A Bit Like Buses TWTW #31

This time last week I was on my way to Somerset to see a potential client, who I’m pleased to say look they will become one. I can’t say much more than that at the moment.

On the way back I made a stop in a little village where we used to go for family holidays when I was a child. It’s actually quite a convenient spot to stop anyway and I’ve done so a few times over the years. The village used to have a secondhand bookshop, sadly now gone, but other than that the village hasn’t changed all that much. After a wander around, I got back on the road and headed for home.

I had previously been asked to hold a date in my diary for another meeting with another potential client. It’s work that we’ve been discussing on and off since January, and I wasn’t convinced that it was going to happen at all and then suddenly the request for the meeting. Then silence again. I followed up towards the end of the week and still didn’t hear anything until Friday when a message came in say that yes the meeting was still on, and could I come in an hour before the meeting to discuss a contract as they do want me to do the work. So it looks like I’m going to be busy.

I have the capacity to do both these contracts as neither is full time work, but I do need to sort out the exact number of days and timescales etc. I’ll be working on that this week.


The badgers have struck again and wiped out my entire crop of sweetcorn. It’s my fault, I’d started putting up a protective fence around the plants, but with one thing and another I’d never finished it and that was enough for the badgers to get in and have a good feed. I’m not too bothered, I’m obviously disappointed to loose the crop, but I feel that this species is persecuted (both legally and illegally) enough, so I don’t begrudge them a bit of corn, because I wasn’t able to do something that would have prevented it. There’s always next year!


Saw this sign on one of our dog walks this week, sure enough this little improvised sign was pointing towards a fairly active wasp’s nest. Very grateful to whoever improvised this little sign.


I’ve been listening to David Hewson’s new podcast this week you should be able to find it via the podcast app of your choice or on his webpage. He talks about writing and audiobooks, and the role Venice has played in his writing in the first three episodes.


The Persuasive Power of the Wolf Lady




That’s it for this week. The upcoming few days are going to be pretty busy I think, so will probably have my head down for most of it.

Be careful out there

Neither Here Or There TWTW # 30

I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, as by the time it goes live tomorrow morning I’ll be somewhere between here and Somerset on my way to a meeting with a client. A potential new client (although I do already know someone there, which is why I’m going). I have my fingers crossed that this might be some new work, but it means that if I don’t write this today, it might not get written at all tomorrow or anywhen else in the next week.


It’s been a fairly quiet week, which I’ve mostly spent working on some presentations for talks that I’m giving at the beginning of October. On Monday there were two to prepare and then I had an email arrive and by the middle of the week there were three. They don’t pay very much (I’ve been told by some that I’m not charging enough), but I enjoy doing them and I’ve had quite a bit of fun researching material for them. They’re not finished yet but as I say their still six weeks away (please don’t remind me I said that when I write that I’m flapping about not getting them done and am working late into the night to finish them)!


I’ve been reading Spillover” by David Quammen this week. It’s been on my Kindle for an absolute age, and although I appear to have read the first few pages before I’ve really been getting stuck in this week. It’s all about the transmission of diseases (mostly viruses) from animals to humans and what happens next. Think Ebola etc. I’m about halfway through and enjoying it, considering the topic is one that’s pretty gloomy, it’s very well written, and if you’re interested in science writing I’d certainly recommend it.


A Single Male Cats Reign of Terror



Giant Three Foot Cannibal Parrot Discovered


Stare At Seagulls To Stop Them Pinching Your Chips


 

That Wet Dog Smell TWTW # 29

It’s raining outside as I write this and my office smells of wet dog as it was raining when we went for our morning walk too. It’s still quite warm though, although thankfully not too humid.

I seem to be behind with a few things at the moment, this weekly post included.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of chutney making and pickling this week. Another batch of pickled gherkins have been added to the store cupboard (about 5 jars worth), and a gooseberry and red onion chutney. This latter mix made 8 jars almost exactly, leaving me only a teaspoon worth to try. It was very good, and I have great hopes for it when it matures (in about a month). It looks like the sort of chutney that will work well with cheese and cold meats and possibly just to be eaten straight off of the spoon!


The wind had blown over the sweetcorn on the allotment and I’ve had to stake each individual plant to keep them upright. Hopefully they’ll survive the experience, although as a plant sweetcorn are very intolerant at having their roots disturbed. A shame if they don’t make it as they have already started to form cobs.


I’ve been reading “Irreplaceable” by Julian Hoffman this week. It is a great book and I thoroughly recommend it. It is also in some ways a depressing book. It is about those wild places and species that we have lost or might loose to what some people would call “progress”. I was familiar with some of the stories, but if you’re not it’s probably even more eye opening particularly with respect to some of those sites that are supposedly “protected” but in reality are not. I had quite a rant about it in my journal:

I finished reading “Irreplaceable” this afternoon. It really is an eye opening book. Although several of the stories were already familiar to me – many of them weren’t and it is truly shocking what we are doing to this planet in the name of progress. It feels that many of the current decision makers – the politicians, councillors and others just don’t care (or understand). They see progress as “at any cost” and that very often means at the expense of those things that we should hold most dear. Many of the stories are the sorts of things that I could all too easily see happening locally here because of weak leadership and low morales where a developer could easily sway the council with promises of “economic growth”, “more jobs”, “greater income for the local area”, when it’s all about the money, money, money; when in fact that is probably the last thing it should be about and the fact that many of the things that would suffer cannot simply have an economic value attached to them. They are our lifeblood, they support our health, our welfare, our mental prosperity and so many other things. All too often the decision makers simply do not give a shit about such things, that are mere travails, are inconsequential, of no meaning and no value!

