A useful day

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is holidaying with his daughter Susan in the extreme north of the Scottish mainland.  It shows the  Muckle Stacks which are just off the coast about 3 miles to the east of John o’ Groats.

Muckle Stacs

He seems to be having good weather up there but we had a very gloomy day in Langholm and with the temperature about 10°C lower than Marseille, it had a definite end of the season air about it.

There were birds to cheer the day up though.


blue tit

It was not raining after breakfast but it was my day for duty in the Information Hub in the Market Place so cycling was off the menu.  I had a visitor or two to help, posters to laminate and friends who dropped in to talk so the two hours passed quickly enough but it was raining by the time that I came out.

I found a relatively dry moment to look at a soggy poppy or two…



…but after a light lunch, I spent some time doing useful things indoors like checking up on the hosting for the Archive Group websites and suchlike.  Anything that requires passwords is always a slow business as I have to try to remember where they are stored and then try to remembered the password to the store where the passwords are stored.

I also put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database so I made good use of a gloomy day.

I had time to do a little sparrow watching.  They were mostly  very busy…


…though some chose to be spectators.


This may have been wise, for an unwary bird approaching the feeder got a thoroughly dusty welcome.


In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we made some more progress which was satisfying.

I have added more pictures from my camera to the account of our day in Aix-en-Provence during the third day of our holiday in France and those interested can find the expanded post here.

The flower shot of the day is the nerines under the feeder.  They are really flourishing at the moment…


…and the flying bird is a sparrow.

sparrow flying

Singing in the rain

Today’s guest picture comes from my neighbour Gavin who is on holiday in Jersey.  This is the Corbiere lighthouse.

corbiere lighthouse jersey

As it was Sunday today, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I made a lamb stew in the slow cooker.  There had been some sunny moments while I cooked so I was going to go for a cycle ride when I had finished  but it started to pour with rain so I rang up Sandy and invited him down for a cup of coffee instead.

Before I started the cooking, I had a quick excursion into the garden with a particular interest in seeing if I could find blackbirds eating rowan berries.  There were seven in the tree when I went out…

blackbirds in rowan

Some of them

…but they flew off when they saw me and I had to wait for some time for one to come back.

blackbird in rowan

I looked at flowers in the kitchen garden while I waited.


The blackbirds who came back did eat the berries but not in a convenient place for me….

blackbirds on rowan

…so I went back in to do the cooking.

While I cooked, I kept an eye on the bird feeder.


Sandy brought my pictures back from the agricultural show.  I had won a first and two thirds and he had won a first so we were both pleased.  A fellow member of our camera club had carried off the main prize, probably because she had taken more good pictures than us.  I had won the black and white class.  I don’t usually do well in black and white and on this occasion the winning picture (of a cow in a pond)  had only been taken in black and white by accident as I hadn’t checked the camera settings properly.  I am not sure what that proves.

While I was chatting to Sandy, I might have let my eye rudely stray to the feeder from time to time.

great tit bue tit coal tit

A great tit, a blue tit and a coal tit visited while we talked

robin and jackdaw

As well as other birds, great and small

When Sandy had gone, the rain stayed away enough to let me mow the middle lawn and look at some late roses.

september roses

The dahlias looked good in a brief sunny spell.


And I am always pleased to find a white poppy among the pinks and reds.

white poppy

I went back to the kitchen garden to wait for some blackbirds and whiled away a moment or two by looking at a splendid Michaelmas daisy which Mrs Tootlepedal acquired and is growing experimentally…

Michaelmas daisy

…but which at five to six feet tall my be too big for a flower bed.

The mint is looking very cheerful.


I became more cheerful too when some better placed blackbirds arrived.

blackbirds and rowan berries

The berries are going down very well.

blackbirds and rowan berries

After lunch, I mowed the front lawn and then we went off to Carlisle to sing with our community choir and once again it was a real pleasure to sit at the feet of Andrew, our effervescent conductor.  His energy seems to be never ending and it transfers to us so we give of our best.  It was good to be back.

When we got home, the slow cooked lamb stew was garnished with courgette fritters, courtesy of Mrs Tootlepedal, and this rounded of a day that was better than the showery weather deserved.

I have spent some time adding pictures and commentary to the brief phone post about our second day in Marseille and those interested can find the post here.

The flying bird of the day is one of the busy sparrows.

flying sparrow

Safely home

No guest picture of the day today but a picture of the road where I was staying as a guest of my sister Susan overnight before our journey back to Langholm.

Kentish Town

It was a warm morning in Kentish Town in North London but somehow, although it was sunny and however quiet and tree lined the road was as I went to buy a pint of milk for our breakfast, it didn’t quite have the allure and sparkle of Marseille.

Susan lives in a quiet corner of the busy city and I like this elegant way of stopping cars driving past a primary school near her house.

school bollards Kentish Town

Mrs Tootlepedal was staying with my sister Mary a few hundred yards away and we met up after breakfast and after a restful pause we caught the bus down to Euston and the train up to Carlisle.

