In Deepest Paisley – 23 September 2021

We were off into the depths of Paisley to dance.

Drove in through Glasgow again and the traffic wasn’t all that bad at all. Just make sure you’re in the right lane and don’t deviate. Go with the flow and all will be well. All did go well until in the centre of Paisley I made the same wrong turning I’d made two years ago and found myself relying on the sat nav to get me out of trouble. It did it perfectly. Arrive with about five minutes to spare.

Danced Waltz, Social Foxtrot, Foxtrot, Tango and innumerable Sequence Dances. Sat beside two folk we’ve met at tea dances before and who also go to our Saturday morning class, John and Madge. We also has a chat with two others we know from Salsa, Barry and Cath. There were also a number of “Weel Kent Faces” in the group, about a dozen couples in total. I don’t think we were the clumsiest and I know we were nowhere near the best, but we danced, socially and didn’t bump into anyone. Yes, we made mistakes, but we just got on with it. We kept to the right lane, didn’t deviate too much and went with the flow. It works, you know!

As promised, there was tea and cake and sweets. There was plenty of time to mingle and talk to folk. Do you know, I’m beginning to enjoy this social aspect of dancing. It’s slower than Salsa, but it’s just as enjoyable in a different way. Like so many things, it’s the people who make it enjoyable.

Back home the sat nav had an off day and took us home by the ‘Scenic Route’ then dumped us in the middle of a traffic jam caused by road works. We did eventually get home and I went out for a walk in St Mo’s to get some poor quality photos then went to Condorrat to get some ‘thick milk’ to add to tonight’s dinner which was Smoked Haddock and Leek Risotto. One of our leeks again.

PoD was a Garden Cross spider, so called because it has the markings of a cross on its back.

Tomorrow I’m hoping to meet my brother in Glasgow.

Dancing first, then IKEA – 4 September 2021

Saturday is dancing day and as we almost pass IKEA on the way home it made sense to visit the yellow and blue store.

Dancing started with the Bellissima Cha Cha which we know fairly well and can dance with a fair degree of confidence. That’s what we did. It wasn’t perfect, but it was done with confidence which is sometimes the same thing. Next was the Foxtrot which we agreed was becoming a lot smoother. I’m not sure the teachers would entirely agree with that, but it felt that way to us. For the break in the middle it was the Rumba One which is a gentle bit of fluff danced as a sequence and apparently everyone was on the same beat for once. Next was waltz and we were told we were making things too difficult for ourselves, but we were trying to emulate the teachers in the video they sent us. We both agreed today wasn’t the time to say that, so we just kept quiet. Finally it was a Cha Cha line dance. Something I’d have baulked at before, but now I find I can do quite happily … as long as I’m not at the front! Good class, lots of stuff learned. No class next week as the teachers are off to Tenerife for a week in the sun, lucky people.

IKEA is on the way home so we stopped off there for re-sealable poly bags, a photo frame or two and some cheap serviettes that I use when painting watercolour as blotting paper if I overload my brush. Just useable stuff today and we whizzed through the checkout without a problem. We even managed to use a couple of shortcuts to save the “Yellow Brick Road” that we used to have to follow. Back to home.

After lunch I went for a walk in St Mo’s, but I’m beginning to get jaded with it. I’m looking for some open spaces to photograph. Some interesting landscapes with dappled sunlight. That’s not too much to ask for is it? Perhaps it is with rain forecast for tomorrow. We did have some drizzle today, but it was really just the edge of a cloud and didn’t come too much. PoD was a little Garden Cross spider on a web that looked like the high wire at the circus. The strange thing was it looked as if it had a larva of some kind on its abdomen. I’ve asked for help identifying it on Flickr.

That was about it for the first Saturday in September. We’ve both downloaded our QR codes to our phones to prove our vaccination status, although I read this morning that already it’s been shown that it can be hacked and the details changed. After the Scottish Government paying a reputed £600,000 for a Dutch company to create the code. I did think that was a fairly cheap price for the work that would be involved. It’s a true saying “if you pay peanuts you must expect monkeys.”

Holding our hands out tomorrow, expecting rain. Not sure if it will reach down as far south as us, but the highlands need the rain too.

