Dancin’ – 5 December 2020

Dancing and a new NAS

Tonight we were going dancing with Stewart & Jane and about twenty other couples. Not physically, but virtually. This was the Christmas Zoom Dance, but more of that later.

First there was the little matter of the decorations and the tree to put up. In the tree lights tin was the usual letter. So strange reading it this year. “Nope we didn’t do that … Nope we didn’t go there … Nope we didn’t manage to meet up with them …” and so on. Scamp, of course, did most of the work and I was just there to hand things to her when she needed them. It didn’t take her long and by lunch time most of the work was done. Then the new NAS arrived. I was in two minds about whether to open it or not, because I’d read on the net that the WD drives in it were very slow. However, I did open the box and it looked a lot neater than I’d anticipated. I’d go over to St Mo’s to have a word with myself and see what I thought.

Took a camera over to St Mo’s to see if anything was coming out to play. Well, there were a few toadstools that could have made PoD, but the landscape photos were disappointing. I took them anyway, but wasn’t impressed. I came home and powered up the NAS and immediately knew this was a totally different beast from the My Cloud. So may security protocols to get past and so much jargon and abbreviations. I must talk to Val about it. This might need his AV experience. However, by bungling through I got the whole thing working at the second attempt. Copied a few files and the transferred fine and even better, I could read them back. Best of all, Hazel (the organisation prog I use on the Mac) worked seamlessly with the new NAS after the two were formally introduced. Sighs of relief all round.

In the morning I’d been painting “M is for… “ sketch. It was a scrunched up bag of Maltesers, and at the third or fourth attempt I was fairly happy with it. When I was cleaning yesterday’s mess from the palette I saw a face and that became PoD. This may be the last sketch for a wee while. Too much in my head and not the same interest as there was in March for the sketches, I’m afraid. That doesn’t mean I’m stopping, just have a bit of a rest from it for a day or two.

The Zoom Dance started at 7.30pm and was the usual well organised event we’ve come to expect from Stewart & Jane. I even managed a fairly representative version of the Christmas Pudding Rock. Good to see other folk dancing and enjoying the occasion too. These Zoom dances are great for cheering us all up in the middle of winter and I applaud S&J for all their hard work.

After the dance finished at 10pm we watched the qualifying for the penultimate GP of the year without Hamilton who has contracted Covid and is self-isolating. Then we watched Strictly and that’s the reason this is a catch-up blog.

Tomorrow we’ll be probably be recovering from two and a half hours of dancing.

F is for Fog – 3 December 2020

It rolled in on silent wheels today.

When we were having breakfast the snow was crisp and even. The hills were clear and there was just the hint of sun. Within an hour the hills had disappeared, as had the sun. Then the fog drifted down and the snow was turning into slush. I decided to go out and get an early(ish) moody photo in the fog. I waited on the path to St Mo’s to let a girl get past, because the slush was starting to freeze. It also gave me time to frame her into the shot you see here. I didn’t realise then, but that was to be PoD. By the time I’d walked into St Mo’s, the fog was lifting and the temperature was dropping. Scotland, the weather here just can’t stand still, it needs to be constantly changing.

Got another shot in the thinning fog of an old tree in the park with the faded forest in the background. Very moody and etherial. You can see it in Flickr. I wanted to get a shot of the ladybirds I’d seen yesterday (and also on the 3rd of December 2017 – how neat is that!). However, the light was a bit low and the snow was melting on the branches of the trees and it was just too uncomfortable. I got half a dozen shots and decided enough was enough. My feet were wet, my hands were freezing and I was going home. I got a few more icy and snowy shots before I stumbled home.

Scamp wanted some stuff in Tesco and we didn’t have a delivery booked until the 17th, so we decided to do it the old fashioned way and go to the shop. Beside which, Scamp wanted a look around, because sometimes you see things (too many things sometimes) that you’d forgotten to put on your list. So, we drove to Tesco. It’s the first time Blue has been out in the snow and it seemed to perform well. Not a hint of slipping and sliding. There were fairly long queues for the checkouts as we’d thought there might be. We had just reached the front of our queue when this woman appeared and seemed to want to sneak in front of us. Not that’s a red rag to a bull.

