Archive for Feb, 2011

Today’s picture is another from my sister Mary from her walks around London. This is the Regent’s canal. It was taken at 10.30 this morning which shows how much nicer the weather was in Langholm than in London.Regent's canal, Regent's Park

It was another beautiful day here, made even better by the return of Mrs Tootlepedal and good news about her mother. She is undergoing heart treatment for problems after her hip operation but she seems to be responding well.

On the bird front, there are great changes in the garden population.


This was the only siskin I saw all day. I fear that they have all gone off. The only good thing about that is that the cost of feeding the birds should go down by quite a lot as they are very persistent feeders. We are down to four bramblings too.


The plum tree is not the same.


The last of the winter birds

chaffinches plum tree

The new kings of the tree

I let the early morning frost disappear and when the temperature had got up to a more comfortable level, I set off round the morning run on the slow bike. I went the wrong way as the wind promised to be more favourable in that direction and so it proved and I whistled down to the Canonbie bypass at a good speed (and with no punctures). Thereafter, the wind was more of a problem but I had the bit between my teeth and pressed on as hard as I could for home, just managing to keep the average speed at 14mph which is good for the slow bike.

I was meaning to take a picture or two to illustrate the glorious sunshine but I got carried away by cycling and couldn’t bear to stop and lose momentum.

When I got back, I ordered some new parts for the speedy bike and I am hoping to cycle to Longtown tomorrow and get them fitted and then cycle back home again.

Seeing that there were not many birds of interest to snap, I turned my attention to the flowers but they are hard to photograph well and I will have to practice. You can’t just point the camera out of the window and click like you can with birds at the feeders.


A show of crocuses

You have to compose a shot and then the colours flare and the wind wobbles them just as you click. It’s all very hard.


You don't notice the green on a snowdrop petal until you get close

I’ll keep trying.

In the afternoon, I went to pick up Mrs Tootlepedal from the station. The train was bang on time but once again you have to wonder at Virgin’s economics when they run trains with four first class carriages with virtually nobody in them. It’s very bizarre. Anyway, it was nice to have Mrs Tootlepedal back.

I made a spaghetti bolognese for my tea which was a departure from the usual mince and tatties but it was very good and I’ll probably use the rest of the mince to have the same again tomorrow. I like to know where I stand as far as my tea goes.

In the evening I put a week of the E&L into the database for the first time for a week or so. My sister Susan has discovered that a distant relation of ours was a doctor in Langholm in the nineteenth century and he appears in the E&L index. It was very satisfactory to able to find him as it gives a personal point to all the work that the archivists do.

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Good day

Today’s pictures show the progress of spring in that the crocuses were fully out in the afternoon sunshine.crocuses

I’ll start off with an update on Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother who is in hospital after a fall. Although there was some alarm at the beginning of the day, by afternoon things were looking better with a temporary pacemaker having been fitted.

This was good news and so was the weather which was sunny all day. As a result, there are no bird pictures because I set out on the slow bike to do a longer ride than I have been doing and I took the fancy camera with me. This meant the ride took even longer than it would have done otherwise but it did give an excuse for a little rest now and then.

I set off north up the A7 to Fiddleton Toll and there I turned off for Hermitage. A motorist stopped, as I was taking a photo, to warn me that the road ahead was in poor condition. I was glad that I had the chunky tyres on the slow bike with me because it takes something really drastic to give them a puncture.

I had chosen the ride partly because it is a lovely ride and partly because it gave me somewhere fresh to photograph for this blog. I took a set of pictures at regular intervals and here some of them are:

ride 1

Looking back down the Ewes valley from Fiddleton. The valley is full of pylons.

ride 2

The bridge over the Glenrief Burn

ride 3

Looking back across the Ewes valley to the hills to the west of the A7

ride 4

Looking up the Carewoodrig Burn. This is a better bit of the road.

ride 5

Carewoodrig, a house in the middle of nowhere. I could hear the generator going as I pedalled past.

ride 6

The view from Carewoodrig. Click on it to get full value.

ride 7

The first bridge over Hermitage Water (or it might still be an earlier burn)

ride 8

Hermitage Castle

ride 9

The bridge where the road to Hawick leaves the Hermitage Water at Hermitage Hall

ride 10

I love bridges. This one is where Hermitage Water meets Liddle Water above Newcastleton

ride 11

Looking north up Liddesdale

ride 12

Looking south from the same point between Newcastleton and Rowanburn. The Lake District hills in the background.

I stopped taking pictures there but I can add one more which Dropscone took from the Newcastleton Golf Course where he was playing in a golf match (unsuccessfully).


It is a scenic golf course but hard to play.

