Going our separate ways – 4 March 2019

I took the chance to slip the leash today, for a little while.

Scamp had the second gig of the year at Stepps and, as she didn’t need a roadie so I set off early to visit a new camera shop in Glasgow. The satnav lady knew where it was and got me there without a problem. They didn’t have the tripod I was looking for, but I didn’t really think they would have. It’s rather a niche model and I’ve read conflicting reports about it. I just wanted to have a look at it first hand before I parted with a hundred smackeroonies. The bloke in the shop couldn’t have been less interested:

“Do you have a Benbo Trekker tripod?”
”No. You have to order them from the website.”
“It’s just that I’d rather see it to make sure it will do what I want before I commit myself to buying it.”
”Yeah.”

Obviously not going for salesman of the month then?

Drove back in the general direction of Home using the satnav again. Because of the one-way system return was not the reverse of going, in this case, but the satnav lady knew this too. Once I was on the M8 heading roughly east I switched the satnav lady off and let her go back to sleep. Drove past Home and onward to Stirling where I turned off and took the back road up and over the Tak Ma Doon road, stopping near Loch Coulter to grab some shots to make a panorama later and also a grab shot of the straight road that looks as if it goes all the way to the Ochil Hills. The panorama became PoD. From there it was a lovely run in the springlike sunshine all the way home. Piece ’n’ flat sausage for my lunch and then after I’d dumped the images on the computer, I started today’s apple picture. It looks reasonable and hopefully you’ll be able to check my progress (or regress) soon on the website when I post the first seven. It’s an enjoyable task the painting and drawing of the apples, or at least it has been so far. May even branch out into ink or acrylic later. For just now it’s basically pencil and watercolour.

When Scamp came home I made a delicious tuna pasta. I say ‘delicious’, because we both agreed it was. Don’t know what I did differently this time, but I think it may have been some posh tomato concentrate. Must look for more of it the next time we’re buying Tesco.

Energetic beginners class in STUC and an advanced class where I couldn’t put a foot right. Every move a disaster. Even worse, I knew most of the moves. Just couldn’t get the moves into my head right. I think I just need to think less and go with the flow some times. Must practise Agamemnon this week to get rid of the rough edges. Still lots of laughs.

Tomorrow we have a free day. I think we may be going plant hunting again, although the weather looks rough. We’ll wait and see.

Up and out at stupid o’clock – 5 February 2019

I’d forgotten that 7.30AM existed. I used to be out the door and on my way to work at that time. That was just over four years ago and you tend to remember the good times and ignore the bad. 7.30AM was one of the bad times. Defrosted the car and picked up Scamp to take her to the train station. Her and half of Cumbersheugh seemed to on the way to the station at Croy this morning. Dropped her at the ticket office and drove off to park and walked back to check that she had caught the train. The train was already at the station by the time I got there, but I saw that familiar red hat on a person that was sitting in a seat. There’s only one hat like that in the world, Hazy!

With her safely on the first stage of her journey to Inverness to meet her sister, I drove home, had my breakfast, read my emails and went back to bed for an hour. I should have gone out and photographed that beautiful dawn sky before I went to bed, but I didn’t and I so regret it now.

When I got up for the second time today it was lunchtime and I had the last ladleful of my soup, then I went out to get a PoD under a much different sky. The clouds were Scottish Grey and as I walked to the car, the rain started. I drove down to the Luggie Water and found the snowdrops which were now blooming nicely. Using my glove as a cushion for the Oly and a Moleskine notebook as a wee tent to protect the lens from rain I grabbed half a dozen shots at various distances and quickly checked them to make sure they’d all worked and they had.