“Eh. Excuse me, there’s a queue.”
She looked nonplussed and said “I’ve been waiting here for a while. My husband has been keeping my place.”
“So have I” I said, “And I’ve been waiting IN THE QUEUE.” (the poor bloke hadn’t been in the queue)
She still wouldn’t give in, so I said quite loudly “SO, ARE YOU JUST GOING TO SHOVE IN THEN?” Loud enough that everyone nearby could hear.
At that she harrumphed and said “Well, if you’re going to be like that …” and walked down the aisle to the self service checkouts dragging her husband on his lead. Poor man. He’ll suffer for that later.

Back home we got our first Christmas cards of the year and got the decorations out of the loft. We also changed the upstairs and downstairs curtains. Tomorrow we are hoping to put the tree up. After that, I’m sure we’ll feel a lot better.

Tonight I painted the landscape that was in my head for yesterday. I really didn’t like the sketch of the tin of lager. The lager is good, but the drawing wasn’t up to standard. Tonight’s landscape, although one of my standards was much more satisfying to paint and also looked better than the tin.

Since I’ve now found a way to extract the data from the old NAS disk, I’m going to make a fresh start with a new NAS. Ordered it from Amazon tonight and it’s not a WD My Cloud. It’s a Synology DS220j. The WD worked quite well for the three or four years I had it, but it was erratic. Let’s hope this one is better.

It looks like more snow is forecast for early tomorrow morning and it’s -0.6º just now, so I doubt if we’ll be going far.

Happy Birthday Hazy – 2 December 2020

After sending the usual birthday greeting to Hazy, I forced myself to get up and face the day.

We did a Skype with Hazy. It’s so hard to decide which of the many video conferencing apps to use now. Each one has its own advantages an disadvantages. We settled for Skype because the Birthday Girl thought it would be best. It was great, considering Mickysoft has its claws in it. Having said that I did notice a £ sign next to my sign in name. Is that a sign of things to come? Got to see her opening her presents and then caught up with all things round about Epsom and we had a few laughs too. Then it was time to go.

I rejoined battle with my NAS drive and Scamp went shopping for bird food and things. I got nowhere with the NAS. It just could be that the drive has been damaged by that one kick in the head too many. Since I’d accessed it last week using a Linux distro last week, I’d assumed everything was intact. Now I’m thinking that the data may be intact, but the OS is damaged, hence the problems I’m having trying to contact it with its own software.

I made a pizza to get my mind off the problem NAS. It was looking good, then I dropped it when I was cutting it. Half fell on the floor and I promptly decided that was my half. Just as bread always falls butter side down, so the half pizza fell topping side down. It’s all to do with neutral axis and centre of gravity. When you look at it that way it’s perfectly logical … but still annoying. It actually tasted ok and the pizza base was perfect. Scamp’s half was even better I’m told.

Struggled for a short while with the NAS software before I gave up and went for a walk with my camera in St Mo’s. I’d left it too late, far too late and by time I found some interesting stuff, like a couple of hibernating ladybirds, there was really insufficient light to get a decent shot. Then the rain started and I made the decision that a warm house was better than a cold, wet forest and I went home. All the time I’d been planning what to do with the NAS disk and by the time I came home I had a plan. The PoD went to a piece of Reindeer Moss although there were no reindeer to be seen and it was a bit of lichen, not moss.

I won’t bore you with the details, suffice to say that the plan worked. Copied a few files from the dodgy NAS drive to a newly formatted little hard disk using Linux as the copying OS. Now I can go to bed knowing that I can retrieve most, if not all, of the data on the drive. Thank you Colin for the suggestion and thank you Val for your help. Thank you lot for reading this exciting story of lost data and bad drives. Don’t worry about your WD My Cloud, Colin. It will be fine just as long as you don’t kick it in the head too many times.

A quick dance practise tonight before Scamp made Fish ’n’ Chips. Ages since we’ve had that.

