Archive for the ‘Singing’ Category

Today’s guest picture is a glimpse of the Regent Canal at Camden, kindly sent to me by my sister Mary.

Regent's canal at Camden Town

We had been threatened by heavy rain and gales in the morning, courtesy of storm Dylan but once again we got off very lightly with no more than a stiff breeze and no rain at all when we got up.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to cycle off to sing in the church choir after breakfast with no danger of being blown off our bikes or getting soaked.

We got back from church in time to see a robin…


….and welcome our last visitor of 2017, the recorder playing, choir singing, container lady and good friend, Sue.

Mrs Tootlepedal had made fish pie and there was plenty of cheese about so we had a nourishing lunch and from time to time, we looked out of the window at a flock of goldfinches which had come to the feeder.


Every perch on both feeders was taken by goldfinches and more waited their turn.


The collective name for goldfinches is a charm and it was indeed charming to see so many in our garden.

Although we had been promised rain in the morning and a dry afternoon, it started to rain quite heavily while we ate our lunch….


…and things dudn’t look promising as far as a walk went at all.

We had just settled down in the sitting room after the meal, ready to spend an hour or so in quiet conversation, when I spotted a ray of sunshine.

We leapt up and looked for boots.  Sue’s were in her car and while she was outside fetching them, she saw a wonderful rainbow.   I grabbed a camera and went into the garden.


The sunshine was fleeting though and by the time that we had put our boots on, the sun and the rainbow had gone.

Still, we had our boots and coats on so we set off for the walk, more in hope than expectation of keeping dry.

It did seem as if it was raining as we went through the park but it was probably just water dripping off the trees.

dripping needles

And when we got into open country, the rain had gone and we did the rest of our walk in breezy but dry conditions.

My daughter Annie has given me a book on moss for Christmas so I will have to pay more attention to moss in 2018.  There is plenty about.

mossy wall

When you walk with different people, you see different things and I would have passed two stones without a second glance but Mrs Tootlepedal, who likes the history contained in rocks, thought them interesting enough to stop and examine them.


Sue liked the colour combination of the hawthorn berries and the tree lichens beside the track.

haws and lichen

My camera didn’t do it justice.

I took the next picture to reassure doubters that there is indeed intelligent life on the earth.

two wise women

It was pausing to enjoy the view as we climbed up Warbla.

The view when we got to the top was sombre and although there were a few gaps in the clouds, the sun never found one to shine through.

gloomy view of Langholm

Proof that we made the summit.

Warbla with women

I took this picture of the town bridge, a mile away and on a very gloomy day just to impress Sue with the abilities of the Lumix.  She was impressed.  It is not cropped.


Sue has been studying lichens at her plant classes so naturally we stopped to look at the park wall on our way home.


And as we walked round the garden when we got back, I realised that I hadn’t taken a tree picture on the walk and looked at our walnut tree.

walnut tree

There was still a little light left in the west and Sue decided to make the most of it by heading home before it got dark.

We had been more than pleased both to see her and to get a walk in and we would have been thoroughly delighted with the visit even if she hadn’t brought some very tasty home made biscuits with her.

Alison and Mike had brought biscuits with them when they visited us on Friday so the end of the year has been very well be-biscuited.  These are the sort of friends you want.

Once again it was generally too gloomy for flying birds but the burst of sunshine which brought the rainbow also brought a very fine perching starling of the day.


I would like to take the opportunity to thank all the patient readers who have ploughed through another year of these posts and wish you all a very happy new year.   Special thanks goes to those who have sent me guest pictures (keep them coming) and those who have been kind enough to offer the comments on the posts which are always appreciated.

Thank you and good night.


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Song and dance

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba who has sent me a small quilt made by her friend Lucie which shows a delightful seasonal robin.


Every day at the moment seems to be in competition with the day before to see which can be the more unpleasant and gloomy.  Today won hands down, as it was  even greyer than usual with brisk winds and lots of drizzle and rain.

It was lucky that there was plenty to do indoors with singing in the church choir after breakfast followed by entertaining and being entertained by Matilda for most of the rest of the day.

