The Wall – 20 January 2020

In the afternoon I climbed it and I photographed it. In the evening I hit it.

Gems were in today, as with all Mondays. I had some things to do, and thankfully I have a good pair of headphones, so I could drown out most things that bother me. They also worked on Gems. With the essential stuff done, I grabbed my camera and went for a run in the Juke.

For reasons best known to themselves, somebody has blocked the road to the Antonine Wall. It’s a dead end, but there is a neat little lay-by where I can leave the car while I walk the Antonine Wall. Now I’ve got to leave the car by the side of the road about 200m away. PITA. It’s still possible to walk round the obstruction, but not to drive past it. I wanted to get some photos from the Antonine Wall, but I’d the wrong footwear for the boggy ground, so I restricted myself to climbing part of it and using a fence post as a prop to support my Beadbag™ which would in turn steady The LBJ, which was today’s camera of choice. Got a few photos and one accidental post-focus video. Gave up after that because the light was rapidly disappearing.

Back home the accidental post-focus shot actually produced the best set of photos and that’s what created today’s PoD. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea of the area and the wall.  This shot was taken from the south side of the wall.  The rampart on the north side is much higher to keep out the wild Picts and Scots. I needed a brighter day with better lighting for a better shot.

After dinner we went off again for another visit to the world of dance. Today’s topic was Waltz, but first, one of my most hated sequence dances, the Saunter Together. It really pains me to say that I felt quite comfortable dancing this little bit of fluff. That’s no’ real dancin’! Tonight’s moves were the first half. Next week we got part two. I can hardly wait 😒. Next was the Waltz and I did quite enjoy it. We very nearly got it right twice. That’s an improvement.

The second half of the night was Tango. We’ve attempted it a couple of times with no success. Tonight it was awful. I felt just so far out of my depth. All those fiddly little steps with kicks and flicks thrown in for good measure. Halfway through the lesson I just hit the wall. Enough! I never want to dance another Tango in my life. I could happily have torn off the uncomfortable dance shoes, thrown the dummy out of the pram and gone home. Except, Scamp was enjoying the dance and really looked good dancing it with the teacher. Maybe if I ask her nicely, Scamp that is, she’ll guide me in the general direction of competence. Maybe I’ll master it in the week I have before the next lesson.

Finished off with the Blue Angel Rumba which I’m almost managing. It just takes a different mindset from Salsa. It’s all about the feet and the hands just float about. Salsa is all about the hands and the feet just keep you moving.

Tomorrow the weather looks cloudy and grey. No plans yet.

Brendan Blunders In – 13 January 2020

Do these weather chappies think if you give a storm a ‘human’ name, it makes it less scary? Somebody should tell them it’s not working.

Today’s storm was named Brendan and it was a stoater. It blundered around, knocking down bins and firing the rain in your face when you weren’t expecting it. It was just an awful day. I don’t like the high winds. I don’t like thunder either. Maybe it’s the noise, I’ve never thought about it really, but I never did like high wind or thunder. I don’t mind rain or sleet or snow. They’re really just different varieties of the water that falls on you after all. Despite all that I took myself out in the wind and rain that was Brendan to get a photo or two and a writing pad. As it turned out I got four photos, all of trees blowing in the wind. All pointing straight up. All with a really slow shutter speed. None with the camera resting on the Beadbag™ which was designed for such a situation! Needless to say one of those shots became PoD.  It looks as if its been converted to mono, but it’s actually just a combination of the contrast and the dull day that leaches away all the colour.

Have you ever tried to buy a pad or writing paper. Nobody seems to write letters anymore. Yes, you can buy envelopes in all sorts of colours and sizes, but no writing paper to make the letters to put in them. I tried all the shops in our new retail park and not one of them had writing paper. A reporter’s notebook was the closest I came. I dare say email had put paid to actually writing to people. Finally I tracked down a writing pad at a wee newsagent’s in Condorrat. I’ll use it carefully and then store it somewhere safe, for the next time I need to write a letter.

After dinner we drove up to the Town Centre to go to ballroom class. Tonight we were tackling Waltz Across Texas as a sort of warm up, then it was into the waltz proper. The routine we’d started to learn last week. This time Scamp filmed the whole routine, both the ladies and the mens parts. The second hour was foxtrot. Neither of us had ever done foxtrot before, so this was all new. I think we may have about 75% of the routine in our heads now. It’s just the part where we teach our feet how to actually execute the moves that we need to perfect. We did also find a ‘bad part’ of the dance floor where we always got things wrong. I think we should mark that area with red spray paint to make it easier to avoid, and therefore make fewer mistakes. After Mr Fox’s Trot we reprised the Blue Angel Rumba. One of the expert couples even offered to take us through it and that made it a lot clearer. We have a video earmarked on YouTube for that one already, so it just needs a bit of careful watching to identify the individual parts, then they should be easier to join together. I think also I need a new pair of dance shoes. The ones I have keep making the same mistakes over and over.

