Seriously deflated

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan. She found this charming table decoration when she went for a cup of coffee while shopping this morning.

According to the old saying, a red sky at night should be a shepherd’s delight, and our hopes for a bright day after yesterday’s good sunset were realised as we woke to the sun shining on the town. The shepherd might have wished for a slightly warmer day though, but it was very pleasant as I walked through to the High Street to do a little shopping after a late breakfast.

The sun never gets very high in the sky at this time of year so there were plenty of shadows about to remind us that it is winter now, even when the sun shines.

The wise old owl in Mary Street has seen a few years go by now.

Having done my High Street shopping, I had passed the owl on my way to the monthly market in the Buccleuch Centre where I purchased fairly local cheese, fresh fish and good sourdough bread. An iced pain au raisin might have been involved too.

When I got home, we had a rather late cup of coffee with our neighbour Margaret, and then I took a moment to look at the birds. Chaffinches and goldfinches were to the fore today.

Mrs Tootlepedal had slow cooked a ham hock in the Ninja Foodi yesterday and she used the stock to make some excellent broth which we enjoyed for our lunch today with slices of the sourdough bread.

Fortified by this nourishing meal, I decided to brave the cold and go for a cycle ride. It was 6°C with a light north wind and in spite of the sunshine, the temperature was dropping. After the successful test ride yesterday, I resolved to do a sporting 26 mile circuit on my electric bike, taking in some hills and good views in the sunshine. You can imagine my deep disappointment when I discovered that although my repaired rear tyre had survived the test ride, I now had a puncture in my front tyre. It seems as though there are thorns on every back road at the moment.

I put my e-bike away and got out my road bike and cycled rather boringly up the thornless main road to the north of the town for ten miles. And then I bicycled back again.

Before I left the garden, I noticed that airline pilots were trying to set up a game of noughts and crosses.

The Ewes valley was looking inviting when I started out . . .

. . . and as I pedalled up it, the hills were bathed in the low sunshine . . .

. .. on both sides of the valley.

The top of the valley looked quite dramatic.

I followed the road to the top of the hill as it squeezed through its narrow gap, and then paused for a look to see how the aerial noughts and crosses game was going. The pilots had made a complete mess of it.

It is only on days like today that we can see just how many aeroplanes are overflying us.

It was so sunny at Mosspaul . . .

. . . that I was almost tempted to go a little further. I am glad that I was sensible as the sun was quite low enough on my return journey . . .

. . . and was just sinking behind the Gates of Eden when I was nearing the end of my ride.

It was also pretty cold by this time, so I was glad to get home for a warming cup of tea. I did have a quick check round the garden before I went in. Special Grandma is not giving up without a struggle.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent some time on her spreadsheets, a rather thankless task that required reconciling two lists of over 300 names to see what had been missed out and what was to be added. However, we did it, and it was good to get the job done.

It was just as well that I got my cycle ride in today because when I looked at the forecast, it seems that we might be in a for a week of quite frosty nights and fairly chilly days from Monday on. I will have to get my walking boots out.

A second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie rounded off a satisfactory day.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

Inflated expectations

Today’s guest picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal. She cycled up to the tree nursery today and took a picture just to show that she had got there. The seedlings are in winter mode now.

We had a much better day of weather here today, with no clouds sitting on the town. It didn’t go so far as to be sunny, but conditions were good as I drove down to Longtown after breakfast with my electric bike folded up in the back of the car. I was taking the bike to the bike shop to get them to mend the puncture in the back tyre and give me a new inner tube if necessary.

While the mechanic was working, I took a walk along the river and down to the ponds. There is a bit more colour left in Longtown than we have in Langholm . . .

. . . and I was pleased to see Longtown’s answer to Mr Grumpy.

The ponds that I was heading for are remnants of old gravel works as far as I know. They are very peaceful now . . .

. . . and they are home to quite a few birds. I watched a swan, hoping that it would pose for a picture but it kept its head well down for a long time . . .

. . . until it finally relented.

I walked past this fine gorse bush . . .

. . . and down to the river in the hope of seeing some interesting birds. There were none to be seen though except a few mallards too far away for a photo.

I continued round the ponds . . .

. . . while most water birds flew away before I could get a good view of them. More swans and a lone duck were more co-operative, though they were quite far away.

Across the fields, I could see Arthuret Church looking much like a castle on the top of its mound.

