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A better day than yesterday – 7 December 2017

Yes, it was a better day than yesterday, but that wouldn’t be difficult.

We were driving to Wishaw General hospital for Scamp’s checkup today. Nothing to report, everything normal. It’s hard to believe that a year ago just now, the whole thing was just starting. Now, a year later we’re so grateful for that short conversation at salsa class.

I’d half intended driving in to Glasgow afterwards, but it was so cold and dismal, we decided to go straight home. Scamp had still a lot of prep to complete too before the Witches Christmas banquet tomorrow and I was hoping against hope that there would be a short break in the clouds to allow me to get out to take some photos. As it happened, we both achieved our stated goals.

While Scamp was out emptying the shelves at ASDA, I got ready to go out because the sun was shining. I’d just got changed and putting my boots on when the rain came on. I waited until it went off and grabbed my camera. Pity I didn’t look in the camera bag first, then I might have noticed the absence of the Tamron lens. I got today’s PoD outside the park. A rook sitting on the school railings. The pigeon above its head was a ‘lucky’. In the park I noticed a deer wandering around aimlessly just on the tree line. Carefully took out the Nikon and noticed that it had a short lens on. No long lens in the bag. Not to worry, I had my trusty Teazer in my pocket. Grabbed two shots and realised immediately that something was wrong. The camera was set to full automatic, which means its zoom is a combination of optical and digital. Never a good thing. By the time I got the settings changed, the deer, two of them were off and running into the trees. The images were useless. Basically, they were just cropped JPEG files.

Walked home with the rook photos in the bag so all was not lost and made pizza for lunch. It was good, but not great. Need more practise with oven baked pizza.

Spent the evening beginning the tidy-up for Jackie arriving next week. I’ve now found a sofa in the back room under discarded jeans, tee shirts, a couple of bags and a couple of drawing boards, so at least she’ll have somewhere to sleep! May have to continue the exercise over the weekend because I’m sure there’s a carpet under all the magazines. Looks like there’s a cold couple of days ahead with ice and snow forecast for tomorrow and into the beginning of next week.

I’d dropped Scamp off at the entrance to the hospital this morning and gone to park the car. At least, for once the architects had considered the parking requirements of this new hospital, but it was when I was walking back to the hospital building that I noticed an almost total lack of sensible footpaths. Yes, there were some twisty turny pretty looking pathways, but they simply aren’t practical. Once you’ve parked at a hospital, you just want to get into the building as quickly and as safely as possible. I was mulling this over as I was walking out of St Mo’s too, when I realised that the path I was following was made by the deer. Now, here’s an idea for the architects. Instead of creating meandering paths that look pretty, but are impractical, try this. Just grass the whole area. Keep the grass cut for about a year. After that people will have made up their own minds where the paths should go. You may not like it, but they will have taken the shortest and safest routes from A to B. Now all you need to do is turn those muddy paths into real walking routes with tarmac or paving slabs. I’ll even allow you to put curves in to satisfy your artistic desires. Now everyone is happy. If you later find that a new ‘people route’ had been created, firm that up too and there you have a democratic set of walking routes. If you want you can mention that you saw the idea here!

Tomorrow it’s my turn to cook.

  1. Bread is out of the freezer tonight and thawing as I write. It should be good to prove (rise) and be baked tomorrow morning. If not I will have time to make a new batch.

  2. Veg to chop and filo pastry to form into nests for the starters. May have time to bake it before I go out, if not I’ll leave it in Scamp’s capable hands.

  3. Time to make myself scarce. I think a trip in to Glasgow is on the cards.

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Recovery – 4 December 2017

After an exhausting night’s dancing, today was a day to recover … for a short while before more torture dancing tonight.

The day started fairly late for me. Nearly 10.30am before I surfaced properly. After that, the first item on the agenda was to get moving and wash the car. Poor Juke was looking a bit down in the mouth and needed a swift shampoo. After that, it was nearly lunchtime. Then a short respite before Gems arrived. I just had to get out, because today the wee souls were singing Christmas Carols, my least favourite musical interlude.

I took myself off to look for photos down the Luggie. I’d only walked a few yards along the river when I disturbed a deer on the far bank. Now it’s stretching it to call the Luggie a river. It’s really a burn, or if you’re not Scottish, a stream, so the deer wasn’t far away. Perfect shot for the Oly … except:

  1. The white balance was still set for indoor lighting, so consequently everything in the finder was blue. Soon fixed that, but the deer was gone, but magically another, smaller one took its place.

  2. Tried the shot with the white balance set to auto, but when I pressed the shutter nothing happened. More correctly, something happened. The self timer was still set to 12 seconds. You’d be surprised how far a deer can run in 12 seconds. No chance.

