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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He was watching this team of rowers battling into a very strong wind during the recent storm when he heard unsympathetic onlookers on the bank shouting, “Faster!”

nottingham rowers

The wind had dropped here today but it was still raining when we got up.  I looked at Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge in the evening and found that there has been three inches of rain this week.

I went along to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre after breakfast and replenished our supplies of cheese, honey and fish and meat.  There were plenty of stalls and a good crowd of buyers so every one seemed happy.

When I got home, I peered at the birds and found that most of our visitors were goldfinches again…

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…with the now familiar coal tits in evidence…

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…and the jackdaw with the white feathers too.

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The rain persisted all morning but I had a stubborn crossword to struggle with so the time passed and after lunch, the rain eased off and I got ready to go out for a cycle ride.

I was just leaving when my neighbour Liz phoned and told me to look at her garage roof.

I looked and saw two partridges.  The partridges are birds that are put out for shooting parties to take pot shots at so these two had sensibly got out of the woods and into the town where they will only be subject to people shooting them with a camera.

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I hoped that when I got back from my cycle ride that I would find them in the pear tree in our garden and thus solve the Christmas present question.

There were still a few drops of rain about when I set off up the road but it wasn’t too cold, the rain soon stopped and the wind was behind me so I was contented enough.

The light didn’t improve though and I only stopped once on my 12 mile ride.

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A quick walk round the garden when I got back also only produced a single shot. The snowberries seemed appropriate for the first official day of winter.

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The partridges were in our garden when I cycled in, but I alarmed them and they scurried off so I didn’t get a chance to put out seed to tempt them into the pear tree.

I didn’t have long to get changed.

The town’s Christmas lights were due to be switched on and our choir had been asked to go and sing carols with a group of players from the Langholm Town Band.  Mrs Tootlepedal came with me and we squeezed onto this little platform outside the Town Hall, looking for all the world like a Punch and Judy show.

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We sang twice and in between efforts, I sneaked along the road to see the reindeer in the yard of the Buck Hotel, regular visitors to his event.

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This one was getting a feed of lichen.

The High Street was very festive with a good crowd out to welcome Mrs and Mrs Santa Claus, listen to the band and see a variety of entertaining turns as they gathered outside the Eskdale Hotel waiting for the  big switch on.

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The lights came on right on schedule and the Christmas tree looked very fine.

mde

Cars had to make their way carefully between the throng…

sdr

…and there was some of the fun of the fair for younger people.

sdr

There was even a flurry of snow but it has to be said that this came from two ingenious snow guns.

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It was a very cheerful event.

I enjoyed a small fillet of sea bass for my tea, a fish that I had never cooked before.  I will certainly cook it again as it extremely easy to cook and it turned out to be very tasty.

The varied activities, combined with unusually interesting programmes on the telly in the evening, left me feeling that winter hasn’t been bad so far.  Long may this happy state of affairs continue.

The flying bird of the day wasn’t available so a posing partridge is standing in.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who is beginning to get about again.  She visited the south bank of the Thames and admired the view of St Paul’s and the “Wobbly Millennium Bridge”  (now stabilised).

thames suspension bridge

Our weather is coming from the east at the moment so the temperature has dropped well into single figures and with a brisk wind blowing, it was not a day for idling around outside.

All the same, I had to go out after breakfast to return the key of the room where we had had our camera club meeting last night but I walked briskly and only stopped for one quick test of my new phone’s camera on the way.

sdr

The wind was coming from the left so by the time that I got home, a little sunshine had arrived and I tested the phone camera on a couple of the few remaining flowers in the garden.

sdrdav

The berberis is getting very thin on top now.

dav

I am still trying to get a balance between exercise and rest for my leg so I spent a quiet morning in, intending to go for a walk in the afternoon.

The birds provided a diversion.

