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Visiting Herr Kutz – 22 February 2018

Ok, this blog entry has been done on the 23rd for reasons that will become clear.

I set off this morning on the train in to Glasgow after Scamp kindly gave me a lift to the station. It was time to get my hair cut by someone who knew how to do it properly. The last time I had my hair cut properly, was last December or maybe November. I cut it myself in January, but as usual made a bit of a hack of it, just to keep it a bit shorter. This time I needed a bit of topiary. A bit of shaping, so it was off to the Nile Barber for some intelligent conversation and some humour as my untidy locks were snipped into shape.

It was the bloke with the beard today. He of the conspiracy theories and the liking for the Russian slant to the news. He says it gives a better balance than the BBC does. Now I like the BBC’s reporting, but while it’s not as sensationalist as some, there is a tendency to, as Morrissey said, ‘frighten you’.

Stop watching the news
Because the news contrives to frighten you
To make you feel small and alone
To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own

Spent the day in bed
Morrissey

Today he was a bit more down than I’ve heard him before, but when we had a discussion about the High School Shootings in America he became more voluble about the merits of Trump’s stance on arming the teachers. I must admit, when I first heard about DT’s proposal, I immediately remembered a line from Matt McGinn’s ‘Rap Tap Tap’:

Tak the straps fae a’ the teachers
Issue every wan a gun

Conversation drifted to legalising cannabis and then the explanation of his slightly depressed mood, when he said that he was ‘having some prostate problems.’ Poor guy. I know a couple of folk who have the same problems. Anyway, I enjoyed the conversation, and although I don’t agree with everything he said, his are intelligent and well though out arguments, always with a ‘middle ground’ stance.

Went for a walk down to CassArt and bought a couple of new pens and a wee sketch pad. St Enoch Nero provided, not only a coffee, but also a chance to do a quick sketch with my new pen, which turned out to be an old friend, a Pentel fibre tip which I hadn’t seen in years. Sketch was ok.

Nero St Enoch - Glasgow

Bus back home and listened to Dream of Gerontious on the journey. As usual, felt quite uplifted by it.

Dinner was roast chicken with baked potatoes and that’s when things went wrong. I’d also made sweet potato fritters which are also under suspicion.

About an hour or so after dinner, Scamp felt a bit sick and then was sick. That’s most unusual for her. I’m the one with the dicky stomach. The sickness and then diarrhoea went on for a good couple of hours and I was beginning to get a bit worried when it started to subside and she began to feel better and also get her colour back. She went to bed early feeling very tired. I decided to join her later once I’d cleared up.

This morning she was back to her usual self, ready to meet today’s problem!

TBC

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Dancing and procrastination – 21 February 2018

Computers, especially when connected to the internet (are any computers not connected these days) are the ultimate procrastinator’s tool.

I sat down to write today’s blog almost 45 minutes ago.  In the intervening time I’ve read what Trump is up to this week, checked the status of my latest 28 Drawings Later sketch on FB, written an email to one of the coffee-drinkers, drunk a cup of tea and eaten two biscuits AND, only now started to write the blog.  The procrastinator’s delight.

Dancing today and for once I think I am making progress with the Waltz.  I even managed the rise ‘n’ fall for a while before it all went to pieces.  Jive was another story.  Not a good story.  I recited the words Knee, Step, Kick, Hitch, Back Step, but none of them were delivered quickly enough to my legs.  Maybe they should be connected to the internet. Maybe that would help.  No, it would just give me another excuse to procrastinate.  We couldn’t get in to the dance studio which is downstairs in a pub basement.  Two blokes were laying carpet on the newly screeded stairs, so we went for a walk until the contact adhesive they were using cured.  That’s when I found today’s photos.  Two pieces of graffiti and one ‘ghost sign’.  A ghost sign is an old sign that has been covered up for years and only recently been revealed again.  That or an old piece of signage that’s been painted on (usually) a brick wall.  That’s what today’s was.  It’s a bit of urban archeology.  Today’s PoD was the sketch of King Smiley.  Rough and ready, I was hoping it was a sketch that the artist would return to later to paint, but I think that is a bit unlikely.   We finally got down the part finished stairs to the dance studio where we did our version of the waltz and the jive then found we couldn’t get out again an hour later at the end of the class because they were laying a much bigger piece of flooring on the landing and there was no way of crossing the wet adhesive without getting firmly stuck.  We finally exited through the Fire Exit, although if H&S ever check that fire exit, the pub will be condemned with immediate effect.

