TWTW # 120

Greetings from a Sunny Easter Weekend, whatever meaning this weekend may have for you, I hope this missive finds you safe and well.

We’ve had our follow up visits to the vet this week and some more not great news. Wilson has a couple of additional issues with respect to his gall bladder and blood pressure, which need treatment. Suffice to say this will involve some further long term medication for him. In himself he is a very happy little dog and I hope that he will long remain that way but like us all as we age, illnesses arise.


Reading. You remember those mental rabbit holes I talked about a couple of weeks back? Well it was in connection with Richard Nelson and I was trying to track down a copy of a recent biography. I did that and have been reading Raven’s Witness by Hank Leftner this week. More mental rabbit holes have ensued. To me Richard Nelson was a radio show host / podcaster and an author but there was much more to him than that. Now I guess that’s pretty obvious to some people but it wasn’t to me until now. What do I mean? Well the biography’s forward is written by Barry Lopez, who was probably also facing his own mortality at the time (he died in December 2020), but is also a world recognised environmentalist and nature writer. Also for me, this is the field that I work in and whilst these names are ones that are familiar to me, sometimes I don’t realise just how much more widely outside of that field they are known. Now they’re probably not in the household name category but neither are they someone as unknown as I am in that field.

Anyway I’m enjoying this mental rabbit hole and seeing where it takes me and I suspect there will be some more reading along a similar burrow soon.


On the subject of mental rabbit holes and books, Austin Kleon published this piece about books that suck you in and books that spin you out which is kinda the same thing.


Work. Nothing much to report this week. I’d deliberately kept some space in my diary for vet trips and of course it’s a Bank Holiday week so I wasn’t anticipating it being particularly busy in any case.


Listening. More Encounters podcasts, Goon Shows and some David Sedaris this week.





Allotment. It’s been a chilly long weekend so far and the forecast is for a continued cold snap. I had planned to sow some seeds direct on to the plot this weekend but the weather made me think again, instead I just prepared the ground for the seeds, the sowing will have to wait for another day and some warmer weather. I don’t want to sow seeds for them to germinate and then be knobbled by the frost!

I did manage to settle my bill at the allotment shop which has reopened again, they’d distributed seed potatoes and onion sets “on-tick” because the shop was closed so I wanted to make sure I paid up. I also bought a few other things while there as the only form of cash I had was an old £20 note – there’s considerable debate about why the shop doesn’t take cards or at least contactless payments but I think it’s as much to do with the choice of the person who runs the shop. As I suspect that no one else wants to do the job, she really has the final say even though it is a bit frustrating – I don’t think I’ve used a cashpoint in nearly a year!


I’m not a great fan of Marmite but neither am I a hater either and at times it is a bit of a secret ingredient in a few recipes and not just something that you spread on toast or crumpets. Here are some more suggestions.


That’s it for this week. Wherever you are stay safe and well.


Goon Tomorrow TWTW # 119

Hello there! It’s been a medical week in our family this week. We’ve been lucky enough to both be called for our first Covid vaccinations, and were able to book for the same time. I’ve had a few days of side effects (mostly a numb arm, headache and some flu-like symptoms) but nothing major and the alternative is probably worse. I’ve been taking it a little bit easy. The sketch to the left was from one of my lazy mornings.

I’ve also had to take Wilson to the vet twice after a few days of an upset stomach that wasn’t improving using the usual remedy. We’re back there again next week for some routine follow up tests, so we’re hoping for some improvements. The vets seem a little baffled, as whatever the problem is remains stubbornly unshifted against their attempts.


Reading. I’ve not been reading much this week, haven’t felt much like it. I did however read through Together by Luke Adam Hawker, which I mentioned a week or two ago. It’s short on words but it is full of amazing line drawings. Great book.

After mentioning Richard Nelson last week, I stumbled across a recent biography of him that was written around the time of his passing. It mentions a lot of diaries that he kept and the biography draws on their content a lot. I’m looking forward to tracking down a copy.


Listening. I’ve been listening to a lot of my usual podcasts this week, and have finished Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist audiobook trilogy (regular trips to the vet has meant lots of time in the car for audiobooks.

