Off the leash – 28 July 2020

Scamp was off to a Witches housewarming and I was off the leash for a couple of hours.

Did a bit of shopping while Scamp was getting ready. Just the usual essentials, bottle of Prosecco, box of chocolates and a box of fancy biscuits, oh yes, and a box of Wheetabix, that was for me. The rest, or at least part of it was to go to the Witches party. Lunch for me was one of yesterday’s rolls with some cooked ham. Ham was lovely, roll was dry and cheuch (that means tough). Scamp was off to afternoon tea and Champagne. How the other half live, eh?

When Scamp was safely driven off to the party I settled down to clear up the painting room again. Hoovered most of the scraps of cloth from the floor, picked up all the little bits of black thread that get everywhere. Read a painting book to give me some inspiration – that didn’t help. Put away the sewing machine, started filling a bag with rubbish. I just couldn’t settle down to do anything. Finally gave up and went downstairs to fight with Luminar 4, a piece of software that’s main claim to fame is that it can fake a sky into a picture to persuade all but the most ardent pixel peepers that it’s real. Well, that’s what it did up until the last update. Now it’s become an expert beachball spinner. In other words, as usually happens with clever apps and even clever app designers, it has become top heavy in bloat and can produce really good effects if you’ve got the time to sit and watch the pointer turn into a spinning beach ball for five minutes every time you move the mouse. I’d have thought it would be easy to uninstall it and just reinstall the previous version, but apparently you can’t do that losing all your previous work. Emailing Tech Support doesn’t help, perhaps because they’re inundated with emails from people like me disgruntled at this ill thought out upgrade.

Now there’s a thing. The word ‘disgruntled’. The ’dis’ part usually means ’the opposite of’ as in disassembled or disagree. If that’s the case, is ‘gruntled’ the opposite of ’disgruntled’? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Eventually I had to drag myself away from the computer and go for tonight’s dinner requirements. Walked down to the shops after leaving Scamp a message. Hoping afterwards that here eyesight wouldn’t have been too seriously damaged by a surfeit of champagne and cocktails to be able to read it. It wasn’t, she was back when I returned. Back with stories of the beautiful house with carefully colour matched walls, carpets, curtains and dog. If she changes the colour scheme for the house will she need to change the dog too, I wondered. Dinner was Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya and it was good!

Actually did a fifteen minute sketch of a guy we used to meet at Salsa. Pencil sketch which was deemed pretty good by Scamp. PoD was a bunch of rowan berries on the back door tree.

Tomorrow looks like a reasonable day, so we may go somewhere interesting.

The Grass Hoover – 22 July 2020

It was an uninspiring day. It rained from morning until night.  A day for clearing up loose ends.

We had decided yesterday that if today was as bad as predicted, we’d go and look for a new grass hoover. You know, one of those things that you run over your grass, it cuts it, then hoovers it all up. Some call it a lawn mower. We don’t have a lawn, we have grass, that’s why we need a grass hoover

Drove up to B&Q. They had the model Scamp was interested in, but only on display. No big boxes with the real thing in them. Nearest B&Q that had them was in Coatbridge. Just for fun I set the satnav to take us to Coatbridge. Firstly it got lost. It took us along the M80, then told us to take a slip road and go back the way we’d come. I ignored it. It could have taken us off at the next but one turn off , but no, it knew a better way. We went the scenic route via Hamilton. A seven mile trip that ended up consuming about 20 miles of road. It did find B&Q though.

Thankfully they did have the big orange box with the grass hoover in it. We wandered around and around the grass cutting toys, but we couldn’t decide which one to get. Eventually Scamp chose the one we’d been looking for from the start. It went into the Juke’s vast storage space easily and we drove home … my way. Took about half the time the satnav had wasted getting there.

The rain had not let up all day, so there was no point in unboxing the grass hoover, it wasn’t going to hoover up any grass today. It’s still sitting in the hall, sleeping in its box.