Sketching

After we came home I sat down to doodle something for today’s entry and started sketching my foot, then my leg then me sketching my foot, then my …  Well, you get the idea.  I thought it was a clever idea and was pleased with the final drawing.

Salsa tonight was helping with two beginners classes.  I’m much happier helping with these classes, even Shannon’s class, than with Jamie’s grumpy Thursday class.

Tomorrow I think I’ll go in to Glasgow to get my hair cut and maybe get an outdoor sketch done.  Depends on the weather, and the state of the procrastination, of course.

 

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Foodies – 20 February 2018

Today we had a light breakfast before getting a taxi to the station, then the train to Embra.  Today was Foodie Day!

When we got to Embra we found the bus stop for the No 34 bus that would take us to Ocean Terminal.  With diversions, because Leith Walk is partially closed, it took about 35 minutes to cover the 4 miles.  The train journey from Croy to Edinburgh only took 45 minutes.  This was the X3 of Lothian buses.  However, we were in no hurry, because we had plenty of time to find today’s destination.  Had a cup of coffee in Ocean Terminal which is really just a great shopping mall with an entrance to the Royal Yacht Britannia, Mrs McQueen’s old boat.  We weren’t going there today, we were going for lunch at The Kitchin Restaurant.  It has been booked since November, such is the waiting list.  I was thinking “it better be worth the wait”.  It was.

Nothing to look at from the road, there’s a notice on the door telling customers to enter by Commercial Quay, round the back. Inside it was dark grey paintwork with discrete little areas like booths, but more open.  The food was superb.  Just what you’d expect from a Michelin star restaurant.  I’d recite what we had, but I can do better than that, and show you the menu with our selections highlighted.  Just click it to see it better.  It’s not a link to Flickr this time, just a link to the image.  My starter was from the Vegetarian menu because we were able to mix and match between menus.We also took the matching wine pairing and that really was an eye opener.  Truly an unforgettable lunch and not a potato to be seen 😉

After lunch we walked along and got a No 16 back to Waverly and it only took about 20 minutes and that because of traffic.  Got the train to Croy and a taxi home.  Strangely enough it was the same taxi driver we had in the morning!  Really, that’s the barest of bare bones of the day.  Too much to cram in to this blog post, you need to hear about it rather than read about  it (ask about the amuse bouche Oh yes, and the bread Hazy!)  A really memorable meal and one we’d do again once we’ve saved up enough to go back DV.

Tonight’s sketch is a coloured pencil sketch of an orange.  I described it thus:  “Oranges make great subjects because after you draw them you can eat them and destroy the evidence of your mistakes!”

Orange

Today’s PoD was a view of reflections on the Water of Leith.

Tomorrow?  Auld claes and purrich I’m afraid!

 

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Walking, Dancing and Backups – 19 February 2018

I’d fully intended going to the gym today, but although there was a smir of rain in the air this morning, I decided that to avoid Gems, I’d go for a walk instead. It was the right decision.

<Technospeak Alert>
In the morning I finally got my wee 2-in-1 tablet computer sorted out by using an old memory stick to boot into Windows PE and from there run a backup program to restore a backup I’d made way back in 2016. I thought it might be a bit basic, but all the apps I need are on it and I’ve even worked out how to use Microsoft Gallery to import my RAW pics. I got truly fed up with having to manipulate the EXIF data on the photos to allow Lightroom 5 to work with the RAW files from the Teazer (Panasonic TZ 70) so now I’m going to use the free and very good RawTherapee to do the heavy lifting of the RAW processing. I’ll see how it goes in the next few weeks. Right JIC you can come back in again.
</Technospeak Alert>

