Archive for the ‘Singing’ Category

Today’s guest picture shows Langholm exile Tom getting ready to set off on the Capetown Cycle Tour  a few days ago.  He tells me that it is 109 kms around the peninsula, with great views but the route is hilly.

Tom biking in SA

He suggested that it might be just the thing for me next year but I fear that the bus fare to get there might be a bit steep too.

I should have been able to excite readers with a selection of exciting bird and frog pictures but I took the card out of my camera and put it down somewhere so sensible that I can’t find it all.  You will have to imagine the birds and frogs and this shouldn’t be too hard as they will be much the same as ever.

I had a quiet morning as Mrs Tootlepedal went off early  to visit Matilda in Edinburgh and I retired to bed until lunch time as I had had  a very poor night’s sleep.

The fact that it was raining all morning as well as being cold and windy made staying in bed seem like a really good idea.

In the afternoon, I went to Carlisle and discussed bikes with the bike shop man.  He showed me a picture of the crack in the fairly speedy bike…

cracked bike

…which looked quite serious to me.   It is possible to get an aluminium frame crack welded but I am not going to do it because if one has appeared, it seems likely that another one might follow it.  The bike has been bumping over our rotten roads for many years on high pressure tyres and I feel that it doesn’t owe me anything and can be gracefully retired.

Besides, it is exciting to be contemplating a new bike, even at my age.

Oh, Mrs Tootlepedal has just come in with the camera card which needed her skills to be found.  Here is a late bird and frog show.

A happy frog…


…a cautious chaffinch…


…and a chaffinch catastrophe.  Ouch.


Back to the story in Carlisle:

After doing the new bike contemplation, I went to the station to meet Mrs Tootlepedal.  She had had a day of misfiring transport links with late buses and a missed train but had still managed to have an enjoyable lunch with Matilda and her father.

The reason for the early start and return was the need to be present as our Carlisle choir sang in the Carlisle Music Festival.  We were entered in two classes for open choirs, one with seven entries and one with four.  Rather to our surprise, we won the larger of the two classes and came second in the other.

The shield for the winning choir was enormous….

choir at Carlisle music festival

…which was only fair because our choir is enormous too.

choir at Carlisle music festival

This is about half of them.

Our very talented conductor can be seen in the back row looking justifiably proud of his work.

What with considering a new bicycle and singing in the choir, the day ended a great deal better than it had begun.

I even caught a flying bird of the day while I was having my sardine sandwich for lunch.




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In contrast to yesterday’s Antiguan sun, today’s guest picture shows a typical day in Derby.  My brother Andrew was suffering in the rain there a couple of day ago.


We had another very welcome dry day here today and things are even beginning to hint at drying out a little.  A bit more warmth would help the process.

A brisk wind also helps and we got that today, the downside being that it was a pretty chilly breeze and it made the day which was theoretically warm at 10°C feel a good deal colder.  Still, it was a useful day for a pedal and some gardening so we were happy.

My fairly speedy bike was still in the bike shop so I went out on the slow bike and stuck to skulking 18 miles twice up and down the Wauchope valley, as far out of the wind as I could stay.

I was impressed by the dedication of a flock of sheep to getting their strength up and stopped for a shot…


…and as I always look closely at a wall when I am leaning over one to take a photo, I took some lichen pictures while I was at it.

lichen on wall

I like the variations in colour, shape and style that the lichen on our roadside walls provides.

Otherwise, I kept my head well down in the crosswinds on the ride and didn’t take any more pictures.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had completed some errands round the town and was busy gardening.

She is very pleased with the early crocuses this year and so am I.

There are some brighter ones about…


…but the bulk of the flowers are a delicate pale violet and I like them both for themselves and when they mingle with the snowdrops.


And because I like eating it, I was very happy to see that the rhubarb is looking very promising.


Then I went inside and looked out.  The kitchen makes a warm and comfortable bird hide and supplies good coffee too (Rwandan today).

I looked high…


…and low.


After lunch, I went off for a walk.  It had been gently sunny while I had pedalled along in the morning but the clouds had come over for my walk and it was a grey afternoon.

Pathhead track

Snowdrops provided some cheer both at the start and near the finish of my walk.


On grey days, I tend to keep my eyes on the foreground and ignore the views and there is always something to help to pass the time.

This wall provided a home for some luxuriant moss.

mossy wall

And a birch tree had a neat circle of script lichen.

script lichen

As always, walls are a never ending source of delight and today I came across a growth which I hadn’t seen before.  It is the coral like structure on the left in the panel below.  I think that it must be lichen but I am by no means confident about that.

lichen on wall

On the other hand, I am confident about this.


