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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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Summer starts here – 25 March 2018

The start of British Summer Time and Fred and I are off to get some art inspiration and perhaps even some art if the price is right.

The clocks had jumped forward by an hour this morning. Well some of them had, the new, hooked-up, on-line ones were up to date and time, but the rest had to be pushed on an hour by hand, or more likely by finger. With that done it was time to sit down and watch the first F1 GP of the year. Felt sorry for Hamilton as he was cheated out of first place by a clever bit of rule twisting by Vettel. I don’t like Hamilton, but I detest Vettel.

Got ready to go in to Glasgow with Fred. We were going to an artist’s sale in the WASP studio. Nothing to do with White or Anglo-Saxon or Protestant, thankfully. WASPS in Glasgow are Workshop & Artists Studio Provision, and that’s where we were heading this morning to an Artist’s Clear Out Sale. Lots of stuff for sale. Ceramics, Glass, Paintings and some fabric work. Most of the prices were realistic, but a few were imaginative to say the least. I bought three ceramic bowls, small, medium and large. Fred got a brooch for his granddaughter. On the way back we passed an old school and with the sun shining on it, it looked worth a few photos. That’s what you see above. PoD was the old schoolhouse in the frame on the right. I tried a sketch of it when we got home, from the photo. It may or may not see the light of day. In fact, I may wait for the light of day to finish the washes on it.

Dancing this evening was at La Rambla in Paisley. Really enjoyable, probably because it’s weeks since we’ve been out dancing in public. No tapas today because of the length of time it took on our last couple of visits for our food to arrive, and of course, today it had been much quicker. That may have been because of a new ordering procedure suggested by Shannon, or it could have been because of the fewer numbers who were ordering food. Only time will tell.  Beautiful sunset as we were driving home after a really sunny day.

Tomorrow is Monday. That means the likelihood of gym or swim. I’ll decide which tomorrow.

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Fire! – 22 March 2018

I decided to have some ‘me time’ today in Glasgow.

The plan was for me to take the bus in to Glasgow and then go to the West End on the subway for some sketching in the Botanic Gardens, then grab that shot from yesterday when I returned to the City Centre. It didn’t exactly work out that way.

On the way in there was an enormous pall of smoke on the horizon. A really mucky looking pall of smoke. Then I noticed Scamp had sent me a text to say that there was a big fire on Sauchiehall Street (AKA Sausage Roll Street). As we got near Glasgow I could see that it was indeed a big fire. Came out of the bus station and wandered round the side of the Concert Hall to see if there were any photos to be taken. There were, and hundreds of people were taking them with every conceivable photographic device, from old clunky SVGA point ’n’ shoot cameras to professional full-frame DSLRs and everything in between. And then there were the phones. This was a big incident. I took some right away with the Teazer.
First rule of photography: Take the shot, then think about it. You might not get another chance.

After that I started looking for a decent angle and a way to isolate some of the action. I took about 15 – 20 shots before the police came and ordered us across the road, behind a newly erected safety cordon. Really, it was like herding cats. Some folk moved away as directed while others, new on the scene said “Oh, what’s happening there?” and slipped under the cordon (because it wasn’t applicable to them, obviously) and calmly started shooting with their shiny new smartphones. I sometimes feel that the police can be a bit overpowering and heavy handed, but today they deserved medals, each and every one of them for not losing their cool and just huckling some of the numpties off to Stewart Street (polis station). By that time I had all the shots I wanted and walked down Bucky Street to get the subway to Kelvinbridge.

Walked up Great Western Road to the Botanics and after a walk round the Kibble Palace, I went back out and started sketching the Victorian glasshouse in all its wrought iron glory. Not the best sketch I’ve done, but it got the gist of the building. Also, although the temperature was almost 10ºc, it was still cool. Maybe too cool to be sitting on a park bench for the half hour it took for the sketch.