Classic Goon Shows have also found their way back into my regular listening. I used to listen to these a lot, and had many on cassette, but over the years have stopped listening. If you’re interested there are a lot of them on BBC Sounds or via the webpage (you might need to be “in” the UK to listen.


Allotment. My potatoes made it into the ground this weekend. I had a couple left over so I planted them in a sack in the back garden. I don’t normally do this, or have much success with sack / pot grown potatoes but I don’t want to waste them. While I was down on the plot I also cleared and redug an area adjacent to the potato bed for another sowing of onions. I have some in the potting shed which I’m bringing on in modules, so will plant them out when they’re big enough in that spot.


Work. Nothing significant to report this week, apart from a virtual allotment talk on Friday to a group from Warrington. I think it went quite well, and had one of the best turn-outs for a virtual talk yet. There were some good questions too and although these things are difficult to tell, I think it went down quite well. It was a lunchtime gig, most are in the evening but the afternoon ones always feel a bit more civilised and mean that you preserve your evening, but I mustn’t grumble.


That’s all for this week. No great plans for the week ahead, although I am looking forward to being allowed to venture out for exercise more that once a day. We’ll be getting back to two dog walks a day.


Mental Rabbit Holes TWTW # 118

Hello again. If last week was a rollercoaster I’m not quite sure what fairground attraction this week has been but it’s had similar ups and downs.

We’ve had a bit more drama with the car when the garage were trying to diagnose the problem and we were looking at a reasonable bill or one that would effectively write the car off. Luckily the gods were smiling and although not cheap we are back on the road again. We’re now still thinking about a “new” car because sadly I think the inevitable terminal bill is coming at some point and at the moment we have some trade-in value. This has bought us back to the question of what that “new” car should be powered by and whether we can afford the upfront costs of electric or not. Watch this space.


Reading. I’ve been continuing and finished Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King and have started Skylarks with Rosie – A Somerset Spring by Stephen Moss. This is the authors tale of the first Covid lockdown and the wildlife in his local area while he’s confined to that “patch”. I’ve enjoyed the previous books this author has written about his local area more than many of his others so am looking forward to reading this.

I also published a book review of Gone by Michael Blencowe earlier in the week. If you missed it, you can find it here.


In between books this week, I picked up a copy of Kurt Jackson’s Botanic Landscape and was reading the introduction which happens to be written in part by the author Robert Macfarlane. He mentioned Richard Nelson who was an anthropologist who also produced the Encounters podcast which is essentially a series of field recordings of different animals and outdoor spaces. It’s no longer available as a podcast but the archive can be found here. I’d really recommend checking them out. In addition he wrote a couple of books, The Island Within (which is excellent) and Make Prayers to the Raven (equally good).

I’d thought that Richard Nelson had perhaps retired as there hadn’t been a new edition of the podcast for quite some years and by now he would probably be in his 80’s, but I was curious and I did a quick Google, only to find that sadly he had passed away in 2019. Here’s an obituary from the local paper in Sitka Alaska where he lived for many years.

Nels took his last breath listening to a raven’s call.

Sitka Sentinel 4th December 2019

He had quite a considerable influence on me over the years and I admit to be a little sad that not only has be passed away but the news passed me by for over a year. I’ve been listening to a few of the Encounters programmes this week.


Whilst mentioning Robert Macfarlane, he announced this week a collaboration with the notebook producer Field Notes to produce a special edition of the iconic notebooks linked to his iconic book Underland and the books amazing cover produced by the artist Stanley Donwood.

Macfarlane used a number of Field Notes notebooks when he was researching the book and wrote a piece about it for Penguin. I use a lot of Field Notes and normally have one in my pocket, mostly they’re for lists, short notes and bits and pieces I want to remember rather than research for a book, but I do like the special editions that they’ve been producing over the last few years.


Watching. We’ve been working our way through the final season of the French crime series Spiral this week. It’s not been bad, but I think there are some better earlier seasons, and they’ve probably quit at the right time.

If you’re interested in nature at all you might be interested in watching Deer 139 (below) which follows the 85 mile migration of a mule deer and the wildlife biologist who followed it.


