The Messages – 20 February 2020

Today we planned to go somewhere to stock up on messages.

We drove to Falkirk and just managed to miss seeing a gigantic tractor lose its trailer which was now lying on its side blocking a roundabout at the entrance to Falkirk Hospital. Police and a heavy breakdown truck in attendance trying to keep the roundabout clear. Luckily we were on the other half or the roundabout. Further down the road a fire engine was heading towards the roundabout with blue lights on. I said to Scamp “I think we’ll take a different road home.”

We bought Morrisons today. I quite like Morrisons now. They have a totally different selection from Tesco and they also sell Yorkshire Mixtures sweets. I get a bag about once a month. Today they also had £10 off my whisky of the moment. Lastly they do one of the best Roll ’n’ Sausage for a knock down price. So after we’d bought the shop and I’d headed into a snowstorm that lasted about 5 minutes to fill the Juke’s boot. After that, we had lunch.

Back home and before I sat down, I got a message again to phone the surgery. What was it this time? One of the vampires had phoned in sick with anaemia and needed a quick fix? They’d got the labels wrong again and they wanted to tell me I was pregnant? Neither of the above. It was just to tell me that the doctor had left a prescription for me at reception. They couldn’t tell me what the prescription was for or why the nurse hadn’t mentioned it to me yesterday. I just left and drove up to the health centre. Discovered that the prescription WAS for me and it was because my urine sample had shown a slight infection. It must be something to do with my age and the fact that I had a severe infection last year. They’re being ultra-cautious. Well, better to deal with it than to have the pain I had last time.

Home again and the rain that had been pelting down had stopped, so I took an hour to myself in St Mo’s and managed to catch some late afternoon sun. Favourite shot was of a multi branch Cladonia lichen. That became PoD.

Today’s SoD was to be “Sparkling”. I chose Mrs McQueen’s favourite hat. It’s got lots of sparkly bits and bobs on it, so it fit the bill perfectly. I’m quite impressed with my render of the velvet in it. It seems to hold the creases and folds well.

Tomorrow, for once, we have no plans.

London – 7 February 2020

Today we were going to the Tower of London, except …

When we’d walked the mile or so to the train station I realised that neither of us had the details that Neil had so kindly typed up for us. Time for a change of plan.

We’d still go in to London, but instead of visiting the Tower we’d go for a wander and find somewhere new to visit. To start with we’d find a coffee shop. Not as easy as you’d think in London. Loads of coffee shops, but none where I’d deign to actually drink their coffee. Eventually we found Westminster Bridge and along from that we found St James’ Park which looked promising on another beautiful bright sunny day. Loads of other folk seemed to find it interesting too and most of them were Italian or French or Spanish it seemed. Hundreds of them, maybe even thousands, and all of them were watching the pelicans or having their photo taken with them. Pelicans in London? According to Wikipedia ”Pelicans have been a feature of St James’s Park since 1664 when the Russian Ambassador presented them to King Charles II.” Who knew? Well, apart from Wikipedia.  A picture of a pelican made PoD

Further on, we went to look at Mrs McQueen’s big hoose, but I don’t think she was in. Either that or she was hiding from the hordes who were gazing intently through her railings hoping to catch a glimpse of somebody royal. Either that or they were waiting to see the changing of the guards. I don’t know why they’re changing them anyway, they seemed alright the last time I saw them on the TV. We walked back along the Mall and found a coffee shop in Waterstones where they sold a decent latte fro Scamp and some burnt water for me. Lovely Danish pastries though! After that we went to Covent Garden where we heard some dodgy opera singer and I got a tee shirt.

After searching for somewhere to eat we settled for a pub lunch. Macaroni and (a ton of) Cheese for Scamp and an apparently prize winning pie for me. The pie casing was lovely, as was the veg, but the meat was tough. Walked along the banks of the Thames and caught the train back. Maybe we’ll visit the Tower another day … with the directions!

Today’s topic was “Fly” and my take on it was a fly of the Dragon persuasion.

Tiger – 4 February 2020

A beautiful bright morning. Seemed a shame to waste it.

Drove over to Drumpellier Park and walked round the loch in the sunshine. On the far side of the loch the water had overflowed into the bank of trees and it looked just like a mangrove swamp. We were expecting to see crocodiles in the water and a snake or two hanging from the trees, but all we saw were a gang of Mallards quacking away as they paddle through the maze of tree trunks. We went for a coffee in the wee cafe, at least it was coffee we asked for, but I think we got Babychinos instead. There certainly wasn’t much coffee in evidence. The place seemed to be full of mums and babies, three of whom were having a laughing competition to see who could make the most noise. Even the scones were a disappointment today. Not a good day at the cafe.

