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Archive for the ‘Singing’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who visited  Dulwich Park opposite the Dulwich Art Gallery in South London today.  It is an oasis of peace in a busy world.

Dulwich Park, opposite the Picture Gallery

We had another chilly morning followed by another dry day with a north wind.  More tulips fell under the heavy hand of the cold but some survived…

tulips

…and new tulips have come to join them.

tulip

I killed a bit of time while I was waiting for the thermometer to rise to 7°C by looking at sitting birds in the sunshine from an upstairs window.

goldfinch

siskins

… and when the temperature finally got there, I went off on the fairly speedy bike to test how strong the north wind was.   It was brisk but tolerable and blew me down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass at a very satisfying rate of knots.

Of course the  return journey, uphill and into the wind, wasn’t quite so carefree but it was far from being just a slog and I enjoyed my ride a lot.  I only stopped once, on the bridge at The Hollows, to show the gradual greening of the landscape.

River Esk at Hollows

Downstream

River Esk at Hollows

Upstream

The river level is very low, a testament to the dry spell that we have had lately.  A couple of warm wet days wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden and after a shower, a quick lunch and a look out of the kitchen window….

redpolls

More redpolls seem to appear every day.

…I joined her.  I employed myself as usefully as I could by doing some dead heading of daffodils, which have suffered from the cold and are getting to the end of their lives anyway, some sieving of compost, which is needed for planting out the early vegetables, and mowing the middle lawn, which wasn’t really needed because of the chilly weather but I like mowing lawns.

And of course, I looked at flowers.

It was surprising to me how some flowers seemed untouched by the cold mornings.  This lamium is thriving….

lamium

…and a new anemone came out today…

anemone

…and the curious tulips seem unaffected by the frosts….

tulip

…though it might be a bit hard to tell.

We are getting very excited by a trillium which should be open soon.

I was pleased to see a bee or two about….

marsh marigold with bee

This one was on a marsh marigold in the pond

…because fruit flowers will need all the attention that they can get.

gooseberry and blackcurrant

The gooseberry has a wasp at work and the blackcurrant is producing flowers in spite of a bad attack of ‘big bud’

apples

The espalier apples are starting to flower

The cold weather has held plants back a bit but there are hopeful signs.

lupin

The lupins are looking healthy.

I spent some time trying to catch more sitting birds to please Mrs Tootlepedal who finds constant flying birds rather fidgety.  The next two pictures were taken with my Lumix while I was outside int he garden which is most unusual for me.  The birds were sitting on the feeders very calmly as I approached.

redpoll

siskins and goldfinch

When I went in, I looked out again.

redpoll

It was a redpoll heavy day today.

I put in a bit of time preparing an MP3 file of a tenor part for one of our Carlisle songs to send to a fellow singer.  It is a tricky number and there are fears that the conductor might try to make us learn it so a practice aid will be helpful.

I noticed a blackbird outside as I came through into the kitchen after emailing the music file.

blackbird

By now, it was time for tea and I cooked myself a nourishing corn beef hash with added onions and mushrooms and fortified by this, I then went off to sing with our Langholm choir.

 

It was one of those evenings when the songs we sang were songs that by and large I could sing and the three tenors in the choir were in good humour and sang well together as a team so that by the time the two hours were up, I was on a musical high and came home in a very cheery mood indeed.  Singing is wonderful when it is going well.

The flying bird of the day is looming more than flying.

flying chaffinch

Note:  A helpful correspondent pointed out that yesterday’s post came without a comments facility.  I don’t know how that happened and I will try to make sure that there is one today.  If there isn’t, I apologise.

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Today’s guest picture shows another fine waterfall seen by Dropscone on his holiday in Skye.

Skye waterfall

We had the second bright but slightly chilly day in a row and once again, musical activity got in the way of cycling.

I did get out for a morning ride but only after I had put a lamb stew into the slow cooker and time limited by the need to be back in time to go to choir in the afternoon.   I nipped round my standard 20 miles down to Canonbie and back and, as it was London Marathon day, I was pleased that I had managed to go a little bit faster than the elite runners even if I didn’t go quite as far.

I didn’t take my camera but got it out as soon as I got home to celebrate the brilliance of the tulips which were enjoying the sunshine in the garden.

tulips

tulips

tulips

tulips

I think that they were at their best today and as we have a week of chilly weather with north winds to come, I may not see them as generously open again for some time.

tulips

tulips

My favourite tulip of the moment is the Ballerina…..

ballerina tulip

…and they looked so good today that Mrs Tootlepedal resolved to buy some more and plant them out for next year.  I am in favour of that.

