A busy morning after a late night – 31 July 2021

Out and on the road to ballroom class in Johnston, just after 10am.

Drove out via the M73, then the M74 to avoid the M8 and Charing Cross where they, the ubiquitous ’they’ are still playing with their new pedestrian bridge which will be being lowered into place right about now (11.30pm on 31st of July). However, this morning the ground work would have been nearing completion and the M8 would have be a greater shambles than usual. The drive out was fairly easy and I only needed minimal prompt from the lady who lives inside the sat nav.

First dance was an easy sequence dance which got us all up on our feet. Next we did a reprise of the Foxtrot from last week. A few rough edges were cleaned up and by the end of that section we were agreed that it was flowing a lot better. Third dance was a Sweetheart Cha Cha. Cha Cha is not my favourite dance and neither of us knew this one although everyone else in the room knew it or had at least learned it some time in the past. However, Jane and Stewart after a couple of quick demos just dived straight into it and we were floundering. This is the first time I’ve criticised their teaching. Up until now, be it Zoom lessons or live lessons in a hall or even on a cruise, I’ve felt they took time to teach everyone. Today I felt that we were not given any real instruction at all. We are paying our money just like everyone else, so we should be given the same teaching as everyone else. I felt shortchanged. I’m sure Scamp will disagree, but this is my opinion.

Drove home by the M8 just to see if it was as bad as I’d thought it might be. It was slow, but not nearly as bad as the westbound lanes. I think it’s one of those occasions where both routes end up taking the same amount of time. M8 is shorter but with more stop and go traffic. M74 is longer, but the traffic flows much better. You pays your money and you takes your chance.

I went out in the afternoon to grab some photos and my favourite was a low level shot of a little yellow flower whose name escapes me. The last PoD of July 2021.

Watched Kubo and the Two Strings, a fairly interesting animation that kept us amused for the evening. Thank you Hazy and Neil D.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk down to Glasgow Green. Not been there in ages.

Another warm one – 11 July 2021

The temperature has hovering around 20º at breakfast time, and the only way was up from there.

It was the usual lazy Sunday morning waiting for the sun to show its face and for the clouds to break. The window cleaner came and I had quite a long talk with him. He’s a former pupil and has been through the mill a lot with changing jobs, but it looks as if he’s going back to being a firefighter again after venturing into corporate firefighting. Poor bloke. Scamp went out to the shops and I washed the inside of the windows. It must have been my FP’s intervention that made me think of that.

After lunch and after watching Andrew Marr try to take apart the Vaccines Minister, Nadhim Zahawi. He did his best, but attempting to get a politician to answer “Yes” or “No” to any question is always a bit ask. Anyway, after that and after Scamp had scalped the roses, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s to see if there were any insects I hadn’t photographed yet. I did find on little moth, a Latticed Heath Moth. It’s a tiny little thing and one I’ve often seen as I wander round the rough ground behind the school, but this was the first time I’ve managed to get a photo of one.

In the Zoom dance class tonight the new routine was the 2020 Quarantine Quickstep and boy, it was quick. We’ve done quickstep before, but always with dance shoes on a wooden floor. Tonight it was heavy, well worn shoes for me and for both of us a carpeted floor. Not ideal, but we did make a fair fist of tonight’s first section. Part two to look forward to.

Spoke to JIC and heard about preparations down south and good to hear that everything is going well there.

What a shame, england lost out in the final of the Euros.

Tomorrow I need to get my hair cut.

Another beautiful day – 18 May 2021

It was another beautiful morning. Too good to stay in bed and even too good for a morning coffee. That kind of good!

Scamp had booked a table for her and Margie for early afternoon, so a walk, not local, but not too far was the request. I thought maybe the walk along the canal to Twechar would probably be too long for today and the short version with the shortcut across the plantation would be too short. Maybe Colzium. It’s a week or so since we’d been there and there were a couple of little waterfalls I wanted to investigate in the park, so there was another bonus. So it was that we drove out through Kilsyth to the once private estate that is now open to the public.

