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Posts Tagged ‘dunnock’

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who found herself, with a crowd of other musicians, singing the European National Anthem very loudly outside the Houses of Parliament to indicate their support for free movement for  musicians after any Brexit.  This is niche protesting brought to a fine art.

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There were no protests here today and the temperature was comfortably above freezing at 4°C when I walked up to the health centre after an early breakfast to give a thimbleful of blood for testing.  This is to check my iron levels which were a bit low a few months ago.

In a way, I would be obscurely pleased if the levels were  still a bit low as it would give me a medical excuse for being frequently tired as opposed to a well founded suspicion that this might be down to a general dilapidation of mind and body on account of having had too many birthdays in the past.  Mind you, it might just be the onset of winter.

It was  grey day and when I got home the light meter on my camera told me that it wasn’t just grey, it was really grey so while Mrs Tootlepedal put in some time on her bike to nowhere, I did the crossword and occasionally looked out of the window, hoping that the temperature might rise a degree or two and that things  might brighten up.

In the gloom, I could pick out a dunnock scavenging for fallen seed..

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…and a party of greenfinches, peacefully munching away on the feeer.

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The peace didn’t last long….

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…as chaffinches and sparrows barged in.

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It is always fun to see the concentration needed for landing safely on a perch.

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I don’t know whether the gloomy weather makes it harder for birds to judge the landing but this chaffinch looks as though he is working hard.

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I was frustrated to find that although the temperature had gone up a degree or two before lunchtime, it had also started to rain in a morose but persistent way so I gave up thoughts of cycling or walking, had some soup and turned to music practice and preparation to fill my day.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy on some errands but when she got back, she thought the day was good enough to plant out the last of her tulips.  I went out to offer her some light supervision and was delighted to find that one of the perennial wallflowers still had a flower or two on show…

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…though it was so dark that I had to use my flash to capture it.

Our ever patient heron was on guard at the pond and I liked the pattern that the perennial nasturtium’s leaves made on the yew behind it.

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(I had an appalling panto thought: It’s a behind yew.)

Next to the greenhouse, the rosemary bush is in very perky form…

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…and one or two enterprising shoots have pushed through the ventilator into the greenhouse itself where they are putting out a few flowers.

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In the early evening, seven members of the Archive Group assembled in our front room for our AGM.  You may think that AGM stands for Annual General Meeting but I have been taking lesson from you know who and can tell you that AGM stands for A Great Meeting …and not just a great meeting but a really great meeting, a really, really great meeting….probably the best meeting in the world.

At any rate, we were happy with it as we have once again done a lot of work and met with appreciation for our efforts.

After our evening meal, I pulled myself together and spent a gentle half hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage and that rounded off a quiet but useful day.

The flying bird of the day can be seen pushing through the miserable drizzle.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony and shows his efforts to teach his dogs to appreciate a fine sunset over the Forth last night.

wemyss dogs at sunset

We got a frosty morning without the benefit of any sunshine here and the temperature hardly rose at all for the rest of the day.  Still, as everyone remarked, at least it wasn’t raining.

The chilly weather was encouraging birds to come to the feeder…

chilly feeder

….and I poked my nose out into the garden after breakfast to enjoy Jack Frost’s work.

garden frost

Sandy came round for coffee and we discussed Archive Group business.  He is busy cleaning and scanning a large set of photographic glass plates which are more than 100 years old and he is finding the results very interesting.  They will appear on our website in due course.

While we were chatting, an unexpected flash of colour caught my eye and I leapt up to see a brambling in the plum tree,

brambling in Plum tree december

This is the second one of the season but like the first, it seemed to be a lone bird and didn’t stay long.

