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Archive for the ‘Tootling’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He has gone to Wales for a jaunt and on his way, he stopped at the ancient city of Chester.

chester

I started the day by selling some postcards to the paper shop to help Archive Group funds and then visited the data miners in the new Archive Centre.  They were working hard in cramped conditions as an art exhibition had taken some of their space.

We were promised some sunshine today but it was rather grey and windy when I set off south to visit Mary, my singing teacher for another lesson.  After concentrating on basic technique and breathing in previous lessons, we moved towards singing a song today. This was exciting but it only went to prove how difficult it is to put lessons into actual practice as faced with having to think of notes and words at the same time, I relapsed into many of the bad habits that we had worked on eliminating.  However, there were moments when things went well and I had plenty to think about as I drove home.

As I neared home, I met better and better weather and by time that I got there, it was a lovely day.

I had a toasted cheese sandwich for lunch and then went out into the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  The drumstick primula is nearly spherical and a cheery daisy winked at me from  the lawn but the recent frosty mornings have turned the tips of the magnolia petals brown…

white garden flwoers

There was some colour about too.

pink garden flowers

I helped Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been working hard all morning,  to get the first of the new vegetable beds level and then left her to sort out the soil while I went for a pedal.

I aimed to add a couple of miles to yesterday’s distance and that was enough to let me go for a circular trip of fourteen miles up the Wauchope valley, over the hill, and back down into the Esk valley.

It was quite windy so I was easily tempted into stopping for some pictures along the way.  I thought that I should note a bare tree as it will not be long until the trees are covered in leaves again.

bare tree wauchope school

I looked back down the Wauchope valley as I climbed up the hill.  It was a pastoral scene indeed…

pastoral scene wauchope

…with added calf.

calf

I was accompanied by the bleating of lambs as I went round.

new lambs

I liked this combination of blackthorn and pine tree at the Hollows…

blacthorn and pine Hollows

…but I liked this newly surfaced patch of road there even better.

repaired road Hollows

There had been some savage potholes the last time that I cycled through the hamlet.

Hollows Tower was open for business but the lack of cars in the car park showed that it probably wasn’t doing a lot.  It is still early in the year to expect tourists.

Gilnockie Tower

I didn’t see much in the way of wild flowers but there were celandines and dandelions here and there…

wild flowers in verge

…and I saw the wood anemone when I left my bike for a moment and walked down a fisherman’s path…

path down to river

…to the river at Broomholm.

Esk at Broomholm

As the leaves are not out yet, I could see the bridge to Broomholm Island through the branches.

Broomholm briodge

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had finished the veg bed and had added some compost at the far end to help the soil.  She has also dug in her winter beans which were grown as green manure.

new veg bed

Nearby, she has a planting of tulips.  They are Mystic Van Eijk, a pale pink variant….

mystic Van Eijk tulip

…of the ordinary Van Eijk tulips….

Van Eijk tulips

…which look very lovely when some low evening sunlight shines through them

Van Eijk tulip in evening

We sat on our new bench, enjoying the welcome warmth of the sun.  We were sheltered from the wind and thinking that life wasn’t too bad at all.

Then we went on for a cup of tea and the last of the home made ginger biscuits.

I had a look at the birds.  They had not eaten much seed at all during the day as not only had Mrs Tootlepedal been busy in the garden, but we had had builders in working on our roof as well.

It hadn’t improved the birds’ tempers at all.

goldfinch shouting at chaffinch

Then  Luke came round to play the flute and we rediscovered something that we already both knew very well, practice makes perfect.  Well, we weren’t quite perfect but we were both a lot better than we were last week and you can’t ask for anything more than that.

Sunday’s slow cooked lamb stew made another appearance for our evening meal and Mrs Tootlepedal made a tasty broad bean hummus to go with it.

The better weather means that we are due to have some chilly mornings, but the days should be fine for some time ahead so I hope to be able to get a few more cycling miles under my belt.  This will be a very good thing, as thanks to being off the bike for a month, I have a great deal more of me under my belt at the moment than is good for my health.

