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Archive for December, 2010

A helping hand

Today’s picture is of a sodden, still frozen lawn. The thaw is continuing but slowly.sodden lawn

The thaw is making some progress because we could open the back door for the first time for two weeks today. The concrete floor in the boiler room lifts up in very cold weather and jams the door shut. It is a great moment when we can get it open after a spell of frosty weather, although it seems quite likely that bit will be jammed again by Monday.

I had a fruitful day today. In the morning Bruce came to see me and we made some very good progress in organising railway pictures for the Heritage DVD. We have about 60 photos in hand which should be more than enough for even the keenest railway enthusiast, let alone the ordinary viewer.

After lunch, I took a generous donation to Archive Group funds, which I had received,  round to  Nancy, our treasurer and she told me that she and Bob had had some very tedious bureaucracy to go through before a planned trip to India.  Their story made me even more glad to be of a stay at home turn of mind. I admire these people who dash off all over the world but I don’t envy them. They had been advised that they needed a passport photo for a visa so they sent one off. The tour organisers sent it back saying that the size required had changed and they could get the new size taken at Jessops. Off they went to Carlisle, only for the chap in Jessops to say that he didn’t do them in that size so that was a wasted journey. And all this is before the trip has even started. I take my courage in my hands if I go to Canonbie.

I didn’t have much time for the birds today and the light was very poor so I bumped the ISO up to an enormous number and the camera did wonders.

 

goldfinches

Regular customers

Siskins are less niger seed bound than the goldfinches..

siskins

and one of each on their own…

siskin

goldfinch

In the afternoon we met our B&B visitor for the weekend and Mike and Alison Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and then in the evening I spent a little time hurting my head trying to create an index for my sister Susan’s family history site. This is a substantial exercise as she had details for about 60 direct ancestors and many more great aunts and uncles as well. They all have to be cross indexed so there is a great deal of fiddly work to be done. I am happy to say that I have produced a template and Susan is going to do all the detailed work.

I expect to hear that she has finished sometime in the summer!

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Today’s picture is just to cheer us up. It is from my brother Andrew  in New Zealand where Christmas comes in the middle of summer and the weather is always fine. He is the one in yellow.XmasAtopMtKaukau

I had a quiet day today to allow some slight bruising to subside. Also I couldn’t face the terrible roasting I would get if I went out and fell off my bike again. As a result, I did nothing very much all day until I went out in the evening to the Archive Centre with Sandy.

Alistair,  my son, kindly pointed out to me before he left to go back to Glasgow that an internet photographic guru had said that good wildlife photographers don’t need fancy zoom lenses, they just get very close to the things they photograph. As a result, I spent the day trying to creep up on a siskin with varying success.

siskin

siskin

siskins

The siskins are the least afraid of all our visitors and just sit waiting on the tree when I change the feeders. I put out some sunflower seeds today and they attracted the siskins just as much as the niger seeds.

new seed

new seed

The redpolls were also on the go again today.

redpoll

 

Our only excursion was to get some food for a B&B guest who is coming to stay over the New Year. Mrs Tootlepedal went very gingerly over the many slippery bits that remain in the town even after three days thaw. She realised that a fall for her would remove the position of superiority she currently retains over me after my carelessness yesterday.

I managed to put in a couple of weeks of the E&L into the Archive database, one at home and one in the Archive Centre in the evening. Luckily the indexers have not been over keen during the holiday period so I don’t have a big backlog to catch up after a period of idleness. Tomorrow will be devoted to the heritage DVD.

Dropscone wondered the other day whether I was just recycling the same pictures of the garden birds on the blog but I can assure readers that the birds may be the same but the pictures are new. I haven’t seen the goldfinch with the tag on its leg again. It has probably gone up to Sandy’s garden where he tells me he has had a lot of goldfinches as well as long tailed tits and a woodpecker. I am suffering from bird envy.  Sandy has got a couple of pictures from Laurie Campbell on his site including waxwings. They are worth seeing.

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I have received quite a few photos from friends. This one is from my sister Susan’s friend, Rachel. She says it is a duck. I believe her.

duck

The thaw continues here but the going underfoot continues to be very slippery. I went up to buy more bird feed and it was extremely treacherous. Unfortunately, it looks as though it is going to get cold at the weekend before the snow and ice gets fully away.

ice

 

The river was a fantastic sight as I crossed the suspension bridge. It was full of little ice bergs flowing down to the sea. They were about a metre across and I wished I had taken my camera with me to record them.