Tomorrow it’s coffee with the guys. Scamp’s out with Annette in the morning for coffee too. I think we both need some adult conversation!

Hooray the sun is working today – 8 January 2020

A lovely change from yesterday. The sun was shining.

OK, it only lasted for about an hour, but even as the first raindrops fell, the sky was lightening again in the west. Another day when it would be wise to go out and have a walk in the sun. Scamp’s first suggestion of Muiravonside was the one that we chose. It’s years and years since we’ve been there and according to the satnav it’s only about 13 miles away.

Drove through rain and sun, but the Juke didn’t seem to be in a good mood today and also the mileage was only reading about 36mpg. Maybe JIC was right about the tyre pressure being the problem. I might check it tomorrow. It was sunny when we arrived, but the wind was quite strong over in the east and it was a cold wind too. Walked around one of the easy walks and then through the farm. Just a kids farm really with lots of birds and smaller animals to see, as well as some big fat pigs, a couple of highland cattle and also a couple of horses. After that we walked down to the river and that’s where I got today’s PoD which is the River Avon which begins its life strangely enough near Fannyside where I was on Monday. It was the Nikon that took the photo.  I was carrying both Nikon and Oly cameras, but I was surprised at how little I remembered about setting up the Nikon.  I couldn’t even remember the shortcut to format the disk.  Must be getting too used to the little Oly and Pana cameras that make everything so easy. On the way to the river we passed a load of apple trees growing beside the path, each one with its own little name plate on a wooden post beside it. Scamp was quite pleased to see a James Grieve. It was a bit younger and straighter than ours. Hope it fruits as well as ours. It was a steep path down to the river, but we didn’t really notice until we had to climb back up again. We were a bit out of breath after the climb.

Drove back and I thought I might have a chance of a photo or two in St Mo’s after a late lunch, but the clouds rolled in in earnest and the rain started again, so I left it for another day and went to collect my pills instead.

An email has just come in as I’m writing this to say that I’ve been fully reimbursed for the purchase of ON1 2020.  That was much quicker than I expected.  In the morning, I’ll check if the money is in the bank.

I think we’re both agreed we’ll go back to Muiravonside again, all being well. Tomorrow looks clear and cold again with just the chance of some showers, so with a bit of luck and good timing we may manage another walk in the sunshine.

A bargain perhaps – 19 December 2019

One of those days when nothing seemed to happen.

Scamp went out to Tesco in the morning for essentials of the season. Shortbread and wrapping paper and stuff. I went out to B&Q and got a planter for her spring flowering bulbs. While I was out I parked at St Mo’s and went for a quick walk around the loch. The lighting was decent, but nothing great, much like the day. The sun stayed low all day and seemed to be having a problem cutting through the light cloud, resulting in a low amber coloured light. PoD was a trio of trees in silhouette.

Spent about an hour trying to finance Scamp’s game playing with a Google Play gift card, only to find that I’d paid it into the wrong account. Why do they make it so difficult and complicated.

Drove Scamp through the traffic jam of busses and cars taking weans home early from St Mo’s school. Christmas holidays have started in earnest. Scamp was going to Jeanette’s for Afternoon Tea, not High Tea as I described it yesterday. My mistake. I decided to go the long way home partly to avoid the traffic jam round the school and partly to see if there was anything more interesting to photograph. There wasn’t.

Wrapped up some secret stuff while I wouldn’t be disturbed and frittered away some more time on-line. That’s when I noticed an offer from ON1 reducing the price of version 2020 by a tenner. That sounded like my kind of offer. I’d been hoping they’d reduce the price over Christmas and New Year, but wasn’t sure. Paid the money and am now the owner of Photo RAW 2020. Not the “Happy” owner, just the owner. Some of the rough edges of the software are still there. The supposedly non-destructive editing isn’t exactly as it says on the tin. Most things are, but unless I’m missing something, there are elements that are still destructive. It’s certainly faster than the 2019 version. Much fewer ‘spinning beachballs’ and if they stick to their previous plan of removing the rough edges as the year goes on, I’ll forgive them.

