Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Haarlem. It shows a very elegant brewery sign. He remarks that there were over 100 breweries in Haarlem.
The Met Office had been full of gloomy warnings of frost and icy roads for this morning but once again, they were too pessimistic and we had the merest breath of frost which soon disappeared and we were left with a very reasonable day, although there was a persistent and chilly wind to remind us that we are still in February.
After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to record the readings of the newspaper for the blind. This was a rather sad occasion as our friend Arthur Bell, who has organised and funded the process for many years, had died during the week so the reading started off with a little eulogy for Arthur.
No sooner had she got back than she left again. This time she was off to Edinburgh for her weekly visit to Matilda, the WGSP. I was left to watch the builders and joiners at work. They did well.
The outside wall has had its first coating.
Inside, a new window has been fitted and the frame for the inner skin is up.
The building of the hearth and chimney are the next big tasks.
The comings and goings of the men put paid to much early bird watching so I went round the garden searching for signs of spring. There were some.
We are very excited about the daffodil’s chances of coming out before March. (It has one day left.)
It’s bright yellow was echoed by a siskin catching a rare ray of sunshine on the plum tree.
There are a fine selection of potential crocuses to be seen.
And promising buds too.
I picked up a snail shell, probably dropped by a bird on the lawn. Its colour and pattern appealed to me.
I had taken a few pictures of some routine siskins and was checking them on the camera screen at the kitchen window when an unusual movement distracted me. I looked up and got a surprise.
The siskins had nipped off too sharply for the sparrowhawk to catch one.
It looked a bit disappointed by that.
Ten minutes after it had flown off, the siskins were back again…
..but keeping a wary eye out.
I had a bowl of soup for my lunch and as it had warmed up to a reasonable 6°C, I put on my cycling clothes and set off for a pedal on the fairly speedy bike.
The keen wind was in my face as I pedalled up my regular route and the six and a half miles up to and over Callister was hard work but equally, the six and half miles back was a treat. The thirteen miles went so well that I turned round when I got to Langholm and went up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back again. The result was very satisfactory from a mileage point of view.
My friend, the late Arthur Bell, always used to say that it wasn’t worth getting a bike out for less than twenty miles and while I don’t necessarily agree with that, it was a suitable tribute to his memory that I managed that crucial distance today.
The speed wasn’t quite so pleasing but it was windy and I am far from being fit enough to battle up hill and into the wind.
You don’t need to be fit to pedal downhill with a brisk wind behind you however so I enjoyed that part of the trip very much and even got my new knee over thirty miles an hour for the first time ever. I haven’t been venturing too far from home as my surgeon advised me to remember that if you go too far, you still have to come back but today’s ride has given me the confidence to try for a longer circular ride as soon as I get a suitable day of weather.
The light had faded by the time that I got back and most of the siskins had left as well so I only found one to photograph.
After the effort of pedalling, the rest of the afternoon was not enlivened by anything that might have resembled activity.
Mrs Tootlepedal’s train of choice back from Edinburgh was cancelled and she had to catch the next one. This was unfortunate as we had tickets for a concert at the Buccleuch Centre but in the end she was able to join Sandy and me and a friend at our table only a few minutes after the concert had begun.
We were seated at tables in what the Centre calls cabaret seating for a performance by a fiddle group from Selkirk, helped out by our local folk group, Langholm Folk. The Riddell Fiddles, who are part of a fiddle learning group, were accompanied by three guitarists, a very good double bass player and that rare thing, an unobtrusive but skilful drummer. Together they made a very cheerful sound and as I love Scottish, Breton and Swedish fiddle music, I was well satisfied with their performance. Langholm Folk were in very first rate form too so the whole evening was good value.
I was almost able to use the sparrowhawk as flying bird of the day….
…but I shot a moment too soon and in real life it is still standing on the feeder…
… which explains its funny looking claws.
So the flying bird of the day is an undistinguished siskin.