Posts Tagged ‘lithodora’

Today’s guest picture shows Sandend harbour in Banff, on the north east coast of Scotland.  Gavin passed it on a walk today as he is on holiday up there.

banff harbour

We had another dry day here today, although one or two spots of rain did fall in a half hearted way in the afternoon.

After breakfast I had to frame a couple of wild goat pictures for a Moorland Exhibition in the Welcome to Langholm Centre in May and then I had a walk round the garden.

in spite of the frosty weather earlier in the week, many tulips have done very well and even some of the Ballerinas have survived….


…and more tulips are arriving every day.


The tulips that Mrs Tootlepedal bought at Alnwick have survived the journey home and the cold and are looking very healthy.  Here are three of them.


I couldn’t pass the anemone by without taking a picture….


…because they are delicate flowers and it might be gone if there is a heavy shower of rain.

Although progress is slow because of the recent chilly mornings, new flowers are arriving.

Solomon's seal and lithospermum

Solomon’s Seal and Lithospermum

I was very impressed by the volubility of a blackbird as I went down the drive in front  of the house.


I didn’t have long to look around though because I was delighted to leave the garden to partake of some treacle scones brought round by Dropscone to go with our first cup of coffee for a while.  Dropscone followed his trip to Skye with a golfing break so he has hardly seen his home for a fortnight.

He hasn’t lost his scone skills though.

After he left, I had to go to the health centre for a routine check but i had time to check on the perching redpolls first.


After lunch I went off for a cycle ride.   The wind had dropped considerably from recent days and had moved round from the north so it was both quite a bit milder and much more helpful as I cycled back to Langholm from Canonbie.    I concentrated so hard on the pedalling that i forgot to take any pictures at all.

When I got home, I took my framed pictures up to the town and helped hang them on the wall beside some offerings from the local art club.

goat pictures in WtL

The Moorland Exhibition has been well publicised so I hope that they get plenty of visitors.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had an enjoyable time playing as always.  On a sobering note though, we put a metronome on as I felt that we were slightly rushing a slow movement in one of the pieces. ‘ Slightly rushing’ turned out to be an understatement as were well ahead of the pace after only four bars.  We shall have to learn to apply the brakes.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, looking a bit shifty I thought.

flying goldfinch



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Today’s guest picture is a taster from Sandy’s visit to the other side of the Atlantic.  He claims it is Las Vegas but I seem to have seen that statue somewhere before.

Las Vegas

Our spell of calm, dry weather continued today with the added benefit of temperatures remaining well above freezing.

I had a gently full day which started with a visit on my slow bike to the High Street to take some folded picture cards to the paper shop.  I continued in a circle past the cash machine and our corner shop, topping up with necessities at both.

I then spent some time looking out of the kitchen window.  I set the camera up on a tripod and waited.  Normally going to the trouble of putting the camera on a tripod means that there will be no birds to watch while it is up and just recently, birds have been hard to find anyway so I wasn’t very positive.

For some reason though, today was the day and there was steady procession of obliging chaffinches, coming and going….

flying chaffinches

…for the whole time that I was watching.

Each chaffinch took up a different position as it approached the feeder…

flying chaffinches

…and I clicked away happily.

flying chaffinches

It came as quite a surprise when one actually paused for a moment on the feeder.

chaffinch on feeder

I could have done with the weather being a bit brighter….

flying chaffinches

Photoshop provided me with some imaginary sunshine for this pair

…but otherwise I couldn’t complain.

The chaffinches kept coming.


And all the chaffinch pictures above were taken in a four minute period.  Sometimes I wait for ages and no flying birds are available.

After a while, other birds arrived and the feeder became a centre for cross cultural conversation.

goldfinch, blue tit and chaffinch

I had a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, did the crossword and then pottered around putting on cycling gear and pumping up my tyres until I finally got out for a ride just before midday.

I took the well travelled route across the hill and down to the bottom of the Canonbie bypass, returning by the old A7 and managed to maintain a very steady and respectable (for me) speed throughout.  I didn’t stop for any pictures but I had to stop whether I liked it or not when my front mudguard finally broke catastrophically.  I have been patching the mudguard up with tape for some time but this fracture was fatal and I threw the thing away in a handy litter bin and cycled home with a naked front wheel.

