Archive for Oct, 2015

Today’s guest picture is the last from Tom’s wild life adventures in South Africa.

lionsWe had another late start today but it didn’t matter much because it was miserable, wet and nasty morning, not fit for anything other than sitting over the breakfast table and doing the crossword.  We managed to get breakfast finished in time for me to welcome Dropscone for coffee.

I had ground some coffee beans a few days ago for a friend who had bought beans instead of ground coffee by mistake  and I had lent him a handy tin to keep the ground coffee fresh.  He was so impressed by my little coffee grinder and the prospect of endlessly freshly ground coffee  that he went out and bought himself a (better) grinder and yesterday he gave me back my tin with some of his own ground coffee in it.  Dropscone and I tested it out and found it very good.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set about sawing up a couple of the apple tree branches.  If we take our time and don’t jigger ourselves, we will get the whole tree sawed up and into the log pile before too long.

I took a few pictures in spite of the rain.

jackdaw with pink pellet

The pink pellets are still pulling them in.


goldfinch and chaffinch

A goldfinch and chaffinch exchange views on the value of deficit reduction at the expense of the poor. (They are against it.)

After lunch (lentil soup), the day took a turn for the better and a little blue sky appeared…and a little blue tit as well…

blue tit…so I took a walk round the garden to see if there were still some flowers about.

nerine, clematis and salvia

Nerine, clematis and salvia laugh in the face of raindrops

marigold and poppy

Marigold and poppy look at things differently

Walking across the little bridge over our pond, I saw a streak of green between the planks which I took to be moss…I was wrong.

lichenThe hint of blue sky tempted Mrs Tootlepedal and me to get on our cycling gear but even as we were pulling on the leggings, it started to rain.  It was one of those days when the weather was unreliable because by the time we had our shoes on, it had stopped again so we set off up the Wauchope road.

We found ourselves pedalling along a river of sunshine…

Wauchope road…between banks of grey and threatening clouds….

cloudy windmills…and by the time we got to Wauchope schoolhouse, Mrs Tootlepedal voted for a quick return home before we got soaked.

The river of sunshine got narrower as we pedalled home….

wauchope road…until it closed up entirely…

rainbow…but it opened up a bit as we hit Caroline Street….

Caroline St rainbow….and I can confirm that the happy householder at 37 is the proud owner of a crock of gold.

Mrs Tootlepedal had had enough of this uncertainty and stopped cycling but I looked at the now blue sky, picked up Pocketcam and went back up the road.

You can see why I might have been tempted to risk a downpour.

Pool corner

Looking back at Pool Corner as I left the town.

I dropped in on my favourite cascade…

Wauchope cascade….and was pedalling happily up the road with a few miles in mind and enjoying the sunshine…

Wauchope road…until I got to the top of the hill past Wauchope School where massive grey clouds sent me scuttering back home.  I was putting my bike in the garage when the rain started.

It didn’t take long until the sun came out again though and I popped down to the suspension bridge to see how things looked there in the evening sun.

riverside treesMrs Tootlepedal looked at my picture when I got back and remarked that it was a pity about the telephone pole.

It was a pity…

riverside trees…so I disappeared it.

In the evening, we drove down to Canonbie to attend a performance by the Border Strathspey and Reel Society in Canonbie Church.

This is a group of musicians who keep alive traditional Scottish dance music.  There were about 25 of them tonight, mostly fiddlers but with an accordion, double bass, guitar, drums and keyboard players to add some depth to the sound.  As well as reels and strathspeys, they played jigs, marches and slow airs.  They were pretty good and a pleasure to listen to and they had an excellent local singer as one of their guest soloists.  By coincidence she sang ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ as part of her program.

The concert would have been unalloyed joy had the first half not gone on for an hour and a quarter with the second half looking to be just as long.  I was beginning to feel like Mr Bennet in Pride and Prejudice (“You have delighted us long enough.”) but fortunately the concert organiser had some strong words with the group at half time and the second half was pruned sufficiently so that we got out after two and a quarter hours.   It was good to see a group so proud of their own work that they thought that a three hour concert would be needed to show it off but you can have too much of a good thing…..

