An afternoon with the beasties – 1 August 2022

The beasties in question were dragonflies and damselflies.

It was a lovely morning and we’d nowhere in particular to go. Scamp went off to get some messages at Tesco and to see what mess the roadworks at the roundabout were creating. Apparently it was a bit of a mess, but that’s not a surprise. I imagine it was even worse by 5pm when the factory traffic heads that way. There has been warning notices out for a week or so and we’d worked out alternative routes to take the avoid the congestion. Scamp had taken one of them and bypassed most of the stramash.

After lunch I had a look round my indoor garden of basil plants and chilli plants. The basil was drying out and took a fair amount of water to pump up its leaves again. One of the good surprises of the day was the old chilli plant from last year had made the effort and produced a fruit. I wasn’t sure the seed had set properly, but there it was a little 25mm fruit. The new chilli plant I got in Skye, of all places, is just covered in flowers and is fruiting away quite happily. I tried one of the branches of basil and the taste was really delightful. It had that spicy basil taste, but with a bit of aniseed to it too. Must be a different strain from the one downstairs. Scamp’s tomato plant is covered with fruit too. We had the first tomato yesterday and there are more ripening in the sunshine.

Later in the afternoon I went for a walk in St Mo’s and captured my first dragonfly of the year. It seemed quite content sitting on the boardwalk sunning itself. Not very skittish, either, sitting perfectly still for a few photos. A couple of blue damselflies crowded in to get their photos taken too. Then I found a big fly clinging to the shadow area of the upstand at the side of the boardwalk. It was a really big monster of a thing, about 30mm long head to tail. It too allowed me to take quite a few shots before I got fed up. Lastly there was a grasshopper, but I couldn’t quite get into a position to capture it. Pity, because they look almost alien. The dragonfly got PoD.

We had an hour in the garden when I got back. Just sitting listening to music on our headphones. It was a relaxing end to the afternoon.

Just before dinner, Scamp decided she’d better take the washing in as the clouds were gathering. I brought in the chairs too. Ten minutes later it was raining and it continued for a couple of hours. Not teeming rain, just gentle soaking rain. The best kind for the garden.

I had meant to go in to Glasgow today, but the notion left me. We may go tomorrow.



Finally getting my hands dirty – 3 June 2022

About time too!

Went out this morning to get some bread from Tesco and hopefully post some photos to Hazy. The bread was no problem, but the post office was shut, as was the local one in Condorrat. Don’t blame me, blame Mrs McQueen and her Platignum Jubbly holiday. Ok, if I’d posted the parcel yesterday it wouldn’t have been a problem, but I didn’t. I still blame Mrs McQueen for it. If not her, then Boris. That’s the obvious fall back, Blame Boris.

Came home with the beautifully wrapped parcel and a loaf plus a couple of bars of chocolate for being a good boy. With that done, and not done, we started in the garden. I found a single pea had germinated from the five I’d planted in the raised bed, so I carefully dug it out and put it aside. Then I added some compost to the raised bed to replace all the stuff I’d dug out since the end of last years growing season. After that, this year’s planting could begin.

I planted four peas, plus the pea I’d recovered earlier in the back row of the raised bed. Next line was four curly kale plants. While I was planting them, I found what looked like another kale plant left over from last year. It turned out to be a piece of kale stem with a little green leaf sprouting from the middle of it. There was no sign of any root on what you might call a cutting, but the leaf looked healthy. Just for luck, I planted it with the rest of the kale. Next line was four leeks and that was the raised bed about full.

I’d five leeks left, so I emptied out last year’s plant pot that held about six leeks. Chucked half of the compost away and all the leek roots. Mixed what was left with some fresh composts and refilled the pot, then planted the remaining five leeks in the pot. Watered everything in as all the gardening programmes say you should and left then to sink or swim. Meanwhile, Scamp was potting up her new hydrangea and rearranging other plants to give them a better chance of catching some sunshine.

At that point, I felt I’d done more than enough gardening, so I grabbed a camera and a 105mm macro and went over to St Mo’s hoping to see a dragonfly I’d seen yesterday. I didn’t find it, but what I did find was a lazy Large Red damselfly which was compliant enough to sit there while I took a few photos of it. One of them made PoD.

Dinner tonight was a pizza we bought in Sainsbury’s yesterday and very nice it was too. Sainsbury’s always have produced good pizzas.