Allotment. I’m pretty sure Spring has arrived (and yes I do know today is the equinox) there is a definite change in the weather. My seed potatoes are just about ready to go in the ground, so on my trip to the plot this week I dug the trenches into which they will be planted. Other than last year I have always used trenches for my potatoes; physically this is harder work than other methods but I find it has delivered the best results for me. Basically you dig a trench, then place your potato tubers in the bottom of the trench about 12 to 18 inches apart. Next backfill part of the trench with the soil you dug out, then a layer of compost or manure, then the remainder of the soil from the trench. You want to end up with a slightly raised mound along the length of the trench. Now wait. Once the potatoes start to show through you want to “earth up” the mound with more soil from either side of the trench, repeat this until you have a good mound of soil over the trench. Then leave for around 2 to 3 months depending on the variety, watering regularly. You can add grass cuttings, comfrey leaves and other things the the sides of the mounds to help retain water and provide some extra nutrients. At the end of their time, gently dig with a fork (or tickle with you hands and fingers) to unearth the potatoes.

If you don’t have the space of an allotment you can do something similar in a large sack or pot, put a layer of soil / compost in the bottom, add your seed potatoes and then cover with more compost and earth up as the leaves appear until the sack / pot is full. Water and wait as above and then harvest.


That’s about all that I have for this week. Wherever you are stay safe and take care!

Life is a Rollercoaster TWTW # 117

This week has been full of ups and downs. It was my birthday on Tuesday. The weather was amazing. There was cake and presents; you know a fairly typical birthday, or at least as far as possible in pandemic times. Things went on the downslope a bit after that.

I had to go out in the car, I used the opportunity to drop off a birthday parcel for someone else at the sorting office and then headed for the motorway. As I pulled onto the slip road the dashboard lights came on. They weren’t the “!STOP NOW!” kind so I made it one junction and pulled off. I was able to come home via the backroads to my local garage. That’s where the car is now. They’re going to try and look at it soon, at least to diagnose what might be wrong, but they’re really busy and short-staffed at the moment and so probably won’t get to it until later this coming week. I have a sinking feeling about it this time that might mean the car is beyond a sensible repair bill. It’s around about 18 years old so I can’t grumble as I’ve had good service from it. I was hoping it might last a little bit longer though as I’d really like to go to an electric car next but currently they’re a little beyond my financial means. I’d also like to consider not owning a car at all any more but again there isn’t quite the infrastructure locally to support that for us. So for the time being we’re going to see what the garage has to say. It might be something simple (fingers-crossed) and we’ll be back on the road again. If not then we’ll have to reassess our options.

Later on that same evening the dog bowl that our dog has had since we first got him was knocked off of the draining board and broke on the kitchen floor. That was just another emotional kick from a shite day.


Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King, which was a birthday present. It’s good stuff and although the focus is on the latter period of Monet’s life it covers a lot of his life overall so is a fascinating read.

I’m also looking forward to reading Together by Luke Hawker when it’s published – video below.

If you enjoy reading newsletters, Mike Sizemore has a new one out and it’s pretty good. Great story about a bear in the first edition. You can sign up and read the archive here.



Watching. We’ve been watching The Terror this week.

It’s being shown on the BBC, having I think previously been on Netflix, so we’re a bit late to the party. Although I didn’t realise until I came to type this up, that what we’re watching is season one and there is a second season. The premise is based on what might have happened to the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus when they disappeared when scouting for the Northwest Passage in 1848. The wrecks of the two ships were found in 2014 and 2016, but as to what actually happened nothing is known. The TV series is based on the book by Dan Simmons. The second season is about another story. I have to say that while is started out well we both started loosing interest in it about three-quarters of the way through and although we watched to the end I don’t think we would have been too bothered if we’d stopped early.


Allotment. Although we’ve had some stellar weather this week, we’ve also had quite a bit of wind and rain too. Pretty typical March. I went down to the plot early this morning when I was walking the dogs and it’s back to being too wet to dig again. I have however managed to sow some seeds this week and plant some onion sets into modules, so although there isn’t much to show, there are at least things in the pipeline as it were.


