Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony who is working in Fife and took the opportunity to walk along the Fife Coastal Path from Anstruther to Crail today.

Anstruther to Crail walk

We had good weather on the south side of the Forth too.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent some of the morning on the beach watching Matilda proving that King Canute was quite wrong as she told the sea to go away and it went away.  In the process some first rate paddling took place.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I got our bikes out and went for a gentle pedal along the coast road towards Dirleton.  I was quite surprised to find a few poppies out along the road side near the town.


I had a visit to a castle in mind but we ended up at the walled garden at Archerfield instead.

Archerfield walled garden

The walled garden is enormous and a team of volunteers are putting about half of it back into order.  I liked the alliums which were out in full force.


We came back by a different and more inland road, crossing over the single line branch railway to North Berwick…

North Berwick railway

…and stopping to admire a fine show of “snow in summer” and a hill of gorse…

wall and gorse

…as well as a fine house and the remains of a windmill tower.

east lothian buildings

Our route back into the town took us past the foot of the Law and we could see people on the summit.

North Berwick Law

Mrs Tootlepedal climbed up it last year but is going to admire it from a distance this year.

We found Al and Clare on the beach when we got back from our ten mile ride.

Al and Clare NB

It was that sort of day.

Matilda had been given a kite for her recent birthday and her father got it flying well in the light breeze.


Then Matilda built a sand castle and Al and I built one too.  Matilda kindly posed by our castle looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth…

matilda castle stamping

…but old habits die hard and soon, Matilda the destroyer of castles was hard at work…

matilda castle stamping

… and Edward the First, the hammer of the Scots,  would have been proud of her work.

I went off to look at boat trip times and Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda went down to the water’s edge.  The tide was far out and just beginning to come in again and when I got back, I found Matilda busy marooning Mrs Tootlepedal on a rock.

Ally and Matilda

I thought that Mrs Tootlepedal was very reminiscent of Ariadne on Naxos on her rock.   Matilda kindly allowed Mrs Tootlepedal to get free and began shifting as much of the sea as she could with a small spade.

Then it was time for tea.

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal put Matilda to bed and I went for a walk past the harbour.

Once again, there was plenty to look at both above the rocky point….


…and below…

sailing boats NB

…and looking out to sea.

sun and sea NB

When i got back, we played Oh Hell, a fine card game without which no family holiday is complete.

Once again a passing gull obliged as flying bird of the day…

flying gull

…though I was tempted to have a paddling dog of the day instead.

dog on canoe



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Today’s guest picture was taken by my son Alistair and shows an old man relaxing on his holiday.


I did get out for a bit of activity though.  Matilda and Mrs Tootlepedal and I paid an early visit to the beach and later on, we were joined by Al and Clare and we walked up North Berwick High Street to do some shopping, have a refreshment….


Matilda contemplating a babyccino.

…and a look around.


Very striking tulips in a tub.  I haven’t processed them at all.


Top quality blossom beside a church…


…which was offering a curious menu for worshippers today

After lunch, I left the others to the delights of flying a kite on the beach and went off for a ride on my new bike which we had brought with us in the back of the car.

It was breezy but the new bike is such a pleasure to ride that I didn’t mind and the views on the way offered constant pleasure.    As the road surfaces were smooth and there were no potholes, it was a most unusual ride for me.

A brief summary of things seen follows.


The Bass Rock to my left


Tantallon Castle ahead


Berwick Law across a field of rape behind me.


Berwick Law is not the only law around,  Traprain has a law too.


Typical of the back roads that I used

I stopped at Preston Mill to have a quick look round.


What looks like some sort of oast house


The mill pond


The water wheel turning slowly


I passed several churches.  Quite a few gravestones seemed to have blown over at this one


Drem Station on the recently un-privatised East Coast main line.  (Oh Lord, lead us not into Drem Station my father used to say)


A lot of the bridges had to be lifted up a bit when the overhead electricity lines were installed


Dirleton Castle hiding behind a tree,  We hope to visit it later on in the week.

Although it was reasonably warm, there was no hint of blue sky or sun while I was pedalling which is why the pictures are a bit dull.

I only had a road map of the area with me and I didn’t want to take that along so I took a photo of the map and looked at my camera when I wanted to get directions.  It worked surprisingly well.


