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Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows what the sunrise was like in East Wemyss today.

sunrise at Wemyss

It was a relief to wake up to bright sunshine after the wind and sleet that had been in evidence when we drove back to our hotel last night.  We had breakfast out with Tony and family this morning and although the hotel car park was still rather icy, the roads were clear.

The breakfast was excellent but even a good breakfast and some welcome sunshine couldn’t get my adventurous spirit up to a level where I thought that driving across to Glasgow for a concert and then driving down the motorway back to Langholm in the dark with heavy rain forecast was a fun way to spend the day.  As a result, in a sensible and cautious (pusillanimous?) way, I decided that the safest thing to do would be to drive straight back home while the sun was out and it was light enough to see where we were going,  giving the concert a miss.

This decision was helped by reports of many crashes in the icy conditions on the motorway overnight.  Not so many years ago, I would have thought of the whole thing as an enjoyable challenge but now I tend to look on the gloomy possibilities of life.

The drive home was bright but in places snowy….

sdr

…although the roads were generally clear enough.

We got home safely and found that the two loyal flowers in the garden were still blooming…

wallflowerwinter jasmine

…and settled down for some serious resting.

We really enjoyed out visit to Tony and East Wemyss in spite of worries about the weather and our brief taste of the walks there made us keen to pay another visit sooner rather than later, weather permitting.

No flying birds today as the light had gone before I could get the feeder filled and the birds discovered that seed was again available.

 

We got safely to Fife after our concert and had a good day with our son and his partner and their many dogs.

We had two windy walks along the shore and an excellent evening meal.

I append a random selection of phone pictures of the day.

There are well known caves at East Wemyss which we visited on our walk.

Our fingers remain crossed for our trip to Glasgow tomorrow as it has been snowing and icy today.

Fingers crossed

Today’s guest pictures shows an original use for an old pallet.  Our son Tony made the coat rack and sent me the picture.  We hope to see it in real life tomorrow.

clothes hanger

This is an early post as we have a full evening ahead of us with a concert in the Langholm Church involving Langholm Sings and the Church Choir so we are both in action.  Immediately after the concert, we are setting off north to visit our son Tony and sample the delights of East Wemyss.   On Sunday, we are going across to attend a performance of the Messiah in Glasgow led by the ex-conductor of our Carlisle Choir so all in all, it will be a busy weekend.  As the forecast for Saturday includes blizzards, freezing rain and heavy snow. all this may be weather dependant but we are hoping that the weather will be reasonable while we are travelling.

Fingers firmly crossed.

It was a cold and frosty morning here and as the temperature never got above 2°C all day, there was no thought of bicycling.

I spent the morning getting organised for concert and travel and only had a moment to glance out of the window.

blackbird below feeder

In spite of the frost, the ground was remarkably ice free though so I went for a walk after lunch.

To check that the car was in working order, I drove down to the Hollows and started my walk along the old A7.

old A7 Hollows

The wind  had dropped from yesterday and in the sunshine, walking was a pleasure.  I passed some of the greenest moss in the world…

very green moss

…before I got to the track through the woods along the Byreburn.  I had hoped that this might be a good day to see some hair ice (or frost beard as it is sometimes known) as this track is a place where the fungus Exidiopsis effusa has been busy in the past.

The temperature was just right for hair ice formation and there was any amount to be seen all along the path.

sdr

It occurs in dead branches…

hair ice (3)

…and is a constant wonder to me.

hair ice (2)

I lifted my eyes from the hair ice for long enough to notice that I was passing the Fairy Loup waterfall…

fairy loup (2)fairy loup

…and soon found myself at the bridge at the top of the track.

byreburn bridge

I took the road for my route back to the car, passing Gilnockie Hall…

Gilnockie hall

…and many sheep, intelligently grazing just beyond the long shadows cast by the low winter sun on the trees.

Gilnokcie field

A short diversion took me along the old railway track past the site of Gilnockie Station..

gilnockie station

…and I walked down through a field so that I could enjoy the golden light of the sun through an old railway bridge.

gilnockie railway brodge

When the foresters fell the spruce and larch woods, they leave the pines…

byreburn woods (2)

…and the deciduous trees…

byreburn woods

…so there is still plenty for the walker to enjoy.

The light had faded by the time that I got home and I settled down to a crossword and looking through my pictures.

There is no flying bird of the day today, just a small perching chaffinch.

sunny chaffinch

For those who are interested, Wikipedia has an article on hair ice here.

Today’s guest picture comes from Jenni, my Highland correspondent.  We have been having some good sunrises here and may be there is something in the air at the moment because she had a spectacular one too.

Highland Sunrise

It was another cold day with the thermometer hanging about the 5 degree mark at best but a nipping and an eager air made the wind chill factor a neat zero.

