Jukin’ with a Boy Racer Micra – 20 September 2018

This morning the Juke went for its first service and I swapped it for a shiny black and orange Micra, just for the day.

First thought on the Micra was that it was a lot bigger and lower than Scamp’s little red car. Then I slid into the driving seat and felt that my bum might just scrape along the tarmac and I wondered if I’d be able to get back out of it again without the use of a hoist. The clutch pedal seemed to have a rather long travel, either that or my legs had shrunk. Engine sounded healthy and there seemed to be a lot of horses under the bonnet. It was, like all things good in parts. One of the good bits, apart from the horses under the bonnet was the display on the dash. Very clear and with loads of information. Analog speedo and rev counter with incongruously a digital speedo between the two dials. What? So I can compare and contrast the differences in displayed speed as I run into the bus in front of me? Outside temperature, time, fuel economy. Maybe a bit of information overload. It drove well and like Scamp said “It was a car.” It was good to have the experience of the loan. It made me happy that I’d chosen the Juke over the Micra. I couldn’t see Scamp driving it with any less reluctance than she has for the Juke. Visibility in the car is certainly not as good as ‘Big Red’ The door pillar creates a large blind spot just where the mirror already has a blind spot and that’s not a great selling point. When we went for a spin this afternoon, we were agreed we didn’t like it all that much. A bit too plasticky. The Juke may be big and heavy, but it gives the feeling of solidity. I was glad when the garage phoned to tell us the car was ready.

After our trip to Stirling to pick up the very shiny Juke we drove home. Scamp wasn’t feeling too good, so she plunked herself down with a cup of ‘white tea’ and I went out for a walk in St Mo’s which is where I got today’s PoD. It’s an amalgam of two photos. One of the face of the fly and one of the hairy wee legs. Both shots blended in Photoshop. With an ISO of 3600 it was going to be a ‘noisy’ photo without too much in the way of smooth tones, but it was that kind of day. A day that started out with bright sunshine but by 4pm it was feeling more like twilight.

Between picking up the Micra and going for a spin I’d been to the physio who was pleased with the results on my knee and after a bit of laser treatment and some pin cushion tricks I was sent on my way with the possibility of being signed off in two weeks.

I did dinner tonight and with Scamp’s help it was pan fried chicken breast with baked potato. I was careful to stick to her tried and tested method and of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it.

The above is a wee watercolour I did from a photo I saw on Flickr.  After it was done I wasn’t happy with it, so I added some pen outlines once the paint had dried and I think it improves it greatly.
Details are W&N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm Rough paper.

Don’t know what we’re up to tomorrow. I don’t expect we’ll be going far unless Scamp’s cold improves. Let’s hope it does.

Ladybirds, Spiders and Mini Trees – 31 August 2018

All in a days walk for me.

Scamp was out with the witches today for lunch, a late lunch where drink would be taken. Gentlemen were not invited, they were the taxi drivers. We know our place.

I painted for a while in the peace and quiet of the house and sort of improved yesterday’s Inktense disaster. It’s still a work in progress, but the acrylic paint does give a depth that the Inktense couldn’t quite achieve. I added another layer to it tonight after the initial layers had dried and liked the contrast that was created. You may never see it, it’s really a development sketch if I was going to be po faced about it. I’m sure there will be other iterations before it is ready for canvas and oils.

There are really disruptive roadworks with four phase traffic lights down at St Mo’s school this week and they are causing a lot of bother. Because of that I delivered Scamp to the restaurant before starting on the painting. While the painting was drying, I took the Duke out through the roadworks again to fill it with petrol and also to get some photos. I drove up to the back of Fannyside and found a little dragonfly sitting on the grass. Unfortunately the shots weren’t too sharp, so they will never see the light of day, I fear. Then I saw a long legged spider and a white spotted, orange ladybird having a .Mexican standoff’. It was a bit of a toss up, but the ladybird won the day. Just across the road I saw the fencepost with the miniature trees growing out of it. No doubt they had grown from seeds dropped by birds or seeds excreted by birds.

I was just walking down the road when I checked my phone and found that my three hours of peace and quiet were at an end and Scamp was requesting her taxi.

That was a good day, with good weather, painting, photography and a little bit of nature too.

Two Firsts & A Second! – 30 August 2018

Four quid too!

Scamp was out in the morning and that gave me time to start painting my latest masterpiece. It was to be an abstract seascape. I tried using the Inktense sticks, but they didn’t look right once they were down. I think the colours are too ‘cold’, especially the blues. I’ll probably just paint over it again with acrylic tomorrow.

