Who Are You? Who Am I? TWTW # 103

I’m writing this on Sunday morning after being woken up at 2.50am, 4am and 5.45am by dogs who: wanted to get on the bed / needed to go for a pee / wanted their breakfast. Suffice to say if this is complete nonsense – or at least more nonsense that usual – you know why.

How are you doing?


We heard on Tuesday that Mum tested positive for coronavirus. So far she’s only showing mild symptoms so our hopes are that she will remain that way. Her test was on the Sunday before so today is the mid-point of what the doctors are saying is her infectious period. We’ve been in touch with her on the phone most days, and I really appreciate the staff in the home, some of whom have also caught the virus, for looking after her and all the other residents during this time. The simple task of taking a phone to Mum and all the rigmarole of changing PPE before and after, sanitising the phone and all the other task they now have to do that they didn’t before must be stressful enough without the added concern that they are constantly at risk of exposure themselves. Standing on our doorsteps clapping (haven’t seen much of that recently) just simply isn’t enough. Carers, nurses and all the other essential workers that we rely on, not just in these times but all the time just are not recognised for what they do and are certainly not appropriately recompensed.


Lockdown life certainly makes things a little quieter. My trips out have been to get groceries and to walk the dogs. The weather put pay to any serious work on the allotment this week, so that was also combined with a dog walk. I’ve been doing a few jobs around the house including repair our back step which had become pretty rotten. I managed to make the repairs with leftover wood and fixings from other projects. I like these little projects where in reality I have no formal training or skills but life has made me wise enough to work out what needs doing and do it.

The rest of my time has been spent thinking about Mum and generally trying to stay sane.


I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking and cooking this week. I enjoy making our meals from scratch and this week it’s as much been about distracting my brain as anything else. I always have a few basics and change other ingredients around by what I have on the allotment or have bought. The onion and parsnip soup that I mentioned last week, sprout chilli this week. With just the two of us many of these last for a couple of nights and then I move on to something else.


I’ve gotten through another Inspector Morse mystery this week – The Secret of Annexe 3 by Colin Dexter. I wasn’t actually planning on reading another one so soon, but after drifting between other things I picked this one up one evening and read it across a few days. I moved onto a Brother Cadfael – The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters after that which I’m still reading. It’s early days, no one has died yet.


Looking for something to do during lockdown but are tired of jigsaw puzzles – well you could always try this.


The Emboughered by Dickie Straker

The Lookout Cookbook

A Single Map is Enough

First Mile Podcast

Tim Ferris – Podcast with Scott Kelly


Ding Dong (best played with sound). I’m glad he’s gone, I’d have been happier if he’d been sacked after his “eye-test”. My fear is that he’s already done so much damage that it can’t be undone and on January 1st we’ll truly start to see just what a piece of work he really is.


Until next time – stay safe and take care.

Rinse and Repeat TWTW # 102

Well here we are again. Our second national lockdown started this week. Not a surprise to most people, except some politicians, but certainly avoidable. It does seem quieter but the reality is that many of the shops that had to close in the first lockdown are actually open this time, although how you might justify and “essential” trip to them isn’t clear.


I received news this week that there has been an outbreak of Coronavirus at my Mum’s care home. At the time of writing there have been a handful of infections amongst the staff and residents but Mum has tested negative and is symptom free. This could of course change at any time but the home are doing everything that they can.

There is very little that I can actually do apart from provide some moral support from a distance. Given the lockdown arrangements at the home, I’ve not actually seen Mum since the end of August but we’ve been talking regularly on the phone.


The above news and trying to get a few things done before lockdown started has occupied most of my week. I had medicine to pick up from the vet for one of our dogs which I managed to do on Wednesday, combining it with another job, the collection of our own prescriptions from the pharmacy and paying a cheque into the bank. I’ve done our regular grocery run and got petrol for the car – the car hasn’t moved since and probably won’t until I next have to go for groceries. Otherwise from Thursday I’ve been out to walk the dogs but have been observing the lockdown rules.


Also at the time of writing the American election has seemingly been resolved in the favour of Joe Biden, which means the time of Trump is coming to an end. Of course it’s unlikely that this is truly over given the orange idiot’s lack of maturity and use of Twitter.



