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Archive for December, 2015

Today’s guest picture portrays a fine plate of butter tablet made by my older son to an ancient recipe for the festive season.  I hope he keeps a bit for me.

tablet

With dawn at 8 o’clock and dusk at 4 pm, there are not many hours in the day at the moment and it certainly doesn’t help if half them are pouring with rain.  We did get a moment of sunshine this morning…

jackdaw

…and a jackdaw popped in to pick up a pellet.

I took the chance to find a corner  near the pond for my new friend…

heron

…who has settled in very well and looks quite at home.

The sun didn’t last long and with low temperatures and a brisk wind, it wasn’t an attractive day for a pedal. I took a bird picture or two.

two rooks

Two rooks crossed beaks over a pellet

goldfinches

And a full house of goldfinches monopolised the feeder.

Luckily I had a very large challenging prize crossword with ten undefined clues with a single undisclosed link to help me fill the unforgiving hour.

The missing link turned out to be sixteen (as in 2016 I suppose) and the ten mystery solutions were all related to that number so after some heavy research,  I now know that the Yellowhead Highway in Canada is designated as route 16 and the the F16 jet fighter is properly called the Fighting Falcon.  Whether I am a better person for knowing these facts is open to question but it certainly passed the time.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out for a walk, hoping to get round Gaskell’s before any rain arrived.  It was very gloomy as soon as the sun disappeared  and we weren’t anxious to see how wet could get if we had mistimed our stroll so I didn’t stop for many pictures, just a token fungus and lichen near the start…

lichen and fungus

…and a moss and lichen combination on my favourite wall near the finish.

lichen and moss

The lichens are certainly enjoying our weather.

In the garden at home there are signs of a premature spring…

primula and daffodil

…but as we are forecast to get some more winter like temperatures soon, these may be a false start.

The weather deteriorated in the afternoon and we took advantage of the continuous flow of holiday movies on the telly.   I did manage to get myself off the sofa for long enough to put another week of the newspaper into the Archive Group database but in general it was another dull day.  With a total lack of choirs and music groups over the holiday period and little opportunity for photographic outings, the holidays are not quite the same burst of jollity as they were when they provided a welcome break from work.

Still, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of you who are kind enough to waste a little of your valuable time in following these daily meanderings, a very Happy New Year.  May 2016 be all that you wish it to be (and a little more as well).

My new year wish is a) to get the ISO down below 2000 and b) to get a little sunburn.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch. He tweets ‘happy new year’ too.

chaffinch

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To be perfectly Frank

Today’s guest picture, taken by the father of my flute pupil Luke, shows some paddlers with more bottle than brains in my opinion.  They were about to shoot Skippers Bridge in a major flood.

flood canoeists

Since the Met Office started giving Atlantic depressions people’s names, we seem to have had a new one every few days.  On the whole, I don’t think that giving them names has been a good thing.  It just seems to encourage them.

Our latest visitor was Frank and he was preceded by dire warnings but once again Langholm has been very lucky.  Previously the severe floods have been just to our south and north but on this occasion they have been to our west and north and we got off with nothing more than another soaking and a very brisk wind.

I whiled away the morning sipping coffee sociably with Dropscone and Sandy and then by walking up for a routine visit to the  health centre.  This gave me a chance to look at the river…

Esk in flood

…which was high but not threatening. I stopped to chat on the bridge to a couple of worthies who told me that I had just missed a big tree floating down stream.  There seems to have been a lot less stuff going down the river than in past floods which must be a good thing but I don’t know why this should be.

I certainly wouldn’t have dreamed of taking a kayak out in these conditions and I only hope that the ones in the guest picture of the day came to no harm.

The rain stopped at lunch time and I went out for a short walk just to stretch my legs as it was far too windy to contemplate cycling.  It was so gloomy that my camera on auto used the flash for every attempt at a picture so I didn’t try very often.

Bridges have collapsed in other areas of flooding recently so I looked anxiously at our town bridge as I passed….

Langholm Bridge

…and was very pleased to see that there was no debris piled up against it.  The people who built it in 1775 obviously knew what they were doing.

The ducks were sensibly staying out of the water at the Kilngreen.

ducks

As I walked up the new path on the Castelholm, I looked at the trees submerged in the river…

trees in Esk

…and wondered how long they could stand this sort of treatment.  With more rain to come, we just have to hope that we will continue to be lucky.

As I walked along the school playing field, I noticed another walker staring intently off to one side.  He was looking at this.

fallen tree

I am not quite sure how a fallen tree arrived in this position.

When I got home, I got some benefit from a dreary day by putting two and a half weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  I have been rather slack in this department lately and as a result, I have quite a lot of catching up to do again.

There was no point in trying to take pictures of birds today so the flying bird of the day is nowhere to be seen.

Note:  Once again, our floods seem to be relatively minor compared to the ones in America, both north and south over the past month where there has been great devastation and some loss of life so I fully appreciate that all our rain here must be seen in perspective.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone, who went for a walk a couple of days ago with his new camera and bumped into this fine crop of fungus.

