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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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What a difference a day makes – 22 April 2018

When we woke this morning it was dry and with a touch of sun. It didn’t last.

The rain started just before we got up and remained for most of the morning. It was indeed going to be a stay at home day.

<Technospeak>
Last night was another technological nightmare. While I was writing the blog I was restoring a backup from just over a week ago on to the Linx 12. I’d unfortunately decided to have it verified before I installed it. It was only after it was started, and the ‘cancel’ button had become greyed out, that I realised that it was going to take a long time to check the backup. In fact, it took as long as the actual restore to check it. Rather than go to bed and leave the ‘puter churning through this process, I sat and read another few pages of my book. Eventually it did complete around 1am and just as I was shutting it down, up came the inevitable message “Configuring updates. Don’t switch the computer off”. Too late mate, It’s switching itself off. I went to bed. Well, it was worth the loss of sleep, because when I started the Linx this morning, everything was there. Not only that, the bluetooth mouse that started off this drudgery worked perfectly after I made the change noted in yesterday’s blog. I spent an hour or so adding some stuff and subtracting others until I was happy that what I had was serviceable system. I then made a backup of the up to date system. This time I made sure that I set it to check the backup after it made it. That process, conducted under Windows and utilising a USB 3 connection to the backup drive took just under 20 minutes to backup and check. A far cry from last night’s three hour marathon.
Note to self: When you use Macrium to backup a 64Gig drive, do it uncompressed! It takes a fraction of the time the compressed backup takes!
</Technospeak>

Ok, now that Scamp and JIC at least have returned, here’s the rest of the day. By the way, I made a resolution to get to bed the same day I got up, so this blog and probably others in the next week or so will be written in blocks during the day when I’ve nothing better to do and they blocks will be seamlessly welded into a complete page.

It was a dreich day but I did manage to get out for a walk in the afternoon and it stayed dry all the time. Just a walk through St Mo’s and with the ‘Big Dog’ to look for something that wanted its photo taken. Mr Grey was the first customer. I did see a couple of deer, but they fled too quickly. The rest was all macros. My first hoverfly photo of the year and some neat closeups of catkins. Sometimes you’re lucky if you get one decent subject, sometimes you’re overwhelmed and struggling to refine it down to one photo. I also dragged back some bracken fronds to paint on. Not paint as a subject, but to stick on the canvas and paint over for added texture! Hopefully!

Had a quick practise of the waltz for Wednesday and am much more satisfied with it. Jive? Now that’s another kettle of fish.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes and Broccoli. Scamp made it of course. She’s the fish master. Much nicer than last night’s fish supper.

Tomorrow is Gems day and hopefully a better day all round than today.

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Snow begone (again) – 12 February 2018

By the time we got up today the snow was well on the way to disappearing. Good riddance.

Wasn’t feeling myself today. Just felt tired and listless. Pains in my stomach too. Don’t know what caused it. I’d say last night’s tapas, but they tasted good and the chilli had so little ‘carne’ in it, it was almost vegetarian. Yes, I know veg can upset your stomach too. Basically I just need to wait it out. Brought the car down from its abandonment last night, and parked it properly outside the house.

After lunch I went for a snooze while Scamp went for the messages. I just wasn’t up to it and she was happy to drive because the snow had disappeared completely. The snooze helped and I decided to get out and see if some fresh air would help. That’s where I got today’s shot. Saw two deer. Haven’t seen any for ages and on the way back I saw two herons! Scamp reckons they are Mr & Mrs Grey. I suppose that could be true. Either that or it’s an infiltrator looking for a face-off with Mr Grey. They squawked a bit at each other and then flew off in opposite directions. The walk and the fresh air did help a bit, but dinner was a plate of Scamp’s magic lentil soup and it did more than anything else to make me feel better.

In the evening I didn’t feel like going to salsa and Scamp agreed that we should stay at home.  I stuck a bit of corrugated cardboard on the easel and painted a still life. It’s pretty basic, but halfway through I realised that the pain in my stomach had gone. The painting might be poor, but it forced me to stop thinking about myself for a while.

