Archive for Mar, 2011

Today’s flower is another bergania. They spring unnoticed from beneath cabbage like leaves.bergania

We were greeted by howling wind and lashing rain when we woke and after a brief telephone consultation, Dropscone and I wisely decided that the day was not suitable for the morning cycle. As a result I spent some time after breakfast putting a week of the E&L into the database which is a thing  I never usually attempt before lunch. Luckily the absence of cycling didn’t mean the end of the world, as Dropscone appeared for morning coffee bearing girdle scones anyway.

The wind had done quite a lot of damage to the just blooming daffodils in the garden and Mrs Tootlepedal picked a few of those that had been knocked over and brought them inside as cut flowers.



I must say that photographing flowers indoors involves a great deal less crawling about than it does when you are working in the real world.

After lunch, although the wind continued to be very gusty, the rain went off and a lovely sunny afternoon appeared. Mrs Tootlepedal went out to remove a photinia which had not being doing well and replace it it with flowering currant. I helped as well as I could by keeping out of her way.


The photinia on the way out.


The bed prepared


The new plant in place

It is hard for the casual viewer to realise just how much work Mrs Tootlepdal puts into the garden every year. She is always improving, experimenting and altering.

I wandered round looking for flowers to snap.


I had another go at this bright red tulip

I had thought of going out on the bike once the sun came out but the wind didn’t relent at all and I thought better of it. It was very pleasant in the relative shelter of the garden watching Mrs Tootlepedal at work and lending an occasional hand in the warm sunshine. When we went in for a well earned cup of tea, I kept an eye on the birds at the feeders.


A redpoll looks to see what is going on


A sparrow enjoys the fat balls

In the evening, after currying the last of some lamb stew which I had about me for my tea, I went to the Archive Centre with Sandy and Jean. Jean and I put two more weeks of the E & L into the database while Sandy experimented with our portable scanner. Three weeks of the E & L in one day certainly made me feel that I had earned our usual visit to the Douglas for refreshment.

I end with a goldfinch enjoying a bask in the sun.




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Today’s picture shows a lofty view of London and was taken by my sister Susan from New Zealand House where she was at a function. You can see Nelson’s Column if you look carefully.

Central London from New Zealand House 18th story
She was mixing in High Society

As forecast, the rain was pouring down as I woke. We were promised a short break in the morning so Dropscone came round. We waited a while to see if it would abate but when it didn’t, we went out anyway. I took the slow bike and had so many layers of waterproofs that just pedalling was enough to wear me out. By the time we got half way round, the promised break in the rain materialised and then, of course, I was far too hot. However, we struggled round with Dropscone politely waiting for me when I lagged behind and ended up with a surprisingly satisfying time for such poor conditions. We were rewarded by some of Dropscone’s girdle scones with our coffee.

What was also very pleasing was the return of quite a number of birds to the garden. I was startled to see this blackbird under a feeder as they usually lurk on the ground in front of the house.


The nyger seed feeder, which has been deserted for a few days, was busy again today. I saw these little brown birds and wondered what they were. Another one arrived followed by a siskin.

brown bird

I wondered if we had new visitors.

more brown birds

..and then a goldfinch joined them. It was just like old times.

and a goldfinch

There’s just a hint on the bird on the left as to what these little brown birds were.

siskins redpolls

For some reason their redheads weren’t showing but when they lifted their heads up, the pink chest showed that they were redpolls. Perhaps the rain had smoothed the feathers over the red patch that usually shows.


Here he is at last with the red head showing. Even if they weren’t some exciting new visitor, I was pleased to see the redpolls back.

The goldfinches had reappeared in larger numbers than yesterday too.


All this bird excitement was very fortunate as it gave me something to stare out of the window at as well as the rain. It rained all of the rest of the day and I didn’t venture out again. I took advantage of the weather to put a week of the E and L into the database and to complete the reorganisation of my hard disc which had taken 24 hours to finish. I was worried in case the procedure would have left me with a worse situation than when I had started but not only did it not wreck anything but I think it has actually made things work a bit more quickly.

We have been members of the AA for many years but for some reason this year, they sent us our membership cards twice and this made me worry that would charge us twice. Mrs Tootlepedal pays the AA and although I knew that they were expensive, I hadn’t really realised just how expensive they were. All this led to us cancelling our membership and joining Green Flag at a saving of £150 per annum. I just hope we don’t have to use them.

