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Archive for the ‘Singing’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  He has been looking up lately and as well as holes in clouds, he has seen the moon.

tony's moon

We had another fine sunny day here today and because the wind had dropped, it felt really warm and we were able to discard several layers of winter clothing.

We started the day with a visit to church to sing with the choir.  Because our local amateur operatic society was having a full day of rehearsals for their forthcoming show, we were a bit short of numbers but we gave it our best anyway.

When we got back to the house, we had a stroll round the garden.  I checked on the frogs and saw an odd sight…

two frog heads

…with two frogs looking as though they had been shot and mounted on a wooden board.  A second look showed me that they were in fact floating on top of a reflection of the bridge above them and if you look carefully, you can see the rest of their bodies under the water.

The rest of the pond was full of frogs.

frog panel

The garden is full of crocuses…

crocuses beside opath

…and other interesting things like a naturally dried sunflower head, a ladybird and the developing euphorbia.

sunflower, ladybird and euphorbia

I was just going about photographing things when I was hailed by neighbour Irving who was leaning over the garden fence.  He has been very poorly recently with a bad back and was keen to share some experiences with me as I have suffered from a bad back too in my time.

Irving on fence

He felt that after being ill, he was probably not at his best photographically and told me not to put his picture in the blog.  You can see that he is perhaps looking a little part worn still so I won’t use his picture.

During the day when she was between choirs, Mrs Tootlepedal completed the varnishing of the rocking horse.

rocking horse eyes

The dappling of a rocking horse is a very stylised business and she has settled for a fairly restrained version which I think is just the thing.

rocking horse varnished

We are waiting now for the arrival of the saddle, bridle, main and tail from the rocking horse shop and then the final stage of the work can begin.

We had a busy day at the feeder today with a good number of siskins flying in and out…

three flying siskins

…alongside the usual chaffinches and goldfinches…

three flying birds

…and a visiting starling showed off its iridescent colours.

starling on feeder

I had time for a short three bridges walk and spotted quite a few oyster catchers beside the river..

oyster catcher in sun

The sense of a spring day was heightened by the sight of the first blossoms on the trees which line the Esk between the suspension and the town bridges.

cherry blossom

At the Kilngreen, the crocuses are starting to come out along the banking and although they are not quite as showy as the Edinburgh display which I saw on Thursday…

kilngreen crocus bank

…they are not to be sniffed at.

kilngreen crocuses

I haven’t seen Mr Grumpy for some time, so it was good to see him back on guard beside the Ewes Water.

heron

I walked over the Sawmill Brig and walked up almost as far as the Lodge…

Lodge in Feb

…before crossing the Castleholm and taking the riverside path back towards the Jubilee bridge.  I was wondering if the spell of good weather might have tempted some hazel flowers to come out.

It had.

The catkins were open and if you look carefully, you can just see a little red female flower at the top of the picture.

hazel catkin and flower

This tree had several flowers out…

haxel flowers

…but I didn’t see any more as I walked along the path.  They have arrived early this year.  It has sometimes been almost a month later before I have seen them.

castelholm sunny feb

I called in on our friends Mike and Alison on our way home as Mike has been poorly with a chest infection.  I had seen him briefly on our way to church when he was on his way to buy a newspaper and looking far from well but he was much more cheerful by lunchtime and reported that he is on the mend.

When  I got home, I found the pond full to bursting with frogs.

many frogs in pond

I had time for a quick lunch and while I was  eating my soup, Mrs Tootlepedal noticed that a redpoll had arrived.  I put down my soup spoon and picked  up a camera and recorded this welcome arrival.

february redpoll

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle for a very hard working final practice before the Carlisle Community Choir goes to Manchester next week to compete in the Manchester Amateur Choir Competition.

Mrs Tootlepedal is not taking part this year so I will be going down by myself, except of course for the other eighty choir members who will be coming too.

I am hoping for good weather so I can wander about during the day taking pictures.

I had made a venison stew in the slow cooker in the morning and in spite of saying recently that we had used all the veg from our garden, I was happy to find that we still have some home grown turnips in store in our garage so one of them went in.  Thanks to the good summer, things have lasted well in storage this season.

