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Today’s guest picture is another insect from Derby’s shopping centre as spotted by my brother Andrew.  I am still not clear what the insects are doing there.

derby insect

The man in the gritter lorry whom I met yesterday was obviously doing useful work as this was the scene that greeted us when we got up this morning.

snowstorm march

Although it was coming down in great lumps, the snow was actually quite sleety and after some initial settling…

snowy hellebores march

…it soon melted away leaving just a suggestion on the lawns…

snowy lawn march

…although the hilltops were still showing a good covering.

monument in snow march

It was sleeting so hard at ten o’clock that we drove the few hundred yards to the church in our car instead of cycling as we usually do.  There, as part of a small choir of seven, we sang as lustily as we could.

The snow had stopped by the time that we got home and the chaffinches were coming to collect their food in large numbers…

lots of chaffinches

…and the feeder, which I had filled before going to church, was visibly going down.

very busy feeder

Some thought it better to take a moment away from the mayhem and reflect on life from the top of the sunflower stalk.

chaffinch on the stalk

Among the chaffinches an occasional goldfinch turned up….

busy feeder chaffinches

…but they might have been better staying at home as the sparowhawk paid us a visit and one of the goldfinches was not paying enough attention as the other birds flew off at top speed.

hawk on lawn with goldfinch

It is sad to see one of our little birds come to such an unfortunate end but sparrowhawks need food too.

It didn’t take long for small birds to return to the feeder and they got the bonus of a ray of sunshine to warm them when they got there.

two siskins after the hawk

A couple of larger visitors also put in an appearance.  A blackbird did some paddling…

blackbird in tray

…and a jackdaw looked around for a new bit of the middle lawn to peck up.

jackdaw on lawn

After lunch, we went off to combine a little shopping with our Carlisle Community Choir practice.

The shopping went well as we had remembered our shopping list for once and we not only got everything on the list, but one or two other items which jumped into our trolley as we went along.  Still, you can’t have too much cheese in my view.

The choir practice was very enjoyable and after concentrating almost entirely on competition songs since the new year, it was good to get some new material to work on.  All the same, we are going to sing the three competition songs again this Thursday when we sing in the Carlisle Music Festival.  I hope my memory is up to the job.

The choir’s committee have been very active in ensuring that it is a genuine community choir open to anyone who wants to join, and members often sing in care homes and on other occasions when asked  by local organisations.  As a result, we have received a handsome cheque from the National Lottery to help our work and this was celebrated during our tea break.

dav

In a welcome sign of longer days in spite of the snow, it was still light when we got home after the practice, although the thermometer only showed a miserable 1°C.  The forecast for the next week is for very changeable, cool and windy weather though so the longer days may not be of much use to us for gardening or cycling.

After eating slow cooked mince with potatoes and broccoli for our evening meal, we finished off with a bowl of semolina, an ideal way to end a cold and wintery day.

One of the chaffinch horde is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who was alarmed to see some bears while he was out on a walk  in the town.  He calmed down when he noticed that there was a stout fence between them and him.

bears townfoot

It was a very unreliable day today as far as both the weather and the weather forecast went.  The forecast changed every time that I looked at it and the weather changed even more frequently.  At one moment the sun shone brightly and at the next it was raining or even sleeting.  There was one consistent factor however, a strong and cruel wind that cut like a knife.

As a result, I gave up any thoughts of cycling and watched the birds for a bit.  There are still plenty of them to watch at the moment, with twenty or thirty chaffinches and goldfinches on the plum tree and at the feeder….

invading chaffinches

…and siskins hanging about too.

siskin acrobat

There finally came a moment after coffee when the weather seemed to be set fair for long enough to let me out for a short walk, so I chanced my arm and went for a stroll round Easton’s and Gaskell’s Walks.

There was blossom in the park…

blossom in park

..and plenty of signs of wild garlic growing on the bank beside the river as I went along Easton’s.

wild garlic shoots

Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t like this walk much as she thinks that the trees don’t look quite well grounded enough…

bare roots

…and she may well be right as there are always little landslips happening along the path and many of the trees are leaning in a threatening manner, but I got along safely today.

