Archive for Aug, 2013

Today’s picture shows an enterprising street musician in Mansfield, snapped by my brother on his way home from his recent tour.

Mansfield Street music

A rather  brief blog today as I was out at my neighbiur Liz’s birthday party until late.

I fiddled away the morning doing this and that…and of course occasionally looking out of the window.  It was a glorious but rather windy day and as I have got within a mile or two of my 500 mile target for the month, I don’t get a bicycle out at all.  I did admire the garden from two upstairs windows though.

The front garden

The middle lawn

As you can see, things are growing well.  There are a great number of small flying things in the garden this year and sometimes it looks as though almost every flower has a friend of some sort.

bee on sedum

A bee investigates the early flowers on a sedum

matching bees

Matching bees on cosmos

marigold with flies

A marigold with two friends

cosmos with white butterfly

No painted butterflies today

Shirley poppy

I did find one Shirley poppy with no insect.  The other had two to make up for this.

sweet pea

Our sweet peas aren’t attractive to insects to the same extent as the other flowers.

One of my two fuchsias has taken a sudden notion to produce more flowers.  The other one, six feet away, has produced nothing but new leaves.  I just hope these buds get time to open.  It was quite chilly today but we are promised a return to warmer weather next week.


Mrs Tootlepedal grew a dahlia for cutting but for one reason or another, it has been left to get on with it uncut.  It is thriving.


The product of benign neglect

She was quite excited to see a freesia blooming in a quiet corner of a bed in the vegetable garden….


…but she would have been more excited if she had discovered more of them.  This was the only one of fifty plants which came as a bonus freebie with a plant order.

In the afternoon, I went to Carlisle to select and collect some more music for our choir with our musical director.  He arrived before me and had picked all the music he wanted without any help from me.  I was allowed to wait for it to be packed up and to take it home in the back of my car though.  I made sure that I didn’t left any heavy boxes.

I did a little shopping while I was in town and was extremely restrained in my purchases until I was mugged by some well matured cheese in one of the aisles.  these things happen.

When I got back, I finished mowing the drying green and rested before going out to Liz’s party. During the day, the weather had swapped between very sunny in Langholm and rainy when I was in Carlisle.  I caught a blackbird in a sunny moment in the morning.


And got a fleeting shot of a coal tit in the afternoon.

coal tit

They nip about at great speed.

I didn’t take my camera to the party and as my phone is far too old to have a camera on it, you will have to imagine the scenes of decadence and riotous entertainment at the golf clubhouse.  Suffice it to say that regardless of the state of my back, Mrs Tootlepedal and I danced both the Dashing White Sergeant and  Strip the Willow as well as consuming some small sausage rolls and several glasses of orange juice.  That should give you an idea of how a 70 year old’s birthday can be celebrated in style.  It was most enjoyable and we had a good time chatting to friends while not dancing.

I managed to catch a flying bird in the better light today.












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Today’s picture shows a curious building which my brother Andrew tells me is Queen Victoria’s tea house at Frogmore, which he visited not long ago.  I just have my tea in a mug.

Queen Victoria's tea house at Frogmore

The year is in a sort of pause mode at the moment.  The temperature is still quite warm and  summer-like but the weather looks and feels like autumn with grey skies and brisk winds.  It is neither one thing nor the other.

I put my rain top on when I set off with Dropscone for a turn round the morning run and this kept the rain away successfully.  It tried a few spots every now and again but seeing my bright red jacket, it realised that it was wasting its time and stopped. The strong wind and tired legs held me back a bit but we only added a couple of minutes to our recent times.

Dropscone had brought drop scones not girdle scones to go with the coffee and, disgracefully, we had managed to eat them all by the time that Arthur came round to join us.  He was late because he had had a frustrating morning recording the newspaper for the blind and so I gave him a biscuit which cheered him up a bit.