There were goldfinch swirls….

goldfinch swirl

..and chaffinch twirls…

chaffinch twirl

…acrobatic landings….

one legged goldfinch landing

…and an anxious goldfinch hoping that a chaffinch had judged its braking distance correctly.

chaffinch pulling on brakes

Mrs Tootlepedal had put some breadcrumbs out on the lawn yesterday and two rather baffled jackdaws arrived today and wondered where they had all gone.

two curious jackdaws

On the whole, it was a quiet day and there were more chaffinches in the plum tree than on the feeder.

chaffinches in plum tree

After lunch, I went round to Nancy with a bank statement for the Archive Group and the experience of that very short walk made me reconsider my plan for a longer walk and I went home and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database instead.

Later Nancy came round with the completed accounts for the Archive Group for the year and happily, we are still solvent.

I partially made up for not going for a walk by doing a short spell on the bike to nowhere in the garage later in the afternoon and was pleased to find that my leg is continuing to improve.

This was successfully tested by a walk to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening where Mrs Tootlepedal and I watched a screened performance of the “The Madness of George III” by Alan Bennett at the Nottingham Playhouse.  I had seen the film some time ago and wondered if I would enjoy the play as much.  As it turned out, I enjoyed the play more as it was an excellent production and the immediacy of the live drama was very emotionally touching.

It says it is going to be colder still tomorrow.  I will have to think about putting the winter tyres on the car soon, not to mention looking out the winter undergarments for the driver.

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

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s non-guest picture is the return of the embroidery of the Wallace Monument just because I enjoyed it so much (and it’s a better picture than the one that I took with my phone).

Mrs T Wallace embroidery

Today’s post is going to crush the two days of our mini-break into one so there are a lot of pictures but I will try and keep the waffle to a minimum.  (Some of this appeared in yesterday’s post so I am sorry if regular readers get a sense of deja vu.)

Matilda and her parents had invited us to walk round the enchanted forest in Faskally Woods near Pitlochry with them and in addition had arranged an overnight stay in Pitlochry to make the 350 miles of driving there and back more manageable.

Day 1: outward bound

So we drove up yesterday, stopping off in Stirling to visit the Wallace Monument, erected in memory of William Wallace, a Scottish hero, who may or may not have been of Welsh stock (he was definitely not American or blue in the face).

The monument sits on a steep knoll, high above the car park…

Wallace Monument from below

…and it was a stiff climb for us to reach it and see the tapestry on display there.  We were rewarded by some fine views over Stirling and the river Forth.

View over Stirling

The castle was opposite us but was not looking at its best as they have got the builders in at the moment.

View over Stirling with castle

After lunching in the cafe below the monument, we drove north, taking the scenic route to Pitlochry through Crieff and Aberfeldy.  If you ever have some time to spare on a sunny late October day, it might be hard to find a better place to spend it.

view of perthshire

Quite apart from the stunning hill and glen scenery and the brilliant autumn colour, the roads in this part of rural Perthshire are pothole free, a real treat for us.

They are narrow and often winding though so there were no chances to stop and record the country.  Indeed, if we had stopped to take every picturesque shot that was worthy of recording, we would never have got to Pitlochry.

Even the main road as we got near to the town was stunning (and it had a lay by too).

A9 near Pitlochry

The view from the hotel car park was good…

view from Piltochry hotel car park

…and the one from our bedroom window was better.view from Piltochry hotel window

We met up with Matilda and her parents at the hotel.  They had been enjoying all the delights of Crieff Hydro for a couple of days and were in very good form.

The Enchanted Forest at Faskally is a highly popular autumn event and requires a lot of organisation to make it work well so we had to be at the appointed place at the appointed time to get ferried to the venue by bus.  Everything went like clockwork and we were soon sitting in a yurt listening to a story teller relating a tale of the hare who rescued the light when evil beings had stolen it.

By the time that we came out of the tent, darkness had fallen in the forest and we followed the trail, stopping from time to time for food opportunities on the way.

There was a lot to like for children of all ages up to 76.

enchanted forest1enchanted forest 2enchanted forest 3enchanted forest 4enchanted forest 5enchanted forest 6enchanted forest 7enchanted forest 8

After two and a half hours, we had finished our tour and a bus was on hand to whisk us back to our hotel and a good night’s sleep.

