Well Look At Those Onions TWTW # 149

I seem to have spent a lot of time in the dark this week. Taking photos of the moon, treasuring my night vision and eschewing a torch or other artificial light.

I feel these weeks in autumn and early winter more than any other time of the year, and the feelings aren’t all good. Whilst I don’t mind the dark I realise that it has an effect on my mental state. I’m much more tired than normal and prone to sighing more than normal. I know that I’ll adjust to the shorter days in time the change of time to GMT will make my morning dog walks lighter again for a while. I also know that many others feel this time of year much more than I do.

Our Covid numbers are very much on the rise again, our useless government are refusing to implement even the simplest of preventative measures and pinning all their hopes on booster jabs that most of the population doesn’t have access to. Add to that shortages and cost of living crisis….

Looks like Christmas is cancelled again this year.


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 if you like what you see you can also buy me a coffee via the link in the sidebar


Work

Between the darks rising and falling this week, I’ve mostly had my head into client work. Tonnes of carbon dioxide, and looking at how we seemingly commute such short distances in our cars. The numbers of course hold no context, they’re just numbers there’s no why as to how they are.


Books

I finished reading Horse Under Water by Len Deighton and moved on to Silverview by John le Carré, both were excellent. It’s odd that this is possibly the last John le Carré, there’s a little tease that there might be some “uncompleted” novels in his papers and it seems that the family is very much in control of them so I think that if there are any more they will only be released if they are any good.


TV & Film

I sat down and watched IT Part 2 this week. I say watched because I ran out of time and didn’t finish it. I’m not sure I’m going to go back either as I really wasn’t enjoying it.

[SPOILER ALERT]

I did enjoy the Stephen King cameo, but just couldn’t get into the rest of the film

[SPOILER ALERT ENDS].


I’m not sure why, it just didn’t sit well with me, there’s some impressive special effects, and a good correlation with the original book (as far as I remember it anyway), but I just found it a bit, well, meh.

On the other hand we also watched The Guilty which I thought was very good. The films premise revolves around a single emergency service operator and there are very no other major actors seen, most of the other characters are voices on the other end of the phone. It’s Swedish with subtitles but a great concept with a nasty twist. Worth watching if you can track it down. (It’s also been remade by Netflix with Jake Gyllenhaal in the lead role).


We’ve also been watching the return of Shetland on BBC, good to see it back but too early to say much more. Plus more of Isaac Asimov – Foundation and the new Apple TV series Invasion. I don’t know where the latter is going, the first three episodes have been released and it’s unclear exactly what is going on.


Allotment & Food

We had quite a bit of rain during the week, which is good for the recently planted broad beans, garlic and onions. It’s also made for some easy digging and weeding, so I’ve been clearing parts of the plot that are no longer going to be used this year. A couple of cold overnight temperatures have done for the squash and courgette plants so they’ve been pulled up and the remains added to the compost heap.

I made some simple onion relish over the weekend. We were having vegetarian hot-dogs for supper on Saturday and it went perfectly with those in the homemade rolls. When I say simple I do mean just that:

Take a couple of large onions and slices them into thin half-rings, you’re going for long thin strands rather than pieces. Heat some olive oil in a non-stick pan and then add the sliced onion. Fry them on a high heat for a couple of minutes and then turn down the heat and continue to cook until the onion it becomes soft, keep stirring them. Now add some demerara sugar (just enough to cover the onions), a good glug (couple of tablespoons) of white wine vinegar and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Keep stirring and continue to cook until the vinegar is all evaporated and the onions are well caramelised.

You can either allow it to cool and use later or serve it while still hot. It’ll keep for a couple of days in the fridge. You could also make some bigger batches and store in sterilised jars, but to be honest it’s so quick and easy to make fresh each time why bother? We had enough for our hot-dogs and enough for a lunchtime cheese roll the following day.


Links

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

Yes, We Have To Live With Covid – But Not With Such Irresponsible Ministers

Which Form of Transport Has The Smallest Carbon Footprint?


Well that’s all for this week. Whatever you’re up to in the week ahead, stay safe and take care.

Book Review: Human, Nature: A Naturalists Thoughts on Wildlife & Wild Places by Ian Carter

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

When the publishers asked me to review Human, Nature I warned them that it would be a while before I got to it, there were a number of books in the review pile. However I am really glad that it made it to the top of the pile because it’s a fascinating read.