We have worked out a decent route around the park with some short hill climbs and interesting scenery past rushy streams and walks through the woods. Just to make it a bit different I chose a path we hadn’t walked before, not knowing it had a long climb in it. It took us to a bridge over the Colzium Burn. I thought we’d crossed this particular bridge before, but Scamp disagreed and she was right. When we walked down the other side of the burn we came to the bridge I was thinking about. That’s where I got today’s PoD. Again it was Scamp’s observation that brought the heart shape hanging from the tree branch to my attention. I was quite pleased with the composition, positioning the heart against the white of the falls. We walked on down.

We walked down the wide avenue from the ‘Big House’ to the old curling pond. Some of the rhododendrons were in full flower, but most were like our own and just coming into flower. The trees, though, were glowing with colour. Strangely it was autumn colour, but it seemed to work with the green around it. We drove home.

While Scamp went off for lunch with Margie, I started today’s sketch. As usual, some of the prompts are slightly random. Today’s was An Interdental Brush. I decided to be generous and sketched both of mine, one with its holder. It’s amazing how useful these little wire brushes are. My friend, Fred, describes them as miniature toilet brushes. I’ll leave that thought with you!

Next task was a bit of technology (That’s your five minute warning JIC). Lightroom is having problems with the new Mojave OS and it simply won’t run on the new laptop. With that in mind I’m thinking about moving to the new Lightroom/Photoshop package from Adobe that is a subscription system. To do that I need to create a new Adobe account. Now many years ago Adobe was hacked and my email address was one of the ones that was sold off by the hackers. Despite changing my password as soon as I knew, I eventually had to shut down that address. Just in case the same thing happens again, I created a new email address for the new account. For some reason it was simplicity itself to set up on both machines. Maybe Apple are making improvements with these new operating systems. Now that the email works and has been checked, tomorrow I’m ready to sell my soul to Adobe for a Lightroom for the 21st century. (OK, JIC it’s safe to come back.)

When Scamp returned I was putting the finishing touches to the Interdental Brush still life and she pronounced it good enough to post.

Spoke to Fred tonight and we discussed politics, Rangers supporters and how boring life is these days. Then the conversation turned to cars before touching down for a while on painting.

That was about it for today. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get out for another walk, because it may be the last dry day for a while.

A day of two halves – 25 April 2021

The first part was the active half, the second was the relaxing part.

The active part was intended to be a walk along the Forth & Clyde canal from Auchinstarry to Twechar and then the return journey with a detour to Queenzieburn then by the railway walkway back to the car. However, both the parking places local to the walk were completely full. That’s one of the disadvantages of this glorious weather we’re enjoying lately. Everyone wants to be out in the fresh air, enjoying the sunshine. A quick reappraisal on the hoof suggested that Colzium Estate in Kilsyth might be an appropriate place for a shorter walk. So that’s what we did.

The parking at Colzium was fairly busy too, but we got parked quite easily. We walked a few of the paths we’d been on before and then found a couple of new ones. The entire estate is criss crossed with paths, some official, but most just short cuts through the trees. Although most of the flowers weren’t fully out yet, we did see some rhododendrons with buds almost ready to burst. Out near an old house in the north of the estate I found some beautiful moss fruiting bodies and they made PoD. We also watched Mrs Duck out with the weans for a swim round the old curling pond which is now almost completely overgrown. All in all we covered about two miles. About half of the distance we’d have managed if we’d gone along the canal, but some poor people have to work for a living and can only get out at weekends. We’re lucky enough to be able to go out anytime we want.

Back home it was the leftovers from yesterday’s curry for lunch and it tasted a lot better than it did last night. That’s often the way with a curry, though. After that we sat on the front step enjoying the sun and the relaxing half of the day. Scamp was reading and I was watching a YouTube video about building a catalog in Capture One and populating it. Sounds terribly dull, but I found out that the program may be a good replacement for the ageing Lightroom. Certainly worth considering.

