A day of two halves – 7 July 2020

The first half, the morning half we dithered for a while before deciding that it was only threatening. It wasn’t going to rain. Wrong.

We intended to drive to Drumpellier park for a walk round the loch if it wasn’t too busy. Before we were even out of the estate there were raindrops on the windscreen. By the time we were joining the M73 it was coming down in buckets. Decided we’d probably go to The Fort instead to get some more fabric to make us some new masks and a new sketch book for me.

We sat in the car, waiting for the rain to go off. It did lessen a bit and that was good enough for us. There was a queue, but then there is a queue everywhere now. Eventually we got in and got the fabric and the book. By the time we came out the rain had stopped and all the folk who had been waiting in their cars were now wandering around the shops. Too busy, we decided and headed for home. One last discussion before we reached the T junction. Right would take us to Drumpellier and left would take us home. We decided on Left. As we were driving along, we could see the Campsie Fells in the distance with the sun glancing off them. Maybe we’d made the wrong choice. Doesn’t matter, the die had been cast and we were going home for lunch.

After lunch Scamp walked down to the shops to get the makings of today’s dinner. I stayed home and started to make the new mask she wanted. I was just getting to the sewing up stage as she was returning.

Later, since the day had improved greatly from this morning’s heavy rain, we went for a walk round St Mo’s and didn’t even wear a raincoat.  Went round the pond twice and that’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a hover fly, but I can’t make up my mind which one. Hopefully someone on Flickr will know.

Dinner was an excellent Scamp meal of flattened chicken in panko breadcrumbs. There’s probably a fancy French name for ‘flattened chicken’, but that’s what it is. It was really lovely. My turn to cook tomorrow and my mind is empty. Something will float into that void before tomorrow, I hope.

Tonight’s sketch changed from a pencil sketch to a painting. It’s a house across the road from Isobel in the Village. It’s been empty for a few years and is getting really dilapidated now. Water stains all down the walls and paint daubed all over the plywood covering the walls. I liked the desolation of it and enjoyed the exercise. I was painting on slippery HP (Hot Pressed) paper that doesn’t absorb the paint as much as NOT (Not Hot Pressed) paper.  I don’t use it much, but it’s sitting in a drawer and should be used up.  I must get my new paints unwrapped an put to good use. May do that this week if I get a chance. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends a lot on the weather.

Out walking – 6 July 2020

We drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal this morning. Typically, now we are free to travel the length and breadth of the country, we stayed within the 5 mile lockdown limit!

Walked along the canal, avoiding a few cyclists and joggers on a beautiful, if slightly breezy morning. Still didn’t see any kingfishers, but did catch one of Mr Grey’s relatives hiding in the rushes on the far side of the canal. Initially he tried to hide, but then realised it was just a couple of humans out for a walk and totally ignored us. We turned around when we reached Twechar and took the railway path back to Auchinstarry. The railway path is much more sheltered than the canal towpath and as a result we could dispense with out waterproof jackets. Hardly met anyone on the path. When we were crossing the wee stone bridge at Auchinstarry I spotted a Shield Bug and that got PoD. It just ignored me for most of the time, but when I got too close it became defensive and as they have a tendency to fire smelly fluid at you if attacked, I said goodbye and took my leave.

After lunch Scamp went looking for food at the shops while I stayed home and attempted yesterday’s painting, a Ruby Wedding rose that Scamp had cut yesterday to stop it being battered by the gales. It was much more glamorous today picking up the light from the window. I didn’t do it justice, I know that, but this was the best of three attempts and would have to do. It was another catch-up.

When Scamp returned I grabbed my camera and went looking for more subjects. Found a Burnet moth behind St Mo’s school. First one I’ve seen this year. Didn’t get a chance to count its spots, just took its photo.

Tonight I did today’s sketch which turned out to be a still life pencil sketch of two apples. One of my favourite subjects, but, again, not very successful. I’m intending keeping the Lockdown Library going until we’re sure we’re out of it or until I reach my limit.

Another sketchbook filled tonight. May go looking for another one tomorrow. Otherwise no plans. Depends on the weather.

Strangers in a strange land – 4 July 2020

We should have been in foreign climes today. We felt as if we were.

We should have been halfway through a Mediterranean cruise if the dreaded Covid-19 hadn’t reared its ugly head and condemned us to three months of purgatory. Foreign countries always make us feel slightly uneasy. Most of the town and cities look quite familiar in a way. The buildings and parks, even the open space, the piazzas and squares look almost familiar, but underneath that familiarity is an undercurrent to unease because there is that constant unfamiliarity too. Things are not quite how they seem. I think that’s how I felt this morning, visiting Glasgow.

