Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

I am short of guest pictures and have had to fall back on another of the admittedly excellent pictures that my sister Mary took on her visit to the Lake District.

The next day I embarked on a fairly steep climb up from the lake

I had an enjoyable but unremarkable day today.

The weather remained good and it was a little cooler which was welcome.

I went for a 22 mile cycle ride in the morning and the wind was sufficiently noticeable to blow me  down the five miles back from the top of Callister into the town at an average of 22 mph.  This was most enjoyable as I didn’t even have to try very hard.

I stopped on the way out to look at a few things but as my Lumix refused to open at all today, once again I was reliant of my phone and several pictures, including one of a splendid orchid which had escaped the attention of Genghis, the grass cutter, didn’t come out.

These were the ones that did.

wild flowers

wild flowers

The insect in the bottom left frame was on one head of an umbellifer.  There was quite a mixed crowd on another of the heads.

umbellifer with insects

The 22 miles got me up to 300 miles for the month after a very slow start because of the high winds in the first week.  I might have derived a bit more satisfaction from this if our next door neighbour Ken, a man of my own age and the same weight, had not done 300 miles in the last three days while travelling back to Langholm from the south.   I bow to him.

I took a quick walk round the garden when I got back.

ginger syllabub

The Ginger Syllabub triggers a reflex action in my shutter finger as I walk past

rosa goldfinch

There is hardly any space on the Rosa Goldfinch for more flowers.

foxglove and lily

There are foxgloves and lilies all over the garden

allium and astrantia with insects

Plenty of insect action


A phlourishing philadelphus

There were no less than three blackbirds under the strawberry netting but they made themselves scarce in an apologetic manner when we approached and they had left a good number of berries for us to pick.


We put them in a handy box and took them off with us to Edinburgh in the afternoon as a gift to Matilda and her parents.

Mrs Tootlepedal took the bus from the station to Matilda Mansions but I walked just so that I could enjoy this view on my way.

Arthurs Seat

I often take pictures of this view but then when you get a view like this, why not?

We had an enjoyable afternoon with Matilda, full of dancing, singing, snap and pelmanism and with an added jigsaw this week.

The train home was punctual and comfortable and as it was still light as we drove home from Lockerbie, the whole visit was a treat.

It is late and I am a little tired so that is all there is to say about the day.

I have ordered a new Lumix.  I hope the zoom lens lasts longer this time.


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A brief report

Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s visit to Bridlington and shows the British having fun in a restrained way.


This is a very brief report today as it rained all day so there was not much chance for photography and for once there is very interesting stuff to watch on the telly.

Did I mention that it was raining?


The morning was doubly brightened by the appearance of both Sandy and Dropscone (with scones) for coffee but that was its only redeeming feature.

I have just purchased a trio sonata for violin and bassoon by Telemann which will do very well for Mike and me on  flute and cello and it arrived this morning so I spent some time putting the accompaniment on the computer to help me practise.

Then I checked to see if it was still raining….

hosta in rain

…it was.

After lunch we drove through massive puddles and a steady downpour to Lockerbie to find our train to Edinburgh was 2o minutes late.  Still, we got there in the end and in the absence of Matilda, we enjoyed the company of a passing zebra.


We had a most enjoyable time as the zebra helped Mrs Tootlepedal with the cooking and then played snap with me.

The rain had finally stopped by the time that we got back to the station to catch the train home….

Waverley Station

…and there was even a train for us to catch tonight which was a relief.

We did have time to stare at the ceiling in the main hall of the station before we caught the train.

Waverley Station

The journey home went smoothly and we were preparing to go to bed and wake up in a glum mood when we read the election results in the morning  when out of the blue, the exit polls predicted a bit of a surprise so I am going to sit up for a bit to see if the polls reflect reality.


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Today’s guest picture shows the church at Kirkton of Rayne in Aberdeenshire.  The picture was taken by my friend Bruce and was of special interest to him and his wife because her great- great-uncle was minister there from 1875 to 1909.

