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The Dragons are back – 4 June 2017

We had intended going to the West End Festival in Glasgow today, but decided to have a lazy day at home instead.  There was to be no procession and that’s the highlight of the event every year.

Scamp got busy planting, planting and more planting.  Me?  I went for a walk instead.  Walked around St Mo’s and got a few photos of a couple of mating damselflies.  I was using the Oly 10 because it was the most versatile tool for general shooting.  The 45-200 zoom is a great lens and works well for close ups when you attach the extension tubes.  You lose a couple of stops of exposure, but it was a bright day again and exposure wasn’t a problem.

On my second circuit of the pond, a dragonfly caught my eye.  Waited for it to land and get comfortable then got one shot before it flew away to circle the wee pond.  Then it returned to the same grass stem, but it wasn’t comfortable and with each move I made it flew off.  Eventually it settled down on a reed and I got the shot above.  I was quite pleased with it.  It’s a Four-spotted Chaser male as you probably already knew.  Set the shutter speed high (1/800) and aperture fairly deep (f9) and that amounted to an ISO of a manageable 1250.  You just couldn’t do things like that with the Teazer, so it had a day at home.  The dragonfly is a Four-spotted Chaser male but you probably knew that already.  Lots more beastie pictures on the Flickr page.

Came home and Scamp was finished working in the garden.  Finished working, but not finished with the garden.  No, she wanted to get some photos of us sitting outside with our new drinks holders.  We got them yesterday as well as a barrow load of plants.  Set up the tripod, bolted on the Oly 5 only to find that the battery was flat and the spare one had just started charging.  I tried using the Teazer, but it’s so hard to use without a flip up screen.  Eventually got the photo using Scamp’s camera and it has already been sent out to all my readers I think.

Took my dodgy left knee to the physio to see what he could deduce from a bit of prodding and pulling.  His deduction was that it was a healthy knee.  He thinks I’ve maybe nicked a ligament at the back of the knee and it’s now well on the way to being repaired.  He gave me some exercises to do and wouldn’t take any payment.  Good guy.

Today’s sketch is of the Campsie Fells viewed through the back bedroom window.  Just a quick watercolour that gains entry into J’ Ink because of the penwork.

The only fly in today’s ointment is the fact that I’ve got a fasting blood test tomorrow morning and a full dance card for the rest of the day.  Never mind, it’s all in a good cause.  May take my healthy knee out for a walk if the weather allows.

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Before Ten? Ok Boss – 1 June 2017

Contrary to what we expected, it was dull, but dry this morning.  While Scamp did some washing, I started today’s Sudoku.  Each to his (or her) own.

Later, Scamp started to defrost the freezer.  With two of us on it, we did actually get it done a bit quicker.  Then we had to decide what would go back in.  The oldest item we found was a set of pork ribs dating to 2015.  They were a no-brainer, they had to go, in fact they almost walked to the bin themselves.  The rest was more difficult, but we did create some space by dumping some of the older bits and pieces.  Some space that could accommodate a couple of tubs of ice cream if only we had some.  If only we had a reason to got to the ice cream shop in Muirhead.  Scamp decided it would be good to go out to lunch and I decided to go to a tiny wee garden centre and cafe at Johnston Loch which is about two miles from the ice cream shop.  Sorted.

Lunch was a simple toastie, a panini and a couple of pots of tea.  Then we went to the ice cream shop for Toffee & Fudge for Scamp and Strawberries & Cream for me.

With the freezer replenished and the rain starting to get serious, we headed for home.  I went for a wet walk to St Mo’s and got the photo you see above.  Not brilliant, but given that it was taken at ISO 5000, it ain’t at all bad.

Spoke to JIC on the phone tonight and he asked for the blog to be up by 10pm.  Hope this is what the doctor ordered!

One last thing.  I know it’s after the 10pm curfew, but here goes.
I’ve become lax with sketching recently.  In an attempt to jolt myself back to inky fingers again I’ve started J’ Ink 17 J’ Ink 17 is short for June Ink 2017. A challenge to  myself to do at least one sketch, drawing, painting etc. a day for the month of June.’   This is day one.

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The May Is Oot – 19 May 2017

It’s been a bit of a flower centred week.  Since Tuesday there seems to be nothing but flower pictures imprinted on the CCDs of my cameras.

