Fort Apache – The Bronx – 5 October 2018

Today we went to the Fort. No longer Fort Apache.

Just went for a run, because we had nowhere else to go today. A few hours of retail therapy without too much expense. Also needed to clear my head and find something to draw. As it happened, I found something to draw on instead. Last year I discovered a lovely A5 landscape format sketchbook in Paperchase. It was only £3, half price. I presume they weren’t selling well and that was the reason for the price drop. Paper was good although it didn’t take a watercolour wash very well. Still, it was fine for pencil and ink sketching. Best of all, it was ‘stitched bound’ which means the book opens flat. Perfect for long perspective sketches. I went back to see if they had any more, but they were all gone. I’ve kept checking in the Glasgow shop to see if they got any more in, but all their sketchbooks now are wiro bound which is hopeless for what I want. Today I went in to Paperchase at the Fort and found two A5 hard backed landscape sketchbooks. I bought them on the spot. If only I’d looked there last year I wouldn’t have had to skimp with my last few pages in the one I had. The only problem was I had to pay full price for them. A small price to pay, if you pardon the pun.

After that we went to Morrison’s and bought it, just as we sometimes buy Tesco. Went in to get fennel and fish and came out with a trolley load of stuff. Then we tried to find our way home through the labyrinth that is the new motorway ‘system’. Finally found myself at a roundabout I recognised and from there it was easy. Up until then it had been a nightmare because the Juke’s sat nav didn’t have the new roads in it. £125 for a new SD card with an updated map? I don’t think so.

Came home and went for a walk in St Mo’s where I found the fungi PoD. Quite liked it, even if the ISO was a bit high and so was the grain.

Left the sketching too late and was left with a poor drawing. I must try to get things done a bit earlier tomorrow.

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It looks like it will be the better day of the weekend.

Dug wi’ a burst ba’ – 30 September 2018

Hazy wanted to Skype today. Skype said No!

Scamp got a message today from Hazy asking if we were free to Skype. It seemed a good way to test out Scamp’s new ‘puter’s communication setup. However …

We tried for about half an hour to get Skype to connect, well, that’s not entirely correct. We could see and hear Hazy, but nothing we did would allow her to see or hear us. We tried everything and eventually gave up on the shiny new HP and conducted the conversation on the iMac. After our virtual meeting was over, it was back to troubleshooting the PC version. I checked that the microphone was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was. I checked that the webcam was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was, however when we tried to combine these two successes in Skype it failed. Now who owns Skype? That’s right, Mickysoft. That probably explains why it didn’t work. Scamp told me not to waste the afternoon on it, but this was rapidly becoming a “dug wi’ a burst ba’ “ situation. I wasn’t going to let it go.

Eventually I had to give up. Uninstalled the troublesome Skype then re-installed it. When we got it working, but because Skype is a Mickysoft product, it registered it to Scamp’s login name, not the Skype name she’s had for the last fifty million years. Not only that, it had lost all her contacts. Uninstall and reinstall again and the same thing happened. Only once she’d logged out and logged in again could she change her Skype name. Why does Mickysoft screw up everything it gets its claws into? Finally we could communicate across the living room with a degree of feedback through Skype. I think we’re good to go now Hazy!

Most of the afternoon had gone, but there was some good light left, so I went for a walk around St Mo’s and spotted Mr Grey up a tree. He must have felt safe and secure there because he didn’t fly off even when I walked right to the shore of the pond and stole his soul for PoD. I was glad that I’d got him, because there was little else to photograph today.

Made some bread which we’ll need to have tomorrow because it was too late to have with our dinner. Also, the tomatoes that were roasting for the tomato soup are still in the tray in the oven because Mickysoft couldn’t leave Skype alone (and neither could I). That too will have to wait until tomorrow. However my lamb shoulder shank was very nice if a little fatty. The other one will do for tomorrow’s dinner. Scamp’s stuffed Portobello Mushroom looked dismal, but she declared it delightful.

Swallow Watch:  Almost forgot to mention, this week I did see some swallows flying very high and this is week 40.

Tomorrow? Well, it’s a free day. No Gems. What shall we do with it, I wonder?

Dragonflies, Porridge and Lentil Soup – 21 September 2018

Although not in that order.

