Visitors – 29 December 2017

Today was the second, and final leg of H&N’s journey north, and it was snowing.

The snow lasted all morning before finally petering out around lunchtime. Scamp had been a bit on edge until it actually stopped then she settled down, knowing that the worst of the weather was past. Even so, she was still determined to dust, Dyson™ (that’s like hoovering but posher), clean and polish the house at least three times until she was sure it was fit for visitors.

After lunch I went out for a walk in the snow around St Mo’s. That’s where I got today’s PoD of the coot on a mission. It was also the first time I used Picktorial in earnest. That’s right, I bought it last night, just before my demo time ran out. It really does work a lot faster and with a lot more variables than Lightroom. The only thing it doesn’t do is Asset Management, or Cataloguing as we used to call it. In fact it proudly proclaims that it is Catalog Free. Which is a fancy way of saying that it would cost too much to add in that feature and then nobody would buy it. So it looks like I’ll be using Lightroom to import my photos and do the heavy lifting in the post-processing, then use Picktorial to do the fancy stuff. You know what I mean. The little bits of pixel adjustment that nobody will ever know existed except me. Every photog does it … I think. Or maybe it is just me!

Not long after I came home and dumped the photos in Lightroom, we got the text to say the happy couple had arrived at the hotel and were going to rest from their journey, but would eat with us later. Scamp could finally breathe a sigh of relief, sit down and relax until it was time to start the prep for dinner. On tonight’s menu was Venison Stew or Panfried Sea Bass Fillets followed by Pineapple Snow with Lime and Chilli sauce. Both visitors opted for the venison. A very good choice said the Sous Chef who had spent yesterday afternoon preparing it.

H&N arrived in the middle of a surprise snow shower and we had a great evening opening presents and generally catching up with stories from the far south. They wanted to get back to the hotel and rest, so left fairly early. Tomorrow is a rest day for both of them, and probably for us too.

Tomorrow for us consists of a shopping expedition and little else. It’s nice to have a fairly full house again and all sit round the table.

Panic buying – 28 December 2017

We went in to Glasgow today.

We didn’t really need anything, and we’ve done enough spending these last two or three weeks. No, we just wanted to walk round the shops (and see if there were any bargains in JL – there weren’t) and have a cup of coffee somewhere. Somehow that walk round the shops expanded to fill over 8000 steps according to my Fitbit™. It also cost us £4.50 in parking. Where that time, those steps and that money went I’ll never know. Maybe we went into a walking timewarp. Anyway, it got us out and I got a photo. The new rule about the 365 is that I must take at least one picture every day that will become part of two albums and at least one group. If you don’t do Flickr this will mean nothing to you. Today’s PoD which was categorised under Architecture, Reflections and Glasgow in Albums was a the reflection of the Pavilion Theatre, taken with the Teazer. It’s becoming a serious contender for the best camera in the world. I.e. the one you have in your pocket.

After we came home we discovered we needed milk and bread, the two staples along with photo paper that every home should have, so I volunteered to drive to the madness that is Tesco (DO YOU KNOW THAT TESCO WILL BE CLOSED FOR A DAY NEXT WEEK??? WHAT WILL WE DO???). It seemed like the whole of Cumbersheugh was in there buying every bit of food they could get their hands on. Come on people, it’s only going to be closed for one day. Got the milk and the bread and just in case there was a sudden run on photo paper, I got two packets. When I came home and parked the car, Scamp decided she needed to clear the snow and ice from her car, so, as I was dressed for Alaska, I helped her and soon we found this little red Micra under the white blanket that had covered it for the best part of a week.

The photo paper was for printing out my annual calendar and I’ve now got four copies of it without a front page yet, and without December because December isn’t finished yet and there just might be an award winning PoD picture I see in the next few days. Unlikely, but possible. Anyway, that makes it 4×11=44 full colour pages and there’s hardly any drop in the ink levels in the Epson’s tanks! Impressive. That’s what I call economy.

Temperature is -3.3º just now and I think it’s beginning to rise. Snow is forecast for around 8am tomorrow, turning to rain by afternoon. Hopefully H&N won’t be troubled by it.

I don’t think we have any great plans for tomorrow. We may go for a last swim of the year or maybe a quick turn around the gym. Then again, maybe we’ll just tidy up again and wait for our visitors.

Many Hands – 27 December 2017

Today is Wednesday and on Wednesdays you get a 10% discount in B&Q if you’ve got a diamond card. Guess where we went today.

Another cold start to the day so we stayed in bed, in the warm and I eked out the first Book of Dust by allowing myself two chapters only before I got up and got dressed to face the day.

