Off the leash – 24 January 2022

Scamp was heading out for lunch with the rest of the Witches. I was given free run of the house.

After she was picked up by Jeanette I did think of driving out somewhere to get a few landscape photos, but the sky was that moody overall grey and without some directional light I’d be struggling to make a landscape look interesting, so I chose to wait for a while. I thought about starting a painting, but couldn’t decide what to paint. These dull days make it difficult to find an interest in anything. I did for one foolish moment toy with the idea of clearing up the back room, but one look at the enormity of the task was enough to disabuse me of that task. Instead, I had lunch. Beans on sourdough toast. Earlier I’d picked up Jamie’s transatlantic plane on Flightradar 24 and lunchtime gave me a chance to check his position. He was about halfway across the Atlantic as I was scraping the last of my beans from the plate.

I’d a letter to finish off and once I’d done that, it looked like the sky was brightening up with a bit of movement in the clouds, so I got my boots on and the camera sorted and went out for a walk in St Mo’s. The woods were looking bare. Bare trees, dried up grass and not a lot happening. I did try to grab a few shots of lichen and moss and also a few late season fungi, but nothing new. Nothing exciting or interesting. The most interesting was a leaf spread over a fallen log and worn almost transparent by the elements. That might look good reduced to monochrome. I walked further than I’ve gone for ages, across the boggy grassland almost beside the slip road from the motorway, but the landscapes were all the same. I’d taken them all in the past. However, when I came out of the woods the sky was definitely clearing and Jamie was heading south towards the eastern edge of Canada at about 38,000ft.

Heading back towards home I got a decent shot along the length of the boardwalk with the 18mm lens sporting its washed and clean lens hood. Also I took two shots looking towards the breaking sky over the pond. Both were taken in portrait format, one to make the most of the sky and the other to show the silted up edge of the pond. I intended to join them together in Photoshop. That was it for the photography and it looked like Jamie was now even higher at 40,000ft and crossing the border into the US. I hoped he was actually on that plane and had managed to get up for that 4am taxi!

Scamp was home by the time I got back and we compared our day. It would seem that the Railway Inn is worth a visit some time judging by the praise it was getting from Scamp. It would be good to start going out to eat again, now that the restrictions are being relaxed. We might even get to go back to salsa with a bit of luck!

Scamp’s lunch was Macaroni with Chips. My dinner was Tagliatelle with a meat Ragu. More in the pan for tomorrow or to go in the freezer to be discovered some hungry day.

I watched as the Airbus turned on its dogleg to final and landed in a place I’ve never been and am never likely to see with my own eyes. I hope you get to read this Jamie and aren’t too bored with all the photography talk. Enjoy your visit to the Big Apple.

The PoD is the two part picture, assembled and manicured in Photoshop then finished off in Lightroom. The others I took today are on Flickr.

We have no plans yet for tomorrow. Sometimes that’s the best way.


A really dull day again – 12 January 2022

Missed a coffee date with Isobel, but I’d work to do.

Actually, I’d forgotten about this morning’s coffee date with Isobel, but Scamp hadn’t. I still had work to do on those calendars. I know how Hazy likes the “Where was it took” page and I’d already made the Numbers database which I’d converted to Excel, but couldn’t quite get it to mail merge to a Word document. Then last night I found a brilliant way of doing it online using the website. Actually, I had it all completed and was checking it when I realised that I was using LAST YEAR’S Excel file!! Numpty. I did it all again this morning and then Pages wouldn’t let me format it. Grrrr!

Finally, after struggling with it for about an hour, I got it to work using a bit of software that I’ve had for about a year and never really used. It’s called Affinity Publisher and it’s basically a DTP package with far more power than I will ever need. Long story short, it only took a few minutes to get the page formatted … then another hour to line things up and space them out to my satisfaction. It’s done, they’re printed and I was hoping to get the calendars posted tomorrow, but I’m meeting Alex.