Naked wheel

I will have to do something about this because cycling on wet roads getting soaked by a shower of my own making is not among the things that I find attractive.

After lunch and shower, I visited the offices of our local paper.  On my way, I was waylaid by a couple of vocal robins.


After continuous publication since 1848, our local paper, The Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser is facing closure later this month by its present owners, a Carlisle local newspaper group.  The editor is trying to ensure that the extensive photographic archive stays in the town so I went to see what the Archive Group could do to help.

After a constructive conversation, I went off for a short walk in the gathering gloom.  As I passed the ducks on the Kilngreen, they took exception to my presence and dived off into the river.


On a grey day, I had to find any colour where I could.

shrub on Kilngreen

A shrub on the Kilngreen

moss on wall

Moss on a wall

There was certainly hardly any to be seen on the Lodge Walks….

Lodge walks

…or on the hills.


A little brightness was provided by a snowberry bush on the bank of the Esk.


When I got home, I thought of making crumpets to cheer myself up  but it seemed like a rather elaborate process so instead, I made some dough in the bread machine which turned into bread rolls later in the evening.

In the meantime, a good dish of macaroni cheese for my tea made up for any crumpet deficiency and the evening was rounded off very well by a visit from Alison and Mike Tinker.

Alison and I tinkled and tootled away cheerfully and occasionally correctly on electric harpsichord and flute and then we joined Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal for conversation.

Any day with a pedal and a tootle is a good day by definition but when it is a dry, calm day in December with added chaffinches and conversation, it is a very good day indeed.

The leaves of the day are provided by a lithodora, looking healthy beside our drive…


…and the flying bird is one of the obliging chaffinches trying out a new “no tail” flying style.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a very nice clematis in Manitoba sent to me from across the pond by Mary Jo.  She tells me that they are expecting snow.  It has not been a good spring here or there.

clematisWe had another fine day today but with a strong and chilly wind still very much in evidence.  I spent most of the day keeping out of the wind.  Dropscone helped me by dropping in for coffee and he was rewarded with several sticks of rhubarb of which is fond.

When he left, I girded up my loins and went outside to mow all three lawns.  I had just finished when I was visited by Mike Tinker, his son -in-law, Lorne and two of his grandchildren.  Sara and William immediately headed for the pond and were delighted to be able to surprise a frog while Mike, Lorne and I considered the state of the world in general and the lawns in particular.  I was bemoaning the fact that I no longer have the capacity to properly spike the lawn when Lorne offered to come down and spike it for me in the autumn.   It would be wonderful if he did.  Having a lawn spiked by someone called Lorne would be a clear case of nominative determination (and jolly useful too).

When they left, I had a wander round the garden.

lithodoraIn spite of things being very backward because of the cool spring, there is colour be seen and my currant favourite is this lithodora.  The blue flowers seem to float above the dark green foliage.

Brasher colours are to be seen too.

king cups and hyacinthSadly a couple of very cold mornings a week or so ago have put paid to two of our azaleas and killed off every bud.

azalea and rhodieSome have survived though and a rhododendron is just about to burst into flames.

After lunch, I spent a little time watching the bird feeders.


A goldfinch is thoroughly disgusted by another goldfinch doing acrobatic tricks with a siskin by perching on its beak.


Two calmer goldfinches itting for their portraits

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Canonbie, where she had one or two items entered in a WRI competition and I went for a walk.  I was looking to see if the bluebells had improved at all but there were many other things to look at on the way.

Murtholm trees

The trees along the Murtholm fields.


Swallows flitting up the Esk. It is amazing what a difference a slight turn of the camera makes to the light.

The bluebells, when I got to them, were good but not great…

bluebellsbluebells…and I thought that the walk along the main road to get to them was just as rewarding visually.

A7I walked back over Skippers Bridge and took the obligatory picture.  This time, I looked downstream.

The EskAnd then I climbed up a path to the old railway line above the river.  There is a handy rail for the convenience of elderly walkers.