After he and Dropscone had left, I did a bit of business and before I knew it, it was lunchtime and I hadn’t even got the camera out.  There was more business to be done after lunch and I didn’t walk round the garden until three o’clock.  It was still very grey and windy, not good conditions for taking pictures of soggy flowers swaying in the breeze.  It didn’t stop me trying.

If we get a still, sunny day, I expect this plant to attract some butterflies.


The first of the sedums to come into flower.


The nasturtiums seem to be getting more colourful every day

Alchemilla Mollis

An Alchemilla Mollis showing that it can retain raindrops too.


The wind and wet hasn’t put off the bees. Here is one clinging to a cosmos.

The leaves of the cosmos plants seem to be being attacked by something bad and look as though they are dying.  This will be sad because they have been doing so well.  Mrs Tootlepedal is baffled.


A hopeful rose. I don’t rate its chances highly.

pink phlox

A pink phlox laughs in the face of rain.

The marigolds also seem to shrug off wet and windy weather.


I managed to mow the grass round the greenhouse but the drying green was so soggy and wet that I had to give up half way through and I will try again tomorrow.

It wasn’t a day for bird pictures either but I was impressed by the fortitude of the sparrow on the left in this picture.

tough sparrow

In spite of being trampled on by a chaffinch and shouted at by a siskin, it stolidly continued to munch on its seed until they both flew off.

I was able to catch one or two birds standing very still.

chaffinch, coal tit and greenfinch

Chaffinch, coal tit and greenfinch

In the evening, I went by myself to the Buccleuch Centre to watch the celebrated singer and guitarist John Renbourne give a concert.  He is often described as a folk blues guitarist and he certainly gave us both folk and blues.  His finger picking technique is still amazing but his performance didn’t hit the spot for me tonight.  Every tune was taken at a cracking pace and I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of notes  crammed into each very small moment of time.  In the end everything sounded a bit the same and to make matters worse, my foot never got tapping as his rhythms were idiosyncratic to say the least.

I was pleased to have gone to hear him but disappointed not to have enjoyed myself more.

I think that that the continuing mild pain in my back is making me a bit crabby.  It certainly affected my enjoyment at the concert. I couldn’t even find a flying bird today.









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Today’s picture comes from my sister Susan, who has been in Paris.  She was, as they say, where the balloon went up.

la nacelle is the wicker basket suspended under the balloon

la nacelle is the wicker basket suspended under the balloon

Dropscone was off at one of his elderly gentlemen’s golf tournaments so I had a leisurely breakfast which morphed almost seamlessly into coffee and biscuits with a short break for garden strolling in between.

peacock butterfly

A peacock butterfly dwarfs the daisy on which it has settled.


Two long-standing violet residents of the summer garden: geranium and viola

As Mrs Tootlepedal got ready to go the funeral of one of her embroiderers’ group in Newcastleton, I got the speedy bike out and set off to do a circuit taking in Kennedy’s Corner.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I had  been impressed by the recently renovated road surface when we rode up the hill after our cream tea on Sunday so I was going to try it going downhill in the opposite direction.

The forecast had offered the possibility of light rain almost all day but it was dry enough when I set out.  After three  miles though, the clouds began to look very threatening and I discovered that I had forgotten to pack my rain top.  I was pedalling into a brisk breeze so
it wasn’t much of a hardship to whizz back home downwind and start the whole trip again.

The wind eased a bit and I was taking things easily so I enjoyed myself.  I only stopped once to add to my collection of local bridges near Waterbeck.  Two streams meet at the bridge.

Hotts burn

Hotts burn

Bridge at Between the waters

Kirtle Water

Kirtle Water

The road down the hill to Chapelknowe turned out to be rather bumpy when taken at speed on the speedy bike in spite of the new surface but by the time that I had got to the flat at Chapelknowe, the wind had become decidedly vigorous.  Luckily, it was straight behind me now and I had a lot of help from it on my way home.  Those interested can find details of the route by clicking on the map.

garmin route

For some reason today, my smart Garmin device couldn’t get a signal until I had gone for nearly a mile.  This is the first time this has happened and there seemed to be nothing in the weather to make it happen.  I am baffled.

