Another toy off another rack – 15 June 2020

Parcel delivered first thing this morning. The lens looked perfect

Stuck the lens on the E-M1 and took a few experimental shots. It seemed to be fine, thank goodness. Unfortunately the day was very dull with hardly any shadows to give shape to potential subjects. However, I took it out to St Mo’s to see what was worth photographing. The place that had been overrun by dog walkers and families out exercising over the past few months was decidedly lacking in visitors. The reason soon became clear. A crowd of between twenty and thirty nutters who should really have been in school were roaring and shouting their collective heads off in the woods. Now, Nick the Chick had just been pontificating on TV, telling everyone that schools would be very different after August and how the pupils and parents would need be prepared for a “blended” approach involving face-to-face teaching and at-home learning. I don’t know how they are going to wean these teenage drunks off the booze long enough to get them in to the schools. However, that’s their problem, thankfully. Mine was just getting past them and on my way.

Walked on to the place where I found the Flag Irises the other day and gave the new lens a good try out. Results weren’t earth shattering, mainly because of the lack of directional light. I’ll give the new lens another test later in the week, hopefully. An abstract looking Iris got PoD.

Dinner tonight was Spaghetti with smoked salmon and lemon. It was deemed to be OK, but nothing exceptional.

Spoke to JIC later in the evening and heard how his studying was going and also his phased return to work. We are so lucky and thankful that we don’t have to go back to work. I realise it will be difficult for school pupils, but for workers too it will be a hard slog for the first few weeks, returning to try to pick up where they left off, especially with summer just round the corner.

Sketch today was a really rough representation of My Favourite Tool. I could have drawn many things for that, but decided to err on the side of safety and chose my Oly E-M1 camera. Sketch is on Instagram.

No real plans for tomorrow. May go out somewhere.

Back at the wheelhouse – 2 June 2020

Before the wheelhouse visit, there was a toilet to fix. Almost as important there was a consignment of coffee due in today and Scamp was off to see Isobel. There you are, the day in a nutshell.

Scamp had a timeline sorted out. She’d go and visit Isobel in the Village and if the plumber hadn’t been by the time she returned, I could go to Clachan of Campsie and she’d stay in until he and the coffee came. Sounded like a plan.

However, before she went I did a rain dance. Not a real dance. Instead I washed the car which is usually the equivalent of it. Almost every time I wash the car, the rain comes on. Lockdown has seriously restricted our driving, but it hasn’t stopped the trees producing their annual sticky buds, or the seagulls crapping their sticky paint removing crap all over the cars. At least the detergent gets rid of the resin from the trees, but the seagull crap is almost impenetrable by any spray or detergent, although the Supergard™ spray is good if you catch the dirt before it gets bonded to the paintwork. That wasn’t the case today. It was the worst mess I’ve ever had to remove, but finally I declared it good enough.

After coffee, Scamp went of to cheer up Isobel and I finished my Sudoku. An hour or so later the plumber arrived and declared that the problem wasn’t with the bit I was playing around with yesterday, but with the float valve (no, I don’t know what that is). He fitted a new one and the toilet now fills, stops and waits for the button to be pushed before emptying and repeating the cycle.

Speaking about cycles. Scamp arrived just as the plumber was leaving, so that gave me the opportunity to drive out to Wheelcraft. Got as far as Twechar and the first drops of rain appeared on the windscreen. They didn’t last and the sun came out. Then a mile or two down the road I drove into the next shower. It was like that all the way there. Place was mobbed as usual with a variety of bikes in various degrees of disassembly. There was even an expensive and complicated looking three wheeler recumbent. I really liked the look of that one, but I’d hate to be riding it with a big sixteen wheeler artic on my tail. Now Big Al may take a while to get round to fixing your wheel, but when you get it back, it looks like a totally new one, just out of the wrapping paper. Gladly paid him then asked if I could take a photo of him in his workshop. I’d brought my old Oly 5 with the Samyang 7.5mm fisheye lens. Ideal for making his work area look even more crowded than it already is. That was the PoD.

