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.

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.


A Fox In The Darkness At Nighttime TWTW # 41

We had our first big Autumn / Winter storm of the weekend. Wet and windy, trees down, power cuts, the whole shebang. For once the weather warning was pretty accurate, which is what they’re for. Otherwise this week has mostly been about the client work. I’ve reached some fairly major milestones with a couple of clients but as it’s been half-term here this last week my clients have mostly been quiet. It’s interesting working in that ecosystem again where school holidays often dictate staff holidays (not unsurprisingly) but not my own.


img_20191029_154754176I had a delivery of some new ink this week. This was a little present to myself for reaching client milestones.

They’re Sky Blue and Prairie Green. I love the green, but I have to say that I’m not sure who’s sky is that blue. It’s much lighter than what I would say is Sky Blue. These are a couple of special edition bottles, and I hope that the green becomes a regular part of their range as I would use it on a regular basis. If not when it’s gone, it’s gone.

 


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This week I’ve mostly been reading Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson. I say reading because I haven’t been much progress, although I did finally finish it late last night. Most of my reading has been around bedtime but sleep has been creeping up on me by the time I’ve read a few pages and so the story is building very slowly.

I am enjoying it though, I wonder whether it is going to be the first book of a trilogy, like his Mars books were (Red, Blue, Green), as the ending doesn’t resolve any of the plot. There is an untitled “Kim Stanley Robinson Book 2” listed on Amazon which you can pre-order for October 2020, so it seems quite possible.


The government has banned fracking. I’m a little surprised by the announcement, as it seemed the government was going to be forever the hypocrite of saying they were doing wonderful things to stop climate change whilst allowing the practice of fracking to take place. It’s interesting though that I haven’t seen any comment on this from the fracking industry itself. I’m sure they’re not happy about it and in all honesty would expect them to sue the government.


How HP Lovecraft became the world’s favourite horror writer


Bread and Books – Seth Godin


Photo’s from the California wildfires


The Bic Biro: Design Classics


Aaron Sorkin: An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg – The New York Times


Remember: it’s austerity, not Europe that broke Britain


We’ve been watching Season 2 of Jack Ryan, in fact we watched all 8 episodes over Friday to Sunday evenings. It was good, but not as good as Season 1, although I’m glad it didn’t follow the ISIS / Al-Qaeda trope that so many TV series seem to. Overall probably about 2.5 stars out of 5.


Something has been digging up one of the recently dug and planted (broad beans) beds on the allotment. I’m not sure what it was although I had my suspicions that it might have been the badgers. So I set up the trail cam to see if I could catch the culprit in action. It didn’t actually capture anything in the act, although it did capture a picture of a fox. I’m not sure what happened but I think a combination of the cold and low batteries means that after it captured that one image the camera stopped working. So I might have to try again, once again I get some new batteries.

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Other than that I’ve been quiet on the plot because of the stormy weather.


img_20191029_160017559The laptop that I’m writing this on, and is my current main business and everything else tool is beginning to show it’s age and I’ve been thinking that I need to upgrade it sooner rather than later. My plan currently is to wait until Black Friday / Cyber Monday in the hope that I might get a little bit of a discount on a new one. Having researched what I need and getting it down to 3 or 4 possibilities. If that happens the plan is to then move files and everything else over during the downtime between Christmas and New Year. In the meantime my current machine took about six hours to do an update last week. Fortunately I’d finished working for the day, and so just left the machine running until it was done (just before I went to bed).


The week ahead sees me on the road again for a client visit and I have a choice of audiobooks for the journey – not sure which I’m going to opt for yet. I also need to work out what “physical” book I’m going to pick up next.

Whatever you’re up to this week have a good one!

Deer oh Deer TWTW #35

img_20190911_085309_170Well I think I predicted that this week would be a busy one, and I was right. I had various meetings, phone calls and clients projects to progress, and each night I went to bed without being able to read for very long before falling asleep. I’m not sure whether or not that’s a good thing (I know my reading has slowed).

We’ve spotted various things on our dog walks this week, the deer here were peacefully grazing and didn’t really pay us any mind as we walked on by. They looked as if it was a doe and a couple of fawns, so it looks as though the neighbourhood deer are continuing to thrive.

Later in the week we were over flown by a Green Woodpecker who was alarm calling very loudly. Not far behind (although not I am sure chasing) was a very large female Sparrowhawk, possibly the largest I’ve ever seen.