As I cycled back into Langholm, I passed Mrs Tootlepedal in the car.  She gave me a cheery wave as she went on her way to help with the driving for the disabled.

Once home, I took a quick look out of the kitchen window….


A chaffinch checks for room at the feeder


Not a lot of space among the scrapping sparrows

…and then I practised heavy relaxation for the rest of the afternoon.  I felt that I ought to look as though I had been doing something though so after a good sit down, I cycled up to the High Street to get fresh supplies of soap, coffee and cheese and to buy a new potato peeler. Then with good timing, I managed to be outside and mowing the front lawn when Mrs Tootlepdal returned.

Once out in the garden, the call of the flowers sent me back in to get a camera, even though it was a bit too windy for sensible photography.

shirley poppies

A contrast in centres among the Shirley poppies


Nasturtiums held the evidence of a light shower earlier in the day.

cosmos colour

Cosmos colour

After tea, I went off to the Archive Centre with Sandy and Jean where Jean and I managed to put two weeks of the index into the database while Sandy did some research into the Town Bridge for Laura from whom I had bought the soap earlier in the day.  She joined us for a well earned refreshment on the Douglas.

The flying bird of the day was a greenfinch, making a change from the recent procession of sparrows and chaffinches.









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Today’s picture was taken on the hill above the town by my recorder playing friend Susan.

Susan rocks

It was a quiet, grey morning and still quite warm.  I had to go to the health centre after breakfast for a regular check up and when I got home, I had time for a quick walk round the garden.  I caught up with a couple of old friends which were managing to bring a bit of brightness to a dull day.

_DSC7311 (2)


Bruce arrived with tales of strange growths in the park.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I were going out for a pedal so we started by visiting the park.  There were indeed some unusual growths to be seen.


They looked as though dogs or children had given them a hard time.

I don’t know what they are but I didn’t fancy picking and eating one.


A close up

Pausing only to admire the planting round the war memorial in the park…

War memorial

…we pedalled off up the Wauchope road to do the Barnglieshead triangle, a 14 mile undulating trip.

Our journey was uneventful and I only stopped once to take pictures.  It was not a day for great views….

A view down to the Solway

Looking down to the Solway

…but the quiet back road was a pleasure to cycle along.

Barnglieshead road

We got back in time for me to have a quick lunch and then go off to the tourist information point at the Kilngreen.  My two hours were only disturbed at the rate of one enquiry an hour and after an ice cream from the van in the car park and a nod to the heron…


…I came home.  I was hoping to go and see Dr Barlow ringing some birds at the Moorland Feeders but the wind had got up quite a lot and the sun had come out.  Bright sunlight and a brisk wind make the nets all too visible to the birds so the ringing was cancelled.

I walked round the garden instead.

I noticed a late knautia lurking behind a shrub…


…and I took a picture of a rather distrait rudbeckia.  Their blooming habit can best be described as higgledy-piggledy, reminding me of the snakes in Medusa’s hair.


I stood waiting for some birds to arrive at the feeder in the sunshine but none came so I took a photo of the little sunflower beside the feeder instead.


I was hoping to see some butterflies but there were none.  Perhaps the wind was too brisk for them.  Looking for something to do, I mowed the middle lawn and that cheered me up.

I went inside and of course the birds came to the feeder.


A successful landing

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly cut my hair and we settled down to watch the highlights of the Vuelta.  It was not one of the most exciting stages that I have seen.

Altogether, it has been a rather quiet, uninspiring day today with not much accomplished.

A chaffinch arrived through the nicotianas as flying bird of the day.


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In response to a flood of (at least two) requests, today’s picture is a set of Dropscone’s treacle scones beside the ingredients.  The recipe is below.



