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Sunny Skies – 18 June 2017

Sunday was a lazy day. Really, it was too hot to be anything else, and after our late night on Saturday a lazy day was called for. Scamp was doing some tidying in the garden and I was just footering around. Although I did prepare dinner which was also a lazy meal: Chicken Tagine. Just fry the onions and the chicken in the Le Creuset (other makes are available) add the spices, some chopped dates, dried apricots, orange juice and water then bung in the oven for a couple of hours.

After lunch I went for a walk down the canal leaving Scamp to garden and keep an eye on the tagine. Walked along the canal, across the plantation and onto the railway road then back to Auchnstarry. That’s where I found the lovely wee dog rose. Got passed by two guys on scrambler bikes, one, just a boy seemed amused that I was a photographer. He seemed to want his photo taken, but I had two extension tubes on the camera and I didn’t really want a macro of his face. Should probably just have taken it. He’d never know. The other guy, maybe his dad was a lot more sensible and just gave me a wave as he passed. Such a lovely day to be out walking in your shirt sleeves.

When I got back, I’d just missed JIC, so I phoned him back and we compared temperatures and had a quick catch up. Then I let him go to prepare his barbecue. Hope it worked out well J. You’ll see his card on the left above. Don’t know where he gets his sarcasm from! Hazy’s is on the right with your recommended text alteration. Hope you approve H.

We couldn’t decide whether to go to Sunday Social or not. We’d been out late dancing on Saturday. We’d have usual salsa class on Monday. Can we be bothered? Will we, won’t we? Eventually we decided; stuff it, let’s go. Driving this time. We’ve learned our lesson with trains.

Got parked no problem and had a great time at Arta. I’m beginning to like it. It’s more ‘grown up’ than The Garage. It’s just a bit dark and gloomy. Danced with four girls as well as Scamp! Feeling the effects of it now on my knees. Chicken Tagine was voted good by the Cumbersheugh jury, but both of us agreed that it was too sweet. Less fruit next time.

Preparing for another hot day tomorrow.

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One Swallow – 24 April 2017

I started early this morning, going to the library then taking a walk down the Luggie.

Today’s PoD was taken on the walk to the library.  It proves that the sun can make even the ugliest building look good, not great, just good.  Let’s not get carried away here. It’s still a pretty ugly piece of concrete.

Didn’t get much along the Luggie, mainly because it was just too cold.

After lunch I went for a walk along the canal from Auchinstarry and got caught in a hailstorm blowing down from the north.  Not many photos there either.  However, despite the biting wind and the driving hail, I saw two swallows.  Now, as we all know, one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but do two swallows make a decent spring?  I think that maybe they do.  On the way back along the railway path I saw about a dozen of the birds flying low over a pond.  Low flying swallows means poor weather coming, but at least they are here, just a day later than last year.

Scamp wanted to get in two salsa classes tonight and I was happy to comply.  By the end of the two hours I was dead beat, but according to my Fitbit, I’ve taken just over 19,000 steps today.  That must be a record.

This is a short blog entry because I’m trying desperately to get to bed the same day I woke up.  I might even achieve it.

Tomorrow?  Haircut probably.  It’s getting like a ‘pure afro.’

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Deer, Deer, Deer – 15 March 2017

Drove Scamp in to Falkirk this morning. Went to the bookshop, but didn’t see anything of note. Had lunch in Tea Jenny’s. Does everyone have to have a tattoo and/or piercings before they can work in this place? I’ve yet to see anyone male or female in this otherwise old-fashioned tea shop who doesn’t have inking or stapling of some sort in a prominent place. I began to feel quite inadequate and not properly dressed as I looked around.

Back home, the weather wasn’t too inviting looking, but I needed something for the 365, so I drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the railway. I spotted a group of about five deer quite far away on a little rise and tried to get some shots of them, but I couldn’t get close enough and there was too little cover to hide my approach. I was so intent on the deer I didn’t notice a cock pheasant right in front of me and only grabbed one shot as it glided away into the bushes. At that, I gave up and headed home.

I’d spent half the afternoon tracking that group of deer and still hadn’t got a decent shot of them. Then, walking home three deer appeared from the undergrowth and proceeded to walk along in front of me! I got four or five shots before they decided I just might be a threat and ran off.

Salsa tonight was a bit of a let down. Jamie G should have had a beginners class and we were half intending to help out. Only three people, not couples, people turned up. I felt really sorry for him. I felt even sorrier for myself when I had to help out with an improvers class. Not a lot of fun. Our own class was good. Doing Malecon which is an old move we learned two or three years ago.

Scamp’s singing with Gems tomorrow afternoon, so I may slip the leash for a wee while!

