Posts Tagged ‘concert’

Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony in Fife.  On one of his recent outings he met these charming alpacas.


Those weather gods certainly know how to get a good laugh.  After several grey and miserable days, they waited until we were bound to spend a whole day indoors regardless of the weather and then they turned on the lights.

There was not a cloud in the sky when we came out of church to see kayaks bobbing up and down on the Esk.


We had a short time at home, enough for a coffee, a sandwich and a glance at the birds, (who were enjoying the sun)…

sitting chaffinch

distant flying chffinch

…and then it was time to drive to Carlisle for a final practice before the Carlisle Community Choir Christmas Concert in St Cuthbert’s Church, a seasonal must for lovers of good music and alliteration.

Outside the church….


…a large crowd had gathered.


We had a very good attendance inside the church for the concert and thanks to the slightly more relaxed attitude of our new conductor, I enjoyed the singing more than I usually do.   I view practices as times where there is a chance of getting things right and a concert as a time where it is all too easy to get things wrong so I find practices enjoyable and concerts slightly stressful. However, since the audience members whom we met over  refreshments after the concert told us that the choir had sounded really good, we had to be pleased with our performance today.

The slow cooker had been patiently cooking a pasta sauce while we were out singing so we had a warm welcome when we got home, even though the car thermometer was registering 0° C.

I rang my sister Susan to ask after her health and she reported that she was feeling much better.  She told me that her arm was much less painful and this was another factor that led to today being entered on the credit side of the great ledger of life in spite of the weather gods’ cruel joke.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch as I didn’t have time to wait around for something more interesting to come along.

close flyinh chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from a recent visit of my brother Andrew and his wife Catherine to Antwerp and shows the interior of the very handsome railway station there.

Antwerp station

After yesterday’s early start, I wasn’t quite so nimble today and had to settle for a shorter 21 mile ride up the A7 to the Mosspaul Hotel and back while Mrs Tootlepedal was singing in the church choir.

The wind was a bit brisker than yesterday and I had to work quite hard on the way up the gentle slopes to the hotel.  I stopped to admire some sheep adrift in a sea of buttercups…

sheep and buttercups

…while looking somewhat nervously at the mist shrouded hills that lay ahead.

ewses valley

My nervousness was justified as it was raining by the time I got to the last mile up the narrow valley to the hotel.  I was pleased to turn at the top of the hill and to get the rain and wind behind me.  I soon got out of the clouds though and enjoyed a brisk (by my standards) and dry spin back down to Langholm.

Often on a Sunday there are groups of enthusiasts in collectors’ vehicles going up and down the road on rallies.  The other week it was motor scooters and today it was vintage two stroke motorbikes so I was assailed from time to time by the smell of two stroke oil being burned as I was passed.  This is one of those sensory trigger mechanisms and I was instantly transported back 60 years to when I used to watch 500cc two stroke engined cars racing round the club circuit at Brands Hatch.  Ah, the smell of Castrol.

I had enough time for a wander round the garden when I got back.  New flowers appear almost every day.

Today there was a double royal visit.  First a princess….

Rosa Princess Margaretha

Crown Princess Margaretha

…and then a queen.

Queen of Denmark

Queen of Denmark

These are both David Austin roses and should develop well over the next few days.  The Queen was infested by little black flies as you can see. They will have to be discouraged if she is going to look her best in a picture.

The alliums continue to look striking with their seed heads and I thought that this one might go well in black and white.


We are waiting eagerly for the bulk of the Delphiniums to burst into a flower and one new one appeared today.


I wasn’t the only one interested in this flower.

bee and delphinium

Going along the back border, I met a foxglove…


…a campanula freshly out….


…and had another look at Mrs Tootlepedal’s newly planted Rhododendron, Lord Roberts, which is looking very much at home.


I took a long distance shot just to show how well the bee loud hydrangea is doing on the house wall.  It was buzzing again today.


Then it was time for a quick bath and an early lunch before we went off to Carlisle, picking up another singer from Langholm on the way, to prepare for our afternoon concert.