Dropscone's fungus

We woke to blue skies and a hint of sunshine so after a leisurely breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal donned her gardening gear and I wrapped myself up in several layers of cycling clothing and we were sipping a stimulating cup of coffee getting ready to go outside when we looked up and saw that it was raining heavily.

It stopped raining so I put out a pellet or two….

jackdaws

…girded up my loins and went off pedalling in the hope that the shower was an isolated one.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal set about some tulip bulbs with a trowel.

I chose a route of about the same length as yesterday’s but with half the hill climbing so I was able to enjoy the brief spells of sunshine,  ignore the occasional showers and, with the aid of a friendly breeze, come back home much more quickly than I went out.

With an ever present threat of rain, I didn’t dawdle and only stopped to take one picture.

River esk

This was the River Esk looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth.  Whether it will look like this tomorrow is another question as the forecasters are offering us a possible twelve hours of heavy rain overnight and in the morning.  We shall see.

I was very pleased to have been able to get a couple of thirty mile rides in to end a miserable month and they brought my total mileage for the year to 3,500 just beating my total for 2012, my worst year since I started keeping my stats on a spreadsheet but a long way short of my best of 6,600 in 2011.    I will have to try harder next year (and get better weather).

There was just enough light left when I had arrived home and had had a little sit down to recover to be able to watch a bird or two.

The warm weather has meant that garden feeders are not a priority for our local birds and things have been very quiet lately.  I saw a few goldfinches today….

goldfinch

…but the plum tree was not busy….

plum tree

…and it is hard to believe that Dr Barlow, our local bird ringer, netted over 100 different birds in our garden over two mornings  in April 2013.

I summoned up enough energy to prepare a sourdough loaf (which is enjoying its second rise as I type this) and have a shower and then spent the rest of the evening perfecting my dark nights relaxation technique.

A flying chaffinch ends a short and dull post, well suited to another short and dull day.   Roll on the new year and some better weather.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia who met this fine locomotive on Boxing Day at the Avon Valley Railway.

Avon Valley Railway

We didn’t have any sunshine today but we didn’t have any rain either so we settled happily for that.

It wasn’t a great day for looking at birds but I was struck by the number of blackbirds in the garden again.  I saw three at one time…

blackbird

…and they kindly waited for individual portrait shots before flying off.

blackbird

The temperature had risen to a very reasonable 8°C and a bicycle ride beckoned.  I fortified myself with some of Dropscone’s excellent scones and a cup or two of coffee and then, when he went off to paddle round the soggy golf course, I got the fairly speedy bike out.

I had spotted a welcome visitor as we sipped our coffee….

redpoll

A redpoll in full colour dropped in for a seed or two

..and there had been a few chaffinches around as I got the bike out.

chaffinches

It is curious that they all seem to like the same perch even when others are free…

chaffinches

…though it may just be that the lower ones are harder to hit.

There had been some discussion over coffee about a road closure on the Lockerbie road but there was no sign in the town to say that it was closed so I pedalled off to investigate.

At the turn off to Waterbeck, I finally met a sign which told me that the road was indeed closed two and a half miles ahead and this turned out to be exactly right.

Road closed sign

The reason for the closure was a small modern bridge at the curiously named Debate….

bridge at Debate

…though a cursory glance showed nothing obviously to be alarmed about.

There was space for a stout man and a bicycle to get past the barriers so after I had taken my photographs, I pedalled on to Bankshill.

There I left the Lockerbie road and rather than just cycle back the way that I had come, I made a loop through Middlebie, Eaglesfield and Gair before rejoining the Lockerbie road back on the Langholm side of the closure.

This gave me 34 miles of very enjoyable pedalling, not least because there was hardly any traffic and with just under 2000 feet of climbing, this was enough to make me feel that I had been for a proper cycle ride.  (My average speed at 12.7 mph might slightly qualify that feeling but December has been an awful month for pedalling with only seven outings and I am not very fit at all.)

The wind was against me as I climbed up Callister on the way home so I was happy to stop half way up for a shot to show that we still have some green left to enjoy in a view.

Winterhope

Although we have technically passed the shortest day, the days don’t actually get any longer for a while yet so the coffee and the cycling filled up the available hours of daylight quite nicely.

After entertaining Mike Tinker to a cup of tea, the rest of the day was put down to professional quality relaxing at which I am an acknowledged master.

We have one more day of reasonable weather before the next storm arrives and there are serious warnings about wind and rain for Dumfries and Galloway then so once again, we will be hoping that the worst passes us by.

One of those chaffinches was flying bird of the day.

chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture(s) was sent by my son Alistair and shows Matilda, now safely back home in Edinburgh, almost mastering the art of sitting on a ball.

Matilda with the ball

We woke to a sunny day and to our astonishment, it continued to be sunny all day.  It was a chilly morning though.

chilly chaffinch

A chaffinch outlined against the frosty lawn

Alistair and I were taken for an early walk by Matilda. It was cold enough to show the neighbour’s boiler breathing hard….

chilly morning

…and to make us watch out for icy patches, especially on the bridges.