After successfully got rid of the baggage that Win10 leaves behind, and after lunch too, I went for a walk down by the canal.  The weather had cleared up nicely and the air was much warmer than I’d anticipated.  It actually felt like spring was in the air.  I know, there another cold snap due in a few days, but it’s Scotland.  There’s always another cold snap due in a couple of days, even in June … Especially in June!!  I even saw a hairy caterpillar, but it wasn’t caterpillaring around, it was just sitting there.  Maybe it was sunbathing, yes, that’s it.  It was sunbathing in its fur coat.  I took its photo anyway, just for the record.  Caterpillars in February!  Who knew?!  The photo at the top was my favourite of the lot I took, so that’s why it made PoD.

We went dancing at night and just for fun I asked Alexa what the travel time was to the STUC just before we left the house.  She (it?) said 25 minutes.  Twenty five minutes later I was walking along Woodlands Road looking for a parking meter that actually worked.  Glasgow council, you do realise that it’s not enough to plonk new parking meters by the side of the road?  You know you have to maintain them too, and occasionally empty the coins we commuters cram into them every time we need to park?  Duh!  So Alexa translated my speech into text, sent the text to somewhere in California accessed a database from there, checked my commute and returned the data which was turned back into speech and spoken to me in a very human sounding voice, and got it spot on right!  All of that within about five seconds.  Brilliant waste of technology, but still Glasgow council doesn’t seem to know how to operate its parking meters.  If it was up to them, high speed internet connections would be done with two shiny tin cans and a piece of coloured string.
Dancing was ‘interesting’.  We did one rueda move that didn’t have a name and seemed to confuse everyone.  Tonight’s move was ‘Stormtrooper’  Great name.  I hated it.  Then as I saw how it was working, I began to like it and later  in the night when I’d almost perfected it, I thought it was great too, just like its name.  That’s what a good teacher can achieve.

Just my glasses

Tonight’s sketch was just a 15minute shot.  A placemarker of a pencil sketch.  It’s a bit rough, but I don’t have a lot of time on a Monday.

Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re off to Embra, to Leith in fact to go for a fancy lunch.

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Coffee – 15 February 2018

Most days seem to revolve around one topic, and so it was today I was booked for coffee with Val and Fred.

Although the coffee, or to be more precise, the chat that came with the coffee rather than the vile stuff Costa calls coffee, the chat was the king. CDs passed round, book returned to the library of Fred, replaced with a DVD to watch. Drawings and paintings by Fred and I were critiqued by everyone. Val’s computer problems were discussed by me and him, because Fred just grunts and shakes his head when technology rears its ugly head. Memories of old Glasgow were trotted out along with names that have not seen the light of day for years. Thompson’s for coffee and tea, Epicures the deli. Dino’s the best pizza shop in the town and the wee hole-in-the-wall newsagents across from Dino’s where Val remembered buying his Italian newspaper on a Saturday morning. It was strange all three of us walking down old Buchanan Street together in our imagination, although we were years away from meeting each other, back then in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Sometimes talk and gossip lag for a while when it’s a coffee day. Today wasn’t like that. I think we all walked out feeling better than when we walked in. I know I did.

I’d grabbed a photo before I went in to the meeting. I just like the seedy decay of the broken down back of the Town Centre. With a wee bit of work there’s a world of colour and detail there just waiting to be found. Well, I like it anyway and that’s why it’s PoD.

Crofthouse - Braes, Skye

Today’s sketch was from a photo, but not one I took. It was one I searched out in Google Street View. I think it might be Braes, just south of Portree a dead end road that finishes in a turning circle where the sheep stare at you with derision as you 3, 5, 7 point turn, careful to avoid hitting them. They know you’re not a local. Locals would drive over them. Anyway, that’s today’s picture. Hopefully I’ll slap some paint on a bit of cardboard tomorrow for a wee change.

After a bit of discussion, we agreed not to go to salsa tonight. Five hours of dancing this week was enough we thought and if the weather fairies are to be believed, tomorrow is to be dry and clear so we’ll be driving to Larky to reunite me with my reading glasses and loosen £30 from my wallet for the pleasure, so no driving tonight then. Sounded good to me. Also it allowed us to have a wee glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin. Sounds even better to me. We’ll see how things go.

