Best Reads of 2018

GoodReads prompted me this morning with an email about my year in books. You can see the update on my GoodReads page here. I’m not sure that I’ll get through anymore books before the end of the year, but I’ve managed to read 52 this year (although a few of these where actually quite short, so I’m not sure it’s quite the same as reading 52 tomes!)

There have been a few highlights for me out of the 52 though. In the order they were read, they include:

Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough – Although this is essentially a reprint of some earlier editions of this book, it was wonderful to step back in time with the author to when an expedition wasn’t accompanied by loads of technology, and the wildlife was less vulnerable and exploited than it is today. As someone who is credited with being one of the great natural historians of modern times, this was originally written long before he was as well known as he is today. I enjoyed it immensely and am really pleased that I have the next volume in the series on my bookshelf to read, probably early next year or over the festive period.

Under The Rock: The Poetry of a Place by Benjamin Myers – Very much a book of the landscape, nature and the human interface I read most of this in just over a day. It was over too soon, and I know it’s a book that I am likely to revisit again and again. It’s also shaped how I look at the world now, giving me a different lense through which I see things.

The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare – I’ve read several of this authors books this year, all have been excellent but this is the pick of the crop for me.  It’s the authors story of a winter through mental difficulties but one which is as inspiring as it is troubling. It’s a wonderfully written, candid account and another book that I know I will read time and again.

I’m leaving my list here, because although I’ve read many fine books these are the standout three for me, I can only hope that I read as many splendid ones in 2019.

Fourth Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here, Quarter Two is here and Quarter Three here if you’re interested.


Work – Quarter four hasn’t been any different to the rest of the year. In summary a lot of work (unpaid) being spent pursuing potential paid work – writing bids, discussing proposals with clients and potential clients. I hope that this improves a little a lot in 2018, and I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking in terms of what that means for next year and beyond.


Allotment – A good end to the year. With all the family things that have been happening this year, I’ve still managed to find enough time to keep on top of what’s needed at the plot. I am conscious of the amount of time it takes though and so not sure how easy this is going to be next year.


Books – My highlights for this quarter are “Mawson’s Will” by Lennard Bickel [GoodReads] and “Vacationland” by John Hodgman [GoodReads]. Very different books from one another and stand out for different reasons. The former because I wasn’t aware of Douglas Mawson until I read the book  and the latter having the credit for making me chuckle.


Films & TV – Sadly there is nothing that really stands out this quarter. It’s been really difficult finding anything of particular note to watch. I’ve enjoyed “Rick Stein’s Road to Mexico“, although I haven’t yet managed to watch all of  the episodes.


Life In General – This final quarter of the year has been just as hectic as the rest of the year. I don’t really want to talk about much of it, partly because it’s private but also because I’m not really sure where my head is at over some of it. I suspect that some of this will continue into next year and I just hope that I am able to navigate it as calmly as possible.

Third Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here and Quarter Two is here if you’re interested.


Work – The third quarter has continued in the way quarter two went – a lot of effort on preparing proposals and looking for clients but no luck. There were a couple of proposals in there that I was really looking forward to delivering, so I’m disappointed that I won’t be – but that’s the way it goes.


Allotment – It’s been a good season this year, probably not as good as last year, but not shabby, and some things like pumpkins and cucumbers have been much better than last year. We’ve had a lot of our food from the allotment. As the quarter ends though, the season is winding down, but I’m planning for the winter season and next year.


Books – I’ve exceeded my GoodReads target of reading 25 books. That said, this still feels like an arbitrary number, particularly when there are only a couple of books that stood out for me this quarter. They were “Santorini” by Alistair MacLean [GoodReads] and “risingtidefallingstar” by Philip Hoare [GoodReads]. The former was a reread, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The latter I enjoyed because of the personal content as well as the historical and biographical content.


Films & TV – I’m pretty disappointed with TV at the moment, there seems to be nothing on. That’s pretty normal for the summer months, as most of the new programming starts in the autumn. There are a few things that stick in my mind as I enjoyed them:

Strike [LINK] – This is the adaptation of the novels of Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K. Rowling), so far they’ve adapted “The Cuckoo’s Calling” & “The Silkworm”. I thought they were well acted and as far as I can tell were pretty faithful to the original books. It’s also supposed to be coming back for further adaptations next year. I’d recommend checking it out, even if you haven’t read the books.