I got back to the bike shop to find my bike ready to go. The mechanic had taken an enormous thorn out of the tyre and as there are still a lot of thorns about as hedges continue to be cut, he filled the new tube with slime for additional protection in the case of another puncture. As changing the tyre is beyond me, I will get a Tannus reinforced insert put into both tyres when the bike shop gets some in early next year.

I drove home and had lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal. Then we both went out on our electric bikes but in different directions. She rode up to the tree nursery at Cronksbank, and I took my repaired tyre round the Canonbie circuit to see how it felt with slime in it. I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t been told that it was there.

It still wasn’t very warm (about 7°C), but the very light wind and better visibility made it a good day for a cycle outing. Cows were clearly visible behind hedges . . .

. . . and trees were not hidden by the mist . . .

. . . and I could see the monument on Whita Hill from seven miles away.

I stopped at the pond at Tarcoon . . .

. . . in the hope of seeing the mallards there, but they were feeling shy and hid behind the reeds . . .

. . . so I photographed the reeds instead.

From the top of the hill above the pond, I could look over the Solway to the English hills on the far side. This is the first time that we have been able to see further than a few hundred yards for several days.

The Wauchope valley was clear of mist when I got to it . . .

. . . but the light was fading so I stopped to put my bike lights on.

It was dark enough when I got home a for a flash to be needed to record two plucky roses soldiering on in the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still not back so after a while, I stepped out to see if I could meet her coming home.

I was glad that I did so because it let me enjoy a lovely sunset . . .

. . . and I met her a little way down the road. She had done a bit of shopping and had had a meeting in the Langholm Initiative on her way home which accounted for her late arrival.

She made one of her delicious fish pies for our evening meal and we ate it after Zooming with my brother and sisters.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow. (I refilled the feeder after I took the photograph.)

Again and again

Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon. He has reached the Isle of Lewis on his Highland tour. This is the Dun Carloway Broch, probably constructed in 200 BC. It has walls so thick that a staircase goes up the middle of them.

December started as November finished, with a cold, grey and misty day. It was a little bit warmer than yesterday and Dropscone came round on his bicycle when he brought scones to have with our cups of coffee. Mrs Tootlepedal was still slaving over her spreadsheets.

When Dropscone left, I had a wander round the garden and was surprised to find a few hardy flowers hanging on.

My favourite was a fuchsia that had survived yesterday’s morning chill.

Then I filled the feeder and went inside to have a look out at the birds. There was a light rain falling by this time.

We had another visit from a blue tit.

Its beak is so small that it cannot eat a seed in one go so it has to grab one and take it off to nibble at it elsewhere. They don’t stay long on the feeder as a result and it is always a pleasure to find one there.

The feeder is like a little theatre, full of drama . . .

. . . and usually with some interested onlookers.

As it was almost windless again, I decided to go for a pedal in the afternoon. Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that it had started to rain again, but as the rain was very light, I thought that I would go regardless. It was about 5°C and I wasn’t too keen to find myself miles out in the country, soaking wet and cold, so I settled for using the three and a half mile stretch up to Wauchope Schoolhouse as an outdoor gym. My plan was to go up and down it as many times as I could before darkness fell. This turned out to be three times, so I went just further than I would have gone if I had pedalled round my familiar Canonbie route.

It was gloomier than than the camera makes it look . . .

. . . but I was well wrapped up and had my bike lights on, so I enjoyed the outing, especially when the rain stopped, which it did every now and again.

I didn’t have an opportunity to shoot any sitting ducks today but I did get my cows in a row.

There were quite a lot of quarry lorries going up and down the road today, so standing in the road to take pictures was not a very good i. These two were the only ones that I took.

When I got in, I had a cup of tea with the last of the unsatisfactory gingerbread, got dry, and then mailed out the Langholm Initiative Newsletter.

We are getting the hang of the air fryer, and we had some well cooked chicken from it for our evening meal garnished with potatoes ‘baked’ in the microwave. The microwaved baked potatoes were very good, though you don’t get the same toasted skin on them that you would get from the oven cooked ones.

In the evening, we watched a very good programme on electric cars. It included the presenter driving an electric car which it was claimed had been driven by Thomas Edison himself more than 100 years ago. The programme ended with an prototype electric car covered in ingenious solar tiles which the inventor claimed could be driven for 10,000 miles in a year without needing external charging. He did add that you would have to live in Spain for that though. Here you would be lucky to get two miles. As it costs 250,000 euros, we are not going to get one.

