Quarterly blood letting – 27 January 2020

Some days have a wall. Something that has to be surmounted. Today it was bloodletting at midday.

Today it was time for my quarterly blood test. I felt a bit like Hancock when he hears that he has to give “a whole pint”. As the nurse counted out the four sample tubes and gaily filled them with my vital fluid, I wondered if I had any left in my body. When I got back home I found out that I did have and some of it was leaking past the plaster she’d stuck on. Not a lot, just a dribble, but you can’t go losing blood like that. I need all mine. Now I’ve just to wait until the end of the week to see if I need to meet the nurse to discuss the results or if it’s just an OK over the phone. Expecting the former, hoping for the latter.

After getting past the wall I relaxed a bit. Went out to post my old driving licence back to the DVLA, get my old dance shoes re-soled and heeled and get some more black ink to use with the adapter, or converter to use the correct term, for my collection of Lamy pens. At present the Fisk black ink is winning. It’s permanent, but doesn’t seem to have any shellac in its composition, so doesn’t clog the nib of the fountain pen. Still one more to check and that’s the W&N one I was going to get today in Hobbycraft. Almost got the full set done. Forgot to post the licence, but got the shoes booked in and I got the ink too. Bought myself an LED daylight bulb for use in a lamp in the back bedroom while I was in Hobbycraft.

While I was out I took the chance of dropping in at Drumpellier to grab a photo of some of the waterbirds on the loch. That’s where today’s PoD came from. Entitled “A Tall Tail” it’s a sculpture in the middle of the loch that makes a great perch for the gulls. I think I entertained a couple sitting having coffee in their car. They couldn’t understand what the hell I was doing, apparently taking photos of, well, nothing much. Obviously didn’t understand that that’s what photogs do most of the time with the sole purpose of puzzling the Muggles.

Back home, Gems were gone, leaving only their dirty tea cups and a few uneaten biscuits. Not long after I got there, Scamp returned from dropping them off. Sat for a while tweaking the aforementioned PoD and then we had half the dinner – soup. The other half we’d have when we returned from dance class.

I must admit, although I miss salsa on a Monday night, I don’t miss the drive in to Glasgow or back out again, especially when Rangers are playing and half of Scotland squeezes on to the M8 in front of me. We had been practising the Waltz all week and do you know, the teacher didn’t even ask us to show off our prowess at that dance. However, we have now mastered the first half of the Foxtrot routine and have a fair understanding of how the second half works. We can also Saunter Together quite adequately. Next week we add both halves of that dance together to make our first real sequence dance! The new black and white dance shoes seem to work. We only stayed for an hour tonight, but may try another hour on a Wednesday when she starts another new class in Condorrat.

Just before I started this, the snow began. It was fairly heavy for a while, but it’s just light now and although the temperature is just above freezing, I don’t think it will last until morning. That’s a pity because I could take some snowy pictures.

Tomorrow Scamp is booked for lunch with Mags and I’m determined to post that DVLA letter. Whether I manage that or not is the question!

New Shoes – 25 January 2020

Off in to Glasgow for a new pair of dancing shoes.

Drove in to town and got parked directly across from the dance shop. Shoes were a good fit and far more comfortable than the old ones they are sort of replacing. Not replacing as much as sharing the limelight with. The old ones will hopefully be off to Timpson’s for new felt soles and heels. I’m going to ask if they will upgrade the memory on them at the same time, because they don’t seem to be retaining the new moves we’re doing!

The rest of the day was spent with taking photos of fence posts over in St Mo’s. Once again there was very little light and once again I forgot to take a portable LED light, so had to resort to using the torch app on the phone. It gives a good light and it’s directional too, the only thing wrong with it is the green colour cast, that’s why I reduced the photo to monochrome. Must check out the LED lights to see if they have a more neutral colour.

Soon it was time to go through the rigmarole of dressing up in 7.3m of itchy, scratchy woollen cloth. We were off tonight to the Tartan Ball. Finally got dressed and on our way. I think we got stopped at every traffic light after we came off the motorway. Parked and walked along to the manly, dirty Classic Grand. Named by someone with an imagination and a sense of humour.