Drove home and after lunch I thought I should start today’s sketch and the topic was Tiger. I’d thought of doing a Tiger Lily or a De Havilland Tiger Moth, but finally put pen to paper and copied a tiger from a Google Images shot. My first attempt wasn’t all that good, so I tried a practise piece on my doodle sheet, beginning with the nose rather than the eyes. Then the beast you see above appeared through the doodles! It became PoD.

Scamp and I were discussing PoDs this morning and I was admitting that the quality of my PoDs of late has not been really worthy of the name. On dull, wet, dark days it’s difficult to find suitable subjects for the PoD, or even a decent photo to put into the 365. I’m loathe to stop the 366, but I have to say that the time it takes to make a silk purse from a pig’s ear photo, even in the best of software is disproportionate to the quality of the finished product. Also, taking the photos, processing them, sketching something that fits the February day’s prompt and then posting both shots, plus the blog takes a lot of time. As some of you will have noticed, if anything else happens on any given day, the blog is the one that suffers and I find myself playing catch-up next day.

With that in mind, and it being February, I intend to still take a photo if the light and the weather suits, but hopefully I’ll manage to complete a drawing or painting from the month’s list and this will become PoD. Hopefully once February is over and we are into the lighter days of March there will be more opportunities for photos DV. If not, then I will probably suspend the 366 and just post the occasional good quality photo.

Plans have been made for tomorrow. Hoping for some decent light to get some photos too.

Dreadful Dancing – 3 February 2020

But before we come to that, it was a windy, wet day, but I posted a letter, solved a problem (perhaps), got rid of some stuff and I got one decent shot.

So, with Gems coming today and no Margie because she’d called off, I grabbed the letter and a bag of old laptop batteries and went out to solve a problem. The problem was the poor mpg on the Juke. I took JIC at his word and checked the tyre pressures. Front 31psi should be 36. Rear 29psi should be 31. The rear ones weren’t a problem, but the front ones certainly were. Crouched in a heavy rain shower and got them all up to the recommended pressures with the automatic pump at the petrol station, because I don’t trust my old pump that plugs into the lighter socket. It seems to be working JIC. Mpg seems to have improved after a very rough and ready check. Will keep you posted.

Next on the list was the letter. I’d recently signed myself fit in mind and body to drive a motor vehicle and was given a new plastic driving licence free of charge on the understanding that I’d cut through the old licence and return it to the DVLA. I cut it up over a week ago and today I posted it away.

The stuff I was getting rid of was a collection of old laptop batteries. Two HP and two Apple batteries. Easy peasy, there is a metal container at the recycling centre where you can drop them off. There’s a load more stuff that needs recycled from the back bedroom, but that can wait until next week.

With that all done, I drove up to Fannyside Moor looking for some inspiration. It came in the form of a bank of cloud lying over the loch. I’ve photographed that tree for many years with many cloudscapes behind it and with varying degrees of success. Today wasn’t one of the best, but it recorded the day.

With that I drove home and started to make dinner. Tonight it was red pasta day. Just a basic sugo with some finely chopped shallots and mushrooms mixed in. Seemed to work well.

Now the dancing. We started with the Saunter Together which I thought we’d mastered, but I was wrong. After a couple of dummy runs we did a passable version of the first part, but the second part still eludes me. Next was Foxtrot and I was confident we’d have that off pat. Again I was wrong. We just kept making mistakes. I got lost. Scamp was determined to turn the opposite way from the one I was trying to turn her in (for once, I was right too!). We just made a pig’s ear of it. Finally the Waltz, and finally we found we could dance that. Not perfectly, but definitely much the best of all tonight’s dances. Only stayed for an hour because our brains were befuddled.

Came home and I sketched tonight’s Burger. I don’t like salad on my burger and I detest mayo on it too, so my burger is a hamburger with a nice piece of melted cheese. If I’m going to have to draw and paint it, I might as well make it the burger I’d actually eat.

So, some successes and some work in progress. Wind seems to have died down a lot after a very stormy night last night. That said, it was sleet that was falling when we were on the way to the dance class tonight.

Tomorrow no real plans. Maybe move the settee round and clear the floor for some Foxtrot practise.

I saw shadows today – 2 February 2020

It was another of those dull days we’ve grown to accept this January and February. I went out for a walk and saw some shadows.

