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Archive for the ‘Tootling’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from Tony.  He was impressed by the power of some ivy which he found eating a castle turret.

ivy covered turret

I had a day neatly divided into three parts with a wide variety of weather to experience.

My day started when I crossed the suspension bridge in grey, slightly misty conditions.

suspension bridge

I had a bit of business to do in the town but it didn’t take long and I was soon on my way for a three  bridges walk.

When I got to the Kilngreen, the gulls were have a bath…

gulls in water

…and the rooks were looking for food in the grass.

rook kilngreen

At 4°C it was cool but there was little wind so it was a good day for a walk.

After seeing some very interesting moss on my walk yesterday, I had another look at moss on a wall today but found nothing unusual.

moss ewesbank

I did find an interesting lichen though.

lichen lodge walks

It was my intention to walk round the pheasant hatchery and I made good progress along the road beside the field, noticing this device for tightening fence wire…

fence gadget

…and wondering whether a black and white setting would give a truer picture of the day than colour as my camera always tries its best to make the colour look as colourful as possible.

bandw phesant hatchery road

I had just got to the top of the pheasant hatchery and was considering this old tree surrounded by potential youngsters in tubes…

old tree and new trees

…when a cacophony of whistles and banging made me aware of the presence of a group of people who had arrived to reverse the production of pheasants by shooting them.

This is not the sort of shooting that I am comfortable with so I took myself and my camera back the way that I had come, crossed the Duchess Bridge out of range of the guns and waited until I had got home before doing some of my own shooting of birds in the garden.

plum chaffinch crop

A stout sparrow took the chair…

sparrow taking the chair

…while stupid chaffinches wasted time and effort arguing when there were free perches available for all.

quarrelling chaffinches

I made some lentil soup for lunch and and ate it.  After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents and I went for a bicycle ride.

The temperature was still only 5°C but the sun had come out and the day was transformed from dull grey to full colour as this view over the Bloch shows.

sunny view from bloch

Sadly, it only took about another two miles for the weather to revert to grey as the sun slipped behind a bank of cloud and mist rose up from the valley.

misty clouds

I was going round my Canonbie circuit and coming up the Esk through the village, I began to wonder if the mist would get so thick that cycling might be dangerous.  However,  as I left the village and began the gentle climb up to Langholm, the mist thinned out and I could see Hollows Tower clearly, although the trees behind were still rather vague.

hollows tower

Looking up the road, the low mist was still lying but there was plenty of blue sky up above…

misty hollows road

…and by the time that I got back to Langholm, I was in full sunshine again.  I pedalled on through the town and up the A7, hoping to get a sunny view up the Ewes valley but that bank of cloud got in the way again and only the hills at the top of the valley were clear with mist rising from the fields again.

misty ewes valley from a7

I turned and cycled home in the gathering gloom….

misty warbla

…and got there not a moment too soon as within half and hour, the mist was so thick that I couldn’t see past the end of our road.

I made myself a sausage, onion and leek stew for my tea and then my friend Susan kindly appeared to give me a lift to our recorder group in Carlisle.  I was worried that thick mist might make the journey uncomfortable but it had thinned out and we drove down without too much difficulty.

We enjoyed a good tootle (and excellent biscuits) with the group and found that the mist had cleared away before our return to Langholm, where I found Mrs Tootlepedal back from her trip to Edinburgh.

In between all this, I had a go at the ‘blowing down a straw into water’ recommended by my speech therapist.  It was noisy and splashy and fun so it won’t be hard to remember to do it twice daily for the next seven weeks.  After that, I hope to be able to sing like a bird…

…though I probably still won’t qualify as the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie who has been baking bread.

annie's bread

I had a day full of action but very little of it was in front of the camera – it was not a case of “Lights, camera, action!”

It was damp and drizzly after breakfast and there were still occasional mournful cries of geese to be heard.   It seemed a good day to have coffee with Sandy and he dropped in on his way to Carlisle,  He brought a gift of Christmas cake, made by a friend who doesn’t like Christmas cake and whose husband can’t eat it for health reasons.  In spite of this slightly dubious pedigree, it tasted very good.

When Sandy left, I set about making marmalade and as this involves a lot of sticky work and a sharp knife, I didn’t have the opportunity to pick up my camera or look out of the window for a while.  When I had got the mixture simmering, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly agreed to watch over it, while I went for a pedal.

