Archive for Aug, 2014

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my Newcastle correspondent and shows her daughter Hannah with a square blue tit nest from their square blue tit nest box.  Earlier in the year some square blue tits had nested in it.

HannahIt was a warm and pleasant day with light winds and no threat of rain so it seemed like a good day go cycling.  It took quite a bit of mental effort to get my body to agree but in the end I managed to get mind and body united and when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir, I got the fairly speedy bike out and set off to go where my fancy took me.

Mrs Tootlepedal is a public spirited woman and she had noticed that one or two of the road signs which she passes when on her way back from catching the train to visit the world’s greatest baby were rather dirty and hard to read.  As a result, on the last occasion that she had passed  the signs, she had stopped the car and got out the handy cloth and bottle of water that she just happened to have with her and gave the signs a good clean.

It seemed only fair to cycle that way and record one of the shiny signs.

clean road signI had to stop and look behind me to see the signs but I was feeling quite perky so I turned forward again and kept on going towards Lockerbie. 

View near paddockholeThe route goes across the grain of the country so there is a lot of up and down but the views are always a consolation for the hard work.

We had driven along this road yesterday and when we were quite near Lockerbie, we passed a small unsignposted side road and Mrs Tootlepedal had idly asked, “I wonder where that goes?”

We though that it might go to Castlemilk and when I took it today, I found that this was the case.   It wasn’t very long but it is always a pleasure to find a new road to cycle along.

trees turningThe trees beside it are just beginning to turn, led by the horse chestnuts.

I followed the old A74 south for a few miles but then turned west until I got to the decommissioned nuclear power station at Chapelcross…


It seems as though it will take almost as long to demolish it safely as it spent producing power.

…where I stopped for a banana and a small piece of chocolate.   I had done 25 miles by this time and was looking at about another 25 miles for my route home.  The lovely weather had tempted me to take a longer route than I had planned and I knew that I might be going to be  a bit short of food.

garmin 31 Augu 2014As a result I went home via Eastriggs, Gretna and Canonbie at a very stately speed and with the help of a single energy gel and another little piece of chocolate, I lasted the course.

The route was well chosen as the first half of the loop had the wind against and a good deal of climbing but the second half, along the shore of the Solway and up the Esk valley was much less demanding and helped by the wind.

In a moment of good fortune, the distance clicked over to fifty miles just as I turned into our drive.

Dropscone tells me that he went out earlier in the morning determined to do his longest ride of the year but miscalculated and missed his target by two tenths of a mile.  He’ll just have to go out again.

I didn’t stop for many photographs as getting on and off the bike is still a bit of a pain but I did enjoy these swallows at Tundergarth getting ready to leave.


Musical readers will appreciate that the stave shows that they are leaving in B flat major.

And four tall trees standing by themselves near Eastriggs caught my eye. Perhaps they are part of a hedge that got out of control.

four treesAs usual, a click on the map above will bring up the route details.

I gave the speedy bike a little rest in the sun when I got home….

bike in garden…and after a pause for refreshment, I mowed the front lawn and picked some raspberries.

Mrs Tootlepedal has got plum consumption on her mind so she made six pounds of plum jam while I ate as many as I could without making myself ill but we still have a large number left.   It seems churlish to complain but the plum tree produced no plums last year and far too many this year.   We are expecting a poor year again in 2015.

The sunshine had brought the sedum on and the sedum had attracted a peacock butterfly…

peacock butterfly…which was soon joined by a bee….

peacock butterfly and bee…but then Mrs Tootlepedal passed by and inadvertently frightened them off and left an unflappable insect as the sole visitor.

insect on sedumI watched the birds on the feeder from time to time and I regret to say that the sparrows seem to have been learning bad behaviour from the siskins.

sparring sparrows


sparring sparrows

And pushing and shoving.

