Black Swan Smackdown – TWTW # 21

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I feel a little like I’ve been running around a lot this last week. Ruled to some extent by the timings of appointments with my Mum’s doctor and with our vet, for Wilson. Just one of those weeks, and the upcoming one is looking like being a little similar, although with a different set of appointments and people to see and places to be.


On Tuesday I walked down to the creek to see if the Mute Swans that nest there had hatched any cygnets yet, and I was treated to a bit of a surprise. Here’s what I wrote on Instagram:

This Black Swan got a little too close to the nesting Mute Swan pair, and kept coming back despite being chased off by the Cob a couple of times previously.

The Cob eventually went all in and pursued the Black Swan up on to the mud where he pinned it to the ground and then proceeded to attack, pecking at the back, neck and head of the Black Swan. It was brutal to watch and went on for several minutes. Here’s the last 30 seconds where the Black Swan managed to escape and appears to be okay.

Nesting Mute Swans are very territorial and won’t tolerate other swans on their “patch”. The female is still sitting on the nest, no sign of chicks yet.

The video is below, it’s a bit blurry because I was so far away, but you get the gist of what was going on.


I’ve been watching Jo and Michael’s travels on their narrowboat on YouTube for a while. They posted this video yesterday of their crossing of the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct (best watched full screen).


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I’ve been reading “The Sixteen Trees of the Somme” by Lars Mytting this week. It’s probably one of the best books I’ve read this year so far and I thoroughly recommend it. It’s a little different to my normal fair, and although there is a mystery at the heart of the story it is much more about the characters and the people.

 

 

 


img_20190607_155746699I also got sent some surprise back-catalogue books from my friends at Elliott & Thompson Books. I haven’t had a chance to properly look at them yet but hope to get to them later this coming week.

 

 

 

 


How do authors earn a living


Six Weeks, One Hundred Miles of Walking in Japan


That’s about it for this week, I’m hoping to get my tomatoes set-up in the potting shed this week at some point, and there are several other things that I’d like to get done in the gaps in my diary. We’ll see how that goes!

 

Jellyfish Endgame – TWTW # 19

This weeks missive is a little late as I took advantage of the Bank Holiday weather i.e. overcast; to go and do some digging on the allotment. Although most of the plot has been dug over the winter, there are a couple of spots (were the overwintering veg was) that could do with turning over, as could a couple of spots where I want to direct sow some seeds.

Over the weekend I’ve also been putting in some runner beans, and sowing some more lettuce and beetroot seeds. I’m having trouble getting lettuce seeds to germinate for some reason, but I’m hoping this later sowing into properly prepared soil will do the trick.


img_20190521_101629_318I was walking the dogs along the creek on Tuesday morning when I noticed a stranded Moon Jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) on the shoreline, it’s been a little while since I’ve seen one even though they are relatively common at this time of the year. Sadly this one had been stranded by the tide, but may have been able to last until the next rising tide as it was in a relatively sheltered spot so might not dry out.

Later that night I had the weirdest dream that the dog and I were being pursued by Portuguese Man-o-war jellyfish, who in a rather Doctor Who-esque scene had been able to rise from the sea and chase us up a cobbled street.

I’m not sure whether this was related to seeing the Moon Jellyfish that morning or the fact that I saw Avengers: Engame in that same afternoon.


So yes, finally went to see Avengers: Endgame. Nearly had my own private showing, although three other people turned up just before the last of the adverts were rolling. I know I may be one of the last people to see this, and having successfully avoided all spoilers myself to this point, I’m not going to say anything about the plot. Suffice to say I enjoyed it, thought it was a worthy addition to the MCU. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’d recommend it.


Great little radio documentary about Roger Deakin and wild swimming and the legacy of his book “Waterlog” – listen here

 


The best writing tips from 150 writers – read here


I seem to have been on Twitter for 12 years (@tontowilliams). It’s a very different place now to what it was when I first joined. I can even remember that I had to keep quiet at work that I had a twitter account, as it was in someway considered a bit subversive (I think basically my employer was paranoid that I might be tweeting bad things about them), as a public sector body they now use it to great effect, having multiple accounts to cover all the different things that they do.

