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Rain – 6 June 2017

It was raining in the morning when we got up. It rained all day and it’s raining still. I don’t think there’s been a dry minute.

There were no plans for today, luckily, so we just had a lazy morning. I saw the effect of the rain on the alliums and decided it would make an interesting photo. Unfortunately it was bucketing at the time and none of my cameras are weatherproof, but they are when you wrap them in a Timson’s bag. Low tech meets high tech.

Just before lunchtime we went to Westerwood, me to stretch my legs and Scamp to swim. Just to confuse everyone and only for today, ladies were to use the gents changing room and gents, the ladies. The reason was that two blokes were fitting new locks in the ladies changing rooms. The new locks are push button coded. You type in a four digit code – twice then close the lock handle. No key to lose (I lost mine in the pool on one of our first visits.) No deposit to pay for the key. No having to ask for an odd numbered key to get a decent sized locker. No, it was almost as if we were in the twentieth century at last. There are obvious shortfalls that the devious will exploit in the next few weeks and then the batteries will fail and all have to be replaced at the same time, and how much will that cost?? Still, it’s a pleasant move forward on their part and we should be grateful.

Gym was interesting now that I’ve worked out (or to be more exact, Scamp has worked out) how to display my actual heartbeat, rather than my resting heart beat. Did my reduced machine torture and felt better than yesterday. After that I had a swim in a nearly empty pool. Wonderful.

Came home and started on today’s sketch which I’d decided would be, must be better than yesterday’s effort. I hope you agree.

Dinner was Scamp’s excellent stir fry.  One of my Tuesday night favourites.

Irene is to be teacher for the beginners class tomorrow night at Salsa. That should be interesting. I’ve said for ages that Shannon should have another female teacher and Irene’s encyclopedic memory of moves and her strict timing counts will help her do well, at least I hope it will. I also hope she gets paid for her hour’s work. Shannon doesn’t have a great record on that count.

Off to Wishaw tomorrow morning for Scamp’s checkup. Coffee booked with Val for the afternoon.

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Back in the old routine – 8 March 2017

This morning we got ready and went for a swim. There were nine people in the pool. NINE!  It’s busy with five, it’s a health and safety risk with nine. Thankfully there was nobody in the steam room and it was steaming hot too. From there I went to the sauna and by that time the pool emptied a bit so I managed a few lengths before it got mobbed again. After that I alternated between steam room and pool. Not really a bad way to spend a cold morning.

After lunch I dragged myself round St Mo’s and got a couple of decent shots of some coots and a couple of awful shots of some fungus. No deer. No Mr Grey. Don’t blame them, it was miserable and cold and so was I.

Driving in to Salsa tonight was a dawdle with next to no traffic 18mins to the airport from the CITRAC at Moodiesburn.  This is partly due to us leaving later and partly due to there being no football on.  Still, 18mins is almost a record.  Tonight was an amalgamation of two advanced classes and there were only 3 men for half of the time until Roy arrived and made it 4.  Scamp and Irene had to dance as leaders.  In an advanced class, that’s difficult.  I take my hat off to them (if I wore a hat, that is).  The new folk seemed to get on well enough with everyone else and by the end of the night we were fine.  That’s how it works in salsa.  Everyone gets on with it and enjoys themselves.  Not at all like ballroom where you have to remain po faced all the time.

To keep my poor wee coot company, I added some Trinni photos for you.  Hope you enjoy them.

It looks like coffee for Scamp tomorrow morning and coffee for me with Fred in the afternoon.  Quite the caffeine-heads day out!

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A Grand Day Out – 08 February 2017

8 FebThis will be a rushed post.  It’s been a long day and we’ve crammed a lot into it, although it might not seem so with this compressed or condensed description.

