Walking to Twechar – 11 August 2015

Today I burned Ecto.  It is no more.  Spent almost an hour writing up this blog and when I published it, all that was published was the title.  Back in Ecto, the page was also totally blank.  Ecto is shite.  Last updated 5 years ago, the author isn’t interested in progressing it, just interested in making money.  I can’t believe I actually spent money on it.  I would not recommend it to anyone.  I’m now looking for another blog writer that actually works.  The best one I’ve found is made by Microsoft and won’t work on the Mac.  Such a pity.

DSC_3267- blog--223The day started well.  Not the brightest, but at least I got a painting done.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWent for a walk to Twechar along the railway and got some photos of a common blue butterfly.  Not much else worth photographing.  Came home and had a look at the Strawberry Vodka.  It will probably be ready to drink tomorrow.  This is the synopsis of the day which was going well until now.

Tomorrow is another day.

Rain, Rain, go away – 5 August 2015

Woke to more drizzle and rain this morning. Will it ever stop? After a breakfast that rivalled the epic Hilton Breakfast, we said goodbye to the Marine Hotel Troon, but I imagine we will be back again, if only for the excellent food. Drove in to Prestwick which looked every bit the run-down Scottish seaside town. The weather helped set the tone with drizzle soon turning to full blown rain. We watched some youngsters setting out in wee yachts or dinghies or some such small boat with a sail. They looked well prepared with wetsuits and buoyancy aids, but it still didn’t DSC_3193- blog--217--217look like fun. Got a few shots of a woman walking her dogs along the sand. The drizzle helped blur the background and also gave a high key look to the photo. After that we drove down to the other end of Prestwick and I saw a shot, but didn’t have the heart to take it. A family – maw, paw, grandpa and the weans – sitting DSC_3201- blog--217--217outside a beachfront cafe in the rain with ice-cream cones trying to look like they were having fun. It put me in mind of the title of yesterday’s post. It looked so sad, I couldn’t bring myself to take the shot.

Left the sad, wet, west coast behind and drove down the A 77M to Glasgow where Scamp thought it would be a good idea to break our journey at Silverburn for a coffee. I’m not the biggest fan of Silverburn. For those who don’t know, it’s a out of town retail park, but a posh looking one. Inside it’s all phone shops, sports shops and fashion outlets. No bookshop! What are they thinking of. It’s always busy, so this only goes to show that the phone buying, sport buying, fashion buying public can’t read. Its only saving grace is Wagamama, but that’s not where we were heading. We went instead to Patisserie Valerie. We’d been to one of this chain recently, but this was a different experience entirely. We were served quite quickly, but after that things ground to a halt. Bear in mind that we only wanted two coffees and two apple danish. That order took about 15mins to prepare. In that time, two customers complained about their food either not being hot enough or not being edible! A third customer was cutting up some filled croissant with a look of disgust on her face. PV in Exchange Square may be an epicurean delight, but this one is a disaster. I thought the ping was the sound of a bell to tell the server that the meals were at the pass – then I realised it was the sound of the microwave! Avoid. After that, it was just the usual drag of a drive through Glasgow. Holiday over for another wee while, and it was still raining.

Will it ever stop?

Settings Sorted – 3 August 2015

I went out today to get some photos in the afternoon. The morning was spent painting in my case and that mysterious action “tidying up” by Scamp. I got one painting completed and one sketch done. Scamp got DSC_3180- blog--215some ‘tidying up’ done, and yes, I did notice the difference. The photographs today were better than yesterday, much better. The ISO was higher, but at least the aperture and the shutter speed were what I had programmed. No deer today, but the dragonflies were out in force as were DSC_3154- blog--215the damsels and some hover flies. All in all, a successful foray into the jungles of St Mo’s. Dancing class at night and knackered after it.


