Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my Langholm friends Jim and Sandra.  They are visiting Australia where they met some down under bird life.

australian bird

We enjoyed another chilly but sunny day and if you could keep in the sun and out of a relentlessly nipping wind, it was not too bad at all.

We had a quiet morning, mostly reading newspapers and listening to the radio.  I did a little bird watching every now and again.

The male blackbirds were chasing each other about when they weren’t posing or eating so I think that they must be our native blackbirds claiming their territory.


There were no siskins or goldfinches about today so the chaffinches had a free hand and flew about in every direction.


Dunnocks and robins made occasional appearances.

dunnock and robin

A greenfinch looked relatively happy today (by greenfinch standards).


Mrs Tootlepedal spent some useful time clearing up in the greenhouse getting ready for the new season and I made a pan of vegetable soup for my lunch.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal turned to cooking and made several fish pies and I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.

I didn’t want to go too far from home as the wind would be against me on the way back and it was very cold so I went five miles up the road and back twice.  This is not as boring as it sounds and I enjoyed myself.

I stopped once or twice.

It was a lovely afternoon when the wind was behind you.


I was going to take a picture of the gate at my turning point on Callister when I noticed a movement among the tussocks.  The head of a deer poked up…

gate and deer on callister

…but it sneaked away without letting me get a better shot.

I went along the river on a circuit of the New Town of Langholm as part of my route in the hope of seeing oyster catchers.  There were none about on the first pass but two had arrived by the time I went along the bank for the second go round.


Good route choice.

And crocuses were almost out in the garden when I got home.


Mrs Tootlepedal was also out in the garden but she was finding it chilly too and came in.

The sun was still out though and it seemed too good a day to waste indoors watching Scotland getting beaten by England at the rugby (I am never optimistic about Scotland’s rugby chances) so I got changed and went out for a short walk.

I was hoping to see some black headed gulls and I was in luck and saw one straight away when I got to the river.

black headed gull

Then I saw ten more.

black headed gull

It was as good a day for walking as it had been for cycling, especially as I was reasonably sheltered from the wind.

sawmill brig

The sun was dropping in the sky and lit up the moss on the wall after the Sawmill Brig.

mossy wall

It is obviously a good place for  moss…

mossy wall

…which is thriving.

mossy wall

I always like the colour of the bark when low sun strikes a pine tree…

pine tree

…and the trunks looked good too as I went along the new path.

pine tree

An old tree trunk, now used as a bench had an interesting selection of colonists on it. One of the ‘helicopter’ seeds was actually rooting in a crevice in the wood.

moss and seeds

I had noticed that the moon was already high in the sky so I took a hopeful shot as I walked along and after a tweak in the photo editor, it came out surprisingly clearly.


When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal told me that against expectations, Scotland were leading in the rugby match.  I watched until half time and then, fearful of causing them any bad luck by showing excessive expectation, I started cooking our evening meal. I received messages of amazement from all of our three children during the half time interval.   Annie, our daughter, was watching the match in Berlin while attending the Berlin Film Festival.

In spite of my best intentions, I kept sneaking back in during the second half and taking a quick look.  England (dropping the ball, giving away penalties and getting a man sent off) were playing like Scotland and Scotland were playing very well.  It was all most unsettling.

In the end, we won.  The first victory over England for ten years.   Our daughter was watching the game with an England supporter in Berlin and he just couldn’t understand why she was still so worried when Scotland were 15 points up with only two minutes to go.  He obviously hasn’t seen what Scotland can do when it comes to losing matches in the last minute that they should have won.

Now that I know that they are going to win, I may well sit down and watch a replay of the whole match in comfort.

All in all, it turned out to be a better day in every way than I had anticipated.

The flying bird of the day is one of the gulls at full stretch.

black headed gull



Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture shows an interesting wall which Dropscone encountered on his Irish holiday.

irish wall

Our spell of calm, dry and chilly weather continued today with a bright, sunny morning making it possible to overlook the 2°C temperature.

It looks as though this pattern will stay with us for several days with the only difference being that it will be well below freezing every morning.

Under these circumstances, I thought it would be best to get a walk in today while the going was still good.  On the same basis, Mrs Tootlepedal did a little gardening.

