About The Birds TWTW # 65

I was on my travels this week, down to see a client in Somerset again, I made what is becoming a regular stop and a visit to a charity shop on my way back and picked up a couple of secondhand books. I think I’ve purchased something in there every time I’ve been there, and their stock turnover seems to be quite frequent so there always seems to be new stuff for me to look at.


On Monday I was walking the dogs and saw a Kingfisher flying along the little creek in one of the local patches of woodland. I was quite surprised to see it, as I’ve always considered that little patch to be a little too urbanised to attract such a bird, but then what do I know. I was able to watch it for a couple of minutes and then lost sight of it.

We’ve also had a one legged / one footed Grey Wagtail hanging about our garden. He’s obviously lost the lower half of one of his legs, whether this is due to a predator or getting it caught or tied up in something and then slowly losing it I’m not sure. He seems to be quite happy though and getting about without too much trouble, although I suspect why we’re seeing him in the garden so much is that he finds it easier to find food in our garden that he would elsewhere in the wild. We’ve always had the odd grey wagtail about so it’s not unusual to see one, but we’re seeing a lot of this one. We’ll keep up with the regular feeding of all of the birds, and he’s most welcome to take his fill.


I’ve been reading a couple of books this week. First up was Ellis Peter’s – A Virgin in the Ice, which is a Brother Cadfael mystery, it was an enjoyable read although one of the things that I’ve noticed with these is the slightly misleading data that I get from the kindle. I’ve noticed this before as I have several of these books on my kindle and each one has a chunk of the next book at the end and some other material which although is interesting is not part of the story. This means that the percentage reading on the kindle is out, and the actual book ends at around 60% to 70% and the remaining portion is the other stuff. It’s not a big deal, but does make for some confusion when a book you think you’re only about halfway through ends.

My second read is Andrea Camilleri’s – The Treasure Hunt, which is an Inspector Montalbano mystery. I picked this up in the charity shop in town earlier in the week, and am reading it now because we’ve been watching the Inspector Montalbano mysteries on i-player and I know that this one is coming up soon, so I wanted to read it before we watch it. They’re quite gentle watching and we’re enjoying watching some of the earlier ones that we haven’t seen before. I hope that the tv adaptation sticks quite closely to the story in the book because I think it will make for an entertaining watch.


The allotment has been a bit of a wash out these last few weeks with the two storms we’ve had and this past weekend has been pretty wet and windy too, it’s not been too conducive to getting anything done. It’s looking a pretty desolate place, but it won’t be too much longer before things really start picking up.


It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks, and I asked for some 35mm film so that I could get one of my old film cameras out and use it. It’s not terribly expensive stuff and it provoked a little question as to why I’d want it. Anyway it was duly ordered and evidently arrived this week and was given to me as an early birthday present. I haven’t done anything with it yet, and will probably wait until my birthday before I load the camera up with it, but I am looking forward to experimenting again.


I’m on the road again a couple of days in the upcoming week, but otherwise I’ll be cracking on with work at home for clients. There are some deadlines for various things in the not too distant future, so it’s important to keep things moving on forwards.

Wherever you are I hope you have a great week.


The Weather Outside Is Frightful – TWTW # 64

We’ve just had another weekend of weather warnings, more wind and rain. Again we seem to have escaped the worst – although it’s been pretty miserable and not very conducive to doing much outdoors – other parts of the country have been very badly affected.

I’ve been staying in, reading and making chutney – another batch of gooseberry and red onion, which went down really well last year, and gives me a bit of space in the freezer after I defrosted the gooseberries.

I’ve gotten through a couple of books this week, another Vivian Shaw Novel – Dreadful Company and an HP Lovecraft novella – The Shadow Over Innsmouth. I enjoyed both, I’m slowly rereading the HP Lovecraft stories but taking my time, no need to rush them. Not sure what’s up next, although I did get given Denali by Ben Moon last week, and have a copy of Mark Twain’s Notebooks that I want to get stuck into at some point. My problem of a never seemingly decreasing “to be read” pile, doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.


Works been pretty busy this week, mostly just moving various things forward for clients, and some discussions with an old client about doing something for them. The next couple of weeks are looking pretty busy with some travel coming up.


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I was contemplating going to the London Pen Show next month, it’s just before my birthday and I thought that it might be a nice treat. Then I looked at the cost of the rail ticket, and the accompanying weekend railway works and bus replacement services and decided instead to put the cost of the rail ticket towards a new fountain pen and some ink instead. I was contemplating getting the pen at the show, but I guess I’ve cut out the middle bit!




There are many things in politics that I feel like commenting on, but I’m afraid my commenting would probably lead to ranting in fairly short order. However it is leading to some great political cartoons, at least at the moment.


And on that note I’m out of here. Have a good week everyone!

Drawing Blood TWTW # 63

Hello, how are you? I’m good. I did have a visit to get a routine blood test this last week. It’s one of those where you have to fast beforehand, in my case nothing to eat or drink (except water) from 6.30pm the night before, so I was ready for something to eat and drink by the time it was done. I also made the most of my trip to return some library books and do a few other things whilst in town. I’ll be able to get the results in a couple of days, although if there’s anything to worry about I’m sure they’ll be in touch. It’s just routine, so I’m not expecting anything unusual.


