The Heeding by Rob Cowen Now In Paperback

The Dazzling Paperback Copy of The Heeding

One of my favourite books of last year is getting a much deserved paperback publication on Thursday (31/03/2022). The Heeding by Rob Cowen and illustrated by Nick Hayes was borne out of the weird Covid timewarp of 2020 and 2021 providing an anchoring point for some of the world passing by around us. In original poetry with amazing illustrations it helps us to look at the world around us and to heed what is going on. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes – To not just look but to observe.

You can reread my original review of The Heeding here. It’s original publication also coincided with the month of AudioMo, and I read an extract from the book, part of the poem “The Allotment” as one of my submissions:

The publishers of the book have very kindly given me a copy of the paperback edition to giveaway to a reader of this blog. If you would like to enter the giveaway all you have to do is leave a comment on this post before the 5th April 2022 (please leave a valid email address in the relevant box when submitting your comment, but not in the main body of the comment, that way your details won’t be shared but will be how I contact you if you are the winner). I’ll randomly draw a winner from those comments. Please note that due to rising postage costs this giveaway is for UK readers only.

An Englishman Planted Roses TWTW # 150

The clocks change this weekend. I have to say that I am looking forward to having lighter mornings again for a while, I find lighter mornings make so much more difference to me than having darker evenings. Of course role on Spring when the weather also improves more generally.

I’ve been busy with work this week, and I also had a visit with my Mum. She seems to be doing well, although only having such a short time with her each visit it’s difficult to say. I think maintaining the restrictions in care homes is the right thing to do, but I am surprised that where everywhere else the government seems to think Covid is over, including the NHS, it’s a little surprising that they also haven’t relaxed much more in this area. Perhaps they should be looking at those other areas and asking question about why numbers are so high?


Allotment

Not much to report this week, the weather has been pretty wet and so I haven’t had much chance to do anything of consequence on the plot. I have been enjoying some of our apples this week though. I deliberately left some of them on the tree to allow to ripen a bit more. The tree is a hybrid and so the earlier you pick (September) the more like a cooking apple they are and the longer you leave them (ideally into November) the more like an eater. I’ve never had any success leaving them into November, inevitably some strong winds come along and dislodge them onto the ground, but this year I picked them right at the end of this month and they’re pretty good.


Reading

I’ve mostly been reading Rebecca Solnit’s Orwell’s Roses this week. I’ve read a lot of different books about George Orwell (Eric Blair) but this one comes at it from a different angle in terms of his garden and love of nature. It looks at his homes in Wallington and on the Isle of Jura in particular and takes in some fairly wide ranging topics including workers rights, climate change and politics generally. It’s a nice interweaving of an aspect of Orwell that I’ve barely seen covered before.

I’m not quite sure how I’d rate it though. It was clearly written during the pandemic and I think as such some of the research for the book was cut a little short and I suspect the author had to deliver the book before she’d completed all the research that she would have liked.

I did enjoy it, just suspect there’s more to the story than she was able to tell.


Links

Revisiting the 4 Hour Work Week

The Magic of the Brush

Latest figures reveal how the pandemic shaped radio listening

The Craziest (but best) decision we’ve ever made


Well that’s it for this week, whatever you’re up to in the week ahead, stay safe and take care.

Straight Circles TWTW # 134

Another week goes by and somethings move in cycles where others are more linear. I’ve had a few interesting things happen this week as well as some sad news.

We managed to get Wilson out for a proper walk this week, albeit a fairly short one. I’m not sure whether we’re winning or his illness is but our weekly checkup was on Friday and the vet is still non-committal either way too. He’s happy enough in himself but very itchy at times.


RIP – Frank Lee Ruggles.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of photographer Frank Lee Ruggles this week. I’ve been following his progress on the 79 Years Project, trying to reshoot Ansel Adams’ 171 shot portfolio of US National Park photos on the same day of the year as Adams, and using the same camera as Adams.

We’d never met but he was always gracious to comments and as only a few years older than myself I’ve felt his loss in particular. It’s clear that he had a similar impact on many others too.


TV.

