This month has very much felt like I’ve been playing catch-up after Covid. I’ve still been getting tired much faster than I used to, but this has gotten better as the month progressed, I’d say that I’m nearly back to my normal/abnormal self. There’s some milestones this month, which you can read about below, but otherwise I’ve been focussed quite a bit on some work stuff. Autumn seems to have arrived with a distinct chill in the morning air now and it’s still dark when I get up.
I’ve read quite a few things this month, a couple of Maigret novels and I’ve now completed the series of Brother Cadfael books, including the prequel novel about how Cadfael came to find himself taking the cowl.
I also read a very intricate crime novel by the late Seichō Matsumoto – Tokyo Express. and subsequently tracked down a second of his novels which I have on the tbr pile. It seems as an author he was prolific, writing somewhere in the region of 450 works but not that many of them appear to have been translated into English so far. I’ll be keeping my eye out for more.
TV / Film
Pretty run of the mill TV this month. Nothing much to report, although we did watch Tenent one evening, which although I enjoyed I found a bit mind bending trying to understand the “time travel” elements of this story. In the end I decided not to bother trying to work it out and just focussed on enjoying the film!
The allotment is no more.
On Friday 23rd I handed back my keys, after clearing out my shed and harvesting the final courgette. I wrote about this in a bit more detail in my Fifty from Fifty newsletter here. I feel quite emotional about this. It’s been my plot for over 14 years and now it’s going to be someone else’s.
Of course with the impending house move, it’s the right thing to be doing, there’s a big garden where we’re going, so it won’t be long before I’m back with my hands in the soil again. There’s also a lot to do in the new place so plenty of challenges ahead too I suspect.
Busy month, none of which I can really directly talk about. Suffice to say it’s been paying the bills.
After being very careful for well over two years, wearing a mask, social distancing and not going anywhere there are crowds and essentially living like a hermit even after our feckless government has said that it’s all over, Covid19 finally caught up with me. Laying me low for better part of two weeks, and even now still leaving me feeling listless.
Looking back as to where I could possibly have picked up the infection from, the only places I’d visited were our vets (twice), a grocery pick-up, or randomly out walking the dog.
I’m grateful for the vaccines as without them I suspect I would have been significantly sicker than I was. I was still testing positive after ten days.
Consequently this month has been quieter than most. I had hoped to make some significant progress on our house move but that’s been stalled, as have a couple of other things. Nothing much I can do about this other than move forward as soon as feasible.
I’d thought that if ever I did catch Covid I’d spend my isolation time reading. The first few days of being infected were quite horrible and this really wasn’t possible but after the first week I managed to read a lot more and it did become the thing that mostly occupied the time that I wasn’t sleeping (a lot), coughing (also a lot) and generally feeling miserable.
Right before I got sick I finished reading Smiley’s People by John le Carré which followed me reading A Murder of Quality. I’m slowly reading / rereading my way through John le Carré’s novels in no particular order but I did think I’d read the Smiley series again. I skipped three of them (The Looking Glass War; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; and The Honourable Schoolboy) because I had read those recently and have stopped at The Secret Pilgrim because I don’t own a copy and also didn’t want to carry on reading them in my Covid befuddled brain. I’ll pick them up again soon. In the meantime I’ve been reading other things that aren’t as taxing – River of Death by Alistair MacLean and Sharpe’s Rifles by Bernard Cornwell. I’m part way through a reread of The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean, which if you’ve only ever seen the film you really should read the book.
I’m still trying to fill my spare time with reading rather than watching the news or doom-scrolling through social media as I find both of those things quite depressing and let’s face it that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.
TV / Film
This is one of the things I really haven’t been able to do while I was sick. Watch the tellybox. Just haven’t felt like it. I’ve been recording a few things to watch when I feel like it again but it’s hardly been on, and still isn’t, so nothing much to report. I did however indulge in a little YouTube wildlife cams. There’s something to be said for watching Hummingbirds for two hours straight. Put them up on a big screen if you can and just enjoy.
I was harvesting broccoli and cauliflower before I got sick but an enforced break and quarantine meant no visits for a period. Fortunately there has been a little bit of rain at just the right times to keep things from keeling over and I was rewarded by some more broccoli and cauliflower upon my return. I really need to be wrapping up the plot now ahead of the move, fees will be due next month and I’m not renewing, so I need to clear my shed and other things and move on to new pastures.