1 and a half cups of self raising flour.
Pinch of salt if required
Half cup of milk (your choice, full or skimmed)
2 spoons of treacle, infuse into milk (warm milk in microwave, first)
Put all into a bowl and mix. If too soft, add more flour, if too stiff, more milk.
Dust table with flour and mould into a round shape, but don’t over work.
Flatten and quarter and place into a dry frying pan or griddle. Turn when the bottom
is set. You can peek by lifting the corner with a knife.
Remove from pan and place on a wire rack.
PS Same ingredients for soda scones, just no treacle.

To get the best value from these scones, it is important to have cycled 20 miles before eating them.

We had treacle scones today and Dropscone and I did cycle 20 miles before eating them.  We made a change from our usual morning run and went to Waterbeck instead.  (The curious can find the details here.)

Thanks to the industrious work of the pothole gang who have been mending the road over the past couple of weeks, the surface is much improved, with only one section left to do.  Once again, the weather was warm and the wind was hardly significant.  We are going to find it very hard when the present spell of fine weather ends.  By general agreement this has been the best summer for many, many years.  Dropscone moderated his pace to my requirements and we got round in a reasonable time and without doing any damage to my back at all.

When he left, I took my customary walk round the garden.

As well as bees…

bee on hawkweed

A late flowering of the hawkweed attracts a bee

…and butterflies….


…we have also got a million flies in the garden.


Just one of them.

I have had to take back all the rude words that I used about the green and white clematis as it is looking better and better every day.


After my shower, I had a quick look at the passing birds…


A chaffinch almost overshoots the target.


Ever more sparrows appear. The one on the top left is a new youngster still wanting to be fed.

siskin up a tree

A siskin on the very top, of the plum tree

..admired the ever more potential plums…

potential plum

…had another check on the butterflies…

white butterfly

I spotted this one.

red admiral

This is a red admiral, the first of the year in our garden.  It flew off before I could get a good picture.

..admired some more flowers…


It’s hard to pass this crocosmia without the snapping finger twitching.


A good looking hosta

…and then sat down for lunch with Mrs Tootlepedal, who had returned from another morning’s archaeology fair worn out.   They had been using a magnetometer as well as the resistance measurer at the castle and it all required a lot of laying out of strings and tapes to keep everything clearly mapped.

Sandy had been helping with the archaeology in the morning too and whereas Mrs Tootlepedal returned for another session after lunch, he retired from the field as he suffers from sore feet and came round to see if an expedition of some sort was in order.  Thanks to bad feet and a sore back, we opted for an excursion  by motor car to visit Bewcastle on the English side of the border.

The road to Bewcastle is a treat to drive along as, once over the border, it runs through green and pleasant country along ridges offering pleasant prospects on all sides.

View from the  road to Bewcastle

A typical view

As you can see, the skies were still very hazy and the full extent of the views were hidden from us.  I have visited Bewcastle before but it was new to Sandy.  The church bell tower looks as though it has had a bit of trouble.  Perhaps the lightning conductor was put in place too late.

Bewcastle Church

The church has two faces, blank and windowed but is very charming inside with a fine gallery at the rear..

Bewcastle church

The church stands beside a ruined castle….


Rather dull

…and in the middle of a Roman fort.  Here is Sandy standing on the edge of the fort.

Sandy on a roman fort

We spent some time watching several swallows (and we think, some house martins too) feeding what must be a very late second brood in the eaves of the church.


They were too quick for me most of the time but once or twice, I almost got lucky.



It is always enjoyable to watch these acrobatic birds in flight.

We left Bewcastle and headed further south along a road new to both me and Sandy.  It turned out to have even better views.  The picture below gives just a taste.  You can see the hills round Langholm on the horizon.

Looking at Langholm

In a rather annoying way, the weather magically cleared up as we drove home and we would have been able to take much better pictures if we had been an hour later…but such is life.

We drove as far as Lanercost Priory and as we had taken enough pictures by then, we didn’t stop and made our way home by main roads.  It was a very satisfactory tour and I intend to take Mrs Tootlepedal and Jean on it soon.  (Good teas can be had at Lanercost Priory tea rooms.)

