Archive for Jul, 2014

Today’s guest picture is a water lily from the hot house at Kew taken by my daughter Annie.  She was visiting the gardens with my sister Mary and my stepmother Pat.  Further pictures of the jaunt may well appear soon.


Soon after breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal was out and about on her bike on another manure collecting trip.  I walked round the garden.

day lily and marigold

A day lily and a marigold brightened up a dull day.

I was waiting for the minister to arrive as I had reluctantly agreed to go with him to Carlisle where he was going to look at some possibilities for his new bike purchase.  My reluctance was solely due to the fact that in spite of riding about on one quite a lot, I know nothing about bikes at all.

There is a seemingly infinite variety of bike styles, bike materials, bike components and bike makers.  Should it be aluminium, steel or carbon fibre for the frame? Should be Shimano or Campagnolo for the gears?  Should it be road, touring, sportive, audax, cyclocross, hybrid or whatever for the style? What sort of saddle is best?  Do you need mudguards?  And then, having considered those choices, you have to wonder which model offers the best value for money.  Are those fancier components really worth £200?   All these are hard decisions to make for yourself but even harder to offer advice on for someone else.

Still, the bike shop was very helpful and offered Scott no less than four different bikes to try out in the car park opposite the shop.

Scott cycling

Here is Scott trying out a Giant and a Bianchi

In the end, he decided to come back next week and try two of the bikes again for a second assessment.  The bike shop said that they would make sure that he had the correct sized frames and that should help him come to a decision.  The fact that any of the four would be quite satisfactory makes it even harder for him to choose one of them.

Although they were too small for me. I had a quick pedal on three of the bikes and at a quick first go, the Bianchi seemed to handle the best but I don’t think I would have enough street credibility to be seen riding one.

There was quite a bit of standing about involved in all  this and by the time Scott dropped me off at home, I abandoned any thoughts of a pedal or of lawn mowing and gave the afternoon over to complete idleness.   If I can’t get my hip a little better soon, my character will be destroyed.

The sparrows were a lot busier than me.


Amidst the hurly burly, a young sparrow sat and flapped its wings in the hope of a feed.

young sparrow

I did wander about the garden from time time to ease off the stiffness of sitting about,  For some reason, pairs of flowers seemed to be prominent as I looked about.

Japanese anemones






There was one combination which really made me look twice.

marigold and daisy

Among the throng of sparrows, one or two growing starlings could be seen.


I liked the haphazard way the new plumage seems to be developing.  It will soon look like this:


Mrs Tootlepedal was away helping with the driving for the disabled during the afternoon.  Each pony trap requires an escort of able bodied cyclists in front and behind and the organisers have acquired some electric bicycles for the helpers.   Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that they are great fun to use.  I was visited by Mike Tinker and was entertaining him to a mug of tea when Mrs Tootlepedal returned.  There was a big article in our local paper this morning about Mike’s daughter and her rescue of the little boy from the river last Friday and he is very proud of her.

Sandy was detained by the offer of a hot meal from friends in Carlisle so in the evening, I went up to the Archive Centre by myself to put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  Sitting in front of a computer doesn’t suit my hip so I stopped after a single week.  The discomfort of typing away at a keyboard may also be accounting for the somewhat random and disjointed nature of this and recent posts.

I am going to have to find a different approach to easing off the hip pain as the present methods are not helping much.  Annoyingly, I get times when all is fine and I think that I have cracked it, only for things to go downhill after an hour or two.  Still, mustn’t grumble.

The flying bird of the day is one of those busy sparrows.


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Today’s guest picture shows William and Sara, who are being looked after by their grandparents Mike and Alison, enjoying a visit to Hermitage Castle.  It was almost as much fun as frog hunting.


As I spent most of it sitting down, working hard at some serious resting in an effort to chase away the hip pain, I have to little to show for the day.

I did get out into the garden in the morning to admire the show of Shirley poppies in Mrs Tootlepdedal’s new bed…

Shirley poppies

…and to give the recalcitrant yellow crocosmias a good talking too.  They remain stubbornly just on the verge of coming out.

The striking new lily has no such reluctance.  I took its picture once in the morning…


…and once later in the afternoon.


I had another garden visit in the middle of the day when I enjoyed the sight of the first blush of red on one of our tomatoes in the greenhouse.


We are very excited.

The hostas have flowered profusely this year,


I usually think that hosta flowers are rather dull but they have been impressive this summer.

In the afternoon, I went down to The Studio, a new space for sports and social activities that has been opened recently in an old mill building.  We are hoping to restart the local camera club in the winter months and this place looks as though it will do very well for our meetings.  Because  my slow bike is still at the bike shop while they service the hub gears, I had to drive down and so I combined the visit with a little shopping.  This constituted my entertainment for the day.

