Down the Canal – 11 October 2021

Out fairly early since there was a fair amount of blue sky.

By the time we were actually on the road most of that blue was replaced by grey and an ominous amount of clouds rolling over from the Campsie Fells, but we got parked easily at the Hebo House and walked along the side of the Forth & Clyde canal in the general direction of Twechar. We met hardly anyone along the path. A few cyclists and that was about it. After my lucky spotting of a kingfisher last week with Alex, I was hoping we’d get lucky and see one today, but there were no sightings of that blue flash. We did see one of Mr Grey’s family on the far bank, but he was almost invisible among the reeds.

As we were about to cross the road and head back on the path of the old mineral railway we saw a man with twa dugs. As well as the dugs, he was trailing a long lead and I mean LONG. I’d estimate it to be about nine or ten metres long. He crossed the road and I had visions of the lead getting tangled in a car going in the opposite direction and he with the dogs being dragged along behind it. Unfortunately that never happened. I’m guessing it was a running lead to let the dogs get some exercise, but he really should have been more careful.

We spotted loads of fungi on the way back along the path and I took the opportunity to photograph a few. We also saw a ’workie’ in full workie gear sitting near one of the barriers keeping pedestrians away from the Never-ending Story that is the upgrade of the paths along that stretch. For once there were no notices telling the public (ie, us) what was happening now to these excavations, tree felling, tree planting and general works that seem to have been going on for about three years with little sign of completion any time soon. However we did see one of the mythical workies today. Rarer that a kingfisher.

I got PoD along the path. A pretty little pink flower of the genus Impatiens glandulifera or Himalayan Balsam. It’s a large annual plant native to the Himalayas but is now present across much of the the UK and is considered an invasive species in many areas. I don’t think it does nearly as much harm as the workies and their upgrades. Right, I think I’ve said enough on that subject.

We did manage to complete the walk without getting wet. In fact as soon as we closed the car doors, the first raindrops appeared on the windscreen. Drove home, had lunch and Scamp went out to work in the garden, repotting some flowers and planting new bulbs for next year. Meanwhile I cooked some steak and kidney, some of which will hopefully be my dinner tomorrow. The rest will go in the freezer to be a welcome dinner in the future.

Today’s sketch was to be Sour. I sketched a lemon from the fridge and faked a slice of lemon behind it. Splashed some watercolour on it and that will be another day completed in Inktober. Not the finest painting or sketch I’ve done, but it’s been posted. Inktober is not nearly as full of participants or sketches as it was last year, but then Flickr is much the same.

That was about all we did today. No plans for tomorrow. Weather looks like an improving picture.

Chicken and Closed Telemark Turns – 2 May 2021

We went out for food this morning.

We had so stuffed ourselves at Peter’s birthday bash yesterday that we didn’t feel like having any dinner when we got home. Today we felt the need for a bit of sustenance. I suggested roast chicken and volunteered to make it. That meant a walk to the shops and a heavy bag on the way home because we bought a lot more than a chicken. Scamp offered to take the bag home and allow me the freedom to go for a walk in St Mo’s. I said I’d rather carry it home, partly because is was so heavy and partly because I wanted to put my boots on to go into the boggy areas.

That’s what I did and it was in the boggy area around St Mo’s pond that I got today’s PoD. I was using a really ancient 40-150mm Oly lens with a plastic lens mount that I’ve glued a few times to keep it working. For those who don’t know about such things, most lens mounts are made of brass or sometimes stainless steel. The mount gets rubbed a lot when lenses are connected to the camera and a plastic mount will inevitably wear down with use. It’s a sign of a cheap lens. I foolishly bought it, second hand some years ago and it’s languished in a drawer until now. Although it’s been repaired a few times, it still takes a decent photo and is the only long lens in my arsenal. The subject was Mr Grey, or more likely one of his descendants. He was hunting away out in the horsetails and I had to wade through the marshy area at the edge of the pond to get close enough for a decent shot. I was happy with the result. I wandered into the woods after that and found a Larch Pineapple, still looking fresh although all the pollen distributers looked as if they had shut up shop a long time ago. It was starting to rain, so I packed it in for today and came home for lunch.