We drove to Stirling B&Q after finding the car under half a ton of snow. Actually, the snow was a blessing because it insulated the car from the frost that attacked the areas where the snow had melted. It didn’t take long to defrost and the screen blower is great for melting the ice on the windscreen. The thermometer in the car read -3º when we left the house, but by the time we got on to the motorway, less than 10 minutes later it had risen by 3º. That’s the effect of the ‘Cumbernauld Cloud’ as Scamp calls it. It’s a known fact that there are places where there are sharp differences in weather. My mum always talked about that happening halfway between Larkhall and Hamilton and the head of the geography department at school confirmed it. I wish I could remember what he called it. Anyway, when you enter Cumbernauld the weather always changes, and never for the better.

We browsed the lamps in Stirling but we had to crane our necks as they were all sitting on a shelf at least 2m above the floor. What a stupid place to put a floor lamp. Luckily we’d seen all the models in Bishopbriggs and we were pretty sure we knew what we wanted (AKA Scamp knew what she wanted). It was soon bought and paid for along with a packet of halogen lamps. Assembly, when we got home was a dawdle until it came to adjusting the final angle of the three decorative lamps that were attached to the pillar with Allen head screws. We’d remarked on how tiny the Allen key was when we were unpacking the bits and put it carefully to one side. Now it had moved, possibly of its own volition, because neither of us could remember moving it. I tried my set of Torx keys, but the smallest one was just one size too big. Where could that wee key be? We even lifted the new couches and looked underneath, but it wasn’t there. I wasn’t down the side of the cushions either (so strange to find no crisps or broken biscuits down there!) Finally, I lifted the instructions and there on the back was stuck the Allen key. After we used it to tighten the three screws, we carefully stuck it back on the instruction sheet so we’d remember where it is in the unlikely event of us having to adjust the lamps again. We’re still not sure if the light is too bright, but we’ll give it a week or so to settle in and then decide. As for now, we’ve got three floor lamps in the living room, each one different!

Walked round St Mo’s afterwards and tried another Weemen (or WeeWomen in this case) picture. This time it’s the ice skater and again, it became the PoD. This one was taken on a tiny wee pond far away from prying eyes, so no chance of looking a proper Charlie lying on the ground in the snow. “Honest officer I was just taking a photo of this little Lego™ lady skater.” The pic needed some adjustments outside Lightroom and I managed this in Pixelmator which is now very like Photoshop. Totally recommended for Macs everywhere.

Watched the ‘Big Hero 6’ movie tonight and it was was hilarious. Who says it’s a kids film? It was just good entertainment.

No plans for tomorrow.

Big Dogs – 26 December 2017

Today was Boxing Day, but there were no more boxes to open, so, as it had snowed during the night and it looked ‘Deepan, Krispan, Evin’, I got dressed and took the big dog for a walk.

We walked through the snow and found that the pond was covered in mist as the sun hadn’t risen to warm it up. I just missed catching Mr Grey who was fishing next to the path, behind a bush. He flew off squawking at a couple of swans that were in his way. I walked into the trees and saw the sun rising above the tops of the pines. It’s not often I’m up before the sun, these days!

Walked down through the pine trees and didn’t see a living soul. Got a few shots of the little man-made pond near the road and then followed a fresh fox’s trail through the woodland until it crossed the burn. It wasn’t my great tracking skills that let me to believe it was a fox, it was the smell that was quite strong on the snow.

I walked through the deciduous woods and by carefully choosing a point of view, got a shot of the second burn with some clean reflections and avoided both the street lights and the motorway signs. The mist helped, but it did need some ‘spotting’ in Lightroom later. It was on the way back with my ‘big dog’ that I was joined by another couple of real big dogs. I just caught a glimpse of something behind a bush and assumed it was a deer, then it formed itself into a big, and I mean Big Dogs. Two fairly heavy built Alsatian types. I’m not good on dog ID, but the other thing I was pleased to see was that they both had expensive looking harnesses on and looked well fed and looked after. I tried to ignore them and walked on when I heard one behind me. Never let a dog get behind you, someone once told me. As I turned round the second one bolted away from me towards some silent signal, presumably from the owner. My own shadow gave a high pitched yelp as if to say “Wait for me!” and ran to follow the first dog. I breathed a sigh of relief. Luckily I was wearing my brown corduroy trousers, so there would be no outward sign of my panic as I walked on.

Got home without meeting any more Big Dogs although I did manage to get a low down PoD shot of a new Weeman that Scamp bought me as a Chrissy Prezzy. I’d have looked a proper Charlie if anyone had seen me crouching on my knees, photographing a Lego Minifig™.