The tulips rather overshadowed the other flowers but this little pulsatilla did its best to get into the act.

pulsatilla

I filled the feeders when I got back from my ride and after lunch, I took a moment to watch the birds before we went off to Carlisle.

We have a steady supply of redpolls at the moment.

redpolls

This one stared rather haughtily at me when I took its picture but soon went back to eating

redpolls

They had an active day

siskins

As did the siskins

The feeders are always busy at the moment and my supply of seed is disappearing in double quick time.

busy feeder

Representatives of our present customer base, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin and redpoll

The choir rehearsal started badly, as our conductor and our accompanist were delayed on the train again.  The Sunday service from Glasgow is most unreliable.  However, they made up for lost time when they did arrive and we had an extremely brisk practice with a little extra time added on to the end.

We are working on a new modern song and it is one of those, as Mrs Tootlepedal remarked, where if you get to sing a note which is actually on the beat, it comes as a blessed relief.

Because of the extra time taken at the practice, we didn’t stop to take photographic advantage of the sunny evening as we went home but bustled on as quickly as we could and settled down to enjoy the lamb stew from the slow cooker when we got back.

While the potatoes were cooking, I watched some of my lawn care assistants at work on the middle lawn.

jackdaws

There should be no moss left at all soon, thanks to the jackdaws

I have still got a few miles to do on my bike if I am to keep up to my schedule for the month so I am hoping that there are a few kind days left in April.  This month is traditionally supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb but having seen the forecast for next week, I don’t think that this will be a traditional month at all.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for a few calm moments.

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

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s holiday in Skye.  It  shows his daughter Susan, my fellow recorder player, enjoying a magnificent view on her birthday earlier this week in the company of one of her brothers.

Susan in Skye

We spent all day today crossing the country to visit the gardens at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland.   We were hoping to see 350 Japanese cherry trees in their full glory but we probably arrived two or three days too late.

alnwick cherry trees

There was plenty of blossom still out but a lot had already fallen and the leaves were starting to appear.  In real life the cherry orchard was wonderful but for the camera, the leaves got into the picture a little too much.  It was a dull day which didn’t help.  Having said all that, it was well worth the two hours of driving each way (and the rather stiff entry fee).

The gardeners have thoughtfully placed many swings among the trees and Mrs Tootlepedal had a moment of reflection on one of these benches.

alnwick cherry trees

We walked through the plantation, which is on the side of a hill, down a serpentine path…

alnwick cherry trees

…which was lined with fallen petals.

alnwick cherry trees

The plantation is still young and the trees will soon form complete arches overhead but for the moment, we could see the grey sky above.

alnwick cherry trees

The camera cannot convey how beautiful the scene was, far whiter in real life than the pictures show.  Rather oddly, I think a black and white shot coveys the colour better.

alnwick cherry trees

The gardens are very popular and even on a dull midweek morning, they were full of people enjoying the scenes.  A bit of blue sky for a contrast would have helped.

Apart from the cherry trees, the main feature of the gardens is a rather showy water feature….

alnwick garden water feature

…which bursts into life every half hour so that childish people like me can enjoy themselves.

alnwick garden water feature

Fountain at the bottom with sky high squirting behind

alnwick garden water feature

More fountains appear every moment until the entire cascade is alive.

There are other smaller water features all over the place…

alnwick garden water feature

…along with well trained hedges….

alnwick garden water feature

…both large and small.

alnwick garden hedge

The hedge on the left in the panel above is in a large walled garden. It is made up of crab apple plants and will look sensational in a few days when the blossoms come fully out.

The walled garden is divided into small ‘rooms’ each with with their own ‘walls’…

alnwick garden walled garden

…and tulips were the featured plant today. …

alnwick garden walled garden

…though there were other plants to see as well.

It is a great pleasure to wander through this recently created garden and see so many people of all ages enjoying the little nooks and crannies filled with plants and features.

I enjoyed these two clematis in one of the garden corners.

clematis

We left the flowers and cherries….

clematis

…and went and had a good lunch in the cafeteria before going to have a quick look at the town centre.

We passed the castle on our way.

Alnwick castle

There was a lot of extensive planting as you can see and we noticed a fritillary meadow and a scilla meadow as we went along.

I was much struck by two street names in the town….

Alnwick

A gate is a street of course and not a gate.  This is a gate….

Alnwick

…and it is this that the streets are within and without.

Within the gate is a market place with a fine hall…

Alnwick

…which has an attractive portico.

