Fort Apache – The Bronx – 5 October 2018

Today we went to the Fort. No longer Fort Apache.

Just went for a run, because we had nowhere else to go today. A few hours of retail therapy without too much expense. Also needed to clear my head and find something to draw. As it happened, I found something to draw on instead. Last year I discovered a lovely A5 landscape format sketchbook in Paperchase. It was only £3, half price. I presume they weren’t selling well and that was the reason for the price drop. Paper was good although it didn’t take a watercolour wash very well. Still, it was fine for pencil and ink sketching. Best of all, it was ‘stitched bound’ which means the book opens flat. Perfect for long perspective sketches. I went back to see if they had any more, but they were all gone. I’ve kept checking in the Glasgow shop to see if they got any more in, but all their sketchbooks now are wiro bound which is hopeless for what I want. Today I went in to Paperchase at the Fort and found two A5 hard backed landscape sketchbooks. I bought them on the spot. If only I’d looked there last year I wouldn’t have had to skimp with my last few pages in the one I had. The only problem was I had to pay full price for them. A small price to pay, if you pardon the pun.

After that we went to Morrison’s and bought it, just as we sometimes buy Tesco. Went in to get fennel and fish and came out with a trolley load of stuff. Then we tried to find our way home through the labyrinth that is the new motorway ‘system’. Finally found myself at a roundabout I recognised and from there it was easy. Up until then it had been a nightmare because the Juke’s sat nav didn’t have the new roads in it. £125 for a new SD card with an updated map? I don’t think so.

Came home and went for a walk in St Mo’s where I found the fungi PoD. Quite liked it, even if the ISO was a bit high and so was the grain.

Left the sketching too late and was left with a poor drawing. I must try to get things done a bit earlier tomorrow.

Tomorrow? Don’t know. It looks like it will be the better day of the weekend.

The blank page – 2 October 2018

It’s always this way with Inktober. The first day is fine, then the second becomes a blank page and a blank look.

Decided there was no point in worrying about having nothing to draw, something would turn up, it always does … doesn’t it? Well, it did and it was in the form of two different USB plugin chargers. Not the most aesthetically pleasing objects, but where would we be without them these days? They would have to do. Sat them on my drawing board in the back room and sketched them. I had half an hour to get a quick sketch done while Scamp was out at Tesco. No watercolour today because one of the chargers was black and ugly and the other was white and smooth. No need for any fancy colour, just a pen, a brush pen and a paint brush. Done just within the half hour. Not perfect, but practical and done! Bring on day 3, I’m ready for you.

Had an hour or so before lunch, so finally managed to update the firmware of the dash cam. Got that done quite easily using the micro SD card to hold the upgrade and install it automatically. Surprisingly, it still works!

That was about it for interesting things to do this morning. Photographed and posted the sketch on Flickr and Facebook. Then, after lunch, Scamp was making noises about replanting stuff, so I took myself off to for a walk down to Auchinstarry. Lovely day, if a bit cold. But it was dry and the sun was shining, so nothing to worry me too much. Got some photos of a leaf on the footbridge over the Kelvin, but the PoD went to the bramble leaf with all the jaggy thorns looking like teeth. That’s why it was entitled “Jaws”.

Tonight Scamp suggested that we up the duvet from the Tog 1 we’ve been using since spring to a Tog 3. For once, I hadn’t really noticed the need for the upgrade, but with one upgrade done earlier in the day, it seemed sensible to upgrade our sleeping system too. Hope I’m not too warm now! Fat chance of that.

Tomorrow Scamp goes for her check-up at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow and it’s a morning appointment, so we’ll be up and out early(ish). Then there’s the promise of pizza later, before we go dancing.

Walking with the Romans – 27 September 2018

Watched the light disappearing this morning until it felt light twilight was approaching.

It didn’t look as if I was going to get any photograph worth its name today as clouds crowded in and the sunlight disappeared. Even worse, the software I bought earlier in the year wouldn’t start, telling me that my trial period had finished and asking me to log in. Went online and their website seemed to be ok, in fact I’d been on that same website two days ago watching the webinar presentation of their sparkling new 2019 version of the software. It didn’t impress me much. Lots of pretty colours and stuff, but nothing substantial. In fact when I’d asked a question on the webinar about the possibility of a history panel making an appearance in the new version, the answer came back that it would perhaps be included in an update later in 2019. So, in other words, no chance. You see, a history panel isn’t whizzo. It isn’t colourful, it’s practical. Lightroom has had it since version 1. With 61 votes it is the fifth most requested feature by users on the ON 1 website but has never been implemented while a keyword listing feature with one vote has been implemented in the new release. So much for being the company that listens to the users. They certainly weren’t listening to the users who were complaining bitterly about not being able to use the software this morning. It was only when America came on-line that the problem was solved, without a word of apology from the company that listens to the users.

