Goals

Each year about this time I sit down and look at the goals and targets I want to set myself for next year.

I start with a final reviewof the previous (current) year and a look back over the last five or so years. The last couple have been heavily disrupted by Covid but I’ve been pretty successful in meeting my targets, which makes me feel I should have been a bit more ambitious.

Next years will be, although perhaps again coloured by some uncertainty around Covid. These cover work and personal goals, although admittedly there is crossover between the two.

Do you do something similar?

A Post a Day In December

Public Service Announcement

Back in 2016 and early 2017 I did an experiment of posting everyday, short snippets and the occasional longer post. I’m going to aim to do something similar through December and post everyday.

My plan is that rather than get a weekly round-up on a Sunday as now, you’ll get something each day, probably shorter, perhaps just a picture or some audio. Sometimes there might be something a little bit longer. I’m putting this out there now, as I know that many people subscribe here by email, rather than come to the site each time, if that’s you and the thought of receiving something from me everyday fills you with horror, then you might want to unsubscribe. Obviously I hope you won’t, but I understand if you feel the need.

Anyway to that end…..


Boosted

We went and got our booster jabs yesterday, we both received a Moderna jab, which wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I’m grateful to get it anyway. So far I have some very minor side effects – sore arm and general aches all over – but if that’s all then I’m pretty sure that it’s far better than getting full blown Covid. Obviously the science isn’t there yet on how effective the vaccines are going to be against Omicron but I’m pretty sure that against Delta and previous variants it offers good protection. In the meantime I’m taking it relatively easy today and hope that the side effects don’t last for too long.

Whatever you’re up to, Stay Safe and Take Care.

Tree’s Up TWTW # 154

Well it’s a little windy out there at the moment. I’ve just come back from my morning dog walk and we have a fair breeze blowing. I dare say it’s not the 100mph winds that have been reported for storm Arwen in other parts of the country. Although you can’t see it easily from the photo that blue dot is us, and we’re right on the edge of one of the weather warnings so hopefully will escape the worst. If you’re in one of the other areas then I hope you stay safe and take care if you have to venture outdoors, probably better to stay inside in the warm and dry though if you can.

This week has been mostly been about the work again, trying to move some things forward and finish off others. I’m aiming to take the Christmas and New Year period completely work free, so would like to tie things up before then.

Outside of that I’ve been booking booster jabs, which has proven to be quite a torturous process with the website insisting that the nearest centre with appointments available is on the Isle of Wight which is an expensive ferry ride away. Eventually we managed to get booked in a little closer to home and without the sea crossing.

We also put up our Christmas tree. I suspect we would have done it this weekend anyway so we were probably a few days early but it feels like we should make the most of having it up, rather than putting it up last minute and then taking it down a week later.

So we put on the original Now Christmas album (on vinyl) and decorated the tree. Just need to write Christmas cards now.

I’m also planning to make our Christmas pudding over the weekend at some point. A few years ago I made a video about it here:


Work

As mentioned above I’ve been busy on different projects this week. I was also supposed to be at a couple of workshops yesterday and today, but mysteriously they were cancelled without notice or explanation on Tuesday. My assumption is because of the bad weather but I haven’t been able to contact the organiser to find out the reason. I’m not disappointed that they were cancelled due to the rising Covid numbers, I wasn’t looking forward to being in a room of potentially hostile members of the public.


Allotment

Nothing to report today, I’ll pop down there once the storm has passed to see if there is any damage but it’s probably best to stay away while the wind is so strong.


Reading

I mentioned that I’d started The Small Heart of Things by Julian Hoffman last week, well I finished that in fairly short order. It was a quick but brilliant read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Given it’s been tucked up in my “to be read” pile for so long it was a delight to read it. I hope there are more of the same in that pile of books. Since then I’ve been reading March Violets by Phillip Kerr, which is a Bernie Gunther mystery novel.

During the week I read an article – which I now can’t find – that said men don’t read much fiction. I initially dismissed this thinking that I read a lot of fiction. Later in the week I was looking through a book list of mine and realised that it was almost entirely non-fiction, so I had a look at the books I’ve read so far this year on GoodReads, and it’s pretty much a fifty-fifty split between fiction and non-fiction at the moment, so maybe there is something to that article after all?