Scamp was feeling a little under the weather this morning so I let her sleep on and got up and made some porridge for me. It’s a long while since I’ve had this Scottish breakfast. You can tell it’s the Scottish version if it comes unsweetened or even with added salt. Only sassenachs have honey / sugar / syrup on their porridge. Me? I take it as it comes. No salt and certainly nothing of a sugary nature. I make mine with oats, and milk. Boiled in the microwave for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. I find it funny, the looks I get, when we go on cruises and I add salt to my porridge. That look of horror from the english who don’t know any better 😉
After an hour or so, I took up her light breakfast. No porridge of any kind for Scamp. I was pleased to see her looking a lot better than yesterday.

We had an easy morning and after lunch Scamp instructed me in the noble art of making Lentil Soup. I’ve made soup before, in fact I’d half intended to make Tomato Soup for tonight’s dinner, but I’ve never attempted soup using the time honoured “a handful of this and a pinch of that and just about this amount of water”. It’s what my mum used in her cooking and what Scamp’s mum used too. I’m more a ‘time and temperature’ person, working to millilitres and grams where possible. Anyway, the soup turned out too thin, so I had to add “Just about a handful more lentils.” Then it was fine. I also made some bread using grams and millilitres, and felt so much more in control.

With the soup thickening and the bread proving, I walked over to St Mo’s to get some photos in the afternoon sunshine, because today we had sunshine almost all day. A bit of a breeze, but nothing like the gales we had midweek. PoD was the black dragonfly resting on the boardwalk over the mashes at St Mo’s. I used my usual method of taking a shot, moving closer, taking a shot, moving closer etc. Except, my final shots were taken at almost 1:1 and the dragonfly hadn’t even twitched. Maybe it was exhausted or maybe it was doing what dragons seem to do, sizing me up.

Came home and had soup and bread for dinner with a recovering Scamp. She does do a good lesson on soup making.

Tomorrow if the weather fairies are correct, should be a decent day, so we may go out for a run in a shiny clean Juke. Where, is open to suggestions!

Safe to go back in the water – 18 September 2018

Scamp decided it was time we went swimming again and I agreed.

I’ve always thought it was a good idea to go to the gym at least once a week, in principle at least. The actual practice of getting up of my backside and going to the gym or the pool is a different thing entirely. Today we would attempt that ‘different thing’.

Given my fragile state this week, it was decided that Scamp would drive and we’d just go to the pool, not the gym. For once the pool wasn’t clogged with ladies of a certain age standing around in groups talking, or lazing in the jacuzzi when it was on its cleaning cycle. I walked in to the pool wondering if there was a shark alert I hadn’t seen because it was totally empty of people. There was water in the pool, of course and the water was fairly cool. So much more refreshing than the over warm temperatures much earlier in the year when we were last there. After two or three lengths of the tiny pool, I went to soak up some heat in the steam room. That’s when I realised that there was no door on the sauna. Listening to conversations in the steam room, it appeared that the sauna hasn’t had a door for three weeks. Something to do with it needing special hinges, apparently. Special in that they need to hold the weight of the door and allow it to swing open and closed. Perhaps they need to be hand made by a special hinge craftsperson somewhere in the European Union and Brexit is making it difficult to decide on the exact hinge design to facilitate the exit from the sauna. Perhaps they just can’t be bothered. It’s difficult to phone for a joiner when you’re sitting on your hands. The staff seem to be very good at hand sitting at Westerwood.

Well, that was the first of the winter visits for us and it was fairly successful. I’m not a great fan of the sauna, but three weeks is a long time to get a door fixed. Back home after lunch I went for a walk around St Mo’s intending to get some shots of the variety of fungi that have recently appeared. However, I forgot to bring my Gorilla Pod with me and I’d also left my phone at home, so that restricted the shots I could take. Not an excuse, just a statement. I did get a grab shot of the park bench dedicated to Rose and Spencer Tracy. Not The Spencer Tracy surely?

Came home and made that vegan Aloo Saag again. Used the Magimix this time to blitz the spinach. I didn’t think it did quite as good a job as the liquidiser, but it was much, much quicker. Just a note to self, not really for general consumption. The aloo saag was however consumed with gusto!

That was about it for the day. Just thinking about battening down the hatches before Storm Ali comes charging in tomorrow morning. Glad I’m not going to work.

With my increasing fitness, thanks in part to the swim and the heat in the steam room this morning, I think we’ll be going to Blackfriars for dancin’ tomorrow. Dancin’ at night too perhaps.

Computing – 7 September 2018

Not so much computing, more looking for computers

We finally gave up on Scamp’s old laptop this morning and decided to cut our losses and go for a new one. Currys in Bishopbriggs was the place to go with a better selection than JL. After much indecision, soul searching and cups of coffee, she eventually settled on an HP 14” laptop, only to find that they didn’t have one in the store, the nearest store that did have one was Braehead, in fact it had eight. Braehead is on the other side of Glasgow.