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I were entertained to a slap up meal at the Douglas Hotel by my brother Andrew who was in the vicinity, having had a couple of days rushing up hills in the Lake District.  He is an equally energetic and generous chap.  I will be able to put some pictures from his adventures onto the blog as soon as he gets home and sorts them out.

The flying bird of the day is one for flying sparrow fanciers.

flying sparrow









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Today’s picture was sent to me by Bruce who spotted this ruddy darter at Threave.

ruddy darter

I did some darting myself this morning in company with Dropscone, as we nipped round the morning run in good style in spite of some moaning about bad backs from one of the pedallers.  It was another lovely day with very light winds so I was pleased to be able to take  advantage of it.  Dropscone politely started at a steady pace so I could get well warmed up before putting the foot down.

After coffee and scones, I felt confident enough to get the lawn mower out and mow the middle lawn. As the grass was short enough not to need the box on the mower, it wasn’t very hard work and my confidence was justified as I managed it without trouble.

I also walked round the flowers.

Icelandic poppy

A delightful light orange Icelandic poppy has appeared.

Shirley poppy

And the Shirley poppies keep on giving

The garden is full of white butterflies but they are very fidgety and it is rare that one presents a good photo opportunity.

White butterfly

They are not necessarily as white as they look when flying.

Mrs Tootlepedal was out all morning.  After a choir practise at the church, she made her way to the Castleholm and helped out at an archaeological session at the castle there.  They are not actually digging but using one of the clever machines that can ‘see’ underground for a survey.

She came home for lunch and as Sandy arrived after lunch, he and I decided to go across and take some photographs to record the scene.

Langholm Castle

They are surveying the ground round the castle.

Resistivity machine

Volunteers with the resistivity machine

Resistivity machine

Mrs Tootlepedal in a special archaeology hat talks to the visiting expert

Two other men were doing obscure things in some long grass nearby.

Tom Stothart

Mrs Tootlepedal’s work consisted of moving the ropes which marked the areas to be surveyed by the machine.  This was hard and continuous work and as it was very warm as well,  she was quite pleased to get a sit down at the end of the day.

Sandy and I moved on after a while and we drove down to the Tarras and went for a very short walk  along the banks of the river.  By coincidence another white butterfly posed for me there.

white butterfly

In order to keep my back in order, we went only a short distance and the track was lined for most of the way by thistles and rosebay willowherb.  This is the season of seed.



Thistledown going up

Sandy was driving and kindly agreed to my suggestion of a cross country route home.  We stopped to take pictures whenever the fancy took us.  Here a few of the ones that I took.




It was a perfect afternoon for standing out in the country looking around but a bit too hazy for distant photography.

We were having a cup of tea and a dainty biscuit after we got back when we were visited by Dr Tinker, who advised me to go at once and look at his buddleia if I wanted to see some colourful butterflies.  When Sandy left, I trotted  obediently round.  He was right of course, as doctors always are.

colourful butterflies

Dr Tinker’s butterfly farm.  There were peacocks and tortoiseshells on every twig

As you can see, one was colour co-ordinating on a neighbouring flower.

I was so uplifted by this that I mowed the front lawn when I got home.  The warm weather of the last few days has brought the lawns on very well and they are looking as good as they ever will at the moment.  It is sad to think of all the moss that is lurking, waiting for the cold, wet, winter weather to come.

I hadn’t had time during the day to catch a flying bird so I went out with camera in hand to see what I could do.  Of course, the first thing that I saw was a peacock butterfly in my own garden.  The phlox was its target.

peacock butterfly

My flute pupil Luke came in the evening and I was feeling confident enough in his ability and capacity to practise to be slightly severe about his need to practise with great discipline at all times.  It is the key to progress because otherwise you just tend to practise your mistakes in.  We have reached a certain level and the next step will take some really hard work.  I am sure that he can do it.

