Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?

Magic Millarochy – 30 April 2018

I got up at just after 8.30 this morning to make the breakfast and to fire up the oven because it was sourdough baking time again.

Yes, I’d made the leaven on Saturday and used it on Sunday to make the dough. This time I thought I’d made a stiffer dough, but when I left the dough to stand ( you don’t knead sourdough with this recipe, you fold it and then allow it to stand for half an hour or so) it became quite wet and sloppy again. That said, it had been rising happily overnight in it’s cane basket and now looked ready to bake, so I whacked it (gently) on to the pizza stone that came out blazing hot from the oven and it promptly slumped down again like a balloon that was blown up a week ago and is now a bit slack. Oh well, nothing ventured etc. I hacked into the top of it to give it space to rise and put it into the fiery furnace for about 45 minutes. When I took it out and tapped the bottom it sounded ’toom’ which was one of my mum’s words. It means empty or hollow. Try using it some time. Anyway, a hollow sound is good.

With my loaf cooling on the rack, I started to plan the rest of my day. It was a beautiful day too, Blue skies all round and a temperature that was just entering the teens. This was a Gems day, so I thought I’d go a run for a change and chose Millarochy Bay as my destination. After sharing the first cut of the loaf with Scamp, I used it to make up a packed lunch and with a flask and the makings of coffee I got in the car. Set the satnav for the postcode of the campsite near the bay and off I went. I followed the directions until I reached a sign that said ‘Road Closed’. Little was I to know that would be the first of many. Made the recommended detour and after being stuck behind a slow moving truck full of asphalt, no doubt going somewhere to fill in potholes, I took the turning to my next ‘Road Closed’. Found the detour again and was almost at my turn off when I came across a third ‘Road Closed’. This time my turn off came just before the road did close. After that it was plain sailing and I arrived at Millarochy Bay just about fifteen minutes after the satnav had initially predicted.

The carpark was very, very busy, but I was lucky enough to find a free space. Had my lunch looking out at a view similar to the PoD you see at the top of the page. Went for a walk and got a few photos, well just over fifty, but who’s counting. It was still a beautiful day and it was getting even warmer. Unfortunately it was soon time to go so I had to pack up and head back. This time the satnav took me out towards Stirling and although it was a greater travelling distance, it was on much faster roads, much wider roads too.

Started processing the photos in Lightroom and also in ON1 which I bought last night. It’s not nearly as bad as I’d initially thought and is really very adaptable. You get lost in it very easily with all the options and variations available. Some of the effects are a bit tacky and probably not much use, but some are very useful. More on this app as I dig deeper in to its potential uses.

Salsa tonight was a bit underwhelming. Too many leaders in the 6.30 class so I helped out in Will’s. Jamie’s was disappointing. Too many obscure and pointless moves now. Just because they are weird, they aren’t necessarily wonderful. Salsa moves have to be stylish or adventurous. The ones we’ve been doing for the last month have been neither. No Salsa next Monday as it’s a Bank Holiday and probably none for us on Wednesday because he won’t be taking the class. That may mean Shannon which would not be good or perhaps Irene and Andrew which I’d rather avoid.

Tomorrow Scamp’s car goes in for MOT, so we have a free day after we drop it off.

Oh, one last thing. We were driving home and came to the traffic lights at Charing Cross in Glasgow and noticed a sign saying M8 Closed Eastbound (that’s us). Oh no! The curse of the Road Closed rears its ugly head again. When the lights turned green, everybody seemed to ignore it, so that’s what we did too and there were no road works to be seen. Probably somebody’s idea of a joke, just to annoy me!

Dancing Day – 18 April 2018

Today we were better prepared for Michael’s class and I was better prepared for Michael too.

We had one quick possibly three minute practise in the living room before we went in to Glasgow. Just enough to prove to ourselves (i.e. ME) that we had mastered the first run of steps from the Box Step through the Whisk & Wing to the Chasse then on through the difficult (for me) reverse section and the Promenade into the corner. We didn’t have enough room to do the prepare step for the Natural Turn and the turn itself, but we were sure we could wing it (no pun intended).