Later in the afternoon Scamp and I had a fairly intensive practise of the Catherine Waltz and I was confident that tonight’s lesson with the teachers would be a lot better than the last one. However, it was an even bigger disaster. Despite all my work, and Scamp’s teaching I just couldn’t produce the goods on the day. Even worse, after the lesson, we tried the moves again and every one worked out almost perfectly. It must be the pressure of ‘performing’ for the teachers that makes me nervous. Well, that’s my story.

The other thing to do today was get the sketches up to date. Day one was Apples. Today it was two Bananas. If you haven’t guessed, this week is based on fruit and veg. A rather easy start to EDiM.

The chicken was good, despite me trying to cook a bit of the absorbent paper that the chicken rests on in the bag! I might not get in to Masterchef after all!

Tomorrow we are heading to East Kilbride in the rain to get Scamp her second jag. Nothing else planned.

PS.  Problems with the blog tonight.  It appears that the template I use for the blog became corrupted and had to be updated.  Hope it works with all of you out there now.

Baking and house building – 28 January 2021

We thought it might be a good idea to go out early for our walk, and it was.

We walked down round the path to Broadwood and, after some discussion, went round the boardwalk. At first there seemed to be no birds on the water at all. Then I spotted what looked to be a grey heron, but a small, scraggy one. It was standing on the ice that still coats Broadwood looking very sorry for itself. I took a few photos, expecting it to fly off immediately it saw me, but instead it decided that it too wanted to go on a walk and disappeared round the corner, on foot (or on claw). I’m thinking now it might have been a young or perhaps sickly bird. Must check the next time we’re down that way.

We walked round one of our normal routes, noting the speed at which the new Covid testing station had been built in the carpark of Broadwood Stadium. It shows what can be done if the need arises.

Back home and after lunch the weather closed in even more. That fine smirr of the morning was now a drizzle and heading to full tilt rain. I decided the grey heron photo from the morning would be PoD. Scamp decided it was time we started making the Gingerbread House. That is, it was time I started making the Gingerbread House. She was simply the overseer, the ‘Gaffer’ and I was the labourer. I know my place. Bear in mind that this project started out as hers, then became a joint effort and now it was all mine. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I know, I’ve been there before. Apron on, time to get started.

Melted the butter over a low gas and added the sugar, then transferred the dank brown sludge to a big bowl and after letting it cool a bit, added the flour then kneaded it into a soft(ish) ball of dough. Chopped it in two and rolled out each piece and placed two templates on top and cut round the rectangle (Roof/Wall) and the triangle (End Wall). Did the same with the other piece of dough. Crushed up some sweets and poured the resulting scraps into the window holes of the Roof/Wall. We should have made a video of me smashing a poly bag of sweets with a claw hammer. Really funny, really satisfying! Scamp cut out two ‘adorable’ gingerbread people from the leftover dough, two Christmas trees and two candy canes, all using templates she’d prepared earlier. Baked the lot in the oven for about 15mins and surprise, surprise they actually looked like they’d work!

We let the gingerbread and our tempers cool while I made Carrot & Lentil Curry with Flatbread for dinner. Curry was good. Flatbread was exceptional.

Assembly was the bit that worried me, but the glue we made with beaten egg white and icing sugar was fantastic, if a bit messy, especially when a bit of back pressure on the piping bag allowed some of the mixture to escape back up the bag and onto the carpet (oops!). Actually, the assembly was a dawdle. I was expecting some of the disasters you see on GBBO, but it just worked. That’s what happens when two professionals follow the instructions. Decoration was a bit clumsy, I admit I have to work on that, but the overall effect was ok and much improved by Scamp’s careful placing of the Smarties, althought I do believe she sampled a few. Thank you JIC for an imaginative Christmas present. We both had a good laugh.

