At sea – 29 June 2018

Today in art class we were painting a pig. Let’s face it there are plenty to choose from on this ship. There are fat pigs, male chauvinist pigs, ugly pigs and just plain porkers, but this was a happy little pig leaning on a fence. I tried to follow Easa, the teacher’s, instructions, but found it difficult to start with painting the eyes first. It goes against all the watercolour rules of leaving details to the end and also of painting light to dark. However it worked better than I thought and his colour combinations and mixing instructions worked well. I liked my little pig. It should appear soon on Flickr, but not until the blog is complete and the PoDs are in place. I’ll let you know when.

Salsa class was more turns, which give my knee gyp, and more additions to the routine. The sad thing is that this is ballroom salsa. In Cuban salsa, and even in LA as far as I can see you never dance a routine. Yes, in class, in a learning environment you dance in a circle (rueda) and all do the same moves, but not when out dancing. Then it’s freestyle, so we’d never use the kicks and flicks. Still, it’s good fun and with such a camp and fun teacher you can’t help but think it’s “FAB!”

Dinner was booked for 7pm in Sindhu, the Indian restaurant on board, but that didn’t prevent us from having some Aloo Saag and Muttar Paneer for lunch. Lovely stuff.

Later, once we’d given it a chance to be digested, we went swimming in the inside/outside pool. Later when Scamp had gone to the cabin to get ready for tonight, I did a wee sketch of the pool area. Again, it may appear on a blog posts or Flickr later TBC.

Sindhu dinner which was also the last of the formal (AKA Dress The Dolly) nights was disappointing. There was nothing really wrong with it, it was just not as good as the last time when we’d been overwhelmed by the range and quality of the food.

Afterwards we went to the show in Arena. It was a life history of Burt Bacharach (!!) We rated it as ‘poor’. Certainly not one of Headliners best performances.

Rambling around La Rambla–22 June 2018

P1050055- blogGot off the ship to the usual scramble for the free bus to take us in to Barcelona.  Asked one of the guides how long it would take to get into town and he told us abouthe t half an hour.   By the look of the snaking queue, it would take well over that to get in to town on the bus, so we walked.  And walked. And walked.  Down past three other cruise ships, past the heli-port and over the bridge to the town.  At the top of arched bridge it became quite bouncy when buses or lorries were passing.  A bit like the suspension bridge over the Clyde at The Green, but on a much bigger scale.  It took us about half an hour, just as predicted.

Walked up La Rambla and watched the ‘Human Statues’ setting up, likewise the craft stall holders.  For once we went in to the market and walked round amazed at the variety and colour of all the fruits, meats and fish that was being sold.  Had a beer in a wee square just outside the market and then continued up La Rambla.  There was a heavy police presence on the street and the now familiar army personnel carrying automatic weapons.  I’d guess with the tensions in this area with Catalan extremists, this is inevitable.  It didn’t seem to put off the hawkers and ‘lookie-lookie’ men selling fridge magnets and fans from their white bed sheets on the ground.

At the top of the street we went through the Place de Catalunia.  I hope I spelled that correctly.  Without any WiFi here that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, it’s difficult to do the normal Google checks! Out along a street, still heading in the same direction I got today’s PoD which is an old man sketching a lovely perspective view of the street.  He was working on a full sheet of watercolour paper, drawing with a sharpened piece of bamboo cane, dipping it in to an ink bottle he held in his other hand.  He seemed to be totally engrossed in his work and although he answered my questions, only gave short answers.  Beautiful work.

I wanted to get back to La Ramba to find the famous Miro mosaic.  It was just where we’d turned off Rambla to go in to the market.  Found it and photographed it.  Just before that I’d done a 15 minute sketch of a wee church in a side street.  Not nearly as good as the old man’s sketch, not even in the park.

Crossed out of Rambla and past a flea market we’d visited when we got to the town, then Scamp found the place where we could get the bus back to the ship.  Don’t think I could have faced another walk back!

Dinner tonight was with a young couple on their honeymoon, a doctor who had broken his neck while at college and was paralysed from the neck down and his carer who we presume was also a nurse.  All great company.

Missed the show, so early bed.

Salsa, Painting, but no’ Dancin’ – 18 June 2018

P1040887- blogThere is a painting class, a salsa class and a ballroom class on sea days like today.

