The Light in the Dark: A Winter Journal by Horatio Clare

Horatio Clare’s excellent book “The Light in the Dark” is out in paperback today. I read it last year in hardback, but wanted to mention it again as the paperback is released, as it was one of my standout books of 2018. It’s a timely read as although as the subtitle suggests this is A Winter Journal, it starts in the last days of Autumn and finishes in the first days of Spring.

It’s a tale of feelings and emotions and mental health and mental wealth, stories of the author’s family both in times of joy and pain, observations of the world both rural and urban and the passage of time across those darker months.

I can’t emphasise how much I like this book, it is so incredibly well written, and open about the authors personal winter and such an engaging read. I sat down with my copy to remind myself one afternoon last week, and ended up finishing the book again in bed that evening.

If you’re looking for an engaging read or even something for a present for someone this Christmas then I’d recommend The Light in the Dark.

What’s In Your Pockets? TWTW # 37

What’s in my pockets? Well it would appear that in terms of my coat, a mix of stuff for walking my dogs or things that I’ve found on our walks. I was clearing out my pockets to get the coat ready to be re-waxed and to transfer the pocket contents to another coat. The coat has big pockets and all of those balls that you can see in the picture are ones we’ve found and not ones that belong to my dogs. I keep them and pass them on to a friend when I see her as her dogs are not fussy about the ones that they play with, unlike mine!

It’s been another busy week, pushing client work along and a mix of being here at my desk in front of the computer or on the phone. The next two weeks however are shaping up to be the weeks from hell, with several evening presentations and quite a bit of travelling. Unfortunately most, if not all of it, is going to be in the car, so other than listening to more audio books I won’t have much time for anything else.

Fair warning therefore that if there isn’t a post here from me next Monday (7th October) that’s why. Hopefully normal service will resume the following week.


I’ve been reading another Maigret novel this week – Maigret and the Wine Merchant.  It’s interesting that this one was originally published in 1970, and although that is many decades ago, it’s nearly forty years after the first Maigret novel – Pietr the Latvian was published in 1931. There are quite a few differences between the two, and the first mention of computers that I can recall in a Maigret novel, as well as many other cultural changes. Quite the contrast between them, and even more so when we’re not far off 100 years since the first one was written.

When I was sorting through some things at my Mum’s house came across a couple of Isaac Asimov books. I’m planning on reading these, as soon as time allows even if it’s only a page or two at bedtime for the foreseeable future! They’re a blast from my childhood but I can honestly say I don’t remember much about them, so hopefully they’ll be a bit of a treat to read again after all that time.



My time on the allotment has been a little curtailed this past few weeks, partly due to available time, but also down to the weather. The apples that I was hoping would stay on my tree have all blown off, so good news we get apple crumble, bad news, we’ll probably be eating a lot of it because that’s a lot of bruised apples that won’t keep for too long.


Dwelling As Resistance


Michael Chabon asks “What’s the Point?”


More than half of native European trees face extinction



I think that’s all I have for this week, all being well I’ll be back on the 14th October (although there is a little post coming later this week, but I wrote that one before I wrote this one – the wonders of technology!) Be careful out !

 

Must Try Harder TWTW # 36

It’s been a busy week again. There were less meetings and phone calls, but I managed to get on with quite a few bits of client work. In the sense of doing much else it’s been quite quiet, and there isn’t really anything exciting to talk about. It’s been an all work and no play kind of a week (that titles already been used though so I’ll have to come up with something else).

I did travel across to Wales to collect my Mum from her sister’s where she’d been spending the week, on Saturday. The less said about that journey the better. Traffic was bad in both directions and ultimately what should have been a few hours took most of the day.


I spoke to a client who I’d quoted for some work, and who’s now said that it looks like it’s going ahead. Reviewing the quote it was done back in June, and I’ve had to say to them depending on the actual start date they have in mind, I might not have the capacity to deliver. They do seem a little flexible though so hopefully that will work out. The disadvantage of freelancing is often that everybody wants you at the same time or not at all.


After harvesting the pumpkins and squashes last weekend I’ve been looking for different recipes to use on some of the produce. We’re a little short on chutneys in our store cupboard and I really need to make some more, so have been looking at spiced squash chutneys in particular. I’m not sure when I’ll find the time to actually put the recipes to use but the squashes keep well, so there is not desperate rush I suppose.

 


To decarbonize we must decomputerize: why we need a Luddite revolution


Naomi Klein: ‘We are seeing the beginnings of the era of climate barbarism’


I’ve started looking at a replacement for my aging laptop. It’s served me well, but is showing signs of it’s age and with work picking up I need something reliable and my current machine has become a little unpredictable.

I’ve been looking at a few options including a switch to a Mac, which might happen, but for the moment I want to get to the point where I now what I want and can shop around for the best price. With Black Friday not too far away, I might seek out what I want around that time in the hope that there is a little bit of discount to be had or I might wait until the end of the year. I don’t want to have to rush out and get a replacement because of a complete failure of my existing machine, but I want to be in the position of knowing exactly what I want to if that did happen.


I haven’t had much time for reading this last week. I did finish reading Maigret in Vichy, which I started at the end of the previous week, but I’ve been so tired each evening that I’ve not really gotten into another book yet. That’s not to say that I haven’t plenty to choose from. I did listen to audiobooks on my journey to Wales on Saturday, but didn’t finish any of those either, despite the very long journey!


I think that’s about all for this week. A short one again I’m afraid. Must try harder!


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!

