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.

They Move In Herds TWTW # 68

Well it’s been a funny old week – funny peculiar, not funny haha – I’ve had some more bookings for talks in 2021 and cancellations for ones coming up over the next few weeks. To be honest I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do given the current Coronavirus situation and the fact that often the average age of my audience is over 70.

As you probably know I mostly work from home anyway, but I’ve had several client meetings moved from face to face encounters to telephone or video calls. Again absolutely the right thing to do, although it meant that I didn’t finish the roll of film that’s still in my camera as I’d planned but that experiment isn’t one that’s time critical.

I do wonder about the wisdom of our proven liar Prime Minister however, who seems out of his depth and the questionable decisions he’s been making to give us “a herd immunity” which means that at least 60% of the population has to contract Coronavirus and in theory become immune (we don’t of course know whether catching Coronavirus confers any long term immunity – this is the reason you have an annual flu jab, because the immunity doesn’t last long). Nearly 30% of the UK population is in the “at risk” category by virtue of age, so that’s not a very large margin of error. Oh and of course we also know who else moved in herds, don’t we. I wonder what happened to them?

It seems that panic buying is still a thing, particularly toilet rolls, and any kind of disinfectant or hand sanitiser, dried pasta, and eggs; the empty shelves in the local supermarket testifying to this. In the hoarding stakes this is surely a step up from the Brexit supply stacking that went on several times and thankfully we’re not having to cope with a No-Deal Brexit and Coronavirus at the same time, even the Dunkirk spirit would probably crumble under that pressure.

Oh and wash your phone – but don’t forget to wash your hands.


It was my birthday this week, although it seems like it was some time ago, it’s weird how time expands and contracts around different events to make them seem much more recent or much further in the past than they actually were. I took a day off, had some nice thoughtful gifts and generally didn’t do overly much apart from enjoy what was in fact a nice sunny day after so many that have been a bit blergh.

 

As it was my birthday I also treated myself to an e-bay bargain of the first 18 Inspector Montalbano books. Between these, Simenon’s Maigret and a few other things I should have plenty of reading material.

 

 

 


I read the next book in Mick Herron’s “Jackson Lamb” series – Real Tigers – I think these are getting better with each one, and I am trying to resist buying the next one in the series for the time being, as I have a tonne of books to read and more arrived for my birthday. I did notice that Gary Oldman has been pegged to play the character of Lamb in a new TV series. He’s probably a good pick for the character, but sadly as it’s going to be on Apple TV, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to watch it.

I started reading East West Street by Philippe Sands which deals with the early understanding of genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly in the Second World War.


I’ve often looked at different options to cover some of the costs of running this blog, and this article has some interesting ideas. Don’t worry I’m not about to put up a paywall but if you want to you can always Buy Me A Coffee.


It’s been nearly three weeks of my social media fasting, it actually feels like longer. Is that withdrawal, I don’t think so as I think I actually feel calmer without it.


We watched the latest Terminator film at the weekend. I have to say I’m a little confused as to the whole timeline of these films, I’m assuming that you’re just not supposed to worry about that. In theory it would probably have had to happen after the second film, but events in the latest film mean that the third film couldn’t have happened. I’m sure it’s just one of those time paradox things, it was never really explained in the film but I guess if you don’t worry about it and enjoy the film, that’s what matters. If you like the Terminator films you’ll probably like it too, and in my opinion it’s better that the last couple.


The allotment is still pretty much a wash out, the ground is too wet to do anything. I sowed some seeds this week in anticipation of improvements sometime in the near future. Some more broad beans as well as some broccoli and cauliflower seeds. Hopefully in a few weeks time I’ll be transplanting them out onto the plot and probably moaning about all the watering I’m having to do because it’s now so dry!


I’m not sure what the week ahead holds. I have to take my Mum for a medical appointment but I need to phone up and check that it’s still on. Otherwise I’m going to be continuing to work from home, I quite like the hermit lifestyle.

I hope that wherever you are in the world you stay healthy and Coronavirus free.

End of an Era TWTW # 60

Welcome back, thanks for stopping by. It’s been a crazy week in my world but probably not as crazy as the world at large seems to be.

