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.

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.

Batteries were included, fully charged and free – 30 April 2020

Woke to rain again. Just a little and it’s still not overstayed its welcome yet.

New method for the blog, as suggested by Scamp. Writing it in stages as I find time during the day so I don’t have to plug away at it until midnight. Let’s see how it works out.

Tried the car first thing and it was another no response from the battery. Phoned the emergency number after answering a couple of questions about Coronavirus for the safety of the repair man I suspect, I was told the engineer would be with me in about 90 minutes. Just over the 90 minutes later an RAC van drove slowly up the hill, he’d be looking for me then.

It only took him a couple of minutes to diagnose a faulty cell in the battery that was dragging the voltage down from 12v to 9v. Not repairable, no point in charging it and as it was within the warranty period he could replace it there and then with a new one free of charge, saving me £265. Battery was replaced and then we stood and discussed the world and the ’New Normal for a while. I didn’t mind. I started the car and he checked that everything was as it should have been before filling in the paperwork. I didn’t even have to sign anything. He wouldn’t, or that should be couldn’t accept a cup of tea for fear of being contaminated with a potential Covid-19 virus from us and by handing back a used cup, could potentially pass on a virus to us. How the world has turned since March.

We said our goodbyes and I commented that I’d shake his hand, but I wouldn’t be allowed. We went in to have our lunch and I think he did the same in his van, still with the flashers on so no questions would be asked.

After lunch I walked down to the new shops to get some chocolate for me and a set of outdoor fairy lights for Scamp. It was dry for the walk, but when I was in the shop it was teeming down outside. When I came out again it was dry. April showers, even if it’s the last day in April. I waited a while when I got back before going out for today’s photo, which was a smart decision as a hail storm descended on us. After that the sun shone again and I was out like a shot. Found today’s PoD over at St Mo’s. A dandelion on a bad hair day. I also found a pair of very wet reading glasses hanging on a tree branch on the way home. How they got there I don’t know, but I know how the owner felt, having lost more than my fair share of specs over the years.

That was about it for today. Doing the blog in stages is good as long as I stick to it. It also helps to have a laptop that uses the same blogging software as the iMac and can share the part finished articles over WiFi.

Tomorrow we are hoping to be taking part in a webinar with the bloke from Falkirk. Should be interesting.

Happy Birthday, Birthday Girl – 24 March 2020

Today is Scamp’s birthday, but because of Covid 19 we stayed at home.

Breakfast in bed for her, and for me. Actually that’s nothing unusual for us. One thing that retirement has taught me is that there’s no need to rush anymore. If it needs done, it will get done. If it didn’t get done, then it wasn’t needing done in the first place. After Scamp opened her parcels and almost choked at the antics of her ‘Dancing Cat’, we both finished the chapters of the books we were reading and got on with the day.

I sewed a torn seam on two of my shirt pockets, caused by stuffing my phone and my glasses in there. After finishing one shirt and starting another I promptly lost the needle and panicked because a lost needle can be a really dangerous thing in a house. You’ve heard the expression “Turned the house upside down” when looking for something? We turned the three seater sofa upside down … and then shook it, but no needle. We hoovered, we tentatively searched between the cushions. Finally, I went upstairs to carefully strip off all the clothes I was wearing to see if the needle had become lodged in them, and that’s when Scamp shouted that she’d found it. It was still tacked into the shirt I had finished repairing. We’d both looked and looked at that shirt without finding it, but there it was. Thank goodness.

By then it was coffee time and after calming down and some discussion we chose to stay at home today. Nobody, but nobody was moving their cars out. Maybe we stayed at home, but that didn’t mean we didn’t go out. Scamp planted out her two boxes of pansies in the front garden. She also did a bit of weeding and some feeding of her plants. She did a bit more pruning of bushes and plants in the back garden too.

