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Here be Dragons – 9 August 2017

Well, the weather fairies were right again. Sorry to you folks down south, but we had another beautiful day. Not quite the wall to wall sunshine of yesterday, but not far off it.

We were headed for Devilla forest again today. We’d last been there in May and enjoyed the walk, but didn’t see any of the red squirrels that are supposed to inhabit the woodland. Didn’t see any today either, but we did see loads of dragonflies around the pond at the end of the walk. Mainly Black Darters, but there were also a couple of Emeralds that seemed to fly non-stop all the time we were there. Sometimes they’d hover almost motionless while they checked out what was happening around them. Unfortunately the Oly or its lens was unable to focus on them properly, despite the fact they were static for five or six seconds at a time. Also despite the fact that I was swearing at it the whole time. I did get some satisfactory shots of the male and female Black Darters and a nice one of an Emerald Damselfly playing hide and seek behind a reed and that became PoD.

After I’d had my fill of ‘beasties’, we drove to the Walled Garden for lunch. It was busy, but not so busy that we had to queue for a table which was better than I’d expected. After lunch we drove home.

Salsa tonight was the start of a beginners class and it was a gigantic class. Enjoyed helping, but in the 7.30pm class, I couldn’t get any of the moves right. Moves I knew well too. I think my brain must have been stuck on beginners level.

Hoping for just one more day of sunshine before it all collapses at the weekend.

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Go out walking in the rain – 6 August 2017

It wasn’t the most inspiring day today. It had been, earlier on. Then we had hills from the back window, but later in the morning the hills had disappeared under a sheet of white, low lying cloud and the rain looked as if it was just about to appear. It did, and it stayed for the rest of the day.

We didn’t have any decent bread, so when I was getting the lunch sausages out of the freezer (fried lunch on a Sunday) I pulled out a 500(ish)g piece of frozen bread dough and set it to thaw out. After lunch the rain got a bit lighter, then the sun tried to come out, failed and the rain took its place again. It was about then I decided I was going out to take some photos, in the rain if necessary. So dressed in an old pair of jeans and my trusty rainy coat, I walked over to St Mo’s to feed the ducks and hopefully get some photos. The one above is my favourite. It was taken with the Nikon and a Sigma 105mm macro lens. A beautiful lens designed for taking close-ups. No zoom. It’s a Prime and with a maximum aperture of f2.8, depth of field is minimal. If none of that makes sense to you, then I’m sorry. Let’s just say this is one of my oldest and most favourite lenses.  Brilliant for beasties!

When I got back and got changed out of the sodden boots and jeans, I started to solve a puzzle that has appeared since I started using El Cap. The problem is Photos. It’s an app that is part of OSX and every time you plug in an SD card it pops up wanting to handle your photos for you. Well, actually I have my own software to do that, thank you very much, so bog off Photos. Except, it won’t, or should I say it didn’t until I fixed it today. You see, because it’s part of the operating system, it can’t be uninstalled. Actually it can, but apparently that causes more problems than it solves. I used Keyboard Maestro, a clever little piece of software that allows you to write ‘macros’ that can go behind the Mac OS and make things happen for you. What my macro does is wait until it senses that Photos has been triggered. When it has, it immediately shuts it down. It was with great satisfaction that I watched that colourful wee icon appear on the task bar, bounce a couple of times, then bog off! Isn’t technology wonderful when it works?

Went to Salsa at La Rambla. Had tapas first and it was very good indeed. Sat with Ronnie, Sharon and Peter and were entertained all through the meal. Dancing was good, but with Cameron in charge of the music, there were a few too many bachata tunes. Glad we agreed to drive instead of getting the train. About 25 minutes journey time instead of an hour and a half. Would certainly go back.

Tomorrow? More rain I think, so more walking in the rain perhaps. Today’s title is from Alex Harvey – Faith Healer.

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Paisley Pattern and Siri – 5 August 2017

We were intending to go to Salsa in Paisley on Sunday and, as we hadn’t ever driven there, we planned a recce today.

