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Archive for Nov, 2018

Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce who is a railway enthusiast and was present at the unveiling of a plaque by Captain Chris Smith at the spot where the Hawick railway station would be if it was still here, which it isn’t.

The Jellicoe Express ran between Euston and Thurso.  Hawick on the old Waverley Line.  Hawick was a station where the Express called in one direction for coal and water and now is the only location that no longer has trains. The Express was the longest rail journey in Britain and ran during both world wars transporting mail and navy personnel

Many local people cherish the hope that the station will reopen in the not too distant future.

Jellicoe Express

The weather here was a lot better today as I could judge for myself when I crossed the Esk by the suspension bridge…

dav

…on my way to meet Dropscone at the now ex-archive centre where we read the electricity meter and I passed over the door key.  On my way home, I popped into the garage to pay my bill and then went into the Welcome to Langholm office where our local art club was holding an exhibition and bought a painting.

When I crossed the suspension bridge on my return home, I enjoyed the view  downstream.

sdr

I didn’t have long to wait once I had got in before I was re-joined by Dropscone who had been cooking some of his traditional Friday treacle scones while I had been busy.  They were excellent as usual and added to the general cheerfulness of the day.

When the scone eating ceremony was completed,  Dropscone cycled home and I walked back up to the town to collect my art purchase.  Coming out of the Welcome to Langholm office, I couldn’t help noticing that workmen were well up to the job of putting the decorations on the enormous Christmas tree outside the Town Hall.  Rather them than me.

dig

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been out having coffee with friends, came home just after I got back and I was able to present her with the painting.  I had bought it as a secondary birthday present for her to go with the light bulb.

The painting is by a local artist, Margaret Walty who does the most beautiful and detailed work.  The panel below shows the whole painting and a section of it enlarged.

Margaret Walty

To give an idea of the scale at which Margaret works, the breast of the robin is less than 1 cm across….and she works in acrylics without using a magnifying glass.

I turned from art to nature and watched the birds for a while.  Two goldfinches were enjoying the seed today without being battered by the rain.

bookend goldfinches

A dunnock hopped about on a chair beside the feeders.

dunnock on chair

I made some vegetable soup for lunch.  We still have plenty of potatoes left from the garden but after I used one of our onions, there are now only two left.  Still to get to December with our own onions is not too bad.

It was pretty windy in spite of the sunshine so I decided to go for a walk after lunch instead of a cycle ride and this turned out to be a good decision as I had a most satisfying stroll.  I have declared my leg officially cured so I ventured up the Kirk Wynd and on to the open hill.

I had a look round the garden before I left.

strawberry and sweet rocket November

Ornamental strawberry and sweet rocket.

As I passed the golf club, I couldn’t help noticing these very bright yellowy orange flowers on a shrub beside the track.   It might be a pyracantha or cotoneaster but whatever it is, I was surprised to see it flowering.

november flowers kirk wynd

As I got further up the track beside the golf course, the hills came into view.

View from Kirk Wynd

As the brisk and chilly wind was coming from behind me, there was just enough heat from the sun to keep me comfortable and I could enjoy the play of light on Castle Hill with the dark clouds behind.

castle hill November

Luckily the clouds were being driven up the valley and although the sun was low in the sky, the views were delightful.

sunshine and shadow ewes

I had taken Mrs Tootlepedal’s advice and had my walking poles with me.  They are a great help when going up hill and I soon got to the top of the golf course where a good crop of British Soldier lichens can be found…

soldier lichen

…and headed out onto the open hillside.

I didn’t go any higher up the hill but walked along the contour….

two trees abive Hillhead

…until I came to the road to Newcastleton.

Up ewes

There has been a lot of tree felling on the far side of the road and I could now see the sheep pens and buildings which have been hidden by the trees for many years.

sheep pens

The sun dropped below some low clouds behind Warbla at this point…

warbla late november

….but the road down the hill is well sheltered…

 

copshaw road

…and my walk back to the town was no problem.

I took the little path along the Lamb Hill and was greeted by some gorse in flower.

november gorse

I reached home after just under two and a half miles in harmony with nature and enjoyed a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from a visit to the hairdresser.  Everything was good.

Mike and Alison are busy babysitting their daughter’s dogs at the moment so there was no Friday night tootling but I employed the time in practising singing for Sunday’s choirs so it wasn’t time wasted.