 

 

 

My son Alistair went out later in the day and did take his camera with him. There was still ice coming down but not in the same quantities as earlier.

ice

 

He was particularly taken by the build up of ice at the mouth of the Wauchope.

 

 

 

 

 

ice

Dropscone

 

Dropscone came round for a coffee and was kind enough to bring some delicious examples of his home cooked drop scones with him. He has also sent me this Christmas picture of him.  The strange pattern was caused by sweating over a hot stove while wearing a rather loosely dyed paper hat out of a cracker. We all think it is rather fetching.

 

 

 

 

I had a moment to point the camera out of the window and this shot of a blackbird shows how the slowly the snow in shaded area is melting away.blackbird

My usual friends were in evidence.

goldfinch

siskin

I thought I would give the roads a try out on my bike so I set off after lunch up the Wauchope road. It was fine, with no ice and clear roads where the cars had been and I went five miles to the bottom of Callister. I thought I would be cautious and not do too much so I turned and headed for home. I told myself to make sure that I didn’t cross one of the bars of old sludgy snow between the car tracks but failed to take my own advice and promptly fell off, severely injuring my pride and slightly injuring my elbow. I got on again and cycled home very carefully indeed. No great damage was done and I was able to drive Alistair and Clare to Carlisle to catch their train to Glasgow.

As is always the way when you have left plenty of time, there was no traffic on the roads and the traffic lights in Carlisle remained obstinately green so we arrived far too early. Their train was also twenty minutes late so a long wait loomed up in front of them. However, they noticed that an earlier Glasgow train, also a bit late, was leaving in two minutes and after checking that their tickets would do, they caught it in the nick of time. All’s well etc.

Before he left, Alistair took this picture of me in reflective mood.

nitwit

 

I was reflecting that it would probably have been better not to ride on the slippery bit of the road when there was a nice unslippery bit right beside it not to ride on….but too late.

 

 

When I returned from Carlisle, I had a very enjoyable hour of slot car racing with Les, one of the pantomime stars. He was a frequent performer as a schoolchild in pantos which I wrote for Langholm Academy and it is good to see him enjoying taking part again as a  grown up.

Mrs Tootlepedal is enjoying a very well deserved rest after several days of entertaining visitors in the finest style.

I have bought all sorts of new and inviting bird foods and will be interested to see if we increase the number of different visitors we got or if the local villains just eat more.

siskin

 

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Today’s picture, sent to me by my brother-in-law, Mike, is of Mrs Tootlepedal’s great nephew, Owen. He was the star of the celebrations down south.

Up here, we were relatively peaceful as only my son Alistair and his wife, Clare,  are still staying with us and Clare was in bed with a bad cold. It was a quiet morning. I went out to do a little shopping and although the temperature was above freezing for the first time in ages, the going under foot was very bad, with slush and ice providing  a constant risk to the elderly pedestrian. The fear was psychological as well as physical. I would have felt an awful fool to have survived three or four weeks of sub zero temperatures only to fall over on the first warmer day.

I set up the camera on a tripod  and either I or Alistair took pictures at rather irregular  intervals  during the day. I have condensed these to a six second cameo which can be seen on YouTube by clicking here.

I have selected a few frames from the collection to show here. Everyone was in  very combative mood today.

fierce siskin

more fierce siskins

I must say that the goldfinch looks very calm. The redpolls were back after their Christmas break

redpoll

I am not at all sure what the bird on the right is in the picture below. Maybe one of the readers of this blog could tell me.

 

redpoll and partner

In the afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a walk round the pheasant hatchery on the Castleholm. I had thought, after my morning walk into the town, that it would be very difficult underfoot but the continued thaw had made things quite a lot better than I expected. It was still very slushy but nothing like so icy as it had been in the morning.

I took my little camera with me.

duchess bridge

The Duchess' Bridge looking glamorous in the snow

 

mist

A gentle steam rising as the snow thaws

esk

The ice retreating to show a strangely green/yellow river underneath

town

A misty view from the Kilngreen

When we got back from the walk, we were visited by Sandy (Mr Gill’s Blog) Gill. He had come to run his expert eye over my new camera. He told me that he had been adding more photographs to our already impressive collection on the Archive website. He and his wife are very pleased that the niger seed feeder which they have recently installed in their garden is now attracting goldfinches. I hope they don’t take all of ours away.