Now the Grey Heron photo got PoD, but I’ve made the corporate decision to use the Gingerbread House as the lead on the blog.

It’s really raining now, teeming down, but the weather fairies say it will dry up by tomorrow morning, so we might get out a walk. If not, we’ve a cake to eat.

The end of the feast – 3 January 2021

One step on the scales told me the feast was over.

Two kilograms heavier than the last time I stood on the scales catalogs the amount I’ve eaten and drunk in the last two or three weeks. It has to stop and it has to stop tonight. One more day of debauchery, then it’s back to sackcloth and ashes, or as my dad used to say “Auld claes and purrich.” I already have the ‘purrich’ (porridge) for breakfast every second day. Now it will have to be every day until that extra 2kg has been removed. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.

It was also a day with a return to rain instead of ice and snow and what a relief that was. I did go out for a walk without the Yak Trax and although there were patches of slippery ice, there were a lot more areas of black tarmac that gave a good grip to my boots. I walked round the back of St Mo’s and down to the shops, hoping to see some deer behind the school, but they were somewhere else today. Maybe joining yesterday’s ducks on a trip to a warm place. I did spot Mr Grey hunched in a tree looking as disgruntled as I was. I took his photo then left him to his lofty isolation.

I was heading to the shops for today’s dinner and also some lemons. Scamp had given me the makings of a bottle of Limoncello, but a couple of the lemons had turned musty in the week since the parcel had been opened. So, I was looking for three or four unwaxed lemons, a chicken and some potatoes, plus a carton of milk. It was a heavy bag to lug up the hill to the house, but at least I had managed to get a photo of Mr Grey that might make a PoD.

Back home I prepared the chicken as per Scamp’s instructions and that gave me enough time check the photos. None of them looked like a PoD, in fact very few of them realistically would make the cull. I had just enough time left to set up a tabletop of a Christmas Cactus upstairs in the photo room. It’s amazing how easy it is to produce a white backdrop with a drawing board on an old card table as a base. A piece of hardboard clamped to the card table frame with cheap plastic clips and an A1 sheet of cartridge paper to give the shadowless backdrop. Five minutes work if all the things are to hand.

Just in time I finished and went down to check the chicken and put the veg into a roasting tray beneath it. Scamp checked the chicken and said it was looking good and needed about another hour. Plenty time to take the shots. They looked fine. Heavy tripod, low ISO and deep depth of field. All photogs words that mean it was going to be a fine grained image with plenty of detail. Mr Grey would need to be ready for his closeup another day.

Soup as starter. Chicken was great. Beautifully cooked, even if I say so myself. One glass of wine each and no pudding. We watched the second half of Jools Holland’s Hootenanny with a 2016 performance of ‘Tilted’ by Christine and the Queens, followed by a 2021 duet with Jools and Rick Wakeman on nested grand pianos. Brilliant!

Spoke to JIC for a while after that.  We weren’t really expecting the call, but it was welcome as usual.  Good to hear that all is well down Cambridge way.

Christmas Rose (Schlumbergera buckleyi) made PoD.

Tomorrow, it’s Auld Claes and Purrich. Hopefully with a walk thrown in for good measure.

Out walking in the morning – 11 December 2020

Scamp decided we should walk the canal this morning.

We drove to Auchinstarry hoping to walk along the railway path since it should nearly be finished by now, but when we got to the plantation path the men in the yellow suits were still wandering around behind the wire fences. I assume they are almost finished, but it’s hard to tell. Anyway, we weren’t getting to go that way today, that was for sure.

Instead, we crossed at the plantation and walked up onto the canal footpath at the other end. From there we walked on heading for Twechar. Found today’s PoD on a dull day. It was a Grey Heron standing on the far side of the canal. Far too far away for the Sony to get a decent image, so it was down to the TZ90 to get the job done. At about the same point I got a dull landscape shot of the Campsie Fells, but once it had been processed in ON1 2020 and then Lightroom, it looked a lot better and it got second place. We stopped and turned not long after that because the canal runs straight and boring after that. The bends are the most interesting areas of this stretch.