As I turned back up the hill at the end of the riverside track, I saw a rich bank of moss…

mossy bank

…and the promise of a good show of bluebells to come later on in the spring.

bluebell shoots

When I got up to the Stubholm there were more signs of spring…

hawthorn buds

…and as long as I could keep out of the wind, it was a very pleasant day for a walk.

stubholm path

I didn’t dawdle though as I went along Gaskell’s because I wouldn’t have enjoyed being out in a heavy rain shower so I kept my camera in my pocket and stretched my legs until I was well on the way home.  Then I stopped to appreciate a tree at Wauchope Kirkyard…

graveyard tree

…and an ash twig on the road down to Pool Corner…

ash twig…and some alder catkins beside the caul.

alder catkins pool corner

The daffodils along the road sides are just beginning to come out, although it will be a week or two at least before they are out in full force.

daffodils moodla point

I got back home to find Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden, making metaphorical hay while the sun shone..  I looked around and was happy to see the first chionodoxa of the year.

chionodoxa

We went in for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to her monthly Embroiderers’ Guild meeting and I settled down to watch Scotland getting beaten by Wales in the Six Nations rugby tournament.  I was so certain that we were going to get beaten that I ended up  mildly pleased when we give the Welsh a good fright before going down.  Even a blatant but unpenalised forward pass in the run up to the first Welsh try failed to significantly dent my equilibrium.

After Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her meeting, another spell of sunny weather tempted me out for a second short walk, this time over three bridges.

Once again, the sunny weather made for a cheerful scene but the  sharp eyed…

Castle Hill and gritter

…will notice a bright yellow gritting vehicle parked on the Kilngreen.  The driver told me that he had been out gritting the country roads to the west and north of the town as frost and snow to quite low levels are expected tomorrow.

Mr Grumpy was out enjoying the evening sunshine while he could and as I passed…

heron one leg

…he raised a languid foot in greeting.

heron two legs

On the Castleholm, I stopped for a chat with a camera club member, retired postman Stan, and by the time that we had finished talking, the sun was dropping behind the hills. It was getting quite chilly so once again, I put more effort into walking than snapping and only stopped to salute some willows at the Jubilee Bridge…

willow

…before hurrying along to get to home and some welcome warmth.

It started to rain again not long after I had got in.

Quite apart form the forecast of sleet or snow for tomorrow, it looks as though the unsettled weather is going to continue for at least a week so my cycling mileage for the month (zero miles so far) is likely to be very poor.  I don’t much mind cold conditions and I can cope with wind if it is dry and I can live with some rain if it is not too windy but I have passed the age when cycling in cold, wind and rain at the same time has any appeal at all.  I will try to sneak in as many walks as I can between showers.

The flying bid of the day is one of the large flock of chaffinches.

flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia who got to see the wonderful Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, better known perhaps as the Victoria Falls, on her African trip.

Victoria Falls

Our spell of very poor cycling and photographing weather continued with yet more rain, accompanied by a chilly wind today to make matters worse.  We had had a clear spell but as it had been over night, all it gave us was an early morning frost and then it went away.

Since it was actually Susan’s birthday today, we pulled out all the stops to celebrate the occasion.

susan's birthday

It could hardly have been grander.

Sadly, the birthday girl didn’t stay long as she had arranged to meet my brother and one of my other sisters in Derby for another celebratory meal so Mrs Tootlepedal took her off to catch the train south from Carlisle.

I stayed at home as I had had enough driving yesterday and went up to theArchive Centre base to put a new ink cartridge in our printer.  To my relief, I had ordered the correct one and the printer worked.

When I got home, I watched the birds for a bit.

The feeder is going down very steadily at the moment and needs to be filled at least once a day.  I put this down to the siskins who are regular visitors and keen eaters…

four siskins

…and keen arguers too.

siskins attack each other

There are still plenty of chaffinches ready to make a dash for the feeder when the siskins go off.

pair of incoming chaffinches

I did go out for a walk round the garden but it was too wet and windy to be fun.

daffodil in wet

I made some soup for my lunch and settled down to a quiet afternoon of doing the crossword and putting music on to the computer.

I did look out of the window at one point and I saw two partridges in the garden (right under the pear tree) so I went out to try to get a picture, but they sloped off before I could shoot them.

Luckily for me, one turned up later just outside the kitchen window and…

partridge head turned

…gave me a hard stare and portrait pose.

partridge

While I was looking at the partridge, I noticed a blackbird so I took a gloomy shot just to record that it had been there….

blackbird

…and then a sparrow popped up too.

sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely, having visited a garden centre where she made many judicious purchases, including a tiny plant just for me. I hope to show pictures of its development if I can mange to keep it alive.

It is an argyranthemum.

Argyranthemum

I have put it in a pot and watered it and it hasn’t died yet.  A good start, I think.

In the evening we went off to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a performance by an enterprising troupe of Japanese style drummers, Mugenkyo Taiko, who are based in southern Scotland, not far from us.  We have seen them before and enjoyed them so we were in optimistic mood as we settled down for the concert.

We were not disappointed and thoroughly enjoyed the evening.   I had a minor grump as they brought fewer drummers with them than before, and so there was more talking this time to allow them to recover between numbers.   The grump was only because, if offered a choice, I would much prefer to hear a Taiko drummer drumming than hear him or her talking.  Still the chat was educational so I shouldn’t grumble.

For those who are interested to find out what a Japanese style drumming group are doing in Scotland, here is a link to their website.