Getting there was simple, even if Google Maps on my iPhone insisted on showing the route upside down. Just off the motorway we found the restaurant that hosts the Paisley Sunday Social. There were some parking areas around it, but nothing substantial and, as the social attracts a fair number of dancers, we decided to find a bigger car park. That’s when the trouble began. Paisley, it seems, has an even more complicated one-way system than is really necessary. After travelling round and round, we eventually found the exit and after a couple of wrong turnings, got parked. I’d just pushed the button for 2 hours parking when I noticed that you only need to pay on weekdays! No problem, at least we were parked.

Paisley is like most Central Scotland towns. It’s in a state of decline with frantic attempts by the council to make it look new and vibrant. It wasn’t working. Too many ‘pound shop’ variants and charity shops in the main street. A new shopping mall with only half the shops occupied. Cumbernauld without the concrete.

We wandered round the Abbey and surroundings, but didn’t even stay long enough to have a coffee. That shows how bad it was. I found some interesting buildings that I may go back and sketch and today’s PoD is one of them. It’s a former Territorial Army drill hall, now on the steep slope to Beyond Economic Repair. It was also falling into a big bucket of Photoshop tonight and that’s where the Haunted House look came from.

When we went back to pick up the car, I thought I remembered the street it was parked in. It’s the same street I drove a box van up to JIC and Andy’s new student flat! It’s a small world, Paisley.

After negotiating most of the one-way system, I foolishly followed Apple Maps which took me the wrong way down a one-way street! Never again Apple. Google maps may be upside down, but at least they are reasonably accurate. Eventually found the road back to Glasgow and late lunch at Milano. While there, I noticed that Apple Maps was still active on my phone, despite me having switched the phone off half an hour before. I switched it off – again. Meal was good as usual in Milano and when we got home I again noticed that the phone had switched itself on and was sitting on the lock screen. I got so mad at it I long-pressed the button, summoning the useless Siri. When it appeared, I shouted at it “Switch the fuckin’ phone off”. It switched off!!!

I wasn’t expecting that. Then I noticed, just as the display disappeared that power was down to 2%. That’s why it switched off, nothing to do with stupid Siri. Just coincidence.

No plans for Sunday, apart from Paisley.

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Auld Claes and Purrich – 28 July 2017

Auld Claes and Purrich. One of my dad’s sayings, meaning back to real life after a holiday. That sums up today perfectly.

It was dry and fairly bright when we set off to do some shopping. Decided to drive to Stirling to shop in Waitrose, partly for the run and partly for a walk round the shops.

Took a couple of shots of a sow thistle growing out of a wall near the car park in Stirling, but rushed it and it turned out overexposed so badly it was out with Lightroom’s capabilities to bring it back into gamut. That’s why it’s flooers again for PoD. This time they were carefully exposed and taken on a tripod. Remarkably detailed and low(ish) grain from the Teazer which which is proving a very adaptable camera. These are Scamp’s sweet peas which she has grown from seed this year and are flowering very nicely now and just over 2m tall. A much more successful batch than last year’s.

Dinner tonight was pea and prawn risotto, the peas came from the garden. Not sweet peas, but garden peas. Ones I grew this time. Last year I got one pea plant. This year I have about seven, grown from seed I got when we visited JIC and Sim earlier in the year. There weren’t that many peas in the risotto, but they tasted good.  Partly that was due to chopping up the pea pods and boiling them with the liquid for the risotto.  Hoping to have more peas with Sunday dinner. Also hoping to have new potatoes from our second batch which I’m going to lift today.

That’s about it for a dull day back in Scotland. No plans for tomorrow.

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Return of the Human – 5 July 2017

Up and out by 10.30 to return the Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor to the hospital and say a fond goodbye (and good riddance).

I know that, despite what my Fitbit says, I didn’t get much sleep last night with the bloody thing beeping every hour and then pumping the cuff up to measure Scamp’s BP. I dread to think how many minutes sleep Scamp got. Anyway, took it back today and noted what the media would call ’a high profile police presence’ across the road from the hospital. Checked on the BBC site, but couldn’t see anything to warrant it. Could it be something to do with a suspected shoplifting in Aldi yesterday? Might be.

