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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

2014 Review and a Look Ahead

I don’t tend to do review of the year posts each year, sometimes I’ll take a theme and just cover that, other times I won’t bother at all. The latter is more often the norm. 2014 however has been a “bit of a year” for me. So I thought I’d just write out a few highlights and one or two low bits too for good measure.


I’d say that the year as a whole has been backdropped by work-life balance, with the balance being unevenly tilted towards work. I’ve had to reapply for my job as part of a restructure, and it’s been pretty full on. I’ve been offered voluntary redundancy twice (and we’re just going for a third round now), I’ve not applied on both occasions, but am giving the third time some serious consideration.


On the life side of the scale it’s been a tiring year. I’ve done far less, due to pressures of work than I would like. I’ve noticed that I’ve been far less present on social media platforms, as well as reading less books and generally having less time for relaxation.

We lost Sparky our elder dog back in March, and then got Ruby at the end of June. I still miss Sparky every day, and things still feel very empty without him around. Wilson has taken well to being the older dog, and I’m really pleased and impressed with the way he’s turned out into such a well rounded dog.


The allotment has been going along quite happily, it’s not been the best of years, but it’s been far from the worst, and I’m setting a good basis for next year. I’ve managed a few video posts, and have a year ending one to go up, as soon as it’s posted to YouTube.


As I mentioned I’ve read far less than I have done in previous years, mainly due to having less free time. I would however single out a few books I’ve read (I read these in 2014, but they may not have been published this year) to mention here:

The House of Dolls by David Hewson – There’s no such thing as a  bad book by David Hewson, and this new series set in Amsterdam has all the hallmarks of being fantastic. This first in the series is excellent and I look forward to reading the next one, hopefully in 2015.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – This took me back to my childhood and the computer games that I used to play.

The Burning Room by Michael Connelly – The latest Harry Bosch, and a great addition to the canon, and likely to be a milestone step in the series. I’m not sure where Michael Connelly is going next here, but there are a number of options, and again I look forward to the next in the series. (I also loved the Amazon pilot of Bosch, and can’t wait for the full series).


Again, a few to single out (and again I watched them in 2014, but they may have been released before that year):

Dawn  of the Planet of the Apes – Only recently watched this, but I loved the direction that the movie went in following on from the previous one, and abandoning the Charlton Heston era movies (and the awful Mark Wahlberg remake).

Captain America: The Winter Soldier – I love the Marvel movies (and the comic books too), and I’ve seen a few others this year as well; Thor: The Dark World and The Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s a close choice between Capt. and Guardians, but again, I think the way that the story and characters have been bought on since the first Captain America movie, plus Avengers: Assemble give this one the edge.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Loved this. Wasn’t sure that it would ever work as trilogy of films, but it does. Looking forward to the final film too, although that will be a 2015 watch for me.

Godzilla – A remake that remain truer to the original and a great film.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire – I’ve never read the books, but love the films, again looking forward to the final two parts of this series too.

And Looking Ahead to 2015?

I’m not sure what 2015 holds. More upheaval at work I expect, and I need to make a decision about voluntary redundancy again. There will also be more  books to read and more films to watch. I don’t really do resolutions, but I’ve got a few aims for 2015.

  1. Be more balanced of temper. I think in part 2014 has been characterised by me having a shorter fuse than usual. I’m not happy about this, so want it to change. More counting to ten I suspect in 2015.
  2. Better work – life balance than above.
  3. Read more, although be realistic about what’s achievable. I also want to get through the “To Be Read” backlog mountain. Although I’m not setting any firm systems in place to do this as I have in the past.
  4. Have a good year on the allotment, and try to keep a better photo and video record of what’s going on there.
  5. Write more. Both blog posts, but also get back into writing properly.

There are lots of other things in my head (you could always add; lose weight, be fitter etc) but the above are the main aims.