Posts Tagged ‘weather’

On strike

I am on strike and the camera has not come out today at all so there will be no guest picture, no FBotD, no gloomy fungus, nothing.

The temperature was an eerily unseasonable 10° C, the wind was fierce and the sky so grey that drawing the curtains in the morning hardly made any difference to the light indoors at all.

The birds were on strike too and there was scarcely a single feather to be seen.

When Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in church, I spent half an hour in the garage staring at the wall and pedalling nowhere gently and then retired for a bath.

In the afternoon, fired up again by a second helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s hot parsnip soup, we drove to Carlisle and had a thoroughly enjoyable time at our choir practice there.  Our conductor is taking our forthcoming competitions extremely seriously and worked us very hard, polishing tiny details until they shone.  Spending five minutes on a succession of three chords might sound like too much of a good thing but when it is done with an enormous sense of fun at the challenge and joy at getting better each time, then it all feels very worthwhile.  I hope that we do him justice when the time comes.

I have just looked at the forecast for the week ahead and in the whole week, there are only two hours marked when the sun may appear for a while and every day offers more or less rain.   On top of that, the wind is forecast to have maximum speeds of between 40 and 60mph every single day.

I don’t usually mind the winter at all but I was very depressed by the weather this morning.  However,  the static cycling and the singing have cheered me up a lot and I hope to find at least a moment to take a picture or two next week in spite of the wind and rain.

I am off to have another pedal on the bike to nowhere.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent and shows her daughter Hannah taking part in the Newcastle Vamos festival celebrating Latino music.  What fun.

HannahThe wind was all that was forecast today (40-50mph) and sometimes it felt as though it was even stronger than that and we had worries about trees in the garden but the rain, after a wet start, was not anything like as bad as we feared and although there were showers, there was sunshine too.

The temperature had fallen to a feeble 10 degrees C and in the wind and rain, I had to wrap very well to go to the monthly producers’ market for supplies of fish and cheese.

In lieu of gardening or pedalling, we sat down to watch the tennis over lunch and in the early afternoon and the better conditions let me get out from time to time to see if there was anything new in the garden.

welsh poppy and hellebore

I saw mostly old favourites like the welsh poppy and hellebore which were unbowed by the weather.

rose and euphorbia

The first sighting of a rose and a flourishing euphorbia

In general things were waving about so much that trying to take photos was not much fun so I went back in.

In the end we got bored and seeing a sunny spell, we resolved to go for a walk.  After quite a bit of discussion about where to go to miss the worst of the weather, we settled for a walk along one side of the Tarras and back by the other mostly in woodland.  With typical good timing, no sooner had we driven out of the town to get to our starting point than the heavens opened and rain and wind lashed the car.  We parked at the Moorland feeders and waited for the storm to subside.  It was gloomy.

View of TarrasAfter a while, it did brighten up but Mrs Tootlepedal had lost all confidence in the day and decided to go home.  As the sun was shining when we got back to Langholm, I got her to drop me off at the Kilngreen while she went back to do some decorating.  My plan was to do a two mile walk to take advantage of the sunshine and hide under big trees if it should rain on the way.  This time the plan worked out beautifully and I was just beside some trees that were well supplied with thick foliage when it started to rain heavily.

The shower didn’t last long and I was soon on my way again.

The same tall wild flowers that Sandy and I had seen beside the Esk were growing beside the track today.

wild flowersI don’t know what they are but they obviously like the present conditions as the tallest were nearly up to my head height.

I walked along the top of the woods above the Castleholm….


The bluebells are going over but were still a fine sight.

…and came down at the North Lodge before walking back along the Esk.  When the sun was out, everything was green.

Pheasant hatchery track
Pheasant hatchery trackThe sky was blue but the clouds were racing past at a speed which promised that the next shower would not be far away.

TimpenOn the Castleholm, the trees provided a colourful backdrop to my walk.

Castleholm treesCastleholm treesAll the way round the walk, I was able to admire the fauna as well as the flora.



A rabbit hiding behind a buttercup…not entirely successfully

As well as the bigger picture, there was some detail to enjoy as well.

leaf sproutoak flowersOn the whole, though, I didn’t dawdle too much as the sky clouded over and a few drops of rain added some impetus to my homeward speed.

The walk was a bonus and pretty well sheltered from the wind so in spite of the low temperature, it didn’t feel as cold as I had expected.  Of course, having my big coat and a woolly hat on helped.

There was plenty of starling action again at the garden feeders but I thought that I probably had had enough starling pictures this week so I have put in a sparrow picture to show that there are other birds in the garden too.

starling and sparrow

Oh all right, I did put one starling in as well.

