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Archive for the ‘Singing’ Category

Today’s  guest picture was sent to me by Laurie, a proud resident of the state of Maine.  While our spring is creeping over the windowsill, her winter is still being delivered…though it is gift wrapped.

laurie's ice

Sitting and singing was the order of the day which made it a bit annoying that this was also the day when we got the first pleasant and sunny morning for some time.  Even if I hadn’t had singing to do though, my foot is still stopping me from making any vigorous use of a good day.

I was able to walk to church, and without a coat on which was a relief after the sleety snow of last week.  As far as bad weather goes, there have been floods to the south of us and snow storms to the north of us so we have been very fortunate.

With only five members of the choir present this week, we had to tailor our ambitions to our resources but there was still enough singing to keep us busy.

When I got home, I checked on our bird visitors and spotted the spotted jackdaw again…

Mottled jackdaw in plum tree

…and followed that up by admiring a very smooth pigeon in the same tree.

pigeon in the plum tree

It was quite chilly but the wind had dropped a bit so a walk round the garden was enjoyable enough and there were developments to see.

The grape hyacinths are coming along nicely…

grape hyacinth back bed

…as are the euphorbias.

euphorbia first flowers

I was pleased to see new growth appearing on the well pruned branches of the espalier apples…

apple buds

…and I was quite impressed by the amount of rain that has fallen during the week (as recorded by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge).

rain gauge march 19

I am still in foot resting mode so I went back in and listened to the radio and watched the birds at the same time.  It is not just women who can multitask.

busy feeder chaffinches

I went back into the garden to hang out some washing and my eye was caught by the many varieties of moss to be seen beside the drying green.  There is a pile of old stones as well as some logs there and they have given the moss good homes.

garden moss with pints

The stones had a tapestry of different colours…

garden moss stone

…and shapes…

garden moss on old wall

but the log crop was the greenest and freshest looking.

garden moss with seed heads log

This is a detail of one of the mosses on the stones. garden moss stone closer

Like many things, the more you look at it, the more interesting moss becomes (in my view at least).

There was so much traffic on the feeder that I put a second one out and it soon attracted a clientele of its own.

two birds in the rian

The sharp eyed may notice a little drizzle in that last shot.  That had started as soon as I had hung the washing out of course, but it soon stopped and the washing had pretty well dried by the time that I had to take it in when I left to go to Carlisle for the afternoon choir.

Our musical director wasn’t there.  She had been held up in Belfast when her flight back to Scotland hadn’t been able to take off because of the weather, but as she had been there for a solo singing competition which she had won, we couldn’t hold it against her.

Our usual accompanist took the practice in her place and did a first rate job.  One of the choir members acted as an accompanist and we had a thoroughly satisfactory session.

I had a well cooked poke of fish and chips from our local chip shop for my evening meal when I got back to Langholm and that rounded off a good day….except for that fact that three hours of sitting in hard backed wooden church pews (our Carlisle choir meets in a church) had done my sore foot no favours, even though I had hardly walked a step all day.

I have kept my favourite photograph from the garden tour this morning back until the end of the post because I thought it deserved a special place.   Could anything look more luxuriant and inviting than this magnolia bud?  I don’t think so.

magnolia bud

The sunny weather did let me get a rather crisper flying chaffinch of the day than I have managed lately.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest post comes from Mary Jo in Canada.  She went to the west coast and found the traffic queuing up in Vancouver harbour.

vancouver harbour

I had a day indoors today to keep resting my foot and was assisted in this by a series of showers throughout the day and a brisk and chilly wind.  If it had been a kinder day, I might have ventured out on my slow bike for a virtual walk.

Dropscone arrived on his bike when he brought treacle scones to go with our coffees.  In keeping with the rest of the day, it rained heavily while we were sipping and chatting but the sun came out as he cycled home.

He has just been on a short break to the coast where he hoped to do some sightseeing and play golf but as he chose to have his holiday while storm Gareth was on the go, he didn’t get much of either.

When  he left, I had a quick garden outing but nothing much was happening there so I took a token daffodil picture…

two daffodils

…and reflected that if it is daffodils that you want to see, then Carlisle is the place to go as the city fathers really love a good display of daffs.

