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Archive for the ‘Tootling’ Category

Looking through my files. I found that I had overlooked this guest picture sent to me by my sister Susan last month.  It shows the good work of a guerrilla gardener who is brightening up her neighbourhood.

guerilla gardener

After spending some time devoted to the essentials of life, reading the papers and doing the crossword, I felt the need for some novelty and went off to visit our corner shop to buy milk.

“Where is the novelty in that?” I hear the attentive reader cry.

Well, in a deeply unsettling event, our corner shop, which has been on a corner about 100 yards from our door for decades, has suddenly upped and moved 150 yards further away, round a corner and down the road.  It is now a quarter of a mile away and not on a corner any more.  The world has shaken on its foundation.

I managed to find it without too much of a problem.

When I got back though, I needed a coffee to settle my nerves.

After coffee and a few ginger biscuits, I felt that the lack of actual rain outside on a very grey day justified the putting on of cycling gear and getting out my bike.

As I was going out of the door, I passed Mrs Tootlepedal coming in.  “It’s just starting to rain,” she said.

Was I discouraged?  Well, I was a little discouraged but the rain was light and the day was reasonably warm so I pedalled off in good spirits, helped by having a friendly wind pushing me along.

I managed to last for twenty miles, pedalling up the top of Callister and back down to the town, and then up as far as  Wauchope Schoolhouse and back so that I was never too far from home in case the day turned nasty.  It rained pretty well all the time, but generally so lightly that it wasn’t a drawback to enjoyment.  It was wet enough for me to keep my camera in my pocket until just outside Langholm, I came across a small river of fungus flowing down a bank beside the road.

river of fungus

I had never seen fungus there before so I stopped for a look.

Springhill fungus

When I got home, I was just about to have some soup which Mrs Tootlepedal had made while I was out, when I thought that I saw two robins in the plum tree.

I took two pictures with my cycling camera.  Whether they were of two different birds or the same one on two different branches, I cannot say for sure.  This one looks familiar…

robin in plum tree

…but this one has been ringed and is certainly not our usual friend.

ringed robin

The day got greyer and greyer, if that was possible, so photographing birds through the window was a bit of a thankless task, made harder by a distinct lack of birds. (I blame encroaching cats among other things.)

I did see some birds enjoying our sunflower hearts, among them this chaffinch, who like me had been getting a little wet…

chaffinch eating seed

…and this goldfinch who apparently wasn’t enjoying the meal as much as it might.

goldfinch eating seed

I did catch another glimpse of a robin, this time lurking under a hedge.

shy robin

I put a grey afternoon to good use by practising some of our Carlisle choir songs and Mrs Tootlepedal and I were singing away when Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea.

When he left, I lit a fire in the front room and got ready for the arrival of my flute pupil Luke.  He has been practising a bit in a most satisfactory way and I will definitely have to work hard to keep up with him.

I thought that today might be as grey as it could get but it looks as though it is going to be even greyer tomorrow.  Flying birds might be in short supply.  This ‘just landed’ flying bird was the best that I could do today.

nearly flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who is anxious to prove that the sun continues to shine in East Wemyss.  He took this picture this afternoon.

Tony's view

Unlike East Wemyss, it was a very grey day here today but the temperature had risen to a reasonable 6°C, so I left Mrs Tootlepedal and Patricia to think about a walk and got my bike out for my first pedal for more than two weeks.

It was grey when I started out and the view wasn’t a great deal more exciting than the garage wall I had been looking at yesterday when I had been on the bike to nowhere…

Bloch dull day

…though there were always trees to look at…

Bloch tree

…and a comfortable cow at Canonbie.

canonbie cow

I didn’t take any pictures in the ten miles between the tree and the cow because it was raining.  Fortunately, as I passed the cow the rain died away and the wind, which I had feared might slow my progress on the way home, proved to be more helpful than not, so I enjoyed the last six miles of my customary 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

My enjoyment was enhanced by seeing work actually going on at the site of the proposed new Canonbie sewage works.  This site was first dug out in October 2016 so they have not been rushing to get going on the project.

canonbie sewage works

Further up the road, I was very pleased to see that all the trees, big and small, have been cleared from beside the old road near Irvine House.  Previously, this section of road has been perpetually shadowed by trees and has been dark and damp with layers of slippery leaves making things dangerous for cyclist.  This is a big improvement.

old a7 irvine house

When I got back onto the new main road, I was once again enchanted by the show of larches planted when the road was made a few years ago.

new a7 auchenrivock

Since it was my birthday today, I was more than usually pleased to have been able to get out for a pedal.  Mrs Tootlepedal and Patricia had not been so fortunate, because as soon as they had got out of the door to start their walk, it had started to rain. They had abandoned the plan and stayed in.

