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

Frosty reception

Today’s flower is a flourishing sedum when nearly everything else has been demolished by this morning’s below zero temperature. It’s been featured before but I thought it deserved extra credit for hardiness.


The frosty morning meant that Dropscone and I had to abandon any thought of the morning ride. It was a beautiful day in spite of the cold and as I looked out of the window while I sipped on a  cup of coffee, I could see the leaves spiralling down from the walnut tree as the sun melted the frost. They fell like enormous flakes of snow and the whole scene was rather eerie as the leaves seemed to be falling for no reason. walnutI took a picture of the tree later in the day when it was looking rather forlorn. The weather tomorrow is forecast to be very bad so I expect by tomorrow evening, the tree will be pretty well bare.

Belted Galloway

I went round the morning run in the afternoon by which time the temperature had reached a sweltering seven degrees. I was well wrapped up and because of that and the fact that my asthma doesn’t take very kindly to breathing in cold air, I kept going at a steady pace and stopped to take a couple of pictures on the way.

The first was of a belted Galloway, one of a local breed of cattle. It is good to see this local breed being kept on the go. The next was at the five miles to go point where I could look over the top of a house towards the monument on the the top of Whita Hill. ViewIt shows what a beautiful day it was. On my return, I did a bit more work on the sound files for the mill history section of the Heritage DVD we are working on. It is a time consuming, fiddly type of work and I am slightly haunted by the feeling that however much work I do, the end result will not be very good. But I keep plugging away and we shall see.

In the evening, just before dark, I went out to see if there were any raspberries surviving. I was pleasantly surprised at their hardiness and was able to pick enough to make a pound and a bit of jam. The jam cupboard is well stocked up for the winter now.


Restful day

Today’s picture was taken on the A7 going up the valley towards Mosspaul.


camera bookAfter a busy day yesterday for Mrs Tootlepedal with walking and dancing and for me with a round of golf, we rose late and enjoyed a breakfast in the early morning sunshine. By coincidence, Mrs Tootlepedal took this picture over the breakfast table of me studying the handbook for my new mini camera camera bookwhile almost simultaneously, I took this picture of her (using my new mini camera) studying the handbook for her camera.  We both discovered many wonderful capabilities which the cameras have and which we will never use. I wonder if I will ever feel the need to adjust the white balance to reflect the particular type of strip light in the room. Probably I should but probably I won’t.

After all this early excitement, Mrs Tootlepedal retired upstairs for a light snooze before a pantomime rehearsal while I took an age to get into my cycling kit. In the end I got ready, had an early lunch and set out in glorious sunshine but a chilly northerly breeze up the A7 towards Hawick. I was well wrapped up and felt no chill but the breeze was sufficiently strong to make a speedy effort unwise so I pedalled gently up the road, stopping from time to time to take a photograph.

Fiddleton TollThis is the toll house at Fiddleton, 8 miles north of Langholm. The right to collect tolls at these toll bars was sold at public auction once  a year in the Crown Hotel in Langholm in the nineteenth century. The road to Hermitage Castle leaves the A7 just behind the toll house. The picture at the top of the page was taken a mile further on up the hill towards the county boundary. hill sideThis is the hill on the left of the road taken at the same spot. I was unable to capture just how steep these gentle looking hills really are as the camera flattens everything out but it shows some greenness still left in the countryside.

MosspaulAt the top of the hill, ten and a bit miles north of Langholm, is the Mosspaul Hotel, once described on its publicity as a cyclists’ hotel. It sits right on the county boundary and also on this part of Scotland’s east west watershed. Everything behind flows into the Solway Firth and everything ahead into the North Sea. sign

There is a sign welcoming you to the Scottish Borders at the hotel and it is obviously written by someone of great good sense as you will see if you click on the picture to enlarge it.

Once over the col, I headed down the hill towards Teviotdale. At the bottom of the hill, just before the road meets the Teviot Water, I turned left to Carlenrig and paid a visit to Johnny Armstrong’s grave which is marked by a simple stone.

