Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh’

After my brother Andrew’s artistic nut weevil yesterday, today’s guest picture from Venetia’s African adventure shows the real thing, dung beetles on elephant droppings.  You can hardly get more down to earth than that.

dung beetles

We had a busy day.  We just had time for a cup of coffee and a quick wave at the birds on our feeder…

four bords at feeder

…before setting off to drive the 40 miles to Tweedbank to catch the train to Edinburgh with my sister Susan.  It is her 85th birthday tomorrow and she was anxious to celebrate this auspicious occasion a day early by meeting our two sons and their partners and especially Matilda whom she has never met.

We managed to combine this with some cultural activity and as soon as we had got off the train, we visited the City Art Centre which is conveniently right next to the station.  Here we had some nourishing soup and sourdough bread in the cafe and then went to explore an exhibition of Edinburgh street photography of the 1950s and 1960s by Robert Blomfield, a medical student and later a doctor in the city.

We had been advised to see this exhibition by Sandy and his advice was very sound.  It turned out to be wonderful.   You can get a taste of what we saw here, though the website’s images don’t convey the full power of the prints that we saw.

After we had visited the exhibition, we were joined at the art gallery’s cafe by our son Tony and his partner Marianne who came from their work to see us. We had an hour of good conversation, tea and a fancy cake with them. I congratulated Tony on the many excellent photographs which he has taken while walking his dogs and whihc I have used as guest pictures of the day.  When it was time for them to go home (to walk their dogs), we walked along the road a few hundred yards, crossing over the railway station and heading for the National Gallery under which the trains disappear.

nat gallery from waverley

On our way along Princes Street, I was struck by these hard working little fellows holding the world on their shoulders.

princes street

The Scottish National Gallery is not particularly large but it holds a delightful selection of works and I recorded some of my favourites on my phone as we went along.




This still life was painted in oils on copper and it gave it a tremendously vivid quality.


Some of us needed a moment to recover from the sensory overload.

susan napping 85th

We left the gallery and walked past the Scottish Academy….

scottish academy

…back down to Princes Street where we caught a bus which took us down Leith Walk where we met Matilda, who had kindly brought our son Alistair and his wife Clare to have a meal with us at an Italian restaurant.

Once again, we enjoyed good conversation while we ate.  The restaurant is very well adjusted to coping with children and gives them a sheet of puzzles and some crayons to pass the time while their elders chatter on.  Here we can see Matilda explaining the finer points of one of the puzzles to her mother.


After we finished the meal and before we parted company, Matilda showed us her latest dance routine in the street while her father moved along beside her, playing the music from his phone.


She is going to her first dancing competition next month and has learned her routine very well already.

As she danced off to go to bed, we caught a bus back to the railway station, jumped on the train back to Tweedbank with a minute to spare and enjoyed a trouble free journey home to round off a most satisfactory day where everything ran like clockwork for once.

We have to thank my sister Susan for suggesting such a good way to spend a day.

Today’s flying bird is having a quiet moment of peace as it wonders if there is a screw loose somewhere.



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Today’s guest picture is another from Ada’s trip to Tenerife.  She saw lots of this attractive tree heather while she was there.

Tenerife tree heather

It was another day when we couldn’t see much here as once again it was very grey and drizzly.  It has been reasonably warm though and there are flowers just waiting for a sunny day to spring into action.

soggy flowers

As I was walking round the garden in search of flowers, I heard a familiar purring sound and when I looked towards the pond, I saw that the frog clock was working well and they had returned on schedule.

frog in pond from behind

They are amazingly punctual.  I checked on past years and found that they seem to arrive within a two or three day window each year.  Day length rather than warmth or rain must be the determining factor.

They had got to work pretty smartly.


It wasn’t very attractive standing around getting rained on so I went back in and watched the birds.  My timing was off and I caught this chaffinch half a second too late.

landing chaffinch

It was a lot drier looking at the hellebore through the kitchen window.

hellebores from kitchen

This shot summed the morning up.


It got a little drier and I nipped out to have another look for frogs.  There were half a dozen visible in the pond but this was the only one who hung around for a portrait shot.

frog in pond

After lunch, we set off to catch the train to Edinburgh and as we travelled, the weather improved until by the time that we got to Edinburgh, the sun was out, the wind had dropped and it was a very pleasant day.  The neat and regular houses in the New Town were looking handsome…


…and the view across the Forth from the top deck of the bus as we went down the hill from Queen Street was worth the journey on its own.


When we were walking from the station to catch the bus, we passed a splendid show of crocuses in Princes Street Gardens…


…although a tourist was clashing with the muted colours of the flowers.