Work. A quiet week this week, which was planned due to the birthday but fortunate given the car situation. I did however get another booking for an allotment talk. This one isn’t until May but I do have one the week after next so will be prepping my slides over the next few days, as I want to make some adjustments. Having given this talk on Zoom a couple of times now there are some things that I want to change so that they work better.


The news is quite full of articles of the type “a year ago today” in recognition of the anniversary of the pandemic. Oddly it really started much earlier than that but the media and the government were both asleep at the wheel when it came to realising what was going on and how serious it would become and how quickly. I was having a look back through my journal and there are a few highlights that at the time were routine things but now are oddly milestones. For example the last time I had an in person work meeting was 7th March 2020. After that everything switched to phone and video calls. I think I might keep that retrospective up over the next couple of months as we come out of lockdown # 3 as at the time we were just going into lockdown # 1. The Prime Minister seems to think that this will be the last lockdown. I’m not sure I have the confidence in his abilities to believe him (we’ve been there before after all).

By coincidence the artist / writer Austin Kleon has also been doing the same.


Well that’s it for this week. Stay safe and well!

Digging In TWTW # 116




Greetings from my allotment. No I’m not there typing this but I was thinking about this week’s post earlier when I was there. Thinking that for many weeks I haven’t had all that much to report about my plot but I’m hoping that as this week I’ve actually been able to turn the soil a bit as we’ve had a dry spell and the heavy clay is less heavy and therefore less likely to do me an injury when digging, that there will be more news to tell.
I’ve been thinking about what I need to do over the coming few weeks to get things moving into spring properly and realise that I’m probably a bit behind with seed sowing, so this coming week I’ll be making some headway on getting things moving in the right direction.



Reading. My reading this week has been more listening that reading as I’ve been working my way through some audiobooks.
I’ve been listening to Austin Kleon’s audiobook trilogy of Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work & Keep Going. I have actually read all of these and they’re a great resource to dip into but I’ve found quite a few things by listening to the audiobooks, that I missed when I read them. It’s been interesting just thinking about how my brain works differently when listening as opposed to reading – ears over eyes.


Also from Austin Kleon was a post linking to the artist Julian Onderdonk who is one of the artists who I added fairly early to my Artists Twitter list.


Shaman Balls – Craig Childs


We had a trip to the vet this week. A planned appointment for Wilson to have some blood drawn for his regular checkup and adjust his medication if need be. We haven’t got the results yet but we’re not expecting any nasty surprises. Fingers-crossed.


Watching – The Commute Walking 90km to Work. I’ve done this a few times over the years, but I think the longest I’ve done was about 8 miles each way and I left early and got home late to make sure I was on time for the start of my day. I’ve been enjoying Beau Miles latest video this week. It reminds me how much I’ve missed walking during this latest lockdown. Fingers-crossed that everything will continue to move in the right direction and in another few weeks the only being able to go out once a day for exercise rule will be relaxed.


I’ve had my film cameras out this week. The sunlight has been great and I’ve loaded a roll of infrared as much to have an experiment with different exposure, iso and other settings ahead of being able to get out properly and take photos. My theory is that experimenting in controlled conditions in my back garden mean that I can make better judgements later. I also broke my cable release and have had to order a new one.


Well that’s it for this week. It’s my birthday on Tuesday, not that I’m expecting to be doing anything much different, but I am planning on doing some different things from my usual routine.

Stay safe and take care.


Sprung? TWTW # 115

Hello again.

My overriding memory of this week would be that the days are noticeably longer. Our morning dog walks now start in the light and it’s still just light past six o’clock in the evening. Meteorological Spring starts on Monday, although there are a few more weeks until astronomical spring, but it does feel like we putting a pretty dismal winter behind us.

When I was doing some tidying in our front garden this week I saw a lone bumblebee on the euphorbia so it looks like she might think Spring is on the way too.


Reading. I ended last year reading a lot of Simenon, Peters and Dexter. I continued with the Dexter into the new year, but until this week hadn’t read any Peters or Simenon. I changed that up this week by reading Ellis Peters’ The Hermit of Eyton Forest and Georges Simenon’s A Crime in Holland. I also received my copy of Chris Riddell’s Five Years – A Sketchbook of Political Drawings, Volume One. He’s been making one drawing each day since the general election in 2019 and they pretty much sum up the idiocy of governments around the world, but mostly ours. To say he has a rich choice of source material is kind of stating the obvious.



