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Archive for Jan, 2019

Today’s guest picture brings a bouquet of South African garden colour into our gloomy winter scenes, courtesy of my South African correspondent and Langholm exile, Tom.

tom's sa flowers

By contrast, what Langholm looked like today when we got up was this….

snowy garden

The photo is is in colour but the scene is in black and white!

…but the snow had stopped and gradually melted away during the day, although the temperature never rose more than a degree or two above freezing.

I gave my sore foot a rest in the morning and drank coffee, did the crossword and looked out of the window.

There were sparrows about on the feeder…

two sparrows

…and a bunch of starlings on top of the walnut tree.

starlings in walnut tree

Green and gold finches turned up too….

gold and greenfinches

…and birds frequently flew off in all directions…

birds leaving feeder

…and then came back again…

three birds on feeder

…so I wasn’t bored.

We gave the snow some due consideration but having checked that the main roads were cleared and that the trains were running on time, we set off for Lockerbie and the train to Edinburgh.

On the drive, the main problem was not snow or ice but quite thick mist covering the whole countryside almost all the way to Lockerbie.  We arrived safely though and caught the (on time) train and travelled up to Edinburgh in good conditions.

I was hoping to catch a shot of the Tinto Hills covered in snow and gleaming in the sunshine but they had generated their own cloud which covered them completely…..

dav

…and were a disappointment.

Al, Clare and Matilda are camping in Clare’s parents’ flat while they are waiting for their new house to be finished and this gave Matilda the chance to take me for a walk in a nearby wood.

dav

She was a confident guide and we got back safely without meeting any wolves or being stung by bees.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I  spent a pleasant few hours chatting with the family and enjoyed a wonderful Persian based meal before we left to catch the train home.

The journey home passed off without incident, although the mist made for careful driving.

I did find a chaffinch arriving at the feeder and it has the honour of being the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture, in the absence of any alternative, is another welcome to the sunny shore of Wemyss.  Tony certainly has a grand spot for walking his dogs.

wemyss shore sunny

It was quite frosty here this morning…

frozen plant in garden

…and it stayed below zero all day.  There was very little wind though and the sun was shining when we got up so it seemed like a good day for a walk after breakfast.

Once again, the roads, tracks and paths were miraculously ice free so I walked down one side of the Esk as far as Skippers Bridge and came back on the other side.

I was hoping for some frosty trees but there hadn’t been enough dampness in the air to make for spectacular shots….

dav

…and almost as soon as the sun touched a frosty tree, the ice melted.

murtholm hedge

I didn’t take yet another picture of Skippers Bridge when I got to it but I did enjoy the reflections in the river on the other side on such a still day.

refelctions in esk below skippers (2)

I enjoyed them so much that I took two.

refelctions in esk below skippers

I walked up the banking onto the old railway and made my way home via the old oak wood…

oak wood

…and Hallpath.

I took a lot of pictures without getting any good results but I did end up with freezing hands in spite of having a couple of hand warmers with me.  They are quite old and may have lost a bit of their potency over the years.

When I got home, I had coffee and scones with Dropscone.  His younger daughter lives out in the country and was unable to get to work today as they had serious snow where she lives so we have been lucky with our modest fall.

While we were sipping and chatting, I noticed a brambling in the plum tree…

brambling

…and got quite excited.  It was the only one though and when it didn’t visit the feeder and soon departed, I calmed down again.

The sub zero temperatures had brought more than usual quantities of birds to the plum tree…

many bords in plum tree

…but still nothing like as many as in years gone by.

A blackbird appeared.

blackbird in plum tree

There were enough  birds about to make for stiff competition for perches.

battling chaffinches

While Dropscone and I were refreshing ourselves, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy with the gesso and the horse.  Here you can see her cleaning the eyes after the final coat of gesso had gone on.

dav

Several days will now elapse while the gesso dries and then it will be sanded and the painting will start.  It looks very promising.

dav

When Drospcone left, it was obvious that low mist was coming in over the town so I thought that this might be good moment to get to the top of a hill for a ‘mist in the valley’ photo opportunity.

I would have driven up to the White Yett, as speed is the essence in these situations, but before breakfast, I had taken the car up to the garage for a pre MOT check so it was not available.

Since it was walk or not go, I walked.

I headed for the track up to Warbla, the easiest of our hills to climb.

