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.


All Over The Place TWTW # 97

This post could be all over the place. It seems WordPress have updated the editor that I use to write posts, and to be blunt, it’s awful. Admittedly part of this is having to learn a new system and I can’t find the things I want or make it do what I want it to. But I suspect part of it is some designers “clever” idea of a minimalist set up. Suffice to say it’s ****, so apologies if things are all over the place and a little off kilter.

Add that to the fact that I had my first “Christmas Shopping” email this week, it’s been an interesting week overall. I have no idea what our Christmas is going to be like this year, but suffice to say it will be different.

We don’t have Thanksgiving in the UK but one of the posts from a newsletter that I read is thinking about how to make that a safe event.


I realised this week that I’ve read 70 books so far this year. This is a year that I started out thinking back on January 1st was going to be one where I would have very little time for reading. The coronavirus arrived in this country and lockdown happened and despite thinking throughout lockdown that I was struggling to read anything, I seem to have read 70 books. Go figure.

I’ve been reading Charles Stross’s Labyrinth Index this week, although I must admit to being a little bit lost by the story, even though it did fully resolve itself in the last 100 or so pages and I really liked the ending with an iconic aircraft that was one of the loves of my childhood. I’ve also been listening to Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour which has been an interesting listen.


We’ve not had the television on all that much this week, mostly we’ve been too tired to bother and since it’s mostly depressing news we’ve not watched much apart from an Australian series – Mystery Road 2 – we watched the first season last year and there’ve been a couple of movies with the same lead character. Unfortunately it’s not really holding our attention so I’m not sure whether we will get to the end of it or not.


I seem to be all caught up with podcasts at the moment, which is the first time in a while.


Not much allotment action this week due to the rain. We’ve had a couple of intense storms sweep through and they’ve brought a lot of water down. My visits have mostly been to make sure everything is okay rather than actually do anything. I’m pleased to see that the garlic has sprouted, but no signs from the onions or broad beans just yet.


I had a delivery of some of the new Field Notes this week. The new United States of Letterpress editions and the latest American National Parks set. I am using less pocket notebooks at the moment, mostly because I am out and about less but I do like these. I got mine from Nero’s Notes if you’re interested in ordering your own, they provide great service.


I also completed a volume of my journal this week. This represents volume one of 2020, about 230ish pages. For those interested the book itself is a Leuchtturm1917, ruled, A5, hardcover.


A trip to the vets this week for Wilson’s regular blood test. We had to drive through the worst of one of the storms and maybe it’s my age but I’ve never felt less like driving anywhere. If it hadn’t been for the appointment I think we might have found somewhere safe to pull over and wait out the weather front as it lashed down. Motorways were flooded and although the majority of drivers were being sensible there were the odd handful who seemed to think that their mortality and that of those around them was expendable.

We await the results of the blood test now – probably due Monday.


I’ve been enjoying watching Matt Maran’s fox videos this week.


That’s it for this week, I’ve run out of steam trying to get this post together, hopefully when it goes live it will at least be readable.

Thanks for reading, take care and stay safe and well.

Shifting Focus TWTW # 93

Greetings. The photo above is one from the roll that I sent off to be developed last week. This weeks blog is a bit image and camera talk heavy, so if that’s not you bag, feel free to skip those bits.

It’s not all been cameras this week, if I was still working, I would have said that it has been a short working week because of the Bank Holiday but I don’t really pay that much attention to those now. I was reminded that I haven’t reviewed my goals and targets yet this year. They were set before coronavirus was a thing so looking at them I’m surprised just how much I have achieved, but they still need a little bit of a reset.


I’ve been listening to podcasts this week, trying to catch up on a bit of a backlog. I enjoyed Tim Ferris’s discussion with Hugh Jackman.

 

I am also reminded of the post on Tim Ferris’s blog about why not to become famous.


I’ve been reading quite a bit of Thomas Merton this week. I’m still working my way through his journals which has been a multi-year experience (I think I started back in 2014 or 2015), and I’ve now just finished the 5th volume (of 7) which has taken me about 18 months to read. I have the remaining two volumes on my bedside bookcase and I’ve bought the next volume to the top of the pile so I might start that sometime soon.

I’ve also been reading The Cloud Forest by Peter Matthiessen which I read many years ago and recently found a copy in a box in the loft, so bought it out to have a reread.


I’ve been getting the allotment ready for it’s next planting phase. It’s coming to that time of year when over-wintering onion sets, garlic and broad beans need to be planted / sown. I’ve been getting the ground ready and they’ll be going in over the next few weekends.