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Dancing Day – 14 February 2018

Wednesday has now become dancing day.

Today started with driving Scamp to her hospital appointment and surprise, surprise, there was a space in the car park for once. Sat with a coffee and a 2 for 1 doughnuts in the cafe reading my latest Hazy find, ‘Sourdough’. You were right H, it’s a great antidote to the heavy and sluggish ‘Rotherweird’ which was Rather to Weird for me. It’s now languishing in the ‘Maybe Later’ folder on the Kindle. Sourdough is much lighter and funnier. Thanks again H.

Drove from there in to Glasgow just before lunch time to go to Waltz and Jive classes. Before the class we went for lunch at Paesano, and the No 3 (anchovy and olive) was as good as ever, as was Scamp’s No 1 Sugo (no cheese) apparently. The only thing missing was a glass of red wine, but you can’t have drive and wine in the same sentence. If you do, it could lead to a sentence of a different kind. Waltz was a bit of a problem for me with two left feet. You see, in Salsa the man always leads with his left foot. In Waltz, the man generally does so to, but occasionally he leads with his right, and that’s where the problem comes in. My left foot KNOWS that it always leads, so that’s what it does. Here’s a quote from Robin Sloan’s Sourdough:

When you walk, you look forward, not down at your feet, because you are confident they are where you expect them to be, obeying your commands. That’s a pretty cool feature.

Well Mr Sloan, that may be true, but not if you’re trying to dance Waltz with Salsa trained feet. It is not at all a ‘cool feature.

The Jive was much better. I think we cracked it today. Well, most of it anyway.

Came home and then decided we’d go to the beginners salsa classes to give my left foot its head if you know what I mean.
Jamie G wasn’t there so we were getting Will who is quite stylish an has the enviable skill of being able to dance as a guy or a girl. I’m sure Jamie G can do it too, but he doesn’t offer to do it in class. Will had no problem with it, although some of the guys in the class found it a bit off putting to start with. Jamie returned in time for the second beginners class and it was fun as usual.

Have you seen this man?

I did a quick selfie with a photo from PhotoBooth on the iMac. That worked in two ways:
1. No squinting in a mirror and trying to draw at the same time.
2. The screensaver kicks in after 5 minutes, so that gives me a timer.
So, one sketch in three sessions, i.e. 15 minutes. Not a bad likeness I’m told by Scamp, although I think the right eye (my left) is too big. Other than that it’s not too bad.

Today’s PoD was taken walking over the walkway between the carpark and JL in Glasgow and is a silhouette of the city centre architecture under a wild sky. I like it.

Tomorrow I’m booked for coffee with Fred and Val.

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Larky – 13 February 2018

First things first, I was feeling a lot better when I got up this morning. That said, I didn’t rise until about 11am!

The predicted snow didn’t arrive here today, thankfully. After a restful night, I got up and got showered and made a plan for the day. Last week, I’d dropped my reading glasses in Arta the dark dingy hole we now dance in on occasional Sundays. I managed to avoid standing on them, but found I’d scratched one of the lenses, right in the middle. Sunday past, I dropped them on the path outside the house and luckily one of our neighbours found them and handed them in. Thanks Scott. Then that Sunday afternoon I dropped them on another dance floor in Paisley, scratching the other lens. Plan for the day was to take them to the optician in Larkhall and get them fixed.

Drove to Larky on a bright, very bright, sunny day and was told that I’d just missed the uplift, so the glasses would be back on Thursday after 1pm. Since Thursday afternoon is booked for coffee with Fred, I imagine it will be Friday before we are reunited. I can survive with a pair of ‘readers’ until then.