In Glasgow we were sure we could do it, but I stumbled a bit in the reverse section and that’s when Michael pounced and started to tell me what I had done wrong. I knew what I had done wrong and I also knew that he wasn’t going to give me another lecture that just wasted more of our precious time. I turned to meet him face to face and told him that his constant interruptions were doing more harm than good because it was destroying our flow. I think he needs face to face contact to know that you’re speaking to him, because he does have a hearing problem. I also believe he uses that as a way to ignore you. He didn’t get the chance to ignore me. He agreed, but still showed me what I was doing wrong, I accepted it, but that was the last correction he made in the hour we were there. Maybe he wasn’t best pleased with me speaking back to him, but I don’t care. Both waltz and jive were much better than last week. That doesn’t mean that I can do either with any degree of skill, but we are much better than when we started.

On the way back to the car I got today’s PoD. Well, it’s actually two photos merged in Photoshop. Not the most successful piece of photo manipulation, but not bad. Again, the photos took about five minutes and the post processing took around two hours.

Wednesday dinner is a much more leisurely affair now that we are going to the later salsa classes. On today’s menu was Prawn & Pea Risotto. It was deemed the best I’ve made by the food critics (Scamp and me). I think it was down to the vast amount of butter I used.

In class tonight, we finished with La Rosa, Zorro and Infinity. All rueda moves and all utterly confusing. I imagine these are their real names because Jamie just rhymed them off so quickly. I must look them up some time on YouTube.

Not a bad day and a warm one too with lots of sunshine on offer. Tomorrow looks like being even better, so we may go out somewhere nice.

Burnt Water – 17 April 2018

Coffee with Fred today. Lots of stuff to discuss.

This was a change of day for us. Usually we’re there on Thursday or occasionally Friday. This week it was Tuesday. We’d books to exchange and TV programs to criticise and building control department to castigate for messing up Fred’s daughter’s extension. Basically we just complained about stuff for a couple of hours, then agreed that we’d had a good natter.

Came out of that dive with the sour taste of the last cup of something described as ‘coffee’, but was really burnt water, or so it felt to me. Went to get some gardening and painting stuff:

  • Seed potatoes. Charlotte, one of Scamp’s favourite varieties.
  • Twine to make a climbing frame for Scamp’s broad beans.
  • Tester paint pots to use as cheap gesso for painting boards

Came home to a slightly rearranged garden again and had it explained to me. I’m sure I’ll forget the finer details, but I have the basic idea of what was achieved while I was out drinking burnt water.

Since Scamp was making dinner I had some time to go and get a photo or two in St Mo’s. Like yesterday, today was a mixture of sunshine and showers. What we used to expect in April a few years ago before the jet stream started messing around with our weather. With that thought in my mind I grabbed my jacket and camera bag and went to see what I could see. What I saw was somebody sitting on a seat looking out over the BMX track and thought it would make a decent shot, especially if I reduced it to mono and darkened the sky, cropped it and … So I took a few shots from different positions and exposure setting. Walked round the pond after that, but saw nothing else interesting.

After dinner (Chicken with a mushroom and shallot sauce since you’re asking), I started to process the pics. About two hours later, after a fair bit of swearing, I finally exported the finished result into Flickr. Takes about two or three minutes to take the shots and two hours to make the picture. The new software I’m using on trial is ON1 2018 and it is very flash, a bit heavy on special effects and unable to export without crashing (twice). I may not shell out the $69 for the pleasure of beta testing their dodgy software for them.

We did manage a bit of dance practise tonight again. Just the waltz, but I’m happier with it after yesterday and today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tomorrow is dancing day!

Friday The Thirteenth. Ooh Scary – 13 April 2018

Today we took the train in to Glasgow.

Scamp offered to drive us to the station, partly because it was easy to park and partly because we are hoping to go to Kilmarnock tomorrow to visit an old friend and I will be driving. Parked, walked smartly to the station and the train drove in just as we reached the platform. That was nice.

We walked down through George Square and that’s where I saw the seagulls (aka Shitehawks) having a food fight. Too good an opportunity to miss, so I grabbed a few shots. The Teazer excels in low grey light, low contrast light. It’s not so good now in bright contrasty conditions. That’s because it’s always in my jacket pocket with all the lint and oos (Remember oos? It’s a gran word for dust and wool fibres. It’s got a hard ’S’ at the end not like ooze more like the ’S’ in keys.). Oos. Try to find some today and say the word. Remember the word. Some words shouldn’t be left to die. But I digress. The oos gets into the lens and causes flare in the photos. Today the Teazer had no problem with the soft, flat, grey light.