A chaffinch once again is the flying bird of the day.  They are very reliable.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan who was very surprised to see that a ‘bug hotel’ has been erected on the Euston Road in the heart of London.

bug hotel euston road

I had a quiet day today, as after some pretty sympathetic weather, it went back to being very chilly today with a marked frost when we got up in the morning.  The temperature rose quite quickly but it didn’t get up very far and a chilly wind meant that it was definitely a coat and gloves sort of day.

I did get out in the garden for long enough to try the mirror on a fritillary but the light was so poor that I needed to use a flash.

fritillary in mirror with mirror

…and it took me a go or two to get everything to work reasonably well but the end result was quite promising, if not perfect.

fritillary in mirror

It was unfortunate that two electricity wires over the garden got into the picture.  I didn’t notice them when I was taking the picture.

I went back in and found things to do inside, including watching the bids, who were very busy.  Siskins were in lively form, shouting at chaffinches…

siskin shouting at chaffinch

…and blowing goldfinches away.

siskin blows goldfinch away

Considering that siskins weigh about 12 grams at most, they pack a lot of bang for their bucks as the saying goes.

The chaffinches wisely waited until the siskins had gone for a comfort break and then ganged up mob handed on a goldfinch.

two chaffinches threaten goldfinch

A goldfinch took a dim view of a later approach from a chaffinch.

disaproving goldfinch

I made some bacon and lentil soup for lunch and we ate it with some sour dough bread which I had bought on my shopping trip yesterday.

After lunch, I did something useful.  Mrs Tootlepedal has had her eye on an old and rather shabby, moss and lichen covered variegated elder which stands in the front garden.  In spite of the fact that she raised it from a cutting, she felt that it has had its day and it is now time for it to go.

elder

She had cut quite a lot of its roots already so we cut off its branches and I added my weight to pushing, shoving and rocking the trunk until it finally gave up the struggle and surrendered.

In no time at all, the branches had been shredded, the hole more or less refilled….

felled elder hole

…and the trunk turned into a disappointingly small pile of logs for the fire.

tree as logs

I had been concerned that the elder had provided a perching place and some protection for birds visiting our feeder and that they would miss it when it was gone.  Mrs Tootlepedal took this on board and constructed a fake tree for me which we put up on the other side of the hedge.  It is an old fence post with a some willow branches nailed onto it and I had my doubts as to whether it would convince the sort of intelligent bird that we get in our garden.

bogus tree

While we were working on the tree, we were visited by Nipper who brought his friend Marjorie into to the garden to see what was going on. Bearing his name in mind, I am glad that Marjorie had a firm grip on his lead.

nipper

While Mrs Tootlepedal had been out collecting the willow branches for the fake tree, I had washed our car so it had been an energetic time and I sat down for a rest on our new bench to recover for a moment.  Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that we may have two blackbird pairs nesting in the garden so it was not a surprise to see one.

blackbird on hedge

When we had finished and everything was tidied up, we went in to have a cup of tea and we waited with interest to see if a bird would try out the new tree.

It took about three minutes.

chaffinch on bogus tree

Quite a few birds tried it out and among them was a redpoll who waited there for a while before popping down to scavenge some seed.

redpoll on bogus tree

Luke came round in the early evening and we had a less than satisfactory play.  I was tired and he had had a busy day and the playing was substandard all round.  There is always another week though so we are not downhearted.

After Luke left, I went out on a short oyster catcher hunt just to keep my sore foot working.  I was hoping to see the big flock again but there were only the regular two pairs about, one below the Town Bridge, and one just above it.

oyster catcher by itself

I am going to get an x-ray on my foot tomorrow and I hope that whether this finds something interesting or not, the very fact of having some certainty about my foot’s condition will lead to improvements.

In the meantime, as the temperature is set to be just above freezing every morning this week, I am going to look out my winter clothing again.

As the inane chatter around Brexit continues, I am strongly reminded of the old fellow who was leaning against a gate in the heart of the countryside when he was asked by a passing motorist about the best way to get to Birmingham.  “Ah well,” he said after some reflection, “if I was going to Birmingham, I wouldn’t start from here.”  Many a true word is spoken in jest.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin…

flying siskin

…probably going home to his friends and saying, “Have you seen that fake tree at Wauchope Cottage?  What a joke!”

