Coffee – 1 November 2018

Coffee with the boys. That’s enough to brighten anyone’s day.

Met Fred and Val for coffee this afternoon and sorted the world out again, discussed spying on bird feeders with Val and received critical acclaim for my Inktober sketches from both, but mainly Fred. While the other two had Cortados, I chose to have a Luxury Hot Chocolate, also know as Diabetes in a Glass. Super sweet chocolate syrup and just a hint of milk to water it down a bit.

We had to split up after an hour or so because Val was meeting his wife and Fred was edgy wondering how long we were allowed to park on in the Green carpark. NLC don’t seem to post a notice of waiting times, so they will argue that the didn’t actually state that you could park there for two hours. That was your supposition, not their stated limit. I think that’s how their mind works. Guilty until proven innocent.

Drove round to B&M for peanuts and fat balls for the bird feeder, then drove to B&Q where I bumped into Fred again who was just leaving. Left there with a picture frame for £2.50 and went to Tesco for a bottle of wine and a magazine for Scamp. Got petrol on the way out and again watched Fred drive past on his way home. I must tell him to stop stalking me, or am I stalking him? Who knows.

Later I went to pick up Isobel and bring her out for her dinner before we went to pick up June and take them to the concert they were going to. For some reason, Scamp decided it would be better (safer?) to park at the badly lit bus stop and decant everybody on to the roadside, then escort them across the road to the hall, rather than park in the carpark for the hall and let them get out there. Women’s logic. I’ll never understand it. Surprisingly, nobody was injured in this road safety nightmare.

Came home and shot tonight’s PoD after having to consult the InterWeb to find out how to get out of the complicated and overcrowded information screen I’d never seen before on the back of the D7000. Not the finest picture in the world, but it’s done. Noticed that Flickr is now going to limit the amount of photos the free account can have to 1,000. Not really surprised, the 1TB was a ridiculous amount of space. I may have to buy a Pro account to keep using it.

Really missing the routine of posting a picture of my sketches every day. I think after a few days of ‘freedom’ I’ll start to fill my ‘Sketches’ album in Flickr again.

Got the phone call to pick up the concert goers at 9.30 and drove Isobel back home. June decided to walk. Driving at that time of night is a delight. No traffic to speak of and no rush. Just driving.

So no sketch tonight, but tomorrow is another day. No plans for it yet, but I’m sure we’ll fill up our time somehow.

More problems – 21 October 2018

Just when I thought I was ahead of the game, the game overtook me!

I was just getting myself organised last night (This was written on Monday) and tried to send an email to my brother when the whole email system seemed to go belly up. I could receive on all my accounts, but could only send on blueyonder. Couldn’t work it out. Then I went online and tried there. Everything was fine, so the problem was at the computer end. Still tried like a dug wi’ a burst ba’ to fix it, but eventually, well after 12 I gave up and went to bed. This morning after our flu jags I worked out a plan of attack that seems to have worked. I think something has gone wrong with the automatic email setup script, so I tried setting up manually and it worked. Now I need to be a bit more brutal and remove some of my unused or little used accounts as they only clutter up the place.

<Sunday>
What happened today?

Dull day that promised it would brighten up later. Later was much later, however in the morning I did today’s sketch which is of the waste basket in the kitchen for all the veggie stuff that’s going in the compost bin. Not the prettiest of subjects, but I liked the colour and shapes in there.

After that I wrote half of the email to my brother and saved the draft that would cause so much trouble, (or reveal so much trouble) later.

In the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and took the wee panda minifig for a photoshoot in the wild. Quite liked the finished article.

Went dancing to Maracas. It was ok, but far too many bachata tracks and far too few salsa ones. Still, met folk there we hadn’t seen for ages.

Came home and watched an interesting American GP. The pundits were wrong. Ferrari are not dead yet.

That’s when the problems started, and you know the rest.

Tomorrow flu jags and then maybe the gym.

Sorting out problems – 5 September 2018

As well as sorting problems, we also did a bit of dancing.

We were out fairly early and in Glasgow for a 12 o’ clock start. We started with waltz and picked up another few tips, just tweaks really. Some made little difference, others made things a lot easier. Next it was Quickstep to which we added a few more steps. Lastly a couple of runs through our Tango. In the second half there were two Jive classes running concurrently with two teachers again, now that Ann Marie had returned from Oz. Only three of us today, so it was almost a private lesson. We added to last week’s Lindy Hops and practised The Dance of the Seven Spins once more.

When we came back I phoned the plumber and ordered the fitting of the new kitchen tap. He’s coming tomorrow and hopefully by tomorrow afternoon we should have a shiny new tap that doesn’t drip. Problem one dealt with.

