Archive for Sep, 2014

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone, who was at Wembley Stadium on Sunday to watch a game of American Football.  I must say that I thought that American footballers would look a little fiercer than this but what do I know?

WembleyDropscone had got back safely from his London adventure by today and turned up after breakfast ready for the morning run.  He was on his slower bike as he hadn’t had time to mend his recent puncture.  It turned out that a thorn had gone through the tyre in two places.  I was quite pleased at the appearance of the slower bike as I was feeling a little leg weary but we got round in quite a good time anyway.

There were two slight downsides to the ride.  The first was a cloud of small flies that we had to battle through near Waterbeck and the second was that it rained gently on us as we neared home.  We survived.

The minister, with his unerring sense of timing, appeared bang on schedule for a cup of coffee and a scone.  He was hoping that I would be able to go to Lanercost with him tomorrow but I have another engagement and had to decline.  As this would have been another 50 mile ride, my legs were secretly quite pleased.

After Dropscone and the minister had wended their ways home, I had a quick walk round the garden.  The nasturtiums were looking very fine.

nasturtiumsAnd there were two delicate pink flowers to admire.

poppy and sweet peaI didn’t hang about though and after my shower, I got out the scarifier and scarified and mowed the middle lawn.  It looked better for it.

Then I made some lentil and carrot soup for my lunch and relaxed over the crossword puzzle.

A few birds returned to the feeder but not in any great numbers.  There was a small bunch of goldfinches at one time…

goldfinches…but they weren’t very co-operative at providing flying bird opportunities…

goldfinches…or at least, I wasn’t very good at taking them when they occurred.

Sitting sparrows were an easier target but the light was not helpful.


The afternoon got progressively gloomier and rain was always threatening so I gave the raspberry bushes a good picking and went inside to make 5 lbs of raspberry jam.  I am now banned from making any more jam of any sort as we have enough to last us for a year (or more).

Mrs Tootlepedal was outside grappling with the unwelcome appearance of some honey fungus on a viburnum which had to be dug up and disposed of.  This is not the sort of thing that you want to have in your garden at all so prompt action was required.

Altogether, it was not a good day for taking pictures and a slightly downbeat end to a wonderful month of weather in September.

In the evening, Susan drove me to Carlisle where we enjoyed some good recorder playing with our group.

Though it wasn’t the most exciting of days, any day with a pedal, some lawn care and a tootle must go down on the credit side of the ledger even if a rather cloudy goldfinch was the best that I could do for a flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from the world’s greatest baby’s other grandfather.  Matilda is requesting some more demanding mental arithmetic and her mother is trying to think of a suitable question.

matildaI didn’t have to think what to do today as it was perfect for cycling and I had nothing on my calendar to do instead.  I should have thought a bit more carefully before setting out though as I forgot to take my asthma puffers and as a result found my pedal a bit harder than it should have been.  I realised after about two miles that I hadn’t taken them but I was too lazy to go back so the harder work served me right.

garmin route 29 Sept 14Still, it was a good day out, with light winds and a well chosen easy 55 mile ride.  I even managed to find a short section of back road near Clarencefield that I hadn’t cycled down before so that was a bonus.

I had Pocketcam with me and stopped to take the occasional picture as I went round but my legs were in a recalcitrant mood and started arguing if I got off and on the bike too often so I didn’t take as many as I would have liked.  I even managed to cross the river Annan at Hoddom without taking a picture of the bridge there, which I think is a first for me.

Here are some that I took.

trees near Hoddom

I had to pass through an autumnal tunnel of trees near Hoddom

Hoddom Castle

I visited Hoddom castle

Hoddom Castle

It has a tea room attached where I had an indifferent cup of coffee.

Hoddom Castle

It also has some very curiously shaped cabins

I had stopped for coffee at Hoddom because I didn’t know whether the pottery and art cafe at Dalton, which has good coffee,  would be open.  It was but I passed by, pausing to wave at their picturesque cow.

art cafe DaltonI stopped at the church at Ruthwell….

ruthwell church…where I was hoping to go in and look at the 8th century Anglo-Saxon Ruthwell Cross  but the door was locked and I didn’t have the energy to go and ask for the key so I cycled on.