After lunch, when I’d cooled down, I did go out and drove to the old road to Banknock. Its been closed for many years now. Initially it was because a railway bridge needed to be strengthened, but then it was discovered that the road was subsiding. Rather than fix it, the council made the decision to close the road. That’s the way it works (or doesn’t) in NLC. The worst council in Scotland.
I parked and walked up on to the Antonine Wall the northern Roman wall across Scotland. It wasn’t really much of a wall. Not like the one Hadrian built to keep out the Picts. That was a real wall built from stone. The Antonine wall by comparison was a turf and wood wall on a stone foundation with a deep ditch on the northern side to help repel the wild folk from Banknock and district. Now it’s covered with trees, mainly oaks that have suffered in the recent gales. Others have apparently been ‘made safe’ according to the notice that tells the unwary that the path is closed. Not very closed, because the five bar gate is easy to climb. It was on the top of the wall that I got today’s PoD. To tie up this and the previous paragraph, I used the working ON1 2018 software to process the PoD, although I did finish it off in Lightroom. Some of the fanatics supporters of ON 1, mostly americans were salivating at the prospect of what the new software could do, while aware that they couldn’t run their present 2018 version. Most said they had ditched Lightroom in preference to the ON 1 2018. I though “Babies and Bathwater”. Repent at leisure.

That’s the ranting over for today, I think. Dinner tonight was a second attempt at Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese. It worked, but maybe not as well as the last time.

Tomorrow? No real plans. Shopping for baby stuff for a newborn, perhaps.

Dancing, Pensioners and Painting – 26 September 2018

Today being a Wednesday was a dancing day. Drove in to Glasgow through the rain and high winds. Dancing started with Jive and especially the Lindy Hops, the Ladles, the Stepover and the Timesteps. Only the Timesteps set was new. New and demanding for me at least. Scamp, of course breezed through it with little or no problem. Waltz was looking good again with only a few corrections from Michael. In Quickstep we were trying to iron out the problems in the Check and Lock steps. Again, I should rephrase that to I was trying to iron out the problems with those steps. In Tango we were starting to learn a backwards turn. Honestly, ma’ heid wiz buzzin’ by the time we walked out of Blackfriars into a dry Glasgow and we went for a coffee to debrief and discuss progress.

Had a quick look in CassArt for a sketchbook to devote to Inktober 2018 which starts on Monday. One ink sketch per day, throughout the month of October, posted somewhere on-line. Mine usually go on my own Inktober group on Flickr and also on my blog. The group has been created and at present we have one member plus me, but I’m sure we’ll grow.

Scamp volunteered to do dinner tonight so I used the available time to paint another watercolour. This one, like the last two was based on a photograph. The photograph in question was a frame from a TV series about the lochs of Scotland. I think the view I chose was Plockton, but don’t quote me on that. I started painting purely with watercolour i.e. without a pencil outline. However, it became too difficult and there were a lot of perspective lines that needed to be there as a guide to the application of paint, so I set the brushes aside and lifted a pencil. Even after the pencil work had been done and the washes laid in place, it still looked a bit twee. That was when I added some ink lines and suddenly the painting looked a lot better. The pen gave the detail that was needed and the paint gave the colour. A great improvement.

After dinner (Kedgeree) we drove in to Glasgow to dance one class and it was really enjoyable. Nothing too taxing, just a relaxing dance or five! Even with two dancing classes, walking halfway through Glasgow and back, my step counter still says 9,525 steps. Somebody’s short changing me somewhere.

Today’s PoD was taken on the walk back from Blackfriars and its title is The Pensioners Day Out. I felt sorry for the poor wee bloke on the right who wasn’t allowed to join the group. Maybe he’d farted!

No plans for tomorrow. None at all!

Doon the Luggie – 25 September 2018

A dull day, but I got a painting finished, a PoD and I made the dinner, so not that dull.

