Driving – 10 September 2021

Feeling a lot better this morning. No sign of yesterday’s Lurgi.

We got in the car and drove to the petrol station to buy some extremely expensive petrol that only had 5% of Ethanol in it. Better the devil you know when you’re on a fairly long journey, carrying half a tonne of stuff.

Drove out of the petrol station, still smarting from the expense and joined the M80 heading in the general direction of Glasgow. Merged on to the M73 which in turn merged on to the M74. Drove sedately past the roadworks at Hamilton that are due to finish in October (year not stated), watching the train of cars, vans and lorries on the other carriageway, a train that went on and on and on. Made a mental note to exit the motorway at Canderside on our return journey and not be caught in a stramash like this.

After a hundred miles or so, Scotland became England and the M74 became the M6. Exited at Penrith and then it was on to the smaller A66. Just before the exit, the Start/Stop app in the car signalled a System Failure. This had happened before and I reported it to Nissan at the service a week ago. I was told then that the Start/Stop “… Checks a lot of parameters …” Which was technospeak for “It just does that, we can’t fix it”. Another Nissan failure on an otherwise great car.

Not long after we left the outskirts of Penrith, we were on a stretch of road which should have been dual carriageway, but was under repair, so it became a slow moving single carriageway. Just after what seemed like an hour, but was probably a lot less, we took the turn off that eventually led through narrower and narrower roads to the house. Actually overshot it, but Scamp noticed and we arrived. First to arrive again!

Cup of tea on the patio and a quick Foxtrot along the paving stones. I’ll bet that’s the first time anyone had danced a Foxtrot along that patio! Jamie and Sim weren’t far behind us, having left home long before us. Their’s a six hour journey and ours only about two. The world is ill divided.

PoD was to confirm that roses, even in England, have the same beasties we have up north. Honest, we didn’t bring them with us.
Scamp made Chicken Cacciatore for dinner and we all sat round the table, talked and ate.

Tomorrow we’re going exploring.

Rain at last! – 6 September 2021

It rained all day.

This was the day we’d planned to go somewhere scenic where I’d get a chance to shoot some landscapes, instead of macros around St Mo’s. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with macros and St Mo’s has been a life saver for us these last two years, but I just wanted to get out and take some photos in a wider landscape. However, it would have to be another day.

It was a dismal drizzle that was the main feature of the weather today. All the spiderwebs in the bushes across from the house were holding more than their fair share of moisture and, while very photogenic, I knew I’d be soaked to the skin if I even tried to get near them. I’ve done it before and I wasn’t going to be tricked into it again.

What I did notice when I was making my morning coffee was the little blue tit sitting on my pea frame. I stood there for a while watching it feeding on something invisible to me. I guess it was finding insects and maybe spiders in the nooks and crannies of the frame. When I’d finished my coffee and returned to the kitchen there were two blue tits this time on the pea frame. Both busy acrobatically feeding on the canes and wooden slats that make up the frame. This time I grabbed my camera and took a few shots through the window. I knew that although they seemed totally engrossed in their search, as soon as I put the key in to unlock the door they’d fly off, so I just had to be satisfied with a few shots through the window (thankfully recently cleaned). At least that would be two or three shots in the bag for today.

We drove up to the town centre as the drizzle turned to real rain. Scamp was going to Tesco and I was going looking for a decent pair of trainers in JB Sports. Not surprisingly, I didn’t find any. It would be a miracle if I was to find a Pair, far less a pair that I’d spend money on. Most of the boxes were empty or only had one shoe in them. It must be a shoplifter’s paradise. I came away empty handed, but still wearing my battered and torn Merrell Moabs. Comfortable now, but leaky as a sieve. Scamp was waiting for me in the car and we drove home through the drizzle to Bubble & Squeak and an egg for lunch.

