Of Nighttime Smells & Sleep Deprivation TWTW # 105

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

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


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


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


Ever had a truly memorable cup of coffee?


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

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


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


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


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


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


Teams Zoom-a-thon TWTW # 101

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


I was saddened to read that Sir Sean Connery had died


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

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


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


Neil Gaiman’s Halloween Reading for 2020


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


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


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


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


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

TWTW # 100

Life’s a beach as they say…


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


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


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


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


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

Take Care and Stay Safe.

Allotment Zoom TWTW # 98

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

Wherever you are this week stay safe and take care.

Shifting Focus TWTW # 93

Greetings. The photo above is one from the roll that I sent off to be developed last week. This weeks blog is a bit image and camera talk heavy, so if that’s not you bag, feel free to skip those bits.

It’s not all been cameras this week, if I was still working, I would have said that it has been a short working week because of the Bank Holiday but I don’t really pay that much attention to those now. I was reminded that I haven’t reviewed my goals and targets yet this year. They were set before coronavirus was a thing so looking at them I’m surprised just how much I have achieved, but they still need a little bit of a reset.


I’ve been listening to podcasts this week, trying to catch up on a bit of a backlog. I enjoyed Tim Ferris’s discussion with Hugh Jackman.

 

I am also reminded of the post on Tim Ferris’s blog about why not to become famous.


I’ve been reading quite a bit of Thomas Merton this week. I’m still working my way through his journals which has been a multi-year experience (I think I started back in 2014 or 2015), and I’ve now just finished the 5th volume (of 7) which has taken me about 18 months to read. I have the remaining two volumes on my bedside bookcase and I’ve bought the next volume to the top of the pile so I might start that sometime soon.

I’ve also been reading The Cloud Forest by Peter Matthiessen which I read many years ago and recently found a copy in a box in the loft, so bought it out to have a reread.


I’ve been getting the allotment ready for it’s next planting phase. It’s coming to that time of year when over-wintering onion sets, garlic and broad beans need to be planted / sown. I’ve been getting the ground ready and they’ll be going in over the next few weekends.


Another trailer for the new James Bond movie dropped this week. I think I’ve seen the majority of the Bond movies in the cinema since Moonraker, but I’ve no desire to go and sit in a cinema and watch this new one just yet. So I guess I’ll be waiting for a DVD release.


I got my developed roll of film back this week. I was testing an old camera as much as I was taking pictures. The above panorama has become a bit of an obligatory test shot for me, even if I have to stitch it together manually afterwards, this one is six individual shots. The pic of me and Wilson at the top of this post is also one of the roll (thanks to Ann for being photographer). Here are a few more.

I’m pretty happy with the overall results and that the camera is working well for probably 50+ years old.

By a strange quirk of fate I also seem to have bought a new (secondhand) camera. I was actually looking for a lense and found a couple but they were at the upper end of what I felt was a realistic price. I then found a camera with the lense I wanted in an ebay auction. For some reason it wasn’t getting a lot of attention so I watched it, and bid at the last minute and got the lense and the camera for a good price, well below what the other lenses were on offer for. The seller stated that it was untested, so I was expecting it to not be working, and unsurprisingly the camera is dead but the lense works well. I’ll have a look at the camera when I have more time to see if I can make it work again, but for now I’m looking forward to trying out my new lense.

I’ve also been investigating what I can do with my old Minolta DSLR that no longer works and I also think I’ve found a solution for that. I’ve found an adapter that has good reviews that will enable me to use those lenses on a Canon body (which I already own). I won’t have all of the features but I’ll have enough that I should be able to use them. I’ll have to wait for it to get here before I can see whether the reviews are accurate.

I’m enjoying getting back into photography, and in particular film photography after all these years. I still need to brush up my skills but I’m pleased with some of the results I’ve been getting.

I haven’t forgotten digital either. I took Ruby out for a long walk this week and we went down to see if we could find the Swans that normally nest behind the old gravel works. Because of lockdown we weren’t able to do this when the penn would have been sitting on the nest, so I’ve no idea whether they bred this year or not and if they did whether they were successful, and we didn’t find any evidence that we could definitively say was them. There were however a lot of swans at the head of the creek and we took a few digital pics. Funnily enough this was harder than it sounds due to the hazy sunshine and not being able to use a viewfinder and having to rely on the camera’s screen. Some of them came out okay though:


Well that’s it for this week. Sorry this one’s been a bit image heavy, but thanks if you’ve made it this far.

Take care and stay safe.