In the same week a poll is telling the government that the majority (70%) of people want a net-zero carbon target for the UK, the same government bails out a regional airline by offsetting some of the environmental tax that they were supposed to be collecting from their passengers and saves them from going bust (at least for the time being). It seems that nothing has changed.


I’ve been focussed on work mostly this week, with trips to see clients including one to Somerset during one of the wettest days of the week. I managed to make time for a stop in my usual favourite place and went for a walk in the rain to get a sandwich. I saw a notice for the village museum which happened to be open that day so went there for a quick look. I was probably gone about 30 minutes, but when I got back to the car I noticed a small damp patch on the drivers seat. The source was obvious when I looked, there was a corresponding damp match next to the sun roof.

It had stopped raining by this point but there was nothing I could really do at that point, so I put a towel on the seat and tried to dry the roof as best as I could. Strangely although it rained a lot more that day, I didn’t have another problem.

The following day with the car in our garage and after watching a few YouTube videos I had a look at the drainage channels in the sunroof frame. One of them was actually blocked, but I managed to clear it with some wire. I’m not convinced that is the source of the problem as most of the videos I watched cite this as a common problem with this type of car, but they all say that this is the first thing to check. I’ll just have to wait now for it to rain again!


I did enjoy my visit though and the short time I spent in the village museum. I’m passing through there regularly at the moment, so I’ll probably stop there again at some point in the future. There are other things that I want to look at, if I have more time and if the weather is a little bit more cooperative!

 


I finally saw the latest Star Wars movie this week, although I won’t be posting spoilers as I’m sure that someone else might not have seen it yet, I have to say that I enjoyed it. Of all the nine movies, it’s not my favourite but I really did enjoy the way the story came together and some of the hat-tips to the other movies in the franchise. It does feel like the end of an era for me, which started when I was five years old and went to see Star Wars with my Dad (it wasn’t called A New Hope back then, just Star Wars).


I’ve been reading a few things this week, I touched on some of them in last weeks post, and one of the other books I can’t talk about just yet as it was a review copy from the publisher, but the review will be coming shortly. I’ve also been listening to the audiobook of The Martian by Andy Weir in the car, as well as trying to catch-up on some of the audio from the Christmas period that I haven’t listened to yet.


The allotment is still really too wet to do much, but I did pick up my seed potatoes from the allotment shop this week. Although they’re only seed potatoes they are large, and I’ve got about half what I normally would have for the same weight. I should be able to cut some of the really big ones in half, so should still get a reasonable number of plants.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Hope you have a good one!


Selected Best Bits of 2019 (Books, TV, Films)

2019 has been a bit of a mixed bag for me, it’s had some great highs and some very low lows. This post is however about the books, tv and films that I’ve enjoyed this year.

Books

GoodReads tells me that I’ve read 71 “books” this year. There are a few short stories and novellas in there, as well as several Maigret novels which are quite short, and a few audiobooks, but I’d say I read more than my target of 30 books that I set at the start of the year. So what were the highlights? Well I’ve already mentioned the Maigret novels. That started out following a gift during Christmas 2018 and has run through the year, and will continue into 2020, there have been many Maigret’s and all are good – some better than others – and they very much became a staple part of my library. Beyond that those that stood out include:

Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells by Pico Iyer – autobiographical and set mostly in Japan, this was a wonderful and melancholy look at the authors life.

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane Many years in the writing this book is both claustrophobic and mind expanding and takes the reader on a tour of the places beneath our feet from the Mendips to the catacombs of Paris.

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting Another present and originally written in Norwegian. This novel tells the story of Edvard as he tries to unravel the mystery of his dead parents, his grandfather’s brother.

Audiobooks

I’ve done quite a bit of travelling this year, and I’ve taken audiobooks with me on almost all of my longer journeys. The ones that I’ve enjoyed the most were:

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong – we’re full of microbes and probably wouldn’t be able to survive without some of them, this is just fascinating.

Darwin Comes to Town by Menno Schilthuizen – wonderful stories of the species that have become adapted to the presence of man and our encroachment on the natural world.

Jaguars Ripped My Flesh by Tim Cahill – hilarious stories of the authors travels around the world in pursuit of some of the stories he wrote for Outside magazine and other publications. Laugh out loud at times.

