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!


Book Review: Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

This is a beautiful book, a joyous book but also a sad and thought provoking book. It is also possibly the best book that I will read this year, and I look forward to owning my own copy when it is published later this year.

This is a collection of stories from childhood through to adulthood and every place in between, stories from the UK and around the world. Each one is wonderful and unique in it’s own right and yet as a collection I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that is so well put together before. They are a nature insight, a personal story with feeling. Whether it is Golden Orioles or Fallow Deer, Swifts or Goat tipping (I’m not telling – you’ll have to read the book), these are all unique stories but instantly relatable.  Written with love and emotion; sometimes they make you smile, sometimes they make you cry and sometimes they send you off into your own personal rabbit hole about a particular species.

I savoured every story, I took my time reading and in some cases rereading a story, I learnt new things about species that I thought were familiar and new things about species I’ve never come across before. I was reminded about times I’ve had similar experiences and felt moved to go out and explore and experience something for myself.

I can’t recommend this book enough, whether you are drawn to natural history books or not this is worthy of your time and money and if you know someone who is into their natural history then this is probably the perfect gift for them.

Now I’ve finished reading, I want to go back and read the whole book again, although I will probably wait until I get my hands on a publication copy.

Vesper Flights is published on 27th August 2020 by Random House UK, Vintage

From the Publisher:

Animals don’t exist to teach us things, but that is what they have always done, and most of what they teach us is what we think we know about ourselves.

From the bestselling author of H is for Hawk comes Vesper Flights, a transcendent collection of essays about the human relationship to the natural world.

Helen Macdonald brings together a collection of her best-loved writing along with new pieces covering a thrilling range of subjects. There are essays here on headaches, on catching swans, on hunting mushrooms, on twentieth-century spies, on numinous experiences and high-rise buildings; on nests and wild pigs and the tribulations of farming ostriches.

Vesper Flights is a book about observation, fascination, time, memory, love and loss and how we make the world around us. Moving and frank, personal and political, it confirms Helen Macdonald as one of this century’s greatest nature writers.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book via NetGalley in return for an honest review. No other payment has been received.

Book Review: “Into The Tangled Bank” by Lev Parikian

Into The Tangled Bank – In which our author ventures outdoors to consider the British in nature by Lev Parikian

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Lev Parikian takes us on a nature tour from lying on the pavement outside his house looking at a common blue butterfly to ringing birds on Skokholm island. As he points out “Nature means different things to different people”, and he covers all sorts of perspectives including his own and those of famous naturalists such as Charles Darwin, Gilbert White, Gavin Maxwell and John Clare along the way.

This is a well drawn tale of what nature means, it doesn’t go into a lot of heavy detail or tales of mass destruction and loss of species and habitats but nor is it a lightweight view either. It is well observed of nature, of naturalists and those that wouldn’t call themselves naturalists but are exposed to it everyday.

If you like your natural history with a little humour then you will enjoy this, what Bill Bryson did for the travel tale and the secrets of the universe, Lev Parikian might well do for the natural world. Learning how to catch Manx Shearwaters for ringing or the multi-modal uses of the average back garden all take the reader to see the more humourous side of nature.

I do have one gripe about this book however – the use of footnotes. They were heavily overused in the text and ultimately became quite distracting, constantly nipping to the bottom of the page to see what the little asterisks, cross or other reference point means. In my opinion many of these footnotes should have been incorporated into the main body of the text. They were relevant and would have added more there rather than being relegated to the bottom of the page, sometimes with three or four others, and with some pages that were more footnote that main text.


About the Author.

Lev Parikian is a birdwatcher, conductor and author of Why Do Birds Suddenly Disappear? He lives in West Longon with his family who are getting used to his increasing enthusiasm for nautre. As a birdwatcher, his most prized sightings are a golden oriole in the Alpujarras and a black redstart at Dungeness Power Station.

Into the Tangled Bank – In which our author ventures outdoors to consider the British in Nature is published on 9th July 2020 by Elliott & Thompson at £14.99.