As well as the Shirley poppies, there are a few opium poppies scattered around the garden which appear from time to time.  The latest one is a very delicate purple…

poppy…with the usual intricate centre.

poppy centreAlthough I have been doing a lot of complaining about sore hips, the fifty miles that I cycled today brought up exactly 500 miles for the month which was very satisfactory all things considered.  As a reward I treated myself to  a large dob of ice cream on the tasty bramble and apple crumble which Mrs Tootlepedal had made for our tea.  It rounded off another good day (though I am creaking a bit when I walk).

One of the sparring sparrows turns up as flying bird of the day.

flying sparrow





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Today’s guest picture shows a typically British summer seaside view.  It was taken at Hastings by my sister Mary, who blames the strong and chilly wind for the absence of fun lovers.

Hastings beachMy day started with a gentle 28 mile cycle ride with the minister, Scott.  After the very hilly ride of last Wednesday, we chose a less demanding route today.  A brisk wind in our faces as we set out made for a slow start but once we turned out of the wind, things began to look up until, just as we were beginning the glorious downhill, downwind rush for home, Scott found that he had a slow puncture.

We pumped the tyre up but a mile or two later, it had gone down again and rather than risk damage to his smart new wheels, Scott stopped and I pressed on home to get the car and return to rescue man and bike. I was just on my way out of the town, when I passed a strangely familiar figure in the passenger seat of a van coming the other way.  It was Scott who had acquired a lift for himself and the Bianchi from a passing Samaritan.  It is always helpful if the Samaritan has a van big enough to put a bike in the back.

Scott arrived (on foot) at the house shortly afterwards and we enjoyed a cup of coffee.  I found later that Dropscone, who golfs on a Saturday, had been out by himself at an early hour, whizzing round his favourite morning run.

When I walked into the street with Scott after coffee, we found Mrs Tootlepedal engaged both in clearing out some brambles from a neighbour’s fence which were encroaching onto the footway and simultaneously indulging in a lively discussion on the merits of Scottish Independence with two other local residents.  It was hard to tell whether the brambles or the discussions were more pointed.

After politely agreeing to differ, we retired into the garden where we were amazed by the height of one of the sunflowers….sunflower …and delighted by the poppies.

Shirley poppiesAs I have remarked, the poppies really attract insects…..

hoverfly on poppy…and it is sometimes quite hard to get a picture of one without a bee or hoverfly sitting on it.

After lunch, I had a quick check on the bird feeder….


Busy as ever.

…and then we decided to make the best of a bright and breezy day by combining a drive with a short walk.  Our destination was the Castle Loch at Lochmaben, one of several lochs there.

Castle LochIt was quite breezy….

Castle Loch…so we were pleased to find a well made path through the woods beside the loch which took us down to Lochmaben Castle after which the loch is named.

Castle LochOn our way we passed several wooden sculptures….

Castle Loch sculpture

Robert the Bruce, a heron and a vendace

 (The vendace, Coregonus albula, is a rare freshwater fish that inhabits deep, cold lakes but was a victim of pollution here and has now died out in the Lochmaben lochs.  The lochs themselves, like Talkin Tarn which we visited recently, have formed in kettle holes left by the last ice age.)

My favourite of the sculptures was this wooden woodpecker.

wood peckerAlthough the vendace have gone, there must be other fish left in the loch because we passed many signs about the rules of fishing in the loch and were able to sit on one of the little jetties provided for fishermen.

Castle LochMrs Tootlepedal had brought her binoculars and searched for interesting birds while I took several photographs.

I looked back up the loch towards the sailing club and the town of Lochmaben.

Castle LochThere were heron over head…

heron…and swans on the water….

swan…and I even saw a brilliant flash of blue from a kingfisher flying past, sadly much too speedily for me to catch with the camera.

My main activity was watching three skilful sailors braving the brisk winds.

Castle LochAlthough the Loch is quite large, sometimes there wasn’t enough room for the sailors and the swans.

Castle Loch

No swans were harmed in the taking of this picture.

After our walk through the woods we arrived at the castle at the foot of the loch.  It is pretty well ruined now but there is enough left to give a hint of how it must have looked.

Lochmaben castleA helpful notice board told us that it was retaken from the English by Archibald the Grim.  We felt better for knowing this.  I checked on the internet and the recapture of the castle was in 1383….or 1384….or perhaps 1385 depending on whom you believed.