It was still cold…

frozen seed head

…and there was a mixture of sunshine and mist as I got on to the hill.

tree in fileld winter

Rather alarmingly from a photographic point of view, the mist seemed to be on top of the hills instead of lying above the rivers…

dav

…but I plugged on, propelled by my walking poles.  Although there was still mist above me, I could see blue sky above the mist so I was hopeful….

track up to warbla in mist

…but as I got near the top of the hill, I was still walking into mist instead of looking down on it…

track to warbla in snow

…and when I got there, the top of the communications mast at the summit was only just visible.

mist mast warbla

When I got to the trig point, all I could see below was mist and the photo opportunity was gone.  Still, as a consolation I did see a little mistbow right in front of me.  In fact it was so close that my camera couldn’t take it all in…

dav

…but I have crudely stitched two shots together to give an impression of what I saw.

dav

It was annoying to have no view when the blue sky was so close above my head and I waited in the hope that the mist would drop back into the valley.  I had no such luck and instead, more low cloud rolled in on top of me so I headed back down the hill before I froze solid.

The footing was amazingly secure but any chance of a landscape shot had gone so I had to be content with a sheep on a wall…

sheep on wall

…before I dropped back down the track into the park and home.

coming down in stubholm mist

I was very grateful when Mrs Tootlepedal heated me up a bowl of her fine mixed lentil soup for a late lunch.

My final walk of the day was to fetch the car back from the garage.  It will need a little work before it can pass its MOT so I will have to take it back again next week.

I ended my active day by cycling round to the corner shop to get some fishcakes for my tea.  It was -3°C so I wrapped up well even for this short trip!

The mist had totally enshrouded the town by this time and it was very gloomy so we pulled the curtains and had a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch looking keenly for a place at the table.

flying chaffinch

Note:  I walked five and a half miles today so although my foot, calf and knee are still sore they are obviously not that sore!

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I have delved into my archives to find today’s guest picture sent by my Somerset correspondent, Venetia last October.  It shows a footpath that is not totally welcoming.

cows in the way

We woke to an altered view from our upstairs window.

whita fron befroom window

The snow hadn’t got down as far as the town though and I was able to walk to our corner shop on surprisingly ice free roads.

Sandy, who had missed the camera club last night, came down for a cup of coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal combined having coffee with us with putting more coats of gesso on the rocking horse.  The horse has been brought in from the cold and is enjoying life in our spare room.  More importantly the gesso is going on a lot better and by the end of the day, the horse was looking a lot smarter…

rocking horse gesso progress

…although there are several more coats to go on before it will be ready for painting.

When Sandy left, I did the crossword and kept an eye for action outside the kitchen window.

I got an unexpected chance to catch a regular visitor…

sparrowhawk on feeder

…which doesn’t usually sit quietly for long enough for me to take a picture.

In spite of the snow, it was a reasonably pleasant day with occasional bursts of sunshine and although the temperature was only 3°C and it had rained overnight in the town, we were mysteriously free from ice so I went for a walk half way up a hill.

I went up the Kirk Wynd and onto Whita, stopping before I came to any serious snow. The sun had been out when I started but sadly clouds had intervened and it was a pretty grey day.

trees on whita snow

Even on a  grey day though, there is usually something to cheer a walker up and there was a good show of lichen on a wall….

lichen on mossy wall

…and the view up the Ewes valley always lifts the heart whatever the weather.

snowy view up ewes

I was on the very edge of the snow line as I walked along the contour of the hill towards the Newcastleton road but the going was very good and I had sensibly taken my walking poles with me so I enjoyed myself.

whita track snow

And when I got to the road, I was rewarded with a sparkling display of moss among the snow on a wall…

moss on snowy wall

…and a wintry view through the pines.

pines in snow

Looking back up the hill, I was glad that I hadn’t been tempted to climb up to the monument as it looked decidedly chilly up there.

monument with frosting

I followed the road down to the A7 and walked along to the Kilngreen past this fine display of holly berries.

holly berries whitshiels

On the Kilngreen, the light seemed perfect for capturing the sinuous patterns of this picnic bench…

kilngreen bench

…and I was very happy to see Mr Grumpy on the bank of the Ewes Water.  I haven’t seen him for some time and was getting worried about his health.

heron

There was more agreement about the way to go among the mallards today.

mallards on esk

Looking back towards the Sawmill Brig and Castle Hill, it was hard to imagine that I had been walking in snow not long before.

kilngreen no snow

I got home and sat down to a nourishing plate of soup.  Mrs Tootlepedal returned from helping out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe and I watched the birds for a while…

january greenfinch

…being pleased to see a greenfinch and by accident I took a picture which shows how small our garden bird visitors are in the great scheme of things.

bird among the bushes

Whatever it is that is causing me to have discomfort when walking at the moment hadn’t been made worse by my walk so I decided that the roads were probably ice free enough to risk a few miles on the slow bike to see if that sort of exercise would help.

