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Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She encountered this impressive prancing beast at Covent Garden.  It is doing some serious strutting but as it seems to be standing in the sledge it is supposed to be pulling, it looks like a bit of a freeloader to me.

covent garden

It was cold, grey but dry today and I was happy to have a cup of coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two but after he left, I stiffened my sinews and summoned up my blood and actually got my bike out and went for a pedal.

There were hints of breaks in the clouds as you can see from this picture of this fine tree near Waterbeck…

tree between the waters

…but the sun remained stubbornly hidden behind a low bank of cloud to the west and I was glad that I had several layers on as a nipping wind blew across me or into my face for most of the thirty miles that I covered.

I stopped for a banana near Kirkpatrick Fleming and looked wistfully at hints of sunshine behind a phone mast…

phone mast KPF

…and with wonder at a tree beside the motorway which was positively dripping with catkins.

vatkins at KPF

I made a final stop with three miles to go to have a drink of water and a wall inspection.

It was a good wall with lots of moss…

irvine house moss

…and more moss with added lichen…

irvine house moss lichen

…and even more moss with added lichen and ferns….

irvine house moss lichen fern

…and there was lots of lichen too….

irvine house falt lichen

…of many different varieties.

irvine house cup lichen

I like walls.  When I was very young, there was a slogan that stated “Walls have ears” to discourage talk that might be useful to an enemy agent during the war.  After several years of close examination of walls, I can safely say that they may have many interesting things on them but I have never seen any ears.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been cooking some delicious biscuits while I was out pedalling, no weight loss has been involved in today’s activities.

The light wasn’t too bad when I got home and I half thought of adding a walk to the day’s entertainment but cycling in a chilly wind is tiring so I had a look at the birds….

peaceful goldfinches

…where once again goldfinches were ruling the roost…

angry goldfinches…and then I had a short walk round the garden where I noticed the last survivor of the sweet rocket still hanging on….

sweet rocket Dec 12

…and then I went back inside and had a warming bath instead of taking any more exercise.

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought a little bit of the garden inside and one of the geraniums that flowered well outside is now on the windowsill….

geranium indoor

…alongside an African violet, a present from a friend for our wedding anniversary in January, which has been flowering for several months.

indoor plant

In the evening, Luke came round and we played a Loeillet sonata.  We are going to take this sonata seriously and try to put the correct ornaments and playing style into place.  This will require me to do some learning for myself as I have always been a bit hit and miss when it come to trills, turns and mordents.

I spent some time in the evening watching political events unfold and I am very interested to see if the politicians who voted against Mrs May and lost will now take the advice which they have been freely offering to those on the losing side of the recent referendum and respect the fact that they lost the vote and shut up.   It would be a blessing.

I am not holding my breath.

The flying chaffinch of the day is very angry about the whole thing too.

angry flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who found herself, with a crowd of other musicians, singing the European National Anthem very loudly outside the Houses of Parliament to indicate their support for free movement for  musicians after any Brexit.  This is niche protesting brought to a fine art.

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There were no protests here today and the temperature was comfortably above freezing at 4°C when I walked up to the health centre after an early breakfast to give a thimbleful of blood for testing.  This is to check my iron levels which were a bit low a few months ago.

In a way, I would be obscurely pleased if the levels were  still a bit low as it would give me a medical excuse for being frequently tired as opposed to a well founded suspicion that this might be down to a general dilapidation of mind and body on account of having had too many birthdays in the past.  Mind you, it might just be the onset of winter.

It was  grey day and when I got home the light meter on my camera told me that it wasn’t just grey, it was really grey so while Mrs Tootlepedal put in some time on her bike to nowhere, I did the crossword and occasionally looked out of the window, hoping that the temperature might rise a degree or two and that things  might brighten up.

In the gloom, I could pick out a dunnock scavenging for fallen seed..

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…and a party of greenfinches, peacefully munching away on the feeer.

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The peace didn’t last long….

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…as chaffinches and sparrows barged in.

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It is always fun to see the concentration needed for landing safely on a perch.

