Not the best of days – 12 February 2019

Some days are good and some are simply bad. Today was the latter.

The tree in the garden that was trimmed yesterday doesn’t look at all like we thought it would. It may take some time for it to grow into itself again, but for just now it just looks a bit ugly. We’re both agreed on that and we’re both to blame for not making it clearer to Nicky what we wanted. However, like that awful haircut we’ve all had, it will eventually grow back. Unfortunately, trees take longer than hair to grow. We may make a bird box and fix it to the tree, at least then we’ll have something interesting to watch.

It’s always going to be a bit of a wrench having to go to another salsa class and now we have confirmation that the advanced class is to close in March. We’ve discussed it a lot in the last 24 hours and have come to the conclusion that it’s not just one reason for the lack of people, there are lots of reasons:

  • The class itself was becoming stale with long complicated moves that nobody in their right mind would attempt to dance in a club.
  • The Advanced class were always being merged with classes one or two levels below us. The constant merging of classes meant that the more advanced members were having to ‘tread water’ while newer, less experienced people caught up. When they did catch up, another class would merge in and the cycle would begin again. People simply didn’t want to pay for a class where they weren’t learning anything new.
  • Jamie is a great teacher, but only when he’s there. I realise he has other commitments with his work, but when he’s not there and less able teachers are taking his place, our interest suffers and some people, again, will move away.
  • There have been comments in class about some people, usually leaders, who are too rough and are injuring some of the followers. Scamp, herself has had a few bruises from these meetings. That is a definite reason for some of the followers leaving.

I really don’t know what the answer is, there may not even be one. We’ll try tomorrow’s ‘Advanced’ class. We’ll give it a fair test and it may be the salvation of Salsa in Glasgow. At least it will be with Jamie as a teacher.

I gave both our cars a quick wash and brush up today. They needed it, then when Scamp was out to lunch with Mags I hung out the washing and that’s where I saw today’s PoD! Scamp’s Christmas Roses are still in flower and are changing colour slightly. It looks like they are going to be sliding towards pink.

Today’s sketch is four Sugardrop tomatoes I spied when I was making paella tonight. A quick 40min sketch, but with decent technique and using a real brush, not a waterbrush for a change.

Tomorrow it’s dancing in the afternoon and hopefully dancing at night too.

Short back and sides – 11 February 2019

Nicky, the arborist, was coming today to give our rowan tree a short back and sides. He didn’t mess around.

He arrived just after 10am and got to work straight away. He trimmed all the low lying branches and then some of the higher ones that were easy to reach with his expensive Japanese draw saw (cuts on the back stroke, like most Japanese tools). The next thing I saw was him strapping himself into his climbing harness and throwing a climbing rope over one of the sturdy upper branches. After that, he was up, up and away cutting a swathe through the branches that overhung the garden. I think it was at this point that Scamp became nervous and began to wonder if going to hack too much away. However, like a half cut head of hair looks in the hairdresser’s mirror, you have to have faith in the expert wielding the scissors, or in this case, the Japanese saw. By the time it was finished, the tree looks a lot more open. Light will get through and so will the air. He assured us that the ‘wounds’ (his word) would heal quickly and encourage new growth. Like the new hairstyle, it will take a bit of getting used to, but in a few weeks it will look fine.

All that was left was the disposal of the cuttings. That was going to take a few bucket and bag loads, about half a dozen in fact and since I was going to the skips today anyway, it seemed a good opportunity to make good the fresh start. With that in mind, and after Nicky had left we set to with the loppers and chopped all the branches into manageable pieces, bagged them and I took them in the car along with the rubbish from yesterday to the skips. The world and his wife were there too, dumping rubbish. We really do live in a throw away culture. At least the tree cuttings could be chipped and composted. Not so the rubble and timber. That will probably go to landfill.

Best laugh of the day was when we were doing our final tidy of the garden. An old bloke was walking past on the path behind the garden when I turned to Scamp to ask if some old rotten wood was going to. He turned to me and said “Would you mind keeping your voice down. You nearly woke me there.” I looked and he smile, so I said in my sincere voice. “My apologies.” We both laughed and he walked on. Just a wee bit humour gets you through the day sometimes.

