Do As You Would Be Done TWTW # 94

I’m getting this ready to go out a day earlier than planned and writing this on Saturday. I doubt that I’ll do much more this week, that I can’t tell you about next week, so I will be hitting send sooner rather than later.

This week has been pretty busy for me but it’s mostly been mundane things rather than anything exciting. It’s just been a week about getting things done, rather than doing things. If you know what I mean? I did take a film camera out mid-week, but that roll of film is only half-exposed so there is nothing to show for it yet.


The comedy wildlife photography of the year finalists have been announced. I particularly like the swinging monkey.


I’ve been reading some H P Lovecraft this week and then moved onto rereading Alistair Maclean’s HMS Ulysses, a book that I read back as a young teenager but haven’t picked up since. I think the copy I have might even be the one I read the first time around. It stands up really well after all these years, and you can really feel the cold of the North Atlantic convoy to Russia during WWII.

 


My last regular piece of work came to an end this week. I still have an open contract with this particular client but I can’t see them wanting anything more for the time being. There’s been a long tail impact from coronavirus to my business and it’s really only now that I’m starting to feel it.

I have plenty of things to keep me occupied, so I’m intending to concentrate on those for the time being.


Speaking of coronavirus, the restrictions are tightening again here in England as numbers of infections rise. It also means that the care home that my Mum now lives in has gone back into lockdown, at least temporarily. This means that the visit I had planned for my Mum won’t now be able to happen. I was expecting this so it didn’t come as a big surprise but it is still a disappointment that I won’t be able to see her anytime soon.

The reopening of sectors of society has impacts on other areas. I’m not sure we can continue to have bars, restaurants, etc open if we also want schools and other areas. There are still some sectors of society that haven’t fully reopened – I’m still not able to go back to giving talks for example and theatres and some other performance venues are not yet open. It will be a balancing act for many months to come I suspect. I’m not sure that the government is truly on top of things.


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I was sorting through some things at my Mum’s house this week when I came across an old battered suitcase that had a label on it – “Toys” – it said. I was intrigued as I was pretty sure that despite keeping a lot of things, I don’t remember any toys being kept. Inside were a number of different things. A carrier bag full of badges, including those from two of the “fan” clubs that I belonged to as a child. Some plastic toy soldiers, some Star Wars figures and a few other things. It seems a little like a random collection of things that were kept and I’m not sure why, but they have some happy memories associated with them.


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I’ve been thinking how well my journaling setup has been working this week. The last few years I’ve had one book (a lined A5 hardcover) which nearly everything has gone in – my diary entries for each day, drawings, copies of photos that I’ve taken and any momentos – tickets, ephemera etc – these books become quite fat and often more than one volume for a year. I’ve kept a smaller notebook for making notes from books I’m reading – quotes etc – normally a smaller Field Notes or similar, this also goes to multiple volumes.

This year I’ve tried something a little different. I’ve kept the journal in the same style of book (this year a lined A5 Leuchtturm1917) and the smaller Field Notes and an A4 scrapbook for all of the photos and ephemera. The way things are going it looks as if the main journal will also go into a second volume for this year, and possibly the scrapbook. I’ve also used lots of additional Field Notes style books for different things – a lockdown log, a back pocket carry everywhere, a meditation log.

Both of these systems have worked well, and I’m not sure that I have a preference if I’m honest. I will most likely keep this years setup into next year, I might vary the manufacturer of the main journal, although I really like the Leuchtturm.


Got a bit lost in this YouTube rabbit hole this week.


Well that’s it for this week. The week ahead is looking quite empty, at least as far as my calendar is concerned but I am expecting to get more things done, much like this week that’s just gone.

As always stay safe and take care!


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.

Social Distance TWTW # 69

It’s probably impossible to write here and not to acknowledge what’s happening in the world, even though my experience is only limited to what is going on around me. It also seems that things are constantly changing and greater efforts are being made to contain the spread of the virus and pressure on the vital health services. However as I write this on Sunday things will have moved on by the time it’s published tomorrow, so bear with me.

On Monday things seemed to be more or less normal, with most businesses being open although we were being encouraged to work from home more and avoid unnecessary contact. By Friday the country was very different.

I won’t dwell on all the different restrictions or the various different announcements, but I do want to make a plea. Please be considerate, please don’t be selfish. Don’t be a dick.


It’s been easy to be distracted from work this week, I admit to be a little anxious about groceries and in particular making sure that my Mum has what she needs. She has Alzheimers and doesn’t understand what is going on, maybe that’s just as well.

More cancellations / postponements and suddenly my diary is looking very empty over the coming weeks. I still have a couple of reports to write / finish, I’m hoping that I won’t have a problem getting paid for them.