I started my walk by passing the mouth of the dam, just where it joins the River Esk.  After flowing under the bridge and then past the back of our house, the dam disappears under roads and into a factory, where it supplies water, before it comes back into daylight here:


I was hoping to see interesting riverside birds while I was there but the cold weather has discouraged them and I had to make do with one of the resident ducks when I got the Kilngreen.


There were plenty of black headed gulls about but they stuck to the fence posts on the far bank of the river…

black headed gull

….where any flying action was largely confined to playing a game of musical posts.

black headed gull

They did occasionally rise high enough in the air to be described as flying….


…but nor often.

I got fed up in the end and walked on to find somewhere where more reliable subjects could be found.

Surprise, surprise, it was a wall.

It had a  wealth of interest on it.  I am getting more confused every day but there seems to be moss, liverwort and lichen all in a heap here.

moss liverwort


My favourite patch was this one.

moss lichen

As I may have remarked before, it is amazing what you can see when you look.   I should acknowledge my debts both to Sandy, who showed me how to use a camera, and the New Hampshire Gardener, who consonantly inspires me  to look closely at the things I see.

I found another wall and met two very contrasting ferns on it.


I walked along the top of the wood above the Lodge Walks and once again admired the skill of the tree fellers who can leave a selection of trees standing while felling all around if they wish.


On my way, I was inspected by the locals…


…and was intrigued by this tree.

tree with moss

Would that little window open and a gnome pop out and ask me to buy a ticket for my journey?   (I think that the political situation may be destroying my mind.)

I walked down through the snowdrops at Holmhead.  They are just about at their best.


When I got down to the flat, I could see the ridge that I walked along yesterday.


I have to say that it seemed a lot steeper when I was walking up to the summit on the right yesterday than it did when I was looking at it today.

Further on, I saw more moss…

moss on wood

…which was not too difficult as there is moss everywhere at the moment after some very wet years.

I got home in time for a cup of coffee, fairly swiftly followed by lunch and the traditional Thursday trip to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.

We always leave in plenty of time as there is a bumpy and winding road on the way to Lockerbie but this leaves me with time to stand on the platform and look around.  I love the tower of Lockerbie Town Hall.

Lockerbie Town Hall

I like the fact the clocks show slightly different times and often wonder if anyone has ever stood on the balcony and addressed the crowds below or perhaps blown a fanfare.

I didn’t have as long on the platform as I usually have as incredibly the train was on time today.  Not only that, it actually arrived in Edinburgh a little ahead of schedule and there was a bus at the bus stop to take us down to Matilda’s almost as soon as we had stepped out of the station.

We were punctual to the dot so it was no great surprise to get a text from Alistair to say that they hadn’t got home yet.

Still, the great thing about cities is that they have shops there so we were able to kill a little time without any difficulty.

We had a most enjoyable visit, being thoroughly entertained by Matilda and well fed by her parents.  And Mrs Tootlepedal had bought one of her sticky toffee puddings with her.

The journey home went as well as the  journey up and we arrived back to find that not only had the builder finished installing the pavement kerb on the bridge but the gaps had all been filled up and things look as though they are now ready for tarmac.

dam bridge repair

The state of play when we left in the afternoon and when we got back in the evening.

I did find one sympathetic gull this morning and it is the flying bird of the day.

black headed gull


Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone, who has been doing more walking than golfing lately.   He went past the Round House recently, just before the snow came.

round house

We had rain overnight and the garden was clear of snow when we woke up.  I would like to have been able to report on the state of the snow on our hills but the clouds were so low that we could hardly see our chimney pots let along any hill tops.

I had to go back to the Health Centre this morning to get my dressings changed where I have scraped my arms on the bike when falling off.  As I also got some of the plasters off my face at the same time, i thought that this was a good bargain.

When I got home, I had a look at the dam bridge repair works.  The men have put a longer pipe on the pump from the coffer dam….

dam bridge repairs

…and it gurgles away in a very satisfactory way.

dam bridge repairs

It is surprising how much water comes though the pipe.  It provides a very good flow for the dam downstream.

dam bridge repairs

It has kept the water out of the works so well that the men have excavated all traces of the bridge with only our gas pipe left standing.

dam bridge repairs

There were signs of reconstruction starting as we left to go to Edinburgh after lunch but it was dark by the time that we got back so I don’t know what has happened yet.

Before we left to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train,  Mrs Tootlepedal made a sticky toffee pudding and some soup and while she worked, I watched the birds.