After I dumped today’s stuff in the skips, I took a drive over to Fannyside Moss and got today’s PoD. It was taken with the Samyang fisheye lens. Drove back via St Mo’s with some bread to feed the wildfowl, although the greedy gulls got most of it. I know you’re not supposed to feed them on bread, but they didn’t seem to get that memo.

There was sad news at Salsa tonight. Our dwindling class numbers have made it impossible to continue the 7.30 Advanced class which has been running for 10 years in the same time slot in a variety of venues. We have only four weeks left in it and then we may have to look at joining the 8.30 class on a Wednesday. It’s nowhere near as good a class and the 8.30 time isn’t ideal. We may have to look for pastures new.

Today’s sketch of the banana and lime was done while listening to Masterchef, but I painted it under the light of a daylight bulb in the painting room otherwise the grinding of my teeth at the inane comments of the ‘fat bastard’ Gregg Wallace would have upset Scamp.

Tomorrow Scamp is out to lunch and I may, just may take the bike out for its first run this year.

A sew sew day – 20 January 2019

Woke this morning and we couldn’t decide whether to go out or not. Not won.

It was a late start and we thought we might go to Glasgow Green for a walk, but then Scamp reminded me that the people’s palace would probably be closed and the winter garden would definitely be closed, so there would be no chance of a Sunday roll ’n’ sausage and a cup of coffee. No point then. What I eventually did do was get the sewing machine out and repair the pocket in a pair of jeans. I’d repaired the twin of this pair back in December using Scamp’s method. I’d actually repaired this pair earlier last year, but made a real pigs ear of it, so last night I carefully ripped out all the stitches and today I was going to repair it using the Scamp method. It’s the most elegant and simple way to repair a pocket in a pair of jeans. I’m not going to describe it here, but maybe I’ll put it online some time (that means ‘never’). After a lot of huffing and puffing, a fair bit of talking to myself and just a smidgin of swearing, the job was done. One pair of jeans saved from the tip.

By the time I was finished, the sun was poking through the clouds as the weather fairies had predicted it would, so I grabbed my camera bag, put on my good boots and went for a walk in St Mo’s. I’d hoped to get some shots of the St Mo’s deer, but they weren’t to be seen today. Instead, PoD was the twisted hawthorn bush by the wee pond. I just love the shapes of the branches, but today I had extra help from the sun shining on the mossy trunk and the golden colours of the larches in the background. Didn’t see anything else worth photographing until I was nearly home. I turned round for some reason and saw the moon rising, the super ‘blood moon’. It did look quite big rising behind the pines. PoD was still the twisted hawthorn, but you can see the orange/peach supermoon here. I’ve just looked out the window and at 10.30pm it looks like a normal, if bright, ordinary moon. It will become a totally eclipsed moon some time around 3am, but I don’t think I’ll bother to get up for that.

Spoke to JIC tonight and found out what’s happening down south and was delighted to hear that they were suffering sub-zero temperatures while we were basking in 5ºc today. It’s now -0.1ºc here, so maybe they will be basking tonight.

Off to bed soon because I’m expecting to teach 2 point perspective to Margie tomorrow, or more correctly, get Margie to draw a 2 point perspective cube while I watch and correct her.

The “Rat Man”cometh – 11 January 2019

Today we were expecting the “Rat Man”to call and hoping he’d call early so we could go out to lunch. He didn’t, he came in the middle of the day and spoiled our plans.

