One up, one down

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s stopover in Dubai last month.  It shows a less familiar side of the town.

DubaiIt was an up and down day here as I got up and came down and went out but Mrs Tootlepedal succumbed to the bug and having got up and come down, then had to go back up and lie down.

I felt good enough after breakfast to try a short cycle ride but was a bit discouraged when it started raining as soon as I left the garden.  I managed ten soggy miles but, feeling rather cold and damp, I came in for a cup of coffee.  Drinking the coffee stretched out to doing the crossword and setting up the camera to look out of the window for me.

It saw chaffinches approaching the feeder in a shifty manner…..

chaffinch….landing in style….

chaffinch…and getting involved in arguments when they got there.

chaffinchchaffinchI don’t know what the one on the right said but it must have been very rude judging by the expression on the other one’s face.

The rain stopped and a little brightness appeared so I got the bike out again and had a much brisker turn up and down the same route, admiring the flourishing fungi by the roadside as I pedalled past.  There were a lot to see but I picked out these two, a few yards apart, to record with Pocketcam.


Small and restrained


Large and voluptuous

By the time that I got back, it was lunchtime and as Mrs Tootlepedal was having a food free day, I had my bowl of potato soup in solitude.

After lunch, I printed out some folded cards of Hermitage Castle which one of our local shops buys off me to help the funds of our Archive Group.  This took me much longer than it should have.  I had failed to save the alterations that I had made to the photo and the cards when I printed the sample out and had to do it all again.   I added twenty of our Archive Group postcards, which another shops sells,  to my bag and cycled up to the high street to hand them out.

While I was there, I collected a couple of my prints which a kind fellow member of the camera club had brought back for me from last night’s meeting and was pleased to find out that Dr Tinker and his ordinary bicycle….

Ordinary penny farthing…had won second prize in the prints section.

Then I purchased both a bright but very expensive LED light bulb for my computer lamp and my next big bag of coffee and finally cycled home. That rounded off my outdoor activity for the day, though I spent some useful time copying out some flute music.

It has been a bit subdued today, with relief at my recovery being more than tempered by concern for Mrs Tootlepedal’s state of health.  It is a bit sad when you can’t even cheer an invalid up with little treats of cups of tea and dainty biscuits.  From conversations which I had while I was out, it does appear that this little bug is doing its best to lay low all the people in the town.

From looking at the forecast and checking on Mrs Tootlepedal, it might be another gloomy day tomorrow too.  It seems to be a two day bug but  I shall hope for the best.

The flying bird of the day, needless to say is a chaffinch.  When will our winter visitors arrive?


Today’s guest picture comes from a walk that my daughter Annie took in the Chilterns earlier this month, just to show that they have good views in England too.

chiltern view

I should start by saying a warm thank you to all those who wished me happy birthday and to those who have offered their hopes of a speedy recovery from my bug.  Their wishes and hopes have been fulfilled.

I had a really good night’s sleep which helped me to feel a lot better when I woke up this morning but having eaten no more than a single slice of toast and a handful of dates yesterday, I was still feeling a bit peely-wally in the morning and was happy to sit quietly until Dropscone appeared bearing a nutritious scone to have with our coffee.

I did look out of the window before he came and was pleased to see a great tit back on the feeder.

chaffinch and great tit

The chaffinch looked a little more dubious about it though.

While we were sipping our coffee, my friend Bruce rang up and suggested that I look out of the window at Whita Hill behind the house.

Whita HillI think the the line of mist had thinned out slightly in the time it took me to pick up the camera and climb the stairs.

After coffee, I took a quick walk round the garden and was pleased to find a fine crop of home grown fungus on a tree stump on the edge of our drying green.


I am trying to use my fungus book and considered Hypholoma fasciculare as a suggestion. I am always ready to be proved wrong.

There is a regular robin coming to the feeder but it ainvariably waits until I have not got a camera to hand before it arrives and leaves as soon as I pick one up.  I had to make do with a goldfinch….

goldfinch….who was soon joined by a friend, and blue tit and a greenfinch….

goldfinch and greenfinch…until a small group of greenfinches claimed the feeder for themselves.

greenfinchesThe greenfinches left as suddenly as they arrived and I put down the camera and made some healthy broth for our lunch.

