Out early – 24 February 2022

The alarm rang at 7am and we had to be out before 8am.

A phone call yesterday asking if we could make it in to Braehead to the eye clinic for, say, 8.50am instead of 10am? We said yes, having already planned our leaving time after considering the traffic on the route. Today we were allowing an extra fifteen minutes or so for rush hour traffic. Then there was the threat of snow and high winds, leading to blizzard conditions. Let’s aim for an hour and ten minutes for a trip that would normally take about twenty minutes. The threat of snow had materialised into real snow this morning. We left at about 7.45am and Google Maps though that should be enough.

Snow wasn’t too bad to start with and on the motorway at that time of a morning you’re riding in someone else’s tyre tracks anyway. Just stay in line and keep the pace. Actually we arrived with a few minutes to spare. I walked Scamp to the clinic door, from the snow covered car park and told her I’d see her in about two and a bit hours. Drove home by the alternative route on the M74/M73. Same tyre tracks maybe even the same car, who knows. Took about the same time too. Had a coffee and solved today’s Sudoku then the phone rang. The bloke said the op had gone well, no problem and Scamp would be ready to pick up in about 15 mins. I wasted no time getting into the tyre tracks again and Scamp was waiting for me when I parked the car. Drove home through various clumps of falling snow, some sleety, some large light fluffy flakes, some just dirty spray. I’d meant to wash the car at the beginning of the week. I’m glad I didn’t now, it would have been such a waste of time. Also glad I had fitted the new wipers!

Another coffee and time to relax a bit. I did go out later to get a pair of swimming goggles for Scamp. Apparently they are recommended for patients after eye surgery so they can use the shower without getting their eyes wet. Then I left the car at home and walked over to St Mo’s to take a photo for the PoD. It’s actually one I took from the door step. Miniature daffodils poking through the slush that used to be virgin white snow.

Dinner was a cut down version of Bacon and Borlotti Beans. It was more a “what have you got in the fridge?” version.

No sketch yet, because I’d dog tired and am going to bed. Scamp has already gone to bed she looks shattered, but she says she can see much better now that both eyes are done.  She said there was a ‘gritty’ feeling from the new lens, but that’s sometimes quite usual and it’s clearing up now.  I remember one of my eyes feeling like that after my cataract surgery.  Also there was some water leaking from one eye for a while this morning when she came home, but that seems to have cleared up now.  I’m sure she’s looking forward to getting the eye patch off tomorrow and seeing with both new eyes.

Today the Russians invaded Ukraine. Such a senseless waste. Such a senseless loss of life.

No plans for tomorrow yet. If the slush and the lying water freeze tonight we won’t be going far tomorrow.

The snow came – 7 January 2022

When we woke, the land had been changed overnight.

Everywhere was blanketed in snow and there was even some more of the white stuff fluttering down from the clouds, but the sun was shining so it wasn’t all bad.

I put my boots on and went out early because the temperature was rising and there was water dripping from the tree in the garden. Not a second to waste if I was going to get the best snowy pictures today. The roads looked a bit slippery, so I decided I’d walk over to St Mo’s rather than driving much further. Surprisingly, with the schools still on holiday and a fair fall of snow on the ground, there were no sledges or sledgers to be seen. A sign of the times. In my day we couldn’t wait to get out there and freeze our extremities with sledging and snowball fights.

I didn’t have time for snowball fights. I was toting the A6000 with a macro lens and the A7 with an 18mm wide angle. One in each jacket pocket. First real target was a rosehip cluster on a bush just past the carpark. That got something worthwhile in the bag. Next was the lone tree in St Mo’s. Looking very elegant with a dusting of snow still clinging to its branches and a crow up near the top. I expected the bird to fly off as I got closer and closer, taking shots all the time. It never moved, almost daring me to come closer. I gave in eventually and let it win the standoff this time. Down on the boardwalk there were more photos to take of snowy footprints, but I was sure one of the tree shots would get PoD. I walked round the pond twice, taking pot shots all the time, but not really being satisfied with anything. Eventually I’d had enough and went home to get warm.

