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A helping hand

Today’s guest picture comes from son Tony who has been shooting at the moon with his new camera.  Unfortunately the copy that he sent me is undersized but it still looks good.

minimoon

Mrs Tootlepedal is taking the colour pattern for her crochet blanket from a website which posts the design for the next fifteen rows each week so she was pleased to have finished this week’s ration before the next lot came on line.

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She will need to grow bigger arms for next week’s shot.

There is not much in the way of a post today as we got up well before dawn to got to Edinburgh to try to be of assistance to Matilda’s father and mother as they took the final steps in moving house today.  Their new house is not yet ready so they had a complicated scheme of putting some things in store and taking some things to a flat where they are camping until the new house is ready.

This meant a lot of filling of boxes and trips in the car to the store and the flat and part of our duties was to keep Matilda entertained while this was going on.

We went to a cafe for beans on toast and then armed warfare broke out.

Matilda ready for battle….

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…and grandpa ready to resist.

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It was all go out there.

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Mrs Tootlepedal was the official, war correspondent who took the pictures.

Then Matilda went to nursery and we helped her parents pack, tidy and clean before we had the privilege of collecting Matilda from nursery and bringing her home.

Mrs Tootlepedal did great work on fridge defrosting and cleaning while I played Pelmanism and snap with Matilda as the work went on.  We were using a pack of cats and kittens cards for our game and I made the acquaintance of the Maine Coon, a cat that I had never heard of but which I find really does exist.

We all had fun and in the end there was only one carload left to go by the time that we had to leave to catch our train home.

We arrived home nearly 15 hours after we had left, tired but satisfied.

No chance of a flying bird at all.

 

 

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Today’s guest picture from son Tony in East Wemyss goes to prove that you can find grumpy herons all over the place.

wemyss heron

It was a beautiful morning with a delicate sunrise but it was chilly enough at 4°C after breakfast to keep me from getting my bike out.  Instead, I walked up to the town where I did a bit of archive group business.  I asked Nancy, who was mining data in our new premises, for a suggestion for an interesting walk but she was unable to come up with one that hadn’t already figured in the blog.

Scratching my head, I went out into to the street and bumped into Mike Tinker.  He is a stalwart of the Langholm Walks group and suggested that I try Walk 5.  As this involves walking up steep rough ground and I hadn’t got either walking boots or my walking poles with me, Nancy and I hadn’t considered this.

However, nothing ventured, nothing gained so I resolved to take up Mike’s suggestion, trust to the ground being firm and the boggy bits few and far between and hope that I didn’t fall over on a slippery bit.

And, plucking up my courage, I headed out to try Walk 5

It starts with a stroll along the river out of the town and this led me past one of favourite bits of lichen which can be found on a fence just on the very edge of Langholm.  It is a grey and black lichen and so a black and white shot seemed like a good idea.

fungus on fence lands end

I crossed Skippers Bridge without taking a photograph and was soon walking up the track towards the hill.  I could see the mast on the top of Warbla (275m) in the distance and it seemed to be a good day to be up beside it so I pressed on.

distant view of mast on warbla

My hopes about the dry ground and lack of boggy bits were fully realised and though the hill is quite steep in places, I was able to stop and admire the view from time to time and get my breath back.

view from above skipperscleuch tarck

There was even some more lichen on a rock to detain me.

fungus on warbla

It wasn’t too long before I was able to look back down on the town, snugly tucked into its nest at the bottom of the hills.

langholm from walk 5

And then I was high enough to be able to look around at the neighbouring summits…

timpen from warbla

…and to look ahead to my immediate target.

approaching the mast warbla

When I got there, I was amply rewarded for the slog uphill across rough ground with superb views of hills streaked with sunshine and shadows…

view from warbla summit

…which I shared with a man and a dog who had reached the trig point from the opposite side of the hill.  We agreed that a better place to be on such a fine day would be hard to find.

man and dog on warbla

From the summit, I could look across the valley and stretching the zoom on the Lumix to its full extent, I could just make out the stile over the wall on Whita that I had crossed on a walk almost a week ago on another fine day.  It was about a mile away.

stile on whita from warbla

The hills looked just as good on the way down from the top as they had on the way up…

view from warbla

…and the track to the town was at its best.

green road on warbla

However, without my walking poles, I had to keep my head well down as I went along since there were plenty of opportunities to slip and slide on wet grass or slippery stones and I took no more views and only got the camera out to note this tree growing out of the top of a wall in a rather unlikely fashion….

tree on wall

…and got home safely with dry feet and no unexpected encounters between my backside and mother earth.