I browsed the internet looking for trainers that I’d actually pay money for, but found little. Eventually gave up and when Jackie phoned Scamp I went upstairs to get a painting out of my head and on to paper. It was a pastel painting I was attempting. It’s part finished, but I don’t see it getting much further than tomorrow before it heads for the bin. Checked out the blue tit photos from the morning and they really weren’t all that bad. One of them made PoD. A little blue tit sitting on the cane at the top of the pea frame, looking as if it’s singing its wee heart out. It entitled “Singing in the Rain”.

Dinner tonight we shared a Giovanni Rana meal for one of Gnocchi with a Tomato, and Basil Sauce as a starter. Main course was another Giovanna Rana, this time Mushroom Tortellini. Giovanni is a clever man. The gnocchi starter was nuked for four and a half minutes and the tortellini was boiled for two minutes. That’s fast food, but not fast-food if you understand me. That hyphen does a fair bit of damage!

A gentle practise of the Foxtrot, Waltz and Saunter Together tonight worked well. No great mistakes by either party.

I think the rain may have stopped now and we’re hoping we might get out somewhere scenic tomorrow.

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.

Climbing and Flying – 1 September 2021

The assault on Croy Hill, the reverse direction.

Scamp suggested we go and visit Silvanus, the Roman warrior’s head that stands on the edge of Croy Hill, and instead of walking the usual path from Croy itself, we could walk along the canal and up on to the old railway line and tackle the hill from the north. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies and sun, so the walk seemed like a good idea, but first I wanted a closer look at a plane.

We’ve seen and heard a Spitfire flying around the town and I wanted a closer look. With that thought in mind we drove up to Wardpark and past the airfield, but saw no evidence of the old warbird. Disappointed I drove over to Kilsyth and from there to Auchinstarry where we parked and put on sensible walking boots for the walk.

I’d forgotten just how steep the climb was from the canal up to the old mineral line, but thankfully once we had reached that path, most of the hard work was done and we were on level ground for a stretch. The statue of Silvanus was much further along than we remembered, but as we were walking I could hear the sound of the Spitfire’s Merlin engines although I couldn’t see the plane itself. I checked with Flightradar24 and found that the plane was almost over Carron Reservoir, about 5 miles away. The sound of the plane faded as it dropped behind the hills. We walked on and as we neared the statue we could hear it returning. This time, with the help of Flightradar I found it heading straight for us. I took a few photos of it before it banked and overflew the airfield before climbing and performing a neat slow roll. Then it turned and headed back with flaps and undercarriage down. A few more photos before it disappeared over the hill to the airfield. I wasn’t sure I’d captured it, but at least it was better than nothing. A little bit of research at home led me to its website. You can book a flight in this two seater Spitfire. £3,000 will get you a 30 min flight in this old lady, which is five years older than me. I may have to save my pennies for a long time before I book that flight!

We met a bloke at the statue who was a Kilsyth local and was impressed that he’d ID’d the Spitfire. He wasn’t a fan of the Silvanus head, but like us was pleased that it hadn’t been vandalised in the time it had been up on the hill. We said our goodbyes and headed up over the hill while he seemed to take a lower path. I must admit I was wary of the hill because we’d passed notices to say that the cattle were back on the hill for the winter. These cattle are big brutes, if I remember right and I don’t like cattle at the best of times. “The best of times “ being when there’s a fence between them and me. There are no fences on Croy Hill. However we didn’t meet any today and we took the ‘easier’ paths where they were available, missing out the tourist routes over the tops.

When we had passed the top and were coming down the other side I realises Scamp wasn’t behind me. I walked back, expecting to find her having a seat somewhere. She was nowhere to be seen. I shouted for her, twice, but no response. I changed to a wider path that was closer to the edge and there she was. Did she not hear me shouting? Yes, she had. That could have been a time to pick up a ‘black monkey’, but for some reason I didn’t lose it. I think I was just glad to see she hadn’t come to any harm. She said she was on the right path and knew I’d eventually realise I was on the wrong one. That could be the story of my life!