There was no dance class tonight because only two couples, us included, were available. A good decision, really. It made a change to have a night off.

Tomorrow we are booked to have our next Covid survey and test. Can’t say I’m looking forward to it, but I’ll put up with it. Tesco delivery is due too and then later I’ve got an appointment for my second jag. Busy day tomorrow. No time to enjoy the excitement of the shops opening for the first time since Christmas! There will be other days I’m sure.

Happy Birthday to me – 8 April 2021

Today I added another year to my account.

It was a wild day. Gusty winds and occasional blashes of rain. It didn’t look like a good day for a walk, unless I was walking in the house.

Breakfast in bed and then a lazy morning. For the second day this week I got the Sudoku out without having to resort to checking my mistakes on my Sudoku app. Either things are looking up or the Birthday Fairy is looking out for me.

It was a relaxing day. There was little chance to get out and go for a walk. After lunch I did drive down to the shops to get today’s dinner. Tonight we were having an M&S curry which meant that nobody had to cook. I wasn’t going to walk down in a gale and horizontal rain. That’s what I bought a car for. I did come home via St Mo’s hoping to get a PoD, but there was little of interest with such low light. I came home almost empty handed.

While there was very little light for most of the day, later in the afternoon the sun did shine for a while and it lit up a wee bunch of yellow flowers sitting on the kitchen windowsill. That was just enough to give me a subject and the unnamed little yellow flowers became PoD.

Hazy and Neil D had set up a Zoom chat with us and JIC and Sim for 6pm. We had a long chat and a good laugh with them. Good to get everyone together again, just talking as if we were all in the same room. Just as we were bringing the chat to a halt, JIC and Sim disappeared when the battery on Sim’s laptop gave up the ghost. We said goodnight to Hazy and Neil D and closed the connection. Thank goodness for the folk who invented and run Zoom. It’s a terrific lifeline, even in these days of greater hope.

The curry was hot tonight and I was glad I’d opened one of the bottles of beer Jackie had sent me today. Pudding was another M&S offering, an Apple and Bramble Pie served hot with cream. I may need some of my Gaviscon tonight with a buttery tear & share, a creamy curry and a pie with more cream. It was a great day. Thank you all for your organisation, your good wishes and your prezzies. I enjoyed it tremendously.

Funniest card went to Jackie’s “Let’s face it. Even the bin has more chance of going out on your birthday this year!” Very apt as it arrive just after I’d brought the bin in. Did you know today was bin day as well as my birthday, Jackie?

Tomorrow it’s my dad’s saying “Back tae auld claes and purrich.” Back to normal. It looks like the weather will be calmer, but not better.

Welcome to the fairy dell – 30 March 2021

We have twinkling lights all round the garden. Now it’s a veritable fairy dell.

This morning we were working in the garden. Scamp was doing the directing and I was doing the heavy lifting and the digging. We were moving pots around to make better use of the space we have. One of the Azaleas was travelling out near the back fence to provide some colour until the Buddleia comes into flower. That left more space between the other two azaleas. The space where the plant was moving to was very uneven and it took a bit of spade work to level it off, but that little bit of earth shifting helped provided a more stable bed for it. The place it’s in was once hidden by a metal clothes pole which I cut down last year. This new planting makes good use of a bit of wasted space.

Still on a garden theme, I got my old multi-meter out and checked the voltage of one of the batteries in the solar powered lights that ring the tree. They seemed ok and the solar cell was producing just under a volt, which should have been enough to charge the single 1.2v NiMh battery. I replaced the battery and put it all back together. Weeks ago I bought Scamp some warm white lights to run along the fence. Today I tacked them to the fence with the staple gun. With the electrical work and the landscaping done, we had lunch.

After lunch we walked down and around the boardwalk at Broadwood Loch, then over the dam and back up home. Three goons were flying kites with SNP logos from the path across the dam. That about sums up the SNP it these, its troubled times. Flying a kite indeed!

