January 2023 Update

I’m pretty sure that a year ago I wrote something like I can’t believe that it’s the end of January already. This year I’m glad it is and this month really feels like it’s been dragging. We’ve had a few unexpected things happen that has made the month more stressful than it might otherwise have been and some of these are going to be expensive to put right. Others just are, and there is little that we can do about them for the time being.

Firstly we had the boiler in our “new” house serviced and discovered that there is a small problem with the gas supply. The problem is not urgent but is going to need to be fixed and will cost quite a bit to put right. On the positive side we also had the chimney swept and can now use the wood stove. I have mixed feelings about this as I have concerns about the air quality and climate change issues surrounding it but it has been a definite boost to morale and when our tumble dryer broke a helpful way to dry clothes.

We also discovered that the old conservatory has a leak somewhere and this will also need to be attended to, probably means we need to replace the building itself. Again more expense.

Most recently we have had groundwater flooding. This is basically where the water table reaches such a height that it breaks the surface of the ground and causes flooding. It’s not been as bad as I know it can get, but it has meant that we’ve had to be careful with out water use as it has impacted on our sewerage system. I’ve had to rig submersible pumps and think about things that I’ve not had to for some time and would really rather weren’t an issue. Other houses in the local area are much more badly affected by it, but sometimes it is difficult to see beyond your own immediate experience.

All of this has made January feel like it was never going to end and why I’ll be glad when the days start to lengthen and the weather gets warmer. I’ve realised how much I hate rain. It has become something we are hoping will not happen (as this exacerbates the flood impacts) and it has had a big impact on my mental health at times.


Reading

I’ve had a little less time to read this month and have mostly been sticking to crime novels. Nothing has really jumped out to me as something that I think I should mention here, some were better than others.


Watching

We haven’t been watching much TV, and in reality what we have watched was catching up with things we didn’t watch over the Christmas period. Christmas specials of All Creatures Great and Small and The Detectorists as well as other shows that we would normally watch if they were on as well as highlights such as The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse and reruns of the Wallace and Gromit claymations.


Garden

I have made a little bit of progress in the garden when it’s not been too wet or cold to get much done. I’ve managed to start to repair the raised beds that were already here and have recently discovered that I have more spare bits than I thought I did so will be able to do some more work on these in due course. I’ve also made a start on this years crops with potatoes that are chitting ready for planting towards the end of March (hopefully) and some onion sets and other seeds ready to get started in the next month or so.


Work

It’s been a quiet start to the year which wasn’t entirely unexpected, but I do need to get things going again and get some income in (as mentioned above we have some unexpected expenditure on the horizon). I had a meeting with a client at the end of the month, which was the first time that I’ve seen them face to face since before the pandemic.


Outside

This still remains one of my highlights and daily walks have really helped my mental health and deal with some of the low points over the last few weeks. It’s hard to overstate how much this is one of the pleasures of living here now.


In other news I’ve reached the Fiftieth post in my Fifty Things From Fifty Years newsletter and decided to keep going. You can read more about what that means here. It might also have an impact on what happens here to, here’s what I wrote about that:

Away from the newsletter I’m thinking about using my blog more. Perhaps as more of a status update or more immediate news. I haven’t quite thought this through. You can also subscribe there (if you really want an overload of me in your inbox) or use an RSS reader or just stop by now and again. I’m thinking of this more as a replacement for Twitter unless by some miracle that’s rescued by someone sensible, which seems increasingly unlikely.

Well I think that’s it for this month, thanks for reading, stay safe and take care. Expect the occasional extra post over the coming weeks as I adapt to my new ideas about how this site will be used.

December 2022 Update

I’m not yet sure if this is the end of the year show or whether I’ll do another post looking back across the whole year before the end of the month. I’m feeling very tired at the moment so I suspect that this might be the last one you’ll get here, but you never know a break across Christmas might just revive me enough to write something else.

So why so tired? Just life. It’s been busy, new house, work etc., just things occupying my time. Busy is good but sometimes you think that some things are really surplus.