We may be dancing tomorrow or we may not. It seems there are only two couples definitely going to class. Hopefully we’ll find out in the morning. Mrs McQueen has a lot to answer for, I’ll tell you that, her and her Platignum Jubbly celebration.

Out for a test drive – 26 September 2021

Testing the red car and no coffee in a coffee shop. Strange times.

We decided we’d take the red car out for a longer run than it’s had for while. Enough to allow the alternator to generate some electrical power and store it in the battery. I suggested we drive to Robroyston and have a cup of coffee then come home. The drive was fine and the wee red car performed perfectly. The coffee shop, Costa, not so good.

There was a reasonable queue in the shop, but when I got to the front one of the baristas told me there was filter coffee and soft drinks, but no coffee, no lattes and no cappuccinos. If there was no coffee, what were they making the filter coffee with? Maybe instant coffee? Or perhaps gravy browning? To be honest, in Costa it’s difficult to tell the difference. I said “No thanks” and we left. Most of the queue left too. I’m guessing there were no HGV drivers available for the coffee delivery.

Instead we went to Lidl and bought enough to make tonight’s dinner and some other things too and drove home to get our caffeine fix. Again the wee red car behaved perfectly with a few squeaks from the brakes and maybe a noisy wheel bearing, but essentially it was working just as it should do. Now we just have to find a petrol station that’s open, without a mile long queue, and one with petrol in the pumps. That might be a bigger challenge!

After lunch and after watching Andrew Marr savaging Grant Shapps the transport minister and listening to Keir Starmer mumbling about what he’d have done if he’d been prime minister (fat chance of that), after all that, I booted up and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Sitting on an old log I found four dragonflies. I joined their group and took their photographs, individually and in pairs and trios. Never quite managed the full group photo. Well, you know how it is with group shots. There’s always somebody who blinks or looks the other way and there’s always the joker who pulls a funny face. It’s just the same with dragonflies, except with wings. One of the dragonfly photos got PoD.

Dinner tonight was Haggis Neeps and Tatties. No, it wasn’t Burns Night, it was just a great idea from Scamp that really hit the spot. It was buying the turnip from Lidl that settled the case for H,N&T. Very enjoyable and even better, there may be enough haggis left for tomorrow’s lunch.

After dinner and after watching another fascinating GP which Hamilton won <Insert boo here> and Verstappen drove a spectacular second place after starting last <Insert Hooray here> we did a bit of online investigating. Scamp found that the owner of the garage we used to take our car to for MOT and servicing has now gone into partnership in a new place. We may go and do a drive by tomorrow, just in case the wee red car need some TLC.

Spoke to Jamie in the evening and found that life was just ticking over as normal down there. Told him I was testing Dashline and Lastpass, his and Hazy’s password managers at present. I’ve Dashline working on the MBP and Lastpass on the iMac. Not much to pick and choose between them, but I’m just a week in to the test.

Tomorrow we might do that drive by, or we might go for a walk or maybe we’ll do both. Who knows? You might, tomorrow.


Recovery – 29 August 2021

The day after the dance was over.

I thought I’d be aching a lot more than I was today. However, an extra half hour in bed and a relaxing day wouldn’t do any harm at all. With that in mind, the most strenuous thing I did in the morning was finish Friday’s sudoku. It’s strange that you can study these fascinating puzzles for hours on end without adding one number to the grid, then pick it up the next day and see all the clues you missed. It’s almost as if some good fairy comes in overnight and writes a few extra clues for you.

After lunch we had a wander round the garden, pruning this and dead heading that. We also discussed what was going to be moved and where it was going to as well as what was going to fill its space. It’s all sorted in Scamp’s head. She was just telling me about it. Sometimes, that’s what ‘discussion’ is.

I took the Big Dog and the Big Lens out for a walk in St Mo’s where I found two dragonflies, one male and one female who were perfectly happy to sit and be photographed. It was the male that made PoD, or more precisely, the head and thorax of the male dragonfly that made PoD. Interesting too was the shield bug carrying aloft a caterpillar like a trophy. Both are available on Flickr along with the delightful Troika rose.

Dinner had a bit of a cobbled together theme with half of yesterday’s Chicken Tikka Masala added to half a Vegetable Masala plus some cauliflower and served with rice. Actually it tasted really good, as did the Eve’s Pudding that was the dessert.