You don’t get shadows on a dull day. They only appear when there’s direct sunlight. It didn’t last long, but I managed to get a few shots in the time it was there. One of them became PoD and that’s what you see above.

Earlier, in the morning to be more exact, I started to recover the back room from the piles of rubbish and not-so-rubbish that was covering every horizontal surface. I used my usual FKB method. File, Keep, Bin. Some of the stuff was in the Keep box. Some went into the File box, in fact some of the stuff that had been put in the Keep box got moved to the File box in phase 2. The remainder dropped into the Bin which is now overflowing. The bonus from this is that I’ve once again found the top of the chest of drawers and with just a little more work, I’ll be able to sit on the sofa.

Later in the afternoon, I went out in the rain to try to find some photos, that’s when I found the sunlight and grabbed my few shots. Back home I started to make dinner – paella. We were just finishing dinner when Scamp’s phone announced that tonight’s Sunday Social had been cancelled because the Record Factory was hosting a Super Bowl evening instead. I wouldn’t like to be in their shoes when Shannon goes eyeball to eyeball with them tomorrow. That Canadian snarl will freeze them to the floor. Seriously though, 15 minutes before the social was due to start and we get a message to say it’s been cancelled. Somebody somewhere has some explaining to do.

At least it gave me an extra two or three hours to get my February drawing done. Today’s topic was Paris and rather than do the usual and expected Eiffel Tower, I drew one of the gargoyles from Notre Dame. The purists will know that you can’t actually see the Eiffel Tower from this angle, but that’s what artistic licence was designed for.

Tomorrow is a Gems day. I’m hoping for another few minutes of shadows to allow me to grab some more photons.

I thought I’d have a day in town today – 24 October 2019

Just window shopping mainly, but with intent.

Drove up to the station to see if there were any spaces. There weren’t, there were cars everywhere. Cars parked up on two wheels on the verges, cars in the flower beds, cars double parked. This is just carnage from Tuesday to Thursday. I think a lot of folk either work from home or take a holiday on Mondays and Fridays, because I can usually get parked without a problem then. However, there is always the worry that when you come back some moron has parked in front of you. Maybe a ‘ten pence coach line’ would remind them that behaviour like that is not acceptable. Sooo I had to drive in to Glasgow.

I was give a list of shower gels to get for Scamp in Molton Brown. Of course they don’t call them ‘shower gels’, they call them Body Wash. Isn’t that what shower gels do, wash your body? Anyway, today was the start of their annual 20% off offer so that’s why I was given the list. With the job done I wandered my way back up Bucky Street to see what goodies Jessops had for me. My attention was a girl interrogating an older couple. Then I felt a hand on my chest. It was attached to a woman about my age and it was there to stop me walking into her! I hate folk that don’t look where they’re going, and here was I doing exactly that thing. I apologised and laughed and thankfully she did too. Never did find out what the girl was doing.

I hadn’t heard that Jessops were on the point of being put into administration – for the second time. It was only when another customer asked one of the assistants if the shop was closing. His reaction gave the lie to his explanation that nothing was certain yet. Another one bites the dust, I think.

I had another look at the Sony RX 100 camera and for once the salesman I was talking to didn’t push me to try the version 5 of the camera, but said the best bargain was the version 3. I’m still not sure if it’s what I’m looking for. It has a silly little pop up viewfinder that I’m sure I’d break within the first month and then regret shelling out my money for it for the rest of the ownership.

Back home via Tesco to get the makings of dinner. Then I just had to visit the new Aldi store. It was a bit smelly and that could have been the veg counter, or just the great unwashed. I’m not sure which.

Back home I was in the middle of making a pot of Scamp’s Just Soup when the lady herself returned from her gig. It seemed to be a resounding success as it always is in Abronhill.

I left her to cool down and talk to her sister on the phone while I went to get today’s PoD. It turned out to be a little bush which grows wild around here with white berries and pink flowers. It’s called a Snowberry Bush. I liked the flower and the composition.

Apart from fish and prawns, I ‘m not a great fan of seafood, especially shellfish. However, that was today’s topic and needs must … Most of the bits and pieces were cobbled together from various photos of shellfish on the Internet. A splash or two of paint and we’re done!

No plans for tomorrow.

Dancing and a screamer – 23 October 2019

Wednesday is dancing day. Screamers are just nutters with a different name.

My new phone vibrated just after 12 noon to tell me it had changed numbers, back to the one I’ve had for the last eight(?) years. A result. Thank you to the bloke in EE who sorted it. Now I can go ahead and unlock the old phone.