Once again, I have turned to Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday flowers to brighten up a dull post.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow threatening a soggy goldfinch.

More mist

Today’s guest picture come from my sister Mary. Finding that she had a vacant day in her diary yesterday, she took the train to Peterborough and visited the cathedral there.

We had another misty day here much like yesterday, with the difference that it was a degree or two colder. It was below freezing when we got up and according to our local weather station, it is warmer now as I write this in the evening than it has been all day. Since it is only 2°C now, that shows that it was never likely to be mistaken for a summer day.

On the plus side, it was dry and almost windless again, and there was no ice about to make walking a dangerous business for the elderly.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent a good deal of the day working on various spreadsheets so she wasn’t tempted to go outside but Margaret braved the chill to come round for coffee. After she had gone, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the computer and I turned to cooking to pass the time in the comfort of the great indoors.

I made cauliflower soup very successfully and then tried making a gingerbread cake in the air fryer. This was an experiment which was a learning experience for me, and the result was overbaked and under risen. Still, practice makes perfect so I will try again. It wasn’t a great hardship to dispose of the uneven results of the experiment when spread with a little butter.

From time to time, I watched the birds.

There was quite a lot of active coming and going . . .

. . . and some good posing too.

The blackbird gave some collapsed nasturtiums an old fashioned look . . .

. . . and a goldfinch was ready to spring into life the moment an empty perch appeared.

I had hoped to end the month with another twenty mile cycle ride in the mist, but it stayed too cold for me. I don’t like riding at under 4°C in case I find an icy patch round a blind corner or breathe in more freezing air than is good for my chest. Even if the roads are in fact quite safe, the worry that that they might not be spoils the enjoyment of an outing.

There was no option but to go for a walk. I had heard that expert men with power saws and big machines had finally cleared the fallen trees from the walk along the river from the park. Since we are now able to go along it for the first time for a year, I gave it a go today.

It looked much like it used to at the start but the repairs soon came into view, and I had to pick my way carefully along the path at times.

They have done a brilliant job in tricky conditions.

I came out on to the Murtholm track . . .

. . . and when I got to the far end, I could see some of the piles of logs which showed how much work had been needed to complete the task.

The clouds were lying very low on the hills as you can see, but I still hoped that I might be able to walk home by way of the trig point on the top of Warbla. However, when I got up the hill a bit, good sense took over and instead of wandering onto the trackless open hill in poor visibility, I stuck to the track up to the Kernigal wood.

The going under foot was very good so I was quite surprised to see mini icicles on the plants beside the track.

As the track climbed, the visibility got worse and I was glad not to be out on the hill.

The wood was gloomy but at least I knew where I was going.

Perhaps one day the men with saws will come and clear the last two trees obstructing this track too . . .

. . . but in the meantime, it is possible to go round them by a little diversion up to the fence.

I got to the end of the wood, took the Warbla track a little way up the hill and then walked carefully down the grassy bank to the Auld Stane Brig. There was a lot of light ice coating on trees and grasses . . .

. . . a bejewelled spider’s web . . .

. . . and a curious sheep . . .

. . . but there were no views at all, just mistified trees.

I had had ambitions for a longer walk but it was getting gloomier by the minute so I took the direct route home by road, and by the time that I got down to Pool Corner it was almost dark.

After my cooking adventures in the morning, I was in need of more butter so I finished my stroll with a visit to the shop on the High Street, taking in the Christmas lights as I went along in an effort to add a little colour to another grey post..

A bit of experimental gingerbread and a cup of tea warmed me up when I got in, and after the regular Zoom with my brother and sisters, I took Mrs Tootlepedal’s place at the computer and produced the Langholm Initiative newsletter. As Mrs Tootlepedal’s spreadsheet work meant that there were new subscribers to be added to the mailing list, it won’t be sent out until tomorrow.

It looks as though December is going to start where November left off with dry, cold, windless and gloomy conditions, but as it says that it will be keeping above freezing, I may be able to sneak a bike ride in here and there.

The flying bird of the day is a passing goldfinch turning heads as it goes.

Not the foggiest

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia. She saw this Victorian typewriter in a museum of brands in London and thought that it looked interesting. I agree.

