Archive for Oct, 2017

Today’s guest picture was taken at their home by Irene, my South African correspondent Tom’s wife.  Life is tough there in the autumn but someone has to live it.

Tom's home in SA

Tom rubbed salt in the wound by complaining about their drought when he sent me the picture and it felt especially painful when we woke up here to another day of endless rain and drizzle.

It didn’t matter a lot to me though as my cold had got worse and I wasn’t fit to do much anyway.  It was a day to sit about and consider all the little aches and pains that accumulate with age and to mention them from time to time until advised to knock it off by the long suffering audience.

It was an indoor day with the heating on and Mrs Tootlepedal used it to dismantle and clean her mechanical tiller before sending it off for a service.


She has big plans for it in the remodelling of the middle lawn and flower beds over winter.

I lent her a hand when needed and then went off to put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database and croak my way through a few of the choir songs.

From time to time, I looked out of the kitchen window but once again there was surprisingly little bird action.  After a very busy start when the feeder went up, things have tailed off.  Perhaps the mixture of frost and wind has discouraged birds from going to far to look for food.

There were a few goldfinches.


Birds are very messy eaters so it is lucky that the cement mixing tray is in place under the feeder.

Sometimes the goldfinches concentrated on eating….


…and sometimes they broke off for some hard staring.


I stared back.

A chaffinch in the plum tree seemed to be huddling for a bit of comfort from the rain.


But another one had had enough and decided that a bit of head banging on the feeder was the way to go.


I sympathised with him.

I found a brief moment when it wasn’t actually raining to get a breath of fresh air and check on the flowers.

There are plenty of calendulas with a bit of life left…


…and the cornflowers have outlasted the poppies.


The Nicotiana have lasted well but there haven’t been many calm, dry evenings when we have been able to go out and enjoy their fragrance.


The most amazing of the survivors is the clump of sweet rocket which is undaunted by frost, wind and rain.

sweet rocket

The camera makes it look a much nicer day than it actually was, though by the time that the evening came, the rain had stopped and it had got quite warm.

I am hoping that a day of doing nothing and an early bed will settle my chest down a bit and stop the irritating coughing and from the forecast, it looks as though tomorrow might well be another good day to do nothing much.

On a brighter note, I did get a better flying bird of the day today.

flying chaffinch


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture is another form Bruce’s holiday.  As well as foreign ladybirds, he met a scarecrow with a butterfly in its beard.  It seems like a really good value trip.


We awoke to the first really cold morning of the month, with temperatures of -2C recorded overnight and signs of frost outside.  ( I apologise to readers in Canada.  I know this is not really cold at all but it is to us.)


This was too cold for cycling so I was more than happy to enjoy coffee and scones with Dropscone while the temperature climbed slowly upwards.

He was telling me of short holidays he has been organising for the coming months so I am looking forward to a rich selection of guest pictures.

After he left, I had a look out of the kitchen window but visits to the feeder were few and far between.  There were occasional greenfinches, goldfinches and sparrows to be seen on the feeder….

greenfinch, goldfinch and sparrow

…and blackbirds, a robin and some dunnocks on the ground below….

blackbird, robin and dunnock

…as well as a crow and a great tit in the trees above….

crow and great tit

…but the only surprise was when a robin perched on the feeder and took some seed, a very rare occurrence indeed.

robin on feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal got out into the garden when the temperature had risen a bit and I made some lentil and carrot soup for lunch.

After lunch, I went off for a short walk as I am still troubled by a sore throat and a bit of a cough so cycling in chilly air is not recommended at the moment.

As I left, I recorded the casualties and survivors of the frost in the garden.  Poppies and dahlias had been damaged….

poppies dahlias daisy and nasturtium

…but a daisy and the nasturtiums against the house wall had survived.

It was far from warm but it was a still day so walking was a pleasure, although the lack of sun made a marked contrast to my last walk.


The hill where children had played in the sun yesterday was  looking a bit more sombre today.

