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Posts Tagged ‘Carlisle Community Choir’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Sheffield correspondent Edward Winter.  He has a fine six inch wide tree peony flower in his garden which he thought that I might appreciate.  I do.

TreePeony2020

It was another grey, blustery and chilly day today here so once again there was no urgency in the getting up department.

Indeed, I got up so late that there was no time for a wander round the garden before our street coffee meeting, and it was only afterwards that I got to check to see if our peonies are out yet.

They are still trying.

peony trying

A quick check on the frost damage revealed that the Japanese azalea may have have enough surviving flowers to make a bit of a show at least.

japanese azalea

And to make up for the lack of azaleas, the first iris has put in a welcome appearance.

first iris

Tulips and poppies make sure that we still have some colour….

tulips and poppy

And thriving Limnanthes and Aquilegia will soon be joined by…

flowers old and new

…other promising flowers.

We are quite blue at the moment….

four blue things in garden

…in a delicate sort of way.

I mowed the front lawn in the hope that we will get some rain and warmer weather to make the grass grow again.  Mrs Tootlepedal got to work improving the soil in one of the beds along the lawn so I sieved the last of the compost from Bin C to give to her to add to the bed.

I didn’t watch the birds on the feeder in the morning as we were busying about but there were birds in the garden who weren’t bothered by us.  The blackbird and the thrush are both feeding young so they are often to be seen about.

blackbird an thrush panel

I did a little shredding of disused box bushes and then went in for lunch.

We had a Carlisle Choir Zoom meeting scheduled for mid afternoon at what would have been our regular choir practice time, so I sneaked out for a short walk after lunch.  It was grey and almost drizzly so I walked on at a brisk pace, hoping to get home before any rain started.

I was pleased to see that the big rhododendrons in the park seemed to have escaped frost damage, but the bluebells are fading away and going over…

rhododendron,bluebells and garlic

…leaving the wild garlic to cover the ground.

I walked along the Murtholm track towards Skippers Bridge, passing quantities of ribwort, lambs and spring things on leaves…

three things at murtholm

…and crosswort…

crosswort full

…at which I took a closer look.

crosswort close

I paused on Skippers Bridge to record just how low the river is.

low water in esk from skippers bridge

It will be interesting to see if we get enough rain to raise the water level noticeably as the ground is so dry that it will surely soak up anything less than a downpour.

I took a picture of this view a few days ago but it is still so beautiful to my mind, that I took it again today.

skippers bridge from north

As I walked along the river bank back to the town, there was plenty to admire.

six things beside the river

I saw two contrasting birds as I got up the suspension bridge, a very noisy thrush singing fit to bust on a rooftop on one side of the river and a very quiet oyster catcher sitting on her nest on the other side.

thrush and oyster catcher

When  I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal had just about finished her work on the flower bed.

bed improvement

I like the big red poppy at the back of the house so I went for a look at it…

big red poppy panel

…before getting ready for the Zoom choir meeting.

While I was waiting for the meeting to start, I made a mixture for some chocolate biscuits and put it in the fridge to cool.

When the appointed time came, lots of choir members attempted to join the meeting but unfortunately, there was a glitch in the Zoom technology (not our fault) and the meeting had to be cancelled.  We are going to try again next week,

The fault, which also affected a government briefing later in the day, must have been partial as I had a one to one meeting on Archive website business with my younger son and a family meeting with my siblings later on with no problems at all.

After the failed choir meeting, I baked the biscuits and while they were cooling, our neighbour Liz rang up to say that a starling was feeding its young in her garden if I was interested.

I was interested and went out and leant over her wall to see the group in action.

liz's starlings

I took the biscuits out of the oven and left them to cool and then I had time to watch a blue tit coming to the feeder…

blue tit in garden

…before chatting to my brother and sisters with Mrs Tootlepedal.

We tried the biscuits after our evening meal.  There was an initial shock when they did not taste as we expected them to, but we enjoyed them enough to have another each.

The rain, which finally started shortly after I came home from my walk, has persisted in a mild and desultory way all evening.  There is some more in the forecast over the next two days but as it is only a few millimeters, whether it will be enough to do some good is still a moot point.

All the same, any rain, after two dry months when at times it seemed as though it might never rain again here,  is to be welcomed.

The flying bird of a day is a bee.

flying bee

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from  my Manitoba correspondent, Mary Jo.  I think she must have moved on from Australia to New Zealand because today’s picture shows the Rakaia Gorge, which is in the South Island.  It was raining when she took the picture.

rakaia gorge nz

Today was a busy day but it will give rise to a brief post as camera opportunities were few and far between, not to say nearly non existent.