We also bumped into one of our dog walking friends this week, or rather one of her dogs. She has three and one of them, a Jack Russell, came walking across the playing field when we were there one afternoon. I looked around and couldn’t see either his owner or either of the other two dogs, but he is known to roam, and had assumed that this was what had happened. I bribed him with a gravy bone and managed to get him on a lead and then called his owner – I have her number from a previous time he wandered off. It turns out she had given him another chance off the lead, and he disappeared into the bushes, after hunting for him for a while she’d gone home thinking he might have done the same (he has form for this), was going to drop off her other two dogs if he wasn’t there and then come back and continue to look for him. Meanwhile he’d come out of the bushes and seen us, who he recognised and come over to play. We walked him back towards the edge of the park close to where they live and his owner came and collected him from us. Good deed for the week.


Glacier and me: Amid a stunning landscape, an ailing science journalist weighs his own uncertain life span


As mentioned I didn’t read much last week but I did read this amazing book. My review is on the link.

I’m also working my way through another Maigret novel – Maigret in Vichy.

 

 

 


I was disappointed but not surprised to read this in the local paper this week about our local libraries. Sadly the reason I wasn’t surprised is simply that the politician in charge of this has serial form for axing services and making cuts. When I realised he got the job which includes libraries I was waiting to read this sort of a story whilst hoping that maybe he’d changed his spots. Closing libraries to “save money” is a false solution that appeals to those who can’t look beyond one line in a budget and see the wider benefit that these resources bring.


I’ve been sharing the potting shed with this beautiful lady over the last few months.




Not quite sure how the week ahead is going to pan out. I have a meeting on Monday afternoon that will likely set the direction for the week and it could go either way to be honest.

Whatever you’re up to this week, I hope it’s a good one!

Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

Another week that was supposed to go one way ended up taking a different direction, strange how despite all the planning things don’t seem to be turning out the way they were envisaged. It’s left me wondering how the week ahead will pan out, which looks like being another one at the moment, but could potentially change.


Four years ago I said goodbye to my last full time, paid job. Although at the time I didn’t really know how things were going to pan out, I’ve been asked a few times if I regret the decision to leave. Simply put the answer is no, although in the last four years combined, my income has probably been less than any of the years proceeding that, it allowed me to do many things. Although I didn’t know it at the time it allowed me to spend a lot more time with my Dad in the last year of his life. It allowed me to be present for some other difficult family things and possibly it reduced my stress levels and the chance I might have had a complete meltdown had I stayed where I was. Most of those things aren’t even tangible but they are most definitely real to me.

I’m still not quite sure where this freelance work is taking me or even if I can keep doing it at such a low level of income. There have been suggestions of offers of work, and I am always on the look out but it might not be sustainable in the long term. I still don’t regret that decision though.


A slightly unplanned trip to the library meant that I ended up with a couple of books, it was as a result of reading the latest newsletter from Joanne McNeil about Michael Seidenberg and the Brazenhead book store. It was the final paragraph of that newsletter:

Read an underread writer this summer in his honor. Any lonely and interesting-looking unfamiliar book at a used bookstore will do.

which prompted me to check-out In The Wet” by Nevil Shute and Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks on my library card. Now I’m not sure that either of those two books technically qualifies but that paragraph was in my head when I was browsing the stacks and I knew that I hadn’t read a Nevil Shute book for probably close to 20 years, despite reading a lot of them in my late teens and early twenties. The Tom Hanks was one that I knew I would never buy new and possibly not even secondhand, so they both did kinda fit the bill.

Anyway the Nevil Shute was amazing and I remember why I liked him as an author. Probably not the best book of his I’ve read (A Town Like Alice & On The Beach are probably both better known and better books), but it did prompt me to go on a hunt in our loft to drag out some of his books that I have up there and now plan to read.

The Tom Hanks however was, well it was just a bit meh. It had some great blurbs on the cover and maybe it was just me but it just read a bit like it was one of his early movies. It’s a short story collection and I enjoyed a few of them, and there were some nice tricks with how the book is laid out, but just not my cup of tea.

I enjoy popping into the library every so often I seem to always find something that I’ve missed elsewhere or wanted to read, it’s a great resource that has suffered a lot from government austerity measures, so I’m pleased to support it.

I get to go back in the week ahead, return the books I have on loan and see what else they have for me.



After writing last week about reading the Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri I was a little surprised to read his obituary, but interesting comments about the translation of Sicilian.


I finally got around to pickling some of the gherkins from the allotment this week.


Well that’s about all I have for this week. Who knows what’s going to happen in the week ahead, it may even be that it pans out according to plan!