A series of short essays loosely connected into broader topics it covers a range of subjects from the naming, and renaming, of species; though migration; local patch wildlife; the domestic dog; and the brown rat. I could go on but I won’t. Each chapter has the author’s personal take as well as his decades of experience as a naturalist and conservationist.

It’s a deep dive into some subjects in short reportage that at times I wished could be longer, but where the hook is set it takes you off to look up and read further.

It’s the perfect book for dipping into and also for sitting engrossed for a couple of hours. It covers some contentious topics – the section on conflicts is worth reading alone – so it’s not just about the nature that we might all see on a day to day basis or the more remote and rarer species where some effort is involved.

I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in natural history, and dare I say it with Christmas just around the corner this would make a really nice present for someone with an interest in the topic.


From the Publisher

What does it mean to be a part of—rather than apart from—nature? This book is about how we interact with wildlife and the ways in which this can make our lives richer and more fulfilling. But it also explores the conflicts and contradictions inevitable in a world that is now so completely dominated by our own species.

Interest in wildlife and wild places, and their profound effects on human wellbeing, have increased sharply as we face up to the ongoing biodiversity extinction crisis and reassess our priorities following a global pandemic. Ian Carter, lifelong naturalist and a former bird specialist at Natural England, sets out to uncover the intricacies of the relationship between humans and nature. In a direct, down-to-earth style he explains some of the key practical, ethical and philosophical problems we must navigate as we seek to reconnect with nature.

This wide-ranging and infectiously personal account does not shy away from controversial subjects—such as how we handle invasive species, reintroductions, culling or dog ownership—and reveals in stark terms that properly addressing our connection to the natural world is an imperative, not a luxury.

Short, pithy chapters make this book ideal for dipping into. Meanwhile, it builds into a compelling whole as the story moves from considering the wildlife close to home through to conflicts and, finally, the joy and sense of escape that can be had in the wildest corners of our landscapes, where there is still so much to discover.

About the Author

Ian Carter took early retirement after twenty-five years as an ornithologist with Natural England. He was closely involved with the Red Kite reintroduction programme and wider work on the conservation of birds of prey, bird reintroductions and wildlife management. The cultural and philosophical aspects of nature conservation have always fascinated him, especially their influence on our attitudes towards the natural world. He has written articles for wildlife magazines including British Birds, British Wildlife and Birdwatch, and has co-authored papers in scientific journals. He wrote The Red Kite (Arlequin Press 2007) and, with Dan Powell, The Red Kite’s Year (Pelagic Publishing 2019), and has been on the Editorial Board of the journal British Birds for over twenty years. He keeps a wildlife diary and has written something in it (however dull) every day for over thirty-five years.


[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.]

The Ponds of Childhood TWTW # 148

This week has been focused around work. Client work, an evening and a Saturday workshop. I visited my Mum, dropped into the vets to pick some tablets up and went for a short walk around a pond. These are all the things I did in addition to the routine things.

I started writing this during a gap in my diary, and finished it on Sunday morning after I got back from the allotment.

During weeks like this routine is important to me. Whether it’s the time walking the dogs or stopping to cook dinner the rest of my day is built around those things. Or is it? Evening meetings can mean that dinner has to be earlier or later depending on the timings, but they’re still keystones in my day, even if the rest of it feels a bit like a treadmill.

I had to pick some pills up from the vets on Saturday afternoon. At the weekends only the main practice is open and not the satellite one that we normally visit. On the way back I took the opportunity to stop somewhere I’ve not been since I was a kid.

As a kid this was a popular spot that I used to go with my friends. Taken there by one of our parents we used to spend ages (or at least it felt like it to our young brains), messing about in boats – you could hire canoes or rowing boats – wandering around the pond or on the adjacent heathland, playing in the playground or eating ice cream.

I was pleased to see that not a lot has changed, you could still do all of the above things there to this day if you wanted to. After 40+ years there have been some improvements – there’s a proper cafe now instead of a window from a room between the toilets, and the range of watercraft has increased.

I didn’t indulge my inner child by going out in a boat, as I had one of the dogs with me, but we did enjoy a good walk around the pond. I was pleased to see it was quite busy, although I’m not sure with covid numbers on the rise again that this is necessarily a good thing.

My Mum used to take me here a lot during school holidays, I doubt she would remember that now. When I visited her this week, she wasn’t convinced that I was who I said I was. Partly due to having to wear a mask, but also I think due to her Alzheimer’s progressing a bit.