Under the circumstances, I was pleased to get out on my bicycle, if not early, then at least before I had sat down to waste time over coffee and a biscuit, my usual delaying tactic.

I took a simple out and back route to avoid any long effort cycling straight into the chilly wind though I did take a short diversion up to Cleuchfoot…

Cleuchfoot glen

…where I stopped to take a picture of a tiny valley that runs down to the road.  It looks as though it might lead somewhere exciting but in fact it only leads out onto a boggy and featureless moor.  Once I was back on the Lockerbie road, I was very pleased to see men and machines hard at work at the site of the recent landslip.

mending the Lockerbie road 2

No one had expected work to start so promptly.

I passed them and cycled on to the top of the hill at Callister where I was passed by half a dozen quarry lorries who were busy at the site of the new wind farm there.  There is no sign of the turbine towers yet so they are either improving the access road or building the bases.

I stopped at the road works on my way back and was very impressed by how well they have sorted the problem.

mending the Lockerbie road 1

I was curious about the black plastic pipes sunk into the surface of the works and one of the men told me that they are going to be holders for the new fence posts. He said that he thought that the repair was sound and would last well and as he turned out to be one of my ex-pupils, I have every confidence that he will be right.

On my return to Langholm, I cycled through the town and out of the other side and since the sun was now fully out, I stopped to record my favourite view up the Ewes valley….

Ewes Valley

…and the neighbouring farmhouse.

Terrona

I clocked up twenty miles and was quite happy to stop before I got chilled.

I had a quick look at the birds and was shocked to see a male chaffinch being beastly to a female…

cahffinch misogyny

…but pleased to see that our lone siskin was back again.

siskin

I made some soup for my lunch and while it was cooking, Mrs Tootlepedal headed off to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

Fuelled by the soup and a couple of tomato rolls, I went out for a walk.

I started off along the riverside path and then headed uphill through the Kernigal wood.  There has been a lot of wind blow lately and it was good to see that someone had been out with a saw and done some tidying up.

kernigal wood tidying

Perhaps this is because I was walking along the track you can see on the right of the picture below which is much used by local mountain bikers.

kernigal wood

It is very welcome for walkers as it provides a good path through a tangly bit of forest.

I came out at the top of the wood and walked back down the track towards Skippers Bridge.  I didn’t have my thinking head on when I chose my route and I was rather upset to realise that if I had been walking on the other side of the valley, I would have been enjoying a sunny day.

winter sunshine on whita

In fact when I looked around, I found that almost everywhere was bathed in sunlight except where I was walking.

winter sunshine on Castle Hill

When I got down to the main road, I found that winter had cleared enough foliage away to give me a view of the large bridge for a small stream which almost all motorists probably pass over without noticing as they leave the town for the south.

Culvert at Skippers

I didn’t dilly dally on my way home as it wasn’t getting any warmer but I did stop to check out the black smudge on the fence at Land’s End which turns out to be this very attractive lichen, still in excellent condition…

fungus on fence at lands end

…and to see if the fungus on the tree at the Co-op had survived the cold weather.  It had and was even bigger than when I saw it last…

fungus at Co-op

…and it too looked to be in good condition.

fungus gill

As I walked back along the river bank, a glimpse of brightness among the gloom on the far bank caught my eye.  It was an old friend disguised as a twig.

heron in shadows

Back in the garden, I found a little remaining colour on the leycestaria…

leycesteria

…but there was nothing else of note so I went inside and did the crossword.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had taken our car away and my friend and customary chauffeur Susan was on holiday in Glasgow, I had no way of getting to Carlisle and back for the monthly meeting of our recorder group.  They are kind people though and on the Mohammed and the mountain principle, since I could not get to them, they came out to me and we had a most enjoyable evening of music making.

We were just having our post-playing cup of tea and biscuit when Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely from Edinburgh and that rounded off a cold day very warmly.

I didn’t find a moment with both good light and a flying bird in it so that is the reason for a very scrappy flying bird of the day picture.

flying chffainch

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She encountered this impressive prancing beast at Covent Garden.  It is doing some serious strutting but as it seems to be standing in the sledge it is supposed to be pulling, it looks like a bit of a freeloader to me.

covent garden

It was cold, grey but dry today and I was happy to have a cup of coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two but after he left, I stiffened my sinews and summoned up my blood and actually got my bike out and went for a pedal.

There were hints of breaks in the clouds as you can see from this picture of this fine tree near Waterbeck…

tree between the waters

…but the sun remained stubbornly hidden behind a low bank of cloud to the west and I was glad that I had several layers on as a nipping wind blew across me or into my face for most of the thirty miles that I covered.

I stopped for a banana near Kirkpatrick Fleming and looked wistfully at hints of sunshine behind a phone mast…

phone mast KPF

…and with wonder at a tree beside the motorway which was positively dripping with catkins.

vatkins at KPF

I made a final stop with three miles to go to have a drink of water and a wall inspection.

