Archive for Nov, 2014

No kneed to worry

Today’s post will be briefish as in the absence of Mr Tootlepedal, the blog has been entrusted to the Tootlepedal editorial team and frankly managing to get photos from the photo library onto this blog post is a bit of a triumph.

Team Tootlepedal were up before dawn had cracked in any way, and after a quick but essential cup of tea and slice of toast, we departed for Dumfries, arriving safe and sound about 8.00am.  The very nice surgeon talked Mr T through the funfest ahead of him again and having drawn a comfortingly large and hard to miss black arrow on the right knee (which in this case was the left knee) he left us to say our farewells.  It occurs to me that a more prepared stand-in-blog-writer would have a picture of said knee and arrow, but alas, all our minds were perhaps on too many other things to think of photos.

Given that it’s an hour’s drive either way to the hospital we had decided we would lurk in the general area during the day,  before returning in the afternoon post operation to see how the patient was getting on.  So having said a temporary goodbye to Mr T, we had made a plan to visit the Caelaverock Wetland Centre to look at some birds, which somehow seemed about the right thing to do, especially as the pressure was on to find a flying bird of the day.  As might have been said before on this blog, the centre is well worth a visit.  It is currently home to several thousand Barnacle Geese, which travel from Svalbard in the Arctic Circle to spend the winter on the Solway Firth.

Caerlaverock geese

Geese take off at Caerlaverock

Of course as soon as we arrived, camera in hand, they mostly flew off to far flung fields as they are not trapped or penned in any way.  One of the advantages of arriving at opening time, however, was the opportunity to watch the 11.00am swan feeding session.  The centre does two of these a day and apart from giving the public the chance to see a wide range of Whooper swans (which travel here from Iceland), Mute swans and any number of ducks and other birds very close up, it allows them to eventually tempt the swans into a section they can close off so they can ring the birds and give them a health check.  Their ringing projects provide incredibly useful and detailed information on the habits of these precious species – the man leading the feeding session today (who you can see below) was able to tell us that a group of young swans who had just arrived that morning were the great grandchildren of a pair who used to winter at Caerlaverock.

There were quite a lot of swans and ducks…


Some parts of the centre were less busy with birds, but it was a peaceful and beautiful place to spend some time and think about Mr Tootlepedal waiting for his op.

Caerlaverock merse

The merse at Caerlaverock

All in all  was an excellent morning and after another refreshing cup of tea and bacon sandwich, Team Tootlepedal set off to explore the beautiful Solway coast a little more.    Our route took us past many photo opportunities, from Sweetheart Abbey to Southerness, but we eventually parked at Sandyhills and had a little stroll on the very pretty beach there.  Apparently there was some sea somewhere but it was a long way away.


The beach at Sandyhills

Sandyhills was much more picturesque than the above photo, which does not do it any justice.  We completed our drive round the coast in absolutely glorious sunshine and stopped at the handsome town of Castle Douglas for a toasted teacake.

At this mid-afternoon point the reader will be very pleased to hear that a text was received from Mr Tootlepedal to say that he was back on the ward, the operation had happened and he was smiling!

A short drive back to the hospital and we were able to see his smile for ourselves which was very nice indeed.  He’d been advised not have a general anaesthetic and that seems to have been an excellent decision as he really did seem on very good form.  We once again failed to take a photo to mark the occasion, but we will make amends for that tomorrow.  We left him in good spirits and looking forward to some supper, as he had not eaten anything except a handful of raisins since 6.30am.

For all the thousands of birds we saw today, it was surprisingly difficult to find a flying bird of the day, but we were very happy to see these two elegant swans cruise past overhead as we were leaving Caerlaverock.

DSC_0116-1It was a nice day despite all the worrying.

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Today’s guest picture shows fungus on Hampstead Heath in London and was sent to my daughter by her friend Claudia with the note that I might find it interesting.  She was right.

Hampstead fungusThe day started with a successful attempt to get my cycling mileage up to my target for the year of 5000 miles.  A 20 mile trip round the Waterbeck Triangle got me to 5007 miles and since I will not be able to cycle at all in December, this was just in the nick of time.

I stopped near Wauchope School to admire the ingenuity of the tree fellers who needed a way to cross the Wauchope a few hundred yards below the school bridge.