We thought that we ought to be able to offer our guest Patricia an outing of some sort so after lunch, we drove back down the road towards Canonbie and paid a visit to Gilnockie Tower.

Gilnockie Tower November

This 16th Century tower house has been extensively renovated and now offers a ‘visitor experience’.  And a good one too, we thought.

We paid our money and we looked around.  We were impressed by the original fireplace on the first floor and also by the modern wood burning stove that had been installed in it which was keeping the room very snug.

Gilnockie Tower fireplace

The very thick walls might have helped to keep the room warm too.  The  window revealed just how thick the walls are.

Gilnockie Tower window

The view from the window on the floor above was good.

Gilnockie Tower view

This floor was devoted to a family bedroom and the sharp eyed reader will be able to spot Mrs Tootlepedal making use of the comprehensive audio guide which was provided for visitors.

Gilnockie Tower bed

On the next floor, which contained documents, paintings, photographs and other information,  a corner of the room is devoted to Neil Armstrong who visited the tower in 1972.

Gilnockie Tower Neil Armsrong

Access to the various floors is by means of a steep and winding spiral staircase and I was quite impressed that I managed to climb all the way to the top of the tower.

Gilnockie Tower stair

Mrs Tootlepedal and Patricia opened the door that led to the gallery that runs round the top of the tower…

Gilnockie Tower balcony

…but didn’t venture out onto it,

I had already retreated down the stairs to the safety of solid ground.

In a sign of the times, a neat walkway leads round the back of the tower to a toilet block for the convenience of visitors.

Gilnockie Tower outside toilet

Not everything has been spruced up though and I was happy to find a section of wall round the car park which was rich in lichen.

Gilnockie Tower lichen

The restoration has been done very well and the tower is full of interesting information so we were happy to have paid our visit to it.

When we got back, I made baked eggs in spinach with a cheese sauce for our evening meal and we followed that up with the very last of the tarte tatin.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday night visit and while Alison and I played music, Patricia, Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal chatted away.  Alison and I joined in and the conversation was general for a while, though it was interrupted by the arrival of a very fine birthday cake.  This had been cooked and compiled by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Birthday cake 2019

This brought a very satisfactory day to a close.

No flying bird of the day?  You can’t have everything even if it is your birthday.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s canal walk with my sister Mary.  I like a bridge with legs.

regent's canal bridge

After a chilly night, we had a chilly morning followed by a chilly afternoon.  Sandy, who dropped in for a coffee told me that his thermometer showed an overnight low of -7°C which is unusually cold for November for us. Indeed, we have had some mild winters lately so this came as a bit of a shock to us.

The temperature hardly crept above zero all day so I was happy when Dropscone also dropped in for a coffee as it was far too cold to go out for a bicycle ride.

In the end  though, I had to stop drinking coffee and lend a hand about the house as we are expecting a visitor tomorrow.

I did find time to check on the birds, but the cold weather had affected them too and there were not many about.

I got a fleeting glimpse of a chaffinch…

shy chaffinch

…and after a while, a goldfinch appeared.  The reflection in  the window made it look a bit as though it was dropping down a glass tube.

descending goldfinch

The robin paid several visits to the feeder area in pursuit of fallen seed…

robon panel

…but in general there was not a lot to look at, so I made some lentil soup for lunch instead.

After lunch, I went for a walk.  The skies were rather leaden by this time, but there was hardly a breath of wind and it was not icy underfoot, so it was pleasant enough for a stroll, especially as I was well wrapped up.