Unlike the brambling, the dunnocks are permanent fixtures at the moment and are obviously managing to avoid the marauding cats which haunt our garden.

dunnock on chair

Otherwise the traffic was much as usual.

chaffinch and goldfinch frosty day

After coffee, I gave my spare laptop and the Archive Group projector a trial run and then went along to the Buccleuch Centre with them where I was able to prove that there is such a thing as a free lunch.  Not only did I get some excellent soup and sandwiches at the patrons’ lunch but I was allowed the privilege of showing the other patrons 100 of my photographs.  They put up with this without any complaint and I enjoyed showing a selection taken from every month from December 2017 to December 2018.

Mrs Tootlepedal was helping with the catering both for our lunch and the other customers in the coffee bar and she had a very busy time.  She was still working hard when I went home.

The afternoon was very still and I would dearly have liked to have gone for a quick cycle ride, as days with little wind are at a premium.  However, the thermometer was still only showing 2 degrees C so I allowed good sense to take control.  I really do not want to hit a patch of ice on my bike this winter and even if the road is 99% ice free, it is the other 1% that can do the damage.

I went for a walk.

It turned out to be a good decision because although the going underfoot was good, not only were there plenty of icy puddles…

icy puddle

…but there was also a rawness in the air that made it feel very cold so cycling would not have been fun at all.

When I got to the park, I found that someone had been improving on nature…

baubles in park tree

…and when I had passed through the park, I found that others had gone to the trouble of sweeping (or blowing) all the leaves off the path through the Beechy Plains.

swept beechy plains

This is the sort of thing that brings a smile to your face even when your nose and ears are tingling with the cold.

I walked along the Murtholm track, looking for points of interest on a grey day, such as a bright bramble leaf

winter bramble leaf

…and drops of water suspended on every square of the sheep fencing the whole way along the track….

droplets on sheep wire

…and evidence of the recent strong winds…

fallen branches

…and a very fresh and green looking shrub.   I am open to suggestions as to what it might be.  Some sort of ivy perhaps?

ivy

I looked up at Warbla where I had been standing in the beautiful sunshine yesterday…

Warbla on a frosty day

…and was very glad that I wasn’t up there today.

It was growing increasingly misty as I went towards Skippers Bridge and when I got to it, the view downstream from the bridge was gloomy.

misty from skippers

Where there is a bridge parapet or a wall, there is always lichen and there was a good selection on the bridge itself and the wall along the main road as I walked back.

skippers brodge lichen

There as lichen of a different sort on a wooden fence beside the path further on and one or two defiant daisies to add a touch of colour to my walk.

lichen adn saisy

I was surprised to see a very healthy looking fungus up a tree outside the back entrance to the Co-op store….

co-op fungus high

…and some more lower down the tree.

co-op fungus low

I was pleased to have managed to get a two mile walk in before the light completely faded but I was even more pleased to get home and into the warmth with a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

Waiting on my doorstep when I got back was a bottle of red wine. It turned out to be a present from Bob, the organiser of the patron’s lunch.  I found a good home for it while I was eating my evening meal and I am writing this post in a consequently very cheerful mood.  (Mrs Tootlepedal had a glass too.)

It is supposed to get progressively warmer over the next two days but as it is going to rain as well, this is not much consolation.

The flying bird of the day is outlined against the frosty lawn.

flying chffinch frosty

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce who is a railway enthusiast and was present at the unveiling of a plaque by Captain Chris Smith at the spot where the Hawick railway station would be if it was still here, which it isn’t.

The Jellicoe Express ran between Euston and Thurso.  Hawick on the old Waverley Line.  Hawick was a station where the Express called in one direction for coal and water and now is the only location that no longer has trains. The Express was the longest rail journey in Britain and ran during both world wars transporting mail and navy personnel

Many local people cherish the hope that the station will reopen in the not too distant future.

Jellicoe Express

The weather here was a lot better today as I could judge for myself when I crossed the Esk by the suspension bridge…

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…on my way to meet Dropscone at the now ex-archive centre where we read the electricity meter and I passed over the door key.  On my way home, I popped into the garage to pay my bill and then went into the Welcome to Langholm office where our local art club was holding an exhibition and bought a painting.