We had hoped to walk right round the loch but a lack of sign posts at a crucial moment meant that in the end, we returned by the way that we had come.  There was a feast of blackberries to be had on the way…

Castle Loch…so we didn’t starve.

When we got back to the car, I took a last look at the Loch with my phone camera, which likes bright days and strong colours…

Castle Loch…and we set off home, via Ecclefechan where we stopped to buy a little light refreshment.

It was a really good outing.

During the day, Mrs Tootlepedal made a batch of plum chutney and we gave more plums to the minster and several of our neighbours but we still seem to have a lot left so plum jam is definitely on the to do list for tomorrow.

Amidst the excitements of cycling and the outing, I managed to catch a flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch





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Too windy for me

Today’s guest picture shows a view from the veldt in South Africa and was kindly sent to me by Tom, a Langholm exile, who has recently returned to South Africa from a visit to his home town.

Tom's photo of veldtThe rise in temperature over the past day or two has been accompanied by strengthening winds.  As a result of forecast gusts of 35 mph, I judged it more sensible not to go out to do battle with them this morning and I idled an hour or so  away, occasionally glancing out of the window….


Two goldfinches came to the feeder today but didn’t stay long enough for me to get a decent picture.

….until Dropscone appeared at coffee time bringing with him some of his tasty treacle scones.  The fact that we hadn’t earned them didn’t make them any less welcome.

Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to visit a garden centre in the hope of finding wonderful plants for next season.

After Dropscone left, my day continued in a relaxed fashion.  I cycled along to the Buccleuch Centre and booked tickets for six of their forthcoming shows.  Sometimes their seasons don’t have a great deal to entice me along (though there is always something good) but the next couple of months have a lot that I would like to see and I had to stop at six shows for fear of breaking the bank.

When I got home,  I made some potato soup and ate quite a lot of plums.  Mrs Tootlepedal returned from the garden centre, vowing never to go to this particular one again though I think that she may have said that before.

It was too windy and grey to make taking pictures in the garden any fun today so I didn’t take any.

After lunch, I went off to the Tourist Information Point at the Kilngreen and had three visitors in the first two minutes.  I was quite excited.  I had time to calm down though as the next visitors didn’t come until nearly two hours later and then they were two of the first visitors dropping in on their way back from the town.

I went down to the waterside when I had locked up to see how Mr Grumpy was.  He was standing in a field on the far side of the river and it was hard to tell how he was feeling.

Mr GrumpyIt was chilly in the strong winds so I didn’t dally and after catching a gull in flight…

gull…I was soon on may way home.   Just before I got to our gate, I saw Mrs Tootlepedal bearing gifts of plums to a neighbour.  She had picked all the plums off the tree while I had been out.  I rang another neighbour and she came across and took a good quantity of plums too.  We were left with hardly any…plums ….perhaps about 100 or so!  It is amazing that no branches on the tree have broken.  We must have thinned out at least as many plums before they ripened as we have taken off the tree.   Mrs Tootlepedal has already frozen two batches and she made plum crumble for our tea and I will make plum jam tomorrow but there will still be a lot left.  Luckily their flavour is excellent and we are enjoying eating as many as we can without making ourselves ill.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to attend a political meeting regarding the forthcoming vote on independence for Scotland while Mike and Alison came round and I played several sonatas with Alison using my new flute.   It is well worth the money as it is far easier to blow than my old one and definitely makes a better sound. 

We are living in interesting political times and Mike and Alison told us that they had been interviewed by a journalist from Al Jazeera earlier in the day.  That is not something that happens in Langholm every day….or indeed, ever.  It will be sad if the conservative tendency triumphs over the optimists and the vote goes for no, as we will then return to being terra incognita again as far as the national news media and the corridors of power are concerned. 

I am hoping for a more interesting photographical day tomorrow.  Meanwhile, a chaffinch obliged by posing for flying bird of the day today.

flying chaffinch








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Today’s guest picture shows my brother scaling a mountain in New Zealand.   He is very energetic.  If he sees a mountain, he climbs it.

