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Archive for November, 2010

There was more snow last night so here’s a fresh garden picturegarden 30

It felt as though there was quite a lot of snow but by the end of the day, when I measured it, there was 2 inches. My son Anthony and my sister Mary have kindly sent me their snow pictures from Edinburgh and London so it looks as though this time, we really are all in it together.

George Street, Edinburgh

Kenwood

Kenwood, London

I gave the cycling a rest this morning because the garage pedalling was giving me a very stiff back, probably because you don’t alter your position much when you’re on a static bike. Instead, I turned my hand to making a gingerbread for a Heritage Trail meeting in the afternoon. With guidance from Mrs Tootlepedal (cook books assume a lot of knowledge…what does ‘grease and line the tin’ mean?), I followed the instructions and put the mixture in the oven. When I took it it out to check whether the top needed covering with foil to avoid burning, I only spoiled it a little by dropping it on the floor. I pushed it together and stuck it back in the oven. It smelled delicious and most of it looked good when I got it out.  I was going to have a picture of the group eating it but it went down so quickly that I hadn’t got time to get the camera out. It can’t have been too bad.

Nancy, the new Archive Group treasurer, came to visit to get me to sign the necessary forms to change the signature for the bank. This simple task, changing one signature for another, required two forms, about four of my signatures and what seemed liked six pages of questions. It wasn’t so much that we had to fill in hundreds of answers as that they were trying to cover every possible contingency on one form. It must constitute a tremendous waste of time and money to have to do things in this way.

In between times, I took a few shots of the birds. The goldfinches were back in force today and generally there were a lot of birds in the garden. Maybe they have got used to the cold now.

gold over there

It's over there

I like to get different combinations and I don’t think I’ve had this one before..

..and perhaps not this either

It is unusual to see the goldfinches on the peanuts and here is one looking just like a bluetit..

goldfinch

Because it was snowy and mostly because it so cold as well, we decided not to risk driving to Carlisle to play recorder tonight. We probably could have gone but it seemed sensible not to take a risk. If it had been during the day, I would have had no problems about going to Carlisle but the late hour of the return put me off.

The day has been beautiful in spite of the snow and the chill and I took this picture of the monument from an upstairs window at about 3pm.

If I was superstitious, I might have been put into a state of wonder by this fiery trail in the sky. What could it portend?

I shall spend the evening doing useful Archive and Heritage Trail work so in spite of the lack of pedalling and tootling, the day won’t have been entirely wasted. For my birthday, I bought myself a new laptop today using Ebay and Paypal. I felt very up to date. I just hope it actually comes. The old one is very heavy, very, very slow and crashes all the time so although it resembles me in a lot of ways, it had to go. Does anyone want it?

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A garden bench gives a view of the amount of snow that had fallen this morning.bench

It snowed a little more through the day but in the evening it began to snow in earnest. I shall put a picture on tomorrow’s post to show the difference.  Although it says on the news that Scotland has been put in a stranglehold by the snow, we, in our small corner, have got away pretty lightly so far and Mrs Tootlepedal was able to visit her place of work by bike as our roads were quite clear.

It is still not safe and far too cold to cycle any distance with pleasure so I resorted to the bike to nowhere in the garage again today. I found an album of fifties skiffle and early rock and roll (Lonnie Donegan, Tommy Steele etc.) which was just what was required. The tempos were upbeat, the nostalgia was uplifting and the album lasted 62 minutes which fitted in with my pedalling requirements precisely.

I have been corrected by Dr Cat Barlow, the Moorland Project Officer, on a couple of captions on Saturday’ Blog (‘A lot of sitting down’). The bird on the wire was not a sparrow but a reed bunting. She says that these are common garden birds. I will look at my sparrows more carefully in the future.

I am pretty sure that this is a goldfinch. I do like them and I don’t really apologise for putting so many pictures of them on the blog.goldfinch

While I am enjoying a leisurely retired life in the winter sunshine, it is not so much fun for my sons. Anthony’s painting business in Edinburgh is greatly hampered by the bad weather. He promises to send me a photo of the Edinburgh snow soon. Alistair, who travels daily from Glasgow to Edinburgh had a very tedious journey both ways today (an hour and a half each way) and doesn’t see any reason why it should get better soon. There are some consolations to being old and grey.

recordingIn the afternoon, I was visited by Arthur Bell and we made a start at recording a narration for the mill pictures on the Heritage DVD. We have no problem finding things to say. Arthur is a man who knows so much about the subject that his problem is not in thinking of what to put in so much as thinking of what  to leave out. We have made a very promising start and the finished result should be quite interesting.