<Technospeak>
I must admit I was tempted to go out for a walk, but I thought I’d better obey Boris’s Rules and stay home. So I took the Benbo out to the garden and set up the E-M1 and macro lens on it, turned on ‘focus stacking’ and took some 15 shots of a crocus flower. The focus stacking allows you to take a rapid number of shots, all at slightly incasing focus distances. My aim was to get a set of shots with focus settings from the very front of the nearest petal to the furthest back petal. Eventually I worked out it should be about 9 shots, not 15. Focus stacking works best with a totally still subject, and just as I pressed the shutter button each time, a tiny wee breeze would blow and start to make the crocus nod its head. I finally got the sequence I wanted without the breeze and could pack up and go inside. There I squirted the shots into the piece of software that does the magic and merges the 9 shots into one. The result you see here is what it looks like. It was done using Affinity Photo. Thanks again Hazy!
</Technospeak>

I became so engrossed in this process I forgot that I was making dinner tonight. Carrot & Lentil Curry. A long time favourite of ours. Got it made and left it to keep warm just in time to go and speak to Hazy, Neil-D, JIC, Sim and Vixen. We didn’t actually speak to Tilly and Penny, but we knew they were there too. All through the magic of Zoom™. We were very impressed with the software. Scamp was desperate to show off the Dancing Cat. I think Hazy & Neil-D thought it was funny. JIC & Sim not so much. I could just see JIC mouthing “What the hell is that” or something similar. It didn’t matter, the main thing is Scamp thought it was brilliant!

That was a good day. Curry was good. Flat bread was better and even better still was the orange and rhubarb jelly, which was superb! Best of all was the look on Scamp’s face when the Dancing Cat started his routine this morning!!

Tomorrow? Possibly more of the same, but without Zoom™.

Storage, Lunch, Compost and Bridges – 28 February 2020

In that order. Oh yes, and Snow.

So what of the day then? Well, I fancied a trip to somewhere with technology. Somewhere with computers and hard drives and vacant sales people with limited knowledge of those things. Currys, that would fit the bill. My ever expanding photo collection would soon be in need of some extra storage space. Almost fifteen years of photos were almost completely filling the 2TB hard drive they are presently stored in. More accommodation is required and if you know what you want, how much you need and how much you’re prepared to spend, Curry’s is probably the best place to go, just don’t expect any help from the sales folk. They are there to sell, not advise. If you do ask them for advice on what desktop external hard drive to buy, you might come home with a washing machine instead, because logically, the person you spoke to hasn’t been on the computer external storage course yet, but they have successfully completed the one on washing machines. I Knew, I Wanted, I Bought … a Seagate 4TB USB3 Drive and it looks very swish.

With the purchase safely in the boot of the Juke, we went for lunch. Two Fish ’n’ Chips, one latte and one Americano. We think the indeterminate fish was River Cobbler whatever that is. It certainly wasn’t cod or haddock, but it tasted ‘fishy’ and it was hot, so were the chips and the coffee and that was all we were bothered about. Outside, the snow was pelting down. It had started as sleet, but had now graduated to real snow. Next stop Compost.

Scamp has decided that even though the weather thinks it’s still winter, in a couple of days it will be March and that’s effectively Spring, so it’s time to plant some seeds and for that you need lots of little plastic pockets, forty of them per propagator and lots of compost to fill those pockets. She already has the seeds, they’ve become a traditional Christmas present for Scamp. I’ve a packets too I think, somewhere, so I might be able to borrow one or two of those little pockets for my Teasels. I’d imagine the little seeds will be sown soon and kept inside until the temperature realises that it’s soon to be spring.

Today’s topic for sketching was ‘Bridge’. I searched my Flickr photo stream this morning for possible subjects and arrived at a shortlist of six. After browsing them, I settled on one of Mauldslie Bridge and Gatehouse. It took about an hour to sketch and paint and ultimately reject. Redrew it and repainted it and it became SoD.

PoD was taken earlier in the day and was of a rather snowy and unimpressive Campsie Fells covered in snow. It’s a poor showing, I know, but some people have decided that the photos must go on, so I do what I can with the cards I’d dealt. Not my best work, but done and on time.

Speaking of time, it’s running on and I want to get this posted today.

Tomorrow we may go shopping in Stirling.

Out on the town – 30 January 2020

Today was the anniversary of the day we first met. A much more sensible anniversary than the day we married.

Simply put, if we hadn’t ever met, we wouldn’t ever have married, but if we’d met and never married, it would have made little difference to us. To other people it would have been important, but to us it would have simple have been a convenience.

We got the bus in to Glasgow today. Not the slow X3, but the much quicker X28 from Condorrat. True, we had to walk over to Condorrat, but it was worth it not to have the bus stop at every one of the 5,000 stops all the way to Glasgow. Well, it seemed like that anyway.