I kept my eye out for fungus and saw a few examples on my way…

becks walk fungus

…but I have been a bit disappointed not to have seen more on my walks lately after all our damp weather.

There were plenty of haws and sloes on show…

haws and sloes

…and things both hairy and furry….

willowherb and lichen

…and woolly…


…but I am so ignorant that I couldn’t tell if this animal in the same field was a sheep or a goat as it wouldn’t lift its head up.


There was still some autumn colour to be seen among the leafless trees…

autumn colour

…especially in the park.

autumn colour

I noticed two conifers there, one with hands down and one with hands up.

conifers in the park

The walk i did today is Walk 1 of the Langholm Walks and there is a handy website with many good walks in our area for those interested.

When I got home, I found that Attila the Gardener had been busy and the damaged dahlias had been swept away.

empty dahlia bed

The gardener pointed out some more floral survivors to me.

strawberry, lobelia, winter jasmine and sweet william

And I enjoyed the fact that three clematis had avoided destruction by frost too.


Mrs Tootlepedal kept busy doing useful autumn tidying and I went into the house to do some song practice with one of the other tenors from our Langholm choir who like me felt that a bit of home work would not go amiss.  He too had a ‘bit of a throat’ so we croaked away the best that we could.  Every little bit of practice helps.

After he left, we were joined by Mike Tinker for a cup of tea and a biscuit.  It turned out that he too had ‘a bit of a cold’ so I think we can safely say that there is a lot of it going about.  (But then, there always is.)

I have been sucking cough sweeties on and off and they have had a good effect so I am hoping to be on an upward trajectory tomorrow, although my tickly throat has been hard to shake off.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a good time playing our Haydn sonata and put in some hard work on a trickier piece by Quantz.

I rang up my Monday evening trio colleague, Mike.  He is back from hospital and recuperating at home.  He told me that he is improving but that he is not up to cello playing yet.  So I had a quiet evening in, being astonished from time to time by yet more bizarre news from across the Atlantic.

Because of the scarcity of birds at the feeder and the rather grey day, I couldn’t catch a flying bird today so this will have to do.  Mind you, the chaffinch may not be actually flying but it is not every day that you see a headless sparrow.





Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who found plenty of sunshine when she went to visit the Limehouse Cut Canal a couple of days ago.

Limehouse Cut canal 27.10.17 008

We had some pleasant sunshine here today as well but as it came with a brisk and chilly north wind, I thought it better to go for walk after making a venison stew for the slow cooker rather than venture out on my bike.  I have had a bit of a froggy throat for a few days and with a choir practice coming up in the afternoon, it seemed more sensible.

After my walk with Sandy up to the monument on Friday, I headed for the opposite side of the valley today and walked up Warbla.

I kept an eye out for fungus and lichen at the start of my walk and saw both.

lichen and fungus

There is some autumn colour left….

Autumn colour

…but there are more leaves on the ground now than on the trees on general.

I wasn’t following a yellow brick road as I climbed up the hill but I did have an emerald green grassy track to guide me to the summit…

warbla track

…and plenty of views if I needed an excuse to catch my breath for a moment.

Becks Farm

It wasn’t as windy and cold as I feared it might be when I got to the top of the hill and I stopped for a while and had a good look around.

Larches lightened up a wood on the far side of the river.

view from Warbla

There was a mixture of sunshine and cloud and I enjoyed this view of the monument just catching a bit of the sunshine.

monument from Warbla

There was a well sheltered spot below.

View from warbla

And the play of light and shade up the Ewes valley was good to see, both in close up…

View from warbla

…and in the wider view.

View from warbla

In spite of the chilly wind, I found myself in company at the top of the hill.

warbla trig point with family

There was no question as to who was the king of the castle but they all had fun.

warbla trig point with family

I left them them to it and walked back down the track until I dropped down the side of the hill and into the Wauchope valley.

Wauchope valley

I often cycle along the road in the picture and you can that it is very well sheltered which is why I use it as my outdoor gym on very windy days.