Things are due to calm down a bit meteorologically tomorrow and then get warmer on Monday so I hope that cycling will be back on the agenda soon.  Meanwhile, I am trying with only limited success to learn a song off by heart for tomorrow’s Carlisle choir practice.  Thank goodness the conductor only wants one piece without the music in hand.

Today’s flying bird is an evening greenfinch among the flying insects.


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Today’s guest picture is a bit of a cheat as it is of a guest but not by a guest. 

Dropscone and ScottStanding beside Dropscone leaning on his carbon fibre machine is the minister, Scott posing with his very new and stylish Bianchi bike   He joined us for our morning run to Gair and back today and we found that our speeds fitted well together so we all enjoyed the ride.  Scott may be carrying a pound or two more than us but he has the advantage of youth on his side and things balanced out well.   He has only recently taken up cycling seriously and it won’t be long before he will be going too fast for us.

The heavy jackets were on because although it was reasonably sunny as we pedalled along, the temperature was still well below the August average, barely getting above 10C.  The wind was very light though and we managed to hit the 15 mph average speed just as we got home which was very satisfactory for a 22 mile ride with a thousand feet of climbing.  I was pleased that I was able to keep up with two such flash stylish bikes.

We had coffee and scones when we got back and Dropscone had brought some of his excellent treacle scones.  This upset the rest of my day as treacle scones should signify Friday and to have them on a Saturday meant that I had great difficulty working out what day it was for the rest of the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal had been hard at work delving in the garden while we were pedalling and by the end of the morning she had shifted an enormous clump of ornamental grass from one end of the lawn to the other.


Gardeners will know just how heavy a clump like this is.  It looks good in its new position.

Her poppies in the new bed last for a day or two each but they are replaced by new ones at a very satisfactory rate.  I dead headed no less than seventy stems the other day and another twenty or thirty today.  They are so pretty that my shutter finger twitches every time that I go past them.

Four ages of a poppies.   The flowers are Shirley poppies and the seed head comes from an opium poppy.

Four ages of a poppies. The flowers are Shirley poppies and the seed head comes from an opium poppy.

I append a panel of three other plants that caught my eye.

euphorbia, astilbe and tropaeolumAfter lunch, as the weather still looked fine, I suggested a drive to the White Yett, followed by a walk to the Monument and beyond.  Mrs Tootlepedal took up her binoculars and off we went.   At the car park we met a couple of visitors who had come from Newcastleton.  They told us that there had been very heavy rain there and were wondering if they had time to get to the monument and back before it rained here.  We assured them that it wouldn’t rain and they followed us up the track. 

After a few minutes walking, I wasn’t quite so confident as I had been…

monument…but the clouds passed and we arrived at the monument in sunshine.  The visitors were very impressed by our weather lore but not so impressed as to stay at the top of the hill for long.  We had a look down at the town…

Langholm from Whita

This is the New Town. The industrial building in the foreground is a textile mill, now closed.

…which was bathed in sunshine.  The large tree in the dead centre of the picture is our walnut tree.

We walked onwards along the ridge as I was hoping to take a few more heather pictures.  The tide was in along the Solway and it was gleaming in the distance.

SolwayLooking behind us at the monument to check the weather….

monument and clouds…we thought that we could risk going on.

Our target was the gate in the wall below.

view from WhitaThe views from the ridge are very good…

View from Whita…but the camera doesn’t like them as much as I do as the sun was not in the right place. You can see the expanse of heather that we walked through a couple of days ago.  Just for interest, I zoomed in on the wood at the bottom of the hill that conceals the moorland feeders.  The feeders are set out on each side of the ride down the middle of the plantation where the car is parked.

Moorland feedersWe met a friend who was walking his dogs and then turned to walk back up to the monument.  The temperature had fallen a bit and the wind had risen.  This made us a little nervous about the possibility of rain.  The windmills on Craig Hill were twirling around merrily in the sunshine….

windmills…but looking at Castle Hill made us quicken our pace.

view from whitaThe nearer we got to the monument, the faster we walked.

monument and cloudsAs we got over the summit, we were still in sunshine but it looked to be a race against time to get to the car as the rain swept down the valley towards us.

gathering rainstormAs our race pace these days and the progress of a snail are hard to differentiate, it was a race that we lost by two hundred metres.  That may not sound far but the rain and hail were so savage that we were soaked through and the road was awash by the time that we got to the car.

We had to wait until the shower eased off before it was safe to drive down to the town but by the time that we arrived home, the sun was out again.  We were so wet though that a complete change of clothes was needed before we could enjoy a well earned cup of tea.

