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Archive for January, 2018

Once in a blue moon

The forecast was right, the sky cleared and I got a look at the famous moon.  It was too high for any colour and too far east for any eclipse but all the same, I thought that it was well worth a look.

It is absolutely fantastic to me, born well before the space age, to think that people have been there and wonderful to think that technological progress has put the means of seeing the moon so closely into the hands of anyone with a half decent camera.

blue moonblue moon_DSC1012blue moon

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Sheffield correspondent Edward.    He has acquired a second bird for his backyard.

CrazyCraneAndCompanion

We woke to a light snow shower and I took the hint and retired back to bed for a snooze and a crossword after breakfast, while alternating snow and rain showers appeared beyond the windows.  I felt very snug.

I got up after coffee time and was happy to find a very large bird attendance at the feeders.  I took my camera upstairs to get a different view of our visitors.

robin

There were a great many siskins and goldfinches in the garden today, perhaps as many as forty at times.

busy feeder from upstairs

Looking down on the feeder gave me a chance to catch some action shots but the background isn’t as satisfactory as shooting from eye level.

busy feeder from upstairs

 

In the end, I went back downstairs and took up my normal station while I made some lentil soup for my lunch.

There was some siskin bad behaviour to record.

siskin attack

I admired the rather restrained response of the female siskin to being booted in the back by an aggressive male but in this day and age, she should have probably been a bit more outspoken about the outrage.

A male siskin certainly didn’t hold back when a chaffinch tried to sneak round the pole unobserved.

chaffinch and siskin

The victor on his perch.

siskin

After eating my soup, I rang up Sandy to see if he would like a walk as it looked as though the showers might hold off for a bit.

He was not in peak condition but thought that a walk might perk him up so we met at the corner of the Scholars’ Field and walked round the pheasant hatchery.

It was dry but evidence of the earlier snow was not hard to find.

monument in snow

I was keeping an eye out for moss and the wall at the Scholars’ Field held a good store, flowing over the coping stone on top of the wall and creeping downwards.

moss

I am reading a moss book which tells me that where you think that there might be just one sort of moss, there is probably at least one other sort as well.  That was true here.

P1060921

We walked up the river to the Duchess Bridge and passed this mossy tree, set at an alarming angle on the banking….

mossy tree

… so it was not a total surprise when we found that the slope and the wet and the recent windy weather had been too much for another tree perched on an equally steep bank further up river.

fallen tree

The going was slippery and wet underfoot so we had to pay attention to where we were putting our feet and as a result, pictures were few and far between.

When we came out of the shelter of the trees…..

snow Timpen

….a very eager and nipping wind made us grateful that we had chosen a well protected route.

We went up to Holmhead to see how the snowdrops were getting on, not really expecting to find any showing and were delighted to be proved wrong.

snowdrops Holmhead

They are not fully out yet but I would say that this is a week earlier than we would usually expect to see this much growth and that is in spite of a chilly and gloomy winter.

P1060935

I will come back in a week or two on a sunny day to see if I can do them justice.

I was still looking for mosses as we walked down the Lodge Walks and I enjoyed this two coloured display on a tree stump beside the road.

moss

I took a close up of the darker green variety and added a small clump of a different moss which was on the back of the stump.

moss

There was very little bird life along the river banks as we walked back to the town and what there was seemed to be as fed up with the cold wind as we were.

mallards

This is the correct practice for birds when the north wind doth blow.

We were just about to cross the suspension bridge by the church….

Suspension bridge and parish church

…when we had to stop and let an old man cross in the opposite direction.  It was Dropscone.  He had been checking on the progress of his wounded car and had taken the opportunity to extend his walk and drop a map of Malta off at Wauchope Cottage.

Sandy didn’t stop for a cup of tea but headed home, anxious to discover whether the walk had aided his state of health or not.  Time will tell.

I have put extra bird food out but it doesn’t seem to be pulling in visitors and this chaffinch, late on the day, was the only one I saw…

chaffinch

…and I think that it was only resting and not eating.

I felt better for the little bit of exercise.  I had lit a fire in the front room before I went out and I was very pleased to find it had heated up the room a lot so I spent a very relaxing couple of hours reading the newspapers and listening to Oscar Peterson tinkling away on the piano with his trio.

I am hoping that some time in a hot environment might help to clear my lungs a bit but once again, only time will tell.

Although it is cloudy now, looking at the weather forecast suggests that I might be able to get a look at the moon later tonight.  I live in hope though the chance of seeing it low in the sky will have gone.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch seen from above approaching the feeder.

goldfinches

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows the River Severn in good form at Worcester.  My brother Andrew was there yesterday celebrating his birthday on an outing with two of our sisters.

river severn at Worcester

I was a bit tired after a busy day yesterday and so I was very pleased to have a good excuse not to go rushing out in the morning in spite of some dry weather.

