Round a different pond – 5 March 2021

… and into the woods as well.

It was dry in the morning, but cold. Scamp’s wee red car needed a run to warm it up, charge the battery and get the wheels moving, so she got to choose the destination. She chose Drumpellier. It being a Friday, lots of folk were off work and lots of folk had chosen Drumpellier as a place to walk with their pals or push a pram, some even joined the two together and went for a walk with their pal while pushing a pram. Multitasking. Even worse, half the car park was cordoned off to allow the Council workies to get their machines out and lay new footpaths. Spaces in the car park were at a premium, but Scamp found one and just drove into it and we were there.

We walk counterclockwise round the loch. It’s really too big to be a pond. Counterclockwise was not the correct way. Almost everyone else was walking clockwise. Almost everyone else was walking round the loch too on the main path. Scamp doesn’t do that. She likes to leave the main path and take the roads less travelled. That isn’t a metaphor for anything, she just likes the less busy paths. With all that in mind, we took the first available turning away from the main path and discovered the woods. Oak and beech woodlands in Coatbridge isn’t what I was expecting, nor were the deer we saw in bit of bogland between the wooded paths. We only took two paths and easy ones at that, but we both agreed that we’d go back again some time, all being well. We’d also take the path less walked and avoid the conveyer belt everyone else was travelling on. At the end of the path we walked through the Peace Garden and bumped into two guys, one in a wheelchair and one walking. Both retired, the one in the wheelchair hadn’t been out of the house since November. I’m glad he and his pal, both photogs, got a dry day, even if it was cold.

In the afternoon, after lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s on my way to the shops, but nothing I saw replaced the PoD I’d taken at Drumpellier. It was a wee child’s toy sitting on a stubby branch of a tree . Hopefully whoever lost it will find it again some day soon.

Don’t have any plans for tomorrow. It may involve another walk and then again it might not. It all adds to the mystery of life.

Just one of those days – 3 March 2021

They say they come in threes.

Woke to the sound of something trying to find a way into the loft from the roof! I suspected a bird, but it could have been something more sinister like the squirrel that tormented us for weeks over a year ago. I’d boxes to put up in the loft anyway, so it was up, shower then grab a torch and a facemask. The facemasks we all have to wear these days are great for using if I have to go up into our loft and don’t want to breathe in the fibreglass fibres I usually disturb. The rat trap we had used against the squirrel was still there and still empty but there was definite activity and it seemed to be between the sarking and the roof tiles and it was definitely a bird. That means it has found an access hole in the gable end of the house. There is no way I’m going up onto the roof to fix it. That’s a job for a roofer. That was problem one.

The rest of the day went reasonably well. I sawed up the old steel clothes pole from the back garden. I used to be able to wield a hacksaw for hours of metalwork at work. Today I was knackered after sawing through an old, rusty hollow steel pole about 70mm diameter. Put the pole and a host of other clutter Scamp had found in a cupboard in the car and took it all away to the council skips.

After lunch I made a pot of soup for dinner and with it simmering away I went for a walk in St Mo’s and although the light was poor, I got a few photos. Certainly enough to create a PoD from. It’s a sepia toned shot of some moss fruiting bodies taken with the kit lens. Weather was mild, but when I was heading home it turned into a damp cold smirr.

After dinner we were just settling down to watch the final of Landscape Artist of the Year when the phone rang. It was my niece phoning to say that she and her son were locked out of the bathroom and could I open a padlock. I’ll explain. Her son, has learning difficulties and has a habit of sneaking into the bathroom and filling the bath which sometimes overflows and runs down into the person below’s flat. To stop this I put a hasp and staple on the top of the door and locked it with a padlock. Somehow the keys had gone missing tonight and her son needed to use the toilet. Could I help. Problem two. So I drove up to the house and unscrewed the staple from the door jamb. The easiest thing to do. Drove home. Accidentally pressed on the horn and no sound. Tried it again intentionally and still no sound. Problem three. I’ll check again tomorrow, but I think this will require a trip to the garage in Stirling.

Like I said at the start: They say they come in threes. I hope I’ve had mine for the month! Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. We’ll need to wait and see.

An improving day – 27 February 2021

It started off dull and foggy, but it ended up much better.

We hadn’t anywhere to go today and no real reason to go there anyway. However we drove over to Kilsyth on the pretext of going shopping in Lidl. I wanted a bottle of their excellent Hortus gin and Scamp wanted ‘messages’. We achieved our aim and got both. I was very good and didn’t open the gin right away when we got home. Instead, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s but that’s not where today’s PoD came from. I got that much earlier.