When we got back to the car it was absolutely boiling inside. Drove home with the air con on full. It was lovely.

I spent the afternoon cleaning the sensors of the two Sonys. They seem to be absolute dust magnets. They are a bit cleaner now. Not perfect, but a lot better than they were. After that I got a request from Jamie to fix a photo for Sim. It was a fairly easy bit of editing, made even easier by the new Photoshop. Scamp was cleaning up the leaves in the back garden and managed to scrape both arms raking leaves from under the blackcurrant bush. Then it was Guinness and Pimms time in the garden, in the sun.

Fish & Fried Potatoes with tomatoes for dinner. A new twist on Fish & Chips. After that we sat in the garden while I listened to the end of my Alan Parks book, Bobby March Will Live Forever. Good story with a poor reader. It was there I got PoD. I was looking at a wee single sweet pea flower backlit by the setting sun. It took a wee bit of editing to get it looking like my eyes saw it, but that’s what Lightroom excels at.

A quick practise tonight. Just about half an hour at the most, but we covered Tango, Waltz, Cha Cha and Bossa Nova in that time.

Tomorrow Scamp is intending to go for lunch with Isobel, June and Ian. I’m hopefully meeting Val for coffee in a different place, but at almost at the same time. Scamp and I will be able to compare and contrast our experiences!

Curry – 20 August 2021

Today we were travelling to Hamilton for a curry

Traffic was horrendous on the M74 because of roadworks, but a short diversion took away some of the pain.

As soon as we reached the M74, heading south, we knew it was going to be a long haul. Traffic was crawling nose to tail and the sign said the roadworks were five miles away. Thankfully most folk were avoiding the inside lane because it only led to services. We took that road on purpose, not because we were heading for the services, but because we could drive through them, then out the other side and as a result, skip a good twenty minutes of painful first gear 10mph max driving. We turned off and I took the wrong turning at Bothwell, but I found a way through it to Hamilton after I remembered part of the scenery from when I used to work in Cambuslang over 50 years ago!

We were heading for the Bombay Cottage restaurant and got parked outside without a problem. Scamp had a Cauliflower Shimla Bhaji and I had Chicken Rogan Josh. We also shared an enormous Naan. The food was just as we remembered it and almost worth the drive through that terrible traffic. There’s not much worth going to Hamilton, except for a curry at Bombay Cottage, so we just drove home, thankfully through much lighter traffic than that on the southbound carriageway. We stopped at the shops on the way home for the usual essentials: Milk and a bottle of gin, plus a Sticky Toffee Pudding which might be for tomorrows dessert.

Since I hadn’t had a chance to take any photos today I went for a walk in St Mo’s later in the afternoon. The rain was still holding off, but it was really dull. Nothing I took looked worthwhile in the viewfinder and that’s how it proved when I saw it on the computer screen. The rain had started when I was walking home, so I gave it enough time to dry up and went to see if there was anything worth a click of the shutter in the garden when it was dry. That’s where today’s PoD came from. It’s a fern that’s growing from the brickwork of the back step. I liked the curve of the leaf and the way the individual leaflets changed size as they neared the tip. It’s almost like a fractal. In fact there is a fractal called a Barnsley fern! You live and learn!

No plans for tomorrow apart from the obvious dance class.

Out for coffee with Margie – 19 August 2021

But before that, there was the problem of petrol.

Drove up to Tesco to check if my credit card would work with what I thought was my PIN, after the debacle with another of my cards last week. If it did, I was intending to bring back a loaf and get petrol. It did and I got the loaf, unfortunately the petrol station was under reconstruction which was annoying because that’s why I’d gone to Tesco in the first place. However, I’d just have to go back to BP on my way home, which is what I did. Bought £40 worth of that liquid gold which according to my dashboard computer would cover me for just over 400 miles. That got me doing some quick mental arithmetic while I was driving home (who says men can’t multitask?) that meant a quid would get me roughly 10 miles of travel and that’s before you consider Road Tax, Insurance and depreciation. Maybe I should start cycling everywhere instead.

