They brought a tank – 11 November 2019

I made my decision this morning and packed up the Sony RX 100iii.

It was a pretty little thing, but in the end it was overpriced, even considering what I paid for it and it didn’t do what I intended it to. It had to go. Drove into Glasgow and returned it. I got my money back and also had the JL points deducted from my account, which is only fair. I then bought a Panasonic TZ 90. Not nearly as pretty as the Sony, but a lot more useful I hope. I wanted a camera with a large sensor, a long zoom and a tilting rear screen with a viewfinder if possible, Santa. The TZ 90 doesn’t have the large sensor but it does have a long zoom, a tilting screen and a viewfinder. Actually the Sony had ticks in all but one of my boxes too, but I just didn’t like it. It’s as simple as that. The TZ 90 is to replace a hard worked TZ70, so most of the controls are in familiar places. The fact that it was £100 cheaper was of no consequence.

Came home and Scamp was just going out to get Gems. After a quick lunch and a cursory glance at the users manual, I plugged the camera in and let it charge and charge and charge for about four hours. In the meantime I took the Oly out for a run. I needed petrol and a run in the country would lift my spirits, I thought. Drove up onto Fannyside Moss and that’s where today’s PoD came from. Lovely cloudscape over the far hills. They had been covered with a light dusting of snow this morning, but now almost all of it was gone.

Came back just as Gems were leaving. After some discussion, Scamp and I decided that we’d miss out on Salsa tonight, because we both had a lot to do.

On the way back from my photo trip, I took a run past the school and, oh dear. It looks like they brought in a tank after all. The glazing panels down the side of the Techy block are gone and part of T1 drawing room has gone. It won’t be long until it’s just a memory. Goodbye T4. I had some good days and some bad days there, but mostly good.

No great plans for tomorrow. We’ll see where the day takes us.

Bad coffee and good cakes – 10 November 2019

That seems to be the story of our outings recently. Why do so many people make such bad coffee?

We went to The Fort today, more to get out of the house than anything. It was a cold morning with -1ºc on the outside temperature when I got up. By the time we were heading for The Fort it had warmed up, but it was still single figures centigrade, thankfully positive single figures though. We were going to Boots. We could have gone to Cumbersheugh Boots, but a wee run in the car could just brighten our day.

After our Boots visit we went for coffee in Costa, but the queue was even longer than usual. Gave up and went to Pret a Manger, because the other option was Starbucks and we wanted a coffee, not a Starbucks. Maybe we’d have been better taking the risk, because the brown liquid in a paper cup I got didn’t taste of anything, not even Costa’s burnt water tastes that thin. The cakes were good, but that’s not a reason to go back.

Back home and after our lunch with Real coffee, I worked on a shot I’d taken in the morning of some Japanese maple seeds. Ones we’d picked at Colzium a week or two ago. I used the Sony to take them and they turned out ok. There’s a lot to this camera. A lot of complicated looking menus that I’m beginning to get my head round. For how much longer, I still don’t know. Scamp said tonight that she’s never seen me so undecided about any purchase. Anyway, that photo made PoD.

Later I walked over to St Mo’s to see if there was anything more worthwhile, but the light was fading rapidly and the cold and damp were making the walk uncomfortable. Some blokes, adults were racing little dune buggies, radio controlled with petrol engines on the BMX track. I’ve seen them there before, but there were about half a dozen of them today. I’ll maybe have a go at photographing them some day. Some day with better light, I mean.

To increase my step count, Scamp and I went over last Wednesday’s Jive routine. It works now and we’ve got the video to help us clean it up. I did manage to get my “8 Active Hours” because of the practise. Still well away from achieving my 10,000 steps.

Tomorrow it’s Gems in the afternoon and perhaps dancing at night. It depends on how we’re feeling.

Pythagoras, Roast Chicken and a Baked Potato – 9 November 2019

It was a cold start to the day and it only gradually got warmer. The best thing that happened today was Roast Chicken and a baked potato. Pythagoras was useful too.

