Lazy Sunday – 5 September 2021

Just as the weather fairies predicted, dull with the chance of wet later.

Last night when I was reading in bed I felt a scratch under my watch strap. It was a little eight legged friend, an arachnid, but not a spider. A little tic. It hadn’t actually pierced the skin but was wandering around looking for a good place to do so. I managed to get it on to my finger and from there on to my bedroom cabinet where its wanderings came to an end. I’ve now worked out how and where it got onto my hand and for that reason I wasn’t going to re-photograph the fungi I saw yesterday.

Instead, I made some bread. Complicated bread with dried tomatoes, garlic granules, dried basil, grated mozzarella, a medium egg and 120ml of milk as well as the usual bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar and warm water. When mixed together in the correct proportions, proved, rolled and lots of other things it was baked and produced a Pane Bianco. It smelled lovely after it was baked and tasted quite good too. Maybe not quite as good a the smell promised, but certainly worth the effort.

The furthest we walked today was down to the shops to get some veg for dinner. All today’s photos were taken in or around the house. My favourite and therefore PoD was a slow shutter/low ISO shot of a Berberis bush in the back garden.

Dinner was a chicken pasty with potatoes and mixed greens. Down to earth food is sometimes best. Watched the Dutch GP and was pleased that Verstappen won convincingly. Also like that Bottas showed a bit of spirit by going against team orders. It looks like he won’t be at Mercedes next year, so he has little to lose now, and possibly everything to gain. Good man.

That was it for a lazy Sunday. There could be worse ways to spend your time.

Tomorrow we may go out for a run if it’s dry and take some interesting landscape shots to get away from constant macros. It’s raining now. Just like the weather fairies predicted.

Dancing first, then IKEA – 4 September 2021

Saturday is dancing day and as we almost pass IKEA on the way home it made sense to visit the yellow and blue store.

Dancing started with the Bellissima Cha Cha which we know fairly well and can dance with a fair degree of confidence. That’s what we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done with confidence which is sometimes the same thing. Next was the Foxtrot which we agreed was becoming a lot smoother. I’m not sure the teachers would entirely agree with that, but it felt that way to us. For the break in the middle it was the Rumba One which is a gentle bit of fluff danced as a sequence and apparently everyone was on the same beat for once. Next was waltz and we were told we were making things too difficult for ourselves, but we were trying to emulate the teachers in the video they sent us. We both agreed today wasn’t the time to say that, so we just kept quiet. Finally it was a Cha Cha line dance. Something I’d have baulked at before, but now I find I can do quite happily … as long as I’m not at the front! Good class, lots of stuff learned. No class next week as the teachers are off to Tenerife for a week in the sun, lucky people.

IKEA is on the way home so we stopped off there for re-sealable poly bags, a photo frame or two and some cheap serviettes that I use when painting watercolour as blotting paper if I overload my brush. Just useable stuff today and we whizzed through the checkout without a problem. We even managed to use a couple of shortcuts to save the “Yellow Brick Road” that we used to have to follow. Back to home.

After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s, but I’m beginning to get jaded with it. I’m looking for some open spaces to photograph. Some interesting landscapes with dappled sunlight. That’s not too much to ask for is it? Perhaps it is with rain forecast for tomorrow. We did have some drizzle today, but it was really just the edge of a cloud and didn’t come too much. PoD was a little Garden Cross spider on a web that looked like the high wire at the circus. The strange thing was it looked as if it had a larva of some kind on its abdomen. I’ve asked for help identifying it on Flickr.

That was about it for the first Saturday in September. We’ve both downloaded our QR codes to our phones to prove our vaccination status, although I read this morning that already it’s been shown that it can be hacked and the details changed. After the Scottish Government paying a reputed £600,000 for a Dutch company to create the code. I did think that was a fairly cheap price for the work that would be involved. It’s a true saying “if you pay peanuts you must expect monkeys.”

Holding our hands out tomorrow, expecting rain. Not sure if it will reach down as far south as us, but the highlands need the rain too.

Off the leash – 25 August 2021


Both of us!