So the “Rat Man”came and found that the trap he’d put down in the back garden had not been touched, which we both found a bit surprising because we’d had a few nights without any rodents. However, when he checked at No 36 he found that all the poison he’d put down was gone. Maybe we’ve found the source of the problem. He’d put the poison down in the loft there and he suspected the access route was through a hole in the flashing at their gable end. Since their loft is at the same level as our upstairs floor, it seems there may be access from No 36 to our ceiling void. I’ll need to check that. When he’d laid down some fresh poison next door he came round and explained that as there was nothing to find in our house he was signing us off. I suppose that’s logical, but I will miss him, because I got fed up typing “Rat Man” for the blog and I created a Keyboard Maestro shortcut which would type “Rat Man” for me if I typed R M! He said that he’d be back to check No 36 again next week, but he’d drop in to see what progress we’d had. As a leaving gift, he gave me a couple of blocks of poison on a wire trace that he encouraged me to lob up into the ceiling void and check it next week by pulling it out with the wire. I took it and removed the blanking plate then lobbed it like he suggested and then replaced the plate. Now we wait and see!

<Technospeak>
With the coast clear, I grabbed the Nikon and a couple of lenses and walked around St Mo’s for an hour. It was only when I came back that I realised the aperture had been set to f22, which is a tiny wee hole letting very little light through. The camera doesn’t want to use a really slow shutter speed, so it compensates by using a very high ISO speed. High ISO speeds mean lots of digital noise which used to be called ‘noise’. It gives lots of tiny little coloured dots on the photo, especially noticeable in areas of flat tone, like the sky and on still water. All my photos had those tiny little dots. Despite my processing you can still see them in the PoD. Disappointed.
</Technospeak>

Scamp gave me a fright when she came back early from Tesco saying the car was making a ‘funny noise’. I feared the worst, but it turned out she had accidentally run over a tube of plumber’s mastic and the goo had covered one of her tyres. As she was driving it was curing and coming off in strands, banging against the wheel arch and making the ‘funny noise’. No damage done and after we’d taken it for a test drive most of it had rubbed off the tyre. Breathe again.

Tomorrow we may go to Hamilton for a curry if the weather is decent.

Out to Lunch – 29 December 2018

So, should we got to Glasgow? Should we go to Stirling? Maybe neither.

Instead of these two destinations we chose Cumbersheugh. To be exact, we went to Milano and Scamp was driving. Scamp had a massive bowl of mussels well coated in tomato and garlic. I had a pizza with Italian sausage. With Scamp driving, I could even indulge myself with a glass of wine while Scamp had the soda water and lime. After a delicious lunch (no sarcasm for once) we drove to Tesco for milk and walked out with three bags of various provisions, and the milk.

Once we got parked again and deposited the food, I took a couple of cameras for a walk in St Mo’s because we still had sunshine and blue skies. I found an interesting shot of the hawthorn bush you see at the top of the page. For once it didn’t take a lot of work to get a decent image out of it.

When I came home from St Mo’s tonight I drilled a small hole in the plasterboard wall in the back bedroom and dropped some poison mixed with sugar into the cavity. Let’s hope a spoonful of sugar will help the medicine go down. Murdo’s suggestion. Apparently the sugar entices the rodents to take the poison. We’ll see. Later I spoke to the woman next door at 36 and she has the same problems as us. She has the “Rat Man” coming to visit on the 3rd January and will direct him to us when he is done. Val says he had the same problem years ago and the only way he got satisfaction was to get everyone on the block to keep at the council until the problem was solved. That’s what we’ll have to do to.

Tonight we had our ‘essential’ Churros from my Boxing Day walk. Despite being a little less crunchy than ‘real’ churros, they were very tasty. Now watching “Guys and Dolls” and drinking Black Rum ’n’ Cokes. One each.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll take it as it comes.

Blue Skies and a Little Drop of Poison – 22 December 2018

Blue skies for a while today. Maybe Hazy was right, maybe this is Spring!

This morning, Scamp drove up to see what was left to buy in Tesco. The answer was “Not Much”, but she bought it anyway. I stayed at home nursing a sore throat. Heaven forbid I’ve caught her cold. When she returned it was my turn to go out. I drove out to B&Q and got some rat and mouse poison. If they are avoiding my traps, maybe it’s time to bring out the big guns. Chemical weapons, WMDs. I’m reluctant to use dirty tactics, but as someone said “They’re living in my house and they’re not paying rent.” So I baited the box and placed it in the loft secured by a couple of strips of duct tape. Have you ever tried using duct tape while wearing latex gloves? It’s not easy. If your mind drifts to more erotic images, forget it. This was fully clothed, in a cold loft, surrounded by itchy fibreglass insulation and a few mouse droppings. There, that should clear things up. Set another trap where I thought I heard the little blighter last night. I’ll leave the latest devices in place for a day or two before I check them again.