The drizzle had gone and the clouds had lifted and as the thermometer showed nearly 10°C, it would have been a perfect day for cycling if there hadn’t been a twenty to thirty mile an hour wind blowing.

As it was, I put my head down and pedalled three times up and down the road to Wauchope Schoolhouse, keeping as far out of the wind as was possible. On one of the repetitions, I went though the town and out of the other side just for a bit of variety but I don’t have any time to spare and got back home after 22 miles in perfect time to add the sugar to the pan and cook the marmalade.

I took only two pictures on my ride, one at each end of my up and down route.

high mill

wauchope schoolhouse

I had a look for some birds while the mixture was boiling but there was not much to be seen and not much light to see it in anyway as the skies had clouded over again.

chaffinch

two goldfinches in plum tree

Once I had potted the marmalade…

marmalade

The pale bits are lemon rind which I added as a novelty this year.  You have to use the juice of two lemons so I thought that I would chuck the rind in too.

…I had a shower, came down to have a cup of tea with Mike Tinker who had dropped in and then played some enjoyable duets with my flute pupil Luke and finished the active part of the day with a plate of venison stew which Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked for our tea.

All in all, it was a useful and sociable day, even if there was not much of a photographic record of it.

I did get a sort of double flying bird of the day picture but the main thing that it shows is that I have lost a perch from the feeder.  I will have to remember to look for it tomorrow.

chaffinch and goldfinch hovering

I should say that Sandy has posted a couple of splendid galleries of his trip to Thailand which can be seen here.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex colleague Marjorie who sent me this picture of a misty Schiehallion taken during her highland break over the festive season.

schiehallion

We woke to another chilly grey day here but the weather forecast suggested that a little sunshine might be available in the afternoon.  This turned out to be one of the forecasters little jokes but it didn’t matter as we had our own little ray of sunshine today in the form of a visit from our friend Sue.

She came in time for a coffee and not only were we pleased to see her, but we were pleased to see a small flock of birds at the feeder to entertain us as we sipped and chatted.

busy feeder

There was a constant coming and going for a while…

birds coming and going

…with visits from jackdaws to the fat ball feeder as well.

jackdaws in elder

In order to work up an appetite for lunch, we went for a walk to the top of Whita Hill after coffee.  Well, in fact, we went for a drive up to the White Yett and then walked the three quarters of mile up the easy track…

sue and mrs t on whita

…to the summit.

The track has a fine collection of boulders with colourful lichens at the bottom….

lichen at mcdiarmid memorial

…and an even more colourful set of lichens on the wall at the top.

lichen at whita summit

I took a worm’s eye view of the lightning conductor that is embedded in one side of the monument…

worms eye view of monument

…looked over the wall at the mist shrouded valleys to the south….

view over tarras

…and then we walked gently back down the track and admired the MacDiarmid memorial outlined against the Ewes Valley.

mcdiarmid memorial and ewes valley

The memorial celebrates the life and work of Langholm’s most famous poetical son, Hugh MacDiarmid.

mcdiarmid memorial

The sculpture is in the form of an open book and is constructed in Corten steel and bronze. Corten is a weathering steel which oxidises on the surface; it forms a protective skin and therefore requires no maintenance and to my eye, it looks thoroughly at home among the hills which MacDiarmid loved.

When we got home, Sue tried out our new bench and declared it to be very comfortable even in January.

 

sue and mrs t at bench

We marvelled at the rosemary, which thanks to the protected spot that it lives in, is still in flower…

december rosemary

…and then we went in to a lunch of curried parsnip soup and cheese flan provided by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sue is one of the recorder group with whom I have played for many years and after lunch, she and I played a selection of duets while Mrs Tootlepedal got on with the crochet blanket she is making.

All too soon, it was time for Sue to head for home and while Mrs Tootlepedal continued with her crochet, I made an unavailing effort to solve the Saturday prize crossword.  Usually these crosswords yield to concentrated effort but today’s one has got me baffled.  I shall sleep on it and try again tomorrow.

All being well, we shall see Sue again tomorrow as she sings in our Carlisle choir and it meets for the first time in 2019 tomorrow afternoon.  I am looking forward to it.