We’ve been continuing to unpack our stuff and now that we have a bit more sense of what we want and how we want it set up, move furniture about a bit. There’s still a ways to go, particularly with books and ornaments. I suspect we’ll tackle this afresh once the Christmas decorations come down and we don’t have a tree that seems to be in the way.

We’ve had another round of visits to the vet with Wilson, and are about to embark on a change of diet for him. I’ll be honest here and say that I think the vet is grasping for straws, but I’m willing to go along with him for now. He is young and eager and not as old and jaded as me but I’m increasingly feeling that there is no cure and we should be settling for the situation and making the best of what we have. It feels a bit like we are repeating the same things we’ve done before hoping for different results. Wilson is happy enough in himself but perhaps we should just respect that for what it is.

We received the news at the start of this week that the care home where my Mum lives have had another outbreak of Covid. This means that for the third year in a row our Christmas plans have changed. I’m sure we’re not alone in having last minute alterations, particularly if your plans require any sort of travelling, but it is frustrating. For me personally I’m also being careful where I go and what I do as I was in the care home visiting Mum on the day that they undertook the tests revealing the outbreak. Although I was masked and as always careful about hand sanitising etc., I have taken a couple of tests subsequently which have both been negative and am watching for any symptoms.

The farce that is Twitter continues to provide “news” on a nearly daily basis. The manbaby Musk seems to only think that free speech is what he says it is and not what the rest of the world understands it to mean. In fairness he does own the company but it seems to be getting worse. I’m not even sure that him standing down as CEO will make for much difference. I’m sticking with it for now, although mostly staying away, but did create a Mastadon account just in case. I don’t intend to use it unless things get really bad. In the meantime I’m going to be sticking to writing here and using Instagram as my main outlets. Also my newsletter once I’ve decided what I am going to do with it when it reaches it’s originally intended limited run.


Reading

The only thing that I’ve completed this month is Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot which I wrote a newsletter post about. There are a couple of reasons for my lack of reading, firstly there’s being too tired and second I’ve been struggling to find anything that I’ve wanted to get stuck into.

Watching

This is a bit of a similar story to my reading. We’ve barely had the tv on this month, mostly this is down to tiredness and a succession of early nights. I’m hoping that over the Christmas period I might be able to indulge a bit more and having had a look at what’s on there are a couple of things that look interesting so we’ll see.

Garden

I’ve been continuing to do a little bit of tidying and planning for next year. We’ve had a spell of very cold weather with temperatures dropping down to -6°C which put some things on hold while the ground was frozen, but as it’s thawing now I should be able to get back to it in due course.

Work

The start of the month was very busy finalising some reports but now it looks like it will be quiet until the New Year and I’m planning on not being actively chasing things until January. I feel like I need a break and a recharge until then.

Outside

I’m enjoying my daily walks and going further when the time allows. There is much more space for walking here, away from other people and without having to walk alongside roads. This is such a bonus for us, and the dogs enjoy it too.


Well that’s about all I have for this month, as you can see that isn’t much. So I’ll wish you a good break over the forthcoming Christmas and New Year and I’ll catch you again soon. In the meantime stay safe and take care.

October & November 2022 Update

Well it’s been a while. I missed doing an October update (and it’s taken me this long to get to it that I thought I’d just as well do November as well before we hit Christmas) due to our house move. We moved in early November, but with packing and trying to continue to keep my work going things became very hectic and naturally time to do this was at a premium.

So we’re moved and slowly unpacking. The day of the move was pretty much torrential rain all day and it continued afterwards. I’ve realised how much I dislike the rain, although there are times when I quite enjoy it as well, it’s a bit of a weird paradox that I can’t quite explain.

Leading up to the move as we were madly filling boxes with all our worldly possessions and realising that we have just too much “stuff”, I was still trying to write daily in my journal and had rationed myself to just my Kindle for reading.

I love our new location. I’m walking more than I ever have done, and apart from a few blisters due to not having worn my wellingtons since last winter am finding it just a completely relaxing experience. I enjoyed walking at our old home but never felt it quite like I do here. I hope it’s not a novelty that will wear off.


