Out walking – 6 July 2020

We drove down to Auchinstarry to walk along the canal this morning. Typically, now we are free to travel the length and breadth of the country, we stayed within the 5 mile lockdown limit!

Walked along the canal, avoiding a few cyclists and joggers on a beautiful, if slightly breezy morning. Still didn’t see any kingfishers, but did catch one of Mr Grey’s relatives hiding in the rushes on the far side of the canal. Initially he tried to hide, but then realised it was just a couple of humans out for a walk and totally ignored us. We turned around when we reached Twechar and took the railway path back to Auchinstarry. The railway path is much more sheltered than the canal towpath and as a result we could dispense with out waterproof jackets. Hardly met anyone on the path. When we were crossing the wee stone bridge at Auchinstarry I spotted a Shield Bug and that got PoD. It just ignored me for most of the time, but when I got too close it became defensive and as they have a tendency to fire smelly fluid at you if attacked, I said goodbye and took my leave.

After lunch Scamp went looking for food at the shops while I stayed home and attempted yesterday’s painting, a Ruby Wedding rose that Scamp had cut yesterday to stop it being battered by the gales. It was much more glamorous today picking up the light from the window. I didn’t do it justice, I know that, but this was the best of three attempts and would have to do. It was another catch-up.

When Scamp returned I grabbed my camera and went looking for more subjects. Found a Burnet moth behind St Mo’s school. First one I’ve seen this year. Didn’t get a chance to count its spots, just took its photo.

Tonight I did today’s sketch which turned out to be a still life pencil sketch of two apples. One of my favourite subjects, but, again, not very successful. I’m intending keeping the Lockdown Library going until we’re sure we’re out of it or until I reach my limit.

Another sketchbook filled tonight. May go looking for another one tomorrow. Otherwise no plans. Depends on the weather.

Stormy – 5 July 2020

You expect the storms in the autumn or the winter, but in July? Well, it is Scotland.

It was a windy old night last night and this morning was much the same. Thankfully as the day progressed, the storm winds regressed. Not so the rain. It pounded us relentlessly all day, with just the occasional sunny spell to trap the unwary and entice them out and then ambush them with another heavy shower.

In the afternoon I was enticed out but given the warning from Scamp to get home quick if the rain started. I ignore the warning, of course, but then the camera started acting up after an accidental finger press on the screen changed the setting to stupid mode and it started shooting video instead of stills. Eventually I gave up and reset it to default position, but by that time the good light had gone and so had the soldier beetle I was intending to photograph. I gave up. I had a few shots from the morning when we had that strange Scottish mixture of sunshine and showers … at the same time. The flower shots would have to do and I started to plod my weary way home. Reached the door just as the really heavy rain started. Scamp thought I was just obeying instructions and heading home before the rain came. I had to disabuse her of that notion and told her the story of the wayward camera and Stupid Mode. I don’t think she believed me.

Dinner tonight was Steak and Kidney cooked by my own fair hand. Scamp had an omelette. Both served with Jersey Royal potatoes. While I’d been out wrestling with the camera, Scamp had baked a Sultana Cake and we had a slice each with custard for pudding. Lovely!

Watched the Austrian GP, the first one of this Cover-19 season. Full of thrills, spills, bad tempers and lots of crashes. Nobody hurt thankfully, some egos bruised and a lot of very expensive equipment spread all over the race track. Let’s hope they all cool their heels before next week’s re-run.

Two of Scamp’s Sweet Peas made the PoD. The first two to flower and both survived todays gales. It was meant to be a rose for today’s sketch, but it didn’t quite make it. Perhaps it will be better tomorrow. The Lockdown Library is stalling a bit and maybe needs a rest. Maybe I should break out all the new paints and use them tomorrow. Also tomorrow, we’re hoping to go for a walk somewhere that isn’t Cumbersheugh based, because actually Lockdown had been folded up and put away in its box. The box hasn’t been locked yet and we’ve been well warned that Lockdown may yet come out of its box and restrict our movement again.

Feeling a bit run down – 2 July 2020

You know how some days you feel a bit lacklustre and not exactly full of energy. That’s how Scamp’s wee red car felt today.

