Analogue Sunshine TWTW # 78

Hello again, thanks for stopping by.

This week Summer seemed to arrive. Temperatures in the mid to high 20’s, cloudless sunny skies.

Time felt like it was well spent this week, whether it was work related or something else. Days felt like they were packed.

As the week wore on and it got hotter it became harder to sleep at night and I can’t say I was disappointed when things cooled down again on Friday.


You might remember that for my birthday I asked for some 35mm film for my old cameras, my friend Christian (@documentally), also gave me a couple of additional film cameras when we last met and I duly loaded up a roll. I exposed about half the roll and then things started to get a little sketchy with coronavirus and then lockdown happened, and I didn’t make much more progress with the rest of the roll. Now that lockdown has eased a little I managed to get out and finish up the rest of the roll. The processing “stores” are also open again now, and I packaged up the roll and sent it off. I got a call Saturday to say it had been received and that they’d get it in the post and on it’s way back to me after the bank holiday. So hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week.


It’s the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a film that I remember going to see with my Dad, a trip in the school holidays on a day that it was pouring with rain. We bonded over the original Star Wars trilogy and again over the prequels, so they hold a special place for me. I rewatched Empire last Friday to revisit those times a bit, and because it’s a great movie.


Work’s been quiet this last week, after a flurry of activity. I’ve had a few things to follow up on, but most days have been short. With a bank holiday and in theory half-term holidays, I expect the week ahead to be even quieter.


I finished reading Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw and then read Roseanna by Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö – the first in the Martin Beck series. I enjoyed both, although I did think that the Martin Beck story became a little convoluted towards the end, with the murderer identified it took a long time to bring the story to its conclusion.

I seem to have slipped into another Maigret novel – Maigret and the Pickpocket – since then, which I may well have finished by the time you read this.


What we inherit when we inherit books

Should you keep books in pristine condition?

12 classic novels coronavirus lockdown would have absolutely ruined


I bet Dominic Cummings didn’t abide by this advice either.


I heard from my local garage this week too, they have now managed to order the part for my car, and all being well they are going to fit it in the coming week (assuming that it turns up as planned). I’ve been managing so far, but have always felt that things were a little touch and go at times, so I’ll be glad to get the repair done.


Time on the allotment this week ranged from covering up the fruit bushes to prevent the birds getting to the ripening fruit and then planting out the brassicas that I’ve been growing from seed.

They also needed to be covered to prevent pigeons getting to them and also to keep the cabbage white butterflies from laying their eggs on them and their caterpillars then decimating the crop.

A lot of growing on the allotment or in any garden is about balancing between growing things that you can eat and preventing other things from eating them.


That’s all I have for this week. Stay safe.


Lockdown Locks TWTW # 77

Well it’s been a week of video calls and conferences, phone calls and other physically distanced conversations. Some of my calls went about as well as the one below, but most were much better.

You can also see one of mine that was recorded for my review of The Cabinet of Calm, which was posted last Saturday and can be found here.

Outside of that I’ve enjoyed extra dog walks, now back to at least twice a day since Wednesday, but otherwise our routine has been the same and we’re still observing the previous lockdown rules, although sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones who are. It seems to me that the muddled and confusing messages from government about returning to work, not using public transport and reopening of certain businesses are likely to lead to a resurgence of cases if the VE Day street parties and BBQs where people were getting pretty pissed and behaving exactly as they would pre-coronavirus don’t.


How are your lockdown locks doing? I think it’s nearly a 100 days since I had a trip to the barbers for my usual haircut and actually it doesn’t seem to growing as fast as it normally seems to between shearings. It was suggested that I was looking a little “Grizzly Adams” this week, but I think that was more in relation to the beard than the scruffy hair. As things go I doubt I’ll be attempting a home cut any time soon, but then I also can’t see me that keen about returning to my barbers if things stay the same, even if they’re not likely to be able to reopen until July.

How are you doing have you gone for the home haircut or complete buzzcut or like me are you just letting it do it’s own thing?