Later in the afternoon I took the panda on in the Dewdrop for a photoshoot and to get some more brambles (just over half a kilo). This was to be a simpler setup than yesterday. This would be a mountain climbing panda. Actually it’s a big boulder that somebody has hit with a van or a lorry. I know how that’s done now! The result was a big broken corner that made a lovely rock face of a mountain. The background was a sunset taken from the upstairs back window about a year ago. It’s amazing the lies you can tell with a computer, a decent bit of software and a bit of imagination.

Dancing tonight was a mixed lot. Far too many men, so I sat out for a while, only for more folk to join. That’s when I started writing this blog. Then I got fed up and danced for the last twenty minutes of the class.

When we came home, in fact just five minutes ago, I finally signed up for AppleCare. I think their website was having a bad day the last time I tried to sign up. So now I have two extra years insurance on the iMac, another weight off my mind. Problem two sorted.

Hopefully I’ll get my knee sorted tomorrow at the physio and that will be another tick in another box. Always hopeful. Totally unlike me!  Oh yes, and fingers still crossed, but the leeks survived the day.  The bird keeper outer is working DV.

Taking lego into the real world – 4 September 2018

Something I hadn’t thought about before I saw there was a group on Flickr devoted to it. So I tried it, and it worked.

The day began with Scamp going out for coffee with one of her friends. I stayed in, half intending to slap some watercolour on a bit of paper, but inspiration wasn’t there, so I started into my plan to thwart those pesky birds I suspect of stealing my leeks. Twice, or is it three times now, I’ve planted leeks and watered them in, only to find that they’d disappeared the next morning. JIC has now had the same problem. I don’t think it’s slugs because there is no sparkly slime across the raised bed and besides it’s been dosed twice now with slug nemesis nematodes. It must be birds. When I asked Colin last week, he agreed that the wee feathered buggers were the culprits. I had thought of buying a shotgun, but that was a bit severe and besides, the pellets would probably damage the kale that’s growing quite well now. Then there would be the noise and I don’t want the polis coming to the door asking if I have a license for a firearm. No prevention is better than cure, quieter and less damaging to the environment too.
I’d already planned it out, sort of, so I got some bamboo canes and cut them to size then used cable ties to tie them together at the top to … Now look, this is far too difficult to describe. Imagine a ridge tent. An inefficient ridge tent because it’s covered, not with canvas, but with netting. That’s the basis of the bird keeper outer. Hopefully it will work. We shall see in the morning. If the leeks are still there then it was a success. If not it’s on to the internet to find a supplier of shotguns. Ebay, that’s the place to go. Ebay for the Dark Web perhaps.

When Scamp came home the bird keeper outer was finished and looking … reasonable. I had just finished my lunch and was thinking that I might go out in the sunshine and take some of my lego weemen out for a run on the Dewdrop. Weemen were originally all men, but now some female minifigs have made their way into their midst but the name can still apply because the singular for a woman in West Central Scots is Wummin and the plural is Weemen, so it works. Set up the scenario on a bit of waste ground covered with big rough chipping. Set the camera up on a tripod and shot ten or so frames while moving the lady road mender around between each. Back home I layered up the shots and used masks to remove the bits I didn’t want and reveal the weemen. Like the bird keeper outer it’s easier to see than explain and it doesn’t need any cable ties either. The resulting image is PoD.

I think we are on our way to getting the dripping tap fixed. Unfortunately it looks like we’ll need a new tap, rather than fixing the old one. I was coming round to that conclusion after so many plumbers seemed to reject the idea of fixing the old tap. In the end, it doesn’t matter. I just want the Japanese water torture to stop. It’s driving me more crazy than normal.

Guess what happened today. Michael phoned to change the time of tomorrow’s class to an hour earlier. Actually it suits us better to go then, because it opens up the afternoon. So dancing tomorrow.

Goodbye July – 31 July 2018

Not Flaming June, but Toasty July.

It’s certainly been a July to remember with temperatures into and above the mid twenties here in relatively cool Scotland. Hints of hosepipe bans and serious warnings of the dangers of the “Taps Aff” culture. When will we see your likes again?

After scanning Facebook and the InterWeb, we decided that the fish shop in Linlithgow was indeed still in business and had been closed the last time we went because they were on holiday. We were wrong. The shop was closed as we drove past unless they have changed their window display to soft furnishings to dissuade some customers and so avoid crowding out the shop. Disappointed, we drove as far as the Coop carpark, squeezed our way past the abandoned cars and went to Aldi instead. Came home and checked again on FB and on the InterWeb and although it does say that the shop is still there, it makes no mention of soft furnishings. Maybe it’s just a front.