The excuse arrived for coffee bringing some of his excellent treacle scones.  Dropscone had walked round as his car is getting repaired.

After he left, I spent a little time looking out of the window but cloudy weather and several intermittent and unsuccessful fly-throughs by a sparrow hawk limited my chance for taking photographs.

I settled for a couple of portraits of sitters.

goldfinch

chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help serve the lunches at the Buccleuch Centre and I considered life for a while but eventually got up the energy to ignore a strong wind and grey skies and go out on my fairly speedy bike.

With the breeze gusting at over 20 mph into my face, my progress up hill for the first five miles can best be described as very steady and I was pleased to have the excuse to stop and take a picture of my favourite winter tree.

tree at Bloch

There is just something about its shape and position which really appeals to me.

It was quite a battle to get down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass but at least the wind stayed consistent and helped me back to Langholm.

I was more than a bit disappointed when it started to rain but unlike yesterday, the weather gods were just having a joke today and it stopped without really getting me wet at all.

I was able to enjoy a fine clump of snowdrops at the road side near Canonbie…

snowdrops in Canonbie

…and it shows what a few miles south and a small drop in height will do as some of them were fully out unlike ours at home.

It was too grey to take landscape pictures but I did take one more tree shot on the old A7 near Auchenrivock.  I liked the contrast in styles.

trees on old A7

After she had served the lunches, Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to a screening about a Cézanne exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre.  Dedicated to the portrait work of Paul Cézanne, the exhibition opens in Paris before travelling to London and Washington so she was lucky to be able to get a peek at it here.

In her absence, I had a walk round the garden.

It was cheering to see the leaves coming out on the honeysuckle…

honeysuckle

…and I was interested to see that a new plant, a sarcococca, is in flower.

sarcococca

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it has a very fine scent.

I did think of going for a short walk as it was still dry but it was so gloomy outside that I discarded the idea and did some pro relaxing instead.

I managed to stir my stumps enough to put an edition of the Langholm Parish Church newsletter of 1966, scanned and formatted by Sandy, onto our Archive website and I also put in some much needed learning practice on our Carlisle Choir songs.

Regarding the Archive Group website, I was interested to receive a report from Google today on our performance.  There was a pleasing number of clicks for such a specialised interest but some of the stuffing was knocked out of my modest pride when I checked for the search terms which  had brought visitors to the site.

I am not sure that the person who was searching for “second hand cars in Langholm” will have found what he wanted!  Some of the other search terms made me wonder why our website had turned up in the search results at all.  Still, some of the people who had arrived were definitely looking for answers that we could provide so not all was lost.

It is still cloudy as I write this in the evening and the forecast for tomorrow is terrible, full of wind and rain and snow so I don’t think that we are going to be able to see the much talked abut “blue moon” tomorrow night.    I shall keep an eye out just in case there is a break in the clouds.

No flying bird in the gloom today so a robin is sitting in instead.

robin

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She was happy to see a pied wagtail on her lawn.

wagtail

We were pleased to see a bit of blue sky in the morning and although the temperature had dropped, it was still well above freezing.

The snowdrops are nearly out.

snowdrops

The birds were visiting the feeder….

goldfinch and siskin

…so it looked like a day to go for a short ride on my bicycle.  A short ride was indicated as my chest was still a bit cloudy after Friday’s longer ride and a busy day of singing yesterday.

Things looked fair enough as I went along.  I had to stop at Tarcoon to let a car by so I took a picture of one of my favourite views….

Whita from Tarcoon

Looking back at Whita

…and then I looked across the road and was struck by the coincidence of seeing a tree that had obviously suffered from strong winds….

tree and gretna turbines

…which doubtless helps to explain the line of wind turbines you can see behind it.

When I got down to Canonbie, it was still sunny and two Highland cows kept an eye on me as I passed.

highland cow canonbieP1060880

I had a number of other photo opportunities in mind for the rest of the trip back to Langholm but unfortunately I was unlucky and my route coincided with a very heavy rain shower for three miles.  It was all the more annoying that there was still plenty of blue sky about.  I got pretty cold and wet though so even though the rain stopped, I didn’t stop until I got home.

Looking out of the window after lunch, there was more rain about…

goldfinch and siskin

…which led to some bad temper….

_DSC0925

,,,but it soon stopped again and more peaceful coming and going ensued.

_DSC0930

A robin looked on.

robin

This is the time of year when Mrs Tootlepedal thinks of things to come so we paid a visit to a garden centre near Carlisle where she purchased a stock of seed potatoes and some onions.  There is an excellent fresh fruit and veg stall outside the centre so we stocked up there as well.