I started the painting in the morning while Scamp was out in a raiding party to Tesco. She went to the town centre store as she’d already bought Craigmarloch Tesco on Sunday. The painting was based on a photo from Flickr. Since it was a dull day and there was the likelihood of rain, I thought it would be best to work from a photo rather than from life. It took just over half an hour, including some tweaking of textures and adding an ink outline. Not bad I thought.

After lunch I toyed with the idea of going out to get some photos, but by the time I’d decided to go, it was raining. Not that it made much difference to me. I needed a PoD and that PoD was out there, in the rain. That’s the whole point of doing a PoD. It forces me to get off my backside and go out and grab a piece of the day, process it and post it. You take what the day gives you and you work with it. Yesterday it was all about the big picture, grand views. Today it would be about rain.

Drove down to the Cumbersheugh railway station and parked there. Then walked across the road and down through the trees to walk along the Luggie. It’s called the Luggie Water, but it’s really just a burn, a stream to English readers. It was flowing a bit higher than normal today and that’s what gave me the idea of a slow shutter speed shot of the wee waterfall. Out of six shots I took, only one didn’t have a hand, a foot or a bit of the gorilla pod in the frame. Honestly, these ultra wide lenses should come with a warning to check the viewfinder closely before you press the shutter button.

The final shot was what you see above and apart from a bit of cropping, was as it came out of the camera. It’s not often that happens, but this one did.

Dinner was Prawn and Courgette Spaghetti and was a bit of an experiment. Like most experiments, at least like most of my culinary experiments, it will need a bit of tweaking before I try it again. The lime dressing was too strong, the prawns were overdone but the courgette spaghetti was interesting enough to make again.

So a dull day weatherise. Drizzly rain for the most part, but an interesting day too. Got stuff done, that always helps. Tomorrow it’s dancin’!

Scone Palace – 24 September 2018

Went to Scone, but didn’t get one!

We’d been saying for ages that we should go to Scone Palace. Scamp had an Itison voucher which was valid until October and as time was marching on and it was a beautiful morning, we decided that today was the day.

Drove up there with the satnav taking us a circuitous route around the motorway system on the outskirts of Perth but it was down to Scamp in Genghis Pathfinder mode to spot the turnoff for the Palace. Parked up, got our tickets and went looking for the entrance. At first we thought it was closed for the day, but then got inside to be warned that we weren’t allowed to take photos. What is it with these big houses that they take your money, then lay down the law about what you can and can’t do. I remember once being told in a National Trust place that photography damages the fabric of the building! Well, it would if you had a big full frame camera with battery pack and you started banging it off the walls, but I don’t believe cameras steal your soul and I don’t believe they can damage the fabric of a building. Philistines! Interior was interesting, but I can’t imagine what life must have been like in a great gloomy mansion like that, not even having the pleasure of taking some photos for fear that your hobby would bring the place down around your ears.

I much preferred the walk through the trees, especially the pinetum with its enormous redwood. Just walking in the sunshine under these trees, smelling the pine resin scents was a tonic in itself. We also inspected the kitchen garden, but it looked as if almost everything had been harvested fairly recently. There was very little of interest to see apart from some overgrown flowers and a poly tunnel with tomatoes and courgettes. There were some cordon grown plums, but two fat ladies were picking and eating the plums, at least, I hope they were plums or else there will be two fat, dead ladies in Scone tonight. Our last stop on the tour of the gardens was the maze and we wandered round half of it before finding the way to the fountain in the centre and so to the exit.

Before our walk in the woods, we stopped in the cafe for two baked tatties with haggis, two coffees and a shared strawberry tart, just to fortify us. Food was good and reasonably priced, but the prices in the ‘gift shop’ were daylight robbery. I know, we should have had a scone instead of a strawberry tart, just to say we had a scone at Scone, but we didn’t. Maybe next time DV.

Drove back into Perth and stopped to get coffee beans and, because we could, we went to Nero for more coffee, then we drove home through the usual stramash at Dunblane and again at Haggs. Gave up at the latter and took the longer, but quicker way home through Kilsyth and Dullatur.

PoD was a view of the ‘chapel’ which is actually a mausoleum.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow, but today was a good day. Glad we went, pity about the scone!

Out on two wheels again – 23 September 2018

Just a short run to make sure the lungs and legs are still up to cycling after the cold virus has had its wicked way.

It was a beautiful sunny morning. Almost a sin to waste it sitting up in bed reading. Almost a sin, but not quite. Unless reading in bed is now a sin.