If Life Gives You Green Tomatoes TWTW # 92

Greetings from my kitchen, where in between typing these sentences I’m making Green Tomato Chutney. It’s 8am and the smell is amazing boiling down the mix of tomatoes, apples, onions and sultanas to a thick pulpy mix.

This is a little bit of therapy, making something from home grown produce that will take well over an hours to prepare, but will keep me going in chutney for some time. More details below.


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I decided yesterday to pick the remaining tomatoes on the allotment to avoid them getting blight – the weather conditions have been right for this the past few days and I don’t want to lose the crop waiting for it to ripen when I could do something with it. It was worth doing too, as I had over 3.5 kgs of tomatoes. I separated off those that will ripen on the window sill and the rest are going to chutney. The recipe I’m using is here. I ended up with 9 full jars which is good going.

In addition to the tomatoes we’ve also been picking more patti-pans and squashes on the allotment this week. Otherwise things are at a bit of a crossroad between seasons where winter crops are growing but not ready yet and summer stuff is coming to an end.

I’ll need to think about my seed order soon too. I got a little caught out by shops being closed due to Covid this year, so am thinking I’ll be order all in one go instead of spreading them out over time from different suppliers like I have in previous years.


After some six weeks of delay by BT they finally got around to turning on our fibre connection this week. I can’t actually say things appear any faster, although theoretically when I test the line the download speed is about four times faster than before. I suspect where I’ll notice it is uploading files as that has increased by an even greater degree. The speed of the wi-fi has of course not changed, so unless I’m hardwired into the router that will determine the speed of most things.


I’ve had some work to do this week. An unexpected commission from a client that I’ve been working on between other things. It reminded me that I need to do something about the library of technical documents that I’ve been building over the last few years. It is all electronic and not stored in the same place, some split across different computers and folders. Ideally I’d like it all in one place as reference materials for future projects, but I need to take some time out to drag it all together, and also to make an appropriate structure for it to sit in. It’s not been top of my list of priorities, but it’s a pain when I need to look for something and it’s often stored in a folder of a project where I lasted worked on it.


I took quite a lot of photos this week, but they were on film, so I can’t share any of them just yet. I have at least posted the roll off for processing, so hopefully there’ll be something to share next time. They’re all standard colour 35mm so no more infrared yet. I also bought a new battery for one of my old film cameras, and am planning to use that next.


When you look at the face of the guy in this video preview and read the title you’re expecting something different to watch actually happens next:


 

I’ve been reading the Pandemic Kitchen Newsletter this week. You can subscribe for free and I’d recommend it if you are at all interested in cooking. There have only been a couple of editions so far, but you can look at the archives before subscribing if you’re not sure.

I’ve also been finishing the audio book of James Holland’s Battle of Britain. It’s a really good listen with first hand accounts taken from diaries written at the time and starting back with the allied retreat from Dunkirk, through to late 1940.


Schools return this week in most of England. Or at least they do at the time of writing. Given the way the government has handled the whole thing, you have my sympathy if you’re a parent wondering whether you and your children will be safe or are just simply trying to work out exactly what it is you are supposed to be doing! The whole eat out / lose weight; stay home / go to work; algorithm results / teachers results; government approach to organising the proverbial couldn’t be more farcical if it were a situation comedy. Thinking about it, you also have my sympathy if you’re a writer of political comedies and are constantly being out done by the real thing as opposed to the fiction you are trying to write.


That’s it for this week, and if you’ve made it this far thanks for reading. As always stay safe and take care.

It’s Got To Be Prefect TWTW # 87

On Wednesday morning I wrote in my diary that work was a bit sparse. That afternoon I was asked to do something at short notice. A few hours work, but a few hours of paid work. Funny how things work out.

Other than that little work blip my week has been split between sorting out things at my Mum’s house, doing chores at my own house and a little bit of creative time, dog walks and the allotment. That said I’m not sure where the week went Monday morning quickly became Sunday evening.


I found my old Prefect and Librarian badges in a matchbox in a draw at my Mum’s house. I thought that they’d probably been lost years ago, and in truth I probably haven’t laid eyes on them since about 1988. It was a bit of mixed emotions that I found them and some other papers and things from my time at school and university. These are items that I will keep and treasure and others that I will let go. I’m pretty sure that I don’t need my lab record books anymore, and reading through them didn’t really spark any memories for me.

By coincidence my friend @Documentally also came across his Prefects badge when he was tidying his “shed”, he wrote about it in his newsletter.


I’ve been reading more Maigret – Maigret and the Informer – and Austin Kleon’s – Steal Like an Artist & Keep Going – also some other bits and pieces but not really completing anything else.

We’ve been watching  some old films including the old James Bond movie – You Only Live Twice – as well as continuing to avoid watching too much news and getting sucked into Doomscrolling.