I couldn’t settle on a subject for today’s sketch which would start with the letter ‘L’..  Light? Landscape? Lamp?  All were attempted and rejected.  Eventually I asked Scamp if she would like a drink as today was ‘Hump Day’, middle day of the week.  It’s all downhill from here, or so they say.  She was having G ‘n’ T and I was going to have beer, then I thought I might have lager, and the subject just appeared like magic.  It’s not a magic drawing, of that I’m sure, but it’s done and posted, so that’s a success of a kind.

Tomorrow looks like a Scottish winter. Thankfully we’re not rushing out anywhere too early, at least I hope we’re not!

Just a little pinprick – 1 December 2020

An early rise to go to the doc’s

Apparently I’m now old enough to get a Shingles jag. I’d never heard of such a thing until about a month ago, but Scamp said she’d heard that when someone reaches my advanced years they have to have it, so off I plodded on a cold and frosty morning to meet my nurse. Actually it was quite painless and as you only get it once in your life it’s not a big sacrifice. I know how much pain Scamp was in when she caught shingles a few months ago, so I wasn’t going to say no to this jag. Plus, the nurse said I’d been very brave even if there was a bit of blood and I should be pampered for the rest of the day. I’m still waiting for that, although Scamp did give me some of her fried potatoes at lunchtime.

By the time I was coming home, the frost was all gone, replaced with rain, but the cold was still there. Scamp had promised Isobel that we’d drop in for a wee natter in the morning, so off we went to the village. Isobel wanted us to go in to the house, but we knew there’d be hell to pay if her daughter got wind of it, so we just spoke through the window. She’s such a funny woman, funny in a good way. Quite offhand and sarcastic, I think that’s why I like her. She’s very like Scamp’s dad, her cousin.

When we left there we went to Calders garden centre to look for something Christmassy. I hate Christmassy (that should really be Xmassy, Christmassy’s commercial brother). I hate all the jolly Xmas music too and there was plenty of that in Calders. Scamp got a strange looking plant, a Holly-leafed Hellebore (Helleborus argutifolius) which apparently can grow to a metre high! Of course we also got some Xmas stuff. I suppose the Hellebore is Christmassy too, since my mum used to call them Christmas Roses.

Back home and after lunch Scamp went to post a letter for Isobel and I waited for the gas man to come and patch up the hole in the cupboard. It only took him about 15 minutes. If I’d known it was that easy, I’d have done it myself. He was just finished and away when Scamp returned. After she’d inspected the work and deemed it suitable, she stayed and I went out for a walk. The light was rapidly disappearing, but I got a few photos. The best, and PoD, was this slightly edited sapling poking through the leaf litter. Found lots of fungi I’d not seen before, but by then the light had gone. May go back this week to make a better fist of capturing them.

Sketch today was the letter K and it stood for Knife. This lethal looking weapon is actually a fruit knife that sits in cup on the worktop with a variety of other kitchen knives. It also doubles as a very nice steak knife. It was bought in the Canary Isles quite a few years ago and I brought it back because it has a lovely tactile handle. Those were the days when you could do such a thing without thinking.

Tomorrow we may have snow! The first of the winter. Let’s hope it lies nice and fluffy, then disappears to water overnight. It will probably make fungus hunting difficult, but would be good for a walk.

Cold and Bright – 30 November 2020

Cloudy and dull to start the day, but later the sky cleared.

Scamp was off to Tesco in the morning, leaving me to start my tidying of my half of the living room. It might not look like it, but it is tidier now than when I started. I was also tasked with some internet research that I cannot divulge as yet. Suffice to say it was successful, I hope. When Scamp returned, there was much rustling of paper and a box was packed. With that done it was my turn to do my part in this project and I had the experience of walking through a town centre with almost every shop closed. While a pre-recorded message was telling anyone who wanted to listen that “The Antonine Centre has all your favourite shops under one roof.” Yes, there are still a few shops in the centre, it’s just that none of them are open! I did my posting and the box changed hands.