It was one of those days that my dad used to warn me about. “When you’re retired,” he told me, “you don’t get weekends.” It’s true. Weekends are just like any other day … almost. Mondays are different. Mondays are days to wake early. Walk to the window and look at the rain streaming down, then go back to bed for an hour. Today was Saturday and we didn’t have anywhere we wanted to go. So we got up and sat and read the news on tablet or on computer.

I decided I’d best take the new piece of technology out for a test drive. It performed well enough, but not enough to convince me not to return it to JL. It might get packed up tonight, but more likely tomorrow morning. It’s good, but not worth the money that’s being asked for it. It’s touted as being a 1” sensor, but the actual dimensions of the sensor are 13.2mm by 8.8mm. Now, applying Pythagoras to that will give you a diagonal size of 15.86mm. As far as I can remember, 1” = 25.4mm, so the diagonal of the sensor in this camera and others like it is in fact 0.62 of an inch. That’s if and only if the entire sensor is used, because it never is! Do you realise that the ‘camera’ inside a phone is actually smaller than your pinkie nail? Like all things photographic, it’s a con. One of the photos I took with the ‘medium dog’, the Oly E-M1 graces the top of this page and became PoD. It’s a close up of the seed head of cow parsley. Shot against the sun it’s quite pretty IMO.

Lunch could have been in a restaurant or cafe somewhere, but ended up being a piece ’n’ black pudding for Scamp and a piece ’n’ bacon for me. Suitably refreshed, we started making plans for dinner and my suggestion of roast chicken met with Scamp’s approval. We walked down to the shops and got a chicken and other stuff for dinner. The car park was full, absolutely full. Maybe some folk were hoping for a glimpse and perhaps a selfie with Denise Van Outen whoever she is, because she was opening Matalan this morning, but I imagine she would be well gone by the time we arrived.

It’s a pleasant walk down to the shops now. I imagine Tesco is feeling a slight pinch, but nothing too serious. The roast chicken and baked potatoes were lovely. Even better, there’s more for tomorrow.

Speaking of tomorrow, I have no plans, but I my parcel up the Sony camera and give someone else the chance to be disappointed with it. Scamp is doing stuff in the house, I believe.

The Highs and the Lows – 8 November 2019

Cameras. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.

I’ve been looking for a replacement for my Panasonic Lumix TZ70 which is a wonderful pocket camera. Long, Long zoom, shoots in the malleable RAW format, nice comfortable grip and an ideal form factor. Its big drawbacks are the small sensor (the digital “film”) and its habit of sucking in dust to the lens and ultimately to the sensor. A tiny bit of dust on a DSLR sensor is a bit of a pain, as is a tiny hair. On a sensor that’s smaller than your pinkie nail, that tiny bit of dust is a great black blob. My Teazer has a host of those blobs and now has a hair to keep them company. That’s my reasoning for looking for a replacement. Not ‘another’ camera as JIC will have it, but a replacement. One in, one regretfully out.

I’ve been charting the price fluctuations of a Sony RX100iii for the past few weeks and had a look at the camera in Jessops which was the cheapest of the local shops and Amazon too. Today when I checked, the price had risen by £30 from £449 to £479. The price hike, I presume is so they can ‘reduce’ the price again for Black Friday at the end of the month. It looked like it was out of the question, but I had a second runner in the race and thought I’d have a look at it. Went to JL and they had it in stock it was a Panasonic LX10 (I knew you’d want to know that JIC), but although it had a viewfinder, it didn’t have tilting screen which I now use a lot on my Olys. Bummer! Then I noticed in the reduced section in JL, the Sony I’d been denied by Jessops false price hike. Better than that, it was a kit, complete with a finger grip and a leather case. Best of all, it was about £100 below even the original asking price for the kit in Jessops! I took it. Things were on the up, perhaps. Scamp had got herself ‘another’ pair of jeans in M&S, so she was a happy bunny too.

Came home and went to lunch at Milano Express at Old Inns. Pizzas were a bit of a disappointment, lovely light, well-fired base, but far too heavy on the cheese. Must ask for less cheese next time. Had a relaxing lunch and Scamp was driving on a beautiful sunny day.

