More of the same

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who took his camera for a walk the other day and enjoyed this doorway to nowhere.  It must have had a purpose once.


If you have come to this post in the hope of reading about exciting events and looking at a range of birds, flowers and landscapes bathed in late autumn sunshine, look away now.

The weather was even worse than it was yesterday.  I woke to the sound of rain drumming on the roof and wisely turned over and went back to sleep again.  It was still raining and the wind was whistling through the bare branches of the walnut tree when I did finally get up.

It wasn’t much brighter than it had been when I had gone to bed last night but after a slice of toast and a cup of coffee, I ventured out to see if a walk would be at possible.  Although I was well wrapped up from head to toe, it was too miserable to stay out for any length of time and far too wet to take a camera out so I went back home.

I put my new camera away and got my Nikon out, although I wasn’t expecting too many bird visitors on such a foul morning.  The birds surprised me though….

chaffinch and great tit

…first by arriving at all and secondly by looking so chipper when they did come.


The wind was so brisk that I was amazed that these siskins, which are tiny birds weighing only a few grams, could fly about unharmed.

A coal tit, an even smaller bird, came too.

coal tit

I did a conveniently tricky prize crossword, which ate up a lot of time and put some more music into the computer for flute practising purposes and that took me up to lunch time.

Having the computer play accompaniments for pieces is good discipline.  It may not have much musical taste or feeling but it does make sure that you are keeping the tempo up.  I find it surprisingly easy to think that I have mastered a piece only to find out that when I have to play it at the same speed throughout, even in the difficult passages, I may not know it quite as well as I thought.

I had a last look out of the window….


And then settled down to watch Dunblane take on the rest of the world at tennis doubles in the Davis Cup Final.  Dunblane won.

It was dark and still raining by the time that the match finished so instead of doing anything useful, I did a couch potato turn and watched such exciting things as the football scores and a bit of White Christmas on the telly.

Luckily I have been eating plenty of fish cakes lately so although my body may be going to seed, my brain is sharp as a tack.

It is still raining as I write this at nearly ten o’clock in the evening and a quick look at the forecast tells me that it going to rain  just as hard again tomorrow with 50 mile an hour winds to go with it.  I can hardly wait.

Perching birds were just possible today but flying birds were just blurred impressions.

flying chaffinch

Total gloom

Today’s guest picture comes from my recorder playing friend Susan and shows boats on the Caledonian Canal near Fort Augustus, which she visited with her father when he scaled Ben Nevis.

Caledonian canal

The guest picture is the only colourful thing about today’s brief blog.  The weather was wet and gloomy when I got up and it was wet and gloomy when I went to bed and in between, you will be surprised to hear, it was wet and gloomy.

It was so gloomy that the lights were on all day in the house and as a special treat, the forecast is telling us that it will be equally, or possibly even more wet and gloomy for the next two days.

There is no doubt that I will have to put the slow bike on the turbo trainer in the garage becuase the wet and gloom are accompanied by strong winds. November has been the worst month for cycling of the whole year.

I went to the length of putting NewCam on a tripod in an effort to take at least one or two pictures but the gloom was overpowering and the results fuzzy.


goldfinches and chaffinch

Only the arrival of Dropscone with traditional Friday treacle scones prevented the morning from being a complete washout.

The afternoon was spent practising songs for the Carlisle choir and putting another carol into the computer to help the tenors of the Langholm choir.

I did get out of the house as far as the corner shop and perked myself up with the purchase of a coffee and cream éclair.

A phone call to Mrs Tootlepedal brought a little metaphorical sunshine into the early evening and a visit from Mike and Alison after tea brought some musical pleasure and interesting conversation to round off the day.

NewCam was unable to capture a flying bird of the day at all.

Birthday absence

Today’s guest picture comes from South Africa and shows the cycle route followed by Langholm exile, Tom. I wonder if he stops before he gets to the mountains.

cycle route south africa

After a short run of chilly but brighter days, we returned to our warm, wet and windy weather today.

It was gloomy but dry in the morning but the need to be in the High Street to take down our camera club exhibition kept me off the bike.  I looked out of the window instead.

As the light was even worse than yesterday, I got my big camera out.

A goldfinch was amazed that I was even trying to take its picture on such a dark day.


I am still keeping my eye for goldfinches to check if we ever get more than six at once in the garden.

There were only two or three today.


They were heavily outnumbered by chaffinches.


