Writing – 8 October 2020

So much writing today.

This morning I sat down to write to my brother. We communicate by email and send each other what we consider our best photos. It’s roughly an email every two months, but I’ve been especially tardy of late and realised with a bit of a shock that my last epistle was sent on the 25th of July. It being the 8th of October today, that makes it nearly three months. I’d a fair bit to tell him, because a lot has happened at this end in the intervening 75 days. It started with Good Morning Alex, and was finally posted with Good Afternoon Alex. He deserved the time. His photos this time were excellent. Another photog who has moved back to Canon from M43. I must admit that I like the Olympus cameras and the Lumix lenses and the light weight of the cameras. I also like the detailed complexity of the menu system that allows you to change almost every bit of the hardware, but I’ve never liked the 4:3 format. I much prefer the 35mm 3:2 format whether it’s full sensor or APS-C. I just think it looks better. Anyway, I finally posted the email with my contribution of images in the afternoon. I felt better after that.

Having been sitting around all day, I needed to get out and walked down to the shops to get some stuff for tonight’s dinner, but mainly for the walk and maybe a chance to grab some photos. I didn’t get the stuff for the dinner and I didn’t get any photos either until I came home. I saw the light shining through the yellow leaves of the chestnut tree outside our house and took some shots of that, but none of them really worked for me. Instead, while I was making dinner I was putting some fish wrappings in the outside bin where they wouldn’t smell the house and saw one of Scamp’s roses just opening and there was still enough light to grab a shot. That was PoD. The rose is Remember Me and it goes through some amazing colour changes from bud to fully opened.

Dinner was Mediterranean Fish Stew. Another one stolen obtained from JIC and Sim’s recipe book, and another winner. I’d definitely make that again.

Sketch prompt today was “Teeth”. I couldn’t decide what to draw that would reference the subject. Scamp suggested the teeth of a comb. I thought of a saw’s teeth. Eventually I just sat and doodled a face with broken teeth and there was today’s picture right there.

Tomorrow all the pubs and restaurants in Central Scotland will close at 6pm and remain closed until the 25th of October. We may go out somewhere, anywhere tomorrow to have a pre-lockout drink or a lunch.

Old Friends – 6 October 2020

I’d barely started to clean up my room this morning when Scamp noticed that she had a missed call

Crawford & Nancy had phoned to suggest a meet up today on Clydeside. Beautiful day, far too good to be clearing out cupboards, so we phoned back and said “yes” then were off to Rosebank. We were there first, so we booked a table, collected a buzzer and messaged the other two that we were had arrived and a table was booked. We went for a browse round the tat that always seems to be on offer in these places. Inevitably nothing caught our eye and we soon recognised the other masked pair arriving. Stood talking and getting in everybody’s way for a quarter of an hour or so before our buzzer buzzed and we were shown to our table. Food was good, better than the standard garden centre fare. Scamp had Mac ’n’ Cheese and I had Scampi. Everyone had chips with their meals. For what must be the first time, I had a really decent Americano in a garden centre. Usually it’s a teaspoon of coffee in the portafilter and half a gallon of water. This was real coffee. As good as my coffee, well almost. After the meal we sat and talked for another couple of hours. Eventually we were all talked out and said our goodbyes. I’m really glad Scamp noticed she’d that missed call.

We stopped at Mauldsley on the way home so I could grab some shots of the bridge and the gatehouse, aways a favourite of mine. Unfortunately because of the recent flooding there were a lot of industrial protective barriers up and there was no chance of the shot I wanted from the edge of the river looking up at the bridge and the house, so I had to be content with a shot from just over the bridge looking back at the house. I was shooting into the light which wasn’t ideal, but managed use the foliage of the trees to shield the lens from the worst of the bright sunlight. I spoke to a couple of blokes packing up after fishing. Apparently today was the last day of the trout fishing season and the river wasn’t really ideal with heavy and dirty water, still running off a spate. Drove home and it looked as if we just missed a heavy shower when we were just past Hamilton services, so maybe that fifteen minutes or so at Mauldslie had been a good choice.