The flying bird of the day was a lucky shot taken at the Kilngreen as I clicked my camera at random as a duck flew by down the river.  I must have moved it inadvertently at almost duck flying speed.

flyng duck

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Today’s guest pictures brings the only ray of sunshine into this post.  It was taken by my brother Andrew who was enjoying the fifty mile view from Alport Heights in Derbyshire at the time.

Alport heights

It was a day about the weather of which, the less said the better.  It was wet and windy from dawn till dusk and beyond and a total write off as far as taking pictures went.

On the cheerful side, I had a visit from Dropscone to discuss coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal’s ginger biscuits and we spent some happy time enumerating the deficiencies of our local government system.

It was too gloomy to look at the birds and there weren’t many birds to look at so that seemed appropriate.

siskin and chaffinches

I put a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group website and that was at least useful.  While I was in a useful mood, I did a little organising for the camera club’s forthcoming exhibition and wrote an apologetic letter to someone who had had to listen to me being very grumpy towards him over the phone but who had sent me a very timely and competent response to my complaints.  Sometimes we get treated better than we deserve.

A pigeon wandered past the kitchen window.

pigeon under the feeder

Mrs Tootlepedal was deep into dappling all day.  There are a million decisions to be made on size, shape, placement, density of tone and much more  in this process and Mrs Tootlepedal is endeavouring to make sure that every one that she makes is the right one.  It is a painstaking business.

I made some soup for lunch and having eaten it, I went off to the dentist for a brief, painless and useful visit and after that we did some useful shopping.

There is a theme of usefulness developing about the day so although it remained a miserable day outside, it wasn’t a wasted day….especially as Mrs Tootlepedal broke off from the dappling to make fish pie for tea.  Her fish pie would brighten the darkest day.

I finished the day by walking through the rain to our local choir.  We didn’t have our usual conductor but we got two new members and we had some enjoyable singing moments.

It had finally stopped raining when I walked home and fine weather is forecast over the weekend.  Mustn’t grumble.

The flying bird is not good but it was still the best I could do.

dim flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture, sent by Bruce, shows that however many oyster catchers we may have in Langholm, they have more on the Isle of Arran where Bruce is staying at the moment.

oyster catchers Brodick

It was another day when grey clouds and a brisk wind made a theoretically warm day here feel rather chilly.  I didn’t much mind though as I spent a lot of the day indoors singing.

The days are getting longer and there was enough light to say hello to the goldfinches…

two goldfinches sunday

…before Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to sing with the church choir. We had a busy time, with four hymns, an introit and an anthem as well as a practice after the service.

This didn’t leave time for a walk of a cycle ride afterwards so I had a stroll round the garden instead.  There is promise of new crocuses…

dark crocus

…and daffodils…

daffodil clump

…but it would help if we could get some consistent sunshine for a day or two.

I noticed a smart miniature daffodil in the chimney pot by the bird feeder…

garden centre daffodil

…and realised that it must have fallen into the shopping trolley when we visited the garden centre not long ago.

Time for nature watching was short because we had a ‘singing afternoon’ with our Carlisle choir stretching from half past one to half past five.  Observant readers might suppose that any visit to our Carlisle choir should involve singing, but these singing afternoons are a cut above our usual sessions.

Young and talented singing teachers come down with our conductor from Glasgow and give small group lessons to the various choir sections with technique instructions as well as specific tips for various tricky moments in the songs that we are practising for the competition in Manchester next month.

You can learn a lot from these teachers.  It is wonderful how much difference a small modulation to a vowel sound can make for comfort and quality in singing a specific word on a specific note.  It is less wonderful to remember that you might have been taught this before and forgotten it.  But that is life.

The teachers are very patient.

The process of humming into water through a straw which I have been pursuing daily on the instructions of the speech therapist must have been worthwhile as my voice survived the day much better than it would have done last year.

And it was still light when we left the practice to come home.  Roll on spring.

