They Move In Herds TWTW # 68

Well it’s been a funny old week – funny peculiar, not funny haha – I’ve had some more bookings for talks in 2021 and cancellations for ones coming up over the next few weeks. To be honest I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do given the current Coronavirus situation and the fact that often the average age of my audience is over 70.

As you probably know I mostly work from home anyway, but I’ve had several client meetings moved from face to face encounters to telephone or video calls. Again absolutely the right thing to do, although it meant that I didn’t finish the roll of film that’s still in my camera as I’d planned but that experiment isn’t one that’s time critical.

I do wonder about the wisdom of our proven liar Prime Minister however, who seems out of his depth and the questionable decisions he’s been making to give us “a herd immunity” which means that at least 60% of the population has to contract Coronavirus and in theory become immune (we don’t of course know whether catching Coronavirus confers any long term immunity – this is the reason you have an annual flu jab, because the immunity doesn’t last long). Nearly 30% of the UK population is in the “at risk” category by virtue of age, so that’s not a very large margin of error. Oh and of course we also know who else moved in herds, don’t we. I wonder what happened to them?

It seems that panic buying is still a thing, particularly toilet rolls, and any kind of disinfectant or hand sanitiser, dried pasta, and eggs; the empty shelves in the local supermarket testifying to this. In the hoarding stakes this is surely a step up from the Brexit supply stacking that went on several times and thankfully we’re not having to cope with a No-Deal Brexit and Coronavirus at the same time, even the Dunkirk spirit would probably crumble under that pressure.

Oh and wash your phone – but don’t forget to wash your hands.


It was my birthday this week, although it seems like it was some time ago, it’s weird how time expands and contracts around different events to make them seem much more recent or much further in the past than they actually were. I took a day off, had some nice thoughtful gifts and generally didn’t do overly much apart from enjoy what was in fact a nice sunny day after so many that have been a bit blergh.

 

As it was my birthday I also treated myself to an e-bay bargain of the first 18 Inspector Montalbano books. Between these, Simenon’s Maigret and a few other things I should have plenty of reading material.

 

 

 


I read the next book in Mick Herron’s “Jackson Lamb” series – Real Tigers – I think these are getting better with each one, and I am trying to resist buying the next one in the series for the time being, as I have a tonne of books to read and more arrived for my birthday. I did notice that Gary Oldman has been pegged to play the character of Lamb in a new TV series. He’s probably a good pick for the character, but sadly as it’s going to be on Apple TV, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to watch it.

I started reading East West Street by Philippe Sands which deals with the early understanding of genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly in the Second World War.


I’ve often looked at different options to cover some of the costs of running this blog, and this article has some interesting ideas. Don’t worry I’m not about to put up a paywall but if you want to you can always Buy Me A Coffee.


It’s been nearly three weeks of my social media fasting, it actually feels like longer. Is that withdrawal, I don’t think so as I think I actually feel calmer without it.


We watched the latest Terminator film at the weekend. I have to say I’m a little confused as to the whole timeline of these films, I’m assuming that you’re just not supposed to worry about that. In theory it would probably have had to happen after the second film, but events in the latest film mean that the third film couldn’t have happened. I’m sure it’s just one of those time paradox things, it was never really explained in the film but I guess if you don’t worry about it and enjoy the film, that’s what matters. If you like the Terminator films you’ll probably like it too, and in my opinion it’s better that the last couple.


The allotment is still pretty much a wash out, the ground is too wet to do anything. I sowed some seeds this week in anticipation of improvements sometime in the near future. Some more broad beans as well as some broccoli and cauliflower seeds. Hopefully in a few weeks time I’ll be transplanting them out onto the plot and probably moaning about all the watering I’m having to do because it’s now so dry!


I’m not sure what the week ahead holds. I have to take my Mum for a medical appointment but I need to phone up and check that it’s still on. Otherwise I’m going to be continuing to work from home, I quite like the hermit lifestyle.

I hope that wherever you are in the world you stay healthy and Coronavirus free.

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.

About The Birds TWTW # 65

I was on my travels this week, down to see a client in Somerset again, I made what is becoming a regular stop and a visit to a charity shop on my way back and picked up a couple of secondhand books. I think I’ve purchased something in there every time I’ve been there, and their stock turnover seems to be quite frequent so there always seems to be new stuff for me to look at.


On Monday I was walking the dogs and saw a Kingfisher flying along the little creek in one of the local patches of woodland. I was quite surprised to see it, as I’ve always considered that little patch to be a little too urbanised to attract such a bird, but then what do I know. I was able to watch it for a couple of minutes and then lost sight of it.

