Making the change – 14 October 2019

Today there will be no lying around. Today I will be active.

That’s what I said anyway. Out fairly early to drop off another sample at the doc’s. Don’t know what they find so fascinating about my pee, but it seems to keep them amused. Back home and today’s work schedule included cleaning the downstairs toilet. It didn’t take long, certainly not nearly as long as the bathroom last week. Probably that’s partly due to the fact that it’s a tiny little space. However I did give it the full “big clean” as one of my cleaners used to call it.

After that it was lunchtime and Scamp suggested I have a couple of slices of my excellent bread with some Wiltshire ham between. What makes the bread extra excellent is that it’s made by Prince Chic (Charles to you, but Chic to his friends). I don’t suppose Chic actually mills the flour himself, but it comes from his estate and it makes very good bread. It was also cheap at Waitrose or I wouldn’t have bought it.

When Gems came in I sat and talked to Margie for a while and showed her my sketches for Inktober. Margie is always very complementary about my work, but she produces some startling paintings herself. Veronica slipped a copy of Wildlife Photographer of the Year onto the table. It seems her son-in-law is a keen wildlife photog. I wouldn’t say that what I take are wildlife photos, more landscapes and macros. I like looking at landscape photos, but find it hard to compose them properly when I’m out and about with a camera. There’s no such problems with macros. With them the big challenges are more technical, like getting the aperture right and trying to get the best use of light. Also there’s the stalking of the tiny wee insects. Great fun, but not really artistic. On first glance at the photos in the book, I’m amazed at the quality and detail. I’ll have a good look before I have to give it back next week.

To continue the ‘active’ theme, I went for a walk along the canal and then on to the railway and that’s where I saw today’s PoD. It’s an old oak tree and I just liked the way the light hit the trunk. It was good to be out in the fresh air under  a blue sky for a change. Took a few more shots, but you’ll have to visit Flickr to see them.   Walking back along the canal, I saw a goosander surface quite close to me with a fish in its beak.  Knew I didn’t have time to grab the camera from my bag and focus, so I just watched it for a while.  It looked quite pleased with it’s early dinner.  Back to M&S for the makings of our own dinner and while I was traipsing around, I got the signal that I’d completed my 10,000 steps. Happy.

Dinner tonight met with a mixed reception. I thought it was great, Scamp was more critical. It was Prawns with Spaghetti and Courgette Spaghetti. Scamp didn’t like the dill that was in it, I didn’t mind. Maybe needs a bit of work.

The topic for today was “A Rowing Boat”. There aren’t many rowing boats lying around waiting to be sketched in the Central Belt of Scotland, so this one came straight out of my head. I quite liked it.

The plan for tomorrow is to get up early and then go to the seaside. Not sure if that will be east or west coast, but the weather looks like it will be fairly dry.

Another day on the bike

That makes it sound as if I was cycling all day. It wasn’t really like that. Not quite the Tour de France.

Neither Scamp nor I could decide what to do with today. We didn’t really want to go in to Glasgow again, besides, there were four Orange Lodge marches planned. Four! Thats about five too many for me, and before you say, No, I don’t want any of the Republican marches either. So where else could we go? Stirling was discussed and rejected. I offered to drive us to Mugdock park, but that didn’t fit either today. Finally we went to the Fort for a cup of coffee and a wander around the shops. I got some bits and pieces to hopefully make a prototype of the lens hood.

After a Costa lunch we came home and I got changed, dropped the back seats on the Juke and took the bike down to Auchinstarry. The actual carpark at Auchinstarry Quarry was completely full. Not one space, so I turned and drove up the the Hebo House and found one of the last four available spaces. Took the bike out and cycled off down the railway path as far as Twechar and that’s where I got today’s PoD. It’s an old garage that looks good in glancing low sun. I just missed that sun by about an hour today. I’ll check with an app tonight and try to get there at a better time tomorrow. There are apps for absolutely everything these days. Mine is called Photo Pills.