The flying bird of the day is an early morning chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by her father, shows Matilda in pensive mood earlier this week.  As she was in Ireland at the time, maybe she was pondering the tricky Irish border question.

pensive Matilda

After yesterday’s glorious sunshine, we were back to grey and windy weather today.  It was theoretically quite a warm day with the thermometer showing a mellow 11°C but any warmth was utterly dependent on keeping out of  the very chilly wind.  As it was one of those winds that follow you round corners and blow up your trouser legs and down the back of your shirt, it was hard to get away from it.  I stayed indoors a lot.

I spent the morning reading the papers, doing the crossword and looking out of the window as chaffinches approached the feeder.

chaffunch landing

A goldfinch looked to be in line for a surprise.

chaffinch coming up on goldfinch

I was pleased to see a siskin among the birds on the perches…

busy feeder with a siskin

….and doubly pleased to see two.

busy feeder with two siskin

I had enjoyed my pain free bike ride yesterday so I resolved to see how walking went today and after lunch, I set off to walk about a mile to see how things were.

I nodded to a new daffodil doing its best to come out in the garden…

new daffodil

…and took a route that I hoped would take me past some water side birds.

I soon saw an oyster catcher…

one oyster catcher

…and then two more…

two oyster catchers

…and finally, three in a row.

three oyster catchers

One oyster catcher looks remarkably like another one to the untrained eye so I can’t tell if it was just the same birds flying about…

flying oyster catchers

…and landing in front of me or six separate birds.

Among the oyster catchers, a herring gull stood out.

gull

The walk was a great success as far as seeing birds went but it was a failure in terms of foot comfort so I cut it as short as I could and went home, passing the bush of pink snowberries beside the river on my way.  I love their Sunday name: Symphoricarpos.

pink snowberries

Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy in the garden while I was tottering about and she took me round to see the useful tidying up that she had accomplished.  Among other things, she had cleared some infected leaves from the hellebores and that gave me a photo opportunity which I took.

hellebore

Once back indoors, I settled down to work on choir songs and when it came to tea time, I made myself a dish of kidneys in a spicy wine, pepper and mushroom sauce on a bed of rice and followed that up with some semolina pudding for both of us.  The day might have been a bit disappointing but the evening meal saved it from disaster.

The flying bird is an eager looking goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is another look at the supersized crazy golf course in Nottingham.  My brother Andrew passed it on his way to classes at the university.

nottingham golf

I was hoping for a bright day today so that I could take some seaside picture when I went to visit my physio who lives on the Solway coast.  There has been a lot of loose talk lately about a ridge of high pressure with warm temperatures and sunny skies but wherever that was taking place, it wasn’t here.  We were stubbornly stuck in single figures, under very grey skies and blasted by stiff winds.

The opportunity to sit indoors in the morning and admire the birds at the feeder was scuppered by two fly throughs from the sparrowhawk with the result that birds were very few and far between…

chaffinch behind feeder

…and mostly hiding when they did arrive.

I walked round the garden but there was not a lot to see.  The winter aconites are trying to open out…

winter aconites

…and the new sarcococca is doing well.

sarcococca

But that was it.

In the absence of interesting birds or flowers, I went off and did some singing practice in disgust and then after an early lunch, we set out to combine the visit to the physio with some shopping.

I picked up a big bag of economically priced bird seed on the way to visit a garden centre near Carlisle.  Once we got there, Mrs Tootlepedal acquired some interesting seed potatoes and an azalea and I purchased a selection of cheeses.

Then we headed off to Annan where I had intended to do some more shopping and take a picture or two.  Unfortunately, the middle of the town was clogged up with road works so we gave up and drove out to Powfoot…

powfoot cotttages

…. to see the sea.  It was gloomy but a dog was having fun…

dog walkers powfoot

…which may have helped to account for the complete absence of any interesting sea birds…

solway on a grey day

…although the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal did spot a lone lapwing.

I missed the lapwing and took a picture of some seaside gorse instead.

gorse at powfoot

The visit to the physio was useful and interesting but did not in the short term do anything to ease my foot troubles.  She thinks the pain may well stem from injury to the tendons in my ankle as it is swollen.  She wiggled my foot in many directions and was unable to find any other cause so that may well be the right answer.  Unfortunately this means that I will have to wait for ‘time, the great healer’ to do his work but she did say that gentle but regular exercise is prescribed so that cheered me up.