As if all of this was not enough excitement for the day, Mrs Tootlepedal kindly cut my hair before our evening meal, rendering me, needless to say, quite light headed..

I used the photo editor in the evening to change one of the shots that I took on the hill to black and white.

sheep's skull

Found in a crevice in one of the walls on the hill.

And I used a plug-in that I thought gave another photo a touch of the drama that we actually felt as the storm loomed up.

topaz view from Whita


In between the pedalling and the walking, I found a moment to catch a flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch







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Today’s guest picture shows a statue of James Starley, described as the inventor of the bicycle, seen by my brother Andrew on a visit to Coventry.  There may be others who claim that distinction.


The weather actually managed to take a turn for the worse today and as well as being very grey and rainy, it was extremely windy too.  As an added annoyance, the wind was from the south west and blew the rain through the end wall of the house.  We have been waiting for the builder to come and fix the worst leak for over a year now and I am going to have to write him a stiff note.  If he doesn’t want the job, we will have to find someone who does….if anyone does.  It may be an insuperable problem.

The wind also proved too strong for the birds and there was hardly a single visitor to the feeder.  Sadly, taking photographs of high winds is not an easy task which is why newspapers are very fond of windblown palm trees and waves breaking over sea fronts.  In the absence of either of these opportunities, I had to make do with an impressionistic study or two of tormented grasses.



It really gives no impression of how brisk the wind was at times.

A lone robin was the only bird to come within reach of the lens.


Mrs Tootlepedal went out to a Christmas lunch for the Embroiders’ group and after I had had a modest snack on my own, I put on waterproof trousers and a stout coat and walked up to the High Street to buy some delicious goat’s cheese and discuss picture postcards with a shop owner.  I was pleased to find that she was very happy with the designs of the cards and delighted that she has bought a few to test customer responses.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned safely from the embroiders’ group’s festivities and in the evening, we went out for a meal with our friends Bruce and Lesley who are holding a small series of meals to celebrate the recent wedding of their son.  The food was good and the company entertaining.  It was a good way to end a miserable day.

I spent quite a lot of the day playing with Photoshop and getting to know how to use layers and masks.  One of the end results must stand in for the absence of any flying birds today.  The casual eye may not appreciate that each frame has a different light pattern on it which I created and saved myself.  I wouldn’t blame the casual eye for missing this but I enjoyed creating them.


robin framed

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Today’s picture shows an enormous puddle outside our back door in the evening.  It just won’t stop raining.


My paper gave us the weather stats for July today.  There was a new record low for sunshine in Scotland.  This was 48 hours for the whole month recorded at Eskdalemuir about 15 miles north of Langholm.  If I have moaned a bit about poor weather for the garden, I may have had some cause.  In general we also had 136% of our (already high) rainfall.  Daytime time temperatures were typically 1-2.5 degrees below normal.  Altogether, it has been a very poor summer.

Even today, when there were some very pleasant spells of weather, there were also claps of thunder and very heavy outbreaks of rain.  We just can’t get a settled spell.

Nevertheless, Dropscone appeared for the morning run and the weather in the morning was calm and warm.  I was not ready to do the whole 20 miles so I sent him off round the usual run and then took off in the opposite direction 20 minutes later.  I arrived at the top of the hill at Tarcoon, 7 miles from home,  and didn’t have long to wait until Dropscone appeared at the bottom.

Over the first summit at Tarcoon

Here he is half way up the hill.

I had time to look over towards Langholm while he came on up.

Sun on Whita Hill

But the grizzled veteran was soon at the Col du Tarcoon (120m).


I had had a gentle trip out but under Dropscone’s invigorating influence, I had a sprightly spin home and finished the fourteen miles at just under 15 mph.   (I am sorry to harp on about times and speeds but they are important markers on my road to recovery and fitness.)

We had a nice cup of coffee with some rather old scones as Dropscone had cooked more than he needed during the weekend and he is not one to waste anything.  There were still very good.  He is off for a few days to act as a referee at the ladies senior home international golf tournament, a great honour.  That is, if it isn’t cancelled due to the wet weather.

While we were sipping, I noticed that contrary to what I said yesterday, there were two blue tits on the fat ball feeder.

blue tits


There was a hint of rain as he left but it stayed just a hint and I started on an orgy of lawn mowing while the going was good.  During the late morning and early afternoon, I mowed the middle lawn, the front lawn, the grass (you can’t call it a lawn) round the greenhouse and the drying green.  This entailed using three different mowers and was very satisfying.  I am glad that I got it done because heavy rain in the late afternoon and evening would have made the grass too wet to cut and it was already far too long.