The ride was 38 miles but I went at a steady pace. The first ten miles were uphill and into the wind. Carewoodrig is at 1100ft and takes a bit of climbing. After that, I had a good ride down to Hermitage Castle and an excellent ride from there to Canonbie with a stiff wind behind me. After Rowanburn I found I was being followed but not passed by two wee boys on bikes. They dogged my tyre tracks occasionally ringing their bell when they got close to me. I asked them where they were going and one of them said, “Following you, fast,” and that’s what they did until I got to the A7 at the Hagg where they gave up. It was quite flattering that they thought that I was going fast because by that time I had turned back into the wind and was toiling slightly to say the least.

I managed 12mph for the trip with which I was quietly pleased as I was only at 8.5 mph at Carewoodrig after 10 miles uphill and into the wind.

I got home just in time to watch the Scotland Ireland rugby game and I was in such a good mood from the cycling that I was able to take the constant infringements from the Irish and the constant mistakes form the Scots quite equably. As my son Alistair points out, it would be interesting to compare how many penalties Ireland have to give away before they get a yellow card with the other teams in the competition.

In the evening I went to the Co-op to get some food for my tea and experienced the full beauty of the recent revamp. It was very good except they seemed to have stopped stocking feta cheese which will spoil one of my regular meals.

On my way home I copied 42 DVDs which took about an hour. I still have some more to do.

The frogs are certainly multiplying in the pond.

frogs and spawn

I hope for a good crop of tadpoles but the temperature looks set to drop below freezing tonight so I have got my fingers crossed. The worms in the wormery still seem to be surviving so I have got the fingers on my other hand crossed for them.

The bench looked positively warm in the sunshine.





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Today’s picture is of a smiling frogfrog

stationThe day started with  an early drive to Carlisle to take Mrs Tootlepedal to catch a train to London so that she could go to visit her mother in hospital where she is recovering from an operation after a fall.

The traffic was very light, the required tickets came out of the fast ticket machine without any bother and the train was both fairly empty and bang on time so the whole experience was very satisfactory. Even the weather fell into place as it was raining heavily when we left Langholm and the sun was out by the time I got back.

As she headed off south, I went home and printed 50 discs with titles for the DVD. This is a simple but time consuming business as they have to be done one a at a time.

As a result it was lunch time by the time I had finished so I made a pot of lentil soup and then thought about going for a pedal. I started by trying to mend punctures in two tyres for spares with to take with me but one tuned out to have three holes in it and on the other the patch just wouldn’t stick. I gaveup in disgust and in the end I went out with one spare tube and hoped for the best. I went round the morning run the  wrong way and it was pleasant to pedal in the sunshine for once, although the north-westerly wind still carried quite a bit of chill with it.

My eye was caught by this row of trees in the middle of a field. It looks as though they were the remains of a hedge.


These pines looked striking in the late afternoon sun.


And then I got another puncture.


This has been a very bad month for punctures. Over the past four years, I have had very few punctures at all and I got used to just jumping on the bike without a care in the world but the roads are so bad now that if you take your eye of them for a moment, you hit a pothole or a big lump of gravel…or both. I will have to go and buy some more durable tyres. The trouble with that is that they are heavier and have more rolling resistance. Anything would be better than getting punctures all the time.

I took one or two bird pictures. Since the sun was out, I was hoping for good quality flying pics but the light gave the camera focussing problems and things didn’t work out as well as I hoped. One or two were not too bad.

flying goldfinch brambling

A goldfinch sees of one of our two remaining bramblings


A chaffinch puts down the landing gear

flying brambling serious

A brambling takes things seriously

chaffinch hanging on

A chaffinch hanging on...just

I watched England play France at rugby and then had my tea and in the evening I watched two episodes of an excellent Danish thriller on BBC4.

I am hoping to be able to go cycling without a puncture tomorrow.

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Today’s picture is of a winter aconite in full bloom. aconite

The day dawned very windy and rather wet and so I had little difficulty in informing Dropscone that I didn’t fancy a pedal. He saw the sense of this and turned his attention to making some delicious drop scones which he, Arthur and I enjoyed with our morning coffee.

Mrs Tootlepedal was at work and I was staying in to wait for news of her mother who had fallen and broken a hip. In the event, it was afternoon by the time that it was confirmed that she was having a hip replacement operation and early evening when we heard that the operation had been successful and that the patient was recovering well which was a great relief.

