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.

More dancing – 24 January 2021

A lesson this time, not a dance.

Yet another cold morning. It was -4ºc when Scamp was making the breakfast.

Of course we weren’t getting up at that time. Never on a Sunday! However, once we’d had breakfast showered and were ready to face the day I did take a walk to examine the frost on the car and managed to get a couple of photos of the little ice crystals. One was posted on Flickr, but it didn’t achieve PoD.

It wasn’t until well after midday that we steeled ourselves and went for a walk around St Mo’s pond. I took a few more frosty photos there and it was one of them that produced the tiny frozen trees that made PoD. It was a close run thing with my other favourite photo, a leaf covered with hoar frost.

It was just above freezing when we arrived back at the house. Dinner tonight was Bacon and Borlotti Beans. Now becoming a firm favourite. Then we had to move all the furniture around for tonight’s dance class. First off was a reprise of last week’s Mambo Marina followed by our ongoing stumbles through Rumba and finished off with the Midnight Jive. We weren’t too bad at that. It was me stumbling round the rumba that was the low point. Even with Stewart and Jane’s encouragement, we are finding it hard. Not insurmountable, just difficult. It doesn’t help that we are dancing on a carpet and they are demonstrating on a polished wooden floor. However, the hour passed fairly quickly and with a bit of practise over the next few days we’ll get there, I’m sure. If not, we’ll have invented an new dance, The Stumble Rumba. It does have a certain ring to it!

Spoke to JIC at night and were surprised to hear that they had had a full day of snow and we had none. Maybe I shouldn’t say that. You never know what we’ll wake up to tomorrow!

Tomorrow morning I’m supposed to be doing a rubbish uplift for Shona. Hope the skips have been emptied over the weekend to make room for it all.



Back in business – 14 January 2021

No more using the washboard in the sink and then pressing the water out of the clothes with the wringer.  If none of the foregoing made any sense to you, then don’t worry. You’re just too young to understand.

Snow, and lots of it was forecast for today. At least 10cm (4” in old money) would have fallen by 8am. I woke at about 630am and yes, there was a covering, but only that. Some footprints probably from Wullie, who lives at the corner, and Hamish the dog were visible, but it looked decidedly wet underneath. By 9am another scraping of snow had fallen, but already it was sleet that was falling. It looked like the weather fairies were crying Wolf! again. One day they’ll get it right and we’ll be caught out.

I got a text later in the morning to say that the washing machine would be delivered between 2.45 and 6.45pm. That gave me enough time for lunch and a quick walk round St Mo’s before they arrived. So after lunch I grabbed a couple of cameras and headed off to the snowy wastes of St Mo’s. Land of adventure and snow. Found a few worthwhile things to photograph. Dropped in at my old pal, the white spotted ladybird which was still dozing away dreaming of eating aphids. PoD was going to be either a slow shutter shot of some snowmelt running in a newly formed burn by the side of the path or a low viewpoint shot of some moss fruits poking their heads above the snow. After St Mo’s, I walked over to Condorrat to get bread and milk. On my way there I got the call from the Currys workies to say they’d be 20 – 25mins. Just enough time to do the shopping. They passed me on the way home. But the time I got to the house they had disconnected the old machine and were wheeling the new one in. It took them about 15mins total from start to finish.

One of the blokes had checked that it was taking water in and pumping it out and that the spin and wash were working. Then he set it up for an initial wash cycle of 30 mins to clean all the piping and the drum I expect. When they had left, Scamp read and reread the instruction book and so did I, but we were none the wiser. First attempt was a failure. Second one worked perfectly. I was surprised at how quiet it was on the wash cycle, but a bit noisier in the spin which admittedly was faster than the old machine. It did do a bit of a wobble dance at full speed. It’s early days yet, but it seems to do everything we need and none of the things that would only confuse us.

Dinner was to be Muttar Paneer (Peas and Indian Cheese) and since my writing was on the instruction book I got to make it. Many moons ago I went on a one day cookery course and they taught us about Mise En Place. It means “everything in its place”. Scamp always encourages me to do it and I did it today. It makes a great reduction to the stress levels when you have all your ingredients and utensils just there where you need them. I’d like to say everything went like clockwork, but it wasn’t quite as smooth as that. The curry was a bit hot, but very tasty. Scamp never even mentioned that the paneer was squeaky. One of her pet hates.

PoD turned out to be the moss picture. There just wasn’t enough water coming down that burn to give the impression I was trying to get and the 1/5second shutter speed meant there was a bit too much softness. Tripod next time and more water.

Tomorrow we have no plans. I got milk and bread today so there is no need for us to venture into crowded shops.

A lady visitor – 7 January 2021

We woke to more snow today. Not a lot of the white stuff, but enough to send us back to bed to read to the end of the next chapter.

Actually we got a nice morning phone call from a bloke from Microsoft to say he could help me with a problem on my computer. He sounded quite plausible, but I wondered why these people always have an Indian accent yet have British sounding names. Anyway I told him to “Bugger Off” because I couldn’t be bothered playing games with him today. Scamp said I should have asked him if it was snowing where he was. She’s so much more friendly than me.

Our snow looked fairly soft and not very thick. So, with no real reason to go out and of course nowhere to go, we took it easy for the morning. I got another phone call, this time from Barbara to say that she was running a bit late and how were the roads where we were. I told her I hadn’t been out to check, but traffic seemed to be flowing freely. She didn’t tell me she was from Microsoft and could fix my computer, so I guessed she was genuine.