After that and after hanging out the washing, I went to meet Val and Colin. Coffees all round. Fred was missing because he’d to stay in to keep the plumbers on the right lines when they were rebuilding his bathroom. Colin very kindly brought my photos and painting back from the flower show, along with my winnings. Four quid for two firsts and a second! The little piggy watercolour got a first and the landscape of Quiraing also got a first in the photography section. My favourite landscape, Murdo’s old tractor with the Quiraing behind it only got a second. Now it could have been that there were on two photographs and one painting in the competition, I don’t know because we were down in England at the time, but Colin did say that competition was tough, so I’m thinking that’s good enough for me. I’m now considering entering the little piggy in the Venice Biennale. I think it has a fighting chance.

Came home and realised that I didn’t have a photo for today, so got my cycling shorts and long sleeved top on and took the Dewdrop out on the back road to Kirkintilloch. That’s where I got the PoD. I also got a fairly good shot of these four horses in a field under a glowering sky, but the landscape felt more luminous, so it won.

Fell off the bike on the way back. I think the SPDs need some adjustment or maybe some grease. Left shoe is sticking a lot. Amazingly, the right pedal is fine although it’s caked in dried mud. The left one is shiny clean and it’s the one that’s sticking. Can’t fathom it out. I’ll grease them and see if that helps. No harm done in the fall, just my pride, but luckily there was no-one there to see me!

Dinner tonight deserves special mention. It was Chicken Milanese with potatoes and a big hunk of broccoli. Scamp showing just how good a cook she is. Absolutely delicious.

Tomorrow Scamp is out to lunch with the witches. May take the Dewdrop out again along the same road as today. I’ve a hankering to climb the Kirky Volcano. It’s actually an old pit bing, but from certain angles it looks like a volcano.

Dancing and Competition – 22 August 2018

Wednesday is dancing day, but we’re not good enough to compete yet.

It seemed that half the Buchanan Galleries car park was cordoned off today. Maybe it’s getting painted, maybe they’re going to re-cover the floor, maybe they’re not going to do anything at all and it’s all just a ploy to annoy us. Most likely the last one. Anyway, it didn’t stop us getting parked on level 4 which is quite good for midday and midweek. So off we trotted to Blackfriars to strut our stuff.

First up was Jive and maybe because I’m getting used to it and maybe because we’ve been practising more, but I’m beginning to enjoy it. I still get mixed up with the different spins in the Seven Spins, but even that’s beginning to iron itself out. I need some mental mnemonics to fix numbers to names. After that was more or less sorted, Michael added in four Ladles. What a ladle is, I do not know. It seemed a bit like Ochos in Salsa. In salsa that’s a bit of time wasting move that nobody apart from Shannon seems to like. I didn’t like it much in Jive either.

On to waltz and although we’re not perfect at it yet, the moves are becoming slicker. One of the lady helpers cleared up a few of my mistakes and set me right on a few other things. Next a quick reprise of quickstep which is fine when you’re walking through it, but is a nightmare at dancing pace. Still learning the basic steps. Last, it was Tango which I always found a comical dance. It’s not so comical when you have to dance it. It’s very quick and staccato. I never can get the head turn correct. I always go left – right and it should be right – left. More work needed here, definitely.

On the way home we stopped off at Colin’s to drop off two photos, one painting and one pot of jam. All for the Industry section of Chryston show which is on Saturday. This is the first year we’ve entered anything and it’s one of the few times we’ll not be able to go. Stayed for coffee at Colin and Evelyn’s and talked for a couple of hours. We got a conducted tour of their garden again. Lovely garden, but it seems to take 24/7 work to keep it that way.

Grabbed a camera when we came back and got an hour in St Mo’s. Lovely evening light and lots of photos of spiders, tiny wee ones on their webs. Most were rejected, but a couple were decent and that’s where today’s PoD came from.

Dinner was beef burger (own make), sausage, egg and chips. Scamp, of course, decided to forego the meat and had egg ’n’ chips. Our own Charlotte potatoes didn’t make very good chips. They’re much better boiled.

Up and out early tomorrow, hopefully.

What a Gay day – 14 July 2018

Today we were going to Glasgow on the bus to watch the Glasgow Pride procession.

We decided to be extra lazy today and get the X3 in. That mean the least amount of walking for me. Had the traditional coffee in Nero with a shared apricot croissant to give us the extra burst of energy to fortify us for our walk around the streets. When we left Buchanan Galleries I spotted a neat bit of graffiti on the billboard for Victoria’s Secret. Well, the secret is now out Victoria. You just want us to “Buy ‘Hings” which translates to Buy Things for those of you living outside Glasgow.

