Archive for Jun, 2015

Today’s guest picture comes from my recorder playing friend Susan.  Last week she was in Edinburgh with some of her siblings and took some time out to walk the mile over the Forth Road Bridge to get a good position to photograph the building of the new bridge beside the old one.

Forth Road bridgeIt will be a brief report today as I only managed to start looking at my photograph when it was nearly bedtime.  As a result there will be little text and mostly pictures.

Summary of the day:  Took my sister Susan to Carlisle to catch the train home to London and bought some new frames for my photos while I was there.


Compost sieving and light mowing duties.

Watching tennis on the telly.

Visit from minister to inquire about my well being.

Taken by Susan to Carlisle for final practice of recorder group before concert on Friday.

Astute readers will realise that if I can drive, sieve, mow and play the recorder, my hand and leg are recovering very nicely and although both are still a little swollen, I should be fully recovered very shortly.

It was hot today, well over 20 degrees.  The flowers opened up.  Roses  were attractive to insects.

roses with insectsThe peonies were glorious

peoniespeonyAs were the Sweet William.
sweet williamsweet williamroseAnd some close ups.  Inside one of the pink peonies…

peony…and a lamium.

lamiumThe sun is ripening the fruit.

strawberryI don’t know what effect the moon is having though.

moonIt was a beautiful evening as we drove back from Carlisle.

There was not much bird activity in the heat  but one or two nice poses were on offer.

starlinggoldfinchI didn’t catch a flying bird of the day so all I can say is that this blue tit would have been flying if I had clicked a second later…

blue tit…and this blackbird summed up the weather very well.


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Tony and shows one method that he came across of making sure that your dog doesn’t get  attacked by swans while walking at Lake Windermere.

dog walkingI was interested to find out how my various joints would feel this morning after my experiment with the instant sit down method yesterday.  Checking from top to bottom, my thumb was bruised and sore but usable,  my hip was painless, my knee was fine and my ankle was quite swollen and rather tricky to walk on,

This was much better than I had feared and some credit must go to a relaxing bath last night and some credit to having fairly healthy muscles in the leg.  The swollen ankle was periodically treated with a judicious mixture of gentle exercise and frozen peas and by the end of the day, it was almost as good as new.  I count myself very lucky, as I could have done a fair bit of damage.

The morning was spent going no further than the garden.  The ladies were in very good form.

Crown Princess Margareta

Crown Princess Margareta

Lilian Austin

Lilian Austin

As were the astrantias.


A general view of them today instead of the usual close up.

A yellow iris has come out to join the others.

yellow irisMy sore thumb made holding my heavy camera a bit of a problem but I still managed to catch a blackbird making off with some seed…

blackbird…and a goldfinch hiding behind the feeder pole.

goldfinchMrs Tootlepedal had been at a coffee morning for her church choir and we had lunch when she came back.  After some discussion it was agreed that both my leg and my sister Susan would benefit from an excursion so Mrs Tootlepedal drove us up to Eskdalemuir.  We stopped at The Hub where I checked the exhibition space and then we went on to visit the Samye Ling Tibetan centre a mile or two further up the road.

I was here recently on a bike trip but today I had time to walk around and really appreciate the place.  It is not in any way short of statutes.

Some are in ponds large and small…

Samye Ling…and some are in various vegetable gardens.

Samye LingThere is a wealth of decoration on everything that has a spare inch.

Samye LingSamye LingI enjoyed taking a close look at the figures round the base of the large gateway.

gateway Samye Linggateway Samye LingThe smaller pond with the figure in it has a dragon to pour the water in at one side and a golden boy to pour it out at the other.

Small pond same lingWe were interested to see that modern technology is part and parcel of the site.  We liked these electrically powered gently turning prayer wheels a lot.

Samye LingAs well as the buildings, some peaceful landscaping has been done.

Samye LingSamye LingThe monks are very energetic and it seems as though every time I visit, some new works have been started.  The swallows have also been building and there were several nests to be seen with busy parents flitting to and fro.

swallows Samye LingNear the car park, there were some striking purple flowers.  The looked like knapweed but not quite like the wild flowers you would expect.  The bees were enjoying the pollen.

knapweed  Samye LingWe stopped off at The Hub on our way back down and had a light refreshment and then dawdled back down the west bank of the river Esk to Enzieholm and thence home.

