The Day is My Oyster TWTW # 73

This week has been a pretty stressful one. I’m not intending to go into  detail, but let’s just say additional isolation caused by coronavirus lockdown and Alzheimer’s are not good bedfellows.

To make matters worse my car has sprung a coolant leak which I can’t get access to fix so I’ve had to track down a garage that is open and willing to have a look at the problem. Where this falls within the realms of essential or non-essential isn’t clear but without the car it’s going to be difficult to do some of the things that are essential.


This week has also been one where I’ve had literally no appointments in my diary relating to work. There have been a few emails going back and forth but no day has been fully focused on work. It’s also  been a short week because of the Bank Holiday, but that seems like a comment of a time long ago rather than something that was relevant just a couple of months ago. It also looks unlikely that the early May Bank Holiday which was shifted to accomodate VE Day celebrations is going to have the meaning that it might otherwise have had 75 years after the original date.


We spent a couple of evenings this week re-watching Bond films – Skyfall Spectre. We’ve mostly been watching things we’ve previously recorded or have on DVD – reruns of Father Brown, Carry On films – anything gentle that avoids the 24-7 news churn.

I’ve also been watching the new series of Bosch on Amazon which has been one of the highlights in what otherwise has been a pretty stressful week. A show made for binge watching if ever there was one.


I finished reading Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On and started a Maigret novel, The Grand Banks Cafe. Despite what should be lots of extra free time my reading rate has slowed right down, I think because I’m doing other things and at the end of the day (my usual reading time), I’m too tired to stay awake for very long.

I think books are important right now and I loved this story of a bag of mystery books.

We’re still awaiting the outcome of the public consultation on the future of our local libraries. Given the personality of the decision maker it’s fairly likely to be bad news as he lacks the imagination to do anything other than close enough of them to make the budget balance. Perversely this means that my local library will probably escape as it’s the one that serves his local patch – gotta look after his own image afterall.


I’ve had some seedlings to transplant into bigger growing modules this week, they’re too small to go out on the allotment yet. They’re cabbage and cauliflower plants, but because the sun faded the ink on the tray labels I can’t yet tell which is which until the plants themselves get a little bigger. I know I have a roughly equal proportion of each but not sure which is which yet!

We had some rain at the end of the week, which has helped soften up the soil on the allotment a bit so I did manage to get some digging done for some of my daily exercise.


Another short one this week, I’ll be trying to get my car back on the road this coming week and then seeing how things play out. I hope wherever you, you stay safe and well.

Supermoon Flatbread TWTW # 72

It’s been a gloriously sunny week here, even the day they said it was going to be a bit gloomy was a good one. The slight perversity of having a bank holiday weekend when the weather is smashing but we can’t go out has not escaped the attention. Whatever happened to those old fashioned bank holidays were the weather was miserable and so was everyone stuck indoors? As I write this on a Sunday afternoon, it feels slightly dystopian being at home and all that I can hear are the sounds of police sirens and then more police sirens. I’m not sure what’s going on but I guess someone isn’t having a good day.


Although it is small I am very grateful for our back garden and very conscious that not everyone is as lucky as we are. I’ve been spending quite a bit of each afternoon sitting in the garden reading a book.

My reading this week has mostly been on my Kindle and has been Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On, the first part of the book is ten years worth (2005 – 2015) of his diaries and I think I’ve made it to about 2010 and am still going and have yet to get to the remainder of the book. I’m finding that I am able to concentrate on it which is something that I’ve recently struggled to do. Maybe the lockdown is just becoming the new norm and I’m adjusting to it?


I wrote last week about having been forced to go into town after failing to be able to do something online. Well I did achieve this and picked up some medication that the pharmacy has been holding for me. Town was strange. In places it was downright ghostly, in others it seemed that there were far more people out and about than there should have been. Going to the pharmacy was the weirdest part of all. It’s one of the only shops open in a large 1970’s built shopping centre (mall). The building management has opened a route up so that you can walk from either side of the shopping centre to the pharmacy and out again, but everywhere else is barricaded off. I wish I’d taken a photo of it but if you’ve ever watched any film that has a pandemic or other global emergency at it’s centre you already know what it looked like.