Skippers pathI took the path from the railway up towards the Round House…

Path to Round House…and then strolled back down the hill into the town.  Beside the track, I saw the first broom flower that I have seen this year. It was about to open.

broomA few yards further on, I saw two that had opened.

broomFurther on still, I had another look at the flowering nettle which I have photographed before without doing it justice.  This is one of those tiny flowers that you might well pass by without noticing it, if you hadn’t had your eyes opened by walking around with a camera.  I find it hard to capture yellow flowers well but this was my best effort yet.

nettleI went down to the river in the hope of seeing some interesting water birds on my way home but had to make do with some flowers beside the water.

cornflower and pinkbellWhite bluebells are quite common but I don’t think that I have seen a pink one before.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had returned and I was able to eat a couple of slices of her third-prize winning tea loaf with my refreshing cuppa.  It was delicious.  The first and second prizewinners must have been really good stuff.  I was also pleased to see a bee hard at work among the apple blossom.

bee in apple blossomIn the evening, I went off by myself to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a band called Elbow Jane play.  There was much to admire about them; their sound level was very reasonable, the bass and drum players were efficient and discreet and the three front men were all good musicians.  On the other side of the coin, their set went on too long, and their singing was a bit relentless so in the end it rather felt as though you had been shouted at for two hours.  As well as their own songs, they covered Paul Simon, The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival and Joni Mitchell which gives a good indication of their influences and although it is music that I like, they never really managed to bring an involuntary smile to my face or get my toe tapping for long.  Still, a live concert 300 metres from your front door is always a bonus and I enjoyed myself.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.  The picture shows just how well balanced these birds are in the air while their wings are flapping furiously.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture, sent to me by cyclist Lorne,  shows the results of a piece of well travelled sourdough starter in action.  The starter came to me from Talkin in Cumbria across the border, a gift from my recorder playing friend Sue and I passed some of it on to the clarinet playing mother of infant cyclist Sarah who took it to Linlithgow on Sunday and made this fine loaf with it.


The good spell of blue skies and warm temperatures has come to the end and Dropscone and I went out for the morning run in grey conditions and a thermometer struggling to reach 50°F.  Still, it was dry and the wind was reasonably gentle on us.

The wind gave us a helping hand on our way out but only became a factor in  the last 6 miles on the way home.  We drank our coffee and ate our treacle scones when we got back with a degree of contentment.  Nobody had got a puncture and nobody had fallen off so it had to be counted as one of the better morning runs of late.

The chief business of the day was returning 90 choir books to the public library in Carlisle.  These are heavy books in big boxes but Mrs Tootlepedal had whisked them into the car before I had finished my shower after coffee.   We had an early lunch and drove off with the books.  The library sits in a shopping mall with a multi storey car park beside it.  We phoned the librarian just as we got near and she was waiting for us with a trolley at the back door to the library which leads on to the top floor of the car park.  The transfer was completed in a matter of minutes.  If you want friendly and efficient service, the Carlisle Public Library is the place to go.

While I was in Carlisle, I took the opportunity to visit a camera shop.  I wasn’t looking for a camera though.  I have become a bit fed up with sitting or standing next to Sandy or Mrs Tootlepedal while they look at distant birds through binoculars and enjoy sights which are mere dots in the sky to me so I was looking for a pair of binoculars suitable for an old man with dodgy eyesight and specs.  They had a pair.  I bought it.   I am looking forward to using them over the weekend.

When we got home, I realised that I hadn’t taken a single photo all day so in spite of the fact that it was raining, I nipped out into the garden.  Some of our tulips are over but there are still many looking very well.


The bergenia is not the most elegant flower but it added a dash of colour to a dull day.


As did a healthy clump of lithodora.


Mrs Tootlepedal intends to divide this up for next year and spread the colour round the garden.

The rain unfortunately had turned the head of this geum towards the ground.


But this newly acquired euphorbia has settled in well and was smiling through its tears.


I didn’t stay out  in the rain for long and was soon inside looking out.

goldfinch action

The goldfinches were busy shouting at each other


Though some took a more detached view of things.


A siskin practises the one wing brush off gesture

I have left two of the perches off the feeder to try to save myself a little money but the birds can get at the seeds without a perch and still eat me out of house and home.


A rather bedraggled goldfinch on one side…


…and a calm redpoll on the other.