Lunch was a light wrap with cooked meat and salad veg, plus some Jalapeños. Afterwards we discussed tonight’s dinner and it resolved itself into Minestrone soup. Not difficult to make, but lots of chopping up of veg as preparation. We didn’t have any cabbage, so as Scamp wanted to go and stretch her legs, we walked down to the M&S shop at the petrol station. We didn’t really need anything apart from cabbage which they didn’t have, but I got some more cold ham and Scamp bought some Satsumas. It was more for the walk than for anything else. Stuck in the house all day yesterday makes you yearn for the outdoors.

When we got back, Madeleine started a video conversation using WhatsApp. We’d never used it before, and it was really good. Much better than Skype. Skype used to be good, but since it’s been taken over by The Dark Side, it wants to run things its way. Interrupting a call to install an update. That’s just typical Microsoft. Anyway, the Whats App call worked well and Scamp got to see Ori the wonder dog as well as everyone else in the Trini house.

I got a sketch done and pre-dated it to the 24th. A lie, but a little white lie, well, a black and white lie actually. Not drawn, but painted with black Indian ink. I quite like it, but I’m not letting you see the usual big image, so don’t bother to click on it. It looks better small, I think, and it’s my blog!  The title from the lyrics of ‘The Curious Crystals of Unusual Purity’ by Bridget St John.

Today we made the move to go out. Tomorrow we may go even further! Provided the weather is kind to us.

Coffee – 15 December 2017

Today I was going for coffee, but not with the usual company.

The Campsie Fells enticed me to do a wee watercolour. It’s the snow that makes the hills so interesting. It smooths the shape, levelling everything out, but at the same time it enhances the ravines that cut their way down the slopes. Thankfully the snow didn’t quite reach us, because although it’s nice to look at, to paint and to photograph, it’s not so great to fight your way through.

By the time it was finished, it was time to drive to the town centre for coffee with Shona and Scamp. Usually I have no problems getting parked in Tesco car park, but today it was chock a block. No room at the inn and non in Tesco car park either. The only solution was to park in the main center car park, across the dual carriageway. I spotted a few spaces in the far away area of the car park and headed there. Then I found the reason for those empty parking spaces. None of the roads or pedestrian areas had been gritted or cleared of snow. Three days of thawing during the day and freezing at night had made the paths un-walkable. Where the snow and ice had melted and re-frozen, the suface was like a sheet of glass. Worse, it was like a sheet of glass with water running over it. Not good for walking on, but the company who own the town centre don’t care. They seem to think that having provided a car park, they don’t need to maintain it as well. Dobbers.

Had coffee with Shona and Scamp then gave Shona run home. I was surprised at the amount of snow still lying where she lives. We have no lying snow and we live only about two miles from Shona.

When I came home, the weather looked good and I reckoned I would manage an hour of decent light, so it was boots on and grab a camera time. The paths here are just as bad as those up at the town centre and the bin that was half full of salt grit last week was now lying empty. It won’t be filled again until next autumn. Saw a couple of deer in the woods of St Mo’s and managed to get a clear shot of one of them. The hills that had impressed me were turning pink as I climbed the mound at the end of the forest. I took a series of shots at varying zoom settings. What you see above was my favourite and became PoD.

Scamp sensibly decided to forego the delights of the choir carol concert tonight as the temperature dropped down to just above zero again. I think that was the right decision.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow in the morning to get the pain over with early!

Snow and Ice – 25 November 2017

Well, for once I stayed true to my intentions. This morning I went for a cold walk in the ice and snow.

Spotted a deer standing near a pond in St Mo’s, not the big pond, but a smaller one deeper in the trees. Got a few shots of it before it took fright, bringing a bigger deer with it. I’d have liked to have got a bit closer, but that wasn’t going to happen. I was wearing my red Bergy jacket and it doesn’t blend in well with the dark trees. However I did get a few shots and that was good because I hadn’t seen any deer in St Mo’s for ages. However, it was the high key photo of Cow Parsley that won PoD.

Came back and had a shower while Scamp made some tea and toast. Lovely! That is both Scamp and the tea and toast were lovely! Scamp thought we should go in to Glasgow on the bus and I thought that was a good idea too. We took the slow bus, the X3 in and surprisingly, the driver (David, I think) was an FP. Glasgow and especially JL was absolutely jumping. I heard one woman sayin “They’re going absolutely crazy over there.” I don’t know where ‘over there’ was, but folk seemed to have decided that today was the last shopping day before Christmas, grabbing anything they could get their hands on.