The day started well and we left the apartment with the intention of visiting Scarborough and then heading to a beach, but that’s not how it turned out.  Firstly we made a stop at the Magdalena Grand Hotel to see how the other half live.  The hotel, which is quite grand and quite magnificent is surrounded by a golf course which has the usual water hazards.  However, the water hazards on most golf courses don’t have warning signs saying ‘This lake contains caimans’.  Thankfully we didn’t stop near the water.  We did continue on to see the hotel and to walk the grounds as if we were staying there.  It’s a technique I must learn some time.  We were both impressed with the size and look of the building, but there weren’t very may folk staying there, so we did wonder how profitable it was.  While we were there I got my first decent shots of Frigatebirds.

As we were leaving the weather seemed to take a turn for the worse with squally rain appearing.  It had been threatening while we were trespassing on the hotel grounds, but now it was doing more than threatening.  We carried on to Scarborough, and it did remind me of the English seaside town with the steep hills around it.  Madeleine drove us to Fort King George and old stronghold, now open as a museum.  Loads of interesting stuff to be seen and most of it was open to the public.  That’s where we saw the cockerels and the hens.  They seemed to have the run of the place.  Jaime bought us some Tamarind Balls which are made from Tamarind paste with added pepper made into balls then covered in sugar.  A strange sweet/sour/salty taste.  Hard to define.  Great place to visit.  It was there too we found all these lovely butterflies.  Butterflies in January?  Who would have thought it?  Aha, but this isn’t Scotland.

By the time we were leaving here the rain had started for real.  No longer  squally, but a proper downpour.  After an attempt to outrun it, we gave up and headed with our sandwiches and juice back to the apartment where we had a picnic on the balcony.  Not quite what we’d intended, but at least we were dry for a time.  Then the rain started again and we took shelter inside.  These showers continued all afternoon.  I got fed up after a while and went out to walk along the beach.  Unfortunately, the beach had disappeared under the heavy breakers of high tide, so I sat down and sketched a concrete seat as a possible subject.  It rained again and I had to give up.  At that point Jaime appeared wondering where I’d got to.  We walked back and he showed me the fruits on one of the trees in the hotel grounds.  I must remember to ask him what it was called.  Before we got ready to go out to the restaurant Scamp wanted to dip her feet in one of the hot tubs.  We sat in it for about half an hour while the rain made little soldiers on the surface of the water around us.  What a strange feeling that was.  When we finally gave up the hot tub, we went for a swim in the pool.  The water was remarkably warm.

After our swim we went back to the room and Scamp went to shower and wash her hair.  I grabbed my sketchbook and drew the view from the balcony.  It’s not technically perfect, but it’s a better, and more interesting, drawing than the concrete seat.  IMO.

IMG_3753Dinner was in Karawak restaurant and it was fabulous.  Callaloo soup followed by Tomato, Basil and Olive salad then a main of steak or shrimp with rice, pumpkin and a sort of ratatouille served in a hollowed out half aubergine.  Dessert was coconut cream cake with ice cream, sorbet or ice cream.  It’s hard not to compare that with what we had on our first night here at the steak and lobster grill and it’s hard to see now how the S&L Grill survives against competition like this.  The waitress worked the table with a great sense of humour that you couldn’t help but appreciate.  The only fly in the ointment was the owner or manager, it wasn’t clear which, who only seemed to be interested in her regular customers and only gave us a cursory glance.  She needs to take a lesson from our waitress.  Nobody it that high and mighty that they don’t need to cultivate new custom.

Well, that was meant to be a condensed description of the day.  I missed out the Karaoke because it was so bad, it wasn’t even funny, and no we didn’t take part.

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He swims with the fishes – 07 February 2017

7 FebThis morning, Jaime said that he’d prefer to drive to Pigeon Point rather than take the hotel minibus.  We’d already agreed that hiring a car would be good, so this just meant that the hire would be a day early and it would give us more flexibility with travel arrangements, so off he went to arrange the hire.  When he came back, he told us there was one problem, his driving license was out of date and needed to be renewed.  It could be done on Tobago, but with the present backlog in licensing, it would probably take a whole day.  Since my paper license is no longer acceptable for hiring a car, the easy way was for Madeleine to hire the car.  With that settled, they both went back to the hire firm to seal the deal and soon arrived with the car.  Our bags were packed and we then went to Pigeon Point and parked ourselves under an almond tree on the edge of the glorious beach with that beautiful blue sea beyond.  Pigeon Point hadn’t changed much since we were last there.  The beach huts had been painted and had new roofs and there was now a new reception room for weddings and big parties, but apart from that it was the same.

