Motherwell – 11 April 2022

Off to Tesco first for expensive alcohol. Petrol type alcohol.

A lazy start to the day, but then off to Tesco for food and petrol, except everyone else wanted petrol too. I was heading to Motherwell in the afternoon and I knew I’d also need some later in the week, but all the pumps were full and queued too, so with the milk and bread and a bottle of wine or two, we headed home, feeling sure that I’d get some later.

After lunch I loaded the car with what I was taking to my brother’s which was really parcels for Ollie, and went back to Tesco. Slightly better, but the only pumps I could get near were out of E10 and I had to use the E5 or risk being late getting to Motherwell. The price of E5 is really prohibitive now. I thought E10 was bad! Anyway, I needed the fuel, so needs must. Put in £20 worth and told the Blue car to make the most of the posh petrol. It may be a while before it gets any more.

Drove up to my brother’s and after consoling Carol on her really sore looking new knee, Alex and I had a good blether about lenses and cameras. It’s one of those situations when you talk to each other using letters and numbers but actual words are few and far between. He does have a lovely set of lenses, but he doesn’t have a LensBaby. Well, not yet anyway. I took a few random shots with some of his hardware just so I could pixel-peep when I came home. They really were as good as they looked. Every one sharp right across the frame and even down to the corners. That’s the place you must look with a lens. The corner is the farthest point from the centre. The centre is always the sharpest, the edges annd the corners are the weakest. Not so with these lenses. Well chosen glass, Alex.

We agreed that we’d go out for a photo walk soon, hopefully next week and also that we’d all go to visit the Kelpies too, but only once Carol’s leg has healed. Drove home and thought about using a vase of cut flowers for today’s PoD. I didn’t want to go over to St Mo’s today. I need a break from it although I might have got another shot of that duck with the chestnut brown head, which is definitely a Widgeon. Maybe just passing through, because I don’t think it stayed long last year.

I wish now I’d taken the shots when the sun was higher in the afternoon, but I left it until after dinner and by then the light was fading, but the LensBaby did a good job of blurring out the edges of the frame and creating the nice soft image I was looking for. One of those tabletop shots got PoD.

That was about it for the day. A trip to Motherwell, expensive petrol and ‘flooers’ again.

No plans for tomorrow, apart from a bit of forward planning.

Just another Sunday – 15 August 2021

Sunday is a lazy day. That about summed it up.

In the morning, Scamp cut some of her sweet peas which have not been nearly as prolific as in previous years. If I was to hazard a guess at the reason, I’d say it was the container that was the problem. Scamp used to plant her sweet peas in an old orange box. That wasn’t the colour of the box (it was painted blue) it was previous use of the container. It was a wooden box that used to hold oranges. As you can imagine, it was fairly old, dating from a time before cardboard boxes. It was falling apart and she made up her mind last year to take it apart and replace it with a plastic trough. I think the sweet peas prefer the traditional orange box. I have no proof of this, it’s just my opinion, based on a life eating oranges.

While she was gathering the flowers I started making a loaf, just an ordinary loaf, nothing fancy. Left that to prove after messing up the proportions of water to flour. You’d think by this time I’d have a better idea of how much water to use, but my excuse is that I haven’t made a loaf for a long while.

After I’d tidied up the kitchen and Scamp had arranged the flowers in a vase with an extra bloom from her rose, Troika, I offered to photograph it. An old piece of crushed velvet became the backdrop and the whole thing sat on the draining board of the kitchen sink. One of the images became PoD. We went for a walk in St Mo’s in the afternoon and I collected a few more photos, but nothing as good as the flowers. I did get a dragon or two, but they weren’t really all that successful.

Back home I got busy preparing my dinner main course which was going to be Lamb Tagine, using two lamb neck fillets. Pan fried the lamb with spices, dates and a chopped onion. Added orange juice and water and transferred the lot to the slow cooker to chug away do its work for a couple of hours. Then it was time to get the bread ready for its second prove, which I did and then went for a second walk in St Mo’s looking for beasties this time. I found a grasshopper and a shield bug that was striding out along the kerb of the boardwalk. The grasshopper almost beat the flowers to first place, but I liked the colour combinations of the flowers.

Bread baked well and tasted fine. Tagine was great, but needed three hours slow cooking, not the two in the recipe. Scamp had a piece of trout and we shared calabrese and some of our potatoes. All were deemed good.

Tomorrow we may go out for a spin somewhere scenic!

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.

Was that a drop of rain I saw? – 18 April 2021

Indeed it was. When I was making breakfast this morning, I detected some ripples on the bird bath in the garden.

It was actually raining. The first rain we’ve had in weeks. It’s not often I get to say that. The rain stayed all day. Not constant, but just the occasional shower and not heavy either. Just a gentle dampening of the ground.