When I crossed the suspension bridge on my return home, I enjoyed the view  downstream.

sdr

I didn’t have long to wait once I had got in before I was re-joined by Dropscone who had been cooking some of his traditional Friday treacle scones while I had been busy.  They were excellent as usual and added to the general cheerfulness of the day.

When the scone eating ceremony was completed,  Dropscone cycled home and I walked back up to the town to collect my art purchase.  Coming out of the Welcome to Langholm office, I couldn’t help noticing that workmen were well up to the job of putting the decorations on the enormous Christmas tree outside the Town Hall.  Rather them than me.

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Mrs Tootlepedal, who had been out having coffee with friends, came home just after I got back and I was able to present her with the painting.  I had bought it as a secondary birthday present for her to go with the light bulb.

The painting is by a local artist, Margaret Walty who does the most beautiful and detailed work.  The panel below shows the whole painting and a section of it enlarged.

Margaret Walty

To give an idea of the scale at which Margaret works, the breast of the robin is less than 1 cm across….and she works in acrylics without using a magnifying glass.

I turned from art to nature and watched the birds for a while.  Two goldfinches were enjoying the seed today without being battered by the rain.

bookend goldfinches

A dunnock hopped about on a chair beside the feeders.

dunnock on chair

I made some vegetable soup for lunch.  We still have plenty of potatoes left from the garden but after I used one of our onions, there are now only two left.  Still to get to December with our own onions is not too bad.

It was pretty windy in spite of the sunshine so I decided to go for a walk after lunch instead of a cycle ride and this turned out to be a good decision as I had a most satisfying stroll.  I have declared my leg officially cured so I ventured up the Kirk Wynd and on to the open hill.

I had a look round the garden before I left.

strawberry and sweet rocket November

Ornamental strawberry and sweet rocket.

As I passed the golf club, I couldn’t help noticing these very bright yellowy orange flowers on a shrub beside the track.   It might be a pyracantha or cotoneaster but whatever it is, I was surprised to see it flowering.

november flowers kirk wynd

As I got further up the track beside the golf course, the hills came into view.

View from Kirk Wynd

As the brisk and chilly wind was coming from behind me, there was just enough heat from the sun to keep me comfortable and I could enjoy the play of light on Castle Hill with the dark clouds behind.

castle hill November

Luckily the clouds were being driven up the valley and although the sun was low in the sky, the views were delightful.

sunshine and shadow ewes

I had taken Mrs Tootlepedal’s advice and had my walking poles with me.  They are a great help when going up hill and I soon got to the top of the golf course where a good crop of British Soldier lichens can be found…

soldier lichen

…and headed out onto the open hillside.

I didn’t go any higher up the hill but walked along the contour….

two trees abive Hillhead

…until I came to the road to Newcastleton.

Up ewes

There has been a lot of tree felling on the far side of the road and I could now see the sheep pens and buildings which have been hidden by the trees for many years.

sheep pens

The sun dropped below some low clouds behind Warbla at this point…

warbla late november

….but the road down the hill is well sheltered…

 

copshaw road

…and my walk back to the town was no problem.

I took the little path along the Lamb Hill and was greeted by some gorse in flower.

november gorse

I reached home after just under two and a half miles in harmony with nature and enjoyed a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal who had returned from a visit to the hairdresser.  Everything was good.

Mike and Alison are busy babysitting their daughter’s dogs at the moment so there was no Friday night tootling but I employed the time in practising singing for Sunday’s choirs so it wasn’t time wasted.

The flying bird of the day is roughly the 120th chaffinch to have had that honour this year.  I will have to try to get out more.

flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture is from my sister Mary who visited the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

Tragalgar Square

It was a sunny day here when we got up but far too cold to be able to risk a cycle ride with frost about so I pottered about until Sandy arrived with some Archive Group documents and we had a cup of coffee.  He and Nancy did a great job in moving Archive Group to their new premises with the help of a very obliging pair of ‘moving men’ and we hope that our data miners will soon get used to the new surroundings.