I saw this bed under the city walls when I went to park my car before the concert yesterday.

sdr

The rain gauge is registering three and a half inches for the week so far.  It feels as though there has been more rain than that and the ground is getting quite soggy.

The birds were busy again….

lots of chaffinches

…and there always seemed to be a chaffinch looking for a perch.

two quizzical chaffinches

Goldfinches were active too.

busy goldfinches

I spent some useful time finalising my picture framing for the forthcoming exhibition and tried not to change my mind more than three times every minute on which pictures to include.

I didn’t spend too much time just sitting around except for a time out to watch the Gold Cup from Cheltenham.  I practised some music for church and choirs and put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database so I was feeling quite virtuous even if I was a little bored.

I was still sitting at the computer and I had made up my mind to poke my nose out of doors when a strange rattling noise made me look up.  It was a dramatic hailstorm which covered the lawn in minutes and then took not much longer to melt away again.

hail covered lawn

I sat back down at the computer.  A bright sunny moment made me look up again and think of stretching my legs but when I got to the back door, I discovered that it was pouring with rain while the sun shone….

heavy rain

…and since rain and sun means one thing, I popped upstairs and looked out of the back window.

Someone in Henry Street was getting rich.

rainbow over henry street

Mrs Tootlepedal is enjoying the quiet life in the south while visiting her mother but she made the mistake of watching the news and had to ring me up just to shout at someone.  I sympathised.  It was not a good day for news.

The forecast for tomorrow shows even more rain on the way so I may be forced to stay in and watch Scotland get a battering from England on the rugby field.  We have so many injuries that we may soon run out of players altogether.

One of those intent chaffinches is the flying bird of  the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who saw this pink elephant but swears that she hadn’t touched a drop of drink all day.  I believe her.

pink elephant

It is going to be a rushed post today as I went to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir at the local music festival in two classes and as there were eight choirs in the first class and seven in the second, it turned into a long evening and I haven’t even had my tea yet.

I had two visitors in the morning, a frog in the pond among potential frogs…

frog and tadpoles

…and Sandy who dropped in for coffee and to give me advice on getting my printer to print satisfactory pictures for the forthcoming exhibition.

His advice was sound and I spent most of the rest of the morning printing out pictures, a very slow business.

I did have time to walk round the garden.  The daffodils are looking better all the time…

clump of daffodils

…and some of the fancy ones are coming out too.

fancy daffodil

There was a brisk traffic at the bird feeder.

busy feeder

After lunch I went for a walk on my slow bike by which I mean that I bicycled slowly along a route which I would normally have walked as I am trying to rest my sore foot.

Signs of spring are all around, with the ducks pairing up…

two ducks

…and daffodils nodding their heads at the vigorous ripples on the Ewes Water.

dafodils beside ewes

It was sunny but windy and there was occasional rain so I thought that this little scene on the Castleholm summed the day up well.

puddle on castleholm

There were more signs of spring as I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and headed home.

tree budsanother dandelion

I liked the way that the shadows of the playing field fence lay so neatly on the path.

scholars fence shadow

When I got home, I had time to cut a couple of mounts for my exhibition pictures before I left for Carlisle and the choir competition.

I had given myself plenty of time and I had a few minutes to walk round the city centre before going to the warm up.

I noted the old town hall, now a tourist information point…

dav

…the old guildhall, now a restaurant….

dig

…and the very old  cathedral which is still a cathedral.

burst

We sang well at the music festival but the competition sang even better so we  we had to relinquish our grip on the trophy that we won last year.  My heart sank a bit at the prospect of sitting through 13 other choir performances but in the event, it was an entertaining evening with lots of variety in the choirs (everything from a male voice choir to several school ensembles) and lots of variety in the musical offerings (everything from Bruckner to ‘Blame it on the Boogie’).

