Archive for Oct, 2018

Today’s guest pictures is another from Venetia’s visit to Marseille.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I have had two very good visits to Marseille with my siblings so I make no apologies for another picture of a place of which I have happy memories.

Marseille sailing

Last night I foolishly let my thoughts stray to the idea of having  a short test ride on my slow bike this morning to see how my leg took to it.  The weather gods, who are ever alert to the slightest whim, promptly turned off the sunshine and got the rain back and all in all it was a very gloomy day and I gave up any thoughts of a ride.

Luckily Dropscone was alert to the weather too and knowing that I was stuck at home, he kindly came round with supplies of rescue scones which we ate with our coffee.

He was in a very cheerful mood as he had recently produced a good round of golf after several months of indifferent form.  And it was not just a fairly good round, it was good enough to win a competition with over 60 players.  Of course, the question now is: can he do it again?  I hope so.

After he left, I looked out of the window into the rain.  There were goldfinches about…

goldfinches in the rain

…and as you can see, some had taken more trouble getting dressed than others.

scruffy goldfinch

The smarter looking ones were giving each other the hard stare….

goldfinches staring

…and a green finch was keeping an eye out for incoming goldfinches.

greenfinch on goldfinch alert

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on an excursion to Longtown and I settled down to some computer work, a late lunch and a walk to the Archive Centre.

The walk went reasonably well as I managed to stop limping but it was still a slightly painful experience.

The reason for the visit was a meeting between Sandy, Nancy and myself to decide what we need to keep and what we can discard when we move to new premises next month.  Hard choices will have to made as we can’t take everything with us but we found it quite easy to pick some obvious items for the discard pile.  Other items are going to take more thinking about.  We paused for thought after about an hour.

Sandy gave me a lift home and we had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from her outing.

It was still damp and grey so I headed back to m computer when Sandy went home and worked away while Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a delicious tea of baked marrow stuffed with mince and covered by a cheese sauce, the marrow grower’s version of lasagne.  It was so good that I am going to cook it again tomorrow for myself.

After tea, I went off to sing with the Langholm choir and tried to put all the advice from singing teacher and speech therapist to good use.

The flying bird of the day is another chaffinch further from the feeder than yesterday’s capture and duller too.

flying chaffinch


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Toady’s guest picture comes from Mike Tinker and shows  part of a small army of ladybirds which he and Alison encountered on their recent Welsh holiday.

DSC00706 (1)

We had another sunny day here but unlike the the past few days there were definitely clouds in the sky.

I spent a quiet morning resting my leg while Mrs Tootlepedal was busy first getting her hair done and then going off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe.

I didn’t have long to look at the birds but I did enjoy the contrasting attitudes of the goldfinch (supercool) and the greenfinch (super intense) to whatever was catching their attention.


For some reason, the two of them reminded me of those rather staged paintings of military men by the sort of artists who get into national art galleries.

One of the sunbeams picked out a greenfinch on the feeder.


The reason that I didn’t have long to watch the birds after the sun had reached the feeder was that I had an appointment at the hospital in Dumfries with a speech therapist.  I was hoping to get some guidance on exercises to improve my voice and keep it fit for singing.

I didn’t know how well my leg would stand up to 35 miles of driving so I left in plenty of time.   Rather to my surprise, I passed some quite glowing autumn colour on my way but as there was no suitable place to pull off the road, you will have to take my word for that.

In the event, my leg stood up to the driving well enough and I had time in hand when I arrived so I visited a farm shop near the new hospital to stock up on cheese and other necessities of life.

When I got to my appointment, I was greeted very warmly by the speech therapist who turned out to be the same lady who had given me some very sound advice on looking after my voice ten years or so ago when I had gone to get help on retiring from teaching with rather worn out vocal cords.  I apologised for not having kept the worksheets which she had given me then but she was very happy to give me some more with some more sound advice with singing in mind.

Interestingly, some of the exercises which she gave me were identical to the warm up exercises which our new Carlisle conductor gives us to do.  In this case though, she advised me to use them as a warm down after singing.

In an exciting if slightly nervous leap into new technology, my next appointment with her will be via a video link on my computer to save the time and expense of the long drive to the hospital.  I will miss the opportunity to buy good cheese though.

Because I had missed good photo opportunities on the drive, I took a view from the hospital car park instead.


The drive home went smoothly and I would have been very pleased with my leg if walking from the  car park to the hospital entrance and then back again, a fair distance, hadn’t been quite a painful experience.  However, I  now know that if I can’t walk far, at least I can drive.