Back home the photos looked good enough. Started working out how to interpret today’s prompt of “Rodent”. The rodent I was thinking about was a mouse, or to be more accurate, a bluetooth mouse. After about an hour of work I gave up on it and copied a Mickey Mouse from a piece of cloth I had in my room. That eventually morphed into what you see here. It’s not perfect, but it fits the prompt and that’s all that matters.

That was a really good day. A few hours spent with old friends just shooting the breeze and catching up. Plus, Scampi ’n’ Chips & Mac ’n’ Chips. What’s not to like.

Scamp is booked tomorrow for coffee with Annette. I think I will be continuing the clean up / clear out of the painting room, all being well. We’ll be listening intently to Nick the Chick’s latest proposals for a Circuit Breaker to halt Covid and hoping it has no unwanted implications for travel.

Another bright sunny day – 26 September 2020

It looks like the end of September is a bit of an Indian summer. Certainly better than this year’s Scottish Summer.

It was too good a day to waste, so we got ourselves kitted out with boots and wet weather gear, just in case, and drove over to Chatelherault (I managed to spell it this time without resorting to Google! Am I not clever!?). There’s a fairly big carpark there and it was already full when we arrived, but I didn’t want to park there anyway. The potholes are decidedly deep an I didn’t want to damage Blue’s delicate substructure. Instead, I chose one of the little carparks and found there were only about five cars parked there. People are so blinkered. They see the main carpark and think it must be better because it’s so busy. It’s not.

Boots and jackets on and with a walking pole each, we strode off towards the Cadzow Oaks. John had introduced me to them a couple of weeks ago and although the biggest one was cordoned off while they do some health checks on it and decide how best to support it, the slightly smaller ones were still magnificent enough to demand I took their photos. Because they are so large and so close to you, it’s difficult to get them all in without using an ultra-wide lens and I hadn’t brought one, choosing instead to travel light. Instead I took about 20 shots and knew I could produce a decent patch together later in the computer. For some reason the camera was over exposing everything and I couldn’t work out why, but, again, I could deal with that later too.

We walked on past the oaks and found a path that was climbing steadily along the side of the ravine that sloped down to the Avon Water. Nobody we spoke too could definitely say where the path led and how long it would take to get back to the visitor centre if we followed it. We decided to go back the way we’d come. Rather than just returning to the centre and inevitably going home, we extended our walk to take in The Duke’s Monument. I’d been there before and found it a forbidding and eerie place. Even today on a sunny afternoon it felt cold and unwelcoming. Coupled with the overexposure of the camera, the shots I took weren’t what I’d intended. I sat down and puzzled it out. On the E-M1 there’s a little lever, near the eyepiece that allows you to meddle with far more settings than are good for you. It was sitting in the ‘Meddle’ position and I’d been twiddling the wheels that should be marked ‘Screw up your settings here’. It was the work of mere minutes to repair the damage, but that didn’t fix the thirty odd photos I’d taken. I set myself a reminder to switch the bloody thing off when I got home, and after we walked the mile or so back to the car and after driving home, that’s what I did. I took great care to turn off that switch. I think that’s what I like about the E-M1. It’s so easy to screw things up, but there’s usually a way to put them right again if you know where to look in the massive menu.

Back home, sitting in the warm living room with the sun shining through the blinds, I had a Guinness and Scamp had a Pimms to quench our thirst after a long walk. Not as long as the walk two Saturdays ago, but with almost as many hills.

PoD was one of the Cadzow Oaks, reputed to be over 800 years old. They were growing when the Crusaders set off on the Fourth Crusade and when Genghis Khan invaded China. If they could speak, what stories they could tell.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for another good sunny day. We may go for another walk.

Cautley Spout revisited – 15 September 2020

Hoping for better weather

In the morning Scamp read at the house while I tried another sketch, a rough, from a different angle. As sometimes happens, the rough turned out better than I’d expected, and became a shaded pencil sketch. I may have to give up the 20mm long Palomino Blackwing and release it from its pencil extender. It’s worked hard since mid April!