We woke up to a very misty and chilly morning with the temperature just above freezing. Both the mist and the temperature lifted during the day, but only a little and Margaret was rightly complaining about the cold when she came round for coffee.

I had filled the feeder and after coffee, I saw that the birds were grateful for the seed.

There were quite a lot of greenfinches about.

I thought about a cycle ride as the mist had lifted a little, but when I looked at it, the thermometer was showing a meagre three degrees and that was too cold for me. I stayed inside and looked at the birds again instead.

I saw two dunnocks . . .

. . . a blue tit . . .

. . . and a sparrow with its brakes on and its landing gear in place.

Then I had a hunt round the garden for some flowers and found that quite a lot had survived the cold night.

The two little patio roses are still going great guns.

Then, for the first time since our corner shop closed, I walked to a shop to buy milk. In fact it is probably very little further to the Londis store in the High Street than it was to John’s, but as this shop is on the other side of the river, it feels like a major outing rather than a quick pop round the corner. Still, I had gone for milk and they had milk, so everything was very satisfactory.

When I got home, I had an early lunch and then looked at the thermometer again. It had reached a heady 4°C by this time. As there was virtually no wind, I thought that a cycle ride was in order. It was still very gloomy so I put my bike lights on before I left.

Hollows Tower loomed up through the mirk as I passed it . . .

. . . but the mist didn’t threaten to turn to fog which makes cycling dangerous, so I pressed on (gently).

At the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass, I climbed out of the Esk Valley, heading up into an uncertain world . . .

. . . with no surrounding countryside views beyond the hedgerows. . .

. . . and only some very faint trees for company.

I did see some ducks swimming in the pond at Tarcoon . . .

. . . and I could just make out a pair of Belted Galloways blending into the background at Ryehills.

The mist got thicker as I approached the highest point in my ride, and the water tank there took on the form of a submarine rising from a grassy ocean.

At the summit, things got even gloomier . . .

. . . and I was a bit worried that the Wauchope valley might be full of mist. My fears were groundless though, and as I dropped down onto the Wauchope road, the clouds lifted and I could even see the hills. I didn’t stop to record this happy fact, as my gloved hands were quite cold by this time and the lure of a hot cup of tea drove me on.

In spite of the limited views, I enjoyed my ride. The 1 mph wind might have had something to do with that.

After a cup of tea and a shower, I did some work on the delayed Langholm Initiative newsletter. It should come out tomorrow, all being well.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some salmon, which came with chips from the airfryer and broccoli from the microwave, for our evening meal. After that, almost by accident, we watched the England v Wales football match. The first half was so dull that I went off to write this post at half time and England promptly scored two goals.

As far as I can see, tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today, so you may well get some more misty pictures. To compensate for the general drabness of the weather, I took two pictures of Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday flowers to brighten up this post.

The flying bird of the day is not a great picture but as it is a flying dunnock, a very rare thing for me to capture, I have used it anyway.

Zooming about

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She was rather taken by the Dior decorations on the front of Harrods as she passed by the famous shop on her way to an exhibition today. I suppose that they do sum up the modern spirit of Christmas rather well.

The change to cooler weather arrived on cue today, but it was still three degrees above freezing when we got up, and as the sun stayed out all day, it was a very acceptable day for late November.

My active day started with a phone call from fellow archive group member Nancy to say that the microfiche reader in our base had broken down for some inexplicable reason. I walked across town to see if I could be of any assistance but unsurprisingly I couldn’t sort the machine out. When I got home, I looked on the internet to see if there was any guidance to be found. I couldn’t find any but I did find a reconditioned microfiche reader at a very reasonable price and a quick phone call ensured that it should be with us by the end of the week. Sometimes the internet is just as wonderful as its inventors hoped that it would be.

I had got home in time to make a pot of coffee for Sandy who came down to join Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a catch up on all the news while we had been away.

After coffee, I did a little work on the computer for a project of Mrs Tootlepedal’s, and then I put on my warmest cycling gear and went off for a pedal. It was a heady 6°C.

I was in a slightly confused mood, keen to go for a bike ride but not at all keen to go anywhere in particular so I pedalled up to Cleuchfoot while I was waiting for my mind to come up with a route suggestion. It was a lovely day . . .

. . . so I decided to broaden my horizon a bit and go up Callister. This was the view looking back down behind me.