Speaking of which I’ve been watching season 9 of The Walking Dead this week (if you haven’t seen it yet but are going to, then best skip ahead as there are some small spoilers to follow). The series has been losing it’s way a bit for a while now, and with the deaths (both real and perceived) of major characters really seems to have lost itself completely. I still want to watch season 10 when it becomes free to view but I’m certainly not going to pay to watch it.


There was a Supermoon midweek, and I went out into the garden with my camera and a tripod and spent some time trying to get a good shot. It was a little cloudy and some of the shots were obscured a little by that but I got a few that were pleasing to me, which is what counts.

There are a couple more to come this year, but this one is where the moon is closest to the earth so the others won’t be quite as impressive. If you’re interested there are some more of other people’s photos here.


I’ve been making flatbreads this week – just flour, salt, water and oil, makes a perfect little wrap which you can stuff with whatever you like. I was using up some roast chicken and mixing it with some homemade bbq sauce, green peppers and white onion.

I’ve also been reading about sourdough revived from ancient Egypt (by the guy who invented the X-Box) and the sourdough library.

I also want to try this Spinach Dip if I can.


My social media abstinence for Lent has come to an end, but it’s the strangest thing. When Lent was over I reinstalled the apps on my phone and logged back in, but that’s all I’ve really done. I did look at Instagram for a bit and also Twitter, but I just felt a bit disconnected from the whole thing, like gazing into an abyss. I’m not sure what happens next, I guess I’ll just wait and see. I haven’t posted yet, and in previous times I lived in lists in Twitter to make it as locked down as possible, it might be I do a similar version but with lists that are even more locked down.

It does seem as if I didn’t shut down all of the autoposting I thought I had in my absence and this blog was still posting a link to twitter with every post. I didn’t realise and there’s no point in doing anything about it now, but there must be a setting buried somewhere that I didn’t find – because I thought I’d found them all.

If you’re interested I’m @tontowilliams on both Instagram and Twitter, if you don’t already follow me come and say “hi” who knows you might be the one to break my fast! Also it means that I can go back to posting links here again.


JRR Tolkein was right about the trees.


I used one of my exercise allowances to visit the allotment to plant out some broad beans and sow a few seeds. It’s amazing how quickly the plot went from being a soggy mess to rock hard and impenetrable to any hand tool known to man. I was trying to hammer some supports for my loganberries into the ground and had to water the ground to soften it first as the posts were just bouncing off. I feel a little like I’m on borrowed time with the allotment if the lockdown were to get any worse, and so have also been making space in the garden for some extra pots with veg in. Hopefully we’ll end up with a surplus that we can give away.


Well that’s about it for this week folks. I seem to have written far more that I’d intended to, or thought I had words to write. In these times of limited travel and adventure (yeah right when did I ever do those two things), that’s not bad.

I hope you’re all staying safe and well, and I’ll catch you later.

 

TWTW # 71

Hello. How are you doing? I hope you’re safe and well.

The blackthorn is in full bloom at the moment (see left), and it’s quite an amazing site.

I didn’t sleep very well last night. Because of someone else monumental incompetence I have to leave the house today for something other than my daily exercise and I’m not looking forward to it. Is the trip essential? Yes it is, but I have tried so hard to complete this task without leaving the house and just can’t. At the heart of this is someone else’s inflexibility that means I have to put myself at risk. Admittedly the risk is slight but it’s there none the less. Some people / organisations are just arseholes.