I finished reading London Rules by Mick Herron, and it was pretty damn good. I started reading Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw, but haven’t made that much progress with that at this point. After that I have a pile of things to read still not to mention a kindle that is bulging at the metaphorical seams.

If like me you’ve been struggling to read, artist Austin Kleon had some thoughts on this last week.


I’ve been enjoying listening to a new (to me) podcast this week. Field Recordings is a short daily podcast of – yes it’s exactly what it says on the tin – audio recordings made in the “field” (not necessarily in an actual field).


With various other things going on I’ve not spent that much time on the allotment this week, although the allotment shop is now open again, with a nifty little one way system in operation and only one customer allowed inside at a time.

We also had our first harvest of broad beans of the season. They ended up in a pasta dish with some feta cheese, onion, pepper and garlic dressing. They were lovely. I love eating broad beans, and we’ll have plenty more to come by the looks of things.

It looks like the weather will be warming up again, so it might be time to plant out some of the plants that are waiting to go. I also need to try and cover up the gooseberries and loganberries. It looks like being another good year for them and if I don’t cover them soon, the birds will get them as soon as they’re ripe.


Television gardener Monty Don reported the death of his dog Nigel this week.


There have been a couple of particularly poignant posts on the Last Word on Nothing this week:

The Cat and the Coronavirus

My Father Isn’t

One or both will likely make you cry.


Contrary to internet urban legend, what Neil Gaiman has actually been doing.


That’s about it for this week. Stay Safe.



 

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.]

Just Walking The Dog # TWTW 76

Well another week is over and another one starts. At the moment it’s bright and sunny out there, if a little windy and we’re just back from our blustery dog walk. It might be that later in the week we can also reinstate our second dog walk. Although that remains to be seen.

The lockdown rules are set to change this week, and although a second dog walk each day (or unlimited exercise as seems to be the rumour would be welcome) ultimately I suspect this means little or no change for our daily routine. This week gone like those that have preceded it has been very much about a routine. Some work, some household stuff and some leisure activities. We have dogs to walk but no kids to homeschool or any of the other things that many of you out there are having to cope with. In many ways we’re lucky in that respect.


Work this week has consisted of some conference calls (yes those are still a thing), some video calls, and some planning for video calls. It’s a steady if significantly reduced stream of things to do. My income is definitely down, but hopefully only temporarily.


I feel like I’m really behind with the allotment now. I’m still bringing along seedlings that I see other people on social media and neighbouring plot holders already planting out. I’m not sure that I am though, and maybe this is just a false impression of finally having the plot more or less ready to go, but nothing yet ready to plant out. It’s strange because at one point I thought I was going to have loads of seedlings and no access to the plot to be able to plant them out.


I’ve started reading the next book by Mick Herron in the Jackson Lamb series – London Rules – I was going to save this after finishing Spook Street last week, and read something else, but the temptation was just to strong. It’s good, and this series has gotten better over time. I find myself highlighting patches of dialogue and text just because they’re good or because the humour appeals to me. There’s one more in the series after this one, and I think another on the way but these have been a little bit like an addiction and soon they will all have been read. I am going to resist buying the next one for as long as possible.


I’ve been enjoying watching these sorts of videos this week.


 

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I’ve been looking for a new pair of headphones for a while. Principally I need something for listening to podcasts and making phone calls, and wireless. I had an old pair of “fake” airpods, and whilst they weren’t bad they had a really short battery life but other than that they pretty much fitted the bill, over time however the battery life got shorter to the point of being unusable.

I have now replaced them with a pair of Anker Soundcore Life P2 wireless headphones. They actually came over a week ago but I hadn’t had a chance to try them out properly but now I have and I’m impressed. They’re perfect for listening to podcasts and call quality is good. Battery life is impressive, I have yet to manage to fully discharge them before returning them to their little charging box. The stated time is 7 hrs per ear pod and with charging in the case upto 40 hours total. This seems likely but as I say haven’t had a chance to test them to extreme, suffice to say they more than last for my usage.