The flying bird of the day is roughly the 120th chaffinch to have had that honour this year.  I will have to try to get out more.

flying chaffinch

 

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The guest picture of the day is the last of the livestock which our son Tony encountered on his walk in the Wemyss Estate.

wemyss pigs

We had another wet and windy day today….

_DSC8835

…with occasional breaks in the rain.

_DSC8836

In one of the dry spells, I popped out to see how high the rivers were and was surprised to find them lower than last night….

P1150717

…and it was a treat to be able to see the monument clearly.

I didn’t stay out long and was soon safely back inside watching the birds clinging to the plum tree twigs in the stiff breeze.  The goldfinches like to perch at the very top of the twigs even in the most testing times.

_DSC8837

I filled the feeders and was rewarded with some cheerful visitors…

_DSC8839

…but it soon started raining again.

After careful research of railway websites and a look at the forecast, we decided that it would be safe to go to Edinburgh and more reliable to take the Borders Railway from Tweedbank rather than the West Coast mainline from Lockerbie.  This was mostly because the weather for driving to the station looked better going east than west and also because there are more trains running on the Border Railway so we would be less likely to get stranded in Edinburgh.

The drive to Tweedbank was fine, with even a little sunshine on the way but when we got to the station we found a sign saying that not only had our intended train been cancelled but the next one too.  This was not on account of the weather but because of ‘staff shortages’.

We were quite annoyed because we hadn’t seen any warning about this when we checked up earlier in the day.  We were sitting in the car muttering imprecations and considering strategies when a train arrived at the station.  We went over to look and were told that this was our train and it wasn’t cancelled.  We were pleased and particularly grateful that we hadn’t driven off in a huff when we saw the train cancelled sign.  We didn’t think that this was a very sound way to run a railway though.

The weather was surprisingly nice as we pottered up the line to Edinburgh and we were accompanied by this cloudy lady.

P1150720

When we got to Matilda’s, Mrs Tootlepedal wasted no time at all before getting down to some serious grandmothering.

P1150721

She and Matilda than cooked a sticky toffee pudding which we ate for our tea after a dish of onion and mushroom pasta knocked up by Matilda’s dad.  I must say that as well as the pleasure of Matilda’s company, we always eat well when we got to see her.

I was a bit alarmed when I looked at the rail company website after tea and found three evening trains cancelled but fortunately our train was not among them and we had a satisfactory journey back to Tweedbank.   The weather then let us down badly and we had to drive the forty miles home through torrential rain and strong winds, never fun at any time of day, but even less so at night with large puddles in the middle of the road.

Still, we did get home safely and I was glad that we had our winter tyres on as we skated over road surfaces running with water.

The rain is set to ease off tomorrow which will be welcome and the winds are due to lighten up a bit so I hope to get out for a walk.

The flying is a gloomy chaffinch battling into the wind.

_DSC8843

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s walk round the Wemyss Estate.  As well as a parakeet in a tree, he came across a curious deer which was looking a bit lost.

wemyss deer

We were visited by storm Diana today.  I must say that the practice of giving passing weather fronts a name is obviously a bad idea.  They are getting ideas above their station and we got a lot of rain and some stiff winds in the afternoon.

It wasn’t too bad in the morning when Dropscone came round for coffee.  Sandy dropped in to pick up some keys for the new archive centre but he was busy and didn’t stay for coffee.  This meant that Dropscone and I could eat all the scones which was a stroke of luck as the scones were particularly tasty today.

Although it was raining lightly as Dropscone left, the forecast said that it would stop raining by twelve o’clock and then start again by one.  As it did actually stop raining at three minutes to twelve, I went out for a short three bridges walk.

I was detained for a moment by some cheerful calendulas in the garden before I left.

calendulas end of november

The clouds had lifted on the hills and I could almost see the monument.

misty monument

There was a touch of colour in the last willows which are fading away beside the town bridge.

last willow

And some of our resident ducks had found a calm spot for a paddle above the bridge.

floating ducks

I was very impressed by the amount of hay being transported by a single driver from the arable east coast to the pastoral west.

big hay

I passed more evidence of the activity of the Langholm Walks volunteers who have been putting new discs onto the walks signposts.

Langholm Walks signs

Walkers are spoiled for choice

The group is trying hard to encourage walkers to come to the town and sample the many delights of walking in our woods and hills.

