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Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

A helping hand

Today’s guest picture comes from son Tony who has been shooting at the moon with his new camera.  Unfortunately the copy that he sent me is undersized but it still looks good.

minimoon

Mrs Tootlepedal is taking the colour pattern for her crochet blanket from a website which posts the design for the next fifteen rows each week so she was pleased to have finished this week’s ration before the next lot came on line.

sdr

She will need to grow bigger arms for next week’s shot.

There is not much in the way of a post today as we got up well before dawn to got to Edinburgh to try to be of assistance to Matilda’s father and mother as they took the final steps in moving house today.  Their new house is not yet ready so they had a complicated scheme of putting some things in store and taking some things to a flat where they are camping until the new house is ready.

This meant a lot of filling of boxes and trips in the car to the store and the flat and part of our duties was to keep Matilda entertained while this was going on.

We went to a cafe for beans on toast and then armed warfare broke out.

Matilda ready for battle….

dav

…and grandpa ready to resist.

burst

It was all go out there.

burst

Mrs Tootlepedal was the official, war correspondent who took the pictures.

Then Matilda went to nursery and we helped her parents pack, tidy and clean before we had the privilege of collecting Matilda from nursery and bringing her home.

Mrs Tootlepedal did great work on fridge defrosting and cleaning while I played Pelmanism and snap with Matilda as the work went on.  We were using a pack of cats and kittens cards for our game and I made the acquaintance of the Maine Coon, a cat that I had never heard of but which I find really does exist.

We all had fun and in the end there was only one carload left to go by the time that we had to leave to catch our train home.

We arrived home nearly 15 hours after we had left, tired but satisfied.

No chance of a flying bird at all.

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who visited National Maritime Museum, Greenwich to look at their new Polar gallery.

maritime museum

We kept the cold weather today but it came with a full covering of clouds so there were no glorious views to be had when I went for a morning walk.

I decided to check out a track that has been used for forestry work to see if if it was still walkable.  It turned out to be not too bad at all…

track from whitshiles

…and the woods beside the bottom part of the track hadn’t been felled.  When I came to the felled area….

felled wood at hillhad

…it was far enough away not to provide me with any problems.

I enjoyed a couple of bare trees as I climbed the hill.

bare tree above whitshiels (2)

bare tree above whitshiels

…and three of the pines which the tree fellers have left.  I admire the skill with which they clear an area leaving just a few selected trees still standing.

three pine trees

I was very surprised to see fresh molehills by the road when I got to it as the soil must be pretty thin and the it was hardened by frost as well as you can see from the icy moss nearby.

molehill and frozen moss

The tree felling brings all sorts of different views into play and I liked the wall snaking along the top of the little valley.  It has always been there of course, but with a solid background of uniform conifers, it wasn’t nearly so noticeable.

wall by felled wood

This big bridge for a little conduit has also come out of the gloom.

culvert bridge at donks quarry

The steep banks of the little valley don’t seem to have been a problem for either the original tree planters of the fellers.  I hope that the area will be replanted with deciduous trees in the weeks to come.

 

felling at hillhead

I left the road and walked across the lower slopes of Whita, passing these trees…

two bare trees

…and several flourishing gorse bushes…

three gorse bushes

…until I got to the golf course where I came upon three hardy golfers driving off the third tee.

january golfers

When I got home, I had time for a quick glance at the chaffinches…

two chaffinches

…who were out in slightly increased numbers today…

three chaffinches

…before it was time to drive off to Lockerbie and catch the train to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

In a very upsetting reversal of the natural order of things, not only was the train on time but there were plenty of seats for everyone.  As the fare had gone up 25p this week, perhaps the railway company was taking customer satisfaction into account for once.

We had a very nice time playing with Matilda followed by a meal of pasta with a puttanesca sauce provided by Alistair, Matilda’s dad.

It was a calm evening so we walked back through the streets to the station and caught another punctual train home.

The light was very grey in the morning but there was just enough to catch a flying chaffinch of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Matilda’s father, Al.  He took her, her mother and some of her Christmas guests to see the light show at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens where they entered the cathedral of light.

cathedral of light

There was not much light of any sort in Langholm this morning when I set out after breakfast for a relatively early bike ride.  It was warm (8°C) but grey and although I could just see my favourite tree when I went over the hill at the Bloch…

misty tree at bloch

…I couldn’t see much at all if I looked at the other side of the road.

no view at Bloch

Under the circumstances, I kept my camera in my pocket for the rest of the trip and concentrated on trying to get my legs to be more co-operative.  They were in a bolshie mood though and I couldn’t even get my average up to 13 mph.

All the same, I was very pleased to be cycling on a relatively warm and quiet day in December so I wasn’t grumbling.

I was a bit annoyed though when the sun came out not long after I got home.

The chaffinches seemed pleased.

busy chaffinches

cheerful chaffinch

But once again there weren’t many of them about and those that did come, didn’t stay long.

A few sparrows graced the feeder….

three sparrows

…though not all of them were in prime condition.

scruffy sparrow

I couldn’t hang around to watch the birds or go for a walk in the sun because it was the day to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her other grandparents.