This is definitely cladonia lichen.

I had already stopped at a promising piece of wall before I had noticed the tiny spots of red so either my lichen radar is improving with practice or I was just lucky because I didn’t see any more along the the wall.


It really is very red indeed.

I started and finished my walk with a visit to the Kilngreen in the hope of seeing some oyster catchers.

There was a pair at the Meeting of the Waters when I was on my out but they flew off with a gull before I could get too close…

oyster catchers

And there was a pair (probably the same pair I would imagine) in the same place when I came back an hour later and they flew off again, first to further up the bank of the river…

oyster catcher

…and then again to join the gulls on the fence posts.

Luckily one of them flew right past me.

oyster catcher

When I saw that I wasn’t going to get close to them, I took a shot through an arch of the Langholm Bridge which gave me a lot of pleasure even on a grey day.

Langholm Bridge

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden again when I got back and I fell easily into a supervisory role.  It is a suitable role for me as it doesn’t involve doing anything else but walking around and saying, “That looks good.”

In the evening, I went to sing with our local choir and enjoyed myself not least because I am sitting next to my cello playing friend Mike who is an excellent singer and keeps me right.

He remarked that he and his wife have been enjoying the frog pictures on the blog so here is one from today, especially for them.


The flying bird of the day is a black headed gull which  flew by while I was tracking the oyster catchers.  It has almost got its spring black head.

black headed gull


Oh and the title of the blog refers to a telephone call which I received from the bike shop this evening to tell me that the fairly speedy bike has got a two inch crack in the frame so it is time to say farewell to an old friend. Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out that it is just as well to discover a crack like that when it is in the bike shop and not when you are going down hill at 30mph.

I don’t remember exactly when I bought the fairly speedy bike, a Giant SCR, but I must have had it for over ten years so it will have done about 40,000 miles at least.  It has been a good servant, comfortable and reliable and I will be very happy if my new bike turns out to be as good.

I am going to look at getting a replacement suitable for a elderly gentleman with no great bike handling skills but who enjoys getting a few miles in over a year. Like Two Ton Tessie O’Shea used to say about herself, it will be built for comfort more than for speed.  I know my limits now.


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Today’s guest picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal and shows two fragments of the steampunk embroidery that she enjoyed so much yesterday.  The artist is Jan Johnson.

steampunk embroidery

We had the first genuinely warm and sunny day of the year and it was ideal for gardening and cycling so it was unfortunate that it coincided with our Sunday day of two choirs with no time for anything else but singing.

It was very welcome all the same and gave a really good lift to our spirits.

In between the church choir and the Carlisle community choir, there was time to look out of the window and walk round the garden.

Once again the garden was full of siskins….


…but among the familiar sights and sounds, the first redpoll of spring appeared as well.


Out in the garden among the crocuses…


…fresh buds are a pointer of things to come.

spring buds

….and today we had many added bees…

bee on crocus

bee on crocus

…and the frogs in the pond were purring away.

frogs and spawn

They had been busy.

frog and spawn

Some were all for togetherness…


…while others preferred to hide their light under a bushel.


We had to work hard in both choirs as two of the hymns in the morning had no less than seven verses and it was the last practice before a competition for our Carlisle choir in the afternoon.

The forecast says that we should keep clear of frost for the next few days so I am hoping to get out and about on the bike but it will have to be on my slow bike as the fairly speedy bike is going in for its annual service tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the frequently flying siskins.







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Today’s guest picture is an impressive sea cave from Dropscone’s Irish holiday.


Our thaw continued and there was no snow to show on the lawns when we woke up.  It was still fairly chilly and grey with occasional rain so we are not breaking out the spring champagne yet.

It took the siskins a bit of time to get to the garden this morning but there were plenty of them when they finally arrived….

siskins and goldfinch

…with the occasional goldfinch and chaffinch trying to gatecrash the party.

siskins and chaffinch

There were no blackbirds or robins in sight when I looked out of the kitchen window but I did see a lone dunnock.


I don’t know if the low level birds are put off by the siskins, who are quite noisy or whether they have found somewhere else to go for the time being.  Life is full of inexplicable mysteries.

After coffee, I girded my loins and got my cycling gear on and of course, it immediately started to rain.   I had a marmalade sandwich while I waited and when the rain stopped, I set off.

The rain started again.

But it didn’t last and by the time that I was three miles up the road, things looked a lot brighter.