Day two: homeward bound

After an excellent breakfast, Matilda took her parents home and we went for a short excursion.  We drove through more beautiful autumn colour, far better than the rather subdued stuff we have round Langholm.  Even on a relatively dull morning, everything was tinged with gold and it was hard to keep my eyes on the road.  Our destination was the famous Queen’s View over Loch Tummel.

We parked the car and followed a path through the woods…

Queens View Loch Tummel 1

…looked across the valley…

Queens View Loch Tummel 2

…and then took in the view…

Queens View Loch Tummel 3

…which was well worth a second look.

Queens View Loch Tummel 4

The eye can cope with dull light much better than the camera can and it is hard to convey just how much pleasure was to be got just by standing and staring.

After drinking in the scene, we walked back to the car…

Queens View Loch Tummel 5

..enjoying the varieties of colour and the luxuriance of the lichen among the trees.

lichen on pilochry tree

We crossed back over the River Tummel…

River tummel from bridge

…and headed for the fish ladder….

salmon ladder Pitlochry dam

…which helps salmon get past the large hydro electric dam at Pitlochry…

Pitlochry dam

…which would otherwise block their return to their spawning grounds.

Unfortunately we weren’t able to visit the viewing  chamber which lets you see the fish as they swim upstream as it is closed but the sight of the trees on the banks of the loch created by the the dam was some consolation.

 

View from Pitlochry dam

We might have gone for a cup of coffee in the cafe and visitor centre above the dam…

cafe Pitlochry dam

…but the call of home was strong and we headed south, avoiding the 2568 (estimated) bends on the scenic route and taking the main roads instead.

The autumn colour was just as sensational and it was a pity to see the colour draining out of the trees as we drove south.  Why the colour should be so much better in Perthshire than it is in Dumfriesshire is a mystery to me.

We stopped a couple of times for a break and a snack on our way and at our second stop, the Annandale Water services, we enjoyed a good view of geese, heading for a swim…

geese at annandale water services

…in the waters that give the service station its name.

annandale water services

There are service stations with poorer views than this.

We got home in good time and in good order, having had a really good couple of days out.  Matilda (and her parents) are really thoughtful people.

I didn’t have the time or energy to find a flying bird of the day today but I was really pleased to find that Crown Princess Margareta is having a final fling for the year so she is the flower of the day.

Crown princess margareta October

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who met an unexpected animal at St Pancras.  She thinks that there may be more roaming the streets of London.

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I had a day of steady but gentle activity today.  It was rather grey in the morning so I was happy to look at the hymns for next Sunday’s service and then entertain Sandy for a cup of coffee.  We arranged to go for a walk in the afternoon.

When he left, I went out into the garden to see what was going on and enjoyed a dahlia…

dahlia (2)

…and the promise of many more fuchsia flowers to come if the frost keeps away.

fuchsia buds

We are still getting a steady stream of butterflies…

red admiral butterfly

…and Mrs Tootlepedal told me that she saw no less than seven at the same time on this buddleia in the afternoon.

I kept an eye on the bird feeder…

busy feeder

…but there was nothing unusual to see.

goldfinch and chaffinch

I get the feeling that the quality and sharpness has gone out of my flying bird pictures lately so it might be a good idea to take my bird watching camera to get a service to see if I can blame it for the problem.  It may well be me though.

Mrs Tootlepedal had to go off to visit the RBS mobile bank (which only comes once a week) and then we drove down to Longtown to collect her new glasses to go with her new improved eyesight.

Since we were close at hand, we went off for lunch at a garden centre before coming home again.

I didn’t have to long to sit down before Sandy arrived for our walk and we headed south for a couple of short strolls along the river using the old main road, now by-passed and just the place for a quiet stroll.

We are a bit worried that if they persist, the brisk winds will dry out the trees’ leaves and everything will turn brown rather than giving us good autumn colour so we took in all the colour we could see meanwhile.

A7 layby

river at Broomholm

river at seven sisters

hollows bridge downstream

hollows bridge upstream

Esk from Byreburnfoot brodge

It was very enjoyable having a leisurely walk, well sheltered from the breeze, along the river in good company.

We looked about as we went and Sandy spotted a snail on a dandelion…

dandelion with snail and fly

…which turned out to have a fly as a friend.