Wauchope BridgeThey must be a bit more sure footed than I am.

Near Waterbeck, I stopped again to take a picture of this very well preserved example of a traditional East Dumfriesshire cottage.

Cottage near WaterbeckI like the way that these cottages are uncompromisingly plonked straight down onto the ground with no frills.

I got my bike as clean as I could  and then made some vegetable soup for our lunch when I got back.  The reason for cleaning the bike was a plan to take it into the bike shop at Longtown for its annual service while I will not be needing it.

We ate the soup for lunch combined with some sour dough toast and a selection of cheeses and this made for a meal that would have been the envy of princes and bankers if they had only known about it, for they could not have eaten better than we did.  The only sad part about the meal was that it made use of the last home grown onion of the year.

onionSome years, you grow a lot of onions and they don’t store well.  This year we grew fewer and they kept superbly.  Such is life.

I just had time to snap a goldfinch….

goldfinch…before we put the bike and ourselves in the car and headed off for Longtown.

Our plan was to show our daughter Annie the walk round the Longtown ponds after delivering the bike to the bike shop.  It turned out to be a good plan because as we drove south, the sun came out and with the temperature at 50°F, we had a glorious afternoon for our stroll.

Both Annie and I took a lot of pictures.  I hope that she may show you some of hers while she is guest editing the blog.

Meanwhile here are some of mine.

Arthuret Church

Arthuret Church seen across the fields from our path.

 Longtown ponds

cattle at Longtown

There were cattle grazing beside the ponds today.

There were plenty of birds about, both on the water…..

swan at Longtown….and in the air.

Longtown pondsWe kept an eye out for fungus and saw none until on the edge of a row of trees beside one of the ponds, we saw a great number of these striking growths.

fungus at LongtownWe wondered whether the presence of the cattle nearby had anything to do with this.

cow at LongtownThey took an interest in us as we passed.

cow at Longtown…but didn’t cause us any alarm.

The sun was beginning to set as we walked back to the town and we were slightly bemused to see a walker in the middle of the river.

Esk walkerIt had been a splendid short walk and we looked back at the setting sun as we left the ponds.

Longtown pondsIt occurred to us as we got back to the car that it might be a good moment to go to Gretna to see if we could find some starlings there.

The sunset, as we drove towards the Solway shore, was outstanding but stopping to take pictures in the middle of a busy main road is not recommended so you will have to take my word for that.

As we passed the  retail outlet village in Gretna, every car parking space was taken and an overflow car park was in operation. We felt that walking round the ponds had probably been a more cheerful occupation than shopping in a great crush and drove on towards Brow Houses on the shore feeling a little smug.

It was very peaceful on the Solway shore and there was a very musical accompaniment of bird song to charm the ear.  The sand banks were busy…

Brow Houses…and there were birds swimming and flying in all directions.  The light was fading fast….

Brow Houses…and even with binoculars it was hard to tell what the birds were, though one flock certainly looked like lapwings as they rose from the mud and flew off.

There was no wind and the scene was so serene that we would like to have stayed but we had come to see starlings so we went back towards Gretna.

By a curious chance, just as we drew up at our chosen parking spot, a car arrived from the opposite direction.  Fortunately there was room for two and the other car turned out to be carrying a former colleague of mine and her husband who had had his knee operation a few weeks ago.  He indicated that progress was hard work but that he was doing well and advised me to be extra nice to Mrs Tootlepedal as I will be leaning on her a lot over the next few weeks.

Mrs Tootlepedal stayed to pick up a few tips on patient management from his wife and Annie and I walked down the road to look for starlings.

There was an ever growing murmuration forming but it was hard to decide whether to watch them…..

starlings…or the ever developing sunset in the opposite direction…

Gretna sunsetIt is amazing to think that those two pictures were taken with minutes of each other while standing at the same spot.  The camera makes the light look so different.  Above us a moon was beginning to shine and this time, different aperture and shutter speeds made a stunning difference to the resulting shot.  Neither picture has been processed significantly.

moon shot

Left: f5.6 at 1/500th and right: f7.1 at 1/1250th, both with an ISO of 4000 and the camera held in my shaky hand.

Both pictures are of course cropped as I didn’t have my big stepladder with me!

