Eggstatic TWTW # 137

The sounds of workmen and the smell of newly laid tar have been the soundtrack to my week as the road outside my house is being resurfaced – slowly. It’s not been too bad and at times quite interesting to watch. There are a couple more weeks of associated works to go before it’s finished although hopefully after the middle of next week we won’t be as affected.


Allotment

I’ve been doing a lot of harvesting this week. Mostly things that we won’t immediately eat like onions and potatoes. This years onions have been a good crop, both in terms of their quality and quantity. I’ve had a few that have split – probably down to inconsistent watering – but the vast majority are good.

I dug the final row of potatoes too, like the previous row they weren’t a fantastic yield but they were good quality with very little slug damage or scab. I did have one that was a little odd though.

As I dig them up I always brush off as much of the loose dirt as I can before putting them in a bucket. This one particular potato wasn’t particularly remarkable except when I went to brush the mud off and it burst open revealing that it wasn’t in fact a potato but an egg – a very old egg judging by the smell. Unfortunately when it burst it also sprayed me with it’s contents, so I had to take a moment to wash off the leg of my shorts and my t-shirt.

My assumption is that a fox or something similar had cached the egg there – when the soil was loose – with a view to eating it at a later date and then forgotten about it.

I did a quick check and I’m pretty sure that it was a wood pigeons egg (see below). I didn’t completely destroy the egg when I broke it so was able to get some photos of the other side of it and had a fairly good idea of its size and colour, so I’m pretty confident with my choice.



Reading

I no longer believe that dolphins are really intelligent. They are much too friendly to man.

Arthur C. Clarke

I’ve been reading lots of bits from lots of different places this week. The above quote is from the correspondence between Arthur C Clarke and the screenwriter/director Peter Hyams when they were collaborating on the film of 2010. Their correspondence via Kaypro computers as an early form of email is captured in The Odyssey File which I was given as a birthday present back in the early 1980’s when the film was released. I’ve been rereading this in part this week, and it’s making me want to go back and reread all of the 2001 to 3001 sequence of books.

The quote comes from a sequence in the book / film where the lead character is at his home which happens to have a pool with dolphins in it. This is based on a real home which had this “feature” and they were hoping to use it in the film. As they discover however the house is still in existence but no longer has dolphins in the pool, so they built a replica at Seaworld in San Diego for the filming.


Watching

A few things come to mind this week, we’ve watched the latest season of Baptiste which is being shown on Sunday evenings but is also available on iPlayer. As it still hasn’t finished it’s Sunday run I won’t spoil it. We’ve also been continuing our Star Trek movies rewatch and are now firmly into TNG sequence of films. We also rewatched Timecop, which if you don’t know is a Jean Claude Van Damme action movie. Although I enjoyed the silliness of it, it was also interesting watching an 90’s movie that is pretending that it is set in the early 2000’s with time travel backwards – “you can’t go forwards because it hasn’t happened yet”. The self driving cars and 90’s fashioned that seemed to prevail for over ten years were a little cringeworthy, but that said it was a pleasant diversion for an evening.

Sidenote: It was also directed by Peter Hyams.


Well that’s all I have for this week. The week ahead is looking quite quiet, roadworks excluded. So whatever you’re up to this week stay safe and take care.

Book Review: Goshawk Summer by James Aldred

Goshawk Summer by James Aldred

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

This is the story of the authors Spring and Summer 2020, and how he spent that time filming a nest of Goshawks up high in the canopy of the New Forest.

We learn of the character of this magnificent raptor and master predator and also foxes, Dartford Warbler, deer, curlew, woodlark, lapwing and many other species.

This is a fascinating insight into the Goshawk and the work of a wildlife cameraman, with incredible species knowledge and detail but also the more mundane aspects of being at the top of a tree in a hide waiting for something to happen. How everything is done to put the subject matter first and not disturb them, but at the same time being there to capture the perfect sequence.