The afternoon sunshine made the drive as pleasurable as the visit to the  monastery and it was just the sort of quiet excursion to suit a man with a dodgy ankle and a sister who these days enjoys life in the slow lane.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we had another go at installing a mental metronome in his head.  We made progress from last week but it is not coming easily.  I will have to look closely at my teaching methods.  I can remember my younger son complaining to me some years ago.  He had a class of first year students to take when he was studying for his PhD and he told me that the students just wouldn’t learn properly.  “That’s easy enough, ” I replied.  “You are not teaching them properly then.”  He was much struck by this way of looking at things.

In the evening, my kind sister took us out for a meal.  The food was very good and what made the meal even better was the fact that we didn’t eat too much.

The flying bird of the day is a less stealthy goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture shows Lincoln Cathedral, seen from the Castle walls.  It was taken by my sister Mary on a recent visit.

Lincoln cathedral, from the Castle wallsWe woke to heavy rain and strong winds but as Mrs Tootlepedal and my sister Susan went off to church and I spent the time inside sorting out the framing of my pictures for the exhibition, we didn’t much mind the weather.  The forecast correctly predicted that the skies would clear by eleven and it soon turned into a reasonable if breezy day.

During this period, I dialled the number for the customer services for my phone supplier with some trepidation, a good book and an easy chair to hand and was stunned to get the whole problem sorted out in a few minutes.  Perhaps firms have finally learned that annoying their customers is not good business.  I even got £10 taken of my next bill.

As well as my sister, we were visited by my older son Tony and his partner Marianne,  who stopped off on their way back to Edinburgh from a weekend in the Lake District.  The hotel that they stayed in allows guests to bring one dog and they had taken one of their three dogs with  them.  Tara was very excited when she came into the house but calmed down when I promised to take her photograph.

She sat well for the portrait.

TaraTony is always looking to be helpful.  Last time he visited, he plastered a wall and today he got a ladder out and cleared a leaking and blocked gutter along the back of the house for us in no time.  What with getting computer advice from one and home improvement from the other, we are very well off for useful sons

They didn’t stay for lunch as Tony had work to see to when they got back home.

With all this excitement, I didn’t pick up a camera until the early afternoon and didn’t even have time for a leisurely garden tour.  I took one picture of the new peony, which had survived the overnight rain well…..

 peony….and had a couple of quick looks out of the kitchen window….

busy feeder

The feeder was busy as ever….


…mostly with sparrows

…before I went off to the church fête with Susan and Mrs Tootlepedal.

There was plenty of music at the fête, as both the town’s brass band….Langholm Town Band…and the pipe band….

Langholm pipe band….were playing, though not at the same time.

As you can see, the fête was blessed with fine weather and after having spent a little money, I left Mrs Tootlepedal and Susan to walk home and took myself off along the path by the river with Pocketcam in hand.

This path has been subject to a number of small landslides over the past few years and I was interested to see a lot of new planting….

new planting…on the unstable bank above the path.  I peered into some of the tubes to see what plants they held but was none the wiser.  I imagine it will be shrubs with good root systems to help hold the bank together.

I was still looking at the right hand side of the path, where there were interesting little plants like this….

Easton's walk..and this….

Easton's walk…when to my great surprise I found myself sitting at path level with one leg doubled up beneath me.  I was mystified for a moment as to how this unexpected state of affairs had come about and, more importantly, where my other leg was but all became plain when I noticed that my un-doubled up leg was sticking straight down into a large hole on the left hand side of the path which I had failed to notice.

Two things were good about this.  One was that my new knee was on the straight leg and the hole was so deep that my foot was hanging in fresh air and my knee had not got banged at all.  The other was that my doubled up  leg had gone straight down and not twisted  and rather to my surprise, I was able to get up and walk rather gingerly onwards.

I learned in my hill running days that if you can keep going after a fall, you can often walk off minor sprains and strains so I continued round Easton’s Walk, trying not to limp.

I paid a little more attention to the path than to the wild flowers beside it on this part of my walk but I didn’t meet any more large holes.  I did see some pretty roses in the hedge.

hedge rosehedge roseI was wondering whether it would be a good idea to extend my walk to aid recovery when a look across a field made up my mind for me….

Stubholm …and I headed for home.

I took a picture of a plant growing out of the park wall as I went past.  It has an unusually high stem to flower ratio.  The flowers are so few and so small that you can hardly see them at all.

wall flowerAlong the way,  I noticed that my thumb was a bit sore and when I checked Pocketcam, I found that the viewing screen had been cracked and realised that I must have hit the ground with the camera in my hand when I fell.  The crack doesn’t seem to have affected the camera’s working parts and I am keeping my fingers crossed (with some light groaning) that the accident won’t have any long term bad effects on Pocketcam…..or my thumb.