We parked at the Buchanan Galleries which in itself was strange, because there were no queues at the ticket machine. There were plenty spaces on all the levels up to three. After that the ramps to the higher levels were cordoned off. Neither of us has ever seen it so empty. Walked down the stairs, past the shuttered fire doors cutting off entrance to the Galleries themselves. Then we walked out into Glasgow itself.

We walked down Buchanan Street and although there were plenty of people there, it felt somehow unsafe. Great long snaking queues of people waiting their turn to enter the House of Apple. All of them standing in the rain waiting for their chance to hand over money, or more likely type four digits into a card machine to get their new phone, iPod or laptop. Down on Argyle Street longer queues stretched out from Primark. There was no sale on, just again the desperation to ‘buy things’. Scamp and I reckoned the queue was about 300m long. This was the first Saturday since some shops opened their doors and everyone wanted to shop.

Me? I wanted to replenish my paintbox. I’d run out of about five of my fifteen colours and the remainder were getting a bit low in their wee pans. I managed to get a full set, plus a free Kolinsky sable for just slightly more than I’d hoped to pay. That’s the cost of 70 odd days of Lockdown paintings. I tried using the student quality Cotman colours, but they are much weaker than the professional quality ones. It’s worth paying the extra. Drove home through an improving weather picture, glad to be away from the strange land we used to know so well.

After lunch we went for a walk in St Mo’s and stood watching the Tufted Duck chicks learning to dive down for food in the shallows. Such tiny wee things, they seemed right at home on the water, but were carefully monitored by Mrs Tufty.

Later we walked over to Condorrat for a Fish Supper (me) and a Black Pudding Supper (Scamp). Real treat to eat food that someone else has made. While we ate our suppers we watched the qualifying for the Austrian GP, the first one this year. What a shame that Vettel has been dropped by Ferrari he will be sadly missed 🤣😉. Hopefully Ferrari’s actions will lead to fewer crashes and a safer F1 next year when he leaves.

Today’s PoD was taken in Anchor Lane in Glasgow city centre and was dunked in buckets of Lightroom and ON1 2019 before being hung up to dry in Flickr.

Tomorrow looks like a wild day. The wind is already starting to gust. I don’t think we’ll be going far.

Back to rain and leaden skies – 1 July 2020

After a wee respite yesterday, the weather reverted to normal.

Yesterday was just a ‘lucky’. Today it rained for most of the day, but there were a few intervals when the sun looked as if it was going to shine on us, but then it disappeared again.

It was my turn to cook from a trio of magazines. We’d both chosen things that sounded interesting and to kick it off, I was going to make Fennel, Leek and Smoked Salmon Fritatta. Unfortunately we didn’t have any leeks or smoked salmon. We did however have a fennel bulb, so that was a start. After lunch we walked down to the shops in the rain to get the missing ingredients. Apart from the rain it was fairly pleasant. When you look out at the drizzle falling you instantly think of the cold and damp. It was damp, but not cold.

Decided I’d better go out and see if I could photograph anything interesting. I wasn’t really expecting to see anything and I wasn’t disappointed. Hardly a beastie was stirring today. I got a PoD which looks like a little stunted tree, but is actually a little stunted Cladonia lichen. That was about it. Stood and watched two guys racing their radio controlled petrol driven dune buggies over the BMX track. Incredible speeds they get up to once they’ve built up a head of torque. Some magnificent jumps too.

The Fritatta worked out well, although the instructions suggested a 15 minute bake in the oven at gas 4 (180ºc) and that was nowhere near enough. It took twice that long. It could, however be our oven that’s at fault. If it says gas 4, we usually use halfway between 4 and 5. I’ve never managed to successfully calibrate the temperature settings. Maybe someday.

Sketch today was a trio of mushrooms that were heading for the compost bin until I retrieved them temporarily to paint them. It took two attempts and the second was by far the best. I used Cotman colours which aren’t quite as strong as the professional range. I’ve run out of quite a few colours in the W&N professional paintbox and hopefully will get it refilled soon. Until then I’ll use the Cotman colours. I also used Cass Art watercolour paper and it made a bit difference again.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow just to see how the city is faring. Some shops are already open and it looks like John Lewis is reopening on Monday. Things might be slowly returning to something like normal. Did I mention Cass Art opened today. That’s got nothing at all to do with the intended visit to Glasgow. 😉

The big city – 30 June 2020

Not Glasgow or Embra, but the minor city of Stirling.  Granted City status by The Queen in 2002.  Queen Lizzie, not Nicola, who is the queen in waiting.

