Wet and Warm – 8 May 2018

My weather app said rain by 12.30. The BBC app said rain by 11.30. Who would win? Well, it wouldn’t be us, because we would get rained on for sure.

It was a dull morning. So dull that I had to put my bedside light on to read my book. One of the big drawbacks with ‘real books’ is that they aren’t backlit. You will have heard that complaint before if you are a regular reader (regular as in its proper meaning, “Recurring at uniform intervals” not the american meaning of “normal”). Unfortunately it didn’t look as if it going to get much lighter any time soon, so although it didn’t appeal, I had to get up and face the grey day.

Scamp had a parcel to post, so we walked over to Condorrat to post it and when we were coming back almost exactly at 11.30 the rain started. The BBC had won. Basically, that was it on for the day. Yes, it did get heavier and then it got lighter, but it was always there. It might have been rain, but it was warm rain because the temperature was high, which takes some of the sting out of the wetness.

Since we didn’t have anywhere to go today and nothing of any importance to do, I suggested we go to Livingston after lunch to get me a new pair of trainers. We got as far as Baillieston and had been driving in torrential rain when I called a halt because there was no real need for us to go today and it was just stupid driving a 70 mile round trip just for a cheap pair of trainers. We turned at the roundabout and came home where the rain had turned to a light drizzle. That’s the way it continued for most of the afternoon.

Eventually I got fed up and went looking for subjects in St Mo’s later in the afternoon. I’d hardly gone 100 yards when the rain returned with a vengeance. Is it me I asked? I was beginning to think so. I sheltered under some trees for a while until the worst had passed then made my way over to see if St Mo’s looked any better under a cloudy sky. It didn’t, but there were a few interesting things there to photograph. My favourite by far was the two snails racing each other up a tree trunk. Heavens, the snails were out in their hundreds, all climbing trees. I’m guessing the rain had loosened the fungus on the tree bark and the snails could have a feed on it. That’s my theory anyway. By the time I was coming home the sun was shining and the clouds were breaking up to show blue sky.

Even now at 11.20pm the sky appears to be clear, but according to the weather fairies it’s to be a wet old day tomorrow, so maybe we’ll go for a swim.

May The Fourth Be With You – 4 May 2018

In the morning, just to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I installed ON1 on the new Linx laptop. I also did a bit of gardening, planting peas in pots in the greenhouse. I checked the kale and it’s looking good too. Hopefully it will need thinned out in a week or so. A few straggling rocket shoots showing. Can’t exactly say they are rocketing up though.

Went up to the Costa in the already dilapidated Antonine Centre and spent a couple of hours with Fred and Val. As usual it was left to us to make some sense of the present crises in the world. We solved all the problems, the only difficulty now is getting the ’dunderheids’ in both the Labour and Tory parties to agree to our solutions. We can dismiss the Lib Dems as they are just a catch-all for all the politicos who have no interest in actual politics. We broke up the meeting with the promise to meet up again in another week or so.

Before I went out, Scamp had offered me the opportunity to make dinner tonight, which was kind of her. She went further and asked that dinner should be Paella. With that in mind, I visited Tesco to buy the makings for the paella and then headed for home. Put my DIY skills to good use screwing another boot hanger to the wall in the boiler cupboard. Hung up one set of boots and got another pair down, put them on and took the Olys and the new lens out to St Mo’s to see what wanted photographing. Nothing and nobody was playing today, so I took some photos of wild flowers instead. When I looked at them later, they were less than excellent. I’d fallen into the trap that even if you’ve got a ‘good camera’ and a ‘good lens’, it’s still the photographer who takes the picture. One day I may learn.

Made a reasonable attempt at paella and after that, installed ON1 on the MBP. I’m just after testing it and it works well.

Took PoD after dinner. It took a while for me to find a good font for the Star Wars banner, but after that was done the rest was easy. I used the well tested combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. Photoshop to blend two photos together and Lightroom to perform the levels adjustment and crops. Quite pleased with it because it had been in my head all day and now it was open to the world in Flickr.

Maybe going to Embra tomorrow where the weather might be better than the overcast grey we’ve had all day today.

Dancing, Dancing, but not all the day – 2 May 2018

Today we’d agreed to go to ballroom and jive, but not salsa, just in case it was a Shannon Show, all ‘Oo La La’ and ‘Happy Chests’ (Don’t ask). As it happened, we needn’t have worried as Will took both classes. So, here’s how the day unfolded.