The winning choir, an all ladies ensemble, was sensational and well worth being beaten by.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with its eye on a free perch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another insect from Derby’s shopping centre as spotted by my brother Andrew.  I am still not clear what the insects are doing there.

derby insect

The man in the gritter lorry whom I met yesterday was obviously doing useful work as this was the scene that greeted us when we got up this morning.

snowstorm march

Although it was coming down in great lumps, the snow was actually quite sleety and after some initial settling…

snowy hellebores march

…it soon melted away leaving just a suggestion on the lawns…

snowy lawn march

…although the hilltops were still showing a good covering.

monument in snow march

It was sleeting so hard at ten o’clock that we drove the few hundred yards to the church in our car instead of cycling as we usually do.  There, as part of a small choir of seven, we sang as lustily as we could.

The snow had stopped by the time that we got home and the chaffinches were coming to collect their food in large numbers…

lots of chaffinches

…and the feeder, which I had filled before going to church, was visibly going down.

very busy feeder

Some thought it better to take a moment away from the mayhem and reflect on life from the top of the sunflower stalk.

chaffinch on the stalk

Among the chaffinches an occasional goldfinch turned up….

busy feeder chaffinches

…but they might have been better staying at home as the sparowhawk paid us a visit and one of the goldfinches was not paying enough attention as the other birds flew off at top speed.

hawk on lawn with goldfinch

It is sad to see one of our little birds come to such an unfortunate end but sparrowhawks need food too.

It didn’t take long for small birds to return to the feeder and they got the bonus of a ray of sunshine to warm them when they got there.

two siskins after the hawk

A couple of larger visitors also put in an appearance.  A blackbird did some paddling…

blackbird in tray

…and a jackdaw looked around for a new bit of the middle lawn to peck up.

jackdaw on lawn

After lunch, we went off to combine a little shopping with our Carlisle Community Choir practice.

The shopping went well as we had remembered our shopping list for once and we not only got everything on the list, but one or two other items which jumped into our trolley as we went along.  Still, you can’t have too much cheese in my view.

The choir practice was very enjoyable and after concentrating almost entirely on competition songs since the new year, it was good to get some new material to work on.  All the same, we are going to sing the three competition songs again this Thursday when we sing in the Carlisle Music Festival.  I hope my memory is up to the job.

The choir’s committee have been very active in ensuring that it is a genuine community choir open to anyone who wants to join, and members often sing in care homes and on other occasions when asked  by local organisations.  As a result, we have received a handsome cheque from the National Lottery to help our work and this was celebrated during our tea break.

dav

In a welcome sign of longer days in spite of the snow, it was still light when we got home after the practice, although the thermometer only showed a miserable 1°C.  The forecast for the next week is for very changeable, cool and windy weather though so the longer days may not be of much use to us for gardening or cycling.

After eating slow cooked mince with potatoes and broccoli for our evening meal, we finished off with a bowl of semolina, an ideal way to end a cold and wintery day.

One of the chaffinch horde is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from fellow choir member Neil who took this shot of us in the warm up room in the Northern College of Music just before we went on to sing in the Manchester Amateur Choir Competition.

carlisle choir

It was a long day, starting by leaving the house at 8.15 am in dry but dull conditions and arriving home at 10.30 pm in a snowstorm.  That last was rather unexpected but otherwise the day went very much to plan.

I remembered to pick up another choir member from Canonbie on my way to Carlisle which was a great triumph.

The coach down was comfortable, the weather improved  and the scenery was agreeable…

P1170251

…and everything was well organised when we got there.  There was enough time between our preliminary practice and the final warm up to let me go for a walk into the centre of Manchester in the light rain which had developed during our drive down the motorway.   As there was no wind and I had had the foresight to bring a small umbrella, the walk was grey but enjoyable.

There is a lot of building work going on and some of the old buildings are being demolished or overshadowed.  This tower does not look too bad…

old manchester

…until you see what it is really up against.

manchester building works

Some fine old university buildings have survived….