GraveJohn Armstrong of Gilnockie  was a famous border reiver. A plunderer and cattle-thief, he operated in the early 16th century. Like his fellow reivers, he raided into England when Scotland was in the ascendancy, and would change allegiances as power shifted. He led a band of a hundred and sixty men, despite having no income from rents. In 1530, Armstrong was captured by  King James V. The king had promised him safe conduct, but he was hanged with 36 of his men at Carlenrig chapel. Perhaps the best way to think of him is as a 16th century equivalent of a Somali pirate.

carlenrigI crossed back over the burn and rejoined the A7 to complete my 15 mile outward journey. As I had hoped, the wind gave me a good push back to Langholm and I hadn’t time to stop and take any pictures as I whizzed along.

Once home, I enjoyed a good bath while reading a Dick Francis novel and then, in the evening, made a very bad attempt at cooking toad-in-the-hole for tea. Next time I will get Mrs Tootlepedal to make it. I have posted a couple of the pictures Mrs Tootlepedal took yesterday on her walk to Old Irvine and back on to her page. Also included is a 3am celebrity paparazzi shot of her at last night’s  do in Carlisle.



Golf, glorious golf (almost)

Today’s picture is of a magnificent toadstool on the Langholm golf course and I must thank my friend Mr Gill for explaining how to photograph it.


ArthurI got up late and checked the weather and my hip and both being pretty good, I arranged to play golf with my usual golfing partner Arthur. Our plan is to stick ourselves on to the back of the 12.30 draw so that we can go round at our very steady pace without holding anyone up. It also means that should the body give up, we can retire without discommoding any other players.

Winter golfersThe picture on the right shows the usual winter golfing suspects. They are die-hard men who turn up in sub zero temperatures and often play twice each weekend right through the worst of the weather. I am a bit of a fair weather golfer now and pick and choose. Today turned out well though and although there was the threat of rain every now and again, the showers chose to pass us by and rain on the unrighteous somewhere else.

This was fortunate for Mrs Tootlepedal too because she had gone for a walk while I played golf. I will post some of the pictures she took when I get hold of her camera (including a very exciting snap of a tree trunk). She has gone out to have fun in Carlisle at a colleagues retiring party. She looked very nice in her pink going-out coat as she went off down the road.

Third greenThe course is in rather shaggy winter mode but it is still very green and a pleasure to play on. The picture on the left shows the third green, one of the holes I really struggled on today.

There are some very nice trees on the course, many of them planted personally by my golfing partner, Arthur. As you can see the sun came out towards the end of our round and showed up the birch among the conifers.

Owing to looking after my hip, I was very good and produced a well controlled swing with the result that I hit the ball down the middle with monotonous regularity. However when I get on the greens, the lack of practice tells and that, combined with an inbuilt tendency to the twitch or yips, means that many stokes go missing in this area.

Seventh GreenThis is the seventh green and you have to lob the ball over the chasm you can just see behind the green to get on to it. I managed this twice today which is very rare for me but both times took three more to get down. In all, I took three to get down from either on or just off the green at seven holes today. It is not the way to get my handicap down. In spite of all this, I enjoyed the afternoon out and partook of a small ginger beer in the clubhouse after the game.


I went to a concert by a lady called Stacey Kent at the Buccleuch Centre last night and it was a real treat. She is a jazz singer of great skill and admirable restraint and her repertoire was very varied and sophisticated. She included It Might As Well Be Spring, The Surrey With The Fringe On Top, I’ve Grown Accustomed to His Face as well as songs in Portuguese and French. She also sang two songs with words by Kazuo Ishiguro and music by her husband who was playing the saxophone in her band. They were very interesting to listen to. The whole evening was a delight with well engineered sound, good lighting and a modest but enthusiastic audience. Anyone who can make the Surrey With The Fringe into a smoochy medium tempo love song has rare talent. Her band was good too with a most interesting drummer. (A side benefit was that there was no drum solo during the performance which is always a Good Thing.) It’s a great credit to the booker for the Buccleuch Centre that we got her at all as she is playing in Andover tonight. Obviously her agent can’t read a map. She is playing at Ronnie Scott’s most of next week so you can see we got a good thing there. The feel was very stylish Parisian and it was both modern and yet very reminiscent of the cool jazz of the sixties and it certainly made me feel young at heart again.