Arrival [LINK] – I watched this on Amazon Prime with little expectation, but enjoyed it. I’d say though that this is perhaps a film that you’ll either like or find really boring.

The Martian [LINK] – I know I’m pretty late to the party on this one and I’ve had the DVD for a little while before getting around to watching it, but I did really enjoy it. A nice Saturday evening in film – if that makes any sense?


Life In General – It’s been a hectic quarter with family things. My Mum has had her knee replaced, and so I’ve been spending a lot of time with her. In some ways the fact that work has been quiet has been helpful to me. I’ve got lots of things to do around the house and garden, as well as continuing to help sort out my Dad’s things and my Grandma’s house. Hopefully the latter is almost complete as there’s a buyer in place and it’s just waiting for things to go through.

Second Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here if you’re interested.


Work – It’s been a very quiet quarter. I’ve been doing a lot of proposals and business development work, but it has yet to lead to any paid contracts. I think to an extent that uncertainty around Brexit, the General Election, and a few other things mean that things are quieter than they were this time last year, and as we now enter a traditionally quiet time that will probably continue for a while yet. I’m conscious as to how long a contract drought can last before I need to bring in a wage or income from somewhere else. I’m not there yet, but it is something I’m thinking about at the moment.


Allotment – These second quarter months really mark the start of when things really get going in the new season. Although it’s been a little bit odd with quite a few failed or only partial germination, most notably with sweetcorn, courgettes and cucumbers. Second sowings have been more successful, but the timings have been no different to last year, although the weather has been a little bit cooler in April & May, although June was a scorcher! So far this year doesn’t feel as strong as last year, but that’s just the ups and downs of growing.


Books – I’ve reached my GoodReads target of reading 25 books early. It feels like such an arbitrary number to me, I sometimes wonder why I bother with the challenge, but I’ll leave it alone for now.

Highlights this quarter, include Guests of Summer: A House Martin Love Story by Theunis Piersma and Bee Quest by Dave Goulson. Both excellent natural history books and both sadly showing evidence of decline in many of the amazing species on our planet.


Films & TV – Still watching the reruns of  “All Creatures Great & Small“. Although, apart from the Christmas special all have been shown now, and the channel has started back from the first episode again. I have a good few stacked on our DVR still to watch.

I did enjoy the BBCs Line of Duty, although this is in its fourth season, it’s the first one I’ve watched. Although some of it has been a bit of a stretch, it had me watching each week. I’ve also been watching a few things on Amazon Video. Bosch returned for Season 3, and was excellent, it’s a series that keeps getting stronger. I’ve also been catching up on The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead.

Finally I’m going to mention American Gods. I had great hopes for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book, and although there were some high points generally it was a disappointment.


Life In General – Although things are moving on there is still a lot to do following the passing of my Dad and Grandma. I suspect that it will be a running theme of the year and dominate a lot of what I do during the course of the year. I’m more aware that I’m thinking about my Dad and being a bit introspective in terms of my own life and it’s direction.

I’m also waiting to hear about my Mum having a knee replacement, which is likely to be sometime before the end of the calendar year, so the upcoming six months, have a certain level of uncertainty about them.

I’ve also been having car trouble, it’s not let me down, but has been back and forth to the garage for a scheduled repair where a part failed repeatedly, this might mean that I have to replace the car in due course, but I’ll see how that goes.

First Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment.


Work – Last year was my first full year being self-employed, it had its ups and downs, and as I enter my second year I’d like to be a little busier than I am but in some ways with everything that has been going on generally in life (see below), having some extra time for that has been useful. I’m trying to grow things a little this year, and am looking at new areas of work to help spread my horizons a little more and hopefully bring in some more work over time.


Allotment – The first quarter is all about getting things ready really. The weather hasn’t been that kind in terms of being able to get onto the plot but the last few weeks of this quarter have seen things picking up. We’ve enjoyed fresh vegetables all through the winter and continue to do so in the spring. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another good year on the plot, with it providing a significant proportion of our food during the coming months.