Today we welcome summer to Scotland with the Old Scots saying “Ne’er cast a cloot until May is oot.”  Which translates to english as “Don’t discard your winter clothes until the may (hawthorn) is in bloom.” Today’s PoD was of a cluster of hawthorn blossom frothing from a bush.  I had actually gone to this spot on the Antonine Way to try out the Teazer’s ability to produce a panorama in-camera which it did and also to check its in camera time-lapse ability which I failed to achieve.  Maybe I need to read the instruction book.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS for what is basically a little point ’n’ shoot camera?  I think not!  Instruction books are for noobs.  Look, I paid good money for this camera and all its fancy modes, so it should deliver them without the need for an instruction book.  What is the camera world coming to?  It failed, in other words.  I didn’t fail, it failed.  Fin.

Made the strangest bread this morning because Scamp’s dad’s cousin was coming for dinner and she is a coeliac.  I’d never made a gluten free loaf before and when the instruction started with “beat two egg whites with two teaspoons of sugar, one teaspoon of vinegar, one teaspoon of salt, two tablespoons of oil and 400ml of water”  I thought ’What is going on here?’.  However, I followed the instructions and the bread rose and was baked for the required 55min.  That’s twice the time a ‘normal’ loaf takes.  Even stranger, it looked like a cake rather than a loaf when all was done, BUT it tasted like a loaf.  Like a pan loaf and it had risen perfectly.  No soggy bottom and Isobel who has is an expert on gluten free loaves gave it her seal of approval.  She got the remainder of the loaf away with her.  I may try it again, even with its strange very white flour (that isn’t really flour) and beaten egg whites.

Scamp, June and Isobel were going to a concert in Glasgow afterwards and I was nominated driver.  When I came home I tried an install of Lightzone which is a very able Lightroom clone.  It’s free as in legally free and is cross-platform which means it works on the Mac and also on the Win 10 tablet because it has 32bit architecture.  It’s not as polished as Lightroom and doesn’t do the cataloging that is at the heart of the Adobe prog, but it’s a great piece of software.  Best of all, out of the box, it supports the Panasonic RAW files the Teazer produces.  Amazing what a little piece of free software can do.

Tomorrow?  More Teazer Testing, but I refuse to read the instructions.

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Testing – 12 May 2017

Scamp kindly offered me a run to the train station today because I wanted to go camera shop window shopping and she didn’t.

First stop was Jessops.  It used to be good, a long time ago, then it became truly terrible and eventually died.  It was taken over and re-energised by Peter Jones famous for Dragon’s Den.  For a while it became more like a photography shop again, but recently it’s become run down, staffed by people who don’t know what they’re talking about and just plain crap.  However, it was there or JL.  At least you can pick up the cameras in Jessops, even if most of them have almost no charge in the battery.  The big failing point for Jessops is the staff.  They think they know it all, and they don’t.  For selling point ’n’ shoot cameras to little old ladies, they’re fine.  Ask them questions about the more juicy details of a camera’s specification and you get that rabbit in the headlights look.  Either that or they tell you the first thing that comes into their head and then argue black is white that they’ve ‘Read it in a review’.  No you haven’t mate, you just made that up.  That was the case today.  Apparently Panasonic are wrong to say that the sensor size in the TZ 70 and the TZ60 are exactly the same size.  The schoolboy who served me today told me that the TZ70’s sensor is ‘just slightly bigger’.  Utter crap.  “Could I put a card in it, to try it?” I asked Mr Know-it-all. “Eh no actually.  Sorry.  You need a screwdriver to take the security device off.”  So you expect me to pay three hundred odd quid without checking the quality of the lens?  “Yes.  Sorry.”  See what I mean about Jessops.  They’re on the slippery slope.

JL were worse.  After waiting for 15 minutes for a promised sales assistant to allow me to touch the TZ70, one arrived and opened the case.  “Could I put a card in it, to try it?” I asked, “Yessssss??” was the hesitant reply. “If you …..”I didn’t wait to find out what I had to do, I just stuck an SD card in the camera and took a couple of shots.  It seemed ok.  “Can you tell me what the ring around the lens does?” I asked.  “I think it’s for focusing or something, but I’m not sure”  was the answer.  Her parting shot was the winner for me: “If you’ve got any questions, just come and ask me.”  By this time, I’d had enough.  I thanked my assistant and went to get the train home.