In between looking out of the window, I was doing a tricky crossword.  I looked up every now and again to see if there was any interesting bird action but it was one of those days when the bird had always flown by the time that I had got up, got my camera and got to the window.

I took some general shots just to pass the time.


I enjoyed the chaffinch carefully steering himself between the feeder and the pole.

I have got two feeders outside the kitchen window at present in answer to a brisk demand for seed.  This is good for the amount of business that is attracted but bad at the same time.  The down side is because whichever feeder I point the camera at, the other one is where the interesting action is going on.  As soon as I switch my view, the action goes in the contrary direction.  I got so fed up that I took them both at the same time.

busy feeders

Sandy appeared on cue to help take the pictures down and the job was done in double quick time.  Unlike our last show at the Hub in Eskdalemuir, we didn’t manage to sell any pictures this time. There aren’t many visitors to the town in November which may explain  this.

When I got back, I just had time to catch a blue tit having its lunch…

blue tit

…before I made some vegetable soup for my own lunch,

After lunch, I set out for a short ride on the fairly speedy bike.  The clouds were down to about 200 feet above my head when I started but by the time that I finished, they were at road level and it was quite wet.

As I reached the house, I passed the minister and invited him in for a cup of tea and with perfect timing, just as I had put the kettle on,  Dropscone appeared too (bearing not scones but a gift of leeks).

These two brightened up a day which had got so gloomy that there was no hope at all of a little after-cycle walk.

When the tea party men had gone, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and after my evening meal, I went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy and we put another couple of weeks in. This took me into the new archiving year of 1892.   The year started with the death from influenza of the Duke of Clarence, the grandson of Queen Victoria, at the age of 28 and shops in Langholm were asked to close their doors and the people of the town to pull their blinds down during the time of his funeral.

I should mention that it was Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday today and she sent me a picture to show just how much she was enjoying herself, far from home on this auspicious occasion.

Mrs Tootlepedal's birthday

I felt much the same.

The flying bird of the day was one of the many chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

A day well spent

Today’s guest picture reveals that diver Tony was swimming with sharks in the aquarium at Queensferry near Edinburgh.   He tells me that he thoroughly enjoyed it and will not miss his left foot at all*.

swimming with sharks

We had a rare day of calm and pleasant weather today.  I perhaps should have spent more of it cycling but I had a couple of appointments in the  morning.

First I was visited by Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer, who has been very prompt in producing our accounts for 2014-15.  We are on a sound financial footing which is always a relief.

The second visit was from the scone bearer.  Dropscone was in good form and tells me that thanks to some new pills, he is recovering from an ailment brought on by the old pills.  When you get to our age, this is a very familiar story.

When he left, I went up to the chemist and got some more pills for myself.

I have been feeling a touch lacklustre about cycling lately and because we have had such a very gloomy year of weather, I wondered whether I might be a bit lacking in Vitamin D which we get from sunshine.  I purchased a little tub of tablets and will report back on the results.

I experimented with my new camera while I was waiting for the visitors (and after they had left as well).  It has more than enough zoom to see the birds through the kitchen window but I wondered if it could cope with some poor light when the zoom was active.


The jury is out and I will obviously have to do some research into getting the settings just right.

This one was better.



I had one or two goes at catching a bird in flight.

busy feeder

But on the whole, perching birds were easier…


…though not always successful.

Great tit

I will have to master the art of getting the camera to use a much higher ISO than it wants.

I took a shot from the suspension bridge when I went to get my pills.

Langholm Bridge

I was using the auto setting and the camera thought that an ISO of 100 would be a good idea.  I don’t agree so when the light is not as good as it was in Edinburgh yesterday, I will obviously to give the camera a good talking to.

One camera success, in my view at least, was this picture of the last summer flower in the garden.

Lilian Austin

After lunch,  I got the fairly speedy bike out.  I was quite pleased to have missed the morning ride as time had let the temperature rise from 3.5°C after breakfast to 7.5°C  after lunch.

I only took one picture but it shows two things about the ride.  The first is how low the sun is at this time of year.  It was lurking behind the tree at 1.50pm and the second is the dark strip along the road.

Dunnabie road

The dark strip is the result of week of repairs which had closed this road.  I was interested to see the result. The strip covers a pipe line (water I think) which had been laid and covered up not long ago but obviously not to a good enough standard.  The workers had relaid the surface above the pipe for pretty well its whole length and this had the beneficial effect of providing me with a smooth surface just wide enough for a bike for about three miles.

If I had been cycling in the opposite direction, I wouldn’t have got any benefit at all as it was down the left hand side of the road all the way.

