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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Since the queen has asked us all to pull together as a nation*, I am happy to use an English bird for today’s guest picture.  Venetia spotted this plump pigeon in her Somerset garden.

venetia's pigeon

We got a bit of a shock after a night when we had been woken up by heavy rain pounding on the roof to find the garden looking like this.

snowy garden

And it kept snowing and looked as though it might come to something.

snowy sedum

The birds obviously thought that action was required and the feeder was busy from the start.  If you look carefully you can see that three chaffinches are competing for a single perch.

busy feeder snow

Once again, a small flock of starlings perched on the very top of the walnut tree but they didn’t venture down into the garden.

starlings in the walnut tree

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a robin pecking a fat ball in the sheltered container that she has recently cleaned up.

robin in snow

Dropscone dropped in with some scones and news of his first committee meeting as captain of the golf club.  Nothing exciting happened at the meeting which is a good thing.

While we ate, sipped and chatted, the chaffinches continued to bicker outside and….

sparring chaffinches snow

…the snow came down heavily from time to time.

goldfinches in snow storm

After Dropscone left, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop over lunchtime and I walked up to the new Archive Centre base in the newspaper offices on the High Street and did some work.

The snow had stopped falling by this time so I was able to stop and enjoy the scenery on my way.

snowy trees by esk

My work in the newspaper offices consisted of photographing twenty nine articles from back numbers of the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser which are held in bound volumes there.  A correspondent has been going through the newspaper index on our website and he has found many references to his family.  He had found them been being born and dying, playing cricket, attending school concerts and school inspection days, doing a lot of fishing and on one occasion being found guilty of malicious damage  by foolishly pinging a pony with a catapult.  It was a full and varied selection which made my task more interesting.  Mrs Tootlepedal was a bit shocked by how much work we had been asked to do but for me it was a pleasure, as requests like this mean that we are not doing our archiving work in vain.

As I walked home, it was obvious that not only had it stopped snowing but that it had started thawing…

 

melting snow langholm bridge

…and there was no danger of slipping as I went.

Mrs Tootlepedal got home from a very busy session of waiting at table in the coffee shop and almost immediately rushed off to catch the bus to Carlisle where she had arranged to go to the pictures with two friends from the Carlisle choir.  I had hoped to drive her down as time was tight but the car had not come back from the garage.

While she was gone, I processed the 29 newspaper images and emailed them off to my correspondent.  Just as I was finishing, Mike Tinker came round and very kindly offered to drive me up to the garage so that I could collect our car.  It had passed its test with a couple of minor grumbles about this and that so I drove it home.

And then, because the day seemed quite promising by this time and I had been sitting around long enough, I went for a little drive out of the town on the well cleared main road to have a look around.

The skies were clearing….

warbla in snow from terrona

…but once again, hills seemed to be attracting their own personalised clouds.

sloud on snowy hill

I drove back through the town and out again on the minor road towards Bentpath.  It was by no means clear of snow, ice and slush so I didn’t go far but parked the car at the quarry and had a look around.

I thought that I might get a better views if I scrambled up a small hill beside the road and as I had had the forethought to bring my wellies and walking poles, I did just that.

This was the view up the valley.

looking down road from quarry

Things looked promising as I neared my mini summit and I bustled along to get there before the hint of sunshine disappeared.

hill above quarry pedens view

This was the view back down towards Langholm

sunlit snow evening

I waited for a while and soon Whita was bathed in warm pink.

sunlit snowy whita

To the west, there was a dramatic cloudscape.

dramatic cloudscape

I could see that Whita was generating its own cloud cover and as it was getting quite chilly, I went back down the hill to the car and…

sun on snowy warbla

…on my way, I saw some interesting pitted track marks in the snow and wondered for a moment if a gang of tiny animals had been about.  Looking up though, I found the cause was more prosaic, just melting snow from the power line.

drips from wires

It was back to freezing by the time that I got in and I was pleased to have a snack and warm up.

The bus brought Mrs Tootlepedal safely back from Carlisle.  She had enjoyed the film, Collete and had even had time to buy a prawn sandwich to eat on the bus home so she had had a good outing.

