Never Feed Them After Midnight (Quick Links 111)

It’s been a fairly busy week. I’ve had a couple of appointments to attend with my Mum, and a couple of others for myself. Around that I’ve managed to fit in a haircut, pancakes and of course Valentines Day.

It’s interesting that Shrove Tuesday has become more of a culinary event than the start of Lent, and I’m not sure whether the fact that it is still observed in at least that way is good or not. An acquaintance of mine has decided to observe the period as plastic free, and is recording her adventures here. I admire her, but don’t envy the task. In my own way I’ve been trying to cut down on single use plastics in the home, and it’s not easy. Just too much comes ready packaged in plastic or you are encouraged to use a plastic bag or container of some kind.

We don’t go too mad for Valentines, exchanging just small gifts. For mine this year I received a book (see more below) and a glass hummingbird ornament. I’ve left the latter wrapped up for the time being as I don’t want to break it, and as yet I’m not sure where I can safely put it.

A couple of times this week I nearly wrote an extra post or two, but in the end didn’t and those thoughts ended up getting lost, so I think I might pick up the frequency again, if the mood takes me.


 

Work – I’ve been  finalising next weeks presentation, it sounds good in my head, and I hope it will turn out the same when I come to do it in real life!


Allotment – Sorry to sound like a stuck record here but the ground down there is still too wet to do very much.


Currently Reading – I’ve finished a couple of books this week that I started some time ago and put to one side for various reasons. Not quite sure why I did at the time because both were pretty good and one I really enjoyed. The first is “Spirits of Place” which is an anthology [GoodReads], and the second “Deep Country” by Neil Ansell [GoodReads].

The latter is the authors story of five years in an isolated off-grid cabin in the Welsh hills, and it is this book that really got under my skin. I’m not quite sure why it didn’t when i first started it, although I do remember it was when my Mum was having her knee replaced and I was reading it on the bus going to and from the hospital. I guess I just got too busy after that. However I did finish it this time, and found it rather magical, although the author didn’t hold back about how some of his time in the cabin was quite hard where he was effectively isolated from the rest of the world for long periods. The descriptions of the wildlife and the landscape were particularly captivating, and I was both happy to have finally finished it, although also a little sad.

I also received a copy of “Icebreaker” by Horatio Clare [GoodReads] as a Valentines gift, which I devoured in a couple of evenings (it’s only a short book, but very good). Again another magical book. I didn’t really appreciate the role of the icebreaking ships, but I certainly do now, and the author managed to capture his time on one icebreaker, and weave in stories of the crew and Finland throughout.


Furby Organ – We’ve got a few of these things around the house. I’m not tempted to make my own, but this guys done the job so we don’t have too. I would have liked it more if they had sung in unison and what have you, but it’s still an amazing bit of kit.


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The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


Ant Man & The Wasp – I really enjoyed the first Ant Man movie, so I’m looking forward to watching the sequel too.


Troy: Fall of a City – I heard an interview with the writer of this when I was in the car the other day. I’m not sure how this will translate to screen but the writers knowledge of his subject alone really demand that this be brilliant. Fingers-crossed!


So that’s me out for this week – although if the mood takes me there might be something before next Sunday, who knows. Have a good week everyone.

May The Force Be With You (Quick Links 106)

I finally went to see Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi on Monday. I’d been waiting until the schools went back after Christmas to go to a showing that I could be pretty sure would be quiet – there were only about a dozen of us in the screening. I’ve also managed to avoid all spoilers.

I really enjoyed it, there were a couple of things that felt a little weak, but overall a good film. It made me miss my Dad a lot, as were he still alive and healthy we would probably have gone to see the film together. I guess those days are gone for good.

I spent some time doing some odd jobs for my Mum, as so often happens these things turn out to be more involved than when you start, so weather permitting I’ll be going back this coming week to finish off as I had to get a couple of things in order to complete one of the jobs.

We seem to have a lot of houses up for sale in our road at the moment. There are three currently (including one of our immediate neighbours) and two others have also recently sold. These things seem to happen like that, but whatever happens it seems likely we’ll be getting new neighbours soon.


My plan of cutting back non-essential spending seems to be going well, early days though. The plan is to go at least until March.


Work – Most people seem to be back at work now, and things have been a little bit busier. I’ve been mostly bouncing emails backwards and forwards discussing a couple of projects


Allotment – Potato season starts again. I picked up my seed potatoes from the allotment shop on the weekend, and I’ve set them to chit (grow shoots). I’ll probably be planting them in a couple of months time, depending on the weather.