With my chemical weapons in the boot, I left B&Q and drove up the Arns Road. It’s a mile and a half of single track road with no passing places behind Abronhill. Lovely low angled light from a sun that was heading for the horizon and I managed to get a couple of shots of a new build house on a hill. One of the shots was out of focus, so luckily the other made up for it. Squirted it through Lightroom and it came out looking like the one at the top of the page.

Came home and after solving today’s Sudoku, it was time to get ready to go to J&M’s in Hamilton. Lovely dinner there and a chat with Laura who was home for Christmas. Unfortunately the effervescent Ross was otherwise engaged tonight, so no tall tales from him.

Left just before 10pm as Scamp was beginning to suffer from her cold again. I’m hoping I’ve sidestepped the worst of it, but just to be sure I’m having a little whisky nightcap while I write this with the option of a double dose of vitamin C afterwards.

Tomorrow all depends on the weather. Hopefully it will be like today’s morning and afternoon (sunny) and not like tonight’s drive to Hamilton and back (wet). It also depends on Scamp’s cold.

Balloon Dancing – 17 December 2018

We both had stuff to do, but couldn’t decide where we’d do it.

I suggested Silverburn, but this was swiftly removed because there’s not a bookshop there where Scamp can happily leave me while she’s off buying things. A bit like a creche for adults. Scamp suggested Braehead because there is a creche there called Waterstones. However, we finally settled on The Fort. Quicker to get to, with lots of shops and two creches. One called Waterstones and the other called Hobbycraft. The only thing missing was a Nero, but just this once I was willing to be a martyr and go to Costa instead.

With the destination settled, there was no time to waste, so we drove over to Easterhouse and finally got parked. It looked like everybody else had decided The Fort was the place to be today. Scamp got her essentials, I got a look round the bookshop and Hobbycraft and we had lunch in an absolutely jumping Costa. Five people working behind the counter, but only two tills in operation and a queue for an execution waiting to be fed. There must be a better way than this.

Drove home and had just enough time to get out to grab some of the fading light down at Auchinstarry which is where today’s PoD came from. Instead of walking west along the north bank of the canal, I walked east along the south bank. It’s only a short walk, but an interesting one that takes you round to Nethercroy which is quite an eerie place at gloaming. Got some photos and came home to a plate of Scamp’s excellent “Just Soup” for dinner.

Drove in to Glasgow for tonight’s end of year salsa party where Jamie G had laid on his usual manic hour of dancing and silly games. ‘Dancing in the Dark’ with glow sticks is now a well established party favourite, and ‘Steal the Hat’ is a Christmas standard. However, dancing with reindeer antlers, glow sticks and balloons is new and even better fun than you can imagine. Some moves looked so easy until you added in the balloons and the reindeer antlers. A fitting end to the year.

Tomorrow Scamp is off again to The Fort to meet Nancy and I’m hoping to paint.

Divide and Conquer – 14 December 2018

I was first out this morning which makes a pleasant change!

I went for a walk over to St Mo’s hoping to catch some low morning light, and almost succeeded. I should have been maybe half an hour earlier then I’d have got some better angled light, but the trees with the light behind them proved useful, and made PoD. By the time I got back, Scamp was already out and on the bus to Glasgow. I just had time to dump my photos and then head off for coffee with Colin.

The great thing about having three friends with totally different, but in some ways similar interests is that when we’re all together as a group of four, nobody really has a chance to dominate the conversation with their personal stories and it’s easy for everyone to chip in. The good thing about meeting one-to-one is that you get a more in-depth talk and sometimes a chance to air your opinion or grievance without interruption. Both setups have their advantages and disadvantages and are not mutually exclusive. Some days like yesterday when talking with Val, I pick up loads of information and also enthusiasm. Today with Colin where we share a history but not any mutual interest, it’s a totally different conversation that materialises. We talked about people we’d taught and met along the way. Colin is perhaps the most forgiving and also the least acerbic of the group. Me? I just try to stir things up until an argument ensues, then walk away with a smile. Usually I get caught, but sometimes I can still play ‘devil’s advocate’ and get away with it. Not today though, Colin’s too long in the tooth for that. Parted after an hour and a half and I drove in to Glasgow to meet Scamp for lunch while Colin drove home.