When I got back home, I eagerly fired up Lightroom to see what the purloined shots from the TZ70 with the ‘slightly bigger sensor’ would look like.  I’d deliberately chosen RAW and JPG files as the format.  Sorry JIC, is this giving you a headache?  Anyway, poor little Lightroom 5 just stared at the grey square in  the import dialog and said “I don’t know what this is.”  It appears that the RAW file requires Lightroom 6 to open it.  All that time wasted!  But there was an elegant solution (isn’t there always?)  It seems like that if you edit the EXIF (which is the little database inside almost every computer file) and change the camera model from TZ70 to TZ60, it will load perfectly.  I did and it did.  The result wasn’t earth shattering.  Well, the subject was a rack of ‘toy cameras’ in JL, so the subject matter wasn’t fantastic, but the quality wasn’t either.  It wasn’t bad, considering that the sensor (the digital ‘film’) is about half the size of an adult male’s pinkie nail.  It just wasn’t what I’m used to.  Size IS everything in cameras.

I think I’ve talked myself out of a superzoom compact camera.  I much prefer the quality of my Olys, despite their weight.  I took them out to run around St Mo’s for a while later in the afternoon sunshine.  That’s where today’s PoD came from.  It’s a Jenny Long Legs, also known as a Crane Fly.  The other two scary flies didn’t make it to PoD, but are available for your inspection on Flickr.

Tomorrow it’s going to rain.  So say the weather pixies.

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Karma – 9 May 2017

It began last night when we were getting in to the car after leaving salsa, I asked Scamp if she had had her handbag with her when she went in, knowing that I had it under my jacket, because she had been too busy gossiping to pick it up when she left.  When she ran across the road I called her back and told her I had just put it in the boot of the car.  Almost total silence all the way home.  Later I apologised (of course) and the matter was forgotten.

Today we went to Linlithgow to get some fish for dinner and also to stock up the freezer.  After leaving the fishmongers we went for a coffee in a wee coffee shop across the road.  It was quite expensive and tasteless coffee, but  the chicken soup we had was excellent.  In general it was quite an expensive wee coffee shop where a panini was almost eight quid!  Eight quid for a long roll with cheese and a slice of ham?  I don’t think so.  We just had chicken soup and coffee, poor coffee.  There were painting for sale in the shop too, and they were as bad as the coffee, tasteless.  Anyway, we paid and left then went back to the car.  We’d almost reached it when I turned to Scamp and said “Camera Bag!”.  I handed her the shopping bag and hared off to the coffee shop.  Thankfully some kind soul had handed the bag in and we were reunited.  That’s Karma.

Sat for a while in the sun in the garden today.  The wind was westerly and milder than of late.  It had been cloudy in the morning, but by the time we were driving to Linlithgow, the sun was shining.  As I’m writing this, the sky is still blue with not a cloud to be seen.

However, you don’t get your 365 done by sitting around in the garden.  Well, you can, but sometimes you have to wander further afield if you want some decent photos.  Today’s decent photos were taken in St Mo’s in the late afternoon.  They are of Orange Tip butterflies – males.  Both genders have the underwing pattern, but only the males have the bright orange tips to their wings.  As usual, I started off a good distance away from them and grabbed a few shots, then moved closer. for another shot, then closer still.  What you have to avoid is your shadow covering the butterflies because they seem to be very sensitive to changes in light level.  It probably triggers their flight response.  The only way to get closeups with the ‘wee dog’ is to use extension tubes and that’s what produced both today’s shots.  Extension tubes with a zoom lens is a great tool for macro work.  I like it.

Scamp made a salad for dinner and it was delicious.  After going to Linlithgow, we didn’t use any of their fish, it went straight into the freezer.  I had about half an Arbroath Smokie in my salad and despite it having been in the freezer for about six months, it tasted perfectly fine.  Mind you, it was cured and smoked and frozen, so it should have been perfectly preserved!

Tomorrow, I’ve got the Dentist in the morning.  What we do afterwards hinges on that being a good meeting.

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Damsel Day – 6 May 2017

After yesterday’s peregrinations across the breadth of Scotland, we had decided to have a day at home.

