Long Tails TWTW # 110

Greetings! As I write this there are long-tailed tits in the tree outside my window again. They’ve been regular visitors, normally coming at the same time each day. Looking for insects in the tree and then checking out the bird feeders before getting on with their day. Love ’em.

We also had a buzzard fly-by – the local gulls were not impressed but the buzzard really couldn’t care less.


I filled in a “wellness” survey from my local council this week. It asked all sorts of questions about lockdown 3.0 and other things. It was a bit of an insight into what the council considers and doesn’t consider to be wellness.

Part of my mental wellness has been to massively shift what finds its way into my twitter and other social media feeds. On twitter I’ve been using lists much more, and have now curated an artists list so that I get some beautiful images to look at. If you’re interested in adding it you can find it here. I’ve printed out a few of these pictures and pasted them into my journal.


I watched a bit of the US Presidential Inauguration ceremony this week. The Bernie Sanders memes have been pretty much all over the internet this week but the poet Amanda Gorman was the show stealer for me. You can read / watch her here.


Reading. I read Colin Dexter’s Daughters of Cain this week. A good Inspector Morse mystery, and although I’d worked out what had happened there was a nice twist to story towards the end that I didn’t spot. This is one of the later Morse books, and Morse’s health is beginning to fail and the tv series is starting to show much more in the character of Morse than in the early books, pre-tv series. In those early books, Morse is a slightly different character to the later ones, not in a bad way and it doesn’t detract from the story but if you read the books and watch the tv shows it is noticeable. It’s also interesting how the “young Morse” tv show – Endeavour – is picking up on some of the interactions that appear in the books but again the character of the younger Morse is very different to how he appears in the books later in life.

I bought this box set secondhand in a charity shop back at the end of 2019, when I was still doing regular trips down to Somerset to visit a client. Those days seem like such a long time ago now. I hope that charity shop has managed to keep going during the pandemic, it was quite small but always had some interesting stock and fantastically friendly staff.


Watching. We finished our Game of Thrones binge with the final season. If you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the plotlines, but I didn’t enjoy how it ended.

We’ve also been watching reruns of Endeavour (see reading above), although these are reruns they’re new to us, I’m not sure why we never watched these when they were originally broadcast.



Work. Another quiet week overall, although the allotment talk I mentioned last week has been confirmed and I had a second enquiry. It got me thinking that maybe groups are thinking that there won’t be much in-person speaking happening during the main part of the year for these things (Spring and early summer) so there might be mileage in online talks for at least part of their membership.


Allotment. We’ve had some shed break-ins on the allotment site this week. Last year the site management installed CCTV because there had been some thefts, and then they extended the system because the thieves simply moved to parts of the site that weren’t covered, and that’s exactly what has happened this time. I was skeptical about the installation of the CCTV and it’s one of those things that you can’t prove how many thieves it has deterred and how many have simply just worked around the placement of the cameras. I’ve been lucky and my shed has been left alone – not that there’s anything much in there worth stealing – but the plot below mine had the door removed from the shed but nothing taken.


That’s all I have for this week. Take care and stay safe.

Only Better and Better Lies TWTW # 109

My mornings start with a walk in the dark, and a sunrise.


It’s normally my practice to drop things into these posts during the week, but this week I don’t seem to have added anything other than the Star Wars fan video below (worth a watch if your a Star Wars fan).

That’s probably a good summary of my week as a whole, time has passed but there hasn’t particularly been much to show for it. I have had a few good rants about the Government and their lies; particularly around the provision of food parcels for school kids under the poverty line, the ongoing pandemic response, and the Prime Minister’s lies. I’ve written a good few thousand words about these things, but in honesty it doesn’t help me, I thought it might have been a bit cathartic but I can feel my blood pressure rising, so I’ve just deleted them without saving. I’d rather focus on some good things, I’m sure it’s been said that we should get angry and stay angry but does that really help? We control how we react to a given situation and anger isn’t exactly a helpful emotion. There are better ways.