Today we went to Stirling for ‘the messages’. Since we, the common people are still restricted to approximately five miles from home for exercise and recreation, we wouldn’t be allowed to travel the fifteen or so miles to Stirling, BUT if we were travelling for essential food supplies, like Waitrose might have, permission is granted. We drove to Stirling. Parked at an almost deserted Waitrose and went for a walk in the city centre.

It was a bit strange walking past the closed up shops in the Thistle Centre. Y’see, according to Her Majesty Nicola’s decree, only shops with an outside entrance may open. Those that only have an entrance to a mall may not. Since most of the shops in centre fail that test, they can’t open yet. In fact, only Boots can tick that box, having an entrance to the pedestrian precinct through Boots Opticians. However, WH Smith was open and it doesn’t have an outside entrance. Aha, but it does house the post office and that way it can thwart the rule. One rule for Post Offices and another for the ordinary shops. We didn’t tarry long, Scamp didn’t even go in to M&S.

We walked back to Waitrose and made a valiant attempt at buying it. I can’t say Scamp did that on her own, I aided and abetted her, buying more than we really needed, but not as much as we really wanted. It felt very strange to me to be wearing a mask and taking care to dance around people in Waitrose. It put it down to accepting the queueing and the gradual return to almost normality in Tesco and the new shops, Waitrose was a known quantity in a known town. This was the first time we’d been there since about February and you grow to expect all the restrictions in the place you live in, but once you go to somewhere you haven’t visited in a while, it feels a but alien almost. Maybe it’s just me.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp went out to cut the grass. I did the strimming round the plant pots. I was also trusted with using the blower to scatter the loose grass cuttings to the four winds. I didn’t realise just how strong the torque is in that leaf blower. It’s a powerful motor.

Afterwards I laid in a sky for a wee acrylic painting that’s been in my head for weeks. Hopefully the sky will follow tomorrow.

Headed off for a walk round St Mo’s and got another photo of a grasshopper. It may be the same one, or perhaps it’s a different one. I never got to find out its name. I thought it might make PoD, but that went to a woman walking her dog.

Not a bad day, and a day without any rain. That doesn’t look set to last. More of the wet stuff on the way and we have no plans for tomorrow, even although Cass Art will be open tomorrow! Yes, I’ve checked and it does have the required type of entrance.

Hot! – 25 June 2020

We were warned it was going to be hot today. They weren’t wrong.

First job was to get my hair cut. Number three all over followed by a number two to clean up the fluffy bits at the nape of my neck. I’m always amazed at the amount of hair that falls in clumps on the carpet as I’m cutting. A bit thank you to Scamp because she did quality control on the operation and was the one who used the number two cutter to achieve perfection on the neck line. It’s such a great feeling when you step out of the shower and dry your hair in about 20 seconds flat.

With the big job over, we walked down to the shops and bought a new set of coloured lights to go round the tree in the garden. It brightens up the place and although the last lot hardly lasted a month, it was worth the fiver. It wasn’t until we got home we found that someone had swiped the solar cell from the box. Not only that, they’d just ripped it off the cable, so it would be almost no use to them.

After lunch Scamp was going to see her sister, so she got her money back on the lights. While she was off to see big sis, I walked round St Mo’s and got today’s PoD of an Azure damselfly. I also saw three dragonflies doing circuits and bumps at the pond. I imagine one of them was the one I saw emerging yesterday. Walked over to the shops and bought some pineapple cakes sweets and ice-cream, The healthy option.

Dinner tonight was smoked salmon and broccoli quiche with a salad. Very nice indeed. Sat in the garden and listened to the bloke next door pontificating on a range of topics, but mainly The Eagles. We discussed Scamp’s idea for a storage unit for the paved area of the back garden, but mainly we just soaked up some rays. It seemed sensible because it doesn’t look as if there are going to be many sunny days for a while. Thunder and lightning forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Heavy rain too, which should mean we don’t have to water the garden.

Today’s painting was a watercolour of a plantain flower. Not the Caribbean green banana, but an insignificant little plant that produces a brown and white flower on a long stem. If you live in the UK you’ll have seen them on any patch of waste ground.  They are also known as Ribwort.

As usual, no plans for tomorrow. It definitely depends on the weather!