Back home, processed the photos and made my dinner which was chilli con CARNE, because Scamp would be having a posh lunch in Inverness, so I could have a meat dinner tonight. Dumped the chilli into the slow cooker and left it for an hour or two, plenty time to get my sketch of the day done. Today it was to be two oranges, a pear and an apple. I made the mistake of having four items in the sketch. Every beginner know you should always group odd numbered items. It was the apple that went wrong. If anyone asks me about it, I’ll just say that the apple was old and was getting a bruise at the bottom. I liked the oranges and the pear. Unfortunately you can’t clone out mistakes on a watercolour.

Scamp sent a text to say she was just passing Stirling Castle about 8.30pm and I got ready to drive in to Glasgow. Picked her up just after 9pm after doing a detour because the motorway was being repaired.

Tomorrow it’s Dancing day. Hopefully it will be Blackfriars in the afternoon and STUC salsa at night. Chilli was fine, but just a little too mild.

A sew sew day – 20 January 2019

Woke this morning and we couldn’t decide whether to go out or not. Not won.

It was a late start and we thought we might go to Glasgow Green for a walk, but then Scamp reminded me that the people’s palace would probably be closed and the winter garden would definitely be closed, so there would be no chance of a Sunday roll ’n’ sausage and a cup of coffee. No point then. What I eventually did do was get the sewing machine out and repair the pocket in a pair of jeans. I’d repaired the twin of this pair back in December using Scamp’s method. I’d actually repaired this pair earlier last year, but made a real pigs ear of it, so last night I carefully ripped out all the stitches and today I was going to repair it using the Scamp method. It’s the most elegant and simple way to repair a pocket in a pair of jeans. I’m not going to describe it here, but maybe I’ll put it online some time (that means ‘never’). After a lot of huffing and puffing, a fair bit of talking to myself and just a smidgin of swearing, the job was done. One pair of jeans saved from the tip.

By the time I was finished, the sun was poking through the clouds as the weather fairies had predicted it would, so I grabbed my camera bag, put on my good boots and went for a walk in St Mo’s. I’d hoped to get some shots of the St Mo’s deer, but they weren’t to be seen today. Instead, PoD was the twisted hawthorn bush by the wee pond. I just love the shapes of the branches, but today I had extra help from the sun shining on the mossy trunk and the golden colours of the larches in the background. Didn’t see anything else worth photographing until I was nearly home. I turned round for some reason and saw the moon rising, the super ‘blood moon’. It did look quite big rising behind the pines. PoD was still the twisted hawthorn, but you can see the orange/peach supermoon here. I’ve just looked out the window and at 10.30pm it looks like a normal, if bright, ordinary moon. It will become a totally eclipsed moon some time around 3am, but I don’t think I’ll bother to get up for that.

Spoke to JIC tonight and found out what’s happening down south and was delighted to hear that they were suffering sub-zero temperatures while we were basking in 5ºc today. It’s now -0.1ºc here, so maybe they will be basking tonight.

Off to bed soon because I’m expecting to teach 2 point perspective to Margie tomorrow, or more correctly, get Margie to draw a 2 point perspective cube while I watch and correct her.

Out even earlier – 18 January 2019

Why is it when I set the alarm on my phone to make sure I wake up on time, I don’t sleep for more than an hour at a time?

Up and out for 8.20 this morning to go to the docs for a blood test at 8.50. I needed that half hour to scrape the car and get the temperature up to a reasonable level where your breath doesn’t freeze instantly in front of your face. Then I had to drive through the hosts of parents driving their children to school to make sure their little feet and knee joints didn’t wear out prematurely.

Got parked and grabbed today’s PoD of the sun colouring the sky and clouds above Carbrain. A bit of a misnomer, because everyone in Cumbersheugh knows there isn’t a brain in Carbrain. I walked a bit further and watched two women being terrorised by marauding feral seagulls behind Boots the Chemist. Great beasts of things, they were and squawking like banshees and the seagulls were almost as bad. By the time I got to the doc’s, the sun had broken free of the horizon and was lighting up the sky properly. Another shot in the bag which might have beaten the first if it wasn’t for the ugly flat roofed Carbrian flats with windows and no doors. “Blots on the Landscape”, could have been the title. Did my Tony Hancock impersonation (if that makes no sense to you, Google ‘The Blood Donor’, a Hancock classic) and then headed home for breakfast which on this cold, clear morning would be porridge and a cup of Assam. The best central heating known to man.