Dancing and cakes and more dancing – 28 August 2021

The dancing on a Saturday is obvious, the cakes, maybe not so, nor the more dancing. Hopefully this will help

We drove through the usual Saturday morning traffic to the dance class in Bridge of Weir and on the way in, picked up a loaf and a chocolate muffin. These, and many other offerings are given away free every week. It’s still not clear, yet who provides them, but they are all nearing the end of their Best Before date and are free to a good home. Last week it was a cheese loaf – which tasted better than it sounds – and doughnuts. It’s a little sweetener (no pun intended) for the rigours of the dance class.

Today we started the class with a Saunter Together. At one time this was my most despised dance, now it’s just another sequence dance. Next up was Foxtrot which we thought we’d put to bed last night, but the teachers found various defects in the routine that we’ll try to remember how to fix in the coming days, all being well. Next, just to give our head a chance to assimilate that information, was the Bossa Nova danced to Iko Iko, a song we’ve been trying to remember since the last time we danced to it a fortnight ago. Then I was time for the Waltz and we are rank beginners at this. We only know the simplest form of Stewart and Jane’s version and even then we were making mistakes. The expression “Every day is a school day” was never truer then today! Finally we danced the Valentino Jive which we learned on a cruise ship in a different world, where masks were for Halloween and a vaccination was something you got when you were going on holiday to a far away country. That was a tough morning’s work, for us and probably for the teachers too.

Back home and with our heads clearing a bit after information overload, we had lunch. After that, I went for a walk in St Mo’s, in the sunshine while Scamp tidied up the kitchen and listened to some music. There was very little life about, certainly no animal life and very little insect activity … or so it seemed at first. Macro is such a strange land. I though I was taking a photo of a dandelion parachute which ended up out of focus or blurred because of the breeze but in the corner and reasonably sharp was a battle between a spider and what looked like a tick. I hope the spider won. PoD, however went to wild raspberry fruit. Just the one and a nicely translucent too.

After dinner, which was an instant curry from M&S, simply because we didn’t have very much time to cook today, we got ready to go to a 50th birthday party. We were surprised when Jacqui invited us to her birthday party in The Savings Bank in Glasgow. We’d planned it all out yesterday. Drive in to Concert Square car park, walk down to Buchanan Street subway and get a train to Bridge Street then walk to the venue. For once it worked like clockwork. The place wasn’t too busy when we got there and we snaffled two seats beside Jim Brown. In the time we were there we met loads of folk who used to go to Salsa. Sat and talked to a few of them and even got to dance … SALSA!! First time in ages we’ve danced salsa on a dance floor. Not a living room floor! I did manage to spill half a glass of non-alcoholic beer over Scamp’s lovely dress. I’m not sure I’ll be able to live that down, but apart from that we had a great time and left just after 10.30pm, in time to miss the subway train and had to wait the interminable 10 Minutes until the next one.  Even got a parking place back home.  Some special wee God was looking after us tonight.  Thank you.

Tomorrow we have no plans, except to have a long hot shower to ease those long forgotten muscles we’ve used tonight!

Off the leash – 25 August 2021


Both of us!

Scamp was off to lunch today with two other witches. I thought I might do some phoning. First would be MPB to find out what was happening about the camera I was selling through them. I didn’t really think there was anything dodgy going on, but it’s wearing on for a fortnight since the confirmed that they had delivery of the parcel. That’s when the text came through to say they had checked the camera and agreed with my assessment of the condition. I sent my bank details and left them to the technicalities of whizzing the money over the ether.

Next phone call was to book the car in for its first service. Apparently they prefer the booking to be done online, so I went through all the hoops and the car goes in on Monday at 10am and will be ready by 12noon. Another tick in another box.

By that time, Scamp was ready to go to lunch and I’d one last phone call to make and that might be a make or break one. I was going to phone my brother who I’ve not spoken to for about six years. We correspond by email, but never speak. When I dialled the number it made a strange squeak and then nothing. No message to say that it was a wrong number or that the person was on another call, just nothing. I tried the landline because sometimes my phone gets a poor signal, but the result was the same. I’d been building up for this call and it never happened. I was disappointed. So, if you’re reading this, Alex, I did try, but presumably I’ve got an old number. Give me a ring or drop me an email and we’ll sort out this telephony stuff.