While Scamp went out to search for provisions, I made myself a cup of coffee and sat on the front step in the sun.  While I was sitting, I spotted this week’s potential sketch.  It’s just the house across the road.  Nothing special about it, just a corner house with some trees in front and some scrubby bushes.  Sometimes you miss what’s right in front of your face.

After lunch we went our separate ways.  Scamp to cut the grass and plant out some alpines and me to cycle, hoping for a few damselflies to photograph.  It seemed such a lovely day, it was a shame to waste it sitting around on the step or even worse still, moping around the house.

With a couple of squirts of WD 40 on the bike we were ready for the off.  The outward leg was so very easy, I knew it was a bad sign.  It was a tailwind.  The wind was from the east and also stronger than it was in the morning.  That meant it would be a headwind on the way home.  However, after wandering around for a while without any signs of insect life, I caught a few shots of a hoverfly sitting on my bike jacket.  A nice little one, with bright yellow stripes.  Maybe someone on Flickr will ID it for me.  Then I saw a little red damsel.  The first I’ve seen in Scotland this year.  I saw some in Tobago in February, but that’s a different world.  Here we don’t usually see damsels until the end of May or the beginning of June.  Early May is very unusual.  Got a few shots of it, then started to plan them a bit better, trying to get at 90º to its long body to keep as much as possible in sharp focus.  Almost impossible with the extension tubes and the very narrow depth of field.  Still, got a few ‘keepers’.  Nice colour on the body and thorax.

As I predicted, the homeward leg was a struggle with a gusty eastern wind.  Bag was heavy too with a couple of rocks to create perches for the smaller birds in the birdbath.

Dinner was the second attempt at Spanish Rice (just as good as the first.)  While I was making it, Scamp was sunning herself with a Pimms for company in the back garden.  Yes, she did have her sun cream on.

Watched the BFG on Amazon Prime tonight.  Great escapist fun.

Tomorrow?  Probably dancing in the afternoon, the rest is up for grabs.

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Meeting Herr Kutz – 25 April 2017

Took the bus into Glasgow today, to meet Herr Kutz.  It’s been a long time since we met.  Too long, and so was the hair!

I risked using up the remainder of my data allowance and my battery life by listening to The Week’s Favourites on Spotify on the bus on the way in to Glasgow.  About the third of fourth track was a beautiful piece of piano playing and I thought I’d earmark it for Scamp.  Then the track changed to another piece by a different artist, but nowhere near as interesting.  I went back and searched for the piano music and found it was Piano Portraits by Rick Wakeman.  I listened to the rest of the album all the way in.

Still with Bluetooth earphones firmly plugged in I wandered round the *Toyshop* of John Lewis.  Not Lego and dollies but Panasonic and Lenovo.  Big Boys Toys.  Liked the look of a Panasonic TZ 60.  To give some perspective on that particular camera, I have an earlier model, a TZ 3.  I can hardly believe there has been 53 versions between the two!  An interesting camera the 60 because no only does it have an EVF 1, but it also produces RAW 2 files.  Interesting indeed.

The other toy was a neat little Lenovo 11” laptop which has a full size keyboard. The only thing wrong with my Linx 10 mini laptop is the equally mini keyboard, but maybe the Bluetooth keyboard I’m experimenting with will remove that particular problem.

After the retail therapy of the window shopping, it was time to meet Herr Kutz for a number 4 all over with a square neck.

After my haircut I walked down West Nile Street to Laboritorio Espresso for a quick Java.  It was only after I’d ordered my coffee and was taking my jacket off that I noticed the bloke across the room leaning against the wall and smiling at me.  It was an old adversary from the High School.  Steve and I crossed swords on many occasions, but today we were very pleasant to each other and sat and spoke for about half an hour.  Possible we both breathed a sigh of relief as we shook hands and went our separate ways, but a stranger wouldn’t have seen it.

I made one more window shopping stop and this one was unintended.  I stopped to look in the window of a computer repair shop in Bath Street and saw a MacBook Air in the window for about half the normal price.  I guessed it was a refurbished model, but went in to check.  It was indeed refurbished, but the spec was good even if it was a bit long in the tooth.  Now that’s a idea I hadn’t considered before.  Since my MBP which I’m writing this on is now over eight years old, I know the longevity of the Apple computers.  That said, I’m still wondering if I’m just buying someone else’s problems.