Another dull, wet one – 23 June 2020

Much the same as yesterday. Woke to grey skies and wet ground.

Scamp was feeling much more like herself today and we went out for a walk in the afternoon. It was dry almost all the way down around the exercise trail behind Broadwood stadium, then just a little way round the side of the loch. That’s where we bumped into David, the bloke who used to own the garage I we got our cars serviced and MOT’d in. He ran a good business and I could tell he’d hated having to retire from it. It was him who suggested, four years ago, that it might be time for me to let go of the Renault Megane, because I’d guessed, but he knew it was going to cost me a lot more in time and money to keep it on the road than it was worth. We stood and talked for about twenty minutes, observing social distancing as just about everyone does these days. It was good to speak to him and find out what he was up to now and how they were coping with lockdown. When we left him and headed up the hill towards home, we both suspected there was just the hint of rain in the air and it did actually rain for the last hundred yards to the house, but just enough to dampen our hair, not actually get us wet.

I’d taken some photos in the garden earlier in the day and I took some more when the rain eased off. It was one of the early ones that got PoD.  It’s a Jenny Long Legs (Crane Fly) dangling on my pea netting. Poor wee thing. I quite liked a close-up shot of one of Scamp’s favourite roses, Remember Me. It didn’t quite make PoD, but it is on Flickr.

Scamp was chef today and Carrot & Lentil Curry was on the menu. Always a firm favourite in this house. I made the flatbread, but it turned out a bit salty. The curry was fine, but more fiery than Scamp had intended. Still worth going for seconds, because there was ice cream to cool our mouths afterwards. More curry in the fridge for tomorrow, but unfortunately no more ice cream!

Tonight’s painting was going to be a landscape, but it just didn’t work out right. It was overworked and you just can’t do that in watercolour. I gave it up and changed completely in the second painting of an anemone flower. I liked it, although there are a few errors I didn’t see until I photographed it. Still, it’s done and it is miles better than that landscape was going to be.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere just to get one of the cars moving and to get ourselves out again.

Dull and damp – 22 June 2020

That just about sums it up for today.

Scamp was feeling a bit a bit queasy in the morning and only had a very light lunch. She didn’t feel like going anywhere, but that wasn’t a problem because the morning weather was dull leaden skies and a fair smattering of showers.

We needed milk and bread, we also needed to get out of the house. A walk in the fresh air would do us the world of good, so we walked to the shops. Not surprisingly the rain had ensured that there weren’t any big queues with the possible exception of Home Bargains which always has at least a few folk queueing. I think people queue up outside it after the doors are shut and locked at 6pm. It just seems to be what you do outside this great retail experience. We weren’t going there. We just nipped into The Food Warehouse, or Iceland as you will know it and got the essentials. That means bread, milk and chocolate biscuits. Walked back home and although we’d been prepared for one of the showers that had bedevilled us all morning, we never saw a single raindrop.

Back home I decided I’d risk a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is either a ‘toadlet’ or a ‘froglet’. I’ve yet to find a good way of telling these amphibians apart. Saw quite a few of them making heavy weather of their crossing from one side of the path to the other. Given that the stones they are navigating through, and over, are bigger than them, it must have been an exhausting journey. Most seemed to make it across safely.

Back home, Scamp was feeling a bit better. A gentle bit of retail therapy works wonders and if this Lockdown is teaching us anything, it’s that we need to take our time. Dinner was plain fare. Just spaghetti with a tomato sauce.

Today I made the decision to abandon the list and paint or draw something that interests me for a change. There are only a few days left in the list anyway and about fifty percent of these lists are just copied from the previous year, so I wasn’t missing much. Today I chose a walk we did on the bridlepaths around Baldock with JIC and Sim many years ago. It’s from a photo and dates from 2013. I remember that day well. I painted it in watercolour on watercolour paper that Scamp gave me for Christmas. This the first thing I’ve completed using it and it’s much nicer to paint on than the sketch book I’ve been using.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It rather depends on the weather and how Scamp is feeling.

The day the rains came – 21 June 2020

Thankfully they did remember a previous appointment and left us after a while.

It was a wet start to Fathers Day. However a couple of cheerful cards and a useful prezzy that I’d quite forgotten about, but someone had remembered brightened the day. Thank you both. Also the offer of a Zoom catch-up later in the day since actual face to face connection is still a promise for the future.