We arrived at Matilda’s house just as she got back from nursery and for the next three hours we had fun.  First Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda did their now famous dishwashering dancing as they filled the dishwasher and set it off and then Matilda and I played throwing and catching, setting Grandpa’s feet on fire (“It’s only pretend Grandpa, it won’t hurt.”) and then Matilda enjoyed being trapped and released by both Granny and Grandpa in turn. Matilda is growing up fast and gave me a sound thrashing at a bout of arm wrestling.  This was all very energetic so it was lucky that once again Al and Clare provided us with a splendid meal to restore our strength before we caught the bus back to the station.

Very unusually, our trains, both up and down, were bang on time.   Long may this continue.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch seen from an upstairs window for a change.

flying chaffinch from above

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Today’s just picture comes from Mrs Tootlepedal’s brother, Mike.  He planted some daffodils to brighten the road verge opposite his house and is pleased that his work has born fruit.  Being 300 miles south of Langholm, his daffodils are already out.

Mike daffodils

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle after an early breakfast to help sort out the music library for  our Carlisle choir.  This is a big job with 130 copies of every piece of music we sing needing to be sorted and stored.

While she was gone I looked out into the garden on another grey day.

The feeder was busy…

busy feeder

…and on the mossy lawn, a pigeon was putting its best foot forward.

pigeon on lawn

I had put out some fat balls and they had attracted jackdaws.

jackdaws on feeder

There was no shortage of flying birds to be seen even if there was a bit of a shortage of light to see them by.

flying chaffinches and goldfinches

Sandy came round for coffee.  He was in an exceptionally good mood because he had just enjoyed a thoroughly good night’s sleep, a thing so rare as to be be priced above pearls.

While we sipped and chatted, we were joined by some greenfinches…

flying greenfinches

…and a very unusually marked jackdaw.  I have never seen one like this before.

speckled jackdaw

After coffee, we went up to visit the Moorland project feeders in the glade at the Laverock hide as it was Sandy’s day to act as feeder filler.  After filling the feeders, we lurked in the hide for a while.  There were plenty of birds about, mostly chaffinches but with a good number of great and blue tits too.

blue and great tits Laverock

As with my garden, there were no winter visitors to be seen at all.  This is a bit worrying as there seems to be no reason not see our usual migrants.  I hope it is a one off and  not a sign of things to come.

We didn’t stay too long and when Sandy stopped at the Co-op on our way back to buy a local paper (full of articles by Dropscone this week), I took the opportunity to get out too and walk home along the river in the hope of seeing something interesting.

The hope was amply fulfilled as I saw a goosander…


…two oyster catchers…

two oyster catchers

…three dippers…

dippers in esk

…and a single white duck.

white duck

It was still pretty grey and most of the birds were a bit too far away from the bank for good pictures but it was encouraging to see them.  I snapped the church too while I was passing…

church on a grey day

…and a bit of typical Langholm street life.  Dog walking is a popular activity in our town.

alan and dogs

When I got home, I made some soup and then dashed out into the garden when the sun came out.

sunny crocuses

I didn’t have time to enjoy the sunshine and go for a walk or a pedal though as I had to go off to drive to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.

It was a day of sophisticated travel arrangements as Matilda and her family were flying back from a family party in Dublin over lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal planned to catch the train from Carlisle that I was aiming to catch 20 minutes later in Lockerbie.  It is on days like this that the mobile phone really comes into is own and the flight and train journey went smoothly as planned and we all met in Edinburgh on schedule.

Matilda then took Mrs Tootlepedal and me for a walk in the woods.  We scaled the heights…


…passed all sorts of interesting plants like this St John’s Wort…


…and came out at the top of a small hill from which we could see Edinburgh Castle in the distance  over the roofs.


The rest of the afternoon was spent in catching up on news of the trip to Ireland, being coached by Matilda in the proper use of the alphabet, watching clips from Matilda’s dancing school’s annual show on DVD and eating another tasty meal.

We got safely back to Lockerbie on the train and drove home as the temperature dropped back to freezing again.

It is supposed to be warm and sunny tomorrow after a chilly start.  I live in hope.

The flying bird of the day is one of the oyster catchers making off down river.

flying oyster catcher


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Today’s guest picture is another from the seasonal treats offered in Nottingham.  My brother didn’t just have the chance of curry, he could have had Belgian waffles too.

nottingham fun

It was my birthday today but since when you get to a certain age, just arriving at another birthday is a treat and a privilege, we didn’t make a lot of fuss about it and just enjoyed the day as it went along.