Movies / TV

I’ve made a couple of trips to the cinema this year, both for Marvel movies – Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. We’ve also made quite a bit of use of our Amazon Prime membership and in particular we’ve enjoyed Good Omens, Bosch Season 5 and Jack Ryan Season 2.

Beyond that it’s difficult to pick out anything that stands out, I’ve dissapointed with a number of things that looked like they were going to be good, even started well, but then went downhill rapidly.

I’m looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars movie (probably in the New Year, once the kids are safely back at school), and also Star Trek: Picard and Bosch Season 6.

Socks of the Cthulhu TWTW # 55

Greetings from a new computer. I bit the bullet this week and ordered the replacement laptop that will hopefully take me through the next few years of work and life related technology.

I’ve still got lots of setup to do with it and files to transfer but I’m in no hurry, I was planning to do most of that in the break between Christmas and New Year, but I’ve done the basics for now, so if there were to be a failure of my old machine I’d have this one ready to go. It does seem that whatever you buy though the newer machines never come with as much “stuff” as the older versions. Less ports, no CD drive, pushing you ever further away from the analogue and more towards the digital. I’m not sure I like that so much. I like having my music collection on a hard copy format, I still have a lot of CDs, audio cassettes and vinyl. My preferences has been the CD for many years now, and I’m not sure that I want to switch to anything else. It’s the same with books. I like my kindle but I like to have anything I want to keep and treasure as a real book; paper, card and ink that I can touch and feel.

Don’t get me wrong I like the form factor of this new machine, it’s small, light and compact, but in many ways I’d settle for a fountain pen and paper any day.


In addition to the new laptop I’ve also been doing a bit of Christmas shopping, about a 50:50 split between online and physically from the shops. I’ve still a bit to do but it’s early yet, I don’t think I’ve been this far advanced ever before, even though I’m not a last minute shopper at this time of year anyway.


Two greats passed away this week, Clive James and Johnathon Miller both lost to horrible illnesses. “Saturday Night Clive” was a bit of a staple of my teenage years, and the stories of his escapades in homemade go-karts from his “Unreliable Memoirs” still remain in my memory today.


Austin Kleon on healthcare


I’ve not been travelling much this week, so my listening time has been more suited to podcasts and other shorter form audio. Next week sees the launch of The Whisperer in Darkness, which is a follow up to The Mysterious Case of Charles Dexter Ward. These are both titles of stories from H P Lovecraft, but have been retold in a modern setting as radio plays written by Julian Simpson and broadcast on the BBC. You can listen to them here. I’ve been re-listening to The Mysterious Case of Charles Dexter Ward this week as The Whisperer in Darkness launches on December 2nd, so it should be available when you read this. I’ve listened to the trailer for The Whisperer and although you can probably listen to it as a standalone, it might be worth listening to Charles Dexter Ward first.


On the subject of radio, it looks as if Neil Gaiman’s Playing In The Dark which was recorded earlier this year will be broadcast just before Christmas on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4. It’s scheduled for Radio 3 on December 23rd here, and Radio 4 on Christmas Day (although the latter is an edited version). I haven’t seen or heard any previews but the author has written about it on his blog here.

He has also written about the stage production of his book The Ocean At The End of The Lane here, which is also well worth a read if you haven’t already.


I stopped at the library this week with the intention of checking out some books to read, instead I ended up buying some books from their sale stock – books that have been withdrawn from their lending stock. It struck me that actually there was nothing wrong with the books that I bought and that they were very cheap (£1.60 for these four). As soon as the general election is over there is going to be a consultation on the future of our local libraries, and there is much talk about the savings that the council needs to achieve and that libraries are an obvious target for budget reductions. Not much detail is available yet, but we’ll see what the consultation brings when it’s available. I’m hoping that it doesn’t get buried under the seasonal festivities.


Speaking of H P Lovecraft, from a certain angle my Christmas socks seem to have a rather Cthulhu-esque look to them.

I’m on the road a bit more this week, with some trips to Somerset and other places, so until next week, have a good one.

From Inside The Headphones – TWTW #39

img_20191021_071806748Well as another weekend rolls past and we start another Monday, I’m back at my desk. I wrote this late on Sunday so that I could get a head start on some work for a client first thing on Monday, so by the time you read this I should be well underway with that. I hope this short missive finds you well, and that you find something of interest to you below.

