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Untrained – 30 September 2017

We had intended to take the train to Embra today. Scamp even drove us to the station in her car, but …

When we got there we found out that due to safety checks on the line between Haymarket and Waverley, trains (if they weren’t cancelled) were stopping at Linlithgow, about 20 miles from Embra, and it was up to you to get from Linlithgow to Embra. That’s Scotrail for you. Make it up as you go along. If the problem is between Haymarket and Waverley, both in Embra, why are they stopping the trains 20 miles away? That’s a pretty big safety zone.  Must be the wrong kind of leaves on the line again.

Anyway, we told the nice ticket man that we wouldn’t be travelling on his maybe-not-cancelled train today and drove home to change cars and drive (me driving this time) to Perf, not Embra. It was a pleasant drive up the A9 to the Fair City of Perth. Car performed perfectly and I finally got the hang of the new cruise control. I also tried out the speed limiter, but that’s not as much fun. Best of all, I tried out Sport mode which gives you a nice little whack of G-force as you accelerate! Only to be used sparingly as it does eat up your fuel consumption. All in all it’s a really nice car to drive. I’m very impressed.

Perf was busy as usual on a weekend. Far too many people around I much prefer going on a weekday. Got some coffee, some tea and some dried fruit to make my breakfast compote. Fruit for the compote, there’s no coffee or tea in it. Just thought I’d make that clear. While we were there and while Scamp was shopping in Marks, I wandered round the outside of St John’s Kirk, the big church in the middle of the town. I got a sketch done. It’s a bit ropey, but with a bit of tweaking from the photo I took, it should do. Tomorrow is the start of Inktober 2017 and I need to get myself back in harness to do a sketch a day. There’s a wee challenge for you Hazy. One sketch every day, posted on Flickr. You can add it to my group if you want. Only one real rule. The predominant medium must be ink, hence the name. You too, JIC. Get started sketching. Fifteen minutes in your lunch break is all you need!!
Today’s PoD is a wide angle shot from the walk round the church. I also liked the monkey gargoyle!

A couple of weeks ago Scamp came across an envelope from a school venture with a £10 note in it. It was surplus money from a school trip we went on twenty odd years ago. It wasn’t my money and the school doesn’t exist any more, so today it went into a charity tin in the Heart Foundation shop in Perf. They will be able to use it. I’d already checked with the bank and it was still legal tender.

Back home, dinner was a Scamp speciality, Prawn Stir fry. Spicy and hot, but very, very good.

I’d been reading a book about painting with pastels in an Oxfam bookshop in Perf.  I don’t think you draw with pastels, you paint with them.  I hadn’t really used pastels, except for messing around with them for a graphics topic for school.  Today I pinned a sheet of Ingres paper on an old drawing board and painted a landscape.  The same one I’d been tentatively poking paint at for the last week.  This one took maybe half an hour?  It’s rough, but I like it.  Maybe I’ll fix it and frame it.

Tomorrow looks wet. I think we’re going dancing at night because the usual Sunday Social venue is double booked and we lose. Should still be fun.

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Look for the Juke – 29 August 2017

Went to Stirling today hoping for a test drive in a Juke, just to clear the air and get the car out of my system. They didn’t have one.

Well, that’s not completely true. They had lots of cars, even lots of Jukes, just none that we could take for a test drive today. We did get to sit in one and the nice lady took our details and hopefully we’ll get that test drive on Friday.

Since we were in Stirling and PC World was just down the road, we went there looking for a printer to replace the one that’s languishing in the boot of the car at present. They didn’t have one.

Well, that’s not completely true. (Does this sound like groundhog day?) They had a few printers. Most of them were for Home or Office and only two were marked Photo. One, a Canon and one an Epson. Not an Epsom as the Head of Computing at the school insisted on calling them. I’d have liked a printer that was designed to print photos, but both the PC World offerings were printer/scanners. I don’t need a scanner, I’ve got a really good one. Why would I want to pay for a scanner I didn’t need? Both the alleged ‘photo’ printers used four photo inks and one text printing black cartridge. Proper photo printers have five photo inks, sometimes with a black text cartridge. I wasn’t impressed. Nobody came near me to offer a test drive either. It would be good if you could do a test print on the printer you’re interested in buying. Nobody would think of buying a laptop without first checking how fast apps load and how clear the screen is, but you have to trust the hyperbolic manufacturer’s claims for printers. Once you get it home and find it print pictures that look like something out of Minecraft, you can’t take it back and complain. Well, you could, but nobody at PC World would listen to you. Maybe I’ll just keep the old printer and try to coax it back from the dead.