It was a colder and greyer day than ever today, with a touch of frost on the lawns when we woke up.  Under the circumstances, a brisk half hour on the bike to nowhere in the garage was the best way to start the day.

The morning was brightened up by the unexpected arrival of the Scott, our former minister, for coffee.  His coffee radar has obviously not been blunted by his weeks in his new parish in Glasgow.  We had a very interesting talk about the challenges his parishioners face  in one of the poorest parts of the city and we wish him well as he plays his part in trying to help people meet these challenges.

When he left, I spent a little wasted time peering out of the window to see if there was enough light to photograph a  bird or two.  There wasn’t really enough but I clicked away regardless.

There were birds to watch if I looked hard.

busy feeder again

And it was good to see a sparrow among the goldfinches.  The chaffinches always seem to be last at the feast when the feeder is busy.

busy feeder

A male blackbird was hard to pick out in the gloom…

male blackbird

…but a female stood out better.

female blackbird

After lunch, we went off to Edinburgh to see Matilda.  She welcomed me with a hug and a handsome handwritten birthday card and showed off a whirling light on a stick which was most impressive.


Matilda treated us to a wonderful dance show to music by Tchaikovsky and Ravel and after tea, we played a family game of hide and seek.  Mrs Tootlepedal was the most successful hider.

The evening meal was worthy of anyone’s birthday.  A dish of crispy onion and mushroom dal with a coriander and ginger chutney, cooked by Alistair, followed by an orange and lemon chiffon pie, cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal and brought up on the train with us, provided a meal fit for a king.

On our way back to the station we passed rather bigger set of twirling lights on a stick, part of the Edinburgh Christmas fun.

edinburgh funfair

I was surprised to be able to catch a flying bird of the day at all today and even more surprised that it turned out to be a blue tit and not a chaffinch.

flying blue tit

I should add that Sandy has posted pictures of some of the people that he met on his recent Thai holiday.  You can see them here.

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Today’s guest picture is a swan which was spotted by my Somerset correspondent, Venetia while on a walk.  She notes that the magnifying effect of the water gives it enormous feet.

Venetia's swan

My day started not with swans but geese, as a large skein flew over the garden just after breakfast with a lot of honking to make me pay attention.

flying geese

A short while later, I took an impressionistic  picture of my favourite poppies…


…and went off to the Laverock Hide to fill the Moorland Project feeders for Sandy.  He is still in foreign parts and feeding elephants rather than chaffinches.

The light was very grey but it is almost always a pleasure to sit in the hide and watch the birds so I stayed for a while.

There were plenty of the usual suspects: chaffinches…

chaffinch moorland

…coal tits….

coal tit moorland

…great tits…

great tit moorland


woodpecker moorland

…and of course, pheasants both males, in an argument….

pheasant debate

…and a female above such uncouth behaviour.

female pheasant moorland

When I got home, I had a cup of coffee and did some business on the computer but I found time to pick some raspberries, which are in fine form, and have a quick look round some flowers.

poppyastantialilian austin october

The garden is looking bedraggled.

A man came round to clean our gutters and I hope that he has done a thorough job because we have a couple of inches of rain forecast for tomorrow and Saturday.  This should give the gutters a good test.

I didn’t have long to hang about at home though as it was my day to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and her parents.  Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that the train was late but I managed to walk down to the park near her nursery school in time to find Matilda playing with friends.

She was in a very sunny mood and gave me a big hello…

Matilda at Pilrig posing

…and made good use of the playground slide…

Matilda at Pilrig on slide

…and the death defying ‘Flying Fox’…

Matilda at Pilrig on flying fox


…before we went home for some snap, Pelmanism and railway building.

Alistair made a delicious  pasta with mushroom sauce for our evening meal and I caught the bus back up to Princes Street in a very satisfied mood.

I was early for the train so I took a picture or two.

My Lumix is very caring and if I get it out at night it says, “I know that you are old with a wobbly hand so I will see what I can do to help.”

I thought that it did quite well for hand held night shots.

national gallery edinburgh at night

The National Gallery

Bank of scotland edinburgh at night

The bank of Scotland building on The Mound

Walter Scott edinburgh at night

Sir Walter Scott looking rather ghostly as he sits under his monument.

The train back was late too but only by a few minutes so I got home in good time.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch at our own feeder.

flying chaffinch





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Helping out

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my brother Andrew.  He is recovering from an knee problem so naturally he wanted to test it out.  This was his idea of a good place to test a knee.  He got to the top.