Once I got to the top of the hill, it seemed sensible to go down the other side and see what happened. I still was swithering so I took a two miles loop round Crowdieknowe while my plan developed. In many years of cycling around this area, I had never cycled along this particular road in this particular direction before . . .

. . . so it was a treat.

I got two surprises along the way, a turbine apparently blessed with more blades than is usual . . .

. . . and a view of the small graveyard . . .

. . . which is the subject of one of Hugh MacDiarmid’s more accessible poems.

Oh to be at Crowdieknowe
When the last trumpet blaws,
An see the deid come loupin owre
The auld grey wa’s

Muckle men wi tousled beards,
I grat at as a bairn
 ‘ll scramble frae the croodit clay
Wi feck o swearin.

An glower at God an a’ his gang
O angels i the lift
Thae trashy bleezin French-like folk
Wha gar’d them shift.

Fain the weemun-folk’ll seek
To mak them haud their row
Fegs, God’s no blate gin he stirs up
The men o Crowdieknowe!

I took a closer look at that turbine and found that it was two towers neatly aligned . . .

. . . and I took a closer look at the graveyard too.

In spite of MacDiarmid’s view of those beneath the ground, it seemed wonderfully peaceful today.

Having done my loop, my mind was finally made up and I pedalled on through Gair to Chapelknowe and then back home by way of Glenzier and the A7. As I came up the hill past the old school at Glenzier, a figure dressed all in black waved me down. I thought twice about stopping but then I recognised the familiar figure of Scott, our ex minister, dressed in his working clothes. I pulled in to greet him and found that he had been conducting a funeral. A large flock of starlings took off and flew over our heads as we chatted.

The temperature was dropping steadily by this time, so we didn’t talk for too long and I was soon on my way home. It was still a sunny day as I looked over towards Whita Hill . . .

. . . but I hadn’t pedalled at any great speed and the sun was dropping very low in the sky by this time and here wasn’t much warmth to be had from it.

In the end, I covered thirty one miles at a modest pace. My legs don’t go round so freely in the cold.

I took a look at the birds when I got in and found a chaffinch and a goldfinch looking one way . . .

. . . and a sparrow and a goldfinch looking the other way.

Life is never dull at the feeder.

I had filled the feeder before coffee and, as you can see, the seeds had almost all gone by this time. A sparrow lurked on a willow branch hoping to get a look in.

The evening was taken up by two Zooms, the first with our son Alistair and his recorder playing daughter Matilda, and the second with two of my sisters and my brother.

The cold weather is set to continue for several days but without any sunshine if the forecast is to be believed. Ah well, it is less than a month to the shortest day.

The flying bird of the day is that lurking sparrow launching a bid for glory.

Singing and sunshine

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. At first glance, you may think that you can see many Santas in this festive shop display, but a closer examination will show multiple self portraits of the clever photographer.

We had a much better day here today as far as the weather went. Although there were a couple of short showers, we were fortunately busy singing inside both times, and the rest of the day was dry and occasionally sunny.

We cycled to church to sing in the church choir and it was lucky that I had put a cloth in my saddlebag as we needed to dry our saddles before we cycled home again. The service was rather long and our organist, out of pity for the long suffering congregation, sensibly cut four verses from the final hymn. For this relief, much thanks.

We had coffee when we got home, and I took took a moment to record some of the lovely floral tributes which Mrs Tootlepedal had received on her birthday.

Then, feeling a bit guilty, I popped out into the garden to see if we still had some flowers of our own to show.

I had a look to the future too.

I had filled the feeder, and unlike yesterday, there was both a good supply of birds and sufficient light for the camera to be able to see them.

We had several siskins, chaffinches, and sparrows to make a change from the usual diet of greenfinches and goldfinches.

Before lunch, I made an effort to make the car look a bit less neglected. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I had cleaned it, as that would entail it being clean when I had finished, but I could say that I had ‘cleanerered’ it as at least it was cleaner when I was done than when I started.

After lunch, there was time for a quick three bridges walk before we went off to Carlisle. I was hoping to see interesting waterside birds but only saw some old friends. This was our resident lesser black backed gull standing up very straight . . .

. . . and this was Mr Grumpy still feeling his age.

There was a small flock of blacked headed gulls beside the water at the Kilngreen . . .

. . . and they obligingly took to the air and flew past me in all directions for a while.