I did snatch a moment to watch a young sparrow waiting hopefully for someone to look after it before we left.

young sparrow

We had a practice before the concert and as well as a bit of singing, we had to learn how and when to open and close our folders, where to stand and where to sit, how to hold a folder when we weren’t singing from it and, most importantly of all, to remember to look at the conductor.  Being in a choir is hard work for an old man.

There are so many singers in the choir that we were a bit squeezed for space when we stood up to sing.  As a result, the tenors found it difficult to hear each other so there were moments when we weren’t quite as good as we would have hoped to be but the other sections sang very well and in general the concert was satisfactory.  The church was full to the brim with supporters and they gave us a very good hand at the end.

We had a visiting soprano soloist from Glasgow who sang several showy operatic arias very brilliantly between our numbers.  I was talking to her and our accompanist afterwards and they both said how much they had enjoyed the rich sound that the choir made.  Considering that it is an open access choir with many members who don’t read music and others who haven’t sung much before, it has made very good progress since it was started in October 2012.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that we can perform to our best standards next week when we go to Glasgow to audition for the Choir of the Year in the open access class.

It was a warm and still evening when we got home so I got out the mower and mowed the middle lawn while Mrs Tootlepedal finished off the job of remodelling one of the box hedges by the front lawn.  She is never completely happy with the way things are and is always changing, experimenting and improving things.   I wandered about afterwards snapping away.

I have put in the main crop potatoes flowering well before midsummer day just for the record, though the flower is quietly attractive in itself.


Otherwise I looked at white things as the light faded.  Mrs Tootlepedal has a bed of peonies at the end of the vegetable garden at the moment and although they don’t have a glamorous background, it lets each bloom really stand out well.


The dim light made it more easy than a bright day would to take a picture of the Jacobite rose.

Jacobite rose

I felt that the white Martagon lily by the front gate deserved another look.

martagon lily

We have had a busy day and should sleep well tonight.

The non flying flower of the day is a closer look at one of the new Campanulas.








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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was showing a friend, who is very interested in rocks, a fine example of worked stone in Trafalgar Square.

Guarding Nelson's column, Trafalgar Square

It was a dull day as far as the weather went with intermittent drizzle for most of the day and it was a dull day as far as getting out and about went as I spent most of the morning and some of the afternoon writing some remarks to go between the items at our concert in the evening.

A moment of interest came over breakfast when the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal notice some parenting going on under the feeder.


I’m hungry!


I’m really, really hungry!


I’m hungry now this minute!


Call that a meal?

It is amusing to see such a large bird standing in a heap of food still having to rely on a parent.

We were visited by a blue tit a moment or two later.

blue tit

The blue tit behaviour is a bit mystifying as they appear out of nowhere, take one or two seeds and then disappear for days again.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in church and I slaved over a hot computer.  I had been asked to write a brief review of last night’s concert which was added to my in tray but which was a pleasure to do because I had enjoyed The Sweet Lowdown so much.

After lunch, there was a moment to look out of the window…

a ringed redpoll

A colourful redpoll which has flown into a ringer’s net at some time.

..before returning to do the last two intros for the concert.   Of course if I had done this work when I first knew about it, I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time on it at the last minute but I seem to need an impending deadline to get me going.  Anyway, I got it finished in time and went along to the Buccleuch Centre to help put out the chairs.

Mrs Tootlepedal came along later and we had a full rehearsal with the orchestra for the concert.    Luckily the programme is quite short and we had plenty of time to go home for tea before the evening show.  Once again, as we ate, the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal was on the alert.  Because I taken had so few pictures during the day, I have put quite of a lot of this one bird in tonight.


It looked right


It looked left


It looked down

sparrowhawk April 2014

And as I crept nearer the window, it looked straight at me

But not seeing anything to eat, it turned its back….

sparrowhawk April 2014

…and flew off into the plum tree and pretended to be a chaffinch.

sparrowhawk April 2014

When no other birds were fooled into approaching it, it flapped lazily off.  That made my day.  Sparrowhawks don’t usually sit still for so long on our feeder.