I spent most of the afternoon playing real live 3D Tetris, trying to fit six different shaped boxes into one larger box. It was one of those irritating puzzles that should be possible, but wasn’t. I think I’ve managed it now, but even Scamp who is excellent at fitting things into boxes to be posted south at Christmas couldn’t find a better use of space than I’d managed. One camera and five lenses off to find a new home somewhere, probable never to meet up again, ever. I felt quite sad.

With that done and most of the afternoon gone, I went for a quick walk in St Mo’s to see if there was anything worthwhile photographing with one of the remaining cameras. The best I could find was a couple of clumps of Cowslips, but one was past its best and the other had still to achieve full flowering. I didn’t come home empty handed, but close to it.

After dinner I grabbed a few shots of some cut flowers sitting on the kitchen window ledge. Just a few white Freesia and a red Carnation. Lovely looking texture in the freesia and the carnation added a much needed splash of colour. PoD nabbed, just before dance class started.

Dance class tonight was Bossa Nova. What my latin teacher at school delighted in telling us fourteen year old boys meant New Beat. He even asked us if we’d heard of the dance. The only dances we knew back in the early ‘60s were the Dashing White Sergeant and the Military Two Step and nobody would admit to knowing even them. Dancing was for girls and weddings. I do believe he was disappointed in our lack of enthusiasm.
My own enthusiasm for bossa nova is at the same level as it was in the (not so) Swinging Sixties. I struggled through it tonight and managed about two thirds of the routine. The final third is a mystery to me. We did an acceptable Tango and finished with the Valentino Jive and Rumba One both of the last two are sequence dances which I’ve grown to accept as worth learning.

Watched an interesting Italian GP with thrills and spills galore. It got even better when a full on fist fight looks as if it would develop. Spoke to JIC and heard more about their plans for houses and work. Good to see them getting on. They both deserve it because they both work hard.

Tomorrow we are hoping the DPD man will arrive with a box of fish for us. Dinner may still be spaghetti, but I’m willing to come and go on that score.

A day of sunshine – 1 March 2021

Just for a change!

Rather a late start, but that was because of a late night and a small dram of Tamnavulin last night. Just to help me in finishing off the last drawing of the February challenge.

It was a foggy start too, but you just knew the sun would burn it off if you gave it a chance. We gave it a chance and soon the sky was clear and there were only a few clouds sliding across it, however it was cold outside because the sun in early spring in Scotland takes a while to get it’s furnace pumped up to full heat. Sitting in the living room with the sun shining in, the light was wonderful. I used that light to illuminate what became today’s PoD which was a wilting tulip. Flowers are often more interesting when they are just past their display best, I think. I took a few, well, a couple of dozen photos of the tulips and hyacinths in that lovely directional light. While I was processing the results, Scamp went for a walk to the shops to get lunch.

After lunch we drove down to see Isobel who has a great wee sun trap at the side of her house. She had been out working in the garden and we sat for a while and exchanged books before we headed back home with some detailed instruction on when and what to prune in the garden.

Just for a laugh we put the gingerbread house out in the back garden for the birds to eat. It was much later, while I was getting ready to make dinner that I noticed a movement in among the pots. At first I thought it was a dunnock (small brown bird that forages around the pots), but it was a wee mouse. It looked smaller than a house mouse, but the same colour. It seemed interested in the house or perhaps the smells coming from it. I don’t think we really want rodents in the garden, no matter what size they are, or how cute. I think I know where it/they are coming from. The old clothes pole I cut down last year is lying behind the pots. I’d forgotten all about it, but it would be a perfect home for a rodent family. Tomorrow I’ll saw it into manageable pieces and take it off to the tip.

It seems a bit strange to be sitting writing the blog without having to do a sketch too, but February is past and I need a rest from daily drawing for a while. Maybe later in the year, all being well.

Weather looks colder for the next few days. Today was just like a spring day, let’s hope the rest of the week remembers that it is meteorological spring. No plans for tomorrow.

An improving day – 27 February 2021

It started off dull and foggy, but it ended up much better.

We hadn’t anywhere to go today and no real reason to go there anyway. However we drove over to Kilsyth on the pretext of going shopping in Lidl. I wanted a bottle of their excellent Hortus gin and Scamp wanted ‘messages’. We achieved our aim and got both. I was very good and didn’t open the gin right away when we got home. Instead, I went out for a walk in St Mo’s but that’s not where today’s PoD came from. I got that much earlier.

The light was beautifully soft for a while after the fog had lifted and so had the heaviest of the clouds. The freesias on the windowsill were looking great and I grabbed a few shots, but I knew they would look better on a dark background. I hung Scamp’s black cardigan on the handle of the window and banged off another half dozen shots, one of which Scamp chose as PoD. No cardigans were harmed making this picture.