Moral of the story is make sure your camera is on the correct settings for the conditions. Preferably before you lose the shot. I was just walking away from my lost deer when I turned and saw a third deer haring (or should that be deering) up the hill. One adult and two young deer and I missed every one of them. That left some weeds in the failing light, so that’s the reason for the esoteric and ethereal PoD.

Salsa tonight was poorly attended as salseros nursed aching legs, aching feet and a multitude of bruises inflicted by over-excited and under-experienced beginners. Ok, some of older ones should have known better and didn’t, but some of the beginners had been hitting the ‘happy water’ quite heavily before they arrived and were seriously out of control (and probably out of their box too). We went over four recent moves tonight, only one of which was entitled ‘hasn’t got a name yet’.

Off to Falkirk tomorrow to speak to the FA.

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Brie, Apple & Honey again – 16 November 2017

A cold clear start to the day. Blue sky and sunny, but low temperatures.

I suppose I should have gone out early to get some photos, but I didn’t and by the time we were heading out, the clouds were gathering. We drove to Clachan of Campsie, not to Wheelcraft, but to the gallery tearoom and that’s where I got my second brie, apple and honey sandwiches. If you’ve not tried it, you are really missing out. I’ve tried it on brown bread and on white now and I think brown is the winner. Last time I had it in the gallery the apple was sliced micro thin. This time they were in big chunks. I think big chunks suit the rustic theme here. Sorry, got a bit cheffy there 😉

Got caught by the rain on the way home. We were just in Torrance, so it’s true that “Down came the rain in Torrance” – Gospel Chorus. Then as we were almost home on the motorway, the rain was still falling but the sun was shining from a bright blue sky! It’s Scotland, you expect that sort of thing!

When we arrived home I did go out for an hour or so to get PoD which might look quite good, but that’s only thanks to the adjustment brush and the graduated filters that brought some life to the sky. Still, it was worth it to see the final result.

Drove in to Glasgow tonight to help out at yet another beginners class, this time in Barca.  It was a good laugh and I think we both enjoyed it.  Didn’t enjoy the walk back to the car though.  Too many wideos and jakies hanging around Glasgow at that time of night.  However, it did increase our step-count for the day.

Tomorrow is coffee with Val. The rest of the day will revolve around that.

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Walking in the sunshine – 5 November 2017

Another cold night last night. Temperature this morning was around 2ºc. It did rise to almost comfortable numbers, as long as you were well wrapped up.

It took quite a while for the temperature to rise and that’s my excuse for not getting the bike out of the storage room. I could say cold storage, but that might be a pun too far. I didn’t take the bike. I wish I had now, because in the sun it felt warm and there was no wind.

Just after midday I decided that it would be more sensible to go for a walk in the bright sunshine and get some pictures than to drag the bike out, pump up the tyres (if I could find the pump), get dressed for cycling and head out. For some reason, Auchinstarry is becoming very popular at weekends. I think it must be a place to park the car, then take the bike along the railway path or the canal towpath. I was doing the canal towpath then the railway path.

There wasn’t all that much wildlife to see along the route, but I stopped when I was crossing the Plantation to listen and look. The sky was clear, so you could see for miles. Far enough to see a tiny wee dot that gradually circled near enough to resolve itself into a high flying buzzard. What could it see from that viewpoint? Listening, at first there was only silence. Then gradually the noises of the countyside came in, mainly rustling of the leaves in the giant copper beech beside the path. As I was beginning to hear this, a breeze blew and the leaves flew across the path. Then traffic sounds came in and a passenger plane crossed the sky heading for Glasgow and the rustling of the leaves was gone as was the buzzard. Possibly just over a minute of natural sights and sounds in a 21st century day. Worth watching and listening to if you get the chance.

Walked back to the car and joined the real world again. Drove home and processed the photos for today. Today’s PoD is the macro shot of the moss. Usually I shoot the fruiting bodies, but the red spikes made a change. I also liked the single leaf. Yes, yes, I know. NO PICTURES OF AUTUMN LEAVES. I made the rule, so I can break it. I could say it wasn’t the colours that drew me in, but it was. That and the fact that I was shooting into the light. In fact, in both cases I was shooting into the light, contre jour. I like that lighting. It can give more intense colour in the subject and less colour in the background.

Not a bad day for a walk then. Just a pity I didn’t take the bike, like everyone else at Auchinstarry.

Tomorrow I might go in to Glasgow to get a couple of cheap sketchbooks. Maybe toned ones for a change.