The sun came out…

snowy whita from wauchope road

…which was a bonus and I pedalled very gently for seven miles without meeting any icy patches or making my leg worse so I was very happy.  I will try a longer ride next time when the weather permits.

In the evening, the ever busy Mrs Tootlepedal laid down her crochet hook and went off to act as front of house for a screening of the Queen of Spades at the Buccleuch Centre and stayed to see the opera.  As Tchaikovsky is not my favourite composer, I stayed at home and did a little more work on learning the Carlisle Choir songs.  Like putting gesso on a rocking horse, this is a slow business.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day as the visit of the sparrow hawk didn’t keep the birds away from the feeder for long.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s seaside views.  This one was taken on his phone.

another wemyss view

Today’s post may be a little more incoherent than usual because I had a restless night.  The forecast had been for cloudy skies so I went to bed without making any preparations to view the much talked about supermoon.  In the event, guided by fate, I woke up and decided that it might be worth pulling back the curtains and was amazed and delighted to find a clear sky and the shadow of the earth just beginning to fall on the left side of the moon.

I scuttled about trying to shoot handheld shots while collecting my tripod and working out apertures, focusing and shutter speeds. I woke up Mrs Tootlepedal too with some trepidation but she was grateful to see the unfolding lunar drama.

I took many, many shots but ended up with just a few usable efforts showing the eclipse starting, the red moon at the full eclipse and the gradual brightening as time went by.  The first of these shots was taken at 3.28 am and the last at 5.53 am and I have to admit that I may have dropped off from time to time between taking them.

red moon

It was well worth the interruption to my sleep to see such a sight.

I got up late and found that a crisp frost had the garden in its grip.  Under the circumstances, I was happy to have a quiet morning in doing nothing more energetic than walking to the shop 200 yards away and putting some bread ingredients in the bread maker.

I looked at the birds and found that chaffinches were having a hard time landing. One was just hanging on…

chaffinch hanging on

…and this one missed the perches altogether.

chaffinch missing perch

Occasionally they got it right.

chaffinch hitting perch

I was encouraged in idleness by small outbreaks of snow.

snow falling

However, the snow came to nothing and the robin popped up to pose for me.

robin on arm of chair

In the end, since the snow had stopped I went for a walk to keep my foot mobile.  It was gloomy but dry so I set off with hope in my heart if not with a spring in my step.

However, I had just passed some attractive catkins….

long catkins

…when it started to drizzle.

I cut short any thoughts of interesting places and took the shortest route home.

stubholm track

By now, it was raining quite steadily so after a look down to see the Mission Hall where the camera club would be meeting in the evening…

mission hall community centre

…I limped home as fast as I could. The colourful backs of the ambulances outside the Hall, which has an ambulance service base in it, were by far the brightest thing to be seen anywhere.

Mike Tinker dropped in for tea and offered some sound rocking horse advice and then Mrs Tootlepedal prepared a magnificent dish of cauliflower cheese while I entertained young Luke for some fluting duets.  It was one of those evenings when we both realised that more practice would have been a good thing before the lesson.

After tea, I went off to set up the projector and screen for the camera club meeting.  Luckily the members are very helpful so we were soon ready and ten members enjoyed a really excellent selection of pictures.  Seven of us had brought in selections to show and  as there was no theme this month, we had a fine mish-mash of pictures from Africa, continental Europe, the southern borders of Scotland and the heart of Langholm.

As usual ideas and experiences were swapped over tea and biscuits at half time so the meeting went well and we all look forward to meeting again next month.

Mrs Tootlepedal had some fun during the day applying her first ever coats of gesso to the rocking horse.  It was a voyage into the unknown and it didn’t go quite as well as she might have hoped but it turned out that that was probably down to the fact that the temperature in the garage where she was working was too low for proper drying of the layers.  The horse is back indoors now and looking a lot better for a bit of warmth.  I hope to have a picture of progress tomorrow.