We’ve been continuing with our rewatch of Star Trek films – Wrath of Kahn and Search for Spock – and a little bit of the England games, which if I’m being honest I’m really done with watching. The whole spectacle of the “fans” constantly booing the other team including when their national anthem is being played is unacceptable. If that’s what being a football fan is about then I’ll leave it thanks. The only consoling factor is that the Manager and players set themselves a much higher bar. It’s a shame that the “fans” don’t or can’t pick up on this.


Reading.

I finished Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carre this week, it really stands up well considering that it is almost as old as me and the setting of the early 1970’s are completely different to how you might write the same story in a modern era. Back then no computers, mobile phones, satellite surveillance etc but changing times do not mean that the story is any less compelling or that the modern enemies are any different to those of today.

I’ve got a couple of books for review next, both of which look like they should be good reads. I’ll post the reviews in due course when they’re closer to their publication dates.


Work.

This week has been good for work, as you probably know I give talks about the allotment and related topics. It’s been a lean couple of years with Covid and only being able to give virtual talks, and whilst they don’t make much income I do enjoy doing them. Well this week I had an email inviting me to give a talk (virtually) at the Lambeth Country Show, following discussion with the organisers they actually commissioned both the talks I give virtually. This has meant preparing the talks and pre recording them so that they are ready to be watched on the days of the show.

Anyway if you’re interested in sitting through one of my talks or even both of them, then they’ll be available via the link above next weekend (17th & 18th July). Of course if you’d like to commission me for something live and in “person” – either physically or virtually – then do get in touch.


Links.

The Three Simple Rules That Underscore the Danger of Delta

Home Scar – of Limpets and moving / finding a home


If you’re new here and wondering what an earth you’ve signed up to, welcome, this is my website / blog.

By training I am a biologist and by profession I generally make most of my income from being an independent environmental consultant. Outside of that I have a fairly wide interest in all sorts of things. I normally publish a post like this on the weekend at the end of the week (TWTW = The Week That Was), and talk about what I’ve been doing in the previous week, links to things I’ve found and anything else that I think might be interesting. Other occasional posts will appear at other times e.g. book reviews.

Thanks for signing up, but if after reading my ramblings you’re regretting your decision feel free to unsubscribe, there is a link to do so in each post if you subscribe by email. Obviously I hope you’ll stick around.

I also post on Instagram and Twitter where I am also @tontowilliams


I think that’s about it for this week. I’ve a few things in hand for the week ahead; including I hope a visit with my Mum. Whatever you’re up to I hope that you have a good week. Take care and stay safe.


Hammock Days TWTW # 130

Well it’s been a busy week, Ann’s had a ear infection so we’ve been limited on what we’ve been doing, trips to the pharmacy etc have been the order of the day.

I had a visit with my Mum, these short visits are as much a check-in that she is generally okay and doesn’t need anything. A covid test and a quick chat and time is soon over.

Wilson has had more issues necessitating another set of visits to the vet. We not sure what’s wrong and as the vet said: “It’s not like him to have something normal wrong with him is it?” She’s right of course he does seem to gravitate to the more unusual problems and illnesses. Hopefully we’ll get test results back early next week which might give us a direction for treatment.

I feel like in the latter half of the week I’ve been running to catch up with myself a bit but I did spend one afternoon earlier in the week suspended in my hammock in the garden reading. It was bliss as the weather has been so obliging, gently swaying in the breeze with the branches of the birch tree hanging down around the edges of the hammock.


Books. I’ve finished reading Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night and then moved on to The 13 Problems by Agatha Christie. I’ve not settled into anything else yet but have a couple of ideas when time allows. Having
read several crime fiction novels I feel like changing the type of book to maybe some travel or other non-fiction.


TV. We’ve hardly turned the tv on this week, but I did forget to mention last week that we had watched the BBC TV adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy with Alec Guiness in the lead role of George Smiley. It stands up really well and we managed to watch the whole thing (7 one-hour episodes) over a couple of nights.



Allotment. It was a tonic to escape to the plot on Saturday morning. The weeds have really gone gangbusters over the last couple of weeks, a period of rain followed by sunshine will do that, I wish that the vegetables did the same thing. Outside of the weeds the plot is looking pretty good. It’s nearly full now without much space left for other plants, and we’re getting lots of food from the plot, particularly broad beans, radishes and lettuce.