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Strathaven & Sunday School Trips – 2 November 2017

Just another of Scotland’s spelling mistakes. Not pronounced Strath Aven, but Stray Ven. Why? It just is.  OK?

Drove up to Strathaven and parked just off the Common Green then walked to the park. As I was getting my camera bag out of the car I saw my PoD, that’s it up at the top. It was the low directional light I liked and the way it produced the radiating shadows from the gate. One in the bag almost before we’d even gone a step!

Still, the reason we were in Strathaven was to go for a walk in the park. If you live, or have lived in Lanarkshire, you will almost certainly have been to Strathaven Park at some time in your life. Years ago it was THE place to go for Sunday School Trips. That was back in the days when almost everyone you knew went to Sunday School every Sunday. I was going to say we went there religiously, but thought better of it! A Sunday School Trip was just a giant picnic somewhere, once a year in the summer. If it rained, and it usually did, a church hall would have been commandeered and there we would eat our ‘pieces’, cakes and biscuits. We would drink our diluted orange juice or milky tea both would have been dispensed from giant teapots. Pre-made milky tea straight from the teapot? Maybe that’s why I gave up drinking my tea with milk when I was about 15. Sunday School Trips were sometimes to the coast, like Ayr or Troon, but sometimes it was to a park, like Strathaven Park, or John Hastie Park to give it its proper name. As I remember it, it was great fun, but those were simpler times and a day in the park with cold meat paste ‘pieces’ washed down with cool milky tea wouldn’t interest too many of today’s teenagers. <Reading that back, I sound like some old codger!>

It had been a cold morning and I almost expected to see ice on the boating pond, but it was just one big flat calm stretch of water. That’s it above, sort of. It’s been dunked in a bucket of Photoshop and wrung out to dry. It’s actually a mirror image of the boating pond and what you see is the reflection slightly desaturated and cropped to remove the ‘real’ scene. I think it’s quite effective.

We had lunch in a wee cafe we went to the last time we were in Strathaven. Last time we sat outside in the sun, but that was August and this was November and the temperature was around 9ºc so we had an inside seat.

We left Strathaven behind and headed up the road to Muirkirk. It was a pleasant enough run on a beautiful day, but when we go there, it was shut. Not just one shop, but both shops were shut! Not much of a tourist trap then. Maybe we went there on the wrong day, but I don’t think so. Drove back by a different route through Douglas then on to the M74 and home.

Beautiful day, good company and an interesting walk, even if I was walking through a different park, one from fifty years ago.

Tomorrow we have lunch booked.

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Messages and Beer – 1 November 2017

Yet another dull, dreich day.

I thought we should really go out somewhere today, even if it was just to get messages. That’s what we did. We drove to Falkirk in the rain, essentially to get some beer. I did get some beer, it wasn’t the beer I’d gone for, but at least we got out. We just drove home after that, again in the rain. It was that sort of day. A day when you felt you had to go out, but when you were out you didn’t want to be there, if that makes sense. Maybe it’s something that just happens to me!

The same thing happened later in the afternoon when I walked over to St Mo’s to see if there were any photos wanting to be taken. Then the sun came out and I started to enjoy the experience. I also started to actively look for photos instead of just clicking the shutter. Making photos rather than just taking them.

Processed the photos when I got back and then it was time for dinner which was fish ‘n’ chips made tonight by Scamp.

Drove to salsa and am at present sitting out writing the blog because there are far too many men and most of the beginners are so thick they can’t count. They also don’t seem to know the difference between Forward and Back. I feel sorry for Jamie because he’s trying his best to explain the moves, but some people don’t seem to listen.

Tomorrow it looks like it will be dry, bright and cold. We may go out tomorrow if we can borrow a coat to wear!

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Halloween – 31 October 2017

What a dull, dank, dreary day.

It was almost 3pm before I risked leaving the house today. Up until the, it had been damp and dismal (I think that’s me got the ‘d’ alliteration out of my system). Even when I went out, I had to have the lights on in the car. This is such depressing weather, I can imagine how folk get Seasonally Affected Disorder well named by its acronym SAD. I’m glad my painting room has a daylight bulb in it and that the bathroom has daylight LED lights. Brightens up your day more than the weak yellowish sunlight does.

Only went out to get ‘messages’ for dinner. Do you know, I had to unlock the front door because I was the first one to cross the threshold! I wasn’t out long, but when I came back the headlights came on automatically on the car, because it was indeed growing dark.

I had already planned today’s PoD and it worked out quite well, ‘Bride of Frankenstein’. The ability to use the iPhone as a trigger for the camera is a great idea. Very useful for indoor shots.