In the afternoon, we were visited by a great tit which was also a bit of a novelty.

great tit and chaffinch

..and a sparrow.


All in all, I was quite pleased by the renewed bird activity until Sandy Gill came to a meeting in the evening and told me that he had nuthatches and no less than two woodpeckers in his garden. I suffered from acute bird envy.

I ought to have gone to Carlisle to play recorders last night but Jenny, our hostess had flu and the playing was cancelled.

On the cycling front, the trip this morning took my mileage for March to just over 700 miles with a day to go. This is very satisfactory and it means that I have now caught up with my target of 500 miles each month after a very poor January. It has been done by lots of short rides because of the dry weather we have been having. I hope to some more substantial distances next month if the wind is kind. I don’t like riding long distances into the wind if I don’t have to!

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Today’s picture is of a bergania which has just come into bloom. bergania

The day dawned with one of those mists that promise a lovely day when they clear. It was still misty and decidedly chilly when Dropscone and I set off on the morning cycle ride but by the time that we had finished, it was sunny with a cloudless blue sky. Dropscone, who is on a new set of pills for his shingles, went very well and we were pleased with our time.

After coffee,  I went into the garden to catch a rather curious tulip which seems to spread its wings only in the morning. By afternoon it has closed up which is the opposite of what I would expect to happen. It doesn’t look much like a tulip but Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is.


Photographing bright red flowers gives me problems with flare so I will experiment to see if I can improve the colours in time to do justice to the many normal tulips which are about to burst into flower.

I am getting the hang of plain yellow daffodils but I notice that there are different sorts about to bloom so I am not overconfident yet.


Since there are virtually no birds on the feeders, I am reduced to taking pictures of Mrs Tootlepedal’s artful arrangement of flowers round them.


We were visited by this stately collared dove (I think) which looked very decorative but strangely out of place compared with the busy finches that used to scurry round.

collared dove


Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work again this afternoon. She is covering for a colleague whose son has been taken ill. In her absence, I enjoyed a good time sieving compost. This was the kitchen waste from two years ago which has rotted down to a really nice friable soil. The sieving removes things like peach stones which take years to rot down and the so called compostable kitchen waste bin liners which also rot down very variably. The finished product is a treat.

After that excitement, I set in train a program that promises to speed up my desktop computer. It, like me, has got very slow and crotchety in its old age. As always with these things that promise so much, I expect the outcome will be a computer running even slower if it runs at all but the thing had got so slow that something needed to be tried. The process takes ages so I will not know until tomorrow whether it has worked.

By the time I had wasted hours fiddling with the thing, the sun had disappeared behind the clouds and my plan for an additional afternoon pedal had gone with it. However, Mrs Tootlepedal returned from work full of vim and vigour and we cycled gently up to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back in a light breeze, a distance of 6 miles.

I was pleased to see the greenfinches were back at the feeder in the late afternoon. Their colour seems to be affected by the ambient light because sometimes they look a dull olive or even brown and at others, they are bright yellowy-green.


I was also pleased to see that some sparrows have begun to come back into the garden. This one was enjoying the new fat ball dispenser.


The forecast for the next few days is not good but I have spread a light layer of fertiliser on the lawns in the hope that it will rain tonight so that I will at least get some benefit from the change on the weather.

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Today’s picture is of one of the remaining chaffinches enjoying a sunflower seed in the warm evening sunshine chaffinch

Today’s blog is rather picture heavy but not too many birds from the garden. Bruce, a great railway enthusiast read yesterday’s blog and sent me two pictures from years gone by to match the places that Mrs Tootlepedal and I visited on our bike ride from Hawick. The first shows the bridge I was standing on moaning about the overgrown trackbed.


..and the second shows the line stretching towards Minto Hill.


Judging by the hills Mrs Tootlepedal and I cycled up yesterday, this line must have taken quite a few cuttings and embankments to complete it.

The other photo I was sent to today shows the new sprinklers at work on Langholm golf course. I think you will agree that they are quite spectacular. I don’t think Chatsworth can offer much better. Thanks to Dougie Irving for providing me with this.


Because I haven’t yet got adjusted to BST, I was woken up at 8.30 when the phone went. It was Chuck asking if I was going for a morning pedal. I scrambled into my cycling gear, wolfed a plate of porridge and off we went. It was only 3º when we set out and I was well wrapped up but Chuck, who is made of sterner stuff, was wearing shorts. Maybe the need to keep warm drove him on because we set off at a very good speed and since he is more than willing to do the bulk of the leading, we kept this up the whole way round and finished with an average speed of 16.4 mph which is as good as I can expect. It was altogether a most enjoyable start to the day.