Alnwick

We didn’t spend long in the town and went back through the gardens, where Mrs Tootlepedal bought a plant or four in the plant shop, before passing this fantastic tree house….

Alnwick tree house

…on our way back to the car.

Google Maps had offered us choice of routes to Alnwick.  It is almost exactly opposite Langholm on the map but unfortunately there is a large lump of hills and moorland in between with no direct route.  We could either take main road to the south and travel 100 miles at speed and take two hours or go by more  minor routes to the north and (rather surprisingly) take two hours.

I chose to do both and went by the main roads to the south and came back by the more scenic northern route.  Just as Google said, they both took two hours, more or less exactly.

As the sun started to shine just as we left the gardens, we were a bit annoyed about our timing but it did make for a beautiful drive through the border hills on our way home.

We got home in time to fill the feeders, have some tea and then for me to go out to a practice with our Langholm Choir.  After 60 miles cycling yesterday and 180 miles driving today, I was quite tired but all the same, it was a useful practice and I enjoyed the singing.

I found a moment to catch a flying bird of the day when we got home.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tom in South Africa.  While he was up near the Orange River, he saw this a tree.  It may not look much but he tells me that  the tree is a Shepherd Tree, the tree of life which is useful for man and beast.  It is probably 3 to 4 hundred years old.

P3150069

My plan for the morning was to get up early, have a nourishing breakfast and then cycle 40 miles and be back before noon.  It was a good plan and it worked.

I chose a very boring route, straight down the main roads and back but it was very satisfying except that my average was 14.99 mph rather than the 15 mph that was in my mind.  You can’t have everything though.

Conditions were perfect and the roads were empty….

A7

…and there is a very convenient bench exactly at the twenty mile turning point where an old man can get a seat for a few minutes and eat his banana.

seat at Newtown

The sharp eyed will notice a pair of thick gloves beside the banana.  It was quite crisp when I started and although it was a lovely day, it never got very warm and I kept the gloves on for the whole ride.

Beside the bench was a gate and a willow tree so that made it an even better place to spend some time.

Newtown

On my way, I passed a large number of people behaving very suspiciously in a field.  It turned out to be a metal detectorists’ rally.    Mrs Tootlepedal would have liked to have been there as she dreams of turning up a Roman coin in our garden.

I got home in plenty of time to make a venison and mushroom stew for the slow cooker, watch the birds for a bit and walk round the garden.

The birds were very active again even though the sparrowhawk is making regular flying visits.

Newtown

It is hard to look really threatening when your mouth is full

redpoll and chaffinch

The little redpoll is not scared of the bigger chaffinch

goldfinch and siskin

A goldfinch and siskin rose to heights of aggression

flying chaffinch

And a chaffinch has had enough of all this and is going home.

In the garden, the tulips are coming on well…

red tulips

..in a good variety of colours.

tulips

The chionodoxas have swiftly passed but the scillas are still very much alive and kicking…

fritillary and scilla

…and they make a dainty contrast to the more sober fritillaries.

The reason that I had to be back from the cycle ride was that it was a choir day so after a shower and some lunch, I went off to Carlisle to have a sing.

There are a lot of very small houses in Carlisle dating from the time when it was a railway centre and had a thriving industrial scene.  This row is right opposite the church where we sing.

Carlisle terrace

There are seven front doors in the picture and severalof the houses are just about as small as a house can be.

We spent the whole practice on one song, a tricky thing for me with a heavily syncopated style and a lot of words in a very short space.  Ominously, the practice went so well that the conductor talked of us be able to learn it off by heart.  This undoubtedly means that he has his heart set on some clapping at the very least and possibly clapping and swaying.  Nightmare!

We should have tried less hard.

I thought about a little sightseeing on my way home but instead settled for the direct route and a walk round the town when I got back.

I passed our magnolia on my way out of the garden and thought that it was worth another look.

Magnolia

My aim was to enjoy the evening light and take a picture of anything that caught my fancy in the course of a half mile stroll.

Parish Church

The Parish Church seen across the Wauchope

Castleholm trees

Trees on the Castleholm, seen across the Esk

But I was distracted by birds.  There were two goosanders again.  The male was floating down the choppy waters of the Esk between the bridges at a great rate…

goosanders

…and I saw the female doing a little fishing in some calmer waters further upstream.

Mr Grumpy must have done something bad because he was behind bars.

heron

Whatever it was, he looked sorry about it.

When I got back, I sieved another modest amount of compost and picked the first rhubarb of the year.  Subsequently, I ate my venison stew and followed it up with some rhubarb and custard.

