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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Twenty years ago today I was working an early shift covering a colleague while he was on holiday. It meant I was in the car driving to work just as Radio 4 was taking over from the World Service on the radio. I was still trying to absorb what had happened the day before. Although we used to have a radio on as background in the harbour office where I was working at the time, I’d been out on the patrol boat as news had started to filter in as to what was happening in New York. At first they made it sound like it was a small light plane, a Cessna or similar that had hit the North Tower. When the news arrived of a second plane it became clearer that this was something more sinister.
By the time I reached home after my shift the horror of what had happened was becoming apparent and the world changed forever.
We’re back “home” again after our brief stay elsewhere. It’s interesting that while we were away my sleep patterns were much better, despite a slightly lumpy bed. I’m not sure whether it was because of all of the extra exercise I was getting or the overall quieter and darker place, here it is all streetlights, traffic and people. It’s certainly made us think and reconsider our surroundings and what we need from life.
I don’t feel like I’ve had much time for reading since we got back either, nor have I been able to keep my eyes open for long enough of an evening to read more than a page or two. How can I be so tired and yet sleep so badly?
Anyway when I have been reading I’ve been picking up Derek Jarman’s diaries of his time living in a little cottage at Dungeness. The cottage is famous for the garden that Jarman created before he died.
I haven’t read very far yet, but it’s clear from the words that Jarman was very much a creative.
Also if you’re looking for something good to read, can I recommend checking out the Drifter Detective series, now available in this collection:
I’ve been getting a piece of the plot ready for sowing overwintering broad beans. Our allotment shop under it’s new management has declared that it is not doing seeds this year (or onion sets or seed potatoes), so I will have to buy them elsewhere. I won’t go into how this rather pathetic state of affairs has arisen but one of the strengths that I saw in our little shop was the fact that it sold seeds etc. Now it just seems to sell bags of compost and only on a Sunday.
My apples are now mostly ripe and I’ll be picking them all over the next week. I sampled a few yesterday and along with some of the autumn fruiting raspberries made a rather spectacular apple and raspberry strudel. My god it was good, even if it did look a bit like a Hannibal Lecter recipe.
A purchase order arrived from a client for the piece of work we’ve been discussing, work commences tomorrow. I’ve been doing some prep work this week – timesheet templates and other admin stuff. I’m quite looking forward to it because it’s also quite an interesting piece.
Well that’s everything for this week. Next week I’ll be doing quite a bit of paid work, interspersed with some gardening and allotment work if the weather holds. I also hope to receive a roll of film back from the processors that I took partly while we were away. The first half I took some time ago and although I think I know what’s on there I’m not 100% sure, so that should be a bit of a surprise.
Slightly different surroundings as I type this today. We’re still in the process of sorting out my Mum’s house and decided to come and stay for a couple of days to try and get a bit more done than we can by ‘commuting’. It’s worked well so far and it’s also been nice to reacquaint myself with an area I used to know very well. It’s interesting to see how some things have changed but the broad landscape is still very much the same. Paths that I’ve not walked for a few years are once again becoming familiar, and my daily step count is going up rapidly. I’ve put a few pictures that I’ve taken in a slideshow below.
Wilson had another vet appointment this week, and received praise from the vet. She’s very pleased with his progress and if it continues in the same vein we might be able to reduce the dosage of one of his tablets. I also received a very prompt turn around to a claim I made to the insurance company. I am surprised at how quick to be honest so I hope they didn’t make a mistake.
I’ve had some good news this week and the proposal I wrote has been accepted. The client had a couple of clarification questions but has accepted it without further alteration. Subject to receiving a purchase order I’ve said I’ll be starting on it in about a weeks time with the aim of having it completed before the end of the year.
I finished Mexico Set by Len Deighton. It stands up really well as a cold war thriller and it’s interesting to see how much the world has and hasn’t changed in the intervening period since the book was written. Perhaps same problems just different fronts might be a good way of looking at it, but then again some of the fronts aren’t all that different.
I picked up Horatio Clare’s Heavy Light which could be more contrasting a subject. It’s about the author’s mental breakdown and descent into psychosis and his experience of the mental health system before, during and after his breakdown. It’s not an easy read and although mental health and stability have featured in some of his previous books, this is much more concentrated in it’s treatment and discussion of the subject. From a first person perspective it is also very frank and honest of his experiences. It is very well written but I struggle to say that I enjoyed it, rather I think that I learnt a lot about certain aspects of mental health and it’s treatment.
The Clint Eastwood boxset has been taking keeping us entertained again. We’ve watched Space Cowboys, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before and Firefox, which I’ve don’t think I’ve watched since it first came out. Neither were particularly taxing but were a couple of evenings entertainment.