When I got back, I admired the fine crop of berries on the Tropaeolum or perennial nasturtium…


…and the lively colour of the orange crocosmia on a grey day.


As she thought that it had got too big, Attila the gardener had chopped one of our box balls down to within a few inches of the ground some time ago and it is very satisfactory to see that it has survived this rough treatment and is growing back well.

box ball

I resisted the siren call of the lawns for a mow and went back inside. Then after a sit down, I went off to the health centre to get a routine injection.  I managed to walk this short journey without too much difficulty at all so the day of sitting down may have been of some use.  I hope so because it is very boring doing nothing.

I did nothing for the rest of the day.  I am hoping for a bit more action tomorrow.

A chaffinch flew past on one of the few occasions that I was looking out of the kitchen window and was the best that I could do for flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, taken by my sister Mary on her recent visit to Somerset, shows the fine church at Ilminster.

Ilminster Church

We woke up to a rather grey day morning today but it was dry so we both set off on our bicycles after breakfast.  My target was a gentle twenty miles by way of a double trip to the lower slopes of Callister and back.  This offered me a journey without much climb and a regular break from cycling into the wind.  As a result I enjoyed it, at least until the last two miles which my hip informed were probably two miles too many.  Still, I could walk when I got off the bike so that wasn’t too bad at all.

On my second lap, I passed a wild eyed lady with a bucket of manure in her back bag speeding down the hill towards Langholm.  This turned out to be Mrs Tootlepedal who had combined her ride with a visit to her manure mine.  We both felt that we had earned our coffees.

Under orders from my body to be sensible, I spent the rest of the morning idling about, doing the crossword and looking out of the kitchen window.   The sparrows were everywhere.


A young sparrow perched on the feeder waiting to be fed by its parent.



Others found the lawn to be a bit safer.


Mrs Tootlepedal discovered that the sparrows have been nibbling some of her new seedlings.  She is not as fond of sparrows as I am.

There is a least one family of blue tits visiting regularly.   I saw one perching….

blue tit

…and one flying.

blue tit

The phlox is doing well and we have three colours out at the moment.  Here are two of them together.


Yet another clematis has also appeared.  Mrs Tootlepedal has a great number of clematis spread over the garden.


After lunch, I took advantage of a sunny spell and mowed the middle lawn….very slowly.

Sandy arrived while I was doing this and we went off in the car to the manure mine.  Both Mrs Tootlepedal and I had seen some interesting birds while we were in the area in the morning but since Sandy and I had our cameras with us in the afternoon, there was naturally not a bird of any sort to be seen.

We had to make do with the vegetable kingdom instead.


A strikingly yellow bracken signals the turning of the seasons.


One of my favourite gates.

With added insects.

knapweed with insect

When we got back to the car, we drove a little further up the road and went for another short walk.


The countryside is gradually turning from green to brown.

wild flowers at Glencorf burn

But there are still plenty of wild flowers to be seen.

We saw a curious growth and I would be pleased of anyone can suggest what it is.

curious growth

I foolishly lifted up one of the gates that we passed through and that set my leg to complaining again so we didn’t linger and returned home for a cup of tea.

Scott, the minister of the church where Mrs Tootlepedal sings in the choir, came round during the day to get some advice regarding the purchase of a new bicycle.  He is taking cycling seriously as part of a healthy lifestyle and feels that pedalling might be more fun on a speedier bike than he has at present.    It is very difficult to second guess what someone else is going to find suitable so I offered him a go on my speedy bike to see if that was the sort of thing he might like.

He had never used toe clips or drop handlebars before, let alone the combined brake and gear shifters that I have but he bravely took up the offer and turned up in the early evening ready to go.   A quick adjustment of the saddle was all that was needed and off he went.  I must say that I was expecting to find that he had fallen off at the first road junction as using toe clips for the first time can come as a shock but he returned in very good order after cycling round fourteen hilly miles at a crisp speed.

You can see that he doesn’t like to be conspicuous when out on a bike.

scott on my  bike

I look forward with interest to see what he buys in the end.

As Scott left at the front of the house, we had another visitor round the back.

duck at Dam

We haven’t had any ducklings in the dam this year so it was good to see at least one duck about.

In the evening, Susan  took me to Carlisle where we met with the other members of our recorder group and sorted out the music that we are going to play in a concert in September.  The concert is being given by a small vocal group who will be singing English madrigals and we are providing four five minute spots by way of variety and to give them a breather.    As a contrast to the madrigals, we are mostly playing early dances, pavans and galliards and suchlike.