Bloch view

I thought that this narrow back road over the hill down to Canonbie might be clear of snow so I pedalled on cautiously and apart from some wind-formed snow sculptures beside the road at Tarcoon…

snow at Tarcoon

…there was little snow to see let alone to worry about.  As the sun had come out, it wasn’t a bad day for a pedal at all, though the brisk and chilly wind made me grateful to be very well wrapped up even in the sunshine.

I was quite keen to get home before any more showers arrived so I didn’t stop for any more pictures.  Although the skies clouded over before I got to Langholm, I arrived home dry and cheerful

A quick walk round the garden revealed crocuses trying their best…


…and a pond full of frogs.  They all dived under the water as I approached except this one who waited for a portrait.


It is a source of wonder that a frog’s eye is so prominently reflected on the surface of the pond but it can be a bit annoying for the happy snapper.

It wasn’t hard to see a lot of moss almost everywhere I looked in the garden.

It was on trees, piles of stones….

garden moss

….paths and lawns.  It sometimes feels that if we don’t get a good long dry spell sometime soon, we will gradually be engulfed under an inexorable tide of moss.

After lunch, a man arrived and hitched up the dam bridge repairers’ tea shack and office to his pick up…..

dam bridge repairs

…and drove off with it.   The road closed signs were also removed during the morning so we are almost back to normal again.  Just the railings to come.

It was a bit gloomy outside in the afternoon so Mrs Tootlepedal thought that a walk might be more cheerful than scratching around in a cold, damp garden and we went off to view the felled wood at the Becks Burn.

Of course, there was moss to look at on a wall as we walked along…

moss on wall

…and we liked the very vivid green of the expanding layer around the edge of this clump.

As we walked up through the field from the road, we could see that the Beck’s Burn was running freely with a combination of melted snow and rain…

becks burn bridge

…and Mrs Tootlepedal, who hasn’t visited the felling before, found that the view ahead was dramatically changed.

becks burn wood

We went up for a closer look, passing a striking tree stump on the way.


A bench had been placed on the edge  of the felled area.  If it was me, I would have turned it towards the view of Warbla to the left but as it was…becks burn wood

… it was looking at this.


Not the most exciting view in the world.

As it started to rain, the prospect was even more gloomy than usual.

On the far side of the burn, Mrs Tootlepedal spotted the steps and railing that were part of the walk through the wood before the tree eaters arrived.

becks burn wood steps

I wonder if they will try to re-instate the walk when the felling has finished.

We didn’t stop to explore further because of the drizzle but as soon as we turned for home, it brightened up again…


…and we got home just before the rain re-started.

We passed this rather  artistic tree stump on our way.

mossy tree stump

We had paused to chat to a friend in the street outside the house when we were interrupted by a huge flurry of wings and an entire flock of siskins rose out of our garden and flew off.  It was an impressive sight as there must have been well over 50 birds.

In the evening, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir.  We spent the evening singing operatic choruses in preparation for a concert with our local orchestra next month.  These are fun and quite difficult to sing really well (perhaps because everyone thinks that they know them and they don’t pay enough attention to the score) but they are not as satisfying as singing ‘proper’ choir pieces in four part harmony.

There is a possibility of more snow overnight but we hope that if it does snow, it won’t come to much.  Fingers crossed again.

It was too gloomy for good solo flying bird of the day shots so a sparring duo has got the honour instead.

chaffinch and siskin


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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who came across this frozen tableau in Regents Park yesterday.

Regent's Park frozen fountain 004

It must have been a good bit colder in London than it was here but my sister tells me that it was 9°C there today and all the snow has disappeared.

Our snow is creeping away more slowly….


…..and the most we managed here was a measly 3°.

The slight thaw meant that it was possible to walk to the church choir in the morning wearing shoes and not boots and to drive to the Carlisle choir in the afternoon with confidence in the state of the roads.

Our church choir was neatly balanced with three sopranos, three altos, two tenors and two basses and our organist thought that this was quite enough for us to sing Mozart’s Ave Verum as an anthem.  He is ever optimistic but we managed pretty well which was a relief.

When we got back from church, I took a moment to look at the birds as it was too grey and miserable to go for a quick walk.

The birds were  a bit discouraged too and mostly stayed away but there were three male blackbirds about….


…not fighting with each other and this  gave me the chance to take a few blackbird portraits.

My ability to differentiate between individual blackbirds is not great so these may all be pictures of the same bird.





I was not so successful in taking pictures of the chaffinches though…


…and just missed a great opportunity here.