Drove in to Glasgow and started again into the new routine, adding the subtly named Bump and Grind. After that is was a practise session for the Quickstep and the Waltz. I had problems with them both, but the room is simply too small to be able to go over these steps. Add two speaker stacks and a piano and it becomes more challenging. If you add the third complication of the thick couple Gary and Freda who will happily stop anywhere and discuss who was making the mistakes. Actually, like most couples both were at fault, but do they really need to block everyone else’s path while the blame each other? It appears they do.

Coffee afterwards and coming back from the toilet, I noticed an iPhone on the floor behind where a woman was sitting. I tapped her on the shoulder to tell her and she let out this cutting scream. Honest, I just tapped her on the shoulder. I didn’t think I was that scary, although years of S1 pupils at school might disagree. Some folk just want to be the centre of attention. Nutters by any other name.

Back home I went out for a walk with the “Big Dog”. Thinking that as it was really dull, the bigger sensor on the Nikon would handle it better than the Oly. I was wrong. Lots of grain showing on the images. I finally chose a shot of a swan as PoD.

When I got back it was time to get the sketch sorted out. The topic was “A Fried Egg”. Where do these people get their ideas from (it was an old list for EDIM actually)? It should have been fairly easy, but I’m not that good at getting eggs into the frying pan without breaking the yolk, (and that’s what I did with the first one.) Tomorrow I’m expected to continue the food theme!

I packed in early and that’s why this blog post is a catch up. Sorry!

Tomorrow Scamp has a gig and I may go in to Glasgow.

Dancing – 16 October 2019

Unlike yesterday, we woke to rain.

However, as the morning progressed, so the weather improved and by midday the sun was shining. Time to go out and do some dancing.

No Michael today, so we had Anne Marie. Today we went over Somewhere Over The Rainbow again, and again we wore away some of the rough edges of the routine. I think it’s about as good as it’s going to get. I just hope we can remember:

a. The sequence of the moves.
b. The little tweaks we learned today.

If we can do that, I think we can progress on to the moves we learned today. New moves for an, as yet unnamed, Jive routine. One of the moves we’d done before, but the name evades Scamp and I and the second one we’re calling Knee, 3 kicks, because that’s a basic description of it. That was all Jive. We didn’t have time to do any waltz, but we did cover a new routine we’re learning for Quickstep. As with all quickstep routines, it’s the combination of Slow and Quick that cause me the most of my problems. Scamp seems to have no difficulty with them at all. It ’s just the way her brain works I think. Wired differently from mine.

Back home there was just enough time for a quick walk over to St Mo’s to feed the ducks on the remains of my loaf and some other bread that was as dry as a bone in the kitchen. The ducks didn’t seem to mind in the slightest. I got today’s PoD walking in the woods. I’d have liked to have used the 9mm lens, but I hadn’t brought it. The 14mm did a fairly good job and I was happy with the result.

Today’s sketch task was “A Frog”. I tried a quick sketch in the morning of Kermit who holds some lavender in the back bedroom. It wasn’t very successful and Scamp told me the head was the wrong shape. This confirmed what I already thought. After dinner I had another go and took more time to get the proportions of the poor frog’s head a bit better. Yes, it worked better this time. The only problem is the poor soul looks a bit sad. It’s hard to get Kermit’s quizzical expression just the way he looks on TV. Never mind, it’s a fair likeness. Tomorrow it’s “Crumpled Paper”. Inktober brings loads of that!

Tomorrow we’re hoping to be up and out early because the weather looks better in the morning.

A Day at the Seaside – 15 October 2019

Up and out we said. Up and out it was today.

Breakfast downstairs today and out for 10.30. Off to the seaside. I chose Troon as our destination. It began to look a bit dicey when we climbed up the M77 to the top of Fenwick Moor and drove into the low lying cloud. Fog lights on and we carried on. Thankfully after about 15 minutes we were back into sunshine with the cloud looking like a grey wall behind us. From there it was sunshine all the way to Troon.

Couldn’t get parked at the first car park, so we carried on to the one we used to go to round by the harbour. The place with the crashy waves. The waves weren’t crashing today, in fact the sea was very calm with only the slightest movement. Arran’s peaks were poking through some low cloud and made a great PoD. Taken by me, chosen from the sixty odd others by Scamp. We walked round the Ballast Bank by the low and now notifiably DANGEROUS path. Sat for a while on one of the seats by the path. Beautiful views over to Horse Island and Ailsa Craig in the distance. Listened to the hundreds of seabirds on the exposed rocks. It could have been summer, sitting in the sun with the high banking sheltering us from the sun.