Reading. I read Attention All Shipping by Charlie Connelly this week. In keeping with trying to read books that I already own rather than buying new. I found it quite hard going and nearly gave up on it a couple of times, although I think it’s probably a good book I think this was perhaps just not where my head was at. Haven’t picked up anything else since.


I am really enjoying Alastair Humphreys’ adventures around his OS map, it’s inspired me to do something similar myself. Here’s his latest post if you fancy a read, you can find a link to them all within that post.


Watching. We’ve been rewatching the penultimate season of Game of Thrones this week before watching the final season. We had some vouchers for Christmas and have used some of them to buy the final season now that it’s come down a bit in price. I was surprised by the things I didn’t remember being in this season and also by what I do remember but not the order things happened in. Looking forward to seeing how it all ends up and in the current political situation, this quote seemed quite apt:

When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.

Jon Snow – Game of Thrones


Work. I’ve been talking to a couple of potential clients this week. I’m not sure that anything will come of these discussions but you never know. I’ve also been making sure that my expenses and other financial details are up to date as the year end approaches. It’s been a quiet year and I’ve not made very much money at all, but I’ll still have to go through the process of tax returns etc.

An enquiry about an online allotment talk might put something in my diary for the coming weeks though.


That’s all from me this week. Stay safe and take care.


The Revolving Door of Lockdown TWTW # 108

Back into Lockdown, thanks to an incompetent government that puts GDP and being popular above social values and doing the right thing.


The thing that I’ve missed the most this week is only being able to get out of the house for exercise once a day. I think Ruby has missed it just as much as me. I’ve been out each day first thing, for our daily dog walk, as it’s early it seems to make the day feel much longer, particularly by lunchtime.

I do support the lockdown though, it’s needed, but I do wonder why our government can’t see it’s own mistakes and look to those countries who have managed to curb the virus and haven’t gone into a succession of rollercoaster lockdowns and restrictions.


Reading. Falling back on favourites I read The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter, which I enjoyed although couldn’t help thinking that he was writing this with a possible transfer to the small screen in mind (which happened). I also read A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough, which was a bit of a busman’s holiday and a little disappointing. Not because it wasn’t very well written and very truthful and accurate but because despite the profile of the author I think it will do very little to change the way the world is. I think I am increasingly becoming resigned to the fact that as a race we won’t do the things that we must do to prevent our own extinction as a species. Collectively we are too selfish, there are individuals who are living within their own means but overall I fear that we will continue to destroy the planet. I don’t want to turn this into a rant but there is no prospect that world governments can sort this out.


Watching. Not much really. A few repeats, and we’ve been enjoying Rick Stein’s new Cornwall series and Ann has binged watched the BBC series Traces (this one wasn’t really for me). Otherwise the TV’s not been on all that much.


Allotment. We’ve had a serious cold snap this week, parts of the country have had a good blanket of snow, and although we seem to have escaped that, we’ve had a good frost each night. I’m pleased because that is good for the garlic that I planted (cold weather is needed to help the garlic form cloves within the the bulb), and good for killing some of the bugs and other pests that will otherwise proliferate in the spring. It has meant that I’ve not been able to do much else on the plot itself however as the ground has been frozen most of the time. It looks like we might be in for some warmer weather in the coming week though.


Work. For me the working year has yet to take off. I’ve been looking through some reports that were published at the end of last year that I didn’t manage to read before Christmas but that are important documents in my line of work and I will have to understand for a couple of projects that I am due to be working on. I suspect that the new lockdown will once again disrupt much of this work though.


I spent some of my time this week sorting through a box of old family photos. I remember many of the times the images captured but not all, possibly because I was too young or just wasn’t present for them. I’ve still got a lot to go through, there are many boxes of slides to look through and that will undoubtedly be more time consuming. Many of the photos contain the ghosts of people who are no longer with us, and again some of whom I recognise and a few that I don’t (some have the names of subjects written on the back but many will probably be lost to time).


I seem to have picked up the “Week That Was” series again but I’m still struggling to write something sensible, so for now I will say until next time, but Stay Safe and I hope you remain fit and healthy.