A few more frames from our feeder.

siskins

Siskins in command of the niger seed feeder

redpoll

A redpoll

I cooked a rather unsuccessful potato and feta bake for tea and probably as a result everyone seemed to go to bed quite early. During the day, I went to check on how the worms were survivng the cold spell and was delighted to find them alive and wriggling. My son, Anthony, gave me a very serious book about worm farming for Christmas and having only read the first three chapters, I have already discovered thirteen things I am doing wrong.  There is more to vermiculture than meets the eye. Talking of meeting the eye, the only disappointment of the social activities of the last few day was the general reluctance to take my invitation to come and see my worms. I can’t understand it.

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I went on a journey

Today’s picture, amazingly enough, is a blue footed booby from the Galapagos Islands sent to me by Dropscone’s niece and taken by her sister-in-law. This is a step up from a sparrow.

blue footed booby I can’t imagine why it is called blue footed.

When Dropscone heard that I was putting a picture of a blue footed booby on the blog, he asked why I had been running about in the snow with no shoes on.

My  journey was not as exotic as a visit to the Galapagos Islands, as I was only going to Carlisle to take my sisters and my stepmother to the train.  We were a bit alarmed when we woke up to find a heavy fall of snow in progress. I walked up to the town and I was cheered up when Liz in the paper shop told me that the boys coming home from the ASDA backshift had told her that there was no snow in Carlisle.

The siskins and goldfinches were frantically eating niger seeds which made me worry that perhaps the weather was going to get worse.goldfinch siskin

The siskins were unusually ferocious at keeping off would be usurpers and this third siskin was reduced to picking up scraps.

three siskins

However, we got organised and left on time and, sure enough, the roads were clear soon after we left the town. I had left a little spare time in case Carlisle was mobbed by bargain seeking shoppers but either the sales hadn’t started or the shoppers weren’t shopping, because the town was very quiet.

The only excitement was that Pat had left her handbag behind. We discovered this just after it was too late to turn back and get it and still catch the train. We carried on, I dropped off  Susan and Mary, my sister,s and then went home with Pat, picked up her handbag and then returned to Carlisle. The roads were even clearer this time. In the event, Pat had no trouble catching a later train and had a very pleasant journey to London in contrast to my sisters who had a rather eventful trip due to taking bad advice from a train guard to try to catch a non existent train. In the end she arrived in London only an hour later than the other two.

emily and ben

 

We were particularly blessed with Dropscone’s nieces today with the picture of the blue footed booby sent digitally from one and a personal visit from another, pictured here on the right with her friend Ben and my daughter in law Clare on the sofa.

 

 

When I got back, I found that my son, Alistair, had taken this shot of an angry siskin exchanging remarks with another .

siskin

I had a go and found this pair flapping vigorously. They are not flapping at each other but  at would be intruders coming from opposite sides of the feeder.

sisking goldfinch flapping

We had an excellent lunch of cold this and that and settled down for a comatose sofa-bound afternoon watching both real and animated penguins.

We roused ourselves sufficiently to have a Pakistani goat curry for our tea (surprisingly not having a goat about us, we substituted turkey for the goat). After tea, we had a game of ‘Oh Hell’ with just the four of us and I am happy to report that this evening, skill rather than luck was the order of the day. (Guess who won.)

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Boxing clever

Today’s picture is frequent blog commenter, Gavin and his granddaughter Hannahgavin hannah

 

big skyWe met Gavin on our way back from a morning walk over the Duchess Bridge. We had set off by going over the Scholars’ Field and looking back towards the school, we had been impressed by the big sky.

We were four on the walk this morning, Mrs Tootlepedal, Pat, Mary and myself. The going underfoot was very good which was a bit surprising considering the continual frosts of recent days.

ducshess bridge

 

We went up the side of the Esk  to the Duchess Bridge where the ladies in the party posed momentarily for the camera. Then we went past the lodge and down the Lodge Walks.