We watched a Cormorant fishing as we walked on. We were both amazed at the length of time it managed to stay under water and how far it could swim in that time. It kept its distance from us and as soon as we got too close it would fly off. The rest of the walk was uneventful. After the walk we drove to Lidl for one or two things and came home with two bags full. Lots of meat, fish and chicken mainly. Now we need to find a home for it all in the freezer tomorrow.

Dinner was Chicken Stir Fry form Lidl with me cooking. It wasn’t too bad. A bit spicy, but also tasty. Cooked it with noodles for a change from rice.

Watched the first episode of The Queen’s Gambit. It was ok. I liked the chess play part and well remember Ian McKay, a prodigy when I started at CHS playing ’Simos’. A simultaneous set of games, just like on the film. He also won every one. He could also play Simos blindfolded. I wonder what became of him.

Nic the Chick gave us some bad news this morning. Yes, all the shops were open again. Yes, the restaurants would be open from tomorrow. However it’s against the law for anyone to travel outside their local authority area. How nasty is that. She’s changed her name to The Littlest Witch!

Tomorrow looks even more wet than today. It did rain a bit when we were walking the canal, but tomorrow looks like more serious rain. We’ll have to wait and see just how wet it’s going to be as we joyfully tramp round our local authority area. At least until Monday 😉.

Out for a run

Up and out early today and off with a flask, some coffee and some biscuits. A day in the country.

Set off in sunshine and drove up to Perth, well actually we bypassed Perth and continued on in the general direction of Dundee until the satnav found our turnoff to Glendoick Garden Centre. Fairly large and bewildering labyrinth of interconnected buildings and a large area of plants. We were quite impressed with the range and quality of the plants. Only the roses looked like the runts of the litter. Some with no buds left to open, some with what looked like a bad case of mildew on the leaves. Maybe the good ones had been snapped up already, maybe they hadn’t received all their stock yet. The rest of the plants looked fine and Scamp picked a couple of Coreopsis plants, one for herself and one for a friend. I got a cheap bag of nearly out of date Earl Grey tea and also an equally old bag of coffee beans which surprisingly came from The Bean Shop.

We were looking for somewhere to sit and have a cup of coffee and a bite to eat, just a parking place really as we’d brought a flask and some biscuits ’n’ cheese. Found a parking place using the satnav and followed its directions up what turned out to be a narrow private road with speed bumps (and I mean ‘bumps’) every 10 metres! Eventually reached the top and there was the parking place. Just what I’d asked for. A parking place. No view, just a place to park. We had our coffee and biscuits and I guessed that if we continued along the road it would take us to Perth, and it did, on a real public road with no speed bumps.

After driving through Perth we started heading home and noted the heavy looking black clouds. One lot to the north and one lot to the west. We were heading south west and I didn’t think we were going to outrun both lots, because they seemed to he dropping a fair amount of rain in their wake. Sure enough about ten miles out of Perth the rain started and continued on and off for most of the journey.

We did arrive home dry, but after about an hour the rain reached us. I waited it out and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Nothing much moving, certainly nothing worth photographing apart from Mr Grey preening himself in a tree.

Today’s PoD is of a Tortoiseshell butterfly on some buddleia bushes we saw at Glendoick.

There is no Sketch of the Day. Lockdown has now been lifted and yesterday’s Lockdown Library No 86 will be the last. When you stop enjoying something that’s supposed to be fun, it’s time to call a halt.

Tomorrow we may drive somewhere local and go for a walk if he weather permits.

Off the leash for a couple of hours – 25 October 2018

Scamp was out singing this afternoon. I decided not to go and upstage her.

