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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

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

concert venue

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

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

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

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

busy feeder

There was even some queuing going on.

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

siskins

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

stately siskin

Pigeons approached on foot, looking very serious….

pigeon

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

flying goldfinch

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

blackbird

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

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

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

between the waters

…but I spent three hours under blue skies.

It was grand day for cycling….

tree between the waters

….with interesting trees and quiet roads.

Springkell

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

cycle selfie

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

Longtown windmills

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

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

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

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

meeting of the waters

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

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

snowdrop

… early daffodils are looking promising…

daff

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

lawn imptovements

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

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

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

That all seemed pretty fair when I listened to them.

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

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

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

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  While we were in Birmingham, he was paying a visit to Arran.

arran

We are very pleased to be back home after the excitements of the weekend in Birmingham and I was also pleased to find that our internet is working even though our phone is still on the blink.  You might think that since the phone and the internet come down the same wire, then if one is off then the other would be too. It turns out, an engineer told me, that the internet needs only one wire while the phone requires two so it is possible to have a fault on the phone and not on the internet.

If the weather  was pleased to see us back, it wasn’t showing it and we had a really miserable wet and windy day.

The temperature had risen and the snow was melting fast with the result that our rivers were pretty full when I went for a look in the morning.

river esk in flood

I hurried back indoors.

It was too gloomy for bird watching and there weren’t many birds to watch…

_DSC0877

…so I entertained Sandy to a cup of coffee and we put a parish magazine, which he had scanned and edited, onto the Archive website.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help with lunches at the Buccleuch Centre and I made a pot of soup for our lunch.  And then we had a snooze, being a bit tired after all the fun.

I woke up for long enough to have a quick stretch of the legs when the rain stopped for a while.

It was too gloomy to take many pictures but the river was still high.

river esk in floodP1060830P1060832river esk in flood

It started to rain just as I got home and we didn’t go out again.

Between bad weather and niggling ailments, my cycling mileage for the past three months has been appalling and it doesn’t look as though things are going to get any better soon.

I got a gloomy flying bird to match the day.

chaffinch

Our Weekend Trip

For those interested, I append a (relatively) brief illustrated narrative of our trip to Birmingham.  It was organised and paid for by our three children to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary (which is actually tomorrow).  It came as a very pleasant surprise to us and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

As readers will know, we have been suffering from the after effects of a persistent bug and it was touch and go whether we would be fit enough for the trip but we just made it and it was a tribute to the whole outing that we felt better, if tired, when we got home than when we set out.  It was a real holiday.

We did our best to have a good time and went off to the pictures to see The Post at the cinema on Saturday evening when we arrived in Birmingham.

Then when we woke up on Sunday morning, we had planned to have an excursion but the conditions were against us.

birmingham

It was cold, the roads and paths were very slippery and the snow was of the extremely soggy variety so we soon gave up and retired to our comfortable hotel for the rest of the day as the snow turned to heavy rain.

In the early evening, we braved the rain and visited the Arena…

birmingham

…where the children had treated us to a pre show meal before  we joined 10,000 other people in the hall to enjoy the Strictly Come Dancing tour.  Our seats were so good that I didn’t have to look at the big screens once during the evening and we could look at the dancers without being pestered by the endless cuts and twirls which the director thinks necessary during the TV shows.  The dancing was very good.

The next morning, the weather had relented….

P1060761

…and our hotel was positively gleaming in the sunshine.  We have our own interests so we walked up to the centre of the city to leave our bags at the station and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal explored the world of retail, I walked back to the canal, taking in some sights on the way.

P1060762P1060763birminghambirmingham

The canals run right through the centre of the town…

birmingham canal

…and I went under one before coming back up onto the tow path and looking across at our hotel looming over the Gas Street basin.

birmingham canal

The canal runs under the street beside the hotel….

birmingham canal

…passes the arena where we had seen Strictly….

P1060778

…and then heads off towards Wolverhampton.  This was the Main Canal and it is very broad and handsome.