The robin unsportingly stayed too far away from my lens…


…but a lone goldfinch brightened things up…


…and at least one chaffinch turned up when I had the camera ready.


After lunch I went off to the Carlisle choir on my own as Mrs Tootlepedal had other things to do and was pleased not only to find that the main road was drivable but  also that our conductor and accompanist had managed to get down to Carlisle from Glasgow in spite of the railway line being blocked.  They had caught the replacement rail bus and were remarkably cheerful under the circumstances.

As all his Glasgow choirs have been cancelled for the last few days because of the snow, Andrew was as pleased to see us as we were pleased to see him and we had an excellent practice.  I sang the Ave Verum with this choir too but with about 70 singers in attendance, it was a different experience altogether.

The forecast is for warmer weather for the next ten days but in the absence of much in the way of sunshine and temperatures in single figures C, we are not getting too excited about spring yet.

The best flying bird of the day I could get was this….


…and you may rightly regard that as a pretty poor effort but I am not a purist and a few minutes work in the photo editor produced an image which I thought was worthy of the title of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch


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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s visit to Yellowstone.


It was  cold here again but not as cold as Yellowstone and we had another sunny day to take our mind off the near freezing temperatures.

It was a choir Sunday with the church choir in the morning and the Carlisle choir in the afternoon so there was not much time for anything else.

My ingenious plan to make my hymn singing life easier was somewhat marred by the fact that I had missed two verses of one of the hymns out altogether.  My chagrin was lessened when my fellow bass told me that the previous organist had also missed out the verses while playing in a service.  The missing verses were on another page and under another setting so it was easy to miss them and our present organist told me that he has a big arrow on his page because he too had missed them out in a service.

I will be more careful this week.

I had to time to walk round the garden when we got back from church…..


…where some early crocuses and daffodils were defying the chilly morning….


…and the snowdrops were looking cheerful both singly…


…and in concert.


I had a moment to  spot a robin over lunch…


…and then it was off to Carlisle for a bit of shopping and the choir.

The shopping went well,  the choir went even better and the conductor remarked that the tenors had been on fire during the practice.  I am almost certain that he meant this as a compliment.

It was still light as we set out to drive home, which makes us feel that the cold can’t last for ever.

Instead of a slow cooked stew, Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a fish pie for our tea and this rounded off a very cheery day.

The flying bird of the day is having a quiet sit down.


A note on the garden birds: this must be easily the slowest winter since I started taking pictures of garden birds.  I am at a loss to explain this as there haven’t been any reports of bird disasters.  My tentative idea is that changes to neighbouring gardens and in our own garden may have lessened the amount of cover available for visiting birds.  How are other UK garden bird feeders going on?  Does anyone have news? I would be interested to know.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset Correspondent, Venetia.  Her aeroplane was obviously efficiently de-iced at Schiphol because she has sent me this icy picture from near Bedford, New Hampshire in the USA.  (I wonder if she bumped into a noted gardener while she was there.)

Bedford New Hampshire
We had a frost, snow and ice free day here today which was very welcome.  We couldn’t entirely escape the rain though.

Even if the day had been fine,  I would have had a rather limited time photographically as I went off with Mrs Tootlepedal to sing with the church choir in the morning and the Carlisle Community Choir in the afternoon, leaving little time for anything else.

I did get a moment after church to watch the birds.

When I first looked, siskins were in charge of the feeder…


…but it didn’t take long until some goldfinches loomed up.

siskins and goldfinches

One even got a toehold for a brief moment.


It got dislodged but was soon back trying again.

siskins and goldfinches

Away from the turmoil above, a robin quietly enjoyed the ground level refreshments.


Later on, goldfinches found themselves in control of the perches…


…and roles were reversed when a siskin had to look tentatively around for a free place.

siskin and goldfinches

I didn’t have much voice today and as I was the only bass present in the church choir, I didn’t add a lot to the proceedings.   I enjoyed myself  all the same.  Things were better at the  Carlisle choir where I sing tenor, as there was more support and the conductor went as far as to say that the tenors sounded quite good.

We were chuffed.

On our way to the choir, we stopped off at a well known food shop and topped up on the bare necessities of life.  We now have adequate supplies of tea, coffee, cheese, dates, prunes and cherries so we will not starve.

However,  since Mrs Tootlepedal had made an excellent beef and vegetable stew in the slow cooker which we ate for our tea when we got back from Carlisle, there was in fact very little chance of us starving anyway.

The flying bird of the day is a standard chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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