Kirkton of Rayne

I got up early again and put another week of the newspaper index into the database and have now caught up on the pile of outstanding weeks lying on my desk.  There will doubtless be a good many more lying in the Archive centre and I will get round to those soon.  The early starts to the day have gone well and I shall try to continue this practice in coming weeks.  It is much easier to get up earlier when the mornings are light.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went up to the Moorland Project bird feeders where Mrs Tootlepedal had the pleasure of watching both male and female hen harriers quartering the moor through her binoculars while I filled the feeders (as a substitute for Sandy who is in Greece) and had a look at what was about from the hide.

There was very little about at all.  In fact I don’t think that I have ever seen fewer birds on the feeders.

There were a few siskins….


…a distant woodpecker…


…a blackbird hoping for time off for good behaviour….


…and an ingenious pheasant.


I don’t know where all the other birds are at all.

When we got home, I had a walk round the garden to look at irises.

There was no shortage.





I nodded to the lupins which are looking well…


…checked out the first of the Sweet Williams round the front lawn…

sweet william

They are very bright!

…saluted my favourite flower….


…and went inside to practise songs and get ready to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

The trip to Edinburgh went very well.

We walked down from the station….

Waverley Station

…which is in the heart of the city.

We looked down on a scene of great peace just behind the bustling Royal Mile….

Edinburgh burial ground

….peered through the trees at Arthur’s Seat…

Arthur's seat

It was looking a bit rusty as the gorse goes over

…and arrived to rousing welcome as we approached the house.

sheehy huttons at home

Matilda was in sparkling form and took us to the park to practise our football skills.  We also played on almost all the play equipment…

Matilda in the park

…although home-made fun was the best.


Although it threatened to rain, it didn’t and we got back to the house in time to play many games of Pelmanism and snap before an excellent tea of macaroni cheese.

The hours and minutes flew by and it was soon time for us to go back to catch our train home.  We were in plenty of time and all would have gone very well if there had actually been a train for us to catch.  Alas, for the second time in recent months, our train was cancelled and we had to be transported to Lockerbie by coach.  This adds an hour and bit to the trip and this delay is why I am sprinting through this post as quickly as I can to get it done before midnight.

Although long, the journey was painless and we got home safely.

I did get a fuzzy flying siskin of the day when I was at the Moorland feeders.

Flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from a visit that my sister Mary paid to Kew Gardens at the beginning of the month.

Kew Gardens, near Queen Charlotte's cottage

Today was the final day of our holiday in North Berwick and naturally enough because I had got the car back and was ready to tour the beautiful countryside, the traditional east coast haar (a cold sea mist) arrived and stayed all day.

Although it wasn’t as bad as a haar can be, it excluded any hint of warmth and as a result we had a grey, cheerless day with no view worth speaking of at all and the car didn’t get an outing all day.

What we did instead, was to walk along the sea front to the harbour, stopping to look at flowers as we went…



Herb Robert

Herb Robert

…in order to pay a visit to the Scottish Seabird Centre.

Scottish Seabird Centre

This is run by a charity which does its best to help Scottish seabirds and it makes money from a good restaurant, a shop and an interesting exhibition centre where you can learn as much as you want about gannets and other local seabirds.

They have a very good system of remote controlled cameras on local islands and the Bass Rock so that a visitor can study the local birds from the comfort of the centre even more closely that can be done from a passing boat.

Scottish Seabird Centre

Each camera can be operated in real time by visitors using a little joystick and I had a good time picking out puffins on Craigleith Island….


…as well as a host of guillemots, cormorants, shags, razorbills, kittiwakes and gulls.  There was even a seal having a snooze on the rocks.

Being able to see individual gannets on the Bass Rock,  sitting on little seaweed nests was a treat.

Matilda enjoyed the thoughtfully provided soft play area too.

We had a good lunch in the restaurant and then Matilda took her parents home while we had another look at the remote cameras.   A helpful assistant gave Mrs Tootlepedal a mass of interesting information about the nesting habits of the gannets.

When we left the centre, we walked out on the rocks at the end of the harbour.  It had been pointed out to me that the yacht “carpark” beside the harbour was the remains of the old open air swimming pool and the colourful doors at either end…

North Berwick swimming pool

…were the old changing cubicles, now presumably used for storage for boat owners.