 

 

 

lodge walks

The sky was just as big here as it was on the Scholars.

more big sky

As we passed the Kilngreen I couldn’t resist taking yet another picture of the resident heron.

heron

al and clareWe returned home to find Alistair and Clare practising with their new (second hand) camera.  Clare told us later on that she had been already been photographed more than she felt comfortable with. Then we all sat down to have another splendid meal prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal. It had everything you would expect from a Boxing Day meal, cold turkey, cold sausages, cold ham and reheated veg. This was followed by reheated Christmas pud, mince pies, remains of a caramel custard and some syrup sponge for those who didn’t care for Christmas pud and it was absolutely delicious. This was just about enough for us. After this there was general sitting down but Mary and I, being of an active disposition, went for another walk.

 

memorial

 

We started off through the park and the war memorial was looking rather fine with a coating of frosty snow on it. We went very carefully up the track to the Stubholm and then went along Gaskells Walk.

 

 

 

 

 

iceThe little streams which we crossed as we went through the wood were all frozen solid. It was quite eerie and the picture on the left does not do the scene justice.

The whole wood had a feeling of suspended animation like a freeze frame from a film. (And freeze was the mot juste here as it was still pretty chilly.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we got to the end of the wood, we met Dropscone’s brother Jim and his wife who were doing the walk in reverse.

I had a moment here and there during the day to point the lens out of the window and obviously the redpolls and the bramblings get to stay with relatives at the holiday season because there was no sign of them in the garden, just the usual suspects.

sparrow goldfinch

goldfinch siskin

The evening was rounded off with a meal of flan and mixed veg followed by another game of ‘Oh Hell’. Last night I believed that winning the game was largely a matter of skill and concentration but tonight it became apparent that it is, in fact, purely a matter of chance.

 

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Today’s picture is a sheep surprised by my sister Mary on a walk.sheep

We never dreamed it would be like this but when we woke up it was a white Christmas. My son Alistair took this picture of the snow to prove it.

snow

susan

Susan on the Kirk bridge.

My sisters went off to the morning service at the church which they enjoyed thoroughly.

While they were away, Mrs Tootlepedal was engaged in the preparation of the annual feast and the house filled with enticing odours. I made sure that I did not get under her feet.

One of the bonuses of the cold weather has been that we have been able to use our garage as a subsidiary fridge. This has been fortunate as catering for seven over two days definitely stretches our storage capacity well beyond its limits.

Pat

Patricia on our walk

After Mary and Susan got back from church, Mary, Patricia and I went for a walk. The snow had stopped and the sun had come and the surroundings were at their best. We went along Mary Street, crossed the bridge and went down to the Kilngreen to see the redwings.

I managed to catch a quick gull shot while I was there.

seagull

…or two

seagull

The Ewes Water was showing the results of several days (weeks) of frost.

meeting of the waters

The picture above is of the meeting of the waters and the one below shows the Ewes at the Kilngreen

ewes

walkers

Leaving the Kilngreen

We went back by way of the Castleholm and while we were walking round the new path, we met Bruce and Lesley coming the other way.

They were enjoying the lovely conditions as much as we were.

bruce and lesley

The McCartney's and furry friend

All this left me with the odd moment to keep an eye on the bird feeders.

goldfinch

The usual suspects were about.

sparrows

When we got back, the meal was ready and we all sat down to enjoy it. We managed to eat a good deal of the food on the table without eating so much that we actually became ill. This made it both an enjoyable and an unusual festive gathering in the Hutton household.

After our lunch, we opened the generous and carefully chosen presents we had given each other and then many of the party sloped off for a little lie down.

I played a couple of recorder sonatas with my sister Susan at the keyboard which I thoroughly enjoyed. The door was shut so we didn’t annoy anyone else.

relatives

 

Those who were left indulged in stimulating conversation, some requiring such deep thought that the most intelligent among us had to shut their eyes to concentrate.

Others merely napped.

Later in the evening we gathered round the telly to cheer Vince Cable on in the Strictly Christmas show. We all enjoyed Craig’s joke about Vince leaning too much to the right.

After a light evening meal of leftovers, Christmas pudding and brandy butter and  cheese flan (not all at the same time) we played a merry game of cards called ‘Oh Hell’ which we think is the perfect game because it finishes in a set time and all the losers can console themselves with the view that it is purely a game of luck. The fact that I won tonight shows that there is a strong element of skill in it in my view.

I leave you with a group picture of birds at the feeder in the snow this morning as the gathering round to eat sums up the day.birds

 

 

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