…especially as I still had the pictures to prepare for posting and the blog to write when I got home.

Luckily the clocks go back tonight so a late bedtime won’t matter so much.

The flying bird of the day is another jackdaw with some white markings.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture is yet another of the wild life encountered by Tom on his visit to the game park.

elephantAfter the delights of yesterday, today was very quiet.  Very quiet indeed. We got up so late that I had to turn down an offer of treacle scones from Dropscone as it was by no means certain that we would have finished breakfast in time for coffee.

We did get to work after breakfast though and while Mrs Tootlepedal delved away in her hole round the apple tree, I sieved a bucket or two of compost.  I went to inspect her work after a while and with the aid of some hefty pushing and shoving, the tree stump was finally uprooted.

apple treeShe had done all the preliminary clearing work with no more than a nail file and a teaspoon.  She is a remarkable woman.

After lunch, I went up to get some customer service training for the volunteers at the Information Hub on the High Street.  I was expecting to get advice on how to master such high level customer service skills as locking the door when I saw visitors approaching or not answering any of their questions if they did get in but it turned out that what we mostly need to do is smile a lot.  As I had to sit for over an hour on a hard wooden school chair while attending to a Power Point presentation, I found it quite hard to smile at all.

The tutor had some good ideas though so I expect our tourists will be bowled over when they visit next year.

It was quite a breezy day and my legs asked if they could have a day off the bike so I humoured them and had a stroll round the garden instead. The sedum looks better now than it did when it was covered with bees but there were no bees to be seen today.

sedumThere are still a good number of nasturtiums about….

nasturtiums…and one or two poppies left, hidden in sheltered spots

poppypoppyThe bird feeders were not at all busy today for some reason and the chaffinches seemed happier lurking in the plum tree than visiting the feeder.

chaffinchThere were occasional glimpses of the sun…..

coal tit…but not enough to persuade me to go for a walk.

In the late afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Annan with a friend to see the film Suffragettes and I stayed quietly at home cooking some Chelsea buns.  They came out looking rather lumpy so I didn’t take a picture of them then but they were so tasty that I couldn’t take a picture of them now without an x-ray machine.  I will try again soon and hope to get more aesthetically pleasing results.

I did find one flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from my South African correspondent Tom’s visit to the Aquila Game Reserve. He tells me that most of the animals are free roaming within the reserve while others are rescue animals.

lionThe five day forecast had led us to expect wild winds and pouring rain today but once again, the forecasters had been too gloomy and we enjoyed a fine day with a wind that was far from wild

Mrs Tootlepedal went off after breakfast to visit Matilda in Edinburgh and I popped along to the town bridge to take a picture that I would have taken yesterday, if my planning had been better.

Esk in LangholmYou can see from the leaves on the ground that time is running out for views like this.

When I got home, I walked round the garden.


Some poppies had recovered

fuschsia and lamium

Things were positively glowing

I had bought some bargain dangling coconut shells filled with suet in Carlisle yesterday but the cheapness of the price was reflected in the fact that the suet fell out almost immediately today.  On the plus side, the fallen food attracted dunnocks and a robin.

dunnock and robinMy perfect planning for the day was made much easier by the fact that it stayed fine so I wasn’t missing any photo opportunities when both Dropscone and Sandy came round for coffee.  Sandy has just come back from holiday in Majorca and as Dropscone has been there a couple of times in years gone by, they were able to exchange notes.

After coffee, Sandy went off to fetch a camera and he and I drove down to the Hollows and parked beside Hollows Tower.

Hollows TowerWe walked down to the river and admired the colours.

Esk at HollowsThen we followed the river round a corner and looked back.

Esk at HollowsIt was a good place to be.

We walked up from the river and passed the Tower on the other side….

Hollows Tower…and then Sandy drove us onwards for a few hundred yards until we came to the Hollows Bridge.  Thanks to the falling leaves, we were able to get a much better view of the Archimedes screw that is being installed at the mill.