A cup of coffee soon warmed me up, and after lunch the postman came with some Christmas cards, delivered almost a month past their posting date. Also two letters for Scamp which apparently showed that the date for her op had been put back a day. That meant the op was now set for a Friday and we knew that the surgeon didn’t work on a Friday. She struggled through the maze of “Press 1 for blah. Press 2 for blah blah, etc. After waiting for about fifteen minutes, she finally got through to a human who told her that yes, the date on the letter was correct, but said she’d transfer her to the Eye Clinic, then cut her off. I found the phone number for the Eye Clinic and Scamp phoned it and spoke to someone who explained that the date on the letter was for a post-op check and that she was scheduled for the op on the Thursday with the surgeon we’d met back in December.

All was well, so to allow her to cool down, I went for a walk over to Condorrat to get some mince and potatoes for dinner. I also managed ten minutes in St Mo’s first. That’s where the real PoD came from. Happier with it than with any of the other shots.

Got instruction when I got back on how to build a mince pie the way my mum used to make it. It wasn’t nearly as good as my mum’s, and nowhere as good as Scamp’s, but it worked and surprisingly I don’t feel any reflux effects from it … so far.

Watched a film recommended by Hazy, ‘Judy’, about Judy Garland. If half of it was true, it must have been a terrifying childhood. You don’t realise just how lucky you are sometimes. After that we watched a Monty Don program about gardens in Venice. It was just like being there. Unfortunately, when we looked out the window afterwards, it wasn’t the Grand Canal we saw, but a garden with half melted snow that looked like it was beginning to freeze. Oh well!

Tomorrow looks like the thaw will start. Let’s hope it clears the snow away and we get out somewhere, anywhere.

Another day of swearing – 6 January 2022

Swearing at the printer and the coffee maker, making a loaf, taking a few photos and making the dinner. My day in a nutshell.

The printer was being bad. It was as simple as that. It would print perfectly, then stop, chuck out the next two pages and then put on its red light to show it wasn’t happy. After trying lots of different things that you aren’t interested in hearing, I did what I should have done ages ago and removed it in its entirety from the iMac. Then I reinstalled all the stuff I’d taken off, and it worked perfectly for the rest of the day!

The coffee maker was being bad. I cleaned the portafilter, checked the filter itself and made sure it was clean. I checked the little hole in the filter cup wasn’t clogged. Filled it with coffee and set it to work, except it didn’t. It just held its breath and grumped, not releasing any life-giving coffee. So in true John Cleese fashion I gave it a damn good thrashing. I took the filter cup upstairs and used a nail and a cross pein hammer to enlarge that tiny little hole. No coffee ground is going to get stuck in there now. Maybe a coffee bean might manage to get lodged, but no coffee grounds. It would probably have been better to use a 1mm drill, but I didn’t have any. It worked perfectly after the thrashing.

The loaf knew better than to mess me about. It just worked, perfectly. I let the mixer do the hard kneading work and at the end of the process, a perfectly baked and slightly odd shaped loaf graced the cooling rack. Nice to know that some things just do what they’re told.

Scamp had taken the Wee Red Car out for a spin in the morning, just to make sure its battery was well charged, and also to get some messages. Fruit, veg a half price Christmas Pudding and a packet of tooth brushes were here prizes today. Oh yes, and I can report that the wee red car is looking very pumped up after its run. Pumped up and sparkling, actually, as you can see!.

It had been a very dull, wet and cold day with not a hint of sunshine until about 3pm when the sun broke loose from the clouds and shone on Cumbersheugh! On with the boots, camera in the bag and out looking for photos. I managed to grab a few shots of a couple of Coots before the swans came, demanding to be fed. Tomorrow I’ll take them some of the bread I made on Sunday. They won’t come asking again. They might not even get to the other side of the pond before they have that sinking feeling. It was a heavy loaf.

