Posts Tagged ‘Langholm Sings’

Today’s guest picture comes from Irving who found the wonderful double rainbow when he went to look at his sheep.


We had such a sunny day here, that we were able to find a bit of a rainbow inside our house when a sunbeam glanced off a bevelled mirror edge and onto a closed shutter.


Mrs Tootlepedal spotted it at exactly the right time because a minute or so later, it had disappeared as quickly as it had come.

The glorious sunshine came with freezing conditions and the temperature never got above 2°C and was as low as -4 in the evening on the road to Waterbeck for our concert.

I took advantage of the sunshine to go for a short walk in the morning in the hope of getting some snowy scenes.  It looked quite promising with a sprinkling of snow on Whita….

whita in snow

…and I walked up the hill in the hope of seeing more snow clad hills.  Sadly, the snow was thin and lacking sparkle.

trees in snow

Something about this snow covered dead branch beside the track appealed to me…

snowy twig

…but I was not tempted to sit for a while on the bench at Whita Well because the wind was exceedingly nippy.

snowy bench

I passed a gorse bush looking magnificent…

winter gorse

…but was disappointed when I got to a spot where I could look up the Ewes Valley.

Ewes in snow

For really snow capped hills, I had to peer into the distance up the Esk valley.

cows and snow

The cows did their best to console me by posing conveniently on the horizon of Castle Hill.

horizon cattle

Perhaps because I was a bit nervous about the concert in the evening and perhaps because the chilly winds had upset my asthma a bit, I was very tired by the time that I got home and did very little for the rest of the day apart from making a pot of soup and looking out of the kitchen window for a moment or two.

The light was unhelpful, being too shady or too bright but I was pleased to have a visit from a starling…


…and a goldfinch fairly sparkled in the plum tree.


There were not as many birds as yesterday but a good number of chaffinches kept the feeders busy….


…and a robin made an appearance too.


As usual, a greenfinch carried off the trophy for looking most disagreeable.


After an afternoon’s rest and a plate of Mrs Tootlepedal’s excellent fish pie, we went off to Waterbeck, taking Mike Taudevin with us for the Langholm Sings concert in the church there.

We had a varied programme of congregation carols, choir carols, sentimental songs, a selection of Abba hits, solo singers and readings so if the audience didn’t care for one thing, another thing soon came along.

There were more in the audience than in the choir, which is always a plus point, and as far as I can tell, the audience enjoyed the concert.  Apart from one piece where we weren’t quite as together as we should have been, we sang as well as we could expect so the choir enjoyed themselves too.

Now for a day of rest before our Carlisle choir concert on Sunday.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is from our daughter Annie who is working at the Macao film festival (someone has to do it).  This is the view from her hotel.


Once again, a guest picture provides a marked contrast with our weather here.  It was very gloomy and rather windy all day.  It wasn’t quite as wet and windy as we feared but it seems to be making up for that as I write this in the evening and I can hear the wind sighing and moaning outside as the rain batters at my window.

After a few day of cycling, I was probably wise to take the opportunity of the poor weather to have a most restful day today.

I got up late. idled about, ate a cheese sandwich, made some rolls and went to bed.  In between times, I peered hopefully out of the kitchen window into the gloom.

There were some birds brave enough to face the windy conditions.  A few chaffinches came to the plum tree first….


…and then hit the feeder…


…and tucked in.


It wasn’t long before, to the chaffinches’ dismay, a greenfinch turned up.

chaffinches and greenfinch

And then more came in determined mood….


…and sometimes, very determined mood.


But there was room for them all.


I only saw this one goldfinch….


…but I didn’t watch for long and went off to practise songs and put an accompaniment for the new sonata for Luke and me onto the computer.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of a Hockney exhibition which she thoroughly enjoyed.  His vivid colours brightened her day a lot.

In the early evening, we had the AGM of the Archive Group and it passed off very peacefully and briefly as usual.  The members are extremely sensible.

Later in the evening, I poked my nose out of the door for the first time in the day and went off for the final Langholm Sings practice before our concert of Friday.  If we all concentrate, things should go reasonable well.

We are hoping that the weather will let us get to Edinburgh tomorrow to visit Matilda but there is talk of snow as soon as the wind dies down.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch



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Today’s guest picture comes from our daughter Annie.  She was very taken by this festive shop front.

festive shop

We had a slightly warmer but very much greyer day today with only the occasional glimpse of sunshine.  It was still pretty chilly when I walked along to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre to buy those necessities of life, fish, cheese, honey and venison.