Hollows MillLooking down river, I was struck yet again by how narrow the wooded channel is that the Esk runs through between Langholm and Canonbie.

Esk at HollowsWe walked down the old A7….

Old A7 at Hollows

Half the road fell into the river thirty five years ago which is why we can walk along it today.

….to Byreburnfoot and got another view of the river from the bridge there.

Esk at ByreburnfootAlthough it was still sunny, you can see that there was quite a misty haze over the river here.

As we walked back to the car, there were small details on the wall beside the old road which distracted us from looking at the bigger picture.

fern and lichenIt was getting near to lunch time so we stopped taking endless photographs and headed for home.  It would have been very easy to spend hours beside the river on a day like today.

I made some lentil soup for my lunch, with enough surplus to do for several days and luckily it tasted good enough so that I won’t have to regret eating it four days running.

I looked out of the window while I was cooking and enjoyed the beady eyed company of a goldfinch and a pigeon.

goldfinch and pigeonLater in the afternoon, I got the fairly speedy bike out and set off to cycle to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back three times. The uninspired route choice was the result of the MTRS being in Edinburgh combined with a wind that could charitably be described as frisky.

Still, it was warm enough and I was in no hurry so I enjoyed my repetitions.

When I had finished my twenty miles, I spent quite a lot of time looking at the pictures that I had taken in the morning.  Faced with the beauty of the Esk at the Hollows, I had shot a great number of photographs but as they were all remarkably similar, I didn’t have as much trouble in picking one or two out for this post as I anticipated.

I welcomed Mrs Tootlepedal back from Edinburgh and then, leaving her to a well earned rest, I walked along to the Buccleuch Centre to a concert. I met Sandy there once again as he had decided to come along as well.

I had been in two minds as to whether an evening of piano and saxophone duets under the aegis of a classical music promoter would be entirely my cup of tea but I like the saxophone as an instrument so I had bought a ticket.  In the event, it was probably the best decision of a day that had gone extremely well so far.

The pair, Huw Wiggin on sax and Tim Abel on piano, were a delight from start to finish.  Huw’s saxophone technique was startlingly good, Tim could play the piano brilliantly, the choice of music was entertaining and the musicality and team work was superb.

There was a small audience but the warmth between performers and listeners was palpable and it was just another example of how lucky we are to have such a good arts centre so close to our door.

If you had asked me how likely on a scale of one to ten it was that I would enjoy a piece of music called Fuzzy Bird Sonata by a contemporary Japanese composer, Takashi Yoshimatsu,  I might have said, “One”…especially if I had read that the majority of his work is triadic and contains simple, repeated progressions, or in some cases pandiatonicism. Often extended tertian harmonies are followed by whole tone harmonies (such as in the first movement of Symphony No. 5; or the first movement of his “Cyber Bird” Concerto for alto saxophone, which, in addition, makes use of free atonal jazz.  It is a tribute to the players that having listened to it, I would give it ten.

All in all, it may be some time before I have such an enjoyable day again.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  There’s a surprise.

flying chaffinch

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My South African correspondent Tom promised me a rhino yesterday and in today’s guest picture you can see that he has been as good as his word.

rhinoAfter a rainy night, this morning was surprisingly calm, dry and warm.  I hadn’t expected a good day and I made the bad decision to go to Carlisle with Mrs Tootlepedal to do some shopping.  We drove down in pleasant sunshine, admiring the wonderful autumn colours, the best of the season so far, did our shopping and got back to a grey day which rapidly turned to drizzly rain in the afternoon.

Any plans for a walk or cycle ride disappeared and were replaced by humdrum tasks like printing out cards for sale for Archive Group funds and going to the Archive Centre to change a bulb in a microfiche reader and put a week or two of the index into the database.  I was really cross to have wasted an excellent morning.

Before the drizzle started, Mrs Tootlepedal dug a bit more of the apple tree stump out and I tempted the starlings with some pellets.


No room for another one there…..


…oh yes there is.

