Archive for Nov, 2015

Today’s guest picture comes from my daughter Annie and shows a gently steaming gatepost that we met on a walk this afternoon.

Castleholm gate

It was business as usual with the weather when we woke up, with grey skies and rain to greet us.

It seemed like a good day for indoor activities so while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to a church choir practice, Annie and got going on the business of making tea cakes.   This is a lengthy process involving a yeast starter, heating milk, melting white chocolate and any amount of kneading and resting of the dough so we were able to pass the morning very pleasantly, interspersing the baking with peering out of the window.

coal tit and blue tit

The sight of a coal tit and a blue tit made us think of the American chickadee.  A correspondent asked me recently if they were related so Annie did a little research on the internet and found the matter discussed quite fully here.

It turns out that though they look similar, they are probably not closely related.  Interestingly, I have never seen an American equivalent of our blue tit, though there may well be one.

We were visited by  a small group of greenfinches….


…while it was still raining.  We were also visited by a blackbird as the rain eased off…..



…and a robin after it had stopped.


I didn’t put out any pellets for the jackdaws so a starling came to try the seed feeder…


…and the photograph showed that the spots on a starling are not round as they may appear from a distance but heart shaped.  Annie and Mrs Tootlepedal looked at a close up….


…and remarked that they look exactly like needlework and gave the impression that the bird is wearing a nattily embroidered waistcoat.

In the pursuit of ‘oily fish for a better brain’ we had rolls filled with a home-made sardine pâté for lunch.

These not only improved our brains but the weather too and there was an unexpected outbreak of sunshine.  We needed no prompting and set out for a walk, chiefly to inspect the fallen tree at the Sawmill Brig which Kevin had photographed yesterday.

We could see that the bridge itself was still in place as we looked up the Ewes water from the Town Brig…

Sawmill Brig

..and so we walked on, enjoying the unexpected sunshine and the gleaming colour of the male mallards as we passed them.


We were not the only ones interested in the events at the bridge.

Sawmill Brig

I was pleased to see that the bridge seemed to have survived the fall of the tree.  Closer examination showed that the parapet had taken a bashing…

Sawmill Brig

…but the wall beyond the bridge had fared even worse.

Sawmill Brig

Two trees had come down but the work of clearing them away had been done very quickly and traffic was freely crossing the bridge.

It was such a lovely day by this time…

Cricket Club

…that we extended our walk up to the Lodge and then back down the river bank to the Jubilee Bridge which can be seen in the picture above.

There was lichen to be seen….


This was on one of the sawn branches from the fallen trees.


…remains of the morning weather floating up the hillside….

Mist above the Esk

…hazel catkins thinking about next spring…

hazel catkins

…and a splendid view of the top of Whita being kissed by a passing cloud.


I took an arty (but not entirely successful) shot of a raindrop on a branch….


…and finally we enjoyed the sight of one of the minister’s chickens doing some basking in the sunshine.

minister's hen

We got home feeling very cheered by our drop of golden sun and were able to entertain Mike Tinker to a cup of tea when he dropped in shortly after we had arrived.

I put a brioche mixture into the breadmaker, lit the fire in the front room as it was pretty chilly in spite of the sunshine, finished off cooking the tea cakes and then retired to look at my photographs.

No long afterwards, Luke appeared for his flute lesson and we worked away quite successfully. Then it was time for tea and yesterday’s ragu came into its own, served with tagliatelle and mushrooms.

There was no time to sit around after tea, as I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  This was the first time that we have met for a few weeks so it was really good to meet and play again.   I had to watch my step as I walked up and back to Isabel’s house because it was very cold and the road was icy in places.

More rain is forecast for tomorrow morning so there may be quite an ice rink when we get up.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gloomy morning greenfinches.

flying greenfinch


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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by my friend Bruce and taken by his son Kevin, shows that it really has been a bit breezy round here lately.