You can use both together or either pod individually which again means you can push the battery life further. Price wise mine were under £30 at the time I bought them, but they were on offer, so price may have gone back up again, so worth shopping around. They come with several sizes of ear pieces so you can find the one that best suits your own ear, and when fitted they block out a lot of external noise. They’re not noise cancelling but I only ever use one when I’m out walking so I can still hear what’s going on around me if I need to.


The BBC have put up a whole load of photos of empty sets that can be used as backgrounds for Zoom or other video calling software packages. So if you fancy being in the tardis or Dell Boy’s flat these could be for you.


I meant to post this in last weeks post, but forgot about it. Here’s a blog post from David Quammen regarding Coronavirus. David wrote the excellent book Spillover which pretty much predicted where we are now.


That’s it for this week, not sure what I’m up to this week, as I have a few things in my diary that are “tentative” so I could be quite busy or not so much.

Take care out there and stay safe.


Goonies  Reunited


 

Weeding & Seeding TWTW # 75

In another time, I’d have been at the dentist this past week, but as politicians and journalists seem to be keen to remind us the “new normal” means those sorts of appointments are not, at present, part of those arrangements. Admittedly I will not miss having to pay the bill.

Otherwise it’s been a quiet week, I’ve mostly been doing a little work, reading, watching the moon, listening to the rain fall and to owls hooting somewhere behind the house.


I had a trip to the allotment to do as much weeding as I could. Mostly this was on areas dug over the winter where the weeds have already started to regrow. They’re now ready for planting / sowing. I’ve also been sowing seeds which I hope are germinating in the potting shed as I type. Mostly squashes, pumpkins, tomatoes and a few other things. I’ve decided with the problems that I’ve had with sweetcorn over the last couple of years that I’m going to give sweetcorn a miss this year. As soon as the temperatures are warm enough these will be planted out.


I’ve had a couple of enquiries this week asking if I would be interested in a couple of contracts. Obviously the answer was yes, but at this stage these are only expression of interest so I’m not clear as to whether they will progress or not. It’s nice to know however that there is still some work out there.

The opportunity to continue giving garden talks via the internet rather than in person isn’t taking off. I can’t say I’m surprised given the average age of the regular audience it always looked like they would struggle with a video webinar approach. I’ve had a few enquiries but they’ve never progressed. It looks as though the remaining couple of in-person talks that I’m due to give will also be cancelled, and quite rightly. The “new normal” might well mean that talks in person don’t happen again for some time.


Forget homeschooling during the pandemic. Teach life skills instead.


Much debate as to whether the government should bailout Virgin airways, and Richard Branson’s forgetfulness about how another one of his companies once sued the NHS. There’s an interesting account of the latter here. Personally I don’t think we should be bailing out any airlines. We did it with FlyBe before the coronavirus outbreak and they proved unsustainable and I see that we have already bailed out EasyJet and promised them a reduction in “green” taxes. Perhaps the time is for any large bailouts for environmentally damaging industries should be directly linked to green recovery rather than given breaks to get around existing environmental legislation. Then again this is ultimately a Tory government and that seems unlikely that it would ever happen.


Michael Moore has produced a climate change “documentary”. I’ve watched it to save you the trouble, my synopsis: it’s a pile of 5h1t don’t waste your time, and perhaps YouTube should take it down.


I’ve been reading Spook Street by Mick Herron over the last few days. The fourth book in the Jackson Lamb series, it’s been pretty good so far but my progress has been quite slow. I also had some details come through for a book that I’d agreed to review, and that will be next. I’ll talk more about the latter in due course.



A couple of weeks ago we ran out of bird seed for the garden birds and I’ve been trying not to order things unnecessarily or at least to combine things so that we only have one delivery with several things in it every couple of weeks or so. One of these deliveries this week included bird seed, a 12 kilo bag which will hopefully last a while, although looking at how much the birds are getting through since we refilled the feeders, I might have misjudged how long it will last, I probably should add another bag to the next combined order.


We watched The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society  last night. I have to say I’ve been put off from watching this film due to it’s rather odd title for some time. However I have to say that I actually really enjoyed it. A gentle watch, which is always welcome at the moment and I’ll certainly give it another watch.


I’m out of here. 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.

 

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.