In the afternoon the two hill walkers decided we should revisit Cautley Spout, but attack it from a different angle. It was a much better day than the last time, so we agreed to have a go. Parking was a lot tighter than at our previous visit, but after waiting in the Cross Keys carpark, we managed to grab a space. The Cross Keys is a Temperance Inn where no alcohol is sold, or allowed on the premises. I didn’t know such places still existed.

Today’s walk started in the same direction as the last one, but then made a change of direction, going left over a narrow bridge and on at an angle up the hill with a dry stane dyke on our left side as we climbed gently round the edge of the hill. Great views of the valley below and lots of rustling from beech trees as their leaves were turning more brown than green in the autumn sun.

No rainy coat today, in fact I’d to tie my jersey round my waist and continue on in my shirt sleeves, the weather was so calm and warm. I began to wish I’d changed to shorts instead of jeans. After an hour or so of tramping along a path that started off almost as a stream bed with water running down it. Then through a field of grazing sheep past deep pools of running water where Vixen demonstrated her love of swimming. Eventually though the path started to lose itself to a bog and we decided that after a tangerine each for sustenance, we should call it a day and walk back down.

Further down the path, Vixen had another swim in the bigger stream which is the run off from the waterfall. She was on a long lead and seemed totally at home in the water.

Scamp was cook tonight and Holy Cow Chicken Curry was hotter than we expected it to be. Nice Stone Oven naan bread to soak up the leftover sauce.

A good day. Glad we did the easier of the two walks, but the weather definitely helped.

The Teacher and the Teacher – 9 September 2020

Out after a quick coffee this morning to meet John.

Drove to Chatelherault to meet John. We were going for a walk in the Chatelherault Estate to talk about cameras, apertures, shutter speeds and the mysteries of ISOs. Things I’ve been using for years and years, but never really had the chance to explain to anyone. Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve talked about them to lots of folk, but very few of them listened. Even fewer understood a word I said. Someone said of photogs, that they could conduct an entire conversation using just letters and numbers. I’m not sure that’s entirely correct, but there is a semblance of truth in it.

We started off going over the Duke’s Bridge and on past Cadzow Castle which is pretty much a ruin now. It would appear that the restoration has hit a roadblock, judging by the fact that nature has more or less covered the scaffolding that was erected about ten years ago. John took us up to the Cadzow Oaks which are much more impressive than the ruined castle. They are reckoned to be over 800 years old and as someone commented, they look like how you’d imagine Ents to look in The Hobbit. They surround an area of earthworks that may have been the groundwork for a castle that would predate Cadzow Castle and may have been Roman in origin.

Ah, but we weren’t out to do historical stuff, we were there to take photos. The weather was mixed. While we were sitting talking beside the oaks the light was constantly changing, making it difficult to get any decent shots. That’s my excuse anyway. I tried to explain the basics of exposure, using the triangle of Aperture, Shutter speed and ISO. I don’t know if I covered it all that well and I’m sure I didn’t explain it as lucidly as I’d have liked, but it was a decent day, and we were out for a walk. While we were photographing leaves and moss on an old (not oak) log a woman stopped to comment on the shapes the lichen was making. She had a dog with her. A white dog with a face like a lamb. When I got home that’s how I described it to Mr Google and he informed me it was a Bedlington Terrier. We, John and I went for coffee and a cake before we parted company. He was determined to walk home, I was driving.

Got a bit of a fright on the M73 passing a Land Rover which was tootling along doing about 50mph while I was in the outside land doing a neat 70mph. Then the Land Rover started sliding across into my lane. Whoever was driving must have seen me at the last minute and swerved back into their lane as I took evasive action. In my rear view mirror I saw them indicate and fishtail onto the hard shoulder. Glad of the dash cam which caught the incident nicely! The clip is now downloaded just in case.

Dinner tonight was chicken stir fry made by Scamp of course. I don’t do stir fry. I won’t say can’t I can, just not as good as Scamp. After that we watched the final episode of Series 3 of Line Of Duty. Irritatingly, halfway through it I remembered how it ended. It didn’t detract from the build up though.

PoD was of ivy growing on the Juke’s Bridge at Chatelherault.

Tomorrow we may go to Glasgow, just for the run and the dash cam will be on!