In the evening, the Linlithgow breadmaker’s parents arrived for their customary Friday evening visit and while Mike helped Mrs Tootlepedal to effect repairs on a seized up wheelbarrow wheel. Alison and I played a couple of enjoyable Loeillet sonatas for flute and harpsichord.  We were all happy.

The flying bird of the day was shot in rainy and gloomy  circumstances.






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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Alistair and shows the little girl that makes Mrs Tootlepedal a grandmother.   Our best wishes go to Alistair and his wife Clare.  We hope to go to visit mother and baby quite soon.


The arrival of our grandchild was a much more complicated affair than we had all hoped for and we are waiting for further reports from the hospital before allowing our joy to be unconfined.

Meanwhile we carried on.

I went out on the morning run with Dropscone but on this occasion we had to call for the assistance of the MTRS (see footnote)  when Dropscone got a puncture at the farthest extent of our circuit.  We have had so few punctures over the years that neither of us was carrying a spare tube on this occasion.  In a heartless way, I left him to wait for the broom wagon and cycled on by myself.  We managed to reassemble just in time for coffee and scones.

The sunny weather was still with us and although the wind was quite brisk, it wasn’t chilly as well and for the first time this year, I was dressed a bit too warmly for the conditions.

While I had a shower after coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a short pedal herself.  She combined this with a bit of roadside litter clearing as she went along.  The appetite of motorists for throwing rubbish out of their windows is insatiable.

A new tulip turned up today to add to the collection.


It was joined b y a very attractive anemone.


The existing tulips weren’t to be outshone though.


I never failed to be amazed by the tremendous variety there is among flowers of the same family.

After lunch, Sandy appeared and we set off in the car with Mrs Tootlepedal to show her one of our favourite walks.  We went to Hagg-on-Esk and walked back along the bank of the River Esk to Irvine House following the fishermen’s path.  Mrs Tootlepedal was captivated by the walk.  Even though most of the trees are not in leaf, the scene was still charming.

Esk near IrvineHouse

Esk near IrvineHouse

Esk near IrvineHouse

We were hoping to see some birds as we went along and we were not disappointed.

There were goosanders swimming…


…goosanders standing…


…and goosanders flying off before I could get a decent shot.


There were dippers standing on rocks beside the river…


…and in the middle of the river…


…and flying off before I could get a decent shot.


Sensible people were using binoculars to enjoy the scene…..

Sandy and Mrs Tootlepedal

Sandy and Mrs Tootlepedal bird watching

…and not trying to take pictures with a lens that is too heavy for hand held shots.  Still, I enjoyed myself a lot while trying.

Part of the paths goes past some well shaded damp rocks and I wondered what this prolific growth on one of the rock faces might be.


We got home tired but happy and had a reviving cup of tea and a biscuit.  (I should mention that the biscuits which often appear in this blog are almost always out of a packet of 600 individually wrapped rather small caramelised biscuits of the sort which you often get given free with a cup of coffee in a cafe.  They stay remarkably crisp in their wrapping for months.  Mrs Tootlepedal bought them for me for my birthday.  A present that keeps on giving)

After Sandy went home, we went out into the garden.

A lithodara has come into bloom and was attracting bees.


I weeded the strawberry bed, added a little growmore and then covered the soil with a mulch of home-made compost.  Mrs Tootlepedal paid a visit to her manure mine and when she returned, she topped the bed off with a light covering of manure.  The gooseberries got some manure too and I am already looking forward to the coming of the soft fruit season.

While we were working, there was a tremendous squabble between three male blackbirds.  It was quite an ongoing feud but as soon as I went in for my camera, they stopped fighting and disappeared.  As soon as I put it away, they came out and started again.

I had to be content with the female of the species in the evening sun.

blackbird on bench

Meanwhile, we are keeping our fingers crossed that Clare makes a swift recovery from her very hard labour and that we can go up and see her, Alistair and the baby in the very near future.

Mrs Tootlepedal had hoped that being a granny would save her from being shoved off any buses but research into the lyrics reveals that she is still in danger.  She is disappointed.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.


*MTRS = The Mrs Tootlepedal Rescue Service, an invaluable resource for the stranded cyclist.

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