However, all good things must come to an end and I did eventually drag myself away from my Kindle and in to the shower, thence to go downstairs where Scamp was already off buying Tesco. Yesterday she had been cutting flowers that had been battered by Wednesday’s wind. She had put them in a vase and it was sitting on the table in the living room where the light pouring in through the vertical blinds was lighting it up and throwing wonderful shadows on the table. Now that would make a good picture I said to myself. Set up the Samyang on the Oly and grabbed a few shots from different distances and angles until I was sure I’d have something decent. At least one in the bag!

I decided this good weather wasn’t going to last, so I did what I’d committed myself to yesterday and got dressed for winter cycling. Layer upon layer of thin clothes with shorts and longs, because the temperature was only just in double figures and it was just past midday. When Scamp returned with Tesco in two shopping bags, I left for a short run. Short runs never really stay short if the traffic is light and the light is good. That’s how it was today. I tried to find some swallows because I thought I’d seen and heard some last week, but alas I may have been mistaken. So definitely no swallows this is week and this is week 39. I tried to find some photos, but try as I might, there was nothing there that interested me today. Finally I gave up and made my way home, and lunch. While I was out, Scamp took brush, sponge and hot water in hand and washed her car. Not that it needed it, eh, Scamp?

<Technospeak>
After lunch I started looking at today’s captures on Lightroom and decided that the flower shots from the morning were the best of the bunch, even if I’d forgotten to set the focus. It’s so hard to go back to a manual focus lens again! Luckily I’d set a fairly small aperture and this gave me enough DOF to make the shot look as if it was in focus. It took a bit of work in Lightroom to get the levels the way I wanted them and a bit more work in ON1 to push the background out of focus enough to concentrate the eye on the flowers. Finally I returned to LR to add a bit of warmth to the shot and Bingo it was done! PoD done!
</Technospeak>

Dinner was Friday’s soup followed by yesterday’s curry reheated. Just your typical Sunday dinner!

Tomorrow we may take Big Red (that may be the Juke’s new name) out for a spin if the weather is good.

An improving situation – 22 September 2018

Woke late this morning and Scamp seemed to be much better.

It was a decent looking morning with a bit of sunshine through the trees outside, so I thought it would be a good idea to go for a spin. A few possible destinations came to mind. Possibly Perth or Troon or Dunfermline. Dunfermline won, so we headed over the Forth to The Kingdom of Fife and its capital Dunfermline. Just managed to grab a space as a car came out of it in the carpark for Pittencrief Park and went for a walk through the lungs of the town. Pittencrief is a large open green space on the southern edge of the town. A great place for a walk on a bright autumn day.

The place was really busy and everyone had their phones out. In fact, some people had two phones, one in each hand. All the phone users were firmly fixed on a map app. I presume it was some sort of treasure hunt where you actually had to be in the vicinity of the clues to get further instructions to finding the treasure. We weren’t locals, so we didn’t take part, but it looked like a lot of Fun For Fifers. We didn’t get in to the glasshouse which is usually a great spot for photos, because for some reason it was closed today. Bummer. We usually come midweek and always on a day when it’s closed. Today I thought we were safe, coming on a Saturday, but somebody had grassed on us and they’d closed the glasshouse.

Walked back through the town and had coffee and a light lunch in a Nero, then drove home. When we got home, Scamp pronounced herself well enough to go and cut the front grass. She had just finished when the rain came on. Just before she was going to get the blower out and hurricane all the cut grass into the trees across the path. She stood watching out of the front window like an impatient child waiting for the rain to stop so that she could go and terrify the neighbourhood with the Big Orange Blowy Thing. The rain stopped and out she went to put that grass in its place. Such delight at such a simple thing.

Dinner tonight was curry from Bombay Dreams. Possibly the best Indian restaurant and take-away in Scotland, if not the world. We were circumspect tonight and only ate half, keeping the other half for tomorrow’s dinner.

PoD turned out to be three phone fanatics in Dunfermline today. One of those shots you take and just know that PoD is in the bag.

Tomorrow? If the weather holds, I think we might risk a walk down The Green with the possibility of cycling for me in the afternoon.

Dragonflies, Porridge and Lentil Soup – 21 September 2018

Although not in that order.