Scamp was determined to renew our passports online since she heard that you could take your own photo and get it validated immediately. It’s a brilliant system and I’m still not sure if it is a really clever algorithm (the word of the moment, don’t you know?) or an actual human sitting there giving thumbs up or thumbs down. Possibly this will be the ultimate Turing Test some day. Anyway, the upshot of it was we passed the test and ordered our shiny new passports. Then we’d to send our old passports off to be cancelled or redacted or simply have their corners cut off. Again will it be by machine or will it be by a minimum wage human? Who knows. Just so you know, you have to actually post the passport off, you can’t simply stuff it into the USB port in the back or side of your computer. That’s a pity. It kind of goes against the digital ethos of renewing your passport online. That said, the whole thing is much better than take the photo, fill in the form, post the lot away, wait a week, get a refusal because Gort says the corner of your mouth is slightly upturned and you might, just might be starting to smile. DO IT AGAIN PROPERLY THIS TIME. Yes, this is a big step forward, even if we don’t know if Gort is human or android.

Drove to Blantyre to Carrigan’s and had dinner tonight with Margaret and Billy. Food was good and plentiful. My roast gammon had been sitting under the heat lamp for a few minutes more than I’d have liked, but it was more than made up for with the dessert. Total silence while four of us struggled with our Tablet Ice Cream. Astounding dessert. Totally unnecessary, but total gluttony!

Managed to find my way back on to the M74 only to find the M73 turnoff was closed tonight, but then I navigated my way off and over the M74 and back on to the M73 turnoff on the other side. That confused the satnav.

Tomorrow I believe we may be going to Stirling to Waitrose for food. Hopefully we won’t be getting up early and I’m not setting my alarm, so I should sleep less fitfully than last night.

Back in the old routine – 16 January 2019

Back dancing again.

Down to Blackfriars again to begin year two of our ballroom and jive dancing. Thoroughly enjoyed it, even if I couldn’t remember Spin No 5 and then got the sequence wrong too! Waltz was good, not perfect, just good. Even Quickstep was recognisable as a dance. That’s the first class over and we survived it. More importantly, the dances survived it. Lots of folk there. Four couples which is an improvement in what we had before Christmas. I was beginning to wonder if the class would survive with so few people on the dance floor during the class.

Coffee and a discussion afterwards and Scamp agreed that we’d been ok. Room for improvement, but we hadn’t lost too much ground with our three week lay off. I tried to grab a shot outside the GOMA, but with the zoom on the Teazer at maximum and a shutter speed of 1/15th, it was doomed to failure. Luckily I’d taken a couple of shots of clouds banked over the cityscape earlier when we were leaving the car park. What you see above is the PoD which came from one of them. I’d half intended to go out early over to St Mo’s to get some ‘banker’ shots. I wish I had. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do that, because tomorrow will be a busy day too. Hopefully not as busy as today, but still busy enough.

Drove in to Glasgow tonight and for once, the 6.30 class had too many men, so Scamp got an extra half hour’s dance and to refresh her memory of Vacilala Con Paseo. In the 7.30 class we covered Estrella Complicada and the Rueda move, Bocadillo

Tomorrow, Scamp has a meeting with Isobel in the morning and I’ve got a meeting with the doc in the afternoon.

Will you? Won’t you? Will you? Won’t you? – 13 January 2019

Will you join the dance?
Today we were going to Mango for the first time in many years to go to a Sunday Social, at least that’s what the plan was last night, and tentatively this morning, but plans change sometimes.

It was a windy night last night and the wind continued this morning, giving us good reason, we thought, to stay in bed and read for an extra hour or so. Then we needed to formulate a plan for the the day.