Spoke to Jamie later and heard about the trials of house buying. Once you’re past the initial excitement it’s all to do with money for this and more money for that. I don’t envy him this part of the game. Being Jamie, he played down his baking skills after making a Chocolate Swiss Roll.

We settled down to watch what turned out to be the shortest F1 GP in history. With only three laps completed under a safety car, in the torrential rain, Max Verstappen was declared the winner. I really felt bad for the fans who had paid to watch some racing and got to watch the rain falling.

Out fairly early again tomorrow to take the Blue car for its first service in Stirling. We may get the bus in to Stirling itself and go for a coffee.

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.

Out for a walk – 22 August 2021

Or two, in my case.

It was a warm sunny morning, but we didn’t really get going until the afternoon. We finally decided to walk round Broadwood again, but the opposite way round, just to be different. There wasn’t a lot to see, but when we came out at the wee pond near the Irn Bru factory, I did see a dragonfly sunning itself on the top of one of the NLC signs telling you what to look for. It could have been a living advert for the woodland walk, but it got its photo taken anyway. A few steps further on, there was another dragonfly, also sunning itself on a wooden fence. I tried for its photo, but couldn’t get through the grass that was shielding it. I gave up and eventually it did too and flew away. Still, I had one in the bag.

Back home I had a look through the afternoon’s shots and, yes, there was at least one shot of the dragonfly that would pass muster. However, there were more things out there, I was sure. So I left Scamp to read and went for a short walk in St Mo’s. Found more small dragonflies sitting on the upstand of the boardwalk and included them in my photos. Even better I found a Leaf-hopper, a bright green leaf-hopper (Cicadella viridis) and took its picture too. I tried a Wolf spider, but couldn’t get it all in focus. There was a Garden Cross spider but it was too far away and there was no way I was wading into the murky waters of St Mo’s pond. It’s bad enough when you don’t know what you’re walking in, but it’s worse if you do!  The leaf-hopper got PoD, just beating the posing dragonfly from earlier in the day.

Decided that I had enough and came home to make dinner which tonight was Naked Fish and Carrot Chips. I thought we had everything to make the dish, but then found we had no garlic. I added garlic granules but they didn’t quite cut it. Also, the carrot chips weren’t very chip-like. Discussion later with the chef himself, disclosed that he thinks there should be more cornflour than the recipe says. I agree with Jamie, that would probably work. We were discussing this when he phoned after the dinner was made and eaten. We also found out about how things are down Cambridge way. You forget that England has different rules and timings than up here. Schools are still on holiday there while they are back at work here. House buying seems to work on mystery and black magic there whereas it might be archaic here, but it’s much more clear cut.

Scamp had been working hard trying to learn some of the figures and their link steps form the second half of the Foxtrot routine. My versions were different, but between us we managed to get everything sorted out and it now looks doable again. It just needs a few more practise sessions and we’ll have a full foxtrot.

Tomorrow seems to be even better than today and today was good. Not too bright and sunny, but warm. Tomorrow we are governed by high pressure, so we should be dry at least. No plans.

Out early for a dance or five – 14 August 2021

The new normal for a Saturday. Up and out by 10.15.

Drove to Johnstone, flying solo. I did have a radio operator, but didn’t have the backup of sat nav. You have to fly solo some time. You can’t always be relying on instruments to guide you, besides it was a fairly easy route to follow.

Started with a couple of sequence dances and finished with a line dance! Oh No! I’ll be buying a Stetson hat and a pair of cowboy boots soon! In between there were more additions to the Foxtrot to contend with and more detail in the Sweetheart Cha Cha. We managed it, but with a bit of difficulty for both of us.

Came home and had lunch then we lifted our second, and last “tattie bag” and got a fair amount to tatties for tomorrow’s dinner and a few more days besides. Then Scamp wanted to do some pruning and I went to the butchers to get sausages for tomorrow’s breakfast, stew for a steak pie and free range eggs. On the way home I stopped at St Mo’s and nabbed a little dragonfly, a Common Darter, for today’s PoD. Still shooting with the new A6000 which is so much lighter than the E7m2. Image quality is a bit lower than its big brother, but not so much that it is getting sent back. The kit lens is one of Sony’s failures, but I’ve enough lenses to go round without having to use that bit of plastic. It’s a keeper.