I checked the ice crystals on a sedum in the garden…

ice on sedum

…and saluted a hardy perennial wallflower before I left.

perennial wallflower late november

The larches are rapidly going  over and only the needles at the very tops of the trees are left to give a little late colour.

last of the larches

There was more colour on this tree growing out of a memorial in the Wauchope graveyard.  It is doing severe damage to its host.wauchope graveyard

I had a look at my favourite lichen garden on the fence post beside the Auld Stane Brig.  The pixie cups had been bejewelled….

pixie cxup lichen ice

…while other lichen on the same post was unaffected by ice.

fence post lichen

The moss on the bridge parapet was almost invisible under its icy coat.

moss with ice

It was too cold to hang around taking many pictures and I had an appointment fairly soon so I was pleased that the path was easy to walk on…

gaskells frosty

…even though there was ice on every plant beside it…

frosty leaf

There hadn’t been much melting during the day!

ice crystals

The smoke rising lazily from the chimney at Stubholm showed how still the day was….

stubholm view november

…and there were still a few colourful leaves to be seen when I had passed the house.

top of park steps

When I got home, I was amazed to see the phlox was having a phinal phlourish.  This is the plant that looks as though it will never die.

last phlox

Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer came round to show me  the accounts for the year.  They are in a very satisfactory state and we should be able to go on with our work during 2020.

In the evening, Sue, Susan and Jenny, the other three members of our recorder group arrived and we had a very enjoyable hour and three quarters playing early music.  The selection of music was good and we played it quite well.  Who could ask for anything more?

The weather  has warmed up a bit during the evening and it looks as though we might have a day above freezing tomorrow.  It will still probably be too cold for me to cycle so I am going to get indoor cycling sorted out as I haven’t had a pedal for ages thanks to the cold spell.

Flying birds were few and far between today and I didn’t get many good pictures so I was tempted to use a fancy filter on my photo editor to make the best of this female chaffinch…

posterized chaffinch

…and this male will be the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He just wants us to know that there are starlings in East Wemyss too.

starling wemyss

The forecast was for a reasonable morning with some rain at lunchtime and rising wind during the day.  I should therefore have gone out cycling as soon as possible and worried about other things later on.

As it happened, the idea of having a coffee and biscuit with Sandy proved more powerful than the idea of cycling so coffee and a biscuit (or two) it was.

When he left, there were birds to look at….

sparrow

…and a window to clean to make it easier to look at the birds.

A collared dove looked down on the cleaned window with approval.

collared dove

A blue tit eyed up the feeder…

blue tit waiting

…and having got there, took a seed and made off again.

blue tit with big seed

The sunflower hearts are too big for blue tits to eat, so they take them away to a tree where they hold them down with a claw and peck at them.

One chaffinch took a moment to rest on the plum tree before heading for the feeder…

chaffinch

…and another made sure to line up neatly with the other branches on Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree.

symmetrical chaffinch

A goldfinch appeared…

goldfinch

…and soon a small gang of them monopolised the feeder.

three goldfiches

I was hoping for a flying bird but unless you have a lot of time to stand and wait, you need more than a gang of three to turn up.  The feeder should ideally be fully occupied with non flying birds and then the flying birds have to hang in the air waiting for an opportunity to land.

In the absence of flying, I turned round and looked at the window on the opposite side of the room.  Pot plants make good subjects because they don’t suddenly dart off before you can get the camera focused.

pot plant

The expected lunchtime rain didn’t materialise, so after a healthy lunch of sardines, I got my bike out and went off for a ride.  I had the wind behind me as I started but as there were some unreliable looking clouds behind me too, I kept an open mind on where and how far I should go.

It was grey day and with the threat of rain about, I didn’t stop a lot but this colourful and neatly trimmed hedge at Mossknowe seemed worth a look.

hedge mossknowe

Just up the road, was an imposing tree with a good complement of leaves still on its branches.

tree with leaves mossknowe

When I got to the Annan road, I headed west.  I was planning to turn left and check to see if there were any migratory geese about near the border, but as the moment of route decision got nearer  so did the threatening clouds.