We went off to church in fine weather and returned in a  rain shower.  In between, we had quite a long service and a short choir practice so this did not leave me much time to watch the birds before an early lunch.

There were not many birds to watch but those that came still gave me great enjoyment.

A goldfinch got in among….

siskins and goldfinch

…the familiar crowd of siskins.

four siskins

The sun came out and a chaffinch came too.

siskins and chffinch

I put this picture in just to show that a siskin can eat a seed without dropping it.  This is a very rare shot for that reason.

single siskin not spilling food

The necessity for my early lunch was caused by a ‘singing day’ with our Carlisle Choir.  It is called a singing day but it is really a singing afternoon as it lasts from 1.30 to 5.30.

I went down by myself as Mrs Tootlepedal had other calls on her time and managed to purchase some cheese, sourdough bread and coffee on my way.

The singing afternoon was very enjoyable and useful too.  We are singing in a local music festival competition next Thursday so we did a lot of work on the three songs we are doing, but we also had a couple of technical workshops which should improve our singing if we all remember what we learned.

We could hear another sharp shower battering on the windows while we sang, but the rain passed and I drove home with a beautiful sunset lighting my way.

It was a very satisfactory afternoon and it was made better when I found that Scotland had beaten France in the rugby international.  I had been quite happy not to watch the game as I had expected us to lose.  I can watch it calmly on catch-up now and claim that I always knew that we were going to win.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, not the best, but the only one I got today.

flying chaffinch

Footnote:  There are have been several reported cases of the coronavirus in Cumbria so it may be that things will start to get cancelled if more cases are confirmed.  It would be a pity if all our hard work for the music festival comes to nothing, but we shall have to wait and see what happens.

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Today’s guest picture once again arises from my brother Andrew taking his son on vigorous hill walks to help Nick prepare for a trek in Nepal.  Ignoring Storm Jorge’s strong winds, they battled up to the top of Bunster Hill and enjoyed this splendid view of the junction of the Rivers Dove and Manifold (and some traces of the recent flooding).

Manifold and Dove rivers

I did no hill climbing today, or indeed any exercise of note at all, apart from walking to church in the morning.  To be truthful, I walked back too, but that still didn’t amount to much.

I had felt so much better after my restful day yesterday that I decided that some more of the same would be a good idea.

I wasn’t entirely idle as I made a beef stew with carrots, turnip and parsnip for the slow cooker in the morning and a loaf of bread in the bread maker in the afternoon.

In between, I did some archive group work on the computer and watched the birds.

We have a small but select supply of redpolls at the moment…

redpoll looking round

…of which I approve, though I am not sure that this siskin is so keen on them.

redpoll and siskin

We had a good few chaffinches around and the siskins definitely didn’t approve of them…

siskin and chaffinch

…and any chaffinch approaching got a dusty welcome…

siskin blasting chaffinch

…and was quite likely to be blown away by the ferocity of the welcome.

siskin shouting at chaffinch

These goldfinches were more relaxed when a siskin approached them.

siskin threatening two goldfinches

I had a look round the garden before lunch but it was very cold in the brisk wind so I didn’t loiter and this encouraging azalea bud was the most exciting thing that I saw.

azalea bud 1 March

I was soon back inside, drinking coffee and watching the birds again.  A dunnock lurked among the flower stems…

dunnock among the plants

…and a pigeon arrived for some fallen seed…

pigeon head and shoulders

…while up above a goldfinch checked the feeder for aggressive siskins before venturing down.

quizzical goldfinch

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle to sing with the community choir there.  We were early so I had time for another look round the garden with my phone camera in hand before we left.  This time some flowers caught my eye.

Mrs Tootlepedal has cleared some old dead stems from around the pink hellebores to give us a better view of them from the kitchen window.  They looked unusually cheerful about this, I thought.

hellebore

The first pulmonaria flowers have also appeared.

pulomonaria

When we got to the choir, we found that our usual conductor Ellen was not there and we were inclined to be a bit disappointed, but she had sent down a really excellent substitute, Andy.  He was in tremendously energetic form and passed on some very useful techniques for improving our singing at various points in our pieces as well as jollying us along to produce some really whole-hearted choral efforts.   We all left the practice feeling uplifted by the warmth of his personality on a cold day.

The drive home had two good points about it.  Firstly, it was still light the whole way home, and secondly, the starlings were in fine form overhead as we drove through Longtown.