Missed the first salsa hour, but got there in time for the first ceilidh hour. It was hectic. So many clumsy clots stamping out a rhythm that bore no relation to what the band was playing and with steps that the caller had apparently missed out. Bits of it reminded me of a Dashing White Sergeant we taught in Trinidad a few years ago. Some folk just looked as mystified as Blessed Be!

Enjoyed the second salsa hour of the night but as Scamp reminded me later there were much fewer dancers on the floor for that. Strange for an event that was hosted by Academia de Salsa. It was also strange to see very few folk we knew from classes. Perhaps three dance evenings in two months, in addition to normal Sunday Socials is too much. Maybe it’s because we’re not going to classes anymore and losing touch with the crowd.

After the salsa segment, it was back to ceilidh again and more stamping and ignoring of the steps. We’d had enough and Scamp’s shoes had definitely had more than enough. We drove home along an almost empty motorway, most people were still heading in to Glasgow, and arrived home at just after midnight.

As you will have gathered this is a catch-up. Tomorrow (actually today), we’re hoping to practise our waltz and foxtrot for Monday’s class.

On the bus today – 23 January 2020

Still sticking to the “up and out” ideal, (yes that was Ideal, not Idea!) just not driving today.

Walked to Condorrat to get the fast bus in to Glasgow. In the town we went for coffee first and then went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went looking for a cheap tartan skirt for the tartan ball. I went to look at a camera in Jessops. Found the camera, but the security cable on it was about 20cm long. How am I supposed to try out a camera that I can’t even get up to eye level? Gave up. Next one I wanted to look at had a similarly short steel cable and also the attaching clip was pointed straight at me. If I’d managed to get the camera to eye level, that clip would have caused me an injury. When an assistant asked me if she could help, I tried to explain the danger of the protruding clip. She then explained condescendingly that they need the security because “.. people do try to steal things you know …”. I tried to explain that it wasn’t the security cable, but the protruding clip that I was concerned about. She seemed to realise that a sale was not imminent and finished the conversation by asking if there was anything else she could help me with. I said “Don’t bother, I’ll just take my business elsewhere.” Jessops seems to be in trouble, financially, again. With staff like her, I can understand why.

Still fizzing, I met with Scamp further down the road. She hadn’t found a skirt. We tried one of the plethora of cheap ’Scottish’ shops that have invaded Glasgow and Edinburgh. Kilts made from cloth you could spit peas through, for £15. Nothing she would demean herself with there either. We agreed to split up again and meet up in Princes Square.

I was looking for a refillable reservoir for one of my Lamy pens, because ’28 Drawings Later’ is looming next Saturday, the 1st of February. I expected I would get one in The Pen Shop in Princes Square, but I might just pick one up in Cass Art. No, Cass Art failed me on that, none. Walked through to The Pen Shop and on the way got the PoD which is a statue by Shona Kinlock called “As Proud As” with reference to the peacock which stands behind the wee man. On to The Pen Shop. They didn’t have the adapter either. Neither did whatever Millers is called now, but they did have some black ink, so I got that at least. They suggested other places, but as Scamp was on the last stop on her Tartan Tour which was M&S and I was meeting her there and then going for lunch which I hoped would be Paesano, I decided I’d try Amazon instead. We met and it was Paesano who would be graced by our presence. I was delighted!

Just two of our usual pizzas, but because we were bussing, not driving, I was allowed a glass of house red!

Up the road to the bus station and grabbed one of the new route X25 buses. It’s a lot faster than the sluggish X3, but slower that the Stagecoach X something-or-other. Best of all, its new route takes it past the new shops, so as we needed bread we could get the bus to the shops today!

It was jolly exciting sitting in a bus that was driving down past St Mo’s and St Mo’s school, round the roundabout and stopping at the bus stop just at the new shops. You can tell we don’t get out much, can’t you?

That was all the excitement we could stand for one day. Oh by the way, Scamp did get a tartan(ish) skirt. Tomorrow we have no plans.