As I went along the Lodge Walks, I discovered that the forecast had only said that it would have started raining by one o’clock.  It didn’t say when it would actually start and that turned out to be at about ten past twelve so I didn’t get very far on my walk before the rain came down.  Luckily I was well armed (or legged) with welly boots and a large golf umbrella.  As I was sheltered from the worst of the wind and there was plenty to look at, I still had a good walk.

I saw berries by a wall…

lodge walks berries

…and lichen on a tree…

lodge walks lichen

…as I went up the Lodge Walks.

Then as I crossed the Castleholm, I saw a tree with many, many branches…

castleholm bare tree

…a soggy gate…

soggy castleholm gate

…and a tree stump with a mixture of fungus and fallen leaves which were so well matched for colour that it was hard to tell them apart.

castleholm fungi and leaves

Round the back of the stump, there were more clear cut fungi.

castleholm fungi

As I walked back along the path to the Jubilee Bridge, I could see many hazel catkins…

castleholm catkin

…but by the time that I got to the bridge, the rain was coming down so steadily that I put my camera back in my pocket and concentrated all my energies on not letting my brolly get blown away by the wind.

By the time that I got home, it was a thoroughly miserable day and so dark and gloomy that I didn’t bother to get my bird watching camera out at all.

After lunch, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and practised some singing for my various choirs.

Mrs Tootlepedal made another delicious evening meal and fortified by that, I ventured out into the wind and the rain to go to a Langholm Sings choir practice.  Some of the work that I had done in the afternoon turned out to be quite useful.

It had stopped raining by the time that we came out of the practice and this was just as well as the river was high and flowing fast as I crossed the suspension bridge.  We are promised more heavy rain tomorrow so riverside dwellers may be getting a bit nervous.

I didn’t try for a flying bird of the day today and a rather fuzzy perching gull is standing in for the position instead.

perching gull

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Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Tragalgar Square

It was a sunny day here when we got up but far too cold to be able to risk a cycle ride with frost about so I pottered about until Sandy arrived with some Archive Group documents and we had a cup of coffee.  He and Nancy did a great job in moving Archive Group to their new premises with the help of a very obliging pair of ‘moving men’ and we hope that our data miners will soon get used to the new surroundings.

Dropscone has been  our landlord in our old premises for many years and we hope that he will be able find a good use for them now that we are gone.

When Sandy left, he took the sunshine with him and the day got progressively gloomier as it went on.  I decided to cook some tea cakes, using a method that is easy but time consuming in  the preparation of the dough so I had time to look out of the window at the passing show.

It was perching time for the goldfinches.

goldfinches perching

goldfinch on feeder

Once again, the old sunflower stalk was a handy staging post.

goldfinch on sunflower

Sometimes goldfinches waited for sparrows to move….

goldfinch and sparrow

…and sometimes sparrows encouraged goldfinches to move….

goldfinches and sparrow

…and sometimes chaffinches managed to get a look in too.

chaffinces staring at goldfinch

The tea cake method involves very light stretching of the dough rather than heavy kneading but it has gaps of a quarter of an hour between stretches so I had many looks out of the window while waiting for the next stretch and as well as birds at the feeder, I saw a dunnock…

dunnock

…and a blackbird scavenging for fallen seeds on the ground.

blackbird below

After a while, the dough was ready for its first rising so I had lunch and then while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a screening of a Degas exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre, I went off to collect my new bicycle from the bike shop where it had been having a service.  Although I had taken it in to the Carlisle branch, they had kindly brought it back to the shop in Longtown for me to collect it so I didn’t have far to go.

When I got home, I divided the tea cake dough into balls for the second rise and considered my options.

The day had got very gloomy by this time, with a brisk breeze and a hint of rain so once again I neither walked nor pedalled but went to work on my computer until Mrs Tootlepedal got back from her screening when we had a cup of tea.

Then it was time to bake the tea cakes and since the recipe is generally fool proof, they came out quite well.

dav

They enlivened with currants and raisins and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.

In the evening, one of the tenors from Langholm Sings came round and we did a little practising.  We shall see if it pays off when we meet tomorrow for our next rehearsal.

The forecast for tomorrow is appalling so I don’t think that there will be any chance of a pedal on my newly serviced bike.