Dropscone has been  our landlord in our old premises for many years and we hope that he will be able find a good use for them now that we are gone.

When Sandy left, he took the sunshine with him and the day got progressively gloomier as it went on.  I decided to cook some tea cakes, using a method that is easy but time consuming in  the preparation of the dough so I had time to look out of the window at the passing show.

It was perching time for the goldfinches.

goldfinches perching

goldfinch on feeder

Once again, the old sunflower stalk was a handy staging post.

goldfinch on sunflower

Sometimes goldfinches waited for sparrows to move….

goldfinch and sparrow

…and sometimes sparrows encouraged goldfinches to move….

goldfinches and sparrow

…and sometimes chaffinches managed to get a look in too.

chaffinces staring at goldfinch

The tea cake method involves very light stretching of the dough rather than heavy kneading but it has gaps of a quarter of an hour between stretches so I had many looks out of the window while waiting for the next stretch and as well as birds at the feeder, I saw a dunnock…

dunnock

…and a blackbird scavenging for fallen seeds on the ground.

blackbird below

After a while, the dough was ready for its first rising so I had lunch and then while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a screening of a Degas exhibition at the Buccleuch Centre, I went off to collect my new bicycle from the bike shop where it had been having a service.  Although I had taken it in to the Carlisle branch, they had kindly brought it back to the shop in Longtown for me to collect it so I didn’t have far to go.

When I got home, I divided the tea cake dough into balls for the second rise and considered my options.

The day had got very gloomy by this time, with a brisk breeze and a hint of rain so once again I neither walked nor pedalled but went to work on my computer until Mrs Tootlepedal got back from her screening when we had a cup of tea.

Then it was time to bake the tea cakes and since the recipe is generally fool proof, they came out quite well.

dav

They enlivened with currants and raisins and spiced with cinnamon and ginger.

In the evening, one of the tenors from Langholm Sings came round and we did a little practising.  We shall see if it pays off when we meet tomorrow for our next rehearsal.

The forecast for tomorrow is appalling so I don’t think that there will be any chance of a pedal on my newly serviced bike.

In fact, November has not been kind to me from a cycling point of view recently.  I see that I only did 58 miles last year in the whole month because the weather was very poor and I had a persistent cold and so far I have only done half that distance this year with three days to go.  I might have to take issue with the poet who thought that April is the cruellest month.

The flying bird of the day is two goldfinches showing off their flying skills.

Flying goldfinches

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my ex-colleague Marjorie who was enjoying the sunny weather at Beadnell Bay on the Northumberland Coast yesterday.  The buildings on the right are old lime kilns.

Beadnell Bay

As it had been only 4°C last night when I left the camera club meeting with Mars shining blood red in a clear sky, I was expecting a cold and frosty morning but it had clouded over and was comfortably warm as I cycled up to the town after breakfast to do some business and sort out a problem at the archive centre.

One of the microfiche readers in the centre had stopped working and things looked ominous as early efforts made no improvement.  In the end, it turned out to be a problem that needed luck rather than expertise to solve and a fortuitous knock in the right place got it back on track again.

I cycled home and got on with the main business of the day which was getting things in order for the return of Mrs Tootlepedal.  This required sweeping, ironing, vacuum cleaning, looking out of the window at the birds…

sunny coal tit

…in my lunch hour…

dunnock on chair

…when the day brightened up by good luck.

Chaffinches were the busiest at the feeder.

chaffinches here and there

Then there was some general tidying up and plumping of cushions and time for another look at the birds where I found that the chaffinches had gone and a great cloud of sparrows had taken over.

sparrows on chair

sparrows on feeder

The weather got greyer and windier as the afternoon went on and two collared doves had to cling to the plum tree and duck into the wind to avoid being shaken off.

two collared doves

When I look out of the kitchen window and there are no birds to be seen, I can always enjoy Mrs Tootlepedal’s flowers round the feeder.

