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.

Bad Loser! – 19 November 2018

After breakfast we sat in the warm sun in case it would disappear. It didn’t.

We sat in the sun for most of the morning. Later when it appeared that the sun was staying with us for the day, we went swimming. I swam in both the pools. One was cold and the other was warm by comparison, but not by absolute temperature. Some people who waded in to the ‘warm’ pool thought it cold! This was the pool with the bar and the underwater bar stools. All it lacked today was a barman. He was otherwise engaged clearing tables and serving drinks in the other bar outside the pool.

After lunch Scamp went sunbathing I went looking for dragonflies. I thought I’d seen one yesterday when I was coming back from the lava fields. I didn’t find any dragons, but got a few shots of a Brimstone butterfly photos. I wished I’d brought the Oly M5 with the macro lens, but you can’t have everything. The Teazer and the iPhone were doing sterling duty as default image grabbers. Thought I saw a young fox, but it turned out to be a feral cat.

Later we went for a walk and got then wrote postcards. Couldn’t find a postbox, so that’s tomorrow’s task.

Watched a beautiful sunset this evening. Lovely colours and massed clouds with the sun finally going down behind some palm trees just outside Los Pocillos. That became PoD.

We had forgotten to bring our usual assortment of games, so I bought an UNO card game. Scamp won five games in a row against my none! Not a happy bunny! Sitting in the covered area with the flame heaters on.

Tonight’s show was about dance. Quite funny and enjoyable. Lady in Red sketch was memorable. Drunk woman at the end of the night was not funny! Not Scamp I hasten to add!!

“If you wanna see the sunrise …” – 9 November 2018

“… Honey, I know where.”

Driving home at 7.25am we saw a glorious sunrise over Muirhead from the M80, but the day had started much earlier…

Alarm was set for 6am. Up and out after a mouthful of breakfast to pick up Shona and take her in to Glasgow Royal for her much needed op. Scamp was accompanying her and we thought she and Shona would be there for an hour at least, but I was just paying for parking when Scamp phoned to say she was ready to come home. Luckily I had time to cancel my parking request and get my money back!

Driving home is when we saw the sunrise you too can see at the top of the page. I can’t remember when I last saw a sunrise. Today’s was glorious. Back home it was coffee time before we got down to work. Made the soup and checked that the stew I’d made yesterday for the steak pie was ok and it was. Scamp was busy making her pear tart and when it went in to the oven, I made a wee loaf, hand made this time. Finally Scamp made ratatouille also know rather confusingly as ”Rats”. With us ready to go for tonight’s dinner, we headed off to Falkirk for a quick light lunch at Calders, our favourite garden centre.

When we got home there was just enough time to go for a walk to St Mo’s for some photos. None of them were deemed good enough to knock the sunrise off PoD position.  Technically I didn’t ‘take’ the photo, it’s a screen dump from my dash cam, but I’m claiming artistic ownership.

Visitors arrived on time and we made a night of it. I was most impressed with Scamp’s Pear Tart and only just in second place was my Steak Pie.

Tomorrow will be a lazy day. By the way, the title of this blog came from “Leopard Skin Pillbox Hat” by Bob Dylan.

A dull day – 7 November 2018

Nothing much happened to brighten the day apart from mince ’n’ tatties.

Out early with Colin to a funeral in Airdrie for one of our old colleagues. As usual at funerals we both met folk we hadn’t seen for years.

Came home, got changed and Scamp and I were off to Glasgow for Dancin’. Learned a new part of the Lindy Hop routine. Our first Waltz was amazing. We hardly put a foot wrong. Later in the routines our quality slipped, but we were complimented by both teachers who confirmed that we were certainly improving greatly. Quickstep was ok until we tried the Fishtails’ which looked easy until we tried it. I video’d Michael and Anne Marie dancing it and we can practise it for next week.

I grabbed a couple of shots of the GOMA on the way home, and home is were we went after a coffee and a discussion of our progress in Nero.