Scamp was off to lunch today with two other witches. I thought I might do some phoning. First would be MPB to find out what was happening about the camera I was selling through them. I didn’t really think there was anything dodgy going on, but it’s wearing on for a fortnight since the confirmed that they had delivery of the parcel. That’s when the text came through to say they had checked the camera and agreed with my assessment of the condition. I sent my bank details and left them to the technicalities of whizzing the money over the ether.

Next phone call was to book the car in for its first service. Apparently they prefer the booking to be done online, so I went through all the hoops and the car goes in on Monday at 10am and will be ready by 12noon. Another tick in another box.

By that time, Scamp was ready to go to lunch and I’d one last phone call to make and that might be a make or break one. I was going to phone my brother who I’ve not spoken to for about six years. We correspond by email, but never speak. When I dialled the number it made a strange squeak and then nothing. No message to say that it was a wrong number or that the person was on another call, just nothing. I tried the landline because sometimes my phone gets a poor signal, but the result was the same. I’d been building up for this call and it never happened. I was disappointed. So, if you’re reading this, Alex, I did try, but presumably I’ve got an old number. Give me a ring or drop me an email and we’ll sort out this telephony stuff.

Next I wanted to renew my road tax, but when I tried the DVLA I got through to the menu, Chose the Tax My Car option and the connection went into hyperspace. The second time in about ten minutes that technology had let me down. I’d had enough. Instead of trying again, I got some bread flour, yeast, salt and oil. Added some water and kneaded my stress away.

Left the dough to prove, grabbed two cameras and camera bags, put them in the boot of the car and drove off into the … well, it was about 2 ‘o’ clock by then, so it wasn’t the sunset I was driving into, more like the sunSHINE, because it was another hot one today. I drove down to Auchinstarry, parked at the quarry and went for a long walk along part of the old railway to the Plantation. Crossed over there and walked back along the canal. Now usually if I’m walking with Scamp that will take us about half an hour to an hour. Today it took me two hours, because I was stopping a lot checking things and generally being a photog. The weather was beautiful. Almost a clear blue sky and hardly a breeze. PoD was a spider repairing its web. Getting rid of all the detritus that had been caught in it. Saw what might be a shield bug, or might be a beetle. I’ve asked for an ID on Flickr.

Came home to find Scamp sitting in the garden. Not content with going out for lunch, she’d come home and got started cutting the front grass. Then she complained that she should have cut the back grass too. I encouraged her to have a Pimms instead and I had a beer, then we sat in the garden she read her book, I listened to mine.

Dinner was a Pizza Pasta Combination (Half a pizza with a small bowl of pasta) for me and the other half of my pizza for Scamp.

Later I finally got through to DVLA using my phone as a wifi hotspot. It’s something to do with way the new modem deals with some websites. Must query it with Virgin who will deny it’s anything to do with them, of course.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow to go looking for a bank that sells beer!


New hair do – 24 August 2021

Not me, I’ve had mine cut for this year.

Scamp was off to the hairdressers who were going to dress her hair for her. I was going out to get some photos, but first there were photos to look at and and yet more photos to look at on Flickr. I’d charged up the cameras and made sure there was still space on the SD cards, then Scamp returned with her hair suitably dressed. Well, I thought it looked fine, but she didn’t like it. What is it they say?
“The difference between a bad haircut and a good one is two weeks.”
They also say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
’They’ say lots of things, most of them pointless.

After lunch she was thinking about cutting the grass and I was thinking about taking some landscapes, then Veronica phoned to say she (or her husband) thought the music we’d made for her to sing to at her daughter’s wedding was too high and could we lower it? Scamp and her discussed it over the phone and decided we could lower it by three semitones. I agreed although I’ve never seen a ‘semitone’ but I’ve been accused of ‘lowering the tone’ a few times! It was the work of about ten minutes to do what was necessary to the recording and burn it on to a new CD. Scamp said she’d take the CD to Veronica and I said I was going looking for photos.

I drove up to Fannyside, parked and was just walking up the road when I saw a tiny little dragonfly, not a damselfly, sitting on a fence. I kept my eye on it while I carefully drew the camera out of the bag and switched it on. I took my off it for a second and it was gone. The next thing I knew was it was sitting on my shoulder. Too close to use the camera, but if I could just get my phone out of my pocket … but it was gone again, and this time it wasn’t coming back. Such a pity, but a good story!