The hawthorns in the foreground are very bright and cheery with their red berries but as you can see most of the other trees are bare now.

One good thing about this is that it gives me a better chance of taking bridge pictures.

Becks burn bridge

A cow took a dim view of me as I walked past when I got to the road.

wauchope cow

After a last picture….

manse brae hedge

…I arrived home just as Mrs Tootlepedal got back from singing in the church choir.

She got to work on her path and I enjoyed the flowers.



There are fewer every day but the survivors are still looking good.

Then it was time to go in and have lunch and, of course, to set up the camera at the kitchen window.

In spite of the sunshine, or perhaps because of the sunshine, there weren’t many birds about today and they were coming and going to the feeder for very quick visits so I didn’t get much satisfaction.

dunnock, chaffinch and sparrow

A dunnock, chaffinch and sparrow not visiting the feeder.

A neat blue tit did arrive.

blue tit

The blue tits often find the sunflower seeds a bit too much of a mouthful

After lunch there was time for more work on the path and I did a bit of slightly pointless dead heading and was impressed with the hardy nature of a red admiral butterfly which was haunting the dahlias but unfortunately not posing for pictures.

Soon it was time to go to Carlisle and sing.  My croaky throat just lasted the course but I will need to find some soothing mixture for it tomorrow.

The forecast is for slightly frosty weather overnight but then a return to warmer nights again so it will be interesting to see what survives in the garden.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, concentrating hard as it approaches the feeder.




Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture shows some interesting ladybirds spotted by Bruce at Nunnington Hall.  Honestly, they are interesting….and spotted,  Bruce tells me that they are Harlequin ladybirds,  Harmonia axyridis,  that are not native to Britain and are sometimes called the “Halloween ladybird” because of the time of the year they flock to the UK.

harlequin ladybirds

Our brief spell of good weather ended today and it was grey and slightly drizzly when we woke up this morning.  This left us feeling a little low and we mooched around over a late breakfast and read the newspapers for as long as we could. Then Mrs Tootlepedal said that a trip to Edinburgh to see the Galloway Viking Hoard at the museum there would have been a nice thing to do on such a dull day and I said, “Why not?” and almost before we knew it, we were in the car driving to Tweedbank and catching the Borders Railway train to Edinburgh.

We did delay for long enough for Mrs Tootlepedal to have a cup of coffee before we left which gave me a moment to stare out of the kitchen window.

The goldfinches were in command of the feeder again.


It was too gloomy for good flying bird shots…


…and it was better to catch a chaffinch in te plum tree.


We got to Edinburgh safely and walked up the hill from the station to the High Street….


…and then down the other side of the hill into the Cowgate which is crossed by two main roads,  known for some curious reason as The Bridges.


Then we walked up Guthrie Street where Mrs Tootlepedal had her first lodgings as a student over 50 years ago and emerged into Chambers Street where we went into the National Museum of Scotland.

It is been greatly improved since our student days and we found ourselves in the crypt…

Scottish Museum

…having a late lunch in the Brasserie there.

The Galloway Hoard was discovered not far away from us and has been an object of great fascination to Mrs Tootlepedal.  She is interested in such things and has been to a lecture on the hoard at the Buccleuch Centre.

I was a little disappointed to find out that only a fraction of the hoard was on display as the whole thing is in need of lots of conservation and will be put on display in the the fullness of time.

What was there was interesting….

Galloway hoard

…and well explained…

Galloway hoard

…and beautiful.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite piece was among the objects on show.

Galloway hoard

A gold bird pin

There are more than a hundred objects in the hoard so the full exhibition when it arrives will be well worth looking at judging by the bits that we saw today.

We had time on our hands after admiring the hoard so we had a look round some of the rest of the museum. It is a very pleasant environment these days….

Chambers Street Museum

…although the main hall has a strong resemblance to a prison wing.

We wandered through the geology room and were pleased to be encouraged to touch one or two of the exhibits so that we could feel the smoothness of the stone.  There were some very interesting bits of rock to look at.