My Week Aug 21-26 2014 - 6Our recent spell of chilly mornings came to end today and it was pleasantly mild when I poked my nose out of the back door for the first time.  This was rather late as I had enjoyed a lie in after the exertion of trying to keep up with Scott on our hilly cycle ride yesterday.

On fact the whole day was very peaceful as I had come to an agreement with my legs to give them a rest.  I am quite keen not to undo the good progress that I have made in sorting out my recent joint problems.  This progress was achieved by my usual therapeutic method of moaning a lot and waiting till things get better.  It always works if you can manage to moan loudly enough and wait patiently enough.

Yet another stunning poppy had appeared today.

Shirley poppyThey are ephemeral though and it will soon look like this.

Shirley poppy

One of yesterday’s stars fading.

The insects were going mad and every poppy seemed to have either a bee or a hoverfly on it in the morning.  I saw one poppy which had three bees on it simultaneously.

Shirley poppy

One hadn’t quite worked out where the pollen was.

Apart from grappling with a tricky crossword, my only activities of the morning were to mow the middle lawn and walk round the garden with Sandy and a friend when they dropped on for a visit on their way to lunch.

I am an expert in letting time pass without pestering it.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Brydekirk to help with the driving for the disabled and was unlucky enough to find the only two hours in the day when it was raining.  The sun came out before she was finished though and dried her up before she had to drive home.

I spent the afternoon hunched over my computer trying to choose 14 pictures to enter in the forthcoming Westerkirk show.  As one of the classes is for flower portraits, I was spoiled for choice.  This made getting down to just three entries all the harder but you I finally settled on three and you may not be surprised to hear that Shirley poppies figure among the  chosen trio.

In between times, I stared out of the kitchen window.  The birds are still attacking the sunflower hearts with gusto and luckily my supplier brought me a new big bag of them just as I was about to run out.

busy feederWe are currently playing host to swarms of sparrows and chaffinches with an odd siskin or two and a family of blue tits.

blue titI saw a great tit and a goldfinch today but sadly not when I had a camera handy.

It was very breezy today and the birds were getting ruffled.

ruffled chaffinchruffled chaffinchWe are in a plum glut….

plums…as more and more are ripening every day.  Luckily, they taste delicious and I am living on a diet of plums and potatoes.  Mrs Tootlepedal is busy cooking plums and preparing plums for storage and giving plums to friends but there is no sign of them running out. 

In the early evening, I was looking out of an upstairs window and thought that the view was worth recording.  the box balls have got their golden covering back after their annual clip and flanked by cosmos and phlox, they add a vivid touch of colour to the garden.

box ballsIn the evening, Sandy came round and we went to the Archive Centre and put a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the database.  I notice that the data miners have got ahead of me and have just started on a new year, 1888.  This means that we will shortly have entered 40 years of the index into the database. 

While we were archiving, Mrs Tootlepedal was at the Buccleuch Centre having an entertaining evening watching the talented and industrious youth theatre members in their annual musical show .  As it lasted nearly three hours, I was not quite as sorry to have missed the show as I might have been.

Today’s flying bird is another of those hungry chaffinches.

flying chaffinch




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Today’s guest picture is another shot of the appalling working conditions my daughter has had to put up with in Venice.

VeniceI had been asked by the minister if I would care to accompany him by bicycle to Lanercost where he attends a morning service on Wednesdays.  As he now owns a Bianchi bicycle, I felt it would do my bike credibility a great deal of good to be seen in his company so I agreed.  On the down side, the scheduled start was 7.15 am but I managed to get up in time and we started off promptly.

It was decidedly chilly at a thin 7°C but it was a beautiful day with a light wind and we kept up a good speed down to Longtown.  Once through Longtown, we stopped at the bridge across the River Lyne for a photo opportunity.

River LyneIt really was a perfect morning for cycling.  It is 26 miles to Lanercost Priory by the route that we took and we managed it at 15 mph with the result that we were a bit earlier than we needed to be.  Luckily there was a bench where we could sit and chat in the sunshine and when Scott went off to his service, I pedalled along the road to revisit the old bridge over the River Irthing. 

