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Not winning yet

I did manage a guest picture today, courtesy of my brother who has been exploring the paths near his new house on the edge of Derby.

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It was minus five degrees C overnight and still pretty cold in the morning so i thought it best to retire back to bed for the day after breakfast.  I could see a sunny hill out of one of the bedroom windows….

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…but a frozen front lawn out of the other so although I would have enjoyed a walk, it wouldn’t have done my chest any good at all.

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I came down for a light lunch and an even lighter evening meal and then lay about on the sofa for a while watching the telly before retiring again.  I am not yet very optimistic about being back on my feet again and the non flying bird of the day shares my concern.

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I would like to thank all the kind commenters who have sent their good wishes and apologise to the  blog writers whose excellent posts I am failing to read at the moment.  My brain isn’t working very well at the moment and I couldn’t do them justice even if I did read them.

Down in the dumps

No guest picture today, no choirs, no fun.  Just a day in bed feeling very sorry for myself, particularly after such a good start to 2018.

No replying to comments, no reading anyone else’s posts, just snivelling, sneezing and moaning.

To make it worse, it was a lovely day outside, though freezing all day.

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There was a flying bird but these were the only two pictures that I took all day.

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Thank you and goodnight.

A hard mile

Today’s guest post is the third and last of Tash’s portraits of Tony’s dogs beside the Forth.

Tony's dog

It was a cold but brighter day here today so there were no complaints but I had a slight chesty cough threatening so I abandoned a plan to wrap up well and go for a pedal and settled for a morning of light loafing about.

I kept an eye on the birds.

We had two greenfinches…

greenfinches

…many goldfinches…

goldfinches

…several dunnocks…

dunnock

…and robins on every perch.

robin

There were at least three robins and I could often see all three at the same time.  They seem to be mildly territorial but not very fierce about it so maybe there is room in the garden for all of them.

We went out for our midday meal as it was the day of the annual Archivists’ Lunch. It was at the Eskdale Hotel this year and a party of thirteen sat down for an excellent meal.

After the meal, I thought that I probably needed to shake the calories down so I went for a walk.  I also hoped that a bit of exercise might frighten away my incipient chesty cough.

It was crisp and breezy and a beautiful day for an outing on a hill so I left the Eskdale Hotel behind….

Eskdale Hotel

…and went up the Kirk Wynd on the opposite side of the market Place and headed straight up the hill to the monument on top of Whita.

It was warm enough for the puddles in the fields to be unfrozen….

Puddle

….but the brisk north wind which was rippling the water made it feel decidedly wintery.

I had hoped for splendid views as it had seemed quite bright when I was in the town but as I got further up the hill, it became clear that there was still a lot of moisture in the air…

View of langholm

…and both the town and the Ewes Valley…

misty ewes valley

…were rather fuzzy.

Still, there was always moss to look at, both on a wall…..

moss on wall

…and in big tussocks making some of the walk hard work.

moss tussock

It didn’t take me too long to get to the summit though as the nippy wind didn’t encourage much standing about and enjoying the view….

Monument

…but I did take a moment to look over the wall behind the monument and enjoy the view across the Tarras to Tinnis Hill.

 

Tinnis

And you can’t stand next to a wall without admiring the lichen.

lichen at Monument

It is exactly a mile from the Eskdale Hotel to the monument at an average  gradient of 16% so I was pleased to have taken exactly half an hour to get there. There is a nice neatness about it.

The sun was already getting a little lower in the sky so I didn’t dilly dally and was soon on my way down the track to the White Yett and the McDiarmid memorial.

McDiarmid Memorial

Beside the memorial there is a cairn with a cap of moss which invited a closer look.

cairn and moss

As I walked down the road to Whitshiels, the sun sank further and a gently golden light kissed the hills at the top of the valley.

Ewes valley sunset

As our friend Sue said the other day, the colours in winter can be just as rewarding as any other time of year.   If you choose the right day.

Ewes valley sunset

I kept an eye out for moss and enjoyed this collection of moss and lichen on a badly  decomposing fence post beside the road.

moss on fencepost

A group of horses caught the last rays of the sun as I  got near to the main road.

horses

I had hoped to be in time to take a picture or two of a rugby match at Miltown but the players were just trooping off the pitch as I came down the last stretch of hill.  A spectator leaving the game told me that Langholm had won by over 100 points.  Their opponents must have got quite discouraged.