Oh look, here’s another goldfinch.goldfinch

and a chaffinch

…and a blue tit on the fat bag. This has lasted much longer than we thought it would especially compared with the niger seed which the goldfinches eat. That goes down like water down a drain.

fat bag

In the evening, while Mrs Tootlepedal was  at another pantomime rehearsal,  I went for a short session at the slot racing in the Bowling Club. There were only two of us as our third member is playing the dame in the pantomime and was rehearsing too. When I got home, I put  a week of the E&L into the database. No emus in this week.

As I write this, the snow has stopped so perhaps there won’t be much to show tomorrow after all.

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Going nowhere

Today’s pictures are replicas of yesterday’s to show that an inch or two of snow fell overnight.

There is still not a great deal of snow on the hill.

snow

As you can see from the slightly muted colour, it wasn’t such a brilliantly sunny day as we have been getting with the cold weather recently. This was disappointing as I have been trying to catch a good picture of a robin without success in recent days and one came along today and posed very nicely.

robin

Unfortunately, he was down in front of the house in the shadows close to the ground, the light was poor and this was all I could manage. You can see he was doing his best to help but I wasn’t able to get the settings right at all. I just have to hope he comes back. It would have made a great shot with the snow.

I was able to catch this blue tit-chaffinch combo because they were higher up but they are still a bit dimly lit.

 

I finally got the mp3 player charged up and braved the cold to get on the bike to nowhere in the garage. I had an excellent album of nicely paced country music which my daughter Annabel had given me some time ago and I thought that a listen to that would take me at least 45 minutes which wouldn’t be too bad. It came to an end and I looked at my watch and I found that, unbelievably, since I had been pedalling for what seemed like hours, it had only run for 35 minutes. I put on a Chris Barber album and that took me safely to the hour.

That was a good start but whether I can summon up the will power to do it regularly, only time will tell.

The light was a bit better after my pedal to nowhere and I took a couple of bird feeder shots.

I think that is a lady chaffinch on the right.

Two finches

Some goldfinches are now braving the early morning cold but there are still nothing like the little flocks we were having when the weather was warmer.

Since it is Sunday, Mrs Tootlepedal had a pantomime rehearsal so I dusted the snow off the car and drove round to the Kilngreen to see what the sea gulls and ducks were up to.

heronThe tourists’ heron was there, looking decidedly moody in the cold weather. It is extremely tame and photographing it hardly counts as taking pictures of wildlife. All the birds looked a bit cheesed off with me for not bringing any breadcrumbs.

I spent some time trying to catch sea gulls in flight but the light wasn’t strong enough for me to use a really fast shutter speed so I had to discard almost everything I took and in the end I took one or two static shots just because I was there.

 

I love seagulls. I know that they are a bit of a pest but they look so sharp and clean.gull

This duck was well tucked up.

duck

I did catch one flying shot but it was quite far away.

In the afternoon, I put a week of the E&L into the Archive Group database and was very interested to note that a man up the Esk Valley had contributed an article  to a learned magazine on breeding wild emus in confinement. I don’t how successful he was but there don’t seem to be a lot of emus in Eskdalemuir these days.

I left the exotic world of curry and settled for a simple beef stew and potatoes for my tea. I did buy some little pots of spices and such at the Co-op while I was getting some more milk so I am hoping for culinary treats to come.

On a selfish note, will people please stop voting for Ann Widdecombe. It was bad enough having her hectoring us when she was a politician without having her spoil the only TV reality show I ever watch.

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Today’s picture is a snowy scene.  I hope this is not the start of two months of bad cycling weather like last year.

Although the scene in the garden looks quite snowy, there wasn’t enough snow to coat the hills round the town as you can see from this picture of Whita Hill.