The Weeks To Come 2021

I had planned to write and publish this yesterday, but I really didn’t feel up to it. Mentally I lurch from frustration to fear about the world outside my front door. I think that I am becoming more of a hermit each day.

I guess 2020 won’t be a hard act to follow, but then again 2021 probably has a lot to live up to. I’m not expecting much real change until at least the summer and honestly I am expecting our government to totally mess-up the vaccination programme or at the very least turn them into super-spreader events, particularly with the rise of a new variant.

This isn’t going to be a regular post, as not much has changed in the last week. I’ve been doing nothing of much consequence, although thinking a lot about the coming year and what I want from it. I talked about this a little in my end of year post and haven’t much to add to that.


Reading. I’ve read a couple of books this last week. Raven Black by Ann Cleeves (if you’ve watched the BBC’s Shetland series, it’s based on these books, and this one a story in one of the early seasons). It took me over the new year period and meant that I have already hit my GoodReads target so absolutely no pressure now to read books. Of course that isn’t going to stop me and I’ve read Grace Dent’s memoir Hungry which I will say is very honest, at times very funny and at others completely heartbreaking. It covers Dent’s fathers dementia, and honestly was a little too close to some of my experiences, so was at time very hard going, but I did finish it.


Watching. We’ve been catching up on a lot of Christmas specials, but also watching series 2 of Endeavor as it’s been repeated in the week between Christmas and New Year. Despite being a fan of Inspector Morse and Lewis this has passed us by until quite recently. Enjoyable but has an annoying cliffhanger ending to the series, which doesn’t look like we’ll see the resolution to anytime soon as the next series doesn’t appear to be in the schedules yet.


Allotment. I went down to the allotment yesterday. It really is my happy place in terms of being able to clear my head. I did a little bit of digging and some weeding and had a good think about the coming seasons and what I’m going to plant where. I came away feeling much more level.

I’ve sown some sweet peas this week. They’re seeds that I saved from the plants in my Mum’s garden. They’re a very constant memory of growing up in that house. They were always there, on a particular wall, just along from a passion flower bush. Mum used to describe them as everlasting sweet peas. I’m not sure whether that’s because they are a particular variety (there are plenty of varieties with that name) or whether it’s simply because she just used to let them self-seed in the same place each year.



Well that’s it for now. I’m not sure whether I’m going back to posting weekly or not, so there may or may not be something coming in a weeks time. In the meantime, however long that might be; Take Care and Stay Safe.

Tiers to the Eyes TWTW # 106

Our Christmas tree is up. We caved and put it up this week. Like many people it seems that with everything shitty that is going on in the world having a bit of joy is worth every penny and so enjoying the Christmas tree for a week or two more than we might normally? Yeah why not.

Like many our Christmas will be different this year, and we’re going to embrace that rather than try to
shoe-horn our “traditional” celebrations into a pandemic. We won’t be mixing and potentially spreading covid amongst our loved ones.

Thinking about this has got me thinking about Christmases of old. There were a number of years where we had a very fixed format. At the time my Great Grandmother had had a number of strokes and was quite severely disabled by them, she wasn’t mobile and couldn’t speak. She was in a nursing home and we would visit her through the year but on Christmas morning my Mum and Grandma would go and see her, while my Dad and I would go and pick up my Great Auntie. We’d collect her mid-morning and kill some time playing Monopoly until we were ready to gather for our Christmas lunch, meeting up with my Mum, Grandma and her partner Bill. Six of us for Christmas lunch, occasionally with my Mum’s sister joining us. Lunch was timed so that we could finish in time to watch The Queen’s Christmas address, and was always delicious.
After lunch and The Queen, most of us would fall asleep, as a youngster then I’d sit and watch whatever the BBC or ITV had to offer as their Christmas afternoon film.

I’m not sure how many years this carried on for, but I can remember going from being at primary school to being able to drive and chauffeuring the various members of the family about. Latterly my Great Grandmother had passed on and arrangements changed slightly.