The flying bird of the day is one of the army of sparrows.

flying sparrow


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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by her mother, shows Matilda settling down at home after having sampled all the excitements of Langholm Common Riding.


We had another lovely sunny day today and with a drop in the temperature from roasting to merely hot, it was just about perfect.   We were up quite early and Mrs Tootlepedal, who had taken a handy trowel with her, made the most of the good weather by combining a short cycle ride with the collection of as much manure from her manure mine as she could fit in her back carrier  (inside a plastic bag).

Meanwhile I got through a little of the backlog of the newspaper archiving and put a week and a half of the index  into the database.

While I was waiting for Mrs Tootlepedal to get home, I took a couple of pictures in the garden.

Each day brings a new show of Shirley poppies…

shirley poppies

…and a  new opium poppy has appeared with a very rich colour.


I was looking to see how the yellow crocosmia are coming on when I noticed this little bug eyed monster.


And I was lucky to get this final shot of the ligularia in the front bed….


…because by the end of the day, Attila the gardener had been round with her secateurs and disappeared the whole lot.

The sparrows provided me with excellent entertainment while Iwas waiting for coffee time and Dropscone…


…as there are several new families about and the feeder was always busy.


Dropscone had gone round the morning run by himself at a good speed and he must have got up early too as he had changed and cooked some scones before he arrived for coffee and we enjoyed the scones still hot from the cooker.

After Dropscone had left, we were visited by Mike Tinker who brought two of his grandchildren round on a frog hunt.  William and Sara were delighted to find that a frog or two were still to be found by diligent searching in our little pond.

Mike was telling us that their mother, his daughter Liz, had been alert enough to have plunged into the river on Common Riding morning to rescue a little boy who had drifted out of his depth and was disappearing under the water while everyone else was watching the Cornet and the other riders crossing the river a hundred yards away.  It was lucky for the boy that Liz had been sitting with her own children on the stones on the opposite shore of the river and that his sister screamed loudly enough amid all the other noise to attract Liz’s attention.

Taking things very carefully, I mowed the front lawn which needed a clip badly and then retired for a tasty lunch of sardines on toast.

I had time in all this to look at some other flowers.


And vegetables.


Main crop potatoes. We are sharing our potatoes with quite a lot of slugs sad to say.

And flying visitors.


There are a lot of these white butterflies about

After lunch, I got the speedy bike out and went off for a very gentle fourteen mile ride.  I was greeted after three miles by an old friend.


This bull has stood and watched phlegmatically on many occasions as I have pedalled by

It was a perfect day for pedalling and my route gave me some splendid views…


Looking across the Solway to the English side

…and I was sorry that I couldn’t make better use of it.  Nevertheless, I was pleased to be sensible enough to take it easy and to discover when I got back that I hadn’t made anything worse.  A little further each day when the weather is suitable is my plan.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made the most of the good weather by getting stuck into some serious gardening for most of the day.  I caught her in a sunflower jungle which she has planted, looking up at the tallest sunflower in the group.  It is so tall that we may never know if it has actually flowered up there.


You can just make her out if you look carefully.

She is excited by a striking new lily which has appeared in the back border.


I am more excited than her by a new clematis nearby.  I like its complexity but she thinks that the colour is dull.


The ligularias may be almost over but this leaf is attractive in its own right.

ligularia leaf

The colour is probably caused by a mineral deficiency.

When I went in to cook the tea, the sparrows were still busy outside and I noticed this attentive parent doing its duty.


Unlike yesterday I was spoiled for flying birds today and among them were some busy blue tits….

blue tits

…but unsurprisingly it is a sparrow that has made it as official flying bird of the day.



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Today’s guest picture shows Barrington Court in Somerset, recently visited by my sister Mary who kindly sent me the photograph.

Barrington Court tudor mansion, Somerset

We came to the end of our endlessly sunny weather today and to my relief at least, it was quite a bit cooler outside.  It was still a pleasant day when we got up and after Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to sing in the church choir, I ventured out for a few test miles on my speedy bike to see how the hip felt.

It was still abit sore when I got on the bike but as is so often the case, cycling was no problem once I got going.  I  intended to do an undemanding nine miles but I might have been tempted to go a little further if a few drops of rain hadn’t made me stick to my original plan.

There was a profusion of wild raspberries by the roadside …

wild raspberries

…but they proved to be  a bit past their best when I stopped to sample some of them.

It was just as well that I had not gone any further because once I had got off the bike, my hip was still quite sore.  I abandoned any hope of doing some useful mowing and wandered round the garden instead.