Chambers Street Museum

Those black circles are not fossils but just other bits of rock compressed into the main piece.

The museum has an eclectic range of exhibits, including old steam engines which I liked a lot…

Chambers Street Museum

…a painted wooden ceiling which was to Mrs Tootlepedal’s taste…

Chambers Street Museum

…and a lighthouse lens which we both liked.

Chambers Street Museum

We wandered around rooms of transport and a whole section on Scottish life through the ages but eventually the patience of our legs ran out and we moved on.

Another visit may be called for.

Leaving the museum, we walked back up to the High Street, passing through this close…


…and battling the crowds of tourists as we passed this handsome house on our way to….


…the castle esplanade.

Edinburgh castle

Even on a chilly day in October, there was plenty of tourist traffic.  We left the esplanade, pausing to enjoy the view over Princes Street and the Forth in the background….

View from Edinburgh castle

…before plunging down the hill, crossing the railway and  having a refreshing cup of tea and hot chocolate in the M&S cafe in Princes Street.

As we went along, I suggested that when she had finished her garden path, Mrs Tootlepedal might like to consider remodelling our front door on these lines.


Scottish Gallery

It would improve the tone of the neighbourhood, I think.

We caught a train back to Tweedbank and drove home in the dark, feeling that we had had a proper day out.

We ought to take more days out but the only trouble is that being a tourist is quite tiring.

The best flying bird of the day that I could manage in the short time and poor light of the morning was this chaffinch.

flying chaffinch




Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture involves an elaborate play on words.  Whereas a recent guest picture showed a links in Spain where Dropscone played golf and photographed, today’s guest picture shows a lynx in Spain which Venetia saw and photographed.


We had another dry and sunny day today, the third without rain in a row.  We are beginning to worry that something has gone wrong with the weather.

For once, a sunny and clear morning was accompanied by proper low autumn temperatures and there was a touch of frost about when we got up.  There are still a few leaves left on the plum tree where this pigeon was perching.


It was too cold for cycling but ideal for walking so while Mrs Tootlepedal went off for her monthly coffee morning with ex work colleagues, Sandy and I had a coffee at home and then set off for the White Yett and a walk up to the monument.

It was the sort of day when you might expect a little early morning mist in the river valleys  and as we got up the hill, there was a hint of some here and there.

Hint of mist in Esk valley

But it didn’t amount to much and the sky was crystal clear as we took the track up to the monument.

Track to Monument

The sun obligingly provided the monument with a halo as we drew near.

Monument with halo

We enjoyed the sunny view over Langholm.


A sheep was enjoying the view too.

sheep enjoying view

However, there was a bit of mist to the west and as we got near the top of Whita Hill, we could see the remains of the nuclear power station at Chapel Cross looming up through it.

Chapelcross in mist

Further to the west, Criffel could just be seen above a strip of cloud running up the Nith estuary.


And when we got to the top of the hill, we could see the Lake District hills in the distance across a whole sea of mist covering the Solway plain.

Solway covered in mist

The camera can’t do justice to the scene at all.

To the south,  banks of mist shrouded the hills beyond the Tarras valley.

Eden valley in mist

I took a couple of pictures to try to convey the sense of a brilliant white sea lapping at the rising ground towards us.

police mast and mist

We walked past the police mast and looked down from the edge of the hill.

Mist over Canonbie

It was a splendid sight and we were very pleased to have been in the right place at the right time to see it.

Even as we stood there, the mist was beginning to lift.

Mist lifting

And turning back, it was a different day…

Monument in sun

…with Langholm below us bathed in sunshine.

Langholm from Whita

As you can imagine, we took a lot of pictures and I had a very hard time picking out a few for this post and I am fairly sure that there are quite a few others which might have been better than ones that I have used.  The trouble is that when I have too much choice, my brain goes to mush and I make bad decisions.

Still, I liked this picture of the McDiarmid Memorial as we came back down towards the car.