Dinner was from Golden Bowl and was our usual selection: Chicken Chop Suey for Scamp and Special Chow Mein for me. Both up to the usual high standard. Watched one of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise which was just mindless entertainment, no thinking required.

Tomorrow we may go for a drive somewhere scenic if the weather is as good as today.

One out, One in – 10 August 2021

Hopefully moving forward in the process.

It was a lovely morning after all that rain yesterday. Scamp encouraged me to go out for a walk and I’m glad I did. She was feeling a lot better, but had things to do in the house. Also, we didn’t know when DPD were coming to pick up the GX80 camera I was selling to MPB, so someone had to stay in the house.

I was hoping that yesterday’s rain and today’s sun would have freshened up St Mo’s pond to the extent that there might be some dragonfly activity and that’s exactly what had happened. Not one, but two pairs of dragonflies doing circuits of the pond. One pair were blue and big and they never stopped to rest. They just kept flying round and round. The other pair were much smaller, probably Common Darters and they were much more relaxed, stopping to rest every few minutes on the kerb of the boardwalk or sometimes even on the boardwalk itself. I grabbed a few photos just incase they flew off and, like those big blue beasts, started flying circuits. I’d just found a little Leafhopper when a gang of chattering women came down the path from the woods. We said our “Good mornings” and then I recognised one of the last to pass. She was the librarian at the school and had retired the year before me. We asked each other if we were well and I found out that the ladies were in a walking group and did this walk every Tuesday morning. I replied as my mum would have said “Half kiddin’ and hale earnest” that I’d have to avoid coming this way on a Tuesday morning. We parted, both saying “Not missing It a bit”. The ‘It’ in question didn’t need to the explained.

I wandered on into the woods and tried to find the wasps nest from yesterday. There was still some activity there, but a lot less than yesterday. It looked like a lot of the hexagonal cells had been closed up since then and only a few wasps were still working. I’d read a bit about wasps and their nests and found the entrance and exit holes quite easily, but was amazed at the distance they were away from each other and from the excavation that had uncovered the nest. The triangle they formed would have fitted into a circle about a meter in diameter. That’ was a big nest that nobody had noticed until a badger got hungry one night. I took a few shots of rowan berries that are now colouring up nicely before I headed home to drive in to Glasgow to pick up a new Sony A6000. A compact little camera that would take the same lenses as the big A7m2.

I drove in to Glasgow and picked up a very small box which contained the camera. Surprisingly it has almost all the facilities its big brother has, only the sensor is not quite as big. It’s an APS-C sensor which, without getting the technospeak that at least one person hates, is only two thirds the size of the one in the ‘Big Dog’, so images are a little bit grittier than the ones from a full size sensor. Most of the cameras I’ve owned have had an APS-C sensor or smaller. It’s not such a big deal these days. One big deal is the weight. This camera tips the scales at about half the weight of the A7M2. It should be easier and lighter to carry around for day to day photos. I’m still testing it out, but in a quick shoot in the late afternoon it did not a bad job.

By the time I got home, the DPD man had come and gone with the parcel. Now I just have to wait to see if MPB agree with my evaluation of the camera and lens.

Dinner tonight was Katsu Curry from a ‘kit’ with the Wagamama name on it. We both agreed that the chicken done in panko breadcrumbs and even the rice were good, but the sauce. Oh, the sauce! It tasted bitter and a bit spicy, but that was the end of the taste test. It wasn’t a gravy, it wasn’t a curry sauce. It lacked body. Basically it added nothing to the taste of the meal. Scamp has had a Katsu Curry in Wagamama and says this brown liquid is nothing like the curry sauce you get in the restaurants. I don’t think we’ll bother with another ‘kit’ with Wagamama’s name on it.

PoD was taken with the new camera, but that’s not why it got that position.  PoD is awarded on merit, not on the hardware that is used.  That’s what I say, anyway.  The PoD is a couple of Dead Nettles (Lamium purpureum) which are not related to stinging nettles, but may have evolved to look like stinging nettles as a protection against being eaten by animals.  Y’see, every day is a school day (Sorry Neil D!)

Tomorrow we may go out for a drive in the rain.  I may even take the Little Dog.


A dull Saturday – 12 June 2021

Not a day for doing much or going anywhere, although it did brighten up later.

