Update March 2022

We’ve nearly reached the end of the first quarter of 2022, seems to be going about as well as 2020 and 2021, although at least there was only the threat of virus in those two years and not the threat of a virus and nuclear war.

My Fifty from Fifty newsletter seems to be going well and another month has pretty much gone by where all my posts have been via that outlet rather than here.


So far this year I seem to have read 20 books. I’ve mentioned The Marmalade Diaries in a review post, but outside of that there weren’t really any stand out books. Some good ones like Len Deighton’s Spy Hook & Spy Line (I have the final book Spy Sinker in the trilogy to read) and Spike Milligan’s Monty: His Part in My Victory. The latter of this is probably a bit of an acquired taste but if you get the humour they are a great series too and laugh out loud funny at times.


We’ve been touched indirectly a few times now by Covid, with lots of friends and family members reporting that they are positive. My Mum has had it for a second time, and although now triple vaccinated she seemed worse this time than when she caught it the first time unvaccinated. The ring of protection that the government put around care homes is an utter joke. As is most of their Covid response now. Rising infections and just a ‘nothing to see here, move along’ mentality to appease a handful of Tory backbenchers who can’t possibly inconvenience themselves with a few simple measures like wearing a mask or a bit of physical distancing.

For our part we’re still being very cautious, and even more so now numbers are on such a rise.


Digging Potato Trenches

The allotment is starting to take off again, I spent some time over the weekend getting my potato trenches dug, ready for planting probably next weekend. It should be late enough here now that by the time the shoots emerge from the ground the risk of a heavy frost is past. It is odd this year though because we are very much preparing for a house move that will mean I’ll have to give up the allotment, so whilst I want to make the most of the space and the lower cost of fruit and vegetables, I also don’t want to put in too much effort on sustaining the plot beyond the end of this years contract apart from making sure that whoever gets it after me does so in a reasonable state.


The weather is getting warmer and this coming weekend the clocks go forward, evenings become longer and we lose an hours sleep. Hopefully this means more time to be outside.

Stay safe and take care.

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Fifty From Fifty

In a few weeks time I turn 50. I’ve been toying with ideas of ways to mark it in some way and I thought I’d write about some of the things that I’ve learnt in my life, things that were important to me.

I wanted it to be a limited thing too, something that would be roughly 50 posts, done before I turn 51. So rather than post them here I’ve set up a separate newsletter that way if you’re interested you can sign up for it and if you’re not you don’t have to worry about it – although I can’t guarantee I won’t mention it again here.

So if you’re up for some reminiscence and nostalgia you can sign up here: Fifty From Fifty the sign up process might ask you if you want to pay, but ignore that all the posts will be free. I hope you’ll join me.

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.