I walked up the path and discovered a host of birds sitting on a power line. I couldn’t count them, there were so many. The main bunch were starlings, but there were some sparrows and a few swallows, all twittering away. I got a few photos and then they all flew down into the garden of a farmhouse as if a dinner gong had sounded. That congregation was PoD. Shot a couple of landscapes, because that was what I’d gone for, but nothing beat the birds.

Drove on towards Arns, which is a farming community on the outskirts of Abronhill, on a narrow single-track road with no passing places when I met a van coming the opposite way. I reversed along the road for a few hundred metres until I found a safe place at a gate into a field where I could squeeze up next to the gate and the van could squeeze past. I got a wave. I thought I deserved a round of applause. Driving in reverse, using my reversing camera as a guide. I’ve never met any traffic on that road while I’ve been driving … until today.

Drove on to the car park at Greenfaulds station and parked there, then went for a walk along the Luggie. Got a photo of a spider, a big one, tucked into one of the seed heads of a yellow rattle plant. I’ve posted it on Flickr hoping for an ID.

A can of Guinness and a tin of Pimms for Scamp in the garden back home. More strawberry vodka & lemonade later to watch a recording of University Challenge. What a hot day that was. Hoping for the same tomorrow.

Scamp’s out to lunch with two of the witches tomorrow. I might make myself a pizza and then take the Dewdrop out for a run.

An undecided day – 1 June 2021

It’s wasn’t us who were undecided, it was the weather.

It looked as if it would be another scorching day when we woke, but it never really reached full scorch. It was warm, but not bright all the time. The sun came and went for most of the day.

The first task today was to water the garden. Scamp did the front and I did the back. I think I got the heavy end of the stick, because there are only about a dozen pots of plants at the front and easily, easily thirty at the back. However, it was my choice and it was good just walking about spraying water on the thirsty plants. It also gave me a chance to stand there and admire all the things we’ve grown. Such a variety of flowers, greenery and vegetables.

After we put the hose away and had a coffee we had some admin to do. The boring things like backing up my photos, paying off my debts and also changing providers for house insurance. The problem is there’s no real shortcut to them, but they have to be done. One thing I didn’t have to do today was a sketch. May is over and with it, EDiM. I’ll miss it in some ways, but in others I’m really glad I don’t have to start working on a sketch at 10pm, then trying to get it into the computer and posted on Flickr before I write the blog. As it is, it’s just before 10pm now and I’m already halfway through the blog.

We’d walked down to the shops after lunch and bought what we needed for dinner which was to be a stir fry. On the way back I veered off to walk round St Mo’s, hoping for a chance to snap those dragonflies from yesterday. They seemed to have disappeared. Maybe the lack of constant sun was giving them problems. I think they need the sun to keep their bodies warm. I did almost capture a little red damselfly and a Jenny Long Legs, but it was a couple of Wolf Spiders that took most of my attention. The one of the female trailing her egg sac got PoD. I think I’ve mentioned it before, but anyway, they like to bask in the sun with their load because the heat helps the eggs to hatch. It looks such an uncomfortable existence. Almost as uncomfortable as a woman in the last weeks of pregnancy. The swelling is proportionally the same.

It sounds like most of our time was spent being active or doing work, but that’s only half the story. Although it wasn’t exactly wall to wall sunshine today it was still warm enough to sit in the garden with a beer and that’s what we did for the odd hour or two, just reading or daydreaming.

Dinner tonight, as I said, was a stir fry. Scamp made hers with rice as the base and I used noodles for mine. Hers looked a lot better than mine, but mine tasted good. I’d do that again. Maybe even without the tuition from my wife next time!

So, photos are in Flickr and the blog is just about to be posted and it’s just after 10pm. That must be a record … if it all works out.

While some of Scotland went down to level 1 today, most of the Central Belt were fated to remain in level 2. It’s not a big benefit for us really. More people from more households could meet indoors and soft play centres could open again, but neither of these would affect us. It appears that Covid cases are on the rise again across the Central Belt and this is a preventative measure. Better to be safe than sorry, I suppose.