I walked down the canal and crossed the bridge that you can see in the picture below…

P1060785

…admiring the view from the bridge,,,,

birmingham canal

…and then walked back up the other side and into the centre of town.

birmingham canal

Here, I left the Main Canal and followed the Birmingham and Fazely Canal which immediately plunges down a flight of locks, called the Farmers Bridge flight.

birmingham canal

It is a marked contrast to the Main Canal as it is very narrow and plunges down between cliffs of buildings and sometimes, even goes under them.

birmingham canal

I could have spent all day exploring the canals but I had arranged to meet Mrs Tootlepedal at the shops and I caught her just before she had bought the entire stock of a celebrated store.

She likes a canal trip so we walked back down to the canal and embarked on a short boat trip along parts of the canals where I had walked earlier.

P1060815

We had a cheery chap from Liverpool as company….

P1060817

…and a canal narrowboat dweller as our captain.

After our voyage, we enjoyed lunch at a canal side cafe and then headed back up to the town centre to visit the museum and art gallery there.

We were both happy as I saw a couple of Lowrys…

Lowry

…and Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed peering at the Staffordshire Hoard of gold and silver objects from Anglo Saxon times.

staffordshire hoard

It had a nice ceiling too.

birmingham

We were feeling a bit weary by now so we settled down to have a cup of tea and read the paper in the cafe in Waterstone’s until it was time to head to the station, pick up our cases and catch the train home.

The car was still in the station car park when we got to Carlisle (hooray) and after paying a king’s ransom to get it out, we drove home and relaxed after a wonderful treat.

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone’s niece Hilary.  It is of an Egyptian Vulture.  It was taken at Zurich Zoo on Saturday and makes Mr Grumpy look like a little ray of sunshine.

It is of an Egyptian Vulture. Taken at Zurich Zoo on Saturday.

Little rays of sunshine were in short supply here today as this was the view when we got up.

snowy garden

It wasn’t even good quality snow, just a soggy flump which turned to slush as it fell.

wet snow

It snowed quite a lot more during the day without adding to the sum total of snow on the ground at all.

Sandy came round for coffee as we are going to give an illustrated talk about the Archive Group in Canonbie tomorrow and we had to settle the details.  After he left, I walked through the slush up to the Archive Centre and made some copies of a DVD of the History of the Mills and Railway in Langholm.  We are going to show the DVD tomorrow and with luck, we might sell a copy or two for funds.

I had a look at the birds when I got back but things were still pretty gloomy.

goldfinch

The snow hadn’t stopped birds arriving but there weren’t very many.

busy feeder snow

I was pleased to see a couple of greenfinches.

greenfinches

After lunch, there was a moment when the sun came out so I put on my wellies and went for a short walk.

Whita snow

The hills looked better with a hint of sun on them…

snowy monument

…and if I had been feeling better, I would have rushed up to the monument while the going was good.

As it was, the recovery is still a work in progress so I settled for a very slow walk at a low level, taking my puffer before I set out and creeping up the only hill on my route.

Although it was very slushy rather than crisp, there was still a scenic view or two to be had.

Langholm Bridge snow

Sadly the sun didn’t make much of an effort and it soon clouded over.

Snowy scene

But snow brightens things up.

Ewesbank stream

It was an odd sort of walk.  There were fairly snowy bits….

Pathhead path

…with extensively snowy views to the left…

snowy whita

…but when I turned the corner at the end of the field, there was hardly a flake of snow to be seen.

path along top of woods

I was glad to have the shelter of the trees for the rest of my walk as it started to snow again and the wind got up so I would have been thoroughly wet if i had been in the open.

As it was, I kept my head down, admired a striking jelly fungus in the heart of the wood….

jelly fungus

…and got home, reasonably dry and content.

Even a short walk is lot to take on at the moment and I found myself fast asleep in front of the telly for most of the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening, I had to decide whether I was fit enough to sit through a live screening of Rigoletto from Covent Garden at the Buccleuch Centre.  Mrs Tootlepedal was not up for a night out yet so I hummed and hawed about going and in the end, at the very last moment, decided that it might be worth the trouble.

I make a lot of decisions of variable quality but this was one of the very best that I have made recently.

The first scene in this production is appalling, treating the audience as if they are incapable of any imagination and showing the actors no respect at all but thereafter, the brooding setting and singing of Dimitri Platanias as Rigoletto and Lucy Crowe as Gilda transformed it into an evening of wonder and emotional satisfaction for me.

And when I came out, the town was carpeted with a fresh blanket of crisp white snow.