Sometimes you win.

Sometimes you lose though.

I was planning a loop from Waterbeck at the bottom of the repaired road through Eaglesfield and back by Gair but when I got to the far end of the Gair road, it was closed.  I had to turn round and come back to Waterbeck the way that I had gone.  Still, the wind was light and the traffic was lighter so the 27 mile ride was very pleasant.

It was too dark for a photographic walk by the time that I got home so I spent some time practising songs for the Langholm Choir which has a concert at the end of next week.

After tea, I went off and put the practice to good use in our weekly choir practice.

The flying bird of the day is a new camera (NewCam) effort.

flying chaffinch

A trip to Edinburgh

Today’s guest picture, taken by his partner Marianne, shows our older son Tony in over his head. Where he is will be revealed tomorrow.

Tony swimming

 I spent almost the whole day sitting around but enjoying myself nevertheless.

After breakfast, I drove to Lockerbie and caught the train to Edinburgh.  I had my new camera in my pocket so I couldn’t resist a few goes to see what it was like.

This was Lockerbie Station on a gloomy morning.

Lockerbie Station

 The weather had brightened up a lot by the time that I got to Edinburgh and this was the view looking over the top of Waverley Station there.


The east coast is often more sunny than the west and so it proved today.

I walked down the High Street and pointed the new camera at a passing clock.

High Street clock

I looked to my left to see this nice restoration of a traditional building…

High Street close

…and then to my right to see this modern monster, part of the new Scottish Parliament building.

Scottish parliament

When we have such a charming vernacular style it seems rather gratuitous to go to such lengths to make a statement but then I am just an old curmudgeon.

When I got to Matilda’s, she was fast asleep and in fact she remained so for much of my time there and even when she finally woke up, she wasn’t very interested in a strange man in her front room.


I will have to go and see her more often.

Her long sleep meant that I had plenty of time to chat to my younger son…


…and he helped me work out how to use wi-fi with my new camera and my phone so that I can use my phone as a remote control to operate the camera.

This might be regarded as a rather unnecessary capability but as you can see on your phone screen what the camera is looking at in real time and as the camera has a good zoom lens, it might be very handy for taking wildlife pictures with the camera on a tripod and me hiding behind a bush.  I will have to experiment to find out how far away the phone can be from the camera and still talk to it.

As I had not had time to look out of my kitchen window before I left home, we spent a little time looking out of his.  His neighbour across the road is keen bird feeder…

Edinburgh sparrows

…and had plenty of sparrows in his garden.

It was beginning to get dark as I walked back to the station but there were still people standing on the top of Arthur’s Seat looking down on the town below.

Arthur's Seat

The zoom on the new little camera is good.

When I got the station, the train was waiting and the moon was rising at the end of the platform.

Moon at Waverley

By the time that I got back to Lockerbie, it was dark.

Lockerbie station

I got home with just enough time to have some tea and another slice of the apple cake before Susan turned up to drive me to Carlisle for our weekly recorder group meeting.   We had a mellow evening playing pavans, galliards, almands and fantasias.

I didn’t manage to find a flying bird  so this ex-flying bird in Edinburgh will have to sit in for the FBotD

Edinburgh pigeon

Talking to myself

Today’s guest picture shows a late bit of autumn colour seen by my sister Mary in the early morning in Regent’s Park at the weekend.

Early morning colour in Regent's Park

 It was another zero degree day here and I had to scrape ice from the car windscreen before I could perform the first and most important duty of the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was off to the deep south to spend a few days visiting her mother and I drove her down to Carlisle to catch the train.  We left in plenty of time to avoid any stress caused by slow tractors or obstructionist traffic lights and as a result of this precaution, needless to say,  we had a completely stress free trip and arrived rather too early.

Still, it  gave us time to make sure that the machine disgorged her pre-purchased tickets correctly and to bid each  other a fond farewell.  I didn’t stay to wave her off on the train because back in Langholm, Sandy was nobly doing my duty in the Information Hub.

He was remarkably cheerful when I eventually turned up. I had a quiet time when I settled in but the onset of some rain drove three people off the High Street and in to have a look round our camera club exhibition which helped to pass the time.

The rain eased off a little as I walked home and when I got there, I filled the feeders and retired indoors.

I had placed a few pellets on a bench beside the seed feeder and they attracted a rain speckled blackbird.


 A jackdaw arrived to do some gentle neck stretching exercises…


…or possibly a quick check on where the rain was coming from and then a hard stare to say that it was probably my fault.