Looking to my right, the skies seemed clearer so instead of turning left, I went on a bit,  passing these leafy trees…

trees near milltown of sark

… and turned right at Chapelknowe.  I had gone about three yards up the road from the junction when it started to rain quite heavily.  I stopped and put my rain jacket on and about three yards later, the rain stopped as suddenly as it had started.

How I laughed.

As I plodded up the hill, the day got darker….

grey tree neasr chapelknow

…so I kept my rain jacket on until I got so hot that I had to stop and take it off again.  About three hundred yards later, it started to rain quite heavily again but this time I was ready for it and pedalled on regardless.  I soon came out into the dry again.

I had chosen a route that would make the best of the wind and I had it generally behind me for the first eighteen miles.   The nine miles back home directly into the wind were harder work and I was pleased to stop at the bottom of Callister to photograph this well defended bridge at Falford.

falford bridge

Then it started to rain again and this time, it didn’t stop.  I was only seven miles from home though so I was quite happy to tuck my glasses in my back pocket, wrap up my camera and phone, and pedal along without putting my rain jacket back on.  The rain was not heavy and it was tolerably warm so in spite of the elements against me, I enjoyed the ride back.

I ended up doing just under twenty eight miles and because of the route alteration, I found myself going round some familiar roads in the opposite direction to my usual custom.  It is surprising how novel going the ‘wrong way’ down a road feels, no matter how often you have gone along it in in the other direction.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke arrived and we had another progressive session.  He has been practising at home and showed marked improvement which was very satisfactory.  Because no one showed me how to practice properly when I was young, I got very discouraged when I put in some time but didn’t seem to get any better, so it is good to see Luke getting value from the time he has spent.

In response to popular demand, the venison stew made a reappearance for our evening meal.

I didn’t have the patience to wait long enough for a flying bird at the feeder today so a dogwood across the garden, shot through the window while I was waiting hopefully, is the best that I can do.

dogwood

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Today’s guest picture comes from that inveterate traveller Bruce.  He looked in on a tea dance at the famous Tower Ballroom in Blackpool but did not venture onto the floor himself.  Doubtless things will be a bit more lurid on 16th November when Strictly comes to town.

tower ballroom

Finally our spell of mild autumn weather came to an end today and we woke up to a frosty garden.

first frosts

It wasn’t very frosty though and things warmed up gently through the morning. I wondered if the frost would have encouraged some autumn colour, so after breakfast I went out for a short three bridges walk.

I was waved off by a hosta positively glowing in the sunshine.

golden hosta

Sadly, the autumn colour was mainly on the river bank…

leaves on ground

…though it was still a glorious morning for a walk.

meeting of the waters late october

The ducks seemed to think that it was good weather for them too…

female mallard

…as they cruised up and down the Ewes Water, occasionally ducking.

male mallard

I fear that autumn colour is not going to figure this year and the trees behind the Sawmill Brig have lost interest in the whole thing.

sawmill brig autumn

The old Episcopalian Church on the Lodge Walks was looking attractive.  It is a pity that no use can be found for this building.

episcopla church october

The trees across the Castleholm were rather dull….

trees on castleholm

…but the sunny day made for good views.  I was interested to see the hill cattle had chosen to graze near the top of the hill where I would have thought that it would be chillier.  Perhaps they got more sun up there.

cattle on Timpen

With two months still to go until the shortest day, it is slightly depressing to find the sun so low in the sky even at this time of year but it does provide some Hitchcock like shots on a walk.

low shadows n walk

When I got back, I settled down and while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to demount her embroiderers’ group exhibition in the Welcome to Langholm hub, I did the crossword, made coffee and bread and followed that up with another tarte tatin.   We have quite a few apples in hand and the making (and eating) of tarte tatin is my approved way of dealing with them at the moment.

After lunch, with the thermometer showing 7°C, I wrapped up well and went out for a pedal.  The larches are doing their best to provide some autumn colour.  These ones are at Pool Corner.larches pool corner

I was a few miles up the road when I met a cyclist coming the other way.  He drew to a halt and it turned out to be Sandy out for a spin on his e-bike.  He was doing an adventurous circuit with quite a few hills in it.

sandy cycling

After some chat, he set off to pedal home to Langholm…

sandy cycling off

…and I cycled on up to the top of Callister.

