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!!

Now that’s much more like it – 14 October 2018

A much better day today. For once we thought the weather was trying to please, not punish.

Woke to milky white skies, but as the day progressed, so did the quality of the weather. By midday there were definite signs of blue skies and sunshine. Now that is more like the thing. I made the most of it by taking some shots of the light shining through the sweet pea leaves and also grabbed a shot of a hover fly on one of Scamp’s yellow flowers. I don’t know the name of the flower (or the hover fly), but I liked the shot. Immediately afterwards, Scamp decided it was time to strip out the sweet peas, so I was hoping that I’d got those shots cleanly. There would be no going back for more.

After lunch I decided that I wasn’t going to sit around all day and got my boots on and went for a walk along the canal and across the plantation to the old railway. I’d intended walking back along the side of the Garrell Burn, but with all the rain we’d had in the last week, the path was flooded in a few places, so I satisfied myself with taking a few ‘selfies’ using the Samyang. You’ll have to go to Flickr to find the evidence. Just click on the Picture of the Day at the top of the page to be redirected. With the road blocked, I walked back along the same path I’d taken to get there, and back along the canal. That’s where PoD came from. This was taken with my new iPhone app, Procamera. The amazing thing about it is the ability to save images as RAW files, meaning that post-processing is possible in Lightroom. That explains the superb photographic quality of the shot. Sorry JIC, a little bit of technospeak slipped in there.

Came home and decided that Scamp’s Chicken Broth tasted so good that I’d rather have that than go dancing in Glasgow. Anyway, although Scamp claims that her ankle is ok, we both know that she lies through gritted teeth where dancing is concerned. We backed out and stayed at home, rather than go to Mango. Chicken broth for dinner followed by chicken omelettes. Just lovely.

I’m really pleased with today’s Inktober sketch. I did something similar last year, or maybe it was in February this year, anyway, it’s a bit of a drawing within a drawing if you see what I mean.

That was about it for a lovely day and while watching Countryfile (without the despicable ‘Tom’ or John Craven) we saw the long range weather forecast for the week and the temperature is to drop tonight, but there will be much less rain and wind which is a blessing.

Tomorrow is Gems, so I may go for a swim or failing that, a run on Dewdrop.

Zoomers Day – 28 September 2018

Some days it seems like all the zoomers are out. Today was one of those days.

We were undecided where to go today but we finally settled on Glasgow. That’s when we met the first zoomer. We were driving up the hill to go on the motorway and the zoomer came screaming up behind us trying his level best to get in the Juke’s boot. Wasn’t going to happen though. It’s a 30mph zone and I was doing a steady 30, good law abiding citizen that I am. Then he started weaving from side to side. He’d been watching too much F1 and thought he was Lewis Hamilton trying to warm up his tyres. Either that or he was hoping to hurry me along. He obviously hasn’t heard the auld guy’s rule “The closer you come, the slower I go.” He wasn’t even driving a fancy car, it was a chemist’s delivery van for a Glenboig chemist. Best bit was when he stopped at the red light, not realising that the red is really for those turning right. He was heading straight on. It wasn’t until the drivers behind started sounding their horns that he saw the green filter lane light and drove on.

In Glasgow we met zoomer number two. He was a complete nutter. I signalled to move left into a filter lane, but he wasn’t having it. He was in that lane, it was his lane and he wasn’t giving it up. Stuff that. I accelerated, so did he, but I was quicker and nipped in in front of him. Oh he didn’t like that. He gave up on trying to cut me up as I turned left at the next lights, then undertook me to get in front of me before the next ones. He was smiling as I drove behind him, but I changed lanes and gave him a cheery toot as I passed him. He was in the wrong lane, stuck behind three cars and a bus waiting to turn right at the lights and I had a clear road ahead. A simple beginner’s mistake on his part. Perhaps he’ll learn, but I don’t think so. As we sailed past him I distinctly saw that angry little black monkey sitting on his shoulder, whispering in his ear. So nice to see them together, they deserve each other.