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It’s all about settings – 2 August 2015

DSC_3123- blog--214A couple of days ago I was ranting about timing. Today I’d ranting about settings. The first thing I did when I got up this morning, after getting breakfast for Scamp and before getting my own, was to fry off the ox tail that was to be my dinner tonight. Once that was done and in the slow cooker, I chopped up and fried off the veg and covered the meat with it. Set DSC_3128- blog--214it to cook for 7 hours and then had my breakfast. It was a dull day, but not really raining, just dull. What’s become summer in Scotland this year. It’s not all that cold, just boringly dull. No texture in the sky and no directional light to give form to anything. Very disappointing for all the poor kids and teachers on holiday. Even worse for the parents of those kids who need to devise some form of entertainment for them. However, we shouldn’t complain. That’s what we signed up for when we chose to live (or stay living) in Scotland. We get the scenery, but not the weather.

After the meat had been cooking for about about five hours, I decided to decant it into a cast iron Le Creuset casserole pot and continue to cook it in the oven as we were going out later and the residual heat from the cast iron would keep it cooking nicely. Set the gas to 5 and went for a walk to St Mo’s with the Nikon and the Tamron lens. Got what looked like a good shot of a common blue damselfly and then a dragonfly posed on top of a knapweed flower. Just after that I startled a young deer and added that to my tally. Light was low, but I was still getting 1/250th with a decent ISO reading.

DSC_3136- blog--214Came home and switched off the oven and got ready to go out dancing. I’d deal with the photos when I got back. Came home and found that the meat was dried out and the veg frazzled. Gas mark 5 was not the right setting. Ox tail in the bin. So it was potatoes, cabbage and bacon for dinner – not a bad meal. Checked the photos and discovered why I was getting such a good shutter speed and ISO rating on such a dull day. The aperture was set wide open. Instead of my usual setting of Manual, I had the camera set to Program. Out of the 30 odd shots I managed to get about 8 ones that could be worked on and further reduced that to 4 that were worthwhile posting.

It IS all about the light, but the settings play a big part too, both in cooking or in photography.

A silly mistake – 30 July 2015

This one was 1/200 @ f9 ISO 250. In other words, Normal.
1/4000 @ f9 ISO25600. The grain or digital noise is obvious ;-(

For a few months now I’ve been setting my camera to Manual exposure, choosing a shutter speed around 1/250th and an aperture of around f9, then allowing the camera to choose the ISO to achieve those settings. I’d used it on the Nikon first because the E-PL1 didn’t have the ability to adjust the ISO in camera. When I got the E-PL5 back in early June, and after researching the ‘hidden menu‘, I found that it could do what the Nikon did. Since then, I’ve used the manual mode almost exclusively. Today after a morning of success and failure in painting, then digging up our tatties (just got enough for two dinners – not good) I went out on the bike hoping to get close to nature and get some photos of ‘beasties‘ using the E-PL5 with the Pano lens and extension tubes. After dosing myself with

The lacewing was ISO 8000.   Acceptable, just.
The lacewing was ISO 8000. Acceptable, just.

insect repellant – a strange thing to do if you are hoping to get closeups of insects, but it keeps away the biting insects … sometimes. The first two or three shots were fine, then I must have accidentally changed the shutter speed from 1/250th to 1/4000th. This gave an underexposure of over 4 stops which meant the camera compensated by increasing the ISO proportionally. Silly Boy! The result of this is that the grain/noise on the shots was a lot more than normal, and I do mean a LOT! The shutter speed has now been returned to normal and I’ll be more careful in future.

Sorry JIC and others, I should have posted a technospeak alert! 😉


Other than that it was just a normal day, but at least there was no rain and for a while we got some sun. I don’t think it will be like that tomorrow, so I grabbed the sun while it was there. Oh, one last thing. Had a starter tonight of Black Pudding Pakora. Don’t, just don’t. It’s not a lovely, lovely thing as John Torode would say.

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.

Pretentious Nosh – 22 July 2015

One of my friends had waxed lyrical about the Tipsy Coo in Strathaven. It’s a cafe in a gallery. Us being foodies and me being interested in painting and photography, we decided to make it our Wednesday Jaunt this week. Getting parked in Strathaven (pronounced Stra’ven by the way) was a bit problematic to start with. The first place we parked was in the Common Green which is not Common (nothing is ‘Common’ in Strathaven darling!) and it’s not Green. It’s a wide street with parking in the middle. Got parked no bother then Scamp noticed we were only allowed 30minutes there, presumably that’s why we had no bother parking. From there we went to see where the cafe/restaurant was and found it without too much trouble. Couldn’t get parked anywhere near it as its carpark was full. Then we had to negotiate Strathaven’s warren of narrow, congested streets to get back to the Common Green where I now remembered there was a bigger carpark. Found it and parked.