Another trailer for the new James Bond movie dropped this week. I think I’ve seen the majority of the Bond movies in the cinema since Moonraker, but I’ve no desire to go and sit in a cinema and watch this new one just yet. So I guess I’ll be waiting for a DVD release.


I got my developed roll of film back this week. I was testing an old camera as much as I was taking pictures. The above panorama has become a bit of an obligatory test shot for me, even if I have to stitch it together manually afterwards, this one is six individual shots. The pic of me and Wilson at the top of this post is also one of the roll (thanks to Ann for being photographer). Here are a few more.

I’m pretty happy with the overall results and that the camera is working well for probably 50+ years old.

By a strange quirk of fate I also seem to have bought a new (secondhand) camera. I was actually looking for a lense and found a couple but they were at the upper end of what I felt was a realistic price. I then found a camera with the lense I wanted in an ebay auction. For some reason it wasn’t getting a lot of attention so I watched it, and bid at the last minute and got the lense and the camera for a good price, well below what the other lenses were on offer for. The seller stated that it was untested, so I was expecting it to not be working, and unsurprisingly the camera is dead but the lense works well. I’ll have a look at the camera when I have more time to see if I can make it work again, but for now I’m looking forward to trying out my new lense.

I’ve also been investigating what I can do with my old Minolta DSLR that no longer works and I also think I’ve found a solution for that. I’ve found an adapter that has good reviews that will enable me to use those lenses on a Canon body (which I already own). I won’t have all of the features but I’ll have enough that I should be able to use them. I’ll have to wait for it to get here before I can see whether the reviews are accurate.

I’m enjoying getting back into photography, and in particular film photography after all these years. I still need to brush up my skills but I’m pleased with some of the results I’ve been getting.

I haven’t forgotten digital either. I took Ruby out for a long walk this week and we went down to see if we could find the Swans that normally nest behind the old gravel works. Because of lockdown we weren’t able to do this when the penn would have been sitting on the nest, so I’ve no idea whether they bred this year or not and if they did whether they were successful, and we didn’t find any evidence that we could definitively say was them. There were however a lot of swans at the head of the creek and we took a few digital pics. Funnily enough this was harder than it sounds due to the hazy sunshine and not being able to use a viewfinder and having to rely on the camera’s screen. Some of them came out okay though:


Well that’s it for this week. Sorry this one’s been a bit image heavy, but thanks if you’ve made it this far.

Take care and stay safe.

Book Review: Walks With Sam by David W. Berner

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.

Sam is a dog. A black golden doodle and on his walks with his owner David the two of them discover not just their local neighbourhood but also their feelings about it and some of the things that are going on in it.

This is no epic travel piece, it is a more sedate, local amble or series of ambles around Sam and David’s local “patch” which they discover they don’t know as well as they thought but by the end of the book know it and themselves much better.

This is a well written and captivating set of stories, each based around a walk experienced by human and hound. There are some of regulars, like the crazy man and others that they meet along the way. It is in part a journey of discovery with both partners at different times in their lives and in part about the actual journeys they take together.

If you liked Travels with Charley or Travels with Macy or similar stories then you are probable going to like Walks with Sam too.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. No other payment has been received.

Nest Building TWTW # 70

After last weeks posts the Prime Minister announced a full “lockdown” in the UK. Stay home, only go out for essential items. Our lockdown is not it seems as harsh as those in some other countries, but then our government has been doing it’s own thing with this pandemic from the start. The practicalities of these new rules don’t really bother me that much. It has meant curtailing my usual two dog walks to a single one in the morning, but otherwise I don’t think I’ve been outside of the boundaries of our property for anything since probably last Sunday.

I’ve spent my time mostly working in the mornings, although despite a request from a client for a short briefing note that wasn’t planned, this seems to be slowing down now. My diary is looking decidedly empty of even virtual meetings, and I suspect April will be the quietest month that I’ve had in a very long time.

My afternoons have become a time to do “stuff”. I’ve been cleaning windows, grooming the dog, making bookmarks (more on these two items below), editing video, all sorts of things that normally I’d save for a day off or the weekend. I’ve also been reading and catching up on a few movies.


Since we last spoke I’ve read a couple of books. Bay of Spirits by Farley Mowat and Denali by Ben Moon. The former was after listening to a podcast where the author was name checked for another book which then led me to this book and the latter was a Valentines present. Both were okay but I enjoyed Bay of Spirits more than Denali, probably because of the latter’s subject matter. Whilst I like a good story with a dog, this one’s a bit of a tear jerker and there are elements to it that were a bit too close to home, but don’t let me put you off, both are worth a read.


The best film I watched all week was Malta Story, starring Alec Guinness. As you might be able to guess it’s based on the siege of the island of Malta during WWII, and is an old black and white movie. Sometimes these old movies hold up much better than those made much more recently. Case in point is the other film we watched which was Hollow Man starring Kevin Bacon, this just didn’t hold up well.