Recorded over the period of the first lockdown in England for coronavirus and how he was able to keep working, the book also charts those changes. As the New Forest goes from relative quiet and stillness and the natural inhabitants seemingly expand to fill the void of humans; to a much busier and more frantic space as the restrictions are slowly lifted.

James Aldred takes you perfectly to the heart of his work space, I spent several hours lost with him watching the different species and captivated by their activity and behaviour. His book manages to tell the tale of what his camera sees without the moving images to back up the words. He perfectly captures the moment and takes the reader there.


From The Publisher

ln early 2020, wildlife cameraman James Aldred was commissioned to film the lives of a family of goshawks in the New Forest, his childhood home. He began to plan a treetop hide in a remote site that would allow him to film the gos nest, the newly hatched chicks and the lives of these elusive and enchanting birds.

Then lockdown. And as the world retreated, something remarkable happened. The noise of our everyday stilled. No more cars, no more off-roaders, no more airplanes roaring in the skies, no one in the goshawk woods – except James.

At this unique moment, James was granted a once in a lifetime opportunity to keep filming. And so, over that spring and into summer, he began to write about his experiences in a place empty of people, but filled with birdsong and new life. Amidst the fragility and the fear, there was silver moonlight, tumbling fox cubs, calling curlew and, of course, the soaring goshawks.

About The Author

JAMES ALDRED is the celebrated author of The Man Who Climbs Trees (Allen Lane) and an Emmy Award winning
documentary wildlife cameraman and film-maker. He works with the likes of the BBC and National Geographic and has collaborated with Sir David Attenborough on numerous projects including ‘Life of Mammals’,’Planet Earth’ and
‘Our Planet’.

He grew up in the New Forest and now lives in North Somerset. A product of the BBC natural history unit in Bristol, he has been a wildlife cameraman since 1997 and has been nominated for BAFTA/RTS awards many times. He specializes in forest filming, especially at height within forest canopy, where he uses ropes and canopy platforms to film orangutans, chimps and birds of prey. He spent the national lockdown of Spring and Summer 2020 filming in the New Forest.

Goshawk Summer: A New Forest Season Unlike Any Other by James Aldred is published by Elliott & Thompson and available from 29th July 2021


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]

Hot Tomatoes TWTW # 136

It’s been a hot one this week, temperatures in our garden topped 30°C on several occasions, shade and fluids have been priorities all week. It’s curtailed a lot of the plans that I had and instead the focus has been on keeping the house and the dogs as cool as possible as well as ourselves. Friday and the weekend became a bit cooler and a welcome respite. We can only expect more of the same. We topped 42°C (110F) in the potting shed which the tomato and cucumber plants loved but they were the only ones!

Meanwhile another billionaire has shot himself into “space” (I’m sorry but it’s not really space is it, there was no passage through the atmosphere into orbit. Being shot into the sky in something akin to a giant dildo, which is barely in flight for ten minutes is not space travel it’s more like a glorified carnival ride). But have no fear, he’s not an astronaut.

I really don’t get it. I support meaningful exploration of space from a proper scientific approach but I just can’t support the massive waste of resources that this kind of “space” tourism brings. I can see benefits to the Space X programme supplying the international space stateion, although I question why it has to be private companies doing that, but what Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are doing just seems like someone playing with very expensive toys.

We’ve seen just what can be achieved with tackling covid and “space” travel, perhaps it could be used on something else like tackling climate change or getting vaccines out to the remaining 99% of the population of poorer countries who have yet to have a supply of it?

We had a bomb scare in our little town this week. A “suspicious” package was reported outside Poundland and the town centre closed and evacuated. Now it’s not clear what was in the the said package, but the bomb disposal team deemed it not to be explosive. It does sound like it had been there for some time before it was reported.


I’ve had some new subscribers this week, if you are one of them – Welcome!

If you’re new here and wondering what an earth you’ve signed up to, welcome, this is my website / blog.

By training I am a biologist and by profession I generally make most of my income from being an independent environmental consultant. Outside of that I have a fairly wide interest in all sorts of things. I normally publish a post like this on the weekend at the end of the week (TWTW = The Week That Was), and talk about what I’ve been doing in the previous week, links to things I’ve found and anything else that I think might be interesting. Other occasional posts will appear at other times e.g. book reviews.

