Archive for Sep, 2013

Today’s picture  (one of mine in the absence of a guest picture) shows the hills round the town putting on their autumn clothing.


I took the picture when I was out on my bike this morning.  Owing to a failure of communication, I didn’t go out with Dropscone as he was doing something else.  This turned out to be a good thing as I had a bit of a cold and felt awful and for once getting on the bike made me feel worse.  I was hoping to do quite few miles but I had to stop after twenty and even those took me a long time.  A cold and quite breezy easterly wind wasn’t helping matters and the warmth of the kitchen was very welcome.

I spent the rest of the day snivelling around the house doing little tasks that needed doing…..very slowly.

Sometimes I popped out into the garden. Mrs Tootlepedal came in to say that she had seen a butterfly and that has been so rare that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a picture.

red admiral

It was a red admiral again.  Probably the same one as our last visitor.

It was hanging on the the swaying Michaelmas daisies for dear life and let me get quite close.

red admiral

I had managed to knock one of the perches off the feeder when I filled it and I liked the acrobatic way this little chaffinch was managing without it.


The sunflowers near the feeder are a popular perch for the chaffinches as they wait for an empty spot….

chaffinch om sunflower

…abut this visitor was unexpectedly different.


A closer look showed that it was a robin.

I am not a bird expert but I think its rather tatty appearance means that it hasn’t finished its moult.  Here it is in anther pose.


I made some nourishing lentil soup for lunch and that made me feel a bit better.

A great tit stood on the plum tree looking quite at home.

great tit

The sun came out strongly in the afternoon and I stopped work for a quick walk round the garden again.

The variegated nasturtiums were looking sensational.


And I enjoyed the phinal phling of a pink phlox glowing in the sunshine.


One clump of astrantias are still out.


Then the butterfly came back.  I don’t know anything about butterflies but the markings look so similar that maybe it was the same butterfly as came earlier but perhaps all red admirals have similar markings.

red admiral

It gave me a full display.

red admiral

red admiral

I don’t know of another creature which looks so different from a distance and close up.

The cosmos are nearly over but they were attracting a new sort of flying visitor today.


I would be delighted if a knowledgeable reader could tell me what it is.

I took a last look at the dahlias near the greenhouse…


…and went back inside.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came.  We are going to prepare for a go at a grade two exam and this means forgoing the delights of baroque duets for hard working things like scales and arpeggios and set pieces.  He has been to see a proper flute teacher and has got some useful advice from her.  I don’t think grade two will be a problem for him.

In the evening, I went off to play music with Mike and Isabel.  I have recently brought a piece by Mozart, arranged for wind player (or violinist) and cellist with piano.  It claimed in the title that it was a light piece and it turned out to be quite playable and well worth the money.  You never know what you are going to get when you buy music sight unseen so this was a relief.

Thanks to my cold, I made many more mistakes than usual but we still seemed to have an enjoyable evening.

I have updated the French trip pages with another day of photographs for anyone interested.  Two days to go.  I must say that it looks like a very nice holiday judging by the pictures.

There was a flying bird of the day as usual and as usual these days, it was a chaffinch again.


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Today’s picture shows the cloisters at Salisbury Cathedral.  A big floor to scrub.  My three sisters visited it while on holiday earlier this week and my sister Susan sent me the photogrpah.

The cloisters are splendid

We had a beautiful early autumn day of 100% sunshine.  As a result, after a prompt breakfast, I got the speedy bike out and cycled up the main road to Mosspaul.  The views were gorgeous, just as good in their own way as the south of France or the Eden Valley.  Of course, we don’t get so many sunny days to enjoy the view as they do in Le Sud so I enjoyed this one while I could.


The clouds didn’t amount to anything and soon cleared away and a cross wind was the only fly in the ointment as I pedalled up the gentle gradients of the Ewes Valley.  The Mosspaul Hotel, after a period of closure, seems to be open again and judging from the number of cars in front of it, doing quite good business.