I wrote about giving Ruby a groom last week. I don’t remember whether I mentioned that we put her cut hair into a bird feeder and hang it in the garden. We do this so that the birds can use it for nest material. I also set up the trail camera in the same tree and caught a few short clips of a Great Tit helping itself to the supply. I suspect they’re building their nest not too far away as he was back fairly frequently throughout the day on Friday.


This is an interesting snippet about the ephemera that you sometimes find in old books. I wrote about this not all that long ago, and I’m also a user of custom bookmarks. I frequently make my own – the picture left is of some that I made from wrapping paper that I had for my birthday – or use something that is to hand. I also frequently have a pencil tucked into a book (Austin Kleon wrote about reading with a pencil), or a pocket notebook in which I’m writing notes. This is one of the things I most love about the kindle is the ability to highlight and save your notations as you’re reading.


And yes electric cars really do produce less CO2 than petrol ones.


Takaya the wolf has been killed.


I managed to get to the allotment on Saturday and planted my potatoes, and did some weeding. There’s a list of jobs that I need to get done, fortunately it seems that going to the allotment is counted as exercise and included in permissible activities in the lockdown.


Well that’s about all I have to say for myself this week. Stay safe wherever you are.

It was Wilson’s 10th birthday this, so this being the internet I’ll leave you with a cute puppy photo.

Late For a Very Important Date! TWTW # 43

I’m late this week, despite my best efforts to get these posts out at a consistent time each week, I’ve kind of blown it and it’s not work related but just me losing complete track of time whilst I was doing something else. What was I doing, well I was editing some audio (see below) and getting it uploaded and posted. It’s a binaural recording from our dog walk this morning.

I’ve been wanting to explore this medium for a while. Binaural basically means with both ears, so this is just 360° sound. If you listen to the player below with headphones, you will essentially be listening to what I was. I’d love to know what you think, so if you can stomach 10 mins of me talking (not the whole time), please join us on our dog walk and let me know what you think in the comments below.


Last week was a busy one, lots of different work related things going on and travelling. The week ahead looks like being a little quieter on the travel front, but plenty to keep me occupied otherwise. I’ve had some enquiries for work in the New Year too, which looks promising but isn’t confirmed yet and at the moment it looks like I’m busy right through to that point.


I finished reading Last Bus To Woodstock and listening to The Dog Went Over The Mountain: Travels with Albie, An American Journey. I’ve also read Michael Connelly’s Dark Sacred Night and have been listening to Edward Snowden’s autobiography, Permanent Record in the car on my travels. The latter is interesting, I was inspired to “read” it after listening to his appearance on the Joe Rogen podcast which I posted a link to a couple of weeks ago. This is a proper autobiography and doesn’t just focus on the events that made him infamous. It also perhaps goes someway to explaining why he did what he did and how there has been the reaction to it that there has been (from both sides). It’s worth a listen, and I say that having not yet finished it.


The Final Frontier by Michael Chabon


Cornish homes take part in trial to supply clean power to grid


Never knowingly undersoiled – John Lewis trucks to run on cow manure

 


We’ve been enjoying His Dark Materials on TV, I’ve never read the books but this is shaping up to be a good series, even if I’m still on 100% sure what’s going on, but then I guess that might just be the point. The latest adaptation of War of the Worlds also started last night, I haven’t had a chance to watch all of the first episode yet but it looks promising.


Okay I need to stop typing this now and hit post otherwise it will never happen. Hope you have a great week, and hopefully normal service will be resumed next Monday (or maybe not).

On The Road Again TWTW # 42

img_0008I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon, as I have a meeting on Monday morning and if I don’t do this now it’s likely that it won’t happen at all. I’ve had a week with quite a bit of travel and I’ve got another week of the same coming up.

Work’s been keeping me pretty busy so I’ve been relishing the other things, like early morning dog walks that take up a smaller part of the day.


img_0005On a return trip from Somerset last week I stopped in the village where I often take a break from the road. The shops were still open and I had a browse in one of the charity shops. I mostly only ever look at the books, and found a complete box-set of Colin Dexter’s, Inspector Morse novels. I’ve read some before but never all of them, and it was probably nearly twenty years ago that I last read one. An opportunity too good to miss I thought.

As I was going to pay I also noticed something else that will make a perfect Christmas present so I got that too. A great break from travelling.


img_0002This week I’ve mostly been reading listening to The Dog Went Over The Mountain: Travels with Albie, An American Journey by Peter Zheutlin. In between chapters of that I’ve been reading the first of the Inspector Morse novels –  Last Bus To Woodstock.