Well it’s about time for a change and putting some of those things at the heart of such decisions.


All According to Plan TWTW #28

 

So this week mostly went according to plan, no changes or last minute cancellations.

It was however a hot one, it looks like the hottest day ever was recorded for the UK and that the planet is sending us a warning of worse things to come if we don’t get our act together over climate change, reduce our emissions and prepare for the changes that we have already caused and are locked into our climate.

Weather patterns like those that we’ve seen this week could become a regular thing (at least every other year) and if we continue to do nothing – well that doesn’t bear thinking about really.

The allotment set a new temperature record too.


I tried to find the swan pair that routinely nest by the old aggregates wharf in town this week. They definitely nested this year (see here), but since they’ve left the nest I’ve not seen them or any young. It’s possible they’ve moved to a completely different part of the creek as there are a lot of bachelor swans around at the moment and they may feel safer having their young away from them until they’re a bit bigger or it might just be that they weren’t successful breeding this year. I’ve got a couple of ideas of places to try to see if I can find them but it’s not looking hopeful at the moment.


If you’re reading this online (rather than via an email subscription), you might have noticed a few changes. This is part of the changes I’ve been making to the site to lower the hosting costs. Last week I asked WordPress to “downgrade” my plan, which they did without a drama, but they noticed that the theme I used to use was no longer supported and thought that the site might break when the downgrade happened. It didn’t but their advice was to switch to a supported theme, to avoid any problems in the future. The changes you will have seen are as a result of me switching themes. Hopefully there are no obvious changes beyond appearance, but if you notice anything that isn’t quite as it was before please let me know and I’ll look into it.

The end results of all these changes are hopefully that the site will continue at a reduced cost for me. The ads are gone (I worked out that at the current rate of monetisation that it would be 227 years before I actually received any money) which also hopefully cleans things up.


I know this is still many months away, but I am looking forward to it.


My friend @documentally is off on a motorbike road trip


What’s the best murder you ever wrote?



I read another Nevil Shute book this week – “Lonely Road” and also had a trip via the library on one of my outings where I picked up The Overstory” by Richard Powers and an enormous book of Sherlock Holmes short stories by various authors.

I am a little underwhelmed by the former, particularly considering the reviews it’s had and the Sherlock Holmes stories are an interesting mix, some are good others less so and there are one or two that are very good.


That’s it for this week, I’ll leave you with this pretty kitten who needs a good home.


Lemon Courgette, Pine Nuts & Feta Pasta

If you are starting to get a bit of a glut of courgettes, give this quick and easy pasta dish a try.

You’ll need (for 2 people):

  • 200g of your favourite dried pasta shapes
  • 1 regular sized courgette
  • 1 packet of pine nuts (100g)
  • 1 packet of feta cheese (200g)
  • 1 medium / large unwaxed lemon
  • Pepper to taste

The cooking of the pasta is the rate determining step in preparing this meal. Once you have prepped your other ingredients they only take about 5 minutes to cook, so get the pasta going first, and time it so that everything is ready together.

  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil to cook your pasta, once boiling add your pasta and cook according to the manufacturers instructions.
  2. While the water is coming to the boil and the pasta is starting to cook, prepare you courgette. Top and tail, and then cut length-ways and then length-ways again so that you have 4 spears. Cut each spear into bite sized pieces.
  3. Zest and juice the lemon and keep to one side.
  4. Chop the feta into cubes and keep to one side.
  5. Using a frying pan or similar heat and little oil and add the pine nuts and roast them gently until they start to brown.
  6. Add the chopped courgettes and continue to roast with the pine nuts.
  7. Once the courgettes are cooked, add a good grind of pepper and then add the lemon juice and zest and mix well to combine.
  8. Turn off the heat under the pine nut & courgette mix, and add the feta and stir together.
  9. Drain the pasta and serve, add the pine nut mix on top (alternatively add the drained pasta to the pine nut and courgette mix and combine).
  10. Eat!

Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

Another week that was supposed to go one way ended up taking a different direction, strange how despite all the planning things don’t seem to be turning out the way they were envisaged. It’s left me wondering how the week ahead will pan out, which looks like being another one at the moment, but could potentially change.


Four years ago I said goodbye to my last full time, paid job. Although at the time I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out, I’ve been asked a few times if I regret the decision to leave. Simply put the answer is no, although in the last four years combined, my income has probably been less than any of the years proceeding that, it allowed me to do many things. Although I didn’t know it at the time it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my Dad in the last year of his life. It allowed me to be present for some other difficult family things and possibly it reduced my stress levels and the chance I might have had a complete meltdown had I stayed where I was. Most of those things aren’t even tangible but they are most definitely real to me.