Thanks for signing up, but if after reading my ramblings you’re regretting your decision feel free to unsubscribe, there is a link to do so in each post if you subscribe by email. Obviously I hope you’ll stick around.

I also post on Instagram and Twitter where I am also @tontowilliams


Work

I was all set for a meeting this week, but as the date drew close I realised the details hadn’t been confirmed and queried whether the meeting was going ahead. Turns out it had been cancelled but no one had bothered to tell everyone invited. It is being reorganised but all the proposed dates are difficult, although not impossible, for me. Yet nothing has been confirmed so it looks as if that might not go ahead either.


Reading

I’ve not read much this week, my brain has just been too fried in the heat to make much sense of a book. I did pick up Philip Kerr’s A Man Without Breath again, which I’ve only read about half of. At this rate I might actually finish it this time. For fiction it is great how historically accurate it is and how many of the characters, particularly the minor ones were real individuals, now brought to life again.


Allotment

Far too hot to get much done this week, but with the cooler temperatures on Saturday I did manage to get some weeding done and a few other smaller tasks. The heat is causing things like lettuce to start bolting, and also the onions to finish their growing cycle. This year has been one endless battle with the weeds and it does seem like they’ve got the upper hand at times. It’s at this point each year when I’m thinking whether I am going to renew my licence in October or give up my plot.


Watching & Listening

We’re progressing with our Star Trek rewatch and watched films V and VI this week but other than that we’ve not had the television on much. I’ve been trying to catch up on a few podcasts but it’s one of those situations were as soon as I’ve listened to an older episode a newer one pops into the feed. So far I’ve been keeping the unread count about level.


Links

Cockatoos in Sydney are learning and teaching each other to bin dive for food

Grizzly Bear Terrorises Man for Days in Alaska – Rescued By The Coastguard

Neil Gaiman Also Working On Bringing Anansi Boys To The Screen


We had another vet appointment on Friday, we’ve reached the point where we’re not sure that any of the interventions that have been made are making much of a difference, so the vet is going back to the specialist for further advice. Until we’ve heard back we’re just carrying on as we are.


Well that’s about it for this week. In the coming week I may or may not have a work meeting, plus I am going to visit my Mum so will be sticking a swab down my throat and up my nose. I think I’m getting used to this, but each time is as unpleasant as the last but the thought of covid is worse.

Whatever you are up to this week, take care and stay safe.


Always Check Your Exposure TWTW # 135

These posts are always a look back at the week gone by, and sometimes either because I’ve not done much or because there’s stuff I don’t want to or can’t talk about it’s a struggle to know where to begin. My week this time started with a visit to see my Mum, she’s very well, but didn’t recognise me or rather she had me confused with her cousin. This is pretty normal, and I suspect partly to do with having to wear a face mask but the alternative i.e. covid is much worse.

I’ve had another vet appointment with Wilson, he’s much the same and we go back again next week.


Allotment

It’s been very hot at times this week, and I’ve been picking the moments when it’s slightly cooler to go down to the allotment, mostly earlier in the day. The weeds are relentless but we’re getting a nice run of different things now, including the start of courgette season – it won’t be long before the novelty wears off I suspect.


Watching

Another Star Trek movie this week – Star Trek IV – The Voyage Home – but not much else of significance. I did enjoy this YouTube video though, Jaws is one of my favourite films and this was a little treat.


Reading

I’ve been reading Nature Cure by Richard Mabey this week. Or rather re-reading it. It’s the authors story of recovery from a period of mental illness and how he falls back in love with nature.

It’s not actually that long ago that I read it, but the book was originally published in 2005, and this is a reprint to celebrate the author’s 80th birthday.

If you’ve never read it, I’d recommend it and all of his other books to be honest. I have another more recent book of his in my tbr pile – Turning the Boat For Home – which I’ve yet to read.