There are not one but two flying birds of the day today which is cheering.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture is from our son Tony and shows that the temperature was lower in Fife than it was here this morning.

frosty wemyss walk

We had been promised a day of freezing fog so it was a pleasant surprise to find no fog and a temperature of two degrees above zero when we got up.   It was still too cold for cycling though as I am resolved not to risk hitting any icy patches this winter so I had a relaxing morning of chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal and making ginger biscuits.

I had a good deal of time to stare out of the window and was happy to see one or two birds making a welcome re-appearance at the feeder.

I caught a great tit in the plum tree…

great tit in plum tree

…a redpoll on the feeder…

redpoll in december

…and a blackbird on the ground below.

blackbird head

There were visits from a robin and a blue tit too but these went unrecorded as they were too quick for me.

The jackdaws were back again…

jackdaw on chimney

…but there was still not a great number of finches.  I met two neighbours this morning, one of whom reported that his garden was short of small birds and the other who had many sparrows but no finches.

It was still only 2°C at lunch time but it was such a nice day that a walk was in order even if cycling was not on the menu so after  a cheese and chutney sandwich, I set off to walk up to the monument.

There were no flowers to be seen except the occasional gorse bush but some bright lichen on a small bush beside the track caught my eye.

lichen on Kirk Wynd

I was resolved to see if I could walk up the hill to the monument without stopping but one or two views compelled me to pause for a second or two.

ewes valley december

This is what lay ahead.

up to the monument

Although the ground looks a bit rough, there is a path all the way to the top and I was soon looking back on the lower hills across the valley…Castle hill

…and it didn’t take me too long to get to the top of the hill and look over the wall across the Tarras valley.  The camera makes it all look rather flat but it would be very hard work to walk across the moor, down across the river and then up to that hill in the distance which is quite a bit higher than Whita.

tinnis hill

Looking out to the west, I could see Criffel, 30 miles away, rising above a sea of mist over the Nith estuary.   We were obviously getting the best of the weather.

Criffel above mist

Looking around I could see a mixture of commercial forest and sheep grazing grounds.  It seems as though we are going to have more forestry and less sheep round here in the future as the grants system makes timber more profitable than meat at the moment.

grazing and woodland

I took a zig zag route back down the hill as the direct route is steep and would have been hard on my knees and as I walked down the track towards the White Yett, the low sun picked out these heather clumps…

heather lumps

…and I cast a long shadow as I went.

big shadow on whita

I didn’t go right down to the road but followed the track that the riders come up at the Common Riding back down towards the golf course.

Below me, I could see that the woodcutters had left the pines standing when they otherwise cleared felled the wood at Hillhead.

pines left at Hillhead

I passed a small tree as i came down the hill.  Trees like this are very scarce where the ground has sheep on it but once the sheep are taken off, trees start to grow quickly.

tree on whita

A little cairn marked my route down the hill…

 

cairn on Birnie Braes

…and I came safely back to the top of the golf course with my knees intact.

Looking down towards England, I could see the Lake District hills in the distance, looming over the mist covered Solway plain.

mist over solway

We were still mist free and the golf course was very peaceful….

5th green

…as I walked down the side of the course without being disturbed by cries of “fore!” or being hit by a golf ball.

I timed my three and a half mile walk well as I got home just as the sun dipped below the hills and a distinct chill came over the town.

Once inside, a cup of tea and some delicious ginger biscuits refreshed body and spirit and I was fully recovered when Luke arrived for some flute playing.  We played the Loeillet sonata which we have been working on and it went very well, with some good ornamentation and some faster tempi.  Although practice hasn’t made us perfect yet, we are definitely making progress.

The forecast is once again offering us fog tomorrow so I hope that we end up with another sunny day like today.

We are well prepared for Christmas Day and intend to have a quiet but jolly time.  I wish all readers of the blog a Happy Christmas and I hope that they have held Santa’s hand firmly when presents were being considered so that nobody is disappointed.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch enjoying the sunshine.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie who made a recent visit to Macao for work purposes.  She enjoyed the gently understated facade of this hotel there.

Macao hotel

It was a ‘depths of winter’ day today although it was actually quite warm.  The temperature was no real advantage however as it rained all day and the light never got above “Stygian” on the Gloom Scale.

