Quiet day in

Today’s picture features the return of the waxwing (but only one)

waxwingThe high spot of a rather gloomy, wet day was spotting this lonely waxwing perched on the topmost branch of the walnut tree. It stopped fpr a while and then went to wherever waxwings go.

There was no cycling this morning because of a very ferocious weather forecast which in the event did not come to pass. I was going to pedal in the afternoon but every time I went to get ready, it started to rain so in the end I gave up and sat down to as much work on the heritage DVD as I could stand. I am now in the position where I have probably got more material than I need and I should start arranging and trimming the stuff I have. The real problem is the almost limitless number of possibilities that there are for presenting the story. Choosing just one is hard as it means discarding other ideas which might be just as good. In the end you have to get your head down and charge at it.

KevanWork on the house continues and Kevan Hotson turned up to fix some loose tiles on the roof. This is timely with winter approaching. He cleaned out a gutter too so we are good condition for the fierce weather now.

My daughter Annabel has posted some pictures of her walks round London on Picasa and I have stolen one of her pictures of tree trunks and added it to Mrs Tootlepedal’s page.

In the evening, I went to the Archive Centre with Sandy and Jean and did some work on the E and L index. This was slightly confused by the fact that the people who prepared the microfiches we use had copied one page of the paper twice. It took me quite a long time to work out what had happened. (The unkind might ask how it was possible to tell if it was the same page copied twice or just another edition of the E and L. The date gave it away.)

While we were drinking our beer, Sandy suggested that I should have a category on the blog for moans but there is no need for that, it would just be the same number as there are blogs.


Today’s picture gives an inkling of the continuous action at the bird feeders in the mornings. There are at least four goldfinches, a bluetit and a chaffinch waiting his turn.crowd

Mrs Tootlepedal and I watched a telly programme on garden birds which bewailed the loss of the sparrow. I think I know the answer, they are all up here.

The day started as a day should with a turn round the morning cycle ride with Dropscone. His breathing had recovered a lot from yesterday and we got round on a very windy day in our standard time of 1hr 20mins for the 20.8 mile ride. Coffee was accompanied by some M&S Belgian chocolate biscuits which Mrs Tootlepedal had bought for a treat. This all made for a good start to the day.


Ross and Gary weighing up the job

In the afternoon the joiner and his mate came to start work on the hall floor. The plan is to rip up the present carpet, lay down a plywood base and then cover it with a hard wearing easy to clean surface.




The carpet gone

Part one was achieved quite easily.




The plywood down

Part two followed with a lot of jigsaw skill from the joiners as in a house of this age nothing as square. But it all looks very promising.



In the evening, while Mrs Tootlepedal was out rehearsing, I put in another week of the E&L index. We are making good progress and are already a quarter of the way through 1877.

And look, here is another sparrow.

A Week out

Today’s picture is the sitting room, nicely painted by Mrs Tootlepedal. We await a carpet now.sitting room

It looks very roomy with the bookcases out but when the carpet is out down, the book cases will have to come back as there is nowhere else to put them.

I had thought that I was going to Carlisle to see the eye department at the Carlisle Infirmary but that turned out to be next week so I went out on the morning run with Dropscone instead. His chest is not as well as it should be so we pottered round but were rewarded by a packet or two of so called angel slices with our cup of coffee. These were a triumph of Dropscone’s purchasing skills, having been reduced from £1.59 to 25p.

When we got back from the ride, Mrs Tootlepedal reminded me that I was giving a talk at lunchtime at the Buccleuch Centre. Someone had rung her up to see if she was coming to the lunch and it was lucky that they did because being in the wrong week as it were, I had forgotten all about it. Fortunately everything was ready for the talk and it went well. It was a repeat of a talk with slides of Langholm from the Archive collection which I had given to the Walking Festival visitors in June so it was no great hardship to give it again and some of the pictures were new even to people who had lived in Langholm all their lives.