I stopped for my lunch on a handy bridge parapet near Cummertrees.

lunchThe holly bush beside the bridge looks as though it may be in demand around Christmas time.


…if it hasn’t come too early.

My final stop was too admire a touch of autumn beside the A7 a few miles from home.

autumn on the A7When I got home, I was surprised to find Mrs Tootlepedal busy in the garden.

To lend her a hand, I sieved a barrowful of compost after I had had my shower.  Sieving compost is even more fun than turning it.

I should have mowed a lawn or two but I wasn’t up to it mentally or physically and had a wander round the garden with my camera instead.

shirley poppy

Attila the gardener is rooting up the poppies as they fade but there are still some good ones left.

And plenty of bees and hoverflies too

insectsThe rambler rose came out today to join the Wren.


virginia creeper

The virginia creeper is nearly at its peak.


Two sorts of pink

The birds are very scarce at the moment so I took a perching chaffinch just in case I couldn’t catch one in flight.

perching chaffinchI did manage to catch a flying bee near the delphinium.

flying beeIn the evening, I added some tootling to my earlier pedalling.  First my flute pupil Luke came and we had a good lesson and then I took my new flute up to play with Mike and Isabel after tea.  It is so much easier to blow than my old flute that I was able to play for much longer before falling off my chair.  This was very was gratifying.   I am really motivated to practise seriously but being motivated and actually doing it are not quite the same. We shall see.

After playing, we had some discussion about the absence of birds.  Isabel has also noticed the drop off at her feeder and she puts it down to raptors disturbing the small birds.  This is one possibility that I had thought of too.

I did get a flying chaffinch after a fashion today.


You wait ages for one and then two come along at the same time.

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Today’s guest picture shows the world’s greatest baby looking amazed at what fun it is to have an aunt to bounce on.

MatildaI took advantage of a perfect cycling day to nip out for an out and back 50km pedal I (I think that sounds more impressive than a 32 mile pedal) while Mrs Tootlepedal was warbling in the church choir.  It was 15°C, dry but overcast and with a light wind, not conditions that we commonly associate with the autumn equinox period when equinoctial gales and heavy rain are our usual fare.

I pedalled south down the main road as traffic is very light on a Sunday.  My only excitement was being passed by a string of thirty motorcyclists at one point.  The light wind was blowing from the south which meant that I was able to come back faster than I went out which is always morale boosting.

I got back from cycling and Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her church choir at more or less the same time.  We took a walk round the garden.

Rose The Wren

The Wren was looking gorgeous.

The day had brightened up a bit and the flowers were attracting insects.

Japanese anemone

Japanese anemone

Michaelmas daisy

Michaelmas daisy

The macro lens shows that there is a good variety of hoverflies even in one garden.

Two long flowering plants are still providing colour.

Welsh poppy and crocosmia

Welsh poppy and crocosmia

Crown Princess Margareta was looking very regal.

Crown Princess MargaretaWe had a coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal went out to slave in the garden, continuing her grand plan of soil improvement while I picked some raspberries.  Our autumn fruiting rasps are loving the weather and I am having a really hard time eating them all…

raspberries…though I find that the application of ample supplies of double cream ease the pain a bit.

Then while Mrs Tootlepedal slaved on, I went off to lie in a relaxing bath.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal retired for a quick snooze and I wandered around the garden again. The sun had come out and The Wren looked so lovely that I took another picture of it.

rose The WrenOwing to a slight miscalculation with my camera settings, I took a rather moodier set of pictures of the astrantia than I meant to but they came out so well (in my opinion at least) that I have put two of them in here because I couldn’t choose between them.

astrantiaastrantiaThere were a couple of red admiral butterflies fluttering about….

red admiral…but I haven’t seen a small tortoiseshell recently which is a surprise.

Then it was time to go off to Carlisle to sing with our choir there.  Our musical director was back and we had an excellent practice.  He is very good at pushing us as far as we can go without making us hate either him or singing and he was trying to get us to sing perfectly in tune today.  This may be a step too far but we are giving it our best shot,  At least we have made that important first step of realising that we may not be singing in tune even if we think we are.