I put on my waterproof trousers, boots, jacket and hat and braved the rain for  a short walk after lunch just to stretch my legs.  It wasn’t a day for taking pictures…

Timpen in mist

…so I managed a gate on the Lodge Walks…

gate Lodge walks

…the new view at the top of the pheasant hatchery where a wood has been cleared….

view pheasant hatchery

…and one of the trees that the fellers have left behind…

tree pheasant hatchery

…but I was mostly glad to get home without getting absolutely soaked.

When I got in, I was the audience for an extensive dancing display by Matilda.  She goes to dancing classes and has a very good line in expressive interpretation of a tune.  I even did a little granddad dancing myself.

There was no opportunity to hang about in front of the kitchen window so there are no birds today and I don’t really enjoy taking pictures of people as it seems a bit intrusive so there are no pictures of people either.

However, we have left out a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for his reindeer so we are hoping for a good day tomorrow.

I am off to sing in the midnight carol service at the church so I will take this opportunity to wish all the blog readers a happy Christmas and seasonal good times and thank those who have sent Mrs Tootlepedal and me their good wishes.


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Today’s guest picture was taken by our daughter Annie as she stopped off in Hong Kong on her way back from Macao.

Hong Kong

We should have been in celebratory mood today as it is the winter solstice and the start of a new year but Mrs Tootlepedal’s cold had got a bit worse and she wisely retired to bed for the day so we were rather muted,

It was a still, grey day and I might have gone for a pedal if I had felt more perky but the humidity was very high (98% as I write this) so my asthma was niggling a little and I didn’t want to desert the invalid for too long and to be quite honest, the weather has been so miserable for most of the year that some of the joy has gone out of cycling lately and I am having a hard time trying to get motivated.

I stared out of the kitchen window for a while where a robin was keeping an eye out for competition.


A chaffinch came in search of a perch and flew off disappointed.

Flying chaffinches

A dunnock did some gleaning.


And having chased a rival off, the robin went back to supervising its territory.


I didn’t want to spend the whole morning stuck inside so I went for a short walk, picking up Sandy on my way.

I had heard that the wood at the Becks Burn was due to be felled so we went along to get some pictures of the wood before felling.

We were too late.  Signs were up forbidding access and in the wood, machines were already eating the trees.

Becks wood

We turned back and took a shorter route home, going down the edge of the wood and following the Becks Burn….

Beck burn

…until we got to the road….

Becks burn bridge

…and headed for home.

We had seen a few things on our way.

jacob sheep

And an indication of how wet the air has been was given by the hawthorn trees.


You might well think that it has been raining but it has been dry.


A good tree is always cheering.


I really liked this striking lichen on the roadside wall.


The beech hedges retain their leaves and give a bit of colour even on the darkest day of the year.

beech hedge in winter

The predominate view of the day was misty patches.  They were to be seen wherever you looked.

misty view

misty view

Becks mist


We rounded off the walk with a view of a heron standing on the caul at Pool Corner.

heron pool corner

It was looking a bit too well turned out to be Mr Grumpy, we thought but it wasn’t bothered by us and just stood there thinking about fish.  We secretly hoped that it would fly gently off, giving us a good photo opportunity but it stubbornly stayed there until we gave up first and walked on.

When I got home, I had a last look out of the window…

shouting chaffinch

…and was very impressed by the sheer power of this chaffinch’s shout.

I made Mrs Tootlepedal a light lunch and went off to sing carols with some members of Langholm Sings at the Day Centre for the benefit of the ‘old folk’ who had just had their Christmas lunch.  They seemed quite pleased to see us.

And that was that for the day.  I acted as occasional support for Mrs Tootlepedal who was still some way below par, put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, surfed the internet and practised a song or two.

Roll on springtime.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch






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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He has been out and about enjoying the bright lights of Edinburgh.


We had no bright lights here this morning.  In fact it was hard to discern any light at all as it was the gloomiest day imaginable, cold and wet and very miserable.

As we are on a break from our Carlisle choir, I decided to join Mrs Tootlepedal and sing with the church choir here.  The organist and choirmaster had extended an invitation to go and sing with them on an ad hoc basis so I was sure of a welcome.

Getting to church proved a tricky business as the cold rain on top of some very cold ground had made our roads and pavements into a sheet of ice and we tottered along very delicately, holding on to anything we could find for support as we went.