In the afternoon I grabbed a few shots in the garden during a dry spell. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s raindrops on the seed head of an Allium. With one in the bag I could relax a bit. Next was dinner prep. Today we were having a Chilli non-carne, in other veg chilli and I was chef. While I was making it, Scamp was trying to do a deal with Vodafone to get an upgrade to her four year old Samsung phone. She was unsuccessful. So, it looks like she’ll be leaving Vodafone. Well, it did until she found that she can get a better deal by leaving Vodafone with her PAK code and going to Carphone Warehouse and getting them to give her a deal with … Vodafone for about a fiver a month cheaper than Vodafone were offering. Are you still with me? I’m not sure I am.

Today was number 100 of the Lockdown Library on Instagram and Facebook. Since one hundred was a nice round number, I thought I’d finish the Library there. That does not mean the drawings and paintings will cease. Oh no, you don’t get away that easily.

We think Isobel is coming to lunch tomorrow, so there will be a fair bit of tidying, polishing and hoovering (not grass) tomorrow morning. Let’s hope it’s a better day than today so she can have a look round the garden.

A day at the seaside – 20 July 2020

We were up and out early because the sun was shining. No time for coffee today, we were going to the seaside.

Drove down the M77 to Troon and parked near the harbour at the parking place where the crashing waves blow in from Arran and Ailsa Craig. It was a fairly heavy and grey sea out there, but not as bad as we’ve seen it. Still, as first Ailsa Craig, then Arran disappeared into the rain clouds, we decided it might be a good idea to wait a while before venturing out for a walk.

Once that shower passed, we did go out walking. Up and over the Ballast Bank, built in the 1800s to protect the new port, and partly constructed from ballast from merchant ships and partly from the dredging operations at the new port. It’s always a lot breezier on the top with the prevailing wind coming straight off the sea. There’s a lower level path too, but it’s only really for one person at a time with very few passing places. On rough sea days it can be a bit wet and slippery. We chose the high road today.

Walked on along the esplanade and were both surprised at the number of folk stravaigin along the front. We walked on the sand about half way along the sand dunes and then turned and came back along the path. Climbing through the sand dunes we spotted a wee lizard sunning (?) itself on a patch of sand. I suppose it was quite sheltered there and would catch the occasional spot of sunshine.

Walked back to the car. Normally we’d have gone for a coffee at least and possibly a bite to eat, but we’re still not totally comfortable with eating out in these early days of freedom.

Drove back home through Dundonald then on to a busier than normal M77. Busier than a weekday, that is. But as Scamp had remembered earlier, today was ‘Glasgow Fair Monday’. It used to be a big local holiday, but even without the disruption caused by Covid-19, it’s hardly remarked upon these days.

A few choices for PoD, but I chose the one of the two boys with their surfboards, splashing in the waves. They must have been freezing, because this was not Surfin’ USA.

Two sketches going up on Instagram. One of Kilmuir Free Church, drawn from a Google Street View and one of my completed Monday Sudoku. If I get them posted, that will be us up to date.

No plans for tomorrow.

Burnin’ a hole in ma’ pocket – 16 July 2020

Since early April I’ve had a gift card that’s been “burning a hole in my pocket.” My son and daughter collaborated and gave me the card as part of my birthday presents intending it to be used to pay for an espresso machine to replace my old and failing Gaggia. Unfortunately just after they bought it, Covid-19 took over the world and all the shops closed. Of course I could have used it on-line, but being an auld guy, I like to see and touch what I’m buying, so I waited and waited and I pondered. I changed my mind umpteen times, but in the end I got it down to two machines. Today I chose the De Longhi and it’s lovely. So small, so compact and yet so versatile. Starts in a flash and produces good, strong coffee. It was worth the wait to have a second birthday three months after the first! Thank you again Hazy, JIC, Neil-D and Sim (alphabetical is the fairest way!).