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I gave Ruby a haircut this week, she was less than impressed. It’s something we try and do at the start of the spring and then again later in the summer to help reduce burs and snags in her coat, and also keep her cooler. I think I’ve been forgiven already, at least until she’s due her next cut. We hang the spring cut in an old bird feeder in the garden and the birds – particularly the blue tits – come and take it for their nests.


I finished reading East West Street by Phillippe Sands and got an Inspector Montalbano – Excursion To Tindari – in. I haven’t had a chance to start anything else yet.


I’m really grateful for podcasts this week, particularly those that have enabled me to escape the background noise of coronavirus. I’ve been listening to a few different ones in particular this week, including going back through their back catalogue to listen to ones that I’ve missed. A couple of picks for you:

99% Invisible – stories about all sorts of things, not everything is something that I would be naturally interested in but it’s presented in such a way that I’ve found out a lot about things that I’ve never have bothered with before.

We Have Ways of Making You Talk – very much about WWII, it’s history and stories.

Deep State Radio – American domestic and foreign policy podcast, and actually not one you want to listen to if you want to lower your anxiety levels, but good for staying informed on what’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic.

Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – Adam Savage from Testd and Mythbusters fame podcasts, covering many different films, games, science fiction, toys and more.


My social media abstention has continued. I think to be honest absence from social media has helped lower anxiety levels, although there have been a couple of times when I wanted to go onto Twitter to have a complete rant about something but didn’t. I actually think posting less is probably a good thing, posting pictures of empty supermarket shelves often just prompts people to go out and panic buy because they think they are not going to be able to get what they need.


The week ahead, I’ll mostly be at home, apart from dog walks. I will need to try and get some groceries at some point, but otherwise I’m making sure I’m practicing social distancing and not putting myself or anyone else at increased risk.

Wherever you are – stay safe.


Things To Do When You Can’t Go Out

So you might be on an extended spell of working from home or self-isolating due to the Coronavirus. If you’re not already used to the home working or hermit lifestyle it can be a bit of a shock to the system.

I thought therefore that I’d post a few links to books, tv shows, podcast and other things that I’ve enjoyed that might be new to you and perhaps give you some alternative options. I’ve tried to limit things to those that can be accessed electronically without having to leave the house.

I hope you’ll find the list useful and will give something on it a try, but do leave me some feedback on your recommendations in the comments.

Books

I like reading crime, natural history, travel and some science fiction, but here are a few things that you might enjoy.

Mick Herron – Slow Horses. This is the first book in a series, and although I’ve enjoyed the later books in the series more you probably should start at the first in the series. Slow Horses are MI5 agents who have screwed up in some way but can’t be sacked therefore they have been sidelined in the hope that they will quit. Good stuff and worth a read.

Lars Mytting – Sixteen Trees of the SommeA mystery but not really a crime novel per se. Family history, tragedy, intrigue blended to make a great story.

David Quammen – Spillover. If you want to know a bit more about how pandemics start this is worth a read, sobering and very relevant to the current situation but well researched and written without being sensationalist.

Pico Iyer – Autumn Light. This travel writers semi-autobiographical tale of his life in Japan during a year that has big changes for him and his family. Beautifully observed and written.

Films & TV

I rarely remember the things that I’ve watched or seen recently, so for something to stick in my head generally means I really enjoyed it. Here’s some of those suggestions:

Bosch – Based on the books by author Michael Connelly. Five seasons available with a sixth coming soon, so if you like it there’s a bit to binge watch.

Longmire – Another book to tv series this time Craig Johnsons Walt Longmire brought to life by Robert Taylor. Again several seasons available although I preferred the earlier seasons.

Good Omens – From the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (I sense a bit of a theme running in this section), and produced by Neil Gaiman. The tale of the end of the world – maybe – as an angel and a devil join forces to prevent armageddon.

Audio / Podcasts

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward & The Whisperer in Darkness – Written by Julian Simpson these are excellent blendings of HP Lovecraft for modern times. There’s a third season coming later this year.

99% Invisible – I love the stories in this podcast, different every week not all of them have been “my thing” but I’ve still enjoyed nearly every one and learnt things I never thought I would.

Nature Table – Everything you wanted to know about the natural world but were afraid to ask. The weird and wacky in nature bought to you by host Sue Perkins and a range of special guests.

Up, Up, and Away TWTW # 67

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How often do you look up? I was in Oxford last week, and while I was waiting for a bus looked up to see a Red Kite riding the thermals overhead. I was a little surprised but did manage to fumble my phone out of my pocket and snap the picture to the left (you’ll have to take my word for it that the little blob in the clouds is said bird). It got me thinking however that we perhaps don’t look up as much as we should. When I got home, and got out of the car to open the garage door I looked up again to see a cormorant flying overhead. I’ve never seen one over the garden before, so a first for the garden bird list, and if I hadn’t looked up I would have missed it.