Dropscone was not available for pedalling as he had a doctor’s appointment but he came round after it to tell us that he has got shingles again. He was not very happy as you can well understand. However the doctor told him that there is nothing to stop him cycling so it isn’t total gloom…..and he brought some drop scones with him. These were shared by a man from Harelaw who has built a yurt in his garden and was seeking advice on accommodating cyclists in it. He is actually right on one of the CTC end-to-end routes so he might attract quite a bit of business if he gets his pricing right.

In the afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal went to work and I went out on my slow bike with the camera. Before I left the garden, my eye was caught by an unexpected flash of colour.


I hope this heralds a much better year for butterflies than last year.

I went up the Wauchope Road and stopped to take a picture of the devastation at the start of Gaskells Walk.


It will take some time to recover. On the opposite side of the road were some black and white cows (belted Galloways).

 bw cows

On my way back I saw some cows in colour too.

 colour cows

No vast monoculture round here.

I stopped at the Bigholms to see if I could capture a lapwing that was flying around calling.


It was probably trying to distract predators from its young. This buzzard was flapping lazily overhead.


As I was hanging around there, waiting for a photo opportunity, I was passed by Bill Dalgliesh on his way home. He is a living example of the beauty of bicycling. He has had one knee operation and is waiting in great pain, unable to walk at all, for the other knee to be done. In spite of these handicaps,  he was cycling an eleven mile circuit involving steep climbs up timber extraction roads. He cycles round the town with his crutches at his side like a mediaeval knight with two lances.


I had been intending to just ride up the road and back again but I was inspired by his example and did the same circuit in the opposite direction. It is a stiff climb up the hill but you are rewarded with fine views from the top.


Looking down to Cleuchfoot farm

On my way out I had noticed some smoke rising from the hillside and thought it was just heather burning but on my way home I saw that it it had been quite a blaze of the grass on the hillside after a very dry month. I am not certain that this was the result of the smoke I saw because there was suspiciously little smell by the time I came past.


My arrival at the house was greatly brightened by meeting another serious cyclist who was proceeding up the road by means of crashing off any available building.


This is Ellie. The Olympics in 2028 beckon.

I had been given a catalogue by Jean with some very fancy bird feeders in it. It said that you shouldn’t use netting for holding the suet balls for the birds because they risk getting their claws caught. I have two peanut feeders which are not much used and so I filled one with the suet balls and within moments a chaffinch had turned up to give it a go.

fat balls

The old arrangements were attracting sparrows so I think I will leave them in place too.


I end today with a small selection of daffodil shots.

big daffs

These are full size daffodils


And these are a medium size with elegantly swept back perianth

And just in case you are missing some bird pictures, we were visited today by some greenfinches.



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A day out

Today’s picture from my sister Susan is of blossom in Regent’s Park. Blossom in Regent's Park

We can’t quite match that amount of blossom but the weather continues to be very pleasant for March so I was able to get out on the bike for a quick trip up the A7 to the Mosspaul Hotel and back. Owing to the clocks leaping forward overnight but me not leaping out of bed in the morning  in time with the clocks, it was quite late when I started out. There was a nice wind behind me on the way up and it was not so harsh on the way back as to spoil the fun of 10 miles gently downhill. I managed an average speed of 15.9 mph which is only just below the best that I can expect these days.

It was lunchtime when I got back and soon after that, Mrs Tootlepedal and I put our bikes in the car and drove to Hawick. We parked at the new bus station and set off on a 12 mile circle to Minto and back. The weather had stayed very nice and the wind once again was at our back so the first 6 miles of the trip flashed by as we followed the river to opposite Denholm.  A mile or so after leaving Hawick, we found ourselves following the old railway to Melrose. I stopped on a bridge to see if there was a good path along it but it was overgrown and neglected. As a car driver who uses buses infrequently, I can’t complain about the closures of railways too loudly but I think that the failure to make use of these ready made lines of communication for pedestrians and cyclists is a major reproach to governments of all colours.

Mrs Tootlepedal patiently waits while I take this photo from the bridge.

hawick ride railway

I apologise for the rather varied quality of the photos or our day out that follow but the sun will not conveniently move round so that I can get a good shot of a view and the land owners grow big hedges along the roads we travelled.

hawick ride minto hill

Minto Hill in the distance, where we would turn for home.