I added a luxury or two in the form of some haggis and a pound of mince.

The arrival in the last two months of a cheese man from Cumbria with an enticing selection of farm produced cheese has brightened my life immeasurably.  Sadly, owing to being somewhat overweight after an inactive November, I can only look with longing at the cheese that I have purchased as eating it would make me even stouter.

I looked out of the window when I got home in the hope that the finches would have returned.

There weren’t many about  and the reason for their absence is still a mystery.  I don’t think it can be a sparrowhawk threat as the robins were still about and quite happy to pose on a twig.


And there were several dunnocks….


…a coal tit….

coal tit

…and more robins…


…as well as a fruitarian blackbird.

blackbird with apple

A few chaffinches did finally arrive…


…with some looking as though they had had a big night out when it came to staying steady on the perches.


But on the whole, there were just a fraction of our usual visitors.

With cheese in mind, I had an early lunch and got the fairly speedy bike out.  I had intended to do thirty miles but it took me so long to put on the many layers of clothes required to keep me warm and the toil of trying to pedal with all the layers in place meant that I was quite pleased to have an excuse to cut the ride down to twenty miles.

The excuse came when I turned onto a narrow road and found not only a man cutting hedges, always a risk to cyclists as hawthorn twigs tend to end up in the road, but also large mounds of semi frozen slush over the road as well.

I turned for home….but not before taking a picture of a passing tree…


…and the nearby farm.


I stopped once again on the way home to look up the valley towards Winterhope….Callister view

…and noticed more windmills on the top of the hill than I expected.


I haven’t been along this road in this direction for some time but as far as I can remember, there weren’t as many turbines as this last time I came past.  The row on the right weren’t turning in the wind so I think that they must have been added to the Ewe Hill windfarm fairly recently.

I was even more pleased about cutting my trip short when I got home and it occurred to me that I was supposed to be singing with our local choir in the Market Place as part of the festive fun which goes along with the switching on of our Langholm Christmas Lights.

When I got to the Market Place, our leader Billy was looking around anxiously for some singers.


The Market Place was en fete….

lights switch on

…and though it might look a little sparse at first sight, there were further stalls along the High Street, carved bears waiting round corners…..

carved bear

…and Santa’s reindeer behind the Buck Hotel.


Many shops were offering little drinks and snacks  and a good number of people were on the move, enjoying the treats.

Quite a few singers turned up and we had a hearty unaccompanied swirl through several unison carols to the delight of a small but appreciative audience.  After a pause for refreshment, a number of players from the Town Band arrived and we sang another set of carols with them, this time to a larger but equally appreciative audience.

I don’t like to have too much excitement in my life at one time so when we had finished singing, I made my way home without waiting for the lights to be switched on.  The celestial lighting was more than good enough for me.


I had fish for my tea.

It looks as though the weather might be kind enough for another pedal tomorrow so December is turning out very well so far.

With not many birds to watch, this greenfinch was the best that I could for the flying bird of the day.

flying greenfinch

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Today’s guest picture from Bruce got a little closer to the horse in the field.  There turned out to be two of them.


The forecast was right and we had another sunny day but it was even colder than yesterday and struggled to get above 3°C all day.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I gave up any thoughts of gardening or cycling and turned our thoughts to an expedition.  After mulling over the idea for long enough to have had coffee, watched a couple of birds….


This is the same robin taken seconds apart

dunnock and greenfinch

Dunnock and greenfinch

….made some lentil soup and eaten it for lunch, we finally got organised and set out on a triple target adventure.

Target one was the excellent nature reserve at Eskrigg near Lockerbie.  It has two hides.

We went to this one first.

red squirrel hide Eskrigg

The red squirrels don’t actually hide in the hut but I am sure they would if they could open the door.

We didn’t need to wait for more than a few seconds before they appeared on the scene.

red squirrel

red squirrel

The trouble with red squirrels is that it is impossible to stop taking pictures of them so I left Mrs Tootlepedal in the hide enjoying their antics and walked along to the other hide which is at an old curling pond, now restored as a nature place.

There was a little ice on the pond today but not enough to stop a couple of swans having a swim.

swans eskrigg

I got settled into the hide and hoped for a glimpse of a woodpecker or a nuthatch.  Unfortunately, another photographer was trying to get a shot of a jay and was walking around outside the hide in his search.   This didn’t encourage other birds to come to the feeders.