TV

Nothing much to report this week, a lot of the things we have been watching have come to the end of their run, and Shetland finished this week. So not sure whether there’ll be much to report over the coming weeks.


Well that’s it for this week. As mentioned I’m off to be boosted next week, otherwise I’ll probably be working on client things. Whatever you’re up to Stay Safe and Take Care.

All The Leaves Are Brown TWTW # 153

Welcome to Autumn

This week has been a mixture of many things. It started bright and early on Monday working remotely while a carpenter fitted a new external door. So many doors these days are known as engineered doors and are made at a standard size to fit a standard door frame, this frame wasn’t a standard size and you can’t cut an engineered door (because they’re basically a sandwich of wood with a pulp filler). Engineered doors are relatively cheap, but a door to fit this frame wasn’t and I didn’t want to risk trying to do it myself with my rudimentary skills. The chance of catastrophe would be high as would the length of time it would take me. While the carpenter sawed and chiselled, planed and sanded, I finished a report for a client. By the end of the day the door was fitted and my report was finished.

I came back a couple of days later and painted it, I can be trusted with a paintbrush. While the paint dried I went for a walk with my camera and took some autumn photos. The beech trees this year are pretty spectacular and were so inviting to the camera’s eye.

Later in the week I had to take Wilson to the vets for yet more tests. We’re trying to decide whether to change his treatment or persevere with what we’re doing at the moment which isn’t completely working. There’s no guarantee that something different will work any better, so it feels a bit like reaching into the dark for a solution that might not even be there.

On Friday I did something that I haven’t done since February 2020, and drew some cash out from a cash point. With the pandemic, the shift to contactless and card payments I’ve had very little need for cash but I was down to my last fiver from what I drew out 20 months ago. I wonder if I’ll have enough to take me to 2023 or perhaps 2024?


Reading

I finished Alistair Maclean’s Floodgate which was really hard going. Not his best work by a long way and if you’re thinking of reading something of his it’s not a good place to start. Instead try Puppet on a Chain, Where Eight Bells Toll, Golden Rendezvous or Ice Station Zebra. As a rule of thumb his older novels are better than the newer ones (although St Andreas which came straight after Floodgate is one of my favourites), the later ones are reported to mostly have been written by ghostwriters and then reviewed by Maclean. Not sure if this is true but it would explain the patchy quality of the later novels.

After that I’ve started reading Julian Hoffman’s The Small Heart of Things which is a complete change of pace – non-fiction, natural history and place.


Watching

We watched the season finale of Foundation on Friday night. I’m glad it’s over and I’m glad my Apple TV subscription is a freebie. I’m pretty sure I won’t be renewing it, there just isn’t enough on there that can make me justify the cost.

We’re continuing to watch both Shetland and Adam Dalgliesh both of which are excellent, the season finale for the former next week and the latter ended this week.

I didn’t watch much of Children in Need but I did catch bit of the Drumathon:

An audience with Richard Mabey


Links

RIP Cedric Robinson – Queen’s Guide to the Sands

Key Outcomes Agreed at COP26: Summary

Everything You Thought You Knew About Hobo Code is Wrong

Net Zero / Not Zero/


Allotment

I harvested our Brussel Sprouts and some leeks on Saturday and converted them into a rather acceptable pasta, leek, sprout and onion dish in a rich cheese sauce. Probably not a cholesterol buster, but very tasty.


Well that’s it for this week. I’m expecting a fairly busy week ahead work wise, but not sure what else I’ll be up to, whatever you’re doing, stay safe and take care.

The Amethyst Deceiver TWTW # 152

This week has been has been focussed on work related things without much time for other things apart from dog walks, eating and sleeping. In part because I have less time for work in the week ahead but lots to do and want to be ahead if I can.

We did manage an afternoon walk in the woods this week and I spotted this bright purple mushroom. The app on my phone, confirmed by my field guide when I got home, told me that it was an Amethyst Deceiver. Despite the colour it is apparently edible, although known to absorb arsenic if it’s present in the surrounding environment, so maybe not totally safe. It’s quite late in the season for this particular mushroom, but a first for me as I don’t recall ever seeing one before.