We had spent the morning lounging around and too lazy to do much. Although the wonders of shopping in Glasgow were drawing us in to the big city, inertia was holding us fast. Eventually we decided that today was a lovely sunny day after a few wet and dull days, and we should both make the most of it. Tomorrow promises to be wet and windy. That might be a better day to wander round the shops. Our decision was to go and do some food shopping because Scamp was chef tonight, then I might go out for a run on the Dewdrop. Scamp’s car hadn’t turned a wheel for about a month, so she offered to drive, except …

When she turned the key in the ignition the starter coughed a few times and then went silent. She tried again and it was like a death rattle. Lifted the bonnet, but there was nothing to see. After my recent problems with the Juke, I suspected a flat battery. Scamp tried phoning for the AA which is run through our bank, but there was a 20min wait in a queue, even to find out if we were covered for home start. I phoned Jim Dickson our go-to place for all car consumables to find out how much a new battery would cost. It was a lot less than Kwik Fit or AA were quoting, like a hundred pounds more in the case of the AA.

After a fair bit of swearing and about half an hour’s work the old battery came out and I took it for a run to see what Mr Dickson would say about it. He (or as it turned out, she because it was Ms Dickson who was in charge today) said yes, they had one in stock and for once it was the cheap one we needed. Back home I wrestled the new battery into place and nearly wrecked a Torx spanner tightening the retaining bolt. Before I connected the terminals back in place I did check with Mr Google who told me that I was correct in assuming that the negative terminal was the first to be connected. I don’t know where I’d remembered that from, because it’s a very long time since I’ve replaced a battery in a car. With everything connected, the key turned, the engine started an Scamp had a smile on her face again.

Work done, I had an hour to spend walking over St Mo’s before dinner. Came back and sat in the garden with a pint of Guinness while the chef prepared dinner which turned out to be a lovely Paneer Curry. Quite the best curry I’ve had in a long time. I must get the recipe!

While I was out I got today’s PoD which is a seven spot ladybird. Managed a shot of a hoverfly masquerading as a bee too. I took the ladybird with a conventional shot, but the hoverfly was captured using Post Focus. It’s really an extremely short video that allows you to select one frame to download and turn into a JPEG file. Yes, JIC I know that’s Technospeak and you weren’t warned. Sorry. Just call it Black Magic! That’s how it seems to me and I know how it works.

Because of the battery problems, I didn’t really get round to doing a sketch until just before I started the blog, but it is done and will be posted tomorrow, all being well. Also tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow if the rain isn’t too heavy.

The big city – 30 June 2020

Not Glasgow or Embra, but the minor city of Stirling.  Granted City status by The Queen in 2002.  Queen Lizzie, not Nicola, who is the queen in waiting.

Today we went to Stirling for ‘the messages’. Since we, the common people are still restricted to approximately five miles from home for exercise and recreation, we wouldn’t be allowed to travel the fifteen or so miles to Stirling, BUT if we were travelling for essential food supplies, like Waitrose might have, permission is granted. We drove to Stirling. Parked at an almost deserted Waitrose and went for a walk in the city centre.

It was a bit strange walking past the closed up shops in the Thistle Centre. Y’see, according to Her Majesty Nicola’s decree, only shops with an outside entrance may open. Those that only have an entrance to a mall may not. Since most of the shops in centre fail that test, they can’t open yet. In fact, only Boots can tick that box, having an entrance to the pedestrian precinct through Boots Opticians. However, WH Smith was open and it doesn’t have an outside entrance. Aha, but it does house the post office and that way it can thwart the rule. One rule for Post Offices and another for the ordinary shops. We didn’t tarry long, Scamp didn’t even go in to M&S.

We walked back to Waitrose and made a valiant attempt at buying it. I can’t say Scamp did that on her own, I aided and abetted her, buying more than we really needed, but not as much as we really wanted. It felt very strange to me to be wearing a mask and taking care to dance around people in Waitrose. It put it down to accepting the queueing and the gradual return to almost normality in Tesco and the new shops, Waitrose was a known quantity in a known town. This was the first time we’d been there since about February and you grow to expect all the restrictions in the place you live in, but once you go to somewhere you haven’t visited in a while, it feels a but alien almost. Maybe it’s just me.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp went out to cut the grass. I did the strimming round the plant pots. I was also trusted with using the blower to scatter the loose grass cuttings to the four winds. I didn’t realise just how strong the torque is in that leaf blower. It’s a powerful motor.