There are two eager flying birds of the day today, a sparrow for a bit of a change…

flying sparrow

… and a chaffinch for some continuity.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Sharon, mother of Luke my flute playing friend.  She took this beautiful view of the Nith estuary from Glencaple near Dumfries.

glencaple view

It was a two choir day as usual on a Sunday and I had a thoroughly enjoyable time.  In church we sang several hymns with satisfying bass lines and then we had a short practice afterwards with promises of more enjoyable singing to come.

I found a coal tit in the plum tree when we got back.

coal tit in plum tree

It was a pleasantly sunny, pretty still morning so with the temperature at 4°C, I set out after coffee and a ginger biscuit  to see whether a short walk would make my foot feel better or worse.  On the whole, it made it feel better.

I looked at moss while I was pootling along pondering on medical matters.  There is rarely any shortage of moss to look at round here.

There was moss steadily colonising a wall, reaching up from below to meet another patch reaching down from above….

moss at springhill

…there were various mosses massed in a mound on top of the wall further along…

mixed mosses

…and still further along, more moss stretching out fingers to grab new territory…

moss stretching hand

…and among the trees, a mini forest of  moss…

tall moss

…as well as moss mixing with peltgera lichen on a wall…

peltigera lichnee and moss

…and pincushion moss sharing space with more lichen.

button moss and cup lichen

My route took me along Gaskell’s Walk and it was as nice a walk as you could hope for though I thought that one walker whom I passed going in the opposite direction and who remarked that it was like spring, was getting a bit ahead of herself.

gaskells walk january

I looked around and saw colourful fungus on the end of a fallen branch…

tree end fungus

…and any amount of rosebay willowherb lined the track.

rosebay willowherb

The track was largely in shadow but as I came to the last hill before the Stubholm, the sun was catching the electricity poles that carry the power down into the New Town.

electricity poles gaskells

They may not be the most beautiful of structures but they do bring a lot of brightness into our lives, literally and metaphorically so I am always happy to see them even if they do spoil a view every now and again.

It was a grand day and I was sorry not to have the time or legs to walk further…

view of whita over stubholm

…but after a couple more stops to note eye catching sights….

decorative tree barkspiky plant

…and a final nod to the world of moss….

moss table gaskells

…I made my way home.

In the garden, the hellebores are beginning to show a bit of colour..

hellebore buds

Inside the house, a pot of soup was bubbling on the cooker, showing that Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy while I was out.

I had time to eat some soup, watch a pair of restful goldfinches nibble on the sunflower seed…

two goldfinches

…while some chaffinches get a lot more excited about the situation…..

busy feeder

…and then it was time to head for Carlisle and the community choir practice.

The sunshine had gone by this time and it was grey and chilly by the time we got to the church where we meet.

The practice itself was very satisfactory as a reorganisation of the tenors meant that rather than sitting on the end of a pew not being able to hear the rest of the section, this week I had a strong singer beside me and more behind.  Together with the work that I have done at home over the past two weeks, this meant that I was able to sing with much more confidence and relaxation than previously.  I hope that we keep this new set up.

We got home safely, had the last portions of Mrs Tootlepedal’s vegetarian casserole and settled down to enjoy Les Miserables (as far as the subject matter permits of any enjoyment).

A chaffinch as flying bird of the day rounded off a day definitely entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life.

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from the eternally sunlit shore at East Wemyss.  Tony is making really good use of his dog walking time.

east wemyss seaside trees

We had a chilly (3°C) but kindly day with a very gentle wind and no rain.  The sun didn’t appear so it was dull but all the same we could have no complaints about this weather for a January day.

I am trying to get my foot back into working order and oddly enough, doing some hip exercises seems to be improving things a lot.  This proves the truth of the old song…The hipbone’s connected to the thighbone…etc, etc.

Sandy came round to combine a cup of coffee with some archive group business.  He has been suffering from sore feet and knees which is why we haven’t been on any walks lately but he tells me that he has got medical appointments in the pipeline so he is hoping for useful help.

When he left, I went for a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She pointed out this…

lichen on lawn

…which may look like a jungle but is in fact moss, lichen and some blades of grass in what passes for the middle lawn at the moment.