We stayed for a while watching the starlings and they were as amazing to watch as ever but they didn’t offer a better photo opportunity so we left for home before they went down to roost.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked us an excellent bacon and chick pea casserole for our tea and I filled in some admission forms and packed my case, as we have to make an early start for the hospital tomorrow.  The forecast is good and the ladies are hoping to make the best of their trip to Dumfries with a programme of interesting visits after they have delivered me.  Lucky them.

The flying bird of the day picture is a double, showing two of the more interesting flying objects we saw at Longtown today.

flying machines

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Today’s guest picture is a triumph of technology in one respect at least.  This impressionistic portrait of Matilda was taken by Mrs Tootlepedal on her phone during her visit to Edinburgh today in very poor light.  The technological triumph was in passing it via bluetooth to my phone and then by wire to my computer.  A first for us.

MatildaMrs Tootlepedal took the picture to show Matilda resplendent in her new knitted hat (with pompom).

I stayed at home today as we were expecting a visitor in the early afternoon.  I put my time to good use by going out for another gentle pedal in the morning.  I paused on my way up the road to record the receding sea of trees round the old schoolhouse.  It must be a shock to the residents to have their surroundings changed so completely and so swiftly.Wauchope schoolI was doing two trips to Callister and back to make up my twenty miles as I am avoiding getting too far from home or working too hard for the time being.  On my second trip up, I met Christine, an ex pupil of mine (and fine recorder player) and cycled along with her for the next nine miles.  She was going out for a trial on her brand new road bike and was thoroughly enjoying the additional speed which a lightweight frame and thin tyres add to the cycling experience.  She is braver than me as she told me that she is going to get clipless pedals.   I have been too frightened of falling off to get these and have stuck to old fashioned toe clips.

I did try to take some bird pictures when I got home but in spite of being fairly dry and warm, the day was once again so gloomy that it was not a good use of time.

Perching birds were just possible…

goldfinches….but my timing was out for flying birds and I was either too late….

chaffinch…or got confused by the traffic.

busy feederIn the garden, the nasturtium leaves seem to be able to hang on to water droplets better than most plants.

nasturtiumAfter lunch, I had time for a quick shuffle round Easton’s Walk.

As usual I had a look at the park wall.  The first section has flat lichens…

lichen….which repay a closer look….

lichen…but then these suddenly disappear and moss and pixie cup lichens take their place….

lichens…although there is no obvious difference in the wall over the few yards when things change.

Once again the clouds were sitting on the hills around the town…

Poplars…but for a few magic minutes, we got a hint of sunshine above.

Whita I left the park to walk along the river.

This picture of the path along the river shows why Mrs Tootlepedal is reluctant to walk along it in wet conditions.

riverside  walk

Another landslide has just been cleared away.

Below the path, I spotted an old tree stump with an abundant crop of fungus on it.

fungus on treeOn the other side of the track, I liked this pattern on a living tree.

tree barkI climbed up the bank to join the track to Stubholm just in time to watch our little blink of sunshine disappearing up the valley.

sunshine on Castle hillTwo more fungi, one in a cleft in a tree and one on the ground among a mass of beech nuts completed the photography for the day.

fungiI was visited by Mike Tinker who told me that he too would be at the hospital in Dumfries on Monday, though he will only be passing through for the purpose of some tests.  While we were talking, my expected visitor appeared and we all sat down to a cup of tea.

The visitor was our daughter Annie who has come up for a few days to offer support to her parents.  We take this very kindly indeed.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back from Edinburgh a little earlier than usual and we had a hearty plate of spaghetti Bolognese for our tea.

I should have a normal post tomorrow for this blog but then for a few days it is hoped that the Tootlepedal editorial team will be posting news updates and, perhaps, a few pictures of their own too.

A feeble effort at a flying bird today.


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Today’s guest picture features Bob.  He was captured by Liz, the clarinet playing daughter of veteran pennyfarthing cyclist Mike.  She has dug a camera out and is finding out about the settings.  She is doing pretty well so far in my view.

bobWe woke to another grey day but it was brightened by Mrs Tootlepedal’s return to health and although she had to take things easily today, she was back in working order.  She has finished off a new knitted helmet for Matilda and made a pompom to go on top of it.  Sandy and Dropscone had arrived for coffee as she was cutting out the cardboard ring for it and it was fun to listen to these two grizzled veterans enthusiastically recalling their pompom making days in their youth.