Once we were settled, Scamp and I went for a paddle, but I couldn’t resist the pull of that blue water and the prospect of little brightly coloured fish in the reef just a few metres offshore.  After all, for once I’d remembered to bring my snorkel and mask, so it would be a much closer look this time.

The water was much colder for swimming in than I had anticipated, but like always, you quickly become accustomed to it and are able to concentrate on looking for interesting things on the seabed.  Unfortunately, the sea was rougher than it had been three years ago and the sand was being lifted from the floor by the waves, so my vision, even with the mask was limited.  Further round the corner there is another smaller reef and it proved more interesting.  At least there were some fish there.  I didn’t want to stay there too long as I was out of visual contact from the shore and I thought Scamp would be worried I’d be swept out to sea or eaten by a giant crab.  Actually it was Madeleine who was worried, not Scamp, but no matter, I’d snorkelled and I’d seen some fish.  The next time we come back to Tobago  – oh, yes, there will be a next time  – I’ll bring flippers too.  Ungainly on land, but so much more efficient for swimming.

Lunch was Bake and Shark from one of the booths on the beach, but three of us agreed it wasn’t a patch on the offering from Maracas.  That and a couple of drinks kept us fed and watered until it was time to go home to Sandy Point.  I got one sketch done in the interim and that’s this little doodle here.  Not very impressive, but it fits the bill.

When we got home, Scamp and I went for a walk along the beach past the airport runway and passed a big poisonous tree.  The sign said BEWARE of touching bark, leaves, fruit or anything to do withx-default the tree as it poisonous and corrosive and can kill.  Then at the bottom of the sign there’s a not to say ‘Don’t Panic’!  Watched the pelicans fishing for a while.  When we got back from the walk, we sat with our feet in a VERY hot tub. Then Scamp went back to the room while I did a sketch that I would fake as yesterday’s for the 28 Drawings Later page on Facebook.  Just a slip of the pen really.  I meant to write 7-2-2017, honest officer Winking smile

Dinner was a marvellous Stewed Chicken with Plantain and Macaroni Pie.  Sorry Sim, yours was good, and it was a close run thing, but your mum’s had the edge this time.

Two rum ‘n’ coke’s while listening to the entertaining Calypso singer in the bar rounded the day off.

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Steamin’ – 24 January 2017

The dogs started their howling at 8.30 this morning and didn’t let up until 12 noon.  Something will need to be done soon.

To get us out more than anything else, I think, Scamp suggested going for a swim.  I thought it was a good idea and grabbed my bag.  The pool wasn’t totally empty when we got there, so there was space for a couple of wee ones.  I think Scamp just wanted to try out her new swimming costume.  I just wanted a bit of peace and quiet.  Then other folk seemed to think they had the right to come in to ‘Our Pool’.  I don’t know what gets into these folk.  They should know by now that when we are in the pool, they get out.  Anyway, I let them have their swim because I was going in to the steam room.

It certainly was steamy.  It was hot and steamy and smelly in a nice way.  When we started going to the leisure centre the steam smelled like eucalyptus, then gradually it just smelled like, well, like steam I suppose.  Now the eucalyptus is back as the flavour of the month and it makes a pleasant change.  I managed to stay in there for about 10 minutes before the steam became unbearable and I had to go for a shower.  Another couple of lengths then it was time to try out the sauna.  Not as hot as the steam room, but still hot enough.  Things are finally looking up at the pool after all the alterations and essential maintenance.  One short swim and another dose of eucalyptus and that was my exercise for the day.