Scamp did a bit of tidying up in the garden and moved some plants around to give them more sun and also to put them in places where they could be seen better. I deadheaded some of the aquilegia plants to, hopefully force them to produce more flowers. Scamp also cut the grass at the front and edged it I am now reminded!

We had the other half of yesterday’s quiche for lunch. I think I prefer it cold, while Scamp definitely prefers it hot. After lunch I took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. Snapped a few damselflies, but because I hadn’t lifted the macro lens, none of them were acceptably in focus. I walked out behind St Mo’s school and disturbed a big dragonfly. It flew around for a while before almost crashing into me. It seemed to perch in a tree, but when I looked I couldn’t find it. PoD turned out to be a little fragile looking damselfly that seemed to be playing hide and seek with me hiding behind a stem. Every time I moved, it moved too. I took some photos of it and left it to its game.

When I cropped the damselfly photo in Lightroom later, it was really a small image. However, this new Lightroom has the ability to enlarge a photo to four times it original size without losing definition. That’s what I did. The process is called ‘Enhance’ and that’s what it does. It takes a fair bit of processing power to do it and the PoD took almost 30 seconds. The wait was worth it, because the quality is quite amazing.

We walked over to Condorrat tonight to pick up a Golden Bowl dinner we’d ordered. Two Chicken Chop Suey and two Fried Rice. Just as good as it always is. It’s great that some things don’t change in this world.

After dinner, Scamp and I watered the garden, just the front garden and just with watering cans. If the warm dry weather continues we may hose back and front gardens tomorrow night. We had a quick practise later for tomorrow’s class. The routines are a bit rough, but we have most of the steps in the right place.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather brings us.


Another day too good to waste

Up fairly early and out for a walk in the woods.

Scamp drove us to Drumpellier where we joined the conveyer belt of folk out for a walk in the sunshine. It really was a beautiful day and there were literally hundreds of people in the park, all carefully socially distant. How many times have we walked on that same conveyer belt but never investigating the woods? What an opportunity lost. This was our third trek into the cool shade of the trees. Lots to see if you look. Today we saw a Jay. Years since I’ve seen one with its bright blue band on its wings. Almost got a shot of it on the wing and looking as if it was heading straight for me, but it was out of focus. I did get a static shot of it and, although you can see the blue stripe, you can’t quite see its head because it was in shadow. Pity. We walked on and tried a new path, but found it just lead on to the road backtracked and found a path we’d been on before. Followed if for a mile or so then chose a new one, just to see where it went. It turned out to circle the cricket pitch we’d found last time. From there, all the paths were ones we’d already investigated. Walked back to the car and stopped for an ice cream on the way. The place was even busier now. There was even a bloke busking to a pre-recorded backing track. Never seen that in Drumpellier before. He didn’t seem to be making much.

Back home and after lunch Scamp got the folding seats out and set up in the sun. It seemed a sensible way to spend a warm afternoon on the last day of May. The month started with us driving down to Irvine to go to the first High Tea of Peter’s two day birthday. Along the way it had been a month of stretching our wings, getting gradually further away from the house and the walks round Broadwood, although the weather hadn’t always been great. Wettest on record some said, but it was dry today and the sun was out and I was listening to Rebus on my headphones.

Later I went out for a walk because I wasn’t sure I had any decent shots from today’s walk and could hardly believe that there were two dragonflies circling the small pond the boardwalk crosses. They were busy making more dragonflies, so paid no heed to me, but were far too far away and too fast to catch with a camera. I did see a couple of damselflies too, but they were too skittish, probably avoiding the bigger dragonflies. The best shot I took was just a branch of May blossom. It looked ok.

Dinner tonight was a salad with tuna pasta and curry rice which was just ok. Scamp had boiled the rice earlier and I added the curry powder and some curry paste, but it didn’t taste like I expected. However the pasta was lovely and worked so well on a warm day. We sat outside for a while to soak up some extra rays, but I nearly fell asleep and we retired to the house to tidy up and for me to get started on the last EDiM drawing of 2021.

Today’s prompt was your computer mouse. Rather than draw my usual mouse I drew an old corded mouse. It works when no other mouse will. It’s not as flaky as the Apple Magic Mouse 2 and it doesn’t use batteries that fail when you really need them, like the Logitech ones. There’s a place for old tech, even these days.

Tomorrow we’re hoping for another good day and we’re hoping to get out for a walk.