Although it was too dark to cycle straight after breakfast, I waited a while and did a gentle twenty miles without straying too far from the house, arriving back in perfect time to make the coffee.

It was rather warm today so I took a walk round the garden to check on what is left.  Amazingly a sunflower is trying valiantly to come into bloom…

sunbflower…but the lady roses are beginning to show their age.

rosesThe marigolds still soldier on.

marigoldsIt was too gloomy to make flying bird catching any fun so I shot a perching bird in the rain instead….

chaffinch….but succumbed to temptation and did have a try….


Looming in the gloom

….but it wasn’t very encouraging so I started off a sourdough loaf instead.  As I was kneading the dough, a sparrowhawk swooped past the feeder and perched for a moment on the plum tree but it flew off again before I could pick up my camera.

After lunch,  Sandy reappeared and we went off for a little walk just to get out of the house.  We drove a mile out of town and parked beside the river before walking up Jenny Noble’s Gill.

We passed a fallen toadstool….

toadstool…and impressive trees….

Sandy…before climbing out of the woods and onto the lower slopes of Whita.

As was the case yesterday, when I was at the other end of the hill, the clouds were sitting very low.

View from WhitaThe charm of our local hills is how quickly you climb and how soon you can look back downwards at a river……

Langholm…or across a valley.

WarblaThe mounds in the next picture indicate one of the little quarries that dot the side of the hill and which have provided building stone for the town over the years.

Quarry on WhitaWe were following a mixed use path with signs of riders and bikers who had been before us….

Path tracks…but we didn’t see another soul.  It was just a short excursion onto the hill and we were soon back on track among the trees.

Track from Round HouseThis looks like the sort of place that should be full of fungi but apart from the lone fly agaric we saw none at all until we were almost back to the car.

fungiWhether this is down to the ground conditions or a failure of eyesight is a moot point.

Once again, it was pretty well dark by three o’clock and although it is still only November and quite warm, it is feeling  very like winter because of the poor light making for very short days.

In the evening, Sandy and I went to the Archive Centre but the failure of the local BT WiFi hotspot to provide an internet connection meant that we were unable to do any work so we gave up in disgust and retired to the Eskdale Hotel for a consolatory drink.

The flying bird of the day spot is back in the hands of the chaffinches again.


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Today’s guest picture shows the Roman theatre in Lecce, a town deep in the ‘heel’ of Italy.  It was taken by my peripatetic brother who is touring there with his wife.

Lecce roman theatreMy brother is getting the best of the weather as it was another chilly, drizzly day here today with not a glimpse of the sun at all.

Upstairs, Mrs Tootlepedal was steadily recovering from her bug attack and I was able to bring her small treats such as a cup of tea or a slice of toast and marmite (with the crusts cut off) from time to time.  As it was her birthday, these were not quite the treats she might have expected but she received them with a good grace and by the late afternoon, she was able to get up and do some light knitting.

I lurked downstairs, reading the newspapers, doing the crossword, answering the phone to family who wished to offer Mrs Tootlepedal birthday greetings and occasionally clicking on the camera remote control.

There were plenty of chaffinches as usual.  Here’s a crowd perching in the plum tree….

chaffinches…..before heading for the feeder.

chaffinchesIn search of a bit of avian variety, I put the crusts that I had cut off the toast out onto the lawn and it wasn’t long before a gang of jackdaws arrived to pick them up.


They were putting their best foot forward.


The lucky ones got a hard stare from those too late to join in.


The blackbirds were far too slow off the mark and all the bread was gone before they got there.

After lunch, the weather brightened up or at least it stopped raining and since Mrs Tootlepedal was resting quietly, I drove the car up to the White Yett and walked up the track on Whita to the monument.  It was a very gloomy day and the far hills were covered in clouds.

Ewes in cloudThere were some brighter spots beside the track though.  The lichens are enjoying the present spell of weather a lot.

lichensThey repaid a closer look.

lichensIn spite of the grey day, there was still a bit of colour  on the slopes of the hills round the town…

Hills…and the town itself looked very snug, tucked into its valleys below.