When the time came, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went back to the Buccleuch Centre to sing in our concert.  Sandy was in the audience and took recordings of several of the pieces and I hope to be able to put a short extract from this onto the blog soon.

Although I am not really a singer, I had offered to sing one of Gilbert’s patter songs, Sir Joseph Porter KCB from HMS Pinafore and in the event, I really enjoyed singing to a good sized audience with an orchestra to accompany me.  In general the choir sang as well as we could expect and the audience seemed to enjoy the evening a good deal.  One of them even said to me as she came out,  “I could have done with all that again.”  This is not a sentiment that you often or indeed ever hear after an amateur concert and was in part a tribute to the sensible programming which kept the concert to a very reasonable hour and a half with interval.

As a reward for the work on the introductions to the numbers, I got one or two nice laughs which for a would be comedian like myself is better than a tonic.

We both enjoyed our singing but will go to bed tonight feeling that we have been hard at work during the day.

Owing to the poor light and the presence of the sparrowhawk, flying bird opportunities were few and far between and in the absence of a decent shot, I have gone for a picture that shows that even on the gloomiest day, Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden offers a feast of colours

flower beds





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Today’s guest picture is Mike’s phone photo of the Fairy Loup taken a few days ago when there was more water about.  It is a technological triumph as his phone sent it to my phone and my phone sent it to my computer.

Fairy Loup Mike

Although it wasn’t Sunday, it was a day of rest today as rain and strong winds made the thought of cycling or even walking not a very attractive proposition.  The morning was brightened by the appearance of Sandy and Dropscone for a cup of coffee, aided by the fact that Dropscone had brought some of his special Friday treacle scones with him.

Apart from that and a swift visit to our corner shop, the morning was spent in unconstructive idling.  I did try to catch the birds on the feeder but the fact that it was very grey and the feeder was swinging violently to and fro in the wind made it hard.


This robin was not impressed by my efforts.


I clicked a millisecond too soon to catch this chaffinch booting an unsuspecting female off the feeder.

The afternoon was not much of an advance on the ironing but I did put in some useful time thinking about a triptych for the next camera club competition.  This is one of my first efforts.  It is made up of three separate pictures of Buttermere but I think that they go together quite well.

buttermere triptych small

When you look at the picture, you are doing the physically impossible and looking in two directions at once.

The day took a turn for the better in the evening when we went to the Buccleuch Centre for a concert.  It was given by the RNSO and once again we were suitably grateful to be able to walk a few hundred yards from our door and listen to a 53 piece professional orchestra.

The RNSO played a cheery mixed programme of foot tapping favourites (with some traditional new year  Strauss thrown in) which we enjoyed a lot.  The best feature of the evening was a tremendous young Scottish soprano who matched great power with fantastic control.  Her name was Nadine Livingston and I wouldn’t be surprised if quite a lot more is heard of her in the future.  Listening to her soaring voice as she stood in front of 53 musicians, all assiduously scraping and puffing away behind her, brought a tear to the eye.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been at me during the day to get in the car and go down to sea to watch the very high tides and strong winds that were featuring on news broadcasts but I wouldn’t go, saying that there would be nothing much to see.  Very annoyingly, we met our friend Gavin at the concert and he wouldn’t stop going on about how exciting it had been watching the flood tide at Annan.  He even had photos on his phone to prove it.  Hm….and the people sitting behind us were telling us of the grand walk to the top of a big hill in the gale that they had had….Hm again.

Tomorrow we are crossing the country from coast to coast to pick up our daughter from Berwick-on-Tweed and as the possibility of snow is forecast, I hope we get back safely and I can post as usual in the evening.  Once again for my directions, I shall be using that sophisticated guidance system known as Mrs Tootlepedal

Two goldfinches, one flying,  finish off today’s post.





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Today’s guest picture shows the fine ferry that took Bruce over to Arran for his son’s wedding.


