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.


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.


Binary Seven TWTW # 111

Time passes slowly in lockdown but I’ll admit to a little surprise that it’s the end of January already. I suspect I have that same feeling each year but it’s a milestone that moves me closer to lighter mornings again, and that is always a good thing.

I’ve been paying attention to the silhouettes of trees on our morning dog walks this week. In that moment before sunrise when there is enough light to distinguish a tree from the background gloom but not enough to properly make out the details, the texture of the trunk etc.


Had a batch of cards delivered this week from Iain Welch. I’ve been trying to support more independent artists during the successive lockdown periods and I’d recommend Iain’s cards if you’re looking for something dognified. I used his Christmas cards this last year and wanted to restock some of the others that we’ve used up for various things. I’d recommend them and also following him on Instagram for a daily dose of cheer.


Reading. I’ve been dipping in and out of a lot of things this week, some Betjeman, some more Morse stories, but I haven’t stuck with any of them yet. I think in part that’s due to tiredness, having had a couple of sleepless nights I’ve not read in the afternoons or evenings when I often read because I’ve been too tired.


Watching. We’ve been dipping back into the old Inspector Morse’s a lot this past week, I think we’ve probably watched three or four of them as well as another couple of episodes of Endeavour.

I did enjoy watching the video below:


Allotment. Another mostly washed out week, I’ve harvested a few leeks for a stew, but haven’t been able to do much else. A bag of onion sets arrived in the post which I’ll be planting into modules and keeping indoors or in the potting shed until the weather improves a bit and the risk of frost is much lower.


George Orwell on food.


Well that’s about it for this week. As always stay safe and take care.

Tiers to the Eyes TWTW # 106

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


Austin Kleon – How To Break in a Sharpie





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

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

Of Nighttime Smells & Sleep Deprivation TWTW # 105

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

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


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


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


Ever had a truly memorable cup of coffee?


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

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


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


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


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


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


A Boy and His Dog TWTW # 104

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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


Looking Up

Hungry Birds


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


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.