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In Training – 7 March 2017

It was Scamp’s idea.  We had booked lunch at Cafe Tabou in Perth.  How about, she said, How about getting the train instead of driving there?  It sounded like a good idea, a great idea.  I added to it.  Why don’t we get a taxi to the station?  You can never get parked on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  Mondays and Fridays aren’t too bad.  So it was settled.  A day in Perth without driving and without the drudgery of travelling on the bus.

The journey was really good.  Taxi to the station, train to Stirling, quick connection to Perth.  Brilliant.  Visited my favourite second-hand bookshop and then a quick visit to Waterstones.  One of my favourite Scottish authors, James Oswald was there talking to a readers group.  I don’t do readers groups, neither do I read the ‘Questions to the author’ at the back of a good book.  If the author didn’t explain everything in his book, either he wanted it that way or else he wasn’t such a great writer after all.  Either way, questions aren’t going to provide the answers you want.  Went for coffee in Nero before we went for a walk through the park.  Then more coffee – beans this time in The Bean Shop.  Finally, it was lunch time.  Mine was Venison Stovies, then Saddle of Rabbit stuffed with Pork and Chorizo <Posh Word meaning Sausage> served with Roasted Root Vegetables and Sliced Potatoes washed down with a couple of glasses of Rose D’ Anjou.  Simply delicious.

After lunch I returned to Waterstones and used up my Christmas present from Scamp.  I turned out that James Oswald was promoting his new book so I decided to buy it, along with another two ‘real’ books.  Time to get used to books that don’t self illuminate or automatically remember your page or even provide a dictionary, but ‘real books’ are a great idea.  I think they’ll catch on.

The return journey was equally as good as the one this morning with nicely timed connections.  Even the wait for the taxi was minimal.  A great day out.

Today’s flower photos came from the park at Perth and the bottle pic?  It came from Cafe Nero’s window.  Like I said on my Flickr description, I wondered How?  I also wondered Who?  I finally wondered Why?

Tomorrow?  I think we might be getting in training properly as we return to the gym.

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Deteriorating weather – 27 February 2017

Scamp wanted to go shopping for a birthday present for one of her friends.  She had set a time limit of 10am.  We had to be up and out, presumably dressed, by then.  We achieved this with 1 minute to spare!

We drove to Robroyston in sunshine and went our separate ways when we got there.  Her to her favourite shop, me to Homebase to look for a birdbath.  Didn’t find one, but she found exactly what she wanted.  Coffee in Costa and then back home via the garage to book the Megane in for MOT and service, and the weather was still holding out.

Scamp then wanted to refresh her skills, recording some piano music with Audacity.  Then we spent almost half an hour trying to get the stupid Media Monkey software to find the DVD drive.  Even worse, iTunes couldn’t find it either, so we had to email the MP3 file to me so I could burn it on to a music CD.  Eventually it worked, but now I have to find out what’s wrong with the burner software on her PC.

Clouds were beginning to mass over in the west when I was making my lunch which was two butterflied sausages in between two slices of my delicious bread.  Stunning!  While she was out gathering the Gems from around Cumbersheugh, I got away for a walk.  By the time I got to Auchinstarry, the clouds had covered the sky and I was struggling to find anything interesting to photograph.  Got a couple of shots of dried up and frosted plants, but still no sketch.  Penultimate day in the 28 Drawings … challenge.  On the way back, I thought, why not attempt the bridge over the canal.  Viewed it from both sides and decided the view from the west was best and set to.  It was an awkward bugger.  The bridge is on a slope and doesn’t cross the canal at 90º, making the perspective very difficult.  When I finally finished it, I photographed it so I could check vanishing points when I got home, and it’s a good job I did, because a couple were a wee bit out, but they were easily corrected.  Also, the shading needed altering.  Fixed it sharpish and now I’m thinking it’s really a situation for curvilinear perspective.  I may redraw it some time using those VPs.  For now, it’s done and posted. Fin.

Salsa was complicated tonight and although Cameron and I had a near collision on the dance floor, it all ended well and was great fun.  New move is Trompo which means Spinning Top.  Ma heid wiz spinnin’ and no mistake!

After a deteriorating day today, tomorrow seems to be the opposite with gradually improving weather, or so the weather folk say.  As ever, we’ll wait and see.

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No Dough – 20 February 2017

Scamp was at the physio this morning. I started a wee watercolour of the hills at the back, because the light was wonderful with wee floating cloud shadows drifting across them. It turned out better than I anticipated.

I’d taken a frozen chunk of dough out of the freezer last night and left it to defrost and rise overnight.  It did defrost, but it didn’t rise.  I tried to encourage the yeast to start working again by warming the loaf tin in some warm water, but it resisted my attentions. I eventually turned on the heating and put the embryonic bread on the radiator to warm up.