Tree on sawmill Brig

It was even wetter and windier this morning (as forecast) and I was happy to accept an offer of scones to go with morning coffee.   Even Dropscone couldn’t consider golfing on such a foul day.

Before he arrived, I took advantage of a lull in the rain to have a walk down to the river.  After all the recent wet weather, I was surprised at how low the water was but there was more than enough to keep a gang of canoeists happy.

kayaks on the Kilngreen

I would have stopped to watch them launch their kayaks but it started to rain so I made for home.

chaffinch and puddle

The rain was lashing down and the garden had water features that would make Chatsworth envious.

After Dropscone had come and gone, I set about making a ragu for the slow cooker and preparing the spare room for a visit from our daughter Annie, who was due to arrive with Mrs Tootlepedal by train from the south in the early evening.

I had a moment to look out of the window.


A siskin with its feathers ruffled.

As I was plumping up a pillow, something strange caught my attention.  It was a glimpse of blue sky.  I looked out of the window and to my astonishment I could see the top of a hill.


The blue sky looked a bit temporary….

Blue sky and clouds

…but while it was there, I rushed down stairs and put out some pellets.

The jackdaws were on pellet alert.

pellets jackdaws

And arrived in numbers.

pellets jackdaws

I have seen quite a few jackdaws with white or pale patches on their plumage….

white patch jackdaws

…but this one….

jackdaw white patch

…was the whitest yet.

A pigeon took advantage of the moment of calm to come foraging for fallen seed.

wood pigeon

While the sun was about, I looked at the seed feeder.


There was a handsome looking greenfinch there.  Could it have been related to this scruffy looking object in the plum tree?


It was quite breezy up there.

It was a good moment though for some chaffinches to take in a few rays.


I was hoping that the rain might stay away as I drove to Carlisle for a choir practice after lunch, especially as I was going to pick up Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie from the station after the practice but I was to be disappointed in two respects.  First a return of the howling wind and heavy rain made the trip to Carlisle more exciting than I would have wished and secondly, Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie didn’t arrive.

They had got on to their train at Euston on time but then had been thrown off it again because a tree had brought down the power cables north of Preston and no train was getting to Carlisle.  Along with many other passengers, they nipped along the road to King’s Cross to try to catch a train to Newcastle instead.

The first train they might have caught was packed to the gunwales so they waited for the next train.  It was packed to the gunwales too but some brisk legwork by Annie secured them a seat and they got to Newcastle squashed but safe and sound.

They had to wait there for quite a while to catch a Carlisle train so by this time, I had gone home, eaten a plate of ragu and returned to Carlisle in a sleety blizzard.  I couldn’t get into the station forecourt as it was full of buses but I parked elsewhere and walked back to meet the travellers.  Fortunately, the blizzard had packed it in and gone home.

The travellers were quite pleased to get into the warm car as the walk back to the car park was quite chilly (it was 1° C) and the train from Newcastle hadn’t been heated.

It was very nice to see them.

I should say that amidst the travel difficulties and the wild weather, I had enjoyed a very good choir practice.

On a point of information, I exchanged some remarks with a railwayman on the platform at Carlisle and among others things he said that people were always complaining that Network Rail should  cut down line side trees so this sort of thing wouldn’t happen.  “Why didn’t this happen?” he asked me rhetorically. “The environmentalists!” he said, answering his own question.

Those pesky nature lovers have a lot to answer for!   Mind you, he didn’t mention that if you cut down all the trees, you might get a lot more landslips. Hm.

The flying bird of the day is that white feathered jackdaw.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who took his camera for a walk the other day and enjoyed this doorway to nowhere.  It must have had a purpose once.


If you have come to this post in the hope of reading about exciting events and looking at a range of birds, flowers and landscapes bathed in late autumn sunshine, look away now.

The weather was even worse than it was yesterday.  I woke to the sound of rain drumming on the roof and wisely turned over and went back to sleep again.  It was still raining and the wind was whistling through the bare branches of the walnut tree when I did finally get up.