Again not much to report the combination of Covid and the usual summer holiday (clients, not mine) slowdown has meant that I haven’t got much done. I prepared a proposal for one client and we’re going to be discussing that work in the next week or so but otherwise I’m just continuing with a couple of other projects from last month.
Well that’s about it for August, I know there’s a few days left but I really don’t think I’m going to do much as I’m still feeling tired and fatigued. Hopefully September will kickstart me a bit with a couple of projects. Whatever you’re up to stay safe and take care.
What two words would I use to describe July? Hot and busy.
The temperatures have been intense at times and we’ve not had the worst of it. We’ve escaped the really extreme temperatures and the fires. We’ve been lucky. Out leaders are asleep at the wheel when it comes to climate change, even if they acknowledge that it’s a thing at all, they can’t or perhaps won’t do anything about it for fear of upsetting a small right wing minority that refuse to accept that something has to must be done about it. Yes we have targets – net-zero carbon by 2050 – but there are few actions that will take us there. 2050 is far enough off (I’ll be 78 if I live that long), for the current crop of politicians to think of it as someone else’s problem. Of course we can’t wait that long because there’s already enough climate change locked into the system to make these years high temperatures feel quite mild.
In practical terms the hot weather has meant a change in the pattern of my day. I’ve been getting up early and taking Ruby for a walk before it gets too hot and then coming back to get on with work. Working until lunchtime when it was becoming too hot in my office to be able to think productively. I normally take a break at lunchtime for sustenance and another dog walk, but it was too hot to take any dog out in those temperatures. (If you’re in any doubt, take your shoes and socks off and go and stand on the tarmac. If you can’t stand there for more than a minute it’s too hot for them to be walking on that.) So our lunchtime walk was taken in the evening when the temperatures had dropped and the sun was much lower in the sky.
The days are getting noticeably shorter though so temperatures will start to drop a bit more with less sun.
I’ve also had a lot of work connected with the house move to do, including laying a carpet which I haven’t done for years, so it was good to refresh that skill set.
It’s been a busy work month with multiple projects on the go for one client, they’re all strands of the same master project but need to be worked on separately. I’ve spread the work out a little more than I strictly needed to, but with the high temperatures I really needed to be able to maximise the cooler times of the day.
We’ve had a good healthy crop of beetroot coming through which has meant it’s become a bit of a staple vegetable for us over the past month. I posted this public service message which you might want to read if you are similarly thinking of eating a lot of beetroot.
I haven’t had a lot of time for reading this month, but I did finish a couple of books that I started a while ago and for some reason put to one side. I tend to do this occasionally, particularly if I’m not really enjoying the book because my mind isn’t really in the right place to be enjoying it. I’ll come back to them again later and normally finish them, on an odd occasion I might not but it doesn’t happen that often.
So I finished Pharmacopoeia: A Dungeness Notebook by Derek Jarman and The Book of the Raven: Corvids in Art and Legend by Angus Hyland, both very good and I’m unsure why they got sidelined but I’m glad I finished them. I also reread Call for the Dead by John le Carré, which is the first appearance of the character George Smiley and a very different character in some ways to the later books.
TV / Film
I’ve been particularly bad in the past about remember what I’ve watched over the month. So this month I’ve been making a conscious effort to write down what I’ve watched each day. It’s also been interesting to see how much TV we do watch. On average over the last month at least we’ve watched between two and two-and-a-half hours each night. A lot of repeats and a few other things.
We watched a series on Amazon call Totems which is a French (with subtitles) spy story set in the cold war. Really good and I’d recommend it. We also watched Trom which was on BBC4, set on the Faroe Isles and in Faroese and Danish with subtitles. It started out quite well but felt a bit contrived towards the end. Still worth a watch though. We also watched Murder in Provencewhich I quite enjoyed but you need to suspend your feelings about the lack of French accents. It’s basically English actors pretending to be French but without any trace of an accent or French mannerisms. If you can do that and get over the lead actors have played strong characters in other series it’s good. The accent thing seems to have upset a lot of people but I can think of other series where this hasn’t really been a problem. There have been at least three different adaptations of the Maigret novels with an all English cast and similarly an adaptation of the Zen novels which are set in Italy with and all English cast. I’m not sure why it’s so noticable in Murder in Provence, but it is.