We seem to have just missed some very bad weather as I could see pictures of the Loire valley under snow and Venice under water as I watched the TV news in the hospital waiting room and our son Tony told me that the sea on the Fife coast was very rough this evening.

All is calm and pleasant here.

The flying bird of the day only qualifies for the title by millimetres.




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My Somerset correspondent, Venetia was intrigued by this curious statue in Marseille on her recent visit.

marseille statue

I think it represents travellers who are just passing through!

The weather gods are rolling on the floor laughing at their own tremendous wit as they provided yet another 100% sunny day while I am still basically confined to barracks.  My leg is steadily progressing but not enough to allow either walking or cycling of more than a few hundred yards at best.   It was a day crying out for a walk in the hills.

As a result I was more than happy to welcome Sandy for a cup of coffee made from Thai coffee beans which he had been kind enough to bring back for me from his recent trip to Thailand.

While we were sipping and chatting, I wondered if I had seen an unusual visitor lurking in the plum tree.  It had gone by the time that we got up for a good look but later in the morning, I saw this…

blue tit with blue flower

…and when I looked again…

two treee sparrows

… it confirmed that we had not one but two tree sparrows in the garden  They are really attractive little birds….

tree sparrow in plum tree

…and I am always pleased to see them on the rare occasions when they visit us. We had one earlier this year and one last year and none (that I saw) in 2016 at all.

There were other small and attractive birds about too…

blue tit close up on fatballs

…and some larger ones.

stern jackdaw

I made lentil soup for lunch using green, brown and red lentils and enjoyed the result.  After lunch, I got the washing in and went for a short and gentle stroll round the garden.

After a genuinely frosty night, some things were looking very droopy…

soggy nasturtiums

…and bent….

collapsing delphinium

…and there wasn’t a leaf left on the walnut tree…

bare walnut tree

…but the daisies were unbowed ….

october daisies 29th

…and the Lilian Austin rose was glorious.

lilian austin 29 Ict

That cheered me up a lot.

Then I spent some unrewarding time at my computer and on the phone trying to contact firms that make it their speciality to be hard to contact.  I found an entirely new form of customer torture when I needed to log into my account for a product that I bought many years ago.  Of course I didn’t know my password and applied for a new one:  “Success!” the website crowed. ” Your link for a new password has been sent to your email address!”

Great…except it hadn’t been sent.

I filled in a contact form to tell them about this. “Thank you for your enquiry, ” the website said, “A copy of your enquiry has been emailed to your email address.”

Except it hadn’t.

I sometimes suspect that the smart people who who design this sort of thing are practising to be weather gods in a later reincarnation.

The day took a turn for the better when Luke appeared for his lesson and showed a big improvement in his counting skills.  Considering that we are doing some quite complicated counting, this was really encouraging.  Basically he doesn’t have a real lesson.  We just play duets and every now and again I say, “Do as I say and not as I do,” and he does it.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and had a very enjoyable time indeed.

It was -1°C as I drove home.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  (The tree sparrows were too quick for me.)

flying chaffinch




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(First a note about yesterday’s guest picture which I claimed was taken by Tony in the morning, In fact, it was taken by his partner Marianne in the afternoon but apart from that, I was completely correct.)

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who recently strayed far enough from home to arrive in Marseille where her hotel had an enticing pool – though not quite enticing enough to tempt her in for a swim as it was unheated.

Marseille pool

We had a very unheated day today with temperatures very close to freezing in the morning and back below zero in the evening.

The sun shone throughout the day which made enforced leg resting a bit hard to bear. Things are improving though and I was able to totter to church in the morning to sing with the choir.

When I had tottered back home again, I slow marched through the garden.

In spite of the near zero start to the day, flowers are still blooming.

winter jasmine

The winter jasmine is a cheat as it has just started.

red nasturtium

There are still lots of nasturtiums along the wall of the house, both in red….

yellow nasturtium

…and in yellow.

lilian austin late october

Lilian Austin hasn’t given up yet…

last fuschia bud

…and the fuchsias have still got a lot to give potentially.

late lamium

The lamium….

perservering strawberry

…and the ornamental strawberry continue to delight…..

tatty viola

…but the  violas are looking past their best…

last of the clematis

…as are the clematis.

However, rather to my surprise, I saw a bee hard at work.

late october bee

The chaffinches were still giving the new feeder a wary look.

flying chaffinch

I put my enforced rest to good use by going indoors and entering a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, and then after lunch, we drove back to church for a choir practice.