I saw a plenty of interesting fungi on the trees outside the hide….


…and a blackbird…


…and a great tit and a robin…

great tit and robin

….which I might easily have seen in our own garden.

I looked down the pond for a while.  It was very pretty but had nothing more interesting on it than some mallards.


I didn’t see anything novel on the pond or the bird feeders so when a squirrel turned up at the bird feeder there…

red squirrel

…I took the hint and went back to join Mrs Tootlepedal in the squirrel hide.  There were squirrels on every side and it was a pleasure to sit and watch them.

Some kind person had left a plentiful supply of nuts about and the squirrels were tucking in.

red squirrel


red squirrel

A regular visitor came in and told us that she had been there two days ago and had seen even more squirrels than we saw today but when she had visited yesterday she had found two keen photographers with big lenses there and absolutely not a squirrel to be seen so I guess that we were lucky today.

The light was beginning to fade and we still had two targets to hit so we didn’t stay too long.  We walked out through the woods…

wood eskrigg

….and were soon on the road to Gretna.

It was a perfect evening for seeing the starling murmuration and we got to the spot where we had seen then a couple of weeks ago.  There was already another car there and soon afterwards three more arrived, including a fellow camera club member from Langholm.  One of the newcomers told us that last night she had seen the flock coming down into this tree right in front of us.

tree Gretna

So we were all set, the sky was clear…

sunset Gretna

…with just a few clouds to the south to make it interesting.

clouds gretna

Behind us, a brilliant moon was out….


…so everything was just as it should be….

…except for a complete and baffling absence of any starlings murmuring.  A few tiny flocks passed us going north and that was it.  Not a whisper.

We waited until it seemed too late and then drove north in the hope that the murmuration might be there.  There was not a single bird to be seen anywhere.

We abandoned our second target and turned to the third, the purchase of suitable welly boots for Mrs Tootlepedal at the Gretna Gateway shopping experience.

The experience was good for us as a pair of reasonable priced wellies were acquired but, like the starlings, there was a noticeable absence of other shoppers enjoying the fairy lights.

Gretna gateway

Still, as the great Meatloaf used to sing, “Two out of three ain’t bad” so we drove home fairly cheerfully but wondering where all the starlings had gone to.

In the evening, I went out to a Langholm Sings practice.  This was slightly handicapped by the absence of the accompanist but we got some work done and with one practice still to go, we might just be ready for our concert.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch taking a sideways look at the world.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, from my neighbour Liz’s recent holiday, was chosen as an antidote to our current miserable weather.

Liz's holiday

If yesterday was grey, today was greyer.

And wetter.

A lot wetter.

lawn puddle

As it was my birthday, I took this as a personal insult but I was greatly cheered up by the gift of a delightful plastic spoon from Mrs Tootlepedal, ideal for stirring porridge in the pan and which was, believe it or not, exactly what I wanted.

Further delight was added to an otherwise dreary day by the arrival of Dropscone and Sandy for coffee.  As Dropscone had driven down from Glasgow before making scones to bring with him, this was especially welcomed.

We formed a celebration scone tower to mark the great day.

scone with candle

I feel that even the Queen would be quite pleased to have that on her birthday coffee table (though her scones might not be of such good quality).

After Sandy and Dropscone departed, I took a little time to peer through the rain at the bird feeder.

A lot of editing was needed to get the birds to appear out of the gloom.

chaffinch and blue tit

Somehow the robins always manage to look very neatly turned out whatever the weather.

blackbird and robin

And the weather was very ‘whatever’ today as this great tit found.

Great tit

This didn’t help the finches temper at all.

goldfinch and greenfinch and siskin

Goldfinches are non discriminatory shouters.  They will abuse any bird.

goldfinch and greenfinch and siskin

I made some potato soup for lunch as Mrs Tootlepedal was busy sewing a costume for our community pantomime and then after we had eaten some of it for lunch, I put on my waterproof trousers, picked up a brolly and went for a walk.

In the rain.

Quite a lot of the rain had got  into the river…

Esk in mild flood

….and the turtle was struggling to keep its head above water.


The river must have been washing some good stuff down because a couple of ducks were busy feeding.


The Sawmill Brig was a fine sight, paddling up to its knees in the water.