We had been promised a frosty morning but it was above freezing when I woke up and it was a pleasant sunny day by the the early afternoon.  I did think of a little cycle ride but decided that a short walk was more sensible so I set out to see if some exercise would turn out to be a good idea.

It was.  I felt better for the walk and as always, enjoyed the chance to take a few pictures as I toddled along.

fungus lichen

The fungus was fading but the lichen was very vibrant.

I went down to the Becks burn through the woods.

WoodThe old wall in the middle of the trees is a pointer to how many of the woods round Langholm are fairly recent commercial plantations.

Coming out of the woods on the Hallcrofts road, I thought that the time was right for a gnarly tree shot….

tree…pondered on the very interesting question of why one fence post should have a small mushroom crop on it….

fence posts…while one a few yards away should be absolutely smothered in moss….

Whita…and enjoyed a view of Whita looking very different from the morning when it was wreathed in mist.

I was watched with interest by two horses, one on each side of the Becks Burn valley.

horsesAs I walked down towards the Wauchope road, there was a contrast in the light as I looked back towards the Old Stane Brig….

Auld Stane Brig….and forwards towards Wauchope churchyard….

Wauchope road….but both views were equally agreeable.

Although it was very quiet at ground level, a glance at the skies above were a reminder that we live under a very busy air route…

con trails…with planes going in all directions.

I was pleased to see that one of the fungi that I had photographed on my last walk down the road had survived the chilly morning.

fungusSearching through my little book of toadstools, I wondered whether this might be a Clitocybe infundibuliformis.

When I got home, I took a shot of the front lawn to show that we are now almost wholly dependant on the golden box balls for some brightness.

front lawnWe are still a month away from the shortest day but it looked pretty gloomy at quarter past three, even on a fine afternoon.  You have to be out quickly with the camera after lunch these days or the light has flown.

I should have had an afternoon of flute playing with Mile and Isabel, an evening flute lesson with Luke and a visit to the Liddesdale Camera Club with Sandy in the evening but I was anxious not to pass my bug onto anyone else so I kept myself to myself and stayed in.

My son Tony rang from Edinburgh in the evening to say that he too and his some of his family and workmates had been laid low by the bug and my Newcastle correspondent tells me that her family have been victims as well so I think we can safely say, in the phrase much loved by Langholmites, “There’s been a lot  of it going about.”

The other phone call I received was from the hospital inviting me to visit them on Sunday to get my new knee.  I was surprised that they have got an operating list for a Sunday and just hope that surgeon is not too upset at missing his golf when he is working on me.

I hope to be fully back to normal health tomorrow and might even be considering a gentle pedal.

In spite of the visiting greenfinches, the flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who arrived with some decent light.


Wasted day

Today’s guest picture shows a vineyard in South Africa.  It was kindly sent to me by Langholm exile Tom.

South African vineyardWe had a day of very pleasant sunny weather herertoo but as I spent pretty well all day in bed recovering from a vicious attack by a bug overnight,  I didn’t get any use out of it at all.

My son and daughter in law in Edinburgh are also laid up with up with the same bug .  This is a great difficulty to them with Matilda to look after.

Mrs Tootlepedal is still coughing a bit so she missed the church choir and we both missed the Carlisle choir practice.

Thanks go to everyone who wished me a happy birthday.  It was a good day but I could wish that the happiness had lasted longer than 24 hours.

I took one brief look out of the kitchen window.

flying chaffinch

Happy birthday

No guest picture today as there has to be a space for the magnificent birthday cake cooked for me by Mrs Tootlepedal on the occasion of my birthday.  Because of my advanced age, it was impossible to cook a cake large enough to hold an appropriate number of candles so in the finished product, the candle is a decimal fraction of 0.0136986301 (approx) of my accumulated years.

birthday cakeOwing to the distribution among us of dodgy knees and persistent coughs, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had a quiet day today.  I did contemplate a morning pedal but it was a very dull and grey day and the trip to Edinburgh yesterday had been quite tiring so I didn’t contemplate it for very long.

However the weather did brighten up a bit as the morning went on and I was able to point a camera at a colourful show in the plum tree….

blue tit and goldfinch…catch a worm meeting its end on the lawn….

blackbird with worm…and admire the trim lines of a dunnock under the feeder…dunnock…and a queue of chaffinches up above.

chaffinchesWe were promised a bit of brighter weather after lunch and this indeed appeared so while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do a little shopping, I took a stroll round Gaskell’s Walk.  At the moment, it is a perfect walk for me, with a level surface, no big hills and at a mile, just about as far as I can go before needing a reviving cup of tea and a sit down.

I had Pocketcam with me and kept my eyes open as I tottered round.

Park WallThe stones on the park wall were covered in lichen and closer examination shows that there is often more to the white sheets than meets the eye of the casual passer by.

Park WallThe sun came out as I walked along the track past Stubholm….

Stubholm…and I liked the soft, late autumn colours of the larches and grasses on Meikleholm Hill across the valley.

MeikleholmI saw a glitter among some moss beside the path.  At first I thought that it was raindrops on the moss but once again, a closer look showed me a different story.

mossAlthough I must have passed this spot many times, I have never knowingly seen this attempt at Christmas decorations by a moss before.

There was a variety of fungus and lichen to enjoy as I walked out along the path and back by the road.  Some on wood….

fungus and lichen….and some on stone walls
lichenThe local sheep kept an eye on me as I went by.

sheepThe biggest fungus was this roadside beauty near the old manse….

fungus…but the most interesting thing that I saw beside the road was this ghostly hand reaching out from under a hedge.

fungusI can’t find anything like it so I would welcome suggestions as to what it might be.  There was more nearby.

fungusThe Wauchope was quite full but flowing gently as it approached Pool Corner….

Wauchope…and I took my last two pictures on my walk nearby..

peltigera and toadflaxThe lichen on the left is peltigera and Mrs Tootlepedal suggests that the little blue flower on the right might be ivy leaved toadflax.

The walk got me home nicely in time to watch Scotland play Tonga at rugby.  Just to be confusing, they were playing at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock which is a soccer ground.  It wasn’t the most exciting game that I have seen but Scotland played competently and won. These have both been quite rare occurrences in recent years.

I did have a quick look round the garden before I sat down to the rugby match.

Lilian Austin and Special Grandma

We still have roses out, though not quite at their best it must be said.

For my birthday evening meal, Mrs Tootlepedal made me a very nice plate of mince and potatoes and then we went out to the Buccleuch Centre to listen to a concert by the Langholm Town Band, to celebrate the production of a CD of their playing.

I used to play in this brass band a long time ago but there is no question but that they are playing to a far higher standard now than when I was a member and I was very impressed indeed by their work.  Although I was very impressed by their playing and ensemble skills, I found the programme rather dull and sadly lacking in opportunities to tap my feet or smile.  This was a fault in me though as I like brisk marches with rollicking bass solos and overtures from popular operas rather than the more serious modern arrangements and compositions that brass bands tend to play these days.

After yesterday’s failure to provide a flying bird of the day, I have got a double take to make up for it today.

goldfinch and chaffinch


Today’s guest picture comes from my younger son Al and shows Matilda’s reaction on being told that granny and grandpa were coming to visit soon.

MatildaThe business of the day was a drive to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.  Mrs Tootlepedal is still coughing quite a bit, which is tiring for her, but was otherwise well enough for the trip.  We drove to Edinburgh rather than taking the train because curiously enough we wanted to see a railway line.

They are rebuilding the old Waverley Line from Edinburgh through the borders as far as Galashiels and for a large part of its route it runs along the A7 so we were able to see the progress that has been made.  The nearly all the embankments, bridges and tunnels all seem to be in place and the extensive construction team is in the process of laying the rails and putting in the ballast.

It would have been nice to stop and take some pictures but the trip to Edinburgh takes long enough without stopping and as we were in a steady stream of traffic, it would have been necessary to leave the road to find a safe parking spot and then walk back.  I will make a special trip sometime in the new year.

The drive north itself was a treat with low mist coming and going over the hills and valleys in the sunshine and once again I wished that I had had the time (and the camera with me) to stop and stare.

But we pressed on and arrived just in time for me to go for a walk with Matilda and her father.  It was a grey day in Edinburgh and we were all well wrapped up.

MatildaThe purpose of the walk was to persuade Matilda to have a little sleep and she obligingly dropped off as we walked a circuit of the neighbourhood.   Edinburgh is full of grand buildings.

Leith Walk

On Leith walk

Even the wine merchants have a little Greek pillar work above the shop.

Leith WalkAnd the street names are engraved and coloured.  Why they thought that they needed another sign is not clear.  perhaps they loved Montgomery Street so much, they named it twice.

Montgomery StreetYou are living in a slum round here if you don’t have a few column inches outside your front door.

London RoadAnd every Tom, Dick and Harry has a pediment.

Easter RoadWe wanted to keep Matilda napping so when we we had completed our circuit, we walked past the road end and along as far as Meadowbank Stadium.

MeadowbankI liked their clear use of the alphabet to mark gates for the spectators but was puzzled by this section….

MeadowbankWas it for spectators who hadn’t progressed well in the reading class at school?

As we walked back, we could see Arthur’s Seat looming over an impressively tall terrace of typical Edinburgh houses.

Arthur's SeatAlistair told me that the leaves had fallen overnight from the trees lining the streets and judging by this street near the stadium….

leaves in edinburgh…he was quite right.  Edinburgh is a douce town and even the leaves are well behaved there and fall in neat lines..

Once home and woken up, Matilda tried on a fetching bonnet that her granny had knitted for her.

Matilda's bonnetJudgement is reserved.

Al and Mrs Tootlepedal went out to fetch some tasty Italian snacks for our lunch and we were visited by Matilda’s aunt before we set off for another walk up to the centre of town to make a purchase at Argos.  Matilda is literally a heavy responsibility,  being already the size and weight of an average one year old  and this is taking its toll on her parents’ backs so the trip was to purchase a comfortable mattress topping to help them sleep better.  I hope it works.

By the time we got home, it dark and we were soon back in our car and heading back to Langholm.  The traffic was very heavy but we still got back slightly quicker than we would have by train.  All the same, although it is a bit quicker, driving feels much longer and I think we will be back on the train for our next visit.

No time for a flying bird of the day today.

Step two

Today’s guest picture is another one of Regent’s Park on a glorious day early in this month.  It was taken by my sister Mary when she was either on her way to or back from a game of tennis there.

Regent's Park 01.11.14 013We had a bright but slightly hazy day for my second trip to Dumfries Infirmary in two days.  This time I was accompanied by Mrs Tootlepedal.  The hospital had asked participants in their joint school to bring a friend or family member with them and I was lucky to be able to bring both in the one package.

The school started at ten o’clock so we had no time to meander about on the way there and took the direct route.  Apart from a tendency on the part of the ward nurse to rather harp on about how painful the operation would be, the joint school was informative and at times entertaining.  We went home armed with crutches to practise with and special drinks to take before we come back in again.  They were very thorough.

The school lasted a couple of hours so we did have time to meander about on our way home and drove back by the long way along the banks of the Nith estuary.  We stopped at Glencaple to enjoy the rather mysterious light on the water.

GlencapleIt was odd.  It was sunny but cloudy at the same time.  Looking straight across the river, I couldn’t see Criffel at all today though I did see a small flock of lapwings making their way down river.


Old ship

An elderly vessel seems to be permanently moored there.

We drove on past Caerlaverock castle and turned down to the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust visitor centre where we enjoyed a light lunch..  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal, who is still coughing a bit, retired to read the paper in the car while I walked down the avenue…..

avenue at caerlaverock…stopping off at the swan pond….

swan pondswan pond….and peering at fungus and lichen as I went along….

fungus and lichen

lichen….until I got to the tower at the end of the avenue….tower…and was able to watch the thousands of barnacle geese spread over the ponds and fields.  I only had Pocketcam with me so photographic opportunities were very limited….

geese…but the geese weren’t hard to spot with the naked eye.

lapwingsAnd I think that the picture above shows another flock of lapwings taking flight.  I was really sorry that I hadn’t brought my long lens with me.

There are many ponds on both sides of the avenue with little hides to lurk in.

caerlaverock pondsYou can see what an odd day it was with a blue reflection in the pond from the sky straight above but an absolutely grey day behind it.

caerlaverock pondsIt really was very hazy at eye level.

The marsh fields are grazed by long horned cattle….

caerlaverock cattle…but they were taking a break when I passed them.

I stopped at the swan pond again on my way back and found a little bird spotting scope there for the use of visitors.   As there was no one else there, I had a go to see if Pocketcam could manage a little digiscoping….


The swans would keep moving after I had just got them in focus but I was quite pleased with this result for a first go.

I must make an effort to come back on a clearer day with the long lens while the geese are still here.

We stopped off at Gretna on the way home, not to watch starlings as we were too early in the day, but to got to the shopping vlllage and buy some suitable slippers and loose trousers for a man with a new knee to wander about the house in.

We got home just in time to catch a little garden colour….

poppy, wallflower and daisy…before the light faded away entirely.  The wallflower in the centre of the triptych has no right to be flowering at all as it is two and a bit years old and should have given up the ghost long ago let alone not be flowering in November ever.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a play performed by our local dramatic group and I went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy in a vain attempt to catch up with the mound of data produced by our eager data miners.  At least I will have plenty to do while I am waiting to get back on the bike again after the operation.

Talking of cycling, the nurse at the joint school said this morning that those of us who wanted to cycle with our new knees should keep a keen look out for potholes and take care not to fall off and wreck our expensive replacements.  As I had hit a pothole and fallen off earlier this year, I thought that this was a good moment to nod my head silently but sagaciously and try to look sensible.

There was not enough light at the garden feeders before we left or after we got home today so the flying bird of the day is the third from the right in this final picture from Caerlaverock.


Step one

Today’s guest picture, sent to me by my neighbour Liz, who has just been on holiday in Spain, shows a handsome monument carved from an eucalyptus tree that she saw there.  The ladder gives a clue as to its height.

eucalyptusI had time for breakfast and not much else before setting off to Dumfries Infirmary for the purpose of undergoing a pre knee operation check there.

I left myself with enough time to enable me to drive by back roads and stop off at the little Caerlaverock nature reserve by the banks of the Nith estuary on my way.  Although it was a sunny day, the upper slopes of Criffel were wreathed in cloud on the other side of the estuary.

Criffel in cloudI walked through an ancient wood on a well made new path….

Caerlaverock nature reserveStopping every now and again to take pictures….

fungus Caerlaverock nature reserve…of fungi….

fungus Caerlaverock nature reserve….and more fungi

Caerlaverock fungi….and lichen….

lichen and gorse…and some of the gorse which seems to be in flower all over the place at the moment.

I was headed for a little bird hide on the edge of the salt marshes but when I got there, an elderly couple, chatting cheerily away as they came along a path in the opposite direction, had cleared all the bird life away.  I didn’t have time to sit around and wait for peace to return so I looked across at Criffel again…


The clouds were thickening up as I walked along.

…and walked back through the woods….

Caerlaverock nature reserve…admiring the catkins as I went along….

catkins…until I got back to the car and drove off to the hospital.

The pre knee op assessment went well.  I proved to be able to breathe, have a pulse, some blood and a regular heartbeat and to be able to remember my name and address.  We checked that they had the right leg (the left leg in this case) in their notes and I was sent on my way with a merry wave.  It was very reassuring to see how seriously they were taking the whole thing.

I am going back again tomorrow to see the occupational and physiotherapists at their joint school and to learn how to look after my new knee when I get it.   I hope that I might be able to find out when the operation is going to be while I am there.

In order to make the best of having to drive eighty miles for the visit, I stopped off at Gretna on my way home.  It was raining gently when I arrived but by the time that I had parked the car, it had stopped and turned into a pleasant evening.

gretnaMy object was to see the celebrated starling murmuration but I was a bit early and had to admire a fine pylon instead.

gretnaThe starlings like pylons too.

starlings at gretna Nov 14They were soon up in the air from trees where they were lurking…

starlings at gretna Nov 14…and flowing to and fro in characteristic fashion.

starlings at gretna Nov 14Other groups joined them from time to time and soon the sky was full of birds

GretnaIt wasn’t one of the best displays that I have seen and numbers are still fairly low compared with a few years ago so there weren’t many opportunities to catch the spectacular waves that make them such a lure for amateur photographers.

starlings at gretna Nov 14I was getting a bit chilly so I cut my losses and headed for home before they went down to roost for the night.

Mrs Tootlepedal still hasn’t completely got over her cold but she was well enough and kind hearted enough to make a splendid corned beef hash for my tea.  Fortified by this, I went off to a choir practice for Langholm Sings, our local community choir.  The practice was better organised than usual and we had a useful time rehearsing pieces for two forthcoming concerts.

It is in the lap of the gods as to whether I will be available to sing any of the songs I am currently practising with both the Langholm and Carlisle choirs as it will depend on the date of my knee operation and my ability to recover from it in time.

In spite of the hundreds of starlings, the flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch shot before I left in the morning.


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