I reckon I’ll finish both this week,but I’m not sure what will be up next. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the number of books in my “To Be Read” pile and wanting to make some serious inroads into it before I add too many more books to it. It’s been growing a little bit out of control this year. Even though I’ve read a lot of books this year I’ve not made a noticeable dent as the pile has grown at a greater rate.


I did a bit of a “What’s In My Bag” post earlier last week after my Somerset trip.


I’ve started working on the main bed on the allotment, trying to get it dug. It’s quite weedy so I’m going to break it up over several weeks and not rush it so that I get all of the weeds out. Weather depending it should take a few visits but there’s not rush it just needs to be done by Spring.


Well that’s about it for this  week. As I mentioned I’m on the road again a bit this week and working on client project work in between trips.

Deer oh Deer TWTW #35

img_20190911_085309_170Well I think I predicted that this week would be a busy one, and I was right. I had various meetings, phone calls and clients projects to progress, and each night I went to bed without being able to read for very long before falling asleep. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good thing (I know my reading has slowed).

We’ve spotted various things on our dog walks this week, the deer here were peacefully grazing and didn’t really pay us any mind as we walked on by. They looked as if it was a doe and a couple of fawns, so it looks as though the neighbourhood deer are continuing to thrive.

Later in the week we were over flown by a Green Woodpecker who was alarm calling very loudly. Not far behind (although not I am sure chasing) was a very large female Sparrowhawk, possibly the largest I’ve ever seen.

We also bumped into one of our dog walking friends this week, or rather one of her dogs. She has three and one of them, a Jack Russell, came walking across the playing field when we were there one afternoon. I looked around and couldn’t see either his owner or either of the other two dogs, but he is known to roam, and had assumed that this was what had happened. I bribed him with a gravy bone and managed to get him on a lead and then called his owner – I have her number from a previous time he wandered off. It turns out she had given him another chance off the lead, and he disappeared into the bushes, after hunting for him for a while she’d gone home thinking he might have done the same (he has form for this), was going to drop off her other two dogs if he wasn’t there and then come back and continue to look for him. Meanwhile he’d come out of the bushes and seen us, who he recognised and come over to play. We walked him back towards the edge of the park close to where they live and his owner came and collected him from us. Good deed for the week.


Glacier and me: Amid a stunning landscape, an ailing science journalist weighs his own uncertain life span


As mentioned I didn’t read much last week but I did read this amazing book. My review is on the link.

I’m also working my way through another Maigret novel – Maigret in Vichy.

 

 

 


I was disappointed but not surprised to read this in the local paper this week about our local libraries. Sadly the reason I wasn’t surprised is simply that the politician in charge of this has serial form for axing services and making cuts. When I realised he got the job which includes libraries I was waiting to read this sort of a story whilst hoping that maybe he’d changed his spots. Closing libraries to “save money” is a false solution that appeals to those who can’t look beyond one line in a budget and see the wider benefit that these resources bring.


I’ve been sharing the potting shed with this beautiful lady over the last few months.




Not quite sure how the week ahead is going to pan out. I have a meeting on Monday afternoon that will likely set the direction for the week and it could go either way to be honest.

Whatever you’re up to this week, I hope it’s a good one!

All Work and No Play – TWTW #33

A thank you to all those of you who left comments or emailed me directly after last weeks post, it meant a lot.


This week has mostly been about the work, I’ve been working mostly on one clients work, but dipping into another in preparation for more this week when I have another road trip to do to Somerset.

On one of my twice daily dog walks this week I did manage a trip along the canal path with the dogs, with the plan of allowing them a swim, but the water level was so low all they really managed was a paddle. I don’t suppose they were really bothered either way. Our other walks haven’t taken us as far from home, mostly due to trying to get the work hours in.


I’ve been reading a few different things this week, including another Ellis Peters Cadfael novel – The Leper of St.Giles. My other reading material has mostly been related to work, so I won’t bore you with the content.

I’ve been listening to a few different podcasts and other things including the abridged audio version of Ben Myers new novel “The Offing” on Radio 4, it’s got another week to go in it’s run, but you can catch up on the link above.


Fun fact: The original title for the third “Naked Gun” movie was going to be “Naked Gun 33 1/3 – For the record”, but was changed because producers didn’t think viewers would understand the joke.


Been doing quite a bit of digging on the allotment, getting things ready for the application of some manure. There’s still quite a bit growing, but equally quite a bit of bare ground as things have been picked, dug up, or eaten by badgers!


Haven’t seen one yet but – First White-tailed Eagles released on Isle of Wight





That’s about all I have for this week, be careful out there.