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Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s African odyssey.  She is putting a full account of the trip on her blog which can be found here.

hippos,

Yesterday’s rest had improved my foot a little but as there is still some way to go, I had another day where I didn’t venture out of house or garden on foot until well into the evening.  I did pay two visits to shops, pedalling very sedately on my slow bike.

It was warm enough outside for Mrs Tootlepedal to get some useful gardening in.  My role was limited to sporadic supervision though I helped to lift up the little bridge over our pond.  It turned out to be acting not just as a bridge but as a home  from home for a pair of frogs too.

two frogs

I don’t know who was more surprised, them or us.

We lifted the bridge to see if we could spot a leak in the pond liner as our pond had mysteriously and suddenly gone down a lot..

empty pond

It had been absolutely full two days ago.  We filled it up and will look anxiously tomorrow to see whether it has gone down again.

I wandered around the garden but as it was a damp and misty day, there wasn’t a lot to see except the  inevitable moss which is taking over the world…

moss elder

…and any amount of rather unusual raindrop patterns on leaves…

another leaf with raindrops

…in every corner…

lupin with raindrops

…of the flower beds…

leaf with raindrops

….and on euphorbia flowers.

euphorbia with raindrops

The forsythia was  doing its best to brighten things up…

forsythia

…and pulmonarias are trying to help too.

pulmonaria

I spent most of the day indoors, killing time by doing this and that and occasionally peering through the gloom at the bird feeders.

The siskins were thoroughly at home today…

four siskins

…although they had to fight off the attentions of chaffinches….

siskin under pressure from chaffinch

…and goldfinches…

siskin under pressure from goldfinch

…not to mention other siskins.

siskin under pressure from siskin

The main business of the day was a visit to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening to see the Langholm Operatic and Dramatic Society’s production of My Fair Lady.

You always hope when you go to see a production involving friends that you are going to be able to look them in the eye afterwards and say well done without feeling shifty.  This show amply fulfilled that hope with a crisp production, good acting, excellent stage crew work and some really first class singing without a single weak member of the cast or chorus.   The show itself is one of my favourite musicals, with a good story, some very witty dialogue and a fistful of memorable tunes.  Time in the auditorium passed in the twinkling of an eye.

I am really beginning to feel the lack of exercise so I fear that I will have to put in some time on the bike to nowhere in the garage starting from tomorrow before I forget how to pedal altogether.

It wasn’t a good day for taking pictures of flying birds as the mist never lifted from the hills so I have put in two mediocre efforts, neither of which are chaffinches.

flying siskinflying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia who got to see the wonderful Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, better known perhaps as the Victoria Falls, on her African trip.

Victoria Falls

Our spell of very poor cycling and photographing weather continued with yet more rain, accompanied by a chilly wind today to make matters worse.  We had had a clear spell but as it had been over night, all it gave us was an early morning frost and then it went away.

Since it was actually Susan’s birthday today, we pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.

susan's birthday

It could hardly have been grander.

Sadly, the birthday girl didn’t stay long as she had arranged to meet my brother and one of my other sisters in Derby for another celebratory meal so Mrs Tootlepedal took her off to catch the train south from Carlisle.

I stayed at home as I had had enough driving yesterday and went up to theArchive Centre base to put a new ink cartridge in our printer.  To my relief, I had ordered the correct one and the printer worked.

When I got home, I watched the birds for a bit.

The feeder is going down very steadily at the moment and needs to be filled at least once a day.  I put this down to the siskins who are regular visitors and keen eaters…

four siskins

…and keen arguers too.

siskins attack each other

There are still plenty of chaffinches ready to make a dash for the feeder when the siskins go off.

pair of incoming chaffinches

I did go out for a walk round the garden but it was too wet and windy to be fun.

daffodil in wet

I made some soup for my lunch and settled down to a quiet afternoon of doing the crossword and putting music on to the computer.

I did look out of the window at one point and I saw two partridges in the garden (right under the pear tree) so I went out to try to get a picture, but they sloped off before I could shoot them.

Luckily for me, one turned up later just outside the kitchen window and…

partridge head turned

…gave me a hard stare and portrait pose.

partridge

While I was looking at the partridge, I noticed a blackbird so I took a gloomy shot just to record that it had been there….

blackbird

…and then a sparrow popped up too.

sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely, having visited a garden centre where she made many judicious purchases, including a tiny plant just for me. I hope to show pictures of its development if I can mange to keep it alive.

It is an argyranthemum.

Argyranthemum

I have put it in a pot and watered it and it hasn’t died yet.  A good start, I think.

In the evening we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a performance by an enterprising troupe of Japanese style drummers, Mugenkyo Taiko, who are based in southern Scotland, not far from us.  We have seen them before and enjoyed them so we were in optimistic mood as we settled down for the concert.

We were not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.   I had a minor grump as they brought fewer drummers with them than before, and so there was more talking this time to allow them to recover between numbers.   The grump was only because, if offered a choice, I would much prefer to hear a Taiko drummer drumming than hear him or her talking.  Still the chat was educational so I shouldn’t grumble.

For those who are interested to find out what a Japanese style drumming group are doing in Scotland, here is a link to their website.

There were five drummers tonight and when they were all busy at the same time knocking six bells out of their instruments, it made a powerful and moving sound.

A stately chaffinch outshone the siskins when it came to the choice of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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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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