TWTW # 107

I’m taking the next few Sundays off writing these posts. At the moment I feel like all I want to write about it is how badly the government is handling the response to coronavirus and Brexit. Frankly it’s making me feel a bit shouty and sweary and a bit fed up. Anyway I’m going to take a break from writing here and also from looking at Twitter until after Christmas.

Whatever you celebrate, if anything, over the next couple of weeks I hope you have a great time.

Stay safe and take care.

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.

Of Nighttime Smells & Sleep Deprivation TWTW # 105

This is possibly going to be another one of those posts that doesn’t make much sense as it’s typed by sleep deprived fingers and brain.

This week has been quite busy with the first half involving some long video conference calls on a particular project that is looking to make up some ground on the basis of being delayed for most of this year. The latter half by lack of sleep due to a poorly dog. There’s not much that I can say about the work stuff, and you probably don’t want to know about the dog stuff in detail, suffice to say that it’s involved a couple of trips to the vets, some moderately expensive bills and several nights that have been punctuated by rather smelly trips into the garden. The dog is feeling very sorry for herself, and has seemingly attached to me like a limpet and I would really just like a snooze.


I didn’t read all that much this week, but I did read the Maigret novel Lock Nº 1. I’m not sure whether it was the fact I was reading in the evenings when I was tired (see above) but I really didn’t enjoy it. I found it a confusing read and it seemed out of place in the series. I’m intending to go back and read it again because it seems unlikely that it was that bad given how good these novels normally are. This was reinforced by also reading the Maigret novel (The Liberty Bar) that immediately precedes it in the chronology straight afterwards and finding that one to be an absolute humdinger.


Deneholes – no, I’d never heard of them either (Alastair Humphrey’s exploration of his local OS map, one square at a time continues)


Ever had a truly memorable cup of coffee?


I had reason to ring customer service for one of the major supermarkets this week. Despite the recorded announcement telling me that they were extremely busy, my call was answered in less than a minute by a true star of customer service.

He told me that until recently he’d been a stand-up comedian but now he was working as a customer service rep as covid had pretty much wiped out his old worklife. He did this while he was efficiently dealing with my issue, which in the grand scheme of things was pretty banal. We chatted as we waited for “the system” to do it’s thing and then I was on my way and he to the next person. It was a short interaction but it’s stuck in my mind to write about today. I’m not sure whether he’s any good as a stand-up, maybe I should have asked him to tell me a joke, but he’s certainly got it nailed as a customer service rep until he can get back on the stage.


I took some photographs of the Moon & Mars on one evening this week. Mars was almost directly above the Moon and really easy to see with the naked eye. Here’s a quick slideshow:


It looks like good news with my Mum, it’s now been three weeks, and the mild symptoms that she appeared to be suffering from have mostly disappeared. There were several infections in the home that she was in and all but two have managed to get through it without needing significant medical intervention. If progress continues in this way it might mean that the residents can all have a Christmas that whilst it won’t be normal by any stretch of the imagination will be way better than being in quarantine.


Advent starts this week, and I’m looking forward to tucking into my tea advent calendar.


Right I’m stopping here, hope you all have a good week. Whatever you’re doing stay safe and take care.


A Boy and His Dog TWTW # 104

Hope everyone is safe and well, we seem to be doing okay, although I must admit to being a little bit surprised it’s Sunday again and I’m writing this. They say time flies when you’re having fun, well it seems to pass quite quickly under lockdown too.


I have a fairly busy week coming up so some of this week has been around getting things ready for it. More Teams and Zoom in my near future. I’ve been chasing a client for confirmation that they were happy with a price I’d quoted, as they seem to be sending me various meeting requests for a project but with no formal confirmation that they want me involved. A slight aside, I’ve been burnt before when something similar happened and when I submitted a bill they refused to pay it because they hadn’t formally confirmed they wanted me involved. So now I always make sure I have something in writing.


We started feeding the garden birds again this week. I reckon it took the starlings about 3 minutes to realise that there were mealworms in the feeder once again.


My Mum continues to be mostly symptom free but has had a couple of days where she has said she doesn’t feel too great. Technically today marks the day when she is no longer considered infectious. I suspect that what happens next more depends on what is happening more widely in the care home, so time will tell.


Lots of talk of Covid vaccine(s), which looks promising. I’ve also had my flu jab this week.


I finished reading The Raven in the Foregate by Ellis Peters and dove straight into an Alistair Maclean – The Way To Dusty Death (I was sure that I’d read this before but I don’t remember the story so perhaps not). GoodReads told me that this was the 80th book I’d read this year. I’d set my target at 20, expecting to be busy with a couple of projects and a few other things, but you know Covid happened, lockdowns, less work; so a 400% achievement. It does feel like I’ve read some authors more than others though so I had a look and about a third are across; Maclean, Ellis, Dexter, Simenon, Camilleri & Herron. By genre I’d say this is more typical of a younger me or perhaps comfort reading as I’ve tended towards more non-fiction of recent years. Whatever it is I’m grateful that I’ve been able to read as much as I have this year.



I’ve been listening to The Shadow Over Innsmouth this week. I’m about halfway through and really enjoying it. If you’ve not come across this series before you should go back and listen to The Case of Charles Dexter Ward and The Whisperer in Darkness which are the preceding series, and although they stand alone they work much better if you have listened from the beginning. The link above will give you all three. Recommended.


I was sorting through lots of old photographs this week, and I came across several of the pets I had as a child. I say they were mine, but they were of course family pets although I do remember them all fondly. Here’s a quick slide show.


I made some more Tea Bread this week, and recorded a short video of the process.


Looking Up

Hungry Birds


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Stay safe and take care.


Who Are You? Who Am I? TWTW # 103

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

How are you doing?


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


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

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


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


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


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


The Emboughered by Dickie Straker

The Lookout Cookbook

A Single Map is Enough

First Mile Podcast

Tim Ferris – Podcast with Scott Kelly


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


Until next time – stay safe and take care.

Rinse and Repeat TWTW # 102

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


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

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


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


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



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

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

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



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

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


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

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


Teams Zoom-a-thon TWTW # 101

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


I was saddened to read that Sir Sean Connery had died


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

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


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


Neil Gaiman’s Halloween Reading for 2020


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


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


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


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


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

TWTW # 100

Life’s a beach as they say…


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


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


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


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


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

Take Care and Stay Safe.

Memories of Jumping Jets TWTW # 99

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


A Rare Look At a Bobcat Family


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


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

Allotment Zoom TWTW # 98

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

Wherever you are this week stay safe and take care.