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from a visit to Birmingham by my brother Andrew.  He took the opportunity to show us the BT Tower there on a beautiful day..

Birmingham BT Tower

I am trying mix gentle exercise with good quality rest for my foot so I went back to lie on my bed after breakfast and was fortunate to find a tricky crossword in the paper which took some time to finish and gave my leg plenty of opportunity to have a relaxing stretch.

When I came down, I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden and we had a look around.  I once again marvelled at the agility and pertinacity of the slug who crawled up a  stem and took a single bite out of the trumpet of just one of this bunch of daffodils and then crawled back down again.

nibbled daffodil

That’s what I call a discerning diner.

The pulmonaria hasn’t done very well over the winter this year but it is producing a few flowers.

pulmonaria

We got out hedge trimmers and a saw and trimmed a couple of bushes next to our neighbour Irvin’g fence and then sawed off two branches of a lilac which were leaning over his fence (and not doing very well anyway.)

After that, we got into the car and drove off to a garden centre where we had a light lunch and made some judicious purchases.  Mrs Tootlepedal bought some plants and I bought a novel product for the lawn which claims to combine fertilizer for the grass with bacteria which are going to eat my moss and make it disappear without me having to rake the dead moss out.  This sounds a bit too good to be true but I won’t find out if I don’t use it and the grass needs a boost even if the moss doesn’t get eaten.

We came home by way of the Gretna Outlet shopping village.  I recently broke both my coffee cups by dropping one of them on the other so I was looking for replacements.  I was resigned to having to buy two unnecessary saucers to go with the new cups, and I was very pleased to find that I could buy cups without saucers thus saving both money and space in the cupboard.

Instead of going straight home when we got back to Langholm, we completed our little outing by driving through the town past my favourite view.

ewes valley

I looked back down the hill towards the town.  The foresters have been very busy in the recently felled wood and the wood is now full of the plastic tubes that go with new planting of deciduous trees.

new planting

We did see some goats on our way up to the county boundary and it is a sign of how well they blend into the background that you might think at first sight that there were four goats in the picture.  In fact the ‘goat’ on the left is a clump of heather.

three goats

They were busy eating but did keep half an eye on me to see what I was up to.

goat eating

And sometimes even both eyes.

goat staring

When we got to the county boundary we met an expert local naturalist who had parked there and was looking for interesting birds.  Had he seen anything?  Not a single thing.  If he hadn’t seen anything, we wouldn’t either so we set off  back down the hill.

We had to slow down as a goat crossed the road in front of us but by the time we had drawn alongside, it had its head down and was ignoring us entirely…

disguised goat

…as were its friends.

goats hifing

We left them to it and continued down to the Tarras bridge.  On the far side of the valley, we could see family groups of goats with their young.

goat family

When we got home, we took a moment to watch our own birds…

siskin in need of a perch

…and as there was a lot of demand but not much seed, I refilled the feeder…

not enough perhces

…but there was still more demand for perches than supply…

busy feeder full

…and things turned ugly.

threatening goldfinch

Very ugly.

two goldfinches

We left the sparring  goldfinches and siskins to it and went out to do some gardening.  The task was to use our petrol driven rotavator to dig over a grass strip between two narrow beds to make a larger bed for this year’s potato planting.

Things didn’t go well. The machine was hard to get started and when it finally burst into life, it was extremely reluctant to do any digging.  Instead of burrowing into the soil as it should, it just moved backwards towards the driver in a vaguely threatening manner.  We took the tines off and turned them round and that made no difference at all.

Mrs Tootlepedal went in  to study the handbook for the machine and I looked at it in a curious way.  I wondered vaguely what a rather faded label on the front of the machine might say and bent down to peer at it.  “The driver must always be facing this label”

This was what they call a tea tray moment, i.e. when you bang your head with a tea tray after making a discovery which should have been obvious all the time. When the machine had been reassembled after coming back in the post from its service, the handles had been put on the wrong way round. Duh!

We set about putting them on the correct way and took the machine out for another try.

Success!

rotavator

The soil was tilled.