I had some brassica plants delivered and I planted them out onto the allotment on Sunday. They’re plants for late winter or early spring harvesting so I won’t be eating them anytime soon. For now I have to stop everything else from eating them – slugs, pigeons and caterpillars in particular – I’ve netted and put out slug traps with beer and salt.


I don’t think I’ll be up for any bathtime ballet anytime soon.


Well that’s it for this last week. Have a good one and stay safe out there.

 

Zoomed Out with Blank Exposures TWTW # 85

Hello! Another week has passed and here I am again, writing about what I’ve been up to in the past week.


I had both the roll of film I sent off for developing and some new rolls of film arrive on the same day this week. There should be plenty of more photos to come as I expose each of these rolls. I’m going to use another different camera on the next roll.

The roll that was developed was a little bit disappointing however. Not because some of the pictures weren’t good, but because I only ended up with 15 frames out of 24.

Looking at the negatives it looks like the camera shutter wasn’t working properly on some of the exposures, and although it was allowing me to advance the roll after pressing the shutter, the mirror didn’t appear to be lifting to expose the film. I’ve had a good look at the camera, but can’t replicate the problem. On the exposed film it was an intermittent problem so there are some “blank” exposures here and there throughout the roll and the last couple of frames. I will give the camera another go, but not straight away.

I’m also planning to experiment with some infrared film, there’s a roll of film on the way (and I already own a red filter, which helps to enhance the image).


I managed to corral all of my online meetings into one day this week, by the end of the day I was a bit Zoomed out (despite having to switch between different platforms depending on who the meeting was with). One of the meetings was only a briefing but as it was at lunchtime I turned off my camera and sound and listened in while eating my lunch, pretty sure no one noticed, but I wonder what else people get up to when they’re supposed to be in a meeting. Outside of that one day work has been quite quiet again this week, with a few emails to deal with but little else outside of that one day.


I finished reading The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes earlier this week, my review is here. I’ve also read another review book, Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald who wrote H is for Hawk, that review is here. In other book news my “to be read” pile is increasing looking like Mount Tsundoku.


I had to go to the pharmacy this week, it’s the first time that I’ve been into town since non-essential shops have been opened. There were lots of people in coffee shops and the shopping centre has set up a “keep-left” one way system but a few people obviously don’t know their left from right. I’d estimate that about one in four people were wearing a mask, and whilst it’s not required please wear one. If you’re asymptomatic it will protect other people, and if you’re wearing one it helps to protect you from the selfish idiots. Wear a mask!


My allotment time this week was mostly spent weeding, the couple of days of rain we had helped them to flourish, I wish it had the same effect on my food crops!


I’ve been trying to catch a glimpse of the comet Neowise this week, but haven’t had much luck. It’s quite low in the sky at the moment, and only really visible in the early hours of the morning so it mostly obscured by houses if I’m looking from our garden. It should be easier to see later in the month, if not I might have to go somewhere with a better view of the horizon. Did manage to get some nice morning Moon pics though.


We’re off to the vets in the coming week, it’s that time for annual boosters, and at the end of the week we’re supposed to be being switched to superfast fibre broadband. It’s a free upgrade that we didn’t asked for and were just told was happening. So this time next week things will either be completely FUBARed or much faster, we’ll see.

Have a great week wherever you may be and stay safe!


It’ll Come In Handy One Day TWTW # 84

Well it’s been one of those weeks this week, where I’ve been pretty occupied, but in some ways don’t feel like I’ve gotten very far – see below.

The weather has also played a big part in that with the week bookended by spells of rain, that has meant I haven’t had to go out and water the allotment. My ankle is grateful for this as it’s still a bit sore and I’ve been trying not to spend too much time walking about on it.


I’ve been sorting through a lot of things at my Mum’s house this week. I’m sure if you ever said to her that she was a hoarder she would have refuted it but she certainly liked to keep things “just in case they come in handy”. I think it’s partly how she was brought up, many things were in short supply and rationing was still very much present in her childhood. So if you thought something might have a later use you’d keep it rather than throw it away.

In some ways I admire this view, we are very much more a disposable society these days but there are limits to how much you can or should keep I think, particularly if it is clearly worn out. It means that now I have a lot of things that I need to dispose of and in the current situation with many places still closed down finding new homes for it or even disposing of it isn’t an easy task. Fortunately there is no desperate rush and so I’m tackling it a little bit at a time.

Some things like my old Snakes & Ladders board (above) won’t be going anywhere.


