Another Strange Anniversary : TWTW # 27

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


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


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

My Ten (15) Favourite “Natural History” Books

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

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

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

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

Half Way Point – TWTW # 26

This last week turned out not as expected. Last Monday was going to be one of those days where I was going to be on the go all day – which generally isn’t a problem – and hope that everything will work out fine and there won’t be any hiccups that throw things out. However before the day had even gotten started I had a call to say that my first meeting of the day had been cancelled, then a few moments later another call to say that another meeting had been postponed. By the time I would have been due to leave the house for the (now cancelled) first meeting, my entire day had been cleared. My unexpectedly free day gave me an opportunity to do some chores and a few other things that I would have done later in the week. I was grateful for the free time, although most of those meetings will have to be rebooked at some point.


Thanks to everyone who commented or contacted me by email about the upcoming changes here which I posted about earlier in the week. Your contacting me is appreciated. I don’t have any more news to share at the moment, but once I know what’s going on I’ll post about it.


The nice people at Elliott & Thompson books produced this advert for the book I reviewed a couple of weeks ago.


Speaking of reviews, I read and reviewed Every Breath You Take by Mark Broomfield this week. I also read the first of the Inspector Montalbano books – The Shape of Water by Andrea Camilleri.


We’re supposed to be moving towards a zero-carbon economy and part of that is phasing out fossil fuel powered vehicles in the not too distant future. That future is at the moment somewhat reliant on electric vehicles, but will there be enough “fuel” for them?


Related to that, perhaps Elon Musk isn’t all that he made out to be?


The allotment is doing well. I’m at the point of the year when I feel that perhaps the weeds are winning a bit, but I’m getting good crops of gherkins (for pickling), courgettes, lettuce, beetroot, cauliflower, onions and coming on quickly are runner beans and cucumbers.

I’ve sown some purple sprouting broccoli and kale this week, with the aim of having that as a follow on crop from the broad beans. I’ve also sown some new rows of lettuce and beetroot, again to have some crop continuity for what we’re harvesting right now.


 

Every Breath You Take – A User’s Guide to the Atmosphere by Mark Broomfield- Book Review

“Every Breath You Take – A Users Guide to the Atmosphere” by Mark Broomfield.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

If you haven’t heard about air quality over the last few months you’ve probably been
off-grid somewhere and your local air quality is probably quite good. However if you want to know more about the quality of what you’re breathing, what influences it and how poor air quality globally is responsible for over 7 million deaths a year, then this is the book for you.

It’s packed full of scientific information, and despite the slightly intimidating blurbs on the cover is easily readable. Mark Bloomfield writes well, his style and structure work well and he takes the reader on a journey by telling the story of air quality and more, from the atmosphere (and a little bit of interstellar travel) to the global, national, local and personal level. He looks at how this affects not only human health but areas such as nature conservation, acid rain, media coverage, environmental campaigns and issues at a local development level.

Whether you have a scientific background or not the book earns it’s “Popular Science” classification and by the time you’ve finished it you’ll have a much better understanding of what the issues, causes and potential solutions are. Bloomfield doesn’t shy away from giving his personal views but they are those based on knowledge from a career of experience in this field, and does so in a way that you can make your own conclusions from the evidence he presents.

Recommended for anyone who wants to know more about this topic, or has a general science interest.

Every Breath You Take – A User’s Guide to the Atmosphere” by Mark Broomfield is published on 11th July 2019 by Duckworth Books.

About the Author: Mark Broomfield studied natural sciences at Cambridge University and has a PhD in atmospheric chemistry from York. He has specialised in air qualty since 1992, which also means dealing with health, odour and nature conservation. He has carried out research for the European Commission and the UK Government.

In 2017, he took a sabbatical to complete a 100 mile trek in the Himalaya, and write his first book – “Every Breath You Take“. He is married with three sons, and lives in Shrewsbury.

 

Site News & Downgrade Plans

It’s getting close to the time of year when I have to pay the subscription fees for this site. Due to the changes that WordPress have made in the last year this is now significantly more expensive than it was a year ago, and for me I’m not sure that this represents good value for money anymore. The cost would be well over £100, which is spare cash that I simply don’t have at the moment, so I have reluctantly decided to cancel my subscription.

Cancelling my current subscription is the only way that I can downgrade my plan, and because the domain fee is now paid separately (another WordPress change), it hopefully means that I can downgrade to something cheaper or take my stall someplace else.

It also gives me an opportunity to look at other things. As you probably know I normally post once a week, and there are other ways to do this e.g. a newsletter, which could be done more cost effectively. Ultimately I haven’t made a final decision yet, but I had to cancel my plan before it auto-renewed in order to avoid having the pay the excessive fee.

I’ve tried a number of different options to passively monetise content here (adverts, affiliate links and others) in order to offset the costs of subscription charges and to be honest none of them provide anywhere near the income that would be needed to cover the cost (or even payout as the threshold is so high). Add to this I hate the sight of the adverts, they’re ugly and I have no control over what is advertised, and I’ll be glad when they’re gone.

This is my problem to fix, but I need to cut my cloth according to my means and have the control over “my” site.

The Insects Are Biting TWTW # 25

This week was the 11th year that I’ve had my current allotment. I was trying to find a photo or two of what it looked like when I took it on, however there seems to be a gap in my photo library around that point – I’m guessing that they’re still on whatever phone I had at the time, and are in our loft. I did however find this short video which was taken around the 26th July that year. Things have certainly changed since then.


As the year clicks past the half-way point, it’s been hot, the insects are biting and it certainly feels like summer. I’ve had no meetings this week, but lots of client work to do and so far I’m on top of it.


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I’ve read three books this week (although two of them were rather short). David Hewson’s “Devils Fjord”; Georges Simenon’s “The Flemish House” and Stephen King’s “The Colorado Kid”. They were all good, but I probably enjoyed Devil’s Fjord the most.


The allotment is doing really well despite the heat, we’ve had a really good crop of potatoes and the summer vegetables are starting now. I’ve picked more gooseberries than I can count and I’m planning to make some gooseberry chutney, but for now their in the freezer as I really don’t fancy working in a hot kitchen in this weather to make it, plus I need to get some ingredients. Pickled gherkins are also on the list, which are a little easier to do, just as soon as I get enough to fill a jar or two.


I wrote and linked last week to pieces about Kindle licenses and e-book DRM in general, and then this piece was linked to in Robin Sloan’s excellent newsletter. It isn’t anything new or that I didn’t really know about – although I wasn’t aware of what happened with copies of 1984 and Animal Farm. Kind of ironic that it would be books by George Orwell that it happened too.



How To Grow Your Own Medicine Cabinet.


 

Robins Will Perch on Anything – TWTW #24

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

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


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

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



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

 

 

 

 

 


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