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s because I didn’t have many photos from the Broadwood walk, but found very little to interest me. That seems to be a theme these days: “very little to interest me”. I blame the restrictions on movement. I think I’ve photographed every interesting thing in St Mo’s. We need to get out somewhere else. I ended up taking the PoD in the front garden. One of the flowers on our Forsythia bush. It’s the bush where the flowers appear before the leaves.

Interesting microwave curry ready-meal from M&S tonight. Really very tasty. Must look for it cheap again some time.

Watched Line of Duty and am still confused about who did what, when, to whom and why. Are they all lying, and why does this new DCI Davidson sound as if she’s English, pretending she’s Scottish when she is actually Scottish?

It’s all too much for me, but the fairy lights are looking good. Scamp likes them. Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere south.

Mothers Day – 14 March 2021

So like mothers all over the UK, Scamp had her breakfast in bed.

I joined her for a while, but I had ’Things To Do’. Things like finishing today’s Sudoku and making the dough for flatbread to have with tonight’s dinner. Things like clearing away the clutter from the back bedroom. All of which gave me no time to think about cleaning the sensor of the Sony A7M2. Anything to stop me from doing it. Luckily, Hazy phoned to wish her mum a happy Mothers Day. She also gave us an update on the new kitchen which appears to be nearing completion.

After the phone call, Scamp decided we should go for a walk. The length of the walk and the destination would depend on whether or not the rain stayed off. I had my doubts that we would get far before that happened and on this occasion I was right. We had hardly got 100 yards before the first drops fell, but we were out now and the destination was set at St Mo’s Park. Probably the shortest walk and definitely the most sensible, after our foray into the wilderness of Palacerigg during the week.

We did a circuit of the pond, saw some geese that were feeding on the grass beside the path which is quite unusual as they normally stay in the pond itself being carefully monitored by the two resident swans. There were two serious looking fishermen with serious looking kit. First time I’ve seen pole fishing being done at the pond. Most people who fish the pond carry the usual kit which is a spinning rod and reel and a selection of spinners, plus the inevitable half bottle of Buckfast. More serious ones bring a seat and an umbrella, a coarse fishing rod and reel with a collection of floats and half a dozen cans of lager. The blokes today were using fishing poles made of fibreglass or more probably carbon fibre, massive things about ten metres long. They had purpose build and chrome plated rod rests too. Most significantly, neither of them had any alcoholic beverages visible about them. Obviously serious, but not ‘real’ fishermen.

We left them to their Sunday morning entertainment and did two circuits of the pond, sheltering under one of the big conifers between circuits when the rain got too heavy. We declared that two rounds of the pond was sufficient and went home for lunch.

<Technospeak>
With the walk and lunch out of the way, there was no excuse. It was time to perform open heart surgery on the Sony. It’s not that I haven’t done this operation before. Anyone who owns a DSLR or a modern mirrorless camera with more than one lens has had problems with dust on the sensor. Called “Dust Bunnies” they are the irritating black spots that appear on photos. It’s not that I have had any serious problems with the cleaning process either. I did make a tiny scratch on the glass once, but it never made a bit of difference to any of my photos. The process is simple. Remove the camera lens. Put a couple of drops of extortionately priced sensor cleaning liquid on an equally extortionately priced sensor swab. Gently wipe the swab across the camera sensor. Flip the swab over and wipe it again in the opposite direction. Put the swab in the bin. With a bit of luck, you’re done. If not, you might need to go through the operation again with another gold dust swab.

I did all that and was happy with the result. Not perfectly clean, because the sensor never remains perfectly clean, there will always be bunnies somewhere and the replicate at an alarming rate, especially when you change lenses a lot, like I do. Maybe that’s why they’re called ‘bunnies’!
</Technospeak>

I was doing dinner tonight, but it was a simple Holy Cow curry. Simplest curries I’ve ever made. I commend them to you. I also made flat bread to go with it. Scamp did dessert which was meringue nests with tinned apricots. Tastes much better than it sounds.