She has put a tape down the back of my calf and along the bottom of my foot to give me some support so I shall try a little walk tomorrow and see how it goes.

I picked up a few walnuts in the garden today and found one or two ripe ones which Mrs Tootlepedal ate.  She said they were very sweet. It is a pity that I don’t like nuts with so many lying around.  This one seemed appropriate for St Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

walnut hearts

In the evening, I went off to the Langholm choir where we had an enjoyable evening of singing.  Our current set of songs are tuneful and not too hard which is just what I need at the moment.

While I have been idling about over the past weeks, Mrs Tootlepedal has been very busy.

She has got the first covering of undercoat onto the rocking horse….

rocking horse repairs paint

…and has been very busy with her crochet hook.

crochet blanket

The main body of the blanket is now complete and she is waiting to get the instructions for finishing it off with a border.

The winds are due to ease off over the next couple of days so I hope to get out on the bicycle again.  A little sunshine would help.

The supply of flying birds was very poor today and this was the only one that I captured on camera.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who was exploring the back ways of our neighbouring town of Annan when he came upon this attractive bridge.

annan little bridge

Perceptive readers may have noticed that I was feeling a little gloomy when I sat down to write last night’s post (thank you for the kind wishes expressed in the comments)  and they will be glad to hear that things are a lot more cheerful today. This is down to enjoying two choirs, a little excursion and some bird variety.

The day started with the first choir in the Langholm Parish Church where we sang an introit and an anthem as well as four hymns.  In between the singing, the minister gave us all a severe warning to keep a good eye out for the devil who would be pursuing us like a roary lion and seeking to devour us.   We took his advice and managed to get through the rest of the day safely.

The weather was calm and occasionally sunny when we got back from church so after a little bird watching, where I noticed a chaffinch trying to pick up tips from a goldfinch on how to be really cool…

shocked chaffinch cool goldfinch

…and Mrs Tootlepedal marvelled at the delicate colouring on a pigeon…

pigein feb

…I took a walk round the garden.

In spite of collecting over 200 walnuts in the autumn, there are still a lot to be seen lying around in the flower beds.  Most of them have been pecked open but this one looks as good as new.

walnut on ground

The garden is full of snowdrops which were looking good in the sunshine but getting a good picture of the snowdrop flower requires the photographer to lie flat on the ground…

garden snowdrops

…or to take advantage of one from a small vase full which Mrs Tootlepedal had picked and brought indoors.

Rather than go for a walk, I took out the slow bicycle and cycled along to the Kilngreen to look for dippers and oyster catchers.  I could only find gulls.

flying gull

It was a pleasant day though so I cycled on over the sawmill brig, past a moss covered tree on the Castleholm…

castleholm tree

…and up the Lodge walks to Holmhead where I was hoping to find a good show of snowdrops to make up for the lack of waterside birds.

I was not disappointed…

Holmhead snowdrops

…and I got a bird among the blooms as a bonus.

pheasant among the snowdrops

The snowdrops and the pheasant cheered me up so much that I resolved to take advantage of the good weather and cycle a couple of miles further up the Esk valley…

 

esk valley

…and then cross a bridge and cycle a couple of miles down again on the opposite side of the river.

There were some grey clouds ahead….

lonesome pine

…but my road down the opposite side of the river looked very inviting so I pressed on…

potholm road

…up the track to Potholm.

Potholm track

When I got to the farm house at Potholm, there was another fine show of snowdrops on display.

potholm farm with snowdrops

What wasn’t so satisfactory was the accompanying shower of rain so that by the time that I crossed the bridge over the Esk….

potholm bridge

…all sign of blue skies had disappeared and I was getting quite wet and things looked gloomy for the road home.

milnholm and tree

This put paid to any further photo opportunities, except a stop under the sheltering trees at the road end to enjoy a door that has been overtaken by time…

old door in wall

…and a wall that has probably got more spleenwort per square inch than anywhere else in the world.

spleenwort wall

I was lucky in that I was cycling along the very edge of the rain shower so I didn’t get as wet as I had feared but it was still annoying to find that the sun came out almost as soon as I had got home.