Our organist and choir master had accepted an invitation to take part in a four choir mini festival in a neighbouring church and had decided that we would sing the Hallelujah chorus as one of our two contributions.  Luckily, he had acquired a few extra outside singers to help us and we had a good practice.

Then we got the first treat of the day as a reward, a slap up afternoon tea in the Eskdale Hotel with a mountain of sandwiches, sausage rolls and fancy cakes.

Fortified by this, we drove over to Lochmaben, about 25 miles away, with two other choir members in the back and Mrs Tootlepedal at the wheel.

I had not known what to expect from the event but Lochmaben church turned out to be very charming and comfortable and the mini festival was most enjoyable with the efforts of the choirs being interspersed with singing of some old favourite hymns. Our turn went off pretty well so the whole thing was another treat…..(especially as it didn’t go on too long.)

And then there were more cups of tea and more fancy cakes so that was the third treat.

When it came to driving home, the temperature dipped below zero but as the roads were dry, there was no danger of ice to alarm us and we got home safely.

My leg got through all this excitement with no trouble and steady improvement continues but it will be another quiet day tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch which plucked up its courage and approached the new feeder directly.

flying chaffinch 28 Oct


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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He was up early today and walking his dogs along Buckhaven beach.

Buckhaven beach

We had a sunny but chilly day here too, with a brisk northerly wind keeping temperatures down to 6°C at their highest.

It didn’t matter to me as I got out of bed but never got dressed.  This was to ensure that I didn’t succumb to temptation and go out for a walk while the sun was shining.

I woke up to find that my leg was a lot less sore and as the day went on, and applications of gentle massage, magic ointment and frozen peas occurred, my leg continued to improve.  Any thoughts of a serious tear have receded and the injury has now been re-categorised as a minor sprain or strain which needs considerate treatment….and a lot less moaning and groaning.

As a result of looking after the sprain, I hardly did anything all day.  I managed lying back in bed in the morning while listening to an interesting programme about Bach’s music, and then making a loaf of bread and putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database in the afternoon.

I did cast the occasional look out of the kitchen window.

Knowing that I was laid up, the weather gods provided a cloudless day to torment me…

sunny garden

…but mother nature laid on a good supply of birds to entertain me.

siskin oct

A siskin

I did go out of the house for about 30 seconds or so to change the feeder and a chaffinch gave the replacement a very quizzical look.

quizzical chaffinch

A blue tit liked it more as it has better perching facilities for  very small birds.

blue tit on clean feeder

It was all the same to the jackdaws.  They only come for the fat balls.

sleek jackdaw

We entertained Mike Tinker to a cup of tea on his return from holiday in Wales.  He came bearing rich gifts of delicious cheese and other delicacies.

We have a heavy day of church singing tomorrow as our church choir is going to sing at a four church choir festival of music in Lochmaben and we will have our own service in the morning, a practice in the afternoon and then the festival in the evening.  I am looking forward to it.

It was a day for sideways looks from flying chaffinches.

sideways flying chaffinch





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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother who stopped to take this picture on his way up Stanage Edge in the Peak District today.

Stanage Edge

I had a busy morning which started with taking the car to the garage to get a slow puncture sorted.  I had noticed the possibility of pressure loss when I pumped up the tyres before going to Pitlochry and a second check on our return confirmed that all was not well.

I took the car up to the garage before breakfast and it was a lovely sunny day but at 2°C, it was quite chilly as I went to walk home and this may have contributed to what happened next.  I decided to nip across the road in between traffic and as I stepped off the pavement, I felt an ominous stab of pain from a calf muscle.  I had no alternative but to stagger home as best as I could hoping that I had done nothing worse than a slight strain.

It became apparent that I wasn’t going to get off so easily and after breakfast, I cycled back up to the town for a meeting regarding the Archive Group.  Cycling was better than walking but it was no fun at all.

I had seen two dippers at the river earlier on so I had my camera with me on this trip but the dippers had gone.

A goosander had appeared though so not all was lost.


The puncture was promptly fixed by the garage, the car was fetched by Mrs Tootlepedal, the meeting went well and as Dropscone brought some of his best treacle scones round for coffee when I got back, the day was very satisfactory in every way except one.  It became very plain that I had torn my calf muscle and enforced idleness would have to be the plan for the rest of the day and probably for a few days to come.