Back down Byres Road and got the subway back to Glasgow. Took it to St Enoch’s to the Nero for a spot of light and late lunch. Nice wee alliteration there! Walked up Bucky Street to the new even more extreme cordon, this time cutting off Jessops and the other Cafe Nero (glad I hadn’t banked on getting my lunch in there!) The polis had craftily blocked off one of the entrances to Buchanan Galleries and just extended the cordon across the road there. Everyone was behaving themselves now because the flames were almost out and there wasn’t much to see. Out through JL and was just crossing over to the road when I saw the shot on the right at the top. It looked like a film set. Now if that had been London or Birmingham or Manchester, the words on everyone’s lips would have been “Terrorist Incident”. In Glasgow it was “So is Lauders Bar open?” (Lauders is the pub on the corner next to the fire.)

PoD was the firefighters on the extended platform, top left. Whatever these blokes get paid, it’s not enough.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. Scamp’s meeting Shona for a catch-up. I might paint.

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Another early rise – 13 March 2018

Out for 9.30am today

Taking Scamp to her hospital appointment in Glasgow today. It was a bright morning, so, since it was a routing check-up, while she was in the hospital, I went for a walk to Glasgow Cathedral. That’s where I got today’s photo, more of which later. I knew I only had half an hour of ‘freedom’, so after getting some wide angle shots of the building, I sat down to draw it. Sketch it would be a better description. Bearing in mind the usefulness information from a book on sketching architecture I’d read last year, I dispensed with the details and got the important bit, the bit that interested me drawn first, then, still working roughly, added in the remainder of the building. With that down, I started adding details, again working from my centre of interest first. It’s amazing how time flies when you concentrate on something and it only seemed like a few minutes before my phone rang and it was time to meet up with the patient. Sketch was only half finished and that half was lacking sooo much detail. Not to worry, it was done. I’d drawn it with a child’s fountain pen that’s great to sketch with. I’ve learned that if you use the fountain pen upside down you can draw really fine lines with almost any nib. Great for construction lines. When you’re ready to add in the outlines, you simply turn the pen round to the normal writing position. So simple and so effective. Two pens in one.

Anyway, a photo or five in the bag and a sketch too. Not bad for half an hour’s work. Drove home and stopped at Costa in Robroyston for a coffee, or to be more precise, “a flat black is stronger and smoother than an Americano due to the coffee extraction process”. However, it still manages to taste like an Americano and cost a little more. In other words it’s a Flat Con. Once bitten …

Back home, Skyped with Hazy for a while and caught up on all  the news from her end.  Halfway through there was a helluva thump.  It sounded like a door being slammed and we thought it must have been somebody next door leaving in the huff.  It wasn’t until the Skype session was over and I looked out the window that I saw the pigeon on the front grass.  Poor wee thing had battered into the bedroom window.  Went to have a look, but it was obviously dead with a broken neck.  Bagged it and binned it.  I don’t like pigeons, but I felt sorry for it.  Now we’ve got a white ‘angel dusting’ on the bedroom window.

Scamp was out to lunch with a friend and I started to clean my coffee machine which was leaking rather than making. The reason was soon obvious, there were coffee grounds everywhere. After half an hour of scrubbing and re-assembly the coffee making process was back in full swing. Just wish I could find some way to prime it properly after cleaning. It takes ages to get rid of all the air bubbles in the system.

<boring stuff>
Next task was to process the photos. It should have been easy, but as usual it was anything but. I’d deliberately taken more than one shot of the cathedral because there were a lot of people milling around, even at that early hour. The trick to avoid that is to take a lot of shots, preferably with the camera on a tripod, mine was at home. Then you lump all the shots into Photoshop in a stack, get the prog to align them, then carefully erase the people in the top and sometimes the second top layers to reveal the building or scenery in the layers below. Sounds more complicated than it is. Then I noticed that the top of the steeple was missing from the photo, so another bit of cut ’n’ paste repaired that. Because I’d been using an ultra wide angle lens, everything was curved, so a bit more doodling on Photoshop and finally Lightroom sorted that out. It took less than five minutes to get the photos and about two hours to make the composite final image. It started out at 12MB and the composite was a whopping 720MB. Still, I got the image I wanted. All photographs are fake, remember that.
</boring stuff>

Dinner tonight was paella where I got to use the Pimenton Dulce from Fuerteventura. Happy!