Books – Well according to GoodReads I’ve read 18 books so far this year. That feels like a lot, but a couple were short books or novellas, so perhaps it’s not as many as it at first seems. There wasn’t really anything that stood out particularly, although some of the images in Yellowstone by David Quammen were amazing.


Films & TV – TV has been a bit of a disappointment so far this year, I had high hopes for the adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, but in the end I was pretty disappointed by it. The one thing I have been watching and enjoying though is “All Creatures Great & Small“. This was first shown in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and I remember it well from my childhood. One of the Freeview channels has been repeating episodes each afternoon, and we’ve been recording them and then watching them when nothing else is on. They hold up pretty well and it’s been quite an indulgence to rewatch them.

On the film front there are a few that stick in my mind. Rogue One was a highlight at the start of the year. I do like Star Wars films, and this one is no exception. It’s also the first film that I’ve been to watch in the cinema for quite a long time. I’d also add The Magnificent Seven reboot with Denzel Washington & Chris Pratt; Hell or High Water with Jeff Bridges & Chris Pine; The Legend of Tarzan with Alexander Skarsgard & Samuel L Jackson; In a Valley of Violence with Ethan Hawke & John Travolta; and finally Swallows and Amazons, another reboot.


Life In General –  As regular readers will know, I lost my Dad at the end of last year and then early in January my Grandma. Loosing my Dad has been particularly hard and I still think it will be sometime before things return to “normal”, whatever that looks like. Much of these first few months of this year has been taken up with various things in connection with these two events – solicitors, dealing with companies, bureaucracy, etc. I am a little astounded by how little some companies care about their customers in these situations and how just getting something right first time would be essential. It seems that this isn’t the case for many of them.

I’ve also had some health issues of my own to deal with, and that will be ongoing for a while I think.

Being my own boss has helped give me the time to deal with a lot of this, I know that were I still working for my old employer that this wouldn’t have been possible in the same way, and ultimately may have lead to more conflict. However I can’t continue to give this much time to some of these things, it’s not critical yet, but something I am conscious of and need to keep under review, and try to resolve some of the outstanding items.

Fourth Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

This year I’m trying something a little different, and am splitting my year into quarters and trying to do a review at the end of the quarter. It helps me remember stuff more easily, and is more up to the minute than waiting to until December and trying to do the whole year in one go, or at least that’s the theory. The first quarter review is here, the second quarter review here, and the third quarter review is here.


Work

This quarter has been very quiet, mostly due to things going on in my life outside of work (see below), I have however been thinking a lot about expanding my business and will be exploring this in the New Year. I’ll be talking about this more (I hope) in the coming months, but a couple of things need to happen first. I’m quite excited about this, and hope it will see things grow.


Allotment

This time of year is when things start to quieten down a bit on the plot. I still have quite a few things growing: parsnips, chard, leeks, Brussels sprouts – all of which I am harvesting still – and purple sprouting broccoli, regular broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic and broad beans – all of which are crops for the early spring.

I’m going to try and keep track of things from a financial perspective a little more next year, I want to understand just how much money we’re saving by growing our own, compared to buying things in the supermarket. It feels like the difference is quite small, and being honest I’m doing this for more reasons than just saving money, but I’ve never really tried to quantify the benefits.


Books

My reading has slowed down a bit this quarter, but there are two books that I particularly enjoyed:

Dogging Steinbeck by Bill Steigerwald [GoodReads] this is the author’s account of his retracing the steps of John Steinbeck’s “Travels with Charley”, and uncovering that the original may have been more of a work of fiction than non-fiction. It was an enjoyable read, and the author also kept a detailed blog, of this journey, including photos and videos. Around the same time that I was reading this I was also listening to the audiobook of “Travels with Charley” [GoodReads] in the car, so I was  able to track where Steigerwald had gotten to, compared to Steinbeck. It was a good way to “read” both books alongside one another. As things at the time weren’t going well with my Dad (see below) it was a welcome distraction to have Steinbeck and Charley with me in my car, and Steigerwald at home each evening.