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]

 

Book Review: The Cabinet of Calm by Paul Anthony Jones

The Cabinet of Calm by Paul Anthony Jones

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I’ve been aware of this author for a while, I have a number of his books on my shelves all of them packed full of words, their meanings and etymology.

The Cabinet of Calm is no exception, but it is also different for it is a collection of words to find solace in troubling times. Prescient then you might say, given that we’ve all been under some form of lockdown for a while and our futures have an amount of uncertainty in them. Given the lead in time for books though, that seems unlikely. (Although it is a question I did ask the author when we spoke (see below)).

As with all of this authors books, I come away having not just learnt new words, but also fascinated about their origins and some of the historical significance associated with them. In some cases wondering why they ever fell out of modern usage and why I’m reading about them for the first time. This is a book that you can read from cover to cover or pick up time and again and learn something new.

In The Cabinet of Calm there are words to soothe all manner of life’s stresses and tests, whether they be about your relationship, for grieving or just because you feel a little bit down or disappointed. There are words that you will never have heard of before, but may well find hard to forget. Whether they are words like Worldcraft – which is the knowledge you gain by living your life; or Zenobia – which derives from the third century and relates to impostor syndrome; this is book which will broaden your vocabulary and widen your knowledge of language and it’s origins. It will make you smile and chuckle and get a little slack-jawed with a “well I never”.

There are 51 words arranged in an A to Z but in each one there are even more words. Learn how storks feet relate to your pedigree (see the video below) and how you might term the different types of friend that you might have – jolly-dog, shop fellow, inkweaver – to name a few. There are words here that I will use again and again and the book is one that I will return to repeatedly. Everyone should have a copy of the Cabinet of Calm on their bookshelves, probably next to that dictionary and thesaurus you haven’t picked up for a while but will now be inspired to look at in a different way.

Bring The Cabinet of Calm into your lockdown world and have soul soothing home language lessons par excellence.

A Video Conference with Paul:

 

About the Author:

Paul has a Masters in Linguistics and is a language blogger from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. His obsession with words began with a child’s dictionary he received as a Christmas present when he was eight years old. As @HaggardHawks he has tweeted obscure words since 2013 and now has a social media following of over 75k, including the likes of JK Rowling, Robert Macfarlane, Susie Dent, Richard Osman, Greg Jenner, Ian McMillan, Rufus Sewell, Simon Mayo, Michael Rosen and Cerys Matthews.

HaggardHawks.com brings together the entire HH network including a blog, books, quizzes & games, the 500 Words YouTube series, Instagram gallery and newsletter. He regularly contributes to the media.

Cabinet of Calm – Soothing Words for Troubled Times:

Is published by Elliott & Thompson on 14th May 2020, at £12.99. Find your local independent bookshop by searching on the local bookshop finder.

The book has also been on a blog tour, and you can read other bloggers thoughts via the blog addresses below:

[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]

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.

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

 

Book Review: Bloom by Ruth Kassinger

“Bloom – From Food to Fuel, The Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World” by Ruth Kassinger.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars.

From her own garden pond, back in time to when life began and fast forward to today where algae can be in soup, sushi and running shoes, Ruth Kassinger takes readers on a journey through the complexities, triumphs and tribulations of algae. Through many facets that most people won’t simply be aware of to those that could be fundamental to the future of the human race.

Now when I was asked to review this book, I had to confess that I already know a little about algae, I’ve been involved in microalgae projects that look to harness them to produce products of value. So this book for me is part Bus-man’s holiday but it was so much more than that. It is truly mind expanding, regardless of how much you already know – or think you know. Whether the author is talking about the blue-green algae (cyanobacteria), microalgae, or macroalgae (seaweeds), there is just so much information you’ll probably end up wondering how you never heard of a lot of this before, and perhaps why.

It’s extremely well written, and in a style that is engaging from first page to last, and if you think the subtitle might be a little over-the-top, then prepare to have that illusion shattered. The author clearly knows her subject and her first hand research has taken her to many places that many people won’t know exist or perhaps won’t have even considered that they have a connection to algae, but as you read you’ll realise that some pretty well known brands are investing in algal technologies and that many others probably should be.