All was not entirely sweetness and light though because the machine bumped up and down rather alarmingly at one end of the bed instead of tilling the earth.  Mrs Tootlepedal got into full archaeologist mode and dug an exploratory trench…

new bed with trench

…which revealed a double row of bricks a foot below the surface, obviously the foundation for  an old structure of some kind.

new bed bricks

Our garden has had a long existence in various forms and uses and Mrs Tootlepedal is used to finding all sorts of things under the soil when she is digging. We found a lot of big stones under the soil too today.

new bed stones

The bricks will come up and the machine will leap into action again and the potatoes will be planted.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and after Alison and I had experienced the benefits of doing some practice as we played Telemann, Corelli and Vivaldi, we all sat down together to watch the final of Masterchef.  Jilly, our local competitor, did herself proud but narrowly failed to carry off the prize.

Having watched some very good cooking, we will have to up our own game in the kitchen.  I am going to ask Mrs Tootlepedal for some quails eggs in a fig sauce to go with my porridge tomorrow…. or perhaps not.

There are not one but two flying goldfinches of the day today.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia’s African odyssey.  I don’t mind getting close to small birds but I might be a bit nervous to get so close to a lion in the open.

Lion,

We had a grey morning and a wet afternoon here today so it wasn’t really the day for a gentle pedal with a camera in my pocket.  Instead I was happy to eat very good treacle scones and drink coffee with Dropscone and wander round the garden in a faint drizzle once he had gone.

The pond has not shown any sign of a serious leak….

fullish pond

…so the reason for its sudden drop a few days ago remains a complete mystery.

My inclination is to suspect that a mighty rushing wind had swept the waters away but Mrs Tootlepedal regards that as fanciful.  She has no better explanation though.  Any suggestions are welcome.  Very thirsty birds?

Beside the pond, I couldn’t help noticing this deep red primrose.

very red primrose

I tried to photograph a small clump of scillas but the only thing that I got absolutely in focus was the stalk.  I was going to have another go but by the time that I thought of it, it had started to rain.

scillas almost in focus

Beside the bird feeder, a charming white flower is emerging and Mrs Tootlepedal is going to tell me what it is when she remembers.

small white flower

During the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal had been surprised to find that the telephone wire to our neighbour’s house, which should have been attached to a tall electricity pole in the middle of our vegetable garden, had become detached.  Instead of passing safely above our heads, it was now stretching across the garden at exactly head height.

fallen phone wire

She rang up those responsible for the wire and after a slightly bonkers conversation with a man in India, she was told that someone would come within four hours and either cut it down or put it up again .  In the event, two young men did come just four hours later but they neither cut it down nor put it up again.

It turned out that they hadn’t been fully briefed on the nature of the job so they hadn’t brought the requisite ladder for leaning against an electricity pole.  This you will understand is a special leaning against an electricity pole ladder not just any old ladder…like the one we offered to lend them for the job.

open reach men

In the end, after some head scratching, they cut the wire and added a new middle section which made it long enough to cross our garden while it was lying on the grass.  We promised not to trip over the wire over the weekend and they promised to send some men with the requisite ladder who would hang the wire up again on Monday.

Before the rain came, I watched the birds and was fatally slow in trying to catch a flying chaffinch on two occasions.

two landing chaffinches

I liked the prompt surrender of this chaffinch caught with a seed in its mouth.

chaffinch holding hands up

Once the rain came, the light was only good enough to shoot sitting birds…

posing chaffinch with seed

…some of whom looked pretty fed up with the weather.

sad goldfinch

As I couldn’t get out, I took pictures of flowers inside.

two indoor daffs

The rain did finally stop in the early evening but it was still damp and grey outside…

damp feeder scene

…so I spent some time on the bike to nowhere in the garage listening to music instead of enjoying a view.

When  I looked out of the back door, I was struck by the colour of the sky.

false sunset

In the evening, there was a special treat as my Friday night accompanist Alison came round to play some sonatas for the first time this year.  She injured her shoulder badly before Christmas and it has taken her a lot of time and hard work to get back into playing duets again.  So while Mike her husband and Mrs Tootlepedal caught up on the news, Alison and I gave some old a favourites a go with a few errors here and there and a lot of enjoyment all round.  I will have to get practising.

After playing we joined the other two to watch a Langholm lass get to the final of Masterchef, a great triumph.