On our way to the garden centre, we passed a bird food store so I popped in and purchased a big bag of sunflower hearts.

The trip left us both very happy.

It was a beautiful afternoon by the time we got home, too good to waste so I nipped out for a quick walk before the sun went down, hoping for a good view or two.

I took the route that got me up a hill with the least effort and looked about.

Castle Hill January evening

It was well worth the effort.

Golf and bauchle hill

I could see the moon about which there has been a lot of talk, though I gather that I would have to be in America if I wanted to get the best view of it when it is full.

moon and monument

I was hoping to catch another very long shadow but the sun wasn’t in quite the right place….

Warbla

…but it was in the right place to give me some fine winter colour.

Castle hill from Warbla

view from warbla

It was pretty chilly on the hill as there was a brisk wind blowing so I didn’t go too far up and was soon making my way home along the Wauchope road.

I have been reading an interesting moss book, which I was given for Christmas, and am learning a lot about reproduction in mosses.  It is more exciting than you might think.

moss

There was no shortage of moss to look at beside the road.

moss

When I got home, I had time for a cup of tea and then my flute pupil Luke came.  He has been suffering from a cold and we didn’t have as progressive a session as we might have wished for but there is always next week.

Mrs Tootlepedal is in an adventurous culinary mood at present and we had a parsnip curry for our tea.  It was very good.

Fortified by the evening meal, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel for the first time this year and it was a great pleasure to get back to making music.  Carried away with enthusiasm, we perhaps played for a moment or two longer than we should have and my chest is feeling that it has had a busy day as I write this post.  Still, I take the view that doing things is better than lying around and moaning so I look back on the day with great pleasure.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch trying to sneak up on some siskins.

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The guest picture of the day was taken by our daughter Annie and shows a happy couple at our meal yesterday.

the happy couple

We woke to another miserably wet and windy day but at least it was fairly warm at 9°C.  The heating bills for this winter are going to come as a shock as it has been so persistently wet and cold.

Still, there wasn’t much time to worry about the weather as Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to sing in the church choir.  I am suffering a bit from a soggy chest after my cycle ride on Friday which is a disappointment as I felt quite well while I was pedalling.  This meant that my contribution to the choir was  a bit sub par but I enjoyed myself and intend to keep coming to sing with Mrs Tootlepedal on a Sunday.

Our daughter, Annie was staying with us and it would have been nice to get out for a walk but the rain was pretty persistent and so we stayed in and watched the birds.

There was quite a good attendance.

busy feeder

Often there were more birds than perches….

busy feeder

…which led to some angry moments…

goldfinches

…and the occasional stand  off.

goldfinches

It was a day for spotting bedraggled birds like this siskin…

wet siskin

…but  the trophy for the most miserable bird of the day was triumphantly carried away by this goldfinch.

wet goldfinch

We made some vegetable soup for lunch and then set off for Carlisle.

First we went shopping for food as our larder is a bit depleted.  Then we delivered Annie to the station so she could catch a train back to London.  And finally we went on to our Carlisle choir.

As we are going to a competition in Manchester in a  fortnight,  we spent the entire practice on one song.  This was a bit dull in one way but the concentration was much needed and I certainly came away from the practice with that good buzz about me which comes from doing rewarding hard work.

In spite of the generally miserable weather, for the second day running I was able to catch a fine purple sunset, this time during the practice tea break..

Carlisle sunset

Owing to singing in the church choir, I hadn’t had time to make a slow cooker dish for our evening meal so we relied on a ready meal which we bought when we were in Carlisle and it turned out out to be very good.  We may use this idea again.

A goldfinch in the morning rain is the flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Browsing and sluicing

Today’s guest picture comes from my correspondent, Edward Winter in Sheffield, the home of fine cutlery.   The Kingfisher was made by Jason Heppenstall.

Kingfisher

The day was devoted to enjoying a golden wedding celebration with our children in Edinburgh.

Annie, who lives in London, had to get up early to join us and took this picture of the sunrise over Haringey as her train left Kings Cross.

dawn over haringay

We had a slightly later start and drove through some miserable weather to catch the train from Lockerbie.

By the time that we all met up for lunch in the Cafe Marlayne in Edinburgh, the weather was fine and we were all ready to enjoy an excellent lunch.

Alistair and Matilda consulted over the wine list….

al and matilda

….and then we tucked in.

One of the waiters kindly took a picture of the assembled company after the meal.

The golden wedding party

From l to r:  Annie, Alistair, his daughter Matilda and his wife Clare, the happy couple, Anthony and his partner Marianne.  (Missing was Annie’s partner Joe, who was committed to work and couldn’t take any time off.)

We are very fortunate to have such cheerful children with such delightful partners (and I don’t say that just because they paid for the meal).