The sun was on its last legs as I got back to the town but it gave me the chance for one last picture on my walk.

tree sunset

The walk turned out to be  exactly four miles and took me exactly an hour and a half so the whole excursion was mathematically very satisfying.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had been very busy in my absence and the Christmas tree was back in its own home again.

Christmas tree

As it is Twelfth Night, that is as it should be.

The walk may have shaken down my lunch but sadly, although I thoroughly enjoyed the walk and didn’t cough at all, it didn’t do my chest much good so I am going for an early bed and hoping to get a good night’s sleep.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.  We had left for lunch before the sun got to the feeders so it is another impressionistic effort.

flying chaffinch

Unconfined joy

Today’s guest picture is the second portrait of Tony’s dogs by Tash.  It looks as though the dogs had had a New Year’s splash even if Tony hadn’t.

Tony's dog

We were promised better weather today and we got it but it took some time to arrive as we were covered in mist for most of the morning.

I had an early start as I had to take our car to the garage.  It had been sending us intermittent signals of distress through the dashboard display recently.  Intermittent distress signals can be very annoying as they always disappear as soon as you take a car to the garage and that is what happened on this occasion.  The garage’s diagnostic machine though is very smart and can tell what a car was thinking yesterday as well as today so the garage was confident that they could get to the bottom of the trouble.

I walked home and had breakfast and then there was a pause in the day as I waited for the mist to go.  It was too thick for safe cycling and at 2°C, it was a bit chilly anyway.

This gave me a chance to do a tricky crossword and occasionally look out of the window.

The robin was upset by being substituted by a chaffinch in a recent post so it made sure I got its best side today.

robin

The other birds weren’t posing.  They were too busy trying to get at the seed.

busy feeder

Although the picture is not of good quality, I liked this shot of a siskin sizing up its chances of knocking a goldfinch off a perch.

siskin

The mist thinned enough after coffee for me to put my cycling gear on and get the fairly speedy bike out.  Mrs Tootlepedal went out to do some gardening and after putting away some bread and marmalade and a banana as fuel, I went off up the road, hoping that the mist would clear.

It took its time and while I was going along the valley bottom, things looked a bit gloomy…

Mist over the wauchope

…but as soon as I turned up into the hills, things brightened up and I got above the mist.

Misty windmills

Soon, I could look back and see the mist lying along the Wauchope valley that I had just cycled through.  It looked denser from above than it did when i was in it.

Mist in wauchope valley

Once I got over the hill and looked down into the Esk valley, more mist was to be seen.

Mist in Esk valley

And the windmills at Gretna were up to their knees in it.

Misty windmills gretna

Looking across from Tarcoon, Whita Hill was an island in a sea of mist…

Misty Whita from tarcoon

…and looking ahead to where I was going, a solid bank of mist lying along the Esk made it look as though there might be dangerous conditions for cyclists when I got down to the river.

Mist from tarcoon

But once again, the mist wasn’t as bad when I was in it as it looked from above and although my favourite trees at Grainstonehead  had a misty background….

Misty trees grainstonehead

…by the time that I had gone a couple of miles further, the mist had gone and the river was bathed in sunshine.

Esk at Byreburnfoot

As was the tower at the Hollows…..

Hollows Tower

…and the Ewes valley when I had cycled through the town and out of the other side.

Ewes valley

Having cycled a bit along all our three rivers, I felt that it was time to give my ice cold feet a break and head for home and a bit of warmth.  It was still only a meagre 3°C in spite of the sunshine.

When I got back, I had a look at Mrs Tootlepedal’s new path….

garden path

…and went in for a late lunch, pretty happy with 26 miles on such a chilly day.

Mrs Tootlepedal had got some useful gardening in while I was out.

I kept an eye on the birds while I had my lunch.

I could see seven blackbirds round the feeder at one time but couldn’t get them all in one shot so I took some individuals.

blackbird

One popped up onto a hedge to make things easier for me.

blackbird

The goldfinches had given up fighting and were concentrating on eating.

goldfinch eating

goldfinch

While Mrs Tootlepedal went and fetched the car from the garage (it got a clean bill of health), I had time for a shower and some singing practice and then Mike and Alison came round for their regular Friday visit.  They usually come in the evening but once again, we had something to do in the evening so an afternoon visit with music, conversation, tea and shortbread was arranged instead.  All four were very enjoyable.

Making music in the home is always a pleasure but in the evening, we went to the Buccleuch Centre and got real musical joy in spades.