We’ve had a few frosty mornings (and some lovely sunny days) this week which is good for the allotment, particularly my parsnips and garlic. The latter need a certain period of cold temperatures to properly form cloves within the overall bulb, otherwise what you get is one massive clove.

I did dig the first parsnips though, as they do taste better after a frost. They were certainly sweet and I made an onion and parsnip soup from the couple that I dug. Very tasty.

I also dig some more digging and spreading of manure yesterday and today my body is telling me all about it.



I’ve been reading a mix of things this week, but not really been able to concentrate on any single one of them. My mind has been elsewhere.

We’ve been watching more Inspector Morse and also some Dick Barton Special Agent.


I’m not entirely sure what the week ahead holds. With lockdown obviously things are probably going to be pretty quiet, but I’ll be waiting for more news from my Mum’s care home.

Whatever you’re doing this week, stay safe and take care.


Teams Zoom-a-thon TWTW # 101

I forgot to mention last week that I’d made some grape jelly. We harvested the relatively small amount of grapes from our vine in the potting shed and converted it to jelly. We ended up with 4 jars. We have also since given it the taste test. It’s pretty good, although I think Ann likes it better than I do. I put some Star Anise in when I was cooking it and this has given it quite a unique taste, I’m not sure I care for it.


I was saddened to read that Sir Sean Connery had died


I’ve been reading an Inspector Montalbano mystery this week – The Potter’s Field by Andrea Camilleri – and when I finished that I moved straight to an Inspector Morse – The Riddle of the Third Mile by Colin Dexter. I seem to be wanting to read a lot of mystery novels at the moment. Not sure why, maybe it’s just a part of my brain that wants to be entertained in a certain way.

We’ve also watched a couple of Inspector Morse mysteries on TV as reruns. It seems that the series are being reshown from the beginning, so I’ve set our digibox up to record them as they are shown. It will give us something to watch as we enter the new national lockdown.


Workwise this week has been a round of virtual meetings. I have to say that depending on which client I am talking to their videoconference platform of choice varies. There’s a lot of Zoom and the rest seem to be Teams, with the odd Facetime or Googlehangout for some variety. Of all of them Teams seems to be the worst, although they all have their varying problems, the variety means that I get to experience them all. At the moment I’d much rather use them than have to travel for face-to-face meetings but I’m not convinced that it is a mature technology yet, despite the extensive field testing it’s getting.


Neil Gaiman’s Halloween Reading for 2020


More photos back from the developer this week. This was the black and white roll that I took more or less the same time as the roll of colour that I shared some pics from last week. Anyway some examples from the second roll below.


Work on the allotment has been a bit limited this week due to inclement weather. I’ve managed to do some weeding and some digging to keep things moving in the right direction but that’s about all.


I doubt it will all be over by this time next week, and frankly I still think it could go either way.


So it looks as if we are going back into another National Lockdown, assuming that the Prime Minister can get the new restrictions through Parliament. It’s going to be much harder this time I suspect, and possibly harder for the authorities to enforce.


That’s it for this week. Stay safe and well.

TWTW # 100

Life’s a beach as they say…


Work has been fairly quiet this week, with a few queries about on going projects and potential new ones. Not much to report on that front.


I’ve been reading Rowland White’s – Harrier 809 as mentioned last time. I enjoyed it, but perhaps not as much as I thought I was going to when I wrote about it last week. I would recommend it though if you have any memories of that quite iconic airplane or that time of history.


I did get back one of my rolls of film this week, I expect to get the other one shortly (they had a problem matching the developing liquid to the film, so we’ve gone for a work around). I was pleased with the results. There’s a little slideshow of some of them below.


Our government doesn’t seem to care about child poverty and hunger.


There’s not much else to say this week. The week ahead looks like it’s going to be a bit busier work wise, but other than that I have no specific plans.

Take Care and Stay Safe.

Memories of Jumping Jets TWTW # 99

I seem to have packed quite a bit into this week, including a trip to the seashore. Here are some highlights.