After lunch Scamp started ‘sorting out’ another cupboard while I just mooched around. The weather had taken a down turn since the morning and it now looked like rain. My weather app said rain was likely at 2.15 and when Scamp took a break from her reorganisation at 2.25 she reported that it was indeed raining. Amazingly accurate, but ultimately disappointing. No cycling today.

Today’s PoD nearly never appeared. Sometimes I think I’m only taking photos to complete the 365 for that day. Sometimes that IS the case. That’s not the way photography should be. Maybe I need a break from it. Anyway, today’s PoD was one I’d been considering for a week or so. The ‘Spiny Alien’ is actually an early chestnut I found near the People’s Palace in Glasgow.
<Technospeak>
The photo was taken with my new macro lens and this lens doesn’t have enough depth of field (DOF) to cover both the chestnut and the minifig, so the best way to achieve the full depth is to take two photos. One focusing on the chestnut and the other focusing on the minifig. Then combine the two in Photoshop. Unfortunately it’s really difficult to get them both into the old version of PS I have. I was watching an ON1 video of a similar problem last week and used that method to fix this one. It worked perfectly mainly because the camera was firmly fixed on a tripod for both shots, so alignment wasn’t an issue. That pleased me.
</Technospeak>

Tomorrow we have no dancing in the afternoon, but we are still dancing at night. Unless Michael changes it again tomorrow morning. He’s already changed it from Friday to Thursday. Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow.

Getting Cooler – 17 July 2018

It was cooler today, but we didn’t notice.

The weather machine and the forecasts were saying that it was cooler today, but we were working inside all morning. Lots to be done before August. Maybe it was JIC’s phone call last night that brought everything into sharper focus, but we both realised that time is marching on and we’ve two rooms to make liveable. Scamp was doing sterling work in the front room, even managing to get the bed down to air it. I was doing some restoration work to an old painting of mine that I gave to my dad. The painting was attached to the mat (frame) with masking tape and over the years the tape had vulcanised and allowed the picture to slip out of place. I’ve been meaning to fix it for ages, so today was the day. It’s now back hanging on the wall with the painting fixed with old fashioned gummed tape and the frame re-assembled. I’ve also got a big bag of rubbish to go to the tip this week. Progress!

While I was in a painting mood, I took today’s PoD which uses a tiny wee canvas and easel I got from Jackie in Skye. It took ages to do as I couldn’t find either of my two tripods. Eventually I settled for the big Manfrotto which I knew was in the car. It’s a bit clumsy for the little E-PL5, but it does the job and is very stable. I liked the result.

After lunch, things took a down turn and not a lot of work was done. I read a couple more chapters of The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. Quite a strange story Hazy. One you might enjoy. No good for you JIC.

Dinner was simply tortelloni from the Giovanni Rana range served with parmesan and olive oil. Tortelloni, by the way, is just like tortellini but larger.

Busy day tomorrow with a visit to the physio in the morning, ballroom dancing in the afternoon and salsa at night. The latter two on the premise that the physio gives them his blessing.

Steamin’ – 12 May 2018

Last night after being fairly well organized, Windows decided it desperately needed an update without telling anyone.

<TECHNOSPEAK>
I thought I was sorted. Blog written, photos edited and ready to be exported. All I needed to do was put everything together and upload them. Unfortunately, Windows in association with Lightroom had other ideas. First, LR wanted to export the wrong file and absolutely refused to pick the right one. ON1 was no help, because it wouldn’t load. Usually a restart will solve the problem and when I tried to restart the computer and it told me it was configuring it, I knew it had been downloading another unnecessary upgrade. That explained it, I thought. However on restarting, nothing wanted to work at all. Got fed up with its shenanigans and did an impolite shutdown. On a Mac, a polite shutdown is where you tell the ‘puter to shut down. An impolite shutdown is where you pull the plug. You don’t have that option on a laptop. Holding down the on button does the same job. Val says leave it for a slow count of ten and then restart it. That’s what I did and it worked. Everything was normal. LR exported the file and Livewriter uploaded the blog without any problem.
</TECHNOSPEAK>

That was last night, today was much better. We were out fairly early to make the most of the day at the Steam Fair in Stotfold. We were walking there, taking the path between the old mill and the mill house, the former dull and uninteresting, the latter looking very elegant, but not worth the £2M asking price. From there across the fields to Stotfold, an odd mixture of new-builds and centuries old farm buildings.