Fruit

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It depends on how I’m feeling and on the weather. There’s more snow forecast for tonight into tomorrow. Maybe the gym for a light bit of stretching.

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Bananas (no Pyjamas) – 5 February 2018

It was Monday and we all know how restricting that is. Today I had a plan.

Didn’t get much done this morning, but after lunch I locked myself in my room with a bunch of bananas, a sketch book and pencil and a paint box. I reckoned that was the only way I was going to get a sketch done today. It took a long while and a few wasted sheets before I was settled on, but not altogether happy with, a little painting. It could have been a lot better, but it was complete and it was in on time. All the time I was earwigging the Gems practise. We all have to make sacrifices for our art!

Bananas today

With a painting in the bag, I went looking for a PoD. The light was dying as I walked over to St Mo’s, but I got a shot of Mr Grey hiding in the shallows beneath the trees. If it was to work, I had to have a close-up of his eye because he was well hidden in the bushes and only his eye would give me the shot I wanted. I got the shot and he flew off, fed up, no doubt with my clumsy stalking technique.

Back home, I had about an hour before I made the dinner. Got the photos downloaded, then the sketch photographed and transferred too. Worked on both photos and uploaded them to FB, Instagram and Flickr. Then it was time for dinner. Spaghetti with roast peppers in tomato sauce. Then we drove in to Glasgow with CITRAC displaying a yellow warning for snow and ice during the night and the early morning hours. Hopefully that won’t bother us.

Salsa with the first class (Advanced 1) wasn’t all that demanding, but the new move in the second class (Advanced 5) was a test, not only of our abilities, but also of Jamie Gal’s memory. It may or may not be called ‘Corfu’. Jamie said he’d post the move on FB, but so far nothing has appeared. It was actually quite an interesting move. We may try it out ourselves tomorrow just to see if we can work out between us what it was all about.

For once I got parked easily back at the house. That doesn’t happen often.

I sacrificed the gym and swim for a chance to get a sketch done today. Tomorrow I intend to pay back. Gym and Swim then sketch with photography taking a back seat. That’s the plan any way!

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Snow. Snow. Thick, Thick Snow – 19 January 2018

When we woke this morning it had been snowing during the night, but the strangest news that NLC had decided that all schools in the region would close at midday. Unheard of for eight years. Is this the end of Global Warming? Does this mean that Donald Trump is right?

It’s winter. In winter it snows. If it’s a bad winter, it snows a lot. That does not mean the end of the world, or even the beginning of the end. It just means that it’s winter. Live with it. It doesn’t mean that Global Warming is not happening, it just means that the seven year cycle thing has a bit of truth in it. This is the cold winter that happens about every seven years of so.

Today we drove in to Glasgow to buy a new microwave. The stop button on our old one had, indeed, stopped working. I could say that we were looking for a more efficient one to help reduce the effects of GW, but that would be cynical and I’m not a cynic! ;-D)))))
We went to JL, because they were the cheapest for the model we were looking for and they give an extra year’s guarantee. While we were browsing the incredible selection of microwave models we discovered that yet another Scottish celeb was following us. Sanjeev Kohli AKA Navid from Still Game, AKA AJ Jandhu from River City was pretending to be considering the purchase of a fridge freezer, while constantly trying to see what we were buying. Last month it was Nicola Sturgeon AKA Nick the Chick who was stalking us through the mens wear department. In November it was Leah MacRae who plays Ellie McLean in River City who was trying to hear what we were saying in a beachside bar in Tenerife. Before that it was Wee Boab from the same soap who followed us to Costa in Robroyston. Don’t these people have their own lives to lead? Why must they live their lives vicariously through ours? I’d offer them an autograph, but that would only encourage them. Anyway, we eventually shook off Mr K and got the microwave we were looking for.