In the evening, I went with Dropscone’s daughter Susan to Carlisle for recorders. One of our members was not there because she too was delivering a talk. She had achieved fame by being featured (on the left)  in this fine picture in the Cumberland News last week. Sue Thomson

She is a welfare benefits co-ordinator for a local specialist support agency and the reason for her appearance in the paper was that her agency is so busy that they for the first time are having to turn clients away. This is because of changes to the Employment Support Allowance.  This is bad news because if they are having to turn people away now, what is it going to be like when the cuts really start to bite. This is part of the government’s wizard wheeze of getting all those shirkers off disability benefits and into non existent jobs. It is left to people like Sue to try to pick up the pieces in an ever more intolerable situation. She is a hero.


Anyway, even without Sue, the playing was most enjoyable tonight with a rich variety of early music. Drposcone’s daughter, Susan, is off to Abu Dhabi for a week to watch the Grand Prix so we shall be without her for the next fortnight.

On a happy note, the worms in the wormery seem to have survived the recent cold snap.

Winter draws on

Today’s picture is a winter jasmine by the back door


November started with a  decided chill but with no wind so conditions were not bad for the morning ride with Dropscone.  It was about 4 degrees when we set off but I was well wrapped up and felt no pain. Dropscone had picked up some muffins at a reduced price and we had these with our coffee. He had also obtained some nice bright cycle lights which should stand me in good stead in the forthcoming months.

blue titYesterday this blue tit was just about the only visitor to the bird feeders all day. It was almost as though the others had taken a Sunday off as a day of rest in spite of the lovely weather (or maybe because of the lovely weather; perhaps they had gone to the beach).

goldfinchToday our regular visitors returned, blue tits, chaffinches, all sorts of sparrows and goldfinches. There was even a starling on a feeder at one time.sparrow

I don’t what sort of sparrow this is; perhaps someone can tell me.



I do know this is a chaffinch and it often likes to pose on this particular branch before approaching the feeders.

I went shopping in the afternoon to get some meat and veg for my tea  and then came home and cooked a stew which should last for three days.

Winter means the start of the slot car racing season in the Old Town Bowling Club pavilion.

The unpromising pile of wood at the back of the garage is collected by Les and Grant  in a Latimer’s van, taken to the bowling club..

..and transformed

Les, Grant and Shona, the track erection team


in an hour or so first into this:



The track on the trestles


And then into this.



We have a week off next week but racing should commence in a fortnight. It is a fine way to spend a dark winter’s night.

My sister Susan forwarded me some photographs of my brother Andrew in New Zealand. He had gone to climb up a prominent height near Wellington. Do the New Zealanders have a sense of humour? It is hard to tell.

Colonial Knob

and here’s the man himself..

Andrew resting on the way up

Couldn’t be better

Today’s flower is a poached egg plant which is lurking near the pond.

poached egg plant

When I went to bed last night, I had a sore elbow, the clocks were going back and my asthma wasn’t the best. When I woke up this morning, the sun was out, my elbow was more or less cured and my breathing was excellent. I got the bike out and pedalled down to Newtown, which is on the Roman Wall just before Brampton. There was a light wind behind me and the traffic was very light and all was well with the world. Even going back home wasn’t too bad. The forecast rain stayed away, the wind didn’t get any stronger and I did the 40 miles at only fractionally under 16mph. Considering that I was going very steadily and not pushing my breathing at all, I was very well pleased with the whole morning. The only fly in the ointment was that I had forgotten to take my new little camera with me.

Langholm castleI was so cross with myself for missing an opportunity to capture the beautiful weather and views on my ride that I took my other camera out and roved about taking pictures around the Castleholm in Langholm.

The shot of Langholm Castle was taken from across the Esk ….esk




…….where I also saw this heron.heron

While I was taking the heron a flock of seagulls swept past and I just managed to catch one as it disappeared up river.


This is going to be a picture heavy blog so I will just stick in a set which I took from the Lodge walks on the other side of the Castleholm without comment.

lodge gates

After all that snapping, I went home for lunch just as Mrs Tootlepedal was setting out for her pantomime rehearsal. When she got back, she went for a walk and took several pictures which I have posted on her page. I can promise you a tree trunk.

While I was getting her photos off her camera, I noticed this excellent snap from a day or two ago of two old gentlemen enjoying a well earned cup of coffee. The sharp eyed among you will spot the bird book on the table open at the waxwing page.

