Cauld Reekie – 2 February 2019

Today we went to Embra. About a couple of thousand rugby supporters went too. I think they were all on our train.

We’d been promising ourselves that we’d go to Embra since well before Christmas, but with the combination of health problems and rodent problems, not to mention the train problems, we didn’t get. Today we did. The seven coach ‘leccy train was mobbed, but we did get a seat and of course we got off with all the rugby supporters going to see Scotland get humped by Italy. I hope they weren’t too disappointed when our team won! It was cold enough to freeze the snotters dripping from my nose as we walked up to our usual Nero. How cold must it be when you’re wearing a kilt and sitting in Murrayfield for a couple of hours? I suppose most of them had some form of alcoholic central heating so wouldn’t feel the cold too much.

We walked through the farmer’s market and I got a bit of shoulder mutton for tomorrow’s dinner. It should be cooked like steak apparently. Hopefully I’ll be singing its praises tomorrow. After that we walked along Rose Street, had a coffee in Waterstones in Princes Street and then just missed the train home, so had to sit for half an hour in Haymarket. That’s where today’s PoD came from. The poor woman must have wondered what the bloke across the concourse was doing, and why is he laying his camera on the floor? Much quieter train home while the tartan clad hordes roared their team on to victory.

Today’s 28 Drawings Later sketch was a bowl of pears and I’m pretty happy with it. I just wish Facebook would get it into its tiny head that I’m not selling it!!!

For tomorrow there are no plans. We’ll just see what the day brings.

White Rabbits (x3) – 1 February 2019

Traditional welcome to the first day of the month. Today it wasn’t just the rabbits that were white. Everything was.

It all started out so nicely with frost on the cars and therefore no great incentive to go out, so we just read for a while and then had a coffee. After that we simply had to drag ourselves out to buy Tesco.

After lunch I decided to try my luck in the bogs again and this time I found the dry path and still got some photos! Impressed with the ability of the ice to hold the weight of the Oly 10, if not me! Also impressed with the Oly app on the iPhone that allows me to control the camera through a private WiFi connection. That’s how you get these low down shots like today’s PoD.

It was when I was walking back that the snow came on and it didn’t go off for about four hours. Now we don’t just have frost, we have snow too. Maybe the snow has done its work because the temperature is no 0.7ºc. Positive 0.7ºc!

That’s about it for today. I’m off now to get a sketch done for 28 Drawings Later on Facebook. If I have time I’ll even add it to the blog.

As Promised!

Tomorrow it all depends on the weather. I looks like the sky will be clear, but we’ll see!

Electrifying – 31 January 2019

We’d both postponed the clearing out of the electricity cupboard for far too long. We even tried to ignore it today too, but we both knew we’d have to give up the pretence and get started.

A cup of coffee each about 10.30pm and then we both decided at the same time to get started. The reason for the big clean out was nothing to do with a certain Japanese lady and everything to do with a strange smell that’s pervaded the house for a week or so. With so many “pellets of poison” (A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall – Bob Dylan) in various places in three houses I thought there might be a deceased rodent somewhere under the floor of the cupboard. However, if we found some items in the cupboard that were surplus to requirements, it would make sense to dispose of them at the same time.

By lunchtime we’d cleared the cupboard and filled the kitchen with the resulting detritus. I’d lifted some floorboards and checked for any dead rodents and there were none. I’d photographed in all directions under the floorboards and around the various pipes. Nothing, except some insulation, tar and heavy duty polythene, all held in place by plastic netting. Just to be sure, I lifted the floorboards in the toilet too with the same result. We did manage to fill a black rubbish bag with lots of stuff. Yes, there is still a lot of stuff that has been put back and needs to be looked through again, but the cupboard isn’t nearly as congested as it was.

Just as we were finishing, Hazy phoned and we caught up with things in the London area, then it was time for lunch. A slightly more down to earth lunch than yesterday’s posh lunch. Afterwards I loaded lots of bags into the Juke and took them away to the council tip. Some were probably antiques, especially cobblers lasts for repairing shoes, but I didn’t throw everything away. I kept a couple of lasts and some tools. I also kept a replacement heel for a man’s shoe. It was marked with the letters WD and an up pointing arrow, which I think was for the War Department.

When I came home I brought tonight’s dinner with me. A curry for two from Tesco. Good value for a fiver! With food sorted, I got my boots on and went for a walk in St Mo’s, hoping to get some shots in the mist that was descending. I think I achieved that with the PoD you see here. On the way back I tested the depth of a bit of bog and found it was up to my knee. Luckily only one leg went in and I could easily haul myself out, but wet trousers today with the temperature well below zero were not funny.

Curry was indeed good value and something I’d try again. Tomorrow we have no plans except we need to go for the ’messages’.