Reading

I finished reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey this week, it’s the sort of book that you only dip into now and again, which to be honest has been just what I needed this week when I haven’t had space for extended reading. It did get me thinking about my own daily routine which has been pretty fixed for a while now, particularly when I have work on.

I’ve been reading Alistair MacLean’s Floodgate since, but haven’t made many pages of progress.


Allotment

Last week’s rain has left the plot pretty damp so I’ve been focussing on doing some tasks that don’t require me to be on the main beds. I’ve been cutting out last years old growth from the loganberries. As they are spring fruiting they’ll produce that fruit on this years new growth, which needs tying in.

I harvested some leeks which became leek and potato soup for supper on Saturday, with enough left for lunch today, homemade rolls to boot.


Watching

A bit more Apple TV this week (and I’m now pretty sure that I won’t be paying for it when my freebie membership comes to an end). As the first Season of Foundation comes to an end I’m quite glad I don’t remember the story from the books – although I think I will reread them once it’s done – as it’s really unclear as to just what is going on. The other show we’ve been watching, we’ve decided not to bother with from now on, Invasion, is just a mess.

We have been enjoying the BBC’s Shetland, based on the Ann Cleeves novels and also the adaptations of P D James’ Adam Dalgliesh series being shown on Channel 5. The latter I’m pleased to see has tried to stay faithful to the time period of the novels, which other versions haven’t. I’m hoping that it will get a second season, as we’ve really enjoyed the first.


Links

Neil Gaiman – Art and Climate

Honey and Co – The Food Sessions: Red Sands with Caroline Eden

The Accounting Trick That Could Wreck The Planet


Following on from that who doesn’t need to see a singing banana playing the guitar?


Well that’s all I have for this week. Next week I’m going to be hanging about waiting for a door to be fitted, and hopefully working while that’s taking place, and then probably painting the same door. Whatever you’re up to – Stay Safe and Take Care.

Boots Made for Walking TWTW # 151

I wear boots a lot of the time. Hiking boots, wellingtons, steel toe safety boots. In fact when I’m out of the house I’m most likely to be wearing a pair of boots rather than any other type of footwear.

This week has been a bit of a disaster when it comes to boot wearing. Firstly at the start of the week I noticed that my wellingtons had sprung a leak. In time honoured fashion I discovered this when I had to wade through a large puddle and realised that my foot was wet. They’d split on the seam and in an awkward place which made even a temporary repair impossible. Then on Friday I noticed that my hiking boots had also had a failure, this time the sole had split across not just on one boot but on both. I hadn’t realised but now suspect they might have been like this for a while and possibly explain why an old injury had been causing me problems.

So now I need to get replacement boots – two pairs. New wellingtons will be here on Monday, but I’m having trouble finding hiking boots in my size.

Given the amount I wear them I’m not surprised that they wear out, they cover a lot of miles in a week.


Reading

I’ve been reading and finished Diary of a War Artist by Edward Ardizzone and The Potter’s Field by Ellis Peters this week. I often pick up an Ellis Peter’s Brother Cadfael mystery when I’m between books and don’t know what to read next. I’ve only got a couple more in the series to read and then I’ll have to find something else that fills that role. I don’t have any idea what that might be. For now I’ve pivoted back to non-fiction and am reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey – all about the daily habits of famous figures across history. There’s some interesting habits in there, some quite curious and others that aren’t all that unusual and are the sort of thing that many people do today.

There’s lots of discussion on the internet about the new kindle paperwhite this week. I’ve been looking at some of it even though I certainly don’t need a new kindle. I’ve had my current one, which is the previous generation, for nearly two-and-a-half years. It’s been a workhorse for me, but the new version doesn’t look like a significant step forward to justify a purchase I don’t really need. I’ll be sticking with what I’ve got.


Watching

More Foundation and Invasion watching this week, I’m really not sure where the former series is going, and there’s only two episodes left (I think) in this season and I can’t see how they’re going to bring it all together in a satisfying way – then I suppose they don’t need to if they’re going to be making more. As for the latter, I feel like I could stop watching it now and not miss it. I did read a review that said it didn’t get going until episode 5, and we’re only at episode 4, so I might watch one more, but if it doesn’t then I can’t see that we’ll watch the rest of it.