I’ve been reading Colin Dexter’s – Last Seen Wearing this week, an Inspector Morse novel. I finished it yesterday afternoon and immediately picked up Rowland White’s – Harrier 809 (Britain’s Legendary Jump Jet and the Untold Story of the Falklands War. A bit of a contrast in reading matter. The Inspector Morse was a good read if a bit convoluted in plot terms towards the end. It’s a bit early to say much about the Harrier book, except that it is already bringing back memories of watching Harriers practice ski-jump take-offs and vertical landings at RNAS Yeovilton. There’s an aviation museum there and right alongside it is/was the airfield where you could go and stand against the fence and watch the aircraft. In those days mostly Harriers and helicopters. They also had a Concorde in the museum where you would walk up a stairway at the tail of the aircraft and walk along its length to end up looking at the cockpit. You can probably tell that I’m looking forward to reading this book, and in truth have had it on preorder for a while.


We’ve had a number of lovely days this week, and on Friday the nice weather coincided with an opportunity for me to take my film camera out again. In truth I took two film cameras, and a digital out. One film camera loaded with a partially exposed roll of black and white film and the other with a new roll of colour. I finished both the rolls and they are now on their way to be processed. I’m using a new company to do this, but they seem to be well recommended so hopefully I’ll have something to show for it in a week or so.

I was a bit undecided as to where I was going to go. I’d been thinking about trying to get some photographs of the autumn leaves, but the colours aren’t really there yet so in the end I went to Royal Victoria Country Park. It’s the site of an old military hospital, has a military cemetery on site and is right next to Southampton Water so there is a land / sea interface to play with photographically. The bulk of my pictures are on those rolls of film although there are some digital ones shared here.


My car passed its MOT without requiring any work other than a couple of advisories. I was worried that I might end up with a big bill for repairs, but other than anything that might need doing in the meantime we’re all good for another year. I’m hoping that my next car will be electric but at the moment the prices are still prohibitively high so I am trying to make what I have last a little longer in the hope that those prices may fall.


I’ve been digging and manuring on the allotment this week, nothing very exciting, but essential work to prepare the ground for next year.

I gave a talk via Zoom to a horticultural society on Thursday evening. There were about 25 viewers, which is about half what they normally get for an in person talk. It’s strange giving talks this way. They need to be revised as some of the things that I can do in person don’t work via Zoom and you don’t get the same feedback as you do when you’re there in the flesh. It is however keeping something going.


Covid-19 lockdown rules are pretty much a mess here in the UK at the moment. Summed up pretty well by Jonathan Pie


A Rare Look At a Bobcat Family


My friend David has a new article up at Lit Reactor on Modern Western Films. I love his selection and would also recommend watching In a Valley of Violence and Jane Got A Gun if you haven’t seen them.


Well I guess that’s about all I have for this week. Take care and stay safe!

Allotment Zoom TWTW # 98

Is it really that time of the week again? Some days pass so fast, even when I don’t feel like I’ve been doing all that much.


I’ve been working on a proposal this week, or rather reworking one for some work that I was involved in last year and the early part of this year that got postponed when lockdown started. The client wants to get going again, and so I’m requoting for the work, hopefully only because it’s changed emphasis but I’ve submitted my fee proposal and now I’ll just have to wait and see.

I also got asked to give an allotment talk via Zoom. All of my in person talks for this year were cancelled and although I’ve been offering to give them via videolink very few groups have wanted to give it a go, but it seems that some are now being a bit more adventurous. It’s booked for this coming Thursday, they’re not sure how many of their members will tune in but it is good to talking about the allotment again.


Speaking of the allotment, I’ve been harvesting the last of the squash and pumpkins this week. I did about half of them a couple of weeks ago, but there were a few that didn’t look quite ready so I left them for a bit longer. My barrow was full and quite heavy walking home. Now that they’re gone I can dig that area and spread some manure getting ready for next year. I have quite a bit of digging to do, and there are plenty of weeds so it’s going to keep me busy. Hopefully it won’t rain too much and I can get on, as once the soil gets wet it’s virtually impossible to work as it has a high clay content and just becomes a waterlogged mess.


The only thing I’ve read this week is an Inspector Maigret novel – Maigret’s Madwoman – I’ve been dipping into other things, but nothing has really caught and held my full attention.

I have been thinking about next years reading list and trying to get through some of the tbr pile. Possibly going on a complete book buying hiatus or restricting it in some way. No decisions have been made yet – watch this space.


The week ahead holds some uncertainty as my car is due for it’s MOT and so it could turn out to be an expensive week. Keeping my fingers crossed for a pass.

