Twenty Years TWTW # 143

Twenty years ago today I was working an early shift covering a colleague while he was on holiday. It meant I was in the car driving to work just as Radio 4 was taking over from the World Service on the radio. I was still trying to absorb what had happened the day before. Although we used to have a radio on as background in the harbour office where I was working at the time, I’d been out on the patrol boat as news had started to filter in as to what was happening in New York. At first they made it sound like it was a small light plane, a Cessna or similar that had hit the North Tower. When the news arrived of a second plane it became clearer that this was something more sinister.

By the time I reached home after my shift the horror of what had happened was becoming apparent and the world changed forever.


We’re back “home” again after our brief stay elsewhere. It’s interesting that while we were away my sleep patterns were much better, despite a slightly lumpy bed. I’m not sure whether it was because of all of the extra exercise I was getting or the overall quieter and darker place, here it is all streetlights, traffic and people. It’s certainly made us think and reconsider our surroundings and what we need from life.


Reading

I don’t feel like I’ve had much time for reading since we got back either, nor have I been able to keep my eyes open for long enough of an evening to read more than a page or two. How can I be so tired and yet sleep so badly?

Anyway when I have been reading I’ve been picking up Derek Jarman’s diaries of his time living in a little cottage at Dungeness. The cottage is famous for the garden that Jarman created before he died.

I haven’t read very far yet, but it’s clear from the words that Jarman was very much a creative.

Also if you’re looking for something good to read, can I recommend checking out the Drifter Detective series, now available in this collection:


Allotment

I’ve been getting a piece of the plot ready for sowing overwintering broad beans. Our allotment shop under it’s new management has declared that it is not doing seeds this year (or onion sets or seed potatoes), so I will have to buy them elsewhere. I won’t go into how this rather pathetic state of affairs has arisen but one of the strengths that I saw in our little shop was the fact that it sold seeds etc. Now it just seems to sell bags of compost and only on a Sunday.

My apples are now mostly ripe and I’ll be picking them all over the next week. I sampled a few yesterday and along with some of the autumn fruiting raspberries made a rather spectacular apple and raspberry strudel. My god it was good, even if it did look a bit like a Hannibal Lecter recipe.


Work

A purchase order arrived from a client for the piece of work we’ve been discussing, work commences tomorrow. I’ve been doing some prep work this week – timesheet templates and other admin stuff. I’m quite looking forward to it because it’s also quite an interesting piece.


Links

Memorializing Animals Who’ve Been Killed on the Road

Dear Sean – Should I get a dog?

Twelve More White-tailed Eagles released on the Isle of Wight

Oxfordshire celebrates first Crane fledging in 500 years


Well that’s everything for this week. Next week I’ll be doing quite a bit of paid work, interspersed with some gardening and allotment work if the weather holds. I also hope to receive a roll of film back from the processors that I took partly while we were away. The first half I took some time ago and although I think I know what’s on there I’m not 100% sure, so that should be a bit of a surprise.

Whatever you’re up to, stay safe and take care.


Home From Home TWTW # 142

Slightly different surroundings as I type this today. We’re still in the process of sorting out my Mum’s house and decided to come and stay for a couple of days to try and get a bit more done than we can by ‘commuting’. It’s worked well so far and it’s also been nice to reacquaint myself with an area I used to know very well. It’s interesting to see how some things have changed but the broad landscape is still very much the same. Paths that I’ve not walked for a few years are once again becoming familiar, and my daily step count is going up rapidly. I’ve put a few pictures that I’ve taken in a slideshow below.


Wilson had another vet appointment this week, and received praise from the vet. She’s very pleased with his progress and if it continues in the same vein we might be able to reduce the dosage of one of his tablets. I also received a very prompt turn around to a claim I made to the insurance company. I am surprised at how quick to be honest so I hope they didn’t make a mistake.


Work

I’ve had some good news this week and the proposal I wrote has been accepted. The client had a couple of clarification questions but has accepted it without further alteration. Subject to receiving a purchase order I’ve said I’ll be starting on it in about a weeks time with the aim of having it completed before the end of the year.


Reading

I finished Mexico Set by Len Deighton. It stands up really well as a cold war thriller and it’s interesting to see how much the world has and hasn’t changed in the intervening period since the book was written. Perhaps same problems just different fronts might be a good way of looking at it, but then again some of the fronts aren’t all that different.

I picked up Horatio Clare’s Heavy Light which could be more contrasting a subject. It’s about the author’s mental breakdown and descent into psychosis and his experience of the mental health system before, during and after his breakdown. It’s not an easy read and although mental health and stability have featured in some of his previous books, this is much more concentrated in it’s treatment and discussion of the subject. From a first person perspective it is also very frank and honest of his experiences. It is very well written but I struggle to say that I enjoyed it, rather I think that I learnt a lot about certain aspects of mental health and it’s treatment.