Walked to the Tipsy Coo, and when we got there, it was nearly empty. I wonder where the occupants of all the cars had gone. It’s not exactly a thriving hub of activity, and as it was a Wednesday, everything seemed to close at 12.30. Oh well, the place looked decent, although I wouldn’t have called it a ‘gallery’. There were a couple of cartoon style paintings of highland cattle and some of foxes hanging at one end of the building and also a few photographs. One incongruously of Quiraing on Skye. Only about 250 miles from Strathaven. We ordered from the menu and waited in anticipation of a tasty and healthy lunch. I have to admit that we did get that. Mine was tasty, and I suppose it was healthy, in as much as big meals are unhealthy. Three slices of warm overdone bacon on some leaves mixed with maybe three very small pieces of avocado on a slab of toasted bread. The bread was spread with chilli jam – that was the tasty part. I couldn’t believe this had cost me £7.00 give or take 5p. Scamp faired no better. She said her quiche was lovely, but she had even fewer leaves than me (they call that a salad in Strathaven, by the way). I thought the days of ‘Nouvelle Cuisine’ were gone, but it seems they are just reaching Strathaven. We left feeling unfulfilled and disappointed. Even the paintings were rubbish.

We wandered round the town allowing our disappointment to dissipate andOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I got a couple of shots of the East Church which is a bit of a Strathaven icon. Camera started overexposing again. It did that while we were on holiday and I looked it up when we got home and found that a few people had had that problem too. No solution as yet, but I’ve changed the metering mode from my usual centre weighted to ESP which sounds very clever. I think it reads your mind and sees what you want the photo to look like and then compensates the exposure to suit. Maybe it will improve my photography too. We can but hope.

Talking about hope, I was hoping to drop in at Decathlon in The Fort at Easterhouse to spend the last of my Decathlon voucher, but when we got there, it had gone! Shutters down, sign gone, vanished without a trace. Now I’ll need to go to Braehead to get a saddle bag and a lock for the bike as my old angle bag won’t fit when I put the bike on the carrier. At least I don’t have to go to IKEA, that’s a little bonus.

Hamilton – 15 July 2015

We had a few options on destinations today. I’d thought about Ayr and then Culross (sorry Hazy), maybe even Kirkcaldy. Eventually we went to none of these, but turned up in Hamilton – Capital city of South Lanarkshire. We parked in the retail park and walked along to the mausoleum. Isn’t it a pity that this monument to a man’s belief in his immortality is falling into disrepair. Yes, I know it is the Lanarkshire tower of Pisa and is subsiding due to mine workings. I can also understand that it would take the council a lot of money to repair the damage from wind and weather, not to mention the damage from vandalism. However, If this were a private building, that same council would be quick to take the owner to task for allowing a grade A listed building to get into this state without taking any precautions. It doesn’t look as if the council have done anything other than to put up four spotlights and a chain link fence. Is this the best that the Capital City of South Lanarkshire can do to protect the Duke of Hamilton’s heritage.

P7150177-blog-196.jpgAfter walking around the mausoleum we wandered down the path under the M74 through to Strathclyde park where we were investigated by some geese that thought we had food for them. Unfortunately they were wrong, but maybe that’s what made us hungry ourselves, so we headed back to Hamilton City Centre for a coffee and panini. On our way back through the

tunnel girlM74 underpass, I grabbed a quick shot of a girl walking ahead of us just as she broke into the sunshine. I tried quite a few different versions of the shot, but finally settled on a high contrast version with deep blacks and bright whites and very little in the way of mid-range greys.

Back home we still managed an hour or so in on and off sunshine before it was time for me to make dinner. Best laugh of the day was a text from Hazy to say that she had finally got the card we sent from Venice. It was posted on the 17th of June and this is the 15th of July. Almost a month.

