Mid Way

I’ve reached the mid-point of my post a day in December experiment and decided to stop.

I’m going to have a social media detox for the rest of the year and have decided to include blogging in that. A complete switch from what I had planned.

If you want me, you can contact me in the usual ways (telephone, email), if you’re not sure of the details then please ask and if I know you well enough I’ll supply the details.

Car Service Part 2

The car service didn’t go quite as planned yesterday. When I collected the car I could tell straight away it wasn’t running right. So I took it straight back. They’d changed the spark plugs as part of the service and turns out one of the new plugs was cracked. They probably should have spotted it when they fitted it but they didn’t. Anyway new faulty spark plugs replaced and back on the road again.

Car Service

My car is at the garage for its annual service and MOT today. It’s passed without any issues and I’ll be picking it up soon. I’ve had a loan car today, which was an all electric Renault Zoe. It’s about five years or so since I last drove a fully electric car and it’s interesting to see how the technology has changed in that time. I’m pleased to say all for the better, not that it was bad before but if we are all to make the shift sooner or later to fully electric cars then this is certainly the way forward. The only remaining stumbling block, at least for me, remains the price. Even with the annual saving on the cost of fuel etc. I still couldn’t afford one. It’s likely that they’ll hit price parity with ICE cars in around 2025, but even then I’d still only be looking at being able to afford a secondhand one (assuming that the price differential is about the same). But who knows what will be happening by then.

Bit Twisted TWTW # 83

Hello again! This week started with a lot of promise of getting stuff done, and then on Wednesday morning I twisted my ankle and getting stuff done was restricted to what I could do sitting on my bum with my foot up. I don’t think I’ve done any serious damage, a bit of swelling is all I really have to show for it and painkillers keep most of the discomfort at bay. It has meant though that dog walks have been shorter or limited to the garden and I wasn’t able to drive for a few days.

It also meant that I spent one afternoon playing around with some watercolours. I doubt that I’m going to be a famous artist any time soon, but I did find it very relaxing and with no pressure or expectations it was nice to experiment.


I’ve continued with AudioMo throughout this month, some of the posts are just short snippets, others are longer recordings. Those that I haven’t listed in a previous post are linked below if you’re interested.

AudioMo will be over in just a couple of days and I’ve really enjoyed this years. The discipline of making myself record something everyday and discovering new voices and acquaintances along the way has been fun, and thought provoking.

AudioMo Day 15 – Currently Reading, Day 16 – A Lockdown Problem, Day 17 – To The Woods, Day 18 – Online Voting, Day 19 – Buffering, Day 20 – Buffering, Day 21 Harvesting After The Rain and Allotment Audio TourDay 22 – Woodland Ramblings, Day 23 – Lockdown Reading, Day 24 – A Touch of the Ouchies, Day 25 – Not at the #1984symposium, Day 26 – Reimagining Ansel Adams, Day 27 – Reflecting on AudioMo 2020, Day 28 – The Week Ahead


Work has been very quiet this week, which in some ways has been a blessing. I’ve been able to do some sorting of my Mum’s stuff and then being laid up with a twisted ankle hasn’t had the impact it might otherwise have done.


The Committee on Climate Change produced it’s annual report to government this week, it has recommendations for every government department. If you want to read the whole thing you can find it here or this Guardian piece is a good summary. I’ve been working my way through it slowly but my fear is that government will do little or nothing about it.


I read another Brother Cadfael this week – Dead Man’s Ransom, although these have kind of become my fall back when I don’t feel like reading anything else I found this one a little bit disappointing. Won’t stop me reading the next one though.

My friend David also published some poetry recently, it’s really good and you can read it here.


One thing that I didn’t do this week was visit the grave of George Orwell on his birthday (25th June). I’ve done this a few times but this year with coronavirus and a twisted ankle it wasn’t to be. These events are “organised” by my friend @documentally, and he wrote about it in his newsletter this week. If you don’t already subscribe to his newsletter you should, it’s free every other week or for the cost of a cup of coffee each month you can pay for the full weekly experience.


Lockdown seems to be completely over now, although we’re still broadly avoiding anything other than essential stuff here. Half-a-million beachgoers in Bournemouth had other ideas.


I haven’t been able to get much done on the allotment this week either, fortunately despite us having the hottest day of the year, we also had some rain so I didn’t have to worry about trying to get any watering done.