The trip to St Mo’s was just because the light was improving and I did find some more subjects. A tiny little spider for one. The first spider I’ve seen this year. Another was a little branch from a weed with lots of water droplets, probably from the morning’s fog, shining brightly. It seemed to be one of those days when you couldn’t put a foot wrong. Except I did put both feet wrong and came home with wet sox again!

Scamp suggested we do a Golden Bowl (best Chinese food in Cumbersheugh) and I readily agreed. Chicken Chop Suey with Fried Rice for Scamp and Special Chow Mein for me. Washed down with a glass of Red.

In the evening we practised the waltz routine and it is looking good. Much more ‘together’ than it’s been all week. Partly due to S&J’s video, but more to do with Scamp breaking things down and working out whose foot goes where, when. We also found the real name of a song Stewart uses for the rumba routine. Tried Shazzam, but it’s rubbish now. Used Sound Hound and it worked first time. It’s now in the dance music folder in Spotify.

Today’s topic was “Chess”. I dug out my old wooden chess men and set them up to fight. Black lost. That’s what happens when you paint yourself into a corner.

If the weather is decent tomorrow we may go for a walk somewhere.

It rained – 19 February 2021

All day.

In the morning I started today’s sketch. My thoughts are that although it’s good being able to draw under the daylight bulb in the ‘drawing room’, it’s much better to work with natural daylight, even if it is a poor light at times. Also, if I get the drawing done early then hopefully I’ll get to bed at a reasonable hour.

It worked today. The topic was ‘Yoga’. Many moons ago I did go to a yoga class run by a police sergeant in the gym of a Larkhall school. I became quite addicted to it. When I retired I thought I might take it up again, but the classes were always booked solid and eventually I gave up trying. Maybe once we are out of lockdown I may try again.
As you can see, I couldn’t settle on a subject, so this is a page from my sketchbook and I think the two poses fit quite well. That was a tough prompt, but quite enjoyable.

The furthest we went today was down to the shops for milk. What exciting lives we lead. I didn’t even risk a walk in St Mo’s in case I got the new toy wet (although it is ‘weatherproof’ but probably not ‘Scottish weather proof’). Instead, I took today’s PoD in the warm and dry of the kitchen. It’s a tiny little Narcissus that came in a posy of flowers that Scamp had tastefully arranged in a vase. An old vase that belonged to my mum. It was a six second exposure on a tripod and I really liked it. Great detail in the petals.

Dinner came courtesy of The Chippy in Condorrat. I walked through the rain to get one small fish supper (Scamp’s) and one large fish supper (Mine). They tasted great but I knew I’d be getting the repeats of them all evening and I was right. Might need some Gaviscon tonight to fight the inevitable heartburn.

Found my first tick tonight. On my leg just below the knee, on the sock line. Looks like walks into the wild wood of St Mo’s, or anywhere else for that matter, will be off the cards until at least autumn.

Tomorrow looks like more rain, so we might go out if we can find a dry half hour.

Christmas Day – 25 December 2020

This was always going to be a busy day, but also a happy one.

Opened our prezzies in the morning and as usual, I had more to open than Scamp, but she got a few surprises in her big box with the silver ribbon. It was just the big box her new Kipling bag had come in, but it looked impressive. After the great openings and the even greater packing of the cardboard into the blue recycling bin, the real work of the day started.

We had a Zoom call arranged with JIC & Sim and Hazy & NeilD at 1pm. Before that Scamp had today’s pudding to make in the slow cooker, today’s PoD had to be taken and it’s a family tradition, so it had to be done right. The turkey had to come out of the fridge to warm up and I had to make myself look presentable. We achieved all of that and got the table cleared too just in time for the call.

It was really good to see everyone, even if it was digitally. Zoom is such a clever tool for everyone and is what everyone needs in these awkward times and also at this highly emotional time of year. We were all very careful and everyone got a chance to speak to everyone else. I couldn’t believe just how fast that hour went, but it did. It simply disappeared. We must do it again soon.

Back to the grind, although there was very little for me to do, except finish clearing the table and getting the dishes out of the highest shelf in the cupboard. I also had time to post today’s PoD which is of Fairy Nuff, the fairy who doesn’t sit at the top of the tree. She lives in a display cabinet most of the year, but does get out at Christmas.

I was in charge of the turkey and managed not to burn myself basting the bird. With military precision, Scamp got all the veg cooked perfectly and everything came together at the right time. The pudding too turned out as well as last time. I carved the turkey, something I don’t ever remember doing before. Food was great, just as I’d expect it to be with Scamp in charge. However, for the first time in years, I felt that I overate. Just too much of everything. We had a small bottle of Tokaji sweet dessert wine in addition to half a bottle of red. Too much of a good thing doesn’t always work. That’s why I’m going to have an early night to hopefully sleep off my excesses.

I hope all my readers had a great day today because the unlucky ones can look forward to day one of a 21 day Lockdown from tomorrow.