 A short post today as I am rather tired as we had a full day.  It had rained overnight and the garden was fully of soggy flowers when I went out after breakfast.

three wet flowers

This cosmos was the best of them in my view.

big cosmos

I started off by going to the dentist for a check up (passed) and as soon as I got home, we set off in the car to catch the train to Edinburgh from Tweedbank.  The reason for the unusually early visit to Edinburgh was a request from Matilda’s parents for a little help with their garden.

They are selling their house and the professional photographer from the agents was coming to take pictures for the website in the afternoon so they wanted the garden to look as neat as possible.

After two hours work, mostly by Mrs Tootlepdedal but with assistance from me on the mower and lawn edging front, it looked like this.

Carlyle Place lawn

I didn’t take a picture of the garden before Mrs Tootlepedal got to work weeding, planting, clipping and tidying but Hercules had it easy at the Augean Stables by comparison.

What the picture doesn’t show was the rain that came down as we worked.

Inside the house, Alistair and Clare had done wonders.  It was painted recently by our other son and they had tidied and re-arranged and  ‘decorated the set’ so that it looked most inviting, both downstairs….

Carlyle Place downstairs

…and up.

Carlyle Place upstairs

We lent a hand where we could for the final touches and everything was finished just as the photographer arrived.

They are fortunate to have two keen gardeners just opposite them so that the view from their windows in always interesting…..

Carlyle Place sunflowerrs

…and they are very well connected…

Carlyle Place pole

…so we hope that the sale will go well.

Al and Clare were very pleased with the results of the professional photographers work and I look forward to seeing the pictures in due course.

After all the hard work, the grown ups needed a rest so Matilda took us all out for a meal at a very nice Italian restaurant in Leith Walk.

We caught the bus up to the station after the meal…

Leith Walk

…and were impressed by the very tall cranes at the top of the road.  They are busy with construction on the site of a little loved modern set of buildings which we are old enough to have seen being built and subsequently demolished..

We walked along to the edge of the terrace above Waverley Station when we got there and admired the view of the station roof, the North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat in the background.


North Bridge

It had tried to rain quite a few times during the day, but the showers hadn’t lasted long and we had good weather for the train and car journey home.

The flying bird of the day is a big city snail.  Al and Clare have dozens in their garden.

Edinburgh snail


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Today’s guest picture comes from our younger son Al and shows Matilda rightly triumphant beside a fantastic giraffe.  She may have had a little help in building it. I couldn’t rightly say.

matilda and giraffe

We went to Edinburgh to see Matilda today and in the the course of the day, saw both our sons as one had just finished painting the other’s house.

Al and Clare, Matilda’s parents are moving house soon and wanted there present house to look as neat as possible for potential buyers so they hired Tony and his men to paint it from top to toe and when we saw it today, finished only this morning, it looked very good indeed.

We had caught the train from Tweedbank to Edinburgh…


…and as you can see, when they built the new station at Tweedbank, the authorities didn’t spend a penny on anything that might have made it an attractive place to wait for a train.  Still, the train ran on time and there were plenty of seats so we had no complaints.

The train takes its time trundling through the borders and I was able to take a picture through the window of this ancient castle as we passed.


Note the very modern solar panels on its roof.

We met Tony and his partner Marianne at Al and Clare’s house and admired his work.  After we left the newly painted house, I paused to admire a fuchsia in a very nice garden just across the road..


…and then we had a refreshment with them in a small cafe at the end of the street before Tony and Marianne went off to their new home across the Forth and we walked down to Meet Al, Clare and Matilda at the site of their new house.

Passing this church on the way.


I like its sober but mildly decorative style.

It had rained heavily while we were in the cafe, but it had stopped before we walked down to meet Al and Clare

Their new house is still in the process of being built and they had an appointment with the builder’s representatives at the show house on the site to choose styles and colours and surfaces.  While they did that, we went shopping with Matilda and then played hide and seek and ‘Grandmother’s Footsteps’ in the show house garden while the discussions went on.

Their car was too small for all five of us so Al and I took the bus while the ladies drove to where the family are staying while their old house is being prepared for viewing.

While we waited for the bus, I looked at the top of Arthur’s Seat just to give the camera zoom some exercise….


And admired this decorative item on the roof of the church which I had photographed earlier.


The view from the top deck of the bus as Al and I went down the hill on Hanover Street is one of the things that makes Edinburgh so special.


The view from the bus as Mrs Tootlepedal and I went back up the hill to the station after an excellent meal, is pretty good too.


It was a lovely evening by this time.

The train and car journey home went very smoothly and we ended up tired but happy.

No flying bird today but a rose of the day beside the door of the house where Matilda is temporarily lodging.


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