Back along the canal into the headwind, but I didn’t mind, because the sun was shining, the birds were singing and it was warm. It’s still quite warm at 11.42pm and I’m sitting here in a short sleeved cycling shirt and jeans, feeling quite comfortable. It can’t last. It won’t last. We’re forecast to have some rain tomorrow evening

Back home again I started the next phase of Make The Back Room Look Liveable. After an hour of moving stuff around it looks like a room again. Just a few things to shift tomorrow and we’re ready for Clive.

No plans for tomorrow. No dancing booked and like I said it’s not looking as clever as it was today. However, we had a good day today, so shouldn’t grumble.

Butterfly memory – 12 September 2019

The day started as so many have recently with rain, but the blue skies appeared later.

Gas man came this morning to do the boiler maintenance and gave us the usual warnings that it’s getting old and needs replaced. I have days like that too sometimes.

After that we went out for the messages and managed to spend a fair amount in three different, though similar, shops. That’s the thing about choice. It gives you the opportunity to spend more. Mostly it was just stuff we needed anyway.

Just before lunch I spotted a Red Admiral feeding on the buddleia bush at the back fence. I managed to get a few shots of it before I frightened it away. Bummer.

Fred came over later in the afternoon to pick up the paintings John had delivered yesterday. We had an hour or so of fairly adult conversation and he introduced me to another interesting Gerry Cinnamon song “Diamonds in the Mud”. Worth listening to, if only for the Glasgow accent. In return I suggested he listen to “Canter” with its own collection of adult content.

When he left, so did I for a walk down Auchinstarry way. The light was really excellent by now and the hills were glowing. Today’s PoD came from the walk. It’s a group of tiny wee fungi growing on a dead tree near the Forth & Clyde canal.

When I came home, the butterfly was back on the buddleia, but this time I barely got a chance to switch on the camera before it was off. I swear it looked straight at me and flew off. I’m sure it recognised me as the big human who pointed his black box at it a couple of hours earlier. Of course it could have been a different butterfly, but that was the impression it gave me.

Cod Chowder for dinner. I thought it tasted ok and just the same as usual. Scamp thought it was thicker and tasted different. Maybe she was right.

No plans for tomorrow, but the weather looks ok. Saturday, not so.

24ºc in Scotland – 27 June 2019

Out early to see a consultant at Monklands Hospital, then the day was our own.

Consultant took less than five minutes to sign me off as clear of any serious problems. That was a great start to the day.

From Airdrie we drove to Livingston because I was looking for a pair of decent trainers at the discount outlets there. Didn’t get any. What I did see were a pair of black shoes, the exact same model as the ones I was wearing. The shoes in the shop were black, like I said. Mine were a medium grey. Have they been bleached in the sun or washed in the rain. Probably a bit of both. Although I didn’t get trainers, Scamp got a new dress and we bought a new general purpose knife for the kitchen.

Drove home and the temperature from the car thermometer went up to 24ºc. Now that’s definitely “Taps Aff” weather, but I restrained myself an turned up the air con.

Back home Scamp got her sun cream on and then started cutting the front grass. I put my shorts on and drove down to Auchinstarry and walked along the canal, crossed over and back along the old railway. Got a host of photos of damselflies and hoverflies. The PoD was a shot of a damselfly having its lunch, a smaller fly caught in flight. The actual damselfly is about 40mm head to tail.

The temperature we noted in the car continued well into the afternoon and I regretted not putting some of Scamp’s sun cream on my exposed skin. It was a beautiful day and if the weather fairies are to be believed, we should have a similar, if not hotter day tomorrow. We even had our dinner tonight outside in the garden such a treat eating in the great outdoors … in Scotland … without our coats on!

Tomorrow we are hoping to get the bus in to Glasgow and go for a walk, somewhere scenic.

Out for a walk – 20 June 2019

It’s been a long time since I’ve been down to Auchinstarry. Today I resolved to fix that.