We went for coffee in Nero before we walked down through the town. I watched an older woman struggling with a smartphone until a young bloke helped her to dial her friend on it. After a couple of attempts she managed to complete the connection and asked the bloke the name of the coffee shop she was in. She then relayed this information to her friend who told her he/she would meet her outside the Concert Hall. Again she asked for help from the young bloke, but this time he couldn’t help as he didn’t come from Glasgow, so another couple provided directions (it was actually just next door). We take technology like smartphones for granted and for those of us who are adept at using it, we can find all the information we need at the touch of a button. For others it’s a bit of a trial. It’s easy to forget how bamboozling modern technology can be. I hope she found her friend.

We walked down Bucky Street and I grabbed today’s PoD outside the Apple shop. I wonder how much business SimplyFixIt gets from this sign? Walked further along Argyll Street an up past the old fruit market for lunch in Gandolfi Fish. Lunch was Smoked Haddock Goujons as starter for both of us followed by Oven Baked Cod with Pomme Anna and Kale for Scamp. For me it was Sea Bass and Prawn Risotto. Washed down with a bottle of Italian red. For once we had a pudding: Panna cotta with Strawberries and Basil for Scamp. All of it absolutely brilliant. Service too was done with a smile which always helps. Had a drink in the Gandolfi Bar next door, but it was a dull, cold and uninteresting place. We wouldn’t go back there, but Gandolfi Fish is on our list now.

Bus back to Condorrat and then walked home in a gathering gale with splashes of rain. It didn’t matter, because we’d had a great day.

Tomorrow we’re cooking for six!

Coffee with the Cynics – 14 January 2020

You can’t beat the auld guys for cynicism. Don’t even try.

Out in the morning to get some chicken for tonight’s dinner, some chilli for an, as yet undisclosed, purpose and some photo paper to make a calendar for the three auld guys. Then it was down to work printing them and fitting them into their combs. Have way through the second calendar, the printer took a ‘wee flaky’ in other words, it ejected a sheet of unprinted paper and started flashing all the lights it had at its disposal. I swore at it and that didn’t help. I switched it off and back on again and that didn’t help either. Finally I resorted to the Val technique and switched it off, counted to 10 and switched it on again. That’s supposed to flush the printer’s capacitors and return it to something like factory settings. It worked. My technique would have worked too, but Scamp doesn’t like me kicking things. She says it does more harm than good. I say it doesn’t as long as you’ve got good strong boots on. We agree to disagree on that (but it would have worked). Calendars printed and assembled and in their bags, I headed out to pick up Colin. Scamp was an hour ahead of me, going to the same coffee place, going to meet Annette.

Picked up Colin at his house. He’s not too keen on driving except in bright sunshine because he needs a cataract op which should have been done a week ago, but was postponed until next week. I assured him it was nothing to worry about and everything would be so much brighter after that.

Val was buying the coffees when we arrived and Scamp with Annette were sitting just behind us, so I was on my best behaviour for a while. Topics under discussion today were The Who’s new album, Val’s Raspberry Pi adventures, The Young Royals and finally Mr Trump. We did go over other old ground, but that’s quite usual for us. Nostalgia is not what it used to be. Finally when we were all talked out we went our separate ways with me thinking “Is this the beginning of the end of the Auld Guys?” Have we talked ourselves out and need a rest for a while. Or do we just need to find a new outlet, or even a new coffee shop. Maybe next time we should adjourn to Tim Hortons to see if a change of scenery helps.

Drove back through the gathering gloom and that was only around 3pm. Daylight is at a premium in these dark January days. Hadn’t even taken the camera out of the bag today and on the way back from Colin’s, the rain started in earnest. By the time I reached home it had turned into sleet. Isn’t Scotland a lovely place at times?

PoD is of one of Scamp’s geraniums that sit flowering through the winter gloom on the bedroom window sill. This one is really past its best and should be having a rest, really, but it doesn’t seem to know how.

Tomorrow Scamp is out first for coffee with Isobel and I’m out next to go to the dentist for my six monthly checkup. Anything else is a bonus. Hoping for some free photons to light the scenery.

Rain, rain, rain – 11 January 2020

It was wet today, in fact it never stopped.