The church choir was very enjoyable, though trying to sight read a tenor part while following the words on the opposite page of the hymn book was testing.  Luckily, Mike, my cello playing friend, was standing beside me  and being a very sound singer, he kept me right.

After we got home, I peered through the rain to see if there were any birds at the feeder.


They looked pretty fed up and who can blame them.



Of course, there is one bird that never seems to be weighed down by life.


I made some soup for lunch and kept an eye out for more birds.

There was a steady stream of chaffinches coming….

siskin, goldfinch and chaffinch

…and sometimes receiving an unfriendly welcome.

siskin and chaffinch

I very much liked a little cameo performance by a robin and a siskin.

siskin and robin

My turn………………………………..your turn…………………………..er….whose turn now?

We have blackbirds with yellow beaks and blackbirds with black beaks.


I don’t think that our cat scarer is much good at cat scaring but it does make a nice perch for you know who.


After lunch, I waited for the rain to stop and then got ready to go for a walk.  The rain had started again by the time that I got to the back door but I needed some exercise so I took a brolly in hand and set out anyway.

The weather had warmed up quite a bit and the roads were free from ice but a test walk on a rough path showed that every puddle concealed a skating rink so I turned back and stuck to the roads.

It was very misty when I got to the river…

misty church

…and there was no sign at all of any hills behind the town.

Whita in cloud

As I crossed the town bridge, a ripple in a pool below spread out and in the middle of it, a dipper suddenly appeared.  I spent a minute or two watching it live up to its name and dive down and reappear after a surprisingly long spell under water.


I saw it fly off and walked over the bridge and on to the Kilngreen where I was delighted to find the dipper again, this time perched on a rock and serenading me with full voice.


On a second glance, I found that I was probably not its intended audience.


Whether it was trying to woo the second dipper or telling it to get out of its space, I am not qualified to say.

Nearby, the mallards were lined up on the river bank…..


…though there is always one who can’t obey simple instructions.


As I walked over the Sawmill Brig, the clouds began to lift from the hills and as the rain stopped too, I had a quietly enjoyable walk.

misty hill

The light was still rotten so there wasn’t much of a chance to take pictures…


…though just as I was getting near the end of the stroll, a little blue sky appeared over the trees.


Too late.

I walked home via the High Street and took the opportunity to show you the fine Christmas tree in front of our town hall.


By the time that I got home, the light had almost faded and that concluded the action for the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal is continuing to try out new recipes so we ate baked squash stuffed with fruit and vegetables for our tea.  It was a curious but not unpalatable dish but the combination of flavours took me by surprise and it will take another go before I feel comfortable with it.

There was a little sticky toffee sauce left over and we disposed of it with some ice cream for afters.  I was very comfortable with that.

A flying bird of the day was hard to come by in the gloom and rain.


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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  It was sent to him by the owner of a cottage in Wales where Mike and Alison often spend a week on holiday (but not when it is as snowy as this).

Highbrook snow 2017

The deep snow in Wales is a reminder of how lightly we in Langholm have been touched by winter so far this year.

It was another dry and occasionally sunny day here today but once again the thermometer only just crept over zero and any chance of gardening or cycling remains in the future.

Still, the chilly weather gives me a good excuse for getting up late and idling about.  I did fill the bird feeders and look out of the window.

The blackbirds were very prominent again today.  I thought this one looked rather shifty as it searched for seed in the tray under the feeder.


There was a discussion on the radio about Christmas round robins but I don’t think they had this one in mind.


There were a lot of goldfinches flying in and throwing their weight about…..

goldfinch and chaffinch

…and generally looking appalled at the behaviour of lesser breeds.

goldfinches and siskin

I was pleased to see a sparrow on the feeder.  Although there are a lot of sparrows in our area, they don’t seem to like sharing our feeder with finches.


Judging by what other people who  feed birds  have told me, there must be ‘sparrow gardens’ and finch gardens’.



After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to go for a walk and we went carefully in case of ice but found the going good in general.

The scene was frosty again….

Meeting of the waters

…but with none of the sparkle brought by a good hoar frost.  There were some examples…

frozen holly

…but they were few and far between.