Photography

I’ve had one of my film cameras out this week, I’m determined to make use of the better weather if I can but I am very conscious of the rising covid numbers and therefore cautious about where I go to take photos to not put myself at risk. I’ve exposed about half a roll of film, which doesn’t sound like much but given the fact that film photography is so much more expensive these days, carefully choosing a shot is much more important. I accidentally took a frame this week (I pressed the shutter a little too far when trying to trigger the autofocus and it took the picture before I’d had a chance to set shutter speed and aperture to check it was properly exposed) and I felt a little guilty knowing that one probably won’t come out. I might of course be surprised by the result.

My plan is to try and finish that roll this week if I can.


Links

In Cape Cod’s ‘Sharky’ Waters, Humans Learn to Coexist with an Apex Predator – after watching the Jaws YouTube video this landed in my inbox!

Sea, sand and dogs galore: the best British beaches to run free

Climate scientists shocked by scale of floods in Germany


Well I guess that’s about all that I have for this week. I’ve got a couple of unconfirmed work things and a vet appointment in my diary this week but otherwise no firm plans. Whatever you’re up to, stay safe and take care.


Straight Circles TWTW # 134

Another week goes by and somethings move in cycles where others are more linear. I’ve had a few interesting things happen this week as well as some sad news.

We managed to get Wilson out for a proper walk this week, albeit a fairly short one. I’m not sure whether we’re winning or his illness is but our weekly checkup was on Friday and the vet is still non-committal either way too. He’s happy enough in himself but very itchy at times.


RIP – Frank Lee Ruggles.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of photographer Frank Lee Ruggles this week. I’ve been following his progress on the 79 Years Project, trying to reshoot Ansel Adams’ 171 shot portfolio of US National Park photos on the same day of the year as Adams, and using the same camera as Adams.

We’d never met but he was always gracious to comments and as only a few years older than myself I’ve felt his loss in particular. It’s clear that he had a similar impact on many others too.


TV.

We’ve been continuing with our rewatch of Star Trek films – Wrath of Kahn and Search for Spock – and a little bit of the England games, which if I’m being honest I’m really done with watching. The whole spectacle of the “fans” constantly booing the other team including when their national anthem is being played is unacceptable. If that’s what being a football fan is about then I’ll leave it thanks. The only consoling factor is that the Manager and players set themselves a much higher bar. It’s a shame that the “fans” don’t or can’t pick up on this.


Reading.

I finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre this week, it really stands up well considering that it is almost as old as me and the setting of the early 1970’s are completely different to how you might write the same story in a modern era. Back then no computers, mobile phones, satellite surveillance etc but changing times do not mean that the story is any less compelling or that the modern enemies are any different to those of today.

I’ve got a couple of books for review next, both of which look like they should be good reads. I’ll post the reviews in due course when they’re closer to their publication dates.


Work.

This week has been good for work, as you probably know I give talks about the allotment and related topics. It’s been a lean couple of years with Covid and only being able to give virtual talks, and whilst they don’t make much income I do enjoy doing them. Well this week I had an email inviting me to give a talk (virtually) at the Lambeth Country Show, following discussion with the organisers they actually commissioned both the talks I give virtually. This has meant preparing the talks and pre recording them so that they are ready to be watched on the days of the show.

Anyway if you’re interested in sitting through one of my talks or even both of them, then they’ll be available via the link above next weekend (17th & 18th July). Of course if you’d like to commission me for something live and in “person” – either physically or virtually – then do get in touch.


Links.

The Three Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta

Home Scar – of Limpets and moving / finding a home


If you’re new here and wondering what an earth you’ve signed up to, welcome, this is my website / blog.

By training I am a biologist and by profession I generally make most of my income from being an independent environmental consultant. Outside of that I have a fairly wide interest in all sorts of things. I normally publish a post like this on the weekend at the end of the week (TWTW = The Week That Was), and talk about what I’ve been doing in the previous week, links to things I’ve found and anything else that I think might be interesting. Other occasional posts will appear at other times e.g. book reviews.

