me, Scamp’s tuna that looked such a pretty colour was overcooked too.  We’re a pair, aren’t we?  Even the Lemon Tart we bought in the market in Sausage Roll Street on Friday was insipid tonight.  It was just a dull day.

After dinner, Scamp settled down to watch last night’s Casualty and I went upstairs to the sewing room to do the waistband of my boxer shorts kit.  I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I did eventually get it done and even managed to put the elastic through it.  Now I’ve just got the hem on the legs to do and it should be wearable.

Tonight’s sketch is of my old Alwyn Crawshaw paint box.  It’s a really neat little box which holds just six colours.  Plenty for sketching and the great thing about it is that it’s about the size of a box of matches.  Do you still get matches?  You never see anyone with them nowadays.  Anyway, just to complete the drawing, the colours I used were from that self same box.

Tomorrow?  Let’s hope it will be better than today and I’ll get out somewhere other than St Mo’s.



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I’ve got the shakes – 30 May 2017

It stared dull today, but it did get better.

This morning it didn’t look as if it was going to get better and by midday it was getting decidedly rainy.  Before that we’d done a bit of tidying up in the garden.  Chopped down the part of the rose that runs above the back door.  It’s been getting more and more straggly, so it had to happen sooner or later.  It happened today.  It looked a bit odd to start with, but hopefully it will force some growth into the part that runs up the side of the door.

We drove out in the rain to get the makings of tonight’s dinner at ASDA and stopped by Costa for a quick bite of lunch.  Came home and the weather started clearing up.  Took some photos in the garden, but they just didn’t work out.  May try again tomorrow.

Decided a walk over to St Mo’s would be good, so took the whole Oly / Teazer kit with me.  I wasn’t convinced that the anti-shake was doing anything.  I’m convinced now.  I switched off the anti-shake and took a couple of shots.  Actually, I didn’t need to take any, it was enough just to see the effect through the viewfinder.  Heaven knows what it would be like holding the camera at arm’s length like you do when you just have a viewing screen.  The anti-shake will now stay on at all times.  There wasn’t much to see or to photograph.  I did see some damselflies, but the wind was quite gusty and they were getting blown about too much.  No chance of a close-up with any camera.  Gave up and came home.

Scamp’s sister came in as I was getting the dinner ready (Cod and Smoked Paprika Chowder).  It was really good.  Now June has arrived too, so I’m in self-imposed exile in the front bedroom to get some peace and quiet to write the blog you’re reading.

Tomorrow?  Sewing class at JL.  Should be interesting.

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Goodbye 28 Drawings Later – 28 February 2017

Scamp was out for lunch today so I took the chance (and the clippers) and gave myself an end-of-February crew cut.  It feels so much better than the mop I had yesterday.  Made quite a good fist of it too, even if I say so myself.  Lunch was the stewed chicken Scamp made on Sunday, then out to get some photos and a final sketch for 28 Drawings later … which wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  I knew the photos would be easy because the sun was shining.  Ha!  Then things started to go wrong.

I’d chosen the wee house beside Fannyside Loch as my sketching subject, but when I got to the turn-off, Road Closed.  Not to worry, I knew another way round.  After fifteen minutes on a single track road I got the the turning that would take me back to the house.  Road Closed.  Access Only.  Well, that would have been fine, but access was denied too as a road roller was on one side of the road and a lorry with a load of asphalt was on the other.  Not to worry, I’d choose my alternative subject and rather than turn round, I chose to carry on and go through Slamannan.  Slamannan, if you don’t know it is an old 12th century village on the outskirts of Falkirk.  Some of its original inhabitants still live there, I’m sure.  They look at you as you drive past with that “You don’t come fae here.” look.  Both brain cells frantically banging together, but the synapse isn’t firing today, so it’s back to drooling and chewing the cud.  I wasn’t going anywhere fast, so I took the scenic route through Falkirk, mainly because there wasn’t any other road, but the scenery was interesting with great views over the Forth to Fife.  I came back through Bonnybridge and along the canal to my second subject choice of the day, Underwood Lockhouse.  Actually, the burned out remains of Underwood Lockhouse.  It dates from the early 19th century and was originally the two storey lock keepers cottage with adjoining stables.  A few years ago it was turned into a pub and restaurant until it was burned down in 2013.  Despite what people think, it is not a listed building.  It was also blocked off today.  Some moron had decided to drop a portacabin on the entrance to the carpark.  According to the painted sign on the side, the portacabin used to be the changing room for Allandale Boys Club.  I wonder if the boys carried it there themselves.  Anyway, it wasn’t going to stop me, so I parked beside it, just off the road and got my sketch done, uninterrupted.