Under the circumstances, coffee with Dropscone was an excellent way to spend some of the morning and even a visit to the health centre to get a routine injection afterwards seemed like a good use of some miserable weather.

The small birds are still conspicuous by their absence but two larger birds did appear during coffee.

two partridges on lawn

These may well be the partridges that appeared on our neighbour’s garage roof a few days ago.  If they are the same birds, they look as though they are getting well fed during their stay in the town.

They are handsome birds but perhaps this one ought to be taking a bit more exercise.

partridge on lawn

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar over lunch and I made some potato soup for my midday meal.  We have still got quite a lot of our potatoes in store so I am anxious to make good use of them before they get past their best.

I did think of putting on my waterproof hat, coat and trousers and going out for a soggy walk after lunch but Mrs Tootlepedal asked me to print out a picture for a card.  I had such a prolonged and fruitless battle with my printer in an effort to match the colours on the card to the colours on my computer screen that it was almost dark by the time that I had finished.

I settled for working on my flute playing in an effort to get on top of the ornamentation in the sonata that Luke and I are playing.  This is uphill work for me.  I can remember many years ago reading a book on baroque recorder technique by a noted teacher which had twenty five pages on the trill alone as far as I can recall.

It was not a day for flying birds as even if there had been any, it was too dark to photograph them but I did manage to spot a single perching chaffinch in the rain so here is the perching bird of the day.

chaffinch in December rain

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Today’s guest picture comes from Jenni, my Highland correspondent.  We have been having some good sunrises here and may be there is something in the air at the moment because she had a spectacular one too.

Highland Sunrise

It was another cold day with the thermometer hanging about the 5 degree mark at best but a nipping and an eager air made the wind chill factor a neat zero.

Under the circumstances, I was pleased to get out on my bicycle, if not early, then at least before I had sat down to waste time over coffee and a biscuit, my usual delaying tactic.

I took a simple out and back route to avoid any long effort cycling straight into the chilly wind though I did take a short diversion up to Cleuchfoot…

Cleuchfoot glen

…where I stopped to take a picture of a tiny valley that runs down to the road.  It looks as though it might lead somewhere exciting but in fact it only leads out onto a boggy and featureless moor.  Once I was back on the Lockerbie road, I was very pleased to see men and machines hard at work at the site of the recent landslip.

mending the Lockerbie road 2

No one had expected work to start so promptly.

I passed them and cycled on to the top of the hill at Callister where I was passed by half a dozen quarry lorries who were busy at the site of the new wind farm there.  There is no sign of the turbine towers yet so they are either improving the access road or building the bases.

I stopped at the road works on my way back and was very impressed by how well they have sorted the problem.

mending the Lockerbie road 1

I was curious about the black plastic pipes sunk into the surface of the works and one of the men told me that they are going to be holders for the new fence posts. He said that he thought that the repair was sound and would last well and as he turned out to be one of my ex-pupils, I have every confidence that he will be right.

On my return to Langholm, I cycled through the town and out of the other side and since the sun was now fully out, I stopped to record my favourite view up the Ewes valley….

Ewes Valley

…and the neighbouring farmhouse.

Terrona

I clocked up twenty miles and was quite happy to stop before I got chilled.

I had a quick look at the birds and was shocked to see a male chaffinch being beastly to a female…

cahffinch misogyny

…but pleased to see that our lone siskin was back again.

siskin

I made some soup for my lunch and while it was cooking, Mrs Tootlepedal headed off to catch the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.

Fuelled by the soup and a couple of tomato rolls, I went out for a walk.

I started off along the riverside path and then headed uphill through the Kernigal wood.  There has been a lot of wind blow lately and it was good to see that someone had been out with a saw and done some tidying up.

kernigal wood tidying

Perhaps this is because I was walking along the track you can see on the right of the picture below which is much used by local mountain bikers.

kernigal wood

It is very welcome for walkers as it provides a good path through a tangly bit of forest.

I came out at the top of the wood and walked back down the track towards Skippers Bridge.  I didn’t have my thinking head on when I chose my route and I was rather upset to realise that if I had been walking on the other side of the valley, I would have been enjoying a sunny day.

winter sunshine on whita

In fact when I looked around, I found that almost everywhere was bathed in sunlight except where I was walking.

winter sunshine on Castle Hill

When I got down to the main road, I found that winter had cleared enough foliage away to give me a view of the large bridge for a small stream which almost all motorists probably pass over without noticing as they leave the town for the south.