My next door neighbour gifted me some brussel sprout plants which I planted out and sowed some purple sprouting broccoli alongside, if that germinates and grows hopefully we’ll have a good supply of sprouts for Christmas (!) and then PSB in the early spring.


AudioMo. I’ve been continuing to post for AudioMo for each day and surprisingly, although they’ve mostly been short posts I’ve managed it everyday so far. I am however well behind on listening to other people’s submissions, so I’m playing a bit of catch up and even as I type these words I’ve got my earphones in and am listening to posts from over the last three days or so.


Work. Unfortunately still very quiet, a blessing this week as I’ve had time for all the other things. Next week I have a meeting with a long standing client, so I might get some idea of their plans over the coming months and whether they need anything from me or not. Fingers crossed they do, otherwise I might need to consider some other way to pay vet bills.


Links.

Congrats to Ed Yong on his Pulitzer

Whale swallows man and spits him back out again

RIP Edward de Bono

Nature writers on the childrens books that inspired them


That’s it for this week. I hope you had a good one. Stay safe and take care!

TWTW # 120

Greetings from a Sunny Easter Weekend, whatever meaning this weekend may have for you, I hope this missive finds you safe and well.

We’ve had our follow up visits to the vet this week and some more not great news. Wilson has a couple of additional issues with respect to his gall bladder and blood pressure, which need treatment. Suffice to say this will involve some further long term medication for him. In himself he is a very happy little dog and I hope that he will long remain that way but like us all as we age, illnesses arise.


Reading. You remember those mental rabbit holes I talked about a couple of weeks back? Well it was in connection with Richard Nelson and I was trying to track down a copy of a recent biography. I did that and have been reading Raven’s Witness by Hank Leftner this week. More mental rabbit holes have ensued. To me Richard Nelson was a radio show host / podcaster and an author but there was much more to him than that. Now I guess that’s pretty obvious to some people but it wasn’t to me until now. What do I mean? Well the biography’s forward is written by Barry Lopez, who was probably also facing his own mortality at the time (he died in December 2020), but is also a world recognised environmentalist and nature writer. Also for me, this is the field that I work in and whilst these names are ones that are familiar to me, sometimes I don’t realise just how much more widely outside of that field they are known. Now they’re probably not in the household name category but neither are they someone as unknown as I am in that field.

Anyway I’m enjoying this mental rabbit hole and seeing where it takes me and I suspect there will be some more reading along a similar burrow soon.


On the subject of mental rabbit holes and books, Austin Kleon published this piece about books that suck you in and books that spin you out which is kinda the same thing.


Work. Nothing much to report this week. I’d deliberately kept some space in my diary for vet trips and of course it’s a Bank Holiday week so I wasn’t anticipating it being particularly busy in any case.


Listening. More Encounters podcasts, Goon Shows and some David Sedaris this week.





Allotment. It’s been a chilly long weekend so far and the forecast is for a continued cold snap. I had planned to sow some seeds direct on to the plot this weekend but the weather made me think again, instead I just prepared the ground for the seeds, the sowing will have to wait for another day and some warmer weather. I don’t want to sow seeds for them to germinate and then be knobbled by the frost!

I did manage to settle my bill at the allotment shop which has reopened again, they’d distributed seed potatoes and onion sets “on-tick” because the shop was closed so I wanted to make sure I paid up. I also bought a few other things while there as the only form of cash I had was an old £20 note – there’s considerable debate about why the shop doesn’t take cards or at least contactless payments but I think it’s as much to do with the choice of the person who runs the shop. As I suspect that no one else wants to do the job, she really has the final say even though it is a bit frustrating – I don’t think I’ve used a cashpoint in nearly a year!


I’m not a great fan of Marmite but neither am I a hater either and at times it is a bit of a secret ingredient in a few recipes and not just something that you spread on toast or crumpets. Here are some more suggestions.


That’s it for this week. Wherever you are stay safe and well.