He had wanted to go to Glasgow again for more urban exploration, but I thought we might go to get some photos of the Mausoleum in Hamilton. I don’t think he was all that keen, but then Carol (his wife) suggested we go to get the photos in Hamilton and then we head for Chatelherault for a coffee and a blether. That sounded like a plan to me and Alex seemed to agree. Hoping it doesn’t rain tomorrow!

I took the Sony out for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and left it a bit too late. The light was all but gone by the time I went out, but I did get a few things. The best of a bad lot is this little sapling. The trunk of the tree it’s growing out of had split many years ago and one of the two trunks was sawn off. I’m guessing a seed got lodged in a crack in the stump and that’s what produced the sapling. I’m wondering now if the sapling is the same as the main tree which is a Silver Birch. It would be a talking point if it survived and was a totally different tree, like an ash or a beech, both of which are quite prolific in St Mo’s. The Squatter Seedling made PoD.

The big question tonight is: Is Boris dead in the water, or will he survive to bumble again? Answers, as always, on a postcard please.

I’m hoping to go and take some architectural photos tomorrow with the chance of a coffee and a blether later. Scamp is booked for coffee with Annette.

Snow there anymore – 8 January 2022

The snow had almost gone when we woke today.

It was raining and the rain seemed to persist all day. On and off with little respite from it. We didn’t need to go out anywhere, so we didn’t. But that’s not true, we did go out, making the excuse that we needed milk, but that was in the afternoon. We just sat and read the news in the morning.

Eventually it seemed like a good idea, after lunch to go for a walk, more for the exercise than to get photos or to buy some milk. Two circuits of St Mo’s provided enough photographic evidence for today’s PoD which is an amalgam of two photos. Most of the leaf was sharp and detailed in the first shot, but the little curl at the top left of the leaf was sharper in the second. I used Affinity Photo, a much maligned, but very useful photo app to carefully glue the two images together to get the best of both world. Then it was back to Photoshop to deal with the ‘grain like golfballs’ that the process creates. There is no point in having two spectacularly useful apps and relying only on one. An Ansel Adams quote springs to mind: “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

After walking round St Mo’s pond twice, once clockwise and once anti-clockwise, we continued down to the shops just as the rain started, and split up. Scamp to go to M&S while I went to Home Bargains. We met up again as the rain was tailing off and walked home.

Dinner tonight, we’d agreed would be courtesy of Golden Bowl. One Chicken Chop Suey with Fried Rice and one Special Chow Mein. I walked over to Condorrat to get them around 5pm and the paths were treacherous. Neither gritted nor snowploughed, they were one long sheet of ice. Luckily the grass on the verges was walkable with care, but there were a few dicey moments. I should really have worn my Yak Trax.

We watched some silly TV, including the first (and hopefully last) Masked Singer. Death in Paradise, after that was a serious manhunt by comparison.

Tomorrow it looks like more rain is forecast in the morning but with the hopes of a brighter and drier afternoon.

Out for coffee, out for coffee – 13 October 2021

Scamp was off to Tim Horton’s for coffee with Jeanette. I was out for coffee with Fred in Costa.

It did cross my mind that, as we were both meeting our respective friends at around the same time, what if we crossed over and I went for coffee with Jeanette and Scamp went to meet Fred? Not there’s a thought to start today’s blog! Just let that sit in your head for a while and consider the implications.

But we kept things the way they had been planned just so we wouldn’t scare the horses, or the friends. Fred and I did our usual. We compared the sketches we’d done recently and then talk turned to books we’d both read. After that the conversation took a wander down memory land with Fred telling stories about Glasgow in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Some of it seemed familiar, but not a lot. I was still living in Larkhall then and he was somewhere around Cranhill. We could have crossed paths back then, but I doubt it. I got the feeling he was clock watching today, eager to get back home before his wife returned from her early morning visit.

I bought a loaf, a couple of squashes and a flatbread semi-pizza. I thought I’d turn the squashes into a pot of soup and the flatbread with the soup would make a fairly decent dinner. That would allow yesterday’s Steak ’n’ Kidney to go into the freezer to be discovered at a later date for a surprise, easy dinner for one carnivore.