We are promised drier, calmer weather for the next week so I hope to be able to get out and about if my foot allows.

A standard chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from the Derby shopping centre insect infestation.  My brother tells me that you can talk to the insects but I wouldn’t know what to say to a stag beetle.

stag beetle derby

I didn’t have much confidence in a weather forecast that said that it wasn’t going to rain today but I was proved wrong and the weather stayed fair until  well into the evening.

It was only just above freezing when I set off on my slow bike to see our local vampire at the Health Centre and give a little blood.  This was a check to see if my anaemia is under control.  The process was prompt and painless as usual but the health centre computer server was on the blink so I wasn’t able to make a follow up appointment.  The poor staff were absolutely flummoxed as hardly anything is written down these days and they had no idea who was coming in for appointments.  Fortunately it was soon fixed and I made my appointment later in the day without trouble.

After coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, and with the thermometer showing 4°C, I plucked up my courage, donned as many layers of clothing as I could and set off on my new bike to see how my legs were feeling.

I hadn’t been out on my bike this month so it was a bit of a shock to the system but the sun was out….

cleuchfoot valley

…my legs were very cheerful and the snow had retreated to distant hills so it wasn’t too bad to be out and about.

The wind was strong enough to make life hard when pedalling into it but the forecast gales hadn’t arrived.  I stopped to take a picture of one of those little corners that make cycling round here so visually interesting.

three cleuchfoot trees

And then I cycled to the top of Callister to see if there was any sign of the turbines arriving at the new wind farm.  There wasn’t and as the road was very muddy from quarry lorry traffic, I turned back and pedalled down to Langholm, through the town and out of the other side.  The snow was on distant hills there too.

ewes valley with diostant snow

On my way back through the town, I checked to see if the big gull was standing on its favourite rock.

It was.

gull on rock

I was pleased to manage 20 miles at a modest pace and after a walk round the garden when I got back…

three spring garden flowera

…where the forsythia is just coming out…

forsythia

…and some of the frogs spawn seems to have survived the frosty mornings…

frogs spawn

…I went in to find Mrs Tootlepedal making a nourishing pan of bean and vegetable soup for lunch.

It went down well.

After lunch I watched the birds for a while.  Goldfinches had got in early today under the watchful eye of a chaffinch…

goldfinches on feeder

…and there was no visit from the sparrow hawk to disturb them or this chaffinch’s moment of reflection beside a puddle in our drive.

reflective chaffinch

Against my expectations, the weather stayed fine in the afternoon so I went for a walk.  The wind was still nagging but otherwise it was a good day for sauntering about looking for signs of spring…

view from scotts knowe

…which weren’t hard to find.

dandelion march

There were signs of life on the larches…

larch

…and fresh flowers on the banks beside the track…

P1170432

…and best of all, many clumps of primroses on every side once I got near the Becks Burn.

primroses

I walked through the felled wood, across the burn and up onto the road on the other side of the little valley, where I found incipient honeysuckle…

honeysuckle leaf

…curious sheep looking down on me…

curious sheep

…and any amount of lichen on different stones on the same one metre  length of wall.

lichen on wall becks road

I visited the old curling pond and wished that it could be developed into a wild life area like the one near Lockerbie which we have visited before. It needs a real enthusiast with time and knowledge to a job like that though.

curling pond

I didn’t linger for long as my foot was starting to feel sore and I soon headed down the road back to the town.

I passed this fungus on a fallen tree trunk…..

fungus becks road

…and got right out of the way as this huge lorry passed me.  It had been delivering sheep to the farm at the end of the road.

big lorry becks road

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden and together we put in the new blackcurrant bush and, having exhausted my gardening skills, I gave her moral support while she planted out a new lupin and pruned a rose.

Then it seemed like a good time to have a cup of tea and a slice of toast so we did.

The day was rounded off by a visit from my flute pupil, Luke and we had a productive half hour showing that practice makes you, if not quite perfect, then certainly a lot better.  This is most satisfactory.

I don’t often watch Master Chef on the TV but this season, a young lady from Langholm is one of the contestants and it was very pleasing to see her do well and get through to the next round.  We will follow her progress with interest.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for 50 mph winds so it was a good thing that we got as much out of today as we did.  There are some sunny intervals promised so it might not be a total write off.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with a determined air about it.