This week I’m mostly working from home, with a couple of trips out to take my Mum for some appointments. One of the benefits of being freelance / working for myself is the flexibility to do things like that, I’d never have been allowed all the time off in my old job.

I’m really noticing the darker mornings, autumn already feels like winter but with the soft-reset of the return to GMT coming next weekend, the light will return to the mornings again, at least for a few weeks.


Stephen King’s House to Become Archive and Writers’ Retreat


I read another Maigret this week; A Man’s Head  by George Simenon. It’s one of the really good ones, although I’m not sure the plot is entirely believable – allow convicted killer to escape from jail to prove his innocence before he is executed.


We watched The Hitman’s Bodyguard on Friday evening (we’d recorded it a week or so ago). We had relatively low expectations of the film but in the end found it laugh out loud funny in places and enjoyed it.

Most of it was completely unbelievable and if you’re offended by swearing you most certainly won’t enjoy it.

Basic premise is that the bodyguard (Ryan Reynolds) has to escort the hitman (Samuel L Jackson) to The Hauge to testify against a war criminal, and all of the war criminals associates are trying to stop them. Trailer below – contains swearing.

We also watched the most recent version of Pet Sematary [sic], well we watched the first 45 mins or so, and then lost interest and turned it off. I’m disappointed because I’d heard that this one was much better than the one that was made in the early 1990’s. Still some you win and some you don’t.


The weather has been pretty wet all week, but brightened up on Saturday to enable me to get onto the allotment. I’ve dug over the bed for the broad beans and sown them, so with luck they’ll over winter and we’ll have another good crop in late May next year. This just leaves me the main bed to dig over the coming months, but this is probably the biggest job due to the amount of creeping buttercup that is present. I’ll be doing a little bit at a time so that it doesn’t become an overwhelming prospect.


Podcasts: I mentioned last week that I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts recently. This is in part due to travelling more for work than I have for a while, and not wanting to listen to the 24hr Brexit news coverage that seems to have become just about every broadcast radio and tv station. That’s not to say I’m not following what’s going on, I just wanted to consume it at a sane dose and not be bombarded by it every thirty seconds. So between audiobooks and podcasts this has become my go to entertainment when travelling.

So here’s a list of podcasts that I listen to most regularly. By that I mean I’ll listen to most episodes as they are released. There are a few others, that I don’t listen to as faithfully but for brevity I’ve not included those. Links are for homepages or feeds, I’ll leave it to you as to how you listen to them.

Deep State Radio. A US current and foreign affairs podcast. Good for keeping up with just what the hell is going on in the White House and wider government. Posts several times a week with the main episodes being on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

SW945: A Walk in Japan. A binaural podcast of background noise from whereever the author is at 09:45 each morning (when walking). Best listened to with headphones. [On a hiatus at the moment, as the author isn’t walking, but there are nearly 40 episodes to catch up on].

Floating – Swimming Stories with Joe Minihane. From the author of the book with the same name, interviews and discussions with swimmers and others.

On Margins. By the same author as SW945, a podcast on writing, publishing and related topics.

The Tim Ferriss Show. Fairly well known podcast from Tim Ferriss, author of several books, entrepreneur and experimenter. Interviews with many well known and some less well know people.

The Kevin Rose Show. Fairly similar in content to Tim Ferriss above (and there are occasional overlap episodes).

The Drive. A podcast from doctor Peter Attia about all things medical and medical science.

As I said these are my main goto podcasts but there are a few others that I dip into occasionally. Mostly if they have a guest that I think I’ll like or topic that is relevant.

If you have any suggestions or recommendations for me based on the above or want to give a shout-out to your favourite show, then leave me a comment below.


A summation of the current Brexit fiasco from Charles Stross


I read Pico Iyer’s – Autumn Light  back in April, here’s a good summary of the book, with some extrapolation of some of the ideas it contains from the Brain Pickings website.


I think that’s it for this week, as always, be careful out there.

TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.

It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.

I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.

My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.

Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.


I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


I’ve also  got  the  (re)review  of “Under  The  Rock” coming  up next weekend with the chance to receive a copy of the paperback.



Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.