We decided the Glasgow visit was a bad idea, but we’d go for lunch anyway and Pulcinella was nominated as today’s restaurant. It was a bit cold in the restaurant, but the food was as good as ever. Scamp had Minestrone and Spaghetti Pulcinella and I had Pasta e Faglioli and Penne Amatriciana, all of which was excellent.

We walked back up to Sauchiehall Street and Scamp investigated clothes shops while I browsed the book shop. After that it was coffee, a cake and home on the X3 again after just missing the much faster X28. All of this was done in a temperature that claimed it was 2ºc. I don’t believe that.

That was about it. When we got home I tried again to get the Photos app to do what I wanted and eventually gave up. Fortunately I chanced on a website that said it was still possible to download iPhoto. I was never all that enamoured of iPhoto, but I was sure it would do what I wanted. I was right. It is a much better photo management tool than the dire Photos will ever be until Apple get their finger out and make it work properly. The upshot is that my 2018 calendar is almost finished. Well, version 1 is almost finished. There will be further versions before we get to print.

Mentioning print, I think that will be tomorrow’s task, the testing and price checking of the short leet of printers to replace the old Canon Pixma whose demise I still mourn.

Deepan’ Crispan’ Deevan’ – 21 March 2017

It’s snow, of course and that’s what we woke to today.  Not that deep and not that crisp as the temperature was three above zero and very uneven.  In fact it was just a scraping of show, but then, as I was making the breakfast, the snow returned, blown along by Windy Willie’s wild westerly wind.  Now, that’s what you call alliteration!

Once we realised that we wouldn’t be snowed in any time soon, we decided to go to Falkirk to retrieve a ring, a substitute wedding ring, that Scamp had handed in last week for repair.  Not long after I retired we went to Ayr and Scamp tripped and damaged her hand.  I thought her finger was broken, but it was just badly staved.  So badly staved that the wedding ring had to be cut off because it was restricting the blood supply to her finger.  That was almost three years ago.  It took a long time to get the ring repaired, but today we picked it up from the jeweller looking as good as new.  Driving home was a challenge with torrential rain, hail and sleet driving straight towards us.

When we got home and had lunch, the wet stuff had stopped and the sun had come out again, so it was boots on and out to St Mo’s.  I took the Big Dog with the macro lens and the E-PL5 with a 20mm lens.  A nice combo.  Just waked into the woods and saw two deer grazing down the path.  They were crosswind to me, so didn’t sniff my deodorant I crept down the path walking on the grass, not on the broken twigs, so they didn’t hear me either.  It would have been better to have brought the 300mm Tamron, but the macro gives such good quality results that I wasn’t all that worried.  The landscape is from the 20mm lens, another good quality lens.

Got home and did a bit of messing around painting the hills with snow on them.  Four miniatures in different colour schemes and another four ready for finishing tomorrow.

Tomorrow?  Not got a clue.  According to the weatherman, the snow will be gone and the weather is set fine.  As usual, we’ll see.

Russian around Glasgow – 24 February 2017

We made a late decision to go to Glasgow today.  The other option was Falkirk, but the finger finally fell (alliteration of ‘F’) on Glasgow because we wanted to buy some ‘Trinny’ stuff to make dinner on Sunday, and we didn’t think Morrison’s would have plantain, dasheen or cassava, but Solly’s African Shop in the West End probably did.  Or two out of three as it turned out.

Got the bus in because that meant we could both have a drink with our lunch.  I wanted some water based markers in Cass Art or Millers so we headed down Buchanan Street, then along Argyle Street.  Scamp suggested we should have lunch in Charcoal’s cafe on Argyle Street and I thought that was a good choice.  However, when we got there, it looked closed and although there was a sign outside, there was no lights on inside and no customers.  I was ready to head back to Paesano pizza shop when Scamp said why didn’t we try the Russian place, Cossachok.  I’ll admit that I wasn’t all that keen.  The a la carte menu didn’t look very inspiring, but it was open and it was busy and we’d often passed it and said we must try it.  Yes, we had to give it a chance.  I had Borscht which I’d heard of, but never tasted and for a main I had Golubtzi which was cabbage roll stuffed with mince served in a spicy tomato sauce.  Scamp had Olivie which was like vegetable salad which we both remembered having back in the ‘60s! Her main was Mama’s Blinis which was minced chicken in a thin pancake, served with a creamy spinach sauce.  I’d have borscht again, definitely, but the golubtzi was really quite hot.  Scamp didn’t like the spinach sauce because it had a caramel taste.  That said, the lunch was cheap, filling and tasty.  What else can you ask for.  Next time I’ll have Russian coffee which is espresso with vodka and whipped cream.  A strange mixture.  There will be a next time!