Henry Street in snow

The flying bird of the day was a tricky proposition and the only one that I could find was hiding.

busy feeder snow

 

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Today’s guest picture is the second portrait of Tony’s dogs by Tash.  It looks as though the dogs had had a New Year’s splash even if Tony hadn’t.

Tony's dog

We were promised better weather today and we got it but it took some time to arrive as we were covered in mist for most of the morning.

I had an early start as I had to take our car to the garage.  It had been sending us intermittent signals of distress through the dashboard display recently.  Intermittent distress signals can be very annoying as they always disappear as soon as you take a car to the garage and that is what happened on this occasion.  The garage’s diagnostic machine though is very smart and can tell what a car was thinking yesterday as well as today so the garage was confident that they could get to the bottom of the trouble.

I walked home and had breakfast and then there was a pause in the day as I waited for the mist to go.  It was too thick for safe cycling and at 2°C, it was a bit chilly anyway.

This gave me a chance to do a tricky crossword and occasionally look out of the window.

The robin was upset by being substituted by a chaffinch in a recent post so it made sure I got its best side today.

robin

The other birds weren’t posing.  They were too busy trying to get at the seed.

busy feeder

Although the picture is not of good quality, I liked this shot of a siskin sizing up its chances of knocking a goldfinch off a perch.

siskin

The mist thinned enough after coffee for me to put my cycling gear on and get the fairly speedy bike out.  Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do some gardening and after putting away some bread and marmalade and a banana as fuel, I went off up the road, hoping that the mist would clear.

It took its time and while I was going along the valley bottom, things looked a bit gloomy…

Mist over the wauchope

…but as soon as I turned up into the hills, things brightened up and I got above the mist.

Misty windmills

Soon, I could look back and see the mist lying along the Wauchope valley that I had just cycled through.  It looked denser from above than it did when i was in it.

Mist in wauchope valley

Once I got over the hill and looked down into the Esk valley, more mist was to be seen.

Mist in Esk valley

And the windmills at Gretna were up to their knees in it.

Misty windmills gretna

Looking across from Tarcoon, Whita Hill was an island in a sea of mist…

Misty Whita from tarcoon

…and looking ahead to where I was going, a solid bank of mist lying along the Esk made it look as though there might be dangerous conditions for cyclists when I got down to the river.

Mist from tarcoon

But once again, the mist wasn’t as bad when I was in it as it looked from above and although my favourite trees at Grainstonehead  had a misty background….

Misty trees grainstonehead

…by the time that I had gone a couple of miles further, the mist had gone and the river was bathed in sunshine.

Esk at Byreburnfoot

As was the tower at the Hollows…..

Hollows Tower

…and the Ewes valley when I had cycled through the town and out of the other side.

Ewes valley

Having cycled a bit along all our three rivers, I felt that it was time to give my ice cold feet a break and head for home and a bit of warmth.  It was still only a meagre 3°C in spite of the sunshine.

When I got back, I had a look at Mrs Tootlepedal’s new path….

garden path

…and went in for a late lunch, pretty happy with 26 miles on such a chilly day.

Mrs Tootlepedal had got some useful gardening in while I was out.

I kept an eye on the birds while I had my lunch.

I could see seven blackbirds round the feeder at one time but couldn’t get them all in one shot so I took some individuals.

blackbird

One popped up onto a hedge to make things easier for me.

blackbird

The goldfinches had given up fighting and were concentrating on eating.

goldfinch eating

goldfinch

While Mrs Tootlepedal went and fetched the car from the garage (it got a clean bill of health), I had time for a shower and some singing practice and then Mike and Alison came round for their regular Friday visit.  They usually come in the evening but once again, we had something to do in the evening so an afternoon visit with music, conversation, tea and shortbread was arranged instead.  All four were very enjoyable.

Making music in the home is always a pleasure but in the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre and got real musical joy in spades.

It was the annual visit to the Buccleuch Centre of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for their New Year Viennese Gala.   We are incredibly lucky to get this treat on our doorstep as the Buccleuch Centre concert is their only appearance in the whole of the  south of Scotland, the other three appearances on this tour being in Dunfermline, Inverness and Stirling.

They don’t stint either, bringing a 60 piece orchestra to play a programme designed to bring joy to the hearts of a full house.