The nerines are flourishing…

nerines

…and so is a small clump of gentians, bought from a garden centre not long ago and still in the garden centre pot.   They will have to find a home soon.

gentians

As  the afternoon wore on, a fine drizzle was blown in by the wind so I was pleased that I had walked round the garden while it was still dry.

The leycesteria is looking at its best in spite of frosty mornings and rainy days..

leycesteria

…and although the yellow potentillas have finished, there are white and orange ones still soldiering on.

two potnetillas

With everything looking as welcoming as I could make it, I set off to Carlisle to collect Mrs Tootlepedal from her train. It was a smooth operation with plenty of parking places free at the station and the train on time to the minute.

I had a moment to look around before the train came.

Carlisle train

This little engine has a flower bed in its tender but the flowers are over for the season.

Carlisle station

The station has a brand new and impressive roof  but is that a puddle on the platform?

Mrs Tootlepedal told me that when the train had left London, the day had been warm and sunny but as she went north, the weather had got steadily worse.  By the time we reached Langholm, it had got very wet and windy but even so, Mrs Tootlepedal was pleased to be home….especially as there was a nice cup of tea and some home made fruity malt loaf to welcome her.

Normal service will be resumed tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow, spotted just before the sun came out at lunchtime.

diagonal flying sparrow

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Marianne, our son Tony’s partner.  It shows Tony getting some sausage making tips at the ‘Bowhouse Food Weekend’ in St Monans yesterday.  Marianne tells me that they intend to eat the sausages that he made.  They are very brave.

Tony at St Monans

After two days of miserable rain and wind, the weather gods relented and laid on a calm, fairly warm and dry day today, ideal for cycling.  Of course they knew that I had choirs to go to both in the morning and the afternoon with no time for serious cycling in between so they must have laughed themselves silly.

Still, the choirs were very enjoyable so I had no complaints.

After the church choir,  I had time to walk round the garden.

We have a little horizontal cotoneaster against the house with bright red berries and colourful leaves.

berries and leaves

Wet flowers were to be found. The striking clematis in the top row is is the only flower that the plant has produced all year.

Octcober flowers

We have our own autumn colour provided by the climbing hydrangea and one of the azaleas.

hydrangea and azalea in autumn

I looked at the birds while I attended to the tricky culinary task of preparing baked beans on toast for my lunch.

A collared dove appeared and didn’t start a fight.  This was possibly because it was the only dove there.

Collared dove at rest

There were several goldfinches only too ready to argue.

goldfinches sparring

I got the chance to catch  welcome visits from a dunnock…

dunnock Oct

…and a robin.

october robin

After my baked beans, I had just enough time to go for an amble round Easton’s Walk.

As I got to the Wauchope Water, I found that it had gone down enough to allow a dipper to do some dipping in the calmer current near the bank.

dipper dipping

The recent rain has encouraged the moss on the park wall.

spangles moss

I came down the track to the edge of the Murtholm fields….

Easton's Walk in autumn

…and enjoyed the colourful trees behind the farmhouse at the far end.

Murtholm in autumn

As I walked back along the river to the park, I spotted two ghostly fungi, one on a fallen tree…

white fungus

…and one unusually white one, part of a small bunch of fungi on the banking in the shadow of old tree roots.

very white gungus

The thorny hedge round the war memorial provided a resting place for water droplets.

thorn hedge with raindrops

When I got home, the sight of the winter jasmine in full flower at the back door  was a reminder of the march of the seasons.

winter jasmine

The weather gods had one last little joke to play.  The sun came out just as I was preparing to go to Carlisle for the afternoon choir so I only had time for a glance out of the kitchen window to watch a siskin hanging about…

siskin depending

…and a chaffinch weighing up his options …

flying chaffinch in sun

…before I went off to Carlisle to sing, driving down the road in beautiful weather and muttering under my breath as I went.

Our new musical director continues to be very lively and amusing so we all worked hard for her in return and as a result, we had a useful practice.