LangholmI didn’t see another soul on my walk but I did see and hear quite a lot of grouse on the hillside.  They have been very scarce in recent years and a lot of money has been poured into a project to raise their numbers so it does look as though some small progress at least is being made.

As I walked up the track, another little burst of colour caught my eye.

thistleA thistle was flourishing very late in the year indeed.

At the top of the hill, I stopped long enough to admire more lichen on the wall behind the monument.  There were lots of different sorts in a small area.

wall lichenThe monument itself had a rather more delicate but artistic display beside its lightning conductor.

Monument lichenIt was chilly up there and the rain didn’t look far away so I limped back down the track.  It is much harder walking downhill than it is going uphill at the moment.

I rested my knee for a moment beside some more gaily coloured boulders…

Lichen boulders…and took a picture of a gate for readers who have been wondering where all the gates have gone recently.

Whita gatePocketcam was doing sterling work in very poor light but by the time that I got home, it was almost dark although it was only three o’clock so that ended my photographic day.  Still, as I say, things were cheered up a lot by the arrival downstairs of Mrs Tootlepedal in time for afternoon tea.

I made Mrs Tootlepedal some delicious birthday semolina for her evening meal and then went off to a Langholm Sings choir practice.  Once again this was well organised and we did a lot of work and I shall be sorry to miss their forthcoming Christmas concerts.  I am hoping that Mrs Tootlepedal will be able to go and sing with them.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.


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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s stopover in Dubai last month.  It shows a less familiar side of the town.

DubaiIt was an up and down day here as I got up and came down and went out but Mrs Tootlepedal succumbed to the bug and having got up and come down, then had to go back up and lie down.

I felt good enough after breakfast to try a short cycle ride but was a bit discouraged when it started raining as soon as I left the garden.  I managed ten soggy miles but, feeling rather cold and damp, I came in for a cup of coffee.  Drinking the coffee stretched out to doing the crossword and setting up the camera to look out of the window for me.

It saw chaffinches approaching the feeder in a shifty manner…..

chaffinch….landing in style….

chaffinch…and getting involved in arguments when they got there.

chaffinchchaffinchI don’t know what the one on the right said but it must have been very rude judging by the expression on the other one’s face.

The rain stopped and a little brightness appeared so I got the bike out again and had a much brisker turn up and down the same route, admiring the flourishing fungi by the roadside as I pedalled past.  There were a lot to see but I picked out these two, a few yards apart, to record with Pocketcam.


Small and restrained


Large and voluptuous

By the time that I got back, it was lunchtime and as Mrs Tootlepedal was having a food free day, I had my bowl of potato soup in solitude.

After lunch, I printed out some folded cards of Hermitage Castle which one of our local shops buys off me to help the funds of our Archive Group.  This took me much longer than it should have.  I had failed to save the alterations that I had made to the photo and the cards when I printed the sample out and had to do it all again.   I added twenty of our Archive Group postcards, which another shops sells,  to my bag and cycled up to the high street to hand them out.

While I was there, I collected a couple of my prints which a kind fellow member of the camera club had brought back for me from last night’s meeting and was pleased to find out that Dr Tinker and his ordinary bicycle….

Ordinary penny farthing…had won second prize in the prints section.

Then I purchased both a bright but very expensive LED light bulb for my computer lamp and my next big bag of coffee and finally cycled home. That rounded off my outdoor activity for the day, though I spent some useful time copying out some flute music.

It has been a bit subdued today, with relief at my recovery being more than tempered by concern for Mrs Tootlepedal’s state of health.  It is a bit sad when you can’t even cheer an invalid up with little treats of cups of tea and dainty biscuits.  From conversations which I had while I was out, it does appear that this little bug is doing its best to lay low all the people in the town.

From looking at the forecast and checking on Mrs Tootlepedal, it might be another gloomy day tomorrow too.  It seems to be a two day bug but  I shall hope for the best.

The flying bird of the day, needless to say is a chaffinch.  When will our winter visitors arrive?


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Today’s guest picture comes from a walk that my daughter Annie took in the Chilterns earlier this month, just to show that they have good views in England too.

chiltern view

I should start by saying a warm thank you to all those who wished me happy birthday and to those who have offered their hopes of a speedy recovery from my bug.  Their wishes and hopes have been fulfilled.