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I don’t know whether the gloomy weather makes it harder for birds to judge the landing but this chaffinch looks as though he is working hard.

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I was frustrated to find that although the temperature had gone up a degree or two before lunchtime, it had also started to rain in a morose but persistent way so I gave up thoughts of cycling or walking, had some soup and turned to music practice and preparation to fill my day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on some errands but when she got back, she thought the day was good enough to plant out the last of her tulips.  I went out to offer her some light supervision and was delighted to find that one of the perennial wallflowers still had a flower or two on show…

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…though it was so dark that I had to use my flash to capture it.

Our ever patient heron was on guard at the pond and I liked the pattern that the perennial nasturtium’s leaves made on the yew behind it.

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(I had an appalling panto thought: It’s a behind yew.)

Next to the greenhouse, the rosemary bush is in very perky form…

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…and one or two enterprising shoots have pushed through the ventilator into the greenhouse itself where they are putting out a few flowers.

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In the early evening, seven members of the Archive Group assembled in our front room for our AGM.  You may think that AGM stands for Annual General Meeting but I have been taking lesson from you know who and can tell you that AGM stands for A Great Meeting …and not just a great meeting but a really great meeting, a really, really great meeting….probably the best meeting in the world.

At any rate, we were happy with it as we have once again done a lot of work and met with appreciation for our efforts.

After our evening meal, I pulled myself together and spent a gentle half hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage and that rounded off a quiet but useful day.

The flying bird of the day can be seen pushing through the miserable drizzle.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce who is a railway enthusiast and was present at the unveiling of a plaque by Captain Chris Smith at the spot where the Hawick railway station would be if it was still here, which it isn’t.

The Jellicoe Express ran between Euston and Thurso.  Hawick on the old Waverley Line.  Hawick was a station where the Express called in one direction for coal and water and now is the only location that no longer has trains. The Express was the longest rail journey in Britain and ran during both world wars transporting mail and navy personnel

Many local people cherish the hope that the station will reopen in the not too distant future.

Jellicoe Express

The weather here was a lot better today as I could judge for myself when I crossed the Esk by the suspension bridge…

dav

…on my way to meet Dropscone at the now ex-archive centre where we read the electricity meter and I passed over the door key.  On my way home, I popped into the garage to pay my bill and then went into the Welcome to Langholm office where our local art club was holding an exhibition and bought a painting.

When I crossed the suspension bridge on my return home, I enjoyed the view  downstream.

sdr

I didn’t have long to wait once I had got in before I was re-joined by Dropscone who had been cooking some of his traditional Friday treacle scones while I had been busy.  They were excellent as usual and added to the general cheerfulness of the day.

When the scone eating ceremony was completed,  Dropscone cycled home and I walked back up to the town to collect my art purchase.  Coming out of the Welcome to Langholm office, I couldn’t help noticing that workmen were well up to the job of putting the decorations on the enormous Christmas tree outside the Town Hall.  Rather them than me.

dig

Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been out having coffee with friends, came home just after I got back and I was able to present her with the painting.  I had bought it as a secondary birthday present for her to go with the light bulb.

The painting is by a local artist, Margaret Walty who does the most beautiful and detailed work.  The panel below shows the whole painting and a section of it enlarged.

Margaret Walty

To give an idea of the scale at which Margaret works, the breast of the robin is less than 1 cm across….and she works in acrylics without using a magnifying glass.

I turned from art to nature and watched the birds for a while.  Two goldfinches were enjoying the seed today without being battered by the rain.

bookend goldfinches

A dunnock hopped about on a chair beside the feeders.

dunnock on chair

I made some vegetable soup for lunch.  We still have plenty of potatoes left from the garden but after I used one of our onions, there are now only two left.  Still to get to December with our own onions is not too bad.

It was pretty windy in spite of the sunshine so I decided to go for a walk after lunch instead of a cycle ride and this turned out to be a good decision as I had a most satisfying stroll.  I have declared my leg officially cured so I ventured up the Kirk Wynd and on to the open hill.