There is a threat of snow for tomorrow and Monday but the main problem for cyclists is the fact the temperature is not forecast to get above 2º for the next five days.  I have put my spare bike on the stand for indoor cycling in the garage. This is a good start. I haven’t actually got as far as getting on it and using it yet because cycling on a stand in the garage is very, very boring indeed. It is the ultimate expression of getting absolutely nowhere. I will try to get myself motivated tomorrow.

It is possible to put on headphones and listen to music which does help to pass the time but some music clashes so badly with the rhythm of the pedalling that it makes it almost impossible to listen and pedal at the same time. Traditional jazz is good because it tends to have a rhythm of 72 beats per minute which is a quite comfortable training speed for me.

I had another curry dish today (mushroom and pea curry) out of the new book but I don’t want to overdo it so I went up to the butcher’s to get the makings of a nice stew for tomorrow and, at the same time, I ordered the turkey and trimmings for the Christmas feast.

It is annoying that my back and hip are improving enough so that I could walk to the shops and back without pain, just at the time when it is impossible for me to cycle. Wiser people than me might think there was a connection between not cycling and the reducing pain.

In  the afternoon, I took the Archive Group books round to our new treasurer and got the opportunity to look at her husband’s new camera. I am now suffering from camera envy. He took some lovely pictures after only having had the camera for a week but then he does have an artist’s eye. You may be able to see them here if you have a facebook account. Bob’s pictures

Later on, I watched Scotland scrape past Samoa at the rugby and Andy Murray fail to scrape past Nadal at the tennis so it was a mixed day for the sports fan in me.

The snow and the good weather in the morning made it possible to get some good bird shots and I have put four of these below. The different sky colours in the sparrow pictures show just how much you can fiddle about with a picture editor on the computer. I’ve no idea now which of the two more accurately shows the right shade and anyway, I suppose that the effect will also vary with the settings of each reader’s monitor.

 

wiresparrow

Reed bunting looking right

 

sparrow

Reed bunting looking left

finch

Goldfinch thinking about a nibble

finch

Goldfinch having a nibble

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Birthday treat

Today’s picture shows once again that I only have to state something with confidence to be promptly proved wrong. Having said yesterday that the goldfinches don’t seem to like the cold mornings, today they were out in force early on with the temperature well below zero.

coldfinches

waxwing

 

There was also a brief visit from a lone waxwing. It was gone before I had a chance to get a better view of it.

 

bird on a wire

Bird on a wire

 

 

 

 

While it was disappearing, this obliging blue tit did a little posing in the style of Leonard Cohen.

 

 

 

 

 

Greenfinches were about in bigger numbers than before and here is one with a sparrow in a staring contest…sparrow greenfinch combo

 

..and two together

greenfich double

 

..and one with its mouth full.

 

This was just a preamble to the real business of the day which was a birthday treat for Mrs Tootlepedal. This started well when the present I had ordered was actually delivered on her birthday. Then, as she likes nothing better than a day out, we loaded the car with things that we had decided to throw away after the great carpet shake up and visited the municipal dump at Annan. This was a real treat. To add to the pleasure of the day, we then headed down the motorway to Carlisle for a little shopping. We had a light lunch in the M&S cafe and then went our separate ways. I bought some coffee and some cheese and looked at posh cameras without buying them while Mrs Tootlepedal made purchases in M&S. We met up in Waterstones where we made inroads into two generous book tokens provided for our birthdays by Mrs Tootlepedal’s generous mother.

Then I went back, by way of the M&S wine counter, to the car which was parked in the shadow of that notable Carlisle landmark, Dixon’s Lum and waited while Mrs Tootlepedal explored the world of fashionable scarves.

 

autumn colour

 

While I was waiting, I admired this last trace of autumn colour where the trees are well protected by the railway viaduct.

 

 

 

I set the camera to look back through the viaduct arch towards the town so that I could catch Mrs Tootlepedal returning, laden with shopping. Unfortunately, when she did return, I got over-excited and made a mess of the picture so you will just have to imagine it.

We then went to a large fabric shop where she examined and priced up fabric for a draught curtain to go behind the front door. This completed the shopping and we headed for home.

Once there, I cooked some curried eggs for tea using my daughter’s new book of recipes which she had given me for my birthday and we rounded off the day with a visit to a concert by the Town and Junior Brass bands in the Buccleuch Centre. It was really excellent. The junior band is amazing and a great credit to their trainer and conductor, David Calvert.