27º in Scotland? – 31 July 2020

That just can’t be right, surely? Yet, that was what the thermometer in the car read. The outside temperature this afternoon was 27ºc.

We knew it was going to be hot today, but although we’d been warned, we just didn’t believe it until it happened. We’d decided that we would go out somewhere for a walk. We’d considered and rejected a few places. There was no point in going to the seaside because everyone would be going there. We finally settled on Chatelherault which was once the hunting lodge of the Dukes of Hamilton. Now it’s a country park in South Lanarkshire. Every time I go there I think it’s obscene that one family should have owned such a house in an enormous tract of land while others, the workers, were living in slum conditions with a tiny postage stamp of a garden to grow basic vegetables if they were lucky. Thankfully this building and its lands are now owned by South Lanarkshire Council and are open to everyone, even the scruffs from North Lanarkshire!

We chose a walk that we’d been on before, down through the gigantic pine trees with the Avon Water flowing below us. At the end of the walk we saw this view and it became PoD. It was good to see the ordinary folk staking their claim to some space in the sun on such a bright and sunny day. Actually it wasn’t all that sunny, but it was bright and warm and a clever bit of software changed the sky from milky white to summer blue with fluffy clouds. That’s the way it should have been anyway!

Once we’d walked “round the policies” as Colin would say, we drove home leaving a parking space for one of the eagle eyed visitors. Drove home and had lunch, then sat in the warm air of the garden for a while reading and listening to weans with their Drum ’n’ Bass ‘thumpy tunes’ as they walked along the footpath behind the house. Were we like that once? I suppose we were. Rebels without a clue. Found a little neon blue weevil in the grass and took its photo before it flew away to its next modelling assignment. Still don’t know exactly what it was.

Dinner tonight was a freezer raid for me. Butcher’s burger from January, butcher’s sausages from May, Waitrose liver from yesterday and an egg from a different butcher and half a portion of fried potatoes. A very mixed grill, but delicious. Scamp had trout fillet with the other half portion of fried potatoes. It was clouding over and attempting to rain by the time we were finished dinner and on to pudding (blackcurrant jelly and ice cream) and soon after that came a flash of lightning and the rumble of thunder. The rain became torrential and I think you could say the heatwave was over, but we did get 27ºc on the way home from Chatelherault.

Tomorrow the temperature is predicted to be a more reasonable 17º to 19º. Warm, but not crazy warm. We’ll see.

Off the leash – 28 July 2020

Scamp was off to a Witches housewarming and I was off the leash for a couple of hours.

Did a bit of shopping while Scamp was getting ready. Just the usual essentials, bottle of Prosecco, box of chocolates and a box of fancy biscuits, oh yes, and a box of Wheetabix, that was for me. The rest, or at least part of it was to go to the Witches party. Lunch for me was one of yesterday’s rolls with some cooked ham. Ham was lovely, roll was dry and cheuch (that means tough). Scamp was off to afternoon tea and Champagne. How the other half live, eh?

When Scamp was safely driven off to the party I settled down to clear up the painting room again. Hoovered most of the scraps of cloth from the floor, picked up all the little bits of black thread that get everywhere. Read a painting book to give me some inspiration – that didn’t help. Put away the sewing machine, started filling a bag with rubbish. I just couldn’t settle down to do anything. Finally gave up and went downstairs to fight with Luminar 4, a piece of software that’s main claim to fame is that it can fake a sky into a picture to persuade all but the most ardent pixel peepers that it’s real. Well, that’s what it did up until the last update. Now it’s become an expert beachball spinner. In other words, as usually happens with clever apps and even clever app designers, it has become top heavy in bloat and can produce really good effects if you’ve got the time to sit and watch the pointer turn into a spinning beach ball for five minutes every time you move the mouse. I’d have thought it would be easy to uninstall it and just reinstall the previous version, but apparently you can’t do that losing all your previous work. Emailing Tech Support doesn’t help, perhaps because they’re inundated with emails from people like me disgruntled at this ill thought out upgrade.

Now there’s a thing. The word ‘disgruntled’. The ’dis’ part usually means ’the opposite of’ as in disassembled or disagree. If that’s the case, is ‘gruntled’ the opposite of ’disgruntled’? Answers on a postcard please to the usual address.