Reading

I read another Brother Cadfael this week – “The Heretic’s Apprentice” by Ellis Peters and then moved on to a Len Deighton – “Horse Under Water”. I enjoyed the former, although it felt like it was dragging a bit. After last weeks experience with reading Brothers In Arms by James Holland where I had no trouble reading late into the night, I’m not sure it’s all a function of how busy or tired I am. I was just as busy / tired last week as this but I struggled to stay awake reading Brother Cadfael’s adventures. I think it’s a function more of how engaging the material is rather than a physiological state in me.


Work

As mentioned above it’s been a busy week. I’ve been plugging away on some client work and starting to write up their final report. For another client I’ve been involved in preparing for and delivering some online workshops. One on Friday evening and the second on Saturday morning. Not my ideal choice, but also something that I’m used to doing as my allotment talks are often evening events. Work for this second client will probably drop off a bit for the time being while other things that I’m not involved in happen in the background.


Allotment

Because I had to work on Saturday morning I went to the allotment this morning (Sunday). I was there early, before it was properly light. I managed to get my garlic, onions and some broad beans in. I seem to have slightly underestimated the number of broad beans in the packet I bought (our allotment shop has stopped selling seeds, and they were my benchmark), so I think I’ll sow some more in the spring rather than get some more to plant now. There’s still time to do so, but I’ll be hedging my bets against a hard winter by splitting the sowing like this.


Links

The Daily Rituals and Routines of a Working Adventurer

Would you rather eat at the local kebab house or blow a small fortune with Salt Bae?

How to grow happy garlic


Well that’s all I have for this week. Next week is looking slightly quieter on the work front, but I still have a report to write and some information for it to chase.

Whatever you’re up to or have planned, take care and stay safe.


Buying Go Go Juice TWTW # 147

I’ve mostly been at my desk working on client projects this week. Things are moving in the right direction and I have another busy week, including some Friday evening and Saturday morning workshops that I’m going to be involved in, coming up. It’s good to have paid work coming through, and the experience of getting back into that routine again quite interesting.

I had to buy some petrol this week. I haven’t needed to before now because I didn’t actually need any and saw no benefit to adding to the stupidity of what has been panic buying of a resource that isn’t actually in a shortage. I had no problems, just drove straight up to a pump, filled up and paid and drove away again. I’m not sure whether I was lucky (there were queues at the same petrol station earlier in the week) or whether things have just calmed down again. I hope it’s the latter.


Reading

I’ve mostly been reading James Holland’s Brothers in Arms – One legendary tank regiments bloody war from D-Day to VE-Day this week. I’ve stayed up late several nights reading this without feeling fatigued (which has taught me something about when you’re engaged with a book, you don’t feel tired), and I have to say it is one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in awhile. It is also probably one of the most gut wrenching when you consider the casualties. I think I am right in saying that no one in the regiment who landed on the beach in Normandy survive without being wounded, and there were many, many who were sadly killed. War is horrible and I’ve read a lot of military history books but this really brought it home just how many were killed and wounded and how many ‘replacements’ came directly from training to the front line to replace their comrades and became casualties themselves. Of those who landed in Normandy the number of men was replaced at the rate of 150%, and although some were wounded and returned there were very few who managed to do through the whole period without injury of some kind.

Sadly the last surviving member of the regiment from that time died this week.

I’d recommend reading this if you have the time.

Later this coming week the final John le Carré novel Silverview will be published. There are a couple of interesting articles about other writers favourite le Carré novel (mine are probably The Little Drummer Girl and The Constant Gardener but as I’m rereading those that I first read many years ago, I expect some more might get added to that list) and also about the authors change of nationality to Irish so that he could remain and die an EU citizen. I’d also recommend listening to the Radio 4 programme that’s mentioned in one of the articles.

I have my copy on pre-order and I’m looking forward to, although with some sadness to reading this final novel.


Allotment

I recorded some audio from the allotment this week.


Links

I use Instagram but rarely Facebook or WhatsApp but for one reason or another there’s been a lot of coverage about them this week, either because they’ve managed to shoot themselves in one foot or another, but this comparison is an interesting read. I find my use of Instagram a little unsettling now given the background and information that has come out.


Watching

I’ve not really been watching much this week, a few episodes of the Michael Gambon incarnation of Maigret which are excellent, and some more episodes of the Apple TV+ adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. I’ve been spending much more time reading my book (see above).