Over the years since the arrangements have changed further, as has the member of the family taking the lead. Nowadays that tends to be me but of course this year will be different again.


So how have you been doing this week? We’ve come out of the second lockdown and now depending on where you live we’re in tiers, or perhaps that should be tears? News of vaccines seems very promising but it will still take a little time before we are able to relax our precautions.

Fortunately we haven’t had to have any further trips to the vets and Ruby seems to have returned to normal. So our dog walks and other arrangements seem to be normalised too.


I’ve been reading some more Inspector Morse this week – The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter – I think the rest of this year is going to be seen out by continuing with Morse, Maigret, Cadfael and the characters of Alistair Maclean.


I’ve been enjoying my tea advent calendar, making a bit of a morning ritual about seeing what each new days tea is. I’ve been posting each days tea on my Instagram stories.


Austin Kleon – How To Break in a Sharpie





Not much more to add this week. I’m winding up my work for the year and starting to think about goals, targets and some personal development things for next year over the next couple of weeks. I want to invest some proper time in this given how much of an impact coronavirus has had this year now seems to be a good time to be having a hard think about future direction.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stay safe and well.

Of Nighttime Smells & Sleep Deprivation TWTW # 105

This is possibly going to be another one of those posts that doesn’t make much sense as it’s typed by sleep deprived fingers and brain.

This week has been quite busy with the first half involving some long video conference calls on a particular project that is looking to make up some ground on the basis of being delayed for most of this year. The latter half by lack of sleep due to a poorly dog. There’s not much that I can say about the work stuff, and you probably don’t want to know about the dog stuff in detail, suffice to say that it’s involved a couple of trips to the vets, some moderately expensive bills and several nights that have been punctuated by rather smelly trips into the garden. The dog is feeling very sorry for herself, and has seemingly attached to me like a limpet and I would really just like a snooze.


I didn’t read all that much this week, but I did read the Maigret novel Lock Nº 1. I’m not sure whether it was the fact I was reading in the evenings when I was tired (see above) but I really didn’t enjoy it. I found it a confusing read and it seemed out of place in the series. I’m intending to go back and read it again because it seems unlikely that it was that bad given how good these novels normally are. This was reinforced by also reading the Maigret novel (The Liberty Bar) that immediately precedes it in the chronology straight afterwards and finding that one to be an absolute humdinger.


Deneholes – no, I’d never heard of them either (Alastair Humphrey’s exploration of his local OS map, one square at a time continues)


Ever had a truly memorable cup of coffee?


I had reason to ring customer service for one of the major supermarkets this week. Despite the recorded announcement telling me that they were extremely busy, my call was answered in less than a minute by a true star of customer service.

He told me that until recently he’d been a stand-up comedian but now he was working as a customer service rep as covid had pretty much wiped out his old worklife. He did this while he was efficiently dealing with my issue, which in the grand scheme of things was pretty banal. We chatted as we waited for “the system” to do it’s thing and then I was on my way and he to the next person. It was a short interaction but it’s stuck in my mind to write about today. I’m not sure whether he’s any good as a stand-up, maybe I should have asked him to tell me a joke, but he’s certainly got it nailed as a customer service rep until he can get back on the stage.


I took some photographs of the Moon & Mars on one evening this week. Mars was almost directly above the Moon and really easy to see with the naked eye. Here’s a quick slideshow:


It looks like good news with my Mum, it’s now been three weeks, and the mild symptoms that she appeared to be suffering from have mostly disappeared. There were several infections in the home that she was in and all but two have managed to get through it without needing significant medical intervention. If progress continues in this way it might mean that the residents can all have a Christmas that whilst it won’t be normal by any stretch of the imagination will be way better than being in quarantine.


Advent starts this week, and I’m looking forward to tucking into my tea advent calendar.


Right I’m stopping here, hope you all have a good week. Whatever you’re doing stay safe and take care.