A bookmark I was gifted by the artist Jackie Morris also arrived this week. It was painted from a set of antique watercolours that are over 200 years old.


Working. I had another booking for an allotment talk confirmed this week (for the end of March), and also an enquiry as to whether I would sit on a conference panel to discuss climate risk – I’ve asked for more details on the latter because it’s very close and I don’t know how much prep I’ll need to do if I accept.


Allotment. I tried to do some digging on the plot this week, but it was like trying to break up cement. The ground is still very waterlogged. The forecast for this week is mostly dry, so I’m hoping that will be enough to dry it out enough to let me dig it without risking an injury. The allotment shop delivered all our potato orders this week. We had an arranged day / time when our orders would be delivered to our sheds and we had to go down and pick them up, thus avoiding having to actually go inside the shop, which remains closed. It was click and collect without any clicking or direct human interaction.


I got to see Mum this week for a “window” visit. The rules on care home visits will be changing soon but for the time being this is all that is allowed, and we’ve been trying to manage the need to limit leaving home with visits and so this is the first time in two months that I’ve actually seen her (we speak on the phone, but it’s not the same). Her Alzheimer’s disease means you never quite know what it’s going to be like. Last time we saw one another she didn’t know who I was, this time she did recognise me and we chatted for about 20 mins, it’s very difficult to make yourself understood and to hear what Mum is saying on this window visits but hopefully the next time we might be able to have a bit more interaction.


Warning NSFW content:


We’re about to enter the Prime Minister’s “road map” out of lockdown. Quite frankly I’m expecting the numbers to go up even before I actually qualify to be able to leave the house without restrictions. It does feel a lot like we’ve been here before.


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

Weather Window TWTW # 114

Another week has come and gone, filled with books, pancakes and a little bit of drawing.

We indulged in pancakes on Tuesday, it’s about the only time we eat pancakes so it’s a nice treat. I still prefer a simple lemon juice and sugar topping after nearly 50 years that hasn’t changed.

A year ago I used the Lent period to give up social media. I’m not going to do that this year as I think I have a healthier relationship with it now, and probably won’t be giving up anything else for that period this year either.


Reading. I’ve been reading a lot this week. I mentioned Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie last week. It’s a long book – 600+ pages – so it’s taken me quite a while to work through. Also Ann bought me a copy of Kurt Jackson‘s Sketchbooks for a Valentine’s present and that interrupted my reading of Joseph Anton because I picked that up straight away to look at. I also read the latest Jackson Lamb book by Mick Herron, Slough House. I was a little bit underwhelmed by the latter, I didn’t think that it was one of his best. I haven’t settled into anything else yet, and I still keep dipping back into Sketchbooks.

I’ve had some Audible credits building up in my account. Without travelling, my opportunities to listen to audiobooks has been drastically reduced so I haven’t always been using up my monthly credit but I did use one of them on the Complete Shakespeare, given that it’s nearly 100 hours of audio I don’t suppose I’ll be getting through it anytime soon.

Best AI Transcription Bloopers

The Opportunity of Laggards


Working. I’ve completed and submitted the proposal that I was asked for last week. No feedback yet, but it’s early days and I’ll follow up once they’ve had a chance to look at it. When I’d completed the proposal I picked up my own sketch page for a bit and drew the picture of the blue tit above. I don’t draw very often, but I’ve been doing more during the last couple of lockdowns to occupy my mind and spare time.



Allotment. The weather aligned this week to bring a dry, warmish (i.e. not frozen) spell of weather and I was able to get down onto the plot. I managed to clear the long grasses from around the base of the fruit trees and just enjoy being on the allotment for a period of time. I didn’t stay long as my plot neighbour arrived with a new shed. Our shed’s are next to one another and to give enough space for social distancing etc it was easier for me to give him the space to do what he needed to do and come back another time.


I have a “window” visit with my Mum in the week ahead. It will probably only be ten minutes or so and it’s not the same thing as being actually able to sit at either end of the same table as we did back in the summer but it’s a step up from a phone call (the irony is we still actually talk on the phone as otherwise we can’t hear what we’re saying because of the window).