It wasn’t much brighter than it had been when I had gone to bed last night but after a slice of toast and a cup of coffee, I ventured out to see if a walk would be at possible.  Although I was well wrapped up from head to toe, it was too miserable to stay out for any length of time and far too wet to take a camera out so I went back home.

I put my new camera away and got my Nikon out, although I wasn’t expecting too many bird visitors on such a foul morning.  The birds surprised me though….

chaffinch and great tit

…first by arriving at all and secondly by looking so chipper when they did come.


The wind was so brisk that I was amazed that these siskins, which are tiny birds weighing only a few grams, could fly about unharmed.

A coal tit, an even smaller bird, came too.

coal tit

I did a conveniently tricky prize crossword, which ate up a lot of time and put some more music into the computer for flute practising purposes and that took me up to lunch time.

Having the computer play accompaniments for pieces is good discipline.  It may not have much musical taste or feeling but it does make sure that you are keeping the tempo up.  I find it surprisingly easy to think that I have mastered a piece only to find out that when I have to play it at the same speed throughout, even in the difficult passages, I may not know it quite as well as I thought.

I had a last look out of the window….


And then settled down to watch Dunblane take on the rest of the world at tennis doubles in the Davis Cup Final.  Dunblane won.

It was dark and still raining by the time that the match finished so instead of doing anything useful, I did a couch potato turn and watched such exciting things as the football scores and a bit of White Christmas on the telly.

Luckily I have been eating plenty of fish cakes lately so although my body may be going to seed, my brain is sharp as a tack.

It is still raining as I write this at nearly ten o’clock in the evening and a quick look at the forecast tells me that it going to rain  just as hard again tomorrow with 50 mile an hour winds to go with it.  I can hardly wait.

Perching birds were just possible today but flying birds were just blurred impressions.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my recorder playing friend Susan and shows boats on the Caledonian Canal near Fort Augustus, which she visited with her father when he scaled Ben Nevis.

Caledonian canal

The guest picture is the only colourful thing about today’s brief blog.  The weather was wet and gloomy when I got up and it was wet and gloomy when I went to bed and in between, you will be surprised to hear, it was wet and gloomy.

It was so gloomy that the lights were on all day in the house and as a special treat, the forecast is telling us that it will be equally, or possibly even more wet and gloomy for the next two days.

There is no doubt that I will have to put the slow bike on the turbo trainer in the garage becuase the wet and gloom are accompanied by strong winds. November has been the worst month for cycling of the whole year.

I went to the length of putting NewCam on a tripod in an effort to take at least one or two pictures but the gloom was overpowering and the results fuzzy.


goldfinches and chaffinch

Only the arrival of Dropscone with traditional Friday treacle scones prevented the morning from being a complete washout.

The afternoon was spent practising songs for the Carlisle choir and putting another carol into the computer to help the tenors of the Langholm choir.

I did get out of the house as far as the corner shop and perked myself up with the purchase of a coffee and cream éclair.

A phone call to Mrs Tootlepedal brought a little metaphorical sunshine into the early evening and a visit from Mike and Alison after tea brought some musical pleasure and interesting conversation to round off the day.

NewCam was unable to capture a flying bird of the day at all.

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Today’s guest picture comes from South Africa and shows the cycle route followed by Langholm exile, Tom. I wonder if he stops before he gets to the mountains.

cycle route south africa

After a short run of chilly but brighter days, we returned to our warm, wet and windy weather today.

It was gloomy but dry in the morning but the need to be in the High Street to take down our camera club exhibition kept me off the bike.  I looked out of the window instead.

As the light was even worse than yesterday, I got my big camera out.

A goldfinch was amazed that I was even trying to take its picture on such a dark day.


I am still keeping my eye for goldfinches to check if we ever get more than six at once in the garden.