The Wall – 20 January 2020

In the afternoon I climbed it and I photographed it. In the evening I hit it.

Gems were in today, as with all Mondays. I had some things to do, and thankfully I have a good pair of headphones, so I could drown out most things that bother me. They also worked on Gems. With the essential stuff done, I grabbed my camera and went for a run in the Juke.

For reasons best known to themselves, somebody has blocked the road to the Antonine Wall. It’s a dead end, but there is a neat little lay-by where I can leave the car while I walk the Antonine Wall. Now I’ve got to leave the car by the side of the road about 200m away. PITA. It’s still possible to walk round the obstruction, but not to drive past it. I wanted to get some photos from the Antonine Wall, but I’d the wrong footwear for the boggy ground, so I restricted myself to climbing part of it and using a fence post as a prop to support my Beadbag™ which would in turn steady The LBJ, which was today’s camera of choice. Got a few photos and one accidental post-focus video. Gave up after that because the light was rapidly disappearing.

Back home the accidental post-focus shot actually produced the best set of photos and that’s what created today’s PoD. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea of the area and the wall.  This shot was taken from the south side of the wall.  The rampart on the north side is much higher to keep out the wild Picts and Scots. I needed a brighter day with better lighting for a better shot.

After dinner we went off again for another visit to the world of dance. Today’s topic was Waltz, but first, one of my most hated sequence dances, the Saunter Together. It really pains me to say that I felt quite comfortable dancing this little bit of fluff. That’s no’ real dancin’! Tonight’s moves were the first half. Next week we got part two. I can hardly wait 😒. Next was the Waltz and I did quite enjoy it. We very nearly got it right twice. That’s an improvement.

The second half of the night was Tango. We’ve attempted it a couple of times with no success. Tonight it was awful. I felt just so far out of my depth. All those fiddly little steps with kicks and flicks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the lesson I just hit the wall. Enough! I never want to dance another Tango in my life. I could happily have torn off the uncomfortable dance shoes, thrown the dummy out of the pram and gone home. Except, Scamp was enjoying the dance and really looked good dancing it with the teacher. Maybe if I ask her nicely, Scamp that is, she’ll guide me in the general direction of competence. Maybe I’ll master it in the week I have before the next lesson.

Finished off with the Blue Angel Rumba which I’m almost managing. It just takes a different mindset from Salsa. It’s all about the feet and the hands just float about. Salsa is all about the hands and the feet just keep you moving.

Tomorrow the weather looks cloudy and grey. No plans yet.

Brendan Blunders In – 13 January 2020

Do these weather chappies think if you give a storm a ‘human’ name, it makes it less scary? Somebody should tell them it’s not working.

Today’s storm was named Brendan and it was a stoater. It blundered around, knocking down bins and firing the rain in your face when you weren’t expecting it. It was just an awful day. I don’t like the high winds. I don’t like thunder either. Maybe it’s the noise, I’ve never thought about it really, but I never did like high wind or thunder. I don’t mind rain or sleet or snow. They’re really just different varieties of the water that falls on you after all. Despite all that I took myself out in the wind and rain that was Brendan to get a photo or two and a writing pad. As it turned out I got four photos, all of trees blowing in the wind. All pointing straight up. All with a really slow shutter speed. None with the camera resting on the Beadbag™ which was designed for such a situation! Needless to say one of those shots became PoD.  It looks as if its been converted to mono, but it’s actually just a combination of the contrast and the dull day that leaches away all the colour.

Have you ever tried to buy a pad or writing paper. Nobody seems to write letters anymore. Yes, you can buy envelopes in all sorts of colours and sizes, but no writing paper to make the letters to put in them. I tried all the shops in our new retail park and not one of them had writing paper. A reporter’s notebook was the closest I came. I dare say email had put paid to actually writing to people. Finally I tracked down a writing pad at a wee newsagent’s in Condorrat. I’ll use it carefully and then store it somewhere safe, for the next time I need to write a letter.