Nigel: My Family and Other Dogs by Monty Don [GoodReads]The title of this book might not mean much to people outside of the UK or who don’t watch Gardeners’ World on TV, but Nigel – a Labrador retriever – belongs to Monty Don who is the presenter of the programme. The dog has become a little bit of a personality in his own right, and this book is about him, plus some of the other dogs that the author has owned over his lifetime. It’s a good read whether you get the references or not, and particularly if, like me, you are a dog person.


Films & TV

I don’t really recall anything much that stands out this quarter, probably because we haven’t actually been watching much. We have been watching (or rather recording and watching later) a few daytime series on BBC; The Coroner, The Doctor Blake Mysteries, and The Father Brown Mysteries. All very good.


Life In General

Not a great quarter. As you may already know my Dad passed away in November, and we have had to put my maternal Grandma into a nursing home. Many people have said how bad 2016 has been, and frankly I couldn’t agree more. For me though it will always have more personal bad memories than perhaps other years have had.


Finally

If you’ve read all four quarterly posts, what do you think? Does it work better than one end of year round up? Let me know in the comments.

I wish all my readers a very Happy New Year.

Third Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

This year I’m trying something a little different, and am splitting my year into quarters and trying to do a review at the end of the quarter. It helps me remember stuff more easily, and is more up to the minute than waiting to until December and trying to do the whole year in one go, or at least that’s the theory. The first quarter review is here, and the second quarter review here.


Work

This quarter marks the anniversary in my change of employment, going from being and employee to self-employed. Looking across those 12 months I’d say it’s been pretty productive, although things have slowed down a bit over the summer. There are a couple of things on the horizon, but as ever they rely on things outside my control, so it’s a little difficult to say at this stage how things might pan out. Having said that I currently have a close family member in hospital, so having the time to be able to visit has been a bonus, and something I can’t ever see that I would have been allowed to do (quite rightly) when I was an employee, so things seem to work out.

I am hoping that things will pick up, as I do like being my own boss, but if they don’t I will have to look for alternatives.


Allotment

It’s been a very good year on the allotment so far, we’ve spent most of this quarter not having to buy any fresh produce from the supermarket, as we’ve been able to provide our own from the plot. This has started to ease off a little now, and I am having to buy odd things – either as crops have started to slow down their production with the shortening days or because things aren’t quite ready yet. In some areas though e.g. potatoes, onions, garlic, we have lots stored that will see us forward for many weeks yet.

I’ve also been trying to do regular update videos on my YouTube channel, and often embedding them here too.


Books

I’ve been reading pretty consistently and have gotten through a number of books this quarter including a couple of “biggies”. I’ve started adding a “currently reading” item to my Quick Links entry each week (when I remember too!).

There are a few that I’d like to mention specifically, and in no particular order they are:

“Normal” by Warren Ellis – This was actually a novella released in 4-parts, one a week over a month. What I liked about it the most was how it told the story in that weekly pattern and how well this worked. Whether or not that was intentional I don’t know, but I don’t think it would have worked as well as just a single book. It reminded me a lot of one of those weekly black and white serials that used to be shown in cinemas e.g. King of the Rocket Men, when I get time, I’m going to sit and reread all four – hopefully in a single sitting.

“Joyland” by Stephen King – I’ve had a copy of this for quite some time, but had never gotten around to reading it until recently. What I liked about it the most, was that it reminded me of some of the early Stephen King books, which I enjoyed far more than some of from the late ’90s / early 2000s. I’d stopped reading his books not long after Geralds Game and The Tommyknockers, so can’t speak for other ones he may have written more recently, but I did think that Joyland was more of the old King.

“Seveneves” – Neal Stephenson – This was one of the biggies and took me a while to get through, but it was worth it. Although it is a work of science fiction, it has a very believable story and characters and despite it’s size held my interest throughout.

“The Book of Yaak” – Rick Bass – Rick Bass has had a mention in both of the previous quarter reviews, and I still have a number of his books that I haven’t read yet, so may well feature again. I really enjoy his writing, both fiction and non-fiction. This is a work of non-fiction and brings to the fore another area of this writers passions. As an environmental activist this book highlights the issues in the Yaak Valley in Montana and the tensions between preserving the old growth forest, the nature and wildlife that it supports and other areas that are important for their nature conservation and the pressures of development and modern intensive forestry. It’s a treatise to the area and the issues, and a fascinating read. It stirred the passion in me for some of the environmental issues that I feel are important.