I had a look round the garden before I left.

strawberry and sweet rocket November

Ornamental strawberry and sweet rocket.

As I passed the golf club, I couldn’t help noticing these very bright yellowy orange flowers on a shrub beside the track.   It might be a pyracantha or cotoneaster but whatever it is, I was surprised to see it flowering.

november flowers kirk wynd

As I got further up the track beside the golf course, the hills came into view.

View from Kirk Wynd

As the brisk and chilly wind was coming from behind me, there was just enough heat from the sun to keep me comfortable and I could enjoy the play of light on Castle Hill with the dark clouds behind.

castle hill November

Luckily the clouds were being driven up the valley and although the sun was low in the sky, the views were delightful.

sunshine and shadow ewes

I had taken Mrs Tootlepedal’s advice and had my walking poles with me.  They are a great help when going up hill and I soon got to the top of the golf course where a good crop of British Soldier lichens can be found…

soldier lichen

…and headed out onto the open hillside.

I didn’t go any higher up the hill but walked along the contour….

two trees abive Hillhead

…until I came to the road to Newcastleton.

Up ewes

There has been a lot of tree felling on the far side of the road and I could now see the sheep pens and buildings which have been hidden by the trees for many years.

sheep pens

The sun dropped below some low clouds behind Warbla at this point…

warbla late november

….but the road down the hill is well sheltered…

 

copshaw road

…and my walk back to the town was no problem.

I took the little path along the Lamb Hill and was greeted by some gorse in flower.

november gorse

I reached home after just under two and a half miles in harmony with nature and enjoyed a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from a visit to the hairdresser.  Everything was good.

Mike and Alison are busy babysitting their daughter’s dogs at the moment so there was no Friday night tootling but I employed the time in practising singing for Sunday’s choirs so it wasn’t time wasted.

The flying bird of the day is roughly the 120th chaffinch to have had that honour this year.  I will have to try to get out more.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from our son Tony’s walk round the Wemyss Estate.  As well as a parakeet in a tree, he came across a curious deer which was looking a bit lost.

wemyss deer

We were visited by storm Diana today.  I must say that the practice of giving passing weather fronts a name is obviously a bad idea.  They are getting ideas above their station and we got a lot of rain and some stiff winds in the afternoon.

It wasn’t too bad in the morning when Dropscone came round for coffee.  Sandy dropped in to pick up some keys for the new archive centre but he was busy and didn’t stay for coffee.  This meant that Dropscone and I could eat all the scones which was a stroke of luck as the scones were particularly tasty today.

Although it was raining lightly as Dropscone left, the forecast said that it would stop raining by twelve o’clock and then start again by one.  As it did actually stop raining at three minutes to twelve, I went out for a short three bridges walk.

I was detained for a moment by some cheerful calendulas in the garden before I left.

calendulas end of november

The clouds had lifted on the hills and I could almost see the monument.

misty monument

There was a touch of colour in the last willows which are fading away beside the town bridge.

last willow

And some of our resident ducks had found a calm spot for a paddle above the bridge.

floating ducks

I was very impressed by the amount of hay being transported by a single driver from the arable east coast to the pastoral west.

big hay

I passed more evidence of the activity of the Langholm Walks volunteers who have been putting new discs onto the walks signposts.

Langholm Walks signs

Walkers are spoiled for choice

The group is trying hard to encourage walkers to come to the town and sample the many delights of walking in our woods and hills.

As I went along the Lodge Walks, I discovered that the forecast had only said that it would have started raining by one o’clock.  It didn’t say when it would actually start and that turned out to be at about ten past twelve so I didn’t get very far on my walk before the rain came down.  Luckily I was well armed (or legged) with welly boots and a large golf umbrella.  As I was sheltered from the worst of the wind and there was plenty to look at, I still had a good walk.

I saw berries by a wall…

lodge walks berries

…and lichen on a tree…

lodge walks lichen

…as I went up the Lodge Walks.