That’s it for now. I hope you have a good week – take care and stay safe.

Making a Spectacle and Frozen Butts TWTW # 113

Happy St. Valentine’s Day everyone.


Welcome back, if this weeks post looks a little off kilter it’s because I broke my glasses at the beginning of the week and I’m typing this wearing my “spare” pair.

I did manage to repair my original pair and then subsequently broke them again a day or so later, so have had to reglue them for a second time. I’m leaving them a little longer to make sure that the glue has really hardened before trying to wear them again.

I really should go to the opticians and get a replacement but as it’s been just over two years since my last eye test and I can tell that my eyesight has deteriorated I really ought to have a fresh one. At the moment however I don’t feel comfortable getting that done. Maybe in a few more weeks time, I’ll feel a little more comfortable about it but for the meantime I think I’ll just be muddling through.


We’ve been visited by long-tailed tits everyday this week. They call by in the mornings when I’m working in my office and make full use of the trees just outside my window. It’s one of life’s more pleasant distractions in these times.


After saying last week that we hadn’t had any snow we had the meerest dusting on Tuesday morning, but it was gone by the afternoon. It has been very cold though, our water butt froze as did the ground on the allotment. Frozen solid there hasn’t been much that I’ve been able to do down there this week. Additionally the broad beans are looking very sorry for themselves. I hope that they might recover but it might have been just that little bit too cold for them.


Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Len Deighton’s Berlin Game this week, which I enjoyed. It’s the first part of a series of three trilogies – is there a name for a trilogy of trilogies? After that I’ve picked up Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, after reading a recommendation in my friend David’s article here. I wasn’t aware that he’d written this account of his time under police protection after a Fatwa was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini for writing The Satanic Verses. I’m only about a quarter of the way through but am finding it strangely gripping. It’s a little strange to be reading it now, after having some clear memories of it at the time.


Interesting to read Austin Kleon’s thoughts on blogging as a forgiving medium.


Work. It’s been a week of Zoom and Teams again this week with discussions with a client over some work that they’ve asked for a proposal for. I’m a little cautious about this as this client has asked for proposals before and then not taken the work forward, but there seems to be a need for them to have this work done, so it might go somewhere.

I also gave an evening Allotment talk this week to a group in Derbyshire. Giving these talks over Zoom isn’t the same as being in the village hall and being able to see the whites of the eyes of the audience, but it does give me a chance to talk to groups that I would otherwise not present to because of the cost of travel / accommodation.

I make a point with these talks of always asking for feedback and on this occasion someone wanted more recipes in my talk, I’m not sure that would have been particularly interesting to listen to me read a list of ingredients, but I will give it some thought.


Well I guess that’s about all I have this week. Lockdown certainly curtails what I’ve been up to, and these posts seem to become shorter each week. Anyway stay safe and take care.

The Birds Are Unrepresentative TWTW # 112

It’s been wet this week, really wet, full wet weather gear wet. Where other parts of the country have been having snow, we’ve just had rain. I’m not sure which I’d prefer, but at the moment a bit of a dry spell would be nice!


Last weekend was the Big Garden Birdwatch. As citizen science goes it’s a pretty big project and other the years I think I’ve contributed most years. I keep a running total for our garden anyway and over the last few weeks the birds have been pretty abundant with a couple of species present that aren’t around often. However I swear that the birds no what’s happening and stay away for the crucial hour when the count is taking place. It happens every year and the results are normally pretty low and boring and in my opinion not representative of our garden, but the standardisation of counting is important so once again our numbers were low. Of course the moment the hour was up I looked out again and there were more birds to be seen than had been present the whole of the preceding hour.


If you missed it I ran a giveaway earlier in the week for Matt Gaw’s book Under The Stars if you’re interested in being in with a chance to win a copy there’s still time. Follow the link above to enter.


