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.

Dreary, wet and Foxtrot – 23 May 2021

Another of those drizzly wet days.

There was little point in going far today. The forecast had been for rain in the morning and it appeared almost exactly on time. It gave me a chance to start today’s sketch which was A Treasure Chest. The sketch was done early, but the painting took a bit longer. Overall, I’m fairly happy with the result.

The rest of the morning was spent fixing all the little niggling bits and pieces that surround any big app. Moving bits of code and plugins that do all the heavy lifting in Lightroom and have to be slotted into their correct place by hand. I think most of it is done now. The actual program seems to run a lot faster than the old V6.14 I was using. It should do, this is Lightroom V10 I’m using now!

We did manage to get out for a walk in the late afternoon with only a light shower to dampen our waterproofs. Blustery wind and cold too. This doesn’t feel like May. I was watching an interview with a bird watcher the other day and he was saying that up until recently the seasons were predictable and stayed in their patterns. Now all that seems to have changed and the seasons appear to be more chaotic. He said it’s almost certainly down to Global Warming. He might be right.

Scamp made a lovely dinner tonight with grilled chicken that had been marinaded in ground cumin, ground coriander, chopped coriander and garlic. It was absolutely beautiful. Served with potatoes and roast veg.

PoD came from the walk to St Mo’s in the afternoon. It’s the unfurling crozier of a fern. I was impressed with the quality of it. Nothing to do with me, just a great camera and an excellent lens.

Dancing tonight centred around a Foxtrot. I think we did quite well with it, although Scamp reminded me that we’ve only been doing the easy part so far.

Spoke to JIC later and caught up with how things are down south. It seems that the weather we’ve been having has been pretty much universal. Rain and more rain.

Tomorrow we’re booked to meet Isobel for coffee at Costa.

Another beautiful day – 18 May 2021

It was another beautiful morning. Too good to stay in bed and even too good for a morning coffee. That kind of good!

Scamp had booked a table for her and Margie for early afternoon, so a walk, not local, but not too far was the request. I thought maybe the walk along the canal to Twechar would probably be too long for today and the short version with the shortcut across the plantation would be too short. Maybe Colzium. It’s a week or so since we’d been there and there were a couple of little waterfalls I wanted to investigate in the park, so there was another bonus. So it was that we drove out through Kilsyth to the once private estate that is now open to the public.

We have worked out a decent route around the park with some short hill climbs and interesting scenery past rushy streams and walks through the woods. Just to make it a bit different I chose a path we hadn’t walked before, not knowing it had a long climb in it. It took us to a bridge over the Colzium Burn. I thought we’d crossed this particular bridge before, but Scamp disagreed and she was right. When we walked down the other side of the burn we came to the bridge I was thinking about. That’s where I got today’s PoD. Again it was Scamp’s observation that brought the heart shape hanging from the tree branch to my attention. I was quite pleased with the composition, positioning the heart against the white of the falls. We walked on down.

We walked down the wide avenue from the ‘Big House’ to the old curling pond. Some of the rhododendrons were in full flower, but most were like our own and just coming into flower. The trees, though, were glowing with colour. Strangely it was autumn colour, but it seemed to work with the green around it. We drove home.

While Scamp went off for lunch with Margie, I started today’s sketch. As usual, some of the prompts are slightly random. Today’s was An Interdental Brush. I decided to be generous and sketched both of mine, one with its holder. It’s amazing how useful these little wire brushes are. My friend, Fred, describes them as miniature toilet brushes. I’ll leave that thought with you!

Next task was a bit of technology (That’s your five minute warning JIC). Lightroom is having problems with the new Mojave OS and it simply won’t run on the new laptop. With that in mind I’m thinking about moving to the new Lightroom/Photoshop package from Adobe that is a subscription system. To do that I need to create a new Adobe account. Now many years ago Adobe was hacked and my email address was one of the ones that was sold off by the hackers. Despite changing my password as soon as I knew, I eventually had to shut down that address. Just in case the same thing happens again, I created a new email address for the new account. For some reason it was simplicity itself to set up on both machines. Maybe Apple are making improvements with these new operating systems. Now that the email works and has been checked, tomorrow I’m ready to sell my soul to Adobe for a Lightroom for the 21st century. (OK, JIC it’s safe to come back.)