After Scamp returned and we’d had lunch, she left to post a birthday card and I started the prep of the squashes. I don’t know why they call them squashes. They were almost impossible to cut in half, let alone squash! Eventually I did get them peeled and chopped. Then I fried the onions and assorted soupy veg before I added the stock and said squashes. Boiled it then let it simmer for half an hour before blitzing it. Meanwhile, Scamp had returned from the exploration of darkest Condorrat and was starting to make a Lemon Drizzle cake. I, on the other hand, with my soup resting, went for a walk in St Mo’s with the A7ii and a selection of lenses.

On the way there I grabbed a low level shot of leaves on the path that follows the road through and avenue of trees. I quite liked the effect. One in the bag. I saw a woman who was walking her dogs (everyone walks dogs in St Mo’s – I must get myself one. Not a real one, just a little pull along one. Less mess and no vet’s bills.) Anyway, this woman was photographing the sky, then I saw why. The sky was filled with lovely Mare’s Tail clouds. I grabbed a few of those too.

PoD was taken on the Bee Seat in the park. It’s a broken snail’s shell with no sign of the snail. Probably lunch for a hungry starling or thrush. Of course the photo had originally been two images that had gone separately through Lightroom, were joined together in Photoshop, then returned to Lightroom before I was happy with the finished shot. But I was happy with it, that’s why it is PoD!

Back home and the baking was still progressing with a lot of huffing and puffing about the wrong kind of butter, or something. Later when we ate the offending article I couldn’t care what kind of butter it should have been made with, it was simply delicious and I don’t even like lemons.

The soup was a bit sweet and also a bit thin. It will probably be better tomorrow. The semi-pizza was just ok. A bit dry Scamp suggested and I agreed. However, it and the sweet soup filled a wee space as we say.

Sketch prompt for today was Roof. Roof of the mouth? Roof of a house? Probably the worst prompt so far this Inktober. I chose to draw the four most common types of roof I know. Flat roof, Mono pitch, Gable and Hipped. They are done and have had a wee splash of watercolour to brighten them up.

Tomorrow we’re intending driving to Gorbals for a tea dance.

A change of scenery – 28 September 2021

This was a lazy day and a wet one too.

Scamp was out meeting Annette for a coffee and I put some washing in the machine and set it to work while I worked upstairs. I removed the part finished pastel painting I’d been working on, because I wasn’t going to take it any further. It’s now pinned on the wall for appraisal.

Next task was to get my pens washed and primed ready for Inktober which is fast approaching. It’s a footery job. First you have to soak the nibs in a cleaning solution that has cleaned so many pens that it’s become 75% ink itself. Next that solution has to be washed out and the nibs dried. Finally I filled the pens with Higgins black fountain pen ink. My favourite drawing ink. Three pens are now ready to produce some excellent artworks, or failing that, my usual clumsy attempt at ink sketches.

The last task on my list was to produce a photo for the title page of this year’s Inktober group. The photography took about fifteen minutes, but trying to import the shot into Flickr is a nightmare. It tells you to drag the picture to your chosen position, but you can’t drag it. Actually it was fine where I’d put it, then when you save it, it changes the whole format of the title. It’s no use complaining to the staff on their badly named “Help” page. All they say is try to find a workaround. Excuse me, I’m paying for the privilege of finding my own workaround. That doesn’t seem like a good deal from my point of view. I get that the staff are actually unpaid volunteers, but who, then is collecting my subs every year? And what are they doing for that payment?
Answers, as always, on a postcard.

Maybe I was just in a bad mood because I found a tick on my arm this morning. A tiny little one that’s now a lot flatter than it was earlier on. I hate ticks.

With the pens washed, the title page finished and my anger abating, I hung out the washing and that was when Scamp returned. When we were having lunch some workies, who had erected scaffolding yesterday at a house across the road started stripping the roughcast off its gable end. The noise really got on my nerves, so I suggested we go out for a walk, and then noticed it was raining. Should I take the washing in, or let it have an extra rinse. “Leave it”, was Scamp’s suggestion as she started moving the furniture around. That’s the signal for a dance practise and that’s what we did for about half an hour, maybe not as long as that. It took my mind off the rain and the incessant hammering. Then the sun came out, so I got the Big Dog and a couple of lenses and went to take some photos down at Broadwood Loch. That’s where today’s PoD came from.