A relaxing afternoon waiting for the rain to stop. It didn’t. Instead, I tidied up the mess I’d left after shooting yesterday’s shot. After that I wandered around for a while and eventually sat down and watched my next episode of Trust. The story’s really well acted and even although it’s not totally true, parts being fictionalised, it still feels like a documentary. That’s enhanced by the Italians speaking in their own language with subtitles for us non Italian speakers. I know Scamp isn’t keen on Trust – it is a bit bloodthirsty. I think I enjoy it because I’ve lived through this story, I remember it all happening. I was just settling in to the story when the singer returned, flushed with success.

I decided to risk the rain and go for a walk instead of sitting around for the rest of the afternoon. The light was failing again as I went out, just like yesterday. Today, however, I was determined to get an outside photo. I got the makings of one and a shot of my old friend Mr Grey, standing on a stone in the middle of St Mo’s pond waiting for his supper to swim past. Mr Grey is a grey heron.

After dinner I started on the post processing. An hour or so and three different editors later I had my photo. It needed: Photoshop to create and blend the stack of photos, ON1 to work on the levels and colours and Lightroom to do the final tweaks and get rid of the rain drops that ended up on the lens.

Struggled to draw a decent drawing of my TZ70, The Teazer, for Inktober No 25.  I had drawn it for last year’s Inktober and wasn’t really happy with another repeat.  Basically my heart wasn’t in it, but it wasn’t until Scamp, my most honest critic commented that it looked a bit flat that I decided to leave it and start something new.  Then I saw her feet in her fancy slippers resting on the corner of the coffee table.  Draw what’s in front of you.  That started out as my maxim this year and that’s what I did.  Yes, there are mistakes, but I like the simplicity of the sketch and the fact that it was completed in about 15 minutes.  It worked and it wasn’t flat.  It got the Scamp Seal of Approval and that’s good enough for me!

It’s been a dull day with a (very) few bright intervals but we are going to have much brighter weather soon. Brighter but much colder with winds blowing out of the north, straight from the Norwegian Sea. That’s what the weather pixies tell us. Hard frost on Sunday night. Hmm, I don’t like the sound of that.

Tomorrow, it’s Dentist Day 3 for Scamp. Let’s hope it’s third time lucky.

Dug wi’ a burst ba’ – 30 September 2018

Hazy wanted to Skype today. Skype said No!

Scamp got a message today from Hazy asking if we were free to Skype. It seemed a good way to test out Scamp’s new ‘puter’s communication setup. However …

We tried for about half an hour to get Skype to connect, well, that’s not entirely correct. We could see and hear Hazy, but nothing we did would allow her to see or hear us. We tried everything and eventually gave up on the shiny new HP and conducted the conversation on the iMac. After our virtual meeting was over, it was back to troubleshooting the PC version. I checked that the microphone was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was. I checked that the webcam was working in Wonderful Windows 10 and it was, however when we tried to combine these two successes in Skype it failed. Now who owns Skype? That’s right, Mickysoft. That probably explains why it didn’t work. Scamp told me not to waste the afternoon on it, but this was rapidly becoming a “dug wi’ a burst ba’ “ situation. I wasn’t going to let it go.

Eventually I had to give up. Uninstalled the troublesome Skype then re-installed it. When we got it working, but because Skype is a Mickysoft product, it registered it to Scamp’s login name, not the Skype name she’s had for the last fifty million years. Not only that, it had lost all her contacts. Uninstall and reinstall again and the same thing happened. Only once she’d logged out and logged in again could she change her Skype name. Why does Mickysoft screw up everything it gets its claws into? Finally we could communicate across the living room with a degree of feedback through Skype. I think we’re good to go now Hazy!

Most of the afternoon had gone, but there was some good light left, so I went for a walk around St Mo’s and spotted Mr Grey up a tree. He must have felt safe and secure there because he didn’t fly off even when I walked right to the shore of the pond and stole his soul for PoD. I was glad that I’d got him, because there was little else to photograph today.