By the time I came out the clouds had lifted and I was walking under a blue sky. I did think about going for a drive to take some photos, but decided that lunch would be a better option, so I drove home.

After lunch Scamp wanted to do some gardening and I wanted to take some photos. We decided on a fair division of labour. She did the gardening I did the photography. Couldn’t get any decent photos today. The light was good and the sky was still blue, but things just weren’t working out until I was headed home and saw today’s PoD in front of me. I took three shots of it and this is the only one that was in focus. That didn’t matter to me, I had a PoD.

<Technospeak>
In the evening I got a FB message from Colin (Not Colin C, but Colin B) with a suggestion for a way to get the data off the NAS drive. Basically he had connected his NAS drive to a Raspberry Pi which runs on a subset of Linux and then copied the files from there to a removable drive. Now that would be a lot easier than my idea of dual booting the MBP and doing it that way. I’m thinking it might just work. Thank you Colin, because I know you read this.
</Technospeak>

Today’s Sketch of the Day is “J” for Jelly Beans, traditional jelly beans. Lovely soft, shiny outer sugar shell with the jelly inside. And the colours, oh the colours! What’s not to like?
One of our favourite local Thai/Chinese restaurants, The Cotton House at Longcroft, presents you with a little cardboard tub of these with your bill. Certainly sweetens the paying part!

Tomorrow I must be up early to drive up to the doc’s to get my shingles jag! I don’t like jags, so I hope I get a sweetie for going, or at least a gold star!

Cold and dreary – 29 November 2020

Frost on the cars and the rooftops this morning.

I thought I’d go out and get some photos, but I waited to long to go and by then almost all that photogenic frost had melted to water. Now that the leaves have lost their autumn colours and beginning to deteriorate, only a few trees still shine. I’d taken the Oly with me is well as the Sony to hopefully get some macro shots and landscapes, but it looked like the Oly was the only one with a chance of capturing any images. I was right. The PoD is a drip hanging from a pine branch, taken with the Oly and its macro lens. I took about four shots with the Sony and none of them were really successful.

After lunch I spent my time culling the photos, rejecting some and accepting others then processing some of those photos that passed the test. That meant I could post them and get on with the next task which was the sketch of the day.

Sticking with the alphabetic scheme for sketches, I’d already decided that today’s “I” would be “Ink”. W&N ink in this case. I really like their retro little bottles. Unfortunately, I don’t like their ink, just the bottles. My go-to ink is Higgins Fountain Pen Ink. It’s a true black unlike some of the others I’ve tried. It’s water soluble and that allows me to create a nice dark grey with a waterbrush. Annoyingly it comes in a nondescript plastic bottle. So, ink from Higgins and bottle from W&N. So that’s what got me to today’s sketch.

Spoke to JIC after dinner and sympathised with him having to go the dentist to repair a broken filling and possibly having to pay for it. Double whammy, JIC.

Scariest GP for ages with Grojean crashing into the barrier on the first lap and the car splitting into two in a great ball of fire. Thankfully he walked away from what could have been a very serious crash.

Rain predicted for tomorrow as the clouds roll in and the temperature rises … a bit. That means we might get a walk, but only might.

A sunny day. Hooray! – 28 November 2020

It even rhymes.

A cup of coffee and then we were off out and walking round Broadwood. I was using the Tamron 70-300mm for the first time on the new adapter. Managed to get what turned out to be the PoD in the first fifteen minutes. It’s a female Goosander. Got to the far end and decided we’d walk the extension into the woods. A bit more than halfway round the extension we found a puddle. A fairly large puddle. It was about 2m long and took up almost all of the width of the path. The remainder of the width had been churned up by an army of boots. We attempted a crossing, but when I sank up to my ankle I told Scamp not to even think about it. A bloke we had passed earlier said he wasn’t bothered about it because he’d his work boots on. I think they must have been calf length boots, because he just waded on through the middle of this mini-loch, following his dog. We turned back, feeling like a couple of softies!
We warned a couple of people about the flood. Some carried on regardless, others took our advice and turned back. Next time I’m taking wellies.