The Juke’s satnav knew where it was and delivered us to the door. It was like walking into a time machine. This store looked exactly like the one we’d just left twenty minutes before, and I mean exactly! Even down to the displays all being the same with the same machines and in the same places. Weird. That’s the great thing about AutoCad. The architect draws one building and simply adjusts the sizes slightly to suit different ground areas and bang. You have cloned another store. It’s almost like there’s a factory somewhere churning out Currys PC World stores to order.

Anyway, we found the laptop easily because, of course, it was in exactly the same place relative to the front door. That’s where the efficiency ended. Lots of black clad Currys PC World employees looking busy, carrying pieces of paper or clipboards. Nobody ever questions you if you’re carrying a piece of paper. Even less likelihood of an questions being asked if you’ve got a clipboard in your hand. Eventually after about fifteen minutes of standing being ignored by all the sales people, a lady with a clipboard asked if she could help. Scamp said “Yes, I want that one.” The lady said she’d put us in the queue and told us there was one gentleman in the queue before us. She didn’t write our name on the clipboard, which was probably just for show and after another then minutes our assistant arrived. Scamp repeated her “Yes, I want that one” speech and off we went to get the order processed. He gaily typed the details into the computer and told us they only had one, the display model. When he turned the monitor around to prove it, Scamp noticed it was a totally different model. He grumbled something about it being the right model and when he returned, he had a piece of paper and told us that someone (?) had put the wrong model name in front of the computer. Not so, we’d already checked. Half a dozen times. We’d had about 25 minutes to make sure while we waited. The new bit of paper had the correct model number and there were now thirteen models of that type in stock. I think they breed them in that warehouse.

Long story short, we finally got the ‘puter. We didn’t even have to endure the refusal to purchase Mickysoft Office 365 or the insurance package. I think he just wanted us to go. As we left we had to surrender our invoice so the guard at the door could check that we weren’t stealing a laptop, or buying a memory stick and trying to get through the exit carrying a laptop. I’m still not sure what that was all about.

Setup at home was the usual overdone Mickysoft pantomime, but in the end was fairly painless. We even managed to remove the old Micksoft Office Home from my old Tosh and release the license so that it could be installed in the new computer. By the way, it’s a 14″ HP with an i5 processor, 8GB memory and 128GB SSD. Just in case you wanted to know. 128GB isn’t much once you count in the room needed for Windows 10 and all it’s airs and graces. So once I got the hard drive out of the old HP we copied only the necessary files on to the new one.  I am reliably informed that Jigsaw World works perfectly.

After that I went a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD there, before returning to make the best spaghetti I’ve made in years. The secret was some extra special Italian tinned tomatoes. Lovely thick sauce in them. Cirio Pulpa, look for them.

My apologies to JIC for the superexcess of Technospeak in today’s blog.

Tomorrow we’re going out somewhere, anywhere but Currys PC World.

Just when you think you’ve solved the problems – 6 September 2018

Another one pops up its ugly head.

<Technospeak>
Today’s problem came this morning. Scamp told me her laptop wasn’t charging, did we have another power supply? Well, yes we had another two laptop power supplies, but neither of them had the same connector as Scamp’s. However, armed with a voltmeter I checked the output voltage of her power supply and it was fairly close to the specification of 18v. It was actually running at 19.4v, but it has been running at that for seven years now and hasn’t given any problems until today. I didn’t reckon that was the problem.
I prowled the InterWeb looking for someone with the same problem and there were a few. The supposed best solution was to remove the battery and power supply then hold down the power switch on the laptop for at least 15 seconds to “possibly reset the CMOS”. I didn’t like the ’possibly’ part, but I tried it anyway. Replaced the battery and the power supply. It didn’t work. I then tried removing the battery as someone suggested and just connecting the power supply. It didn’t work. Reseat the memory? That didn’t work.
Powered up the iMac and loaded Google and told Scamp to use it to look for a new laptop while I went to the physio.
</Technospeak>

He listened to my update on all things knee and pronounced that part of the problem is with my hamstrings which seem to have become irritated (or irradiated) along with the ligaments. Four needles and a blast or two with the laser settled it down a bit. Two weeks off and then we’ll have an update. We talked bikes and cycling for the rest of the hour.

Between me swearing at Scamp’s HP and getting my two-weekly perforation with needles, the plumber had arrived and groaned when he saw the limited space available to him to fit the new tap. Half an hour and a lot of huffing and puffing later the tap was fitted and working and although it does produce one drip ever 15 minutes or so, it seems as if it works.

