Analogue Sunshine TWTW # 78

Hello again, thanks for stopping by.

This week Summer seemed to arrive. Temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, cloudless sunny skies.

Time felt like it was well spent this week, whether it was work related or something else. Days felt like they were packed.

As the week wore on and it got hotter it became harder to sleep at night and I can’t say I was disappointed when things cooled down again on Friday.


You might remember that for my birthday I asked for some 35mm film for my old cameras, my friend Christian (@documentally), also gave me a couple of additional film cameras when we last met and I duly loaded up a roll. I exposed about half the roll and then things started to get a little sketchy with coronavirus and then lockdown happened, and I didn’t make much more progress with the rest of the roll. Now that lockdown has eased a little I managed to get out and finish up the rest of the roll. The processing “stores” are also open again now, and I packaged up the roll and sent it off. I got a call Saturday to say it had been received and that they’d get it in the post and on it’s way back to me after the bank holiday. So hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week.


It’s the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a film that I remember going to see with my Dad, a trip in the school holidays on a day that it was pouring with rain. We bonded over the original Star Wars trilogy and again over the prequels, so they hold a special place for me. I rewatched Empire last Friday to revisit those times a bit, and because it’s a great movie.


Work’s been quiet this last week, after a flurry of activity. I’ve had a few things to follow up on, but most days have been short. With a bank holiday and in theory half-term holidays, I expect the week ahead to be even quieter.


I finished reading Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw and then read Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – the first in the Martin Beck series. I enjoyed both, although I did think that the Martin Beck story became a little convoluted towards the end, with the murderer identified it took a long time to bring the story to its conclusion.

I seem to have slipped into another Maigret novel – Maigret and the Pickpocket – since then, which I may well have finished by the time you read this.


What we inherit when we inherit books

Should you keep books in pristine condition?

12 classic novels coronavirus lockdown would have absolutely ruined


I bet Dominic Cummings didn’t abide by this advice either.


I heard from my local garage this week too, they have now managed to order the part for my car, and all being well they are going to fit it in the coming week (assuming that it turns up as planned). I’ve been managing so far, but have always felt that things were a little touch and go at times, so I’ll be glad to get the repair done.


Time on the allotment this week ranged from covering up the fruit bushes to prevent the birds getting to the ripening fruit and then planting out the brassicas that I’ve been growing from seed.

They also needed to be covered to prevent pigeons getting to them and also to keep the cabbage white butterflies from laying their eggs on them and their caterpillars then decimating the crop.

A lot of growing on the allotment or in any garden is about balancing between growing things that you can eat and preventing other things from eating them.


That’s all I have for this week. Stay safe.


Lockdown Locks TWTW # 77

Well it’s been a week of video calls and conferences, phone calls and other physically distanced conversations. Some of my calls went about as well as the one below, but most were much better.

You can also see one of mine that was recorded for my review of The Cabinet of Calm, which was posted last Saturday and can be found here.

Outside of that I’ve enjoyed extra dog walks, now back to at least twice a day since Wednesday, but otherwise our routine has been the same and we’re still observing the previous lockdown rules, although sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones who are. It seems to me that the muddled and confusing messages from government about returning to work, not using public transport and reopening of certain businesses are likely to lead to a resurgence of cases if the VE Day street parties and BBQs where people were getting pretty pissed and behaving exactly as they would pre-coronavirus don’t.


How are your lockdown locks doing? I think it’s nearly a 100 days since I had a trip to the barbers for my usual haircut and actually it doesn’t seem to growing as fast as it normally seems to between shearings. It was suggested that I was looking a little “Grizzly Adams” this week, but I think that was more in relation to the beard than the scruffy hair. As things go I doubt I’ll be attempting a home cut any time soon, but then I also can’t see me that keen about returning to my barbers if things stay the same, even if they’re not likely to be able to reopen until July.

How are you doing have you gone for the home haircut or complete buzzcut or like me are you just letting it do it’s own thing?


I finished reading London Rules by Mick Herron, and it was pretty damn good. I started reading Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw, but haven’t made that much progress with that at this point. After that I have a pile of things to read still not to mention a kindle that is bulging at the metaphorical seams.

If like me you’ve been struggling to read, artist Austin Kleon had some thoughts on this last week.


I’ve been enjoying listening to a new (to me) podcast this week. Field Recordings is a short daily podcast of – yes it’s exactly what it says on the tin – audio recordings made in the “field” (not necessarily in an actual field).