Mosspaul Hotel

The steady drag up to Mosspaul took me 50 minutes but even with the persistent cross wind, the beneficial effects of gravity ensured that I averaged almost 18 mph on the way back down.  I stopped to remark on the bracken turning brown on the hillside as autumn creeps onward…

bracken turning

..and to admire a flaming tree opposite Whitshiels cafe, another autumn marker.


The phone performed well and I hope that I can keep using it as a camera and not to have use it to ring up the Mrs Tootlepedal Rescue Service.

After I got back, Sandy called round  to give Mrs Tootlepedal her winning embroidery back and present her with a fine certificate.  Annie looked at my pictures and with a fresh eye quite correctly pointed out flaws in the printing and presentation that would have contributed to my lack of success.  The lesson is always take trouble and take competitions seriously and not put in pictures just because you like them yourself  if you want to win prizes.   I should have got them prepared long before I went off on holiday and not at the last moment.  Mind you, I might have done that and still not won anything.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been singing in the church choir and when she got back and had been suitably refreshed with coffee, she and Annie set out on a cycle ride of their own round Potholm.

It was such a lovely day that I had to take some pictures of old friends from all round the world.

Anemone, marigold and poppy

Japanese anemone, Scotch  marigold and Icelandic poppy

I also picked some raspberries and blackberries.  The autumn fruiting raspberries are really enjoying the weather at the moment.

After the ladies got back from their cycle ride, Annie and I played a few recorder duets while Mrs Tootlepedal converted the raspberries, blackberries and some windfall apples into a delicious crumble..  Then  It was time for lunch and we enjoyed some tasty goat’s cheese on toast.  I had bought the local goat’s cheese in Skipton yesterday and it would have been almost worth the whole journey just for itself.  Followed by the crumble, it made a feast fit for a king.

Annie has an appointment to  visit her granny tomorrow and so she had to catch an afternoon train back to London.  Mrs Tootlepedal took her down to Carlisle.

While they were out, I and mowed all the grass that I could find. The front lawn looked good later in the day in the evening light.


In this light you can’t see the moss lurking.

I can’t complain if the lawns are as dry and easy to mow as they were today this late in the season.

I took the lawn picture with the new phone.  It certainly enjoys a bit of colour.  I suspect that clever people have put some picture processing software into the phone to get the results looking so peppy.  I pointed it around the garden.

Middle lawn

The fence

Mrs Tootlepedal looked at this picture and said, “It doesn’t look like that.”  It nearly does though.

I hadn’t neglected the birds during the day either.  The goldfinches are back in the category of regular customers as they are appearing every day.


The families of sparrows have largely disappeared and the chaffinches are by far our most frequent customers.


One sparrow to five chaffinches

The tit family are much in evidence.  Today it was the turn of coal and great tits to pose for me.

coal tit

Great tit

My sister Susan likes a perching chaffinch so here is one pretending to be a bee and perching on a sedum.

chaffinch on sedum

I took a final flower picture of the day as the sun got lower.


Nerines under the seed feeder.

In the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre for a reception with a finger buffet to mark the 90th anniversary of the Langholm Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society.  I haven’t been active recently but in years past I have directed plays and operas for them as well as conducting and playing in the orchestra and Mrs Tootlepedal, who has directed several of their productions, still appears in the shows and makes costumes.   There was an excellent turnout of members and supporters of all ages and the buffet was very good too so it was an enjoyable couple of hours.

Annie phoned to say that she had got home safely and said that the late afternoon and evening sunlight had been so good that the train journey south had been as good as another holiday.  She pointed out that like me she had had both a tootle and a pedal so she had obviously had a good day.

Given the number of chaffinches around, it is no surprise that one of them is flying bird of the day yet again.


I have added another day of pictures to the second French Trip page.


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Today’s picture, sent to me by Bruce, shows a good use for old tractors on the beach at Cromer in Norfolk.


It was the day of the Langholm Show today and in normal circumstances, we would have been there but our daughter Annie had bought tickets for us to visit a yarn exhibition in Skipton in Yorkshire and that took priority.  Other than the pleasure of meeting our daughter and going to a yarn exhibition, a major attraction of the outing was a trip on the Carlisle to Settle railway line, one of the most scenic in Britain.