In fact, November has not been kind to me from a cycling point of view recently.  I see that I only did 58 miles last year in the whole month because the weather was very poor and I had a persistent cold and so far I have only done half that distance this year with three days to go.  I might have to take issue with the poet who thought that April is the cruellest month.

The flying bird of the day is two goldfinches showing off their flying skills.

Flying goldfinches

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s walk with his dog.  He needed full colour to record this parakeet.

wemyss parrot

We woke up to a bright and frosty morning and I had to scrape ice off the car windscreen before I could drive south for another singing lesson with Mary, our Langholm choir conductor.  It was well worth the effort of driving down into England as Mary is a most considerate and thorough teacher.

My eyes have been opened to just how many ways there are to sing badly and how many things need to be thought about and practised carefully if I want to improve.  Still, it is very exciting to find something that can be progressive and rewarding when so many other things can only go downhill when you get to a certain age.

When I got home, I had little time to waste before I had to take our car into the garage to get its winter tyres put on.  The frosty weather in the morning had been a signal that now might be a good time to get this done.

When I got home again, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had made a very tasty sweet potato soup for lunch and after tucking into a bowl of that with some good cheese on the side, I took a moment to look at the birds.

The brightness had gone out of the day by this time and a flying visit from the sparrowhawk, although it was unsuccessful, may have discouraged the birds as there were not many about.  On top of that it was a day when the birds sneaked quickly up onto the feeder from behind instead of flying up slowly from the side so I didn’t get any good shots, just a few rather gloomy perching birds.

blackbird on hedge

chaffinch on chimney

perching greenfinch

sparrow and goldfinch

Most of my flying bird attempts ended up looking like this.

failed flying birds

The one bright spot of the window watching was the sight of a tiny wren on the ground under the feeder.

wren

They flit about the garden quite a lot but rarely stop for long enough to be caught by my camera.

I then spent some time wondering whether I should go for a bike ride or a walk.  In fact I spent so much time pondering that the time for action came and went and the light faded along with my enthusiasm so I sat down and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database.

As the afternoon went on, we were visited by Mike Tinker who had come to wish Mrs Tootlepedal a happy birthday and a plumber who made Mrs Tootlepedal’s birthday happy by taking out an old gas fire which she has long wanted removed.

In order to make sure that there were no unfortunate errors, Mrs Tootlepedal had bought herself a very nice light bulb which she gave to herself on my behalf as her birthday present.

My flute pupil Luke came and we got out a piece by Loeillet over which we had spent many months of hard work years ago when he was still a novice and greatly to my delight, we played though the whole sonata with none of the fingering or counting problems which had seemed almost insurmountable at the time.  If we needed proof of our progress, this was it.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a delicious Thai curry for our tea and after enjoying that I went off to play enjoyable  trios with the other Mike and Isabel.

The only flying bird that I caught today  was this shifty looking chaffinch, trying to creep up behind the feeder.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony.  He took a suitably black and white shot of his black and white dogs.

wemyss dogs

In theory today was very much the same temperature as yesterday but in practice it felt much colder because of a rawness in the air and as a result I was quite happy to have a lot of singing and no cycling to do.

The singing started in church.  The choir had had no notice of the hymns in advance which was unusual but didn’t matter in the case of two of them which had simple harmonies.  One of the others in particular defeated me entirely even though it was sung in unison.  However, we had a enjoyable practice afterwards and in the end, we had a good morning of singing.

While this was going on, Sandy and Nancy were supervising the removal of the Archive Group’s furniture and equipment to the new base for the group.  The removal was in the hands of a couple of every competent fellows and Sandy and Nancy reported that everything had gone smoothly.  I hope to visit the new premises tomorrow and see the results.

When I got home, I had time for a quick walk round the garden with my new phone in hand.

There are still flowers about (just).

In some cases, it is a question of hanging on by the skin of the teeth…

edf

…but others are defiantly still flowering freely…

edf

….even if conditions are a bit soggy.

edh

I can’t get over how cheerful the perennial wallflower still is.

edf

As well as flowers, there is always moss about in the garden and this morning there was some additional fungus among the moss on the elder.

edf

At the bird feeder, it was very much a chaffinch day….

chaffinch activity

…though other birds were about as well.  There were pigeons on the lawn…

pigeon on lawn

…and jackdaws in the elder…

waiting jackdaw

…and one on a chair showing off its white feathers.

white feathers jackdaw

The chaffinches were queuing up to get to the sunflower hearts…

chaffinch queue

…but when they got there, some preferred arguing to eating.  Perhaps they were politicians in a former life.

chaffinch head to head

There was no shortage of pushy behaviour.

chaffinch starmash

After lunch, we went off to sing with our choir in Carlisle.  Ellen, our usual conductor, had other commitments and our accompanist was marooned in Motherwell by a late train cancellation so we had both a substitute conductor from Glasgow and a member of the choir at the keyboard.

