Strawbs and rain – 29 July 2019

It was a dry start to the day, but it didn’t stay that way for long.

The clouds descended and the rain began.  It was going to be a dull, wet day.  I’d already timetabled a backup for my Linx laptop for today and it went without a hitch.  That was lucky and it was the last good thing that happened.  After restarting the laptop, the message I’d not seen for ages blocked access to everything else.  Apparently Windows 10 wanted, no, demanded that it be allowed to upgrade the OS.  Oh well, I wasn’t going anywhere, so I let it get on with it.  Two hours later the laptop greeted me with the news that it had been updated to the  ‘New’ April 2018 version.  Was this what had taken two hours?  Apparently it was.  I wasn’t impressed.  I promptly got rid of it and downgraded it to the previous version of the OS, only to find that as well as removing the ‘New’ April 2018 version, it had also removed at least one of my apps.  A Windows app.  One of the few things that Mickysoft make that actually works, the one I use to occasionally post the blog.  Thankfully I’d made that backup this morning.  Twenty minutes later the laptop was returned to the state it was in first thing this morning.  Now I have to find a way to block Mickysoft from reinstalling any ‘New’ version.

The rain persisted all day and I took the opportunity to do a little still life of some strawberries fresh from the fridge.  Not our strawberries from the garden, these three came from Tesco.  They got PoD.

Salsa tonight was interesting and exhausting.  New move from last week was called Sombrero <Something>  I’ll fill in the <Something> when we remember – you can see how memorable a name it was!  So was the move!!  We also covered Archangel, Dame Pa’Fuera, ‘New One’ and ‘Old One’.  He must take ages making up these names 😉  That said, he is coming up with lots of short interesting moves that are easy to join together in different combinations.

When we were driving home from Glasgow about 9.15pm the sky was clearing and there was a lovely sunset.  Then the automatic headlights came on.  Nights are fair drawing in already!

Tomorrow we’re off to Larky to get our eyes tested.

The day that the rains came – 29 May 2019

… and forgot to go away.

It wasn’t the best of days. Like I said at the top, the rains came and forgot to go away. I don’t suppose it mattered really as we weren’t intending to go anywhere except to Glasgow for dancing in the afternoon and then again in the evening. The furthest I was past the door was a quick trot round the block to achieve my 250 steps every hour. It was on one of those circuits I found the little Glass Bead Plant growing on the wall at the back of the house. Of course it was really a moss with raindrops clinging to the fruiting bodies, but some people will be avidly searching Google for Glass Bead Plants as I write this! It got PoD.

Drove in to Glasgow and ticked off another 250 odd steps on our walk down to Blackfriars for Jive, Quickstep and Cha-Cha. We made a few mistakes still, but not as many as last week, thankfully. It was almost a private lesson again as the class started out with three couples, then two were spirited away to learn the stuff that we already knew, that left us to the tender mercies of Michael. Worked on another part of the Over the Rainbow routine and then did some work on our Quickstep and in between we tackled the dreaded ‘off beat’ Cha-Cha. Totally drained, we went for coffee (no cake) and then drove home in the rain.

Scamp drove in to Glasgow tonight and we danced with the intermediate class and the beginners who are getting through the moves at quite a pace now. Thankfully the Tipsy Ladies were not in class tonight, so it was much more bearable than last week.

Today’s sketching topic was A Knife or a Sword. I suppose I could have found a sword somewhere in the town. Some areas of Cumbersheugh are awash with them on a Friday night … allegedly! However, I resisted that temptation and settled on drawing my old Swiss Army knife. It’s been sharpened so many times, the blade is a completely different shape from when it was new. It was my tool of choice for sharpening pencils. So much more efficient than a pencil sharpener. Unfortunately, the world has moved on and it’s now illegal to carry this useful tool.

Tomorrow looks like being much like today, weather wise, so I doubt if we’ll be going far.

A Plan – 27 May 2019

Today’s plan was an attempt at better use of time.