It was pretty gloomy but the birds didn’t seem to mind the light rain or the noise at the bridge.  A chaffinch gave me a cheery wave as it showed off a nifty one footed landing technique.

chaffinch and siskin

A bunch of mean looking greenfinches turned up and I was impressed by the sang-froid with which this one ignored an impertinent siskin.


It didn’t look very happy about it though.


Another siskin took the more sensible option of attacking from the rear and in this case it did dislodge the greenfinch, though I missed the actual moment of triumph.

goldfinches and siskin

In a separate incident, two goldfinches quarrelled aerobatically.


Other birds came and went under the feeder or in the plum tree.

There were black blackbirds…


…and brown blackbirds.


There were pigeons (and a dove which I missed)


A couple of starlings dropped in.


And a lone dunnock made a welcome appearance.


The trip to Edinburgh went very well and we found Matilda and her parents on good form.

We had a display of balletic dancing from Matilda, games of snap and pelmanism and some very gentle and kindly jumping on Grandpa’s chest so tons of fun was had by all.

For our tea we had a very tasty selection of pizzas with home made toppings made  by Alistair.  This was followed by Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding and the faint sound of groaning which we could hear in the background was being made by disgraced millionaire ex-executives of bankrupt building companies realising that all their ill gotten wealth couldn’t buy them a better meal than the one which we were enjoying.

The trip home went equally well.

The flying bird of the day is an ultra cool goldfinch doing its “Look mum, no hands!” routine.


When I see birds in this attitude, I am always irresistibly reminded of the Rev Walker skating on Duddingstone Loch, as painted by Raeburn.

Untitled-1 copy


Read Full Post »

The guest picture of the day was taken by our daughter Annie and shows a happy couple at our meal yesterday.

the happy couple

We woke to another miserably wet and windy day but at least it was fairly warm at 9°C.  The heating bills for this winter are going to come as a shock as it has been so persistently wet and cold.

Still, there wasn’t much time to worry about the weather as Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to sing in the church choir.  I am suffering a bit from a soggy chest after my cycle ride on Friday which is a disappointment as I felt quite well while I was pedalling.  This meant that my contribution to the choir was  a bit sub par but I enjoyed myself and intend to keep coming to sing with Mrs Tootlepedal on a Sunday.

Our daughter, Annie was staying with us and it would have been nice to get out for a walk but the rain was pretty persistent and so we stayed in and watched the birds.

There was quite a good attendance.

busy feeder

Often there were more birds than perches….

busy feeder

…which led to some angry moments…


…and the occasional stand  off.


It was a day for spotting bedraggled birds like this siskin…

wet siskin

…but  the trophy for the most miserable bird of the day was triumphantly carried away by this goldfinch.

wet goldfinch

We made some vegetable soup for lunch and then set off for Carlisle.

First we went shopping for food as our larder is a bit depleted.  Then we delivered Annie to the station so she could catch a train back to London.  And finally we went on to our Carlisle choir.

As we are going to a competition in Manchester in a  fortnight,  we spent the entire practice on one song.  This was a bit dull in one way but the concentration was much needed and I certainly came away from the practice with that good buzz about me which comes from doing rewarding hard work.

In spite of the generally miserable weather, for the second day running I was able to catch a fine purple sunset, this time during the practice tea break..

Carlisle sunset

Owing to singing in the church choir, I hadn’t had time to make a slow cooker dish for our evening meal so we relied on a ready meal which we bought when we were in Carlisle and it turned out out to be very good.  We may use this idea again.

A goldfinch in the morning rain is the flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch



Read Full Post »

Browsing and sluicing

Today’s guest picture comes from my correspondent, Edward Winter in Sheffield, the home of fine cutlery.   The Kingfisher was made by Jason Heppenstall.


The day was devoted to enjoying a golden wedding celebration with our children in Edinburgh.

Annie, who lives in London, had to get up early to join us and took this picture of the sunrise over Haringey as her train left Kings Cross.

dawn over haringay

We had a slightly later start and drove through some miserable weather to catch the train from Lockerbie.

By the time that we all met up for lunch in the Cafe Marlayne in Edinburgh, the weather was fine and we were all ready to enjoy an excellent lunch.

Alistair and Matilda consulted over the wine list….

al and matilda

….and then we tucked in.