The weather has been a bit drier this week so I’ve also been weeding the fruit bed. The main problem as ever, is the creeping buttercup, but at least for the time being, I’ve gotten it all out, and now the area is ready for some mulch – I’ll probably be using some straw for that.


Currently Reading – I’ve finished reading  “Tamed: Ten Species that Changed our World” by Alice Roberts [GoodReads]. A really good read and I’d recommend it. Since finishing it however I haven’t really been able to settle into something else yet.


The Week In Wildlife In Pictures – [LINK]


I Cooked this during the week. Lovely:


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Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan – This plan has been promised for such a long time I’ve lost track of how long it has been awaited. Ultimately it wasn’t worth the wait, yet another opportunity by government missed. As and when a plan of this duration is published it is always going to be difficult to get things right, but this plan needs more short term action and mechanisms to deliver (including legislation). Sadly the plan just doesn’t go far enough or look at some of the other areas where action is needed and not just those that are currently in the headlines. [Guardian Article]


Carillion Crisis – How this has been allowed to happen is one thing, but whether or not the government should bail out the company is quite another. In my view there shouldn’t been a simple bail out. It needs something more sophisticated. Companies fail everyday, and I don’t see the government stepping in to bail them out, so I don’t think this should be the exception. The problem is of course just how big, and how many important contracts the company has (which again raises the question as to how this has been allowed to happen). Some, dare I say HS2, could be retendered, others need some immediate action to allow them to continue e.g. health service catering and facilities contracts. Not an easy problem to fix, but something needs to happen quickly.


Was this whale trying to save a life? – Fascinating footage of a whale seemingly trying to keep a diver away from a Tiger Shark.


Not sure what the coming week holds, as I have a few things that I want to do but they’ll be a little bit dependent on the weather. Have to wait and see I guess.

Fourth Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here, Quarter Two is here and Quarter Three here if you’re interested.


Work – Quarter four hasn’t been any different to the rest of the year. In summary a lot of work (unpaid) being spent pursuing potential paid work – writing bids, discussing proposals with clients and potential clients. I hope that this improves a little a lot in 2018, and I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking in terms of what that means for next year and beyond.


Allotment – A good end to the year. With all the family things that have been happening this year, I’ve still managed to find enough time to keep on top of what’s needed at the plot. I am conscious of the amount of time it takes though and so not sure how easy this is going to be next year.


Books – My highlights for this quarter are “Mawson’s Will” by Lennard Bickel [GoodReads] and “Vacationland” by John Hodgman [GoodReads]. Very different books from one another and stand out for different reasons. The former because I wasn’t aware of Douglas Mawson until I read the book  and the latter having the credit for making me chuckle.


Films & TV – Sadly there is nothing that really stands out this quarter. It’s been really difficult finding anything of particular note to watch. I’ve enjoyed “Rick Stein’s Road to Mexico“, although I haven’t yet managed to watch all of  the episodes.


Life In General – This final quarter of the year has been just as hectic as the rest of the year. I don’t really want to talk about much of it, partly because it’s private but also because I’m not really sure where my head is at over some of it. I suspect that some of this will continue into next year and I just hope that I am able to navigate it as calmly as possible.

Quick Links 17th December 2017

My week started with lots of comments on the weather, particularly the snow, of which we had not a flake. Although when I had to try and take the car to the garage on Monday morning it was sleeting just a little amongst the wet and windyness that was our prevailing weather conditions. The car was returned fixed on Tuesday – turns out the oxygen sensor in the engine had failed and needed to be replaced – so I was able to make the service of remembrance on Tuesday evening.

As I didn’t have the car at the start of the week I had to reorganise a few things, but it wasn’t as bad as it might otherwise have been, and actually ended up with more time than I might otherwise have had.

On Friday I went to see Monty Halls talk at Selborne, it was really a summary of what he’d been up to during 2017, although the focus was on The Freedom Trails which I’ve mentioned here before. He has another different series coming out early next year, which will be completely different but looks like it will be just as good. He also signed both my copy of The Freedom Trails book, and another one of his that I’ve had for a while. If you haven’t watched the TV show then I recommend it (LINK)  – not sure whether this will work worldwide and if you don’t have an account you’ll need to create one – but that’s free.

I haven’t managed to get to the cinema to see The Last Jedi yet, although I might be able to early next week. If not I’ll leave it until the schools go back in January.


Work – Not having a car for the first couple of days this week meant that I had to move a few meetings around, but otherwise I’ve been getting a few things done before the Christmas period. I did hear that a bid I’ve been collaborating in has been unsuccessful which means my first quarter won’t necessarily be as busy as I thought it might be. Shame, but that’s how it goes.