Mental Rabbit Holes TWTW # 118

Hello again. If last week was a rollercoaster I’m not quite sure what fairground attraction this week has been but it’s had similar ups and downs.

We’ve had a bit more drama with the car when the garage were trying to diagnose the problem and we were looking at a reasonable bill or one that would effectively write the car off. Luckily the gods were smiling and although not cheap we are back on the road again. We’re now still thinking about a “new” car because sadly I think the inevitable terminal bill is coming at some point and at the moment we have some trade-in value. This has bought us back to the question of what that “new” car should be powered by and whether we can afford the upfront costs of electric or not. Watch this space.


Reading. I’ve been continuing and finished Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King and have started Skylarks with Rosie – A Somerset Spring by Stephen Moss. This is the authors tale of the first Covid lockdown and the wildlife in his local area while he’s confined to that “patch”. I’ve enjoyed the previous books this author has written about his local area more than many of his others so am looking forward to reading this.

I also published a book review of Gone by Michael Blencowe earlier in the week. If you missed it, you can find it here.


In between books this week, I picked up a copy of Kurt Jackson’s Botanic Landscape and was reading the introduction which happens to be written in part by the author Robert Macfarlane. He mentioned Richard Nelson who was an anthropologist who also produced the Encounters podcast which is essentially a series of field recordings of different animals and outdoor spaces. It’s no longer available as a podcast but the archive can be found here. I’d really recommend checking them out. In addition he wrote a couple of books, The Island Within (which is excellent) and Make Prayers to the Raven (equally good).

I’d thought that Richard Nelson had perhaps retired as there hadn’t been a new edition of the podcast for quite some years and by now he would probably be in his 80’s, but I was curious and I did a quick Google, only to find that sadly he had passed away in 2019. Here’s an obituary from the local paper in Sitka Alaska where he lived for many years.

Nels took his last breath listening to a raven’s call.

Sitka Sentinel 4th December 2019

He had quite a considerable influence on me over the years and I admit to be a little sad that not only has be passed away but the news passed me by for over a year. I’ve been listening to a few of the Encounters programmes this week.


Whilst mentioning Robert Macfarlane, he announced this week a collaboration with the notebook producer Field Notes to produce a special edition of the iconic notebooks linked to his iconic book Underland and the books amazing cover produced by the artist Stanley Donwood.

Macfarlane used a number of Field Notes notebooks when he was researching the book and wrote a piece about it for Penguin. I use a lot of Field Notes and normally have one in my pocket, mostly they’re for lists, short notes and bits and pieces I want to remember rather than research for a book, but I do like the special editions that they’ve been producing over the last few years.


Watching. We’ve been working our way through the final season of the French crime series Spiral this week. It’s not been bad, but I think there are some better earlier seasons, and they’ve probably quit at the right time.

If you’re interested in nature at all you might be interested in watching Deer 139 (below) which follows the 85 mile migration of a mule deer and the wildlife biologist who followed it.


Allotment. I’m pretty sure Spring has arrived (and yes I do know today is the equinox) there is a definite change in the weather. My seed potatoes are just about ready to go in the ground, so on my trip to the plot this week I dug the trenches into which they will be planted. Other than last year I have always used trenches for my potatoes; physically this is harder work than other methods but I find it has delivered the best results for me. Basically you dig a trench, then place your potato tubers in the bottom of the trench about 12 to 18 inches apart. Next backfill part of the trench with the soil you dug out, then a layer of compost or manure, then the remainder of the soil from the trench. You want to end up with a slightly raised mound along the length of the trench. Now wait. Once the potatoes start to show through you want to “earth up” the mound with more soil from either side of the trench, repeat this until you have a good mound of soil over the trench. Then leave for around 2 to 3 months depending on the variety, watering regularly. You can add grass cuttings, comfrey leaves and other things the the sides of the mounds to help retain water and provide some extra nutrients. At the end of their time, gently dig with a fork (or tickle with you hands and fingers) to unearth the potatoes.

If you don’t have the space of an allotment you can do something similar in a large sack or pot, put a layer of soil / compost in the bottom, add your seed potatoes and then cover with more compost and earth up as the leaves appear until the sack / pot is full. Water and wait as above and then harvest.