Thanks for signing up, but if after reading my ramblings you’re regretting your decision feel free to unsubscribe, there is a link to do so in each post if you subscribe by email. Obviously I hope you’ll stick around.

I also post on Instagram and Twitter where I am also @tontowilliams


I think that’s about it for this week. I’ve a few things in hand for the week ahead; including I hope a visit with my Mum. Whatever you’re up to I hope that you have a good week. Take care and stay safe.


Raindrops on the Shed Roof TWTW # 133

A follow-up trip to the vets this week, these will continue for a few weeks to monitor the effects (if any) of his new pills. So far it’s hard to say whether there has been any difference. I also need to book Ruby in have her annual inoculations and go back and collect some tablets that I forgot to collect last week.


Reading. Not much to report, I’ve been reading John Le Carre’s – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; meaning to reread the Karla trilogy as I’ve only ever read them separately at very different times and never together. I’ve also been reading a biography of James Ravilious who was a photographer and son of the war artist Eric Ravilious.


Allotment. In between the showers this week I’ve been trying to get on top of the weeds. It seems that most plot holders are having the same problem, and there is rumour that perhaps it was one of the deliveries of manure that perhaps had a lot of weed seed in it. It’s certainly possible but also the fact that the cycles of rain and warm sunshine are also a contributing factor. I spent a little time hiding from the rain in my shed with a flask of coffee and a notebook to write in. Quite relaxing in it’s own way.

We’ve started to get a lot of soft fruit, mostly gooseberries, but also a few loganberries. So we’ll be making the most of them while they are abundant. I also lifted the over-wintering onions as they are ready to be dried and used. The spring plantings aren’t far behind, but it will be a few more weeks before they are ready. Theoretically our potatoes are also ready to harvest as from Monday, but when I tried a few a couple of weeks ago it seemed that they needed a couple more weeks, so I’ll wait a little longer before I lift them.


Work. Some meetings arranged for the not too distant future, and I’ve paid my tax bill.


TV / Film / Radio / Podcasts. I finished watching Bosch, which was excellent. We’ve also watched a few episodes of The Sandhamn Murders which has the beautiful scenery of the Swedish archipelago islands for it’s back drop but a pretty weak story. We might watch some more or we might not bother. There’s a Star Trek movie marathon on this weekend and we’ve been watching them in slow time through the benefit of dvr. Star Trek: The Motion Picture stands up really well considering it’s age but I know there are a few howlers coming.

I’ve been listening to Pilgrim this week. Series 7 is available at the moment, as is the Halloween special, but the first episode of series 7 is only available for another day or so if you want to listen yourself. If you like fantasy drama it’s worth a listen.


Links.

Cheesy Cauliflower Steaks – I made these this week, they were gorgeous, so much so that I forgot to take a photo. I also made the pesto much more like a mousse than the recipe suggests, which also works well and is a lot less oily.

Make a bottle raft – I guess if you’re ever stranded on a desert island, plastic pollution might makes this an alternative to a raft made from palm trees!


That’s it for this week, have a good week ahead, stay safe and take care.

Book Review: The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt

The Eternal Season by Stephen Rutt

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

We will all have stories to tell of what 2020 was like for us. Some of us may even write about them, but few will have the unique perspective of the naturalist that Stephen Rutt has in The Eternal Season. Not only is this a tale of his summer and its margins, but a look at how things were and might be. It is a well referenced book, packed with relevant facts about what the author sees, how they have changed and what predictions we might expect.

It’s an insight into how migratory species mark time and how this has changed over the years and will be likely to further change. It is a mix of science, lore, observations and experiences carefully told by an accomplished author who is making his mark as one of the modern greats of nature writing.

The chapters are interspersed with little vignettes of species or key moments and these are in some ways the best parts of the book, carefully intertwined they bring the book as a whole together. A whole that minds us to look not just at the present but at what the future may bring.