Tomorrow we may be going east to look at some flowers.

Another dull day – 26 May 2021

However, brighter days are on the horizon, we’re told.

Scamp was off to Calder’s for lunch with Annette and I was left to my own devices. Always a dangerous thing to do. As it happened I didn’t really do much damage today. I hoovered the painting room because there was a lot of those sticky covers from the buds on the trees. They stick to you shoes and then transfer to the carpet later to be ground in. Luckily the Dyson knows how to deal with them. Didn’t do much else with my freedom, other than try to find a way to partition an NTFS drive on a Mac. Apparently it can’t be done without a lot of work and I wasn’t going to waste more time on trying.

Just before Scamp returned, I gave up and took the car out for a run with two cameras in the boot. I was hoping to give the Sony with the Sigma macro a chance to show what it could do with the new damselflies, except there didn’t seem to be any of the flying creatures around today. There were lots of Wolf Spiders wandering along the boardwalk. I chose to annoy them instead. Saw a spider on spider fight that was as good as anything Hollywood has to offer and probably more violent than is allowed on the BBC. These guys, and it was guys, were throwing everything into this battle. They actually rolled across the upstand of the boardwalk and fell off into the water of the pond. Can spiders swim? I hope so, or at least I hope they are quick learners. Soon more arrived to fill their place. It was mating time again I think. One lateral shot of a female wolf got PoD. Not the prettiest face I’ve seen, but beauty they say is in the eye of the spider who won the fight and learned to swim.

After the photo session I drove to Kilsyth, more exactly I drove to Lidl. Bought a lemon to replace the mouldy one at home. Then a host of more fattening things that took my eye. The lemon along with its other three yellow buddies is going to make Limoncello. Sugar, Vodka and the best lemons you can find. That’s all there is to it, that and a fair bit of work. Maybe tomorrow I’ll start the manufacturing process. It worked the last time and I’ve just finished the last bottle, so it’s time to start again.

Today’s prompt was Something You Collected Outside. I couldn’t think what to draw, but then I remembered I used to pick up old empty snail shells, especially small ones. They are so fine and delicate and to think that some creature creates this shelter for itself. What does it create it from? How does it form it? Probably, like so many things these days, the answer is but a click away. I’m talking here about land based snails, not cockles or winkles or any of the sea snails. Their heavy thick walled shells didn’t interest me.

Tomorrow we may go out for a run. Tesco are delivering tomorrow night, so we can’t be away too long. Of course, all of this is dependent on the weather fairies getting things right!

Lunch with friends – 11 May 2021

Today we were going to meet two of our oldest friends for lunch.

We were off to Clydeside to meet Crawford and Nancy for lunch at Gouldings which is a plant nursery and restaurant (or maybe the other way round now). It’s in Rosebank and I’d hoped to get some photos of the nearby Mauldslie Bridge and the gatehouse on the way home, but it looks like they are restoring the bridge and it’s going to be some time before we’ll be able to go there. However the lunch was what we came for and simply to catch up again. Now that restrictions are being lifted and we can have a meal inside, life feels so much more relaxed. Even conducting a conversation face to face rather than through a computer screen is such a novelty. It even feels strange to say that, but it’s true. The novelty of being in the same room as someone you’re talking to. Who would have thought that five years ago.

I had steak pie and Scamp had lemon sole goujons. Mine with potatoes and Scamp’s with chips. Steak pie wasn’t the best I’ve ever tasted, but Scamp’s fish seemed to be really good. I have never liked lemon sole, but it’s years since I had it, so maybe I should have been brave and tried it. Tastes change with time.

We sat for ages, just talking and catching up. Then we wandered round the shop for half an hour or so. Scamp got metal hoop supports for her alliums a Begonia and a tray of Bizzie Lizzies . I got a pot of leeks. The begonia is now planted, the hoops are in place and doing the job they were intended for, but the bizzie lizzies didn’t fit into the pot she was hoping to put them in. I’m hoping to pot my leeks up or plant them out by the weekend.