Got the subway out to Kelvinbridge and investigated two Caribbean food shops.  Both had most of our ingredients, but only one had the plantain we were looking for.  Neither had dasheen.  We came home with plantain, coconut and cassava. It looks like Sunday dinner will be Stewed Chicken with Fried Plantain and the possibility of Coconut Ice Cream.  Subway back and coffee before we got the bus home.  Only the advert above as a possible PoD.  I thought it was exactly what you do on the subway and exactly what I was doing.  I was avoiding catching the eye of the three Chinese (?), Japanese (?), Korean (?), yes, Korean girls sitting opposite.  They looked like three little maids from school (yes, I know that’s Japanese) and seemed to find the adverts funny too!  Good advert, well worded.

Tonight’s other picture was taken after I had finished today’s ’28 Drawings Later …’ sketch which is here.  I wanted something simple to draw and paint and the two sheep worked well for that.  I needed something to recreate the mottled finish on the salt & peppers and decided to try out the salt technique where you sprinkle salt on a wet wash and allow it to dry before dusting it off.  According to the books, it works with sand too, but I’d never tried either.  I did a quick test using salt from my mum’s old bakelite salt cellar and the result was exactly what I wanted.  The photo shows the tools I used for the painting including the salt cellar.  Remember it anyone?

Yesterday’s snow and this morning’s ice is nearly all gone now, so I think we’re going down to visit Dorothy tomorrow.  Strong winds forecast for overnight, but hopefully they should have calmed down by tomorrow.

Geese – 15 January 2017

Half past one in the afternoon and I’m standing in the middle of an old coup that was previously a spoil tip for a coal mine. Now it’s just wilderness and I’m watching and listening to skein after skein of geese flying overhead heading north. What do they know that we don’t?

That was written much earlier in the day.  I’d cycled to the tip and by the time I was heading for home, an hour and a half later, the skeins were flying west, south and occasionally north, but not east.  By that time the light was failing and I imagine that these birds had been flying since first light some eight hours earlier and are now looking for somewhere to roost for the night.  There are quite a few fields around Cumbersheugh where geese feed and then roost.  That would explain the apparently contradictory flight paths.  It was great listening to the skeins as they ‘talked’ to each other.  Some will say that’s not true, that they don’t communicate, but if you listen, it does sound like they are sharing information with each other.

While I was walking around the tip, I got a few shots of folk on top of the Kirkie Volcano.  It’s really a pit bing (spoil heap), but from this angle it looks just like a volcano.  One day I’m going to walk up it and take some photos from the top.  East Dunbarton Council should really make it into a visitor attraction with a wee coffee shop at the top.  It would make a fortune.  I may suggest it to them.

It was a lovely day today with a few showers of rain, but the temperature was decent, very decent for the time of year with highs of just over 10ºc.  Not quite shorts and tee shirts weather, but not far off it.  I did wander around in my shorts for a while, but it was too cool to cycle in them.  I saw the moss fruiting bodies (Green Blobs) when I was putting my cycling ‘longs’ (the opposite of shorts) back on and was quite impressed with the colour the camera caught.

Tomorrow is back to Gems in the afternoon, so I need somewhere to go.  Not sure where yet.  😉

Bow Tie – 14 January 2017

Firstly, you will have noticed that there is no photo of the bow tie.  That’s because it’s not quite finished yet.  It’s a prototype, made from a pillowslip, not something you’d expect to wear to a posh do, but essential as a practise piece.  I learned a lot from making it and I made it exactly as if it was made from the finest silk.  I stuck closely to the instructions and followed every step.  I made mistakes along the way, but hopefully I have learned from them.  Tomorrow I hope to iron (yes, along the way I’ve also learned how to iron) the prototype and finish off the sewing.  I might even try to tie it.  Every day’s a school day.

After the sewing session, we drove to Vecchia Bologna for lunch.  The place was mobbed, Scamp said it was the end of an Itison voucher offer.  We had to wait a little longer than usual for the food, but when it came, it was as good as ever.  Neither of us wanted or particularly needed anything in Stirling, so we just drove home and I went out for a walk through the ice and snow to St Mo’s.  Managed to surprise two deer, but the quality was so poor, they didn’t get published.  I did, however like the shots from the Oly 5 with the 9mm lens and that’s what you see above.

Tonight, I made some scones and have bread proving as I write this hoping to get it baked later.  Baking scones, baking bread, sewing and ironing.  Don’t tell me I’m not in touch with my feminine side!

As a bit of serendipity, you should read what I wrote last year on the 14th of January.  There should be a link to ‘A Year Ago Today’ at the bottom of the right hand column.  Navigate to the 14th from there.  Amazing synchronicity!