We’d driven in to Glasgow in the morning to have a look in John Lewis although I knew they didn’t have any in stock, because I’d checked before we went out, and so hadn’t brought the gift card. They lied. Not one, but two boxed machines sitting there large as life. Still the visit wasn’t wasted because Scamp managed to buy ‘a few things’ in JL. She went in to Lakeland to buy cling film and came out with a skillet (fancy name for a frying pan) too. We drove home. After lunch I made my decision, grabbed the gift card, drove back to JL and bought the machine before anyone else could deprive me of it.

Spent what was left of the afternoon building it up and making a mess of coffee all over the kitchen. The De Longhi is a bit more complicated to work than the old Gaggia. I imagine once you’ve got it set up to your specification, all will be well. I’ve had over ten years of adjustments incorporated into the Gaggia and when it’s on song, it produces good coffee. I’ve yet to hit that sweet spot with the DL. It’ll come. We just have to discuss things, DL and I and come to an agreement. A meeting of minds, coffee minds.

I’d grabbed a picture of a Grey Glasgow from the Buchanan Galleries bridge, but realised it was almost an exact copy of one I’d taken before at least twice. It just like the front cover of Deacon Blue’s ’Raintown’. Dull, dull, dull. When I was puzzling over the instructions of the DL for the umpteenth time, I notice two of Scamp’s roses glowing in the sunshine which was streaming in the window in one of the few dry spells of the day. Grabbed a couple of shots and one of them made PoD. Sketch of the Day just had to be the New Toy.

Tomorrow we have no plans although Shona might be coming for lunch. Ben’s off on holiday at his dad’s and Shona’s got ‘an empty’!

The wrong day for a walk round a pond – 10 July 2020

We drove to Coatbridge to go for a walk. So did half of central Scotland.

In the morning Scamp drove to Tesco to get a couple of cards. I stayed home and footered. Footering is a great occupation. Basically it’s time-wasting on an Olympic scale. Today’s footering involved making an ear protector for a mask, any mask. The mask the girl next door, Lucy, made is a bit skimpy on elastic, so it tugs at my ears when I wear it. I thought I could use one of Hazy’s ideas and make a mask extender and ear protector all in one. It involved sewing up a strip of cloth, then stitching and cutting a button hole and lastly sewing on a button. After a lot of huffing and puffing, a fair bit of swearing and surprisingly, not stabbing myself with the needle I had a working prototype. It works, it’s not elegant, but it does show that may head does indeed “button up the back.” That will only mean anything to the higher echelons of UK inhabitants, i.e. those from Scotland.

Scamp drove us through one of those “passing showers” to Drumpellier park today so we could walk round the pond. When we were struggling to find a space to park the Micra we decided that the park was full. Full to overflowing might have been a more apt description. We could have found a space, but then we’d have needed to find a space in the crowd to go for a walk. You know how it was before Lockdown when you funnel into a queue to get a space on an escalator? That’s what it would have been like finding a space in the slow moving queue of people walking round the pond. I’ve never seen it so busy. Drove home again.

We were going to have a pizza for dinner tonight, so I made up some dough and set it to prove. Scamp wanted to post a card, so we got ourselves organised and started to walk over to Condorrat. Then she decided to move her car from the top of the road down to nearer the house and I was given the duty of posting the card. Found a happy crowd of folk at what was The Masonic in Condorrat drinking beer outside, legally, for the first time in months. Walked back through St Mo’s and caught a couple of Soldier Beetles in flagrante. I think that’s the default position for soldier beetles, hence their nickname Bonking Beetles. That became PoD.

Ok admission time. I admit I was a bit down last night and decided to stop the Lockdown Library. For whatever reason, it’s been reinstated as part of my daily routine again, for a while at least. Today’s offering as well as yesterday’s (yes, I did one yesterday) is up on Instagram.