It was the annual visit to the Buccleuch Centre of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for their New Year Viennese Gala.   We are incredibly lucky to get this treat on our doorstep as the Buccleuch Centre concert is their only appearance in the whole of the  south of Scotland, the other three appearances on this tour being in Dunfermline, Inverness and Stirling.

They don’t stint either, bringing a 60 piece orchestra to play a programme designed to bring joy to the hearts of a full house.

The orchestra’s players are not particularly fond of playing in the Buccleuch Centre because they find the acoustic dry and don’t get the feedback that they would wish but I love listening to an orchestra here because of the superb clarity of the music.  Sometimes a big orchestra just makes a big noise but you can hear every instrument in its place here and the excitement of having a 60 piece orchestra playing only a few yards away from you is immense.

As an ex schoolboy viola player myself, I took a particular interest in the viola players in the Roses from the South, a piece we played with our school orchestra.  It seems a bit extravagant in a way to bring a bunch of talented players down and then just make them go “rest, bom, bom” on the same note for bars on end.  But that’s orchestral music for you and it was wonderful to listen them all.

The flying bird of the day is a crowd.

busy feeder

 

 

 

 

 

 

Down came the rain

Today’s guest picture is the first of three starring our son Tony’s dogs.  They were taken by his partner’s daughter Tash on the shores of the Forth and you can see the famous bridges in the background.

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It was a rotten day among rotten days today.  It was raining  when we got up,  it was raining when we drove to Carlisle after breakfast, it was raining while we were in Carlisle and it was raining  as we drove back after lunch.

It rained all afternoon and it was still raining when I sat down to write this in the evening.

It was quite a wet day on the whole.

As a result there wasn’t much to say about it.

We went to Carlisle so that Mrs Tootlepedal could help with organising the music for the new session of our Carlisle choir and I could stock up on necessities like tea, coffee, dates, prunes and raisins.

I tried peering out of the window when we got back but it was hard work.

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The camera could just see the feeder but only just so I didn’t spend a lot of time trying to get a good shot.

The afternoon was cheered up for Mrs Tootlepedal by the arrival of a parcel containing a new steam mop for the kitchen floor and for me by the arrival of a parcel containing a sparkling new food mill for making soup.

I will make a pan of delicious soup tomorrow on a very clean kitchen floor.

I did think about putting on many layers of wet weather gear and going for a pedal but it was just too miserable because as well as being wet, it was fairly chilly too.  In the event, I spent a very quiet afternoon and evening, mainly sitting down.

The two bright nutritional spots of the day were a very good toasted teacake in Carlisle and a tasty evening meal of a thick parsnip and potato pancake embellished with saag aloo.  Mrs Tootlepedal put secret ingredients into them both which worked their magic.

We are promised better weather tomorrow.

A couple of goldfinches competed for the title of flying bird of the day.

goldfinches

 

 

A busy day

Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie, who met one of the Grumpy clan chatting with a friend, while she was on a walk in Regents Park with a friend of her own.

LOndon heron

We were promised a day of rain today after the latest storm passed over us during the night.  The storm knocked our electricity out just before we went to bed and after scrabbling about finding candles and torches and worrying about the freezer, the lights came back on again after about half an hour and we could sleep a bit more easily.

Right enough, it was raining when we got up and I had a rather soggy visit to the Moorland bird feeders to act as a fill-in feeder filler.  It was far too damp and gloomy to take pictures but I nearly had to push this pheasant….

pheasant

…off its perch before it would let me take the feeder down to fill it.

When I got home, the weather improved a bit and Dropscone was able to walk round with a bag of scones to have a cup of coffee.  He is going to Malta soon for a short holiday and hopes that he will get better weather there.

It was raining again as he left.

It stopped again not long afterwards and I got the slow bike out and set off up the road in the hope of getting twelve miles in without getting wet.

Because I was anxious to get my miles in before it started raining again, I only stopped once on my way but I took two pictures.

lichen

Lichen on a bridge parapet.

Winter sunshine up Wauchope

The only sunshine I saw while I was out.

I did get the twelve miles in but I did get a bit wet in the middle of the ride.  I also met Mrs Tootlepedal who was having a ride herself.  She was going in the opposite direction but I knew that she would turn for home soon so after a while, I turned back and joined her for the last mile home.

By the time that we got back, the light had improved again so I looked out of the kitchen window.