By then, Scamp had returned with her ankle strapped up and we had lunch before she went out to get Gems.  I was swithering whether to go out on my bike, go to the gym or go for a walk.  I’d a pain in my back and any of these would help.  However, as the sun was still shining, I decided that the gym was out, and as there was a gusty wind, maybe cycling would be a bit difficult.  So, by a process of elimination, a walk was the winner.  I was looking for somewhere that would produce a photo and also a sketch.  I finally settled on the railway again, because it’s near the hills and I quite fancied a photo of those cloud shapes on the land.

I got the photo, but saw nothing that encouraged the sketchbook out of my bag, then I saw the old house that I’d sketched before and that became my SoD (Sketch of the Day).  It’s a strange house, with dormer windows, extensions and an old, old wall round it.  There’s ivy too clinging to the gable end.  The sketch is quite representative, but I think the chimney is a bit out of scale.

Salsa tonight was hard work.  Hard work remembering the moves and hard work keeping going for a full hour after three weeks of lazing around.  Still very enjoyable and although we only stayed for an hour tonight, we may go for two hours on Wednesday, all being well.  Surprisingly, all the moves had names tonight!

No real plans for tomorrow, but we’re probably going food shopping.  Oh what fun.

The bread?  Oh, it rose perfectly, then it stuck to the loaf tin and just wouldn’t come out.  I should have realised it had its own plans for the day when it took so long to rise.

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A Dull Day – 8 January 2017

The dull day was probably what gave me the incentive to get the new sewing machine out and finally attempt to fix the pocket on a pair of jeans.

I’d ‘had a go’ at fixing it a week or so ago, but after researching the problem on the ‘net, I felt more confident that the method I’d seen would solve the problem.  Actually I’d seen two different methods, and I was going to attempt the easier and less complicated one.  That tutorial didn’t have that confidence destroying phrase “This is the tricky bit”.  I liked that.  After half an hour or so of sewing, re-threading the needle and more sewing, but without swearing, I now have a fair degree of confidence in the longevity of my repair, or Alteration as I described it recently in FB.  Hope you don’t read this Joyce.  I’d hate to disabuse you of the notion that I’ve taken up dressmaking in a professional capacity.  I’m hoping to fix a couple of pairs of jeans and also make myself a bow tie.  Little Black Dresses for Scamp may take a bit more time.  So, one down, another three to go!

I was going stir crazy, so in the afternoon I drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, through the plantation to the railway walk, then back along a different railway walk to the carpark again.  It really was a dull day.  I’d set my Nikon to a Manual exposure of 1/500th sec @ f9 and a floating ISO the other day.  That meant the D7000 calculated it would require an ISO of 25600 today.  That’s in the ‘WTF let’s have a go’ range.  You’ll get a picture, but you may not be able to see it in all the digital noise.  It produced the picture at the top and the one at the bottom right in the mosaic.  I’ve deliberately converted the top one to mono because it disguises the grain/digital-noise that the high ISO produces.  The other pic, my favourite and therefore PoD was at a much lower ISO of 4000 and taken with the Oly 5.  It was resting on the stonework of an old bridge and also had a much shorter lens, so could be relied upon to give a sharp image at a low shutter speed.  Sorry JIC, edging into technospeak again.  Sim will understand.

The bridge itself was interesting from another point of view.  All along the top edge are what I’d describe as lens shaped cuts which look like the shapes you’d get if you were sharpening a knife or a scythe.  Could that be what caused them?  I’ll photograph them the next time I’m crossing the bridge on a sunny day.  Also inscribed on the top of a stone near the middle of the bridge are the initials  ‘IW’.  They have been carved with care into the stone and both letters have serifs on them.  Often, old graffiti has these serifs and shows that care has been taken when carving them.  Intriguing.

First Sunday Social of 2017 today and I was really rusty.  Thank goodness classes start tomorrow.  We both need the exercise and the practise.

No idea what the weather is to be tomorrow.  Hopefully kinder to photographers than it’s been today.

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Walking through the Gloaming – 15 December 2016

I’ve started a bad habit of allowing the blog to get away from me.  These last couple of days have seen me in the morning playing catch-up to get the blog posted, yesterday’s blog that is.  Today I’m finishing today’s blog today.

Not a lot of work done this morning.  Scamp was hard at work buying Tesco again and cooking all day for the Witches Christmas Party while I farted about.  There, that’s the honest truth, well, almost the truth.  I did get my 2017 calendar sorted out, so that’s one thing done.

I went for more ‘messages’ – you remember what messages are, don’t you – after lunch and took Scamp’s advice to carry ONE camera with me.  I chose the E-M5 with a short zoom lens and no EVF (Electronic View Finder).  Very pocketable.   I walked the short walk round the railway walk, across the tree plantation and back along the canal while the light changed from blue to a glorious orange gloaming.  Some beautiful lighting on the hills, but the short lens was struggling to make anything of it.  By comparison, the short focal length lens made the skies look good.