Back home I took some time processing the shots in Lightroom and ON1 and what you see at the top is the PoD. The GOMA and 110 Queen Street in one frame with a decent sky looks interesting.
Mince ’n’ Tatties with Cabbage for dinner.

Drove in to Glasgow tonight and were disappointed to discover that Shannon was booked to teach the 7.30 class, because Jamie wasn’t there. We didn’t stay. There seem to be fewer and fewer classes by Jamie recently. He is a great teacher, but only when he’s there. Neither of us could stomach a full hour of class being taught by Shannon. She raises nit-picking to an art form and also, you simply don’t get a chance to dance. All she seems to do is repeat, repeat, repeat the same move until everyone is pig sick of it. Worst of all, she thinks she’s a good teacher. Delusional. I don’t know, we’ve just cancelled the gym and swim this week (the letter was posted today). Hopefully we won’t have to take time off from salsa too. That would probably be a bridge too far. Something needs to be done by Academia de Salsa in the mean time. Lots of good teachers have left the group or had their teaching commitment drastically reduced. What was once a five strong teaching team is now reduced to two (if you count Shannon). There are three junior instructors, but we’ve forgotten much more than they’ll ever know, and I purposefully didn’t include Bachata and Cross Body teachers as that’s not salsa. Not real salsa. A difficult and disappointing situation. I don’t really mind driving for half an hour through mental traffic on a Monday and a Wednesday to get to the STUC building, but I really, really object to doing that only to find it’s not the advertised teacher taking the class.

So that was today. Not the best day ever, but it can only get better. No plans for tomorrow, but the weather doesn’t look like improving.

The wrong lens – 19 October 2018

Today started off a bit dull and deteriorated.

<Technospeak>
The bonus of having two camera systems is that you can carry the light one without breaking your back on longer walks and the heavier one when you know where you’re going and you want really good quality. The problem occurs when you mix up the lenses. You carry the heavy camera complete with long lens and you *think* you’ve lifted a macro lens as well. You’ve been out for half an hour or so and you see an opportunity to get a macro shot, but the macro lens in your bag won’t fit. When you examine it more carefully, you find that it’s a 200mm lens for the other camera system. Bummer. No macros today then. That was this afternoon and I settled for the wide angle shot across St Mo’s pond as PoD instead of the macro of the rose hips I was considering. It took a fair bit of post processing to get what I wanted. I used Lightroom to develop two shots and then used ON1 to merge the sky from one into the foreground of the other. It works … kind of. It’s a case of taking the best parts of each and creating a new photo. Ansel Adams said we don’t take photos, we make them. So true.
</Technospeak>

That was the end of the day and the beginning of the good light which only lasted for about half an hour. The day started dull and got progressively worse until the rain started then it really went downhill. Couldn’t settle to do anything, that’s why I finally put on my rain coat and went out to see what the world could offer me, my Nikon and my 10-20mm lens, the 200mm being a passenger. After I got the photos for the paste up, I walked over behind St Mo’s school and down to the tarmac path. Caught a flicker from the bushes in the corner of my eye that turned out to be a young deer, not 3m away from me. I looked at it, it looked at me and we both decided to ignore each other. I stopped to take my camera out and it was off through the trees. I mean it was off THROUGH the trees. It just seemed to plough through them as if they weren’t there. Such a strange surreal experience. Saw nothing else worth photographing, but stopped for a while to inspect the new retail park that’s being thrown up across from St Mo’s school. Steelwork is up and I’d imagine the roof will be on in a week or two, then the sheeting on the walls the next week. That will make it wind and water tight enough for the sparks, plumbers and bricklayers to get in and work through the winter. Should be ready for opening by early summer I expect.

I couldn’t settle on a subject for a sketch tonight and I finally grabbed the two chicken salt and peppers and put them in front of me. They became Inktober No 19.

Tomorrow looks even worse than today, so we may just go in to Stirling for lunch and messages.

“When you’re retired … – 29 September 2018

… you don’t have weekends.” So my dad said, and it’s true.