No plans for tomorrow, and yes, the pizza was lovely. Pizza Napolitana on on half and Pizza Napolitana without olives on the other half.

halves two of day A – 8 July 2020

In other words, just the same as yesterday, except the other way round. The morning was bright and shiny today and got progressively duller and wetter as time went on.

Spoke to Hazy in the morning and caught up on all things around and about Epsom. Glad to hear that they, like us are getting out again, even if it is only a run in the car. Later, after morning coffee and a first go at today’s ‘Fiendish’ Sudoku, we revised our plans for the day. We’d initially though about driving somewhere scenic and going for a walk, but the weather was already deteriorating and the sun had disappeared. We decided to have lunch and see if there was an improvement in the situation.

Scamp had been bitten on our walk yesterday and it looked to me like a cleg bite. She’d taken Piriton last night and again this morning. She’d also applied some Anthisan antihistamine and the combination seemed to work. After lunch she took the same medicine before we went out for a walk round Broadwood. Bumped into Glenda Begg  halfway round. She is a Special Needs teacher at the new Academy and had just finished her volunteer shift supervising kids at Broadwood Stadium which is the local ‘Hub’ where school age kids can go during the summer holidays. She was telling us that today there were three volunteers to 130 weans (I refuse to use the children-and-young-people ‘word’ that the Scottish Government use for ‘weans’). That’s a 40:1 ratio. NLC are happy because they don’t have to pay anyone and can brag about how they are making provision for under 18s.

Walked back past the shops and bought the makings for tonight’s dinner. I was ‘chef’. It turned out quite well. Baked Haddock and Cabbage Risotto. Dead easy because the oven does all the hard work.

PoD was a close up of a Honeysuckle flower we saw on our walk. Sketch was a pencil sketch of a beer can (unopened)!

Watched two excellent short videos today, Fatbaws and Larchvies. Both are parts of the Scenes for Survival series from BBC Scotland. Google them, they are excellent and there’s a lot more where they came from. Really short, around 20 minutes long and some are a lot shorter. So far they all seem to be monologues. Those with little time for reading could always play them in their new car on the way to work! 😉

The weather for tomorrow seems to be much like today was, i.e. better early than late. We may go for that longer walk if we get the chance.

A day of two halves – 7 July 2020

The first half, the morning half we dithered for a while before deciding that it was only threatening. It wasn’t going to rain. Wrong.

We intended to drive to Drumpellier park for a walk round the loch if it wasn’t too busy. Before we were even out of the estate there were raindrops on the windscreen. By the time we were joining the M73 it was coming down in buckets. Decided we’d probably go to The Fort instead to get some more fabric to make us some new masks and a new sketch book for me.

We sat in the car, waiting for the rain to go off. It did lessen a bit and that was good enough for us. There was a queue, but then there is a queue everywhere now. Eventually we got in and got the fabric and the book. By the time we came out the rain had stopped and all the folk who had been waiting in their cars were now wandering around the shops. Too busy, we decided and headed for home. One last discussion before we reached the T junction. Right would take us to Drumpellier and left would take us home. We decided on Left. As we were driving along, we could see the Campsie Fells in the distance with the sun glancing off them. Maybe we’d made the wrong choice. Doesn’t matter, the die had been cast and we were going home for lunch.

After lunch Scamp walked down to the shops to get the makings of today’s dinner. I stayed home and started to make the new mask she wanted. I was just getting to the sewing up stage as she was returning.

Later, since the day had improved greatly from this morning’s heavy rain, we went for a walk round St Mo’s and didn’t even wear a raincoat.  Went round the pond twice and that’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a hover fly, but I can’t make up my mind which one. Hopefully someone on Flickr will know.

Dinner was an excellent Scamp meal of flattened chicken in panko breadcrumbs. There’s probably a fancy French name for ‘flattened chicken’, but that’s what it is. It was really lovely. My turn to cook tomorrow and my mind is empty. Something will float into that void before tomorrow, I hope.