Not so much rain on the way back, so I set to and built the wheel back up with the brake disk and tyres on and was just thinking I’d go out for a quick test run when the sky darkened and we could hear the rain battering on the back window. Then hailstones started and I sadly put the bike back in the hall, hopeful that I might get to test out Big Al’s work tomorrow.

Today was Blackout Tuesday to mark the killing of George Floyd in America. All over social media black squares appeared. I added mine. I’m not political. I think Scamp has taught me that life isn’t black and white, it’s all shades of grey. I had never heard of George Floyd before the 25th May. He may have been a good man, he may have been a bad man. I don’t know. I don’t believe he was perfect. What I do know is that he shouldn’t have been killed, so that’s why I put my own black square on Facebook and Instagram. I didn’t post any pictures today, apart from here. Here is different, it’s another shade of grey. This is my site and I choose what content goes on here. That’s why there is a picture at the top of the page and that is why this paragraph is here too.

Tomorrow, the rain might stop.

Windy and Wet – 22 May 2020

That about summed it up. Windy and Wet.

Parcelled up some fabric to post to my cousin’s granddaughter to make some masks. Pretty Mickey Mouse fabric. There’s no sense in making boring masks when you can make ones that will make someone else smile. Good idea Gemma.

Had to wait outside the post office in the rain while some ‘zoomer’ had a long conversation with the woman behind the counter I thought the bloke in front of me was going to hook him (in a suitably Socially Distanced way, of course). When the zoomer came out the whole queue gave a great sigh of relief.

That was about the highlight of the day. No gardening was possible due to the wind and rain. We just stayed in. Well, I did sneak out during a dry spell to grab today’s PoD which should have been a blurred shot of the rhododendrons blowing in the gale force wind, but none of the shots were deemed worthwhile, so a static one had to fill the bill.

Dinner for me was a mince pie. Not like a mutton pie or a scotch pie, but a pie made with puff pastry and mince. A real mince pie like my mum made. Scamp talked me through the making of it one more time. I think I’ve got in in the grey cells now.

Tonight’s sketch was to be A Book, a Newspaper or a Magazine. I chose Magazine, because I don’t read fairy stories, so the newspaper was out. A book is basically a rectangular prism, but a magazine can be folded and when it’s opened out it’s got curves and little shadow areas. This is a food magazine, so although, unlike oranges, you can’t eat it, you can eat the things it teaches you to make. That’s good enough for me.

Hopefully the wind will calm down tomorrow and we’ll get out for our daily exercise.

The day that it rained – 17 May 2020

We’ve been waiting for this day for what seems like months, probably only weeks, but today it came dripping out of the grey sky. Rain.

The gardens need it. The grass needs it and the plants definitely need it. The rain is welcome, and like all welcome visitors, it’s important that it knows when to leave. Let’s hope it does.

I didn’t go far because of the rain. I grabbed today’s PoD in the garden and apart from the background, I was happy with it. Couldn’t do much about that background, but it is a bit of a distraction, even with the lens wide open in an attempt to blur it out.

I also potted up a couple of my chilli plants. I’d already potted up the two largest plants yesterday and today I turned my attention to the two weakest members of the chilli family. Both were in terracotta pots and the always end up looking limp after a few days, presumably, because the clay pot soaks up the water and then breathes it out to the atmosphere. When I tapped them out of their pots they were bone dry. Because it was raining outside I did the repotting in the painting room on a piece of old newspaper. The date was around Christmas 2013. Nearly seven years ago! We don’t throw anything out in this house. Gave them a good soak and put them back on the window sill so they could watch the rain.

Today’s topic for Lockdown Library No 35 was A Teabag or Coffee Beans. I’ve tried coffee beans for EDiM last year and it was a pain drawing them all and painting them, so this year I chose a teabag instead. I really enjoyed the the drawing (and the tea, which was English Breakfast). Much better prompt than yesterday. Tomorrow is an EDiM favourite “Your Breakfast”. Dull, Dull, Dull.