Allotment – The ground has been frozen on the plot most mornings this week. I’ve been tidying up the fruit bed, in particular the loganberries – removing last years dead stems, and tying in the new ones which will bear next years fruit.


Currently Reading – Not much change from last week on this front, although I did finish From Source to Sea [LINK] late last night.

If you’re looking for a Christmas present idea or two, you might want to check out this list of Agatha Christie books that make good presents.


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The Week In Wildlife – In Pictures

I’ve also been enjoying the Comedy Wildlife  Photography Awards


A Couple of Movies That I’m Looking Forward To Next Year – 


I’m Very Cynical of politicians who suddenly start doing something that they haven’t really done before [LINK] and Tory government politicians suddenly growing concern about the environment leaves me a little cold. In fairness I’m willing and hoping that actually this [LINK] is genuine and not like the last time when David “Hug-a-Husky” Cameron declared that they were to be “The Greenest Government Ever” and then promptly forgot all about it once elected and successive “Environment” Secretarys did precious little to protect and promote the environment. So far Michael Gove – despite my ongoing suspicions – seems to be doing a good job, although his wildlife minister Theresa Coffey less so.


I’m planning on a relatively quiet Christmas, but I am planning to post next week, so until then I wish you adieu, and leave you with this snowy video I made back in 2010 – the last time we had any serious snow fall.

Snow – Parallel Highway from tontowilliams on Vimeo.

 

Third Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here and Quarter Two is here if you’re interested.


Work – The third quarter has continued in the way quarter two went – a lot of effort on preparing proposals and looking for clients but no luck. There were a couple of proposals in there that I was really looking forward to delivering, so I’m disappointed that I won’t be – but that’s the way it goes.


Allotment – It’s been a good season this year, probably not as good as last year, but not shabby, and some things like pumpkins and cucumbers have been much better than last year. We’ve had a lot of our food from the allotment. As the quarter ends though, the season is winding down, but I’m planning for the winter season and next year.


Books – I’ve exceeded my GoodReads target of reading 25 books. That said, this still feels like an arbitrary number, particularly when there are only a couple of books that stood out for me this quarter. They were “Santorini” by Alistair MacLean [GoodReads] and “risingtidefallingstar” by Philip Hoare [GoodReads]. The former was a reread, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the book. The latter I enjoyed because of the personal content as well as the historical and biographical content.


Films & TV – I’m pretty disappointed with TV at the moment, there seems to be nothing on. That’s pretty normal for the summer months, as most of the new programming starts in the autumn. There are a few things that stick in my mind as I enjoyed them:

Strike [LINK] – This is the adaptation of the novels of Robert Galbraith (a.k.a J.K. Rowling), so far they’ve adapted “The Cuckoo’s Calling” & “The Silkworm”. I thought they were well acted and as far as I can tell were pretty faithful to the original books. It’s also supposed to be coming back for further adaptations next year. I’d recommend checking it out, even if you haven’t read the books.

Arrival [LINK] – I watched this on Amazon Prime with little expectation, but enjoyed it. I’d say though that this is perhaps a film that you’ll either like or find really boring.

The Martian [LINK] – I know I’m pretty late to the party on this one and I’ve had the DVD for a little while before getting around to watching it, but I did really enjoy it. A nice Saturday evening in film – if that makes any sense?


Life In General – It’s been a hectic quarter with family things. My Mum has had her knee replaced, and so I’ve been spending a lot of time with her. In some ways the fact that work has been quiet has been helpful to me. I’ve got lots of things to do around the house and garden, as well as continuing to help sort out my Dad’s things and my Grandma’s house. Hopefully the latter is almost complete as there’s a buyer in place and it’s just waiting for things to go through.

Second Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment. The 2017 Quarter One Review is here if you’re interested.


Work – It’s been a very quiet quarter. I’ve been doing a lot of proposals and business development work, but it has yet to lead to any paid contracts. I think to an extent that uncertainty around Brexit, the General Election, and a few other things mean that things are quieter than they were this time last year, and as we now enter a traditionally quiet time that will probably continue for a while yet. I’m conscious as to how long a contract drought can last before I need to bring in a wage or income from somewhere else. I’m not there yet, but it is something I’m thinking about at the moment.


Allotment – These second quarter months really mark the start of when things really get going in the new season. Although it’s been a little bit odd with quite a few failed or only partial germination, most notably with sweetcorn, courgettes and cucumbers. Second sowings have been more successful, but the timings have been no different to last year, although the weather has been a little bit cooler in April & May, although June was a scorcher! So far this year doesn’t feel as strong as last year, but that’s just the ups and downs of growing.


Books – I’ve reached my GoodReads target of reading 25 books early. It feels like such an arbitrary number to me, I sometimes wonder why I bother with the challenge, but I’ll leave it alone for now.