That’s about all that I have for this week. Wherever you are stay safe and take care!

Life is a Rollercoaster TWTW # 117

This week has been full of ups and downs. It was my birthday on Tuesday. The weather was amazing. There was cake and presents; you know a fairly typical birthday, or at least as far as possible in pandemic times. Things went on the downslope a bit after that.

I had to go out in the car, I used the opportunity to drop off a birthday parcel for someone else at the sorting office and then headed for the motorway. As I pulled onto the slip road the dashboard lights came on. They weren’t the “!STOP NOW!” kind so I made it one junction and pulled off. I was able to come home via the backroads to my local garage. That’s where the car is now. They’re going to try and look at it soon, at least to diagnose what might be wrong, but they’re really busy and short-staffed at the moment and so probably won’t get to it until later this coming week. I have a sinking feeling about it this time that might mean the car is beyond a sensible repair bill. It’s around about 18 years old so I can’t grumble as I’ve had good service from it. I was hoping it might last a little bit longer though as I’d really like to go to an electric car next but currently they’re a little beyond my financial means. I’d also like to consider not owning a car at all any more but again there isn’t quite the infrastructure locally to support that for us. So for the time being we’re going to see what the garage has to say. It might be something simple (fingers-crossed) and we’ll be back on the road again. If not then we’ll have to reassess our options.

Later on that same evening the dog bowl that our dog has had since we first got him was knocked off of the draining board and broke on the kitchen floor. That was just another emotional kick from a shite day.


Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Mad Enchantment: Claude Monet and the painting of the water lilies by Ross King, which was a birthday present. It’s good stuff and although the focus is on the latter period of Monet’s life it covers a lot of his life overall so is a fascinating read.

I’m also looking forward to reading Together by Luke Hawker when it’s published – video below.

If you enjoy reading newsletters, Mike Sizemore has a new one out and it’s pretty good. Great story about a bear in the first edition. You can sign up and read the archive here.



Watching. We’ve been watching The Terror this week.

It’s being shown on the BBC, having I think previously been on Netflix, so we’re a bit late to the party. Although I didn’t realise until I came to type this up, that what we’re watching is season one and there is a second season. The premise is based on what might have happened to the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus when they disappeared when scouting for the Northwest Passage in 1848. The wrecks of the two ships were found in 2014 and 2016, but as to what actually happened nothing is known. The TV series is based on the book by Dan Simmons. The second season is about another story. I have to say that while is started out well we both started loosing interest in it about three-quarters of the way through and although we watched to the end I don’t think we would have been too bothered if we’d stopped early.


Allotment. Although we’ve had some stellar weather this week, we’ve also had quite a bit of wind and rain too. Pretty typical March. I went down to the plot early this morning when I was walking the dogs and it’s back to being too wet to dig again. I have however managed to sow some seeds this week and plant some onion sets into modules, so although there isn’t much to show, there are at least things in the pipeline as it were.


Work. A quiet week this week, which was planned due to the birthday but fortunate given the car situation. I did however get another booking for an allotment talk. This one isn’t until May but I do have one the week after next so will be prepping my slides over the next few days, as I want to make some adjustments. Having given this talk on Zoom a couple of times now there are some things that I want to change so that they work better.


The news is quite full of articles of the type “a year ago today” in recognition of the anniversary of the pandemic. Oddly it really started much earlier than that but the media and the government were both asleep at the wheel when it came to realising what was going on and how serious it would become and how quickly. I was having a look back through my journal and there are a few highlights that at the time were routine things but now are oddly milestones. For example the last time I had an in person work meeting was 7th March 2020. After that everything switched to phone and video calls. I think I might keep that retrospective up over the next couple of months as we come out of lockdown # 3 as at the time we were just going into lockdown # 1. The Prime Minister seems to think that this will be the last lockdown. I’m not sure I have the confidence in his abilities to believe him (we’ve been there before after all).

By coincidence the artist / writer Austin Kleon has also been doing the same.


Well that’s it for this week. Stay safe and well!

Making a Spectacle and Frozen Butts TWTW # 113

Happy St. Valentine’s Day everyone.