I’m getting fed up with heading for bed after midnight. My aim is to use my time more efficiently. The month of May is a bit of a nightmare of my own making. Not only do I have to get the daily photo taken, processed and uploaded to the sluggish Flickr, and get the blog written and also uploaded. Now I have to devise a sketch, complete it and probably slap some paint on it too. It keeps my mind alert, certainly, but it’s playing merry hell with my sleep pattern. Today I’m trying a different tack.

This morning I planned out today’s sketch and the topic was Books. I drew a stack of books and it looked reasonable until I realised that Escher could have drawn it. However, nobody could have built it. The stack of books needed some helium balloons attached to help them achieve their perilous balancing act. That said, it was only a planning sketch and had pointed out the need to plan more carefully. The next sketch was better and it looked like the books would actually stack like that without falling down. It went on to phase 2 and had some colour added. Yes, with a touch of shadow detail it looked solid. It’s been photographed, processed and uploaded to FB.

After lunch and after solving he difficult weekend Sudoku, admittedly a day late, I went for a walk around St Mo’s to try for more insect (beastie) pictures. Managed to get a bit closer to the flies and am better pleased with the results. Photos are now processed and uploaded to Flickr. The management of Flickr are stating that the site is now stable. If this is stable, I’d hate to see unstable. It’s slow, pictures disappear without warning, comments disappear. The whole structure seems fragile at present and give very little confidence in its use. It may improve. We can but hope.

That was the extent of the day’s work apart from some pruning in the garden. Trying to get rid of aphid damage on the black currant bushes. One of the benefits of having a brown bin is that you can happily dispose of damaged plants in it. I didn’t want to put the damaged leaves in the compost because that would only spread the infection. Our composter doesn’t get hot enough to destroy pests like that.

Tomorrow I go for my annual checkup at the docs. In the afternoon we may take a trip to visit one of Scamp’s Gems in hospital.

That’s the blog completed. I just need to post it and I will be about two hours ahead of my usual time!

Coffee with Fred

Val was off on holiday to Dunoon, (serves him right) and Colin was being “The man who worked in the garden”. So it was just Fred and me.

Read for a while, trying to eke out the last few pages of “The Boy and His Dog at The End of The World” by C. A. Fletcher. (There you go, Hazy. That saves me emailing you). That’s when the aforementioned Hazy phoned and I had to dress and get down stairs to find out about all things London-side.

Out to meet Fred in Costa. Not so much a coffee shop as somewhere to leave the kids while you talk to your mates. That’s how the mothers in Cumbersheugh seem to view it anyway. Today was less screamy than usual with fewer weans trying, unsuccessfully, to jump from the top of the stairs to the land balletically at the bottom. Most of the ‘mummies’ just looked around and said those famous words of Mhairi’s “They bounce!” Our own conversations ranged around his sketches, my sketches, the world in general, how much better it was when we were younger. All true. Well, it was better when we were both younger. The world was a much better and safer place than it is today. After an hour and a half of reminiscing, we both went our separate ways. Me to go home for a late lunch and him to Tesco. We agreed to meet in a few weeks time.

Came home and tried unsuccessfully to coax the Sony TV to play the video that was on the memory stick I’d inserted. I got so fed up with the whole thing I took my Olys for a walk over to St Mo’s to see if there was anything worth photographing. Got the one at the top of the page and nice shot of a dandelion clock, but don’t bother trying to see it online, because somebody’s broken Flickr. It’s called Ongoing Maintenance apparently.

When I came home, I did the unthinkable and read the instruction book for the TV, where I found out that the format for the video was not MP4 using an H.264 profile (no, I don’t know what that is either), but MPEG (no, nor that one either). I tried converting a short video to MPEG and it worked! Hooray. About two and a half hours wasted and all I had to do was RTFM (Read The F*cking Manual).

Today’s topic for sketching is A Well-used Bag: Fred laughed when I told him. Fred has a dirty mind and an even dirtier laugh. The bag I drew was my old camera bag that I’ve recently sewn back to life again. I’d forgotten how useful it was to take only the camera you’re going to use with you and not a bucket full of lenses that you won’t use. Simple.