I dug out some meat to make the stew for my dinner and a piece of salmon for Scamp’s. The sky was clearing, helped by the strong westerly wind and it looked like a bright, if cold day. The temperature was theoretically 12ºc, but given the wind chill factor, it was just creeping up to about 5ºc, but like I said, it was bright and that’s good enough to encourage me out to take some photos in the wide (and wild) world after yesterday’s desktop shot. I reckoned I had enough time to grab a few photos, look for my lost Manfrotto tripod screw down by the Luggie Water and get back in time to make my stew before we went out.

The photos were slow in coming. I got some macro shots of what I think are Cladonia, but I could be wrong and a few desultory landscape shots. It was only when I started processing them that I realised the dreary landscape shots had some serious PoD potential. It took a fair bit of work in Lightroom to get them working, but it was worth it, I think.

I did have enough time to make the stew and under Scamp’s careful teaching it was turning out well. Unfortunately I’d spent too long scouring the Luggie pathways for the now admittedly lost screw to allow enough time for the stew to cook before we were intending to go out. That’s when the “Will we? Won’t we?” questions started. Did we really want to go? Well, maybe. Did we actually know if the Sunday Social was on today? Well, maybe we could check? Eventually I did some research on Facebook and found out that categorically the Sunday Social was on today from 6pm until 9pm. Now it was back to the first question, “Did we want to go?” I made the decision, yes, let’s go and check out this alternative and regular venue for dancing at a time we would be happy to attend. We are both glad we did!

Got parked just off the building site that is Sauchiehall Street and walked round the corner to Mango. Got there about 6.15 and found that there were people already on the dance floor, which is a good sign. It was looking good. We joined in and danced for an hour and a half almost no-stop. Met old friends we hadn’t seen for years and new friends we see every week at class. It’s now going to be on our calendar for the foreseeable future.

Came home and heated the stew, cooked the salmon and the veg and shared a bottle of wine. Spoke to JIC on the phone and the world seemed brighter than it had for weeks, at least for me it did.

Will we? Yes, we will.

Tomorrow it’s the dentist for me in the morning. Oh what fun.

If I was a carpenter – 31 December 2018

Up, out and on the road for 10am. Unheard of.

The reason we were up early was to catch the “Rat Man” who, at 8am, was making a second visit to the house next door. I wanted to tell him personally that the droppings he’d seen in the loft were not ‘Historical’ as he supposed, but live and from an active rodent, probably one of the two I’d despatched after he left empty-handed. He wasn’t impressed and even less impressed when I asked him to come in and witness the demolition job some of the dead rodents friends had done on a bag of sultanas in one of the cupboards. Last night, they appeared to have removed a blanking piece, abseiled down from the void between the ceiling and the upstairs floor and scoffed about a quarter of the bag. He did offer some help and suggested that as well as blocking up the hole, we should first stuff it with steel wool which apparently does nasty things to the rodents teeth. He offered a few other suggestions and said he’d probably be seeing us again in a week’s time. I thanked him for his help, especially as he was covering two “Rat Men’s” positions while one is on paternity leave.

With his suggestions in mind we drove off to B&Q to get some MDF, screws and just to be sure, some expanding foam and some more poison. We had to drop in at Tesco on the way to stock up on food, because it will be closed ALL DAY tomorrow!!! Shock Horror! What will we do?? By midday I was ready for my lunch and the board was ready to screw into place. Some poison in place and steel wool carefully stuffed in to every crevice afterwards. After lunch the board was in place. I decided not to use the expanding foam after all as I was working overhead and the polyurethane foam is VERY sticky so the thought of it dripping onto my head didn’t appeal.

With my carpentry work done, I took my leave and went for a walk in St Mo’s hoping to grab some of the last good light of 2019. That’s where I got today’s PoD the last of this year’s 365. It’s the Bee Seat (my name for it). It’s a wooden seat designed and made by a local group for St Mo’s park and with a coloured engraving of a bee on one of the uprights. A great place to sit and watch the world go by, or as in today’s case, watch the Canada geese being shepherded by a vigilant swan.