Sat on the couch discussing our options for the day. We could go to Glasgow, but we were there yesterday. We could go to Stirling, but there’s nothing much there that we want to do. Then Scamp suggested we go for lunch to The Smiddy near Doune. There, that’s it settled.

We went to Smiddy for lunch. I had veg chilli. I’d forgotten just how good it was, especially with lots of chopped jalapeño peppers on top and sour cream to cool down with. Scamp had her usual mac and cheese with chips. Just good wholesome food. I forgave the Smiddy for their poor offering the last time we were there. I had a look at their butchery counter, but didn’t find anything that tempted me. Although the Picanha steak looked interesting, it was not interesting enough to encourage me to part with the money for it. Maybe next time. That’s another thing I like about the Smiddy. They do have unusual cuts of meat.

While we were there I took some photos of the flat carse countryside. The light around the restaurant is beautiful and shows of the scenery so well. Usually I’d say that the scenery is beautiful, but it’s really the light here that’s so good. It is all about the light you know! Today’s PoD came from there. It is in fact two photos merged. The tree and the lane are one shot and the background hills are from another. The photos were merged in ON1 and saved just before it crashed. ON1 is a piece of software I want to like, but it’s still very rough around the edges and quite prone to crashing. Definitely going to keep using Lightroom for the moment.

We came home via Waitrose and got tomorrow’s dinner there, and a host of other things as well. It’s almost as bad as buying Tesco!

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It depends on the weather.

Another wet day – 1 August 2018

We shouldn’t complain, should we.

Another day that dawned fairly bright and fairly dry, but deteriorated gradually all through the morning and then in the afternoon started a steep decline.

In spite of the weather, or maybe because of it, I decided that today wasn’t going to be a macro day or a flower day. Every month I make a screensaver of the last month’s PoDs and when I previewed the July screensaver it appeared to be totally composed of those beastie and flowery photos. No mono. No landscapes, few cityscapes and no faces. That, I’m sure is what made me want to shoot a landscape (or two) today.

With that in mind, I drove up to Fannyside, intending to get some landscape shots in the dull weather, then the rain came on, but that might just add a bit of moodiness to the images, I thought. That’s when I saw the burned out van. Hmm. I’d fitted a wide angle lens to the Nikon and that van just screamed out for wide angle, moody sky and monochrome. Unfortunately, the sky was anything but moody. It was milk bottle white behind the van. Turn through 90º and the sky was a bit more interesting, so concentrate on getting a good shot of the van and then composite the sky in later. Not PS this time, but ON1. I’d seen it done the other night on a YouTube video. It wasn’t quite as easy as it appeared (is it ever?), but I managed it without the aid of Photoshop. Quite liked the finished effect.

By the time I was coming home the rain was ramping up, or thumping down if you prefer it. I don’t think that would have added anything to the photo. I liked it as it was. Nice to see some mono and landscape squirting out of Lightroom for a change.

I danced salsa for two hours tonight and enjoyed most of it. Especially because my knee wasn’t hurting as bad as last week. I think it may be on the mend, but the big test will be tomorrow. Horrendous traffic going in 24 minutes allegedly between Junction 13 and Charing Cross (normally 6 minutes). Although there was an accident after Junction 16, most of the holdup seemed to be folk travelling in to Glasgow to see the opening of the European Championships. I hope they weren’t expecting something like the Olympic Games. This is Glasgow. Two bottles of fizzy water and half a dozen sparklers, that’s all you’ll get. Anyway, we managed to slip into the moving part of the queue on the motorway without causing any problems and made Charing Cross in record time.

Tomorrow we’re dancing ballroom and jive or jive and ballroom, who knows at 1pm. Unless we get a text before then to ask if he can change it to 5.30am on Saturday. Don’t laugh, it’s well within the bounds of possibility.

Coming Down – 27 May 2018

“Coming down is the hardest thing”. That’s what the late Tom Petty said in “Learning to Fly”. It’s true and it’s even more true when you’re driving away from Skye and the sun is shining.