With a photo in the bag, I could relax a bit and we walked down to Argyle Street – me to go to Millers Art Shop and Scamp to go to Next. Neither of us parted with our hard earned money and we met up again. As well as going to Millers, I’d also enquired of some multicoloured rainbow people where exactly the parade would be starting from and was a bit concerned when they told me they didn’t know. Hmm, this didn’t sound good. However, we needn’t have worried, the police van with blue lights flashing and the balloon truck behind at the far end of Argyle Street was a dead give-away.

The parade was a lot bigger this year, with an estimated 12,000 walkers, paraders, weirdos and general hangers-on. Right at the front was Nick the Chick (AKA Sturgeon). Scamp said Nick smiled at her. If she’d smiled at me I wouldn’t have been broadcasting that snippet of news. We watched it all from start to finish. Just about 45 minutes of lunacy, but good humoured and colourful lunacy. Contrast that with the Orange Walk last week which is also lunacy and colourful lunacy, but hardly good humoured. As well as the PoD there are some photos on Flickr of the procession and some of the characters, therein.  In total I took 361 shots today.  Most of them were taken in ‘motordrive mode’, where you just keep the shutter button pressed and hope for the best.  It works most of the time.  I’ve whittled those 361 down to 60 usable shots of which 5 made it to Flickr today.  Maybe I’ll post some more in the coming week, all being well.

After I bought a couple of watercolour paints, we went to Zizzi for lunch and were both disappointed with the quality of the food, but the two glasses of wine we had were lovely, although each of us preferred our own different choice of wine. Maybe it’s because it was white wine we were drinking instead of our traditional red, but we both agreed they were refreshing. Contrast that with two insipid pasta dishes. Oh well, a lesson learned. Should have gone to Sarti’s much better to go to a small restaurant than a chain.

Just managed get seated on the X3 going home when the bus left the stance. Good timing for once. Sat in the garden when we got back. Scamp finished off the remainder of a bottle of red we’d opened the other night and I had a bottle of cider. It was comfortably warm with a nice welcome breeze. Looks like there will be a fair amount of rain tomorrow. At last.

Don’t expect we’ll be going far tomorrow, but we’ll wait and see.

Cool? – 5 July 2018

Today was supposed to be cool. Well, that didn’t work, did it?

Scamp was going to meet June and Isobel for coffee and a catch up. That gave me a few hours to do some painting. I attempted the sweet peas that were sitting on the table. I got completely lost in the complexity of the subject. Must try something simpler next time. Maybe just one or two blooms.

After lunch we went for a drive to The Fort to look for some cheap watercolour paint for me and also for something for dinner. I didn’t get the paint, certainly not at over £8 for a tube. We did get tonight’s dinner which turned out to be Sea Bass.

Drove home and sat in the garden for a while with a wee shandy each. Sitting in the sun soaking it up. Weather fairies said it would reach 20ºc today. Yes it did, but that was at 8.30am. By the middle of the afternoon it was in the high twenties.

I was cook tonight and the sea bass with broccoli and cauliflower was excellent, even if I say so myself. Just to round off the meal we had another wee seat in the garden before Scamp deemed it was time to water the plants. By then the sun was off the garden, so there wasn’t any point in sitting out any longer. Today’s PoD is a strawberry that’s growing happily in our hanging basket. A hanging basket that’s survived ice, snow, wind and now drought. Still the plant not only survives, but thrives and produces fruit. Brilliant.

While I’m typing this, I’m listening to Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964). The songs, especially Chimes of Freedom and To Ramona take me instantly back 50 years to my bedroom in Scotia. The light tonight even enhances that, it’s the warm light you get just before sunset. It’s funny how music has that power.

Tomorrow night Scamp is going to a witches dinner. I’m volunteer driver, but looking forward to another chance to paint those sweet peas.

Dancing the night away – 30 June 2018

Today was the last sea day of the cruise.

It was also the last full day of the cruise and the last art class and the last salsa class. Art class was a challenging painting of two strawberries. Not real ones, but a painting from a photo as all the previous ones had been. For this last class both morning and afternoon groups were joined because there was to be an exhibition of work in the afternoon. Easa’s technique is totally different from anything I’ve used before. He works in a very detailed way. As an example, after sketching the shape of the two strawberries, our first task was to draw the individual seeds. Have you ever stopped to count the number of strawberry seeds are going into your mouth? I bet you haven’t. People laugh at me because I crunch my way through all an apple apart from the stalk. “You’ll have an apple tree growing in your stomach” I’ve heard folk say. That may be so, but do you spit out all those strawberry pips too? After painting in the seeds we had to then paint round them, not all the way round all of them because he wanted some white paper left for highlights. Then we added dark red for the shadow areas and a bit of green for the leaves. When it was finished I was quite pleased with the effect. I’m glad I was in the small morning group. I couldn’t have done with all the preening that went on from some of the afternoon group.