Next I wanted to renew my road tax, but when I tried the DVLA I got through to the menu, Chose the Tax My Car option and the connection went into hyperspace. The second time in about ten minutes that technology had let me down. I’d had enough. Instead of trying again, I got some bread flour, yeast, salt and oil. Added some water and kneaded my stress away.

Left the dough to prove, grabbed two cameras and camera bags, put them in the boot of the car and drove off into the … well, it was about 2 ‘o’ clock by then, so it wasn’t the sunset I was driving into, more like the sunSHINE, because it was another hot one today. I drove down to Auchinstarry, parked at the quarry and went for a long walk along part of the old railway to the Plantation. Crossed over there and walked back along the canal. Now usually if I’m walking with Scamp that will take us about half an hour to an hour. Today it took me two hours, because I was stopping a lot checking things and generally being a photog. The weather was beautiful. Almost a clear blue sky and hardly a breeze. PoD was a spider repairing its web. Getting rid of all the detritus that had been caught in it. Saw what might be a shield bug, or might be a beetle. I’ve asked for an ID on Flickr.

Came home to find Scamp sitting in the garden. Not content with going out for lunch, she’d come home and got started cutting the front grass. Then she complained that she should have cut the back grass too. I encouraged her to have a Pimms instead and I had a beer, then we sat in the garden she read her book, I listened to mine.

Dinner was a Pizza Pasta Combination (Half a pizza with a small bowl of pasta) for me and the other half of my pizza for Scamp.

Later I finally got through to DVLA using my phone as a wifi hotspot. It’s something to do with way the new modem deals with some websites. Must query it with Virgin who will deny it’s anything to do with them, of course.

Tomorrow we may drive in to Glasgow to go looking for a bank that sells beer!


New hair do – 24 August 2021

Not me, I’ve had mine cut for this year.

Scamp was off to the hairdressers who were going to dress her hair for her. I was going out to get some photos, but first there were photos to look at and and yet more photos to look at on Flickr. I’d charged up the cameras and made sure there was still space on the SD cards, then Scamp returned with her hair suitably dressed. Well, I thought it looked fine, but she didn’t like it. What is it they say?
“The difference between a bad haircut and a good one is two weeks.”
They also say “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
’They’ say lots of things, most of them pointless.

After lunch she was thinking about cutting the grass and I was thinking about taking some landscapes, then Veronica phoned to say she (or her husband) thought the music we’d made for her to sing to at her daughter’s wedding was too high and could we lower it? Scamp and her discussed it over the phone and decided we could lower it by three semitones. I agreed although I’ve never seen a ‘semitone’ but I’ve been accused of ‘lowering the tone’ a few times! It was the work of about ten minutes to do what was necessary to the recording and burn it on to a new CD. Scamp said she’d take the CD to Veronica and I said I was going looking for photos.

I drove up to Fannyside, parked and was just walking up the road when I saw a tiny little dragonfly, not a damselfly, sitting on a fence. I kept my eye on it while I carefully drew the camera out of the bag and switched it on. I took my off it for a second and it was gone. The next thing I knew was it was sitting on my shoulder. Too close to use the camera, but if I could just get my phone out of my pocket … but it was gone again, and this time it wasn’t coming back. Such a pity, but a good story!

I walked up the path and discovered a host of birds sitting on a power line. I couldn’t count them, there were so many. The main bunch were starlings, but there were some sparrows and a few swallows, all twittering away. I got a few photos and then they all flew down into the garden of a farmhouse as if a dinner gong had sounded. That congregation was PoD. Shot a couple of landscapes, because that was what I’d gone for, but nothing beat the birds.

Drove on towards Arns, which is a farming community on the outskirts of Abronhill, on a narrow single-track road with no passing places when I met a van coming the opposite way. I reversed along the road for a few hundred metres until I found a safe place at a gate into a field where I could squeeze up next to the gate and the van could squeeze past. I got a wave. I thought I deserved a round of applause. Driving in reverse, using my reversing camera as a guide. I’ve never met any traffic on that road while I’ve been driving … until today.

Drove on to the car park at Greenfaulds station and parked there, then went for a walk along the Luggie. Got a photo of a spider, a big one, tucked into one of the seed heads of a yellow rattle plant. I’ve posted it on Flickr hoping for an ID.