I’m writing this section on Sunday morning (I often write bits and pieces in these post in the week before they go live rather than waiting until Monday morning), the wind is howling around outside as Storm Ciara is battering the Country. So far no problems.

[Update: We seem to have come through relatively unscathed, the roof is still on the house and the allotment shed is still in one piece. Other places have not been so lucky.]


Work’s been chugging along pretty nicely this week, got quite a bit done and have set various things up for the coming weeks.


I read So Disdained by Nevil Shute this week, another one of my library haul from last week. It started off very slowly but turned into a good read once the story got going a bit. Not sure what’s going to be next, but happily I have plenty to choose from.


Mad Dogs!


We’ve had a sparrowhawk in our garden a few times over the past few weeks. I think he’s been trying his luck on our neighbours bird feeder, and if he’s unsuccessful uses our garden as an alternate landing spot. I managed to catch a few seconds of video of him this week.


This video has been around quite a bit this week. The full story can be found here.


Great post here by Amy Brady, on her love of Star Trek but how it didn’t cover climate change.


Build your own bird feeder that uses facial recognition to count the birds visiting.


 

Brave New World – TWTW # 62

Welcome back. The world doesn’t actually feel any different today than this time last week, but of course the UK has now officially left the EU. I think this is a mistake that we’ll come to regret but I hope to be proved wrong. Otherwise this week has been another busy work week (mostly).


If you’ve been reading these posts for a couple of months you’ll know that I was going through an upgrade of my work computer. I did do this towards the end of last year and have been using it for about six weeks or so. I had a lot of teething troubles, but to some extent I was expecting that, but things really haven’t settled down. I have significant problems with things like accessing my emails, printing and a few other fairly basic things. This came to a head at the start of the week when I couldn’t send emails, particularly emails with attachments.

I’ve spent a lot of time over this introductory phase in forums and other places online seeking solutions for the teething problems, but this really was the final straw. So for the remainder of this week I’ve put the new computer to one side and I’m back to my old machine to give myself some thinking space. I’m not sure what comes next. This was a big (and expensive) shift for me, and a move between operating systems (windows to mac), but I am regretting that decision somewhat at the moment.


When the above computer problems kicked off at the start of the week, I knew I needed a break and so went out to do some chores. Buy groceries, pick up a prescription and return my library book.

In the library they had a big display of  “classics”, including a big pile of Nevil Shute books. Some of them I have read before but there were a few there that I didn’t recognise the titles or the descriptions on the covers. So I picked up a few and a Julian Barnes.

I’ve already read An Old Captivity and enjoyed it, although felt the ending was a little weak.

I also finished listening to the audiobook of Andy Weir’s The Martian this week. It’s been my travelling companion for a few weeks, but I’d got down the the last hour of play, so I prioritised finishing it before my next longish journey so that I wouldn’t finish it mid-journey. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

I reviewed and posted that review for Matt Gaw’s Under the Stars which if you’re interested you can read the review here.


Yesterday’s date was a palindrome 02022020. That hasn’t happened for a while, and won’t be happening again any time soon.




Under The Stars – A Journey into Light by Matt Gaw: A Review

Under The Stars – A Journey into Light by Matt Gaw

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Sometimes you read a book that you can’t put down or one that you don’t want to end, it’s rare to find a book that does both of those things but Matt Gaw’s latest might just be that book.

 

The day my review copy arrived in the post I was by coincidence standing on my back door step at 2.30 in the morning waiting for my dog (he’s older and sometimes gets up in the night for a wee). I was marvelling at the fact that the streetlight that normally lights up our back garden was out (as are all the ones nearby since the local council decided that it could save money by turning them off between midnight and 4am), and that I could see a little more of the night sky than I perhaps normally would. This is one of the topics (light pollution not my dog) that the author covers so well. We’re so used to our artificial light that if you never miss something until it’s gone, how do you square the circle that when you remove artificial light there is so much more to see!?!

Matt Gaw takes this and more besides and goes out into the dark (and the light) to examine these issues in more detail. From how artificial light or a lack of darkness can affect not just us, but also the other inhabitants of our planet the wildlife, he goes to places such as Dartmoor where it’s darker and to the lights of London and his home town of Bury St. Edmunds. Comparing and contrasting these environments he writes eloquently about the beauty and dangers of the dark as well as the hazards of the light.

Like his last book, Matt also risks life and limb to bring this book to the reader, suffering for his art seems to be a particular hazard adventure for this author.

I really couldn’t put this book down at times and I suspect that perhaps the subject matter will not be one that many people will have thought that much about, but Under The Stars, is a book that could easily change all of that. Well written, with some stunning prose, his research with the right mix of historical facts and real life, it will make the reader think again about light and dark, and the night sky.

