The singer and the song – 5 August 2021

The singer listened to the backing track and was sold on it immediately.

Veronica listened to the backing track Scamp and I had made and sang along to it. It fitted her vocal range perfectly as Scamp knew it would. The deal was signed and the disks will be in good record shops any time soon, now that I’ve found my CD writer hiding in the bottom drawer of my cupboard. I swear it wasn’t there yesterday.

Next up was to sell one of my rarely used cameras. The GX 80 was a neat little thing, but didn’t quite cut it for me. WEX offered £156 for it, MPB offered £211. That’s quite a markdown from WEX. I might remove them from my Christmas Card list now! Cheek! I’ll sign the deal with MPB tomorrow.

Drove to Tesco later to celebrate by buying myself a bar of Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut and a bunch of flowers for Scamp. When we got back, we found that Stewart had been as good as his word and sent a copy of the video for Sweetheart Cha Cha. It needed a bit of slowing down to appreciate the footwork in this dance. Luckily iMovie was up to the job and we’ve now almost got the first half of the routine. I find it so difficult to work out which foot I’m moving on with these fast latin dances. You don’t have to worry about footwork in Salsa, it’s the arms and the hands that do all the work. After a bit of swearing tonight, I think I’ve worked out where which foot should go, but I have to remember that at present we’re dancing it at half speed. It may take some practise to get us up to full steam ahead!

I went out on a dull afternoon with just the occasional sprinkling of rain. No insect activity apart from busy little bees of various types and colour combinations. PoD went to my favourite seeds, the Cow Parsley seed heads. Second place went to a delicate frilly seed head on a plant in the marshy edge of St Mo’s pond.

Torrential rain promised for tomorrow and the threat of thunderstorms too. We may go out early and hope to miss most of them.

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.

Canal, Canoes and Cygnets – 7 July 2021

We went for a walk.

It was a lovely morning and after Scamp had hung out the washing we got our boots on and went for a walk. We stepped out the door and the rain came on!

By the time we’d gone half a mile, the rain had stopped. For the first time in what seemed like ages, we drove down to Auchinstarry, parked and went for a walk along the canal towards Twechar. I’d been a bit sensible with the camera gear and only carried the Sony, the kit lens and the 18mm. I thought a change of subject to landscape would be good, but really it was the walk that was interesting me more and I knew Scamp would enjoy a walk in the countryside, especially on a day like today.

For once we weren’t bothered too much by cyclists. Maybe that was because it was midweek and some unlucky folk would be working. Some folk have to! We did see a few people out in Canadian style canoes, a few in kayaks and one person on a paddle board. That must the the most uncomfortable way to travel on water. Kneeling and paddling. Even for the experts, standing up and paddling doesn’t make sense to me. All the discomfort of windsurfing without the feeling of speed. Not my idea of fun at all.

Despite my desire for some landscape photography and despite actively shunning the macro lens today, I did succumb to taking a few shots of hoverflies, but only a few. With a blue sky above and lush green fields below, thanks to the recent rain, it was landscapes that won the day, especially with the activity on the canal giving an extra interest. I did think though, watching those Canadian canoes nearing Twechar, that I could almost hear the banjos playing the theme from Deliverance!

When we were almost back at the car Scamp spotted a large flotilla of cygnets following their mother down under the Auchinstarry bridge. Nine cygnets in all. Laying all those eggs must have been an experience Mrs Swan wouldn’t want to repeat again.

Back home Scamp started making another Swiss Roll. This is the second one and she seems much happier with it than last time. This time she opted not to include the ganache. On a taste test she thought it was a little dry. I just ate mine.

The swan and its nine cygnets made PoD.

No real plans for tomorrow, although we may go somewhere we haven’t been in a long time, but it’s not Venice!

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.

When the cactus is in bloom – 10 December 2020

When there’s nothing else to photograph, you have to resort to flowers.

Today was another dull day. Not surprising, just disappointing. We had to wait in because I was getting coffee delivered from The Bean Shop in Perth and I didn’t want it to be left in the bin shed. It’s far too important for that, besides, I had lots of stuff to do. Computer stuff.