I’ve been using Evernote since 2014. I use it both for my work, and also personally, it helps with content for these pieces too. I’ve been paying for the “Premium” package for several years. It renewed recently and then a few weeks later I got an email to say that my subscription was changing and that I was now going to be on the “Personal” package as a new tier of “Professional” had been introduced. Don’t worry it said nothing has changed your package content remains the same.
Now firstly Evernote has been getting a bit glitchy of late (well before this recent subscription change) but there were some changes being made to the apps and software so I wasn’t unduly worried. One of the things I liked about Evernote was the interchangeability between operating systems and desktop and mobile platforms, wherever or whatever device you were using your notes synced between devices seamlessly. This then stopped being quite so efficient. I noticed that notes that I’d save on say my phone, weren’t showing up on my desktop app and vice-versa. Also Evernote made a change that meant when you saved something on a mobile device you then had to open the Evernote app to sync. Before I could simply save something to Evernote from say a browser or other app and Evernote would do the syncing in the background. Evernote was becoming Evernot.
I’ve stuck with Evernote because I really liked it and because I have an enormous amount of information stored there, but after this recent subscription change I am thinking of finding something else. I don’t think there is any malice in the change so soon after my subscription renewed, that’s probably just coincidental timing, however as I pay upfront it looks likely that I won’t be able to get any of that subscription back if I do move. The question however is what to move to. There are a few choices (DevonThink, Obsidian, Omnifocus are ones that I’m aware of so far) and obviously I have some time to make that decision. If you have any others that you think I should look at then do leave a comment below.
I’ve been bird sitting this week, or rather popping into one of our neighbours to check on their pet cockatiel, change his water and seed and have a ‘chat’ with him. Our conversations are pretty limited I think, and I’m not sure that he’s actually pleased to see me.
I was asked to take a Covid antibody test as part of the Zoe study this week. This test can tell whether you have actually been exposed to the coronavirus and developed natural antibodies to it, as opposed to ones you may have develop from immunisation. My test came back negative, which to be honest was what I was expecting.
I finished reading Roald Dahl’s Short Stories Volume 1 about middle way through this week and then picked up Len Deighton’s Mexico Set. I read Berlin Game by the same author earlier this year and was intending to read the trilogy – Game, Set, (London) Match at some point, and now feels like as good a time as any.
We sat down to watch a couple more Clint Eastwood westerns this week – Joe Kidd and Hang ’em High – again I don’t think I’ve watched either of these from start to finish in a very long time. We enjoyed them and I suspect we’ll end up watching some more.
I have a meeting arranged for next week to discuss the proposal I submitted last week. Hopefully this is to discuss any refinements and give me the go ahead with the work. I doubt that they would have arranged a meeting just to say ‘thanks, but no thanks’. This is a reasonable piece of work in terms of the time and mental challenge that it presents so I’m hopeful that they want to proceed as that also means I get paid obviously.
It’s possible that I’ll also be returning to in-person allotment talks soon too. I’m trying to work out how this will actually happen and what changes there will be in order to be Covid-safe. I’m not sure whether I actually want to be back in a room with a group of people of unknown vaccination / negative test status at the moment given the high levels of the virus in the population. I’m waiting to hear back from the organisers of the first of these talks about their new arrangements, but they seem to think that this is down to the owners of the venue.
As the photograph evidences I’ve managed to harvest some sweetcorn this year. If you’re a regular reader here you’ll know that in previous years harvesting sweetcorn has always been a race against time with the local badger population or some serious fence construction to stop them getting to the plants. In previous years they have pushed over the plants to get at the ripe cobs, devastating the entire crop. Whilst I don’t begrudge them a feed, given how persecuted they are, I don’t intentionally grow the sweetcorn for them. This year I beat them to it.
I suspect the truth is that the set that was behind the allotment site is actually dormant at the moment and the badgers have moved on elsewhere. There’s no sign more generally that they have been about.
In addition to the sweetcorn, I got a good harvest of French beans, patti-pan squash and autumn raspberries.
It’s the time of year when I am thinking about whether or not I am going to continue with the allotment for another year – fees for the year ahead are due in October. This year has been a hard one, with more failures than successes and contaminated manure has lead to a lot of problems with weeds. I am honestly not sure what I am going to do.
Light Rains Sometimes Fall – A British Year Through Japan’s 72 Seasons by Lev Parikian
My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
This is a beautiful book; an intimate nature diary that takes much more of a detailed look than perhaps the cursory glance that many of us will pay to our local surroundings each day.
Splitting the year into the same time periods as Japan’s 72 seasons – 4 to 5 days at a time – and writing detailed observations during a time when we were all getting through pandemic restrictions, lockdowns etc. I did wonder whether I needed to read another book written during lockdown as there have been quite a few but I am glad that I did in this instance.