I’ve tweaked my working arrangements a bit for the time being. Fortunately I technically still have some client work to do, but things have decreased a bit and pace has slowed right down. As a result I’m tending to work mostly in the mornings after my once daily trip out with the dogs, working until lunchtime. After a lunchbreak I’m turning to do something productive either in the house or the garden, so this week I’ve been tackling odd jobs, including repairing our garden bench. I had intended to replace the bench this spring as it’s really showing its age but given that is now unlikely to happen soon I made some running repairs. After I’ve finished the productive element of my afternoon I turn to reading, or watching something. Again trying to clear backlogs of shows that I’ve recorded and haven’t yet watched or just watching random things.

After a friend sent me this link to a documentary on Hummingbirds (which you’ll probably need to watch via a VPN in the UK, but can be found on other services too), I’ve also been watching much more natural history programmes. Much more relaxing than watching the news at any rate.

Towards the end of the afternoon / early evening thoughts turn towards food again, and then the evening is spent with more books or a film. We’re deliberately watching less news and trying just to stick to the briefing that happens around 5pm each day.


My reading this week has mostly been across reading some H P Lovecraft and Thomas Merton. I’ve found it tough to get into anything that requires longer term concentration, I guess that’s a sign of the times.


I’ve had some requests for online garden talks. I’m working out the logistics of doing this, but it’s certainly possible for me, but I suspect given the age profile of my normal audience it might not be everyone’s thing. Nothing’s confirmed yet so watch this space.


The allotment site has been experiencing some petty theft and vandalism in the last week. The site manager’s conclusion is this is from another plot holder, but I’m not convinced. Luckily I’ve not been effected yet.

We’ve also been supply fresh veg to NHS staff so that they don’t have to go to the supermarket. I’ve only really got leeks and carrots on the plot that are ready to eat at the moment, and I’ve put a few in. I’ll be planting a few extra things to contribute if this goes long term, although it looks increasingly likely that we might be told the site is going to have to close completely. I hope not as I think this will mean a lot of plot holders will give up.


My social media abstinence is due to come to an end this week as the period of Lent ends. It’s been an interesting time to try and do something like this given everything that’s going on, but also I think it’s been a blessing and a firm means to reducing anxiety. I’m not going back completely the way it was before, but will probably return to Instagram and to a lesser extent Twitter, but I think I’ll mostly be ignoring Facebook going forward. For now I won’t be deleting any accounts just letting them lie dormant where I’m not using them.


Well that’s about it for this week. Take care and stay safe!

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.

Social Distance TWTW # 69

It’s probably impossible to write here and not to acknowledge what’s happening in the world, even though my experience is only limited to what is going on around me. It also seems that things are constantly changing and greater efforts are being made to contain the spread of the virus and pressure on the vital health services. However as I write this on Sunday things will have moved on by the time it’s published tomorrow, so bear with me.

On Monday things seemed to be more or less normal, with most businesses being open although we were being encouraged to work from home more and avoid unnecessary contact. By Friday the country was very different.

I won’t dwell on all the different restrictions or the various different announcements, but I do want to make a plea. Please be considerate, please don’t be selfish. Don’t be a dick.


It’s been easy to be distracted from work this week, I admit to be a little anxious about groceries and in particular making sure that my Mum has what she needs. She has Alzheimers and doesn’t understand what is going on, maybe that’s just as well.

More cancellations / postponements and suddenly my diary is looking very empty over the coming weeks. I still have a couple of reports to write / finish, I’m hoping that I won’t have a problem getting paid for them.


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I gave Ruby a haircut this week, she was less than impressed. It’s something we try and do at the start of the spring and then again later in the summer to help reduce burs and snags in her coat, and also keep her cooler. I think I’ve been forgiven already, at least until she’s due her next cut. We hang the spring cut in an old bird feeder in the garden and the birds – particularly the blue tits – come and take it for their nests.


I finished reading East West Street by Phillippe Sands and got an Inspector Montalbano – Excursion To Tindari – in. I haven’t had a chance to start anything else yet.