The weather did look as if it was closing in when we left Glasgow and I was glad to just drive home and get parked up before the predicted snow hit. When we got home, the sky was lightening again and I thought I’d risk an hour or so in St Mo’s to augment the few shots I’d got in Glasgow. I had just arrived back home when the snow stared. It was on and off all night after that. Tonight’s dinner was chicken cooked in the gas oven and baked potatoes cooked in the fancy new microwave. I was impressed with both.

PoD today was Mr Grey who looked imperious, stalking through the reeds on St Mo’s pond, and NO, the middle pic is not mum.

We may stay at home tomorrow if the snow is still falling. That will also put off the autograph hunters.

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Big Dogs – 26 December 2017

Today was Boxing Day, but there were no more boxes to open, so, as it had snowed during the night and it looked ‘Deepan, Krispan, Evin’, I got dressed and took the big dog for a walk.

We walked through the snow and found that the pond was covered in mist as the sun hadn’t risen to warm it up. I just missed catching Mr Grey who was fishing next to the path, behind a bush. He flew off squawking at a couple of swans that were in his way. I walked into the trees and saw the sun rising above the tops of the pines. It’s not often I’m up before the sun, these days!

Walked down through the pine trees and didn’t see a living soul. Got a few shots of the little man-made pond near the road and then followed a fresh fox’s trail through the woodland until it crossed the burn. It wasn’t my great tracking skills that let me to believe it was a fox, it was the smell that was quite strong on the snow.

I walked through the deciduous woods and by carefully choosing a point of view, got a shot of the second burn with some clean reflections and avoided both the street lights and the motorway signs. The mist helped, but it did need some ‘spotting’ in Lightroom later. It was on the way back with my ‘big dog’ that I was joined by another couple of real big dogs. I just caught a glimpse of something behind a bush and assumed it was a deer, then it formed itself into a big, and I mean Big Dogs. Two fairly heavy built Alsatian types. I’m not good on dog ID, but the other thing I was pleased to see was that they both had expensive looking harnesses on and looked well fed and looked after. I tried to ignore them and walked on when I heard one behind me. Never let a dog get behind you, someone once told me. As I turned round the second one bolted away from me towards some silent signal, presumably from the owner. My own shadow gave a high pitched yelp as if to say “Wait for me!” and ran to follow the first dog. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily I was wearing my brown corduroy trousers, so there would be no outward sign of my panic as I walked on.

Got home without meeting any more Big Dogs although I did manage to get a low down PoD shot of a new Weeman that Scamp bought me as a Chrissy Prezzy. I’d have looked a proper Charlie if anyone had seen me crouching on my knees, photographing a Lego Minifig™.

Lunch was a light wrap with cooked meat and salad veg, plus some Jalapeños. Afterwards we discussed tonight’s dinner and it resolved itself into Minestrone soup. Not difficult to make, but lots of chopping up of veg as preparation. We didn’t have any cabbage, so as Scamp wanted to go and stretch her legs, we walked down to the M&S shop at the petrol station. We didn’t really need anything apart from cabbage which they didn’t have, but I got some more cold ham and Scamp bought some Satsumas. It was more for the walk than for anything else. Stuck in the house all day yesterday makes you yearn for the outdoors.

When we got back, Madeleine started a video conversation using WhatsApp. We’d never used it before, and it was really good. Much better than Skype. Skype used to be good, but since it’s been taken over by The Dark Side, it wants to run things its way. Interrupting a call to install an update. That’s just typical Microsoft. Anyway, the Whats App call worked well and Scamp got to see Ori the wonder dog as well as everyone else in the Trini house.

I got a sketch done and pre-dated it to the 24th. A lie, but a little white lie, well, a black and white lie actually. Not drawn, but painted with black Indian ink. I quite like it, but I’m not letting you see the usual big image, so don’t bother to click on it. It looks better small, I think, and it’s my blog!  The title from the lyrics of ‘The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity’ by Bridget St John.