Afterwards I laid in a sky for a wee acrylic painting that’s been in my head for weeks. Hopefully the sky will follow tomorrow.

Headed off for a walk round St Mo’s and got another photo of a grasshopper. It may be the same one, or perhaps it’s a different one. I never got to find out its name. I thought it might make PoD, but that went to a woman walking her dog.

Not a bad day, and a day without any rain. That doesn’t look set to last. More of the wet stuff on the way and we have no plans for tomorrow, even although Cass Art will be open tomorrow! Yes, I’ve checked and it does have the required type of entrance.

Rain – 26 June 2020

We were warned about thunderstorms, but we must have dodged them. Not so lucky with the rain though!

I don’t know if we dodged the forecast thunderstorms or if I just slept through them, but not so lucky with the rain. Woke about 5am to torrential rain thumping straight down on the trees outside. I think it continued all morning although I didn’t surface again properly until about 9am and it was raining heavily then too, but not as heavy as in the middle of the night. After a while it seemed to get fed up and turned to intermittent displays of precipitation. Finally giving up entirely just after midday.

We had made a few forays into the garden in between shower to prune things (Scamp) and photograph things (me). It was only after lunch, well after lunch that I felt safe enough to venture over to St Mo’s for some serious photography. Unbelievably in just about an hour I took 100 photos. Exactly 100 photos. Most were culled in the first serious look, that left me with 45. The more critical cull followed and now I’m down to 32, with only one PoD which is a Footballer. The nickname for Helophilus pendulus a hoverfly that mimics a wasp for protection from predators.  Funnily enough I found it beside a school football park.  How convenient was that?

Struggled to find a subject to paint today but I wasn’t giving in and going back to the list. Instead, I chose one of Scamp’s garden plants, a Campanula which has pretty blue/violet flowers. I really struggled with the painting and, as you can see by its absence here, I’m still not 100% happy with it. However, it’s done and it covers Lockdown Library No 74.

That was about it for today. We’re still not out of the woods yet. More thunderstorms and more rain forecast for tomorrow. Don’t think we’ll be going far.

Dull and damp – 22 June 2020

That just about sums it up for today.

Scamp was feeling a bit a bit queasy in the morning and only had a very light lunch. She didn’t feel like going anywhere, but that wasn’t a problem because the morning weather was dull leaden skies and a fair smattering of showers.

We needed milk and bread, we also needed to get out of the house. A walk in the fresh air would do us the world of good, so we walked to the shops. Not surprisingly the rain had ensured that there weren’t any big queues with the possible exception of Home Bargains which always has at least a few folk queueing. I think people queue up outside it after the doors are shut and locked at 6pm. It just seems to be what you do outside this great retail experience. We weren’t going there. We just nipped into The Food Warehouse, or Iceland as you will know it and got the essentials. That means bread, milk and chocolate biscuits. Walked back home and although we’d been prepared for one of the showers that had bedevilled us all morning, we never saw a single raindrop.

Back home I decided I’d risk a walk to St Mo’s and got today’s PoD which is either a ‘toadlet’ or a ‘froglet’. I’ve yet to find a good way of telling these amphibians apart. Saw quite a few of them making heavy weather of their crossing from one side of the path to the other. Given that the stones they are navigating through, and over, are bigger than them, it must have been an exhausting journey. Most seemed to make it across safely.

Back home, Scamp was feeling a bit better. A gentle bit of retail therapy works wonders and if this Lockdown is teaching us anything, it’s that we need to take our time. Dinner was plain fare. Just spaghetti with a tomato sauce.

Today I made the decision to abandon the list and paint or draw something that interests me for a change. There are only a few days left in the list anyway and about fifty percent of these lists are just copied from the previous year, so I wasn’t missing much. Today I chose a walk we did on the bridlepaths around Baldock with JIC and Sim many years ago. It’s from a photo and dates from 2013. I remember that day well. I painted it in watercolour on watercolour paper that Scamp gave me for Christmas. This the first thing I’ve completed using it and it’s much nicer to paint on than the sketch book I’ve been using.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It rather depends on the weather and how Scamp is feeling.