Sawmill Brig

But all in all, it wasn’t much of a day for taking pictures so I didn’t take many.  There are only so many ways of showing a bit if rain.

the new path

rain drops

I caught up with my correspondence when I got home and then Mrs Tootlepedal cooked me a splendid dish of scrambled eggs on toast with added tomatoes for my birthday tea.

In the evening, I went off to Langholm Sings, our local choir, and found the organisers standing around with very long faces when I arrived.  It turned out that with very few practices left before our concert, our conductor and accompanist had been unable to get to Langholm because of flooded roads.  The organisers feared that the practice would have to be cancelled as a result.

All was not lost though, as someone suggested that I might be able to help them run through a couple of things.  As I love conducting choirs and never get the chance to do it, I leapt at the opportunity and with the aid of one of my very unreliable fingers on the keyboard, we had a full practice and did some useful work.  The singers were very sympathetic to the lack of a pianist and put in their best efforts.

I don’t know what the choir thought but I had a lovely time.

It was still raining as we walked home but oddly enough, the river had gone down a bit.  There are reports of flooding to the south of us with four inches of rain in South Cumbria.

Once again I was really struggling to get a flying bird and I couldn’t manage one by itself today.

flying chaffinch

Note:  I naturally assume that all the gentle and well disposed readers of this blog wish me a happy birthday so it can easily go without saying and this will free me from the task of trying to provide a different response to the same message many times.  Those readers who don’t wish me a happy birthday can kindly keep their thoughts to themselves.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruc.  On his way to catch the train at Tweedbank a few days ago, he stopped to snap the fine pond in the village.


Today was day that can only be described as grey.  To be fair, it could sometimes be described as ‘very grey and wet’ and there were moments when it was ‘exceedingly grey and wet and windy’ but for the most part ‘grey’ would do very well.

I had to walk up to the town to pay a bill and get a prescription, actions which were well suited to a grey day but otherwise, I spent the morning indoors, occasionally looking out.

Sadly, I wasn’t looking out on either of the occasions that a sparowhawk paid us a visit but the hawk must have found the light a bit tricky too because it was unsuccessful both times.

The small birds don’t stay away for long after the hawk has gone but they looked as though they found the day quite grey too.  I have had to do a good deal of brightening in the photo editor just the make them visible in the pictures.

Greenfinches were much in evidence.


The weather hadn’t done much for their temper.

greenfinch and chaffinch with goldfinch

There was constant bickering


And it got to beak to beak business at times.


The chaffinches got into the act too.

greenfinch and chaffinch

You don’t often see chaffinches giving greenfinches the hard stare.

greenfinch and chaffinches

Then goldfinches got into fights as well.

goldfinch and siskins

No wonder this siskin was keeping a good eye for invaders while it ate a seed..


I put the afternoon to good use by practising songs.

First it was Langholm Sings songs with another of the tenors from the choir who dropped in for some confidence building before tomorrow’s practice.

Then it was Carlisle songs by myself.  The trouble with practising by yourself is that you often seem to have got a tenor part off pat only to find that it has gone wonky when the other parts join in at the choir practice.  In my perfect world, composers and arrangers would avoid discordant clashes and stick to simple harmonies but I realise that that would lead to some pretty dull listening for an audience.  More practice it is then.

In the evening, I went out to a concert at the Buccleuch Centre given by the Dave O’Higgins Quartet.

Dave is described by one commentator as a post-bop jazz saxophonist.  I would describe him and his quartet as the ideal pick me up at the end of a gloomy day.

I like serious jazz musicians like this.  They wander onto the stage in an unassuming manner, looking for all the world as though they might have come to go over the books for tax purposes but then they get to work and magic spreads out from the stage and envelops the audience.

Best of all, the sax and drums were totally unamplified and the bass and piano had only the lightest touch so there was every opportunity to listen to the music without having to duck.  A very rare thing these days.

The forecast is worse for tomorrow.  This is my fault.  While my cold was bad, the weather was good and now that my cold is getting better, the weather is getting worse.  I apologise.

I did the best that I could as regards a flying bird of the day.





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The guest picture of the day comes from my neighbour Liz.  She has been on holiday in Spain but must have strayed into Portugal because she tells me that these are Portuguese fishermen mending their nets.

net mending

It was rather chilly and the cloud was clamped on the hills when I got up.  It was nearly windless so I thought very hard about going for a cycle ride and had to weigh up the damp, cold conditions against the lack of wind.  My cough has not disappeared.  At one stage, I got into quite a heated argument with myself but in the end, sense prevailed and I invited Sandy round for a cup of coffee instead.

