Archive for Sep, 2016

Today’s dramatic guest picture comes from my friend Sue who is on holiday in Greece.  She visited the island of Hydra, just off the coast of the Peloponnese.


We had a not dissimilar day here today, the difference being about 10°C as it was decidedly autumnal in temperature in Langholm.  I heard on the radio that this September has been one of the warmest on record which I can well believe but it is making our present more normal temperatures seem quite chilly.

On the plus side, the sun was out more or less all the time and there was only the smallest rain shower to upset the equilibrium later in the day.

I went out into the garden in  the morning to enjoy the sunshine.

Lillian Austin

Lillian Austin was enjoying it too


The Fuschia is still in full swing

I watched the sparrows having fun at the feeder…


..and noticed one or two more chaffinches around.  Perhaps they will start to come back now that I am filling the feeder again.  Watch this space.

I had seen quite a lot of flying things on my first walk round the garden….


…so I when I had come back from getting my flu jab at the health centre, I put on the macro lens and went out again.

bee on dahlia

hoverfly on cornflower

sunflower with hoverfly

The world’s smallest sunflower with friend

I took a look at the very last of the rowan berries.  They should be gone by tomorrow.


I also enjoyed some moss and lichen on the elder tree by the feeder.

lichen and moss on elder

For some reason, Mrs Tootlepedal prefers trees with leaves on rather than moss and lichen so this may be the last year that I can enjoy this sight.

Mrs Tootlepedal borrowed my track pump and blew up the tyres on her town bike and went off shopping.  She was rather a long time in coming back and it turned out that one of her tyres had actually blown up with a loud explosion on her way and she had had to walk a lot of the way home.  On inspection, the tyre was rather worn out and had split.

After having lunch and checking that my arm was showing no reaction to the flu jab, I left Mrs Tootlepedal to go up to the town and buy a new tyre and tube and I went off for a pedal on the fairly speedy bike.  I pumped my tyres up carefully before I left.

It was a good day for a pedal, even though there was quite a breeze blowing.


The hills are turning brown and the bracken is dying or dead.

My legs were in a more co-operative mood than on my last outing so I went for a 27 mile circular ride, though still at a pretty leisurely pace.

I stopped for a look down the Esk when I got near Langholm on my way back.


Not much sign of autumn here yet.

When I got home, I put Mrs Tootlepedal’s new tyre and tube on her bike.  The front tyre looks about as worn as her back tyre was so it may not be long before another replacement is due.

Before I had my shower, I had a look out of the kitchen window….

coal tit and blue tit

A coal tit and blue tit share the pink pellet feeder.

…and then I took another walk round the garden.

A sunny evening is perhaps my favourite time in the garden.


The rudbeckias are nearly over


But the poppies keep on coming


And there are still quite a few cornflowers

Mrs Tootlepedal is hard at it in the garden, taking out flowers that are over and preparing the ground for next year’s display.  It makes me quite tired just watching her work.

In the evening, we went off to the Buccleuch Centre for the second time this week for another concert.  This time we were privileged to enjoy listening to Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, regular visitors to Langholm and in many people’s eyes, the two best musicians in Scotland.

They might  be classed as ‘folk’ musicians but their work together  on fiddle and accordion transcends such limiting boundaries and they provided us with a feast of good music by any standards.  They were amplified but gently, they interspersed the music with a stream of hilarious reminiscences and observations and they provided a golden couple of hours of sheer pleasure to the capacity audience.  No recording or video can properly capture the warmth of their live performances.

The flower of the day is a late blooming of an astrantia…


…and the flying bird of the day is the headmaster on an upward trajectory.

flying jackdaw





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The guest picture of the day is another from Dropscone’s highland adventure.  He and his daughter visited the celebrated Smoo Cave which is near Durness in Sutherland.

Smoo cave

Strong winds and occasional showers kept me off my bike again in the morning and between the weather and the holiday, my September mileage is going  to be disappointing and I will have to rely on some good weather in October to help me reach my target for the year.

Meantime though, I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and this means that for the first time for a month or two, I have been pulling my weight in this department.  Sandy has shouldered most of the work while I have been having my break.