Back home, an roll ’n’ egg replaced the calories I’d lost with my exercise regime.  Then it was time to cram stuff into a bag and see how much it weighed before dinner time.

After dinner, I finished off Avarice a book by Pete Brassett.  If you want to read my review, it should be on Amazon and Goodreads.  It got one star, because it was funny.  I don’t think it was really meant to be a comedy, but it was simply ridiculous.  Tartan Twee I called it, and it was.  Rebus meets Brigadoon and sticks the nut in him.

It’s been another of those dull, not quite rainy days, but I did manage to get a few shots of Mr Squirrel stealing the birds peanuts.  Tomorrow the weather is meant to be brighter.  We’ll see.

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Ice and a Fiery Temper – 5 December 2016


Woke this morning to sub-zero temperatures, ok it was -0.7º, but it was below zero and that counts.

By the time I got up and showered, the temp had risen to just above zero and it was brightening up nicely, so I wrapped up warm and grabbed the Nikon to go get some photos of the urban deer.  It was a good plan,  the only thing missing was the aforementioned deer.  They weren’t to be seen.  Imagine that, they were up and out before me!  Amazing.  Got some photos of some backlit weeds – backlighting is always good in the low winter sun.  When we were in Glasgow yesterday, I was sort of admiring some photos by a photog who was using 00 gauge figures in a variety of situations.  ‘Sort of’ because I wasn’t impressed with the actual photos which were unremarkable, but I’d forgotten about my own attempts with these tiny figures.  I kept seeing situations this morning where I could pose my mini-men.  I’m intending digging them out tonight and having a go at some mini-men scenarios tomorrow when I have the house to myself.

Photos turned out better than I’d hoped.  I think my favourite was the skating Coot.  It reminded me of the painting “Revd Dr Robert Walker (1755 – 1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch” by Sir Henry Raeburn (Google it).  It doesn’t really look like it, it just reminds me of it.  That was my favourite, but PoD goes to the frozen feather.

This afternoon when Gems were doing their singing practise I went to the gym and the pool for an hour or so.  It was a very pleasant hour or so too.  Sauna wasn’t all that hot, but the steam room was.  Even managed a few lengths.

Kizomba tonight was the end of the road for me.  I’ve taken as much as I can take of assistant teacher, Levis’s Mr Cool antics.  Yes, he’s quite stylish, but when the class has just managed to achieve even numbers because Kaye, the teacher, is dancing, that is not the time for Mr Cool to cut in and push a paying customer, me, out to be a wallflower.  I don’t like being the wallflower and I don’t do it quietly now.  That’s why I made a fuss tonight and complained to his boss about his attitude.  I also told her that was the reason I wasn’t coming back.  It did seem to cause a bit of a kerfuffle and an extended discussion with Shannon under whose auspices the class runs.  It also forced Levis to come and apologise to me although he didn’t seem to understand why.  It made no difference to me.  That was my last Kizomba class with them.  Maybe I’m just a silly old man to him.  He’ll find out I’m a vociferous and angry old man too.  I feel sorry for Scamp, because she was enjoying the class.  I wasn’t and I’d already told her I would give it until Christmas and then evaluate the situation.

The foregoing left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, but it had to be resolved.  There’s no point in complaining to Scamp and shouting the odds.  Better to get these things out in the open then, maybe they will learn from their mistakes.  Salsa took the bad taste away and with three new moves to remember and Jamie Gal’s inevitable tall stories , it didn’t take long to put a smile back on my face.

Tomorrow is another day and it’s going to be a painting day, I think.  Well, that and a trip into Glasgow to retrieve Scamp’s boots that she left at the STUC tonight!

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Cold and Frosty – 21 November 2016


Yes, in the morning it was cold and frosty and it stayed that way for most of the day too.  Poor wee violas in the hanging basket at the back door.  They rarely see the sun in these winter days and today they looked wilted.  When they finally thawed out about 4pm, the sprung back to life as if it had never happened.