The stew turned out well and it rounded off a day which was a great improvement on the one which dire forecasts of the malevolence of Storm Jorge had led us to expect. The forecast for next week suggests that we will have nothing more than a mild breeze until next weekend.  Some relief from strong winds will be very welcome.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Footnote: After my two quiet days, I am feeling pretty well, so I hope to be more active tomorrow.

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Today’s guest picture is another from camera club member Simon.  He took a walk along the old railway line to Longtown and managed to find himself under three bridges at the same time, the main road, the old railway and a footbridge.

simon's bridges

The weather, which likes to have its little joke, decided that a day when there was no time for  walk and when Evie was due to go home would be just the day to put on a show of sunshine after a week of more or less continuous rain.

Now I like a joke as much as the next man, but even I thought that this was going a bit far and allowed a smidgeon of bitterness to enter my soul.

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal and Annie to combine Evie care with talking to the project leader about the proposed community land purchase, I went to church where a diminished choir and a service with few hymns made for a thin singing experience.

As we were preparing for Annie and Evie’s departure after lunch and I had to some shopping, there wasn’t even a lot of time to look at birds when I got back.

Still, it was good to see them perching in the sun.

sunlit siskin

sunlit robin

sunlit chaffinch

When I went out into the garden for a moment, I turned my eyes to the hills and wished that I had had time to climb.

Castle hill with Cattle

In the garden, there were still no frogs to be seen but the first of the miniature daffodils has come out…

miniature daffodil

…the chives are looking promising…

chives early

…and the rhubarb is developing.

rhubarb developing

I used to think that hellebores were a bit dull but in recent years, I have changed my mind.

hellebore backlit

Back inside, there was another moment to watch the birds.  The sunshine hadn’t improved their manners at all…

two siskins vs chaffinch

…but at least one chaffinch made it safely to the feeder and enjoyed a seed.

sunlit chaffinch looking round

After lunch, I had a quick look to see if the sun had brought the crocuses out…

open crocuses

…and then it was time to pack Annie, Evie, the pushchair and an enormous case in to the car and pray that the Zoe would behave and take us to Carlisle.

The Zoe behaved impeccably and we arrived at the station in plenty of time and found that the train was more or less on time.  These days the railway experience wouldn’t be the same without some excitement, so a train from another railway company got stuck at the platform at which our train was due to arrive.  With a couple of minutes to go, there was a rush of pushchair, case and passengers over the footbridge to catch the down train from the up platform.  All was well  though and we got Annie, Evie, the case and the pushchair onto the train and it pulled out on time as we shed a tear and waved goodbye.

It really was a lovely day in Carlisle as they left…

citadel in sunshine

…but we ignored the lovely day and headed indoors to our Carlisle Community Choir practice.  Fortunately, it was a very good session and the tenors recovered some of their self esteem after last week’s travails.

And even better, it was still light as we drove home so we were able to watch a pretty spectacular starling murmuration over our heads as we went back through Longtown.  If we get a decent day, we will try to go down to see the starlings with camera in hand next week.  There seemed to be a lot more birds than when we watched them a month ago.

The house seems very quiet.

The flying bird of the day is a choice between this rather impressionistic study of a goldfinch…

impression of flying goldfinch

…and this neater but duller shot.

flying goldfinch

Take your pick.

I have time on my hands tomorrow: the forecast is for sleet and snow.  Ha ha.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. It shows all the cakes that he and my sister Susan didn’t eat when they visited a garden centre cafe. They are both models of restraint.

cakes

I was woken in the middle of the night by a tremendous rattling on the windows, and thinking it was another rainstorm, went back to sleep expecting to see high water in the morning again.

In fact, the noise was made by a brief hailstorm and little rain fell overnight.  As a result there had been a marked alteration in the state of the River Esk by the time we went to church at ten o’clock.

IMG_20200216_095108

This was quite surprising but very welcome.

It was still windy and although it was dry, we were pleased to have our coats on when we walked home after the service.

I stooped to look at the first hellebore of the season…

first hellebore

…before going in for a coffee.

The picture is a bit of a cheat as I had to hold the head of the flower up to get the shot.

After coffee, I spent a moment looking at the birds.  In a contrast to the usual state of affairs, it was hard to take picture today that didn’t have a flying bird in it.

flying birds everywhere

I finally managed to get a flying bird free shot, but as you can see from the nervous look on the face of the goldfinch..

