Posts Tagged ‘Carlisle Community Choir’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset Correspondent, Venetia.  Her aeroplane was obviously efficiently de-iced at Schiphol because she has sent me this icy picture from near Bedford, New Hampshire in the USA.  (I wonder if she bumped into a noted gardener while she was there.)

Bedford New Hampshire
We had a frost, snow and ice free day here today which was very welcome.  We couldn’t entirely escape the rain though.

Even if the day had been fine,  I would have had a rather limited time photographically as I went off with Mrs Tootlepedal to sing with the church choir in the morning and the Carlisle Community Choir in the afternoon, leaving little time for anything else.

I did get a moment after church to watch the birds.

When I first looked, siskins were in charge of the feeder…


…but it didn’t take long until some goldfinches loomed up.

siskins and goldfinches

One even got a toehold for a brief moment.


It got dislodged but was soon back trying again.

siskins and goldfinches

Away from the turmoil above, a robin quietly enjoyed the ground level refreshments.


Later on, goldfinches found themselves in control of the perches…


…and roles were reversed when a siskin had to look tentatively around for a free place.

siskin and goldfinches

I didn’t have much voice today and as I was the only bass present in the church choir, I didn’t add a lot to the proceedings.   I enjoyed myself  all the same.  Things were better at the  Carlisle choir where I sing tenor, as there was more support and the conductor went as far as to say that the tenors sounded quite good.

We were chuffed.

On our way to the choir, we stopped off at a well known food shop and topped up on the bare necessities of life.  We now have adequate supplies of tea, coffee, cheese, dates, prunes and cherries so we will not starve.

However,  since Mrs Tootlepedal had made an excellent beef and vegetable stew in the slow cooker which we ate for our tea when we got back from Carlisle, there was in fact very little chance of us starving anyway.

The flying bird of the day is a standard chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Brief notes

No pictures of any sort today.

We got up early, drove to Carlisle, got on the hired coach and went to Manchester, sang, came back in the coach and drove home.

Everything about the day was enjoyable.  The coach was the most comfortable that I have ever travelled in and both Mrs Tootlepedal and I actually enjoyed the journey both ways.  It was actually more comfortable than one of Richard Branson’s  rather cramped trains.

Even a rather heavy snowstorm, which looked a bit alarming to say the least as we left Manchester on our way back, had the good manners to stop before we got to the hilly part of our journey.

The arrangements in Manchester went like clockwork and we did our warm up and practice in an art gallery with such a wonderful acoustic that we would like to sing there every week.

We sang as well as we could in the competition, perhaps the best we have ever sung under pressure, but unsurprisingly as it was a national choir competition, there were other choirs that sang better than us so we didn’t take a trophy home.

We did take a sense of pride home with us and sang so prettily in the bus on the way back that the driver gave us a vote of thanks and said that it made working on Sunday, which he normally hates, worthwhile.  We were touched.

I would like to thank those who sent us good wishes for the day.  These kind thoughts are always appreciated.


….and Scotland beat France at rugby.



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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Mike Tinker, who with his wife Alison  is visiting family in New Zealand.  He sent me this picture of a sunset at Bach and kindly added that the temperature there was 26 degrees.  It is zero here!

Bach sunset

A very rare thing happened today; I didn’t take any photographs.  The sun was out and it was a bright and chilly day so it would have been an ideal opportunity to take some exciting moss pictures but for once I had better things to do all day than take photos.

We started off by going to sing in the church choir and had a very varied selection of hymns, psalms and anthems to sing.  The service was conducted by a visiting ‘eco-preacher’ and it was hard to disagree with his view that we all might have some responsibility to respond to the ongoing climate changes.

We had a practice after the service and then we had to rush home to get a bite to eat before setting off to Carlisle where the Carlisle Community Choir had a five hour ‘singing day’.

This was hard work but fun and useful too as a preparation for our visit to a choral competition in Manchester next week.

My face stood up to all this activity very well and the bruises round my eye are starting to heal already.  The only unfortunate thing is that half my face is sliding inexorably down towards my chin….

bike face

….giving me a rather lopsided look.