Jackdaws came too.

jackdawjackdawI have to admit to putting out a selection of pellets, pink, grey and white and the jackdaws and starlings eat them all with equal gusto.  My emphasis on pink pellets may have been a little exaggerated and although the birds seem to like them best, it was my choice to concentrate on photographing the birds with pink pellets in their beaks.

The jackdaws and starlings seem to get along quite well but the starlings don’t argue with the jackdaws much.

jackdaw and starlingWe have a jackdaw with some prominent white markings as a regular visitor.

jackdawI didn’t get much chance to look at the other feeders as the light was poor but I always like to see a coal tit.  You can see that the drizzle had started by the time I saw this one.

coal titIn the evening, we went to our local choir.  There were only two tenors there tonight so we had to work pretty hard.

This was a mainly dull day and it has resulted in a dull post and I am still feeling a bit peevish that I failed to make use of the good morning but maybe tomorrow will confound the forecasters and I will get another chance to get out and about.

The flying bird of the day is two starlings with their backs to me.  It was that kind of day.


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Today’s guest picture is another from Tom, my South African correspondent.  It shows two young cheetahs in a cheetah outreach centre.   He hopes to have rhino pictures soon.

cheetahsFor the second day running, I managed to get up into my cycling gear and actually go out for a ride after breakfast.  (The ‘after breakfast’ bit of that sentence might need qualifying by the addition of the words, ‘some time’.)

I had a moment (or two) to bird watch before I went.

coal tit and chaffinch

Two feeder approaches:  the coal tit just made it but the chaffinch may feel that she had misjudged the height a bit.


A robin had fallen victim to pink pellet madness.

It was a bit chilly when I finally set off, thanks to some early morning mist but it began to lift  as I hit the road and I was forced to stop as soon as I had passed Skippers Bridge.

Skippers Bridge in AutumnYou can perhaps see why. The picture was taken with my phone.

The light was so good….

Esk in Autumn…that I almost abandoned my bike ride to go home and get my camera out for a walk in the hills.  As it was, I persevered with my pedalling and stopped from time to time to get my phone out.

Mist over Broomholm

Looking over Broomholm at the rising mist.

The road from Claygate

The road from Claygate

It was a perfect day and my legs were in helpful mood which made things even better.  It was lucky that they were co-operating as the first twenty five miles of my journey was relentlessly up and down hill.  This wouldn’t have been too bad but the downhills, particularly at the start of the trip,  were steep and twisty and frequently on roads with a bad surface so I couldn’t get full value from them.  In addition, although it was most welcome, I was cycling more or less straight into the sun so every time I came to a bit of the road shaded by trees, it was hard to see what the road surface was like.  All this meant puffing like mad to get up the long hills and then teetering down the other side hanging on to the brakes.

I found my first fairly flat bit of well surfaced road after 22 miles.  If you think that I might be using a bit of poetic licence or literary hyperbole, here is the elevation map for my first 25 miles.
garmin elevation oct 2015I didn’t rise to any great heights but I did rise to a lot of small ones.  You can see from the elevation map that it took me a long time to get to the half way point of my journey.

The surrounding countryside and the roadside colour made it all worthwhile.

Catlowdy tunnel

A natural tunnel near Catlowdy

Once I got to the flatter ground, I had a lot of route choice.  A signpost offering me Kirklinton Church in one mile seemed like a good offer so I took that road.  After two miles or so, I was beginning to worry about a marked lack of ecclesiastical buildings so I was relieved to see another sign for the church.  I was less than pleased to see that this one too said Kirklinton Church 1m.  I was even less pleased to come to another junction in the road with no sign at all but luckily there was a local standing by the roadside who pointed me in the right direction.

Kirklinton Church

My objective

From there, I knew where I was and pursued a flat route across country towards Gretna.  For this first time this year, leaves were beginning to fall in front of me as I pedalled and I stopped in an avenue of horse chestnut trees to try to capture some leaves in the air.

Chestnut trees in autumnI failed.

To console myself, I paused at the Old Toll House in Gretna and had a nourishing plate of sausage, egg and chips to fortify me for the short ride home.

I took a final picture of the little settlement at the Hollows, five miles from home….