I was going to try to access that bloody Linux based hard drive – Now don’t switch off JIC. There is going to be the barest minimum Technospeak here. I won’t go into the details of what I was going to do, just that I was going to get the MacBook Pro to speak Linux for a while. To do that I had to clear away a bit of its memory so I could fit in some Linux language there. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do that. Just clear away a bit of our brain and put in, say, a French module and then we’d be able to speak and understand English and French. I think it’s a great idea. Maybe I should suggest it to Boris Johnson. Then he’d be able to understand what the French are really saying about him. That might make him sit back on his heels for a while instead of just bumbling on.
I didn’t actually get the task completed, although I’m in a better place to ‘Get Linux Done’ tomorrow, to quote the aforementioned Bumbler.

We went for a walk after the coffee arrived, just down to the shops for the essentials for dinner which strangely enough contained a bottle of wine! I wonder how that happened. On the way back we split up. Scamp went home and I went to walk round St Mo’s. I took a few desultory shots of cow parsley, but didn’t notice that I was shooting wide open – never a good thing. I stole ‘desultory’ from a Paul Simon song “A Simple Desultory Philippic”. Back home I decided on the Christmas Cactus as a subject. It usually manages to keep its flowers until Christmas Day. I wonder how it knows. Maybe it’s a Christian Cactus.

After dinner, Bacon and Borlotti beans thanks to the Stotfold duo’s recipe, I set up a still life in the painting room. I’d bought a little hand held LED light at the shops and it proved very useful for creating directional shadows on the white background of the still life. I actually intended to put it in my camera bag to use for when the light was poor like most of this week. It might just work in to open air too. I’ll probably get plenty of chance to test it in the next few days. I liked the finished photos and one became PoD.

Tomorrow it looks like more rain is on the way, but the good news is the non-essential shops are going to be open. Restaurants have to wait until Saturday, though. Scamp is not pleased. We’ve agreed that we won’t be going crazy in the shops at the weekend but we’ll go and have a look next week, all being well. Until then we’ll stay in, stay safe and ‘Get Linux Done.’

By the way, John Fahey has a guitar piece called “When The Catfish Is In Bloom”. I paraphrased it for the title of today’s blog.

A stinker of a day – 27 October 2020

Not the best, but probably nearly the wettest of days.

It was dry in the morning, but not for long. Every time it teased us with the possibility that it was drying up, it started as soon as it heard the key turn in the lock. By the time we were outside, it was on full again. No respite all day.

Scamp was out with Annette whose turn it was to wait for her car to pass MOT today. I moped around the house deciding, will I, won’t I go out and get wet? Eventually I settled for NO, I won’t. I tried to get today’s sketch out of my head, but that didn’t materialise until much later. I tried reading a book that John had given me but gave up. I’m almost halfway through it, but I just can’t follow, or be bothered to follow, the plots. Too many words and too little going on. Thankfully Hazy agreed with me when she phoned later in the day. Life’s too short to waste it on poorly written books.

Finally gave in and took Blue out to Muirhead to get some carnivore food at the butchers. Hoped I’d see something worth photographing on what’s usually the scenic route home. Today everything was grey and wet and boring, so I didn’t even stop to say hello to the horses in the field. They looked as fed up as I felt. However, at least I’d done something constructive.

The next constructive thing to do was make some soup. Using Scamp’s (and my mum’s) method of a handful of this and a pinch of that, but with slightly more veg that I intended, the soup was simmering away quietly when Scamp arrived home. At least she’d had a decent day and kept Annette company while her car was undergoing its examination. It passed, but it’s a Juke and only about four years old, not like Scamp’s red OAP.

Spoke to Hazy about this and that. Heard her good news. New cars are always good news. Got a recommendation for a new book and warned her off my half finished effort.

In between rain showers I managed to grab today’s PoD which turned out to be two nasturtiums growing in a pot at the back door. They’ve flowered all summer long and are now flowering into autumn. No variation in colour. They’ve all been yellow, but at least they bring a bit of colour to dull days like today.

Finally settled on a sketch for today’s prompt, Music. It’s my old MiniDisk recorder/player. Brilliant machine that’s about 25 years old now and still works a treat. The disks hardly ever jump and the music sounds as clear today as when it was recorded. I’m sure you remember a certain choral concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Hazy!

That was about it for the day. The soup was good, thick, but good. It will probably be better with some water to thin it down. As far as tomorrow goes, hopefully it won’t feel the need for more water. I think it had enough today. We’re hoping to go for a drive tomorrow.