The sun came out as I walked up towards the Sawmill Brig . . .

. . . and stayed out as I walked round the bottom of the Castleholm . . .

. . . and past a tree gripping the top of a banking with a mossy claw.

I stopped at the Jubilee Bridge to look down at a wild flower with an additional insect . . .

. . . and to do a bit of staring up into the sky.

A second look at the rotten centre of the large branch which recently fell right across the path round the Scholars’ Field . . .

. . . did make me wonder how many of the other large branches that I was walking under were in the same condition.

I quickened my pace slightly, and then slowed down again, realising that it is just as useful to be late for a falling branch as to be early.

I rounded my photographic walk off with a picture of moss creeping along the old Primary School playground wall.

Our trip to the Carlisle Community Choir went smoothly and we had a good practice for our concert in two weeks time. Our conductor won my heart when she decided that our programme was probably too long and chose to discard the song that I like the least and sing worst. At the end of our drive home, we got a warm welcome from the Langholm Christmas lights which were switched on yesterday.

It looks as though our spell of rather warm weather for the time of year is going to come to an end next week and we may see some frosty nights. I hope that we don’t get icy roads as I am hoping to get a couple of bike rides in before the end of the month.

The flying bird(s) of the day are a pair of the Kilngreen gulls doing some formation flying.

A special day

Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon. He is on holiday in the Highlands and sent me this bridge to add to my collection. It is the Jubilee Bridge crossing the marsh on the way to to Port Appin in Argyllshire.

It was raining overnight here and it was raining when we woke up. It was still raining when our neighbours Liz, Ken and Margaret came round for a celebratory morning coffee on the occasion of Mrs Tootlepedal’s eightieth birthday. Although we had been to London as part of her birthday celebrations, it wasn’t until we had got home that the actual day arrived today.

The birds had obviously been missing the feeder while we had been away because they were back in force this morning and the feeder was soon nearly empty. There were lots of birds but very little light to help me take their pictures.

Anything moving created a problem.

I went out and refilled the feeder before coffee but by lunch time, it was well down again, with the perches filled and more birds waiting in the wings.

Talking of wings, some birds just weren’t co-operative at all.

But there were usually plenty around.

Over lunch, we arranged an early evening outing and this left me time for a quick walk. It was raining quite heavily when I set out, but luckily for me it soon eased off and I had a remarkably pleasant walk for what had been a very damp day.

Young beech trees retain their leaves when old ones have shed theirs so there is often a bit of colour left beside a path.

The path itself was suffering from an identity crisis in places. Was it a stream, a pond or a track?

Oddly enough, in spite of the rain and the puddles, the real streams are still running very low and I didn’t need much of a leap to get across Jenny Noble’s Gill when I came to it.

The very dry spring and summer must mean that the ground is still soaking up the current rainfall. Indeed, although the path was wet, the mud was never very deep and I got along it pretty well, although I had to withstand a stiff challenge from a sheep at Broomholmshiels.

On my way out of the wood, I checked to see if the striking black fungus was still growing on a fallen tree . . .

. . . and decided that it was not a day for landscape photography.

There was a glimmer of brightness to the south though . . .

. . . which gave me hope that it might not be raining in Carlisle when we got there for our outing later on.

The peltigera lichen on the Broomholm wall was over, but other lichens were available . . .

. . . and it is always awash with moss.

I took a picture of Skippers Bridge to show how calm the river is . . .

. . . before scuttling home to be ready for the outing, pausing only to collect some more lichen and fungi pictures on the way.

It did stop raining by the time that we got to Carlisle and we were able to stroll along from the free public car park to the cinema where we were going to watch the film of Matilda The Musical as the final part of Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday treat.

We quite enjoyed the film which was very well acted, but found it a bit boring at times with an uneven tone. All the same, the seats were very comfortable and it was a night out which has been a pretty rare thing for us over the past couple of years until very recently, so we drove home cheerfully.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

Footnote: My e-bike has got a puncture which is very annoying. I blame the hedge cutters. I will have to take it to Longtown next week to get the puncture repaired because taking off the back wheel which carries the motor is beyond me.

Flattery will get you nowhere

Today’s guest picture comes from South Africa. Langholm exile Tom sent me this picture of South Africa’s answer to heather on the hill. He tells me that it is gum-bush or gombossie, properly known as pteronia paniculata.