By zooming in on the map in the camera viewer, I could see quite well where I might go.  I have inked in my route.  I made it up as I went along with the aim of making it came to 20 miles.  It ended up as 21 so I was quietly pleased.  Those interested can find details here.

I went for a short walk before tea to stretch my legs.

A boat full of passengers was coming in to the harbour.


Although they were too far away to photograph properly, I could see a host of birds on Craigleith Island and it was clear enough to see two fields of rape in Fife on the other side of the Forth._DSC4182

After an excellent tea of roast chicken, roast potatoes and veg, cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal, she and I went for a walk along the beach while Matilda was being out to bed.

The wind had died away, the skies had cleared a little and it was a lovely evening for a stroll.


The tide was in


Wild flowers abounded: bird’s foot trefoil, red campion, ribwort and valerian


We climbed a little hill and looked back to the town


Below us, a small flock of gannets were very active.  It looked as though they were collecting seaweed.

We are promised warm sunshine tomorrow.  That will be nice.

Another flying gull of the day.



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Today’s guest picture shows an ingenious planter which my brother Andrew encountered on the platform of Penrith Station…..

penrith station

…where he also met my sisters Mary and Susan.  More about that later.

We had another generally fine day with just the merest touch of rain in the early evening but the sun was not so hard working as yesterday and it felt a good deal cooler.

I had intended to embark on a bicycle ride of some length but my legs had other ideas so instead I was happy to welcome Dropscone for a cup of coffee.  We sampled some of Mary Jo’s Canadian jam with his scones and found that it went very well.

Dropscone brought with him a small gift of crusty rolls which he had acquired at an extremely reasonable price from a Hawick supermarket just before it shut for the day as he passed through on his way home from a  golfing meeting late last night.  In return, we sent him off with a bag of rhubarb stalks.

I mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass and then had a walk round the garden.

There is no shortage of things to look at.

The anemone is among my favourite flowers.  Its hand painted look appeals to me.


The white bluebells are looking strong.


And the good weather has the tulips opening their petals to the world.

tulip hearts

At noon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre Coffee shop and I went in to have lunch and keep an eye on the birds.

Goldfinches appeared to be unhappy about something.


After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal reappeared and I got out the new bike and went off for a gentle and short run down to Canonbie by my usual route.  I don’t have any pictures to show from the trip as most unusually for me, I did the whole twenty miles without stopping at all, except on the two occasions when I had to cross the main road.   I have added a pannier to the set up and the bike coped with this without difficulty.

Since I hadn’t taken any pictures on the cycle ride, I took a few in the garden when I got back….

bees on dicentra

Two colours of dicentra both acting as bee magnets

garden ferns

A ferny corner of the back bed


Ornamental and edible strawberries both in flower

lamium, tulip and rhododendron

Lamium, tulip and rhododendron


The daffodil of the day (not many left)


This is the dawning of the age of azalea (with more to come)

…and then, as it was sunny for a bit,  Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to see the bluebells.  Unfortunately we had left things just a moment too late and by the time that we got to the bluebells, the sun had gone in again.  There was plenty to see on the way through the park and along the river…

park trees

Blossom in the park

…but the most surprising thing that we saw was several young rabbits scuttling across the grass at the far end of the park and disappearing into holes in the banking.  We stopped to watch them scamper about and one rabbit felt mistakenly that it was well enough hidden…

park rabbit

…to avoid the inquisitive lens.

We walked on.

wild garlic

wild garlic along the path

easton ferns

ferns everywhere


bluebells and more wild garlic

When we got to them, the bluebells were at their best…


…but the clouds had thickened up and the dull weather didn’t do them justice.  However, the scent from the flowers was not affected and gave our walk special pleasure.

We came home along the Stubholm track…

Stubholm track

…and walked back through the park, passing stitchwort by the Stubholm track and…

stitchwort and white wild flower

…and an unknown white flower in profusion at the park bridge.

We didn’t have long to wait after we got home before my brother Andrew drove up bringing Susan and Mary, my two eldest sisters with him.   Andrew is on a holiday in north Lancashire, my sister Susan had been staying with friends in Cumbria,  my sister Mary had joined them for a short break in the Lake District based in Penrith and all three had come to Langholm to test the new bench, marvel at the new bike and have a meal at the Douglas Hotel with us.