Many of us reported how much more of nature we saw when in the midst of lockdown, remarking that it was as if without our constant presence nature breathed again. Perhaps this is true but more likely we were just more present to what was going on around us. The Eternal Season talks to those of us who were noticing parts of the natural world we have not seen before or failed to observe and what that might mean. Stephen Rutt is the expert who can help translate the natural world for us through his own feelings and observations.

The Eternal Season is a book not just for this summer or this year but for all seasons through time.

From the Publisher

None of us will ever forget the summer of 2020. For Stephen Rutt it meant an enforced stay in rural Bedfordshire before he could return to the familiar landscapes of Scotland’s Dumfries. But wherever he found himself, he noted the abundance of nature teeming in our hedgerows, marshlands, and woodlands – the birds, butterflies, moths and dragonflies, bats, frogs and plants that characterise the British summer.

Yet in his explorations of the landscapes and wildlife at the height of the year, he also began to see disturbances to the traditional rhythms of the natural world: the wrong birds singing at the wrong time, disruption to habitats and breeding, the myriad ways climate change is causing a derangement of the seasons.

The Eternal Season is both a celebration of summer and an observation of the delicate series of disorientations that we may not always notice while some birds still sing, while nature still has some voice, but that may be forever changing our perception of the heady days of summer.

About the Author

Stephen Rutt is a 29-year-old award-winning writer, birder and naturalist, originally from Suffolk. ln 2019 he published his first two books, The Seafarers and Wintering: A Season with Geese. As a teenager, he interned with
Birdguides.co.uk and in 2015 he spent seven months at the bird observatory in North Ronaldsay.

He lives in Dumfries and his writing has appeared in the Big Issue, Caught by the River, Daily Mail, Scotsmon and Guardian among others.

The Seafarers, his debut, attracted comparison to the likes of Amy Liptrot, Adam Nicolson and Tim Dee. It won the Saltire Society First Book of the Year was longlisted for the Highland Book Prize and was the recipient of a Roger Deakin Award. Wintering was a Times’ Book of the year. Both books are available as Elliott & Thompson paperbacks.


The Eternal Season – Ghosts of summers past, present and future is published on 1st July 2021 by Elliott and Thompson.


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]

Of Dogs, Vets and Hollyhocks TWTW # 132

I’m not sure where this week has gone, but it feels like it’s been quite constructive. I do seem to have broken something on the blog though as ads appear to have returned. I’ll try working out how to turn them off.

I took Wilson back to the vet’s on Tuesday, a pre-booked appointment to have some stitches removed but also to see if they had received the outstanding test results. We achieved both, the tests were delayed by a covid outbreak at the lab where they do the analysis but they had now had the outstanding ones. It turns out he has an autoimmune disorder – Pemphigus Foliaceus – on top of everything else that he has. This latter point dictates a certain treatment regime and he’s started on a course of medication. We’re back at the vet’s this coming week for a blood test to see how the treatment is working. I’ve now been able to file an insurance claim and I hope that will be accepted.


I didn’t manage to make it to the 1984 Symposium this week. George Orwell’s – Eric Arthur Blair – was born on 25th June 1903.


Reading. I read an article on The Last Word on Nothing this week that sent me down another rabbit hole. It bought back memories of sitting and watching coastal birds through a telescope in the early 1990’s, in Devon I was counting Avocets. I sat and sketched an avocet and made plans to dust off my telescope and go out and look at coastal birds through it again. The article also mentions a book by Peter Matthiessen – The Wind Birds – which doesn’t look like it was ever released here in the UK, probably because it’s about US coastal birds. I did track down a paperback copy though and I would like to read it, given how much I have enjoyed many of Matthiessen’s other books including the Birds of Heaven, The Cloud Forest and The Snow Leopard.


Watching. The final season of Bosch was released this week, it’s only an eight episode season and I’m nearly finished watching it. If you haven’t watched it yet I recommend it, it’s consistently good from season one through to eight and I’m pleased that it gets to go out on a high. A spin-off series is planned, so there might yet be more.