Woke at about our usual time of 8.30.  I’d visions of still being in the land of nod well after breakfast was past and we were into lunch time, but it wasn’t like that.  We were up and out before 9.15 and went to Smash ‘n’ grab for breakfast.  Then it was time for me to head for the watercolour painting class in the Metropolitan lounge where the self-important singer had been last night.  Scamp went to the ballroom class instead. Our tutor, a man from Kurdistan, was called Easa.  He told us it was pronounced like Lisa, but not to call him Lisa.  His style was more direct than that of the tutor two years ago and he didn’t come with the baggage of a published book he felt he had to publicise.  Once the usual self proclaimed ‘artist’ had shown him her iPad full of her paintings (she did commissions, probably for blind friends.) we got started, but while we were waiting for the lady to get her complements, I did a quick Loomis sketch of her!  I can’t say I agreed with all Easa’s colour choices, but on the whole the finished article did look like the tiny little photo he’d given us to copy.  On the next sea day we are painting penguins (or so he says).  We’ll have to wait and see.  Scamp seemed to enjoy the ballroom which was the Social Foxtrot, but said that the teacher had a cutting voice.  It was time for lunch.

We agreed that we’d have a light lunch and for once, I stuck to my promise.  After that, it was time for the Salsa class and much to my surprise it was really good, although the men’s teacher was just a little bit camp.  I really enjoyed the class although it was a bit basic for us, but perhaps, just perhaps if they’re teaching salsa during the day we might get some decent music to dance too tonight.  Next up was the afternoon session of Social Foxtrot.  It came as a bit of a surprise to me to discover that P&O are allowed to employ Nazis.  I’d have thought in these days when you can hardly mention Hitler’s name that one of his high ranking officers is allowed to be a ballroom teacher.  “Cutting voice” Scamp had said.  Yes, it was certainly cutting and also hectoring.  “Ladies, some of you are STILL facing the wrong way.  If you’re looking at me, you CANNOT be facing forward.”  I gave up after that.  I came on this ship to enjoy myself, not to be shouted at.  I apologised to Scamp and we went for afternoon tea.  I saw a couple of dolphins, but Scamp just missed that experience.  I’m sure there will be more.

Weather and sea was a bit heavy today, although the Bay of Biscay was not too choppy.  Air temperature a bit cooler than we’d hoped for with a high of only 18c.

Last night, although I had steak for dinner, the lamb shank looked lovely too.  Tonight I had Gammon Shank and it was gorgeous.  Scamp’s starter of Seared Tuna was declared delicious too.  Food appears to be much better here than Thompson’s and without the overhead for steak.  An unnecessary addition to the cost of the cruise in my opinion.

Watched the sequence dancers for a while, also known as dancing for the already dead.  I don’t see me ever stooping that low.  They didn’t play any salsa, but then again it was the Nazi who was in charge, so I didn’t expect any.

Went to the show and enjoyed Reel To Reel for the second time, I’m sure.  Late night coffee (decaf –  Sorry Hazy, I know you expect better from me) and a slice of pizza.  It’s much warmer outside tonight than at any time of the day.

Hoping to get up early for the bus to Oporto and our feet on dry land again.  Land that doesn’t move!

Dancin’, but No’ Dancin’ aye, Dancin’ – 13 June 2018

Confused? You will be.

Today we went dancin’, although I had been warned not to by my experts. However, we had agreed between ourselves that a half hour of ballroom wouldn’t do me very much harm. It didn’t. I’d told Michael that I was crocked and that I’d sit out the jive. He agreed.

We danced the waltz quite well, but Michael pointed out where we were making it too simple, and then it was so obvious that we were cutting corners. It always is obvious once you have it pointed out. It’s the turns, even in the waltz that are causing the problem with my knee. I’m sure about it now.

On to the jive and I sat out. However, it made the class unbalanced with an odd number and, as he had already said he was just going over the first four spins again <This should really have a ‘Technospeak’ warning, shouldn’t it!>. As he was just going over the first four spins again to make sure we were confident with them, I felt I could walk through them without causing myself too much discomfort. It was easy! I even managed to dance the routine (quite badly). So we now have a couple of weeks off before we get a chance to dance again and it will be Ballroom Tango when we go back, instead of waltz.