It was looking very nice on the sunshine…

Lanercost Bridge…and as I had time to spare, I pushed my bike up onto the bridge.  It is easy to see why it is no longer open to traffic…

Lanercost Bridge…but it is certainly a lot better looking than its replacement.

Lanercost BridgeThe view from the bridge was good too.

Lanercost Bridge viewAfter the spiritual refreshment of the service, the minister needed a little physical refreshment too and we enjoyed a cup of something and a cake in the Priory cafe before setting off home.  The route we had come by was flattish and rather dull so Scott acceded to a suggestion that we might look for a more adventurous route home.  It was three miles shorter but somewhat more hilly…

elevation profile Lanercost….as you can see by looking at the second half of the elevation profile for the ride.   In  fact it was unendingly hilly and quite a challenge with a total of 2300ft of climbing for the whole journey, the vast bulk of which was on the return home.  Considering Scott has only recently taken up serious cycling and that he weighs over four stones more than I do, I take my hat off to his strength and perseverance in getting up and down so many steep hills.

We did take a little time out at Harelaw when we had just climbed the worst hill of the day…

Harelaw…as the bikes needed a bit of a rest but that was our only stop, except for an occasional moment to read the map as I had never travelled along some of the roads that we followed before.

I was afraid that the hill climbing might do my hip a bit of mischief but I ended the fifty mile ride feeling remarkably perky though I must admit that a slight feeling of tiredness came over me later in the afternoon.  By slight I mean more or less total collapse.

I recovered enough to have a walk round the garden.

Happily, a white poppy had come out while Mrs Tootlepedal was there to see it.

white poppyI picked and ate a plum or two and some raspberries and then went inside in the hope of catching a flying bird through the kitchen window.  

I saw a perching blue tit…

blue tit…but flying birds were very scarce and never appeared at a time when I had the camera ready. 

Mrs Tootlepedal and I thought that we might combine a little shopping with some bird watching so we went up to the Moorland feeders in the car to see what was about.  Mrs Tootlepedal had her binoculars and was able to watching buzzards soaring  above the moor as well as catching a glimpse of a harrier flying low across the heather but they were too far away for my camera…

buzzard and harrier….so I watched less predatory birds.

great tit and robinThere was not a lot of action though and I resorted to taking pictures of ex flowers…

seed head….and pheasants, enjoying the last few weeks before the shooting season starts…

pheasant…before we went home again.

In the absence of a flying bird, those interested may see details of our bike ride by clicking on the map below.

garmin 27 Aug 14







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Today’s guest picture was sent to Mrs Tootlepedal by the leader of the church choir, Muriel.  Muriel, who is a keen photographer, was at the Canonbie show and took this picture of some old fellow smiling inanely as he went up for a prize.

getting the shield

After yesterday’s rest, my legs were in mellow and co-operative mood this morning when Dropscone arrived after breakfast.  There was a strong and chilly east wind blowing so we decided that a ride round the traditional morning run in the wrong direction would be the best plan.

For once, a decision was the right one and after ten miles with the wind mostly behind us, the return ten miles into the wind turned out to be well sheltered from the blast and we kept our average speed up pretty well.

Dropscone’s scones were even bigger and better than usual but my appetite was up to the challenge.

After he left, I had my shower and then went out into the garden to see what Mrs Tootlepedal was up to.  I was hardly out of the door before she called me over to show me a beautiful new poppy.

pink shirley poppy

It was undoubtedly the best yet from her mixed packet of seeds.  To make things even better, another white one had come out and two more striking flowers pushed themselves in front of the camera to go with it.

shirley poppies

The plums are ripening well…


…and my diet mostly consists of plums and potatoes at the moment.  Mrs Tootlepedal made plum crumble today.

Near the back door, the orange hawkweed has had a second lease of life.

orange hawkweed

Then I got out the slow bike and pottered up to the High Street to visit the chemist and was pleased to find that it was actually open today.