The nights are drawing in and there was no time for more adventures once we got home.  Feeling that two hours cycling and two hours singing deserved a reward, I treated myself to a large poke of chips and a tub of curry sauce from our local chop shop for my tea while  Mrs Tootlepedal nibbled on a salad leaf or two.

We rounded off a good day by watching the highlights of the final singles matches of the Ryder Cup (a golf competition between Europe and the USA for those who don’t recognise the name).  It was played in Scotland which made it more than usually interesting for us.

The birds were still conspicuous by their absence today and I had no chance to catch a flying bird so a perching blue tit will have to stand in.

blue tit.

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Today’s guest picture shows William and Sara, two happy prize winners at the Eskdale show today and comes thanks to modern technology from the phone of their mother Liz via her husband’s phone and then on to me by email.  Who knows how many miles the dots have travelled to bring me a picture taken 200 yards away at their grandfather Mike’s house.

William and SaraThe show was the main business of the day for Mrs Tootlepedal and me.  I was up early to take my pictures up to the tent.  It was a cold but bright morning and the showground on the Castleholm looked at its best.

Cattle showEarly competitors could be seen at work.  On one side of the field an anxious farmer was blow drying his cattle and on the other, a horse was being put through its paces.

Cattle showI didn’t stop to see the stock classes being judged but went home for breakfast.  It wasn’t long before Mrs Tootlepedal went up to the field where she was going to help with the disabled driving classes and I was left to do the crossword and wander round the garden for a while.  The cold start to the day hadn’t discouraged the flowers.

Rose The Wren, a cosmos and an Icelandic poppy

Rose The Wren, a cosmos and an Icelandic poppy

nicotiana, geranium and feverfew

Nicotiana, geranium and feverfew

Or a small number of hardy insects.

hoverflyAfter an early lunch, I went back up to the field to see Mrs Tootlepedal.  There were two pony carts on the go and each cart has to have an able bodied and experienced co-driver and at least two assistants on hand.

Pony cart

One of the carts

The ponies are carefully chosen for their calm behaviour.  The carts were driven into the ring for a cone driving competition and the drivers did a good job in negotiating the narrow gates.

Pony cartPausing only to admire a handsome horse and foal….

horse and foal…who were having a well earned feed after winning their class, I left Mrs Tootlepedal and the ponies to their work and went down to the Industrial Tent to see how my photographs had gone on.

I had put three pictures into each of the five classes and Mrs Tootlepedal’s poppies and sunflowers came up trumps, winning all three prizes in the flower study class.  My black and white photos and a selection of butterflies, birds and insects didn’t catch the eye of the judge with the exception of a nuthatch which I had seen from Mel’s hide a few days ago.  It got a third.

My favourite picture of all that I entered, a study of storm clouds behind the Monument, only managed a third in the weather class, just showing that you never can tell what a judge will like.  Two pictures of horse racing on the Castleholm during the summer months got first and second in the sports class and this meant that I am now the (modestly) proud possessor of the cup for most points in the section.

I was modestly proud because neither my friend Sandy, who was assisting the judge, nor the winner for the past few years had entered any pictures this year.

There is a grand parade of prize winners before the prize giving and this would have been a great opportunity of photographs if it hadn’t been extremely gloomy and intermittently raining by this time.  I took a couple anyway.


The winner of the pet class.

cattle winners

Two cattle winners exchange views

Mrs Tootlepedal had been on her feet for several hours by this time and two hours standing is more than enough for my knee so we didn’t stay to enjoy all the fun that we might have.  We did catch the terrier racing but it was too quick for Pocketcam in poor light….

terrier racing…but in fairness, the terriers go at a terrific rate.  My neighbour Liz’s terrier was a worthy second.

I took the opportunity to snap William and Sara’s winning works as we went into the tent to collect our pictures.

Art work

William’s picture of Linlithgow Palace won the special prize for best exhibit in children’s art.

By the time we got home, in a typical jest by the weather gods, the sun came out and it was a beautiful evening.  I had a last wander round the garden before sinking into an easy chair.


Nerines in the evening sunshine.


Mrs Tootlepedal has been taking out some of the poppies that are over but there are plenty left.