We had to walk back the way we’d come, but that wasn’t an onerous task because the light today was beautiful. A low sun meant the light was blinding at times, but it was worth it. Took a few more bird shots with the Tamron and realised just how effective the in-lens anti shake was. Lots of people out walking round the pond, so we avoided most of them by extending our walk even further to take in what we’ve called the Exercise Machine path. It’s got all these brightly coloured, but essentially unused exercise machines all along its length. Mainly they are used by teenagers as seats or by the curious who will suffer the consequences next day. Just as we were coming home my Fitbit pinged to tell me I’d done my 10,000 steps (now I’m up to 14,000, a respectable amount.

It was good to get out in the sunshine, even if it felt quite cold at times. I ended up with a sore back from carrying the heavy lens and a camera bag too, but I shared the load with the bag across my back and the camera on my shoulder strap. Scamp had cramp in her toe on the last leg of the walk, but soldiered on.

That was about it for the day. The morning had turned into afternoon by the time we got back and soon you could feel that the sun was heading for the horizon. Days are short in a Scottish winter and light is always in short supply. I think we made the most of the day.

Today’s letter was ‘H’ and I chose Helmet. I’d already drawn an easy jet-style motorcycle helmet for Inktober, so I chose a Crusader style knight’s helmet today. Imagine having to wear that piece of headgear when you were going into battle. They must have been tough guys those knights. The horses that carried them must have been tougher still. While we moan and groan about having to wear a mask when we go into a shop, or have to wear one to work. We don’t know how lucky we are.

No plans for tomorrow, but there’s rain in the forecast.

No fog, just clouds – 27 November 2020

In a way I’d have preferred fog to the ubiquitous white clouds.

Today we were heading to Kilsyth to get some gin for me. Cheap gin, but I like the taste. With that in mind, we went via Lidl and picked up a fair bit more than a bottle of gin. Waited in the queue, but when we’d loaded our goods onto the belt the flake in front of us put a ‘dead’ card into the machine and screwed up the till. She said she’d kept her old cancelled card and that was what she’d used by mistake. Neither Scamp nor I believed it. It then took the assistant ages to put things right again. I have a feeling there was a scam being played out here. Who keeps their old cancelled bank card unless they’re trying to pull a scam?

Drove to Colzium House for a walk round the grounds and hopefully a couple of pics. I did get a PoD, but that was the good one with around 30 duff shots. After walking round the trees and the almost silted up curling pond, we walked through to have a look at the loch. Banton Loch is manmade and was built to feed the Forth & Clyde canal in the 18th century. I’m sure on a bright summer’s day it’s very photogenic, but today it was just a pool of dull grey water. We walked to the outfall dam and read about the battle of Kilsyth in the ’45 rebellion. Strangely there was a footnote on the commemoration cairn in French. There was nothing to see here and nothing to photograph either. That didn’t stop me taking photos that I just knew would be deleted later. We drove back home for lunch.

Walked to St Mo’s in the afternoon to try out the Sigma 105mm macro on the adapter for the Sony. It performed really well, but the weather and the light hadn’t improved since the morning and I had to give up. PoD went to the leaves we saw at Colzium. Today’s sketch nearly never happened. I just couldn’t find a ‘G’ subject until I saw a tin of beanz when I went to get some glasses from the cupboard. Set up a wee trio of groceries and sketched a thumbnail. As usually happens with these things, the thumbnail became the sketch and after I’d splashed on some paint it looked ok. Actually better than ok. I’m happy with it.

Hoping for some decent light tomorrow to get out and take some photos.

Fog – 26 November 2020

Woke to fog. We’d been warned about it by the weather fairies, but you can never believe anything they say.

It took a fair time to clear and the house was cold, because the heating hadn’t come on, because I’d turned it off last night when I was trying in vain to program the lights to do something they didn’t want to do and forgotten to put them back on schedule. Quickly fixed once I discovered what had happened.