With various other things going on I’ve not spent that much time on the allotment this week, although the allotment shop is now open again, with a nifty little one way system in operation and only one customer allowed inside at a time.

We also had our first harvest of broad beans of the season. They ended up in a pasta dish with some feta cheese, onion, pepper and garlic dressing. They were lovely. I love eating broad beans, and we’ll have plenty more to come by the looks of things.

It looks like the weather will be warming up again, so it might be time to plant out some of the plants that are waiting to go. I also need to try and cover up the gooseberries and loganberries. It looks like being another good year for them and if I don’t cover them soon, the birds will get them as soon as they’re ripe.


Television gardener Monty Don reported the death of his dog Nigel this week.


There have been a couple of particularly poignant posts on the Last Word on Nothing this week:

The Cat and the Coronavirus

My Father Isn’t

One or both will likely make you cry.


Contrary to internet urban legend, what Neil Gaiman has actually been doing.


That’s about it for this week. Stay Safe.



 

Just Walking The Dog # TWTW 76

Well another week is over and another one starts. At the moment it’s bright and sunny out there, if a little windy and we’re just back from our blustery dog walk. It might be that later in the week we can also reinstate our second dog walk. Although that remains to be seen.

The lockdown rules are set to change this week, and although a second dog walk each day (or unlimited exercise as seems to be the rumour would be welcome) ultimately I suspect this means little or no change for our daily routine. This week gone like those that have preceded it has been very much about a routine. Some work, some household stuff and some leisure activities. We have dogs to walk but no kids to homeschool or any of the other things that many of you out there are having to cope with. In many ways we’re lucky in that respect.


Work this week has consisted of some conference calls (yes those are still a thing), some video calls, and some planning for video calls. It’s a steady if significantly reduced stream of things to do. My income is definitely down, but hopefully only temporarily.


I feel like I’m really behind with the allotment now. I’m still bringing along seedlings that I see other people on social media and neighbouring plot holders already planting out. I’m not sure that I am though, and maybe this is just a false impression of finally having the plot more or less ready to go, but nothing yet ready to plant out. It’s strange because at one point I thought I was going to have loads of seedlings and no access to the plot to be able to plant them out.


I’ve started reading the next book by Mick Herron in the Jackson Lamb series – London Rules – I was going to save this after finishing Spook Street last week, and read something else, but the temptation was just to strong. It’s good, and this series has gotten better over time. I find myself highlighting patches of dialogue and text just because they’re good or because the humour appeals to me. There’s one more in the series after this one, and I think another on the way but these have been a little bit like an addiction and soon they will all have been read. I am going to resist buying the next one for as long as possible.


I’ve been enjoying watching these sorts of videos this week.


 

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I’ve been looking for a new pair of headphones for a while. Principally I need something for listening to podcasts and making phone calls, and wireless. I had an old pair of “fake” airpods, and whilst they weren’t bad they had a really short battery life but other than that they pretty much fitted the bill, over time however the battery life got shorter to the point of being unusable.

I have now replaced them with a pair of Anker Soundcore Life P2 wireless headphones. They actually came over a week ago but I hadn’t had a chance to try them out properly but now I have and I’m impressed. They’re perfect for listening to podcasts and call quality is good. Battery life is impressive, I have yet to manage to fully discharge them before returning them to their little charging box. The stated time is 7 hrs per ear pod and with charging in the case upto 40 hours total. This seems likely but as I say haven’t had a chance to test them to extreme, suffice to say they more than last for my usage.

You can use both together or either pod individually which again means you can push the battery life further. Price wise mine were under £30 at the time I bought them, but they were on offer, so price may have gone back up again, so worth shopping around. They come with several sizes of ear pieces so you can find the one that best suits your own ear, and when fitted they block out a lot of external noise. They’re not noise cancelling but I only ever use one when I’m out walking so I can still hear what’s going on around me if I need to.


The BBC have put up a whole load of photos of empty sets that can be used as backgrounds for Zoom or other video calling software packages. So if you fancy being in the tardis or Dell Boy’s flat these could be for you.


I meant to post this in last weeks post, but forgot about it. Here’s a blog post from David Quammen regarding Coronavirus. David wrote the excellent book Spillover which pretty much predicted where we are now.


That’s it for this week, not sure what I’m up to this week, as I have a few things in my diary that are “tentative” so I could be quite busy or not so much.