I’m not sure whether I want to continue with it though. As I say, today it is a different place, and it is definitely a more angry and hate-filled place than it was in 2007. I am seriously considering taking a break from it completely while the conservative leadership contest is on. Whilst I am interested in politics, the amount of bile and vitriol that has been thrown around over Brexit and the EU elections, makes for some very unhappy reading, and I suspect the same will be true of the leadership election. Given that 100k Tory party members get to decide who the new PM of the UK will be rather than the Country as a whole, I really could care less who will eventually be chosen. From all of those who have declared an intention to stand so far, none of them are fit to lead the Country as far as I can see, so perhaps I am better just staying out of it altogether.


I’ve been reading a few different things this week, including what is considered to be the first of the Maigret books – Peitr the Latvian – I have to say I think if I’d started here I might not have bothered reading anymore of the Maigret books. It’s not that it’s a bad story or that the style is significantly different to the others I’ve read, but it is just different. So I guess my top tip for reading this series is not to start at the first in the series.


The Seafarers: A Journey Among BirdsThe Seafarers: A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Last week I was sent a copy of Stephen Rutt’s first book – “The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds”, by the publishers, Elliott & Thompson.

It was an unexpected surprise and “The Seafarers” is one of those great joys of a book that is part autobiographical of the author, biographical of the birds he writes about and full of information and detail of those birds. Be they the charismatic Puffin or the extinct Great Auk the author writes a treatise on each and every bird he sees on his journey, and their homes and habitats.

Stephen Rutt has written a lyrical and delightful story, it is a book written from the heart and takes the reader to the homes of the birds where the author has been as part of his career and where he has escaped to, away from a more hectic life. He writes delightfully about each of the species he encounters, some that will be very familiar to the reader, but possibly many that won’t be and in each case he writes so that we all become familiar with each one. He makes the facts and details of those species accessible to the reader in such a way that it is easy to loose oneself in the story and picture each bird for it’s own character.

The book is also full of references and sources so that the reader can also look further for those species that capture their imagination or want to know more about – I found myself tapping in urls to look at other details of species. I know that I’ll be returning to this great book to reread the sections on those species that are close to my heart, but also as a point of wider reference to other species.

I look forward to reading the next book from this author, although I acknowledge that he has set his own bar very high.


I’m getting pretty close to completing my GoodReads reading challenge too. I think I’m only one book away from my target of 30 books


Workwise things have been quite quiet this week, waiting for things to happen elsewhere. Also it’s half-term next week, so I suspect the calm will continue. Maybe get some plants out onto the allotment if it looks like being a very quiet week.


So going out on a high note (see below) I’ll catch you next week.

The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds by Stephen Rutt: A Review

Last week I was sent a copy of Stephen Rutt’s first book – “The Seafarers – A Journey Among Birds”, by the publishers, Elliott & Thompson.

It was an unexpected surprise and “The Seafarers” is one of those great joys of a book that is part autobiographical of the author, biographical of the birds he writes about and full of information and detail of those birds. Be they the charismatic Puffin or the extinct Great Auk the author writes a treatise on each and every bird he sees on his journey, and their homes and habitats.

Stephen Rutt has written a lyrical and delightful story, it is a book written from the heart and takes the reader to the homes of the birds where the author has been as part of his career and where he has escaped to, away from a more hectic life. He writes delightfully about each of the species he encounters, some that will be very familiar to the reader, but possibly many that won’t be and in each case he writes so that we all become familiar with each one. He makes the facts and details of those species accessible to the reader in such a way that it is easy to loose oneself in the story and picture each bird for it’s own character.

The book is also full of references and sources so that the reader can also look further for those species that capture their imagination or want to know more about – I found myself tapping in urls to look at other details of species. I know that I’ll be returning to this great book to reread the sections on those species that are close to my heart, but also as a point of wider reference to other species.