There were only two or three today.


They were heavily outnumbered by chaffinches.


In between looking out of the window, I was doing a tricky crossword.  I looked up every now and again to see if there was any interesting bird action but it was one of those days when the bird had always flown by the time that I had got up, got my camera and got to the window.

I took some general shots just to pass the time.


I enjoyed the chaffinch carefully steering himself between the feeder and the pole.

I have got two feeders outside the kitchen window at present in answer to a brisk demand for seed.  This is good for the amount of business that is attracted but bad at the same time.  The down side is because whichever feeder I point the camera at, the other one is where the interesting action is going on.  As soon as I switch my view, the action goes in the contrary direction.  I got so fed up that I took them both at the same time.

busy feeders

Sandy appeared on cue to help take the pictures down and the job was done in double quick time.  Unlike our last show at the Hub in Eskdalemuir, we didn’t manage to sell any pictures this time. There aren’t many visitors to the town in November which may explain  this.

When I got back, I just had time to catch a blue tit having its lunch…

blue tit

…before I made some vegetable soup for my own lunch,

After lunch, I set out for a short ride on the fairly speedy bike.  The clouds were down to about 200 feet above my head when I started but by the time that I finished, they were at road level and it was quite wet.

As I reached the house, I passed the minister and invited him in for a cup of tea and with perfect timing, just as I had put the kettle on,  Dropscone appeared too (bearing not scones but a gift of leeks).

These two brightened up a day which had got so gloomy that there was no hope at all of a little after-cycle walk.

When the tea party men had gone, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and after my evening meal, I went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy and we put another couple of weeks in. This took me into the new archiving year of 1892.   The year started with the death from influenza of the Duke of Clarence, the grandson of Queen Victoria, at the age of 28 and shops in Langholm were asked to close their doors and the people of the town to pull their blinds down during the time of his funeral.

I should mention that it was Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday today and she sent me a picture to show just how much she was enjoying herself, far from home on this auspicious occasion.

Mrs Tootlepedal's birthday

I felt much the same.

The flying bird of the day was one of the many chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture reveals that diver Tony was swimming with sharks in the aquarium at Queensferry near Edinburgh.   He tells me that he thoroughly enjoyed it and will not miss his left foot at all*.

swimming with sharks

We had a rare day of calm and pleasant weather today.  I perhaps should have spent more of it cycling but I had a couple of appointments in the  morning.

First I was visited by Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer, who has been very prompt in producing our accounts for 2014-15.  We are on a sound financial footing which is always a relief.

The second visit was from the scone bearer.  Dropscone was in good form and tells me that thanks to some new pills, he is recovering from an ailment brought on by the old pills.  When you get to our age, this is a very familiar story.

When he left, I went up to the chemist and got some more pills for myself.

I have been feeling a touch lacklustre about cycling lately and because we have had such a very gloomy year of weather, I wondered whether I might be a bit lacking in Vitamin D which we get from sunshine.  I purchased a little tub of tablets and will report back on the results.

I experimented with my new camera while I was waiting for the visitors (and after they had left as well).  It has more than enough zoom to see the birds through the kitchen window but I wondered if it could cope with some poor light when the zoom was active.


The jury is out and I will obviously have to do some research into getting the settings just right.

This one was better.



I had one or two goes at catching a bird in flight.

busy feeder

But on the whole, perching birds were easier…


…though not always successful.

Great tit

I will have to master the art of getting the camera to use a much higher ISO than it wants.

I took a shot from the suspension bridge when I went to get my pills.

Langholm Bridge

I was using the auto setting and the camera thought that an ISO of 100 would be a good idea.  I don’t agree so when the light is not as good as it was in Edinburgh yesterday, I will obviously to give the camera a good talking to.

One camera success, in my view at least, was this picture of the last summer flower in the garden.

