Archive for Jan, 2015

Today’s guest picture is another from my daughter’s recent Hampshire holiday and shows a cliff which looks as though it has had a few batterings over the centuries.

Hampshire cliffsIt was a dry and sunny day here but a brisk northerly wind ensured that that we remembered that it was winter.

Mrs Tootlepedal is pursuing her get fit for gardening regime with great enthusiasm and while she did 40 minutes on the bike to nowhere upstairs, I put in a less energetic 20 minutes on my bike to nowhere in the garage.   To while away the time, she watches endless episodes of The West Wing on DVD while I listen to music on the radio so we are both happy in our own way.

After a fortifying cup of coffee we got some use out of our loan car by driving to Carlisle to do some necessary shopping.  We bought a small solid fuel stove to go in our new end wall (when it is finished) and then went to a garden centre.  My target there was some fancy cheese from their posh food shop and Mrs Tootlepedal was in pursuit of seed potatoes.  The cheese selection was dull but Mrs Tootlepedal found potatoes (Sarpo Mira), onions and shallots to her satisfaction.

Our next stop was a DIY store where we acquired some polythene sheeting to cover the floors in the end rooms and a battery driven strimmer.  With the sun out, potatoes purchased and a strimmer in hand, there was a definite hint of spring coming but Mrs Tootlepedal said darkly, “February can be a lot worse than January.”

Where the weather is concerned, she is a pessimist….or possibly a realist.

After a thoroughly Mediterranean lunch of sardines on toast, I watched the birds for a while.  Or rather, I tried to watch birds for a while but there was scarcely a feather to be seen.  Finally a redpoll appeared but it lurked inconveniently on the wrong side of the feeder.

redpollWhen it finally got onto a better perch, it promptly dropped its seed…

redpoll…and spent the rest of the time trying to see where it had gone.

redpollI had arranged to go for a walk with Sandy and when he arrived, we decided on a flat walk along one bank of the river and back on the other side.  It might have been flat but patches of slushy snow and occasional ice made it hard going and after forty miles driving and walking round three shops, my legs found the two miles quite a task. Still, it is always a pleasure to walk with Sandy and see what things catch his eye as we go.

I had to keep my eyes so firmly fixed on the next step ahead that I wasn’t able to look around as much as I would have liked but I was still able to appreciate the sunny day.

MurtholmWe stopped on Skippers Bridge to take the obligatory shot of the Distillery…

Langholm Distillery…and some of nature’s artwork on the stone parapet of the bridge itself.

lichensThe last time I did this walk was with Mrs Tootlepedal a week or so ago and I wondered if a strikingly dark fungus on an old tree stump which we saw then would have survived the snow and frosts.

It had.

stump fungusAt first sight it looks almost black and dead but a closer look shows that it is several shades of blue and very much alive.

stump fungusThis is more than can be said for the stump itself which is rotting in a very decorative manner.

Tree stumpWe stopped on the suspension bridge to look at some lichen on its supporting planks.  The quantity of the lichen on these planks is very varied. The New Hampshire gardener had suggested that this might reflect the state of health of the planks, with the more dilapidated ones perhaps carrying more moisture and thus more lichens.  On examination this didn’t seem to be the case.  The most lichen was on a very stout looking plank…

suspension bridge lichen…and a less well preserved one had some but much less.

suspension bridge lichenSome planks had none at all but you will have to take my word for this because I thought that a picture of no lichen might be too exciting for readers.

I was very glad to sit down to a cup of tea and a hot cross bun when we got back and was almost fast asleep by the time that Sandy left to go home for a nice snooze himself.

A session of well judged resting restored me to something like normality but once again I was forcibly reminded of how much work lies in store to get back to fitness.

I really didn’t have much of a moment to look out of the window at all and was pleased to get any flying bird of the day today, even this very grainy chaffinch which was only just still flying..


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Venetia and shows Wells Cathedral at its best.

wells cathedralIt took quite a lot time for the temperature to creep above freezing today but as it was beautifully sunny, this didn’t matter too much.

I had put out a second feeder expecting a bit if a rush since the snow came but things remained very quiet in general.

goldfinch and chaffinch

A goldfinch and a chaffinch doing a little basking in the plum tree.