After dinner we drove up to the Town Centre to go to ballroom class. Tonight we were tackling Waltz Across Texas as a sort of warm up, then it was into the waltz proper. The routine we’d started to learn last week. This time Scamp filmed the whole routine, both the ladies and the mens parts. The second hour was foxtrot. Neither of us had ever done foxtrot before, so this was all new. I think we may have about 75% of the routine in our heads now. It’s just the part where we teach our feet how to actually execute the moves that we need to perfect. We did also find a ‘bad part’ of the dance floor where we always got things wrong. I think we should mark that area with red spray paint to make it easier to avoid, and therefore make fewer mistakes. After Mr Fox’s Trot we reprised the Blue Angel Rumba. One of the expert couples even offered to take us through it and that made it a lot clearer. We have a video earmarked on YouTube for that one already, so it just needs a bit of careful watching to identify the individual parts, then they should be easier to join together. I think also I need a new pair of dance shoes. The ones I have keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the guys. Scamp’s out with Annette in the morning for coffee too. I think we both need some adult conversation!

Windy and Warm – 7 January 2020

I thought I’d woken up in the middle of the night and then notice it was about 8.15am and it was dark outside.

It stayed like that all day with only about 30 minutes in the middle of the day when there was light on the horizon, but it didn’t last. Scamp wanted to go shopping today and that’s what we did. Because the only place she knew she could get some of today’s messages was Morrisons, and in an attempt to offset the shortfall in their winter sales figures, that’s where we were going. Next question was where. Falkirk is our usual preferred shop, but with the strong winds, especially in the east and the heavy rain showers, I suggested we go to The Fort instead. Closer and quicker to get to. Also, I wanted some stuff from Hobbycraft at The Fort. With that settled, we wrapped up well and drove off. It may have been stormy and wet, but it was also warm. The car thermometer read 12ºc when we left the house.

So we got what we wanted in Morrisons, except the bottle of Grants Sherry Casked which was absent from the shelves and also the Yorkshire Mixture which was also missing. Could it be the same person who had a taste for sweeties and whisky? Did they perhaps drop a couple of sweeties in their dram? Maybe I should try that. We bought a bag of polystyrene beads for me to make a bean bag to rest my camera on when taking low macro shots (they came in handy later). We also bought some sparkly foam backed card to make The Fairy a new pair of wings. Scamp is going to wash The Fairy’s dress, make her a new underskirt and also repair her wings. The Fairy is almost 50 years old and hasn’t had her dress cleaned or her underskirt replaced in all that time. Her wings have been repaired once or twice, but really do need to be renewed. Happy with our purchases we headed home.

Scamp went out to get her hair cut after lunch and came back looking even more beautiful than normal (if that’s possible). Then I discovered I needed spring onions for tonight’s dinner (Pad Thai), so I wrapped up well, stuck in a pair of headphones and enjoyed a walk in the rain with The Uncle Devil Show to get the spring onions. That’s when I noticed my thighs were aching a bit, presumably from the two days dancing I’d had Sunday and Monday.

The Pad Thai worked really well. It was from a kit, but the only pre-prepared ingredient was the sauce, I’m sure I can find a recipe for it on the net and make my own. Noodles make a nice change from rice. After that I had to find a PoD. I found it in the bag of polystyrene beads. I sat a bunch of grapes on the bag of polystyrene beads. Lit it from below with two LED lights. Then used reflected light from a third LED light to remove some of the shadows from the grapes. PoD done.

Before I wrote this blog I cancelled my upgrade to ON1 2020. Too many bugs in it that would be caught, quote ’in a future update’. Sorry, but I paid for software, not to be a beta tester.

Tomorrow I may tackle the making of the bean bag. Also, we may go out somewhere for a walk if there’s any light and if the wind abates.

It’s a new dance class – 6 January 2020

And we don’t have to drive in to Glasgow to do it.