The train was late as usual and to make matters worse, it was absolutely full before the fifty people waiting on the platform at Lockerbie got on so we had to stand in cramped conditions for the hour it took to get to Edinburgh.

We had plenty of fun when we got there, playing two board games with Matilda and doing a jigsaw puzzle too before her other grandparents arrived.

Then there was a dancing display and an evening meal before it was time to catch the train home.  This one was on time and had plenty of seats so the journey home was a marked improvement on the journey up.

All the same, it was quite a tiring day so I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

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

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows what the sunrise was like in East Wemyss today.

sunrise at Wemyss

It was a relief to wake up to bright sunshine after the wind and sleet that had been in evidence when we drove back to our hotel last night.  We had breakfast out with Tony and family this morning and although the hotel car park was still rather icy, the roads were clear.

The breakfast was excellent but even a good breakfast and some welcome sunshine couldn’t get my adventurous spirit up to a level where I thought that driving across to Glasgow for a concert and then driving down the motorway back to Langholm in the dark with heavy rain forecast was a fun way to spend the day.  As a result, in a sensible and cautious (pusillanimous?) way, I decided that the safest thing to do would be to drive straight back home while the sun was out and it was light enough to see where we were going,  giving the concert a miss.

This decision was helped by reports of many crashes in the icy conditions on the motorway overnight.  Not so many years ago, I would have thought of the whole thing as an enjoyable challenge but now I tend to look on the gloomy possibilities of life.

The drive home was bright but in places snowy….

sdr

…although the roads were generally clear enough.

We got home safely and found that the two loyal flowers in the garden were still blooming…

wallflowerwinter jasmine

…and settled down for some serious resting.

We really enjoyed out visit to Tony and East Wemyss in spite of worries about the weather and our brief taste of the walks there made us keen to pay another visit sooner rather than later, weather permitting.

No flying birds today as the light had gone before I could get the feeder filled and the birds discovered that seed was again available.

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Jenni, my Highland correspondent.  We have been having some good sunrises here and may be there is something in the air at the moment because she had a spectacular one too.

Highland Sunrise

It was another cold day with the thermometer hanging about the 5 degree mark at best but a nipping and an eager air made the wind chill factor a neat zero.

Under the circumstances, I was pleased to get out on my bicycle, if not early, then at least before I had sat down to waste time over coffee and a biscuit, my usual delaying tactic.

I took a simple out and back route to avoid any long effort cycling straight into the chilly wind though I did take a short diversion up to Cleuchfoot…

Cleuchfoot glen

…where I stopped to take a picture of a tiny valley that runs down to the road.  It looks as though it might lead somewhere exciting but in fact it only leads out onto a boggy and featureless moor.  Once I was back on the Lockerbie road, I was very pleased to see men and machines hard at work at the site of the recent landslip.

mending the Lockerbie road 2

No one had expected work to start so promptly.

I passed them and cycled on to the top of the hill at Callister where I was passed by half a dozen quarry lorries who were busy at the site of the new wind farm there.  There is no sign of the turbine towers yet so they are either improving the access road or building the bases.

I stopped at the road works on my way back and was very impressed by how well they have sorted the problem.

mending the Lockerbie road 1

I was curious about the black plastic pipes sunk into the surface of the works and one of the men told me that they are going to be holders for the new fence posts. He said that he thought that the repair was sound and would last well and as he turned out to be one of my ex-pupils, I have every confidence that he will be right.

On my return to Langholm, I cycled through the town and out of the other side and since the sun was now fully out, I stopped to record my favourite view up the Ewes valley….

Ewes Valley

…and the neighbouring farmhouse.

Terrona

I clocked up twenty miles and was quite happy to stop before I got chilled.

I had a quick look at the birds and was shocked to see a male chaffinch being beastly to a female…

cahffinch misogyny

…but pleased to see that our lone siskin was back again.

siskin

I made some soup for my lunch and while it was cooking, Mrs Tootlepedal headed off to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

Fuelled by the soup and a couple of tomato rolls, I went out for a walk.

I started off along the riverside path and then headed uphill through the Kernigal wood.  There has been a lot of wind blow lately and it was good to see that someone had been out with a saw and done some tidying up.

kernigal wood tidying

Perhaps this is because I was walking along the track you can see on the right of the picture below which is much used by local mountain bikers.

kernigal wood

It is very welcome for walkers as it provides a good path through a tangly bit of forest.

I came out at the top of the wood and walked back down the track towards Skippers Bridge.  I didn’t have my thinking head on when I chose my route and I was rather upset to realise that if I had been walking on the other side of the valley, I would have been enjoying a sunny day.

winter sunshine on whita

In fact when I looked around, I found that almost everywhere was bathed in sunlight except where I was walking.

winter sunshine on Castle Hill

When I got down to the main road, I found that winter had cleared enough foliage away to give me a view of the large bridge for a small stream which almost all motorists probably pass over without noticing as they leave the town for the south.