Eventually I had to drag myself away from the computer and go for tonight’s dinner requirements. Walked down to the shops after leaving Scamp a message. Hoping afterwards that here eyesight wouldn’t have been too seriously damaged by a surfeit of champagne and cocktails to be able to read it. It wasn’t, she was back when I returned. Back with stories of the beautiful house with carefully colour matched walls, carpets, curtains and dog. If she changes the colour scheme for the house will she need to change the dog too, I wondered. Dinner was Chicken and Chorizo Jambalaya and it was good!

Actually did a fifteen minute sketch of a guy we used to meet at Salsa. Pencil sketch which was deemed pretty good by Scamp. PoD was a bunch of rowan berries on the back door tree.

Tomorrow looks like a reasonable day, so we may go somewhere interesting.

A walk in the park – 19 July 2020

The park in question was Glasgow Green. Long time no see.

Today at Scamp’s suggestion, we went for a walk along Glasgow Green. Simply ages since we’ve been down there, but today we did. We walked along to the McLennan arch. I can never remember whether it’s McLellan or McLennan. It’s definitely McLennan because I’ve just checked on Google so you don’t have to. Anyway, before I lose the thread, we walked along to the McLennan arch and from there along beside the river to the suspension bridge where eager joggers were running along it making it bounce. Always a source of amusement as long as you weren’t trying to take a photo with a slow shutter speed. I wasn’t, so it was funny.

Back home it was lunch time, then Scamp was off into the garden, weeding and pruning and generally plant bothering. I was struggling with Friday’s Sudoku. Friday’s!? I must be slipping. Eventually I gave up and wandered down to the shops via the wildflower area behind St Mo’s. Not a lot of insect life there today. A few butterflies and a ladybird that was determined to avoid the big man with the glass tube on a box. Couldn’t blame the poor thing. Imagine if you were being pursued by a giant carrying a glass tube and constantly poking it near you. That’s the stuff of nightmares. Or is that just me?
Anyway, I got the stuff I needed for pasta with meatballs. I’d made the actual meatballs earlier, a mix of pork mince and bacon which actually worked well.

Back home it was time to start making the sauce which was a basic marinara sauce same as I’d made last week. After cooking away for 40 minutes or so it was reduced enough and the meatballs were cooked. It tasted ok, but really needed something more to make it sing. Maybe a few more herbs or some spice to brighten it up. Maybe next time. Scamp has salmon with potatoes and a spoonful of my sauce. She wasn’t impressed with her salmon either. Maybe it was just us. Maybe it was just a bad day.

Pudding was “a sort of Eton Mess”. It didn’t sound all that impressive, but it tasted brilliant. Scamp as usual talking down her culinary expertise. Simple and tasty too.

Big test next. Will Scamp like the Sunday Coffee? I needn’t have worried. It got a definite thumbs up. Especial mention for the creamy foamed milk. She even bragged about it when we talked to JIC later. Found out that he doesn’t have to cool the boiler in his upmarket coffee machine because it has two boilers. One for steam and one for coffee. That explains it. Mine does the job for me and produces great espressos and has the ability to make creamy foamed milk too. You just as Scamp and she’ll tell you.

Apart from the walk in The Green today there wasn’t a lot going on, although I got a PoD which was the second shot I took and achieved about 15,000 steps and eight active hours. Didn’t do a sketch, will cover that tomorrow, hopefully. We may go out.

Rained again last night – 21 May 2020

Woke up this morning to wet pavements and just the hint of rain in the air. Scamp was delighted. The garden needs the rain.

By the time we were up, Scamp got a text to say her prescription was ready to pick up from the chemist, so off she went to collect it. I stayed home and flew a plane from Glasgow to Prestwick and tried to remember how to land it using ILS (Instrument Landing System). All the different planes I’ve got in my virtual hanger use different autopilots and trying to keep track of them all is difficult to say the least. Pilots may get exorbitant wages, but they certainly work for their money. It wasn’t the glorious success I hoped it would be. I also messed around with some oranges trying to get a suitable setup for Lockdown Library No 39 today, again with very little success.