Today’s sketch is the last in Inktober 2017 for obvious reasons. I can’t believe the number of folk who are asking on the Facebook ‘Inktober’ page if they can keep posting there. Eh, the clue is in the name. If you want to post your artwork, and some of it is so amazingly detailed, I think it must be drawn in advance, or nicked from the ‘net, then feel free to create your own page for NovINKber or some such. Me, I’m closing down my Flickr Inktober 2017 group on Friday. That gives the slow-coaches a couple of days to catch up. Today’s sketch is on toned Ingres paper and is of the workhorse of my sketching, the Micron 0.3mm pen and a bottle of white ink which I’ve re-discovered for adding highlights to the toned paper work. If I particularly feel like doing a sketch tomorrow, I’ll do one, but there is no pressure now to keep up with the one-a-day. It was fun last year and it was fun doing ’28 Days Later’ in February, but this year Inktober was a bit of a drag. Feeling burnt out now and looking forward to a rest (and a few early nights too!)

Tomorrow we are expecting more rain, so we may go to the gym.

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Follow the yellow brick road – 24 October 2017

Today we went to Ikea, where you have to follow the ‘yellow brick road’ round the store, except …

Actually, the yellow brick road with the arrows painted on the floor has been modernised, updated and illuminated.  Now its a light that projects an arrow on the floor.  How enterprising.  I found it less intimidating.  I could stand under the projector and the arrow disappeared.  That meant I was free to go wherever I pleased, without being condemned to go where the arrow pointed, because I was controlling the arrow!!  Excellent.  We just browsed the ground floor of the store because we were looking for a floor lamp.  We didn’t find one that Scamp liked.  I got a frame for the pastel picture and tonight I cut a mat and framed it.  It’s hanging behind me now, but it’s a bit dark in this corner and I think I might move it.

When we came out of Ikea at Braehead, Scamp wanted to go for a cup of coffee, so me being a bit flash, typed Costa into the satnav and sure enough it showed all the nearby Costas.  Off we went following the directions.  Only, it took us down a filter lane at a roundabout, then promptly changed its mind and decided we should have gone straight ahead.  Worse still, the filter lane became the slip road on to the motorway, taking us back into Glasgow.  After much swearing and harrumphing by me, we settled on going to  the Costa at Robroyston instead.  Much easier to navigate.  Possibly the worst part of the whole escapade was that I KNEW where the Costa was, I was just following the sat nav to see if it knew an alternative route.  I’ll be more circumspect when taking its instructions in future.

Back home I started looking for a website where I’d used a Java powered page that worked out optimal rebates for a picture mat.  That’s the edge bits round the aperture that you see the picture through.  I found the references to the page, but apparently the page itself has disappeared.  Every link gave an error 404 (not found).  Gave up eventually and took some useful information from a picture framers forum, then started to write my own program in Excel.  Mine only uses metric sizes, although I did see one written for Excel where you could put in sizes down to 1/16th inch accuracy.  I’m still not sure how the writer managed to code the conversion to decimal inches and then back again to fractions for the output.  Too much work.  I remember working out sizes  of bolt groups for steelwork using feet and inches and being so relived when we went over to the metric system.  Anyway, I got it working and it produces a decent mat.

After the mammoth calculations in Excel, I went out to St Mo’s to clear my head and try to get some photos.  It had been a decidedly wet drive in through Glasgow in the morning, and a dry and bright drive home, but by the time I went out for a walk it was just our usual dull.  Today’s photo I liked because of the twists and turns in the dried weed, but the ISO was 1000!

Yes, I did open the box.  I’m sure you knew I would Hazy. Like I said in the description of the sketch on Flickr:

*I opened the box, and inside was a thin slab of black glass with a silver rim. Amazingly this slab of glass can bring me pictures from all around the world and allow me to speak to people thousands of miles away. I call it black magic!*

When I look back on it, it’s been a busy day.  Most days are now we’re retired.  When did we ever have the time to work, or to put it another way, what did we have to give up to allow us to work?

Tomorrow the weather should be better than today.  We may go out and take pieces!

 

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Finally – 20 October 2017

Up and out fairly early this morning. It was light and blue sky was beginning to show and it was before 10am which is pretty good for me.