A Boy and His Dog TWTW # 104

Hope everyone is safe and well, we seem to be doing okay, although I must admit to being a little bit surprised it’s Sunday again and I’m writing this. They say time flies when you’re having fun, well it seems to pass quite quickly under lockdown too.


I have a fairly busy week coming up so some of this week has been around getting things ready for it. More Teams and Zoom in my near future. I’ve been chasing a client for confirmation that they were happy with a price I’d quoted, as they seem to be sending me various meeting requests for a project but with no formal confirmation that they want me involved. A slight aside, I’ve been burnt before when something similar happened and when I submitted a bill they refused to pay it because they hadn’t formally confirmed they wanted me involved. So now I always make sure I have something in writing.


We started feeding the garden birds again this week. I reckon it took the starlings about 3 minutes to realise that there were mealworms in the feeder once again.


My Mum continues to be mostly symptom free but has had a couple of days where she has said she doesn’t feel too great. Technically today marks the day when she is no longer considered infectious. I suspect that what happens next more depends on what is happening more widely in the care home, so time will tell.


Lots of talk of Covid vaccine(s), which looks promising. I’ve also had my flu jab this week.


I finished reading The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters and dove straight into an Alistair Maclean – The Way To Dusty Death (I was sure that I’d read this before but I don’t remember the story so perhaps not). GoodReads told me that this was the 80th book I’d read this year. I’d set my target at 20, expecting to be busy with a couple of projects and a few other things, but you know Covid happened, lockdowns, less work; so a 400% achievement. It does feel like I’ve read some authors more than others though so I had a look and about a third are across; Maclean, Ellis, Dexter, Simenon, Camilleri & Herron. By genre I’d say this is more typical of a younger me or perhaps comfort reading as I’ve tended towards more non-fiction of recent years. Whatever it is I’m grateful that I’ve been able to read as much as I have this year.



I’ve been listening to The Shadow Over Innsmouth this week. I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it. If you’ve not come across this series before you should go back and listen to The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer in Darkness which are the preceding series, and although they stand alone they work much better if you have listened from the beginning. The link above will give you all three. Recommended.


I was sorting through lots of old photographs this week, and I came across several of the pets I had as a child. I say they were mine, but they were of course family pets although I do remember them all fondly. Here’s a quick slide show.


I made some more Tea Bread this week, and recorded a short video of the process.


Looking Up

Hungry Birds


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Stay safe and take care.


Who Are You? Who Am I? TWTW # 103

I’m writing this on Sunday morning after being woken up at 2.50am, 4am and 5.45am by dogs who: wanted to get on the bed / needed to go for a pee / wanted their breakfast. Suffice to say if this is complete nonsense – or at least more nonsense that usual – you know why.

How are you doing?


We heard on Tuesday that Mum tested positive for coronavirus. So far she’s only showing mild symptoms so our hopes are that she will remain that way. Her test was on the Sunday before so today is the mid-point of what the doctors are saying is her infectious period. We’ve been in touch with her on the phone most days, and I really appreciate the staff in the home, some of whom have also caught the virus, for looking after her and all the other residents during this time. The simple task of taking a phone to Mum and all the rigmarole of changing PPE before and after, sanitising the phone and all the other task they now have to do that they didn’t before must be stressful enough without the added concern that they are constantly at risk of exposure themselves. Standing on our doorsteps clapping (haven’t seen much of that recently) just simply isn’t enough. Carers, nurses and all the other essential workers that we rely on, not just in these times but all the time just are not recognised for what they do and are certainly not appropriately recompensed.


Lockdown life certainly makes things a little quieter. My trips out have been to get groceries and to walk the dogs. The weather put pay to any serious work on the allotment this week, so that was also combined with a dog walk. I’ve been doing a few jobs around the house including repair our back step which had become pretty rotten. I managed to make the repairs with leftover wood and fixings from other projects. I like these little projects where in reality I have no formal training or skills but life has made me wise enough to work out what needs doing and do it.