We left early, just after 10am, because we were ready and there seemed no point in prolonging the agony. The drive down was amazingly quiet, at least until we reached Rannoch Moor where we picked up some traffic. We stopped at the awkwardly named Lochan na h-Achlaise which apparently translates as Loch of the Armpit, or Loch Oxter. Anyway, that’s where I got PoD. It took a little longer to process than I’d anticipated. The basic levels and stuff was done in Lightroom and then I handed it over to ON1 for some more delicate make-up. The result went back into Lightroom for the final cropping and I’m more than happy with the final result.

Loch Oxter got quite noisy too with a collection of BMWs, Subaru Imprezas, Audis and assorted low riding Peugeots about 10 in all showing an impressive turn of speed as they turned the A82 into a drag strip. Noisy, dangerous and quite exhilaration, although others of the ‘blue rinse brigade’ were heard to say that “there’s no need for that” and “shouldn’t be allowed”. True, but that’s only because they were never young once. Some folk are born old.

Back on the road stopped for lunch at Morrisons in Fort William The next drag was a real drag. For about a mile and a half outside Callander we crawled forward in a long queue held there because of two sets of traffic lights. One set was true traffic lights at a junction and the other was a set of pedestrian lights where the ‘grannies’ were crossing and re-crossing the road just to annoy us drivers. Can’t they find somewhere better to spend their Sunday afternoon? I think it’s the same ones who where hissing and harrumphing about the folk of the testosterone brigade up at Loch Oxter.

Once we were past there, it was plain sailing all the way home. About 6 hours driving with half an hour out for lunch and half an hour out for Callander. That’s about average. It’s a long day and a long drive, but it has to be done and at least there weren’t very many potholes on the road.

Tomorrow is a relaxing day. Very little or no driving planned.

An exciting F1 GP – 29 April 2018

For once, it really was a Formula 1 Grand Prix filled with thrills and spills and best of all, Vettel didn’t get a podium.

We both did a bit of light gardening this morning although as usual, I did the lightest possible while Scamp got stuck in and did the heavy stuff and was constantly planning changes, alterations and improvements to the layout of the plants. It’s what she does best. Me? I just footer around the edges pruning things a bit and thinking about planting things. Today I thought about planting peas and potatoes. Didn’t actually do any planting, but I thought about it, then decided that tomorrow would be a better day to do the work … or maybe Tuesday would be a better day. Hmm.  After that I did a bit more pruning.  Used the hairclippers to give myself ‘a Number 4 all over’.  I’ve had worse, fairly often and had to get Scamp to tidy up the bits I couldn’t reach.  Saved a tenner!

Watched the Baku GP with crashes galore, punctures galore and even two team mates crashing into one another. Oh how we laughed when Vettel performed what used to be called a ‘Banzai’ move and forgot he’d need to brake for the corner that was fast approaching. Went from first to fourth in one easy move. Such a shame <snigger>.

After the race we had to get ready sharpish to drive to Paisley for a tapas meal before Salsa. Food was good and I must give Shannon full marks for a sensible improvement to the ordering procedure which used to be a shambles. Now it’s a much reduced menu, but the food comes out far quicker.

After the tapas, we had a styling class with Will and although styling is not my thing, (you can tell that by today’s DIY crewcut) I did enjoy the class but maybe my partners didn’t think very much of my attempts at styling. It was a bit of fun and it would have got the dancing off to a good start, except that nobody wanted to dance after that, they all wanted to talk. We did get a few dances and I even managed to dance with two former classmates and also with one of the new ‘Improvers’.

On the road home I got today’s PoD which was taken just outside Moodiesburn. Who would have thought it would be so photogenic.

Tomorrow I may go out looking for photos after I’ve done a bit of alteration to my ‘raised bed’ Going to drill a few holes in the woodwork to erect a frame for a pea net. Guess what I’ll be planting soon after that hopefully!