Insult was added to injury by my phone camera bringing up a heading saying “Beauty Face” as it took the shot.

The whole accident has turned out to be remarkably pain free so I can only suggest that  the torrent of good wishes from kind hearted readers, choir members and friends in the town must have had a beneficially curative effect.

In the complete absence of any interesting pictures, the flying bird of the day is represented by a small pot of snowdrops which Mrs Tootlepedal brought into the house yesterday.  When I am not banging my head on the tarmac or singing all day,  I shall try to take a better picture.



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The guest picture of the day was taken by our daughter Annie and shows a happy couple at our meal yesterday.

the happy couple

We woke to another miserably wet and windy day but at least it was fairly warm at 9°C.  The heating bills for this winter are going to come as a shock as it has been so persistently wet and cold.

Still, there wasn’t much time to worry about the weather as Mrs Tootlepedal and I went off to sing in the church choir.  I am suffering a bit from a soggy chest after my cycle ride on Friday which is a disappointment as I felt quite well while I was pedalling.  This meant that my contribution to the choir was  a bit sub par but I enjoyed myself and intend to keep coming to sing with Mrs Tootlepedal on a Sunday.

Our daughter, Annie was staying with us and it would have been nice to get out for a walk but the rain was pretty persistent and so we stayed in and watched the birds.

There was quite a good attendance.

busy feeder

Often there were more birds than perches….

busy feeder

…which led to some angry moments…


…and the occasional stand  off.


It was a day for spotting bedraggled birds like this siskin…

wet siskin

…but  the trophy for the most miserable bird of the day was triumphantly carried away by this goldfinch.

wet goldfinch

We made some vegetable soup for lunch and then set off for Carlisle.

First we went shopping for food as our larder is a bit depleted.  Then we delivered Annie to the station so she could catch a train back to London.  And finally we went on to our Carlisle choir.

As we are going to a competition in Manchester in a  fortnight,  we spent the entire practice on one song.  This was a bit dull in one way but the concentration was much needed and I certainly came away from the practice with that good buzz about me which comes from doing rewarding hard work.

In spite of the generally miserable weather, for the second day running I was able to catch a fine purple sunset, this time during the practice tea break..

Carlisle sunset

Owing to singing in the church choir, I hadn’t had time to make a slow cooker dish for our evening meal so we relied on a ready meal which we bought when we were in Carlisle and it turned out out to be very good.  We may use this idea again.

A goldfinch in the morning rain is the flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie, who has been out shooting night street scenes in Macao while working at the film festival there.


We had another bright and sunny day today but it was even colder than yesterday so we were very pleased to be one of the parts of the country that didn’t get any snow. That might have made driving difficult.

After breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir and I made a venison stew for the slow cooker.

While I was cooking, I glanced out of the kitchen window from time to time.

A siskin added some colour to a frosty scene.


Down below, I asked a robin where its friend had gone.


“Over there,” he replied.


Once the stew was safely stowed in the slow cooker, I went for a short walk.  In spite of the low temperatures, the sunny weather has made sure that our pavements and paths are ice free for whihc we are grateful.

I was looking for gulls.

I soon found one which had lit on a lamppost thus become a lamplighter I suppose.


It flew off and got into an argument with a friend about something.


On Castle Hill, the cattle once again preferred the high ground.


As I walked along the Kilngreen I was very taken by an optical illusion which made this perfectly flat picnic table look as though it was bent into waves.

kilngreen bench

The low sun certainly increased my stature as a photographer.

If you were well enough wrapped up, it was a lovely day for a walk.


And I enjoyed the view up the Lodge Walks….

Lodge Walks

…before turning to cross the Castleholm…


…and heading for home…

…where the garden was frosty.


Once back inside in the warmth, I looked out again.   There was steady traffic at the tray under the feeder.




Up above, the unfriendly light did the flying chaffinches no favours in their efforts to get the nomination for flying bird of the day.


Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church and we had a moment or two to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice or two of toast before setting off to Carlisle for a final practice and the Christmas concert with the Community Choir.