The rest of my time has been spent thinking about Mum and generally trying to stay sane.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking and cooking this week. I enjoy making our meals from scratch and this week it’s as much been about distracting my brain as anything else. I always have a few basics and change other ingredients around by what I have on the allotment or have bought. The onion and parsnip soup that I mentioned last week, sprout chilli this week. With just the two of us many of these last for a couple of nights and then I move on to something else.


I’ve gotten through another Inspector Morse mystery this week – The Secret of Annexe 3 by Colin Dexter. I wasn’t actually planning on reading another one so soon, but after drifting between other things I picked this one up one evening and read it across a few days. I moved onto a Brother Cadfael – The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters after that which I’m still reading. It’s early days, no one has died yet.


Looking for something to do during lockdown but are tired of jigsaw puzzles – well you could always try this.


The Emboughered by Dickie Straker

The Lookout Cookbook

A Single Map is Enough

First Mile Podcast

Tim Ferris – Podcast with Scott Kelly


Ding Dong (best played with sound). I’m glad he’s gone, I’d have been happier if he’d been sacked after his “eye-test”. My fear is that he’s already done so much damage that it can’t be undone and on January 1st we’ll truly start to see just what a piece of work he really is.


Until next time – stay safe and take care.

Teams Zoom-a-thon TWTW # 101

I forgot to mention last week that I’d made some grape jelly. We harvested the relatively small amount of grapes from our vine in the potting shed and converted it to jelly. We ended up with 4 jars. We have also since given it the taste test. It’s pretty good, although I think Ann likes it better than I do. I put some Star Anise in when I was cooking it and this has given it quite a unique taste, I’m not sure I care for it.


I was saddened to read that Sir Sean Connery had died


I’ve been reading an Inspector Montalbano mystery this week – The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri – and when I finished that I moved straight to an Inspector Morse – The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter. I seem to be wanting to read a lot of mystery novels at the moment. Not sure why, maybe it’s just a part of my brain that wants to be entertained in a certain way.

We’ve also watched a couple of Inspector Morse mysteries on TV as reruns. It seems that the series are being reshown from the beginning, so I’ve set our digibox up to record them as they are shown. It will give us something to watch as we enter the new national lockdown.


Workwise this week has been a round of virtual meetings. I have to say that depending on which client I am talking to their videoconference platform of choice varies. There’s a lot of Zoom and the rest seem to be Teams, with the odd Facetime or Googlehangout for some variety. Of all of them Teams seems to be the worst, although they all have their varying problems, the variety means that I get to experience them all. At the moment I’d much rather use them than have to travel for face-to-face meetings but I’m not convinced that it is a mature technology yet, despite the extensive field testing it’s getting.


Neil Gaiman’s Halloween Reading for 2020


More photos back from the developer this week. This was the black and white roll that I took more or less the same time as the roll of colour that I shared some pics from last week. Anyway some examples from the second roll below.


Work on the allotment has been a bit limited this week due to inclement weather. I’ve managed to do some weeding and some digging to keep things moving in the right direction but that’s about all.


I doubt it will all be over by this time next week, and frankly I still think it could go either way.


So it looks as if we are going back into another National Lockdown, assuming that the Prime Minister can get the new restrictions through Parliament. It’s going to be much harder this time I suspect, and possibly harder for the authorities to enforce.


That’s it for this week. Stay safe and well.

TWTW # 100

Life’s a beach as they say…


Work has been fairly quiet this week, with a few queries about on going projects and potential new ones. Not much to report on that front.


I’ve been reading Rowland White’s – Harrier 809 as mentioned last time. I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as I thought I was going to when I wrote about it last week. I would recommend it though if you have any memories of that quite iconic airplane or that time of history.


I did get back one of my rolls of film this week, I expect to get the other one shortly (they had a problem matching the developing liquid to the film, so we’ve gone for a work around). I was pleased with the results. There’s a little slideshow of some of them below.


Our government doesn’t seem to care about child poverty and hunger.


There’s not much else to say this week. The week ahead looks like it’s going to be a bit busier work wise, but other than that I have no specific plans.

Take Care and Stay Safe.