Sat and worked through some of the tutorial videos for the new RAW processing software in the morning and am much better pleased with it now. It’s a real pity they didn’t get some of the YouTube tutors to produce their advertising videos. Then I’d have decided much quicker to give this software a try. It’s only when you get down to the nuts and bolts of a program explained by somebody who knows what they are talking about that you see its full potential. No need for tacky music and faked up special effects. It seems like a much better program now.

Drove in to Glasgow to go to the Ballroom Duet. Waltz was good and I think we passed with flying colours. Now we’re on to the small details. Big Steps and Rise and Fall. Using the Frame and Using the Core. Enjoyed it and also starting to get to grips with the Jive routines. Things are looking up at last. Next week will be a desert of dancing. No Salsa on Monday as the STUC is closed for the May holiday and no ballroom on Wednesday because both teachers are on holiday. We’ll just have to move the couch back and dance round the living room.

After we left Blackfriars we went for a coffee in Nero in Queen Street and noticed a degree of activity around the GOMA. On further investigation, it turned out that it was a film company doing a little bit of location shooting. I’ve no idea who the ’star’ was, but she most definitely thought she was a ’STAR’! Took a few photos and walked back to the car, but not before we stood and watched the giant demolition machine that was biting lumps out of the old hotel in front of Queen Street Station like a gigantic prehistoric monster. Scary looking thing.

When we came home the sun was shining so I grabbed the Nikon bag and took a walk around St Mo’s. Got the PoD which is of a tree climbing snail that only seem to climb the ash trees. After a bit of processing in ON1 and a bit of detailed work in Lightroom it began to look very pretty. It’s not what I saw, it’s what I wanted to see.  Came home through a rain shower to fish ‘n’ chips which were delicious, Scamp!

Hoping my latest lens will arrive by DPD tomorrow. Not new of course, but as good as. I’m looking forward to having a macro lens for my Olys. Up until now I’ve had to rely on a cheap pair of extension tubes. They are made of plastic with metal mounts and are getting worn and as a result letting light in which means I need to do more post-processing.

Other than lens-waiting, we have no plans for tomorrow. Some light gardening perhaps?

What a difference a day makes – 22 April 2018

When we woke this morning it was dry and with a touch of sun. It didn’t last.

The rain started just before we got up and remained for most of the morning. It was indeed going to be a stay at home day.

<Technospeak>
Last night was another technological nightmare. While I was writing the blog I was restoring a backup from just over a week ago on to the Linx 12. I’d unfortunately decided to have it verified before I installed it. It was only after it was started, and the ‘cancel’ button had become greyed out, that I realised that it was going to take a long time to check the backup. In fact, it took as long as the actual restore to check it. Rather than go to bed and leave the ‘puter churning through this process, I sat and read another few pages of my book. Eventually it did complete around 1am and just as I was shutting it down, up came the inevitable message “Configuring updates. Don’t switch the computer off”. Too late mate, It’s switching itself off. I went to bed. Well, it was worth the loss of sleep, because when I started the Linx this morning, everything was there. Not only that, the bluetooth mouse that started off this drudgery worked perfectly after I made the change noted in yesterday’s blog. I spent an hour or so adding some stuff and subtracting others until I was happy that what I had was serviceable system. I then made a backup of the up to date system. This time I made sure that I set it to check the backup after it made it. That process, conducted under Windows and utilising a USB 3 connection to the backup drive took just under 20 minutes to backup and check. A far cry from last night’s three hour marathon.
Note to self: When you use Macrium to backup a 64Gig drive, do it uncompressed! It takes a fraction of the time the compressed backup takes!
</Technospeak>

Ok, now that Scamp and JIC at least have returned, here’s the rest of the day. By the way, I made a resolution to get to bed the same day I got up, so this blog and probably others in the next week or so will be written in blocks during the day when I’ve nothing better to do and they blocks will be seamlessly welded into a complete page.

It was a dreich day but I did manage to get out for a walk in the afternoon and it stayed dry all the time. Just a walk through St Mo’s and with the ‘Big Dog’ to look for something that wanted its photo taken. Mr Grey was the first customer. I did see a couple of deer, but they fled too quickly. The rest was all macros. My first hoverfly photo of the year and some neat closeups of catkins. Sometimes you’re lucky if you get one decent subject, sometimes you’re overwhelmed and struggling to refine it down to one photo. I also dragged back some bracken fronds to paint on. Not paint as a subject, but to stick on the canvas and paint over for added texture! Hopefully!

Had a quick practise of the waltz for Wednesday and am much more satisfied with it. Jive? Now that’s another kettle of fish.