Then as I crossed the Castleholm, I saw a tree with many, many branches…

castleholm bare tree

…a soggy gate…

soggy castleholm gate

…and a tree stump with a mixture of fungus and fallen leaves which were so well matched for colour that it was hard to tell them apart.

castleholm fungi and leaves

Round the back of the stump, there were more clear cut fungi.

castleholm fungi

As I walked back along the path to the Jubilee Bridge, I could see many hazel catkins…

castleholm catkin

…but by the time that I got to the bridge, the rain was coming down so steadily that I put my camera back in my pocket and concentrated all my energies on not letting my brolly get blown away by the wind.

By the time that I got home, it was a thoroughly miserable day and so dark and gloomy that I didn’t bother to get my bird watching camera out at all.

After lunch, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and practised some singing for my various choirs.

Mrs Tootlepedal made another delicious evening meal and fortified by that, I ventured out into the wind and the rain to go to a Langholm Sings choir practice.  Some of the work that I had done in the afternoon turned out to be quite useful.

It had stopped raining by the time that we came out of the practice and this was just as well as the river was high and flowing fast as I crossed the suspension bridge.  We are promised more heavy rain tomorrow so riverside dwellers may be getting a bit nervous.

I didn’t try for a flying bird of the day today and a rather fuzzy perching gull is standing in for the position instead.

perching gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony.  He took a suitably black and white shot of his black and white dogs.

wemyss dogs

In theory today was very much the same temperature as yesterday but in practice it felt much colder because of a rawness in the air and as a result I was quite happy to have a lot of singing and no cycling to do.

The singing started in church.  The choir had had no notice of the hymns in advance which was unusual but didn’t matter in the case of two of them which had simple harmonies.  One of the others in particular defeated me entirely even though it was sung in unison.  However, we had a enjoyable practice afterwards and in the end, we had a good morning of singing.

While this was going on, Sandy and Nancy were supervising the removal of the Archive Group’s furniture and equipment to the new base for the group.  The removal was in the hands of a couple of every competent fellows and Sandy and Nancy reported that everything had gone smoothly.  I hope to visit the new premises tomorrow and see the results.

When I got home, I had time for a quick walk round the garden with my new phone in hand.

There are still flowers about (just).

In some cases, it is a question of hanging on by the skin of the teeth…

edf

…but others are defiantly still flowering freely…

edf

….even if conditions are a bit soggy.

edh

I can’t get over how cheerful the perennial wallflower still is.

edf

As well as flowers, there is always moss about in the garden and this morning there was some additional fungus among the moss on the elder.

edf

At the bird feeder, it was very much a chaffinch day….

chaffinch activity

…though other birds were about as well.  There were pigeons on the lawn…

pigeon on lawn

…and jackdaws in the elder…

waiting jackdaw

…and one on a chair showing off its white feathers.

white feathers jackdaw

The chaffinches were queuing up to get to the sunflower hearts…

chaffinch queue

…but when they got there, some preferred arguing to eating.  Perhaps they were politicians in a former life.

chaffinch head to head

There was no shortage of pushy behaviour.

chaffinch starmash

After lunch, we went off to sing with our choir in Carlisle.  Ellen, our usual conductor, had other commitments and our accompanist was marooned in Motherwell by a late train cancellation so we had both a substitute conductor from Glasgow and a member of the choir at the keyboard.

As it turned out, they were more than able to provide us with a satisfactory practice and as is so often the case, a new face in front of the choir provided us with fresh insights into performing  better.  As there were only three tenors present this week, our department had to work hard to make itself heard.

When we got home, I made some cauliflower cheese for tea and followed that off with an iced bun so all in all, it was a very satisfactory day.

The flying bird of the day, unsurprisingly, is one of the chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who is beginning to get about again.  She visited the south bank of the Thames and admired the view of St Paul’s and the “Wobbly Millennium Bridge”  (now stabilised).

thames suspension bridge

Our weather is coming from the east at the moment so the temperature has dropped well into single figures and with a brisk wind blowing, it was not a day for idling around outside.