The orchestra’s players are not particularly fond of playing in the Buccleuch Centre because they find the acoustic dry and don’t get the feedback that they would wish but I love listening to an orchestra here because of the superb clarity of the music.  Sometimes a big orchestra just makes a big noise but you can hear every instrument in its place here and the excitement of having a 60 piece orchestra playing only a few yards away from you is immense.

As an ex schoolboy viola player myself, I took a particular interest in the viola players in the Roses from the South, a piece we played with our school orchestra.  It seems a bit extravagant in a way to bring a bunch of talented players down and then just make them go “rest, bom, bom” on the same note for bars on end.  But that’s orchestral music for you and it was wonderful to listen them all.

The flying bird of the day is a crowd.

busy feeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  It was sent to him by the owner of a cottage in Wales where Mike and Alison often spend a week on holiday (but not when it is as snowy as this).

Highbrook snow 2017

The deep snow in Wales is a reminder of how lightly we in Langholm have been touched by winter so far this year.

It was another dry and occasionally sunny day here today but once again the thermometer only just crept over zero and any chance of gardening or cycling remains in the future.

Still, the chilly weather gives me a good excuse for getting up late and idling about.  I did fill the bird feeders and look out of the window.

The blackbirds were very prominent again today.  I thought this one looked rather shifty as it searched for seed in the tray under the feeder.

blackbird

There was a discussion on the radio about Christmas round robins but I don’t think they had this one in mind.

robin

There were a lot of goldfinches flying in and throwing their weight about…..

goldfinch and chaffinch

…and generally looking appalled at the behaviour of lesser breeds.

goldfinches and siskin

I was pleased to see a sparrow on the feeder.  Although there are a lot of sparrows in our area, they don’t seem to like sharing our feeder with finches.

sparrow

Judging by what other people who  feed birds  have told me, there must be ‘sparrow gardens’ and finch gardens’.

 

 

After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to go for a walk and we went carefully in case of ice but found the going good in general.

The scene was frosty again….

Meeting of the waters

…but with none of the sparkle brought by a good hoar frost.  There were some examples…

frozen holly

…but they were few and far between.

As we crossed the Sawmill Brig, I recorded the fact that the new stones built into the parapet after the damage caused by a falling tree, are already showing an admirable tendency to provided a home for lichen.

lichen on sawmill brig

I was glad that Mrs Tootlepedal had come on the walk as her sharp eyes spotted some hair ice on a branch in a ditch.  I debated the wisdom of clambering into the ditch for a close up but decided to walk on.

Avoiding the ditch was a sound idea because we saw lots more hair ice as we went along.

hair icehair ice

It looks as though it is made of threads but touch it and it melts in your hand as it is pure ice.

It wasn’t hard to spot as there was an example on a fallen twig or branch every fifty yards or so but we were bowled over when we saw this magnificent display cascading down the trunk of a rotten tree.

hair ice

Nearby, a patch of frozen fungus caught the ye.

frozen fungus

Although the tree branches are not covered in white, for some reason the local gates are very attractive to Jack Frost.

frozen gate

I was thinking of another walk after lunch but our neighbour Liz told us that she had a chimney sweep coming and we asked her to see if he would come across the road when he had finished with her chimneys and do ours before he went.

She did, he would and he did.  He was amazingly quick and efficient and left without leaving a speck of soot behind him.  We will see him again next year.

While I was waiting for him, I looked at the birds.

If the goldfinches are going to be as bossy as this one, you can see why sparrows might look for somewhere calmer.

goldfinch and chaffinch

We had a flying visit from some starlings but they only stayed for a few seconds before moving on.

starlings

When the sweep had gone, I lit a fire to celebrate and then  settled down to putting some music on the computer to practise as we are going to a competition in Manchester in February and it will be hard work again.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal was gainfully employed making potato and parsnip gnocchi for our tea.  Like the sticky toffee pudding, this was a first go for her and like the pudding yesterday, it was entirely successful so we had a very good evening meal of gnocchi and baked beans followed by a second helping of the sticky toffee pudding.  Once again, that banging noise you can hear is pampered billionaires banging their heads against the wall and wondering why they can’t eat as well as us.