We went in to JL and Scamp quickly got exactly what she was looking for while I ogled the Big Boy’s Toys in the photography section. Then she decided to go look in Next and I went to practise sketching Buchanan Galleries. Inktober starts on Monday and I need lots of practise.

Once we met up, we went for a really poor excuse for a coffee in Nero at the Galleries. They have one more chance to up their game and then they get dropped. Almost Cumbernauld Costa quality they were producing. Burnt water blend.

Drove home without mishap and without meeting any more zoomers. Decided it was warm enough to go cycling if I had enough layers on. Made not a bad fist of fighting my way through the mad (not ‘zoomer’) drivers heading home early from work and did a bit of off road cycling. While I was out in the wilderness I heard the note of a small turboprop plane and guessed it was my favourite aircraft the Piaggio P180. A small 11 seater canard (an aircraft with horizontal stabilising and control surfaces in front of the wing). You can usually hear them long before you see them, but I still had to set up my camera properly to catch this small fast plane and that’s why I tried to jump a fallen tree and tangled my leg in a long bramble stem which is the reason that I’m smelling of TCP right now and have long scratches down my calves. I got the photo, though and that’s the main thing as any photog will tell you. It was indeed a Piaggio P180 flying from Bremen to Glasgow and my leg is indeed still sore.

Heading home I met zoomer 3. Maybe they come in threes. She, it was definitely a She, was driving and she was in a hurry and she was taking no prisoners and she didn’t see cyclists, even ones with flashing red rear light on. If she’s been an inch or two closer she would have had a nasty scrape down her nearside door and I wouldn’t have had to worry about the bramble scratch on my legs. Luckily she didn’t make that move and I got home safe, but it was a very near miss, Miss.

“Zoomer – A person of an erratic or volatile disposition.”

PoD is a view from the JL bridge over the railway in Glasgow taken with the Samyang, the lens of the moment.

Tomorrow we have no plans. Nothing we need to get, nowhere we need to be. Let’s hope that it’s Zoomers Stay At Home Day.

Cliché Time – 29 May 2018

It had to happen. You simply can’t avoid it every year.

Off to dull, cloudy Falkirk this morning to get some ‘messages’. It wasn’t much of an improvement from dull, cloudy Cumbersheugh. Came home (with the ‘messages’) and had lunch. Still no sunshine and still less than comfortable temperatures. Hmm.

It was much later in the day before the cloud started to lighten and we went for a walk along the canal. The pessimist as always, I took my rainy coat because it did look as if rain might stop play. It didn’t and halfway along to Twechar I was forced to take may rainy coat off and tie it round my waist. The sun had now burned away the cloud and was shining from a big blue sky. We walked on to Twechar and then crossed over to the railway walk to take us back via the Plantation to the car. It was on the Plantation I got today’s PoD. Taken with the 30mm Panasonic macro. It was the only one of the seven shots I took that was reasonably sharp, actually very sharp. It’s a cliché, the dandelion clock or the little ‘parachutes’ that fly off from it. Every photog takes the pictures every year. We just can’t avoid it. It’s almost like it’s hard wired into our psyche that we must take that photo. Usually once we’ve taken it, we can relax until the next year. Sometimes we continue on and on taking dandelion pictures for ages until we’re sated and have to go on a dandelion diet until the next May.

I think the dull afternoon must have put a lot of people off, because we were only passed by a few runners and cyclists on our walk. Usually the canal towpath is a busy thoroughfare in mid May. Also today we only saw two dogs. That in itself is amazing. Maybe the dogs looked out at the milky white sky and said “Naw mate, no’ gaun oot today” and went back to sleep.

Dinner tonight was crab spaghetti. It should have been Linguini, but Scamp doesn’t care for the thicker pasta, so spaghetti it was. The crab was lovely and there was just enough chilli in it to brighten it up. Splash of white wine, a finely chopped bit of garlic, olive oil (good stuff-EVOO) and a handful of parsley with the Skye crab and you have a very tasty meal. I commend it to you.

Tomorrow I have an appointment with the nurse who will draw some blood for my annual check-up, but joy of joys, it’s NOT a fasting blood test. At last we are being dragged into the 21st century. Hallelujah!