Welcome back, if this weeks post looks a little off kilter it’s because I broke my glasses at the beginning of the week and I’m typing this wearing my “spare” pair.

I did manage to repair my original pair and then subsequently broke them again a day or so later, so have had to reglue them for a second time. I’m leaving them a little longer to make sure that the glue has really hardened before trying to wear them again.

I really should go to the opticians and get a replacement but as it’s been just over two years since my last eye test and I can tell that my eyesight has deteriorated I really ought to have a fresh one. At the moment however I don’t feel comfortable getting that done. Maybe in a few more weeks time, I’ll feel a little more comfortable about it but for the meantime I think I’ll just be muddling through.


We’ve been visited by long-tailed tits everyday this week. They call by in the mornings when I’m working in my office and make full use of the trees just outside my window. It’s one of life’s more pleasant distractions in these times.


After saying last week that we hadn’t had any snow we had the meerest dusting on Tuesday morning, but it was gone by the afternoon. It has been very cold though, our water butt froze as did the ground on the allotment. Frozen solid there hasn’t been much that I’ve been able to do down there this week. Additionally the broad beans are looking very sorry for themselves. I hope that they might recover but it might have been just that little bit too cold for them.


Reading. I’ve mostly been reading Len Deighton’s Berlin Game this week, which I enjoyed. It’s the first part of a series of three trilogies – is there a name for a trilogy of trilogies? After that I’ve picked up Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, after reading a recommendation in my friend David’s article here. I wasn’t aware that he’d written this account of his time under police protection after a Fatwa was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeini for writing The Satanic Verses. I’m only about a quarter of the way through but am finding it strangely gripping. It’s a little strange to be reading it now, after having some clear memories of it at the time.


Interesting to read Austin Kleon’s thoughts on blogging as a forgiving medium.


Work. It’s been a week of Zoom and Teams again this week with discussions with a client over some work that they’ve asked for a proposal for. I’m a little cautious about this as this client has asked for proposals before and then not taken the work forward, but there seems to be a need for them to have this work done, so it might go somewhere.

I also gave an evening Allotment talk this week to a group in Derbyshire. Giving these talks over Zoom isn’t the same as being in the village hall and being able to see the whites of the eyes of the audience, but it does give me a chance to talk to groups that I would otherwise not present to because of the cost of travel / accommodation.

I make a point with these talks of always asking for feedback and on this occasion someone wanted more recipes in my talk, I’m not sure that would have been particularly interesting to listen to me read a list of ingredients, but I will give it some thought.


Well I guess that’s about all I have this week. Lockdown certainly curtails what I’ve been up to, and these posts seem to become shorter each week. Anyway stay safe and take care.

A Year Under the Stars (Book Giveaway)

A little over a year ago I reviewed Matt Gaw’s Under the Stars. It was one of those books that had more of an effect on me than perhaps I’d imagined at the time. With the pandemic; travel and just being outdoors much more restricted I took much more of an interest in the night sky.

I was spending evenings, nights and the early hours of mornings looking for all manner of stars, moons, planets, meteors and the comet Neowise. I wasn’t using anything sophisticated, just a pair of binoculars and a camera. I was also more aware of the nocturnal activity of the wildlife in my area, particularly the fox population and a couple of local tawny owls.

If you haven’t read this fantastic book, I’d recommend it. It might possibly have a similar effect on you.

It’s coming out in paperback today (Feb 4th 2021), and the publishers have kindly offered my followers an opportunity to win a copy.

If you’re interested here’s what you need to do:

Leave a comment on this post saying that you’d like to be entered. That’s it. You’ll need to leave your email address in the relevant box (don’t leave this in your comment), so that I can contact the winner. These will only be used for the purposes of this competition. NOTE: if this is your first time commenting or you haven’t commented in a while your comment will need to be approved by me first.

This particular draw is UK ONLY (sorry to those readers overseas) and is taking across my blog, instagram and twitter accounts. You can enter up to three times (i.e. once here, and on Instagram and twitter, but multiple entries on the same account will not be accepted and may disqualify you). On February 11th 2021, I’ll randomly draw one winner from all entries across all platforms. I’ll contact the winner and ask them for their details so that the publisher can send you a copy of Under the Stars directly. If the winner doesn’t respond within 5 days, an alternative winner will be drawn.