Dinner was Chicken Curry made with real chicken dated August 2021. Last year’s chicken that had been hiding at the back of the freezer. That poor cooker. It had all its four rings burning brightly. It’s a wonder it didn’t melt! One ring for the curry, one for the rice, one for the flat bread and one for the leftover chicken that couldn’t be re-frozen or put into the fridge while raw, but could go in after it had been cooked. Maybe it was because I couldn’t stand the heat, but I was finding it hard to keep my cool in the kitchen. More swearing ensued. Finish the day as you started it, that’s my motto!

Tomorrow there is snow forecast. In fact as I look out the window, it’s arriving early. We might manage a walk tomorrow, it depends if we get snowed in or not!

A sprinkling of snow – 26 December 2021

Just a dusting, that’s all and even that turned to rain quite quickly.

It didn’t matter, we weren’t going anywhere today. Too cold. Too lazy. Too little chance of getting a parking space back home. Instead, I mixed the flour, salt, yeast, butter and water and kneaded the mixture for over 10 minutes then set it to prove in a bowl covered with clingfilm, then went back to the Sudoku I hadn’t finished yesterday. Gave up on that and it was time for lunch.

It was Sunday and lunch on a Sunday always centres around eggs, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes, black pudding and sausage in various combinations and quantities. All that to be eaten while watching and listening to Andrew Marr mauling one of a long list of politicians. Unfortunately last week was his last show, so today we ate in silence. I’ll bet a few of those mauled politicians would be licking their previous wounds and breathing a sigh of relief.

The weather wasn’t getting any better. Still cold, still wet, but that hasn’t stopped me before and it didn’t stop me today. Big jacket on, boots, hat and gloves on and I lugged my trusty A7ii over to St Mo’s to find something interesting to photograph. My chosen target would have been a deer. I actually saw one quite close up today, certainly within the range of the 55-210mm lens I’d left on the table back home. It didn’t stay in my sights for long and was soon laughing its way across the rough grass and into the trees.

I did get a PoD which was the jaggy spikes of a whin bush, one with a watery drip at the end of the jaggy bit. It was almost beaten by a slimy looking mushroom/toadstool with an interesting pattern on its stem. I’m pretty sure I also got a photo of a chanterelle, but can’t be certain. When I got back I checked the bread dough and it was looking ready for its final shaping and proving which is best done in a sort of cane basket that creates a spiral pattern on the finished loaf and also forms the finished loaf into a sort of beehive shape, like you see in Pooh Bear books.

While I was uploading my pictures to the Mac, Scamp declared it Gin O’Clock and I agreed with all but the gin. Instead, I had a Rum ’n’ Coke, Dark Matter rum. That put a heat in me.

Back to the still unfinished Sudoku and gave in. Loaded it into an app in my phone and finished it with technological help. Done! Thankfully one of my prezzies from Scamp was a new 365 day Sudoku calendar. It’s not been opened yet. Almost a week to wait.

The bread turned out a bit flatter than I’d have liked although it tasted ok.  Too much butter in the mix, I think. Must try harder.

Dinner tonight was yesterday’s chicken bits with potatoes and brussel sprouts.

After dinner drinks were the usual latte laced with Kahlua for Scamp and a Barraquito with layers of Condensed Milk, Licor 43, Espresso and Frothy Milk for me.  The only place we’ve seen it is in Tenerife.  Mine was definitely high octane!

We’ve not seen the weather for tomorrow, but a quick glance at the weather app on my phone would seem to rule out the possibility of going far.

Morning walk at Fannyside – 9 April 2021

A quick visit to Val than a drive in the country.

I was checking out my Tamron (not my Tampon as my spellchecker thought it was) 70 – 300mm lens on Val’s old Nikon D70. The lens did work, if sporadically. At different times during the five minute test, the focus worked and the anti-shake worked, but only once did they both work together. It looks like it’s not going to be saleable, which is a shame. How it came to this sorry state, I don’t know, but it has and now I can only use it as a manual lens without anti-shake. I think, instead, I’ll just replace it.