When she arrived, she gave us both a form to fill in and a bag with a thing to stuff up our nose and down our throat. Up the nose is fine, but a bit painful. Down the throat really does produce the gag response. Apparently if you don’t get the gag response you’re not doing it right. We were both doing it right, believe me. Next we dropped the cotton bud thing into a test tube, sealed the test tube, dropped it into a bag and sealed the bag then left it on the mat for her to pick up.
Yes, we were doing a Covid test on the doorstep. The person administering the test isn’t allowed into the house and she isn’t allowed to hand you anything. She leaves it on the doormat and steps back. Then you are allowed to pick it up, and vice versa. We both felt really sorry for her standing there in the cold asking us questions and logging the answers on her phone. It’s part of a Covid survey for HM Gov and Oxford Uni. We get one test a week for a month. If we decide to extend the survey we get an additional test every month for a year. For taking part in the first month’s tests we get vouchers for £50. Then more vouchers for a reduced sum if we continue. That’s the first one done. We’ll see how we feel after that if we want to continue.

After she left I put my wellies on and went over to Condorrat to post the calendars. I quite enjoyed making them although the photos are all from the UK this year. In fact when I came home Scamp was saying that she was looking for a small calendar to go into the downstairs toilet. It brightens up that wee space and gives you something to look at when … well you know what I mean. That was tonight’s work. We’re going to fill it with photos from recent holidays. Something to brighten our day.

While I was out anyway, I went for a walk in St Mo’s. Like yesterday, a bank of freezing fog was descending, blanketing everything. Actually it made the park look quite different and quite scenic in a strange way. It seemed to smooth out all the rough edges. I got some photos and the PoD was the one I liked the best.

Tomorrow we may go out if the weather improves. I know we both need the exercise and the mental stimulation of looking at something other than our four walls.

Another cold morning – 6 January 2021

Another day for the YakTrax.

It was a lovely bright morning, but cold. Temperature was around -2ºc and we were daft enough to go out in it, and BEFORE COFFEE TOO! What were we thinking. Well, the weather machine in the house was predicting snow and it made sense to us to go out in the morning, even if it was cold. It would be much more sensible to go walking in the cold rather than in the snow. That was the logic. It made sense to me. It was bright enough to get some decent images without having to hike up the ISO too much. After struggling with dust bunnies last night, I just wanted to take some photos today.

Scamp suggested we go round Broadwood because the paths there would have more footfall and therefore be a bit cleared than the ice rink that is St Mo’s. I agreed. Broadwood would make a change too. She also suggested that it would not be a good idea to try to cross the Broadwood boardwalk which is made of plastic panels and doesn’t give you much confidence or a decent grip when it’s covered in ice. Again, I agreed. I’d agree to anything if it gets us out of the house these days and with the added benefit of a chance to take some photos.

Most of the paths were, indeed, free from ice and walking was easy. We did try one of the less travelled paths, but it was low lying and prone to flooding. Today that flood had converted to solid ice. No grip. No chance. We chose to go back the way we’d come, then extended it round Broadwood Stadium. There were a few people out walking this morning. I think most were like us, just wanting to get out somewhere in the sunshine. There’s no point in complaining about the dull days and then staying inside on the bright ones.

Back home and after lunch I was all set to make some Limoncello. As a Christmas present, Scamp had given me four lemons, a bag of sugar, a bottle of vodka and a set of instructions for making Limoncello. Today I’d decided to make it, but first I wanted to sketch and paint the two remaining lemons, the other two having succumbed to mould in this warm house. I promptly got a sketch done and started laying down washes using the strange paper pads of paint Hazy had given me for Christmas. Such strange colours which, when dry bear no resemblance to colours when wet. There’s an intense blue which looks purple with a copper sheen when dry. The warm yellow turned to quite an acid yellow on the painting. Intriguing. They mixed beautifully, so beautifully I got a bit carried away and ended up with a multicoloured mess. A most enjoyable mess, though! I’ll try again tomorrow, hopefully.

When I was setting out the two lemons for painting, I discovered that one had a big mould spot on it. It had to join the others in the bin. Luckily I’d bought some lemons at the weekend and started to pare the rind off with a potato peeler which is ideal for the task. The lemon peel went into a kilner jar and as per the instructions, I poured the bottle of vodka over them, clipped on the lid and gave it a good shake. It’s now in the drinks cupboard and has to stay there for a week before it gets its sugar added. The little bare lemons look exactly like little sheep after they’ve been shorn of their wooden coats in the summer. I may take a photo of them tomorrow, huddled together.

I wasn’t satisfied with the morning’s shots, so I went out again in the afternoon and got a shot of a rare form of ice called Hair Ice. I’ve only seen it once before, over a year ago, in fact it might be the same bit of wood it’s growing on. Google it and be amazed at what nature can produce. By the time I was leaving St Mo’s a freezing fog had descended and I was glad to be on my way home to a warm house.

Dinner tonight was lentil soup and Savoury Slice. Another of Sim’s recipes that Scamp’s adopted and adapted. She wasn’t happy with the results, but I thought it was fine. I was even more pleased with the coffee cake she made. Quite delicious.

The Hair Ice didn’t get PoD. Scamp liked a morning shot of the bench in its frosty coat and that became the winner.

Snow forecast for tomorrow from very early morning until early afternoon. We are having a visitor tomorrow. Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about it tomorrow.