One of my minor successes this week was cooking a feta and spinach puff pastry roll. I’ve made this a few times and it’s really straightforward. You’ll need: a sheet of ready made puff pastry, a packet of feta cheese, a big handful of spinach, a bunch of parsley, some dried oregano, 2 eggs, some extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

  1. Take the pastry out of the fridge and allow to come up to room temperature to make it easier to handle.
  2. Preheat the oven to gas 6 or equivalent.
  3.  Get a baking sheet big enough to accomodate the puff pastry sheet and grease or line with baking paper to prevent the puff pastry sticking (baking paper also helps with one of the later actions, and is my preferred method)
  4. Wash, drain and dry the parsley and spinach and then roughly chop and place in a mixing bowl.
  5. Chop the feta into cubes and add to the spinach and parsley.
  6. Sprinkle oregano over the top (about 1 to 2 teaspoons) and salt and pepper (don’t be too heavy handed with the salt as feta is already quite salty).
  7. Add one of the eggs and about a tablespoon of olive oil, and mix everything together to combine.
  8. Next place the puff pastry on the greased / papered baking tray.
  9. Lengthways down the centre of the pastry place the spinach / feta mix. You don’t want to overload the pastry or you won’t be able to seal the roll but make sure it is evenly spread.
  10. Beat the other egg to combine the white and yolk.
  11. If you are using baking paper now lift the bottom edge of paper to make the bottom part of the pastry sheet fold over the spinach mix. Brush the egg mix of the exposed pastry atop the spinach mix and the exposed pastry above the mix. Then use the top part of the baking paper to fold the pastry down to cover the mix and overlap the pastry. Press down gently to seal, and seal the ends by pinching with your fingertips.
  12. Carefully cut three or four slices in the pastry to allow the mix to breath in the oven, and brush the whole thing with the remaining egg.
  13. Cook in the oven for around 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Serves 4 to 6. Works well with veg or salad or baked beans and chips if you want a trashy tea. Will keep in the fridge once cool if you can’t manage the whole thing in one sitting. Reheat in the oven at the same temperature / time; but cover with foil to prevent the pastry burning.


That’s it for this week – ankle permitting I’m going to be doing some more sorting of things for Mum in the week ahead but otherwise I don’t have any specific plans.

Stay safe!

Some Not Very Good News TWTW # 32

This last week has been pretty busy, and although I’ve had some good work related news (see below), I’ve had some sad news too. I think I’ve mentioned before that my Mum’s health has not been the best – well she had an appointment this week which was a follow up from some tests and a scan that she had a few weeks ago. The news that the consultant gave was not good, although perhaps wasn’t a surprise given the symptoms she’s had, we’re still processing what that means. For the time being at least I’m not going to say very much more.


The good, work related news, was that the second client I’d been talking to has come on board and that pretty much means in work terms I’m booked solid for the next couple of months. I much prefer being busy to having time on my hands though.


When I went to the allotment last I nearly trod on this pair of mating slugs that were between my shed and compost bins. I was surprised to see them there as this is more of a nocturnal activity, my guess was that they were in the shade there, and it wasn’t until the sun came around that they moved off and went on their separate ways to ultimately lay eggs to produce more slugs to eat my crops!


24 White Storks released in West Sussex rewilding project


I have been listening to the BBC Prom concert based upon the book “The Lost Words” by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. It’s available here for a short time. As a celebration of nature, wildlife and words, it is very much worth a listen.


I’m leaving it here for this week, lots to do over the coming days and obviously plenty to think about.

New Year (Again)

Why is it that we always hail the New Year in the way that we do. We mark the passing of time, and the resetting of the calendar back to the start but is January 1st that much different to December 31st?

It makes more sense to me to mark the seasonal equinoxes and the turning of the seasons that brings about. I’m marking time until the weather improves a little more and I can return to the plot and plant new crops as well as tending to those that are overwintering.

I picked up this theme this year in one of my allotment presentations that I give on a regular basis. The talk is titled An Allotment Year, and it seems that I’m expected to talk about a calendar year, sometimes a seasonal year, but I break it down differently. Split into four I talk about: “Planning and Preparing”, “Sowing and Planting”, “Nurturing and Maintaining”, “Harvesting and Relaxing”. Once the audience gets the idea it seems to go down very well.

Nevertheless it is “New Year” again, and I’m not sure what is in front of me. I am going to try and get back into writing here a little more that I was the second half of last year, but I’m not clear in my mind what that looks like. I have a few family commitments which are likely to take up a lot of time and could dominate my life if I’m not careful and I’m unlikely to be talking much about them here. Otherwise the usual fare is likely along the lines of the allotment, cooking, natural history and related things.