Met Scamp and walked down to Paesano for lunch. The place was jumping, but since we only needed a table for two, we easily found a space at a bench. Bloke next to us just had his pizza delivered and was about to start in on it when it was just as quickly whisked away. It wasn’t his. We began talking and when ours were delivered I was about to offer him a slice when his own came. He made a very strange comment that I wouldn’t have considered making to a stranger. He turned to me and said “You don’t wonder why our generation is totally screwed when you listen to the two on my right.” The two in question were two obviously gay men and although I couldn’t hear their conversation, he obviously could. I gave a rather noncommittal reply and he continued with his lunch. I don’t know what his agenda was, but as far as I’m concerned, they can live their life as they please. “They’re not asking me for the money” as my mum would say. Live and let live has become my motto.

After lunch Scamp and I split up and went our own mysterious ways and met up again at the car.  You see, you can spend even more money if there’s two of you doing it.  That’s what Xmas is all about.  Nothing at all to do with Christmas.

Drove home in the gathering gloom and the lowering temperature. Weather tomorrow looks grim with rain, sleet, snow and freezing rain forecast. All blown in on a strengthening wind. We had planned on going to Embra, but that has now been shelved for a better day.

Today I hit my target – 6 December 2018

I went for a walk.

Feeling a lot better today, managing to beat the 30min gap between toilet breaks. After lunch I decided that I’d easily have enough time to walk over to Condorrat. Well, I did it. That probably doesn’t seem such a great achievement. I’d have thought so too, but for the past couple of days I’ve been feeling knackered and also getting a bit of cabin fever.

Scamp is becoming the driver of the family. She drove up to Carrickstone to pick up Shona and then they went for coffee in the town centre. There they split up because Shona was going to Ben’s school and Scamp was going home.

Just to prove that I’ve actually been Thursday Prezzy hunting in Condorrat, today’s PoD is of two birds in a tree (not a Christmas Tree!).

Tomorrow looks windy and I’m losing so much weight with this enforced dieting, I’m a bit worried I’d blow away if I went for another walk! Hoping for another improvement.

Bad Loser! – 19 November 2018

After breakfast we sat in the warm sun in case it would disappear. It didn’t.

We sat in the sun for most of the morning. Later when it appeared that the sun was staying with us for the day, we went swimming. I swam in both the pools. One was cold and the other was warm by comparison, but not by absolute temperature. Some people who waded in to the ‘warm’ pool thought it cold! This was the pool with the bar and the underwater bar stools. All it lacked today was a barman. He was otherwise engaged clearing tables and serving drinks in the other bar outside the pool.

After lunch Scamp went sunbathing I went looking for dragonflies. I thought I’d seen one yesterday when I was coming back from the lava fields. I didn’t find any dragons, but got a few shots of a Brimstone butterfly photos. I wished I’d brought the Oly M5 with the macro lens, but you can’t have everything. The Teazer and the iPhone were doing sterling duty as default image grabbers. Thought I saw a young fox, but it turned out to be a feral cat.

Later we went for a walk and got then wrote postcards. Couldn’t find a postbox, so that’s tomorrow’s task.

Watched a beautiful sunset this evening. Lovely colours and massed clouds with the sun finally going down behind some palm trees just outside Los Pocillos. That became PoD.

We had forgotten to bring our usual assortment of games, so I bought an UNO card game. Scamp won five games in a row against my none! Not a happy bunny! Sitting in the covered area with the flame heaters on.

Tonight’s show was about dance. Quite funny and enjoyable. Lady in Red sketch was memorable. Drunk woman at the end of the night was not funny! Not Scamp I hasten to add!!