Although there were a lot of birds about, I didn’t have much time to look at them and this rather vague chaffinch is the best that I have for flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch snow

*Note:  I don’t think that the English politicians have been paying attention to the Queen’s request as when it came to considering a motion in Parliament this evening asking the government to pay some attention to the needs and wishes of Scotland and Wales while conducting their brexit business, the Conservatives voted against it en bloc and the Labour party abstained.

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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.

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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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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony, proving that he can take in the bigger picture but not miss interesting detail at the same time.

tony's stone

Encouraged by the splendid picture of a loaf bread which our daughter Annie sent us, I checked the recipe which she had also sent me and decided that it might be within my capabilities to make a similar loaf.   It has an interesting method requiring no kneading at all and cooking in a Dutch oven so it was a journey into the unknown for me.

The result was pretty good for a first go and I would have had a picture for you if half of it hadn’t mysteriously disappeared already.  I can report that as it is made from what is virtually a batter rather than a stiff dough, it tastes much like a crusty crumpet and is very delicious, especially when it is still warm.  I will have another go.

I had plenty of time to look at birds this morning while I was cooking and for once, there were plenty of birds to look at…

busy feeder

…including another visit from our resident robin.

robin on chair

I liked these two goldfinches keeping a communal eye out…

two contrary goldfinches

..perhaps checking for siskins, one or two of which made a welcome re-appearance.

siskin

I did think of going for a cycle ride while the mixture was rising but a rather gloomy forecast persuaded me that a walk was a better option so I went along to check out the Becks wood.

It was reasonably warm but grey and windy so I resolved to try a few black and whites on my way.

bw bench

I thought that this old tree stump, entirely given over to moss deserved the full colour treatment….

moss covered stump

…as did this elegantly gesturing tree…

expressive tree

…but an old shack often looks better in monochrome.

shed bw

In among the hundreds of new trees in tubes in the recently felled Becks wood are some rather weedy looking survivors of the cull.  This one looked as though it was bending down to greet the newcomers.

bending tree bw

The wood has been thoroughly cleared of felled trees and brashings and the scale of the new planting is impressive.  Although some locals mourn the loss of the commercial conifer plantation, I for one look forward to the new deciduous wood and enjoy the much improved views in the meantime.

view down becks burn

I went through the wood, down the road and across the Auld Stane Brig before climbing up the lower slopes of Warbla on the far side of the valley.  I kept an eye out for interesting stones and was much struck by this one with lichens on it nearly as decorative as a Maori tattoo.

warbla stane with lichen

An old tree trunk posed for a picture.

rotting log

I had thought of taking the track to the top of the hill but when I looked around, I could see low clouds coming in from all sides…

mist coming down

… so I took a more direct route home through the Kernigal wood and along the Stubholm track..

bw wood walk

…before dropping down into the park and passing a favourite wall.

moss on wall

When I got back to our house, the snowdrops on the bank of the dam were out…

dam snowdrops flourishing

…as was much of the moss on the middle lawn which had been pecked by jackdaws…

lawn pecking

…and Mrs Tootlepedal who had gone off to an Embroiderers’ Guild meeting.

My timing was good as it started to drizzle as I got home and it kept it up for the rest of the day.

Left to myself, I baked the bread, did the crossword and settled down to trying to learn a Carlisle Choir song off by heart.  This was a thankless task because as soon as I had mastered one phrase, I found that I had forgotten the previous one.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and in the evening, we went off to the Buccleuch Centre for one of the highlights of its annual programme.   Fresh from touring China and playing in Inverness, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, with 60 players, had come to play their Viennese New Year’s concert to a full house.  I cannot speak too highly of the privilege it is for us to get a full scale symphony orchestra playing in our town of 2500 inhabitants.  We sit so close to the orchestra that the experience is absolutely thrilling and the slightly dry acoustic, which the players find hard work, means that the audience can appreciate every note that is played by every instrument.

The conductor even told several very amusing jokes.

A grand night out in every way.

As we have a full singing day tomorrow, I am expecting the weather to take turn for the better.

Although there were a lot of birds, poor light made finding a good flying bird of the day hard work and this was the best that I managed.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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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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