Last Dance in The Weavers – 4 March 2020

Thankfully the last dance in that pokey little room, but we beat the corners.

First we got a phone call from Isobel to say that she was indeed getting out today. Although she’d get transport from the ward to the car, she would need a wheelchair to get from the car to the house, because the hospital wouldn’t load us a chair. Absolute nonsense, but totally in keeping with expected NLC policy. Scamp was not to be fazed by this problem and phoned one of the Gems singers and an hour later we had a wheelchair in the back of the Juke. You don’t realise just how much room a folded up wheelchair takes up in a car. I see the problem now Hazy.

By the time we’d worked out how to transport Scamp, Isobel, me and the wheelchair from the hospital to Cumbersheugh, Isobel had phoned to say she’d been told she was going to get hospital transport. Because she had more than one step up to her door and also she only had one handrail, she needed an ambulance person to get her safely into the house. One problem solved, but now we had to return the wheelchair and also return our life to what sometimes amounts to “Normal”. We went to lunch.

Lunch was in Craigend Nursery which used to be a decent sized plant nursery with a small tearoom bolted on. Now it’s very large tearoom with a nursery bolted on almost as an afterthought. Lunch was a beef burger and chips and salad and a dollop of ‘coleslaw’ that looked like a dog had been sick on my slate (no plates, just slates. Retro chic). Scamp had a very greasy looking Mac ’n’ Cheese. I don’t think we’ll be rushing back there.

Drove back and Scamp went to offload the wheelchair while I went to visit the ducks in St Mo’s. I also walked to the shops to try to get lemongrass for tonight’s dinner. Met an old friend of ours from salsa. Haven’t seen her for years, five years at least, according to her. How time flies. Didn’t get the lemongrass, but I did get today’s PoD which looks as if it’s been taken with flash, but it was just low afternoon light. A lucky shot.

Tonight we were dancing for the final time in The Weavers. I won’t be sad to leave that horrible room with its strange angles. What we did do was produce a decent foxtrot and another ‘work in progress’ quickstep. After a long explanation of how to dance in any shape of room, we even managed to remove the corners of the room and turn them into gentle curves, just by altering stride length and not dancing in entirely straight lines. It worked!

G&Ts tonight to remove the rough edges of an awkward day. Much like The Dukes of Hazzard song “Staightenin’ the curves Flattenin’ the hills …”. Exactly like tonight’s dancing.

Tomorrow more dancing in the afternoon hopefully. In a proper room this time.

Perf – 15 February 2019

My coffee mountain was being eroded and in need of replenishment.

It was a lovely morning. Blue sky and just a few thin white clouds. A perfect day to travel up to Perf for some coffee beans and some loose tea. A long way to go for coffee you say when you could just drive up to Tesco. Hmm. Does Tesco offer Cuba Turaquino? Or Honduras? Or real Columbian? Does Tesco sell loose Assam Long Leaf tea? Hmm. I didn’t think so. I could have ordered online, but the Cuban is the problem. The Bean Shop uses PayPal for online purchasing and PayPal being american can’t be used for purchases from Cuba. Obama was heading in the right direction and it looked as if he was going to remove the blockade from dealing with Cuba. The blond combover president stopped that and the upshot for me is that I can’t buy my Cuban coffee from The Bean Shop in Perf online. I can buy it perfectly legally and without problem over the counter, so that’s why we were travelling up the M9 to Perf today. Well, that and the fact that it was a lovely spring-like day for a run.

Got there and after a Nero coffee to refresh us we went for a walk to ‘The Ship’. The bit of the pavement that overhangs the Tay and always reminds us of being on a cruise. There were loads of folk there today. I managed to get PoD which was a bloke gazing out over the river. Then we walked through the riverside park and across to the playing fields, a bit we’ve never been to before in all the time we’ve walked through the park. From there it was a short walk to The Bean Shop and the coffee. With it safely in the bag we walked back through the town and drove home. The blue sky was still there and so were the few white clouds.

The sun was so welcoming, I went for a walk in St Mo’s to feed the ducks and get some more photos. Light was beginning to fade as I was heading home to more pakora and then Scamp’s Prawn Curry.