Lilian Austin

After lunch,  I got the fairly speedy bike out.  I was quite pleased to have missed the morning ride as time had let the temperature rise from 3.5°C after breakfast to 7.5°C  after lunch.

I only took one picture but it shows two things about the ride.  The first is how low the sun is at this time of year.  It was lurking behind the tree at 1.50pm and the second is the dark strip along the road.

Dunnabie road

The dark strip is the result of week of repairs which had closed this road.  I was interested to see the result. The strip covers a pipe line (water I think) which had been laid and covered up not long ago but obviously not to a good enough standard.  The workers had relaid the surface above the pipe for pretty well its whole length and this had the beneficial effect of providing me with a smooth surface just wide enough for a bike for about three miles.

If I had been cycling in the opposite direction, I wouldn’t have got any benefit at all as it was down the left hand side of the road all the way.

Sometimes you win.

Sometimes you lose though.

I was planning a loop from Waterbeck at the bottom of the repaired road through Eaglesfield and back by Gair but when I got to the far end of the Gair road, it was closed.  I had to turn round and come back to Waterbeck the way that I had gone.  Still, the wind was light and the traffic was lighter so the 27 mile ride was very pleasant.

It was too dark for a photographic walk by the time that I got home so I spent some time practising songs for the Langholm Choir which has a concert at the end of next week.

After tea, I went off and put the practice to good use in our weekly choir practice.

The flying bird of the day is a new camera (NewCam) effort.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, taken by his partner Marianne, shows our older son Tony in over his head. Where he is will be revealed tomorrow.

Tony swimming

 I spent almost the whole day sitting around but enjoying myself nevertheless.

After breakfast, I drove to Lockerbie and caught the train to Edinburgh.  I had my new camera in my pocket so I couldn’t resist a few goes to see what it was like.

This was Lockerbie Station on a gloomy morning.

Lockerbie Station

 The weather had brightened up a lot by the time that I got to Edinburgh and this was the view looking over the top of Waverley Station there.


The east coast is often more sunny than the west and so it proved today.

I walked down the High Street and pointed the new camera at a passing clock.

High Street clock

I looked to my left to see this nice restoration of a traditional building…

High Street close

…and then to my right to see this modern monster, part of the new Scottish Parliament building.

Scottish parliament

When we have such a charming vernacular style it seems rather gratuitous to go to such lengths to make a statement but then I am just an old curmudgeon.

When I got to Matilda’s, she was fast asleep and in fact she remained so for much of my time there and even when she finally woke up, she wasn’t very interested in a strange man in her front room.


I will have to go and see her more often.

Her long sleep meant that I had plenty of time to chat to my younger son…


…and he helped me work out how to use wi-fi with my new camera and my phone so that I can use my phone as a remote control to operate the camera.

This might be regarded as a rather unnecessary capability but as you can see on your phone screen what the camera is looking at in real time and as the camera has a good zoom lens, it might be very handy for taking wildlife pictures with the camera on a tripod and me hiding behind a bush.  I will have to experiment to find out how far away the phone can be from the camera and still talk to it.

As I had not had time to look out of my kitchen window before I left home, we spent a little time looking out of his.  His neighbour across the road is keen bird feeder…

Edinburgh sparrows

…and had plenty of sparrows in his garden.

It was beginning to get dark as I walked back to the station but there were still people standing on the top of Arthur’s Seat looking down on the town below.

Arthur's Seat

The zoom on the new little camera is good.

When I got the station, the train was waiting and the moon was rising at the end of the platform.

Moon at Waverley

By the time that I got back to Lockerbie, it was dark.

Lockerbie station

I got home with just enough time to have some tea and another slice of the apple cake before Susan turned up to drive me to Carlisle for our weekly recorder group meeting.   We had a mellow evening playing pavans, galliards, almands and fantasias.

I didn’t manage to find a flying bird  so this ex-flying bird in Edinburgh will have to sit in for the FBotD

Edinburgh pigeon

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