A can of Guinness and a tin of Pimms for Scamp in the garden back home. More strawberry vodka & lemonade later to watch a recording of University Challenge. What a hot day that was. Hoping for the same tomorrow.

Scamp’s out to lunch with two of the witches tomorrow. I might make myself a pizza and then take the Dewdrop out for a run.

Coffee with Val – 29 July 2021

Just Val and me today.

I don’t know if Val has fallen out with Fred, but he never mentioned whether he had invited him or not and I didn’t ask. I thought I’d show him my new Huawei watch, but surprise, surprise, Val had one too. Like a couple of school kids we compared watch faces. He pinched one of mine and I pinched one of his. An hour and a half seemed to fly past and for once we didn’t just talk ‘tech’. It was more about trying to get back to ‘normal’. Maybe not real normal, more like this new normal. Still, it was a step in the right direction.

Back home Scamp was just getting ready to go and dead head some flowers, so I took the opportunity to grab some pictures of some of her favourites. That’s why today’s PoD is a bunch of Osteospermum all vying for the best place in the photo. I was impressed with the way the Sony dealt with the red roses. The Oly was much quicker to focus, but it oversaturate the reds, the Sony gave a much more realistic rendition of the reds. Something to do with the bigger sensor perhaps?

I did go for a walk in St Mo’s later in the day and got a decent macro of a shieldbug apparently steeling itself for a leap into space. In reality it was fighting with a wolf spider. I don’t think the spider came out on top this time. Maybe it got sprayed by the shieldbug. They don’t call it a stinkbug for nothing.

Back home it was veg chilli for dinner and as usual I made too much. Oh well, we can eat if for lunch tomorrow.

And with that, you are all caught up.  Two week’s worth of blog written.  I’m glad it’s done.

Tomorrow we may go in to Glasgow if the weather permits.

Another dull day – 26 May 2021

However, brighter days are on the horizon, we’re told.

Scamp was off to Calder’s for lunch with Annette and I was left to my own devices. Always a dangerous thing to do. As it happened I didn’t really do much damage today. I hoovered the painting room because there was a lot of those sticky covers from the buds on the trees. They stick to you shoes and then transfer to the carpet later to be ground in. Luckily the Dyson knows how to deal with them. Didn’t do much else with my freedom, other than try to find a way to partition an NTFS drive on a Mac. Apparently it can’t be done without a lot of work and I wasn’t going to waste more time on trying.

Just before Scamp returned, I gave up and took the car out for a run with two cameras in the boot. I was hoping to give the Sony with the Sigma macro a chance to show what it could do with the new damselflies, except there didn’t seem to be any of the flying creatures around today. There were lots of Wolf Spiders wandering along the boardwalk. I chose to annoy them instead. Saw a spider on spider fight that was as good as anything Hollywood has to offer and probably more violent than is allowed on the BBC. These guys, and it was guys, were throwing everything into this battle. They actually rolled across the upstand of the boardwalk and fell off into the water of the pond. Can spiders swim? I hope so, or at least I hope they are quick learners. Soon more arrived to fill their place. It was mating time again I think. One lateral shot of a female wolf got PoD. Not the prettiest face I’ve seen, but beauty they say is in the eye of the spider who won the fight and learned to swim.

After the photo session I drove to Kilsyth, more exactly I drove to Lidl. Bought a lemon to replace the mouldy one at home. Then a host of more fattening things that took my eye. The lemon along with its other three yellow buddies is going to make Limoncello. Sugar, Vodka and the best lemons you can find. That’s all there is to it, that and a fair bit of work. Maybe tomorrow I’ll start the manufacturing process. It worked the last time and I’ve just finished the last bottle, so it’s time to start again.

Today’s prompt was Something You Collected Outside. I couldn’t think what to draw, but then I remembered I used to pick up old empty snail shells, especially small ones. They are so fine and delicate and to think that some creature creates this shelter for itself. What does it create it from? How does it form it? Probably, like so many things these days, the answer is but a click away. I’m talking here about land based snails, not cockles or winkles or any of the sea snails. Their heavy thick walled shells didn’t interest me.