Between the first and second reports I had gone with Mrs Tootlepedal on our bikes up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back and when she went back to the house, I went up and down twice more with an extension to Cleuchfoot on one  of the laps. It was still very windy but it was quite warm by recent standards even if the sun wasn’t trying very hard at all. I took a couple of pictures on the second lap.

glencorf burn

Glencorf Burn


The road to Cleuchfoot

Towards the Bloch

Looking down the valley from Cleuchfoot

The consolation for the potholes in the road is the wonderful scenery and the fact that you can almost always hear running water as you pedal along.

My sister Caroline has sent me a picture of the flowers in her garden from the south coast of England just to make me jealous.


We have a few crocuses to show that spring will come here too in the end.

blue crocus

yellow crocusand in more than one colour too…

Meanwhile the frogs are multiplying.


Even the aconites are getting into the spirit of the season. Mrs Tootlepedal planted fifty a couple of years ago and we have four showing. The one at the top of the page and this trio. It’s not a great return on effort but they are very welcome anyway.

aconite trio

I took this shot of a goldfinch just to show that the sun did shine for a little while today.


You can see if you look at its left foot that it is better suited to gripping branches than bird feeders. The bramblings seem to have pretty well disappeared except the odd one or two but the chaffinches are still in the garden in good numbers.

flying chaffinch

In the air

chaffinch siskin

On the feeder with a siskin who can't work out where the seed is


Posing on a privet ball

In the evening the Tinkers came to visit and we enjoyed conversation and a tootle. Then Mrs Tootlepedal went to pack a case because she is going down to London to visit her mother in hospital first thing tomorrow. The trains must be quite empty because we were able to get a reasonably priced ticket at short notice.

I shall make a final recording of the DVD tomorrow as the test viewers have not found any gross mistakes in it. It will be a relief to get it finally finished and although it is a bit rough and ready as far as sound quality is concerned, it will stand as quite a good record of  some of Langholm’s recent history.

I leave you with a picture of my two most regular commentators, my sisters Susan and Mary, in a photograph taken by my youngest sister, Caroline.sisters

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Today there are two pictures of the day sent to me by readers. Bruce sent me this reminder of the past winter.

bruce heron

..and my daughter Annabel sent me this warmer view of spring in London


It was disappointingly grey again this morning, especially as the sun was out both to the north and south of us. Dropscone had gone to play golf in Newcastleton so I was on my own and after a leisurely breakfast and a drawn out coffee break, I finally got out the bike and set off up the Lockerbie road. The wind turned out to be quite breezy to say the least and it wasn’t until I had been through Waterbeck and Kirkpatrick Fleming that it finally got behind me. The result was a rather slow but enjoyable ride, particularly when I managed to find a bit of the promised sunshine.

I took this picture just outside Waterbeck where the two waters meet at this little bridge over the road to Gair.between the waters

The back roads are covered with loose gravel and it came as no surprise when I got a puncture on the old A74 just north of Kirkpatrick Fleming. I was well provided with a pump, a spare tube and tyre levers so it didn’t take me long to get going again.


I have put the route for anyone who is interested on mapmywalk at http://www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/28725496

I have been asked to give Dropscone’s recipe for girdle scones  and here it is:

2 cups of plain flour
tea spoon of baking soda (sieved)
half tea spoon of cream of tartar (Sieved)
mix dry ingredients.
Add milk (old if possible) and mix till you have a dough that is able to be rolled out
not too soft or it will stick to the rolling pin.
Heat the pan on a low to medium heat, not too hot or the outside will burn before the centre is cooked.
Halve the dough and dust the baking board.  Shape the dough into a round and roll out to 1/4 inch thick.
Cut into quarters and place in the pan. Turn when the bottom looks cooked, you lift an edge with a pallet
knife to see if it is colouring. You will know when they are done if you lift a scone and give it a tap with your finger
and there is a drum like sound.

Getting the pan at the right heat is crucial. It is better to be too cool than too hot. I will be interested to hear if anyone gives them a go.

The frogs in the pond are chirping away but they are not in the same numbers as last year yet.a single frog


Conditions were not good for bird photography so I contented myself with these two pictures of a redpoll. Because I hadn’t seen one for a couple of days, I was pleased to welcome this one back.


He looks that way


...and he looks this way too

You would think that they would be easy to spot but unless you catch them at exactly the right angle, they are surprising inconspicuous.

During the afternoon we were told by my brother in law, Mike, That Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother had had a fall and had to be taken to hospital. This was sad news and we await more news tomorrow.

In the evening, we once again trotted along the road to the Buccleuch Centre, this time to see Chris Barber in concert with an 11 piece band. He was playing a lot of early Duke Ellington stuff but the concert also included a Miles Davis piece and some small group traditional jazz. The concert was an unalloyed delight. The sound levels were perfect, you could hear every individual instrument, the lighting was well organised and the players were very skilful indeed. Chris Barber himself was in fine form and gave every impression of having enjoyed the evening. He was out in the foyer at the interval chatting away to the audience. We have had some wonderful evenings out over the years at the Buccleuch Centre and Hall (as it was) but his was right up there among the best. (…and as I might have said before, only two minutes from home.)