The problem with the power supply is still there. One possible solution is to replace the CMOS battery which is a tiny capsule containing a 1.5v hearing aid battery with a twist of red and white wires that connect to a socket on the motherboard. You can buy them in Maplin for about £2. And there is the problem. Maplin is no more. So now I have to source the battery. Probably Amazon will have them for £1 with £3 P&P. It would be nice it it worked. It might.

Today’s PoD, a seed pod, was seen in St Mo’s in a little bit of sunshine between rain, thunder and lightning and scarily heavy hail showers. A bit of a mixed day weatherwise.

Tomorrow we go laptop hunting I think.

A much less ‘clicking finger’ day – 2 September 2018

Yesterday I took 856 photos, most of them out of focus or just rubbish. Today I hoped for much less.

Lazy start to the day where I turned over after reading another couple of chapters of Record of a Spaceborn Few. “Nearly there,” I keep telling myself, “Nearly there.” Some books are like that. Usually the second book in a trilogy. This is the third book in what might be a trilogy, or it might not … It’s a trilogy for me!

Finally dragged myself up into a vertical position about 11am and ventured downstairs for a second look at yesterday’s airies. (Fixed the spellchecker problem last night, so no more ‘fairies’!).

After lunch I took my tired old D7000, the ‘big dog’, over to St Mo’s to look for beasties. Found some dragonflies, not DeHavilland Dragonflies, but real ones and managed to get a fairly good, clear macro of the head of one of these scary beasties. I rightly judged that it would be my PoD. Lots of other little beasties feasting on blue Scabious flowers, but none as close-up as the dragon’s head.

Back home and changed to go to Salsa in Paisley. Enjoyed the night where leaders outnumbered followers in a ratio of about 2:1. So strange. So, not many Old Firm supporters among our salsa crew then? Back home it was home made chilli for me and veg fried rice for Scamp. Sat with dinner on our laps and watched Vettel put himself out of the race with a charge into Hamilton. I like neither of them, but Vettel is probably the worst driver of the two and the most petulant. Anyway, it made for a slightly more interesting race than normal, which is a change.

Tomorrow I’m taking Shona to Glasgow for her pre-op. Other than that, it’s a free day. If it’s dry I may do some sketching. More photos from yesterday are now on Flickr.

Dancing and Competition – 22 August 2018

Wednesday is dancing day, but we’re not good enough to compete yet.

It seemed that half the Buchanan Galleries car park was cordoned off today. Maybe it’s getting painted, maybe they’re going to re-cover the floor, maybe they’re not going to do anything at all and it’s all just a ploy to annoy us. Most likely the last one. Anyway, it didn’t stop us getting parked on level 4 which is quite good for midday and midweek. So off we trotted to Blackfriars to strut our stuff.

First up was Jive and maybe because I’m getting used to it and maybe because we’ve been practising more, but I’m beginning to enjoy it. I still get mixed up with the different spins in the Seven Spins, but even that’s beginning to iron itself out. I need some mental mnemonics to fix numbers to names. After that was more or less sorted, Michael added in four Ladles. What a ladle is, I do not know. It seemed a bit like Ochos in Salsa. In salsa that’s a bit of time wasting move that nobody apart from Shannon seems to like. I didn’t like it much in Jive either.

On to waltz and although we’re not perfect at it yet, the moves are becoming slicker. One of the lady helpers cleared up a few of my mistakes and set me right on a few other things. Next a quick reprise of quickstep which is fine when you’re walking through it, but is a nightmare at dancing pace. Still learning the basic steps. Last, it was Tango which I always found a comical dance. It’s not so comical when you have to dance it. It’s very quick and staccato. I never can get the head turn correct. I always go left – right and it should be right – left. More work needed here, definitely.

On the way home we stopped off at Colin’s to drop off two photos, one painting and one pot of jam. All for the Industry section of Chryston show which is on Saturday. This is the first year we’ve entered anything and it’s one of the few times we’ll not be able to go. Stayed for coffee at Colin and Evelyn’s and talked for a couple of hours. We got a conducted tour of their garden again. Lovely garden, but it seems to take 24/7 work to keep it that way.

Grabbed a camera when we came back and got an hour in St Mo’s. Lovely evening light and lots of photos of spiders, tiny wee ones on their webs. Most were rejected, but a couple were decent and that’s where today’s PoD came from.