The cold morning had meant that there were few insects about but the evening sunshine brought them out again in force

bee and butterflyFor some reason there had been no birds at all at the feeders in the morning and there were very few in the evening either. I wondered whether a sparrowhawk was roaming the neighbourhood or if the colder temperatures had kept them away but neither of these explanations seems a very likely reason for a whole day’s absence so it is a mystery.

One or two birds came to browse under the feeders in the evening.


A robin pretending to be a bee on the sedum.


A surprised dunnock.

And a bold blue tit perched for a moment before flying off.

blue titThe big lesson from today is that I must do some serious work to improve my black and white photographs.  It is no good taking colour pictures and then trying to find one suitable for conversion.  I will have to start looking for things that will look good in black and white before I take the picture.  This will need quite a bit of training for my photographic eye.

I got just one chance of a flying bird today and this is it.  (I look forward with interest to see of the birds return tomorrow.)

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal who was visiting the world’s greatest baby in Edinburgh.  Matilda is puzzling out the convoluted constitutional matters that have arisen since the referendum.

DSC01558It was a breezy morning so I suggested to Dropscone, when he arrived after breakfast, that we should go round the more sheltered traditional morning run rather than expose ourselves to the wind on the top of Callister.  He prefers the traditional circuit anyway so he readily agreed and off we went.   The sheltered route was proving very satisfactory but our hopes of a good time were severely deflated when Dropscone got a puncture just at the point when we were farthest from home.

The downside of the sheltering hedges is of course the possibility of thorns on the road when the hedges are trimmed in the autumn and a thorn was the suspect here.  Dropscone doesn’t carry a spare tube and he didn’t fancy trying my aerosol puncture repair gizmo. On top of that, the MTRS was unavailable as she was on her way to Carlisle to catch a train so we were a bit at a loss.  Fortunately, a helpful man in a van was delivering feed to nearby farms and he also delivered Dropscone and his bike to the main road where Dropscone hitched a lift back to Langholm from the second car that came along.

All’s well that end’s well and we were able to enjoy coffee and treacle scones only half an hour later than scheduled after Dropscone had retrieved his bicycle..  He is now buying some even stronger tyres.

While we were sipping our coffee, I noticed an unusual bird at the peanut feeder.

tree sparrowIt was a tree sparrow, a very infrequent visitor to the garden.  A moment later, I noticed another one perched on top of the feeder pole.

tree sparrowI have no idea if this was a male and female pair or a parent and child or perhaps just two sparrow friends on an outing.  They didn’t stay long and left just before Dropscone.

The sparrow was joined by a robin….

robin…and they made a change from the usual diet of chaffinches.

I took a walk round the garden where the sun was out which was nice but the brisk wind made photographing flowers rather tricky.  I had to look in sheltered places.

wren and ginger syllabub

The Wren has come out to join the Ginger Syllabub in a late flowering.


Mrs Tootlepedal’s ornamental grass taking its cue from me and going to seed.


A very late delphinium

I had the macro lens with me and the difficulties of using it when things are swaying about is shown by this double take of an insect on a flower.  In the first I got the flower but not the insect and in the second, I got the insect but not the flower.

insect on flowerI love the macro lens.  Who knew that there were so many fascinating creatures in the garden?

I gazed longingly at a fine looking plum, the last of the season which was tantalisingly out of reach on the top of the tree.

plumIn the afternoon, I went to the Tourist Information Point for the final time of the season.  I wasn’t expecting any visitors but I had two.  The first was Sandy who was on his way to do some shopping and which was a pleasure but didn’t really count but the second was a genuine tourist, a fisherman and bird watcher who was happy to help me pass the time by chatting about birds he had seen.

I took the opportunity to pop down to the river and do a little gull watching…

gull…but there was no sign of Mr Grumpy.

It was such a lovely afternoon that when I had locked up, I went for a little cycle ride up to Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure mine.  On the way, I parked the bike and scrambled down the bank to have a look at my favourite cascade on the Wauchope.  This was what it was like when I looked at it in January.

Cascade on WauchopeThis was what it was like today.