We met a friend on the train and when we found that we had some time to spare before we could catch the bus to complete the last leg of our journey, we went into a Mexican restaurant with him and had a cup of coffee along with some with French fries with a sour cream dip, as one does in Carlisle, before finally getting home.

The garden looked surprisingly well.


The dahlias were surviving, although a lot of dead heading is needed.


And the usual suspects were also doing not too badly.




There were a number of blackbirds about…


…looking quite well fed.  This may explain where almost all of the rowan berries have gone during our absence.


Not many left

The lawns needed mowing but I left that that for tomorrow and after we had unpacked, we had a meal of baked potatoes followed by baked apples, both from the garden.  If you can’t be sitting out in the evening sunshine beside the old port in Marseille eating fish, sitting in and eating food from your own garden is a good substitute.

For each of the next few days,  I am going to fill out one of the brief reports which I posted from my phone while we were away, adding photos that I took with my Lumix.  Those who would like to see more details of our French holiday can start with the first day post by clicking on this link: Marseille:Day One.

The flower of the day is one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite dahlias.


The last post

This post is coming as we sit in Lille International station waiting to go through the channel tunnel after having had to get off and back on the train again to go through passport control. 

We made good use of our last morning in Marseille by visiting the Musee d’histoire which happily lay in the shadow of our hotel

We had swithered over the visit but we should have gone earlier in the week as it turned out to be first class and we could have spent all day there. 

After a last sunny lunch, we caught the train and headed for home. 

The magnificent steps to the station. 

All at sea

Our last full day in Marseille was blessed with more sunshine than you could shake a stick at. 

As the wind was very light, this made it a good day for a sea trip to a pair of nearby islands. This is the view as we came back to port. 

We were back in time for a late lunch and a tram ride to a very fine building. 

As Mrs Tootlepedal retired for a snooze, I took a stroll along the port to a tower that once guarded it. 

We rounded the day off with another good meal and I feel that my sister Mary ‘s plan of a trip to Marseille to celebrate her eightieth birthday was a good one.  

Day three: Off to Aix

As there were several art lovers in our party, we headed off on a local train to Aix, the home of Cezanne, to visit some art galleries.

We walked through Marseille past triumphal arches….

Arch Marseille

…smart new trams….

Marseille trams

…and up the broad street that leads to the imposing station steps….

Marseille  station

…where we caught a local train that brought us to the much more modest station in Aix-en-Provence.

Aix station

As you can see, we were once again blessed with perfect weather, sunny but not too hot and perfect for a stroll round the town.

After admiring a fine fountain at the bottom of the street…

fountain in Aix

…we walked up the celebrated Cours Mirabeau, a tree lined and traffic calmed thoroughfare rich with shops, fine houses and cafes.

Cours Mirabeau

It has somewhat less grand fountains along its way.

Cours Mirabeau

Near the top of the Cours…

Cours Mirabeau

…we found a convenient cafe and gave ourselves a moment of rest before starting the serious business of the day, a visit to two galleries.

There were some impressive doorways to be seen near the cafe.

cours mirabeau

This one was my favourite

After our coffee, we walked through the quiet back streets of the town…

aix street

aix street

…until we came to the Granet museum.

In the museum, there was a special exhibition of the work of Charles Camoin (1879-1965), a local artist described as a French Expressionist Painter Associated with the Fauvism Movement.of whom I had never heard.  It turned out that he had painted a lot of pictures that were well worth looking at.

Mrs Tootlepedal liked the one on the left, a picture of the artist’s mother in her salon and now she thinks that she should have a salon too.  I liked the one on the right as it shows the view of Notre Dame across the harbour that I had taken many pictures of myself.

Charles Camoin

But there were many other paintings that were most enjoyable. (A search for Camoin in the image section of Google will show up lots of the pictures that we saw in the exhibition).

After a good browse round the Camoin show and a rather quicker dash trough the permanent collection (not so interesting) we headed out through the quiet streets…

Aix streets

…in search of lunch.  It is not hard to find an eating place in Aix and we were soon sat down.

After lunch, we hit the second of our museums, this one devoted to the collection of Jean  Planque, an art dealer who had managed to acquire a fine selection of works by his contemporaries.  The collection was housed in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs which had been brilliantly converted to be a gallery.

Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

It was a pleasure just to be in such a sympathetic space but the collection of works including paintings and drawings by Degas, Renoir, Gaughin, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso, Bonnard, Klee, Leger, and Dubuffet as well as other less well know figures was worth looking at too.

Aix gallery

Art lovers at work

After we came out, the party separated and Mrs Tootlepedal and I wandered about enjoying the ambience.

We passed many fine buildings…

…and a tower with two clock faces and a tunnel….

aix tower

…on our way to and from seeing the cathedral…

…which had the builders in as cathedrals often do.

We had a brief look inside and although it was traditionally gloomy in a cathedral like way, it was more decorated than British cathedrals are.