We’ve also had a one legged / one footed Grey Wagtail hanging about our garden. He’s obviously lost the lower half of one of his legs, whether this is due to a predator or getting it caught or tied up in something and then slowly losing it I’m not sure. He seems to be quite happy though and getting about without too much trouble, although I suspect why we’re seeing him in the garden so much is that he finds it easier to find food in our garden that he would elsewhere in the wild. We’ve always had the odd grey wagtail about so it’s not unusual to see one, but we’re seeing a lot of this one. We’ll keep up with the regular feeding of all of the birds, and he’s most welcome to take his fill.


I’ve been reading a couple of books this week. First up was Ellis Peter’s – A Virgin in the Ice, which is a Brother Cadfael mystery, it was an enjoyable read although one of the things that I’ve noticed with these is the slightly misleading data that I get from the kindle. I’ve noticed this before as I have several of these books on my kindle and each one has a chunk of the next book at the end and some other material which although is interesting is not part of the story. This means that the percentage reading on the kindle is out, and the actual book ends at around 60% to 70% and the remaining portion is the other stuff. It’s not a big deal, but does make for some confusion when a book you think you’re only about halfway through ends.

My second read is Andrea Camilleri’s – The Treasure Hunt, which is an Inspector Montalbano mystery. I picked this up in the charity shop in town earlier in the week, and am reading it now because we’ve been watching the Inspector Montalbano mysteries on i-player and I know that this one is coming up soon, so I wanted to read it before we watch it. They’re quite gentle watching and we’re enjoying watching some of the earlier ones that we haven’t seen before. I hope that the tv adaptation sticks quite closely to the story in the book because I think it will make for an entertaining watch.


The allotment has been a bit of a wash out these last few weeks with the two storms we’ve had and this past weekend has been pretty wet and windy too, it’s not been too conducive to getting anything done. It’s looking a pretty desolate place, but it won’t be too much longer before things really start picking up.


It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks, and I asked for some 35mm film so that I could get one of my old film cameras out and use it. It’s not terribly expensive stuff and it provoked a little question as to why I’d want it. Anyway it was duly ordered and evidently arrived this week and was given to me as an early birthday present. I haven’t done anything with it yet, and will probably wait until my birthday before I load the camera up with it, but I am looking forward to experimenting again.


I’m on the road again a couple of days in the upcoming week, but otherwise I’ll be cracking on with work at home for clients. There are some deadlines for various things in the not too distant future, so it’s important to keep things moving on forwards.

Wherever you are I hope you have a great week.


The Weather Outside Is Frightful – TWTW # 64

We’ve just had another weekend of weather warnings, more wind and rain. Again we seem to have escaped the worst – although it’s been pretty miserable and not very conducive to doing much outdoors – other parts of the country have been very badly affected.

I’ve been staying in, reading and making chutney – another batch of gooseberry and red onion, which went down really well last year, and gives me a bit of space in the freezer after I defrosted the gooseberries.

I’ve gotten through a couple of books this week, another Vivian Shaw Novel – Dreadful Company and an HP Lovecraft novella – The Shadow Over Innsmouth. I enjoyed both, I’m slowly rereading the HP Lovecraft stories but taking my time, no need to rush them. Not sure what’s up next, although I did get given Denali by Ben Moon last week, and have a copy of Mark Twain’s Notebooks that I want to get stuck into at some point. My problem of a never seemingly decreasing “to be read” pile, doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.


Works been pretty busy this week, mostly just moving various things forward for clients, and some discussions with an old client about doing something for them. The next couple of weeks are looking pretty busy with some travel coming up.


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I was contemplating going to the London Pen Show next month, it’s just before my birthday and I thought that it might be a nice treat. Then I looked at the cost of the rail ticket, and the accompanying weekend railway works and bus replacement services and decided instead to put the cost of the rail ticket towards a new fountain pen and some ink instead. I was contemplating getting the pen at the show, but I guess I’ve cut out the middle bit!




There are many things in politics that I feel like commenting on, but I’m afraid my commenting would probably lead to ranting in fairly short order. However it is leading to some great political cartoons, at least at the moment.


And on that note I’m out of here. Have a good week everyone!

Drawing Blood TWTW # 63

Hello, how are you? I’m good. I did have a visit to get a routine blood test this last week. It’s one of those where you have to fast beforehand, in my case nothing to eat or drink (except water) from 6.30pm the night before, so I was ready for something to eat and drink by the time it was done. I also made the most of my trip to return some library books and do a few other things whilst in town. I’ll be able to get the results in a couple of days, although if there’s anything to worry about I’m sure they’ll be in touch. It’s just routine, so I’m not expecting anything unusual.