You can just make the old railway line on the left of the picture. As we cycled along the river, we passed huge banks of bluebell plants on the verges and we resolved to come back in bluebell time.

Approaching Minto, the pedalling became much more arduous as we left the riverside and climbed towards Minto village.

hawick ride near Minto GC

Mrs Tootlepedal tacking up the hill to Minto

I took advantage of a view to stop and take a photograph from halfway up the hill.

 hawick ride Rubers Law

Rubers Law on the other side of the valley

The hill ended at last and my soul was refreshed by this glimpse of Minto golf course. Considering it was Sunday and a beautiful day, the course was being very lightly used.

hawick ride Minto GC

Minto village is very charming and Mrs Tootlepedal’s eye was caught by this lion fountain in a corner near the church.

hawick ride lion fountain

Dropscone tells me that he married his first wife in the church at Minto which was near where she lived. The whole area is very well kept and has the air of a large estate. Even the gateposts to the fields are rather superior.

hawick ride gatepost

Leaving the village, we turned back towards Hawick and the wind was now in our face. The road runs along a ridge and offers splendid views to the south and west.

hawick ride view

It’s a good thing that the views are fine because the going is very tough as the road snakes up and down constant small hills and round sharp corners. We found it hard. We met many cyclists going the other way during the last part of our ride and I think there must have been an event of some sort going on. They were all very cheerful but then they had the wind at their backs.

Just before we got to Hawick, we passed this fine tower house at Burnhead.

hawick ride Burnhead tower

On our return to Hawick, we went into Morrisons as people had spoken well of its cafe. It turned out to be very pleasant for a supermarket cafe and I enjoyed a slice of Battenburg cake with my cappucino which I haven’t met for many years. All in all, it was a very good outing with very quiet roads, good surfaces and wonderful countryside.

On our return, I looked hopefully round the garden to see if there were any birds.



I took a couple of pictures of new flowers instead.

grape hyacinth

A rather interesting grape hyacinth with two shades of blue on the same stalk


Pulmonaria which seems to come in a variety of shades from blue to pink

I rather like Mrs Tootlepedal’s colour combination which I see at out of the kitchen window when there are no birds to look at.

 daffs and croci

The day was so glorious that I took this shot out of my bedroom window just to show it. The weather is set to change but, to be fair, we need a bit of rain. I emphasise ‘a bit’.

garden 26 March

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Today’s picture is the first sighting of an anenome pulsatilla in the garden for this yearanenome

It’s a good thing that flowers are beginning to appear in the garden because the bird population has shrunk from more than 50 every day to about 6. I am hoping that the absence of the voracious siskins and chaffinches will encourage other birds to come in now there is space for them.

There was a lone goldfinch sharing the feeder with a chaffinch this morning and that was all.

chaffinch and goldfinch

The only upside of all this is that the drain on the housekeeping money to supply birdseed has been greatly lessened and Mrs Tootlepedal will be able to eat proper meals again.

The weather remained good this morning but the legs refused to play ball and I didn’t go for an early bike ride. The legs were not the only factor because I was also intending to play golf in the winter competition and I didn’t want to be too tired for that.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off in the car to take the empty hanging baskets down to Cochrane’s to get them ready for the new season and then went on to a garden centre where a number of plants mysteriously fell into her basket. When she returned I went off to golf. Probably because I have pumped my tyres up so hard and the bike now bounces fiercely over all the ruts and potholes, my bad wrist felt rather painful and it took me a few holes to get going. After a while, I started to play better and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

I took this shot of Jim Murray in the big gully at the seventh and he wishes me to point out that even if he hit the ball into it, he also hit it out again and near enough to the pin to get a par…..which is more than I could manage without going into the gully at all.

jim in the ditch

There were seven of us in the afternoon draw and I played in the three ball that teed off first. We got round an good time and had had three rounds of ginger beer in the clubhouse before the other four turned up on the last green.


I must say that looking at them posing elegantly there, I was reminded of the catwalk at a major fashion show. Yes, and your eyes aren’t deceiving you, Mr Tweddle was playing in  shorts and a tee shirt  in March. Their relatively slow pace hadn’t done them any harm and they returned better scores than we had managed.