Made a focaccia again today to go with a lovely salad Scamp made. How on earth did some Italian punter years ago came up with the idea of pouring one and a half times the usual amount of water into a dough and then pouring a jug full of oil in too before he / she attempted to knead the slurry into something resembling a dough? What made them think it would work? The strange thing is, it works really, really well. I’d just like to know how they came up with such a strange recipe.

Tomorrow, we’re going for lunch somewhere, and then it’s going to rain.

Plants and plans – 20 May 2019

We went to visit Torwood Garden Centre today as Scamp had found a small square in the garden that would support one more plant.

A fairly early rise for me to go and post a parcel, then get some blood taken for my annual health check next week. Checked with the hospital about my prostate appointment and found that I’d been mistaken about the time and it was actually well in hand. More bloods needed to be taken for that too! Heavens I’ll be like a pin cushion this month!

After lunch we drove to Falkirk to the garden centre. Actually I wanted some peas for the raised bed as my previous two plantings have been growing downwards instead of up or something, because they weren’t showing their little green heads. Not in the raised bed where two lots were planted and not in the pots in the greenhouse where two lots were planted. Got some today. Not a named variety, just labelled Garden Peas. Scamp bought a big green plant with spotted leaves. Looks the part and will bring some colour to a dull part of the garden that gets little or no sun.

When we came home, she unveiled her plans for a long raised bed to be used as an edge to the front garden. It’s to run from the corner of the house out to the path. That’s a distance of about 4.5m and about “That wide” she indicated with two hands. I’m actually more used to working with numbers. It makes it much easier when you’re buying lengths of timber and also when you’re cutting them to size. I’ve found in the past that “That wide” can vary considerably with the length of a person’s arms. We may do some measuring and some drawing tomorrow.

Today’s PoD was the wee 2cm viola which is flowering in a plant pot. Tiny wee thing.

Today’s sketch took ages and I’m still not happy with it. Topic was Some Sweets and I chose liquorice allsorts. It took about four tries before I got something resembling them. No time left to do anything else, so it had to do. Onward and upward.

Went dancing in the STUC and the new moves for the advanced class were “Spiral” and “Osco”. Both were interesting and both were doable with care. Beginners class were doing La Completa.

It was a day of ticking things off as we got them done. A good day.

Tomorrow we are both hoping to get our plants into the ground.

I like Thursdays – 9 May 2019

Thursdays are generally good. All the time in the world to do things. Why then am I still writing this blog at almost 11pm?

Spent most of the morning clearing up the back bedroom. Now it looks a bit better and the rubbish went into a black bag. Well, most of it anyway. Some was spared for a while, I’ll put it in a six month virtual box. Anything left in that box after six months will go into another black box. After lunch I took the black bag along with a clutter of plastic pots and containers, some paint pots neutralised with soil and compost and took the load to the tip.

Then went for a walk along the Luggie Water. First time I’ve been there for quite some time and with a bit of occasional sunshine, the green leaves down there were gleaming. PoD was a trio of fern croziers starting to unfurl. So many hues and shades of green if you care to look.

The topic for Every Day in May was “The first thing that comes to mind when you wake up”.  I chose Breakfast.
A plate of muesli and a large mug of Assam tea. I foolishly chose to use the Paperchase A5 sketchbook because I’d used one a year ago and it worked well for me. Unfortunately Paperchase have changed their paper and the pages in the new sketchbook are much more absorbent than the previous one’s. That’s why there’s a fair bit of ragged edges to the shadows. The paper isn’t properly sized in my opinion. Such a shame.

Tomorrow we have nothing planned. We’ll just have to see what turns up.

May the Fourth be with you – 4 May 2019

The weather fairies warned us that today would be cold with a wind from the Arctic bringing the possibility of sleet and snow. It did feel cold when we woke and despite the blue sky and sunny spells, the temperature didn’t rise much. Since we had nowhere in particular to go, we just had a day at home. Sometimes it’s better to stay home at weekends and do your travelling on weekdays when other folk are working.

Scamp was about to throw out some tulip flowers when I saw the beautiful texture and colour of their petals glowing in the sunshine. I set a camera on the table and taped a bit of tracing paper behind the flowers to allow light through, but soften the view of the living room. It took a few shots and a lot of changes to settings before I got the shot I wanted.