Watching

The Clint Eastwood boxset has been taking keeping us entertained again. We’ve watched Space Cowboys, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before and Firefox, which I’ve don’t think I’ve watched since it first came out. Neither were particularly taxing but were a couple of evenings entertainment.


I’ve been using Evernote since 2014. I use it both for my work, and also personally, it helps with content for these pieces too. I’ve been paying for the “Premium” package for several years. It renewed recently and then a few weeks later I got an email to say that my subscription was changing and that I was now going to be on the “Personal” package as a new tier of “Professional” had been introduced. Don’t worry it said nothing has changed your package content remains the same.

Now firstly Evernote has been getting a bit glitchy of late (well before this recent subscription change) but there were some changes being made to the apps and software so I wasn’t unduly worried. One of the things I liked about Evernote was the interchangeability between operating systems and desktop and mobile platforms, wherever or whatever device you were using your notes synced between devices seamlessly. This then stopped being quite so efficient. I noticed that notes that I’d save on say my phone, weren’t showing up on my desktop app and vice-versa. Also Evernote made a change that meant when you saved something on a mobile device you then had to open the Evernote app to sync. Before I could simply save something to Evernote from say a browser or other app and Evernote would do the syncing in the background. Evernote was becoming Evernot.

I’ve stuck with Evernote because I really liked it and because I have an enormous amount of information stored there, but after this recent subscription change I am thinking of finding something else. I don’t think there is any malice in the change so soon after my subscription renewed, that’s probably just coincidental timing, however as I pay upfront it looks likely that I won’t be able to get any of that subscription back if I do move. The question however is what to move to. There are a few choices (DevonThink, Obsidian, Omnifocus are ones that I’m aware of so far) and obviously I have some time to make that decision. If you have any others that you think I should look at then do leave a comment below.


Links

Notebooks – I read a piece on Alastair Humprhey’s blog that took me down a rabbit hole of a twitter feed about notebooks (I’ve posted this before but it keeps growing) and then on to another piece about artists / writers and their notebooks.

Inspector Morse voted No. 1 TV theme tune

Photos from ‘beyond the grave’: camera discovery reveals climber’s last images before fatal avalanche

Hilary Mantel: why I feel ashamed in England, and I will be an Irish citizen soon and European again

COVID-19 Long-Haulers Are Fighting for Their Future

FAA Grounds Virgin Galactic Spaceplanes Pending Investigation Into July 11 Flight

Ministers face showdowns on post-Brexit green bill weeks before Cop26


Well that’s it for this week. I’ve got some more sorting of stuff to do. Whatever you are up to this week, take care and stay safe.

Raindrops and Earworms TWTW # 125

Hello. I’m just back from the allotment. It’s too wet today to do very much – it’s always a fine line on my plot to be able to work the ground, particularly if the ground gets wet, as they the clay in the soil makes it a quagmire pretty quickly. In the summer if hot and sunny – it will become a concrete-like dustbowl.

We took a quick detour on our morning walk to remove some of the coverings that have been on the seedlings so that they can get the benefit of the rain (and to save me having to hand water). The temperatures are up high enough that I don’t have to worry about frost for the next few days (and hopefully we’re done with it completely now). There is nothing like good rain water to make plants grow.

As you can see I think Ruby wasn’t quite so impressed at the stop. We’re now tucked-up warm at home and I’m writing this while she is gently snoring under a blanket.

Mostly this week when I’ve not been at my desk working, I’ve been out with at least one of the dogs. We don’t often all walk together now, the older one prefers to stay at home for us to come back. I know he sits and waits in the hall for us to return, and I feel sad about that but medically it’s better for him that he’s there and he seems happy to play the role of guardian of the front step until we get back.

This week was supposed to have been a four day week, but I opted to work on Bank Holiday Monday, to make sure that I made enough progress with a project that I could hand it off to those I was collaborating with before I had other things that I needed to do. I made a mental promise to myself that I would have my Bank Holiday another day. So I’m writing it down here too, so that there’s some accountability to it.


Amongst other podcasts I’ve been listening to the latest edition of @documentally’s newsletter pod this week. It’s a part of his newsletter that is available to paying subscribers, of which I am one. He has been interviewing his paid subscribers, who come from all walks of life but all seem to have interesting stories to tell. I’ve volunteered to be interviewed so at some point he will get to me, which the more I hear of the other editions the more I wonder what on earth we’ll talk about.

