Coffee and a scone – 14 August 2015

DSC_3282- blog--226I was up early(ish) this morning and managed to get a few photos of the dunnock searching the garden for food.  There was plenty of birdfood there, but the dunnock is shy and won’t feed when there are other birds around.  I looked it up on the RSPB site and it confirms my observations.

Gym and a swim later in the morning and a painting done – a very quick one.  A monochrome sketch totally done in paint with no pencil sketch.  A time limit too of 30 mins.  Like most of these ‘works’, it had it’s good points and its bad.  Also as usual, to my eye, the bad outweighed the good.  Strictly not for publication, but a useful practise piece.

Couldn’t find anywhere to go for lunch, so we had a swift sandwich, then went out later for a coffee at the ice cream shop in Muirhead.  Real old fashioned cafe.  Old fashioned coffee too.  Bought some ice cream to have with our dinner.

All in all, not a bad day.  There’s been worse.


That TGS key again – 24 July 2015

Started a painting, a watercolour on Fred’s watercolour paper. Wasn’t at all happy with the results, so gave it a coat of gesso and left it to dry. I’ll maybe try watercolour on the gesso next week when it’s dry. Gave up painting and started to pack away the easel in preparation for the visitors.

So, I forgot my notebook and the pencil, but I did get my TGS key back when we went to the gym. Tried to plug it in to the computer at the start of the session, but the screen showed MS Windows. Borked! Oh, oh. This doesn’t look good. Tried it in the first machine I came to and got the message “The Key is Empty”. Ok, time to go to speak to the liar assistant at reception.

Me – “When I put my key in any machine it says ‘key empty'”

Assistant – “Oh”

Me – “So what do I do?”

Assistant – “It says ‘key empty'”?

Me – “That’s what I said.”

Assistant – “Oh. Let me check with ****”

Assistant returns – “There was a note with your key that …..” It sort of fades out there.

Me – “So what do I do?”

Assistant – “It will say ‘key empty’ because you didn’t check in and you can’t check in because the computer’s not working”

Me – “How long has it been broken?”

Assistant – “Dunno. Quite a while.”

Me – “When will it be fixed?”

Assistant “Dunno.”

Do you get the impression that this is not the most interesting, intellectually stimulating, or productive of conversations? Do you also get the impression, as I did, that he doesn’t care? I left it there and went back to the gym, where Scamp had also not logged in but whose key was working properly in all the machines. It is all recorded and will be played back for the benefit of the manager of Q Hotels. The ‘Q’ is for Questionable Quality, I believe. Since the computer has a touch screen and a virtual keyboard, I was tempted to use these facilities to format the C:\ drive, but I didn’t. Not this time….

Had thought about going cycling, but the rain that had appeared put paid to that idea. Spent the rest of the afternoon completing the tidying up of the back bedroom for our visitors to be able to at least put the bed down. Then Scamp decided to pick the blackcurrants that are overburdening the bush. Managed to get about 700g of fruit which isn’t bad. The smell of the blackcurrants took me back to Kirkmuirhill and my aunt Jean’s small holding during the summer holidays. Isn’t it strange how smells transport us. Raspberries always take me to Ormiston and my Uncle Bob’s fruit garden.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATook some time out from tidying and fruit picking to photograph OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsome peppers that were destined for the compost bin. The colour versions didn’t look that good, so I reduced them to mono and then sepia toned one. Quite impressed with the results.

Drove in to Glasgow Airport at night to pick up JIC and Sim. Lovely night after a very changeable day.

Posh Nosh – 21 July 2015

So, today started with a trip to the gym. My ‘key’ was being ‘reprocessed’ last week, but I was assured it would have been ready to pick up on Friday past. Not trusting them to be able to accomplish this swift turnaround, I gave them a few days grace and decided to pick it up today. After rustling some papers, rattling stuff in a drawer and looking confused, the attendant told me that “Ah! There was a bit of a problem with the monitor that they reprogram the keys on.” A blatant attempt to baffle an old person with all these new technology words. So it wasn’t that they’d lost the key or hadn’t bothered to reprogram it? No, it was the monitor that was at fault. An old person like me wouldn’t be expected to know that the monitor is an output device and generally you wouldn’t connect anything like the programmable key to it. It’s couldn’t be the fact that the software hasn’t been updated since 2004 but the keys have 2014 hardware which would cause a conflict? No, an old person wouldn’t know about ‘software’ and ‘hardware’ would they. Oh well, they said it will be ready tomorrow, which probably means that the problem with the monitor will be fixed today. I’ll try again on Thursday morning and act the ‘dumb kid’ again to see what explanation lie they come up with. Then I’ll write down the explanation lie, in pencil, in a little notebook (If I really want to over-egg the the pudding, I could even lick the end of the pencil first!) and accept the explanation lie. Then I’ll write a nasty email (old people can just manage to do email you know) explaining the problem and quoting the lies told, to the centre manager and copy in head office with a BCC (old people are devious).