Welcome to the dongle

It was a bird day today and today’s picture is a robin. You may see this again if you are on our Christmas card list!robin

Since Dropscone had to go to Annan in the morning, I took the opportunity to have a rest day and set the camera up for some bird shooting. While the birds were settling in and putting on their photograph faces, I invited Arthur round for a coffee and we discussed the pictures for the DVD to which he is going to add an expert commentary.

finchsaparrow comboThe birds are very co-operative between different types and quite happily co-exist on the feeders. The sparrows in particular are rather snappy with other sparrows but even they can have their peaceful moments.

We had our usual collection of sparrows, finches and blue tits but Jean, my archivist friend, who lives next to the river says that she has had been visited by long tailed tits so we are very envious.  Our goldfinches are obviously spreading round the town, because Nancy, the potential Archive Group treasurer, came to look at the accounts and remarked that they were being visited by goldfinches this year too.

goldfinchThis goldfinch is much chubbier than some of the others and I wonder if it is a young one. Perhaps some reader has enough knowledge to tell me. chaffinchI personally am very fond of the chaffinch. It strikes me as a particularity handsome bird.

In between the bird shooting, my new dongle came so that I can connect to the new router. Since it is as far as I can see exactly the same as the one I borrowed from the Archive Centre, I thought I would just be able to plug it in and go but no. Nothing is that easy. In the end, however, I got it going and now we can finally do away with the long wire from one room to another which has been potential booby trap for some months.

Talking of neatness, it occurred somewhat belatedly to Mrs Tootlepedal that the bread machine could be put in  a place where it could reach a plug without having to be moved every time we make bread (which is almost daily). I know you will be very excited to see this new position.

I am going to another concert at the Buccleuch Centre tonight and I will report on that tomorrow. I leave you with some more of the birds I saw today.








As a footnote I should add that Sandy Gill has changed the address of his blog and it is now:


Going round annoying people

Today’s picture was sent to me by Gavin, a neighbour and frequent commenter on this blog. It is of a curious blackbird which frequents his garden.whitebird

Dropscone had regained his bike from the repairer and his health as well so he set off at a good pace round the morning run with me puffing and blowing behind him. Although the forecast was for strong winds, the weather was very kind and we got round in good time.

Regent's Park canal
Regent's Park Canal

I have received not only the picture at the top of the blog from Gavin, my neighbour but also an invitation to visit my sister Mary’s Picasa album at Mary’s Album which shows her morning walk. It looks absolutely delightful. Keep the pictures coming.

Apart from the morning cycle and a little shopping, I did little of note during the day except polish up my DVD skills which still have a long way to go.

archivistsIn the evening I went to the Archive Centre as usual on a Thursday and I used my new little camera to capture this picture of my fellow archivists, Jean and Sandy, before they settled down to work. It really is a remarkable piece of technology and I am very pleased with my purchase. Encouraged by my fumbling footsteps along the road to blogging, Sandy has started his own blog at Sandy’s Blog which is worth a visit just to see his enormous mushroom.

beer researchersAfter a hard evening’s archiving, we retired to the Douglas Hotel for our customary beer research and, as you can see, it is a task which Sandy and Jean take very seriously. Sandy tests the beer and Jean tests the whisky. beer research assistantI was also able to capture a shot of our research assistant at work. I can report that the beer was very satisfactory and a credit to the Deuchars’ Brewery.

On a happy note, I can confirm that the worms have safely survived the first frosts of winter.


In the picture

Today’s picture is a camera. I have bought this very compact camera to put in my back pocket while cycling and today’s blog contains only photos taken with it.

FrostWhen I looked out of the window first thing in the morning, the weather was brilliantly sunny but the lawn was covered in frost. Mrs Tootlepedal was bemoaning the loss of her nasturtiums as she went off to work at the health centre. Even after an hour of sunshine, only half of the front lawn showed green at all.


JAMIt was too cold (below zero) to cycle in the morning so I made some raspberry jam. The raspberries have survived the frost and there were enough for me to have a small plate for my supper.