You can subscribe to his newsletter for free and you’ll get something good in your email inbox about once a fortnight but paid subscribers (it’s less than the cost of a good takeaway coffee a month) get a weekly missive and the bonus audio and other occasional extras.

I’ve also taken advantage of an offer for 3 months free of Apple Music. As a rule I don’t listen to a lot of music and I’m not sure the full price (£9.99/month) will tempt me at the end of the freebie period, but I thought I’d give it a try. So far it hasn’t swayed me either way particularly. When left to use its AI it seems to predictably serve up things that are already in my iTunes library and not offer me much that’s new or I’ve not heard before. I’m trying to help it a bit by liking or not the tracks it serves up but it doesn’t seem to be having much impact yet.


Watching. After deciding not to watch the last season of Line of Duty in our household, one of us weakened and we ended up watching the whole series over 4 evenings this week – for the record I was present during this time and kinda watching over the top of my book. If you haven’t watched it yet and are going to then I won’t spoil it for you.


Work. As mentioned above I’ve been working on a proposal over several days this week, we now wait and see what happens next. I’m relatively relaxed about it either way as it’s a completely remote piece of work and part-time, so would still mean that I’d have space for other clients or non-work stuff.


Reading. I finished reading The Screaming Sky by Charles Foster this week. When I went to add it to my GoodReads profile where I log all my reads I noticed that it’s the first book that I’ve completed for a couple of weeks. Not because I’ve not been reading, although I think it’s fair to say I’ve not been reading as much but because I’ve been dipping in and out of all sorts of things, ranging from the history of the D-Day Normandy landings in 1944 to Ernie Pyle’s accounts of the war in Sicily in 1943 to essays by George Orwell and tales of Ernest Hemingway. A mixed bag indeed.


Signal take out honest ads showing how Facebook profiles it’s users and gets it’s ads banned. [LINK] [LINK]

Hydrogen fuel may not be the best way to replace fossil fuels. [LINK]

Farmer accidentally makes Belgium a bigger country [LINK]

UK Government plans to make 50% funding cut to arts subjects [LINK]


Well that’s all I have for this week. The week ahead is looking relatively quiet apart from having to take Wilson to the vet for a check-up midweek. Whatever you are up to, take care and stay safe.


Digging In TWTW # 116




Greetings from my allotment. No I’m not there typing this but I was thinking about this week’s post earlier when I was there. Thinking that for many weeks I haven’t had all that much to report about my plot but I’m hoping that as this week I’ve actually been able to turn the soil a bit as we’ve had a dry spell and the heavy clay is less heavy and therefore less likely to do me an injury when digging, that there will be more news to tell.
I’ve been thinking about what I need to do over the coming few weeks to get things moving into spring properly and realise that I’m probably a bit behind with seed sowing, so this coming week I’ll be making some headway on getting things moving in the right direction.



Reading. My reading this week has been more listening that reading as I’ve been working my way through some audiobooks.
I’ve been listening to Austin Kleon’s audiobook trilogy of Steal Like An Artist, Show Your Work & Keep Going. I have actually read all of these and they’re a great resource to dip into but I’ve found quite a few things by listening to the audiobooks, that I missed when I read them. It’s been interesting just thinking about how my brain works differently when listening as opposed to reading – ears over eyes.


Also from Austin Kleon was a post linking to the artist Julian Onderdonk who is one of the artists who I added fairly early to my Artists Twitter list.


Shaman Balls – Craig Childs


We had a trip to the vet this week. A planned appointment for Wilson to have some blood drawn for his regular checkup and adjust his medication if need be. We haven’t got the results yet but we’re not expecting any nasty surprises. Fingers-crossed.


Watching – The Commute Walking 90km to Work. I’ve done this a few times over the years, but I think the longest I’ve done was about 8 miles each way and I left early and got home late to make sure I was on time for the start of my day. I’ve been enjoying Beau Miles latest video this week. It reminds me how much I’ve missed walking during this latest lockdown. Fingers-crossed that everything will continue to move in the right direction and in another few weeks the only being able to go out once a day for exercise rule will be relaxed.


I’ve had my film cameras out this week. The sunlight has been great and I’ve loaded a roll of infrared as much to have an experiment with different exposure, iso and other settings ahead of being able to get out properly and take photos. My theory is that experimenting in controlled conditions in my back garden mean that I can make better judgements later. I also broke my cable release and have had to order a new one.


Well that’s it for this week. It’s my birthday on Tuesday, not that I’m expecting to be doing anything much different, but I am planning on doing some different things from my usual routine.

Stay safe and take care.