Today’s 28 Drawings sketch was done just after midnight last night and was done from a ‘Photo Booth’ shot taken on the iMac. I think it’s a fair representation of the bloke who looks out at me when I’m shaving in the morning.

When we were talking to Hazy this morning I said I’d note the music I’m listening to while I write the blog.  Today it’s Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

Tomorrow is Saturday and we have no plans.

Stirling – 1 December 2018

Today we were going shopping for food. I like food, I just don’t like shopping.

We drove to Stirling and parked in the ridiculously inexpensive council carpark. A whole day’s parking for £1.40. Where can you get value like that today? The answer, of course, is Stirling. From there we walked in to the town. Yes, I know I’ve said it before, Stirling is a city, but it’s not really a city is it? Cities are big sprawling places with high flats and brash city centres. Stirling is not like that. It doesn’t sprawl. It sits up straight in an uncomfortable dining room chair and listens to you as you walk its streets. Its cobbled streets in places. You don’t get cobbled streets in a city. Stirling is your posh auntie. Slightly disapproving, but still family and will protect you whatever happens. I like Stirling. We wandered round the Thistle shopping centre that’s constantly re-inventing itself, then had our usual coffee in Nero. Real coffee that tastes like coffee. No fancy stuff like Special Christmas Blend that tastes just the same as the normal stuff that Costa sells. We’d already decided that we’d have a panini for lunch and dinner from Golden Bowl in Condorrat later. GB is probably the best Chinese take-away in the world, if not the universe.

After we’d had lunch we walked back to Waitrose and bought most of the shop, including two Pig Cheeks and two pieces of Pork Osso Bucco. Haven’t had either for a long time. Carpark was rammed full, but the Juke managed to squeeze into a space just big enough to allow us to pack the bags and make an older couple smile as they took our space when we left!

Back home via Lidl at Kilsyth for cheap, good beer for me and cakes and finger food for Scamp’s Gems Christmas Party on Monday. I have plans in place to avoid it.

I’d taken a few shots of an underpass in Stirling for an ON1 project, but it just wasn’t working, so when we ordered our Chinese I took the Teazer with me. Plugged myself into A Momentary Lapse of Reason and Pink Floyd accompanied me on my walk over to Golden Bowl. Halfway there I got today’d PoD which is headlights and tail lights on the M80. Isn’t it amazing the distance a car can travel in four seconds at 70mph!

Chicken Chop Suey and Fried Rice x 2 was delicious, we both agreed. Watched Strictly and then listened to a few hours of music on Spotify. Lovely Saturday night.

Tomorrow I intend baking a couple of loaves for Monday and not much more. Big day for someone special tomorrow!! YKWIM!

Cool? – 5 July 2018

Today was supposed to be cool. Well, that didn’t work, did it?

Scamp was going to meet June and Isobel for coffee and a catch up. That gave me a few hours to do some painting. I attempted the sweet peas that were sitting on the table. I got completely lost in the complexity of the subject. Must try something simpler next time. Maybe just one or two blooms.

After lunch we went for a drive to The Fort to look for some cheap watercolour paint for me and also for something for dinner. I didn’t get the paint, certainly not at over £8 for a tube. We did get tonight’s dinner which turned out to be Sea Bass.

Drove home and sat in the garden for a while with a wee shandy each. Sitting in the sun soaking it up. Weather fairies said it would reach 20ºc today. Yes it did, but that was at 8.30am. By the middle of the afternoon it was in the high twenties.

I was cook tonight and the sea bass with broccoli and cauliflower was excellent, even if I say so myself. Just to round off the meal we had another wee seat in the garden before Scamp deemed it was time to water the plants. By then the sun was off the garden, so there wasn’t any point in sitting out any longer. Today’s PoD is a strawberry that’s growing happily in our hanging basket. A hanging basket that’s survived ice, snow, wind and now drought. Still the plant not only survives, but thrives and produces fruit. Brilliant.

While I’m typing this, I’m listening to Another Side Of Bob Dylan (1964). The songs, especially Chimes of Freedom and To Ramona take me instantly back 50 years to my bedroom in Scotia. The light tonight even enhances that, it’s the warm light you get just before sunset. It’s funny how music has that power.

Tomorrow night Scamp is going to a witches dinner. I’m volunteer driver, but looking forward to another chance to paint those sweet peas.