The test, the marvelling and the meal all went off well and we waved them goodbye as the light began to fade at the end of a good day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch showing strong shoulders as it approaches the feeder.

flying chaffinch







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Today’s guest picture shows an old bridge with more arches than water.  It came from my brother Andrew.  He tells me that it is the Segovia bridge in Madrid, over the river Manzanares. Completed in 1584, it is the oldest bridge in the city – the architect was ‎Juan de Herrera


The over night rain had stopped by the morning and I was able to get out for a standard twenty mile pedal down to Canonbie and back.  I hope that this will be the last on my slow bike for some time.

I wasn’t going to stop but my legs had other ideas so you can thank them for this view of bluebells in a roadside wood…


…and the first look at some wild geums and a marigold which was playing host to a lot of insects.

geum and marigold

I had a choice between a chilly early start and a warmer windier later one and chose the windier option which resulted in a very slow bike ride indeed.  Still, I was pleased to get again as it meant that my hand is not suffering because of cycling.  I don’t know what set it off last week but I hope that it doesn’t do it again.

When I got home, I found that our friends Bob and Nancy were helping to reduce Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure mountain by taking some of it away to their allotment.  That is what friends are for.

I went upstairs and looked out of the window.

front lawn may

The daffodils have almost disappeared and we are relying on tulips for colour until the azaleas and alliums come out.

middle lawn may

I took this picture of the veg garden before cycling.  It is looking well organised.

veg garden may

More is getting planted out in it every day.

The tulips are holding up well…


…though the very earliest to come out are now over.

Other things are coming along nicely.

lilac and solomons seal

It is nearly lilac blossom time.

Some flowers are so small that the camera finds it hard to pick them out.  This is berberis and rosemary.

small flowers

There was plenty of evidence of yesterday’s rain.


I had a few moments to watch the birds.  This sunny moment was before breakfast.


After my cycling, siskins arrived in force.

flying siskin

busy feeder

I had to refill the feeder before we went to Edinburgh.

After lunch, we set off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.  It rained on us as we drove across but the sun shone for our train journey and our stay in the city.

Matilda was in good form and came out to play in the garden.  Alistair had mowed the pocket handkerchief sized lawn just as we arrived and Mrs Tootlepedal took the opportunity to smarten up the edges while I played with Matilda and her mother Clare and snipped away at protruding meadow grasses with some shears.  Both the gardening and the playing were most enjoyable in the warm sunshine and we looked back down on the lawn as we went in for tea with some satisfaction.

Al's lawn

Apart from Matilda being offended when I remarked that she was a small person  (“I am not small.  I am four!”), the visit went well and Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked back to Waverley Station in beautiful early evening sunshine.

Arthurs seat

I hadn’t noticed before that the architect of the Scottish parliament building had intentionally or unintentionally echoed the line of the Salisbury Crags with his roof.

salisbury crag and parliament

Mrs Tootlepedal’s wildlife detector was working well and she spotted this rabbit in the gardens beside the road.

edinburgh rabbit

I like the way that this old churchyard has survived in a valuable piece of real estate…

Edinburgh graveyard

…but as in all the cities we visit, the cranes were very busy.  These ones were a few yards up the road.

Edinburgh cranes

Our journey home was smooth and uneventful and as a mark of the passing of the months, we got home in the remains of daylight for the first time this year.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin


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Today’s guest picture shows that Mary Jo has not been wasting her entire time in London going to concerts and seeing the sights.  She has looked at interesting things as well.

Mary Jo's moss

We had another grey, cold and windy day today.  To be fair, it has been pretty dry recently and if it hadn’t been for the very chilly wind, we would probably have been celebrating a good spell of weather.

I went up to the Moorland bird hide after breakfast to fill the feeders for Sandy who is still on holiday in the sun and it was so cold that even sitting in the protection of the hide was not much fun.

There weren’t that many birds to take my mind off the chill either.


Different blackbirds were in evidence

robin, tit and siskin

And a shy robin, a bold great tit and a tiny siskin

unknown bird

And this bird, unknown to me, which stopped for a very brief moment.  I welcome identification from knowledgeable readers.  It might be a chiffchaff.