Left Airdrie and went to Stirling to pick up our holiday tickets from the dazed and confused Ramsay Travel. They really are almost comic in their slapdash approach to this holiday booking. I think we’ll go to a real travel agent next year DV.
While we were in Stirling we went to The Fat Cyclist cafe and had a light lunch Toast and Scrambled Eggs for Scamp and Roll ’n’ Sausage for me. Service was slow, but the food and the coffee were good. We’ll be back.
Also while there, I got a new(ish) sporran for my Lord of the Isles national dress set. This one looks like a real dress sporran and was a bargain as an ex-hire.
Finally, I got a sketch done of the entrance to the Atheneum in Stirling, while Scamp was almost being successful in purchasing a pair of sandals.

When we got home I went for a walk to St Mo’s to get today’s PoD. It’s a close-up of a wild orchid. They are all over the place just now and look almost like little hyacinths. The photo was taken on the Oly 10 with the 20mm prime and a 10mm extension tube, allowing me to get really close. The quality of results from that lens is superb.

Salsa tonight was covered by Cameron. He was losing his temper a bit in the middle of the class and showboating a bit too much I thought, but he’s young and you have to cut him some slack sometimes. Much, much better than the other alternative – Colin!

Dentist in the morning tomorrow to repair the damage to cap I pinged off about three weeks ago.

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The Android – 4 July 2017

This morning we were off to the hospital – nothing serious. The doc had arranged for Scamp to have an ambulatory blood pressure monitor because her BP has been fluctuating a bit recently. I had one away back fifteen years or so ago. You have to wear it for 24 hours. It beeps every half hour and then the wrap on your arm starts to inflate and then releases. During the day it’s a pain in the … arm, but it’s much more annoying at night. I didn’t tell her that! I’m sure she’ll find out.

After bringing back the android with the battery pack on her hip and what looks like a cable round the back of her neck, we settled down to lunch. Before that we’d gone to Aldi to get some messages. When we were going out, the ABPM must have set off the alarm that checks if you’ve nicked anything. We did as we usually do when we’re out shoplifting oops, shopping, and ignored it. Does anyone bother with these things? The answer is yes. At the weekend, I saw a poor woman with her trolley full of goodies, being escorted back into ASDA at Robroyston by two security guards. However, we got away without even a warning, but that was it! Scamp wasn’t going anywhere with that thing attached to her arm if it was going to trigger alarms everywhere. She was staying put at home!

I, on the other hand, didn’t have a photo for today, so I drove to Auchinstarry and went a walk along the canal. That’s where I got my PoD. This is almost as I saw it. I’ve done some levels work, but very little and it’s not been cropped. It was just a lucky shaft of sunlight that lit up the little bunch of Cow Parsley flowers turning into seeds. Further on I chanced upon this happy bunch of cygnets out for a paddle. Just thought they looked so cute, they had to be included.

That was about as much as we did today. Scamp’s off to bed now and counting the hours until 11am tomorrow when she is released from the bondage of the ABPM. Hope she gets some sleep!

Tomorrow? That depends on the mood of the android. I wonder if she will dream of electric sheep?

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Curry – 1 July 2017

It was one of those mornings when you just can’t be bothered to get up. I lay for an extra half an hour, not sleeping, not even snoozing, just lying there with my eyes closed. Delightful. Then the day began.

It was sunny and warm (15º) when we woke. Not at all what we’d expected from the weather fairies. It’ll never last, we said. It did. Eventually at about midday we ventured on Scamp’s suggestion that we go for lunch at a nice wee curry restaurant in Kirkintilloch. We’d passed it during the week and I’d mentioned that we hadn’t been there for ages. I’d forgotten all about that, but Scamp hadn’t. So that was it. Got there and the place was empty! Open, but empty! Oh dear, maybe the good people of Kirky have weighed it and found it wanting. Pakora starters were hot, but a little bit dry for my liking. Then the mains came and the nan bread looked like nan should. Big, well fired and slathered in ghee. As well as the mains, the customers came too. Then we twigged. Buffet started at 1pm and that was what folk were waiting for. I wish I’d had a look at the buffet offering when I left, because there looked to be a good selection. Scamp doesn’t like buffets and I know I tend to just gorge on them, so perhaps they are best avoided. The mains were spicy hot and physically hot too. They tasted freshly cooked, but maybe lacked a little bit in taste. Foodies! What can you do to impress them?