All the same, I had to go out after breakfast to return the key of the room where we had had our camera club meeting last night but I walked briskly and only stopped for one quick test of my new phone’s camera on the way.

sdr

The wind was coming from the left so by the time that I got home, a little sunshine had arrived and I tested the phone camera on a couple of the few remaining flowers in the garden.

sdrdav

The berberis is getting very thin on top now.

dav

I am still trying to get a balance between exercise and rest for my leg so I spent a quiet morning in, intending to go for a walk in the afternoon.

The birds provided a diversion.

There were goldfinch swirls….

goldfinch swirl

..and chaffinch twirls…

chaffinch twirl

…acrobatic landings….

one legged goldfinch landing

…and an anxious goldfinch hoping that a chaffinch had judged its braking distance correctly.

chaffinch pulling on brakes

Mrs Tootlepedal had put some breadcrumbs out on the lawn yesterday and two rather baffled jackdaws arrived today and wondered where they had all gone.

two curious jackdaws

On the whole, it was a quiet day and there were more chaffinches in the plum tree than on the feeder.

chaffinches in plum tree

After lunch, I went round to Nancy with a bank statement for the Archive Group and the experience of that very short walk made me reconsider my plan for a longer walk and I went home and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database instead.

Later Nancy came round with the completed accounts for the Archive Group for the year and happily, we are still solvent.

I partially made up for not going for a walk by doing a short spell on the bike to nowhere in the garage later in the afternoon and was pleased to find that my leg is continuing to improve.

This was successfully tested by a walk to the Buccleuch Centre in the evening where Mrs Tootlepedal and I watched a screened performance of the “The Madness of George III” by Alan Bennett at the Nottingham Playhouse.  I had seen the film some time ago and wondered if I would enjoy the play as much.  As it turned out, I enjoyed the play more as it was an excellent production and the immediacy of the live drama was very emotionally touching.

It says it is going to be colder still tomorrow.  I will have to think about putting the winter tyres on the car soon, not to mention looking out the winter undergarments for the driver.

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

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce’s trip to the west coast.  He has acquired a new pocket camera and as well as taking fine scenic pictures (more of them in later posts), he pointed it at a young buzzard on a pole.

Bruce's buzzard

We had another fine and sunny day today, though a bit colder than we have been getting lately.  After yesterday’s successful cycle and walk combination, I was quite happy to have a quiet day of singing today and let things settle down in the leg department in spite of the good weather.

We had one less hymn to sing than usual in church as our visiting minister unexpectedly burst into song himself between the readings. We had a good choir practice after the service to make up for the shortfall though.

When I got home, there was a little sunlight falling on the feeder…

coal tit and goldfinch…but very few birds actually coming to the feeder and those that arrived almost always managed to catch a shadow.

I had to look to the plum tree for clearer shots.

pigeon in plum tree

Some time ago Mrs Tootlepedal cut the head off the sunflower that unexpectedly came up behind the feeders but she left the stalk standing and it acts as a convenient perch for birds waiting to come to the feeder….

unshadowed chaffinch

..and a tweak to the camera settings produced a satisfactory result.

shadowed chaffinch

As the sun moved round, the feeder soon fell back into deep shadow so I went out into the garden for some sunshine.  Once again, the berberis was ablaze but it is beginning to lose its leaves and I fear that fire will soon be out.

blazing berberis

The winter jasmine is doing well.

winter jsmine

In spite of the sun, it was quite chilly outside so I didn’t linger long and went back in.

The bird watching was a wash out.

dark birds at feeder

 

We had another visit from a jackdaw with white feathers.

jackdaw with white

After lunch, it was soon time to combine a little shopping in Carlisle with our Community Choir practice.  Once again, our energetic conductor Ellen gave us plenty of work to do and by the end of the session my voice was feeling the strain a bit.  I must make sure that I do my vocal exercises conscientiously.

As it is now pitch dark by the time that we get back from choir in Carlisle, Sundays have become a short day from a photographic point of view but as I enjoy the singing, I can’t really complain about that.

I couldn’t catch a flying bird today and a visiting jackdaw was most unhappy about this failure.

jackdaw staring

 

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