The concert took place in St Cuthbert’s Church.  This church is one of those places which it is a pleasure to visit under any circumstances.

St Cuthberts Church

The concert was very well attended with the balconies and the main body of the church both being pretty well full.  The choir sang well and the guest school choir was very charming and accomplished.  Our choir needs more men badly and one of the reasons for our lack of men might have been seen in the fact that the primary school choir  had only a single boy in it.

Unless schools can instil a love of choral singing in boys, it is hard to see where adult male singers are going to come from in areas without a living tradition of male choirs.

It was -5° as we drove home but the road seemed to be ice free and we got home in nice time to enjoy the venison stew from the slow cooker.

There were only two gulls about today but they stopped quarrelling for long enough for one of them to make flying bird of the day.


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Today’s guest picture comes from Marianne, who was actually our guest today.  She took this picture of her partner Tony and his dad as they were walking dogs this morning.


It was another bright but chilly day with 1.5°C the best that we could do all day.

The colder weather has brought the birds back to the feeders and there were robins…


…and any amount of chaffinches about after breakfast.



I didn’t get too long to look at the birds though before we were invaded by two boisterous dogs who brought our son Tony and his partner Marianne with them.  They had driven down from Edinburgh to bring us a very handsome hamper of goodies for our Christmas present.

Unfortunately, Mrs Tootlepedal had an engagement with her Embroiderers’ Guild branch’s annual festive lunch so after providing coffee and drop scones for our visitors, she had to go off to have fun.

The dogs, Tara and Milo thought it would be good to take Marianne, Tony and me out for a walk so we wrapped up well and set off to stretch our legs.

The dogs were very good at rounding up the walkers and making sure that they went in the right direction.

Milo and Tara take Tony for a walk

It was a sparkling and crisp day and the the layer of icing on the hills looked very pretty but I was surprised to sheep grazing so high up the slopes of Whita.

Whita with a little snow

This horse seemed a bit surprised to see us.


There was more snow left on the north facing shadier slopes of Warbla.

Warbla with snow

The green on the trees at this time of year is provided by moss and lichen.


Our walk took us along the fields on the Murtholm…

Meikleholm with snow

….where sheep grazed beside ice covered puddles.

sheep with ice

A little seasonal colour was on show.

holly berries

I liked the way the sun caught the smoke from a barrel burning rubbish at one of the stables along our way.


In spite of the cold, the dogs plunged into every pool and stream they could find and needed a last visit to the river to get their feet clean before we went home…

Tara and Milo at the waterside

…where they displayed a lively interest in the food which we were eating for our lunch.

Tara and Milo in the kitchen

After Tony, Marianne and the dogs left for the drive back to Edinburgh, I had another look out of the kitchen window.

Two goldfinches were having a competition to see which of them could drop the most seed…


The one on the left won.

….and this provided plenty of good pickings for the blackbirds.  We could see as many as seven blackbirds at the same time in the garden on several occasions today.


The robin (or a friend) returned to give me a selection of poses.


I took a final shot of a goldfinch in the plum tree before the sun  got too low.


I retired to an easy chair with a crossword to wait for the return of Mrs Tootlepedal from her festive fun.  She came back in a very cheery mood which was solely attributable to good food and good company as no strong drink is needed for embroiderers to have a good time.

We took some time to practise the songs for our concert tomorrow and then ventured out into the cold to watch the International Space Station as it trundled across the sky above our street.


It was very bright tonight.  I read that they are the process of having a crew change and it seems fantastic that people can fly up to what is just a speck in the sky and actually meet it.

Then we settled in for the evening.  I made some corned beef hash for our meal and we watched the Strictly Come Dancing semi finals.

I really enjoy watching ballroom dancing but the vastly over fussy lighting effects and the frenetic camera work and constant cutting made it quite difficult to see what was actually happening on the floor.  I often wish that television directors trusted the audience to have a bit of interest in the subject matter and content of their shows and didn’t feel the need to dress them up so much.  I am definitely able to watch something for more than ten seconds without nodding off, even at my age.