Eventually we gave up our seat and walked on into town. Nearly at the town Scamp’s cousin appeared with her daughter and the two of them had a long catch up, nearly blocking the path for everyone else. Eventually we split up and went our separate ways. We walked as far as the wind surfers’ car park at the far end of town. There we turned and walked back in to town. I suggested we go to the Venice cafe for lunch. The best part of half an hour for a roll ’n’ sausage and a roll ’n’ scrambled egg. It’s not that they were busy. We were the only ones waiting to be served. No apologies, nothing. Scamp told them in no uncertain manner that we wouldn’t be back. I don’t think I’ve ever heard her say that before. That will give you some idea of how angry she was. Now we know why it wasn’t busy.

Walked back to the car and who should we bump into again? Elspeth and her daughter. They had been to Scotts for lunch and that’s where we had been heading before we met them. Don’t see some folk for ages, then you see them twice in the same day.

Drove home through the usual 4pm traffic. No low cloud or fog this time, just loads and loads of cars on a busy road.

Sketch today was “A Dessert”. We had Meringue with Strawberries and Cream for tonight’s dessert and I attempted to draw that, but wasn’t impressed with the attempt, so I drew Strawberries and Cream instead. Three strawberries and a tub of Elmlea. I liked that one!

Maybe we should keep that Juke. Today we started out with 274 miles predicted in the tank. We arrived home with 295 miles predicted in the tank. It seems like the petrol tank is related to the Magic Porridge Pot that never emptied!

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon, hopefully.

Deone’s Seat – 11 October 2019

Today’s topic from my list was “Butterfly”. In October, in Scotland? Really?

Then I remembered Deone’s Seat. It’s to remember Deone MacRae who died, aged 15, from cancer. The story is much longer. Google her name if you’re interested. It’s not a memorial. First and foremost it’s a seat. It’s been powder coated a cheerful bright pink and it sits beside the pond at St Maurices park. The seat is cut and welded from 1/4″ sheet steel and is a fitting tribute. I went out this morning to sketch it and then added some colour later. It was my interpretation of the prompt.

Came back and Scamp was getting herself ready for a trip in to Glasgow, solo. That suited me. I’d a bit of virus killing to do on the iMac. Probably only the second time I’ve had to resort to a virus killer. I’d tried Bitdefender last night, but it’s a bit of a sledgehammer to crack a nut. It took 25 minutes last night and it still was only about 75% through on a short scan. Nah, I needed something quicker. I’d found the offending article, it was an extension in Safari, Apple’s worthless browser. Worthless or not it was harbouring a piece of dodgy software that needed excising. I’d read that Malwarebites was good, so I downloaded that and it quickly found, not one, but two pieces of malware and deleted them, or to be precise, quarantined them. I don’t like quarantine, I prefer deletion. So that’s what I did. Malwarebites it’s the way to go.

By this time Scamp was on the bus to Glasgow, so I had time to add some colour to today’s sketch. Plenty of time, so for once, I let one colour dry before adding the next. I was pleased with the result. Yes I know it’s not totally symmetrical and there are some rogue lines, but that’s what happens when you’ve half an eye on the rain clouds, half an eye on the swan that’s sidling up to you looking for an early lunch and half an eye on nosy folk asking “Are you drawing?” Luckily the only person who passed was a bloke jogging around the pond and he just nodded and gave me a Scottish “Aye” which can mean “Good Morning”, “Looks like rain” or just “Hi”. It never means “What are you doing here?” It’s just a nod and an “Aye.” I don’t think they do that anywhere else in the world.

With the sketch and the painting done, I did a bit of flying from Fuerteventura to Lanzarote. Not far, but still taxing until you work out how to do the ILS approach under autopilot. I know this is gibberish, but it’s interesting gibberish to me. Gave up after the third attempt and made my lunch. Piece on brie, apple and honey. Totally heavenly. Home grown apples too, James Grieve.

After lunch I walked down to M&S to get chicken for tonight’s dinner and also a box of their delicious Turkish Delights, bread and a couple of pastries for after dinner. Got a text to say that it was back to business, Scamp had returned.

PoD was a photo of St Mo’s pond that I took after sketching Deone’s seat. Looks very pleasant once you’ve spotted out the Bucky bottles and the crisp wrappers. Swans seem to like it anyway.

Tomorrow we may go to Embra. It depends on the weather, but I expect I’ll be driving part of the way, which means I won’t be able to partake of tomorrows prompt: A Fruity Cocktail.