Wherever you are 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.

Porridge Days TWTW # 96

Greetings from the allotment where I’ve been preparing the ground and planting out kale plants and sowing broad bean seed.

It was the autumnal equinox this week, and for the first time in a while I felt a little cold wearing shorts and swapped them out for a pair of jeans and socks. Porridge has returned to being my breakfast staple of choice. We’ve had some clear nights and it won’t be long before we have some frosts I think. I’m getting the plot ready for winter and this is probably the last planting round of the year.


I got all my rolls of film back from processing over the course of the week. Disappointingly my roll of infrared was heavily underexposed. I was using a filter to totally block visible light, and long exposures (40 secs) to try and capture images, but probably the exposures needed to be maybe a minute or longer. The roll of black and white that I had, which was over 16 years old and date expired back in 2004, produced some good results. As far I can see there was only one frame on the roll that looked like it might have deteriorated with age, the rest were great and some very pleasing images.


 

It was my Mum’s birthday this week, because of the new covid restrictions the care home she is in has gone back into lockdown and so visits are not possible again, but we dropped off some presents and a card the day before and had a good chat on the phone. She had a good day by all accounts with a tea party and cake on the afternoon of her birthday.


I was sorting through some books at my Mum’s house this week and found an old bible. When I looked inside I saw the inscription in the picture. My assumption is that it was presented to me, but I never knew I owned it. The day I found it was also the 24th September. Very strange coincidence. If you’re interested the verse referenced reads:

 

“And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and gracious, whatever is excellent and admirable-fill all you thoughts with these things”


I’ve been reading Desmond Bagley’s – High Citadel – this week, originally written in the 1960’s and despite a slightly unbelievable closing, it stands up well, unlike some other books written in the same period.


I’m reading less “news” nowadays. I just find the latest screw-up by our government or Trump outrage something that I just don’t want to know about. I think this probably means that I am missing some other interesting stuff but to be honest I think I’m better for it. It does mean that these posts are a bit more, me, me, me, rather than a broader view, so apologies for that.


That’s it for this week, stay safe and take care.

Hard Words TWTW # 95

Sometimes these words come easily and sometimes they don’t. This week the words are a bit lost. I’ve had quite a busy week, although much of it was mundane things and really there should be many, many things I could write about but the words just aren’t there, so sorry if this weeks post is a bit on the boring side.


 

I thought I was going to have a quiet week workwise this week (see below), so I booked a day in my diary to go out and take photos. Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. No pressure, just take some gear and go and shoot some roll(s) of film. I took two cameras and three rolls of film. One infrared, one fast colour negative and one slow black and white. As with all of these trips so far this one was experimental, particularly with respect to the infrared. I used a filter on the lense that blocks all visible light, and will only allow infrared through to the lense / film. It meant that taking shots took a lot longer to set up and I was playing with ISO settings and the length of time that the shutter was open. I’ve taken some quite detailed notes so I can understand what was more effective (or not) when I get the pictures back. They’ve all now gone off to the lab to be processed so I might get them back in time for next weeks post or I might do a separate post depending on how technical it might get.


The lense convertor for using my old Minolta lenses on my Canon digital camera arrived. I’ve only had a chance to check it fits and take a few test shots, but it works within the constraints of matching two different types of hardware. So physically everything works well, but not unexpectedly things like the autofocus doesn’t, so manual focus will have to do but beyond that shooting purely on manual works really well, and that is what I do most of the time anyway.


I’ve been reading Robert Harris’s new book –  V2 , which I enjoyed. It’s a good mix of fact and fiction over the Vengeance weapons used at the end of WWII, it wasn’t amazing but it was entertaining.


I’ve been planting garlic and overwintering onions on the allotment this week. It will be another nine months or thereabouts before we’ll be eating those. I’ve also been doing some of the more mundane jobs like weeding and tidying and getting the plot ready for winter. There’s always plenty to do.


It’s been an interesting work week. All quiet until mid-week when I had a call from a client asking for some help. Not quite sure where this will go, and I have a follow up call booked for Monday to work out what they need and how/if I can help. It’s good news so far and hopefully will turn into something concrete.


That’s about all I have for now. Take care and stay safe!

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.