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Today’s picture shows why the morning ride was not an attractive option.rain

Instead of pedalling, I buckled down to do some of the final work on the DVD before today’s committee meeting. Arthur Bell came round and I took the opportunity to show him three sections to check that I hadn’t made any major factual errors. He gave me the go ahead although he had a modest reservation or two. This was a relief and I wrote the project to a disc and went up to the Archive Centre to make copies. Then I came home and got the key to the Archive Centre, went back up and then made the copies. (The people who prepare a sound copy of the E&L  Advertiser for visually impaired readers  use the Archive Centre for their recording and they have a very nifty machine which will make 7 copies of an hour long DVD in less than ten minutes and which we are allowed to use.)

After lunch, I made some girdle scones for the committee meeting using Dropscone’s recipe and trying to copy the method that he had shown me last week. Not only was his recipe sound but his method must have been good because the scones turned out really well and they will definitely figure in my cookery again.


I must add that they were very healthy scones too because I forgot to put in the salt but it didn’t seem to matter as they were all eaten by the committee, myself and Mrs Tootlepedal.

I was able to snatch a damp picture or two out of the windows.

wet goldfinch flying

It really was persistently wet today

There were not many bramblings about today. I expect they have got fed up with the constant bickering between the goldfinches and the siskins.

siskin goldfinch

..and the chaffinches too.

siskin goldfinch chaffinch flying

The committee meeting went well and almost everything will be ready for the launch next week. We will have three display panels, a substantial (32 page, I think) guide book and the DVD ready and a children’s’ booklet under development. I hope people like the work but, as usual, I expect that there will be those who would have done it better, think the whole thing is a waste of time, can’t think why we didn’t include this, can’t think why we did include that etc. etc. My policy under these circumstances is always to try to blame someone else.

In the evening, I went to the bowling club and enjoyed a really good night of slot car racing with Grant and Les. We had three tracks running smoothly, well matched cars and many close races. Who, in the words of the song, could ask for anything more? We will have to take the track down in a fortnight and another season will have gone by.

I leave you with a frog. The volume of croaking in the pond is building steadily.


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Today’s picture was taken in Richmond park by my sister Mary.

There’s a lot of wildlife in London’s parks.

The weather was slightly warmer and almost windless as Dropscone and I enjoyed our morning cycle. We did a slightly quicker time than we have been but at the cost of Dropscone’s heart monitor beeping furiously for quite a lot of the second half of the ride. He has read an article saying that it is better to keep the heart beat in a certain range for attaining fitness but it is very hard for a man like him who is used to burning it up.

After our coffee, I went to the town to buy some mince which I managed successfully. I wasn’t so successful in getting some lamb’s kidneys as the butcher’s suppliers seem to take the kidneys out of the carcasses they deliver to him and not send them on. This is a sadness as I really enjoy a kidney in a spicy red wine sauce (..and they are very cheap.)

I didn’t have much time to photograph birds and the weather was very gloomy by this time. We had about 50 siskins in the garden at the same time but we keep finding dead ones under the feeders. There was another today. I photographed this one which was looking very sorry for itself and just standing around trembling.


Perhaps there is just too much competition for food among the flock. There certainly is more competition at the nyger seed feeder than there was even in the coldest weather.

nyger mayhem

Among all the gloom, the snowdrops are showing at their best.



After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work and I settled down for a last big push on the DVD. I  finally assembled all the parts and it lasts just about an hour which was the target length. I put it onto disc for the committee to have a look at tomorrow but of course, when I played it to myself, I instantly spotted errors. I expect to have others pointed pout to me. Nevertheless, I am pleased to have got to where I am now with a week in hand before the launch.

After a hearty meal of mince and tatties, I welcomed the recorder players who came to Langholm this week as our usual host is away on holiday. We had an alphabetical night with Roy, our librarian, producing works from William Byrd, through Coperario to Michael East. The Byrd Fantasia in particular was wonderful. The thing that is so good about recorder playing is that it gives you the opportunity to play really great music in your home and the music is reasonably easy to play with practice. It’s like being able to play premier league football on your lawn. Because the blog was a bit short of pictures, I caught the players as they were packing up at the end of the session.


Roy, our librarian and guru


Heather, a grand keyboard player as well as a recorder player. (Book her for your wedding)

two sues

Two Susans


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