I also watched Beau Miles latest YouTube video and recommend that you do too:
Well that’s about it for July. If I post this soon, it might even still be July wherever you’re reading it. In the meantime take care and stay safe:
I’m struggling a little bit with the fact that it’s past the middle of the year, we’re after the summer solstice and the days get shorter from here on out (at least until the winter solstice at any rate). As I look back over the first half of this year I wonder whether I could have progressed projects faster than I did and whether where I am is a true reflection of where I should / could be.
There are some empty pages in one of my notebooks with prompts that I was going to use for longer term planning but I am still thinking about that and really it makes no sense to do that planning until I’ve finished the thinking and come to some conclusions. Of course the longer I think the less gets planned and the less gets done. I really need to just get on with it, but some of it is new and unfamiliar and a little bit scary. I should also be doing a mid year review, and it seems odd to be doing that when I never really finished the planning. Sometimes I think you have to pivot a bit and not think too deeply about targets and just go with the flow.
I know I haven’t been idle, but I wonder whether I could have been more focussed. This month has been busy but more with non-work related projects. We’ve been having a bathroom refitted and have had quite a few problems with the supplier we chose to get the bath, sink etc. from. We have two sinks turn up broken and had to wait for a third. This meant a delay in starting and then having to start, not knowing whether we’d be able to finish the project with a sink properly fitted or not. We were lucky and the project is more or less finished. There are some final decisions to make over finishing touches but they can be made at leisure.
Work A quiet month workwise. With a big push on one project at the end of last month, this one has been distinctly quieter. Just as well with the other things that have been going on. I wonder a lot whether I am going to continue with this “career” or whether it is time to move on.
The allotment has been producing a lot of broad beans and lettuce. Soft fruit is now also coming into its own, with a lot of loganberries to harvest. I dug the first of my potatoes last weekend as a bit of a test to see how they were doing, the results were good so no more shop bought potatoes for a while. The garlic has been really good this year, possibly the best ever, but alongside them the onions have been some of the worst. I did have different varieties of both this year, so will probably be looking to get the same garlic again, but I think I’ll be reverting back to the onions I had in 2021 as they were good. Courgettes and climbing beans are slow to start this year. They’re just sitting there not doing much.
I’ve read a few this month. The stand outs are the fifth and sixth volumes of Spike Milligan’s second world war diaries – Where Have All The Bullets Gone and Goodbye Soldier, and Kim Stanley Robinson’s first non-fiction work – The High Sierra: A Love Story. My aim of reading more is going fairly well, but sometimes I just run out of time during the day or am too tired by the time I get into bed to read more than a couple of pages, so fits and starts probably describes it best. The Spike Milligan’s diaries have been a really interesting read, both in terms of his war time experiences but also his experience with mental health. What we would probably call PTSD now, probably lead to his ongoing battles with mental health later in life.
TV / Film Nothing really sticks in my memory for this month in terms of TV or films. We have been rewatching the first couple of seasons of Blackadder via BBC iPlayer, and I was given a dvd set of an old ’80’s series “Bulman” for Father’s Day which has bought back some memories. Other than that there hasn’t been anything particularly memorable.
Music / Radio / Podcasts I thought I’d add this as I listen to quite a lot of podcasts in particular. A new show to me this month has been the Curiously Specific Book Club, which I’ve been enjoying. It’s also been AudioMo this month, so I’ve been putting out a short piece of audio via Twitter each day with the hashtag #AudioMo. If you want to find them, I’ve collected them so far in this post.
Well that’s about it I think for this month. At the moment July is looking quite empty. I was expecting work to pick up again, but at the time of writing I’m not sure that is going to happen. There are plenty of things that I can fill the time with though, so I won’t be idle. Whatever you are up to in the weeks ahead, stay safe and take care.
For Day 2 of AudioMo I used the Sennheiser Ambeo Smart Headset which records the audio binaurally. So when listening back it’s best to use headphones and you’ll hear the left and right sides of the audio as they were recorded.
Listen to the end for the peregrine falcon. The pictures of the fox and peregrine that I took are below.