Hollows…and then pedalled home as fast as my little legs would carry me in a successful effort to get my average speed up to a meagre 13mph for the 51 mile outing.  A very satisfactory part of the ride was the fact that my new saddle gave me no problems so I have every reason to think that it has been a good buy.

Details of the route may be found here.

While I had been out, Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy.  She had had planted 56 bulbs, dug a trench round the apple tree stump….

apple tree stump

This section is left to act as a lever while she digs out the roots.

…and done some heavy duty weeding and clearing.


Just one of the loads that she taken out.

After I had had a shower, Dropscone arrived to have a cup of tea and a slice of Mrs Tootlepedal’s banana and walnut loaf.

He is going to Malta for a holiday in January and he was very pleased to have snaffled one of the really cheap railway fares that are offered to people booking three months in advance.  He was so early with his booking that he will have to wait several days before he can book the return.

When he left, I put some pellets out in the lawn feeder and enjoyed the starlings landing mob handed.

starlingsI had a look round the garden.  The fungus on the drying green can’t be very tasty becuase it has been hardly touched at all.

drying green fungusThe mint is flowering furiously.

 mintAnd in the absence of any poppies showing their face to me, the ‘poppy of the day’ is a clematis.

clematisWe are getting some of the forecast rain as I write tonight’s post and we are promised two very windy days on Thursday and Friday so I was pleased that I took this picture of the end of the middle lawn as it might be the last good flower bed shot of the year.

flower beds in OctoberOn the other hand, we have had some over pessimistic forecasts this year so I haven’t entirely given up hope of more flower pictures to come.

In the evening, I went to Carlisle with Susan to play with our recorder group.  Susan has been a bit under the weather so I drove tonight and I was happy to find that my cycling had left me with plenty of energy for this extra trip.  We had a really good play tonight so, all in all, it has been a day well on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

The flying bird of the day is one of the jackdaws that soon drove the starlings away from the feeder.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Bruce, who is on holiday in the West Country.  It shows Gold Hill in Shaftesbury in Devon.  This street was the backdrop of a celebrated advertisement in the 1970s.

Gold HillIt was another still, dry morning and I managed to get out of bed and straight into my cycling gear.  Then, in the blink of an eye (or one and a half hours in real time), I was out on my bicycle.  It was pretty chilly again (6°C) and there was no sun to warm me up today but the light wind made it a very reasonable day for a pedal.

Unfortunately my legs must have been in mourning for the untimely defeat of the Scottish rugby team yesterday becuase they would only allow me to proceed at a funereal pace.  Still, twenty miles is twenty miles, however long they take and today’s ride took me over 3000 miles for the year.  I will be heavily reliant on some unseasonably fine weather though if I am to hit my A target of 4000 miles for the year.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal and I sawed off the last big branch of the apple tree and now only a lonely stump is left.  Years ago, this tree was a perpetual target for juvenile apple thieves and on many a night, the garden would be alive with stealthy sounds and muffled whispers as the youth of the neighbourhood crept in to pick horribly unripe green apples which, if they ever actually ate them, would have given them well deserved stomach ache.

I put out some pellets for the starlings and didn’t have to wait long.


I think that the brown wing feathers show that my first visitor was a  youngster

Before I got a camera with a zoom lens, I never knew that birds were so nonchalant about standing on each other.

starlingsBut they were soon friends again.

starlingsThe starlings were  replaced by jackdaws.

jackdawAt the seed feeder, the arrival of a mature male sparrow put everyone else into a tizzy.

sparrowWhen the fuss died down, a greenfinch arrived for a snack.

greenfinchIn an effort to ease some of the aches and pains out of my grumbling legs, I had a bath after lunch and then went off to play music with Isabel.  Mike, our cellist was away in Edinburgh, so Isabel and I put in some work on a new sonata for keyboard with flute and cello accompaniment by Clementi which I recently bought from a fine on-line music shop in America.  We followed that with a very nice sonata for treble recorder and keyboard by Francesco Mancini.