Since Tesco was now closed for restocking, after Scamp had bought everything it had, I went to Kilsyth to Lidl to get some odds and ends there and in B&M (my new favourite shop).  Bought far more than I intended to, so Scamp’s enthusiasm must be catching.  When I got home and after dinner, I started on my part of tomorrows banquet.  Now, at 10.30pm I’ve done my bit too.  The pudding is setting in the fridge and the bread is proving in the kitchen.  Some more work to be done tomorrow, but less frantic I hope.

I’m intending giving the WCP a body swerve tomorrow.  I’m booked for coffee and a chat with Fred and Val tomorrow midday and after that, well as Del Boy said, “The world’s my lobster”.

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Queen Bee for a day – 2 December 2016

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A fairly early Skype with the Birthday Girl this morning set the tone for the day.  Nice to see Hazy looking good and enjoying the day.

By the time Scamp had returned from the physio I had finished my Sudoku for the day and was ready for lunch with the prospect of either a cycle run or a walk afterwards, now that the sun had decided to shine today.  The die settled on walk and I risked a walk along the canal then returning along the railway.  Walked east along the canal to see if there were any photos to be had at the marina at Auchinstarry.  At first I thought this was a pretentious misnomer, but now it actually does look like a marina.  Not housing any yachts, but a few cabin cruisers and a great deal of longboats and also a few houseboats.  Very upmarket for the lower reaches of Croy.

After I’d got my fill of the floating architecture, I headed back west towards Twechar and cut across the forest plantation and out along the old railway, but there was little to see there, so as it was getting dark, I walked back to the car and got the call to visit Tesco on my way back.  Scamp wasn’t feeling too good with what might be the beginnings of a cold, and as we’d dined out yesterday and had tentative plans for lunch out tomorrow, we decided to eat in tonight.  I had what was probably the worst ever pizza from Tesco.  Now I know why the price was reduced!  Scamp had the healthy option of fish fingers and a fried egg.  Masterchef Professionals eat your heart out!

That, I’m afraid was it for the day.  We tried to watch Big Fish on Netflix, but decided either it was trying too hard or we weren’t trying hard enough.  It was consigned to the bin, like only a few others so far.

Tomorrow, who knows?  Today’s weather was good and if we get the same tomorrow and Scamp is feeling OK, it might be Embra.  If not it may just be a quick visit to Stirling for Sunday’s dinner.

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A Day of Surprises – 15 November 2016

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Surprise No 1

When I woke this morning, just after 8am, the sun was shining.  It stayed that way too.  Now after the last two days we’ve had, that was a big surprise.  I checked all five of my photo backup drives and with a combination of them all, I can account for all the photos from 2000 to November 2016.  Not bad going.  However, one of the big old Western Digital MyBook drives looks like it’s a goner.  That is a great shame.  I’ve always thought WD were a really good make, but I suppose the ten or twelve years I’ve had it, it’s worked hard and sometimes there has been the occasional accident, so I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.  Soon it was time to leave the photos and go get my flu jag.  That’s jab to some people, but jag if you’re Scottish.

Surprise No 2

When I got to the surgery they were just calling my name.  That was lucky.  When I went to see the sister, I recognised her right away as an FP (Former Pupil) of Cumby High.  I couldn’t think of her name, but I remembered the face, because last night when I was browsing the photos in the oldest collection, I came upon the poster I’d made for Bugsy Malone, one I was really proud of, and here was the female lead from the show wearing a nursing sister’s uniform.  We got talking and she asked if I had any photos of the show, because nobody in her family had thought to bring a camera to the show.  I told her that I probably had, but it would take me some time to find them.  I couldn’t believe that was away back in 2003!  Anyway, she said she’d just give me a gentle wee jag.  She lied.  It was gentle at the time, but it’s aching now!

Surprise No 3

After I got back and found the said photos, hundreds of them as it turned out, I got dressed for the weather which was still bright, but cold and headed to Auchinstarry.  Walked along the railway to Twechar and got some photos in the sunshine.  I’ve still to process them, but by the time you’re reading this, they will be done with a bit of luck.  Walked back and took a long cut – the opposite of a shortcut  and walked the last half of the path along the canal.  Almost reached Smithston when a kingfisher flew out from my side of the canal bank, across the canal and down towards the marina.  I was too surprised to grab my camera which was switched off in my bag.  Walked along to where I thought it had landed but couldn’t see it.  Then to my amazement, it shot out of the far bank and continued down the canal and away.  It’s years since I’ve seen a kingfisher on the canal and I was beginning to think they had gone.  Since this one is at least a mile and a half away from my last sighting, I’m hoping there are at least two of them now.  I’ll be ready next time with the Nikon and the 300mm lens.

Weather forecast for tomorrow is wintry with rain, hail and snow predicted.  We’ll just have to wait and see, it’ll be a surprise!