When Scamp returned I was putting the finishing touches to the Interdental Brush still life and she pronounced it good enough to post.

Spoke to Fred tonight and we discussed politics, Rangers supporters and how boring life is these days. Then the conversation turned to cars before touching down for a while on painting.

That was about it for today. Tomorrow we’re hoping to get out for another walk, because it may be the last dry day for a while.

Still didn’t get that painting done – 13 April 2021

Scamp went out for a walk with Veronica and it should have been a golden opportunity for an hour’s painting, but other stuff came first.

I wanted to have a deeper dig into some of the secrets of these two new software packages. Today it was Capture One’s turn. It’s very powerful and with great power comes great confusion. There seems to be ten different ways to do the simplest thing. Unfortunately, all the ten different ways produce slightly different results and none of them exactly what I’d intended. I’ve been using Lightroom since version 1 back in 2007. Over the intervening years I’d worked through five other versions and built up a library of tweaks and plug-ins. Capture One is like starting again. Nothing seems familiar. Maybe it’s too big a step.

The other thing I’d to do was to remove our coloured lights from the rowan tree in the garden. They hadn’t worked properly since the snow earlier in the year and although I’ve replaced the NiMh battery, there hasn’t been a light from it in about a month. It was time to call it quits and take it to the skip. Actually it didn’t take long to take it down and remove all the staples that were holding the wiring. By that time Scamp had returned .

After lunch we walked down to the shops to get a flower pot for an Astilbe plant Scamp was donating to Isobel. I’d intended walking part of the way back and then going for a jaunt in St Mo’s, because it was a lovely day with quite a few spells of decent sunshine, but I’d left my phone at home. Isn’t it strange how controlled we are by these slabs of glass and silicon? Well, for under 50s it’s just part of life, but for those of us who grew up using call boxes to make phone calls. The mobile phone is a help and a hindrance. I walked back with Scamp to get the phone.

I was hoping against hope for just one damselfly in St Mo’s. I’d seen a hoverfly last week, but today I had to make do with the skittish spiders, Wolf Spiders. They seem to live under the boardwalk, but on warm day, especially sunny days they come up to bask in the rays. I managed to catch one who was watching me as I was watching it. Later in the year they are easier to photograph with their bundle of eggs carried on their back. Apparently the warmth of the sun helps the eggs to hatch. Too early for that today, these ones were hunting, but dismissed me as too big and stringy to make a decent meal!

Back home it was time to put up the new lights under the careful instruction of Scamp. Then it was time for dinner which was potatoes, beans and either veggie sausages (Scamp) or beef burger (me).

Watched the final of Landscape Artist of the Year (Canada) and sure enough, the worst painting of the lot won the prize. If you’d given one of those wolf spiders a brush and some paint it could have made a better job of it.

There was great news announced today. From Friday we will be able to travel the length and breadth of Scotland. The Scottish world is once again our oyster!! Non-essential shops are still shut. Restaurants are not allowed to open. Pubs too are still closed, but at least we can travel to discover if the sea is still there. We will have to take a flask of coffee and pieces. We’ve effectively been locked down for the last five months. What will the world look like? Will we still remember it?

Tomorrow we may go for a walk.

More frost, more snow – 11 April 2021

Where has spring gone? It seems like we’re back in the gloomy days of winter.

I’ve always thought trees had a hidden intelligence. They don’t produce leaves until the last frost is over because the frost damages the delicate leaves. Biologists now know that trees can communicate through their roots. When I see trees starting to put out leaves, I know that the ground and the air are warming up, even if I don’t feel it. Something seems to have gone wrong this year. The trees are spreading their leaves, but the temperature last night was around -4º along the Central Belt of Scotland and much colder than that up in the north. Have the trees just held off and held off until they simply had to get the leaves out to convert the minerals from their roots into the sugars and starches they need to grow, despite the temperature? Perhaps that’s so. Perhaps they know that the temperature is on the rise and will continue to rise into summer. Let’s hope so, for our sake as well as theirs.