We left for Carlisle straight after breakfast with high hopes of good weather and a fine day out.

The train to Skipton only consisted of two coaches and was pretty full by the time we left Carlisle.  As each station when we stopped added more to the load and as we stopped at many stations, it was bursting at the seams by the time we got to the highest point of the trip at 1100ft.  We felt happier once it was coasting down the hill into Yorkshire.

The stations on the line have been well looked after since a determined effort by rail users prevented the authorities from closing the line in the late 1980s.

It starts its run from Carlisle along the Eden valley and today there could have been no place more aptly named as the views from the train were wonderful.  Sadly, taking pictures from an aisle seat through the slightly grubby windows of a crowded train is not on so you will have to take my word for that.

I did take a picture while we were stopped at a station.

Carlisle to Settle Line

A small station building.

Our daughter was coming up from London and more by luck than good management her train and ours arrived at Skipton within minutes of each other.  We found that there was a old Routemaster London bus acting as a shuttle from the station to the exhibition, which was being held in the local auction mart.  The bus had been tastefully decorated to show its destination.

skipton bus

After a short journey, we were decanted at the mart and entered without really knowing what to expect.  The exhibition had been organised by a group of local craft enthusiasts but it had got stalls from all over Britain and judging from the crowds inside, visitors from all over Britain too.

It was jam packed.


There were hundreds of stalls and thousands of visitors and Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie had a great time going round.  There were two very fine displays of knitted food….


…which were much easier to get at than the actual food stalls which had huge queues.  I stood in one of the queues for some time while the ladies continued their research, making judicious purchases from time to time.  They joined me as I got to the counter and we had a burger for our lunch.

The organisers had sent out a call to craft workers everywhere to provide crochet bunting and their call had been answered in spades.


As well as purveyors of all sorts of wool, the show had two stalls for providers of quality yarn.


There was wool from everywhere….


…and people knitting in the auction ring of the mart.


Altogether it was an amazing, if rather claustrophobic experience.  My favourite stall wasn’t really  yarn based as such but a lovely display of machine embroidered pictures.  Here they are with their proud maker posing in front of them.


She is called Christine-Ann Lambert and has no website that I can find but if you get a chance to see her work, take it.

As Mrs Tootlepedal remarked, the exhibition was full of really enthusiastic stallholders, all very helpful and all very charming and polite and as many of the most popular yarns and fabrics in the stalls  were made from angora, alpaca and cashmere, it could well be described as the ultimate in soft selling.

We spent a couple of hours threading through the crowds and then sought fresh air and a walk back to the town.  This was a walk of about a mile and the route was marked out for us at every point by more crochet bunting, knitted lamposts….


…and even knitted bollards with additional crochet canaries.


You can see that the crochet canaries had attracted a wild life photographer.

The path led us through a delightful public park….


…down to the Leeds and Liverpool Canal beside the station.

Leeds and Liverpool Canal

We had a bit of time to spare before our train back to Langholm so we walked along the canal to the town centre…

Leeds and Liverpool Canal

…where we had a nice cup of tea.   We walked back along the canal, passing a manifestation of the ongoing Skipton puppet festival…


There’s never a dull moment in Skipton

…and caught the train back to Carlisle in the nick of time.

This had more coaches than the outward journey and I was able to sit next to a window and take a picture or two as we pottered slowly home through the dales.


All the stations on the line were built by the Midland Railway Company in the same style, known affectionately as Derby Gothic.  They are well maintained.



The picture above, taken from Horton-in-Ribblesdale station, shows Pen-y-ghent, one of the hills in the Three Peaks Hill race which I ran three  times when I was in my prime.  It is twenty three miles long and goes over the tops of three 2000 ft peaks. The winner in one of the years in which I competed took two and a half hours to finish the course.  I took quite a bit longer. Happy memories.

The journey from Skipton to Carlisle is not much over 80 miles but takes two hours so the passenger has plenty of time to stare out of the window and very little time to be bored as the scenery is wonderful on a sunny day like today.


