Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He is quite unhappy that his work as a painter and decorator has been unceremoniously stopped by government order but no provision for helping the self employed to pay their bills has yet been put in hand by the authorities who are happy to pay the wage bills of large firms.  The sea at East Wemyss today looked a little angry too.

waves at wemyss

We had another dry day here and we are in danger of forgetting the awful weather of February.  It will come as a shock when it starts to rain again.

We should have been in London today attending the civil partnership of our daughter Annie and her partner Joe but circumstances did not permit it.  However, we were able to see them in the registry office immediately after the ceremony through the wonders of video calling.  They looked very happy (and civil).

We spent a quiet morning in and around the garden while we were waiting for the call.  There was a thin cover of cloud, thin enough to let some weak sunshine through and all our neighbours were busy in their gardens too.  I sieved some compost.

Things are progressing slowly towards full springiness and new signs are about, like this berberis…


…and the first of the fritillaries.

frist fritillary

The forsythia enjoyed the such sun as there was…

forsythia close up

…and a sparrow and starling took in some rays as well.

starling and sparrow

There were quite a few bees of various sorts about and I caught two of them visiting the hellebores.

two bees n hellebore

We had some conversation over the garden fence with our neighbours Irving and Libbie.  They introduced us to Boris the badger who had been getting a fresh coat of varnish.

wooden badger

He didn’t say much.

After lunch, I went for a short walk.  There were no birds visiting the feeder in the garden at all, so I thought that I ought to see what the waterside might provide.

I spotted a dipper in the Wauchope but it was living up to its name so well that I would have needed an underwater camera to get a picture of it.

A black backed gull was more conspicuous…

black backed gull flying

…as he roared across to the water to join his partner….and looked very pleased with himself when he got there.  She looked demure.

black backed gull pair

There were only a couple of black headed gulls about and the sole oyster catcher flew off without waiting for me to get a picture so I was feeling a little underbirded until some loud song at the Sawmill Brig brought a grey wagtail to my attention.

grey wagtail

And as I walked across the Castleholm, a pheasant passed me by.

pheasant castleholm

And I felt that my walk in search of birds was very satisfactory.

I was well sheltered from the wind and the weak sunshine gave off a little warmth so I was in no hurry to get home and could take time to enjoy the light on this mossy tree…

castleholm tree with ferns

…and to realise when i got closer that it was not just moss.  It had a whole garden on it.

ferns on tree

There was a lot to enjoy with heartening signs of growth on all sides (and a handsome fungus too)…

wild flowers and fungus

…but the high spot of the walk home was seeing this flash of colour in a tree…

view of nuthatch

…and finding, when I looked more closely, that it was a nuthatch.  It obligingly flew to another tree nearby so that I could get better shots of it.

nuthtach posing

It was very busy.

nuthatch on branch

As I got near to our house, I found Mike Tinker washing his car in his drive.  He asked me whether I would like to see something interesting so of course I said yes.  I followed him to his back garden (at a satisfactory ‘social’ distance) and he showed his Wollemi pine.

A Wollemi pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest plants dating back to the time of the dinosaurs and Mike is privileged to be growing one in his garden.  He is very excited as it has both male (left) and female (right) cones on it.  I was impressed to say the least.

wollemi pine with cones

I saw a few other people out walking and we all gave each other a wide berth or changed direction when we came towards each other.

I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden when I got back and we went in and had a cup of tea.

Since the days are getting longer and it was still relatively warm and dry, I got my bicycle out and added another fifteen miles to my month’s cycle mileage.  I found, when I got out of the shelter of the town, that the wind was quite brisk but I got the benefit of it on the way back and covered the last five miles home at an average speed of 19.7 mph  I wish that I had known that as I was pedalling.  I would have pushed a little harder to get the magic twenty miles an hour onto my bike computer.