Because I didn’t get any photos at Rosebank, I went out for a walk when we got back while Scamp was gardening. I was lucky enough to see the mating ritual of two Wolf spiders. Such a strange stylised posturing. Most of the shots I took were useless, but a few made an interesting trio on Flickr. I was using the Sigma 105mm macro and my next target for it was the much prettier Wood Sorrel flowers I’d seen yesterday. The macro lens made a much better job of the flowers than it did of the spiders. PoD went to the flowers.

Topic of the day was A Tool. The tool I chose was a Multi-Tool I got for my Christmas a few years ago. It’s a really handy thing to have in your pocket, with pliers, knife blade, file etc. About ten tools in total, probably including something for taking the stones out of horses’ hooves too … if I can find it! An amazing piece of engineering and worth a space in anyone’s pocket, bag or handbag. Just a sketch today, an ink sketch for speed and also so I could draw it while we were watching Sewing Bee. I don’t like painting in the warm lights of the living room. It never looks right when you see it in proper daylight. Colours are all wrong.

Tomorrow I think we’re going to The Fort. I want a wander round Waterstones. Another tick in a box to say we are returning to normality.

Still didn’t get that painting done – 13 April 2021

Scamp went out for a walk with Veronica and it should have been a golden opportunity for an hour’s painting, but other stuff came first.

I wanted to have a deeper dig into some of the secrets of these two new software packages. Today it was Capture One’s turn. It’s very powerful and with great power comes great confusion. There seems to be ten different ways to do the simplest thing. Unfortunately, all the ten different ways produce slightly different results and none of them exactly what I’d intended. I’ve been using Lightroom since version 1 back in 2007. Over the intervening years I’d worked through five other versions and built up a library of tweaks and plug-ins. Capture One is like starting again. Nothing seems familiar. Maybe it’s too big a step.

The other thing I’d to do was to remove our coloured lights from the rowan tree in the garden. They hadn’t worked properly since the snow earlier in the year and although I’ve replaced the NiMh battery, there hasn’t been a light from it in about a month. It was time to call it quits and take it to the skip. Actually it didn’t take long to take it down and remove all the staples that were holding the wiring. By that time Scamp had returned .

After lunch we walked down to the shops to get a flower pot for an Astilbe plant Scamp was donating to Isobel. I’d intended walking part of the way back and then going for a jaunt in St Mo’s, because it was a lovely day with quite a few spells of decent sunshine, but I’d left my phone at home. Isn’t it strange how controlled we are by these slabs of glass and silicon? Well, for under 50s it’s just part of life, but for those of us who grew up using call boxes to make phone calls. The mobile phone is a help and a hindrance. I walked back with Scamp to get the phone.

I was hoping against hope for just one damselfly in St Mo’s. I’d seen a hoverfly last week, but today I had to make do with the skittish spiders, Wolf Spiders. They seem to live under the boardwalk, but on warm day, especially sunny days they come up to bask in the rays. I managed to catch one who was watching me as I was watching it. Later in the year they are easier to photograph with their bundle of eggs carried on their back. Apparently the warmth of the sun helps the eggs to hatch. Too early for that today, these ones were hunting, but dismissed me as too big and stringy to make a decent meal!

Back home it was time to put up the new lights under the careful instruction of Scamp. Then it was time for dinner which was potatoes, beans and either veggie sausages (Scamp) or beef burger (me).

Watched the final of Landscape Artist of the Year (Canada) and sure enough, the worst painting of the lot won the prize. If you’d given one of those wolf spiders a brush and some paint it could have made a better job of it.

There was great news announced today. From Friday we will be able to travel the length and breadth of Scotland. The Scottish world is once again our oyster!! Non-essential shops are still shut. Restaurants are not allowed to open. Pubs too are still closed, but at least we can travel to discover if the sea is still there. We will have to take a flask of coffee and pieces. We’ve effectively been locked down for the last five months. What will the world look like? Will we still remember it?

Tomorrow we may go for a walk.

An improving day – 27 February 2021

It started off dull and foggy, but it ended up much better.