This is the view from Ribblehead viaduct.  This is a popular spot for walkers as you can see from the many parked cars.


One of the many farms en route.

We arrived back in good time to have a fine meal at the Douglas to round off a grand day out.  A text from Sandy told us that Mrs Tootlepedal’s embroidery had not only won first prize in its class but also a cup for the best item of handwork in the show.  Well deserved in my view.  Sandy had won a first and second prize but I had to be content with a single third prize.  I shall have to try harder next time.

I just had time to catch a chaffinch after we got home and before we went for our meal.



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Today’s picture shows a very neatly stacked pile of Swiss firewood spotted by Dropscone’s sister Elizabeth while in the country.

Zurich Sept 2013 013

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work again and I managed to stick to my plan and put the speedy bike in the back of the car and drive to Annan without any interruptions.  I had two hours to kill in Annan while waiting to pick up a package so I drove on to the Golf Hotel at Powfoot and had a cup of coffee and did the crossword while looking our over the Solway…


…and waiting for a light  but persistent drizzle to stop.

Eventually things dried up and  managed a short ride to Ruthwell Church and village.  WhenI got back to the Powfoot turning, I still had a little time in hand so I added a couple of miles and got my total up to just under 13 miles.  This was perfect timing and I was bang on time to pick up my package and head for home.

I had the phone cam with me on the bike and took it out to see what it could do.

Ruthwell Church

Ruthwell Church. I didn’t have time to visit the Celtic cross inside today.

hedge webs

The hedges were bejewelled with sparkling webs

Once home, I had to settle down to some serious work in getting pictures ready for the Langholm Show tomorrow.  In the end, I managed to find and print fifteen pictures, some of which were quite pleasing (to me at any rate).  I am hoping to pick up a couple of third places if I am lucky as the competition will be quite hot.  Since we are going away for the day tomorrow, Sandy has very kindly offered to take the pictures in and fetch them back again.  He is taking in an embroidery by Mrs Tootlepedal too and we have great hopes for it.

Naturally, as I was stuck indoors working, the sun came out and it developed into a lovely afternoon.  I put the computer down and went for a quick walk in the garden.

virginia creeper

The Virginia creeper was on fire

yellow flowers

Yellow flowers shone in the sunshine


The last of the purple phlox


The cosmos are almost over too.

Signs of the morning rain were all around.

Nasturium leaf

Taken with the phone

watery web

A watery web taken with the Nikon

I was just bemoaning the lack of butterflies on such a lovely day when first a white butterfly appeared….

white butterfly

…and then a red admiral caught my eye on a Michaelmas daisy.  They have been so rare this year that I have indulged myself and put in a few pictures of it.

Red admiral

Red admiral

Red admiral

Red admiral

The forecast is quite good for a few days so maybe I will see more butterflies soon.  I love the way that they sip nectar through a straw.

There were birds as well as flowers and butterflies in the garden.

chaffinch perching

Pausing to take a final shot with the phone…

sunny garden

It seems to like the greens a bit too much.

…I went back in and got on with the work.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came and Alison and I battled our way through some nice pieces and although we were both a little short of practice, we had our usual enjoyable time.

I couldn’t decide which of two chaffinches should be flying bird of the day so I have put them both in.

flying chaffinch

flying chaffinch

I have posted pictures from our second day of cycling in Languedoc on on a new page.  You can see them here.









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Today’s picture, sent by a fond father,  shows Maisie practising being a baby with her new little sister Frances.

Maisie and Frances

My plan was to go to Annan, where I had business, with the speedy bike in the car, do a little cycling combined with the business and be back for one o’clock in time to wait for the arrival of the gas man.  It came to naught.  Just as I was going to go, the gas man rang and begged to come straight away.  I changed my plan and let him come.

While he was servicing the boiler, I was trying to make head or tail of a new and fancy mobile phone which had arrived with the morning post to replace the old fashioned one that I lost in France.  This was rather depressing because the phone obviously has many wonderful abilities and bells and whistles but I had a terrible time just trying to ring someone up with it.  (While I am thinking of the phone, could I ask anyone who has me in their mobile contact list to send me a simple text as I have lost my contacts along with my old phone. My number remains the same.)