However, if Scamp and I were taking Margie out to Torwood Garden Centre for coffee and a cake, I’d need a tandem with a little two wheeled buggy behind for Margie if I was to change to the eco-friendly method of travel. I put the though aside to suggest it to Scamp at a later date – Oops, too late, it’s out of the bag now!

We picked up Margie (in the car) and drove to Torwood. While I parked the car, the ladies went in and found us a table. It was a great afternoon. We talked about loads of things and I was pleased that she included Tarri in the conversation, but in a realistic, matter of fact way. She is a very practical woman, Margie. After coffee and a scone each we went for a walk round the plants. I could see that Scamp was casting a searching eye over various flower pots and their contents. I think we may be making a return journey to the Garden Centre soon.

While we had been in Torwood, Scamp had asked one of the gardeners how to deal with her ailing 35 year old blackcurrant bush and had been told to prune it to open it out and also to clear away all the leaves from the ground underneath the plant. That made some sense to us and she got started when we got back. We’d dropped Margie off at her house on the way. While she was hard at work with that, I started to pin up our new fairy lights to the fence. They seem to work and are lit as I write this.

With that done, I left her to pruning and dead-heading and took the Sony out for a walk in St Mo’s. There wasn’t much to see on a day that had dulled down a lot from its promising start earlier in the day. Lots of flies on knapweed and one of them achieved PoD. I was trying out lots of different tricks and tips to make the Sony focus more accurately. I don’t know if the problem is with the lens or with the camera or, more likely, a bit of both.

Another practise session tonight trying to make sense of the Melody Foxtrot sequence dance. It must be one of the most complicated and totally useless dance sequences designed by humans. I think after about a dozen walk throughs we have a fair idea how it works (famous last words!). We also covered the second half of the Foxtrot sequence without anyone falling out with anyone else and almost no swearing.

Tomorrow we may attempt to drive to Hamilton, just for a laugh … and a curry.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!

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.

The Rain – 9 August 2021

But a snail before the rain.

I noticed the snail when I was loading the dishwasher this morning and thought it might look good in a photo. I just grabbed the camera and went out to take its photo. I think it had been having a quick drink out of the birdbath in the garden and I managed to get a couple of shots before it attempted to slope off into the pot that holds the young gooseberry bush. Now most of this you can read in the description on Flickr, but you don’t get the unexpurgated version which is what I tell you here!

The true story is that I did grab a few shots of the snail with the Sony and a macro lens. Macro lenses give great detail, however they do tend to decide for themselves what bits should be sharp and which should be softer. That’s why I always take three of four shots. Then I can take the best bits of one photo and bolt them on to the best bits of another photo. Sometimes it looks a bit more Monsterpiece than Masterpiece, but with care (and Photoshop) it can work. This is a case in point. I took the head of the snail from one photo and carefully stitched it onto the shell from another. I can’t see the join and I know where it is! That photo got PoD. The second confession is that in the Flickr story the snail wandered off “to look for breakfast.” Much though we like to accommodate snails, we don’t want them chewing through our young plants, so I carefully lifted this one and dumped it in a patch of wilting bluebells under the old blackcurrant bush. Slugs get a different treatment. You don’t want to know where they go!

With at least one photo in the bag I drove off to Tesco to get a loaf and some other essentials. It was looking like a decent sort of day and I was thinking we might go for a drive. It was when I was coming back that I saw the heavy clouds. Soon after that the rain came and it got heavier and heavier and we could now see how these flash floods appear. There must have been gallons of water pouring down the footpath at the front of the house. After a fair while the rain slowed to just normal rain and the sky brightened, but no for long. Soon it clouded over again and there was a flash of lightning and almost instantly a loud peal of thunder. Then the rain started again, just as heavy as before. This time, although it got lighter, it didn’t stop and it rained all afternoon. I think it might still be raining now at 11pm. I’m really happy now that I got that photo of the thirsty snail this morning.
According to the weather fairies it’s to be a better day tomorrow, but just for a day.