This truly is a wonderful book, but don’t just take my word for it:

“Matt Gaw shows once again that he is one of the most inspiring of our young nature writers, with a highly original journey into darkness and night.” Stephen Moss

“A beautiful and luminous love letter to the night sky” Julian Hoffman

“Gaw finds wonder in the dark … powerful and valiant” BBC Countryfile

“Enchanting, fascinating and written with real soul and sensitivity.  Under the Stars lifts the mind and the imagination” Rob Cowen

“Lyrical, warm, and suffused with the magic of the night, Under the Stars does what all the best books do – it changes the way we look at the world” Patrick Barkham

“Passionately argued and perfectly crafted … a timely and inspiring manifesto” The Countryman

“Gaw’s writing is always poised and beautiful, switching lightly between the concise, persuasive and dramatic and the elegiac, descriptive and lyrical” Kate Blincoe, Resurgence & Ecologist Magazine

“A nocturnal adventure … lyrical and lovely” The Simple Things

“Under the Stars falls within the genre of the new nature writing and imparts an ¬important political message while capturing in melodic prose the beauty and mystery of the night sky that can still be discovered today, if only we are prepared to look” New Statesman

“Poetically written but scientifically grounded study of darkness and its effect on humans and wildlife” Nature Magazine


Of Nighttime Smells & Sleep Deprivation TWTW # 105

This is possibly going to be another one of those posts that doesn’t make much sense as it’s typed by sleep deprived fingers and brain.

This week has been quite busy with the first half involving some long video conference calls on a particular project that is looking to make up some ground on the basis of being delayed for most of this year. The latter half by lack of sleep due to a poorly dog. There’s not much that I can say about the work stuff, and you probably don’t want to know about the dog stuff in detail, suffice to say that it’s involved a couple of trips to the vets, some moderately expensive bills and several nights that have been punctuated by rather smelly trips into the garden. The dog is feeling very sorry for herself, and has seemingly attached to me like a limpet and I would really just like a snooze.


I didn’t read all that much this week, but I did read the Maigret novel Lock Nº 1. I’m not sure whether it was the fact I was reading in the evenings when I was tired (see above) but I really didn’t enjoy it. I found it a confusing read and it seemed out of place in the series. I’m intending to go back and read it again because it seems unlikely that it was that bad given how good these novels normally are. This was reinforced by also reading the Maigret novel (The Liberty Bar) that immediately precedes it in the chronology straight afterwards and finding that one to be an absolute humdinger.


Deneholes – no, I’d never heard of them either (Alastair Humphrey’s exploration of his local OS map, one square at a time continues)


Ever had a truly memorable cup of coffee?


I had reason to ring customer service for one of the major supermarkets this week. Despite the recorded announcement telling me that they were extremely busy, my call was answered in less than a minute by a true star of customer service.

He told me that until recently he’d been a stand-up comedian but now he was working as a customer service rep as covid had pretty much wiped out his old worklife. He did this while he was efficiently dealing with my issue, which in the grand scheme of things was pretty banal. We chatted as we waited for “the system” to do it’s thing and then I was on my way and he to the next person. It was a short interaction but it’s stuck in my mind to write about today. I’m not sure whether he’s any good as a stand-up, maybe I should have asked him to tell me a joke, but he’s certainly got it nailed as a customer service rep until he can get back on the stage.


I took some photographs of the Moon & Mars on one evening this week. Mars was almost directly above the Moon and really easy to see with the naked eye. Here’s a quick slideshow:


It looks like good news with my Mum, it’s now been three weeks, and the mild symptoms that she appeared to be suffering from have mostly disappeared. There were several infections in the home that she was in and all but two have managed to get through it without needing significant medical intervention. If progress continues in this way it might mean that the residents can all have a Christmas that whilst it won’t be normal by any stretch of the imagination will be way better than being in quarantine.


Advent starts this week, and I’m looking forward to tucking into my tea advent calendar.


Right I’m stopping here, hope you all have a good week. Whatever you’re doing stay safe and take care.