Spoke to JIC tonight and envied their ability to travel more freely than us. Their total lockdown has been eased, but Scotland and Wales have retained theirs. It’s becoming a bit boring now. I imagine Nick the Chick is waiting to see if Boris’s lockdown release is going to blow up in his face. If it doesn’t she’ll tentatively release ours. Let’s hope she opens the garden centres soon or Scamp will go crazy.

Tomorrow we are booked to do a “Click ’n’ Collect” at Tesco. This time I think it will be Scamp’s car that will get a chance to get its wheels turning.

Deer and a lone walker – 13 May 2020

Blue skies all around at 8.30 and the day ended that way too. Cloudy between those limits and cold too. Though some don’t feel it!

Scamp went out for a walk after lunch. I don’t know what I did to find myself left at home, but she decided she didn’t want a grumpy photographer who stops every ten minutes or so to take a photo or to look at an ‘interesting’ insect to accompany her. Maybe it was something I said. She walked round Broadwood Loch and said that it was busy in clumps, but not all that congested. She also said it wasn’t that cold, but that doesn’t mean anything, because Scamp doesn’t feel the cold. It could be snowing outside and she’d tell you it wasn’t all that cold.

While she was out, I was rebuilding the little 9mm lens. If you’ve ever had to do work on a car or any mechanical item, you’ll know that sinking feeling when you’ve just put it back together and find you’ve a handful of washers or bolts, usually tiny ones, when you’ve finished. That’s how it was for me yesterday. I had it rebuilt, then found I’d three tiny washers left and the lens wouldn’t work. Today I’d worked out where the washers came from and thankfully it wasn’t a complete strip down to replace them. I soon had them in place and everything joined up, but still the lens wouldn’t focus. Checked the workbench and found a spring that should have gone back in and hadn’t. Another strip back and replace. This time the lens worked … sort of. It now focuses at infinity, but a bit like Buzz Lightyear, it also goes beyond infinity. Something is still not right, but at least it is now useable.

Did I find out what caused all this “reduce to component parts and rebuild”? Well actually I did. It was a mark on the outside of the front element. Not a scrape, just a dirty mark. The white dot I saw on the back element was actually the reflection of the window on the extremely curved glass. Numpty!

It was only after I rebuilt it the umpteenth time I realise this, but the problem with “Infinity and beyond” had happened before, now I think about it. Two days ago a few of my shots with that lens were fuzzy and out of focus. It is simply wear on the little plastic focus lever on the lens which now moves further than it should. I need to remember not to do the Buzz Lightyear thing, and stop at ∞!

With that problem, not exactly solved, but an explanation found, I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD. I was sure I had heard something crashing through the trees and then a deer ran across the path in front of me. It was followed a few seconds later by another deer, this one was definitely a buck. It stopped on the path, about 100m ahead of me and stared at me. I didn’t move. I’d been walking, cradling the camera in the crook of my left arm. I slid my right hand over and flicked the ‘on’ switch then grabbed four or five shots while pointing the camera in roughly the direction of the deer. It took a few paces towards me and I must have moved slightly before it headed off away down the path. I’m guessing it’s mating season just now and I may have interrupted something! I’ll take a long lens with me tomorrow if I manage to get back out there at the right time.

Today’s prompt was “Toilet Rolls”. Interesting topic that in any other year would have brought questioning looks, but this time in this year, it just brings a smile … and a sketch of toilet rolls!

Tomorrow we have no plans. Maybe a walk together.

Not so crazy busy today – 12 May 2020

I had time to sit down and solve today’s sudoku for a start, then it was the catching-up.

Two drawings needed, but lots of time to get them sorted. The first one I actually planned for once. I roughed it out to make sure everything would fit into a square grid before I got started on the real thing. That’s quite a luxury for me and it helped considerably with the design. Maybe because the prompt was Illustrate a recipe. That meant there needed to be guide lines and such. Anyway, with that done, we went over to Condorrat to get the makings of today’s dinner. It was a second attempt at the Souk Soup and we needed a chicken breast to provide the protein. Cold wind both going and coming back.