In the evening, we went to our parish church to listen to a concert by Emily Smith, a very talented singer from Dumfriesshire with two friends to back her up on fiddle and guitar.  The trio were delightful and gave us a varied programme of carols, Christmas songs and a nice mix of her own and other writers’ world.

I may have remarked before that we are very fortunate to have constant treats in Langholm and with the community pantomime last night and this excellent professional performance tonight, any thoughts of cold, dark days have been put away for a while.

By chance, I managed to catch a flying chaffinch outlined against the frosty lawn and I was pleased to be able to use the shot as flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a black and white shot taken by our daughter Annie in Macao.

panda Macao

It was cool but just above freezing with the promise of sun to come when we woke up.

I took a rather surreal picture of the bird feeder while I was making a pot of coffee after breakfast.  A siskin looked as though some avant garde artist had glued its beak to the tube.

busy feeder

Today, being Friday contained a visit from Dropscone bearing treacle scones as a Friday should.  He was a bit subdued as he has been grappling with the bank that holds an account for which he is the treasurer.  Having waited 25 minutes on the phone last night, he had been unable to prove to the satisfaction of the operator that he really was who he is and so he was girding his loins to go into a real bank branch where they will actually recognise him on sight.  So much for the joys of the internet.

He hasn’t got long as the bank is intending to shut our local branch soon.

We were joined by Gavin who was delivering Christmas cards and when Gavin and Dropscone left, I had a look to see if the siskin had come unstuck.

It had.

The feeder was still in the shade but the sun had got to the plum tree…

chaffinch, siskin and goldfinch

…as had a number of finches.  A brisk and nippy north wind was ruffling the goldfinch’s feathers.

There were a lot of blackbirds about again.

blackbird

It takes time for the sun to creep round to the feeder itself…

chaffinch, siskin, goldfinch

…but this robin seemed quite happy in the shade.

robin

When the sun finally got to the feeder, it didn’t seem to improve the temper of the birds at all.

busy feeder

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal drove off to do some shopping and I went for a walk.

I was unable to truthfully say that there wasn’t a cloud in the sky by this time….

cloud over Arkleton

…because this one fluffy little devil hung about in an impertinent way.

Thanks to the sun and the underlying frost, it was a lovely day for a walk as long as you took a little care when you met an icy patch or two.

Whitshiels track

The sun picked out the views and the frost kept the ground firm enough to walk on without having to worry about boggy bits and wet feet.

tree

And, as always on a good day, the views were well worth looking at.  They never lose their appeal to me.  Today, there was a little distant snow to add variety.

Ewes valley

I walked up the track from Whitshiels and then crossed the Newcastleton road and walked along the track to Whita Well and continued along the front of Whita until I got to the stile at the wall.

My admiration for the people who built the walls up and down these unforgiving slopes is unbounded.

Whita wall

The light made even the winter landscape look gorgeous.

Whita

And far to the north, I could see some more serious snow.

view from whita

I passed a very striking set of hawthorn bushes as I went along the quarry track…

hawthorn

…and enjoyed this little dent in the smooth surface of the hill.

Whita

I could look down on the town below me and you can see how low the sun is in the sky with only a week to go to the winter solstice.

view from whita

It was 2pm when I took the picture above and already half the town is in the shadow of the hills.

But where the sun was still at work, the light was delightful.

_DSC0017

I took a new track down the hill back towards the town.  This was terra incognita for me but the track seemed well trodden…

view from whita

…and it led me to a broad ride through a wood just above the town …

Wood at Hallpath

…so my route was well chosen.

I came back into the town past the old south toll house….

 

South toll house

…having started my walk by leaving the town by going past the northern toll house.

By the time that I had got home, I had walked just under four miles and climbed about 214m, reaching a maximum height above sea level of 250m (having started at 80m) so you can see that I got really good value from a modest outlay of effort.

As we had arranged yesterday, Mike and Alison came round at 4 o’clock and while Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike put together Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden cultivator which had come back from a service and needed re-assembling, Alison and I played some music and then we came together to eat some drop scones that Mrs Tootlepedal had made and to drink a pot of tea.

We had played our music in the afternoon because in the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out to attend the community pantomime, Dick McWhittington, at the Buccleuch Centre.  The test of an amateur pantomime is whether the interval and the final curtain come before you have started to check your watch and this performance passed that test with flying colours.  It had good scenery, a large and enthusiastic cast, several good jokes and some charming moments.  Who could ask for anything more?