Two goldfinches hitting the high spots.

There were moments of action.

goldfinch and chaffinch

Shooting the breeze

It was such a nice day that we decided to brave the icy patches and go for a walk.  Mrs Tootlepedal kindly let me have the Yak Trax and I was able to step out with confidence.  We went round Gaskell’s walk….

Gaskell's Walk…which was well trodden down and only icy here and there.

The path is tucked into the shady side of the hill but when we got out into the sunshine, it felt positively warm.

MeikleholmwhitaWhether the sheep were enjoying it so much is another question.

Stubholm sheepThe parish church was gleaming when we got to the park.

Langholm ChurchI took a shot from the Park Bridge…

Park Bridge…before getting home in good order.

After lunch, I took a moment to do some bird watching….

chaffinchchaffinchblue tit…and was thinking of an afternoon walk when I inadvertently lay down on my bed for a moment and fell asleep.

Instead of feeling refreshed when I woke up, I felt terrible and all thoughts of the walk vanished.  We finished (Mrs Tootlepedal finished, I supervised from a chair) getting the rooms ready for the great end wall repair.  We had a useful site meeting with our joiner and builder and things look good.  The only fly in the ointment is the possibility that sub zero temperatures will hold up the building work.  It would be typical if after weeks of above zero temperatures, next week will be the week when they plunge.

As the meeting went on, I took a moment to admire the setting sun bathing the top of Whita Hill with a curious tint.

WhitaIn the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike were banished to the kitchen as Alison and I filled the sitting room with music, some of it according to the directions of the composers involved.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s picture was sent to me by brother who is celebrating his birthday in Liverpool with two of our sisters.  The picture shows Susan literally getting down to the task of taking a photo for her ever informative blog.

Obtaining that blog picI wish that I could kneel like that.

After my rather slighting remarks about the quality of snow on offer yesterday, the weather gods decided to show us what they could do if they tried.

snowIt was an excellent effort and I appreciated it a lot but it did mean that I had to call off my trip to Dumfries to see the surgeon about my knee’s progress.  I didn’t fancy driving a car which is new to me on snowy roads with the promise of more snow later in the day.  The hospital were very calm about it as I was not the first to call off and gave me another appointment for Monday.

By good luck, Dropscone is also going to visit the hospital on Monday and has offered me a lift across which I have gratefully accepted.

I would like to thank all those who offered me good wishes for my trip and assure them that I will carry over these wishes until Monday.

Anyway, I stayed at home and that gave me the opportunity to take a few pictures.


The birds didn’t seem to be put off by the snow.

robinIt was arranged that Dropscone should come round for a late coffee which gave me time for a quick outing when the snow stopped and the sun came out for a while.

I met fellow archivist Ken, last seen as a distant dot on the Town Bridge.

KenThis is the view that he was enjoying.

Langholm in snowI would have liked to have been able to go on up the hill but walking in wellies was testing my knee and coffee was calling so I went back down to the town.   I did stop to take a picture of what can only be described as a winter wonderland…

Holmwood…and a dog enjoying a little gambolling in the snow….

dog in snow…before making a small diversion to Pool Corner just to see what was what.

Pool corner

The trees were sensational

What was most unusual was that if I turned and looked downstream, the trees there looked good there too.

Pool cornerMost often the trees are snow coated on one side only.  It must have been quite calm when the snow was falling.

I came home along the dam and took a look at our end wall.  If all goes to plan, this will be one of the last views of it that I will have.

damWhen I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal ploughed through the snow to the shops while Dropscone and I ate drop scones and drank coffee.

The feeder was still busy…

chaffinch…and the plum tree was very colourful.

plum treeAfter lunch, I thought that I should make an effort to get out and enjoy the snow now that we had got some so I put my  boots and went for a gentle circular tour.  It turned out that the gentle circle was a lot more taxing wearing heavy boots and walking through slush and snow so I am going to put a few pictures in without much comment as I am still tired as I write the blog.

The sun had gone in  and a lot of the sparkle of the day had disappeared but it was still a splendid stroll.

Suspension bridge and WarblasnowRiver EskWhen I got back, I was more than glad to be home as my legs were complaining vociferously.  I will have to come to terms with how unfit I now am and get a serious (but carefully graduated) programme of exercise on the go. To cheer me up,  there was a varied selection of visitors on the feeder…


Greenfinch, siskin, goldfinch and chaffinch

…and it had started to snow again so I was pleased at not being out on the road in a strange car.

A stray blue tit caught my eye just before the light went.

blue titAs the day grew gloomier, Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and then I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  It was a week with a great many entries and I was even more tired by the time that I finished them all.  I was revived by a pair of exotic fish cakes stuffed with cheese for my tea and set off to the Archive Centre with Sandy in the evening.  This was not very satisfactory as the internet connection was grumpy so we did a few necessary tasks and came home and put a further week into the database here.  Luckily it was a less demanding week.

I caught a flying chaffinch of the day while the sun was out.


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For today’s guest picture I have stolen a crop from a photograph that Venetia sent me showing some Somerset cows enjoying a stray spot of sunshine a couple of days ago.

somerset cowsThere was a moment of sunshine here today too but mostly it was cold, grey and occasionally sleety.  In fact, the sleet showers were so vigorous that it was a surprise to find that very little snow had actually settled.  I took a couple of pictures in the afternoon after a particularly heavy shower just show how little effect it had had.

snow on lawn

The lawn is a snow magnet.

Even the hills weren’t impressively covered.

WhitaThis sort of snow is no good at all.  It’s just slippery, slushy and depressing.

There weren’t many birds to while away the time between showers.


A lone chaffinch has the feeder to himself.

A siskin sat high in the plum tree for a while but decided not to visit the feeder below.

siskinTaking an umbrella with me, I started out in one of the clear spells to buy some concert tickets at the Buccleuch Centre and then walk up to the garage to pay my bill.  It was lucky that I had the brolly with me as half way through this minor odyssey, a heavy sleet shower started and I needed protection.  By the time I was walking home, it had faired up again and for a moment it was a pleasant day.

Paying the bill at the garage was a painful business as it was for an annual service and MOT for our Kangoo, which was of course wrecked a few days later.   On the plus side, the insurance company are going to pay us a reasonable amount and let us have the car repaired.  This will of course require us to pay out the difference between the scrap value and the repair bill but I thought that their offer was fair and they even threw in £50 because we will need another MOT after the repair.

We just hope that it won’t take too long.

The chaffinch traffic picked up as the morning went on.  First a solo flier….

chaffinch…then a duet….

chaffinch….and finally a trio.

chaffinchI put some of the gloomy morning to good use by having a little pedal on the bike to nowhere in the garage.  I added an extra minute to my time and hope to increase the effort each day from now on.

Lunchtime was brightened up by a visit from a robin.

robinIn the afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal and I almost finished the job of clearing the front room ready for the builders.  It really does look as though the work is actually going to start.  There is a site meeting on Friday and the scaffolding is scheduled to come on Tuesday.

It was too gloomy to go for an afternoon walk so I put another week of the newspaper index into the database instead.

I should have mentioned yesterday that we had haggis for tea in honour of Robert Burns and because Mrs Tootlepedal is on a ‘get fit for gardening’ diet there was enough left for me to have another Burns supper tonight.  As a bonus, the bashed neeps (mashed turnip) on the side came from the last of our garden turnips.

After tea, Mike Taudevin came round with his cello and we had an enjoyable hour doing our best with some Beethoven and Bach duets.  Finding duets for flute and cello is not easy but Bach’s two part inventions work quite well.

It had obviously been snowing while we were playing and after Mike left, I went out to take a picture.

Wauchope Street in snowIt was still snowing.  We have just got some very smart new street lights which are bright but don’t spill light outside the street like the old ones did.  It has become ominously dark upstairs in our house now.

In spite of the snow, I saw that Mrs Tootlepedal was sorting through her seed packets today so spring can’t be too far away. On the other hand, I am supposed to drive to Dumfries, 36 miles away, to see my knee surgeon tomorrow so the snow may be a problem.

One of those chaffinches is flying bird of the day.


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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone, who had to put up with a day without electricity yesterday as men put in a new and improved supply to his area of the town.

Power cut 2015We had a relatively warm (7°C) but very grey day with a tendency towards drizzle which discouraged any inclination to go for a morning walk.  I didn’t mind too much as my muscles were still feeling yesterday’s effort and I settled happily for a cup of coffee and scones with Dropscone.