Great to see the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness video podcast back again


Allotment. I’ve been pretty busy in the garden and allotment this week, I’ve had a lot of Hollyhock plants to transplant into bigger pots, and I still have a tray of seedlings which I’m planning on transplanting out around the garden. These won’t flower until next year, assuming that they survive, but I’m investing in future colour in the garden. I don’t know quite what colour they will be as they are saved seed from a number of different plants and I suspect that there has been some cross pollination. They could be anywhere from jet black to a light pink colour.

My neighbour gave me some sweetcorn plants that she had spare and I’ve planted them out onto the allotment, I didn’t grow any myself this year because of the risk that the badgers will come and knobble them before I get to eat the cobs. So at some point I’ll have to construct some sort of frame around them to keep the badgers at bay!

I’ve also sown Tuscan kale, pak-choi and mixed mizzuna seeds this week.


Links.

The Greatest Walks in Literature.

Half the Trees in Two New English Woodlands Planted By Jays.

Stories to Save The World: A New Wave of Climate Fiction.


That’s it for the week ahead. I have a few diary commitments this week but many are weather dependent. Whatever you are up to take care and stay safe.

Extremes of Time and Weather TWTW # 131

It feels like it’s been a long week, but I also feel like I’ve been particularly time poor this week, with the days themselves passing very quickly. The weather has flipped during the week, from hot and scorching at the start to wet and cooler by the time I am writing this on Sunday.

There isn’t an update that I can provide on Wilson, other than to say lots of things have been ruled out, but there is still one set of results outstanding. He’s back with the vet on Tuesday to have some stitches from a biopsy site removed. Hopefully by then that outstanding test will be back. It’s difficult to see him so unwell it makes my heart hurt, but he’s pretty stoic and seems to be very much himself beyond the visible symptoms.


I’ve had a few new sign-ups this week, some off of the back of a book review (see below) that I published, and also a few (I think) from being involved in AudioMo.

If you’re new here and wondering what an earth you’ve signed up to, welcome. This is my website / blog, by training I am a biologist and by profession I generally make most of my income from being an independent environmental consultant. Outside of that I have a fairly wide interest in all sorts of things. I normally publish a post like this on the weekend at the end of the week (TWTW = The Week That Was), and talk about what I’ve been doing in the previous week, links to things I’ve found and anything else that I think might be interesting. Other occasional posts will appear at other times e.g. book reviews.

Thanks for signing up, but if after reading my ramblings you’re regretting your decision feel free to unsubscribe, there is a link to do so in each post if you subscribe by email. Obviously I hope you’ll stick around.

I also post on Instagram and Twitter where I am also @tontowilliams


Work. I had a virtual meeting with a client on an ongoing project that has been significantly disrupted by covid. It doesn’t feel like there is much work there for me in the near future.


Reading. Not that much. I’ve been dipping back into Ernie Pyle’s stories of the second world war in Italy in 1943, and also the war artist Edward Ardizzone’s second world war diaries. By coincidence these are also from the same time, but the similarities and differences between the two men’s experiences are quite marked.

I also published a review for Rob Cowen’s book The Heeding which I’ve been holding at the request of the publisher until the week of publication. It’s such a great book, and I’d recommend it, particularly if you like narrative poetry.


I always carry a notebook. They normally last a few months until they’re full, and then I swap them out for a new one. I write ideas for stories, shopping lists, nature observations, draw sketches and all sorts of other things in them.

It’s taken a bit longer to fill each one during covid times (although I have been writing more in my main journal) but this week it was time to swap the old for the new. In this instance from a Field Notes to a Moleskine. Moleskine went through a patch where their paper quality wasn’t all that great but they seem to have gone back to better paper stock again so I’m trying a newer book from their limited edition Lord of the Rings series.


Allotment. The rain has been great, but it has really promoted week growth, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of weeding. I also harvested the last of the broad beans this weekend, and have now dug over that part of the plot. I’m planning on sowing some more salad crops in the space which I’ll do next weekend if not before.


Links.

Covid: How have allotments helped people during the pandemic?