Pasta Joke – 29 January 2019

Well, the predicted snow didn’t come to much. A few millimetres of manky grey sludge doesn’t constitute a snowfall.

I offered to do the shopping and returned with plain bread, milk and a dozen eggs. All will become clear.

I mixed two of the eggs with some special 00 flour that Scamp had bought last week and then kneaded the resulting mess for the required 10 minutes, wrapped it in cling film and let it cool its heels in the fridge for an hour or two, or three or five as it turned out.

We’d intended cleaning out a cupboard today, but it was a lovely bright cold day although the temperature was above zero because some of the snow was melting. Time enough to go out and get some photos and still get the cupboard cleared.

It’s never that simple. I found a few good places to shoot, mainly landscapes, but then I discovered the fruiting bodies of some moss on a few rocks. Yes, I know it doesn’t sound that interesting, but the light was so good, I had to take a few shots, quite a few shots. By the time I got back, we agreed that it was far too late to start on the cupboard, so we’re leaving it for another day, a less photogenic one. One of the moss shots made PoD.

I assembled my pasta machine and started rolling out the pasta dough from the fridge into decreasing thicknesses. It’s not nearly as easy as they show you in Masterchef. I think my dough was too wet and sticky. It seemed to want to cling to the rollers even after they had been dusted with flour. Eventually after a few tries, a lot of swearing and tantrums, we managed to make some spaghetti.

We cooked the spaghetti in boiling water just like the stuff you get in the deli at the supermarket, but it was a bit doughy and chewy. More practise needed and next time I’ll leave the dough to rest in the kitchen, not in the fridge. It’s a learning curve. However, I know this Italian bloke who might be able to show me how to cut a few corners! Tonight’s dinner was Spaghetti with olive oil for starter, then Minestrone soup and the main course was a haggis, neeps and tatties pie.

Tomorrow we’re hoping to go out for dinner. 30th January.

No drops today mum – 28 January 2019

The big event today was getting my annual retinopathy scan.

Once upon a time many years ago the doc told me I had high blood pressure and it needed to be dealt with. You know those special deals you get in the supermarket, three for the price of one? Well, he talked me into getting three for the price of one. As well as high blood pressure, I’d get high cholesterol and diabetes too. Admittedly, in one blood test the sugar level in my blood was elevated, but that was because I was addicted to cheap sweeties at the time. Next blood test was back to normal, but the medical profession is dogged. No, you’re still diabetic. I told them I wasn’t diabetic and took all their tests which proved that I was right. Well, you may not be diabetic, but you are pre-diabetic. There is no way to beat them. As soon as you reach 50 you get given the trilogy HBP, Cholesterol and Diabetes, especially if you live in Scotland. The really lucky ones get COPD as well. Thankfully I’ve managed to dodge that one.

Today the nice nurse lady was taking photos of the back of my eye to see if I could jump the queue and get full blown diabetes. Usually I’m forced to have drops in my eyes that make me virtually blind for about an hour and really supersensitive to bright sun. Did I mention that the sun was really bright today? Luckily the shots turned out well without the need for drops and the sunglasses I’d left at home. Scamp had given me a lift up to the town centre because if I get drops in my eyes and am virtually blind, driving can be a problem. Not for me, but for the poor folk I run into. So it was the bus back home in time to look over Margie’s homework because it’s Monday today and Monday is Gems day. Margie had done amazingly well. The cubes she was drawing were improving out of all recognition. I’m so glad she’s finally got the hang of Two Point Perspective.

When Scamp left to drive Margie home, I started preparing dinner which would be Minestrone soup. It’s the simplest soup in the world to make. You just chuck all the vegetables you have into a pot, add a tin of tomatoes and about a litre of water and boil the stuffing out the mix for an hour. Chuck in some crushed pasta after that and simmer for 15minutes. Done. The hard part is the chopping of the veg, because there is so much of it. It tasted quite good. Maybe a bit too salty, but we both survived it.

Drove to Salsa and enjoyed most of the beginners 6.30pm class and then our own 7.30pm class. Our class were doing Akia and a new move that’s been christened Russia because the couple demonstrating it on YouTube are Russian. Logical for once.

Today’s PoD was a grab shot, taken while walking home from Condorrat in the afternoon. It’s a bolt group on the bridge over the M80.

Tomorrow I think we’re cleaning out a cupboard called the Electricity Cupboard because it houses the distribution board and meter for the electricity. Heavy snow is forecast although it doesn’t seem to have started yet.

A non-dancing day – 27 January 2019

I think after Friday and Saturday, we were well danced out.

Today we had a light breakfast at the hotel said our goodbyes to new and old friends, excluding Diane who was not in either of these sets and anyway, hadn’t surfaced by our 9.30am scraping of the car and driving home. Beautiful light and scenery as we took the Hamilton road home. Much quicker route, especially on a quiet, cold Sunday morning.