A woodpecker was very busy flitting between trees and feeders…


…until it finally came near to me and made sure that I got its good side.

As I say, I didn’t stop long and was pleased to get back to the town and get a  little shelter from the cruel wind.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work in the garden of course so I lent a little hand here and there and wandered around as well.

New flowers are coming out, some from the soil ….


….and some from handy boxes bought from a garden centre to temporarily fill a bare patch in a bed.


Amazingly, there are still one or two daffodils waiting for the moment to burst into flower…

unopened daffodil May

…while others, like these daffodils of the day, are nearing the end of the road.


Dozens and dozens of daffodils have been dead headed already.

There is almost always something to see.  Today it was a pulsatilla, the first of many I hope….


…with some pretty ferns unfolding in the back border….


..near the first Solomon’s seal of the year…

solomon's seal

…and on the other side of the garden, a fuzzy willow bud, defying the cameramen to take a sharp picture.

willow bud

And if there are no bees about, there is usually a fly on the euphorbia,

fly on euphorbia

If you get really fed up with the chilly wind, you can get your camera to take silly pictures…

tulip picture

…and go inside for a cup of coffee.

tulip picture

Once inside, you can look out of the window and see that the goldfinches have taken over the feeder…


…with such total domination that you can see a chaffinch banging its head against the pole in frustration in the picture above.

A pigeon cast a beady eye on proceedings from the plum tree.


When I went out to tell Mrs Tootlepedal that coffee was ready, a blackbird demanded to have its picture taken.


We were rather alarmed to see a man up the telephone pole behind the house as the last time that this happened, he accidentally disconnected our internet.  All was well today though as you can tell from the fact that this post has been posted.

After lunch, we went off to see Matilda and her parents in Edinburgh and had a constructive afternoon making scones, getting nails painted (some of us), playing a very non competitive form of snap and some Pelmanism.

We had a delightful evening meal and tested the scones (very good) before we walked up to the station to catch the train home.  Slightly unnervingly, both the up and down trains were precisely on time.

Mercifully, the forecast says it is going to get warmer over the next few days and as my thumb is now nearly cured and my new bike should appear either tomorrow or Saturday, things are really looking up.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches, losing a bit of seed in its anxiety to shout abuse at a friend.




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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who thought that this picture of the fernery at York on a rainy day might interest me after my fern walk with Mike a few  days ago.  He was right.  It interested Mike too.

fernery York

We had another cool and windy day here, with occasional heavy showers.  I had to go up to the Moorland Feeders as a fill in feeder filler for Sandy, who is sunning himself by the beach somewhere far to the south (lucky chap).

There were not many birds about so I enjoyed some of the tree features…

laverock hide trees

..until a few birds turned up.



Maybe the very brisk wind which you can see ruffling this siskin’s feathers had put the birds off…

blowy siskin

…but it certainly put me off and as Mrs Tootlepedal hadn’t seen anything interesting in the raptor line as she scanned the hillside, we went home…

…where it soon started raining.

busy feeder in the rain

However, it is April so the showers were intermittent and I got out into the garden from time to time.

The tulips are punctuating the daffodils with spots of colour…

tulips and affodils

…and standing alone too.

red tulips

In the pond many tadpoles and snails are to be seen.

tadpole and snail in pond

Mrs Tootlepedal has been trying to find out where the pond is leaking as it has been losing water whenever it stops raining lately.  She has done some serious detective work and today, she added some practical digging and stone shifting and she thinks that she has cracked the problem.

I took pictures of euphorbia and muscari to show the contrast mixture of  rain and sun we had today…

euphorbia and muscari

…for which a couple of tulips provided corroborative evidence.

tulips with rain drops

I found my daffodil of the day….


…and then went upstairs to take a couple of general views of the garden.  Here is the front  lawn and its surrounding beds…

view of front lawn

..and here is the middle lawn with a glimpse of the vegetable garden to the right.

view of garden

It doesn’t look bad considering the miserable spring  we have had so far.

The blackbirds still seem to be busy nesting and the female had come out for a break.


I made some soup for lunch and then we set off (through an horrendously heavy shower) for Lockerbie (where it wasn’t raining) to catch the train to Edinburgh to see Matilda and her parents.

I like to stretch my legs on the platform after the drive over and before catching the train and I always enjoy the infinite geometry of railway lines.