Twitter

I’m still using my Twitter account, but mostly on a broadcast basis only. I am hopeful that despite all the damage the manbaby Musk seems to be doing that someone else might swoop in and save the day, but it doesn’t look likely. Most people who are leaving seem to be doing so for Mastodon, but I haven’t taken the leap yet, nor am I sure that I want to. If you want to get in touch via the socials I am still on Instagram (@tontowilliams) and you can of course contact me via this website or leave a comment on this post.


Reading

As I mentioned most of my reading has been on Kindle recently, I’m slowly unpacking my books, and have quite a few that I had preordered which arrived in the run up to the move that went straight into boxes. I’ve had a pretty decent run of reading the next three Bernie Gunther novels in the series by Philip Kerr – “The One From The Other”, “A Quiet Flame”, “If the Dead Rise Not” I quite enjoy reading these, although they can be a little bit drawn out at times, and the language is certainly well placed for the time they are set – 1930’s to 1950’s. I also read the “Bicycle Diaries” by David Byrne which I enjoyed. I’m hoping that my reading will settle down a bit again and perhaps I’ll get to some of those preorders just as soon as I find them!


Watching

This will be pretty short, as in the run up to the move and beyond we’ve not had much time for tv, and also because at a certain point all of that equipment was packed and we didn’t rush to unpack it. I will say though that we thoroughly enjoyed the latest season of Ghosts and am looking forward to seeing if the US version which is about to be shown on BBC3 is any good. Also of note, but I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it was Rings of Power on Amazon. It was okay but also a bit meh.


Garden

The category that would formally have been known as “Allotment”. Again I’ve not had much time to do very much here, although I have been making use of the cardboard from the boxes as we unpack to cover up some of the raised beds that we’ve inherited to try and suppress some of the weeds. I have plans for the garden, but it’s going to take a little bit of time.


Work

I was a little bit inundated with work at just the wrong time around the point of the move and had to do a few things on the fly in order to meet client deadlines. Things haven’t quite settled back into their normal routine at the moment, but I am having some long thinks about what I want to be doing when I’m on one of my walks.


Outside

I feel like there is a whole new category I should be writing about. Things I saw when walking or something like that. I’ve been inundated with the riches of the local flora and fauna with buzzards & sparrowhawks and roe & fallow deer. The autumn colours as well. We started autumn at our old house and have caught the end of it here, by the time we arrived it was really at its peak. So maybe I’ll add something here.


If you’re a subscriber to my Fifty from Fifty newsletter, you’ll know that I’m approaching the 50th edition and the theoretical end of it’s run. When I asked subscribers what I should do the emphatic response was “don’t stop, we don’t care what you do, but don’t stop”. This was so heartening to read, but I really haven’t decided what to do. With Twitter circling the drain, I did think posting more here – shorter but perhaps more frequently – might be an answer and I have other ideas for what the newsletter might become. Anyway suffice to say I might be posting more here or I might not. We’ll see, but in the meantime, thanks for reading and stay safe and take care.

September 2022 Update

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.

Books.

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 MatsumotoTokyo 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!


Allotment

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.


Work

Busy month, none of which I can really directly talk about. Suffice to say it’s been paying the bills.


Links

Which Is The Best John le Carré Novel?

Best Selling Author Jeff VanderMeer Finds That Nature Is Stranger Than Fiction

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People


Well I guess that’s about it for this month, shorter than usual I’m afraid, but then I’ve been focused on a couple of things rather than a lot.

August 2022 Update

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.


Books.

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.


Allotment

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.

A Post Covid Harvest

Work

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.


Links

Why Free School Meal Recipients Earn Less That Their Peers

The Value of Owning More Books Than You Can Read (Tsunduko)

The Length of Earth’s Days Has Been Increasing and Scientists Don’t Know Why


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.

July 2022 Update

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.


Work

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.

Allotment

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.

Books

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 Provence which 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:

June 2022 Update

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.

Allotment

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.

Books

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.

AudioMo 2022 Day 2

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.