After that I started chopping up the veg and bunged everything into the slow cooker and set it for two hours worth of cooking. Then I grabbed my Oly and camera bag and went to investigate the opportunities that St Mo’s would offer a camera man. Walking across the waste ground, I noticed a group of teenage boys heading in the same direction. One had a big bag that was clinking in a bottle-like way. They looked about as apprehensive as I felt, but I told them I wasn’t intending joining them and we all laughed. I was hoping to get some shots of hoverflies on the wing, but the wind was too strong and I had to ditch the idea and come back another day. On the way back I chanced into the group again, this time they had liberated the bottles from the bag and were sitting down with a speaker providing some music. I told them I guessed they were all from the same household and a couple of them twigged and said “Oh aye we are”. “Because”, I said “if you’re not I’ll have to inform Nicola.” Again we all laughed. I wonder what they thought I was doing with a wee brown bag over my shoulder, walking into the woods.

Scamp and I agreed that the Souk Soup was better when it was made in a pot. For some reason it was too watery made in the slow cooker. The Ras el Hanout spice I used was interesting and fairly hot, but I think I prefer my own Moroccan spice mix. We’ll have the rest tomorrow and see if we change our mind.

Two pieces drawn and painted after dinner. First was fairly good and the second was just a place marker. Both posted on Instagram and FB now.

PoD went to a wide landscape taken with the wee 9mm lens cap lens for the Oly. Something went wrong with the lens because a white dot appeared in the sealed unit of the lenses. It’s sitting inside the rear element and I can’t seem to shift it. It shows on the Flickr photo, but only if you know it’s there. I’ve got another, better, lens, but the 9mm was so neat for carrying around. I’ll miss it if I can’t fix it.

We had a sprinkling of rain tonight, but not a lot.  Hoping for more tomorrow.  Other than that, nothing planned.

And what of the day then? – 11 May 2020

It was to be a busy day. Not hardly a minute to spare.

Can’t say much about it though. It’s all under wraps until 13th May when all will become clear.

Spent part of the morning planning out what today’s sketch would be. The prompt was “Illustrate a Recipe”. I did really try out different ideas, but none of them worked and as the day wore on, the chance of it making it to paper were getting slimmer and slimmer. So slim in fact that it became lost and I’m leaving it until tomorrow to finish (i.e. Start).

Tesco delivery arrived early and it looked as if we were back to our old ways of buying the entire shop. I pitied the poor bloke having to transport all those boxes from van to door on his porters trolley.

I left Scamp to deal with the storing of the mountain of stuff. If I’d tried to put things away, she’d only have gone back later and rearranged everything, so instead I walked over to Condorrat and posted a parcel to West Ewell. Sorry Hazy, it’s not for you, but be warned a small package will be dropping through your letterbox soon, maybe even tomorrow. IT HASN’T GOT YOUR NAME ON IT!!

Walked around St Mo’s a couple of times and took today’s PoD which, probably nobody will like and I agree it’s a bit dull, but I like it. I’m not certain the sepia treatment worked, but I’m trying to get out of the straight macro mode and become a bit more creative. It was a cold day. Allegedly it was just into double figures of degrees C, but when you were in that wind it didn’t feel like that at all. That’s wind chill, though. In the sun and sheltered the wind it was pleasantly warm … if you were wearing a thick hoodie over a thick shirt and a tee shirt it was pleasantly warm.

Not a lot more to say about today. Spent most of the evening trying to remove DRM from one of Scamp’s books without success. I’ll try again tomorrow, maybe once I’ve caught up with the sketching.

And that’s the plan for tomorrow. To catch up, then to fix the DRM.