The authors keen eye and attention to detail make for a fascinating discourse on his local “patch”, I admire the focussed local knowledge and the chance to wonder at it and draw in the reader to the same space, but one which they have likely never been. This is much more than a simple record, it’s not the “first swift/swallow or daffodil” recordings that many of us make or see others persistently recording. This is written with a depth of feeling and innate curiosity that each one of those things becomes an exposition.
Whether you read this books as I did, from it’s beginning to end or pick it up at the relevant date when you start it is a wealth of fascination in the natural world, written by an observer with an intense passion for the natural world around him.
From The Publisher
ln the West we consider the passing of the year through the prism of four seasons. When Lev Parikian set out to write a nature diary, he turned instead to the structure offered by the traditional Japanese calendar which recognises the subtle changes of the natural world with a total of seventy-two ancient micro-seasons (ko).
From the birth of Spring (risshun) in early February to ‘the greater cold’ (daikon) in late January, Lev draws our eye to the exquisite beauty (and sometimes mundanity) of the day-to-day across a whole year. Mirroring the Haiku-like names of the Japanese micro-seasons, which reflect nature’s gradual progression, he guides us through his year in charming short chapters such as ‘Great tits scout for nesting sites’, ‘Lavender assumes massive proportions’, ‘Spiders appear in sheds’ and ‘Christmas trees are released into the wild’. For Japan’s lotus blossom, praying mantis and bear, he offers the bramble, wood louse and urban fox.
Fans of Lev’s writing praise the warmth, wit and lightness of touch that he brings to his observations of the natural world. By turns reflective, joyous and melancholy, this wonderful journal demonstrates how much there is to gain by ‘looking, looking again and looking better’ at nature’s gradual progression.
‘l know that without all this – the focus on small things, the conscious paying attention, the birds and the flowers and the trees and the bees and the dragonflies and spiders and fungi and the mosses and lichens und the weeds growing in the cracks on the pavements, and yes, even the bastard squirrels – my year would have been substantially less bearable
About The Author
Lev Parikian is a birdwatcher, conductor and author of Into The Tangled Bank (2020) and Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear (2018). He lives in West Norwood, London with his family, who are getting used to his increasing enthusiasm for nature. As a birdwatcher, his most prized sightings are a golden oriaol in the Alpujurras and a black redstart at Dungeness Power Station.
Light Rains Sometimes Fall – A British Year Through Japan’s 72 Seasons by Lev Parikian is published by Elliott & Thompson and available from 16th September 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.]
Well a slightly earlier post than I’d planned today.
I’m just back from the allotment where I’d planned to do a series of different jobs until it started to rain hard.
The forecast must have changed a bit overnight because I thought I’d at least have 2 to 3 hours before the rain arrived.
Anyhow I finished up what I was doing and then headed for home, I’ll try again tomorrow in the meantime I’ll just have to finish my flask of coffee at home in the dry.
You know I’ve had that flask the best part of 30 years. I got it when I was working in the woods all day and needed a warm drink, particularly in the winter. It’s served me well, and still keeps my drinks warm even today.
The outer green paint is flaking off on one side and it’s a little bit rusty underneath. I did look to replace it a while ago, but that was during the first lockdown and you couldn’t get them. They’re available again now, but I really don’t want to replace it now. I think I’ll just keep going until it doesn’t anymore. Maybe it will even outlive me?
We seem to have watched a lot this week. We’ve been continuing to watch Ghosts which I think I’ve mentioned before and have finished series 3. We also watched a couple of movies; Green Book which we really enjoyed, even if it does make for some painful watching because of some of the historical treatment of people of colour; and Pale Rider which I don’t think I’ve sat and watched from beginning to end for a very long time. It still stands up well, and the finale with Eastwood taking on an overwhelming force has been repeated many a time in the western genre and it’s a great example of it. It’s made me want to watch a few more of the old Eastwood westerns too, and perhaps some others that I haven’t seen in a while.
I’ve been reading Arthur C. Clarke’s The Lost Worlds of 2001. A bit like The Odyssey File which I mentioned a few weeks ago, it’s more of a making of the movie, although it does contain some original stories that went into 2001.
I’ve also started on Volume One of Roald Dahl’s short stories, which are incredible pieces of work. Some I’ve read before – including Lamb to the Slaughter which has just the best telling of the the disposal of a murder weapon that I’ve ever read – but some are completely new to me. I’ve got the second volume to read as well so I could be reading these for a while.
I’ve been working on a proposal for a client at their request. It’s actually revisiting one that I worked on back in February that didn’t go anywhere due to budget cutbacks. However it seems like they now have some funding in place so I’m hopeful. They’ve also expanded the brief a bit, so it’s slightly more work than I bid for before. Fingers-crossed that it works out. It was submitted on Friday, so hopefully I’ll hear something in the next week or so.