After coffee, I checked on the garden birds….


…and then I went out for a short walk with the hope of finding some misty shots involving bare trees for dramatic effect.  I found a dipper, a dripping conifer and some birch leaves….


…but no dramatic misty treescapes.

However, there was some curiously striped mist about…

misty view

…and a hint of a hilltop above the mist…

misty view

…and this was enough to suggest that a drive up to the White Yett might provide a shot worth taking or two and so, on a whim and a prayer, off I went.

Things looked promising as I went up the hill…

windmills in mist

…and more promising the higher I went…

mist from Whita

…higher and higher…


And the promise was fulfilled when I got to the car park.

mist from Whita

I don’t think I have seen mist in such well defined streams before.

mist from Whita

I decided that a walk up to the monument was called for and as I went up, I kept snapping.

Timpen hill was like an island in an icy sea.


mist from Whita

The mist was filling the col between Timpen and the windmills on Craig and Ewe Hill


On the other side of the town, the mist had smothered the Wauchope valley and I was very glad that I had decided not to cycle there earlier in the day.  It would have been dark and damp.

mist from Whita

The stripes of mist were most unusual and thanks to the cool and very still day, they stayed where they were for long enough for me to enjoy them thoroughly.mist from Whita

Once at the top of the hill, I expected to see the Solway plain full of mist too but it was pretty clear so that I could see the Gretna wind farm on this side of the firth  and the Lake District Hills on the far side. ..

Solway Firth

…but as you can see, they had some low level mist on the English shore too.

I could have sat up there for some time but I had an afternoon appointment so I reluctantly came back down to the car, taking a shot or two on the way of course…

windmills and mist

…including a panorama to try to give an impression of how neatly the mist was wrapped round the hills.  You can click on the panorama for a closer look.

mist panorama

As I came down, I saw two things of interest.  The first was a bird perched on a snow pole.  When I looked at the picture for the first time, I thought that it was only a stray chaffinch but a closer look tells me that it is something else.

bird on pole

(Helpful readers have told me that it is a stonechat,  I am grateful to them.)

The other interesting sight was Sandy.  I had sent him a  text to say that there was interesting mist and he had come up for a look for himself.

I didn’t have time to stay and chat as that afternoon appointment was looming up and I needed to have lunch before I went.

I combined lunch with staring out of the window.

There was the usual charm offensive…

blue tit and robin

….and an offensive charm too (goldfinch flocks are called charms)…

goldfinch and siskin

…but the siskins can more than hold their own when it comes to being offensive.

siskin and goldfinch

I couldn’t stay for long as I had to drive over to Powfoot on the Scottish side of the Solway shore to visit my physiotherapist.

The local health authorities have made it almost impossible to see an NHS physio so it was lucky that I know and have used the services of an excellent private physio, even though it costs me money.

A few weeks ago, I injured my left bicep by reaching gently behind me to pick something off a shelf and in the process, damaged my long head tendon.  Two visits to the doctor hadn’t provided me with either much information or a referral to an NHS physio so I was in search of good advice and, if possible, a miracle cure.

I purposely arrived in enough time to go down to the Solway shore.

The tide was out, there was no wind and the scene was eerily quiet.

solway and lake district

I don’t think that I have ever been able to see the reflections of the Anthorn radio masts in the sea before and may well never see them again.


It was hard to choose whether the views from the hill or the shore were better but it was a great privilege to have been able to see them both in one day.

I went to my appointment and discovered that the tendon was irreparably burst and wasn’t going to miraculously join up again so that my bicep would never recover its natural good looks.  This dashed my hopes of appearing in the Mr Universe competition.

On the up side, it turns out that as there are other tendons about, the  loss of one is not a disaster and I should, with care and attention, not do any further damage and be able to gradually improve the situation with judicious light exercise.

As the physio then eased my arthritic shoulder and freed up my neck so that I can actually turn my head now, I considered it money well spent and drove back very cheerfully.

I might have stopped on the way and waved at the starlings at Gretna but I hadn’t brought the right lens with me so I went straight home.

In the evening, I went out to the Langholm Sings choir practice and got shouted at by the pianist.  Deservedly.   But I was tired and my cough hasn’t gone away so I felt a bit hard done by.

I did get a flying goldfinch of the day before I went to Powfoot.

flying goldfinch







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