Wintering. A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt: A Review

img_20190912_150521920Wintering. A Season With Geese by Stephen Rutt

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is Stephen Rutt’s second book this year, I reviewed his first, “Seafarers” and noted that he’d set the bar very high for himself in terms of his next book. Well, here it is and I’m pleased to say that the bar is very much maintained and possibly exceeded with Wintering.

Like Seafarers there is an element of autobiography from the author, but again this is a biography of the birds, or at least the time that they spend on our shores when visiting us from their summer breeding grounds.

Rutt interweaves his life in Scotland, as he is finishing his previous book, with his interactions and observations of the different species of geese. With visits to other parts of the UK he sees other species and in each case interweaves his observations with those of the likes of Aldo Leopold, Sir Peter Scott and others. Like Scott he also mulls the ethics hunting / eating geese and that the role of goose is more than just as wildlife – foodstuff, feathers for quilts & clothing, guard animal etc, and perhaps that a goose is for more than Christmas.

As with his previous book Rutt writes openly and his style is such that it is like being next to him when he’s in the field, he writes with skill and the observations of the geese are beautiful. As the author found, the geese are captivating and so are his descriptions of them. As I write these words a skein a dark-bellied brent geese fly over my home and I’m thinking back to the words of the book and whether there’s a black brant amongst them (something that I’ve yet to see!)

The historical research and references add depth to the story. If I have but one complaint it is that the book is on the short side and it left me wanting for more, but then wintering geese don’t visit us for long either, so perhaps that’s a reflection of their stay.

I’d also like to give a hat-tip to Elliott & Thompson Books. I’ve reviewed a number of their books this year and I am consistently impressed with the quality and beauty of their covers and bindings.

If you’re stuck for a Christmas present this year for someone who’s “into their birds”, then getting them both Wintering and The Seafarers would make them very happy, but then again why wait for Christmas!

Wintering. A Season with Geese by Stephen Rutt is published by Elliott & Thompson on the 26th September 2019

 

Watch Out For The Wicked Witch! TWTW # 34

I’m sorry this is posting later than normal – I thought I’d set it to post automatically this morning but something went wrong.

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Well it’s been another busy working week, I’ve been progressing things for clients and had another trip down to Somerset for a meeting with one of them. I like being busy, although it is easy to worry about making sure everything gets done, particularly with life outside of work being a little uncertain and at times also time consuming.

I stopped in a lay-by on my way back from Somerset on Thursday, it’s one that is only legally accessible to access from one side of the road, and I’ve travelled back via different routes before so only passed the lay-by before on the “wrong side” of the road. This time I pulled in to eat the sandwiches I’d made in the morning for a late lunch and saw this little cafe there. Apart from the imposing CCTV signs it looks like it might be a nice lunch stop, perhaps another time when I’m a bit early and they’re still open. I wondered aloud on Instagram about where Hansel & Gretel might be.


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I also picked up a little bluetooth receiver this week for the car. I’ve been doing a bit more travelling recently and there’s only so much Radio 4 you can listen to at the moment, when every other story is about Brexit. Using this I’ve been able to connect my phone to car radio and listen to audiobooks from my phone (and have the navigation prompts over the car radio, which interrupt the audiobooks seamlessly and then go back to the book). I’m impressed. I think I could also link my kindle to it to listen to the audiobooks that I have on there, but then wouldn’t be able to have that and the navigation available.


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Things on the allotment are starting to die back a bit at the moment. I need to go down with the wheelbarrow and bring back all the pumpkins and butternut squashes that are down there. There’s also been a manure delivery so I need to go down and move some of it across to my plot. Tomatoes are doing well in the potting shed, as is finally my first aubergine. I suspect it will be the only one I get this year. Although the plants have been covered in flowers this is the only one that has actually come to fruit.


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I picked up a few paperbacks on Saturday morning when I was passing the secondhand book shop. The Alistair Maclean’s are a bit of staple from my childhood, as is the Doctor Who book. The latter made more poignant as the author Terrance Dicks died very recently.


Love this electric JCB digger:


42 Douglas Adams quotes to live by


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In addition to the books I picked up on Saturday, I’ve been reading one of the new “Dragon Tatoo” books. I think it’s the second of the three that have been published postumously and on the basis of having read the first of the “new” books and now this one I don’t really think they are a patch on the originals. They’re a bit like fan-fiction taken too seriously by a publisher. I’m not even sure whether or not I’ll finish this one. I suspect I will but given that the only time I’ve really had a chance to read (other than audiobooks in the car) has been at bedtime, when I’m too tired to read for more than a few minutes, it’ll take a while.

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I’ve been listening to “I Contain Multitudes” by Ed Yong in the car. All about microbes and such and absolutely fascinating. This audiobook thing is a bit of an experiment. I used to have an Audible subscription, but I wasn’t listening to the books I was downloading and so paused it. If I catch up I might consider starting it again. After all a 4 hour roundtrip in the car or 6 hours on the train is a lot of listening.

Also in audio listening I noticed that both Roger Deakin’s BBC shorts The House and The Garden are available again online. Not sure how long they’ll be available for or whether they’ll be accessible outside of the UK, but they are worth a listen. His old short Cigarette on the Waveney is also available (cigarette is a type / name of a canoe).


I just picked up my personal journal to see if I’d missed anything that I should add to this post, and realised that I haven’t written anything in it since Monday, so it must have been a busy one!

I have a couple of personal meetings this week and it’s Ann’s birthday, but otherwise my time is mostly going to be occupied with work.

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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.