The light was beautifully soft for a while after the fog had lifted and so had the heaviest of the clouds. The freesias on the windowsill were looking great and I grabbed a few shots, but I knew they would look better on a dark background. I hung Scamp’s black cardigan on the handle of the window and banged off another half dozen shots, one of which Scamp chose as PoD. No cardigans were harmed making this picture.

The trip to St Mo’s was just because the light was improving and I did find some more subjects. A tiny little spider for one. The first spider I’ve seen this year. Another was a little branch from a weed with lots of water droplets, probably from the morning’s fog, shining brightly. It seemed to be one of those days when you couldn’t put a foot wrong. Except I did put both feet wrong and came home with wet sox again!

Scamp suggested we do a Golden Bowl (best Chinese food in Cumbersheugh) and I readily agreed. Chicken Chop Suey with Fried Rice for Scamp and Special Chow Mein for me. Washed down with a glass of Red.

In the evening we practised the waltz routine and it is looking good. Much more ‘together’ than it’s been all week. Partly due to S&J’s video, but more to do with Scamp breaking things down and working out whose foot goes where, when. We also found the real name of a song Stewart uses for the rumba routine. Tried Shazzam, but it’s rubbish now. Used Sound Hound and it worked first time. It’s now in the dance music folder in Spotify.

Today’s topic was “Chess”. I dug out my old wooden chess men and set them up to fight. Black lost. That’s what happens when you paint yourself into a corner.

If the weather is decent tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere.

Dances with Wolves – 25 February 2021

Honestly, it will all become clear

It was a lovely morning which we kind of wasted by sitting inside. We had a webinar booked with the man from Falkirk. There is the risk that listening to someone who is so steeped in his subject may turn out to be heavy in jargon and ultimately tedious. No fear of that with this twosome. Both he and his sidekick explained the intricacies of the financial world in simple terms, leavened with a fair amount of humour. He and his female counterpart would make excellent teachers.

By the time we were through and had returned to the here and now, it was almost lunchtime so we had our toasted cheese and listened to Nic the Chick twisting and turning, trying to make everyone believe she’s squeaky clean. Now I much prefer the Sturgeon to the Salmond, but neither of them are to be believed. As my pal John would say, “You know they’re lying because their lips are moving.” That sums up politics and politicians as far as I’m concerned. To clear our heads we went for a walk.

We needed food for dinner, so we walked down to the shops, via St Mo’s because the weather was still good, if not as bright as it had been earlier. Came home laden with more than we had intended getting, but who’s counting how many cakes we need?

Today’s prompt was “Wolf” and since there are no wolves near where we live, I resorted to Google to find some likely subjects. With half a dozen chosen I dumped them into Google Drive and sat down to finish today’s Sudoku. Then I dumped some kidney beans, some chilli paste and a few hot peppers in yesterday’s bolognese and voila we have a chilli for tonight’s dinner. Scamp was having fish with veg and rice, so we agreed to half the rice between us and dinner was sorted. Mine was a bit tasteless, but boy it was hot. Wish I’d bought some sour cream at the shops.

After dinner had slid down, we attempted Stewart and Jane’s waltz Spin Turn. I tried it in my dancing shoes, but the didn’t slide enough on the carpet. I tried it in my sox, but the gripped the carpet too. I didn’t trust my bare feet to Scamp’s dancing shoes, but the most help was Scamp’s count of the beats and also slowing down Stewart and Jane’s tutorial video to 75%. I even found how to use iMovie to slow the video but not distort the speech. Perfect. Well, as close to perfect as we were going to get tonight.

I’d already sorted out PoD which is some Cladonia lichen with a little moss tree making a macro garden of sorts. Looks totally alien to me as most macro shots do. It’s a miniature world of its own. Time to tackle that wolf. I glanced at some tutorials on YouTube that promised methods for drawing realistic wolf heads, but most of them were from influencers who just shout at you and then stumble through 25 minutes of ‘tutorial’ with about 5 minutes of content. After suffering a few of these, I took my sketchpad and pencils up stairs, turned the heater on low and had a good look at the wolf pictures I’d found on Google. From them I built up a framework of a dog-like head and from there stretched out some parts and reduced others until a lupine head appeared. A little bit of yellow watercolour for the eye and we were done.