We disturbed a small flock of mallards on one of our visits to the river bank but they flew off before we could get a good shot.

flying ducks

There are fungi everywhere this year…

fungus

…and quite a lot of them are providing food for wild life.

fungus 2

We could have done with some sunshine to bring a bit of sparkle to the leaves…

byreburn road

…but of course it waited until we got into the car to go home before the sun came out.

Mike Tinker joined us for a cup of tea and remarked that his house seemed very quiet and empty now his visitors had left.

In the evening, we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a concert given by Phil Cunningham and Aly Bain, two of our favourite musicians.  They have visited Langholm regularly over the past years and we go to see them whenever we can, as they provide all the ingredients for a thoroughly enjoyable night out.

For those of you who don’t know them, they are a pair of comfortably built, affable and experienced traditional musicians of the highest quality, playing fiddle (Aly Bain) and accordion (Phil Cunningham).  They are happy to let their music speak for itself so it is played without affectation or over amplification.  The music itself always has the most gorgeous line and does not have an ounce of surplus fat on it.

The music is not the only thing that speaks as Aly and Phil keep up a running commentary between numbers and this is almost as good as the music and contains many jokes and anecdotes that are now old friends and all the more welcome for that.  All in all, it was another evening of great warmth and good cheer.

The flying bird of the day is well up to my current standard, i.e. not very good….and it is only just qualifying as a flying bird at all.

chaffinch landing

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from ex work colleague Marjorie.  She was surprised to find a common murre or guillemot in the field behind her house last week far from its usual habitat.  Presumably it was blown there by the strong winds of storm Ali.

common murre or common guillemot

Long time readers may remember New Zealand’s baby of the century, Maisie who in her youth figured in guest pictures on this blog.

maisie Sept

2102

This was one of my favourites scenes showing Maisie reading to her new little sister in 2104.  Both pictures were sent by her mother Jenny

Maisie reading

2014

The reason I mention this is because we were honoured by a visit from Maisie in person today, along with her sister Fran, her parents, Jenny and David and her grand parents. Alison and Mike.

David, Jenny and the girls are on a flying visit to the UK to meet his family and their old friends.

They are surviving serious hospitality very well…

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…and we had a most enjoyable lunch with them and Mike and Alison today.  (Note that Maisie is still reading).

They are heading home soon so our loss will be New Zealand’s gain.

It had been a very dreich morning with persistent drizzle so quite apart from getting things ready for the visit, it was not a good day for bird…

Blue tit and chaffinch

…or flower pictures.  It was warm though at 15°C so I popped out to take a picture or two before they came.

Ever more nerines are coming out…

nerines cluster

…and the dead heading among the dahlias is paying dividedns as there are still plenty to admire….

red dahlia

..both in the front bed and among the slightly less than Sunny Reggaes today.

two sunny reggae on a wet day

The garden is full of nicotianas and if we get a calm and fine evening, their scent should be delightful.

nicotiana

Lilian Austin has three flowers on the go…

three lilian austin

…but since there were two grandmothers in the house today, I will give pride of place to Special Grandma.

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When our visitors had left after lunch to do some more socialising and the lunch table had been cleared, it turned out that the drizzle had stopped for a while so I got the new bike out and did some skulking in the bottom of the valley to keep out of the brisk wind.

It was warm enough to make stretching my legs a pleasure and I had time for 17 miles which was an unexpected bonus.

After a very light evening meal, I went out to sing with our local community choir and had a good time singing some of the notes in the right place and at the right pitch.

After the choir, I walked along to the Social Club where Scott our minister was having a farewell do before leaving us on Friday to go to a parish in Glasgow.  He is working out how to get a scone radar that will work over 90 miles.  I hope he manages because it would be good to see him from time to time and find out how he is getting on in the big city.

The flying bird of the day is a rather gloomy chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent, Fiona.  She travelled as far as Durham, took a trip on the river and looked up at the cathedral as she drew near.

Durham

It was a dull, often rainy and always windy day today so I wasn’t unhappy to spend most of the morning going off with Mrs Tootlepedal to get our eyes tested in Longtown and following that with a trip to buy bird food and a visit to a local garden centre to look at but not buy decorative bark chippings.