Matilda and Al

Pausing on the suspension to wonder where all the water had gone.

View from Langholm Bridge

It was amazing how quickly the river had dropped.

When we got back, there was time for elevenses and a family photograph…

Christmas 2015

Matilda doing the crossword

…before Al and Clare got ready to drive home. Their departure took a little of the metaphorical sunshine out of the day but the actual sun stayed stubbornly out for the rest of the few hours we get at this time of year.

I spent some time watching the birds on the lawn.

Jackdaws

Jackdaws appeared the very instant that the pellets were put out…

Jackdaws

..and cleared off the feeder and the lawn in a few minutes.

The Christmas robin put in a belated appearance and wished all our readers a happy new year.

robin at Christmas

And a blackbird kept its thoughts to itself.

blackbird

After lunch, I took the opportunity to go for a gentle fourteen mile pedal.  At 5°C it was just as well that I was snugly wrapped up in spite of the light wind and sunny conditions.

Callister

In spite of the cold, I should have gone a bit further on such a cycle friendly day but I am out of condition  after so much bad weather and I was quietly pleased to have got out at all.

Once I got back home, Mrs Tootlepedal and I settled down to a quiet time.  She has been very busy over the past few days and deserved a good rest and I supported her as best as I could by having a good rest too.  I like to help.

As part of the general Star Wars mania which seems to have taken over the media, I have two flying birds of the day today.  The first one represents ‘The Dark Side’…

flying jackdaw

…and the second shows the plucky little hero from ‘The Light Side’.

flying chaffinch

You can tell that I haven’t watched Star Wars very much.

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Puddled

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother-in-law Mike and shows that they have fungus in the south too.  He spotted this in Bisham.

bisham fungus

We had a thoroughly wet and miserable time here again today which severely limited the opportunities to take our visitors out to enjoy the scenic beauties by which we are surrounded.

The river was up…

Esk in flood

…not too far to and the only fun to be had for Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda on their morning walk was splashing through a puddle…

Matilda and a puddle

…or two.

Matilda and a puddle

It was such good fun though that the playground equipment went unused and not even the temptation of a swing could get Matilda out of the puddles.

Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda went off to look at the a little stream tumbling down the hill….

tumbling stream

…and the big river as it rumbled past the park.

Matilda and Mrs t

This is what they were looking at.

River Esk

This was the highlight of the day as far as the great outdoors went.

The rest of the day was spent playing with Matilda as she built towers with bricks and  sketched on her art centre….

Matilda sketching

Photo courtesy of Alistair.

…her face, her hands and anything else that was nearby.

The arduous task of finishing off the left overs began with some useful work at lunch and tea time, though the cold turkey at tea time was rounded off with a delightful peach flan on filo pastry made specially for the meal.

Once again Langholm has been lucky with the weather in spite of all the rain as there are serious floods not too far to our south and many flood warnings to the north.  Add to that the tornados in America and bush fires in Australia and our rainfall hardly figures at all on the list of things to complain about.

Still a few dry days would be welcome and the forecast is offering just that for the next three days so we are keeping our fingers crossed (and our umbrellas handy just in case).

It wasn’t a day for bird photography but there were still visitors to the garden which was a cheering sight.

goldfinches and greenfinch

Three goldfinches and a soggy greenfinch

It was far too dark for a flying bird.

flying chaffinch

I told you so.

 

 

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All present

Just to show that we are not along in having miserable weather, my sister Mary sent me this picture of Mr Grumpy’s London cousin not enjoying a heavy shower of rain on a very gloomy day.

heron

We had a day where we ate, drunk and were merry.

It was a cold and grey day so I put some pellets out for the jackdaws for their Christmas.

jackdaws

They looked as though they might have been expecting something better.

While Mrs Tootlepedal worked her magic in the kitchen, Matilda took her parents and me for a walk in the park.

matilda in the park

Her objective was the modest play area there.  It was wet, muddy and in places icy but Matilda didn’t care, she was out for fun…

park slide matilda

…and it was all systems go.

park slide matilda

When the delights of the slide had waned, she tried the swings.

park swings matilda

She dearly loves a swing.

Having swung, we greeted several doggies, looked at the river and went home in time for a slap up lunch.

We just had enough energy after lunch to open a few presents.  I got a surprise…

Christmas heron

…and everyone got just what they had wanted.  Matilda was very good and played with all her presents making sure that no donor was offended.  She even helped her mum open one of her presents.

Matilda opening presents

She was wearing her special party skirt and was in party mood all day.

It started raining soon after we got back from our morning walk so a revivifying afternoon walk was out of the question sadly.

For the rest of the day, we phoned and skyped relatives and sat and groaned in a refined way until night came….and thought of six different ways of serving leftovers tomorrow.

No flying bird of the day today as the kitchen was too busy for me to be standing in the way looking out of the window but luckily there is a flying Matilda instead.

flying matilda

I hope that all fellow bloggers and readers had a good day too.

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