Dance class tonight was checking on our Waltz and Rumba then Tango. Only about seven or eight steps, but so much to remember, like bend your knees, turn your feet out, tuck your right foot into your left instep. It seemed such a performance for half a dozen or so steps, but it did feel more like a performance than either rumba or waltz did. This was a whole new ball game.

PoD was a photo of catkins over St Mo’s. I took it after I’d done the open heart surgery on the Sony. Just to test that most of the bunnies had gone and that it’s little heart wasn’t broken. If that means nothing to you, it’s because you skipped the interesting Technospeak section!

No plans for tomorrow yet because we have a Tesco order coming some time in the afternoon.

Frogs – 8 March 2021

Hundreds of them. All of them, it seemed, busy making more frogs.

The day started wet, but we watched the weather monitor (the birdbath) carefully and eventually when the ripples from the raindrops disappeared, we knew we had a window of dry weather.

Without waiting for second bidding, we were out and walking down to the shops. It’s not a very exciting task, a walk to the shops, but it’s a measure of the boredom we all feel that this everyday occurrence becomes the highlight of the day. The visit was successfully completed and lunch was served.

I went out for a walk after lunch and that’s where I saw the frogs. The pond was bulging with them, all with one thing on their minds, making babies. Well, eventually there will probably little froglets, but the frogspawn was being laid down thickly today. The frogs were too far away for a decent image with the kit lens I had, so I went back to get the long zoom. However, either it or the adapter, or more likely both were having a hissy fit and the lens just wouldn’t autofocus. I gave up in disgust and went back with the macro which is longer than the kit lens, but considerably shorter than the zoom. The result of which is the lack of any good frog photos for PoD. Instead I have promoted the arty photo of some catkins to that spot. Tomorrow, if I get a dry spell, I’m hoping to take the recalcitrant combo of lens and adapter and use them in manual focus mode to grab the shot of the frogs for tomorrow’s PoD. No promises, just a possible work around. One last thought on Frogs before I leave the subject for today: If you’re reading this on computer, you can click on a link on the right hand side for “A Year Ago Today”.  If you navigate from there to the 8th March 2020, you will find how predictable frogs can be.

We had ‘white pasta’ (Fusilli a la Carbonara) for dinner, but on Val’s recommendation, I used Pecorino cheese instead of Parmesan. Scamp said it tasted different but neither better nor worse. I didn’t like it so much as the usual parmesan. Pecorino is much milder and creamier than parmesan. Maybe next time I’ll use a mixture.

Fred phoned me tonight and we talked for an hour or so about various topics including politics and the new comedy series “Drawers Off” where five amateur ‘artists’ take turns at being a partially nude model for the others to paint or draw. Last week was quite interesting, but not quite the quality of art I expected. Tonight’s was just cringe worthy, both Fred and I agreed on that. If you want to see what I mean take a look. It’s only a half hour slot and being at 5.30pm on C4 there’s nothing to scare the horses, except perhaps the final ‘art works’.

Tomorrow looks like wind and rain which might be fine for the frogs, but not so good for the photography. We’ll just have to take it as it comes. Oh yes, and we might hear an announcement from Her Majesty the Nicola about a slight loosening of the rules governing group meeting outdoors.

A minimalist day – 7 March 2021

Not a lot done, but there was definitely the feeling of spring in the air.

We did some work in the garden in the morning, although I must admit that most of my ‘work’ was photographic. Scamp did the heavy lifting. Repotting the chives that came from my mum, easily thirty years ago and probably a lot more. Every couple of years they outgrow their pot and need split up and repotted. I swear that if one single tuber was planted in a 300mm (12”) pot, within two years its roots would be using all the available space. Still the taste of new potatoes with butter and chives is a delight and makes it worth keeping these plants in a garden. Between us we chopped up two plants and replanted them. I hope they are happy in their new home and don’t go crazy right away.