A busy day – 9 June 2015

Up and out to the gym. The start of a busy day. An hour of tranquility and a great expenditure of energy. I think it’s best to go the gym in the morning. It’s only us old retired folk that are there at that time. Back and the next thing on the agenda was a visit to the nurse for my test results. Thankfully they were good, in fact very good. BP down, cholesterol down, kidneys good and liver good. Best of all, I’ve lost 2Kg since last year. I think it was the gym that did it.

Final thing on the list was to take the Temperamental Tamron in to Glasgow to get it sent away to be repaired/replaced. No problem there, the lens performed its little staggering focus trick and as the girl in the shop had the same model herself, she recognised the things were not right with it. It will be away for a week or two, but that’s not a problem because I’m becoming used to the Black Beast and its wily ways. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I understand it, but I’m beginning to get there … I hope!

DSC_2715- blog-160.jpgOn the way back to the car, I spotted the tree (or bush to be precise) growing out of the window lintel. I thought it would make a decent shot, but I think the lighting wasn’t good enough. It’s all about the light you know. Have I said that before? 😉 Anyway, I decided to keep it in because of it’s incongruity. Almost at the carpark, my eye was caught by the reflection of the flats at St Mungo’s Place reflected in John Lewis’ window. I couldn’t really get the place I wanted to get the width of the reflection, but I liked what I got.

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Home to a sirloin steak for dinner!

A wet day in Glasgow – 6 June 2015

When we woke this morning it was raining. It seemed to rain on and off all day in Glasgow. It rained when we came home and it rained almost all evening. It’s not raining now. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s empty.

We decided to go in to Glasgow. We had decided during the week that it would be a good idea and Scamp suggested that we go in by train which is quite quick and convenient – I don’t have to drive, so that’s P6065437- blog-157.jpg a bonus. What we forgot was that the Grand Orange Order of Scotland or whatever they call themselves were having a party in George Square in Glasgow to celebrate ….. the fact that it was raining or anything else. When we got to Queen Street Station, the party was in full swing. The banners were blowing in the wind and the marchers were having a great time, marching. I watched for a while to see if there was anything the new Oly would like to take a picture of. Eventually it chose to photograph one of the drummers trying to stick the drum sticks to his nose, to make a kind of wooden moustache. Why do these marching drummers always attempt to force the drumsticks up their nose? I’ve never understood that. The other thing I’ve never understood was the Orange Lodge. However, they seemed to be enjoying themselves today marching up and down George Square in Glasgow … in the rain! Oh, then some bloke, the Grand Poobah or something started into a long speech about something, but as he was speaking to ‘friends’ and we didn’t know him, we left. We went to see what was happening in the old fruit market. The answer was ‘not much’. It seemed that the stall holders were outnumbering the punters, so we left to go to a wee cafe Cranberry’s (I’m not sure why that apostrophe is there. Maybe the owner is Mr or Mrs Cranberry). Great coffee and jam scone. That may be unimportant to you, but to us, soaked to the skin (slight exaggeration) it was the highlight of the day so far.

We walked down a canyon leading from the affluent Merchant City to the realism of the east end P6065439- blog-157.jpgof Argyle Street and around the City Centre for a while Had lunch in the quite excellent, but also very quiet Charcoals. You really have to see the number of awards this place has had. All authentic too. It is the best and most consistently good curry shop I’ve been to in Glasgow.

On the way back to the station, we passed this bloke with the guitar who was playing grungy thrash metal. The man in the hat casually walked right up to him and stared P6065445- blog-157.jpg him straight in the eye. There was a standoff for a few minutes, then they both relaxed and the conversation started.

I wondered if they knew each other.

Did they have something in common?

Was the man in the hat interested in learning how to play thrash metal guitar?

Was the guitarist asking the man where he got those cream chinos?

That’s what a photograph does, it shows one microsecond of life and allows you to decide what was going on.

Deep or what, eh?

Train back and it was still raining. The fairies say it will be dry tomorrow, and the fairies always tell the truth.