I didn’t want to linger at Val’s because I knew he was busy today and also I really shouldn’t have been in his house at all with all the Covid restrictions. So, I made my excuses and left to take a drive up into the country behind Fannyside Loch and parked up by the sheep’s field where only the wind through the trees created any sound. That’s where today’s PoD came from. I was just walking and taking the odd photo when a little spot of sunshine lit up the hill and I grabbed the shot without thinking.

Drove home and had lunch. That’s when we heard the news that the Duke of Edinburgh had died. What should have been the news at midday was extended. In fact it might even have segued into the evening news. It made me wonder how they’d managed to fill the hours with news that had broken only a few hours before. I presume that since the last time the Duke had come home from hospital there had been an unofficial leak about the real state of his health which allows all the news channels to gather all their clips and photos to build these obituaries that they show with such sad faces. Scamp says that she’s sorry for Mrs McQueen because a death of anyone is a great loss to someone. I’d agree with that.

We walked to the shops to get some creme fraiche for tonight’s dinner which was Haddock & Cabbage Risotto. We also got other stuff that wasn’t essential for tonight’s dinner, but did make the pudding better. Ice cream, just in case you were wondering. It was cold walking down to the shops, into the wind, but was almost warm coming home with the wind at our back. Even so there was just a light sprinkling of that fine snow, almost like tiny polystyrene beads. Strangely, when we did find a weather forecast tonight in the midst of all the sad faces of the royal correspondents, there was mention of the white stuff making a reappearance tomorrow or Sunday night.

Apart from my lens test and the walk in the country we didn’t do much today. I don’t think we have any plans for tomorrow, but it looks cold again.

Walking in the white stuff – 10 February 2021

The snow was still there in the morning, but thankfully there was no new covering.

Before we could get on with the day there was a funeral to attend.  A virtual funeral for one of Scamp’s oldest Gems members, Netta.  She had died over a week ago and today we sat for half an hour and remembered her as we watched the ceremony.  She was an old lady, but a real ‘gem’.

I wanted to clear most of the snow off the car to allow today’s sunshine to help melt the rest.  It was a good idea that partly worked.  Some of the snow melted, the side that faced the sun was the most successful, but hopefully more will follow tomorrow as we are to have another cold, but sunny day.  There must have been about 200mm of snow on the roof of the car, also on the bins and all the plant pots.  I was thankful I’d bought a pair of good wellies going cheap in a sale many years ago.  Not the most comfortable footwear, but at least you don’t have to worry about wet socks.

When the postman came he brought Scamp a Blue Envelope.  She now has a date for her first vaccination.

After lunch, Scamp declared that she was off to the shops to get tonight’s dinner which was going to be Cod with Bacon, Peas and Lentils.  I was going out for a walk in the snow wearing my new best friends, my green wellies.  I walked over St Mo’s and I think I followed  the tarmac path, although it was difficult to find at times.  Walked through the woods marveling at the difference 200mm of snow can make to a landscape.  PoD became the snow ball on the cow parsley seedhead.  The snow looked solid, but it was almost translucent and as light as a feather.

Dinner was changed from Cod with Bacon etc to Chicken Soup followed by Fish Finger sandwiches.  Very satisfying and still sticking to the Fish on  a  Wednesday theme.  No painting or drawing yet.  One is done, but I’m not happy with it, so a new or rearranged one will hopefully appear tomorrow.

Tonight the temperature is dropping down below -5ºc.  It’s going to be cold tomorrow.

Snow, snow, snow – 9 February 2021

Usually I’m complaining about rain. Today is was snow.

It was snowing when we woke. There was no sign of the footpath at the front of the garden. Just a flat even surface of snow from the house out to the start of the trees on the far side of the path. One set of footprints where some unlucky soul had plodded his weary way to find his car in the whiteout. We went back to bed, thankful that today we’d nowhere to go and nothing to do.