Dinner was Sea Bass with Potatoes and Broccoli. Scamp made it of course. She’s the fish master. Much nicer than last night’s fish supper.

Tomorrow is Gems day and hopefully a better day all round than today.

Burnt Water – 17 April 2018

Coffee with Fred today. Lots of stuff to discuss.

This was a change of day for us. Usually we’re there on Thursday or occasionally Friday. This week it was Tuesday. We’d books to exchange and TV programs to criticise and building control department to castigate for messing up Fred’s daughter’s extension. Basically we just complained about stuff for a couple of hours, then agreed that we’d had a good natter.

Came out of that dive with the sour taste of the last cup of something described as ‘coffee’, but was really burnt water, or so it felt to me. Went to get some gardening and painting stuff:

  • Seed potatoes. Charlotte, one of Scamp’s favourite varieties.
  • Twine to make a climbing frame for Scamp’s broad beans.
  • Tester paint pots to use as cheap gesso for painting boards

Came home to a slightly rearranged garden again and had it explained to me. I’m sure I’ll forget the finer details, but I have the basic idea of what was achieved while I was out drinking burnt water.

Since Scamp was making dinner I had some time to go and get a photo or two in St Mo’s. Like yesterday, today was a mixture of sunshine and showers. What we used to expect in April a few years ago before the jet stream started messing around with our weather. With that thought in my mind I grabbed my jacket and camera bag and went to see what I could see. What I saw was somebody sitting on a seat looking out over the BMX track and thought it would make a decent shot, especially if I reduced it to mono and darkened the sky, cropped it and … So I took a few shots from different positions and exposure setting. Walked round the pond after that, but saw nothing else interesting.

After dinner (Chicken with a mushroom and shallot sauce since you’re asking), I started to process the pics. About two hours later, after a fair bit of swearing, I finally exported the finished result into Flickr. Takes about two or three minutes to take the shots and two hours to make the picture. The new software I’m using on trial is ON1 2018 and it is very flash, a bit heavy on special effects and unable to export without crashing (twice). I may not shell out the $69 for the pleasure of beta testing their dodgy software for them.

We did manage a bit of dance practise tonight again. Just the waltz, but I’m happier with it after yesterday and today. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tomorrow is dancing day!

Dancing on an empty floor – 15 April 2018

Up early to watch an exciting Chinese GP. Yes, really. Exciting!

Up early, well around 9am to watch the Chinese GP. For once it was worth getting out of bed for. Great tussle between the top teams with lots of ill will on the part of most of them. My, what spoilt brats they are.

Spoke to Hazy for a while after that and then went to work in the garden. No, really. I did actually do some creative work for a change. I built up the frame for Scamp’s broad beans to grow on. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any gardeners green twine, so the actual net the will climb on is not in place yet. Not my problem mate. I didn’t put it away. I’ll get some new twine tomorrow. With the work part completed, I skedaddled to St Mo’s to get some photos.

There wasn’t much doing across the road, but I did get one photo of a coot standing on its nest. The nest looked almost as untidy as my ‘bean frame’. PoD went to a macro shot of a tiny wee spider on a tree trunk. It could only have been 3mm long. Most impressed with the result from my pair of extension tubes.  The down side, or maybe not is that the orange ladybirds I’ve been tracking have disappeared.  Flown the coop, I hope.  Hopefully if they were egg laying earlier in the week, I’ll see the results next year.

Came home and started the prep for dinner which was to be 5 A Day Chicken with Pesto. It should have been pistachio pesto, but Scamp’s avoidance of any nuts meant that I substituted pine nuts for pistachios. Apparently pine nuts aren’t really nuts at all and can be used in place of ‘real’ nuts. I was only doing the prep, because I’d spent too long in the Land of St Mo and, as we were strapped for time to get in to Glasgow to go dancing, we’d have to have our dinner after we came back.

The dungeon that is Arta was almost empty when we got there. Apparently Cameron was holding an event in competition with AdS and Rangers were getting gubbed by Celtic (as usual) and most of the guys would be there or else be too inebriated to dance. It did brighten up a bit later, or to be more precise, more people arrived. Nobody could ever call it bright. We did have a few dances and both of us tried out moves we’ve learned in the past few weeks. We really should go out more often just to practise some of our moves.

Came home and I made the dinner which turned out better than I’d hoped, but there was a lot of garlic in the mixture. Possibly (definitely) too much. Needs some tweaking, but then again don’t most recipes. Just to get them working like you imagine they should taste.