About the Author: Matt Gaw is a writer and naturalist who lives in Bury St. Edmunds with his young family. His first book is the highly acclaimed, The Pull of the River: A Journey into the Wild and Watery Heart of Britain [see my review here]. His journalism has been published in the Telegraph, Guardian, Times and BBC Countryfile Magazine and his broadcast credits include BBC1’s Countryfile, BBC Radio 4 Extra and BBC Radio 5 Live. He edits Suffolk Wildlife Trust’s magazine and runs nature writing workshops for children and adults. He also writes a monthly country diary for the Suffolk Magazine.

Under the Stars – A Journey into the Light is published in hardback on 20th February 2020 by Elliott & Thompson.

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

 

Muffin Talk TWTW # 61

Greetings from my writing desk, where this paperweight joined the other “stuff” that makes it a comfy place to work, even if it does tend towards the cluttered at times. It’s been a busy week – when is it not – I feel like I write that most weeks. I’ve been out of my office most days for one thing or another or had unexpectedly long phone calls take up more time than I’d allowed for them, but overall it’s been a good week. This coming week I expect I’ll be playing catch up a little bit, but I have less commitments out of the office, so that should work in my favour.


Nothing new on the work front this week, just pushing various projects for different clients forwards, and answering emails etc.


I’ve meant to mention that Last Exit To Nowhere still have a sale on. In my opinion their t-shirts and other clothing is pretty good. I’ve had a number of their t-shirts for getting on for 15 years and they’re still going. I bought some stuff from them earlier this month and it’s the same quality as it’s always been. You’ll need the code JAN2020 at checkout.

[I’ve not been asked or paid for this endorsement, I just like their stuff and you might too. Sale ends at the end of the month (I think).]


I’ve been reading Strange Practice  by Vivian Shaw, which is actually one of Ann’s books, and not something I would normally read, but it was okay and I’ll probably read the next two books that she has in the series. At the moment my tbr pile is getting very out of control and I really must enforce the “not buying any new books” rule that I’d planned to have this year, at least until the piles start to reduce some.

Not sure which of those will be up next.


I gave a garden talk this week to Hayling Island Horticultural Society, and baked courgette and red Leicester muffins for the audience for post talk discussions. I think the talk went down well as I had some nice compliments afterwards, and I know the muffins did because there were only crumbs left afterwards!

I also had a go at baking pumpkin muffins, but they didn’t go so well. Needed to be sweeter and have more spice in them, so better luck next time.



That’s about all for this week, I hope wherever you are you’re having a good one!

End of an Era TWTW # 60

Welcome back, thanks for stopping by. It’s been a crazy week in my world but probably not as crazy as the world at large seems to be.

In the same week a poll is telling the government that the majority (70%) of people want a net-zero carbon target for the UK, the same government bails out a regional airline by offsetting some of the environmental tax that they were supposed to be collecting from their passengers and saves them from going bust (at least for the time being). It seems that nothing has changed.


I’ve been focussed on work mostly this week, with trips to see clients including one to Somerset during one of the wettest days of the week. I managed to make time for a stop in my usual favourite place and went for a walk in the rain to get a sandwich. I saw a notice for the village museum which happened to be open that day so went there for a quick look. I was probably gone about 30 minutes, but when I got back to the car I noticed a small damp patch on the drivers seat. The source was obvious when I looked, there was a corresponding damp match next to the sun roof.

It had stopped raining by this point but there was nothing I could really do at that point, so I put a towel on the seat and tried to dry the roof as best as I could. Strangely although it rained a lot more that day, I didn’t have another problem.

The following day with the car in our garage and after watching a few YouTube videos I had a look at the drainage channels in the sunroof frame. One of them was actually blocked, but I managed to clear it with some wire. I’m not convinced that is the source of the problem as most of the videos I watched cite this as a common problem with this type of car, but they all say that this is the first thing to check. I’ll just have to wait now for it to rain again!


I did enjoy my visit though and the short time I spent in the village museum. I’m passing through there regularly at the moment, so I’ll probably stop there again at some point in the future. There are other things that I want to look at, if I have more time and if the weather is a little bit more cooperative!

 


I finally saw the latest Star Wars movie this week, although I won’t be posting spoilers as I’m sure that someone else might not have seen it yet, I have to say that I enjoyed it. Of all the nine movies, it’s not my favourite but I really did enjoy the way the story came together and some of the hat-tips to the other movies in the franchise. It does feel like the end of an era for me, which started when I was five years old and went to see Star Wars with my Dad (it wasn’t called A New Hope back then, just Star Wars).


I’ve been reading a few things this week, I touched on some of them in last weeks post, and one of the other books I can’t talk about just yet as it was a review copy from the publisher, but the review will be coming shortly. I’ve also been listening to the audiobook of The Martian by Andy Weir in the car, as well as trying to catch-up on some of the audio from the Christmas period that I haven’t listened to yet.


The allotment is still really too wet to do much, but I did pick up my seed potatoes from the allotment shop this week. Although they’re only seed potatoes they are large, and I’ve got about half what I normally would have for the same weight. I should be able to cut some of the really big ones in half, so should still get a reasonable number of plants.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Hope you have a good one!