When I was making the breakfast, I plugged in the skeleton NAS drive and powered up the computer. Later when I’d showered and was ready to meet the monster I tried to access the NAS. At the second attempt I got connected, but when I tried to download a small PDF file the access stopped and the icon for the drive disappeared from the screen. The most success I’ve had with it has been from Windows 10 on Scamp’s computer. Apparently, NAS drives in general don’t like what Apple OS in any of its many flavours. No taste, you see! I’ve given up. Even with Scamp’s reliable laptop the downloads don’t actually complete. I think it’s time to “take the burst ba’ away from the dug”.

We kept waiting for the fog to lift but it took its own sweet time. Scamp made some soup, leek and potato and I thought it was lovely but she was more critical. She didn’t want to go for a walk, because she had tidying up to do. I didn’t ask what was being tidied, sometimes it’s better not to know.

Instead, I grabbed my old Clarks boots which, although they have little or no tread, at least keep my feet dry, and I went for a walk in St Mo’s hoping for some sunshine since the fog had lifted and the sky was clearing. It wasn’t to be. However, I did get a PoD which was the water drops left by the fog on some spiderwebs. It’s ok and the quality is good, but the lens just isn’t up to close-ups. We are supposed to get more fog tomorrow morning, so I may take the old macro lens and try again.

I redrew yesterday’s sketch of eggs an egg shells and laid on some better washes. I’m happier with this version. I also drew today’s sketch which is the wee fairy that sits on the shelf in the living room. At Christmas it gets to sit beside the Christmas tree. I think it enjoys the change of view, but prefers its higher viewpoint on the bookcase.

Tonight Scamp and I had a practise of The Christmas Pudding Rock which is a dance Stewart and Jane have invented for the virtual Christmas ball. It’s left me with two left feet Usually the man leads with his left foot, but in this dance he leads with his right! Most confusing, but I’ve almost got it. Another few practise sessions and I’ll be there or there about … I hope!

One last thing.  Today Hazy sent a photo of a postcard that had just dropped through her letterbox, sent by us from Fuerteventura A YEAR AGO!  Delivered by camelpost perhaps?

No plans made for tomorrow. It looks like it will be cold. If it’s cold and clear that will be fine, a walk might be on the cards. It it’s not we may practise that Christmas Pudding Rock again.

Will the rain never end? – 24 November 2020

Just another day of seemingly unremitting rain and wind.

I’m beginning to see a pattern forming from these incessant lows being driven across the Atlantic to dump their rain on us. They seem to come in three day bursts. Sometimes we almost have a dry morning. Sometimes almost a dry afternoon, but the ‘almost’ is always there. Then there are a couple of cold, dry, sunny days or sometimes only one of those before the next train of wets lands. Personally I blame Trump.

I’d downloaded a potential saviour for the old NAS hard disk, but unfortunately it didn’t live up to the hype, which was unusual because I’ve bought the same sort of software from this company before and it’s been faultless. Not today. I’m not going to rant on about this, so don’t skip ahead. All I’m going to say is I’ve found a workaround. Not an elegant one, but it does work and I’m now on the lookout for a replacement NAS.

Scamp went to Tesco today and got soaked just walking from house to car to shop and then the same coming back. You don’t have to be out in this wind driven rain for long to get soaked. After lunch I reckoned I’d get a half hour of light before darkness fell and I was just about right. I took a total of 9 photos and one of them, with Scamp’s cropping suggestion made PoD.

Today’s sketch was generated by the letter ‘D’ and it was Driver, as in Screwdriver. It could have been Dugs, Diamonds or Donald (selfie), but for some reason I chose screwDriver. I think it looks a bit bent, this screwdriver, but who has never used a screwdriver to open a paint can or two? Some say today’s choice is a con or a cop-out, but “C” was yesterday.

Dinner tonight was mince ‘n’ tatties for me and cabbage ‘n’ tatties for Scamp.  Not the most elegant food, but filling and very tasty.  I still had to have a great deal of assistance from Scamp to cook the mince, but my head was still trying to get round the problems of Linux and Unix.  If that means nothing to you, then you are lucky.

Tomorrow may be the first of two dry(ish) days. We must wait and see about that.