Instead of driving straight home, I took a fancy to a run down to Millheugh to see what was happening at the salmon ladder they were building. The answer was ‘not a lot’. Work seemed to have stopped, and after talking to a bloke who seemed to be taking it upon himself to clean up the grassy area of Millheugh next to the Avon Water, there won’t be anybody near the place until ‘the better weather’. That means Easter at least. Stood talking to him for a while. Took some photos of the run off from the Lade that used to carry water to the Bleachfield Works, but now is just a silted up piece of slow running water that’s being clogged by broken walls and tree roots. Another example of cooncils not caring enough to maintain things. No, it won’t make a good photo opportunity for councillors in the local press, but it still needs to be done. The bloke said he was supposed to be meeting a councillor today, but he was late. “Yes,” I thought, “extended lunch no doubt.” We said cheerio and headed back home.

That was about the extent of our travels today. Nice to see Larky again, but sad to see houses going up everywhere. I suppose that’s progress to some.

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It’s another house that became the subject of today’s sketch. It’s on Skye, but I couldn’t tell you where. I found it on Google Street View a year or two ago. It’s very grand and baronial with its little round tower. Somehow I don’t think it was built by a local.

PoD was the bottom water shot from Millheugh.

Tomorrow it’s Hospital for Scamp’s appointment, followed by Waltz lesson and then Jive lesson, hopefully with the chance of a cup of coffee somewhere between the three. Maybe Salsa at night because we missed out on Monday’s. Depends on the weather, although now doesn’t seem to be in the forecast for tomorrow.

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Sudoku, Salsa and Snow – 11 February 2018

Lots of planning today, but not a lot done really. Mainly planning for storage of stuff, when the real solution is a good clear out. That day is getting closer!

Today we had committed ourselves to going for lunch/dinner at La Rambla in Paisley. Three tapas for just over a tenner is a bargain. The only problem is the laid back, i.e. horizontal attitude of the serving staff. I don’t think any of them have been to a catering college to learn how to serve tables. A half hour wait for food is quite normal. Apparently one of the ‘managers’ was complaining that he didn’t understand why people were coming up to the bar to order drinks. Didn’t these people realise there was table service? Eh, no mate, there isn’t. Maybe there is meant to be, but it’s just not happening. Try putting yourself in our shoes. Try being a customer, a thirsty customer and you’ll see how it’s essential to go to the bar and buy your drink there to avoid desiccation. I’m not altogether certain that there are any kitchen staff. I’m beginning to think that it’s the waiter and waitress that take the order, cook the food and serve it. The drinks waiter is a joke. I saw him trying to take away a half empty glass of wine from a customer, then stand and wait at the table while she finished it. Maybe that’s what he thinks a waiter does, wait. Anyway we finally got served an my food was really good as usual, but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to La Rambla again for tapas, or anything else except dancing.

Dancing was good. Shannon was DJ and worked hard to get the dance floor filled. Came out to find that it had snowed and the streets were icy with melted, then refrozen snow. As we got neared Cumbersheugh the lying snow got thicker and thicker. Had trouble encouraging the Juke up the hill and then the fun of skidding about into a parking place. Don’t think Scamp was impressed. Actually the snow was much easier to walk on than the pavements of Paisley.

PoD is the green blobs. Taken in St Mo’s by the fading afternoon light before the snowfall. Sketch is of my Saturday and Sunday Sudoku. It’s a bit of a page marker, but it’s done.

Tomorrow? Finding the car and then working on a plan to get it down the road and parked again!

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Following the yellow brick road again – 10 February 2018

Today we were going to IKEA to see what mysteries and amazing gadgetry the Swedish had for us, and to buy four medium trays for my modular painting cabinet.

We had intended going to Dunfermline to have a walk in the park and hopefully to have lunch and a beer, because we were going by bus. Unfortunately, when I broke surface just before 10am it was raining and we weren’t going to be walking in a park today, not anywhere in Scotland. We decided instead to go to IKEA.

