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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.

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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..

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

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The peace didn’t last long….

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…as chaffinches and sparrows barged in.

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

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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.

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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…

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…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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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

 

A fine day

Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony in Fife.  On one of his recent outings he met these charming alpacas.

ALPACAS

Those weather gods certainly know how to get a good laugh.  After several grey and miserable days, they waited until we were bound to spend a whole day indoors regardless of the weather and then they turned on the lights.

There was not a cloud in the sky when we came out of church to see kayaks bobbing up and down on the Esk.

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We had a short time at home, enough for a coffee, a sandwich and a glance at the birds, (who were enjoying the sun)…

sitting chaffinch

distant flying chffinch

…and then it was time to drive to Carlisle for a final practice before the Carlisle Community Choir Christmas Concert in St Cuthbert’s Church, a seasonal must for lovers of good music and alliteration.

Outside the church….

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…a large crowd had gathered.

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We had a very good attendance inside the church for the concert and thanks to the slightly more relaxed attitude of our new conductor, I enjoyed the singing more than I usually do.   I view practices as times where there is a chance of getting things right and a concert as a time where it is all too easy to get things wrong so I find practices enjoyable and concerts slightly stressful. However, since the audience members whom we met over  refreshments after the concert told us that the choir had sounded really good, we had to be pleased with our performance today.

The slow cooker had been patiently cooking a pasta sauce while we were out singing so we had a warm welcome when we got home, even though the car thermometer was registering 0° C.

I rang my sister Susan to ask after her health and she reported that she was feeling much better.  She told me that her arm was much less painful and this was another factor that led to today being entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life in spite of the weather gods’ cruel joke.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch as I didn’t have time to wait around for something more interesting to come along.

close flyinh chaffinch

Today’s guest picture comes from my Canadian correspondent Mary Jo.  She was on a long drive when she took this picture near McLean, Saskatchewan.They have had several foggy days with no wind, and the resultant hoar frost is spectacular.

canadian hoar frost

There was no frost here today but it was still pretty cool and with a brisk wind blowing, it took me a little time to get up the energy to put on my cycling gear and go for a pedal.

As it was, I battled into a 20 mph plus wind up to the top of Callister Hill and then it started to rain so I turned round and came home.  Still, I managed 12 miles in  almost exactly an hour of cycling so it was slow and short but still better than nothing.

I found Mike and Alison in the kitchen chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal when I got back.  Alison has had a recent fall and dislocated her shoulder so there won’t be any Friday evening sonatas for a while.  Under the circumstances, she was remarkably cheerful.

Not long after Mike and Alison left, Mrs Tootlepedal went off too.  She was going to enjoy  a Christmas lunch with her embroidery group at a local hotel.  I set up my camera on a tripod and watched the birds for a bit.  Traffic was slow and the light was poor but there is always something to enjoy.

I liked the sight of the chaffinch on the right looking out for incoming goldfinches.  As it is the panto season, I thought that I could hear a faint cry of “It’s behind you!”

chaffinch on the lookout

It was a day of goldfinches and chaffinches again for the most part…

chaffinches to and fro

…but I did spot a robin…

robin on chimney

…and we got a visit from a redpoll too.

redpoll and goldfinch

I was intending to go for an afternoon walk just to take a picture or two but the light was terrible and drizzly rain put me off so I just lounged around watching a combination of Call Me Madam with Ethel Merman and some rather dull English rugby on the telly.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from her lunch, well fed and well pleased with the company and shortly afterwards, Mike arrived with an old electric fire of his which he is lending us to fill the gap left by gas fire which we have recently had removed.  There is a bewildering number of possibilities in the electric fire market so this will give us leisure to research the possibilities and keep warm at the same time.

Falling seems to be the fashionable thing at the moment as I learned that my sister Susan fell this morning and has broken a bone in her arm.  When I rang her up, she was remarkably up beat too but very, very cross.  I can sympathise with that.

Tomorrow, we have a church service in the morning followed bu a choir practice and then a practice followed by a concert in Carlisle in the afternoon.  An early bed is called for I think.

The flying bird of the day is chaffinch of no great distinction.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s archives.  For some reason he came upon the picture from 2004 of certain young(ish) golfers enjoying a break in Majorca to get away from Langholm’s winter weather.  It snowed and I still have the umbrella that I had to buy while we were there.

majorca 2004

I don’t know what the morning was like because I made the mistake of lying down for a moment after breakfast and the next thing that I knew, it was lunch time.

Generally speaking the weather forecast had promised severe gales and rainstorms for Scotland and good weather for the north of England so for once, we were very pleased to considered English and we enjoyed a reasonably dry and warm day, though it was bit windy.

The light was very variable but I could see enough to recognise a great tit on the feeder…

great tit on feeder pole

…watch chaffinches fly in all directions…

chaffinches coming and going

…enjoy a blue tit visit….

blue tit on feeder pole

…and check out the differing styles of a greenfinch and a goldfinch.

greenfinch and goldfinch

The goldfinches gradually took over the feeder over lunch and had to compete among themselves for a place at the table.

goldfinch creeping up

As time went by there was a tiny glimpse of sunshine…

a snatch of sun on the plum tree

…and encouraged by this, I went for a walk in the afternoon.

There are still plenty of  rosebay willowherb seed heads about…

willowherb seeds

…and a lightening of the sky to the west behind this tree on the Becks track made me hopeful for a while…

becks tarck tree

…but things soon reverted to grey.