Dropscone and Tootlepedal
Dropscone and Tootlepedal

Darkness falls

Today’s plant is a poached egg plant lurking near the pond.poached egg plant

Our B&B visitors for tonight arrived early to leave a car, as they were meeting at Langholm from opposite directions before going off together to visit our prehistoric trail. They are the first visitors we have had who have come specifically to visit the trail. It was good to see them because the trail is certainly worth a visit and is very under publicised. The tourist board has never had a good record of trying to get people to visit Langholm.

After they came and went, I made some leek and potato soup for an early lunch and went off to play golf in the winter competition. There was a good turnout today and conditions were not too bad for golf, although it was pretty windy.

I played, as usual, with Arthur at the back of the field. It was lucky that we were at the back and could take our time as Arthur was not in very good condition, probably because he gone fishing in the morning before the golf. It was the last day of the fishing season today and he didn’t want to miss it but at eighty, it puts a bit of a strain on the constitution to do both in the same day. Anyway, we got round but without scoring very well. I did get a two at a short hole which made the day worthwhile. The competition was won by Chuck, our cycling companion of Thursday, obviously benefiting from his superior fitness after our run.

crushed walnutWhen I got back from the golf, I took the camera out into the garden because the light looked attractive. As I walked along the back path, my foot crunched into something and when I investigated, I found this walnut.

walnutsOn searching about I found a few more and took them into the house as Mrs Tootlepedal likes walnuts. She found two of them were worth eating and this was quite good as usually the walnuts don’t come to anything much this far north.

sky ten to fiveAs the clocks go back tonight, this will be the last time that I can go out in the garden in daylight at 5 o’clock until next spring evening sky2 4.50so I took a couple of shots of the sky just to remind myself in the months ahead that the sun does sometimes shine.

By the evening, my left elbow had become very sore indeed. The diagnosis is old age but I also think the guilty party may be pictured below.lawn

Token blog

A bit of colour from the gardencolour

Just a quick blog on Saturday morning because I couldn’t do one last night because the internet connection for Edinburgh, Glasgow and Langholm went off in the evening for several hours and it was still off when I went to bed. Fortunately, it was a pretty dull day yesterday anyway. There was no cycling in the morning because of wind and rain and by the time the weather improved enough to have a pedal, I was stuck indoors waiting for B&B guests to arrive. The weather was so gloomy that I couldn’t even while away the time taking candid bird snaps.

In the evening things brightened up a little and I had very pleasant tootle with Mrs Tinker. We are working on a Handel sonata in C and gentle progress is being made. I enjoyed an after-tootle bottle of wine with Dr Tinker and so the day was not an entire write off.


Today’s picture is of a new cyclist joining our morning rideChuck

Dropscone and I were delighted to welcome a new member onto the morning ride team. Like Dropscone, Chuck Muir had been a rugby referee so I was on my best behaviour in case I got sent off. It was a pleasure to have an extra rider with us, because it lets me hide behind  someone else from the wind for two thirds of the journey instead of only half. Chuck started off at a great speed so as not to slow us regulars down but we soon got him steadied up to a speed that we could keep up with. In the end we had a good ride in very pleasant weather and achieved a more than respectable time. We hope to see Chuck again but he works shifts as a school janitor so it may be some time before he joins us.

I was hoping to see the waxwings again and in the end some did turn up. One of our neighbours told me that they had completely stripped his rowan tree of berries yesterday so there was not much left for them to eat today.waxwing By the time they came the weather had turned very dull and wet so there wasn’t much of an opportunity for classy snapshots and this was the best I could get.

finchHowever, as a consolation, the goldfinches and friends were out in force before the weather got too grey and I was able to catch one or two on the feeder. One of the things I like about them is that they are very tidy eaters and don’t throw seed about as though there was no tomorrow.