Tonight’s sketch changed from a pencil sketch to a painting. It’s a house across the road from Isobel in the Village. It’s been empty for a few years and is getting really dilapidated now. Water stains all down the walls and paint daubed all over the plywood covering the walls. I liked the desolation of it and enjoyed the exercise. I was painting on slippery HP (Hot Pressed) paper that doesn’t absorb the paint as much as NOT (Not Hot Pressed) paper.  I don’t use it much, but it’s sitting in a drawer and should be used up.  I must get my new paints unwrapped an put to good use. May do that this week if I get a chance. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends a lot on the weather.

Out walking – 6 July 2020

We drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal this morning. Typically, now we are free to travel the length and breadth of the country, we stayed within the 5 mile lockdown limit!

Walked along the canal, avoiding a few cyclists and joggers on a beautiful, if slightly breezy morning. Still didn’t see any kingfishers, but did catch one of Mr Grey’s relatives hiding in the rushes on the far side of the canal. Initially he tried to hide, but then realised it was just a couple of humans out for a walk and totally ignored us. We turned around when we reached Twechar and took the railway path back to Auchinstarry. The railway path is much more sheltered than the canal towpath and as a result we could dispense with out waterproof jackets. Hardly met anyone on the path. When we were crossing the wee stone bridge at Auchinstarry I spotted a Shield Bug and that got PoD. It just ignored me for most of the time, but when I got too close it became defensive and as they have a tendency to fire smelly fluid at you if attacked, I said goodbye and took my leave.

After lunch Scamp went looking for food at the shops while I stayed home and attempted yesterday’s painting, a Ruby Wedding rose that Scamp had cut yesterday to stop it being battered by the gales. It was much more glamorous today picking up the light from the window. I didn’t do it justice, I know that, but this was the best of three attempts and would have to do. It was another catch-up.

When Scamp returned I grabbed my camera and went looking for more subjects. Found a Burnet moth behind St Mo’s school. First one I’ve seen this year. Didn’t get a chance to count its spots, just took its photo.

Tonight I did today’s sketch which turned out to be a still life pencil sketch of two apples. One of my favourite subjects, but, again, not very successful. I’m intending keeping the Lockdown Library going until we’re sure we’re out of it or until I reach my limit.

Another sketchbook filled tonight. May go looking for another one tomorrow. Otherwise no plans. Depends on the weather.

The sky is falling – 3 July 2020

Well, that’ the way it felt today with the amount of rain that was dropping from the sky.

We had intended to drive in to Glasgow today for a walk down Bucky Street and then, maybe along Argyle Street and up past a certain art shop in Queen Street, then drive back home. That was the plan yesterday, but it didn’t quite work out that way. First off we needed to take Scamp’s wee car out for a run. Just to make sure that the battery was charged and that it was continuing to charge. It passed both tests with flying colours. It started first time and with Scamp driving and me as radio operator, we managed to code in the security number correctly. Who among my readers could tell me that they’d have the radio security number for their car, ten years after they bought it? Scamp knew exactly where the four digit code was and even corrected me when I initially typed it in wrongly. Ms Memory, that’s Scamp!

She had decided that she’d drive in to Robroyston, turn there and come home. Halfway along the motorway, with blinding rain and spray it didn’t look as if we’d get that far, but she stuck it out and we turned at the retail park and drove straight back home without stopping. Battery seems to be charging properly and no problems with it at all. The rain seemed even worse coming home and we were both glad to park up and have lunch. One trial over.

In the afternoon I walked down to the shops and got the shopping for tonight’s dinner in M&S where I was complimented on my frog mask, but reminded that from Monday, masks will be mandatory in shops. Shoppers will not be allowed to enter M&S without one. Not everyone is happy about it, it seems, but it doesn’t bother either of us. A mask is now just something you keep in your back pocket or your bag and slip it on as soon as you enter an enclosed space. How easily we become used to the new regime.