Mrs Tootlepedal is having a good time with Matilda in Edinburgh but plans to be home some time tomorrow.  I shall be pleased to see her.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is another look at South African exile Tom’s Orange River Old wagon Bridge.  Unlike our bridges, it rests on metal pillars. The iron bridge was built by Scottish Engineers Breston and Gibbons 1878-1882

orange river bridge

It is going to be a short post today for two or three reasons.  Politically it was a depressing day with  a good deal of portentous nonsense being spouted on every side in a situation where nobody seems to have any idea of what is going on and this was matched by incessant rain from dawn until dusk.   On top of that, whether for spiritual, medical or physical reasons, I was feeling a bit ‘off’ all day and even a two hour sing at our choir in the evening hasn’t restored me  to full amiability.

A look out of the window in the morning gives a feel for the day.

orange river bridge

Birds being disagreeable in the rain.

Juts to prove me wrong yet again, a huge flock of siskins descended on the garden only a day after I had remarked that the siskins had gone on somewhere else.

The activity at the feeders was as relentless as the rain.

siskins

Total siskinnery

siskins

A step too far for an intrusive chaffinch though another one had sneaked in

I made some vegetable soup for lunch and it turned out well but I wasn’t cheered up much by this and spent the afternoon stomping about the house, muttering to myself and finding out just how difficult it is to get new songs mastered.

The action outside the window only slackened for a moment when a passing sparrowhawk made off with an unfortunate chaffinch and a few minutes later, it was back in full swing.

busy feeder

The sparrowhawk didn’t even have the grace to pose with its trophy.

I was pleased to see a few less frequent visitors among the hordes of goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches.

A greenfinch dropped in for a snack..

greenfinch

….a collared dove looked things over….

collared dove

…and as the light faded away, a redpoll popped up on the feeder.

redpoll

In fact Mrs Tootlepedal saw two redpolls like bookends on each side of the feeder but by then the light had gone entirely.

I made a beef and mushroom stew for my tea and then went off to sing with our local choir. The practice was enlivened by a vigorous political discussion (not about Brexit) at the tea break and that did cheer me up, as I enjoy a bit of give and take.  The singing went not too badly, although the choir couldn’t be said to have totally cracked the pieces we were working on.

The only thing that really raised a smile today was the suggestion by some wit that the European Union should have returned Mrs May’s Article 50 letter to her on the grounds that it was written in English and thus they couldn’t understand it.

At least we are due to visit Matilda tomorrow so that should bring a ray of sunshine into our life.

I did (just about) find a flying bird among the raindrops.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my sister Mary, who was on the Unite for Europe March yesterday (as was my sister Susan).  It was rather mentally dislocating to see this peaceful and sunny picture after the recent events nearby.

Unite for Europe March 25.03.17 003

We had our third consecutive day of beautiful weather here and we are having to try very hard not to get too used to this sort of thing as it can’t possibly last.

It was such a good morning that I didn’t spend any time making a meal for the slow cooker while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir but got out on my bike instead.  Once again, I had to wait until the morning had warmed up a bit but considering that the clocks had jumped forward an hour during the night, I was quite pleased to get out as early as I did.

My route was extremely dull, being straight down the main road for 15 miles and then straight back again so I didn’t take my camera but I did use my phone to catch a tree at my turning point.

tree near smithfield

The Sunday morning ride is usually very peaceful but for some reason there was a steady stream of traffic going south today and this made the trip less enjoyable that normal so I was happy to get home.  I had hoped to do the 30 mile trip in under two hours but  a freshening crosswind on my way back meant that I missed my target by three minutes.  On the plus side, the thirty miles took me over 1000 miles for the year which is a notable landmark.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden when I arrived and I got out my camera and had a walk round.

The crocuses have enjoyed the three warm days and were putting on a good show…

crocuses

…after looking as though they were completely over  earlier in the week.

In the pond, the warmth has caused the weed to grow a lot…

frog

…but there was enough space for a mass of wriggling tadpoles…

tadpoles

…who seemed to be blowing bubbles under the surface.  I have never seen foam like this before and can’t decide whether it is a good or a bad sign of tadpole health.

The grape hyacinths are making a little progress…

grape hyacinth

…although the planned river of blue is still the merest trickle.

The euphorbias are growing bigger every day.

euphorbia

…but so is the moss on the lawn.  I did mow a bit more of the middle lawn but there are spots when a blade of grass is hard to find.

I went in and looked out.

chaffinch

A chaffinch, perhaps wondering sadly if it always has to be the same seed for lunch.

flying chaffinch

And another putting a spell on a bird below in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We had a light lunch and then, after a quick run through one of the songs for out Carlisle choir, we set off for a bit of shopping and the weekly choir practice.