Binary Seven TWTW # 111

Time passes slowly in lockdown but I’ll admit to a little surprise that it’s the end of January already. I suspect I have that same feeling each year but it’s a milestone that moves me closer to lighter mornings again, and that is always a good thing.

I’ve been paying attention to the silhouettes of trees on our morning dog walks this week. In that moment before sunrise when there is enough light to distinguish a tree from the background gloom but not enough to properly make out the details, the texture of the trunk etc.


Had a batch of cards delivered this week from Iain Welch. I’ve been trying to support more independent artists during the successive lockdown periods and I’d recommend Iain’s cards if you’re looking for something dognified. I used his Christmas cards this last year and wanted to restock some of the others that we’ve used up for various things. I’d recommend them and also following him on Instagram for a daily dose of cheer.


Reading. I’ve been dipping in and out of a lot of things this week, some Betjeman, some more Morse stories, but I haven’t stuck with any of them yet. I think in part that’s due to tiredness, having had a couple of sleepless nights I’ve not read in the afternoons or evenings when I often read because I’ve been too tired.


Watching. We’ve been dipping back into the old Inspector Morse’s a lot this past week, I think we’ve probably watched three or four of them as well as another couple of episodes of Endeavour.

I did enjoy watching the video below:


Allotment. Another mostly washed out week, I’ve harvested a few leeks for a stew, but haven’t been able to do much else. A bag of onion sets arrived in the post which I’ll be planting into modules and keeping indoors or in the potting shed until the weather improves a bit and the risk of frost is much lower.


George Orwell on food.


Well that’s about it for this week. As always stay safe and take care.

The Revolving Door of Lockdown TWTW # 108

Back into Lockdown, thanks to an incompetent government that puts GDP and being popular above social values and doing the right thing.


The thing that I’ve missed the most this week is only being able to get out of the house for exercise once a day. I think Ruby has missed it just as much as me. I’ve been out each day first thing, for our daily dog walk, as it’s early it seems to make the day feel much longer, particularly by lunchtime.

I do support the lockdown though, it’s needed, but I do wonder why our government can’t see it’s own mistakes and look to those countries who have managed to curb the virus and haven’t gone into a succession of rollercoaster lockdowns and restrictions.


Reading. Falling back on favourites I read The Way Through the Woods by Colin Dexter, which I enjoyed although couldn’t help thinking that he was writing this with a possible transfer to the small screen in mind (which happened). I also read A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough, which was a bit of a busman’s holiday and a little disappointing. Not because it wasn’t very well written and very truthful and accurate but because despite the profile of the author I think it will do very little to change the way the world is. I think I am increasingly becoming resigned to the fact that as a race we won’t do the things that we must do to prevent our own extinction as a species. Collectively we are too selfish, there are individuals who are living within their own means but overall I fear that we will continue to destroy the planet. I don’t want to turn this into a rant but there is no prospect that world governments can sort this out.


Watching. Not much really. A few repeats, and we’ve been enjoying Rick Stein’s new Cornwall series and Ann has binged watched the BBC series Traces (this one wasn’t really for me). Otherwise the TV’s not been on all that much.


Allotment. We’ve had a serious cold snap this week, parts of the country have had a good blanket of snow, and although we seem to have escaped that, we’ve had a good frost each night. I’m pleased because that is good for the garlic that I planted (cold weather is needed to help the garlic form cloves within the the bulb), and good for killing some of the bugs and other pests that will otherwise proliferate in the spring. It has meant that I’ve not been able to do much else on the plot itself however as the ground has been frozen most of the time. It looks like we might be in for some warmer weather in the coming week though.


Work. For me the working year has yet to take off. I’ve been looking through some reports that were published at the end of last year that I didn’t manage to read before Christmas but that are important documents in my line of work and I will have to understand for a couple of projects that I am due to be working on. I suspect that the new lockdown will once again disrupt much of this work though.


I spent some of my time this week sorting through a box of old family photos. I remember many of the times the images captured but not all, possibly because I was too young or just wasn’t present for them. I’ve still got a lot to go through, there are many boxes of slides to look through and that will undoubtedly be more time consuming. Many of the photos contain the ghosts of people who are no longer with us, and again some of whom I recognise and a few that I don’t (some have the names of subjects written on the back but many will probably be lost to time).


I seem to have picked up the “Week That Was” series again but I’m still struggling to write something sensible, so for now I will say until next time, but Stay Safe and I hope you remain fit and healthy.

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.


Nest Building TWTW # 70

After last weeks posts the Prime Minister announced a full “lockdown” in the UK. Stay home, only go out for essential items. Our lockdown is not it seems as harsh as those in some other countries, but then our government has been doing it’s own thing with this pandemic from the start. The practicalities of these new rules don’t really bother me that much. It has meant curtailing my usual two dog walks to a single one in the morning, but otherwise I don’t think I’ve been outside of the boundaries of our property for anything since probably last Sunday.