A wood pigeon looked on from a distance.

wood pigeon

We had a visit from a great tit….

great tit

…which I saw later sharing a perch with a blue tit.

great tit and blue tit

The blue tits are now such frequent visitors that they are becoming almost unremarkable.

First there was one today..

blue tit

…and then there were two…

blue tits

…and then there were three….

blue tits

…and then…

No that was it.

The afternoon was so gloomy and wet that I was even driven to downloading and filling up the forms that I need to send off to the charity regulator for the Archive Group so some good came out of a grey day.

Two visitors came in out of the rain.  Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and to tell me that he has got Mrs Tootlepedal some of the sealant that she needs to go round the edge of her tiles and then my flute pupil, Luke, came for his weekly lesson.

We are working hard at the moment and I was very pleased to see that when he had a little difficulty with an intricate passage of notes, he sorted it out for himself by playing the section, unprompted by me, two or three times at a slower pace until he had solved the problem.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the readers who took the time to wish me a happy birthday.  I was very touched.

I rounded off the day by having a big slice of my apple birthday cake with custard and was only sorry that I couldn’t share it with the cook.

The postman brought me a new camera today.  Mrs Tootlepedal has kindly selected and purchased this for my birthday without even realising that she had done it.  I am very grateful to her.  Unfortunately. the forecast for the next few days is so miserable that I may not get much chance to use it.  I might even have enough time to read the manual which would be a first.

The flying bird of the day is one of the blue tits battling bravely through the rain.

flying blue tit

A happy day

In the absence of any guest pictures (hint, hint), today’s leading image shows the cork tiles which Mrs Tootlepedal has been busy laying.

cork tiles

I can report that they are a pleasure to walk on.

We awoke to another chilly morning, illuminated by cheerful sunshine.  Any feeling of warmth induced by looking at the sunshine through a window was quickly dispersed by going outside and feeling a nipping and eager east wind.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I prepared a lamb stew for the slow cooker and then considered  my options.  There were three: go for a pedal, go for a walk or lounge around doing nothing.

The icy temperature and keen wind made the first option unattractive but the lovely sunny weather and blue skies made the third seem feeble so I chose to go for the walk.

I put out some pellets for the jackdaws before I went.  They must have a very good pellet intelligence service because there was no sign of any about as I put the pellets out but by the time that I had got back indoors, the garden was full of big birds.


The jackdaws soon polished off the pellets and flew away, leaving a collared dove to wonder what all the fuss had been about.

collared dove

There were plenty of small birds about too but I left them to mind their own business and set out to go round Gaskell’s and Easton’s Walks.

Although the views in all directions were still good on such a sunny morning….

Meikleholm Hill

Looking west towards Meikleholm Hill

Castle Hill

Looking north at Castle Hill


Looking east at the monument on Whita

…there was less interesting detail by the wayside.  I enjoyed this fallen leaf though….

fallen leaf with water droplets

…and although the almost all of the leaves are off the trees, the tracks still retain some charm.

Stubholm track

In sunshine….

Beechy Plains

…and in shade.

I kept my eye open for fungus in spite of the temperature and thought that I had found a trametes at one point…

fungus or lichen

….but it didn’t look quite right so I peered underneath….

fungus or lichen

…and found that what I had seen was the crinkled edge of a large white sheet.  I don’t even know whether this is a fungus at all.   Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can help me.

I got home and found that Mrs Tootlepedal had got back from church before me so I made some coffee and looked out of the kitchen window.

The garden was full of perching birds, some cute…..

blue tit

…some very cute….


…some beady eyed…


…and some very beady eyed.


Then it was time for a shower (great cork tiles), lunch, a quick practice and a trip to Carlisle for our Carlisle Community Choir practice.

We are polishing up pieces for our Christmas concert and all went well until the final piece.  This was taken at full speed and my poor brain couldn’t keep up with the words and the notes at the same time and there is no doubt that a lot more practice will be needed before next week.

In my defence, the vocal score has been produced with economy rather than the singer’s needs in mind and with two parts in counterpoint in places on one stave and with the words sometimes above and sometimes below the stave, it is not the easiest thing to read at any speed.

Some how or other, another year has slipped by without me noticing and it turned out to be my birthday today.  We celebrated this with our usual joyous abandon and a very tasty apple cake, baked for the purpose by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Tom's birthday cake

No expense was spared in the matter of cake decoration.

Mrs Tootlepedal even arranged a ceremonial fly past by a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch


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