The coming week looks like being a rinse and repeat version of this one. I hope whatever you’re up to your able to stay safe. Take care.


No Time To? TWTW # 146

The house has been noticeably chillier in the mornings this week, not to the point of needing to turn on the heating but just making a statement that the Summer nights are no longer with us and temperatures are dropping. It’s also been pretty wet and windy this week, more that once I’ve been caught in a sudden rain shower that has necessitated changing out of wet clothes upon arriving home.

It’s also been a little surreal to see this country descending into panic buying once again, when there really is no need. Last year it was toilet rolls, this year it’s road fuel. What’s next I wonder? It’s obvious how we ended up here, and it’s all self-inflicted. It’s scary how a few individuals can do so much damage in such a short space of time and somehow still manage to be in positions of authority.


Reading

I’ve read The Cook of the Halcyon by Andrea Camilleri this week. It’s the penultimate Inspector Montalbano novel. The last in the series – the author died in 2019 – is out (in English) later this month, although early reviews are not so good. This one however was good, very funny in places and with a very timely quote quite close to the beginning which I’ll share:

It is said that man, in a democracy, is free. Really? But what if the car won’t start, the phone doesn’t work, the power is out, there’s no water or gas, and the computer, television, and fridge refuse to function? It is probably better still to say that, yes, man is free, but it is a conditional freedom, dependent upon the whims of objects he can no longer live without.

Andrea Camilleri – The Cook of the Halcyon

Not sure what’s up next, as in previous weeks Derek Jarman’s garden is still drawing me in and by coincidence I came across this article online about the very same this week.


TV & Film

We finished watching the BBC series Vigil this week and would probably have binged-watched it, if it hadn’t been restricted to one new episode a week. I wonder what makes the decision as to whether something is going to be released all in one go or spaced out over a period of time? Another one is the Apple TV adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, we’ve been watching this too because I still have some time remaining on a complimentary subscription to this service. I’m not sure that I would pay for it though.

The new Bond Movie is out now. No Time To Die is the last Daniel Craig Bond and the first Bond film that I won’t be watching in the cinema since Moonraker. With Covid still very much around I really don’t feel safe. I suspect the risk is relatively low if I follow my normal pattern of going when it’s been out for a few weeks and picking a time when not many people will also be going but even so I don’t think I’d enjoy the film because I’d be worrying about other people in the auditorium. I read this article in the Guardian and that analysis backs up my thinking on the risk but I want to enjoy the film so I’ll wait for the DVD release I think.

I also like the look of the premise behind the new Ghostbusters movie, I hope they can pull it off.


Allotment

I’ve been rained off of the allotment today, there might be an opportunity to make it down there tomorrow. Like the seasons, work here shifts to those tasks that are now really about making the plot ready for the next set of crops and for warmer weather to come.


Work

Busy, busy, busy, this week. I’ve been asked to do some new work for a client, which is going to pretty much fill up the next couple of weeks, and hopefully there will be some follow-up to that which will go into the New Year.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. There’s not much to report from me for the week ahead, I’ll mostly be doing work stuff.
Whatever you’re planning on doing, stay safe and take care.


Grindstone Cowboy TWTW # 145

As I sit down to write this post I see that my notebook is a little empty of things to talk about this week. I curate a list during the week, of things I should include in these posts. When something happens I’ll add it to the list. This week that list is blank. Not because nothing has happened, on the contrary I’ve had quite a busy week, but because a symptom of that busyness is not having the time to add things to it.


Work

This is what has kept me busiest this week, I’ve been making progress with client work. Doing quite a bit of research and creating models and calculations to look at a variety of different scenarios for that client to help them with their planning for reaching net-zero.

Out of the blue I also had a separate approach from another client for some further work. We’re talking this coming week to discuss but it’s an another old project coming back around again, partly due to the pandemic pushing it into the long grass for a while.


Reading

I finished London Match by Len Deighton and am still visiting Derek Jarman’s Dungeness garden via the pages of his diary each day. I don’t read much of this each time but I do enjoy reading other peoples journals and diaries. I have several in my ‘to be read’ pile and it’s interesting that each one is a slightly different style or approach to what they recorded, or felt was worth recording about themselves and what happened to them.

I also dipped into The Collected Adventures of David Cranmer’s “Drifter Detective”, there’s a review here, and I’m looking forward to reading some more in the coming days.