I had gone along the track in the hope that the forestry works in the Becks wood would have finished and I would be able to use the path down to the bridge across the burn.

When I got to the wood, everything was very neatly tidied up and the machines had disappeared.  I was able to walk through the felled wood upstream of the bridge and see the burn as it hasn’t been seen for many years…

 

becks burn bridge

…with new trees planted on all sides.

I could look down on the little cascade which I have photographed before…

becks burn cascade from above

…and because the trees have gone, there was enough light to let me take a reasonable picture from below the waterfall.

becks burn cascade

Luckily I had my wellies on so that I could stand on the middle of the burn to get the best angle.

I went back to the path and found that it was easy to cross the bridge, walk up the steps on the other side and look downstream towards the Wauchope valley.

 

 

Becks burn above cascade

I followed the road downhill, admiring the fine growth of catkins on every side.  It has been a good month for catkins.

catkins

There is no sign of autumn left now ….

auld stane brig

…but with only two weeks to go until the winter solstice, we are nearly on the way up towards the light again.

Another tree beside the road back to the town caught me eye…

springhill tree

…and as always, moss and lichen provided a bit of interest on a dull day.

moss and lichen

I didn’t have a great deal of time to sit around and think when I got home because it was soon time for an early tea and my second visit to Lockerbie in two days.  On this occasion, I picked up my fellow choir member Mike and we went over to sing in a Langholm Sings concert in the Episcopalian Church there.

It is a snug little church and it was very nearly full for our performance which was very gratifying.  The members of the audience were kind enough to say that they enjoyed the evening but no one could say that we were faultless and we are going to have another practice next week before we have a joint concert with the Parish Church choir in Langholm next Friday.  Practice makes perfect, we hope.

It was windy as we drove home but the threatened rain held off so the evening went as well as we could have expected.

The flying bird of the day, checking out a freshly filled feeder, is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

A bow and a bow

Today’s guest picture, the very last from Bruce’s Highland tour shows the photographer and his wife casting long shadows beside the Crinan Canal near Lochgilphead.

Lochgilphead

It was a miserable cold and wet morning about which the less said the better.

Some winter visitors appeared in the shape of a siskin…

december siskin

…and a brambling.

december brambling

Having ignored the morning, we set off for Lockerbie after lunch to catch the train  to Edinburgh and we were very pleased to find the the rain had eased off.  By the time that we got to Edinburgh, the day was dry although the light has already gone by the time we get to Matilda’s house at this time of year..

We had a lot of fun of fun.  Matilda spent a good deal of time shooting me with a bow and arrow and to be fair, I spent some time shooting her too.  She is a better shot than me.  We were well armoured with cushions to avoid any lasting injury.

After the bow and arrow session, Matilda obliged with a short ballet demonstration in front of the splendid Christmas tree which has appeared in her sitting room.

mde

The performance ended with an elegant bow and then we had a nourishing meal of soup and a two bean, pepper and chipotle sauce stew cooked by Matilda’s dad.

Once again a visit to Matilda provided us with first rate entertainment and a quality meal.  Who could ask for anything more?  Trains that run on time perhaps but that may be asking too much.

No flying bird today as it was too gloomy so two sitting chaffinches are standing in.

two chaffinches side by side

We might see a drop of golden sun tomorrow.

Today’s guest picture is another from our friend Bruce’s Highland tour.  It shows McCaig’s Tower in Oban, a prominent granite folly overlooking the town.

oban folly

It was a rotten day here, rainy, cold and with gusty winds.  It was hard to see the birds at the feeder…

coal tit with seed

…but much easier to see Dropscone coming round with scones in his hand.  He is going to Glasgow for a week’s holiday at the weekend so I was glad that he was able to fit a little coffee drinking in before he went.  We were drinking some of the ‘awful lot of coffee’ from Brazil today  and it went well with the scones.

Dropscone left but the rain kept coming….

chaffinches

…and I stayed indoors and made some sweet potato soup for lunch and did the crossword.

The rain eased off a little after lunch so I put on my wellies and a big woolly hat, picked up my golfing brolly and went for a damp walk over three bridges.

There was very little to see but against the general greyness, a gull stood out…

sitting gull

…and a bare tree too.

bare tree

Although it was only a degree or two warmer than yesterday and it was drizzling, somehow walking was more pleasant so I extended my planned walk and went along the road to the pheasant hatchery…

pheasant hatchery road

…before walking back along the riverside path, looking across the field to the misty slopes of Castle Hill.

misty trees castleholm

One advantage of winter is that bridges are more visible once the leaves are off the trees.

Duchess Bridge

I was quite ready for a warming cup of tea and a slice of toast when I got home.

Since outdoor activity was off the menu now, I made use of my time by putting a parish magazine from 1967 onto the Archive website.  Sandy is scanning and formatting these and I add them to our collection.  (Those with time to kill can wander through them here.)

Then I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It was not an entirely wasted day.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a nourishing pasta dish for our tea and then I went to the final rehearsal of Langholm Sings before our concert in Lockerbie on Friday.  We sang through the whole programme which was reassuring but it might be a slight exaggeration to say that we were note perfect.  Fingers crossed for the concert.

Flying birds of the day were very hard to come by in the rain and gloom so this goldfinch was the best that I could manage.

flying goldfinch