Usually they seem to like the niger seeds but today the peanuts were the food of choice. I would like to have enough knowledge to know what makes the birds behave the way they do but I still get a lot of pleasure looking at their little ways. My friend Mr Gill was at Caerlaverock today looking at birds and he said that there were a lot of siskins there so perhaps we can expect some over here soon.

tit and finchFor example on the knowledge front, why were there no sparrows on this feeder today at all when there are usually lots of them fighting among themselves for a peck at the nuts? There were one or two blue tits and the goldfinches are very relaxed about sharing a feeder with them.

blue tit

If you think I spend a lot of time watching birds, it wouldn’t be quite true. I leave the camera up on a tripod at the window and have a quick peek every time I pass through. Often there is nothing of interest but if there is, I take a picture. At the end of the day (and I mean that literally not metaphorically) I throw ten times as many away as I keep.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went out to give a lecture to the Langholm Ladies’ Burns club on “Stump Work”, which is a form of embroidery and I went to the Archive Centre to do some work on the E&L index,  followed by a refreshing pint in the Douglas. In a rather charming mistake, the powers that be put the Langholm Town Hall clock back a week early so Langholm has been behind the time all week. It doesn’t seem to have made much difference for some reason.


Today I lead with a picture of my favourite bird of the moment, a goldfinch. They keep coming to the feeders in large numbers and I enjoy looking at them a lot.

Better weather meant a go round the morning ride with Dropscone. With characteristic forgetfulness, I set off without my helmet and when I went back to get it, I noticed a strange bird on an electricity wire in the garden. I knocked on the window to draw Mrs Tootlepedal’s attention to it and set off. We got round in good order and returned for our coffee as usual. There was a note on the table to say that the mystery bird was a waxwing. Mrs Tootlepedal returned from an errand and announced that there had been a flock of them on the walnut tree and that she had taken a few pictures with her camera. I was sorry that I had missed the opportunity.

Dropscone left and Mrs Tootlepedal and I set about moving first all the books from the sitting room bookshelves and then the bookshelves themselves into the front room so that the wall could be papered and painted in the same style as the rest of the room.

The bookcases were rather crowded but they won’t have to stay there for too long, we hope.

I had a meeting in the room in the early evening but luckily it wasn’t very well attended so there was room for all.


Anyway, while we were doing this, Mrs Tootlepedal cried, “They’re back.” Sure enough a flock of waxwings had descended onto the walnut tree. There were so many that it looked as though the leaves had floated back onto the tree by magic.

This time I had the camera ready and rushed out. Even with my zoom lens, the birds were rather small and rather far away on the top of the tree but I did my best. The birds came and went throughout the rest of the day and it will be interesting to see if they come again tomorrow. They are not interested in the feeders, having a taste for berries instead. I have put a number of attempts to catch them into a gallery at the bottom of this page.

In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went to the AGM of the Langholm Initiative and enjoyed some lively discussions with people who, unlike us, feel that the Initiative could have done better.

A dead parrot

Today’s picture is a cheat. It was so gloomy and wet today that no cheery picture was available so I have borrowed this one from my sister Mary’s gorgeous  Picasa album taken during her walk of yesterday morning. It is of  Kenwood House.Kenwood

No cycling today because of bad weather but fortunately Dropscone lived up to his name and appeared at coffee time with a bag of newly minted drop scones which disappeared in short order with a bit of help from yesterday’s raspberry jam.

goldfinchI put the camera up more in hope than expectation but the goldfinches are hardy characters and turned up to keep me happy. They are lovely birds to look at and are quite good at standing still too so that even in gloomy weather, you get some sort of a picture.

GoldfinchThere was not much bird feeder activity today but it was a lot more than yesterday. In spite of the sunny weather yesterday, the low temperatures seemed to keep the birds away. Perhaps they would lose more body heat coming to the feeder than they can get from feeding there.


In the afternoon, I spent a good deal of time working through the recording of a retired mill owner and taking out the remarks that would land me in court if I put them on the DVD. They made me laugh a lot and I wish I could put them on. He was a Yorkshireman though so you can expect what is politely called bluntness.

In the evening Mrs Tootlepedal went out to the AGM of Bonnie Langholm, the hanging basket group, and I put in a week of the E&L index. In the end, although it was a horrid wet, windy day, I used my time quite well.

The exotic bird pictured below came to cheer us up but I suspect that Mrs Tootlepedal’s hand might have been behind its appearance in the plum tree.

This bird is sick