Scamp wanted to do some shopping in Kirky. Not ’Messages’, but ’Shopping’. There is a difference. I wandered round Kirky counting the number of charity shops and ‘pound shops’ and deciding it was on a downward slope.

After leaving Kirky, we drove to Robroyston for a coffee and some messages. Then it was home before the rain came. Today’s PoD actually came from Robroyston originally, before it was dunked in a bucket of Photoshop. I think it improved it.  If you want to see the original, it’s here.

Got fed up and wanted to get some more photos, so I took a bag of stale bread and went to feed the ducks in St Mo’s. Got some photos of the pond and faked them to look as if the sun was shining using Lightroom. Went to Condorrat on the way home to get some sweeties and found my sketch subject for the day, Condorrat Library. Lovely wee building that always made me think of Fort Apace The Bronx with its high windows and narrow door opening. The iron grating just enhances that feeling. Still it has some trees round it and even a couple of hanging baskets.

That was it for today. As I was heading home the first drops of rain were falling. The weather fairies are rarely wrong!

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The search continues – 28 June 2017

Today we drove to Stirling because at Springkerse in the town (I know, Mrs McQueen made it a city in 2000, but it’s still a town to me) at Springkerse there are a host of car retailers.

First stop was Arnold Clark for a look at a Renault. The Megane we looked at was too big, definitely too big, so was the price. It came off the list right away. Next up was the Clio from the same garage. It was much more like what we had in our heads, and after some jiggery pokery with the figures, so was the price. Had a seat in one and quite liked it. Were offered a test drive, but declined. Once our shortlist is complete we’ll use test drives to whittle it down.
Next up was Peugeot. Maybe we got off to a bad start by not having an actual model in mind, maybe he took a look at the scruffy jeans and dirty old rugby shirt and decided we couldn’t afford anything but a second hand car, but although he was pleasant enough, he wasn’t as enthusiastic as he could have been. We sat in a 208, but it was a second-hand bottom of the range model and it wasn’t what I was looking for. Off the list.
Last for the day was Nissan. Scamp didn’t like the Juke – I didn’t really think she would. It’s too big she said. We looked at the new Micra. The dealer said it was actually bigger than the Juke. He lied, it’s not. It is marginally smaller. I didn’t like it, Scamp did. He did offer us an interesting test drive option, whereby we could take the car for up to 24 hours and give it a long test. Nissan would even pay for the insurance! Again, after number crunching he came up with a much better price than the lady in Glasgow had offered. I think the Juke and the Micra both stay on the list, but I also think that Macklin Motors in Glasgow are now off the list.
That was the end of testing for today.

Had coffee in Stirling and then I needed to get a sketch done, and that is what you see here. I’ve been reading an excellent sketching book by Liz Steel entitled Five Minute Sketching – Architecture. I can’t say with any honesty that I can achieve the five minutes yet, but I’m putting a lot of her ideas into practise. I’m a lot better pleased with it than I was with yesterday’s effort.

When I got home, Scamp was on cooking duty so I had almost an hour in St Mo’s and came upon the little deer almost right away. As usual, I had the wrong lens on the Nikon, but managed to change and grab a few shots before Bambi took off.

Salsa tonight was a bit of a mix up with Jamie G taking over one of Colin’s classes and trying to teach a move that was new to both his class and Colin’s. Of course, us as old hands knew it (Romeo and Juliet) It was a bit of a shambles to start with, but then it began to flow a lot better. Let’s hope they all, or at least most of them, come back next week.

Beautiful sunset tonight after a lovely day with loads of sunshine.  I didn’t photograph the sunset.  Yes, it was lovely, but everyone forgets that if you don’t have a decent foreground and an interesting midground, a beautiful sunset is just some oversaturated colours flung together.  So speaks Oscar the Grouch!