Scamp texted to say she was getting a lift home from Annette who, like me is finding her Juke is more thirsty recently than she’d been led to believe. I imagine the cold weather means the car needs to run on ‘choke’ for longer than in the summer. I think we should just do away with winter and have Spring, Summer and Autumn. Returning to Spring after that. I’ll suggest it to Boris and I’m sure he’ll consider it in his next manifesto.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow, just for the fun of it!

Sun worship again – 15 December 2019

The sun came out to play today and so did I.

Late rising this morning again because it had been a late night last night again. After talking to Hazy in the morning, and trying to remember details of The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, we had breakfast. All the while the sun was getting higher in the sky and after breakfast I simply had to go out and get some photos.

The LBJ was a bit tired (like me), so I plugged it in to charge and took the E-M1 with a zoom and the old EPL-5 with the fisheye lens and trotted off round St Mo’s. Fed the ducks and grabbed a couple of shots of a goosander and a mallard then went for a walk in the woods.

Found lots of tiny little fungi, smaller than my pinkie nail, but couldn’t quite keep them in focus. Finally moved on and got some shots looking straight up with the fisheye, the reason I’d brought it! Then I noticed the light coming through the trees and took a few of that with the same lens.
Finally headed for home where Scamp had put the coffee maker on! Thank you so much S.

After an initial look through the photos, and assuring myself there was a PoD in there, we drove in to the Byres Road to the Record Factory where music was playing, the DJ was there, but there were no dancers! Eventually Scamp and I filled the floor by ourselves and gradually, very gradually, people started to drift in. The new area for dancing isn’t nearly as big as the one we were used to in the Record Factory, but at least there are no cross-head screws sticking out of the floor! By the time we left there were about 10 people, not ten couples, just people there. Maybe it was the cold tonight, maybe there were Christmas parties on, whatever, there weren’t may people wanting to dance salsa. Plenty of cars parked everywhere, we had been lucky to get a space. Don’t know what the problem is.

Dinner tonight was a plate of soup then custard and prunes. Not a banquet fit for kings and queens, but perfectly adequate which amused JIC when he phoned.

PoD is the shot of the mallard with the lovely reflections.

Tomorrow is Scamp’s Christmas party for Gems, so I’ll probably help with that and then go somewhere quieter.

Over the Forth on the Fifth – 5 November 2019

Yesterday was Gems day. A Tuesdays is rapidly becoming our day.

It was a lovely morning and we decided we had to go out and enjoy it. Scamp suggested Kirkintilloch and I suggested Dunfermline. Scamp then said that was her second choice and we’d go to Kirkie on our next free day, so Dunfermline it was.

The River Forth was shining beautifully when we drove over the Kincardine Bridge. I was tempted to stop, but I’d proposed Dunfermline and while Scamp wouldn’t have complained about me taking a diversion, I thought I’d better stick to the plan. We parked just at Pittencrief Park and had a walk round the park in beautiful light shining through the trees and lighting them up. Found today’s PoD there too. A genuine fairy toadstool. The notorious Fly Agaric. Look but don’t touch unless you want to wake up in hospital, or never again.

The walk up through the town was less photogenic. Boarded up shops and more than their fair share of charity shops. It was like an outdoor version of the Cumbersheugh Town Centre. Good enough for coffee and a bit to eat though. After that we just walked back to the car, via M&S for Scamp and Waterstones for me.

As we were driving home the clouds seemed to be gathering, but I don’t think they were serious about it because the forecast is for sub zero temperatures tonight because of the clear skies. Also, as we reached the Forth again on the way out of Fife, with the low sun the river was shining again. I resisted the temptation again.

Practised the Fearsome Four Jive moves for tomorrow and I seem to have a finger hold on them at last. I’ll let the little grey cells work on them overnight and file the successful method away for further reference. Tomorrow morning we’ll try again and all will be well, I’m sure.

That was about it for today. A lovely day, most enjoyable. Tomorrow, hopefully, we’re dancing again.

Sunny Coatbridge – 289 October 2019

Beautiful day. Too good to stay in.

Stayed for a while to talk to Margie and cause ructions in the Gems group, then did as I suggested I would yesterday and made a sharp exit.

Since we are taking June to get her eyes checked on Thursday, it made sense to do a quick recce of Coatbridge. I was pretty sure I knew where I was going, and I was right. More importantly, I found where the parking was. There’s not a lot of it in Coatbridge and most of it is either owned by Asda or NLC education department, neither of which I trust with the Red Juke. I’m sure there are other more secure parking places near the building. Google will know, even if I don’t.