Culvert at Skippers

I didn’t dilly dally on my way home as it wasn’t getting any warmer but I did stop to check out the black smudge on the fence at Land’s End which turns out to be this very attractive lichen, still in excellent condition…

fungus on fence at lands end

…and to see if the fungus on the tree at the Co-op had survived the cold weather.  It had and was even bigger than when I saw it last…

fungus at Co-op

…and it too looked to be in good condition.

fungus gill

As I walked back along the river bank, a glimpse of brightness among the gloom on the far bank caught my eye.  It was an old friend disguised as a twig.

heron in shadows

Back in the garden, I found a little remaining colour on the leycestaria…

leycesteria

…but there was nothing else of note so I went inside and did the crossword.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had taken our car away and my friend and customary chauffeur Susan was on holiday in Glasgow, I had no way of getting to Carlisle and back for the monthly meeting of our recorder group.  They are kind people though and on the Mohammed and the mountain principle, since I could not get to them, they came out to me and we had a most enjoyable evening of music making.

We were just having our post-playing cup of tea and biscuit when Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely from Edinburgh and that rounded off a cold day very warmly.

I didn’t find a moment with both good light and a flying bird in it so that is the reason for a very scrappy flying bird of the day picture.

flying chffainch

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Today’s guest picture, the very last from Bruce’s Highland tour shows the photographer and his wife casting long shadows beside the Crinan Canal near Lochgilphead.

Lochgilphead

It was a miserable cold and wet morning about which the less said the better.

Some winter visitors appeared in the shape of a siskin…

december siskin

…and a brambling.

december brambling

Having ignored the morning, we set off for Lockerbie after lunch to catch the train  to Edinburgh and we were very pleased to find the the rain had eased off.  By the time that we got to Edinburgh, the day was dry although the light has already gone by the time we get to Matilda’s house at this time of year..

We had a lot of fun of fun.  Matilda spent a good deal of time shooting me with a bow and arrow and to be fair, I spent some time shooting her too.  She is a better shot than me.  We were well armoured with cushions to avoid any lasting injury.

After the bow and arrow session, Matilda obliged with a short ballet demonstration in front of the splendid Christmas tree which has appeared in her sitting room.

mde

The performance ended with an elegant bow and then we had a nourishing meal of soup and a two bean, pepper and chipotle sauce stew cooked by Matilda’s dad.

Once again a visit to Matilda provided us with first rate entertainment and a quality meal.  Who could ask for anything more?  Trains that run on time perhaps but that may be asking too much.

No flying bird today as it was too gloomy so two sitting chaffinches are standing in.

two chaffinches side by side

We might see a drop of golden sun tomorrow.

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The guest picture of the day is the last of the livestock which our son Tony encountered on his walk in the Wemyss Estate.

wemyss pigs

We had another wet and windy day today….

_DSC8835

…with occasional breaks in the rain.

_DSC8836

In one of the dry spells, I popped out to see how high the rivers were and was surprised to find them lower than last night….

P1150717

…and it was a treat to be able to see the monument clearly.

I didn’t stay out long and was soon safely back inside watching the birds clinging to the plum tree twigs in the stiff breeze.  The goldfinches like to perch at the very top of the twigs even in the most testing times.

_DSC8837

I filled the feeders and was rewarded with some cheerful visitors…

_DSC8839

…but it soon started raining again.

After careful research of railway websites and a look at the forecast, we decided that it would be safe to go to Edinburgh and more reliable to take the Borders Railway from Tweedbank rather than the West Coast mainline from Lockerbie.  This was mostly because the weather for driving to the station looked better going east than west and also because there are more trains running on the Border Railway so we would be less likely to get stranded in Edinburgh.

The drive to Tweedbank was fine, with even a little sunshine on the way but when we got to the station we found a sign saying that not only had our intended train been cancelled but the next one too.  This was not on account of the weather but because of ‘staff shortages’.

We were quite annoyed because we hadn’t seen any warning about this when we checked up earlier in the day.  We were sitting in the car muttering imprecations and considering strategies when a train arrived at the station.  We went over to look and were told that this was our train and it wasn’t cancelled.  We were pleased and particularly grateful that we hadn’t driven off in a huff when we saw the train cancelled sign.  We didn’t think that this was a very sound way to run a railway though.

The weather was surprisingly nice as we pottered up the line to Edinburgh and we were accompanied by this cloudy lady.

P1150720

When we got to Matilda’s, Mrs Tootlepedal wasted no time at all before getting down to some serious grandmothering.

P1150721

She and Matilda than cooked a sticky toffee pudding which we ate for our tea after a dish of onion and mushroom pasta knocked up by Matilda’s dad.  I must say that as well as the pleasure of Matilda’s company, we always eat well when we got to see her.

I was a bit alarmed when I looked at the rail company website after tea and found three evening trains cancelled but fortunately our train was not among them and we had a satisfactory journey back to Tweedbank.   The weather then let us down badly and we had to drive the forty miles home through torrential rain and strong winds, never fun at any time of day, but even less so at night with large puddles in the middle of the road.

Still, we did get home safely and I was glad that we had our winter tyres on as we skated over road surfaces running with water.

The rain is set to ease off tomorrow which will be welcome and the winds are due to lighten up a bit so I hope to get out for a walk.

The flying is a gloomy chaffinch battling into the wind.

_DSC8843

 

 

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