I’m really grateful for podcasts this week, particularly those that have enabled me to escape the background noise of coronavirus. I’ve been listening to a few different ones in particular this week, including going back through their back catalogue to listen to ones that I’ve missed. A couple of picks for you:

99% Invisible – stories about all sorts of things, not everything is something that I would be naturally interested in but it’s presented in such a way that I’ve found out a lot about things that I’ve never have bothered with before.

We Have Ways of Making You Talk – very much about WWII, it’s history and stories.

Deep State Radio – American domestic and foreign policy podcast, and actually not one you want to listen to if you want to lower your anxiety levels, but good for staying informed on what’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic.

Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project – Adam Savage from Testd and Mythbusters fame podcasts, covering many different films, games, science fiction, toys and more.


My social media abstention has continued. I think to be honest absence from social media has helped lower anxiety levels, although there have been a couple of times when I wanted to go onto Twitter to have a complete rant about something but didn’t. I actually think posting less is probably a good thing, posting pictures of empty supermarket shelves often just prompts people to go out and panic buy because they think they are not going to be able to get what they need.


The week ahead, I’ll mostly be at home, apart from dog walks. I will need to try and get some groceries at some point, but otherwise I’m making sure I’m practicing social distancing and not putting myself or anyone else at increased risk.

Wherever you are – stay safe.


Things To Do When You Can’t Go Out

So you might be on an extended spell of working from home or self-isolating due to the Coronavirus. If you’re not already used to the home working or hermit lifestyle it can be a bit of a shock to the system.

I thought therefore that I’d post a few links to books, tv shows, podcast and other things that I’ve enjoyed that might be new to you and perhaps give you some alternative options. I’ve tried to limit things to those that can be accessed electronically without having to leave the house.

I hope you’ll find the list useful and will give something on it a try, but do leave me some feedback on your recommendations in the comments.

Books

I like reading crime, natural history, travel and some science fiction, but here are a few things that you might enjoy.

Mick Herron – Slow Horses. This is the first book in a series, and although I’ve enjoyed the later books in the series more you probably should start at the first in the series. Slow Horses are MI5 agents who have screwed up in some way but can’t be sacked therefore they have been sidelined in the hope that they will quit. Good stuff and worth a read.

Lars Mytting – Sixteen Trees of the SommeA mystery but not really a crime novel per se. Family history, tragedy, intrigue blended to make a great story.

David Quammen – Spillover. If you want to know a bit more about how pandemics start this is worth a read, sobering and very relevant to the current situation but well researched and written without being sensationalist.

Pico Iyer – Autumn Light. This travel writers semi-autobiographical tale of his life in Japan during a year that has big changes for him and his family. Beautifully observed and written.

Films & TV

I rarely remember the things that I’ve watched or seen recently, so for something to stick in my head generally means I really enjoyed it. Here’s some of those suggestions:

Bosch – Based on the books by author Michael Connelly. Five seasons available with a sixth coming soon, so if you like it there’s a bit to binge watch.

Longmire – Another book to tv series this time Craig Johnsons Walt Longmire brought to life by Robert Taylor. Again several seasons available although I preferred the earlier seasons.

Good Omens – From the book by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman (I sense a bit of a theme running in this section), and produced by Neil Gaiman. The tale of the end of the world – maybe – as an angel and a devil join forces to prevent armageddon.

Audio / Podcasts

The Case of Charles Dexter Ward & The Whisperer in Darkness – Written by Julian Simpson these are excellent blendings of HP Lovecraft for modern times. There’s a third season coming later this year.

99% Invisible – I love the stories in this podcast, different every week not all of them have been “my thing” but I’ve still enjoyed nearly every one and learnt things I never thought I would.

Nature Table – Everything you wanted to know about the natural world but were afraid to ask. The weird and wacky in nature bought to you by host Sue Perkins and a range of special guests.

They Move In Herds TWTW # 68

Well it’s been a funny old week – funny peculiar, not funny haha – I’ve had some more bookings for talks in 2021 and cancellations for ones coming up over the next few weeks. To be honest I think it’s absolutely the right thing to do given the current Coronavirus situation and the fact that often the average age of my audience is over 70.