Dinner was beef burger (own make), sausage, egg and chips. Scamp, of course, decided to forego the meat and had egg ’n’ chips. Our own Charlotte potatoes didn’t make very good chips. They’re much better boiled.

Up and out early tomorrow, hopefully.

Early one morning – 13 August 2018

Very early this morning, about 6.30am to be more precise.

Couldn’t sleep, so I did what I haven’t done for a long time, I got up, got dressed and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Sometimes it’s really lovely and other worldly in the early morning light. Today was one of those days. I thought it was dew that was lying on the plants, flowers and spider webs, oh yes, the spider webs. However it was just raindrops. Light fine smirr of raindrops everywhere. Took loads of photos, mainly macros and it was one of them. A tiny wee wet snail that took PoD. I also some shots of Mr Grey, still looking half asleep, standing like a statue on a rock in the pond. Later I got a few of him stalking and catching his breakfast. The speed he can flash that beak out to trap an unwary fish is quite surprising. Came home feeling a lot better, but now tired, and had breakfast with everyone else.

After breakfast I went up to the police station to make the statement about the accident. Lady there took all the details, watched the dash cam video and smiled at the bit where I swore. Then she told me I’d be contacted in a day or two by a police officer who would go over the information with me.

By the time I was coming home, it was raining and the visitors were preparing to go and visit David Marshall Lodge or DML as we’ve always called it. If the weather didn’t suit there, they had plan B which was to go in to Glasgow and visit the GOMA. As it turned out, plan B wasn’t needed because they’d had a fairly dry day and they went from DML to the Kelpies in Grangemouth. While they were out in the countryside, Scamp and I drove to Torwood Garden Centre to buy some leek plants to replace the Calabrese I’d dug up yesterday after cutting the last heads from them. We also got a bay tree to replace the one that suffered in the drought a month or so ago. Scamp liked the look of some fluffy looking daisies, so we got them too. Then we had lunch and drove home.

When the wanderers returned we went to Milano for dinner. Pizza Napolitana for me because I like it and because I couldn’t get a Neapolitan pizza in Napoli (Naples). We had a great night which culminated in a shocked look on Jamie’s face when a birthday cake was brought out and the staff all sang Happy Birthday … but it wasn’t for him! It was for a man at the next table. Jamie’s look of relief was a sight!!

Nobody was drinking much when we came home. Long day for the visitors tomorrow ‘cos they’re going home.

Waiting, waiting, waiting for the party to begin – 10 August 2018

JIC, Sim and Steffi were coming today. It’s a long drive for them and a long wait for us.

After a morning spend tidying up, Dysoning, dusting and generally making the place spick and span, we headed out in the rain to Kirkintilloch for lunch at Calders garden centre. Lunch was fine, better than a lot of places we’ve been to recently and afterwards we had a walk round the plants while the rain thumped down on the roof of the covered area. We also ventured out in the rain to rove further into the plant area. I was impressed with the way the place was set out, with very few single species arrays beside other single species arrays. Instead, most of the displays were of mixed plants, different colours, different textures and varying heights. Now that’s a refreshingly different way to show off plants. Not so good if you’re searching for a specific plant, but if you want to see what plants complement others, it’s a great idea. Unfortunately, we weren’t looking for plants today. I was looking for a new coarse rose for the watering can, specifically one that could be used to water in the nematodes I’d received in the post this morning. We found lots of ornaments, cards, books, scarves, mottos and pictures, none of which I would have in the house and none of which would be at all good for watering in the nematodes. That’s the big problem with garden centres. The outdoor part may have plenty of plants, but the indoor section is jammed full of tat!

Came home in sunshine, roseless. Then Scamp offered an old watering can with a fairly coarse plastic rose. I decided it might just do and if it didn’t, I could drill out a few of the holes with the power drill. I was right for once. It was almost coarse enough, but after drilling out most of the holes with a power drill, it was fine for the job. Or should that be coarse for the job? With the nematodes now burrowing deep into the soil to find some tasty vine weevil grubs, my work was done for the day.

After a cup of tea I grabbed my camera and went in search of some photos in St Mo’s. Found Mr Grey close enough to photograph, some ‘beasties’ and also some Rudbeckia flowering in the wild garden that volunteers planted a couple of years ago. The Rudbeckia won PoD, just like it did last year!!

Finally at about 7pm the visitors arrived and we spent the rest of the evening eating, drinking and talking. Just really catching up. Scamp spent a short time showing off our garden front and back and we admired the veg that JIC and Sim had brought with them.

Tomorrow they go to Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument and we may go to Embra.