Tomorrow the weather looks settled, so I think we’ll try a drive somewhere with a flask of coffee and a couple of pieces. A February picnic.


A dry day at last – 24 February 2021

Today it was dry in the morning and it seemed a shame to waste the day.

So it was boots on and just a light raincoat, because it wasn’t really all that cold. It wasn’t warm either, well, it is Scotland in February so what do you expect? We walked down and around the Broadwood boardwalk. I attempted a few shots of a goosander that was feeding in the shallows, but the settings I was using yesterday wouldn’t be suitable for today’s camera/lens setup and the photos were junk. Lots of folk out walking along the dam wall, making good use of a dry day for a change.

On the way back home I took a detour round St Mo’s pond while Scamp headed home. Just the two circuits today and got talking to a bloke I sometimes see there. We discussed a chestnut brown headed duck we’d both just seen. Neither of us was sure what it was, then he suggested a Potchard and that sounded familiar. I checked when I got home and it looks like he was right. I’d got a couple of shots of it once I’d sorted out the settings. Later in the walk I spotted Mr Grey or one of his close relatives fishing in the reeds. However it was two Canada geese that made PoD. One of the few clear shots I had today with the Tamron 70-300mm on the adaptor.

Dinner tonight was ‘Rats’ for Scamp with a baked potato and Spaghetti Bolognese for me using mince that had been in the freezer since October 2020. Tasted fine. I might even have the rest for dinner tomorrow if it survives past lunch.

The prompt today was Golf. I’d already worked out what the painting, because it would be a painting, would be. As usual I roughed it out on the cheap Cass Art sketch book and as usual, that became the finished sketch. It’s not the best quality sketch book, far from it, but it has a lovely ‘tooth’ (the grain of the paper that catches the graphite of the pencil). It’s not so clever at holding the paint and the colours tend to be a bit muddy because the paper absorbs the water so much. It’s also not quite white, so that doesn’t help. With all that said, it’s great for working on with a pencil.

Golf is not a game I ever thought I’d excel at, and I was right. Others wax lyrical about it, but I just don’t see the point. I used to have a boss who played every Sunday and on a Monday morning all the folk in the office, including me, would skive off because he would be too busy discussing the day’s golf with the other golfers in the office. My father-in-law was a golfer too. My wife and I couldn’t get married on a Saturday morning because that was his day and time for playing golf. I think it’s the paraphernalia that fascinates people about golf. It’s the dress code, the shiny golf clubs and the language, the jargon of golf that makes them feel part of an elite group. I never was one for joining groups, elite or not. Maybe that’s why golf is not for me.

We watched Landscape Artist of the Year and we were both surprised and shocked at the artists that blagged their way to the final. I could paint better than them!

The weather looks even better for tomorrow. We may go somewhere. I’ll get the settings sorted before we go out!

Testing the new toy – 18 February 2021

Before we got to that, there was the subject of some shearing to be done.

It didn’t take all that long to reduce my overgrown locks to a mess pile on the painting room floor.  I managed most of it myself, but had to rely on Scamp to do the tidying up at the back.  I remember one of my colleagues at work saying that his grandfather stood in front of a mirror with scissors in one hand and a small mirror in the other and cut his own hair.  His acceptance of this skill always bemused me.  He said, “Of course he was a blacksmith, so he was used to it.”  Used to what, I always asked myself.  Are all hairdressers failed blacksmiths or are all blacksmiths failed hairdressers?  Answers, as usual, on a postcard.  Anyway after the hair had been cut to my and Scamp’s satisfaction and the hair hoovered up, I started today’s Sudoku feeling much lighter.

It was a bit of a dull day.  Not really encouraging us to go out for our daily walk.  In fact it wasn’t until late in the afternoon that I took the new macro lens for a walk in St Mo’s.  I found yesterday’s orange ladybird hiding in a crevice in a tree and that made PoD.  Walked to the shops and bought some stuff for tonight’s dinner which was a rehash of Tuesday’s chilli.  Tonight’s was better, but not as hot as a chilli should be, despite the addition of more chilli paste.

Today’s prompt was “carrots”.  Being a generous person, I gave them three carrots.  Subjects for painting should always be in odd numbered batches.  Don’t know why, but odd numbers of items are always more interesting than even numbered ones.  I eventually moved away from the sketch book and painted on cheap Flying Tiger 300gsm watercolour block.  I was happy with the 3 carrots.