I did sensible resting in between the bouts of mowing and this allowed me to look round the garden.  It was not just me taking advantage of the half decent weather, nearly every flower had a bee on it.  Here is a sample.

bees in action

From top left clockwise: crocosmia, privet, nasturtium and stachys

Another sunflower has appeared further along the fence.


I was intrigued by how different their centres are.

sunflower faces

(As always, if you click on a photo, you will get a larger version.

The yellow roses had been battered by the rain and even the extra support supplied by Mrs Tootlepedal couldn’t stop them hanging their heads.

sagging roses

They make a sad contrast to the sunflowers which seem unfazed by the conditions.

The day lilies have been hurt by the rain but one or two struggle on each day to join the water lilies which, not surprisingly, don’t seem to mind the wet.


The other flower which has enjoyed the damp, cool conditions is the rambler rose.  As well as the fine specimen against the new back fence, there is also one doing well among the sunflowers.



In general the dahlias are poor but this pink one seems to be doing OK.  I hadn’t noticed that its petals (if they are petals) seem to be tubular until I processed the photo.


I am not very well informed about flowers and often things that I think are petals turn out to be something else.
I was pleased to see a butterfly again as I fear for their survival in the heavy rain.

white butterfly

It looked plain white while it fluttered but turned out to be delicately coloured.

white butterfly

I like the apparent LED lights on stalks.

As well as the blue tits, we had a visit from a great tit.  I enjoyed its visit so much that I have put more than one picture of it in.  It fluttered about the fat ball feeder for quite a while before venturing to go in..

great tit

Posing for the camera

sharing with the sparrows

Sharing with the sparrows

great tit

Checking to see if anything bad is coming.

And that was the end of the photographic day, as rain showers and the Olympics kept me inside until after tea when I went out to play music with Isabel and Mike.  We did serious damage to a number of recorder sonatas and a trio for recorder and cello by Telemann.  In spite of some rough and ready playing, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  As I may have remarked before, there is no better way of spending time than playing music with other people. Well, apart from cycling of course.

While I was out playing, it rained so hard that Mrs Tootlepedal thought that the house was going to be flooded just from the sheer volume of water falling on the drive.  Luckily it stopped just in time.  The forecast is for three dryish days to come so I hope that they have got that right. I’ll believe it it when I see it.

Today’s flying bird is a traditional flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch








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Today’s picture is of a soggy rose in the morning which can’t quite cope with the wet.

soggy rose

It was cloudy but warm so while Mrs Tootlepedal was probably sipping champagne for her breakfast as they do in the south of England, I had a plate of porridge and a gentle pedal with Dropscone.  I went my usual ten miles and on this occasion he limited himself to same trip as me as he had a heavy day of golf ahead of him.  We got home dry and enjoyed coffee and scones.  Dropscone was in magnanimous mood and remarked that he thought the photos in yesterday’s blog were less boring than usual.  I was touched.  He is not a bird lover.  Just as Dropscone left to go home, the rain started.

The forecast had been very dismal so I expected the rain to last for the rest of the day but I was too pessimistic.  The rain stopped almost as soon as it had started and I was able to walk round the garden to look at plants…


The eryngium in its blue period


The first hosta flowers


New this year: Mrs Tootlepedal’s hawkweed and grass jungle.  I like it.

…stare out of the window to look at birds…..

greenfinch and sparrow

A greenfinch and sparrow exchange opinions on Bob Diamond’s resignation.

blue tit

Although it is rather yellow, I think this must be a blue tit.  Perhaps a young one.

…and then walk up to the health centre for my vitamin B12 injection, all in pleasantly warm and dry conditions.  At lunchtime, the sun even came out…


All this was most unexpected and after lunch I went out in the car with the camera.  First I went to the Kilngreen where the ducks were in a very frisky mood.


And nature had produced its own weed and grass jungle beside the river.

weed and grass

In spite of some sunshine, when I looked about, all I could see was clouds coming up.


It was a very odd day.  The weather looked threatening all afternoon but there seemed always to be a little gap in the clouds straight above Langholm.


The two pictures above were taken in the same place and more or less at the same time.

I left the Kilngreen and went up onto the Langholm moor, hoping to see the hen harrier.  After hanging around fruitlessly for some time, it started to rain heavily so I went back down the hill, stopping to take a picture on my way.  The rain stopped too.


I thought that as I often get wires in my pictures by accident, I would get them in on purpose today.

I went through the town and up to the feeding station to see if I could see the jays there again.  I had hardly got into position when two jays appeared.