We kept looking out the window today and saying “It looks nice, but open the door and you’ll feel how cold it is.” It was cold and I was glad I’d put a plant fleece on the rosemary bush in the garden. Poor rosemary is a Mediterranean plant not used to the rough winter weather in Scotland. Like the trees, it had just begun to produce new leaves when last week’s frost burned them. Hopefully the fleece will keep it safe until this spell of cold weather abates. We didn’t move much until after lunch today, and even then, Scamp found jobs to do in the house rather than come out for a walk with me. I got dressed for the cold and went for a walk in St Mo’s. My target was that big horse chestnut tree to grab some shots of the buds bursting into leaves. I got better than leaves, some of the buds contained the flowers, the candelabra of flowers that mark a horse chestnut. One of them made PoD.

Back home Scamp was battering a couple of chicken breasts to make Chicken Milanese. Flattened chicken breast dipped in egg and then breadcrumbs and fried until golden and crispy. Served with potatoes and a salad. Perfect Sunday dinner. She’d also made soup as a starter. Such a clever girl, Scamp.

Dancing tonight was an extension to the Waltz which kind of messed with both our heads until Scamp got it sorted out and taught me! Then the last part of the Tango which also caused us a bit of bother, but after the teachers had gone over it a few times it became clearer.

JIC had given me a birthday prezzy of six months worth of Audible books. I wasn’t sure about the practicality of listening to books rather than reading them, but after listening to The Sandman by Neil Gaiman for an hour, I’m sold. Not just one person reading the story, more a whole play with different people playing the characters. I understand the reason people listen to audio books now.

Spoke to JIC after the dance and heard about he and Sim’s first 10k run today. Watches and horses played a part in the discussion and also houses.

I am still trying to work out how these three post-processing apps can best be used and which of the two full price ones is best. Just now I’m still banking on Lightroom to win the day, but that is by no means certain.

Tomorrow we have a Tesco delivery scheduled for the afternoon, so any walking activity will have to be in the morning.


A Scottish Day – 10 April 2021

In other words, four seasons in one day.

It was still below zero when I was making breakfast. I did toy with the idea of getting dressed and going out to take some photos, but that was as far as it got. I decided instead to go back to bed after I’d set the iMac to do a backup. I browsed the Audible site to see what books were available and more importantly, after a warning from JIC and Hazy, listening to the readers. Some of them were terrible and were rejected immediately. I under the “Valley Girl” description Hazy. I think I’ve settled on one, but I’ll have another listen tomorrow.

It took the sun quite some time to raise the temperature above the zero mark. There was frost on the roofs of the cars and it stayed for quite a while in the shadow areas of the back garden. We weren’t all that bothered about rushing out, because we were waiting (im)patiently for the post. Eventually he arrived and yes, he had a parcel in his hand. Inside was a little snake shaped paint brush holder. I’d been meaning to make one of these since I saw a tutor using a brush holder in a video I’d been following. His was just a piece of wood with slots cut to hold the brushes, but this was shaped like a little green snake hand painted by the look of it. A brilliant prezzy Hazy, even if the Royal Mail were hoping to keep it for themselves. Thankfully they relented and handed it to me. It will go into the painting room as soon as I get the table cleared. At present it’s a propagating table for my Aquilegia flowers.

Eventually, after lunch we did go out for a walk in  the sun. Once round the pond at St Mo’s for Scamp then she exited in the general direction of the shops, while I went into the wooded area looking for interesting photos. That’s where I found today’s PoD. It’s another horse chestnut bud, but this is from a bigger tree than the last one and is a bit closer to opening into full leaf. Such beautiful detail in the veins of the leaves.  When I  got home we had a snow shower which looked as if it might lie, but it soon went off and the lying snow melted away,

Dinner tonight was a Chinese stir-fry made by Scamp. I don’t have the skill to work fast enough to make a stir-fry without burning it.

I messed around with two of the front runners to replace Lightroom, but neither of them offer much of an advantage over Lightroom, so I suppose I’ll just keep it running for a while, maybe using the free cut down version of Capture One if I need it.

We had a quick dance practise tonight and although we made a decent attempt at the Rumba, Tango and Waltz, our Salsa skills are decidedly rusty now and maybe we’ll be feeling the effects of that more energetic dance tomorrow.

No plans for tomorrow, other than doing the Tesco order! Such fun.