Manchester uni building

…and mysteriously I noticed other smaller buildings which had escaped the developers sledgehammer and they were all…

preserved pub 4

…as it turned out…

preserved pub 3

…those popular buildings…

preserved pub 2

….pubs.

preserved pub 1

There are some elegant modern buildings.  Like this station entrance

Manchester station

I walked along a section of canal which is really embedded into the heart of the city, crossing under several roads…

canal bridge 2 Manchester

…though with a nice rural touch here…

canal horse Manchester

…and with lots of locks tucked in amongst the roads and buildings.

canal bridge Manchester 1

You can’t get much more tucked in than this lock.

canal lock Manchester

I like the nifty gearing which allows the boat owners to open the heavy sluices on the lock gates.

canal lock mechanics

I was amused to see Archimedes sheltering from the rain under a railway bridge.

Archimedes in Manchester

Ironically, he was probably the only person who wasn’t getting wet in Manchester today.

I was walking through a university area when I spotted Archimedes and this rather knowledgeable decorative fence panel.

manchester science panel

I got back from my walk in good time to join the choir for our performance and it went as well as we could hope for.  I thoroughly enjoyed the singing which is a tribute to our new conductor Ellen.  The choice of music and the lack of any need to clap and sing at the same time (nightmare) as well as her cheerful manner and encouragement made the whole thing very stress free.

All the same, we didn’t win the competition.  This was no surprise as we were up against 22 other choirs from all over the country, some of them very well trained indeed.

The journey home started with heavy rain in Manchester and ended with snow lying in the streets of Carlisle while more was come down with a vengeance.  I was slightly worried about the trip home as we started off in a blizzard of sleety snow which made visibility in the town difficult to say the least.  The temperature was below freezing, the snow was lying in the streets and I was expecting things to get worse as we went north and climbed a couple of hundred feet.

To my great relief, the temperature went up a degree or two and the snow eased off to rain and the drive home turned out to be no great problem in the end.

I was welcomed home by Mrs Tootlepedal who had decided not to go to Manchester this year.  She had had a very quiet day at home instead.

The flying bird of the day is floating.

canal goose

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who visited Birmingham for an organ recital and took some time out to enjoy the canals while he was there.

Birmingham canal

We had what was possibly the last of our run of fine sunny days today and once again we started off with frost on the ground.

The frost was melting away when I crossed the suspension bridge on my way to visit the shops after breakfast…

suspension bridge frosty moprning

…and was retreating from the front lawn under the assault of the sun when I got home again.

lawn defrosting

I checked on the frogspawn in the pond and found it hard to tell whether it had been damaged or not…

frogspawn after frost

…but the early daffodils are certainly made of tough stuff and are standing up well to alternate bouts of warmth and cold.

daffodils after frost

I noticed that Mrs Tootlepedal has made use of some surplus woollen packaging as a mulch round one of her roses.

woollen mulch

My morning coffee was enhanced by the presence of Dropscone bearing scones and I enjoyed mine with some two year old blackcurrant jelly which Mrs Tootlepedal had found in the back of the jam cupboard.

Dropscone revealed that he had won a golf competition at the weekend but he was honest enough to admit that as it was in a  field of three, it wasn’t the most hard won victory of his long and successful career. Still, a win is a win.

When  he left, I had a moment or two to watch the birds where an incoming greenfinch was racing  a chaffinch to a vacant  perch….

two incoming birds

…and two greenfinches, having won a place at the feeder, were putting the wind up a siskin.

#greenfinches scare siskin

Then I sat in front of my computer and had a remote session with my speech therapist.

We decided that the exercises that she had given me had worked well enough for me to be discharged from her care and after giving me some sage advice as to how to proceed in the future, we signed off.  The remote consultations have worked very well and saved me a lot of time and expense which driving to see her the hospital in Dumfries would have entailed.

When I had finished, Mrs Tootlepedal took me out into the garden to show me some intriguing green bubbles that had grown on a bucket of sieved compost. The bucket had got very wet as it had been standing under a drip for several weeks which might account for this result.  We have never seen anything like it before.

mould on compost bucket

After lunch, I lent a helping hand in the garden, getting the hedge clippers out and giving a spirea a haircut…

clipped spirea

…while Mrs Tootlepedal prepared the soil and planted the new ground covering rose which she had purchased a day or two ago.

ground cover rose

Although the sun was out, it wasn’t by any means warm and I wrapped up well before going off for a cycle ride.