Robert Macfarlane wrote in The Wild Places about tree climbing and being above people:

Thirty feet up, near the summit of the beech, where the bark is smoother and silver, I reached what I had come to call the observatory: a forked lateral branch set just below a curve in the trunk. I had found that if I set my back against the trunk and put my feet on either tine of the fork, I could stay comfortable there.If I remained still for a few minutes, people out walking would sometimes pass underneath without noticing me. People don’t generally expect to see men in trees. If I remained still for longer, the birds would return. Birds don’t generally expect to see men in trees, either.

Go outside and look up! Feel free to let me know if you see anything you wouldn’t have otherwise in the comments.


This week has been one of travels, work meetings, and talk bookings.

I’ve had a sudden flurry of requests for talk bookings, including my first one for 2021. These have proved to be quite popular and I enjoy doing them, but I am wondering whether the coronavirus might put pay to some of the bookings I have coming up?

The coronavirus has also led to some interesting interactions at some of my work meetings, individuals not sure whether a handshake is an acceptable greeting and what’s supposed to happen instead. Most people seem to have settled for a knowing nod of the head and a hello.


I’m pleased to say that I think my sunroof fix on the car has been a success. I’m not counting my chickens just yet, but I did have to use the car on Thursday when it was raining quite heavily and apparently there has been no sign of the leak. I’m glad it was worth the effort to do, particularly as I spent the first couple of days of the week swathed in tiger balm patches, popping paracetamol every four hours and doing stretching exercises because I managed to crook my neck during the fixing of the sunroof. Fortunately this wore off by midweek. I’m hopeful therefore that the fix is a good one and I won’t have to go through that again anytime soon.


My social media abstention has continued. FOMO or Fear Of Missing Out, hasn’t really been a thing for me, so far at least. Anxiety levels are definitely less as I’m not founding myself being wound up quite so much by the stupidity of government and others. It has given me a chance to reflect on if I’ll go back to it and if I do what I’ll do differently. I have a few ideas but right now I’m just enjoying not being constantly picking up my phone or mindlessly scrolling through pictures on instagram.


My travelling this week has given me a lot of time to catch up on podcasts and finish my current audiobook The Unexpected Truth About Animals. I’ve also read a couple of regular books. One of my Christmas presents last year was Anthony Daniels autobiography I Am C-3PO – The Inside Story. This is all about his time playing the metallic robot in the Star Wars movies, and gives an interesting insight on that role and also some of the things that I wouldn’t have been aware of during the production of the original three movies.

The other book I’ve read is The Roo by Alan Baxter. My copy came signed by the author all the way from Australia, and it’s just a perfect little b-movie of a book. You should read all about how this little book came about on Alan’s blog.


In the week ahead, I have a birthday (and a day off) on Monday, a trip down to Somerset for a client meeting, but otherwise I’m planning on cracking on with some work at home.

Of Mice & Men TWTW # 66

Well this was a week that didn’t turn out how I’d thought it was going to at the start. The best laid plans and all that…

I had a meeting booked for Tuesday, followed by a lunch with a friend. The meeting was cancelled the day before but the lunch went ahead (see below).

Then on Thursday I had another meeting, and had made it to the railway station and purchased my ticket, when I got a text cancelling the meeting I was going to. Fortunately I was able to get my money back on the ticket. The week ahead has also been rearranged with meetings already in the diary being cancelled. I guess it just goes that way sometimes.


Lent started this week, and although it has some religious significance and a period of fasting (one of the reasons for pancakes on Shrove Tuesday was to use up stocks of eggs, flour etc), it’s also a time when people give something up. I’ve been struggling a bit with social media for a while and thought I would give that up for Lent. So at least until the 9th April, I’m not using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. So far so good and I haven’t cheated. I posted my intentions on Shrove Tuesday, put all the apps on my various devices into a separate folder and then deleted them on Wednesday morning.

I’m conscious that there are a few things that auto-post in various places e.g. this blog and my kindle, but hopefully I’ve disabled those too.

So far I’ve found it quite easy but then it’s only been a few days. Time will tell whether or not I can stick to my intentions, and the impact it has. I suspect it will also make these posts a little different, as it’s often a source of information for my writing. What happens after the 9th April also remains to be seen.


My social media retreat has given me more time for other things, including reading, and this week I’ve been reading Dead Lions by Mick Herron. This is book 2 in the Slow Horses series. I read book one – Slow Horses – last year and didn’t actually enjoy it all that much, but Dead Lions is much better. A bit of a good old spy story with a twist. The “Slow Horses” are all secret service agents who’ve screwed up at some point – left secret documents on a train; caused a mass panic; have a gambling problem; that sort of thing – but can’t actually be fired so have been sidelined in the hope that they’ll resign. Dead Lions involves a former agent dying in mysterious circumstances and a possible Russian plot, which the slow horses are the only ones to notice.