I made the last of Mrs Tootlepedal’s chicken cacciatore into a curry with added mushrooms for our tea and then we waited for the prime minister’s address to the nation with some foreboding.  The foreboding was justified as the upshot was a lockdown for an indefinite period, a rather depressing but necessary situation.  Honestly, it is not too bad for a retired couple like us but it is a lot harder for people with young children and/or jobs to do so we feel a lot of sympathy for our children and their problems.  It will also not be very jolly to say the least for my sisters and step mother who live in the middle of cities.

As we are officially allowed out for exercise once a day. I will be able to have a walk or a cycle, weather permitting, so I am lucky.  And Mrs Tootlepedal will have her garden so she is lucky too.

The flying bird of the day is a crow which was having a drink at the river and flew off as I approached.

flying crow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent, Venetia.  She visited the Hillbrush factory which has a factory shop which sells brushes but not, as far as I can see, hills.

brush store

We had a day of mixed weather and doubtful intentions.

The weather in the morning was frequently wet…

siskins in rain

…and frequently dry…


…but always very windy.

It had been our intention to go to Edinburgh to meet our son Tony and his partner Marianne and her children Tash and Dylan, followed by a visit to allow Evie to meet Matilda and her parents.  The unreliability of the weather and the railway system coupled with a slight illness on the part of Matilda made us consider and reconsider these plans several times.

While we were deliberating, I watched the birds and there were plenty to watch today.

A siskin sandwich…

heap of siskins

…a warm welcome on a cold day….

goldfinchand siskin 1

…and a quick pause in a dry moment to see if there was more frogspawn in the pond.  There was.  The frogs have been very quiet about it as I haven’t heard them croaking at all.

more frogspawn

Wallflowers are coming out,


And the daffs have stayed upright in all weathers.


The improved weather didn’t improve the birds’ behaviour.

goldfinchand siskin 2siskin attack siskingoldfinchand siskin 3

A redpoll, in its spring plumage, stood above the fray…

redpoll on pole

..but popped down for a snack when the chance offered.

redpoll on feeder

In the end, our daughter Annie made the sensible suggestion that we should catch the train to Edinburgh from Carlisle and not Lockerbie or Tweedbank. This gave us the prospect of a safer drive, two railway companies to chose from in the event of delay or cancellation and more trains to come home on earlier if Matilda was not up to a visit.

We took her advice and it was good.  The drive to Carlisle went without a problem, with no sign of flooding on the road, although there was a lot of flooding by the river in Carlisle.  The train was on time, with plenty of seats and a very cheerful and helpful set of staff members….and Matilda had recovered from a brief spell of high temperature.

We arrived on time and enjoyed a good meal with Tony, Marianne, Tash and Dylan.

Tash and Dylan…

Tash and Dylan

…had not met Evie before and were pleased to make her acquaintance.  We were pleased to catch up with them and hear their news.   They are both working hard in satisfactory and satisfying jobs and that is something to be warmly welcomed these days.

After lunch, we did a little shopping for baby clothes for Evie in a well known store, braving some very nasty sleety and windy weather for a few minutes on the way.

Fortunately the weather had eased by the time that we came out of the shop and we walked down to Matilda’s, pushing Evie in her push chair.  Matilda was waiting at the door to welcome us and when we had settled down, she carefully built a large tower to entertain Evie..


…. and then equally carefully helped Evie knock it all down again.

Alistair told us that Matilda had been looking forward to the visit a lot and had asked him  at twelve o’clock,  “When is Evie arriving.”  He had told her, “In four hours.”  At quarter past twelve, she asked him, “When is Evie arriving.”  This set a bit of a pattern.

Matilda was in great form and really enjoyed meeting Evie.  She kindly showed us the latest dance and gymnastic routines she has learned and we left reluctantly to catch our train home.  The weather let us walk back to the station in the dry, although the biting wind made our progress as difficult as it could.

All the same, we got to the station in plenty of time, found our train, were greeted by more cheerful and helpful staff members and arrived back in Carlisle, dead on time.