Aix cathedral

We visited a side chapel which had remnants of the first stones from 600 AD.  I took an art shot in black and white.

Aix cathedral

Then we went back outside into the sunshine and walked gently through the town. Mrs Tootlepedal was a bit alarmed by the free manner in which this young lady was swinging her leg over the edge from high up on a building.  She hoped that it was firmly attached to the rest of her body.


We avoided stopping at any of the many cafes which were crammed into every available corner …


…and made our way  right through the centre of town.  We took a seat in the shade in a handy park near the station for a while…

Aix park

…and looked at the vegetation in an idle manner…

aix park

..and then had a cup of coffee and a tarte aux pommes each before catching the train back to Marseille.    The others had returned on an earlier train but we met later for another fine fishy meal. I had scollops followed by a delicious sorbet. The day was an education for me.


On our first full day in Marseille, we were once again blessed with superb weather and while Mary, Andrew and Patricia kept out of the sun by visiting art galleries, Susan, Mrs Iootlepedal and I behaved like proper tourists  and made use of the “hop on and hop off” bus,  though I hopped on and hopped off more than them.  They hopped on and stayed on until the tour was completed while I hopped off three times and then walked back.

We walked down the west side of the harbour….


…until we arrived at the Town Hall…

Marseille town hall

…where we caught the bus.

The bus proceeded at a very leisurely pace, allowing us plenty of time to enjoy the views of buildings….

Port side buildings marseille

…and the old port as we trundled along.

Marseilles vieux port

My first hop off was to revisit the Palace du Pharo and its art work…

Palace du pharo

…which I had visited the day before.  The views were just as good in the morning.

view from Palace du pharo

view from Palace du pharo

After I had hopped on the next bus, I was driven along the coast road or corniche and I stopped and hopped off when the bus turned back into the town.  I was able to rest for a while on the almost continuous concrete bench which lined the road for a considerable distance (possibly the longest park bench in the world)…

Marseille corniche

…and stare out across the Mediterranean.

I looked right at rugged headlands and inlets….

Marseille coast

…and left at an unexpected little beach. It looked so inviting that I wished that I had brought my dookies with me so that I could have gone for  a swim.

Marseille beach

Then I popped across the road and had a cup of coffee at a handy cafe before hopping on to the next bus that passed.

This took my up a steep hill on very narrow and windi ng roads that tested the driver’s skill to the maximuim.  Nevertheless we arrived safely at the Notre Dame basilica that overlooks the port.

Notre dame basilica

The guide book said that I would get splendid views from the top of the hill and it did not lie.

I could see the new harbour…

view from Notre dame basilica

…the Frioul Islands and the Château d’If

view from Notre dame basilica

…the view  to the west…

view from Notre dame basilica

…and the view over the main part of town.

view from Notre dame basilica

Rather than hop on the bus again, I walked down the hill to the old port and joined Mrs tootlepedal and Susan for lunch. It must have been a good lunch becuase after it, they went to the top of the harbour and enjoyed some views of their own…

The big wheel marseilles

From the top of the big wheel.

big wheel marseilles

You get three complete rotations for your money.

I was not tempted to join them.

After this excitement, we walked back down the quay and while Susan went back to the hotel for a snooze, Mrs Tootlepedal and I hopped on the bus again and I completed the bit of the tour that I had missed before lunch.  It took us to one of the most recent additions to the town’s architecture, the MUCEM or museum of European Culture.


Fortunately, it was closed so we just admired it from the outside and walked round the shore taking in the equally brutal old building on the other side of the harbour.

Marseille castle

Then we climbed up to a place where we could look back across the old harbour…

old harbour marseille

Did I mention that there were quite a lot of boats moored there?

Marseille Notre dame

My morning viewpoint viewed from below

Marseille mountains

The hills that provide a dramatic backdrop to the town.

We walked along some back streets and enjoyed a refreshing drink of freshly pressed orange juice before dropping back down to the port side.

Marseille arches

They like an arch in Marseille

And then, refreshed by the orange juice, we walked back up to the Palace du Pharo to show Mrs Tootlepedal the views from there which she had missed by staying on the bus in the morning.

The harbour was very busy below us.

marseille old port

But we looked up to see the cathedral….

Marseille cathedral

Cathedrals are always under repair.  That’s MUCEM in the foreground.

And a cruise ship almost as big as a cathedral.

cruise ship

There was some fauna and flora to be seen too.

pigeon and pine

We strolled back to the town and I admired the iron balconies that adorn so many buildings in Marseille….


…and the fine façade of a church overlooking the harbour.


After a final look back at the basilica….

Notre Dame Marseille

…we returned to the hotel, hot but happy.

In the evening we met the rest of the party and we were treated to a slap up dinner in a fancy fish restaurant by my stepmother Patricia which introduced me to creatures of the ocean hitherto imagined… and very tasty too.

A day definitely on the credit side of the great ledger of life.