When I came home I made Carrot and Orange soup which was nowhere near as delightful as it sounds. Neither of us could agree on what was wrong with it, but we did agree that it wasn’t nice. Back to the drawing board. I’m thinking Carrot and Ginger or Carrot and Apple for tomorrow, perhaps.

Tomorrow we may go for a run somewhere we haven’t been for a long time. That’s all I’m saying just now.

Shopping at The Fort – 23 June 2021

Today Scamp wanted to visit The Fort in Glasgow. I went along to have a browse in Waterstones.

I also wanted to have a look for a new pair of trainers. My old, much maligned Merrills are beginning to fall apart. That seems a common occurrence for me and Merrills. The boots are heading the same way, in fact they are leading the race to the tip. I didn’t see anything that inspired me to pull out my wallet and commit some of my hard earned cash to JD Sport or any other footwear purveyors. Not a total surprise to Scamp or I.

I did have a browse around Waterstones and noted a few book titles that I might add to my reading list. However, I’ll probably wait a month or so until the prices come down to something more like reality. The price of books these days!!

Met us with Scamp again and went food shopping in M&S. The till was run by someone who looked disdainfully at all these shoppers waiting for her to scan their miserable food items. Eventually, when the time came to pay she attempted a smile, but I think she needs more time in front of the mirror, practising it.

When I was wandering around this fortress earlier I noticed that almost an entire row of premises were closed and boarded up. Or, as the sign said, just ready to become “New stores you’re sure to adore”. It’s the effect of the pandemic on shops. Topshop, TopMan, Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Evans and Burton all closed for good. Only one left in this block.
Who’s NEXT?
This retail disaster became my PoD. After a bit of manipulation in Photoshop, the three frame panorama looked pretty much how I’d seen it.

Back home and after lunch I started to cut down a rogue tree that has appeared between us and our next door neighbour. I asked her last week if she was really attached to it and she said no, so today I took the loppers and with help from Scamp we got about half of it cut down, chopped up and dumped in the Garden Waste bin. Thankfully it should get uplifted tomorrow, because it’s nearly full now. Scamp went off to visit her sister and while she was away I potted up a sickly looking chilli plant and half a dozen aquilegia seedlings. I had just finished and left her a note to say I was off to St Mo’s when the lady herself returned. There was nothing of note in St Mo’s. I’d seen a Fire Bug yesterday and was hoping to be able to grab a shot of it, but it was nowhere to be seen. Maybe tomorrow.

For dinner tonight Scamp made Pulled Chicken and Chipotle Black Beans. The last time she made it, there was very little chilli heat. There was tonight! Hope the remainder doesn’t get hotter for lunch tomorrow.

A quick dance practise tonight and I think we may have ironed out one of the sticky bits in the Slow Foxtrot. It’s all to do with a little twist before the second Whisk. That probably means nothing to you, although JIC may know what I’m talking about. It’s really just a little reminder to us that might explain how we’ve solved the problem.

No real plans for tomorrow. We had some rain tonight and we’re expecting more tomorrow. The gardens need it.

Roses, Keys and Stitchery – 14 June 2021

A dull, cold day the temperature didn’t rise much above 14º.

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was a beautiful sunny, but windy day. Today was cold, windy and a bit dull, but you can’t win them all which might be the Scotland team’s motto having failed to win their first game in the Euros.

Annette visited today and keys changed hands. I’ll say no more than that. While Scamp and her were deep in conversation I cut two fading roses, took them upstairs and set up a small tabletop studio to photograph them before they completely fell apart. For the first time ever, I think, I used the MBP as a monitor and shot the pictures tethered to the Sony. Once you get past the restrictions of using the poor Sony software, the results were really good. The whole process could have been a lot easier if a bit of thought and some better programming had been put in place by Sony, but at least it worked and was an improvement over the phone app I’d used before. One of the rose photos got PoD. Annette was leaving just as I was finishing. It was strange to see her red Juke sitting just up the hill from our blue Micra. I still miss the Juke a bit, but I prefer the better mpg of the Micra.