I look forward to reading the next book from this author, although I acknowledge that he has set his own bar very high.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

From The Publisher:

In 2015 Stephen Rutt escaped his hectic, anxiety-inducing life in London to spend seven months at the bird observatory on North Ronadlsay, the most northerly island in the Orkney archipelago. His time there among the seabirds changed him.

The Seafarers is published on 23rd May 2019 by Elliott & Thompson.

About The Author:

Stephen Rutt is a writer, birder and naturalist. He studied on the literature and environment MA at Esses University and has written for Earthlines Magazine, Zoomorphic, The Harrier, Surfbirds and BirdGuides amongst others. As a teenager, he interned with Birdguides.co.uk and in 2015 he spent seven months at the bird observatory in North Ronaldsay. Stephen lives in Dumfries and The Seafarers is his first book.

Dough Monster – TWTW # 18

This week feels like it’s been full of lots of good things, it’s been fairly busy but in a good way, and yet I’ve had time to spend on some of the things that I love.

It’s also been blessed by being mostly warm and dry for the better part of the week, with a little rain at the weekend to help the garden and the allotment along. I can’t complain.


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It’s been a week of books this week. It started on Monday went I had to go into town to run a few errands and I popped into the library to look for a book that my other half wanted to read. They didn’t have it, but by chance I was looking to see if they had any Maigret books on their shelves – I always look, but am usually disappointed – and they had two. I’ve mentioned it before but Maigret has become a bit of a thing for me, and these two (Maigret, Lognon & the Gangsters and Maigret & the Reluctant Witnesses) didn’t take long for me to read. I had a reasonably long journey on Thursday and finished the second one on the train. I’ll take them back this week and see what else they have.

I also received a surprise from E&T Books – “The Seafarers” by Stephen Rutt. I’ve reviewed a few books for E&T and this one came in the post and I am about halfway through. I’ll post a separate review when I’ve finished it. Finally Nigel Slater’s latest cookbook “Greenfeast” came. This is actually a two part set, and this volume covers Spring and Summer. Autumn and Winter is out later this year. It’s a lovely book, although I haven’t had a chance to indulge properly yet!


On Tuesday morning I was walking the dogs along the creek when we chanced upon a Hedgehog. Haven’t seen one in a while, and a little surprising that it was out so late (they’re mostly nocturnal). Normally this isn’t a good sign, as it means they are staying out to find food, but this one seemed to healthy enough and was of a good size so I left it be.


The Marshes of America’s Space Programme


The Day I Tried To Love Ticks


The Bitter Truth About Starbucks Coffee


The Poetry of Painting: how to paint loss and life


On Puerto Rico’s ‘Forgotten Island,’ Tesla’s Busted Solar Panels Tell A Cautionary Tale



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Had a bit of a bread adventure at the weekend too. If you’ve been reading here for a while, you’ll know that I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread for a while. Well last week we had a bit a of a lack lustre starter mix, that although it turn out a nice loaf, it didn’t really seem to rise all that much. Anyway, as is my habit, the leftover starter went into the fridge in a Kilner jar for the next time. On Saturday morning I noticed that the starter in the jar was rising at quite a fast rate (normally there is very little or no rise when it’s in the fridge). When I checked on it a little bit later in the day it had risen even more, and was into the lid of the Kilner jar.

I thought that I should take it out of the fridge and release some of the pressure from the jar, which I did and the jar open with a loud pop, and the starter started to ooze over the edge of the jar.

I decided to use some of this to make another loaf, so I measured up my ingredients and put the remaining starter back into the fridge (where it has been behaving itself since). I must have made a mistake with the measurements however, as the resulting dough was very wet. Too wet to do anything much with, so I had to add extra flour, which I did and kneaded in, and then put to one side for a final rise.

It worked out okay in the end, even though I’m still not sure how this happened I got a good loaf out of it.

TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

It’s Bank Holiday Monday as I write this, and I’m a little bit later than usual sitting down to think about what’s happened in the last week. Essentially a short working week for most with the long weekend around Easter and quiet for me as I am waiting for my client to respond regarding a report. He has responded and is taking a wider view across his organisation before giving formal comments.

It’s been getting progressively warmer all week with the weekend turning into quite a scorcher and I’ve been doing quite a bit allotment and garden wise, while I’ve had the time. I’ve sown some lettuce seed as individual plugs – some for my Mum’s garden and the remainder as back-ups for the allotment. I’ve potted on some tomatoes and have got some more seed to sow a few more plants.

I’ve also started off my runner beans. Garden lore says that you should sow your runner bean seeds on the first Bank Holiday in May and plant them out on the second one, so these are a little early but that might not be a bad thing as they were covered in a little mould which I washed off and they seem to be okay – not soft or any obvious other damage other than the mould – so if they don’t grow I’ll have time to get some more.

My car was MOT’d and serviced at the beginning of the week. It passed and so there’s nothing further to do until next year or unless there’s a problem.

Wilson was also back at the vets for his next round of tests – we’re awaiting the results.


I’ve been reading “The Way Home – Tales from a Life Without Technology” by Mark Boyle, essentially the stories of the author when he completely gave up technology, including electricity and other mains utilities, living on an island near Ireland. I’m not that far in, but I’m enjoying it so far.

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


I’ve also  got  the  (re)review  of “Under  The  Rock” coming  up next weekend with the chance to receive a copy of the paperback.



Been watching the new season of Bosch on Amazon over the weekend, it’s another great season of the show, and it’s great that such high quality tv can be be made to this standard – thoroughly recommended! If you’ve read Michael Connelly’s “Two Kinds of Truth”, it’s mostly based on that.


A Warm & Damp Sensation (TWTW # 3)

It’s been a cold week and we’ve seen a little bit of snow, although we seem to have escaped the worst of it there have been some quite significant falls just a few miles up the road, so very localised. Fortunately I’ve not really had to go anywhere too far or when I have it was before the snow fall.


We took our dog Wilson to the vet this week, nothing serious we think but it did necessitate gathering a wee sample the next morning. As with human samples this had to be collected from the first “wee of the day” mid stream. When I’ve had to do this in the past I’ve just improvised but the vet provided a collection kit this time. It was nothing glamorous, effectively a sample tube with a scoop attached to it. The only downfall with it, is the ability to see whether the sample tube is full. The warm and damp sensation on the back of your hand is a good indicator though.


I found this interesting infographic on the daily routines of creative people.


In this series of online articles the author has been cutting out one of the big 5 tech companies (Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple) from her life each week, with some fairly scary results (particularly with Google), she’s yet to do the final week when she cuts out all of them at the same time but they all make interesting reading.


I was given a copy of Maigret at Christmas for a Christmas present, and thoroughly enjoyed it having not really read any Maigret novels and only really coming across him through TV adaptations (Michael Gambon and more recently Rowan Atkinson). I thought I’d get another one and I’ve been reading that this week.

It was another good read and Georges Simenon has a really smooth and economic writing style.

 

 


I also watched a couple of episodes of the series “The Last Resort”. It’s a simple premise – nuclear submarine is order to launch a warhead via a recognised back-up system, but questions order as it appears there is no war / conflict going on. It is then attacked by it’s own side and goes on the run.

There’s some interesting parallels to it and what else is happening in the world (even though it appears to have been made over five years ago). I’m not sure how well it will stand up as a series, but I’m likely to watch a couple more just to see.


It seems that the US government shut down was good for the elephant seals.

The Rain Came

On Friday I recorded this short allotment update:

We had a little rain overnight on Friday, and a little more on Saturday afternoon. On Sunday we had rain pretty much the entire day. As I sit at my desk writing this it looks like we might get a little more. We needed that Sunday rain more than either of the two previous showers, which hardly made the soil damp, but even so the ground isn’t wet, and our garden pond is still a long way off of being full again.