Scamp was out at a gig in Steps, not the old 80s group, but the wee place on the outskirts of Glasgow. Gems were entertaining today, the first gig of the year. I was staying home to start tidying up the back bedroom. After about an hour’s work I could confidently say I’d found the sofa. It’s not completely unearthed yet, but signs are good that it’s there. It was really horrible dull day, so I didn’t really mind a bit of housework. Then all of a sudden it started getting lighter, shadows started appearing in the room which meant there was light getting in. Yes, the clouds had a bit of texture and they were definitely getting lighter.

Time to go out. I selected Fannyside as my chosen destination because the clouds were breaking up and with a strong west wind I might get some interesting skies. What I hadn’t realised was just how cold it was with that wind. I got a few shots at my usual place beside the pine trees on the far side away from the loch, but then the light was moving and need to move with it. Drove back onto the moor road and down to a draw-in where an old peat processing plant used to be before the moratorium on industrial peat cutting was introduced. Got a bunch of shots there across the loch and the moorland behind me. Finally got a shot with an old tree in it. I’ve taken shots of that tree in all sorts of weather.

Back home I cut the sky form an east facing shot and pasted it in to a west facing shot with the tree in it. A bit of colour enhancement and some Oofle (the stuff Sooty used to use) and today’s PoD appeared.

Just as I was finishing the singer arrived home, quite delighted with the gig. Then it was time to make dinner before we headed off for our first dance class in Cumbernauld.

Lovely big hall. A bit cool, but I know from experience that it needs to be be cool when you’re dancing. We started off with a line dance of sorts, just as a warm-up. I survived it. Next was beginner’s Waltz. There were two of us couples dancing it, but Scamp and I were soon promoted to the intermediate class. Actually I could do most of the moves, but the different terminology from what I was used to and the slightly different combinations flummoxed me for a while. However, by the end of the night I was getting the hang of it. The girl who runs the class is a lovely dancer and seemed to know her stuff. I was most impressed. An hour passed really quickly, always a good sign and we both agreed we’d be back next week, all being well.

Tomorrow we are expecting heavy rain and strong winds, so whether we go out or not and where we go will be determined by the weather.

Dull but we went Dancing – 5 January 2020

Today was nothing to write home about on the weather front. Just dull and grey.

I did get out for a while in the afternoon, but there was nothing inspiring to photograph. That didn’t stop me, of course, but there was nothing in the twenty shots that I took that stood out enough to be a PoD.

Slow cooked Lamb Shoulder for dinner had been started before lunch. Seared the meat in the frying pan then pierced it all over and stuck in some rosemary sprigs, rubbed some salt into the still hot meat and put it in the slow cooker for three hours. I came out nice and tender, although there were a few chewy bits away from the bone. What we in Scotland would call ’Cheuch’. The rest of the meat was fine. Scamp’s dinner was much quicker to cook. She had a fresh tuna steak which she cooked like I would cook a steak. Three minutes per side with a couple of minutes standing time. It looked lovely too.

Drove in to Glasgow and got parked right away. In fact there were lots of parking places available. Found out that 12 folk from one of the salsa classes have booked a week long holiday in Cuba and hired a salsa teacher to boot. That would have been a good break, but probably a bit too much ‘away time’ at the busy start of the year. Danced with a few folk I knew from class and so did Scamp. Managed to remember how to salsa and made up a few ‘new’ moves that I can’t remember now. That’s how it goes some days. Still can’t imagine two classes being taught at the same time in such a small space and with bar service running at the same time. Good luck with that Shannon.

Spoke to JIC in the evening and he gave some advice on curing Scamp’s dodgy tummy problem. She will be out tomorrow morning buying JIC’s remedies.

Today’s PoD was taken with the Teazer2 from where we parked just off Byres Road. I tried it with a lower ISO and a longer exposure, but this was definitely better, even with the heavy grain.

Tomorrow Scamp has a gig and we are hoping to go ballroom dancing in the evening.

Sunshine! – 30 December 2019

The sky was clearing when we woke, but it took a while for it to clear completely.