After yesterday’s extreme gloom, today offered us slightly modified gloom.  It was wet and cloudy but there was just enough light to see the birds on the feeder. They were tucking in.

busy feeder

It was still too gloomy to have much fun trying to catch a flying bird…

flying goldfinch

…and even the static birds weren’t much cop….


blue tit

…so I stopped.

I don’t know if the current wet weather has brought it on or not but I have had a couple of days of aching joints so I was quite happy to loll about for most of the day doing nothing until it was time to head off to Newcastleton for the third time this week for the first of our two choir concerts.

Newcastleton was looking very decorative with the trees in its main square bedecked with Christmas lights…


…and the church was looking bright and warm when we got there.

Newcastleton Church

The history of the churches of Newcastleton is long and complicated, there having been no less than five churches locally at one time.  The church we were in is the result of many amalgamations and is being run by a board of local people who were happy to host our concert as a joint fund raiser for them and us.  We were looked after very well and attracted a reasonable audience who gave every sign of enjoying their evening.

The choir sang well and we probably exceeded our expectations.  The congregation joined us energetically in four of the carols and we had two solo singers and a guest who recited two amusing pieces very ably so there was quite a varied programme.  We finished with a rousing rendition of White Christmas and I am happy to say that we had completed the whole concert including the interval in an hour and a half, quite long enough for any amateur music making.  I conducted a few of the simpler carols without knocking my music stand over once.

I took a flying chaffinch just to show the gloomy weather that it hadn’t completely shut us down.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the result of time hanging heavily on someone’s hands near Eskdalemuir.  It was sent to me by Sandie, my northern correspondent who wonders if it is a Christmas decoration.


Our weather here today was very tame after the gales and floods that have lashed the east coasts of Britain recently and I took advantage of the quietness to get a gentle 20 miles in after breakfast.   Because it looked as though it might rain, I settled for a three lap visit to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back  and stopped on my final lap to take a couple of pictures of Glencorf burn just to prove that I had been there.



When I got home, I went off to the producer’s market to stock up on fish, mince and cheese and added a little stewing lamb for the slow cooker to my bag.  The fish people, who come from Eyemouth on the east coast, told me that their place of business had been flooded when the tidal surge had risen over Eyemouth harbour.  They were remarkably cheerful when talking about it.

I had a quick walk round the garden but there was not much to see.  Even the euphorbia was full of tears.


The rose which is trying to come out is still trying but not succeeding.


After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I went on a fungus hunting walk round Jenny Noble’s.  I had meant to take a camera with me but I forgot.  This was a not a disaster as it was so gloomy that taking pictures would have been a thankless task.  We enjoyed the walk and saw quite a few things that will repay a later visit with a camera in hand (and better light).

During the day, I looked at the feeders from time to time but they were not very busy.  The usual chaffinches were about…


Some resting….

....and some full of beans.

….and some full of beans.

The light winds had encouraged a coal tit to visit.

coal tit

A siskin made a change from the stream of chaffinches on the feeder.


Looking at the pictures that I took at this time last year, I see that we had many bramblings, some snow on the ground but no siskins.  This year we have had no snow, one brambling and one siskin.  I await developments on all three fronts.

When we got back from our walk, there was time for a cup of tea and after I had taken my keyboard along to the Buccleuch Hall for the choir to use at the  the Town Band concert where Langholm Sings were guests, it was soon time for our evening meal and the  preparations to go out.   I spent some time re-learning how to tie a bow tie as I haven’t had to wear one for years and a white shirt and a bow tie is the uniform for the men of the choir.

I was a bit sad when our accompanist turned up with his own keyboard and mine wasn’t used.  I am not a fan of hauling things about unnecessarily.

There was a good audience for the concert and the Town Band played very well under their new, young conductor.  Because we in the choir were sitting right at the front of the hall, I found the music a bit overpowering and I pined for my usual place at the rear of the auditorium where you can see better and you don’t get bombarded by notes.