I noticed some visits from  a redpoll while we were sipping away and they look as though they are going to be regulars for a while at least.   One came back after Dropscone had headed home.

redpollAs you can see, the feeder wasn’t very busy today.  Perhaps this might supply the reason.

sparrowhawkThe sparrowhawk swooped up and down the drive a few times today without catching anything.  Normally it doesn’t stop but on this occasion, it waited until I had my camera at hand and obligingly paused for a few moments to get its picture taken.

It looked around to try to see where all the little birds had gone…

sparrowhawk…and then flapped lazily away.

I am always surprised at how quickly some birds return after the hawk has gone but today the number of times it flew through seemed to discourage them more than usual and there weren’t many for me to watch.  I liked a slender dunnock posing below the feeder.

dunnockA female chaffinch showed off some neat balancing skills.

chaffinchAfter lunch, I decided to brave the potential drizzle and head out for a gentle flat stroll. I left Mrs Tootlepedal taking a moment to do some tidying up in the garden….

Gardener at work

It felt pretty chilly outside.

…and admired her show of snowdrops in the back border…

snowdrops…before setting out.

I walked up the side of the Esk, across the Duchess Bridge and back by the Kilngreen.  The gloomy conditions meant that I didn’t dally on the way but I was still slow enough to be caught by the rain before I got home.  On my way I saw an interesting white fungus on a fallen branch.

fungusAt least, I think it is a fungus.  I wish that the light had been better as there seems  to be quite a number of  interesting things on this branch.

I took a picture of a mossy tree on the Castleholm and only when I got home did I notice the curious lumps right in the middle of the branches.

Castleholm treeI like the intensely twisted nature of this tree beside the Lodge walks.

Lodge walk treeThe view from the Town Bridge showed why it wasn’t a great day for loafing around snapping.

View from the bridgeAfter a cup of tea and a hot cross bun (they seem to be in all the shops), I put a week of the newspaper index into the database.  Mrs Tootlepedal had bought a DVD of the film of the book,  Matilda by Roald Dahl and I watched bits of that in between times with great enjoyment.

In the evening, my friend Susan drove me to Carlisle where we played trios and quartets with our recorder group.  We had a rather curious selection of music this week but ended with a splendid pavan which made up for the rest.

There weren’t many flying birds to be had today and this one was the best that I could do.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a fine mossy roof spotted by my daughter on her recent jaunt to Hampshire.

Mossy roofThe forecasters had promised us a sunny day but there was little chance of a suntan and a reasonable chance of getting wet  in the morning.  I timed my visit to our corner shop with such precision that I caught one of the showers.

Still, I put some of the time spent indoors to good use by using the bike to nowhere in the garage.  I am not working very hard on it but I did increase the time spent pedalling and even going gently, my legs knew that they had been in action after quarter of an hour.  I think it is going to be harder than I thought it would be when I get out on the roads again.

There was a steady supply of small birds at the feeder and I was pleased to see two or possibly three redpolls.


Having varying success at dealing with big seeds.

One got quite fierce and tried to cow another.  I take it that they are both young males!

redpollsA pigeon turned up to lend a hand with clearing up the fallen seeds.

pigeonAs well as staring out of the window, Mrs Tootlepedal and I continued the work of clearing all the stuff out of our front room.  We took the opportunity to throw a lot of ancient possessions out as we did so.  This is always a wrench but the chances of us ever watching Grease on video again are very limited so we didn’t cry too much.

After lunch, the weather looked a bit more promising so I drove up to the moorland feeders to see how the hide was coming along.

Moorland hideThe team have obviously been working very hard.

I stepped inside and took a view through the window and found a blue tit near at hand.

Moorland hideNear the hide, the team have created the Ritz of bug hotels.

bug hotelI can understand why there are no tits in our garden as they all seem to be up at the moorland feeders.  Even when I strolled down the centre of the glade, they were not put off.

great tit and blue tits

A great tit and two blue tits

The weather seemed not too bad with high clouds in one direction….

clouds at Broomholmshiels…and blue sky in the other…

Tinnis…so I decided to give my knee a little hill work and set off down the road to the banks of the Tarras water.  The first part of the trip was through open country and even in winter, there was colour to be seen in the trees.

