All Work and No Play – TWTW #33

A thank you to all those of you who left comments or emailed me directly after last weeks post, it meant a lot.


This week has mostly been about the work, I’ve been working mostly on one clients work, but dipping into another in preparation for more this week when I have another road trip to do to Somerset.

On one of my twice daily dog walks this week I did manage a trip along the canal path with the dogs, with the plan of allowing them a swim, but the water level was so low all they really managed was a paddle. I don’t suppose they were really bothered either way. Our other walks haven’t taken us as far from home, mostly due to trying to get the work hours in.


I’ve been reading a few different things this week, including another Ellis Peters Cadfael novel – The Leper of St.Giles. My other reading material has mostly been related to work, so I won’t bore you with the content.

I’ve been listening to a few different podcasts and other things including the abridged audio version of Ben Myers new novel “The Offing” on Radio 4, it’s got another week to go in it’s run, but you can catch up on the link above.


Fun fact: The original title for the third “Naked Gun” movie was going to be “Naked Gun 33 1/3 – For the record”, but was changed because producers didn’t think viewers would understand the joke.


Been doing quite a bit of digging on the allotment, getting things ready for the application of some manure. There’s still quite a bit growing, but equally quite a bit of bare ground as things have been picked, dug up, or eaten by badgers!


Haven’t seen one yet but – First White-tailed Eagles released on Isle of Wight





That’s about all I have for this week, be careful out there.


A Bit Like Buses TWTW #31

This time last week I was on my way to Somerset to see a potential client, who I’m pleased to say look they will become one. I can’t say much more than that at the moment.

On the way back I made a stop in a little village where we used to go for family holidays when I was a child. It’s actually quite a convenient spot to stop anyway and I’ve done so a few times over the years. The village used to have a secondhand bookshop, sadly now gone, but other than that the village hasn’t changed all that much. After a wander around, I got back on the road and headed for home.

I had previously been asked to hold a date in my diary for another meeting with another potential client. It’s work that we’ve been discussing on and off since January, and I wasn’t convinced that it was going to happen at all and then suddenly the request for the meeting. Then silence again. I followed up towards the end of the week and still didn’t hear anything until Friday when a message came in say that yes the meeting was still on, and could I come in an hour before the meeting to discuss a contract as they do want me to do the work. So it looks like I’m going to be busy.

I have the capacity to do both these contracts as neither is full time work, but I do need to sort out the exact number of days and timescales etc. I’ll be working on that this week.


The badgers have struck again and wiped out my entire crop of sweetcorn. It’s my fault, I’d started putting up a protective fence around the plants, but with one thing and another I’d never finished it and that was enough for the badgers to get in and have a good feed. I’m not too bothered, I’m obviously disappointed to loose the crop, but I feel that this species is persecuted (both legally and illegally) enough, so I don’t begrudge them a bit of corn, because I wasn’t able to do something that would have prevented it. There’s always next year!


Saw this sign on one of our dog walks this week, sure enough this little improvised sign was pointing towards a fairly active wasp’s nest. Very grateful to whoever improvised this little sign.


I’ve been listening to David Hewson’s new podcast this week you should be able to find it via the podcast app of your choice or on his webpage. He talks about writing and audiobooks, and the role Venice has played in his writing in the first three episodes.


The Persuasive Power of the Wolf Lady




That’s it for this week. The upcoming few days are going to be pretty busy I think, so will probably have my head down for most of it.

Be careful out there

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.

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.


 

 

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.