The day started earlier with me attempting with a fair degree of success to tidy up the back room. I did find the sofa that was hidden under holiday stuff. It took some time and effort, but now it has reappeared, it gives me the impetus to clean up the rest of the room. It should only take another three or four days. Ok, a week tops.

The day finished with a walk along the canal. A place to unwind and do some tidying up of my head. As you can see from the confusing jumping back and forward in the blog, I need more of this ‘head time’. Today’s PoD is a Red Admiral that I managed to grab a few photos of at Dumbreck Marshes. Then it was home for fish pie! A nice end to a day in the sun. Some things done, some things in the pipeline.

Tomorrow is to be much like today apparently and as today was warm and sunny, I’ll take that and say thank you very much.

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Oh What a Beautiful Day – 8 August 2017

After two days of almost continuous rain, today’s blue skies and sunshine were a great relief. Scamp was going out for lunch with a friend and I was painting in the morning, but determined to get the bike out and turn the wheels a few times.

I set out for Auchinstarry to park and then cycle along the railway to Twechar and from there, take the road to Kirkintilloch, then cycle back along the canal to Auchinstarry. A nice easy run of a little more than 10 miles.

Lots of folk were out today, and not just the usual dog walkers either. What looked like a Summer School group were learning about rock climbing at Auchinstarry. Halfway along the railway path two women were having a picnic with their weans, sitting on an old iron bridge over the Garrell Burn. After that, it was just road traffic all the way to Kirkintilloch. Walked up the steep hill to reach the canal (That’s where today’s PoD came from) and then took the towpath from there to Twechar. Passed lots of cyclists on the way. Some gave a nod, some pretended I wasn’t there (Bike Snobs), some shouted a cheery ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ or the West of Scotland ‘Aye’ as we passed.

Changed my mind at Twechar and headed back along the railway again. The main reason is that the canal tow path gets really busy with cyclists and fishermen in the summer and the path narrows fairly frequently making crossing and overtaking difficult. I stopped to take some ‘beastie’ photos at Dumbreck Marshes and met a bloke who was extolling the joys of cycling. He realised he was preaching to the converted, but we agreed it was a great way to get some enjoyable exercise. He was on his way back from the Falkirk Wheel and was sitting having his lunch with his iPhone playing some music through a Bluetooth speaker in his rucksack. We wished each other an enjoyable run home and I was on the last leg of my run. Didn’t pass anyone else on the way back and then watched some blokes doing a bit of dangerous looking rock climbing in Auchinstarry Quarry where there is a sheer drop into very deep water. Rather them than me.

Back home, it was paella for dinner and I had volunteered for cooking duty. Turned out not to bad.

Tomorrow is to be more of the same. Hopefully they get it right again.

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Off The Leash – 30 June 2017

Scamp was meeting the other witches for lunch. I was off the leash for the day.

We drove in to Glasgow together as I was heading there anyway, then we went our own way, except that when I was leaving John Lewis after perusing the ‘bargains’, who should I bump into but Scamp. We agreed to go our separate ways again. Later when I was going in to the art shot, there she was again, but this time she had the other three witches with her. Luckily she directed them into a bar for cocktails, so I was saved the ignominy of having to hide from four women. Thank you again Scamp.

I bought myself two sketchbooks in Cass Art. I don’t like shopping there, but they are the cheapest in town. The next thing to do was get some photos and a sketch. The first would be easier than the last. It usually is. I got the photo in Buchanan Street it was just an empty alley. I think it’s the emptiness and the perspective I like about these alley shots. The sketch was next and that was done at the entrance to Exchange Square, or Royal Exchange Square to give it its proper name. That’s June Ink or J’ Ink over for another year. Bring on the July challenge whatever it is.

Drove home and had lunch, then went out for a walk along the railway, hoping to get some more pictures. Unfortunately, the light was pretty low and I didn’t get much. Took about fifteen shots of a hoverfly and none of them were sharp. Ten of a ladybird and none of them were sharp. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how many shots you take or what equipment you have, it just doesn’t work out for you. You just have to accept it and move on. Tomorrow will be better.

Tomorrow may be better, but it WILL be raining again.  The weather fairies predicted it.

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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.