Just relaxed when we got home with a decent cup of coffee and solved today’s Sudoku while Scamp complained that there were pieces missing in her digital jigsaw. To clear this problem from her mind she went off to buy Tesco. After she got back, I grabbed my boots and went over to St Mo’s to get some photos. My favourite became PoD and is what you see above. It’s another Cladonia Pixie Cup with a bokeh background. Just out of focus shapes really, given a fancy Japanese name.

We had partly intended to go a Sunday Social at Mango tonight, but neither of us could be bothered and a little glass of Rhubarb & Ginger Gin followed by a glass of white from Michael’s hamper signed the fate of the evening. I’d be well over Nicola’s Abstemious Law, so couldn’t drive in to Glasgow, even if I wanted to.  Scamp made dinner and it was a belated Burns Supper i.e. Haggis, Neeps (mashed turnip) and Tatties (mashed potatoes).  Lovely wholesome food.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about all the things happening down in his neck of the woods. Other than that, watched a bit of fluff on the TV and now I’m writing this record of a relaxing, non-dancing day.

Tomorrow I get my annual diabetic retinopathy test. Hope I don’t get drops in my eyes, but I’m getting the bus anyway!

Powered by Duracell – 26 January 2019

Today we were up early, bags packed and out by 11.30 for our trip to Strathaven, posh centre of South Lanarkshire.

We were off to the Strathaven Hotel for a day of dance workshops (boiler suits not compulsory). Decided that through Hamilton was the quickest way on a normal day, but given it was a Saturday and around midday, it would be chaos. So we headed for the scenic route up to Canderside and then through Stonehouse and Strathaven itself to the hotel which used to be in farmland through an avenue of trees, but that was fifty odd years ago. It took a bit longer than I’d anticipated, but we found the hotel without any problem. There were a few trees left standing, but hardly an avenue. The farmland was gone, of course, covered with private housing and a primary school. The hotel looked fine with a modern restaurant extension to the existing old building.

Booked in and found our way to our room through the tortuous labyrinth that you’d expect in an 18th century country house hotel, and then found our way back to the ballroom. Wishing all the time that we’d had the forethought to lay down a path of breadcrumbs! Nice large and intimidating ballroom with the equally large and intimidating Diane! One of those people who stands right in front of you invading your space. An alpha female if such a thing exists.

The workshop started with waltz with only four couples. Scamp and I both agree that we learned a lot. Then a short bit of quickstep, concentrating on the technical part of the ‘fishtails’. In jive we did a Boston Cross or Kick ( the jury’s still out on the exact name) and the Four Chassis. Both of which have now slipped my teflon memory (nothing sticks!). Then lunch. We waited over 40 minutes for a small plate of sandwiches. That seemed to be par for the course, because other people sitting near us complained about the wait too. Overwhelmed or understaffed it was difficult to tell.

Back in the workshop Diane’s contingent had arrived and the room was filling up. We were told to simply dance a waltz to warm up. This was our first time attempting a waltz in real ballroom and we both made a hash of it. It was obvious that the Diane’s class were much more practised practitioners of dance. Everyone was dancing sedately around us and giving us a wide berth, obviously realising we were just learning. We should have worn “L” plates, or at least “P” plates. However, one idiot in particular decided that he and his partner didn’t need to follow the anticlockwise rule and started zig zagging across the dance floor. One time in particular, just as Scamp and I were getting our feet sorted out, he landed right in front of us and we had to do an emergency stop. Then they were off again in a different direction and at top speed. Powered by Duracell. He was a bit like a dragonfly in that he seemed to move only in straight lines at really high speed. However his irresistible force met an immovable object. Me. I just got so pissed off with this unnecessary show off that the next time he shot past us and tried to move off in another direction, I moved over into his path and crashed into him. I apologised and then we staggered our way further around the floor. It was an accident, honest 😉

When the next workshop started it was obvious that we were far out of our depth. This was Diane time. She had already stamped her authority on this group, her group. She shouted and postured and shouted some more. We watched for a while then went up to the room to read for an hour or so, since it was dull and wet outside and worst of all, I’d forgotten my camera.

Dinner was a protracted affair. It took over two hours from Starter to Coffee. Food was quite good and well presented, it was just the time lag in between courses that made the whole thing tiresome. Even more tiresome was the dancing afterwards. No salsa, very little jive. This was the Diane’s Dance Show aimed fairly and squarely at her own group. We waited until the end and did manage to dance salsa to one of the tracks and also performed our version of the Seven Spins, but didn’t really attempt any ballroom. More practise needed there. However one of our dinner companions provided PoD. He did look very like somebody from the ’60s, and his name was, in fact, John!

Dragged ourselves off to bed. As I climbed the stairs, I thought “That’s twelve hours of my life I’ll never get back.”

Tomorrow we’ll have breakfast and leave this sorry place.