It was a good wall with lots of moss…

irvine house moss

…and more moss with added lichen…

irvine house moss lichen

…and even more moss with added lichen and ferns….

irvine house moss lichen fern

…and there was lots of lichen too….

irvine house falt lichen

…of many different varieties.

irvine house cup lichen

I like walls.  When I was very young, there was a slogan that stated “Walls have ears” to discourage talk that might be useful to an enemy agent during the war.  After several years of close examination of walls, I can safely say that they may have many interesting things on them but I have never seen any ears.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been cooking some delicious biscuits while I was out pedalling, no weight loss has been involved in today’s activities.

The light wasn’t too bad when I got home and I half thought of adding a walk to the day’s entertainment but cycling in a chilly wind is tiring so I had a look at the birds….

peaceful goldfinches

…where once again goldfinches were ruling the roost…

angry goldfinches…and then I had a short walk round the garden where I noticed the last survivor of the sweet rocket still hanging on….

sweet rocket Dec 12

…and then I went back inside and had a warming bath instead of taking any more exercise.

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought a little bit of the garden inside and one of the geraniums that flowered well outside is now on the windowsill….

geranium indoor

…alongside an African violet, a present from a friend for our wedding anniversary in January, which has been flowering for several months.

indoor plant

In the evening, Luke came round and we played a Loeillet sonata.  We are going to take this sonata seriously and try to put the correct ornaments and playing style into place.  This will require me to do some learning for myself as I have always been a bit hit and miss when it come to trills, turns and mordents.

I spent some time in the evening watching political events unfold and I am very interested to see if the politicians who voted against Mrs May and lost will now take the advice which they have been freely offering to those on the losing side of the recent referendum and respect the fact that they lost the vote and shut up.   It would be a blessing.

I am not holding my breath.

The flying chaffinch of the day is very angry about the whole thing too.

angry flying chaffinch

 

A great meeting

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who found herself, with a crowd of other musicians, singing the European National Anthem very loudly outside the Houses of Parliament to indicate their support for free movement for  musicians after any Brexit.  This is niche protesting brought to a fine art.

20181210_121726_007_01

There were no protests here today and the temperature was comfortably above freezing at 4°C when I walked up to the health centre after an early breakfast to give a thimbleful of blood for testing.  This is to check my iron levels which were a bit low a few months ago.

In a way, I would be obscurely pleased if the levels were  still a bit low as it would give me a medical excuse for being frequently tired as opposed to a well founded suspicion that this might be down to a general dilapidation of mind and body on account of having had too many birthdays in the past.  Mind you, it might just be the onset of winter.

It was  grey day and when I got home the light meter on my camera told me that it wasn’t just grey, it was really grey so while Mrs Tootlepedal put in some time on her bike to nowhere, I did the crossword and occasionally looked out of the window, hoping that the temperature might rise a degree or two and that things  might brighten up.

In the gloom, I could pick out a dunnock scavenging for fallen seed..

_DSC9056

…and a party of greenfinches, peacefully munching away on the feeer.

_DSC9054

The peace didn’t last long….

_DSC9053

…as chaffinches and sparrows barged in.

_DSC9049

It is always fun to see the concentration needed for landing safely on a perch.

_DSC9050

I don’t know whether the gloomy weather makes it harder for birds to judge the landing but this chaffinch looks as though he is working hard.

_DSC9048

I was frustrated to find that although the temperature had gone up a degree or two before lunchtime, it had also started to rain in a morose but persistent way so I gave up thoughts of cycling or walking, had some soup and turned to music practice and preparation to fill my day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on some errands but when she got back, she thought the day was good enough to plant out the last of her tulips.  I went out to offer her some light supervision and was delighted to find that one of the perennial wallflowers still had a flower or two on show…

P1150928

…though it was so dark that I had to use my flash to capture it.

Our ever patient heron was on guard at the pond and I liked the pattern that the perennial nasturtium’s leaves made on the yew behind it.

P1150929

(I had an appalling panto thought: It’s a behind yew.)

Next to the greenhouse, the rosemary bush is in very perky form…

P1150933

…and one or two enterprising shoots have pushed through the ventilator into the greenhouse itself where they are putting out a few flowers.

P1150930

In the early evening, seven members of the Archive Group assembled in our front room for our AGM.  You may think that AGM stands for Annual General Meeting but I have been taking lesson from you know who and can tell you that AGM stands for A Great Meeting …and not just a great meeting but a really great meeting, a really, really great meeting….probably the best meeting in the world.

At any rate, we were happy with it as we have once again done a lot of work and met with appreciation for our efforts.

After our evening meal, I pulled myself together and spent a gentle half hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage and that rounded off a quiet but useful day.