Rather annoyingly, after a brilliantly sunny morning, a few stray clouds had turned up to hide the sun…
clouds from callister

…but out to the west, the sea was glistening where the clouds had cleared.

shining sea from callister

It didn’t take long for them to clear where I was and I cycled home in golden splendour.

golden wauchopedale

I was going to cycle through the town and out of the other side but I came upon a man with a tractor cutting the roadside hedge.  As this often involves covering the road with sharp hawthorn fragments, I turned back and did two circuits of the New Town to make up my twenty miles.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly cut my hair and after I had had a shower, my flute pupil Luke turned up.  Thanks to some improved teaching and some home practice, he is really getting a grip on the counting.  We are also both working on approaching high notes with confidence rather than terror, and that is showing improvement too.

The weather looks set fair for the next few days so I am hoping to be able to add a few more miles to my October total before the end of the month.  Since the clocks have gone back, I will have to make an effort to get started sooner as the evenings are really drawing in now and I don’t have good enough equipment (or the courage) to cycle in the dark.

We have put the bird feeder out and I hope that normal service will be resumed as soon as the birds notice that food is now available.  In the meantime, I didn’t see a flying bird today, so a reflective Mr Grumpy, spotted from the Town Bridge on my cycle ride, will have to do.

reflective heron

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce.  Not long ago he was in Glasgow where he was very impressed by the Doulton Fountain, the largest ceramic fountain ever built.  It was one of the most popular attractions at the 1888 International Exhibition in Kelvingrove Park.

Doulton fountain

It was raining heavily when we woke up, but it very kindly took a break while Mrs Tootlepedal went for her morning walk with Riley.  While she was out, I set off for England and a singing lesson and drove through many a sharp shower on the way.  It is noticeable that colder temperatures and more use of lights, heaters and wipers reduces the amount of miles that we can get out of a full charge of the battery in the Zoe, but as it still gives us well over a hundred miles, we are not too despondent.

When I got home, slightly light-headed from doing so much proper breathing during the singing lesson, it was time for lunch.

In the afternoon, I looked at the holly tree just as the sun came out to emphasise the iridescence of a starling’s plumage…

irridescent starling

…and while the sun was shining, I took a short walk round the garden.

Zinnias, roses and fuchsia enjoyed the better weather.

zinnia, rosy cheeks, fuchsia

Although the perennial wallflower and Michaelmas daises are nearing the end of the line, a new clematis has come out to keep the purple colour going a little longer.

perennial wallflower, daisy, clematis

Later in the afternoon, our guest Riley took us for a walk…

riley walk

…so we could enjoy some autumnal delights, like fungus on the track round the Scholars’ Field…

fungus on scholars

…and a small patch of brightly coloured leaves beside the new path on the Castleholm.

autumn leaves

I had a look at the Castle ruin as we passed…

castle in autumn

…and saw that something had been doing some serious nibbling on Noble Fir cones…

noble fir cones eaten

…in a rather selective way.

noble fir cones eaten (2)

The piles of scales under the tree makes it likely that squirrels had been at work.

There is a very colourful tree beside the path which does its best to brighten up early autumn very year.

autumn colour new path

The sun came out as we walked along and it was very pleasant as we passed the Sawmill Brig…

sawmill brig from castleholm

…and admired the fine crop of spleenwort on the wall nearby…

spleenwort wall

…as well as enough beech mast to feed a good few pigs as we turned up the Lodge Walks.

beech mast

It was a grand day for a walk after a very unpromising morning.

view of timpen from castleholm

We crossed back over the Jubilee Bridge and were surprised to find Mr Grumpy standing in the shallow water below us.

heron at jubilee bridge

We took the narrow track behind the school on our way home and found things to look at as we went along it.

snowberry, tree seeds, daisy

Our neighbour Liz, Riley’s owner,  has been attending a passing out ceremony for one of her grandsons who is now a fully qualified agricultural machinery engineer.  She got back this afternoon and came over to collect Riley just after we had returned from our walk.  It has been a pleasure to have such a well behaved visitor in the house.

Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a very satisfactory meal of eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and baked beans for our tea, and a good day was rounded off by a meeting of our recorder group.

Although our weather here had been calm, the two ladies who drove up from Carlisle to play had come through torrential rain with the roads awash with water on their way.  We have been seeing some very heavy rain in the area lately but luckily Langholm has escaped the worst.

We had a good time playing some testing quartets and followed that up with a cup of tea and a dainty biscuit.  I hope that the travellers got better conditions for their drive home.

Once again, the elegant wings of a starling feature on the flying bird of the day.

flying starling

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone’s holiday in Forres.  He and his daughter Susan went down to see the sea at the mouth of Findhorn Bay.  There was a lot of sand about

Sand 2019

The weather today was as confused as the forecasts.  It couldn’t really make up its mind whether it was raining or not but it was dry enough in the morning to let me walk around the garden and admire Crown Princess Margareta’s latest flower.

am princess margareta rose

I looked at it again in  the afternoon and in spite of the gloomy and drizzly conditions, the flower showed clear signs of development.

pm princess margareta rose

As there are obviously more flowers waiting to come out, we can only hope that we don’t get a frosty morning soon.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s plan of planting small sunflowers with many blooms from one stem has paid off handsomely.  There are cheerful clumps all over the garden.

sunflower panel

This web of droplets could have done with a little sunshine to make them sparkle.

droplets

As well as the Crown Princess, Lilian Austin is doing her best to provide us with end of season colour.

lilian austin rose

As the day didn’t look very promising, I went in to do some work updating the Langholm Archive Group web pages and had to dust off some rather rusty memories of HTML, PHP and Cascading Style Sheets.   I thought that I had done a reasonable job of getting it up to date but when I double checked after writing that previous sentence, I found that there is still some work to be done.

When I got up from the computer, the drizzle had stopped so I got my bicycle out and headed off to do 20 miles.  No sooner had I got half a mile from the house, than the drizzle started again and as I went along, the drizzle turned to rain.

I had sound waterproof socks on and I was wearing an efficient rain jacket so the rain wasn’t a great problem (apart from making me go cautiously round corners).  All the same, I didn’t want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere if conditions got worse, so I pedalled up and down the 7 miles to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back three times to get my distance.

The camera stayed well tucked up in a waterproof pocket.

I had a late lunch and then watched the men’s cycling world championship time trial on the telly.  The winner did 54km (about 34 miles) in 1 hour and 5 minutes.  I had taken 1 hour and 33 minutes to do 33km.  These professional cyclists are superhuman.

When the time trial had finished, I checked on the weather and as the drizzle had stopped, I went out for a walk round the garden.

The fuchsias in one spot have done so badly over recent years that Mrs Tootlepedal moved most of them but this one plant that remained has flowered well just to spite her.

fuschia end of Sept

After a very slow start, when it looked as though they weren’t enjoying the summer at all and were also getting badly attacked by slugs, this bunch of  dahlias is looking better by the day.

dahlias end of Sept

Having walked round the garden, I got my unused cycling camera out again and took it for a short walk.

It was dank and gloomy….

eastons walk

…but there are still plenty of leaves on the trees.

near the hungry burn

It is a mixed picture with autumn colour here and there…

faded leaves

…and fresh greenery there too.

stubholm track

When I looked out over the town, I could just see the tops of the hills.

misty view stubholm

It was so gloomy that I had to use my flash to take any pictures of detail as I went along.

There were not a lot of wild flowers to be seen.

red campion

I couldn’t make up my mind if this growth on a dead tree branch was fungus or lichen.

fungus on dead branch

The park wall has a positive garden growing on top of it…

wild strawberry park wall

…and a fine crop of pixie cup lichens sprouting out of the side.

pixie cup lichen park wall

When I got in, it was time for my evening meal and I enjoyed some fish cakes with runner beans from the garden.

It has been a quiet day in the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal (who is having a satisfactory time in London visiting our daughter and new granddaughter) but with a short walk, a short pedal, some flute practising and a bit of useful computer work, it hasn’t been entirely wasted.

I even managed to get a flying bird of the day as a starling launched itself of an electricity wire.

flying starling close

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