Films & TV

It’s been a bit of a summer of sport with Euro football and the Olympics and Paralympics. I don’t generally watch much sport, so we’ve been watching a lot of reruns or turning it off. Outside of that there isn’t much to report. We’ve watched a few DVDs but nothing that really inspired me enough that I want to mention it here.


Life In General

Pretty good. As always there are areas I’d like to work on. I’d like to be writing more, and I’d like my business to grow a little, but for the reasons mentioned above I’ve been occupied in other areas and am grateful to have had the time to be able to do those things.


Second Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

This year I’m trying something a little different, and am splitting my year into quarters and trying to do a review at the end of the quarter. It helps me remember stuff more easily, and is more up to the minute than waiting to until December and trying to do the whole year in one go, or at least that’s the theory. The first quarter review is here.

Work

I’ve covered before my change in working arrangements that happen nearly a year ago, and becoming self-employed. If you want to know a little more about what I do now, click the “Home” link above.

This quarter has been quite quiet, and I’ve mostly been working on things for existing clients, closing out their projects, or taking some further forward. It’s quite a dynamic time, and each week “profile raising” finds its way onto my to-do list, as I’m concious of contract end dates, and the need to find more work. It is with a little uncertainty that I close out this quarter and head into the next work wise.

Brexit will pose some rather unique challenges for me, as part of my work is around helping companies and organisations attract / apply for EU funding. I’ll need a plan b, for that part of my work now. I have some ideas, but I also need to spend a little more time thinking about that.

Allotment

This quarter is probably one of the busiest on the plot, and there are plenty of other posts / videos about what I’ve been doing, so I won’t go into it in detail. It has been both a busy and rewarding time though, and my allotment is looking good. As always there are things that I’d do differently if I do them again, things that haven’t worked quite as well as I’d hoped or fallen foul of pests / disease, but that’s just how it is. I’m looking forward now to the time, when we really become self-sufficient for our vegetables again, I seem to be able to stretch the period each year so it becomes longer, and there is less of a gap between one years and the next. I’m hoping to be able to do the same this year, and have some plans (and hopefully some plants) for that.

Books

I’ve hit my GoodReads reading challenge target already, I’m not going to change it, but just keep going and see where I end up. It’s become less important to me to hit the target, but just to be able to take the time to read. In the last quarter there are three books that I’m going to mention here, that particularly stood out for me:

“Raptor” by James Macdonald Lockhart. The author attempts to view every single native bird of prey in the UK, and this is his story of how he went about it and what happened. I’d thoroughly recommend it, particularly if you are native to the UK yourself. It does however tell part of the story of just how persecuted birds of prey have been and continue to be in this country, and therefore how difficult it actually is to still see some of them without the concerted effort that the author goes to.

“The Wild Marsh” by Rick Bass, this is the second of Rick Bass’s books I’ve read this year, and it won’t be the last. I really enjoy his writing, and although this one could be a little self-indulgent at times, it tells the story of a full year in Yaak, where the author has his home. Great writing, and recommended.

“Running To The Mountain” by John Katz I probably read this book at least once every year. It talks to me, and is one of my favourites. I think it’s because it is essentially a book about making decisions and changes in life direction, as well as including the authors dogs. I guess at the moment, with my own life having undergone quite a bit of change in the last year, which hasn’t quite settled down yet, it speaks to me even more.

Film & TV

It’s unusual for us to get to the cinema these days, so most of what we watch is either on DVD or online, and often some months (or occasionally even years) behind when it was in the cinema.

I remember back in 1977 when my dad took me to see Star Wars. I was about 5 years old and it was called Star Wars, not episode IV or anything like that. I can remember that quite vividly even now, and going with him to see The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi. It kindled that early love of Sci-Fi in me, and also just spending time with my Dad, doing stuff. When the next three films came out, the prequels, I took him to see them. Now “The Force Awakens”, has been released he’s not been in the best of health, and so we didn’t make it to the cinema to see the film, and I didn’t particularly feel like going by myself, so I bought him it for Father’s Day. I had already seen it, as I was given a copy myself and I thoroughly enjoyed it and am looking forward to the next two, and the various spin offs that have been talked about.