Scamp was feeling better today and has gone to bed early to catch up on the sleep she lost these last two nights.

Hopefully the man from DPD will come to take away my Panasonic GX80 tomorrow and it will travel down to Brighton so the man at MPB can give it to some lucky girl or boy as long as they’ve been good and have given him lots of money. Some of that money, the man will give to us. That’s called The Economy!

Also, hopefully, tomorrow a man called John Lewis will have a shiny new black Sony A6000 for me to collect in the afternoon! One out and One in.

 

 

Recording Studio – 4 August 2021

Scamp did the clever music stuff, I was just the techy.

First there were messages to do, but I wasn’t needed for that, so I kept a low profile and allowed Scamp to do the donkey work. Just to show that I wasn’t shirking the work entirely, I removed the fairy lights from the back fence. I could just have cut the wires and ripped them all down, but I wanted to find out what was causing them to fail. I think it might be bird damage. The wee birds trot happily along the fence looking for beasties to eat. I think one or more of them have pecked through the wire. I was just finishing when Scamp appeared with the shopping.

Just before lunch we started to look at setting up the recording studio. Scamp had been asked if she could play a piece of music on her piano and put it onto CD, so Veronica could play the CD and sing to it at her daughter’s wedding. We could do this between us, we’ve done it before, but first we’d to work out how we managed it the last time. We started off with Scamp’s Windows laptop. I got Audacity, an excellent free music editing app, downloaded and running. As far as I could remember the procedure was to get a line out from the piano, plug it in to the headphone socket of the laptop and fool the laptop into using it as an input. Windows didn’t like that and refused to work with us. I then tried my new Apple laptop, with the same lack of success. We adjourned for lunch and a think.

I tried doing the same thing with my old Apple laptop and got a bit further, but still no real success. Finally, after reading a couple of explanations on the Net I worked out how it was done, on a Mac at least. We managed to get the track recorded from the piano and into the computer, but there is a dodgy key on the piano which plays a rough note, that’s the only way I can describe it. It just sounds rough. I went for a walk! I got PoD which is a bunch of Forget Me Nots in a lovely little bit of sunshine. I came back with an elegant solution.

Could she, I asked Scamp, play the tune in a different key which wouldn’t use the dodgy piano key? Then we could record it and get a clean result and using Audacity, change the key to make it sound like a clean version of the original. “Yes” was the answer once she’d worked out what I had in my head. While she set about transposing the music in her head, I made the dinner which was Prawn & Pea Risotto with our own peas. Pods in the stock and peas in the pot! It was really quite good, augmented with some frozen peas.

Back in the studio we were good to go. We recoded the music without a problem. Re-transposed it electronically in the laptop and then looked around for the CD burner. We’re still looking! It must be in the house and I think we both looked everywhere it could be but it’s still hiding. My inelegant solution was to copy the MP3 Audacity created on to a memory stick and plug it into my old Toshiba laptop running Windows 7. After a struggle we finally got it to burn the CD using Windows Media Player. Ancient technology. We played the track on the CD player and it sounded perfect. So here’s the pathway to our success.

Fairly new HP laptop – couldn’t record
Almost new Apple laptop – couldn’t record
Old Apple laptop – could record, but couldn’t burn CD
Old Tosh laptop – managed to burn the CD.

I hope Veronica likes the track and doesn’t decide she’ll sing a different song. I don’t know how these bands manage to record albums. I’m presuming they have a few old Mac laptops lying around to record the tracks and a couple of 20 year old Tosh laptops to burn the demo CDs.

That was our day. Just a musical extravaganza. It looks like rain tomorrow, so I don’t expect we’ll be going far.