Out early and on the Dewdrop – 6 May 2020

I’d considered going out yesterday, but realistically it was too cold. Yes, it was warm, hot even in the sun, but the wind was cooling, too cooling. What I did say was that I would go today and I did. The wind had dropped and it was a really enjoyable run, but after only about twelve years, it looks like I need re-grease the front wheel bearings. I’d have thought the bearings would have lasted longer than 12 years 😉 I need to have a serious look at them tomorrow to find out if they can be cleaned and re-greased or if I need to buy a new cassette unit. Still, it was a good run on a warm day and contributed to my daily exercise. Got a PoD too. It turned out to be a Drinker Moth caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria).

Back home after lunch I’d half decided to go out for a walk to get some more photos, but a seat in the sun, joining Scamp at the front door was an even better option so I took that with both hands. Read a few more chapters from my latest book City of Windows. Enjoying it. Saw my first swallows while I was sitting there. It was the screaming sound they make that alerted me. Maybe they were house martins or swifts. I don’t know the difference. Must find out.

When Scamp decided that it was warm enough to take her lounger to the back garden, I finally gave in and took the Oly out for a walk in St Mo’s. It would probably have been better if I’d taken the SD card with me, but luckily there wasn’t much to photograph. Then when I was walking back across the BMX track a damselfly lifted off in front of me. No time to take a photo, even if I’d had an SD card!

By the time I came back empty handed, it was cooling down a bit and we ate our kedgeree inside, but took our tinned peaches in lime jelly outside with us. Coffee outside after that, then out of a clear blue sky a little cloud appeared and obliterated the sun. Then that same cloud grew bigger and didn’t seem to want to leave the sun. That’s when I decided it was getting too cool for comfort. Shades of what’s to come if the weather fairies are to be believed.

That was a good day. The first real run with the Dewdrop this year, my first swallow this year and my first damselfly this year. I’m happy with that.

The day that never really began – 2 April 2020

Some days are full of things to do some are not. Today was in the latter group.

It was a cold day with strong winds in the morning and early afternoon. It didn’t lend itself to gardening or to photography, so Scamp resorted to dusting the bedroom furniture. I started tidying up the back bedroom, but soon tired of that. Spoke to Colin on the phone and found that he didn’t do “the what’s appy thing” so I didn’t go as far as trying to talk him through Zoom™. Did find out that his son-in-law is volunteering to deliver folk’s Click and Collect groceries in the surrounding villages. We agreed this was a very useful task, but only if you can actually get a C&C slot. The problem seems to be people block booking slots and the supermarkets are unable (or unwilling) to do anything about it. Still, an admirable use of time and labour.

After lunch, Scamp wanted a loaf, so I offered to make one, rather than wait in a long queue to get one loaf and feel foolish, having waited all that time with just a loaf to show for it. I knew I’d end up buying a basket of stuff we didn’t need. We have loads of flour, some of it getting close to its Use By date, so this was an ideal way to do something useful with it. Made the dough and left it to prove then went out for a walk just in case there was anything interesting out in the Coronavirus world, because although there were scattered clouds, the wind had died down. I did get a few pictures of some dogwood branches with the buds just opened and the leaves caught in the transmitted light of centre-jour (backlighting). Interesting, but not brilliant. It was only when I got home I saw a wee daisy just starting to shut down for the night because the sun was dipping down behind some houses. That became PoD.

Scamp made a lovely Chicken Stir Fry for dinner. No sticky chilli sauce, just veg, rice, chicken and a great deal of skill. A little soy sauce just as extra seasoning and it was perfect.

We had a dance practise tonight. Foxtrot, Quickstep and New Waltz with some jive routines we hadn’t practised in too long a time. Really enjoyed it. Sometimes it’s the practise at home that burns the routines into your memory. At least it’s that way for me. I won’t claim that I got it all right, but the majority of it worked … eventually. Before that we joined a straggling few at 8pm to clap for the NHS. Not nearly as many as last week.

Watched the national news tonight and oh my they are so depressing. Such a difference from the Scottish news who are quite upbeat by comparison. Scamp thinks it’s because the geography is so different in Scotland in that we have a lot of open space around us, unlike London where everyone lives in each other’s pockets. Whatever way it finally turns out, we can only look after ourselves and try our best to keep healthy.