Old age and treachery will always overcome youth and skill.

After the Gym/Swim, Scamp and I got the bus in to Glasgow for a posh lunch at the Rogano seafood restaurant. Of course, I can’t eat shellfish which the Rogano excels at, but that wasn’t going to stop me. Had a lovely lunch of Smoked Salmon Roulade followed by Lamb Burger with chunky chips. Scamp had Black pudding on a Portobello mushroom with a poached egg on top and pan fried sea bream for a main.  A bottle of red helped to wash it down and a good time was had by both. Plans were made for the weekend, so beware JIC and Sim, plans are afoot – wet weather plans and dry weather plans. I know you read this, so be warned.

IMG_2648- blog--202On the way in to Glasgow, as I said, we went in the bus, so I could enjoy the delights of a half bottle of red without having to worry about the draconian Scottish drink/drive laws which I’ve criticised at length before, so won’t go in to here. Anyway, this bloke got on the bus with his dog and sat down at the front, presumably so his dog could pretend to be the driver. It looked so comical, the dog sitting beside him on the front seat, I just had to take a photo. The dog seemed really interested in what was going on until we got to the motorway when it seemed to lose interest and started yawning and looking round at all these people on the bus. It really behaved like a little child, and was quite entertaining.

After lunch we wandered round Glasgow a bit just window shopping mainly,IMG_2652- blog--202 dropped in at Costa for a coffee and came home. While we were in Costa I saw this interesting window display in Dunnes Stores.  Because I was with Scamp, I could not take advantage of this obviously once in a lifetime offer.  I’d better be careful what I write, as she reads this too!

No entertaining dogs on the way home.

Beer, the solution … 16 July 2015

It’s been a busy day, a very busy day. Up at 7.30am. Quick breakfast of tea and toast then out to the gym. Gym was hard work, but the pool was at a lovely temperature. Not too hot and not too cold. Goldilocks temperature in fact. After that I had a quick visit to Halfords to see if they had a cycle rack that would fit my car. They did, a Thule rack that cost £95. Not what I was looking for. I asked one of the passing salesmen if they had anything else. He pointed to a Halfords model (surprisingly) and said “That one will fit it and it’s a lot cheaper. I’m 110% certain it will fit”. I went home and checked online. It didn’t fit. However I did find an even cheaper one and ordered it online. It will be in the Cumbernauld branch by Saturday afternoon. If I’d wanted it delivered to the Falkirk branch, it would take until Tuesday?! Falkirk is about 20minutes away!

After a quick lunch, it was off to Linlithgow to get some good fresh fish, mince and … a bottle of whisky. In Tesco at Linlithgow, apparently they keep their whisky bottles in the back store and only display their boxes on the shelves. It’s a good way of stopping shoplifters, if a bit old fashioned these days. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, at least not at Tesco Linlithgow. When we got to the checkout, it took 15 minutes – the time it takes for three customers to pass through for someone to notice that we were waiting, take the box and go pick up the whisky. She admitted that she didn’t know where they kept the whisky. Thankfully she did find it and we returned shaking our heads. One of the customers who had been served while we waited said that it was probably a bit “too expensive for them”. It wasn’t that expensive. it wasn’t even a single malt! Maybe I should have bought some Buckfast instead.

Tonight, I spent the best part of an hour making a mushroom risotto to make arancini tomorrow.  It’s been a full day, so now it’s time for a cheap french beer.  All The Best!

Beer, the solution, now, what's the problem.  This algorithm applies to a single beer.  If more than two or three are required, then ... Beer is the problem.  Now what's the solution.
Beer, the solution, now, what’s the problem. This algorithm applies to a single beer. If more than two or three are required, then …
Beer is the problem. Now what’s the solution.