One lurked unhelpfully on a feeder

Then they both dropped into the long grass and after a while flew off too quickly for me to catch them in flight.  I waited half and hour to see if they would come back but they didn’t and I had to make do with a pair of woodpeckers…


…and any number of blue and great tits for my entertainment.

blue and great tits

Then it was time to return home and put myself through the emotional wringer of watching Andy Murray playing tennis.  It got too much after a couple of hours so I went out to see if the sunshine had perked the roses up.  Some were still looking pretty sad but others were enjoying the warmth.


Once again, the sky was cloudy wherever I looked except for little patches of blue sky right above the garden.  I took advantage of this to sieve a little compost and make up some more top dressing for the middle lawn.  Then I went in for more punishment but happily, Andy Murray won and I sat down to my tea in cheery mood.  Outside, the evening was punctuated by some extremely heavy but short rain showers.

Obviously the weather is hard to forecast just now because although there were signs warning of heavy rain on Thursday when Susan and I came up the A7 from Carlisle last night, the forecast is now saying that it might be quite nice tomorrow.   Today’s mixture of heavy cloud all round and wonderful sunshine just where I was, was rather surreal.

Today’s chaffinch is a chaffinch.


Once again, the rain is absolutely hammering down as I write this final sentence.

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Today’s picture shows the very small amount of me exposed to the cold once I am set up for cycling.

Mr Tootlepedal muffled up

The forecast was not great but it wasn’t too bad after breakfast so Dropscone appeared and we set off round the morning run.  It was quite breezy and a chilly 3° but we made good progress until we got to the far end of Canonbie when we started to see hail lying beside the road.  By the time we had got to the end of the by-pass, there was a lot of hail lying on the road and we had obviously missed a big hail shower, though not by much.

Old joke: Julius Caesar arrives off the coast of Britain in his boat.  He pokes his nose out of his bed and asks a lackey what the weather is like.  “Hail, Caesar”.  “Oh in that case, we’ll just go home”, he says and we did exactly the same.  Rather than face strong winds and hail storms as we toiled up hill and into the wind, we turned tail and headed for home with the wind behind us and back along the way we had come.  In this way we enjoyed a seventeen mile ride without getting wet and felt very smug when we saw the hail rattling down on the drive while we were having our coffee.


There was a single chaffinch in the garden…

…otherwise, once again, the birds were conspicuous by their absence from the feeders, though quite a few chaffinches could be made out on the branches of the walnut tree.

chaffinches in walnut tree

Between the hail storms, the day remained very grey.

Grey day

The wind grew stringer as time went by and I was impressed by the gripping power of this goldfinch who perched on the topmost twig of the swaying walnut tree rather than come down into the shelter of the shrubs in the garden.

high goldfinch

You can see the strong breeze ruffling its feathers.

We had lunch and then set off in the car.  Just before we left the number of birds in the garden swelled to a magnificent total of three.

three goldfinches

We were a bit worried by yet another hailstorm…


… but we went anyway and in fact although it was very windy, we got through our trip in the dry.

We started by taking my speedy bike and Mrs Tootlepedal’s tourer down to the bike shop in Longtown to get them serviced.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s is going to have the light service and mine is going to have the “take it to bits and put it back again” job.

This will let us greet the new year ready for anything.

We went on to a garden centre where I bought some more bird food in the probably vain hope that the birds will return to the garden soon.  While I was there, I purchased some mince and cheese so that even if I can’t feed the birds, I will be able to feed myself.

We went on into Carlisle where Mrs Tootlepedal did some serious shopping while I idled about.  We parked beneath the city walls in the shadow of the cathedral.

Carlisle city walls

Thanks to the competition from on line music stores, I was able to buy three Humphrey Lyttleton CDs for £10 in a record store and after wandering through the Cathedral precincts on my way back to the car…

carlisle cathedral

…I sat in the car listening to one of them while I waited for Mrs Tootlepedal to return.

Having bought cheese at a garden centre on the way out, I bought coal at a petrol station on the way home.  This all made for a satisfactory trip.  The wind was very severe by now and I was not looking forward to going to Carlisle again in the evening to play recorders.  Fortunately Jenny rang up and we agreed that conditions were against us and called off the playing.  This is the second week running I haven’t gone to Carlisle to play because of the weather and this is undoubtedly a sign of growing old.  A few years ago I would have laughed at gales and snow and ice and gone regardless but now dark care sits on my shoulder and inhibits reckless actions.

As I write this, the house is being lashed by wind and rain so perhaps it was not such a poor decision.

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