Different Dances – 23 January 2019

It was cold this morning when we woke and that cold stayed all day.

Phoned the surgery to get the result of my blood test and it was fine. It was back to normal, but the doc had given me a course of penicillin to take to completely clear up the lingering UTI. Good result. Good start to the day.

Drove into town to go dancing and found out that we were doing a host of dances today. First we rattled through the seven spins of our jive routine. Then Michael started us on the Rumba which we hadn’t done since the Hamilton class years and years ago. After that we had an introduction to the Cha-Cha, which, again we had done before, mainly on sea days on a variety of cruises, but never in so much detail. Who knew your feet had to stay on the floor at all times? Finally we did a fairly representative waltz and a quickstep. Five dances in an hour. That’s not bad going. I think that’s us prepared for the workshops on Saturday in Strathaven, provided we can lay our hands on a pair of boilersuits.

Walking back from Blackfriars I looked along Hutcheson Street and saw the old Hutcheson’s Hospital lit up by the afternoon sun. It looked like a good subject and that’s why it became PoD. A fair bit of post processing in LR and ON1 2019 which meant the digital noise was a bit overpowering, but I managed to tone it down a bit in LR. Bought a couple of half pans of watercolour paint to beef up the Joan of Art painting box.

It tried to snow a bit as we were leaving Glasgow, but didn’t come to much. We weren’t sure if we were going to salsa tonight, but finally agreed that it would be fine. That was before the sleet and the snow on the M80 going in. Luckily again, it didn’t last and we arrived in fairly good time for Scamp to help out with the last half of the 6.30 class.

Moves in the 7.30 class were Astrella Complicada, Prado and Bayamo. Enjoyed the class although it was smaller than previous weeks.

Tomorrow I’m a Joiner for Shona fitting a lock to her bedroom door and then a Roadie for Scamp who’s got a gig for the Probus club. Not her favourite audience.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – 22 January 2019

We woke to snow today. Not lots and not long lasting, but still snow.

It was one of those mornings when we rejoice at being retired. Not for us the scraping of the windscreen and then the slow drive to work, single file in the tyre tracks of the car in front. No, back to bed with a cup of tea and a good book. Rivers of London (book 1, Hazy). The snow came and went for most of the morning before eventually tailing off and then the slow drip, drip of the thaw started, but not before I grabbed a camera and got some macro shots of the snowmelt on the plants in the garden and also on the metal allium feature in the back garden. That’s what achieved PoD.

The furthest we went today was Tesco and only after we were sure the road was clear of the white stuff. Tonight the snow is all but gone, but the temperature is down to -2ºc as I write this.

January is a time for hanging up calendars, but I found we had misplaced one of ours. It was in a polythene bag at the side of the wardrobe in the bedroom and it came from Sardinia. It started us checking back through our photos to see what Alghero, Sardinia looked like. Scamp usually does a screen grab of the temperature every day we are on holiday and in Alghero in June it was 27ºc. That’s a nice thought to end with!

Tomorrow will probably another dancing day. I may go and get three half pans of watercolour paint to replace the ones in the Joan of Art paintbox Hazy bought me a year or so ago. I liked the tin, loved the idea and the tiny little brush, but hated the colour selection – too acidic for me. I’d been painting tonight and decided it was time to warm up the colour selection.

Art Class – 21 January 2019

Followed by Music Class

Today I was encouraging Margie to draw a cube in two point perspective. Instead of me doing the drawing, Margie would be doing it while I watched her and gently pushed her back onto the right path when she strayed. I think it was a success because after three or four tries she was definitely getting the hang of it. After the class, she stayed for Scamp’s Music Class, but I didn’t.

I drove down to Cumbersheugh railway station and walk along the Luggie, upstream for a change. It’s a bit more interesting in that direction and not nearly as mucky. It was along that way I found today’s PoD. I think it’s a variety of Cladonea lichen, but I’m not sure what particular family it belongs to. I’m sure someone on Flickr will know, or at least have a good guess. It was cold and miserable, and I curtailed my walk and headed home.

Scamp and I have been dancing Salsa for about ten years and in that time have helped with a great number of beginners, some of whom have continued through the ranks and joined our advanced class, but I’ve never met anyone I knew outside the salsa circuit … until tonight.

The class were practising a couple of moves, old moves, but ones we’d partly forgotten when into the class came one of the teachers I used to work beside. She was in a different department, but our paths had crossed many times. Not such a strange thing to happen really. It was inevitable that, even in a place the size of Glasgow, I’d bump into someone I knew eventually. It still took me by surprise, and her too I imagine. If it had to happen, it couldn’t have been with a nicer person. If she enjoys the classes, we could even be dancing in the same group some day.

No plans for tomorrow, but I must start looking for a shirt for the Salsa Ceilidh on Friday.