By coincidence, I met Nancy just as I got back.  She had been dropping off some of the results of her data mining for me to enter into the Archive Group’s newspaper database.  I’ll have to hope for some wet and windy weather which makes entering data a sensible thing to be doing.

I made some vegetable soup for lunch and found some bright eyed birds at the garden feeder.

bright eyed birds

After lunch, the temperature had risen enough to make cycling a possibility so I got into my cycling gear, got my bike and set off.  In an exciting fashion I rode round the block and was home again in about three minutes.  It had started to rain heavily much to my surprise and annoyance.  There had been no sign of this sort of thing while I was out walking.

However, I kept my cycling gear on and after only a few minutes, the rain had disappeared as suddenly as it had come, and I set off again.

It was a lovely day for a pedal!

cleuchfoot road

The days are still short though and I only had time for 23 miles before it began to get gloomy.  Because I was pushed for time, I  took just that one picture on my ride which was of the scenically dull ‘up and down the road’ variety.  It was enjoyable pedalling though and my legs only reminded me of my morning walk once or twice.

I got home in time for a cup of tea and some Garibaldi biscuits which we had bought in Carlisle yesterday.  While eating the biscuits, I was able to reflect that too much of my life has been wasted not eating Garibaldi biscuits, an omission which I will try to correct in the years to come.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been out doing some useful gardening while I had been pedalling so we were both quite satisfied with our afternoon’s work.

After the tea and biscuits it was time for my flute pupil Luke to come and we played a sonata by Godfrey Finger and worked on a bit of one by J J Quantz.

After Luke went, there was time to enjoy a second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s tasty puy lentil, leek and feta bake for tea before I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  Here we played Mozart, Boismortier and Schickhardt so that rounded off a very good all round sort of day.

I even found a satisfactory flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch wings closed

 

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On the go

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He came across this bright and cheerful ride on such a wet and miserable day that no one had taken up its invitation to have fun.

roundabout

We had a sporadically wet and always grey day today but it was reasonably warm and the wind was light enough to make walking about not too bad.

This was lucky as we spent a lot of time walking around in Edinburgh.

I had time to look at the birds after breakfast before we left but there is till very little traffic and after four days, the feeder has hardly gone down at all…

fairly full feeder

…and only the odd chaffinch as about this morning.

EARLY BIRD

The morning train to Edinburgh was just as late as the afternoon one usually is but there is enough slack in the timetable to let it get to Edinburgh more or less on time so we were there in plenty of time to visit a bookshop before we met our son Tony for lunch.

We walked up Castle Street to the coffee house.

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It is closed to traffic at the moment as it has Christmas stalls in it and we were pleased to get off the crowded pavements of Princes Street.

We exchanged some presents with Tony and then drifted along George Street, doing some very light shopping and admiring the Christmas decorations as we went.

sdr

sdr

As we had a bit of time in hand, we drifted into John Lewis and escaped with nothing more expensive than a packet of envelopes.  Then we went on to visit Matilda who had been to to show with her nursery school.  Her parents had gone with her and enjoyed it as much, if not more, than Matilda.

We had a good time playing at camping in the sitting room under a blanket and there was a good deal of hiding behind a door and saying, “Boo!” very loudly as an elderly gentleman snoozed on the couch.  How we laughed.

The visit ended as always with an excellent meal provided by Matilda’s father who is a first rate cook.

The train home was punctual and the drive from Lockerbie uneventful.

I almost got a flying bird of the day this morning but not quite.

almost flying chaffinch

Note:  I looked at the scientific rain gauge this morning and had to empty it out as it was registering five inches and was full.  I think that represents two weeks of rain but it might be three.  The countryside is beginning to look rather soggy.

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Today’s guest picture comes from the sister in law of my neighbour Liz.  Elaine was vising Cragside in Northumberland when she met Douglas. Douglas has been carved out of a Douglas fir.

douglas

Everything had calmed down here today and it was a reasonably dry day with the temperature at 6°C and much lighter winds.  As a result, I was able to walk up to our new Archive Group premises in the High Street with a lot fewer layers than recent outings have required.