Walking back from the dancin’ was where I saw the motorbike or scooter to be more exact, with a wide empty space behind the handlebars. It was Scamp who noticed that there was no seat and then we both realised at the same time that this was a scooter for a disabled person in a wheelchair. What a brilliant idea. This was no Mobility Scooter, this was a scooter for a biker in a wheelchair. Not only that, this was a vehicle with street cred and attitude. It even had a handbrake! How smart is that! There was no competition, this had to be PoD.

Portrait class tonight was more interesting because it was our first chance to use colour. It was going well until someone noticed that the elderly gentleman, Jim, who was sitting for us had gone a strange colour and seemed to be on the point of passing out. We got him off his stool and on to a chair, but he was determined to continue and posed again for the second sitting in the chair. I was quite pleased with my last night’s work in the class. It’s not been a wonderful class, with little in the way of actual tuition, but it’s given me the chance to measure my skills against others like myself. Learned a bit about where all the bits of a face go(!) and gained some confidence in my drawing. Still don’t want to do a full life class. I remember saying to the principal teacher of art at school that I couldn’t handle figure work (nudes) and he told me with a wink, “You’re not really meant to handle them!”

Another blood letting tomorrow, then we’re hoping to face the stormy weather and go for lunch in the West End.

In the Toon, in the sun – 6 June 2018

A girl cutting hair? It’s a barbers, not a hairdresser’s!

We were all set to go to the dancin’ today at Blackfriars until Scamp got a message to say that it was cancelled. That gave us a fair bit of the afternoon to fill. I wanted my hair cut, Scamp wanted to go shopping, not for shopping. Not going for the messages. This was serious shopping. I also wanted to go shopping for a couple of books. With all that in our collective heads, it seemed a visit to Glasgow was in order, but a visit on the bus this time, not a drive. It was a really hot day, so we also decided to have lunch out and make a day of it. So that’s what we did.

First stop the barbers. My usual place, the Nile Barbers, but what was this? None of the usual faces. One guy and a girl. A girl in Nile Barbers? Never seen that before. However, she cut my hair exactly how I wanted it and only asked for £7, pensioners rates. Then one of the usual barbers returned. Ah, that’s good. It’s not a total take-over. I can rest easy knowing that the everybody’s getting older guy and the conspiracy theorist have not been sacked, and that Silent Bob will be back in his corner cutting hair without a word.

Back up on to Sausageroll street and having to go round the part demolished New City Palace to get to Waterstones where I bought the final book in the Themis Files trilogy. I just finished the second book in the series this morning and it’s some measure of the attraction of the writing that I went out this afternoon to buy the sequel. Book two in a trilogy is so often just treading water and going nowhere, but this book took the story on a completely different direction and led neatly to the final(?) book. The question mark is there because I’ve read on the net that it might not be the final book. That would perhaps be a shame. I’d like to see the story drawn neatly to a close, whatever that is. I’m keeping the book for the holidays. That will leave a decent amount of time for my brain to work on the implications of book two and prepare for the finale. If you haven’t read the series, I really recommend that you do. I won’t give away the plot or the twists. All I’m saying is read it. It’s SF, but does the ‘F’ stand for Fiction or Fact? You choose.

Met Scamp who had done the shopping she intended to do and was loaded down with bags. We went to lunch in Paesano – best pizza place in Glasgow. Unfortunately, Scamp reminded me that although we’d gone in by bus, I was driving Fred and me to the college tonight, so Nick the Chick says “No alcohol shall pass thy lips on pain of five thousand penalty points and a £50,000,000 fine (plus VAT).” So I had fizzy orange instead 🙁

Walked round to Queen Street for coffee in Nero and it was while walking round I got today’s PoD.  It’s a reflection of the College of Building and Printing reflected in my favourite glass fronted building in Queen Street.  I liked the distorted writing that should read “People Make Glasgow”.  Title was Lost in Translation.

Bus back and soon it was time to go for Fred. We’d an older sitter than last week and I think I managed to do him justice. Like he said, everyone’s interpretation is different. Roseanne (tutor) tried to rile me with a few digs about people criticising the Loomis method, but I gave as good as I got. She tried her best to blank me when doing her rounds, but eventually gave me a few words of wisdom. I took her advice and the second sketch once the sitter had had a rest was a lot better and from a totally different viewpoint.