It was obvious from early today that it wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the last three or four days. We’d intended going out for lunch, but I’d ordered a new battery for the MBP and it was supposed to be delivered today. It was, but the delivery bloke didn’t even knock the door, he just left the parcel in the bin shed. That said, it was absolutely tipping it down when he came, so I couldn’t really blame him for not waiting at a possibly locked door.

It must have taken me at least ten minutes to disconnect the old battery, remove it, replace it with the new one and reconnect it. Then it took about two hours to charge it. The best advice I had from the ‘net was to leave it charging for at least a further two hours, which I did. In the meantime I tested and tasted my bacon, haggis, pork and whisky sausages. They were good, and an interesting taste. That’s as much as I’m saying just now. Had some of Hazy’s Columbian coffee too. It was much sharper and more bitter than my usual drink but, again, worth trying a second or third cup tomorrow.

After lunch we decided we’d eat in tonight and Fish Curry was on the menu. It should really be Egg Curry, but if you substitute fish for eggs it works equally well. It’s really a dhal with a lot of red lentils in it and also some coconut milk. We’ve been making it for years. It originated from a recipe book we bought in Woolworths. Remember them? I drove up to Tesco to try to post some of the calendars, but the post office closed at 12.30 and it was now past 2.30, so I missed it by a mile. Came home with rice for the curry and a couple of bottles of alcoholic beverages.

Time for laptop phase 2. Unplugged it and it started. The guide said to run it until it shut down. That took just over four hours, during which time we made the curry and ate half of it, leaving the remainder for tomorrow’s dinner (it was still raining by the way). We also watched an hilarious episode of Bake Off with The Derry Girls. Not something I’d have considered funny, but it just worked.

The laptop is now on phase 3 of its calibration cycle. It’s switched off and will remain switched off for at least five hours. That means it should be switched on about 2am. That’s where the “at least” factor kicks in. It may get switched on around 9am tomorrow, but not before.

Scamp and I had fun trying to fill a beanbag with polystyrene beads (does that make it a beadbag?). Eventually these beads with minds of their own were safely ensconced in their little bag and sewn in. I used it to prop up the camera which produced tonight’s PoD which is the Weemen ‘helping’ to swap out the new battery for the old one.

Tomorrow, on paper, looks better than today, but that wouldn’t be difficult. We’ll wait and see. No definite plans.

What a dull day for the first day of the decade – 1 January 2020

Dull, but at least it was dry.

As predicted, bedtime was early this morning rather than late last night, and drink was taken. Therefore, it was a late rise this morning. After that a rather lazy start to the day with no attempt to achieve the required 10,000 steps or even the 250 steps per hour. The fact that I was moving at all was an achievement in itself. Scamp, however, was much better today with very little sign of the pains that had been bothering her for the last couple of days.

After a frugal lunch (piece ’n’ bacon for me and a piece ’n’ egg for Scamp), we went for a leisurely walk around ‘easy’ St Mo’s. We stuck to the new path and I took a few photos, but only a few were worth considering as PoD. The best of a bad lot was the swan’s head. Even that was poor. Hopefully there will be better light tomorrow, but I’m not too confident about that.

<Technospeak>
On the computer front, the bastardised macOS Sierra was still working on the old MBP, but it took a terrible time to boot up and I’m still not sure what exactly that patched OS is doing in the background. With that in mind I decided to do a clean install of El Capitan and to remove the ancient hard drive that’s been draining the battery for years. The reset worked well and the boot time to El Capitan is much reduced from that of the slightly illegal Sierra.

My Lightroom 6 is an upgrade version and needs proof of purchase of a previous version to install. That proof is the serial number for the original version, in my case, version 1! Today I found it at the back of a cupboard, so I can have Lightroom on my old MBP and a legal version too, because Adobe are very aggressive in their searches for illegal software. That’s tomorrow’s job, as is what someone once called “the tracery of free and shareware programs that constantly run in the background”.
</Technospeak>

Dinner was a bit of a mishmash. My steak pie was overcooked because I forgot that the Le Creuset pot holds the heat and therefore keeps cooking long after the heat has been turned off. Still it was edible and we had a civilised dinner sitting at the table as befits a New Year’s Day dinner. Scamp’s salmon seemed to fair much better than my stew. We had a bottle of Prosecco courtesy of Clive back in September, and it was one of the best bottles of prosecco I’ve had.

Tomorrow we may go out somewhere for a walk or a look in the shops. It all depends on the weather. As usual.