Annie came back to Langholm with us to spend the night here before going back to London from Carlisle tomorrow.  She and Mrs Tootlepedal were in good form on the train back to Lockerbie.

Annie and Mrs T

We had a lovely sunset as we came over Beattock summit to match the Haringey sunrise.

dusk over beattock

I had been given a voucher for a meal at one of our local hotels as a thank you for helping Luke with his flute playing so rather than cooking something at home, we went out for our second meal out of the day.  We sensibly stuck to a single course each but even so, we felt as we walked home, that we had really had a splendid day out.

What with sparkle in Birmingham last weekend and a good meals in Edinburgh and Langholm this weekend, we have enjoyed ourselves so much that we have decided to have another golden wedding next year.

No flying bird of the day so Matilda takes on the responsibility of ending today’s post.

matilda

 

 

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The last of my current set of guest pictures  (hint, hint) is a rather unorthodox setting for a Monteverdi concert that my sister Susan attended.

concert venue

Well, part of my wishes came true today and we had a day of almost uninterrupted sunshine.  Sadly, but predictably, the sunshine came with early frost and it was quite chilly all day.

On the plus side, after breakfast, I saw a man shinning up a telephone pole outside our house and before we knew it, our phone was back working.  Since it turned out that it was one of his fellow workers who had left a wire unconnected (“easily done,” the man said) when working up the pole while we were away, I felt that he could have been a bit more apologetic about the whole affair but as far as he was concerned, it was job done and off to the next one.

Still, our phone works so we are happy.  Now we can get back to receiving calls from crooks who want to sell us PPI deals or interfere with our computer’s operating system.  It has been hard to go without offers of a ‘green deal’ for so many days.

As well as our phone, there was a welcome return of some birds to the feeder.

busy feeder

There was even some queuing going on.

_DSC0883

I was pleased to see siskins back as well as goldfinches…

siskins

…and I liked the rather lordly air with which this one was waiting for someone to get out of his way.

stately siskin

Pigeons approached on foot, looking very serious….

pigeon

…while a goldfinch regarded an empty perch with suspicion….

flying goldfinch

…and a blackbird didn’t take to being photographed at all kindly.

blackbird

By noon, the temperature had crept up to 4°C and all danger of icy patches on the road had receded so I wrapped up warmly, got the fairly speedy bike out, lubricated the chain and set off to see what use I could make of a fine day.

As long as I didn’t try to go too fast, things went well and I pedalled over the top of Callister and down into the flat country beyond.

Quite often, you can see blue sky and be under cloud but today for a change, I could see plenty of clouds….

between the waters

…but I spent three hours under blue skies.

It was grand day for cycling….

tree between the waters

….with interesting trees and quiet roads.

Springkell

The camera club theme for the next meeting is ‘selfies’.  This might be my effort.

cycle selfie

As I passed the relatively new wind farm at Gretna, where the turbines were only just turning …

Longtown windmills

…I could see the even newer wind farm at Longtown in the background.

I stopped to eat a banana near Springfield and fell into conversation with an old chap who was touring on his electric bike.  He told me that he had done five and half thousand miles in the last eighteen months and was very grateful to be able to keep going in spite of having diabetes.

I am keeping the possibility of an electric bike very much in the forefront of my mind for when the time comes that I will need one.

I was hoping that I might be able to do 40 miles on such a fine day but my legs and chest had other opinions and I found myself crossing the bridge in Langholm…

meeting of the waters

…after 35 miles.  That was still a good deal better than I have managed lately so I was grateful for the very light wind which made it a pleasure to be out.

In the garden, the snowdrops are beginning to show….

snowdrop

… early daffodils are looking promising…

daff

…and there were signs that Mrs Tootlepedal had done some gardening while I was out.  The lawn re-shaping is part of her 2018 garden scheme.

lawn imptovements

When I got in, I had a shower and then I added another Parish Magazine which Sandy had scanned and edited to the Archive Group website.  Now the two of us are working on the project, we should get a lot done.

After another portion of Mrs Tootlepedal’s pork chop with parsnips, apples and cider for tea, I left her to watch an interesting gardening programme and went along to the Buccleuch Centre to listen to The Outside Track.

The Outside Track are three Scots, an Irish girl and a Canadian from Cape Breton. They were described in the brochure as a stunning synthesis of virtuosity and energy with a love of traditional music and commitment to creating new music on its foundations.

That all seemed pretty fair when I listened to them.

I enjoyed the evening thoroughly, particularly the work of Ailie Robertson from Edinburgh on the Clarsach.  Anyone interested can hear them here  but they were a lot more punchy live.

Considering that there was a disappointingly small audience, they played with plenty of zest and were polite enough to give us encore too.

I did find a flying bird today, a female chaffinch intent on some seed.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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