Every now and again, just to keep my sanity, I stared out of the kitchen window.  The feeder was busy.


It was hard not to take pictures of flying birds today.  Female….


…or male.


A pair of great tits arrived to complement the blue and coal tits in the garden.

Great tit

The coal tit didn’t look entirely pleased.

coal tit

Mrs Tootlepedal was at work and appeared fora brief lunch before going off to help at the driving for the disabled.  Left on my own, staring in bewilderment at my phone which had no instructions with it at all and wondering whether ‘syncing’ was a good idea or not, I finally managed to find out how to take a picture.  Here is my first effort.


It certainly has some vivid colours in its palette.

Emboldened by this, I put it into the back pocket of my cycle jacket and set off on the speedy bike to try to cheer myself up.  The new bridge is complete now.

new bridge

The phone camera has a nice wide angle on its lens. 

This was the bridge that was my target for the ride.


I haven’t quite got the hang of the camera yet and not being able to see what is on the screen in some lights doesn’t help.  A picture of a chestnut tree in a field was a failure.

chestnut tree

I don’t know why.  There is obviously yet another learning process in store there.

The cycling was good fun with a helpful east wind making sure that I went the ten miles out to Paddockhole more quickly than I came home.  Neither direction was very quick.

I spent some time looking through pictures from France and I have written up the second day of our tour on the French Trip page.

(I am going to put the next day onto a new page when I get it done so that you don’t have to plough through through the whole thing again to find it.)

Thinking of the field of sunflowers that we saw in France, I used the phone to take a picture of our own little sunflower bunch.


In the evening, I went with Sandy and Jean to the Archive Centre to try to catch up on the large backlog of data entry waiting for me.  We managed a week and a half of the newspaper index but I will have to get serious about it soon.

This was the winner of the flying bird of the day competition.



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Today’s picture comes from Switzerland courtesy of Dropscone’s sister Elizabeth.  The police think that this cow may be a ringer.

Zurich Sept 2013 016

We were welcomed back to reality with a cloudy day in Langholm and a temperature about 14 degrees C lower than Nimes but for all the contrast with our recent holiday, it was still quite a pleasant day for late September in southern Scotland and notably calm in the wind department.  Sadly I couldn’t take advantage of the good cycling conditions as I had to visit the health centre and the dentist straight after breakfast.

When I got back from these visits, there were lawns to be mown and flowers to be dead headed so I got busy.  Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal was ploughing through a mountain of washing up.

Although autumn has definitely arrived there is still plenty to look at in the garden.  There are a few new flowers still to appear.  the latest are some nerines which arrived while we were away.


Plenty of old favourites are still around.


Some looking better than others.


A contrast in clematis

The Shirley poppies are still looking wonderful in spite of strong winds and rain when we went away which you might have thought would have wrecked them.

Shirley poppy

Signs of autumn are all around, some unwelcome such as worm casts on the lawn which leave ugly splodges when I mow over them but some more welcome like this Virginia creeper.

Virginia creeper

The sedum are gloriously red but there are no butterflies to be seen.  This has been a bad year for coloured butterflies in our garden but a very good year for bumble bees…

bee on sedum

…and I expect that bees are more useful to the gardener than butterflies.

In between lawn care and taking flower pictures, I picked some blackberries and raspberries and collected up a lot of windfall apples.   With this haul, I made two jars of raspberry jam and provided a delightful bramble and apple base for a fruit crumble which Mrs Tootlepedal made.  We have more apples than we can eat so I think that Mrs Tootlepedal is considering apple chutney.

After lunch, I selected some pictures for entering into the Langholm Agricultural Show this weekend and printed them out.  I am not going to be at the show but Sandy has offered to take the photos up for me.  I still have a lot more to pick and print but as I have to wait in for the gas man tomorrow afternoon, this will give me something useful to do.