Back home I downloaded the Rick Wakeman album from iTunes and Scamp was as delighted as me with it.

Later I went to get a PoD.  That’s what you see above.  It’s the view from the Antonine Wall, the Roman equivalent of Trump’s wall.  It was built by  the Romans to keep the uncivilised heathens out.  I don’t know who the uncivilised heathens are in america.

Tomorrow I’ve got coffee booked with Val and Fred.


  1. Electronic View Finder as opposed to the rear LCD screen. 
  2. Raw files are named so because they are not yet processed and therefore are not ready to be printed or edited.  They do, however give the purest image quality. 
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To the Manor Born – 14 April 2017

Actually Wimpole is an estate, not a manor, but ’estate’ didn’t make such a good title I thought.

JIC drove us all there in the morning, and this being Good Friday, there were already hundreds, if not thousands of people there.  Most seemed to have brought their 2.5 children with then.  I did hope there were an even number of families, otherwise it might become messy with that poor 0.5 of a child wandering around.  Got parked and Sim set off in search of the ticket office and managed, somehow, to get to the front of the queue.  Tickets purchased we went in search of the formal gardens.  Most of the other families with their 2.5 children in tow were taking part in the ’Easter’ Egg Hunt which had been cunningly renamed to Cadbury’s Egg Hunt so as not to offend any non-Christians while they searched for eggs.  I thought it was a petty and childish piece of semantics and, as my mum used to say, “That’s how wars start.”

It being early spring, there weren’t a great variety of different flowers in bloom, but the colours of the daffodils and tulips made up for that.  You can see a couple of shots of them above.  As well as flowering plants, there were also veg and fruit plots and it was good to see that many of the plants had been labelled.  I learned on our visit to Kew a few years ago to photograph the label as well as the plant.

The estate farm was quite interesting, but there were too many weans squealing around the place, so I was quite glad when we left.  Even more squealing and grunting was coming from the enormous pigs in the piggery.  It’s not until you see these providers of our bacon that you realise just how big they are. Just as we were leaving the farm, which thankfully is a real farm and not just a petting zoo, an old plane flew over, a biplane.  I thought it was a Tiger Moth, and when I got home and checked the reg, I found I was right for once.  So strange looking at it through the EVF (Electronic View Finder) because it looked as if the propellor was stationary.  Must be due to the refresh rate of the EVF.

I took some photos of the Wimpole Hall itself. It was very grand and enormous.  Such a terrible waste of accommodation.  How the other half live.  Even more astounding was the view down the tree lined avenue which appears to be about a mile and a half long.  Another demonstration of one family’s wealth.

Having said all that, it was a great day out.  A bit cold, especially when you weren’t sheltered from the wind.

Back home, Sim made Trinni Stewed Chicken while Scamp watched and made mental notes.  Chicken was lovely.  Much better than anything we saw the contestants making on Masterchef later.  However I did have a nice bottle of IPA to take the edge off the bald bloke’s “Oh Mate!” exclamations.

Vixen still doesn’t seem to take too kindly to male bearded strangers, especially if they are standing.  Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow we may be going to Hitchin for a walk round the shops in a quiet wee town.

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So, that was March – 31 March 2017

Fred requested a coffee meeting today.  Scamp and I had already planned to go out for lunch, but she convinced me to go and meet Fred instead, too readily for my liking.  She then declared that she was going shopping for some clothes and that was why she was foregoing lunch, we could always do lunch tomorrow.

While she was out I layered on some washes on a sketch I’d done last night.  It looked reasonable and I managed, what for me was a decent graduated sky.  It seemed no time until she was back and it was time for me to go meet Fred.

His real reason for meeting was because I had offered him a loan of a book on perspective, his new pet project.  Not easy perspective either, but the awkward Curvilinear Perspective as loved by M. C. Escher, although my own efforts are much more grounded in mundane reality than his were.  We sat and talked a while although he seemed a lot more politically motivated than usual.  He did however give me a quick tutorial on drawing noses. He’s really good at sketching faces, especially good at quick sketches and getting a decent likeness too.  I’ve just finished putting his ideas into practice and they seem to work.