I’m still not quite sure where this freelance work is taking me or even if I can keep doing it at such a low level of income. There have been suggestions of offers of work, and I am always on the look out but it might not be sustainable in the long term. I still don’t regret that decision though.


A slightly unplanned trip to the library meant that I ended up with a couple of books, it was as a result of reading the latest newsletter from Joanne McNeil about Michael Seidenberg and the Brazenhead book store. It was the final paragraph of that newsletter:

Read an underread writer this summer in his honor. Any lonely and interesting-looking unfamiliar book at a used bookstore will do.

which prompted me to check-out In The Wet” by Nevil Shute and Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks on my library card. Now I’m not sure that either of those two books technically qualifies but that paragraph was in my head when I was browsing the stacks and I knew that I hadn’t read a Nevil Shute book for probably close to 20 years, despite reading a lot of them in my late teens and early twenties. The Tom Hanks was one that I knew I would never buy new and possibly not even secondhand, so they both did kinda fit the bill.

Anyway the Nevil Shute was amazing and I remember why I liked him as an author. Probably not the best book of his I’ve read (A Town Like Alice & On The Beach are probably both better known and better books), but it did prompt me to go on a hunt in our loft to drag out some of his books that I have up there and now plan to read.

The Tom Hanks however was, well it was just a bit meh. It had some great blurbs on the cover and maybe it was just me but it just read a bit like it was one of his early movies. It’s a short story collection and I enjoyed a few of them, and there were some nice tricks with how the book is laid out, but just not my cup of tea.

I enjoy popping into the library every so often I seem to always find something that I’ve missed elsewhere or wanted to read, it’s a great resource that has suffered a lot from government austerity measures, so I’m pleased to support it.

I get to go back in the week ahead, return the books I have on loan and see what else they have for me.



After writing last week about reading the Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri I was a little surprised to read his obituary, but interesting comments about the translation of Sicilian.


I finally got around to pickling some of the gherkins from the allotment this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Who knows what’s going to happen in the week ahead, it may even be that it pans out according to plan!

My Ten (15) Favourite “Natural History” Books

I thought I’d sit and scribble out a list of my favourite Natural History books of all time. It wasn’t an easy task. I wanted to keep it to 10 books, but have ended up with 15, it could easily have been 20 or 30 and several of the authors I could easily of included second and third entries. I’m also sure there are many that I’ve missed, and memory plays tricks, but I remember all of these books fondly as “natural history” but one or two stretch this definition a little.

I recommend all of them, but appreciate that natural history might not be everyone’s
cup-of-tea and that this list is in not in a particular order other than the one that I wrote them in.

(Please note the links are Amazon affiliate links, so should you click on a link and buy that book I’ll receive a small commission).

  • My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell This is probably well known to many but it is the biography of the young author on the island of Corfu where he moved with his family and how his time spent in the wilds of island shaped his life as a naturalist and conservationist.
  • The Island Within by Richard Nelson I discovered Richard Nelson through his podcast “Encounters” (which is sadly no longer being produced), this is his story of time spent on an uninhabited island near his home, the wildlife there and his exploration of it and the surrounding area.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark & Delia Owens I remember reading this in my late teens and it evoked thoughts similar to those upon reading Born Free. Part adventure and part exploration log of the authors’ time in the Kalahari desert.
  • The Outermost House by Henry Beston Another well known classic written by the author from his time on Cape Cod in an off-grid shack.
  • Waterlog by Roger Deakin The classic wild swimming book and how the author seeks to swim in rivers, ponds, lakes all over the UK and beyond.
  • The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane Of all of Robert Macfarlane’s books this is still my favourite. When originally written the author stated that there are only four places in the UK where you can go and not hear the noise of traffic. I wonder if that is still true or whether now there are any left.
  • Common Ground by Rob Cowen If I had to pick one book to be on this list it would be this one. It will probably divide it’s readership between those who love it, and those who don’t like it or understand it. I think it is simply brilliant.
  • The Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell Another classic, the story of the author and his time with Mij, Edal and Teko who are otters on the west coast of Scotland.
  • The Wild Marsh by Rick Bass American author Rick Bass takes us through a year in his life in the Yak valley as an author, naturalist and conservation activist.
  • A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare The journey from southern Africa to the UK as the author follows the migration journey of swallows in real time.
  • Rising Tide Falling Star by Phillip Hoare Simply put these are stories of the sea, but that is underselling the mesmerising and truly brilliant narrative.
  • Guests of Summer by Theunis Piersma A wonderful story of housemartins in a small Dutch village as the author chronicles their lives and those of other similar avian visitors.
  • Sacred Sierra by Jason Webster Fiction author buys run down farmhouse and chronicles his first year on the steep sided valley.
  • Nature Cure by Richard Mabey How nature helps to cure the depression suffered by the author when he moves to Norfolk.
  • Deep Country by Neil Ansell The journal of the authors five years in the Welsh hills in an off-grid cabin and his surroundings.