<Technospeak>
I finally decided that one shot wouldn’t do the job. It needed too much depth of field and the only way I was going to get it was by taking at least five shots of the subject. One at the very front petal, one at the extreme back petal and at least three in between. Actually it took seven shots. The technique is called Focus Stacking and takes ages to post-process. The more shots you take, the more accurate your final shot will be, but the more time you’ll be stuck in the computer deleting bits of the different layers. Luckily ON1 2019 has focus stacking built in and the hard work is done for you. Like all AI things, it does need some human intervention to get it exactly right. That’s what I did … for about two hours, but I think the final image was worth the effort.
</Technospeak>

Scamp made her version of Minestrone soup for dinner and I made a lovely Tear ’n’ Share bread to go with it. It was a bit like a focaccia but with tomatoes in it and less oil. It should have had mozzarella in it too, but we only had green and blue mozzarella with a Use By date of the middle of March, so we decided not to use it. The dough was really sloppy but the bread was lovely and so was the soup.

Today’s challenge on EDiM was Star Wars Day. The closest I could get to it was the heads of four Lego Troopies. Just pen for a change and a challenge.

Tomorrow we may go dancing at the Record Factory.

Going our separate ways – 4 March 2019

I took the chance to slip the leash today, for a little while.

Scamp had the second gig of the year at Stepps and, as she didn’t need a roadie so I set off early to visit a new camera shop in Glasgow. The satnav lady knew where it was and got me there without a problem. They didn’t have the tripod I was looking for, but I didn’t really think they would have. It’s rather a niche model and I’ve read conflicting reports about it. I just wanted to have a look at it first hand before I parted with a hundred smackeroonies. The bloke in the shop couldn’t have been less interested:

“Do you have a Benbo Trekker tripod?”
”No. You have to order them from the website.”
“It’s just that I’d rather see it to make sure it will do what I want before I commit myself to buying it.”
”Yeah.”

Obviously not going for salesman of the month then?

Drove back in the general direction of Home using the satnav again. Because of the one-way system return was not the reverse of going, in this case, but the satnav lady knew this too. Once I was on the M8 heading roughly east I switched the satnav lady off and let her go back to sleep. Drove past Home and onward to Stirling where I turned off and took the back road up and over the Tak Ma Doon road, stopping near Loch Coulter to grab some shots to make a panorama later and also a grab shot of the straight road that looks as if it goes all the way to the Ochil Hills. The panorama became PoD. From there it was a lovely run in the springlike sunshine all the way home. Piece ’n’ flat sausage for my lunch and then after I’d dumped the images on the computer, I started today’s apple picture. It looks reasonable and hopefully you’ll be able to check my progress (or regress) soon on the website when I post the first seven. It’s an enjoyable task the painting and drawing of the apples, or at least it has been so far. May even branch out into ink or acrylic later. For just now it’s basically pencil and watercolour.

When Scamp came home I made a delicious tuna pasta. I say ‘delicious’, because we both agreed it was. Don’t know what I did differently this time, but I think it may have been some posh tomato concentrate. Must look for more of it the next time we’re buying Tesco.

Energetic beginners class in STUC and an advanced class where I couldn’t put a foot right. Every move a disaster. Even worse, I knew most of the moves. Just couldn’t get the moves into my head right. I think I just need to think less and go with the flow some times. Must practise Agamemnon this week to get rid of the rough edges. Still lots of laughs.

Tomorrow we have a free day. I think we may be going plant hunting again, although the weather looks rough. We’ll wait and see.

A Plan – 18 February 2019

On Mondays you have to have a time management plan.

Time is especially precious on Mondays and Wednesdays. Mondays because of Gems and Salsa and Wednesdays because of Ballroom and Salsa. That’s why today I tried to allocate time to activities that had to be completed. Some have to be tackled in daylight. Painting and sketching are the important ones for good natural light. Photography too, but it’s not as demanding of natural light as painting. Other things like posting images on Flickr and Facebook can be done under room lighting. With that in mind, I set out a plan of operations:

  1. Photography in daylight when there’s a bit of sun too, if possible. However, the actual taking of the photo doesn’t take all that long, so it can be done when and if the conditions are favourable.
  2. Painting and Sketching take a little longer and need some time allocated to them to make sure I don’t over run.
  3. Making dinner is determined by which classes we are going to and posting stuff online can be done any time.