I hadn’t checked, but I didn’t think Rangers were playing today so the M8 should have been a whizz through. It wasn’t. From ten miles out they were predicting congestion west bound and we were west bound. For once they were right and for once I didn’t get upset. We weren’t in a hurry. We were going to IKEA and nowhere else. It seemed that the traffic disappeared as we got to the Express Way turnoff. Maybe everyone was desperate not to miss the start of the ballet at the SECC. Anyway, the rest of the journey was pain free except when I stalled the Juke in the middle lane and couldn’t get it to start again. It categorically refused until I put it in neutral and applied the hand brake before going through the foot on clutch and press button rigmarole. Must keep an eye out for that happening again. Hopefully never. We wandered round IKEA following the little projected arrows and bought lots of stuff that seemed so useful and important at the time. Most of it will languish in a drawer somewhere to be discovered later with a “What did we buy that for?” Some of them will come in handy, especially Scamp’s favourite, the blue fold-down porters trolley. I had thought we might have lunch there, with Swedish Meatballs high on my list, but we decided not to and drove back home stopping at Costa Robroyston for a quick lunch.

Time when we got home for a quick walk through St Mo’s with no prospect of a photo. Light level too low and nothing of any real interest. Maybe tomorrow. I have a germ of an idea. What became PoD was a shot of a Broad Bean sprouting in Scamp’s propagator.

Dinner tonight was courtesy of Bombay Dreams. I had too much pakora and was stuffed by the end of it. More stuff to go in the freezer.

Yesterday’s sketch is a pencil sketch of my Timex watch and todays was described on Flickr as “An unnamed loch with Ben Thahuse in the background”. I’m sure there are some puzzled americans frantically searching Google Earth for Ben Thahuse, thinking it must mean ‘the snowy mountain’ in Gaelic.

Tomorrow? What else this week, but more dancin’. Sunday Social in La Rambla in Paisley with tapas lunch before it. That’s the way to do it.

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Oh no! Mair snow! – 6 February 2018

Woke up to a suspiciously white light coming through the curtains. It might have been sunshine, but it was more likely sunlight reflecting from lots of snow.

A cursory glance out the window confirmed that the snow lorry had indeed parked outside our house and deposited its load of snow. Went back and read for a while. Read the disappointing end to the Peter May book. It almost felt like he had got fed up writing the story and decided to tie everything up in the last five pages. Don’t you just hate books like that. I do.

A cup of coffee after my shower cheered me up and gave me the strength to face the day. I had intended to go to the gym today, but instead, decided to get my sketch done early. Today’s drawing, and it was going to be a drawing today, no paint was going to be spilt, was of Scamp’s poinsettia which she has been carefully tending for over a month now and although it’s a bit spidery now, it’s still holding some of its leaves. The secret appears to be to feed it warm water daily in a dish that the plant pot stands in. I presume that creates a moist atmosphere around the leaves and that’s what the plant needs. With the open, almost skeletal frame of a plant like this, a negative space technique seemed right. That is, instead of drawing the plant, you draw the open spaces it occupies; the spaces between the leaves and the spaces between the stems. After that’s done you can decide what part goes in front of or behind other parts. It seemed to work. It’s amazing how absorbing this technique is. I suppose it’s what makes adult colouring books so interesting, although I can’t really see that myself.

Poinsettia

While I was working on this a parcel dropped through the letterbox. A slim cardboard rectangle contained a book ‘True Story” by Jo Levy, a friend we met at salsa class, many years ago. Scamp had ordered it as an anniversary present for me. It’s a lovely wee thing. 31 drawings done by Jo, one a day, during the month of May 2017. She’s agreed to sign it, that will make it even better. Brilliant idea Jo and even more brilliant idea for a present, Scamp. I will treasure it.

After I completed the drawing which, although technically correct, wasn’t a patch on Jo’s cartoon drawings, I drove down to Auchinstarry and went for a walk along the canal and back along the railway. Cold and icy in places, but very enjoyable. Some days, like yesterday, you get one or maybe photos. Today I took 48, whittled them down to 18 and further reduced that to 6 of which only three were posted. This is part of the new plan. Yellow spots for ones worth considering and green spots for ‘record shots’. The some of the yellow spots become red spots because they’re going on Flickr. Once on Flickr, some more are lost because they look good on full screen, but don’t look so good as smaller resolution files on Flickr. Only one of the final selection becomes PoD and today’s shot that wins the acolade is the snow on the cow parsley heads.

Tomorrow it’s dancing, dancing and dancing again, hopefully.