I’ve also watched  “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, again well after it was in cinemas, and indeed released on DVD. I like the Marvel films, and although I didn’t think this was as good as some of the others I did enjoy it. It had some good “new” characters, and allowed the existing actors to develop their characters and their relationships a little more. Recommended.

We saw the remake of “Dad’s Army” just a couple of weeks ago, again, one that I missed when it was in the cinema but a film I wanted to see. I was pleasantly surprised with it. The film stayed close enough to the original series to play a good homage to it, but was different enough to be original. I don’t think it could ever really replace the original TV series, as that is ingrained too much, certainly in my psyche, and I suspect many other people’s too, but it was enjoyable and again I would recommend.

TV watching has been a little sparse, I think due to the time of year, so we have not had the thing on all that much, but I have enjoyed watching “Rick Stein’s Long Weekends”, part cookery, part travel. Essentially if you don’t know about it, this is chef Rick Stein going away for a “long weekend” and exploring both the local area, and cuisine he finds there. It seems to be on a break at the moment, as I think there have been five episodes so far, but it’s a ten part series. If memory serves he’s been to (Bologna, Berlin, Reykjavik, Vienna & Bordeaux). Not sure when the other five are likely to be on, but if you get a chance to watch it, I’d recommend it.

Life In General

I’d say this quarter has been slightly harder than the last. I’m conscious that my mind is much more on work than perhaps it should be or more correctly put about where the next job is coming from.

I’d like to be writing more, and I have been to an extent here on the blog, but although it’s read by quite a few people it’s not a massive audience, and I’m thinking about other potential avenues where I might be able to do that more, and who knows, potentially generate a little income from that.

Overall though life is good. I’m still settling in to my new “job” I think, and have more to learn about that, but otherwise I can’t really grumble.

First Quarter Review 2016

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; books I’ve read, films/tv programmes I’ve watched and other things related to work and the allotment. You can read the end of 2015 here, if you’re interested.

The problem I have is trying to remember stuff (that might be an age thing). I guess that the things that were really good, tend to stick in my mind, as they should, but some of the things that were okay but not outstanding, tend to get forgotten.

So I thought I’d try doing a quick review of each quarter of the year, during 2016; rather than trying to remember everything in December. We’ll see how it goes, and hopefully I’ll remember to do ones at the end of June and September!

Work

Last year I went from being an employee to being self-employed. It was a significant moment for me, and started out well. Although the first three months of this year have been quieter than the tail end of last year, there’s still be a steady flow of work and this has also allowed me to think about goal setting for the year, and also work on some other projects. I don’t want to talk about those other projects at the moment, except to say that they focus more on the allotment / growing / fork-to-fork side of things, and although they are unlikely to make me rich (not that I ever particularly want to be rich), I hope that they might eventually generate some income, and perhaps give me a better quality more sustainable lifestyle. We’ll see.

I’ve also started much more consciously sharing my work side, posts on this blog like the Quick Links that are appearing on Tuesdays, and some new pages are a step in that direction. If anyone has any feedback on those things or any questions, then do please leave a comment below.

Allotment

As you might expect the tale end of winter is a quiet time on the allotment, and although we’ve been continuing to harvest brassicas, leeks and a few other small things, not much has really been happening, apart from the bits that link to work (see above), and I hope I’ll be able to share more on that in due course.

Things are starting to pick up now though, as the weather gets warmer and heats up the soil, the risk of frost decreases and the days get longer. Soon things will be in full swing. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be a good, productive year.

Books

So far I seem to have managed to read 14 books in the past three months, which I am quite surprised about. You can see what I’ve been reading here. Of them, there are a couple that stand out for me. Colter by Rick Bass is one and The Road To Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson is the other. The latter speaks to me because it touches on some of the things that I feel are going wrong with this country, and without wishing to get too political here and now, it was refreshing to read that I am not alone with my thoughts and perceptions. The former of the two was by a new author to me, and I’ll say now if you have a problem with hunting for food, you might want to give this one a miss, as Colter is a German Short-haired Pointer that is the author’s hunting dog, and a lot of the book is devoted to hunts. With that caveat I’d recommend both.