By the time we got home there was hardly any time to grab a photo and I did want to unpack this small miracle camera. It was small, it is tiny. Without the finger grip it’s very difficult to hold. Quite slippery. The controls, too are tiny and the menu is a labyrinth of jargon filled abbreviations. You can control the camera using NFC which is great, but the software is a bit clumsy and doesn’t always work. Also, the ‘control’ you have is whether to shoot with a time delay or not. No chance to change aperture or shutter speed. No clue what you’re focusing on. It’s all a bit hit or miss, but mostly miss. Long story short, although the camera is perfect and looks like it’s never been used, I think it may go back on JL’s shelf soon.

Today’s PoD is a slice of pomegranate, but could equally well be a slice through my befuddled brain!

Tomorrow we have no plans.

Rained again last night – 3 November 2019

And most of today too.

It was one of those days that entice you out with the promise of sunshine and the unwary will venture out and end up soaked. The more circumspect will notice that there is a fine drizzle sparkling through the sunshine and wait for it to clear completely. For most of the day we were in that second group, then we made an excuse, any excuse, went out and got wet. There, that more or less sums up the day.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and then she phoned back to sort out a couple of iPhone problems for me. It’s great to have an expert on hand for just those niggling problems. After a puzzling hour Scamp and I finally managed to get my calendar and hers to speak to each other. You would think that in this day and age of technical wizardry, something as simple as sharing a calendar would be easy peasy, but it’s not. But then it’s associated with emails and it’s well known that emails and printers are the biggest nuisances in computing, other than trying to install Linux in a Linx computer that its, but that’s another story.

Here is that other story. I have a Linx 12×64, 2 in 1 laptop. It works fairly well, but it’s saddled with the despicable Windows 10 OS. It forever wants to “Get me back on track”. I don’t want to get back on track, I just want it to do what it’s told. That’s when I thought it might be a good idea to install Linux. Linux for those of you who have never heard of it is a free (as in free beer and free speech) operating system that runs on a UNIX base, much like a Mac. It’s a bit geeky, Val uses it, so it’s a lot geeky and the two of us are now competing to get it to run on our 12x64s. He’s almost there and I thought I was today until the screen on Elementary OS closed down every 15 seconds, no matter what I did to try to stop it. The challenge still continues and I’ll have another go tonight. I thought I’d broken the Linx last night when it ended up in no man’s land with no OS at all. No Linux and no Windows. Then I crossed my fingers and used Macrium to restore a backup of Windows and it rose from the dead again. I’m trying to keep this light with very little technospeak for JIC’s benefit, so I won’t explain my big mistake that led to that little problem. Suffice to say I won’t do it again … until the next time it sounds like a good idea.

Eventually Scamp harrumphed and said it was time to go out and get wet. We walked down to the new shops in the almost dry, got our messages and came home in the rain, just solid, straight down, rain. We knew we’d get wet and were dressed for it, so that was fine.

PoD tonight was taken, hand held with the pens sitting on a couple of tissues with another couple behind to hide the mess on the coffee table. I quite liked it.

Today’s blog title came from a Tom Paxton song, by the way “The Things I Notice Now”.

Tomorrow it’s Gems and I’m hoping to go out for a while, rain or shine.

Singing, Photographs and Numpties – 2 November 2019

Today was going to be a busy day with a load of culture.

Today I was dropping Scamp off in Baillieston at midday for a choir rehearsal and then I was off into Glasgow to see Dougie’s photographs of Cuba.

The first part was fairly easy although the sat nav took us by a different route from that chosen by Google Maps. No big problem though because it got us there, possibly quicker than Google would have. Dropped Scamp off and headed for Glasgow. Took a wrong turning, but followed my nose and the lie of the land and found my way on to the M8 again at Easterhouse.

Got to Glasgow and parked on level 6 of Buchanan Galleries. Even then it was just a lucky space. Don’t usually have to go that high! When I was walking down to Tolcross where the exhibition was, I did notice more than the normal amount of Saltire clad Scotsmen (and women, but mainly men). The worrying bit was the amount of police roaming George Square. Much more than a normal Saturday.