Tomorrow we may go out for a run. Tesco are delivering tomorrow night, so we can’t be away too long. Of course, all of this is dependent on the weather fairies getting things right!

Socks and a hot curry – 14 May 2021

Scamp was off on a walk with Veronica and I was starting today’s painting early.

Scamp was booked for a walk with Veronica. Just a walk round Broadwood Loch. I was staying at home, hoping to get today’s sketch started early. Started, yes, finished, no. Today’s topic was A Pile of Socks. Not something I’d have chosen, but that’s what’s interesting about working your way through someone else’s list of topics. You don’t get the chance to draw and paint the easy stuff, you just do the best you can with what you’re offered. Sometimes it takes lateral thinking, sometimes there’s no way out, you just have to do it. I had a pile of socks to put away, so I used them as my starting point. Pencil sketch to start with, then some watercolour. That didn’t look quite right, so I added some watercolour pencil to it. That was better, but it still needed more. When Scamp came home from her walk, she suggested I add one of her socks to the mix. It couldn’t do any harm, so I added the yellow sock to the pile, partly tucked under another two. Yes, that altered the composition in a good way. You might recognise a bit of darning and Scamp’s sock, Hazy! I left it for a while and we had lunch.

Wednesday’s Challah bread was being cut down fast, but we both knew it wouldn’t stay fresh for much longer. The recipe that came with the ingredients said that the bread made great French Toast. That’s what we had for lunch. It was good, but the eggy mix didn’t really add anything to the bread. Also you expect French Toast to be savoury, but the bread is naturally sweet, so the tastes don’t really marry up.

After lunch and after hearing that Glasgow was likely to remain in Level 3 with rising cases of the Indian Variant, when almost the rest of Scotland would go to Level 2 on Monday, we rethought our plans for tomorrow. We’d considered going for a walk down Glasgow Green, but maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea now. We decided we’d go for a walk today at least because the weather was pleasantly mild and we’d leave tomorrow until tomorrow. We walked round St Mo’s, twice round the pond. On the second circuit I was photographing a fly on a Marsh Marigold when I noticed on a flower nearby just the hint of a spider’s front legs. Sure enough, there was a spider dangling from one of the petals. I assume it was waiting for some unsuspecting fly to drop in for lunch, the spider’s lunch. The flies must all have seen this trick before, because they kept a good distance away from the secret spider which became PoD.

Back home we were planning our dinner and Scamp suggested a curry mix. We’d bought a Biryani kit the last time we were in Waitrose and that’s what we made. It was supposed to be a “Two Chilli” curry. I think the printer must have missed out the “Twenty” before the “Two”. Boy, it was hot. It was tasty too, but you’d have to take it down a few notches before you noticed the taste. Thank goodness for a tub of yoghurt to cool our mouths down.

It was now time to decide if the socks stayed as sketch of the day or if they were replaced with something better. I decided they stayed, dated and signed the sketch and we were done.

Tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere that’s not running scared from the Indian Variant. I have an idea, but you’ll need to wait until tomorrow to find out where!

Lunch with friends – 11 May 2021

Today we were going to meet two of our oldest friends for lunch.

We were off to Clydeside to meet Crawford and Nancy for lunch at Gouldings which is a plant nursery and restaurant (or maybe the other way round now). It’s in Rosebank and I’d hoped to get some photos of the nearby Mauldslie Bridge and the gatehouse on the way home, but it looks like they are restoring the bridge and it’s going to be some time before we’ll be able to go there. However the lunch was what we came for and simply to catch up again. Now that restrictions are being lifted and we can have a meal inside, life feels so much more relaxed. Even conducting a conversation face to face rather than through a computer screen is such a novelty. It even feels strange to say that, but it’s true. The novelty of being in the same room as someone you’re talking to. Who would have thought that five years ago.

I had steak pie and Scamp had lemon sole goujons. Mine with potatoes and Scamp’s with chips. Steak pie wasn’t the best I’ve ever tasted, but Scamp’s fish seemed to be really good. I have never liked lemon sole, but it’s years since I had it, so maybe I should have been brave and tried it. Tastes change with time.