I did find time to look at the garden birds and saw two less photographed birds near the feeder.

dunnock and chaffinch

Dunnock and chaffinch

I don’t know what has happened to all the chaffinches as we have had flocks of them all the time in years past.  I don’t know whether the poor spring harmed their breeding or whether they are finding food elsewhere.  I hope they return as they are my favourite birds for catching in flight.

I did get out into the garden once or twice to do some much needed dead heading…


The marigolds still needing the treatment

…and pick up the windfalls from the espalier apples.  Many of the apples had fallen behind the trees and as recovering them meant bending down a lot, I called in Mrs Tootlepedal to do the low level work.

In her role as Attila the Gardener, she has greatly reduced our sedum plants which were running riot but she has left one or two and as they are just coming into flower….


…I am hoping to see bees and butterflies on them if the weather is good enough.

The Virginia creeper is acting as an advance guard for autumn in a very showy way.

Virginia creeper

In the afternoon, we drove over to Lockerbie and caught the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda and her parents.

The sun came out as we walked down from the station and it made the bar at the end of their road into a thing of beauty.

Artisan Bar

Matilda was in good form and we formed a plan to take her out for a walk.  Unfortunately she doesn’t like strong winds very much and just as we were half way down the steps from her front door, a savage gust blew her hat off…

Matilda in the wind

…and she downed tools and went back inside.

I badly needed a walk so I left her and the others indoors and strode off down the road to Holyrood Park.

As well as the hill known as Arthur’s Seat, this royal park contains a huge expanse of very green grass…

Holyrood park

…perhaps so the Queen can have fun mowing it.  It seems to serve no other purpose.

I crossed the grass and followed one of the paths that lead up into the hills.  The whole site was formed by volcanic action and the results can be seen on all sides.

Holyrood park

My phone found the fading light a bit of a trial so I apologise for the quality of the pictures.  Of course this didn’t stop me taking a lot.

Arthur's Seat

Arthur’s Seat itself; the summit is at 822ft

There are crags and slopes wherever you look.

Arthur's Seat

Along with picturesque ruins…

Arthur's Seat

…and a small loch or two.

Holyrood park

It is a wonderful place to find slap bang in the middle of a city and a great choice for a quick and energetic .walk.  You gain height easily and are rewarded with fine views over the city, the Firth of Forth and on to the Kingdom of Fife on the far side of the water.

Firth of Forth

Looking back towards the city centre, I could see Holyrood Palace and the monuments on Calton Hill.

Calton Hill and Holyrood palace

The threat of rain and the promise of pizza for tea made sure that I didn’t stay out too long but I got full value for a walk of less than an hour.

The pizza was good and Matilda polished off more than her fair share….


…and kindly posed for a picture.  We thought that her new hairstyle suited her very well.

We avoided a shower of rain which had passed over while we ate and walked back to the train in the twilight.  It was quite dark by the time we got to Lockebie but the rain had passed over there too and we got home safely, although the road was quite wet in places.

The cloud had completely cleared when we got home and we spent a moment looking up in wonder at innumerable stars and the Milky Way.

The flower of the day is a fruit….


…but the flying bird of the day is a flying bird.



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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday with his daughter Susan in the very north of the Scottish mainland.  The weather hasn’t always been kind to them but there have been some brighter moments.

Highland beach

The weather here couldn’t have been in greater contrast to the serene blue skies of Marseille as the clouds were clamped down on the hills and wind and rain made staying inside the only sensible thing to do.

In the absence of the official baker, I made some drop scones and Sandy came round to help us eat them.  He had enjoyed last night’s concert too and we were a bit baffled about the poor attendance for such a good show.

When he left, I looked out of the window….

Robin in a bush

Robin in a bush

Robin on a bench

Robin on a bench

…put some of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and took the opportunity to back up 45,000 photos from my laptop to an external hard drive.  I am hoping that this will enable my laptop to run a little faster.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy tidying up a cupboard upstairs that contained many years of ancient and boring documents that needed throwing away.  She threw them away.

In this way we made the best of a bad day.

I did occasionally look out of the window again….

blue tit

…and even took advantage of a moment when the rain had stopped to go out into the garden to pick some apple windfalls and look at poppies.