About 25 minutes of audio and me burbling on, so if you do make it all the way to the end, thanks for listening.
It’s been a busy month work wise (see below), and also in a few other areas. I’ve had my film camera out again and have been working my way through a couple of rolls of film some of the results I’ve posted here and there are more to come. I’ve been looking at buying some more rolls of film as I’ve almost used up the small stock that I have. Unsurprisingly the prices have gone up quite a bit, but I have a couple of ideas of different things that I want to try so I don’t feel like I need to buy large quantities of film at the moment.
I’ve also been breathing new life into old photos and slides, scanning boxes and folders of them in fact. I’ve found quite a few that I’ve never seen before and many of relatives in their younger days. Some are obvious as to who they are, others I’m not 100% sure of, possibly because they died before I was born. Some are labelled, but they are in the minority.
I’ve been able to visit my Mum – as opposed to only speaking to her on the phone – now that her care home is covid-free again. It’s strange that we’re now supposed to be “living with covid” and yet hundreds of people are still dying on a nearly daily basis. It really does feel like the government has failed this country in dealing with this killer virus and continues to do so on daily basis, preferring to pretend that there’s nothing to see. Their favourite phrase seems to be that we “just need to move on”.
We’re still planning our house move, and although it’s still a little way off, I’ve made some significant progress this month in making it happen and there’s more to come hopefully next month.
We’ve had a few issues with Wilson’s health which has resulted in more unplanned trips to the vet. He seems to be doing much better now, but he was a cause for a bit of concern earlier in the month.
This month has been busy with a client project and also having to renegotiate a contract. There’s been an exchange of emails over the content of the contract which at the moment I cannot sign. I’m hopeful that we can reach some middle ground but I’ll have to wait and see what comes back from them by way of revisions before being able to make a decision. In the meantime I have delivered on what I have been doing for them and there’s is potentially more work in the pipeline.
It feels very strange knowing that this is probably my last year on the plot with a potential house move imminent. It changes the way you think about things and what you’re going to plant where. At the moment we’re getting a good crop of broad beans and I’m hoping to be able to plant out squash and courgette this week, as well as some climbing beans. I’ve also got some bush tomatoes coming along that look like they are about ready for larger pots or potentially going into the soil.
I’ve read a few books this month, including finally finishing Derek Jarman’s first volume of diaries – Modern Nature – evidently it has taken me nine months to read them and as they’re not very long I’m not sure why. I would definitely like to visit his gardens in Dungeness one day and see just what he was able to do in such an inhospitable space. I’ve since moved on and am reading his Pharmacopoeia: A Dungeness Notebook and a little of his second volume of diaries.
I’ve also read a couple of books that didn’t pass my fifty page rule (or 20% on a kindle if there are no page numbers), I don’t name and shame because I think this can sometimes be as much about personal taste or mood at the time of reading, and I have been known to go back to books that haven’t passed the test and reread and enjoyed them so it’s a rule of the moment rather than to be rigidly applied.
TV / Film
Really not much to report here at all, mostly we’ve been watching repeats, programmes from the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, programming that fills the time but ultimately means that I spend more time reading with the telly switched off. I have been enjoying Bosch: Legacy which I think is the only bit of new content I’ve been watching but I think that only has 2 episodes left, so probably by the time this goes out will be finished.
Well I don’t think that there’s much more to say this month.
Coming to paperback on May 19th is one of my favourite nature books from last year.
You can read my original review here, but now is the perfect time to be picking up this book as Spring moves to Summer.
In his book Lev uses the Japanese system of 72 micro seasons rather than our much broader four, and at this time in the book as this post goes live, is when he first sees Swifts.
This year I’m still looking for my first Swift, I’ve seen Swallows and based on my records I should see Swifts any day, but not yet.
There is a lot of attention to detail in this book, only a naturalist with a keen eye would spot some of the things that Lev does, and he is able to translate those sightings/findings in such a way that you are in the moment with him.
This is a book of the minutiae of nature as well as the broad sweeps of the world around us, whether that be the arrival of the swifts or the beauty of another portion of the natural world.
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 oriole 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 in paperbackl from 19th May 2022
If you haven’t seen a Swift yet, keep a look out for the other micro seasons coming up: