Two guys named Mike

Today’s guest picture was supplied by my Newcastle correspondent.  She has been travelling for her work recently but as the only views she got were of the rubbish bins outside the windows of her Travelodge rooms, she has sent me a seasonal picture of some tasty biscotti instead.

biscottiI tested out a new ‘big pill’ last night and it did give me an uninterrupted five hours of sleep leading to a late breakfast.  Ever ready to look a gift horse in the mouth, I should add that it took me the next three hours to recover from this.  However, as I was able to take a shower for the first time for a fortnight, I was quite perky before lunchtime when Sandy dropped in for a quick visit.

He had been up to fill the Moorland bird feeders but the weather had been so foul that he hadn’t stayed to check what birds were around.

The rain eased off for a moment so I decided to go for a walk to work up an appetite for lunch but by the time that I had got ready, it had started to rain again.  I was feeling courageous so I went out with a crutch in one hand and a brolly in the other, ready to brave the weather and set a new personal best for distance.

After about 400 yards, the wind was so strong that it blew my brolly inside out and the thought of being found in the gutter in an undignified tangle of crutch, brolly and wonky knee soon persuaded me that discretion was the better part of valour and I cut my circuit short and headed for home.

I was fortified by a bowl of mushroom soup  with croutons freshly made by the indefatigable Mrs Tootlepedal.

In the afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal went out shopping and I was visited by two guys named Mike.  First Mike Tinker came round to enquire about my health and while he was still here, Mike Taudevin appeared with his cello, ready for some duets.

As the day was too gloomy  for any bird feeder pictures, I seized the opportunity to take pictures of the two of them so that readers of the blog will be able to distinguish one Mike from the other when they appear in future posts.

This is one Mike:

Mike TinkerAnd this is the other Mike.

Mike TaudevinIt would be hard to find two more reverend figures.  I would like to thank them for submitting to the unforgiving gaze of the lens without any warning.

Mike left Mike and me to enjoy an hour’s playing.  An hour is as long as I can sit at one time so we stopped then and had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from the shops.

By this time the rain and wind had finally exhausted themselves and I set out again to do the walk I had intended to do in the morning.   It was pleasantly warm and the streets were very quiet so I enjoyed myslef and was able to make a complete circuit of the New Town of Langholm….

strava map 18 Dec 14…which my mobile phone kindly recorded for me.   This turned out to be exactly a mile but as it took me over twenty minutes to complete the circuit, Mo Farrah can rest easily for the time being.  Still, I was very pleased to have reached this milestone on the road to recovery and ate my tea with relish.

I am hoping for a glimpse of sun and a chance to watch a bird or two tomorrow but meantime, Matilda has kindly agreed to stand in as flying bird of the day today.


At a stretch

Today’s guest picture, taken by my sister Mary as she passed by, shows the traditional Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square in London.  It is nearly as fine as the one we have in the Market Place here in Langholm.

Christmas tree, Trafalgar SquareOur day started with an early rise and a quick breakfast before going across to Annan to see the physio.  The early rise was greatly helped by a better night’s sleep courtesy of the bigger pill.

I had been anxious to see the physio, because although I was happy with my leg straightening, I was a bit worried about my difficulty in getting the knee to bend.  Needless to say, the physio, after a careful assessment, declared herself more than happy with my knee bending but instructed me to do a lot more work on the leg straightening exercises.

She also gave me some very useful tips on walking, a thing you might think that you knew how to do after 70 years of practice but which turns out to be quite tricky to learn.  The secret is a good heel lead.

It was a very good visit and I left full of good advice and in an extremely positive state of mind.  She says that I can increase my walking distances so if some suitable weather arrives, I hope to be well over the mile barrier before long.

It had started to rain by the time we got home so I went for a shortish walk with my brolly after we had had a cup of coffee.

There were some familiar birds to be seen in the rain outside the kitchen window.


chaffinchA few goldfinches turned up….

goldfinches… and pushed the chaffinches off.

goldfinch and chaffinchAfter lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to our local cottage hospital to sing carols with the church choir and I found out just how effective the bigger pills last night were by sleeping most of the afternoon away.  This is the downside of painkillers.  If they are strong enough actually to kill the pain. they knock you flat as well.   Still, a good snooze was quite welcome, especially as my knee was feeling the effects of doing some vigorous work with the physio in the morning.

A visit from Mike Tinker, with whom we enjoyed a cup of tea and biscuit, was the only other event of note and the day wound down its conclusion very peacefully.

A goldfinch in the fully streamlined position is the flying bird of the day.



Bigger pills

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my choir and recorder playing friend Sue who came to look at our modest compost bins in the summer and has set herself the task of building a compost city from recycled bits and pieces in her own garden.  She is making good progress.

Sue's compostAlthough I have been very sorry to miss three choir concerts with two different choirs over the past couple of weeks, Sue told me that we had done well to miss yet another one with the Carlisle Choir on Sunday.  The choir had to hang around for several hours in a very cold, wet and windy football stand just to sing two songs and the general consensus was that time night have been better spent elsewhere. I am thankful for small mercies.

Our recorder group are meeting tonight for the last time this year and I am looking forward to being able to join them again in 2015 as I have been missing the playing.

My knee was inspected both by the district nurse and my doctor today and pronounced very satisfactory in terms of healing.  I am seeing the physio tomorrow to get an opinion on its mobility and if she is happy too, I will be well on the road to recovery.

Meantime, I am having trouble sleeping and after consulting the doctor about possible causes and remedies we have settled for bigger and better pills.  I am keeping my fingers crossed, as a good night’s sleep really would be the icing on the cake.

I got out for three little walks today.  My first was to the shop and I managed to have my shoulder bag slung outside my coat today.  The shopkeeper was very impressed.

My second and third outings were to the banks of the Esk, one on foot in the morning sunshine, and the other after a drive when the skies had clouded over in the afternoon.

EskI did try to record one of my walks yesterday on my cycle computer but I was going so slowly that it refused to believe that I was walking at all which was a bit of an insult.  I used my mobile phone today and that worked better so I can tell you that in the morning I walked seven tenths of a mile in 19 minutes.,  Heady stuff.

I took the afternoon picture of the Esk from the Byreburnfoot Bridge and was impressed by the amount of lichen which  adorns the parapet.  Here is a tiny selection.

lichen at ByreburnThe afternoon walk finished very well.  Almost as soon I had got organised and sat down for a cup of tea when we got home,  Mrs Tootlepedal had added to her chauffeuring skills by whipping up a Swiss roll.

Swiss rollIt went down well.  Since Mrs Tootlepedal is cooking all my meals at the moment, the first thing that I am going to have to do when I regain fitness, is to lose a lot of weight.

The bird activity was quite muted today but there were one or two to watch.


A goldfinch manages to find its footing at a feeder without a perch.


Another one looks on from the plum tree

Perhaps the lack of birds is caused by others living nearby putting put a more exciting selection of food.  Certainly this blackbird doesn’t look very cheerful about what he found.

blackbirdThe robin is more easily pleased.

robinHere’s  a flying chaffinch coming to send me a good night’s sleep.

flying chaffinch

Up hill and down dale

Today’s guest photo once again features Matilda, this time practising one of those attitudes which will be so important when unfeeling parents don’t immediately kowtow to her every wish later in life.

MatildaI haven’t quite got the hang of sleeping at night at the moment and after another night of tossing and turning, I awoke in a very grumpy mood indeed.  It is two weeks since the operation and I was scheduled to move on to a second set of more taxing exercises today.  This didn’t seem at all achievable and my mood wasn’t lightened when I rang up the physiotherapists who have been assigned to manage my recovery and was offered an appointment a  month away.

Fortunately, after I explained that this just wouldn’t do, I got an appointment for later this week.  And then, in that miraculous way that happens when you have made a physio appointment, I immediately began to feel much better.  The sun was shining outside and Mrs Tootlepedal chauffeured me to the Castleholm, where we enjoyed a very nice walk round the new path.

It was still quite chilly but warm enough for almost all the snow to have vanished from the hillsides round the town.

Timpen in WinterOur route took us on a circular tour round the remains of Langholm Castle….

Langholm castle…and once again, it was interesting to note what a difference to the light a few yards and a 90 degree turn in the path made.

As we walked along, I was  trying to plant my feet as firmly as this tree grips the bank at the edge of the track.

tree rootsOnce home and fortified with coffee and fancy biscuits, I felt extremely cheerful and managed to do a set of my new exercises at lunch time without crying at all.

I had time to look out of the window and once again looked at the ground under the feeder where the cold weather has made life busier.


A plump robin


A slender dunnock


Is this the same robin again? It is hard to tell.

In the afternoon, we went out for another excursion by motor.  Our target was to have a walk on the top of Callister and through it was a little drizzly as we drove up….

Callister….it had cleared away leaving a hint of sunshine in the west when we arrived.

As the track was quite rough, we didn’t walk far but in spite of it being quite a bit higher, it was quite a bit warmer than our morning walk and a great treat to be out and about with some good views.

One of the sets of stone that make up the track is very attractive to a jewel like lichen which lights up the path as you go along.

lichenAfter a last look back at the sunset…..

Callister view…we drove home and settled down to the early dusk.  With only another week to go before the winter solstice, we are very nearly at our shortest day and Mrs Tootlepedal is leafing through the  seed catalogues and thinking of the coming growing season already.

I managed another set of the new tougher exercises at tea time and a day that had begun badly, finished on a very upbeat note.

I even managed to catch a flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

In the dark

Today’s guest picture shows Matilda at her perkiest.  We have missed being able to go up and see her for a week or two but Mrs Tootlepedal hopes to visit next week.  The hat seems to be strangely attractive too.

MatildaIt was a perfectly miserable day today, with strong winds and rain only letting up after dark.  I didn’t even think of getting the camera out.

Still, the day was not without adventure as I walked round to our corner shop in the morning while Mrs Tootlepedal was out singing in the church choir.  There was a curious incident when I asked the shopkeeper if he would be kind enough to put the milk carton straight into the shoulder bag which I had carefully put on before I came out..  A few moments later, when I had taken off my jacket, removed the shoulder bag from underneath it, put the jacket on again and then put the bag back  on top of it this time,  he was able to do just that.

It all added to the gaiety of nations.

After lunch, Mike came round with his cello and we had another go at some duets by Beethoven and Bach.  This time, the thunder of the great men rolling in their graves was less noticeable as we made a better job of the playing.

The rain and wind abated in the evening and Mrs Tootlepedal joined me in a walk round the block, adding a few more metres to my furthest distance yet.  It is now two weeks since the operation and I will be down to a single elbow crutch for next weeks walks.  I am hoping to be up to a mile by the end of the week.

In the absence of a flying bird due to bad light, Matilda makes a welcome reappearance.  She is enjoying the early use of a Christmas present from her aunt.


Home alone

Today’s guest picture is one of those of a guest rather than by a guest.  Sandy kindly posed for me when he stopped in to entertain me after lunch.

sandyHe had to look a bit serious as the picture was taken in natural light indoors in mid December and he was sitting very, very still indeed.

The ice had relented a little and with careful navigation, Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to make a circuit of the block after breakfast which was a relief after two days without walking.  We arrived back at the same time as the speeding Dropscone appeared by  bike bearing treacle scones to go with a cup of coffee or two.

After Dropscone left, Mrs Tootlepedal followed suit, feeling that I had progressed enough to be safely left alone for an hour or two. She went off to Newcastleton for a riotous seasonal celebration with the other ladies of the Eskdale Embroiderers’ Guild, leaving me with my birds for company.


There were plenty around although a little sunshine would have been welcome.

chaffinchThe colder weather has brought a blackbird to scratch around for fallen seeds.

blackbirdAnd a robin actually stayed still long enough for me to spot it.

robinI was feeling a bit bored in the absence of my full time carer but I didn’t dare to go for a walk without supervision in case I got a row so I gave Sandy a ring and we walked round the extended block in the afternoon.  He used his mobile phone to record our tour and and we managed just about half a mile at a respectable speed.

He went off to do some shopping and in short order Mrs Tootlepedal and the Tinkers arrived and we had a cup of tea and some mince pies whihc was very cosy.

Considering that that the days are very short at this time of year, it is surprising how long they feel.

Staple diet

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia, my West Country correspondent, and shows a delightful sunset (with birds) at the Steart Marshes last week.

Steart sunsetThe day was once again cold and the lawn was still covered in snow…

snowy lawn…and I was once again ordered to stay indoors.

This wasn’t too bad as I would have had to stay inside anyway as I was waiting for the district nurse to come and remove the staples from my knee.  She appeared on time and performed this delicate action with such sympathetic skill that I hardly noticed her at work at all.  It came as a surprise when she had finished to see just how many staples the surgeon had used to stitch my knee together.  Mrs Tootlepedal has plans to start a scrap metal business.

The nurse asked me to treat the knee very gently for the rest of the day so instead of a walk after lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal took me out for a little drive.  I was hoping to get a photo or two as we went along but the road edges were quite snowy so stopping wasn’t easy.  We did stop at Ewes Hall…

Ewes…but the sunshine was elusive and the scenery was generally a bit flat.  Occasionally a shaft of light picked out a dry stone dyke.

stone dyke in snowWe drove on to the top of the hill at Mosspaul and had to go a bit down the far side….

mosspaul…before finding a place to turn round and head back past the snow covered trees.

MosspaulAfter we got home, I was entertained by a couple of visitors before setting down to a quiet evening in.

It was a very knee day.

In the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal was waylaid in the building society office by man with a nice new knee who was so pleased with it after four months that he rolled up his trouser leg and showed her his scar.  Meanwhile I was rung up by a five week recovering knee man who obligingly told me that he had just had his worst night’s sleep of the whole process so far.  In the afternoon, we were visited by a friend who is waiting for her operation and I was able to put the wind up her by groaning most frightfully at every opportunity.

During the day, I tried to find a moment when the light and the birds were in conjunction without much success.

goldfinchchaffinchI hope to be back walking tomorrow but having a day off the knee exercises has been a great treat.

The flying bird of the day is a black and white affair.



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