I should add that there was a very light drizzle about lunchtime.  This came as an unwelcome surprise after our excellent dry spell and it put paid to the idea of a walk in the late afternoon with Mrs Tootlepedal.  The drizzle came and went but the day had got thoroughly grey and unappetising.  I did  manage a quick walk round the garden…

poppy parade

Today’s poppy parade

…but there wasn’t anything very exciting.  I thought that the marigolds should get a little credit though for their addition of some garden colour.

marigoldsThe starlings were queuing up in the hope of more pellets…..

starlings..but they flew off in a rush before I could put some out.

My flute pupil Luke had other things to do today so I spent a quiet evening cooking a feta, tomato, pepper and potato bake for my tea and some time watching the television with Mrs Tootlepedal.

The forecast says that tomorrow will be the last calm day before our kindly high pressure system slips away and allows some wind and rain to make an appearance so I hope that I can manage to make good use of it.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Tony and shows one of his large pack of fierce  hounds.tony's dogAnother dry day, this time with added sunshine and light winds, made for a unmissable chance to go cycling and this time, I didn’t miss it.

There was a moment of distraction before I got going when I noticed a newcomer at the bird feeder.  It was early in the day and the light wasn’t good but this was the first sighting in the autumn of a brambling in the garden so I have put the picture in for the record.

bramblingThe feeder may have been in deep shadow but there was sunshine on the plum tree where a goldfinch was looking a bit put out by the newcomer.

goldfinchIn spite of the sunshine, it was a fairly nippy 6°C when I set off so I was well wrapped up.  I had judged the clothing level well though and I maintained a good temperature, not too hot, not too cold, for the whole ride.

I was helped by going at a very steady pace as I was in no hurry and kept an eye out for views which might show why pedalling up the Ewes valley is my favourite Sunday morning run.

On the way up, I stopped to look to my left….

Ewes valleyEwes valley…and to my right.

Ewes valleyThe valley is remarkable for the extreme flatness of the narrow strip of ground between the hills on both sides.

The flat ground comes to an abrupt end though and the head of the valley is surrounded by hills….

Ewes valley….I took a panorama too.

Ewes valleyInstead of going straight on up the main road to Mosspaul as I usually do, the fine weather persuaded me to turn right at Fiddleton Toll and head for the hills.  The road has been recently resurfaced and was a pleasure to ride along.

road to carretriggI turned round as I climbed gently to see the valley that I had left behind me.

ewes valleyI was headed for Carretrigg, a fine ridge at the top of  a steep hill.

carretriggI could have gone on and dropped into Liddesdale but I didn’t have time so after admiring the view to the south…..

carretrigg…and the north….

carretrigg…I pointed the bike back down the hill….

carretrigg…and headed for home.

Unlike the capricious wind of last week, the gentle wind in my face on the way up today had slightly strengthened but kept its direction so I was able to pedal back to Langholm with a light heart and twinkling legs.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal and I sawed off another limb of the apple tree and Mrs Tootlepedal did some excellent trimming and shredding so that everything was tided away by the time that I had had a shower.

I took a picture or two in the garden while I was out there.

clematis and nerine

The low temperature in the morning had not harmed the nerine or clematis.

The feeder was now in the sunshine but there were no bramblings to be seen, just sparrows…

sparrows…and contentious chaffinches.

chaffinchesIn the afternoon, we went to Carlisle to combine a little shopping with a choir practice.  We are singing at the switching on of the Christmas Lights in the city centre next month so we concentrated on some Christmas songs today which seemed a bit inappropriate for such a pleasant sunny day but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

When we got home, we found that a contentious refereeing decision had put the nail in the coffin of Scotland’s chances of going further in the Rugby World Cup so I was exceptionally glad that the choir practice had prevented me from watching the match.  I wasn’t very happy but I must have been the happiest rugby supporter in Scotland.  I would have been distraught if I had been watching.

We had some baked cod for our tea and then I watched a little uncontentious telly and pruned the pictures for tonight’s post before going to watch the recorded highlights of the game and cry a little.

Today’s flying bird is a chaffinch, cheerfully unconscious of the national disaster ahead.

flying chaffinch

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