Got home and the sun was still shining, so headed for St Mo’s to get some photos, but first chose to photograph the first blooming daffodil in the garden.  Found Mr Grey intently stalking some small fish on the far side of the pond and got a few shots of him.  Nearly got a shot of a couple of deer, but they were too wary and ran away.  I reckoned I had enough material to use for today so left them to it.

Sea bream and potatoes for dinner with Mango Mojito Pancakes for pudding.  Obviously designed by someone who had never tasted a Mojito before.  I don’t think we’ll be going there again.

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In The Wild – 18 January 2017


Today we drove to The Fort in what used to be Provanhall in Easterhouse.  Where Scamp was brought up.  It certainly doesn’t look like it now.  It’s a Retail Park.  We were just getting out of the house for a while because it was depressingly dull and the howling dogs next door were doing my head in.  People who want dogs as a status symbol and who go out to work leaving neighbours to put up with their howling should be prevented from keeping pets.  They obviously don’t care about them and leave others to suffer from their noise pollution.  Maybe NLC will be visiting them soon.

While Scamp wandered round the shops, she left me in the creche that is Waterstones book shop.  It’s just a small book shop, but has some interesting new drawing books and it was one of them I tried to enter into my new app, Airtable.  That’s when the honeymoon ended.  I couldn’t get a signal on my iPhone.  Unusual in a shop these days when everywhere seems to offer ’free’ WiFi.  Yes, it is free, but you have to ask for the password and obtaining it is sometimes like pulling teeth or stone exsanguination.  Today was different, no 3G or 4G and no WiFi and therefore, no Airtable because it needs to download your database from ‘the cloud’.  I opened Bento and it obligingly added my book to the database I’ve been using for about five years.  When I returned home and Googled “No offline access Airtable” I found that over 40 people had registered the same complaint and the desire for that offline access.  I filled in the questionnaire and became number 44 in the list.  I don’t expect much will be done in the short term to fix this, but what is the point of making an app for a portable device that demand internet access.  In a perfect world, 24/7 internet would be the norm, but I live in Scotland where even the trains don’t run on New Year’s Day.  We’re one step away from horses pulling carts along the street.  What surprised me most though was the number of complaints from users in the US.  It appears that away from the cities, they are as bereft of trustworthy internet access as we are here.
So…. The search for a replacement for Bento continues.

When we came back from The Fort and I’d taken the wrong turn coming out of the carpark for the 100th time, there was just enough light to grab some shots of Mr Grey at St Mo’s.  Then the light mysteriously disappeared and I headed home for mince and tatties with ‘roop’  (AKA Beetroot).  But I didn’t do a treasure hunt, JIC 😉

I was a helper at Shan’s beginners salsa tonight.  Oh dear, I wonder why these poor beginners keep coming back.  This is not entertainment or education, this is purgatory.  Badly explained, badly demonstrated dance moves with as little humour as Marcus Wareing.  I felt embarrassed to be helping in this class and I don’t think I’ll be back again.  Jamie G’s class by comparison was a bundle of laughs as it always is.  Unlike normal classes, all the moves tonight had ‘real’ names, and mostly Spanish names too.  Great fun.  Nobody ridiculed or made to feel small.  He always denegrates himself rather than pour scorn on others.  A great teacher.  Many could learn from him.

Being a roadie for tomorrow Gems tomorrow when they head the bill at the Link on Cumbersheugh.

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Ne’erday – 1 January 2017

Ne’erday to Scots, New Year’s Day to the rest of the world.

Made some bread in the morning and left it to rise while we went for our traditional walk around Broadwood Loch.  It was a bright morning and the sun was quite blinding, reflecting on the water of the loch.  Got some photos of the gulls sitting on the fence at the outfall of the loch.  We used to call them seagulls when I was young, but these birds have never seen the sea, far less paddled in it.  The furthest they get is foraging in the various landfills around the country.

Further around I got some shots of cormorants stretching their wings to dry.  It appears that these birds have also rejected the maritime life for the more sheltered inland waters.

Lots of people taking the opportunity of getting out in the sun, even if it was cold like today.  Allegedly 5ºc, but a cold 5º.  There was a bit of a breeze which probably made it feel even colder.  However, when you’re walking and talking you don’t feel the cold so much.

When I looked at the photos once we got back, I wasn’t impressed, so I grabbed my camera and headed out again, alone this time, to St Mo’s.  Scamp was more interested in watching the ballet on telly.  Got some landscapes taken with the Oly 5 and some more burds had their photo taken with the Nikon.  I managed just over an hour out before the light started to fade, but at least I got some better shots this time.

Dinner tonight was roast chicken with roast potatoes and mixed leaves.  Very nice.  Pudding was panna cotta with crushed raspberries.

Struggled to understand the latest Sherlock while I struggled to understand the first Sudoku of the new calendar.  Eventually solved the Sudoku but got lost somewhere in Sherlock.  Nothing strange there.