Tarras treesI soon came to birch woods and the road took a turn downwards.

Tarras roadIt was quite steep going down but a lot steeper coming back up again.  The birch woods were a delight with lichens to be seen on every tree.


Sometimes to excess

On the other side of the river, commercial conifer planting sweeps inexorably down the hill.

Tarras treesI reached the flat beside the Tarras Water and stopped a while to enjoy the rippling sound of the river…

Tarras water…and to have a little rest before tackling the uphill section back to the car.

I had to stop to take a picture or two as I went up the hill as I was anxious not to overdo things.  A lichen on a slender tree trunk made me think of my knee for some reason.

lichenAnd I stepped into the wood to snap a mossy clearing with a mysterious boulder.

boulderI managed to go slowly enough to get back to the car without difficulty and was very pleased with how well my knee went.

Later in the day though, my muscles in both legs felt as though I had walked miles rather than a few hundred yards.

When I got back, we had another go at the front room and made very good progress.  My back had been much better ever since I got up and I was a bit worried about annoying it but the worst seems to be past and a little light lifting hasn’t done it any harm that I can feel yet.

I have been able to cut down my painkillers to a few paracetamol a day which is a great relief and if things go as they are, I should soon be able to do without them too.    If I could just get a good night’s sleep, I would be a happy man.  But then I wouldn’t have anything to complain about so I would be sad.

In the evening, Sandy took me across to Newcastleton where we attended a Liddesdale Camera Club meeting.  The visiting adjudicator was commenting on our entries in the “Colour” competition.  He was very complimentary about all the entries and I think that the prints in particular were of a good standard.  In view of that, I was not too unhappy to fail to catch his eye when the prizes were dished out and correspondingly, Sandy was very pleased to get a well deserved second and a third.

The flying bird of the day is a very vocal chaffinch.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent and shows some shortbread baked especially for Burns’ Night, the occasion of the annual celebration of the life of the poet Robert Burns on January 25th.

shortbread(Fiona has baked four good Scots words into her shortbread, words suggested by her reverend parents.  They are bahookie, blootered, drookit and glaikit. A visit here may bring enlightenment to those not familiar with the Scots tongue but I can say that a bahookie is what a philosopher sits on when he or she is thinking, blootered is what many people will be at a Burns supper tonight, drookit is what I would have been if I had gone for a walk today and glaikit is what you call people who drop and break their mobile phones.)

It was a miserable wet and windy day today and I was pleased to have the preparing of our evening meal to put into the slow cooker as an excuse not to even think of going for a walk in the morning.  We like to use the slow cooker on a Sunday if possible so that we have a meal ready for us when we come back from our Carlisle choir practice.

My sore back is not too bad if I am standing up or sitting on an uncomfortable chair but soon gets painful if I try to sit on a more relaxing seat.  This leads to rather jumpy behaviour.  I should have taken part in a national garden bird survey today but staying in one place watching and counting for an hour didn’t seem very attractive.  As it happened, there were very few birds about so it would have been dull work at the best of times.


A damp goldfinch sums the morning up well.


A lonely chaffinch

After Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the church choir, I retired for a soak in the bath.  This was comfortable in the short term but didn’t improve things much after I got out.

After lunch we got a lift to our choir practice in Carlisle from fellow choir member Jeremy .  This was very welcome as I had done enough driving recently and Mrs Tootlepedal wasn’t very keen to drive around in a strange car in poor conditions.

The choir practice was very hard work.  Our conductor first made us get a familiar piece to sound as well as we could make it by putting us in mixed groups of SATB in the four corners of the church where we practice so that we would have to listen to each other.  Then he took us through a new and tricky piece in great detail.  I didn’t think that we would be able to manage this piece at all but such is his drive and unfailing cheerfulness that everyone works really hard and I think that we will be able to do it justice.

I was so tired after concentrating on the singing and sitting on a hard pew that I was even more glad of the lift home.

The slow cooker produced an excellent evening meal, though it was helped by some last minute refinements from Mrs Tootlepedal.

There was one moment when there were two birds in the garden today and as a result we have a double flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinches

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