Scamp was feeling a lot better today. Good enough to go for the messages. Rather than face the crowds and the traffic jams, we chose to shop locally in Tesco. I think we nearly emptied the place, judging by the amount of stuff in the trolley we wheeled to Scamp’s car. She had decided to give the Juke the day off because it had worked hard these last few weeks.

After lunch I took the ‘old’ E-M1 out for a spin round St Mo’s and got some lovely light because the clouds had all cleared away and the low sun was warming everything up. Not actual temperature ‘warming’, but colour temperature warming. The Mired value, but you don’t need, or want to know that, do you? Let’s just say it was lovely light during what’s know to photogs as the Golden Hour. Today it was macros again and my favourite and therefore the PoD was one of some moss on the limb of a tree.

By the time I was heading home, Scamp was getting ready for a Gems Christmas/New Year party at Carol’s. A good name to have for this time of year. I wasn’t invited, of course as this was a girls only night, but I was the nominated driver for Scamp and Margie. I was even getting the privilege of driving Scamp’s car, probably to extend the Juke’s holiday. Dropped the ladies off and headed home to do battle with the MacBook Pro again.

This time I was ready. I’d read the script and the the different pieces of software. The first attempt didn’t work. Apparently the secret is to change the system date of the MBP to something about two years ago and try again. I did, and it worked. Panicked after that because although the screen looked right, I had no mouse, no keyboard and no way of progressing with the install. Back to the ‘big’ computer and read the ‘Problems’ section. It was a know problem with a solution. I did a reboot and edited one small tick box before I lost control and voila! MacOS Sierra running on a 2009 MBP. You PC owners may be saying “So?”, but this is a big deal. Apple control what can and can’t be installed on their hardware, but one clever bloke has stymied that. Well done to him. Tomorrow I’ll populate it.

Got the message just about 11pm that a taxi was required. Checked the temperature (actual temperature, not Mired!) and it was -1ºc. Had to scrape Scamp’s car, inside and out!!

When we got back, Scamp was feeling sick. I suspected self-inflicted alcohol induced poisoning, but she said that wasn’t the case. She did look a bit under the weather and went to bed just before midnight. Hope she feels better tomorrow.

If Scamp is feeling better I may go in to Glasgow tomorrow to source some ink for the printer, or then again, I may not. It’s that certain.

The Shortest Day – 22 December 2019

And it felt like the shortest day too. Very little sunlight finding it’s way to the Scottish earth today.

Apart from having a lot to accomplish today, there wasn’t much incentive to get up and get started, but we did. Calendars to print. Doors to fix. Dinner (mine) to cook. Tidying up to be done. Just normal day to day stuff, but it all seems to mount up some days. Today was that day. Also, there was the usual photo to be taken in almost twilight.

I went to B&Q to get the stuff to fix the door. After lunch I started my dinner – Lamb Shoulder Shank, slow cooked. With that on its way, I went out and took some photos. Mostly macro photos and mostly macro photos of Cladonia lichen. Found some Cladonia Bellidiflora which are like normal green/blue cladonia but with red tips to the crown. Not particularly rare, but it’s a long time since I’ve seen any round here. That pic made PoD. Like I said, there wasn’t much light around and most of the pics were taken at ISO 3200. I know that sounds like technospeak, but to give an indication of the low light, normal photos for most of the year are taken at ISO 200 to 400. 3200 means that there is only about a 1/16th the light available at ISO 200. Dull, dull, dull. Yes, the maths is dull, but the light, more so.

To brighten up this shortest day we watched a BBC re-run of a re-run of a re-run of the five year old Penguins of Madagascar. Still as funny and still finding little quotes throughout the film.

Lamb was lovely and not too fatty. Scamp had salmon as usual. Both of us finished off a bottle of Barolo we’d started last night.

Spoke to JIC later in the evening and were pleased to hear that there wasn’t any serious flooding down by. Sorry to hear that Sim has to work on the 27th in her new job with no holiday allowance as yet.

Well, it was a dull day, but the good news is that after 2am on Monday, the days will start getting longer and Scamp will give a sigh of relief as her SAD husband starts to come out of the long winter tunnel.

No big plans for tomorrow.