In the meantime however I’ll leave you with a picture of the first of the batch of Christmas puddings I made towards the end of last year. It came out very well, if I do say so myself. If you want the recipe scroll down on the homepage, it should be just below this post or look at the posts for November 2018.

Learning To Swim

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Memories are a funny thing, I’m not sure how accurate mine are and whether or not the sequence of events is actually the way it happened sometimes, but I have been reading “Turning: Lessons from Swimming Berlin’s Lakes” by Jessica J. Lee, this week and she writes about learning to swim. This got me to thinking about how I learnt.

I learnt to swim when I was at primary school, so between the ages of 5 and 11. Once a week we’d be taken by bus to the swimming pool in the nearest city. It probably took us longer to get there and back than it did actually at the pool and so it took up all of a morning for our lessons. If you were unfortunate to have a verruca then you weren’t allowed to go, and had to stay at school. We had our feet checked at the start of each term, lining up and having to lift each foot in turn like a horse being shod so that the instructors could check.

If you couldn’t already swim then you started in the shallow end of the pool, and as you got more confident and able you got to progress along the length of the pool into deeper water. We learnt “doggy-paddle” at first moving on to breast-stroke later. We undertook our distance badges (starting at 10m and working up to miles upon miles), and also learn’t personal survival (swimming in our pyjamas and making floats out of the legs of the trousers) – I always thought that we used pyjamas because what else would you be wearing when your luxury liner sank at night? The highlight of my school memories was coming third in the breast-stroke heats at the County swimming gala (unfortunately only the first two got to progress to the quarter finals).

Neither of my parents could swim and I used to pester my Mum to take me swimming, so in the end I used to go with friends to the seaside or the local pool, until my Mum learnt (probably to stop me whining about wanting to go swimming). As a result we used to go swimming off of the shore at Emsworth and the seafront at Hayling Island, West Wittering and Bracklesham Bay in the school holidays.

My Mum continued to swim, going to classes one night a week, with a friend. When I was old enough (you had to be over 16 for insurance reasons) I joined them. 9 to 10 pm on a Monday night, which meant we didn’t get home until 11 pm and then still got up for college on Tuesdays. I had a lot of fun with those lessons, and ended up with a trophy (I think for best improved technique), and some life-saving certificates.

I don’t seem to swim as much anymore, a bit at Emsworth still (in the summer with the dogs), but that’s about it. I must admit though that reading a book about wild swimming (and not the first one btw), maybe I’ll start again. Who knows.

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Happy New Year 2018

2017 is over welcome 2018!

I think as I enter 2018 that I do so with an element of uncertainty. Not only uncertainty personally but uncertainty generally when I look at the state of the world at large I think it is trepidation that I move forward into the New Year.

I’m still working on what I think my goals and targets will be for this year but having said that I think I need to cut through the uncertainty that I feel personally and try and carve a path for myself that is as stable and calm as possible.

I am planning on not spending any money between now and my birthday in March. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be buying the essentials – groceries, petrol for the car, things that I need to keep my business running, and anything else that falls into that category. What I’m thinking is the luxuries – things like books DVDs, etc. The reason for this is partly that I have a lot of books already that I haven’t read, and I don’t really need any more at this point in time, and also that we need to be careful about money at the moment. If I remember to I’ll try and keep an update on how I’m getting on with this, in my weekly blog posts.

Which brings me quite nicely to my blog which of course you’re reading at the moment. I’m going to try and continue with at least weekly posts but I’ve not been feeling the love for it as much as I have done in the past so I’m not quite sure what this year entails for the blog. I’m not going to be running a blog survey this year as I have done in the past because I’m not really clear in my mind where the blog is going to go so I’m going to wait and see what happens. In part this is because my personal journal hasn’t been updated as frequently as I would like this year so I’m going to take a look at that as well and maybe more of my thoughts will go into my personal journal or possibly they will go on to the blog, I don’t know, I’ll wait-and-see. It might just be that I need to mix up those weekly posts rather than keep them in their current format, I don’t know.

At the moment my diary for 2018 is looking quite blank there are a few bits and pieces in the year but I have plenty of capacity for work and other things, and one of my aims is to try and fill those blanks with some work if I can. I do think I need to be more focused on my work this year to try and overcome the lull that I had during 2017.

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.

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.