Tomorrow looks good if the weather fairies are correct. If it turns out as predicted, I’ll go for a walk along the canal. If not, then I’ll go to the gym.

No Fish Today – 12 April 2018

A drive around Falkirk and Stirling was on the cards today.

<Technospeak>
In the morning, Scamp was having coffee with Isobel. I cleaned out a file on the new Linx. It’s named Windows.old and on the ‘new’ computer, it holds 12.5GB of data. That’s data that I’m not going to use again. That’s data that takes up almost 19% of the 64GB storage on the Linx. I did the sensible thing first, of course. I backed up the whole 64GB earlier in the week. I should say that I tried to just simply delete the folder last night, but I kept on hitting blocks where some files were locked and others needed approval by the ‘administrator’ i.e. me. It wasn’t just the simple fire-and-forget deletion that my Windows Explorer replacement, Directory Opus, can usually be relied upon to supply. However, after a bit of searching on the Interweb, I found an elegant solution that Microsoft actually supply. Admittedly it’s hidden deep in the pages within pages of the ‘system’. It does a good job though. 12GB of useless crap surgically removed. I may say this only once: Thank you Microsoft! Oh yes, and I did today’s Sudoku too.
</Technospeak>

When she got back, Scamp suggested we go to the fish shop in Linlithgow. We’d been planning to go for a couple of weeks now. Seemed like a plan, so off we went. Drove along the traffic jam and assault course that is a Main Street in Linlithgow only for Scamp to cry out that the shop was shut. I couldn’t look myself for the simple reason that I’d have driven into a bus or a tractor coming the other way or run one of the amazing amount of red lights on that street. You really have to have driven there to realise just what I’m talking about. I took her word for it and drove on out the other side. I could have turned at the roundabout at the end of the Main Street, but that would have meant running the gauntlet a second time and I wasn’t up for that. That took us the long road down past Grangemouth and from there along the M9 to Stirling. It gave me the opportunity to stock up on breakfast muesli and beer at Morrisons. Both essentials. It also gave Scamp a chance to buy up their entire stock of ‘cheap wine’ (her words, not mine). We also had a cheap lunch (my words). Bowl of chips (S), Roll ’n’ Sausage (me) and two cups of reasonable coffee for just over £6. That’s a good deal.

On the way home was a plant nursery Isobel had been telling Scamp about. How convenient. She got a Ladybird Poppy there and she’d also got a wee Acer in Morrisons, so she was a happy bunny. When we got home I found a confirmation email from the shop to confirm that just short of £100 would be in our account soon. I was a happy bunny.

Back home I put on my walking trousers. That’s the pair of cords with holes in the pockets and muck splattered all the way up the legs. Went for a walk round St Mo’s. Found two of the Orange 16 Spot Ladybirds I’ve been keeping tabs on since December. One looked as if it was laying eggs, but was in a really awkward place in the moss at the bottom of an ash tree, so it was difficult to be sure. PoD went to the Gorse flower. Lovely and bright.  Notice the yellow theme!

Tomorrow looks like it will be wet. Don’t know what we’ll do. Maybe go for lunch, that would be good. Not going for fish.

Going for the messages – 14 March 2018

Since snow is forecast for Friday, we though it would be prudent to go get some messages today.  Also, our ballroom class was cancelled for today because the other two couples were on holiday.

Drove to Morrison’s in Falkirk to get some messages, three Tesco bags full of messages … and wine … and beer. We weren’t allowed to drink any today because of the Four Dry Days embargo. Actually, it will probably be Five Dry Days this week if I’m driving on Friday, as is likely. Anyway, Morrison’s in Falkirk was the highlight of the day really.

After lunch I went for a walk to St Mo’s and got the above PoD shot there. They are Cladonia, a type of lichen. They seem to grow on nothing. Nutrient free boulders are a typical habitat. These wee things seem to survive on air alone. Wouldn’t do for me. Certainly not after lugging three shopping bags of messages out of the car.

Salsa tonight was a game of two halves. Jamie’s first class was oversubscribed in men, so I bit the bullet and helped the other class, which Shannon ‘taught’. I wouldn’t really call that teaching. Teaching is where you increase the knowledge of your students. I didn’t see any increase in the knowledge of any of the pupils. She didn’t teach anything new, except that the girls should flirt with the guys. Not my idea of a dance class. Neither is repeating the same moves ad nauseam. What they want to do is learn, something, Shannon. Repeating the same set of moves for an hour is not teaching them to dance.