There is a well made path with handrails along the rocks…

North Berwick rocks

…so we didn’t fall in and I was able to observe eider ducks going up and down.

eider ducks

Their heads always look to me as if they have been painted by a modernist potter.

…and a few brave souls going for a chilly and windy boat ride.

north berwick boat

There was not a lot of activity on the beach today.

north berwick

We got back and had a cup of tea and sit before heading off to the High Street for a last visit to some of its excellent shops.  I was able to stock up on leaf tea of good quality and just resisted buying some good looking cheese as well.

To our surprise, we found the redoubtable Matilda and her father bound for the beach when we got back to the flat and i went along to join them.  I built as big a sand castle as I could in a short time…..but with inevitable consequences.

Matilda with sand castle

Photos courtesy of Matilda’s father.

Matilda had great fun jumping off the castle, using it as a slide and knocking as much of it down as she could.  Her mother came down to join us and we had a merry time.  Her father had made a more structured castle based on the Roman fort at Housteads and Matilda gave that a good kicking too.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made us another excellent meal so in spite of the gloomy weather we had good fun and ate very well on our final day.

I did catch a flying gull hanging around the seabird centre today.

berwick gull

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Today’s guest picture shows that Matilda is a chip off the Attila the Gardener block when it come to destructive power.  It was taken by Matilda’s mother Clare.

Matilda stamping on sand castles

We have been very lucky with our holiday weather.  It hasn’t been as warm as the sunny pictures would suggest, with the temperature hanging around the 12 degree C mark but if we could find a sheltered spot, it has been very pleasant and the views of sea, sand and sky have been perfect all week.

Today continued in the same vein but after the excitements of yesterday, we had a quieter day today.

I went out to get a newspaper and passed a well tended council flower garden which is a credit to the town.

North Berwick flower bed

While Matilda and her father braved the wind on the beach, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went for a cup of coffee in a very superior coffee roaster’s cafe.  It was hipster chic writ large but the coffee was very good so we were quite happy, if a bit out of place.

We walked down the High Street on our way back to the flat and I saw another example of how well the town is looked after.

North Berwick high Street

When we got back, Matilda had returned from the beach and snap and pelmanism were once again popular activities and this took us up to lunch.

After lunch, Matilda has a snooze so Mrs Tootlepedal and I got our bicycles out and pedalled off to visit a garden centre some five miles inland.

We passed a slightly surprised alpaca….


…and many substantial farm houses.

East lothian farm house

Compared with our own part of Scotland, this is well off country with really good agricultural land.  One benefit was the excellent condition of the minor roads that we cycled along.  Of course they don’t have large scale commercial forestry here so the roads aren’t pounded by enormous timber wagons which helps.

We reached the garden centre and made some modest but judicious purchases and then cycled back by a different route heading into the wind.  The country offers extensive views….

East lothian farm

…and it was a delight to pedal along the quiet roads.  The field of rape in the picture must have been in full flower because we had been able to recognise that it was there from over a mile away.  Mind you, the strong wind would have helped.

We were grateful for a substantial wall round an elegant park as we got near to the town…

Leuchie House

…as it provided much needed shelter from the cross winds.  By coincidence, the house in the park is a high quality respite care home and on this occasion, the respite was greatly welcomed by the elderly.

We enjoyed a final swoop down into the town.

After a break for a cup of tea, we went down to the beach with Matilda and her father.  The tide was very high and the wind was strong so there wasn’t much space or demand for castle building.  I got a call from the garage to say that our car had been finally repaired so Alistair drove me out to pick it up while Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda wisely dug a large hole in the sand for Matilda to sit in to get some shelter.

I drove the car back with a light heart (and an even lighter wallet) and went to the beach again.  Matilda’s parents had bought her a small box of flying objects earlier in the holiday and it included a very flimsy and small plastic assemble-it-yourself kite.

Her mother had assembled the kite and after some trial and error, I had rigged up the strings so we thought that we might try it out.  We had no real hope that the thing would fly at all but it surprised us by soaring into the sky at the first attempt.

Matilda's kite

Ready, steady….

Matilda's kite


Mrs Tootlepedal had bought a steak pie for our tea from a high class butcher in the High Street and the consumption of this rounded off our quiet day very well.