I’ve spent my time mostly working in the mornings, although despite a request from a client for a short briefing note that wasn’t planned, this seems to be slowing down now. My diary is looking decidedly empty of even virtual meetings, and I suspect April will be the quietest month that I’ve had in a very long time.

My afternoons have become a time to do “stuff”. I’ve been cleaning windows, grooming the dog, making bookmarks (more on these two items below), editing video, all sorts of things that normally I’d save for a day off or the weekend. I’ve also been reading and catching up on a few movies.


Since we last spoke I’ve read a couple of books. Bay of Spirits by Farley Mowat and Denali by Ben Moon. The former was after listening to a podcast where the author was name checked for another book which then led me to this book and the latter was a Valentines present. Both were okay but I enjoyed Bay of Spirits more than Denali, probably because of the latter’s subject matter. Whilst I like a good story with a dog, this one’s a bit of a tear jerker and there are elements to it that were a bit too close to home, but don’t let me put you off, both are worth a read.


The best film I watched all week was Malta Story, starring Alec Guinness. As you might be able to guess it’s based on the siege of the island of Malta during WWII, and is an old black and white movie. Sometimes these old movies hold up much better than those made much more recently. Case in point is the other film we watched which was Hollow Man starring Kevin Bacon, this just didn’t hold up well.


I wrote about giving Ruby a groom last week. I don’t remember whether I mentioned that we put her cut hair into a bird feeder and hang it in the garden. We do this so that the birds can use it for nest material. I also set up the trail camera in the same tree and caught a few short clips of a Great Tit helping itself to the supply. I suspect they’re building their nest not too far away as he was back fairly frequently throughout the day on Friday.


This is an interesting snippet about the ephemera that you sometimes find in old books. I wrote about this not all that long ago, and I’m also a user of custom bookmarks. I frequently make my own – the picture left is of some that I made from wrapping paper that I had for my birthday – or use something that is to hand. I also frequently have a pencil tucked into a book (Austin Kleon wrote about reading with a pencil), or a pocket notebook in which I’m writing notes. This is one of the things I most love about the kindle is the ability to highlight and save your notations as you’re reading.


And yes electric cars really do produce less CO2 than petrol ones.


Takaya the wolf has been killed.


I managed to get to the allotment on Saturday and planted my potatoes, and did some weeding. There’s a list of jobs that I need to get done, fortunately it seems that going to the allotment is counted as exercise and included in permissible activities in the lockdown.


Well that’s about all I have to say for myself this week. Stay safe wherever you are.

It was Wilson’s 10th birthday this, so this being the internet I’ll leave you with a cute puppy photo.

All Work and No Play – TWTW #33

A thank you to all those of you who left comments or emailed me directly after last weeks post, it meant a lot.


This week has mostly been about the work, I’ve been working mostly on one clients work, but dipping into another in preparation for more this week when I have another road trip to do to Somerset.

On one of my twice daily dog walks this week I did manage a trip along the canal path with the dogs, with the plan of allowing them a swim, but the water level was so low all they really managed was a paddle. I don’t suppose they were really bothered either way. Our other walks haven’t taken us as far from home, mostly due to trying to get the work hours in.


I’ve been reading a few different things this week, including another Ellis Peters Cadfael novel – The Leper of St.Giles. My other reading material has mostly been related to work, so I won’t bore you with the content.

I’ve been listening to a few different podcasts and other things including the abridged audio version of Ben Myers new novel “The Offing” on Radio 4, it’s got another week to go in it’s run, but you can catch up on the link above.


Fun fact: The original title for the third “Naked Gun” movie was going to be “Naked Gun 33 1/3 – For the record”, but was changed because producers didn’t think viewers would understand the joke.


Been doing quite a bit of digging on the allotment, getting things ready for the application of some manure. There’s still quite a bit growing, but equally quite a bit of bare ground as things have been picked, dug up, or eaten by badgers!


Haven’t seen one yet but – First White-tailed Eagles released on Isle of Wight





That’s about all I have for this week, be careful out there.


I Saw Four Swans

Went for a walk and an early breakfast in Emsworth this morning. As I walked back along the old mill pond I saw four swans in the space of about 50 metres. Not one of them was alive.

The first was on the name plaque of “Swan Cottage”. The second was a garden ornament. The third was a stained glass doorway. The fourth a silhouette also on the side of a house.

There were also plenty of living swans too, but this morning it was those representations that caught my eye.