The second class started out with too many guys too, but ended up even. It was much more fun. Jamie’s classes at all levels are always fun, even when he’s a bit grumpy, which he has been in the past. Even although this was a beginners class, it was fun to help with and people were smiling. That’s what teaching is about. If you can make a class laugh while they are learning, they will come back for more.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with Val and Fred in the afternoon. Scamp is having coffee in the morning with Isobel. I doubt if either of us will be having Flat Blacks.

Zombies and three Halyzia 16-guttata – 11 March 2018

Up early and out to get milk and bread, the staples.

It was Mothers Day today and it just didn’t seem right for Scamp to make the breakfast. She’s not my mother, but she looks after me as if she is. That’s why I got up and drove to Tesco to get the milk and bread, and also a bunch of bananas, not flowers, bananas. You can’t put flowers on your breakfast Bran Flakes, don’t be silly. Tesco looked like a scene from a zombie apocalypse movie. Empty shelves everywhere. There was milk and bananas, but almost no other fruit.  [Thinks: Do zombies not eat bananas? ]  Now I know we’ve been away for a week and the snow has been bad here, but surely the Tesco lorries were getting through? I know Nicola Sturgeon was condemning the lorry drivers for clogging up the motorways with furniture lorries, but essentials like fruit and veg, that’s different. The apples and oranges should get through. Likewise the bread. My God, there was no plain loaves in the rack!! There were the thick cut loaves, but nobody eats them even if they’re were starving. Heavens, even zombies don’t eat them.

Came home made breakfast then sat down and typed up the last two days blog entries. Now we’re all up to date, I can relax. My reading public will not be on tenterhooks wondering if we got home, safely from our Week In A Warm Place.

That took me to about lunchtime and, as the sun was shining from a blue sky, after lunch I went to see if St Mo’s was still there and not under about three feet of snow still. I needn’t have worried, the swans were swimming, the birds were singing and the deer were out grazing, so I took the opportunity and snapped a few shots of them before they ran off. I also found my ladybird, the little orange one with the sixteen white spots (Halyzia 16-guttata), that I’ve been keeping an eye on since the beginning of the year. Except that it was no longer a solo ladybird, but a member of a trio. Three little vegetarian ladybirds clinging to the same tree. Two shots in the bag. Next shot was just of a pine cone with little tufts of moss growing from it. I liked it best, and it became PoD.

Dinner was a roast chicken from Tesco. At least there were plenty of them. Apparently zombies don’t like chickens, maybe chicken’s brains are too small to be worth eating. They (the zombies) do, however, like ice cream, because the freezers that are usually full of it were empty. There seemed to be no logic in the empty shelves. The ones you’d expect to be empty like the dairy aisle were full and the one’s that are more luxury items like ice cream had been pillaged. There’s just no accounting for folk.

That was about it apart from running the washing machine almost all day. Tomorrow I’ll probably put the cases away until the summer and, as it’s a Gems day, I’ll maybe go to the gym.

The Beast at the Door – 27 February 2018

Today it snowed a bit.

Spoke to Hazy on the phone in the morning and she gave us a weather report from down south and it was cold with a little snow.  Later in the day Sim posted a photo of the tiniest sprinkling of the white stuff in their garden, slightly north of Hazy and at that point we had blue skies.  Ok, there were clouds too, the majority of the sky was clear.  Later in the day the snow started, then stopped again.

Went out to Tesco and got some beefsteak tomatoes to make some soup and thought I’d do a painting of three of them with my painting mug to break up the monotony (before I made them into soup of course!)  Got some cardboard cut and primed an after lunch I got started to paint.  About halfway through the painting I began to wish that I’d stuck to ordinary tomatoes rather than beefsteak with their puffed out bits and creases. However I stuck with it and the evidence was made into soup tonight!

Before the good light disappeared I went for a walk in St Mo’s.  It was cold with that east wind and the snow was still trying hard to fall, but just not cutting it.  I got my PoD with the last of the afternoon light, before the sun disappeared behind the tree line and darkness returned.  Just after I got back, the snow started with a bit more force and this time it was falling on already frozen ground, so it’s lying.  We’re expecting some more snow tonight and in waves all day tomorrow.  Constant warnings on the TV not to travel tomorrow.  It’s OK.  If we are going dancing tomorrow afternoon, we’re going on the bus and since Salsa on a Wednesday is a optional outing, we may just stay home instead.

That about wraps us today.  Tomorrow, maybe a trip in to town for Waltzing and Jiving, but not a lot else.  Oh yes, and I have an idea for the final 28 Drawings Later picture.