After walking to work, Beau Miles has now tried paddling to work:


That’s it for this week. Depending on how things work out in the week ahead, I might be travelling to Oxfordshire to celebrate George Orwell’s birthday, and I have that appointment with the vet but otherwise no specific plans.

Whatever your plans, take care and stay safe.

Book Review: The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Illustrated by Nick Hayes

The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Illustrated by Nick Hayes.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

There will be a few books in life that you will always treasure, it might the content of the book itself or where you were or who you were with when you read them. Common Ground by Rob Cowen is one of those books for me. I can tell you when and where I was when I was reading it (in the last couple of weeks in my last paid job before going freelance), and to a limited extent I can tell you about the effect it had on me – I actually find it difficult to truly find the right words if I’m being honest.

It is the book that I have gifted / given more than any other book.

But. Rob hasn’t written another book until now and I really have waited for this book. This could go either way really couldn’t it?

Now let’s be honest, when I knew this book was coming I asked if I could go on the review list, before I was asked if I’d like to review it. I never do this. I pre-ordered a copy (it’s out tomorrow – June 17th). I wanted to read this book. I wanted it to be as good as Common Ground.

But. What if it wasn’t?

But. It’s better.

My god. IT. IS.


In many ways it couldn’t be more different, it is a book of poems not prose, but they tell a story just the same. Written during lockdown in 2020 and illustrated by Nick Hayes (I reviewed Nick’s the Book of Trespass here) – the two aspects merge together into an amazing book.

The Heeding is a message to us all. We need to heed what is going on around us. To call out what is maybe not quite right and to celebrate the good and the beautiful in our world. To take the time to actually look and listen to the world around us. To pay attention to those things that maybe we take for granted, and make sure that we don’t loose them through our own inattention.

It had me captivated from the first page. I devoured it, and did so again, finally slowing to read each poem more deliberately and going back over them. To be honest I’m still reading it. Although it’s sitting next to my keyboard right now, it’s always close at hand, my proof copy is falling apart through use. This is a special book, it’s another one that I’ll treasure and will be gifting to others.

If you should read this book, and you should go and order a copy right now. I think you’ll find your own meaning in the poems and the illustrations, if I had to pick a couple of poems that are personal favourites it would be; This Allotment; The Lovers; and The Heeding. These and the others have made me smile, laugh, cry, rant & rave and be grateful for the world. If we were all to heed the world around us in this way what an amazing place it would be.

The illustrations elevate the words too, they bring the poems to life with their striking, contrasting style as well as having a life of their own.

I am truly grateful for this book, it is beautiful. You may be able to tell that I am struggling to really find the words to truly express how I feel about it and just how good it is.

Please go and get yourself a copy, in fact buy a couple and give one to a friend.


From The Publisher: The world changed in 2020. Gradually at first, then quickly and irreversibly, the patterns by which we once lived altered completely. The Heeding paints a picture of a tear caught in the grip of history, yet filled with revelatory perspectives close at hand: from a sparrowhawk hunting in a back street, the moon over a town or butterflies massing in a high-summer yard, to remembrances of moments that shape a life. Collecting birds, animals, trees and people together and surfacing memories along the way, The Heeding becomes a profound meditation on a time no-one will forget.

The Heeding is a book of our time: conceived in lockdown by two creative people who have yet to meet in person. Across four seasons, Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes lead us on a journey that takes its markers and signs from nature all around us, coming to terms with a world that is filled with terror and pain, but beauty and wonder too.

Rob Cowen is an award winning writer, hailed as one of the UK’s most original voices on nature and place. His book Common Ground (2015) was shortlisted for the Portico, Richard Jefferies Society and Wainwright Prizes and voted on of the nation’s favourite nature books on BBC Winterwatch. He lives in North Yorkshire.

Nick Hayes is a writer, illustrator and print-maker. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines That Divide Us (2020). He has published graphic novels with Jonathan Cape and worked with many renowned titles. He has exhibited across the country, including the Hayward Gallery. He lives on the Kennet and Avon canal.

The Heeding is published by Elliott & Thompson on 17th June 2021.


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]