I managed to grab one shot today. Taken from the living room window, it’s a close up of a pink rosebud from the climbing rose at the back door. Scamp reckons it came from my mum and dad’s house in Larky. That might be true. Anyway, the rosebud made PoD.

Dinner was disappointing despite all the ingredients looking like they worked together. It was a ‘healthy’ recipe, not so much a low salt as a no salt recipe. There is no point in making an ultra low salt recipe if, in the end, it tastes of nothing. Salt is there for a purpose. It’s a flavour enhancer. True, too much is dangerous, but too much of anything is dangerous. I may try it again but with the addition of that four letter flavour enhancer this time. Vegetable, Herb and Smoked Trout Patties if you must know.

I had a drawing for yesterday, but was too tired to post it, so it went in today. It was Glasgow’s pigeons sitting on one of the old buildings in Argyle Street. Today’s is a still life of the fruit bowl. Drawn on a rough textured cheap sketch book from Cass Art using a cheap compressed charcoal pencil from The Works. It just shows that not all art materials need to be expensive. The pencil and paper work so well together, they are great to draw with.  Both drawings now on Instagram and FB.

Tomorrow looks to be much less wet than today and we may go out. That’s all I’m saying.

Feeling a bit run down – 2 July 2020

You know how some days you feel a bit lacklustre and not exactly full of energy. That’s how Scamp’s wee red car felt today.

We had spent the morning lounging around and too lazy to do much. Although the wonders of shopping in Glasgow were drawing us in to the big city, inertia was holding us fast. Eventually we decided that today was a lovely sunny day after a few wet and dull days, and we should both make the most of it. Tomorrow promises to be wet and windy. That might be a better day to wander round the shops. Our decision was to go and do some food shopping because Scamp was chef tonight, then I might go out for a run on the Dewdrop. Scamp’s car hadn’t turned a wheel for about a month, so she offered to drive, except …

When she turned the key in the ignition the starter coughed a few times and then went silent. She tried again and it was like a death rattle. Lifted the bonnet, but there was nothing to see. After my recent problems with the Juke, I suspected a flat battery. Scamp tried phoning for the AA which is run through our bank, but there was a 20min wait in a queue, even to find out if we were covered for home start. I phoned Jim Dickson our go-to place for all car consumables to find out how much a new battery would cost. It was a lot less than Kwik Fit or AA were quoting, like a hundred pounds more in the case of the AA.

After a fair bit of swearing and about half an hour’s work the old battery came out and I took it for a run to see what Mr Dickson would say about it. He (or as it turned out, she because it was Ms Dickson who was in charge today) said yes, they had one in stock and for once it was the cheap one we needed. Back home I wrestled the new battery into place and nearly wrecked a Torx spanner tightening the retaining bolt. Before I connected the terminals back in place I did check with Mr Google who told me that I was correct in assuming that the negative terminal was the first to be connected. I don’t know where I’d remembered that from, because it’s a very long time since I’ve replaced a battery in a car. With everything connected, the key turned, the engine started an Scamp had a smile on her face again.

Work done, I had an hour to spend walking over St Mo’s before dinner. Came back and sat in the garden with a pint of Guinness while the chef prepared dinner which turned out to be a lovely Paneer Curry. Quite the best curry I’ve had in a long time. I must get the recipe!

While I was out I got today’s PoD which is a seven spot ladybird. Managed a shot of a hoverfly masquerading as a bee too. I took the ladybird with a conventional shot, but the hoverfly was captured using Post Focus. It’s really an extremely short video that allows you to select one frame to download and turn into a JPEG file. Yes, JIC I know that’s Technospeak and you weren’t warned. Sorry. Just call it Black Magic! That’s how it seems to me and I know how it works.

Because of the battery problems, I didn’t really get round to doing a sketch until just before I started the blog, but it is done and will be posted tomorrow, all being well. Also tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow if the rain isn’t too heavy.