We got into our car in the station car park, congratulating ourselves on the smooth running of the day, switched on the power and were greeted by a notice saying in big red letters:  “STOP, electric motor failed.”  And indeed the car would not move an inch.  To cut a long story short though, having contacted our rescue service and summoned assistance, I tried the engine again some time later and it worked perfectly.  Rescue service and assistance were recontacted, and we drove ourselves home without a problem….except for a slight sense of stress.

It was still a very good day out though.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.  It is not a great picture but I put it in to show that wherever a siskin is, there is almost always a flying piece of seed as well.  They are the world’s messiest eaters.

flying siskin with seed

Footnote:  While Matilda is an old hand on social media, Evie does not yet have an internet presence so readers much just imagine a fine looking seven month old infant with a winning smile and impeccable manners.


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by our son Tony just to prove that as well as having almost perpetual sunshine, they get milk delivered in bottles in East Wemyss.

milk bottles east wemyss

We got more rain here, rain overnight and rain in the morning.  I walked round to the shop in the rain and then looked at some birds in the rain.

greenfinch siskins rain

In spite of the weather there were plenty of birds about…

greenfinch siskins rain 2

…and after a while, I put out a second feeder to meet demand.

second feeder goldfinches

The rain stopped in the late morning and I went for a walk while Annie and Evie caught up on a little sleep after a restless night.

In the garden, the hellebores are developing slowly…


…but down at the river, the water was fairly rushing along again.

full river esk

I got blessed by a little sun as I crossed the Sawmill Brig and it made the moss on the wall sparkle cheerily.

moss glinting

When I got to the Lodge, I chose the upper road to Holmhead.  This was just as well as when I looked down, I saw that I might have needed water wings to navigate the lower road.

puddle on low road

The snowdrops at Holmhead have stood up to the rain well but like me, they would be a lot better off with a bit of sunshine.

snowdrops holmhead

Walking along the muddy path round the pheasant hatchery was a precarious business and I nearly slipped when I stopped to take this picture of tree bark and lichen.

tree bark

After that, photography took a back seat as the weather closed in rapidly and it began to rain quite heavily.

strom coming in

It didn’t rain all of the time though.  Sometimes it snowed.

After lunch, the weather improved a lot.  Mrs Tootlepedal, Annie and Evie went off to visit a friend and I went off to see a different friend.

Sandy has finally got back from hospital after a visit that was supposed to last only a day or two for an operation but eventually lasted for two weeks as other health matters intervened.

The sun had come out to celebrate his arrival…

sunny whita scotts knowe

…and as you can expect, he was pretty pleased to be back in his own home.

He wasn’t jumping for joy though, as jumping will be off the menu for six weeks until his plaster comes off.

sandy's foot

He can get about in the house and he has a team of friends who will visit him so he was far from downhearted.

As I walked home, I passed our neighbour’s flowering currant showing signs of growth.

hectors currant

The birds had eaten a lot of seed during while I had been out.

two feeders

Although it was too cold to tempt the crocuses to open in spite of the sunshine….

closed sunny crocuses

…there was another promising sign of spring to be seen in the pond.


I didn’t see any frogs though.

I went down the road and met Mrs Tootlepedal, Annie and Evie as they left their friend’s house.  Mrs Tootlepedal went home to cook, and Annie and I took Evie for a short walk in the (vain) hope that she might have a nap.

We looked one way to see the sun shining on Timpen…

late sun on Timpen

…and the other way to see first signs of blossom on the riverside trees.


We walked up Mary Street and looked across the river at the Noble Firs on the Castleholm.  Whatever strips the cones has been doing a good job and there is hardly a cone left to be seen.

noble fir cones

Annie was very impressed by the amount of polypores on the birch tree beside the road and thought that the fungi made an interesting accompaniment to the amount of man made kit on the electricity pole nearby.

polypores and electricty

Mrs Tootlepedal’s cooking skills brought us a good meal of brisket of beef for our tea and then we all collapsed into a quiet doze after a busy day.

The flying bird of the day is a double helping of siskin and chaffinch.

flying siskin and chaffinch

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A gap of 100 years

We went to our daughter Annie’s after breakfast and then went with her and our granddaughter Evie to visit Evie’s great grandmother, Mrs Tootlepedal’s mother.