We sat for ages, just talking and catching up. Then we wandered round the shop for half an hour or so. Scamp got metal hoop supports for her alliums a Begonia and a tray of Bizzie Lizzies . I got a pot of leeks. The begonia is now planted, the hoops are in place and doing the job they were intended for, but the bizzie lizzies didn’t fit into the pot she was hoping to put them in. I’m hoping to pot my leeks up or plant them out by the weekend.

Because I didn’t get any photos at Rosebank, I went out for a walk when we got back while Scamp was gardening. I was lucky enough to see the mating ritual of two Wolf spiders. Such a strange stylised posturing. Most of the shots I took were useless, but a few made an interesting trio on Flickr. I was using the Sigma 105mm macro and my next target for it was the much prettier Wood Sorrel flowers I’d seen yesterday. The macro lens made a much better job of the flowers than it did of the spiders. PoD went to the flowers.

Topic of the day was A Tool. The tool I chose was a Multi-Tool I got for my Christmas a few years ago. It’s a really handy thing to have in your pocket, with pliers, knife blade, file etc. About ten tools in total, probably including something for taking the stones out of horses’ hooves too … if I can find it! An amazing piece of engineering and worth a space in anyone’s pocket, bag or handbag. Just a sketch today, an ink sketch for speed and also so I could draw it while we were watching Sewing Bee. I don’t like painting in the warm lights of the living room. It never looks right when you see it in proper daylight. Colours are all wrong.

Tomorrow I think we’re going to The Fort. I want a wander round Waterstones. Another tick in a box to say we are returning to normality.

The Fish Van – 19 April 2021

The fish van was coming today.

Actually it was the DPD van that was arriving today within a one hour slot around midday. It arrived and a lady delivered a big expanded polystyrene box which Scamp quickly opened and decanted the Haddock, Cod, Crab, Scallops and Smoked Haddock into the freezer while I played with the packets of dry ice they had been packed in. It’s amazing stuff and although I’ve seen it in stage shows and such, this was the first time I got to touch it. It was cold! Of course, once you read the warnings on the packet, you learn not to touch it with bare hands. But where’s the fun in reading instructions when you can be playing with the stuff. I got some amazing effects from dropping hot water on to the little pieces that were all that were left in the bags after their overnight journey from down in the depths of England. Little spheres of water would levitate above the solid CO₂ for long enough to photograph. I even got a CO₂ bubble to form with the gas swirling inside. Unfortunately it didn’t last long enough to get a photo. We must buy some more fish soon so I can be prepared this time and create some more special effects. Who knew science could be so much fun … as long as you read the instructions and warnings first!

It had been another beautiful morning with blue skies and bright sun as predicted by the weather fairies last night. By the time Scamp had put all the fish away and I’d finished playing experimenting, the clouds were encroaching on Cumbersheugh, also as predicted by the weather fairies. Scamp walked down to the shops in the morning while I removed the rear number plate which had been hanging on by one ‘Sticky Fixer’ for months.  I cleaned up the plate and the space on the car where it was to go and replaced it with three new stickies.  After that I took my trusty Sony with its heavy, but excellent quality macro lens for a walk in St Mo’s. Found a few things, but best shot of the day by far was the spider defending its territory on the boardwalk. That got PoD. If you view the bigger version on Flickr you’ll see that there’s a reflection of me in the spider’s large eyes.

Dinner tonight was supposed to be Spaghetti all’Amatriciana but it turned out more like a rather hot veggie chilli. Too much chilli flakes I fear. Scamp said she didn’t know how it tasted at first because her mouth was on fire. After a while it calmed down and she said it tasted ok, just too hot. Just a pinch of the fiery flakes next time, then.

Watched another Line of Duty tonight and it posed more questions than it answered. Who did what to whom and why didn’t anyone notice a gun battle? Or was that last week?

Spent an hour tonight checking that everything was packed in safely in the big box, then sealed it up and addressed it. DPD person will arrive tomorrow to take it away to give to some lucky girls and boys who, I hope will get as much enjoyment out of it as I did once they fork out some money to MPB. Hopefully the man at MPB will give me some money too for being so kind as to send him my camera and lenses.

Tomorrow doesn’t look as good as today, but that doesn’t matter really because the DPD pick up will be somewhere in the range 9am to 6pm. Hopefully we’re not waiting around for all of those nine hours! I’m sure there will be lots of other things to do.