I am hoping for some kindly cycling weather tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow in torpedo mode as it heads for the feeder.

flying sparrow missile

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony in East Wemyss.  He wanted to show me that they have butterflies there too but their ones come indoors.

wemyss butterfly

It was a stop start sort of day.

Our car had two warning lights when we got back from Carlisle yesterday and they were still sending out bad vibes when I switched on the engine this morning.  I rang the garage to see if they could do anything and there was a good deal of sucking of teeth and sighing.  “Very busy….not taking any more work this week…(sound of Tootlepedal crying) ….oh well, bring it in and we’ll see if we can look at it….no promises.”

I took it in.  They looked at it.  No more warning lights.  I collected it.  It was raining lightly by this time but I was very sunny.  Fingers are firmly crossed as I have to drive fifty miles tomorrow.

When I got home, the sun was shining so I went out into the garden for a walk round with Mrs Tootlepedal.  There had been ice on the car windscreen with a temperature of 2°C before breakfast and a lot of the dahlias had turned up their toes as a result.  However, it had warmed up quite quickly and there were survivors all around.

late garden flowers

Clockwise from top left: Gaura, calendula, rudbeckia and perennial wallflower

The upside of the demise of the Sunny Reggae dahlias was more space and light for the two fuchsias behind them.

fuchsia October

fat fuchsia october

And I did see a red admiral butterfly.  It was on the remains of the French marigolds which did such a good job of protecting the carrots earlier in the year.

red admiral on marigold

In the vegetable garden, chive and mint are still in flower.

chive and mint

Mrs Tootlepedal was mourning the loss of some nasturtiums to the cold when she noticed that there was some damage that wasn’t weather related.

cabbage white caterpillar (2)

Cabbage white caterpillars were chomping their way through leaves and flowers.

cabbage white caterpillar

Our kitchen was being painted and I had to wait in for the call from the garage so I put the morning to good use by entering two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  I am well behind schedule at this task so this was not before time.

When the painter went off to let the first coat of paint dry, I watched the birds from the kitchen window.  It was another busy day.

There was a mixture of greenfinches, sparrows and chaffinches at first…

busy feedr

…but a small gang of goldfinches soon turned up too.

goldfinches

Political discussions grew heated and a sparrow had to fly in to calm down two goldfinches who were debating the merits of Canada ++ and/or of falling of a cliff.

goldfinches in discussion

Greenfinches pursued sparrows…

greenfinch in pursuit

…and then goldfinches pursued sparrows.

goldfinch and sparrow

But the goldfinches couldn’t stop arguing.  The one on the left is practising the ‘no deal’ Brexit position.

goldfinch coming and going

A coal tit rose above the bickering…

coal tit on pole

…and a chaffinch showed her disgust at the whole situation.

fierce chaffinch

One of our visiting jackdaws has some elegant white wing feathers to show off.

jackdaw with white

Over lunch, we watched a re-run of the last kilometres of the men’s world championship cycling road race and felt for the riders as they had to battle up an extremely steep hill.

When the painter came back, we went out into the garden and did some useful work.  I mowed the drying green and the green house grass, did some shredding and sieved some compost.  The compost went on to the first of the new beds at the top of the vegetable garden which Mrs Tootlepedal had been preparing.

new bed back veg

I trimmed the top of the white clematis round the back door as it was creeping up in to the gutter and while I was in clematis mode, I noticed that we still have two clematis on the go in a modest way.

late clematis

I rounded off my photographic day with a glimpse of a dunnock…

dunnock

….the first to appear on the blog since early June.

Mike Tinker dropped in to report that his son David and family were safely on their journey back to New Zealand.  They will be looking forward to some warmer weather no doubt.

In the early evening, Luke came to play flute and once again we made steady progress (hemidemisemiquavers are meat and drink to us now) and then after tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  What with one thing and another, we haven’t been playing a lot recently and it was good to get together again even though some rustiness was apparent all round.  The Reader’s Digest used to suggest that laughter is the best medicine but I think it is music.

The flying bird of the day is a determined chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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