A sore ankle, thumb and hip are lingering mementoes of my lack of concentration and we will have to see what tomorrow brings in the way of aches and pains but I am walking about quite freely and was able to make omelettes for our tea without any trouble so I am hoping for the best.

An excursion to Hadrian’s Wall with Susan  is planned for tomorrow and I will try not to fall over while we are there.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my neighbour Gavin who is on a walking holiday in Norfolk. His picture shows a working windmill in the village of Weybourne, which they came to at the end of a ten mile walk.

weybourne windmillWe had plenty of wind to spare here today but as the thermometer was showing summer temperatures at last and the skies were largely blue, we didn’t mind a bit of breeze at all.  We are having a visit from my eldest sister Susan for the next few days so the morning was spent in preparation for this welcome event.

There was time for a little garden wander too of course.

The first of the delphinums has come out. They have generally been quite modest in height in the cool weather this year but this one is towering over Mrs Tootlepedal.

delphiniumLilian Austin has appeared in all her glory.  This is one of my favourite roses.

Lilian Austin roseWhat do you get when an oriental poppy sheds its petals? The icing on the cake.

poppyThe intrusive camera reveals that the tiny individual florets on an astrantia are each apparently grown on a set of pipe cleaners.

astrantiaThe complexity of some flowers is a wonder to me.  The bees just get stuck in.

bee on chive

This bee likes chives

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some shopping and I popped out on the fairly speedy bike to try to cycle fifteen miles in an hour.  I managed it  with about 10 seconds to spare.  On my way, I had another chance to enjoy the very smooth new surface on the road to Cleuchfoot and this had the added bonus of a gate at my turning point.

gate at CleuchfootWhen I got back, I had some time to sieve a little more compost and consider how best to treat the middle lawn.  There are always options.  I might be trying scarifying, buck-u-uppo, weed and feed, mowing or watering…..they all have their pluses and minuses and after quite a bit of cogitation and weighing up the options, I decided to do nothing at all.

The birds were very active at the feeder all day and there was often keen competition for a place at the table.

busy feederbusy feederIn fact so heavy was the traffic that I didn’t realise that we had been visited by a redpoll until I noticed it at the very top of the picture below when I looked at it on the computer.

redpollInstead of lawn care, I had another garden wander..

Mrs Tootlepedal was filling up the pond with a little fresh water and this had brought a small army of tadpoles out above the weed to enjoy the sunshine.

tadpolesI don’t know whether this is a fresh batch or whether they have just been sulking in the bottom of the pond during the cold weather, refusing to develop.

The irises behind the bench are beginning to go over and I took this last shot to say goodbye to them.

irisAs they go, a very showy clematis is appearing nearby.

clematisAnd we have had the first sighting of Crown Princess Margareta too.

Crown Princess MargaretaI finished off my wander with a close look at a pink.

pinkIt looked to me like a stylised depiction of doves in paper collage.

The business of the afternoon was going to Carlisle to pick up Susan from the station.  This should have been quite straightforward but we were not far from the station when we received a rather curious text message to say that she was delayed and had only  got as far as Preston.  I tried to ring her but I couldn’t get through. This left us with an hour to kill so we turned back and went to a nearby garden centre where we purchased a few useful things and some cheese from the expensive farm shop.

After a cup of coffee, we went on to the station but couldn’t find any mention of her train at all.  Luckily a gentleman standing near as we quizzed an official told us that his daughter was on the train and the passsengers had been decanted at Preston and were now on the next train.  Susan arrived on this second train an hour and a quarter after she should have been there but she had borne the delay with equanimity and we were pleased to finally see her so we drove home quite cheerfully.

The situation had been made more difficult by the fact that neither her nor my mobile phone was working.  The curious text message had been sent by a helpful young man on the train. As we had both received and installed updates this morning, we assumed that that was the cause of the difficulty  but when I looked at my account on line, I found that the company has not deducted my most recent direct debit from my bank account and is claiming that I owe them money.  I foresee tedious times ahead on the customer service line tomorrow.

Still it is very good to see Susan and catch up on all the family news.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch getting  away from the disputes at the feeder


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Today’s guest picture comes from Tom, my South African correspondent.  The picture shows a view of the mountains seen from Worcester in the Western Cape area and was taken on his phone.

WorcesterWe had another grey and drizzly day here today but it was definitely warmer which was very welcome.

I had a traditional wander round the garden after breakfast to see what was what.  The aquilegias have lasted very well and are still a treat…

aquilegia…both in various colours….

aquilegia…and almost none.

aquilegiaLilian Austin has been teasing us for several days but she is almost out now.

Lilian Austin roseNancy, the Archive Group treasurer, came round to get a cheque signed and we strolled around.  She enjoyed the musk….

Musk…and the colour blend of the lupins and the willow behind.

lupin and willowOur next visitor was Dropscone, who arrived bearing a bag of traditional Friday treacle scones.  These were so good that someone who shall be nameless ate half of one of mine.

There was just time to do the crossword after Dropscone left before we had to get ready to go down to Canonbie where my old school was celebrating the fact that the school secretary had racked up 25 years of service.  Lesley is a wonderful woman and a truly admirable secretary so I was very happy to go down with Mrs Tootlepedal to give her a well merited round of applause.

As we got out of the car, two of my ex colleagues appeared…

anne and gill..and for a moment it was just like old times.

Canonbie Primary school was an traditional school when I was head teacher there 30 years ago but now it is part of a ‘cluster’ with Langholm Primary and Langholm Academy.  The cluster head teacher was at the function and he sat down and chatted with us over a cup of tea.  I had never met him before and was delighted to find that he was a very approachable and sensible chap.

We also chatted with Emma, an ex pupil who was in my son Alistair’s class and now has two children of her own in the school.  She thinks that the school is very good and her only complaint about it these days is that they don’t teach the recorder any more.

When we got home, it was wet and windy and all thoughts of a cycle ride were put to one side.  Mrs Tootlepedal did some desultory gardening in the gaps between the rain and I settled down to select and print ten photographs for an exhibition that our camera club is putting on at The Hub in Eskdalemuir in July.   I am mostly saying it with flowers this year.

I popped out from time to time to see what Mrs Tootlepedal was up to but it was too soggy to do any mowing or compost sieving so I took a picture or two…


A peony full of potential


Raindrops on a foxglove blend with its pattern

…and went back inside.  When you have literally hundreds to choose from, picking ten is quite hard work.

I didn’t have much time to stare out of the window today but I liked the punk haircut on this chaffinch.

chaffinchIn the evening, Mike and Alison came round.  They have been in Wales and while she is on holiday there, Alison always likes to have a ratch about in a favourite second hand book shop with a good music department.  This year she came back with a very enjoyable set of divisions (variations) on Greensleeves arranged by Arnold and Carl Dolmetsch and first published in 1939.   This piece turned out not only to be tuneful but quite easy to play so it was a winner on both counts.

The flying bird of the day is a rather damp chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the Adam Bridge at Kedleston Hall, which my sister Mary visited with my sister Susan and my brother Andrew recently.  (A description of their visit can be found on Susan’s blog.)

The Adam bridge, Kedleston HallWe had another grey and windy day today but, as a small consolation, it was a few degrees warmer than it has been.  It didn’t tempt me out on my bicycle though and I was happy to dawdle over the newspapers after breakfast and then welcome Sandy in for a cup of coffee.

Before Sandy arrived, I had a gentle tour of the flowerbeds, even though the poor light and windy conditions made photography a bit hit or miss.


Mrs Tootlepedal has a promising crop of pale pink peonies coming along. This is the first of them.

orange hawkweed

The orange hawkweeds are getting multi headed


The pansies are putting on a better show all the time.


The Weigela has come out in a rush.


The first pink is crawling into the light.

I couldn’t resist a return to two pretty favourites.


candelabra primula

The candelabra primulas are amazing vegetable constructions.

After lunch though, the tempo of the day increased and I put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database in short order and then went out into the garden to see what there was to do.

Mrs Tootlepedal is busy putting the shrubs along the back fence into some sort of order so there was plenty of shredding to do and a little compost sieving gave me some simple pleasure and Mrs Tootlepedal the chance to enrich the soil in a flower bed.  Finally, I had a quick trim of the drying green.

The rain had been threatening all day without amounting to more than a single short shower so after the gardening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to visit the same bridge at Westwater as we had yesterday.  We stuck to the road this time and didn’t pedal over any steep hills on the way.  There was a faint drizzle for the whole nine miles but it was so faint that it didn’t get us wet.