A pint of beer and a fish supper – 10 July 2015

Up at 7.30am and out for 8.00am for a Gym and a Swim. The weather at that time of the morning was very misty and there was little to see from the panoramic windows round the swimming pool. By early afternoon the mist had lifted and the sun was making it a much more pleasant day. We needed milk, so Scamp and I walked down to the garage to get some. On the way we stopped at the Broadwood and had a beer and a fish tea. Well, I had a beer but Scamp opted for the more ladylike glass or red wine. Very nice and not too expensive either.

On the way back, I took a detour into St Mo’s and managed a few shots of Mr Gray cooling his feet in the pond. It seemed like he wanted to ignore me and didn’t fly off in a strunt like he usually does. I think he knew he was safe standing in the mud in the middle of the pond.

Walking back from the garage, we had noticed that the traffic was much heavier than usual on the local road. When I walked to the motorway bridge, I found out the reason. For miles in both directions it was wall-to-wall cars. Presumably a lot of these were hoping to go to T in the Park. It looked like it would be a long journey. I hope it was worth it.

Gym, snails and insects – 7 July 2015

For once I did carry through yesterday’s intentions and went to the gym this morning. The gym was hard work, but the pool was mobbed. Why do they allow other people in when I’m there. For heaven’s sake,

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they just crowd the place out.

Picked up my incredible artwork from Fred and got a phone call from the GOMA asking if they could exhibit it if we could agree a fee. Then I woke up and had lunch, and went for a walk in St Mo’s and got some wet photographs of butterflies and damselflies. Weather was wet, dry, sun and wind. Scottish with warm temperatures.DSC_2807- blog--188.jpg

One of those days when not much happens. There are days like that.

An exhausting day – 29 June 2015

The first day in the gym after a fortnight stuffing our faces on the cruise. 30 minutes in the gym then a swim to relax. Best bit was the sauna and the jacuzzi. Who would have thought that just two weeks could have had such an effect. Even earlier, I had a hospital appointment to check for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA), but it was all clear, thank goodness. We had our usual salsa class at night and it just P6290366- blog--180.jpg added to the exhaustion. As for the rest of the day, I have no idea where it went, other than I took some photos of the shooting seed potatoes as a POD. Oh, yes, and I put another batch of photos on Flickr. I think it will take the remainder of the week for us to recover. I aim to have a less stressful day tomorrow when the weather, according to the magic weather fairies, is to be fair and sunny. We’ll see.

A Toy Off The Rack – 5 June 2015

Up early this morning waiting for a text from MPB in Brighton to tell me when my new toy would be delivered. Just after 9.30 I got the message that James would be delivering my new toy between 10.10 and 11.10am. So, only an hour and a bit max before I could get my hands on it. Just after 10.10, a knock at the door signalled the arrival of my new(ish) Olympus E-PL5 body. I carefully unwrapped it from its bubble wrap coating and proceeded to stick a lens on it, any lens, just to get a feel for it. My first thought was that it was much more compact and more rounded than the E-PL1 that was my introduction to micro 4/3rds cameras a few years ago. The screen resolution seemed a lot better than the E-PL1 too. I could go on for ages listing all the differences, but you have to remember that this camera is four generations newer than the E-PL1 and that’s been my go-to camera for a few years now.  An easy to carry, neat camera that can provide me with 12MP images in RAW format that are so easy to manipulate in Lightroom. It’s going to be a hard act to follow and I won’t be getting rid of it any time soon, in fact I won’t be getting rid of it at all. Two camera bodies with my collection of four and a half lenses. You can’t really call the 15mm f8 bodycap lens a full lens can you? Ok then, two camera bodies with five lenses, is that better? Such a versatile collection. Perhaps the quality is not as good as the D7000 and the cantankerous Tamron zoom, but then the whole kit probably weighs less than that camera / lens combination. This new black beast is beautiful and so, so flexible. We’ll see today just what it can do.

When Scamp came in from work we went to the gym for our second workout this week. Had a swim after, but what are all these people doing here? This is our pool. Don’t they know that?

Swift dinner after the gym and then the sun was starting to warm the place up – did I fail to mention that it had been one lousy morning. Driving at 2.00pm with the headlights on is not what we signed up to for June weather. So, with the excellent 14-42mm kit lens in the bag and the Pana 45-200mm on the black beast, it was off to St Mo’s to see just exactly what it could do. Don’t be silly, of course I’d taken a few – around 100 – ‘test’ shots in the house just to make sure it was working. Walked down to the pond and found Mr Grey preening in the shallows. In case you don’t know, Mr Grey is a Grey Heron who lives in St Mo’s pond. Switched on the Oly motordrive and waited for him to lift off. Unfortunately for him, this time I was ready. He didn’t really stand a chance considering I had 8FPS to make sure I got some good shots of him.