McDiarmid memorial

And you can’t go wrong in my view with a couple of lichen pictures to round a walk off.

lichen boulderlichen boulder

I had a look at the garden when I got home to see if any flowers had survived the cold morning.

garden flowers

It was lunchtime by this time and once again, I put the camera up at the kitchen window to see what was happening at the feeder both while I was preparing the meal and relaxing after it.

A goldfinch and a great tit sized up the possibilities…

goldfinch and great tit

…and then came down for a snack….


…while once again any amount of flying chaffinches whizzed to and fro.

flying chaffinches

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to continue working on her new path and I put on a good many layers of clothes and cycled off into a eager and nipping wind.

For the first time for several months, I thought that it was worth putting my overshoes on because cold feet can be a big problem when cycling.

Still, it was delightfully sunny even if it wasn’t very warm….

Bigholms road

…and I enjoyed a thirty mile ride, particularly as the wind behaved itself and after punishing me for the first twelve miles, stayed in position and blew me home for the next eighteen.  You can see that I had made a sound route choice.

I had time to go over a few songs for our Carlisle choir before tea so I felt that I had made good use of the day.  I am only sorry that because we were shooting into the sun, I couldn’t properly convey the spirit raising joy of the brilliant white sea of mist that greeted us on our morning walk.  The scene will remain in my memory for some time.

Alison, my Friday evening orchestra, was not well so there were no sonatas today but I wasn’t entirely unhappy to have a quiet night in as the last few days seem to have been quite busy.

The flying bird of the day is one of the flotilla of chaffinches at full stretch.

flying chaffinch



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s trip to Spain.  She passed through El Rocio in Andalucia and discovered that it is the ‘Town of the Horse’.

El Rocio, Andalucia

We had another dry day today, with lighter winds but no sun in the morning.

This made the morning cycle ride round my customary Canonbie circle a slightly chilly affair and I only stopped for one picture.  It shows the end of the road….

Old A7 at Byreburn

…more literally than metaphorically.  It was at this point that a landslip in the early 1980s on what was then the main road between Carlisle and Edinburgh caused the transport authorities to decide to build a new Canonbie by-pass and leave the old road to pedestrians and cyclists.  As a result, 30 years later, I have a quiet route to cycle along.  It is an ill wind….

I was feeling a bit old and tired shortly after I passed the landslip and was struggling to make good speed.  I put it down to old age but stopping to clear the accumulated gunge between the mudguard and my front tyre had a wonderfully rejuvenating effect.  The collection of soggy mud and fallen leaves which I had picked up on my way turned out to be acting as a brake on my progress and clearing it off left me speeding home with a blithe heart.

When I got home, I had a quick look round the garden.

The front lawn was looking very stripy after yesterday’s attack  by the mower….

front lawn

…but you can see the marks where I had to dig my feet in to push the mower over the moss.  It can rest now until spring when the battle to grow a few blades of grass among the moss will begin again.

I have stopped dead heading the poppies but there are still quite a few ready to appear.


The pale poppies with the pink and red fringes are the most striking but I have a great liking for the more sober varieties too.


There was quite a bit of buzzing….

dahlia with bee

…and at the last minute the sun came out and let Crown Princess Margareta really shine.

Crown Princess Margareta

We couldn’t stop to enjoy the sunshine as we had to drive off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda and her parents. The drive and the train journey were enhanced by the sun and it was still sunny as we waited for the bus in Edinburgh…


…but I couldn’t help but have a sneaking feeling that all that sunshine was being wasted a bit.

Still, it was delightful to see Matilda and her parents and as we also got a jolly good meal, partly cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal in advance and partly cooked by Clare and Al, we thought the visit was well worth while.

The trip home was uneventful (a good thing) and we arrived home tired but happy.  It was a clear night when we got home and we are looking forward to a rather chilly morning tomorrow.

While I was having lunch before going to Edinburgh, I put the camera up at the kitchen window and waited for  something interesting to arrive.  The tousled blue tit obliged.

blue tit

I got an opportunity to show that it can fly perfectly well.

blue tit

More regulation blue tits were available too.

blue tit

Chaffinches arrived at regular intervals…




…kept on coming…


…though sparrows could be seen deep in thought as well.