There were five drummers tonight and when they were all busy at the same time knocking six bells out of their instruments, it made a powerful and moving sound.

A stately chaffinch outshone the siskins when it came to the choice of flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

After my brother Andrew’s artistic nut weevil yesterday, today’s guest picture from Venetia’s African adventure shows the real thing, dung beetles on elephant droppings.  You can hardly get more down to earth than that.

dung beetles

We had a busy day.  We just had time for a cup of coffee and a quick wave at the birds on our feeder…

four bords at feeder

…before setting off to drive the 40 miles to Tweedbank to catch the train to Edinburgh with my sister Susan.  It is her 85th birthday tomorrow and she was anxious to celebrate this auspicious occasion a day early by meeting our two sons and their partners and especially Matilda whom she has never met.

We managed to combine this with some cultural activity and as soon as we had got off the train, we visited the City Art Centre which is conveniently right next to the station.  Here we had some nourishing soup and sourdough bread in the cafe and then went to explore an exhibition of Edinburgh street photography of the 1950s and 1960s by Robert Blomfield, a medical student and later a doctor in the city.

We had been advised to see this exhibition by Sandy and his advice was very sound.  It turned out to be wonderful.   You can get a taste of what we saw here, though the website’s images don’t convey the full power of the prints that we saw.

After we had visited the exhibition, we were joined at the art gallery’s cafe by our son Tony and his partner Marianne who came from their work to see us. We had an hour of good conversation, tea and a fancy cake with them. I congratulated Tony on the many excellent photographs which he has taken while walking his dogs and whihc I have used as guest pictures of the day.  When it was time for them to go home (to walk their dogs), we walked along the road a few hundred yards, crossing over the railway station and heading for the National Gallery under which the trains disappear.

nat gallery from waverley

On our way along Princes Street, I was struck by these hard working little fellows holding the world on their shoulders.

princes street

The Scottish National Gallery is not particularly large but it holds a delightful selection of works and I recorded some of my favourites on my phone as we went along.

burst

dav

dav

This still life was painted in oils on copper and it gave it a tremendously vivid quality.

dav

Some of us needed a moment to recover from the sensory overload.

susan napping 85th

We left the gallery and walked past the Scottish Academy….

scottish academy

…back down to Princes Street where we caught a bus which took us down Leith Walk where we met Matilda, who had kindly brought our son Alistair and his wife Clare to have a meal with us at an Italian restaurant.

Once again, we enjoyed good conversation while we ate.  The restaurant is very well adjusted to coping with children and gives them a sheet of puzzles and some crayons to pass the time while their elders chatter on.  Here we can see Matilda explaining the finer points of one of the puzzles to her mother.

mde

After we finished the meal and before we parted company, Matilda showed us her latest dance routine in the street while her father moved along beside her, playing the music from his phone.

mde

She is going to her first dancing competition next month and has learned her routine very well already.

As she danced off to go to bed, we caught a bus back to the railway station, jumped on the train back to Tweedbank with a minute to spare and enjoyed a trouble free journey home to round off a most satisfactory day where everything ran like clockwork for once.

We have to thank my sister Susan for suggesting such a good way to spend a day.

Today’s flying bird is having a quiet moment of peace as it wonders if there is a screw loose somewhere.

siskin

 

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who came across this giant nut weevil in his local supermarket.

weevil

After another night of rain here, I went out after breakfast to check on the state of the river and was surprised by how low it was.

fairly full Esk

I was expecting quite a spate but although it had rained steadily for some time, it had obviously not rained very hard and the river drainage system had coped very well.

It kept raining for most of the day so I had another quiet morning indoors, keeping an eye on the goings on at the feeder.

Siskins were very active in the shouting department, most aimed at passing chaffinches.

Sometimes they shouted up….

siskin shout up at a chaffinch

…and sometimes they shouted down…

siskin shout down at a chaffinch

…and sometimes two of them got in on the act and shouted horizontally in unison.

two siskins shout at a chaffinch

All in all, it was quite a busy morning….

very busy feeder

…although there was time for quiet reflection on the weather too.

goldfinch in the rain

In the afternoon, I went down to Carlisle station…

dig

…where I enjoyed the contrast between the wall panels of steam driven giants of the past and the less glamorous diesel railcars in use today.

 

dig

I wasn’t there to train spot though.  We are being visited by my eldest sister Susan who is on a birthday tour of her young relatives in Scotland and will be coming to Edinburgh with us tomorrow to visit our two sons and their families.  I was in Carlisle to collect her from the London train.

Her train arrived on time to the exact minute and we drove back to Langholm where Susan was greeted by some delightful fairy cakes cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

In the evening, Susan kindly took us out for a meal at the Douglas Hotel and while she and Mrs Tootlepedal enjoyed a leisurely coffee before going home, I scurried off to a Langholm Sings choir practice.