Tomorrow, getting colder according to the weather folk. Maybe even snow.  Probably stay in and eat the bread I made.

Shopping, the new way – 31 March 2020

New day, new rules.

Drove to Tesco today with Scamp, only to be told that the rules had changed:

  • One trolley per household.
  • One person per trolley.

Scamp had the shopping list in her head. She hadn’t committed it to her phone or a notepad, so she got to be the one to enter the golden portal to do the shopping. I went back to sit in the car and enjoy the sunshine, because the sun was shining quite brightly this morning. When she arrived back at the car, her trolley was brimming with stuff. All useful and mostly edible stuff too. Biggest shop she’s done in a long time, she said. Given that there was a bottle of whisky, another of gin and three bottles of wine, plus the groceries, I’d say we did not too badly from our big spend. Lots of folk were spending much more. Those were the ones with the extra large trolleys. I’m sure some of them had a forklift truck parked in the carpark to get their stuff home.

After all the stuff was put away, and after lunch, Scamp went out to ‘clear out the bin shed’. The bin shed is where lots of the gardening stuff is kept and it occasionally deserves a good clean out. By the time I’d changed into my painting togs, she had everything out of the shed and on the path. It was probably getting in poor Bobby Flavel’s way. He lives at the corner house and is never happier than when he’s got something to do. He’d already dug his garden, swept the path and then swept the road outside. No kidding! Now he was cutting the grass for Angela (next door) who is off work and self isolating. Not only cutting the grass, but also edging it too and doing a great job. Me, I had already scraped the front sill and started painting it. The external acrylic paint is great stuff, especially when painting on warm concrete. It dries almost instantly. So, it was like the old story about the Forth Bridge. When they’d finished painting it, the went back to the start and did it all again. Once I’d finished the 2.5m length of the front sill, the bit I’d started at was dry and ready for a second coat. Two coats should do. Next the back window that I did yesterday, but wasn’t satisfied with. I’d already scraped it too and gave it a fresh coat. Maybe one more coat for it will do, maybe tomorrow.

Would I? Wouldn’t I? Eventually I did go out for a walk in St Mo’s. Walking through the woods is perfect for isolation. Usually nobody and nothing there to bother me. Today was different. Turned a corner and less than 20m away was a Roe deer, a doe, happily grazing. Luckily I had the right lens on for once and got one shot. Then its head went up and away it ran. Took another shot, but I knew it was too soft. First one looked good though. I think it was the sound of the shutter that startled it. Next time I’ll remember to use silent (electronic) shutter. If there is a next time. This is the first time for months I’ve actually managed to get a decent shot of a St Mo’s deer, or any deer for that matter.

Walked back and took some shots of strange wee flower things on a little larch. They didn’t work, but I’m hoping to go back tomorrow and have another go, weather permitting, because we’re due some gales on Thursday. Possibly snow on Friday.

I did get one more shot and it became the PoD. A little clump of Coltsfoot Daisies growing beside the footpath on the way home. Lovely flowers, they bloom just around Easter every year. They always remind me of my dad for some reason. That’s not a bad thing at all.

I’d made stew for dinner tonight and it was lovely. Of course it was under the strict tutelage of Scamp, the number one stew chef in this house. I stewed a couple of sausages in it for good measure and they were the stars of the show. Left just enough to have for lunch tomorrow.

Practised our dancing routines tonight. We’re probably building in a lot of mistakes and short cuts I realise, but Kirsty’s not the perfectionist that Michael was, so it will be ok. What Michael did do, and did well, we both agree was teach us how to Jive and those moves are hard wired into our heads now. We reprised them too. Actually we remembered a lot of them we haven’t danced since about November last year. He might have been was a pain in the backside, but he did know his jive steps.

Tomorrow we have no real plans. Must get the upstairs sills cleaned down and maybe a coat of paint on them too. Must also get something done about staking the apple tree. Depends if we can get some wood from B&Q.