When we’d had our morning coffee and were wondering it the snow would go off today, we made the decision to clear the path to the main footpath. With two of us working at it, it didn’t take too long. Then I remembered we had a bag of salt that I ‘obtained’ from the janitor at the school. Scamp showed me where it lived at the back of the overcrowded bin shed. After some swearing I brought the bag out and spread some salt over our efforts to hopefully preserve some of the clearing we’d done. It seemed to work.

After lunch I assembled my long lens on the Sony and grabbed some shots of the blue tits and robins in the garden. I felt sorry for the wee ground feeding birds in the back garden, so we found an old plastic tray and filled it with birdseed, leaving it in the back garden. It was soon cleared, so we refilled it and that lasted for a couple of hours and provided today’s PoD. It was taken on my old Tamron 300mm lens that never really worked properly on the D7000. It certainly works on the Sony. Then a heavy shower of snow covered the seed tray and by that time the light was going. Unfortunately the snow showed no signs of giving up.

Dinner tonight was Spaghetti a la Anything in the Fridge. It worked quite well, but could have been better. The Sticky Toffee Pudding however was excellent again.

We had a quick reprise of the rumba routine tonight and watched a few of our old salsa moves. Old being the operative word as some of those videos go back to 2010!

Sketch tonight was “Walk”. I’d already decided I wasn’t going out in that snow which was now nearly up to the top of my wellies. No, today’s sketch was purely out of my imagination aided and abetted with some images from Google Images. I looks reasonable and will do the job.

Tomorrow looks cold, with temperatures not likely to go into the positive numbers at all. We may stay in.

Oh no, more snow – 8 February 2021

We woke to a white world today.

No more piling, this was real snow and a fair amount of it too. At first the air was clear, but soon the wind dragged more clouds from the east and they began to drop their load of snow, driven along by that same wind. Soon we could watch a full strength blizzard outside the window. We agreed that it would be best to wait a while before we went out for a walk.

Later when a few blizzards had blown through, the skies cleared and the sun shone. We gave it another fifteen minutes or so before we dared to get the boots on and go for that walk. However, it was not to be a long walk today, just in case the snow returned.

We need not have worried because the snow was kind enough to stay away long enough for us to complete our walk. I did get today’s PoD which was my favourite wild flower, the Cow Parsley holding little pockets of snow in its talons. The sun shining through the trees gave a bit of dappled light to brighten up the background and the wind was calm enough to prevent too much movement. I used the old Sigma 105mm macro lens for it. It’s more or less a manual lens now. It has no internal motor, so cannot autofocus which is a great disadvantage for a macro lens. However, it still takes exceedingly good photographs for its age. It’s definitely Old Glass.

Back home and after lunch which was Scamp’s minestrone soup, with lemons (!), I started to rough out today’s sketch for which the prompt was “Puppy”. The first rough looked good and assured me that I could do this. I’m not a great fan of dogs which is what puppies grow up to be, so I’m told. Cats I’m ok with, but not dogs. But that’s why I enjoy I enjoy drawing from lists on groups like EDiF and 28DL. It forces me to face my demons, even if the demons are puppies. The thing to remember is that you’re not drawing or painting a fluffy puppy, you’re just drawing a shape and shading it to give some 3D appearance to it. I liked the finished result.

While I was puppy drawing, Scamp was baking. She was making a Sticky Toffee Pudding. I did help out a bit. I was in charge of liquidising the dates and water mixture that would go into the pudding. It looked absolutely disgusting. However I must say that the finished article was worth all that messy stuff. Probably not the least fattening food I’ve eaten, but it was disgustingly good!

Although we had our walk in a snowy landscape this morning without any of the white stuff falling from the sky, during the afternoon it made up for that with continuous blustery blizzards. Tonight it’s continuing to drop more snow on us. I’m really glad we’re not intending to go anywhere tomorrow.

A day for recharging batteries – 31 January 2021

After the biz of yesterday, we both agreed we needed a slower pace today.

We did think of going out for a walk in the morning, but although it was bright enough, it was cold and there was a scattering of snow on  the ground, so we talked ourselves out of it. I think I might have eaten just a little too much yesterday, so a light lunch was called for. On Friday I’d bought half a sourdough loaf I don’t really like sourdough bread to eat on its own, but toasted it is delicious, so we had scrambled egg on toast.