Lunch was another quiche with the same ingredients, smoked salmon and broccoli, as last time, but this time we used a tortilla wrap for the base. So much simpler. It was voted a success. Worth doing again but with an extra egg next time.

I’d bought myself a pair of walking trousers last week and like the previous pair I got last year, they were too long. Tonight I got the sewing machine out tonight and folded up the hem on the legs and sewed it. I thought the poor machine was going to have a heart attack as it hammered away at the heavy cotton which was triple thickness and even thicker at the seams. However it seemed come through it unscathed. Just to be sure I did a wee test piece after I was finished both legs and it sounded fine again.

I’m still thinking about formatting the disk on the iMac and re-installing the OS. Too many little quirks are appearing. I think there is a lot of junk on the OS and also in the unused programs that is just taking up space. Tonight I think I’ve discovered how to copy off the Keychain and then re-install it. That would be very useful.
The foregoing is really just for my benefit.

Tomorrow we’re waiting for the post. We may go out for a spin.

A dull Saturday – 12 June 2021

Not a day for doing much or going anywhere, although it did brighten up later.

Scamp did a bit of tidying up in the garden and moved some plants around to give them more sun and also to put them in places where they could be seen better. I deadheaded some of the aquilegia plants to, hopefully force them to produce more flowers. Scamp also cut the grass at the front and edged it I am now reminded!

We had the other half of yesterday’s quiche for lunch. I think I prefer it cold, while Scamp definitely prefers it hot. After lunch I took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. Snapped a few damselflies, but because I hadn’t lifted the macro lens, none of them were acceptably in focus. I walked out behind St Mo’s school and disturbed a bit dragonfly. It flew around for a while before almost crashing into me. It seemed to perch in a tree, but when I looked I couldn’t find it. PoD turned out to be a little fragile looking damselfly that seemed to be playing hide and seek with me hiding behind a stem. Every time I moved, it moved too. I took some photos of it and left it to its game.

When I cropped the damselfly photo in Lightroom later, it was really a small image. However, this new Lightroom has the ability to enlarge a photo to four times it original size without losing definition. That’s what I did. The process is called ‘Enhance’ and that’s what it does. It takes a fair bit of processing power to do it and the PoD took almost 30 seconds. The wait was worth it, because the quality is quite amazing.

We walked over to Condorrat tonight to pick up a Golden Bowl dinner we’d ordered. Two Chicken Chop Suey and two Fried Rice. Just as good as it always is. It’s great that some things don’t change in this world.

After dinner, Scamp and I watered the garden, just the front garden and just with watering cans. If the warm dry weather continues we may hose back and front gardens tomorrow night. We had a quick practise later for tomorrow’s class. The routines are a bit rough, but we have most of the steps in the right place.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather brings us.


What a difference a day makes – 3 June 2021

Today dawned dull, cloudy and wet.

It wasn’t actually raining when we woke, but it had been. The streets were wet and those clouds showed no sign of breaking up any time soon.

After we finally got out of bed and dressed we noticed a visitor on the kitchen window. I don’t know what kind of fly it is, but I’m sure I’ve seen one before somewhere, probably on a window. I got a few shots with the Oly then for good measure, I took some more with the Sony. Sony won hands down. That was six shots in the bag, and one of them became PoD, but only after a fair bit of work. The great thing about the Sigma 105mm macro on the Sony is the detail it finds in things. The bad thing about it is the detail if finds in things. I’d washed that window on Monday or Tuesday. Today was Thursday and the window was covered in pollen which the camera and lens captured just as perfectly as it captured the detail in the fly’s wings and body. It took about an hour’s work to retain the fly’s details while blurring out the dust and pollen from the window glass. Photoshop is a cracking tool once you have time to work out how to use it!