To round off a good day, Mrs Tootlepedal had made some sticky toffee pudding for our tea.  I have never eaten this popular dish before but Mrs Tootlepedal’s version was delicious and I hope that I will get the chance to try it again before too long.

I struggled to find a flying bird of the day in the sunshine and shade but I did catch a chaffinch in the end.

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Griffiths of Wilden Marsh who found the Avon at Stratford looking very beautiful on a recent chilly morning.

Untitled-1

Mrs Tootlepedal woke me up with a merry cry of,  “Come and look at the winter wonderland!”

It definitely was quite wintery when I looked at the garden out of an upstairs window….

snowy garden

…but I felt that the actual amount of snow to be seen on the hills….

Whita in winter

…fell a somewhat short of the official winter wonderland standard.

And although it stayed pretty cold all day, there was no snow to be seen on our hills at all by lunch time.

I might have seen more snow if I had gone for a drive to the north but we had our son Tony and his partner Marianne visiting and they had expressed a wish to go to Carlisle to visit the Christmas Market there so we drove south in brilliant sunshine instead.

The Carlisle Christmas Market was the second mild disappointment of the day, although we did find a stall selling cheese and honey so it wasn’t a complete write off.  We had a cup of coffee and a toasted tea cake in a cafe instead and after some very minor shopping, Mrs Tootlepedal and I headed for home while Tony and Marianne roamed the streets of Carlisle in search of adventure.

Marianne likes lentil soup so I made a pot of soup when I got home and while it was cooking, I looked out of the window.  No hawks today but plenty of birds.

goldfinch

A goldfinch tucks in

robin

A robin makes off

busy feeder

A goldfinch arrives at the top floor of a full feeder.

busy feeder

Another tries the ground floor with no success.

goldfinches

They kept trying….

feeder arguments

….and trying…

feeder fury

…and this led to some fun and games both on high and below.

goldfinch hanging on

The goldfinch at the bottom hung on upside down for quite a time before going off in disgust.

I had a bowl of the soup for my lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to the Parish Church to hear an organ and flute recital in aid of a fund to renovate the church organ.

The recital was give by Ross Luesher, a local lad who became the resident Organ Scholar at Glasgow University and has ended up working for a prestigious firm of organ restorers in  Holland.

He assured us that the organ, built by Henry Willis & Sons in 1893, was in urgent need of restoration but you would not have known it from listening to his skilful and nimble playing.

I was especially delighted that he had brought his partner, Liese Claesen with him as she is a wonderfully expressive flautist and played one of my favourite Handel Sonatas accompanied by Ross on the organ.  (It was the one in F)

Ross Luesher Liese Claesen

As well as playing, Ross told us a bit about the organ and at one point stood on his stool and reached up and removed one of the big pipes above the keyboard.  He then blew on it and produced a fine note to show that it was still working.  A restoration in the 1970s had taken the whole set of visible pipes out of action.  He hoped that they might be reinstated in the forthcoming restoration.

It is interesting that Liese, who was playing what in effect is a single 2ft organ stop could be easily heard playing above a machine with a thousand pipes.  And to me, at least, she was far more musical and lovely to listen than the machine, however delicately it was played by Ross.  Of course in Ross’s solo pieces, the organ was sometimes a lot louder than any flute could be and that is the point I suppose.

Tony and Marianne had come home by the time that we got back.  They had enjoyed some good snacks at the market on a second visit so they were quite happy and I was happy because they had enjoyed my lentil soup too.

We then sat down and watched a very unlikely rugby match in which Australia pressed the self destruct button in a manner which I had come to believe in recent years was the sole copyright of the Scottish Rugby Union.  It is not often that Scotland scores 50 points against a major test playing nation.  In fact it is so rare that in some strange way I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I should have, because it didn’t seem entirely authentic.  There is no satisfying some people.

In the evening, Tony, Marianne, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went out to the Douglas Hotel where we enjoyed a thoroughly good meal and a welcome drink.  That was the second treat of the day.

The flying bird of the day is not the cleanest picture that I took but I like the pattern on a goldfinch’s wings when they are spread out.

goldfinch

 

 

 

 

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