Films & TV

A few things here. Firstly the second season of Bosch, has just aired on Amazon Prime. I mentioned the first season in my review of 2015, and I’m pleased it was commissioned for a second season, and hopefully there will be a third. Although it was only released at the beginning of the month, I have already managed to watch all ten episodes and loved it! I’d thoroughly recommend to anyone who likes crime drama

I’ve also watched the most recent Bond film – Spectre when it went to DVD, although I enjoyed it, I don’t really want to rave about it as it was okay, but not that outstanding. If I was writing this in December I probably wouldn’t even mention it.

A final mention though for A Walk in the Woods, adapted from Bill Bryson’s novel of the same name. Again another DVD watch, but one that I really enjoyed. My only criticism is that it came to a somewhat abrupt end, and was over before I felt it really got going. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte were excellent.

Life In General

Is pretty good I think; we managed to have our first holiday in about three years in March, another benefit of being my own boss now and not having to worry about the threat of being made redundant. I’m enjoying working from home, and setting my own goals and timetables. I have lots planned for this year, and things I want to get achieved. So far so good though, looks like I’m on course.

My Review of 2015

As 2015 winds its way into 2016, I thought I would sit and review a few bits of my year.

Work

On the work front it’s been a significant year for me. About 12 months ago, I was working out numbers and calculating where I might end up if I accepted a voluntary redundancy offer. By the end of July I had gone from being an employee to being self-employed and my own boss. I wasn’t quite planning things that way, but so far my new business has been going well enough to keep me working and provide an income, as well as allow me to do some other development work, but there is still much more for me to do, and whilst I need to sit and do some planning for 2016 and how this is going to work for me, I don’t really know what next year will bring on the work front.

This change in my work, although probably one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life, and potentially very stressful, has given me a much better work / life balance than I had before and maybe have ever had. I don’t know how it’s going to work out in the longer term, but I feel like I’m generally moving in the right direction.

Allotment

This year has been one of my best years on the allotment. We’ve pretty much been self-sufficient for vegetables from late spring, all through the summer and into autumn, only have to buy things like mushrooms and peppers, which I didn’t grow. Next year, I’m planning on growing peppers, so that should change as well. I’ve also enjoyed my plot more than I ever have. I know that sounds a little odd, but I’ve really gotten engaged in what I’ve been doing and been keeping much better records than ever before in a pocket notebook, so that I can look back and see how things have been. As the winter has approached I’ve kept a few things going and we’ve had a supply of winter vegetables as well. I’m now looking forward to next year, with even bigger plans.

Books

Last year was a poor year for me, finding time to read, and at the start of this year, I set my sights relatively low, not anticipating reading many books. In the end I’ve ended up reading nearly 50 books (I might actually achieve 50 before the year is out), which has quite surprised me. You can see what I’ve been reading on GoodReads, here.

My book of the year has to be Common Ground by Rob Cowen it’s an incredible book, which I’ve now read twice, and still dip into again and again. It’s made me reconnect much more with urban wildlife, as Rob tells the story of his “edgelands” and the wildlife near Bilton in Harrogate. It’s full of vivid descriptions, and stories putting the reader in the place of the wildlife as well as being a really personal account. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

My other highlights are also all natural history books, including H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, The Peregrine by J A Baker, Claxton by Mark Cocker,  and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm & Wildwood by the late Roger Deakin. I could name more, and probably I’ve enjoyed nearly everything I’ve read this year. I just hope that 2016 brings more of the same. We’ll see.

Films & TV

I can’t say that I there was anything really memorable to write about here. I enjoyed the final Hobbit movie, but otherwise I don’t really remember what else I’ve watched this year. On the TV side there have been a few things, but the one that I really want to mention is Bosch which has been available on Amazon Video. This has bought Michael Connelly’s character from over 20 books to the small screen – Harry Bosch. It’s been a great series and I’m pleased that there is going to be a second season, probably early next year.

2016?

As for next year, I don’t know what I want from the year yet. I need to sit and do some planning, both professionally and personally. Set myself some targets and goals. I might come back and share this in due course.