Tomorrow is to be at least as hot as today. We have no plans as yet.

Dancin’ and drawin’, that’s a Wednesday – 30 May 2018

The day started badly, but improved … a bit.

Up early to go to the docs to get my blood taken. Sat for a while and finally went to check. Apparently my appointment which I’d been told was for 9.50 was actually for 8.50. Despite remonstrating with the receptionist, who I must say treated me like a retard, she was adamant that I was wrong. I was equally adamant that I was right. I eventually got another appointment for tomorrow. Came home slightly less incandescent than I left the health centre and wrote this suggestion to them:

Here’s a suggestion:
When a patient makes an appointment over the phone or at reception, send them a confirmation email or text. This will avoid wasted time on both sides and will also give a degree of certainty a scribbled note on a piece of paper (at best) doesn’t. My dentist has been doing it this way for years so why can’t Kenilworth? After all, it’s 2018, not 1918.

I don’t think it will be implemented. After all, what would a ‘retard’ know about automatic email generation? That was the started badly part over.

Drove in to Glasgow under a blue sky and danced up a fair sweat. I thought Michael was nit picking again until I realised that he was picking up on things I was doing wrong without noticing. He took us a bit further along our waltz journey, into the tricky double natural turns. Michael tried to teach us a new line dance based on Charleston which is much more difficult than you’d think when you see it on Strictly! We didn’t get much further with Jive, but we consolidated the first turns. I got as far as Spin 3, Scamp got to Spin 4. By the end I was exhausted.

Scamp bought a new pair of flip-flops (sparkly ones of course!) because she’d scraped her heel and needed a new pair of sparkly flip-flops to take her mind of the excruciating pain! I browsed some bargains in CassArt, but finally decided that I’d better places for my pennies to go.

Came home and went for a walk to St Mo’s, but by the time I got there the good light had gone and it was becoming decidedly dull and overcast. He weather fairies, the rain isn’t supposed to arrive until Friday! It didn’t arrive, but the clouds still held sway in the heavens, so I had to make do with some pretty wee Berberis flowers. They’ll do, and one of them got PoD.

Swift dinner of prawn salad which was really very nice and then Fred picked me up to go to art class where I caused a stooshie by telling the tutor that I thought the videos we’d been watching were a bit faked. It became rather heated for a while, then settled down to the usual sketching. I get a sore back from standing at an easel drawing for two hours, but it is rather therapeutic and enjoyable trying to get a likeness of someone. I got a bit of praise for my planar drawing of the model. Converted his youthful soft face into a series of flat plates. Strange, but there was a real resemblance there.

Tomorrow a repeat of the blood-letting attempt of this morning, hopefully with a better result. Scamp is off to see the new baby in Larky and I’m going for coffee with the auld guys.

Dancing, portraiture and faces – 23 May 2018

Dull day that started to smile in the afternoon.

Dancing the waltz is difficult, but we thought we had it fairly well under control until Michael showed us the next set of moves today. I’m sure in a couple of weeks they too will seem like child’s play. Now they are just the next hurdle to be waltzed over. Jive was just as difficult as jive usually is. Now we’re on spin number 4 of 7. It gets more complicated, even the men have a turn to do now. I’ve pretty much sorted out spins 1 and 2, 3 is a bit tricky and 4 is just a shambles. Instead of leading, I’m following, but that’s not new. It’s what I do most of the time. Still, it was enjoyable.

Walking back to the car in the sun provided today’s PoD which is a sandstone carving of a lion at the corner of the old fruit market in Glasgow. I also took photos of the ‘green men’ above the doors of the building. I remember drawing one of them in ink wash many years ago. Lovely bits of stone mason’s craft.

Back home I struggled with what was really a simple task of importing the photos into ON1. It’s simple now that I know how to do it. It most certainly wasn’t easy at the time, with hidden bits of menu that really should be more easily accessible.

Dinner was chicken breast wrapped in bacon and pan fried with boiled Jersey Royals and corn on the cob. Really tasty, Scamp. Also on the food front, I chopped up some strawberries and soaked them in vodka. They’ll stay in the fridge for a few days to flavour our Strawberry Vodka and hopefully be drunk outside in the garden under the sun.