Goldfinch looking round

…it didn’t take long for another flier to appear.

flying goldfinch

I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that it would be a good idea to go for a walk  The wind was still very brisk so we chose a spot which we thought would be sheltered and drove over the hill to the road along the Tarras Valley.  There is a handy car park there beside the river…

Tarras car park view

…and the road is quiet and perfect for a walk.

the road up Tarras

We headed up the valley with the strong wind behind us.  It wasn’t quite as sheltered as we had hoped.

The Tarras Water trips over many little cascades as it heads down to join  the Esk and even on a chilly winter’s day, this is a delight to cascade lovers like myself.

tarras cascade 1

tarras cascade 2

tarras cascade 3

I tore myself away from the waterside and we walked on until we came to the flatter section of the valley where Arkleton Cottage Stands beside some elegant bends in the river and road.

Arkleton Cottage

On the hillside beside the cottage, there are walls within walls.

walls within walls

As we walked along, Mrs Tootlepedal kept an eye out for interesting raptors and any sign of other wild life.

She didn’t see any raptors, but she did spot some interesting looking boulders.  When the boulders started to move around, we could see that they were in fact some of the the wild goats which roam these hillsides.

wild goats Tarras

Often they looked like indeterminate lumps among the long grass but when one lifted its head, we could see what they were.  It was extremely difficult to take pictures of them because they were quite far away and the wind was so strong that it was hard to stand up straight.  The Lumix did what it could.

As you can see from the goat pictures, the weather was changeable and we did have the occasional glimpse of sun but by the time that we got to the cottage, which can be approached by a ford…

Arkleton Cottage ford

..or a footbridge…

Arkleton Cottage bridge

….it had started to rain, so we thought it wise to head back to the car.

We were delayed for a moment by some excellent lichen on a boulder…

lichen tarras road 1

..or two…

lichen tarras Road 2

…and talking to a passing cyclist with three dogs who was heading back down the road into the teeth of the very strong wind.  He was very relaxed and this turned out to be because he was on a very serviceable electric mountain bike with fat tyres and low gears.  This was enabling him to face the wind with equanimity.

He pedalled off into the distance and we followed after him, very much slower and battling into a fierce wind which made walking difficult.  The sleety rain in our faces did not help.

All the same we were able to spot another small group of goats.  I rested my camera on a roadside salt container and was just about to take a good shot when the dratted beast stuck its head down behind a tussock and started munching.

wild goat tarras

I had to make do with another cascade further down stream…

Tarras cascade

…and then we followed the river back to the car.

Although we had walked less than two miles, it had felt quite adventurous thanks to the battle against the elements and we drove home very satisfied with our little outing.

Tarras Water

The sun came out when we got back and the birds settled down too.

four goldfinches

Mike and Alison very kindly brought round a cot for the use of our granddaughter Eve, who is coming to visit next week (with her mother) and then we drove off to Carlisle for a choir practice.

We were somewhat nervous about what we might find from flood and storm damage on the way, but the sun came out, the road was dry, and there was no debris at all.  A stranger might have found it very hard to believe that a storm had passed over us at all let alone that there were flood warnings out all over the rest of the country.  Once again, we have been very lucky.

The choir practice had enjoyable moments but in one piece the tenors, who were lacking a few of their competent singers today, found themselves rather exposed by some tricky harmonies.  The need for some serious home work is indicated.  All the same, in our defence, I would like to say that it is very hard to come in on a G when everyone else is singing an A and there is no help from the piano accompaniment. At least, I think it is.

I had put beef stew in the slow cooker in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some vegetables to go with it when we came home.  I counted seven vegetables in the meal in total so it was probably quite healthy as well as being tasty.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Dropscone’s Amsterdam trip.  He took a tour of the canals in the city while he was there and saw the the Muziektheater, which is called now The National Opera and Ballet.

Amsterdam

We are beginning to have only a distant memory of the sun and it was no surprise to wake to another very grey, windy and wet day today.  It doesn’t make for good photographs or interesting outings.

In years gone by, I could rely on a busy feeder to keep me entertained on dull days but there was only a lone dunnock to see…

dunnock on tray

…before we walked through the rain to go to church.

The choir sang a couple of extra hymns for an introit and an anthem so we were kept busy today.  As it was Candlemas, the church was was bright with twinkling candles and this gave the service a cheerful feel.

It was still raining, but not so heavily, as we walked home and the rain was light enough to let me walk round the garden before settling down to coffee and the crossword.