The choir sang its six Christmas songs and carols well, making a good sound.  The Buccleuch Centre has an extremely dry acoustic and we were very stretched out across the hall in front of the  stage.  As a result,  those on the edges found it difficult to hear the other singers let alone the keyboard so we weren’t quite as precise in our work as we would have liked but on the whole we were satisfied and got some good comments from the audience.  Our musical director, who is not in the best of health,  conducted the three pieces in the first half and I did the three in the second half which I enjoyed a lot.  I was particularly pleased not to knock my music stand over even once.  A triumph.

The flying bird of the day is, not unexpectedly, a chaffinch, caught in one of the brighter moments of the morning.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s picture shows Wetton Mill tucked into the hill in Staffordshire where my brother Andrew was having one of his rambles.  Apart from the attraction of its situation, there is a tearoom there too.


I woke up with the time and energy to go cycling.  I leapt up,  drew the curtains and saw the rain coming down and the energy drained away as if by magic.  When Dropscone rang to suggest coffee and treacle scones without the bother of cycling first, I agreed.  By the time I had finished breakfast, the rain has stopped of course.  Still, the treacle scones came warm from the pan and were tasty enough to make me forget about pedalling for a while at least.

The demands of concert preparations and looking after the photo exhibition have made finding time for cycling hard this week as the best weather for cycling always seems to coincide with something else that I have to do. I hope to do better next week.

Meantime, I found two dryish moments to mow the lawns during the day and the care and attention that they have been receiving seems to be paying off as they are both looking almost respectable.  They were surrounded by damp flowers refusing to come out though.


A reluctant peony

white rose

A rose tried its best


The last meconopsis of this bunch looked a little depressed

bee on foxglove

The bees weren’t discouraged though.

A new flower has sneaked onto the scene.


martagon lily

The first of many martagon lilies

I looked after the photo exhibition for an hour before lunch and two hours afterwards and I had enough visitors to keep me entertained.  All this didn’t leave me with much time to stare at birds though I managed a peek or two.

great tit and chaffinch

A great tit and a chaffinch pose for the camera.


An older sparrow bears down on a youngster.


The male sparrows are strongly coloured when you have time to look at them.

We were visited by several starlings of various ages.  This one has a very flexible neck.


A young starling tired every trick it knew to draw its parent’s attention while on a wire behind the house.

It tried making a fuss and moaning. Neither worked and it flew off.

It tried making a fuss and moaning. Neither worked and it flew off.

I am getting very excited by the strong looking potatoes in my bag in the greenhouse and have to be forcibly restrained from checking for the crop before it is ready.


I had to leave the birds and the garden to go inside and prepare a few remarks for the concert to go between the numbers.  Soon it was time to go down to Kirkandrews.  It was perfect cycling weather by this time of course and the Esk looked peaceful as it rolled on behind the church.


The church looked peaceful too.


Even the basses looked peaceful.


We had four talented youngsters to sing solos and a duet along with solos and duets from members of the choir and our conductor.  The  choir was pretty well balanced with 4 basses, 6 tenors, 5 altos and 7 sopranos and we had a varied programme with numbers from Mozart to Les Miserables and singers aged  from 14 to 87.  As a bonus, our conductor gave us  a very nice tune on the mouth organ on which he turns out to be an expert.  Most importantly (and amazingly),  we had an audience of 100 including the mayor of Carlisle and the little church was full to the brim.  The church has a fantastic acoustic and the audience was pleasantly surprised by how rich the choir sounded.  We were too.

The concert went very well and was short enough that we were out of the church in an hour and a half, even with a substantial interval devoted to drinking wine.  (Note to other choir conductors: as we left no one said, “Oh I wish you had sung another four numbers which you hadn’t had time to rehearse properly.”  I have never heard anyone complain that an amateur concert was too short.)

The size of the audience was a tribute to the indefatigable publicity work of a member of the church who was very keen to use the concert to raise money to keep the church going.  She was very satisfied with the evening.  I hope we get a decent audience when we sing tomorrow in Langholm or it will feel a bit of a let down.

Today’s flying bird picture shows a sparrow in danger from a marauding siskin.

siskin and sparrow











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