Tomorrow is Friday and we’ve no plans.  Hopefully not as dull a day as today.

Walking in the white stuff – 10 February 2021

The snow was still there in the morning, but thankfully there was no new covering.

Before we could get on with the day there was a funeral to attend.  A virtual funeral for one of Scamp’s oldest Gems members, Netta.  She had died over a week ago and today we sat for half an hour and remembered her as we watched the ceremony.  She was an old lady, but a real ‘gem’.

I wanted to clear most of the snow off the car to allow today’s sunshine to help melt the rest.  It was a good idea that partly worked.  Some of the snow melted, the side that faced the sun was the most successful, but hopefully more will follow tomorrow as we are to have another cold, but sunny day.  There must have been about 200mm of snow on the roof of the car, also on the bins and all the plant pots.  I was thankful I’d bought a pair of good wellies going cheap in a sale many years ago.  Not the most comfortable footwear, but at least you don’t have to worry about wet socks.

When the postman came he brought Scamp a Blue Envelope.  She now has a date for her first vaccination.

After lunch, Scamp declared that she was off to the shops to get tonight’s dinner which was going to be Cod with Bacon, Peas and Lentils.  I was going out for a walk in the snow wearing my new best friends, my green wellies.  I walked over St Mo’s and I think I followed  the tarmac path, although it was difficult to find at times.  Walked through the woods marveling at the difference 200mm of snow can make to a landscape.  PoD became the snow ball on the cow parsley seedhead.  The snow looked solid, but it was almost translucent and as light as a feather.

Dinner was changed from Cod with Bacon etc to Chicken Soup followed by Fish Finger sandwiches.  Very satisfying and still sticking to the Fish on  a  Wednesday theme.  No painting or drawing yet.  One is done, but I’m not happy with it, so a new or rearranged one will hopefully appear tomorrow.

Tonight the temperature is dropping down below -5ºc.  It’s going to be cold tomorrow.

Oh no, more snow – 8 February 2021

We woke to a white world today.

No more piling, this was real snow and a fair amount of it too. At first the air was clear, but soon the wind dragged more clouds from the east and they began to drop their load of snow, driven along by that same wind. Soon we could watch a full strength blizzard outside the window. We agreed that it would be best to wait a while before we went out for a walk.

Later when a few blizzards had blown through, the skies cleared and the sun shone. We gave it another fifteen minutes or so before we dared to get the boots on and go for that walk. However, it was not to be a long walk today, just in case the snow returned.

We need not have worried because the snow was kind enough to stay away long enough for us to complete our walk. I did get today’s PoD which was my favourite wild flower, the Cow Parsley holding little pockets of snow in its talons. The sun shining through the trees gave a bit of dappled light to brighten up the background and the wind was calm enough to prevent too much movement. I used the old Sigma 105mm macro lens for it. It’s more or less a manual lens now. It has no internal motor, so cannot autofocus which is a great disadvantage for a macro lens. However, it still takes exceedingly good photographs for its age. It’s definitely Old Glass.

Back home and after lunch which was Scamp’s minestrone soup, with lemons (!), I started to rough out today’s sketch for which the prompt was “Puppy”. The first rough looked good and assured me that I could do this. I’m not a great fan of dogs which is what puppies grow up to be, so I’m told. Cats I’m ok with, but not dogs. But that’s why I enjoy I enjoy drawing from lists on groups like EDiF and 28DL. It forces me to face my demons, even if the demons are puppies. The thing to remember is that you’re not drawing or painting a fluffy puppy, you’re just drawing a shape and shading it to give some 3D appearance to it. I liked the finished result.

While I was puppy drawing, Scamp was baking. She was making a Sticky Toffee Pudding. I did help out a bit. I was in charge of liquidising the dates and water mixture that would go into the pudding. It looked absolutely disgusting. However I must say that the finished article was worth all that messy stuff. Probably not the least fattening food I’ve eaten, but it was disgustingly good!

Although we had our walk in a snowy landscape this morning without any of the white stuff falling from the sky, during the afternoon it made up for that with continuous blustery blizzards. Tonight it’s continuing to drop more snow on us. I’m really glad we’re not intending to go anywhere tomorrow.

50 – 30 January 2021

Today it’s exactly 50 years since we first met at our friends’ engagement party. That was a Saturday too!