Grey heron
Mr Grey Triptych

As I walked around the pond I spotted a single damselfly, a common blue, but A DAMSELFLY! Yes, it is June, and damsels are usually around about this time of year, but I wasn’t expecting any because it’s P6055403-2- blog-156.jpg been so cold. Got a few pics, then fitted a couple of extension tubes and got a few more detailed shots.P6055416-2- blog-156.jpg

Hoped to see some deer, but they were hiding from the Black Beast. I did find another damsel near a small, possibly man-made pond near the road an took more time framing the shot and trimming back the loose grass stems. It didn’t matter, there were a few shots in the bag – or on the card – so the pressure was off.

Got home, fired up Lightroom and did some pixel peeping. Everything seemed ok, if not earth shattering, but that was more the fault of the Pana zoom than the Black Beast. Tomorrow I will hopefully take it to Glasgow to give it a chance to show its mettle in town. For today, I’m a happy bunny.

My apologies to my three readers.  I thought I’d posted this blog last night, but WordPress thought differently.  I hope it’s fixed now.

Rainy days and Mondays – 1 June 2015

It actually started out quite clear and not all that windy – no rain at all. Looks like the weather folk got it wrong again. Got up and did some washing – yes, I can work the washing machine, I just can’t or won’t DSC_2612- flickr-152.jpg grasp the technique of ironing. Breeze was getting up, so I hung out the washing to dry. My talents are almost endless these days. The sun came out for a while and I took the DSC_2619- blog-152.jpg opportunity to grab some shots of the azellia’s that are in full bloom just now. The red ones are Scamp’s favourite flowers in all the garden. The blue one is a new plant for this year. Not many flowers, but it’s early days.

My head was not in a good place this morning for some reason. Just felt a bit down. Later I remembered why. Tomorrow is a fasting blood test, so that means nothing to eat after 9.00pm and only water to drink. How is a man supposed to exist on that? I just keep thinking that after 9.10 tomorrow morning, I’ll be back to a sensible diet. Where I can eat anything I like – in moderation. Moderation being a country I’m usually a stranger in. I hate the fasting for the blood test. I always feel hungry just after the curfew time, no matter what I eat before it. However, it has to be done I suppose. I did a small preparatory sketch for a painting of Trumpan. It’s a view I’ve done before, but in acrylic, not watercolour. Still impressed with the water brushes and the new artist’s quality paints.

Today being Monday, Scamp had her ladies round for a practise, so I vamoosed in the general direction of the gym for an hour. That sounds really good, but it’s half an hour in the gym and half an hour in the steam room and the sauna, with maybe a splash in the pool to loosen up in between. When I came home I just had time to bring in the washing before the heavens opened. By the time we were going out to Glasgow for tonight’s classes, the rain was torrential. Black clouds clogged up the sky and the breeze had strengthened to a gale. Maybe the weather folk weren’t so daft after all. To cap it all, two hours later, when we were driving home there was a beautiful blue sky. Still a bit cool, but dry and the wind had disappeared again. It really is crazy weather these days, but it’s Scotland – Four season’s in one day.

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When we got to the house, I saw this big giant snail. I don’t know where this guy overwinters, but he arrives on our doorstep – literally – every year around this time. He’s quite a big fella now and he usually has a tryst with a lady snail in the flowerbed. Unless this is the lady snail …

Just as I am finishing off this blog, the wind is getting up again and the rain is starting to hammer on the windows.  I really should listen to these weather folk.  They do know what they are talking about.  Off to bed now to dream of steak pies and pints of beer and other stuff I can’t have until tomorrow!

The day after the long drive – 27 May 2015

As usual on the day after a long drive, it was a lazy day where Scamp did most of the driving. Lazy morning then off to the gym for half an hour and after that, a swim to relax the muscles, not that we did very much. When we came out the rain had started, so we went local for lunch and watched the rain in the afternoon. I also struggled with the vagaries of off-line blogging progs – apps. Still not settled, but either Ecto or MarsEdit are the front runners at present. Kizomba and Salsa at night. Who says we don’t have an active life style?

Today’s shots are grab shots from the garden. Both taken in the rain. Both taken with the 70-300mm lens which behaved perfectly. What is its problem?

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