I did manage to catch a flying bird along with the butterfly.  It is a flying sparrow.

flying sparrow



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Today’s picture, in the absence of any contributions from friends and family, is a geometrical delight from our garden.

sunflower head

The day started tentatively on my part as I tested out my fragile back while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir.  I was able to walk about the garden and take pictures so the back couldn’t be said to be too bad.


The things that you see when you look at a flower closely continue to delight me.

clematis and poppy

You don’t have to get too close to enjoy these eye poppers though.


The bees were as busy as ever.

A multicoloured blackbird entertained me for a while.


Possibly two different birds glued together.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church and we booked some railway tickets to go to Skipton by the Settle and Carlisle railway line (a great scenic treat on a fine day) at the end of September.  The purpose of the trip is to visit a yarn fair there.

As well as looking at the flowers, I had dealt with a couple of items of business from the in tray while Mrs Tootlepedal was out so I was feeling pleased as we took another stroll round the flowers.

I was even more pleased when I saw a peacock butterfly.  The contrast between the top and bottom view of its wings is striking.

peacock butterfly

There were more bees of course.

bee on cosmos

I like the contrast between the enormous bee and the tiny fly.

I must have a word with Santa about the need for a macro lens at Christmas.

I made some lentil soup for lunch and fortified by this, we got our bikes out and set off to cycle the ten miles to Chapelknowe where there was a cream tea to be had.

I was more than a bit worried about my back but, as often happens, I felt a lot more comfortable on the bike than off it.

By coincidence, shortly after we had left home, we met a couple of friends cycling the other way.  We stopped to chat and they revealed that having read about the re-opened bridge further up the road on the blog, they had felt moved to go and inspect it for themselves.  It had been almost as exciting as their recent visit to the World Athletic Championships in Moscow (but not quite).

We pedalled on and as we turned off to go over the Kerr road, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a line of birds on the telegraph wires.  At first she thought that they might be swallows preparing to leave….

birds on a wire

…but after a closer look, we think that they are starlings getting ready for the big winter gatherings to come.

We cycled up to Solwaybank through peaceful upland farming country….


…before heading down the hill to Chapelknowe.

It was a really lovely day by this time and after an hour in the saddle, we were ready for our cream tea.

Chapelknowe Hall

The function was to raise money for the upkeep of the hall

Chapelknowe Hall

It was very well attended.

Unusually for a village hall, the chairs were really comfortable.  The supply of scones, jam and cream was inexhaustible although Mrs Tootlepedal did her best to exhaust it.


I just caught one before it disappeared.

We had several cups of tea and a lot of cheerful conversation with friends and strangers and felt that it had been well worth the ten mile trip.  Our return took us back by a different and more scenic route.  (Click on the map for details if you like.)


We headed through the village and took the road up to Kennedy’s Corner.   It runs gently uphill and gives fine views back towards the Solway.  Here we see Mrs Tootlepedal whizzing up the hill, having just passed a couple of cars that were holding her up.

Road to Kennedy's Corner

The slightly hazy conditions mean that the camera doesn’t do any justice to a pleasantly sunny, still day.  It would have been hard to find a nicer day or a better bit of country for cycling after a cream tea.  We got to the top of the ridge and sailed down the other side to Falford where I stopped to take a picture of the bridge.

Falford Bridge

I stopped again to take a picture of my favourite view half way up the hill.

View of Winterhope

By this time, Mrs Tootlepedal was away up the hill in a style reminiscent of Vincenzo Nibali.


I caught her up with difficulty and we enjoyed the swoosh down the other side of Callister.  It really was a lovely day for cycling….



The road home

…and basically all downhill to home by this point.

The ride ended up at just under 24 miles so we felt that we had probably done enough to earn the scones and cakes.

I resisted the temptation to mow any lawns when we got back, being more than pleased that my back had stood up to the cycling.

We were able to relax and watch the final miles of the Vuelta (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) on the telly as we ate our evening meal.

Although my back is still quite sore, I was very pleased to find that cycling doesn’t make it worse and I hope to get out again tomorrow while the weather remains good.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch


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