As we crossed the Sawmill Brig, I recorded the fact that the new stones built into the parapet after the damage caused by a falling tree, are already showing an admirable tendency to provided a home for lichen.

lichen on sawmill brig

I was glad that Mrs Tootlepedal had come on the walk as her sharp eyes spotted some hair ice on a branch in a ditch.  I debated the wisdom of clambering into the ditch for a close up but decided to walk on.

Avoiding the ditch was a sound idea because we saw lots more hair ice as we went along.

hair icehair ice

It looks as though it is made of threads but touch it and it melts in your hand as it is pure ice.

It wasn’t hard to spot as there was an example on a fallen twig or branch every fifty yards or so but we were bowled over when we saw this magnificent display cascading down the trunk of a rotten tree.

hair ice

Nearby, a patch of frozen fungus caught the ye.

frozen fungus

Although the tree branches are not covered in white, for some reason the local gates are very attractive to Jack Frost.

frozen gate

I was thinking of another walk after lunch but our neighbour Liz told us that she had a chimney sweep coming and we asked her to see if he would come across the road when he had finished with her chimneys and do ours before he went.

She did, he would and he did.  He was amazingly quick and efficient and left without leaving a speck of soot behind him.  We will see him again next year.

While I was waiting for him, I looked at the birds.

If the goldfinches are going to be as bossy as this one, you can see why sparrows might look for somewhere calmer.

goldfinch and chaffinch

We had a flying visit from some starlings but they only stayed for a few seconds before moving on.


When the sweep had gone, I lit a fire to celebrate and then  settled down to putting some music on the computer to practise as we are going to a competition in Manchester in February and it will be hard work again.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal was gainfully employed making potato and parsnip gnocchi for our tea.  Like the sticky toffee pudding, this was a first go for her and like the pudding yesterday, it was entirely successful so we had a very good evening meal of gnocchi and baked beans followed by a second helping of the sticky toffee pudding.  Once again, that banging noise you can hear is pampered billionaires banging their heads against the wall and wondering why they can’t eat as well as us.

In the evening, we went to our parish church to listen to a concert by Emily Smith, a very talented singer from Dumfriesshire with two friends to back her up on fiddle and guitar.  The trio were delightful and gave us a varied programme of carols, Christmas songs and a nice mix of her own and other writers’ world.

I may have remarked before that we are very fortunate to have constant treats in Langholm and with the community pantomime last night and this excellent professional performance tonight, any thoughts of cold, dark days have been put away for a while.

By chance, I managed to catch a flying chaffinch outlined against the frosty lawn and I was pleased to be able to use the shot as flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch





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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie, who has been out shooting night street scenes in Macao while working at the film festival there.


We had another bright and sunny day today but it was even colder than yesterday so we were very pleased to be one of the parts of the country that didn’t get any snow. That might have made driving difficult.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir and I made a venison stew for the slow cooker.

While I was cooking, I glanced out of the kitchen window from time to time.

A siskin added some colour to a frosty scene.


Down below, I asked a robin where its friend had gone.


“Over there,” he replied.


Once the stew was safely stowed in the slow cooker, I went for a short walk.  In spite of the low temperatures, the sunny weather has made sure that our pavements and paths are ice free for whihc we are grateful.

I was looking for gulls.

I soon found one which had lit on a lamppost thus become a lamplighter I suppose.


It flew off and got into an argument with a friend about something.


On Castle Hill, the cattle once again preferred the high ground.


As I walked along the Kilngreen I was very taken by an optical illusion which made this perfectly flat picnic table look as though it was bent into waves.

kilngreen bench

The low sun certainly increased my stature as a photographer.

If you were well enough wrapped up, it was a lovely day for a walk.


And I enjoyed the view up the Lodge Walks….

Lodge Walks

…before turning to cross the Castleholm…


…and heading for home…

…where the garden was frosty.


Once back inside in the warmth, I looked out again.   There was steady traffic at the tray under the feeder.




Up above, the unfriendly light did the flying chaffinches no favours in their efforts to get the nomination for flying bird of the day.


Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church and we had a moment or two to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice or two of toast before setting off to Carlisle for a final practice and the Christmas concert with the Community Choir.

The concert took place in St Cuthbert’s Church.  This church is one of those places which it is a pleasure to visit under any circumstances.