We also watched the new Tom Hanks movie – Finch which was okay but didn’t really do much more than that. All of these are Apple TV+ which I got a free subscription for when I upgraded my iPad earlier this year, however I can’t see that we’ll stick with the paid version when my freebie runs out.


Work

I’ve mostly been focussed on one client’s work this week. When I can working on something in a concentrated way works best for me, so to be able to spend some extended time in this way has delivered real dividends both for me and hopefully also the client. I’ve only got a few more days allocated to this particular piece of work and it looks like I’ll complete it on time and budget.


Allotment

It looks like my onion sets are starting to germinate but no sign of my broad beans as yet. I harvested some leeks this week and we’ve had a lovely leek, brussel sprout, cheese and mashed potato pie over a couple of nights.


Links

Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagne recipe

Do Not Eat, Touch, Or Even Inhale the Air Around the Manchineel Tree

Ridley Scott Films – Ranked


Well that’s it for this week, there’s nothing much in my diary for the week ahead, so I’ll be cracking on with client work and trying to get things finished perhaps a little earlier than I might otherwise. Whatever you’re up to stay safe and take care.


An Englishman Planted Roses TWTW # 150

The clocks change this weekend. I have to say that I am looking forward to having lighter mornings again for a while, I find lighter mornings make so much more difference to me than having darker evenings. Of course role on Spring when the weather also improves more generally.

I’ve been busy with work this week, and I also had a visit with my Mum. She seems to be doing well, although only having such a short time with her each visit it’s difficult to say. I think maintaining the restrictions in care homes is the right thing to do, but I am surprised that where everywhere else the government seems to think Covid is over, including the NHS, it’s a little surprising that they also haven’t relaxed much more in this area. Perhaps they should be looking at those other areas and asking question about why numbers are so high?


Allotment

Not much to report this week, the weather has been pretty wet and so I haven’t had much chance to do anything of consequence on the plot. I have been enjoying some of our apples this week though. I deliberately left some of them on the tree to allow to ripen a bit more. The tree is a hybrid and so the earlier you pick (September) the more like a cooking apple they are and the longer you leave them (ideally into November) the more like an eater. I’ve never had any success leaving them into November, inevitably some strong winds come along and dislodge them onto the ground, but this year I picked them right at the end of this month and they’re pretty good.


Reading

I’ve mostly been reading Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses this week. I’ve read a lot of different books about George Orwell (Eric Blair) but this one comes at it from a different angle in terms of his garden and love of nature. It looks at his homes in Wallington and on the Isle of Jura in particular and takes in some fairly wide ranging topics including workers rights, climate change and politics generally. It’s a nice interweaving of an aspect of Orwell that I’ve barely seen covered before.

I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it though. It was clearly written during the pandemic and I think as such some of the research for the book was cut a little short and I suspect the author had to deliver the book before she’d completed all the research that she would have liked.

I did enjoy it, just suspect there’s more to the story than she was able to tell.


Links

Revisiting the 4 Hour Work Week

The Magic of the Brush

Latest figures reveal how the pandemic shaped radio listening

The Craziest (but best) decision we’ve ever made


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

Well Look At Those Onions TWTW # 149

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

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

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

Looks like Christmas is cancelled again this year.


I’ve had some new subscribers this week, if you are one of them – Welcome!

If you’re new here and wondering what an earth you’ve signed up to, welcome, this is my website / blog.

By training I am a biologist and by profession I generally make most of my income from being an independent environmental consultant. Outside of that I have a fairly wide interest in all sorts of things. I normally publish a post like this on the weekend at the end of the week (TWTW = The Week That Was), and talk about what I’ve been doing in the previous week, links to things I’ve found and anything else that I think might be interesting. Other occasional posts will appear at other times e.g. book reviews.

Thanks for signing up, but if after reading my ramblings you’re regretting your decision feel free to unsubscribe, there is a link to do so in each post if you subscribe by email. Obviously I hope you’ll stick around.

I also post on Instagram and Twitter where I am also @tontowilliams if you like what you see you can also buy me a coffee via the link in the sidebar


Work

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


Books

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


TV & Film

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

[SPOILER ALERT]

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

[SPOILER ALERT ENDS].


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

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


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


Allotment & Food

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

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

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

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


Links

Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

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

Which Form of Transport Has The Smallest Carbon Footprint?


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

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

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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


From the Publisher

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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


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