I’m writing this section on Sunday morning (I often write bits and pieces in these post in the week before they go live rather than waiting until Monday morning), the wind is howling around outside as Storm Ciara is battering the Country. So far no problems.

[Update: We seem to have come through relatively unscathed, the roof is still on the house and the allotment shed is still in one piece. Other places have not been so lucky.]


Work’s been chugging along pretty nicely this week, got quite a bit done and have set various things up for the coming weeks.


I read So Disdained by Nevil Shute this week, another one of my library haul from last week. It started off very slowly but turned into a good read once the story got going a bit. Not sure what’s going to be next, but happily I have plenty to choose from.


Mad Dogs!


We’ve had a sparrowhawk in our garden a few times over the past few weeks. I think he’s been trying his luck on our neighbours bird feeder, and if he’s unsuccessful uses our garden as an alternate landing spot. I managed to catch a few seconds of video of him this week.


This video has been around quite a bit this week. The full story can be found here.


Great post here by Amy Brady, on her love of Star Trek but how it didn’t cover climate change.


Build your own bird feeder that uses facial recognition to count the birds visiting.


 

Brave New World – TWTW # 62

Welcome back. The world doesn’t actually feel any different today than this time last week, but of course the UK has now officially left the EU. I think this is a mistake that we’ll come to regret but I hope to be proved wrong. Otherwise this week has been another busy work week (mostly).


If you’ve been reading these posts for a couple of months you’ll know that I was going through an upgrade of my work computer. I did do this towards the end of last year and have been using it for about six weeks or so. I had a lot of teething troubles, but to some extent I was expecting that, but things really haven’t settled down. I have significant problems with things like accessing my emails, printing and a few other fairly basic things. This came to a head at the start of the week when I couldn’t send emails, particularly emails with attachments.

I’ve spent a lot of time over this introductory phase in forums and other places online seeking solutions for the teething problems, but this really was the final straw. So for the remainder of this week I’ve put the new computer to one side and I’m back to my old machine to give myself some thinking space. I’m not sure what comes next. This was a big (and expensive) shift for me, and a move between operating systems (windows to mac), but I am regretting that decision somewhat at the moment.


When the above computer problems kicked off at the start of the week, I knew I needed a break and so went out to do some chores. Buy groceries, pick up a prescription and return my library book.

In the library they had a big display of  “classics”, including a big pile of Nevil Shute books. Some of them I have read before but there were a few there that I didn’t recognise the titles or the descriptions on the covers. So I picked up a few and a Julian Barnes.

I’ve already read An Old Captivity and enjoyed it, although felt the ending was a little weak.

I also finished listening to the audiobook of Andy Weir’s The Martian this week. It’s been my travelling companion for a few weeks, but I’d got down the the last hour of play, so I prioritised finishing it before my next longish journey so that I wouldn’t finish it mid-journey. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

I reviewed and posted that review for Matt Gaw’s Under the Stars which if you’re interested you can read the review here.


Yesterday’s date was a palindrome 02022020. That hasn’t happened for a while, and won’t be happening again any time soon.




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!


Time Flies TWTW # 59

Well where have the last few weeks gone? I’m not sure I really know if I’m honest. Taking a break from writing here over the Christmas period and into New Year means that I’m struggling a bit to get back into it if I’m honest. I did take some time off over that period, but I mostly kept moving forward with client work to make sure I stayed on top of some deadlines that are coming up (which so far I think I have). It means that I don’t really have that much to say other than perhaps Happy New Year, albeit somewhat belatedly.


I finished last year having read 72 books. This year I’ve set my bar a little lower, although I’m expecting to exceed it but I wanted to also create some space to write more and I’m also expecting to be a little busier with work (at least for the first few months), and a couple of other areas of my life don’t look like they’re going to be exactly quiet either.

I also didn’t get a lot of books for Christmas, which is a little unusual but actually welcome in some ways as I am hoping to tackle more of my vast catalogue of “books – to be read”. I did recently read Burma ’44: The Battle That Turned Britain’s War in the East by James Holland, and discovered something about the latter part of WWII that previously I knew nothing about. Other than that however it has been a particularly quiet start to the year on the reading front.


I’ve mentioned work in passing above and to say it continues a pace wouldn’t be an understatement. I’m probably busier at the moment, than I have been in the last five years since I went freelance.


Just a short one for now – I’m aiming to get back in the swing of things a bit more from next week.

TWTW # 58

I’ve been head down working all week and as a consequence have very little else to write about. So I’m going to take a break until the New Year.

Wishing you compliments of the season, see you in 2020.