Scamp was feeling a little under the weather this morning so I let her sleep on and got up and made some porridge for me. It’s a long while since I’ve had this Scottish breakfast. You can tell it’s the Scottish version if it comes unsweetened or even with added salt. Only sassenachs have honey / sugar / syrup on their porridge. Me? I take it as it comes. No salt and certainly nothing of a sugary nature. I make mine with oats, and milk. Boiled in the microwave for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. I find it funny, the looks I get, when we go on cruises and I add salt to my porridge. That look of horror from the english who don’t know any better 😉
After an hour or so, I took up her light breakfast. No porridge of any kind for Scamp. I was pleased to see her looking a lot better than yesterday.

We had an easy morning and after lunch Scamp instructed me in the noble art of making Lentil Soup. I’ve made soup before, in fact I’d half intended to make Tomato Soup for tonight’s dinner, but I’ve never attempted soup using the time honoured “a handful of this and a pinch of that and just about this amount of water”. It’s what my mum used in her cooking and what Scamp’s mum used too. I’m more a ‘time and temperature’ person, working to millilitres and grams where possible. Anyway, the soup turned out too thin, so I had to add “Just about a handful more lentils.” Then it was fine. I also made some bread using grams and millilitres, and felt so much more in control.

With the soup thickening and the bread proving, I walked over to St Mo’s to get some photos in the afternoon sunshine, because today we had sunshine almost all day. A bit of a breeze, but nothing like the gales we had midweek. PoD was the black dragonfly resting on the boardwalk over the mashes at St Mo’s. I used my usual method of taking a shot, moving closer, taking a shot, moving closer etc. Except, my final shots were taken at almost 1:1 and the dragonfly hadn’t even twitched. Maybe it was exhausted or maybe it was doing what dragons seem to do, sizing me up.

Came home and had soup and bread for dinner with a recovering Scamp. She does do a good lesson on soup making.

Tomorrow if the weather fairies are correct, should be a decent day, so we may go out for a run in a shiny clean Juke. Where, is open to suggestions!

Jukin’ with a Boy Racer Micra – 20 September 2018

This morning the Juke went for its first service and I swapped it for a shiny black and orange Micra, just for the day.

First thought on the Micra was that it was a lot bigger and lower than Scamp’s little red car. Then I slid into the driving seat and felt that my bum might just scrape along the tarmac and I wondered if I’d be able to get back out of it again without the use of a hoist. The clutch pedal seemed to have a rather long travel, either that or my legs had shrunk. Engine sounded healthy and there seemed to be a lot of horses under the bonnet. It was, like all things good in parts. One of the good bits, apart from the horses under the bonnet was the display on the dash. Very clear and with loads of information. Analog speedo and rev counter with incongruously a digital speedo between the two dials. What? So I can compare and contrast the differences in displayed speed as I run into the bus in front of me? Outside temperature, time, fuel economy. Maybe a bit of information overload. It drove well and like Scamp said “It was a car.” It was good to have the experience of the loan. It made me happy that I’d chosen the Juke over the Micra. I couldn’t see Scamp driving it with any less reluctance than she has for the Juke. Visibility in the car is certainly not as good as ‘Big Red’ The door pillar creates a large blind spot just where the mirror already has a blind spot and that’s not a great selling point. When we went for a spin this afternoon, we were agreed we didn’t like it all that much. A bit too plasticky. The Juke may be big and heavy, but it gives the feeling of solidity. I was glad when the garage phoned to tell us the car was ready.

After our trip to Stirling to pick up the very shiny Juke we drove home. Scamp wasn’t feeling too good, so she plunked herself down with a cup of ‘white tea’ and I went out for a walk in St Mo’s which is where I got today’s PoD. It’s an amalgam of two photos. One of the face of the fly and one of the hairy wee legs. Both shots blended in Photoshop. With an ISO of 3600 it was going to be a ‘noisy’ photo without too much in the way of smooth tones, but it was that kind of day. A day that started out with bright sunshine but by 4pm it was feeling more like twilight.

Between picking up the Micra and going for a spin I’d been to the physio who was pleased with the results on my knee and after a bit of laser treatment and some pin cushion tricks I was sent on my way with the possibility of being signed off in two weeks.

I did dinner tonight and with Scamp’s help it was pan fried chicken breast with baked potato. I was careful to stick to her tried and tested method and of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it.

The above is a wee watercolour I did from a photo I saw on Flickr.  After it was done I wasn’t happy with it, so I added some pen outlines once the paint had dried and I think it improves it greatly.
Details are W&N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm Rough paper.

Don’t know what we’re up to tomorrow. I don’t expect we’ll be going far unless Scamp’s cold improves. Let’s hope it does.