Portrait class tonight was a bit of a disaster. A bit like Spin 4 is just now, except we’re more or less left to our own devices. I floundered a lot, trying to work out how to adapt the Loomis method to the head of the young boy we were drawing. It seemed, always, to make his head too fat. I think I’m missing something here. Must watch the videos again. On the way to pick up Fred for the class, I had to do some Genghis Pathfinder stuff to avoid the closed off road at St Mo’s School where a lorry had shed its load of wood. Not the simplest of diversions and it occurred, of course, when the factories along the road were coming out, so everywhere was chok-a-block. Managed it though.

Tomorrow we’re out early(ish). Hopefully before 11am, but I’ll have to go out even earlier to get some (very expensive £1.26 /litre) petrol.

The Man in the Mirror – 21 May 2018

I had homework to do for the Wednesday’s Portraiture class. Today was my first attempt.

Scamp was out with Isobel in the morning and I got started sketching my reflection in the mirror in the back bedroom. It’s been ages since I’ve attempted a self portrait. This was different because it was planned and better structured using the Andrew Loomis method. I’d even made an Autodesk Inventor model of the basic shape of a head to give me a basic understanding of the shape. We’ve still to learn the basic bits that make up a face, like Nose, Mouth, Eyes and Ears. They are important, but the basic shape of the skull is even more important. I’m beginning to understand that now. With a bit of time to myself, I had my first try at an SP.

It was rough and ready, so I set it aside and made lunch which was yesterday’s Aloo Saag bolstered with some more spinach and a few more spices. It was agreed that it was an improvement on yesterday’s. Still needs some fine tuning, and the kitchen cabinets needed a bit of fine cleaning after my attempt at liquidising the second bag of spinach. It looked like the attack of the Jolly Green Giant. Most of it was cleaned up before Scamp came home.

I wasn’t happy with my first portrait attempt, so, after lunch when Scamp and the Gems were going through their repertoire, I started the second version. One of the eyes wasn’t right and that was when I found that I hadn’t a putty rubber, essential when you’re sketching in charcoal, like I was. That gave me the impetus to go out. I bought a putty rubber and then went looking for photos. Drove to Auchinstarry and did the canal, plantation and railway walk under glorious blue skies. That built up my step count for the day and provided my PoD which is a Bum Bee’s Bum. Actually, it’s a hoverfly’s bum, but that doesn’t sound as good, does it?

Back home and I didn’t really need any dinner after a very hearty lunch, so it was tea and toast before we drove in to Glasgow for our Monday dose of Salsa. Two good classes, but so few men. Tonight’s moves for the 6.30 class were Candado Complicado, El Chullo and La Chulla. For the 7.30 class it El Cien. All doable with a bit of practise.  Step count for today is just over 15,800.  Not bad at all!

Tomorrow we have a telephone meeting with Andrew from ARD at 9.30 and the rest of the day is ours!

An afternoon among the beasties – 18 May 2018

After I drove Scamp over to meet the other ‘Witches’, the day was my own.

I chose to follow orders for a while because it suited me. I watered the garden just before 11am because the sun hadn’t forced its way through the clouds yet and it’s a sacrosanct rule that you never water flowers or veg when the sun is shining. All those little beads of water become magnifying lenses and burn the living daylights out of the plants. This was the first time the hose has been used this year. I really enjoy watering the garden with the hose. So much easier than humphing full watering cans around. Not as efficient though. There’s a fair bit of wastage with a hose as my sodden trainers were witness to. I even managed to get it wrestled through the toilet window to water the front garden too.

While I waited for the sun to burst through the clouds, I read a bit, drank a cup of weak tasteless coffee, then another cup of really good strong brew to make up for it. I doodled some sketches and I played around with some of the more esoteric aspects of this new photography program ON1. It’s absolutely enormous and like some program designed by a committee there seems to about ten ways to do exactly the same thing with the same results, but using totally different procedures. I assume they are slightly different and that’s why they are there, but to my naked eye they look the same. Finally, after having achieved absolutely nothing and learned even less, I shut up shop and went to have lunch which was another cup of coffee and a ‘piece’ (that’s a ‘sandwich’ if you’re not Scottish).