Feeling a lot better, I settled down to documenting yesterday’s highlights. My usual readers will probably have read all about it by now. Scamp was pruning the greenery that was covering some of the blooms we got yesterday and that made the display look even better. With photos and blog posted, I decided it was safe to go for a walk in St Mo’s. Nobody had moved from their parking spot today and I was loathe to give up my space and have to park by the side of the road when I got back from somewhere more interesting than St Mo’s. Besides, I’d left it a bit late and the light was already fading.

I walked round the pond, then out through the woodland looking for likely subjects. I wanted to try out a new focusing method on the Sony, called “Back Button Focusing”. I’d read about it before, but it seemed a bit complicated to set up although most photogs seem happy with the results. Basically, you nominate a button to be your focusing button and remove the shutter button’s ability to refresh focus. Then you can take your time focusing using the back button and when you’re happy, press the shutter to take the photo. It only took me about ten minutes to set it up and it did seem to work as described. I took some photos using it, but couldn’t work out how to return the setup to the camera default where a half press on the shutter sets focus. I decided the light was fading too much and I was almost sure I had at least one shot on the card that would make PoD, so I set off for home.  It had indeed worked. Most of the photos I’d take were solidly in focus. After re-reading the instructions I found the magic button on the camera that would not only return it to normal service, but could be used to switch on the Back Button Focusing again. PoD turned out to be a monochrome leaf dangling pitifully from a branch with new buds starting to form. The old and the new.

After yesterday’s overindulgence, tonight’s dinner was a much pared down affair. A simple Spaghetti a la Carbonara. It might have been even better if I’d cooked the spaghetti properly, but it was edible.

Dancing class tonight centred on the rumba routine we’d been learning and I’d been dreading. We had a practise before the class and it was going fine until the music started, then it went to pot. However by the end of the lesson it was looking and feeling much better. I actually enjoyed it.

Spoke to JIC and found out that Vixen now has an injured shoulder, caused, according to JIC, by her having two speeds, Full Ahead and Stop. After being out walks with her I can understand that.

A gentler G&T each tonight and an early(ish) bed again. Temperature is already heading towards zero. More snow predicted for tomorrow, the first day of February and the start of the 28 Drawings Later challenge on FB.

Rain, Sleet and Snow – 26 January 2021

Not a lot to recommend it, really.

It wasn’t a day for going out for a walk and even with a weatherproof camera, not a day for photography either. We were both happy to stay inside, even if it was a bit boring.

We did get a phone call from Hazy and that cheered us up. She even gave us a list of programmes to watch on the TV. Glad to hear a Librarian’s job has appeared at last. You’ve waited a long time for that. We hope you really enjoy it and end up running the show!

In the end I sat and watched a tutorial on Affinity Designer software. Not the most riveting visual feast, but very informative. Although I taught vector graphics to Higher level I was completely self taught. We didn’t get much opportunity to go on training days because money at school was always tight and any tutorials we could find were so far out of date to be absolutely useless. I wish I’d had this 2hr 45min video tutorial then. I’ve learned more in the first half hour than I had with all those old typed out and badly photocopied pages.

Because I didn’t get out to take any photos, I had to rely on the old faithful, flowers. Cut flowers, because the only flowers showing in the garden are the Christmas Roses and they’ve all been photographed out. Likewise the Christmas flowering cacti. The ‘mother’ plant is now producing the most gorgeous bright pink flowers, but I feel it too has been over photographed. Today it was the chance of Eryngium to take centre stage. This plant, also known as Sea Holly is one of Scamp’s favourites and rapidly becoming one of mine too. Not bright and showy, but the spiky dark blue flowers are eye-catching in their own way. They became PoD.

I did have one piece of good news. I got my appointment for the Covid vaccine. I’ll have to wait a fortnight to get it, but I’m not complaining … for once!

Tomorrow is looking like it will be better than today, so we may get out for a walk.