After lunch and after watching Nick Robinson gently take apart the Health Secretary in as skilful a piece of interrogation as you’re likely to see on TV, I started on a final sketch for yesterday’s drawing assignment which was still in the outline sketch stage when I went to bed last night. Eventually I gave up on it and started another, simpler, sketch that is viewable on Instagram and Facebook, but not here. It’s not that good IMHO. With that done and posted, and with my dinner of stewing steak bubbling away, I was ready to face the rest of the day and was actively considering a walk in the rain when I realised the big hand was at 3 and the little hand had slipped down just past 5. Where had the day gone? I decided to take my time as Scamp poured a small glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin and sat with my sudoku of the day for the remains of the hour.

Got Scamp’s computer set up for Zoom and we had about 45 minutes of worthwhile three way chat with the three families. Whoever invented Skype and Zoom deserves all the praise for a wonderful way of bringing families together in these trying times.

Then it was dinner and my stew was lovely. After dinner and Scamp’s fruit crumble, the coffee and a tot of alcoholic relaxant I inked in today’s sketch which was of the handlebars and headstock of my Dewdrop. Couldn’t quite decide whether to leave it as a line drawing or add a wash, finally chose to add a part wash and leave the rest as a line drawing. Probably the worst of both worlds. Not to worry, it’s done and on time.  PoD went to a grab shot this morning of the pansies in the elevated tub hanging on the fence.

Tomorrow is Monday and we have no plans. Nowhere we need to go and nothing we need to get. That’s what retirement is all about.

Thank you to Hazy, JIC, Neil-D, Scamp and Sim (alphabetical is the fairest way) for a lovely day.

Joiner – 18 June 2020

Text this morning from Shona looking for a bit more security work in the flat.

It seems that Ben has been playing in the bathroom and splashing water everywhere, so much so that it was dripping through the ceiling of the flat below.  Could I fit a hasp or a bolt to stop him getting in?  Would it be possible to have some form of lock?I went to have a look and it was a fairly easy job to fit a slip bolt.  The other option was to put on a hasp and staple.  That would be more difficult, but would allow a padlock to be fitted to secure the door more effectively.  Drove up to B&Q and walked straight in.  Almost no queue.  Hooray, things must have calmed down.  Got what I wanted and joined the long queue to pay.  It was well policed and the queue went down quickly.  Walked out and saw that there was indeed a queue now.  In the twenty minutes or so I’d been in the store, the queue had grown from 0 to about 300m long.  It pays to shop early, it seems.  Back at the flat, I got the door secured in about fifteen minutes.  Back home in time for lunch.  My only fear now is that with Ben being almost a teenager, he’ll be strong enough to pull the hasp off the door and I’ll be back fitting a lock with big bolts holding it in place!

After lunch, despite parts 2 & 3 of my Amazon delivery arriving,  a black monkey appeared on my shoulder and I couldn’t shake it.  It might have been partly due to Nick the Chick’s latest pronouncements about entering phase 2 of The Release.  It appears that we are still expected to travel no further than 5 miles for leisure and exercise.  She also said that outdoor outdoor markets, playgrounds and sports facilities will reopen on 29th June, along with some visitor attractions such as zoos – although visitors should still not travel more than five miles from their homes to visit them!  Do the people who make the rules even talk to one another?  Does anyone know of a zoo that is within five miles of Cumbersheugh (Carbrain doesn’t count, because it is part of Cumbersheugh).

Scamp suggested a walk and that was probably what what managed to shift the black monkey.  It’s a long time since I’ve had one and I hope it’s a long time before one returns.  Spoke to Lynn D and her husband when we were out and we both bemoaned the missing overseas holidays this year.  We should have been off next week to the Mediterranean on a cruise ship and she should have been jetting off to the Canaries the week after.  Hopefully the weather will stay warm and sunny at home and we’ll get to go to Scotland this year (if we’re allowed to extend that five mile rule).  No photos taken on the walk, but it contributed a great deal to the 10,000 steps I’ve just recorded.

Sat with a beer in the garden when we came back and took a few shots of the flowers.  Favourite was the seeding Geum with it’s chaotic tendrils.  I made it PoD and called it Boris!  I don’t know why.  Second place went to a macro of a Lupin flower.  Both will be accessible on Flickr after I post this. Sketch today was Something Sweet.  I chose some Rowntrees Pastilles.  Much more difficult to draw than I thought.  The light was fading when I was sketching them, so I took a photo and sent it to my tablet, then drew it from the image on that.  Cheating slightly, but it worked for me.

Tomorrow we have no deliveries, so hopefully we can go out somewhere 4.99999miles away.