I particularly enjoyed the parts on food and fuel, expanding my culinary knowledge, and gaining a better understanding of why some projects and companies pivoted their business models the way they did. The untapped potential in some areas is still huge, but timing or political will can be everything

This is science writing at it’s most engaging and rewarding for the reader, whether scientist themselves or just plain interested in widening your knowledge.

The book also comes with some recipes at the end for algae (mostly seaweed) dishes, which is a really nice touch (although I haven’t had a chance to try any of them out yet, I’m planning to).

Bloom – From Food To Fuel, The Epic Story of How Algae Can Save Our World by Ruth Kassinger is published by Elliott & Thompson Books on 4th July 2019.
(Published as “Slime” in the US by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

About The Author: Ruth Kassinger writes about the intersection of gardening, history and science. In addition to her several books, Ruth has written for the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Health, National Geographic Explorer and other publications. Find her online at: www.ruthkassinger.com

Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book to review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

From The Publisher:

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

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

About The Author:

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

Revisiting “Under The Rock” by Benjamin Myers

I first read “Under The Rock” last year when it came out in hardback and it has now just come out in paperback from Elliot & Thompson Books.

At the time I first read it I wrote:

Very much a book of the landscape, nature and the human interface I read most of this in just over a day. It was over too soon, and I know it’s a book that I am likely to revisit again and again. It’s also shaped how I look at the world now, giving me a different lense through which I see things.

Under The Rock was one of my top books of 2018 and the publishers have asked me if I would revisit my previous review which I’m pleased to do as it has given me a chance to reread the book – perhaps a dangerous thing to do, because will the book be the same second time around? Well I’m pleased to say that it was, and perhaps more so, as although the writing was familiar and I remember large parts of the book, there are also things that I don’t remember or missed first time around. This time my read took me a little longer giving me more of a chance to absorb the telling.

The book is essentially autobiographical about the period in the authors life when he moves to Mytholmroyd from London and begins to explore his new home. His walks and discoveries mean that the book is also biographical about his new location, it’s history, former and current residents. The “Rock” of the title is the overshadowing (Hathershelf) Scout Rock and the authors tales are interwoven around its presence. They are of nature, social history, character tales and stories of the surrounding areas, the moors, Myer’s dog Cliff and of course The Rock. The book arcs back through time but also brings it right up to date with the serious flooding the area suffered in the mid-decade.

It’s hard to put into words that do this book justice but it remains one of my favourite books. To be able to write about a place in such a way that it comes to life for the reader is a gift and the author’s gift to the reader is in turn and incredible book. I recommend this book to anyone, and if you haven’t read it already go track down a copy (or scroll down to see how you can get your hands on the one that I have to giveaway).

About The Author (From the publisher)

BENJAMIN MYERS was born in Durham in 1976. He is a prize-winning author, journalist and poet. His recent novels are each set in a different county of northern England, and are heavily inspired by rural landscapes, mythology, marginalised characters, morality, class, nature, dialect and post-industrialisation. They include The Gallows Pole, winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, and recipient of the Roger Deakin Award; Turning Blue, 2016; Beastings, 2014 (Portico Prize For Literature & Northern Writers’ Award winner), Pig Iron, 2012 (Gordon Burn Prize winner & Guardian Not The Booker Prize runner-up); and Richard, a Sunday Times Book of the Year 2010. Bloomsbury will published his new novel, The Offing, in August 2019.

As a journalist, he has written widely about music, arts and nature. He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire, the inspiration for Under the Rock.

Giveaway

The publishers have kindly given me a paperback copy of Under The Rock to giveaway to readers of this blog. If you’d like to be in with a chance to win this, simply leave a comment below (the email address you use to comment with will be the one I contact you on if you win, but won’t be published). I’ll draw one winner from random from all of the comments that are present after 12th May 2019 and contact the winner by email for their postal address. If the winner doesn’t respond within 7 days, I’ll redraw. My decisions are final.

(Please note if this is your first time commenting here, I will need to approve your comment. If it doesn’t appear straight away, don’t worry.)

TWTW # 14 – A Scorcher

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

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

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

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

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


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

Slightly ironically I’m reading it on my Kindle.


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



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