The lone crocus had been joined by two more….

three crocuses

…and when I looked around, I found a larger clump in another bed.

lots of early crocuses

There is still some way to go before our daffodil gets a friend.

bunch of daffs

I did think of going for a walk in my new waterproof coat but the rain persisted for longer than my determination to enjoy the fresh air did, so I took vicarious exercise by watching heroic young women cycling through appalling mud in the under 23 Women’s World Cyclocross Championship.  Anyone who calls young people “snowflakes” should be made to watch this footage by law.

I wasn’t entirely idle.  I looked out of the window from time to time too.

Siskins arrived.

two soggy siskins

The shot below shows the fine rain that continued all morning.

siskin in rain

Quite a little crowd of siskins arrived in the end…

siskins on feeder

…and monopolised the feeder again.

siskins on feeder in rain

The dunnocks kept an eye out for fallen seed…

dunnok on tray rim

…though it was sometimes hard to spot them against the background of winter vegetation.

dunnock on plants

A lone goldfinch flew down out of the mist to land on the plum tree…

goldifnch in the mist

…and a chaffinch came too.

chaffinch in wet plum tree

The chaffinch didn’t venture up on to the feeder…

chaffinch

…but stuck to some ground level scavenging.

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle, with Mrs Tootlepedal at the wheel.  As well as going to the choir we made good use of the energy expended in getting us there by calling in to pump up our tyres in Langholm, recycle paper, card and milk bottles in Longtown, and do some cheese and honey shopping in Carlisle.

We still got to the choir on time.  We spent the first half of the session practicing a piece where the tenors have the melody for a good part of the time.  This is very rare and made us a bit nervous. Fortunately, it was not a very difficult number so we didn’t disgrace ourselves.   We weren’t big headed though, and we still talked to members of the other sections at the interval.

We are having to learn three pieces by heart for a competition in March and when we tried one after the interval, it was heartening to find that I pretty well knew it already.  Only two to go!

I had prepared rolled shoulder of lamb and veg last night, and Mrs Tootlepedal had put this into the slow cooker in the morning so we had a good meal waiting for us when we got home.  To add to the feast, she also made an  apple crumble with some of the last of our apples from last year.  There will be enough for one more crumble.  We had to buy onions today for the first time for five months so we are entering the ‘hungry gap’.  Fortunately our corner shop is on hand with supplies.

The flying bird of the day is one of the siskins.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Ada who was walking along the road to Newcastelton when she saw a very unusual bird at rest on the Langholm moor.  It was there as part of the works on maintaining our pylons.

helicopter at pylon

Our run of grey but dry days under a ridge of high pressure came to an end today as low pressure swept in, and we got a grey but very wet morning instead.

Luckily I was in church singing in the choir while the worst of the rain was on, but unluckily by the time that the sun came out in the afternoon, we were on our way to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir so we couldn’t make much use of it.

Mrs Tootlepedal did get a moment or two to do some gardening after the rain stopped but it was still pretty wet…

drops on the line

…though we were very excited by this.

first daffodil bud

The changeable weather is forecast to bring frost tonight so we may have to wait a bit more until the flower opens.

I didn’t take part in the Great Garden Birdwatch this year as there are too few birds about to make spending an hour looking at not much at all a very attractive use of time.  I know that an absence of birds might as interesting to researchers as a lot of different species but it is not interesting to the onlooker.

After I had made my my mind up not to take part, a few birds appeared just to annoy me.

I haven’t seen a blackbird for a few days but today…

male blackbird

…I saw two…

female blackbird

…and the robin arrived as well.

robin

After another very slow start, a few birds began to trickle down to the feeder around the middle of the day. It was siskin time, with first these two….

two siskins

…and then two more…

four siskins

… and finally a competition for perches.

five siskins

A lone chaffinch tried to get into the action but the siskins were having none of that.

chaffinch warned off by siskin

Mrs Tootlepedal’s fake tree is very good value and I often see birds waiting to come to the feeder taking advantage of its nailed on branches.

siskin on fake tree

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle and had a most enjoyable sing with our choir.  Ellen, our musical director, is mixing up new songs to be learned with putting a bit of polish on more familiar tunes so we are getting a good mixture.

Ellen was telling me that she had to wait for two and a half hours in the emergency lane of a busy motorway last week until the breakdown man arrived to help her after a tyre blowout.  As anyone who has had to use the emergency lane of a motorway will know, this is not a happy experience, so we were pleased that she had managed to get down safely this week.

As an iced bun fell into my shopping bag when we stopped for supplies on the way home, a day which had started out looking very miserable, finished pretty well.  Especially as there were three other iced buns in the same packet.

A female siskin appears as the flying bird of the day.

flying siskin

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