Today being Scamp’s ‘Gems’ group’s singing practise, I packed my bags and headed for the leisure centre where I intended to have a swim and a nice 30 mins or so in the sauna and the steam room.  That’s 30 minutes total, not 30 in each!  However, it was their turn for ‘essential maintenance’.  So far we’ve had the air-con in the changing room refurbished and the gym equipment replaced.  Last week it was the jacuzzi that was essentially being maintained and today it was the hot rooms time for an overhaul.  Next week the pool?  Who knows.  It always worries me when an establishment like this gets a complete facelift.  Usually it presages a change of ownership.  I hope I’m wrong, but I just have that feeling …

After the curtailed swim, I left and headed for Fannyside Moor, just on the outskirts of Cumbersheugh to get a PoD.  Actually I had one in the bag from earlier in the day when the bluetits found the bird feeder had been refilled, but another one or two wouldn’t go amiss.  I was armed with the old Sony F707 and the Furry Monkey.  Hoping his magic paws would do the needful with the IR filter again.  Well, he worked his magic, but there just wasn’t enough direct sunlight to give the necessary IR, so I resorted to a couple of landscapes taken with normal light instead, the best of which is above.

Salsa tonight was the usual mayhem with Jamie Gal forgetting his moves which “… worked perfectly earlier in the day in my office!” Then trying to make up a name for them, before attempting to translate the name into Spanish.  Great fun!

Kizomba?   Hmm, not a lot of fun and I sense a rant starting.
This was the last lesson of the block and I would have thought that Kay, the teacher, would have been pushing hard to keep us interested.  Instead she just tread water for almost all the class time.  Because her teaching assistant was absent, she had one of the class members run the guys through a ‘warm-up’ reprise of the last seven weeks’ moves while she did the same with the girls.  The ‘warm-up’ lasted for twenty minutes.  Twenty minutes of an hour long class.  Then she introduced a new ‘helper’ who either didn’t speak English or didn’t want to be there, because he hardly uttered a word all night.  You could tell the class weren’t too happy when she applauded us all after our first dance and nobody in the class responded.  I nearly left there and then when she attempted to introduce ‘Musicology’ as a topic.  I wasted two hours of my life with the dreadful Samira attempting to make this into a science instead of something that everyone can do naturally.  If you can’t understand the beat of the music, this time wasting exercise wasn’t going to help you IMO.
Scamp wants to go back for a second block of Kizomba, but I’m not so sure.  This is the second week we’ve been without a teacher for the guys.  I like the dance, but if there is no teacher for us, then I’m not getting value for my money and that’s not a good thing.  I’m suggesting we pay the class on a week by week basis to see what transpires and if it doesn’t improve, I’m not going to continue with it.

Temperature is rising and even as I write this at 11pm it’s warmer than it’s been all day.

Dentist tomorrow 🙁

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Super Moon, Ordinary Day – 14 November 2016


Not such a bad day today compared to yesterday. Thankfully, Scamp is feeling a lot better and I think a phone call this morning from Hazy helped too, that and looking forward to a visit from JIC and Sim has lifted her spirits. Still a bit cloudy with the occasional rain shower, but we had that in Lanzarote last week too. Having said that, the temperature differential is significant, nearly 20ºc .

Last night’s attempt to resurrect the damaged partition on the external hard disk ended in failure, as I expected it would. However PhotoRec which comes as part of the free TestDisk partition recovery suite managed to find all the photos in the damaged partition and, using it I also managed to download some of the photos to check that they were intact. It looks like most if not all of the photos are recoverable. The problem now is where to put them while I sort them back into their proper folders. Sorting them into the folders won’t be a big problem as the Hazel app on the Mac and File Juggler on the PC will manage that task with relative ease. The problem is that I now need (yet) another external hard drive to use as temporary storage while I do the filing. I might just bite the bullet and buy another external HDD and be done with it. Then I’ll format the old one and use both as a photo repository. It does make you think though, that a free program downloaded from the ‘net can search your hard disk and recover deleted photos even from a formatted drive. If a free prog can do that, what can dedicated forensic software used by police and other agencies do?