St Cuthberts Church

The concert was very well attended with the balconies and the main body of the church both being pretty well full.  The choir sang well and the guest school choir was very charming and accomplished.  Our choir needs more men badly and one of the reasons for our lack of men might have been seen in the fact that the primary school choir  had only a single boy in it.

Unless schools can instil a love of choral singing in boys, it is hard to see where adult male singers are going to come from in areas without a living tradition of male choirs.

It was -5° as we drove home but the road seemed to be ice free and we got home in nice time to enjoy the venison stew from the slow cooker.

There were only two gulls about today but they stopped quarrelling for long enough for one of them to make flying bird of the day.


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Today’s guest picture comes from Marianne, who was actually our guest today.  She took this picture of her partner Tony and his dad as they were walking dogs this morning.


It was another bright but chilly day with 1.5°C the best that we could do all day.

The colder weather has brought the birds back to the feeders and there were robins…


…and any amount of chaffinches about after breakfast.



I didn’t get too long to look at the birds though before we were invaded by two boisterous dogs who brought our son Tony and his partner Marianne with them.  They had driven down from Edinburgh to bring us a very handsome hamper of goodies for our Christmas present.

Unfortunately, Mrs Tootlepedal had an engagement with her Embroiderers’ Guild branch’s annual festive lunch so after providing coffee and drop scones for our visitors, she had to go off to have fun.

The dogs, Tara and Milo thought it would be good to take Marianne, Tony and me out for a walk so we wrapped up well and set off to stretch our legs.

The dogs were very good at rounding up the walkers and making sure that they went in the right direction.

Milo and Tara take Tony for a walk

It was a sparkling and crisp day and the the layer of icing on the hills looked very pretty but I was surprised to sheep grazing so high up the slopes of Whita.

Whita with a little snow

This horse seemed a bit surprised to see us.


There was more snow left on the north facing shadier slopes of Warbla.

Warbla with snow

The green on the trees at this time of year is provided by moss and lichen.


Our walk took us along the fields on the Murtholm…

Meikleholm with snow

….where sheep grazed beside ice covered puddles.

sheep with ice

A little seasonal colour was on show.

holly berries

I liked the way the sun caught the smoke from a barrel burning rubbish at one of the stables along our way.


In spite of the cold, the dogs plunged into every pool and stream they could find and needed a last visit to the river to get their feet clean before we went home…

Tara and Milo at the waterside

…where they displayed a lively interest in the food which we were eating for our lunch.

Tara and Milo in the kitchen

After Tony, Marianne and the dogs left for the drive back to Edinburgh, I had another look out of the kitchen window.

Two goldfinches were having a competition to see which of them could drop the most seed…


The one on the left won.

….and this provided plenty of good pickings for the blackbirds.  We could see as many as seven blackbirds at the same time in the garden on several occasions today.


The robin (or a friend) returned to give me a selection of poses.


I took a final shot of a goldfinch in the plum tree before the sun  got too low.


I retired to an easy chair with a crossword to wait for the return of Mrs Tootlepedal from her festive fun.  She came back in a very cheery mood which was solely attributable to good food and good company as no strong drink is needed for embroiderers to have a good time.

We took some time to practise the songs for our concert tomorrow and then ventured out into the cold to watch the International Space Station as it trundled across the sky above our street.


It was very bright tonight.  I read that they are the process of having a crew change and it seems fantastic that people can fly up to what is just a speck in the sky and actually meet it.

Then we settled in for the evening.  I made some corned beef hash for our meal and we watched the Strictly Come Dancing semi finals.

I really enjoy watching ballroom dancing but the vastly over fussy lighting effects and the frenetic camera work and constant cutting made it quite difficult to see what was actually happening on the floor.  I often wish that television directors trusted the audience to have a bit of interest in the subject matter and content of their shows and didn’t feel the need to dress them up so much.  I am definitely able to watch something for more than ten seconds without nodding off, even at my age.

Looking at the weather map, it seems that we might be one of the few parts of the country to avoid snow over the next few day.  As we have to go to Carlisle tomorrow, this will be very welcome.

Once again, a chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.  I will have to try and find a flying gull by way of variety tomorrow.



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