On my travels I’ve been listening to The Unexpected Truth About Animals by Lucy Cooke. This followed listening to the Nature Table on Radio 4, which given that this is radio is a show and tell programme that my inner 8 year old loved, and so may not be for everyone. It is however lighthearted enough that you don’t really need to concentrate too hard on the content, just enjoy the bad puns and facts about the natural world. There are about 4 episodes of (I think) 12 planned in total.

 


My Tuesday lunch was with good friend Christian (he’s @documentally on Twitter, and writes an excellent weekly newsletter which you should all go and subscribe to [full disclosure: the newsletter is only weekly for paid subscribers, of which I’m one, but otherwise you can subscribe for free and receive it every other week]).

He very kindly bought me some old camera equipment after hearing about my starting to dabble again with film cameras, and I was dropping off some amateur radio equipment that used to belong to my Dad for him.

The pub we chose to meet at was done so completely at random, it’s location more because of its proximity to my aborted meeting, but it turned out to have an interesting segway for us.

The table we ate our lunch at was overlooked by a picture of an elderly man with a beard who appeared to be asleep. When Christian enquired as to who he was, he received the answer that it was Freddie Jones an actor, and a one time regular of the pub until he passed away. As the conversation progressed it turned out the Freddie Jones’ children were also actors, including a certain Toby Jones. We both exchanged a look and enquired if that was Toby Jones of The Detectorists. Turns out it is, and we’re both fans of that show.

Off all the pubs….


If you’re a regular here, you’ll know I talk about climate change a bit. Here’s a link to Carbon Brief’s explainer on Climate Tipping Points, which is pretty frightening. Climate records are not things that should necessarily be broken.


The allotment is looking pretty desolate at the moment. We’ve had another winter storm sweep through this weekend, so nothing much was done down there again beyond a quick visit to check everything was okay, and there’d been no damage to the shed or anything else. The shed will probably need a new roof this year, it’s starting to rot at the edges and the felt is also starting to fail. The shed has been there for over ten years, but was secondhand when we got it so in reality it’s much older than that. Hopefully a little tlc on the roof should keep it going for a little bit longer, without needing to be totally replaced.


On the subject of roofs, the bits I needed to replace the seal on my car’s leaking sunroof arrived in the week, and I spent Saturday morning taking the sunroof out of the car, replacing the seal and putting it back in again.

I’ve watched a few videos where I’ve seen it done, and it really was as straightforward as it was on YouTube. It took me about 3 hours from start to finish and although I’ll have to wait and see whether it has worked and the leak has gone, I do feel a sense of accomplishment for having done it and not ended up with a car with a big hole in the roof and the sunroof that was in that hole in pieces on the floor!


Well that’s about all I have for now. My upcoming week has changed a bit already, but I’m hoping to get out with some film in a camera at some point, and I have a number of work commitments.

All Work and No….Well You Know What I Mean TWTW # 57

I’ve tried to write this post several times. Each time I’ve wanted to rant about the General Election. I’ve  just tried to write about it again, but I can’t. I just can’t


So in more positive news, I’ve managed to secure client work, that if I’ve got my timetabling right will take me through to nearly the end of February. One item fell off of the list but was replaced by something else. So work looks like it’s going to be busy. It might mean that these posts also get a bit curtailed over the coming weeks, including this one.


Outside of work I’ve not done a tremendous amount else really. I did manage to read Past Tense by Lee Child over a couple of nights. It’s unusual for me to be able to stay awake long enough to read very much in the evenings, even more so as it just felt like the author was going through the motions. It did cross my mind that there were at least another 100-pages that might have been in an earlier manuscript that got ditched at some point during the editing process, a storyline that never played out. Who knows. It won’t be making my favourite books of the year (if I get around to writing about it this side of Easter 2020).

I’ve been making a conscious effort to try and read some of the books that have been on my shelves for a while, and to not buy too many “new” books. Partly this is to try and create some space but also it seems daft to have so many books sitting there that I haven’t read yet. I don’t mind having lots of books, but it would be nice to think that I’ve actually read some of them!


I’ve been continuing to listen to The Whisperer In Darkness this week. The next three episodes were released on Monday and the reminder are due to be released this Monday (today as far as the posting of this goes). I’ve been really enjoying it. The series writer Julian Simpson, posted a little bit about the research that sits behind the episodes this week which you can read here. You can also find an iTunes link to the episodes in that post, if you haven’t been able to make the BBC website work for you.


I’m also looking forward to some of the radio that’s on over the Christmas period. I picked up a copy of the Christmas Radio Times in the week, and I have to say that there is bugger-all on television over the Christmas period, but the radio section looks pretty good.


Right that’s it for this week. Off to Somerset for client meetings this coming week, but otherwise I’m at my desk, nose down for the remainder.