This involved a trip on two underground trains to Paddington Station…

… where we had time for a cup of coffee.

We really shouldn’t be allowed to travel on trains at the moment because we only have to get on one for it to run late.

The train we caught was modern, comfortable, with good buggy accommodation…

…but ten minutes late at Maidenhead which was enough to make us miss the connection to  Marlow

Luckily, Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother was able to collect us, although an unexpectedly closed road gave us time to admire the station clock.

We were given an excellent lunch by Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother and sister in law and then we went off to visit Mauri, Evie’s great grandmother.

You will have to take my word that this meeting of four female generations of the family took place as no photograph is available online, but it was a great moment to see Mrs Tootlepedal with her mother, her daughter and her granddaughter all at the same time.

As her mother is 103 and Evie is very small, a good stretch of history was to be seen in the room.

We got home safely (and on time!) and rounded the day off with a very good meal at a Greek restaurant with my sisters  Susan and Mary and my stepmother Patricia.

We go back to Langholm tomorrow…if we can find a reliable train to take us there.


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A smile and a shovel

This is another phone post as we are still in London visiting relatives. Today we ventured south of the river to spend time with our granddaughter Evelyn Rose, the current holder of the title of the World’s Greatest Baby.

Soon after we arrived, Evie took us and her mother Annie to their allotment where we spent some happy time shifting manure in one direction ..

… and pernicious weedy waste in the other.

By the time that we had finished, Annie’s raised beds looked well looked after.

Mrs Tootlepedal gave things a final touch…

… as Evie supervised.

Big flying birds passed overhead…

.. while parakeets watched from neighbouring trees.

Although it was a chilly day with frost still in the ground, there was plenty of colour about as we walked about the area.

We particularly liked these winter aconites at the allotment.

But this was the most spectacular…

…and this winter honeysuckle had the best scent.

After visiting Evie’s other grandparents and briefly seeing her father, we headed back across the river (or rather under the river, as we used the tube).

We were going to go to the pictures but we left buying the tickets until it was too late and there were none left

Instead, we went back and spent the evening chatting to my sisters Mary and Susan, which is always a pleasure.

If all goes well, we shall take in more relatives tomorrow.

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We have arrived in London. Regular readers will be surprised to hear that our train was half an hour late.

We were told that this was because of speed restrictions between Rugby and Milton Keynes. A reluctance to go to Milton Keynes is quite understandable of course and as it will lead to us getting half our ticket price refunded, we kept calm.

I had time to go for a short walk before we left Langholm and take a couple of pictures on the way.

It was a gloomy day so leaving Langholm was not a wrench.

I am not going to miss many birds while I am away by the look of things.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Liz, who is both our gardening adviser and Mike and Alison Tinker’s daughter.  She got an unusual view of the Forth rail bridge from a nearby pottery cafe the other day.


Today was a write off here, gloomy at the start and gloomier as it went on.  It rained all day and for a lot of the time it blew very hard too.  As my foot has got a bit sore lately, I was very happy to have a good excuse to give it a rest.

I did drive up to visit Sandy to get our shared mount cutter as Mrs Tootlepedal wanted a small picture mounted.  He was pleased to see me.  He is finding life with a sore back rather boring, especially in weather like today’s.

I did look out of the window but there was not enough light to make this a gainful proposition with nothing on the feeder…


…and nothing in the walnut tree.


Some birds must have arrived later because as Mrs Tootlepedal was making meringues with egg whites left over from a Christmas custard…


…she saw the sparrow hawk swoop down and pick off one of our visitors.  This is bad because we don’t really have visitors to spare at the moment.

I spent the afternoon wasting time trying to be clever on the computer and actually taking more time to do a task than I would have taken if I had done it in the normal way. Still, I had time to spare today so it didn’t matter much.

I am sorry for a dull post but it really was a dull day in every way today, and no amount of dressing it up could make it more interesting.

The weather should be better tomorrow.



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