Tomorrow looks decidedly wet for us. We were hoping to be able to walk off some of today’s overeating, but that may not be possible. It might be a case of climbing the stairs and descending about fifty times plus a half hour dancing practise to achieve the same step count.

No fog, just clouds – 27 November 2020

In a way I’d have preferred fog to the ubiquitous white clouds.

Today we were heading to Kilsyth to get some gin for me. Cheap gin, but I like the taste. With that in mind, we went via Lidl and picked up a fair bit more than a bottle of gin. Waited in the queue, but when we’d loaded our goods onto the belt the flake in front of us put a ‘dead’ card into the machine and screwed up the till. She said she’d kept her old cancelled card and that was what she’d used by mistake. Neither Scamp nor I believed it. It then took the assistant ages to put things right again. I have a feeling there was a scam being played out here. Who keeps their old cancelled bank card unless they’re trying to pull a scam?

Drove to Colzium House for a walk round the grounds and hopefully a couple of pics. I did get a PoD, but that was the good one with around 30 duff shots. After walking round the trees and the almost silted up curling pond, we walked through to have a look at the loch. Banton Loch is manmade and was built to feed the Forth & Clyde canal in the 18th century. I’m sure on a bright summer’s day it’s very photogenic, but today it was just a pool of dull grey water. We walked to the outfall dam and read about the battle of Kilsyth in the ’45 rebellion. Strangely there was a footnote on the commemoration cairn in French. There was nothing to see here and nothing to photograph either. That didn’t stop me taking photos that I just knew would be deleted later. We drove back home for lunch.

Walked to St Mo’s in the afternoon to try out the Sigma 105mm macro on the adapter for the Sony. It performed really well, but the weather and the light hadn’t improved since the morning and I had to give up. PoD went to the leaves we saw at Colzium. Today’s sketch nearly never happened. I just couldn’t find a ‘G’ subject until I saw a tin of beanz when I went to get some glasses from the cupboard. Set up a wee trio of groceries and sketched a thumbnail. As usually happens with these things, the thumbnail became the sketch and after I’d splashed on some paint it looked ok. Actually better than ok. I’m happy with it.

Hoping for some decent light tomorrow to get out and take some photos.

Fog – 26 November 2020

Woke to fog. We’d been warned about it by the weather fairies, but you can never believe anything they say.

It took a fair time to clear and the house was cold, because the heating hadn’t come on, because I’d turned it off last night when I was trying in vain to program the lights to do something they didn’t want to do and forgotten to put them back on schedule. Quickly fixed once I discovered what had happened.

When I was making the breakfast, I plugged in the skeleton NAS drive and powered up the computer. Later when I’d showered and was ready to meet the monster I tried to access the NAS. At the second attempt I got connected, but when I tried to download a small PDF file the access stopped and the icon for the drive disappeared from the screen. The most success I’ve had with it has been from Windows 10 on Scamp’s computer. Apparently, NAS drives in general don’t like what Apple OS in any of its many flavours. No taste, you see! I’ve given up. Even with Scamp’s reliable laptop the downloads don’t actually complete. I think it’s time to “take the burst ba’ away from the dug”.

We kept waiting for the fog to lift but it took its own sweet time. Scamp made some soup, leek and potato and I thought it was lovely but she was more critical. She didn’t want to go for a walk, because she had tidying up to do. I didn’t ask what was being tidied, sometimes it’s better not to know.

Instead, I grabbed my old Clarks boots which, although they have little or no tread, at least keep my feet dry, and I went for a walk in St Mo’s hoping for some sunshine since the fog had lifted and the sky was clearing. It wasn’t to be. However, I did get a PoD which was the water drops left by the fog on some spiderwebs. It’s ok and the quality is good, but the lens just isn’t up to close-ups. We are supposed to get more fog tomorrow morning, so I may take the old macro lens and try again.

I redrew yesterday’s sketch of eggs an egg shells and laid on some better washes. I’m happier with this version. I also drew today’s sketch which is the wee fairy that sits on the shelf in the living room. At Christmas it gets to sit beside the Christmas tree. I think it enjoys the change of view, but prefers its higher viewpoint on the bookcase.

Tonight Scamp and I had a practise of The Christmas Pudding Rock which is a dance Stewart and Jane have invented for the virtual Christmas ball. It’s left me with two left feet Usually the man leads with his left foot, but in this dance he leads with his right! Most confusing, but I’ve almost got it. Another few practise sessions and I’ll be there or there about … I hope!

One last thing.  Today Hazy sent a photo of a postcard that had just dropped through her letterbox, sent by us from Fuerteventura A YEAR AGO!  Delivered by camelpost perhaps?

No plans made for tomorrow. It looks like it will be cold. If it’s cold and clear that will be fine, a walk might be on the cards. It it’s not we may practise that Christmas Pudding Rock again.