Highlights this quarter, include Guests of Summer: A House Martin Love Story by Theunis Piersma and Bee Quest by Dave Goulson. Both excellent natural history books and both sadly showing evidence of decline in many of the amazing species on our planet.


Films & TV – Still watching the reruns of  “All Creatures Great & Small“. Although, apart from the Christmas special all have been shown now, and the channel has started back from the first episode again. I have a good few stacked on our DVR still to watch.

I did enjoy the BBCs Line of Duty, although this is in its fourth season, it’s the first one I’ve watched. Although some of it has been a bit of a stretch, it had me watching each week. I’ve also been watching a few things on Amazon Video. Bosch returned for Season 3, and was excellent, it’s a series that keeps getting stronger. I’ve also been catching up on The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead.

Finally I’m going to mention American Gods. I had great hopes for this adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book, and although there were some high points generally it was a disappointment.


Life In General – Although things are moving on there is still a lot to do following the passing of my Dad and Grandma. I suspect that it will be a running theme of the year and dominate a lot of what I do during the course of the year. I’m more aware that I’m thinking about my Dad and being a bit introspective in terms of my own life and it’s direction.

I’m also waiting to hear about my Mum having a knee replacement, which is likely to be sometime before the end of the calendar year, so the upcoming six months, have a certain level of uncertainty about them.

I’ve also been having car trouble, it’s not let me down, but has been back and forth to the garage for a scheduled repair where a part failed repeatedly, this might mean that I have to replace the car in due course, but I’ll see how that goes.

First Quarter Review 2017

Each year for the past few years I’ve been doing a year end review; last year I split that across the year, doing one at the end of each quarter. This year I’m going to try and do the same as last and do a quarterly review – books I’ve read, films/TV programmes I’ve watched and other things related to life, work and the allotment.


Work – Last year was my first full year being self-employed, it had its ups and downs, and as I enter my second year I’d like to be a little busier than I am but in some ways with everything that has been going on generally in life (see below), having some extra time for that has been useful. I’m trying to grow things a little this year, and am looking at new areas of work to help spread my horizons a little more and hopefully bring in some more work over time.


Allotment – The first quarter is all about getting things ready really. The weather hasn’t been that kind in terms of being able to get onto the plot but the last few weeks of this quarter have seen things picking up. We’ve enjoyed fresh vegetables all through the winter and continue to do so in the spring. I’m looking forward to what I hope will be another good year on the plot, with it providing a significant proportion of our food during the coming months.


Books – Well according to GoodReads I’ve read 18 books so far this year. That feels like a lot, but a couple were short books or novellas, so perhaps it’s not as many as it at first seems. There wasn’t really anything that stood out particularly, although some of the images in Yellowstone by David Quammen were amazing.


Films & TV – TV has been a bit of a disappointment so far this year, I had high hopes for the adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, but in the end I was pretty disappointed by it. The one thing I have been watching and enjoying though is “All Creatures Great & Small“. This was first shown in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and I remember it well from my childhood. One of the Freeview channels has been repeating episodes each afternoon, and we’ve been recording them and then watching them when nothing else is on. They hold up pretty well and it’s been quite an indulgence to rewatch them.

On the film front there are a few that stick in my mind. Rogue One was a highlight at the start of the year. I do like Star Wars films, and this one is no exception. It’s also the first film that I’ve been to watch in the cinema for quite a long time. I’d also add The Magnificent Seven reboot with Denzel Washington & Chris Pratt; Hell or High Water with Jeff Bridges & Chris Pine; The Legend of Tarzan with Alexander Skarsgard & Samuel L Jackson; In a Valley of Violence with Ethan Hawke & John Travolta; and finally Swallows and Amazons, another reboot.


Life In General –  As regular readers will know, I lost my Dad at the end of last year and then early in January my Grandma. Loosing my Dad has been particularly hard and I still think it will be sometime before things return to “normal”, whatever that looks like. Much of these first few months of this year has been taken up with various things in connection with these two events – solicitors, dealing with companies, bureaucracy, etc. I am a little astounded by how little some companies care about their customers in these situations and how just getting something right first time would be essential. It seems that this isn’t the case for many of them.

I’ve also had some health issues of my own to deal with, and that will be ongoing for a while I think.

Being my own boss has helped give me the time to deal with a lot of this, I know that were I still working for my old employer that this wouldn’t have been possible in the same way, and ultimately may have lead to more conflict. However I can’t continue to give this much time to some of these things, it’s not critical yet, but something I am conscious of and need to keep under review, and try to resolve some of the outstanding items.