Wauchope cascadeYou can see that it has been a very dry spell.  The low water gave me the chance to look at some very folded rock just below the cascade.

folded rockI like these sort of formations as they give me a view of the great forces which have shaped the land that looks so peaceful as I cycle through it.

peaceful scene

A few hundred yards further upstream

I stopped at the manure mine, parked the bike again and went for a short walk.  There was some dull fungus to be seen both in the wood and in the field….

fungus at manure mine…and it has been a good year for fruit of all sorts…

fir cones…but the best thing was the wood itself which was very pretty in the evening sunshine.

wood at manure mineEven leaving the wood was a visual treat.

manure mine gateOn my way home, I stopped to take a close up of a striking green lichen which appears on just one section of wall.


Taken with Pocketcam

When I got home, there was just enough light left to take the obligatory bee of the day picture…

bee…on the irresistible sedum before it was time to make tea, sort my pictures out for tomorrow’s show and make some semolina to welcome Mrs Tootlepedal home after her day of Matilda visiting.  In fact, she was rather late as her train was held up but the semolina was all the more welcome because of that.

As this was the last tourist information day of the season, I am hoping that I will be able to visit Matilda next week.

One of the Kilngreen black headed gulls is flying bird of the day.  It is not a very sharp picture but I thought it showed very well what a beautiful day it was this afternoon.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture shows a fine mountain view taken by my brother Andrew in NZ when he was tramping to Silica Rapids at Whakapapa at the beginning of this month.  I may have remarked before that he is an exceptionally active chap.  The building in the foreground is a hotel.

Tramping to Silica Rapids at Whakapapa Sept 2014 - 1I was by no means an active chap myself today and the most energetic thing that I did in the morning was to make a pot of coffee for a gathering of Dropscone, Arthur and Sandy who sat round our kitchen table and enjoyed one of Dropscone’s girdle scones and a slice of Selkirk bannock while sipping.

It was a fairly dismal morning, grey and drizzly as this picture of a perching chaffinch demonstrates…

chaffinch in rain…and so it was no great hardship for me to have coffee and conversation rather than to try to keep up with Dropscone in the wet.

I am still rather upset by the failure of the independence referendum and when the conversation turned to renewable energy this morning, I found myself arguing both that when it come to renewable energy, the politicians have been made complete fools of by the big energy companies and also that people who feel that all politicians are fools are fools themselves because they are playing the game of the big energy companies who want discredited politicians to be thought of as fools so that they, the companies, can get away with doing whatever they want without regulation or responsibility.  I shall have to calm down.

After the coffee party split up, I went out and turned some compost.

It wasn’t a good day for carrying the camera so I was pleased to be able to catch a dunnock in a quiet moment.

dunnockTaking their cue from me, the chaffinches were in a bickering mood in the gloom too.

chaffincheschaffinchesI turned some more compost.

Health and safety warning:  Those of a nervous disposition should stop reading now as the next section deals with compost and may be too exciting for them.

I finished turning the compost today and here is a picture of bin C and bin D with the freshly turned compost.

c ompostThe sharp eyed will notice that bin D on the right is smaller than bin C on the left.  By the time that Mrs Tootlepedal has used the compost from bin D, the compost in bin C will have handily reduced itself in size and will fit comfortably into bin D.

compostHere are bins A and B.  By the end of the day the last of bin B had gone into bin A and it will stay there until next spring when it will be transported into bin C.  Bin A has removable sections to make getting the compost out an easy task.  The half glimpsed plastic bin on the left has been filled by Mrs Tootlepedal has got shreddings in it and will rot down at its own pace unless I feel very perky.

You can see that when it comes to elegant compost bins, no expense has been spared.

After lunch, the drizzle faded away and as it was pleasantly warm in the west wind, Sandy and I went off for a leisurely short pedal just to get the legs turning over.  Sandy has really taken to cycling and did a 34 mile circuit on Sunday which surprised even him.

It was still very grey and by the time we had got back and had a cup of tea and a biscuit, it really felt as though evening had come, although it was only four o’clock.

I took Pocketcam out when I had finished the composting just to see how it would cope with the poor light.

sweet pea

The sweet peas would brighten even the darkest day


A gaudy clematis shone out too.

Poking through the fence was a ginger syllabub rose which has been encouraged by the recent good weather to have a go at flowering for the first time this year.

ginger syllabub rose

Mrs Tootlepedal moved it which is why it didn’t flower earlier.