As it turned out, they were more than able to provide us with a satisfactory practice and as is so often the case, a new face in front of the choir provided us with fresh insights into performing  better.  As there were only three tenors present this week, our department had to work hard to make itself heard.

When we got home, I made some cauliflower cheese for tea and followed that off with an iced bun so all in all, it was a very satisfactory day.

The flying bird of the day, unsurprisingly, is one of the chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from a trip which my brother Andrew made to Shipley Park a while ago, when there as still some colour in the trees.

Shipley Park

We woke to a fine calm and often sunny day but in spite of this, I had a very restful morning.  Indeed, it was so restful that for most of the time, apart from a visit to the shop to buy a bottle of milk, very sensitive cameras would have had to have been deployed to detect any movement in me at all.

I did occasionally cast an eye out of the window to see if there were birds about but they were not much more active than me.  Goldfinches arrived in small numbers…

goldfinch crowd

…and a chaffinch glowered at me from the chimney pot.

chaffinch on chimney

More chaffinches arrived and in the end…

chaffinch landin November

…it was hard to avoid a flying chaffinch for a short while at least.

four flying chaffinches

After lunch, I was a bit ashamed of my lethargy, feeling that I was wasting a day which was perfectly usable so I got into my cycling gear, wrapped up well and went out for a pedal on my slow bike (my new bike being at the cycle shop for a service).

When I was in the bike shop yesterday, I had purchased some bamboo socks which claimed to be waterproof and I tried them out today to see if they were warm as well.  With the temperature at 7°C as it was today, cycling can easily lead to cold feet which make pedalling literally a pain.  The socks turned out to be very good and I had an enjoyable if sedate 15 mile ride.

As I was in no hurry, I stopped for photographs as I went along.

There was some low cloud about and although the hills in the distance were bathed in sunlight as I went past Bloch Farm…

ewe hill windmills

…I was under a cloud as I passed my favourite tree.

bloch tree

When I got to the top of the hill at Tarcoon, I could see sunshine and clouds over England ahead of me…

clouds over england

…and by the time that I got to the road down to the Hollows, the clouds seemed to be laughing at me.

laughing cloud

…although I was basking in the sunshine by this time.

two trees november

It had turned into a lovely day for a pedal where I was….

View of Glenzier road

…so I sailed down this road to the Hollows, crossed the Esk by the Hollows Bridge and puffed up the hill on the other side of the valley and returned to Langholm through Claygate.

This gave me an additional river to cross as the Tarras lay among the trees between me and Whita..

Looking from Mumbie

I enjoyed the sweep down to the river…

dav

…crossed the bridge when I came to it and was able to take a breather on the way up the steep hill on the other side of the bridge because this is where the road has been closed for three years.

Tarras road 2018 closed

Luckily there is a small gap between the blocks for an elderly cyclist to push his machine through and take stock of the damage…

Tarras road 2018

…before passing through the barriers at the far end and getting back to work.

The light had turned quite golden by this time….

tree with seeds

…and I had one last swoop downhill to get back to the Esk…

golden light

…which was well in the shadows by this time.

skippers bridge in November

I was very pleased to find that I had been able to cycle up two quite steep little hills without having to get off and walk and without, so far as I can tell, having set back my leg recovery.

I hope that there are a few more good days like this before the end of December. As long as I am well wrapped up, winter cycling is very satisfying .

We had thought of going out in the evening but the charms of a comfy sofa and Strictly Come Dancing persuaded us to stay in.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches.

flying goldfinch

Endnote:  My brief remarks about hope in yesterday’s post caused some comments.  They came after I had been listening to an interesting radio programme in which Melvyn Bragg and guests discussed the development of ideas about hope, which was left in Pandora’s box either as a consolation or as another evil, and which later became the companion of faith and love.  You can find the programme here if you are interested.  I am not sure whether it will be available to overseas readers.

 

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