No flying birds today so I’ll cheat and show 150,000 at a distance.  I will miss the Bass Rock a lot when we go home.

Bass Rock

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The guest  picture of the day shows Matilda considering whether to obey a rather officious sign at Archerfield yesterday.  Her father sent it to me.

Matilda at Archerfield

I apologise in advance.  There are some day when taking pictures is irresistible and this was one.  If you are busy, just click the LIKE button and move on.

For the first day since we arrived in North Berwick, the wind dropped.  This was particularly fortunate as Matilda had invited us to join her on a trip round the Bass Rock by boat.  This was an opportunity not to be missed. Matilda tuned up for the voyage with some beach fun and after an early lunch and a snooze, led the party to the North Berwick harbour.  The official photographer darted about taking snaps.

North Berwick harbour

Naturally there were things growing on the harbour wall to admire too.

North Berwick harbour

We got safely ensconced on the boat and set off out of the harbour…

North Berwick harbour

…past the lookout point and onto the open sea…

Craigleith Island

…towards Craigleith Island where the pilot slowed down to let us enjoy the sea birds in the sea, in the air and on the rocks.

We were on the wrong side of the boat to get good pictures of the birds on land but we could see puffins, razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes, cormorants and shags.  I did what I could as birds whizzed and swam by.


Mostly the puffins flew off as we approached but one gave me half a chance.

We had a glimpse of a seal and what I think is a shag not a cormorant.

seal and shag

Although the captain took us round the little island at a very slow pace, it was impossible to take in all the birds we saw.

However, this was merely the hors d’oeuvres to the main dish of the day, a complete circuit of the Bass Rock.

Bass Rock

The rock is home to 150,000 gannets at this time of year  and the whiteness of the rock is as much due to the sheer number of birds nesting on it as to the bird poo they generate.

Every available space is taken.

gannets, bass rock

gannets, bass rock

On the nest

These birds are striking when seen on the nest but even more so when they are circling above you.

gannets, bass rock

They are beautiful streamlined fliers…

gannets, bass rock

…and keep a keen eye out for fish.

gannets, bass rock

They are famous for their high speed diving but the boatman said that the water round the Rock is too shallow to see them diving here.  They were scooping up sand eels and fighting over their spoils today.

gannets Bass Rock

We were on the right side of the boat this time and the precipitous rock and its bird  life were stunning.

gannets  Bass Rock

gannets Bass Rock

gannets Bass Rock

There are some flat shelves near the shore in a couple of places and the gannets use these areas for socialising rather than nesting.

gannets  Bass Rock

If there is a space unsuitable for gannets, other birds take the opportunity to nest there.


Guillemots in one of the caves

Our tour of the island was over all too soon.  The island is uninhabited now, which is one reason why there are so many gannets there but you can still see the remains of fortifications and other buildings.

Bass Rock

The inhabitants largely lived by hunting gannets and the island used to be green enough for the light house keepers to have a garden.  It was an important place in its time, visited by kings.

We turned back towards the shore….

North Berwick

…and it didn’t take us long to get back to the harbour.

North Berwick

It had been a perfect trip with the only quibble that it was far too quick.  We could easily have enjoyed being out for twice as long.

Even on a pretty flat calm day, it is tricky trying to take pictures from a crowded moving boat so I hope that I have been able to give a flavour of this unique island.  I would like to go again without a camera just to have more of a look at all that was going on.  However, getting a day like today, calm and with some sunshine, was a real bonus so I am not complaining at all.

Matilda followed the trip up by taking us to an excellent gelateria where we enjoyed various exotic flavours of ice cream.

Then  the younger members of the party went off to the beach…

North Berwick

Alistair playing King Knut. (He was cheating as the tide was going out)

…while the more mature members had a cup of tea and then cycled a couple of miles along the coast to visit another fine castle.

Tantallon Castle

This is Tantallon castle, perched on the very edge of the cliff opposite the Bass Rock.

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle

I would like to have had more time here too but I had already taken far too many pictures so it was probably just as well that we only had half an hour before the castle closed for the evening.

It is a massive building and even with most of the walls gone, it still is very imposing.

Tantallon Castle

There are some rooms inside the remaining parts….