That’s all I have for this week. It’s still raining outside, so I think I made the right decision about the allotment.
Whatever you’re up to in the week ahead, stay safe and take care.
The start of this week was plagued by some ghost alarms on my phone. For an unexplained reason my phone started playing an alarm at 05.30 each morning, even turning itself on to do so. There were no alarms set on the phone and it took a couple of days to work out what was going on. Fortunately I’m normally up before this time and my phone charges in another room to the bedroom overnight so it was more of a nuisance than a disturbance.
Eventually it turned out to be a problem linked to a fitness band that I haven’t used in over a year which (at the time) had synced to the health app on my phone and was causing the alarm from there as part of the sleep / wake function.
If this happens to you, turn off the “sleep schedule” in the health app and the alarms should stop – unless of course you want to be woken at a specific time.
It seems that a recent OS upgrade has caused this and a number of other problems. I’m also suffering from my podcasts app mislabeling the podcasts in the library so that sometimes it doesn’t play what it says it is supposed to be playing.
Sometimes these things are just too complicated for our good.
So how are you? Other than the above my week has been pretty good.
I had a visit with my Mum in her care home. She was in good form, all other things considered and it was one of those lucky visits where there is no one in the slot after mine so that the staff let mine overrun so we had extra time together. It doesn’t happen that frequently but it’s good when it does.
I finished John le Carre’s The Honourable Schoolboy this week. It’s set in a very different time period, but it’s interesting how pertinent it is to today with different conflicts around the world and with Russian spies surfacing in unlikely places.
I had planned to read something else next but thanks to Hermes the rather useless delivery company who appear to have lost the package with that book in, I’m probably going to have to change my plans. Hermes only seem to have AI for customer service and no humans, the AI is insistent that they are trying “very hard” to deliver my package but I fear that they are just very trying. Sadly they also have another package of mine which is a part of Ann’s birthday present, so I’m not hopeful that they’ll manage to deliver that one either.
The weeks of rain and warm weather have been kind to the weeds and I spent a long time on Saturday on my hands and knees weeding different bits of my plot to try and get on top of them. I had some success and the piles of weeds speak in testament to my efforts.
It’s also been good for other things, and as usual the squashes and courgettes have gotten away from me to the extent that I was leaving some on the site’s “swap” table for anyone who wants them.
I also lifted the last of the onions – it’s been a really good year for those and I’m considering switching permanently to the new supplier I tried this year for all my onions. This is in part down to the consideration that I’ve heard our allotment shop is not going to be ordering potatoes or onions sets this year.
We’ve been watching the new series of Ghosts this week. It doesn’t feel as strong or as funny as the previous series but it’s still much better than a lot of things on at the moment.
We’ve also been watching Hemingway which has been interesting and has added quite a bit to my knowledge of the life of the author.
Well that’s it for this week, I have a proposal to prepare in the week ahead but other than that my diary is looking quite empty, although I dare say I’ll be waiting around at some point for a parcel that may or may not be delivered.
It’s a rainy Saturday post again. I’ve already been to the allotment today and done a quick harvest of a few things; tomatoes, squash, beans; but it’s far too wet to do much else today. The forecast looks better for tomorrow so hopefully things will have dried out enough that I can get down there without the fear of trampling everything into a squishy, muddy mess. We’ll see what happens!
For fun I’ve started an online drawing course this week. I doodle and draw quite a bit but have never really taken much instruction and have probably reached the limit of my abilities to date. The course was on special offer, so I thought I’d take a risk on it, and so far I’ve been pleased with it. I can go at my own pace and have completed the first module and am working my way through the second. The first drawing task was to sketch the tools that you use for sketching, so here are a few of mine.
We had another vet trip this week. This time with Ruby who was due her booster injections. All relatively straightforward and in and out before our actual appointment time. We don’t have to take Wilson back until the beginning of September (unless there is something that we’re worried about) so we might get through most of a month without having to visit the vet.
I’ve been reading John le Carre’s The Honourable Schoolboy this week. It took me a couple of attempts to get through the first chapter, but I can now see how it ties into the previous book Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Although these are very much cold war era spy stories they still stand up well today and actually there is an element of history repeating itself with modern events.
My friend Christian (@documentally) is planning on riding his bicycle from London to Edinburgh to celebrate the 100th anniversary of The Great North Road being renamed to the A1. He’s never cycled more than 32km in a day before so it’s going to be a bit of a challenge. He’s also aiming to raise some money for Choose Love, a charity that supports refugees around the world. If you’d like to know more, follow him on Twitter or visit Cycling Hertz where you can sponsor him should you be so inclined. I’m sure he’ll also be sharing some behind the scenes stuff in his newsletter.
Scientists Spot Signs of Gulf Stream Collapse – I’m beginning to think that I might see the extinction of man in my own lifetime.