Since I was in Coatbridge, I thought I’d have a look at the grand building Clive and I had investigated on Google Maps. It took a bit of finding, but today with the sun shining on it, it did indeed look very grand. It also looked like the original building had been there for a long time. I don’t know how much of it IS original now, but it looks expensively refurbished. Didn’t want to risk taking photos of it for fear of security taking an interest in me. Maybe another day. On the way there, I discovered that Coatbridge has a cricket club. Who would have thought that?

On the way home I stopped at St Mo’s and that’s where I got the PoD.  I just thought the nearly naked tree looked a great shape against that bright blue sky.  Later I though about straightening up the slope of the grass, but eventually decided it looked ok like that.  I must look next time and see if it really does slope.

Back home and after dinner we set off for Glasgow and Salsa. Tonight we learned that New One No 2 is now called Timber. Named after a snake I believe! Jamie G also tried to reinvent a couple of moves from last week. The first one, a Rueda move, he decided could be extended to run infinitely. It caused a fair bit of confusion. The second one which might or might not have a name could be converted to a follower’s move according to him. I don’t know if many of the followers or any of the leaders managed it.

Today the demand was for a sketch of coins or dosh or smash or loose change. I had to cadge some extra spondoolicks to bolster my meagre collection, but then, it is nearly the end of the month.

We have plans for tomorrow, but only if the weather fairies behave. It’s 1.2ºc just now, so we’ll have to be well wrapped up.

A Morning Walk – 27 October 2019

We hadn’t been for a Sunday morning walk for months.

We drove over to Colzium estate for a walk among the trees. They have the most amazingly coloured Japanese Maples. I’d forgotten just how many there were. Unfortunately the place was looking a bit run down. The bandstand must have been bad because it had been put in a cage, or maybe it was just falling down. Loads of trees blown down and some looked as if they’d been there some time. The curling pond was almost completely silted up. The trees that were still vertical were magnificent, but the rest of the park was looking very sad. Such a shame. I did get today’s PoD which was a blob of moss growing in a crevice of the old road bridge at Colzium.

After lunch, Scamp walked down to the new shops to get some ‘messages’ and when she returned she reported that it wasn’t as cold as she’d expected. That gave me the impetus I needed to get out myself and have a walk over St Mo’s. With the clocks going back this morning, the days seem to become a lot shorter and this is most obvious in the late afternoon. I’d a photograph in mind and it relied on bright sunlight from a low sun. I almost caught it in one shot, but I think I missed the perfect time by a few minutes. Maybe another day. I’ll use either PhotoPills or The Photographer’s Ephemeris to work out the exact timing for it next time. Great apps, they allow you to find the optimum time for directional lighting anywhere in the world. They even work with light striking along a path in Kilsyth!

I was making dinner tonight and it was Chicken Cacciatore from one of Scamp’s cookery books. It was a bit fiddly to make, but it tasted very like her’s, so I must have made it right.  On the subject of food, today my Inktober list said “Bread”, but I included a glass of wine in the background. Then I drank the wine, which was perhaps a mistake on so many levels.  I could say that I’d baked the bread myself, but in fact it was a Warburtons Multi Seed and Grain and does taste just like home made.

Spoke to JIC at night and got the full story about the dummy interview he’s sent us. We both thought he’d managed the interview really well. Although we could see that he was taking the whole thing very seriously, he did inject a bit of humour too. A scary thing to volunteer for, especially knowing it was being filmed. Well done you!

Stayed up late to watch an ‘eventful’ Mexico GP. It’s amazing to listen to the drivers’ versions of events which vary greatly from the actual scenes you’ve been watching.

Tomorrow (or to be more exact, Today) is Gems day. I’ll make a sharp exit.

A rather lazy day – 20 October 2019

I only completed 4 out of 8 of my active hours, but I did complete my 10,000 steps.

Half my order from Amazon dropped through the letterbox in the morning. After a bit of a struggle and a cautious paring away of part of the SD card and SIM carrier, everything fitted and the storage memory was installed in the new Samsung. Then I spent most of the afternoon trying to find out how to download the default ringtones from the iPhone without any success. Finally gave up and went for a walk.