Back home it was Kedgeree for dinner. A spicy kedgeree in fact. Still went down very nicely with a bottle of Spring Oak Leaf wine from Cairn o’Mohr. Very sweet dessert wine with just a hit of the tannin in the Oak. That was ‘hit’, not ‘hint’. You could definitely taste it.

After dinner I attempted the second of my pocket repairs with the sewing machine. This one was done using Scamp’s suggested method and I have to admit that it beats my method hands down. It’s a bit more extravagant on material, but if the final result is as good as it seems, it will be worth it.

I think we’ll be staying up for ‘The Bells’ tonight. Possibly we’ll need a little tincture or two to keep our eyes open after such an early rise and such an active day, but tradition must be served.

I’ve added these two pictures that came from Colin Brown (his dad and I were cousins) in Ayrshire.

Tomorrow, hopefully we will be later risers than today and hopefully not having to resort to any more morning carpentry work.

Hope 2019 is a good year to all my readers, wherever you are.  Safe flight home JIC and Sim.

Talking Technology

Scamp was out early to meet Isobel, I was out later to meet Val. All of us risking a dose of the cold sitting in the freezing draft in Costa Cumbernauld.

I wanted to pick Val’s brains about the new Raspberry Pi which has come a long way since the last time I played around with one back in 2014.
<Technospeak Warning>
Then it was simply a tiny bare bones computer on a PCB. Now it holds much more memory and has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth and the Italian hardware genius has already played around a lot with it. I wanted it as a monitor for my bird table, and just to play around with if I’m being honest (which I sometimes am.). A “toy off the rack if you like” off the Technology Rack, that is. The idea of building and having a small, portable computer that can be run from a battery pack is very 21st century. Because it runs Linux or a compact subset of it, its OS is free, all you’re paying for is the components. With the basic model you even have to solder in some of those components! Maybe I should order some Elastoplast as a preventative measure. I’m sure there will be a lot of swearing, cursing my stupidity and also fun in this project, but at present, my imagination is doing overtime thinking about what I can do with it.
<Technospeak Complete>

Walked with Val to Tesco to get some cod for our dinner. We parted, hoping to meet again before Christmas. We did meet again because we both came out of Tesco at the same time a half hour or so later! As a result I gave Val a run home then carried on up to the back of Fannyside Moor and got today’s PoD there. Well, I got the makings of the PoD. It took a fair bit of post processing to get from what I took to what you see here. However, what you see here is what I wanted to see through the viewfinder.

Tonight’s dinner was Cod and Sweetcorn Chowder but as usual I forgot to add the sweetcorn, so a spoonful of it was stirred into the thick soupy broth and it did no harm that it was just a wee bit cold. It’s a firm favourite now this chowder.

Tomorrow I’m meeting Colin for coffee in the same cold Costa. This time we’re meeting a bit earlier so perhaps, just perhaps we’ll get a warmer seat, or maybe we’ll abandon the cold Costa to the duller, but much warmer one at the other end of the boggin’ Antonine Centre. We’ll see.  Maybe snow tomorrow.  We’ve done not too bad getting to December before we got the white stuff.

You got a fast car – 9 December 2018

Today was a driving day for me and a passenger day for Scamp.

I’d intended going out early as I knew I’d be up about 8am because Scamp was getting picked up at 9.15 to go Falkirk to get the coach that was taking her and the other Witches to Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool for an overnight with dinner. Tina Turner and Neil Diamond would be there, but it was uncertain whether they would be played by the same person or by a couple. Who knows (or cares). It was when I saw Scamp off I noticed James’s car was still covered in ice and then, that mine too was frozen solid. On that basis, it might be a good idea to just have a cup of coffee before attempting to drive.

