A night at the opera

Whailigoe steps

Today’s guest picture is the last from Dropscone’s highland holiday. It shows the
Whaligoe Steps near Wick, a man-made stairway of 365 steps that descend to what was a naturally formed harbour between two sea cliffs – once a landing place for fishing boats. Crews of women, some in their early seventies, would gut the fish and carry them up the steps in baskets to be taken on foot to be sold in Wick, some 7 to 8 miles away. Dropscone points out that not only did he climb down the steps but he climbed up them again as well, though he wasn’t carrying any fish.

Whailigoe steps

I got this story from the great man himself when he appeared at the Information Hub in the Market Place this morning, having safely returned from his trip.  I was there giving out information to visitors and actually had visitors from Colorado and Australia to give information out to.  As they were both looking for the Armstrong Museum and my helpful information was that it is now closed, this wasn’t perhaps my finest hour. Still, it was nice to chat to Dropscone again.

It was another cool but very good day with plenty of sun to go round and when I got home, I nodded to a jackdaw…


..and then I took a walk round the garden.

cosmos and dahlia
Cosmos and dahlia sparkling in the sun
bee and fly on dahlia
A bee and friend visit a dahlia
Lilian Austin
Lilian Austin looking better now than in the summer flowering season
Just to show that it is not all pink poppies

Then it was time for lunch.

After lunch, I mowed the middle lawn and sieved a little compost, checked on the clematis….


…and then went upstairs to get changed for a cycle ride.

I made the mistake of lying down on my bed for a quick minute to get my breath back after all that excitement and an hour later I was finally on my way.

I did a regular 20 mile circuit down to Canonbie and back and took my time because although my legs were quite happy to pedal along the flat bits, any small hills brought out a lot of complaints.  It was a lovely day for a pedal though.

Bloch corner
I love a lonesome tree on the horizon. This is one of my favourite corners.
The esk at canonbie
There are autumnal hints beginning to appear
And some you can’t miss

leaves at hollows

When I got back, I had a last walk round the garden where I looked up to a see a sparrow in the elder.


…and over the fence to see a rowan tree in a neighbouring garden with a full complement of berries still on board.

rowan berries

And then it was time for a shower and tea.

After tea, a good day got better.

It turns out that I been totally wasting my life hitherto by not going to see Norma, the opera by Vincenzo Bellini.

Luckily the Buccleuch Centre was showing a screening of a production from Covent Garden tonight and Mrs Tootlepedal and I had decided that it might be worth a visit to see what it was like.

It was heaven.

The lead role was sung by Sonya Yoncheva, who was entirely unknown to us both but who was absolutely made for the part. Bellini’s wonderful music poured out of her in a golden torrent, her tone and vocal control were astonishing, her presence was formidable and her acting was excellent.  I think that she might be the best opera singer that I have ever seen and I have seen a good few famous ones in my younger days.

The tenor lead, Joseph Calleja also sung very well indeed although the fact that he only had one expression, that of a pugnacious bulldog, did marginally lessen the impact of some of the more tender scenes.  The director did his very best to spoil things by a really wrong headed take on the piece and a glacial pace in the second act but even his best endeavours could not put a dampener on our delight.

We have had a wonderful week of performances at the Buccleuch Centre and we never cease to marvel at our good fortune in having such a place within a few minutes walking distance from our door.

The flower of the day is described by Mrs Tootlepedal as “one of those things that you buy for a hanging basket”.  It is in the chimney pot under the feeders.

pot plant

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow on the  up.

flying sparrow

Published by tootlepedal

Cyclist, retired teacher, curmudgeon, keen amateur photographer.

25 thoughts on “A night at the opera

  1. I like the lonesome tree photo very much and the fbotd is charming! I’m pleased you enjoyed ‘Norma’ – Bellini is one of my mother’s favourite composers.

  2. Your enthusiasm for “Norma” leaps from the page! It’s an unexpected bonus when something of which you have few hopes turns out to be so enjoyable. I like the close-up of the jackdaw.

  3. Joy of your blog [and the internet] I look forward to meeting my next Armstrong! I agree excellent comments/review of Norma. and glorious photographs, It was a review of a concert that introduced me to your blog.I now feel I “know” Langholme its environs,and many of the people. It was only a stay in hospital that kept me from the said concert, I may have stayed with you back then, or the Crown. I am keen on live music? While it may be the artist who brings me to places. It is always the people and places, that bring my return.
    That in itself could be a reason to be cheerful, I never made it there!

  4. The opera sounds like an amazing experience (I’m still sniggering over u frozen featured male lead). How wonderful to have such a variety of entertainment so close by.

  5. My favorite thing you wrote above: “Bellini’s wonderful music poured out of her in a golden torrent….”

    I am not familiar with Bellini’s operas. (I’m more pedestrian–I’m a Puccini, Mozart and Verdi fan, of course.) I am, however, going to my first Wagner opera next month. God help me. Because Wagner.

    1. I have grown to like Wagner more in recent years. I am a great Verdi fan (Puccini grates on me for some reason) but I like Donizetti and Rossini so I suppose that it is no surprise that I turn out to like Bellini (a lot).

  6. The jackdaw better give a good nod to you as he is enjoying your hospitality. I also really liked the beautiful picture of the bee and her friend.

  7. I had never heard of the opera Norma, not that I’m a huge opera fan, I do listen occasionally and didn’t consider myself ignorant of the subject. You have to cut the poor directors some slack, they are trying to present something that has been performed countless times in a new way, and they often fail.

    Loved the jackdaw and the views from your ride!

  8. The headmaster jackdaw looks in good form. I see he has been busy at the fat balls!

    Wonderful accounting of the opera! That brought a smile. 🙂 You live in an area of culture as well as great beauty. The gardens and scenes from your ride beautifully reflect the sunny day.

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