Made some bread which we’ll need to have tomorrow because it was too late to have with our dinner. Also, the tomatoes that were roasting for the tomato soup are still in the tray in the oven because Mickysoft couldn’t leave Skype alone (and neither could I). That too will have to wait until tomorrow. However my lamb shoulder shank was very nice if a little fatty. The other one will do for tomorrow’s dinner. Scamp’s stuffed Portobello Mushroom looked dismal, but she declared it delightful.

Swallow Watch:  Almost forgot to mention, this week I did see some swallows flying very high and this is week 40.

Tomorrow? Well, it’s a free day. No Gems. What shall we do with it, I wonder?

Early one morning – 13 August 2018

Very early this morning, about 6.30am to be more precise.

Couldn’t sleep, so I did what I haven’t done for a long time, I got up, got dressed and went for a walk in St Mo’s. Sometimes it’s really lovely and other worldly in the early morning light. Today was one of those days. I thought it was dew that was lying on the plants, flowers and spider webs, oh yes, the spider webs. However it was just raindrops. Light fine smirr of raindrops everywhere. Took loads of photos, mainly macros and it was one of them. A tiny wee wet snail that took PoD. I also some shots of Mr Grey, still looking half asleep, standing like a statue on a rock in the pond. Later I got a few of him stalking and catching his breakfast. The speed he can flash that beak out to trap an unwary fish is quite surprising. Came home feeling a lot better, but now tired, and had breakfast with everyone else.

After breakfast I went up to the police station to make the statement about the accident. Lady there took all the details, watched the dash cam video and smiled at the bit where I swore. Then she told me I’d be contacted in a day or two by a police officer who would go over the information with me.

By the time I was coming home, it was raining and the visitors were preparing to go and visit David Marshall Lodge or DML as we’ve always called it. If the weather didn’t suit there, they had plan B which was to go in to Glasgow and visit the GOMA. As it turned out, plan B wasn’t needed because they’d had a fairly dry day and they went from DML to the Kelpies in Grangemouth. While they were out in the countryside, Scamp and I drove to Torwood Garden Centre to buy some leek plants to replace the Calabrese I’d dug up yesterday after cutting the last heads from them. We also got a bay tree to replace the one that suffered in the drought a month or so ago. Scamp liked the look of some fluffy looking daisies, so we got them too. Then we had lunch and drove home.

When the wanderers returned we went to Milano for dinner. Pizza Napolitana for me because I like it and because I couldn’t get a Neapolitan pizza in Napoli (Naples). We had a great night which culminated in a shocked look on Jamie’s face when a birthday cake was brought out and the staff all sang Happy Birthday … but it wasn’t for him! It was for a man at the next table. Jamie’s look of relief was a sight!!

Nobody was drinking much when we came home. Long day for the visitors tomorrow ‘cos they’re going home.

The Constant Gardener – 17 May 2018

Today I had the car booked in at Halfords to get the dash cam wired in properly.

We were told that it might take up to 2 hours to do the job, but after having a quick look, the bloke said it would only take 15 minutes. He was correct. With the work done and paid for we drove to Torwood Garden Centre for Scamp to buy some (more) plants for the garden. We ended up with quite a car full, but she has it all planned out. She knows where they are all going, and I believe her. I got some leafy broccoli looking plants whose name escapes me at the moment and we also got a bay tree to replace the one we lost to the winter snows. All the rest were flowers. I’m sure they’ll all look beautiful.

Went out for a walk and left Scamp to her digging, potting and pottering. Got a good shot of Mr Grey and another of a young deer just losing its winter coat, but PoD goes to the Orange Tip butterfly that sat patiently for me to focus the new macro lens on. The lens is a prime (non-zoom) and is as sharp as a tack. You can see the butterfly above, but you’ll have to go to Flickr to see the other two.

When I came back there was just enough time for a glass of wine in the sun in the garden before dinner. Dinner tonight was Neil’s Chicken and Wild Rice Salad. It’s a firm favourite in the summer and went down especially well tonight.

Tomorrow Scamp and the Witches are off on the town, although which town isn’t totally settled yet. Me? I’m off the leash for a day, so I think I may go and take photos. Now there’s a surprise!