Tantallon Castle

…and the castle is built of such beautiful stone that just looking at the walls is a treat.

We had the benefit of a tail wind as we cycled home and this rounded of a perfect day.

When we left the beach to cycle to the castle, I saw my first ever real life standing paddler (I have only seen them on TV before).

standing paddler

That gives a good flavour of what the weather was like today.

You will doubtless be surprised to find that the flying bird of the day is one of these.

flying gannet

Sorry about all the photos but you should have seen the other 150 that I discarded. 

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Today’s guest picture, taken by Clare, her mother, shows Matilda enjoying refreshment in the cafe at the Archerfield Walled Garden.


After breakfast Mrs Tootlepedal and I cycled out to the Archerfield estate, a few miles from North Berwick, and apart from being nearly knocked off our bikes by the powerful scent from this huge field of rape beside the road….


…we enjoyed the scenery as we went.


We met up with Matilda and her parents at the Walled Garden and had a cup of coffee before going to see what the Fairy Walk had to offer.

We passed the big house on our way down to the walk.

Archerfield House

It has had a new avenue of trees planted and these will look impressive in years to come.

The Fairy Walk lived up to our hopes.

It had proper sized gates at the start and finish…

Fairy Walk Archerfield

… and a path that wound for a good distance through a wood…

Fairy Walk Archerfield

…with various fantastical creatures beside it on the way and fifteen little fairy houses to visit.

Fairy Walk Archerfield

There were wild flowers and orange tip butterflies among the trees and many interesting willow constructions (a spiral, a kirk, a yurt and a tepee) to explore on the way back to the cafe.

There was also a lot of this….


…which Mrs Tootlepedal thought might be Wolfsbane, which doesn’t seem quite so fairy like to me.

The grounds are well looked after….

Archerfield House

…and every now and again, the visitor passes a wicker deer or two.

We had spent so long exploring the fairy world that it was time for lunch when we got back.  After lunch, Matilda took her parents home for a snooze and Mrs Tootlepedal and I looked at the walled garden itself (a work in progress with an excellent polytunnel) and then cycled into the village of Dirleton where we stopped to visit the fine castle  and gardens there.

We passed this good looking tree, almost exactly 100 years old…

Direlton Castle

…and visited the substantial doocot….

Direlton Castle

…before going on the the castle itself.

Direlton Castle

I haven’t got the time (or the energy) to detail the various stages of its ruin and rebuilding but it was a rewarding place to visit on a perfect spring afternoon.

Those interested can click here for a full review of the castle and its history.

Although it is basically a ruin and the owners left it as such when they built Archerfield House to actually live in, there was still plenty to see.

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle

Store rooms and bakehouse

Dirleton Castle

A view from every window

Dirleton Castle

Dark corners and winding stairs

Dirleton Castle

A new bridge on the site of the old drawbridge

The castle is built, as a good building should be, on a firm foundation of rock…

Dirleton Castle

…and is an impressive sight, even today.

Dirleton Castle

Below the castle, surrounded by aged yew trees, lies a bowling green, which was added in Victorian times.

Dirleton Castle

It comes with added squirrel…


…which the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted when it scampered up a tree on our approach.

After a last look back at this splendid building…

Dirleton Castle

…and a quick look over the garden wall to admire the typical roofs of the area…

East Lothian roofs

…we cycled back to North Berwick.

Fellow cyclists will share our pain when I remark that the wind, which had been in our faces as we cycled out from the town in the morning, was now in our faces as we cycled back in the afternoon.  But it was light and we laughed as we cycled along.

After some recovery time, we went down to the beach with Matilda and Clare and there was any amount of sand castle building.  There had to be a lot of building because someone, who shall be nameless but was aged just over three, kept knocking any castles that were built quite flat again.

There are thus no castle pictures but we did see a sailing boat passing us well out at sea.

Sailing boat

The Lumix was at full stretch to get this shot.

We got home just in time to enjoy a delicious meal of macaroni cheese prepared by Alistair.

We have been very lucky with the weather so far and the forecast is offering us the hope that it may last until Friday afternoon which would be very satisfactory.

No flying birds to day but as there have been more than enough pictures already, that is no great loss.

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