Wandered over to St Mo’s wearing my old corduroy trousers which, being brown, don’t show that they are clabbered in muck! I’d put the Sigma 105mm macro lens on the Nikon, not expecting to see any deer because they’d start grazing around daybreak when I’d still be snoring. Just entered the pine woods when I spotted movement at the bottom of the hill. At first I thought it was a young deer, then I realised it was quite a large fox. It was so intent on jumping around, presumably hunting field mice an other rodents, it didn’t notice me and this gave me time to change to the Tamron 300. I fired off ten shots hoping one of them would turn out before it heard/smelled/saw me. That gave me time to concentrate and get a better shot. I got three more shots before he/she was off, striding away out away from the trees. A couple of seconds later I caught a glimpse of his/her brush just visible behind an old stone wall going in the other direction. Now it could have been a different fox, but the one I photographed was quite large and therefore probably quite old and sly. Fly as a weasel … or a fox! I guess it was the same one, loping off in one direction and then running back the opposite way to put me off the scent. Whatever, those were the last shots I was going to get of a fox this morning. I just hoped the Tamron had performed.

Didn’t see anything else of much note all along the walk through the deciduous trees, although I did see some interestingly shaped fungi. The fungi reminded me of some of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural roof details. Could that be where he got his ideas from? Very Art Nouveau. The rest are just macro shots of bits of plants. I like them, but I don’t expect anyone else to.

In the afternoon Scamp decided to finally take the secateurs to the sweetpea plants that she’d lovingly grown from seed. They had provided posy after posy of flowers to brighten and scent the livingroom. The front garden will look quite bare now that they are gone. That gave us a reason to go out this afternoon to take some garden waste to the dump. Of course we should be putting it in the Brown recycling bin, but only when the cooncil decides that it can afford to buy some for us! Hell may freeze over …

Scamp was getting fired up to go to her Witches Disco Party tonight when I got an email from DPD to say that the phone would be delivered on Monday. While I was making my dinner tonight, after Scamp had left, I also got a text from the Vogons to say that someone would phone in the next half hour. Really, the Vogons must be strapped for cash, I could hardly make out a word the poor girl was saying. What it amounted to was that she was “Very, very, very, sorry”. There were probably a few more ‘verys’ there, but she did explain a few things and I did keep her on the phone for about 20 minutes before I finally acceded to her request to close the complaint. Hells Bells, the Vogons had kept me waiting for a week for my phone. I could keep her waiting for 20 minutes. That said, she was as good as her word and sent me a text later with confirmation that the phone would be delivered on Monday. She also confirmed that it was a new handset, not a second hand one as I suspected it might be. You have to be careful dealing with Vogons, as I’ve found out.

Dinner tonight was an Ostrich Sirloin Steak. I’m not sure I’ll have one again. It was a bit tough and not all that tasty. Bear in mind, though, that I was doing deals with the Vogons while I was eating it.

Tonight’s sketch is of a bottle and glass of St Peter’s Plum Porter (an alliterative stout). Very nice it tasted too.

Tomorrow? Well, it depends when Scamp arrives home and what state she’s in au matin!

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Glasgow in the Rain – 18 October 2017

Now, I like Glasgow. It has beautiful architecture, some fairly decent shops and a good Cafe Nero, but Glasgow in the rain is like any other city in the rain – dismal.

I imagine that’s what the picture at the top shows. Its description on Flickr said “It’s Scotland. We specialize in gloomy.” It was my PoD. I’ve become a lot less invasive with my editing since I got the iMac. Up until last week I was applying the techniques from the French bloke Serge Ramelli. They work well, but give a rather false look and everyone looks the same or similar. Since I got the iMac I’ve been experimenting with a much simpler and less extreme group of settings and I like that better than Mr Ramelli’s technicolor marvels.

Photography aside, we went to Glasgow to get a party wig for Scamp who is going to said party on Friday. It’s to be standard Halloween fare for the ‘Witches’. Lots of drink, lots of food and a good laugh. Luckily it’s girls only, so I am spared the excesses. Also luckily it’s someone else’s turn to drive, so I have Friday night off. We did eventually find a wig. Nothing very special, but at least we got one. Not in Glasgow, though. Everything there was overpriced and tacky. I had forgotten how many pop-up shops appear like toadstools around autumn. Each shop selling the same tat for the same price. Is there a cartel running here simply to fleece the unwary at Halloween. I know these same shops will disappear overnight on the 1st of November, then pop up again on the 2nd November disguised as jolly Xmas shops.

Spent the afternoon writing an email complaint to Vodies. Maybe that should be Vogons, because “Resistance is Useless” (Not ‘Futile’ – that was Star-trek.) Then set about cataloguing my photo collection using Lightroom. So far I’ve got from 2000 to 2004. A little bit at a time is the way to do it.

Salsa tonight was interesting for a while, but the 7.30 class was boring because it has shrunk again to about six couples, three of whom are ‘advanced’ helpers. Not at all good. It’s due to close in three weeks.

Today’s sketch is the phone. Not nearly my best and yesterday’s (done this afternoon!) was little better. Must try harder.

Tomorrow? Maybe Falkirk.