More lichen is available in every corner of the garden.

lichen on elder

Much to my surprise, the perennial wallflower has cocked a snook at the recent frosts and produced another flower…

perennial wallflower january

…and even more amazingly, one of the the ordinary wallflowers is in the process of producing a bunch of flowers.

first wallflower

The winter jasmine continues to flourish.

winter jasmin january

The birds were rather few and far between again today, with just the occasional chaffinch…

chaffinch landing

…and some of which at least had the sense to head for separate perches today…

chaffinches

…and the even more occasional sparrow.

sparrow on gfeeder

I had some sardines on toast for lunch and then tested out my foot on a very short, flat walk.

The gulls were taking things easily too…

gulls on posts

…while the mallards couldn’t agree on a common destination.

ducks diverging

Fed up with standing on fence posts, one gull took to a rock in the river.

gull on rock

It was, as one passer by remarked to me, a very plain sort of day and I didn’t see anything worth recording until I came to a football match on the Scholars’ Field.

Thanks to the dull light, it was easier to take picture while the players were standing around waiting for the ball to arrive…

football on scholars standing

…than it was when they were running around chasing after it.

football on scholars moving

Before lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had spent some time tidying out the garage and when I got home, I found that the rocking horse had taken up residence there.  This is so that Mrs Tootlepedal can cover it with gesso before painting it.   The gesso process which involves size (rabbit skin glue), is a smelly and potentially messy business so the garage seems the best place for it.

rocking horse in garage

For those interested, a description of the gesso process can be found here.

After a cup of tea and some music practice, we went off to Carlisle to go to the pictures.  We haven’t been to the films for some time so this was a treat for Mrs Tootlepedal who really likes going to the cinema.  We found that in Carlisle at least, ticket prices had gone down a lot since our last visit and at £5 each, the cinema chain must be making most of its money by selling its customers vast buckets of very unappetising looking food.  We went hungry.

The film we saw is called The Favourite and is about the court of Queen Anne in 1708.  It is described in Wikipedia as a “historical period comedy-drama”.  It was very well acted and the settings and costumes were impressive but since its message seemed to me to be that all women are either old and ugly and helpless or young, beautiful and horrible and that politicians are generally rather nasty selfish people, it seemed to chime with a rather Trumpian view of the world and I didn’t much like it.  It was extremely coarse which was amusing at first as an antidote to refined period dramas on TV but which got a bit wearing as time went on.  Finally, either ideas or money ran out and the film just stopped without any resolution.

Still, as they say, it was a day out and a change.

I just manage to collect a flying chaffinch of the day.

chaffinches landing

 

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Alert readers may remember a guest picture or two  showing the recent invasion of Derby by some rather scruffy members of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army.  My brother went to see the prince in the Derby Museum and Art Gallery and asked him not to invade Derby again.  Answer came there none.

20181230_143942

After the excitements of yesterday, we had a very quiet day today, Mrs Tootlepedal because she was a bit tired after a hard days work and me because I wanted to rest my foot after walking more than I should have done in Edinburgh.

I wasn’t missing any cycling as the temperature only just rose above freezing all day though we were very ice free and I did risk cycling as far as the Buccleuch Centre to buy a ticket for an evening show.

I also had to do a bit of walking from and to our local garage as we had noticed last night that one of our headlight bulbs had expired.  They kindly replaced the bulb very promptly and the car is back in action again.

Apart from a visit from Drospcone for coffee and the subsequent consumption of high quality treacle scones, I had a very peaceful time, occasionally looking out of the window.

It was frosty first thing…

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…but the sun came out and things brightened up.

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A chaffinch with a misplaced sense of humour mocked my ambition to catch a good flying bird of the day…

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…and a pigeon arrived which looked not to be any great need of more bird food.

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Mike Tinker came round for afternoon tea with ginger biscuits so we had good company both in the morning and afternoon.

The highlight of the day was the show for which I had bought a ticket earlier on (Mrs Tootlepedal was doing front of house duties and did not require a ticket).

The event was an illustrated lecture by Laurie Campbell, a wild life photographer who lives not too far from us in the Scottish borders.

He is a photographer of great skill and artistry and on top of that, he is an expert in putting together a show of 400 hundred varied images of which every one is interesting and delivering it at a speed which maintains the interest of the audience from first to last.  Add to that a very pleasant and graceful manner of delivery packed full of interesting technical details and a dry sense of humour and you have the recipe for a perfect evening.

Those interested can visit his website here.

As I had time on my hands today, I managed to find several flying birds of the day.

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A final question: can you have to many cute robin pictures?

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