I was happy to see that the birds have been well looked after by Alison Tinker in my absence and enjoyed having them to look at in the intervals between making bread and making jam.

blue tit and coal tit

A blue tit and a coal tit consider the feeder situation

chaffinch and goldfinch

A chaffinch and a goldfinch in possession

I like the tiny coal tits so I took another picture of one.

coal tit

In the afternoon, Sandy came round as it was his day off work and we went for a short walk.  The light wasn’t very good so we did more chatting than looking for photo subjects.

We did record the first signs of the autumn leaves turning on the trees.


On the Castleholm preparations were under way for the show on Saturday.

show preparations

I had enjoyed the vineyards and olive orchards of the south of France in the sunshine last week but I also enjoyed the green hills and pastures of the borders even though the sun was not shining.

green hills

After our walk, we were enjoying a cup of tea when we were joined by Dropscone who had kindly brought me a present from his recent holiday in Kent.  In return, I gave him a copy of Sean Yates’ biography which both Mrs Tootlepedal and I had read with great enjoyment while on holiday.  As we had been given the book by Gerry in the first place, Dropscone scored more points for thoughtfulness and generosity than I did.  He was in a good mood because he had been part of a six man Langholm golf team that had won a prestigious golf competition at the weekend.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to our usual choir meeting which was well attended.  I sang a wide selection of notes for the first half (some of them right) and waved my arms about and shouted for the second half and enjoyed both activities a lot.

The unusual flying bird of the day has flown all the way up to us from Kent thanks to Dropscone.

metal bird

I am looking through the pictures that I took in France and I have posted some from our first day in Nimes with a bit of narrative on the page headed French Trip.  I will post a bit more every day for those who are interested.








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The picture of the day was taken by Gerry on the Petit Camargue last Wednesday and shows two happy cyclists that he met there.

Tom and Ally

I haven’t quite mastered cycle posing yet.

We are safely home, although we have scattered our possessions across half of Europe on our way out and back and have come to the conclusion that we are probably not safe to be let out.  A rough calculation reveals that our actual travelling time from Nimes, including the bus from Carlisle to Langholm, was done at an average speed of 100 mph.

I will resume a proper blog tomorrow as there a hundreds of pictures to go through and after arriving home at three o’clock this afternoon, I went to Carlisle this evening with Susan as usual on a Tuesday to play recorders so that has left me little time.  Much of the time in between was taken up by organising a replacement phone for the one that I left on the train.  That one hadn’t been used while I was away which was good.

Thanks to Gerry and John of Cycling Languedoc we had a wonderful cycling holiday with perfect arrangements and we had the added bonus of wall to wall sunshine every day which was the whole point of travelling about 2000 miles by train to travel 150 miles by bike.

It was a pleasure to meet Gerry and Shoko along with tour organiser John and fellow blogger Susan….

Susan and John

Susan had already cycled from Bordeaux by the time we met her and we were more than impressed by her stamina and determination.   We enjoyed a very pleasant meal in Nimes with John, Susan, Gerry and Shoko in the shadow of a fine Roman temple.

Maison Carre, Nimes

Day one: Nimes

We averaged 30 miles a day on our hired bikes which was quite enough for us in temperatures of 25 to 29 degrees and in the face of an occasionally very stiff wind.

I am putting a single photo from each of our days in France here and will post a separate page about the trip as soon as I can.

Day one: Aigues-Morte

Day Two: Aigues-Morte our evening stop.

Day two: Courbet's bridge

Day three: A Roman Bridge at Ambrussum  made famous by a Courbet painting.

Day three: Ancient and modern meet in the mediaeval town of Sommieres

Day four: Ancient and modern meet in the mediaeval town of Sommières

Day four: A field of sunflowers beside the River Gardon

Day five: A field of sunflowers beside the River Gardon

Day five: The Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard

Day six: The Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard

Day Six: Back in Nimes at the Roman arena

Day Seven: Back in Nimes at the Roman arena

Although it was quite warm when we got home, the sun wasn’t shining and just looking at these pictures makes me feel that perhaps  we have came home too soon.  Still there are consolations besides a good evening of recorder playing.  As we walked from the bus back to the house, the air was full of the sound of bird song and there were old friends to greet us…..


Bon nuit.







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