After lunch we joined the salsa group, but only for half a class for me because I had to go set up my paintings. Afterwards, I met back up with Scamp as the salsa class finished. We didn’t go for a swim today because the thought of packing wet swim suits was just too much. Instead we started packing, well, I started packing as Scamp had already started while I was counting strawberry seeds. It’s a sad task, packing after fourteen days, but it has to be done.

Dinner tonight was with a mixed bunch. Grumpy old woman, young couple and an older couple who were ok. The girl from the young couple was full of her own self importance. She was working for Charles Hanson the auctioneer and antiques expert. It appeared that some of his expertise had rubbed off on her as she knew everything about antiques too. Some folk just love to blow their own trumpet. I reckoned the old grumpy woman was her mother. If she was, then pity the poor bloke who married the daughter. Nothing was good enough for this battleaxe.

After dinner we went to the Tamarind club where there was to be a Salsa Hoedown with both the line dancers and the salsa dancers taking part with the whole thing being supervised by the Headliners theatre group. It was great fun. I didn’t do any of the line dancing, I forgot my cowboy hat, but I enjoyed the salsa. Scamp, of course took part in everything. It was a great end to the cruise and one that will stay in my memory.

Tomorrow we depart for our ten hour trip home.

At sea – 29 June 2018

Today in art class we were painting a pig. Let’s face it there are plenty to choose from on this ship. There are fat pigs, male chauvinist pigs, ugly pigs and just plain porkers, but this was a happy little pig leaning on a fence. I tried to follow Easa, the teacher’s, instructions, but found it difficult to start with painting the eyes first. It goes against all the watercolour rules of leaving details to the end and also of painting light to dark. However it worked better than I thought and his colour combinations and mixing instructions worked well. I liked my little pig. It should appear soon on Flickr, but not until the blog is complete and the PoDs are in place. I’ll let you know when.

Salsa class was more turns, which give my knee gyp, and more additions to the routine. The sad thing is that this is ballroom salsa. In Cuban salsa, and even in LA as far as I can see you never dance a routine. Yes, in class, in a learning environment you dance in a circle (rueda) and all do the same moves, but not when out dancing. Then it’s freestyle, so we’d never use the kicks and flicks. Still, it’s good fun and with such a camp and fun teacher you can’t help but think it’s “FAB!”

Dinner was booked for 7pm in Sindhu, the Indian restaurant on board, but that didn’t prevent us from having some Aloo Saag and Muttar Paneer for lunch. Lovely stuff.

Later, once we’d given it a chance to be digested, we went swimming in the inside/outside pool. Later when Scamp had gone to the cabin to get ready for tonight, I did a wee sketch of the pool area. Again, it may appear on a blog posts or Flickr later TBC.

Sindhu dinner which was also the last of the formal (AKA Dress The Dolly) nights was disappointing. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was just not as good as the last time when we’d been overwhelmed by the range and quality of the food.

Afterwards we went to the show in Arena. It was a life history of Burt Bacharach (!!) We rated it as ‘poor’. Certainly not one of Headliners best performances.

“I ordered up some Suzette … – 27 June 2018

… I said could you please make that Crêpes.”
(Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream)

Painting class in the morning and today it was a pelican we were rendering on paper. It wouldn’t have been my first choice and in the end it looked a bit more like a distorted swan than the exotic fish eater. Still, as as I used to say, it’s done now. Scamp went dancing while I was struggling with a pelican and she was much more successful than me.

After that we went for a swim, walked round the ship and did a bit of dolphin spotting. However, there were other things in the sea, mostly junk. Bottles (maybe some with messages in), leaves, pieces of paper and a turtle. I thought it was a leaf at first, but then I realised that we were about ten decks up from the sea and there isn’t much to give a sense of scale. Then it moved its flippers and leaves don’t have flippers. It was a turtle. Too late I told Scamp and by that time it was a little brown smudge on the top of the water. We waited and waited and only saw one more. No photos I’m afraid, no time to get the camera focused on the little creatures and take the shot. Not when you’re travelling at 20 knots on an undulating sea. Still, we saw turtles. Also saw a pod of dolphins. No photos there either, but I did get a good shot of blue water where the dolphin had been.