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It’s supposed to rain.

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Vote, Vote, Vote – 8 June 2017

Today it rained on the good, on the great and on the politicians. Today was voting day.

It rained on everyone today. It was dry for a couple of hours in the morning and that’s when I was smart enough to get the above shot of the coal tit. It was hovering for ages just beside the peanuts waiting for its time slot. It hovered almost like a humming bird. I grabbed my trusty Nikon with the 300mm lens and it had stopped humming and hovering. Not to worry, I got some shots of all the coal tits and blue tits on the peanuts. They move so quickly, the little birds, mainly because they are feeding their young just now.

By eleven it was raining and it simply forgot to go off. We drove up to the school to vote for the least worst party, that’s how bad it is this year. I just hope that June 9th isn’t a May day. A Theresa May day.

After doing our duty, we drove to Robroyston for a coffee and just to say we had been out. After that we went to Bishopbriggs by a circuitous route because of one road closure and no diversion signs. East Dumbarton must be as bad as NLC. We went for Scamp to get some ‘messages’ and me to look at new tech in Currys. She was successful, I wasn’t. The ‘New’ Linx 64bit ‘puter Val told me about is a backward step, as far as I can see. Only one USB 2 slot and a touch pad that has a mind of its own. We drove back through the canal that is the M80. Well, that’s what it feels like in places.

Basically, that was it. I repaired the pocket on my M&S jeans. Scamp tweaked her music for Gems. I did a sketch of a cassette tape and by then it was bedtime.

Frantically hoping for better weather tomorrow.

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The Dragons are back – 4 June 2017

We had intended going to the West End Festival in Glasgow today, but decided to have a lazy day at home instead.  There was to be no procession and that’s the highlight of the event every year.

Scamp got busy planting, planting and more planting.  Me?  I went for a walk instead.  Walked around St Mo’s and got a few photos of a couple of mating damselflies.  I was using the Oly 10 because it was the most versatile tool for general shooting.  The 45-200 zoom is a great lens and works well for close ups when you attach the extension tubes.  You lose a couple of stops of exposure, but it was a bright day again and exposure wasn’t a problem.

On my second circuit of the pond, a dragonfly caught my eye.  Waited for it to land and get comfortable then got one shot before it flew away to circle the wee pond.  Then it returned to the same grass stem, but it wasn’t comfortable and with each move I made it flew off.  Eventually it settled down on a reed and I got the shot above.  I was quite pleased with it.  It’s a Four-spotted Chaser male as you probably already knew.  Set the shutter speed high (1/800) and aperture fairly deep (f9) and that amounted to an ISO of a manageable 1250.  You just couldn’t do things like that with the Teazer, so it had a day at home.  The dragonfly is a Four-spotted Chaser male but you probably knew that already.  Lots more beastie pictures on the Flickr page.

Came home and Scamp was finished working in the garden.  Finished working, but not finished with the garden.  No, she wanted to get some photos of us sitting outside with our new drinks holders.  We got them yesterday as well as a barrow load of plants.  Set up the tripod, bolted on the Oly 5 only to find that the battery was flat and the spare one had just started charging.  I tried using the Teazer, but it’s so hard to use without a flip up screen.  Eventually got the photo using Scamp’s camera and it has already been sent out to all my readers I think.

Took my dodgy left knee to the physio to see what he could deduce from a bit of prodding and pulling.  His deduction was that it was a healthy knee.  He thinks I’ve maybe nicked a ligament at the back of the knee and it’s now well on the way to being repaired.  He gave me some exercises to do and wouldn’t take any payment.  Good guy.

Today’s sketch is of the Campsie Fells viewed through the back bedroom window.  Just a quick watercolour that gains entry into J’ Ink because of the penwork.

The only fly in today’s ointment is the fact that I’ve got a fasting blood test tomorrow morning and a full dance card for the rest of the day.  Never mind, it’s all in a good cause.  May take my healthy knee out for a walk if the weather allows.