So, started after lunch and got some photos taken just before the rain started and in a little pool of sunshine. Today’s PoD was one of the first croci to poke its head out of the compost. I liked the effect of the raindrops on it.

Next, today’s subject for sketching and painting was a couple of herb jars from the kitchen and a tin of Pimenton pepper. I’d had a go at the pepper tin years ago and liked the shape and also the fact that it should have a decent set of perspective lines. The finished article wasn’t really to my satisfaction because the perspective wasn’t correct, but I like the rendering of the glass jars and their contents. I tried a second drawing, drawing only this time, of the two jars. It was much better graphically, but didn’t have the watercolour effect, so the first painting won the day. All the artwork was done upstairs in the back bedroom while Gems practised their songs. Good headphones with noise reduction are a godsend.

After dinner we drove in to Salsa. It used to be the one class I could completely lose myself in if I was having a bad day at work, but since last week’s announcement that it was being terminated in four weeks, it’s lost a lot of its appeal. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the dancing and the repartee, but it’s like I’m losing an old and trusted friend. I think even if it is reprieved, it won’t be the same. The trust would not be there any more. Hard to explain in words.

The class before ours, the beginners, were doing Sombrero. What Scamp calls the first time they are really dancing. It’s true the whoops and yells when Jamie demonstrated what they were going to learn made me smile. It almost made me smile as much as when you lead a beginner through the apparent maze of the move and they realise they’ve just done it! They did it. Well, most of them did.

Our own class were very vociferous in their condemnation of the decision to axe the Advanced class and several proposals were put forward to avert it, but I felt all the time it was a fait accompli. It was going to go ahead, no matter what we felt. Of course it was left to Jamie to fend off the questions. Shannon was obvious by her absence.

Tomorrow we’re out to lunch.

The dug’s away tae Hamilton – 12 January 2019

Tae buy the wean a bell.

It was a dull morning, but it didn’t matter.  We were off to Hamilton.  Not “Tae buy the wean a bell”, but to have a curry in the Bombay Cottage.  We hadn’t been there for years and then my brother mentioned that he and his wife were going there and we decided we’d try it again to see if it still retained its former high place in our memory.  It did, and it still does.  Surprisingly, even after twenty odd years some of the original staff are still there!

After that, we were driving home when I suggested we go for a coffee at Robroyston, and that’s what we did.  Two flat whites and two pieces of sweet stuff, because it was the weekend.  When we were driving home from there I could see the light on the hills starting to shape up nicely, but knew that if I chased it, I’d be too late.  Sometimes it’s better just to watch it than try to capture something that doesn’t represent it at all.

Back home, Scamp started to tidy out the “Towel Cupboard”,  although it holds more electronic bits and pieces now than towels.  That’s where we found the film canister with some processed slide film.  Three short 12 exposure strips which I’ve now scanned and stored in Lightroom.  Lots of memories.  Some of places that are no longer there.  Some of people who are no longer there.  Some of people who’ve grown up.  All of them interesting to us.  Glad I found them.  One of the images found its way into today’s PoD, along with the film strips and an old Zenit 12 SLR.  Quite a lot of work creating the finished image, but I won’t bore you with the details.

I used the small Manfrotto tripod to shoot the basic shot.  I had to make myself a new tripod screw because I lost the last one during the week down the Luggie Water.  Tonight’s was made from a 1/4″ Whitworth bolt and a small piece of a brush handle.  Quite proud of my work!

Tonight’s entertainment was “Sing” from Netflix, because there was nothing else worth watching on terrestrial TV.  What a find it was.  Just a bit of fluff, really but the animation was quite excellent, much better than some of  the crap that was on over Christmas.  Really enjoyed the music too.  It’s not often we both laugh out loud at something on TV, but we did tonight!

Tomorrow if the weather is bad (and it’s forecast to be) we are booked to tidy out the entire “Towel Cupboard”.  That will be a difficult one.