As you probably know I mostly work from home anyway, but I’ve had several client meetings moved from face to face encounters to telephone or video calls. Again absolutely the right thing to do, although it meant that I didn’t finish the roll of film that’s still in my camera as I’d planned but that experiment isn’t one that’s time critical.

I do wonder about the wisdom of our proven liar Prime Minister however, who seems out of his depth and the questionable decisions he’s been making to give us “a herd immunity” which means that at least 60% of the population has to contract Coronavirus and in theory become immune (we don’t of course know whether catching Coronavirus confers any long term immunity – this is the reason you have an annual flu jab, because the immunity doesn’t last long). Nearly 30% of the UK population is in the “at risk” category by virtue of age, so that’s not a very large margin of error. Oh and of course we also know who else moved in herds, don’t we. I wonder what happened to them?

It seems that panic buying is still a thing, particularly toilet rolls, and any kind of disinfectant or hand sanitiser, dried pasta, and eggs; the empty shelves in the local supermarket testifying to this. In the hoarding stakes this is surely a step up from the Brexit supply stacking that went on several times and thankfully we’re not having to cope with a No-Deal Brexit and Coronavirus at the same time, even the Dunkirk spirit would probably crumble under that pressure.

Oh and wash your phone – but don’t forget to wash your hands.


It was my birthday this week, although it seems like it was some time ago, it’s weird how time expands and contracts around different events to make them seem much more recent or much further in the past than they actually were. I took a day off, had some nice thoughtful gifts and generally didn’t do overly much apart from enjoy what was in fact a nice sunny day after so many that have been a bit blergh.

 

As it was my birthday I also treated myself to an e-bay bargain of the first 18 Inspector Montalbano books. Between these, Simenon’s Maigret and a few other things I should have plenty of reading material.

 

 

 


I read the next book in Mick Herron’s “Jackson Lamb” series – Real Tigers – I think these are getting better with each one, and I am trying to resist buying the next one in the series for the time being, as I have a tonne of books to read and more arrived for my birthday. I did notice that Gary Oldman has been pegged to play the character of Lamb in a new TV series. He’s probably a good pick for the character, but sadly as it’s going to be on Apple TV, it’s unlikely that I’ll ever get to watch it.

I started reading East West Street by Philippe Sands which deals with the early understanding of genocide and crimes against humanity, particularly in the Second World War.


I’ve often looked at different options to cover some of the costs of running this blog, and this article has some interesting ideas. Don’t worry I’m not about to put up a paywall but if you want to you can always Buy Me A Coffee.


It’s been nearly three weeks of my social media fasting, it actually feels like longer. Is that withdrawal, I don’t think so as I think I actually feel calmer without it.


We watched the latest Terminator film at the weekend. I have to say I’m a little confused as to the whole timeline of these films, I’m assuming that you’re just not supposed to worry about that. In theory it would probably have had to happen after the second film, but events in the latest film mean that the third film couldn’t have happened. I’m sure it’s just one of those time paradox things, it was never really explained in the film but I guess if you don’t worry about it and enjoy the film, that’s what matters. If you like the Terminator films you’ll probably like it too, and in my opinion it’s better that the last couple.


The allotment is still pretty much a wash out, the ground is too wet to do anything. I sowed some seeds this week in anticipation of improvements sometime in the near future. Some more broad beans as well as some broccoli and cauliflower seeds. Hopefully in a few weeks time I’ll be transplanting them out onto the plot and probably moaning about all the watering I’m having to do because it’s now so dry!


I’m not sure what the week ahead holds. I have to take my Mum for a medical appointment but I need to phone up and check that it’s still on. Otherwise I’m going to be continuing to work from home, I quite like the hermit lifestyle.

I hope that wherever you are in the world you stay healthy and Coronavirus free.