As we walked down the same streets as we walk on a Wednesday I realised that we hadn’t practised our ballroom steps as we should have. Must get some practise done at the weekend. I refuse to have another disaster Wednesday. Scamp was heading for M&S and we went in through the side door. I told her I’d go to Millers in Stockwell Street and meet her in ten minutes. When I went to leave by the front door, Wow! There were hundreds of people milling around on Argyle Street. No, not a hyperbole, there must have been at least 200 people there and they were walking en mass up Stockwell Street, something was up. Then I noticed that one building and a shop were being evacuated across the street. There were people with clipboards, people with coloured paddles organising other folk into manageable groups and checking off names. I went back in and phoned Scamp to tell her, just in case M&S were going to follow suit when all the folk started to walk back to the building they’d recently exited. No fire engine, no police cars or ambulances. No sirens. Either it was a false alarm or today, Friday 13th, had been chosen as a safety drill by someone with a sense of humour. By the time Scamp appeared, none of the two hundred odd folk were to be seen. Weird.

Went along to Paesano and had a pizza lunch. We both had the customised pizzas we’d discussed the last time we were in Paesano and both agreed the customising is the way to go in future.

While Scamp was in a shop in Bucky Street I grabbed the shot of the bloke on the phone, talking to his Boss!!

Walked through to Cass Art and on the way grabbed my PoD outside the GOMA.  I think looks quite smart in mono.

Back home I found a parcel waiting for me. This was the second of my birthday parcels from JIC. I won’t say what it is, just that it’s very personalised and really quite funny. Photo coming soon when I get a chance to take time over the capture.

Tomorrow we are hoping to visit an old friend we haven’t seen for a long time. Looking forward to it.

Two left feet – 4 April 2018

A case of on, off, on, why did I bother.

Scamp got a text this morning from the dance teacher to say that the class was cancelled today. She texted back “Disappointed, but OK.” Next text that came in was “Sorry, class back on again.” So we wrapped up warm and headed out into the blizzard that was blowing from the dreaded east again. Not snow this time, but more like sleet. Visibility was poor on the M80 and traffic was taking it nice and easy. Got down to the dance class in time though.

Started with Waltz and it wasn’t going well. I got half way through the routine and then started making it up! Eagle-eyed Michael (the teacher) saw it and pointed out what I was doing wrong and also how to fix it. Tried again and again and again and every time it was wrong. Eventually I think he gave up and said that I had most of it right. Then he showed me the next move which for some reason clicked right away. We’re still not sure exactly what it was called, but it was a turn of some sort and it felt quite natural, but it may not be the Natural Turn. With the mess I made of the routine up to there, it was probably the Unnatural Turn!

Anyway, now it was time for the Jive and that’s where things started to go downhill. Downhill and accelerating. Up to now we’ve been doing Ballroom Jive, but today we were doing the easier Glasgow Jive. Ballroom Jive is done to a count of eight and Glasgow Jive is done to a count of six … apparently. The waltz was just a case of me getting my steps mixed up. The jive was where the two left feet started taking over. It was bad enough trying to step through the routine, but when we came to dance it, it was impossible. I just had to stand there and laugh. This was going to take a long time and a lot of swearing!

I’d mixed up what’s called a Production Batch of sourdough before we left the house.  (The Production Batch is an extra strong version of the starter which you use in place of active yeast when making a sourdough loaf) It turned out far to claggy and thick and was impossible to stir, far less beat, so I added some more water to get a reasonable consistency. When we got home from the ballroom torture I discovered that it was quite a lively Production Batch. It was fizzing away nicely, so I stirred it up again and left it to sit until we came back from the next bit of dancing.

Salsa was good and although I like the idea of being able to waltz, salsa is so much more fun. However after an hour in the afternoon and then two and a half hours in the evening I was beginning to lag a bit when we finished our dancing day.

Back home the wild yeasts had been hard at work and the ‘head’ of the Production was up at the top of the jar. When I beat it back, there was a definite ‘boozy’ smell coming from it. Apparently a sign that it’s ready to go to work proper. Long story short, I’ve kneaded the dough and it’s now doing an overnight ‘prove’ (a first rise) and should be baked into a loaf tomorrow, all being well.

Today’s PoD was taken when we came out of the dance class. It has been a dull, wet, sleety day, but when we were driving in to salsa tonight, about 7pm there was beautiful light on the Campsie Fells. I would have stopped to take a few shots, but apparently the traffic police take a dim view of people who stop on the hard shoulder of the M80 with the excuse “But ah wis jist takin’ a few foties!”