They day ended in quiet conversation centred upon the deplorable state of politics and the country.

I hope that the weather is kind to us as we go to Edinburgh tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin (in the rain).

flying siskin

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who took a trip to the country at the weekend and came upon this delightful scene.

amersham

We had a thoroughly soggy day here today with rain almost uninterrupted from dawn until dusk.

Under the circumstances, a visit from Dropscone for coffee was more than usually welcome.  He has been to the physiotherapist whom I have recently visited in an attempt to get one of his legs working less painfully.  He has exercises to do and I will be interested to see how he goes.

In view of the rain, I spent an idle day indoors, sometimes looking out of the window to check on the birds..

awkward landing for chaffinch

…who came in a steady stream.

two chaffinches approaching

It was mostly a day for chaffinches…

four chaffinches appraching

…with the occasional siskin and the even more occasional goldfinch, one of whom was most indignant to see a chaffinch encroaching on his personal perch space.

goldfinch views chaffinch with suspicion

I did go out in the late afternoon to check on the height of the rivers after several hours of rain but it was not remarkable enough to warrant an illustration.  I will look again tomorrow.

Otherwise I had a desultory sort of day, reading the papers, putting new songs to learn into the computer, practising my flute and singing, and mooching around with the air of a man who would be doing something useful if only he could think what it was.

In the end, I remembered what it was, and put a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group database.

While I had been idle, Mrs Tootlepedal had been hard at work.  She helped out with a very busy lunch service at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop for two hours and spent a lot of time at home working on a patchwork horse rug for you know who.

rocking horse blanket

We are still waiting for the saddle and bridle to arrive from the rocking horse shop.

Unsurprisingly, a chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.

horizonal flying chaffinch

Today’s guest picture finds my Somerset correspondent, Venetia on the Ovango River.  It looks like a good place to be.

Okavango River

After yesterday’s gadding about all over the country, I planned for a quiet day at home today, starting with a cup of coffee with Sandy.

There was a slight hiccup in the proposed placidity when fellow archivist Nancy phoned me up to say that one of the microfiche readers in the Archive Centre wasn’t working.  I cycled up and after a great deal of head scratching, I took some advice from Sandra, another archivist, searched online for solution and found one.  Phew. I cycled home again.

Sandy was in good form when he arrived and we hope to be able to get out for a walk soon.

When he left, I watched the birds for a bit and once again there was a fair bit of action on the feeder.  Chaffinches flew in double handed…

two chaffinches incoming

…but the siskins were more than up to defending a perch.

chaffinch and siskin arguing

A collared dove was an oasis of peace and quiet in a furiously fluttering feathery world.

collared dove

The snow from last night had disappeared and from time to time the sun came out and shone on the siskins…

siskin posing in sunshine

…and I even thought of a gentle pedal.  However I went out to help Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden instead and trimmed a couple of berberis bushes.  Then I made some soup for lunch and after we had eaten it, I went out to help in the garden again.

Since we are making new soft fruit beds this year, the old ones are being re-purposed so I dug over the old raspberry and strawberry beds…

rasps and strawbs dug up

…and after some work on the gap  between them, they will become the the home for the potatoes this year.

We also put the Christmas tree in its new place…

christmas tree planted out 2019

…where it will sit quietly until next December.  It is looking healthy and sturdy so we have every hope that it will see a bauble or two when the time comes.

It is sitting beside the remains of our rhubarb patch.

early rhubarb

I saw quite a few daffodils on my travels yesterday and we are getting more out here in the garden every day now.

daffodil

I went in for a sit down, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal working away outside and then Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea.  He is much better after having had a chest infection and it is good to see him getting out and about again.

When he left, I went out for a  quick three bridges walk just to stretch my legs.

A dipper stood on a rock in the turbulence of the Meeting of the Waters and showed off the special white nictitating eye membrane which keep its eyes protected when it is dipping.

over the shoulder dipper

A cluster of ducks lurked behind daffodils on the bank at the Kilngreen…

three ducks

…and a bit further upstream, a second dipper was doing some lurking of its own.

hidden dipper

I was hoping to take more pictures but there was a large crowd of children and parents on the Castleholm attending a running event so I passed by and made my way home without lingering, stopping only to record two more signs of spring, a willow at the Jubilee Bridge…

willow bud

…and some blackthorn in bloom beside the Esk.

blackthorn

I got home in time to meet Luke for our regular flute lesson.  We had a hard working half hour, trying to develop the correct style in our playing.

That concluded the excitement for the day.

There are two flying chaffinches of the day today as I couldn’t choose between them.

There is the vertical lady…

flying chaffinch vertical

…and the horizontal gent.

flyimng chaffinch horizontal