The flying bird of the day can be seen pushing through the miserable drizzle.

_DSC9057

 

Cold comfort

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was out and about and saw skaters on the temporary ice rink at Somerset House.  It always looks a rather staid way of having fun to me.

Somerset house skating

We had a second sunny day today but the weather gods had another trick up their sleeve and kept the temperature between 0 and 2 degrees all day so when it came to cycling, the best that I could do was forty minutes on the bike to nowhere in the garage, a dull way to start the day.

Before I pedalled, I had a quick look round the garden to admire Jack Frost’s handiwork.

jack frost in garden

The blue pineapple is on the end of the vegetable garden railings and I think the the dangling flower head must be one of the last calendulas.

When I had finished the indoor pedal, Mrs Tootlepedal and I drove up to the bird hide at the Moorland Project feeders and while Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the car scanning the hillside for raptors, I sat in the hide watching smaller birds.  I got the best bargain I think because she saw one distant bird and I saw dozens.

There were some blue tits…

blue tit at laverock

..and great tits…

great tit at leaverock

…but there were more coal tits than the others put together.  I only saw this one siskin sharing the peanuts with the coal tits.

busy feeder at laverock

Two chaffinches made a charming tableau on the tree stump outside the hide…

two chaffinches at laverock

…and I was very happy to see a greater spotted woodpecker on the peanuts.

woodpecker at hide

When we got home, I made some lentil soup and looked out of the window from time to time.

A blackbird paused on the edge of the tray under the feeders for a peaceful portrait…

FEMALE BLACKBIRD

…while up above, it was all go for the sparrows with a goldfinch hoping to resist the invasion.

sparrows at feeder

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on a shopping mission and I went for a walk.

I went over the Town Bridge and checked on a pair of black headed gulls who were deep in conversation at the Meeting of the Waters..

two gulls

…passed Santa who is making ends meet by doing a little bus driving until the busy period comes round….

santa busman

…crossed the Sawmill Brig, my second bridge and walked up the track past the Estate offices.

There is a fine row of trees across a field which I think looks like a hedge that got away some time ago.

overgrown hedge

I wasn’t wearing very suitable footwear but I took a chance and set off along a muddy track towards the High Mill Brig.

There were many puddles but luckily, there was enough frost in the ground to make it firm enough for me to make progress and keep my feet dry.

pathead track

And there was plenty of interest along the way.  Looking down, I saw frozen moss and three sorts of lichen within a few feet of each other on a wall,,,,

moss and lichen on wall

…and looking up,  saw about a hundred birds flying overhead.  From their formation, I thought at first that they might be geese…

birds in fligth

…but a closer look makes me think they were gulls….but I am not certain.

possible ducks

At the end of the track, I came to one of the useful gates that the Langholm Walks group have organised for the convenience of walkers following their marked routes.

langholm walks gate

Following the track along the edge of the field, I came down to my third bridge of the day, the High Mill Brig…

high mill bridge

…so called because of the mill which stood nearby for many years.  The mill has gone now but the bridge carries the main road north out of the town and is still busy.

I crossed the bridge and followed the road back towards the town, crossing the Sawmill Brig again and then walking round the Castleholm and crossing the Jubilee Bridge, my fourth and last of the excursion.

There was more interest as I went along.

berry fence laurel and moss

The circular pattern in the top right frame, is the sawn top of a fence post covered with ice.  It was cold but as the day was very still, it was a pleasure to be out and about even if the sun had been overtaken by some low cloud.

On my way back through the New Town, I stopped off at Mike and Alison’s house to enquire about the state of Alison’s recently dislocated shoulder.  This was not entirely a disinterested call as she is my Friday night orchestra and I am hoping that she won’t be out of action too long as I miss the playing.  She was remarkably cheerful and made a cup of tea while I chatted to Mike.  As the tea came with a delicious ginger biscuit, it was doubly welcome.

Alison has tried a little piano playing which is good news.

I didn’t stay long as they told me that Mrs Tootlepedal had called in when she had finished shopping but had not stopped because she didn’t want me not to find her in when I came back from my walk and worry about where she was.

When I got back to the garden, I found evidence that her shopping trip had been successful.  She had bought our Christmas tree for the next four or five years.

CHRISTMAS TREE

My flute pupil Luke sent me a message to say that he couldn’t come for the usual session because of a meeting in Dumfries so I had time for a quiet sit before making the tea and going out to play trios with Mike and Isabel.

The playing would have gone better if I had brought the right bag with my flute, music stand and music in it instead of quite a different bag with none of these essentials.  However, Mike and Isabel played some Vivaldi duets while I went off and got the right bag and then we played Quantz, Mozart and Telemann trios so we were all happy.

The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull above the Ewes Water at the Kilngreen.

flying gull