The eye tests went well and Mrs Tootlepedal received the thumbs up for her cataract operation and is now just waiting for her new  glasses to arrive.  I was much the same as ever and my old glasses will do for another year so we were both happy.

While we were not buying decorative bark chippings, we had a toasted tea cake and a cup of coffee in the garden centre cafe so it was a morning well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal had business to do on the computer when we got home as part of the very bureaucratic administration for her Embroiderers’ Guild group so I set up the tripod in the kitchen, made some soup and watched the birds.

Feeling that our old bird feeders were getting on a bit, I had bought a shiny new feeder at the bird food shop.  I put it out and waited for visitors.

goldfinch on new feeder

A goldfinch was among the first but it was soon joined by a chaffinch…

chaffinch approaching new feeder

…a blue tit…

blue tit on new feeder

…another chaffinch….

another chaffinch and the new feeder

…and another blue tit…

blue tit coming to new feeder

…and another chaffinch!

flying chaffinch at new feeder

It had passed the bird magnet test.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s admin took some time and when she had finished, I settled down to do some admin of my own for the Archive Group.

When I had finished, it was time for a cup of tea and we were joined by Mike Tinker who had kindly brought round some more liquid fertiliser from his wormery for the benefit of our garden.

The day had always been warm for the time of year and since it wasn’t raining, we went out to do a bit after gardening when Mike left.

I was looking around at one point and saw a green blob on the ground.  C;loser inspection showed that it was a fallen walnut and more inspection found many more fallen walnuts.  The walnuts don’t always contain much in the way of a kernel as we live too far to the north for reliable development but this year, after the warm summer, we may be luckier.

walnuts in the garden

I hope we will be as Mrs Tootlepedal likes walnuts a lot.

I noticed other things too.

Mrs Tootlepedal was keen for me to take a picture of the Virginia creeper on the fence as it is now at its best, even on a gloomy day like today…

vigini creeper

…and it tends to disappear very quickly once it is over.

We dead headed the dahlias but even they are beginning to show a little wear and tear.

sunny reggae dahlia

The rose mallows made a great show when they came out in July but they have faded away and now only one or two are left.

rose mallow

Two surprises were to be seen, one rather late – a fresh foxglove in the back of a bed…

late foxglove

…and one very early – a wallflower which has lost its internal clock altogether.

early wallflower

It shouldn’t have come out until next spring.

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to act as a volunteer front-of-house person at the Buccleuch Centre and after a while, I went along to buy a ticket and watch the show there.  It was a screening of a concert by Jonas Kaufmann, the celebrated tenor,

He is a wonderful singer and he was joined by a sensational mezzo soprano called Anita Rachvelishvili and they sang a selection from Cavalleria Rusticana (which I could take or leave) followed by numerous well known Italian songs which were absolutely delightful.

Anita Rachvelishvili’s ability to switch from a full blown operatic style to a much more intimate style for the songs and excel at both bowled our audience over and as Jonas is a great treat whatever he sings, we had a really good evening.  What put the icing on the concert for me was that the members of the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, who were providing the accompaniment, seemed to be enjoying the music as much as the audience.

We are promised heavy wind and rain from our first named storm of the autumn tomorrow so we are keeping our fingers crossed that the reality turns out to be not as bad as the warning.

“Much of Scotland is due to be battered by high winds and heavy rain as the first named storm of the season sweeps in. The Met Office has issued weather warnings and said Storm Ali could bring winds of 80mph and a danger to life from flying debris. An amber warning is in place for large parts of the country between 08:00 and 17:00 on Wednesday. Travel disruption and huge waves in coastal areas are also expected.”

The storm is named after Mrs Tootlepedal so it might well be quite impressive.

Meantime, the flying bird of the day is a tiny coal tit who will have to keep out of harm’s way tomorrow.

flying coal tit

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She took it a week ago at the height of the hot weather in London and it shows a fine crop of green algae on the canal.

Canal basin, King's Place

The mornings are getting chillier now and I had to wait for a bit until the thermometer hit 10°C, which I thought was warm enough to start cycling.