Lockerbie station

Our  trip to Edinburgh went well.  We caught a glimpse of the alternative grandparents and then turned some dough which Matilda had made with her other granny into bread rolls, enjoyed some football cards  and had a very tasty meal of home made pizza  before setting off to come home.

By this time the weather had cleared up and we decided to walk back to the station.  On the way, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted both some fine lichen…

Edinburgh lichen

…and a grey squirrel…

edinburgh squirrel

…while my eyes turned to the flag flying at Holyroodhouse with Arthur’s Seat behind it…

Arthurs Seat and Holyrood House

…and a selection of buildings which we passed as we walked along.

Views from Regent road Edinburgh

We were a bit alarmed to find that the incoming train from Manchester, which we catch on its way back south, hadn’t even arrived at the station by the time that we due to leave and I expected a long delay.  Mercifully and very surprisingly, the train drew in some four minutes after it was due to leave and left only three minutes later!  In the end we were only eight minutes late getting home.  What a relief.

And the pond hadn’t lost any water so it looks as though Mrs Tootlepedal has cracked the problem.

The flying bird of the day showed off the strength of the wind very well.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from Langholm exile Tom.  He sent me this delightful view, taken on his morning walk in South Africa.

Tom's walk

There are far too many pictures in today’s post but when the sun shines after so much gloom, it is hard to stop the shutter finger clicking.

It was a beautiful day in Langholm today…

Beautiful day in Langholm

…so it was a bit sad that I had volunteered to spend most of the morning in  the Welcome to Langholm office, especially in view of the fact that I had no visitors to welcome.

When I got home, there was time to mow the front lawn, hunt for tadpoles…


…note signs of spring (plum tree on left and sliver pear in the middle)…

signs of spring

…check out the growing river of grape hyacinths…

hyacinyth river

…applaud the first tulips of the year….


…capture the daffodil(s) of the day…


…and go in for lunch.

There were birds about, both peaceful…

chaffinch and goldfinch

…and excited.


All too soon, it was time to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to visit Matilda, her parents and her other grandparents in Edinburgh.

The train journey was the only time all day when the sun didn’t shine….

Tinto hills

Tinto Hills shot from the train window.

…but it was sunny in Edinburgh when we got there.

Matilda and her parents were visiting her other grandparents who were visiting from Cambridge.  They  have a pied a terre in Edinburgh, with a fine camellia by the door.


Matilda was waiting for us and it only took the addition of a mask to turn Matilda from a small serious child….


…into superhero Ladybug.   She saved us from innumerable evils with great aplomb.

It was a day for a walk but Matilda had already been to the Botanic gardens which are not far away so she turned the offer of a second visit and the grandparents made an excursion by themselves.

The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh,  free to enter, is a treat.  It was ideally suited today for a gentle grandparently stroll in the sun.

Botanic Garden

Mrs Tootlepedal, Eileen and Francis take the air

I took too many pictures and I have put a selection of them here.  As well as catkins….

Botanic Garden catkins

…and exuberant flowers…


…and more modest flowers…


…there were well designed corners…


…plentiful signs of spring…

botanic gardens

…and Chinese gardens with streams and bridges.

botanic gardens

And there were other interesting things too, like a magpie and a tree creeper…

magpie and tree creeper

…which was obligingly creeping up a tree when we saw it…

…and a grey squirrel.

botanic gardens squirrel

We didn’t have long, although it would have been easy to have spent hours enjoying the sights…

botanic gardens

The prettiest flowers of the tour

botanic gardens

This bed was a mystery

…did I say that there were catkins?

botanic gardens

…and we had reluctantly to drag ourselves away from the garden to go for our evening meal.  Matilda’s aunt and cousin who also live in Edinburgh came to join us so nine of us sat down for a family meal.  It was rounded off by a serving of Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding which we had brought up with us on the train.

With the aid of a handy app, Alistair was able to get us out of the house in perfect time to catch the bus back to the station and we walked along Princes Street to the station in the evening sunshine.  Arthur’s Seat formed a backdrop to the city and…

Arthur's seat

…a good crowd were enjoying the view from the top of the hill.

Arthur's seat

Our journey home went well and we arrived back, tired but happy after a busy day.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in the sun.

flying chaffinch

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