Got to Dougie’s exhibition and had a word with him. Some lovely prints on the wall. Didn’t even ask the price because:

  1. If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.
  2. I’d been in such a rush to get there, I hadn’t had time to go to the bank and I only had £10 in my pocket. That said, £10 was the price of the catalogue, signed catalogue too by both artists, so not that bad.

Listened to the introduction to the gallery and the ethos behind the photos. Then the two photogs took us through a few of their photos, explaining the reasons for hanging them. Dougie spoke no Spanish and Roberto Chile, the other photog spoke no English, so the translator was kept busy. My one criticism of the event was the translator. He spoke in a monotone all the time. Shannon (Dance teacher Shannon) was there. She would have been a much better translator and would have injected a bit more life into the talk, and the occasional “Ooo la la” too. I must suggest it to Dougie.

Too many people there and too few seats, which meant I was leaving with a sore back. Walked back up the hill and found that the Saltire Army must have been breeding. There were hundreds of them all being whipped into a frenzy by some opinionated numpty with a microphone. The crowd did, however, give me the opportunity to take some crowd photos. Best one I got was That Selfie Moment which made PoD.

Walked up to the car and was trying to get out when I came across a poor woman trying to reverse what I suspect was her husband’s rather large automatic Audi out of a tight parking space. She was in a tizzy and had got herself into a position where it was almost impossible for her to move back in to the space and impossible to get out. I took the bull by the horns and gave her some simple driving instructions and between the two of us we got it out without any bumps or scrapes.

Drove to Tesco to get lunch and then realised that it was 3.30pm and Scamp’s concert started at 4.00pm. Dumped the loaf that would have been my lunch and drove back in to Baillieston and just got there in time. Thoroughly enjoyed the Faure Requiem. An hour’s peaceful music in a busy day.

Dinner was a dire curry from Bombay Dreams. Not sure what was wrong with it, but it wasn’t their best. Suffice to say if the next one isn’t any better we’ll be looking for an new Indian take-away.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk and there’s talk of a practise session for Jive, Quickstep and Waltz in the afternoon.

Coffee for two – 31 October 2019

Off to meet Val for a technological chat.

There are four of us. Fred, Val, Colin and me. We all have our specialisms. Fred likes to talk politics, books and music. Val talks technology and books. Colin talks about gardening. I talk bollocks and books, music and technology. Between us we always find some topic of conversation to take apart. Today there were only two of us and so it was Technology and Books, but mainly Technology. We discussed new phones and old computers, books we’d read or were going to read and we both told each other lies and tall stories. That’s the best bit about shooting the breeze, nobody really believes everything the other is saying.

After we were done, Val went off to meet his wife and I went home to meet mine via M&S to get some lunch. After that, we picked up June and took her to sunny Coatbridge for her eye check. While the ladies were in the clinic, I took a trip to Currys for a bit of window shopping. Found another possible replacement for the Teazer, but on further inspection it didn’t quite fit the specification I’d set for myself. The back screen doesn’t flip up. Such a pity. The Sony RX100 iii is still the front runner.

Picked up the sisters after they were finished and after dropping June off, we went home. Scamp was getting ready to assemble a fish pie, so I went out to get some photos, but it was cold and I came back with only a couple of shots. Luckily they were decent, so I present one of them as my PoD.

Tonight’s sketch, and the last one of this year’s Inktober is an umbrella. This is not just an umbrella, this is a dripping umbrella. Let’s face it, those of us who live in Scotland get plenty of opportunity to sketch them, except today. Today was a bright, cold, sunny, DRY day. Typical!

We have no plans for tomorrow, at least not yet. Looks like rain.

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

Just window shopping mainly, but with intent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No plans for tomorrow.

Making the change – 14 October 2019

Today there will be no lying around. Today I will be active.

That’s what I said anyway. Out fairly early to drop off another sample at the doc’s. Don’t know what they find so fascinating about my pee, but it seems to keep them amused. Back home and today’s work schedule included cleaning the downstairs toilet. It didn’t take long, certainly not nearly as long as the bathroom last week. Probably that’s partly due to the fact that it’s a tiny little space. However I did give it the full “big clean” as one of my cleaners used to call it.