We drove to Falkirk in the late morning to pick up our wedding rings that had been faultlessly repaired by the lady at McMaster’s. Mine cost nothing to resize, presumably because she could reuse the gold dust she’d cut off and because it was only 9ct. Scamp’s on the other hand was quite expensive because it needed a relatively large piece of 18ct gold inserted. It doesn’t matter, we are both now wearing the rings we exchanged when we got married.

On the way back we stopped at Torwood to get a pot and some compost to plant Scamp’s new rhododendron. After lunch Scamp started the baking of a tray of ‘Brookies’ which I’m told are Brownie Cookies. I went out for a walk in St Mo’s and continued on to the shops to get milk and some marshmallows which I seem to have become addicted to recently. No photos were taken in St Mo’s because there were no insects of any description flying today. When I got back home the baking was in full swing and by dinner time there was a box of Brookies to share. They weren’t as sweet as the usual brownies I’ve tasted, but had a nice crunch to them. Lots more there for tomorrow.

The clouds finally parted and the sun shone for an hour at night and we had a walk in the garden, deciding what to put where now that there’s a new plant to fit in. We’re still not decided on the final position, but I’m sure we’ll find enough of a space to squeeze it in.

I’m adding another photo from yesterday into today’s blog. Walking round the gardens yesterday, I found what looked like a good composition looking past the Reg Butler sculpture ‘Girl’, through the gap in the hedge to the people in the distance. However these two folk wouldn’t budge. In frustration, I took the shot anyway, including them. Just as I was pressing the shutter I heard the girl say “It’s not a very good sculpture is it? It looks corroded or something”. To which her partner replied “Hmm.”
Those who Can, Do. Those who Can’t, become critics. Thank goodness for the almost silent shutter on the Oly!!

Tomorrow I’m hoping to meet Val for coffee and a catch up and Scamp is intending going walking with Veronica.

Entertaining lunch – 24 May 2021

We were picking Isobel up and taking her for coffee today.

Always an entertainment, Isobel. She just speaks her mind and if you don’t like it, then … tough. For some reason I actually enjoyed my coffee in Costa. Maybe it was the company or maybe it was the Bosh Chocolate Slice which I hadn’t noticed was vegan, but you couldn’t tell! It could also have been because I told the barista not to add any water to the already almost full cup. This may be the first and last time I say this, but the coffee tasted like … coffee! A first for Costa. After a couple of hours we were talked out, although I’m sure Isobel would have kept going for another hour at least. However we had to get home for 3pm. She was going to Tesco which is at the opposite end of the great cavern that is the Antonine Centre. We walked along with her and after she’d bought the plants she came for, I walked back to get the car and bring it round for Scamp and Isobel. On the way I took two photos of one of the architectural monsterpieces of Cumbersheugh. I had plans for it.

Drove round and picked up the two of them, drove to the Village and deposited Isobel at her house. Back home we had time for lunch before a man phoned and asked us a few personal questions before knocking on the door and giving both of us each a cotton bud to stick down our throat and up our nose. We gave it back to him and off he went. That was our Covid survey completed for June, even though it’s still May. I’d say that we’re getting used to it, but that would be a lie. It’s still a really uncomfortable thing to do and we still have another six or so to look forward to. Oh what fun we have.

I forgot to mention that the rain started around 11.30am and it didn’t stop until about 5pm. I know the plants need the rain, but the back garden is going to feel like a paddy field if this goes on much longer. With that in mind, I decided that the two photos I took in the afternoon would make PoD with a little bit of Photoshop magic. The new ‘shop is a far more complex, yet at the same time simpler app than the old version CS3 that I’ve been using for the last 10 or so years. What you see here took an hour or so to do. The last time I tried it, it took four or five hours and it was nowhere near as convincing a result as today’s. I approve of it, even if most of the heavy work is done for you. It’s the result that counts.

Sketch tonight was Your Sketchbooks. There’s no way I was going to draw all my sketchbooks. If I had attempted it I’d probably finish around 4am. A fair selection was all I did. You will note, I’m sure that there are three items in the sketch. An odd number yet again. Makes for a more dynamic composition I’m told.

Don’t know what we’re doing tomorrow. It looks wet, but hopefully not as wet as today.