It was an excellent day for a pedal with sunshine and clouds giving a perfect temperature and with a only a light wind which wasn’t a nuisance at all.

It might have been a day for a long ride if I hadn’t had something to do in the early afternoon.   With that in mind, I stuck to the main roads and cycled down to my favourite bench in Newtown and back again.   I was going to go on a more interesting route but I found that the Cumbria Highway Authority had just spent a lot of money resurfacing some of the bumpiest bits of the road south of Longtown so I thought that it would be rude not to go and try the new surfaces out.

They were very smooth and any cyclists will know just what a treat it is to cycle on a really smooth surface.

I was concentrating really hard on pedalling and forgot to take any pictures until I reached the thirty mile mark on my way home.  This is the broad sweep of the Esk…

River Esk at Longtown

…but the real reason that I stopped was to take a picture of this fine bunch of machines in a lay-by.

road menders vehicles

They are going to smooth out another bumpy section of the main road next week, this time to the north of Longtown.

With light traffic and winds and lots of good surfaces, I was able to average over 15 mph for my 40 miles, a very rare thing these days.  My new bike, although admirable in every way, is a little heavier than my old bike and thus a little slower.  I have done 1500 miles on it now and have no complaints about the extra weight as this comes with increased stability and comfort, important elements for the older cyclist.

I had time for a very quick look round the garden….

dahlias growing well

The dahlias are enjoying the weather a lot.

white sweet peas

Paper white sweet peas.

Mrs Tootlepedal occasionally buys gardening magazines and sometimes they have free packets of seed taped to the cover.  She has done very well out of two of these lately as the lilies were free…

big white lilies

…and so were the zinnias.

zinnia

After a quick lunch and a shower, I was ready for the next item on the calendar, an organ recital in the Parish Church in aid of the organ restoration fund.

As we got to the church, I looked back and saw the Kirk Brig looking decidedly overgrown.

kirk brig

The Wauchope Water is down there somewhere.

Once inside the church, I admired the bright colours in the stained glass windows…

Kirk window

…in front of which a former congregation in their wisdom erected a large sounding board above the pulpit.  This ruins the view of the window from the body of the church and I am told that there are plans to remove it but to place it elsewhere in the church as many parishioners like its ornamental carving a lot.  The minister is ‘miked up’ these days so the need for a sounding board has gone anyway.

The organ recital, given by Dr John Kitchen, a very competent organist from Edinburgh,  was excellent.  He had a delightful touch and was able to make the organ sound very musical to my ears, not something that every organist can manage.

Dr Kitchen is the official Edinburgh City Organist and gives many recitals in the Usher Hall there so he had no difficulty in preparing a varied and interesting programme for us.

It was a still a fine day when we got home and Mrs Tootlepedal sat on the new bench with a fellow soprano from the church choir who had been at the recital  and considered the joys of gardening.

sopranos

They couldn’t help noticing a pair of butterflies making sure that there would more butterflies available in times to come.

white butterflies mating

I had a look on the buddleia….

another peacock butterfly

…but there was a disappointing turn out of coloured butterflies with just a couple of peacocks, with no small tortoiseshell, painted ladies or red admirals to be seen.  It is looking as though it is going to be a very poor year for coloured butterflies after all.

And although there are quite a few bees about…

lamium

…other insects are in very short supply with many less hoverflies about than I would expect and no clouds of small flying insects in the sunny evenings.

I thought that I ought to take a bit of action after a slow day yesterday so I mowed and edged the middle lawn, then did the same to the front lawn and while I was in the mood, I trimmed a couple of the box balls on the edge of the front lawn as well.

After a short sit down, I went out and mowed the greenhouse grass and the drying green.

I paused long enough to admire the clematis on the fence…

fence clematis

…and then went inside to enjoy a delicious meal made by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Luckily, there was a great deal of interesting athletics on the television in the evening so I refrained from any more activity.

There was no opportunity amid all this fun to set up the camera to watch the birds so the flying bird of the day is a close look at the Ooh La La clematis.

clematis centre

 

 

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