The only thing of note I had on my To Do list today was to wash and reproof my ‘rainy coat’. To keep it company in the machine, I added Scamp’s blue jacket. They’re now dry and ready for use again.

After that and a morning plugging away at the computer and putting a gallery of photos from Wales on the blog (have a look if you like), I decided to go for a walk. After all, I’ve got a new pair of good boots and it would be a shame not to wear them. Walked along the railway path and then across the plantation. From there it was an easy stroll back along the canal. I thought I’d try for another Focus Stack in the wild this time, but it wasn’t to be. Light too low, hand too shaky, shutter speed to low. Take your pick, it just didn’t work, although I didn’t know that at the time. It was only once I got back home I noticed that some frames were shaken and some were just out of focus. I’ll try again another time. Got today’s PoD of the swan family out for a paddle along the Forth & Clyde canal. Also got a couple of close up shots of beasties.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Cornish potatoes and broccoli from somewhere else. Not a lot more to say about today, other than it was a bright day for the most part with a sprinkling of rain occasionally and torrential rain at other times, but mainly bright sunshine. Colours were shining clearly and the boots seemed to enjoy being out for a walk.

Tomorrow Scamp is booked for lunch with the Witches in the afternoon and I have no plans. Maybe a bit of light painting will go down well.

Another walk for everyone – 13 June 2019

Today the forecast wasn’t too clear, so we went for a shorter walk, closer to home, then yet another for the hardy.

Before we left, Jaime showed us his amazing darts prowess.  He’d managed to get two darts in the outer ring of the bull and the final one in  the bull itself.  Quite astounding from a man who couldn’t get all three darts in the board yesterday!  Some would doubt him and say he’d set it up, but who could be so mean hearted?

JIC and Sim were the nominated drivers and they took all seven of us, eight if you include Vixen a couple of miles along the road to a forest walk along the river. It was a pleasant enough walk without any hills, but with some boggy bits. Vixen seemed to enjoy the opportunity to demonstrate her swimming skills in the river, although the water was fairly rushing down and quite brown. I got a second chance at photographing the red and black insect we’d seen earlier in the week. It turned out to be a froghopper (Cercopis vulnerata). We also came across a little lizard which Scamp got some good photos of and so did I. PoD went to the long lazy drip sliding off a fern frond. I’m thinking it might have been a slug or snail trail that had attracted the rain water. Looked quite remarkable anyway.

Back home for lunch and then JIC, Sim, Sophie and us were off again. This time to investigate the old railway line halfway down the road from the house. It’s a steep decline to the bridge over the railway and I wasn’t looking forward to the climb back up! We walked part of the way along, but as we were cooking tonight, we decided not to go the full stretch of the path and came back early. I was right. The climb back up the road to the house was hard work, but we made it without stopping.

Dinner tonight was Fish and Egg Curry. An unlikely combination that actually works very well.

A day among the butterflies – 29 April 2019

Also a bit of portrait painting.

Scamp was out today for coffee with Isobel, that meant I had a few hours to myself. I chose to do some washing. The towels basket was overflowing, so it seemed a good idea to run them through a washing cycle while I was upstairs painting. Good time management. With the towels happily cavorting in the washing machine, I was free to spread some acrylic paint on a piece of paper. Happy with that, I moved on to the even messier and smellier oil paints. They may have both those negative properties, but they are buttery and lovely to paint with. I spent a happy hour or so wearing an old tee shirt and an old pair of jeans, slapping paint on to the paper. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s fun.

When Scamp returned we had lunch and then I drove to the garage to book the Micra in for MOT. After that, it was still a lovely sunny day, so I drove on down to Auchinstarry and went for a walk along the canal. Lots of other folk were down there too, most of them cycling. I crossed over the plantation and found that the dandelions were in full bloom and doing a roaring trade with the butterflies. Tortoiseshell butterflies were the biggest takers and it was one of them that made the PoD. Others I saw were Peacock with the round ’eyes’ looking like little targets on their wings and also the lovely little Orange Tip. So well named.