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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Today’s guest picture comes from Canada.  Lucie, who sent it to me, is scratching her head as to why she can’t find people anxious to share a cup of tea with her on her patio when there are such comfortable looking cushions to sit on.

Lucie's snowy pergola

At least Lucie has had some sunshine.  We got another grey day today but not as windy as it has been for which we were grateful.

The sunshine in my life was metaphorical in the form of Sandy who came round for a coffee in a very cheerful mood.  His foot is a lot less sore and he has been sleeping exceptionally well so no wonder he was smiling.

As well as Sandy, we had plenty of other visitors today and I had to fill the feeder twice, a rare occurrence this year.

The siskins have wasted no time in making their presence felt as can be seen by this picture of a diminutive siskin blowing an incoming chaffinch away.

chaffinch blown away by siskin

A chaffinch did manage an unimpeded landing a little while later.

elgant chaffinch

Meanwhile the siskins took to creeping round the feeder to surprise goldfinches.

siskin sneaking past feeder

After Sandy left, I decided to go for a cycle ride as the forecast offered a few dry hours before the rain came.   It was still pretty breezy with gusts of up to 20 mph so I took things easy as I went round my customary Canonbie 20 mile circuit and kept my eyes open for things to photograph…

…like trees shaped by the prevailing wind…

bare tree chapelhill

…and more trees with some branched pruned by the passing winds…

bare tree Canonbie road

…and even more trees, this time standing in a relatively sheltered spot.

bare tree neat Canonbie

When I came to bridges, I stopped.

This is the Canonbie Bridge, low and wide…

Canonbie bridge

…and this is the Hollows bridge a mile or two up the road, high and handsome.

hollows bridge arch

Landowners grossly neglect their responsibility to provide uninterrupted views of river bridges for passing photographers as you can see from the Hollows bridge and this picture of another good looking bridge, a mile or two up the road which is almost submerged in trees and bushes, whereas….

old A7 bridge

…this ugly road bridge a few yards away is as clean as a whistle (and they have been cutting down more trees near it).road bridge

There is no justice….

…and bridges are not the only cause of photographic dissatisfaction.  Road furniture is a pest too as you can see from the junction at Canonbie where a lovely bank of snowdrops has been overwhelmed by clutter.

snowdrops and road signs

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop so I took a look around and noticed that she has got the Christmas tree out of the greenhouse and is getting it acclimatised for life in the garden.

christmas tree in garden

In the ‘signs of spring category’, new life on a rose was encouraging.

rose leaf

I went inside where I had a late lunch, battled with the crossword and did a little bird watching.

The stalk of the sunflower makes a convenient stopping place for birds waiting for a vacant perch on the feeder.

chaffinch on sunflower stalk

Some birds didn’t wait but made straight for the feeder…

horizontal chaffinch

…while others did their best to remove those who had got there first.

chaffinchs attack

Mrs Tootlepedal returned from a very busy session at the coffee shop and had a restorative cup of tea.  It must have been strong tea because as soon as she had downed it, we went off for a short expedition by car to the White Yett and then by foot up the track to the Monument.

Even on a dull day, the Ewes Valley is worth a look…

ewes valley

…and on any day at all, the lichens on the boulders beside the track and what I think is algae on the monument itself are very eye catching.

lichen and algae

Mrs Tootlepedal had brought her binoculars with her and took a moment at the summit to scan the skies for interesting birds…

Mrs T bird watching on whita

…in vain.

I looked down on the town, eight hundred feet below…

Langholm from Whita

…and then we went back down the track to the car before we got caught in the rain which was threatening to arrive.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went back to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of a performance of Don Quixote by the Royal Ballet company while my friend Susan arrived to take me to Carlisle where we had an excellent evening of tootling.  The ballet was very good too, Mrs tootlepedal reported.

It was raining lightly as Susan and I drove down to Carlisle and it was very wet as we drove home so I was lucky to get my cycle and walk in before the rain arrived.  Sometimes the weather goods relent and give a man a break.  However, it does say that it is going to rain all day tomorrow so it was just a small break.

Another horizontal chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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