I’ve also finished the second roll of 35mm film that I was given for my birthday. This roll went through my old Minolta camera, for which I also have some macro photography equipment, so hopefully there should be some good close up pictures. I posted the roll off on Saturday and with luck might get the results back by the end of this week coming.

I’ve also ordered some more rolls of film as I still have a couple of different cameras that I want to try, and I am enjoying the more mindful taking of photographs that film cameras present. It’s not like digital where you can effectively take as many pictures as your memory card will allow and then delete some of them and keep going. On film you only have 24 or 36 pictures you can take before you need to change the roll of film and at about £20 a time (film + developing costs), it isn’t cheaper than digital.


How To Make Peace With Your Phone While Reading


Drone Light Shows – Better Than Fireworks


I read Walks with Sam by David W Berner this week. You can read my review of it here. I’m reading The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes at the moment, which I’ll also be reviewing soon. Both are review copies from NetGalley.


Work has been quiet this week, hence why I’ve been doing so much sorting at my Mum’s house.


My week ahead is looking fairly busy, some more sorting and a few other things to do. I also have to make a trip to the pharmacy at some point, which I think is the first time since non-essential shops have been open so not quite sure what the arrangements are now – I guess I’ll find out.

Whatever you’re up to this coming week – Stay Safe!

 

Suspicious Puddles TWTW # 79

Hello and welcome to the sunny south coast of the UK where that strange orange orb in the sky has been slowly roasting me all week.

I’ve mostly been at home – but things have been pretty quiet, although there are a couple of high spots to share and things to talk about. How’s your week been?


I received my developed film back from the processors, both this photo and the one above are from that roll. I opted for negatives and a transfer to USB stick (that I supplied) as this seemed like the cheapest option, and I didn’t want to waste a lot of paper on potentially poorly taken photos when I could print the best ones at home anyway. This was probably a good choice, as it would seem I have (or the camera has) a slight tendency to underexpose frames – I’m going with operator error until I have any other evidence to the contrary – and in most cases I can tweak these things afterwards if I need to.

A little bit like I have with this image.

I’m already part way through my second roll and for the most part I’ve enjoyed this little return to “analogue” photography and will probably keep going.

I think in some ways I prefer the immediacy of a digital camera and the ability to take many frames of the same thing with little worry as to the cost, until you get the image you were looking for. That said the challenge of having a limited number of exposures and thinking much more about the image you want before you press the shutter release is also a bit of a thrill. There will be more film in my immediate future.


I finished reading Maigret’s Pickpocket and also read The Sanctuary Sparrow by Ellis Peter’s (a Brother Cadfael mystery). The Maigret was excellent, one of the better ones and although I enjoyed the Brother Cadfael it wasn’t one of the best. I’ve yet to settle into anything else.


Don’t Worry I Live With All These Books


I spent a bit of time doing the conversion from winter mode to summer mode in the potting shed this week. This essentially means moving out the remaining tender plants into the garden, taking down the bench they were on and setting up for tomatoes and other things. This year I have some tomatoes but also some lettuce and beetroot in tubs. These are doing exceedingly well and we have had our first harvest of beetroot leaves and lettuce alongside some broad bean and coriander pesto on pasta. We’ve been eating broad beans pretty much continuously for a couple of weeks now, and the main crop are coming to an end, but we have some “spare” plants that I put in tubs in the garden that will also give us a second crop in another couple of weeks.


The tale of Ollie and Dollie, a pair of pigeons that befriended a family on lockdown


The water leak on the car has also now been fixed. The garage got the part and fitted me in on Thursday morning and the bill was less than they thought it was going to be. I’ve hardly driven the car anywhere since but it seems to be okay – no suspicious puddles on the floor of the garage – but I haven’t given up carrying the big bottle of water in the boot quite yet.


Work has been very quiet this week. I’ve had a couple of things to do, but jobs that only really take a half-hour or so to do. I need to be mindful about where this leaves me. The government says that I am not eligible for the self-employed income support scheme, although I’ve asked them to explain exactly why because I’m not clear on their reasoning. So I’ll be needing to find some income of some kind if my existing work doesn’t pick back up. All of my talks for this year have now been cancelled – quite rightly – either by me or the organisers as clearly they can’t go ahead under current conditions. Some of the talk formats will also need to be reconsidered – those that involve produce tasting for example – as they are also no longer practical in their current method of delivery. At the moment I’m not sure it is worth spending a lot of effort on as things could change so much before the next talk that I have provisionally booked in January 2021, but it will be slowly burning away in the back of my mind in the meantime.



Well that’s about all from me for this week. It’s looking like it’s going to be another quiet one in ongoing sunshine. Stay safe wherever you are.