After lunch I’d had enough of the Hide and Seek game the sun was playing and went to get my dinner and some petrol for the car from Tesco. Then I pointed the Red Juke at Auchinstarry and said “Go There!”. It did. Walked along the canal hoping for a sighting of the elusive kingfisher, but it wasn’t showing itself today. What I did find was my PoD, the first Scottish damselfly this year. I thought it was dead, but on careful examination, the opposite was the case. It had just released itself from its nymphal shuck and was drying its wings in the sun. Also pumping blood into those wings to stiffen them. Good luck wee red damselfly and make good use of these warm days. Rain is on its way after, or maybe including Sunday. After that I found a plethora of ‘beasties’. Spiders, beetles and flies. You’ll have to look on Flickr to find them.

Drove home and set the new, fancy, complicated combination microwave to cook my pizza dinner. It did it, perfectly. Beautifully baked, not quite Peasano quality, but good enough for me and so much better than a microwaved one with that yucky squidgy base. No, this was a firm base with a crispy topping. Superb. I hope you’re listening JIC. Fiddly to set up, but very adaptable. Tried to watch the news, but apparently there is a wedding in London tomorrow and the rest of the world had to stop turning just to watch it. I didn’t. The pizza was too good to wait for.

All too soon I got the text to say that the witches were leaving Ayr, then the inevitable “on the bus” text. Agreed to pick Scamp up at the bus stop and, of course, by that time the sun was shining from a clear blue sky. What was wrong with having that three or four hours ago? You know how photogs love directional light. So that was it. Slipping the leash for a day is a great thing. I recommend it to you all.

Tomorrow looks like the last good day for a while. I suggest we make the most of it.

Shopping with the Diamond Geezers – 16 May 2018

We didn’t have much planned today, other than to get some compost and do some more work in the garden.  It would have been a shame to anything else with another beautiful day.

To that end, we went for a trip to B&Q in the morning to get some cheap grow bags. Half the ’grey hairs’ in Cumbersheugh were there today with their Diamond Cards, looking for their 10% discount, and they’d all been raiding the cheap grow bag section. As a result there was only one left. A poor little torn at the corner item with some of its peat leaking out. I took pity on it and humphed it into my trolley. Scamp wanted some ‘Busy Lizzies’ for her planter beside the back door. She picked some that looked as if they might last until the weekend at least. The same couldn’t be said for a lot of the plant in B&Q. Lots of them were dehydrated and even more looked as if they were past reviving. However, she was happy with her choice and with her care and attention, I’m sure they’ll be flowering soon. Back home we got to use our IKEA porter’s trolley to cart the bag of peat from the car to the raised bed where it will provide some much needed nutrient.

By the time we got back there was just enough time to have a bite to eat before we left for Glasgow and our ballroom / jive torture. We didn’t do too badly with the ballroom, but the jive was a bit of a ’disaaaaster darling’. I can handle the footwork in the waltz and the footwork in the jive, but trying to fit in the footwork with the arms in jive is too much for my little single core processor to handle. I really need a brain transplant, hopefully a quad core one to manage the psychomotor skills needed for this dancing caper. I was really thankful when the lessons came to an end. It was great to walk back through Glasgow under a blue sky with office workers walking about in their shirt sleeves. Glasgow under a blue sky became PoD.

Back home there was the temptation to go over to St Mo’s for another photo or two, but I only had an hour and that isn’t long enough to do it justice, so I left Scamp to her planting while I prepared my drawing materials for taking to college tonight for the portraiture class. I have to say I was a bit apprehensive about the class. How good would these artist be? I know how good Fred is, but would the others be even better? I needn’t have worried. I’m about the middle of the class. Not as good or as confident as Fred and not as basic as some. I’ve a lot to learn. It’s just a small class just now, only five of us, but hopefully it will get bigger. First week done. Homework for next week. A self portrait or a head and shoulders of a member of your family. I suppose that will be Scamp! Oh yes, as a bonus the teacher, Roseanne, plays some interesting music.

Tomorrow the car goes under the knife at Halfords to fit the dash cam. Hopefully Scamp’s taking us out for the afternoon while the operation continues.