Scamp is going singing with Gems tomorrow afternoon. I may be baking, or I may be going out looking for laptops and photos, but not necessarily in that order. I might even say bye bye to about six years of Windows 10 misery when I kill off my school Toshiba laptop and reinstall Win 10 before I sell it.

Dancing, dancing, all the day – 28 March 2018

“Shoes to set my feet a dancing” definitely help too.

Wet start to the day, but there was little chance of us having any free time anyway, so weather took a back seat. After feeding my sourdough starter we fed ourselves and it was time for the first dance classes of the day. Have I mentioned the sourdough starter? I’ll try to write a bit about it tomorrow. Today is about dancing.

First class is waltz. Very demanding for me, but I feel I’m getting there now. A practise session with Scamp yesterday helped greatly. The biggest help was the lesson last week with Michael’s second-in-command. Today the boss was back and I think we both did well under his eagle eye. I really believe it’s easier dancing with proper dance shoes rather than ordinary street shoes or trainers. I’ve been dancing salsa wearing trainers for years and never bothered with ballroom shoes, but for some reason, waltz especially is much easier (or less difficult) when I’m wearing those uncomfortable dance shoes.

I was on dinner duty tonight and as Scamp reminded me that we hadn’t had our dose of pasta this week, decided to make another attempt at Spaghetti dello Chef. This time I used spaghetti, garlic, chilli flakes, capers, tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes. Served with parmesan shavings. Not as good as last week in my opinion, but Scamp said it just tasted different.

The change of plan tonight was to go to the 7.30 and 8.30 classes. Ooh, staying up late! That is much better than having to face Shannon’s boringly repetitive routines and trying to keep a smile on my face. It’s dull, dull, dull, dear. Salsa should be fun, exciting and vibrant, all the things your classes aren’t. We got there earlier than I’d anticipated, so Scamp got to dance for about ten minutes at the end of Jamie’s 6.30 class which was oversubscribed by men as usual. I just stayed in the class and typed up the first half of this blog post on my phone. The 8.30 class was a revelation. For a level 3 class they were brilliant. I think we may make this a regular occurrence.

Today’s PoD was a grab shot of a fat pigeon sitting on the fence at the back garden. I liked the shadows cast by the tree on its plumage. Just a grab shot through the kitchen window.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Fred and Colin because Val has shingles. Poor guy.

The Fit Family – 27 March 2018

Today was gym day.

I avoided it yesterday by going cycling instead, but today I had to bite the bullet and go, because Scamp too had decided it was time to revisit the machines of torture. That said, we did take it easy in the morning and had our coffee before we grabbed the bags and went out in the rain.

It was harder than I anticipated. I did my 12 minutes on the recumbent cycle and then frittered away some more time on some of the weight machines and the treadmill before finishing up on the leg press. Scamp worked the treadmill for 15 minutes or so then competed for a place in next year’s Boat Race with a sparkling performance on the rowing machine. Next it was time for a relaxing swim and it may have been something we said or maybe the excessive sweat from my exertions was overpowering, but everyone left the pool when we went in. A few lengths of the minuscule pool and ten minutes in the sauna and we were out. That’s it for another week. Scamp thinks we might go earlier next time. She mentioned 8am, but I think (hope) that was a joke. If not, it was wishful thinking.

In the afternoon I went for a walk around St Mo’s to see if there was anything wanting its photo taken. Couldn’t see much at first, but then I spotted the little green shoots of sycamore seedlings sprouting through the leaf litter (PoD). Don’t know if many of them will survive, but it was a hopeful start seeing all the green shoots. One final shot of what may become a Larch flower (https://flic.kr/p/RZNASn). They look really remarkable when they burst into colour. Never knew pine trees had such beautiful blooms. It’s amazing what you see when you take the time. Just because there were no deer or foxes in the woods doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. You just have to look a little more carefully. It’s even better if you have a macro facility or lens for your camera. Once you’ve seen the world from 20mm in front of your nose, you’ll understand the fascination of this kind of photography.

It had been dry for most of the afternoon, but the rain came on when I was walking home, but it wasn’t such a dull day after all.

Tomorrow is Dancing Day with the possibility of a slightly different plan. Who knows?

Summer starts here – 25 March 2018

The start of British Summer Time and Fred and I are off to get some art inspiration and perhaps even some art if the price is right.