I had some baked beans on toast for  my lunch and watched the chaffinches competing for seeds for a while…

busy chaffinches

…and then it was time to head for Carlisle and the community choir practice there.

Our usual conductor was busy elsewhere but she had sent down an excellent substitute and he was very thorough, technically interesting and helpful, very charming and quite funny.  As a result,  two hours of hard work passed in a flash.

Also encouraging was the fact that it was still just about light as we left the church and drove home.  We are inching towards spring.

Mrs Tootlepedal had prepared a fish pie for our tea and as that is one of my favourite meals, it rounded off an excellent day.

It is not the cleanest picture that I have ever taken but I really liked today’s flying bird of the day.  The subdued colours of both bird and background seem to match the rather reserved manner of the chaffinch as she approaches the feeder.

flying caffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who is on holiday in Wales.  He took the opportunity to see one of the most famous engineering feats of Thomas Telford, a local Eskdale hero.  The picture shows the magnificent Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Langollen canal through the skies over the river Dee.

telford aqueduct

We had a slightly warmer day here today but not much warmer so after having checked the weather forecast (grey but dry) I idled a couple of hours away after breakfast to let the temperature rise before getting out on my bike.

I spent some of the time watching birds.

full feeder

Goldfinches had come back today but my attempts to find a flying bird were generally less than successful with chaffinches either hiding behind the feeder…

chaffinch behind feeder

…or sneaking up before I was ready…

chaffinch approaching feeder

…and the goldfinches weren’t much more helpful.

goldfinch approaching chaffinch

I liked this pair with the sparrow in the role of Esau (my brother Esau is an hairy man…) and the chaffinch posing as Jacob (…but I am a smooth man).

chaffinch and sparrow

I set off on my bike, full of hope and with an ambitious itinerary in mind.  This lasted all of five miles because when I looked down into the Esk valley from the top of the Kerr hill, all I could see was rain, and heavy looking rain at that.

Within a minute, the rain had swept over me too and I was under fire from some painful, sleety raindrops which were being propelled by a strong and gusty wind.

I turned tail and tried to beat the rain.  I succeeded within a mile or so and instead of resting on my laurels and heading for home when I got to the Wauchope road, I set off to the top of Callister instead.  This was a bad mistake and the pedal home back down the hill was a full on experience of getting thoroughly wet.

Still, 17 miles was better than nothing and a hot shower restored my equilibrium.

Of course it had stopped raining by the time that I had got out of my shower so I went for a short walk.

There was even the odd glimpse of sunshine…

Town Bridge wet February

Telford worked on this bridge as an apprentice.

…but everything was very wet…

raindrops on park tree

…wherever you looked…

wet needles

…and as there were ominous clouds building up and my foot was hurting a bit, I took a quick stroll along the park wall where the pixie cup lichens ….

big cup lichen

…were to be seen on every side.

pots of cup lichens

The lichen stained bark of a tree caught my eye…

park tree bark

..but I had got discouraged so I headed home and looked for flowers in the garden.  The crocuses looked a bit discouraged too…

wet crocus buds

…but a hellebore was looking well and even had a fly for company.

hellebore feb

I lifted the head up to show that it was in good health.

hellebore held up

Once I got in, the weather brightened up but I was fed up by then and I did some singing practice, had a cup of tea and a biscuit with Mike Tinker who dropped in and made a beef stew for my evening meal.

While I was doing these things, Mrs Tootlepedal was continuing with her crochet blanket (the end is in sight) and doing some detailed work on the rocking horse as part of the preparations for painting it (a lot of work to go).

After tea, I went off for the first meeting of 2019 for the Langholm Community Choir.  There had been worries that the membership might drop off but there was a very good attendance with a new member on hand.  Mary, our director, in consultation with the committee, has settled on fewer new works this session and as they are fairly easy arrangements, we had a relaxed session.  I think this is a good plan as we ought to be able to sing  the material very well by the time our concert comes round without any stress.

The best flying bird of the day that I could find was this chaffinch, just out of focus.  It matched my efforts to read the weather correctly.

flying chaffinch

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