After the excitements of the city visit, life fell into its proper pattern today when Dropscone arrived for coffee bringing with him treacle scones (as it was Friday). He was in cheerful mood because he had been at the Langholm Golf Club’s annual prize giving recently where he had been presented with a trophy for winning one of the competitions. This was the second year running when he had been among the prizes. He felt that it nearly made up for the many competitions that he had entered without similar success.

When he left, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to have a lunch with her ex work colleagues to celebrate her forthcoming birthday, and I made some lentil soup and then walked across town to the Health Centre.

It was a fine day . . .

. . . which ever way you looked from the suspension bridge.

My visit to the Health Centre was for a check up after a blood test and the results were very satisfactory. The medical diagnosis was that any tiredness that I had been feeling may well have been down to my recent birthday (and the eighty preceding ones). I walked home with a bounce in my step.

I took the long way home across the town bridge (the view was good there too) . . .

. . . so that I could walk past the now closed corner shop to see if any progress had made in turning it into a butcher’s shop. Nothing had happened. It was sad to walk past the padlocked door.

I had a plate of my soup for lunch and then decided that there was time, if I went on my electric bike, for a cycle ride round Canonbie before dusk fell. This plan was scuppered when I found that the back tyre on my e-bike was very flat indeed. I pumped the tyre up but I didn’t want to risk going out on it in case it was punctured and deflated again. I have cycled through a lot of thorny hedge trimmings recently. As a result, I got my road bike out and as time was now short, I settled for a short ride up to Callister and back.

It was quite windy once I got out of town and I made slow progress up the road. The sun was low too and it was hard to see where I was going at times.

When I could see them clearly, the turbines showed that I was heading straight into the wind.

Another view from the same spot, looking back towards the town with the sun behind me, was much better.

I added a couple of miles to my trip by cycling up the Cleuchfoot valley and back on my way to Callister. This was very pleasant . . .

. . . but the best bit was whizzing back down the hill with the strong wind now behind me. The first 7 miles had taken me 47 minutes, but I did the five miles home in 17 minutes.

It gets dark early at this time of year in Langholm, and by the time that I got home, there wasn’t enough light left to let me look clearly at the few birds that there were on the feeder . . .

. . . so I took my camera out into the garden and looked at two collared doves in the walnut tree . . .

. . . and a very high flying big bird overhead.

A quick look round for flowers netted a late poppy . . .

. . . and showed that the winter heathers are making a promising start to their life in the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been out at her stitching group while I was pedalling, and when she returned, we got into the car and drove down to the bike shop in Longtown. Here we purchased a smart basket to fit on the back of her electric bike as a birthday present for her.

On our way home, we called in at the Co-op and tried to purchase enough food to last for a few days as ‘popping round to the corner shop’ is no longer an option.

The day ended with our regular Zoom with my brother and sisters.

The flying bird of the day is a rather vague raptor, probably a buzzard, which flew over the garden while I was looking at aeroplanes.

Home again

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce. He has noticed a subtle change in our post vans over the last month.

After an early (by our standards) breakfast, we waved goodbye to our daughter and granddaughter, caught the tube from Stockwell to Euston, found our comfortable seats on the train to Carlisle, and proceeded northwards on time and at a reasonable speed. It was raining heavily as we sped through the English countryside but it stopped before we came to Carlisle. The bus from Carlisle to Langholm was on time, and there was enough time before it left to allow us to have coffee and a snack before catching it. If only all life could run as smoothly as this day did, the world would be a better place.

We caught the bus beside the Citadel in the centre of Carlisle . . .

. . . and it ran under a rainbow as it went up the road . . .

. . . to Langholm, and when we got there, we found that Langholm hadn’t changed noticeably while we had been away.

There was just enough light left for a quick look round the garden before we settled down inside.

There were quite a few nasturtiums left . . .

. . . a single flower on the Special Grandma Rose

. . . a couple of fuchsia flowers were still hanging about . . .

. . . and the patio rose doesn’t know that it’s November at all.

Although we had a wonderful time in the south, visiting theatres and relatives, enjoying the company of our daughter and granddaughter, and seeing the sights of the city, there is no doubt that coming home is a great part of the pleasure of going away.

No time for a flying bird today, but instead I will put the last of our apples. I had left them on the tree for the birds to enjoy while we were away. As they hadn’t pecked them, I picked them.