Mrs Tootlepedal declared that it had been a wonderful birthday with an outing, some top shopping, a tea cooked by someone else and a concert. I was pretty pleased myself with coffee beans, cheese and wine… and because I won a prize in the raffle at the concert. Let it never be said that I am always miserable.

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Almost useful

Today’s picture shows the tiny amount of snow we had today to reassure readers from the south that just because we are in Scotland, it doesn’t mean we are always having bad weather.sprinkling

The sprinkling of snow didn’t stop the extremely cold weather putting paid to any idea of cycling so I had a leisurely breakfast still clad in the dressing gown. Mrs Tootlepedal had discovered a leak behind the washing machine and called the plumber. He arrived and fixed the leak while I was still in my dressing gown  Our experience with the British worker this week has emphasised how lucky we are to live in Langholm and to deal with such excellent tradesmen.

The task of the day was to bring the bookcases back into the sitting room now that the new carpet has been laid.  As my back was only moderately better, it was fortunate that Mrs Tootlepedal was in fighting form. I had to stop her shifting the eight foot high bookcases on her own.  She did pretty well all the serious work such as individually dusting each book as it was returned to its shelf while I did some high quality supervising. In addition we managed to throw away quite a good number of books which we were never going to read again, though we kept quite a few that we haven’t even read once.

coal titI entertained Dropscone (who brought a fine pile of drop scones with him) and Arthur Bell for coffee. Arthur said that he had seen  a great flock of waxwings on the golf course but there were none to be seen in the garden today. In their absence, the light was good enough for me to catch this coal tit an in unusually peaceful pose which made a change.

goldfinch

 

 

The goldfinches really don’t seem to think that the trip to the feeders is a good idea in the very cold temperatures but one bird did make the trip.

 

 

 

In the afternoon I did some more work on the Heritage DVD in preparation for recording Arthur talking about the mill machinery  for which we have pictures. This is a fiddly business involving adding text and captions to try to make the story of textiles in Langholm clear to the non specialist audience while still keeping it true to what happened.

In the evening I had a second helping of the Pakistan goat (lamb) curry which I made yesterday. It was improved by a second cooking and I will certainly try more recipes from the book Annabel gave me for my birthday. After my tea, I got a lift to the Archive Centre from Sandy and did some work with him and Jean before retiring to the Douglas Hotel for the ritual test of beer quality. It was fine.

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Dumped

Today’s picture is a blackbird. There seem to be a lot of them in the garden just now.blackbird

The day started with a visit to Annan to see my usual physiotherapist. I repose great faith in her and I hope that it proves to be justified this time. She gave me a course of Ultrasound and then a pull on the traction table. That should do the trick but I will have to wait until tomorrow to see. It won’t help the hip which is still sore. I am relying on time, the great healer, to sort that out.

While I was getting treatment, Mrs Tootlepedal roamed round Annan doing useful shopping. On our way back home, we visited the municipal dump and got rid of a small load of stuff which you are not supposed to put in your bin.

sparrow with seed

 

 

 

Although it was very cold, it was a bright sunny day which let me take this shot of a sparrow…….

 

sparrow perching

 

 

…and this one. The strong low sunlight can make life hard with a lot of shadows but it can give you some striking shots if you are lucky.

 

 

 

 

new floorWhen we got home from Annan, we found the carpet fitters at the door and they set to work straight away. We are having vinyl put down in the hallway. This not only looks good but it should be much easier to keep clean than the carpet which was there before.

 

The men from Latimers did an excellent job and before long, not only was the vinyl laid but also the new carpet in the sitting room. This is not ready to photograph yet because the old carpet, which is coming into the office, is sitting on top of the new one. All sorts of moving of furniture will have to take place until everything is as it should be.

 

In the early evening, we had the AGM of the Archive Group on the new carpet. It went well and everyone is pleased by how much we have got done since we started.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to her pantomime rehearsal and I cooked a recipe for Pakistani goat curry from a book that my kind daughter had given me for my birthday. Not having any goat about me, I used lamb and the result was both  interesting and eatable,  although not like any curry I am used to.  I shall experiment with more recipes to add to my small collection of cooking skills.

 

 

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