Reading. I got back into the last two Inspector Morse books by Colin Dexter; reading Death is Now My Neighbour and then planning to leave a gap before reading the final one, The Remorseful Day, but realising that I couldn’t settle into something else I picked it up. It was a fitting end to the series and I felt a little bit lost after finishing it knowing that there wasn’t another one to follow. I’ll likely go back and read some of the earlier ones again, but in the meantime I’ve been reading Garden of Angels by David Hewson, which is possibly one of his best books and set in Second World War Venice and the modern day. Recommended.


Watching. I’ve finally been able to watch Greyhound which is the Tom Hanks dramatisation of C S Foresters book, The Good Shepherd. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a good movie, but the book is better. I recommend both though. I watched it alone as Ann wasn’t interested but we’ve both been watching Long Way Up, Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor’s trip on prototype electric Harley Davidson’s from the tip of South America up through to Los Angeles. I admire them for doing this with both gear and infrastructure that isn’t quite there yet for this type of journey but then that’s probably the best reason to do it.


Listening. I caught a rerun of Stephen King on Desert Island Discs this week. I missed it first time around and it’s a good highlight reel of his career (up to about 2006 when it was recorded), and his choice of music is pretty good. You can listen here, but I don’t know if that link will work outside the UK, without a VPN.


Work. I’ve been sorting out some work related meetings for the coming week, as well as finalising my presentation for my allotment talk on the 12th.


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


Originally tweeted by CartoonRalph (@CartoonRalph) on 05/02/2021.

A Year Under the Stars (Book Giveaway)

A little over a year ago I reviewed Matt Gaw’s Under the Stars. It was one of those books that had more of an effect on me than perhaps I’d imagined at the time. With the pandemic; travel and just being outdoors much more restricted I took much more of an interest in the night sky.

I was spending evenings, nights and the early hours of mornings looking for all manner of stars, moons, planets, meteors and the comet Neowise. I wasn’t using anything sophisticated, just a pair of binoculars and a camera. I was also more aware of the nocturnal activity of the wildlife in my area, particularly the fox population and a couple of local tawny owls.

If you haven’t read this fantastic book, I’d recommend it. It might possibly have a similar effect on you.

It’s coming out in paperback today (Feb 4th 2021), and the publishers have kindly offered my followers an opportunity to win a copy.

If you’re interested here’s what you need to do:

Leave a comment on this post saying that you’d like to be entered. That’s it. You’ll need to leave your email address in the relevant box (don’t leave this in your comment), so that I can contact the winner. These will only be used for the purposes of this competition. NOTE: if this is your first time commenting or you haven’t commented in a while your comment will need to be approved by me first.

This particular draw is UK ONLY (sorry to those readers overseas) and is taking across my blog, instagram and twitter accounts. You can enter up to three times (i.e. once here, and on Instagram and twitter, but multiple entries on the same account will not be accepted and may disqualify you). On February 11th 2021, I’ll randomly draw one winner from all entries across all platforms. I’ll contact the winner and ask them for their details so that the publisher can send you a copy of Under the Stars directly. If the winner doesn’t respond within 5 days, an alternative winner will be drawn.


This truly is a wonderful book, but don’t just take my word for it:

“Matt Gaw shows once again that he is one of the most inspiring of our young nature writers, with a highly original journey into darkness and night.” Stephen Moss

“A beautiful and luminous love letter to the night sky” Julian Hoffman

“Gaw finds wonder in the dark … powerful and valiant” BBC Countryfile

“Enchanting, fascinating and written with real soul and sensitivity.  Under the Stars lifts the mind and the imagination” Rob Cowen

“Lyrical, warm, and suffused with the magic of the night, Under the Stars does what all the best books do – it changes the way we look at the world” Patrick Barkham

“Passionately argued and perfectly crafted … a timely and inspiring manifesto” The Countryman

“Gaw’s writing is always poised and beautiful, switching lightly between the concise, persuasive and dramatic and the elegiac, descriptive and lyrical” Kate Blincoe, Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine

“A nocturnal adventure … lyrical and lovely” The Simple Things

“Under the Stars falls within the genre of the new nature writing and imparts an ¬important political message while capturing in melodic prose the beauty and mystery of the night sky that can still be discovered today, if only we are prepared to look” New Statesman

“Poetically written but scientifically grounded study of darkness and its effect on humans and wildlife” Nature Magazine