It did cramp my use of Pocketcam and I only stopped for one picture of some very striking yarrow,


I didn’t see the insect until I looked at the photo.

We were talking to Mike Tinker outside the house just before we set off and we almost had to duck as two low flying military aircraft zoomed over the rooftops.  They were so low that even Pocketcam could catch one of them.

aircraft over roofWe had hardly cycled 300 yards before they appeared again, obviously having done a handbrake turn, and flew over us in the opposite direction. They were well below the top of our surrounding hills and made off up the Ewes valley.   I hope that the pilots were concentrating.

In the evening, I went off with Sandy to the Archive Centre where we put another couple of weeks of the index into the database.  We were amused to discover that the opening act at a new hall, converted from a furniture maker’s workshop into a place of public entertainment in 1890, was a troupe of performing Mexican donkeys.   They really knew how to have fun in those days.

We had to have a glass of wine afterwards to recover.

The flying bird of the day is sparrow.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture shows the elegant ceiling of Bath Abbey.  Venetia took the picture when she was there with my sister Mary recently. I always think that these places must take a lot of dusting to keep them clean.

Bath AbbeyIt was a day of questions.

Would I do anything useful after breakfast?  Yes, a little dusting and cleaning.

Would Dropscone come round for coffee?  Yes.  Hooray.

Did he bring any scones?  No.  Boo hoo.

Was there anything new to see in the garden?  Yes.

Berberis and peony

Berberis and peony flowering

Were there any other plants worth a look?  I thought so.


Mrs Tootlepedal’s new rhododendron is as red as red can be.


Allium bulgaricum also known as Nectaroscordum siculum var. bulgaricum.

Are we going to get anything to eat?  Yes.

apple, bean and plumAny interesting birds about?  Not many, just a dunnock.

dunnockThis questioning mood was brought on by having to prepare a quiz for the choir social in the evening.  It is amazing how much time writing sevehty questions takes.  It is not just thinking up (or stealing) questions and answers, there is worrying about whether they are too hard or too easy and considering whether the questions are interesting in themselves.  And then there are the questions to which you think you know the answer but because it is a quiz, you have to double check,

Still, it got done in time for me to sieve a little compost, shred some prunings and go out with Mrs Tootlepedal for a bicycle ride after lunch.  It was only eleven miles long but it is probably the most interesting short ride round here.  There was one question left.  Was it going to rain?  The forecast said that there was a 50% probability of rain but luckily we got the other half and it stayed dry.

The route starts by going up to Wauchope School but then it veers off up a little valley.  The last time we cycled this, the road to the farm at Cleuchfoot was in terrible condition and full of enormous potholes.  Today we found that the council have been busy and it is now as smooth as a baby’s bottom…

The road to Cleuchfoot

The road to Cleuchfoot with a perfect surface.

…and a pleasure to ride on.

Once through the farm, the valley gets narrower and the road rougher….

Arrisgill…but it too has been repaired so there were no potholes….and there were floral consolations.

ArrisgillThen the route turns and leaves the valley floor, following a timber lorry trail over the shoulder of the hill.

The timber trailThis road was also in good repair and we were soon able to look back to the road that we had come along.

CleuchfootWith one last push…

Timber trail…Mrs Tootlepedal floated over the summit and we looked down the long (and bumpy) straight on the other side.

Timber trailThere were floral delights here too.


One of a very bright bunch of red clover that caught my eye.

We got back to the Wauchope road and stopped for a moment at the new bridge at Westwater.  It seems no time at all since it was built but already the bare banks of the burn below are getting blanketed by a meadow…

Collin Bridge…and on the bridge itself, the shiny new sandstone parapet is covered in a ghostly pattern of lichen.

lichenThe journey home was aided by a brisk following wind and as a result of the new and improved surfaces and the push home, we were very pleased by the whole outing.

The hawthorns are just turning a little pink along the road side.

hawthornThere wasn’t a lot of time after we got home before we were on the go again, this time off to the Cricket Club for the choir social.  There was a smaller than hoped for turnout of members but there were enough to make for a convivial evening.  The quiz was received in a good spirit and the scores were very close.  There was a good spread to follow (Mrs Tootlepedal’s contribution was a tasty flapjack)  and then we had a little singsong to round the evening off.

Now we wait for September to start another  choral year all over again.

The final question of the day: could we get home without getting bitten by midges?  Just.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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