May go out somewhere tomorrow, maybe not.  It depends on the weather.

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Postponed again – 10 December 2016


Today we were intending to go to Embra on the train.  After yesterday’s experience on the train back from Glasgow, I thought it would be better if we travelled on a weekday, preferrably a middle weekday when the hordes were at work and not congregating in Embra as they undoubtedly would be today.  We decided to go to Stirling instead on the train.  Then I realised I had a parcel to pick up from the post office and that it would be silly to backtrack to the railway station just to get the train which would probably be overcrowded too.  Ach, to hell with it, let’s just go to Stirling by car.  Not entirely novel, but it’s what we bought the car for in the first place, to travel where and when we wanted.  Such convoluted arguments, just to go shopping!

Stirling was busy, but the carpark was fairly empty and we happily paid £1.40 for a day ticket.  You can’t even get an hour’s parking for that in Glasgow.  Wandered round the farmer’s market in the main street and I got a piece of Flat Iron Steak.  Something I’ve amazed butchers with my knowledge of in the past, but never handled before and never eaten either. It comes from the shoulder blade of the beast you know!  A fact I picked up when talking to a chef on a cruise ship.  It looks like a nice piece of meat and I’ll tell you about it once I cook it.  Other than coffee in a Cafe Nero and more redacted purchases, that was it for our visit to Stirling, although I did have an interesting talk with a salesman at the Stormfront (Apple Reseller) shop.  I was pleased to hear that although he was enthusiastic about the Apple hardware, he was less impressed with the knowledge and attitude of the sales staff in Apple shops.  I may go back to view the merchandise again once I’ve investigated it a bit more.  Three years warranty also enticed me.

When we got back there was just enough daylight left to grab my cameras and head off to St Mo’s for a few photos.  Of all the shots I took, my favourite was the one with the heron isolated among the reeds.

Dinner tonight was once again from Bombay Dreams, although this time I was less greedy and have left enough for lunch tomorrow.  Very circumspect for me.

Tomorrow?  Preparing for the Grand Salsa Ball and little else.

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Fidgeting – 29 November 2016


FidgetingTo move about restlessly, nervously, or impatiently.
That sort of sums up me today.

After completing yesterday’s Sudoku (easy) followed by today’s puzzle (medium), I was stuck for something to do.  Scamp was going out to lunch with a friend, so I had an hour or so to do as I pleased.  I thought about starting a painting, but couldn’t settle to it.  Sketching?  No, that didn’t work either.  St Mo’s didn’t appeal today.  The final decider was that I’d agreed with Scamp that I’d bring back some messages.  Stuff like milk, bread and onions.  Stuff for dinner, that’s messages in Scotland.  This agreement forced me to go out.

I went to Auchinstarry on the off chance that I’d get another look at the kingfisher.  It wasn’t there, but a grey heron was.  It kept flying off whenever I took the camera out and although I wanted a static shot with the heron’s reflection in the canal, I realised that if I was going to get anything, it would have to be an action shot.  I got it, twice.  My favourite, though, is the landscape with the trees.  I like that view and this time I managed to avoid the power lines that usually deface this shot.  It was the light that made it special and that’s what it’s all about.

After the walk and the photos, I did go for the messages at Lidl.

No plans for tomorrow yet.  It depends, as Scamp would say, on the weather.

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Nurse again – 30 October 2016


Not a bad day, plenty of sunshine and no wind to speak of.  Not exactly blistering heat, but good for the time of year.

Scamp took to her bed in the afternoon feeling sick.  It was the sensible thing to do and now she’s back downstairs watching another exciting F1 GP, this one from Mexico.  Well, actually she’s playing Gummy drop – it’s definitely more exciting than the race. She can’t pin the sickness down to anything she’s eaten, it could just be the tail end of the cold she’s working out of her system.

That gave me the opportunity to practise my nursing skills again, but it was mainly restricted to making her ’white tea’ as Sim’s dad called it when he was here – hot water to you.  I did think I could take her pulse or her blood pressure, but decide it was best to leave her be.  I could be taking this nursie thing too far.

Later in the afternoon,  the  patient declared herself feeling better and suggested I go out and get some photos in what was left of the good light.  That’s what got me the three photos above.  I liked the shot of the beads of water on the spider web and also the spines on the thin branch.  Mr Grey is always there, he’s just too far away to get a decent sharp shot.  He knows he’s safe there and I presume there is a good food source near that rock.

img_3480-flickrToday’s Inktober sketch is probably the weakest so far.  It started out in Isometric projection (Google it), very unrealistic, but at least the proportions were right.  Then I changed it to put in some perspective and that looked a bit better.  Shading was rushed and very untidy as a result.  Tomorrow is the last one for this year in Inktober, but I’m definitely going to continue as long as my nerve and the pens hold out!  I can always buy more pens, of course.