Scamp arrived home with another clinking bag, but I forgave her, because there was beer in it this time as well as a bottle or two of wine. She asked me to bring down the last bag, and could I please see if the car, which was up the top of the road, would fit into a space she wasn’t confident in driving in to. It would, and I did and in the boot as a thank-you there were two new folding garden chairs. We’ve only had one chair for ages and have been talking about getting another. She had managed to get two new ones for a knock down price. Delighted!

After lunch I walked down to the shops and came home with a lavender plant for Scamp, a bee hotel for, well, for bees – obviously! Also an assortment of sweets because … well, do I need an excuse? If I do, then it was because it was a beautiful sunny day and tomorrow is looking like it will not be beautiful or sunny. Lashing rain and strong winds forecast. I got changed into a pair of shorts a tee shirt and a shirt and went off in search of photos. I got today’s PoD which was a little tree growing up through the leaf litter in the woods of St Mo’s. Caught a fleeting glimpse of a deer, but too fast and too far away for me to catch.

Came home and enjoyed a beer in the garden, then we had dinner in the garden too. Scamp had Cauliflower Cheese with Jersey Royal Potatoes. I added some grilled bacon to mine. Very nice sitting on our new chairs in the sun having dinner. Very civilised.

When it got too cool we went inside. While I was drawing and painting today’s topic which was Fruits, we watched ‘Glow Up’ on iPlayer. If you haven’t watched it, it’s a must see. It must be one of the most cringeworthy programs on TV. It’s a well tried format:

  1. Take a team of “I Want To Be On A Show” people
  2. Give them three tasks an episode
  3. Dump the weakest
  4. Repeat.

The ‘contestants’ are wannabe make-up artists and each one is more outrageous than the last. The “Judges” equally so. It’s a hoot! I recommend it to you.

That was about it. The “Fruit” turned out to be chopped up pieces of orange and I was fairly happy with the result. Viewable on Instagram or FB.

Title of today’s blog is the first line of the Tom Paxton song “The Things I Notice Now”. What do you mean “Who’s Tom Paxton?”

Tomorrow, as I mentioned, it looks like rain and gale force winds.

Two ponds in one day – 20 April 2020

It was a fair bit colder today caused by a strong east wind.

East winds are usually cold. They blow in from the North Sea which has no North Atlantic Drift (Wrongly called the Gulf Stream) to warm it up. It felt raw today, but inside with the sun streaming on through the front windows it was lovely. So lovely I didn’t want to shift too far from the couch, which is a bad thing really. Eventually had to move to get lunch. After that I was encouraged to go for a walk to allow Scamp some ‘me time’.

I chose to walk round St Mo’s, but I’m becoming jaded with its greenery, its swans and geese and even its trees which are starting to look very tree-like all of a sudden. I didn’t even take any photos there today. Instead I walked down through the underpass and on to Broadwood Loch. Unfortunately it was the same story as yesterday. Too many people in too big a group with only one brain cell between them. The paths are very tight in places and while some people give you room to pass, some of the dunderheids don’t know enough about social distancing or don’t care and just bustle past. Really, they shouldn’t be allowed out without a carer, a polis escort or at the very least, a man in front of them with a red flag. Cumbernauld! Where it’s not just the dogs that piss on the trees.

On the way back up over the green hill between the ring road and the houses where they are considering (Councilspeak for going ahead with) building yet more houses on the greenbelt. That’s where I found another wild cherry tree and took its picture. That became PoD. Hardly needed any post processing.

Watched Christine & The Queens tonight on YouTube on Fire Stick because it’s about ten times faster than using the Sony TV to do it. It all started with trying to watch the Stones on BBC singing in harmony(!) with each other from their homes, over some supposed video link that was as dodgy as the singing. At least it was funny, but the presenters, oh dear, the presenters. The Wood family. Just not up to the job I’m afraid. That’s what sent us to YouTube to find C&TQ, which was what we were looking for. Amazing performance from Glastonbury last year.

That was about it. Short dancing practise today. Tomorrow, probably longer one.