Tomorrow the dance class in the afternoon is cancelled as the other two couples are on holiday this week, so we have the day to ourselves. Might have a practise session. Oh yes, and Scamp got the all-clear as we expected. Happy!!

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Leaving on a jet plane – 10 March 2018

To take our minds off the inevitable, we went for a walk to the fort across from the hotel.

We don’t think it’s a real fort. Maybe there was a fort there some time ago, but it looks like this was built for the tourists. I’d seen people on top of it, but couldn’t find a way in. Then we walked round it and there was the stairway on the outside at the back. No handrail, just steps, so maybe it was a real fort after all. Anyway, it was a shame not to climb it, so I did. Not a great view from the top because it’s not such a big fort, but at least I’d done it.

By the time we got back to the hotel it was time to go and get a taxi to the airport. Taxi came quickly and we were right at the front of the queue waiting for the check-in. Through check-in, and through security with ease, that’s when the disaster struck. While we were in duty free, I realised I didn’t have my boarding card. Now I had to have had it to get through security, so somewhere between there and the duty free, I’d dropped it. Checked the carry-on bag three or four times, then Scamp checked it. Went down the stairs to security and told my sorry tale to one of the security guards who then took me to a senior security man. He must have heard this story hundreds of times in hundreds of languages. He immediately went to check the conveyer belts and there on the floor beneath one was my boarding card. Absolutely brilliant! I could have hugged him, but since he had an automatic pistol and a baton like a baseball bat on his belt, I just thanked him and shook his hand and babbled my thanks. We would go home after all!

When I got back to Scamp, she took the boarding card from me and told me I was too stupid to look after it. She’s probably right. She went off for a walk. I got my sketch book out and did a bit of de-stressing sketching. Not the best of sketches, but it kept my mind off what might have been.

It wasn’t too long a wait for the call to gate, but then a longer wait to actually be released on to the plane. Comfortable flight, watching Bugs Bunny cartoons. We’d ordered an in-flight meal and I chose Chicken Curry. Luckily, before I opened it, the word Mussels caught my eye. It appears the sauce for the CHICKEN curry is made with shellfish, especially Mussels! I explained that I take a severe allergic reaction to mussels and got it changed, but nobody had heard of mussels being used in a chicken curry sauce.
To make me feel better, Scamp bought me a new watch I’d seen two or three years ago on the Thomas Cook flight. It’s a ‘good’ watch, a Citizen Eco Drive. Nice clear analog face. A ‘toy of the rack’ to take my mind off two near misses 😉

Arrived in Glasgow to single digit temperatures and torrential rain, but no snow, thankfully, although there were piles of the dirty white stuff everywhere where it had been bulldozed off the roads.

Today’s PoD is from the plane just passing over Puerto del Rosario in Fuerteventura.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow is for returning to normal.

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Just another day in paradise – 08 March 2018

P1040411_2_2It’s Thursday today and that can only mean one thing.  Thursday Prezzies.  Scamp had chosen her prezzy and in late morning we walked to the shops.

That was after we lazed for an hour in the shade beside the pool.  I got fed up lazing and went to get some photos in the garden.  Saw a dragonfly, but it was doing circuits again and didn’t stop.  Sometimes it slowed down to tease the fish in the stream and let them try to catch it, but it was far too fast for them.  That’s where the PoD came from.  It’s a flowering and fruiting cactus complete with Spanish greenbottles.  Like bluebottles,  only green.  Still tired of lazing, I did some sketches of the folk lying on their sunbeds.

With one in the bag, we decanted ourselves from the sunbeds and walked down the road past the Sheraton to the first row of shops.  Had lunch (burger for me, tuna club sandwich for Scamp.)  The beers we had quenched our thirst.  Got the prezzies then walked back along the ‘new’ walkway. 