Months ago we booked a meal at Epicurean, assuming that as it was the first week of the cruise, it would be menu ‘A’. It’s not as simple as that. Menus are rotated on a four or five day cycle and we got menu ‘B’ which to Scamp’s disappointment didn’t finish with a Crêpe Suzette. After what was an otherwise faultless meal we booked tonight’s dinner in the sure and certain knowledge that it would be menu ‘A’. It didn’t disappoint. We sat at the rail at the back of the ship watching the world drift by and looking out at where we’d been. Below us were the rear swimming pools and we could listen in to conversations of swimmers doing the same as us, but without the encumbrance of posh dress or heavyweight kilt, because tonight was a ‘Black & White’ dress code. National dress trumps ‘Black & White’, by the way. I’ll fill in the menu when I get a chance to check it, but what sticks in my mind were the ‘amuse bouche’, namely Bloody Mary Lollypops and Blackcurrant and White Chocolate Lollypop! Inventive.

That was about it for the day. Tomorrow it’s Gibraltar. Monkeys and cheap booze.

Salsa, Painting, but no’ Dancin’ – 18 June 2018

P1040887- blogThere is a painting class, a salsa class and a ballroom class on sea days like today.

Woke at about our usual time of 8.30.  I’d visions of still being in the land of nod well after breakfast was past and we were into lunch time, but it wasn’t like that.  We were up and out before 9.15 and went to Smash ‘n’ grab for breakfast.  Then it was time for me to head for the watercolour painting class in the Metropolitan lounge where the self-important singer had been last night.  Scamp went to the ballroom class instead. Our tutor, a man from Kurdistan, was called Easa.  He told us it was pronounced like Lisa, but not to call him Lisa.  His style was more direct than that of the tutor two years ago and he didn’t come with the baggage of a published book he felt he had to publicise.  Once the usual self proclaimed ‘artist’ had shown him her iPad full of her paintings (she did commissions, probably for blind friends.) we got started, but while we were waiting for the lady to get her complements, I did a quick Loomis sketch of her!  I can’t say I agreed with all Easa’s colour choices, but on the whole the finished article did look like the tiny little photo he’d given us to copy.  On the next sea day we are painting penguins (or so he says).  We’ll have to wait and see.  Scamp seemed to enjoy the ballroom which was the Social Foxtrot, but said that the teacher had a cutting voice.  It was time for lunch.

We agreed that we’d have a light lunch and for once, I stuck to my promise.  After that, it was time for the Salsa class and much to my surprise it was really good, although the men’s teacher was just a little bit camp.  I really enjoyed the class although it was a bit basic for us, but perhaps, just perhaps if they’re teaching salsa during the day we might get some decent music to dance too tonight.  Next up was the afternoon session of Social Foxtrot.  It came as a bit of a surprise to me to discover that P&O are allowed to employ Nazis.  I’d have thought in these days when you can hardly mention Hitler’s name that one of his high ranking officers is allowed to be a ballroom teacher.  “Cutting voice” Scamp had said.  Yes, it was certainly cutting and also hectoring.  “Ladies, some of you are STILL facing the wrong way.  If you’re looking at me, you CANNOT be facing forward.”  I gave up after that.  I came on this ship to enjoy myself, not to be shouted at.  I apologised to Scamp and we went for afternoon tea.  I saw a couple of dolphins, but Scamp just missed that experience.  I’m sure there will be more.

Weather and sea was a bit heavy today, although the Bay of Biscay was not too choppy.  Air temperature a bit cooler than we’d hoped for with a high of only 18c.

Last night, although I had steak for dinner, the lamb shank looked lovely too.  Tonight I had Gammon Shank and it was gorgeous.  Scamp’s starter of Seared Tuna was declared delicious too.  Food appears to be much better here than Thompson’s and without the overhead for steak.  An unnecessary addition to the cost of the cruise in my opinion.

Watched the sequence dancers for a while, also known as dancing for the already dead.  I don’t see me ever stooping that low.  They didn’t play any salsa, but then again it was the Nazi who was in charge, so I didn’t expect any.

Went to the show and enjoyed Reel To Reel for the second time, I’m sure.  Late night coffee (decaf –  Sorry Hazy, I know you expect better from me) and a slice of pizza.  It’s much warmer outside tonight than at any time of the day.

Hoping to get up early for the bus to Oporto and our feet on dry land again.  Land that doesn’t move!