The Steam Fair was marvellous. As the name suggests, lots of steam driven machinery and transport. Even better there was a fair, a real fair with stalls, a big wheel, a helter skelter and best of all, a Wall of Death. I can’t remember exactly when I last saw a wall of death, but it must have been fifty years ago at least. We wandered round the attractions, then we three meat eaters had hot roast pork with stuffing and crackling on a roll from a stall, while the vegetarian of the group had a carton of chips. The roast pork was excellent. Wandered round a few more of the stalls and bought two wee lego ‘Weemen’. A Darth and a panda, both of which will become models in the near future, I’m sure. Visited the Mill, a real working mill powered by a waterwheel. Really looked the part, despite being burnt to the ground in the ‘80s and rebuilt. Later we had a drink in the beer tent. JIC and I had an excellent IPA. Wish I’d taken a quick snap of the barrel to record its name. Sim had Old Peculiar which I always think is a bit too sweet. Scamp had a pint of Deuchers. Glad they had a decent Scottish beer too. Foodies, yes. Drinkies, perhaps. Finally decided to call it a day after I’d stood out in the rain watching a flying display by Captain Nevil’s Flying Circus. I bought myself a couple of caps, one waterproof (allegedly) one, just a cap for the hols. You can never have too many caps or bunnets. I was really glad I’d decided to wear my rainy coat because it rained all the way home.

At night we went to the Lancers, Indian restaurant in Baldock. Food was deemed ok. Not too bad, but with strange mixtures. Scamp wasn’t impressed with her Saag Paneer which seemed to have coconut milk in it. Never seen that before, but perhaps its a regional thing in India.

Watched a couple of strange Black Mirror episodes to finish off the day. What is it about Black Mirror that makes it stick in my head long after the program has finished? They remind me of the old ’60s Outer Limits, the black and white ones.

Tomorrow we must say goodbye to this place and fly back home.

May The Fourth Be With You – 4 May 2018

In the morning, just to make sure I wasn’t wasting my time I installed ON1 on the new Linx laptop. I also did a bit of gardening, planting peas in pots in the greenhouse. I checked the kale and it’s looking good too. Hopefully it will need thinned out in a week or so. A few straggling rocket shoots showing. Can’t exactly say they are rocketing up though.

Went up to the Costa in the already dilapidated Antonine Centre and spent a couple of hours with Fred and Val. As usual it was left to us to make some sense of the present crises in the world. We solved all the problems, the only difficulty now is getting the ’dunderheids’ in both the Labour and Tory parties to agree to our solutions. We can dismiss the Lib Dems as they are just a catch-all for all the politicos who have no interest in actual politics. We broke up the meeting with the promise to meet up again in another week or so.

Before I went out, Scamp had offered me the opportunity to make dinner tonight, which was kind of her. She went further and asked that dinner should be Paella. With that in mind, I visited Tesco to buy the makings for the paella and then headed for home. Put my DIY skills to good use screwing another boot hanger to the wall in the boiler cupboard. Hung up one set of boots and got another pair down, put them on and took the Olys and the new lens out to St Mo’s to see what wanted photographing. Nothing and nobody was playing today, so I took some photos of wild flowers instead. When I looked at them later, they were less than excellent. I’d fallen into the trap that even if you’ve got a ‘good camera’ and a ‘good lens’, it’s still the photographer who takes the picture. One day I may learn.

Made a reasonable attempt at paella and after that, installed ON1 on the MBP. I’m just after testing it and it works well.

Took PoD after dinner. It took a while for me to find a good font for the Star Wars banner, but after that was done the rest was easy. I used the well tested combination of Lightroom and Photoshop. Photoshop to blend two photos together and Lightroom to perform the levels adjustment and crops. Quite pleased with it because it had been in my head all day and now it was open to the world in Flickr.

Maybe going to Embra tomorrow where the weather might be better than the overcast grey we’ve had all day today.

MOT, Perth and Sourdough Friends – 1 May 2018

April wasn’t the only month of early rises. We were up and out early today too.

Scamp’s wee red car was going to the car doctor for its annual checkup today. After we dropped it off, we came home to have breakfast and decide what to do with our free day. We settled on a visit to Perth to get some coffee and tea for me. The drive up north was without event and we got parked easily in the town car park. That’s one of the advantages of going midweek, the parking is so much easier. Walked in to town in the sunshine, but with a chilly wind at our back.