The Shirley poppies that looked so good in Mrs Tootlepedal’a new border yesterday morning had all gone by yesterday evening.  Fortunately they had been replaced as if by magic by a new set today.

Shirley poppies

There are a hopeful signs that the yellow crocosmia which are supposed to go with them will be on the go very soon.

yellow crocosmia

The cosmos are looking better by the day…


…and are attractive to more than just my camera.

cosmos and butterfly

We were visited by Dropscone who came round for a late coffee after he had done a thirty mile ride.  He was pleased with both his cycling distance and his recent golf round where he nearly scored a hole in one. I have decided that it would be too early to start pedalling with him yet so we are going to go out separately tomorrow morning and meet for coffee afterwards (if all goes to plan).  Dropscone also brought round a couple of heavy rain showers but they soon passed.

It occurred to me while I was cycling this morning that the present bout of hip pain may have been brought on by lifting a couple of bags of compost a few days ago rather than by any cycling efforts.  I know perfectly well that I shouldn’t lift anything remotely heavy but it is difficult to remember not to do something which you can in fact do quite easily and with no immediate ill effects.  It is only a few days later that you realise that you shouldn’t have been so stupid.

The rest of the day was spent alternately resting and wandering round the garden to ease the discomfort that sitting brings on.

A new clematis had come out….


…and the honeysuckle on the fence is going full blast…


…and the variegated phlox has produced flowers.


The ligularia is coming to the end of its run and the red crocosmia is going to be over soon.

ligularia crocosmia

The current favourites of Mrs Tootlepedal and myself looked good today.

fuchsia and japanese anemone

Fuchsia and Japanese anemone

When the sun came out in the afternoon, it made a red Astilbe fairly sparkle.


The garden seems to be getting ever fuller of sparrow families.


Sparrows on the sweet pea fortress

Sometimes when I go out, twenty or thirty sparrows will rise up at the same time.

A series of rather dull posts recently have reflected some rather dull sitting down days so I certainly hope to be able to get about more next week.

Just at the moment, I am not very good at standing stock still with the camera in position and the zoom lens full out so unless I am lucky and a flying bird comes along as soon as I am in position, they are hard to catch.  The flying bird of the day today therefore is not flying.  It was flying before I took the picture and it started flying after I took the picture but I admit it wasn’t flying when I took the picture.





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Today’s guest picture, sent on to me by the kind offices of my sister Susan, appears as a reminder from my sister Caroline, another special grandma, that there is more than one world’s greatest baby about.  This is her grandson Jamie with his yet to be named brand new sister,  daughter of Jem and Lotti.  The baby is my great niece and of course the greatest baby on the world.

Baby with her Brother Jamie_2_22072014

The day was another hot and sunny day at the start but by evening time the weather had broken and a light and welcome rain is falling as I write this.  We are promised cooler weather for the next few days which will be a relief for those of us who don’t do too well above 25C.

When we got up, Mrs Tootlepedal directed my attention to the excellent display of Shirley poppies in the border beside the front lawn.

Shirley poppies

This is a new scheme and the poppies are designed to be set off by some yellow crocosmia.   It is not easy to get everything to come out exactly at the right time and we are still waiting for the crocosmia to join in.  They are nearly out though.

The picture above shows the difference between looking and shooting.  When I looked out of the upstairs window, all I saw was eleven lovely poppies but when the camera looked, all it saw was a mass of green stuff with a few red spots.  You’ll have to take my word for the fact that the poppies looked outstanding.

There were two significant points in the day.  One was the moment when Mrs Tootlepedal went off with Al, Clare and Matilda to put them on the train home to Edinburgh (sad) and the other when I felt that my hip was well enough for me to mow the middle lawn (happy).

As a result of my programme of unusually sensible behaviour, I spent the day doing nothing much and continued to see improvement in my ability to walk around without crying.   I accomplished the lawn mowing by doing one or two strips at a time and having a sit down in between.

I was thinking about a short and gentle cycle ride to see if that would be therapeutic but by the time that the the opportunity had arisen so had the wind so discretion was the better part of valour and I watched the Tour de France instead and got my pedalling in vicariously.

During the day I had plenty of  time to stroll round the garden.


An unusual sunflower from Mrs Tootlepedal’s packet of assorted sunflower seeds.


A new colour of cosmos has turned up


The ones that have been out for a bit are looking well.

perennial nasturtium

The berries on the perennial nasturtium come in surprisingly different colours

shirley poppy

Currently my favourite shade of Shirley poppy

The recent spell of hot weather reminded me that I had a small ice cream making machine in the house so after Matilda had gone, I set about making an ice cream custard and then put it into the mixer to get chilled and beaten.  The result was extremely tasty.  It’s just a pity that I hadn’t thought about the machine a few days earlier when we really needed cooling down.