Today we made the move to go out. Tomorrow we may go even further! Provided the weather is kind to us.

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Just another dull Sunday – 15 October 2017

It was a dull day when we woke and it didn’t improve much throughout the day.

The highlight was a phone call from JIC.

Went for a walk to St Mo’s and got the three photos above. Quite liked the shot of Mr Grey standing in the greenery. I’d promised not to post pics of the autumn leaves, but that was never going to stand, was it? That’s why the pic of the tree was there. Sometimes I can see the title of the shot before I take it. That’s the reason for the photo of the bloke with the dog. The John Hiatt song just played in my head when I saw the dog turn and look at me.

Sorry to say, that’s about it, apart from a less than helpful email from Vodafone to tell me that my phone won’t be delivered after all. When will it be delivered? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Apparently Apple haven’t delivered them because of the weekend. Does the weekend last from Thursday night to Sunday now? Are Vodafone so strapped for cash that they buy their phones in ‘penny numbers’? Not impressed.
Tonight I went online and did a text chat with ‘Omrar’ who said I MIGHT get it tomorrow and then finally that I will get a confirmation of delivery tomorrow. We’ll see. Strangely enough this is exactly the same as happened when I got Mambo No 5 two years ago.

Tomorrow is batten down the hatches day as ex-hurricane Ophelia makes landfall across northern Britain. We tied up the sweetpea frame this afternoon, just in case.

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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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No animals were injured – 30 August 2017

Spent an hour this morning cleaning out one of the drawers in the chest of drawers. It was the least opened one, the bottom one. Actually, one of the easiest to do because there was less junk in it. I also took down some of my old paintings and filed them away. Still loads to do, but a little every day makes it easier, or so Scamp says.

Just before lunch, Scamp decided that she was going to shell out on a portable Dyson. We’d talked about it before, but she had decided then that it wasn’t all that necessary. However, while I had been looking at printers in PC World, she had been comparing and contrasting the different models of Dyson. This just shows how PC World has changed. A few years ago it was a world of PCs with the occasional Mac to keep the weirdos happy, but now half the stores are taken up with white goods or vacuum cleaners, TVs and other non PC (in its widest sense) items. No longer can you talk to geeks about SCSII cables, USB gender changers and portable hard drive speeds. Now it’s just a household electrical store. It’s just not the same. It’s not a place to spend a wet Sunday afternoon in mooching around the latest desktop computer and comparing specs and prices. What it the world coming to?

Thankfully Scamp wanted to go to JL for the Dyson. At least there the salespeople have had a bit of training and seem to know what they’re talking about, as opposed to PC World and Currys where they haven’t a clue. The downside of the loss of the Geek! After testing out the different models, she settled on a Dyson V7. Halfway between the underpowered V6 and the scary V8 Animal. The lady had asked us if we had a dog and I had started to get worried. Maybe you had to have one to qualify for the purchase of the cleaner. Or maybe they were giving one away with every purchase. I don’t like dogs and I’ve heard they don’t even taste like chicken … er, but moving right along. The reason she had asked was that the scary ’Animal’ range is intended for picking up animal hair. She wasn’t all that clear about what you did with it after you’d picked it up. I remember Hazy talking about ‘knitting with cat hair’. So no, we could make do with the ordinary V7.

Took it home and plugged it in to give it a full charge and while Scamp caught up with her soap watching, I wandered round St Mo’s and just missed Mr Grey. He was hiding in the bushes but when he saw me he was off like a shot squawking his derision at me. I did manage to grab the snail on the dried cow parsley seed head. There wasn’t much colour about it, so I turned it into a mono shot and that seems to suit it.

Salsa tonight was ok, but my feet were killing me wearing the dancing shoes. They are the most uncomfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. I couldn’t bear to wear them for any more than the beginners class. I may forget to take them next time we go dancing!
In the advanced class we went over Espejo.

No plans for tomorrow. Just hope we’re not driving again.

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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.