We hadn’t anywhere to go today and no real reason to go there anyway. However we drove over to Kilsyth on the pretext of going shopping in Lidl. I wanted a bottle of their excellent Hortus gin and Scamp wanted ‘messages’. We achieved our aim and got both. I was very good and didn’t open the gin right away when we got home. Instead, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s but that’s not where today’s PoD came from. I got that much earlier.

The light was beautifully soft for a while after the fog had lifted and so had the heaviest of the clouds. The freesias on the windowsill were looking great and I grabbed a few shots, but I knew they would look better on a dark background. I hung Scamp’s black cardigan on the handle of the window and banged off another half dozen shots, one of which Scamp chose as PoD. No cardigans were harmed making this picture.

The trip to St Mo’s was just because the light was improving and I did find some more subjects. A tiny little spider for one. The first spider I’ve seen this year. Another was a little branch from a weed with lots of water droplets, probably from the morning’s fog, shining brightly. It seemed to be one of those days when you couldn’t put a foot wrong. Except I did put both feet wrong and came home with wet sox again!

Scamp suggested we do a Golden Bowl (best Chinese food in Cumbersheugh) and I readily agreed. Chicken Chop Suey with Fried Rice for Scamp and Special Chow Mein for me. Washed down with a glass of Red.

In the evening we practised the waltz routine and it is looking good. Much more ‘together’ than it’s been all week. Partly due to S&J’s video, but more to do with Scamp breaking things down and working out whose foot goes where, when. We also found the real name of a song Stewart uses for the rumba routine. Tried Shazzam, but it’s rubbish now. Used Sound Hound and it worked first time. It’s now in the dance music folder in Spotify.

Today’s topic was “Chess”. I dug out my old wooden chess men and set them up to fight. Black lost. That’s what happens when you paint yourself into a corner.

If the weather is decent tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere.

Out to Brunch – 22 October 2020

Another day to get out and about fairly early.

We were picking up Isobel at 10.15 and then we were all heading off to Calders for either a late breakfast or an early lunch, it was unclear which. I’d been warned beforehand not to order coffee because I’d be disappointed with the quality and the quantity of actual coffee in my cup. The other two had scrambled eggs and a latté each while I went for poached eggs on sourdough bread with a pot of tea. Even the tea was a bit thin and to be even more critical, the eggs were a bit underdone and tepid. Maybe a bit harsh, but I am one half of the Foodie pair. As usual, Isobel regaled us with stories about her family.

We dropped her off and drove home for a cup of real coffee each. Then I went upstairs to check out a bag full of old hard disks that had been torn from ancient computers over the years. Two went in the ‘skip bag’ and two were given a reprieve until I get a chance to download the useful stuff, then they will probably be ‘skipped’ too. In the process I discovered that one of my old removable drives was also destined for the ‘skip bag’. It had had a question mark hanging over it for a while and now it wasn’t booting up, so it is with regret that it goes in the ‘skip bag’ too. However, as Scamp keeps reminding me, that’s what’s wrong with our house. Holding on to too many things that have outlived their usefulness. That’s why I make the breakfast every second day and do my fair share of the cooking too. Otherwise I might find myself in that big blue Ikea bag with the hard disks one of these days.

While I was doing the technology thing, Scamp was shopping for dinner stuff. The dinner turned out to be Trout en Croûte. They looked a bit like sausage rolls, but tasted so much better. They were so good I was almost won over to be a pescatarian!

Before dinner I risked another soaking by going for a walk in St Mo’s. Got a few shots in among the trees. Some nice looking toadstools (not good enough to eat though) and the PoD which is a spider living life in the upside down. Managed to get my feet soaked trying to get the mud off them by paddling in the shallows of the pond. Merrel is not the company it once was. Quality has really gone downhill in the last few years.

I had found some gems in my search of the hard disks. We spent an hour tonight watching a video we’d made in Amsterdam away back in 2007. Half an hour of seeing life in a different world. Crowds of people not obeying the two metre rule and none of them wearing a mask!

You will notice the lack of a sketch today. This is due to a technical problem (I didn’t have time … or inclination.). Hopefully normal service will be resumed tomorrow. I Lied!

On the subject of tomorrow, we have no plans as yet. Apart from two sketches!!