After that it was lunchtime and Scamp suggested I have a couple of slices of my excellent bread with some Wiltshire ham between. What makes the bread extra excellent is that it’s made by Prince Chic (Charles to you, but Chic to his friends). I don’t suppose Chic actually mills the flour himself, but it comes from his estate and it makes very good bread. It was also cheap at Waitrose or I wouldn’t have bought it.

When Gems came in I sat and talked to Margie for a while and showed her my sketches for Inktober. Margie is always very complementary about my work, but she produces some startling paintings herself. Veronica slipped a copy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year onto the table. It seems her son-in-law is a keen wildlife photog. I wouldn’t say that what I take are wildlife photos, more landscapes and macros. I like looking at landscape photos, but find it hard to compose them properly when I’m out and about with a camera. There’s no such problems with macros. With them the big challenges are more technical, like getting the aperture right and trying to get the best use of light. Also there’s the stalking of the tiny wee insects. Great fun, but not really artistic. On first glance at the photos in the book, I’m amazed at the quality and detail. I’ll have a good look before I have to give it back next week.

To continue the ‘active’ theme, I went for a walk along the canal and then on to the railway and that’s where I saw today’s PoD. It’s an old oak tree and I just liked the way the light hit the trunk. It was good to be out in the fresh air under  a blue sky for a change. Took a few more shots, but you’ll have to visit Flickr to see them.   Walking back along the canal, I saw a goosander surface quite close to me with a fish in its beak.  Knew I didn’t have time to grab the camera from my bag and focus, so I just watched it for a while.  It looked quite pleased with it’s early dinner.  Back to M&S for the makings of our own dinner and while I was traipsing around, I got the signal that I’d completed my 10,000 steps. Happy.

Dinner tonight met with a mixed reception. I thought it was great, Scamp was more critical. It was Prawns with Spaghetti and Courgette Spaghetti. Scamp didn’t like the dill that was in it, I didn’t mind. Maybe needs a bit of work.

The topic for today was “A Rowing Boat”. There aren’t many rowing boats lying around waiting to be sketched in the Central Belt of Scotland, so this one came straight out of my head. I quite liked it.

The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and then go to the seaside. Not sure if that will be east or west coast, but the weather looks like it will be fairly dry.

Just another Monday – 7 October 2019

You know how it is when you dream a strange dream and the feeling of it stays with you all day? I had that today.

Drove down to Jim Dickson’s tyre emporium and got a couple of new front tyres put on the Juke. Not the best quality Michelins that were on it from new, but hopefully good winter boots. Only time will tell. Just managed to get back for a quick lunch before Gems descended. Sat and talked to Margie about drawing while she showed me her drawings and I showed mine. Both sets were admired by both parties. And that was the morning gone.

Took the newly booted Juke out for a run to get some inspiration for today’s Inktober sketch which was to be “A Stone”. Drove to Auchinstarry and stopped at the flooded quarry. Lots of stone there, but nothing that inspired me. Walked over the bridge that spans the infantile Kelvin and thought about drawing some of the stones that cap the upstand of the bridge. Took some photos, but without really expecting them to be useful. Further on at the edge of the canal I found a short dry stane dyke and took some photos of it, because that would make a decent sketch.

Walked along the towpath and got the first part of PoD when I took a landscape format shot along the canal with a wee lucky of a cyclist coming the other way. Took another for good measure. Walked along a bit further, but the sun was quite low and blinding, so I turned back. Because the sun was much brighter now I took a few shots from the same place as the first one and the colours in the trees were much better now. Sadly no cyclist for a point of interest.

Back home I isolated the cyclist from the earlier shots and placed him in the better landscape shots from later. After a bit of jiggery pokery he blended is well enough, and that is how you make a PoD! Photographers don’t take photos, they make them.

Salsa tonight was a bit hectic and quite good fun. A weird progressive rueda group of moves with a name that escapes me. New Move 3 from three weeks ago and Chop from a couple of years ago at least, probably nearer five! Only one class and that suited me fine.

Watched, or rather, listened to University Challenge tonight, sketched the dry stane dyke and answered a few of the questions at the same time. Who says men can’t multitask?

Dorothy’s funeral tomorrow.