Allotment

A lot of weeding this week. I’ve cleared enough space for over-wintering things and most of those have now arrived from various seed suppliers. It’s still a little early to be planting and sowing, but time passes so quickly that it won’t be long. I’ve harvested about half of my apples. The variety is a hybrid and the earlier you harvest e.g. in September the closer they are to a cooking apple, the longer they stay on the tree e.g. October / November the closer they are to an eating apple. So I’ve left about half, mostly the smaller ones on the tree in the hope that it doesn’t get too windy or cold and that I can have some eating apples in another month or so.


I visited my Mum this week for her birthday. Covid restrictions mean that there are still some limitations, and we had about an hour together, but with her Alzheimer’s the way it is that is probably about the right length of time. She was in good spirits, although the fact it was her birthday had passed her by until I showed up. We both have milestone birthdays next year and she was talking about having a party. Who knows if that will be possible but it was a nice thought. Not sure I’m up for a milestone birthday or a party to be honest but who knows.


I recorded some audio on one of my dog walks this week, it’s about half an hour of me rambling on about all sorts of things. I posted it earlier in the week, but if you’d like to listen and haven’t already I’ll embed it again here:


There are no links this week – mostly because all of the things I’ve been looking at have been work related and probably not all that interesting unless you’re into carbon reduction. The week ahead is looking similar to the one just gone, with a catch-up visit to the vet but otherwise it’s going to be head down.

Whatever you’re up to take care and stay safe!


A Morning Audio Ramble

Some audio thoughts from our dog walk this morning.

This is a binaural recording – if you listen to this with headphones you should hear what I was hearing i.e. different things in your / my left and right ears.

It’s quite long and there are no prizes for listening to the end, but if you do listen, thank you!

Book Review: The Collected Adventures of David Cranmer’s “The Drifter Detective” Volume One

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Jack Laramie is the grandson of legendary US Marshall Cash Laramie (search for this in the sidebar and it should bring up my reviews for those). He is a PI for hire and lives out of the back of his horse trailer.

I’ve read these (long) short stories before on kindle but it is good to get them gathered together for the first time in a real book. It’s sometime since I read them so they felt new to me but familiar.

They pull no punches (quite literally at times) but this is hard boiled noir with a hint of the old west but set after the Second World War.

They are exactly how I imagine the old west would have evolved, and the character of Jack is as alive as his grandfather was.

Recommended.

Disclosure: David Cranmer is a friend of mine, but I bought this book with my own money and I have received no recompense for this review from the authors or publishers. The thoughts are my own.

A Work Production TWTW # 144

It’s been a busy week, but busy is good. Mostly I’ve been at home in front of the computer, with trips out to walk the dogs or to go to the allotment and I’ve been pretty productive and got a lot done. I like weeks like this but they can be quite exhausting by the time the weekend arrives.


Work

I’ve started a new piece of client work this week. This has meant a lot of time researching and tracking down data and then starting to develop a spreadsheet to manage the data. Neither the client or I had a clear idea what the final output was going to look like, but I think now I’ve had a couple of days on this I can see what it might look like. There’s still much to do, but it’s good to be working on something.


Allotment

I’m getting the plot ready for the over-wintering onions and broad beans. It’s going to be a few more weeks before they need to go in. Put them in too early and they get too big and are at potential risk of being damaged even in a mild winter. Too late and they don’t germinate or start to grow in time and become big enough. Normally this window is around the end of October / early November.

The plot is still producing a good amount of French climbing beans, although I am now leaving some so that I can save some seed, and squashes and courgettes. I suspect the latter will not last much longer as overnight temperatures start to drop. It also looks like we’ll have some Brussels sprouts for Christmas.


Reading

I’m still reading about Derek Jarman’s garden but have also started on London Match by Len Deighton. I find engaging with fiction far easier than non-fiction when I have a lot of work on, maybe because it doesn’t require me to think quite as much.


Links

RIP Sir Clive Sinclair

Pharmaceutical companies should pay for raiding nature’s medicine cabinet – The Lancet

The Last Word on Nothing – Homeward Bound

Sean of the South – Thank You


The week ahead is looking like being fairly similar, it’s also my Mum’s birthday, so I’ll be visiting her on the day. I wonder if she’ll remember that it is her birthday. Last year her care home was in lockdown on her birthday and I wasn’t able to visit so I don’t know how she was and when I rang to wish her a Happy Birthday, she seemed a little vague. We’ll see on the day.

Whatever you’re up to in the week ahead, stay safe and take care.