It really was a beautiful day, but it was soon time to come home and make the dinner. Tonight it was Penne with Tomato Ragu and Bacon. Quite tasty, but maybe just a little bit too salty and maybe a bit dry if you’re being picky and we’re always picky.

Salsa for the beginners tonight was the amazingly confusing Setenta y Cinco. For us advanced or “Rueda Club” it was “Sanza” and a twisty turny move with an
unpronounceable name that apparently came from Game of Thrones. I didn’t catch the name, but Catherine though it could be Tiramisu! Also reprised “Sequentia”. Really, really fast Rueda to finish off the night. Most enjoyable.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to go for beer and lunch with the Auld Guys.

Out in the countryside – 22 April 2019

We certainly were out in the countryside early this morning.

Scamp didn’t want to miss a minute of today’s beautiful weather. That’s why we were out and walking along the Forth & Clyde canal just after 10am. It seemed today was cycling day rather than Earth Day because we must have been passed by about twenty cyclists of varying degrees of fitness and skill as we walked the canal. We reached Twechar about 11am and started to walk back using the old railway as our path. That’s where today’s PoD came from. There was just a hint of blue haze as we made our way back to Auchinstarry, but I was fairly sure my software combination of Lightroom and ON1 would bring back the true colour and it did work out well. We crossed over at the Plantation and from there back on to the canal path to The Boathouse or “HEBO HOUSE” as it seems to have renamed itself. I actually like “HEBO HOUSE”. It’s got a Nordic sound to it. I’m sure the Kilsyth folk could spin a tale that it means “House by the still waters” in Lallans dialect.

Drove home and had lunch before Scamp parked her sun bed in the garden and waited for the sun to make itself known. I started on my task for the day which was to recreate the focaccia bread we’d bought in Embra on Saturday, “The day of the Signal Failure”. It was a bit of a faff making this sloppy dough. I started out making it in the food mixer, but thought I’d like to try hand kneading it, that’s when I found out just how sloppy and slithery it really was. Finally I gave in and got the Kenwood to do the heavy lifting. Bear in mind, this bread has 140ml of good extra virgin olive oil (EVOO to those in the know), whereas my usual bread dough has about 30ml. That’s how it became so slippery. However, once it was safely ensconced in its plastic tub it didn’t look so bad and after an hour it had completed its first rise. Next task was to slide it out of the tub, cut it in two and form it into two oval shapes on the baking trays. This part was easier than I’d anticipated, in fact, the worst was now past and the two focaccia breads have now been part consumed, although we did leave a bit for tomorrow. Focaccia is a dawdle as long as you have a Kenwood Chef mixer with a dough hook to do the hard work.

Basically that was it for the day. Scamp made an excellent Spaghetti dello Chef for dinner and we scoffed it and the best part of a bottle of white wine in the garden.

Spoke to JIC tonight and watched the final of University Challenge where Embra beat St Edmund Hall and the despicable Leo “Mmmmm”.

Tomorrow we’re off to Falkirk in the morning, hopefully a sunny Falkirk. Lunch for Scamp and coffee for me in the afternoon.

Embra – 20 April 2019

We’d said we’d go to Embra and we did.

Set off early and did our usual walk up from Haymarket station to Nero on Lothian Road then from there through the farmers market where I got a piece of Hogget Leg Steak and Scamp got a chunk of Focaccia. I also grabbed a PoD of the folk sitting in the sun.

From there we walked up to the Grassmarket and Scamp bought a wee bottle of Elderberry liqueur, although the rum liqueur they were selling tasted very nice. They didn’t have wee bottles of it, unfortunately, only big bottles. The place was mobbed. In fact Embra in general was mobbed. It was a beautiful day. Warm sunshine and very little wind which is strange for Embra because it quite often is the Windy City. I was beginning to regret wearing my leather jacket AND a jersey. One had to go, in fact, eventually both had to go.