A well as the coffee, I thought this would be an opportunity to tidy out the top drawer in the ‘Painting Room (i.e. back bedroom) and that’s what I did. One old dead tablet went in the bag and one old dead Kobo e-reader joined it along with a host of boxes, odd scraps of cardboard and paper napkins for soaking up watercolour washes. Things that seem to find their way into that drawer.

With a bag full of junk of different types I drove to B&Q to look for rat traps. You see, the ‘rat man’ came last Tuesday and then again on Wednesday and declared us free of the little beasties, but we’re both sure they were just playing Hide ’n’ Seek with him. I’m not so easily put off and even better, I have a Plan. The first phase is to trap the beasts, except they only had cheap traps in B&Q and I had decided to get the better Rentokil ones. No problem, I’d drive to Bishopbriggs after I’d dumped the rubbish. Rubbish disposed of, off I went.

Now the Juke is a strange car. Two weeks ago and early last week before the Lurgi struck, it was running like an arthritic slug. Today it was raring to go. Pulling at the leash like a mad thing. I must give it a rest more often … and put some high fibre fuel in it too to keep its engine from getting clogged. Maybe it’s the sunshine that’s making it run better, because there was a wall to wall blue sky today. Got the traps and drove home to set them. I put two in the loft and then put a mousetrap in under the kitchen floor. Let’s see what they produce.

With hands carefully washed, I started to make my dinner which was Pork Osso Bucco, slow cooked and with a Mirepoix (!) which apparently is a sauce made from vegetables. I spoke to Scamp while I was making it.  Of course, she already knew what a Mirepoix was.  Her hotel is on the seafront at Blackpool but on the outskirts.  She even sent me a picture of her ‘sea view’.  Yes, you can see the sea, if you look very closely! My dinner tasted lovely. I restrained myself and left half for tomorrow. Best recipe I’ve found for that meat.

In the evening I watched the final ’Trust’ and most, well some, well very little was made clear, but the tale was well told and the acting from everyone apart from Paul’s mother was superb. Spoke to Jamie for a while and found out more about their Welsh excursion. Then watched Fast and Furious 6 trying to work out which parts had been filmed in Glasgow. I saw two definites and two maybes.

PoD was from the drive back from Bishopbriggs. I really liked the way the white house stood out from the sky.

Tomorrow? More tidying and checking the traps.

Last full day in the sun – 21 November 2018

The sun was out so we were too.

After breakfast we sat and read in the sun, then we went for a walk, but we were soon back again in the sun. There was packing to do, but the sun was more important and it won again.

After lunch Scamp went down to the pool for more sunbathing and I went for a final walk over the lava rocks, hoping for a good final pic. I got some more shots of the Brimstone that was still fluttering around the rocks. However, the winner of PoD was a moody shot of some cactus against the sky. I also remembered to get some shots of baked mud to use as textures in photos that need a bit of extra grunge.

Back at the hotel I started my packing because Scamp had already completed 90% of hers. Then it was out to dinner in the main dining room. Sat inside after dinner and played another round of UNO. No definite winner this time round, so it looks like Scamp is the 2018 Holiday UNO Champion. A few drinks and back to the room to finalise my packing and finish off the gin. Neither of us were desperate to see the Crazy Show by the entertainment team and the last time we’d looked there were dozens of kids from the kids club pushing little chairs round the dance floor while the singers, who were the live music for the night, were trying to ignore them. Chair pushing seems to be a big thing at Riu Paraiso. Kids seem to practise it every night, getting in everyone’s way. If the americans can get good at it, look out for it in the next Olympics. As a result, it didn’t look as if we’d get a dance tonight. What we did do was sit in the room with the sliding door open and finish the aforementioned gin.

Just before we went to bed, I was sure I could hear a mosquito’s high pitched buzz and once we turned out the lights, I was sure there was one in the room. I thought I’d silenced the little buzzer, but I was wrong.
Tomorrow is going to be a long day. We needed a bit of sleep.