BruceAfter I had made the jam, I set off up the town to collect my prescriptions and by coincidence bumped into the Archive Group Treasurer, Bruce, on his way back with his in his hand. He suffers from a much worse bad back than mine but, as you can see, he keeps very cheery with it.

Mrs TootlepedalOn my way back I popped into the health centre and who was there but Mrs Tootlepedal so I snapped her with the new camera to the astonishment of a passing doctor. She was hard at work as she always is.


In the afternoon I was able to get out on the bike because the temperature had risen to a semi tropical 5 degrees.  I was very well wrapped up with three layers on both my bottom and top halves, overshoes and double gloves. Add to this an under hat beneath my helmet and I was pretty well protected. It was a beautiful day so I put the new camera in my back pocket and set off over Callister to Eaglesfield and back.

DunnabieI took some general landscape shots just to see how the camera would cope. This is of Dunnabie Cottage over the far side of Callister Hill. It is difficult to tell on the spot how things are coming out because the screen is hard to read in sunny weather but they seem to have come out well for such a teeny camera.



I was very impressed at the depth of focus that let me get this shot of Skiddaw on the other side of the Solway. I took this as I went past Gair on my way to Eaglesfield….Eaglesfieldand this is Eaglesfield itself. It is the original one horse village consisting of a single very long street.

At this junction I turned right to head back to Waterbeck and home when I was passed by a police van and found the road blocked in front of me.

Log lorryAnother log lorry had shed its load. They are quite a danger round here and I was glad that I hadn’t been going up that hill when it came round the corner. I was able to squeeze past, carrying my bike, and continued on to Waterbeck.

WaterbeckWaterbeck is a charming little village and this row of houses has recently been improved without losing the original feel of the street.


I took the final picture at the top of Callister on my way home. If you had a magnifying glass you could just see the Monument on top of the distant hill. The wind was behind and i did the final five and a half miles home at 22 mph. This made am enjoyable end to an interesting ride.

CallisterAll in all, I am very pleased with the new camera as it seems to serve its appointed purpose very well. In the evening, while Mrs Tootlepedal went out to rehearse, I put in a week of the E and L index and ate my raspberries with some ice cream.

Change of routine

Today’s flower picture was taken by Mrs Tootlepedal to fix a date when the clematis was still flowering this year as we expect a hard frost tonight.clematis

The first really cold day of the year meant that we had to change our routine for the morning ride and have a cup of coffee before we set out to allow the temperature to rise above 4 degrees celsius. Itwas just under five degrees when we left and, surprisingly, it didn’t feel too cold which must have something to do with the humidity, I suppose.

Dropscone was feeling a bit better today and we went faster than yesterday without overdoing it. We still had enough coffee in the cafetiere to have a couple more cups when we got back. Dropscone had brought round a packet  of crackers and a piece of Stilton cheese  (which he had got at the Co-op for 45p, as it was in danger of going past the sell by date). This made for an appetising snack for hungry cyclists. The only downside to  my enjoyment of the cheese was my acute awareness of another packet of Stilton in my fridge, cost £1.90, purchased a day or two ago at the Co-op and with the same sell by date. Dropscone is an artist of the purchase of reduced items.

finchThe afternoon was spent in working at the computer on archive business and popping up every now and again in pursuit of the perfect goldfinch snap.

I spent some time failing to help my sister Susan with a very arcane computer problem. At least I don’t think I have made anything worse. There is nothing worse than an intractable computer glitch for no apparent reason. It makes your head hurt a lot.

finchI was visited by Dr Tinker and we had a cup of tea and compared bad backs and when he left, I realised that I hadn’t got anything for tea. Luckily Mrs Tootlepedal returned from work and made potato latkes  which were delicious.

In the evening, I went to Carlisle with Dropscone’s daughter Susan to play with the recorder group. We should have been six but one of our players couldn’t come at the last moment. Fortunately I  had several pieces for five players in my bag so we had plenty of playing. The playing was followed by tea and conversation and I must say that once again we left the world a better place after we had sorted everything out. We are expecting a call from Mr Cameron any time now because he obviously needs our help.