The side effect of making the ice cream is that you get left with a lot of egg whites so I made some meringues too.  Someone is going to have to eat all this stuff over the next few days but I expect that I will be up to the task.

There is an old saying that plenty of berries on the rowan trees mean a hard winter is coming.

rowan tree

I think that it is more likely to mean that we have just had a mild winter and a good summer.

Among the flowers, I was pleased to note a tortoiseshell butterfly.


I had time to look out of the window today too and the birds were a bit more active than they have been lately.


A chaffinch looking a bit the worse for wear


Another chaffinch looking rather debonair


And a third chaffinch arriving for a feed.

Sparrows and siskins are always around at the moment.

sparrow and siskin

And always squabbling.

sparrow and siskin

I am keeping and eye out for diseased birds and washing and changing my feeder regularly.  The birds seem healthy enough at the moment.

I am hoping to get out for a short cycle ride tomorrow to test how things are going.

The flying bird of the day was yet another chaffinch.

flying chaffinch


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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by my neighbour Gavin, shows his granddaughter Ellie, who is visiting from California, with the crown which is carried in the Common Riding procession.  Some of our roses are in there.


It was the Common Riding, Langholm’s Great Day, today and the sun shone on the crowded streets as the procession made its way round the town.


The town’s standard is carried by a mounted cornet who is accompanied by his right and left hand men, the ex-cornets from the previous two years.


Cornet Dale Irving

In the town, the procession is led by the emblem bearers and the Town Band and the cornet has a large train of mounted followers…

mounted followers

…who spend quite a lot of time shuffling about the streets….

mounted followers

…in front of large crowds of cheering supporters.

After going from one end of the town to the other, which involves a good deal of work in getting the horses organised at the turning points, the cornet arrives in the Market Place….

Market Place

…where a large crowd gather to hear the first crying of the fair.  I took my time and while the procession was going through the town, I walked up the Kirk Wynd and waited.

After the fair has been cried, the cornet gallops up the Kirk Wynd and leads his followers onto the hill…

The Kirk Wynd

The Kirk Wynd

Where they visit the boundaries of the common land to make sure that they have not been encroached on. (As it happens, the boundaries do seem to have been encroached on but no one seems to mind very much.)

It was a great spot to watch the horses pass by….

The Kirk Wynd

…with a great range of riders from the mature…

The Kirk Wynd

…to the young.

The Kirk Wynd

Thanks to the dry weather, they literally disappeared into a cloud of dust as the final riders passed me by.

The Kirk Wynd

While the horses are on the hill, most of the spectators retire to the town and  spend the time while they are waiting for them to return in convivial social activities.

There is much more to the day after the riders return from the hill (more fair crying, more processions, horse racing, athletic games, wrestling, dancing and a final procession when the flag is handed back)  but this was as far as my interest went this year and it was back to a comfortable chair in the house for the rest of the day.   Even the magic of the Common Riding couldn’t clear my hip pain up, though it has improved a lot thanks to resting.

I would like to thank all those who offered me sympathy either in person or through the medium of the comments on this blog.  I haven’t replied to the kind comments today as sitting at the computer does not help matters and I am trying to get through this post as quickly as possible but I appreciate the sympathy very much.

Not being out and about gave me plenty of opportunity to enjoy the presence of our granddaughter Matilda, the world’s greatest baby.



She went for a walk in her father’s old perambulator.

Mother and Granny

Mother and Granny checking that all is well before the off.

Al and Clare and pram

And father making sure that the blazing sun is not a problem as she returned.

We were visited during the afternoon by Gavin’s son Fraser, father of the rose clutching Ellie and an old friend of Alistair, who now lives in California.  He was saying that although the temperature today was much the same as he would expect in California, it felt much hotter here due to the higher humidity. We asked if it was a lot drier in California and he told us that he had seen one day of light rain this year.  It is a lot drier there.

Our dry spell has meant that Mrs Tootlepedal has had do quite a bit of watering in the garden but she has kept things looking very well.  The flowers were celebrating Langholm’s Great Day even if I wasn’t out watching events.



poppy and insect

A reader asked if I could put a picture of the gooseberry bush onto a post as she had never seen one so here is ours.  It doesn’t look great but it had produced a lot of fruit this year.

gooseberry bush

I have picked several pounds of berries already but there are lots left.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that my hip continues to improve and once again I thank all those who offered me their kind thoughts.

A sparrow is the flying bird of the day.

flying sparrow




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