Looking at the weather map, it seems that we might be one of the few parts of the country to avoid snow over the next few day.  As we have to go to Carlisle tomorrow, this will be very welcome.

Once again, a chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.  I will have to try and find a flying gull by way of variety tomorrow.



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Today’s guest picture is another from Bruce. He found this signpost near Carlisle and thinks that it might be of more interest to cyclists than motorists.


There had been wild talk of 7°C in the forecasts for today but the reality was 3° when we woke and 4.5° when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to church to sing in the choir and I got my fairly speedy bike out for a Sunday morning ride.

On the plus side, the wind was very light indeed and it was sunny, with scarcely a cloud in the sky.

I like to take advantage of the well surfaced main roads on a Sunday when traffic is light so I set off up the A7 to the north with the idea of going as far as my legs thought prudent.

It was glorious day to be pedalling as long as you were extremely well wrapped up.  I was.

They have felled a wood  a mile or two out of town and as a result, a fine view up the Ewes valley has been unveiled.


The valley has a narrow flat bottom and the road winds up the left hand side as we look at it in the picture above.

To my left, on the west side, the hills were bathed in sunshine.


To my right, on the east side, things were more shadowy.


I was glad that the road was on the sunny side of the valley as on the occasions when I found myself in the shadows, it was definitely chilly.

I stopped to look at Ewes Church and was a bit disappointed to find that some tall trees were casting a shadow on my possible picture….,


…but as a consolation, two more trees in the churchyard made a fine frame for the hills behind the church.


As you get near the head of the valley, it is possible to wonder how the road is going to thread its way through the hills.  In fact the main road goes up the valley to the left and a minor road to Hermitage Castle takes the right-hand route.


Just at the junction, there is a steep ridge, a contrast to our usually smooth summits.


I followed the main road.


This is the road I followed and I was relieved to find that drainage problems which resulted in the road often being covered with water running off the fields seem to have been solved.  On a morning when temperatures are low, the possibility of hitting a sheet of ice is not attractive.

Things were fine this morning.

For a mile and a half, the roads climbs gently up a dark and narrow ravine between steep hills before arriving at the sunlit uplands at the Mosspaul Hotel.


After some discussion with my legs, it was mutually agreed that at ten and a half miles, this would be a good turning point considering that the light wind would be against me on the way home and I needed a rest before going singing after lunch.

I didn’t stop on the way back and got home in a very cheerful mood.

I would have been even more cheerful if there had been any finches in the garden but there were so few that I am beginning to think that I should gave them individual names.

Meet Archibald the chaffinch.


George the goldfinch.


And Evelyn, the young greenfinch.


There doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the sunflower seeds because when the few birds settle on the feeder, they tuck in with gusto.


Other birds keep coming.


Blue tit


So the absence of the finches is still a mystery.

Evidence of the low temperature, in spite of the sunshine, can be seen in the roundness of this robin.


In the afternoon, we went off to Carlisle to sing with the choir there.  On our way we picked up a fellow choir member in Canonbie who had injured both her ankles and couldn’t drive.

She told us that she had fallen over at a major roundabout in Carlisle a week or two ago on a very icy morning and found herself lying in the road, unable to get up.  As cars whizzed by without stopping, she understandably feared for her life.  Luckily, the third car to pass her did stop and after halting the traffic, the driver helped her get to her feet and took her off to where she could meet her daughter.

As she remarked, this was the only occasion when an attempt to pick her up by a strange man in Carlisle was welcome.  She was remarkably calm about the whole affair.

We didn’t have our usual conductor today, as he was at a concert with another of his choirs and having a stand-in  leader for the week before our concert wasn’t entirely satisfactory.  However, it couldn’t be helped and we all did the best that we could.

Our way home from the choir was illuminated by a super moon sailing through a clear sky.  As soon as we got back, I rushed up stairs with my camera on a tripod….

…and found the sky covered with clouds.

super moon

What a swizz!

In the continued absence of finches, I am struggling for flying birds of the day.


Note: I have several vacancies for guest picture of the day.


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