In the absence of a suitable robin, a chaffinch posed on the chimney.

chaffinch

A coal tit was busy flying to and from the feeder.

coal tit

And the goldfinches were very busy and dominated the feeder again, though a chaffinch and a greenfinch did try to get a look in.

goldfinches

Sandy had rung up  to ask about a walk so after a light lunch, I met him at the top of Jimmy’s Brae and we walked along to see how the felling of the Becks Wood was going.

We got a little sunshine on the way….

Becks track

There was no action at the wood but the logs had been piled up very neatly.

Becks wood

We walked down the field beside the Becks Burn as it snakes towards the Wauchope Water.

Becks burn

And then we walked back to the town along Gaskell’s Walk.

I was keeping an eye out for moss as we went.  There was any amount to see….

moss

…and many different varieties.

moss

Some small…

moss

…and some large.

moss

It will take some research even to start to get a grip on all this.

moss

Thanks to our damp climate, there is no shortage of learning opportunities.

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In these dark days, it was a cheerful moment when I spotted these.

daffodil shoots

Sandy came on for a cup of tea and a golden biscuit courtesy of a Christmas hamper from our son Tony.  They really are golden.

Then I went off to the health centre to get two injections, one regular and the other to protect me against shingles. The government recently introduced a policy to immunise the elderly against the effects of shingles and I have just come into an age category where I qualify for the jab.  Shingles is a nasty ailment so I was happy to get an extra hole in my arm.

When I got home, I was quite tired for some reason and fell asleep listening to the evening news on the radio.  Considering the state of the news these days, this was probably a sound move.

I did find a flying bird of the day (or two).

flying chaffinch and flying goldfinch

Moss is not always easy to photograph, being a bit green on green so I was playing about with one of today’s not very successful pictures….

moss

…and did this by accident.

moss

I thought it worked out quite well.

You can see Sandy’s take on the walk here.  He took some jolly good pictures.

Every little helps

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Sue who sent me this shot of a Christmas visitor to her bird feeders.

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Either my eyes are getting dimmer (and my camera’s sensor too) or the cloudy days are getting greyer and greyer.  It was a really miserable day today with very little light filtering through from above so it was just as well that there were things to do indoors while the rain pattered down outside.

Mrs Tootlepedal did some serious clearing out of our utility room and I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

I did look out of the window from time to time but there was not much to see.  Just a lot of raindrops…

raindrops

…a soggy looking siskin…

wet siskin

….and a clueless coal tit.

coal tit

The utility room clear out led to many agonising decisions regarding throwing away things that had sat unused and unloved at the back of the same shelf for thirty years but which were still obviously entirely necessary for the well being of the house and/or far too good to throw away.

We managed to get rid of quite a lot of stuff.

After lunch, the weather improved to the extent that it actually stopped raining but it was still tremendously grey.  Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some shopping and I got out the slow bike again and set off for a short spin.

Although it looked very gloomy when I started, it improved a little and I got an hour of gentle pedalling in before I thought it was dark enough to come in again.

I did take a camera with me but it wasn’t a day for cheery scenic photographs so I concentrated on some water shots and visited a couple of my favourite little cascades on the mighty Wauchope.

wauchope cascade

After the rain, there was a fair bit of water coming down the river…

wauchope cascade

…with more rushing to join it from across the road.

wauchope cascade

I did basically the same ten mile trip up to Callister and back as I had done yesterday but put in a diversion to Cleuchfoot to add an extra couple of miles.   This took me across the Glencorf Burn…

Glencorf burn

…which has a handy sheep catching gate.

Glencorf burn

There was not much to see today but a couple of well furnished fence post tops caught my eye.

My lichen grip is sketchy but this might be Parmelia sulcata or a similar lichen

lichen on fence post

It looked very striking on a dull day.

The second fence post was more varied and seems to have two different sorts of lichen on it.

lichen on fence post

I put one of these images into the Google image search and it suggested that it might be a lilac!  Maybe AI still has a bit to go.

When I got home, we were visited by Mike Tinker, who had enjoyed his walk yesterday too.  When we told him that Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing some heavy  “spring cleaning” in winter, he told us not to mention it to his wife Alison under any circumstances.  Mike likes a quiet life.

If you read this Alison, it was just a little decluttering, nothing serious at all.

My ambition to eat a bit less has been hampered by the fact that I keep on eating more.  I am afraid that 12 miles on the slow bike won’t do much good but it can’t do any harm so I will continue to take any small window of cycling opportunity that appears in the gloom and hope for some better light to go with it.

No chance at all of a flying bird of the day today so a paddling blackbird will have to do instead.

paddling blackbird