In between bouts of ’helping’ with the repotting, I was taking photos, mainly of the crocuses. The blue/purple ones are my favourites, I think. That’s how today’s PoD came about. It’s just a low level view of one of Scamp’s long narrow pots, a rectangular one that sits on the kitchen step for a couple of weeks in the spring before it goes back into its shady position near the fence. It seems to thrive in that cool damp place but looks spectacular sitting on the step in the evening sun. It’s another plant that really should be split every few years, but I don’t have the heart to do it and I don’t think Scamp has either.

After lunch and after listening to a spirited baiting of Gavin Williamson the Secretary of State for Education by Andrew Marr, we went out for a walk in St Mo’s. No photos taken although I did take the Sony with the kit lens (light camera bag today). Not a lot of humans out, but a tribe of teenagers trying to start a fire in the woods. Also letting off bangers, either because Rangers had won some cup or other or maybe because they’d discovered matches. Who knows. Anyway we walked round the pond a couple of times and declared that we had achieved our stated purpose of getting some fresh air.

Dinner tonight was yesterday’s curry reheated, which sounds a bit sordid, but actually it was delicious, but apparently the paneer was still squeaky. My Chicken Rogan Josh was even hotter than yesterday.

Dance lesson tonight was a re-run of last week’s with a few pointers about presentation and general tidying up of the rough edges. Next week we move from rumba and waltz on to Tango. Ooh, must remember the rose between the teeth!

It stayed dry nearly all day, but it’s been raining tonight and we’re due for more of the wet stuff tomorrow. No real plans.

Cold damp and dull – 4 March 2021

That about sums up today.

Sometimes it’s hard to get up much interest, especially when the sun isn’t interested in doing much work. I assume it is up there, above the clouds, but it’s shirking on it’s job as far as I’m concerned. Nothing but milky white skies and the occasional rain. I’m looking for Spring and not finding it.

Scamp wanted to go for seed compost today and the only place we could be sure of getting any was B&Q. We could have driven to Falkirk, to the garden centre there, but until the Littlest Witch decides we’ve been good enough to allow us to go to garden centres, we’d have to go through the rigmarole of ordering online and then using click and collect. Plus it’s not the same as being free to wander round the plants and look at things. At least B&Q for all its faults, and there are a fair few, has an outdoor section with plants and a selection of compost types and bag sizes. Scamp eventually settled on two bags of seed compost. One for immediate use and another as a backup for later use. We agreed that it’s still a bit early for planting seeds, better to wait until later in the month or possibly even until April. Scotland is always a bit behind the rest of the uk in gardening terms.

Before we went driving through Cumbersheugh to B&Q I thought it might be a good idea to put some petrol in Blue. It’s been so long since I filled the tank, some time last year I believe, that I couldn’t remember which side the filler cap was on. Yes, I know there is a sign on the dash to tell you, but that’s not much use when you’ve just switched the engine off. Besides, it’s something I really should know without a prompt. It was passenger’s side.

Back home and after lunch, which was ‘Gluey Soup’ (Scamp’s description) I went for a walk in St Mo’s with the stated purpose of re-photographing yesterday’s PoD using the macro lens. Perhaps it was that statement of intent that made Scamp decide that a day inside would be better than watching me grovelling around moss covered stones. I did find the source of yesterday’s PoD and as you can see, well hopefully you can see, you get a much more “up close and personal” view with a macro lens. When I was looking at the photos on the computer, later, I was amazed at the detail the new lens resolves. I really am impressed.

The light wasn’t good today, but I was finding some good subjects when I got talking to a bloke who just walks round and round St Mo’s pond. I’d just intended to pass the time of day with him, but instead we stood there for about half an hour talking, or me listening and him talking. Eventually when he left to continue his circuits, what light there had been had gone and I’d missed my chance of more macros. Hopefully the light will be better tomorrow.

Phoned the garage today about the horn problem and the car is booked in for next Wednesday. That will mean a drive to Stirling, breaking the rules set by the Littlest Witch and the rest of her lying cohort, at least that’s the way they are portrayed by the media. While Alex Salmond is held up as a shining light of truth. Aye Right!

Tomorrow, hopefully, we might get out for a walk … together.