Take care out there and stay safe.


Goonies  Reunited


 

Weeding & Seeding TWTW # 75

In another time, I’d have been at the dentist this past week, but as politicians and journalists seem to be keen to remind us the “new normal” means those sorts of appointments are not, at present, part of those arrangements. Admittedly I will not miss having to pay the bill.

Otherwise it’s been a quiet week, I’ve mostly been doing a little work, reading, watching the moon, listening to the rain fall and to owls hooting somewhere behind the house.


I had a trip to the allotment to do as much weeding as I could. Mostly this was on areas dug over the winter where the weeds have already started to regrow. They’re now ready for planting / sowing. I’ve also been sowing seeds which I hope are germinating in the potting shed as I type. Mostly squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes and a few other things. I’ve decided with the problems that I’ve had with sweetcorn over the last couple of years that I’m going to give sweetcorn a miss this year. As soon as the temperatures are warm enough these will be planted out.


I’ve had a couple of enquiries this week asking if I would be interested in a couple of contracts. Obviously the answer was yes, but at this stage these are only expression of interest so I’m not clear as to whether they will progress or not. It’s nice to know however that there is still some work out there.

The opportunity to continue giving garden talks via the internet rather than in person isn’t taking off. I can’t say I’m surprised given the average age of the regular audience it always looked like they would struggle with a video webinar approach. I’ve had a few enquiries but they’ve never progressed. It looks as though the remaining couple of in-person talks that I’m due to give will also be cancelled, and quite rightly. The “new normal” might well mean that talks in person don’t happen again for some time.


Forget homeschooling during the pandemic. Teach life skills instead.


Much debate as to whether the government should bailout Virgin airways, and Richard Branson’s forgetfulness about how another one of his companies once sued the NHS. There’s an interesting account of the latter here. Personally I don’t think we should be bailing out any airlines. We did it with FlyBe before the coronavirus outbreak and they proved unsustainable and I see that we have already bailed out EasyJet and promised them a reduction in “green” taxes. Perhaps the time is for any large bailouts for environmentally damaging industries should be directly linked to green recovery rather than given breaks to get around existing environmental legislation. Then again this is ultimately a Tory government and that seems unlikely that it would ever happen.


Michael Moore has produced a climate change “documentary”. I’ve watched it to save you the trouble, my synopsis: it’s a pile of 5h1t don’t waste your time, and perhaps YouTube should take it down.


I’ve been reading Spook Street by Mick Herron over the last few days. The fourth book in the Jackson Lamb series, it’s been pretty good so far but my progress has been quite slow. I also had some details come through for a book that I’d agreed to review, and that will be next. I’ll talk more about the latter in due course.



A couple of weeks ago we ran out of bird seed for the garden birds and I’ve been trying not to order things unnecessarily or at least to combine things so that we only have one delivery with several things in it every couple of weeks or so. One of these deliveries this week included bird seed, a 12 kilo bag which will hopefully last a while, although looking at how much the birds are getting through since we refilled the feeders, I might have misjudged how long it will last, I probably should add another bag to the next combined order.


We watched The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society  last night. I have to say I’ve been put off from watching this film due to it’s rather odd title for some time. However I have to say that I actually really enjoyed it. A gentle watch, which is always welcome at the moment and I’ll certainly give it another watch.


I’m out of here. Stay safe and well.



 

TWTW # 74

I’m a little late posting this because of, well home baking and online shopping basically. My days are a little less structured, which can make for doing things at interesting times.


This past week has been a little bit of a repeat of the one before. In a bizarre lockdown twist I can’t get my car fixed because although the garages are open, the parts stores (or at least the one that supplies the parts for my car) are not. The mechanic was quite frustrated because a lot of his customers are in the same boat (car). Whilst there is a lot of logic to the lockdown there are some illogical twists in terms of what / who is considered essential and what / who isn’t. Anyway it’s on their list to do as soon as circumstances allow. I can still drive it but only on short journeys with a large bottle of water in the boot just in case. I’m obviously not using it much so the impact is minimal for now. Please keep your fingers crossed for me or be like that little Dutch boy and use your finger to plug a virtual hole.