The clocks had jumped forward by an hour this morning. Well some of them had, the new, hooked-up, on-line ones were up to date and time, but the rest had to be pushed on an hour by hand, or more likely by finger. With that done it was time to sit down and watch the first F1 GP of the year. Felt sorry for Hamilton as he was cheated out of first place by a clever bit of rule twisting by Vettel. I don’t like Hamilton, but I detest Vettel.

Got ready to go in to Glasgow with Fred. We were going to an artist’s sale in the WASP studio. Nothing to do with White or Anglo-Saxon or Protestant, thankfully. WASPS in Glasgow are Workshop & Artists Studio Provision, and that’s where we were heading this morning to an Artist’s Clear Out Sale. Lots of stuff for sale. Ceramics, Glass, Paintings and some fabric work. Most of the prices were realistic, but a few were imaginative to say the least. I bought three ceramic bowls, small, medium and large. Fred got a brooch for his granddaughter. On the way back we passed an old school and with the sun shining on it, it looked worth a few photos. That’s what you see above. PoD was the old schoolhouse in the frame on the right. I tried a sketch of it when we got home, from the photo. It may or may not see the light of day. In fact, I may wait for the light of day to finish the washes on it.

Dancing this evening was at La Rambla in Paisley. Really enjoyable, probably because it’s weeks since we’ve been out dancing in public. No tapas today because of the length of time it took on our last couple of visits for our food to arrive, and of course, today it had been much quicker. That may have been because of a new ordering procedure suggested by Shannon, or it could have been because of the fewer numbers who were ordering food. Only time will tell.  Beautiful sunset as we were driving home after a really sunny day.

Tomorrow is Monday. That means the likelihood of gym or swim. I’ll decide which tomorrow.

Fire! – 22 March 2018

I decided to have some ‘me time’ today in Glasgow.

The plan was for me to take the bus in to Glasgow and then go to the West End on the subway for some sketching in the Botanic Gardens, then grab that shot from yesterday when I returned to the City Centre. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

On the way in there was an enormous pall of smoke on the horizon. A really mucky looking pall of smoke. Then I noticed Scamp had sent me a text to say that there was a big fire on Sauchiehall Street (AKA Sausage Roll Street). As we got near Glasgow I could see that it was indeed a big fire. Came out of the bus station and wandered round the side of the Concert Hall to see if there were any photos to be taken. There were, and hundreds of people were taking them with every conceivable photographic device, from old clunky SVGA point ’n’ shoot cameras to professional full-frame DSLRs and everything in between. And then there were the phones. This was a big incident. I took some right away with the Teazer.
First rule of photography: Take the shot, then think about it. You might not get another chance.

After that I started looking for a decent angle and a way to isolate some of the action. I took about 15 – 20 shots before the police came and ordered us across the road, behind a newly erected safety cordon. Really, it was like herding cats. Some folk moved away as directed while others, new on the scene said “Oh, what’s happening there?” and slipped under the cordon (because it wasn’t applicable to them, obviously) and calmly started shooting with their shiny new smartphones. I sometimes feel that the police can be a bit overpowering and heavy handed, but today they deserved medals, each and every one of them for not losing their cool and just huckling some of the numpties off to Stewart Street (polis station). By that time I had all the shots I wanted and walked down Bucky Street to get the subway to Kelvinbridge.

Walked up Great Western Road to the Botanics and after a walk round the Kibble Palace, I went back out and started sketching the Victorian glasshouse in all its wrought iron glory. Not the best sketch I’ve done, but it got the gist of the building. Also, although the temperature was almost 10ºc, it was still cool. Maybe too cool to be sitting on a park bench for the half hour it took for the sketch.

Back down Byres Road and got the subway back to Glasgow. Took it to St Enoch’s to the Nero for a spot of light and late lunch. Nice wee alliteration there! Walked up Bucky Street to the new even more extreme cordon, this time cutting off Jessops and the other Cafe Nero (glad I hadn’t banked on getting my lunch in there!) The polis had craftily blocked off one of the entrances to Buchanan Galleries and just extended the cordon across the road there. Everyone was behaving themselves now because the flames were almost out and there wasn’t much to see. Out through JL and was just crossing over to the road when I saw the shot on the right at the top. It looked like a film set. Now if that had been London or Birmingham or Manchester, the words on everyone’s lips would have been “Terrorist Incident”. In Glasgow it was “So is Lauders Bar open?” (Lauders is the pub on the corner next to the fire.)

PoD was the firefighters on the extended platform, top left. Whatever these blokes get paid, it’s not enough.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. Scamp’s meeting Shona for a catch-up. I might paint.