Sometimes they blew towards me…


…and sometimes they didn’t

It was too wet and windy even to enjoy some dead heading.

The nicotiana by the wall of the house is thriving….


…and Mrs Tootlepedal likes to go out in the evening to enjoy the perfume.

I did contemplate putting on waterproofs and going for a walk but some heavy gusts persuaded me to go back inside.

The apples were stewed and went down well with some custard.

After tea, I went off to our local choir and we had a good practice of songs and a carol which we are going to sing in December at a concert given by our local amateur orchestra.  You might think it early to be thinking about carols but it seemed quite gloomy enough today to feel like winter even if it was reasonably warm.

A soggy rose with the promise of more to come (if it stops raining and blowing) is the flower of the day…


But it was far to dark to catch a flying bird.

I have filled out the post for our last half day in Marseille but it is rather dull as I forgot to take pictures for the most part but it can be found here for those interested.


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce whose wife spotted an interesting creature on their windowsill.  Is it a moth or a butterfly?  I don’t know.


We had a fairly miserable morning as far as the weather went but bang on cue, the day brightened up a lot just after noon and the rest of the day was very pleasant.

This let me get out on the bike for the first time for a fortnight but the dry conditions unfortunately had an added brisk wind mixed in with them which made pedalling very hard.  My legs were not in good condition so I did a dull twenty mile out and back ride and was pleased to get off.

I only stopped once to show a rowan tree along the road which has not been visited by birds yet.


It has been a very good year for rowan berries

I mowed the drying green and the green house grass when I got back and I am now fully caught up after the holiday.  I also had time to look at the flowers in the garden during the afternoon.

pretty in pink

Pretty in pink






The last of the cardoons

The birds at the feeder were the usual suspects…

sparrow and blue tit

..but a young starling and an old jackdaw came too.

young starling


I am sure that this bird was a headmaster in a previous life

In the evening, we went along to the Buccleuch Centre for a jazz concert by a British singer, Tina May and an Italian pianist, Enrico Pieranunzi.

There was a select audience but the performers didn’t stint and gave us a first rate performance.  We are very lucky to be able to listen to such quality so near to home.

The flower of the day is three poppies…


…and the flying bird of the day is three sparrows.

flying sparrows

Sorry about the rushed blog but it is late and I am tired.  Perhaps this is because I have put additional photographs onto the blog of day four of our holidays in France.  You can see it here.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is holidaying with his daughter Susan in the extreme north of the Scottish mainland.  It shows the  Muckle Stacks which are just off the coast about 3 miles to the east of John o’ Groats.

Muckle Stacs

He seems to be having good weather up there but we had a very gloomy day in Langholm and with the temperature about 10°C lower than Marseille, it had a definite end of the season air about it.

There were birds to cheer the day up though.


blue tit

It was not raining after breakfast but it was my day for duty in the Information Hub in the Market Place so cycling was off the menu.  I had a visitor or two to help, posters to laminate and friends who dropped in to talk so the two hours passed quickly enough but it was raining by the time that I came out.

I found a relatively dry moment to look at a soggy poppy or two…



…but after a light lunch, I spent some time doing useful things indoors like checking up on the hosting for the Archive Group websites and suchlike.  Anything that requires passwords is always a slow business as I have to try to remember where they are stored and then try to remembered the password to the store where the passwords are stored.

I also put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database so I made good use of a gloomy day.

I had time to do a little sparrow watching.  They were mostly  very busy…


…though some chose to be spectators.


This may have been wise, for an unwary bird approaching the feeder got a thoroughly dusty welcome.


In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we made some more progress which was satisfying.

I have added more pictures from my camera to the account of our day in Aix-en-Provence during the third day of our holiday in France and those interested can find the expanded post here.

The flower shot of the day is the nerines under the feeder.  They are really flourishing at the moment…


…and the flying bird is a sparrow.

sparrow flying

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Today’s guest picture comes from my neighbour Gavin who is on holiday in Jersey.  This is the Corbiere lighthouse.

corbiere lighthouse jersey

As it was Sunday today, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I made a lamb stew in the slow cooker.  There had been some sunny moments while I cooked so I was going to go for a cycle ride when I had finished  but it started to pour with rain so I rang up Sandy and invited him down for a cup of coffee instead.