I met with Nancy and Sandy there and we did a little organising of things that were still (literally) outstanding since our move and either threw or put them away.

Sandy then gave me a lift home and we had a cup of coffee before I went off for a short cycle ride.  A weak sun appeared as I pedalled up the road and the sheep were happy to be able to do a little basking.

sunny sheep

I went through some new road works and stopped to admire the completed repair of the recent landslip.first lockerbie roadworks completed

Just up the hill the repair gang were busy repairing a potential landslip.  It signals a rare outbreak of good sense that the roads department have made good use of the squad and their equipment while they were on the spot rather than dragging them out again later on.

second wauchope roadworks 2

It looks as though the second repair is going to use the same method as the first.

second wauchope roadworks

In spite of the weak sun, it was a rather gloomy day and I could see mist both on the top of the hills and lying on the ground down below.

mist at bottom of hills

I liked this little burst of steam rising from one of the banks beside the road as I pedalled home.

mist on top of a headland

I was only out for fifteen miles as it turns out that Christmas is getting near and there were things to be done.

After writing our Christmas cards, we set off six miles down the road to buy stamps and post the cards and a couple of parcels.  The post office in Langholm has closed so our nearest one is now in Canonbie, a small village.  Why it remains open while ours is closed is one of the great mysteries of life.  The post mistress at Canonbie, under the stress of a lot of extra work over Christmas, was only moderately grateful for the extra business.

We continued in a Christmas vein and went further down the road to the retail park at Gretna  where we did a little present shopping.

When we got home, it was soon time for Luke to come round and we put in some hard work on trying to play the ornaments in our sonata properly.  This is work in progress as they say.

I had made a venison stew in the slow cooker after breakfast and it made for a tasty evening meal.

Rather worryingly, there were virtually no birds in the garden today.  I filled the feeder when I got back yesterday afternoon and it hasn’t gone down at all.  This is most unusual and I am waiting anxiously to see if they come back tomorrow.

The non flying bird of the day is the only bird that I saw visiting the feeder today.

lonely bird

 

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We got safely to Fife after our concert and had a good day with our son and his partner and their many dogs.

We had two windy walks along the shore and an excellent evening meal.

I append a random selection of phone pictures of the day.

There are well known caves at East Wemyss which we visited on our walk.

Our fingers remain crossed for our trip to Glasgow tomorrow as it has been snowing and icy today.

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The guest picture of the day is the last of the livestock which our son Tony encountered on his walk in the Wemyss Estate.

wemyss pigs

We had another wet and windy day today….

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…with occasional breaks in the rain.

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In one of the dry spells, I popped out to see how high the rivers were and was surprised to find them lower than last night….

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…and it was a treat to be able to see the monument clearly.

I didn’t stay out long and was soon safely back inside watching the birds clinging to the plum tree twigs in the stiff breeze.  The goldfinches like to perch at the very top of the twigs even in the most testing times.

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I filled the feeders and was rewarded with some cheerful visitors…

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…but it soon started raining again.

After careful research of railway websites and a look at the forecast, we decided that it would be safe to go to Edinburgh and more reliable to take the Borders Railway from Tweedbank rather than the West Coast mainline from Lockerbie.  This was mostly because the weather for driving to the station looked better going east than west and also because there are more trains running on the Border Railway so we would be less likely to get stranded in Edinburgh.

The drive to Tweedbank was fine, with even a little sunshine on the way but when we got to the station we found a sign saying that not only had our intended train been cancelled but the next one too.  This was not on account of the weather but because of ‘staff shortages’.

We were quite annoyed because we hadn’t seen any warning about this when we checked up earlier in the day.  We were sitting in the car muttering imprecations and considering strategies when a train arrived at the station.  We went over to look and were told that this was our train and it wasn’t cancelled.  We were pleased and particularly grateful that we hadn’t driven off in a huff when we saw the train cancelled sign.  We didn’t think that this was a very sound way to run a railway though.

The weather was surprisingly nice as we pottered up the line to Edinburgh and we were accompanied by this cloudy lady.

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When we got to Matilda’s, Mrs Tootlepedal wasted no time at all before getting down to some serious grandmothering.