Walked around St Mo’s for an hour to clear my head. Took a few arty shots, but I liked them. Found the chestnut tree had disgorged it’s autumn load of chessies. You may call them Conkers if you’re English, or even Chestnuts if you’re not from the UK, but to me they will always be chessies, because that’s what we called them when I was wee. Playing chessies at school was a great way to keep warm, and to arrive in the classroom with bloody knuckles. The twelve I brought home were destined to be PoD. Later they will overwinter in the little greenhouse and then hopefully be planted in the spring when the world warms up again.

After much soul searching between us, we finally decided to go dancing tonight and although I was brain-dead as far as moves were concerned and I also had a sore back, I did enjoy the exercise. Walking back up Bucky Street my Fitbit buzzed to tell me the 10,000 had been completed. Always makes you feel good, that.

Got home to find another parcel waiting for me. The last two bits of yesterday’s order. The new phone now has a new jacket to keep it warm in the winter. After a late dinner, we spoke to JIC and it was during the phone call that he said when referring to the ringtones, “Somebody must know how to get them.” That set me thinking. Perhaps I’d been tackling this problem the wrong way. What if somebody else had had the same problem, but they had found the solution. And so it was that some smart American in 2010 had not only found the solution to downloading the standard iPhone ringtones, he or she had also gone and Zipped them into a neat little file and posted it on the Internet. Hooray! It was the work of about ten minutes to unzip them, upload the necessary ones to the new SD card in the phone and install them. Brilliant. An afternoon wasted, but a result!! Thank you JIC for the advice.

Today’s topic for sketching was “A Camera”. I think Scamp laughed out loud when I told her. “Which one will you choose” she asked. There’s a famous photogs saying :

The best camera in the world is the one in your pocket

In my case it’s got to be, either the TZ70 or the iPhone. Both immediately accessible but the TZ70 (Codename Teazer) just wins with its super zoom and the ability to shoot in RAW. That’s the sketch done.

Tomorrow is Gems day. Time for a sharp exit for me.

Another day not wasted – 17 October 2019

Today we had decided we’d go out somewhere again. I chose where today.

Out fairly early and I thought I knew how to get to Rouken Glen in Glasgow, but I came off the M77 one slip road too early and ended up having to program the sat nav and drive through a cluster of roads I’d never been on before. Next time I’ll trust the sat nav and not my intuition. Got there after a grand tour of the South Side. Found a place to park, squeezing into a space in a car park that was designed for about 300 cars, with only about 20 actual cars in it.

Scamp wanted some crocus bulbs to plant in the front grass. It’s not a lawn, it’s not a green, it’s front grass. She planted some last year about this time and they looked lovely in little groups in the springtime. The first packet, in fact the only packet I saw on the rack was called Dorothy. Bright yellow crocuses. Very fitting in view of our visit to Ayrshire last week, so we took them. Also got a packet of loose crocus bulbs in what we hope were mixed colours. Scamp also got a pot of mixed, real, heather. They also had imitation heather which looked real, but wasn’t as interesting as the real, real heathers we got. I got a kit for growing chillies. Finally, we got an oval planter which was great for carrying all the other things. We put them in the Juke boot and went for a walk, because, although we had driven through a few rain showers on our way to the South Side of Glasgow, it was fine now and the sun was shining. Walked around the park and admired the trees in leaf. It was one of those trees, a Hornbeam that made PoD. Try as I might, I couldn’t get rid of the flare from the sun, so I just had to accept it and I now think it looks ok. I did manage to use my adaptable lens hood to good effect later in the walk.

Loads of folk had arrived while we were walking and there must have been about 30 cars now in that big car park. It seemed that most of them had disgorged weans and dogs, because they were everywhere. Many of the weans were gathered under big spreading Chestnut trees picking up chessies or conkers if you’re English. Anyway, great fun was being had by all.

We had a quick lunch in the garden centre. Soup was good. Cakes were excellent but coffee was dire. I think the espresso machine was only there for show. I’m certain my coffee came out of a jar, not a bean. There was certainly a degree of sleight of hand in its making.

Drove home and just as we were getting out of the car, the rain appeared and stayed on and off all afternoon. Scamp didn’t even get her heather planted, but I expect she will tomorrow.

Today’s topic from my Inktober list was “Crumpled Paper”. Crumpled paper may sound simple to draw, but it a difficult subject to draw in ink. With pencil you can add a bit of soft shading. That’s not really possible in ink, especially if you’re just using ink. I could have used a water brush to soften the edges of the lines and give a bit of tonality, but I decided not to and to draw with pen only for a change. This is the result. Parts are good, parts are not. That’s just the way it is sometimes.

Scamp had dentist in the morning tomorrow. We may go in to Glasgow later, depending on the weather and the denture situation.