Culvert at Skippers

I didn’t dilly dally on my way home as it wasn’t getting any warmer but I did stop to check out the black smudge on the fence at Land’s End which turns out to be this very attractive lichen, still in excellent condition…

fungus on fence at lands end

…and to see if the fungus on the tree at the Co-op had survived the cold weather.  It had and was even bigger than when I saw it last…

fungus at Co-op

…and it too looked to be in good condition.

fungus gill

As I walked back along the river bank, a glimpse of brightness among the gloom on the far bank caught my eye.  It was an old friend disguised as a twig.

heron in shadows

Back in the garden, I found a little remaining colour on the leycestaria…

leycesteria

…but there was nothing else of note so I went inside and did the crossword.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had taken our car away and my friend and customary chauffeur Susan was on holiday in Glasgow, I had no way of getting to Carlisle and back for the monthly meeting of our recorder group.  They are kind people though and on the Mohammed and the mountain principle, since I could not get to them, they came out to me and we had a most enjoyable evening of music making.

We were just having our post-playing cup of tea and biscuit when Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely from Edinburgh and that rounded off a cold day very warmly.

I didn’t find a moment with both good light and a flying bird in it so that is the reason for a very scrappy flying bird of the day picture.

flying chffainch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She encountered this impressive prancing beast at Covent Garden.  It is doing some serious strutting but as it seems to be standing in the sledge it is supposed to be pulling, it looks like a bit of a freeloader to me.

covent garden

It was cold, grey but dry today and I was happy to have a cup of coffee with Sandy while the thermometer crept up a degree or two but after he left, I stiffened my sinews and summoned up my blood and actually got my bike out and went for a pedal.

There were hints of breaks in the clouds as you can see from this picture of this fine tree near Waterbeck…

tree between the waters

…but the sun remained stubbornly hidden behind a low bank of cloud to the west and I was glad that I had several layers on as a nipping wind blew across me or into my face for most of the thirty miles that I covered.

I stopped for a banana near Kirkpatrick Fleming and looked wistfully at hints of sunshine behind a phone mast…

phone mast KPF

…and with wonder at a tree beside the motorway which was positively dripping with catkins.

vatkins at KPF

I made a final stop with three miles to go to have a drink of water and a wall inspection.

It was a good wall with lots of moss…

irvine house moss

…and more moss with added lichen…

irvine house moss lichen

…and even more moss with added lichen and ferns….

irvine house moss lichen fern

…and there was lots of lichen too….

irvine house falt lichen

…of many different varieties.

irvine house cup lichen

I like walls.  When I was very young, there was a slogan that stated “Walls have ears” to discourage talk that might be useful to an enemy agent during the war.  After several years of close examination of walls, I can safely say that they may have many interesting things on them but I have never seen any ears.

As Mrs Tootlepedal had been cooking some delicious biscuits while I was out pedalling, no weight loss has been involved in today’s activities.

The light wasn’t too bad when I got home and I half thought of adding a walk to the day’s entertainment but cycling in a chilly wind is tiring so I had a look at the birds….

peaceful goldfinches

…where once again goldfinches were ruling the roost…

angry goldfinches…and then I had a short walk round the garden where I noticed the last survivor of the sweet rocket still hanging on….

sweet rocket Dec 12

…and then I went back inside and had a warming bath instead of taking any more exercise.

Mrs Tootlepedal has brought a little bit of the garden inside and one of the geraniums that flowered well outside is now on the windowsill….

geranium indoor

…alongside an African violet, a present from a friend for our wedding anniversary in January, which has been flowering for several months.

indoor plant

In the evening, Luke came round and we played a Loeillet sonata.  We are going to take this sonata seriously and try to put the correct ornaments and playing style into place.  This will require me to do some learning for myself as I have always been a bit hit and miss when it come to trills, turns and mordents.

I spent some time in the evening watching political events unfold and I am very interested to see if the politicians who voted against Mrs May and lost will now take the advice which they have been freely offering to those on the losing side of the recent referendum and respect the fact that they lost the vote and shut up.   It would be a blessing.

I am not holding my breath.

The flying chaffinch of the day is very angry about the whole thing too.

angry flying chaffinch

 

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