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She and Matilda than cooked a sticky toffee pudding which we ate for our tea after a dish of onion and mushroom pasta knocked up by Matilda’s dad.  I must say that as well as the pleasure of Matilda’s company, we always eat well when we got to see her.

I was a bit alarmed when I looked at the rail company website after tea and found three evening trains cancelled but fortunately our train was not among them and we had a satisfactory journey back to Tweedbank.   The weather then let us down badly and we had to drive the forty miles home through torrential rain and strong winds, never fun at any time of day, but even less so at night with large puddles in the middle of the road.

Still, we did get home safely and I was glad that we had our winter tyres on as we skated over road surfaces running with water.

The rain is set to ease off tomorrow which will be welcome and the winds are due to lighten up a bit so I hope to get out for a walk.

The flying is a gloomy chaffinch battling into the wind.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s Highland Tour.  As well as stunning scenery, he noticed this very curious gate.

IMG_0979

As it happens, Dropscone is exactly half a year older than me to the day so to celebrate my arrival at the same age as he is, he brought round some of his traditional treacle scones to go with coffee this morning.

As there wasn’t room for 77 candles on the scones, we ate them unadorned.

After he left, I got my new bike out for the first time for a month and tested the state of my leg by pedalling the six miles to the top of Callister Hill and back again.  This was my first ride on the new bike for a month.  12 miles may not be very far but it is a lot better than 0 miles…and my leg was quite happy about it all.

I went along the Wauchope road and this meant that I passed no less than three sets of barriers placed to stop motorists driving too close to the edge of the road where the banking has been showing signs of collapse…

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The bottom of the fence not the top should be at road height!

…and one where the banking has disappeared entirely….

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…and still hasn’t been repaired.  The lack of repair does not come as a total shock.  A group of enthusiasts is holding a ‘hands over the gap’ birthday party to celebrate the third anniversary of a continuing road closure on another local road which suffered a serious landslip.

My cycling road is still open to traffic but the little burn that runs along side it…..

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…is not going away and will continue to eat into the banking just as huge and heavy timber and quarry lorries will continue to thunder along above it on a road which is not designed for them.

It is an intractable problem.

I got to the top of Callister Hill and noticed a great number of cars parked on the access road to the proposed new windfarm there.  They are obviously busy preparing the way for the arrival of the turbines so I took this view of the ridge where they will stand and will take the view again as the turbines  are erected over the coming months.

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I heard an interesting programme on the radio last night as we drove back from Lockerbie.  It was about hope and the question of whether hope is a curse or a blessing.  I thought of it as I started my cycle ride today in a light drizzle because I was hoping that it would stop as I went along.  This hope was based on the weather forecast.  One of the questions raised in the programme was; can faith and hope co-exist?   This seems to be because if you have faith you don’t need hope and if you are merely hoping, you can’t have faith.   Is hope a trap for the unwary and stupid optimist? Is faith a snare for those who don’t learn from experience and keep on believing that something will happen that never happens?

Anyway, I had faith in the forecast and hoped that the rain would stop and it did…

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…and I had a sunny ride home past the landslide.

I had time for a quick look at the birds over lunch.

The goldfinches were back again…

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…but frequently flew off and let other breeds sample the delights of the sunflower hearts.

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A chaffinch looked askance at a greenfinch heading towards the feeder at a great rate of knots.

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More greenfinches arrived and surveyed the scene briefly…

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…and one came down to the feeder but didn’t look very grateful when it got there.

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After lunch, we went to Carlisle where I put the new bike into the bike shop for its second after-sale free service.  It has done two and half thousand miles now and I am more than happy with it.

Then we went off to a shop in an enormous shed which sells a huge range of goods at a modest price.  Mrs Tootlepedal bought some decorative items which she will add to the pantomime dress that she is making.

I had recently seen pictures of a good murmuration of starlings at Gretna and as it was getting near dusk, we decided to drive home by way of the site to see what we could see.  We saw a fine sunset…

sdr

…but no starlings and got bored and drove on.  We did see some small flocks flying about as we left and wondered if we had been too hasty.  I didn’t have my starling camera with me so I will have to come back another time, equipped with both patience and the right camera to see if the starlings are still around.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played some tricky pieces with varying success but considerable enjoyment.  I am not playing at my best at the moment and will have either to practise harder or try to work out what I am doing technically wrong…or both.

An outstretched chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

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