I had intended going for a walk to get some more photos and Scamp was going for a swim, but then there was a power outage.  We didn’t fancy going down five flights of stairs, or worse, having to climb back up them again if the lifts weren’t back in business, so we waited on the balcony and had another G ‘n’ T.  By the time the power returned it was too late to go for a walk, so we went for a swim instead.  I tried out the ‘adult pool’ and it was COLD!  Freezin’!  However, I was in and I was going to do a circuit of the little island with the jacuzzi in it.  All the while I had the thought of that warm bubbly water, that WARM bubbly water.  Finally completed the circuit and did get a chance to warm up in the jacuzzi.  Scamp joined me although, theoretically she hadn’t earned the treat, her not having swum in the freezing pool avoiding the ice floes.

Walked straight across to the middle pool and it was heated!  Hadn’t really noticed it before, but after the cold pool, this one felt warm.  Swam there for a while before returning to the sunbeds to soak up some rays.  Scamp went to swim in the middle pool.

Came back, fought with Lightroom for a while then went for dinner.  After that, went and grabbed a good seat for Tina the saxophone playing singer who would play some salsa, we hoped.  She did.  We twirled and twisted with the best of them.  Not as clean a demo as last time, but we have the G ‘n’ Ts and the Rum ‘n’ Cokes to blame for that. 

Exhausted now, I’m sitting on the balcony with the waves crashing on the shore wondering what we’ll do tomorrow.  Maybe a trip to Caleta?  Maybe hire a bike and go for a run?  Maybe go and have lunch on the island?  Maybe some, but probably not all of the above.

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The Walking Tour – 07 March 2018

7 MarToday we were walking down to the harbour with a stop on the way for a drink perhaps.

After breakfast, that’s what we did.  We plastered ourselves in suncream as per usual and walked around the bay to the new harbour.  It was only after we got back that I checked and found that it’s been ‘new’ since at least 2014, the last time we came to Caleta.  We had coffee at the new El Faro bar.  Lovely views across the bay, but the 1/2 litre of sangria we had yesterday for £5.50 would have cost us £8.50.  We had coffee instead.  Walked out to the San George hotel and just a little bit further on to the cliffs.  Decided that was far enough and headed back, past the Dorido Suites hotel which is not being demolished, but is being ‘renovated’.  I think that means the balconies are being rebuilt.  Interesting to see the quality of the blockwork!!  Glad we weren’t booked there an don’t think we’ll be going there any time soon.

Back at the Elba we were in time for lunch which had to be reduced in quantity as we were going to the Italian waitress service meal tonight.  After lunch Scamp decided to do some more sunbathing while I went for a walk to try to get some sketching done.  I’d already completed my 10,000 steps for the day and this was just a little extra exercise.  I walked along the pedestrian path to the Museo de la Sal, the museum of salt!  The result is shown below:

IMG_4706_4706By the time I’d walked back, my 10,000 steps had doubled to over 20,000, and it was time to get ready for our Italian meal.  We both started with a selection from the buffet, then Scamp’s main was Vegetable Lasagne which she said was “warm on a hot plate”.  Mine was Spaghetti Puttanesca. which was lovely, although the sauce was quite thick.  Pudding for me was a “Disgustingly lovely” ice cream on a mascarpone cream.   Scamp just had to have Tiramisu. A great meal with coffee and a bottle of wine added in for free.

Evening entertainment, apart from Pepe, was a dire soul singer who thought he was every real soul singer in creation, but the star attraction was ‘Mr Sleazy’ from last night reliving his even sleazier youth with some seriously bad dance moves.  Oh dear, I hope I never look like that.

PoD was the upside down beer bottle, entitled ‘Reeb’.  Work it out yourself.

Tomorrow?  I might find the church behind the museum, but I’ll be going by bike, hopefully.  Scamp says she’s hoping to be grabbing some more rays!