The postman knocks – 17 June 2020

Well, not actually the postman, it was the Amazon man and he brought a parcel!

This was the first part of this week’s order. It turned out to be a bottle of Smidge, insect repellant and very good stuff I may add. Thank you Sim for recommending it – a year ago almost to the day! Also in the parcel was a pack of ten refillable fountain pen reservoirs. I only ordered one, but that gives me nine spares!

Drove down to the village after lunch to visit Isobel. We had a wander round her garden then we sat in the sun on her drying green, or drying asphalt as it actually was. She got us up to date on all that was happening in the village, in the garden and in the family. Then she kept us amused with tales of her life when she was a wee girl during the second world war. A very entertaining afternoon. Unfortunately there wasn’t much shade from the sun, and Scamp hadn’t put on sun block this morning, so we had to give our apologies and make tracks for home.

We’d watched a gang of four guys stripping the roof of one of the nearby houses in the morning. By the time we got home the entire roof had been cleared, including the sarking, back to bare rafters. New sarking had been nailed on and that was covered with roofing felt with strips laid for the new roof tiles which were neatly stacked on their slightly dodgy scaffolding. Maybe cowboys, but hard working ones

We’d stopped at M&S on the way home to get provisions for tonight’s dinner which was a fancy version of spaghetti with prawns. About half an hour after we got back, the Tesco order got delivered. Dumped it in the kitchen and Scamp told me to leave the rest to her and sent me out to get photos. The best one I got was of the butterfly. Still to ID it, but I remember taking photos of its aunt or uncle last year, so it will be in Flickr somewhere.

Today’s topic was Draw a Power Plug. Not riveting, but worth doing just to check your observation skills. It’s things we see every day that are the hardest to draw because we tend to draw what we think we see, not what we are observing.

Big day tomorrow, because we’ll find out what Lockdown Release part 2 brings us. Other than being glued to the TV for that, we have no plans.

Brighter Later – 16 June 2020

A dull start to the day with this week’s white cloud hanging over us.

Spent the morning spending money on Amazon. Nothing specific, but lots of little things that all mounted up, then there’s the inevitable delivery costs for the items that aren’t covered by the free delivery con. Eventually we agreed that it was worthwhile taking on another month or two of Prime. I just have to put a reminder in my calendar to make sure I cancel it when we’re finished spending!

After lunch I took the Oly E-M1 with the new lens and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Lovely warm weather much nicer than it had been in the morning because that white cloud had burned off. The new lens worked much better today with decent light. Still not that fast to focus, but the results are worth the small inconvenience. Lots of damselflies round the wee pond by the boardwalk. One dragonfly that was cruising round and round, either looking for a likely mate or for some tasty morsel for lunch. Saw a fairly large grasshopper sunning itself on the edge of the boardwalk and got a few closeup shots of it. One of those got PoD.

Back home we sat in the garden for a while before Scamp went in to start tonight’s dinner. We’d pulled some rhubarb earlier in the day and she was making a rhubarb pie for pudding. I’d asked for macaroni ’n’ cheese for dinner and that’s what we were having. It was delicious and served with tomato ketchup. Scamp of course had brown sauce. Rhubarb pie was just excellent. Her shortcrust pastry was just perfect.

The Lockdown Library topic for today was Something You Have Made. I’ve made a lot of things, mainly mischief, but one of the things I’m most proud of is my waistcoat. Complete with dummy pockets, lining, button holes and buttons. I made it all. It was a bit of a trial at times with a whole new language to learn. Interfacing, darts and basting, but it was worth the effort. The first ‘rough’ turned out really good and by comparison it’s better than the ‘finished’ sketch. That’s often the way, but I’d used it as an experiment to find out what medium worked best for the yellow check, and it wasn’t fit to be shown. The final painting is ok, but not much better than that.

Tomorrow we have no plans, but we’ve a Tesco delivery scheduled for between 5pm and 6pm. Chance of rain and thunderstorms during the night and again tomorrow afternoon. If the rain doesn’t come we might need to water the garden.