It was cold and frosty with just the thinnest covering of snow, so it was boots and YakTrax just in case. Not a long walk today, just a couple of circuits of St Mo’s pond. I took the Sony plus kit lens and my old Sigma 105mm macro on the adapter. The Samyang 18mm is always in the bag. That covered all the necessary bases. Two circuits was what we predicted and that’s what we did. Cold, but not absolutely freezing. Most of the photography was of landscapes with the macro lens providing some arty-farty close ups. After lunch it was time for me to give a cursory glance at the photos and for us both to begin to prepared dinner and tidy up a bit.

Later in the afternoon a knock at the door signalled the arrival of a large box of beautiful flowers from Hazy, JIC, Neil D and Sim. (Alphabetical arrangements are always safest). To say we were taken by surprise is an understatement. It’s rarely Scamp or I are lost for words, but we were today. Thank you, you lovely people.

Dinner was a sit at the table affair and a full three course meal. We decided it would be appropriate to celebrate the fifty years since we met with a glass (or two) of Prosecco before dinner.

It began with a seafood starter. Mine being Prawn Cocktail and Scamp’s was Seared Scallops. Mains were Lightly Smoked Trout for Scamp and Sirloin Steak for me, served with potatoes. Dessert was Eve’s Pudding. All washed down with a very nice red wine. Music just had to be Songs of Leonard Cohen.

Later we tasted a bottle of Dark Matter (not the whole bottle, not yet anyway!). I had a small glass, neat and Scamp had her traditional Coke with her’s. Interesting taste of spice, something hot and treacle. We may need to try some more tomorrow, just to be sure. While sampling we watched a bit of TV and decided an early night would be best before the room started spinning too fast for us to find the door.

PoD was a landscape from the morning’s photo shoot.

Tomorrow will be the day of reckoning, I’m sure.

This, inevitably, is the catch-up write up.

The researcher returns – 27 January 2021

A different researcher this time, another lady. Same tests unfortunately.

We had an early(ish) appointment this morning. 10am is early for us, but we were there, ready for the tasty swabs (yuk), but feeling better about it because we had been paid last week and Scamp had already spent half of hers on foodbank food in Tesco. I’m planning to do the same this week. Today’s Q&A only lasted fifteen minutes because we’re getting a bit more prepared for the questions. However the ONS are keeping us on our toes by adding questions and re-writing others. Sneaky.

With the test done and the world starting to defrost a bit, I volunteered to go for a walk in St Mo’s to check out the state of the paths and the general ‘walkability’ of the place. I also planned to take a few photos, of course.

I was intending grabbing a shot of a woolly hat sitting on a fence post. I’d seen it a couple of days ago and thankfully it was still there. Don’t know why this particular piece of headwear caught my eye, but it did and it made PoD. I took a landscape of the snowy wastes on the edge of the pond too, more or less a record shot, but it also went in to Flickr. The last one to enter today was an old shot from 27th January 2020. It was taken with the Nikon D7000 from the back bedroom looking towards the Meikle Bin and with a bit of jiggery pokery it looked presentable. It fits my new category of Throwback. I see a lot of folk on Flickr doing it and thought I’d have a go.

After lunch I convinced Scamp that a walk round St Mo’s was possible, so we booted up and walked the wild and icy paths round the pond. I won’t say it was the most interesting walk we’ve had, but it got us out in the fresh air for a while, fresh air and drizzle to be more precise.

Back home I ticked off one of my tasks for the day and wrote an email to the Auld Guys. Just a catch-up to say how we were spending our time. So far, only Val has got back to me. I’m going to suggest we try a five way video call using Zoom. It might work for some it might not for others. It’s worth a try.

Scamp and I had discussed changing the date for what would have been the Easter cottage holiday. It was either change the date or cancel. We settled on changing the date to July and that’s now done. Hopefully we will have been released from Lockdown by then.

Next thing to do was to phone John Malley and that’s what I did. Marion is teaching from home with two live teaching sessions per day and then four single person video calls for pupils having problems with the work. Ross is still working from home and Laura is now engaged to (Big) Ross. I think that’s you all caught up with what’s happening in Hamilton and area.

Dinner tonight was a superb Fish ’n’ Chips with beetroot and tomato sauce. Home cooked, of course by the pescatarian cook.

Most of the snow, slush and ice has now gone and the paths are preparing for the next load to be dumped on us, perhaps tomorrow morning. If it’s dry we’ll go for a walk. Maybe a drive then a walk.