After lunch (potato soup), we took things easy – Mrs Tootlepedal, because she had had a long day with Matilda in Edinburgh yesterday and I, because I was trying to keep my legs sweet for a planned longer cycle ride tomorrow if all goes well.

It wasn’t too long though before we were back out in the garden as the front lawn needed mowing and Mrs Tootlepedal has embarked on a comprehensive redesign of several beds.

I couldn’t resist taking another shot of the pretty poppy…

pink shirley poppy (2)

…as it will be gone by tomorrow and another of the same sort may not appear.

Mrs Tootlepedal paused from her garden redesign to dig up most of our main crop potatoes…

main crop potatoes

…which have done well and seem to be slug free unlike the earlies.

While I was in the veg garden, I noticed a pair of French beans trying a little ballet pose.

french beans

A white butterfly fluttered past me and settled.

white butterfly

Past the greenhouse among the sunflowers, yellow and orange crocosmias grow together.


For some reason which is not apparent to me, as it was a very pleasant day as far as the weather went and tomorrow is supposed to be fine as well, the birds attacked the sunflower hearts with tremendous gusto today and by five o’clock they had got through two complete fillings.

busy feeder

This was a typical scene.  As a result, flying birds were ten a penny.

flying sparrow

flying chaffinch

Although I have done very little today, the fact that it was a largely  sunny day and I had a pedal, mowed a lawn and then rounded the day off with a trip to Carlisle to have a tootle with our recorder group meant that it was officially classified as a very good day.   The tootle was most enjoyable and my legs were happy about things too which was a bonus.

The official flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a Venetian scene.  My daughter is there, working at the Venice Film Festival.  It’s tough to work in these conditions but she puts up with it.VeneziaMy legs had been grumbling a bit yesterday on the way back from our cream tea and they were positively mutinous this morning so I hearkened to their discontent and put them through nothing more strenuous today than a pedal up to the High Street to visit the chemist.

I could have avoided even this gentle exercise if I had known that the chemist would be shut when I got there.

I did manage a little walk round the garden…

clematis….where I managed to avoid taking a picture of the poppies for once.  Three or four clematis plants seem to able to ignore the chilly weather.

clematisAs the wind was from the east and quite brisk, I was pleased not to be out on the bike.  Sometimes the legs know best.

The sunflowers at the end of the drive have reached great heights…

sunflowers…and even though we have lost quite a few to the recent high winds, there are several sturdy plants still standing.  I was able to get a good picture of them as Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off in the car at the crack of dawn to catch a train to Edinburgh.  Matilda’s mother has hurt her back and lifting Matilda, who is a large baby, is difficult so Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to give her some assistance.

I took a not very good picture of a not very exciting plant…

geranium…just to celebrate its longevity.  These little blue geraniums have been in flower for several months now. 

Dropscone, who is a hardier man than I, dropped in for coffee after having been round the morning run.  He had found the wind quite hard to battle against at times but he had enjoyed himself.  He tells me that he was out playing golf in the terrible rain and hailstorm that we encountered on Saturday but it had been short enough that he had more or less dried out before he got to the end of the round.

After he left, I made some potato and bean soup and enjoyed it for my lunch with some sour dough bread and goat’s cheese.  My Mediterranean diet seems to have slipped a bit north for the moment.

I spent the afternoon lounging in a hot bath and practising on my new flute (after I had got out of the bath of course).

I found some time to stare out of the kitchen window.

busy feederAs you can see, the feeder was in demand.

siskin and chaffinchBut as I was in restful mode, I took a couple of peacefully perching chaffinches to reflect this.

chaffinchchaffinchIn the evening, my flute pupil Luke came for his lesson and we embarked on the tricky question of fingerings for high notes and trills.  As I have to look these up myself, it may take some time before we have mastered these.  Luke’s music reading is coming on very well and we are now trying to install that mental metronome into his head that is essential for playing in ensembles.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had gone off just after six in the morning, returned at eight in the evening.  Unsurprisingly she felt a little tired but perked up when she found that I had prepared a restorative dish of semolina for her.

A chaffinch just squeezed into the frame to make flying bird of the day.




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