I finally caught a chaffinch far enough from the feeder to make it into the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture is another mode of transport spotted by my friend Bruce on his jaunt in the south.  This time he was at Pickering.

Pickering railway

It was raining in the very early hours of the morning but by the time that we got up, the rain had gone and the sun had appeared.  To stop us getting too carried away with joy, the temperature and gone done and the wind had got up but we realise that we can’t have everything so we were quite happy.

The better weather allowed Mrs Tootlepedal to hang out some washing and then get out into the garden.  It let me get out for a walk.

Sandy had a dentist’s appointment so I went on my own, passing the ducks on the Kilngreen…..

mallards at Kilngreen

…crossing the sawmill Brig and strolling up the Lodge Walks on my way.

Lodge walks

It wasn’t sunny all the time and when the sun went in, it was decidedly chilly but when the sun came out, things looked quite cheerful.

Castleholm trees

The trees are losing their leaves at a steady rate and sometimes the road felt more wintery than autumnal…

Castleholm trees

…but a look across towards the sunlit woods on the slopes of Timpen brought a smile.

The larch trees are beginning to turn and that always makes for colourful hillsides.

Castleholm trees

I walked down to the bank of the Esk at the far end of the pheasant hatchery…

River esk opposite the Breckonwrae

…a task made more difficult by the fact that the estate has felled all the conifers there.

Timpen from Pheasant hatchery

The felling makes a bit of a mess of the ground but it does improve the views a lot.

The relatively warm weather means that there is still plenty of grass in the fields and the cattle were too busy munching away to spare me a look as i passed by.

Casteholm cattle

I could have gone through this gate on my way back….

Casteholm gate

….but I chose to cross the Duchess Bridge and walk along the leaf strewn path on the other side of the river.

Leafy path beside Esk

I was more concerned with broader views than smaller things on this particular walk but I did notice a small crop of fungus in a mossy nest on the top of a fence post.

fence post fungus

Mrs Tootlepedal was down at the river collecting stones for her new path when I got back but she soon returned and got to work in the garden.

I took a picture of a dahlia underneath the walnut tree…


…and mowed the front lawn.  There was plenty of grass to be cut but the brilliant emerald green surface when I had finished owed more to moss than anything else.

I did a little dead heading and then went into have lunch.

Over lunch, I set the camera up at the kitchen window and had a look out from time to time.

There were hordes of sparrows…


….flocks of chaffinches…


…and occasional goldfinches trying to get in on the act.

goldfinch, sparrow and chaffinch

The robin was more helpful today and posed in a nice sunny spot for me.


Finally, the sparrows and chaffinches took a break and a couple of goldfinches could enjoy a seed in peace.


I had hoped to get out for a good cycle ride today but the very brisk and chilly wind made it hard to get motivated.  I finally got out in the afternoon and used my ‘outdoor gym’ to do twenty breezy miles up and down the road to Cleughfoot twice (with a little bit added on for decimal purposes).

The sky had got a bit hazy and although it was still sunny, the sun wasn’t doing much in the way of warming me up and the breeze was boisterous enough to make me very happy to stop when I did. It took me over 350  miles for the month, which is my target, with a few days still in hand so that was satisfying.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s path is developing…

Mrs T's new path

…but an apparently simple thing like this requires enormous amounts of measuring, stamping, using spirit levels and string and doing and redoing things until they are absolutely right.  She is not rushing the job because there is nothing worse than a path that doesn’t look right when  it is finished.  It looks at you with reproachful eyes for the rest of its life.

Beside the path, the sweet rocket is still in flower.

sweet rocket

In the evening, I went off to a Langholm Sings choir practice.  Our regular conductor was off and as it is never easy for another conductor to take someone else’s choir, it wasn’t the most productive of sessions but I enjoyed it all the same.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch in the best of the sunshine.

flying goldfinch


Read Full Post »

Older Posts »