Life is a Rollercoaster TWTW # 117

This week has been full of ups and downs. It was my birthday on Tuesday. The weather was amazing. There was cake and presents; you know a fairly typical birthday, or at least as far as possible in pandemic times. Things went on the downslope a bit after that.

I had to go out in the car, I used the opportunity to drop off a birthday parcel for someone else at the sorting office and then headed for the motorway. As I pulled onto the slip road the dashboard lights came on. They weren’t the “!STOP NOW!” kind so I made it one junction and pulled off. I was able to come home via the backroads to my local garage. That’s where the car is now. They’re going to try and look at it soon, at least to diagnose what might be wrong, but they’re really busy and short-staffed at the moment and so probably won’t get to it until later this coming week. I have a sinking feeling about it this time that might mean the car is beyond a sensible repair bill. It’s around about 18 years old so I can’t grumble as I’ve had good service from it. I was hoping it might last a little bit longer though as I’d really like to go to an electric car next but currently they’re a little beyond my financial means. I’d also like to consider not owning a car at all any more but again there isn’t quite the infrastructure locally to support that for us. So for the time being we’re going to see what the garage has to say. It might be something simple (fingers-crossed) and we’ll be back on the road again. If not then we’ll have to reassess our options.

Later on that same evening the dog bowl that our dog has had since we first got him was knocked off of the draining board and broke on the kitchen floor. That was just another emotional kick from a shite day.


Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King, which was a birthday present. It’s good stuff and although the focus is on the latter period of Monet’s life it covers a lot of his life overall so is a fascinating read.

I’m also looking forward to reading Together by Luke Hawker when it’s published – video below.

If you enjoy reading newsletters, Mike Sizemore has a new one out and it’s pretty good. Great story about a bear in the first edition. You can sign up and read the archive here.



Watching. We’ve been watching The Terror this week.

It’s being shown on the BBC, having I think previously been on Netflix, so we’re a bit late to the party. Although I didn’t realise until I came to type this up, that what we’re watching is season one and there is a second season. The premise is based on what might have happened to the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus when they disappeared when scouting for the Northwest Passage in 1848. The wrecks of the two ships were found in 2014 and 2016, but as to what actually happened nothing is known. The TV series is based on the book by Dan Simmons. The second season is about another story. I have to say that while is started out well we both started loosing interest in it about three-quarters of the way through and although we watched to the end I don’t think we would have been too bothered if we’d stopped early.


Allotment. Although we’ve had some stellar weather this week, we’ve also had quite a bit of wind and rain too. Pretty typical March. I went down to the plot early this morning when I was walking the dogs and it’s back to being too wet to dig again. I have however managed to sow some seeds this week and plant some onion sets into modules, so although there isn’t much to show, there are at least things in the pipeline as it were.


Work. A quiet week this week, which was planned due to the birthday but fortunate given the car situation. I did however get another booking for an allotment talk. This one isn’t until May but I do have one the week after next so will be prepping my slides over the next few days, as I want to make some adjustments. Having given this talk on Zoom a couple of times now there are some things that I want to change so that they work better.


The news is quite full of articles of the type “a year ago today” in recognition of the anniversary of the pandemic. Oddly it really started much earlier than that but the media and the government were both asleep at the wheel when it came to realising what was going on and how serious it would become and how quickly. I was having a look back through my journal and there are a few highlights that at the time were routine things but now are oddly milestones. For example the last time I had an in person work meeting was 7th March 2020. After that everything switched to phone and video calls. I think I might keep that retrospective up over the next couple of months as we come out of lockdown # 3 as at the time we were just going into lockdown # 1. The Prime Minister seems to think that this will be the last lockdown. I’m not sure I have the confidence in his abilities to believe him (we’ve been there before after all).

By coincidence the artist / writer Austin Kleon has also been doing the same.


Well that’s it for this week. Stay safe and well!

Tiers to the Eyes TWTW # 106

Our Christmas tree is up. We caved and put it up this week. Like many people it seems that with everything shitty that is going on in the world having a bit of joy is worth every penny and so enjoying the Christmas tree for a week or two more than we might normally? Yeah why not.

Like many our Christmas will be different this year, and we’re going to embrace that rather than try to
shoe-horn our “traditional” celebrations into a pandemic. We won’t be mixing and potentially spreading covid amongst our loved ones.

Thinking about this has got me thinking about Christmases of old. There were a number of years where we had a very fixed format. At the time my Great Grandmother had had a number of strokes and was quite severely disabled by them, she wasn’t mobile and couldn’t speak. She was in a nursing home and we would visit her through the year but on Christmas morning my Mum and Grandma would go and see her, while my Dad and I would go and pick up my Great Auntie. We’d collect her mid-morning and kill some time playing Monopoly until we were ready to gather for our Christmas lunch, meeting up with my Mum, Grandma and her partner Bill. Six of us for Christmas lunch, occasionally with my Mum’s sister joining us. Lunch was timed so that we could finish in time to watch The Queen’s Christmas address, and was always delicious.
After lunch and The Queen, most of us would fall asleep, as a youngster then I’d sit and watch whatever the BBC or ITV had to offer as their Christmas afternoon film.

I’m not sure how many years this carried on for, but I can remember going from being at primary school to being able to drive and chauffeuring the various members of the family about. Latterly my Great Grandmother had passed on and arrangements changed slightly.

Over the years since the arrangements have changed further, as has the member of the family taking the lead. Nowadays that tends to be me but of course this year will be different again.


So how have you been doing this week? We’ve come out of the second lockdown and now depending on where you live we’re in tiers, or perhaps that should be tears? News of vaccines seems very promising but it will still take a little time before we are able to relax our precautions.

Fortunately we haven’t had to have any further trips to the vets and Ruby seems to have returned to normal. So our dog walks and other arrangements seem to be normalised too.


I’ve been reading some more Inspector Morse this week – The Wench is Dead by Colin Dexter – I think the rest of this year is going to be seen out by continuing with Morse, Maigret, Cadfael and the characters of Alistair Maclean.


I’ve been enjoying my tea advent calendar, making a bit of a morning ritual about seeing what each new days tea is. I’ve been posting each days tea on my Instagram stories.


Austin Kleon – How To Break in a Sharpie





Not much more to add this week. I’m winding up my work for the year and starting to think about goals, targets and some personal development things for next year over the next couple of weeks. I want to invest some proper time in this given how much of an impact coronavirus has had this year now seems to be a good time to be having a hard think about future direction.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, stay safe and well.

End of an Era TWTW # 60

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

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


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

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

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


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

 


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


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


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


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


Socks of the Cthulhu TWTW # 55

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

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

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


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


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


Austin Kleon on healthcare


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


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

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


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


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

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

Learning To Swim

IMG_20160504_151951.jpg

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.

DSC00020.jpg

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:


If You’ve Liked What You’ve Read In This Post

Please consider giving it a share on social media via one of the links below.

Similarly you can subscribe to all new posts by using the  link in the right-hand toolbar (and unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in each email).


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.