Another toy off another rack – 15 June 2020

Parcel delivered first thing this morning. The lens looked perfect

Stuck the lens on the E-M1 and took a few experimental shots. It seemed to be fine, thank goodness. Unfortunately the day was very dull with hardly any shadows to give shape to potential subjects. However, I took it out to St Mo’s to see what was worth photographing. The place that had been overrun by dog walkers and families out exercising over the past few months was decidedly lacking in visitors. The reason soon became clear. A crowd of between twenty and thirty nutters who should really have been in school were roaring and shouting their collective heads off in the woods. Now, Nick the Chick had just been pontificating on TV, telling everyone that schools would be very different after August and how the pupils and parents would need be prepared for a “blended” approach involving face-to-face teaching and at-home learning. I don’t know how they are going to wean these teenage drunks off the booze long enough to get them in to the schools. However, that’s their problem, thankfully. Mine was just getting past them and on my way.

Walked on to the place where I found the Flag Irises the other day and gave the new lens a good try out. Results weren’t earth shattering, mainly because of the lack of directional light. I’ll give the new lens another test later in the week, hopefully. An abstract looking Iris got PoD.

Dinner tonight was Spaghetti with smoked salmon and lemon. It was deemed to be OK, but nothing exceptional.

Spoke to JIC later in the evening and heard how his studying was going and also his phased return to work. We are so lucky and thankful that we don’t have to go back to work. I realise it will be difficult for school pupils, but for workers too it will be a hard slog for the first few weeks, returning to try to pick up where they left off, especially with summer just round the corner.

Sketch today was a really rough representation of My Favourite Tool. I could have drawn many things for that, but decided to err on the side of safety and chose my Oly E-M1 camera. Sketch is on Instagram.

No real plans for tomorrow. May go out somewhere.

A Toy off the Rack – 12 June 2020

Ah, but all is not as it seems. Read on dear reader!

I got a text message this morning from Parcelforce: “Sorry but there’s been a delay to your parcel and we are no longer able to deliver it today …”. Blah, blah, blah “… it will now be delivered next working day (Monday to Friday)”. Can’t say I was all that surprised, I’d read the comments about Parcelforce, but as it was the only option for a decent timeslot, I took it. Should have known. My only previous dealings with Wex, the supplier of the lens, was before the New World Order started and then I could get my stuff delivered free to the Glasgow shop. Of course, now the shop is shut and I have to rely on flaky Parcelforce. I complained to Wex and they agreed to reimburse me for the fiver I’d paid for next day delivery, but I think this is the last time I’ll buy from them until they use someone who can actually deliver the goods (no pun intended.). I live in hope.

So, if that wasn’t the Toy, what was? Well, Scamp started searching through Which to find a new tablet. Her old one only has 8GB storage and although you can bung in a 64GB micro SD card, the OS and most of the apps must go on the on-board storage. It’s daft, but true. Even a quarter of the way into the 21st century, we’re still living with these unnecessary restrictions. She did find one that suited her and her price range and we could actually get it today from Currys. We had to pay for it up front and then wait for an email telling us to drive to the nominated Currys to get the handover. It was all very hush-hush. You drive to the store and park in one of the bays. Send a message to Currys to say that you have arrived, adding the make, model and colour of your car as well as the last three characters of its licence plate. Then a black clad attendant approaches and tells you to open the boot. Another operative approaches with the item you’ve purchased and places it in the boot and tells you you are free to leave. I felt like switching on Sport mode and doing the smoking tyres take-off out of the area in case there were snipers or at the very least NPR cameras tracking our every move. It was all a bit like a dodgy drug deal (not that I’ve ever participated in such a thing, of course, but a friend of mine told me that …).

Safely home we unboxed the tablet and plugged it in. Thankfully it uses a USB-C connector. At last there’s a hint that someone is making technology for use by humans, not tech savvy nerds. With it plugged in and a smile on Scamp’s face, I walked over to St Mo’s with my Oly and the old macro lens looking for something interesting to photograph. The something turned out to be a Marsh Orchid. Not something rare, but it does look quite exotic. They grow on a lot of the waste land in St Mo’s.

Tonight was spent transferring data and apps from the old tablet to the new one. We’re almost there now and I think I might even treat myself to a new tablet soon too. My old one is getting slow. My ancient one is almost dead and suffers from even more problems than Scamp’s old tablet. Maybe I’m just dying to wear the black polo neck sweater and the dark glasses and talk in passwords again to black clad operatives outside Currys.

Tomorrow it looks like rain.