As my cycling miles for October are already very poor, this is a great pity and unless we get some very unseasonably pleasant weather in November and December, my annual target looks to be out of reach now.

As it was still sunny, I took a very gentle walk round the garden.  I had hoped to go for a walk in the hills in the sunshine so this was a poor substitute but the flowers did their best to cheer me up.

The clematis are doing amazingly well still…

clematis oct 26

clematis in october

…..but this was the very last of the Japanese anemones for the year.

last japanese anemone of year

The ‘October daisies’ are living up to their nickname…

october asters

…and the delphinium is astonishing.

delphinium oct 26

We have a couple of sunny but chilly days forecast but as there is supposed to be no sub zero temperatures, it will be interesting to see what survives in the garden.

Standing around at the kitchen window wasn’t an ideal way to treat my calf so I only had a brief look at the birds today.

In spite of the sunshine, the feeder lives in dark shadow in the mornings at this time of year and oddly enough, the brighter the sun, the harder it is to take pictures before it has moved round in the sky.

A chaffinch took advantage of the stump of the sunflower next to the feeder to size up the situation.

chaffinch on sunflower

Even when things improve, the very bright backgrounds don’t help the camera to see the birds in the foreground clearly and I often need a lot of help from the photo editor to make the birds visible at all.

busy feeder oct 26

This was a pity because there was quite a lot of lively action from time to time.


A greenfinch turned its back on me…

back of greenfinch

…and a goldfinch and a coal tit were simultaneously distracted by different things.

coal tit looking out

I couldn’t find a moment today without some intrusive shadows…

chaffinch in sun and shade

…unless I looked at the plum tree…

chaffinches in plum tree Oct

…but as it looked rather wintery, I didn’t look at it often.

During the day, I treated the calf as well as I could with some gentle massage, healing ointment and frozen peas but it is still pretty sore as I write this and I am not very hopeful about a miracle cure.  I may well need to draw fully on my rather scanty stock of patience tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, getting a very hard stare from a goldfinch for encroaching on its space.

close flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who noticed Derby’s answer to the enchanted forest, a Disco Bridge.  This is St Mary’s Bridge and the ferryman is giving a foot passenger a piggy back lift across it.

St Mary's Bridge, Derby

After the excitements of the last two days and excessive image numbers, things were a lot quieter here today with grey light in the morning making taking pictures an unattractive proposition.

However light came into our social life as Sandy has just returned from a most enjoyable three week holiday in Thailand with two friends and came to tell us (and our neighbour Liz who dropped in too) all about it over coffee.  It does seem to have been a wonderful  experience, full of temples, elephants, floating markets, fine food and famous beaches.  I look forward to seeing it illustrated on his blog in the course of time.

In spite of a gloomy forecast, the day was tolerably warm and calm and I should have gone out for a pedal after coffee but I was a little tired after our break so I did the crossword and some work on the computer until it was time for a late lunch.

I had been occasionally looking at the feeders through the morning…

pair of blue tits

pigeon on wet lawn

…but it was too grey to get flying birds.

When I looked out after lunch, the sun had unexpectedly come out…

goldfinch in shadow

…though a goldfinch and a greenfinch still found shadows to lurk in.

greenfinch in shadow

Traffic at the feeders was not heavy but there were moments of activity…

vert busy feeder

…and this galvanised me into action myself and I got my new bike out and went off to see how accurate the forecast of rain showers would be.

It was pretty accurate and I pedalled up and down the Wauchope road a couple of times so that if they became too heavy, I wouldn’t be too far from home.  As it turned out, there was only one heavy shower and that was reasonably brief but I was quite happy to settle for 21 miles and getting home in a sunny interval.

I stopped only once, when my eye was caught by a rare flash of colour in the verge.


Mrs Tootlepedal had been out in the garden, putting up with occasional showers, while I cycled but she had been driven in by the time that I got back.

There is still colour in the garden if you look hard enough.

clematis, campanula, nicotians and fuchsia

…some of it quite surprising like these weigela flowers.


The most colourful elements by far are the calendulas which are still holding their heads up proudly all over the garden.

two calendulas

The roses are doing their best too.

special grandma end of october

Lilian Austin Oct 25

We were both happy to have a quiet day though Mrs Tootlepedal got through more useful tasks than I did.

I am hoping for some sunshine tomorrow but if it does come, it will come with some colder weather too as the flow is from the Arctic for a few days.

In the meantime, the flying bird of the day is a chaffinch caught in one of the sunny spells between showers this afternoon.

sunny flying chaffinch



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