The practice was fun but hard work, as we are going through a couple of songs where if you are singing an A, there is bound to be someone else singing a B in your ear.  Still, we did get praise from our conductor for having obviously done home practice so that was very satisfactory.  More is required though.

It was such a lovely day, that we took a  roundabout route home.  We passed a pub in Rockcliffe and called in to see if we could get a meal as there wasn’t one ready in the slow cooker at home.  We had forgotten that it was Mothering Sunday though and the pub told us that they were on their third session of people taking mum out for a meal already and if we hadn’t booked, we were too late.

 We consoled ourselves by walking past the village church…

Rockcliffe Church

…and down onto the water meadow beside the River Eden.  It is a beautiful spot on a sunny evening.

River Eden

River Eden

River Eden

The River Eden floods so the church is placed on a handy hill…

rockliffe church

…and the bank below it was covered in pretty primroses.

rockliffe church

Mrs Tootlepedal was much struck by the roots of a tree fixed into the rocks beside the track to the church.

rockliffe church

There must be the makings of a ghoulish fairy story in the manner of the Grimm Brothers there.

We drove home and enjoyed a fry up for our tea.  Not quite as good as a meal out but quite tasty all the same.

The flower of the day is a chionodoxa, smiling back at the sun…

chionodoxa

…and the flying bird is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from South Africa and was  sent to me by far flung Langholm exile, Tom.  He tells me that he travelled up north to the Kimberley area and came across the Old Wagon Bridge.  It crosses the Orange River near Hopetown where the first diamond was found in South Africa.

South African bridge

The weather was even more miserable than usual today, being wet, windy and cold but once again we had escaped the worst as roads blocked by snow were reported to both the north and south of us.

It was quite bad enough to be going on with in Langholm so we were glad to be spared worse.

There was nothing much to do in the morning except to walk up to the town under my big umbrella to do a little business and look out of the window mournfully when I got back.

The birds were not bothered by the wind and the rain and arrived in numbers so that the feeders were almost always busy.

siskin and chaffinch

The chaffinches have got bolder and this little siskin was about to be dislodged by the  royal order of the chaffinch boot.

Goldfinches are the most patient of our finches and will wait for an vacant perch.

goldfinch

The feeders were sometimes full and calm…

chaffinch, siskin and goldfinch

…and sometimes full and frantic.

siskins and goldfinches

Other than siskins, chaffinches and goldfinches, the garden has very few other bird visitors at the moment and i haven’t seen a brambling, redpoll, greenfinch, blue tit, coal tit  or robin for some time.  There are occasional dunnocks though and a regular blackbird.

blackbird

I did try to walk round the garden and take a picture of new flowers but trying to take pictures with the camera in one hand and my umbrella waving violently about in the wind in the other proved impossible.

The daffodils on the back path did their best to cheer me up.

daffodils

After a very early lunch, we went off to the Infirmary in Dumfries where my eye was going to be looked at.  I have had a couple of small, harmless but mildly annoying cysts under the lid of my left eye and various medical practitioners have been assuring me for many weeks that they were quite harmless and would go away of their own accord.   I was very pleased therefore when the doctor magicked them away with the merest touch of a needle today and my eye feels much more cheerful already.

The visit was painless in every sense.  We arrived a bit early for my appointment but I was seen, treated and discharged almost before my true appointment time had come.

It was still raining when Mrs Tootlepedal drove me home but we stopped for a cup of tea and some reasonable priced compost at a garden centre on our way.  It has discovered that dinosaurs sell just as well as plants and pots….

Dinosaur clipping

…and has a large dinosaur attraction for young visitors.  I don’t think that the dinosaurs are alive though.

There was a lull in the rain when we got home and I tried to capture the new flowers again.

forsythia

There was so much swaying in the wind that this was the only Forsythia flower that I could get anywhere near in focus.

I found a more stable silver pear bud showing promise…

daffodils

…and a wallflower with its own swimming pool.

wallflower

The day continued to be soggy in the extreme so Mrs Tootlepedal got busy on her interior decorating project and I did the crossword and practised my flute and some songs.

After tea, I went off to sing with our local choir.  We have got some enjoyable music to sing but our conductor was in such a brisk mood tonight that not much of it had sunk in by the end of the evening.  Still, we have homes especially so that we can practise songs.

Looking at the forecast, we are promised a spell of brighter, drier weather and this will be most welcome, particularly if the wind drops a bit too.

I did find a flying siskin in the gloom.

siskin

 

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