One of the waiters kindly took a picture of the assembled company after the meal.

The golden wedding party

From l to r:  Annie, Alistair, his daughter Matilda and his wife Clare, the happy couple, Anthony and his partner Marianne.  (Missing was Annie’s partner Joe, who was committed to work and couldn’t take any time off.)

We are very fortunate to have such cheerful children with such delightful partners (and I don’t say that just because they paid for the meal).

Annie came back to Langholm with us to spend the night here before going back to London from Carlisle tomorrow.  She and Mrs Tootlepedal were in good form on the train back to Lockerbie.

Annie and Mrs T

We had a lovely sunset as we came over Beattock summit to match the Haringey sunrise.

dusk over beattock

I had been given a voucher for a meal at one of our local hotels as a thank you for helping Luke with his flute playing so rather than cooking something at home, we went out for our second meal out of the day.  We sensibly stuck to a single course each but even so, we felt as we walked home, that we had really had a splendid day out.

What with sparkle in Birmingham last weekend and a good meals in Edinburgh and Langholm this weekend, we have enjoyed ourselves so much that we have decided to have another golden wedding next year.

No flying bird of the day so Matilda takes on the responsibility of ending today’s post.




Read Full Post »

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba.  She was shopping in Winnipeg at Cabella’s, a huge outdoor store where almost everything (including ladies’ underwear)  is available in a camouflage print, when she found herself being supervised by a bison.


After the excitement of the Birmingham outing, we had a very quiet day for the actual occasion of our golden wedding.  This was partly because although we have stopped coughing all the time, we are still quite tired after the bug and partly because it was a pretty horrible day outside, with a very stiff wind blowing and the standard issue low clouds shrouding the town again.

Our morning was greatly brightened by the arrival of a handsome bouquet from Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother, sister-in-law and mother.  It was generously sized to say the least.

Golden wedding bouquet

Later in the day, Mrs Tootlepedal got it all sorted into vases and put them on our kitchen table to display the full wonder.

Golden wedding bouquet

Our neighbour Liz dropped in to give us her good wishes (and a bottle of wine) and then Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to the Buccleuch Centre to have a celebratory lunch.  It had a strong haggis element in it in honour of the national poet, Robert Burns, whose anniversary it is tomorrow.

By the time that we had got home, the wind had dropped a little and the weather looked as though it might stay dry so I got the slow bike out and battled along the five miles up the hill to Callister at a new record slow speed and then rolled back down hill and down wind into the town not much faster.

I am not at all fit and had to stop twice on the way up to get my breath back.

Wauchope Road

The rain had washed all the snow from our hills and the wind had dried the road up so in spite of being blown gently off the road a couple of time as I battled into the breeze, it was a pleasant pedal, even though my average speed ended up in single figures.  I was just happy to get out on a bike at all.

I went down to the river on my return journey and was glad to see that the water level had dropped a bit….

River Esk

…but sorry to see that high waters had swept away the turtle which had appeared last autumn….


…and withstood a small flood or two….


…but had encountered one now that was too strong for it.

No turtle

I found Mrs Tootlepedal speaking to another neighbour Gaye, who had come with a African Violet in a pot as a gift to mark the occasion.

We are going up to Edinburgh at the weekend to have a meal with our children so we won’t have been short of jollity to mark our golden wedding.  We just hope that the 100th one will be as much fun.

No flying bird today but I did pass a heron at Pool Corner when I was out on my bike so it is standing in today.

heron at Pool Corner



Read Full Post »

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


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

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

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

river esk in flood

I hurried back indoors.

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


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

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

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

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

river esk in floodP1060830P1060832river esk in flood

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

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

I got a gloomy flying bird to match the day.


Our Weekend Trip

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

The next morning, the weather had relented….


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


The canals run right through the centre of the town…

birmingham canal

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

birmingham canal

The canal runs under the street beside the hotel….

birmingham canal

…passes the arena where we had seen Strictly….


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

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


…admiring the view from the bridge,,,,

birmingham canal

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

birmingham canal

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

birmingham canal

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

birmingham canal

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

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


We had a cheery chap from Liverpool as company….


…and a canal narrowboat dweller as our captain.

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

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


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

staffordshire hoard

It had a nice ceiling too.


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

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



Read Full Post »

Older Posts »