I got the camera out when I returned but in the absence of any birds, I took a few flower shots.

drumstick primula chinodoxa

A half opened drumstick primula and some chinodoxa


Early miniature daffodils (about 15cm high)


Early daffodils of a more normal size

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went to see Oliver done by our local amateur operatic society at the Buccleuch Centre and enjoyed it very much indeed. It starred some very good juvenile actors and Langholm is fortunate to have an excellent young actors’ company in the town. It has been almost totally sold out for the whole week so everyone is very pleased with the show. While she was out, I finished preparing the index for the old Ordnance Survey maps for the Archive website and then watched the final two episodes of the Danish crime thriller, The Killing.  This has been an absolute gripper and undoubtedly the most enjoyable telly of any sort that I have seen for a long while. I was happy to hear that another series is in the offing although it probably won’t be quite so pleasurable to watch as it will have lost its novelty.

The clocks go forward tonight giving extra cycling time to those who enjoy that sort of thing.

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Today’s picture, sent to me by my sister Susan, shows an unexpectedly urban end to the canal at Paddington, London.

Modern end of the Paddington Arm

Our good weather continued today, although it was pretty chilly when we got up at seven o’clock. The early start was to allow Mrs Tootlepedal to go to work for eight 0’clock. I waited for the temperature to go up and then I waited for my mobile phone to charge up and then finally I set off on the speedy bike to take advantage of the sunny day. Usually, if I am waiting to go out on the bike, I will try to photograph a few birds at the feeder but today that was not possible. The reason for this was a complete absence of any birds at all of any sort visiting the feeders. I have been expecting the siskins to move on but for all the birds to leave was a bit eerie. It must be a sign of fresh food elsewhere.

I went off up the Wauchope road with no wind at all in any direction and my little camera in my back pocket. There may be no birds in the garden but there are a tremendous number of buzzards about and these two were circling over my head, crying in a mournful way as though hoping that I might fall off my bike and offer them a meal.


I wandered through Waterbeck, Eaglesfield and Ecclefechan before striking east towards Hoddam. Here I stopped for a banana and a view of the church at Hoddam Cross.

hoddam cross

The church may be a ruin but the graveyard is very well looked after.

My journey was fuelled by two bananas and a couple of Johnny’s cheese and tomato rolls. I was expecting to get a penny off the price of the rolls as I had heard that the Chancellor had cut the tax on fuel but, strangely, I was disappointed.

After crossing the River Annan near Hoddam Castle, I headed down to Annan and then took the road to Kirkpatrick Fleming. Immediately after going over the Annan bypass, I took the opportunity to cycle up to Chapelcross on a side road that I have never been on before either in a car on on my bike. It gives you a splendid view of the power station.


I headed past the power station and onto the Annan-Eaglesfield road before heading back down some back roads towards Hollee and Kirkpatrick Fleming. I think this tower is Bonshaw Tower.


The fields were full of lambs all along my journey.

sheep and lambs

There seem to be a lot of black sheep around this year.

black sheep

I suppose that since the wool doesn’t seem to have much of a market, it is no longer so important not to have black lambs.

Coming up to Kirkpatrick, I took two shots of the church. I love the steps set into the wall of the graveyard. Perhaps they were there to allow the minister to graze sheep to keep the grass down.

KPF Steps

The church itself is a complicated building.

kpf church

A slight wind rose up as I embarked on the last 15 miles and, of course, it was into my face. It was still very light and I managed to average exactly 15 mph for the 44 mile round trip. For those of you with nothing better to do and with time hanging heavy on your hands, the route can been seen at http://www.mapmywalk.com/routes/view/30308858

There were still no birds in the garden when I got back but finally two or three chaffinches turned up and I took their pictures just to encourage them to come again.


A lady


A gentleman


and a friend

After I had had a bath, I offered to cook a pizza for Mrs Tootlepedal’s tea. My friend Sue, the recorder player had told us that you can make a really good pizza base using a bread machine so I made up the mixture and put it into the machine. Unfortunately, I had just been making bread and the machine took so long to cool down before it would let me use it again that I ended up mixing and kneading the dough by hand. Mrs Tootlepedal made the topping and the whole thing turned out not too badly even though it was nine o’clock before it was all ready. The fact that we were starving by this time may have enhanced our enjoyment of the meal.


We were very pleased to hear that our daughter-in-law Claire has got a job. And not just a job but one she wanted. It is a tribute to her qualities that she has found one when the job market is so tight.

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