The reason for the lack of warmth became clear as I cycled along.  There was a thick layer of dirty mist in the air acting as an insulator and limiting any views to my immediate surroundings.

no view

From the top of Callister, I should have had a clear view of the wind farm on the hill three miles ahead but today I could hardly see the hills, let alone the wind turbines.

no windmills

As I am mildly asthmatic, I did think for a moment or two of turning round and going home but in the end, I stuck to my task and pedalled on, keeping my efforts well below the level that required heavy breathing.

I read a  newspaper report which said  that the light winds of recent days combined with the dry weather and some Saharan dust, which may have floated up on the southern airflow that has brought our warm weather with it, may be the cause of this concentration of airborne particles.  It is not often that I think a bit of rain would be a good thing, but I hope that it rains soon.

I managed 27 miles and this took my mileage for February to just over the magic figure of 300 miles, which is my monthly target for this year.  Thanks to the cloudy conditions, I didn’t stop to take any more pictures on my way.

In the evening, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir and we had a very enjoyable session with our regular conductor, who is also my singing teacher.  I did my best to show that I had paid attention during my lesson on Monday.

I didn’t have long to watch the birds today and as a result, I caught my only flying bird of the day just as it head went into the shadow of the feeder.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  As well as looking up at celestial wonders, he has also looked down and found a monster on the seashore.

monsters head (1)

I drove south after breakfast to visit my singing teacher.  She lives under the shadow of the north of England hills and the mist was just burning off when I got there.

misty penines

I had a second look at the tree in the foreground with its additional sheep.

misty tree hallbank gate

The mist depended on the direction and distance of the view.  This little tree covered mound was only a few hundred yards away and mist free….

trees on tump hallbankgate

…and the monkey puzzle tree in her garden was bathed in sunlight.

monkey puzzle hallbankgate

The singing lesson was very interesting and left me with a number of things to work on regarding breathing, posture, relaxation and sound production.  Now, if I can only remember all of them, I should get a lot better.  Or indeed, any of them.

On my way home, I stopped to look at the bridge over the river Irthing, near Brampton.

It was not surprising to find that it has got many metal ties on it as it is a very narrow bridge on a busy road and with sharp bends at each end, it has had many a battering from passing traffic over the years.

Irthing bridge

When I got home, I was welcomed by Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a very busy morning in the house and garden and by a frog in the pond who had been taking things quietly.

frog in wed

The garden was busy with bees…

bee in crocus

…visiting the crocuses.

And the air was busy with contentious birds…

goldfinches squabbling

…being rude to each other.

Goldfinches were shouting at other goldfinches and chaffinches…

birds bickering

…and chaffinches were going beak to beak with each other.

chaffinches beak to beak

Sometimes it all got a bit too much and they just threw up their wings in despair.

chaffinch in despair

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Dumfries with our neighbour Liz who had a hospital out patient visit arranged and appreciated the company.

I took my cycle out for a gentle spin round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit, keeping an eye for trees, either in groups…

three trees grainstonehead

..or standing alone…

Irvine house tree

…or posing another puzzle for monkeys.

monkey puzzle canonbie

I had a walk round the garden when I got back, hoping for an opportunity to take a better bee picture.  Sadly, it had got late enough in the day for all the bees to have gone home so I had to settle for some attractive white crocuses instead.

white crocus

The early daffodils are coming out and adding some fresh colour to the snowdrops and crocuses.

february daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely having managed to call in at a garden centre for a cup of tea and a scone on the way back from Dumfries where she acquired a new rose as if by magic.

The rest of my day was musical, with first a visit from my flute playing friend Luke.  He has been practising and as a result we played one of our pieces better than ever before.  We were both very pleased.

Then after tea, I went and played three trios with Mike and Isabel, our first meeting for some weeks and all the more welcome for that.

We have one more day of warm, calm, sunny weather to go before things start to return to more standard levels of rain, wind and cold so I am going to do my best to really appreciate the last sunny day while it  is here.

Among all the shenanigans at the feeder, I did manage to catch one calm chaffinch and he is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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