I had a really good night’s sleep which helped me to feel a lot better when I woke up this morning but having eaten no more than a single slice of toast and a handful of dates yesterday, I was still feeling a bit peely-wally in the morning and was happy to sit quietly until Dropscone appeared bearing a nutritious scone to have with our coffee.

I did look out of the window before he came and was pleased to see a great tit back on the feeder.

chaffinch and great tit

The chaffinch looked a little more dubious about it though.

While we were sipping our coffee, my friend Bruce rang up and suggested that I look out of the window at Whita Hill behind the house.

Whita HillI think the the line of mist had thinned out slightly in the time it took me to pick up the camera and climb the stairs.

After coffee, I took a quick walk round the garden and was pleased to find a fine crop of home grown fungus on a tree stump on the edge of our drying green.


I am trying to use my fungus book and considered Hypholoma fasciculare as a suggestion. I am always ready to be proved wrong.

There is a regular robin coming to the feeder but it ainvariably waits until I have not got a camera to hand before it arrives and leaves as soon as I pick one up.  I had to make do with a goldfinch….

goldfinch….who was soon joined by a friend, and blue tit and a greenfinch….

goldfinch and greenfinch…until a small group of greenfinches claimed the feeder for themselves.

greenfinchesThe greenfinches left as suddenly as they arrived and I put down the camera and made some healthy broth for our lunch.

We had been promised a frosty morning but it was above freezing when I woke up and it was a pleasant sunny day by the the early afternoon.  I did think of a little cycle ride but decided that a short walk was more sensible so I set out to see if some exercise would turn out to be a good idea.

It was.  I felt better for the walk and as always, enjoyed the chance to take a few pictures as I toddled along.

fungus lichen

The fungus was fading but the lichen was very vibrant.

I went down to the Becks burn through the woods.

WoodThe old wall in the middle of the trees is a pointer to how many of the woods round Langholm are fairly recent commercial plantations.

Coming out of the woods on the Hallcrofts road, I thought that the time was right for a gnarly tree shot….

tree…pondered on the very interesting question of why one fence post should have a small mushroom crop on it….

fence posts…while one a few yards away should be absolutely smothered in moss….

Whita…and enjoyed a view of Whita looking very different from the morning when it was wreathed in mist.

I was watched with interest by two horses, one on each side of the Becks Burn valley.

horsesAs I walked down towards the Wauchope road, there was a contrast in the light as I looked back towards the Old Stane Brig….

Auld Stane Brig….and forwards towards Wauchope churchyard….

Wauchope road….but both views were equally agreeable.

Although it was very quiet at ground level, a glance at the skies above were a reminder that we live under a very busy air route…

con trails…with planes going in all directions.

I was pleased to see that one of the fungi that I had photographed on my last walk down the road had survived the chilly morning.

fungusSearching through my little book of toadstools, I wondered whether this might be a Clitocybe infundibuliformis.

When I got home, I took a shot of the front lawn to show that we are now almost wholly dependant on the golden box balls for some brightness.

front lawnWe are still a month away from the shortest day but it looked pretty gloomy at quarter past three, even on a fine afternoon.  You have to be out quickly with the camera after lunch these days or the light has flown.

I should have had an afternoon of flute playing with Mile and Isabel, an evening flute lesson with Luke and a visit to the Liddesdale Camera Club with Sandy in the evening but I was anxious not to pass my bug onto anyone else so I kept myself to myself and stayed in.

My son Tony rang from Edinburgh in the evening to say that he too and his some of his family and workmates had been laid low by the bug and my Newcastle correspondent tells me that her family have been victims as well so I think we can safely say, in the phrase much loved by Langholmites, “There’s been a lot  of it going about.”

The other phone call I received was from the hospital inviting me to visit them on Sunday to get my new knee.  I was surprised that they have got an operating list for a Sunday and just hope that surgeon is not too upset at missing his golf when he is working on me.

I hope to be fully back to normal health tomorrow and might even be considering a gentle pedal.

In spite of the visiting greenfinches, the flying bird of the day is a chaffinch who arrived with some decent light.


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