Before I started the cooking, I had a quick excursion into the garden with a particular interest in seeing if I could find blackbirds eating rowan berries.  There were seven in the tree when I went out…

blackbirds in rowan

Some of them

…but they flew off when they saw me and I had to wait for some time for one to come back.

blackbird in rowan

I looked at flowers in the kitchen garden while I waited.


The blackbirds who came back did eat the berries but not in a convenient place for me….

blackbirds on rowan

…so I went back in to do the cooking.

While I cooked, I kept an eye on the bird feeder.


Sandy brought my pictures back from the agricultural show.  I had won a first and two thirds and he had won a first so we were both pleased.  A fellow member of our camera club had carried off the main prize, probably because she had taken more good pictures than us.  I had won the black and white class.  I don’t usually do well in black and white and on this occasion the winning picture (of a cow in a pond)  had only been taken in black and white by accident as I hadn’t checked the camera settings properly.  I am not sure what that proves.

While I was chatting to Sandy, I might have let my eye rudely stray to the feeder from time to time.

great tit bue tit coal tit

A great tit, a blue tit and a coal tit visited while we talked

robin and jackdaw

As well as other birds, great and small

When Sandy had gone, the rain stayed away enough to let me mow the middle lawn and look at some late roses.

september roses

The dahlias looked good in a brief sunny spell.


And I am always pleased to find a white poppy among the pinks and reds.

white poppy

I went back to the kitchen garden to wait for some blackbirds and whiled away a moment or two by looking at a splendid Michaelmas daisy which Mrs Tootlepedal acquired and is growing experimentally…

Michaelmas daisy

…but which at five to six feet tall my be too big for a flower bed.

The mint is looking very cheerful.


I became more cheerful too when some better placed blackbirds arrived.

blackbirds and rowan berries

The berries are going down very well.

blackbirds and rowan berries

After lunch, I mowed the front lawn and then we went off to Carlisle to sing with our community choir and once again it was a real pleasure to sit at the feet of Andrew, our effervescent conductor.  His energy seems to be never ending and it transfers to us so we give of our best.  It was good to be back.

When we got home, the slow cooked lamb stew was garnished with courgette fritters, courtesy of Mrs Tootlepedal, and this rounded of a day that was better than the showery weather deserved.

I have spent some time adding pictures and commentary to the brief phone post about our second day in Marseille and those interested can find the post here.

The flying bird of the day is one of the busy sparrows.

flying sparrow

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No guest picture of the day today but a picture of the road where I was staying as a guest of my sister Susan overnight before our journey back to Langholm.

Kentish Town

It was a warm morning in Kentish Town in North London but somehow, although it was sunny and however quiet and tree lined the road was as I went to buy a pint of milk for our breakfast, it didn’t quite have the allure and sparkle of Marseille.

Susan lives in a quiet corner of the busy city and I like this elegant way of stopping cars driving past a primary school near her house.

school bollards Kentish Town

Mrs Tootlepedal was staying with my sister Mary a few hundred yards away and we met up after breakfast and after a restful pause we caught the bus down to Euston and the train up to Carlisle.

We met a friend on the train and when we found that we had some time to spare before we could catch the bus to complete the last leg of our journey, we went into a Mexican restaurant with him and had a cup of coffee along with some with French fries with a sour cream dip, as one does in Carlisle, before finally getting home.

The garden looked surprisingly well.


The dahlias were surviving, although a lot of dead heading is needed.


And the usual suspects were also doing not too badly.




There were a number of blackbirds about…


…looking quite well fed.  This may explain where almost all of the rowan berries have gone during our absence.


Not many left

The lawns needed mowing but I left that that for tomorrow and after we had unpacked, we had a meal of baked potatoes followed by baked apples, both from the garden.  If you can’t be sitting out in the evening sunshine beside the old port in Marseille eating fish, sitting in and eating food from your own garden is a good substitute.

For each of the next few days,  I am going to fill out one of the brief reports which I posted from my phone while we were away, adding photos that I took with my Lumix.  Those who would like to see more details of our French holiday can start with the first day post by clicking on this link: Marseille:Day One.

The flower of the day is one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite dahlias.


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