My Ten (15) Favourite “Natural History” Books

I thought I’d sit and scribble out a list of my favourite Natural History books of all time. It wasn’t an easy task. I wanted to keep it to 10 books, but have ended up with 15, it could easily have been 20 or 30 and several of the authors I could easily of included second and third entries. I’m also sure there are many that I’ve missed, and memory plays tricks, but I remember all of these books fondly as “natural history” but one or two stretch this definition a little.

I recommend all of them, but appreciate that natural history might not be everyone’s
cup-of-tea and that this list is in not in a particular order other than the one that I wrote them in.

(Please note the links are Amazon affiliate links, so should you click on a link and buy that book I’ll receive a small commission).

  • My Family & Other Animals by Gerald Durrell This is probably well known to many but it is the biography of the young author on the island of Corfu where he moved with his family and how his time spent in the wilds of island shaped his life as a naturalist and conservationist.
  • The Island Within by Richard Nelson I discovered Richard Nelson through his podcast “Encounters” (which is sadly no longer being produced), this is his story of time spent on an uninhabited island near his home, the wildlife there and his exploration of it and the surrounding area.
  • Cry of the Kalahari by Mark & Delia Owens I remember reading this in my late teens and it evoked thoughts similar to those upon reading Born Free. Part adventure and part exploration log of the authors’ time in the Kalahari desert.
  • The Outermost House by Henry Beston Another well known classic written by the author from his time on Cape Cod in an off-grid shack.
  • Waterlog by Roger Deakin The classic wild swimming book and how the author seeks to swim in rivers, ponds, lakes all over the UK and beyond.
  • The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane Of all of Robert Macfarlane’s books this is still my favourite. When originally written the author stated that there are only four places in the UK where you can go and not hear the noise of traffic. I wonder if that is still true or whether now there are any left.
  • Common Ground by Rob Cowen If I had to pick one book to be on this list it would be this one. It will probably divide it’s readership between those who love it, and those who don’t like it or understand it. I think it is simply brilliant.
  • The Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell Another classic, the story of the author and his time with Mij, Edal and Teko who are otters on the west coast of Scotland.
  • The Wild Marsh by Rick Bass American author Rick Bass takes us through a year in his life in the Yak valley as an author, naturalist and conservation activist.
  • A Single Swallow by Horatio Clare The journey from southern Africa to the UK as the author follows the migration journey of swallows in real time.
  • Rising Tide Falling Star by Phillip Hoare Simply put these are stories of the sea, but that is underselling the mesmerising and truly brilliant narrative.
  • Guests of Summer by Theunis Piersma A wonderful story of housemartins in a small Dutch village as the author chronicles their lives and those of other similar avian visitors.
  • Sacred Sierra by Jason Webster Fiction author buys run down farmhouse and chronicles his first year on the steep sided valley.
  • Nature Cure by Richard Mabey How nature helps to cure the depression suffered by the author when he moves to Norfolk.
  • Deep Country by Neil Ansell The journal of the authors five years in the Welsh hills in an off-grid cabin and his surroundings.

Robins Will Perch on Anything – TWTW #24

I was wondering whether or not this last week was going to be hectic or very quiet, and in the end it was somewhere towards the latter.
The rush proposal that I was asked to do has been put on hold, so having to gear up quickly and get cracking with that didn’t happen and it allowed me to get on with some other work.

I’ve had to do quite a bit of weeding on the allotment in the last week or so, and there has been the usual ever present robin keeping an eye on me and also catching the insects that are disturbed as I work. I tried to get some video footage of this and was only really partly successful, as you can see the robin was happy to have his photo taken, but on his own terms.


This article is a healthy reminder that all those e-books you have on your devices are not actually yours, you just own a licence to them. I’ve written before about the power of companies like Amazon who licence you an e-book and can pretty much do whatever they want if they feel you have broken their terms and conditions (whether you have done so intentionally or not). Now I love my kindle, but there are the obvious vulnerabilities or loosing or breaking it (and having the cost of a replacement), and the issues around DRM that these two articles raise. In the former case at least it looks as though customers will bet their money back, but what if this was a company that went into bankruptcy and there was no cash left to pay for the severs or refund their customers. Amazon is pretty big, but is it too big to fall?

I’ll still be using my kindle and buying books (licences for books) for it but I’ve never been completely happy about that relationship and I’m still not. I have my eyes wide open though.



I’ve been reading “Bloom” by Ruth Kassinger this week. It was sent to me by the publisher for a review, and if you want to read what I thought you can do so here. The short version is that it is an excellent book.

 

 

 

 

 


This week I’m mostly going to be working on a client project and trying to get some sensible thoughts into a report for them. Beyond that I doubt that I’ll be doing much else as my diary is relatively clear of other commitments.