For the rest of the day, I went to the gym and then for a swim. Really quite enjoyed it. Salsa and Kizomba tonight was demanding, but also enjoyable.

Today’s photo is of the ‘Supermoon’. Did look slightly bigger than normal, but nothing to get excited about.

Looking for sunshine tomorrow. Always looking!

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Write and Post the same day – 20 October 2016

20-oct1That is today’s target.

Yesterday, or to be more exact, early this morning I was still writing the blog just before 1am.  That’s what happens when you try to cram in 1 hour’s driving 2 hours of Salsa, a pen sketch, photo processing, posting to the now despicable Flickr and blog writing into six hours.  It just doesn’t work.  I must try to clean up my workflow on Mondays and Wednesdays.  Thursdays?  They’re not so bad.  Still bad, just not so bad as Mon and Wed.

Today we went to the leisure centre in the early afternoon.  Me to gym and swim, Scamp to swim.  It was very pleasant.  Gym wasn’t busy and neither was the pool.  That’s because we are in the middle of half-term week, so loads of families are off grabbing some last minute foreign sun.  I’m not complaining, just explaining.  After a late lunch I went to find some photos and if possible find something to sketch.  “Nights are fair drawing in now” as Billy Connolly said and it’s true.  The sun is setting sooner these evenings, so although it provided me with some lovely sunset shots, it also cancelled out any opportunity for sketching in the wild.

Earlier in my driving around I spotted some strange looking clouds.  I thought it was the end of the world, such strange shapes.  It turned out to be Cumulonimbus incus.  Google it.  It’s a classic anvil shaped thundercloud.  Luckily they sidled off westward before they could drop their thunderbolts and the inevitable rain.  The sunset really was lovely.  I don’t usually shoot sunsets because you get suckered in by the colour contrasts and just shoot wildly, but this time I planned the shot with the old tree and fencepost in the middle distance to hold the viewer’s eye while allowing them to appreciate the colours in the sunset.

img_3457-flickr-1I was stuck for an Inktober shot tonight and it defaulted to my glasses on the coffee table.  That meant I couldn’t wear them and that’s my excuse for poor proportions.  That coffee table is almost forty years old, an antique.  It was my second year project at college and it’s still standing.

Well, that’s it.  I’m hoping to get to bed the same day I woke up.  It may happen.

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Back in harness – 17 October 2016


Today I returned to the gym for the first time in months.  I took it easy, not wanting to undo all the good the physio had done.  I did my 10 mins on the recumbent bike and 10 mins on the treadmill, although I did up the incline and the speed to get my heart rate up a bit.  I also did one of the arm machines and one of the leg machines, so not too much yet.  I even managed a swim as the pool was nearly empty.  Unfortunately, Mondays are busy days and I had to get back home to get the dinner made.  Then it was off to Kizomba and Salsa.

Kizomba was quite stressful for me as we had to work on foot moves and arm moves too on Saida and Cross Step.  If I continue with the class, as seems likely just now, and if I look back at these posts (DV), the Saida and Cross Step will seem very tame, I’m sure, but tonight they were tough.  Salsa was frantic as usual and also very enjoyable.  Nice to see Catherine Mc back.

img_3452-flickrToday’s photo was of the peanut thief caught raiding the bird feeder again this morning.  The Inktober sketch is of Scamp’s Venetian mask.  It was a bit out of my comfort zone because of the amount of curves in it and the fact that there was light and shade to deal with on those curved surfaces.  Still, it’s a fair representation of the article.  What will tomorrow’s be?

Don’t know what the weather is going to do tomorrow.  The majority of the votes are for some sunny periods but with the chance of rain and some strong winds.  That about sums up any day in Scotland.