I’ve had quite a bit of work to do this week as one of my clients’ projects suddenly became live again. It’s good for me and has occupied a good proportion of my week and looks as though I will actually have a bill to send out at the end of the month. I’ve also been trying to do my tax return, but having problems with my National Insurance contributions. One part of the system says it’s one figure (which I agree with) and the other part says that it a significantly lesser amount that is clearly wrong. Phoning the helpline didn’t help (no surprise there), so I am awaiting a virtual solution. It’s likely to be a long wait given that most of the relevant staff are busy processing claims for Universal Credit and other schemes as a result of the lockdown. It’s not a major problem, and I at least know how much tax I owe, even if the government can’t add it up right.


My unexpected work meant that I haven’t had as much time for reading this week, but I did read CS Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew. I thought that I would reread the Narnia stories and decided to start at the beginning (if not the publication order). I think I was probably about 8 or 9 years old when I last read these books and back then I started with LW&W like most everybody else. I also started reading The Bloodline Feud by Charles Stross, which is the first to books in the Merchant Princes series (and prequels to Empire Games and Dark State, which I’ve mentioned here before). I’ve had the book on my kindle for a while so it’s hopefully another step in reducing the pile of books to be read.


We’ve been catching up on Marvel films this week, or rather Mrs Tonto has been watching the ones she missed in the cinema and I’ve been enjoying rewatching. Captain Marvel and  Avengers: End Game have been our choices, as well as watching some classic comedy; Hi-De-Hi (which doesn’t stand up very well).


A bit more digging and seed sowing (purple sprouting broccoli & parsnips) on the allotment, but otherwise my time there has been limited both by work and the lockdown. Where everyone else seems to be really getting on with their plots mine feels a little slower this year. But that might just be a false impression, although I do need to get some more seeds sown in the week ahead if I can.


Another short one this week, I’d like to say that I’m up to some exciting things this week, and who knows maybe I will be but it does seem a little bit unlikely. Anyway, I hope that you stay safe and well in the week ahead.

The Day is My Oyster TWTW # 73

This week has been a pretty stressful one. I’m not intending to go into  detail, but let’s just say additional isolation caused by coronavirus lockdown and Alzheimer’s are not good bedfellows.

To make matters worse my car has sprung a coolant leak which I can’t get access to fix so I’ve had to track down a garage that is open and willing to have a look at the problem. Where this falls within the realms of essential or non-essential isn’t clear but without the car it’s going to be difficult to do some of the things that are essential.


This week has also been one where I’ve had literally no appointments in my diary relating to work. There have been a few emails going back and forth but no day has been fully focused on work. It’s also  been a short week because of the Bank Holiday, but that seems like a comment of a time long ago rather than something that was relevant just a couple of months ago. It also looks unlikely that the early May Bank Holiday which was shifted to accomodate VE Day celebrations is going to have the meaning that it might otherwise have had 75 years after the original date.


We spent a couple of evenings this week re-watching Bond films – Skyfall Spectre. We’ve mostly been watching things we’ve previously recorded or have on DVD – reruns of Father Brown, Carry On films – anything gentle that avoids the 24-7 news churn.

I’ve also been watching the new series of Bosch on Amazon which has been one of the highlights in what otherwise has been a pretty stressful week. A show made for binge watching if ever there was one.


I finished reading Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On and started a Maigret novel, The Grand Banks Cafe. Despite what should be lots of extra free time my reading rate has slowed right down, I think because I’m doing other things and at the end of the day (my usual reading time), I’m too tired to stay awake for very long.

I think books are important right now and I loved this story of a bag of mystery books.

We’re still awaiting the outcome of the public consultation on the future of our local libraries. Given the personality of the decision maker it’s fairly likely to be bad news as he lacks the imagination to do anything other than close enough of them to make the budget balance. Perversely this means that my local library will probably escape as it’s the one that serves his local patch – gotta look after his own image afterall.


I’ve had some seedlings to transplant into bigger growing modules this week, they’re too small to go out on the allotment yet. They’re cabbage and cauliflower plants, but because the sun faded the ink on the tray labels I can’t yet tell which is which until the plants themselves get a little bigger. I know I have a roughly equal proportion of each but not sure which is which yet!

We had some rain at the end of the week, which has helped soften up the soil on the allotment a bit so I did manage to get some digging done for some of my daily exercise.


Another short one this week, I’ll be trying to get my car back on the road this coming week and then seeing how things play out. I hope wherever you, you stay safe and well.