After a Nero coffee to sustain us, we went our separate ways for a while. Scamp went to M&S and I went book hunting. First stop was the Oxfam book shop where I usually find an art book or two. Today it was just the one. A book on watercolour. While I was in the shop my phone buzzed. Thinking it was the garage about the car, I answered. The lady on the other end told that according to their records I’d had an accident and I wasn’t at fault. Was that correct? I told her yes that was correct, but I had been killed in the accident. This seemed to be off her script and she asked me to repeat it. I told her I had been killed and I was now dead. I then told her it was my ghost she was talking to. She then got back on the script and I cut the connection. I realise now I should have gone “Woooooo!” Before I hung up. The woman at the till in the shop gave me a strange look and I explained it was simply an ambulance chaser and I liked to have a little play with them before I hung up. The last time I had the same scripted question from an ambulance chaser, my reply was “No, I was completely to blame, that’s why I’m in prison now. Please don’t call me on this number again I only use it to order my drugs.” The woman behind the till laughed and said “Good for you. I must try that some time.”

From the cheap bookshop I went to the expensive one, Waterstones. There was a reading group just breaking up when I went in and they were sitting right in front of the painting books. I did manage to inveigle my way in to get a look at a couple of the books, but then earwigged a conversation about Sourdough. It was when the woman said “… so when I come down the stairs in the morning I look in the jar [of starter} and say ‘how’s may little babies this morning’”. That’s when I knew she was genuine. I told her I’d baked my first successful sourdough loaf yesterday, but that it was almost completely scoffed by Scamp and me. She was really interested and asked how old my ‘babies’ were and I told her they were just over 14 days old and growing stronger each day. I think she was gratified that other ‘ordinary’ folk took up the cudgels of sourdough baking. I wished her luck with her first loaf and went out to find Scamp.

We went and bought loads of coffee and tea, but on the way Eagle Eyed Scamp saw a sale in a sports shop with some natty looking trainers in the window at a knock down price. She just can’t pass on a bargain, so it was with a shoebox in the bag that we walked down to the coffee shop.

Got to the car park and the phone rang. From the garage this time, to say the car had passed and was ready to collect. Perfect timing. When we were driving out of the car park, there was nobody in the cabin and the notice said that as there was nobody to take the fare, please leave the car park smartly. We didn’t need a second bidding. £3 saved is £3 off the price of Scamp’s smart new trainers.

Lunch in Morrison’s cafe and then back south with the weather worsening with every mile. It rained almost half the way home. Not heavy, just there and no more. Dropped Scamp off to pick up the car and came home.

I’d taken one photo today and I didn’t think it was very interesting but after processing it, it looked not too bad. It was a mosaic in the Main Street of Perth. I don’t remember seeing it before. We rarely look down. We rarely look up. We walk with our eyes open, but we don’t SEE what’s around us. We’re too busy making up to-do lists and worrying about inconsequential things we can’t change. We should be more mindful. Today’s PoD isn’t the mosaic, but it is on Flickr. Today’s PoD is the Weeman. It’s been in my head for about a week now!

Tomorrow is dancing in the afternoon, but for the reasons outlined yesterday, we will forego the pleasure of salsa at night.

Waving goodbye to an old work friend – 10 April 2018

Today was one of those Scottish days. Dull, damp and dreary.

Slow to get started today, but I’d decided to reformat the old school laptop taking with it the last vestiges of me. Full deletion. This took a much shorter time than the last one, only about two hours which is reasonable for a 750GB drive and installation of the abominable Windows 10.

Scamp was out for coffee with a Witch friend, so I found the box for the laptop and took it up to the town centre to see what they’d give me for it. The shop was empty when I went in, but as soon as they sniffed fresh meat being delivered, all the Carbrain dead-heads were circling. Basically I handed over the machine. They confirmed the spec and told me I’d get an offer by phone or email, probably by Friday and gave me a receipt so they could do a ‘Three hour burn in test’. I didn’t want to tell them I’d done at least 30 hours of burn out test in the last week. Anyway, it’s gone and I’ll get something for it. How much I don’t know.

Next, when I came home I loaded more progs into the Linx and successfully secured the serial numbers for two of them. The rest were just Freeware – Real freeware I hasten to add. All legal and above board. Finally tonight I managed to get the email working. That was the worst struggle of all, but now it’s done.

You’ll notice I’ve said nothing about photos or food, which is unusual for me. I’d made a loaf last night and baked it today. It worked, but only just. It was a bit flat, so I let my sourdough starter go – down the pan. Somewhere the fishes are saying “What the F*** is that?” I’ll start a new batch tomorrow. Different recipe. Scamp made dinner. Mince ’n’ Tatties (with beetroot JIC!). Simply superb!

It wasn’t a day for photos. Today I just wanted to get the laptop off my hands, so today’s PoD is Hi Ho Silver. A funny weeman I treated myself to on Saturday. I quite liked him. Yes, I know the horse should be white and the rider should have a mask, but you get the idea!

Tomorrow is Dancing day. No time for anything else.