The Shirley poppies are slowly going over but but the Michaelmas daisies and the astrantia are holding on bravely.

daisies and astrantiaA couple of readers have commented on the marigolds so I asked Mrs Tootlepedal what their Sunday name is and she tells me that they are Calendula officinalis.  Wikipedia tells me that they have a variety of common names: pot marigold, ruddles, common marigold, garden marigold, English marigold, or Scottish marigold.   In our garden they are Scottish marigolds.

marigoldIn the evening, Sandy and I went off to the Archive Centre where we put 100 entries into the newspaper database.  We enjoyed a well earned glass of wine after that but the sad fact is that I am falling ever further behind the eager data miners who are about three months ahead of me.  I will have to pull my socks up and make a determined effort to catch up soon or I will be overwhelmed.  Too much good weather and too many cycling miles over the summer have been my downfall.

The flying bird of the day is an inevitable and rather fuzzy  chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce who was visiting Hawick today.  It shows his terrier Guthrie posing in front of the statue of Jimmy Guthrie, the celebrated racing motor cyclist.  Bruce thought that this juxtaposition might appeal to me and he was right.

guthrie in HawickOn the instructions of my legs, I took a rest from bicycling today.  This was a pity because it was a sunny day but not too much of a pity because there was a brisk breeze blowing.

It was my day for filling the Moorland bird feeders and Mrs Tootlepedal joined me when I drove up after breakfast.  I filled the feeders while Mrs Tootlepedal scanned the skies with her binoculars.  Wherever I looked, I could see pheasants searching for seeds fallen from the feeders.

pheasantThis one was very anxious to get a portrait taken so I obliged.

pheasantOn the feeders themselves, there was very little action with just a few chaffinches….

chaffinches…and the occasional blue tit.  Mrs Tootlepedal was having a great time watching five buzzards circling above.


I think that this pictures of the five birds captures the excitement well.  The bigger dot on the left is actually two birds.

Not having brought my binoculars, there was little for me to enjoy so we soon headed back home.

Mrs Tootlepedal was beavering away in the garden for most of the rest of the day but I confined myself to a little compost turning in the morning and mowing the middle lawn in the afternoon.  The lawn has got some alarming brown patches developing but from a distance it still looks reasonable for the time of year.

lawnThe border at the far end of the lawn is one of the ones that Mrs Tootlepedal has been clearing out but she has left some marigolds and rudbeckia to keep things looking cheerful.

During the day I took the camera out into the garden from time to time and mixed flowers and insects as the light suggested.


A close look at a sunflower.

busy bee

A busy bee


A second flowering of the chives.

hoverfly on orange hawkweed

A hoverfly on orange hawkweed

I broke off to make some potato soup for lunch.  Our main crop Sarpo potatoes make excellent soup as they tend to cook a bit mushy.

In the afternoon, I mixed more garden wandering with getting fifteen pictures selected, treated and printed for the Eskdale Agricultural Show which is on this Saturday.  I find it very hard to select pictures from the large numbers in my files and never really think that I have chosen the best.  After staring at thousands of thumbnails for an hour or so, my brain goes even deader than usual and I start selecting wildly.  Luckily Mike Tinker came in when I was nearly finished and as a result of his advice, I junked one of the most boring pictures that I had chosen and put a better one in.

In the garden I had another look at the sweet peas which have appeared among other flowers.

sweet peaI enjoyed the big and small yellows on a sunflower and a pansy.

sunfliwer and pansyWhen I was indoors, I tried to catch a flying bird but they were hard to come by today.

flying chaffinchAnd when I was outdoors, I tried to catch a flying bee without much success either.  I got one just after it had landed on a sedum….

bee…and one flying into a nasturtium.

flying bee…but I couldn’t catch one in the air when the light was at its brightest.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to our Langholm Community Choir, Langholm Sings.  Our accompanist is in hospital so we had to make do as best as we could with our assistant conductor at the piano.  She is not a pianist but did very well to keep us going.  We seem to be preparing for a Christmas concerts with both our choirs so we may be fairly fed up with Christmas carols by the time that December comes.

My best effort at a flying bird of the day was this chaffinch.


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