After putting the Tories and Labour firmly in their place and decrying the traitors among the Greens we went our separate ways.  Him to Tesco for shopping, me to Lidl for shopping (and beer).  On the way back, I stopped at The Boathouse at Auchinstarry to go for a walk along the south bank of the canal out in the direction of Falkirk.  The path didn’t go anywhere near Falkirk, but turned off after a hundred yards and headed up towards Croy to an area called Nethercroy, through some old tall trees swaying in a strong wind.  I followed the path until I came to a gate where the notice warned that cattle would be grazing on the hill from the beginning of April.  I didn’t fancy meeting early arrivals and anyway, I wasn’t really dressed for hillwalking, so I turned round and went in search of interesting photos.

I’d already taken some pics as information for preparatory sketches with the aim of developing a larger piece.  It might work, it might not.  Saw some moss growing on some old stonework and got a few shots of that and caught some nice light with the 20mm lens on the M5 too.

When I looked at the photos back home in Lightroom, the moss shots were all disappointing.  Very unsharp and blurry.  The common factor in them all was an aperture of f7.1 which is pretty wide at the long end <Ignore this, everyone, it’s for my own benefit, so I don’t do it again!> I usually set f9 minimum for the 45-200 lens and that would have sharpened up the images so much better than f7.  Moral of the story, check your settings BEFORE taking the shot.  The M5 shots were fine.  Prime 20mm lens at f10 can’t fail!

Came home and found that Scamp had been very busy preparing an Un-Birthday dinner.  Portobello mushrooms with spinach and cheese topped with Parma ham, roasted under the grill.  Gammon steak with potatoes, cauliflower, cabbage and roast parsnips.  Same for Scamp, but without the gammon steak (obviously).  Pineapple snow with chilli sauce for pudding!  Absolutely perfect.  Now I know why she was so happy for me to go and meet Fred.

Tomorrow we may go and have the lunch we missed today.

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Flooers – 22 March 2017

You know as well as I do that when a flooer or even worse a bunch of flooers is the subject, then it’s been a lean day for photography.

Today was a particularly dour and cold day from the time we got up until the time we came home from salsa tonight.  As with all such days, there were bright periods.  Sometimes in the weather and sometimes in the day.  One such was going for a swim this morning.  We had both agreed that it was a sensible place to spend some time.  In the warmth of the pool, the steam room and the jacuzzi.  Not the sauna.  Apparently the sauna was broke.  Not broken, just broke.  I don’t know what was wrong with it this time, but it looks like it needs some *essential Maintenance*.

I like the *Enclosing Asterisks* because I just found out about it recently.  It’s called “Escaping the Asterisk” (notice I didn’t do it there – you can have too much of a good thing, you know) and there is a trick to doing it.  Because I write this blog in a language called Markdown where you can include symbols in the text to perform actions for you, there has to be a get-out for when you want to show the symbol without it performing an action – are we clear on that so far?  I didn’t hear any dissenting voices, so I will continue.  Right, the symbol for italics is the asterisk.  I typed the word asterisk there enclosed by two asterisks.  The problem appears when you want to show the asterisk.  To do that, you have to place a backslash (\) before the asterisk.  Still with me?  MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over) hasn’t set in yet? This tells the Markdown code to show the asterisk and not use it as as a modifier for the text.  Now the next problem is:
What if I wanted to show the backslash and the asterisk?  How would I do that?  Answers on a postcard please.

Anyway, to get back to the day.  We drove home and had some lovely chicken soup for lunch, then Scamp went out to source a pair of jeans while I messed around with a bit of painting.  I was just getting ready to go out myself when she returned without the jeans.  I drove down to the garage and booked the car in for brake and steering repair next week.  Tried to get some photos, of the snow covered Campsie Fells, but there was nowhere I was happy with the view, so I came home and photographed some flooers.  For dinner I made chicken and mushroom risotto and accidentally used too much butter.  Not healthy, just lovely.

Salsa was busy … with followers.  Only three leaders to start with so Scamp became a leader.  Thankfully more men arrived throughout the night and we ended up almost even. Setenta Tresario Dos and Malecon got us tied up in knots tonight.  Good fun as usual.

Busy day tomorrow with improving weather predicted.