Supermoon Flatbread TWTW # 72

It’s been a gloriously sunny week here, even the day they said it was going to be a bit gloomy was a good one. The slight perversity of having a bank holiday weekend when the weather is smashing but we can’t go out has not escaped the attention. Whatever happened to those old fashioned bank holidays were the weather was miserable and so was everyone stuck indoors? As I write this on a Sunday afternoon, it feels slightly dystopian being at home and all that I can hear are the sounds of police sirens and then more police sirens. I’m not sure what’s going on but I guess someone isn’t having a good day.


Although it is small I am very grateful for our back garden and very conscious that not everyone is as lucky as we are. I’ve been spending quite a bit of each afternoon sitting in the garden reading a book.

My reading this week has mostly been on my Kindle and has been Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On, the first part of the book is ten years worth (2005 – 2015) of his diaries and I think I’ve made it to about 2010 and am still going and have yet to get to the remainder of the book. I’m finding that I am able to concentrate on it which is something that I’ve recently struggled to do. Maybe the lockdown is just becoming the new norm and I’m adjusting to it?


I wrote last week about having been forced to go into town after failing to be able to do something online. Well I did achieve this and picked up some medication that the pharmacy has been holding for me. Town was strange. In places it was downright ghostly, in others it seemed that there were far more people out and about than there should have been. Going to the pharmacy was the weirdest part of all. It’s one of the only shops open in a large 1970’s built shopping centre (mall). The building management has opened a route up so that you can walk from either side of the shopping centre to the pharmacy and out again, but everywhere else is barricaded off. I wish I’d taken a photo of it but if you’ve ever watched any film that has a pandemic or other global emergency at it’s centre you already know what it looked like.

Speaking of which I’ve been watching season 9 of The Walking Dead this week (if you haven’t seen it yet but are going to, then best skip ahead as there are some small spoilers to follow). The series has been losing it’s way a bit for a while now, and with the deaths (both real and perceived) of major characters really seems to have lost itself completely. I still want to watch season 10 when it becomes free to view but I’m certainly not going to pay to watch it.


There was a Supermoon midweek, and I went out into the garden with my camera and a tripod and spent some time trying to get a good shot. It was a little cloudy and some of the shots were obscured a little by that but I got a few that were pleasing to me, which is what counts.

There are a couple more to come this year, but this one is where the moon is closest to the earth so the others won’t be quite as impressive. If you’re interested there are some more of other people’s photos here.


I’ve been making flatbreads this week – just flour, salt, water and oil, makes a perfect little wrap which you can stuff with whatever you like. I was using up some roast chicken and mixing it with some homemade bbq sauce, green peppers and white onion.

I’ve also been reading about sourdough revived from ancient Egypt (by the guy who invented the X-Box) and the sourdough library.

I also want to try this Spinach Dip if I can.


My social media abstinence for Lent has come to an end, but it’s the strangest thing. When Lent was over I reinstalled the apps on my phone and logged back in, but that’s all I’ve really done. I did look at Instagram for a bit and also Twitter, but I just felt a bit disconnected from the whole thing, like gazing into an abyss. I’m not sure what happens next, I guess I’ll just wait and see. I haven’t posted yet, and in previous times I lived in lists in Twitter to make it as locked down as possible, it might be I do a similar version but with lists that are even more locked down.

It does seem as if I didn’t shut down all of the autoposting I thought I had in my absence and this blog was still posting a link to twitter with every post. I didn’t realise and there’s no point in doing anything about it now, but there must be a setting buried somewhere that I didn’t find – because I thought I’d found them all.

If you’re interested I’m @tontowilliams on both Instagram and Twitter, if you don’t already follow me come and say “hi” who knows you might be the one to break my fast! Also it means that I can go back to posting links here again.


JRR Tolkein was right about the trees.


I used one of my exercise allowances to visit the allotment to plant out some broad beans and sow a few seeds. It’s amazing how quickly the plot went from being a soggy mess to rock hard and impenetrable to any hand tool known to man. I was trying to hammer some supports for my loganberries into the ground and had to water the ground to soften it first as the posts were just bouncing off. I feel a little like I’m on borrowed time with the allotment if the lockdown were to get any worse, and so have also been making space in the garden for some extra pots with veg in. Hopefully we’ll end up with a surplus that we can give away.


Well that’s about it for this week folks. I seem to have written far more that I’d intended to, or thought I had words to write. In these times of limited travel and adventure (yeah right when did I ever do those two things), that’s not bad.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well, and I’ll catch you later.