We couldn’t decide where to go for lunch, so we headed for Princes Street Gardens via M&S where I went to get some fresh fruit while Scamp searched for the trousers she’s been looking for for the last week or so. I got the fruit, but Scamp didn’t find the trousers she wanted. However she did find a sun hat that looked good, so after some swithering about a colour, she opted for the plain white one.

We sat in the gardens for a while eating the fruit and people watching, but decided eventually that it was far too busy in Embra and we should just head for home. Went for the 2pm train and were there in plenty of time. Sat waiting for what seemed a long time when a message came over the tannoy that with apologies, the train was cancelled. There was nothing to do but walk back to the concourse and wait for the next train which was in half an hour. Then Scamp noticed that it too was cancelled. Apparently due to a signalling fault. She suggested we get the 2.15 train which wouldn’t stop at Croy, but we could go straight to Glasgow and get another train back. After all the ticket did say “Valid via any permitted route”, so we could have gone via Inverness if we’d fancied, but we didn’t, we just wanted to get home now. Got the 2.15 which did take us all the way to Glasgow and then got the Stirling train back to Croy. A journey that should have taken us 40mins had taken 2 hours. Strangely, the 2.15 train travelled exactly the same route as the one that was cancelled because of a signalling fault. Did they magically repair the fault for the 2.15 train to pass, but knew that it would be broken again when the 2.30 train was due to leave? Maybe they should just be more honest and say “Due to staff not being available because it was such a nice day”. Anyway, we got home.

Sat in the garden and scoffed a bottle of wine that had been in the fridge since Christmas. It would be getting near it’s sell-by date anyway!

Tomorrow we may go dancing in the Record Factory.

Just another Manic Monday – 7 January 2019

Back in the old routine.

Scamp had Gems coming today and we were off to Salsa in the evening. In between it was pasta for dinner. Looks like the festivities are over and it’s back to the old routine.

Since Gems were coming, I decided I’d make a sharp exit and go for a walk along the canal, then back along the railway path, but not before I could check Margie’s homework. Her attempt at two point perspective was very good indeed. I think she has a fairly good grasp of it now. She wanted to go back over one point and I did that with her, but also showed her three point perspective, which is the least intuitive, but easiest to learn if you stick to the rules. Margie, by the way is over 80, but a quick and patient learner.

After today’s drawing lesson I drove down to Auchinstarry and parked at the now closed Boat House restaurant. I don’t see anyone rushing to buy up this failed fine dining establishment, but when they do, I’m afraid I’ll lose my parking place for a walk along the canal.

Walked into the teeth of a westerly gale. It wasn’t pleasant and there were no ducks or geese to photograph all along its length. They were probably tucked up in the reeds somewhere waiting for it to blow over. The wind was blowing in squally showers and then the sun would come out and shine from a blue sky, but it was still cold.  Spoke to one man walking his dog and didn’t see anyone else until I came back to Auchinstarry again. Today’s PoD is of a Cladonia lichen growing from an old rotting fencepost. Apparently lichen are a sign of clean air. So says Margie’s son who is an arboriculturist. There’s a nice little link there!

Back home via Tesco to post the final lot of calendars to their recipients, and then home to make Spaghetti Carbonara, otherwise known as “White Spaghetti”. Then it was time to get ready for Salsa. When I opened the drawer to get my shirt, I marvelled at the neatly stacked shirts I’d folded and arranged in the morning. That bloody Japanese woman is infiltrating this house with her tidying techniques! I thought you were supposed to start with your sock drawer.

Very few men tonight, two girls to each man in the Rueda. Scamp and Irene danced as leaders to even out the numbers. No new moves, but going over recent moves like Akea, not to be confused with IKEA, and Setenta e Cinco Moderno. Good fun.

Tomorrow we are intending driving to IKEA, not to be confused with the salsa move Akea. We are looking for something that will help to tidy my sock drawer!!